With PAX West just around the corner, I’m giddy! For the first time ever, we’re attending with our entire D&D group, and we’re not messing around. For a few members of our tribe, it’s their first time visiting Seattle, so we can’t wait to show them the city.

For Jeff and I, this will be our fourth PAX West, and we’ve visited Seattle for other occasions. It’s one of our favorite places, and one of our best friends lives there. (Hi, Jack!) So, we’ve had many a fine drink in this beautiful city, and I wanted to share some of our favorite spots. Cheers!

Best Selection: Canon

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Canon inhabits a teeny-tiny, cozy space, and it’s usually packed to the brim for a reason. It routinely pops up on “best of” lists, and it boasts America’s largest selection of spirits with over 4,000 labels and counting. When I walked into this shoebox, I wondered if it was worth the hype (and wait). But I’m so glad I stuck around.

The whiskey selection floored me, and the cocktails will elevate you to a new level of being. If the cocktails aren’t mind-blowing enough on their own, you’ll be impressed by the unique presentations like you see in the photos above with the Banksy Sour and tasteful skull chalice. If you can brave the wait, put this place at the top of your list.

Best Patio: Fremont Brewing Co

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Visit Fremont Brewing Company for a laid-back brew hall. Sit with strangers at long tables while you enjoy beer on the lovely patio. You also get all-you-can eat free hard pretzels. You’ll need ’em until you journey somewhere with more substantial food.

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Sharon Tate Margot Robbie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

While Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has been generally positively reviewed, its portrayal of Sharon Tate remains controversial. Some have criticized the film for Tate’s minimal dialogue, with one critic saying, “Tarantino’s portrayal of Tate as a lifeless doll is proof he has lost his touch.” Another critic says, “The film reduces Tate to a mute sex object and bit player within her own story.” If someone only views the film through the lens of whether Tate pushes the plot forward, I could see how someone might draw these conclusions. However, the film’s nontraditional plot consists of small character moments that don’t necessarily impact the unexpected finale.

Personally, I take issue that a woman in a short skirt with minimal dialogue is automatically categorized as a sex object—especially when there’s extensive evidence of character depth. Despite the biting reviews and Tate’s few lines, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood depicts Sharon Tate as a whole person, rather than reducing her to a victim or object, as illustrated in her slice-of-life story and non-dialogue-driven characterization. The film challenges the viewer’s expectations. In particular, it challenges viewer assumptions about Tate’s role as victim in a gruesome murder that ultimately eclipsed her career, accomplishments, and personhood.

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We first hear the catchy tune “I Got 5 on It” on the radio as the Wilsons drive to their vacation home. From the backseat Jason asks, “What does ‘I got five on it’ mean?” and his sister Zora replies, “It’s about drugs.” Their father chimes in, “It’s not about drugs. It’s a dope song. Don’t do drugs.”

At first, the song seems to serve as an excuse for a humorous exchange. But variations of “I Got 5 on It” play several times throughout Us, often taking on a haunting sound. While the song is indeed about weed, more importantly, it’s about not sharing it for free.

The lyrics by Luniz say,

No, he ain’t my homie to begin with,
It’s too many heads to be proper to let my friend hit it
Unless you pull out the fat, crispy
5 dollar bill on the real before it’s history
‘Cause fools be having them vacuum lungs
An if you let em hit it for free you hella dum-da-dum-dumb

In other words, the song is about getting paid. It suggests you shouldn’t let your friends hit a joint for free. If you do, you’re being taken advantage of because you’re all in the same “low budget” lifestyle trying to get by, so you can’t afford to be charitable. It’s a micro-exchange that creates “haves” and “have-nots.”

Us illustrates the horror we participate in: the shallow notion that greed can be good and the self-centered idea that you can buy happiness. This message is the true horror of Us: that we’re all so busy trying to take care of ourselves, to show our status of wealth, and to keep up with the Joneses that we neglect others. We’re so caught up in the shiny promise of the American Dream and trying to get ahead, that we forget to be grateful for what we have.

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From its promotional materials, I assumed Little Nightmares would be a cute, perhaps even quaint game—maybe something tonally along the lines of a creepier Little Big Planet or a Tim Burton film. Just a few minutes into the game, I realized I had it all wrong, and I’m so glad. Honestly, Little Nightmares is unlike anything I’ve played before, so it’s difficult to throw around comparisons. You seriously need to experience it for yourself. Here’s what you’ll love about it:

1. Mechanics

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The gameplay is intuitive. You’re not torn out of the game by tutorials or prompts. You’re dumped into a dark world, alone to figure things out through trial and error. This is gameplay mechanics as they should be. I don’t need a map of the controller to remind me what all the buttons do, and I don’t need to customize any cumbersome in-screen dashboards. (I’m looking at you Breath of the Wild. I love you, but OMG. Chill.) Little Nightmares is clean, with nothing on the screen to distract you from the story, along with natural-feeling controls.

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In the last few years, I’ve been blown away by all the comics centered on female friendship. It’s not something that’s to be taken for granted. Of course, I’m still a die-hard Buffy fan, but it’s hard to recommend those comics to people because you have to 1) watch the show and 2) commit to catching up on 95 single-issues. That doesn’t even count the specials and spin-offs.

So, the books listed below are not like that at all. They’re short, accessible, and easy to dive into. There’s no rabbit hole of backstory to catch up on or multiverses to disentangle. All these titles make for great summer reads to pick up and love right away.

1. Paper Girls

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Started in 2016, Paper Girls is hands-down one of my favorite current comics. That shouldn’t be a surprise, since the writer, Brian K. Vaughan, also pens Saga. Paper Girls starts as a straightforward story about adolescent girls delivering newspapers in their small town, and ends up in a place with aliens, time travel, and monsters. I love it so hard. You can pick up the two completed trades and quickly catch up on the current story.

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night in the woods

Years ago, I played a game demo at the Pop Culture Museum. It included a scene with a talking cat and a fox who get sugar-high off donuts until their paws shake and they swear they can see through space and time. I was sold.

I had to wait an agonizing couple of years before Night in the Woods was complete. I bought this beauty the day it came out, and I tried to savor it, but I finished the game in a week. Here are just a few reasons to love it:

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As much as I love all horror with reckless abandon, women in the genre often fall into clear-cut tropes: the whore, the virgin, the Final Girl. However, we’re starting to see women slip into more sophisticated and complex horror roles. Do yourself a favor and add these films to your watch list, and be in awe of some of horror’s best badass women.

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