Love, Dark Knights, and Spanish reds dominate today…in this episode: Florence, My Boyfriend is a Bear, Angosto Tinto, and Batman Unauthorized. So grab that languishing set of watercolors and turn on the Bat-signal, it’s time to get started with Geekery and Wine:
The Geek Side – Florence and My Boyfriend is a Bear
I have a bit of a confession to make. I am a romantic.
There is a moment, a perfect moment, in the 1984 film, Romancing the Stone where confronted by her best friend, Gloria, our protagonist, Joan Wilder, says what I believe to be the truest words ever spoken in film:
Gloria: Joanie, you are now a world-class hopeless romantic.
Joan: No…hopeful. Hopeful romantic.
And that’s been me, my whole life.
In elementary school…yes, even then…I saw myself as a besotted romantic. There was this thing I did called Zorro notes. But more on that later.
Today we’ll be exploring two romantic geek items. One is a videogame called Florence and the other is a graphic novel called My Boyfriend is a Bear.
Florence is a game released by Annapurna media in February and March of 2018 on iOS and Android, respectively and starts with your phone.
Yup, you heard that right 2018! The game I’m talking about is actually current!
And ahem, continuing…
It starts with your phone. Now usually I would have a problem with this. I think of video games as art. And I want to experience art in a suitable way. Not on the teeny, tiny screen of my smartphone. Bejeweled while waiting in the dentist’s office…just trying not to think about the scraping and polishing and such. That’s what a game on my phone is for.
I want to be able to metaphorically fall into the game, and I never really think of that as possible unless the perimeter of the screen is something I could physically fit through.
Yes? You there in the back of the class?
“But what about books? The perimeter of a paperback while opened is quite small as is the screen size on your tablet, upon which you read novels and comic books.”
To which I say, “Away with you and your LOGIC!” Video games are different. They just are!
And by the way…”Here there be spoilers!!! Proceed with caution!”
Florence is a tale of a romance…but it is the tale of the complete romance. Full spectrum. Beginning to end. Overture to Curtain call.
Unlike other romantic tales where the conflict is resolved by the getting together of the two romantic leads, Florence goes further. There, naturally, is the meet-cute, then the infatuation and heady days of first dates and trying to figure out what to say to one another and it’s all delightful.
But in life, not every relationship works out. And Florence seeks to let the player take the whole ride, not just the first half, and ultimately the relationship ends. The brilliance of the game though, is that most of that early stuff was fairly easy.
Now the game gets more difficult.
Because the end of any relationship is more fragmented and harder to get through. And Florence conveys this in a poignant way.
I sat in the pickup lane at the middle school on my phone waiting for my youngest daughter and trying to work my way through the most difficult part of the breakup chapters, and there was a moment where I said, “I don’t think I can do this. It isn’t solvable!”
Yeah. Just like life.
The way the game handles the kaleidoscopic nature of time is brilliant as well. In certain scenes at the bottom of the screen is an analog clock, and by turning the hands of the clock, the player moves time forward to reveal the next scene. But the images within the picture change in subtle and beautiful ways. Florence changes her hairstyle as she goes through her break up. Of course, she does.
Because it’s exactly what you do when marking the end of a personal epoch.
With no way of knowing how this game played out, I was hoping for certain conclusions to the relationship and I’ll be darned if those aren’t addressed in the story as well. I won’t go into complete detail because it is just so satisfying when you get there.
Finally, I’d be very remiss if I didn’t mention the work of Composer Kevin Penkin. His music, featuring an almost vocal cello and softly accented piano is in turn joyful and mournful and just plain beautiful.
Find Florence in the Google Play store or the iTunes App store if you are someone who uses fruit-based computing. It was $4.99 and money well spent.
Super awesome romantic bonus stuff!!! –My Boyfriend is a Bear
My Boyfriend is a Bear is a graphic novel by Pamela Ribon and Cat Fariss, was released in April of 2018 and is a sweet tale of a young woman whose boyfriend is a bear…no really, an honest-to-goodness bear. And this graphic novel details all of the travails of their early relationship.
Personal background: My wife will occasionally get frustrated with me because I will persistently ask her “what’s wrong” when she seems upset and sometimes I will preface that with, “What did I do?” She will kinda impatiently tell me “Everything is not always about you.” And it’s a message I should definitely internalize more. In My Boyfriend is a Bear this comes through reeeeeeeally clearly. The majority of the conflict happens inside our female protagonist, Nora’s head, based on what she thinks the relationship should be. Added in are the best friends who discusses Nora and Bear’s relationship. Telling her things, some helpful, some decidedly not.
And the whole time the eponymous bear is…well, being a bear. Doing bear things…at first. And then trying different ways to make Nora happy. He gets a job and puts on a shirt and tie for work. But it’s really not about him. He only ever says one thing “GRAH!” And it’s totally perfect.
This is a romantic story of the more traditional type and we leave their journey at the end in a Happily Ever After. But the journey getting there is a total delight. You are in the hands of a storyteller who is masterful in her art. And by the way, she was also a screenwriter on both Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Okay, I think I’ve kept you waiting long enough. What exactly is a “Zorro note?”
As a 6th grader, I would write up a sappy bit of romantic poetry on my super cool IBM Selectric typewriter (to preserve my anonymity, natch) don a black domino mask and go running up to a girl I liked and hand the poem to her and then…heroically run away!
And get this, the last line of the Zorro note was typically “Wouldst thou go with me?”
Awful lot to unpack here.
Why Zorro? Well, I thought he was cool. He was a sword-fighting vigilante who swung from chandeliers and had a Spanish accent. How rad! Side note: this was six years before one Indigo Montoya was introduced to me on film. A movie called Zorro, the Gay Blade came out in 1981, which I watched many times on HBO.
Why a note asking someone to go steady? Especially since girls weren’t even a consideration in those days.
An apt comparison might be the age-old dogs chasing cars joke. What would he do if he actually caught one?
No idea. Probably stand there flummoxed.
Oh, okaaaaay? What now? Do we hold hands or…share a pudding cup from a single lunch tray...dunno.
Probably, though, it had a lot more to do with The Art of Courtly Love. No, really!
My favorite book in elementary school was The Boy’s King Arthur. The check-out card in the front pocket of this McDonald Elementary School library book was filled with my…name…only.
And Knights were supposed to win the heart of Lady Fair…that’s one-third of their job! (the other two-thirds being dragon-slaying and limerick writing about being BOLD…presumably).
Now, were girls mostly icky? Well, sure.
But that didn’t matter. One had to interact with the fairer sex if only to have a decent working relationship so that one might be able to take a mythical lake-sword when offered.
I mean, you have to be polite, right? Even if they did have cooties. And THAT’S a Zorro Note.
I found My Boyfriend is a Bear on ComiXology for $11.44. It will give you warm fuzzies and all the feels!
And because of the…
News alert: I am now being told that I cannot use the phrase “all the feels” by both of my daughters.
They are being quoted as saying “No, Dad…just…no.”
The Wine Side—Angosto Tinto
Another Spanish wine? Jeez, Colby are you stuck in a rut? Well, one could use the oft-recited phrase, “The only difference between a rut and a groove is depth perception.” And I prefer to think of myself as being in a groove. So, back to Spain.
The setting is Elena’s Gourmet Grocery store in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. I was coming home from Fitchburg and, as anyone who lives there can tell you, if you don’t use the interstate or the main highways you will go through about a bazillion little townships on the way home. Now stereotypically this should mean that all of these quaint New England towns are inundated with antique stores, local coffee shops, antique stores, diners and sometimes, antique stores.
When I first stopped at Elena’s it was because I thought there might be some interesting things to make for dinner. After all, it said “grocery” in the name. But, in actuality, fully half the store is wine. A lot of great selections. The other half of the store is comprised of things you might want to put in a gift basket to someone you actually like. Artisanal cheeses and sausages and small-batch jams and jellies.
The wines, though, were cool and a single bottle caught my eye. The bottle itself was dark green had a sloping shoulder, like you might find with a Pinot Noir. The other popular alternative bottle type being a high shoulder for your cabernet sauvignons and merlots. But this was a Spanish wine and had a comic-book-esque couple illustrated on the label. It was around $12, so I took it home and tried it. And it was really great. So great I went back a few more times and got additional bottles.
The season got colder and one day I found myself missing that wine and I popped in to grab a bottle.
And it wasn’t there!
But you said just in the last episode you’ve got to write these things down! You didn’t write it down?
Because I had a location to go to and I even knew which bin I was walking over toward, it never occurred to me to write down the name. All I could say was, “Yeah it has this hand-drawn couple on the bottle. The guy has sunglasses…pretty sure.
Weeeeeeell, there is indeed a hand-drawn couple on the bottle. The background is mostly red and the couple is drawn in the style of 60’s office chic. A bit like Mad Men, if you like. And the glasses that I mistook for sunglasses are actually more horn-rimmed; which when you think about the classic Ray-Ban they are usually horn-rimmed.
The wine is from Valencia, Spain a region all along the eastern coast.
When I first sampled Angosto Tinto the flavor was very…general…and yet I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think I’ve had this wine more than a dozen times and I’ve recommended it to friends (like I’m doing right now). It’s just that nothing really stuck out. When I have a bottle of wine that is a Grenache or (Garnache) I can always count on getting a big whiff of freshly-baked bread. I’m not sure if it is the yeast used in the fermentation process or if it’s the oak barrels it’s aged in. Conversely, inhaling the fragrances of a white, like a Viognier, can smell like grapefruit.
But this wine…nada.
So, I did a little more research and I found out that Angosto Tinto is a blend of equal parts: Syrah, Graciano, Garnacha Tintorera, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
Oh, well sure. That would explain why it was difficult to get those really specific varietal factors of taste and smell. The idea is that the best qualities of each would come together to make a great wine. But I think it can also cover up the flaws of each grape expressed as a single varietal, too.
Angosto Tinto sold for $11.49 a bottle at Elena’s.
If you are looking for Elena’s Gourmet Grocery, it is down the street from the antique store and diagonal from the…local coffee shop…sigh, fine I guess there is some truth to these New England stereotypes.
But in case you don’t live in my neighborhood, I also found it at Empire Wine at empirewine.com.
Audio Goodness – Batman Unauthorized
A lot of the story of the genesis of Batman Unauthorized is told in my essay and audiobook short, A Journey to Nerdopolis. How I went to San Diego Comic-Con (aka Comic-Con International) and spoke with the editor-in-chief of SmartPop Books at their booth on the Comic-Con floor.
But what happened after that?
Batman Unauthorized was repped by a literary agency and although Leah, the editor-in-chief, thought it was a great idea, I needed to work through the literary agency to iron out the details.
I spoke to some of the folks at the agency and eventually found Linda. It was such a great process working with her. We both wanted the audiobook to get made and be incredible and we were able to craft a contract between us that everyone was happy with. It was really cool! And, she said, now that she knew what my company, Last Word Audio, was all about, she’d keep an eye out for works that might fit my developing brand! Stay tuned, because in a later episode I’ll talk about a second book that happened because of this new partnership.
After all of the paperwork was finished and I could start on the book itself, I had some stylistic choices to make. Batman Unauthorized is a collection of scholarly essays that focus on Gotham’s Dark Knight. It breaks down the character as a cultural icon and symbol, as a psychologically-damaged human being and participant in history. And the most intriguing part is that each essay is penned by someone who is an expert in that field. It’s pop culture but it’s smart, hence the imprint “SmartPop.”
I did have a concern, though. Was going this direction…the “Unofficial” or “Unauthorized” direction going to be a hindrance or burden later on? Would I be penalized because I jumped the queue in order to make books about the things that I loved? I mean after being shut down for doing the sequel to a book I had narrated and loved, I worried that I would create a lot of art but then the subjects of that art would resent me for being “Unauthorized.” I really didn’t know. I knew that the people writing these essays were authors that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. I mean Dennis (aka) Denny O’Neil, c’mon! He was one of the creators of the Batman villain Rha’s al Ghul and he wrote The DC Guide to Writing in Comics, for Pete’s sake!
I decided to press on. Better to have remorse than regret, right?
I started in on the text. One performance element that I tried to carry over from The Supergirls was to play Batman in a historically accurate way when talking about him. The Batman and Bruce Wayne of Adam West had a much different approach from Kevin Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series and Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight from Tim Burton’s film.
It was so much fun to step into each of the cowls worn by these great Batmen. It was all going so well.
And then…the sickness.
When I was in college and thought myself superhuman I would power myself on caffeine, little sleep and try to do as much as I possibly could. “Overextended” was my standard operating condition. But “the sickness” hadn’t struck me in a long time. And I was really excited about this new project. I might have pushed myself a little too hard, or more likely, one of the kids brought home a really good cold and I didn’t take care of myself. The net result was I was chugging along and all of a sudden over the course of a weekend, when I went back to the work on Monday my voice was a harsh, hoarse whisper(do it)…let’s just put a pin in that for now.
I had to ask the two ladies whose opinions I trust in all situations. My wife and one of our very best friends Sue. Sue is amazing by the way. She makes it her mission to live an interesting life. How interesting? Volunteer firefighter, cadaver transport driver, and cremation are but a few of the job’s she has had recently. I’ve known her for many years and we first met when our kids were in grade school and we would chat at the playground. She wanted to learn more about audiobooks and I could really use the help in getting more of the editing and error-correcting done, so that I could concentrate on the recording aspect. So, she started working with me.
So, the sickness…
If memory serves, it’s most noticeably coming on as I get closer to Michael Marano’s essay entitled, “Ra’s al Ghul: Father Figure as Terrorist.” I tried to soldier on through the whole thing. When I finished I sent it over to Sue to get her opinion and I asked my wife what she thought about the quality of the recording.
It was unanimous: I needed to rerecord the whole essay. It just didn’t sound like me. It sounded as though I was struggling to get through it. And to be sure, I was. So, I waited a few days and tried to take it easy. (Lots of tea, lots of soup) Yet there was still some remnants of that cold in there and if you listen closely you can still hear it.
Batman Unauthorized was also the first audiobook I submitted for review to AudioFile magazine, the trade publication for the audiobook industry. It was incredibly exciting! I felt as though I was able to really put myself out there on a larger stage. And my lack of industry exposure was probably one of the reasons why I wasn’t considered as a possibility for Bill’s Pest Control sequel. Hopefully, this would remedy that situation.
Two months after its release this review came out in AudioFile magazine:
“Colby Elliott's deep, raspy voice fits perfectly and proves somewhat reminiscent of Batman himself. He narrates the essays with all the seriousness that the authors themselves have for their subject but is also capable of lightening his tone for the occasional joke or pun. His emphasis and pacing will keep listeners engaged throughout the production.”
Hey, that’s pretty awesome. Maybe I should keep doing this audiobook thing!
Find Batman Unauthorized on Audible.com, iTunes or Amazon. To check out all my audiobooks go to Lastwordaudio.com, and be sure to never miss a release by signing up for Monkey Missives.
Next Time on Geekery and Wine: A Voyage through Dungeon’s & Dragons, Goats Do Roam, and Guesswork.
My dear, dear friends…