Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Video Gold: 'Funky Y2C'

I try to avoid gratuitously selling out my people on this blog, but I am not kidding when I say I have been searching for this video on YouTube for more than a year.

When I lived in Clearwater 14 or so years ago, I was too cheap to get cable. But somehow, I wound up with access to the video-by-request channel, The Box. The great thing about The Box was that the most trifling videos imaginable stayed in heavy rotation. Things like the Spanish version of "Whoomp! There It Is" (or "Whoomp! Si Lo Es) and Luther Campbell's "You Go, Girl." You weren't going to see A Tribe Called Quest or Tony! Toni! Tone! on this station.

One video that played around the clock was "Funky Y2C," a Miami booty-bass song performed by The Puppies. Suffice to say that I was taken aback by the sight of 10-year-olds rapping enthusiastically about booty shaking. The video reached Olympic levels of foolishness when one of the girls started dancing the Funky Y2C alongside her mother. Really.

Eat your heart out, Michel Gondry!

Scrabulous Interruptus

Even if you aren't on Facebook, you probably know by now that Hasbro recently laid the smackdown the Scrabulous application via lawsuit. A collective "What the f***?!" went up yesterday as I and my fellow addicts tried to continue our games, only to see a terse message that Facebook users in the U.S. and Canada were out of luck. Never mind that my competitor A. and I were in the middle of an incredibly tight match. Or that I won my first game just last week.

From a logical standpoint, I understand where Hasbro is coming from. Scrabulous is a blatant, if teriffic, copycat of Scrabble. Hasbro wants people on Facebook to use the official Scrabble application, which reportedly sucks. And you can still play Scrabulous via its Web site, but it's not the same.

In terms of PR, however, Hasbro looks like a hater. A corporate hater who has pissed off hundreds of thousands of people hooked on the game. Any day now, "Hasbro Blows" T-shirts will be available on Cafepress. There are already several anti-Hasbro groups on Facebook with names like "Give Us Scrabulous Or Give Us Death!" and "Please God. I Have So Little: Don't Take Scrabulous, Too."

Thing is, I can't figure out how Scrabulous hurts Hasbro. If anything, wouldn't it encourage people to go out and purchase an actual Scrabble set? As far as I know, Scrabulous is entirely virtual.

Hasbro, give us free!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back To School ... With A Retro Soundtrack

"The Breakfast Club" is considered one of the best teen movies of my generation, but I never loved it. While I have nostalgic affection for some of the actors, the movie hasn't aged well — especially Judd Nelson's performance, which is straight out of the "The Misunderstood Punk's Handbook."

But it's still mine. Which is why I wasn't prepared to see JC Penney's lame "tribute" — complete with a remake of Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me" — in a back-to-school commercial. Did any of the ad people behind this actually watch "The Breakfast Club?" Because it's not about how awesome school is. The Nickelodeon crowd might not make the connection, but their parents — the ones buying the clothes — certainly will.

This is the second time JC Penney has used a Gen X anthem to sell school gear. In 2005, it was Black Sheep's hip-hop classic, "The Choice is Yours." I admit the choreography in that particular commercial is neat, and I'm a sucker for kids who can dance. But it's still weird to see things I once associated with being young and (kinda) edgy being used to sell Arizona jeans. Is this what the boomers were complaining about when Beatles songs began turning up in footwear commercials? Oh, well. It comes for us all, eventually.

And for the record, "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" is the best teen movie of my generation. Even if I was only 12 at the time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Michael J. Fox Is Off Limits

In general, I think celebrities and public figures are fair game for skewering. But I'm going to make an exception for Michael J. Fox.

Maybe it's because he was my first serious celebrity crush and the person on the first poster I ever bought. Or maybe it's because his biography, "Lucky Man," convinced me that he is a genuinely good guy. He seems to be weathering Parkinson's Disease gracefully, and he's been a powerful advocate for stem-cell research. Some of my teen idols turned out to be freaks, but not Fox. And let's not forget that he is (I refuse to say was) a talented actor with excellent comic timing.

So last night my husband and I were watching "Family Guy," which is notorious for its brutal, pop culture-themed humor. Sometimes it's random and hilarious, like the time the show ripped on the seemingly endless theme song of '70s sitcom "Maude." Even the cheap shots (Corey Haim in a sewer) make me laugh sometimes. But when Peter Griffin joked about Fox being miscast as Zorro — and the next scene was of illegible scrawl where a Z should have been — I found my line in the sand.

I've seen "Team America" three times, so I'm not that easily offended. But the man has a disease. It's not like the show was cracking on Fox for making bad movies, falling down drunk out of a limo or screaming at his kid on voice mail. With so many perfectly healthy, deserving celebrities to make fun of, why pick on him? Plus, the bit wasn't even funny in an oh-no-they-didn't way.

When my husband and I were dating, he learned not to make jokes about Mr. Rogers in my presence — and Fred Rogers was alive and well at the time. I think we're pretty clear that Fox is off limits, too.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

He's No Marlin Perkins, But ...

I wish Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel would hire my husband J. to narrate their wildlife shows. He has a penchant for reimagining animal encounters as if they took place in Ice Cube's old neighborhood.

A few weeks ago, one of those channels aired a special on whales, and J. got sucked in. Apparently, a mother whale who was traveling with her calf got some unwanted attention from two aggressive, skirt-chasing males. According to J., a more gentlemanly third male intervened on her behalf, though he had his own agenda. The way he recounted the tale was way more entertaining than the official version could have been:

"So one of the whales was like, 'Hey there, girl. Can I holler at you for a minute? You're kinda fine. You got a man?' And this other whale was like, "Look bro, let her through. She's just a single mom out here trying to make it. Ease up.' And then the first whale and his boy got in his face, like, 'What? Oh, it's like that? You ain't shit.' Then the gentleman whale got back with him, like, 'Oh, I ain't shit? Watch this.' And then it was on. But the first two whales couldn't beat the third one because they weren't working together. They were both too busy trying to get a piece for themselves, and while they were scrapping, momma and the kid swam away. It was crazy."

I really wish I had recorded his commentary after we watched "March of the Penguins."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Superhero Politics


I Like The Ums

I wish I were one of those people who knew all the cool local acts and could pick out a band on the way up. But I'm not. When we have a babysitter, we pick the lazy option of dinner and a movie instead of going to hear live music.

However, an enthusiastic article in Capital Culture magazine made me curious about The Ums — and they're good. The stuff I streamed on their MySpace page was a mixture of pop tunes that were ironic, dreamy and very catchy. It passed the "I'd pay 99 cents for this on iTunes" test, and I think I'm gonna have to see them live.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Heavy Rotation

My husband often claims that I only like music performed by "angry white people with guitars." That is completely unfair. I like music performed by all kinds of white people with guitars: angry, happy, mopey, tormented. And they're all represented on my Summer 2008 playlist, along with a few other things.

The list was inspired by a recent conversation I had with my friend C., who asked me what songs I'd put on a summer mix CD. I'm not a purist when it comes to these things, as I'll shamelessly mix new and old, highbrow and lowbrow. These choices won't impress anybody on Muxtape, but doggone it, I like 'em.

1. American Boy (Estelle): Catchy and sassy without being annoying, even with the Kanye cameo.

2. New York Girls (Morningwood): It makes the treadmill feel like a Fashion Week runway. Almost.

3. Lost! (Coldplay): My favorite song from their excellent "Viva La Vida" CD. Not exactly upbeat, but very soulful.

4. I Will Possess Your Heart (Death Cab for Cutie): A fine addition to the stalker genre.

5. Summer Girl (Beck): Mixes feel-good melody with Beck's trademark cryptic lyrics.

6. The Pretender (Foo Fighters): A high-energy thrashfest, and one of my son's favorite songs.

7. Runnin' (The Pharcyde): I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't heard this song until it popped up on an episode of "Entourage." However, it's a great '90s hip-hop tune that holds up really well.

8. I'll Be Loving U Long Time (Mariah Carey feat. T.I.): I've become fond of Mariah Carey (the singer, not the actress) as I cruise toward midlife. She's at her best when she embraces her love of hip-hop, and you could do worse than T.I.

9. Bombs Away (The Police): I have no idea why this wicked-catchy tune from the classic "Zenyatta Mondatta" album wasn't a hit. The Middle Eastern-style guitar riff alone is irresistible.

10. Hello, It's Me (Todd Rundgren): I adore this song, though it is one of the most noncommittal relationship songs ever recorded. Todd will spend the night if you thinks he should, but you're a free woman. Breezy, and perfect for summertime.

I'm always curious about what other people are listening to, so tell me what's ruling your iPod this summer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Kid Stays In The Picture

On a listserv that I frequent, someone raised the question of whether a future Batman movie should include the Boy Wonder. This concept was botched big time in the version with George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell, so I doubt another filmmaker will try it anytime soon. But what about the small screen? As I've said before, Robin is a compelling character with a rich history, one you don't have to be a huge fan to appreciate.

Think about it: The first Robin, Dick Grayson, is an acrobat with a tragic past (parents killed in Mob-conceived trapeze "accident") who ends up in the world's toughest internship program. His guardian is an obsessed billionaire who is still exorcising his own demons, and who thinks dodging bullets is good therapy for a grieving teenager. And unlike Jason Todd and Tim Drake after him, Grayson has no template to follow, no youthful mentor to advise him about the complications of working for Batman. You could argue that Alfred is the only sane adult in his life. That's good storytelling material right there. The series could simply end in four years as Dick finishes high school and becomes Nightwing. The only thing I'm not sure of is how you'd handle the necessary Batman cameos, but I'm sure an enterprising screen writer could figure that out.

I don't know why Hollywood doesn't just ask me to do everything.

The Toy Verdict

Thanks to everybody who weighed in on the Bratz doll dilemma. Your comments really helped me think the matter through over the last week.

The verdict: There will be no Bratz doll for little C. I just can't do it. It might be fine if she were turning 8 or 9 years old, but it's just too soon to go down that road. Instead, we opted to get her a Fisher-Price dollhouse (see above) that comes with furniture a set of family figures. She'll get a couple of books, too, and whatever her grandparents and friends want to give her. I think that's plenty.

Sorry, Sasha. I know you'll find a good home somewhere.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best Summer Movie?

While we're on the topic of movies, I have to give props to the best one I've seen this summer. It's "Wall-E," hands down. First, it's like nothing I've come to expect from Pixar, which has produced its share of classics. It's a strange, beautiful tale full of heart and even romance. Eve, the spunky (Japanese?) female robot who bowls Wall-E over, is particularly fascinating to watch. She's like an flying, trigger-happy creation from the mind of Steve Jobs.

Every member of our household, from age 3 to 41, loved this film. We've seen it twice. And if you have any idea of how much it costs a family of four to go to the movies (even a matinee), then you know we must have really been into "Wall-E." I can't wait for the DVD extras!

'Dark Knight': Bring On The Popcorn

"Batman: Dark Knight" isn't a perfect film, but it has everything you could want from a summer blockbuster about a superhero: Nifty action scenes, dramatic tension, explosions and a fantastic villain.

Heath Ledger had me at "Brokeback Mountain," so I didn't need to be convinced of what a major talent he was. However, I wasn't sure whether to believe all the hype about his performance as the Joker, especially under the circumstances. Now, I get it. Ledger obliterated any memory of Jack Nicholson in that role, and he has seriously raised the bar for future contenders. Anybody can put on some makeup and jump around like a loon, but it takes serious chops to reinvent an iconic character so thoroughly. I hope this inspires more people to see "Brokeback" on DVD, because his performance in that movie is just as stunning — maybe moreso because of its subtlety.

My only quibble about "Dark Knight" is that it's about 30 minutes too long (though that's extra time to look at Christian Bale, who is perfect as Bruce Wayne). Plus, the love triangle between Bruce, Harvey and Rachel seemed forced. To see what Maggie Gyllenhaal can really do, rent "Sherrybaby."

But go see "Dark Knight" first, and enjoy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Friday

My friend K. sent this to me today, and it's pure genius. Clearly, the vendors at Woodstock served some interesting refreshments.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Deliver Us From Foolishness

Thank God for Leonard Pitts. He's one of the best opinion columnists alive, and he always finds a way to get to the heart of the matter. I guess that's why he has a Pulitzer.

His column about the New Yorker magazine cover that's got folks so riled up is reasonable and skillfully written. While Pitts likes the image, he understands why it turned into Covergate: "To be effective, satire needs a situation it can inflate into ridiculousness. But the hysteria surrounding Obama has nowhere to go; it is already ridiculous. In just the last few days, we've had Jesse Jackson threatening to castrate him and John McLaughlin calling him an 'Oreo.' "

Speaking of things ridiculous, I knew Michelle Obama's honorary induction into Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority would turn into a sideshow of intraracial politics. According to this story, Mrs. Obama's camp released a statement saying that, while she's honored by the, uh, honorary membership, she would work with members of all historically black sororities to address social issues.

Sounds reasonable, right? Except that some people interpreted the statement to mean that Mrs. Obama was open to joining other sororities, and the hating began. It was like the Jets and the Sharks (in pearls) had taken to the Internet. Back in college, I pledged the sorority that is widely viewed (among people who care) as the AKAs' rival group. I'd say there is a friendly rivalry there, but to a certain kind of person, there is nothing "friendly" about it. The posts turned into an unbelievably silly game of one-upsmanship, and some people suggested Mrs. Obama should have remained "neutral," is if lives were at stake. Who cares?

I wonder how the New Yorker would illustrate that madness.

Monday, July 14, 2008

To Bratz, Or Not To Bratz?

My youngest kid is turning four next week, and most of her requests are pretty reasonable: some Polly Pockets claptrap, Moon Sand, a Princess Belle costume. But for the second year in a row, she's asking for a Bratz doll. And for the second year in a row, my knee-jerk answer was "No."

Not that Barbie is inspiring little girls to become astrophysicists, but Bratz dolls have a jailbait aura that has always creeped me out. However, a friend of mine told me that her daughter (who's a little older) owns some of the Bratz Kidz dolls, and you know what? They're kind of cute. The one pictured here, Sasha, is adorable with her little curly puff, and she appears to be fully clothed.

I asked C. last night why she liked Bratz, and she said, "Because they're beautiful and sparkly."

I get that. Little girls like spangled, slightly tacky playthings, and I was no different. I owned a disco-era Superstar Barbie with a red feather boa.

Sure, Sasha here looks like a MAC counter drag queen got ahold of her, but I think I could live with it. If C. gets it, it'll be a nice surprise. If she doesn't, it's not like she'll know I was considering it.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Potty Mouth

While I make jokes about my kids being little demons, they're generally polite and respectful. More than once, people have commented on how polite and articulate they are. They have their moments.

For the most part, I think my husband and I have modeled good behavior. We're not the Waltons, but we don't drop f-bombs willy-nilly when they're within earshot. Usually.

After years of working in newsrooms with colorful journalists, &%$* became my word of choice when computers crashed, stories broke at 6 p.m. on a Friday, or other deeply unpleasant things occurred. Even now, it slips out when whole cartons of juice spill or I realize, halfway to the office, that I've left my laptop at home.

Anyway, we were at Borders today when my daughter announced she was ready to head to the children's section. I was in the middle of browsing and told her to wait. That's when I heard her sigh and mutter &%$* under her breath. This wasn't an innocent mimic routine. Her delivery was so perfectly world-weary that the twentysomething hipster to our right turned and raised an eyebrow. It's one thing to hear your kid repeat something sketchy, but quite another to hear them do so with style.

Of course, I was mortified and delivered a stern "don't say that again" talking-to before beating a path to the "new in paperback" table.

This happened with my son when he was about 5, but it was much, much worse. He showed off his new vocabulary word in front of my mother, who, despite having cursed liberally when I was growing up, was shocked.

Thanks, kids. Way to sell Mom out.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Is This A Joke?

Frozone? Pootie Tang? %#@ing Hong Kong Phooey?!

These are some of the names populating AOL's recent listing of the 25 Greatest Black Superheroes of All Time. The obvious choices are there (John Stewart/Green Lantern, Mr. Terrific, Storm), but no way does the Brown Hornet from "Fat Albert" belong alongside John Henry Steel. This list is suckage.

I know there aren't many well-known black superheroes in mainstream comics, but there is a serious failure of imagination here. For starters, the writer might have checked out the fantastic Museum of Black Superheroes, the most comprehensive listing I've encountered. I mean, I'm not that interested in Vixen, but she's surely more worthy than a canine kung-fu expert voiced by Scatman Crothers. Yet, she's nowhere on the list. Neither is Steel 2.0, or War Machine, or ... you see where I'm going with this.

AOL, you disappoint me.

Not That Curious

So my 3-year-old was all hopped to see Curious George at Fun Station, where WFSU/PBS Kids were holding a meet-and-greet on Saturday. Her 8-year-old brother was in it for the video games, because he was convinced that once we were inside, he could con us into spending our life savings on tokens.

We knew we were in trouble when we saw parents walking to Fun Station from across the street. Then weI saw the line of wilted parents and kids stretching out the door and onto the sidewalk. Saturday was hot, muggy and miserable, and we were told it'd be a 40-minute wait to see Curious George (likely a suffering 20-year-old in costume) -- half of it outside. We skipped the photo op and headed straight indoors for the crafts table, where dozens of kids were jockeying for markers and crayons to decorate their construction paper Big Yellow Hats. We didn't stay long.

Daughter wailed miserably once she learned she would NOT get a chance to tell George she was a fan of his work, etc. Alas, hers was but one voice in a sea of whimpering children. I felt bad, but I wasn't about to stand in line that long -- while snaking through the blinking, pinging madness of Fun Station -- to see someone in a monkey suit. You'd have thought people were in line for Jonas Brothers tickets. Either the parents who stayed have far more stamina than I do, or George was handing out martinis at the finish line.

Oh, well. I'm a bigger fan of George's dachshund pal Hundley anyway.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Month In Jesse

It's been quite a month for Jesses. One dies (Helms) and another (Jackson) talks about cutting off Barack Obama's family jewels.

Helms is the most fascinating because of his long, well-documented commitment to blatant racism and homophobia. Salon's James Hannaham wrote a terrific article about how progressives (and pretty much anyone with a conscience) owe a debt to the U.S. senator for spurring them to action, again and again, over the years. Best quote: "To liberals, he was a villain in the mold of Darth Vader, though he would probably not have hired James Earl Jones, a black actor, to speak through his face grille." Read it here. Then link to the New York Times compilation of Helms' most memorable quotes. You can't make this shit up.

As for Jackson, I'm not surprised he said something so bootleg. Obama seems to confound and annoy many Civil Rights activists of Jackson's generation. He doesn't play (or run a campaign) by their rules, and he didn't go out of his way to court them. Why should he? Maybe Jackson's genuinely upset that Obama's call for personal responsibility didn't address the legacy of racism, but I think this was more about jealousy and ego. Rochelle Riley of The Detroit Free Press is so on point in her column on the kerfluffle.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dear 'Trinity': We're Through

It's not you; it's me.

Actually, it is you.

Maybe I expected too much. After all, you're a weekly comic revolving around three iconic D.C. characters, and the inherent limitations are considerable. And it's not your fault that "Countdown" gave the weekly comic such a bad name before you came out of the gate.

But those two-page promos made you look so exciting! You all but promised that, in exchange for $2.99 each Wednesday, you'd take me on a weekly thrill ride with my two favorite characters, Batman and Wonder Woman, and that other caped guy I tolerate. You had Kurt Busiek! How could it go wrong? Remember that great scene where Wally West told Bruce Wayne that his wife said he had a mad sexy phone voice? Those were good times.

But it all seemed to go downhill from there. The tiresome battle with Konvikt that would not end. Konvikt's yappy sidekick, Graak, who made Jar-Jar Binks seem likeable by comparison. I tried to care about Marguerita and her Tarot cards, but by the time Gangbuster made his costumed reappearance, I think we both knew it was over.

Maybe I'll regret booting you from my file once the rave reviews start rolling in. But there are so many comics vying for my attention, and my budget is limited. I hope you'll understand.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Is It Just Me ...

... or is the trailer for "Mama Mia!" aggressively awful? Why is Meryl Streep even in this? Did she lose a bet?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Grant Morrison Is Not Messing Around

Like a lot of people, I'm not 100-percent sure of everything that's taking place in "Final Crisis," but that's actually a good thing. This isn't a beefed-up Super Friends situation. Writer Grant Morrison is setting up something seriously dark and unsettling, and it isn't playing out the way I assumed an Event Comic would.

(Spoilers ahead!)

Issue No. 1: Martian Manhunter is murdered in one panel. The end. Issue No. 2: Det. Dan Turpin is seen beating the living shit out of a cowering, broken Mad Hatter. I mean, this is a savage, blood-on-the-walls beatdown, one that the reader is totally unprepared for. What does it mean? Who knows? I didn't even mention the opening sequence in Japan (presumably Tokyo), where Sonny Sumo rips out the heart of an idiot robot who challenges him to a fight. Before heading to the bathroom, Sumo leaves the guy's extracted heart on his drinking glass. Um, wow. And I don't care that it wasn't a total surprise: That last panel of the Flash (Barry frickin' Allen!) sprinting back from the dead was thrilling.

Morrison's also working his nonlinear voodoo on "Batman," and I think it's intriguing. I'll have to wait until tomorrow to (maybe) find out what happened after Bruce Wayne collapsed and Alfred was brutally attacked in the Bat Cave.

Phew. Morrison's stuff is cardio for the brain.

Slamming the Suburbs

"I lower my head in astonishment and embarrassment for those of you who need gas guzzlers to make it from your stepford suburbs into town every day."

The above comment came from an annoyed poster who was defending recently-announced plans for condos along Gaines Street. In his/her defense, they were responding to an equally cranky post criticizing the project. But I am so tired of all suburb-dwellers being stereotyped as Hummer-driving evildoers who, when not cheating on their spouses or calling Rush Limbaugh, shoot endangered wildlife for fun. Frankly, I agreed with everything the poster said until s/he opened fire on everyone who lives outside of Capital Circle.

When we moved to Tallahassee eight years ago, the first places we looked for houses were in town. I fell in love with Lafayette Park, Betton Hills and Midtown, and I told our Realtor not to bother showing us anything in Killearn. Nothing against Killearn, but I didn't want the commute. This was right before housing prices went nuts, but we were new parents who didn't have tons of money to spend. So after ruling out flood zones, fixer-uppers, Killearn and in-town neighborhoods we couldn't afford (see: Lafayette Park, Myers and Betton Hills), we settled on Buck Lake. In other words, we didn't choose the 'burbs because we were desperate to get away from fast-and-furious urban Tallahassee. (Besides, according to my utilties bill, I'm a bonafide city dweller.)

When I was in my 20s, I lived in a series of old, funky apartments in urban neighborhoods. So my dream house isn't a huge, gated home in Golden Eagle; it's a Craftsman-style bungalow close to downtown. But even in this market, those kinds of homes — the ones that don't need any work — are expensive. I don't have the time or the funds for a major renovation project. I have even less patience with a certain kind of ZIP code snob who thinks no one outside of their neighborhood listens to NPR or buys fair-trade coffee.

A) I don't drive an SUV.
B) My "Stepford" neighborhood is pretty diverse.
C) I'm rooting for a more vibrant urban core. Maybe I'll even get to live in it.

Can't we all just get along?