Comic Review: The Last of Us: American Dreams #3

The third issue of American Dreams was an EXTREMELY fast read. It almost has as much intensity as The Last of Us during one of its crazy gun battles…almost. Either way, I zipped through it really fast. These comics have turned out to be a great prequel to the game, and now that I have played it, I appreciate them even more. Also, if you have played it, or plan to, they actually do have some throwbacks to these comics!

In this issue, Ellie and Riley have close call after close call. It’s intense, and it doesn’t stop. They make a great team, and I really wish that we could have seen Riley in the game. There are encounters with the military, fireflies, and the infected. It ends very abruptly, and in that surprise ending, I have NO idea what is going on. The issue just leaves you hanging until the next. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Get The Last of Us: American Dreams #3 here!

[Disclaimer: A review copy was provided for me to review this comic.]

Comic Review: The Last of Us: American Dreams #2

Neil Druckman and Faith Erin Hicks are doing a fantastic job with this prequel. I have to say that I am getting more and more excited for this game than I already was just by reading this! Ellie and Riley make a great team. I just hope they stick together after this.

In this issue, we follow Ellie and Riley past the gates of the school and into what’s left of the world. They enter what is left of a mall, and Druckman really pulls on the heartstrings here with the dialogue. They meet up with a pretty cool old man Riley knows who has a thing for old scotch. I just have to take a moment here and acknowledge that Druckman wrote in the type of whiskey to be an aged Glenfiddich, which just happens to be in my top three favorites, so I think that’s pretty awesome! Anyway, what seems like an innocent enough visit turns out to be something much bigger – that’s where they leave you hanging!

Now, I said that Druckman’s dialogue really tugs on the heartstrings. Well, the art really does too. Hicks’s art is reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim, but with more detail, which I quite enjoy. Besides that though, the art is as dark as the story itself, and is beautifully done. There is a lot of feeling put into it.

The Last of Us: American Dreams #2 is on shelves now, so go pick it up! If you haven’t read the first one yet, then give it a try. Also, if you are super excited for the game like me, then this is a good way to get a taste of it while you wait!

[Disclaimer: A review copy was provided for me to review this comic.]

The Last of Us: American Dreams #1 Sells Out!

Retailers around the country are now sold out of the critically-acclaimed first issue of The Last of Us: American Dreams.

In response, Dark Horse is reprinting the first issue. The reprint is available for order now, with an on-sale date of May 29, the same day The Last of Us: American Dreams #2 goes on sale.

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Co-scripted by The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann and comic superstar Faith Erin Hicks, American Dreams is a tie-in to the upcoming game release from Naughty Dog.

Head to your local comic shop or bookstore to get your hands on a copy of the first printing of The Last of Us: American Dreams #1 if they still have it!

Comic Review: The Last of Us: American Dreams #1

If you’re a fan of survival-horror, and are looking forward to Naughty Dog’s upcoming title The Last of Us, then check out the comic-exclusive prequel printed by Dark Horse comics. The first issue, American Dreams #1, is out now. The story is written as a collaboration between Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks.

The story is set before the events in the game, and focuses on Ellie as she gets her first taste of the real world after the epidemic outbreak. Ellie is a new member of a military boarding school and can’t seem to keep herself out of trouble. The comic really draws you in and gives good insight to what Ellie’s character is like. So far, she seems like a pretty tough chick!

The art for the comic is done by Rachelle Rosenberg, who has also done art for the Astonishing X-Men series. It’s a great art style that is rough around the edges and has excellent color work for this dark-themed comic – and wonderful eye-expressions! I even had to show off the art to my boyfriend while I was reading it, so good on her!

This series seems to be headed in a good direction, and I can’t wait for the next issue! Head to your local comic store to pick up your copy today!

[Disclaimer: A review copy was provided for me to review this comic.]

10 Must-Read Ladies in Speculative Fiction

When we talk about influential sci-fi and fantasy authors, there are a number of names that immediately come to mind. We mention Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Tolkien, Pratchett, Frank Herbert, Lewis Carol, C. S. Lewis — this list could continue infinitely. Although this realm was almost exclusively dominated by men until recently, some extra-special ladies have played a very important part in the development of our favorite genres.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

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One of the greatest horror stories of all time, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is also considered the first science fiction novel ever published. It’s about the eccentric doctor, Frankenstein, and the monster he created. Frankenstein has been adapted hundreds of times across all forms of media, and is the inspiration for countless other re-tellings and numerous other monsters following in its wake.

Everyone should have this story on their reading list, if only to learn about the many Frankenstein myths. Soon, you too can correct your lesser-educated friends when they call Frankenstein’s monster “Frankenstein” (the doctor is Frankenstein, not the monster. The monster, if it has a name, is Adam.) Or, you can do it now, after reading this, I guess. But, if you read the book, you’ll know that Frankenstein’s monster wasn’t a hideous green beast, but a well-muscled man with flowing black hair and pearly white teeth.

Although, I guess you know that too now. Damn. Go read the book before I spoil the end.

The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle (1923)

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A whimsical story of a clockwork man from the future who appears at a 1920s English cricket match. It’s a touching, lighthearted story, with plenty of tongue-and-cheek wit, written by the little-known English writer, E.V. Odle.

A.K.A Virginia Woolf.

Many theorists believe that this is the birth-place of steam-punk. The Clockwork Man has also been pegged as the first cyborg, and as an important link in the development of science fiction. But above all else, it’s quite a wonderful read — especially when you’ve spent the last few months chewing through intense world-building and character development, it’s nice to sit back with something a little easier on the soul, and it’s a bonus if it still retains some literary merit.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

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Winner of the 1970 Hugo Award and the 1970 Nebula Award, Ursula K. Le Guin is considered by many as one of the best things that has ever happened to speculative fiction, some even putting her ahead of J. R. R. Tolkien. The Left Hand of Darkness is considered the first feminist science-fiction novel and is often listed as one of the best pieces of science-fiction ever written. If you haven’t read any of the books on this list, read this one first.

Like many great works of science fiction, it is difficult to summarize this epic in a single paragraph. At its simplest, The Left Hand of Darkness is about Genly Ai, an envoy sent to the planet Winter to communicate on behalf of the intergalactic collation of humanoid worlds – Ekumen. It’s a story about accepting differences, about gender, and about communication. I wish I’d read this in school instead of Holes with young Shia LaBeouf.

The Adventures of Alyx by Joanna Russ (1976)

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Joanna Russ and Ursula K. Le Guin were the two woman at the front of the feminist movement in speculative fiction writers that took place in the 1960s. A bit of a mouthful, I know, but at a time when only about 10% of speculative fiction writers were woman, and most under a pseudonym, Russ and Le Guin showed that it wasn’t an exclusively male-dominated market. They are now part of an exclusive feminist group that has helped lead me here today – as a woman, writing about science fiction and fantasy, on a site devoted to women who enjoy science fiction and fantasy.

Not only did Russ actively contribute to feminism in science fiction, writing for many journals and publishing a number of non-fiction titles on the subject alongside her novels and short stories, but she also stood as an out lesbian, discussing the implications of gender stereotypes and the cultural implications of slash fiction. In fact, Russ criticized The Left Hand of Darkness for its gender stereotypes.

The Adventures of Alyx collates some of Russ’s notable works following the main character, Alyx, including the original novel, Picnic on Paradise. As a winner of a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and many others, her fictional works are highly lauded. I do suggest you also check out some of her works on feminism in fiction, such as How to Suppress Woman’s Writing, for something really interesting.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)

interview-with-a-vampire

I don’t know if anyone expected to say this about Anne Rice in the past, but it appears she was a few decades before her time. Now, we’re in a period of romance-centric fantasy, surrounded by Twilight and Teen Wolf. But, have you ever wondered where it all started? The character Damon Salvatore in the Vampire Diaries TV series even quotes her as a sort of homage to the mother of vampire fantasies. Um, I mean, that’s what I heard. I’ve, er, never seen the show myself. Okay, maybe I have. But don’t tell anyone.

Interview with the Vampire is about a vampire named Louis, his child companion Claudia, and their struggle against their maker Lestat. With less romance and far more dark, Gothic horror, Anne Rice knew how to do vampires right. If you can’t be bothered picking up the novel (shame on you), then you could always watch the 1994 film starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and child Kirsten Dunst, or find one of its comic book adaptations.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (1979)

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Another situation where the author herself was more influential than her works. Octavia E. Butler is considered one of the most influential black women writers in speculative fiction, most notably for her criticisms on social issues, particularly regarding race. Although she was perhaps not as loud and proud as Joanna Russ, Butler often incorporated race as a central undertone to many of her short stories and novels, without it every truly being a central issue.

Except for Kindred. This novel is about an African-American woman who, after a dizzy spell, appears in 19th Century Maryland, where a young white boy, Rufus, is struggling in the river. From then on, Dana repeatedly time travels between her life in 1976 and across Rufus’s timeline, where their relationship becomes more and more complicated within the background of slavery and subjugation. It is really a grim tale of black civil rights, wrapped in science fiction, but certainly deserving to fall within this list.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

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I almost completely overlooked Atwood. When I think about science fiction, she isn’t the first person who jumps to mind, but The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most widely-read and highly-contested science fiction dystopian novels ever written. Winner of the 1985 Governor Generals Award and the 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award and nominated for a Nebula Award, Booker Prize and Prometheus Award, it’s a story that gets you thinking, and often cuts close to the bone.

The story is told from the point of view of Offred, a handmaid or concubine to The Commander. Her life is a hard one, living in the highly religious and militaristic society of Gilead, once part of the United States of America, as a woman used exclusively for reproductive purposes. However, Offred’s experience is one of intrigue, secrets, dangerous liaisons, and difficult choices. You’ll read the novel with a heavy heart, and finish it with a whole new view of the world.

File this novel under “life changing.”

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992)

DoomsdayBook

Connie Willis: winner of eleven Hugo Awards, seven Nebula Awards, four Locus Awards, inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, the 28th Science Fiction Writer of America Grand Master, nominated for Arthur C. Clarke Awards and World Fantasy Awards…and the list just keeps on going. She’s a stunning writer with an intimidating portfolio, but this is a good place to start.

Doomsday Book itself holds a Hugo, a Nebula, and a Locus. The story is about a young historian time traveller named Kivrin who convinces a reluctant tutor to send her to the Middle Ages. However, when she gets there, she’s struck ill and cannot recollect where she was ‘dropped’ in order to get home. Meanwhile, in Oxford, 2055, a decision is made in the wake of an influenza epidemic that essentially strands Kivrin in the past.

This novel is a fantastic example of Willis’s frantic and witty writing style. She may not be as well-known, or as actively ground-breaking as some others on this list despite her impressive trophy cabinet, but she managed to empower a young, eight-year-old girl with a geeky heart and big dreams. She was certainly an influence to me.

Harry Potter and the… (Well, all of it) by J. K. Rowling (1997-2007)

harry-potter

You’re a part of the Harry Potter generation if you remember lunchtimes of silence. I was about nine when the Harry Potter craze reached my school, and suddenly I was no longer the only child sitting on the classroom porch reading. For the first time, I was a cool kid, because I’d finished the books long before everyone else, and was waiting for the third to hurry up and hit the shelves. It was a children’s book that transcended ages and grew up with its fans until, at the age of 20, I was at the premiere of the final film, surrounded by young adults who also followed Harry to the end. Whether you love or hate the books, there’s no denying that J. K. Rowling affected the whole world and made reading cool.

If you’ve managed to completely avoid the Harry Potter craze (if so, I can only say, well done, and welcome to the internet), I’ll provide a brief synopsis. The series follows Harry Potter – a young wizard attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – and all of the adventures he has along the way. There are mythical beasts, magic spells, made-up words, and all of the creative hocus pocus one could expect from a children’s book. Plus, there’s an extra bit of magic that makes them all the better.

Dead Until Dark (2001) by Charlaine Harris

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Whoa, whoa, whoa. Okay, wait. Hear me out. I actually couldn’t finish this book. I think I managed to read about half of it before rolling my eyes and returning it to the library shelves. A shame, considering True Blood is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. However, Charlaine Harris is often credited for truly starting this current craze of romance-centric fantasy fiction. No longer is erotica merely a product of Miles and Boon, now you can freely fantasize about all kinds of characters pulled straight from the horror films.

The first of the series, Dead Until Dark, is narrated by Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress from small town Bon Temps, Louisiana. Recently, the development of synthetic blood has allowed vampires to come out of hiding and attempt to integrate into human society. Among the debates about vampire rights, the addictive and illegal vampire blood trade, and the animosity toward these new and dangerous neighbors, Sookie meets Bill Compton, a local vampire who introduces her to his frightening world.

Is this a trend in popular fantasy? Or simply a phase? I know which one I’m hoping for.

The Art of The Last of Us and of Remember Me

Dark Horse Comics recently released two awesome video game art books, The Art of the Last of Us and The Art of Remember Me.

The Art of The Last of Us

If you haven’t already read our review of The Last of Us or of the The Last of Us: American Dreams, you should totally do that. After you play and fall in love with the game, you should also get The Art of The Last of Us (HC). The book is 184 pages of lush, beautiful drawings and sketches, including concept art, character designs, and settings, along with interesting notes and a forward by Neil Druckman, the creative director and Bruce Straley, the game director.

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As someone who really enjoyed the beauty of the game, I’m in love with this book, and I also love getting all of the little tidbits of inside information from reading it. Remember, there are spoilers for the game inside, so don’t read it before playing! Get your copy of The Art of The Last of Us here.

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The Art of Remember Me

Remember Me is another game that we recently reviewed, and I also got my hands on the Art of Remember Me book. I liked the game a bit more than our reviewer, so I was thrilled to check out the art book.

the art of remember me

Again, this book is really worth your money if you loved the style of the game. I quite enjoyed it and can’t get enough of Nilin’s design, so I’m very happy with it. Where The Last of Us has art that is mostly an overgrown city, Remember Me has beautiful, clean, sharp designs.

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Art in Video Games

What do you think about video game art books? Do you get them for the information, the behind the scenes art, or both? Share your thoughts in the comments!

[Disclaimer: A review copy was provided for me to review this comic.]

Dressed to Impress: The Last of Us Review

Let’s face it, The Last of Us, the new title from the powerhouse developers Naughty Dog, is gorgeous!

The realism in The Last of Us is a force to be reckoned with. Even the tears look real! I spent half of the game looking around in awe at all the textures and scenery, the way curtains flowed, and how beautiful the reflections were. The gore has the same movie-like quality as well. It’s the most visually stunning game I’ve seen to date.

The game shares the same post-apocalyptic theme as many other popular titles out today, but it does it in its own way. It is mostly a horror/survival game, but also has quite a few interactive, movie-like sequences. I rather enjoyed the mix of intense battle and slow interactive scenes.

Constant dialogue has a lot to do with this as well. It really is like being involved in a movie sometimes. There isn’t many times when the characters aren’t talking. Even when you’re just walking around aimlessly,there is dialogue going on between the characters. You get a lot of background not only on the characters themselves, but also on the world as they know – and knew – it to be.

The beginning of The Last of Us shook me harder than any other game thus far. I have never had a game bring me to tears ten minutes in before. Turns out that the lovely character who you start the game with, Sarah, is not the main protagonist. However, the developers painted such a pretty picture of this young teenager that you feel emotionally attached to her from the start. Then, when you realize what’s coming, The Last of Us rips your heart out.

The main protagonist is Joel. He’s rough around the edges, but unlike most male protagonists, he plays more of a father-figure type. I mean, it’s not many games that you hear “Be careful…” so much. Joel is living in a government quarantine zone twenty years after a fungal plague broke out and killed most of the population. He meets the secondary character, fourteen-year-old Ellie, when he is asked to take part in a smuggling mission. Then the two of them are thrust into the dangerous outside world.

One of the most overlooked characters in the game is Tess. Only seen for a short while in the beginning of Joel’s story, she definitely leaves a mark on you that lasts throughout the rest of the game. I was honestly shocked at how tough this chick is. She was actually able to pull Joel’s weight when he was climbing onto a ledge, and I don’t think I know any ladies who can do that. She leaves her first scene pretty bloodied, but with a “it’s not that bad” attitude, and keeps that mindset throughout the time that you know her. This girl has a lot of strength and a lot of will.

The character development aspect of the game is more of a highlight than the game’s beauty. If the relationships in the beginning of the game weren’t emotional enough, the way the relationship unfolds between Joel and Ellie cuts pretty deep as well. Their relationship is never forced, and grows slowly but obviously over time, as any real-life one would. Ellie is an amazing, tough-as-nails, teenage girl. She is a bit of a tomboy and also loves comics, which just added to my attachment to her. Just like any teenager would, when she and Joel disagree, she will come back at him with snappy retorts and attitude. However, when she is in a good mood, she will just whistle or talk about things she sees. Joel is pretty closed off – given the circumstances, I don’t really blame him – but the way the two open up to each other is something to be marveled at in The Last of Us.

There are a decent amount of other survivors whom Joel and Ellie meet on their travels, and the game again convinces you to care for these people. Games usually do a great job at making me care for characters, but none the way The Last of Us did. It is an emotional roller-coaster that is depressing, hopeful, and brilliant at the same time.

There are a couple of details of the game that I really enjoyed seeing. The fact that Joel actually bends over to pick things up off of low shelves and such is great, and also made me laugh, as I am so used to things just magically disappearing off of every shelf. Also, there are a couple of parts where Ellie refers to things that are in the prequel comic The Last of Us: American Dreams, published by Dark Horse. That made me happy that I had been reading the comics before the game come out. The Last of Us also does a great job at giving you an opportunity for more supplies right when you think you are out and SOL. Those are just a few random things I liked.

The gameplay itself was sometimes a daunting task in the beginning. It seems like it takes forever between cutscenes, mainly because the amount of sneaking around you have to do seems like it takes a lifetime. It was almost a relief when I would get to a cutscene, because I could finally breathe again and take a break from my nearly-failed sneaking around. Then I would get thrown into a full-on gun fight with five or more people just to pile on to the stress. Most of the stress from that was due to that fact that you have a limited amount of bullets, and if you’re not the best at stealth games, those bullets are your best friends!

It wasn’t all bad though. As the game went on, I got so immersed in the story that I didn’t care how long it took to do something. I also got really good at hoarding supplies and making three of everything to keep with me, so it got a little easier the more creative I got. Each new task was relief from having to do too much of another, so I’m glad The Last of Us did a good job at mixing things up.

I do have to add that Naughty Dog hit the nail on the head with the realism they were trying to create with The Last of Us in every way, including the combat. Let’s face it, regardless of how long or stressful it was, it wouldn’t be a cake walk in real life either. You wouldn’t have an endless supply of bullets, you’d have to use your surroundings, and you would have to sneak-kill half your opponents. So, frustrating or not; good job!

The story has an overwhelming sadness that resonates throughout, and it doesn’t get any better as the game progresses. If that is what Naughty Dog was going for, than they definitely did a good job. I don’t meant that in a bad way though. If a story can make you feel its tragedy, then it’s a damn good one. Don’t get me wrong, there were high points that were just as emotionally shaking as the low, but the grief you feel never leaves you – just as the hope you feel never does.

The Last of Us is a story that I will never forget, with characters whom I cared for as if I knew them myself, and gameplay that tested my patience unlike any other. The pristine realism that Naughty Dog aimed for was accomplished elegantly and brilliantly.

Score: A

You can get The Last of Us for PlayStation 3 for about $60.

Tony Awards Give Lesson in True Diversity

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The 70th Tony Awards show took place last night, hosted by James Corden and featuring an amazing lineup of nominees that was one of the most diverse in history. Considering the disaster that was “Oscars so white,” it was a refreshing change of pace. Tony-winning producer Ken Davenport told The Huffington Post:

“Diversity is the theme for the entire season. It’s the most diverse group of artists and shows we’ve seen, especially when compared to the lack of diversity in Hollywood.”

James Corden opened the show with a moving statement regarding the shooting in Orlando early Sunday morning. The show then took a happier turn with a supremely entertaining opening number and performances from some of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows of the year, including Hamilton, The Color Purple, Shuffle Along, and Spring Awakening. James Corden was hilarious and entertaining, even getting audience members to volunteer for “commercial karaoke” during commercial breaks. One of my personal favorite bits was when Corden made several Broadway stars, including Claire Danes, Billy Porter, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom, Jr., and Danny Burstein suffer through their Law & Order roles. Seriously, he should host every year.

The front runner of the night was, to no one’s surprise, Hamilton, which went home with a whopping 11 Tony awards, including Best Musical – just one away from the record of 12 set by The Producers. The only categories Hamilton failed to win were Leading Actress in a Musical (Cynthia Erivo of The Color Purple bested Phillipa Soo), and Best Scenic Design of a Musical, which went to David Rockwell of She Loves Me. The Humans was the other big winner, taking home four Tonys, including Best Play.

The real winner, though, was diversity. The biggest winner, Hamilton, is a show that celebrates people of color and shows them that they have a place in American history. And for the first time in Broadway history, all four of the major acting awards went to people of color. If nothing else, this year on Broadway has shown children everywhere, of all backgrounds, that they too can live their dreams. And that is more important than any award they can give.

Tony Award Winners (in bold)

Best Play
Eclipsed
The Father
The Humans
King Charles III

Best Musical
Bright Star
Hamilton
School of Rock
Shuffle Along
Waitress

Best Revival of a Play
A View from the Bridge
Blackbird
The Crucible
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Noises Off

Best Revival of a Musical
The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
She Loves Me
Spring Awakening

Leading Actor in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
Frank Langella, The Father
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, A View from the Bridge

Leading Actress in a Play
Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey into Night
Laurie Metcalf, Misery
Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird

Leading Actor in a Musical
Alex Brightman, School of Rock
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton

Leading Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Best Director of a Play
Rupert Goold, King Charles III
Ivo van Hove, A View From the Bridge
Jonathan Kent, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Joe Mantello, The Humans
Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed

Best Director of a Musical
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
John Doyle, The Color Purple
Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along

Best Book of a Musical
Julian Fellowes, School of Rock
Steve Martin, Bright Star
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along

Best Original Score
Sara Bareilles, Waitress
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater, School of Rock

Best Featured Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Bill Camp, The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off
Richard Goulding, King Charles III
Michael Shannon, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Best Featured Actress in a Play
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Andrea Martin, Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Beowulf Boritt, Therese Raquin
Christopher Oram, Hughie
Jan Versweyveld, A View from the Bridge
David Zinn, The Humans

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Es Devlin and Finn Ross, American Psycho
David Korins, Hamilton
Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along
David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Michael Krass, Noises Off
Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Tom Scutt, King Charles III

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting
Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me
Ann Roth, Shuffle Along
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Savion Glover, Shuffle Along
Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof
Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea
Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet!

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Natasha Katz, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Justin Townsend, The Humans
Jan Versweyveld, The Crucible
Jan Versweyveld, A View from the Bridge

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along
Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening
Justin Townsend, American Psycho

Best Orchestrations
August Eriksmoen, Bright Star
Larry Hochman, She Loves Me
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Daryl Waters, Shuffle Along

Yummy Nummies – Yucky Nopies

A few years back, I sent my food scientist husband a link to a Japanese kit that lets people make food using only powder.

Fascinated and adorable, he couldn’t stop talking about it, and the little tube of “sausage,” for weeks. (When not trying to make an army of carrot super mutants in his lab basement).

After flipping through some ads, he gave me the same doe eyes the dog tries when she wants a treat. He discovered that the powdered food kits made their way to the US and really wanted to try one.

Here, they’re called Yummy Nummies, because everything in America is covered in a layer of high fructose corn syrup. After scouring a few stores during the fourth of independence weekend, we finally found some at Target. We skipped past the dessert ones, because like an EZ bake oven of old, those might actually be palatable.

No, the one he had to try was the Best Ever Burger Maker™®© (the symbol for the fifth element).

This is what the company thinks it should look like:

Best Burger Maker Ever

And here’s the video of him making it while I provide my usually snarky commentary behind the camera:

If you don’t feel like watching the video, the Best Ever Burger Makerˆøˆ comes with a plastic casing molded into squares to do your mixing in, a handful of packets filled with the powders, and a tiny plate/knife/spoon to try and up the adorableness.

But there’s no magic in this thing, no wonder at making grown up food super tiny. Yummy Nummies is the dead raccoon floating in your fairy pond; the harsh reminder that the world killed your fantasy dreams in a murder/suicide pact. It’s so grimdark that you can barely see an inch past your nose, and that’s how you like it, raging against the ills of the world in your lair while prodding a plate of hard mashed potatoes formed in a fry shape.

You saw the fantasy, now meet the reality:

The Real Best Burger Ever

The fries, surprise surprise, tasted like potato buds nuked in the microwave for a few seconds. A bit of the edges hardened up enough to give it shape, but the middle is full on week old mashed potatoes from a haunted elementary school. You’d be better off dumping a handful of potato buds into your mouth and gnawing on those.

The burger tastes about 99.99% like dough. Despite smelling like the innards of a tauntaun, the burger patty tasted of nothing, the beany powder evaporating on the tongue. The “cheese” was powdered cheeze-its reconstituted with a bit of water and smeared across some wax paper. It wasn’t even cheesy enough to reach Cheeto levels, offering up barely a blip to the flavor palate.

The weirdest part on the burger wasn’t the reeking meat, the radioactive cheese, or the still-dough bun. It was the ketchup. Instead of that healthy tomato red, this ketchup was a deep crimson which refused to fully solubilize the powder. Maybe the chunks of powder were supposed to be in there, I have no idea. The dried blood condiment tasted less like ketchup and more like a weak barbecue sauce stored at the bottom of a spittoon.

But the true abomination of the meal was the one I figured they could easily get right. How hard is soda pop? Nigh on impossible, apparently. Despite having the familiar caramel cola color, that thing had top notes of lime and base ones of liquid hatred. If you dumped a box of baking soda on your tongue and washed it down with lime juice, it’d still be better than that thimble of soda.

Because I wasn’t about to let my husband have all the fun, I decided to make their Chix Mini Nuggets. (Chix sounds like the stripper name Camilla adopted after her final breakup with Gonzo. Look, we all knew you guys weren’t going to make it. You’re a chicken who can’t talk, he’s a whatever. Doom city.)

Chix Nuggets

I think there might be a wee bit of false advertising going on in that marketing department. My Chix nuggets never once kicked out sparkles or looked like actual meat. The ingredients are mostly potato powder, which is what the “chicken” tasted like: garlic and onion spice to cover the fact you’re eating potato lumps pretending it’s chicken.

Like all things American, we imported something, dumbed and cheapened it down, then marketed it at kids. At the heafty price tag of $10 and $6 for those kits, you’re better off just letting your little Jaydens and Scadens play with a set of real knives. At least you’ll have a decent meal to eat while waiting in the emergency room.

An Interview with Stef Woodburn: Actress, Singer, Twitch Host, Awesome Person

I recently got the opportunity to talk to Stef Woodburn about her life, feminism, and what it means to be a geek or nerd today. For those unaware, Stef is an actress, dancer, singer, and host on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch channel. She’s someone who I find very entertaining and inspiring. I hope by the end of this interview you, awesome readers, will see why.

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What made you decide to pursue acting as a career?

I’ve always loved performing; it’s what brings me joy. Deciding to pursue a career in entertainment took a big leap of faith in exploring what I want to do. I love communicating stories and perspectives. Acting is a way to have a voice, to communicate a being, a story, a perspective, a vision, a way of life. It’s also a way to be a strong person, in a fantastical world, and connect with the audience on some kernel of humanity.

You graduated summa cum laude in International Politics/Economics from NYU. What skills, if any, have you used in your career that you learned in pursuit of your degree?

I majored in International Politics & Economics because I received a presidential honors scholarship to the College of Arts & Science, which is separate from Tisch School of the Arts. I decided to take the scholarship, which gave us opportunities to travel and study, and take Tisch acting classes in their open arts curriculum. I use several skills from my International Politics/Economics degree in my career. It wasn’t necessarily the content, but the application of business and the critical thinking skills needed in that major that have been helpful. The study of various economies, politics, and lifestyles enable me to approach the lives of the characters and the roles from an empathetic perspective. Also, it’s beneficial for all creative entrepreneurs to empower themselves with understanding business in order to take ownership of their careers.

I also minored in Psychology and French; psychology certainly pertains to understanding characters. While I was in France, I took a French theater acting class and performed in Paris. I’m a massive fan of education. As long as you’re passionate about what you study and find ways to apply it to jobs, there’s always value in learning.

Do people ever act surprised to discover you’re a Mensa member?

Not yet. Those who know me aren’t surprised at all, those who don’t know me likely wouldn’t risk offending me with surprise. The day someone acts surprised that I’m in Mensa, I’ll just whip out my membership card. Ha! See?! Undeniable plastic proof.

What advice would you like to share with young women, if given the chance?

Begin with something you’re passionate about. Follow your dreams and go for it. Take risks, rise above your challenges, and learn from each situation.

When life gets hard, keep going. Author Samuel Johnson said, “Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.” If you take five swings at a tree every day, eventually you’ll chop it down. Keep your mind open, and be a life-long learner.

Also, it’s personally taken me a long time to learn this and I’m still learning everyday; but failing is the best way to success. Failing means you are taking risks and learning from them. Put yourself out there and leap. You’ll surprise yourself by how often you land on your feet.

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You co-host G&S’s Cosplay and Minecraft on Twitch. Do you play Minecraft or any other games outside of the channel?

Yes, I play on a tablet at home. I don’t have a lot of home equipment, but I enjoy games. I also enjoy playing at arcades, specifically Galaga and Pacman.

How do you feel G&S helps you pursue your personal goals?

My personal goal is to inspire compassion and understanding through media featuring women leadership and multiculturalism, championing each person’s strength, value, and worth. G&S is very much aligned with this, creating a positive community that promotes diversity, women leaders, and being passionate about what you love. We foster embracing your unique attributes, whatever quirks or interests you have, and coming together as a community to support each other in our endeavors.

Also, anytime that I make others laugh or entertain them is a good day. I feel of value and of service when I’m able to make other people feel good. I’m always grateful to those who make me laugh, so I aim to pass it on.

Some people have questioned your “geek cred” while others have argued you’re more of a nerd. Would you consider yourself a nerd, a geek, or something else?

I’ll quote actor, writer, and TableTop guru Mr. Wil Wheaton: “Being a nerd is not about what you love, but about how you love it,” from his article “Why It’s Awesome To Be A Nerd.” In discerning the difference between geeks and nerds, there’s an interesting graph which charts out the difference characterizing geek and nerd, stating geeks are more about stuff and nerds are more about ideas.

Regardless of semantics, a geek is someone who is knowledgeable and passionate for a specific subject. I’m passionate about traditional geek and nerd stuff, such as Sailor Moon, Buffy, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Dune, books, math, science, and the future. I’m also highly passionate about French macaroons, bookstores, beaches, health, fashion, and dancing. I don’t think a geek has to love specific things to establish geek cred.

Geeks and nerds are states of mind/behaviors, and shouldn’t be stereotyped with specific subjects or physical attributes. I like being surrounded by smart, creative, passionate people. I love learning from them; they can love games, medicine, physics, cooking, pop culture, or what have you. I don’t care if they’re geeks or nerds; they’re just awesome people who have passion in their lives. Let us not rate each other on geek cred against some intangible scorecard. Instead, let us embrace each of our individual geeky loves, and foster inclusion and diversity for all of them. We are all passionate about different things, and I’m happy to be a part of this great tapestry of Geekdom that we are weaving together.

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You’ve stated that you wish to promote women in STEM, politics, and business. Can you talk a bit about why this is important?

Women have incredible talents. Yet we make approximately $0.78 to a man’s $1.00 [Editor’s Note: women of color make even less than this]. We have yet to see a American president who is a woman. Women make up 19% of the Congress, and only 5% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

The lack of women in leadership roles is an important issue, because having a woman’s perspective be influential in politics, in tech, and in business would make for a more diverse, balanced world. Women make up more than half of college grads. According to a Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership, most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders. I believe having more women in top leadership positions in business, government, and science would do a lot to improve the quality of vision for our world’s future.

In media, that girls are growing up seeing women through the eyes of men instead of the eyes of women breaks my heart. 1.9% of the directors of Hollywood’s 100 top-grossing films were women in 2013, and the Academy is 77% male. A truly balanced world would have girls growing up to see role models that reflect how women see themselves. This is a great article discussing this issue.

Also, if you’re as passionate about this as I am and interested in other great, motivating articles regarding gender, I recommend visiting Seejane.org and signing up for their newsletter for weekly updates and studies. The Geena Davis Institute compiles and sends out great articles; they’re a research-based organization working with media and entertainment companies to improve how girls and women are reflected in media.

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Are there any programs you would encourage our readers to investigate if they would like to pursue STEM, politics, or business as a career?

Readers can veer towards these interests by signing up for math, technology, science, and business classes, clubs, and internships. Students can start by taking advantage of the STEM programs in schools. If you know someone in a field you’re interested in, ask them for a cup of coffee or a quick call to learn about what they do. If you don’t know someone, you can research online to find people/events of similar interests in your community. There are a lot of opportunities and information out there, and knowledgeable people in the field may be happy to share their experiences.

And, just for fun, if you could be any superhero or have any superpower, who would you be/what power would you want?

Fly. As a child, I would count down the hours starting a week before (168 hours! 115 hours!) until a plane would take off. I love the excitement of a plane taking off, as well as physical sensations like dancing or swimming or riding on the back of a motorcycle. I can only imagine the joy of combining those two into one.

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I want to give Stef a big thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It genuinely means a lot to me, and I’m so happy to help get her perspective out there. You can follow Stef on Instagram and Twitter, and catch her Tuesdays at 4pm Pacific on G&S’s Twitch channel.