by Tony Pence
Tony Pence is the proprietor of Celebrated Summer Records and plays in bands including WarXGames and Deep Sleep.
These are his books bought at Atomic Books this year.
by Tony Pence
Tony Pence is the proprietor of Celebrated Summer Records and plays in bands including WarXGames and Deep Sleep.
These are his books bought at Atomic Books this year.
by Tony Pence
Tony Pence is the proprietor of Celebrated Summer Records and plays in bands including WarXGames and Deep Sleep.
These are his favorite movies from 2014.
by Benn Ray
Benn Ray is editor of the Mobtown Shank, he is a Signal (WYPR) contributor, he runs a daily comics tumblr called Mutant Funnies, and he has a weekly comic strip called Said What? which appears in the Baltimore Sun's B Paper.
(in alphabetical order)
Ant Colony by Micheal DeForge
DeForge's first original graphic novel is a bizarre and riveting look inside the world/lifespan of an ant colony. In DeForge's world, ants are as different as you and I. The world of the ant is largely allegorical for the sort of world we live in. What I'm saying is, we are the ant colony!
Andre The Giant: Life And Legend by Box Brown
With stylized and iconic art, Brown tells the story of the literally larger-than-life wrestler Andre The Giant. When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to see Andre wrestle live a few times. When I got older, I was surprised to discover he had a posse. Brown's story is an endearing and sensitive biography of a somewhat difficult icon while giving us some insight into the world of wrestling too.
Art Schooled by Jamie Coe
If you've ever read Dan Clowes' famous "Art School Confidential" comic from Eightball and wished it was more fleshed out, possibly with a nice coming of age narrative, then Coe's Art Schooled is what you've been looking for. Coe's artwork is fantastic, his observations, while sometimes a bit reactionary, are also spot on, satirical and biting. His coloring is every bit as good as his line work and his page/panel construction makes turning every page an exciting surprise. This should be provided to all art school students along as part of their freshman orientation.
Basil Wolverton Weird Worlds Artist Edition by Basil Wolverton
IDW's Artist Series has published quite a few impressive, over-sized, limited edition books , but this collection of legendary MAD contributor Basil Wolverton may be the best yet. It contains stories covering his career from Powerhouse Pepper, Spacehawk, up through his grotesques, his religious work and more. The result is simply WOW!
Barbarella Deluxe Edition by Jean-Claude Forest / Kelly Sue DeConnick
The comic that inspired the erotic sci-fi classic gets a worthy, gorgeous deluxe, oversized treatment. Limited. You'll kick yourself if you wait.
Bumf Volume 1: I Buggered the Kaiser by Joe Sacco
The early 1990s was a time rich with surrealist underground comics: famous for artists like Jim Woodring and seminal works Ed The Happy Clown by Chester Brown and Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Daniel Clowes. Joe Sacco, primarily known for his comics reportage of war zones, has taken his decidedly conflict-based frame of reference and turned in this first installment Bumf, a modern take on the surrealist underground comic. Bumf if ripe with post 9/11 images, Nixon, and a hard focus on buggering. It's brilliant, bizarre fun - loaded with intricate linework and a story that delights in both disorienting and reorienting the reader. Essentially what he have here is a new modern, underground, surrealist comics masterpiece.
Complete ZAP Comix by Victor Moscoso (designer) / Eric Reynolds (editor)
I was so stoked for this book to finally come in. Imagine my dismay when the distributor (Diamond Comics) shipped me a damaged copy. So I got on the horn and had them send me a replacement copy. And guess what? Diamond shipped me ANOTHER damaged copy. And now they tell me they can't get any more copies of the book. So all I was left with was a damaged copy to look through before returning it. I wasn't even able to get a copy for myself, which is a bummer because this goddamn thing is a masterpiece.
Is it possible for something to be too good? If so, this deluxe set of complete Zap Comix might just be it. This is the most important comics collection to be released in years - bringing together the complete run of the Robert Crumb-created underground comix version of MAD Magazine. It features comics by Crumb as well as S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, Rick Griffin and so many others. This set is worth every penny of its price tag. If you can get a pristine copy.
Fight Frogs by Jimmy Giegerich
Fight Frogs is a modern take on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-style comic. Light on story, heavy on fight and fun. The artwork is funny and gross, the characters almost seem custom-made for action figures and playsets. The story is essentially, the Frogs wake up and find their pad vandalized by the Dick Ducks. So the Frogs hop on their Ultra-Tough All-Terrain Mega-Dank Fight Frog Ultra Boards and travel the desert wasteland to catch up with the Ducks. A flex-off turns into an epic rumble. Grossouts and laughs abound.
Libertarian by Nick Maandang
A Libertarian decides to pretend to be something he isn't in order to trick a woman into having sex with him. Mandaag manages to create a comic that satirizes Libertarians, socialists, feminists, Marxists, vegans and while still keeping its heart in the right place.
Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez
Love Bunglers collects the landmark story from Love & Rockets: New Stories! I'll admit that Love Bunglers may not be the greatest graphic novel of all time. There are a number of other titles - Watchmen, Ghost World, Jimmy Corrigan, Black Hole, Maus and others who can battle for that title. No, what Jaime has achieved here is the perfect graphic novel. These are characters who have developed over decades of Love and Rockets comics, but it's not necessary to have read those stories to get this book. In Love Bunglers, you have a comics master in peak control of all aspects of the medium - the characterization is precise, the linework is impossibly perfect and the narrative is profound and emotionally devastating. Love Bunglers is the comics medium perfected.
Silent Mischief by Katrin Kagen
Katrin's collection of illustrations are hilarious and adorable, and this new book will have you laughing out loud. Katrin holds up a mirror to us all at an interesting angle, that sometimes reflects us back as animals and inanimate objects that still manage to reveal us in very surprising and amusing ways. Easily one of my favorite books so far this year.
Silver Surver Vol. 1 by Dan Slott / Michael Allred
Marvel restarts their Silver Surfer series, this time with Mike Allred doing the art (a stroke of genius, really). Slott's story captures the pop spirit of Allred's art - and the art really makes this book fun - there are times when the page almost seems too small to contain everything going on.
Theth by Josh Bayer
I've been a fan of Josh's for a long time now. With each project his work just gets stronger and stronger, and Theth marks his greatest achievement to date. It's the story of a costumed Seth (taunted by his schoolmates as "Theth"), who is going to school the winter of John Lennon's murder. Theth captures the confusion, ambivalence and import surrounding this profound event in everyday life (perhaps I relate to this as strongly as I do because I was the same age as Seth, and was reading similar comics at unfriendly newsstands, and remember hearing the news of John Lennon's death on the bus to school, and experiencing the cultural confusion it caused at the time). Will Theth and his family find a way to get a long? Will Theth turn bad? Was John Lennon really stabbed and not shot? This excellent new book by Bayer raises these questions and so many more and Josh illustrates them brilliantly.
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
Liz's memoir has been one of the most anticipated books at Atomic in the past few weeks, with most of the staff asking at least once a day, "Is it here yet, is it here yet?" When I finally said yes, everyone dropped what they were doing and immediately grabbed a copy and started reading - and everyone is in agreement that Liz totally killed it with this book.
Trillium by Jeff Lemire
Collected into this book is Jeff Lemire's acclaimed time/space-bending epic of the last love story ever told. It's crazy and awesome, and it'll have you flipping the book around in weird directions at times just to read it.
Turtle Island by Kevin Sherry
Kevin Sherry is one of the best kids books authors out there. Turtle Island is coolly illustrated book with a great story: it's a tale of loneliness and the magic of community as seen through an island-sized turtle and some shipwreck survivors.
Twelve Gems by Lane Milburn
This excellent, retro space opera reads like a funny, alternative Infinity Gauntlet meets Guardians of the Galaxy - but way cooler than both.
Weirdo Years: 1981-1993 by Robert Crumb
If you claim to love comics and don't own a copy of this, collecting Crumb's great Weirdo series, you're a liar. Some of Crumb's best work ever - Weirdo is a must-have.
Witzend by Wallace Wood
This isn't so much a book as it is an event. I love it when Fantagraphics delivers these deluxe, multi-volume hardcover comics collections - it's as much a statement of publishing principles as it is a comprehensive comics artifact. One of my all time favorites by in this format was their Harvey Kurtzman Humbug collection. Wally Wood's Witzend is just as impressive - with hours of page-turning glory. This was an early indy comics anthology that provided a lot of amazing artists the opportunity to publish personal work without worrying about the commercial side of comics. And yow! Just look at that list of contributors!
Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry
Kevin Sherry has created a fun, magical world of cryptids. They try to keep a low profile, but unfortunately, there's an idiotic cryptozoologist named George Vanquist who keeps trying to take pictures of them to prove they do exist. This conflict creates hijinks, but the real fun is Sherry's elaborate pages, full of childlike whimsy, fascination and fun.
by Benn Ray
Benn Ray is editor of the Mobtown Shank, he is a Signal (WYPR) contributor, he runs a daily comics tumblr called Mutant Funnies, and he has a weekly comic strip called Said What? which appears in the Baltimore Sun's B Paper.
(in alphabetical order)
Carsick by John Waters
Cult filmmaker and icon John Waters likes to hitchhike. He's done it for years. Carsick documents his biggest adventure yet - hitching cross country from his Baltimore home to his place in San Francisco. The book is divided into three sections - section one outlines his ideal hitchhiking fantasies, section two relates his hitchhiking nightmares, and section three documents what his experiences really were. The results are heartwarming, fun, funny and surprising in how decent most folks were. Take a ride with John Waters with Carsick – you’ll not find a wittier, more engaging travel companion.
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.: A Memoir by Viv Albertine
Fearless, honest, accessible, and with a voice like an old friend telling you stories, Albertine's memoir is a revelation and an inspiration. She was there for the beginning of punk rock. She was in the Slits. She formed a band with Sid Vicious. She inspired the Clash's "Train In Vain." She inspired Nirvana. She later reinvented herself as a filmmaker and now as a brilliant writer. Each chapter is like a revelatory postcard. It's all about music, sex, love, art, feminism. And it's hard to put down once you pick it up. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes… belongs in any library of great rock books.
Dust And Grooves: Adventures In Record Collecting by Eilon Paz
This is an impressive book of photographs of record collectors with their collections. It's fascinating to see the different ways in which people actually gather their records. It also contains interviews with collectors to give us a look inside what motivates them. Going through this book feels a lot like digging through bins at a local, awesome record shop.
The Martian by Andy Weir
This new novel is a white-knuckle thriller.
Sort of like Gravity with more plot, character development and no Sandra Bullock - in The Martian we are reading the journal entries of a dude who got left behind on a Mars expedition and must figure out a way to try and survive for over a year until there's another chance of rescue.
Part of the appeal is the science/tech.
It's Robinson Crusoe in space, and it's oddly compelling.
Maryland Legends: Folklore from the Old Line State by Trevor J. Blank / David J. Puglia
A state as old as Maryland is bound to have a few ghosts in its folklore closet, and this book takes a look at them - from the Snallygaster of Western Maryland to Big Liz of Greenbriar Swamp to Patapsco River's Hell House to the demon car of Seven Hills Road to the Goatman of Prince Georges County to Baltimore's Poe Toaster... they're all here - plus more you never even knew existed.
MultiVerse: A Collection Of Superhero Poetry by Rob Sturma / Ryk McIntyre (editors)
I'll freely admit I was VERY skeptical of this anthology of superhero poetry, but then I started reading the titles of some of the poems, "Tank Girl Dispatch," "Bruce Wayne Wakes Up," "Bizarro Hate Poem," "The Real Dark Knight," "Astro Boy Blues," "The Tony Stark Handbook OF Familial Love," "When Peter Parker Crashes At Your Place," and "Joker Year One" and so many more. I couldn't stop myself from reading the poems out loud in the store, and not only is the verse killer, it's clear that the poets here actually know their superheroes. Each new poem is a fun surprise.
Old-Fashioned: The Story Of The World's First Classic Cocktail by Robert Simonson / Daniel Krieger (photographer)
It's a cultural history of the first cocktail - the Old Fashioned. While it seems to be enjoying a return to popularity, this drink has been through hell over decades. While the book boasts beautiful photography and a variety of cocktail variations, the real charm is the history of the drink itself - how did martinis, for example, manage to survive unscathed while the Old Fashioned has suffered no end of abuse? And why, now, is it back?
Sick Rose: Disease And The Art Of Medical Illustration by Richard Barnett
In the 19th century, urbanization, industrialization and poor hygiene resulted in an era of epidemics. Sick Rose collects the grotesquely riveting medical illustrations of diseases of this era. It's both disturbing and beautiful at the same time. I immediately snatched one up for myself and can't stop looking at it.
Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
2014 was a big year for hot-shot Japanese author Murakami. His much anticipated Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage came out his summer was a hit. But he snuck this quirky little novella in while no one was looking. The Strange Library is illustrated and has a cover that folds out like a reporter’s notebook. The story involves a boy who goes to a library and ends up getting stuck while Murakami's fertile imagination takes over. But of note is also the accompanying artwork by famed book designer Chip Kidd - the surreal result is a rich and strange collaboration. It's a great introduction to Murakami for those who have always wanted to read him but just couldn't commit to one of his larger novels.
Taxidermy Art: A Rogue's Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself by Robert Marbury
This full color, hardcover book highlighting artists whose medium is taxidermy is everything you'd want it to be - beautiful, strange, creepy, disturbing and unsettling. But there's also a workshop section for the home taxidermy enthusiast, as well as a section on places to visit, a brief history, legal resources, a brief history and more. Marbury has compiled the first modern taxidermy bible.
by Benn Ray
Benn Ray is editor of the Mobtown Shank, and he co-hosts a weekly podcast about the NBC TV show Constantine called "No Smoking." He also has another TV-show-releated podcast in development.
Having insomnia throughout much of 2014 really provided me with a lot of late night/early morning TV watching time. And good thing too, as there was a lot of TV to keep up with this year, a lot of really good TV, in fact.
Every once in awhile, I still see a car with a "Kill Your Television" bumpersticker on it. And while I may have agreed with that sentiment in the late 1980s-early 1990s, it is an idea every bit as dated as those represented by "Ron Paul 2012" bumperstickers.
When I see those "Kill Your Television" bumperstickers, I feel pity for the person who owns the vehicle.
"You poor, ignorant fool," I think, "You still think of TV in an outdated way."
It would be like having an "Rock & Roll Corrupts" or "Comics Cause Juvenile Deliquincy" or "Movies Waste People's Time" bumperstickers. Idiotic, right?
But they're still out there. Keep an eye out for them - the drivers of such vehicles are not to be trusted - who knows what other antiquated and dangerous beliefs they may hold.
If only they had tried to watch any of the TV shows I list below, things may be different for them.
BEST DRAMAS OF 2014
1. Fargo (FX)
This show is every bit as much a masterpiece as the movie that spawned it. Being a fan of the Coens' film, I was totally confused as to what this show was. Was it a sequel? A prequel? A retelling in new way with reconstructions of iconic characters from the original? But then, a handful of episodes in, the snow storm shootout - which is essentially all about obscured vision, how it all fits togeter snaps into brilliantly sharp focus. There was noting better on TV this year than Fargo.
2. The Americans (FX)
The show's complextity and brutality continues to grow and develop. Spies are being played, coutner-espionage is at work. Identities are constantly on verge of being exposed. And the real repurcussions of spying on a foreign government while trying to raise a family at the same time all converge - as does the slow, creeping suspicion that perhaps neither side is all that great.
3. JUSTIFIED (FX)
I worried if this series might wobble a bit after the loss of genre genius and co-creator Elmore Leonard, but it didn't. The tales of desperation from Appalachia, with drug lords, would-be drug lords, wannabes thugs, lackeys, and dumbassess is still just as good as ever - presided over by a questionably moral (and possibly criminal) Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant). Razor sharp dialogue, fascinating characters populaed by well-known character actors giving typically the best performances of their career, and lots of plot unpredictabilty. Also, the foil of Boyd to Raylan is complex and fun (every great hero needs a great nemesis). The final season is coming up (if only Ian McShane showed up as a baddie!).
4. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
I knew it couldn't end well for Nuckie, but I didn't realize how badly it was going to end for everyone else. In the series finale season, Nuckie finds himself positioning to go legit as the end of Prohibition is drawing near - but his past sure as hell ain't helping him in that regard. This final season is bleak, brutal and in the end, very appropriately unfulfilling as the characters you want to win simply won't. Simply can't. Guess my dream of a Downton Abbey/Boardwalk Empire ends here.
5. The Walking Dead (AMC)
I know there are some who disagree with me when I say that each season of Walking Dead just keeps getting better, but those poeple are wrong. It does. The best season yet - with a mix of horror, betrayal, paybacks, sacrifice and more. We lost some likeable characters, gained a few new ones, and had a major mullet revelation (that comics readers knew was coming). Can't wait to return to this world for an hour a week. The future is as bleak and promising as it ever was.
6. Game Of Thrones (HBO)
This season offered a number of unexpected but much-appreciated twists, reminding viewers that no player is safe in this Game of Thrones. Still as large, dynamic, and unexpected as ever.
7. Mad Men (AMC)
A number of shows I like this year seem to thematically involve people trying to adapt to the changing times or situations of their lives. As the era of Mad Man marches on into a counter-culture future, the conflicts and struggles and threats become more apparent. The computher that can replace staff, for exampple Plus, rooting for Don to get his, er, Don back in action feesl good.
8. Dowton Abbey (BBC)
Another show that deals with institutions facing changing times and how to cope. The era for this sort of social sytem, as a result of the war, is pretty much over, and the Abbey must find a way to continue to exist. Meanwhile, personal stories of the staff get particularly complex when an upstairs guest's downstairs servant rapes a Dowton employee. Things must be hushed, people musn't know - and not just because of the social awkwardness it would create. The Abbeys seems to be teetering on a precipice.
9. House of Cards (Netflix)
The political machinations continue to be ever-fascinating as does the Underwood family and their thirst for power. Collateral damage happens along the way (Freddy's BBQ, for example), characters come apart, careers are crushed, but you can't help but root for the Underwoods (even though we know that an America with them at the helm would be the most dangerous thing in the world).
10. Hannibal (NBC)
This is a simply delightful reworking of the Thomas Harris characters. The horror is gorgeous. The plots complex. The look and the feel of the show is consistently unsettling. And you find yourself rooting for a serial killer. Every minute of screen time is gorgeous - it's impossible to look away, even when you really want to.
True Detective (HBO)
This show was a little too all over the place for me to rank it as a best show of the year. The ending of the season was a let down. The allegations of plagairism concerning some of the best dialogue also makes my feelings about this show rather complex. Still, all and all, it was a fun ride, and McConaughey and Harrelson together were a treat - and the filming of each episode was just so goddamn beautiful.
I think we're currently in a sitcom down time. There are a handful of really good ones, and then everything else is utter rubbish (at best). These are the handful of sitcoms that are good. If you like a sitcom and it's not on here, that's because it's crap (with the exception of Parks & Recreation). If you watch and laugh at shows like Big Bang Theory - you're part of the problem.
1. Veep (HBO)
As Selena climbs ever closer to the presidency, for every two steps forward, she seems to take 3 steps back. Her humiliation, the scurrying of a staff in over their heads, and the comic wranglings of the Inside The Beltway political machinations make this show a joy. I also fantasize about a Veep/House of Cards crossover. I'm not sure who would win that battle.
2. Silicon Valley (HBO)
When I thought this was just another comedy about Silicon Valley nerds, I groaned. Then I saw that Mike Judge was one of the creators, and my expectations were set higher - I expected funny, original, and social commentary - and Judge's show hits all those notes. A geeky group of techies are trying to be successful in the feeding frenzy IT world.
3. Louie (FX)
The season before this one was a little iffy. And I wasn't much of a fan of Louie's Atheist Punching nonsense this past year, but his "So Did The Fat Lady" episode should become a staple in cultural and womens studies classes thorught the country. The longer narrative stories like "The Elevator" were approaching art film quality again. And his relationship with Pam is suffiiciently weird. His kids are getting older, which looks like it's going to cause even more problems for Louie. When this show is good - it's art. When this show is not good - it's disappointingly stupid. Fortunately, it's mostly good.
4. Broad City (Comedy Central)
It's sort of like Girls - only with much less entitled characters - struggling to scrape by in New York. This show is at its best when it starts to get weird - like the wedding episode or the storm episode. The focus is two young, female, New Yorkers who are slightly gross, who are slightly self-involved, and who are trying to figure out their place and life, with a handful of equally interesting and funny friends, acquaintences and hookups. The characters feel real and knowable. Oh yeah, and one of the two leads went to MICA.
5. Girls (HBO)
The blowback and hate that Lena Dunham contines to generate only makes me like her more. She is becoming a voice for her generation, and she is sartizing and mocking a certain priveldged class and an entitled group. She points out their sheer absurdity - but then, youth is absurd. I am desperately hoping for a Girls/Broad City crossover.
6. The Mindy Project (FOX)
This show is weird in a great way. Yes, it seems like your typical, formulaic sitcom, but it's loaded with quirky characters with quirky attitudes. However, it's the ridiculous pacing of the humor that makes it so good. Sometimes when the jokes fly, they come at you like they're being fired by a machine gun - the pacing and rhythm is unique and fun - as if they aren't afraid of an audice missing a joke because hell, everyone has a DVR and can rewind that shit anyway.
7. Married (FX)
The first show to deal with people in my age group to realistically handle relationships. The show is funny, but it's not that mean-spirited funny where you begin to wonder why they characters are even in a relationship with each other - it's more a cooperative funny, where you feel like those who love each other, despite their problems, really do love each other. Revolutionary.
8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
So there is really nothing revolutionary about this. It is pretty much a solid, formulaic, cop sitcom. It just happends to be really, really funny. There are a lot of comically talented cast members, but the real stand out is straight man Andre Braugher. I like to pretend he's Pembleton from Homicide, and that this is just where he works now.
COMIC BOOK/MISC. SUPERNATURAL TV SHOWS
There are a number of superhero/comic book TV shows now (and not bogus ones based on some made-for-tv superhero character, but ones based on real DC and Marvel superheroes). And, admittedly, I watch all of them. And while I enjoy Arrow and The Flash, I would not say these are GOOD shows. They are entertaining, and I get a kick out of them (and getting my nerd up over appearances of characters or story arc suggestions from the comics series), I can't really recommend them. And I enjoy Constantine so much, I do a weekly postcast about the show (but the show needs more time to find it's footing to become good - and it looks like NBC isn't going to give them that time). And while I may have a couple "supernatual" shows in my general Drama list above, I have a few more here that I also enjoy and would have made my top 15 if I had done it as a top 15. So these shows are in my top 15, overall, but they get their own genre call-out.
1. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
Being a Joss Whedon fan, and enjoying Marvel's movies of their ever-expanding universe, I gave SHIELD a try for about 3 - 4 episodes. It did nothing for me so I gave up. Later, friends insisted that I watch it because "it gets really good - specifically around episode 11 when Hydra emerges as a result of the events in Captain America's Winter Soldier." Begrudgingly, I gave it another shot and I'm happy I did. Bill Paxton shows up and gets increasingly more awesome per episode. Plus, this is the best performance of Kyle MacLachlan's career. The cast grows huge, the special effects are decent - and it totally feels like a Joss Whedon show - which discourages you almost from getting too invested in the characters becuase you know betrayal, maiming, torture and/or death await them all.
2. Supernatural (CW)
I love Supernatural. And after 10 seaons, it's a testament to cast and crew that it is still one of my most anticipated weekly shows. This season seems to be meandering or taking its time a bit more than previous seasons, probably because they know they have a season 11 to work on regardless. This show is very much like a DC Vertigo comic - and really, it's what NBC was hoping and hasn't managed to capture with Constantine.
3. Gotham (FOX)
I call this show "Batman babies." Sure, it's not quite canon. Sure, there isn't much in the way of capes, but Gotham is itself enough of a fascinating city. At it's heart, it is essentially a police corruption/gangsters TV show, only with the child-versions of soon-to-be major players running around. The writing is getting better, and the fact that the show brought on Ben Edlund (The Tick, Angel, Supernatural) is a positive sign of greater things to come.
4. Vampire Diaires (CW)
It surprises me that this show has lasted 6 seasons, and it surprises me even more that I like each season more than the last. Small town in Virginia hosts vampires, werewolves, witches and more. The plot twists are not only almost always unpredictable, but always fresh and fun.
Once upon a time, there would be a Rachel Maddow or a Daily Show in this list. Not this year. Maddow gets a little too repeititious, and I find her cheerleading from the bench to be, at times, disappointing. Do I still watch her every night? Yep. But as she frequently cycles through the same covered-to-hell stories again and again, I fast forward or turn it off. And little segments like the Friday Night News Dump gameshow feel like something an executuve is forcing on the show to try and boost ratings. It's annoying and out of place.
With the 2016 election looming, Jon Stewart is playing punch the hippie more and more to try and establish some sort of balanced, centrist bonafides no one will ever give him credit for.
So that leaves me with just 2 political shows worth watching (one officially ended in 2014, and one airs very infrequently):
1. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Yes, I will miss the Colbert Report (infact, I already do). Stephen's complex brand of satire helped keep me sane for a number of Bush-Era years. His fearlesness as this character he played for almost 10 years is remarkable. There is not a smarter political satire on television. And there won't be again. On a plus note, really on about 10% of his Colbert Report material was dependent upon him being the "Stephen Colbert" character. He could bring his writing staff to network TV and still deliver the same kind of humor when he replaces Letterman on The Late Show. Fingers crossed.
2. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
I'm not quite as ramped up on this show as other people I know. It essentially feels like a Daily Show, but airing only once a week, with a bigger budget and cussing. Oliver is charming, but his humor and entertainmnet lies more in provoking humorous outrage than traditional jokes. But he also borrows a page from the Colbert Report's Colbert Nation and frequently asks viewers to take place in pollitclally motivated actions.
For a little while, with the loss of direction of Adult Swim, the world of cartoons was falling off. I'm happy to report things might be slowly starting to turn around. Here are a handfful of my favorite cartoons this year.
1. Bob's Burgers (FOX)
Even after so many seasons, Bob's Burgers still feels fun, refreshing, and funny. The family dynamic is atypical for TV which is also nice. The characters are as lovable as their hijinks.
2. Archer (FX)
So Archer might have started of a little rough with it's "Miami Vice" season, but it found it's way quickly and was just as laugh-out-loud enjoyable as any other season. Outlaw coutry, Christian Slater as a CIA drug ops guy, a military coup, and Pam literally eating up all their cocaine, which was the only thing they had left of any worth. Archer is still Archer. Which is right on.
3. Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)
I gotta say, I'd expected to have exhaused all the wonder I could get out of Adventure Time by this point, but nope. I save the episodes up and then watch like 10 in a row - and it's still surreal, psychedelic, trippy and heartbreaking. And also funny. I still love it.
4. Mike Tyson Mysteries (Adult Swim)
I had a few friends whose opinions in such matters I trust tell me I need to watch Mike Tyson Mysteries. I was reluctant because I don't want to participate in anything that will help bring Tyson any sort of monetary success given his past issues. However, I gotta stay, dammit - this is pretty funny. Tyson, his adopted daughter, a ghost and a man who's been turned into a pigeon get mysterious messages and have to solve mysteries - such as helping Cormac McCarthy come up with an ending to his book. Tyson's inability to pronounce some words during the recording process makes its way into the show, adding another touch of humor and a level of likeability to someone I don't really want to like.
Too Many Cooks (Adult Swim)
This video, coming on late at night on Adult Swim, leaves the typical stoned viewer with a surprisingly pleasant "What the hell" experience. A satire of every tv show intro of the late '80s/early '90s morphs into a horror story. All while the introductory credits keep rolling.
Unedited Bear Of A Bear / Infomercials (Adult Swim)
Put together by Baltimore's own Wham City, this delightul little mindfuck starts with bear footage, moprhs into an allergy informercial until it finally settles into a surreal horror story.
by Sarah Pinsker
Sarah is a Sturgeon Award winning writer and a Nebula finalist.
1. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
I couldn't put this down. I loved the setting, the unreliable narrator. I see the comparisons to Lovecraft, but the thing it actually reminded me of was Lost, in a good way: mysterious locations, horrors familiar and unfamiliar, experiments, unreliability.
It was exactly the length it needed to be, taut, with no filler or loss of focus. Creepy and satisfying. The other two books in the trilogy were also released this year, and while the combined volume (called Area X) is pretty amazing, it was this first short novel that truly wowed me.
2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I remember finishing The Road and weeping at my desk. For months I couldn't shake the feeling that I had somehow corrupted myself with that vision of the future. Kunstler's World Made By Hand helped somewhat, offering me an alternative vision where people banded together to survive. I'd read other apocalypses before and I've read others since, but it is not one of my favorite sub genres. I'd so much rather read brighter pasts and presents and futures.
I can't say this book doesn't instill that same panic at the tenuous nature of our society, but like the Kunstler novel, it has a more favorable view of humanity. The people who survive in this book write plays and poetry. They read comics. They perform Shakespeare. They live by a creed lifted from Star Trek Voyager, that "Survival is Insufficient." And that somehow lifts my heart, makes this world the author has imagined infinitely more palatable, makes me willing to lose hours to linger with these characters in their post-plague world.
Add to that the author's deft craftsmanship, her weaving of characters and plots backwards and forward in time, and her absolutely luminous prose.
3. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
I'm not a big reader of series. Generally, I find that if a first book is a success, authors try to recreate that success by duplicating the beats of the first novel. Or worse, authors that use a second book in a trilogy entirely to set up a third. There are exceptions, of course: series that invent and reinvent themselves as they go along. Series with greater ambitions and a strong structure, like Vandermeer's Southern Reach or Jo Walton's Small Change.
As much as I loved Ancillary Justice, I didn't need to see it duplicated. So when I realized that Leckie had other plans, I was overjoyed. Part of what I loved about Ancillary Justice was that even though the overarching story was huge and centuries-spanning, the focus was on the characters. In Ancillary Sword, she manages to move forward with the big plot put in motion in the first novel, but the focus is tight. Most of the action takes places on one station and one estate on a planet. It concerns a finite set of characters. We're given a chance to see how Breq deals with human sized problems, and how Breq approaches power. I loved it.
4. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
A beautiful combination of historical detail and great characters and literary prowess and Coney Island and not-quite-magic. Absolutely gorgeous.
5. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
I put this down twice in the first chapter, put off by the thees and thous. Only the fact that so many of my friends had recommended it so highly kept me reading, and I'm glad I trust them so much. I'm easily put off by grimdark and the sort of grandiose heroism that I (perhaps unfairly) expect to encounter when I open a book of high fantasy. This was in fact a lovely character study, and a deeper meditation on stagnation of power. Maia, the eponymous Goblin Emperor, is a good character to hang a book on: enough of an outsider to explain the world to readers, but savvy and thoughtful enough to survive in the role that is thrust upon him. He reminds me a little of Nicola Griffith's Hild in the ways he learns to use his power, though he doesn't have her prodigious political acumen.
I'll admit the sheer number of characters overwhelmed me sometimes, but that got a little better once I found the glossary and list of characters at the back. I realized I could stop stressing over it and most scenes could be repopulated by context; behind the names, the characters were drawn so distinctly that there was no doubt who was talking. I'd also like to give the author a few points for using ears to denote emotion. I've often wished people could be as expressive with their body language as horses. Points also for writing a world this complex but being content to leave it as a standalone novel. Thoroughly enjoyable.
6. My Real Children by Jo Walton
I loved almost everything about this book: the deft imagining of two parallel timelines of the twentieth century, both different from our own, the vivid depictions of every character in both timelines, the ways in which Pat/Trish is different and the same. I think it would have been a five star book for me except for the last line. I've read reviews that interpreted it differently than I did, and maybe it's meant to be a personal rorshach for the reader as well as for Pat/Trish. There are other books and movies that have trod this path - I'm particularly thinking of the underrated film Mr. Nobody - but the way this came together, and the particulars of both lives, touched me deeply.
7. Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell
A brave, difficult, compelling, heart-rending novel by an old friend. Jenn Crowell takes an unflinching look at one facet of the British mental health system, and one young woman (fictional, but based on real cases) who survived it. That's not a spoiler. It's in first person, so narrated as a recollection, which tells you from the beginning that she in some way makes it through.
8. Lock In by John Scalzi
This hit my sweet spot: near-future SF, brains, disability politics. Breezy, engaging, and smart. Scalzi's books are sometimes a little too slick for my taste, but I actually think this is a far better book than Redshirts.
9. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
I'm cheating a little by putting this one on the list, since I'm only halfway through it. Frankly, there is almost no possible way, given the beginning, that he could possibly mess this up for me. I just read a hundred pages about a character I absolutely despise, and I want more.
10. A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
The first line of this book deserves to go in the Hall of Fame of great first lines. The whole first chapter served as an amazing hook. The dialogue and human interactions didn't always ring true to me, but Cambias has created two truly alien species, and I enjoyed watching their interactions with each other and with humans. Some great ruminations on first contact and second contact.
There are a number of novels of 2014 that I haven't gotten to yet that very probably would make my list even more difficult. Apologies to the authors of those fine looking books, including Jennifer Marie Brissett, Nnedi Okorafor, Michael Underwood, Beth Cato, E. Catherine Tobler, and John Darnielle. I look forward to catching up soon.
Favorite biography of 2014:
Sally Ride by Lynn Sherr
I feel like I've read a lot of disappointing non-fiction lately, so this was very refreshing. The thing with a biography is that no life fits into a neat arc. The bios that don't work either try to hard to shoehorn the arc, or lose focus. This book did neither. Sherr recognized the need to put Sally Ride's life in context, so she talks about the space race and NASA and women and girls in science. Not just Sally Ride, but why she mattered. I was very young at the time of her first launch, but I remember it vividly. I can't say how much of a difference it made because from then on, that was the way it was. Most of my conscious life has been spent in a world where it is taken for granted that women can be astronauts, can be scientists, can be anything we want to be. This book is a good reminder of what it took to get to that place.
Sherr was a friend of Dr. Ride's, and she makes an effort to contextualize Ride's personal privacy as well, and her reasons for keeping her relationship a secret until she was close to death. It isn't often I can be brought to tears by a biography, but this did it. It's a lovely tribute to Dr. Ride's full legacy.
Best music biography:
I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom's Highway
by Greg Kot
An engaging biography of a great band. I'm not sure it needed so many subtitles. I guess that's because it starts with Pops but finishes with Mavis. At times it felt a little superficial on some of the personal milestones, but the detail on the music portions makes up for it. When I saw Mavis play last year, I noticed that her sister Yvonne - the only other Staples on the stage - looked like she wasn't entirely excited to be there. This book made me far more sympathetic. Yvonne comes across as somebody who would do what was needed of her. If her family needed her on stage, even if she didn't want to be there, she would be there for them. Lots of other little details added to my picture of the band: I didn't know they went to high school with Sam Cooke, or that Mavis and Bob Dylan were sweethearts. I love the image of the big family meals in Chicago, with Mahalia Jackson and Stevie Wonder and the Franklins.
by Jamie Parrish
Jamie has several TV show-based podcats, including one on Hannibal, one on The Walking Dead, and one on Constantine. You can find his shows at Second Courser Media.
I have a hard time narrowing down things I like in to a short top 5 or top 10 list of the year. Once I made a mix of the best music of 2012 that had been released from January to June, which turned out to be a double disc set containing 48 songs. Just imagine haw long it ended up being by the time December rolled around. Being aware of this flaw of mine, I’ve done my best to whittle down my list of favorite TV shows of 2014. I’ve also put them into categories to aid your reading of the list and as a way to limit the number of shows I could include. For all of you that agree with my list you can give me a high five the next time you see me. Everyone else can send your hate mail to directly to The Mobtown Shank.
Best shows that were returning favorites:
Not only is this show excellently written and acted, it helps to remind us that no matter who you are, your station in life (1% or 99%, upstairs or downstairs), and no matter what point in history you lived or are living in you are not immune to tragedies or controversies that complicate life. Season three was a better example of this than any other as the issues of interracial relationships, depression, financial ambiguity, and rape were tackled.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has plenty of reasons for you to tune in each Sunday, but for me the best reason to watch is that characters in any other series that would be marginalized such as women and little people, are put into a place of power. As a father of a daughter I almost always want to find pop culture icons that represent powerful women as role models for her. Who better than Daenerys Targaryen? Emilia Clarke somehow makes this character seem more powerful on screen than she does in the pages of George R.R. Martin’s books. Thanks to Tyrion Lannister, Peter Dinklage has become one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors. Well done HBO, well done.
For as much as Don Draper is a dick in all aspects of his life, I can’t help but want to root for him to come out on top. This past season showed that the king can fall from grace and somehow battle his way back up to the top. Season seven (part 1) also helped to redeem Don, a Don who was getting dangerously close to going over the brink. I started out agreeing with everyone in the office about him, but by the end of the season and after a few well-placed flashbacks, I was back in his corner. Let’s just hope he doesn’t squander all this newfound goodwill come this spring.
The Walking Dead
So, 17.3 million people tuned in to watch The Walking Dead Season 5 premier effectively kicking Sunday night football’s ass. This season has been nothing short of a tour de force and just won’t let up. I don’t think I can say anymore and not revel any spoilers, so I won’t.
Best Shows You Probably Didn’t Watch
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you put Dr. Van Helsing, Dorian Gray, Dr. Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and Dracula together in London during the 1890’s? No, I’m not describing a Portlandia skit. I’m letting you know the premise creator John Logan’s spellbinding addition to Showtime’s late spring line-up. Named for the horror tales of the time period that cost only one cent, the stories of all those above mentioned are woven together to seem as if they were never separate tales at all. If horror is not your thing then watch for the performances of Timothy Dalton, Billie Piper, Josh Hartnett, and Eva Green.
Another Showtime show that will have you riveted. Liev Schreiber does an excellent job of showing us what a LA fix-it man looks like as his family falls apart, the FBI breaths down his neck, and his father (played by John Voight) manipulates him.
This is an excellent character study of a groundbreaking and inventive doctor, John Thackery (a composite character of a few real life doctors) played by Clive Owen, as he spirals down into cocaine addiction. The name of the show come from the Knickerbocker Hospital where most of the series' events take place and Thackery is employed at the turn if the twentieth century. Just like Downton Abbey, The Knick deals with many issues of the modern day such as race relations and feminism through the lens of a period piece. This show was going to be my pick for the best show of the year if I had not watched another show that will appear later on this list.
Do you like monsters? Do you like zombies? Do you like vampires? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions you better be watching The Strain. This series aired during the summer, on FX, while many of us were out enjoying the sun and nice weather so I’m sure you might have missed it. Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan teamed up to bring us their vision of what would happen it a parasite got loose in New York City that not only changed our anatomy to make us monsters, but also blood sucking vampire zombies. It’s not winning any awards but it was a fun distraction during the months of the year when the only thing else on TV is America’s Got Talent.
I think we can all agree on this one. Do I really need to write a whole paragraph about it?
Best Little Show That Could
This show has struggled over two seasons to build and audience. It has suffered a show-killing time slot move and having to air in a time slot where TV shows go to die (Fridays at 10 PM). Despite NBC’s efforts to make Bryan Fuller remain a TV producer that could not get past a second season with any show he has produced, the show has survived and will return for a third season. Why should you be watching this show? One word: "Lush." The sets, the costumes, the food, the acting, the writing are all thick and enticing. Each week’s episode is a feast for the eyes and the mind. Every time I sit down to watch I feel like about to eat a rich creamy dessert. If that isn’t enough to convince you to watch then maybe you should just to check out Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal and Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham. Both actors have taken those characters and made them their own. Anyone else who plays these characters in the future will not hold a candle to the portrayal these two men have brought to these beloved characters.
The Show With The Actress That Should Win All The Emmy’s
Tatiana Maslany deserves all the awards for her work on Orphan Black. She plays not one or two characters but 12 different characters. Only 5-6 of them reoccur on a regular basis but that is still impressive. She not only plays them all, but she plays them convincingly. Her main character is Sarah Manning, a young woman that slowly realizes she is involved in a global conspiracy by a multinational corporation to cover up it’s cloning experiments roughly 30 years ago. Along the way we meet a scientist version of her, a soccer mom version, and probably they best of her characters, Helena, a Russian clone that knows more than she is telling. Why she hasn’t been nominated for more awards is beyond me.
Best Show With A Premise That Made Me Think The Show Would Suck But Turned Out to Be The Best Show I Watched All Year
When I first heard about The Affair I avoided it because I thought that the premise was not that interesting. How could anyone take that sad hackney story and make it interesting. I thought this was a misstep on Showtime’s part. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I turned the show on New Years Day evening to test if my new Chromecast would work with the Showtime Anytime App. Ten hours later at four in the morning my wife and I had finished the entire first season. We just couldn’t stop watching. We needed to know more. We needed to have the story unfold for us immediately. Waiting to watch it in 3 episode increments just wouldn’t do. No show has done that to me since Battlestar Galactica.
The story unfolds over 10 episodes in which the main characters Noah Solloway and Alison Bailey/Lockhart, played by Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, recall the events of how they met, fell in love, and destroyed the lives of their respective families. They are recalling the events for a police officer investigating a crime that is revealed to the audience in slow drips and drabs. The crime itself is not even the most important part this masterfully told story. The most important part is how the story is told.
Noah is a middle-aged New York City public school teacher and writer married to Helen, played by Maura Tierney of ER fame. It’s made very evident that Noah married up after college to escape the poverty he knew growing up in west Pennsylvania. Noah and his family spend their summers on Montauk and island in Hamptons with Helen’s accomplished writer father and overbearing mother. Alison is a Montauk local that has suffered a personal tragedy and is trying to figure out how to move on with life and save her marriage if that is even possible. The two meet when Noah his wife and four children have lunch in Alison’s diner and the story begins to unfold.
Each episode is split in half with Noah telling his version of events and Alison telling hers. Each are recounting the same events but with a slightly different perspective and details. This is where the genius of The Affair becomes apparent. You realized that each individual saw himself or herself differently and the course events unfold for each of them in a different manner. Earlier I said the crime wasn’t important and that is because it’s not. What is important is perspective. This show so brilliantly plays with perspective that you will be talking about it for days after. Even the affair itself becomes secondary to how perspective becomes the central character. Noah’s children come and go as his attention to his family changes. Alison’s view of herself changes overtime, you only notice it in subtle changes of wardrobe. It is the best-written show I have watched all year. Couple that with the performance of West, Wilson, Tierney, and Joshua Jackson and you have the best show of the year.
by Ellen Sweeney
Ellen is the Shank's official games correspondent. She writes the regular column, Games You Should Be Playing.
2014 was an interesting year. Gamergate happened, and we shall not speak of it further, except to say that it made the perfect foil to a year in which games pushed traditional boundaries – of style, gameplay, and perspective – across AAAs, indies, and self-produced works enabled by technologies like Twine.
Best PvP: Towerfall Ascension.
This archery arena arcade-type game has now displaced Nidhogg as my favorite way to battle my friends in low-resolution graphics. You jump, you shoot arrows, you get sweet laser or bomb arrows out of chests and inevitably end up accidentally blowing yourself up with them. This is a great game if you enjoy smack-talking your friends over something that mostly involves chaotic button mashing. I introduced this to some friends recently, and we played it every night for an entire week. Procure extra beer and controllers before downloading.
Best Puzzle Game: Monument Valley.
Billed as "an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness," I’m honestly not sure I can top that description. You guide the princess through levels that look as though they have been developed by M.C. Escher. The art is simple and lovely, the puzzles are thoughtful, and the abstract story that unfolds gives some color and direction to the game. If you like the secure comfort of predictable laws of physics, this game will drive you nuts.
Best Throwback: Shovel Knight.
Shovel Knight is the greatest NES game of all time, released about fifteen years too late. It is basically Megaman, with the overworld system of Zelda II, and the ridiculous-weapon combat of Duck Tales (with a splash of Castlevania). This is a must-play if you played video games in the late '80s.
Best Escapism: Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Easily the best AAA I played this year. It’s your standard well-crafted, big, open-world fantasy RPG, but what makes this one really remarkable is that they created fantasy escapism for people beyond the standard straight white dude audience. The game includes many characters along the whole spectrum of sexual orientation and gender expression. The game passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, and more key political and military leaders are female than not. There are even plenty of female soldiers and mercenaries, and an openly trans lieutenant. I could stand to see a few more faces of color among the key cast, but they definitely don't shy away from issues of racism and multi-culturalism generally. Definitely a great way to escape for hours on end into a world in which all kinds of people kick some ass and save the day.
Best Music: Transistor.
You are a silenced singer fighting your way through your abandoned, futuristic city and the Illuminati-style conspiracy that destroyed it. Your talking sword/computer chip uploads the memories of the people you find murdered along the way, and their stories weave together to explain what happened, and what you need to do to save the world. Although your voice has been stolen, your music still shines through – the soundtrack is awesome, and there is even a dedicated “hum” button.
Best Choose Your Own Adventure: 80 Days. (Sorry, Telltale.)
This addictive tablet game perfectly captures the spirit of Jules Verne’s classic novel. It’s your responsibility to help Phileas Fogg win has wager by making it around the world in 80 days. The choices you make – of route, what to bring, what to purchase, who to talk to – all affect how the story unfolds. It has great replay value, as you can start over and make different choices to create a completely different story.
Simogo released a game: Sailor’s Dream.
Pretty much anything Simogo does is automatically going on my "Best of" list. Sailor’s Dream is a novella repackaged as a labyrinth. You explore the story by wandering through the ruins of a place where something momentous happened in the lives of three people. Various items give insight into the story, and as time passes, you find additional memories told from the characters’ perspective as recording, songs, or drawings. It’s like a more contemplative, zen garden version of Gone Home. You will stop along the way just to tinker with the lights, or the telescope, or the music box – the setting itself is designed to be savored.
Best Surrealism: Kentucky Route Zero.
As with Sailor’s Dream, this game isn’t about puzzles or challenges or achievement trophies. You are tasked to deliver a package to an address that, as it turns out, may or may not exist. As you drive through the backwoods of Kentucky, you find a world that is weird, dream-like, and oddly philosophical. It is thought-provoking, profound, and pretty much defies description. Don’t read a walkthrough or ask what it’s “about” – just experience it.
Best Way to Trick Me into Learning History: Valiant Hearts: The Great War.
A puzzle adventure game about World War I, which interweaves the story of four main characters (and an adorable dog) of different nationalities as they head to the front lines. The game hits on a lot of historical elements as the war unfolds, but its genius is exploring the human cost of war in very personal terms – a father taken from his son, a man making an impossible choice tried for treason, friendships and respect that grow from small acts of kindness and recognition of humanity across enemy lines. Despite the heavy subject matter, the comic puzzle gameplay is mostly lighthearted and fun. Mostly.
Award for not misappropriating minority culture: Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna).
So it’s not like games never try to tell the stories of marginalized groups; it’s just that, they tend to tell it from the perspective of the affluent straight white men making the game; at best, they ask for feedback and input. But Never Alone is a rare game that allowed the Iñupiat to tell a story in their own words, and to set it in its cultural context.
Best DLC: The Last of Us: Left Behind.
The Last of Us was one of my favorites from 2013, but downloadable content isn’t typically known for being outstanding. But this one tells Ellie’s backstory, as she and her BFF Riley wander around the post-apocalyptic ruins of a mall, telling each other bad jokes and goofing off and talking about their feelings. It sets the emotional context for a very nonstandard character – a teenage girl who lost her best friend – and recognizes that not all action heroes need to be bros or mindless killing machines. A must-play for anyone who has the main game.
Most Novel Use of an Org Chart: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
The main storyline is your standard Tolkien AAA, but what makes this game really stand out is the Nemesis system. The game’s AI generates a detailed Uruk (orc) military hierarchy of captains and chiefs, each with different strengths and weaknesses, unique names, and odd personality quirks (from monosyllabic, dumb-as-rocks to spouting rhyming couplets about cutting your head off). Any time you defeat one of them, or vice versa, the power dynamics change, and they continue to have their own internal squabbles while you’re off doing hero stuff, so the org chart keeps evolving even when you aren’t around. Over time, you gain the ability to “dominate” an orc and force it to help you sabotage or kill other Uruk leaders that are too dangerous for you to approach directly (or if you’re just feeling lazy). And somewhere in that process of trying to survive and exploit these orcs, carefully selecting low-level captains to control, strategically eliminating other orcs so they survive and rise through the ranks, and positioning them for your endgame, they start to get under your skin… I developed *relationships* with some of those bastards. I’m just saying, sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover, and other times, thanks to a curse that prevents you from dying and instead forces you to share your body with a wraith, you can completely rewrite that book through mind control and make it a book that you are really into – and that’s the gift that the Nemesis system gives you.
by Sarah Mason
In another life, Sarah was an office stooge, Internet addict, and curator of Miss Sarah's Freak of the Week. She discovered the beauty of cheese when she became a cheesemonger, and now she sells lots of cheese and craft beer from her grocery & deli on Chincoteague Island, VA, called Poseidon's Pantry.
(in no particular order)
1732 Meats is a charcuterie-making concern so they post a lot of pictures of tasty bacon and other delights.
Cheesemakers. There's this one video they've posted of someone squeezing a cheese that makes me feel kinda funny when I watch it.
Artisan baking, aka bread porn.
Compost cookies, salty pistachio caramel ice cream, etc.
I mean, if you like doughnuts, then you'll like this one.
It's just a restaurant in Dallas, but, I don't know, everything looks so good! Somewhat meat-centric.
This man eats everything everywhere (mostly in Virginia), but not before he takes a picture of it.
I would consider becoming a ramen junkie. There are worse addictions.
Pancakes as art. It's hard to tell it's even a pancake. Amazing.
It's pictures of Cheetos (lately it's usually the "flaming hot" ones) that resemble other things. Good for a laugh or two every now and again.