Obsessions, by EDGE
Welcome to Obsessions, by EDGE: a new monthly feature where the editors of EDGE share a few things they’ve be fawning over the past month, new or old or in between.
In its second feature, arts and entertainment editor Bob Nesti, national news editor Jason St. Amand, women and health editor Winnie McCroy, travel and style editor Matthew Wexler and associate publisher Bobby McGuire detail their love for Showtime’s spooky "Penny Dreadful," the latest installment of Mario Kart, the classic "Strangers With Candy," favorite skin treatments and viral videos you may have missed.
"Orange is the New Black"
Winnie McCroy: Season Two of the hot Netflix comedy-drama series about Piper Kerman’s year doing time in a woman’s prison starts up on June 6, and I couldn’t be more excited! The series, by "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan from Kerman’s memoir of the same title, is a drama-laden look at incarceration that is at the same time touching and feminist in its depiction of the myriad ways women end up in jail -- most often tied to the actions of the men in their lives. Kohan takes some liberties from the original text in throwing our lead blonde in prison with her ex-girlfriend/ international drug runner Alex (Laura Prepon) and I thank her for the resulting sizzle! Big props go to Kohan for casting transgender activist Laverne Cox as a post-op transgender prisoner, and for showing us all how the former cop ended up in the clink while pursuing her sex change.
Kudos as well for including real-life lesbian Lea DeLaria in the cast, and equipping her with a fabulous masturbation scene with a Phillips-head screwdriver. The best part of the show is that you can stream all 13 episodes and binge-watch to your heart’s content. Get ready to do some time!
"Summertime is Great"
Bobby McGuire: For anyone who cringed with shadenfreudistic delight to Ark Music Factory’s pre-teen anthems to the weekend and take out food, "Friday" and "Chinese Food," there’s a new horror on YouTube.
"Summertime is Great" by "Three Beat Slide" (a trio of extremely unfortunate looking family members) is the kind of "can’t look at it / can’t look away" horror that gives self production (and dare I say?) music, a bad name.
The video features a dad in mom jeans, a zaftig pre-teen daughter in desperate need of a detangler, and a boy so fishy, he was likely bullied by his school’s chess club.
The triumvirate of inbred musically challenged family members stroll along beaches, jump in pools, frolic in playgrounds and barbecue meat of questionable origin while extolling the joys of summer. With ingenious lyrics that rhyme themselves, "It’s summertime and isn’t it great / it’s summertime when everything’s great" this piece of unintentional self-humiliation is one for the record books. Radio personalities Opie and Anthony’s 22-minute deconstruction of the musical mishegas is a true work of snark at its finest.
African Black Soap
Jason St. Amand: Since I was a kid, I suffered from eczema -- inflammation of the skin that is extremely itchy and makes life pretty unbearable. The condition is common in children but not so common in adults. Lucky me, I never grew out of it. In the summer months, my eczema is at its peak itchiness and while a number of ointments and creams have curbed my itchy, dry skin, I’ve not seen the best of results. That’s until I was introduced to African black soap last month, which is one of the best natural remedies I’ve used.
My boyfriend bought me a bar of Nubian Heritage African Black Soap, which blends oats, aloe and Vitamin E, palm ash, tamarind extract, tar, and plantain peel. Over the last few weeks, the banana-smelling soap has cleared up my eczema by about 70 to 80 percent. A patch on my calf has nearly vanished and the other problem areas on my arms are tamed. I’m hopeful it’s going to continue to keep my eczema under control during the humid weather.
iS Clinical for Men
Matthew Wexler: With a move to a new apartment last year and a substantially larger "medicine cabinet" in my bathroom, I’ve admittedly been binging on an array of new men’s grooming products -- stocking my shelves with lotions, gels and scrubs in an effort to turn my mirror into the Picture of Dorian Gray. My favorite recent discovery is iS Clinical for Men, a skincare regime created especially for guys. The system targets dry skin due to shaving as well as skin damage caused by neglect and exposure due to the elements. The four-part cleaning system includes cleaning complex, active serum, hydra-cool serum and SPF 50+ sunscreen. The products have a clean, almost medicinal scent to them and leave a cool, refreshing afterglow. Look online for local retailers - it’s worth the hunt and you’ll most likely find the line at a dermatologist’s office, medical spa or premium skincare professional. After only two weeks, I look like I’m 16 again (maybe not) but the system does feel great on my skin and I look fresh-faced in spite of back-to-back bottomless brunches.
Bob Nesti: As a playwright and screenwriter, John Logan is one of the most eclectic talents in the entertainment industry today -- from "Red," his Tony-winning play about artist Mark Rothko, to his Oscar-nommed script to Martin Scorcese’s "Hugo" and Oscar-winning script for "Gladiator" to helping James Bond get his best reviews in years (he wrote the recent "Skyfall").
Perhaps it was his work for Tim Burton’s "Sweeney Todd" that led him to create "Penny/Dreadful", his ingenious mash-up of Victorian horror memes that is midway through its first season on Showtime. His serpentine narrative follows the hunt for the daughter of a British nobleman (Timothy Dalton) kidnapped by an unearthly being. That her name is Mina brings to mind the first of the famous stories ("Dracula") that the series references. (In the novel "Dracula," Mina is one of the vampire’s victims). There is also Dr. Frankenstein, who has created more than one monster; Dorian Gray, played to effete perfection by the hunky American actor Reeve Carney; and Jack the Ripper, whose murders dot the headlines but he’s yet to be seen.
Logan takes his title from the Victorian fiction genre that told lurid tales in cheaply distributed books and magazines. Thus far "Penny Dreadful" has delivered on that score: there have been gory vampire attacks, a sexual liaison splattered with blood, and a sance where the show’s tightly-wound heroine (Eva Green) lets loose when she’s possessed by the missing Mina. It’s also moving beyond its gimmicky premise with a story and characters that are layered, complicated and filled with twists. Who expected that the handsome Josh Harnett, as an American sharpshooter, would tenderly kiss Carney on the lips as he did in the conclusion to Episode Four (aired this past weekend). Can’t wait to see where this leads...
"Strangers With Candy"
WM: For a taste of the zaniest, nuttiest, most completely brilliant Comedy Central series ever, "Strangers With Candy" should rate at the top of your must-see list. Sure, the series was made back in 1999, with a jacked-up Amy Sedaris in the lead role of washed-up junkie whore Jerri Blank, returning to Flatpoint High School at age 46 for a fresh start. But in my book, it’s still the best show that’s ever been made. Ever.
A young Stephen Colbert stars as Blank’s history teacher, Chuck Noblet with a curly-haired Paul Dinello as his secret gay lover, Geoffrey Jellineck. The series was created by the three actors as a twisted tribute to those after-school specials they used to air in the ’70s, and a film called "The Trip Back," featuring motivational speaker and former stripper Florrie Fisher. It is hilarious, and so, so wrong. Jerri Blank is a lech who is just as apt to put the moves on coppertop cutie Tammi Littlenut ("does the carpet match the drapes?") as the tight-bunned badass on the wrestling team. She is completely devoid of any redeeming qualities, and completely hilarious.
The show only lasted three seasons, but it spawned a 2006 feature film and launched the career of Colbert, who is currently the funniest man to be found on network TV. As Jerri would put it, "it makes me damp as a cellar down there... all mildewey."
"Mario Kart 8"
JSA: OK "Mario Kart 8" for Nintendo’s Wii U only came out on May 30 but for the last few days I’m pretty sure I logged 15-hours of play time. The video game isn’t much different from the other seven versions (even the 1992 original "Super Mario Kart" for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System), but it once again proves to be one of the most addicting games in the Mario franchise.
On its latest installment, the game’s graphics are super-ramped up as each course is extremity detailed; there is glare when you pass under the sun, water remnants slink down the screen after driving out of the water and when you’re on the infamous Rainbow Road, in outer space no less, the stars shimmer. It’s a beautiful video game to look at, thanks to HD graphics, and actually rivals blockbuster movies.
As far as gameplay, Mario and the gang are all there to battle it out for first place. You can choose from 30 characters, the biggest selection of all Mario Kart games, including Princess Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Metal Mario and your self-created Mii character. The game also features anti-gravity racing, literally turning everything upside-down, which makes the races even more of an adrenaline rush. You can race online, which allows users to face off against friends or random people from around the world. Finally, players can upload races to YouTube to share with the Internet.
"Mario Kart 8" may be the game that saves the Wii U.
Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator
MW: Another skin treatment system to hit the market comes from one of my favorite grooming brands, Kiehl’s. The old-world apothecary has been around 160-years, yet they continue to develop targeted products to stay with the times. This summer Kiehl’s has launched Oil Eliminator, a three-step regime perfect for the summer months. The key to the system is Aerolite, an advanced material based on the science of aerogel, which has been used in space exploration. It’s the lightest solid material on earth and can absorb four times its own weight in oil. That’s a lot of late-night burger binges. The system includes deep cleansing exfoliating face wash, shine control toner and 24-hour anti-shine moisturizer. In addition to the space age technology, the formulas also rely on natural ingredients like crushed apricot seeds in the exfoliating wash and Totara wood extract in the moisturizer to help reduce pores. Available online or at Kiehl’s stores and retailers nationwide.
BN: Wish there was an app where you could post exactly what you think anonymously? https://www.secret.ly|Check out Secret.
According to the app’s website, it aims to give users a new way to share what you’re thinking and feeling with your friends, or just put a secret out there. Which means you can pine for an ex, complain about a current mate, make a random judgment or express your inner-most thoughts. Whatever, it’s addictive.
It also, according to the Daily Beast, found a special niche in the Washington D.C. LGBT community. The article, by Scott Bixby, describes how the geographically-based-app has taken on a different "flavors" in different cities. "San Francisco’s Secret feed has been a tool for tech reporters eager for crumbs of insider information on Silicon Valley startups. In New York, the app caters to sexy confessionals. In D.C., Secret has revealed the inner Gossip Girl of America’s most buttoned-up/insecure city. In the words of one legislative aide, ’It’s JuicyCampus for people with disposable incomes and small dicks.’
"For those who don’t count themselves among Washington’s gay cognoscenti-loosely defined on Secret as members of the local gay kickball league and residents of the 14th Street NW corridor-scrolling through a feed of boastful posts about having sex with every membership consultant at gay-gym-in-all-but-name VIDA is about as titillating as reading a bathroom stall in a truck stop: ’For a good time, call Aaron Schock.’"
The app has its critics, as Bixby points out: "But in Washington’s tight-knit (read: claustrophobic) gay community, Secret is the social equivalent of a bull in a china shop. ’For a town that loves to talk about how much they support the Trevor Project, they sure do like to cyberbully,’ said the legislative aide. ’That fucking app made me lose faith in humanity.’"
But it is addictive and leaves you wondering... for instance, is the man saying he’s out but ashamed of being gay that guy you dated last year then mysteriously went back in the closet? Or just who is that person rumored to have an STD that’s just 0.3 miles away from me? The app prompts you to be kind in your comments... really? It would better be called Faceless Book, but it does make for some diverting reading.
Neil Patrick Harris in ’Hedwig & The Angry Inch’
WM: At this point in modern history, I challenge you to find anyone who isn’t going nuts about Neil Patrick Harris’ role as Hedwig on Broadway. The show, glammed up and turned into a technicolor rock extravaganza, has taken over the Great White Way, and Patrick dominates in the lead role of an East German singer with a botched sex change operation who finds herself living in Kansas after her big chocolate soldier leaves her for a younger man.
The songs are amazing, the outfits are stunning and the wigs are spectacular. But above all is Patrick, excelling in a role that uses every tool in his actors’ kit, calling upon him to be equal parts saucy and imposing, relatable and otherworldly, comedic and touchingly dramatic. No shit; I actually cried fat rolling tears toward the end of the show. He struts and ruts, squats and humps, sings and dances and literally climbs the walls to tell this touching story that John Cameron Mitchell first brought to life in the late ’90s. And he does it all with lan, bantering with the audience, equal parts lovable and lewd.
His charming grin beams out from every other subway ad, eyelids covered with glitter, the tip of his tongue saucily licking his lips. I had the luck to be seated next to NPH and his pals during a showing of "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812" last fall. My heart fluttered, and I squeaked out, "OMG, NPH!" He smiled... and quickly moved to sit next to my wife, instead. Rather than take it personally, it made me like him even more.
Can we all just agree, for the well-being of our very nation, that all future awards shows of merit be hosted by NPH?
Louis C.K. - "Louie"
JSA: I finally gave in and watched "Louie" this month -- a show I knew I would probably like but put off watching for no apparent reason at all. Comedian Louis C.K created the Emmy Award-winning FX show, which first premiered in 2010. I’m about four years late but I blew through the first season in just a few days. It blends the observational comedy of "Seinfeld," the absurdity of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the edginess of "Family Guy" and the surrealism of "The Simpsons" into easy-to-digest 20-minute episodes and vignettes.
Not realizing the heaviness of topics C.K. explores (death, depression, loneliness, religion), I found myself sucked in but left the show feeling down in the dumps. It’s strangely addicting though; it’s sad, funny and pretty gay: About 10-minutes of the second episode are dedicated to the use of the word "fag" and its origins, which actually ends up being very touching. In another episode, a jokester doctor (played by Ricky Gervais) gives Louie an impromptu rectal exam, which is really just an excuse for Louie to get fingered. Louie’s mother comes out as lesbian in one episode while in another it’s implied Louie is sexually violated by a dentist who puts him under. The gayness continues when an older police officer asks Louie to kiss him on the lips after saving his life.
It’s easy to see why some would find Louie’s gay themes offensive but from where I’m standing, C.K. is doing an honest job of exploring sexuality from a straight white male cis perspective in a funny and strange way.