Saturday, August 30, 2008

One Last Thing ...

My friend E. pointed me to this moving Bob Herbert column in today's New York Times. I'm a lifelong skeptic who chooses her bandwagons carefully, especially where race and politics are concerned. Anyone who knows me well knows that. But skepticism isn't the same as cynicism, and I don't have a lot of patience for people (black, white and otherwise) who've been saying Barack Obama's nomination doesn't really mean anything. With his typical eloquence, Herbert explains why it does.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I cannot wait to see "Tropic Thunder" this weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC Convention: A Text Analysis

Last night, my brother and I traded text messages as we watched an hour or so of the Democratic National Convention, including Barack Obama's nifty speech. Because he lives in Atlanta and our sister lives in L.A., we don't get to simultaneously mock/analyze random television events like we used to. I decided to transcribe some of our running commentary, most of which took place while Obama was speaking. (FYI, Troupe St. is the street we grew up on, and it's adjacent to the 'hood.)

Me: Meanwhile, McCain is somewhere blinking.

Him: He actually nodded off around 8:45 EST.

Me: ROFL!!!

Me: White people are crying! This is like, whoa.

Him: It's like a damn Michael Jackson concert.

Me: In Germany!

Him: (after a numbers-related comment) Bush just pulled out his calculator.

Me: He also pulled out a dictionary.

Him: He already passed out from bewilderment.

Me: In basketball, this is called dunking.

Him: It's also known as hitting your opponent square upside the head with the basketball.

Me: And then knocking him into the stands.

Him: And then going Ron Artest on them.

Him: LOL at the camera finding every Negro in the stadium.

Me: It's Freaknik!

Me: (paraphrasing Obama) "Unlike John McCain, I will stay awake past 7:30." Now, Biden is no joke. He will get with McCain, Troupe St.-style.

Him: Biden once killed a man, just by looking at him.

Me: Chuck Norris, yo.

Him: Roundhouse 2008. This is a Chucktatorship.

Me: At this point, he has more groupies than LeBron. But Michelle would cut them. And him.

Him: Pastor Obama.

Me: Martin Luther Obama.

Him: Malcolm Obama.

Me: Abe Obama.

Him: Barack F. Kennedy.

Me: Phew. That is hilarious.

It's times like these when I'm really glad I have siblings.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's Geek Cred

After buying my "Star Wars"-themed Obama T-shirt, I started searching for other geek-oriented Obama merchandise. There's quite of a bit of it, and also quite a bit of commentary suggesting that the senator's ascendancy is directly related to the social and political influence of geeks. "Geek" is a pretty broad term, one others are far more qualified than I to define. But based on my tiny bit of research, many RPG, computer, comics and sci-fi geeks appear to be down with Obama. That might have something to do with the fact that one of John McCain's top aides said McCain "is aware of the Internet." Then another brilliant McCain aide made reference "the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd" dissing the former POW "from the comfort of mom's basement."

Anyway, I came across a couple of items bearing various "geeks for Obama" messages:

I particularly like this play on the fist-bump, which inexplicably triggered asinine conspiracy theories about terrorism. And with those ripped arms of hers, Michelle Obama might actually be a superhero. This is very cute, though Playstation and Xbox owners wouldn't be caught dead in a T-shirt with this image. I love the phrase, "chaotic awesome." Finally, a little circuit board action for the IT crowd.

Purchase of the Week

I can't wait to wear this T-shirt, which combines my love of old-school "Star Wars" and my (desperate) hope for an Obama presidency. I'd have gone with a Rebel Alliance theme, but this is still pretty awesome.

Speaking of geek stuff, Obama shed some light on his superhero preferences in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:

“I was always into the Spider-Man/Batman model. The guys who have too many powers, like Superman, that always made me think they weren’t really earning their superhero status. It’s a little too easy. Whereas Spider-Man and Batman, they have some inner turmoil. They get knocked around a little bit.”

No word on his thoughts about "Final Crisis," however.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


A few weeks ago, I completed the yearlong transition from chemically straightened hair to twisted extensions to (voila!) my 100-percent natural, big afro. (And by "100-percent natural," I mean colored and full of moisturizing products.) I'd avoided writing about it because I didn't want to make it out to be a major deal. I'd been getting my hair straightened in some way for 30-plus years, but I figured all I was doing was finally letting my hair do what it wants. And believe me, my thick, cottony hair does not want to lie down and/or swing across my shoulders. Trying to make it do that was an expensive pain in the ass, and I just got tired of it. I have nothing against relaxed hair. I think it can be quite lovely, but it was a tiring relationship.

I'm still not prepared to describe this as some kind of "a self-acceptance journey," because that strikes me as incredibly pretentious. It's only hair. And yet ...

As I was surfing the Web for hair care information, I came across this eloquent rant about black women with natural hair like mine who really want coily, multiethnic-looking hair. (Think Tracee Ellis Ross, who is, in fact, multiracial.) Apparently, there are a lot of women who have transitioned to natural hair, but are desperately seeking the kind of shiny, spring-loaded curls that certain hair-care products promise to deliver.

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I've had a few moments like that. Had I been that brainwashed by beauty magazines?

Yeah, I guess so. I thought my hair would look more like my daughter's, which, while also thick and wooly, is full of spirals and corkscrew curls and cool golden brown highlights. And it kinda bugged me when mine turned out to be so different.

I really thought I was over the obsession many black women have with their hair, its texture, its length, its meaning. It seems regressive to be thinking about it at all, especially since we're (supposedly) living in the "all cultures are beautiful" era.

But all changes entail an adjustment period, and I guess this qualifies. For now, I'm taking my son's review to heart: "Your hair looks weird, but I like it."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Songs From the '80s I Never Want to Hear Again

One of the perks of getting old is that radio station formats shamelessly pander to your demographic. But instead of exploring slightly less obvious territory, these retro-minded stations often stick to the same songs that were overplayed in their heyday. I guess I'm thinking about this because my high school reunion is coming up, and I'm sure the party soundtrack will be heavy on the Tears for Fears.

Off the top of my head, here are a few songs from that era that ought to be permanently retired:

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight: Wang Chung's darkly seductive "To Live and Die in L.A." is a much better song, but if I had a dollar for every time I'd heard it on the radio in the last couple of years, I'd have maybe one dollar.

(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party: I hate this damned song. I've always liked the Beastie Boys, but it annoys me to no end that this was their biggest hit, the one that supposedly introduced millions of Americans to rap music. Almost every other song on "Licensed to Ill" is superior: "Paul Revere," "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn," hell, even "Brass Monkey."

Purple Rain: Prince put out a lot of product in the '80s, much of it excellent. Yet, it's as if the only the megahits from his seminal album of the same name count. It's not that "Purple Rain" isn't a magnificent song, but "Erotic City" wasn't exactly shabby.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun: It's not Cyndi Lauper's fault that this song has been used to promote Ladies Night drink specials for nearly 25 years, but I think we've all heard it enough.

Perfect Way: Does anybody even know what the &%#* Scritti Politti were saying? I don't, and it still pisses me off.

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go: I loved it at the time, but I also thought George Michael was straight.

Take My Breath Away: I can't listen to this song without thinking of the cringe-inducing scene in "Top Gun" where Kelly McGillis confesses that she's fallen for Tom Cruise's character, Maverick. And I can't think of Tom Cruise's character Maverick without thinking of lines like, "I feel the need -- the need for speed!"

If You Leave: The only good part of this "Pretty in Pink" classic by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark is the synth intro. The rest of it is full of whining and WTF lyrics like "Seven years went under the bridge like time was standing still."

Come On Eileen: Even then, I knew Dexy's Midnight Runners were not destined for a long, storied career.

Rock Me Amadeus: I've always much preferred Falco's "Der Kommissar," even if it's almost identical.

It Takes Two: When I arrived at FAMU in the fall of 1988, this song was played roughly between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11:59 p.m., nonstop. The only reason it stopped playing at midnight was because campus parties were required to shut down by then. In fact, my friend C. was driven to tears the night someone on her dorm floor played this song on an endless loop ("Whoo! Yeah! Whoo! Yeah!" ...). No one was killed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


My 20-year high school reunion is at the end of this month, and to my surprise, I'm actually interested in going. Like a lot of odd and unpopular kids who went to high school in small towns, I couldn't wait to graduate and get the hell out of Dodge. Half my motivation for excelling academically was to get a full scholarship and, therefore, a guaranteed ticket out. It would not be an understatement to say that I hated everyone.

But time does interesting things. Two decades removed from all that angst and crippling insecurity, I'm genuinely curious to see how some of my classmates are doing. There are only a handful of people from my high school days that I've kept in touch with, so almost everyone in our class of 375 graduates is a mystery to me. A few weeks ago, I created a profile on the Facebook-style site that was created for alums of my high school. Almost immediately, I started hearing from people I hadn't laid eyes on since June 1988.

In sixth grade, I became friends with three adorable geeks who will forever be known to me as "the Kevins": Kevin F., now a college professor, Kevin E., a doctor, and Kevin B., a pastor. Kevin F. moved away a few years before graduation, but he remains one of the funniest people I've ever met. He not only remembered who I was, but that I was "the best cartoonist in the school." If I see him at the reunion, I'm giving him a big hug.

It was also nice to see so many fellow misfits/outcasts/nerds doing well. Blair, an artist who now lives in London, was a true individual who put up with a lot of shit for standing out. This sounds so tame now, but Blair and her Goth posse caused a mini-scandal by showing up at our junior high school dressed like Boy George. Keep in mind that this was south Georgia in 1983. Blair got slapped with the "weirdo" tag, and it stuck. I love it that she is, by far, the most worldly and sophisticated of us all. And she's a Mensa society member to boot.

Also on the "not recommended" list was being gay. There were several classmates I wondered about over the years - whether they were closeted, as I suspected, or just ... different. So far, I'm five for five in my predictions, not that there's anything wrong with that. As lonely as it sometimes was to be a morose, minority nerd, it was probably a cakewalk compared to being a gay guy at a jock-centric high school in the mid-1980s. While I have no idea what the intervening years were like for them, many are now out, partnered and raising kids, just like the rest of us.

So here's to surviving adolescence, growing up and learning to accept yourself while getting over yourself. I think we're going to have a good time.

For Shame

You know what I hate more than the Olympic hype machine? Gratuitous objectification of the opposite sex! So this smoking hot photo of Michael Phelps' perfect torso is meant merely as a statement against all of those ... things. Shameful.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Epic Fail

My favorite film critic, Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, gave "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" an F! I've been reading his reviews for years, and rarely has he unleashed the F-bomb. To put this in perspective, he gave "Underdog" a B-minus. I sat through that movie, and trust me, he was being kind.

This is just more confirmation that Lucas has lost the magic. It's like finding out there's no Santa Claus.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Don't Get It

The Tallahassee Democrat reported last week that it would lay off eight people, an announcement that's been disturbingly common in newsrooms across the country. This is what the publisher had to say:

"To maintain the financial health of our business and to ensure we remain positioned for the future and the inevitable rebound of the economy and our business, we must be proactive in responding to negative conditions. Unfortunately, that means we are going to have to reduce positions.”

Here's what I don't understand: How can you "remain positioned for the future" if you have fewer people to write, report and edit the news? It's not like the paper has a fat staff or tons of extra resources. I know the economy sucks and that my beloved newspaper industry is tanking right now, but these canned explanations are starting to wear thin. Just once, I wish some newspaper executive would resist the urge to sugarcoat the situation and say, "The reality is that we're not going to be able to give our readers as much as we did before. The loss of staff will inevitably affect the quality and content of our newspaper, which we deeply regret."

I expect these kind of corporate talking points from widget-making conglomerates, but not from newspaper companies. I'm naive that way.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dear George Lucas: We're Through

I'm marking today date as the official start date of my indifference to George Lucas' projects. A new "Star Wars" film hit theaters today, and I don't even care. This is huge.

My son is over the moon about the animated "Clone Wars" flick, but he also wanted to see "Space Chimps." I'm so done with Lucas that I've asked my husband to take the kids without me. Through his crappy prequels and endless DVD re-releases of the originals, Lucas has all but killed my ardor for the franchise. It's his, so he can do what he wants. But I don't have to pretend to enjoy it.

In 1999, I sat through "The Phantom Menace" twice, trying to convince myself that it was good. When I looked over at my co-worker and fellow "SW" fanatic, G., I could tell he was doing the same: Trying to like it. Trying hard. I didn't expect the same cracked-out rush I had when I saw "Star Wars" for the first time at age 7, but I wasn't even entertained.

Lucas got me again with "Attack of the Clones" ("I don't like sand..."). "Revenge of the Sith" was all right, but when I look back, the only thing I really dug about episodes 1-3 was Ewan McGregor. The final light saber battle with Anakin was on point, but that's, what, 10 minutes? When the final credits rolled, I sat in the theater thinking, "I'm supposed to believe (or care) that Anakin's bad dreams about Padme led him to ruin? That's it?!"

I hate that it's come to this, but I have to get out with my dignity intact. At least I have the Cartoon Network DVDs (which were fantastic) to comfort me.

Matt Lauer Must Be Stopped

So there was Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte on the "Today" show, four gold medals around his neck while talking to Matt Lauer. Dude swam two races just 27 minutes apart, taking gold in one (200-meter backstroke) and bronze in another (200-meter individual relay). In my world, that qualifies as amazing.

But Lauer spent most of the interview asking Lochte about ... Michael Phelps. It was embarrassing at first, and then it became infuriating. Lauer has never been my favorite television interviewer, but this was shoddy, even by his standards. He hit rock bottom when he asked Lochte "how America would have felt" if he had beaten Phelps in the individual relay and "derailed his dream." Gee, I don't know. Happy for Lochte?

Lochte handled the situation gracefully, and to Phelps' credit, he doesn't seem to be participating in the media orgy around him. But it has to suck to be an athlete at the top of your game, scoring medals in the Olympics, and having journalists grill you nonstop about your teammate. They deserve their moment, too. Why not ask the equestrian team about what their performance means for Phelps' legacy?

This is why people complain about "the media," which is totally unfair to the hundreds of real journalists who are in the trenches in Beijing. I think I'm going to follow my brother's example by watching the games with the "mute" button on.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

They (Heart) Michael Phelps

I am in awe of Michael Phelps, who may or may not be human. But I wonder if the hyperventilating commentators have any idea how they sound as they remind viewers every two seconds that Phelps is amazing.

This is not intended to take anything away from the man's accomplishments, which are, well, amazing. The problem is that the commentators can't stop drooling over him, even when Phelps isn't the U.S. team member who's swimming. While one of Phelps' teammates swam a qualifying heat, analysts Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines delivered nonstop commentary ... about Michael Phelps. They yakked about the teammate's "great" relationship with Phelps, how the teammate helped Phelps learn how to loosen up, and on and on and on. When Phelps is actually in the pool, Hicks and Gaines go into overdrive. At one point, the camera went to a close-up of Phelps' size-14 feet, which, according to the giddy commentators, help him dust the competition. I fully expected them to launch into a fawning analysis of Phelps' manhood.

In my family, the Olympics are as much about the commentators as the athletes. Watching physical competition at such an elite level is thrilling, but the commentary provides a bonus of unintentional comedy. Take gymnastics analyst Tim Daggett. Daggett was on the U.S. men's gymnastics team in 1984, and he has a gift for dissecting every wobble, hop and slightly shaky landing. His favorite phrase: "That's going to be a three-tenths deduction!" Dude is harsh, but at least no one can accuse him of gushing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Apply Within

My friend Shag wrote this brilliant post about the requirements for geeks who are married with children. It’s a thing of beauty, and boy, could I relate. Proper geekdom requires a level of obsession (and funding) that is usually incompatible with the life of domesticated parent. For example, I have a modest stack of new comics in my car, but I won’t be able to read them anytime soon. When I get home, the kids are going to want, you know, attention, and then my husband will expect me to listen while he recaps his day. Go figure.

Even if I do get 20 minutes of alone time, one of my children will see me reading a comic book and attempt to hijack the action. And if you’ve picked up a comic book lately, you know that many of them are inappropriate for young children. That’s why taking them to the comic book store is such a nightmare, because they don’t always distinguish between “Tiny Titans” and “The Slow, Bloody Death of J’onn J’onzz: Book 1.”

My son has the attention span of a fruit bat, so when he asks me to read one of my kid-friendly comics to him, he inevitably skips 6 panels ahead (“Why is Batman yelling at Robin like that?”), asks a random question (“Does Wonder Woman Speak Spanish?”), or mimicks the action. Sometimes he’ll go the other extreme and actually chide me for skipping a “Kra-KOOM!” or a “Fwooosh!”

His sister usually attempts a bait-and-switch. If I'm engrossed in “Final Crisis,” that’s her chance to grab a “Betty & Veronica” book and sweetly ask if we can “read this one instead.” You can’t fully appreciate how lame Archie comics are until you’ve read them aloud as an adult. Every plot is the same: Reggie is an asshole. Archie is an idiot with commitment issues. Jughead is closeted.

Anyway, Shag covered the bases extremely well, but I thought of three additional job requirements:

1. Applicant must have a high tolerance for geek ignorance among his/her family members. When applicant's non-geek spouse refers to Black Canary's husband as "Green Lantern" instead of "Green Arrow," applicant must resist the urge to sigh and sharply correct him/her.

2. Applicant must be willing to hunt down accurate comics-themed costumes for his/her children, even if that means fighting the hordes at Wal-Mart for the last Wonder Woman costume in a size 2-4T. If essential accessories are missing, such as the golden lasso, applicant must be willing to make his/her own. If applicant has more than one child, costume team-ups (Batman/Robin, Shazam/Mary Marvel, Hawk/Dove) are strongly encouraged.

3. Applicant must make sure that his/her children understand the original "Star Wars" trilogy's vast superiority to the prequels. References to "Anakin" and "Qui-Gon" as favorite characters are to be discouraged with repeated viewings of "The Empire Strikes Back."

It's For The Kids! I Swear!

Entertainment Weekly gave their album a B-plus and said parents would secretly dig it. Rolling Stone gave it four out of five stars, though I acknowledge that RS hasn't had any credibility since 1990. Newsday gave them props. So get off my back about maybe, sort of liking the Jonas Brothers' music! My son thinks they're cool. OK? Yes, the "Camp Rock" soundtrack was a crime against humanity, but even Paul McCartney has recorded some crap in his lifetime.

Hipsters, do not judge me. Because somewhere buried beneath your Vampire Weekend, Clipse and Pixies CDs is a copy of the "High School Musical 2" soundtrack. I just know it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is It Really Over For Edwards?

Back when it was still a three-wo/man race for the Democratic presidential nomination, I was pulling for John Edwards. I liked Barack and all, but I particularly dug Edwards' consistent message about poverty in the U.S. When Edwards dropped out of the race, I hoped he'd wind up as Barack's V.P. choice when the time came.

I still do. Except now, some pundits claim that his admission to an extramarital affair has sunk his political career. And I don't get it.

My heart goes out to Elizabeth Edwards who, on top of battling cancer, now has to deal with this humiliating bullshit. It's national news that her husband of 30 years cheated on her in 2006, and despite his vehement denial, speculation remains that he may have fathered the other woman's child. I hope he's telling the truth about that, and I really hope his kids don't know more than they ought to. What can you say? It's jacked up.

But I'm not defending John Edwards' "mistake," 30 years is a long time. A mighty long time. We'd all like to think our marriages are bulletproof, but as long as human beings are involved, there are no guarantees. I've been married for 11 years, and even when things are going great, I'm stunned by the amount of effort and compromise it requires. Plus, the Edwardses have lived through the loss of their 16-year-old son, cancer and who knows what else. A friend of mine who is in her early 60s and divorced said it plainly a few years ago: "You never know what's going to happen."

But people like tidy morality tales, so there is no way Edwards can share the ticket with Obama now — despite the fact that this has nothing to do with my tax dollars, foreign policy, civil rights, education, national security or the economy. I guess you could play the Family Values card, but look where the "restoration of morality in the White House" has gotten us.

New Obsession: Polyvore

Like I needed another excuse to procrastinate and waste time. As soon as I found out I could create outfits inspired by my favorite comics characters, I saw myself going down the rabbit hole. It won't win points for originality, but I think I did all right by 1950s Betty and Veronica. I tried to mix high and low fashion: a Prada handbag for Veronica and Old Navy shorts for Betty.

I've really got to get a handle on my ADD.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Where Is Wonder Woman's Movie?

Even non-geeks can tell you that the three most important figures in the D.C. universe are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Both Superman and Batman have had major movie franchises in their name since I was a kid. You see where I'm going with this.

The studio decision-makers can't claim audiences don't like action movies about stunning women."Tomb Raider" and the first "Charlie's Angels" seemed to do pretty well. I also find it hard to believe that no one has been able to come up with a serviceable script. (I'd love to have seen Joss Whedon's fish-out-of-water take on the character, but that ship has sailed.)

Wonder Woman hasn't always had the best scripts at her disposal, but George Perez and Greg Rucka did an exceptional job during their runs. Now that Gail Simone is taking a crack at the character, there's more interest in WW than I can remember in a long time.

So we've got action, Greek/superhero mythology, a beloved character who happens to be drop-dead gorgeous, and rich source material. I'm not sure how much depth she has as an actress, but Meagan Fox ("Transformers") is physically perfect for the role.

Hollywood, what gives?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Hate You, Disney

God help me, but I think I like this song. I'm trying to reprogram my brain with lots of Elvis Costello, but it might be too late. Should the day arrive when I actually have a favorite Jonas Brother, my husband has instructions to call the men in white coats.

Damn you, Disney Channel.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Next Level

In general, I've been very happy with the progress I've made with personal fitness over the last six months. More than a few people have noticed the weight loss, and in many ways, I feel better than I have in a long time. My feet no longer hurt at the end of the day, and my shoulders aren't all knotted up with tension. I sleep better, have more patience with my kids and (best of all), I can buy a few things from the Misses section — and they fit. Believe me, that is a very big deal.

But sometimes, I'm confronted by the fact that I have a long way to go. For starters, I'm still overweight. Nothing to do there but continue eating wisely and keep going to the gym and to the pool. I mean, I can wear shorts without scaring people, but it still kinda sucks. I know we're not supposed to compare ourselves with others, but everybody goes there sometimes. And I have a habit of picking the smallest, leanest women to measure myself against.

I've been talking to a friend about training to run a 5K, but the internal voices of mockery have already piped up. They became especially vicious when I read a copy Runner's World magazine over the weekend. The magazine was accessible and full of helpful tips for new runners, but by the time I slunk out of Borders, I felt like I might as well consider taking up competitive gymnastics.

For completely illogical reasons, I have always thought of running as something I can't do. I associate it with thin people who have a high tolerance for pain — people like my husband, who thinks a five-mile run is "fun." Or like my friend H., who is incredibly disciplined about fitness and goal-oriented. Obviously, I have a some discipline and pain tolerance, or I wouldn't be dragging my ass out of bed a 5;05 a.m. to work out. But running seems to exist at some other "Chariots of Fire" level.

My husband says this is silly; that anybody with decent knees, shoes and gumption can become a runner. He claims I've overcome much larger obstacles, if not physical ones. Then he starts saying crazy things like, "It's 90-percent mental."

Hmmm. Don't cue Vangelis just yet.