Since everyone in my neck of the woods has been enjoying relatively warm weather, I thought I would discuss a novel set in wintry Wales. I was hesitant at first to review this book because I found it in the teen section. Teen novels are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I try my best not to discriminate against books based solely on their intended audience. Not every teen novel is stupid and more than a few have a good story to tell. They will often even have interesting heroines and heroes. Paula Brackston‘s The Winter Witch is a pretty cool novel. I’m always up for a book about magic, but what I got was far more than another book about a teenage witch who finds love. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call The Winter Witch a fantastic piece of fantasy fiction, and the protagonist Morgana a well-written and interesting character. Continue reading
Ransom Riggs’ New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about Jacob Portman, who is not a happy teenager. He has no real friends, school is a bore, his parents are barely parents at all, and his future is both well-planned and depressing. The only interesting part of Jacob’s life is his grandfather, Abe Portman. Abe is a Polish Jew who fought in the later years of WWII. He speaks three languages, knows his way around more than a few weapons, and can tell a tall tale better than anyone.
His tales are mostly about the orphanage on an island in Wales where he was sent as a war refugee. He also keeps a cigar box full of whimsical photographs; one has an invisible boy, another has girl floating, another has a skinny teenager lifting a boulder over his head, and there are many others equally as strange. However, not everything is as sunny as it seems—after a horrific incident Jacob is forced to face his worst fears. Using the clues that his grandfather gave him in his tales and photos, Jacob must find out what made Abe run and who or what he was running from. Grandpa Abe has a secret, and Jacob is determined to find out the truth. However the truth may be just a bit… peculiar.
Whoever coined the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was both a liar and was giving bullies bad ideas. Bullying is a sad subject. But sometimes we must look at the sad things in order to improve our own outlook and to help improve others. Do you remember being bullied? I certainly do. Few people can say they were never teased or hurt by their peers, even if it was not extreme.
Nerds, geeks, freaks, LGBT, disabled, and so many others who are considered “abnormal” (by bullies whose opinions shouldn’t matter) are subject to cutting words and physical violence. Poet Shane Koyczan was subjected to such treatment in school, along with some of his friends. He wrote a spoken word poem called “To This Day” along with creating an animated art project in order to spread the word on the harm bullying causes to children and the adults they will become. Continue reading
The Book of Mormon is a nine Tony and one Grammy Award-winning musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are well known for being the creators of the controversial show South Park, and Robert Lopez of Avenue Q who co-wrote and co-composed. The story is about two young Mormon missionaries off to their first mission ever. The first is Elder Kevin Price. Handsome and ambitious, he is positive he can be the best gosh darn missionary they’ve ever seen! While his partner Elder Arnold Cunningham, a not so handsome compulsive liar who has never actually read the book of Mormon, has lesser ambitions, he just wants a friend.
After completing their training the unusual pair are sent to a small village in Uganda. There, a brutal warlord is bullying the population, including mutilating women. Finally they meet their fellow Mormon missionaries who teach them an important lesson about suppressing feelings.Refreshed, the two naive and optimistic missionaries go off to get more Mormons for Jesus. However, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham ave a lot of trouble both connecting and converting the locals. Not only have the villagers heard it all before from other religions missionaries, they are far more worried about AIDS, famine, poverty, and war than what God thinks of them.
When I first heard of this musical I was a bit apprehensive. Religious satire is a tricky thing to pull off without outright offending people. It is especially tricky when the creators of said satire are not of the religion. However, The Book of Mormon not only lampoons the Mormon religion, but organized religion itself. For satire, it treats Mormonism with some respect, telling the truth about the church teachings. They show the people in this religion tend to be nice and clean cut people, but perhaps a bit too naïve and trusting.
However, this is the South Park and Avenue Q crew, so the musical has its share of naughty language—mostly shouted by the Ugandan people due to their crappy lot in life. I found the show very funny, what surprised me was how candid they were about the problems Uganda and many of the other countries in Africa have. This is especially shown in the song “Hasa Diga Eebowai.” I won’t tell you what it means because it’s far more fun to find out yourself, just be careful where you sing it.
This was a very good musical, it was clever, very funny, and the music was great. However, if you are easily offended, especially by swear words, you may not enjoy it. Those of you who really like South Park and Team America: World Police will especially enjoy this musical. Go and see it before it says goodbye!
Alternative awkward comedian Maria Bamford is one of the best entertainers out there. Along with being a hilarious stand-up comedian she is also a voice actor. She is the voice of Pema on Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra and most notably appears in Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time as Hot Dog Princess, Slime Princess, Manfried the piñata, the Duchess of Nuts, Huntress Wizard, and Guardian Angel, along with many others.
As a comedian she covers everything such as family, religion, God, pop culture, mental illness, the unattainable and ridiculous standards of beauty, and feminism. Though she has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Bamford is able to laugh at herself while bringing forth a completely new version of comedy. Unlike many comedians that focus only on sexual situations or dating, Bamford puts it all in perspective. She is one of the few comedians who will actually allow herself to act silly, almost to the point of insanity.
However that is not the only thing that makes her funny; she uses non-sequiturs coupled with her many voices to create a funny masterpiece. You may have seen her in The Comedians of Comedy movie featuring other alternative comedians Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, and Brian Posehn. As you can see Bamford is the only female comedian in the group, a sad trend in the comedy scene. However because of entertainers like Maria Bamford, perhaps more women will also become comedians and get paid to be laughed at. She has had a few specials on Comedy Central along with—so far—three comedy CDs: The Burning Bridges Tour, How to Win!, and Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome. Maria’s latest special the special special special is available for download or stream for only $4.99. So go get your laughs from Maria Bamford!
I had been hearing about Downton Abbey, a British period drama television series created by Julian Fellowes, for a while now, and last week I finally broke down and watched the first episode. Several hours later I was lamenting the fact that Netflix only has the first season available while the third season is currently running. Regardless! For those who have not seen it, I am your Downton Abbey sensei and shall show you the way. Continue reading
I was excited to finally get a new episode Adventure Time with my favorite genderbent fanfiction females, Ice King’s Fionna and Cake. I was ecstatic when I heard Marshall Lee the Vampire King would finally speak (voiced by Donald Glover). As the episode went on I became less and less happy until I was just agitated, especially with Slime Princess’s suggestion of “What if there was a little more romance in the story?”Damn it Adventure Time, didn’t we already go over this?
Since before the days of vaudeville troupes of performers have been rampant in comedic performance, especially in improv comedy. Those troupes such as The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, The Lonely Island, The Whitest Kids You Know, and many more are all arguably great and talented groups who have brought laughter and joy to many. The thing is, though they are indeed funny, they are also completely and utterly all men. I can guarantee that almost all of you could remember at least one sketch (or song) from among the groups mentioned. The obvious question is why are there no all-female sketch comedy troupes? I will admit there are women in sketch comedy. However, it is almost always either roughly half men/half women like Saturday Night Live or many men and one woman like… Monty Python.
Now, some may argue that there are all-female comedy troupes that are funny and how dare I suggest they don’t exist? They do exist, and I’m sure they are are absolutely fabulous, but they are not famous. What makes us flock to these all-male troupes? What causes them to be so memorable? Why do we not see some ladies acting silly with only other ladies in comedy sketches? In this instance, I am sad to say that it is most likely the old tired clichés of “women aren’t funny, women are easily offended, women can’t appeal to a man’s sense of humor (as if theirs is the only one that matters), and women don’t make ratings.” I could go on, but it would make me angry and anger leads to wrinkles. Got to keep looking young, am I right ladies? (No). The powers that be (television networks, movie producers, stupid people with much power and money but little sense) are less willing to risk money on something different, which is probably why more and more people are flocking to the computer screen when they need a laugh than to the movie and television screen. Which brings me to the Canadian all-women sketch comedy troupe called She Said What.
She Said What consists of The Canadian Comedy Award nominated Carly Heffernan, Emma Hunter, Megan MacKeigan and Marni Van Dyk. Everyone has things they can’t stand, and things that make them laugh so hard they almost crack a rib. I offer you these funny ladies, who are definitely the latter. So watch the video below and make these women famous!
I’ve never been to Portland, OR, but I have been around a hipster, which, if Portlandia is any indication, is pretty much the same thing. For those of you who haven’t heard of it Portlandia is a Peabody Award-winning satiric sketch comedy television series, which is set and filmed in Portland. It stars Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen and the lead guitarist and singer for indie rock/post-punk band Wild Flag Carrie Brownstein. The show has sprouted some phrases such as the famous “put a bird on it!” poking fun at people who slap a bird on a purse and call it art (I’m looking at you, Etsy),“Portland is where young people go to retire”, and my favorite “…plastic bags also cause pelican cancer”—which may be true, for all I know (save the pelicans, use reusable grocery bags!). Armisen and Brownstein play many different characters on the show, but the Feminist Bookstore Ladies are by far the funniest. While most of the other characters on the show are often silly right off the bat, Toni and Candace, the co-owners of the feminist bookstore “Women & Women First” are so straight faced it’s ridiculous. They are some of the most believable characters I’ve seen not only on the show, but in other shows as well. It truly shows their talent as comedic actors. These characters they are especially in sync.
The first skit these characters appear in is in season one, episode one. Not realizing that the bathroom is for paying customers only, a customer (Steve Buscemi) is forced to buy something while the two women continuously cause problems for him. It is delightfully awkward. This skit establishes the characters very well. Candace (Armisen) the older of the two women is a mild mother earth type, but is the first to threaten violence at the least provocation (a running gag has her pouring gas over everything when she is upset.) The younger woman Toni (Brownstein) is always the first to become offended and often twists around peoples; words to that affect. Her monotone voice and joyless outlook on life is especially hilarious. I always forget that its Brownstein when she is in that character, since it is so different compared to the others. She is by far my favorite of the two.
At first I was a bit miffed by this sketch. Feminism gets a bad rap as it is without this show seemingly mocking its more extreme members. However, after watching it again I understood what they were going for. Like in any group there are people whose radical ways tend to make the more sober members look bad. These two extreme ‘feminists’ have become so bound by their dogma that they start attacking other women who do not share their exact lifestyle or belief system. This is especially seen in some of their other sketches. They treated the women studies student who wore frayed shorts and attends a stripping class (for exercise) quite badly. They also made fun of her professor. Also Candace did a mock impression of her daughter Donna, which even Toni thought was uncalled for. It’s obvious that both Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are feminists and these characters are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
Overall, it’s a great show that everyone should be watching! Watch Portlandia Fridays at 10/9c on IFC, it’s also available on Netflix.
Holiday greetings, lovely readers! Before you get to sipping eggnog, snogging under the mistletoe, and overdosing on tinsel, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas! And what does Christmas mean? That’s right, Christmas specials! Every Christmas since I was a kid I would park myself directly in front of my television and watch a never-ending series of stop-animation Christmas specials. I recently realized that the storyline for each special was actually pretty strange. Some were weirder than others. I’m going to cover the more memorable of these specials, beginning with the greatest reindeer of all.