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Category Archives: consume

New Collecting Guide: She-Hulk, and her new status quo at Marvel

Yesterday Marvel made a shocking and totally cool announcement that Jennifer Walters – traditionally known as She-Hulk – would drop the “She” prefix and become Marvel’s main Hulk in a new eponymous title from writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Nico Leon.

hulk-2016-promoThat will mark her sixth time anchoring a solo series since her debut in 1980, not to mention several runs with The Avengers and Fantastic Four and a ton of mini-series in the past decade. That’s all covered (along with every single guest appearance) in my newly-launched Definitive She-Hulk Collecting Guide and Reading Order. (The guide also covers other She-Hulks, like Betsy Ross.)

This will mark a big shift from past She-Hulk series, which have usually featured a green, grinning woman with her monstrous tendencies almost entirely under control. Here, Walters will get lost in her rage as she tries to maintain her double-life as lawyer and superhero. Says Marvel EIX Axel Alonso in an exclusive with A/V Club:

Jen went through major trauma in Civil War II, and Mariko and Nico’s story will deal with the fallout of that trauma—the anxiety and anger, sometimes self-destructive, that comes along with it. If there is light at the end of the tunnel, Jen is going to have to search hard for it, and she’s going to have to battle with some pretty big monsters—including the one within—to find herself again.

Some fans are already hotly debating if rage and a center-stage turn are the right direction for this typically light-hearted hero who is historically as inane as Deadpool. She-Hulk going all rage-y in lieu of an appearance by her cousin Bruce Banner is a time-honored tradition when she’s on the wider Marvel stage – Brian Bendis used the same trope over a decade ago as one of the inciting events in Avengers Disassembled before setting it up again currently in Civil War II.

Personally, I don’t have an opinion other than, “Yay – more She-Hulk!” I own nearly all of her appearances, and her original series was my first custom binding project last year.

How easy is it to own that all for yourself in collected editions? The She-Hulk Guide can help you catch them all, but let’s take a look at Marvel’s track record of reprinting Jennifer Walters’ starring series through the end of Secret Wars in 2015.
Continue reading ›

Music Monday: “Undress You” – Mutlu

It’s rare to spend a night out of the house unless it’s to rehearse or play a show, so I took great delight in kicking off a few weeks of birthday-adjacent celebrations on Saturday with an outing with Lindsay and her beau J. We converged on my old South Philly stomping grounds to see two songwriters and friends of ours play The Boot & Saddle – Katie Barbato and Multu.

I know Katie from being out and about on the open mic scene in what seems like a very long ago and far away life, plus splitting a memorable Arcati Crisis show with her band The Sleepwells. She’s also famous for helping me break out of one year of my February Funk (and pushing me to finish “Dumbest Thing I Could Do” – a good call on her part). Earlier this year she released an outstanding EP with her band Dirty Holiday that is amongst EV’s major favorites, and she has a new solo record out this fall.

I could write you an entire essay on Katie and her music and how Lindsay leaned into my ear at one point and remarked, “Her voicings are so much like yours, but she plays like Gina. So, obviously, you love her.” But, that will have to hold – perhaps until I hang out with her in a few weeks.

mutlu-onaralI’m actually here to talk about Mutlu.

Saturday night was the first time I’ve ever seen Multu perform without our dear friend Dante Bucci playing by his side (and, as it happens, only the second time seeing him without being behind the mixing desk, thanks to the music festivals that Lindsay, Dante, and I produced over the years).

I had second thoughts about going. Or, more accurately, about staying. It seemed impossibly hard to start celebrating my birthday there in the absence of Dante, who was synonymous with Mutlu for me, whose birthday traditionally marked the end of our various Virgo/Libra birthday shenanigans in college.

I thought it might be too hard. I thought I might slip out after Katie was done her set, or maybe stay for just a song or two, telling Lindsay and J I was exhausted after a long day.

Dante would never do that. Dante never missed a single show of mine if he could physically get to it, and he’d never leave before my set was over.  How could I use the absence of him as an excuse to miss live music when it was his favorite thing in the world?

Maybe I was supposed to simply get lost in my emotions and in the crowd and dance, like all my friends have been doing for fifteen years of seeing Mutlu perform.

So that’s what I did, undulating to the music without a care. At one point, Mutlu announced, “This is a new one from my EP Caffeine and Whiskey, you might not know it.” He began to play and I knew it within a second. It was “Undress You,” a song he had first written and performed live nearly a decade ago just now enjoying its time in the spotlight.

I know what that feels like. I’ve been sitting in my living room rehearsing decade-old songs for weeks, checking to see if it’s their time.

How was it not this song’s time in the spotlight a decade ago when it is so instantly memorable? I’m not sure. I don’t remember it being this relaxed, the jazzy guitar quite so articulated. Maybe it was a little too eager to undress a decade ago? Maybe it needed the years to give heft to “Why we wasting time when we could be together?” Maybe the old falsetto hook of “Can I undress you?” was played for laughs instead of being a soulful call-and-response with the following “probably the last thing I should do”?

Maybe there was a through line from this song of Mutlu’s I had forgotten to my own “Dumbest Thing I Could Do,” who Katie helped to coax into the spotlight with its own response of “is be along with you.”

While I was wondering those things in my songwriter’s brain I was dancing, singing along, and remembering. The song brought back flashes of friends lost to time and circumstance, and of Dante’s lawn and a song that was suddenly and improbably my new favorite thing, pulling me out from the mixing desk to dance and sing along.

It was an indelible moment that I had completely forgotten, but it all came rushing back as I sang along to words I didn’t even realize I knew with Lindsay smiling at my side in her own instant recognition.

It is my new favorite thing all over again.

Children’s Book Review: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild & The Curious Garden by Peter King

We’ve been reading to EV since the first days of her life, but reading to a tiny squirming baby is a lot different than reading to a curious and opinionated three year old.

Peter Brown in a YouTube video for his book The Creepy Carrots.

Peter Brown in a YouTube video for his book The Creepy Carrots.

Back then I read whatever I liked, and baby EV issued nary a complaint unless the language wasn’t smooth and consistent enough to hypnotize her into a lull. As long as I was enjoying the reading, she was enjoying the reading, too.

Three year old EV is a little different. She has a long attention span and a voracious appetite for books, but she’s got some preferences to work around. It’s not so much that she dislikes any one book, but that she likes others a bit too much.

We don’t do any “put it on repeat!” behavior in this house (another post for another time), but if EV is crushing on a particular book it quickly turns into a twice-daily read for a few weeks. As the designated reader for at least another two years, when a new book hits the “Crushing EV” list that means my preferences come into play beyond my typical “is this a good message?” filter.

I don’t want anything with language too simple or silly, or prose too basic. I enjoy books with different character voices where I get to do a little acting or situations that leave some room for imagination so I can editorialize. And, strong graphic design and typesetting can’t hurt – after all, these are books I’ll be spending hours with each week!

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is one book that I was delighted that EV added to her favorites, so much so that finding more by author Peter Brown was my first priority at the library. When we picked up The Curious Garden I expected it to be good, but I did not expect the two books to have such complimentary, synergistic themes.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild & The Curious Garden by Peter King


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild: CK Says: 4.5 stars – Buy it! Amazon Logo

Read Time: <5 minutes
Gender Diversity:
 Male protagonist; society of mixed genders; children exclusively minded by females
Ethnic Diversity: not applicable
Challenging Vocab (to read or to define): loosen, peculiar, unacceptable, magnificent
Themes To Discuss: civilization, wearing clothing, differences between animals and people

The Curious Garden: CK Says: 4 stars – Consider it! Amazon Logo

Read Time: 4-8 minutes
Gender Diversity:
 Male protagonist; no other named characters though some female background charaters
Ethnic Diversity: A set of briefly-seen wordless background characters are of different races
Challenging Vocab (to read or to define): greenery, pruning, delicate, mysteriously
Themes To Discuss: trespassing / urban exploration, pollution, how plants grow, greening

This pair of beautiful children’s books by Peter King have a lot to say about civilization versus nature, and how the ideal state of the world is a balance of the two. Both books have a positive message and enjoyable prose, and each it rife with interesting topics for discussion.

Peter King’s illustrations are a delight. His characters are all vividly colored and have a slight blockiness to their outlines. They seem to be near siblings to Jon Klassen and even give a very slight hint of Adventure Time.

mr-tiger-goes-wild-peter-brownMr. Tiger Goes Wild is the whimsical tale of a town filled with very proper animals who all dress like pilgrims and walk around on their hind legs. Mr. Tiger feels like something about his routine just isn’t right. After bounding around town on all fours and enjoying some very loud, improper roaring, he decides to take things to the next level and abandon his clothing. His neighbors, already perturbed by his running and climbing, decide this is a a bridge too far and ask that he leave town.

Mr. Tiger enjoys a return to the forest, but eventually misses his friends in town. He returns to offer a compromise on the puritanical dress code only to find that many of the town’s animals have adopted some of his more animalistic habits and are happier for it.

EV loves this book – from the moment of its introduction it has been one she is happy to read multiple times a day if given the chance. Me too, thanks to hilarious pages like the when where Mr. Tiger first has his wild idea. At first, she was more enamored with the variety of the animals in the town, the comic style word balloons that made it obvious who was speaking, and the cuteness of Mr. Tiger. As she has aged, she is more engaged with the plot, why Mr. Tiger wanted to be wild, and Mr. Tiger’s return to nature (and then again to society).

EV has repeatedly initiated discussions about why the tiger is even wearing clothes and if it would be okay for her to take off her clothes outside. If you don’t like your books with a side of thought-provocation, then this might be off-putting – but, we love those kinds of books in this house. I think the topic of what it means to be civilized (and what’s just puritanically-derived custom) is perfect for a little wild thing who is learning to tame their toddler urges and interact with the world around them.

Since we love Mr. Tiger so much, The Curious Garden was the first book I plucked from the shelf the day EV got her library card. Like Tiger, it has inspired intense love from both EV and we parental units, but it’s a very different sort of book with its own message about how the best elements of nature still need some cultivation to blossom. Continue reading ›

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Power Rankings, S2E04

This week on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the queens tackled sequels of three famous camp films and brought their best two-fashions-in-one reveals to the runway.

rpdras-s2e04-queen-revealAs with last episode’s lip sync extravaganza, this episode is a greatest hits of queen performances – the weakest pair of acting jobs are still hilarious and the worst runway is gag-worthy. Uneven (some would say unfair) judging casts a pall over affairs and makes the obvious winner of the week look messy as a result.

However, none of that compares to the reveal of the final frames of the episode, which found the four eliminated queens staring back at the five remaining queens through one of their workroom mirrors. The eliminated girls are back and ready for their revenge!

And now, on to the rankings!

1. Alaska Thunderfuck 5000

Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 1. To date: 2, 1, 1. Average: 1

rpdras-s2e04-alaska-maxi-01An acting challenge is the perfect bounceback for Alaska after a week where she would have been in the bottom if not for her shrieking alien runway outfit.

While her results were bit mixed, the show’s reflexive applause for her efforts prove that this season was designed for Alaska to win in the same way All Stars 1 was Chad’s game to lose.

Be warned, fair readers: I’m about to drag this beloved drag queen a bit despite her top ranking.

Alaska is gifted with the most gag-worthy, meme-generating character in the trio of acting scenes, Bette Davis’s legendary Baby Jane. I have to believe that this script was destined for Alaska no matter what, just like the script with the “tired old showgirl” joke was going to be Phi Phi’s (who knows what would’ve happened if they paired up).

rpdras-s2e04-alaska-runway-01Alaska slayed in her uncanny Baby Jane impression, which proves she could have easily done Bette Davis for Snatch Game (a Jinkx favorite on the Best of the Seasons tour). However, all the mugging as her impressive caricature made her scene also feel like the Snatch Game – it was joke-to-joke instead of moving smoothly through a story as the other two did.

While you could blame the script for the herky-jerky quality of the scene, it didn’t help that every one of Alyssa’s interjections felt like a full stop in the action. Alaska was a clear winner, but she doomed Alyssa in the process.

As for the runway, this was one of Alaska’s weakest of all time yet she got a pass for being Alaska when Alyssa got a fail for being Alyssa. The runway theme was a dual-fashion reveal, but Alaska’s lumpy trash bag burqa didn’t qualify as fasion. Beneath, she presented a decidedly inelegant take on her legendary, foul mini-challenge creation, Lil’ Poundcake. It was shabby when it should have been stunning, which would have only further sold her petulant mugging as Poundcake.

rpdras-s2e04-alaska-runway-02(Non-fan E caught a glimpse and said, “Well, that was pathetic.”)

Luckily, the judges love in-jokes (as do fans) so they ate it up. However, it’s insulting to see such applause for Alaska in joke-mode when everyone else in the field smoked her on reveals and were all considerably more elegant. She then delivered a lackluster, unserious lip sync on one of the best lip sync songs of all time – “Got Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn – all while Phi Phi destroyed it with perhaps the best sync of the season.

We get it Alaska – you’re a skilled impersonator, even of your own characters (including yourself). I came into this season rooting for Alaska, but after four weeks of All Stars I’m looking for something a little bit more. Hopefully Alaska delivers in spades for next week’s comedy challenge to keep some semblance of objectivity going in this race since it’s not destined to be suspenseful.

Otherwise, I’m hoping for an upset by the queen who has Charisma Uniqueness Nerve and Talent right in her name… Continue reading ›

on Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent, and Transmisogyny

This weekend the heavy favorite to take home the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series is Jeffrey Tambor, who plays a woman on Amazon’s show Transparent.

More accurately, Tambor plays a trans-woman – a woman who has transitioned from being a man. It’s a stellar role on a series that spends a lot of time on voices we don’t traditionally hear from in sitcoms.

And I really, really dislike it.

Jamie Clayton and Freema Agyeman, stars of Netflix's Sense8.

Jamie Clayton and Freema Agyeman, stars of Netflix’s Sense8.

This isn’t my typical hyper-critical nature rearing its head. The show is fine. The thing I don’t like is Tambor himself in the role.

Having a cisgender man (i.e., “a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex”) cast in the role of transwoman not only takes the role away from a trans actor, but also emphasizes the inherent maleness of the character. That’s a trait most transwoman characters are trying to leave behind as they live an external life aligned with their internal gender identity. If a trans actor wasn’t available for the part, a cisgender woman would be more appropriate since the truth of the character is as a woman, not a man.

No matter how much Tambor transforms into the role, we will still see him at awards ceremonies as a man. His next role will likely be as a man. Tambor is sensitive and supportive in every media appearance for the show – a true ally – but all the accolades he’s won and will continue to win for Transparent will be about how bravery and honesty of his portrayal of a woman in transition.

It would be more brave and honest to have an trans artist like the Jamie Clayton on Sense8 or Laverne Cox in Orange Is The New Black (two shows with their own set of other representational challenges).

I’ve had trouble articulating this discomfort to friends in conversation, especially as a cisgender white dude who doesn’t really have a stake in this discussion. Why do Transparent and The Dutch Girl bother me so deeply when I’m fine with the way Drag Race and Hedwig and The Angry Inch dissect gender roles with men portraying women?

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a powerful series of tweets from writer and actress Jen Richards. Richards articulates my objections concisely and crystallizes them with additional detail. I present them here, unedited, in their entirety. Continue reading ›

New Collecting Guide: Thanos, Marvel’s Mad Titan

I’m happy to announce my first villainous comic guide – The Definitive Thanos Collecting Guide and Reading Order!

thanos-INFINITY2013004_GenThis guide isn’t only unique in focusing on a villain – it provides context for every one of Thanos’s significant comic appearances, so you can build your own ideal collection of Marvel’s Mad Titan.

Thanos made his cinematic debut in the post-credits scene in 2012’s The Avengers. From the explosion of fan fervor you’d never know that the multi-chinned purple villain had fewer than 200 in-continuity comic book appearances to his name at the time and had only once appeared in a monthly Avengers ongoing, over 35 years prior.

Originally a one-off 70s Iron Man villain, Thanos’s original notoriety came from his adoption by Jim Starlin, the creator behind the psychedelic space sagas of Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock. Thanos was the arch-nemesis of them both, but when Starlin’s initial run with Marvel wound down Thanos was shuttered along with Warlock and some of his supporting characters, revived only to usher Captain Marvel from this mortal coil in the classic Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel.

It was Starlin who again revived Thanos in the 90s during his run on Silver Surfer, this time as the only villain epic enough to assemble the entirety of Marvel’s heroes to fight him. Infinity Gauntlet was Marvel’s first linewide event with a featured mini-series plus tons of tie-ins that was centered on a singular foe. It was so successful that it spawned a pair of sequels in the following years.

After 1993, Thanos was finally unleashed on the Marvel Universe at large, but he was still used sparingly. Aside from an atypical run as a villain for Ka-Zar, Thanos stayed far away from the scrum of most of Marvel’s earthbound heroes for another 20 years! In that time he anchored another mini-series event, his own ongoing title, and was one of the main antagonists in Annihilation – the cosmic event that kicked off the line of stories that birthed Guardians of the Galaxy.

It wasn’t until Thanos’s cinematic debut that he entered the mainstream of Marvel, harassing the entire planet of heroes in Infinity while the Avengers were far afield in space. The result brought Thanos closer to the heart of Marvel’s storytelling than ever, with Jonathan Hickman using him as a central character in the run-up to Secret Wars.

Here’s the breakdown of all of Thanos’s major, most-essential appearances – each one is covered in the guide! Continue reading ›

Music Monday: “Perfect Illusion” – Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga - Perfect IllusionIf you were returning to the mainstream after tepidly-received synthesizer-based record but also two years of acclaim as a jazz singer and actress, what would you want your comeback single to sound like?

That’s highwire challenge Lady Gaga faces this fall – a perilous popstar tightrope walk without a net.

First, no song will ever be as good as her sophomore comeback stunner “Bad Romance,” but there are other pitfalls. Too synth-y and it’s labeled as more of the same, too dance-y and it’s a regression. Too many repeated words and self-references and you’ve descended into schtick. If the vocals aren’t off the charts you get pegged as an also-ran who faked her way through the jazz period.

What’s a global icon to do? I’m not sure, but I’m also not sure you could do much better than “Perfect Illusion,” the sizzling single Gaga dropped at midnight on Thursday. It might not be a perfect pop song, but it’s a smartly-constructed comeback.

Let’s review all the parts, shall we?

First, note that this is a rock song. That’s signaled clearly by the sizzling i-VII-VI electric guitar riff that underpins the entire song and the pulsing fuzz bass that drives the verses. It’s also got a hint of disco which is unleashed in the outro – listen for the guitar stabs coming out of the key change chorus and a brief sample of a sawing string section.

With Katy Perry taking over for Lady Gaga in the world of synthetic pop and even Taylor Swift stealing Gaga’s tangle of minor key synths on songs like “Style,” Gaga couldn’t go back to the well. Dance-influenced rock is a radio mainstay now thanks to songs like “Shut Up and Dance” and this year’s breakout by 21 Pilots. It’s also Lady Gaga’s ancestral home where love of Bowie and Queen merge with 80s influences like Whitney Houston and Madonna.

A collaboration with Mick Ronson (of Amy Winehouse and “Uptown Funk” fame) and Kevin Parker (from Tame Impala) added tangible texture that Gaga usually reserves for ballads like “Speechless” and “Dope” without relying on an acoustic piano. That was necessary coming off of the critical acclaim from her past few years. Her chance to cross over to new fans or just more mature old ones is to present a more unvarnished version of herself and her sound. “Perfect Illusion” hits the mark, complete with a slight scream-y edge to the highest vocals.

When she was last on pop culture center stage, it was unquestioned that Gaga was a vocalist above all competitors save for Beyonce. She retakes that crown here, with all of her idiosyncrasies intact. Show-off-y key change aside (it tops out on Eb5 in chest), listen to how she carefully over-pronounces “i-loo-shun” every time. It’s a minor reference to her kooky heritage, repping for the obsessive theatre kids who keep their vowel sounds in check.

Another thing that’s intact? Gaga’s dead simple songwriting. If you’ve heard some complaints that this is just two verses, a brief brief, and an endless refrain, they’re from people who forgot “Love Game,” “Poker Face,” “Born This Way,” “Applause,” and all the other songs that fit this cookie-cutter structure. Gaga doesn’t waste a lot of words on verses.

All of that analysis skirts the issue of if the song is any good. I’d say it’s just “okay,” but so are many of Lady Gaga’s singles until they’ve been drilled into your brain. “Perfect Illusion” is no more or less basic than her debut on “Just Dance,” which features nary a memorable vocal hook and relies on repeated chords to be memorable.

Similar to “Just Dance,” “Perfect Illusion’ has verses that rely on simple two-note phrases and a chorus that is all bite-sized intervals. Another singer might have inverted the stepwise descent of “it wasn’t lo-o-ove” in the chorus to go up rather than down or introduce a leap of a third to make a more distinct hook. Yet, that would sacrifice the space to belt the key change as well as the dead-simple singalong quality of the chorus.

Also, note that she bagged the feel-good for-fans-only message of “Born This Way” and the self-reference of “Applause.” This is just a song, not a meta statement.

Beyonce might be the better singer and Katy Perry and Taylor Swift now the bigger pop stars, but Lady Gaga seems to have recalled that her past success was predicated on the fact that the best pop songs are best even when stripped down to their underpinnings. Here’s Gaga debuting “Perfect Illusion” live (and NSFW) not on a network morning show’s sweet spot, but in sweaty London club The Moth. If she has more of this savage energy for us in store on her record, it’ll be a hit.

Crushing On: The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo

Once, in high school, a teacher asked us to keep a log of all the television we watched in a week. If I recall correctly, mine tallied at 36hrs – one of the highest in the class.

A lot of that came from consuming sitcoms. This was a world before prestige dramas – the closest we had was Baltimore: Life on the Streets. Instead, there was a two hour block of comedies each night, plus a preceding two hour block of re-runs of Cheers, Seinfeld, and other modern classics.

Maybe it’s burnout from those days, but I haven’t been able to stomach a funny TV show in years aside from 30 Rock. Nothing about any of them seem remotely funny. The internet is no different – people link to amusing web series and I’m a stone face. It’s like my TV overdose permanently broke my funny bone.

Maybe that’s because sitcoms are so… situational. They depend on so many of the same archetypes being filled – the clueless dad, the vapid attractive woman, the brainy kid, the wacky sidekick of color. Even with a giant bucket of archetypes, you see a lot of the same things over and over.

That’s why I am genuinely surprised and absolutely obsessed with The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, a TV-quality YouTube show from the mind of sketch comedy pro Brian Jordan Alvarez. It’s the funniest non-animated thing I’ve seen on a screen all year.

It’s Seinfeld-esque in being a show about nothing other than the entanglements of the titular Caleb Gallo and his group of friends – each occupying some part of the fabric of the LGBTQ community. It’s also a 30 Rock inspired show filled with fast-paced dialog, wicked wit, and occasional flights of fancy.

Here’s the first episode:

I love it. Every cast member is my favorite. Caleb has the easygoing likability of Paul Rudd crossed with Jimmy Fallon as he tries to maintain a long distance relationship with the sweet, young Benicio while pining after seemingly-straight Billy, who in turn really wants to date Caleb’s best friend Karen, a man-crazy bombshell who uses Caleb to clear out her one-night stands more quickly while she obsesses over Lenjamin, a wannabe actor who is considering being bisexual “for professional reasons” and wants to ease into dating men by being set up with Caleb’s friend, ghe gender-fluid Freckle.

the-gay-and-wondrous-life-of-caleb-galloIf you find yourself thinking, “Oh, a gay show. I probably won’t like it,” you need to reset your expectations. Maybe you’ve seen a clip of of a “gay” web series that was a lot of sex jokes that went over your head and you suddenly felt uncomfortable and othered.

That’s not a bad thing to experience sometimes, but that’s also not this. Gay and Wondrous Life of Jacob Gallo is a show about people first, like like Blackish and Off the Boat are shows about people. Despite all of the potential hookups, this show doesn’t find all of its humor in sex, but in relationships (though there certainly is some sexual humor, as with the erection joke that opens the episode). The misunderstandings and neuroses of all the characters aren’t unique to their sex, gender, or orientation.

While the entire cast is charming, Freckle is a scene-stealer of Jane Krakowski magnitude. It’s not because of their gender-fluid character, but because they are gifted only terrific great lines and a magnetic grin that pulls focus from everything else in view. Actor Jason Greene developed the character outside the bounds of this production, and it shows in the implied history of hijinks expressed in their twinkling eyes.

Yet, when Freckle isn’t on the screen, all of these actors are MVPs. Ken Kirby as Lenjamin is delightful in subverting the unsexy Asian guy stereotype by being a hunk that’s at the center of love triangles while also vying for the sort of parts he probably wouldn’t get cast for in real life. Stephanie Koenig as Karen bursts from the screen in every scene, her natural comfort and scarlet locks recalling Karen Gillan’s turn in the under-appreciated Selfie.

The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo was funded for five episode, the last of which went up this week. While the fifth does resolve a few plot threads, you couldn’t be blamed for wanting more. I can’t imagine it’s making enough as a streaming show to subsidize more episodes of this visual caliber, but hopefully a web or television network gets interested and picks it up – it’s gold. A Daily Dot feature went behind the scenes of the indie production.

Children’s Book Review: At the Same Moment Around the World, Linus The Vegetarian T. Rex, and more…

EV and I made our first visit to the library two weeks ago. I wasn’t sure how EV would warm to temporary additions to her library. I shouldn’t have been concerned – we’ve average at least two reads a day on all of the positively reviewed books.

EV had one a clear favorite in this bunch, which I also thoroughly enjoyed (aside from some squinting).


at-the-same-moment-around-the-worldAt the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin

CK Says:  – Consider it. Amazon Logo

Gender Diversity: Plentiful!
Ethnic Diversity: Plentiful, although some Asian characters have peculiar skin tones
Challenging Language: Various country and city names
Themes to Discuss: World cultures, relative development/industrialization of different cultures, agrarian societies, kissing goodnight

EV was slow to warm to this book, which includes a look at a slice of life from each of 24 time zones around the globe. She quickly become obsessed when she realized each page featured a different kid and many small details to hunt.

Now it is her answer to everything. What are you doing EV? “At the same moment!” What do you want for dinner, EV? “At the same moment!”

I find the book delightful. It’s full of kids and teens doing everyday things, like helping to catch fish, rehearsing for a parade, and watching the world from a train. Each two-page spread features a full-bleed illustration that transitions between its two time zones. If you examine the outer edges of the page you’ll see that each image seamlessly continues over the edge of the page to the next – the book forms a continuous loop of art!

The text consists of just two sentences per pages. It is small and can be hard to read against many of the colorful painted backgrounds, at one point reversing out to white against a light background. The book should have added a screened, transparent box behind type and took it up two point sizes. Additional content includes an education spread on time zones (didn’t hold the toddler’s attention) and a fold out map of the world with all the characters connected to their cities (toddler is obsessed with this!).

After a few reads focusing on the words and the main action, EV and I started engaging with the background details of each location. There are many – enough to create multiple runs of “eye spy” through the book if your little reader gets obsessed with it.

at-the-same-moment-around-the-world_int_anchorage-and-san-franciscoPerrin carefully balance her distribution of genders and activities across the different cultures, such that most of the times I felt like it was reinforces a stereotype it quickly reversed. However, the some cultural stereotypes persist: Iraq is the only non-First-World country to have a large metropolitan area depicted, while Europe and America don’t focus as much on agrarian lifestyles.

In total, the book visits Senegal, France, Bulgaria, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Himalaya, Vietnam, China, Japan, Australia, New Caledonia, Russia, Samoa, United States (Hawaii, Alaska, California, Arizona), Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Greenland, the isle of Fernando de Noronha (also Brazil), and the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

There are other books that do individual elements of this better – showing different places and cultures, telling the story of every day tasks – yet the combination of that with the concept of time zones is clever. That might make this a great library check-out before a kid’s first big trip that crosses time zones. If you’re considering adding this to your bookshelf, note the odd dimensions of this book – it is 13″ high by 7″ deep.


There were six other books from this week’s library, including an imaginative dinosaur tale and a whimsical book that I had to edit due to some tacit misogyny! Continue reading ›

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Power Rankings, S2E03

rpdras-s2e03-herstory-title-cardThe third week of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars brought us a lip sync extravaganza, with each queen playing a famous woman of history – Eve, Helen of Troy, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, Annie Oakley, Eva Perón, and Princess Diana. (Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, and Frida Kahlo were earmarked for the departed girls.)

These group lip syncs are some of the most scripted performances on the show – each queen needs to hit a set of pre-determined lyrics with a dictated look and choreographed dance steps.

That leaves limited room for creativity (unless they’re choreographing themselves), but a whole lot of opportunity to mess up on execution.

How did our queens fare in this cooperative endeavor after the ultimate in “every girl for herself” last week in Snatch Game?

1. Alaska Thunderfuck 5000

Runner-Up, Season 5. Pre-Season Rank: 1. To date: 2, 1

rpdras-s2e03-alaska-maxiThis was an average showing for Alaska – maybe even an off week? Yet, it’s still clear she inhabits a different plain than the majority of her opponents.

Her lip syncing as Eve was far and away the weakest of the entire bunch, despite a showy and altogether hilarious dance performance. There were clear missed and misaligned words if you watch closely, especially during her strut to center stage. That’s despite her Britney-knockoff tune having one of the most straightforward pop arrangements of all the songs. She also wasn’t especially noticeable in the background of the other girls’ performances, either.

rpdras-s2e03-alaska-runway-1Her saving grace was the runway, even though runway didn’t save a similarly weak performance for Detox last week. Alaska’s runway was an imaginative and complete alien vision that nods to Sharon Needles’ final runway of Season 4 with long tentacled fingers. She wasn’t headed to the bottom two with a look that on-theme that wisely broke out of the expected silver box the other girls were in.

With a dance challenge out of the way, can anything else possible derail Alaska? Only if some of the queens on her tail start delivering a string of flawless performances – particularly the next one… Continue reading ›