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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

Category: Entertainment
March 1, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Seattle sketch comedy show ‘The 206′ finds scrappy path to success

I could see where this joke was going. Seattle comedians John Keister and Pat Cashman faced the cameras in Fremont Studios and ticked off the latest accomplishments of some of their former fellow cast members on “Almost Live!” the Seattle sketch comedy show that preceded “Saturday Night Live” for much of its 15…

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November 24, 2013 at 12:46 AM

Seattle contestants go wild for world’s largest media scavenger hunt

Joy Scott and Kat Selvocki stage a chance meeting at Seattle Center for item #61 of GISHWHES 2013, the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, in August. Their team, the Vatican Cameos, ranked in the top 10 last year. This was item #61: C.S. Lewis once said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You, too? I thought I was the only one!" Take a picture capturing this exact moment. (Courtesy Vatican Cameos)

Joy Scott and Kat Selvocki stage a costumed chance meeting at Seattle Center for item #61 of GISHWHES, the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, in August. Their team, the Vatican Cameos, ranked in the top 10 last year. (Courtesy Vatican Cameos). Photo gallery.

Jesse Mazur, a colleague of GISHWHES team member H.B. Siegel, folds clothes in his Storm Trooper costume for item #5 at Ballard's Lunar Laundry. (Courtesy Vatican Cameos)

Jesse Mazur, a colleague of GISHWHES team member H.B. Siegel, folds laundry in his Storm Trooper costume for item #5. (Courtesy Vatican Cameos) Photo gallery.

Update: They did it! They won! Congrats, Vatican Cameos! More on the win here…

If you had walked by Rachael Vaughn’s office at Microsoft on any of three days in August, you might have been confused by the away message on her whiteboard:

“OOF for GISHWHES!”

“OOF” is “out of office.” GISHWHES, pronounced “gish-wes,” is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. Yes, it’s a real thing and, yes, Vaughn, an attorney specializing in intellectual-property law, took most of a week off work to do it.

Oh, where to begin.

There was the seated Japanese tea ceremony in the elevator of the apartment building on 12th and Jefferson. The nun who swung from a rope into a river outside Vancouver, B.C.

There was the robot barista who served customers at a San Diego Starbucks, the storm trooper who folded clothes at Ballard’s Lunar Laundry, the woman who collected signatures to “pave all of California’s beaches so we don’t have to get all sandy to go swimming” and that time the guard waved Vaughn into the University of Washington’s Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics, because she wasn’t the first person that day to show up in a Flash costume and ask to pose with the particle accelerator.

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November 16, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Scarecrow Video: How an endangered Seattle icon could win you back

Matt Lynch of Scarecrow Video on Roosevelt. Scarecrow’s video inventory is over 100,000. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Matt Lynch of Scarecrow Video on Roosevelt. Scarecrow’s video inventory is over 100,000. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

"We don't need to be a viewer's only or even main source of movies, but we feel what we offer can more than comfortably coexist with streaming," Lynch wrote in an email. "It's just that people have forgotten us or don't understand what they're giving up by letting us go."

REWIND YOUR WAYS: “What we offer can more than comfortably coexist with streaming,” Lynch said. “It’s just that people have forgotten us or don’t understand what they’re giving up by letting us go.”

I hadn’t given any thought to Scarecrow Video in months, maybe years, when I heard the news a couple weeks ago.

As you’d expect, Seattle’s world-famous video store is in trouble. Rentals have dropped 40 percent in six years, despite efforts to draw people in with coffee, beer, screenings, all kinds of deals and even bar trivia, and owners are wondering if it’s time to fade to black.

The culprit, of course, is change. Video-store rentals hit their peak, $8.5 billion, in 2001. Last year, we spent as much on those rentals as we did in 1984, a measly $1.2 billion, according to analyst IHS.

Blockbuster Video, founded in 1985, operated 1,700 stores when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2010. This month, parent company Dish Network said it would close the 300 remaining company-owned Blockbuster stores next year.

Scarecrow owners Carl Tostevin and Mickey McDonough put out a call for help in October. Scarecrow is no Blockbuster; it has collected 118,000 titles and a lot of love. The store’s fans will step it up. Supporters of independent businesses will stop in on principle.

But what about the rest of us? I’ve done nothing but rent or stream from Netflix, Amazon.com, Hulu or iTunes for years. Same with most of my friends. I’d love for Scarecrow to stick around, but online convenience rules. Is there something I’m missing?

I went in last week to find out.

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0 Comments | More in Art, Column, Disruption, Entertainment, Habits, Seattle

November 9, 2013 at 9:45 PM

Media madness: How fantasy football is changing fandom

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scrambles to get away from Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David in last week's game. The players earn points for millions of fans who manage fantasy football teams. (BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scrambles to get away from Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David in last week’s game. The players earn points for millions of fans who manage fantasy football teams. (BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Ian Allan gets bored watching full live games of his favorite sport. Davida Marion rolls her eyes when friends ask to hang out on Sundays. Marc Sells once yelled “Yes!” when he heard a certain someone had torn his ACL.

Is this madness? Maybe. It’s fantasy football.

I knew almost nothing about the booming $1.2 billion fantasy sports industry until a few weeks ago, when the Seahawks took on the Houston Texans. We served chips and hummus in the TV room, and Sells, a good friend, grabbed his phone and opened his laptop. While we rooted for our team, he rooted for his fantasy players, whose real life performance in games across the NFL would either validate or condemn painstaking decisions he had made that week.

More than 24 million Americans play fantasy football, and I’ve managed to avoid talking about it with any of them. This year, though, is different. This year, for the first time in my life, I’m actually following a season of sport. I’ve now gasped and jumped and scared the baby with some wild, out-of-nowhere shriek for nine straight weeks of soaring Seahawks football, and I can’t believe I didn’t get into this sooner.

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June 23, 2013 at 12:12 AM

With award-winning ‘Cart Life,’ Seattle game developer tells hard truths with heart

Richard Hofmeier and Jenny Kuglin are winners of a gaming industry award for their creation, "Cart Life", which centers around the hard life of street vendors.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

Richard Hofmeier and Jenny Kuglin are winners of a gaming industry award for their creation, “Cart Life”, which centers around the hard life of street vendors.
(Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

It was 10 p.m. I was home. I was tired. Then it hit me: Laura wasn’t here. I’d forgotten to pick up my 11-year-old daughter from school.

I don’t have an 11-year-old daughter. But Melanie does. She’s one of three characters in “Cart Life,” a video game by Seattle developer Richard Hofmeier that won the coveted $30,000 grand prize at the 15th annual Independent Games Festival in March.

Hofmeier isn’t a game developer so much as he’s an artist — in as humble and free a sense as he can manage. And “Cart Life” isn’t a video game so much as it’s an experience — someone else’s experience you put on to see life through his or her eyes. The game is short, text-based and painted in large monochromatic pixels. It isn’t pretty. But wow — it’s real.

“If you really want to change things,” Hofmeier told me, “you’ve got to tell the truth.”

“Cart Life’s” truth is told through the stories of street vendors in small-town America. Melanie is a divorced mother opening a coffee hut. Andrus is an immigrant chain smoker who sells newspapers. Vinny runs a bagel stand. The characters each have their own modest goal: Get your own place. Pay the rent. Make $1,000 in sales by Monday’s custody hearing.

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May 25, 2013 at 9:57 PM

To Seattle’s homeless young people, music players matter

This drawing of the "Cutatune," an imaginary music player designed by a homeless young woman in Seattle, is one of many that will be on display in the "Music is my Life" art show in Molly's Cafe at the Henry Art Gallery.

This drawing of the “Cutatune,” an imaginary music player designed by a homeless young woman in Seattle, will be featured in the “Music is my Life” art show in Molly’s Cafe at the Henry Art Gallery this summer.

The Cutatune is a music player that fits on your arm like a cuff. To play it, you run a thin rubber stylus through three slots at the top of the device.

“This was interesting to Maria because that was the spot where she most frequently cut,” wrote its designer, a homeless young woman in Seattle. “She was soothed and lost the urge to cut herself.”

The Cutatune does not exist. Neither does the Musical Blanket, the Nicatune, the Music Emote or any of the dozens of imaginary music players that will be featured in “Music is My Life,” an art show set to open Thursday in Molly’s Cafe at the Henry Art Gallery.

But they paint a compelling picture of how much music matters in the lives of homeless teens and young adults — and why.

The show is based on dissertation research by Jill Woelfer, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington’s Information School, who since 2007 has been studying how homeless young people use technology. After conducting a study to see what happened to iPods a group of them had earned by completing a technology-based life skills course she helped teach, Woelfer, a trained musician and former piano teacher, became curious. Even among very few possessions, she noticed, music players stood out.

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0 Comments | More in Column, Entertainment, Music, Seattle

April 14, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Sports fans: Can you follow live games well without traditional TV?

(Photo by Chris Metcalf on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Chris Metcalf on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

I got an email this morning from reader Jeff Weissman in response to today’s column on why I’m done with traditional TV:

Nice read in the Seattle Times today. Question. I am a sports fan, big. I like College football & College Basketball, mostly. How do I “uncouple” like you have done and still be current?

My immediate response: I’m not a sports fan. I have no idea. But I’ll throw the question out there, because, hey – someone’s got to have it figured out, right?

Right?

I hear about sports channels streaming and leagues finding new ways to get live coverage to fans on tablets and smartphones. But I’ve never tried any of it myself.

So help Jeff out: Those of you who love sports and the convenience of non-traditional online “TV” viewing, have you figured out how to watch sports without subscribing to broadcast or cable?

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April 13, 2013 at 8:45 PM

Why I’m done watching TV on TV

(Flickr photo by Sarah Reid, Creative Commons license)

(Flickr photo by Sarah Reid, Creative Commons license)

When I watch TV on TV, it’s almost always by accident.

I mean to turn on the computer to watch Hulu or HBO Go, or the Xbox to watch Netflix or Amazon. But a fluke in our programmable remote will sometimes turn on the TV instead. The local news will start, or some glitzy reality talent show, and I’ll swear under my breath, hit more buttons and make things right.

I’m still watching a TV, just not the TV. Our 47-inch Samsung television sits on a black Ikea media cabinet that holds, among other things, an Xbox, a MacBook Pro and a series of hacked-together speakers and switchboards only my husband understands.

Nielsen just created a category for people like me. We are “Zero TV” people. People who might have a TV, along with several other screens, but who abandoned networks and cable to watch pretty much everything online.

They say there’s 5 million of us now, up from 3 million in 2007 but still just 5 percent of the market. I suspect that’s undercounting — or at least, missing the point. It’s not just technology that’s changing here, it’s a couple of generations of entertainment values.

TV the way I grew up with it makes less and less sense in my world. Your world, too, I bet. If not now, soon.

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