Welcome back to another top obsessions post where I give myself a nice slice of space to discuss some things I’ve been interested in the past month outside of the romance genre and this blog. I’ve added sections for podcasts, books, TV shows, Youtube channels, and for this month a section on two events I got involved in. I hope you all had a spook-tacular October. I know it’s my favorite month out of the year, and I hope you all got some enjoyment out of my October specials as well. Let me know in the comments how your month went, any interesting obsessions you might have, and what cool things you’ve noticed the last month. See you all in November!
“Stuff to Blow Your Mind”
If you like science or are analytically minding, I think you’ll enjoy this podcast. Stuff to Blow Your Mind takes on one specific topic every week and digs into the specific science and theories behind it. They cover a lot of interesting topics and even take inspiration from modern media to look at the science behind some of our favorite stories or movies. For Halloween, they posted a three-part series where they examine horror anthologies like Tales from the Crypt and the Twilight Zone. They each picked two or three stories and dissected what would and wouldn’t be possible if these stories actually took place and some of the interesting theories that influenced them. One of my favorites was a discussion on whether or not aliens could actually eat and survive off of humans and earth creatures or whether we would be poisonous to them.
“Our Fake History”
Our Fake History is a podcast for all those interested in history and the myths that seem to be prevalent across society. This podcast examines the myths and stories that are abound in our consciousness or history books. One of the recent ones I listened to was on the myth that Nero purposefully set Rome on fire. The episode delved into the actual accounts of Nero that could be trusted and looked at whether or not Nero might have ordered the fire started in order to build a larger palace for himself. It also looked at the political feelings towards Nero at the time and how some of the accounts could have been blown out of proportion or purposefully exaggerated. Interestingly enough, he also theorized about Nero’s influence on the creation of part of the bible and his connection to the idea of the antichrist.
The Dresden Files
I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately, but every once and awhile I need some fantasy in my life. I’ve tried to read the series multiple times before, but could never get past book 4, that is until I switched over to audio books. My mom is a huge fan, and when I stopped reading, she picked it up and read ahead of me. Now it’s my time to play catch up and really try and enjoy the series. I think my switch to trying them out in audiobook format has really been helping since I can listen to them at work or on the train ride to and from. If you’ve never heard of the series, it’s an old and long-running paranormal detective action/adventure following the life and escapades of one Harry Dresden, resident wizard of Chicago. He acts as both private investigator and intermediary between the human residents of Chicago and the supernatural world, investigating crimes that the human police have no way of solving themselves.
If you love gritty supernatural action stories, I think you’ll love this one. It’s kind of the perfect combination of grit, witty comebacks, and action. The magic system is also one of my favorites, grounded well in physics and mythology, creating a nicely functioning supernatural world. There’s faeries, vampires, werewolves, demons, and ghosts. All at some point causing havoc in the city of Chicago. Harry’s character is hilarious and at times moving. He’s a great combination between nerd and magician, throwing off the ceremonial extras of wizarding life and at times cobbling together a powerful spell from a bit of chalk and a birthday candle. I love his wit and cynicism and his absolute dedication to his friends. He winds up getting badly tossed around in almost all of his investigations, but the situations and magical mysteries are always pretty interesting.
The Good Witch
I’ve been in a witchy mood the last month as you can probably tell from the kinds of reviews I’ve been doing. I absolutely love Halloween, and living on the east coast so close to the hub of magic and witchcraft has meant that this month has felt extra magical. So, because of this, I’ve been going through the available Netflix shows to find something with that touch of magic to jump into for the month, and I think I’ve found it with The Good Witch. It’s a Hallmark series focused on a small midwestern town that has their own resident “witch” or a particular family with the supernatural ability to feel and see future events happening around them and to the people they care about. The main character of Cassie Nightingale owns and operates a small eclectic store called the Bell, Book, and Candle where she always has just what her customers need even if they don’t realize it at the time they come in.
It feels like a typical feel-good Hallmark show, focused on leading the characters to personal insights and growth in life and love. Cassie winds up being a really interesting representation of a witch character that we don’t often see in modern media. She’s your “white witch” type character who only has the best interests of those around her at heart. Her precognitive abilities allow her to see what each person needs when they come into her shop or stay over at her inn. There were a couple episodes where she would give a small gift to another person that seems insubstantial, but winds up playing a large role later on leading to a resolution of some issue. Over time we learn more about her, how she traveled the world, knows about ancient art, and has a catalog of interesting information. She begins to feel like a wise woman, someone who becomes the backbone of the community, providing advice and inspiration where needed.
I’m always interested in finding new Youtube channels. Hello Future Me has some of the best videos on world-building that I’ve found so far, especially when it comes to Avatar: The Last Airbender. He really digs into the nitty-gritty of what makes the world work and its various elements that come together to make some really fleshed out nations. One of the recent videos I watched was breaking down what makes the Fire Nation a believable island empire. Hello Future Me broke down the economic, political, and social influences that were behind the world-building, particularly how the Fire Nation, as an island empire, was influenced by trade and the might of its navy. He even went into how the various minerals found in the nation influenced its decisions in other areas of politics and society.
His videos are great for writers and critics of fictional worlds. They can be used as advice for building your own world if you wind up writing a book or story at some point or they can be used to get a clearer picture about how world building is constructed so you can write better critiques or reviews. I know I’ll be returning to this channel in the future to really dive in and take notes on the wide variety of aspects that need to be thought of when writing a convincing world.
Christine McConnell is one of those Youtube channels that is perfect to dive into this month. She’s the previous host of “The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell” on Netflix. After her show was cancelled, she went back to Youtube to start a new series called “From the Mind of Christine McConnell” where she makes seemingly simple ideas into intricate and spooky creations. In one video she decides she’s going to renovate a pull-out sofa for her guest room. This simple idea of reupholstering and livening up this sofa turns into reshaping the frame, creating custom pillows, and adding in hand-carved wood snake accents. It was absolutely amazing to watch her work, transforming a seemingly simple pull-out into almost a work of art.
One of her other videos was a full build of the Winchester Mystery House but in gingerbread form. Doing any gingerbread house is a challenge for me, but this was just beyond anything I thought could be done considering the intricate nature of the different floors and windows and detailing. Christine may have not been able to do all of it in edible form, but she came damn close and it came out amazing. I’m so impressed with what she did and her ingenuity in crafting something so complicated. I’ll definitely be watching more of her videos in the future.
Art has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was little. I would draw little crayon pictures for anyone and everyone, even my fifth grade teacher. Later that progressed into art lessons, classes at high school, and thoughts of going into it professionally. I had an Etsy shop for a while, but that tapered off after I started to write this blog. But every year I make the effort to return to art through the help of Inktober. Inktober is an event that takes place across the internet art world where drawing prompts are posted, one for everyday of October. Some people make their own prompts, but there is an overall official prompt list that many people work off of.
I tried doing one a day last year and failed at it miserably, so this year my only goal was to draw two or three prompts a week. I think I’ve succeeded at that this month and you can check out all of my drawings on my Instagram account: @am_ziebrah. I’ve even been tossing around the idea of putting some of my favorite Inktobers from the past three years into a small zine or making prints out of a few. But that idea may take a little longer to figure out.
MICE is an event that I look forward to every year. It stands for the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo and is full of comic artists selling their handmade zines, independent comics, and art. It’s a small convention, but I kind of wind up enjoying it more than larger conventions like Anime Boston. Maybe because it’s so intimate and not as massively crowded so you can actually converse and meet the artists face to face. It also doesn’t allow large corporate companies to table, focusing on individuals and small independent bookstores and publishers. Most of the them are local to the New England area as well, so it allows me to support the local art scene and feel good about myself doing it.
I had a ton of fun this year and wound up spending a lot more than I probably should have, though I don’t regret it. I love being able to find small comics that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have and collecting business cards from artist to follow on Instagram. One of the unique things about this convention is the mini-comics they promote from their vendors. The independent artists all make little tiny comics that convention goers can buy and if they buy a certain number, they can be entered into a raffle. It’s a unique idea that promotes creativity and gives people more of a reason to really look at what some artists are selling. If you’re ever in the area, really consider giving this convention a try.
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