Class (Cum Laude) by Cecily von Ziegasar

ClassClass (originally published as Cum Laude*, 2010) is an 'adult' book by Gossip Girl creator Cecily von Ziegesar. It is no secret that the Gossip Girl series of books is one of my all time favourites, so I was delighted to find this slightly odd and out-of-print one off from the author.

Generally speaking: eh.

There's a lot of interesting things about Class, but mostly they come from contrasting it to other books, and I'll get to them in a paragraph or so. Class qua Class is a fairly substandard entry into the canon of university literature. It features five freshmen at 'Dexter', a private liberal arts college that's your generic New England not-quite-Ivy (a joke they make early on) establishment: complete with gender-ambiguous professors, terrible university theatre, campus druggies and irksome townies. The five weeble and wobble their way through a tumultuous first year, complete with sex, drugs, art, fire and some half-hearted attempts at reinvention.

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Friday Five: 5 superheroes I want on my football team


Right, my actual football team and my fantasy football team both suck this year, so I need some sort of distraction. Which means - naturally - trying to think of which superheroes would make the best football players. 

The rules, because what's the point of thinking about this unless you overthink it?

  • No weapons or external 'bits'. So surfboards, repulser beams, grenade launchers - out. Armor is ok, because that's on you, but you can't use it to shoot stuff from your hands or whatever. Natural defenses - claws and teeth - are fine.
  • No pulling in stuff from off the field. (Also known as the 'Magneto Rule'.) You can't use your powers to bring on bleachers or chairs or passing 747s or anything like that.
  • You have to fit on the field. So Galactus is out, and the all-Celestials defensive line is a no-go.
  • Flight is ok, but the rules of football apply. You have to land with feet inbounds, etc.
  • I think that's it. Further rules may apply when I think of them.

With no further ado, presenting five members of my imaginary team...

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Pygmalia: Necrophallus

Night voicesThis year I’m selecting a series of Pygmalion stories—or stories that contain echoes of the Pygmalion myth—and essaying on them. I already have a few in mind, but please feel free to suggest others in the comments or on Twitter @molly_the_tanz

A brief note before we begin: The Pleasure Merchant is up for Kindle pre-order! If you’ve enjoyed these blogs, or hey, even if you hated them but love Pygmalion stories, or know someone who does, boy howdy I’d appreciate it if you pre-ordered, or schlepped on over to Amazon on November 17th to pick up a paper copy.

Anyway, with that out of the way… it’s my birthday, and it’s also close to Halloween, so it’s time for some horror content. Read on with caution, as this month’s entry is pretty brutal. I mean, it’s literally titled…

“Corpse Dagger (Necrophallus)”, by Makino Osamu, translated from the Japanese by Chun Jin, 2005, in Night Voices, Night Journeys, ed. Asamatsu Ken and Robert M. Price.

With a title like that, how could Osamu’s Lovecraftian tale of pain and desire not be an instant classic?

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Radio Drama: "The Shrunken Head" (1942)

The Shrunken Head"The Shrunken Head"

Original air date: June 13, 1942, from the series The Whistler

Download this episode (right click and save)

Initial Thoughts

I am very excited to hear this because I feel like you can’t go too wrong with a title like ‘The Shrunken Head’ and if you do, that will probably be kind of spectacular also.

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Chicken Soup For The Soulless


You know those self-help books that people get, well let's just say 'enthusiastic' about? The ones that feel about one step removed from the foundational element of a cult? Like that one founded by a former pulp novelist, for example? Maybe that's what they really are. And maybe there's something even more disturbing going on that it might be better for us all not to know about.

Clearly Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt think this stuff should all be out in the open, and have created Clean Room to document it. So it's only polite that we give it the One Comic treatment and share their findings with the world. Which leads nicely into discussing some old Vertigo series in this show's 3&1.

Weirdness Rodeo: Disney is rather impressive

Check out this little doohicky:

Disney mind map

I peeled this out of a Drum article about Disney and its rampant collection of data.

It is a lovely little diagram in and of itself, but what strikes me as important is how they've got a role for everything. Specifically, the article notes...

...Disney’s resolute focus on preserving its purpose in the eyes of consumers, which Hill said was down to an understanding that success “isn’t just about return on investment”. Being commercially successful is important, but she said it was a product of having strong brand equity.  

Emphasis mine. The fact that Disney has a stable of billion dollar brands isn't an accident - they take each and every property and see how it can be developed across every possible channel and content type. And not 'artificially' - the channels don't diffuse the property, they fortify it. And that's, well,... amazing.

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Review Round-up: The Long Ride and After Midnight

The Long RideThe Long Ride (1961) is another corker from James McKimmey, who may be my personal favourite discovery of 2015. The story begins with a Midwestern bank robbery - one that goes horribly (bloodily) awry. The suitcase o' loot winds up in the hands of a complete bystander, a bitter young man. 

One thing leads to another, and our 'innocent',  an undercover FBI agent, and the bank robber all wind up sharing a car out to San Francisco. All, of course, under assumed identities and with (theoretically) no knowledge of the others. Also in the mix - and the car: four innocent (?) women, each with their own quests, motivations and suspicious backgrounds.

What follows is a road trip equal parts tense and comedic. Wells, the murderous bank robber, is a particularly chilling villain, a calculator of a man, with absolutely no regard for human life. By contrast, Allan is a hot mess, a small-time chiseler that's completely over his head. Sadly, John, the agent and our ostensible protagonist, is the dullest of the three men, and even the dash of romance inserted into his point of view chapters fails to liven him up. But his phlegmatic perspective gives the reader a relatively balanced view of the happenings, especially as Wells and Allan lose their respective grips on sanity.

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New Releases - Sam Wilson: Captain America

Sam_wilson_captain_americaDo you ever read something and immediately think “Well this is going to cause trouble”?

Sam Wilson: Captain America #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Daniel Acuna
Published by Marvel Comics

The new Captain America lands in the ‘Eight months later’, post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe with something of a bang, and not only in the pages of the comic. We join our hero in an uncertain time: on the outs with SHIELD, working on a shoestring as a private operative in partnership with Misty Knight, and suffering public and media fallout from his decision to stand up. The cause? He's dared to stand up and say that, in essence, things are far from perfect in the US, inequality is rife, and that Captain America’s job is to stand for, and unite, all Americans, not just those with money or power. So you can imagine how well that goes over.

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