Comic Book of the Month: Junior Braves of the Apocalypse
by Michael Tanner & Greg Smith
A troupe of “Junior Braves” (think Boy Scouts) heads into the mountains for a retreat, only to return to town to discover that a zombie-like apocalypse has happened in their absence. The boys must use their wits and their Junior Brave training to survive and discover if any of their families have made it through the horrors alive. This book, co-written by Fools Play’s own Green Fool Michael Tanner, is like the fun of The Goonies and Monster Squad meets The Walking Dead in one fantastic graphic novel!
Podcast of the Month: Conversation Parade with Open Mike Eagle & John Moe
Adventure Time is a cartoon that has attracted a tremendous adult audience. So here is a podcast where two very smart, very nerdy, and very funny people (John Moe and my pal Mike Eagle) discuss undercurrent themes that run through the show and also interview creators and cast members! It’s a lot of fun to listen to, so DO IT. Oh, and the title of the podcast is based on a rather obscure BMO-created video game from the cartoon. You can watch it in “action” in this clip:
Website of the Month: North of Reality
A delightful series of (almost daily) short prose vignettes of fantastic, surrealist, and unfettered imagination, often with a sinister or threatening air hanging in the background. I’ve written about Uel Aramchek before when I posted his series of tweets about the “Invisible States of America.” These are like those, only a bit longer and more developed, but still with that same sense of mystery and awe.
Video Game of the Month: Steven Universe: Attack the Light
This is a rather fun li’l turn-based RPG based on one of the best cartoons in existence right now, Steven Universe. The controls are very intuitive and easy, leveling-up is natural enough that you never need to grind (very important to me), and the animations and voices (all the voice actors/actresses from the cartoon) are great. It’s not bad at all for $2.99, and it’s a great companion piece that manages to capture much of the charm of the cartoon. Available on a mobile device near you.
Restaurant of the Month: Ice Cream Social
It’s gettin’ hot out there… so instead of taking off all yer clothes, why not get some delicious iced cream? For many a year Ice Cream Social was only available in food cart form, but a while back they opened up a permanent, brick-and-mortar ice cream parlor on the bustling 6th Ave in Tacoma. Results seem to be very positive: there’s often a line out the door on warm days. There’s a good combination of permanent standard flavors as well as a menu of rotating experimental flavors (like strawberry-balsamic). It ain’t cheap, but it’s supremely high-quality.
An example Ice Cream Social menu.
Website of the Month: Day of the Shirt
You know how there are now a bunch of different websites that offer cool/nerdy/geeky T-shirts that are pretty cheap (usually $10-$12) but are only available for about 24 hours? You probably know about one or two of those sites, but there are gobs of them. And it would be a real pain to keep track of them all… except for this website, that aggregates them all for you. Updated every hour, refreshed every day. Now you need never miss out on any geeky shirt you could possibly want!
TV Show of the Month:
Hot-damn, this is how you do Daredevil. This show is dark. Dark. Horrible things happen to good people. Routinely. The heroes are mostly powerless, and lose more than they win (for the most part). The villain is a complex, developed character. Lies, betrayals, good ol’ Catholic guilt, and bloody, bloody beatings. All the performances are just spot-on, especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin. He’s like a gigantic tea kettle that is constantly in danger of boiling over, but at the same time is genuinely shy and uncomfortable around other people, and especially in public. Even though at times it is a grueling experience, it is an amazing show.
Album of the Month:
They Might Be Giants: Glean
They Might Be Giants have a new non-children’s album! And it’s very strong. The worst songs on this album drop only to the level of “average TMBG songs,” which still put them light-years ahead of most any other songs in existence. And the best songs are absolutely stellar. My favorite is “End of the Rope,” which has a very cool, almost-spy vibe to it and a wonderful lyric cadence. Also fantastic are “Madam, I Challenge You to A Duel” and “Hate the Villanelle” (which is actually a 100% correct villanelle, a very strict poetic form). But really all 15 songs are good stuff.
Documentary of the Month:
Atari: Game Over
A fascinating urban legend among nerdy circles is the tragic tale of the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game for the Atari 2600. A huge bomb, it was critically and commercially panned, and Atari was stuck with warehouses full of unsold cartridges. Legend says they were unceremoniously buried in a landfill in New Mexico. The whole tale is symbolic of the home video game crash of the early 1980s, which wouldn’t be rescued until the NES hit the scene. This documentary is part historical—tracing the rise-and-fall of Atari and the 2600’s place in nerd history, as well as the personal history of the programmer who actually created the E.T. video game—and part mystery. Did this landfill event actually happen? Can it be found? There is a surprising amount of build-up and suspense!
Video Game of the Month:
Google Maps Pac-Man
Wha-what!? Starting yesterday, if you’re in Google Maps and you zoom in to a certain magnification, a little box appears next to the “Google Earth” box. It’s very important that you click that box. When you do, the streets you’re viewing will suddenly become overlayed with dots… ghosts will appear… and you’ll be able to play Pac-Man on those streets!
Pac-Man on Capitol Hill!
I should probably mention that this is NOT an April Fool’s Prank! This really happened!
Album of the Month:
Three Ninjas: The Sadness Will Last Forever
Three Ninjas releases his second full-length old-school country album, and it’s even better than the first (Alcohol & Isolation)! It’s old-timey depressing country songs about drinking and lost loves and horrible lives. There are a couple of cover songs mixed in amongst the originals, but Three Ninjas’s songwriting skills in this genre are so honed that I’d bet you wouldn’t be able to tell me which ones they are (unless you happened to have heard of them already). The music craft has been even more finely-tuned from his previous outings. I don’t wanna call it “polished” because that implies a certain slickness and dullness whereas this album has a very skillful rawness. A “realness” I guess I should say. Listen; it’s good.
TV Show of the Month:
Yo Gabba Gabba!
This is my 17-month-old daughter’s favorite TV show. Sure, it’s a very-little-kids’ show, but Yo Gabba Gabba has a pedigree and a spirit that is sorely lacking from most very-little-kids’ shows. What other show in this genre has musical performances from the likes of Weezer, The Flaming Lips, Erykah Badu, Cornelius, The Shins, and The Roots (just to name a very few), most of which perform original songs written just for this show! Yo Gabba Gabba also has a wry self-awareness of its own ridiculousness that I especially appreciate, particularly with the over-the-top cheerfulness of the host, DJ Lance Rock. Watch (if you can find it) the episode co-starring Jack Black and tell me that I’m wrong. And then watch the “DJ Lance’s Super Music & Toy Room” episode and just marvel at the epic awesomeness that keeps pouring from the screen. TRUST ME.
Instagrammer of the Month:
Someone takes those cardboard coffee cup sleeves that have been emblazoned with the Starbucks mermaid logo, and using just a pen or two transforms them into something completely different. It’s cute fun.
Video Game of the Month:
A very addicting non-musical rhythm game for Android where you control a pair of discs that circle each other as you try to scale a randomly-generated, never-ending tower. There are various formations that you can unlock as you score more and more, and tiles that you can touch (or fail to avoid) that can change the speed, distance, and direction of the discs’ rotation to try to throw off your rhythm. Deceptively simple, and surprisingly pretty.
TV Show of the Month:
Do you remember Italian Spiderman? One of my very-favorite things in the last decade? Well, some idiots in Australia gave the people who made Italian Spiderman some money to make a TV show. And I love them for it. Danger 5 is a fascinating show that takes place during World War II but looks like it was filmed in the 1960s on an absurdly low budget. The plots are all ridiculous Saturday-morning plots (example: the Nazis have stolen dinosaurs from the jungle in Antarctica and surgically put crystals in their heads to remotely control them) but with an almost-disturbing level of casual violence and undercurrent of 60s-style misogyny. Like Italian Spiderman, everything about Danger 5 reeks of over-the-top ridiculousness and below-the-basement budget. And for no explicable reason the entire aesthetic of the 2nd season switches from excessive 1960s to excessive 1980s. And it is glorious. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s available on DVD except from Australia, but the 1st season is on Netflix!
Musician of the Month:
I Kill Cameron
Self-described as “Acoustic/Crust Pop/Folk Punk” and “folk punk on the ukulele,” I Kill Cameron is the delightfully expressive, fun, and self-aware ukulele-and-vocal music of Phoebe Zayas-Defiance. This music is earnestly humorous, and Phoebe’s expressive voice coupled with the small-scale, woman+ukulele production creates a rather personal, intimate feeling (even in the songs that feature a full back-up band) that can also get enjoyably raucous and explosive, and it’s hard not to be gladdened by the peppy ukulele. I Kill Cameron boasts song titles like “Carl Sagan Would Love Your Eyes,” “Sorry My Dairy Allergy Inconveniences You,” and “Our Love is an Arcade Game & I Just Ran Out of Quarters.” This music also makes a great spiritual counterpart to Joshua Stephens‘s style of expressive folk-punk.
Movie of the Month:
Prom Queen’s Midnight Veil
I suppose I should put “movie” in quotes like that because, even though it’s an hour long, Midnight Veil is more a loosely-connected string of music videos rather than a full-length movie. Prom Queen is a musical project of Celene “Leeni” Ramadan, and it the kind of darkly-lush 1960s music that would be perfectly at home in a David Lynch movie. In keeping with the music, these videos all painstakingly recreate the look at feel of the 1960s, from the costumes to the cars to the hair. They run the gamut of genres, from darkly gothic to sadly domestic to high-kitch SciFi. The attention to detail is uncanny, even down to the 1960s-style film stock, and the videos feature such Western Washington landmarks as Dick’s Drive-In, Gasworks Park, and XXX Root Beer in Issaquah. This is the kind of sultry music that you can drown in, and the Midnight Veil movie dovetails nicely with my well-established love of the 1960s Spy genre. Really well-done, and really enjoyable.
Don’t believe me? You can actually watch the whole thing for FREE on the YouTubes!
TV Show of the Month:
Z Nation: Season 1
I think people may overlook or dismiss this show because it was made by The Asylum and aired only on SyFy network. Maybe they think it’s just trying to cash-in on the success of The Walking Dead. But Z Nation is really its own beast, and is really unlike almost anything else I’ve seen on TV. For one thing, it’s a great deal of fun. Not for the characters, certainly; what they go through is rather hellish. But it’s all done with a wink and a nod and some very wry twists of humor that make the whole thing very enjoyable. I really appreciate how the creators of the show also seem willing to try anything. We get some inventive zombie iterations in this show, including (but not limited to) zombies coated in oil, zombies caught up in a tornado (yes, just like the sharks), radioactive zombies in a nuclear power plant, a zombie bear, a zombie high on marijuana, and that’s just to name a few. The show is also one of the only ones where there is really no sense of security for any of the characters. Z Nation goes out of its way to show that anyone can die at any time. You can’t take it too seriously at any point, but it’s just a lot of fun. Bonus: one of my friends gets eaten in episode 3!
Credit where credit is due (arrow added by me for emphasis).
Video Game of the Month: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
A delightful action/puzzle game with an old-fashioned, block-based layout and controllable camera angles. Starring Captain Toad from the Mario Galaxy Series of games, you work your way through a series of small(ish) tableaus, collecting as much treasure as you can before snagging the star, the goal of the level. Toad can’t jump (his explorer’s backpack is too heavy). About all he can do is run around avoiding enemies and tugging stuff outta the ground (like in Super Mario Bros 2). It’s great, simple fun.
Album of the Month: The Hoot Hoots: Colorpunch
The Hoot Hoots are a Seattle mainstay. They’ve opened for Julia Massey & The Jesus Rehab and vise-versa countless times. They’re good, fun, colorful rock with a playful, comedic bent. This album is some catchy, catchy schtuff.