Monday, June 30, 2008

The Sound of Suffering

So I was feeling all smug about my kids' decent taste in music when a friend gave me some CDs he thought they might like. One of them was the soundtrack to "Camp Rock," Disney's attempt to create the next "High School Musical." It stars the Jonas Brothers (cue tween screaming here), who are taking over the world, one 9-year-old at a time. People without kids are only barely aware of them, but they're HUGE; trust me.

Anyway, our children looooove this CD. And I am in hell.

Our daughter wants to hear "We Rock" every morning on the way to preschool, and I swear I heard our son singing along, word for word, on four songs in a row. When their dad finally snapped on Sunday and ejected the CD, they were crestfallen. I almost felt bad for them. Almost.

It's not like my taste (Leif Garrett, anyone?) was all that sophisticated when I was 8, and the Jonas Brothers do seem like nice boys. Good for them. But Disney isn't done with this "Camp Rock" thing, and I can't shake the feeling that, having largely dodged the "HSM" and "Hannah Montana" bullets, my number is up.

Pray for me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Best. News. Ever.

Holy crap. Shoe superstore DSW (Discount Shoe Warehouse) now offers online shopping! If you don't know, DSW is essentially a crack house for women who love shoes. It's one big room with nothing but rows and rows of discounted wares, ranging from the humble flip-flop to the designer stiletto.

Tallahassee doesn't have a physical DSW, so I get my fix during trips to Atlanta. When I walk through that door, time and space (and my family members) cease to exist. I'm a pretty easygoing gal, but you really don't want to get between me and the last pair of size 9.5 Jones New York slingbacks.

One caveat: DSW is not a place for the hardcore shoe snob (not that there's anything wrong with that). If you're like my sister, who can spot a Christian Louboutin knockoff at 100 paces, you'll likely leave empty-handed. Still, it's hard to beat DSW's prices. You just have to be willing to look.

While we're on this subject, can someone explain why the new Shoe Station in Killearn has such a disappointing selection? All that space, and nothing but dowdy grandma shoes, accursed mules and Crocs. I happen to love Crocs ... for my children.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

'Trinity' Verdict: Meh

Producing a weekly comic has got to be an incredibly tough gig. That being said, D.C. has two more weeks to persuade me to keep buying "Trinity." I admire writer Kurt Busiek's work, and parts of Issue No. 1 — where Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman discuss mutual bad dreams over breakfast — were nicely done. It was funny to see Batman in Bruce Wayne mode, ordering a ridiculously complicated coffee. Issue No. 2 had a great scene where WW tells Superman that she'd rather kick the asses of some giant robots by herself. To be honest, little else left an impression.

I'll read 'em again to see if I've missed something, but if the storyline doesn't pick up soon, I'll spend the weekly $2.99 on complicated coffee drinks instead.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hurts So Good

A friend's recent blog mention of the cinema classic "Glitter" got me thinking about the joys of truly bad movies. Not garden-variety bad, like Matthew McConaughey's rom-coms, but go-for-broke, career-defining bad. Think "Showgirls." One of my favorite things to do is watch the latter with like-minded friends and family members, a surprisingly small group.

When my sister and I took Mom to see the Tyler Perry opus "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," she didn't realize that we had different agendas. Mom's agenda was to enjoy the movie. Ours was to mock it. Repeatedly. While we were doubled over with laughter (and not at the parts Perry intended), Mom just shook her head and silently vowed never to go to the cineplex with us again.

My husband comes from a family of sincere people who don't revel in sarcasm and irony, so it took him a while to appreciate this particular hobby of mine. I'm happy to say that he is now fully corrupted, and we have watched many a howler together. In no particular order, here are a few certified classics that have provided loads of unintentional laughs over the years.

1. "You Got Served": A shirtless Omarion, practicing his dance moves in slow motion (in the rain!) puts Julia Stiles to shame.

2. "Imitation of Life": I know this movie about a light-skinned (black? biracial?) girl passing for white was daring in its day, but scenery has never been so thoroughly chewed. (Best line ever: "I'm white! WHITE!") OK, I still cry when the self-hating character throws herself on her mother's flower-strewn casket at the end, begging forgiveness.

3. "Stomp the Yard": I was in a sorority in college, and I've been in step shows. They're a blast, but there isn't much at stake other than bragging rights. According to "STY," stepping is a pathway to Fortune 500 careers and, ultimately, redemption. Who knew?

4. "Glitter": Almost every frame of this infamous Mariah Carey flick is gold. You know you're in for a treat when one of the characters is a DJ named Dice.

5. "Top Gun": First, there's the dialogue ("You're good, Maverick. Maybe too good."). Then, there's the cliched plot (He's a talented hotshot who doesn't play by the rules!). Look closely, and you can see Tom Cruise perfecting the acting tics he's used ever since to convey "intensity." Did I mention the dialogue? ("I'm holding on too tight. I've lost the edge.") Um, what?

6. "Crossroads": Back when she was still America's sweetheart, Britney Spears unleashed this coming-of-age film on an unsuspecting public. She isn't terrible, exactly, but almost everything else in this movie is. During the pivotal loss-of-virginity moment, the camera actually pans to a view of ocean waves. I'm still trying to figure out what Dan Aykroyd was doing in this movie, but a guy's gotta eat.

7. "Poison Ivy": I'm always gonna root for Drew Barrymore, even if she makes a crappy film. And this one, about a teen seductress who wreaks havoc on a friend's family, is trashtastic. The patriarch is played by poor Tom Skeritt, who was also in "Top Gun."

8. "The Last Dragon": I was 15 when this martial arts movie came out, and 99 percent of my interest in it was related to model/actor Taimak. How bad is it? The lead actress is onetime Prince protege Vanity, who, while gorgeous, is no Dame Judi Dench. Taimak's onscreen rival goes by the name Sho'nuff. Really.

9. "Gone With the Wind": Yes, it's a groundbreaking classic that changed American filmmaking. Yes, it's silly to judge a movie made in 1939 by 2008 standards. Yadda, yadda, yadda. GWTW is full of so much jaw-dropping wrongness that laughter is the only appropriate response. The scene where Scarlett and Rhett's bratty daughter bites it in a horse riding accident shouldn't be funny — but it is. And you gotta love the optimism of the newly freed slaves: "Forty acres and a mule? Gee!"

Make it a Blockbuster night.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Little Carrie Nations

Back in junior high, circa 1982, my 7th grade science class watched a (mandatory) harrowing film about the effects of drug and tobacco use. I'm talking close-ups of needle-infected arms and legs and gaping holes in throats. I was already a goody two-shoes, but that film — "Reefer Madness" for the Atari generation — gave me nightmares about going down the rabbit hole of illegal and carcinogenic substances. For reasons too complicated to get into here, I've never even been drunk.

However, I don't remember being as much of an anti-drug/tobacco/alcohol scold as my kids are turning out to be. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad the schools are strongly discouraging 6-year-olds from puffing and passing the Courvoisier. But my son and daughter become exceedingly purse-lipped when they see people smoking in public, or even when their own dad brings home a six pack. This is my 3-year-old's asssesment of nightclubs: "Grown-ups drink beer in there, and then they go to jail." She recently protested the presence of Corona Lights in the refrigerator, because "Daddy will get sick, and he will go to jail." When my son was a bit younger, he would point at smokers as if they had two heads (a habit that has since been nipped in the bud).

I have no idea where this hysterical attitude is coming from. We don't smoke, and our alcohol consumption is modest — so obviously, I don't want my kids to smoke or frequent keggers. But I also don't want them to be insufferable finger waggers who think a glass of wine is on par with, say, heroin. It's possible to make good choices without channeling Dana Carvey's church lady.

Except when it comes to decrying the presence of high fructose corn syrup in everything. I could rant about that for days.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm Just Asking

Did anyone think "The Love Guru" was going to be a good movie?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two Reasons To Smile

It's generally been a crummy week, but it's about to get better. I just bought the 10th trade installment of the wonderful "Fables" series, plus Coldplay's (reportedly good) new CD. It's my reward for doing a fourth set of crunches this morning, since I'm no longer celebrating with cupcakes.

I've never, ever read a bad word about "Fables," a Vertigo comic that takes childhood fairy tales and stands them on their collective head. Coldplay is a different story. One of my favorite music critics, the Washington Post's J. Freedom du Lac, routinely mocks them — but he does it so well that I can't help but laugh. His review of "Viva La Vida" (which he kinda liked) made me spray my computer monitor with Coke Zero: "Missing — on purpose, presumably — are the sort of lush melodies and outsize hooks that helped make Coldplay a hit in dentists' offices worldwide."

That bit of finely crafted snark just gave me a third reason to smile today.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I want to live in a world where cartoonists like Kate Beaton get syndication deals. I've read a lot of "Garfield" parodies, but never one featuring U.S. President James Garfield. The result is comic genius. Thanks to The Comics Curmudgeon for giving her some pub!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

To Costco, or Not To Costco?

People in my neighborhood are still steamed about the way Fallschase developers laid waste to a gazillion trees off of Buck Lake Road. I'm not knee-jerk anti-development, but this thing has a long, ugly history, which has given rise to yet another Wal-Mart. And that's just depressing.

I've long believed that residents wouldn't be nearly as angry if the Wal-Mart were a Target. I don't care how cheap it is; Wal-Mart provides a shitty shopping experience. The stores are cavernous, sterile and style-deficient. The lines are painfully long, and God help you if you're looking for something exotic like, say, trail mix. You will die there, and shoppers will run over your body with their shopping carts.

Boycotting the Wal-Mart is a no-brainer. The neighboring Coscto? That's another story. I have long dreamed of Costco, with its wide array of Oprah-approved wares. And if you have kids, as I do, you can never have enough toilet paper, Lysol wipes or cinnamon-flavored toothpaste. But it's still part of the same ruthlessly-executed project

So I'm struggling. Help a sister out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Damn You, Tila Tequila

I used to watch "Cheaters," so I don't have particularly high standards when it comes to reality television. In fact, my friend J. says I have an unusually high tolerance for watching people make asses out of themselves.

But even I initially said "no" to Tila Tequila. Of course, she's the miniature hottie with the bisexual dating show on MTV, "A Shot at Love With Tila Teqiula." It's on its second cycle, which I found out this morning at the gym. While, um, watching it.

All the cardio machines just got outfitted with televisions, which has allowed me to indulge in some the trashiest television on network TV. I spent my entire 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer watching a train wreck that would not end. Tila visited some guy's extended family, and by the end of dinner, the guy's mom had flashed her boobs at Tila's request (at the table!) and then kissed her ex-husband's current wife on the mouth.

I'm just as confounded as most people about why she's famous, but she's a canny businesswoman. She knows that almost anybody will watch girl-on-girl makeout action. And let's be honest; nobody tunes in for the male contestants. And is it just me, or does she resemble Jade, the Asian Bratz doll? Big head, skanky-cute, etc. I'm just saying.

I hope I didn't just give her a new promotional idea.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Raising a Music Snob Comes Back To Haunt

During a "Fresh Air" interview last year, Nick Lowe made me laugh out loud with his observation of overreaching, hipster parents. I'm bungling the quote, but here's the gist of what he said: "You hear these people saying, 'My 1-year-old loves The Clash.' No, they don't!"

How about 8-year-olds?

I'm one of those parents who decided early on that I wasn't trading in my Beck CDs for Barney or Kidz Bop. If you're riding in a car that I paid for, I'm in charge of the playlist. The only problem is that my son is a bit of a tyrant when it comes to the iPod. And it's my fault, because I cultivated his music snobbery very early. With the exception of Dan Zanes and They Might Be Giants, he has never listened to "children's music" at home. I think he might turn out to be one of those guys who chooses girlfriends based on whether they like Sigur Ros or Al Green.

Even before I've cranked up the car, he's ready with his list of musical requests. And lately, there have been morning playlist skirmishes. I mean, I'm not friggin’ Rick Dees.

"Can you play that na-na-na-na song? I wanna hear that today." (That would be Beck's "E-Pro.")

"No, I want to hear something else." (Cues Nancy Sinatra.)

"This is boring!" (Pouts)

"Too bad."

"What about 'The Pretender?' Please?" (Whines)

"No. This is my car, not yours."

"You never let me do anything! It's not always about you."

"Be quiet so I can hear, thanks." (Defiantly turns up volume.)

I don't have this problem with my daughter, but that's because she doesn't care. Jon Brion? Fine. Outkast? Sure, whatever. Unfortunately, I think she's being influenced by her dad, whose tastes lean toward urban contemporary. Worse, he is fond of Nickelback. Do you see what I'm up against?

So while I admire my son's strong musical opinions, they're annoying. Which is something we have in common.

But at least he doesn't like Nickelback.

Goodbye, Catfish Pad

The Catfish Pad was one of those hole-in-the wall, word-of-mouth places that every town should have. The decor was minimal, and sometimes you couldn't find a parking space. The food made that irrelevant: Succulent fried catfish, grits, homemade coleslaw. It wasn't health food, and it was delicious.

So I'm saddened — and kinda pissed off — that a robbery has shut the joint down for good. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, two men held up the Catfish Pad on June 2, and that sealed the owner's decision to call it quits. Having a gun pointed at you will do that.

It's terrible to rob anyone, but targeting a beloved, local restaurant is really hitting below the belt. The restaurant business is hard enough as it is, and I have a soft spot places with character.

Even though I'm not eating fried food these days, I sure am going to miss it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Take A Girl To See "Kung Fu Panda"

If Jack Black and Angelina Jolie are in the same movie, I'm automatically there. But I enjoyed "Kung Fu Panda" even more than I expected to. It's funny and well-written, and it's the most gorgeously animated Dreamworks movie yet. My kids loved it, but they also loved "Underdog." Their opinion doesn't count.

I admit to having a girl crush on Jolie (every straight woman has one), and I especially liked her character, Master Tigress. Tigress is one of the legendary Furious Five kung fu masters, and the most badass. She's fearless, intimidating and kind of a bitch. Black's character, Po, practically wilts under her orange-eyed Glare of Disapproval. She could snap his neck with one paw, and he knows it. Also on the team is the dainty but deadly Master Viper, voiced by Lucy Liu.

My daughter is at the age where she's stuck on the Princess Channel, so it's cool when she can see "girls" being strong and capable. When I get my monthly "Wonder Woman" comic, we often read it together.

She wants Master Tigress and Master Viper action figures. I wonder if Barbie is destined for a beatdown. All in good fun, of course.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ha! And Ha!

I'm closing out "Sex and the City" week with a bit of gloating.

A week before the film opened, I was discussing the film with a group of guy friends, and one prediction was that a) the movie would suck and b) it would tank. That was wrong on both counts. Or, as my husband might say, "Dead, booty-ass wrong."

This just in: Entertainment Weekly reports that SaTC opened at No. 1 with a take of $56.8 million, "more than doubled box office pundits' expectations and broke a slew of records: the strongest first weekend ever for a romantic comedy, the biggest bow for an R-rated comedy, and the fifth-highest-grossing debut for an R-rated movie."

On top of this, the movie has generally gotten strong reviews. I'm a tough room, but I found it delightful. That wasn't a given just because I liked the show. One of my best friends, another tough room, said it was the equivalent of a big bowl of ice cream. Good ice cream.

I find it shocking that pundits find this development, well, shocking. Women like good movies that are funny, well-written and touching! Someone call the New Frickin' York Times.

Now, if only Hollywood could figure out that some black people like movies that don't revolve around men in grandma drag or church.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Photo of the Week

How can you not love this couple?

"Sex and the City:" He Said; She Said

It’s no secret that plenty of men watched “Sex and the City,” and not at gunpoint. But just before the movie came out, a lot of guys acted as if a plague were descending on the Earth – one that threatened their very manhood: “Dude, I heard one guy saw that movie with his wife, and when he left the theater, he was a eunuch.”

So I called bullshit and challenged a straight, male, single friend to 1) see the flick and 2) do a dual review with yours truly. We had an extensive, no-holds-barred e-mail conversation, which is posted here on his blog. (Warning: There are spoilers a'plenty, and we posted it unedited, so don't nag me about spelling.) I think he was surprised by how much he liked it, but I guess his maleness demanded that he get all Dale Peck in the end. But he’s also a big Rush fan, so I can’t vouch for his judgment.

As for me, I’ll be seeing SaTC again with my husband, who is relieved that he will not, in fact, emerge a eunuch. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's Obama!

It finally hit me this morning that a multiracial man with a family that looks like mine could be the next president of the United States. Like most people, I'm generally cynical about politics, and the recent infighting in the Democratic Party has been nauseating. But I couldn't help but savor a moment that I wasn't sure I'd witness this early in my lifetime. As my husband put it, "I thought it would happen in our lifetime, but I thought I'd be old as hell before it did." Even if Obama doesn't win, he could easily run again in four more years. I don't see McCain having two terms, especially if there isn't drastic change in our Iraq war policy.

Meanwhile, could Hillary please step aside gracefully? I think it's a mistake for her black supporters to pressure Obama to put her on the ticket. I'm not saying folks like Charlie Rangel should have automatically supported Obama, but they looked pretty stupid this morning on CNN, talking about "coming together and moving forward." Please. Some of these same people all but said America wasn't ready for a man of color in the White House, that Obama should wait his turn, etc. Frankly, his refusal to play by the rules of the old guard has made his candidacy even more appealing.

I know the battle for the White House is going to be long, hard and ugly. But for now, I'm savoring a genuinely sweet and meaningful moment.

P.S.: Obama warning the GOP to lay off his wife? Hot!

Monday, June 2, 2008

One Film Sparkles; Another Stalls

I purposely avoided reviews of any kind until seeing it for myself, and I'm happy to report that the "Sex and the City" movie was a blast. Pretty clothes, sharp laughs ... and plenty of Big. More on that later.

On the other hand, "Prince Caspian" felt about four hours long. It certainly wasn't terrible, and my 8-year-old son dug every minute. But is it just me, or are the kids the least interesting part of this franchise? I wanted more -- much more -- of the talking badgers and ass-kicking mice. Every time the sibling trio stared soulfully into the distance or started monologuing about Aslan, I became very sleepy. Worse, the most appealing of the three -- the kid who played Edmund -- had the least screen time.

Prince Caspian is a little hottie, but I feel kinda dirty by saying so.