The Kpop Lip Sync Battle

2018 Kpop Lip Sync Battle performer R. Zin

My life as a Kpop fan started out as a lonely one. Korean fans have fan cafes and chat rooms where, on their luckiest days, they can talk to their idols. The fans know their idols’ schedules to follow them. They have the ability to understand the music better than international fans because it’s their own culture that’s on that stage. When I got started with Kpop, I didn’t have support. I didn’t have other friends I could talk to about my fandom who understood. There were a few girls at my school who did like Kpop, but not in the way I did. Nothing out, loud, and proud. It was lonely for a good while before I came to have the friends I have now, who share the same passion as me. Continue reading

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Something Positive: The Positive Reality Competition Show Trend

joy painting brush

Finding more joy and positivity is one of my goals this year!

Happy 2019!! We are stepping back from our usual game content, so that I can write about my newest obsession. A couple of weeks ago, Red Menace wrote about her hopes for the year. One of my hopes this year is that I want to find more positive things in the world, which is really hard these days.  Believe it or not, I have found positive things in the most unusual place – reality competition shows. I will begin this by saying that I am actually not a fan of reality television in general, as most of it is too drama filled for me. There are three shows in particular, The Great British Bake Off, Nailed It and Making It, that I believe are the three best examples of this type of program.

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2019 – The Year of the Audio Drama

I walk over 3.5 miles for my commute daily and this puts me in the perfect position to consume lots of podcasts. It’s also a great way to ramp up or decompress from the work day by letting your mind focus on something else.  But lately I have noticed my podcast consumption habits have changed and I can pinpoint the exact point. It was the Bret Kavanaugh hearings.

See, I also consume a lot of news media. Local news is on when I am getting dressed in the morning and making dinner at night. My Twitter feed is filled with lots of news and current event outlets and I used to listen to many current event podcasts. I say used to because all of a sudden I noticed I was doing something I never did before with my usual podcasts…..I was deleting or skipping episodes without listening, because I realized, I needed a break, badly.  Podcasts weren’t a way to relax on my way to work anymore. Hearing #metoo stories or yet another attempt to explain consent was stirring up things and I was getting to work stressed, unfocused, and angry. That’s not a good look in any job, but in my role, I have to deal with these types of issues in a professional capacity, so things had to change.

Enter the audio drama. What I need now is escapism in form of heavily produced episodic storytelling and well-developed characters and I found some that have inspired major binge listening. 

I have already mentioned some other audio dramas I enjoy – Darkest Night, Deadly Manners, The Black Tapes, and Tanis. The Red Menace has also given you a heads up on another Sci-Fi based fave, Hadron Gospel Hour (more please friends!)

But now I have more!

Limetown follows American Public Radio (a fictional NPR type entity) reporter Lia Haddock as she tries to solve the mystery of what happened to Limetown and its 300+ inhabitants, who have all disappeared without a trace. Structured like a take-off on a Serial type podcast, Limetown is spooky, mysterious, and a very compelling story. You will find yourself wanting to do you own research just to be sure this is in fact, fiction.
Note: It was recently announced that Limetown will be turned into a TV show on Facebook Watch starring Jessica Biel.

 

 

 

 

King Falls AM  660 on the AM dial wherever the mountain town of King Falls is located. It’s like the X-Files meets Northern Exposure. Shock Jock Sammy Stevens moves to King Falls and begins to host a local AM call in radio show. The whole podcast is done as the radio show, you learn about the characters and happenings of King Falls via call-ins and on-site radio broadcasts. It’s funny, scary, and at times quite emotional (yes there have been tears). King Falls has been around for a few years now, but you definitely want to start at the beginning. Listening to the character development over the episodes has been an absolute joy.
Note: This one has explicit content so not for kiddos or public listening in the office. You are gonna want your headphones, and people can just ask you what you are giggle-snorting about.

 

 

 

Angel of Vine is a crime noir story in which a present day journalist discovers the cassette tapes of a hardboiled 1950’s PI who solved a major Hollywood murder mystery.  This one packs some pretty serious voice talent – Joe Manganiello, Alfred Molina, Constance Zimmer, Alan Tudyk, and Misha Collins (which I didn’t know till a few episodes in, so that was a fun surprise) and if this a genre you like, I’m guessing you will like this.
Note: This is another one with some explicit content, so not for the kiddos.

 

 

 

 

 

The Walk is quite unique in that the main character is you! Written by Naomi Alderman,  who also does my beloved Zombies, Run! and The Power, in The Walk you are accidentally given a mysterious package that you must get from one end of Scotland to the other. The kicker, a terrorist group sets off an EMP in episode one, so the only way to cross the country is to walk.
Note: Perfect for days out strolling if you want to be the star of your own adventure.

End of Year Reflections

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a good one yesterday. For those who don’t, I hope you at least had a day of rest and relaxation. If you had to work, thank you for keeping the light on for those who needed you.

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on what we’ve done, as well as to plan for the future and decide what we hope to accomplish in the New Year. So here are some things I am proud of in 2018, planning for 2019, and looking forward to experiencing.
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Fun Holiday Videos: Japan-style

While I often choose to keep it festive during my December posts by either creating bad parody poetry or reading holiday comics, this year I’ve found myself taking a bit of a different spin.

I recently had a conversation with a friend where we discussed if we could just claim that Christmas is now “officially” a secular holiday. While I feel that this idea is still premature, it didn’t stop us from talking about how Christmas has evolved over the years and has been adopted and celebrated by other cultures in new and rather interesting ways. Most notably Japan and their tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas.

After this conversation ended, I pretty much went home and jumped down the YouTube rabbit-hole to see what exactly a KFC Christmas meal would look like and where the tradition came from. To save you the time, I’ve posted a couple of my favorite videos below.

Simon and Martina: Eat Your Kimchi
Simon and Martina have been living overseas and posting about their lives for 10 years now. Previous to living in Japan, they lived and posted videos from South Korea. I’ve been watching them for some time now and appreciate how they can be both upbeat and honest about their lives, even when things aren’t going well. If you like this video, I highly recommend you spend some quality time with their channel. If not just to watch videos of their dog, Spudgy (who sadly passed away not too long ago).

 

 

Abroad in Japan
A British gent now living in Japan, Chris Broad does a pretty good job at highlighting both his own culture shock and his desire to learn. He puts in enough research to add context, but if you’re looking for heavy cultural analysis, this might not be the channel for you. Instead, if you enjoy a rather snarky sense of humor and a healthy amount of self-deprecation, Chris is your guy.  Think informative without the strange yelling at the camera or bouncing “walking while talking” you can get from other YouTubers. He’s got over a million subscribers for a reason.

Colonel Santa not your thing? Perhaps you’re in the mood for a different rabbit hole that’s also filled with holiday cheer? Might I suggest starting with this list of articles from our archives?

But regardless of how you celebrate (or don’t celebrate) the season, warmest wishes to you and yours. See you in the new year!

 

Holiday Fun Facts

The winter holidays are here and it’s a great time to learn more about the traditions your familiar with and get to know the ones you aren’t. Here are some facts and stories you may not have known about just a few of the ways people celebrate during December.

Hanukkah: It’s Not All About the Oil

Menorah, a candle holder with nine Branches.

A Hanukkah, a type of menorah with nine branches. Source: Wikipedia

If you have only a passing familiarity with Hanukkah and its associated traditions, you may know it as a celebration of the lamp oil that lasted for eight nights when it only should have been enough for one. But this is only one part of the story, and one that doesn’t show up in the narrative until later versions. The main purpose of Hanukkah is to celebrate the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, a major victory in the Maccabean Revolt. The temple had been repurposed as an altar to Zeus and needed to be cleansed and reclaimed, which included lighting the menorah. The rededication of the temple does include the story of how a single flask of the kosher oil needed to light the menorah miraculously lasted long enough for a new batch to be prepared, but not in the earliest accounts of the event. Continue reading

Great Games for Gifting

red lighted candle

Happy Holidays!

     Happy Holidays! Are you stuck trying to figure out a good gift for a family member who has everything? Have you ever considered the gift of gaming? Games make amazing gifts and we are here to help you pick just the right one.  We have taken six styles of games and chosen two of each we think make great gifts.

Cooperative Games

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Cahoots

     This game is one that was introduced to those of us who were at the November game day. There are five piles of cards with numbers and colors. The players must work as a team to clear all the condition cards to win. The number of players determines the amount of conditions. These conditions could include “All piles are green” or “ The green cards add up to half the total of the orange cards”. However, the player’s can not tell each other the cards that they have or discuss a specific plan. All they can do is allude to the fact that they can complete a task. (i.e. “If you can leave the third pile alone I can complete the third condition card.”) This adds a level of complexity that makes the game a challenge. The win condition is to complete the stack of condition cards. It was complex and engaging and left us wanting to play again and we had played twice. This absolutely has replay-ability and is fun for ages 10 and up.

Pandemic

     There are now several Pandemic games out there from Cthulhu (where you are shutting down demonic portals) to Rising Tide (where you are trying to prevent flooding). The Legacy version is challenging, but a limited use game. However for games to give the casual or beginner board gamer the original is probably the best way to start. In the game, the players work as members of the CDC and they are working to stop world-wide epidemics by using their special talents. The game is won by curing all of the diseases before the entire world gets over run with plague. Unlike Cahoots, you can lay out and work on a plan in detail, but there is plenty of challenge in this game. This game is for players 8 and up.

Competitive Games

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Munchkin

     Munchkin is a really funny, tongue-in-cheek kind of game that can get really cutthroat. There are several different versions of it, but I’m just going to talk strictly about Vanilla Munchkin (the original game). In this game, you’re an adventuring party exploring a dungeon without all the hassles of role-playing and making friends. It’s every man (or woman) for himself! You have to kick down doors, defeat monsters, collect treasures, and be the first to get to level 10. You can help others, or help the monsters. As I said, there are several different versions, but that’s the basic gist of all of the games. Ages vary based on the version, but they’re typically around 10 and up. Some versions can get a little racy, so use your better judgement.

Splendor

    Splendor has been a favorite for a few years now. It is a great game help beat the blahs during the mid-winter months. You play merchants trying to court favor over nobles. To do this you must purchase a certain amount of gems in a certain amount of colors. Some of these gems have point values and the nobles are worth 3 each if you can sway them. The first to 15 points wins. The wonderful thing about this game is how easy it is to learn. It is also beautifully designed and the gems are actually chips that you can stack. The tactileness of it is what drew us to it in the first place. It plays in about 30 minutes; so it is a good palate cleanser in between larger games or it is a good game while you are waiting for your kids to fall asleep. This is for ages 8 and up, but Lady Diceacorn’s son was 6 when he started playing.  

Card Games

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If you are stuffing stockings, these make a great addition!

Sushi Go

     Sushi Go is an adorable game that is small enough to toss in a purse or bag to take on the go! You are trying to put together the most appetizing (and high scoring) meal you can over the course of three rounds. The tricky part is you hand the cards to your left or your right every round, so the cards and your strategy has to change quickly. This game has definite replayability factor. Its portability is definitely a bonus. If a challenge is what you seek, try Sushi Go Party. That has interchangeable menus from the “My First Sushi Go” for beginners to a really tough version for experts. This game is 8 and up, but you know any kids you are shopping for better than the box.  

Gloom

     Gloom is one of Meepline’s all time favorite games ever.  It’s a fun storytelling game in which you choose a family, make them as miserable as possible, then kill them off.  The more miserable they are, the more likely you are to win. Like in golf, negative points are the key. The really great thing about this game are the cards themselves.  They’re all transparent plastic, so you can stack them on top of each other and the point amount showing is the one you get. There are several versions of the game, and Meepline owns and enjoys them all!  This game is for 13 and up, due to the macabre nature of the game.

Party Games

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Codenames

     In Codenames, you split into 2 groups.  Each groups has a clue giver, or spymaster, and one or several teammates.  The two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their Codenames.  The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin.  This is a game for 4+ players, but there is a version for 2 players called Codenames Duet. This game is ages 10 and up.

Funemployed

     Improvisers would love this game where each person has turns as an HR director (who has a card that tells them the job the players are going for) and the other players have three cards with items or phrases that they have to work into their interview. Then the HR director chooses who to hire. Then the HR director changes. The game goes for one or two rounds (dependent on the amount of people playing) and the player with the most cards wins. This game has some cards that are not for the really young. It is great for an adult crowd though and it is a hit at parties. This game is for ages 16 and up.  

Family Games

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Outfoxed!

     There is a fox and he or she has stolen the pie. But can you and your chicken detectives solve the case before the fox escapes? This excellent family game is a beginners cooperative game where on a player’s turn they choose whether they will look for clues or reveal suspects. Once they have decided, they roll the dice to determine that they can accomplish their turn goal. If the dice all reveal the symbol of their goal, they are allowed to move toward a clue and look at it if they make it or reveal two suspects. The suspects are eliminated if they are wearing or holding something that the actual criminal is. If they do not roll matching symbols then the fox moves closer to the escape manhole and if they reach it the detective team loses. It is a great way to work on a child’s deductive reasoning skills. This game is for kids 5 and up. (But truth be told, this can be played as young as 3 years old with parents help.)

King of Tokyo

     In this epic battle game players are kaiju who are battling for control of the city. You are trying to get to 20 victory points while attempting to hit the other kaiju and take them out. Three rolls of the dice tell the player what they can do on their turn. This game is fun and great for families who are a little competitive. This is for ages 8 and up.

Roleplaying Games

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No Thank You, Evil!

     Ever dream about the land under your bed, in your closet or out of your window while you sleep? Shanna Germain has, and created a great beginner game for Monte Cook Games. No Thank You Evil! Is a role-playing game for kids 4 and up that not only keeps their imaginations (each session runs about an hour and a half) and begins training them to be storytellers (this game’s version of the GM). Families who already have the base game should check out the supplements. There are story cards and even a book on how to be a storyteller aimed towards kids. This games special talent is it grows as the child does. There are basic rules for beginners, somewhat complicated rules for older kids and a fleshed out set of rules for adults. You can run a game for different skill sets and it still plays really smooth. They have stand up characters for all the pregens and a great character sheet and specialized dice in a box. If you want to see the future of the hobby; kids post pictures of their games on the Monte Cook Studios website.  This game is for ages 5 and up.

D&D 5 E

     Dungeons and Dragons is one of the oldest, and well-known, role-playing games.  Created in the 70s by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, it’s set in a world of high fantasy (wizards, elves, dwarves, you get the gist).  In 2014, Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition was released. It’s a similar, but different, set of rules. Some who have played the game for years say it’s simpler and cleaner, some say it’s dumber, but most agree it’s much better than the 4th edition.  You still get to create a fantastic character (in every definition of the word fantastic), sit around a table with friends (or strangers), and roll some dice. The past couple of years, Wizards of the Coast have been rolling out a bunch of well-made adventures, in case you’re too intimidated to create your own story.  Feeling a little more ambitious? The Dungeon Master’s Guide can give you some great information about world building, and there are a ton of resources available online, from DnD Beyond (the unofficially official D&D website), to the Wizards of the Coast website (where the creators sometimes roll out test materials under the heading Unearthed Arcana), to WotC workers being easily accessible on social media (Chris Perkins, one of the major editors of D&D, is extremely active on Twitter and Reddit).  This game is recommended for 12+, but if your kid is reading and doing math, you can easily start them with a simpler storyline (definitely NOT Curse of Strahd).

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Dice! 

     For role players, there is also always the gift of dice. There are some great sets out there and if you have a friend or family member who plays D&D or Pathfinder, you can buy them special dice. There are sets that are sold that match Paizo’s various Pathfinder campaigns. (The Curse of the Crimson Throne ones are gorgeous.) You can head to Comicazi or your friendly local gaming stores and see them before you purchase. (Comicazi also has great pop culture dice bags.)

     We hope we gave you ideas, and if you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments and we are happy to answer them. Just call us your elven bards.

     We hope your holiday season is filled with all the warmth and light possible and your new year is filled with much happy gaming and lots of laughter at the table. We hope you game at our table at one of our various ELS Game Days and we will be announcing the dates shortly. We have so much in store for you next year!  

Until then, may all your hits be crits!

 

On Snowglobes

This coming Saturday is our annual Make Your Own Snowglobe Workshop. This is one of our most popular events and one of our absolute favorites. Born out of a crafternoon where we made snow globes for ourselves (my Hawkeye vs. a Minotaur still graces my desk at work), we decided this was something that would be even more fun to do as a group. And we were right! There are few things more enjoyable than sharing your crafts with like-minded folks. Best of all, if you attend our workshop, we provide everything you need, (except the distilled water since your scene will have to set at least overnight before you fill the jar), making it totally easy to get in on the action.

snowglobe

Hawkeye vs. a Minotaur

This year, we even added an extra earlier session (4-6pm). This is good for families with littles – and folks who want to come to an earlier session so they can get dinner in the square later. We’ve had kids make some incredibly creative snowglobes, so we highly encourage making this a family event. As of the posting, our later 7-9pm session has already sold out.  The good news is that we will have lots of “stuff” for creating your masterpiece no matter which session you go to.

Materials from last year

Truth be told, you could just check out this oldie but goodie post where we first shared both a how-to on our method for snowglobe making, and a little bit on our trip to the Somerville Museum of the Modern Snowglobe , sadly now closed. But….if you are local, coming to do some crafting with us is much more fun!

So, get your tickets now, they’re going fast:

4-6pm session