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Click Clack Review

This Throwback Thursday we take a look at a Caldecott Classic, Click Clack Moo.

Farmer Brown has a problem.

His cows like to type.

All day long he hears

Click, clack, MOO.

Click, clack, MOO.

Clickety, clack, MOO.

But Farmer Brown’s problems REALLY begin when his cows start leaving him notes….

Doreen Cronin’s understated text and Betsy Lewin’s expressive illustrations make the most of this hilarious situation. Come join the fun as a bunch of literate cows turn Farmer Brown’s farm upside down.

Our toddler loved this one.  Last weekend everyone from Grandma to toddler was sick and I was tasked with maintaining the status quo to whatever extent I could.  We’d picked up a selection of well regarded kids’ books with a Kindle Christmas gift card, but I hadn’t had many opportunities to sit down and read them.  The allure of tablets is mostly games and video, but since I generally read, I think our toddler indulged me.

There’s the same attractive ability to choose from scrolling icons and this was the first one to come up.

Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type is a simply but elegantly drawn book with heavy lines and soft colors that stray from their confines.  The pages aren’t busy.  The rhythm of the words and the clever story propel the readers forward.  So it’s suitable for the very young.

Cow! Duck!  Try typewriter and ‘lectric blanket, too.

The story isn’t exactly Marxist, but it does imply that a literate population in control of the means of communication can effect a change in their conditions.  The cows strike for electric blankets and are joined by the chickens.  The dumbfounded farmer eventually capitulates but demands remission of the typewriter.  The cows trade this invaluable tool for marginally more comfort.

The book ends on a clever note as the ducks entrusted with returning the typewriter instead use it to make demands of their own.  Dependeing on your perspective, this demonstrates the power of a literate educated population and the danger of those in control giving in to collective demands.

Recommended for fans of Kautsky, Cows, and Comfort.


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Review: ‘Play It Again, Dick’ Episode 1

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Watch the first episode of Play It Again, Dick here.

First things first, the opening shot is straight out of Apocalypse Now, panning over the accouterments of Dick’s bedside (sex wax, Boner Express pills, trashy earrings, and condoms of many colors), sliding by his iPhone playing the message of last night’s forgotten woman (and client), while he slumbers, spooned up with his dog. Okay, so it’s no Saigon, but its classic 1970’s P.I. television. Jason Dohring appears lounging with him on deck chairs, looking like he’s definitely spent some time in the Navy gym. Inserted is part of (or an homage to) the dance video that went viral during the Veronica Mars Kickstarter excitement.

This is the title sequence to ‘Play It Again, Dick,’ the show within the show, which Ryan Hansen is showing to Kristen Bell in an attempt to get her on board and sign the waiver for appearing. His cluelessness sproings humorously off of her mild disbelief. She’s got all sorts of reasons not to but also doesn’t believe he’s got a chance of getting it green lit. At best Dick Casablancas was a nobody on the show, at worst he was a minor villain. But he does get his pilot. The jokes on her, and the laughter is for us Marshmallows who love their antagonistic chemistry.

I’m hoping that the series will continue giving us snippets of the show Ryan is making, full of homages to Magnum P.I. and Starsky and Hutch, along with the meta angle of Ryan trying to rope in his former Veronica Mars cast members. Pretty much everyone you could want is on tap to guest star.

But even if you’ve never watched the show from which this potentially spins off, the dopey ambition Ryan exhibits still has the charm and humor to entertain and ensnare.


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Graphic Novel Review: E.G.O.s Volume 1

E.G.O.s Volume 1: Quintessence, by Stuart Moore and Gus Storms, out today.

Deuce was once the toast of the galaxy, the teenage leader of E.G.O.s (Earth/Galactic Operatives), a team that defended humanity from evil forces. Now, he’s an aging egomaniac trying desperately to hold on to his former glory, while his wife Pixel, the image-obsessed daughter of a super-villainess, barely tolerates him.

When the E.G.O.s’ deadliest villain, the world-absorbing entity known as Masse, returns, Deuce’s goal of relaunching the E.G.O.s is no longer just a matter of pride: The future of the galaxy depends on it.

Collects Egos #1-4, plus the Twitter-exclusive issue #0.

I mostly miss the cool comics that get collected into trade paperbacks.  The only store I can be sure to visit on a weekly basis is the one with milk and eggs and bread.  Such is life.  So I suppose I’m the target market for trade paperback collections, the new reader that’s heard great things from those more in the know, capable of being pulled in by a blurb from Warren Ellis.

E.G.O.s is a new take on an old saw, getting the band back together.  It’s an old saw I truly love when played well, with enthusiasm and verve.  Here it’s played with passion and remixed with syncopated desperation.

The title is, of course, both an acronym and a description.  Every member of the original team, which disintegrated after defeating an incomprehensible enemy, is hopelessly caught up in his or her own internal drama.  What Deuce does to reconstitute E.G.O.s  is gonzo storytelling at its finest.

That it’s also intimately intertwined with and implicated within his marriage is a testament to the core conceit.  The new E.G.O.s are kind of the red sports car for the aging interplanetary superhero.  The kind of thing that looks like a great idea because it’s bound to get him into trouble.  When faced with a real threat, he crashes right into it.

Gus Storms presents a unified vision of the far future while occasionally riffing on images that subtly suggest everything from John Cassaday’s Planetary to Rob Liefeld’s X-Force while Stuart Moore crams as much science fantasy into each page as he possibly can.  The work is ambitious and personal and, frankly, a little weird.  The story occasionally comes up for breath with an unlikely, seemingly impossible, narrator.  Laid back and receptive as well as invested and interactive, the quirky interpolation tends to reliably mirror reader reaction.

I’d probably recommend this one for the title of the fourth chapter alone: “Ekpyrotica.”

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Children’s Picture Book Preview: The Possible Police

The Possible Police by Wylde Scott and Hannah K Shuping, out October 15, 2014

What happens when you remove all obstacles to a child’s imagination? Anything is possible. Unless of course, you let The Possible Police stop you. They will do whatever it takes to stop children from believing. Wylde Scott believes that all children should live in a world of endless possibilities. In this beautifully illustrated picture book, Wylde takes your child into his boundless imagination as he fights off the possible police. Join him as he inspires children to truly believe, and teaches them that no one can stop them from doing what they dream.

Reading this was kind of like witnessing the origin story of a modern day Dr. Seuss.  Beginning with the childlike Wylde Scott alone in bed with hir dreams, a visit from the eponymous Possible Police propels a lively rhyming paean to the individual imagination.  Soft focus illustrations tending toward angelic pastel pinks and yellows cast Scott as a bright beacon contrasted with the darkening trio of mustachioed cartoon cops with sly “PP” badges on their comically ridiculous hats.  It’s a story of “No, you cant,” versus “Yes, I can,” sure to inspire creativity and confidence in young readers.

Visit writer Wylde Scott and illustrator Hannah K. Shuping on the web and check out the book trailer.

Fun Fact: The first known use of “possible police” occurred in “Simpsons Safari” (season 12, episode 17:  April 1, 2001.)

 


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I Grow Weary of the Dramatic Doppelganger

I am a fan of The Vampire Diaries, which is my kind of soap opera: high school (originally) and vampires. See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

However, recently I realized it has absolutely obliterated my interest in doppelganger plot-lines. I noticed this as we entered into the second half of Once Upon a Time Season 3, wherein the main cast returns from Neverland to Storybrooke. [Spoiler warning]. In a last ditch effort to keep himself alive, Peter Pan pulls a “Grand Theft Me” on Henry, swapping bodies and sending Henry into Pandora’s Box, and Pan into the loving arms of Henry’s extended fairy tale family. He then plots to turn Storybrooke into a New Neverland (would have been the lamest Neverland ever, seriously).

Although I had been tipped off to this plot twist via IMDB’s cast list, as soon as happened, I sighed disparagingly. And that was the moment that I realized that Vampire Diaries had nailed the lid on the coffin of this trope for me.

Elenakatherine418Over the course of 5 seasons, Vampire Diaries has used the doppelganger trope ad nauseum. Elena and Katherine has been a seasonal showdown, but during this last season, Katherine ported herself magically into Elena’s body and forced Elena’s consciousness down. During this time, Katherine attempted to act like Elena but did so quite poorly. Since everyone thought Katherine dead, they were extra idiotic about “Elena’s” odd behaviors. Katherine’s charade went on for many episodes, which is like seasons for the fast turning plot of Vampire Diaries. When they did finally get Elena back in her own body and Katherine got whisked away to the void, Elena was understandably irate that her friends had failed to notice it wasn’t her. But honestly, she wasn’t near angry enough. Their absolute failure to recognize there was something wrong bordered on the absurd. She should have left Mystic Falls and never returned after seeing how inattentive her friends were.

But this was just the most recent of their doppelganger plot-lines. Stefan also has an evil doppleganger who mucks up trouble in multiple seasons. Actually, both of them have two doppelgangers. Though I find it promising that last season made Stefan and Elena the last living doppelgangers. So maybe the show has put the trope to rest.

However, let me credit Once Upon A Time for handling it judiciously. First, Emma wasn’t an idiot and noticed pretty quickly that Henry wasn’t acting normally, and Regina’s naivety about the switch was believable due to her desire to have Henry need her. Second, it was only about one whole episode before the body switch was discovered and another half episode before it was reversed. Finally, the conclusion to the whole Pan arc had huge emotional pay offs. Although I was wary of the doppelganger trope when it showed up, I came to value where it took the characters and the show.

But let me clarify that it seems my ire only gets tripped with dramatic uses of the doppelganger. I never seem to get tired of the doppelganger trope being used in a comedic fashion. See: The X-Files “Dreamland,” Farscape “Out of Their Minds,” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Doppelgangland.”

It’s apparently the dramatic irony that I loathe. In these body swapping instances writers are ruthless about twisting the viewers’ emotions and expectations. Often it will be used as an excuse to allow a couple to get together (but then go back on it once the swap is reversed). An example of this is in the season 4 X-Files episode “Small Potatoes” when shape shifting villain Eddie Van Blundt masquerades as Mulder and puts the moves on Scully, one of the funniest episodes of that season. Alternatively, the writers will drive a wedge in a relationship by having the doppelganger say or do something unforgivable that can’t be forgiven and forgotten even after their true identity is revealed. This was done on Vampire Diaries in episode 5.12 “The Devil Inside” when Katherine, in Elena’s body, rejects Damon’s heartfelt speech to get back together with words that speak to his greatest insecurity. This scene is played for absolute heartbreak.

Perhaps the key is that comedies end with a happy restoration of the status quo and dramas end with a sad, ironic gut punch. I end up often feeling manipulated by a dramatic doppelganger and then resenting that manipulation.

Television, let the dramatic doppelganger die.


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Star Wars Saturday: ‘Star Wars’ Meets ‘Sesame Street’ in “Star S’Mores”

If you keep up with us on a regular basis, you know we showed our two year old Star Wars: A New Hope a few months back. He liked Chewbacca but was otherwise pretty bored. But now there’s a new way to introduce your toddler to Star Wars and teach her an important lesson in self-control strategies.

Luke Piewalker enlists the help of Flan Solo to rescue Princess Parfaita from the evil Empire. But before Flan can help, he must learn to his primal desire to cannibalize his partner: Chewie the Cookie. They seek out the wisdom of Only One Cannoli and Groda for strategies of self-control before facing Darth Baker.

Highlights: 1) the Special Edition-style background effects, including a Snuffy-Bantha, 2) Luke Piewalker’s voice actor does a pretty darned good Mark Hamill, 3) the nod to the fact that both Yoda and Grover are voiced by Franz Oz and sound awfully similar (and Cookie Monster, also voiced by Oz, points out this similarity).

Of course, the lesson of how to maintain self-control is good for more than stopping cookie binges. The use the Four strat that Cannoli offers is like Daniel Tiger’s “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” So toddler nearing meltdown? Count to four. So this parody is good for toddlers and amusing for adults.

The parody also reminded me of Hardware Wars, the so-bad-its-good parody short from 1978, wherein Chewbacca was a brown Cookie Monster and Princess Anne-Droid’s buns were cinnamon rolls that Chewie eats. But, unfortunately, there’s no quality life lesson embedded in its utter stupidity.


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Frozen Friday: Frozen Over

[Here be SPOILERS for Once Upon a Time]

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ABC will air an hour long special, “Storybrooke Has Frozen Over,” prior to the season 4 premiere of Once Upon a Time meant to bring new Frozen obsessed viewers up to date and reorient long time fans as well.

The special will take a look at the role that family plays in the show and never giving up on the ones you love, our heroes’ journey from breaking the curse to the ramifications of magic in our world, travelling to Neverland to save Henry from an evil Peter Pan, their battle with The Wicked Witch of the West upon their return, and the upcoming presence of Elsa, the Ice Queen from Arendelle, in Storybrooke.

A synopsis of the premiere episode, “A Tale of Two Sisters,” was released earlier this week.

In the season premiere episode, “A Tale of Two Sisters,” a scared and confused Elsa finds herself in Storybrooke and, fearful of the intentions of its residents, creates a powerful snow monster for protection. With Robin Hood’s wife, Marian, back in the picture, Regina wonders if her “happily ever after” with the former thief has been completely quashed; while on their honeymoon, Mr. Gold finds an intriguing object that makes him question whether or not he should officially give Belle control over the dagger that makes him The Dark One, and Hook is dismayed to discover that Emma seems to be avoiding him while she tries to help comfort Regina after being the one responsible for bringing Marian back from the past and into Storybrooke. Meanwhile, in Arendelle of the past, as Elsa’s sister Anna’s wedding to Kristoff nears, Anna discovers that their parents – who died on-ship during a violent storm – were heading to a mysterious destination in a quest that may have held the secret to containing Elsa’s out of control Ice powers. And against Elsa’s wishes, Anna wants to finish their journey to find out what they were looking for, on “Once Upon a Time.”

Anna (Elizabeth Lail), Elsa (Georgina Haig), Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster), and Pabbie (John Rhys-Davies) from Frozen appear in this episode.  So does Sven, according to set photos, though he’s not credited.  Reindeer rights!

Spinoff Online published a post Comic Con interview with the cast & co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.

Kitsis: We aren`t trying to do the Frozen sequel. We’re saying, “What happens when Anna and Elsa come into our world? And do they have any past history with anyone from our Once universe?” For us, it’s really exciting. What happens when Anna, who is this character who never gives up on the people she loves, is so hopeful and sees the good in everything … What happens when she meets Rumple, who is the devil himself? What happens when Emma and Elsa actually talk about the fact they both have magic they can’t control, that they feel different from everyone else? That it’s really hard to let people in? Those are the things that excited us.

Horowitz: We do have a big bad. We want it to be a surprise. We can tell you it’s not Elsa. There’s something else at play that becomes apparent pretty quickly once the season starts. Part of that is because Elsa is not a villain and Anna is not a villainess. What we’re really interested in seeing is the challenges they face with our characters.

Fans are saying that the big bad is definitely the original Snow Queen who will be played by Elizabeth Mitchell.  They’re also suggesting that she was the mysterious destination Queen Adgar and Queen Idun disappeared en route to.

Finally, an extended trailer has been released hinting at a conflict between Regina and Elsa.

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