Episode 15: If at First You Don’t Succeed

Fall is here, and with a new season comes a new episode. Well sort of. We just do these whenever now, really. This is another fun one, but it is worth mentioning that the conversation does bring up sexual assault and how it is used/portrayed in books, movies, and TV. It’s not a huge focus of the episode, but if that’s something you’d rather not hear, you might want to fast forward through those bits or skip this one. Totally understand.

In the words of Ms. Frizzle, you gotta take chances and make mistakes! A new hobby, a relationship, bangs! Some things aren’t worth retrying (the people who can pull off bangs already have bangs, do not give in to the temptation!), but there are plenty of failed experiments that are certainly worth a second chance. That’s exactly what we did this episode, revisit something we first tried over ten years ago.

Cover of "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory Maguire. A woman with green skin in profile, wearing a black pointed witch hat in the center, and a border made of branches

Pay revisited Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, a book she first bought at her college bookstore. Like a lot of folks, Pay first become aware of the book when it became a Broadway hit, and the revisionist take of the Wizard of Oz sounded like a cool concept. The first time she gave it a go, it ended up back on the shelf, partially read. When she started reading it again for this episode, the reasons she didn’t finish it the first time popped up again.

It’s a bit dense and disjointed and would skip over parts of the story that sounded more compelling than what you actually get to read. The story is told from different points of view, but rarely from Elphaba’s perspective, which makes it difficult to really connect with her. That’s not to say that using other points of view is not an effective literary device in general, but it just didn’t seem to work as well here as it does in other books. Also, there was much more political intrigue than Pay was expecting. So while it has its fair share of fans, it just wasn’t up Pay’s alley.

Adri has been baking and making mistakes for most of her life at this point. She’s also been a fan of pro wrestling for almost just as long, give or take a few breaks in between. So when in 2008 Kate told her about a wrestling-themed baking competition, Adri was up for it! And she made the ugliest cookies inspired by Bret Hart and took the ugliest pictures of those cookies.

Bret Hart poses before defending his WWF Championship against Owen Hart at the Wembley Arena in London.. Taken 9/14/1994. Photo by Mandy Coombes, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commo
Bret Hart poses before defending his WWF Championship against Owen Hart at the Wembley Arena in London.. Taken 9/14/1994. Photo by Mandy Coombes, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Three heart-shaped cookies on an overturned bowl. The cookies are topped with rudimentary sugar skull and wing decorations.
Listen, it was 2008, I only had a terrible digital camera, and I had limited lighting options. But they didn’t look much better in person, tbh…

While she appreciates beautifully decorated cookies and has purchased several, Adri just doesn’t care about doing it herself. She’s more of a flavor/texture focused baker, so this kind of cookie was a strangely ambitious choice. And honestly she hasn’t done much decorating of this kind since, but it seemed worth a shot to try again. She almost left these cookies undecorated after the thought of decorating them felt daunting, but in the end stopped stressing and had some fun with it! And while they are still far from perfect, they are much better than the first time.

Is there anything you tried and gave up on? Maybe it’s time to give another go! Or trust your gut! We don’t know!

Episode Highlights

  • What animated show do we discuss almost as thoroughly as our episode topics?
  • What other books have we left half-read?
  • What show did Pay watch all the way through, only for the last season to ruin it all?
  • What bad movie does Adri wish she’d walked out of?
  • What life lesson do we realize is the true message of the episode?

Further Watching/Reading

Episode 14: Swords ‘n’ Stuff

So we’re vaccinated now and you know what that means? It means we spent time together without the expectation of having it recorded because it turns out we’re actually friends and have been for a long time. But now that we’re on separate coasts again, it’s time to get back to the podcast, baby! It’s a bit rough and rocky at the start, but we got back into the rhythm of things. It’s good to be back, and hope you enjoy the new one.

Geralt kneels by a campfire at night. The title card is overlaid with the game name "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt"
Geralt being moody and camping on the title screen.

For a couple of indoor kids, neither of us has been a very big gamer. Sure, we had access to Super Nintendos, Playstations, and GameBoys, but it was never something we really got into. Cut to 2020 when we were all stuck inside because, y’know. As more people started getting into Animal Crossing as a replacement for real world socializing, it was a reminder that video games are the perfect way to keep our butts indoors. Pay asked her brother for a recommendation, and he suggested The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, a game that is apparently loved by everyone who’s played it.

One of the Ciri vignettes that plays as the game loads.

Most of our past video game experience was on the lighter side, more along the lines of racing games, simple side-scroller adventures, and Rock Band. This sort of combat-heavy, open world game was really new to both of us. Even though we both play on the easiest mode available, we have found the game to be hella challenging. Definitely had to look up a few things before getting past some of the game’s hurdles.

Nithral, a skull-faced rider of the Wild Hunt in The Witcher 3
Nithral *shakes fist*

That being said, the story is intriguing and we’ve both put in several hours into the thing, so safe to say The Witcher 3 is fun and worth the effort. We both plan to see the game through. There are little things that bring us unexpected joys, like doing some of the menial in-game stuff that more experienced players asked why we bothered with it, or the odd glitch here and there.

Screenshot of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt where you can see through Roach the horse's head
Just Roach, the definitely-intentional-and-not-at-all-a-glitch see-through horse. That eyeball over Geralt’s shoulder is haunting.

We don’t go into much in the episode, but it really is a great looking game and one that isn’t bad to watch someone else play, if you’re not one for playing it yourself. This next set of screenshots were from when Adri’s partner played, and frankly it was kind of nice to have that visual in the background while reading or doing other things.

  • A man, Geralt, with long white hair pulled back, sits on a unicorn. A rainbow crosses the sky with mountains in the background. From The Witcher 3 video game.
  • A close up of Geralt as he looks down. From The Witcher 3 video game.
  • A close up of Geralt, a man with long white hair pulled back, as he sits by a lake in the woods. From The Witcher 3 video game.
  • Geralt from The Witcher 3 looks at a town, mountains in the background
  • A town's port, with ships in the water, at sunset
  • Geralt, a man with long white hair, with his arm around Yennefer, a woman with long dark hair, as they look over a misty mountain landscape

All-in-all, we play this game in a way that makes it fun for us, which is what matters. But it would still be nice if we could pet the animals or feed Roach some apples.

A chibi Geralt figure holding a sword and a gold plastic dinosaur planter on a windowsill, facing each other as if in battle
Not entirely sure how Geralt would handle a dinosaur in the wild.

Episode Highlights

  • What tips do we have for not getting murdered?
  • What reality competition shows do we wish we could be on but know we’d be terrible at?
  • What menial video game task do we both find fun/useful when in a dark room?
  • Is there any strategy to our combat style?
  • Did either of us have Geralt engage in any romance?

Further Watching/Playing

Episode 13: Wining, Dining, Scamming, and Jamming

The pandemic is a year old… The podcast is a teenager! Does this mean it will start being a cranky, moody, butthole? Maybe! The world seems to be that way, so why not the podcast? We jest. It’s been another wild few months and here we are trying to provide some low-key, easy-to-handle entertainment to distract us all for an hour.

We. Love. Scams. Well, we like hearing about scams and all the ways people take advantage of the basic desire for human connection. (Please don’t try to scam us.) There have been many great scams over the years, but we really enjoy ones that go after the people up top. That’s right, talking about scamming rich people.

At Pay’s suggestions, we watched Sour Grapes (2016), a documentary about the wheeling, dealing early-2000s and the person who made millions by auctioning fake rare wine. Neither of us really realized how big of an industry wine-collecting was, and how much it exploded thanks to the nouveau riche coming out of the tech bubble.

This one was interesting on several levels: why people collect wine, why this scam worked so well, and the shock in the wine-collecting community when the scam was revealed. Did he do it alone? It seems impossible! He’s out of prison and we still don’t know all the details. Come on Rudy, sell your story! Making money from it is the ultimate scam!

Also the only reason he got caught was because there was big money involved. If he’d been scamming regular folks, would the FBI have bothered getting involved? Probably not.

The movie is currently available on Kanopy and Hoopla, should your interest be piqued by our ramblings.

(This isn’t the first time we’ve suggested these services. Have you checked whether your library subscribes to them? Go do it now! It’s so worth it. Libraries are great.)

Episode Highlights

  • Are either of us willing to pay big money on wine?
  • What solid advice does Pay give about how not to use sneakers?
  • How long does it take for Degrassi to come up…again?
  • Who were our favorite characters?

Further Watching/Reading

Episode 12: The Fantasy Epic…in Space!

space…space…space

We’re a dozen episodes in, even it doesn’t seem like it (curse you lost episode 10 *shakes fists*), which means we’re two years into this. Commitment! Nothing else really to add here. It’s month nine of the pandemic. It’s too cold to eat lunch outside. Everything is still a mess. But at least there’s hot cider and cocoa to keep us toasty.

This episode really gets at the spirit of the podcast. Adri heard about this thing when it first came out, multiple people recommended it over the last eight years, and despite living in a house with the entire current collection of issues, she still managed to never get around to it. Honestly, there was no excuse and it was time to change that.

Plus our original idea fell through, so we had to pick something quick and easy to get our hands on. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Welp, however we got here, we finally started reading Saga (2012-), the fantasy space epic by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Adri certainly had Saga in the back of her mine (and her bookshelf), but Pay wasn’t as aware of the series coming into this, seeing as the last comics she read were either for work or Archie comics as a kid. But she has been trying to find more fantasy content to get into as she’s really discovering she likes parallel universes and magic in her stories.

Seriously though. They’ve been right there. For years. In good company at least.
Also is that a MaxFun Membership card you see? Heck yeah it is.

We both enjoyed the first volume, and definitely plan to keep on reading. (Adri’s already up to issue 18 and counting…) It’s everything you want a comic to be: intriguing, page-turner of a story, and eye-catching art. We seriously loved Fiona Staples’s character designs throughout the series. They are unforgettable, and can really make you go from “Aw!” to “Ew…” to “Argh!” in just a matter of pages. While we are looking forward to reading more, knowing that the series is on hiatus is a bit of a bummer. Once we get to issue fifty-four we’ll be in the same boat as every other Saga fan.

Like we said, we had originally planned to read something else, so we get into discussing why things went awry there, our current reading habits, and an unexpected tangent about movie adaptations. So it’s a long one folks. Then again, aren’t they all? Hope you’re not tired of our nonsense. There’s plenty to go ’round!

Oh and before we forget:

Told ya it’s cute.

Episode Highlights

  • What book did we originally plan to read for this episode?
  • Is Pay close to her GoodReads goal? (Spoiler alert: not really)
  • Does Adri manage to remember the word “animatic” by the end?
  • Which characters really struck a chord with us?
  • What type of movie do Adri and Pay want more of?

Further Watching/Reading

Episode 11: There is No Spoon

Oh hey, it’s still a surreal time isn’t it? If you’re in the U.S. and haven’t already, make sure you’re registered to vote and figure out your voting plan. VoteSaveAmerica.com is a good place to start.

Sometimes a movie is so ingrained in the culture that it’s very easy to assume we’ve actually seen it. And heck if that’s not what happened here. While Pay knew she hadn’t seen The Matrix (not for lack of trying), Adri could have sworn she saw it years ago. But turns out, that since The Matrix is the quintessential cyberpunk movie and became such a huge part of the pop culture consciousness, it just seemed like she’d watched the dang movie. Just think about how many times the Bullet Time scene has been parodied and imitated in the last 21 years.

Now that we’ve actually seen it, we gotta say, we dig it! Can definitely see why this was such a big movie when it first came out and why it’s considered a cyberpunk classic.

Episode Highlights

  • How much time to we spend talking about going to the dentist and doctor?
  • Who wins Best Smile of the Movie?
  • How do we feel about all the leather and latex? And those sunglasses?
  • Which actress was Pay very sure was in The Matrix who definitely wasn’t?
  • What country singer does Adri have a beef with (with good reason!)?

Further Watching

Episode 9: The Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestig(ious)

Our experiences as Black and Latinx women frame our conversations on the podcast. We create this show for our own entertainment, but know there are others listening who may expect us to talk about the fight to end police brutality against Black Americans. For many reasons we do not delve deep into the real world parallels of today’s episode topic, not least of which is the fact that we recorded this before the current Black Lives Matter protests across the country.

It feels surreal that people still need to hear this: Black. Lives. Matter. No ifs, no buts, no “perfect victims.” Every Black life matters.

We hope this episode offers a brief escape from the onslaught of news, if you need it. We also hope you, like us, are keeping informed, and listening to local and national community leaders on how to help dismantle the system built to oppress Black people. The resources are out there. Find them. Use them.

The thing about prestigious institutions is that they usually cost money. That holds true not just in universities but also in TV viewing opportunities. Seeing as neither of us has had regular access to HBO, it’s no surprise that we had never actually watched some of the most well-regarded television shows in recent history.

Cover of The Wire, Season 1

In this episode we discuss the first episode of The Wire, one of the most compelling shows to showcase the relationship between Black communities and the police, and a two time-Emmy winning drama. As Maryland natives of a certain age, people were generally shocked when we would say we had never seen the show.

We both could see why this show is so well-regarded and agreed it is well worth finishing the series. Though considering the heavy, realistic subject matter, it’s not something we can just pick up on a whim. We’ll have to be in a the right mindset to be able to watch it all.

Next we watched Veep, the multi-Emmy awarded comedy. Seeing as this show came out shortly after college when we were both severely underemployed, it’s not much of a shock we didn’t have regular HBO access.

As fans of British comedy, we could see the similarities to the original British material. Even so, this first episode didn’t really grab Pay at first, but by the end of the discussion she was convinced to give a few more episodes a try.

Episode Highlights

  • Which one of us got a quarantine home hair cut?
  • How much time do we spend talking about Idris Elba?
  • Was May the worst month of 2020? (Honestly, TBD.)

Further Reading/Watching

Episode 08: Smorgasbord Sound Off

Welp, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, aren’t we? We are doing our part, social distancing and self-isolating. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. It’s gonna be a long ride.

But we’re not here to talk about the real world and how society may well soon be on the brink of collapse. No. We are here to chat about some random shit. That’s right. We’ve got ourselves a smorgasbord of topics for our latest episode, so let’s hop to it, shall we?

The first theme we have going is Food. An incredibly vague theme, but there were a few things we’d been meaning to do in the food world. First up is Adri’s adventures in croissant making. If you know anything about baking or have watched at least one series of Great British Bake Off, then you know laminated dough recipes are all about skill and precise temperature. You may also know that making croissants is an ambitious task. So of course Adri decided to try making some in her too-hot kitchen.

Well, it certainly could’ve gone better. At least it was still edible. Moving forward she’s going to stick with practicing some easier recipes, maybe a rough puff pastry, and work her way up to croissants.

Croissant sandwich with boiled egg, lettuce, vegan bacon.
Extra toasted, it made a great breakfast sandwich.

Over on the other side of the country, we are talking burgers. L.A. is a pretty good food city, and it has more than its fair share of good burger places. Pay, resident burger enthusiast, likes to keep her eye out for new places that pop up to try. This time around, she went to HiHo Cheeseburger. They already had a Santa Monica location, but c’mon, even a burger can’t convince Pay to make the trek. Luckily they opened a location on Wilshire, so after a day at the salon, she checked out this location.

A burger and fries

The burger itself is really good, nicely seasoned. Fries are an essential part of a burger joint, and these didn’t disappoint in their supporting role. The experience was marred by a few awkward situations, so Pay didn’t get to savor the meal as much as she’d hoped, but y’know what, it was still delicious.

After that, we took a ride down Pop Culture Lane and chatted about music and movies for a bit.

Adri finally purchased two albums she’s been listening to over the last year: Walk Through Fire by Yola and Pony by Orville Peck. Both are great country albums, and both artists are a joy to watch perform. If you somehow don’t know about these two albums already, absolutely check them out.

Pay finally watched Logan, and really enjoyed this take on superhero movies. We really appreciate a superhero movie that takes the story in an interesting direction. Getting to see these characters be physically vulnerable is certainly different, and we are here for it. Also if you are or know a fight choreographer, get in touch! Because you’re cool! And impressive!

Episode Highlights

  • How to we feel about hugs?
  • What GameCube game helped Pay learn about social distancing?
  • What is Adri’s favorite movie fight?
  • What very important opinions so we have about french fries?

Further Watching

Episode 07: The Last and the Curious

Alpha, a gray tabby cat, sits in front of a microphone
Alpha was very helpful during this recording.

Sometimes there is a franchise that makes a huge impact on society, and it just manages to pass you by at 160mph. The Fast and the Furious franchise is so huge that it’s a wonder neither of us had seen a single installment. Many people in our lives insisted that if we were to watch just two, it would be The Fast and the Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. To better guide us on this new journey, we invited our longtime pal, Sara, to sit in on the episode. Hooray!

The Fast and the Furious poster
This movie has been stolen from at least two branches of Adri’s local library.

First, we talk about the original, the classic, the one that started it all. When you look at the levels the franchise now goes to (at least what we can tell from the trailers…), it’s almost startling to watch the first and see how grounded it is. Sure, it is absolutely a hetero dude dream sequence, but the story and action are still rooted in something believable. We both enjoyed this one overall, and could see how it would inspire droves of people to think they could be drag racers.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift poster
This movie was stolen from at least one branch of Adri’s local library.

But never would we have guessed it would have turned into an extensive series with a messy, twisted, timeline. Why so messy? Well because of Tokyo Drift, the third in the series. Sara’s expertise really helped us understand how this standalone fit in the series and why the creators were bending over backwards so they could include the most (only?) charismatic character from this movie into future Fast films. Adri watched this one under the influence and with a group which made it a fun watch, but Sara and Pay both found it boring to watch all the way through. Truly, when a whole movie is based on one move (drifting), one flaw (dude can’t turn well) and absolutely minimal plot (he learns to turn), it gets tedious.

It was an interesting ride to delve into this franchise, one about fast cars and family bonds. This franchise is also as old as our friendship, and what are old friends if not family?

Episode Highlights

  • Whose future grave did Pay visit in New Orleans?
  • How many candles are too many candles for a bro party?
  • Whose accent was very distracting?
  • Will Pay or Adri watch any more Fast movies?
  • Did these movies age well?

Further Reading/Watching

Episode 06: A Tale of Two Christmas Carols

Title page: "A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas."

What’s this? A chill in the air? Jingle bells off in the distance? The scent of snow (or rain or some kind of weather)? That can only mean one thing: it’s holiday story time! More specifically, A Christmas Carol, arguably the quintessential Christmas tale.

Such Christmas, such cheer. This pocket copy of Dickens’ Christmas stories actually fit in Adri’s pocket. ~Magical~

First, we talk about the original story (novella?) by Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol is so ingrained in the pop culture consciousness that Pay and Adri were both very familiar with the morality tale about Ebenezer Scrooge and his four spirit visitors, yet had never actually read it. But does the original hold up? Why is it that we all know about humbug and Christmas goose? Why does it get adapted over and over again?

One of the oldest surviving adaptations. Gotta respect those effects.

Speaking of adaptations, Pay had never seen A Muppet Christmas Carol. Never! It is such a regular in Adri’s holiday viewings and another movie with great songs by Paul Williams, so it was very important for Pay to see it. Sure, you can’t force people to like things, but thankfully Pay liked the movie, so friendship may endure.

This DVD doesn’t include Belle’s song. Shame!

One of the surprising things was how close the Muppet adaptation really stuck to the original material. Most of the dialogue matched word for word, and even a few lines Adri thought were Gonzo-isms turned out to be straight from Dickens pen. A true sign that Gonzo is a genius.

Another holiday, another solid set of entertainment we’ve suggested. We should become party planners at this point.

Episode Highlights

  • What did we think about the latest season of British Bake-off?
  • What is the source of the duo’s patriotism?
  • Where does Charles Dickens end and Gonzo begin?
  • What are our other essential Christmas movies?
  • What vintage commercials did the Muppet Christmas Carol DVD have?

Further Reading/Watching

Episode 05: Bite Off

It’s October, y’all. And you know what that means: time for all things spooky. This episode, we aimed for spooky and accidentally got very specifically spooky. Our penchant for an unintended Double Theme struck again, and we picked not one, but two vampire movies. Apparently the vampire craze is far from over for the two of us.

First, we chat about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), an American, Persian-language, vampire western. (Bet you’ve never seen that combo in a movie description before.) Written and directed by Ana Lily Amapour, this modern black and white film tells the story of a lonely vampire, the titular Girl, who stalks Bad City at night.

This one caught Adri’s eye in a magazine write-up a few years ago, but she hadn’t quite gotten around to seeing it yet. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was creepy, atmospheric and moody, with a few moments of solid dark humor. This is one to have on in the background at your next pumpkin carving party, for sure.

Next up, we take a trip to New Zealand with What We Do in the Shadows (2014), co-written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. This comedic mockumentary introduces us to Viago, Vlad, Deacon and their everyday (everynight?) after-lives as vampires sharing a flat.

It turns out Adri was already quite familiar with What We Do in the Shadows (she owns it), but this is one Pay had been meaning to see for a while. She first learned of Taika Waititi with his 2016 film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and had been meaning to watch some of his older projects ever since. This movie is very hilarious and super fun and would also be good for your next pumpkin carving party.

Look guys, not to toot our own horns, but we just gave you two solid selections for your pumpkin carving party movie playlist. We’re not saying you should thank us… but it wouldn’t hurt if you thanked us.

Episode Highlights

  • What shows do we need subtitles to watch?
  • What was Adri’s favorite shot in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night?
  • What was Pay’s favorite scene in What We Do in the Shadows? Was it this one? Or maybe even this one?
  • Guess what? That show we said we’d watch actually exists!
  • Why did we start talking about Chris Hemsworth?
  • What kind of horror movies are we into?