Thursday, October 30, 2008


At last night's book club dinner, the subject turned to celebrity crushes. Or to be more specific, "Who would you dump your husband for?" I'm not sure what this says about me, but I answered first: "Hugh Jackman. Hands down." (Honey, if you're reading this, it was the cocktails talking! Ha ha ha ha ha ha.)

My husband has a good sense of humor, and we got this issue out of the way fairly early in our relationship. Our current agreement that if Thandie Newton comes looking for him, well, no hard feelings. We had a good run. Drop a postcard every now and then.

Hugh is my Thandie Newton, and I don't care that he starred in "Van Helsing" and "Swordfish." A straight male friend of mine even once admitted, "That's a good-looking dude." He sings. He dances. He is Australian. He is almost always described as a genuinely nice person, and he has love for the geeks (See: Wolverine).

So when the epic "Australia" opens, I will be front and center like a 9-year-old at a Miley Cyrus autograph signing. I cannot believe Nicole Kidman got paid for this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Can Vote However You Like

These kids are having way too much fun debating Obama and McCain's policies, T.I.-style. The lyrics are a little muddled in places, but I smiled when I heard the phrase, "Taxes, drop it low!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Lennon Biography

I’ve only read two books about the Beatles, but it seems like that number should be much, much higher. Maybe that’s because I’ve soaked up so much information about them over the last 20 years and spent countless hours enjoying their music. My friend C. and I saw the Cirque du Soleil “Love” production in Las Vegas last year, and it was phenomenal. I’d go see it again in a heartbeat, and I loathe Vegas.

So I feel like I should run out and buy the new John Lennon biography by Philip Norman, especially since I have a 40-percent off coupon. It’s getting good reviews, and at 851(!) pages, the book obviously has a lot to say about the late musician. I just have a hard time believing Norman has anything new or revelatory to add to such a well-known story. Then again, that didn’t stop me from reading Bob Spitz’s equally gigantic (and quite good) Beatles biography.

Norman managed to get in-depth interviews with Yoko Ono (who later withdrew her support), Sean Lennon and Paul McCartney, so that gives the book a good measure of credibility. Reviews suggest that the author found the right balance between hagiography and demonization, which is another plus. Everything I’ve read about Lennon suggests that he was a complicated, often deeply unpleasant man who happened to be a gifted artist.

Still — 851 pages?

I’ll probably wind up buying it, if for no other reason that it’s a fascinating story with so many interesting players. The ending, however, is a real shame.

Most Romantic Panel Ever

I'm still iffy about "Final Crisis," but I have to give it up for this tender reunion between Iris and Barry Allen in issue No. 4. It is simple and heartfelt, and that looks like one heck of a kiss. I'm far from the first to point this out, but the "Sorry I was late" line is just about perfect. Well done.

For more on the context and why this is such a big deal, this is the least confusing explanation I could find.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Whistler

How do you tell a colleague — one you really like — that his/her high-pitched whistling is like an ice pick stabbing the back of your left eye over and over and over and over and over and over and over again?

I have always been sensitive to certain kinds of sounds, but to avoid coming off like a high-maintenance jerk, I've learned to cope. Mostly. I still can't deal with shrill whistling, no matter how in tune or jaunty. Last week in Publix, I silently cursed a particularly enthusiastic whistler, one I could not seem to escape. Apparently, we were out of the same items. By the time we reached the frozen food aisle, I was nearly homicidal.

To people who don't have sensory issues, this kind of complaint seems incredibly petty. It screams, "Get over yourself," so I just put my headphones on when the whistling cranks up. For all I know, the sound of my voice might be like nails down a chalkboard to him. Still, there are times when I would rather not write while listening to U2. I had an office at my old job, and when certain sounds got to be a little much — the nonstop giggling of one co-worker comes to mind — I could just shut the door.

I know I'm not the only one with this problem. When I complain via e-mail to off-site friends, some of them will respond with comments along the lines of, "Office whistlers and chronic throat-clearers should be killed." My friend V. says the sound of cracking knuckles drives her insane. For others, it's open-mouthed gum cracking or noises that imply the presence of phlegm.

Then again, I have a job, which is no small thing in this economy. And Pandora.

Web Video of the Day

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Friday, October 24, 2008

Last Dance

I fought "High School Musical 3" and the musical won. The kids reeaally want to go, like, today, and it would be cruel to make my husband take this assignment alone. As Troy, Gabriella and Chad might say, "All for one!"

Alas, it doesn't end there. Oh, no. Disney has decided to ride this franchise to infinity (and beyond!), announcing plans for a new class of song-loving teens. My daughter's only four, so I'm looking at, what, eight more years of this?

However, I'm going to keep it positive today and list the ways that HSM is good for America:

Diversity: When it comes to race, mainstream networks could learn a lot from children's television. I watch a lot of Nickelodeon and Disney, and I'm fairly impressed with the way their shows handle diversity, as if it's expected. HSM is no different. Leading lady Vanessa Hudgens plays a Latina character. Then there's biracial Corbin Bleu and his curly 'fro, plus a few backup players. I also noticed that the young women in the cast have a range of body types, which is pleasantly surprising.

Good, clean fun: After a harrowing dodgeball scene in an episode of "Freaks & Geeks," my son said he didn't want to go to high school after all. In HSM, high school is a (mostly) nice place where you can twirl your troubles away. A boy can dance without fear of a beatdown. There are no bomb threats, unplanned pregnancies or dream-crushing SAT scores. It's like an "Archie" comic with a film score. I figure kids have plenty of time to learn about the perils of adolescence, which apparently include nude photo shoots.

Decent music: These aren't Aimee Mann tunes we're dealing with, but let's face it — young children don't do irony and subtlety. They want catchy and loud. With the exception of the godawful ballads, the songs of HSM are kinda fun to listen to. "Work this Out" is a great example, and I'm still trying to learn the dance moves.

Arts appreciation: Perhaps this is a stretch, but I'd bet HSM has inspired more than a few kids to join a theater or dance troupe. At the very least, it might lead them to discover classics like "West Side Story."

That's all I got.

Gen X, Represent

Courtesy of Third on the Right. I think I have to buy it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yeah, What She Said

Washington Post fashion reporter Robin Givhan explains the Palin fashion imbroglio much better than I possibly could: "The reality is that there is nothing especially outstanding about her clothes — aside from the red patent pumps and that bright red leather jacket, which she really should rethink. No matter how much they cost, they are not ostentatious or eccentric. They are, quite simply, fine. What is baffling is the mind-boggling evidence of a tin ear for the symbolism of popular culture."

For the record, I thought SP looked great during the VP debate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Closet Case

You heard it here first: There will be a Sarah Palin paper doll for sale — complete with fashion accessories — before the week is out. The news that the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on Palin's wardrobe and grooming is just too good not to be exploited. Seriously, this is the way you connect with "regular Americans?" The ones currently digging in their sofas for spare change and shopping at Wal-Mart? The last thing I bought from Saks Fifth Avenue was tube of lip gloss. And they call East Coast liberals out of touch?

I realize that image is important in these paparazzi-defined times, especially for politicians. But this looks bad from any angle, even if the clothes are destined for charity. Why can't the governor of Alaska buy her own shit? The RNC is trying to dismiss this as a frivolous media fixation, but maybe they should have thought of that before pandering to Joe Six-pack during a recession.

And I'm gonna go there: This is the best Palin could do with $150K? Something about her aesthetic - shiny jackets, bordering-on-tight skirts, a loooooot of red - is a little ghetto. Say what you want about Cindy McCain, but she is, as the kids might say, fresh to death. Palin's look says "sorta hot assistant principal." I can picture fashion guru Tim Gunn, brow furrowed, sizing her up: "Sarah? I'm concerned."

As much as Palin annoys me, she is attractive and has an enviable figure. If I had her legs, I'd probably wear snug little skirts, too. But with $150,000 to blow on clothes, I'd call up my most fashionable friends, or my sister, and ask for help in unleashing my inner Jackie Kennedy.

Whoops! I forgot: She's a liberal, East Coast elite style icon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blog Cross-Promotion of the Week

I'd be remiss in not mentioning this excellent Once Upon a Geek post about three pivotal moments in Batman history: The death of second Robin Jason Todd ("A Death in the Family"), Batman's subsequent unraveling and introduction to Robin-to-be Tim Drake ("A Lonely Place of Dying") and second Robin Dick Grayson's efforts to help his former mentor heal ("Batman: Year Three"). I own the first two stories, and after reading Shag's post, I can't wait to read the third collection.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What Is The Deal With Lois Lane?

I just finished reading the first volume of Grant Morrison's "All-Star Superman," which is both strange and engrossing. Suffice to say that the writer uses his trademark trippy flourishes to freshen up a story you think you already know.

However, there is one enduring, deeply annoying part of the Superman story that even Morrison can't seem to part with: Lois Lane as love interest. Because Lois is an investigative reporter and tough gal, I've tried hard to love her in all her incarnations. But her presence either fills me with boredom or leaves me wondering, for the 500th time, what the heck the Man of Steel sees in her. She is pushy, shameless and, as far as her reporting tactics go, somewhat unethical. I'm all for strong women and expose journalism, but Lois is usually portrayed as an unbelievably self-absorbed careerist who would do anything - however dumb or dangerous - for a scoop. It doesn't help that the last Superman movie asked us to buy Kate Bosworth as a Pulitzer prize winner and single mom.

Not that Superman is the most thrilling character in the D.C. universe. He is the resident Boy Scout, and as such, he lacks the psychological complexity of Batman, the combative, smart-ass edge of Green Arrow and the good/bad boy hotness of Nightwing. But he's still Superman, so shouldn't he have an extraordinary (if mortal) love interest? Batman may have sketchy taste, but at least the women in his life - Catwoman, Talia, etc. - are intriguing.

Many superheroes have had snooze-inducing mates (see: Trevor, Steve), but few of them seem to get the ongoing play that Lois has enjoyed. I've worked with enough obnoxious, elbows-out reporters to know that they are not endearing in real life.

Then again, they aren't using their writing skills to rail against fictional characters.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cracked Out On Hope?

Unless Barack Obama starts clubbing baby seals between now and November, it looks like he's on his way to the White House. I'm not sure what McCain can do to win swing voters at this point, short of leaving bags of gold doubloons on their doorsteps.

I'm happy about that, obviously. I'm a liberal-leaning moderate who thinks the leader of the free world should be compassionate, level-headed and much (much) smarter than I am, so Obama's easy to love. I'm also black, so I'm not going to deny how much his victory would mean to me and my family. My daughter has toy telephone conversations with him, and my son thinks he's "cool." My husband derives great pleasure from watching McCain seethe at having to take Obama seriously.

That being said, can we dial down the Messianic expectations? As much as I dig Obama's narrative and the Hope theme ... well, he's a politician. I wouldn't be voting for him if I didn't think his intentions were honorable, but he's a politician. I was a journalist for too long not to be skeptical. Not cynical, but skeptical. He can't do much without the buy-in of Congress, and George W. Bush has all but burned the place down. I think the most important thing his presidency will do is to help undo our reputation as Crackheads of the Universe. But he is not, as one Web site put it, a walking healing crystal.

My Facebook friend A. got me thinking about this. A., a staunch Hillary supporter, loathes - I mean loathes - Obama. A card-carrying member of the East Coast Media Elite, A. sees Obama as a politcal Kim Kardashian on whom the entire nation has a nauseating crush. He says we are drunk on the snake oil of Hope. A. is also upset that some of his friends might interpret his disdain as racism, especially since even conservatives like David Brooks want to be Obama's BFF.

It should go without saying that disliking Obama (or any person of color) doesn't make one a Klan member. There are a lot of black people I don't like. While I strongly disagree with A.'s assessment, I think he does have a point about the danger of focusing all our hopes and dreams for a colorblind, progressive society on one man. His election would (will?) be one for the history books, and I plan to celebrate (Obama-cue!). It's astounding to me that some people apparently have never seen a family like the Obamas, but I'm happy that they are serving to crush stereotypes.

But assuming that he wins, Obama has a lot of work ahead of him. There will be potholes and snafus along the way, as there are with any president. I don't expect miracles, just responsible leadership that involves Sarah Palin in no way, shape or form.

A. is young, so maybe he's seeing more starry-eyed followers than I am. Most of my friends who are supporting Obama are doing so with their eyes open. Our political Tiger Beat days ended when Bill Clinton left office. We've got Hope, but we know when to say when.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Half-Hearted Defense of Kenley

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I’m going to (kinda, tepidly) defend Kenley Collins, the FSU alum and villainess of “Project Runway’s” just-wrapped season. If you watched the show, you know that retro-loving Kenley often came off as a defensive, self-absorbed brat — this, on a show full of them. She also committed the sin of being snippy and rude to adorable mentor Tim Gunn.

The judges got it absolutely right by naming mild-mannered Leanne Marshall the winner. Even though I was pulling for Korto Momolu (and would wear her clothes), Leanne’s petal-inspired collection was simply sublime. It’s nice to see a wallflower win!

Back to Kenley. Was she immature and a little too impressed with herself? Yes. But she wasn’t nearly as off-putting as Hall of Fame asshats Santino Rice (Season 2) and Jeffrey Sebelia (Season 3). Jeffrey made someone’s mother cry, and unlike Santino, he was humor-impaired. Kenley is Miss Congeniality by comparison.

What little sympathy I have for Kenley stems from her apparent social cluelessness. She often seemed genuinely perplexed by the criticism she received from the judges and her fellow designers. It was obvious to everyone that she was disrespectful to Tim, but she really didn’t get what all the fuss was about. She made this comment to Entertainment Weekly: “I stood up to the judges and Tim, but that wasn't against them. I was shocked by the way they treated me, because I was nothing but nice to them.”

That attitude made me think of my son. Granted, he’s 8 years old and (generally) polite to people he doesn’t know well. But when he becomes annoyed, he has a habit of blurting out things that, while perhaps true, are inappropriate and combative. And then when he’s reprimanded, he’s like, “What’d I do?” It’s gotten better in the last two years, but his understanding of the nuances of social interaction is a work in progress. This is one reason we’ve long thought he might be at the mild end of the autism spectrum, but that’s a whole other issue.

Kenley attributes her issues to “aggressive, New York kind of upfront, forward behavior.” She was raised in Pompano Beach. Still, I think of her not as the popular mean girl but the intense attention hog other kids whisper about in the hallway.

Or maybe she really is just a pouty jerk (albeit a talented one). I guess motherhood has made me soft.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bad Sex ... In Fiction

When I was in junior high, my best friend and I used to scope out racy romance novels at discount stores and read the introductory passages aloud. At 12 or 13, we didn't have a clue about sex, but we knew overwrought writing when we saw it. I only wish I could remember some of the howlers we unearthed back in the day.

Many a fiction writer/writing coach has talked about the difficulty of writing about sex well. Much like the act itself, it can be a risky enterprise — and there are so many ways it can go wrong. When I encounter a cringe-worthy passage in an otherwise decent book, I tend to skip past it because I'm so embarrassed for the writer, the characters, and myself.

We have the U.K.-based Literary Review to thank for shedding light on this important topic with its annual Bad Sex in Fiction award. According to the Guardian, the award is designed "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."

These passages were among the 2007 nominees, and they range from "Ew" to "WTF?" My favorite line: "But inter-species sex is illegal."

By the way, the late Norman Mailer won.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sticker-Free, For Now

I've never been much of a bumper sticker person, especially since I worked for so long in a field that discourages displays of political preference. But I'm excited about my candidate of choice in a way I haven't been in years. I'm not a newspaper journalist anymore, so if I want to slap a "Geek Moms for Obama" bumper sticker on my humble station wagon, I can. Except, I'm afraid to.

Because I spend my time with sane, clear-thinking people, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about wingnuts. I just don't have the energy. But the "Kill him!" madness that went down during a recent Sarah Palin campaign appearance is bothering me. Not just in a "Wow, that's fucked up" way, but in a "There are still people who want to put a bullet in uppity black folks" way. It forced me to consider the fact that there are people who are quietly (and not so quietly) seething that a man of color is well on his way to the Oval Office. They're dressing it up in rhetoric about his "radical" connections, but anyone who thinks race isn't the issue here is delusional. I watched a CBS reporter ask some McCain supporters about whether it was fair to refer to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama," and their outrage was palpable: "That's his name isn't it?" one woman spat back. "We're just calling him by his name."

There are plenty of people riding around with Obama (and McCain) bumper stickers, and their cars don't appear to be keyed or have broken windows. We're used to enthusiastic displays of partisanship in Tallahassee, but it is getting ugly out there. The last thing I need with two kids in tow is a confrontation in the Shell parking lot, or worse, on Capital Circle. On the wrong day, I might engage, and that wouldn't be good for anybody. So for now, I'm keeping it sticker-free. It's my vote that really counts - I hope.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Five Things I Wish Tallahassee Had

While the national economy is tanking, quite a bit of construction is going on around town. According to this column by Mary Ann Lindley, banks, office buildings and (wait for it) more condos are coming soon.

All those things will contribute to our tax base, which is important. And they're all so dull I can hardly stand it. I'm grateful that Tallahassee doesn't look like the rest of Florida, but I wish we could attract some businesses with more ... buzz. No, Wal-Mart doesn't count.

In no particular order, here are five things I wish Tallahassee had:

1. Trader Joe's (Their ginger snaps? Heaven.)
2. Nordstrom
3. A theater where alternative films stayed for more than a week.
4. An airport that didn't require me to fly to Atlanta to get to Orlando.
5. Ikea

There's a long-running discussion about this over at Urban Planet. One of the posters got their wish for an IHOP, so maybe my dream of unassembled, Swedish furniture will be realized.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Just Wondering

On the way home from my son's barbershop Sunday, I saw a group of pro-life demonstrators at the corner of Monroe and Tennessee streets. Their messages were boilerplate: "Abortion is Murder." "Abortion Kills Children." And so on.

It's a free country. If you feel strongly enough about something to spend a gorgeous Sunday afternoon sharing your opinions on Monroe Street, well, good for you. Personally, I think abortion is much too complicated and personal an issue to argue via poster board. But as far as I can tell, abortion and the marginalization of gay people are the only things certain people care about. That, and protesting against movies they haven't seen.

Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I've never seen a group of demonstrators this fired up about children who are already born. I know there are many wonderful people who work on behalf of abused and neglected children, but they're not showy types. I wonder if the passionate pro-life demonstrators who stand on street corners — and who descend on the U.S. Capitol regularly — ever think about drawing attention to less flashy child welfare issues. Maybe some of them do.

At least they're more focused than the "Repent Now" folks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Boy's Gotta Dance

Like most 8-year-old boys, my son likes three things in his movies: action heroes, robots, and stuff blowing up. He is contemptuous of his sister's "Hello Kitty" and "Barbie" DVDs. If I let him, he would watch every PG-13 superhero film released in the last five years, back-to-back. Then, he would put on a cape and start jumping off of furniture.

Nevertheless, he likes the "High School Musical" franchise. No, scratch that. He loves it — not that there's anything wrong with that. But given his usual entertainment preferences, I find it interesting that he responds so enthusiastically to this jazz-handing Disney juggernaut. Does he want tickets to see "High School Musical 3?" Yes, he does.

There's a scene halfway through "High School Musical 2," in which an angry Zac Efron stomps across a golf course, singing, dancing and emoting like there's no tomorrow. You know he means business, because he's dressed in black and hurls a golf club. My friend J., a longtime lover of musicals, said it was way Jerome Robbins — in other words, "a very gay performance."

The last time "HSM2" was on, I watched my kid get up and recreate that "Bet On It" routine almost move for move, word for word. I am not exaggerating. If he had been auditioning for a production at his school ("Elementary School Musical?") he would have killed. Bring it, Efron!

What a little Renaissance man. Now, if only I could skip "HSM3."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Holy Coincidence, Batman!

A few months ago, I opined that someone should develop a "Smallville"-like show about the early years of the first Robin, Dick Grayson. Well whaddaya know? According to this article, The CW is developing a series about Grayson, focusing on his pre-Robin years as a young circus acrobat. How cool is that? Now, if only I could get some kind of pitch/consultant fee.

Chris Rock Is Funny. His HBO Special, Not So Much

I almost feel sorry for artists who gain a reputation for being edgy and genre-defining. The expectations are too high (See: Chappelle, Dave), and eventually, you're going to be accused of having lost the magic you had when you were younger and less famous. Which brings me to Chris Rock.

I've been a fan of Rock's for a long time, and I still enjoy hearing him riff on current events with Bill Maher and David Letterman. For years, MTV has been trying (and failing) to re-create the watercooler buzz generated by Rock's 2003 Music Video Awards hosting gig. Rock killed that night, deflating celebrity egos right and left with lines like, "Lower your IQs and lower your expectations! It's Kid Rock!" His last two comedy specials on HBO were ruthless, controversial and very, very funny. Who didn't wince a little when he said people could be either bored (married) or lonely (single)?

So I expected more of the same from his latest stand-up HBO special, "Kill the Messenger." While it wasn't exactly terrible (See: Cook, Dane), many of the jokes were dated and tired — two things I don't associate with Chris Rock. While he did make some funny observations about the presidential election, the race/relationship jokes were straight out of a 1992 "Def Comedy Jam" set. To sum it up:

• Black women sure are a pain in the ass!
• Black men like white women — especially big ones!
• That makes black women even angrier!
• If you're white, be really, really careful about using the N-word!

It isn't just me. My friend E. said that a few of her friends went to see Rock at Madison Square Garden, and the collective verdict was, "Meh." My friend V., who saw the special before I did, pronounced the whole thing "irritating."

The thing is, Rock is still quite capable of bringing the funny. He just didn't do it in this special. Consider some of the zingers from his recent "Larry King" appearance:

•"Jason Lee has done more interviews promoting 'My Name Is Earl' than [Sarah Palin] had to run for vice president of the United States."
• "[Sarah Palin is] kind of like Kim Kardashian on 'Dancing With the Stars.' All that ass and you can't shake it!"
• "Bin Laden did more movies last year than Sam Jackson. I think he's in 'Lakeview Terrace.' "

Heck, just watch it here. His "Letterman" spot, following Bill Clinton, is here.