February 2007 Archives

The first Elizabeth

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I went to see Helen Mirren in the The Queen the day it opened here in Los Angeles. I don't know if it was because the advance reviews were good or if there's just a very well-organized group of royal watchers here in L.A., but the showing was completely packed. For me, seeing the feature film The Queen capped off a year of fantastic mini-series on the British Royal family, and especially about the current queen's namesake, Elizabeth I.

Helen Mirren as Elizabeth IThe series The Virgin Queen aired on public television's Masterpiece Theater in the U.S. This mini-series covered a large part of Elizabeth I's life, beginning with the years before she became queen. Prior to watching this series, I'd seen another PBS mini-series on the life of Elizabeth I's father, Henry VIII, which left off his story close to where The Virgin Queen began.

The two series complement each other, as they both emphasize the role of personal relationships and personal demons in the lives of the two monarchs. Henry VIII dealt with the issues that led to Henry's wifely turnover, and especially emphasized his passion for the fascinating Ann Boleyn. The Virgin Queen also focuses on passion, showing how Elizabeth's youthful infatuation with Robert Dudley becomes a liability once she becomes queen. This portrait of Elizabeth I's relationship with Dudley highlights both her vulnerabilities as a woman and the ways she wielded her sexual power.

After seeing the vibrant portrayal of Elizabeth I's youth in The Virgin Queen, it took time for me to adjust to Helen Mirren's portrayal of the regent in HBO's Elizabeth I. Although the two series depict many of the same events, the focus is quite different. The story hones in on the intergenerational romance between the aging queen and the son of her longtime love, Robert Dudley. I don't know how historically accurate the story is, but it is riveting as a psychological drama of an older woman in love with a much younger man.

Coming back again to Henry VIII, this spring Showtime is airing The Tudors, which looks a bit overheated but I'll probably watch it anyway. I might as well see two Henry mini-series to go with the two Elizabeth series. Actually, seeing these program made me want to go back and watch the PBS series Elizabeth R and The Six Wives of Henry VIII, which aired in the early 70s during the first season of Masterpiece Theater.

I was a child when Elizabeth R and The Six Wives of Henry VIII aired, and much of the plot was over my head, but I studied the characters and I have fond memories of those shows as the kind of event television that doesn't really exist anymore. The programs seemed weighty and important, in the way the Oscars once were. I was intrigued by Henry's procession of wives, and the queer feeling that gripped me when Ann Boleyn exposed her long white neck as she bowed before the axe.

Xena versus the Space Alien

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I mentioned previously here that I wasn't happy with the direction that Dynamite Entertainment was taking their Xena: Warrior Princess comic series in, and that I hadn't picked it up. But I noticed their was a different writer on Xena Annual #1, so I took a chance and tossed it in my stack. Xena knocked out followed by Gabs holding Xena

There are three variant covers for the annual, and I chose Cover A by Croatian artist Stepjan Sejic. I felt his cover made Xena look too young but the art had an interesting manga influence and I liked the strong composition.

The story was unusual in that it brought a space alien into contact with Xena and Gabrielle. It's also set after Season Six, in a time period where Xena has apparently returned from the dead. Xena's death is alluded to briefly in the panel shown above, when Xena is knocked out and Gabrielle says, "If you're dead again, I'm going to be really pissed."

There were a few nicely handled bits of subtext that showed the writer had a good grasp of the show and its audience. However, I was sad to read that there might have been more subtext if only the publishers had allowed it. In an interview, writer Keith Champagne commented:

This is the first licensed property that I've written so, of course, one has to anticipate notes from the licensor. There was nothing particularly heavy thrown at me in terms of revisions; they basically asked me to dial down some of the chemistry between Xena and Gabrielle.

Dynamite is issuing a "Dark Xena" series after the annual, but with its preference for "subtext lite" scripts, I'm not sure whether it will have enough drama to interest me.

Grimm Scenario

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I watched Monster House on DVD with the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend awhile ago, having missed it in the theater. It's up for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature this year, which is interesting, because I looked up some of the film's reviews before writing this entry and noticed many critics found the quality of the animation lacking.

Some reviewers felt there was an unfinished quality to the animation overall, while others felt uncomfortable with the human characters in particular. One critic felt the human figures fell into the "uncanny valley" of simulation, being neither lifelike enough to seem realistic, nor stylized enough to seem artistic.

I found the animation style distinctive rather than rough. I also thought the 3D techniques were well suited to experiencing an architectural monster; the CGI animation made me feel like I was moving inside the house. It felt like being on a virtual ride inside a video game, and maybe that was the problem for some film reviewers--not everyone appreciates game aesthetics. Of course, I saw the movie on the small screen, so it's possible some flaws in the animation were not as apparent to me.

I was not expecting the movie to be as scary as it turned out to be. Perhaps scary isn't the right word; it was more like a feeling of unease. As the film progressed, I noticed my unease seemed to stem as much from the depiction of femaleness on screen as from the storyline.

I don't want say too much about the female form in this film, because I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone who wishes to see it, and almost anything I divulge on this topic might do that. Nonetheless, what I will say is that this movie reminded me of some of the original Grimm's fairy tales that I have read.

Disney's animated films have often been criticized for sanitizing the folk tales they draw from as source material. Monster House channels some of the gothic brutality found in Grimm's tales; it also dips into the ancient folklore that cautions against the horrors of the female body and the female condition. These qualities make it a powerful--and in an uncanny way--a familiar film. But in the end, uneasy is exactly the way I feel about it.

Worker Heroes of New York

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Man cleaning fish dressed as AquamanI read about an interesting post-9/11 art project called The Real Story of the Superheroes on we-make-money-not-art.

The photographer, Dulce Pinzon, was born in Mexico but currently resides in the U.S. In a collection of 12 striking photos, Pinzon depicts the lives of Mexican immigrant workers living in New York. Each is wearing a superhero costume as they go about their usual work routine.

The photo shown here, called "Aquaman," depicts a young man, Juventino Rosas, cleaning fish. Along with the name and place of origin of each individual, Pinzon has included the amount each person sends home--superheroically--to family in Mexico each week.

If You Have A Minute

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One of my designer friends, Denny Chen, is a finalist in a toy design contest. If you have a minute, please help him out by voting for his design here. His design is in the second column, five rows down, and it's labeled with his name. He's the dunny-obsessed friend I wrote about a few days ago.

Transgender Possibilities

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I was curious to read the story behind the headline, "Bring back the ambivalently sexualized She-Hulk," when I saw it linked at When Fangirls Attack. Written by Charlie Anders, a transsexual woman, the article identifies a shift in writing in the most recent incarnation of Marvel's She-Hulk comic book:

Over time, Slott has downplayed the issue of people desiring She-Hulk for her huge, imposing body. I can’t think of too many instances, since the first couple of issues, where we saw men throwing themselves at her when she was in green giant mode.

I liked the points Anders made about desiring the "wrong" body. However much the issue may be downplayed in current storylines, the wrong body is an unavoidable aspect of the She-Hulk story. As a lesbian, I've always liked the angry, musclebound image of She-Hulk, but I can also see how Anders could identify with the She-Hulk as a symbol of transsexual transformation.
Although Anders is speaking metaphorically about She-Hulk, I've wondered over the past few issues of Runaways, another Marvel title, if the alien character Xavin might be transgendered or transsexual. The character of Xavin has come in for a fair amount of criticism because s/he is the lover (albeit through a pre-arranged marriage) of the lesbian main character in the comic, Karolina Dean. When the ambiguously gendered Xavin is told by Karolina that she prefers women, Xavin obliges by taking a human female form, but has a tendency to shift back and forth between genders.
Some readers have criticized the Xavin character, saying the writing of the character undermines the lesbian storyline. And that may be what's happening, but I've also wondered if Xavin's gender might turn out to be more complex than simply male or female.

I'm no dunny

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Aztec-themed dunny toySo far, I've managed to resist falling prey to the dunny collecting passion. Dunnys, for the uninitiated, are a fiendishly cute series of artist-created collectible toys. They're sold in blind boxes, so you don't know which one you're getting when you buy them. And they're produced in varying numbers, so some are rare while others are more common. They're also immensely popular collectibles here in L.A.

I first witnessed the madness dunnys can inspire in one of my co-workers, whose rapidly growing collection of dunnys slowly took over his workspace. One day, I watched over his shoulder as he browsed auctions for some of the more hard-to-find dunnys on eBay. He confessed to having participated in several bidding wars over the toys, and that's when a steady voice inside my head first cautioned me: "Don't go there, don't go there."

That voice has stayed with me, despite the release of the right-up-my-alley Los Angeles series of dunnys, the terribly adorable Batman-inspired dunny, the unconscionably precious blue-meenie-style dunny. But with the release of the Azteca series, designed by 12 Mexican artists and designers, I give up. Just watch this sweet fan-made film featuring several Azteca dunnys hitting a dunny-blind-box-shaped pinata and then you try to resist.

Childish passtimes

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Angela Davis in a coloring bookOn Neatorama, I discovered a link to the coloring book "The Color of Dissent," which "celebrates revolutionaries and political visionaries in American history." I would totally buy this if I had kids. "Mom, I'm bored!" they would complain. And I'd say, "Oh, go color Wilma Mankiller, woud you? Mamma T's surfing the Internets."

Four things

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I have taken sooooo long to respond to being tagged by this meme that the person who tagged me, Joe, no longer even has a website up. But it's been so long that maybe you've completely forgotten about the meme and answering these questions will seem new again.

Four jobs I have had

  • Lead Copywriter

  • Antiquarian Book Salesperson

  • Creative Director

  • Bra Model (no, you cannot see the pictures)

Four movies I can watch over and over

Four places I’ve lived

  • Los Angeles, CA

  • Durham, NC

  • Schenectady, NY

  • Brighton, England

Four TV shows I love

  • Bewitched

  • Xena: Warrior Princess

  • Masterpiece Theater

  • Star Trek: Voyager

Four vacation spots

  • Disneyland

  • Manhattan

  • Cornwall

  • New Zealand

Four of my favorite dishes

Four sites I visit daily

Four places I’d rather be right now

Tisn't The Season

Batwoman and Renee Montoya togetherI know this is very late, but I wanted to write about it anyway. I picked up the comic DCU Infinite Holiday Special not out of any desire to celebrate the holidays, but because I knew it contained a Batwoman story.

The issue was actually much better than I expected it to be--I was expecting something much more saccharine from a holiday-themed book. But the writers had introduced a good bit of variety as well as humor into the storylines, and I wound up feeling full of good cheer despite myself.

As I came to the story featuring Batwoman, I called out to the Cute-Little-Red-Headed Girlfriend, who was busy surfing the net:

Me: Hey, guess what? It looks like Batwoman is Jewish.

CLRHG (unimpressed): She's a Superhero. They're all Jewish.

Me: Not like that. In this comic, her family is celebrating Hannukah. It's part of the story.

CLRHG: Is she Ashkenazi?

Me: It doesn't say. But her family's from Poland.

CLRHG: Probably Ashkenazi then. So the Commissioner was Jewish then?

Me: You're thinking of Batgirl. This is Batwoman.

CLRHG: It's confusing.

Me: I know.

Then I read 52 issue #33, which includes the panels I've shown here. In this scene, Renee Montoya and the uncostumed Batwoman are snuggled up on the couch at Christmas. But they're at Batwoman's place, so there's a menorah in the background.

Lesbian Heavy Metal

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On LAist, I read about this all-male heavy metal band from Seattle called Lesbian. Why Lesbian? Because "the name Lesbian evokes pure, sexually-charged freedom -- and, that's what rock music is all about." That is so kick ass.

I looked up their MySpace page to see if I could find out anything more about them. They consider themselves to be "part of the new wave of American psychedelic metal." I will have to get with The Sister for some schooling on these fine musical distinctions, as she is the metalhead in the family.

You can listen to Lesbian samples on their MySpace page. I also clicked through to an interview with them and found this exchange:

Soooooo why did you choose the name Lesbian to represent the band?

Because having sex with women is awesome!

So true lads, so true. Hey guys, can I get a Lesbian t-shirt?

Take A Wench for a Bride

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Auction scene from Pirates of the Carribean
Amanda and Michelle of The Girls Productions! offered a peek at what they've been up to lately on their blog. Turns out they've been laboring on a lot of fine art and schwag to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland. I've put up a sample of the art that they'll be showing at the gallery above the ride on March 18. This print is called "Showem your larboard side" and depicts the famous auction sequence from the attraction, in which the pirates are all shouting "We want the Redhead! We want the Redhead!" You can check out the rest of their Pirates work here.

Urban Vampire Geeks

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A female killer posed against the night skyThe web zine 10 Zen Monkeys has published a transcription of "Girls Are Geeks Too," an audio interview conducted by RU Sirius with one writer and the editors of the book She's Such A Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology and Other Nerdy Stuff. I listened to the interview as a podcast on the Neofiles Show, but I know some people aren't into podcasts so if you're interested in the topic you can read the interview instead.

In one part of the interview, contributor Quinn Norton reads from the book her description of live-action role-playing a vampire character from the game Vampire in the midst of the city. While she is creeping around in character, she is seen by some children:

I, in all my weirdness, appeared out of nowhere and walked quickly by them. The parents never noticed me, but the kids did. They looked at where I’d come from, and then at me. They crouched in close to their parents and clutched one another. I looked over at them, opened my eyes wide, and gave them a slightly snarled smile.

She goes on to imagine the effect the encounter might have had on the children's imaginative lives thereafter. There's also a discussion of why vampires appeal to geeks. Don't they appeal to everybody?

Superbra Technology

Power Girl's mighty ass-cleavage on displayI wrote several years ago about the possibility of a female superhero creating new superbra technology.

I thought I would revisit that topic today, since many strides have been made in bra technology since my original post. I'm also motivated by the recent Power Girl origin story that appeared in the comic 52 issue 36. Through When Fangirls Attack, I found this explanation of Power Girl's window cut-out costume design.

I'm not going to address whether the design rationale makes sense, I just want to talk about the design itself, as in the actual pattern. To me, it's clear that some of the DC folk need a crash course in bra construction. Because Power Girl's ample breast size and the extreme compression produced by her costume is going to cause one hell of a wicking problem. Her costume really needs to incorporate some mesh side paneling and possibly a wicking underband for additional moisture control.

A bra with pouch for an ipodI think today's female superheroes should be on the leading edge when it comes to their bras. Power Girl could definitely make use of the latest in cushion-support bra technology, including gel straps and cushioned wire.


Some female superheroes might be interested in adopting this iPod-bearing sports bra called the Power Pouch. I've included a picture here so you can see the very cunning front pocket for hiding gear. This disguised shopping bag bra is another technological triumph that could lend to many innovative storylines. It seems like a Catwoman type of thing to me.

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