Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year-End Mashup


My friend B. posted the above on his Facebook page, with his opinion that 2008 was a bad year for pop music. While I also have extreme Rihanna/T. Pain/Leona Lewis fatigue, I've been out of the record industry's coveted demographic for eons. Besides, I legally downloaded some fine singles in 2008, and one of my favorite albums of the year, Coldplay's gorgeous "Viva La Vida," landed on a lot of critics' best-of lists. As a longtime Tom Petty fan, I'm looking forward to hearing that Mudcrutch CD. B.'s kids own the Jonas Brothers' "A Little Bit Longer," which was cranked to Wembley Arena levels one evening. And you know what? It was pretty damned good — very Cheap Trick, as Entertainment Weekly noted. This is a long way of saying that the music of 2008 didn't suck any more than the music of 2007, and it certainly had its bright spots. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Comic (Re)discovery: 'Fast Willie Jackson'


I'm happy to report that every member of my household now "reads" (quote marks are for our 4-year-old) at least one comic book a month. But reading Betty & Veronica comics to C. left me with a nagging question: Why, after all these years, do Chuck and Nancy appear to be the only black kids at Riverdale High School? (Valerie of Josie & the Pussycats doesn't count, because she is a resident of neighboring Midvale. I'm just saying.)

While I don't remember much about the shenanigans of Willie and his friends, I recall quickly losing interest — maybe because no one in my family used phrases like "Can you dig it?" or dressed like a pimp. I must have sensed that it was knockoff, one certainly not approved by Fawcett Publications. (Then again, I read Spire's Christian-themed Archie books, so I had a pretty high tolerance for sketchy comics concepts.)

Given the iron grip of the Archie brand at that time and "Fast Willie's" apparent over-emphasis on jive-talking, it's not surprising that it only lasted for a few issues. In any case, it did bring some diversity to a monochromatic corner of the comics world. It also serves as a reminder of how much can change in 30 years. Despite Chuck and Nancy's token status, I doubt Archie Comics would have them speaking in outdated slang or turning Dilton on to the new Jeezy CD.

Read a more authoritative analysis of Willie & Co. here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good Read: 'Revolutionary Road'


I just read "Revolutionary Road," (1961) which is as beautifully written as it is draining. In other words, very. Richard Yates' novel about a young married couple in the 1950s is difficult stuff, and anyone who has been married for a few years will find some of his themes uncomfortably close to home. Even if your marriage is good, it probably requires far more compromise and work than you imagined - especially if you have children. There's a reason that this book holds up almost 50 years later.

April and Frank Wheeler are not sympathetic characters, and yet, I felt great compassion for both of them at certain times. Trapped by circumstances and limited (by 2008 standards) options, they're both struggling with the disconnect between the life they imagined and the one they actually have. Suffice to say that they do not handle the creeping despair well. Grasping at a vague idea of manhood, Frank indulges in alcohol and young women in the office typing pool. April is either emotionally distant or radioactive with contempt. The ending? Crushing. When I finished the book on the way back from Atlanta, the look on my face prompted my husband to say, "That bad?"

The above may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but "Revolutionary Road" is a lyrical masterpiece - that rare book that I want to re-read. As soon as I recover.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Welcome, Brando


One of the nicer Christmas gifts this year was our new Ragdoll cat, Brando. Like the young Marlon Brando, Ragdoll cats are known for their great beauty. They also get bigger and fluffier over time (up to 20 pounds), as did the late, great actor. So the name is perfect.

It is no small thing that my son loves this cat. He is, to put it mildly, not a cat lover. Yet, he gets a kick out of playing with Brando, cuddling with him and generally enjoying his 6-month-old cat antics. Last night, he actually got upset that the cat didn't seem inclined to sleep in his room.

Like all Ragdolls, blue-eyed Brando has a sweet disposition. He is friendly without being annoying, and dignified without being haughty. He's a keeper.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tut Tut

Since my father-in-law and his wife live in downtown Atlanta, we're always within walking distance of a concert or an exhibit when we visit. On Monday, we went to see the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the civic center, and it was fantastic. I remember what a big deal it was when the King Tut artifacts came to the U.S. in the 1970s, so we dragged our less-than-stoked children across the street to check it out. Most memorable was a tiny bed, mostly intact, that the Boy King slept in. I don't particularly enjoy thinking about my own mortality, but there is no getting past it when you're looking at the belongings of a long dead pharoah.

Like most of the boys his age who were wandering around, my 8-year-old was more impressed by the fact that Harrison Ford was the voice of the audio tour. At one point, he actually said that he'd rather be watching the Crystal Skull, an Indiana Jones movie that he hasn't even seen. I figure that he'll thank us one day for taking him to museum exhibits against his will. One day.

The exhibit ended in front of an awe-inspiring statue that used to stand some 17 feet tall, and then we were dumped into the gift shop. That's fine, but after gazing at ancient statuary, jewelry and other artifacts, I wasn't prepared to see this ...


Or this ...


There were King Tut baseballs, "Mummy Mints," neckties and "Tutlanta" t-shirts. Yes, Tutlanta.

I wonder what the High Museum will have in the gift shop when we see this exhibit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Road Trip, With Children

After four and a half hours in the car, with many (many) bathroom breaks along the way, we made it to Atlanta without anyone being tossed out of our moving vehicle. Somewhere between Tifton and Macon, I wasn't sure it would be possible.

How did my mother take three children - me, my brother and sister - on road trips without killing any of us? Could we have been as petty, argumentative and just plain annoying as my children were after about 90 minutes in the back seat? I know the answer is yes, and I ought to call her right now to apologize.

It's partly our fault - that is, mine and my husband's. We didn't bother charging up the portable DVD player, figuring that some books and a fully juiced iPod would keep them sane. That was wildly optimistic. Books? Why read when you can beg to hear "S.O.S." again? Once boredom set in, our daughter decided to test how far she could stretch her arm without actually touching our son, which, of course, pissed him off. Eight-year-olds aren't known for taking the high road, so after about 10 minutes of this, he swatted her a little harder than he needed to. Which led to howling and shouts of recrimination. Which led to parental threats to "pull this car over and make someone VERY sorry." There's a reason this scenario is a cliche.

People my age are fond of saying that children don't need to be distracted from the journey of travel, and that "we managed just fine without movies on the road." Yeah, but we "managed" because the technology didn't exist. Sometime in the mid-'80s, I finally got a Walkman, which I used to drown out my much-younger siblings' prattle and my mother's gospel sing-a-longs with my Aunt M. They are lovely singers, but back then, I just wanted to hear lots of Wham!

Anyway, we made it. Now all we have to do is drive back.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Barbie + Comics = Almost Perfect


Mattel's new line of DC-inspired Barbie dolls combines two of my favorite things: Comic book super-heroines and Barbie Millicent Rogers. When I saw the Black Canary doll in a Toys R Us recently, I had to admire it on the shelf and just walk away. I was shopping for the kids at the time, and $49 is a lot of money when you're paying preschool tuition, soccer fees, etc.

But what bummed me out more than my financial limitations was the realization that DC doesn't have any major African-American female characters. Vixen doesn't count. A fashion model who channels animal powers from a magic totem? Seriously? I tried to get into the current six-part "Return of the Lion" series and almost fell asleep. It's cool that DC tapped ex-cop Renee Montoya, a gay Latina, as The Question, but that isn't exactly a marquee character. Besides, she doesn't have a Barbie doll modeled after her!

While I stand by my opinion that Beyonce should not play Wonder Woman on the big screen, she made a good point about it being time for a major, nonwhite superheroine. I wish that Halle Berry had made a stronger impression as Storm, because she might have gotten more mileage out of the role.

Maybe I'll buy the Supergirl doll and put the outfit on one of my daughter's brown Barbies. They must have had some black and biracial people on Krypton.

Best Toy(s) Ever: Flip Wilson/Geraldine Talking Doll



Fourth in a series
The late Flip Wilson was the first cross-dresser I saw on TV. Wilson was the host of a popular variety show in the 1970s, and the best part of his act was his sassy, hair-flipping alter-ego, Geraldine. Naturally, this had to be put in (talking) plush doll form. On one side, you had the natty Flip. Turn the doll over, and you had Geraldine. But the real fun didn't start until you pulled the string to hear phrases like, "What you see is what you get, honey!" I pulled the string so much that it broke.

The Flip/Geraldine doll taught tolerance while annoying the living hell out of parents nationwide. Can any toy from the '80s make that claim? I think not.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Toy(s) Ever: Weebles

Third in a series
To appreciate the genius of Weebles, you need to know only one thing: They wobble, but they don't fall down. Maybe you couldn't get the damned Slinky to walk down the stairs or make Farrah roll on her little plastic skateboard, but Weebles were idiot-proof. The perfect toy. I'm guessing that many '70s stoner teens amused themselves with their younger siblings' Weeble sets.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ultimate Shout-Out


As a longtime DC Comics loyalist, I'm a little surprised that my favorite monthly comic of late is a Marvel imprint. I ignored "Ultimate Spider-Man" when my husband started getting it a couple of years ago, and now I'm totally hooked on it. I think it's that rare comic that would appeal to non-geeks, or people who haven't entered a comic shop in years, or ever.

Penned by Brian Michael Bendis, USM is a modern retelling of the classic Spidey story, which takes place during Peter Parker's high school years. Bendis clearly remembers what it's like to be a teenager — all that angst and self-doubt, plus the burden of being a superhero with a secret identity. A lot of bad stuff happens to Peter, which is part of what makes him such a sympathetic character: He's lost his beloved Uncle Ben. His Aunt Mae has serious cash flow problems. His friends sometimes wind up dead or overtaken by monstrous, alien symbiotes. Few people, including the cops, appreciate his masked crusade against crime. The one bright light is his romance with Mary Jane Watson, and even that comes with all kinds of adolescent drama.

First, the action. The recent storyline with Venom is one of the most chilling things I've seen in comics in a while. Peter's onetime friend, Eddie Brock, is literally consumed by this monstrosity, and he needs human flesh the way junkies need a heroin hit. One comic in this arc opens with Eddie talking to a series of strangers on a park bench, and it isn't until the end of the book that we realize he's been eating them, one by one. Don't buy this for the kids.

Of course, the action would be meaningless if I didn't care about the characters. Bendis writes Peter and Mary Jane's relationship with tenderness, and in a way that seems true to their age. In the most recent Annual, for example, he managed to make me care about a familiar fork in the road of teen relationships: Like, since they were in love and stuff, should they do it? Normally, I'd have fled from this kind of After School Special storyline, but Bendis not only presented it well, but also resolved it in a sweet and unexpected way. (However, I could have done without learning they're only 15, which made me a tiny bit queasy.)

I'd be remiss not to mention Bendis' longtime collaborator, artist Mark Bagley, who departed after Issue No. 111 — an almost 7-year run. His successor, Stuart Immonen, has turned out to be a fantastic choice, IMHO. Pick it up.

Best Toy(s) Ever: Growing Up Skipper Doll

Part two of a series
The Growing Up Skipper Doll is one of those toys that has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, I didn't keep mine, and it is now an expensive collector's item. I'm so glad there is proof of its existence on YouTube, because my husband once doubted the veracity of my claim. Here's how it worked: When you got tired of flat-chested, tween Skipper, you just wound her arm in a circle and — Bam! — instant, pop-out boobs and a little extra height. I was only 7 at the time, so I was completely unaware that this doll was controversial. I'll have to ask my mom what she remembers about it, and what convinced her to buy me this cockamamie (but totally awesome) plaything.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Best Toy(s) Ever: Mego's Wonder Woman Doll

Part one of a series
Now that the millennials are all over the place, we're seeing a surge in nostalgia for '80s toys. Transformers. Smurfs. Lame. Everybody knows that the '70s were the best years for toys. There is no room for debate about this.

With Christmas approaching, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to the most awesome toys of my youth. My kids are all about the Wii and High School Musical crap, but they will never know the joys of items like the Mego Wonder Woman/Diana Prince doll. I played for hours with this thing, and I contend that it kicks Polly Pockets' ass.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Deele (sic)-Breaker

Having witty friends makes Facebook a joy. My friend B. recently dedicated his status to his intolerance of singers who pronounce angel "ain-GEL. Think Steve Tyler, Juice Newton, etc. This led to a discussion of other pronunciation tics that can ruin an otherwise good song.

"Exscape" and "Ecstablish" are not words, but they have cropped up in many a song. While R. Kelly's "Real Talk" is unacceptable for a number of reasons, the deal-breaker was the line: "The only thing I'm trying to ecstablish with you is not who's right or who's wrong."

But no vocal sin is worse than a singer saying "witchoo" instead of "with you." Back in the late '80s, Babyface sang in an R&B outfit called The Deele (yes, it was spelled that way), which had a hit with "Two Occasions." It would have been a perfectly respectable ballad if not for the offense contained in the refrain:

I only think of you on two occasions
That's day and night
I'd go for broke if I could be witchoo
Only you can make it right

No, Babyface. Only YOU can make it right by issuing a public apology.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Think Barack Wants To See Other People


At first he used to e-mail me every day, sometimes twice a day. While he never used the L word, he told me he needed me. Repeatedly. But now that he's gotten my vote, Barack's acting all distant. No more late-night infomercials and soul-stirring monologues; just a quick shout-out here and there, which is the presidential equivalent of "I'll call you." I know he's busy appointing Cabinet members and looking for a hypoallergenic dog, but I feel like the 11th grade girl who's being left behind by her Harvard college freshman boyfriend. I'm even still wearing the T-shirt, like a varsity jacket.

I hope it's not too awkward at the inauguration.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fun With My Children's Toys

Before my daughter launched Barbie Theater, she played with the cute little "My First Dollhouse" family from Fisher Price. Frankly, the first family was pretty boring, and the dialogue needed work. We were potty training at the time, so they were on the little plastic toilet a lot.

She happened to have a little Dora the Explorer grocery store set, too, and since Dora was roughly the same size as the first family, she visited often. When C. wasn't looking, I couldn't resist mixing things up a little. I decided that Dora was trouble, and that Dad was a lying bastard. I should mention that this was around the time R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" had become a pop culture sensation.

I'm particularly proud of the wronged woman's "Oh HELL no!" expression in the first frame.


I don't really have as much time on my hands as this suggests.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bad News All Over

Because so many of my friends are current or former newspaper journalists, every other conversation I've had lately contains the word "layoff." Things have been bad for a while now, but now they're really bad. When I was in the D.C. area two weekends ago, I talked to a friend who had just been to a going-away party for his former colleagues at the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. That paper has cut 40 percent — four, zero — of its newsroom staff. The bad news hit close to home this week, as the Tallahassee Democrat reported it had let 16 staffers go. Yesterday, a friend at the Cleveland Plain Dealer sent an e-mail saying her paper had just laid off 27 people, though she was safe for the time being.

This should be obvious, but a vital press is so important to our society. I am a fan of many good blogs and online information sources, but Gawker is not going to tell you if your school system is hiring uncertified teachers or if a county commissioner is greasing the wheels for a lover's rezoning request. It's not going to tell you what up-and-coming local band is playing this weekend, or if a beloved community outreach program is shutting down for lack of money. The New York Times can tell me what's happening in the Kinshasa, but it probably isn't going to tell me what the water management district is doing. That's a job for the local press.

That's why it's so galling to see the statements from newspaper publishers saying they're going to "continue providing high-quality news and information for our readers." Newspapers have been pretty lean and mean for a while now. Please don't tell me that gutting your staff isn't going to hurt your ability to put out a decent newspaper. That's just insulting, and no one believes it anyway.

While some of the comments about this on Tallahassee.com are mean-spirited and unfair to the good people who are still at the paper, there are some thoughtful posts about the value of local journalism. At least some readers are concerned, and rightfully so.

Times are hard everywhere. I hope someone comes up with a business model that works, and soon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Valley Of The Dolls

One of my favorite things to do lately is to eavesdrop on my daughter while she plays with her Barbies. It's increasingly apparent that C.'s toybox is a cauldron of melodrama that would put "The Hills" to shame.

I got roped into a round of Barbie Theater this evening, and here is what went down: There are three main players, all female, who appear to be related and living under one roof. There are many, many arguments over dresses, territory and household responsibilities. The Alpha Barbie was naked for some reason, so I created a makeshift, one-shoulder dress out of a black knee-high. I thought the look was very Donna Karan, but the dress was immediately deemed "kind of stupid." C. insisted that this wasn't her opinion; she was merely serving as the voice of Alpha Barbie's disapproving (and passive-aggressive) sister. She conveyed this information with a straight face.

Shortly thereafter, the lone Ken doll entered the picture. When I asked C. why his shirt was missing, she said it was because "he is working out." I should point out that Ken was also clad in purple knickers and draped in gold, plastic beads. (My daughter has not yet figured out that a pretty male doll who likes to work out while wearing beads is not interested in dating Barbie, not that there's anything wrong with that.) Alpha Barbie then proceeded to depart on a date with Ken, but not before taking a parting shot at the left-behind Barbies as "losers." More squabbling. Finally, mercifully, Ken was ditched and the three Barbies declared a truce over imaginary pancakes.

I, for one, am emotionally drained.

Friday, November 28, 2008

This Song Is Hater-Proof

I stopped taking "American Idol" seriously years ago, so until very recently, I couldn't have picked teen runner-up David Archuleta out of a lineup. I'm still not certain I could immediately tell him apart from winner David Cook. That being said, Archuleta's current hit song, "Crush," has lodged itself in brain and will not leave. It's the musical equivalent of cotton candy: sweet, light as air, and utterly addictive. I think it scared my husband a little that I not only paid a whole 99 cents to download the song, but also memorized the lyrics in record time.

And what lyrics! Do you catch your breath/When I look at you/Are you holding back/Like the way I do/'Cuz I've tried and tried to walk away/But I know this crush ain't going away-ay-ay-ayyyyeah ... Poetry!

The nice thing about being my age is that I don't have to pretend not to dig this song. There is a time and a place for the many excellent, critic-approved artists populating my iPod, and there is a time and a place for songs like "Crush." So make room, Nick Lowe. David Archuleta's moving in.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comedy Find Of The Week

Based solely on this MadTV sketch, comedian Anjelah Johnson deserves to be twice as famous as Dane Cook (Does anyone think he's funny? Anyone?). "I've had better days, Bon Qui Qui," is officially my new favorite quote.

Watch more Dailymotion videos on AOL Video

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Is The Point Of A Blog?

Reading this post from career blogger Penelope Trunk made me feel like a gigantic slacker. She's talking about "blogging from the edge" and "generating traffic," and it's just exhausting. I should point out that she also makes six figures from her blog.

I have no interest in generating income or buzz from what is essentially an outlet for my ADD. I haven't even told all of my friends about my blog's existence. The writing I do for work is very specific, so I thought blogging would be a fun way to keep the creative juices flowing. I have no delusions of a book deal or a sit-down with Jon Stewart. I will never be blog-famous like Trunk or Heather Armstrong, and I'm cool with that. Mostly.

I'm just curious about what others think about the nature of blogging, and if goal-setting should be part of the formula. My only goal is to be coherent and to spell the words correctly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Wisdom Of Kanye


“Anyone who says they are happy single is lying. I think you can only be happy in love. So I’m still looking. I wanna have kids, but I want the right girl. I like sex but I like fashion too. How many girls have a hot body and great fashion sense too?”
- Kanye West


You know how you know someone is a tool, but you keep giving them a pass because they're talented/amusing/interesting? That's been my attitude toward Kanye West. He has a habit of saying stupid, self-aggrandizing things, but on the other hand, he wrote "Jesus Walks!" Musically, at least, he seems to have his wits about him. And unlike Diddy, he did not subject the world to Danity Kane.

But Kanye's latest commentary on life and love is too ridiculous to ignore. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that there are plenty of happy single people. God knows there are plenty of miserable people in relationships. And can someone explain what sex has to do with fashion? Is he saying that he won't sire children with a woman who is hot but shops at Sears? What about a woman with an amazing wardrobe but so-so abs? Would that be settling? See how it makes your head hurt just thinking about it?

Love On The Rocks, Ain't No Surprise


This is what happens when your children's pop culture interests invade your household: You find yourself not only caring about whether Joe Jonas cheated on Taylor Swift, but also taking a side. And I know it's not just me, because my friend and fellow mom, S., had this to say: "Good for him. She's trashy." Meanwhile, my friend L. is firmly on Team Taylor: "He broke up with the girl on the phone in less than 40 seconds!!!!!"

Last week, I came across country singer Swift's scathingly funny remarks about her ex, whom she accused of cheating and dumping her via cell phone. On her MySpace page, she used a Joe Jonas doll as a prop: "Look! This one comes with a phone. So he can break up with other dolls!" Oh, damn.

Bummed about the allegations, Joe recently took to MySpace to assure his fans that he hadn't been unfaithful and that he wasn't the one who ended the phone call. He even got all philosophical: "Maybe there were reasons for a breakup. Maybe the heart moved on." The post has mysteriously disappeared.

I can't believe I have spent more than five minutes thinking about this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Laugh Of The Day

Why isn't this Beyonce's real "Single Ladies" video?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Everyone's A Critic

OK, so it appears that I am the only person who liked "Batman: Cacophony." This roundup of opinions from Every Day Is Like Wednesday puts the overall review somewhere between "Awful" and "Steaming pile of camel poo."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Comic of the Week: "Batman - Cacophony"


I like Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy"). I like Batman. Put them together, and you have "Batman: Cacophony," a three-part miniseries that gets off to a crackling start with issue No. 1. A few people have complained that the dialogue is a smidge too cute, but I got a kick out of it - particularly the opening exchange between the Joker and Deadshot in Arkham Asylum. There's a sitcom-y bounce to the whole thing, which is interesting considering that Deadshot has broken into the nuthouse to shoot the Joker at point-blank range. At a discount, no less.

Obviously, the Joker does not meet his doom. Instead, he is sprung from the joint by a cryptic badass named Onomatopoeia, and - how to put this? - at one point, the Joker appears to be offering the guy a quickie up against a tree. Trust me; it's funny. But just when I'd settled in for more hijinks, Smith threw in an extremely disturbing couple of panels featuring the villain Mr. Zsaz, who is, to put it mildly, a cutter. He's also insane, even by Gotham City standards. Enter Batman, and not a moment too soon. Just to reiterate: This is not one for the kids.

Of the three comics I bought this week, including "Nightwing" and "JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman," this was easily the most well done. The artwork by Walter Flanagan is quite good, and as things usually do with the Joker, the first issue ends with a bang. Clearly, this has nothing to do with "Batman: R.I.P" or "Final Crisis," which is probably why I enjoyed it.

As for that JSA special, can I just say that I am over the mopey, alternate-world Superman? He seems like a nice guy, but how many more pages is D.C. going to devote to him bitching about the destruction of his Earth, the loss of alternate-Lois and blah, blah, blabbity blah? Move on! Even the minister he consults seems to be thinking, "How long is this gonna take? I have a Meals on Wheels in an hour." The art is gorgeous, but I'd expect nothing less from writer/illustrator Alex Ross.

If You Haven't Read It ...


Go out and get the Nov. 17 issue of Newsweek, which does a 360-degree analysis of the 2008 presidential campaign and, of course, President-Elect Obama's victory. Even if you didn't vote for him, the magazine is worth getting for the sheer amount of campaign dish. (Notice I said "get" as opposed to "read online." I'm trying to do my bit for the struggling print industry.)

Among the highlights so far:

1. Referring to former President Bill Clinton, a Hillary Clinton aide referred to a friend's private plane as "Air F*** One."

2. Before his presidential run, Obama once broke down in tears while telling a friend how much he regretted being away from his family during his Senate campaign.

3. Remembering how they'd slimed John McCain in 2000, Cindy McCain disdainfully referred to some of her husband's advisors as "those Bush people."

4. While Hillary Clinton answered a reporter's question about why voters didn't see her as particularly likeable, Obama quipped from the sidelines, "You're likeable enough, Hillary."

5. Obama was so distracted during a pre-primary debate that John Edwards scolded him, "You've got to focus!"

6. Hillary hung up on her advisors during a conference call, after her plea for "insight" and "suggestions" met with silence.

7. Obama didn't eat much of the rich food (pancakes, sausage dogs, burgers) on the road. He'd take one bite of a French fry and get the rest "to go," though reporters never once saw him eat the leftovers.

8. When Edward Kennedy chided Bill Clinton for making disparaging remarks about Obama, Clinton responded, "They started it."

9. At Coretta Scott King's funeral, Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F., whispered to Obama, "The torch has been passed to you." No pressure.

10. Despite the claim that the press was in love with Obama, many reporters disliked him early on because he was aloof and too scripted. McCain, on the other hand, missed the friendly relationship he had wiith reporters during his "Straight Talk Express" days.

11. Because of his self-restraint, the 44th president came to be known among his campaign staff as "No Drama Obama."

12. (My personal favorite) Asked if she'd stab Karl Rove in the back if he walked past, Cindy McCain said, "No. I'd stab him in the front."

Struggling With 'Watchmen'


Am I allowed to say that I am having issues with "Watchmen?" As in, I don't like it that much?

Saying you dislike "Watchmen" is almost blasphemous for a geek, considering that the graphic novel has been called the best of its genre, ever. I certainly understand the historical and literary importance of "Watchmen." It's easy to see how Alan Moore's opus broke all kinds of new ground and inspired a style that comic lovers take for granted now. Had I read it back in college, I'm sure it would have blown me away.

But having read so many fresher (and frankly, better) comics and graphic novels first, I'm having a hard time appreciating "Watchmen" on its own merits. I'm about halfway through a borrowed copy, and the only character I give a hoot about is Dr. Manhattan, who gains superhuman powers after accidentally having his atoms rearranged in a nuclear physics experiment. I am extremely annoyed by the whiny, two-dimensional female characters, particularly the second Silk Spectre. As several friends have pointed out, her only function appears to be servicing Dr. Manhattan — and she can't even do that without being tiresome.

Under normal circumstances, I'd say life's too short to slog through a so-so book you don't have to read. But since this is a classic — a geek classic — I feel obligated to see it through, and I've even given myself a Thanksgiving deadline. At least then, I'll be able to offer a more informed opinion and compare it to the film version.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's Gotten Into Condi?


My friend E. just forwarded this super-glam photo of Condoleezza Rice, shown accepting a Glamour magazine Woman of the Year award. After years of wearing helmet hair, Condi looks fresh and youthful with a flattering new haircut.

And then there was her glowing reaction to Barack Obama's victory last week. One pundit pointed out that he had never seen Condi look so happy. Is it just me, or does it seem like she's really ready to be done with her Team W. days?

I'm Just Saying ...


“I want to do a superhero movie and what would be better than Wonder Woman? It would be great. A black Wonder Woman would be a powerful thing. It’s time for that, right?” — Beyonce

Beyonce is a lot of things: gorgeous, talented, richer than God. She's a kinder, gentler Diana Ross for Generation Y.

But she is not a good actress. Every time B. gets a juicy film role (Etta James?) I can't help but wonder if someone with better chops was cheated. It's not like Hollywood is clamoring for the talents of African-American actresses to begin with. If she weren't already so famous, would she even get past the audition stage?

Back to Wonder Woman. On The Unique Geek listserv, we all seem to be in agreement that casting Beyonce is a lame idea. Obviously, she'd look great in the costume. She's certainly logged the gym time. But in order for audiences to get past the "Hey, I thought Wonder Woman was white" thing, any actress of color who tackled the role would have to be amazing. It would piss people off for no good reason, like casting Kate Hudson as Storm. As my friend V. put it: "Wonder Woman is too iconic to portray her so differently."

I know we're supposed to be living in a post-racial era, and this isn't exactly "The Joan of Arc Story" we're dealing with. I just can't get excited about a pop star — any pop star, frankly — taking on one of the best-known characters in the D.C. universe.

For what it's worth, a black Batwoman would be fresh as hell.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Alpha Belles

Several days a week, I work out during my lunch break at a downtown church/gym. If I show up at noon, I'm guaranteed to encounter a bunch of women I call the Alpha Belles. The Alpha Belles go to step aerobics, and they speak in loud, exaggerated Southern accents. As in: Ah cayant believe how hawrd that cla-yass wuz today-ee!

(My friend H. also pointed out that they have conversations about things like "purple peas.")

Look, I grew up in South Georgia, so I'm used to accents. At best, a Southern accent can be mellifluous and romantic. At worst, it sounds like something between bleating and braying. The Alpha Belles have the kind of former-mean-girl accents that take me back to my junior high locker room. For some reason, the most popular girls at my school had accents so thick that I occasionally wondered if they were kidding. It was especially unfortunate that Valley speak was all the rage at the time. Gayag me with a spoon!

I suspect that's partly to blame for my barely perceptible accent, which only my Yankee friends can hear. I must have purposely submerged it, the way some people make up a new identity after leaving home. Upon hearing where I grew up, one colleague demanded, "So where's your accent? You sound Midwestern to me."

It's just one of those things about the South that I'm weird about. I can criticize it because it's mine, but I don't want to hear from any Northerners about how we talk funny.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Barney Hates The Media, Too


I always had a soft spot for George W. Bush's adorable Scottish terrier, Barney. But like many other Bush loyalists, Barney is pissed off with the media and grumpy about turning his crib over to the Democrats - and a shelter dog! That Reuters reporter never knew what hit him.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Toys For The 21st Century


You can tell a lot about society by looking at modern toys. When I was a kid in the 1970s, finding a black fashion doll was, at best, a challenge. Most of my Barbies were white, but mom went to a lot of trouble to add some diversity to my toy box. Had I been Asian, I don't know what she would have done.

Thirty years later, my daughter has a rainbow coalition of Barbies that were easy to find. While browsing potential Christmas gifts online recently, I ran across interracial prom couple Zeke and Sharpay, characters from "High School Musical 3." The dolls are sold together, like their counterparts Troy and Gabriella. (Come to think of it, they're interracial, too. Gabriella is Hispanic and Troy is white.) It's still somewhat unusual to find this reflection of society in playthings, but I think it's neat that so many kids are growing up with a so-what attitude about it.

However, I do wonder when we'll see something like a Chad-and-Troy prom pack.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Five Reasons To See "Role Models:"


1. Christopher Mintz-Plasse: He'll always be known as McLovin, but it's a real feat to make that character seem cool by comparison. His turn as Augie, a teen obsessed with a medieval role-playing game, is both hysterically funny and a touch disturbing. I can't believe this is only his second movie.

2. Paul Rudd: I've been a fan of his since "Clueless," and his gift for delivering acid one-liners while remaining likable is perfect for this movie. His character Danny, a miserable energy drink salesman, needs either a big hug or a hard slap. Maybe both. Either way, his scorching put-down of a barista over the word "Venti" is a thing of beauty.

3. Seann William Scott: I was never that into "American Pie," but I can't deny that Scott, as Stifler, was a stitch. Scott's a good-looking guy, but there's a crazy gleam in his eye that makes him funny without having to say anything. He plays Wheeler, Danny's sidekick and the mascot for the "Minotaur" energy drink. The only thing Wheeler loves more than dressing in a Minotaur suit is the pursuit of casual (and frequent) sex.

4. Bobbe J. Thompson: What is it about foul-mouthed kids (who aren't mine) that cracks people up? Thompson plays Ronnie, a 10-year-old who seems to be channeling early Redd Foxx. When Danny tells Wheeler and Ronnie to pick up him and Augie in two hours, Ronnie's response is, "Fuck you, Miss Daisy!" That shouldn't be funny, but it just is. Especially since Thompson delivers the lines with such ... panache.

5. Jane Lynch: Her character, Gayle, runs the troubled-youth program Sturdy Wings, through which Wheeler and Danny become mentors. She's also an ex-con/ex-addict who is teetering on crazy. Her rambling, nonsensical lectures make you wonder if she's still on drugs. You'll never look at a bagel dog quite the same way again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Suggested Inaugural Playlist


I'm closing out Obama week with a presidential mix!

1. This Is Why I'm Hot (Mims): Self-explanatory.

2. Crazy in Love (Beyonce f/Jay-Z): Because Mr. and Mrs. Obama really appear to be.

3. Set it Off (Strafe): Since Michelle is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, they have to play the sorority's unofficial theme song.

4. Michelle (The Beatles): Sorry, couldn't resist.

5. City of Blinding Lights (U2): When Obama finally appeared to accept the nomination, the opening strains of this song made for the first of many tear-inducing moments.

6. Bad Reputation (Joan Jett): A nod to the unfiltered Joe Biden.

7. The Pretender (Foo Fighters): Adios, W.

8. Walking Through Walls (Jon Brion): Nothing in this world is gonna hold me/No thugs in this road are gonna roll me/No fast talking girl is gonna slow me/Nothing's gonna stop me at all/I'm walking through walls.

9. Hell Yes (Beck): Hell yes, we can!

10: I Feel Good (James Brown): So far, so good!

11. Luck Be A Lady (Frank Sinatra): He's gonna need it.

Entertainment Weekly offers more informed suggestions here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rahm Emanuel: Hot


Is it wrong to point out that the next White House Chief of Staff is kinda smoking hot? Surely not as wrong as this inappropriate yet hilarious commentary on Obama's rumored Cabinet.

A Leap Forward


Ever since President-Elect Obama(!) became a serious candidate for the Oval Office, I've been hearing about how his campaign changed the way white people (in general) think about black people (in general). That's an incredibly broad statement, but I do think we're witnessing a cultural shift that won't be entirely clear for some time. Plus, that street runs two ways. I've had a couple of conversations that make me think the election is changing the way black people (in general) think about white people (in general).

While black voters were especially excited about this election, there's no way Obama could have won by such a wide margin without the support of millions of white voters. That level of support for a man of color took some of my friends and family members by surprise.

My friend V., who is black and a physician, inhabits a mostly white professional world. She likes many of her colleagues. Yet, she admitted that she was surprised — stunned, really — that so many white people of all ages cast votes for Obama. She is not given to fits of optimism about social progress, but she said this election has challenged some of her long-held opinions about race.

"I just never thought we'd elect a black president," my mom told me last night. "I can't believe I'm seeing this." My mom grew up in South Georgia in the '40s and '50s. When she and her sisters walked to school, they had to pass a house where a little white girl yelled "niggers!" at them every day — until my aunt K. snapped and punched her, hard, in the chest. Then they ran like hell. When she began her career as a music teacher in the '60s, she said some of the white women she worked with gave her nasty looks in the cafeteria. (Of course, that could be because my mom was a total babe back in the day. I am retroactively jealous.)

My mother doesn't hate anybody, but she is very skeptical and guarded where race is concerned. But Obama's election is a clear indication that her grandchildren — my son and daughter – are coming of age in a very different world. Not a perfect one, but a better one in many ways.

I don't know where this is going, but I like it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Break Out The Tissues

As if I weren't already teary-eyed, I had to go and read this truly lovely entry by Ms. Moon.

Yes, We Did!


Memorable moments from last night's nonstop election coverage:

1. The Obamas are going to be the most attractive family in the White House since the Kennedys. They are just so nice to look at — elegant and genuinely affectionate with one another.

2. How did Jesse Jackson get a ticket for the Grant Park event? Was he in the Hating Section? In any case, those tears looked real to me.

3. McCain gave an graceful concession speech that struck the right tone. He sounded like the guy I remember from his 2000 campaign, and that was kinda bittersweet.

4. Who came up with that ridiculous CNN hologram concept? I didn't need to see Will.i.am "beamed" into the studio with Anderson Cooper.

5. I'm pretty sure this is the first time a round of the electric slide has broken out following an Electoral College vote tally. The scene in Harlem was classic.

6. At the risk of sounding naive about the state of race relations, I was moved by the sheer diversity of the Grant Park crowd. And that's not even counting the diversity in age, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.

7. Speaking of crowd scenes, how cool was it to see the cheering in Sydney, Tokyo and beyond? That might have more to do with Bush than Obama, but still.

8. I know they have to give us something, but the networks drove me crazy with announcements like this: "Well, 3 percent of the votes in Ohio have been tallied, and so far ..."

9. I honestly felt a little bad for the subdued McCain supporters at campaign headquarters. I know that feeling, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Except Karl Rove.

10. It was surreal to watch the nation turn a page in our political and racial history. It will be years before we know the real impact of an Obama presidency, but for the moment, I am thrilled.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Then We Came To The End

One more day, and it will all be over.

A few nights ago, I dreamed that Barack Obama was campaigning in my hometown of Valdosta, Ga. It was raining, and he was standing under a black umbrella, microphone in hand, addressing a sparse crowd in the old Kmart parking lot. He looked tired and thinner than usual, plus a touch pissed off. I felt his pain, except for the "thinner" part.

We voted two Sundays ago, and I am just done with the presidential campaign. I want to wake up on Nov. 5, check CNN to make sure America didn't f*%# it up (again), and then go on with my life. Until then, I don't want to see another campaign ad, analyze a new set of poll results or listen to the latest interview with Joe Undecided. I couldn't even bring myself to watch Obama's infomercial. (It's not personal, Barack, but you already got my support and my vote. I had other stuff to do.)

Of course, I don't intend completely tune out Election Day. It's too historic and there are too many things at stake. I'm just so afraid that it'll turn out to be a nail-biter, and I'll have that helpless, slightly sick feeling I know so well from the last two election cycles.

On the bright side, one of my favorite illustrators, Alex Ross, has designed one of the best Obama t-shirts ever. I hope I'll have a reason to wear it soon.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It's Homecoming Weekend, But ...

Before I moved back to Tallahassee, I used to be so psyched about returning to my alma mater, FAMU, for homecoming. But for the last couple of years, I haven't been able to work up much excitement for the event unless friends are coming to town. The thought of fighting for a parking spot near campus and wading through the crowd, kids in tow, just makes me very, very tired. What happened? I'm tempted to say that living here makes homecoming less special, but I know plenty of local Rattlers who wouldn't dream of missing it.

It makes me sad to admit this, but in the nine years since we moved back to Tallahassee to raise our family, I've felt increasingly detached from the university. I certainly care about the school's welfare and cherish the memories of my four years there (some of them, anyway), but I'm not out there representing the way many of my former classmates seem to be. I run into them from time to time, and with a few exceptions, the encounters always make me a little uncomfortable. A lot of them socialize together, worship together and/or participate in the same organizations - some alumni-related. It brings back that awkward, fish out of water feeling I had for most of my freshman year, which seems ridiculous to experience at 38 years old.

It's not that big of a deal, but it has been on my mind this week for obvious reasons.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crushed


At last night's book club dinner, the subject turned to celebrity crushes. Or to be more specific, "Who would you dump your husband for?" I'm not sure what this says about me, but I answered first: "Hugh Jackman. Hands down." (Honey, if you're reading this, it was the cocktails talking! Ha ha ha ha ha ha.)

My husband has a good sense of humor, and we got this issue out of the way fairly early in our relationship. Our current agreement that if Thandie Newton comes looking for him, well, no hard feelings. We had a good run. Drop a postcard every now and then.

Hugh is my Thandie Newton, and I don't care that he starred in "Van Helsing" and "Swordfish." A straight male friend of mine even once admitted, "That's a good-looking dude." He sings. He dances. He is Australian. He is almost always described as a genuinely nice person, and he has love for the geeks (See: Wolverine).

So when the epic "Australia" opens, I will be front and center like a 9-year-old at a Miley Cyrus autograph signing. I cannot believe Nicole Kidman got paid for this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Can Vote However You Like


These kids are having way too much fun debating Obama and McCain's policies, T.I.-style. The lyrics are a little muddled in places, but I smiled when I heard the phrase, "Taxes, drop it low!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Lennon Biography


I’ve only read two books about the Beatles, but it seems like that number should be much, much higher. Maybe that’s because I’ve soaked up so much information about them over the last 20 years and spent countless hours enjoying their music. My friend C. and I saw the Cirque du Soleil “Love” production in Las Vegas last year, and it was phenomenal. I’d go see it again in a heartbeat, and I loathe Vegas.

So I feel like I should run out and buy the new John Lennon biography by Philip Norman, especially since I have a 40-percent off coupon. It’s getting good reviews, and at 851(!) pages, the book obviously has a lot to say about the late musician. I just have a hard time believing Norman has anything new or revelatory to add to such a well-known story. Then again, that didn’t stop me from reading Bob Spitz’s equally gigantic (and quite good) Beatles biography.

Norman managed to get in-depth interviews with Yoko Ono (who later withdrew her support), Sean Lennon and Paul McCartney, so that gives the book a good measure of credibility. Reviews suggest that the author found the right balance between hagiography and demonization, which is another plus. Everything I’ve read about Lennon suggests that he was a complicated, often deeply unpleasant man who happened to be a gifted artist.

Still — 851 pages?

I’ll probably wind up buying it, if for no other reason that it’s a fascinating story with so many interesting players. The ending, however, is a real shame.

Most Romantic Panel Ever


I'm still iffy about "Final Crisis," but I have to give it up for this tender reunion between Iris and Barry Allen in issue No. 4. It is simple and heartfelt, and that looks like one heck of a kiss. I'm far from the first to point this out, but the "Sorry I was late" line is just about perfect. Well done.

For more on the context and why this is such a big deal, this is the least confusing explanation I could find.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Whistler

How do you tell a colleague — one you really like — that his/her high-pitched whistling is like an ice pick stabbing the back of your left eye over and over and over and over and over and over and over again?

I have always been sensitive to certain kinds of sounds, but to avoid coming off like a high-maintenance jerk, I've learned to cope. Mostly. I still can't deal with shrill whistling, no matter how in tune or jaunty. Last week in Publix, I silently cursed a particularly enthusiastic whistler, one I could not seem to escape. Apparently, we were out of the same items. By the time we reached the frozen food aisle, I was nearly homicidal.

To people who don't have sensory issues, this kind of complaint seems incredibly petty. It screams, "Get over yourself," so I just put my headphones on when the whistling cranks up. For all I know, the sound of my voice might be like nails down a chalkboard to him. Still, there are times when I would rather not write while listening to U2. I had an office at my old job, and when certain sounds got to be a little much — the nonstop giggling of one co-worker comes to mind — I could just shut the door.

I know I'm not the only one with this problem. When I complain via e-mail to off-site friends, some of them will respond with comments along the lines of, "Office whistlers and chronic throat-clearers should be killed." My friend V. says the sound of cracking knuckles drives her insane. For others, it's open-mouthed gum cracking or noises that imply the presence of phlegm.

Then again, I have a job, which is no small thing in this economy. And Pandora.

Web Video of the Day

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Last Dance


I fought "High School Musical 3" and the musical won. The kids reeaally want to go, like, today, and it would be cruel to make my husband take this assignment alone. As Troy, Gabriella and Chad might say, "All for one!"

Alas, it doesn't end there. Oh, no. Disney has decided to ride this franchise to infinity (and beyond!), announcing plans for a new class of song-loving teens. My daughter's only four, so I'm looking at, what, eight more years of this?

However, I'm going to keep it positive today and list the ways that HSM is good for America:

Diversity: When it comes to race, mainstream networks could learn a lot from children's television. I watch a lot of Nickelodeon and Disney, and I'm fairly impressed with the way their shows handle diversity, as if it's expected. HSM is no different. Leading lady Vanessa Hudgens plays a Latina character. Then there's biracial Corbin Bleu and his curly 'fro, plus a few backup players. I also noticed that the young women in the cast have a range of body types, which is pleasantly surprising.

Good, clean fun: After a harrowing dodgeball scene in an episode of "Freaks & Geeks," my son said he didn't want to go to high school after all. In HSM, high school is a (mostly) nice place where you can twirl your troubles away. A boy can dance without fear of a beatdown. There are no bomb threats, unplanned pregnancies or dream-crushing SAT scores. It's like an "Archie" comic with a film score. I figure kids have plenty of time to learn about the perils of adolescence, which apparently include nude photo shoots.

Decent music: These aren't Aimee Mann tunes we're dealing with, but let's face it — young children don't do irony and subtlety. They want catchy and loud. With the exception of the godawful ballads, the songs of HSM are kinda fun to listen to. "Work this Out" is a great example, and I'm still trying to learn the dance moves.

Arts appreciation: Perhaps this is a stretch, but I'd bet HSM has inspired more than a few kids to join a theater or dance troupe. At the very least, it might lead them to discover classics like "West Side Story."

That's all I got.

Gen X, Represent


Courtesy of Third on the Right. I think I have to buy it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yeah, What She Said

Washington Post fashion reporter Robin Givhan explains the Palin fashion imbroglio much better than I possibly could: "The reality is that there is nothing especially outstanding about her clothes — aside from the red patent pumps and that bright red leather jacket, which she really should rethink. No matter how much they cost, they are not ostentatious or eccentric. They are, quite simply, fine. What is baffling is the mind-boggling evidence of a tin ear for the symbolism of popular culture."

For the record, I thought SP looked great during the VP debate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Closet Case


You heard it here first: There will be a Sarah Palin paper doll for sale — complete with fashion accessories — before the week is out. The news that the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on Palin's wardrobe and grooming is just too good not to be exploited. Seriously, this is the way you connect with "regular Americans?" The ones currently digging in their sofas for spare change and shopping at Wal-Mart? The last thing I bought from Saks Fifth Avenue was tube of lip gloss. And they call East Coast liberals out of touch?

I realize that image is important in these paparazzi-defined times, especially for politicians. But this looks bad from any angle, even if the clothes are destined for charity. Why can't the governor of Alaska buy her own shit? The RNC is trying to dismiss this as a frivolous media fixation, but maybe they should have thought of that before pandering to Joe Six-pack during a recession.

And I'm gonna go there: This is the best Palin could do with $150K? Something about her aesthetic - shiny jackets, bordering-on-tight skirts, a loooooot of red - is a little ghetto. Say what you want about Cindy McCain, but she is, as the kids might say, fresh to death. Palin's look says "sorta hot assistant principal." I can picture fashion guru Tim Gunn, brow furrowed, sizing her up: "Sarah? I'm concerned."

As much as Palin annoys me, she is attractive and has an enviable figure. If I had her legs, I'd probably wear snug little skirts, too. But with $150,000 to blow on clothes, I'd call up my most fashionable friends, or my sister, and ask for help in unleashing my inner Jackie Kennedy.

Whoops! I forgot: She's a liberal, East Coast elite style icon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blog Cross-Promotion of the Week

I'd be remiss in not mentioning this excellent Once Upon a Geek post about three pivotal moments in Batman history: The death of second Robin Jason Todd ("A Death in the Family"), Batman's subsequent unraveling and introduction to Robin-to-be Tim Drake ("A Lonely Place of Dying") and second Robin Dick Grayson's efforts to help his former mentor heal ("Batman: Year Three"). I own the first two stories, and after reading Shag's post, I can't wait to read the third collection.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What Is The Deal With Lois Lane?


I just finished reading the first volume of Grant Morrison's "All-Star Superman," which is both strange and engrossing. Suffice to say that the writer uses his trademark trippy flourishes to freshen up a story you think you already know.

However, there is one enduring, deeply annoying part of the Superman story that even Morrison can't seem to part with: Lois Lane as love interest. Because Lois is an investigative reporter and tough gal, I've tried hard to love her in all her incarnations. But her presence either fills me with boredom or leaves me wondering, for the 500th time, what the heck the Man of Steel sees in her. She is pushy, shameless and, as far as her reporting tactics go, somewhat unethical. I'm all for strong women and expose journalism, but Lois is usually portrayed as an unbelievably self-absorbed careerist who would do anything - however dumb or dangerous - for a scoop. It doesn't help that the last Superman movie asked us to buy Kate Bosworth as a Pulitzer prize winner and single mom.

Not that Superman is the most thrilling character in the D.C. universe. He is the resident Boy Scout, and as such, he lacks the psychological complexity of Batman, the combative, smart-ass edge of Green Arrow and the good/bad boy hotness of Nightwing. But he's still Superman, so shouldn't he have an extraordinary (if mortal) love interest? Batman may have sketchy taste, but at least the women in his life - Catwoman, Talia, etc. - are intriguing.

Many superheroes have had snooze-inducing mates (see: Trevor, Steve), but few of them seem to get the ongoing play that Lois has enjoyed. I've worked with enough obnoxious, elbows-out reporters to know that they are not endearing in real life.

Then again, they aren't using their writing skills to rail against fictional characters.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cracked Out On Hope?


Unless Barack Obama starts clubbing baby seals between now and November, it looks like he's on his way to the White House. I'm not sure what McCain can do to win swing voters at this point, short of leaving bags of gold doubloons on their doorsteps.

I'm happy about that, obviously. I'm a liberal-leaning moderate who thinks the leader of the free world should be compassionate, level-headed and much (much) smarter than I am, so Obama's easy to love. I'm also black, so I'm not going to deny how much his victory would mean to me and my family. My daughter has toy telephone conversations with him, and my son thinks he's "cool." My husband derives great pleasure from watching McCain seethe at having to take Obama seriously.

That being said, can we dial down the Messianic expectations? As much as I dig Obama's narrative and the Hope theme ... well, he's a politician. I wouldn't be voting for him if I didn't think his intentions were honorable, but he's a politician. I was a journalist for too long not to be skeptical. Not cynical, but skeptical. He can't do much without the buy-in of Congress, and George W. Bush has all but burned the place down. I think the most important thing his presidency will do is to help undo our reputation as Crackheads of the Universe. But he is not, as one Web site put it, a walking healing crystal.

My Facebook friend A. got me thinking about this. A., a staunch Hillary supporter, loathes - I mean loathes - Obama. A card-carrying member of the East Coast Media Elite, A. sees Obama as a politcal Kim Kardashian on whom the entire nation has a nauseating crush. He says we are drunk on the snake oil of Hope. A. is also upset that some of his friends might interpret his disdain as racism, especially since even conservatives like David Brooks want to be Obama's BFF.

It should go without saying that disliking Obama (or any person of color) doesn't make one a Klan member. There are a lot of black people I don't like. While I strongly disagree with A.'s assessment, I think he does have a point about the danger of focusing all our hopes and dreams for a colorblind, progressive society on one man. His election would (will?) be one for the history books, and I plan to celebrate (Obama-cue!). It's astounding to me that some people apparently have never seen a family like the Obamas, but I'm happy that they are serving to crush stereotypes.

But assuming that he wins, Obama has a lot of work ahead of him. There will be potholes and snafus along the way, as there are with any president. I don't expect miracles, just responsible leadership that involves Sarah Palin in no way, shape or form.

A. is young, so maybe he's seeing more starry-eyed followers than I am. Most of my friends who are supporting Obama are doing so with their eyes open. Our political Tiger Beat days ended when Bill Clinton left office. We've got Hope, but we know when to say when.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Half-Hearted Defense of Kenley


I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I’m going to (kinda, tepidly) defend Kenley Collins, the FSU alum and villainess of “Project Runway’s” just-wrapped season. If you watched the show, you know that retro-loving Kenley often came off as a defensive, self-absorbed brat — this, on a show full of them. She also committed the sin of being snippy and rude to adorable mentor Tim Gunn.

The judges got it absolutely right by naming mild-mannered Leanne Marshall the winner. Even though I was pulling for Korto Momolu (and would wear her clothes), Leanne’s petal-inspired collection was simply sublime. It’s nice to see a wallflower win!

Back to Kenley. Was she immature and a little too impressed with herself? Yes. But she wasn’t nearly as off-putting as Hall of Fame asshats Santino Rice (Season 2) and Jeffrey Sebelia (Season 3). Jeffrey made someone’s mother cry, and unlike Santino, he was humor-impaired. Kenley is Miss Congeniality by comparison.

What little sympathy I have for Kenley stems from her apparent social cluelessness. She often seemed genuinely perplexed by the criticism she received from the judges and her fellow designers. It was obvious to everyone that she was disrespectful to Tim, but she really didn’t get what all the fuss was about. She made this comment to Entertainment Weekly: “I stood up to the judges and Tim, but that wasn't against them. I was shocked by the way they treated me, because I was nothing but nice to them.”

That attitude made me think of my son. Granted, he’s 8 years old and (generally) polite to people he doesn’t know well. But when he becomes annoyed, he has a habit of blurting out things that, while perhaps true, are inappropriate and combative. And then when he’s reprimanded, he’s like, “What’d I do?” It’s gotten better in the last two years, but his understanding of the nuances of social interaction is a work in progress. This is one reason we’ve long thought he might be at the mild end of the autism spectrum, but that’s a whole other issue.

Kenley attributes her issues to “aggressive, New York kind of upfront, forward behavior.” She was raised in Pompano Beach. Still, I think of her not as the popular mean girl but the intense attention hog other kids whisper about in the hallway.

Or maybe she really is just a pouty jerk (albeit a talented one). I guess motherhood has made me soft.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bad Sex ... In Fiction

When I was in junior high, my best friend and I used to scope out racy romance novels at discount stores and read the introductory passages aloud. At 12 or 13, we didn't have a clue about sex, but we knew overwrought writing when we saw it. I only wish I could remember some of the howlers we unearthed back in the day.

Many a fiction writer/writing coach has talked about the difficulty of writing about sex well. Much like the act itself, it can be a risky enterprise — and there are so many ways it can go wrong. When I encounter a cringe-worthy passage in an otherwise decent book, I tend to skip past it because I'm so embarrassed for the writer, the characters, and myself.

We have the U.K.-based Literary Review to thank for shedding light on this important topic with its annual Bad Sex in Fiction award. According to the Guardian, the award is designed "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."

These passages were among the 2007 nominees, and they range from "Ew" to "WTF?" My favorite line: "But inter-species sex is illegal."

By the way, the late Norman Mailer won.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sticker-Free, For Now

I've never been much of a bumper sticker person, especially since I worked for so long in a field that discourages displays of political preference. But I'm excited about my candidate of choice in a way I haven't been in years. I'm not a newspaper journalist anymore, so if I want to slap a "Geek Moms for Obama" bumper sticker on my humble station wagon, I can. Except, I'm afraid to.

Because I spend my time with sane, clear-thinking people, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about wingnuts. I just don't have the energy. But the "Kill him!" madness that went down during a recent Sarah Palin campaign appearance is bothering me. Not just in a "Wow, that's fucked up" way, but in a "There are still people who want to put a bullet in uppity black folks" way. It forced me to consider the fact that there are people who are quietly (and not so quietly) seething that a man of color is well on his way to the Oval Office. They're dressing it up in rhetoric about his "radical" connections, but anyone who thinks race isn't the issue here is delusional. I watched a CBS reporter ask some McCain supporters about whether it was fair to refer to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama," and their outrage was palpable: "That's his name isn't it?" one woman spat back. "We're just calling him by his name."

There are plenty of people riding around with Obama (and McCain) bumper stickers, and their cars don't appear to be keyed or have broken windows. We're used to enthusiastic displays of partisanship in Tallahassee, but it is getting ugly out there. The last thing I need with two kids in tow is a confrontation in the Shell parking lot, or worse, on Capital Circle. On the wrong day, I might engage, and that wouldn't be good for anybody. So for now, I'm keeping it sticker-free. It's my vote that really counts - I hope.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Five Things I Wish Tallahassee Had

While the national economy is tanking, quite a bit of construction is going on around town. According to this column by Mary Ann Lindley, banks, office buildings and (wait for it) more condos are coming soon.

All those things will contribute to our tax base, which is important. And they're all so dull I can hardly stand it. I'm grateful that Tallahassee doesn't look like the rest of Florida, but I wish we could attract some businesses with more ... buzz. No, Wal-Mart doesn't count.

In no particular order, here are five things I wish Tallahassee had:

1. Trader Joe's (Their ginger snaps? Heaven.)
2. Nordstrom
3. A theater where alternative films stayed for more than a week.
4. An airport that didn't require me to fly to Atlanta to get to Orlando.
5. Ikea

There's a long-running discussion about this over at Urban Planet. One of the posters got their wish for an IHOP, so maybe my dream of unassembled, Swedish furniture will be realized.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Just Wondering

On the way home from my son's barbershop Sunday, I saw a group of pro-life demonstrators at the corner of Monroe and Tennessee streets. Their messages were boilerplate: "Abortion is Murder." "Abortion Kills Children." And so on.

It's a free country. If you feel strongly enough about something to spend a gorgeous Sunday afternoon sharing your opinions on Monroe Street, well, good for you. Personally, I think abortion is much too complicated and personal an issue to argue via poster board. But as far as I can tell, abortion and the marginalization of gay people are the only things certain people care about. That, and protesting against movies they haven't seen.

Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I've never seen a group of demonstrators this fired up about children who are already born. I know there are many wonderful people who work on behalf of abused and neglected children, but they're not showy types. I wonder if the passionate pro-life demonstrators who stand on street corners — and who descend on the U.S. Capitol regularly — ever think about drawing attention to less flashy child welfare issues. Maybe some of them do.

At least they're more focused than the "Repent Now" folks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Boy's Gotta Dance


Like most 8-year-old boys, my son likes three things in his movies: action heroes, robots, and stuff blowing up. He is contemptuous of his sister's "Hello Kitty" and "Barbie" DVDs. If I let him, he would watch every PG-13 superhero film released in the last five years, back-to-back. Then, he would put on a cape and start jumping off of furniture.

Nevertheless, he likes the "High School Musical" franchise. No, scratch that. He loves it — not that there's anything wrong with that. But given his usual entertainment preferences, I find it interesting that he responds so enthusiastically to this jazz-handing Disney juggernaut. Does he want tickets to see "High School Musical 3?" Yes, he does.

There's a scene halfway through "High School Musical 2," in which an angry Zac Efron stomps across a golf course, singing, dancing and emoting like there's no tomorrow. You know he means business, because he's dressed in black and hurls a golf club. My friend J., a longtime lover of musicals, said it was way Jerome Robbins — in other words, "a very gay performance."

The last time "HSM2" was on, I watched my kid get up and recreate that "Bet On It" routine almost move for move, word for word. I am not exaggerating. If he had been auditioning for a production at his school ("Elementary School Musical?") he would have killed. Bring it, Efron!

What a little Renaissance man. Now, if only I could skip "HSM3."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Holy Coincidence, Batman!

A few months ago, I opined that someone should develop a "Smallville"-like show about the early years of the first Robin, Dick Grayson. Well whaddaya know? According to this article, The CW is developing a series about Grayson, focusing on his pre-Robin years as a young circus acrobat. How cool is that? Now, if only I could get some kind of pitch/consultant fee.

Chris Rock Is Funny. His HBO Special, Not So Much


I almost feel sorry for artists who gain a reputation for being edgy and genre-defining. The expectations are too high (See: Chappelle, Dave), and eventually, you're going to be accused of having lost the magic you had when you were younger and less famous. Which brings me to Chris Rock.

I've been a fan of Rock's for a long time, and I still enjoy hearing him riff on current events with Bill Maher and David Letterman. For years, MTV has been trying (and failing) to re-create the watercooler buzz generated by Rock's 2003 Music Video Awards hosting gig. Rock killed that night, deflating celebrity egos right and left with lines like, "Lower your IQs and lower your expectations! It's Kid Rock!" His last two comedy specials on HBO were ruthless, controversial and very, very funny. Who didn't wince a little when he said people could be either bored (married) or lonely (single)?

So I expected more of the same from his latest stand-up HBO special, "Kill the Messenger." While it wasn't exactly terrible (See: Cook, Dane), many of the jokes were dated and tired — two things I don't associate with Chris Rock. While he did make some funny observations about the presidential election, the race/relationship jokes were straight out of a 1992 "Def Comedy Jam" set. To sum it up:

• Black women sure are a pain in the ass!
• Black men like white women — especially big ones!
• That makes black women even angrier!
• If you're white, be really, really careful about using the N-word!

It isn't just me. My friend E. said that a few of her friends went to see Rock at Madison Square Garden, and the collective verdict was, "Meh." My friend V., who saw the special before I did, pronounced the whole thing "irritating."

The thing is, Rock is still quite capable of bringing the funny. He just didn't do it in this special. Consider some of the zingers from his recent "Larry King" appearance:

•"Jason Lee has done more interviews promoting 'My Name Is Earl' than [Sarah Palin] had to run for vice president of the United States."
• "[Sarah Palin is] kind of like Kim Kardashian on 'Dancing With the Stars.' All that ass and you can't shake it!"
• "Bin Laden did more movies last year than Sam Jackson. I think he's in 'Lakeview Terrace.' "

Heck, just watch it here. His "Letterman" spot, following Bill Clinton, is here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. Paul Newman


About 10 years years ago, I went through a phase of watching iconic actors in their prime: Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate" and "Midnight Cowboy;" Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire;" Robert DeNiro in "Taxi Driver." One of those movies was "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. The movie isn't great, but the sheer physical beauty of Taylor and Newman in it is stunning. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey? Please. It's a cliche to say they don't make film stars like that anymore, but it's also true.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Wish I'd Thought Of This

What would happen if Mitt Romney, Joe Lieberman, Charlie Crist and Tom Pawlenty had an instant-message conversation? 23/6 took a guess, and the resulting "If They IMd" item had me ROFL. Giving Romney the online handle "MittyMittyBangBang" was a stroke of pure genius.

Another Cartoon Network Gem


I am genuinely excited about "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," which makes its debut in November on the Cartoon Network. This is why my 8-year-old son thinks I’m the best mom in the world. (That is, when he’s not telling me I’m the worst mom ever.)

Because Batman is such a jackass, it’s always fun to see him interact with other characters. I don’t know how far the show will go with the jerk persona, but I'm looking forward to seeing him work alongside fellow rich-kid-turned-costumed-hero Green Arrow. Yeah, that'll go well.

Since I'm dropping the increasingly lame "Brave & the Bold" comic, this should make up for it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bookish

I have a few friends who have written books or are in the process of writing one. Like many people, I've entertained fantasies of seeing my own book (as yet unwritten) in a prominent position at Borders, and answering probing questions from Terry Gross about said book. It seems like such a cliched idea on my part, though. For all I know, my son is working his memoirs during recess.

Anyway, Boston Globe columnist Penelope Trunk made a mighty good case for not turning one's ideas into a book. Just as interesting are some of the comments that follow.

Depending on what mood I'm in, writing can be its own reward. I have a job. God knows I don't want to contribute to the pile of mediocre-to-bad novels taking up bookstore space — especially since so many of my friends are writers. (Though I told a friend I was going to write a parody of one of those glossy, contemporary "urban" novels and see if anyone gets the joke.) Still, it's hard not to envy people who make a splash with novels that are thinly veiled memoirs, or those who make no pretense of aspiring to be Alice Walker or, for that matter, E. Lynn Harris.

On the other hand, Trunk offers this cold blast of reality: "Many people think they have a ton of ideas and they are brimming with book possibilities when in fact, most of us have very few new ideas. If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging."

Dag! Even if you don't agree, you have to respect the woman's honesty.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

K. Jo: Where Is The Love?


My 4-year-old daughter apparently has a crush - to the exent that a preschooler can - on Joe Jonas, the sleek-haired lead singer of the Jonas Brothers. Or, as her 5-year-old friend R. hilariously deadpanned, "the hot one." She has repeatedly stated her intention to marry Joe, and frankly, I'm a little disappointed by this decision.

Crushing on Joe Jonas is the equivalent of saying Davey Jones was your favorite Monkee, or Farrah was your favorite Angel: Predictable, Cliched. Plus, Joe flat irons his hair, and I have yet to see him perform while playing an instrument, unlike the other two. This is her intended?

During a particularly obsessive phase of early adolescence, I got hooked on the Monkees via reruns of their classic television show. When my dear friend C. and I came out of the Monkees closet in college, we agreed that bassist Peter Tork was by far the most desirable member, with Mike Nesmith a close second. To this day, we judge anyone who says, "Oh, I was in love with Davey Jones!" Sheep.

I'm a big believer in the nonobvious crush as a sign of discriminating taste. George Harrison as favorite Beatle. Diminutive Eric Murphy of "Entourage" instead of eye candy Vince Chase. As adorable as Matthew Broderick was in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," I always had a soft spot for Ferris' depressive sidekick Cameron, as portrayed by Alan Ruck.

I'd have been more impressed if my daughter had picked Kevin Jonas, who was hilariously tagged "the other one" by Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac. K. Jo just doesn't generate the same level of high-pitched, brain-melting screaming as Joe or Nick, but does he complain? No. He gamely cranks up the guitar every night while facing a sea of "I (heart) u Joe!!" posters. You have to admire that kind of workmanlike indifference to popularity polls. Besides, a good flat iron will only get you so far.