Thursday, November 19, 2009

Passing On 'Precious'

I'm not going to see "Precious."

Back in the '90s, I knew several people who had read (or attempted to read) "Push," the novel "Precious" is based on. To be fair, I'm one of those people who can't stomach stories, real or imagined, about child abuse. Reviews and word of mouth convinced me that I was the wrong audience for a story about a morbidly obese girl who is repeatedly raped by her father, impregnated with his children, and subjected to depraved acts at her mother's hand. It's not that I didn't know those things happened (I was a newspaper reporter, after all), but I had zero desire to be immersed in that world in my down time.

The Washington Post's Courtland Milloy said it better than I can, but I just don't see the value in watching this hellish story play out on the big screen. I'm all for tackling hard truths through art, but I have a hard time believing that "Precious" will do anything to make a difference in the lives of real-life abuse victims. Plus, there's something deeply grating about the idea of a privileged film festival audience seeing this movie and gasping, "How powerful! I had no idea this world of ghetto tragedy existed!"

There's a valid argument that "Precious" represents a thoughtful alternative to movies about African-American men dressed in drag and adaptations of ham-fisted stage plays. (Irony! Tyler Perry is one of the big names promoting "Precious.") But are those my only choices if I want to see a movie with more than two black people in it?

Sorry, Oprah. I can't go down this road with you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Goat's Mustache is Cameron Diaz

I really want to meet the person responsible for casting "Community," because he or she is a genius. It's no surprise that Joel McHale and Chevy Chase are funny, but Danny Pudi is a real find as the intense, unfiltered Abed, who appears to have Aspergers. As sketchy as that sounds, there's nothing pitiful or mean about the way Abed's quirks play out on "Community" — especially since most of the characters are odd ducks. I definitely see shades of my son J. in Abed, and it's great to see that represented in a genuinely funny way.

For the record, J. gets a kick out of Abed's shenanigans, and the above clip is one of our favorites. Major props to my friend V. for turning me on to this show.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Michelle and Me!

Well, this is pretty doggone cool. The folks behind Mrs. O, the lovely blog devoted to Michelle Obama's style, have written a book, "Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy" — and yours truly is quoted in it! I've written hundreds of articles, editorials and essays over the years, but this may excite my mom more than anything I've ever done.

A while back, Mrs. O readers were invited to offer their thoughts on what makes the first lady a style icon. I wish I could remember exactly what I wrote, but it was something about how she helped make fashion seem more accessible. I understand the fantasy aspect of clothing design, but a lot of the stuff coming down the runway has nothing to do with the average American woman's needs. OK, Michelle Obama isn't exactly average, but her clothes are both stylish and grounded in reality. She has her pick of designers, but she also wears clothes from J. Crew, Target and White House/Black Market.

This is probably as close as I'll ever get to Michelle Obama (or Michael Kors, included in a full Q&A), but I'm stoked. Thanks, authors!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stay Awesome, "Glee"

I love "Glee" so much that I'm already worried about the moment, perhaps inevitable, when it starts to make me crazy. I saw it happen to my friends who got sucked in to "Lost" and "Heroes," and the depth of their disappointment when those shows went off the rails ... well, it was troubling.

So far, the musical bits have been fabulous and the casting is spot on. I don't know how much Fox is paying Jane Lynch to portray cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, but it's probably not enough. The woman is a master of the withering one-liner ("I’ve always thought the desire to procreate showed deep, personal weakness."), and her character is terrifying. Then there is Kurt, glorious Kurt, who cracks me up with the mere arch of an eyebrow. I thought the episode where he came out to his flannel-wearing dad was expertly handled. After Kurt stammered that he was gay, his dad shrugged and said, "I know." That he wasn't thrilled about it but still openly loved his kid seemed realistic — and it was touching.

In fact, that particular episode illustrated what makes "Glee" work so well: its successful combination of absurdity (the football team dancing to "Single Ladies") and poignancy (quarterback Finn's terror of being stuck in his hometown forever because of his girlfriend's pregnancy). And don't even get me started on how effing fabulous Kristin Chenowith was a few weeks ago as a drunken, former glee club star. The show's high goofball factor helps it get away with stereotypes that would otherwise be annoying.

But I'm not completely blinded by devotion. No show is perfect, but sometimes I worry that the things I don't like about "Glee" will start to overwhelm the rest. Like the constant focus on Rachel and Finn's mutual infatuation. I really like Rachel's character, particularly her awareness that her ruthless ambition alienates people. Finn's hunky/dim schtick is adorable. But what initially hooked me was the motley crew of glee club members, and the assumption that they'd all get a chance to shine. I want to know more about Tina, the Asian girl who auditioned with a ridiculously aggressive rendition of "I Kissed a Girl." But she's barely spoken since the pilot. Will Mercedes, the club's budding Aretha, be given more to do than make sassy remarks about her friends' shenanigans? I love the fact that Artie's wheelchair is regularly worked into song-and-dance routines. And the boy is funny. What's his story?

I realize the show hasn't been on that long, and maybe the "Glee" writers are getting to all that. For all I know, Artie and Tina may become an item. But I've been watching television too long to expect the unexpected, even from a really good show. Now that the show has caught on and grabbed the attention of people like Madonna, I fear a parade of Rihanna-esque cameos and repetition of themes that are already starting to wear out their welcome.

Here's hoping I'm wrong. For now, I'm unavailable Wednesday nights from 9 to 10.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Familiar Story, Beautifully Told

Does Geoff Johns sleep? From where I'm sitting, it looks like he's writing roughly 70 percent of the books DC is putting out right now, including event stories like "Blackest Night." He's like the Joyce Carol Oates of comic book writers.

Johns' work rarely disappoints, but I approached his latest project, "Superman: Secret Origin," with trepidation. The Man of Steel's backstory has been told many times in almost every medium, and it was hard to believe that there was anything new to say. But while I'm not a rabid Superman fan, I am a sucker for how-it-all-began tales and Gary Frank's artwork. I'm glad I put my skepticism aside, because "Secret Origin" No. 1 is winning in its simplicity and obvious affection for all the origin tales that preceded it.

In Johns' version, Clark Kent is a teenager who is freaked out by his burgeoning powers. Like all adolescents, he's stuck in a changing, unpredictable body. The difference is that when he kisses his childhood sweetheart, Lana, the embarrassing, involuntary reaction is scorching heat vision. Ma and Pa Kent realize they can't put off The Talk any longer, and as a parent, I found myself wondering how I'd break the news to my kid that he dropped out of the sky in a rocket ship. Their big reveal goes badly, especially after unexpected holographs of Clark's — uh, Kal-El's — Kryptonian birth parents appear near the rocket they've hidden in the barn. Clark goes nuts with anger and confusion, and Pa Kent's loving reassurance ("You are my son.") is so touching that it made me a little teary.

The art in this book is gorgeous. Frank draws Clark exactly like a young Christopher Reeve, who is the gold standard for Superman. There's one panel where teen Lex Luthor's facial expression is so perfectly furious that I kept flipping back to study it. Even if you knew nothing about who Luthor eventually becomes, it would be chilling.

Rarely has my 9-year-old son so entranced by a comic book. As I watched him read "Secret Origin" for the second time, I was struck by how few of my comics I've been able to share with him. Let's face it; once you leave the kids' section, a great many comic books are filled with imagery inappropriate for children under 13. "Secret Origin" isn't a "kids" comic book, but it is accessible in the best possible way. He's antsy for No. 2, and so am I.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Video Of The Week

For years, my friend C. and I have been mocking R&B love songs that offer literal, step-by-step previews of the night ahead. Besides being unintentionally hilarious, the songs are often bossy (Don't tell me what color dress to wear!) and ridiculous. All night long? No thanks. I've got an early conference call.

I have C. to thank for unearthing the satirical gem "Ooh girl!," which is the perfect answer to years of goofy sexual braggadoccio in song: "I apologize in advance. I can probably give you seven minutes if you don't move around too much."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

R.I.P., Swagger

I remember the precise moment that the word "crunk" jumped the shark. I was still a newspaper journalist, and a colleague was writing a story about a popular college event in town. One of the quotes in the article contained the word "crunk," and the editors decided that the term needed elaboration. It was a perfectly reasonable decision, but when the article ran the next day, I knew the word's days were numbered.

I think we can all agree that the death knell for "swagger" is its use as the name of an Old Spice product. Even LL Cool J as a pitchman can't make this work. Granted, swagger was a legitimate word long before it began peppering hip-hop songs and youth lingo. But in recent months, we've been treated to a Swaggapalooza courtesy of T.I. and Soulja Boy, who downsized it to "swag." (I love how putting words in quotation marks makes them extra unhip, like when the Curtis comic strip writer makes references to "rap" music.) It was great while it lasted, but once Madison Avenue gets its hands on something with a cool factor, the expiration date is just around the corner.

If I were a single man, I wouldn't want to get caught with this in my medicine cabinet, no matter how good it smells.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Death Blows

Might as well put this out there: My dad died on Thursday. We were not close, and at this point, he'd been out of my life longer than he'd been in it. The last time I talked to him was about a year ago, and it didn't go well. Dad was as troubled as he was brilliant, which is to say very. He was good at talking; the listening, not so much.

Like most people who lose an estranged parent, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel. There is sadness, of course, but also long stretches of utter blankness and confusion. In a way, I was long done mourning his absence from my life, and I am (mostly) finished being mad about the chaos he caused when he was present. Frankly, it's probably easier to forgive miserable parenting once you have children. I'm not making excuses for him, but there are days where I'm acutely aware of how hard it is to show up and be present for another human being, day in, day out. It's exhausting. Life couldn't have been easy for a black man with a master's degree in South Georgia almost 40 years ago, and without going into too much detail, my father had internal struggles that I understand all too well.

But still. By the weekend, I was firing off bitter emails to by brother and sister about things I thought I was done with. My sister, in classic fashion, wrote back, "I see someone is rolling right through the stages of grief. You always were an overachiever." And just like that, I thought about the handful of good things that we did get from him, like a wicked sense of humor. His sarcasm used to get on my mother's nerves, and now she's stuck with three adult children who have raised it to an art form. Sorry, mom.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to say it's been a deep-thoughts kind of weekend — but I will not, under any circumstances, write a poem. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh, Coldplay, You Hurt Me

It's not always easy being a Coldplay fan. Sure, they've sold a gazillion records and have made some of the most gorgeous rock tunes of the last decade, but they're an easy target for hipsters who think they haven't been any good since "Yellow." One of my favorite music critics mocks them mercilessly. Plus, I have a lot of friends who love themselves some Radiohead, and you really don't want to get them started. (Example: My dear friend B. refers to Coldplay as "a photocopy of a photocopy of Radiohead.") And like a chump, I always take the bait and waste my breath defending Chris Martin & Co. as makers of artful yet accessible music, then launch into a diatribe about how there are far, far worse bands, and why don't people pick on them, goddammit.

Anyway, I was oh-so stoked when I got tickets for Coldplay's Viva La Vida tour stop in Tampa. Then somebody in the band got sick and the show was postponed. When friends started saying, "Dude, sorry your show got canceled," I got all shrill: "Not canceled! Postponed! It's not the same thing!" Well, it's officially canceled. After weeks of speculation, Live Nation began sending out the sad, sad emails about refunds.

Guys, how could you do this me? All summer long, I listened to friends' ecstatic reports about seeing U2 and Incubus and Bruce Springsteen, patiently waiting for my moment — mine! — to hear "Cemeteries of London" and "The Scientist" live. This is the thanks I get for (pointlessly) rebuking the naysayers? You don't call yourselves COLDplay for nothing.

Of course, you'll release another CD of soaring anthems, I'll eventually get to see you play live, and all will be forgiven. In the meantime, those tweets about your awesome gigs in (insert European city here) aren't helping me heal.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Noise pollution

While we were in Atlanta last weekend, we met a friend of our in-laws who is from Ghana. She met President Obama when he was in Ghana over the summer, and she's a fan. The conversation eventually turned to American politics and the hoopla over health care reform, and she asked me a question I couldn't really answer: "Why are people so angry? I don't understand."

I muttered something about a segment of people being wary of anything that smacks of "socialism," even if they couldn't define it at gunpoint. I also explained that the complexity of our current health care delivery system makes it difficult to have an informed, coherent conversation about reform, and that people are frightened in hard economic times. But the more I talked, the more I realized that none of those arguments explained the vitriol or the naked rage we'd been seeing on the news.

I feel compelled to say that it is absolutely OK to disagree with Obama's health care proposal or any of his proposals. Rock on. Dissent plays a huge role in our nation's history, and it's nice to live in a country where it won't get you thrown in jail, or worse. But the town hall meeting shenanigans and the congressional heckling and the protect-our-kids-from-Obama sentiment and the commentator fear-mongering have nothing to do with policy or ideas.

Back in my hometown, the city school system decided not to let students watch the president's speech because doing so would take 18 minutes out of the school day. Really? When I was in high school, it was routine for pep rallies to last two class periods during football season. But a speech about staying in school and taking responsibility for your education is too distracting. Right.

If my reaction to all this appears delayed, it's because I'm genuinely troubled by what the "health care" debate has revealed. Or maybe it hasn't revealed anything so much as reminded us of that thing's presence, however diminished it might be.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dispatch from Dragon*Con

I'm in Atlanta attending Dragon*Con, my first-ever comic/sci-fi convention! It's all sort of overwhelming, even with the husband as my (his words) "assistant." Everywhere you look, there are people in incredibly detailed getups, and they're all more than happy to pose for photos. I'll definitely post the best when I return to the ranch. The coolest thing is seeing whole families in costume and getting into the spirit of things. As for me, I'm perfectly fine in my Star Wars T-shirt. The Stormtroopers I posed with certainly appreciated it.

Highlights? Definitely meeting the wonderful George Perez and Darwyn Cooke. In addition to being wildly talented and influential, they're both kind to their fans. Oh, and I got to pose with a blinking, chirping, mobile R2-D2 unit. Not a bad way to spend Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thoughts On Random Comics

A few thoughts about comics purchased over the last two weeks:

1. Did Tom Tresser/Nemesis seriously turn down Wonder Woman's offer to mend fences during "a long hot shower?(Issue No. 35)" I've been reading "Wonder Woman" off and on since 1977, and I have never seen her make a proposal quite like that. Not that I'm hating, because I've written before about how previous writers tiptoed around the sexuality of arguably the sexiest character in the D.C. universe. Some readers howled when Diana began her relationship with Metahuman Affairs Agent Tresser, but I thought Gail Simone developed their Amazonian courtship nicely. And when he found out that her original motive was just to keep her bloodline going ... ouch. Diana's attempt to make up Teddy Pendergrass-style was totally unexpected, as was Tresser's "We're through" response. Yeah, like that would really happen.

2. I can't believe I fell for the "Archie proposes to Veronica" gimmick, but like a chump, I bought Archie No. 600, the first of SIX issues devoted to this storyline. There is so much wrong with this comic, including the idea that all the major players would stick around after graduation to attend "State University" in Riverdale. Wouldn't Dilton at least have gotten a full ride at an Ivy League school? Spoilers ahead! So upon college graduation, Archie — despite having no job — blows a check from his parents on a ring for Veronica. Betty (now a New York City career woman) and Jughead just happen to be walking past the jewelry store when Archie pops the question. She's devastated, but can someone explain to me why she wants him to begin with? Again, Archie is unemployed, so Mr. Lodge swoops in to give him a bullshit position at Lodge Enterprises. Meanwhile, Veronica begins planning what is sure to be a tacky production devoted to her ego, complete with 22 bridesmaids. The issue ends with her asking (No, she didn't!) Betty to be her maid of honor, and Betty simultaneously declaring, "You won." There is a genuinely funny panel where Veronica tells her wedding planner that the event can't be "a low-key" affair like the Obama inauguration ball.

3. "Red Robin" started out with promise, but a few things are starting to bug me. It's really not like Tim Drake, even in grief, to run off to Europe on a wild goose chase. I can understand him being pissed off about Dick Grayson's insistence on bringing Damian Wayne into the Bat-fold, but I can't see him cutting ties completely. He and Dick (and Alfred) are awfully close, and why would he give Damian the satisfaction of leaving? Plus, the art in this issue was particularly awful. In some panels, Tim looks like a wiry teenager, which makes sense. In others, he looks like a 30-year-old, which is nuts. I'm giving this title one more chance, and only because I am so fond of the character.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Geeking Out On "Batman and Robin"

My friend S., a fellow comic book geek, refuses to buy Grant Morrison's sublime "Batman and Robin" because, well, he's still smarting from "Final Crisis." I think S. has reached the end of his tolerance for the author's ambitious brand of storytelling, which sometimes comes across as the result of marathon Sharpie-huffing. I admit that there are entire issues of "Final Crisis" that made no sense to me, even after repeat readings.

But "Batman and Robin" is a completely different animal, and it's great stuff. It's only three issues old, but next to "Secret Six," it's become the book I look forward to most each month — even ahead of (gasp) "Wonder Woman." The combination of Morrison's writing and Frank Quitely's art has been just about perfect, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about what happens when Philip Tan steps into the artist's role in issue No. 4. But so far, this book has hit its marks every time. S., are you listening? We'll talk.

This should be obvious to anyone with a passing knowledge of Morrison's work, but "Batman & Robin" is not for the children. My 9-year-old son desperately wants to read it, but the just-concluded Professor Pyg storyline — in which a pig-masked nutcase tries to unleash disease-carrying "Dollotrons" throughout Gotham City — is the stuff of effed-up nightmares. Pyg isn't just villanous; he's sick. (Spoiler alert!) There's a series of panels involving an briefly abducted Damian Wayne (Robin), who becomes an audience of one for the professor's creepy cabaret dance. Seriously, at one point, old boy is dropping it like it's hot and ripping off his shirt ("I want to be sick in public!"), which is one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen in a mainstream comic book. But Damian — having been raised by assassins and all — is pretty unflappable, and once he gets free and starts kicking everyone's ass, it's clear that the boy can handle himself in extreme situations.

I'm very curious to see how Damian's relationship with Batman/Dick Grayson (swoon!) gels over the months, because their dynamic is different from any previous Batman-and-Robin pairing. There are moments of playfulness (Damian suggests they go by "Robin and Batman"), but there is nothing happy-go-lucky about Bruce Wayne's son. Remember; this is the kid who beheaded a criminal in "Batman and Son" and tried to kill Robin III, Tim Drake. He's a handful for Dick and Alfred, and I suspect Morrison has some big plans for this character's development.

Mr. Tan, good luck to you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bumper Sticker Of The Week

I just happened to have my good camera in the car when I spotted this in front of me on Park Avenue last week. It's sort of clever, but I'm not a fan of advertising your relationship status and mate requirements via bumper sticker. I do wonder what the liberal version of this would be, though.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Giving Away The Skim Milk For Free

Done well, a film trailer can be almost as satisfying as full-length film. Ideally, it captures your attention while giving away just enough information to leave you wanting more. In the case of a flick like "Watchmen," the trailer was apparently far better than the movie it was attached to.

My issues with the average romantic comedy have been well documented here, but I'm always surprised by how bad the trailers are. You'd think the studios would be at least savvy enough to not give the entire plot away. The first time I noticed this was when the trailer for "No Reservations" — the Catherine Zeta-Jones/Aaron Eckhart chefs-in-love movie — aired in 2007. She's a hard-charging chef caring for her dead sister's adorable daughter! He's the fun-loving, hot new guy in the kitchen! Their styles clash, but will he be the one who shows her how to embrace life — and love? Gee, do you think? Unless you're a big fan of either actor, why would you pay 8 bucks or more to see it when the trailer tells you exactly what's going to happen?

Not to harp on Eckhart, who really is an appealing actor, but he's starring in another movie ("Love Happens") that's guilty of giving away most of its milk for free via trailer. He's a successful self-help expert in pain. Enter the beautiful florist who has sworn off men. Can these two wounded souls find love again ... together? For real?

In the same week, I saw the trailer for "All About Steve," in which Sandra Bullock's wacky, unlucky-in-love character stalks a TV cameraman played by Bradley Cooper. OK. I can see stalking Bradley Cooper, and Thomas Haden Church automatically elevates any movie. But I hate it when a trailer indicates that a morally ambiguous character is going to redeem him/herself, and is inspired to do so because of some potential love interest who "isn't like anyone I've ever met." No. Also, major points off for the use of Sara Bareilles "Love Song," which is just insulting.

Maybe the real problem is my suspicion that neither of these movies are going to be very good. Sure, there were some expected moments in the "Sex and the City" movie (Did anyone doubt that Carrie and Big would get back together?), but the journey was satisfying and too complex to be reduced to a two-minute trailer. Give me something to look forward to.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Can't We Be Friends?

When my husband J. and I were dating, he had a great friendship with a single, female co-worker, a woman I liked very much and never thought of as threatening. I also had several good male friends at the time, and one of them routinely hung out with me to watch "Party of Five" or just gab over dinner. If J. thought that was a problem, he never said anything — and he isn't really the type to brood quietly. Come to think of it, we both still have pals of the opposite sex, and our basic attitude remains, "Whatever."

According to comedian Steve Harvey, now a relationship expert/correspondent for "Good Morning America," we are idiots. He is of the opinion that these "outside relationships" are nothing but trouble, and that men and women can't be friends. Period. Occasionally, I've worked with guys who've said that their wives/significant others would not be happy to see them having lunch or coffee (in broad daylight) with a female colleague, and that baffles me. I mean, I think my husband is sexy and fun to be with, but I don't assume that the other women in his life are all trying to get in his boxer briefs. Plus, I'd like to give him a little credit for having these things called boundaries and self-control (Unless the friend in question is Mila Kunis, in which case I've been warned that things could get murky.)

I've always thought that friendship is a form of attraction, and obviously, there are relationships between married people and their "friends" of the opposite sex that end up on a mattress (Hello, Gov. Sanford!). But that doesn't just happen out of the blue, either. Assuming that a) the spouse isn't a lying asshole; b) the marriage isn't already in trouble; c) s/he is conducting the friendship in a respectful, open way; and d) the parties involved aren't fooling themselves about their feelings, I can't buy Harvey's theory. I've known too many great guys to believe that they see women only as potential conquests. When I went through a crummy breakup in college, one of the first people I called was my childhood friend, B., who gave me the kind of no-bullshit analysis men are so good at ("Move on; he has.") We've been friends for more than 30 years and we adore each other's spouses — and we are so not interested in each other that way.

However, if you spot J. having a drink with Mila Kunis, a heads-up would be nice.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seriously. Enough.

I realize that vampires had their fans long before "Twilight," and if I owned a store with any vampire-themed wares, I'd be promoting the heck out of them right now. I totally get it. OK?

But when I walked into Borders this weekend and saw a huge display dedicated to the Gen Y vampires of "Twilight," "Blue Bloods," etc., I was overcome with exhaustion. Maybe it's because, for the umpteenth time this year, the cover of my beloved Entertainment Weekly is devoted to some permutation of the "Twilight" saga — this time, the "New Moon" sequel. Or maybe it's because I can't walk through a checkout aisle without a publication telling me that Robert Pattinson (Edward) and Kristen Stewart (Bella) are in love/breaking up/just pals/totally doing it. And didn't I just see a commercial for the CW's new teen drama "The Vampire Diaries?"

Again, I understand that Stephanie Meyer is but one of several writers who happened to write a series of books about vampires. Hers is the biggest, and she's certainly doing her part to help keep food on booksellers' tables. (And to be fair, when the "Harry Potter" books were at their peak, bookstores were pimping every children's series that looked like JK Rowling might have had something to do with it). "New Moon" will probably be a huge hit this fall, and as I've admitted, I haven't exactly been immune to Pattinson's charms as Edward Cullen. HBO's "True Blood" seems like the kind of show I would love, and I'm looking forward to renting the DVDs and getting acclimated. But for the love of God. I feel we're at the beginning some cosmic shark-jumping moment that will end in a Disney vampire musical featuring songs by Demi Lovato.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thanks For The Memories, John

For all the memorable quotes and scenes in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," one of my favorite parts of the movie is the wordless montage at the Art Institute of Chicago. The main trio takes in the paintings, holds hands with a group of kids on a field trip, and sweethearts Ferris and Sloane share a tender kiss. It's just a sweet and magical moment, the kind that director John Hughes executed so well in the 1980s. I remember seeing that movie and thinking it must have been made by someone who knew that, underneath the snark and assholery, teenagers were human beings. (OK, I was 16, so I was mostly thinking, "Matthew Broderick is so cute!" But you know what I mean.)

Hughes' teen-themed movies could be uneven, and not all of them aged as well as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." But he almost always gave you The Moment, the one that made up for Judd Nelson's scenery chewing or the wrongness of Long Duk Dong. I am also grateful for his hand in making a star out of Molly Ringwald, who helped broaden the teen cinema standard of pretty. She was not a typical Breck girl, and some of us really appreciated that.

One of these days when my kids are older, we'll "Pretty in Pink" together, and they'll laugh at the clothes, roll their eyes at some of the plot points and wonder why Andie is so hung up on Blane (Because he's played by Andrew McCarthy! Hello?). But I also bet that, deep down, they'll kind of dig it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

R.I.P., John Hughes

I can't even form a coherent blog post right now. The Summer of Gen X-Related Death continues.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Of The Month: "Whatever Happened To the Man Of Tomorrow?"

Though I accept that Alan Moore is an exceptional and groundbreaking writer, I’ve often found his work difficult to love. However, when Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” stories were reissued in trade form, I went directly to the comics shop and bought the book. This volume is delightful, and it’s a great read whether you’re a hardcore comics lover or a casual reader with only basic knowledge of Superman.

Written in the 1980s as the final chapter for the Silver Age Superman, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” is touching, haunting and playful in all the right places — and in a way, it highlights the problem with the lack of an expiration date on iconic comic book characters. No one stays dead (or missing) in comic books anymore, and it is harder to care when you know that a the story of a character’s life has no real end. As wonderful as Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” story was — and it was plenty wonderful — it was undermined a little by the knowledge that Bruce Wayne isn’t really gone for good.

Of course, this makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, and new readers keep discovering (and rediscovering) these titles. My point is that the level of poignancy that Moore achieved here is rare because the medium doesn’t often allow for it. A character like Superman is so much more compelling when he is ultimately defeated by something, whether it’s mortality or a changing world. Superman was rebooted in 1986 with “The Man of Steel” arc, but Moore’s story represents the end of a long and storied era. You should read it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"One Time:" Just Give In Already

I've been accused of music snobbery before, but my friends know I have a weakness for the sweet, straightforward pop song. A while back, it was David Archuletta's "Crush," the aural equivalent of a cupcake with confetti sprinkles.

Now, the culprit is 15-year-old Usher protege Justin Bieber. With his Zack and Cody aura and fondness for hip-hop hand gestures, Bieber could easily be mistaken for the devil's work. (Remember Aaron Carter? I do.) When his "One Time" video first flashed across our TV screen last weekend, I had my phaser set on "Hate." But as my kids' heads bobbed to this infectious little gem, well, I had to admit that it was good stuff. I felt a little better when my brother told me that "One Time" has been his jam for a while now.

You win, kid.

Monday, July 27, 2009

You Know You Want To

AMC's "Mad Men" is such a great show, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to turn myself into the newest dish (and trailblazing African American) at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. "Mad Men Yourself" — which allows you to create a vintage illustration inspired by the show — is loads of fun, but also an addictive time suck. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Didn't I Think Of This?

Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that there's a point at which any sense of fun feels far, far away. The details, the managing of expectations and the family wrangling are enough to make a sane person run to the nearest courthouse. And considering the cost, more of us probably should have.

That's why I am so taken with the now-famous video of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz's wedding entrance. In case you're one of the 12 people who haven't seen it, the Minnesota couple and bridal party danced their way down the aisle to Chris Brown's "Forever," and the result was pure joy. I've been to a lot of weddings, and a few of them incorporated choreography in a way that was ... unfortunate. However, this couple and their friends were true to the idea that a wedding is (or should be) a celebration.

While most of the feedback has been positive, a few people have griped that the routine was inappropriate for a church. I say poppycock. It's not like they were grinding to Li'l Wayne's "Lollipop." I grew up going to church, so I understand that it is The House of the Lord. But I also think human beings get huffy about things that God couldn't care less about. If that routine is at all indicative of the life these two will have together, I can't imagine the maker being anything but tickled.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Praise Of Love Stories That Don't Insult The Audience

I hope that new movie starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler fails spectacularly. I want it to land in theaters with a thud, and for that thud to echo in the silence. I want the echo to reverberate all the way to the Hollywood offices of the people who green-lit another generic, candy-coated romantic comedy starring two gorgeous actors masquerading as regular people.

I don't have anything against Heigl and Butler, but for God's sake. The trailer for "The Ugly Truth" all but says, "Hey, women! You'll go see this because it's about romance and Gerard Butler may be shirtless at some point."

A romantic movie I'm much (much) more hopeful about is "Adam," the story of a woman (Rose Byrne) who falls for a man (Hugh Dancy) with Aspbergers Syndrome. Maybe "Adam" will turn out to be one of those too-quirky-for-its-own-good flicks, but the trailer is completely charming. Dancy doesn't appear to be playing his character as over-the-top odd, and at one point he says, "I'm not Forrest Gump, you know."

My interest in this movie is somewhat personal: My 9-year-old son is somewhere at the so-called mild end of the autism spectrum, and I've often wondered how he will navigate romantic relationships once he grows up. Like Dancy's Adam, he is personable and handsome, but he doesn't always grasp the subtleties of social communication. I hate the idea of that making life harder for him, but he's come a long way — and he's hardly alone. I'm sure there are plenty of adults on the spectrum who found love (all relationships are imperfect), and it's cool that a filmmaker is offering up that perspective.

"Adam" will probably make less in six months than "The Ugly Truth" will rake in opening weekend, but just knowing that it exists makes me feel better.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Dear Kim Kardashian:

I didn't want to like you, but you managed to win me over with your unexpected sweetness and willingness to answer almost any question. And I must say that current boyfriend Reggie Bush is a vast improvement over your ex, Ray-J, whose popularity with the ladies continues to baffle me.

What really impressed me was your interview with Muscle & Fitness Hers. You came across like a normal woman who has worked hard to get in shape and stay there. Your frustration with the wafer-thin beauty standard in L.A. was palpable, and I like how you are representing for women who are not shaped like 12-year-old boys — all while working hard in the gym to keep the junk in the trunk from overflowing. Heck, I was inspired. I told my friend H. that I was going to keep you in mind when that last running interval/Arnold press/lunge seemed too difficult to complete.

But then you and your sister Khloe cooked up some weight-loss product called Quicktrim, a "cleanse" that you plan to market and sell. First, there's that name. Why perpetuate the lie that body transformation is a quick and easy process? The last thing people need is more sketchy information and false hope about permanent weight loss. And you must know that, somewhere in the back of their minds, the women who plan to buy this stuff are hoping that it will make their bodies look like yours — fine print, be damned.

Judging from the reaction from fitness-loving types, this hasn't exactly bolstered your credibility. (Although you are a long, long way from "fat," the last resort of haters.) That's too bad, because it was refreshing to hear some real talk about nutrition and exercise from someone who appeared to be in the trenches with the rest of us — that is, if we were rich and worked out with Gunnar Peterson. You know what I mean.

Still, Reggie Bush? Major upgrade.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Sounds Like Summer

I really don't want to hear another person claim that the Black-Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" is the song of the summer. It is not. That honor must go to "Lisztomania," the utterly delightful, effervescent cut by French rock band Phoenix. It's a standout song on "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," an album full of very good songs. When I heard Phoenix playing in my favorite comic book hangout recently, I smiled. This is usually not the case when I hear music being played in stores.

"Lisztomania" is pretty fabulous by itself, but it made my day when a friend sent me this video of the song set to scenes from classic, '80s teen films. If I had not been in my office, I would have gotten up and done the Molly Ringwald dance, which I used to kill back in the day.

Sorry, Fergie.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Worst Landlord, Ever

I have had some colorful landlords in my time. Most memorable is the senior gentleman who oversaw my building in Tampa’s Hyde Park in the mid-‘90s. He was wee, often shirtless, and was a competitive dancer of some sort. That’s Florida for you.

But in my entire decade as a renter, I never had a drunken psychopath for a landlord. Gabe Dunn did, and he has chronicled the experience in a set of riveting blog posts about his former landlord and housemate, Gary.

To get a sense of this guy, imagine Mr. Roper of “Three’s Company” on coke. In addition to having many run-ins with the cops, Gary steals from his tenants, leaves Gabe profane, barely coherent voice mails, and writes his housemates unintentionally hilarious notes: “GABE: I AM NOT IN JAIL!!!” Gabe remains remarkably calm throughout, which is wise when you’re dealing with someone this unhinged.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's All Over But The Shoutin'

One of the many weird things that happens when a celebrity dies: Many people insist that the period following their demise is "not the time" to criticize them or bring up the unsavory parts of their narrative. I guess U.S. Rep. Pete King (NY) disagrees, because in his now-infamous video video blasting the media for 24/7 MJ coverage, he referred to the departed artist as "a lowlife," "child molester," "pedophile" and a "pervert."

"He died. He had some talent; fine," Rep. King said. "There's nothing good about this guy."

King's comments were over the top, and while there is plenty of speculation, Michael Jackson was never found guilty of anything. That doesn't mean he didn't do what he was accused of (Hello, O.J.!), but that's what our legal system decided. Over on Facebook (of course), there was some discussion about whether old boy owes the Jackson family an apology. Actually, it wasn't even a discussion. It was a lot of people saying King was a hater and that the real fault, if any, was with the parents who had their kids all up in Neverland.


I've made clear my love of Michael Jackson's early music and persona, but I'm struck, once again, by how easy it is to conflate fame and talent with virtue. King's video was presumptuous, but so are the impassioned arguments that Michael was all about healing the world and its children. The bottom line is that we don't know, and the last 15 years of Jackson's public life were not reassuring. Like, at all. And isn't there a valid discussion to be had about whether an artist — even one as electrifying and game-changing as Jackson — deserves this much coverage, analysis (heh) and reverence? Very few people seem to be concerned about the emotional Pandora's Box that Jackson's death potentially opens for the young men who accused him of molestation. Remember; the first case was settled for a tidy sum somewhere north of $20 million.

While I'm very tempted to say that King's video was way insensitive, it could be said that the posthumous lovefest is insensitive to Jackson's onetime alleged victims.

I doubt very seriously that Jackson achieved megastardom by being child-like, delicate and unassuming. Somewhere underneath was a savvy and extremely ambitious soul who, in death, certainly doesn't need anyone to protect him from his detractors.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Have To Admit ...

As tacky as this picture from Runner's World is, I'll give Sarah Palin this much: She is in impressively good shape. Maybe it's at least partly genetic, but for someone who has had five children - heck, for someone her age who has had NO children - she has a great figure. You don't get legs like that by sitting on the couch with US Weekly. I guess she'll have plenty of time to work out now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I've Got Your Soul Mate

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford can't seem to stop talking about Argentina Maria's whip appeal, even though his wife and kids might not welcome the information. I particularly loved his assessment of the situation as a tragic love story, which is not surprising considering that he actually referenced "The Thornbirds" in his goopy mash notes. And how nice of him to say that he would try to fall back in love with his wife even though Maria is his "soul mate."

I'd like to suggest the following for Merriem-Webster:

   Pronunciation [sōl-māt]
1. a romantic partner, usually brand-new, who has not yet been seen in ratty sweats while folding laundry or making annoying throat-clearing noises.
2. an idealized person experienced only in candlelight, high thread-count sheets and swooning emails, far, far away from the daily drudgery of child-rearing and bill-paying.
3. a person who "gets" you, despite not having seen the real you — good, bad and really ugly.

I consider myself a romantic person, and I don't begrudge anyone the magical experience of falling in love. Marriage is hard, and not everybody needs to stay married. Shit happens. What I don't understand is why the governor seems so invested in defending his actions instead of repairing the damage he's done to his family or moving on with what's left of his dignity. If Sanford wants to get a divorce and split for bliss in Argentina, then he needs to do it like a man and accept the consequences — one of which is probably his kids thinking he's a self-absorbed asshat.

On the other hand, he has a real potential as a writer of romance novels.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson And The Elephant

In 1994, Vanity Fair published "Nightmare in Neverland," the first of several articles that convinced me that Michael Jackson's relationships with children were messed up. Written by Maureen Orth, these cover stories stood out because they were deeply reported, incredibly detailed and well sourced. Most of all, they were disturbing. I came away thinking that even if nothing illegal took place (and that's a stretch), Jackson, at the very least, displayed appalling judgment and had been sheltered from the consequences of his "eccentricity" for a long time.

Orth still stands by her stories, and as she pointed out recently on Vanity Fair's Web site, the King of Pop's camp never legally challenged them.

As the shock of Jackson's death was wearing off, I re-read "Nightmare in Neverland" to get some perspective. It is just as damning now as it was 15 years ago. I realize he was never convicted, but there was far too much smoke surrounding that situation for me to believe that there was no fire. Nearly all the adults around the then-13-year-old alleged victim seemed to be asleep at the wheel. I mean, what kind of parent lets a kid have multiple sleepovers with a non-related adult, some of them away from their direct supervision? What kind of grown man engineers them?

Of course, there are a lot of people who don't want to be reminded of this. I have heard more than one person say that they hope Michael is remembered for his artistic contributions and not the scandals that consumed his life from the '90s on. But why does a person's legacy have to be either-or? It is entirely possible for a person to be very gifted, very famous and very disturbed. After all, this is a man who said he dangled his baby over a balcony railing "out of innocence." Yet, one of my friends was taking heat on her Facebook page for refusing to join in the public grieving.

If the adulation has been overwhelming, it's because many people (me included) were mourning the young, charming Michael Jackson and the memories that go along with the image. But that person left the building a long, long time ago, if he ever truly existed. Michael Jackson left behind some wonderful, timeless music, and he helped give Gen X one hell of a soundtrack for its adolescence. Along with that is a very large, creepy elephant in the room.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello, Gorgeous

Is there a comics fan out there who didn't love J.H. Williams III's ravishing art work in Detective Comics No. 854? Greg Rucka's introduction-to-Batwoman storyline was certainly good, which I expected. But Williams' visuals stole the show, and I am already steeling myself for the inevitable letdown when a new artist takes over. It's been a while since I really lingered over the pages of a comic book this way or re-read it just to ponder how the artist pulled it off.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What A Week

I don't care how politically incorrect it was; "Charlie's Angels" was the show for girls of a certain age in the 1970s. Show me the woman who didn't want to be Farrah, Jaclyn or Kate back in the day, and I'll show you someone who grew up on a commune.

I had the "Charlie's Angels" dolls, but as far as I'm concerned, my collection was never totally legit. Why? Because my mom couldn't find Farrah. Instead, I had to settle for the plastic likeness of her second season replacement, Cheryl Ladd. No disrespect to Ms. Ladd, but it wasn't the same. "Charlie's Angels" without Farrah was like Van Halen without David Lee Roth. (And considering that "The Six Million Dollar Man" was also one of my favorite shows, I was heavily invested in that whole Lee Majors/Farrah Fawcett-Majors thing.)

My friend V. and I were talking about how we tried to re-create the Farrah flip with a curling iron and rollers, which is difficult for a black girl with unprocessed hair. The results were unintentionally funny, but such was the extent of Farrah's Breck girl appeal.

Gen X has had a pretty awful week in the icon loss department. Like my friend B. said, it makes you want to go find Madonna and give her a hug, just in case.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"The Hangover:" Maybe You've Heard Of It

The news about Michael Jackson had me in a weird mood, so I was grateful when my husband suggested we get a sitter and to to a movie. Naturally, we picked "The Hangover," a movie that my friends without children saw weeks ago. I knew it had to be good when my little sister raved about it, because if you looked up "jaded urban hipster" in the encyclopedia, her picture would be next to the term.

"The Hangover" is indeed a very funny and endlessly quotable film, though it strikes me as the kind people will either love or hate. As Bradley Cooper's character Phil might say, if you're gonna be all sensitive and shit, don't bother going. The road trip movie has been done to death, but "The Hangover" is totally aware of what a cliche the Vegas bachelor's weekend is - which is why it's so much fun to see things go terribly, outrageously wrong. Plus, I like comedies that are essentially about the dynamics of friendship and the roles we all play in our various tribes.

Cooper's role? Sexy beast. I'd seen him in a couple of earlier movies, but either I wasn't paying close enough attention or dude has skyrocketed up the hotness scale since then. And I love Zach Galifianakis' utter lack of vanity in playing Alan, a creepy misfit (and Jonas Brothers fan!) whose idea of bonding involves a blood pact. Ed Helms is a stitch as a henpecked dentist who, at one point, sings an impromptu ballad about Mike Tyson's pet tiger.

Of course, there's already talk of a sequel, but I hope a bigger budget and heightened expectations don't ruin the magic.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goodbye, Michael

The morning after Princess Diana died, my husband woke me from a deep sleep and thrust the newspaper in my hands. It didn't seem quite real, and I remember thinking that only the deaths of Madonna or Michael Jackson would have been more shocking.

It's an understatement to say that Michael Jackson was a complicated figure - a crazy talented human being who belongs on pop culture's Mount Rushmore. I can't imagine what popular music would sound like without him. As his story became increasingly bizarre and tawdry, I wanted to believe that the handsome icon of my youth was separate from the facially unrecognizable tabloid fixture of the last 15-plus years. Genius and darkness often go together, but the disconnect between what I hoped and what I suspected was pretty extreme in this case.

As I wrote last year, seeing other artists attempt to pay tribute to M.J. - something we'll be seeing plenty of in the days ahead - has always been a little sad. It will be even moreso now.

I'm going to go listen to "Off The Wall," easily one of the best R&B albums ever made. I never get tired of listening to it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pardon The Interruption

Not like anyone cares, but I'm boarding an Amtrak tomorrow with the family for a vacation in our nation's capital. My daughter C. has told all of her friends that she's going to see "a statue of Hammerhead Lincoln," and J., our son, is annoyed that we can't pay the Obamas a visit.

Washington, D.C., is one of my favorite cities. Let's see if it still is by the time this trip is over.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Target, You Disappoint Me

Dear Target:

I am madly in love with you. You know that. Most days, I would crawl on broken glass past a Wal-Mart to get to your beautiful Thakoon T-shirts and Method body washes. The only way Wal-Mart could get me to switch teams is by hiring greeters who look like Idris Elba and Simon Baker - and maybe not even then.

That being said, Target, mixing the plus-sized clothes with the Liz Lange maternity wear is an asshole move. And do I really need to point out that the LL outfits are better looking? It's like someone at corporate said, "Fat is fat. Plus-sized, pregnant, who cares? But let's put the big girl clothes slightly behind the maternity wear, since pregnant women are only fat temporarily."

I can wear quite a few things in your Misses section now, but since my bottom half refuses to go quietly, I still need stylish, plus-sized stuff to cover it. But it's not just about me. You're better than this. You're the discount retailer with good breeding, remember? This is not behavior befitting a store that brought Thomas O'Brien to the masses, and I expect more from you.

Hopelessly devoted to you,

Monday, June 15, 2009

Best Use Of Ferns, Ever

Everybody's all about Zach Galifianakis now that he's in the hit movie "The Hangover," but some of us saw glimpses of his awesomeness a while ago. And for free! His "Between Two Ferns" sketches on Funny or Die — in which he needles celebrities with bitter, inappropriate questions — are laugh-out-loud funny. My favorite is his interview with "Hangover" co-star Bradley Cooper. Best line: "You are on the cover of Details magazine, which is a nice publication if you have run out of cologne." This is trumped only by the frightening appearance of Carrot Top.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Red Robin Doesn't Suck

When word first began circulating about all the Bat-family reshuffling, my first question was, “What’s going to happen to Tim (Drake) Wayne?” After Wonder Woman, Tim – Robin III, if you like – is my favorite DC Comics character. With Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne cast as the new Batman & Robin, I was afraid DC was going to so something dumb like “kill” Tim or send him off-grid for a year during the reboot.

Alas, Tim is alive and (sorta) well as Red Robin, but I had no expectations that Red Robin No. 1 would be good. In fact, as I reluctantly handed over my $2.99, I was mentally preparing for abject disappointment. What a pleasant surprise that it was a good read and a thoughtful step forward for the character.

Unlike Dick, Tim became an orphan relatively recently, when his biological father died in the events of “Identity Crisis.” Batman’s disappearance has hit him particularly hard, and it certainly doesn’t help that Damian – who once tried to kill him – is not only wearing the Robin costume but also taunting him as an imposter. Bruce may have adopted Tim, but Damian is playing the biological card.

At first, this struck me as outrageous. Why would Dick allow that evil little shit to be Robin to his Batman? But considering the enormous responsibility Dick feels to honor Batman’s legacy, I can see how he would take it upon himself to raise and rehabilitate Damian as Bruce might have. He views Tim as his highly capable younger brother who can assist the new team in any way he likes. But Tim, angry and grieving, isn’t convinced that Batman is dead. So after punching Damian in the face (yay!) he heads to Europe to think, fight some bad guys in a new costume and, ever the detective, search for Bruce.

Tim almost always has his wits about him, so it’s interesting to see him question his state of mind and place in the world. Chris Yost’s storyline is pretty intense, and the art’s not bad – though Tim seems to morph into a 30-year-old bodybuilder when he’s in costume. Overall, it’s a promising character evolution that has raised my hopes for Red Robin considerably.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Parenting Fail

Actual conversation with my 4-year-old daughter, C., on the way to preschool:

"Mommy, remember this old Jonas Brothers song? 'Vereh superstitious, writing's on the waaaaall ...' "

"Nononononono. That's not theirs. A man named Stevie Wonder sang it first."

"No, he didn't."

"Um, yes, he did. That song was written before they were even born. It's a very old song."

"(Sigh.) No. They sang it in a video. Remember?"

And then I launched into a semi-hysterical recounting of Stevie Wonder's life and times, which surely changed her mind. When I told my friend M. what happened, he suggested I buy "Songs in the Key of Life" immediately and pipe it into her room, then repeat with "Innervisions" and "Talking Book."

I hadn't planned on conducting an intervention between swimming lessons and play dates this weekend, but C. has left me no choice.

Monday, June 8, 2009

She's Got Legs

If you're a woman of a certain age in Tallahassee, you have to be OK with seeing uber-fit, gorgeous, (much) younger women all the time. In a town with two universities and a community college, they're a given; a fact of life. A friend in her 50s told me that I'd eventually get to a point where I'd stop seeing them through competitive eyes and regarding them in the fashion of a lovely painting or vase of flowers.

It started happening somewhere around my 37th birthday. Maybe it's because I was out of the breeding game or reasonably certain that my husband wasn't going to leave his family for a psychology major named Destiny. But ever since then, when I see a pretty young woman (inevitably) jogging down the street, my first thought is usually, "She's adorable! I hope she doesn't think she's fat."

That is, 99 percent of the time. I am human, and every blue moon, I see someone so outrageously fit/attractive that I want to drop what I'm doing and find a 24-hour gym that also offers plastic surgery. One such moment came Friday night, when the husband and I were hanging out with friends at a new wine bar. A mini-skirted woman with the best legs this side of 2000-era Britney Spears walked in, and we muttered a collective "Holy shit." I can't even hate, because it was clear that Hot Gams (left) has a serious workout game. Even when I was 22, my legs did not look like this.

I'm sure she and her friends wondered why some suburban mom was pointing a camera in their direction, but the moment had to be documented. Identities have been protected, though if it were me, I would want the world to know.

Shot Through The Heart

I've written before about how much I've enjoyed Ultimate Spider-Man, easily one of the most consistently well-written comics I read regularly. After a long, satisfying run, the title ended last week with No. 133. I'm still too upset to discuss this coherently, not necessarily because the book ended but because of the godawful way it ended. Imagine one of your favorite television shows going out in a giant, flaming ball of WTF, and you'll have an idea of how pissed off I am.

Brian Hibbs of The Savage Critics put it perfectly: "Fuck. Seriously, you can't do a wordless comic for $4. FUCK, and no, you can't end your run on the book on such a downer note. Especially not a book like this."

Thanks, Marvel.

It's Always Hammer Time

A flash mob promoting M.C. Hammer's new reality show — complete with gold parachute pants — dropped in on some unsuspecting L.A. shoppers. Man, you never see stuff like this at the Blair Stone Kohl's.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Damn It.

My good friend J. mailed me a big care package of books, and this was included. Yes, I am reading it. I know I said I wasn't going to read its predecessor, "New Moon," but it's too late for me now. Save yourselves.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Holy Flying Batmobile!

Grant Morrison's Batman & Robin No. 1 turns out to be the perfect comic to banish "Battle for the Cowl's" bad aftertaste. The story quickly establishes that this Batman (Dick Grayson) and Robin (Damian Wayne) team will have a totally different dynamic than Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake. The villains are both comedic and horrifying, and the Batmobile flies! I know Frank Quitely's art is polarizing, but I thought some of his panels — especially the full page of Batman and Robin diving through the air — were downright breathtaking. Did I mention that the Batmobile flies?

After being reduced to a semi-wussy joy rider in "Cowl," Damian, the alleged result of a Talia-Bruce hookup, is back to being an arrogant badass. He's rude to Alfred, whom he refers to as "Pennyworth." When Dick admits that being Batman is intimidating, Damian basically tells him to step aside if he's not up to it. Dude is 12 years old, tops. His altered Robin costume and Doc Marten-esque boots are dope as hell.

What I liked most about this book is the way it combined pure fun with some of the more macabre elements Batman books are known for. The balance was just about perfect, as was the overall introduction to this new series. It's that rare comic that made me impatient for the next installment.

New Favorite Thing: Ill Doctrine

My friend T. alerted me to the presence of Jay Smooth's intelligent, enlightened hip-hop commentary last week, and I'm hooked. Jay's thoughts on the intersection of race and popular culture are particularly insightful, as shown in his his post on the Asher Roth "Nappy Headed Hoes" Twitter controversy. I also enjoyed his video chat with Dan Charnas, another person steeped in hip-hop culture who happens to be white. The topic: hip-hop and racial humility vs. entitlement. People are often defensive or dismissive when talking about race, which is what makes this so refreshing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Princess And The Peeved

So far this week, I’ve read two essays about America’s princess problem. They aren’t the first I’ve read on the subject, but this piece at The Root is the only one I’ve seen from an African-American perspective. Disney is debuting its first black princess, Tiana, via “The Princess and the Frog” later this year.

Like any good feminist raising a daughter, I’ve noticed that the princess culture, popularized by Disney, is absolutely everywhere — and it’s annoying. A few weeks ago, I took C. to a full-on princess birthday party and nearly went blind from the room full of sequins, sparkles and bright pink flotsam and jetsam. Nails were painted and dusted with glitter. Feather boas and satin slippers were donned. PrincessMania ’09 wouldn’t have been my choice for a party theme, but C. and the rest of the guests had fun.

Of course, I’d love for film studios to make more animated features about spirited girls who don’t wear ball gowns. It was a little depressing to see intrepid tomboy Dora the Explorer get the princess treatment a few years ago. And yet, I can’t work up a lot of outrage over the unveiling of the unveiling of another princess movie. As I’ve said previously, it’s a big deal for black girls to see themselves in the Disney tiara for once. Adults can have valid debates about vapid, man-dependent representations of women, but from where I’m sitting, black females haven’t exactly had the luxury of being stereotyped as fair damsels in distress (See: “Snow White”).

Besides, if you’re a 5-year-old girl, chances are that you like slightly tacky things that sparkle. This is the age when kids are acutely aware of gender differences, and some of them embrace the most obvious symbols of those differences — like princesses — with a vengeance. It would be nice if popular culture would help us out, but it’s up to parents to teach our children to get past that — and that it’s more important to be competent, confident and kind-hearted than to look like Sleeping Beauty (or Zac Efron). I’m much more worried about the bullshit yet to come, like when she turns 10 and hears her friends talking about going on diets and wearing whatever junior trollop gear the stores are peddling.

I’d prefer it if my daughter didn’t like pink quite so much, but that’s more my problem than hers. She loves her some Cinderella and Belle, sure, but she also swims and does gymnastics. She digs Wonder Woman and Supergirl — her costumes of choice the past two Halloweens — and she is far more self-assured than I was at twice her age. I seriously doubt she’s growing up with the idea that sitting around looking pretty adds up to a meaningful life.

My daughter has plenty of time to learn that being a princess is a fantasy that has little to do with being a woman. For now, I'm OK with her enjoying the sparkle.

Monday, June 1, 2009

That Glass-Shattering Sound You Hear Is Me Shrieking Like A Little Girl

Zachary Quinto + Dairy = OMG

I don't know if this is some kind of super-hot advertising campaign from the Dairy Farmers of America, but I like it.

How About We See The Movie First?

When we took the kids to see "Up" this weekend, we got a look at the trailer for Disney's upcoming animated film, "The Princess and the Frog." This is a big deal, because the movie features Disney's first African-American princess, Tiana. Having grown up in the Obama era, my children have no idea how significant this is. But I couldn't help sneaking glances at my 4-year-old daughter C. to gauge her reaction. She didn't say anything about the princess being "brown" — her term for herself — but she was clearly stoked. C. is all about the princesses.

Old Disney movies, products of their time, have had some howlingly racist moments in them. But the company isn't stupid, and it wants Tiana & Co. to make lots and lots of money. Think of the dollars to be made in merchandising alone. Disney needs black parents and their daughters to like "The Princess and the Frog."

That's why I'm a little annoyed that people are already branding the movie racially insensitive (See the New York Times story here.) Critics say it's wrong to set the fairy tale in New Orleans because of the Katrina tragedy and — Jesus Christ — that the prince is too light-skinned. Seriously.

True, the prince isn't easily racially identifiable, as he has straight hair and tan skin. But that makes sense, given that New Orleans has long been a multicultural city. And so what if he's not black? I hate to invoke Barack Obama (again), but given that our president has a white mom and an African dad, isn't a bit silly to demand that the prince look a certain way? To be perfectly honest, it's more important that Tiana herself has clearly African-American features and dark brown skin. The female beauty standard in this country still skews Caucasian, so when the person wearing the tiara doesn't, it matters. The powers at Disney (or at least their consultants) seem to understand this.

More to the point, I wish people would wait to see a movie before condemning it or accusing it of all kinds of offenses. Maybe the movie will make me cringe in horror when I see it, or maybe it'll just suck. Until then, I'm going to assume that Disney wants Tiana to take up residence in my home alongside High School Musical and Phineas and Ferb.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Archie, You Moron

Many moons ago, I owned a "Little Archie" digest that featured a familiar story: Betty lobbies for Archie's affections, and he reacts like a jerk. Because Archie didn't want to walk Betty home from school, he took her through a muddy, meandering route that ruined her outfit and hair. Veronica, in typical mean girl fashion, laughed at Betty when the pair arrived at the Choklit Shoppe.

Archie felt so bad that he offered to walk Betty to school properly the next day, and he even gave her a lock of his hair. However, I was disappointed that Betty let him off the hook so easily and continued to carry a torch for him. I also never completely forgave Archie for being such an asshole, which is probably something to be discussed with a therapist.

Now, there's proof that Archie is an idiot in matters of the heart: CNN reports that Archie will pop the question to Veronica — Veronica! — in a special 32-page issue. The comic will explore the post-college lives of the Riverdale gang, and it's clear from her blog that Betty is heartbroken.

I get that Veronica's wealth, sophistication and overall hotness would be alluring to a 17-year-old boy. But Betty is just as pretty, and I don't recall her once berating Archie for running out of money, driving a piece of shit vehicle or not catering to her every whim. Besides, Archie isn't exactly a Mensa member, so unless his music career takes off, how does he expect to keep Veronica in Gucci and Tiffany? He'll be singing a different tune when he's filing for bankruptcy at 28.

Here's how I'd write that script: Reggie gets his act together, becomes a nice guy (with an edge) and sweeps dear Betty off of her feet. For all his issues, Reggie has always been sexier, funnier and more ambitious than his red-haired nemesis. Living happily ever after with Reggie would be sweet, sweet revenge for Betty Cooper. Archie would be doomed to a life of regret and sending Betty sad e-mails.

I have a theory about why Betty, Veronica and bodacious troublemaker Cheryl Blossom have been fighting over Archie all these years, but I've already said too much.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fingers Crossed For "Glee"

As someone who has a habit of liking critically-acclaimed shows that get canceled, I'm wary of getting too attached to "Glee." It's a funny, quirky show about geeks, one that assumes (correctly) that high school mostly blows. And when has that ever panned out?

But if the pilot episode is indicative of what's to come, I hope "Glee" makes it. Maybe it doesn't achieve the greatness of "Freaks and Geeks," but it's got loads of potential.

When a high school glee club loses its director in a scandal, teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) steps in to keep it going and to reconnect with his passion for song. But even the principal thinks glee club is for losers, refusing to pony up the $40 a month required to run it. But Schuester isn't dissuaded, and once word gets out, the school's aspiring songbirds come forward.

These kids are my people — ambitious nerds who have that "One day you losers will know how awesome I am" gleam in their eye. Rachel (Lea Michele), who is talented but delusional, uploads new performance video daily on her MySpace page. Diva-in-training Mercedes (Amber Riley) declares that she shouldn't be singing backup because "I'm Beyonce, not Kelly Rowland." The only member with any social standing is quarterback Finn (Cory Monteith), a Troy Bolton type who wants to throw footballs and sing show tunes.

But my favorite glee club member, by far, is Kurt (Chris Colfer), who is clearly a friend of Dorothy. He begs the jocks to remove his Marc Jacobs jacket before they toss him into the dumpster, and when he belts out "Cellophane Man" during his audition, he does so with a hand on his hip and an I-do-this-in-my-sleep stroke of his bangs.

Perhaps best of all, "Glee" has the wonderful Jane Lynch, playing a ball-busting cheerleading coach who sees the new club as a threat. No one delivers a put-down quite like Lynch, who, upon seeing one of her cheerleaders flub a move, says, "You think this is hard? Being water-boarded is hard."

My only quibble is that Schuester's Pottery Barn-obsessed wife is a shade too unlikable to be believed. Otherwise, "Glee" has captured my attention in a way network television hasn't for years. When it returns in the fall, I'll be there with my jazz hands ready.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oranges Need To Get Over Themselves

With apologies to the genius blog that is F*ck You, Penguin

I'm over you, orange. You're clinging to your glory days as Florida's official fruit and a semi-exotic foodstuff, but I know what you really are. Common. Cheap. At $1.99 a bag, you aren't fooling anyone.

So the fact that you're so freaking difficult to peel pisses me off. Do you think playing hard to get makes me value you more highly? Look, you're just the pit stop between breakfast and lunch, not some carefully considered purchase from the farmer's market or New Leaf. You're not even organic.

I only bought you because I got bored with apples and grapes, and tangerines weren't available. Tangerines are sweet and easy. They don't put on airs or act like they're too good to be sectioned. You, on the other hand, expect to be labored over and earned. Please. You're not a lychee.

If you think I'm going to waste my time delicately peeling away your layers of so-called complexity, you are sadly mistaken. Say hello to my little friend the sharp knife.


I Knew Craig Ferguson Was Awesome ...

But not THIS awesome!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Following Darth

Among the many things that sucked about the "Star Wars" prequels was George Lucas' explanation for Darth Vader's evil. The idea is that Anakin's losses (his mom, his babies' mama) combined with his anger led him to become his galaxy's Josef Stalin.

That seemed kinda lame. I think evil is more disturbing when its reason for being is essentially unknowable. It challenges our hope that human beings are basically good unless circumstances damage them in some way. Learning that Vader was once a whiny teenager with girl problems takes away from the mystery and the menace. Why does fantasy need a backstory anyway?

Someone on Twitter clearly shares my preference for the iron-fisted James Earl Jones model, and I am hooked. Among the many highlights of "Darth Vader's" tweets:

Mad Sith props to Dick Cheney for his recent whirl-wind media tour. I gain 100+ followers every time he opens his evil maw.

I am altering the oatmeal. Pray I don't alter it further.

Just be glad I don't celebrate Earth Day the way I celebrated Alderaan Day.

If you're stinging from the BSG spoilers on Twitter, maybe this will take some of the edge off — I am Luke's father.

Tony Danza is not the boss. I am.

Genius. To follow Darth — and you will if you know what's good for you — click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dick Grayson: An Appreciation (Of Sorts)

I know Dick Grayson isn't real and that if he were, he'd be plenty legal by now. But it used to make me feel a tad queasy whenever comics made reference to Grayson's (aka Nightwing) hotness or sex life. I mentioned this to my friend Shag a year or two ago, because I was beginning to get the feeling that Nightwing had either hooked up with every young woman in the D.C. universe or figured prominently in their fantasies. His reply was along the lines of, "Heck, yes. This is why he is a hero among male D.C. readers."

Grayson hasn't been Batman's teen sidekick for years, but being confronted with this is a little like running into the kid you used to babysit and realizing that he's not only a college senior but also incredibly good-looking. And ripped. It seems wrong, if not illegal, to notice.

Oh, well. Artist Nicola Stewart kicked that door down with a fabulously glute-tastic panel of Nightwing in the latest issue of "Secret Six." Dang. I guess fighting crime with circus-honed acrobatics is a hell of a workout. My friend V. confessed that she stared at that particular panel for 10 minutes. A Facebook friend, also female, virtually high-fived my mention of this particular rendering.

I am now of the opinion that Stewart should draw Nightwing, like, all the time.