Friday, November 28, 2008

This Song Is Hater-Proof

I stopped taking "American Idol" seriously years ago, so until very recently, I couldn't have picked teen runner-up David Archuleta out of a lineup. I'm still not certain I could immediately tell him apart from winner David Cook. That being said, Archuleta's current hit song, "Crush," has lodged itself in brain and will not leave. It's the musical equivalent of cotton candy: sweet, light as air, and utterly addictive. I think it scared my husband a little that I not only paid a whole 99 cents to download the song, but also memorized the lyrics in record time.

And what lyrics! Do you catch your breath/When I look at you/Are you holding back/Like the way I do/'Cuz I've tried and tried to walk away/But I know this crush ain't going away-ay-ay-ayyyyeah ... Poetry!

The nice thing about being my age is that I don't have to pretend not to dig this song. There is a time and a place for the many excellent, critic-approved artists populating my iPod, and there is a time and a place for songs like "Crush." So make room, Nick Lowe. David Archuleta's moving in.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comedy Find Of The Week

Based solely on this MadTV sketch, comedian Anjelah Johnson deserves to be twice as famous as Dane Cook (Does anyone think he's funny? Anyone?). "I've had better days, Bon Qui Qui," is officially my new favorite quote.

Watch more Dailymotion videos on AOL Video

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Is The Point Of A Blog?

Reading this post from career blogger Penelope Trunk made me feel like a gigantic slacker. She's talking about "blogging from the edge" and "generating traffic," and it's just exhausting. I should point out that she also makes six figures from her blog.

I have no interest in generating income or buzz from what is essentially an outlet for my ADD. I haven't even told all of my friends about my blog's existence. The writing I do for work is very specific, so I thought blogging would be a fun way to keep the creative juices flowing. I have no delusions of a book deal or a sit-down with Jon Stewart. I will never be blog-famous like Trunk or Heather Armstrong, and I'm cool with that. Mostly.

I'm just curious about what others think about the nature of blogging, and if goal-setting should be part of the formula. My only goal is to be coherent and to spell the words correctly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Wisdom Of Kanye

“Anyone who says they are happy single is lying. I think you can only be happy in love. So I’m still looking. I wanna have kids, but I want the right girl. I like sex but I like fashion too. How many girls have a hot body and great fashion sense too?”
- Kanye West

You know how you know someone is a tool, but you keep giving them a pass because they're talented/amusing/interesting? That's been my attitude toward Kanye West. He has a habit of saying stupid, self-aggrandizing things, but on the other hand, he wrote "Jesus Walks!" Musically, at least, he seems to have his wits about him. And unlike Diddy, he did not subject the world to Danity Kane.

But Kanye's latest commentary on life and love is too ridiculous to ignore. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that there are plenty of happy single people. God knows there are plenty of miserable people in relationships. And can someone explain what sex has to do with fashion? Is he saying that he won't sire children with a woman who is hot but shops at Sears? What about a woman with an amazing wardrobe but so-so abs? Would that be settling? See how it makes your head hurt just thinking about it?

Love On The Rocks, Ain't No Surprise

This is what happens when your children's pop culture interests invade your household: You find yourself not only caring about whether Joe Jonas cheated on Taylor Swift, but also taking a side. And I know it's not just me, because my friend and fellow mom, S., had this to say: "Good for him. She's trashy." Meanwhile, my friend L. is firmly on Team Taylor: "He broke up with the girl on the phone in less than 40 seconds!!!!!"

Last week, I came across country singer Swift's scathingly funny remarks about her ex, whom she accused of cheating and dumping her via cell phone. On her MySpace page, she used a Joe Jonas doll as a prop: "Look! This one comes with a phone. So he can break up with other dolls!" Oh, damn.

Bummed about the allegations, Joe recently took to MySpace to assure his fans that he hadn't been unfaithful and that he wasn't the one who ended the phone call. He even got all philosophical: "Maybe there were reasons for a breakup. Maybe the heart moved on." The post has mysteriously disappeared.

I can't believe I have spent more than five minutes thinking about this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Laugh Of The Day

Why isn't this Beyonce's real "Single Ladies" video?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Everyone's A Critic

OK, so it appears that I am the only person who liked "Batman: Cacophony." This roundup of opinions from Every Day Is Like Wednesday puts the overall review somewhere between "Awful" and "Steaming pile of camel poo."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Comic of the Week: "Batman - Cacophony"

I like Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy"). I like Batman. Put them together, and you have "Batman: Cacophony," a three-part miniseries that gets off to a crackling start with issue No. 1. A few people have complained that the dialogue is a smidge too cute, but I got a kick out of it - particularly the opening exchange between the Joker and Deadshot in Arkham Asylum. There's a sitcom-y bounce to the whole thing, which is interesting considering that Deadshot has broken into the nuthouse to shoot the Joker at point-blank range. At a discount, no less.

Obviously, the Joker does not meet his doom. Instead, he is sprung from the joint by a cryptic badass named Onomatopoeia, and - how to put this? - at one point, the Joker appears to be offering the guy a quickie up against a tree. Trust me; it's funny. But just when I'd settled in for more hijinks, Smith threw in an extremely disturbing couple of panels featuring the villain Mr. Zsaz, who is, to put it mildly, a cutter. He's also insane, even by Gotham City standards. Enter Batman, and not a moment too soon. Just to reiterate: This is not one for the kids.

Of the three comics I bought this week, including "Nightwing" and "JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman," this was easily the most well done. The artwork by Walter Flanagan is quite good, and as things usually do with the Joker, the first issue ends with a bang. Clearly, this has nothing to do with "Batman: R.I.P" or "Final Crisis," which is probably why I enjoyed it.

As for that JSA special, can I just say that I am over the mopey, alternate-world Superman? He seems like a nice guy, but how many more pages is D.C. going to devote to him bitching about the destruction of his Earth, the loss of alternate-Lois and blah, blah, blabbity blah? Move on! Even the minister he consults seems to be thinking, "How long is this gonna take? I have a Meals on Wheels in an hour." The art is gorgeous, but I'd expect nothing less from writer/illustrator Alex Ross.

If You Haven't Read It ...

Go out and get the Nov. 17 issue of Newsweek, which does a 360-degree analysis of the 2008 presidential campaign and, of course, President-Elect Obama's victory. Even if you didn't vote for him, the magazine is worth getting for the sheer amount of campaign dish. (Notice I said "get" as opposed to "read online." I'm trying to do my bit for the struggling print industry.)

Among the highlights so far:

1. Referring to former President Bill Clinton, a Hillary Clinton aide referred to a friend's private plane as "Air F*** One."

2. Before his presidential run, Obama once broke down in tears while telling a friend how much he regretted being away from his family during his Senate campaign.

3. Remembering how they'd slimed John McCain in 2000, Cindy McCain disdainfully referred to some of her husband's advisors as "those Bush people."

4. While Hillary Clinton answered a reporter's question about why voters didn't see her as particularly likeable, Obama quipped from the sidelines, "You're likeable enough, Hillary."

5. Obama was so distracted during a pre-primary debate that John Edwards scolded him, "You've got to focus!"

6. Hillary hung up on her advisors during a conference call, after her plea for "insight" and "suggestions" met with silence.

7. Obama didn't eat much of the rich food (pancakes, sausage dogs, burgers) on the road. He'd take one bite of a French fry and get the rest "to go," though reporters never once saw him eat the leftovers.

8. When Edward Kennedy chided Bill Clinton for making disparaging remarks about Obama, Clinton responded, "They started it."

9. At Coretta Scott King's funeral, Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F., whispered to Obama, "The torch has been passed to you." No pressure.

10. Despite the claim that the press was in love with Obama, many reporters disliked him early on because he was aloof and too scripted. McCain, on the other hand, missed the friendly relationship he had wiith reporters during his "Straight Talk Express" days.

11. Because of his self-restraint, the 44th president came to be known among his campaign staff as "No Drama Obama."

12. (My personal favorite) Asked if she'd stab Karl Rove in the back if he walked past, Cindy McCain said, "No. I'd stab him in the front."

Struggling With 'Watchmen'

Am I allowed to say that I am having issues with "Watchmen?" As in, I don't like it that much?

Saying you dislike "Watchmen" is almost blasphemous for a geek, considering that the graphic novel has been called the best of its genre, ever. I certainly understand the historical and literary importance of "Watchmen." It's easy to see how Alan Moore's opus broke all kinds of new ground and inspired a style that comic lovers take for granted now. Had I read it back in college, I'm sure it would have blown me away.

But having read so many fresher (and frankly, better) comics and graphic novels first, I'm having a hard time appreciating "Watchmen" on its own merits. I'm about halfway through a borrowed copy, and the only character I give a hoot about is Dr. Manhattan, who gains superhuman powers after accidentally having his atoms rearranged in a nuclear physics experiment. I am extremely annoyed by the whiny, two-dimensional female characters, particularly the second Silk Spectre. As several friends have pointed out, her only function appears to be servicing Dr. Manhattan — and she can't even do that without being tiresome.

Under normal circumstances, I'd say life's too short to slog through a so-so book you don't have to read. But since this is a classic — a geek classic — I feel obligated to see it through, and I've even given myself a Thanksgiving deadline. At least then, I'll be able to offer a more informed opinion and compare it to the film version.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's Gotten Into Condi?

My friend E. just forwarded this super-glam photo of Condoleezza Rice, shown accepting a Glamour magazine Woman of the Year award. After years of wearing helmet hair, Condi looks fresh and youthful with a flattering new haircut.

And then there was her glowing reaction to Barack Obama's victory last week. One pundit pointed out that he had never seen Condi look so happy. Is it just me, or does it seem like she's really ready to be done with her Team W. days?

I'm Just Saying ...

“I want to do a superhero movie and what would be better than Wonder Woman? It would be great. A black Wonder Woman would be a powerful thing. It’s time for that, right?” — Beyonce

Beyonce is a lot of things: gorgeous, talented, richer than God. She's a kinder, gentler Diana Ross for Generation Y.

But she is not a good actress. Every time B. gets a juicy film role (Etta James?) I can't help but wonder if someone with better chops was cheated. It's not like Hollywood is clamoring for the talents of African-American actresses to begin with. If she weren't already so famous, would she even get past the audition stage?

Back to Wonder Woman. On The Unique Geek listserv, we all seem to be in agreement that casting Beyonce is a lame idea. Obviously, she'd look great in the costume. She's certainly logged the gym time. But in order for audiences to get past the "Hey, I thought Wonder Woman was white" thing, any actress of color who tackled the role would have to be amazing. It would piss people off for no good reason, like casting Kate Hudson as Storm. As my friend V. put it: "Wonder Woman is too iconic to portray her so differently."

I know we're supposed to be living in a post-racial era, and this isn't exactly "The Joan of Arc Story" we're dealing with. I just can't get excited about a pop star — any pop star, frankly — taking on one of the best-known characters in the D.C. universe.

For what it's worth, a black Batwoman would be fresh as hell.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Alpha Belles

Several days a week, I work out during my lunch break at a downtown church/gym. If I show up at noon, I'm guaranteed to encounter a bunch of women I call the Alpha Belles. The Alpha Belles go to step aerobics, and they speak in loud, exaggerated Southern accents. As in: Ah cayant believe how hawrd that cla-yass wuz today-ee!

(My friend H. also pointed out that they have conversations about things like "purple peas.")

Look, I grew up in South Georgia, so I'm used to accents. At best, a Southern accent can be mellifluous and romantic. At worst, it sounds like something between bleating and braying. The Alpha Belles have the kind of former-mean-girl accents that take me back to my junior high locker room. For some reason, the most popular girls at my school had accents so thick that I occasionally wondered if they were kidding. It was especially unfortunate that Valley speak was all the rage at the time. Gayag me with a spoon!

I suspect that's partly to blame for my barely perceptible accent, which only my Yankee friends can hear. I must have purposely submerged it, the way some people make up a new identity after leaving home. Upon hearing where I grew up, one colleague demanded, "So where's your accent? You sound Midwestern to me."

It's just one of those things about the South that I'm weird about. I can criticize it because it's mine, but I don't want to hear from any Northerners about how we talk funny.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Barney Hates The Media, Too

I always had a soft spot for George W. Bush's adorable Scottish terrier, Barney. But like many other Bush loyalists, Barney is pissed off with the media and grumpy about turning his crib over to the Democrats - and a shelter dog! That Reuters reporter never knew what hit him.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Toys For The 21st Century

You can tell a lot about society by looking at modern toys. When I was a kid in the 1970s, finding a black fashion doll was, at best, a challenge. Most of my Barbies were white, but mom went to a lot of trouble to add some diversity to my toy box. Had I been Asian, I don't know what she would have done.

Thirty years later, my daughter has a rainbow coalition of Barbies that were easy to find. While browsing potential Christmas gifts online recently, I ran across interracial prom couple Zeke and Sharpay, characters from "High School Musical 3." The dolls are sold together, like their counterparts Troy and Gabriella. (Come to think of it, they're interracial, too. Gabriella is Hispanic and Troy is white.) It's still somewhat unusual to find this reflection of society in playthings, but I think it's neat that so many kids are growing up with a so-what attitude about it.

However, I do wonder when we'll see something like a Chad-and-Troy prom pack.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Five Reasons To See "Role Models:"

1. Christopher Mintz-Plasse: He'll always be known as McLovin, but it's a real feat to make that character seem cool by comparison. His turn as Augie, a teen obsessed with a medieval role-playing game, is both hysterically funny and a touch disturbing. I can't believe this is only his second movie.

2. Paul Rudd: I've been a fan of his since "Clueless," and his gift for delivering acid one-liners while remaining likable is perfect for this movie. His character Danny, a miserable energy drink salesman, needs either a big hug or a hard slap. Maybe both. Either way, his scorching put-down of a barista over the word "Venti" is a thing of beauty.

3. Seann William Scott: I was never that into "American Pie," but I can't deny that Scott, as Stifler, was a stitch. Scott's a good-looking guy, but there's a crazy gleam in his eye that makes him funny without having to say anything. He plays Wheeler, Danny's sidekick and the mascot for the "Minotaur" energy drink. The only thing Wheeler loves more than dressing in a Minotaur suit is the pursuit of casual (and frequent) sex.

4. Bobbe J. Thompson: What is it about foul-mouthed kids (who aren't mine) that cracks people up? Thompson plays Ronnie, a 10-year-old who seems to be channeling early Redd Foxx. When Danny tells Wheeler and Ronnie to pick up him and Augie in two hours, Ronnie's response is, "Fuck you, Miss Daisy!" That shouldn't be funny, but it just is. Especially since Thompson delivers the lines with such ... panache.

5. Jane Lynch: Her character, Gayle, runs the troubled-youth program Sturdy Wings, through which Wheeler and Danny become mentors. She's also an ex-con/ex-addict who is teetering on crazy. Her rambling, nonsensical lectures make you wonder if she's still on drugs. You'll never look at a bagel dog quite the same way again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Suggested Inaugural Playlist

I'm closing out Obama week with a presidential mix!

1. This Is Why I'm Hot (Mims): Self-explanatory.

2. Crazy in Love (Beyonce f/Jay-Z): Because Mr. and Mrs. Obama really appear to be.

3. Set it Off (Strafe): Since Michelle is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, they have to play the sorority's unofficial theme song.

4. Michelle (The Beatles): Sorry, couldn't resist.

5. City of Blinding Lights (U2): When Obama finally appeared to accept the nomination, the opening strains of this song made for the first of many tear-inducing moments.

6. Bad Reputation (Joan Jett): A nod to the unfiltered Joe Biden.

7. The Pretender (Foo Fighters): Adios, W.

8. Walking Through Walls (Jon Brion): Nothing in this world is gonna hold me/No thugs in this road are gonna roll me/No fast talking girl is gonna slow me/Nothing's gonna stop me at all/I'm walking through walls.

9. Hell Yes (Beck): Hell yes, we can!

10: I Feel Good (James Brown): So far, so good!

11. Luck Be A Lady (Frank Sinatra): He's gonna need it.

Entertainment Weekly offers more informed suggestions here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rahm Emanuel: Hot

Is it wrong to point out that the next White House Chief of Staff is kinda smoking hot? Surely not as wrong as this inappropriate yet hilarious commentary on Obama's rumored Cabinet.

A Leap Forward

Ever since President-Elect Obama(!) became a serious candidate for the Oval Office, I've been hearing about how his campaign changed the way white people (in general) think about black people (in general). That's an incredibly broad statement, but I do think we're witnessing a cultural shift that won't be entirely clear for some time. Plus, that street runs two ways. I've had a couple of conversations that make me think the election is changing the way black people (in general) think about white people (in general).

While black voters were especially excited about this election, there's no way Obama could have won by such a wide margin without the support of millions of white voters. That level of support for a man of color took some of my friends and family members by surprise.

My friend V., who is black and a physician, inhabits a mostly white professional world. She likes many of her colleagues. Yet, she admitted that she was surprised — stunned, really — that so many white people of all ages cast votes for Obama. She is not given to fits of optimism about social progress, but she said this election has challenged some of her long-held opinions about race.

"I just never thought we'd elect a black president," my mom told me last night. "I can't believe I'm seeing this." My mom grew up in South Georgia in the '40s and '50s. When she and her sisters walked to school, they had to pass a house where a little white girl yelled "niggers!" at them every day — until my aunt K. snapped and punched her, hard, in the chest. Then they ran like hell. When she began her career as a music teacher in the '60s, she said some of the white women she worked with gave her nasty looks in the cafeteria. (Of course, that could be because my mom was a total babe back in the day. I am retroactively jealous.)

My mother doesn't hate anybody, but she is very skeptical and guarded where race is concerned. But Obama's election is a clear indication that her grandchildren — my son and daughter – are coming of age in a very different world. Not a perfect one, but a better one in many ways.

I don't know where this is going, but I like it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Break Out The Tissues

As if I weren't already teary-eyed, I had to go and read this truly lovely entry by Ms. Moon.

Yes, We Did!

Memorable moments from last night's nonstop election coverage:

1. The Obamas are going to be the most attractive family in the White House since the Kennedys. They are just so nice to look at — elegant and genuinely affectionate with one another.

2. How did Jesse Jackson get a ticket for the Grant Park event? Was he in the Hating Section? In any case, those tears looked real to me.

3. McCain gave an graceful concession speech that struck the right tone. He sounded like the guy I remember from his 2000 campaign, and that was kinda bittersweet.

4. Who came up with that ridiculous CNN hologram concept? I didn't need to see "beamed" into the studio with Anderson Cooper.

5. I'm pretty sure this is the first time a round of the electric slide has broken out following an Electoral College vote tally. The scene in Harlem was classic.

6. At the risk of sounding naive about the state of race relations, I was moved by the sheer diversity of the Grant Park crowd. And that's not even counting the diversity in age, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.

7. Speaking of crowd scenes, how cool was it to see the cheering in Sydney, Tokyo and beyond? That might have more to do with Bush than Obama, but still.

8. I know they have to give us something, but the networks drove me crazy with announcements like this: "Well, 3 percent of the votes in Ohio have been tallied, and so far ..."

9. I honestly felt a little bad for the subdued McCain supporters at campaign headquarters. I know that feeling, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Except Karl Rove.

10. It was surreal to watch the nation turn a page in our political and racial history. It will be years before we know the real impact of an Obama presidency, but for the moment, I am thrilled.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Then We Came To The End

One more day, and it will all be over.

A few nights ago, I dreamed that Barack Obama was campaigning in my hometown of Valdosta, Ga. It was raining, and he was standing under a black umbrella, microphone in hand, addressing a sparse crowd in the old Kmart parking lot. He looked tired and thinner than usual, plus a touch pissed off. I felt his pain, except for the "thinner" part.

We voted two Sundays ago, and I am just done with the presidential campaign. I want to wake up on Nov. 5, check CNN to make sure America didn't f*%# it up (again), and then go on with my life. Until then, I don't want to see another campaign ad, analyze a new set of poll results or listen to the latest interview with Joe Undecided. I couldn't even bring myself to watch Obama's infomercial. (It's not personal, Barack, but you already got my support and my vote. I had other stuff to do.)

Of course, I don't intend completely tune out Election Day. It's too historic and there are too many things at stake. I'm just so afraid that it'll turn out to be a nail-biter, and I'll have that helpless, slightly sick feeling I know so well from the last two election cycles.

On the bright side, one of my favorite illustrators, Alex Ross, has designed one of the best Obama t-shirts ever. I hope I'll have a reason to wear it soon.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It's Homecoming Weekend, But ...

Before I moved back to Tallahassee, I used to be so psyched about returning to my alma mater, FAMU, for homecoming. But for the last couple of years, I haven't been able to work up much excitement for the event unless friends are coming to town. The thought of fighting for a parking spot near campus and wading through the crowd, kids in tow, just makes me very, very tired. What happened? I'm tempted to say that living here makes homecoming less special, but I know plenty of local Rattlers who wouldn't dream of missing it.

It makes me sad to admit this, but in the nine years since we moved back to Tallahassee to raise our family, I've felt increasingly detached from the university. I certainly care about the school's welfare and cherish the memories of my four years there (some of them, anyway), but I'm not out there representing the way many of my former classmates seem to be. I run into them from time to time, and with a few exceptions, the encounters always make me a little uncomfortable. A lot of them socialize together, worship together and/or participate in the same organizations - some alumni-related. It brings back that awkward, fish out of water feeling I had for most of my freshman year, which seems ridiculous to experience at 38 years old.

It's not that big of a deal, but it has been on my mind this week for obvious reasons.