Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some More Shots From John

I just love the feelings and impressions of his photos.

Stephen Fry and the Catholic Church

I just want to share this video I found over on AmeriNZ. It's Stephen Fry speaking about the history of the Roman Church as a force for ill in the world. I agree with just about everything he says here, and especially the eloquence and passion with which he says it. AmeriNZ rightly points out that this video makes the religious debates in the US look like children's schoolyard arguments, which is of course all they are. We don't respect actual debate or difference of opinion in the United States, especially on matters of religion or politics. I wish we had actual discourse here. We might see more intelligence and compassion on display, as we do in this video.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Victimhood Sells

Men really need to get it together and stop feeling sorry for themselves. It's just unseemly. There's nothing that disgusts me more than when I see men--particularly white men--play the victims when it comes to American culture and politics.

Johnny Yen posted this comment recently on one of my political posts: "Around 1992, Barbara Eherenreich had a terrific article in Life Magazine about how victimhood has become the political currency. The Teabaggers are the pinnacle of that; the sons and daughters of the people who survived the depression and World War II and proceeded to build the most powerful, affluent society in history, are now claiming victimhood because they might have to share that society someone else built with someone who is black, gay, latino, and whose ancestors helped build that society. Somehow this makes them victims."

You can add women to that list, too, and we've been seeing it a lot in pop culture over the past 25 years: this barely-concealed rage and total fear of emasculation on the part of so many white men. It's been especially prevalent in mainstream pop culture the last decade or so. Witness one of the most popular recurring motifs on Family Guy: a fat guy punching out his hot wife.

I'm sick of the pathetic mewling from men who seem to feel that if they don't live up to the most outdated loser stereotypes of frat privilege, if they aren't open hostile to Sex and the City, if they let gay people get married, if they don't think date rape is hilarious, or if they're not constantly in their overtly male drag yelling about sports, they're somehow going to accidentally suck a dick. It is so fucking tiring hearing the loudest and most insecure freaking out over their boorishness, trying too hard to make sure that everyone around them knows how fucking manly they are.

It gets us unforgivably sexist and asinine commercials like this one:



"Man's last stand"? Are you fucking serious with this?

This is easily as offensive and aggravating to me as that Burger King "I am starved" commercial from a few years ago, which would be evil enough for promoting the insecure and frankly bullshit idea that overeating greasy fast food is manly, and anything else is "chick food," but when the extra step of appropriating Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" to make their dumbass point.

I just really hate shit like this which is designed to appeal to idiots who are completely shit-scared that they might be gay and that any compromises they make are due to some sort of victimization by feminism. Guys are always so quick to cry their eyes out when they can't do whatever they want. Which is why it's so easy to make money off them by selling them burgers and giant cars with truck engines designed for no other purpose than to make a man feel much, much better about having a small, small penis. Those of us secure in our identities are frankly embarrassed by you.

So, anyway, I was very pleased to see this rebuttal on YouTube this afternoon:



Thank you.

My Blog Iz Still Loverly?

Over at the great Electorama, Chunky B has received four Lovely Blog Awards, one of them from yours truly, because his blog is, as the Ancient Greeks used to say, aweseomesauce. In return, he forwarded one back to me, which means I get to forward it on to seven more blogs!

The Big Blog of Kids' Comics
The Pictorial Arts
Apocolyte's World of Comics
The Greatest Ape
Jon's Random Acts of Geekery
Diversions of the Groovy Kind
Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine

These seven blogs have been rocking my world every day. Any self-respecting geek, fan, or pop culture junkie should be making these guys a part of their daily routine. You will not be sorry; I never have been. I've seen a lot of things that have been making me smile.

Thanks for the award, Chunky B!

I Prefer to Think of Myself as Having Selective Tastes

BECCA: Do you want some of my soda pop Jelly Bellies?

ME: What are they?

BECCA: This one has A&W Root Beer, Dr. Pepper, Grape Crush, Orange Crush, 7 Up, and A&W Cream Soda. Here, have some. [Holds out a bag to pour some in my hand.]

ME: Pour it out into the tin.

BECCA: Why?

ME: Because, if I accidentally eat a root beer Jelly Belly, I'm gonna lose it.

Today I'd Rather Be...

...what was I saying?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Christina Hendricks and Her Curves

I saw this cover to New York magazine the other day and it blew my mind. Big, curvy redhead in lingerie? I'll take five, please.

In the accompanying interview, she apparently talks about how people talk less about her acting and more about her figure. I haven't read the interview, and I don't watch Mad Men, but I just wanted to point out something here about Christina Hendricks' figure.

She has an absolutely perfect figure. Many men think so. I see her lauded for her considerable beauty online all the time.

Doesn't this say to someone in the entertainment industry that there's something men love about women with generous curves that Hollywood is only rarely providing?

I've known more women in my life with Christina Hendricks-style curves than I have women who look like Cameron Diaz. But curvy women are treated as a rarity in Hollywood for some reason. Pretty much the only pleasure to be had in the film He's Just Not That Into You was that every so often Scarlett Johansson, with her wonderful body, would appear among the Skinny Minnies all over the screen, and it was a wonderful reminder that not every woman in entertainment is built like a 12 year-old boy. And then I hear idiots calling her fat.

What? I don't get it. I just don't get it at all.

I just think there's something here for people who make casting decisions to look at. Men want more Christina Hendrickses. Men want variety. I don't think Evangeline Lilly is sexy, alright? But I'm not saying thin women can't be attractive.

What I'm saying is, there's no standard. So stop acting like there is one, Hollywood, and give us some more of women who are curvy. Obviously, we like them.

Inside Edition Follows Up on Desiree Jennings

This was the cheerleader who claimed she got dystonia from a flu shot. Thanks, Richard, for the heads up on this. I think this girl is a complete phony, and I want to know if she was doing this for the attention or for some kind of pay off. I can't even begin to understand why it is that there are people in America with a vested interest in making life-saving medicine and science in general seem dangerous. This girl, who was obviously faking it from the get-go, has absolutely nothing wrong with her. When they catch up with her here in a parking lot, she's perfectly normal, and she knows she's been caught, but continues on with the lie in the dumbest ways. You can almost hear her think "Quick, do something weird! I know! Talk with a shitty Australian accent!"

Anyway, watch the video, it's only four and a half minutes.



This quack, who uses bloodletting on cancer patients, cured her? Well, kind of... she pretends to still have effects as she's getting into her car to drive home, something which someone with uncontrollable muscle spasms really wouldn't be doing if they actually had the symptoms they've been faking for television... I mean, she might do something all dystonic, like go to a drive-thru and order a burger while doing her ridiculous Supernanny impression.

For extra fun, check out the comments on YouTube. People really want to believe that there's something, anything wrong with the flu shot and that medical science is powerless next to magic, faith, and charlatan quackery.

What is wrong with people?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So Much Emotion Contained in Felt

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

BROTHERS (2009)
I see the potential there, but it's ultimately not much of a film. Tobey Maguire plays a soldier who goes to Afghanistan for another tour of duty, leaving behind his loving wife (Natalie Portman) and children. When he's shot down and goes missing, he's presumed dead and his brother, Jake Gyllenhaal, newly out of jail, takes up the responsibility of caring for his widowed sister-in-law. I never felt emotionally involved in what should have been very emotional, very nuanced stories. Maguire has to do something terrible to survive, but when he does make it back home, all he really seems concerned with is whether or not his wife fucked his brother. Gyllenhaal, the family fuck-up, transitions into a caring, responsible man, but the movie seems less interested in his arc than it should be. And Natalie Portman just suffers and suffers--first from the loss of her husband, then from a brief moment where she almost does cave in to her needs, and then from the return of her husband. It's so distant when it should be intimate, and so vague when it should be involving. Remember the Oscar buzz this thing had for a minute? I don't know where that came from. This could have really been something. Gyllenhaal is, I think, really good in this movie, but Maguire and Portman are just really miscast. **1/2 stars.

INVICTUS (2009)
This film really surprised me. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Clint Eastwood's films, and I was expecting to see an Oscar bait film that was too precious for my taste. But actually, I was very moved by Invictus. It's a terrific story, and a true one, about Nelson Mandela's political genius. When he was elected President of South Africa, rather than use his position for vengeance or to punish the Afrikaners for Apartheid, he wisely chose to go the route of understanding and forgiveness in order to unite the country and move forward. One of the ways he did so, and this is the story of the film, is to ask the Ministry of Sport to overturn their decision to disband the Springboks, the popular rugby team loved by white South Africans (and who wore the same colors as the Apartheid-era flag). As the film explains, Mandela felt that by taking things away that the whites loved, they would only harbor animosity and prove the white fears of retribution to be true. Instead, he managed to turn the Springboks into a beloved national symbol for all South Africans through things like publicity tours of poor black neighborhoods. Matt Damon, in another very good performance (he really is a good actor), plays the captain of the Springboks, who reaches back when Mandela reaches out. Freeman's performance is one of the best I've ever seen him give; he's an actor I'm frankly tired of (he gets asked to just repeat his sincere Shawshank Redemption performance so often that it now seems mannered and insincere), but he hits every note exactly here. His Mandela is not a caricature, and especially drew me in because, when I actually was a Lutheran, I had the honor of meeting a couple of men who were Lutheran pastors from South Africa. They were also former Apartheid prisoners, and Freeman's performance reminded me of those kind, fascinating pastors. One last thing: this movie is very well-paced. Eastwood has problems with pacing, but this one doesn't meander. **** stars.

NINE (2009)
I've only ever heard recordings of Nine, and always fantasized about how it might look visually. If this film is anything to go by, I don't like the answer. Except I'm not going to go by this film, because it actually cuts out all but two of my favorite songs from the musical. It's not exactly a terrible film, it's just a poorly-directed one that is so vague and distant that there's barely anything to grab on to. I know that Nine is based on Fellini's 8 1/2, but this movie is so pedantically enamored with 8 1/2 (or, at least, the visual aspects of 8 1/2) that all it can bring itself to do is repeat many of the same shots and then arbitrarily throw in a poorly-visualized musical number. What a terrific movie this could have made, but Rob Marshall is just... not a director. He's just not. He's bad at it. His films are hollow without the benefit of being pretty. This movie is indicative of the problem I've had with nearly every musical of the decade, which is that there's almost never any sense of joy or emotional depth. It just sort of happens, and then it's over. A few things I liked: Daniel Day-Lewis' performance, particularly the mechanics, though if Marshall were really committed to the musical aspect of the film, Day-Lewis could have really been used so much better; Penelope Cruz' musical number (she's wonderful); Marion Cotillard sings "My Husband Makes Movies" better than anyone I've ever heard; Judi Dench, but when have I never liked her? A frustrating experience at best. ** stars.

STARSTRUCK (2010)
Aims to be a sort of Disney Channel version of It Happened One Night, with Sterling Knight (so brilliantly funny on Sonny with a Chance, and I mean that) as a pop star who runs into (literally) an ordinary girl from Michigan who changes his life. Mostly I liked it; it's predictable but pleasant. At one time, this would have been close to the upper tier of Disney Channel, but Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie raised the bar for everyone. Knight's good, although the object of his affection is pretty amateurish. And it has a decent message about being true to yourself and not letting others dictate the course of your life. **1/2 stars.

WORLD'S GREATEST DAD (2009)
I was blown away by this movie. Robin Williams, in an excellent performance, plays a frustrated writer who's never been published. No one likes him much. The woman he's seeing treats him badly. He teaches high school poetry, and his teenage son is a total sleaze and major douchebag. One night, his son accidentally kills himself while performing auto-erotic asphyxiation, and Williams is destroyed. He makes it look like his son hanged himself and writes a suicide note. When the note gets out to the school, it sets in motion a cycle of lying that brings him the respect and adoration he's always craved, while his son is deified by the same classmates who ignored because the note seems so deep. It's a very honest movie--at times almost uncomfortably so--about the way people lie to themselves and how much of our social interaction is based on surface reflections. This may be the best movie I've seen from 2009. It is certainly worth seeing and thinking about. And Williams is exceptional; the fact that he's capable of something like this makes it all the more disappointing that he insists on making movies like Old Dogs. **** stars.

Last Night's Lost

I actually really like the LA X timeline stuff, or the flash-diagonals, or whatever fans are calling them right now. Like the flashbacks in the first season, they may not serve to answer the mysteries, but they do a fantastic job of deepening the characters, and that was something I missed when I was suffering through the third and fourth seasons (which, again, I think I'll like better when it's all over and I sit with the whole thing again). Last night's episode, "The Substitute" was probably one of my favorite episodes in the history of the show (a great companion piece to the first season's "Walkabout," which is my favorite episode of Lost). Locke has always been one of my two favorite characters on the series, and his LA X timeline story really made me smile. To see the guy who was betrayed and murdered by Ben Linus in a motel room finally reach a point in his life where he's happy... that meant a lot to me.

In fact, I realized last night that of every character on the show, Locke's were the only flashbacks that I was sorry to cut away from to go back to the island.

Some other thoughts:

:: I'm enjoying this implication that, in some way, certain things are destined to happen and the characters seem destined to cross one another's path somehow. Jack still loses his father's body, for example; he also still meets Desmond and Rose. Sawyer and Kate meet, and he helps her; Kate and Claire meet and Kate becomes instrumental in saving Aaron (and Ethan Rom is still Claire's doctor); Locke and Ben Linus meet each other. Lots and lots of people crossing paths. But I like some of the differences, too, like Locke coming to accept his wheelchair, and reversing the relationship he had with Hurley in the early days, with Hurley helping Locke this time.

:: The idea of destiny or fate or whatever gives me hope that, in the LA X timeline, Sawyer will still meet Juliet. Also, I wouldn't mind some closure on the whole Libby-Hurley thing. Probably won't happen, but it would be nice if it did.

:: Of all the survivors of Flight 815 that are still on the island, Kate was the only one without a number in the cave. Interested to see what that means...

:: Helen mentioned Locke's father. What's that all about? I'm more intrigued by that line of dialogue than any other in the episode. Based on what we know about Anthony Cooper from the past, I wonder how different things are here that Locke would have any kind of relationship with that man anymore.

:: Who's the kid on the island? He looked a lot like Jacob, and like an older Aaron. Can't wait to find out what this is all about. Also, I love the way the false Locke seems to have taken on pieces of Locke's personality. "Don't tell me what I can't do!" And what were the rules the boy mentioned? Is he some kind of celestial jailer? Fascinating.

I felt this creeping up in season five and didn't really consciously realize it until now, but what Lost has managed to do after frustrating the hell out of me is bring me back to a place where I care so much more about the characters than I do about the mythology of the island or the central mysteries. And I'm so damn happy about that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A TV Report, While the Olympics Have Chased Everything Away

Because, you know, everyone watches the Olympics, no one wants to just watch their regular shows... grumble, grumble...

:: I finally sat and watched the Smallville episode that was about the Justice Society. I've never watched an entire episode of Smallville before, and this one didn't make me want to watch any more. I wanted to see this because the JSA are my all time fave superheroes. But I was pretty bored. I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. I totally understand what so many people have said about how stupid it is to have a show about Superman that resolutely refuses to have Clark Kent be Superman; in fact, Clark Kent felt almost superfluous to the whole affair. I loved the portrayal of Dr. Fate (perfect, really, but props to Chris Sims for pointing out that the transformation looked like Sailor Moon), but I thought Hawkman was incredibly lame (and the armor made him look comically paunchy) and was a bit disappointed in Stargirl, the last DC character I will ever love.

I also didn't buy that the few members of the JSA we were allowed to see where all so damn young. These are supposed to be old guys, the vanguard of a past fight for justice, and they all looked like they were in their late thirties. The actor playing Martian Manhunter looked older than Hawkman and Sandman. And I also didn't buy that no one would ever have heard of the JSA if they were really doing that much. I didn't buy a lot, like that Green Arrow could take down a whole group of icicles with a single arrow. But mostly I just don't buy the tone of this show. It's just not good. The whole time I kept thinking about how well you could do a Justice League series with the right characters, but let's face it, that will never happen.

Yes, it contained a lot of nice touches that enhanced the whole thing if you knew all about the JSA. But those little touches just didn't make up for something so lame and snooze-inducing that I don't ever need to see another episode of this show again. The nostalgia pieces couldn't disguise that the damn thing didn't make any sense, or that this is a pretty lousy show.

:: I don't like the new opening credits sequence to Big Love. But I love that Adam Beach is on. He's great.

:: Our first look at the Mandalorians on Star Wars: The Clone Wars wasn't as epic as they were trying to sell it. We got some really cool stuff, like that weird black lightsaber and a hint of the Mandalorians' Old Republic Jedi-hunting past, but I would've liked to have seen more action. The political intrigue wasn't necessarily bad, per se, but every time Obi-Wan would get into it with a surprisingly quick and well-trained Mandalorian Death Watch fighter, I really wanted to see more. I'm hoping that we'll see lots more of the Mandalorians throughout the season, since they're in league with Count Dooku. I don't want to see them just get dropped in favor of someone else, the way they dropped General Grievous (until recently) for Cad Bane--though I did Cad Bane; it's like someone dropped Lee Van Cleef into the Star Wars universe.

:: Well, Heroes had its finale last week, and now it's gone for... the season? Forever? I'd still be surprised if they brought it back, but I hope they do. (Here are the spoiler bits, if you care.) I was surprised they were able to wrap up their storylines in an hour, but they did, and I like where most of the characters ended up, despite the heavy-handed symbolism of the last few episodes. I like Sylar as a hero, and I hope his change is permanent--no more backsliding, it's been dramatically boring to watch. This chapter was "Redemption," let him be redeemed now. There was a remarkable amount of closure here: Hiro finally let Charly go, and Claire finally grew up. That one made me the most happy, because she's the character I'm most invested in. She made the decision to show the world her powers; more importantly, she finally made a decision for herself in a bold way. She's been searching for a way to live life on her own terms, and now she's made her first step. If this is where the series ends, I'm happy that at least Claire finally got there.

:: I didn't watch American Idol last season (first one I didn't watch), so I really only knew Kara DioGuardi as a TV "personality" from her lurking in the background of The Ashlee Simpson Show a few years ago. I now understand why almost everyone just wants to punch her in the face. You've got to hand it to Simon: dude's a professional. He's curt, but he's honest. Kara, on the other hand, is worse than Paula. Paula was just weak. Kara really thinks she's being good enough to descend among the common folk and give her wisdom to the people of Earth. That's how she comes across, anyway--just really, really smug. I like Ellen DeGeneres, though. Not only because she's Ellen and she's awesome, and not only because she has valid criticisms and is a better judge than everyone except Simon, but because when she's around, Kara just fades right into the background. Aaahhhh...

:: I guess The Office is the latest show to meticulously move everyone around so that it's basically back to square one (except that Jim and Pam are married, they've got everything back to where it was first episode, just with a new boss). Meh, whatever. This show hasn't been exciting me lately, but it hasn't been as terrible as I've seen people say, either. It's just... there. Right now, I think Parks and Recreation is much, much funnier. But, you know, it's in the early days of that show, too, and eventually... eventually they all go downhill, really. I did like Kathy Bates on The Office, though. Yes, it's a character she's played a few times, but she's just so damn good at playing that character, and it's a character that's never been on The Office before. Sort of a female Richard Branson.

:: PBS has been running Life on Mars (the British version) for the last couple of months. Thankfully, my TiVo recorded it out of the blue, and I've been watching it ever since. Next week will be the last episode of the first series, and I'll talk about it then. But for now, I'll just say that I've really been enjoying the hell out of it.

More Political Blah Blah

In North Carolina, there's a curriculum being proposed for high school history classes that would see the class start in 1877, with the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. I don't know what their curriculum is now, but this reads to me as an attempt to avoid any discussion of slavery and the Civil War. You need to teach high schoolers about the Revolution and the Civil War if you want them to have even the most basic understanding of the Constitution and why it's so important. The school curricula are being dumbed down everywhere; you demand less, America's gonna get less, and it ain't gonna be pretty. It's already bleak.

:: I don't care about Evan Bayh. Good riddance to useless rubbish. The only thing unbelievable about Bayh's departure is that there are pundits this morning lamenting the further dwindling of the Democratic "super majority" in the Senate. Look, they still have a majority, but when it comes right down to it, does it matter? What did the "super majority" accomplish, anyway? The only good thing about not having a "super majority" (and those words sound a little too comic book-y together for my taste) is that Lieberman can't hold the Senate hostage anymore.

You can leave that up to guys like Senator Richard Shelby, who is trying to extort money from the government. I'll give him this, at least he's honest about not having any ideals whatsoever; he just wants the pork or else he won't let Obama have any of his nominees to executive branch positions. The Senate does need 60 votes to overcome Senator Shelby's attempt to stall the business of government until it gives him his way. So, if those Republican Senators who have been declaring themselves anti-earmark the last couple of years don't vote against this shit, there's you answer.

:: Political bipartisanship is a fraud. It’s meant to cover up bipartisan crime. The media and the Democrats aren’t telling you the truth. The only thing they’re compromising away is your interests. The people who sell out the most are the ones that are revered the most as centrists and moderates. It’s all a sham. They’re not centrists, they’re corporatists. Don’t believe the hype. Bipartisanship doesn’t help you, it helps the lobbyists.

:: I caught Dick Cheney this weekend saying that the Obama Administration was wrong to react to terrorism as though it were a criminal act and not an act of war. Cheney still doesn't get it. Terrorism is a criminal act. Acts of war are committed by governments against other nations. That's why America is never going to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I've said many times, we should have an equivalent to the Mossad in this country; they could have gone after the people who actually perpetrated 9/11 like the criminals they were, instead of falsely blaming other national governments and overthrowing them. It's a bad, imperialist strategy that hasn't worked and will not work.

:: Sam "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher now says that John McCain ruined his life. He also no longer supports Sarah Palin. Sam, speaking at a Teabagger rally, said "McCain was trying to use me. I happened to be the face of middle Americans. It was a ploy." He's about the last person in America to figure that one out, isn't he? Just a couple of things here: 1. You didn't have to let him thrust you into the spotlight, did you? Just man up and admit you love the spotlight and hate working for a living. You owe McCain your whole non-career as a "speaker." 2. What are you selling? Seriously, when someone this insincere turns on the people who put him where he is, it's because they're trying to sell themselves as something else. Expect the campaign announcement any day now... I'm sure someone's told him he could be a governor or somesuch.

:: I've been thinking a lot about Distributorcap's recent decision to stop blogging. I didn't comment on his post because I've been thinking about what to say about it. I really understand where he's coming from: how frustrating it can be to write about politics. I've had my share of frustrations with it over the years, which is why I stopped writing about politics for a while. It's frustrating knowing that as much as you vent, things are still going to get worse and they aren't going to change. Someone who used to comment on this blog told me she left America to become a Canadian citizen because no matter which political party was in power, it wouldn't matter, because the American people would remain the same and never demand their rights. She knew what she was talking about. I still think about that, too.

It's frustrating when you feel like you can see a political trainwreck about to happen, and no one's doing anything to stop it. It's frustrating dealing with the same right wing bloggers over and over again, who will never be satisfied with anything less than a complete repudiation of all of your beliefs. It's frustrating--at least for me, since we're from different generations, so I can't imagine how he must feel--to feel like your shot at any kind of prosperity is over because the government is only protecting rich people. I get it. I really do. I feel bad for him that he got so overloaded with it. You can only kick against the pricks for so long before you just get tired of getting nowhere.

I hope he doesn't stop blogging entirely. His history posts were especially some of my favorite reads online. I learned a lot from him. But I think his break his well-deserved.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Star Wars/A-Team

I've liked just about all of the Star Wars mash-ups with credits of 80s TV series, but this one may be my favorite. Hits all the right beats.

The Lightning Thief

A couple of commenters here told me I should give this book a try. I read it over the weekend, and I really enjoyed it.

This is the first in a series of books about Perseus Jackson, a 6th grader who is a problem student with ADHD, dyslexia, and a real problem with authority and structure. As it turns out, there are reasons for all of this: his real father, whom he's never met, is Poseidon, the God of the Sea. So Percy's dyslexia and ADHD are a result of his being hardwired to read and speak Ancient Greek, and his restlessness is because he's no ordinary boy, but a hero who is destined to undertake a quest.

I like the way this story unfolds from scene to scene as we learn more and more about the Greek Gods. Apparently, they're alive and well and living in New York, always following the heart of Western Civilization as long as it thrives. Their children, half-bloods, are in constant danger from the monsters of Greek mythology, which are very real and appear in the human world, though anything related to things celestial and magical appear in a sort of mind-clouding mist to regular humans. The kids spend their summers training to fight monsters at a camp called Half-Blood Hill.

Percy is surrounded by strangeness. His favorite teacher, Mr. Brunner, is actually the centaur Chiron, trainer of Hercules. His best friend, Grover, is a satyr. The Minotaur tries to kill him. And he, joined only by Grover and another camper, Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, quests across the country to face the thief of the title; Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen by... someone. Signs point to Hades, Lord of the Underworld, but Zeus blames Poseidon and World War III will break out if the bolt isn't found. The three heroes head to LA where, of course, the gate to the Underworld is located. And along the way, there are other dangers to face: the Furies, Ares, Echidna, Medusa, Procrustes, and a prophecy nagging at the back of Percy's mind.

I dug this book. It reminded me a lot of the Harry Potter books; not that it's a rip-off or anything, but since the Harry Potter series ended, The Lightning Thief is the first book I've read--besides my rereading last year of the Prydain Chronicles series--that made me feel the way I did when I read the Harry Potter books. It sucked me into this well-imagined world and made me care about what was happening to the characters and where their fates would lead them. I also liked that, much like Harry Potter, this was a series that took seriously the concepts of loyalty, friendship, and heroism. Percy would never be able to complete his quest alone, but instead has to trust in the abilities of his friends.

And I loved the setting of the whole thing, in a world of heroic Greek myths. I've always been a sucker for Greek mythology, and seeing that it's alive and well in fantasy fiction just made me pretty damn happy.

Good book; now I need to read the second one.

Go-Go!

Kristen Bell Mondays


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Song of the Week: "To Be By Your Side"

I can't believe I've never had a Nick Cave song up here before. This one, from the great 2001 documentary Winged Migration, is such a hauntingly, achingly beautiful song.

Batman Valentines

Mark Anderson has made another awesome find! Go here to see some Batman Valentines from 1966.

A Sickening Valentine's Day Meme

Look at it as filler, really. This one was emailed me. Yes, the fact that I'm married now has not raised the value of Valentine's Day for me at all. Or her, either, so I'm off the hook there.

Where did the two of you meet?
At Waldenbooks. She worked there, and I was a new hire.

What was the first thought that went through your head when you first met her?
I don't remember consciously. Funnily enough, I thought she was older than me; she used to wear more makeup, and she looked so sophisticated and was so professional and well-spoken to customers that I thought she was at least in her mid-twenties, and not the same age as me (18). But what really attracted me to her the most was when I found out she was into Star Trek and mythology and comic books and all the same things I was.

Do you remember what she was wearing?
No, actually.

Where did you go for your first date?
Uh, we just made out a lot the first couple of times we saw each other, to be honest. The first, like, date-date we had was going to the movies on Christmas Day, which was five days after we really started, um, dating, I guess. That's why we think of our anniversary as 20 December, and not whatever the hell the date was when we got married. Incidentally, we went to see Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.

Where was the first time you kissed?
At my house.

When was the first time you realized you liked her?
I was going through a really bad break-up with my first serious girlfriend, who was trying to "fix" me so I'd be suitable for her. She was also really emotionally needy and emotionally abusive; she would crumble at the thought of me leaving her, then try to make me think she could cheat on me at any moment so I'd feel the same way. I spent one evening on the phone with Becca, and we ended up talking all night long, until about 6 the next morning, and we had so much in common and felt the same way about so many things. She just fit. It was a Friday night; we ended up doing the exact same thing on Saturday night and Sunday night. After three nights in a row of talking to Becca literally all night long and being so damn happy, I knew she was the one for me, and I finally put the final nail in the coffin of the relationship that didn't make me happy and then asked Becca to be my girlfriend. And she said yes.

There were a couple of people, incidentally, who swore to me that Becca was going to be just a rebound relationship. But that's never been true. She immediately became more than just my girlfriend; she's also my best friend. We're inseparable.

(Sorry about the sentiment there.)

How long did you know her before you became a couple?
A couple of months. I think I started at Waldenbooks in September, and we became a couple at the end of December.

How was the proposal?
We didn't have a big proposal. We were just talking about it and decided that it would benefit us both to get married (because of taxes and insurance). Not really romantic, I know, but we've been together for a long time, and had always just sort of thought of each other as husband and wife already. We both come from broken homes, so we never gave a lot of serious thought to being legally married. It didn't seem to matter.

Do you have kids together?
Thumper's sort of like a kid. He's grumpy and mischievous and afraid of the dark. (I know, he's a pet, not a kid. No, we don't have kids and I don't think we ever will.)

Have you ever broken the law together?
Sure.

Do you trust her?
Implicitly. More than I trust myself, I think.

Do you see her as your partner in your future?
Until my inevitable early death from my myriad health problems.

What is the best gift she gave you?
Honestly? Agreeing to be my girlfriend.

What is one thing she does that gets on your nerves?
I hate the way she pronounces "Illinois" as "Ellenois." She got a Snuggie knock-off for Christmas and she loves it, which just kind of irritates me. Little, stupid things. It doesn't add up to much for me, but sure, when you're as smart and irritable as I am, there are little things. It's not like they add up to animosity; a lot of them just make me laugh at myself.

Where do you see each other 15 years from now?
God, better off financially, I hope.

What causes the most arguments?
What to eat for dinner, weirdly enough. Also when she tries to get me to conquer my burgeoning agoraphobia. I'm surprisingly resistant...

How long have you been together?
Since 20 December 1994. Wow, we got married something like a year ago, didn't we? It was last February, right? Well, she can't remember the date, either, so there.

Happy Chocolate Day, everyone.

Sunday Hottie 263

HEATHER CAROLIN