Monday, March 30, 2009

Oh, Mighty Isis!

One of the better parts of DC's "52" series was the tragic romance of Black Adam and Isis. It was a kick-ass storyline, but it also reminded me of a TV show I loved as a little kid: "The Secrets of Isis." It wasn't as iconic as the "Wonder Woman" series with Lynda Carter, but it definitely made an impression on me. It ran from 1975-77, around the same time that WW and "The Bionic Woman" were on the air. In those pre-"Buffy," pre-cable days, it was a very big deal to have shows about three strong, heroic women on the air at the same time — especially to a little girl having, shall we say, issues with playground assholes. (And yes, I seriously used to pretend to be Isis and say, "Oh zephyr winds that blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!")

I had no idea the show was on DVD, and I'd be curious to see how it holds up after 30 years. Probably not that well, but that doesn't make the show's existence any less awesome. Judge for yourself by watching a clip. Isis makes her appearance around the 1:17 mark.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kiss Your Productivity Goodbye

Ever wish all the LOL/weird/must-see Web videos were in one place for easy reference? Greg Rutter has done the heavy lifting for you with his Definitive List of The 99 Things You Should Have Already Experienced On The Internet Unless You're a Loser or Old or Something. I thought I'd seen everything, but I was wrong.

I recommend browsing this list after you're done with all your obligations for the day (like working), because you'll be screwed otherwise. Featured here is one of my favorites, "Asian Backstreet Boys." I can so see my son and his friends uploading some nonsense like this in a few years. They probably already have.

Major props to Rutter for this list and to my friend C. for telling me about it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Top Rejected Management Book Titles

Some friends and I came up with this list, which is becoming a bit of a living document on Facebook. Enjoy, and feel free to add your own!

1. The Lonely Tyrant's Handbook
2. It's Not Me; It's You: Leadership Without Self-Awareness
3. That Paper Isn't Going To Push Itself
4. Leadership and Deception: Your Guide to Both
5. I Rock; You Suck
6. The Power of Buzzwords: Making Gobbledygook Work for You
7. Getting to "Yes, Sir" Using Fear and Ridicule
8. The Tipping Point: Pushing Your Staff Over the Edge
9. Seven Habits of Highly Abusive Bosses
10. Talent is Overrated: Lucky for You
11. Teamwork is for Players, Not the Coach
12. The A**hole Monologues
13. Balance/Schmalance: Taking "Life" Out of the Work/Life Equation
14. The Audacity of Nope: Crushing Dreams, One "No" At a Time
15. I Hope My BlackBerry Works In Hell

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm Just Saying ...

For some reason, I've had the "list of famous women I might switch teams for" conversation several times in the last month. Many of my female friends have similar lists and will openly discuss them. My husband insists that this subject has never come up among his male friends. Ever.

"So, no one ever says something like, 'If I were attracted to men, I guess I'd go with Boris Kodjoe?' "


"But it's hypothetical."

"We just don't have those conversations."

Whatever. I had no trouble coming up with my top five, even after booting the once top-seeded Angelina Jolie for brazen man-poaching. In no particular order:

Salma Hayek: Owner of some of the most dangerous curves in Hollywood. She's also a smart woman and a budding entertainment powerhouse who is committed to helping mothers in developing nations. Plus, have you seen her?

Sanaa Lathan: A beautiful actress who is way underrated, in my opinion. If you haven't seen her movies "Out of Time," "Love & Basketball" or "Something New," you ought to.

Dame Helen Mirren: I suspected that 60-year-old Mirren was smokin' long before that "holy s***" bikini photo appeared. And, duh, she's a great actress. Regal, talented and British. That's enough for me.

Padma Lakshmi: Salman Rushdie's ex-boo is a food nerd, former model and host of Bravo's "Top Chef." I'm even gonna forgive her for that cameo in "Glitter" as a lip-syncing pop star named Sylk.

Cate Blanchett: As if Australia hadn't done enough by providing Hugh Jackman, it also came up with actress Cate Blanchett. Those cheekbones! She has such a powerful onscreen presence, even when she's playing an icky character like the student-diddling teacher in "Notes on a Scandal." I'm sure she has bad days like the rest of us, but I have yet to see the evidence.

Who's on your list?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shirts for Geeks — And More

I'm probably getting too old for subtly ironic/clever/geeky T-shirts, but *%$# it. If I have to be a responsible parent and taxpayer, no one's taking away my Barack Skywalker tee.

While there are many fine outlets selling this kind of apparel, one of the best I've seen is Red Bubble, which is sort of a cross between Etsy and Facebook. You can buy and sell artistic wares on Red Bubble, and you can interact with your favorite creators. For my money, the graphic artist-created T-shirts are the real stars of this site. Here are a few of my favorites:

Steampunk R2-D2 by Reece Ward

Who Is Watching by Warren Hart

Star Wars Coffee by rubyred (I love this guy's stuff and bought this one.)

The Sarcasm Foundation by digerati

How We Roll, That Is by James Lillis

There are many others, and I haven't even mentioned the many art prints. I'm not being paid to pimp Red Bubble. It's just cool to see independent, creative types flourishing in a lousy economy. Plus, I don't want to go broke alone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Artist: The Beatles

Of all the meme items going around on Facebook, "One Artist" is the one I enjoyed the most. The idea is to pick a musician/band and answer questions about your life based on their songs. Of course, I chose the Beatles, my very favorite band. I never expect people to pay attention to these things, so I was surprised by how enthusiastically friends responded to my choices.

Are you male or female: Another Girl

Describe yourself: She's a Woman

How do you feel about yourself: Lady Madonna

Describe where you currently live: Blue Jay Way

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Strawberry Fields Forever

Your favorite color is: Baby’s in Black

You know that: You Never Give Me Your Money

What's the weather like: Good Day Sunshine

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

What is life to you: Magical Mystery Tour

What is the best advice you have to give: Act Naturally

If you could change your name, what would it be: Lovely Rita

Your favorite food is: Wild Honey Pie

What do you believe in: Revolution

Favorite day of the week: Tomorrow Never Knows

What kind of person are you: Think for Yourself

What do you do for a living: Paperback Writer

Favorite hobby: I’m Happy Just to Dance With You

Describe your perfect date: See Above

Favorite Movie or TV Show: Julia

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Caption This

My daughter brought the preschool guinea pig home this weekend, and I had a little fun with the camera.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Son Approves Of This Team-Up

OK, I realize that I have repeatedly dissed Damian (who is clearly the new Robin, pictured here in Grant Morrison's upcoming "Batman and Robin"), but my 9-year-old son flipped when he saw this Frank Quitely picture. He's gonna want those boots.

'Battle For The Cowl' Disappoints Me

The first installment of the three-part "Battle for the Cowl" was disappointing in some pretty significant ways. The story has the dull sheen of inevitability, and as others have pointed out, some of the art is effing terrible. Seriously, Tony Daniel draws one unattractive Nightwing, which is particularly offensive considering that the character is one of the heartthrobs of the D.C. universe. In several panels, his upper body makes him look almost deformed. The fact that every woman on the cover has odd, pointy breasts is another ominous sign. One of my favorite bloggers, J. Caleb Mozzocco, dissects the artistic wrongness very well.

The plot is your standard "Who is impersonating Superhero X," which is supposed to be more poignant because the real Batman is "dead." Gotham City is now a war zone, but since it's always a hellish place, the story needed to convince me that things were worse than usual. It didn't really. Various villains unite to do whatever villains do when a major cape is out of the picture. Oh, look; there's Batman's (alleged) son Damian, taking the Batmobile out for a joyride. He's still not interesting.

This installment is narrated by Robin, who is one of my favorite characters. Unfortunately, he's saddled with some cringe-inducing internal dialogue: "With great preparation and a little luck, you can avoid (death). The bullets with your name on them. The knives with your reflection in the steel ..." Yikes. There's a lot of nattering about how Dick has shut down since Batman died and some glimpses of the wannabe who is impersonating his mentor.

Of course, I don't have to buy the next two issues of this, but D.C. has made such a big deal about BFC that I'm afraid I'll be completely lost if I don't see it through to the bitter end. That's probably what they're counting on.

On a happier note, Peter Tomasi's "Outsiders" has a lot of good stuff going on. I'm interested to see where he takes this title in the months ahead.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Has Lane Bryant Turned Over A New Leaf?

I hated Lane Bryant for years.

As a chubby teen growing up in a town with one mall, I had to do a lot of my shopping there while my skinny friends bought clothes at the Body Shop (a forerunner to Rave and Forever 21) or Belk-Lindsey. I wasn’t all that big, but this was before clothing designers realized that young women over a junior size 12 might not want to dress like their moms.

LB didn’t exactly carry the Benetton/Esprit/Guess-inspired outfits my pals were wearing. I was bitter.

My weight waxed and waned over the years, and there have been times when LB was the only option. With the exception of the jeans, I hated everything. I don’t wear T-shirts with glitter on them, and I have no interested in announcing to the world that I am “thick and fabulous.” The clothes were so trendy and desperate it hurt, and there was a dearth of natural fabrics.

Thanks to the Internet and a lot of exercise, I haven’t had to visit LB in a while. But a post over at Fat Stylist about the store’s new catalog and style re-launch intrigued me. While it appears that polyester still reigns, the clothes do seem to be more sophisticated and streamlined than I remember. I’ve always preferred a pared-down, classic aesthetic, and I have a strong aversion to lace. Still, there were a few items that were quite pretty, like this ruffled wrap blouse and this denim/hippie skirt combination. It’s still not quite my style, but what a vast improvement.

Now if only Lane would step away from the polyester. In Florida, it is not a good thing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

P.J. Has Fallen On Hard Times

It's Barbie's 50th birthday, but for some reason, I've been thinking about the whereabouts of her onetime BFF/cousin P.J. As a kid, I suspected that P.J. was a little too attractive and similar to Barbie for her own good. Malibu Barbie and Malibu P.J. were practically twins in the '70s, and, well, someone's got to be the backup doll. Unlike Skipper or even Barbie's black friends Christie and Cara, P.J. was a threat. I remember staging some fierce (and embarrassingly non-feminist) battles for my lone Ken's attention, and sometimes, out of sympathy, I let P.J. win.

My understanding is that P.J. was "discontinued" in the 1980s, but I found her — barefoot and slightly fried-looking — on eBay. Is it just me, or does she bear an unsettling resemblance to a certain pop star whose name rhymes with "jitney?"

So '80s It Hurts

Whenever I'm tempted to rant about how terrible modern children's television shows are (I'm looking at you Zack & Cody), a little voice says, "Kidd Video."

My brother and sister were little kids in the '80s, so I was at least aware of shows like "Jem" and "Thundercats" when I was a teenager. One of the most bizarre was "Kidd Video," which latched on to the popularity of music videos around 1984. The actor who played "Brady Bunch" agent of doom Cousin Oliver was in it, so that was the first red flag. The concept involved the young rockers being taken to an alterate cartoon reality, referred to as "the flip side." Naturally, they encountered a sidekick who appears to be a clumsy Tinkerbell type with leg warmers. An instant classic.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Movie Of The Week: "Wonder Woman"

While my friends were geeking out on "Watchmen," I decided to see the new "Wonder Woman" movie instead. Animated, direct-to-DVD movies don't get a lot of respect, and I'll admit that my expectations for this venture were pretty low. But "Wonder Woman" is well done and fun to watch. It's got intense action and humor, and it acknowledges the obvious — that Diana is a sexy character whose existence in "man's world" is a plot line unto itself. (More on that later.) I enjoyed it much more than last year's ambitious but draggy "JLA: The New Frontier," which couldn't quite capture the magic of the Darwyn Cooke comic series it was based on.

"Wonder Woman" establishes early that the Amazons of Themyscira are no joke. After their betrayal and enslavement courtesy of the skeevy Ares, Queen Hippolyta and her fellow Amazons stage a bloody, victorious uprising. With Ares imprisoned and the men banished, Princess Diana grows up in idyllic isolation — until cocky pilot (is there any other kind?) Steve Trevor crashes his plane on her island. Diana (voiced by Kerri Russell) is pretty cocky, too, and against her mother Hippolyta's wishes, she proves herself battle-worthy to venture to man's world to capture Ares after he escapes.

Diana might be new to man's world, but she's not stupid. When Steve (Nathan Fillion) tries (and tries and tries) to get her drunk on tequila shots, she tells him how pointless it is to try to out-drink an Amazon. She's openly scornful of Etta Candy, who flirts with Steve by pretending she can't move a table to retrieve a pen. "What's wrong with you?" Diana says, questioning why a perfectly healthy woman can't move a piece of furniture. She then lifts the desk with one hand.

The movie gets a lot of mileage out of Diana and Steve's flirty interaction, especially his tendency to say the wrong thing ("Let's get you some different clothes before I get arrested for solicitation.") But while he's not exactly Prince Charming, it's nice to see a nod to this aspect of Wonder Woman's character. As a Mighty God King essay points out, Wonder Woman's sexuality often has been muted in comics, as if D.C. fears that she'll "come across as a slut or something." Even Batman gets some action once in a while, but until Gail Simone's recent presentation of Wonder Woman's courtship of Nemesis, I can't remember the last time a writer acknowledged that Diana might want — let alone have — a grown-up relationship. Warriors need love, too.

I haven't had a chance to dive into all the DVD extras on the two-disc edition, but I'll definitely watch the main feature again. The Cheetah makes an appearance at the very end, which leads me to believe that Warner Brothers is at least considering a sequel. I hope so.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It Just Gets Worse

So the police report stemming from the Chris Brown/Rihanna assault has hit the press. It's B-A-D, and reading it is chilling. Brown has been charged with two felonies, and there is no way to spin it. Meanwhile, credible publications are saying that the two kids are back together. That isn't surprising — but if even a third of what the report says is true, it is frightening.

The obvious: If the allegations are true, Brown ought to go directly to jail. I don't want to hear comments like, "Well, sometimes you get caught out there, and everybody makes mistakes. They need to work it out." Hitting your significant other until s/he is bloody and then putting them in a chokehold isn't a "mistake." It's a violent crime. Unless she had a gun to his head and threatened, unprovoked, to pull the trigger, there is no excuse for him hitting her. If he did it once (and according to reports, she said it wasn't the first time), he'll do it again. That's what abusers eventually do after the victim accepts their apologies and takes them back.

Putting all of that aside, reuniting with an allegedly abusive lover isn't a great career move, either. As a performer, Rihanna has an edgy, strong-young-woman image that isn't exactly helped by taking her alleged attacker back. I'm guessing her fans will range from disappointed to baffled, and the questions will be unavoidable unless she's planning to retire early or become a recluse.

Why does this matter? Rihanna has given domestic violence a high-profile face. I'm sure she'd rather not have her personal turmoil turned into a teachable moment, but that's one of the few good things that might come of this.

Time-Waster Of The Week

Wordle is one of the more nifty things I've seen in a while. All you have to do is dump some text into the window, hit Enter, and the program arranges the words into cool graphic art. My recent "Watchmen" blog generated the image above. Pretty!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Movie I AM Excited About

I didn't have particularly high hopes for the quality of the Wonder Woman animated movie, but it's getting very good reviews.

Entertainment Weekly: "On a geek-scale, I'd rate Wonder Woman a bit higher than this series' previous releases such as 'Superman Doomsday' and 'Justice League: The New Frontier.' "

Wired: "Directed with skill by Laura Montgomery and starring Keri Russell as the voice of bad-ass Princess Diana, Wonder Woman leans heavily on dizzying action and sexual tension to bridge the gaps between the character's various incarnations over the past seven decades."

Righteous. And it's not 14 hours long.

My 'Watchmen' Enthusiasm Is Waning

You may have heard that a little flick called "Watchmen" is coming out on Friday. I'm just gonna put it out there: I'm kinda over it.

"Watchmen" is the Holy Grail for serious comics lovers, but as I've said before, I waited too long (way too long) to appreciate it. Do I understand its impact on the genre? Absolutely.

It's no secret that "Watchmen" writer Alan Moore wants nothing to do with the film adaptation or that he has absolutely no use for D.C., which owns the rights to it. Moore has frequently criticized the comics industry, and justifiably so in many cases. Hollywood isn't much better, as the film version of "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman" proved. He's got a right to be disdainful of the practices of both industries based on his past treatment.

But I'm weary of his seemingly dismissive attitude toward mainstream comics as art and the people who enjoy them. It's one of the themes in his recent Q&A interview with Wired magazine. As usual, he has a lot of interesting things to say. But some of his statements bugged me a little.

On superheroes: "But looking at the superhero today, it seems to me an awful lot like 'Watchmen' without the irony, that with 'Watchmen' we were talking very much about the potential abuses of this kind of masked vigilante justice and the kind of people that it would in all likelihood attract if these things were taking place in a more realistic world. But that was not meant approvingly."

Is it such a bad thing to enjoy "Green Lantern" without irony? Especially since it's, um, not real? Besides, he admits that he hasn't read comics closely in many years ... so how would he know?

On people who read comics: "They're being bought in many cases by hopeless nostalgics or, putting the worst construction on it, perhaps cases of arrested development who are not prepared to let their childhoods go, no matter how trite the adventures of their various heroes and idols."

Stereotypes contain a kernel of truth, as this statement certainly does. But what about the discriminating comics readers who sift through the dreck and take reading and literature seriously? Besides, if an otherwise responsible, productive adult wants to spend an hour a week with the Flash, why is that something to look down upon?

Obviously, parts of that interview took me there. And as opening day approaches, the less certain I am that I want to spend almost three hours in the relentlessly dystopian "Watchmen" universe. I'm not a person who thinks that art should never be upsetting, but I'm feeling particularly protective of my psyche right now. Maybe I'll feel differently by Friday, but it's not like Alan Moore wants my money anyway.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jamie Foxx Is The New King Of Random

Let's say you were casting celebrities for a standard stuntin'-in-the-club R&B video. Chances are you'd be looking for people with a little edge, a tiny bit of cred. I'm guessing your first phone calls wouldn't be to Ron Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal or Forest Whitaker. I'm trying to imagine the chain of conversations that led to Jamie Foxx's baffling, fascinating "Blame It" video. Thanks to my friend C. for bringing this to my attention!