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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In These Rooms: Conception 1989-1998

If there's one thing I'm fanatical about (that isn't STAR WARS, comic books, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or YA lit) it's Conception. Not the act--the epically, fantastically, revoltingly great Norwegian prog-power metal band who released four albums and then broke up so that their lead singer, Roy Khan, could go front Kamelot, and their rhythm section could become Ark. In retrospect (heh), really not a fair trade, as much as I adore Kamelot.

Now I have all four of these albums and listen to them on repeat in the car. During a recent commute to work, as I was air-guitaring the amazing solo from "Cardinal Sin," I realized that some fan was going to have to put together a greatest hits album, because Cthulhu knows the record companies aren't going to do it. My manfriend would not approve of this venture--he doesn't approve of greatest hits albums, period--but a band like this you need to ease folks into. So here's my set list for a greatest hits compilation (ten tracks, since each of their albums has ten tracks and The Last Sunset, while better than anything else that other bands have ever released, is not as good as the following three), though really you should just listen to all four of the albums, at least once every day. Look, I will mail you burned copies. Brown paper wrapper, of course.

10. "Soliloquy: Sweet Lavender; Non-Electric Redemption; In These Rooms" (Parallel Minds): A three-part virtuoso of a song, this truly epic 9-minute masterpiece completes the Parallel Minds disc, making it one of the few cases in which my favorite track is the last track.

9. "Retrospect" (In Your Multitude): This album is one of the more "metal" albums in Conception's catalogue, and this track is no exception, with its galloping guitars and almost industrial drum; the lyrics are pure vintage Khan-as-questioner.

8. "The Last Sunset" (The Last Sunset): A very different sort of song from the rest of its album, The Last Sunset's title track is soft, introspective, almost romantic.

7. "Cardinal Sin" (Flow): Containing one of the most perfect guitar solos ever recorded and some textbook atheism, "Cardinal Sin" is maybe the best of Flow and certainly a pinnacle in Conception's career.

6. Roll the Fire" (Parallel Minds): The first Conception song I ever heard, and thus the first I ever loved, an amazing track that manages to flow and challenge at the same time. Note: if you only watch one of these videos, MAKE IT THIS ONE. It's the only music video the band released (to my knowledge) and it features a very young Khan in his East German pirate fashion phase.

5. "A Million Gods" (In Your Multitude): Forget guitar solo--this song has a multi-instrument duel in the middle section which sounds exactly like those million gods fighting for dominance.

4. "Gethsemane" (Flow): Yet another foray into the issues of religion, this track is a rippling space metal-esque monologue in Christ's voice.

3. "Bowed Down With Sorrow" (The Last Sunset): This early track is a good indication of what Conception would become, and at the same time completely different from anything that would follow: agonizingly slow and almost doomy, electrifying guitar, orgasmic vocals.

2. "Cry" (Flow): The most straight-up romantic track on any of the four albums, "Cry" is a make-out song for metalheads.

1. "Some Wounds" (In Your Multitude): Lyrically surreal and oblique, the vocals are what make this song shine; the backing sound weaves in beautifully with Khan's lead.

Monday, August 29, 2011

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Friday, August 26, 2011

I know, you're all so sad

Dudes, I'm putting my usual Friday posts of histrionic overcasting on hold until my teaching gig is over (so, three weeks). I haven't been doing much pleasure reading lately and my Fridays are absorbed in lesson planning, grading, and teaching, so. Yes.

In consolation I leave you with this gif.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fucked. Up.

So, I write fiction and have since middle school, generally short stories. Most writers have quirks or themes which show up repeatedly in their writing. One of mine is houses; the other is the figure of the single pregnant woman, or more broadly a woman who is punished for her sexuality. This latter hasn't occurred in any of the writing I've done since leaving the Mormon church, but between the ages of 14 and 19 I wrote a number of short stories. These are the things that happened to the women in the stories.

+teenage girl has sex with boyfriend. Boyfriend is killed. Girl finds out she's pregnant, has the baby.

+teenage girl is raped at a high school dance by the guy she has a crush on. Grows up, gets engaged, forgives rapist, and invites him to the wedding.

+woman in an unhappy marriage goes to work for an older gentleman as a housekeeper. Older dude hits on her. She is attracted to him but doesn't want to be. Channels feelings into making up with her husband. Gets pregnant. Husband goes off to war and is killed (this was a WWII period story).

+tween girl becomes friends with a new neighbor boy. They have a little tweenage fumbling kiss. Neighbor boy falls out of a tree and dies (I guess it's a plus that SHE didn't die?).

+young lady goes to work for a government intelligence agency. Gets into a relationship with a guy who happens to be a traitor. Gets knocked up. Gets to watch dude be executed for treason.

+teenage girl kisses a guy at a party. Gets killed by a semi while driving home.

DAMN did that church ever screw me up. I was apparently incapable of allowing female characters to have sexual feelings and actions without punishing them, either with the death of their intended or pregnancy. Perhaps in some way I was sublimating my mother's experience of being a single woman with children (through no fault of her own) and twisting it to fit the worldview of femininity which the church had taught me. Of course high school is the time where, generally, a person starts feeling Feelings, and if you've been raised with any brand of religious training, you also start feeling Guilt and Shame and Horror, and then you try to repent but clearly you're doing it wrong because the guy in AP Euro is still really hot and smart and you'd like to ask him to prom but he's not a member of your church and therefore would try to get you drunk and have his way with you.

Happy to report that once I got laid my writing got a lot better and a lot less depressingly kyriarchal!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nuke this post from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

I have the bad habit of occasionally picking fights on the Internet. This is usually only occurs when I'm already in a bad mood, and instead of chillaxing with some tea and Regina Spektor, I seek out arguments about the new Red Robin outfit or why Doctor/Rose is better than Doctor/Amy and urge my blood pressure to even unhealthier heights.

The last time this happened, the discussion was about the Alien films and whether or not the second film sold out Ripley's character to the mores of white patriarchal America. For my money it did, but I think how you view Aliens depends on how you view Alien. Now there are dozens of ways to watch these movies; it's an astoundingly great franchise in that way (and yes, I will defend Alien3 to the death. Alien: Resurrection, well, you're on your own). Most interpretations are not going to be "wrong" but I've rarely found two people who agreed about how the films, especially the first and second, should be read. A popular view of Alien is that Ripley ends the film in relative safety, but in retreat--she successfully hides from the Alien and retreats to the womb-like safety of hypersleep and waits for the Company to rescue her. It naturally follows that Aliens is the story of Ripley coming into her own, facing her fears, and defeating the monster for real.

This is not my view. My view of Ripley in the entirety of Alien is as a triumphant virgin--virgin in both the sense of an unmarried woman and the sense of a person who belongs only to themselves. Ripley is the quintessential maiden huntress: she is completely unsexed to the modern eye, her companion is an animal, and she carries out her work-a-day and survivalist hunting duties efficiently and competently. She takes control of the ship's functions and her own survival when the male members of the crew fail. Even the penultimate climactic scene, where she is shown in her underwear, is notably free of male gaze-type filming. The viewer is not intended to find the scene sexy; we are voyeurs not in the sense of gaining titillation from viewing this woman, but only in that we are seeing her go about her business as though no one else is around. Up until the end, when she ejects the Alien into the vacuum of space, she controls, manages, and directs her fear, saves herself (and Jones! It's all about Jones, really), and finally takes her much-deserved rest.

My objection to Ripley's portrayal in Aliens is not "they made her into a mommy." It is pretty fantastic to see this woman kicking Alien ass while protecting her makeshift family, and of course the line "GET AWAY FROM HER, YOU BITCH" is one of the best ever spoken on film. However, in the case of Aliens it's impossible to separate Ripley's plotline from those of the people around her. There are four female figures in the film: Ripley, Vasquez, Newt, and the Alien Queen. Of these four, two survive: Ripley and Newt. Vasquez, a "butch" Latina Marine, is killed, and of course the Alien Queen is destroyed along with her young. The message to my eyes is that the nice white lady and the little white girl and their new husband/daddy figure (Hicks) survive as a lovely nuclear family, while the lone-wolf woman of color who's too masculine--possibly lesbian--and the monstrous Other Mother (forgive me, Neil) don't make it. Aliens is an 80s film, steeped in Other-fear; the solo Alien Queen and her numerous young code as the caricature of the welfare queen, Reagan's much-loathed imaginary foe, while Vasquez's flaws remain only too obvious--she's of color, she's in the military doing "man's work" with a ginormous phallic substitute, and she is neither properly subservient nor sufficiently feminine. Ripley, too, does "man's work," but it's a softer version, tempered by her need to save Newt and her budding relationship with Hicks. Again, the problem is not with Ripley but with how her portrayal works in conjunction--or against--the other modes of femaleness in the movie. Though I appreciate the character as a mother-figure and the message that mothering is badass and mothers are full people, capable of doing multiple things at once, holding a job and caring for families, the way in which the film goes about this message grates on me. If you've seen the uncut version of Aliens, you know that a portion of backstory not in the theatre release is that Ripley had a biological daughter who died while she was in hypersleep returning to Earth. If this had made it into the theatre release, I think the film's development of Ripley's character might have felt more organic. As is, the theatrical release takes Ripley from the calm-and-competent survivor of Alien to a woman whose motivation is children, without giving any apparent impetus for this shift. Further, Aliens presents only one acceptable image of femininity and what is still supposed to be the essential female act: motherhood.

Another aspect to be considered is what the overall themes of the two films are. Alien is a pure 70s body-horror film--the fear of the parasite, of the body being overtaken and out of one's control, and the fear of rape. The alien threat has phallic signifiers and the mode of its hunting is masculine (rape) enacted on men; the result of its attack is a feminine process (birth). This is a majorly unsettling villain even today, as it forces male viewers to confront what are supposed to be female fears and experiences. As Dan O'Bannon said, the Alien and the film itself were supposed to make male viewers cross their legs. Ripley, as the major female character, would naturally be the prey in any typical horror film, but Alien turns the woman-attacked-in-sexual-ways trope around. Conversely, Aliens is a pure 80s action-horror film--the Alien now threatens humans, specifically Western colonizers/imperialists, on a larger scale. The up-close-and-personal, bodily-autonomy threat of the Alien in the first film is translated to a threat to humanity in the second (with humanity of course being the Company, the nuclear family, and Western imperial ventures). The Queen and her young threaten to overrun the colonizers; they are an indigenous population which must be stamped out; they have no male leader.

All things considered, which is the more powerful theme? Which is more compelling? Which is more analytic and thought-provoking? Which is done better? Which challenges some of our assumptions about life and society, instead of stroking and reassuring them? I enjoy Aliens quite a bit. It's a fantastic action film, it's fun, it's scary, it has enduringly quotable lines. But it falls short of its predecessor, despite being in many ways a worthy sequel. Its surface feminism--a badass mom getting shit done (and believe me, I would LOVE for someone to make a Sarah Connor/Ripley team-up film, or at least a comic)--belies its problematic depths.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jerry is a great vampire name and everything is better sans Matty Fresh (spoilers)

Since yesterday was my birthday and sort of a DIANA APPRECIATION DAY, period, I decided to skip my usual Sunday post and go right for the movie reviews for this week. To that end...

Who else went to see Fright Night specifically for David Tennant in leather pants and wound up pleasantly surprised at the entire venture? That is actually a damn good comedy-horror film. I saw the original one (at some point in undergrad) and didn't really remember a thing about it other than that it was funny, and I wasn't expecting some grand splash since remakes usually suck, but yes, Fright Night is actually quite a fine movie. The pacing is good, with an interesting set-up involving McLovin, ahem, Ed Lee (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a go-go dancer named Doris, and some adorkable homemade videos, and then Jerry (Colin Farrell) blows up the Brewsters' house, forcing Charley (Anton Yelchin), his mom Jane (Toni Collette), and his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) into a bizarro alliance with Midori'd-out stage magician Peter Vincent (David Tennant, in leather pants. Also in underwear, silk robes, and cute jeans). For a reasonably campy and done premise (who doesn't know far more than they want to about vampires at this point?), the actors and pacing of the script make Fright Night way better than it should be. Yelchin, Farrell, and Tennant are reliably awesome; Yelchin as a still-awkward nerd done well who knows what color "puce" is, Farrell as the vamp next door who ALSO knows what puce looks like; and Tennant as an over-the-top liqueur-swilling stage magician who knows vampires are real but likes to drink that knowledge away. Farrell in particular I found pretty spectacular. In terms of "who do I want to look at?" Tennant wins every time, but the way Farrell played his Jerry, as a slouching, grinning, truck-driving dudebro of a vamp, was just fucking fun. It's clear all the way through that Jerry knows Charley knows and he doesn't give a damn, because he's a 400-year-old vampire who can afford to play with his prey. Another way in which Fright Night wins is that it didn't let itself get bogged down in backstory. The audience is assured that yes, Jerry is a vampire, yes, he is very old, yes, there is some sort of vamp mythos, but that's it and that's all we need. Jerry is evil, Charley's family is remarkably swift to believe him (I mean, Jerry does blow up their house. They kinda have to believe him), and the action doesn't stop until Jerry's a heap of ash and Charley is finally getting laid. A couple of fun cameos are present too: the original Jerry, Chris Sarandon, as a motorist drained dry by his 2011 counterpart; Lisa Loeb as McLovin, sorry, Ed's mom (wut); and Dave Franco as a bullying classmate of Charley's. You'll always be Greg the pants-pissing soccer player to me, Dave. People don't forget.

And then there's the Glee 3-D concert movie. Yes, I made my friends take me to see both a vampire remake and a schmaltzy teen musical extravaganza. I have great friends. The Glee movie is exactly what you would expect: by turns totally glorious and totally overwrought. The cast are pretty great live, though I'm sure at least SOME of the sound got tweaked in production, and they only did one song that I really hate (hint: it's an original piece), balanced out by lots that I love ("Don't Stop Believin'", "Teenage Dream", "Valerie", "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", and the pure heart of "Sing It" almost makes me forget that RPF about Grant Morrison and My Chemical Romance exists). The lack of Jenna Ushkowitz is pretty dire--she only gets minutes of stage time and a few opening lines in "Born This Way"--and the overabundance of Lea Michele to be expected. The music is intercut with clips of the cast in character backstage, as well as three mini-storylines following fans of the show. In all, the film is an overproduced, saccharine explosion of sound, confetti, and mile-long smiles. Everything I wanted, pretty much. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

When fantasies come true

Heaven and angels forfend I should dare to be less than horrified and offended that Ridley Scott is going to direct a new Blade Runner-related film. It can ONLY suck monkey balls, right? It can ONLY be terrible, awful, horrendous, an affront to the original film (heh. Which original film would that be? As Princess Slayer pointed out, there have been no less than seven cuts of Blade Runner).

And yet it seems that I am one of the very, very, very few people in the free world who didn't greet this news with dismay. Well, that's fine. It's to be expected, really, since geeks are notorious both for being contrarian and for arguing as much as possible over minutiae. Cthulhu knows if you get me started on the topic of Anne Hathaway and Catwoman I will probably offend your ears or intelligence a minute or so in.

But really...come on. Ridley Scott is at least to be trusted with what appears to be his favorite creation, the film he was most invested in and most affected by, right? No one has any idea of what this new film will be yet. I highly doubt it will be a remake of the first film. Why is everyone so appalled at the idea of a tangentially related story, a continuation of the first story, or a completely new story in the same universe? I'm pretty sure Soldier sucked because a) Kurt Russell and b) Scott was not involved. Is Blade Runner really that sacrosanct? As an admittedly-snotty aside, most of the people who seem really put off by this news are people who also happen to be fans of Aliens. Speaking of that other famous Scott franchise, it didn't occur to me until now but are the haters also hating on Prometheus? 'Cause THAT just seems nigh-unfathomable.

Maybe it's my general love for Scott movies (he made three of my favorites: Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma and Louise). Maybe it's the fact that I've been waiting for a long time for someone to make a movie about cyborgs that actually incorporates cyborg theory (I stupidly thought the fourth Terminator would do it. Man, was I wrong), and I think Scott might be up for the task. I mean, it's already sort of there in Blade Runner, and how cool would it be for another film by the man with the vision to develop and expound upon that ambiguity? The whole fucking POINT of the film is an examination of what "humanity" means. There's no WAY that story is finished being told.

And you know what else? I fucking love the Underworld franchise, and yes, I will be seeing the fourth movie in theatre.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Selling my soul

Or at least my clothes.

As y'all have probably heard, Abercrombie and Fitch has offered to pay the Situation to stop wearing their clothes. Guess there IS such a thing as bad publicity! Anyway, it got me thinking: how much would I accept to stop wearing my favorite clothes? I mean, it's not like I have anything expensive--not even anything from A&F--but I do have clothing that I love, and here is a very scientific breakdown of just how much money you'd have to pay me to pry my secondhand Express pencil skirt off my hips.

"Inevitable Betrayal" t-shirt: $300. Yes, I paid ten bucks for it, but it's one of those t-shirt-a-day shirts, where after 24 hours is up they're hard to find, especially in your size, and COME ON it's a Firefly/Jurassic Park mash-up.

Bubblegum-pink boots: $375. I gave my friend Biemer $20 bucks for these babies, but they're worth so much more. Bright pink pleather ankle boots are hard to come by (maybe. Probably not. Whatever, give me my cash).

Aforementioned secondhand Express pencil skirt: $450. I LOVE this skirt. It's reasonably good quality, it makes my butt look good, and it's easy to wear in either summer, with wedges, or winter, with tights and heels.

Thrifted strawberry dress: $1000. Now, the actual value of this dress is likely somewhere around $5, if that--I don't remember what my sister bought it for from Goodwill back in high school. But I love it, it's adorbs, it's cool and sweet and light, and it's one-of-a-kind.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Body Appreciation Sunday: Dat Ass, redux

I found this post from Feministe really interesting and cool. I dig where the author and her husband are coming from; once I was putting on a favorite pair of underwear and lamented that they no longer fit the way I liked. My manfriend said, Guess your ass is too big! and then walked over, crouched down, and literally kissed my butt. He meant it for a compliment and that was how I took it. He loves booties: the bigger, the better. He's Sir Mix-A-Lotish that way.

Much as I like to rely on my own self-esteem and my own approval of the way I look, the way I dress, my health, and so forth, it is always going to help that he's attracted to me. I think this is ok; some things we just can't do by ourselves. The support and love of our friends is important. I'm not "fat" even by nutbar US beauty standards, but the important thing is to accept and love yourself at WHATEVER size you are, because chances are, someone wants you to hate yourself instead--to think yourself ugly--to think yourself too skinny or too fat or too flat-chested or too wide-hipped. The fat acceptance movement is largely (heh) really amazing and I'm glad to see it spreading through the Internet and daily life. The personal is still political. If the regressive assholes who run our culture want to play out their wars on women's bodies, let's take the fight to them! My body, its wide shoulders and relative lack of waist, its hips and ass, its skinny legs and long arms, its short hair: if you insist on weaponizing it, I'll use it against you however I can.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Film Fantasy Friday: Farthing

It's Friday, hopefully Friday Fun Day for you fine folks, but for me it isn't anywhere near the end of the week yet. That's right, I'm teaching again on Friday nights. Woot, etc., not really. Anyway...have a cast. Much as I'd love to cast one of Jo Walton's Sulien books, there will never be a human actress badass enough to play either Sulien or Emer, so I'm going for the next best thing: Farthing. Being a British-country-house book with many characters, the cast selected here is cut down quite a bit, but the notables are present.

Lucy Kahn: played by Rooney Mara, Lucy is the wayward Eversley daughter--wayward in that she married a Jewish man. When a powerful political leader and member of the "Farthing Set" is murdered at her parents' country home, she begins to believe that she and her husband were invited to the house for the weekend in order to frame him as a radical Jew.

David Kahn: played by Julian Morris, David is Lucy's husband. He has a small banking operation which gives loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners, mainly Jewish people and women. He has a radical friend in France with whom he corresponds, which casts doubt on his character.

Lady Eversley: played by Emma Thompson, Lady Eversley is Lucy's horrifying mother. Do her aloof demeanor and impeccable manners mask a murderer?

Lord Eversley: played by Geoffrey Rush, Lord Eversley is Lucy's somewhat less horrifying father. While he and Lucy are riding at Farthing, he is apparently targeted by a Bolshevik with a rifle. Is he too on the list of intended fatalities?

Lady Angela Thirkie/Mrs. Daphne Normanby: played by Rachael Stirling, Angela and Daphne are sisters. Daphne's doomed affair with the man who would become Angela's husband and the murder victim haunts the women's relationships with their husbands and each other.

Mark Normanby: played by Clive Owen, Mark is a vicious politician on the rise and Daphne's husband.

Inspector Carmichael: played by Christian Bale, Carmichael is the Scotland Yard inspector assigned to tackle the Thirkie murder case.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

#tmituesday: The men who launched Diana into puberty

Admit it, you've always wondered who my pre-adolescent crushes were. Well, here they are, ya nosy weirdos.

Terry McGinnis: Yeah, he's animated (and in all the right ways), but Will Friedle did the voice acting and the Batsuit did the rest. My affections have bounced here and there in the Batfamily since, but Terry was the first.

Dougray Scott: That's what you get for letting me see Ever After, Mom! You thought it would just be a harmless fairy tale movie, but Prince Henri's codpiece stays with me to this day.

Richard Dean Anderson: Not as McGyver--as Colonel Jack O'Neill from Stargate SG-1, still my favorite science fiction television show (sorry, Firefly). The silver fox to end all silver foxes, O'Neill's gruff, snarky badassness gave me a good down-low tickle that I had no idea what to do with...yet.

Ewan McGregor: STAR WARS Episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out at exactly the right time. Is all I'm saying.

Heath Ledger: You're thinking it was Patrick Verona, but it was actually Gabriel Martin from The Patriot, which I wasn't allowed to see, but I looked at the movie guide in Barnes and Noble a lot (bookstores have so much porn in them! I hadn't even discovered romance novels yet).

Jeff Goldblum: before you cut me that side-eye, keep in mind that I wasn't allowed to see Jurassic Park until I was 13. And BOOM! went the shiny new ovaries.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Also, Russell Brand

Lest you fret, I will be seeing the Rock of Ages film when it comes out--partly to be able to bitch more adequately about how awful Tom Cruise is, but mostly because I just can't resist any iteration of the masterpieces of hair metal.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Body Appreciation Sunday: The Liver

Yes, dear readers, it's time to bow down before the mighty liver. I do enjoy drinking alcohol now, much to my mother's dismay, and every now and then "a beer with pals" codes as "two parties and trawling SoHo with guy friends."

Thankfully this doesn't happen often, but it did last night, and so this morning afternoon I'm declaring it Official Liver Appreciation day, complete with libations of Yogi's detox tea. After all, the liver is quite a cool organ--not only does it filter all the alcohol and other garbage dumbasses like me put into it, it plays an important role in metabolism, protein synthesis, and digestion. It also produces bile (yellow or black, I'm not sure. Perhaps Galen can clear that up for you). Best of all? The liver can actually regenerate itself to a certain extent! That myth of Prometheus having his liver torn out by eagles and then growing it back overnight...well, it's still a myth, but the liver is damn cool.

So churn on, liver, and in the future I'll try to treat you a little better!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Film Fantasy Friday: Secret Six

Now, now, before you give me that side-eye, let me explain. Not only did Secret Six end this week, but it's also MOTHERFUCKING SHARK WEEK. How could I do anything else but cast a film with a humanoid shark character? Seriously. So this film would be sort of a Danse Macabre telling, but with all my favorite Six members because I'm greedy that way (so more accurately it would be called, like, Secret Eight. HUSH YOU), and a slew of other characters who aren't cast here because hey, space limitations, etc.

Scandal Savage: played by Morena Baccarin, Scandal is Vandal Savage's daughter and a deadly hand-to-hand fighter. She may or may not be immortal; either way she can regrow a kidney if she needs to.

King Shark: voiced by Jason Scott Lee, King Shark is a humanoid great white shark. He's way more jolly than he should be.

Catman: played by Daniel Craig, Catman's pesky heroic qualities sometimes get in the way of the mission. His boner for a certain former Mob princess doesn't help either.

Bane: played by Tom Hardy, Bane is the inventor of a super-steroid called Venom. This drug, along with his natural physique, makes him into a terrifying combatant. He currently leads the Six.

Knockout: played by Lauren Ambrose, Knockout is a former Fury from Apokolips and Scandal's girlfriend. Ask her about the efficacy of the Get Out of Hell Free card!

Deadshot: played by Timothy Olyphant, Deadshot is a mercenary and expert marksman. Don't even suggest that he and Catman are buddies. They're not.

Rag Doll: played by Ben Whishaw, Rag Doll is a castrated infinitely-jointed bizarro wonderment. If Manhunter were to call him up and suggest they get together for some flogging, he probably wouldn't say no.

Jeannette: played by Liina Brunelle, Jeanette is a French Revolution-era society lady whose husband did a shoddy job of murdering her with an axe. Now she commands the power of the banshee, having at her disposal an ear-rending cry and the ability to sense when a person is about to die (usually because one of her teammates is killing them).

Amanda Waller: played by Loretta Devine, Waller employs the Six to break a certain prisoner out of Belle Reve prison. Being herself, of course there's an ulterior motive or twelve.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Girl talk

Recently I read Beauty Queens, Libba Bray's newest novel and a by turns hilarious and sad tale of beauty contestants whose plane crashes on a tropical island. I zoomed through it--could hardly put it down--and now am rereading it to savor it, because oh my the umami is strong with this one. I gave it a quick review over at my respectable blog, but the thing I'm finding most enjoyable about it right now is its treatment of friendships between girls.

There are many hurtful stereotypes about women and their relationships with each other--that girls backbite, that women are more dangerous to be friends with than men, the concept of the "frenemy." I am guilty of repeating these to myself and others as a younger person, though I try hard to avoid and expunge them now. And yes--the girls in Beauty Queens do their share of sniping, snarking, and shaming, but the core of their experience is one of strengthening bonds and allowing themselves to be friends in spite of what their society wants them to do (which is be enemies and islands). One scene in particular struck me hard, a scene in which the girls talk about the things they miss from home: boys, French fries, basketball, real beds, etc: and also what they want for their futures. It is a lovely scene of camaraderie and longing, whispers and admissions, and it reminded me exactly of such scenes I have been a participant in, particularly within the LDS church.

Because if there's one thing the church does ok, it's give girls opportunities to hang out and gossip and figure things out sans intruding male presence. I'm not even being sarcastic--my memories of Girls' Camp, as it's called in the US (and I'm not actually sure if there are similar programs in other countries) are the rosiest memories I have of being raised in the church. There are definite issues with Girls' Camp, such as the truly awful songs we had to sing and suspect gospel messages being shoehorned in at every occasion, but there's no point in kidding myself that a bunch of teenage girls and their female leaders would be allowed to go off by themselves for a week and leave the patriarchal mess ENTIRELY behind. And yet the camp experience was definitely the closest I got while in the church to pure feminism. Call me a Sapphist at heart but there's a lot to be said for hanging out with only ladies for seven days straight. The appearance of priesthood holders on the last night felt like exactly what it was: an intrusion, a reminder of the world we had to go back to when camp was over, a world where we wouldn't and couldn't experience the kind of bonding that had taken place during the past week--where we would be afraid of being overheard and chastised, where we would be influenced by both religious and secular doctrine.

Our society doesn't want to see women sticking together, bonding, hanging out, enjoying each other's company. We are supposed to backbite and distrust, because divisions among an oppressed populace makes the oppressed easier to control.

I heard a phrase a lot when I was a kid growing up Mormon: "when Saints meet, angels weep," meaning that when members gather together, the heavens are pleased because these people, these Saints, they're just so darn righteous! Regardless of the truthiness of this platitude, it IS true that when women meet, the patriarchs tremble.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Pull List: Secret Six #36 and The Punisher #1

Today is a rather momentous day as far as the Big Two of comics are concerned. Gail Simone's fantastic Secret Six died a bloody death today, and Greg Rucka's shiny new Punisher was born. So you can see I'm existing in a state between sorrow and joy, but it's an ok place to be in. Rucka and Simone are two of my favorite writers--indeed I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to decide between their renditions of Wonder Woman--and their works are always things of beauty.

Secret Six is a comic I'd literally recommend to anyone--well, anyone with a sense of humor. It's a tale of misfit anti-heroes who are sometimes actual villains; it's got a humanoid shark; it's sick and hilarious and sad. And in the 36th issue, the fun times end...with many a literal bang (no kidding: the first scenes are of a rather unlikely coupling, but then nothing's unlikely with this team). With nearly every big-name hero between Gotham and Metropolis arrayed against them, there's no way the Six are getting out with their motley skins intact.

The shiny new Punisher is something to behold, as a shadowy Frank Castle storms through the pages with nary a peep as to his mission or impetus. Of course, everyone already knows the story of Castle--decorated Marine, family slaughtered, on a mission of revenge and five-fingered justice--so Rucka and company are free to jump in face-first. Two new cop characters, Bolt and Clemons, set up the action; I expect interesting things from the Bolt character in particular. Given Rucka's past work on the fantastic Gotham Central police procedural as well as his career as a crime novelist, this view of the Punisher story feels right. Marco Checchetto's artwork is fantastic and very fitting to the Castle character.

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