The word "robot" originated in this 1921 Czech play

In 1920, Czech writer Karel Čapek penned a play titled R.U.R., a cautionary tale about technology's potential to dehumanize. Read the rest

Kevin Smith to do a theatrical reading of his Clerks III script

Director Kevin Smith wrote Clerks III more than a decade ago but it was never made, the director has said, because Jeff Anderson, who plays Randal, wasn't game. Today, Smith announced that he and some unnamed "friends" will do a reading of the script at the First Avenue Playhouse in Atlantic Highlands, NJ. It's a benefit for the playhouse which is where Smith held open auditions for the first Clerks film 25 years ago. There were only 80 seats available (at $100/each) and, yes, it sold out instantly.

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High school stages "Alien: The Play"

The drama club at New Jersey's North Bergen High School brought the classic sci-fi/horror story Alien to the stage for Alien: The Play. From Quartz:

A student playing a xenomorph expertly creeped about on stage and in the audience in the style of the titular alien. The student wore a costume made from donated foam, a plastic skeleton from the clearance aisle, and other materials, Entertainment Weekly reported. Other characters were photographed wearing spacesuits. And the sets were reportedly crafted from donated and recycled items, including old egg-carton boxes to create a computer lab.

A Reddit thread started by North Bergen High School student Justin Pierson, 17, who was part of the sound crew, said the play flows almost exactly like the film. But these students put together their production on a relatively shoestring budget.

"A US High School’s Crafty Production of “Alien” Is Going Viral" (Thanks, Mark Dery!)

(images here) Read the rest

Starlings: razor-sharp stories and poems from Jo Walton

Stephen King once wrote that "a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger" -- that is, sudden, pleasant, mysterious, dangerous and exiting, and the collected short fiction of Jo Walton, contained between covers in the newly published Starlings, is exemplary of the principle. Walton, after all, is one of science fiction's major talents, and despite her protests that she "doesn't really know how to write stories," all the evidence is to the contrary.

To do in Austin: Plurality of Privacy Project in Five-Minute Plays

Austinites! You have two more nights to catch Plurality of Privacy Project in Five-Minute Plays, "an artistic and cultural dialogue around our divergent understandings of privacy." Read the rest

Gangnam Style finally dethroned as most-played YouTube video

On YouTube, Gangnam Style's been the most-played video for five years—a little-known testament to the grim reality of popular culture these days. But no longer! It has finally been dethroned, by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's See You Again. Moreover, Despacito, embedded above, seems likely to storm past it in due course.

Here's the top 10.

1) Wiz Khalifa, See You Again (ft Charlie Puth) - 2,895,373,709 2) Psy, Gangnam Style - 2,894,426,475 3) Justin Bieber, Sorry - 2,635,572,161 4) Mark Ronson, Uptown Funk (ft Bruno Mars) - 2,550,545,717 5) Luis Fonsi, Despacito (ft Daddy Yankee) - 2,482,502,747 6) Taylor Swift, Shake It Off - 2,248,761,095 7) Enrique Iglesias, Bailando - 2,232,756,228 8) Maroon 5, Sugar - 2,150,365,635 9) Katy Perry, Roar - 2,129,400,973 10) Taylor Swift, Blank Space - 2,101,607,657

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How a "lost" Marx Brothers musical found its way back to the stage

Noah Diamond is a Groucho Marx impersonator, actor and singer whose obsession with the Marx Brothers led him, along with his wife, the director Amanda Sisk, to research "I'll Say She Is," a Marx Brothers stage musical that ran to rave reviews in 1924/5 and has not been mounted since. Read the rest

Shakespeare probably smoked weed, scientists say

Several pipes excavated from William Shakespeare's garden contained cannabis, report scientists who used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze the items. Read the rest

Why are the stories in video games so bad?

People often say they are enthusiastic about games because "they can tell stories", or because they enable narrative moments not possible in other media. But although there are numerous flashes of brilliance in games, this potential often feels like something they circle, but never attain. Read the rest