An Interview with Elaina Mittleman

We sat down to talk with Elaina Mittleman, a playwright of a new work titled Suspended. Elaina Mittleman is also the President/Co-Founder/Artistic Director of Blacklist Theatre. She recently graduated from Meredith College with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and is pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. As a co-founder of Blacklist, she hopes to create a space in which stories of underrepresented groups can be told and honored. She believes in the importance of art as a vehicle for change and is excited to offer a platform for powerful perspectives. Here is her story.

What inspired you to write Suspended?

Initially, I was inspired by a friend of mine who committed suicide within the last year. I was struggling with the idea that her beautiful mind is no longer in existence. I started to ask myself hard questions about my spiritual beliefs and the possibility of an afterlife, so I wrote it down. Mental health issues, in general, are very important to me and I think that society is still using the wrong language around these issues. We have made great strides in the last few years, but I think we need to focus less on why people are mentally ill and more on what can be done to help.

Who are your greatest influences?

Sarah Ruhl was the first playwright who I really fell in love with. Reading her work inspired a new kind of love for theatre that is outside of the box. She addresses tough issues in a way that is artistic and raw, yet soft. I am just all about it. The poet Jeanann Verlee has also been a huge influence as of late. She candidly recounts her own experiences in a way that is bitingly brave. I love the idea of making something beautiful out of hardship and diving into something that many are afraid to touch.

This is the first show for Blacklist Theatre— why was it important to choose this one?

Blacklist Theatre is a company that has a lot of heart. We all care deeply about the work that we do, so I thought it important to kick off our first season with something very personal. Honestly, at first I was a little hesitant to dive right in a produce a piece that I wrote, but the feedback that I have received on the play made it clear that it fits perfectly into our goals as a company.

If 2017 was a year for anything, it’s a year when Millenials got really into mysticism— crystals, astrology, tarot, and straight up witchcraft. Tarot plays a huge role in your play— why did you choose it?

Yes! I love how we’re opening up to different spiritual ideas. Tarot has always been something of interest for me and as a writer, it served as a great plot device. This is my first one-woman show and I was initially intimidated by the prospect of moving the plot forward using a single voice. I needed to find a way to help the character make discoveries about herself. Tarot is great in that it plays on previously held beliefs. So it worked well for offering a glimpse at the character’s thought process.  

What does it mean to you?

I’m not sure how much clout I’d put into the validity of tarot, but it is something that is important to me. Through my own mental health journey, there was something comforting about turning to the cards when things got tough. For me, it was a way of initiating self-reflection and helping me figure out my next steps.

What do you see in the future for Blacklist theatre?

That is a very big question. I hope to see Blacklist become a respected presence in the community. We’ve seen a lot of great companies in the triangle come and go and I would love to offer a place for artists to continue to create. A huge dream is for us to become financially stable enough to offer compensation to actors, designers, and our production teams. Mounting a production is hard work and those involved deserve payment for their time and efforts.

What do you want people to take away from Suspended?

I don’t want to give too much away, but I really hope Suspended makes an impression. I want audience members to go home and continue to think about the content. Ideally, the relatability of the main character will help to personalize the content for those who have little experience with or understanding of mental illness. Most importantly, I hope that I have honored those who have been touched by suicide.

Do you see the piece growing after this? Is it standalone or do you see it becoming a larger work?

Nothing is ever perfect. I will absolutely continue to make edits and do rewrites post-production. I think that it could find a nice place in a larger work, but I have no concrete plans right now.

There’s not a lot of one woman shows around here— why do you like the form? Why do you think this is best as a one-woman piece rather than any other form?

I wanted to create a play that is completely honest. I think the one woman format is best for this. The character has no reason to alter the truth, she’s not trying to elicit any sort of response from anyone. I also think that the majority of the storytelling that we do is inside of our own heads and I intended this to be a sort of snapshot of that. Unadulterated female voices are always hard to come by and this felt like the perfect opportunity.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help make this production a reality, please consider donating or sharing her IndieGogo.

Plucky Picks: Best Movies of 2017

Watching movies has always been a huge part of me and Katy’s lives. 2017 was a year that a lot of bad stuff happened, but luckily we had a lot of great films to get us through. Here are our top picks of movies this 2017 in no particular order!

It

via The New Yorker

 

In this remake of It by Stephen King, they hit all the right marks for a great horror film. The children gave truthful and hilarious performances, while Skarsgard found a balance in Pennywise’s disturbing gleeful mania. Every single element that you would want from this Stephen King novel was implemented well to the movie. It was a treat for any horror movie addict out there that loves the classics along with the new age of horror.

Coco

via ABC News

You could be captivated by just watching all of Coco’s amazing animation and concept art. Coco’s story, however, adds so much more and does not disappoint. Along with 2016’s Moana, Pixar is exploring what it really means to love your culture and family. Coco explores what it means to pursue your passions while also learning to keep in touch with where you came from.

Wonder Woman

via DC Comics

Wonder Woman was the movie that we needed in 2017. It gives you everything you need. Kick-assery, beautiful designs, impeccable acting, and most importantly LOVE ETHICS. This was a hard year for many people, and Wonder Woman was the perfect movie to get you out of your funk and KICK ASS.

Get Out

via Jet Mag

Get Out was just so good. This was a horror movie, but it went so much deeper because it explored topics and things we see every day. What seems to be a microaggression has a far more insidious undertone that Peele explores with this movie. Get Out conveys the reality of many Black Americans today. Peele creatively flipped classic horror tropes on its head by revealing that there’s more to be scared of than just ghosts.

Girls Trip

via Vogue

This movie is a masterpiece in that it’s an ode to joy and sisterhood. Girls Trip had all the right elements of heart and comedy that was perfectly balanced. All the actresses were hilarious, especially break-out star Tiffany Haddish, who stole the show. It’s a great feel-good movie that you won’t regret watching.

 

The Shape of Water

via The Atlantic

The Shape of Water is Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece. He masterfully crafted a movie that celebrated “otherness,” beauty, acceptance, and love. From beautiful design, a captivating story, and impeccable acting, The Shape of Water is a masterpiece that should not be missed.

That’s it for our top 6 movies of 2017! Be sure to come back for more sweet content! 

Cute and Queer Games to Finish Before 2018

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2017 has been a great year for games: from Breath of the Wild to Dream Daddy, Cuphead to Night in the Woods, Doki Doki Literature Club to Super Mario Odyssey— we’ve seen so many innovations and cool worlds. For me, 2017 has been the year I got into Itch.io and into so many indie and alt-games, particularly seeking out ones with queer characters and cute graphics. So, with the year coming to a close, I decided to look back at the creators and games I loved this year. So, with that in mind, here are 5 short and free games that you can ring in the end of 2017 with.

1. Butterfly Soup

Plucky Media
via Butterfly Soup

Where can I begin with Butterfly Soup? I agree with PC Gamer on this one, who said that,

“What makes it great is the character writing. You play multiple protagonists, and each time you switch you gain insights into the others. When I was athletic but shy Diya her internal monologue enriched every situation with jokes and memories, like recalling that the cool rebel Min ran away from home when she was younger, but only because she didn’t want to eat a tomato.”

It’s just a great, well-written game. Not only does it provide a voice to the queer, Asian, and teenage demographic, that I haven’t seen represented much before, but it’s just good writing. I love, in particular, the use of group messaging. As someone of mixed Asian heritage, it was great to see Asian characters not so much as a statement, but just varied teenagers living their lives. I love that they were funny and awkward and nervous, most of all real. I know there’s been some controversy over PC Gamer choosing this as their Visual Novel of the Year, especially with Doki Doki Literature Club, a great game in its own right, making such a mark. DDLC showed how you can really manipulate the Visual Novel form and was disturbing in a way I haven’t seen other visual novels done. But, Butterfly Soup, I believe had much better writing. While the programming was great for DDLC, it doesn’t take you 2 hours to get to the heart of Butterfly Soup. From the get-go, it’s a heartwarming and wonderful experience, with full characters. While the choices you don’t make don’t really matter, I loved just being in Brianna Lei’s world and living in each of these characters. Of course, you can read all about this when I covered it earlier this year, but it really is a story you should not miss.

 

2. Mermaid Splash! Passion Festival

Plucky Media
via Mermaid Splash! Passion Festival

This is another game I’ve already covered this year, but it’s just so cute. Playing as a mermaid trying to improve in a particular skill and getting closer to a variety of friends, it’s a short and sweet game with tons of endings. In addition, it features a POC protagonist, features romancing other female sea creatures, and as a semi-spoiler, there’s even a trans narrative.

I also just love the overall look of this game and Sofdelux games in general. If you love this game and want more, they also released Disaster Log C for this year’s Yuri Game Jam. If you want to check out individual creators, it’s composed of Nami and DarkChibiShadow, who also make very great games solo as well.

 3. Love on the Peacock Express

Plucky Media
via Love on the Peacock Express

Loved Dream Daddy but wished there was a Dream Mommy? Ever wanted to do a story about a lesbian Private Investigator a la Sherlock Holmes? This game provides both of those things, in about an hour. Using beautiful environments and well written characters, you solve mysteries and romance 3 different inhabitants of the Peacock Express train. It’s fun, short, cute, and the artwork is amazing. In addition, as you beat each ending, the journal in the main menu provides tons of adorable achievements. It’s a short one and the team assembled only for the Game Jam it was created for, so we probably won’t see a sequel, but it’s a solid, fun game to try before someone inevitably makes a more full-length Dream Mommy.

4. No World Dreamers: Sticky Zeitgeist

 

Plucky Media
via No World Dreamers: Sticky Zeitgeist

If you’ve explored twine games at all, it’s hard not to run into Porpentine Charity Heartscape and her strange and beautiful games. Mask Magazine perhaps describes her work best, saying:

“Porpentine’s work is in conversation with troubling feelings and subjects players may not normally talk about. Her pieces regularly deal with trauma, harassment, abuse, and precarity – all of which Porpentine has described personally experiencing as a “trash” woman – but for all the real-life heaviness of their themes, they operate in something like an extra-linguistic realm. Instead of offering direct, accessible commentary on the state of the world, as much science fiction does, her work elaborates hyper-specific slivers of speculative ecosystems with singular rules and behaviors.”

Working with Rook, sound designer and creator of exploratory games like Fallow and Wire Wood Daughters, they have created the first episode of a captivating new adventure. Following various characters, including what seems to be one trans wolf, you go to work at a facility where you gather definitely radioactive trash. Exploring one character’s home, watching her masturbate, and pick through trash that contains her estrogen doses and “girl chunk”, which seems to be a mix between a drug and a lube. The game also has a sitcom like feel with beautiful pixel environments. Fusing Porpentines more text-based stories with Rook’s pixel-oriented character design and immersive sound design, the game is a beautiful and captivating experience. Including a trans character and the anxieties that exist coming with that along with being able to explore an interesting, almost cyber-punk world makes it worthwhile. There’s only one episode so far, but it’s sure to be quite a journey.

✨✨✨✨Play it Here ✨✨✨✨

5. Tomai

Plucky Media
via Tomai

If you’ve played Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival (which the creator of this game helped create) or any other visual novel that involves scheduling your days with specific people, Tomai will feel very similar. Essentially, you play Tomai, who has 13 days before he starts working with his father in local government. You get the choice to spend that time romancing one of your friends or spending time with your father or “The Lady”, to get a head start on what your job entails. That being said, this game is more complicated than meets the eye. As a pro tip and slight spoiler: spending all your time with one person won’t *necessarily* get you a good ending. I haven’t played the game in its entirety, but I’ve gotten two pretty bad endings just trying to play visual novels the way I usually play them. What I love is that it includes the option to choose a PG-13 or an R-18 version of the game, as well as non-romanceable characters for non-romance related endings. The writing, art, and representation are great, and it’s just an overall good time. So in terms of inclusion, it checks a lot of my boxes: it has gay and poly representation, a POC main character, inclusion for ace people that don’t want to see sex in a game necessarily, and overall great gameplay.

EXTRA CREDIT: EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY!

Plucky Media
via EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY!

Everything is Going to Be Okay! may not be a necessarily a game or queer and a lot of people will find it more disturbing than cute, but I find it one of the most important gaming experiences to come out this year. It deals with mental health, attempting to recover from trauma, and what it means to be an artist. Presented in a glitchy, Microsoft OS environment, you go through all of Nathalie Lawhead’s poems and beautiful moments and I find it was one of the most powerful things I’ve experienced this year.

And those are the picks!

I hope you have a Happy New Year and whether you spend New Year’s Eve playing alt and indie games or not, here’s to 2018! If you want to find more LGBTQIA+ inclusive games, don’t forget to check out Queerly Represent Me, which has the most maintained, ongoing catalog of inclusive games on all platforms. Cheers!

The Basket That Rolled Down Capitol Hill

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I remember growing up and hearing the timeless adage, “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”. As adults we realize this translates to such things as networking, planning, forming contingency plans, and acting with informed deliberation. This saying always aroused a sense of trepidation and anxiety in me, calling to question the irresoluteness of anything. It is difficult as a child to accept that sometimes there are things in the world that will not be foreseeable, calculable, or even preventable. Agency in a child is a very fragile, growing thing. This is true for adults as well.

North Carolina’s Elevator Queen

When I think of local elections, I think of Cherie Berry, and how I’ve seen that name in a North Carolina elevator for nine years. That’s just the time I’ve been knowingly aware of her as a force of influence; Cherie Berry with her artful gaze encasing that indulgent smile as she imparts the stature of a stately representative with managerial skill and the acumen of an effective communicator. Cherie Berry has been the commissioner of labor for almost seventeen years. That is longer than two Presidents each serving eight years. I wonder exactly how it is that with every election I seem to be presented with candidates that are too young, too dispirited or uniformly cut to their role, too ego-maniacal to be effective past a lobbyist wet dream, or too connected and entrenched in a system of nepotism that has its reaches into the nexus of every civil service job in the state. If someone suitable as a political representative came up to me and shook my hand, would I even begin to know how to tell if they were authentic?

Commander in Chief or CEO?

Some people put their all their eggs in the basket of the White House. Let’s call this the trickle-down vote. People believe that as the CEO of the country, the Presidential office is the most important role. That it is the vote that matters. Now, I’m not arguing that it is a vote that greatly matters. It is a crucial vote to name the person who becomes the figurehead and commander-in-chief of our country. Yet, return back to the idea of the President as CEO. Chief executive officers of companies, while holding extremely powerful positions, are acting as agents of the company’s board. The board and its members control the company. We can see this in the long list of ousted CEOs from companies such as Equifax, JetBlue, and Groupon. CEOs may be the face of the company, but there are powerful figures in the background that are the pivotal players.

The Room Where it Happens

Sadly, the background of politics is where everything happens. Contrary to its long-winded performance, C-SPAN does not show everything. Part of raising that curtain is becoming a participant in state and local elections. I’m not a newly christened voter, and I haven’t been a consistent voter since I turned eighteen. Part of my own reluctance to be engaged was my skepticism of both parties, the lack of transparency in government leadership (including the actual process of voting itself), the lack of elected representatives able to provide an individual record of administering professional and ethical public service (think of how all candidates, even those running again, make claims of what they are going to do and rarely refer to specific examples of past experience), and the persistent feeling that I was complicit in manufactured democratic agency. I don’t think I was alone in not voting so that I could feel a sense of personal integrity maintained.

Why Vote?

Now I’ve come to realize that every vote matters. I’ve come to this conclusion for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most crucial is the recognition of the efforts made to intimidate voters. The New York Times released an article that exposed state police officers in Florida who decided to “randomly” go door-to-door in a neighborhood of elderly Americans, mostly African-American, and question their voting in a past mayoral election. This timely questioning occurred as voting for the 2017 Presidential race was in its consequential stages.

 Now I’m not saying that the SBI or the local sheriff office is sending in quadrants of armed men to canvass neighborhoods and create an atmosphere of fear and repression. These events of political oppression do not happen on a grand scale, they happen in small towns or in small communities within cities, and they often happen because of rationalizations that are unchecked, unfounded, and derelict of moral oversight.

In my state of North Carolina, there has been a pushed political agenda that is focused on capital gain for lawmakers, lobbyist, and the myriad network of venture capitalist, investors, and private companies with shared interests who demonstrate such a keen level of concern in our state’s affairs. One new law allows restaurants in North Carolina to serve alcohol at ten in the morning, instead of the afternoon. Instead of serving better or even maybe cheaper dishes with Sunday specials, restaurateurs are set on serving mimosas and mojitos. What could possibly go wrong even though a Center for Disease Control reports shows that North Carolina is above the national average in age-related drunk driving fatalities in every single age group? That’s not all folks. North Carolina legislators are currently reviewing Bill 746 that allows gun owners to carry concealed without a permit. It also has a provision allowing firearm safety classes as elective classes in high schools. Again, what could possibly go wrong?

It Doesn’t Matter Who Your Party Is

Government is an indecipherable web of unfatigued schemes, artifice, and calculated misdeeds. We know politicians didn’t cultivate their skills through simple reflection and a devout attention to spreading goodwill. We know members of each party have acted with less than scrupulous means and compromised ideals. What that doesn’t have to mean is a citizenry that is disengaged and unrepresented. It is true that local elections can be extremely confusing. There is a general lack of transparency in what an alderman or commissioner does. Each county is different in the number of years an elected official holds office. In Asheboro, a member of the board of education is a seated official for six years. This is a long-term for such an important, influential role in the community. When more and more people become aware of the political distinctions and divergences in their county as well as their state, Americans can gain a greater sense of political agency and more adeptly feel the winds of change that come with recognizing oneself as a  politically expressed and active citizen.

The World is Kinda Horrible, More Content Pls?

Plucky Media

I’ve been very angsty and disappointed in the world this week, but thank god the Weekend is here so I can sleep and consume content. Here is some stuff to watch, read, and listen to. Hope you like it.

What to Watch

  • The Good Place: This show reminds me of the good old simple days of The Office and Parks and Rec. Also, it makes my little absurdist heart happy.
  • Nathan For You: I love this cult show. Nathan Fielder’s ability to create comedy with real people’s reactions is just good. Watch it.
  • AHS: Roanoke: I’m definitely late to the game, but this show was so unique and worth watching. I definitely think it captures like this Blair Witch Project essence in a totally unique way.

What to Listen to

  • Whiting Wongs with Dan Harmon and Jessica Gao: Dan Harmon and Jessica Gao talk about writing and race in television. This is the first podcast in awhile that made me genuinely laugh out loud. It’s uncensored and two well-meaning people that try to figure out how they can do better about representing all people in TV.
  • The 1st by Willow Smith: Willow pulled it out for this album. It’s personal, gorgeous, and a treat to listen to.
  • Melodrama by Lorde: So I’m a very emotional young woman that’s trying to navigate a very uneasy world, and this album really resonated with me. If you want to tap into your feminine energy, I highly recommend listening to this.

What to Read

That’s all folks. Thanks for bearing with us during this hiatus. We’ll see you next week with some cool (and maybe a little spoopy) content. 

3 Witchy Tea Recipes to Try This Halloween

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It’s Halloween, and if you already tackled your spooky plans this weekend, chances are you’re staying in and giving out candy, but your mood might be a little weird and for good reason. According to Sara Coughlin in Refinery 29,

“The moon will be in Pisces […] which will make us a little more prone to daydreams and flights of fancy. In the true spirit of Halloween, you might even wish to become someone else entirely.”

That being said, you’re probably feeling pretty magical, right now whether you’re going out in costumes tonight or not. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great idea to have tea tonight, which made me think of witches. So, I looked up some of the best witchy tea recipes I could find. Here are 3 of the best ones.

Caveat: If you have concerns or allergies, please talk to your doctor about these teas. I am NOT giving health advice. I tried my best to pick recipes with ingredients I recognize so I could in good faith recommend them. But, that being said, I am not an expert. I really just spent some time on google this afternoon for a Halloween themed post. 

1. For Safe and Sweet Dreams

Here is a recipe via Sanctuary to help water types, in particular, have a good Halloween night. They also have great recommendations for rituals for other signs to do as well, but personally, this recipe sounds amazing:

Peppermint for protection

 

Lavender for peace

 

Mugwort for safe dreaming

 

Honey to sweeten your dreams

 

Mugwort is bitter; sweeten the tea with honey. Combine these herbs – if fresh, a handful of each. If dried, one tablespoon. Bring water to the bill and pour over the herbs, steeping for thirteen minutes. Strain into a cup and add a spoonful of honey. Stir counterclockwise and speak into the cup a sincere prayer for protection, asking that as you sleep this night you be kept safe from all harm.

You may drink at your altar, in your bedroom, or in a safe and comfortable place. Focus on the herbs in the tea and thank them with all your heart for giving you their help and protection. Feel the gratitude and warmth in your heart.

2. Build-Your-Own

As Cecilia says in her run-down on Autostraddle, recapping their queer astrological and Wiccan retreat,

“One of the most exciting parts of magic is experimenting with different magical elements and combining them into one strong and specific spell. A great entry-level way to practice this skill is by making spell tea! If you know the magical qualities of different elements, you can easily create your own unique tea blend that can be charged for very specific magical desires.”

According to her guide, you can use whatever tea you like as your base: green, black, rooibos, or anything you have, and then, add these accompanying ingredients to help focus it more on your sign or specific needs:

Lavender – Mercury (Virgo), Lavender is great for spell work related to finding peace of mind, cleansing, healing, dream fulfillment, and revealing the truth. Also, for what it’s worth, lavender has a strong traditional association to love magic.

 

Peppermint – Mercury (Gemini) This element provides clarity to possibilities that you’re exploring. It can help you find the answers to burning questions, like: which queer city should I move to? Which hobby fills me with the most wonder and curiosity? Adding peppermint to your spell tea may help you find the insight to organize the options in your life.

 

Cinnamon – Uranus (Aquarius) Sometimes you need the strength to revolutionize your life and discard old habits that aren’t needed anymore for your growth. In these moments, use cinnamon in spells for passion, independence, brilliance, creative projects, community building, or bringing issues to a quick resolution. Also, Uranus is associated with queerness, so throwing a dash of cinnamon in a queer relationship spell certainly couldn’t hurt.

 

Licorice Root – Venus (Libra) This element is associated with Venus, the planet that rules connections that we make with others – friendships, partners, family members, co-workers, even pets. Licorice root can be used to attract any sort of good, healthy, mutually beneficial kind of relationship into your life. It can also be used for mediating arguments or finding harmony in any existing relationships.

 

Forget-Me-Not – Neptune (Pisces) You can use this flower for any spells connected to fulfilling your dreams, opening your heart, accepting your emotions, finding inspiration in artistic projects, feeling connection to something beautiful, or finding beauty in solitude.

 

Amaranth – Saturn (Capricorn) In spell work, amaranth provides strength, stability, and protection. It can help you develop stronger self-control, commit to work projects, get the dream job, or help with anything else that builds positive structures to hold your life together.

 

Rose – Venus (Taurus) Rose can invite simple, beautiful moments of reflection into your life when it feels too chaotic. It can help you make room for simplicity in your life. Roses also can attract someone who has the ability to offer you good sensual, healing sex. It also brings out your strength as a partner, helping you be more affectionate and loving.

 

Orange Peel – Sun (Leo) Orange peel is great for spell work if you’re feeling lost lately, like you need to connect with an inner spark that allows you to be your best self. It can help you connect to joy and charm, and can also help you gain recognition for your accomplishments.

 

Ginger – Mars (Aries) The planet Mars rules our ability to defend ourselves, so it’s great to use in spell work for protection. It’s also what makes us feel energized, or feel really turned on, or take risks, or pursue our passions. Any of these focuses can be helped by using Ginger in spell work — especially sex magic!

 

Yerba Mate – Jupiter (Sagittarius) Yerba Mate is technically a tea base, but it can definitely be used magically! It is caffeinated, but the caffeination feels less jittery than coffee and more energized and focused. Yerba Mate magic can make us feel confident, generous, expansive, and lucky. It’s great to use if you want to connect with optimism and fun in your life — or even adventures involving travel!

 

Jasmine — Pluto (Scorpio) The planet Pluto deals with some of the scarier things in life, like intense transformation and healing through pain. If you have been profoundly injured, Jasmine could be used in spell work to help turn your wounds into wisdom. If you’re in need of a total self-transformation, this could also support that.

 

Chamomile – Moon (Cancer) This element helps us feel safe and at home and comfortable with our inner life. Chamomile is great to drink at home to recharge, or to find a queer chosen family, to receive the care that you need, or to learn how to care for yourself.

While you drink your desired combination, she advises thinking about your intentions to make the strength of these ingredients work.

3. Boost Productivi-Tea

As a theatre artist and a writer, boosting productivity and creativity is important to me. That’s why I love this recipe via HoneyCoyote, AND it actually contains ingredients you already have in your kitchen:

Productivi-Tea

a simple tea for aiding in being productive and creative with your work. or help with mental fatigue and to boost your mental capacity on a stressful day when you have tons of work to do.

Materials

  • 3 parts Black Tea
  • 1 part Rosemary
  • 1 part Basil
  • 1 part Peppermint  

Place all herbs in a tea ball,

put in your favorite mug, and add boiling water.

Steep this brew for about 10 minutes.

Remove tea ball and sweeten to taste

Have Other Witchy Tea Ideas?

Let us know! While I love witch and astrological culture, I really don’t know a lot about it other than the witch books when I was at my Harry Potter fangirl PEAK (12-year-old Katy was on a roleplaying Quidditch team). We’d love to hear more about it. Let us know your recipes in the comments or shares!

5 Characters I Hope To See in the Hellboy Reboot

As you may already know, there is a Hellboy reboot in the works, featuring everyone’s favorite detective from Stranger Things’, David Harbour. As Mike Mignola, the creator of the graphic novels, says in The Verge, this time around it will have an R-rating, leaning in the,

“horror direction, more so than the fantasy direction del Toro was doing. When Neil came on, we decided to go for an R rating, so he doesn’t have his hands tied, and so he can go as dark and as tough as he wants to go. I was a fan of his, and when he came onboard, I thought it was terrific: now it’s really going to be an action-horror film.”

While there are currently not a ton of details, there are so many characters I’m looking forward to seeing in this reboot. As much as I love Guillermo Del Toro, who really introduced me to Hellboy, when I started reading the comics I saw so many amazing characters and great lore the films weren’t tapping into. In fact, in 2014 or 2015, when I was still working at a movie theatre, I was doing research with a friend on actually making a Hellboy 3 fan-series on Youtube. We didn’t get very far, but I still have a soft spot for all the characters I was interested in including. With that in mind, here are 5 characters I hope to see in the reboot.

1. Baba Yaga

Plucky Media
via Nerdist

One of my favorite things about starting the series was the degree of Russian mythology that was infused throughout it. Throughout Wake the Devil and Darkness Calls, she serves as a major player, aligning with Rasputin. She’s just a cool and interesting villain. As Time Magazine explains,

“In some old Slavic accounts, Baba Yaga is a wizened hag who rides in a floating mortar that is directed in flight by its pestle. In other Russian tales, she lives in a hut in the woods ringed by a fence of skulls and elevated on a pair of chicken legs. In almost all versions, Baba Yaga is meant to be very, very scary — the creature best suited to frighten ill-behaved children since, according to legend, she has a habit of kidnapping and eating them.”

In addition, she brings with her all of the fairies and just really good lore. I’d love to see Hellboy squaring off against her. Can you imagine? I hope she beats him up with a Pestle.

2. Hecate

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via Multiversity Comics

Like okay, I know, another mythological witch? But Hellboy‘s Hecate is so much more than the weird plot device you see her as in Macbeth— she is a force to be reckoned with. Hecate, no matter what story she is placed in, is more than a witch but is even worshipped as a goddess. As the dictionary defines her, she is,

a goddess of the earth and Hades,

associated with sorcery, hounds, and crossroads.”

Especially because Hellboy deals so much with the idea of apocalypse and the idea that Hellboy himself could bring it about, she’s a great villain, as an embodiment of hell and the crossroads, for him to try and defeat.

In the comics, even when he defeats her, she attaches herself into a man’s soul, and then when he dies, she takes over AN IRON MAIDEN, crushes a female nazi inside it, and proceeds to beat the sh*t out of Hellboy as a MAGICAL IRON MAIDEN. I’d love to see all of that play out. A giant and transforming iron maiden or just Hecate in her normal form would be amazing.

3. Roger the Homunculus

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via Multiversity Comics

Honestly, I’m a little surprised the Guillermo Del Toro movies didn’t have much of Roger because a homunculus kind of seems like his thing. It’s the type of creature that could be super creepy, artsy, and fantastical, which is pretty much his aesthetic. One of the reasons I fell in love with Hellboy is the practical effects and puppetry, so it’s kind of surprising a puppet homunculus didn’t happen. While there was a glimpse of a statue of him, it would have been nice to have more.

In addition, just going into the witchcraft necessary and ideas around Homunculi would just be really cool.

Either way though, Roger the Homunculus, was actually a big part of the gang in the comics and actually teamed up with Abe a lot. Also, the idea of being made for a purpose and not wanting to fulfill it is a big theme in Hellboy that would be cool to play into.

4. Dr. Kate Corrigan

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via austin eustice

A professor in Folklore and SUPER competent, as well as one of Hellboy’s closest friends, I would love to see her in the franchise again, even as Director of Field Operations for BPRD.

When I started reading about her in the comics, I loved how as an academic, she was an equal to Hellboy. Her knowledge and expertise helped as much as his brawn. Also, she helped explain some of the lore I loved.

If I had gone through with that fan series, I actually would have wanted to play her. I love the fact that they have a great friendship and would be a great addition to the gang.

5. THAT Gorilla

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via IGN

Is there a more iconic image than Hellboy fighting a Gorilla with bolts sticking out of it? Just for an amazing fight scene, this gorilla would be a great addition to the movie. Maybe it would be a waste of CGI, but it would just be a great fight scene with an iconic scene from the comics. In addition, it gives a chance to see Herman von Klempt’s head in a jar and play into the Nazi Ragna Rok mad scientist storyline even more.

In addition, while I didn’t get very far in my abandoned Hellboy 3 fan project, the only thing that was actually set in stone was to have a huge Hellboy and Gorilla battle. So honestly, that’s just for me.

Those are just a couple of my favorites! Who do you hope to see in the new Hellboy? Comment or share with your favorite characters!

Shiny Happy Weekend

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EDITORS NOTE: Bringing you The Weekend Mix is our Mother, Bev Koop. She really wanted to share! Though she is not going to be a regular contributor, you may see her pop up again.

What a sad week it has been! Let’s inject a little offbeat music and humor into your life. Here’s your weekend mix to pick up your spirits for the weekend.

What to Listen to:

Movie producers have been really on point with their soundtracks lately. Three recent films I’ve seen really stand out soundtrack-wise.  The films themselves were entertaining but not necessarily “high art.” Many of these features the music of my youth, the late 70’s and early 80’s were quite the time to be alive!

Guardians Of The Galaxy II: Classic throw-back songs from ELO, Cheap Trick, and Michael Jackson! Guardians of the Galaxy II the movie is currently available for streaming on Amazon.

Atomic Blonde: This soundtrack gives me all the feels of the early 80’s, including some interesting German versions of Major Tom by Peter Schilling, and 99 Luftballons by Nena! Best of all for me though is Cat People by David Bowie. You also have to love a soundtrack that features The Clash and George Michael. The movie itself was fine, but I am living for this soundtrack. Atomic Blonde the movie, is available on Digital HD from Amazon Video and iTunes on October 24th

KIngsmen the Golden Circle: The soundtrack is amazing, quirky, and weird. It takes you on a wild but satisfying ride. We have Elton John, Prince, and an amusing cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” with a country music flair by Boss Hoss. I am not a fan of country music, but this was EVERYTHING! Finally, we have 2 count ‘em 2 songs by JOHN DENVER?!?! Unbelievable! Kingsmen the Golden Circle is in theaters now.

Offbeat and Funny TV rabbit holes:

Mascots: the latest from Christopher Guest who brought us Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show. Need I say more?

The Durrells in Corfu: Catch up or Fall down the rabbit hole of the hysterical and quirky PBS comedy before their season 2 premiers on October 15th. Louisa Durrell and her four headstrong children, ages 11 to 21, arrive penniless on the bucolic Greek island of Corfu in 1935. Hilarity Ensues.

What We Do in the Shadows: Vampire Housemates playful antics as they struggle through everyday life. Since it’s October, this one has a Halloween feel. This one is directed by and stars Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame.

And that’s it! Let’s remember in these turbulent times:

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter”- Mark Twain

Have a GREAT weekend.

🎮 Game Picks: Cute and Queer 🎮

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It can be hard to find good, queer visual novels. This March, I found out about this game jam on Itch.io called #ResistJam. Partnered with IndieCade, the goal of the jam was to resist authoritarianism in all forms. What made it different though, was that it featured workshops and talks on youtube about making inclusive and innovative games. Because of that, I found out about Queerly Represent Me, which is a site that catalogs every game that has queer representation. While I made a simple twine about self-care and drinking tea, a lot of people involved in the jam made a lot of cool and innovative games that involved strong queer representation. Because of that, when I’m looking for a cool and interesting story motivated game, I try to find games with the best representation possible. I like to start my search on Itch.io. There are a lot of creators on there and I love that there’s a lot of experimentation and bolder use of game mechanics that I see in other places.

That’s how I ended up on Itch.io last night. I’m in love with VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action because of the relaxing quality of the game, the strength of the narrative, and the amazing art. In the same vein, I was looking for some cute, female-protagonist-driven, and queer-if-possible games— Itch.io delivered. Maybe it’s because of the ongoing Yuri Game Jam, but when I logged in again, I’ve noticed a lot more games in that niche. Last night, I managed to play two games: Butterfly Soup and Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival and I loved them. That’s why they’re my two must-play game picks this week. Short, sweet, and queer— here’s a mini-review for each of them.

NOTE: Both of these games are FREE, but if you do pay a recommended donation you can get a PDF of art from the games and support the artists! 

Butterfly Soup

via Brianna Lei

If you’ve been following my writing or my twitter for any amount of time, you probably know that one of my most rant-able subjects is Asian Representation in the media. From Tilda Swinton playing “The Ancient One” to how important Fresh Off the Boat is in terms of representation, ranting about yellow-face is what I’m passionate about. One of the best things about this game was that every single member of the characters was Asian and at least 3 out of the 4 main characters are queer. On top of that, there was the innovative use of group chats and text messaging, amazing art, and sharp writing to make this a great experience. Overall it is sweet, though there are some dark themes dealing with verbal and un-seen physical abuse from parents. There were so many references to memes, and this was just a very well written and interesting story.

Plus, you can expect screencaps like this:

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That being said, if you’re looking for multiple endings or the ability to romance multiple characters, this isn’t that kind of game. It is narrative, but the choices you make moreso changes up the dialogue and jokes that are made, rather than the outcome. It’s more novel than choose-your-own-adventure and frankly, that’s fine with me.  In fact, I think the story is great fodder for a film adaptation in its future. Overall, it’s sharp, with great storytelling, and a fun and meme-y way back to high school.

Mermaid Splash Passion Festival

via Sofdelux Studio

Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival is just sweet— plain and simple. You play as Cici, a mermaid that just needs to figure out what skill she needs to hone and find her passion in life, but can still make time to woo other mermaids on the weekends. The game starts with an all too familiar crisis: Cici has a lot of hobbies but she’s not GREAT at any of them. She’s at a point in her life where she needs to decide what to be an expert in. As someone that loves writing, acting, directing, art, and that picks up new hobbies all the time—I know that feeling. I was also lucky enough to go to a college where I could be surrounded by women that in an environment where we could support each other. That being said, the subject of the game really resonated with me. Choosing between farming, art, dancing, and fighting, Cici works not only on her own skills but supporting other women with their passions.

It also provides something near and dear to my heart, scheduling your time wisely:

 

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The art style is gorgeous and it’s about women empowering other women, so it’s an instant favorite for me. Honing Cici’s skills and getting her ready for the passion festival, while hanging out with each of the other women is definitely way faster that butterfly soup. While it takes probably 15 minutes to get through the whole game, there are 23 endings you could possibly have! I had a great time choosing different skills and different characters to woo, spanning ages from 24-43 and even different mermaid types like a shark, angler fish, cuttlefish, and sea slug.

If you want to explore lots of different endings and look at adorable art, with a POC queer protagonist, this game is perfect. Plus: as you play, she unlocks themed outfits!

💖Those are my picks! Keep an eye on us for more Game Reviews and Suggestions! 💖

Let’s Get Balanced

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EDITORS NOTE: Bringing you The Weekend Mix today is one of our new contributors Esther McCaskill-Baker! Note: While there are Amazon links here, they are NOT affiliated ones. We only use affiliate links on explicitly affiliate posts, in case you were worried. The links are included simply for ease of use. 

It’s the start of Libra season and this week’s The Weekend Mix is one of the first ones to include some fitness and lifestyle youtube recommendations. So, take the opportunity this weekend to get nice and balanced for a spooky October. Here are some picks for music, youtube channels, tv shows, movies, and books to check out this weekend!

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  • Feeling Jazzy? Try some Norah Jones- Perfect if you’re in a jazzy mood, she’s an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Known most perhaps for her 2001 song “Come Away with Me”, now is a great time to check out her 2016 album “Day Breaks” or her 2017 single “Unchained Melody“.
  • More Interested in Metal? Give Jinjer a listen, a Ukrainian 4 piece progressive metal band. Try their 2016 album, “King of Everything
  • Want some Rock? Consider Icon for Hire, a rock band from Decatur, Illinois, with their 2016 album “You Can’t Kill Us
  • Leaning More Towards Rap? Check out Ivan B’s 2017 album, “Forgive Me for My Honesty“.
  • Need Folk or Electronic? Give Halsey’s “hopeless fountain kingdom(Deluxe)” album a listen for that synth-pop craving. Try Anaïs Mitchell to get folk-ed up.

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Youtube

  • Let’s Get Physical: Some fitness gurus I like to turn to on Youtube include Whitney Simmons, a fitness guru, Team Richey, a male crossfit athlete who does GREAT collabs, and Nikki Blackletter, a fitness guru.
  • Meal Prep & Lifestyle: Jordan Cheyenne and Sarah Rae Vargas are also favs. They range from meal prep to lifestyle to self-acceptance.
  • Social & Philosophical Commentary: For social commentary and hilarity, The Gabbie Show is a great show. On the intellectual side, BBC’s The Big Question and Intelligence Squared Debate are good choices. BBC’s The Big Question’s “Did Man Create God?” and Intelligence Squared’s “We Should Not Be Reluctant to Assert the Superiority of Western Values” are two of the best debates!
  • Must-See Web Series: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modernized adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (Developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su for you Nerdfighters out there).
  • Special Video Pick: Check out Amanda Bucci’s “Keys to Success from the Summit of Greatness

 

TV Shows

  • Underground– Originally on WGN this underground railroad focused series is available on Amazon Video.
  • Flash Forward– While this show is about seeing the future, it’s a nice glimpse into the past. Watch this ABC series that aired 2009-2010 on Amazon Video
  • The Good Wife– Starring Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies, watch this political drama on Amazon Video
  • United States of Tara– Created by Diablo Cody, watch this compelling and funny series on dissociative identity disorder on Amazon Video
  • Atypical– Watch this compelling 2017 show, created by Robia Rashid, on the autism spectrum. Catch the first season on Netflix

Movies

  • Suite Française– Looking for a new drama? Check out the story of a French woman in Nazi-Occupied France and the German officer quartering in her home on Netflix
  • What Happened to Monday– If you’re interested in exploring a more dystopic flick check out What Happened to Monday on Netflix, featuring Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe, and Glenn Close. 
  • Friends with Kids- If you’re interested in a comedy, check out this one about navigating adult life with children on Amazon Video, featuring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Jon Hamm.

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Books

  • Oracle of Glass by Judith Merkle Riley– Feeling like some historical fiction? Using actual police records from the reign of Louis XIV, Riley’s work dives into the world both of the occult and the French court. Available on Amazon.
  • Julia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb- More in the mood for romance? Follow the story of Julia Bennet after she leaves her blueblood abuser fiance and moves to the town of Golden, Oregon. Available on Amazon
  • Every Dead Thing: A Charlie Parker Thriller by John Connolly- Want to get into a series? Start exploring crime with the private detective Charlie Parker as he investigates a missing girl. Available on Amazon
  • A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey- Do you see the world we live in today and wonder, how did we get here? For some insight, check out the history of the doctrine. Available on Amazon.
  • The Divide by Matt Taibi- In addition to Harvey’s work, don’t forget to check out Taibbi’s look into American Injustice and the age of the Wealth Gap. Available on Amazon.
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath- Interested in Self Improvement? Evaluate yourself with StrengthsFinder 2.0. Available on Amazon.

💗 That’s it, everybody! I hope you have a balanced and peaceful weekend! We’ll see you next week!  💗

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