June 1, 2012

The Idler is taking the week off for Memorial Day, so we’ll be pointing you each day to one of our favorite posts from the past few months.

It doesn’t take much to be a good guest in someone else’s kitchen, but it takes a bit more effort to share things on a more regular basis. If you follow a few simple rules, you can avoid any, shall we say, messy scenes. Jill Kolongowski provides a guide to “Finding order in kitchen chaos”

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May 31, 2012

The Idler is taking the week off for Memorial Day, so we’ll be pointing you each day to one of our favorite posts from the past few months.

Comics are more interesting when things are more than just black-and-white, in the storytelling that is. Matt Santori-Griffith takes on two examples where characters and their choices don’t fall clearly into neat categories, X-Factor/X-Statix and The Secret Six. Read “Mutants and misfits”

May 30, 2012

The Idler is taking the week off for Memorial Day, so we’ll be pointing you each day to one of our favorite posts from the past few months.

A tattoo is a way to inscribe one’s history, one’s family, one’s self on one’s own body. Ana Holguin traces those inscriptions in “Skin writing”

May 29, 2012

The Idler is taking the week off for Memorial Day, so we’ll be pointing you each day to one of our favorite posts from the past few months.

Kelly Hannon reads Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad and considers Penelope, a woman whose absentee husband has a penchant for storytelling (and anger management issues). Read “Penelope, still waiting”

May 28, 2012

The Idler is taking the week off for Memorial Day, so we’ll be pointing you each day to one of our favorite posts from the past few months.

Back in January, The Friendly Foodie made a last-minute pilgrimage to visit Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian, and discovered one of the possible secrets behind her irrepressible joie de vivre in the kitchen and in front of the camera. Read “Julia’s kitchen”

May 21-25, 2012

“‘If you like Battlestar Galactica then you’ll love Outcasts!’ At least that’s what the producers of Outcasts are probably hoping you’ll say. Unfortunately at only 8 episodes long, Outcasts is a mere shadow of the show it aspires to be.” Read “From BSG to Outcasts: A guide to ripping off your favorite TV show in 5 easy steps” by Sarah Pavis.

“Funny thing, though. A couple of months after my first issue, Batman quit the League to form his own team, who would fight battles his more straight-laced friends refused. Then the Atom disappeared into the jungle. Green Lantern went into space and couldn’t commute back and forth on the weekends that easily, I guess. The Flash went on trial for murder, of all things. The team was slowly breaking apart. I’m not sure I really noticed until I went to grab the latest issue from the bottom rack at the grocery store one day, and there were all these new characters on the cover. Wait a minute. What’s going on here? I flipped to the inside spread and read: The End of the Justice League!” Read “My youth in a comic book Detroit” by Matt Santori-Griffith

The Gamers’ Club is playing Cave Story. Read “Power up” by Daniel J. Hogan, “The zig-zag world” by Gavin Craig, and “Nostalgia, celebration, and exploitation” by Kevin Nguyen.

“With Maria you get a cacophony of voices each one populating the world around and inside her.  We hear her family, her friends, L.A. rich lady, Mexican neighbor, children at a youth center, the devil, baby Jesus (leaving messages on Mama Bamford’s answering machine), her childish self, her dark self, her anxious self, her feminist self. . . I could go on.  Though one could lazily label her silly, just a weird voice lady, or as one radio deejay so inanely misread her,  a “schizophrenic,” if you listen closely you might hear how her woman of a million voices act quite brilliantly sketches what it feels like to be Maria — to inhabit her skin, her space, her mind.  And if we’re honest, we might find that all her “weird” characters, offbeat thoughts, songs and reactions are pretty familiar to our own experience.” Read “Keeping it weird: A night with Maria Bamford” by Ana Holguin.

“I rarely judge a book by its cover, but really, that is what the covers are for. The art can pull you in as much as the description of the story, and it’s the first thing you see when picking up a new book. At AWP I attended a talk about small presses and one of the authors said her favorite part of publishing with a small press was the control she had over the cover art. Her book was about a college-age woman who moved back to her hometown. It’s a coming-of-age novel and with a female protagonist it will appeal mostly to women. But the author wanted to at least try to get a few men to pick up the book. She had experience with large presses and knew they would put a close-up of a woman on the cover, probably with an out-of-focus field in the background and just as likely with her face out of the frame. That way all the women looking to buy the book will put themselves in the heroine’s place.” Read “Cover story” by Kelly Hannon.

“I normally sauté some zucchini in olive oil when I make honey-soy broiled salmon, but otherwise I have no idea what to do with it. I found a recipe for gnocchi with zucchini ribbons (?) and parley brown butter from eatingwell.com. I had no idea what zucchini ribbons were or how butter got brown, but it sounded pretty so I went with it.” Read “Butter, browned” by Jill Kolongowski.

May 15-18, 2012

“There is an entire meditation, in Journey, on writing. The visions are iconographic — the graphemes it uses are representations of embodiment and embodied action, and like all representation, it operates by demanding interpretation. The revealed story — the story communicated through the visions — is perfectly clear and perfectly ambiguous. Life, living cloth, both flora and fauna, emanate from the energy of the mountain. People begin to direct energy, first into greater cloths, and then into structures which use cloths as energy sources. The people attain great heights, and then the energy starts to flicker. There is a tearing of the cloth. New, terrible machines are built under storm and cloud. The world is covered in sand. A single traveler appears, and moves through the ruins of the world to the mountain.” Read “Three meditations on Journey by Gavin Craig

The Gamers’ Club is playing Cave Story. Read “Let’s get retro” by Daniel J. Hogan, “Platform mechanics” by Kevin Nguyen, and “Jumping into story” by Gavin Craig

“It’s easy to wonder if the Caps and the Canadiens might have been altogether better off keeping the coaches they started the season with. After all, Boudreau was just signed to a two-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, so couldn’t Ovechkin have gotten over himself? And I’ve seen Martin on some lists as a potential Hunter replacement for the Caps, just to make things weirder. There’s obviously no way to know. Inevitably, more coaching switches will go down between now and next postseason, but these two organizations will be the teams to watch. Their ability to weather a revolving door of coaches — and possibly players — may help other general managers with their hiring and firing decisions, whether they know it or not. Or at least, a GM might think twice before firing a coach to try and stir the pot.” Read “Stirring the pot: How coaching changes landed two ice hockey teams in hot water” by Yael Borofsky.

Farscape was why my spouse and I bought a TiVo. It was a show we discovered not long after we got married and that we were soon watching faithfully. But we discovered after our babe was born in 2001 that live television watching wasn’t compatible with baby minding, and we rediscovered the unreliabilty of taping shows on a VCR. We couldn’t do without Moya and her crew, and so we bought a first-generation TiVo, along with a lifetime subscription to its services. We’ve been proselytizing the joys of TiVo ever since (we’ve upgraded to a recent model and have hacked that to increase its memory). But Farscape had disappeared from our lives for a while. It went off the air, and although I’m pretty sure we own it on DVD, I don’t tend to remember to watch my DVDs. But with its appearance on Netflix Instant, nothing can come between me and Ka D’Argo again.” Read “Farscape: Soap in space” by Sarah Werner.

“Since TECT, the machine to which humans had conceded the government of their lives, ordered Sandor Courane into exile on Planet D (which the colonists inevitably called Home), he had no choice but to go. And on Home, Sandor found respite from his failures on Earth (TECT had mercifully given him 3 chances: as a basketball player, a science fiction writer, and a factory worker) and a community whose work filled him with pride. But Sandor also discovered that on Home, there were two types of colonists: patients infected with a terrible fatal neurological disorder, and prisoners to take care of them as they forget everyone and everything they once loved. What caused D syndrome? Why would TECT let this happen?” Read “TECT Knows Best” by Suzanne Fischer.

May 8-11, 2012

“It has been a week now since the passing of Adam Yauch. The tributes have grown silent and the news has moved onwards, ever forward to the next story, the next loss, the next thing. The impact, if any, of the loss is already gone, already an afterthought, already yesterday’s papers. This is grief in this age of ours: the age of social media, of 24-hour news, of the Internet. Musicians pass away all the time. There will always be tributes. But those tributes used to feel as though they lasted longer. Maybe that is ok, the speed with which we move on from news like this. Maybe it is not ok. Why do we feel the need to eulogize the famous, to celebrate their own achievements that impacted our own lives? It is easier to do this, to cast warm thoughts and reflections on people we don’t know. It is safer.” Read “MCA, growing up, and looking back” by Mike Vincent.

“As I am not a parent myself, I naturally take any grand pronouncement by a child more than 30 years my junior as a challenge to be met head-on. I get to go home or to my hotel if it ends in tears — for either party — so there’s no reason not to meet this crazy talk with a bit of moxie. It turns out though, “Nuh-Uh!” proclaimed over and over does not make for a compelling argument, especially when shouted by a gentleman pushing forty. I had to get organized, develop a strategy. This was war and I needed to marshal my troops. But just what was going to convince a little girl that superheroes can be for everyone? And more importantly, is it going to be something I can stand to read as well?” Read “How do you solve a problem like Siobhan?” by Matt Santori-Griffith.

“Our gal Velma was doing color blocking before it was a thing. Show off that curvy bod in shades of red and orange while you solve cases and fend off fiends. These two looks are sweet, hip, and of course incredibly nerdy. Odds are Daphne will be jealous when you hop into the Mystery Machine in these threads. Jinkies!” Read “Style tips from the tube” by Ana Holguin.

“At home I wasn’t reading books I already owned. I was watching TV. Was television to blame? I know I watch a lot of shows, my husband and I are on a Raising Hope kick right now, and obviously I could be reading instead. I will admit watching TV or a movie is easier than reading. Plus you can do it while you eat or wash dishes — not so with a book. But I was having trouble with the TV, too. I never finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Rear Window. I barely made it through Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and I didn’t understand some parts because I wasn’t paying attention. How was I supposed to keep my eyes open during Jeffrey Eugenides’ Marriage Plot?” Read “Getting closer, almost done” by Kelly Hannon.

April 30-May 3, 2012

“This year, in the first round alone, the playoffs have been a statistical marvel. The Bleacher Report lays it out pretty concisely here. Watching them is mentally, emotionally, and possibly, physically (depending on how you react under pressure) hard. Playing in them? Obviously, a whole lot harder.” Read “How many heart attacks does it take to win a Stanley Cup?” by Yael Borofsky

“If you loved Dujardin’s suave, mugging-for-the-camera charm in The Artist, there is plenty more here. Dujardin plays the French version of James Bond, or perhaps more accurately, Maxwell Smart. The humor comes from Dujardin’s character (Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, aka OSS 117) being clueless about everything around him. Most of the humor relies on “did he just say that?” gags, as Dujardin makes brash observations about the culture in Cairo.” Read “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies” by Daniel J. Hogan.

“There is always an idyll in these books, a sense that joy is too good to last. This is pronounced in A Song For Summer, where Ellen, the practical daughter of suffragettes who is unaccountably gifted at housekeeping, becomes the matron at an alternative school in Austria and transforms all the rich, eccentric students and teachers with her kindness and levelheadedness. Ellen falls in love with the school’s caretaker, a Czech concert violinist who has resigned his position in protest against the Reich. Everything is about to end. Ellen and Marek will find each other again after the war, changed. We, the readers, know that the beautiful valley, the children, the storks, the still lake, and Ellen and Marek cannot stay there forever. But how we wish they could.” Read “Eva Ibbotson on love and war” by Suzanne Fischer.

“Last weekend, the temperature shot up to a record-breaking, unseasonably warm 85 degrees, and I went into full-on summer break mode. I slept with the window open; woke up gleeful as if SCHOOL’S OUT FOR THE SUMMER, did my work in sundresses, and froze orange juice to make popsicles. As with everything, I wanted to celebrate with food. Ever since I ate all my Easter candy, the kitchen was back to its usual sad, no-sweets state. But with the heat, the last thing I wanted to do was crank up the oven.” Read “Summer desserts: Icebox cake” by Jill Kolongowski.

April 24-27, 2012

“The unintended implication of Mass Effect‘s episodic but non-sequential narrative architecture may be that the truly moral choice would be for Shepard to fly from system to system but never actually land. Each of the distress calls would continue to beckon, preserved in a stasis where some existential danger has been comprehended, but eternally delayed. I like to imagine entire generations living their whole lives on that ship, passing the story of the hero who will come to save them to their children and their children’s children. It’s an appealing counternarrative to the adolescent fantasy of an individual hero whose labors succeed where armies, scientists, and politicians have failed. It would also save the player from having to wait for all of those loading screens.” Read “The world doesn’t end” by Gavin Craig

“It doesn’t matter how many issues of the Justice League I read — none of them are going to feel as innocently perfect as the ones I was reading and swapping with friends at 12 years old. Cynicism takes root in familiarity. It’s why the superhero genre in comics is so focused on recreating that initial joy through reinvention, and why so many readers are often so disappointed in the effort. Like lost childhood toys we still mourn or petty rivalries we never quite let go, we instinctively want to protect and re-experience our most formative memories. To take characters so beloved and attempt to reignite them respectfully for the same (or new) audience is no easy task. But Starman proves it can be done.” Read “Recreating the Golden Age” by Matt Santori-Griffith

“Somewhere in me I knew what I was about, but I was always so terrified that being myself — my own weird, silly, smart, and nerdy self — would never be enough for others. Though I’ve outgrown this sad state quite a bit with time and painful real life experience, presenting myself authentically (whatever that means) remains difficult. Ironically, I find that Facebook, this internet non-place, becomes a useful tool for pushing toward realness.” Read “Being myselves: A Facebook story” by Ana Holguin

“Was fiction not outstanding this year? I’m sure that sometimes it’s difficult to pick a winner from a selection of books you aren’t impressed with, but doesn’t there have to be a winner? Can’t they just pick the best of the nominees? Also, who are ‘they’?” Read “No prize for the Pulitzer board” by Kelly Hannon