Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. Paul Newman

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Wish I'd Thought Of This

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

Another Cartoon Network Gem

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

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

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

Monday, September 22, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

K. Jo: Where Is The Love?

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

I Want This Girl To Be Famous

Why isn't Fefe Dobson a household name like Rihanna? More to the point, why didn't she exist when I was 15 years old? A Chucks-wearing brown girl who rocks and channels Joan Jett? Who lists Guns 'N Roses, Bob Marley and Depeche Mode among her musical influences? Are you kidding me? That would have changed my life. At the very least, it would have made me aware that, somewhere outside of my hometown, there were other young women of color who spoke my language. I kinda didn't figure that out until college.

When I first noticed the biracial Dobson a few years ago — around the same time fellow Canadian Avril Lavigne's star was rising — I was certain her profile was about to blow up. I'm not the only one, because Kanye West said something similar a while back.

I'm practically old enough to be Dobson's mother, so I'm a wee bit out of her demographic at this point. Nevertheless, I love her style, and she's still out there performing some mighty catchy songs like "Watch Me Move," which is my new jam. She's also still very young, so maybe she'll be a big star by the time my kids are old enough to buy their own music.

Until then, rock on, Fefe.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let's Pop And Lock For The Lord!

Really, who hasn't had the urge to cha-cha in His name? However, this supremely awesome video strengthens the case for making dancing a sin. Make sure you watch the whole thing, or you'll miss the guy in the middle performing a mashup of fresh, 1986 dance moves that must be seen to be believed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Top Jerks of Animated Television

Don't tell my kids, but I genuinely enjoy some of their favorite animated shows. In terms of plot, interesting characters and sheer laughs, PBS Kids fare ("Arthur") trumps trying-too-hard tween sitcoms ("The Suite Life of Zack and Cody") every time.

I've noticed that the younger-skewing shows make liberal use of their stock asshole characters, who serve as examples of what not to do. They're easy to hate, but much like Veronica Lodge and Reggie Mantle, they bring a healthy dose of edge and conflict to the proceedings. In no particular order, here are my top five Animated Series Jerks:

Jetta: "Clifford the Big Red Dog"
On Birdwell Island, where "Clifford the Big Red Dog" takes place, Jetta is the resident rich girl and imperious brat. Even her purebred dog, Mac, has a superiority complex. Jetta is always overstating her accomplishments and lording her possessions over Emily Elizabeth, Clifford's saintly owner. I realize Emily Elizabeth is modeling appropriate behavior for impressionable preschoolers, but just once, why can't she tell Jetta to go to hell? When Jetta repeatedly accused Emily Elizabeth of stealing her spelling-bee medal, the innocent EE offered to help her find it instead of threatening to sic Clifford on her. Why? The truth eventually came out (a seagull was the culprit), but Jetta's whiny harassment warranted, at the very least, a verbal beatdown. Stop being a doormat, Emily Elizabeth!

Mac: "Clifford the Big Red Dog"
Though he is a male greyhound, Mac (short for Macchiavelli) is an all-around bitch. Like his owner, Jetta, Mac spends a lot of time declaring his own awesomeness. A dog-show champion and a snob, he is particularly unkind to T. Bone, Clifford's sweet, dim-witted sidekick. Entire episodes have been devoted to Mac's poor treatment of T. Bone, like the time he refused to invite him to join an "exclusive" dog club. Mac frequently speaks of T. Bone with a derisive emphasis on the "T," as if the poor thing were a rabid, flea-infested stray instead of the Birdwell Island Sheriff's pet. My theory is that Mac's meanness stems from the stress of being deeply closeted. My husband says Mac's hostility is classic racism, as T. Bone's voice is supplied by African-American actor Kel Mitchell.

Muffy Crosswire: "Arthur"
Yes, Muffy is rich and spoiled. She's not above using money as a weapon (like the time she tried to bribe the school science-fair judges) or playing hardball (insisting that her friends boycott Arthur's birthday party because it was on the same day as hers). She's also fond of reminding people that she could buy and sell them before lunch time and offering unsolicited makeover advice. However, Muffy is also a brilliant self-promoter who has learned the principles of capitalism at the feet of her businessman father. She was also feisty enough to stare down the playground bullies who complained about her recess photo shoots on their turf.

Cindy Vortex: "Jimmy Neutron"
I feel Cindy's pain. As smart as she is, she's always in the shadow of boy genius and fellow classmate Jimmy Neutron. It's like being second chair flute and having no hope of ascending to first — even though you practice your ass off and win medals at solo and ensemble competitions — because the first chair is a flute prodigy with a fancy ... ahem. Anyway, Cindy berates Jimmy because he is her intellectual rival and because she has a secret, white-hot crush on him. (By the way, I am creeped out by the fact that when I Googled "Cindy Vortex and Jimmy Neutron," a link to a fan fiction site popped up.)

Squilliam Fancyson: "Spongebob Squarepants"
I love Squilliam, who embodies our deepest fears about professional and artistic failure. This is totally lost on my children — whose dreams have yet to be crushed — and who see him as merely an even bitchier version of Squidward Tentacles, the Krusty Krab cashier with a passion for interpretive dance and the clarinet. Squilliam, Squidward's rival from band class, is wealthy and successful, and he lives to remind Squidward that his life sucks comparatively. This has been the setup for some of the the show's most hilarious moments, including this one.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin = Peggy Hill?

Sometimes, watching "King of the Hill" is the only thing that gets me through the grim task of gym cardio at 5:30 a.m. This morning, while slogging it out on the elliptical machine, I had an epiphany: Sarah Palin is Peggy Hill.

She certainly bears a physical resemblance to Hank's substitute teacher wife — the large brown hair, the glasses. But they also seem to share a rock-solid confidence that is wildly out of proportion with their accomplishments. Peggy's hubris has been the launching pad for many a classic episode. A substitute Spanish teacher, Peggy got hired at an elite Catholic school by posing as a nun — then prepared for the task by watching telenovas. After taking an online test administered by "The Intelligence Institute of Texas," she was convinced she was a genius and spent $900 on a bogus Ph.D. When she ran for the Arlen School Board, the only things more comical than her ruthless ambition were her use of props (a backgammon game "briefcase") and her insistence on answering her cell phone with the phrase, "War room!"

If a cartoon John McCain (or Barack Obama) had called Peggy out of the blue to be his running mate, I suspect she wouldn't have hesitated to accept. How hard could it be?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Picture Makes Me Laugh

Friend Shag of Once Upon A Geek took a ton of excellent photos at Dragon-Con in Atlanta, but this one — of a random guy getting his Axl Rose on — may be my favorite. According to Shag, Fake Axl made several references to the oft-delayed, oft-mocked Guns 'N Roses "Chinese Democracy" album. I love how committed he is to the concept and how it has absolutely nothing to do with Dragon-Con, at least as I understand it. Frankly, this guy looks more like Axl Rose than the real one does.

Triumph Returns!

How did I miss this? OF COURSE Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would file a report from the RNC! There are so many priceless moments here, most notably his moment with the adorable (and game) Anderson Cooper. Best quote: "There are no black people here. I feel like I'm at a John Mayer concert."

Purchase of the Week

I just ordered Brian Andersen's inaugural "Reignbow & Dee-Va" comic, which has generated a lot of good Web buzz recently. The indie title is described thusly:

"Reignbow & Dee-Va" is a Kung Fu action comic about a hyper gay secret agent (Reignbow) and his sassy butt-kicking partner (Dee-Va) trying to locate and rescue missing Treasure. Nothing is ever easy of course, as these two drama queens have to battle their way through a sea of vicious and evil vampires to get to the Treasure! This comic is a hilarious (I hope), mega action packed, cheeky comic about two secret agents who will stop at nothing to achieve their mission - except to apply the occasion lip gloss.

I generally don't go for Anime-esque illustrations, but this looks like a campy delight. I haven't encountered many gay characters in comics, and the ones who do exist tend to be women straight out of the Heterosexual Male Fantasy Encyclopedia. Nothing wrong with that, but am I to believe that all of the ripped, spandex-wearing males in the DC and Marvel universes are straight? Really?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Would You See This Movie?

This is a nifty, fan-created poster for the the live-action Wonder Woman movie, which, apparently, is never going to be made. The image is a little static for my taste, but the poster is proof of WW's passionate fan base. Meanwhile, Hollywood yawns.

Warner Bros. is releasing a direct-to-DVD animated Wonder Woman movie in February, and while I'll probably buy it, my excitement has waned considerably. Stiff-looking animation and a reheated storyline (From princess to warrior!) are a long way from "Dark Knight."

I admit that much of my affection for Wonder Woman is rooted in childhood nostalgia and the fact that she's a positive female character in a genre not known for its progressive treatment of women. I still feel like I don't know much about her beyond her fierce warrior status, beauty and desire to protect mankind. But for the right writer, that could be a good thing. Wonder Woman lacks the baggage of characters like Superman, who is tethered to an annoying love interest and a back story most people could recite in their sleep. (Maybe the next Superman flick can focus on the implosion of the newspaper industry, which forces Clark to take a buyout from the Daily Planet!)

At this rate, Hawkman will have a big-screen film before Wonder Woman does. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Protest Song Of The Week

Back in the late '80s, an all-star group of rappers released the pioneering, anti-violence single "Self Destruction." It was preachy and kind of a drag, but nevertheless a responsible and much-needed message. I doubt aspiring Detroit rapper T-Baby was even born when that song made its debut, but she, too, has had enough of the madness! If only this passionate, profane commentary had been released 13 years earlier, Tupac and Biggie might still be alive.

Thanks, Crunk & Disorderly, for sharing this with the world!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Stepping Down From The Ledge

I keep trying to write about the good comics I've read or my kids' lack of enthusiasm for whole wheat pancakes, but all I can think about is politics. And I don't want to.

While I think it's every citizen's responsibility to be informed, an election season can suck you into a bottomless pit of blogs, CNN updates and grassy knoll conspiracy theories. It's a slippery slope, so I've tried to stick to the basics. Last week, I decided to tune in to the highlights of the Republican National Convention. I knew I wasn't voting for McCain, but I wanted to be fair and at least hear what the GOP had to say.

Something weird happened to me after listening to Sarah Palin's speech. I've managed to keep it together pretty well the last couple of years, but the more I listened to Palin, the angrier I became. I can't remember the last time a political speech left me sitting on the edge of the couch, wondering where I could purchase a torch and a pitchfork. Attractive and personable, Palin unleashed the most cynical, low-rent stream of red-white-and-blue-coated crap I'd heard in ages. And I remember the Reagan years.

I'm not saying it wasn't an effective speech, and God knows many of the speakers at the DNC plucked my nerves by constantly playing the "Bush sucks" card. (We know, but he isn't running again.) And as much as I liked Obama's speech, he made me nervous by promising too much.

What made me angry about Palin's speech is that it pandered to the people who helped drag the level of political discourse in this country down to 3rd grade level in the first place: Attack the liberal media (check); attack "elitists," which, apparently, do not include GOP millionaires such as John and Cindy McCain or Mitt Romney (check); take cheap shots at the opponent instead of talking about your ideas (check).

As I predicted, certain members of the base are beside themselves with glee. Online comment boards are full of messages like, "U LIBERALS R RUNNING SCARED! Sarah Rulez and She is HOTT." and "Palin is a real patriot, unlike the radical Barack Hussein Obama, who wants to turn us all into members of al-Qaida!!!!"

I don't like being this mad, but I've had enough. I am tired of hearing about fetuses, patriotism, 9/11, "protecting marriage" and religion in government. I am tired of hearing people having to defend the teaching of science in public school classrooms. I am sick of hearing people who made horrible jokes about Chelsea Clinton — who was a child at the time — bemoan the "media hatchet job" on a grown woman who is running for vice president of the United States.

I grew up in a small town. I consider myself a Christian, and I am raising children in a "traditional" middle class, two-parent household. But nothing in Sarah Palin's shout-out to small-town folks and hockey moms resonated with me. If anything, it made me want to write Obama a check. A couple of checks.

Suddenly, Nov. 4 seems very far away.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lego Batman: Awwww, Yeah!

My 8-year-old will have to pry this from my cold, dead hands.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back to High School

A few scattered thoughts following my (surprisingly fun) 20-year high school reunion:

-I'm getting soft in my old age. When I was 18, I couldn't wait to slam the door on that chapter of my life. Twenty years later, I was downright nostalgic.
-I remember every word of the "Alma Mater."
-No one looked good in acid-washed denim. No one.
-It's great to have a chance to say things you wish you had long ago. A particular classmate, easily one of the most well-traveled and accomplished of us all, endured a lot of nonsense for being so conspicuously different back then. I told her how much I'd admired her courage and wished I'd had it at the time. She seemed genuinely touched — and delighted. It certainly made me happy to tell her.
-Apparently, you can judge a book by its cover. Within minutes, my husband — who went to high school elsewhere — was able to figure the cliques people originally belonged to. He could also spot former Alpha Mean Girls from 20 paces.
-I guess I wasn't as much of a nonentity as I thought. Again, my husband: "Are you sure you weren't popular? Because everybody here sure seems to remember you and like you."
-The prettiest girl in our class is still pretty — and just as nice as I remember her.
-It's probably best that I didn't know about all those motel room parties.
-Nothing quiets a room like a video featuring pictures of classmates who have died.
-"Eye of the Tiger" is still a freaking awesome song.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

'Strategic And Fly'

I love Diddy. His ego knows no bounds, and he doesn't bother with niceties or things like, say, proper grammar. He doesn't have to. He's Diddy! Here, he weighs in on Sarah Palin as only he can. I don't know why Jim Lehrer isn't blowing up this man's cell phone.