Hugh Likes Podcasts: Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men

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As regular readers of this blog may know, I am somewhat fond of comic books, and I also enjoy comic book podcasts.  This is a relatively new one, but it is already one of my favorites.  Hosted by Dark Horse Comics editor Rachel Edidin and her husband Miles Stokes, the title says it all for this one.  This weekly, hour-long show attempts to shed some light on one of the most convoluted and complex franchises in modern comics, the X-Men, starting from Giant-Sized X-Men Number One right up until the present day.
Rachel and Miles take a breezy, tongue in cheek look at the history of the comics, and they both celebrate its heights and condemn its excesses, with appreciation.  It is clear from the start that they love these comics, even the ones they know are ridiculous.
The show opens with a scripted bit examining a particularly thorny bit of cannon, such as X-characters frequent habit of dying and coming back to life, lamp-shading the week’s topic.  This is followed by a forty-five minute or so discussion of that topic.  They recently covered the famous Dark Phoenix Saga in two episodes that is a great place for new listeners to begin.
The podcast reminds me of the now defunct Tom vs. The DC Universe podcast, but rather than simply reading and reacting to one issue, they cover and critique an arc or particular topic.
Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men is a delightful look at the Marvel Universe from two witty and engaging hosts who really know their stuff and celebrate it without putting it on a pedestal.  They also release a weekly visual companion with panels and fanart from the latest episode.  I recommend it for New Fans and Uncanny X-Perts alike.  Listen for yourself at RachelandMiles.com/xmen

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Queen City Adventures: The Taste of Buffalo!

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Every year, local restaurants take over Niagara Square and a few blocks of Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo for one of the largest food festivals in the country.


Buffalo is definitely a food city, from chicken wings to beef on weck, so it is always a delight to try new places and see what they have on offer. Here is a sample of my selections:


Indian Falls Log Cabin: Beef on Weck Ravioli

This beef and cheese ravioli was served in savory beef broth complete with caraway seeds. It was a nice mix of surprising ingenuity and hometown pride. Very good.


T. C. Wheelers: Reuben Pizza and Pizza Nutella with Almonds

Of all the pizza places that had tents at this year’s events, this was the only one that felt creative, which is usually what I’m looking for at the Taste. The Reuben Pizza was outstanding. It had a nice, thick crust and delivered what it promised. The Pizza Nutella was more akin to fried dough, and the hazelnut spread made it a bit heavy, but it was quite good as well.


Kabob and Curry: Cheese & Veggi Tikka

Selected by my husband, who is vegetarian. He enjoyed it, and I liked my nibble, but I’m a wuss when it comes to spicy food, and it was a bit too much for me.


Carribean Expirience: Beef Patty

An excellent meat pastry that was nicely spiced but not hot. My husband had the vegetarian version, which was also good.


NIck Charlap’s Ice Cream: Raspberry Custard

While they had the standard flavors, we opted to try something a bit different from this local ice cream shop. It was excellent.


The Lodge: Civiche

Raw fish in a citrus sauce with gaucamole and chips, this was like sushi and nachos combined. It was delicious and refreshing on a hot Saturday afternoon. The Lodge’s other options, including venison and wild boar, looked interesting as well.

Over-all, I would say that I enjoyed the Reuben Pizza the most out of my sampling of this year’s entrants, although the civiche was a close second. Buffalo is a treasure trove of fantastic local restaurants, and I always enjoy sampling them.

Next week: The Italian Festival!

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Hugh Likes Comics: X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

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Uncanny X-Men 129-137
Written by Chris Claremont
Drawn by John Byrne
Published by Marvel Comics
Fire, life incarnate, etc.
If there is one X-Men story you should read to try and understand anything that came afterwards, The Dark Phoenix Saga is it.  There is a lot of hype in superhero comics.  But in an industry where the status quo is king, this is a story whose repercussions have lasted for almost thirty-five years.  It’s important.  This is the story that introduced Kitty Pride.  It introduced Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club, a central antagonist.  This was the story where Wolverine finally came into his own as a character, shifting in one issue from whiny creep to the premier mysterious badass anti-hero of the Marvel Universe.  This is the story where the X-Men stop being just another team of super-heroes and became something greater.  Fortunately, it’s also one of the best stories Marvel has ever produced.
The story is actually a good jumping-on point, too.  It opens with the X-Men reunited for the first time after a fight with Magneto left them separated, and assuming that each other were dead.  Jean Grey has been having strange visions, which she assumes come from her semi-possession by The Phoenix, an energy being of incredible psychic power.  She is in fact being manipulated by Jason Windgarde, a mutant and member of the Hellfire Club, who wants to manipulate her for his own ends.  The Hellfire Club is a society of the elite, but their Inner Circle are a secret society of rich and powerful mutants seeking more.  And they attempt to control the Phoenix to do it.  I won’t spoil any further, except to say that the saga ends with a epic battle on the mood between the X-Men and three space empires for the fate of Jean Grey, and the Universe itself.
Claremont and Byrne are at the top of their game here, and their work here echoes through the Marvel Universe to this day.  In reading through this collection, I was surprised at how familiar some of the art and story seemed, because it has been referenced so heavily.  And not without good reason.  From the point he came onto the series as writer, Claremont built to something more for these characters than ‘Teenagers sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them!’ from the original run.  This is what he builds to.  The Dark Phoenix Saga is an examination of the uses of privilege and power.  The Hellfire Club use their power against others, especially other mutants, because they expect that they are above repercussions.  Shaw, the Black King of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, actually builds Sentinel robots, never even thinking he’d ever be hunted by one.  At the end of the series, the X-Men, and specifically Jean are left with a choice between the embrace of god-like power and their humanity.  The choice they make is subtle and intriguing.  And while the impact of that decision has been undone many times since, (most recently in the mega-crossover Avengers vs. X-Men) The Dark Phoenix Saga is still required reading for long-time and new comics readers alike.

In addition to the graphic novel, the podcast Rachel and Miles X-plain the X-Men was an invaluable resource for this review.  Check out their excellent weekly show HERE!

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Flash Pulp

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Flash Pulp is the work of Skinner Co, a three-person team of Canadians, and just about the most friendly bunch of podcasters you’d ever want to meet.  With an impressive catalog of episodes already online, Flash Pulp presents short pulp fiction with a more modern slant than Howard and Boroughs.  The universe is a massive web of stories, featuring a variety of characters across different times.  There’s Frontier Occultist Blackhall, and his modern counterpart Will Coffin, private detective Mulligan Smith, and zombie outbreak survivor Ruby.  And at the center, at the end of all things, is Kar’Wick, the Cthulhu-like spider-god.  These stories all bend and twist around one another in interesting and unexpected ways, leading listeners deeper into the over-all story of Skinner Co’s universe.
Flash Pulp is a perfect example of serialized storytelling done right.  Every story is a jumping-on point for new listeners, while at the same time rewarding fans who have heard all of them.  It’s a tricky maneuver to pull off, but Skinner Co does it with skill.
Their process is also worth nothing.  JRD writes the stories.  Opopinax narrates them and creates episode art.  Jessica-May records and edits them.  The shared workload keeps everything moving smoothly, and prevents the prolonged delays and pod-fading that plagues the medium.
The other very cool thing about Flash Pulp is The Mob.  Flash Pulp’s loyal and very cool fan community, of which I am a part.  The Skinners work very hard to cultivate the Mob, and stay connected with them.  It’s not a fandom.  It’s a network of friends, and also a fictional evil corporation, but that’s neither here nor there.  The podcast also has a (nearly) weekly Flash Cast episode, where the three  hosts catch up, read from the mail bag, and share segments recorded by members of the Mob.
If you have any interest in podcast story telling, check out the Flash Pulp podcast, and get to know these classic characters and their creators.

Visit Skinner.fm to listen for yourself!

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Queen City Adventures: The Buffalo Transportation Museum

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Last weekend, after taking in the burgers and the fireworks, I went downtown and experienced some American history.  The Buffalo Transportation Museum is located at 263 Michigan Ave and houses a fleet of vehicles and artifacts from the early days of the automobile.  Local manufacturers Pierce-Arrow and Thomas are heavily featured, but many different makes and models are present.

We live in an age of cheap, instant global communication.  Long-distance travel is something that we take for granted.  The vehicles and artifacts in this collection are a reminder of what a revolution the automobile really was.

The museum is capped off with a full-scale model of a proposed gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Although the plan was never used, and has some serious flaws, it is a fascinating look at what might have been.

If you’re a gear-head or if you just have an interest in history, the Buffalo Transportation Museum is an excellent place to spend an afternoon in the Queen City.

The Buffalo Transportation Museum is located at 263 Michigan Ave, Buffalo, NY and is open 11 AM-4PM Thursday-Sunday.  Visit them online at Pierce-Arrow.com

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I’ve Got a Mailing List!

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Hey folks!
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Drabble: Erato

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Erato, the muse of lyric poetry, looked down from on high and furrowed her brow. Something was not right. She plucked at her kithara in agitation. She was dissatisfied. No, more than that, she was BORED. Pentameter was past its prime. Haiku were humdrum. Villanelles were so vaudeville. Limericks were completely lame. It was time for something new, something different. But what? With supernatural sight she peered from her perch on Mount Helicon and searched. Somewhere out there was the next big thing. It had to be challenging, and it had to be short. Drabbles? Now there was an idea.

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