Theater Review: Jagged Little Pill

Earlier this month the American Repertory Theater (ART) started previews of Jagged Little Pill, a new musical directed by Diane Paulus featuring the music of Alanis Morissette and a book by Diablo Cody. Previews are essentially try-outs. Creators work on the show as the performances go along. Some things get cleaned up and expanded on, others get cut. The one thing we can almost be certain of is this: if the show makes it beyond Cambridge (on tour or to Broadway) it will be a different creature than it was in the beginning. And this is a good thing because I saw Jagged Little Pill during the first week and while there are some interesting moments, I think this show has a lot of transformations to go through.

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Taking place in modern-day suburban Connecticut, Jagged Little Pill strives to prove the timelessness of Morissette’s music by creating a story very much in the middle of today’s social complexities and challenges. If you take some time to check out the internet buzz about this show, you’ll see the word “woke” bandied about a lot. And I suppose that’s what the show’s trying to show us…that it, in itself, is “woke.” But is it really? And for that matter, is the show any good?

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Who Tells Your Story: What “Hamilton” Got Right, Got Wrong, and Completely Left Out

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I know I’m late in getting on the Hamilton bandwagon. While I’m not the musical theater aficionado that Smalerie is, I do like musicals. I just rarely go to see them. I had heard good things about Hamilton and its massive popularity, but I somehow never got around to actually listening to the soundtrack. Now I have. Several times in fact, which should tell you how I felt about it.

As I did with the film Saving Mr. Banks, I became curious about how much of the musical was factual and how much was fiction. I don’t expect either musicals or movies to be documentary accurate when covering real-life events, so this isn’t a criticism of the play. I just like to know what was changed to make a better narrative and what really happened. A Wikipedia binge ensued and I discovered a treasure trove of true facts, altered facts, disputed facts, and completely omitted facts, from which I will now share highlights with you. Continue reading

Why Can’t We See Normal Looking Female Super Heroes in Comic Books: A Dad’s Perspective

New She-Hulk. All rights Marvel Comics.

This post is written by a member of our community, Avram Baskin. All opinion expressed are the author’s own.

The other day while I was visiting my local comic book store I picked up a copy of Marvel Universe 1. The cover of the magazine is what will be the cover art for the rebooted Avengers #1.

The depiction of She-Hulk reminded me of drawings of female super heroes in the broke-back pose — an anatomically impossible pose that shows off the characters (usually) large breasts and butt at the same time. The connection is “anatomically impossible”.

Well, in the interest of accuracy, women can look like that drawing, but only after continuous use of steroids and breast-enlargement surgery. With a little research I came up with the name Natalia Trukhina. She’s a pretty close approximation of that picture of She-Hulk. She also freely admits that she couldn’t look that way without steroids.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the first amendment and artistic freedom and I have no problem with women pursuing whatever athletic interest they find fulfilling. That’s especially true because I’m the dad of a 14 year old daughter. But because I have a fourteen year old daughter, I’m aware of the implications of body shaming and the various ways that our culture objectifies and demeans women. There is a difference between a woman choosing to dedicate herself to an athletic goal and a male artist deciding to depict a female character with the combination of an impossibly muscular physique and exaggerated breasts. One is liberating, the other is demeaning.

How do I think female super heroes should look? They should look like normal women who happen to have powers, super or otherwise — like the female super heroes in the movies and on television. I’m especially thinking about that with Black Panther in mind. It’s rightfully lauded for it’s depiction of it’s primarily African-American cast. But it is also iconic because it features five strong female characters — role models for girls of any race.

I think it’s ironic that in the wake of that Marvel movie we get this drawing of She-Hulk, which doesn’t serve any purpose I can see, other than to objectify the character for the purpose of fulfilling someone’s weird masturbation fantasy. Instead of trying to titillate a real or imagined male demographic, comic books should be providing positive and realistic looking images of women that young women like my daughter can identify with.

Avram Baskin

Gaming with Kids: A Quick Start Guide

   

Meepleine and her Family 

    Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and since we are both Moms, we thought we would give you some tips for gaming with kids. For the most part, we love to game with our kids. However, time has taught us many lessons about how to handle the potential pitfalls. If you have never tried because you aren’t sure whether your kids are ready or aren’t sure that they can sit for the whole game at the table – we wholeheartedly recommend that you give it a try. (SHAMELESS PLUG: We encourage moms who want to try with their daughters to try at an ELS Day.)  Also if you are an Aunt or Uncle or friend of the family who is interested in getting kids into gaming, this guide is for you too. This month we will be sharing our tips with you.  Let’s just call it the quick start guide to gaming with kids.

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Lady Diceacorn and her Family

  1. Evaluate the Kid Mood

     It is no fun to play the game if a kid is easily frustrated and upset. Make sure your kids are well rested and not hungry before you start the game. Do not, we repeat DO NOT, play a game right before you start making dinner. It is no fun. At that point, not even snacks are enough to prevent a kid from being hangry. Any other time Snacks at the table are a must.

    Also, if it is too close to bedtime or your child seems overtired- don’t start a game. It will only end in tears and no one wants that.

      2. Patience, Patience, Patience

     Anyone who has a kid knows, they can easily get under your skin. Teaching them the rules of a new game can really test you, so don’t hesitate to take a break from the game. And don’t ever worry about modifying rules to make it easier on yourself! Candyland actually caters to this with their rules about the face cards; for younger players, they encourage you to ignore the face cards if you’ve already passed them (typically you move back to the character). Meepleine just removes the face cards when playing with her 3-year-old.

     3. Remember: You know your kid better than the box.

Meepleine and her eldest, breaking the box rules

     If you pick games based off of the age on the box; you may be doing yourself a disservice. There are going to always be exceptions to the rule and your kids may be one of those. Can your child read really well at five years old? They may be ready for a more advanced game than is considered “normal”.  Lady Diceacorn figured this out when her (then five-year old) son wanted to play Lanterns after seeing it on the Tabletop YouTube series. After reviewing the video, she agreed and they tried to play together. It soon became a family favorite. The same thing happened with King of Tokyo and Sushi Go. And Meepleine plays a bunch of 13+ games with her 10-year-old, unless there are just too many rules. (Pandemic good, Star Trek Panic bad.)

     4.  Play the game with another adult before you play with your kids.

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Mr. Lady Diceacorn and Lady Diceacorn try to figure out X-Wing so that their kid can give it a try. 

     This is a big one. Make sure you understand the rules of the game before playing them with your kids. It will make sure that you can learn in peace and you won’t have your kids asking if it is time over and over until it was time.

    5.  Make Gaming a Lesson in social interaction.

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No Thank You Evil has great mechanics for indicating whose turn it is to speak and act…. Also snacks.

     Tabletop gaming is an amazing way to practice proper social interaction. Taking turns, waiting to talk and being a good sport are key things learned by children at a gaming table. Kids with special needs that hinder or hamper social interaction can “gamify” their life and it all starts at the table. (Lady Diceacorn will write about her experience with this in a future article.) Make your family game night a chance to show your kids how to behave at a table and refer to it in your everyday life. “Remember how you waited your turn when we played the game? Now is another time for taking turns.”

     6.  Start young

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Unofficial ELS Baby starting out young…

     You can start playing as early as two years old, playing Go Fish and Matching games. There are a lot of great games for the three-year old and up that practice fine motor skills. Setting a regular family game night is a great way to spend time together, eat snacks and enforce those social interaction rules listed above. Meepleine plays games frequently with her 3-year-old; Peaceable Kingdom is an amazing company that makes games specifically for 2+!

     7.  Make sure that the games are fun!

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Just like food, there are a lot of different flavors that work for different people – find the ones that work for you!

    If a game is not one that your kid will like – don’t play it. Some games just won’t be their favorite. If you have a Minecraft fan, like Lady Diceacorn and Meepleine, there is   a Minecraft card game. It is a simple game that Lady Diceacorn has played several times with her son and it made him interested in trying other card games. There are tabletop games that are based off of a lot of pop culture and you can use those as a springboard to other games. 

MAY’S FEATURED GAMES :

Game for kids 3+ : Who Shook Hook?  

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Lady Diceacorn couldn’t help herself – she had to post this photo of her son from 2014 playing Who Shook Hook? with the classroom bunny. 

This game, based on the TV show Jake and the Neverland Pirates, is a combination of Kerplunk and Don’t Wake Daddy. You play Jake and his pirate friends Izzy and Cubby. They are trying to get their treasure back from a sleeping Captain Hook. There are several different hooks and tweezers that add different ways to remove the treasure from the hammock Hook is napping on. It is a lot of fun and full of laughs. The person who knocks Hook off of the hammock loses. 

Honorable Mention: Snug as a Bug in a Rug

This game is one of the absolute best games to play with young players. There are 3 levels of play, and it grows with your kids. There’s a party on the rug, and all the little colored bugs want to hide under the rug before the 3 stink bugs come and stink up the party. This game teaches dice rolling, spinner use, taking turns, teamwork, and matching! Each bug has a certain color, shape, and number of shapes, as well as large or small eyes. At the first level of play, you roll the die and use what it lands on to find the bugs you’re hiding (color, shape, number). You spin the spinner to find the exact match you need. If you have run out of bugs to match, oh no! The first stink bug shows up. Now, you need to match eye size. This game is fun no matter how old your kids are (Meepleine bought it for her 3 year old, but her 10 year old likes it, too) and is by that most amazing of companies mentioned earlier, Peaceable Kingdom.

Game for kids 6+: King of Tokyo

This game is fun for the whole family. Everyone is a Kaiju trying to take over Tokyo. The Kaijus fight each other and try to get enough victory points to win. The first kaiju to 20 experience points or the last Kaiju standing is the winner.  Expansion packs for this game includes a special Halloween version with their version of Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie. We will have this expansion and the Cthulhu and Kong expansion at the next ELS Game Day.

        The next ELS Game Day is happening at Comicazi on Saturday, May 12, 2018 from 12-6 for an ELS Game Day filled with fun games to play with your family.   If you need a last minute gift for the mom in your life – we can also give some great suggestions. We hope to see you there!

Well that is it for us this month. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there! 

Until next time, may all your hits be crits!

Comics Characters You Should Get To Know: Thanos

This post will feature spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War largely in the form of a character study, but also in the form of point of the Infinity Saga story in the comics.

Maybe you have seen Avengers: Infinity War by now, or maybe you haven’t. But surely you have at least heard of Thanos, the Mad Titan by now. When The Goog and I first started dating now 16 years ago, he asked me if I was familiar with the Infinity Saga the way one of those kids with the suits and backpacks (you know the ones) might ask if you have heard about the Good Word. We have been an Infinity Saga household ever since. A big part of what makes this massive event/cross-over story so compelling is not just the coming together of so many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes (and anti-heroes), but that Thanos, as the catalyst, is such a compelling and complicated villain. Continue reading

Fanfiction Theater Recap

On April 14th, we celebrated the joys of fandom with our second annual Fanfiction Theater. For me, it was extra-special, because it was the first time I got to experience it in person. It was everything I hoped it would be.

If you’re not familiar with the event, the concept behind Fanfiction Theater is simple. It’s a night to share the wonderful stories, poems, and songs that people create celebrating their favorite fandoms. Continue reading

Kickass Fictional Ladies: Ruby and Kelly from Ash Vs Evil Dead

I’m perfectly fine admitting that I never thought that I would be writing this post. I was never a huge fan of the Evil Dead films and as a person who has seen many of her favorite intellectual properties canceled or rebooted with less than stellar results, the absolutely perfect Ash Vs Evil Dead series kinda annoyed me.  The tone is spot on, the horror elements are both unique and hilarious, and Ash is the same kind of person he’s always been. This series is proof that reboots can be done, and done well… And almost as if to add insult to injury, Ash Vs Evil Dead accomplishes the very thing that the previous films lacked – interesting and capable female characters.

What? An article arguing that Ash Vs Evil Dead is feminist and contains not one but two notably kickass female characters? Indeed. So here we go.

 

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Image: STARZ

 

 

For those of you not as familiar with the show, when we first meet Ruby Knowby (played by the suspiciously ageless Lucy Lawless) she claims to the be the daughter of Raymond Knowby – the professor in the Evil Dead films who discovers the Necromonicon and Kandarian dagger. I don’t think I would be spoiling too much to say that Ruby’s history is much more, um historical? complicated? spooky? than that.

What makes Ruby a great character is that she’s smart. Smart enough to connect herself to Ash’s past and insert herself into this life. She’s also smart enough to adjust her plans to the circumstances around her. You almost feel shocked when an idiot like Ash gets the better of her, but I think that’s the point. It’s engaging because Ruby is formidable and interesting in her own way. She gets annoyed at Ash but always manages to keep her goal in sight. A well-written villain (and acted – Lucy Lawless is GREAT!) is one that you’re excited to see, love to hate, but also find appealing on some level…even when you know you shouldn’t. Ruby is one of those villains. Oh, and she’s a woman. Well done, TV show.

 

Ash vs. Evil Dead Key Art and Marketing Shoot 2015

Ruby, Image: STARZ

 

The other awesome female character in this show is Ash Williams’ friend/teammate Kelly Maxwell. In many ways, Kelly starts off as a basic “strong female character.” She puts Ash in his place when he tries to flirt with her and is basically angry all the time and bitterly sarcastic. In a lot of shows, this would have ticked off all the boxes for their required strong female elements, but over the seasons of the show, Kelly has proven to be more than that. Her attitude is linked to her life and past rather than just it just being a personality trait. Better yet, she even becomes more comfortable showing other parts of her personality including extreme loyalty to her friends and loved ones.

 

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Kelly, Image: STARZ

 

Kelly becomes even more interesting as a character when you compare her with her counterpart on Ash’s team, Pablo Simon Bolivar. Rather than just having Kelly fill in what may be considered the more feminine role on the team, most of that role sits comfortably with Pablo. Kelly is the one who takes to fighting more naturally and it’s Kelly who formulates a lot of strategy and planning. Additionally, when it comes for the group to take a break, Kelly is the one who grows restless with no demons to battle while Pablo is perfectly content to stay in town with Ash to both support him and set up a food cart. Pablo is the one serving as the emotional heart and team cheerleader. Best of all, it isn’t a bad thing and he still is a force to be reckoned with on his own.

 

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Pablo and Kelly, Image: STARZ

 

I personally find it very exciting to find awesome ladies in surprising places. Ash Vs Evil Dead proves that you can not only reboot an older male-focused property but also update the story to include more women characters who serve as much more than plot devices. There are rumors that the third season of this show could very well be the last, so if you’re a fan of kickass ladies and inventive horror action sequences, you should be getting your hands on this in hopes that the series might continue a bit longer. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it. I certainly was.

 

 

Designing the Toy I Wanted When I Was 5

Disclaimer: In today’s post, I talk about a current Kickstarter run by the company my husband co-owns. My opinions may include some biases.

My husband is and was the toy person in our family. “Is” in that he is a professional toy designer, first at Hasbro and now at Boss Fight Studio. “Was” in that he has been thinking about action figures, how they work, and what makes them better or worse than others since long before I knew him. I was not the type of kid who actively sought out features like more articulation in my toys. But I did sometimes think about what the toys I had could or couldn’t do, if not always in the most realistic ways. And my husband and I have had plenty of discussions about the toys of our childhoods. In a recent one, we realized that the toys available to a young fan of horses back in the 1980s were rather lacking.

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Firefly, many kids’ first pony and mine as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a sizable collection of My Little Ponies back in the day. I loved my little horse-shaped lumps of colorful plastic and played countless games with them. But even then, the fact that they’re not very poseable crossed my mind from time to time. The only “point of articulation” on most of the ponies was the neck. The head wasn’t really designed to turn, but you could get it to. There were ponies with shiny eyes, ponies with iridescent wings, fuzzy ponies, baby ponies, sea ponies and more. But rarely did you see a pony that could move its legs, sit, or lie down. Manes and tails that could be styled were a bigger priority. Continue reading

You Find Yourself…

Buying dice can be so much fun!

Inspired by Smalerie’s post about her lessons learned as a D&D newbie and our upcoming Try an RPG day, we are inspired to look back on our first time at the gaming table and our first or favorite (because Lady Diceacorn has run so many games she can’t remember her first one) time as a GM (this means game master, it is the generic form of DM). We hope you will read our stories and, combined with Smalerie’s inspiring post, want to try roleplaying games. Believe it or not, there are more RPGs on the market today than there have ever been and there’s a system for everyone. We hope that through the Try an RPG day you find a game that you like and share it with your family and friends. If you would like to volunteer to GM, we have a handy fill out form and would love to have the help on April 29 from 12-6.
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