3 Storytime Podcasts for Summer Listening

Tiny Doom recently shared three of her favorite spooky podcasts for binging or making a boring stretch of time go by faster. Now I’m sharing three of my current favorites. These podcasts all focus on telling classic stories in podcast form. So whether you need some family friendly listening, a bedtime story, or just a friendly voice to keep you company for a bit, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.

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Games To Travel With

Hello, darlings! Summer is soon to arrive, and that usually means a lot of travel and vacations. I know a lot of you are asking, “But, Meepleine, when I get to my destination, it can sometimes be a little boring.” And so, I give you this little  list of little games that you can throw in a bag and take with you (virtually) anywhere! (I’m writing this post on my lonesome because Lady Diceacorn is currently packing to move to her new house! She’ll do a post later on about how to effectively pack your games. Last count, she was on 30+ boxes of just games.) Continue reading

3 Spooky Podcasts for Summer Listening

Summer is often a time for sitting. Sitting on the beach, sitting in a fishing boat, sitting in traffic. Not all these situations may be conducive to indulging in summer reading. As the person who is often the driver for summer travels I can confirm, reading and driving, super frowned upon. (Note: This is a joke, I don’t even talk on the phone while driving).

There are tons of educational and current events podcasts out there, but summer is also a time for escapism and I think we could all use a break from the daily assault of what’s going on in the news media. So, here are 3 serialized story podcasts for you to enjoy while staring at a either body of water, or the break lights in front of you.

The Black Tapes Podcast

Despite being a pretty avid podcast listener and this absolutely being in my wheelhouse, I was a bit late to the party on this one. The Black Tapes Podcast is presented by Pacific Northwest Stories (PNS), and Minnow Beats Whale. It’s a docudrama hosted by Alex Regan, and presented as a journalist investigation rather than a narrative story. Alex begins her podcast series by looking at unusual jobs, but it very quickly takes a new direction when she meeting Dr. Richard Strand, head of the Strand Institute and his black tapes files. The Strand Institute’s mission is to debunk the supernatural, but what happens when they come across things that can’t be easily explained away?

I binged this one hardcore. It’s 3 seasons and seems to be completed. Shout out to it for being responsible for me cleaning out my closet because I just put my headphones on and next thing I knew, I had a nice pile of items for donation.

Check this out if you like: The X-Files, Serial, Supernatural


Tanis

This is another one from PNS. After loving The Black Tapes so much I decided to further explore the PNS offerings (and there are still others I have in my queue). Tanis is similarly structured as a journalistic investigation, and hosts who are familiar from The Black Tapes are featured. The central question of this investigation is What is Tanis? Is it a place, a person, a feeling? Nic Sliver sets out to answer this question and is quickly pulled into a terrifying mystery that affects him and everyone he interacts with.

I’m still listening to Tanis, it’s 4 seasons and it still going. It took slightly longer to grab me than The Black Tapes, but once it did grab me, I always make sure I have at least 3 episodes downloaded on my phone and ready for listening.

Check this out if you like: horror based mystery, things about cults, and salty hackers


Deadly Manners

Did you know that AMC/Sundance were into the podcast game? Me neither until I happened upon Deadly Manners. Deadly Manners is also a murder mystery, but much more of a “who done it” done in the style of a classic radio drama. There is a fancy dinner party at a grand house during a snowstorm. Soon enough people start dying, and with no one able to leave, and a host who insists the party must go one, will any of the guests survive the night?

What makes Deadly Manners so much fun is the voice talent. You will hear some very familiar voices including Kristen Bell, RuPaul, and LeVar Burton. This is another completed podcast so very bingeable.

Check this out if you like: Clue, some over the top voice acting, and twists.

All of these podcasts  – plus our own podcast – are available via iTunes. Let us know any others that we should be checking out!

Mystery and Magic: Two More Great All-Ages Reads

It can be hard for parents to navigate the shelves at a comic shop, particularly if they haven’t read a lot of comics themselves. The misconception that all comics are for kids is waning, but hasn’t totally been extinguished yet. Luckily, most shops have a section devoted to all-ages books, and staff trained to make recommendations. Here are a couple that I’ve enjoyed, if you need to spark some ideas.
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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