Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Curmudgeons, Unite!

My late grandfather was the first curmudgeon I truly admired. There was an art to his grumpiness — a world-weary annoyance at all the random crap that used to punctuate his day. He was never mean or hysterical, just always a little pissed off.

I used to think you had to be old to qualify for curmudgeon status, but I'm not so sure anymore. I'm not even 40, and I'm sometimes surprised by how long the list of Things That Annoy Me has become. At this rate, I'll be screaming at kids (maybe my own) to "get the hell off my property" before I turn 45.

I thought of Grandpa Friday night when my husband and I went to see "Iron Man" (which was great). I don't have a problem with people chatting before the movie starts, but it became clear very early that we were sitting behind The Woman Who Laughs at Everything. Apparently, her husband is the wittiest man on the planet, though he appeared to be doing nothing other than eating nachos. Well into the previews, she leaned over and guffawed roughly every 10 seconds. I'd have moved, but the joint was packed. Thank God the action finally silenced her, or at least drowned her out.

In no particular order, here are other things that bring out my inner curmudgeon:

Talking at Concerts
OK, you've scored tickets to a fantastic show and have killer seats. You can't believe your luck. So why not celebrate ... by spending the entire 90 minutes yukking it up with friends? Seriously, why are you even here? Why didn't you just put "Roxanne" on repeat on your home stereo system and invite your equally clueless pals over? That way, you could have saved a lot of money and spared serious fans the aggravation. Next time, stay home.

Office Whistlers
We all have a little voice inside our heads that occasionally says things like, "You know that Manfred Mann song? Boy, it would be fun to whistle that from beginning to end!" Many of us ignore it when we're in close quarters with others. Not the Office Whistler. S/he has a song in his or her heart, and by God, s/he is going to share it. Repeatedly. Tunelessly. At an ear-stabbing volume. Indefinitely.

About a year ago, my husband and I went to dinner at Bonefish Grill, which is a pretty nice restaurant. It's not Le Cirque, but it's a notch above, say, Chili's. Most people were dressed like us — nice slacks and shirt, decent shoes, etc. But I distinctly remember several others in flip-flops, faded jeans and (my personal favorite) T-shirts bearing sports team logos. We all want to be comfortable, but is it that hard to throw on a polo shirt and a pair of clean pants? If you insist on looking like you don't give a shit at all times, I hear Wendy's makes a fine chicken sandwich.

This phenomenon is particularly familiar to those of us who went to historically black colleges. When I was an undergrad, it was common to see people (usually women) dressed to kill ... for biology class. I'm talking high heels, silk blouses, dangling earrings, designer purses. While I learned a lot about fashion by default, I've seen this taken way too far over the years. If you're only going to the mall or to Target, do you want to look like a "Sex and the City" refugee or a Kimora Lee Simmons impersonator?

Gum Poppers
I enjoy a good piece of chewing gum. However, I try not to telegraph that pleasure by chewing it with my mouth open or cracking the little air bubbles over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, until others want to jam a hand in my mouth and physically remove the Wrigley's.

What are your pet peeves? I mean, besides ranting bloggers.

The Florida Legislature Makes My Head Hurt

When you've lived in Florida as long as I have, you learn to put up with certain things. Hurricane season. Huge, flying cockroaches. The Florida Legislature.

I am not a wonk or a political junkie. But over the years, I've been fascinated by the breathtaking stupidity of some of the legislative proposals coming out of the state Capitol. I know there are lawmakers who are trying to do the right thing and who aren't wasting my money with boot contests, but the state of things is pretty depressing.

Never mind that proposed budget cuts ($4 billion) will hobble public schools and a number of programs that serve the sick and needy. No, what lawmakers really need to take a stand on is: evolution!

Yep, a current Senate bill would "(provide) public school teachers with a right to present scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical evolution; (and prohibit) a teacher from being discriminated against for presenting such information." That's just a fancy way of saying, "You can't punish a science teacher for espousing creationism." That sounds nice and fair — except that the whole God-created-the-universe idea has no place whatsoever in a SCIENCE classroom.

I know plenty of Christians who are outraged that this is being seriously discussed in 2008. I mean, if you truly believe that God created the Earth in seven, 24-hour days and that evolution is some nutty theory that contradicts the existence of a higher power, um, OK. But I don't want you teaching science to my kids.

Then there's the bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound exam. They could then either see the image or sign a form declining to do so. I understand that people feel strongly about abortion, which raises complicated questions I'm not qualified to answer. But neither is the Florida Legislature. A pregnancy, welcome or not, is an extremely personal and individual circumstance, and this level of meddling is so blatantly inappropriate and unnecessary.

Besides, I have yet to see this level of hand-wringing concern on behalf of the "already born" who aren't faring so well. Interesting that you rarely see impassioned marches on the Capitol or hysterical letters to the editor on behalf of kids who are in foster care or being neglected/abused. (Did I mention that Florida is one of three states that ban gays outright from adopting? One of three. In the entire country.)

Anyway, it's nice to know that legislators aren't letting their fancy boots go unappreciated. Thanks, guys.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stacey Dash: Like, Whoa

Stacey Dash (Cher from "Clueless") is one of those women I look at and think, "Why didn't she have a bigger career?" Maybe she isn't Alfre Woodard, but she's drop-dead gorgeous and has a certain presence. God knows there are plenty of successful actresses coasting on less. If she were a young actress in Hollywood today, I think she'd have a better shot.

Did I mention that she's 41? Forty. One.

I know I ranted a few days ago about how people act as though an attractive woman over 30 is a rarity — especially if she's a mom, as Dash is. I also realize that King magazine may have employed a bit of Photoshop when processing this June 2008 cover shot and the accompanying inside photos. And yes, she probably has more time to work out than the average woman and blah, blah, blabbity blah. But still. Holy crap.

I was browsing magazines in Borders last week when a herd of enthusiastic, young males opposite me grabbed this issue and proceeded to drool upon it. Suffice to say that they were very (and loudly) appreciative of Ms. Dash's image. In fact, when I told my husband the story, all he heard was, "Stacy Dash is on the cover of King magazine." When she was in that Kanye West video a few years back, my friend J. and I talked about how our husbands would stop whatever they were doing when it came on. As in, they would wordlessly stare at the screen while she ran through an airport in a little strapless dress. So I knew it was just a matter of time before that issue of King turned up in our house.

And I'm not hating, because as J. once put it, "Girl, what can you say? Some people are just gifted."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crimes of Literature: 'Flowers in the Attic'

Our book club is reading "Twilight," the first book in Stephanie Meyers' series of the same name, and it's not bad. My friend and fellow member S. teaches middle school English, and she wanted to see what all her students were raving about. What I've read so far suggests that Meyers has a keen awareness of what high school and adolescence is really like. In any case, it's nice to know that a decent book aimed at young readers is doing well. It's much better than a certain series that was popular when I was an impressionable teenager.

When I was 14, every girl I knew was obsessed with V.C. Andrews' "Flowers in the Attic" series. I was always reading something, so my mom never asked me what that particular set of books was about, thank God. I was thus spared the humiliation of explaining that "Flowers in the Attic" was essentially a love story — about a brother and a sister. "Their evil grandma locked them and their siblings in an attic. So they went through puberty up there, right? And even though they knew it was wrong, they were really in love!"

I've leafed through the books once or twice as an adult, and frankly, they're indefensible. Aside from their absurd plot twists (Wait, Catherine was stuck in an attic for a few years but somehow kept up her dance training to become a prima ballerina?), the writing is horrible. Eyes are not merely blue, but "cornflower blue." The only black people are kindly mammy/butler types. There seems to be a lot of sex, but only the kind that would fascinate someone who hadn't had any. I also noticed that the characters say "for" instead of "because," which comes up surprisngly often. As in: "I cannot forget you, Catherine, for you have captured my heart."

Seriously, what was I on? Because it's not like I stopped with "Flowers in the Attic." There was "Petals on the Wind," followed by "If There Be Thorns," "Seeds of Yesterday" and "Garden of Shadows." I read a few other V.C. Andrews books before I figured out that all of them had an icky edge of incest and were marinated in cliches. Like any respectable teenaged girl, I was a sucker for yarns about forbidden love. But I soon discovered others that actually had some literary merit ("The Thornbirds," "The Far Pavillions," etc.).

I know a few moms with teen girls, and whenever I tell them about "Flowers in the Attic," they're a) clueless and b) totally freaked out. Maybe they shouldn't be. Kids of a certain age are always going to find access to tasteless crap, but if you've done your job as a parent, they'll (probably) process it appropriately.

But if they start saying "for" instead of "because," you've been warned.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ignorant Songs: Florida Does It Again

I've lived in Florida most of my adult live, so when it comes to music, I've heard some of the most ghetto tomfoolery imaginable. Luke. The Jam Pony Express. Poison Clan. One of my fondest memories (circa 1992) is of listening to a newspaper arts writer perform a Clay D. song intro that went something like this: "This is for all the motherf^%*ers who said Clay D wasn't s*&@!"

R. Kelly singlehandedly reset the bar, surpassing even his own enviable record of audio ignorance with "Real Talk." When I heard it last year, it was a bit like seeing Pacino in his prime. In the genre of "Songs to Embarrass the Race By," R. has long been the undisuputed master.

Well, the master has been upstaged. The paradigm has shifted. This song by Florida (of course) rapper Riskay is so over the top in its ignorance that I can't even bring myself to share the title. Perhaps these choice lyrics will provide a clue: I might break bread with one or two strippers/but that don't mean you got to pull my zipper.

As an aside, I don't think this is the kind of iPhone product placement that Steve Jobs had in mind.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Madge's Thighs Continue Reign of Intimidation

The most intriguing thing about Madonna's "4 Minutes" video isn't the way she holds her own while dancing with Justin Timberlake or the peep-my-innards special effects. It's her thighs. Granted, the woman is a former dancer who, along with Sting, is a walking advertisement for serious yoga. And I realize it's part of her job to look that way. But when you consider that she is almost 50 and has birthed two children — well, words fail.

I'm wary of using celebrities as inspiration for anything. I know I am not destined to have those kinds of legs, no matter how much I work out or how much white flour I avoid. However, I'll take any motivation I can find to make it through a tough, tedious workout, bringing me one step closer to being able to wear shorts again. Why, I think I feel bad haiku coming on!

Madonna's sleek thighs

Where is the telltale jiggle?

To the gym I go.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Have You Slapped a Precocious Kid Today?

Like most precocious children, I had no idea how annoying I was until I became an adult. When I was in the second grade, I saw my teacher drinking a cola on her break. I told her that I was concerned for health and that sodas weren't good for her. I can't remember why my mom was at school that day, but after witnessing me administer this smug little health tip, she took me aside and said, "Sometimes you need to keep your opinions to yourself." I didn't understand her criticism. I may have even said something back like, "She'll thank me one day."

But now I get it. Because if there's anything former know-it-all kids can't stand, it's current know-it-all kids. How else to explain my white-hot hatred of the elementary school kid with a column in the local paper?

Normally, I wouldn't go after a kid in this kind of forum, especially one doing something "positive." But his last entry about an educational vacation trip really sent me over the edge. It was well written considering his age, but it was also pompous and full of no-shit, Keillor-lite observations and asides that would rankle anybody over age 12. When my husband hears me grumbling, "Good one, Captain Obvious," he just walks over and takes the paper out of my hands. I've tried not to read the thing, but it's like "The Family Circus" at this point. I can't look away.

For one thing, this kid's columns make painfully clear just how insufferable I and my little posse of apple-polishing, climbing nerds must have been. I didn't have a newspaper column when I was growing up, but the hometown paper once asked me and a handful of other kids what we liked about Easter. Instead of just riffing on jellybeans and Easter eggs like a normal 7-year-old, I droned about "the resurrection of Christ." It's even more horrifying to see the accompanying mug shot, in which I am wearing pigtails and a self-satisfied grin.

As much as I'd love to open fire on some of George Will Jr.'s specific writing crimes, that seems too mean. But when I told my friend K. that I see the kid walking to school sometimes, he said I should roll down the window and yell, "Your column sucks!"

In addition to being horribly wrong, it would only give him something else to write about.

Friday, April 18, 2008

In Praise of the Smokin' Dad

It's nice to live in an age when women over 40 aren't automatically consigned to the Sexually Neutral dustbin. But something about the whole Cougar/MILF/GILF thing pisses me off — aside from the icky acronym. Notice how no one ever says, "Hey, that guy is a father of three, but he's still good-looking" or "Man, it's amazing how great Phil looks at age 42"? It's as if people are surprised to see an attractive mom who owns a tube of lipstick and still goes to the gym (I know several). Or that a woman older than Carrie Underwood could still be hot. Why?

I mean, I see a lot of middle-aged dads, and it's not like their ranks are exactly filled with Hugh Jackman types. I think my 40-year-old runner/skater husband (and baby daddy) looks fantastic. But an awful lot of his peers look they aren't even trying, unlike their wives, who are berating themselves for not looking 23 and childless. So let us now praise and objectify the Smokin' Dad, that rare breed of eye candy.

First, there's the dad at my daughter's preschool: sleek as a cat, stylish in that urban slacker way and owner of a muy sexy accent. When he says "Good morning, ladies" after dropping his kid off, I know I'm not the only one going all fluttery inside. Good morning to you, sir!

There's another dad at my son's school, and he apparently comes straight from the gym to pick up his kid. I don't see him anymore since the husband and I switched schedules. That's too bad, because the guy is usually wearing shorts and a snug T-shirt. He's got a kind of Clark Kent thing going on with glasses, short, dark hair, and a nice ... form. Well done.

Smokin' Dad No. 3 walks past our neighborhood almost every day, and he's usually accompanied by his adorable toddler, equally cute wife and their three — yes, three — Weimeraner dogs. Sometimes he's got the kid strapped to his back. That's how hardcore he is, and it shows. Woof!

There are others, most notably the Former Geek Dads who have more than overcome their awkward teen phases. They were always the hottest ones, anyway.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Superman is a Dick

My friend C. made my day when she sent me a link to a Web site proving what many comics lovers have known for years: Superman is a dick. The site, a collection of absurd (and real) comic book covers is pure genius. Major props to those guys.

I get that Superman is iconic and I bow to no one in my love of him as portrayed by Christopher Reeve. But as an ongoing comics character, he's a boring, self-righteous meddler. He's most enjoyable when he's being needled by Batman. Plus, he has lousy taste in women. I have yet to understand what Superman sees in my fellow female journalist, Lois Lane. (As an aside, how is it that no one has figured out his identity? I worked in a lot of newsrooms, and if a guy that ripped and great-looking came on board as a reporter, it would raise suspicions. I'm just saying.)

Death to Canada Geese

My neighborhood has a gang problem. It is roamed by a pack of marauding Canada Geese who don't seem particularly interested in going back to Canada. In fact, they don't seem interested in doing much of anything except hanging out, blocking my driveway and crapping on every surface they can find.

Did I mention the crap? I don't mind sharing my property with God's creatures, but taking a dump on the driveway is just rude. I found an estimate online (which makes it official) claiming that one Canada Goose can poop a half pound per day. The evidence in my front yard suggests that is conservative.

The other problem is that these geese have no sense of urgency. They amble. You'd think they'd scramble at the sight of a car coming toward them, but no. When they're crossing my street, I have to drive right up on those suckers before they pick up the pace. Maybe they see my Volvo and think, "She's a tree-hugging liberal. She won't hit us."

I admit that I've had a bias against Canada Geese for years. A former colleague of mine once wrote a story about how they'd become a nuisance in Columbia, Md., and I will never forget this quote from one expert: "These geese couldn't find their way back home on the best day of their lives with a map and a compass."

OK, they are kinda pretty, and they don't have the creepy panhandling factor of the Muscovy ducks that populate a popular midtown lake. But they still suck. And the next one that poops on my driveway is gonna feel the wrath of my tree-hugging liberal garden hose.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Failing PR 101

I saw Sir Paul McCartney in concert a few years ago (fantastic show) when he was still married to Heather Mills. He wore an anti-landmines T-shirt and played a forgettable love song he wrote for her. It was no "Maybe I'm Amazed," but if Paul McCartney had written me a song, I wouldn't care how bad it was. I'd take "C Moon" bad. If we wound up getting divorced, I'd always have that — plus a yacht full of money. A guy I work out with said that if he came into that kind of cash, he'd find an island that hadn't been named yet and move to it.

So can anyone explain why Mills is still yammering about their divorce? I have no idea what the Mills-McCartney marriage was like, but in a PR battle against a Beatle, you're going to lose. Especially if said Beatle has been smart and tactful enough not to go off on you himself. Plus, it's always nice if you can resist publicly badmouthing the father of your child. But instead of taking the hefty divorce settlement and moving on, she's bragging about pouring water on his lawyer and all but calling Macca a ho. No wonder she got booed during the Miss USA pageant.

I think R. Kelly should give Macca a buzz and offer to write a profanity-laden, "Real Talk"-style opus for his next CD.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Video of the Week

I've liked this song for months now. The video? Meh. But I can tolerate just about anything seasoned with Chris Martin's voice — even Kanye.

It's fun to play this in the car and hear the kids chant, "Yo-e-yo-e-yo!"

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mental Potholes

The good news is that I've stuck to my workout routine for a month and a half now. I haven't missed a single 5:30 a.m. traning session, no matter how much I didn't want to get up or how cold/rainy it was that day. At this point, I know that serious exercise will always make the beginning of my day better — and that each session is a step toward a healthier (OK, hotter) body. I told my husband that once I reached my goal weight, I was going to walk down our street in some little shorts and red pumps ala Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" while he rapped in the background. I think I was kidding.

Still, there are potholes along the way.

The worst thing you can do when you're making a positive lifestyle change is to compare yourself to others. Unfortunately, I have a Ph.D. in it. Now, I've gone down a dress size, and even my mom had something nice to say about my weight trend. I've been eating mindfully and healthfully, and I can see a definite difference in the way I look. Yay. Good for me.

Then I gazed upon the photo of a lovely friend (who has had two children like me) and she was rocking a bikini. She looked frickin' fantastic. In her defense, she has been fitness-minded her entire life, has to-die-for genes and will probably be the flyest woman ever to grace a retirement home in 55 years. And yet, I was torn between chaining myself to the treadmill or blowing it up. Because it struck me that, as much progress as I've made, it's going to take a lot more time and work before I enter that ZIP code.

Again, I know that has nothing to do with my fitness journey. I'm OK; you're OK, etc. Or whatever. I'm going to eat my vegetarian frozen entree now.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Shooting the Messenger, Over and Over Again

The press is far from perfect, but the former reporter in me still bristles when I hear people randomly attack it. Especially if they get all their news from talk radio or local TV. You don't get to be a media critic if you can't bother to read at least one daily newspaper (print or online) a day. That would be like me saying Manga sucks when I haven't really read any.

I snapped over the Christmas holidays when my cousin's husband claimed that the media were merely puppets of powerful overlords who wanted to keep Americans ignorant of what's really happening. I said, "Really? Because in 14 years of working at three different newspapers, I don't remember an editor ever telling me what to say. Not even once." He did some awkward backpedaling, but it's hardly the first time I've heard that statement. More recently, I went into "defend the press" mode when a guy I work with said, "The media doesn't report the good news out of Iraq." Deep breaths were required.

That got me thinking about the top bogus accusations hurled at print journalists. I'm no longer interested in the "fair and balanced" debate, which is to blame for the scourge of "Mallard Fillmore" on the comics page. But here are the others that come to mind:

1. You don't report the good news!
A lot of news is simply neutral: Annual holiday parade takes different route; Local author to appear on Maury Povich; Pancake house opens second location. In the case of "negative" news, the assumption is that things are supposed to work — that a state university will meet its payroll or that elected officials in Florida will meet only during public, advertised meetings. So when that stuff doesn't happen, it's called news. Besides, the standard for "bad" news is different in every market. If shots are fired somewhere in L.A. but no one gets hit, you're probably not gonna see that on the front page of the Times. If it happens in Hahira, Ga., you sure as hell will see it on that city's local front.

2. You're writing this a certain way to influence the outcome!
Back in the day, I wrote a lot of stories about zoning changes and noise ordinances — things that tend to matter an awful lot to the people involved. But I never lived in the towns I covered. My personal investment was nil; all I cared about was getting the story reported accurately, clearly and not being scooped by the competition. But inevitably, some angry citizen would call and accuse me of either not wanting people to know something or even spinning a story a certain way because I was dating an interested party. And each time, I wanted to tell Angry Citizen that I didn't give one tenth of a shit about the jet ski noise on the lake or whether Club EXXXstasy got a variance to open a topless coffee bar. That would have been unprofessional. But just to clarify: I didn't.

3. You failed to report the evidence cited in a November study published in the (insert obscure journal here)!
Look, most reporters try to flesh out information to the best of their ability while on deadline. Some have more time and resources than others. Believe me, I've read plenty of stories with holes you could drive a bus through. But unless the writer is a seasoned investigative reporter who writes about topics of expertise, s/he is required to write about a lot of different things on the fly. That thing (vaccinations/boll weevils/handwriting/Swedish drinking games) might be your pet issue, but it's silly to expect that other readers want that level of detail. Remember, a daily newspaper is written for a general audience, not the 1,300 subscribers to "Christian Techno Artists Quarterly."

4. Your column/editorial was biased!
Imagine that! A biased column or editorial! The editorial section of the newspaper usually contains the word "opinion" in a prominent location. That means that you have now entered the zone where naked bias is allowed. That is the nature of an opinion. Honestly, the notion of complete objectivity is silly. While the reporter may not care about the outcome of something, s/he is paid to put it in context — which requires making certain judgment calls. Good reporting comes from a skeptical, informed point of view, which is what makes it different from stenography. Asking tough questions or pointing out that people in power don't always act selflessly isn't "anti" anything — except maybe anti-stupidity.

I'm sure I'll think of others.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Geek Power

It's official. Geeks are the new tastemakers, as a New York Times slideshow on nerd chic makes clear. We're everywhere with our glasses, esoteric obsessions and black Chuck Taylors. Hollywood is cashing in with comic book blockbuster films and all things Judd Apatow. Comic-cons are becoming a little too mainstream for some of us.

I'm not sure when the shift began, but I can't lie: It's nice to be recognized. When my design associate sister (see: "unfriendly black hottie" cafeteria table) assembled a style inspiration board last year, she tacked up an old picture of me wearing pigtails and a serious pair of Coke-bottle glasses. Apparently, she thought it was cool. She scooped the Times!

The only bad part is that everybody wants to claim nerd/geek status now. Every other model and beautiful actress is all, "Oh, I played the clarinet and the popular girls poured milkshakes in my backpack." I call bullshit. Geekdom is in the blood; it's not some condition you outgrow and cast off once you get Lasik surgery. You can't just throw on a "Star Wars" T-shirt, throw out some Yoda quote that even my 3-year-old knows and claim membership. No. It is earned.

Were you home reading Tolkien while the cool 12-year-olds were coupled up at the skating rink? Did asshole jocks, upon seeing your glasses, stop and check their hair as if your lenses were storefront mirrors? Did said glasses get broken during a kickball game (for which you were picked last), requiring you to finish the day with them taped together? Did you silently practice instrument fingerings or listen to Weird Al Yankovic cassette tapes on band bus trips? Did you love "Star Wars" so much the first time you saw it that you came home and wrote your own (illustrated) fan fiction? Do you insist that Han shot first? When it's freezing outside, do you say, "It's Hoth cold"?

Don't get me wrong. I am very happy that my fellow geeks have inherited the Earth, "Drillbit Taylor" notwithstanding. But now that we're in charge, someone's got to police the velvet rope. I'm volunteering my services.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

'Alien Loves Predator': Comic Strip Genius

When the final obituary of the printed newspaper is written, I'd like to see the analysis go beyond the usual suspects of greedy stockholders, Internet competition and shrinking ad revenue. I want some enterprising pundit to blame the rotting dinosaur carcass that is the newspaper comics page.

Some papers do a better job than others, but even those that print good alternatives like "Big Nate" or "Get Fuzzy" continue to prop up dreck like "Garfield," "Blondie" and "Hagar the Horrible." Does anyone find these even mildly entertaining? At least "The Family Circus" is so unfunny that it has taken on a kind of screw-you punk edge. Some days, it doesn't even make sense. As the saying goes, I'm strangely drawn to it. But with the exception of about three other strips, the comics page in my daily newspaper is an utter waste of newsprint.

Geek friends have turned me on to a number of funny Web-only strips, but I found "Alien Loves Predator" the old-fashioned way: mindlessly surfing the Net. The premise: Alien and Predator are roommates in New York, where they try speed dating, argue on the subway, apartment hunt among crack dealers, and occasionally hang out with Jesus. The weekly strip is hilarious, but it kinda pisses me off that it would never make it in a non-alternative newspaper. For starters, cranky 89-year-olds — the ones who call editors to complain — wouldn't get it. Irreverent treatment of the Jesus action figure would cause switchboards to light up. And since no one under 35 reads dead-tree newspapers anymore (so we are told), it wouldn't connect with the readers most likely to appreciate it.

Personally, I think a recurring Jesus cameo in "Shoe" would rule.


Everybody's talking about the April Vogue cover with LeBron James and Gisele, and whether the magazine is comparing black men to apes. I got nothing to add to that debate. Sorry.

What caught my attention is the fact that this is Vogue's annual "shape" issue, its annual attempt to prove that it does not consider women over a size two to be freaks. After all, they did put that nice Jennifer Hudson on the cover. And look, there's Jill Scott.

But the shape issue is a joke, with most of the represented body types being variations of thin. Pregnant? Not a body type. One year, they put gorgeous, plus-sized model Kate Dillon in a series of freak-show pictures with a midget. A midget!

The best part, though, is the screaming cover headline: "Dressing for every shape from 0 to 16." As my friend C put it, "Wow, all the way up to a size 16, huh? Does Vogue know women come in bigger sizes than that?"

I'm sure Anna Wintour's staff has told her about these women who are 16-plus, but she's likely dismissed them as mythical — like unicorns and flying cars. I can imagine the conversation:

Vogue Minion: "Anna, our research in the wretched heartland found evidence of larger women. They shop at something called (shuffles notes), uh, 'Lane Bryant.' "

Anna Wintour: "Impossible. No woman could be that big. She'd have to eat cake from sunup to sundown for several months while strapped to a couch."

VM: "That's what we thought, too. But we went to this establishment called 'the mall,' and they were everywhere. Some of them were carrying shopping bags."

AW: "My God. Do you know what this means? Find me a unicorn. I want a cover with Devon Aoki riding one."

I bet they won't make her pose with a midget, either.