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Friday, April 29, 2011

Genesis 3:24

I've been grading papers, the large majority of which were on the two creation stories in Genesis. In the midst of that, we took a trip to the Special Collections, where we saw, among other things, an 1880 collection of bible illustrations by Gustave DorĂ© (whose work I know from his illustrations of Dante's Comedia). This is a familiar scene:

Though I feel like that sword should be a bit more flaming.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Don't know if I ever put up a picture of the print I got at Wondercon. I like it a lot:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Anticipating the whitewash: HBO's American Gods

So, HBO is in talks to make American Gods. Here's what I've said about it:

The conversation I had with my roommate after hearing the news was mostly about how I just assume they'll try to cast a white person as Shadow, which will be what it takes to make me not watch it. Feeling like they're going to mess it up will not be enough -- if it makes it to air, I'll watch it to see *how* they mess it up. But if they cast some white dude, or some dude who really just looks white, as opposed to looking like he's brown of some sort but people are not sure which sort (unless they're black, in which case they know he's black), I will hulk out, and I will not watch. Trust.

Anyway,  Racialicious is talking about it today. Topics covered: Gaiman usually not being a jackass. Gaiman sometimes being a jackass. Hoping Gaiman will not be a jackass, and will have enough clout to keep the production free of jackassery. Gaiman's wife's.

Eight days a week

Had a funny conversation with a couple of my students after class today. We were talking about interpreting religious texts, and the crazy that is literalism, and then one of them mentioned the Book of Mormon, and then it came up that the professor had made a joke about someone doing a zombie rewrite of the bible (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies style). I decided that the first scene of the inevitable movie version would begin with this line:

"And on the eighth day, God created zombies. And he looked at the thing he created and he said, 'Heh. This is really going to fuck them up."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Over at pajiba, there's this: Ranking, Without Comment, the Last 53 Romantic Comedies Released in North America. You just know I'm going to have comments. Like, "You're joking with The Ugly Truth all the way up at 39, right? I've seen When In Rome. It's stupid, but it's nowehere near as painful as The Ugly Truth. But the real beauty of this list for me is their last place ranking, which is Leap Year. In case you're curious, here's what I thought of that film (their review of it is here):

Leap Year**SPOILERIFICPlotwise, Leap Year is one of the better romantic comedies I've seen lately (faint praise, I know). Matthew Goode is attractive and perfectly capable of charming, and Amy Adams' hair looks fabulous. All of this makes it even more unfortunate that the movie so clearly hates women. That's a strong statement, I know. And, I doubt that the filmmakers realize that they hate women. But here's what I consider the strongest example. Anna gets humiliated repeatedly, culminating in the alarm scene (a nice touch, to be honest). In the end, she goes back to Ireland, gives a speech that makes it clear that, in her eyes, the solution is to be someone totally different than she has been, and proposes to Declan in his now-crowded gastro-pub. And he, without saying a word, turns and walks away. Yes, we know he's going to get the ring, which is sweet. But, he also humiliates her in front of a room full of people. More than that, he is completely unapologetic about it. That's neither romantic nor comedic.
Leap Year is not the worst romantic comedy I've seen lately (that would be The Ugly Truth), but it may be the most insidiously misogynistic, and the fact that it passes for a romantic comedy is troubling. This is not to say that there are no sweet or funny moments in the movie. There are, but they are, in my opinion, not enough to balance the rest of it.
I suspect that Pajiba and I disagree on how bad the movie actually is, given how high they ranked The Ugly Truth (COME ON!), but it makes me happy to see it in last place. Behind The Love Guru, which they couldn't even find a funny clip of for the trailers.

The vampire squid from hell

Who knew there was such a thing?

The vampyroteuthis infernalis ("vampire squid from hell") is a small deep sea (2000-3000ft) cephalopod, growing to about 1ft long.
It is the only known living species in its order (vampyromorphida), and shares characteristics of both octopus and squid. It has 8 arms like an octopus, but they're joined by a webbed skin, the inside of which is black, giving the appearance of a cloak.

Its large eyes may appear blue or red, according to the light (I'm guessing the "cloak" and red eyes account for its name). The arms that are missing on the octopus, and which are tentacles on a true squid, are, for the vampire squid a pair of extra-long, filament-arms, used to sense prey (which is then caught by the 8 standard arms). These are kept tucked away when not in use.

There's probably prey in there
When the vampire squid is threatened, it flips its "cloak" over its body, to disguise its appearance.

Those prickly-looking things are, allegedly, harmless.
Vampyroteuthis breathes just fine at oxygen levels of as low as 3% in the really deep sea, and does not change colors like cephalopods from more shallow depths, but is covered in photophores that it uses to disorient prey -- again, maybe the idea of vampire-like attributes (hypnotic power?) and its home in the way-deep depths contributing to the name.

The vampyroteuthis infernalis -- vampire squid from hell.

It's looking at you.

1992 Dracula would love that 'do. And, holy shit, is that a fang?!

One more reason that nature is awesome. Also why both monsters and aliens are often based on cephalopods.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In honor of national poetry month

Sometimes, if I look hard enough
I can just see her.
There --
a crooked smile, hand on one hip,
standing tall in high heels or platform sneakers.
She will be happy here for a time
before the drought
before it all burns.
I try to call out to her,
but what would I say if she could hear me?
Do not trust these days,
they will turn to acid in your veins?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Whedon Spotlight link extravaganza

So I think I'll make this the featured post for a while and update it with links as I make my way through the Whedon spotlight. If you're looking for new stuff that's not this, please scroll down. Thanks!

Why Cast a Spotlight on Joss Whedon by Robert Moore
Yay, Joss!

Joss Whedon 101: Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Robert Moore
All about BtVS.

You're Strong. I'm Stronger. Vampires, Masculinity, and Language in 'Buffy" by Malgorzata Drewniok
Explores the link relationship between chauvinism and language as depicted in 3 types of vampires.

Women Who Hate Women: Female Competition in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' by Faye Murray and Holly Golding
Analyzes relationships between female characters (both friends and enemies) on BtVS.

The Darkness of "Passion": Visuals and Voiceovers, Sound and Shadow by Rhonda V. Wilcox

An analysis of one of my favorite episodes of season 2

Heroic Humanism and Humanistic Heroism in Shows of Joss Whedon by Candace E. West
OMG, y'all -- THIS IS MINE!!! OK, first, they added that "in shows of Joss Whedon." Second, I didn't pick the picture. Third -- OMG, IT'S ME! GO READ IT! And then leave some comments on it.

*sigh*  I'm falling behind, but here are things I *want to be reading:

In the Buff: Sexual Conservatism in the Works of Joss Whedon by Kyle Garrett
Argues that the philosophical liberalism of Joss' shows does not extend to the treatment of casual sex.

Joss Whedon 101: Dollhouse by Ian Mathers

'Dollhouse,' Fox Television, and Cultural Fragmentation by Rana Emerson

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Guess I'd better work on my card card counting

So, over at the New York Times, someone named Ginia Bellafante wrote a "review" of Game of Thrones, in which she proclaims that "Game of Thrones is boy fiction" sexed up with "unhindered bed-jumping" "as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise." I put review in scare quotes because, as far as I'm concerned, if you start with the idea that no one with boobs could possibly want to watch this and follow up, as she does, with the thought that nothing in this genre could possibly have anything worthwhile to say to anyone, you haven't really done much to make me feel like you're trustworthy source of information on whether or not it's worth watching.

Now, as a) a woman who is b) alive and would c) watch if I had HBO, I was planning a response to the "boy fiction" bullshit (I'll be sure to include that in the title of my class next time), but Joanna Robinson over at Pajiba has already made such a fantastic one that I'm just going to link to hers and leave it at that. The comments are also pretty fantastic, as is often the case on Pajiba. Potentially spoilerific, but fantastic.


I decided on a whim this afternoon that I would catch a 7:50 showing of Hanna tonight. Got out of school at a decent hour only to find that trains weren't actually running due to a train vs. car collision. (Sad -- 1 person made it out, one did not.) The collision happened around 5, about an hour before I got to the train station, and I'm reading now that service didn't resume again until almost 8pm. Bad news all around. Thanks to a very generous assist from M.thanks, M.!), and despite BART's best efforts to the contrary, I made it to the movie, though I missed the opening scene. It was pretty good, mostly atmosphere, with lots of the movie carried by close ups of Saoirse Ronan, whose face is, luckily, expressive enough for that to work. The plot is loose, but that hardly matters, as it's basically a chase movie with a neat soundtrack. That said, it's a better chase movie than most you'll see (think Run, Lola, Run or The Bourne Identity). Saoirse Ronan carries it well. I thought Kate Blanchett was sort of flat (and her accent was distracting), and I continue not to be impressed by Eric Bana ('s acting), but Tom Hollander's super creepy finder was well used.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wondercon 2011: Day 3

So the highlight of day 3 was obviously the Doctor Who panel, which I've already posted about a little bit. It was moderated by Chris Hardwick, and the panelists were Toby Haynes (director of stuff, including Sherlock), Mark Shepard (that guy who's in all those shows you love) and Neil Gaiman (purveyor of awesome).

Before the panel, there was The Line. I got up early (for me, on a Sunday) and went to get in line, because I knew that Doctor Who + Neil Gaiman at Wondercon would be a fool. M. met me in line and was kind enough to supply me with caffeine (key on day 3 of con.). We got ushered into the big room and given free tees. In case you've forgotten, they look like this:

Then we found seats, got settled, and waited for the magic to begin. After the intros, there was a 6 minute preview (I mostly won't talk about the footage, partially because it makes no sense to me, because I am so far behind, and partially because it was lots of quick cuts and snippets that you will find better described other places). The big hype was that 2 episodes, I believe, are set in the US. President Nixon is involved.

There was much talk of Neil Gaiman's long-awaited episode, which was postponed for money reasons.
"They took other episodes out round the bike shed and beat them up and took their dinner money and gave it to my episode," Neil said. He also said the thing about how not to get caught up in all the history, which I liked a lot, and which I quoted in the post linked above.

And there was a lot of talk about the easiest/hardest thing about filming Doctor Who. Mark said that the easiest is the passion everyone brings to it, while the hardest is that TV is so much more distant than live theater, harder to connect with the audience. Neil said the hardest was realizing that reality is expensive, which makes making TV difficult. The easiest was the creative freedom. Toby said something similar, that the "dream killer" meeting, where all the production realities are brought out is most difficult, but that the best is how creative everyone gets to make it all work out.

Some fun footage, entertaining to listen to them talk about the behind the scenes fun, and I'll be super excited to see the eps. when I get to them.

Also on day 3: I went to great panel on female spies and private detectives. Speakers were Jennifer Stuller and Trina Robbins. I now absolutely need to read a graphic novel called Queen and Country, and I bought a book from Trina called Eternally Bad - Goddesses With Attitude. Also checked out a presentation on the Nikopal series, which I'd also like to read. So many books, so little time...

Seen around the conference that day:
Who you gonna call?

I petered out early on Sunday - after a full weekend of the crowd I was ready to call it quits. I'll have to pace myself better at ComicCon, there will be both a bigger crowd and since I won't have the advantage of being able to just go home to my own apartment every night. And since I'll be presenting on one of the days. We'll see how it all goes. I'm hoping at least that the fact that I won't also be teaching means that I'll be able to do daily updates, rather than saving it all until the week after to start posting about it...

4/14: accidental messaging

The juxtaposition of these "banners" caught my eye today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wondercon 2011 - Day 2

On Saturday, I went in earlier than I'd planned to go to the Archaia panel.

The Immortals book sounds cool, and I'll probably get it when it comes out. They're also doing a previously unpublished "Jim Henson's 'The Storyteller,'" which sounds pretty awesome, and I heard some more about the things I'd purchased (and about "Days Missing," which I'd not yet purchased but decided to based on the presentation). I had other panels I wanted to attend more than the Immortals film panel, but I figured I'd try to get a wristband for the signing, since both Kellan Lutz (Emmett from "Twilight") and Henry Cavill (the new Superman) were maybe going to be there. I went and stood in the line (got an early crack for having gone to the panel), got denied, then went back and managed to get a wristband - this was all more of a time investment than it sounds like right now -- the majority of the morning, and long enough for the people at the Archaia booth to start commenting on how they really hoped I got a wristband, given that I'd been there a few times, bought a lot of books, etc. I did, on the second pass, get a band.

In the time before the event, I went to the Cowboys and Aliens panel - the movie looks cool. Daniel Craig + Harrison Ford? Yes. The panel was Roberto Orci (co-writer) and Jon Favreau (director). Aside from the fact that the asshole next to me was sitting in his chair diagonally and that someone brought an infant to a big, loud panel and Wondercon, it was a good time. They showed footage and talked about the film in interesting ways. Favreau joked about really wanting to put himself into it, but not doing so after McFarlane made fun of him for doing that (on Family Guy). Then said that, more seriously, he didn't want to blow the reality. He wanted to emphasize that the character are freaked out by all of this, while the audience is laughing. I like that it looks like a real western, but also like the kind of alien movie where people get snatched up left and right. I think I'm in.

The panel was nice, but if I"d known that attending it would cause me to get locked out of the Comic Arts Conference panel on surviving trauma: becoming a superhero or a supervillain, I'd have cut out early. That was actually the one I was planning on that day, so it was disappointing to miss it.

So, after a bit, I lined up for the signing. Turns out Lutz hadn't shown, and it was Henry Cavill (who'll be playing Theseus), Luke Evans (Zeus), Tarsem Singh (director), and Isabel Lucas (Athena). Archaia had given us a nice, big poster, which I thought we'd get signed, but the studio was only allowing us to have a smaller, less compelling movie flyer signed. Singh was friendly, Evans was obviously ready to go home, Cavill -- who seemed very normal looking (albeit quite handsome) and not particularly super --  was obliging (I asked if he could sign "to Candace," and he was like, "Of course! How do you spell yours?"), and Lucas seemed sort of dazed. It must be exhausting, flying in for an hour of questions, a run of interviews, an hour of signing things, then jetting back out to wherever you've come from.

On the way out, the ladies I'd been talking to on the way in (of course I was talking to people on the way in.) were gathered around, obviously in some distress. It seemed one of them had been kicked out of line for giving Cavill a gift, some funny picture she'd had of him (we weren't supposed to have them sign anything besides that one standard issue poster, and while she hadn't tried to have him sign that picture, they'd kicked her out as line anyway, with no autograph. This was tragic, because she was a *huge* fan. So, given that I'd kind of gone just because, and since I"m really not that big into autographs past the excitement of meeting the person in the moment, I gave her my poster. But this is a picture of us.

I'm holding the nicer poster, which is the one we couldn't get signed. The lady next to me is holding the poster I got signed. I'll admit that if I'd been more impressed with Cavill, she'd probably have been out of luck.

Some other sights from around the convention.

I have no idea.

These guys were awesome (especially Batman).

Thor, and one of many Wonder Women who looked better than The Travesty.

G. and friend


The #1 quote of the day was from M., surveying the crowd, declaring that, "People wear all kinds of crazy-ass shit." Part of its fabulousness is that M. rarely says things in quite that way.

The number #2 quote of the day was form a new acquaintance who, in talking about how to get students to perform better in class said, "I say bring back human sacrifice."


Monday, April 11, 2011

Wow, China.

So, I heard about this over at Pajiba. It appears that China's thought police State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television have banned time travel as a subject for television and film plots because "the producers and writers are treating the history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore." Richard Brody at The New Yorker's The Front Row points out the potential for time travel fare to non-frivolous, and the importance of "the free play of the imagination" as a sign of political freedom -- exactly the sort of thing this regime does not allow. Pajiba, in addition to mocking the agency's complaint that "many stories are totally made up," Steven Lloyd Wilson at Pajiba focuses on the connection between time travel, memory, and the dictator's illusion of an unchanging present, in which they are the constant. Both interesting responses.

For my part, I hope some young geek in China is seeing this as the final straw, and planning the best rebellion ever. I hope that when that dictatorship falls, everyone will be wearing their forbidden geek emblem of choice (the one at the Pajiba site rocks pretty hard). Until then, stay strong Chinese time travelers. The past is not forgotten, and the future is yours.

WONDERCON 2011, part 1

So this year is shaping up to be the year of the con. First up: WonderCon (I'll also be going to ComicCon and WisCon). You've seen some snippets from this year's event, but it's taken until now for me to ahve the time and the energy to do a full write-up. So, here it is: WonderCon 2001 (*insert fanfare here*).

Day one was April Fool's Day, and the joke was on me. I realized that I'd left a notebook at school that I needed to do some work, so had to go all the way to Stanford and back before I could get my geek on (which was supposed to start at 12:30). Not cool. Having accomplished that, I headed straight to the Comic Arts Conference side of things for a panel on queer space, othering, and identity in comics (I was mostly there for the queer space in The Sandman paper. Some interesting stuff, and I met some cool people afterwards, one of whom told me about Archaia publishing - where my research funds went to die.

So, I was tipped off that Archaia publishing, one of the publishers that had a booth on the exhibit floor, had been known to have something called a "buy two, get three free" sale. My initial response to this was, "wait, buy two, get a third one free?" Oh, no, my new acquaintance said -- pay for two books, get three additional ones free -- FIVE BOOKS FOR THE PRICE OF TWO! So I was like, "There, now." So there, then, we went, and -- lo, and behold -- they were having the sale in question. Now, I'd had no intention of buying one book, let alone two. But, if they were going to throw down with a crazyface sale like that, the least I could do was *look* at the books, right? And it was probably just some random publishing house that wouldn't have anything I wanted anyway, so no danger. Except that it turned out to be the place that published The Lone and Level Sands, the graphic novel that I almost taught this quarter, which is Moses v. Pharaoh from pharaoh's p.o.v., drawn from biblical and scholarly sources. And they have all this interesting mythology and religion related content. And I might have accidentally gone into a full-on book buying frenzy and dropped about $100. Which, luckily, will all be reimbursable from my research funds. Phew. (It wouldn't have happened if not for the research funds.) I didn't find out about the $5 galley copies until after the spree (and they didn't have the stuff I bought in galley copies anyway, except for one book, which was volume 2 of something), I might have gotten a couple of those on Day Two. We'll talk more about that later. Back on Day One, I also talked to one of their editors about a forthcoming booked called The Immortals, which will be a set of independent stories that take place in the world of Greek mythology, but are more grounded in reality. So Pegasus might show up, for example, but he won't have wings. Or something. The book will be original stories in the world of the movie, as opposed to a tie-in. Anyway, it piqued my interest, and resulted in finding out about a panel the next day, at which details of a special signing with stars of the movie would be revealed. I was more interested in the book, but figured, "Why not?"

I figure that a lot at WonderCon. Something about all the collective geek-effervescence makes me a little crazy. This probably accounts for how I got the autographs, and then gave them away. More on that next time.

In the interim, here's what I bought:
Days Missing, vol. 1
The God Machine
Hybrid Bastards
Inanna's Tears
The Secret History Omnibus, vols. 1&2
Some New Kind of Slaughter

Friday, April 8, 2011

Racism in Mississippi: not a news flash

So, yesterday, there was some random poll asking Republican voters in Mississippi who they want to vote for for governor, and for president, and whether or not interracial marriage should be legal. Huh? The pollsters asked the question of everyone, and claim to be trying to get a sense of the kinds of people likely to want to vote for each candidate, but have only released the Republican results so far. Now, my objections to the sensationalism, research methods, and feeding of the politico-media election frenzy machine aside (it's April and you're trying to generate a scandal poll? really?!), what I'd like to talk about for a second are the reactions to the results. Commenters were shocked (shocked, I say!). Agencies reposted it. Adam Serwer describes the results startling, and points out that the younger generations ideals do seem to be shifting. I think the latter point is an important one, but have to disagree on the former. We are startled by something when it is unexpected. Shock carries, to my mind, that same element of surprise with its outrage. 46% of a random sample of Republican voters in Mississippi says interracial marriage should be illegal, and people are shocked? Maybe, but only if you're shocked, that the number's not higher. IT'S MISSISSIPPI, FOOLS! Why is anyone shocked that almost half of a sampling of conservative voters -- hell, *any* voters in Mississippi -- is racist?!

Racism in Mississippi isn't a news item, especially in a random sampling of conservative voters. It's a Thursday.

Video round up

The dubious honor of Fug Madness "winner" went to Taylor Momsen. Here's the montage for this year's Fug Madness -- as always, a thing of beauty. Or fugly, as the case may be.

As I said on Facebook, old folks are killing this week. First Billy Crystal:

Then, George Takei:

Finally, what I'm listening to this week: "Low Road" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. This is a video of them doing it live:

Monday, April 4, 2011

4/4: Last day of Wondercon

"Now you get to nerd pwn other people..."
--Chris Hardwick, moderating the Doctor Who panel, talking about this:

Free tee from Doctor Who panel. The Doctor is coming to America. I obviously need to catch up.

He wasn't talking about these, but I'm pretty excited about them, too:
Yeah, I went there.

Flashpoint Wonder Woman logo

Convention post coming soon. For now, I'll leave you with Neil Gaiman's description of Doctor Who. He was talking about how sometimes people are afraid they have to catch up on 47 years of excitement and had this to say:

There's a blue box. It's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can go anywhere in time and space, sometimes even where it's meant to go. And when it shows up, there's a bloke inside called The Doctor. Something will be wrong, and he will try his best to sort it out. He will probably succeed, because he's awesome.

Ok, fine -- PWNED, SUCKERS!!!