Jared


The Court Of The Crimson Queen

Love this episode so much.

The whole idea was really just to take advantage of Kenendy’s delightful Eartha Kitt impression, to have her place the ill-tempered cosmic monarch. I was originally planning to go full-tilt space opera, get my Flash Gordon on. I suppose it says something about both me and this weird show I’ve created that when the opportunity to Buck Rogers the whole business appears, I decide to focus on conversations that I explicitly put in my own living room.

That milk gag, though. Still makes me giggle

My actual brother, Joel, an accomplished improv performer, riffed with me for the bulk of this episode. It’s fantastic to do this sort of thing with him, and if he had the time, I’d do a podcast where we just ramble about things every week. He’s a lot of fun to talk to, and there was so much that was said that didn’t make it into the episode. Joel’s got a ton of talent, and I love what the fictional version of him brings out in the fictional version of me (…this podcast is difficult to explain sometimes). So expect to hear more of him in the future.

Speaking of talented folks, all of the space-law in the episode was improvised on the spot by Wesley Fenza, an actual lawyer as well as being a top-notch improvisor. Like the conversation I had with Joel, Wesley’s stuff was hard to edit. There was a whole bit with a third-eye that sadly is on the cutting-room…space…on my hard drive?

We need to update ourclichés.


Next week sees the release of the long-awaited VFPX/Supervillain Corner crossover, starring none other than Comrade Cockroach. I’ve had an idea for this episode for years, ever since Chris started his show, so it was nice to finally bring it to fruition. It was a complex piece, but I’m very pleased with the result. I think you folks will dig it.

Here’s a trailer to wet your whistle.


Short newsletter this time, as I am off to NC to be the Best Man in Joel’s wedding this weekend. You better believe I’m bringing the recorder just in case he has a spare moment. My sister, Kate, who played my long-suffering manager Opal Magestrix in Pledge Drives, will also be at the wedding, so hopefully we’ll get some sort of Axelrod-family scene. I don’t know about what.

I’ll think of something.


An Awfully Big Adventure/City of Sleep

Long time, no post. No wonder the show has gone on hiatus. All I want to do is talk about the just-released Rap Battle Beyond the Stars, and the Balticon that surrounded it, but we gotta do a little house cleaning. First, An Awfully Big Adventure!

This was a strange episode, written in a rush because P.J, Matt and Kennedy were all going to be at my house at the same time, and I couldn’t let that go without recording something. We recorded it in one night, and most of the what you hear is a single performance, like a play. It was incredibly thrilling to do an episode this way. I’d like to do more full-cast recordings like this, but scheduling voice actors is hard enough as it is. Still, it’d be nice to do it occasionally. The way the actors played off each other was worth the stress of pulling the story together in time for them to record.

The story is a odd duck, whimsical with a very, very dark undercurrent I’m not sure everyone caught. Or maybe you did. I mean, Peter Pan and the Lost Boys as a suicide cult, that makes sense, right? Not a stretch?

It might be a stretch. Still, heck of a great time making it.



If An Awfully Big Adventure was all about being quick, City of Sleep was the opposite. Took awhile to get all the voice actors together to record. It’s not the most complex story of the new season–that dubious honor belongs to the upcoming Supervillain Corner crossover–but it’s on up there.

Luckily, I have some of the best voice actors around to call upon to make it work. Hillary, PJ., Len, Fred, J.R., and Jennifer all knock it out of the park.

It is without a doubt my favorite episode so far. There’s that weird, layered storytelling I like to do, and there’s a moment where you’re listening to a recording of people listening to a recording of people listening to a recording of a person listening to a recording, which makes me chuckle every time I think about it. Neil Gaiman once did an issue of The Sandman that had three layers of people telling stories within stories, and I’ve been wanting to do the found-audio equivalent for awhile now. And this story, which plays with the concepts of trust, deceit and recordings replacing memories (hi, Facebook), was perfect for that sort of rabbit hole.

Also, Genevieve‘s art for the episode is just fantastic.


So, about the hiatus.

Back when I started this new season of the show, I did not have the full-time job I do now. Which means that I haven’t had the time to write new scripts for the show. Hence the break.

Which turned out to be good timing, because not long after the hiatus started, my computer broke. When it rains, it pours, so the saying goes.

I should be getting my laptop back from the shop today, so I imagine we’ll still be on schedule for the return. Here’s hoping.

Until then, there’s the “Rap Battle Beyond The Stars,” and I’ve got a reading an some other odds and ends from Balticon to tide you over.

I don’t know how I’m going to sum up everything that happened at Balticon.

I’ll think of something.


Now it can be told! My Balticon 50 schedule

BeyondTheStarsTitleCard

– Friday, 6pm – Queering the Feed: GLTBA in podcasting (Parlor 9029) Currently just J.R. Blackwell signed up to help me with this, but there’s open slots for any other queerbos who want to join in.

– Saturday, 1pm – Black Tribbles podcast (Mt. Washington) Not only are Black Tribbles doing a live show at Balticon this year, but I’m gonna be a guest when they do!

– Saturday, 4pm – Reading (Parlor 8059) It’s listed as “humorous science-fiction,” so be prepared to laugh. In a sci-fi kind of way.

– Sunday, 9:15pm – The Voice of Free Planet X live show: Rap Battle Beyond The Stars! (Kent Theater) With J.r. Blackwell, Christiana Ellis, Jason Gregory Banks, Veronica Giguere, Dave Robison, luchadore masks, baby demons, and the freshest flow from the other side of the galaxy! You don’t want to miss this!


Son of Planet X

A post the day an episode comes out? I know, madness.

Son of Planet X was a difficult one. I reference the death of a fictional child, Hartley, in Mistaking Our Mirrors and My Wife In Hell, but this is the first time I was going to talk about into it. And it wasn’t easy.

While I have not lost a son to a ritualistic murder, I did have a son die not long after he was born. Corvin was born with a considerable amount of internal problems, and I knew he was not long for this world when I first took him into my arms. I did get to hold him, though, which is a blessing I will never forget. But I also felt his tiny, bird-like grow cold in my arms, which haunts me to this day.

Hartley is not Corvin, but in order to talk about chasing after my made-up son, I had to process my feelings about losing my real one. There’s a line in the episode that seems out of place on the surface, but utterly expresses how I felt after Corvin’s death. I’m talking about the possibilities of other alternate worlds, and meeting another me: “Maybe he could tell me what to do.”

There’s was a seemingly insurmountable feeling of powerlessness after Corvin’s came and went from my life. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, but I doubted anyone else could understand what I was going through well enough to give me good advice.

I’m glad I wrote this episode, but it was a hard thing to do. And I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.


As hard as this episode was to write, it was incredibly easy to record. I’ve been wanting to have Sonia and Taleisha on the podcast since I decided to have voice actors. Strix, who reprises her role as the Deitator’s Domo from How’s It Gonna End, is fast becoming a VFPX MVP.

Expect to hear all of these women on the show again. They are too much fun to work with.


Also, how great is that chorus of people saying “I’m Jared Axelrod?” I put out a call on the social medias, and the response was overwhelming.

I have the best listening audience. I know every podcaster says that, but I really think its true in this case.


Saturday night I was at the Beaumont Wherehouse for the Sloppy Film Festival (just what it sounds like), and I was utterly taken by the space. It was like walking into the set of a Tom Waits video: geometric sculptures hung from the rafters, three pianos of questionable functionality hung out near the performance space, ramshackle bookshelves were stocked with odd tomes and animal masks. And lording over all of it, was this impressive proscenium:

I’m not planning a live show of VFPX, but if I was, this is the only place I want to do it at.


Extra special news for those of you who are local to Philly and have nothing to do tonight. I will be a special guest at the first SUPER SECRET Geekadelphia ‘Geekeasy’ event at Tattooed Mom on South St.  You probably haven’t seen anything about it, because it’s, y’know, secret.

I am told there will be drink specials, giveaways, and SPECIAL VIP SECRET SPEAKERS (one of whom is me) talking about podcasting on a mini panel that’ll kick off at 8PM. The event itself starts at 7PM. Fee free to tell your friends, but only tell them by whispering about it in dark corners, or perhaps under streetlamps on a foggy evening.

It should be a blast. I’m not sure what I’m going to talk about tonight. Podcasting, obviously. But beyond that? I don’t know.

I’ll think of something.


Pledge Drives


If you follow me on social media, you probably remember me talking about how “Pledge Drives” was supposed to go up before “Welcome to the Hidden Almanac,” but was pushed back due to technical difficulties. At the time, I was little upset about it, but now, I’m actually kind of glad this episode ended up where it did. It felt right to open the new season with the Hidden Almanac crossover, and this episode does it’s job as a welcoming to the world of the show.

And what a world, that has such people in it! Listeners will recognize my sister Kate, reprising her role from “How’s It Gonna End?” as my GPR supervisor. Phil Thomas, who also put in a voice for “How’s It Gonna End?” shows up with his West Phillians partner Andy Holman. Jennifer Steen, of the much-missed podcast Jennisodes, is someone I’ve wanted to be on the show since I started looking for other people to voice it.

The real coup of this episode about fake public radio shows is two real public radio people. Edison Carter (not his real name) is an award-winning NPR journalist has done NPR’s Morning Edition in, like, three states now. And Ellen Kushner, in addition to being a beloved fantasy novelist (she wrote the delightful Swordspoint) and a subject for one of J.R. Blackwell’s In Their Own Worlds photos, also did a wonderful show called Sound & Spirit. An archive of over 90 episodes of Sound & Spirit are available online for your listening pleasure, and you and your ears (or whatever you use to listen; I don’t judge) should really take advantage of that. I recommend “Dreams” and “Tricksters,” but every one I’ve listened to so far has been great, so I imagine you can’t go wrong.


I recently saw Alexandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, and it has quickly become one of my favorite films. It’s not for everyone–certainly not for anyone who has problems with plots that are barely there and weirdness for weirdness’s sake–and for all it’s dizzying heights, there are some pretty dismal lows. But it does have a scene where some meticulously-costumed iguanas and toads reinact the Spanish Conquest of Mexico (you can watch it here, with film’s score replaced by Apocalyptica’s cover of “Fade to Black”) and if you can’t see the brilliance in that, I’ve got nothing for you.

Yes, this is going to be referenced in an upcoming episode.

No, not in the way you think.

Actually, maybe in the way you think. You folks are pretty smart. You’ve probably got a lot of what I’m setting up already figured out.


New episodes mean a new Shirt of the Month! And for March, for your sartorial pleasure, we have none other than the glaring visage of Reverend Mord!

Who wouldn’t want that on your chest?

I’m taking votes on what the Shirt of the Month should be for April. Make your voice heard! I’m curious as which one of these shirts you folks like the most.

There is, of course, a possibility of a three-way tie. I don’t know what I’m going to do if that happens.

I’ll think of something.


Welcome To The Hidden Alamanac

And so we begin Season 2, offering very little explanation for what happened at the end of Episode 12. Instead, here is a crossover with one of my favorite podcasts, The Hidden Almanac, done by my good friends Ursula Vernon and Kevin Sonney of Dark Canvas Media.

I’ve been itching to a crossover for awhile—the conceit of VFPX means that me plopping down in someone else’s world and talking to them is a matter of course—and it was only natural that I show up on the door step of Reverend Mord and Pastor Drom. The Hidden Almanac is a show where an eccentric radio host goes through the fantastic by way of the mundane. Really, the only differences are that The Hidden Almanac comes out three times a week, and I use more sound effects.

I cannot thank Ursula and Kevin enough to allowing me to play around in their world. The whole process, from when I first sat down to write the script to when we all gathered together the day after Christmas to record, was like a dream. I’ve never had an episode come together so smoothly before. When I sent Ursula the script, I was worried that she might not like it, and would request serious changes. She did have one change, which was the addition of a gardener’s joke.

And she was right to put that in. Wouldn’t be The Hidden Almanac without gardening jokes.


You can, of course, purchase a print or card of Ursula Vernon’s amazing work of Reverend Mord glaring over a microphone, just as you can for all the other episode artwork. Because who doesn’t want a adorable demon on their wall?

That’s just classy, that’s what that is.


I’ve seen the DEADPOOL film, as I assume most people on the planet have. It is, without a doubt, not only the best film based on the X-Men franchise, but also the one that is the truest to its source material. While you and I would think that this would lead to a shift in the way these funnybook adaptations are made, where more attention is paid to properly delivering to the big screen the characters and concepts that made these corporate trademarks worth filming in the first place, it looks like the only real change is going to be more “R” rated superhero films.

Conventional wisdom dictated that anything over a “PG-13″ meant a huge chunk of the potential audience for a cape flick wouldn’t be able to buy tickets, but if the litany of babies in the theater when I saw the film is any indication, that’s not really a problem.

(They all hated the strip-club scene, by the by)

I don’t have a problem with “R” rated superhero movies. Wolverine would certainly benefit from being able to use his knife-hands on screen as opposed to just out of frame, and Lexi Alexander’s PUNISHER WAR ZONE is a hoot and a half. And if you were curious as to what an “R” rated Batman film would look like, look no further than ICHI THE KILLER. ICHI THE KILLER is directed by Takashi Miike, and it’s exactly as wonderfully horrible and horribly wonderful as you might expect an “R”-rated Batman film to be.

But part of the reason I like ICHI THE KILLER is that it isn’t a Batman film. Some characters have too much symbolic weight as figures in children’s literature to truly be enjoyed engaging in the sex and violence that Deadpool wallowed it. And you don’t need either thing to tell an adult story.

DEADPOOL for all its flashbacks and swearing, is still a pretty simple and direct tale. Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT film is one of the few truly sophisticated superhero stories—and it’s rated PG-13.


I’ve got a new day job, as the lead editor at Drexel University’s Communication Department, which both awesome and and incredibly busy. I’m confident I can keep up the usual every-two-weeks schedule on the podcast, It’s also been a long time since I had a regular job, so I couldn’t tell exactly how I plan to make that happen.

I’ll think of something.


I Don’t Have To Make The Best Omelet

I wrote this piece last year, and it was lost in when the site had to be overhauled. It was brought up in an online conversation, so I thought I’d put it back up again.

Some people snub reality TV; I love it. At its best, a reality show is a perfect example of story construction necessities (I’ve already written about how CHOPPED is full of lessons), and revealing elements of human nature.  One moment in a particular CUTTHROAT  KITCHEN struck me so deeply it is now become shorthand in my daily lexicon.

The element that makes CUTTHROAT KITCHEN compelling—beyond host Alton Brown’s fantastic suits and ties—is that the contestants are given easy dishes to cook but ridiculous impediments to deal with while they do so. Tiny cookware is a recurring challenge, as is having to fish knives or an essential ingredient out of a pile of something else. The challenge that stuck with me was one chef who was told to make an omelet, but with his pan upside down.

“This doesn’t bother me,” he said, trying to keep his eggs from sliding off the back of his frying pan. “I’m still going to make the best omelet.”

And there was the heart of his problem, which doomed him to failure. Because like CHOPPED, each round of CUTTHROAT KITCHEN only provides a loser, not a winner. He was so focused on making the best omelet he didn’t realize all he had do was not make the worst. Which is why he presented the judge with a very sophisticated batch of scrambled eggs—that had a piece of plastic inside.

All he had to do was make an omelet. As hard as it would have been to keep an egg on top of the wrong side of a flipped-over pan, he could have done it if he scaled back on his presentation. If he had decided just to make an omelet. But because he was focused on making something mind-blowing, he ended up botching the whole thing. Not to mention the fact he didn’t even make an omelet at all.

I so knew he was going to fail that the moment he said that, I turned to JR and said “That’s not the point of the game. You don’t have to make the best omelet. You just have to not make the worst one.”

So is it with life.

Recently I’ve been focused on making the Best Omelet, the one piece of work that will blow everyone’s minds and change everything. Rather than make perfectly delicious metaphorical omelets, and thereby gain a reputation for making quality omelets on a regular basis, I am instead focused on the idea of One Omelet To Rule Them All. Which is an overwhelming task, and makes it extremely difficult to start.

The result has been a few dishes of scrambled eggs with plastic in them. Which is not to say I haven’t also created some pretty amazing omelets, but those were treated no differently than if I had done a simpler, less bells-and-whistley version of the same thing. More than that, I was never satisfied with the work. Because while each of them were amazing omelets, none of them were the best, because that is a title that is literally unobtainable.

I honestly don’t know why I do this myself. Part of it, I imagine, is related to my depression. Setting an impossible goal is an old trick my depression has pulled many times in the past, so this is old hat indeed.

The Best Omelet is a impossibility. Luckily, I don’t have to make the best omelet. I just have to make not the worst one. I just have to be satisfied with accomplishing what I set out to do, and not be disappointed when it doesn’t set the world on fire.

And I have no idea why that is so hard to remember.


A Haiku of Garbage Food

While I am taking a month off, I am not a monster. I’ve added “A Haiku of Garbage Food” to the feed, where J. R. Blackwell and I joined  Ursula Vernon and Kevin Sonneys remarkable podcast Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap. It’s a good two hours of us eating questionable items and making jokes about “children’s whiskey” and “Man Scouts,” and it ends with us eating meticulously-crafted replica poop.

No, really. That’s what we ended on. J.R. and I brought the poop as a gift:

The bear was nice, but I think the raccoon was my favorite.

Ursula and Kevin have another remarkable podcast, The Hidden Almanac, where the vaguely-Catholic Reverend Mord expounds on the history and culture of a rich fantasy world. If you’re a fan of The Voice of Free Planet X, there’s a plethora of reasons to check out The Hidden Almanac. Not the least of which is the fact that VFPX will be crossing over with HA in February!

It’s my favorite episode of the new season, folks. Perhaps because it was so easy to record; we all just stood in Kevin’s recording studio and said our lines. It felt remarkably professional.


I made an upgrade to my gear for the new season, finally purchasing a Blue Snowball, the microphone that has been the standard for my podcasting pals for awhile now. My setup for the past few years has involved a combination of a Zoom H4n recorder and a Blue Snowflake, both of which are marvelous, portable microphones. But with more people coming to me to record, I wanted something a little sturdier, something that will stay at home and record more than one person at once.

Plus, I could get one in chrome. That was a huge selling point.

I’ve been using it a bit, and it is a very, very fine microphone. If you’re thinking about getting into podcasting, trust me, this is the one mic you need.


J.R. and I recently discovered Marie Kondo’s method for tidying up and getting rid of the things you neither want nor need, but are inexplicably holding onto. We’ve become quite taken with it. We’ve already gone through all our clothes and books, both of which were difficult for their own reasons. I am apparently a sock-hoarder; when I had counted all the socks I had accumulated, I found I could go nearly two months without having to wash socks once. Now, I admit to being a bit of a clothes-horse–I kept more clothes than J.R. did–but that was beyond the pale even for me. Some of those socks had literally never been worn.

It’s gotten me to rethink my definition of ownership. I had three pairs of pants that I hadn’t worn in years. They were just sitting in my drawer, taking up space. If you had seen what I’ve worn every day (and, if you follow me on Instagram, you have), you wouldn’t think I owned those three pairs of pants. And if I never used them, did I actually own them? Or was I just storing them?

Going through the books and comics was even harder. I haven’t tackled my longboxes yet, but I reduced my trades and graphic novels by about half. It was difficult to separate from the collector mentality, to look a my comics not as a collection, but as a library. Not “What was I proud I owned,” but “What do I enjoy reading.” So, a lot of comics J.R. had been proud to collect over the past years were removed, some of them common, some obscure, some of them even autographed. But when I look at the book shelf now, I don’t miss them. I kept all the stuff I enjoy.

I donated the rest to Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, which just opened not too long ago. My friend Randy Green–aka R-Son The Voice of Reason of Gangstagrass and other such impressive projects–does their comics ordering, which meant he took me seriously when I said I had comics to give, but didn’t quite believe me when I said I didn’t want any money for them. They’re still accumulating their stock, so they were much happier to have volumes of Preacher and Lupin III to sell than I was just storing them. Amalgam is fantastic store, too. If you’re in the Philly area and you haven’t stopped by, you’re cheating yourself.

Seeing Randy so pleased with the comics took some of the edge off how difficult it was to go through them. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to go through my accumulation of toys.

I’ll think of something.


J. Jonah Jameson Is Angry

JJJ
He’s angry about Spider-Man.

And that he’s getting older.

And that the rock stars of his youth are dead.

And that politics in this country are so messed up, utter clowns are considered viable candidates.

And he was out of eggs this morning.

And New York City smells like a sewer.

And his doctor thinks he might have gout, which is ridiculous, who has gout in this day and age?

And people keep calling him.

And it’s never anyone he wants to talk to.

And all he wants to do is be held, but no one understands that except his wife, and he’s buried enough loved ones to know how precious that is, but she’s at home, which might as well be a million miles away.

And that it’s going to be ANOTHER FIVE HOURS before he can relax in her arms because PARKER can’t take ONE GODDAMN PICTURE OF SPIDER-MAN COMMITTING A CRIME!!!

That’s why he’s angry.

Art by Scott Koblish


How’s It Gonna End?

How’s It Gonna End” is a weird episode. I mean, they all are. VFPX is nothing if not an odd show, start to finish. But “How’s It Gonna End,” is odd beast even among those. For one, I take an active role in this one, instead of just asking questions (though I do ask a lot of questions). It’s full of continuity bits and pieces, callbacks to episodes from months ago like “Paused” and “Mistaking Our Mirrors,” and bit more information on the show’s lurking boogeyman. It’s a story about time, about endings, and finishes with that eternal symbol of unfinished business, the answering machine message. It’s a weird episode, of a weird show.

Because of that, it’s one of my favorites. Your mileage may vary, but I love it, weirdness and all.

Also, how great is that painting Avalon Batory did for the episode? She’s a wonder, she is. I wish you guys could see the painting in person. Digital copies do not it justice.


Part of the reason this episode is so great is the cast, the largest one yet. It’s pretty much an all-star cast of my favorite web entertainments: Jason Banks of Talk Nerdy 2 Me, Phil Thomas of West Phillians, and Christiana Ellis of Space Casey & Five More Minutes join VFPX stalwarts Kennedy Allen of The Black Tribbles  and Chris Morse of Supervillian Corner. Rounding out the cast is Whitney Strix Beltrán, making an impressive VFPX debut as a character we’re going to see a lot of in the future, and Kate Axelrod, who puts the button on the episode with the practiced disdain that can only come from growing up with me as a brother.

Working with all of them was fantastic. I could not have asked for a better cast to close out Season 1. Expect to hear more from every one of them in Season 2.


Those of you who happened to be tuned into G-Town Radio on Christmas Eve may have heard something… familiar. Len Webb managed to make sure everyone had a very merry Planet X-Mas, putting episodes of VFPX on the radio!

Yes, that’s right, VFPX is a radio show, now, in addition to being a podcast. I’ve long been talking about the difference between podcasts and radio shows as being philosophical at best, and here I am, thanks to Len, being able to practice what I preach.

VFPX is going to be on the radio again tonight at 9pm, with G-Town Radio playing “Oddfellows Local” and “My Wife In Hell.” Both of which have Len in prominent roles, so if you like Len–and who doesn’t, after this?–go to the G-Town website and listen to the stream. Show him that VFPX on the radio is a very, very good idea.

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to end the year.


If the year is ending, that must mean it’s the last day to purchase the T-shirt of the Month for December, the shiny metallic logo for Huxley Interplanetary. Chris asked me for this very shirt months ago, and with Chris reprising Huxley Branson for “How’s It Gonna End,” it seemed like a good time to make it available.


There’s some mugs, too, made by request. I’m actually very open to merch requests, so if there’s something you’d like to see in the coming year, drop me a line.


There will be no t-shirt for January, as I am taking the month off. There will be 12 episodes in 2016, just like this year, but they won’t start until February 1st. Creative work, I’ve come to realize, is a lot like farming: Everything happens in seasons. These past couple of months have been all about the harvest, putting this show out for everyone experience. I need to take some winter for myself, to recharge, to let my mental ground go fallow before I plant more seeds. So, no episodes in January. Those of you who support the show with Patreon will not be charged anything for the month.

I’m actually looking forward to it, which is unlike me. I have a tendency to be sorta…non-stop. Often, to the detriment of my physical health. So I’m gonna take January off. Draw some things. Write stuff that isn’t podcast scripts. Watch some movies in the theater instead of on my laptop screen. Finish those books I started in 2015. Or maybe just catch up on my sleep. There’s plenty of ways to spend winter, after all.

I’ll think of something.