Category: Things To Watch

3 Things to get you in the Halloween Spirit

As the Ladies resident (but not only) lover of spooky things, I wanted to share three things I am doing to get in the spirit for what is my highest holiday – Halloween!

Podcast – Darkest Night

I’ve only recently started listening to Darkest Night having learning about it via Deadly Manners. We’ve mentioned some spooky podcasts before and there are lots of them out there, but this one really distinguishes itself though the sound design. As you are told in the intro, this podcast really is best experienced with headphones, but beware…the experience can become quite immersive. No joke, the other morning I was listening to an episode while walking to work and I literally leapt across the sidewalk because I forgot the sounds were only in my ears.

Darkest Night is a story based podcast that follows Project Cyclops, an experiment where severed heads are sent to a lab for a process that draws the blood from a victim’s optic nerve so the moments before their death can be experienced and documented….but is that all that’s really going on here?

Rating: 4 out of 5 severed heads

 

Show – Haunting of Hill House

Whooo boy, we finished this over the weekend and what an emotional roller coaster. This Netflix show whips you from fear, to sorrow, to anger as it pairs terrifying images with the equally terrifying human condition. The Haunting of Hill House is a modern adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel and a love-letter to the 1963 film The Haunting (also based on Shirley Jackson’s novel). Like all good horror, it’s not just about ghosts or murder. HoHH looks at trauma, obsession, and grief and how the lasting impacts can follow you through life, even if you think you have locked them away.

Don’t get me wrong – this is real deal spooky. As you watch, pay attention to everything, because things happen in the background and in your periphery to keep you as off balance as the characters are. Episode 6 is particularly masterful is how it pulls you reluctantly through long shots that become more and more dizzying to reflect the downward spirals of the characters.

Too late in the series I really started to key in on the color symbolism used in the filming, and now I want to watch it all over again to follow that thread. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this yet, I’m a little jealous of you getting to experience it for the first time.

Rating: 5 our of 5 red doors

Snack – Eyeball cookies

Hopefully some of you were able to make it to the Comicazi Cookie Clash this year. It’s an amazing dessert filled event for a great cause, Boston Partners in Education. While I am not someone who loves or thoroughly enjoys baking (I’m not great at the exactness of it since I tend to like to experiment – not a good idea  in baking unless you are really down with the science), I have competed in the cookie clash every year since its inception. Fun fact: The Cookie Clash started originally as competition between The Red Menace’s cookies made with love (she LOVES baking and is quite good at it), and my Cookies made with Hate™ (recall: I don’t love baking).

But I digress…this year I decided I wanted to go for flash rather than substance and made these gooey eyeball cookies for my baker’s choice entry. While these cookies taste good – sort of a cheesecake sugar cookie, they aren’t super exciting or nuanced. But then again, you aren’t making them for nuance, you are making them because they fun, colorful, and involve so many candy eyeballs.

The best advice I can give it to follow the recipe directly, and that getting the neon food coloring colors is totally worth it if you want that bright popping color. I also got 3 different sizes of candy eyes and found that the mixing of different sizes really adds a lot to the aesthetic. Otherwise, these cookies are pretty easy and a lot of bang for your buck.

Rating: 4 out 5 Beholder eyes

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Sparking Joy – Suggestions for Decompression

Today is the last day to register to vote in Massachusetts. Are you registered? Up to date? Good!
With an important mid-term election looming, and the news cycle, well, all the time really, but particularly in the last few months, many folks I know and particularly folks who identify as women have been feeling pretty stressed out of late. The Kavanaugh hearings were difficult for a lot of folks and the results were even more so. It’s important to allow ourselves to feel those feelings and, if possible, use them constructively. But sometimes you just need to take a break and feel some positivity. Here are a few things that have been working for me, lately.

Tussetroll and Tingeling: Fun fact, I am not particularly an animal person. I’m not afraid of them – I’m just…not that interested. However, once in a while there comes a pet Instagram that I can’t help but fall for, and this is the latest. The animals I like have a lot of personality and are usually a little different from the norm, and huge, flat-faced Persian Tussetrolle and his pitch-black, Scottish Fold flat-eared sister Tingeling hit all of the right notes for me.

The Little House, ready for Honk!


Little Allejandro: Another Instagram feed, but this one’s closer to home. The Giant Party should have made it obvious that I am in love with tiny things. I also really love inanimate objects having grand adventures – it’s a little bit of magic in a world that is often far too mundane. Little Allejandro is a doll who lives in a house quite nearby to my own – and the house has a little dollhouse BUILT INTO THE FRONT OF IT. Child-Me would have been obsessed with it – and frankly, adult me is, too. The homeowners change up the scenery of the dollhouse frequently to match the seasons, holidays, and events in the neighborhood, but they also run this Instagram feed for their most iconic resident, Little Allejandro. He accompanies them on trips and occasionally runs into trouble. It’s a brilliant, soothing bit of everyday magic.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Fancy Sprinkles!


Making Ice Cream: I’d never suggest eating your feelings, per se, but this summer I finally broke down and bought my own ice cream freezer and I’m having a lot of fun figuring out how to get the most out of it. So far I’ve mostly made very traditional, custard-based ice creams, largely inspired by http://bravetart.com/, but there’s a whole world of sorbet, ice milk, and other delights waiting to be explored.

Hilda: I don’t want to step on the toes of any other Ladies who might want to do a more comprehensive review of this Netflix gem, but if you’re looking for something comforting to watch, you couldn’t do better than Hilda. Based on the popular graphic novels by Luke Pearson, Hilda is the story of a little Scandinavian girl who has adventures meeting the magical creatures who live in the woods and city around her. The animation is beautiful, the voice acting is top-notch, and the whole show is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket with a cup of cocoa. (Hilda herself is voiced by Bella Ramsey, better known as the amazing, scene-stealing Lyanna Mormont on Game of Thrones.)

Work with the Rage: Finally, sometimes you just have acknowledge your anger to let it go. The Believer published this excellent long read by Megan Stielstra about women’s rage and why we have so much trouble acknowledging and processing it. She’s been dealing with her own anger in part by throwing axes, which you can now do here in the Boston area, if that appeals. However, you can also use those strong feelings to make a donation or volunteer for a nonprofit in your area (here’s my personal favorite), campaign for a politician or cause you believe in, or start a Meetup for folks to come together to share other ideas for engagement, learn more about candidates, or just talk about how they’re feeling.

So that’s how I’m dealing with my anxiety about November 6th. ON November 6th, of course, I’m going to do the only thing I can do – I’m going to vote! What are all of you doing to deal with your hopes and fears? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Doctor Who Season 11 Premiere: A Quick Review

After much anticipation, the world was finally introduced to the first female Doctor. And, to the credit of the writers, the Doctor accepts the change and immediately moves on to the action. However, being part of a group that always has an eye on how women are portrayed in the world of popular culture, I couldn’t help but want to add my voice to those discussing this “first” for the Doctor Who franchise.

So, I give you a mini review of the first episode of Season 11’s “The Woman Who Fell to Earth.” Buckle up and consider this your spoiler warning.

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Love in the Time of Giant Robots: Transformers and My Marriage

BWDinobot_decision

My husband and I just celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary. It marks a little over half of the full time we’ve been together. Our relationship has a lot of the same qualities I see in other happy, committed couples: respect, trust, affection, and a desire to continue growing and improving together. But we also have our share of unique elements in our relationship. One of these is a shared appreciation for transforming robots.

Transformers, the well-known transforming robot toys, and the media surrounding them have been a constant in my relationship with my husband. Weird as it may seem, the toys and shows have had a role in our courtship and marriage. Here are a few of the highlights.

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Netflix review: GLOW Season 2

Last year I reviewed GLOW season 1, so natural next step: review GLOW season 2. This review will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t watched season 2 yet and you care about that sort of thing, come back and read this later. The 30 minute episodes make GLOW super bingeable so it’s pretty easy to cruise though the entire second season.

GLOW season 2 picks up with the ladies returning to work, trying to exhibit a little more ownership over their roles. For Ruth and Debbie this means trying to take on new roles on the other side of the camera, and for the other women, it’s exploring their characters and relationships more. As I mentioned in my season 1 review, it’s the side characters of GLOW who really hold my heart. And while the incredibly complex relationship between Debbie and Ruth continues to be a central-ish plot point, each of the other ladies (and Bash) also get their chance to shine. They are no longer “the one who dresses as a wolf” or “the British woman.” Instead we get a deeper look at these women in terms of what drives, motivates, and in some cases, transforms them.

This is important not just in terms of giving the diverse cast opportunities, but because for me, the relationship between Debbie and Ruth doesn’t have much of an arc and therefore, neither do their characters. At best, you watch them go from friends to enemies to begrudging co-workers, neither overly likable, despite the fact that outside the ring Ruth is often set up as hero of sorts whereas Debbie remains aloof and purposely removed, at times casting herself as a villain. These roles being the opposite of their wresting characters still isn’t really interesting enough to make up for the fact that Debbie and Ruth seem more like the anchors for the ensemble than anything else. More than anything, they provide a static touch point rather than any dynamic catalyst.

Another focus of this season is how these women operate in the space that has now been made for them. In season 1 we see them fighting for their place, trying to get a foot in the door, even if that means playing up to 80’s stereotypes of race and gender. In season 2 you get the sense that now that there is a bit more stability in their wrestling shows (they have fans and everything), many of the characters are exploring that space and are trying to take ownership of it. One of the more interesting arcs is Beirut’s. While she accepted her character in the beginning, her real desire is to shed the guise of a terrorist and rise again as her truer self, a phoenix. This, in parallel with the exploration of her sexuality make her character the one who has perhaps gone through the most transformation.

It’s so rare to get a show with such a large female ensemble cast, let alone one where the focus is on the internal relationships of the character themselves, rather than an outside male influence. As much fun as watching the evolution of the wrestling was, what really held my heart in GLOW was watching the evolution of the friendships and the formation of the family.

My Top Ten Steven Universe Episodes

I have been trying for ages to write about my love of Steven Universe. I’ll happily go on at length about the show and my feelings about it in person, but getting it all down in writing seems more elusive. I think it”s a sign of just how good the show is and how much I love it that my attempts to get it all down come off as a messy jumble of feelings and details that never really gets to the heart of what makes the show so good.

So instead of describing the entire show and my love for it, I’m taking on the still difficult but more manageable task of listing my favorite episodes. To give you an idea of how tough this is, I started out writing about my five favorite episodes and quickly discovered I couldn’t do less than ten. But, unlike an overview of the whole series, it gives me a narrower window to look at the series and my feelings about it through.

Like any such list, this one is totally subjective and reflects my opinions of the moment. Your list is almost certainly different. Next week, my list may be different. Heck, it may be different tomorrow or an hour from now. Discussion is welcome and encouraged. Continue reading

The Vision and a Series of Unfortunate Events

Hope you are all enjoying the summer and staying cool. In previous posts, we have discussed some podcasts and books that we have been into lately. My current summertime media consumption has included reading The Vision and watching Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

So why am I talking about these two things together? Besides being the things I have most recently read/watched, they both employ a style of narrative storytelling that warns you what’s coming. Rather than dampening the story, these breadcrumbs lead you through the drama and guide you into darker elements without even coming close to diminishing the gut punch or (especially in the case of The Vision) some truly difficult emotional moments. The story remains compelling despite what could be termed as spoilers built right in.

Of the two, A Series of Unfortunate Events (SoUE) is clearly the lighter fare, geared for ages…well I would say 8 and up, but you know your kid. These stories were first a book series and then a Netflix series. The story follows the Baudelaire children as they are orphaned and then repeatedly terrorized by Count Olaf, a villain obsessed with getting his hands on the fortune the oldest daughter will inherit when she is of age. While I stopped reading the books after about 3 (there are 13 in the series), the Netflix series manages to stave off some of the repetition with a very strong cast and interesting stylized visuals. The most fun part of the series is Patrick Warburton who plays author and narrator Lemony Snicket. Snicket, with a dry gravitas that Warburton is just perfect for, tells you right off the bat what you are in for. And what you’re in for is horrible people treating some innocent kids horribly. Anyone around them is also pulled into the horribleness -horribleness that is largely orchestrated by Count Olaf. The narration acts as a teaser, breaking the fourth wall to remind viewers of the drama they are watching play out, reminding them that they are watching a show that is literally telling you it’s a series of unfortunate events. And yet, you still think and hope things might go the Baudelaires’ way.  But don’t hope, because they don’t. But still, I found myself moaning and groaning and hoping maybe, just this time, things would be okay, even as Patrick Warburton’s dulcet tones continuously told me they wouldn’t.

The Vision is a 12-issue comic series by Tom King. It’s available in two trades, so do yourself a favor and just buy them both because if you start this series, you are going to want to finish it.  

This story uses a similar narrative device to the one used in A Series of Unfortunate Events, SoUE is largely comical in its misery, The Vision is too real. An unseen narrator tells us that Vision decided to create a family. They move to a suburban neighborhood in the Washington DC area and try to fit in. This never happens. Instead, the Visions exist in a limbo, not quite human, not quite synthezoid. Sometimes they go through the motions, acting as they think humans should. Other times they are perhaps too human, unwittingly falling into the perils of violence, mania, and love. The villain in this story is largely unseen and debatable. Is it life? Ultron? Vision himself? Despite this story not having a mustache-twirling antagonist like SoUE, you know in the first few pages that this experiment in family won’t end well. Over 12 issues, we watch the pieces fall and shatter on the floor. Knowing this is coming doesn’t make this story any less compelling. Instead, it’s a study of an unraveling of a dream – its own series of unfortunate events, and we are never lead to believe it will be anything but that.

So, a similar narrative device, but 2 different stories in tone and weight. I would recommend them both but maybe have some tissues available when you read The Vision.

Summer Reading 2018 – Mixing It Up

For several years I’ve written a summer reading post around the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to the summer season, but the Fourth is the heart of it. This summer in New England has been particularly aggressive – a brutal heat wave that’s started earlier and lasted longer than we usually see around here. And so I should probably offer you some light, breezy reads that you can bring to beach and promptly forget about. But I’m nothing if not a contrarian, so instead I’m going to offer two pieces of fiction to make you think, and one cookbook to lighten the mood and because I’m personally going to use it a lot this summer with my new ice cream maker.
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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

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.

 

both

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.

 

kelly

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.

 

pablo

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.