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On Podcasts: Welcome to Nightvale

nightvale

http://www.welcometonightvale.com/

Imagine if all the creepy sci-fi events from all your favorite movies and books converged on an Area 51 type town where people actually live, work, shop, and listen to radio shows. This combination of exceptional and mundane is the best way to describe the funny, quirky, and sometimes disturbing Welcome to Nightvale.

This community update radio show wouldn’t be what it is without the deadly serious deadpan of Cecil Baldwin. Without his ability to talk about the dog park (DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT THE DOG PARK) or his paramour Carlos, we wouldn’t be drawn into this small town where portals open and spit out tentacles who challenge the man with the tan leather briefcase as he tries to defy the angels that protect Old Woman Josie.

Cecil provides you with updates on events, community gossip, new occurrences, and dangerous pitfalls to avoid. He lets you know if there are any new beings in Nightvale to be on the lookout for. He talks to you about things he cares about, especially Carlos. Carlos is an absolute DREAM.

I did not think I was going to like this podcast. I like fantasy things – dragons, elves, magic. I’m usually not there very often for sci-fi/horror type stuff. I was pleasantly surprised. This podcast is absolutely brilliant. You will be sucked in immediately. The only part I’m not always interested in is the weather report, which is a song instead of a weather update.

So take a drive to Nightvale. You might want to stay awhile. Just seriously though, stay out of the dog park.

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Street Cred

Last week I received an email that was efficiently sorted into the promotions tab in Gmail. I check that now and again in the hope that I have won a Book Riot giveaway (get at me, Book Riot), and found the small email from Shipt. It announced that an annual membership for their grocery shopping and delivery service was only $49 this weekend only! $50 off! Unlimited deliveries of $35 or more! No fee! Tipping optional!

Every time I see this kind of thing I think two things:

(1) This has to be a scam.

(2) I can get my own fucking groceries, thank you very much.

But I kept thinking about it. What if I could just look up a recipe and ask for the ingredients to be brought to me? We could eat fresh every night. I could waste less food, especially produce. I talked to the husband about it and we decided to pull the trigger. Just in time too, because he came down with a serious cold this weekend and we needed stuff. It was super easy, we just selected the things we needed, paid through the app, and I got texts as the person shopped for us, even when something we selected wasn’t in stock to ask me if I wanted something else.

I have found myself in a conundrum though. With every new thing I do that seemed impossible five years ago, I ask myself whether I still have the right to talk about poverty issues. How often do I need to trick the self-checkout at a large grocery/department store to be able to talk about the angst of affording enough groceries to eat? How many trips to Europe mean that I need to shut the fuck up?

Even two years ago the $50 I paid for a one year membership to Shipt was my grocery budget every two weeks for two people and four pets. Someone brought my groceries to my house this past Saturday, does that mean my actions and struggles in the past are somehow null and void now? “Oh, Amanda gets grocery delivery, she couldn’t possibly understand ‘the struggle.'” I worry that my life will become “oh, she’s been to London so who is she to talk to me about making a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza last for a week’s worth of dinners?”

Money is such a taboo subject, yet despite this the effects of poverty and being poor are being explored in very interesting ways right now. What I don’t see enough of is how we are supposed to transition from struggling with getting to work and staying fed to “just okay.” Because don’t get me wrong, the husband and I are one Betsy DeVos student loan decision away from financial ruin, one new health care law away from disaster – there are a lot of things keeping us balanced on the edge. But until that happens, what am I supposed to do with all these skills that I have that would be of no use anymore should we become *gasp* financially okay? 34 years learning how to successfully balance bills between three credit cards, how to get a full tank of gas even when you only have $10 available credit left, how to stretch canned, frozen, and packaged food so you can eat for weeks on as little as $35, and more…who am I when that all becomes obsolete? Who am I when I’m financially comfortable?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I get the sense that finding them will be very important to becoming who I can be in my late thirties and all of my forties. A forced redefining, I guess I can handle it. Especially if they keep bringing my groceries to my house.

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Empire of Snores…I mean, Storms

empire of storms

It takes a lot of endurance to stick with a long fantasy series. I never made it all the way through Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I’ve never made it past the first of the Wheel of Time books (Robert Jordan). I have over and over again read the first two books of The Dark Tower journey (Stephen King). I think I’ve read 1.75 of the Game of Thrones books but to be fair, I am up to date on the HBO series. You have to be patient. You have to be willing to remember a lot of names, backstories, map locations, and plotlines. You have to believe that something amazing is coming.

As much as I love this series, the 5th book is not the time that this should be slowing down. The books kept me hooked through the amazing 4th story, Queen of Shadows, and my hopes were so high for Empire of Storms. She’s home in Terrasen! She’s going to be queen! I can’t wait to see her unleash her badass self on the world!

Except no, she’s not recognized by the lords or whatever and so they have to turn around and go do some other stuff to prove she’s worthy to be queen…wtf? We’re still following Aelin and Rowan, Aedion and Lysandra, Elide and Lochan, and now Dorian and Manon. Witches and Fae and humans and shifters and Kings and Queens and Princes…it’s all a bit overwhelming but not in a good way. There is so much going on that it’s like a constant humming in your ears through the entire book. I got so bored that by the time the new reveal happened in the last four chapters I was like, cool now I can finally be done with this goddamn book.

There are some sexy times which are an enjoyable read, but after like three of them I wanted to write to Maas and say that they don’t make up for a boring plot. They distracted me at first but then I became numb to them and my mind demanded more. It demanded the action and intrigue of Queen of Shadows. It longed for the climax of the story, not of the characters.

It was cool to see Lysandra as a shifter and playing a key role in helping the group survive. Her excitement at being able to be herself again once magic was freed was so fun, and I wish I had pictures of the different things she chose to become. That sounds like an interesting, useful ability, and is one that turns the tide at the end of the book.

I don’t know when the next book is coming out, but I demand that it be better than this. This series is awesome and it has such a cool premise, but it needs to keep up with itself. This book was a disappointment – it was good but it wasn’t so good that it kept me coming back like the previous four books did. It took me almost three weeks to read it, and as you all know that’s very unlike me.

If I could offer any advice it would be to read this one as fast as you can. Just get through it quickly so you don’t get bogged down and disgruntled like I did. I still think this series has merit, so stick with it, but gosh this book did not make it easy.

 

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Angry Green Gables

anne

There are many books from my childhood that TV and Hollywood have attempted to lure me in with through visual wizardry, and I have resisted. Books like The BFG and The Giver were so good when I read them that I didn’t want to sully the movie in my imagination with the movie in real life. I’ve written about this before.

When I heard that Netflix was coming out with a new series based on the Anne of Green Gables books I was curious. I loved the original one with Megan Follows so much that seeing another more modern version might be fun. The books are fun for those of us who love to read and are a little off the beaten path upstairs, and this might be okay too.

I’m not okay, guys.

The first episode was promising. I was a little worried about their portrayal of Matthew Cuthbert, but by the end of the episode his and Anne’s relationship was as it should be. The quiet softy and the gregarious spitfire, I couldn’t love it more. But it is here, dear friends, where the similarities that matter end.

This series is DARK and not like ironic/punk dark, it’s like PTSD/mental health issues dark. Instead of being portrayed as hopeful, precocious, and imaginative, this Anne is played as erratic, a little insane, and abused. I mean there are like 2 or 3 times per episode where she kind of blacks out because something triggers a terrible memory and pulls her into the past. Like when Josh in The West Wing heard cello music or whatever.

At first I was like, okay maybe this is how we move from darkness to light, maybe once she feels secure in her home and new life it will be like the sun coming up and it will be Anne charming everyone. I am writing this after watching 4 of the 6 episodes and I can inform you that it does not get better. And better in terms of the lightheartedness. I mean, I guess I can compare this to how I feel about the Jim Carrey Grinch movie. *spits* For some kids, that is their first exposure to the Grinch story, I guess because their parents hate them. In the same way, if Anne With An “E” is people’s first exposure to Anne of Green Gables on the small screen, maybe they won’t think it’s bad. The unfortunate thing is that most of us have had the TV Special Grinch and Jim Carrey’s physical comedy shitting all over our childhood is simply insulting and infuriating.

Anne of Green Gables is inspiring, she is a torch in the darkness, she is a fast friend and full of hope. She loves to learn and takes on every challenge with gusto. She is honest. This Anne is those things, but if you locked the original Anne in a closet full of spiders for two days and then asked her to come out and still be Anne. You get the sense that if it were an option, this Anne would be a self-mutilator because it helps keep the bad memories at bay. And I say that not to cast judgment, only to say that that isn’t the spirit of what Anne of Green Gables is. The focus is not on the past or darkness, it is on the future, light, and hopefulness in new beginnings.

I will finish the episodes that are there, and chastise myself for giving in when I already knew I had what I liked. Sometimes new and shiny isn’t better. Sometimes you just don’t have to put your hand on the burner to remind yourself that it hurts. This Anne of Green Gables hurts guys. It hurts to watch this. The writing is fine, the acting is fine, it’s just a haunted house/horror show version of something we already have set in our hearts, and that fucking hurts to watch.

Pros: Matthew/Anne dynamic, Diana/Anne dynamic

Cons: Everything else

 

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Destiny

destiny1

I play a video game called Destiny on Playstation 4. It is my everything. I try to learn as much as I can about it, I am a part of a clan that plays together, I regularly sherpa n00bs through the activities in the game, including story missions, strikes, and raids. I hate PvP but I’m pretty good at that too. The sequel is coming out in September, so things are petering out with this game, but I decided to log on tonight and play some strikes. Strikes are like, small scale, hard difficulty, with a boss at the end type missions.

Now, this is the kind of game when weapons have special attacks. When you shoot a bullet it might do blue damage (arc/electric), purple damage (void), orange damage (solar), or just regular damage. So for simplicity’s sake, just know that each week preference is given to certain weapon types, and this week is purple damage. So it plays to your advantage to suit up with as much purple as you can: guns, grenades, special abilities, etc. because they do extra damage and can take down enemies faster. Enemies that have that kind of damage also are more dangerous. It applies to everyone.

destiny3

So I did my first strike tonight with two other people that I was automatically matched with to play. One had mostly blue damage abilities and weapons on, the other had a mix and their abilities were orange. I spent the better part of the activity melting enemies with my purple everything and kept swearing about how dumb people are. How do they not know that there was a “burn” on? WHY ARE YOU USING HAMMERS (solar)?

destiny2

But then after I turned off the tv I got to thinking that, you know, not everyone is in a clan. Not everyone plays as much as I do. Not everyone reads the weekly Bungie updates and watches livestreams and youtube personalities. Many young people also play this game, and they might just use the things they enjoy the most during the time they have to play and don’t even know about the different “colors” and settings on activities. They’re just there to play and have fun. They don’t even know the basics of how the game works, they just put some guns in their inventory, throw on the best subclass and head for the mission playlists.

There are so many areas of my life that require understanding of perspectives: my own and those of the people around me. Trying to put myself in the shoes of others isn’t always 100% accurate, but in these kinds of situations it definitely helps me maintain patience and enjoyment of what I’m doing. When I have the opportunity I will teach people about the game because understanding these little things can really increase your enjoyment, but if that opportunity doesn’t present itself and I’m playing with randoms, I can take a deep breath and tell myself that they are just having fun, and as long as they know how to shoot they’re fine with me. 🙂

***

I write a lot about books and media, but I rarely write about my love of video games. If you are a reader and you are on PS4 or Twitch, feel free to reach out to me via email if you would like to set up times to play: angryangelbooks@gmail.com. If you are interested in Destiny I would love to show you around and get you through some of the more difficult activities because they are so much fun! I am also on Twitch and plan to livestream my play a ton when the beta of Destiny 2 comes out and into the game and expansions, so you can also follow me there:

https://www.twitch.tv/mrsnissen2010

 

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We Are Never Meeting In Real Life

irby

A few years ago I decided that I would be brave. I was living a rather isolated life in Tampa, with only my husband and my husband’s friends to keep me company, and we didn’t get together with the friends very often. I said to myself, “I’m going to make some online connections, I’m going to meet new people online.”

So I started small, I sent friend requests to people my current online friends already knew. If they trusted them then I felt okay trusting them too. This brought me to Samantha Irby. I was not aware she had a book, I was not aware she had a blog. She was smart and funny online, and friends with people I trusted and I wanted to be her friend too. Please understand, I was not a fangirl. I just wanted some smart, funny friends so I didn’t go crazy with loneliness. It took a lot for me to say “We’ve never met in real life, but can we please be friends?” I am not courageous that way.

Slowly over time I discovered Ms. Irby was so much more than smart and funny, she is brilliant. She is someone who cares about those she loves and her personality is equal parts nihilistic and exuberant. I bought her book, and cried and laughed as I read. I discovered her blog and slowly worked my way through the archives. I discovered that this person I had never met in real life is absolutely spectacular, and I was so lucky to have stumbled across her in my facebook search for a friend.

Her new book, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, is a continuation of her triumph from her first book, Meaty. You’re laughing hysterically at her misfortune at pooping out of the door of a car in a snowstorm because of IBS and McDonald’s, and then suddenly you’re “I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING” at an essay which is as devastating as pooping out of a car is funny. This variation in memoir-esque recollection is what keeps you glued to the pages. This book is an emotional journey, one that you must take.

I don’t want to give anything away. I’ve read the book twice now and I’ve picked up something new each time that has tickled my funny bone and tugged at my heartstrings. Irby’s writing is so good and flows like a natural stream of consciousness so it’s like you’re there watching her father’s ashes blow back into her face or in the room as she and her college friends watch Braveheart over and over. Also trigger warning about Helen Keller, I had to stop reading 12398587343 times because I couldn’t see my Kindle through the tears.

Perhaps more important than feeding the need for being provided with the personal stories of another human being, this book should also give you a sense of the important issues of our time: poverty, race, sexuality – issues that are so prevalent in our political and personal conversations right now. Amongst the butt stuff and cunnilingus you’ll be learning about the ISSUES. She doesn’t come out and say “in this essay I will explore the issue of race and LGBT discrimination by describing the fear I experienced driving through the South with my girlfriend,” she trusts you to read and understand.

What I love the most about her writing is that I walk away with so much anger at how she’s been treated without any prompting. I think a good test of whether or not someone is a decent person is to hand them one of Samantha’s books and then videotape their reactions or ask them how they feel after each chapter. If they are choking on their tears and snot as they laugh, they can be trusted. If they come back and are like, “I hear what she’s saying, but actually…” please remove that person from your life.

Watching this book make the rounds ahead of its release has been so exciting. Essence, O Magazine, The New York Times, all the while with a pilot based on Meaty heading to Fox – all of this is success and recognition that is well deserved. Irby is a talented, amazing garbage person, and I know she knows I say that with affection. I have never met her in real life, but she is my friend and I think that you should go read her book, not just because she’s my friend, because she is a brilliant, amazing, important voice that you need to hear.

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On Podcasts: The Dollop

dollop

http://www.dolloppodcast.com/

Okay I know, it’s two white guys, but stick with me. This podcast is easily one of the funniest things I’ve listened to so far and to write it off because there is a lack of diversity in the creators would be a huge mistake. The Dollop is a whole lot of fun.

So the premise is this: Dave Anthony looks up a weird story about a person or event from American history, and then tells that story to Gareth, who isn’t informed about the topic. So the hilarity ensues when Gareth reacts to the details of the story and adds his improvisational flair to the already ridiculous subject matter.

I know you think you know the depths to which the United States of Ridiculous goes but you don’t. I promise.  There are stories that they tell that are absolutely real and you won’t be able to believe that they are real. This podcast will teach you more about our history than you ever wanted to know, but it does it in such a hilarious way that you won’t want them to stop.

Something else that is enjoyable is that it’s fairly low rent. It’s done in a home or garage, and Jose the kitten sometimes joins us! An inside joke is that Gareth doesn’t want to be called Gary, so of course everyone calls him that.

It’s not a podcast I could listen to every day, but it’s a nice treat and good for a laugh. Especially if you like laughing in the face of unbelievably horrifying historical tales. If you haven’t already, please check them out.