Archive for the 'Cool Stuff' Category

Great Graphic Novel Gifts FOR EVERYONE

Friday, December 11th, 2015

This could easily have been genderfied and written as Great Graphic Novels for Girls, but that does everyone a disservice. What I love about this list is that these books are for all ages, genders, whatevers. Most of them feature strong female protagonists, and many are written or drawn by women. But the titles in this post have been read and approved of by no girls in my house, just my 40-something husband, myself and our 12 and 9yo boys Drake and Guppy. Heroes are all shapes, colors, sizes, and in some comics, species. Here are some of our family favorites.

nimona2Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is a young woman who wants to be the sidekick to a supervillain. But the villain she pesters isn’t so villainous, and the hero who opposes him isn’t so heroic. The government is doing bad things, Nimona has a secret, and everything gets exciting and intense on the way to a very satisfying ending. Nimona is a terrific adventure, and perhaps our family’s favorite book of the year.

boombox_lumberjanes_001_aLumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and many more. I have to admit. I bought the first issue, read it, didn’t love it, gave it to my boys, who did love it, then I didn’t read it again. Till last week. When I devoured all twenty issues and wonder how the junk I didn’t immediately fall in love with this series about a group of five friends at summer camp who get into magical hijinks. Because now I am totally in love. The friendships, the magic and myth, the humor, the art, all creates one of my favorite ongoing series in a long time. It was originally scheduled as an 8-issue mini series, but early critical acclaim and strong sales got it the nod to be an ongoing series. It’s collected in two 4-issue trade paperbacks, or an awesome hardcover edition of the first 8 issues as well as all the covers and song mixes. The hardcover Lumberjanes To the Max edition would make a GREAT holiday gift and would stand up well to the multiple readings it is sure to get.

marvelMs. Marvel trade paperbacks volumes 1-4. Marvel made the news when Muslim teenager Kamala Khan was gifted with the powers of Ms. Marvel. Kamala’s a normal kid, living in Jersey City, with overprotective parents and the new superpowers don’t make life easier at all. The creative team of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona has been strong and steady in the spinning out of Kamala’s transformations. This series is fun and sweet, but with a serious core about tough issues that make it one of my favorite releases every month. Buy all the graphic novels, then pick up the relaunched Ms. Marvel #1.

squirrelCompletely un-serious is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, another super heroine in the Marvel universe, rescued from obscurity as part of the Great Lakes Avengers, and given her own book last year that kept selling out. Doreen Green is a computer science student at a community college but secretly has the powers of…you guessed it, a squirrel. Which wouldn’t seem that intimidating, and yet, she is super strong, fast, plus her squirrel sidekick Tippytoe gives her inside information against the bad guys. There is a running commentary at the bottom of every page, and this comic makes us laugh out loud. The two graphic novels collect the original series, and the new series is 2 issues in–look for them at your local comic shop.

smile1Smile, Sisters, and Drama by Raina Telgemaier. Smile is the artist’s own story of how she knocked out her permanent teeth when young, and had a long strange journey to replace them. Sisters is the sequel about her challenging relationship with her sister, and Drama is a standalone graphic novel about a girl in the drama club. The stories and art are charming and easy to relate to.

eldeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell has a similar feel to Smile–a young girl loses her hearing, and has to navigate girlhood with hearing aids. The characters are drawn as rabbits, and this is a moving tale.

powerupPower Up is a miniseries that is about to finish. The last issue, #6 is due for release on December 23. It’s about a group of four oddballs–underemployed Amie, middle-aged mom Sandy, construction worker Kevin, and Silas the goldfish–who receive superpowers without warning or explanation, though they’re immediately attacked by enemies before they can figure it all out. They have to figure out how to work together (and communicate with a FISH) and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

These titles are just some of our favorites–I don’t have the time to go into the others we’ve enjoyed–check the links out for more info on Roller Girl, Mermin, Zita the Space Girl, Bandette, Secret Coders, and Cleopatra in Space. These are just the ones we’ve read–there are so many more we haven’t gotten to yet! So visit your local comic shop to see these lovelies in person. It is a great time in comics, with a wealth of diverse titles across the genres. Go–read–enjoy!

Watch This: The Hollow Crown on PBS

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Henry V

Attention Shakespeare geeks, or even better, people who are afraid of Shakespeare:

PBS is running a series of film adaptations called The Hollow Crown of four of Shakespeare’s most famous history plays: Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and 2, and Henry V.

Playing the part of Prince Hal/Henry V? Tom Hiddleston, aka Loki from the Marvel movies. Squee of geek joy.

Ahem, also, he is a very fine dramatic actor, as evidenced by his work in such films as The Deep Blue Sea and Midnight in Paris.

Showing tonight, Friday 9/20/13 and the next three Fridays.

“Maddaddam” by Margaret Atwood

Friday, July 19th, 2013


I hate advance reader copies. They’re ugly, full of typos, and whenever I’ve gotten one in the past, I’ve ended up reading it after the book came out in its proper form. Often, after it came out in hardcover and even paperback. So, I tend to avoid ARCs. Except when a friend says, “would you like an ARC of the new Margaret Atwood?” And then I’m all in.

Maddaaddam is the third book in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy, which began with Oryx and Crake, which I initially disliked, a great deal. It was followed by The Year of the Flood, which I loved, and which cast all events in Oryx and Crake in such a different context probably because it was narrated by two smart, interesting women, as opposed to the emotionally stunted, wilfully obtuse Jimmy, who narrated the first book. I loved Year of the Flood so much I re-read Oryx and Crake, which made much more sense to me with more of hte puzzle shown.

Maddaddam doesn’t even pretend to be a standalone novel. There is a 4-page recap at the beginning of the ARC that summarizes what happened in the previous two books, and from there the reader is plopped right down again this futuristic, mangled Earth and the cast of characters from the past, which expands further in this book. It’s told mostly from Toby, one of the narrators of YotF, and who is now one of my favorite fictional characters, ever. Sometimes it’s in third person, about Toby. Sometimes it’s in first person, being narrated by Toby, and sometimes she’s telling the history of Zeb and finding out how all of his puzzle pieces fit into what went before.

I tore through the books 400 pages in two days. I took unwilling breaks to take care of myself and my family. I stayed up late to finish it, and had tears leaking down my face. This book is full of memorable characters, an epic battle, unlikely allies (which I was sad were given away on the back cover, so if you want to read this, I recommend just plunging in), love, loss, survival tips, and a makes me continue to think long and hard on what the differences are between utopia and dystopia, and the type of potential futures shown by different authors, and how differently male and female authors have handled similar ideas.

After I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I wondered why so much of dystopic literature, and really, so much of literature generally, was about the father/son relation. I have a masters degree in religion, so there is the obvious answer that it’s a reflection, inborn or learned?, about the human struggle to understand the Father/Son relation. Where is the mother/daughter relation, I wondered after reading Gilead and The Road. Whither is the female, I wondered after A Canticle for Leibowitz and Oryx and Crake.

They are right here, in the three books of the Maddaddam trilogy. I flat-out, full-on loved this book, this universe, and these characters. And I about exploded with geek joy when I found out Atwood is coming to the Twin Cities for a reading series this fall.

Book Stacks, Not My Own

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Oh, there are some drool-worthy photos of book stacks in Japan, for example:


Image: Twitter. Via.

But my favorite part is the brief last sentence:

While still an emerging art, the ultimate book stacking style would combine style and strength but also allow customers to actually pick a copy up so they can buy it.

I have been mulling for a while that I want to create stacks with my TBR books, not buy more shelves, but have the books be removable, at least one at a time, without it all tumbling down. My summer project? Or another brick on the road to hell? Only time will tell. I wouldn’t put money on it.

“Good Friend” is More Goodness from Cloud Cult

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I don’t think I’ve ever embedded a video, so this is a great one to start with. Cloud Cult has a new album, Love, that officially goes on sale tomorrow. It’s the CD of the week at my radio station The Current, so if you join this week you get it.

And this new song “Good Friend”, is a terrific example of the kind of their exuberant, anthemic sound. I love it. Hope you do too. The creature in it reminds me of big Totoro from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro, which I watched this weekend with my kids, who I’m glad to say are not too old for it. Neither am I.

Book Mountain!

Friday, October 12th, 2012

“Magnificent Five-Story Book Mountain Library”:


via The Morning News.

Marking a Few Milestones

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Welcome to the first week of September, which is my kids’ second week of school, and I am now back in the (writing) saddle, and almost weeping with joy at the long stretches of peace and quiet.

I am frequently asked how my summer was. My response: hot and busy, but not in the naughty way. Shuttling children to and fro, mediating fights, doling out consequences. Thus, I didn’t write a lot. I did _read_ a lot, with the Summer of Shelf Discovery and for my book groups.

But it occurred to me sometime recently that some milestones flew by and I forgot to mark them. So

May was my yoga-versary. I’ve been doing yoga for 12 years, and it’s the only exercise I’ve ever been able to keep up with year ’round.

June was my blog-iversary. Yes, Girl Detective turned ten. 10! I always fancied myself a writer, but it wasn’t till I started my blog that I got a regular writing habit.

In August Drake turned 9, and August also marked the 22nd anniversary of my last cigarette.

Turns out, I’ve been a non-smoker, yogi, writer and mom for a long time now. And no, it’s doesn’t feel like it’s gone by fast. It’s been a day at a time that I’ve accrued these newer and different aspects of myself.

Summer Reading Project!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I’m posting this before I second guess myself. Lizzie Skurnick wrote a book called Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading based on a popular column, Fine Lines at Jezebel. It’s goes through the various books many of us read growing up, their themes, their strengths, their flaws, etc.

(It’s rather like a Teenage Girls’ Canon, a pop-cultural milieu many of us, especially those who came of age in the late 70’s/80’s/early 90’s shared.)

Examples: Chapter 1, “YA Heroines We’ll Never Return” includes A Wrinkle in Time (Meg!). Chapter 4: “Read ‘Em and Weep” includes Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. Chapter 7 on Romance includes Forever, and Chapter 10, “I Can’t Believe They Let Us Read This”, includes Flowers in the Attic, My Sweet Audrina, Clan of the Cave Bear, Wifey and Domestic Arrangements. It’s one of the three chapters where I read all the books. Heh. The oevres of Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, Madeleine L’Engle are all well represented in it.

I don’t think there’s a way to do a reading challenge and ask that people read all the books she references even if they’re often super short–72! BUT there are ten chapters, and twelve weeks between June and August.

I propose a chapter a week starting the first or second week in June, and reading ONE book from the chapter a week, then coming here to discuss it. And I’d add an eleventh week (it’ll be so good it’ll go to 11!) for what book you loved that isn’t included. (Mistral’s Daughter. Ahem.)

SO, you’d be reading one chapter of Shelf Discovery, and one short YA book a week, perhaps one you already read as a child, and perhaps for you parents even one you could read WITH your kid. (Not Wifey, but maybe A Little Princess, right?)

Whaddya think?

If there’s interest, then a schedule and bibliography to come.


Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Pretty. Cool. Even if the movie isn’t supposed to be good. I’ll be finding out myself soon enough, I’m sure.



Geek Joy

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Waiting on the Catbus

Waiting on the Catbus

Day: made


Two-Minute Mothers Day Post

Monday, May 9th, 2011

First, of all, I hope you took time to honor all the mothers in your life. If you live in the US, where it was Mothers Day, or not.

Second, I hope you took time to honor all others who get short shrift this day: those who couldn’t be mothers, those who were but aren’t, those who chose and choose not to be in spite of tremendous societal pressure, single dads, dad-dad families, and anyone else this day. There are many ways to mother, and those whose title it is don’t even always do a good job at it, so we should honor ALL.

Third of all, I’m now up to 4 minutes, and haven’t even written about the lovely day I had yesterday: eggs Florentine and my favorite draft root beer for brunch, browsed at 2 shops full of pretty, shiny things, and got a necklace and earrings. Got a double of passionfruit sorbet and chocolate/amaretto ice cream at my favorite shop, then a macchiato at a new coffee shop, then a nap, then played catch with 7yo Drake and practiced 2-wheeling on his bike with Guppy. Read my book. Went to bed.

I am so, so fortunate and I wish love to you all.

Artistic Envelopes

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Via Bookmoot, a collection of at The Guardian of envelopes by children’s book illustrators to their publisher. I especially love the Satoshi Kitamura ones, as he’s a favorite of mine. This is an image based on his UFO Diary:


Myriad Movies

Monday, April 11th, 2011

I’ve been on something of a movie bender lately, mostly thanks to a compelling series of “soundtrack” films by local cinephiles Take Up Productions.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is Hitchcock’s remake of his own earlier 1934 black-and-white, British film. Bernard Hermann’s score is almost a character in itself, and the climax of the movie takes place at a concert with the orchestra directed by Hermann himself. This has a pretty blond Doris Day as a retired international singing star visiting Marrakesh with her husband, the much older Jimmy Stewart, a doctor from Indianapolis. Strange things happen when the visit the market, in a scene I think much be the referent for the market chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Great with building tension, it has many hilarious lines, including the final one, along with a creepy subtext of marital dissatisfaction and discord. I’ll be seeking out the original to compare/contrast.

North by Northwest (1959) Another collaboration between Hitchcock and Hermann, with mod visual credits and music to open it. Cary Grant is his usual awesome blend of gentleman clown, while Eva Marie Saint is Hitchcock’s icy blond who he puts through the wringer. Grant’s suit also takes a beating, and the jacket disappears for the scenes on Mt. Rushmore.

Charade (1963) directed by Stanley Donen (who also did Singin’ in the Rain) and scored by Henry Mancini, this has cool opening credits and music. Grant again is the December man to Hepburn’s May cutie. The age difference bothered him so much Grant insisted her character be the one to pursue his. Funny, charming, and labyrinthine in its plot, this was a heckuva lot of fun.

Fahrenheit 451
(1966) by Francois Truffaut, in his first color and his one and only English language film. Nothing funny about this one, but beautiful visuals, including Julie Christie interestingly cast in the dual role of girl/wife, which apparently caused Terence Stamp to drop out as the lead, as he was afraid to be overshadowed by his former lover. Truffaut’s future didn’t look very futuristic from this late date except for one element: the large television screen for viewing an ongoing “reality” show that invites the viewers to feel the actors are their family. This part chilled me in the book, but perhaps even more in the film, seeing a thoroughly of-the-moment size flat screen.

What I Am, Is Sick of Spam

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Hat tip to Bread and Jam for Frances.

Every time I sign in to my weblog, I have oodles of spam; the Wordpress filters seem particularly inept of late.

7yo Drake, who is looking over my shoulder, (watch what she types, Guppy!), added:

What a piece of work is spam.

!!! My seven year old is making puns on Hamlet. I’m so proud I could burst.

This is actually not (so much) a post to gripe about it, but instead to say thanks to longtime commenters and now friends (virtual or otherwise and not in a particular order): Amy R, Kate F, Weirleader, Steph, Carolyn, Vince, Sarah, Thalia, Jessica, my aunt, my father in law, MFS, Susan P, Inquirer, Camille, and others who I can’t go on to name since I have a boy at each elbow and am no longer at leisure. Many thanks for your ongoing conversations. While this blog is my attempt to practice regular writing, it’s made much more enjoyable and challenging by the discussions and perspectives you bring!

Walking to Yoga Class

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Red monk, chipping ice, with axe.

“Timeout Chicago” on the Twin Cities

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I recently returned from a class reunion in DC. Most of the people I spoke to live up and down the east coast. But when I said I was from Minneapolis, I usually got an enthusiastic response along the lines of, “I have a friend who lives there, and I love visiting!” Before I moved here, sight unseen, in 1998 from Philly, I found the same reaction. If I mentioned the Twin Cities, most people would gush, in spite of legends of bad winters. (Which I’ve found aren’t that much worse than PA and OH.) And Timeout Chicago sums up some of the charms pretty well:

When it comes to world-class Midwest cities, Chicago handily trounces the competition (not that we’re biased). But Minneapolis-St. Paul exudes its own kind of quiet cool, and we don’t just mean the weather. Dispatched by bus, train, car and plane, four writers discovered that the sleek new Twins stadium, chic restaurants and bars (and legal food trucks!), jaw-dropping art and architecture, vibrant music scene and more outdoor activities than you can shake a stick at (or food on a stick) make the Twin Cities well worth a weekend jaunt. And you know what? The weather was pretty pleasant (except for that brief snow shower).

One more thing that’s meant a lot to me is the plethora of local authors, like Kate DiCamillo and Neil Gaiman, who are part of the thriving reading and writing scene. Hat tip for link to Mustache Robots.

Class Reunions

Monday, June 7th, 2010

As most of you know, I can be a snob, a cynic and kind of a misanthrope–in other words, not really the reunion type. I skipped most of my high school or college reunions. If I wanted to catch up with people, I figured I’d do it with my small circle of friends, and not be bothered by the crush of other people I didn’t much need to see. But my high school friends swore to me they had a great time at the 15th, and my college friends did the same about their 10th, so I decided to attend the next round. And boy, was I glad I did.

I had a blast at my 20th high school reunion and my 15th college reunion. It was a chance for friends to converge in a single space and time, which is harder as time goes on with jobs and kids and everything else. And it wasn’t true that I didn’t want to see all those other people, because often, I had a great time talking to them, laughing about old times and engaging in conversations about new ones. What I noticed especially at my 20th HS reunion was the social walls had dropped. We’d become one small group of 100+ people who’d all had a shared experience in school together, and been through good and bad times after. No one much cared anymore who had been a brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel, or a recluse.

So this past weekend I flew out to DC for my 20th college reunion. I was part of a group of 10 women, four of whom were my roommates in college. We talked about our present lives, and things like work, kids, moving, cancer, husbands, autism, babies, and more. We laughed about old times, and cringed at old photos of us with big hair and baggy sweaters. We got dressed up and went out in the city to parties, saw other friends and caught up on the lives of others. I learned I’d had a pivotal role in getting one couple together in college! We ate good food, shared clothes, shoes, perfume and makeup. We laughed. There were no husbands or kids (who probably would have been bored anyway at all the “remember whens”) to look after or worry about. Then we laughed some more. One morning, I even slept till almost 10 a.m. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Eight years ago, maybe?

I had a great time away with my friends, and then was glad to be home. I gave my husband and boys huge hugs. I had a good time without them, but I’d missed them, too. Being at reunions chips away at my snobbery, my cynicism, my misanthropy, and any bad feelings about my life. _That’s_ why I go to reunions.

In Praise of Female Nerds

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

At The American Prospect, (link from The Morning News) a celebration of female nerds* on television:

*correctly classified as nerds, not geeks, according to this classification, since they’re socially inept

nerd venn

And on Her Birthday Weekend…

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I, Girl Detective, rested, and let other people do the cooking.

Friday night, supper at Cheeky Monkey. I greatly enjoyed the muffuletta sandwich and grits with bacon. Until they had their Reflux Revenge.

Saturday morning, breakfast at Red Stag. Crab cake, 2 poached eggs, tarragon aioli and mixed greens.

Still full at lunchtime.

Saturday supper, Solera, with JP Samuelson and 2 awesome grill guys whipping up the tapas: Chorizo Stuffed Dates with Smoked Bacon; Octopus Ceviche with Citrus, Pepper and Cumin; Tempura Squash with Pumpkin Seed Romesco; Grilled Short Ribs with Sunchokes and Baby Carrot; Roasted Beets with Duck, Walnuts and Palhais; Sherry Glazed Pork Belly with Morcilla and Lentils; Scallops ‘a la Plancha’ with Serrano Ham and Saffron; Grilled Asparagus with Lomo and Mahon; Braised Rabbit and Artichokes with Lemon and Egg. And that’s not all, oh no, that’s not all! While the rabbit was rich enough to be dessert, I couldn’t forego the ice cream trio: coffee, butterscotch and tangy cream cheese.

Apres supper, a Sprite at Mayslack’s while listening to Guns N Roses loud, louder and loudest, in a failed attempt to meet up with friends.

Sunday morning, breakfast in bed. The boys finally got the memo! For the first time on a birthday or Mother’s Day, 4yo Guppy and 6yo Drake weren’t sick, didn’t wake in the night, didn’t wake before I did! They brought in home made cards, then went to help G. Grod fix me breakfast in bed, though they were very confused as to why I would want such a thing. (To read more of my book, of course.)

Sunday afternoon. A global lunch at Midtown Global Market. G had a ham and cheese croissant, the boys had corn dogs, and I had a huarachazo. Then we picked up the chocolate-orange cake that Salty Tart chef Michelle Gayer and I had brainstormed on and which she brought into being. It’s coming to room temperature now, and should be perfect after a simple supper tonight. For which I _might_ wash some lettuce.

And did I mention the lovely well wishes and cool prezzies? I’ve had scores of emails, in the face of which it’s impossible not to feel loved and appreciated. A lime-green pair of high-heeled sandals with matching tank from sister Sydney, the bundt pan I’VE WANTED FOR FOREVER and the Lou Barlow cd I’ve wanted since Duff noted it was one of her faves of ‘05 from my sister Ruthie, an awesome Minnesota dish towel from my friend The Hoff, an electric kettle (since I’ve ruined countless stovetop ones), a mini Bodum, and a CD from G that he really was excited about. A copy of Baked of my own from G’s grandma. Plus lingering happy memories and waves of wellness from the yoga retreat my mother-in-law sent me on.

Thus far, a tremendous day. Last year was rather difficult. This year will be better. I’m feeling fortified for it.

Flipping a Coin

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

My husband shared this post from Minimal with me. I like it a lot.

Coin Toss from