Cartoon Sara Listens to Three Podcasts: Faith in Humanity Edition

Hardly a week goes by where I don’t see some friend on my social media accounts looking for new podcast recommendations. Personally, I’ve been seeking out podcasts that highlight the positive, tales to soothe a troubled mind in an increasingly troubled world and remind me of the good that still exists in it. These are three that have made it into my listening rotation and may be just what you need to add to yours.

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Honorary Lady of Comicazi: Shoshannah Stern

It’s been a while since I’ve done an honorary lady post, but I think it’s time. For those of you new to these posts, this is where we want to highlight and all attention to those who are out there fighting the good fight, highlighting issues, blazing paths, creating, and building community. You get it, yeah? We want to give some love back to Ladies (and some non-ladies) who are doing things we love and want to see more of. There is a lot to be said for positive reinforcement and I feel like these days it’s even more important to acknowledge those who make a positive impact on you and prompt you to learn more about something that you might not be totally familiar with. So my Honorary Lady this time around is Shoshannah Stern!

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So, who is she?

Shoshannah Stern is a deaf actor and writer who has most recently been on Supernatural (but has also been on other shows like Lie to Me, Jericho, and the lady-led comedy Another Period). I’m gonna keep this write-up spoiler free about that because really this post is about the actor, not the character. But suffice to say, Shoshannah has made a huge impact on the SPN fandom in her few appearances with her portrayal of Eileen Leahy, a hunter who happens to be deaf. This is an important distinction as deafness is not what defines the character, but rather is merely one aspect of who Eileen is. Not having deafness as the central character driver is a point of representation that Shoshannah feels passionate about. So often when deaf characters are represented in entertainment being deaf is what defines their character and their story is a discussion of struggle or hardship solely around being deaf. Deafness is often seen as something that one must overcome to be successful. It can have an encompassing hold on the character and prevent other aspects of a character from being explored. This type of representation can carry over to how how people see deaf people outside of the media, and that’s not great.

Another Period, Season 1, Episode 1. Copyright http://www.shoshannah-stern.com

How is she helping representation?

Shoshannah works hard to push back against one dimensional representation of deafness. In her own writing characters are deaf because they are, and that’s because people just are. There isn’t a point to be made about being deaf except to show that while being deaf is a minority experience, within that experience there are many levels of how deafness is part of ones life (and many different levels of deafness itself).  Shoshanna has played character with more or less levels of hearing than she herself has and her character on Supernatural can read lips much better than she can. Her most recent work The Chances is a series about deaf characters written by deaf people. The hope is to highlight the intersectionality of the lives of deaf people and move toward portraying them as full 3-dimensional characters rather than ones with only one note. Like all representation this can also help educate those who may not have interaction with deaf people on a regular basis about the different aspects of the deaf experience. But more, and perhaps most importantly it helps to break down stereotypes about deaf people and opens doors to new opportunities and experiences.

A cool thing she did that you should know about.

Shoshannah established the Eileen Leahy Scholarship, named after the character she played on Supernatural. Shirts and mugs were sold and the majority of the proceeds from these items support the scholarship that will help a deaf woman attend Gallaudet University, the premier university for deaf students and Shoshannah’s alma mater.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale – First Thoughts

NB: This post will contain spoilers for both Margaret Atwood’s novel and Hulu’s adaptation of it through episode 3. It also assumes familiarity with the basic plot of the book.

I have a confession to make. Despite being a feminist of a certain age, I had never read Margaret Atwood’s story of women living under an oppressive patriarchal regime until last week. The Handmaid’s Tale was forever on my to-read list, but somehow it never quite crept to the top. But with Hulu’s adaptation coming out and the state of the world being what it is at the moment, the time had finally come.

Having read other Atwood and found it a bit of a slow burn, I was a bit surprised to find the novel compulsively readable, despite being incredibly bleak. I finished it in two days, marveling over the eerie and disturbing parallels in our current sociopolitical climate and delighting in Atwood’s prose (and spot on description of Harvard Square). The book is a damnation of the power dynamic between men and women, of course, but it touches on so much more than that – the way that fear causes us to exchange freedom for the illusion of safety, the damage of white supremacy, religious hypocrisy, and the pain of post-traumatic stress disorder. I was interested to see which of these would surface in the series – I knew going in that they’d removed the race elements, but what else would change?

Let me start by saying that, after watching the first three episodes, the show overall is incredibly well done. There are certainly changes and updates, both major and minor; some I agree with and some I don’t. But on the whole, the creative team has done an amazing job of setting the right tone and message. Like the novel, the show makes liberal use of narration and flashbacks, though it rearranges the timeline of the entire novel. The flashbacks help establish both how new and foreign the position of women in this society is, and how they struggle to survive it. As Aunt Lydia helpfully reminds the handmaids-to-be in the Red Center, “Ordinary is just what you’re used to. This may not feel ordinary now but after a time it will. This will become ordinary.” Women aren’t used to being chattel anymore, she’s telling them, but in a few generations no one will remember another way.

The show also makes excellent, unnerving use of music. Most of it is instrumental, humming quietly in the backgrounds of scenes, imparting an air of menace and tension. However, when a song does come to the forefront, they are often even more jarring – a combination of 80’s classics, remakes of the same, and newer songs with similar new wave sounds. This choice both nods to the book’s original time and setting, while providing a creepy counterpoint to the nearly Colonial-style dress and mannerisms of the future it depicts. It’s a reminder that although it may look like the past, it’s the near future we’re watching.

The actors also give excellent performances. You can feel the strain in every interaction our narrator Offred (Elisabeth Moss) has with other characters in the present day scenes – no one is saying what they mean, no one can be trusted, and kindness always has some sort of strings attached. You can see it in her face and body language. This tension is complemented by the total ease in her memories of her former life before the government takeover. Her scenes with her best friend Moira (Samira Wiley) are particularly good – you feel their closeness, and how they’ve influenced each other’s lives.

With all of that said, the show makes a few changes that I don’t entirely agree with, changes that affect how we see Offred and the other women in relation to each other. Keep an eye out for part two, where I’ll explore those changes.

Have you been watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Chocolate Bubble Gum Cocktail: We Are All Doomed

I’m the worst at writing intros for my posts. Honestly, it’s terrible. Happily for you, I’m not going to spend too much time struggling with it. Instead, I’m going to just say that it’s a pretty great time to be an Invader Zim fan. We’ve been getting our fix pretty regularly with the not-too-shabby Invader Zim comic, but then about three weeks ago, this was posted online. YES, my disgusting worm-babies, we are all doomed.  And frankly, I couldn’t be more pleased.

Added bonus, this gives me another excuse to create an adult beverage based on one of my favorite fandoms.

Brace yourself people, and behold my inspiration.

There were a lot of different ways I could have gone about this. At first I considered tracking down some chocolate soda to make a very traditional Slurpee. Then I thought about creating a very traditional ice cream soda made with chocolate and bubble gum ice cream. I had two road blocks here. The first was that both initial ideas involved ingredients that were a bit hard to find. The second block was that if I was going to drink this thing, I didn’t want to use a ton of dairy.

My solution to both of these problems was to create an adult beverage. Making something smaller and using alcohol would give me an excuse to tailor it a bit more to my taste and maybe come up with something (prepare your pretension filter people) more sophisticated. And yes, even my eyes rolled as I typed that last sentence.

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This is the point where I truly began to question my life decisions

Ingredients:

Unsweetened cocoa powder
Godiva chocolate liqueur
almond milk or regular milk
vanilla
Bubble Gum flavoring
simple syrup
optional: cream

Pro-tip: Before you make this drink, create some ice cubes out of milk (or in my case almond milk). This will prevent your drink from getting watered down as you drink it.

There aren’t a lot of instructions here. All these ingredients can be adjusted to taste. For the sake of understanding my results, I will say that I used about 1 cup of frozen almond milk and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. In order to help things blend, I dumped in a splash each of the vanilla and simple syrup. For the booze, I used one shot glass.

The bubblegum flavoring goes a VERY long way. I used a drop from an eyedropper.

Once you blend up your drink, taste it and add any adjustments. I used a little extra sweetener as the dark cocoa powder made the finish a bit too bitter.

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Yeah, no light is getting through this. And yes, I know exactly what it looks like.

I know you’re wondering what this tasted like. The truth is that it wasn’t too bad. It tasted like a Tootsie Pop. If I ever make it again, I think the plan would be to create a pink bubble gum sugar rim and to see if I could make something that is less like a mudslide and more like an actual slurpee or even a Slush Puppie.

Not a complete failure, but not something I will be adding to any sort of rotation for dinner parties. I think I will just keep it in my pocket to bring out again when the Invader Zim movie/special airs next year. But frankly, who knows what monstrosity I will have come up with by then. I can promise you this much, it won’t include adding soap to waffles. Maybe I’ll add tuna instead.

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That is gum, not teeth.

Chocolate Bubble Gum Cocktail of Doom

2 tbsp Unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1.5 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur
1 cup almond milk or regular milk frozen into ice cubes
1 tsp vanilla
one drop Bubble Gum flavoring
1-2 tbsp simple syrup
optional: 2 tbsp cream

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. Serve immediately with an evil grin and promises to take over the world.

Crowdfunding Basics for Backers

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Crowdfunding – seeking funds for a project from a bunch of strangers online – has become big business, with ever greater amounts of money going to fund the next big idea. Backing a crowdfunding project can be a fun way to get early access to a new product or just to help out a person or concept you believe in. But finding the right crowdfunding campaign to put your money and enthusiasm into isn’t always easy. This week, we’re looking at crowdfunding from the perspective of a backer: where to find new campaigns, what to look for, and what to avoid.

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The Missed Opportunities of Iron Fist

(photo credit: Netflix)

Enough time has passed that if you were going to watch Iron Fist and care about spoilers, you have probably done that…but, you know, if you do care, maybe read this later.

Does Iron Fist really deserve the panning it’s getting?  Ehhhhhh, maybe, maybe not. But with the bar set so high from the other Marvel Netflix series, Iron First comes off as a master class of missed opportunities and poor choices. Much has already been written about Danny Rand’s casting.  Yes, Iron First is white in the comics. Could that have been changed? Absolutely. Would the show have been better served by having an actual martial artist as the title character? Heck yes, but that’s not the missed opportunity that I’ll be talking about.  Rather, Marvel had a chance to turn the tables on a privileged white male protagonist, and they let that opportunity wane. Continue reading

Monsters and Chefs: Two Great All Ages Reads

Way back in October, I attended MICE – the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo. Started in 2010 to provide area artists with a place to exhibit their work away from the noise and expense of larger conventions, MICE has gotten bigger each year, attracting independent comics folks from all over the country. That’s a lucky thing for those of us excited to find new stories and art.
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Netflix Hidden Gem: Ernest and Celestine

French animation isn’t something that’s on a lot of radars in the US. With major houses like Disney, Pixar, Illumination, and Dreamworks (and even Ghibli for a bit) taking up the major real estate in theaters and awards shows, it can often seem surprising when a quiet French animated film starts to get even a little recognition. And when it gets nominated for an Oscar, chances are quite good that the film is going to be worth your time.

When I saw that the English dub of Ernest and Celestine was available on Netflix, it was a no-brainer. The only choice I needed to make was what type of tea to drink while watching.

Based on the book by Gabrielle Vincent and made on a shoestring budget, Ernest and Celestine tells the familiar story of two unlikely friends who manage to create a home and family together. It’s familiar, yes, but it’s also warm, sweet, and perfectly crafted.

Celestine is a young mouse living beneath the streets of a city inhabited by bears. Each night she sneaks into town to steal the teeth that young bears leave under their pillows for the Mouse Fairy.  These teeth are then used by other mice to repair their own damaged and missing teeth. Sadly, she’s not great at her job and the dentist she works for threatens to fire her if she doesn’t improve. Desperate to make her quota, Celestine gets caught in the city above and finds herself in the paws of Ernest the bear.

First things first, the animation is gorgeous. With hand painted watercolor backgrounds and matching Flash animation, the soft tones result in a visual style that is extremely enjoyable to look at. Everything feels soft, cozy, and dreamy. It’s a children’s book come to life with mice scurrying across pages and bears quite literally lumbering around. Yes, it’s very cute, but it’s never cutesy or sickeningly sweet. The tone and the stylistic animation complement each other, and it works just as well during the darker moments as it does during the lighter ones.

Additionally, this movie is funny. It’s hard to explain why, but there is something about the slapstick and physicality of the characters that made me smile a lot. The timing and pace never feel heavy, so when a character trips or runs into a wall, the audience is given just enough time chuckle without feeling as though the movie is waiting for you to congratulate it on how clever and funny it is.

Lastly, the voice acting in this film is great.  The cast is filled with distinguished, talented, and familiar names like Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall, and Paul Giamatti. Celestine herself is voiced by Mackenzie Foy, who does a charming job of making Celestine both empathetic and brave.

So, go ahead and add Ernest and Celestine to your Netflix queue and maybe someone other than me will start gushing over it to her friends and online. Hey, it could happen!

Already seen Ernest and Celestine and looking to expand your horizons when it comes to animation? Specifically French films?  Here are a few recommendations (many of which can be found on Netflix):

Triplets of Belleville
A Cat in Paris
Tales of the Night
The Rabbi’s Cat
Secret of Kells (French-Belgian-Irish)
The Little Prince (2015)

Understanding The Uncanny Valley

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Copyright NBC

Modern pop culture is filled with terms that try to describe the media we consume. With new phrases and new definitions emerging all the time, it can be difficult to know what the new terminology actually means, even when you hear it frequently. We Ladies like to provide some clarity by defining some of these commonly heard terms that people may not fully understand. We did it with “Mary Sue” and now we’re tackling the “uncanny valley.”

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We Can Do It- Lindsay Moore, Dark Lady Horror Comic Anthology

As Women’s History Month marches on, we are happy to bring you another post in our “We Can Do It” series, highlighting women who strike out in underrepresented fields. Check out our first installment about female tattoo artist, Sandra Burbul.

When local creator and publisher Lindsay Moore reached out to us wanting to tell her story of publishing an all-female horror anthology, we jumped at the chance to have her share her experience. Lindsay talks openly and honestly about her challenges as a woman in the male-dominated fields of comics and horror. When she met resistance, Lindsay decided to strike out on her own and make her dream of Dark Lady (and other works) a reality.

Copyright Hell Cat Press

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