December 2007 Archives

If the slipper fits

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You may recall reading about the loss of my bedroom slippers recently. Having come to terms with this loss, I decided to go to one of my favorite stores on the web, Zappo's, to see if I could find a new pair for myself.

Fuzzy bootieMy search was immediately rewarded when I stumbled across a cozy looking pair with the improbable name "Teresa." That is the name of the slipper, which you see pictured here in lavender, although it also comes in cheetah. It seemed like a true victory for one-to-one-marketing; I mean, the slipper actually had my name on it!

Slipper decorated with brocadeI browsed the slippers at Zappo's some more and I came across yet another winner: "Carmen." As you can see from the image shown here, "Carmen" projects a different image than "Teresa." If I had to chose a single word to describe that image, I think it would be "pretentious." It's generally not a good quality in humans but I think it's alright in footwear.

Sexy black slipperI was pondering whether my personality is more like the comfy and cute "Teresa" or the somewhat masculine but fruity "Carmen" when I came across "Xena." Naturally, part of me wanted to get "Xena," seen in the image shown here as a svelte black model with faux fur trim. Yet as I reflected on how well the sexy "Xena" suited me compared to frumpy "Teresa" and uptight "Carmen," I found my conclusions did not please me.

"Xena" was just a little too attractive for its own good. "Xena" was forcing me to come face to face with my own inadequacies, my own inability to live up to the larger-than-life image of Xena as represented in this moderately priced bedroom slipper. Who needs that much grief from a slipper? So I browsed some more, hoping I might find a comforting "Gabrielle" slipper to cheer me up. Sadly, I found nothing.

Since I did my first browsing, the "Xena" slipper has sold out. I'm still trying to choose between "Teresa" and "Carmen." If you have a preference as to which one you think I should get, please let me know in the comments section.

I've been reading DC Comics's series Simon Dark and like the way it's shaping up. I was wary about picking this title up when I first saw it on the stands. I can be squeamish and wasn't sure how gory the series was going to be. But I was swayed by the positive comments of other bloggers, like Rack Raids, and gave it a try.

I was so impressed by my ability to steel myself and get through whatever frights I might encounter in issue #1 that I made the mistake of trying to share my enthusiasm for the title with the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend. I described Simon to her, and how he lived on the streets and served as a neighborhood protector, albeit a violent one. I also made some guesses about Simon's mysterious origins--who he had been as a boy, how he came to be on his own, and how he taught himself to survive.

I was trying to make Simon Dark sound like a gritty horror story. So I felt pretty deflated when the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend responded derisively, "Sounds like a very romantic story to me. People who are hurt like that don't usually wind up helping people."

That is so completely typical. Whenever I try to interest the Girlfriend in my comics I almost always wind up feeling like a fool. The worst is when I try to get her interested in a comic book about a female superhero. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: "...doesn't that sound like a great story? Wouldn't you like to read it?"

CLRHG: "Yes, she sounds really strong. Like a warrior character. What kind of costume does she have, though? Don't tell me it's one of those dinky outfits that doesn't provide any protection and has her tits hanging out to here."

Me: "Um, well, okay. (Sigh.) Just...never mind."

So anyway, the point is that the Girlfriend is right and that Simon Dark is not really that dark, even though the character is billed on the cover as "the grotesque guardian of Gotham City."

I was reminded of Simon Dark the other day when I ran across a news story that got linked in many places across the blogosphere. The news story was headlined "'Werewolf boy' - who snarls and bites - on the run from police after escaping Moscow clinic. It was about a child purportedly raised by wolves, with animal-like habits and some gnarly-looking foot claws. The part of the story that really got to me though was this:

Such cases are not uncommon in Russia where there have been regular reports of 'Mowgli' children abandoned by their parents who are cared for by animals.

Really?

I got this image in my head of children scampering around Moscow on all fours while jaded city dwellers turned their heads and walked on. It seemed to me like the wolf boy story could be a hoax, but it seemed equally plausible that it could just be another disquieting but emergent condition of city living. I decided to investigate, just in case I needed to prepare myself for coyote- and cougar-children roaming Los Angeles in the near future.

I came across a very well-organized web site called FeralChildren.com. There I discovered that there are different types of feral children. In the terms used by the site, Simon Dark would be considered an isolated child because he lived on his own.

The section on children raised by animals is quite informative. The text points out that many stories of children raised by wild animals lack documentation, and may in fact be folklore. There's also a table that summarizes data from these stories, indicating the child's name, sex, age when found, location, the animal that served as parent, and available source material, including photos.

In addition to wolf adoption, the site lists a few cases of bears and gazelles acting as adoptive parents. The most unusual, I thought, were a case of ostrich parents and a herd of cows that were reported to have served as family. Although the web site seems to have more of a social science bent to it, there is also a section on feral children in literature and the arts. That's where the phrase "Mowgli children" comes from, after all.

Dali and Disney

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Metamorphosis in Dali's paintingI've developed a bad habit of going to the Los Angeles County Museum's exhibits at the end of their run, and as a result, I haven't bothered to blog about the last few I've seen. However, there's still time for Angelenos to see Dali: Painting & Film, especially with the holidays coming up.

I'm not a big fan of LACMA's blockbuster exhibits when they are organized around a single artist or movement. I much prefer their major exhibits when they present a definite slant or perspective, even if the result is a partial rather than a comprehensive view of the subject.

Dali: Painting & Film focuses on an aspect of Salvador Dali's work, the connection between his paintings and various film endeavors. This framework offers more experienced viewers with a new way to look at familiar Dali pieces as well as previously unseen material. For those who might be seeing Dali in depth for the first time, the exhibit sketched in enough of Dali's biography and other important works to give a sense of his overall development and contribution as an artist.

I knew of some of the connections between Dali and film on entering the exhibit, but hadn't realized Dali was so influenced by film comedy. The exhibit traces Dali's famous melting watch image back to the silent film Safety Last! and documents Dali's attempt to work on a project with the Marx Brothers, who he thought of as surrealists.

The dour side of Dali is present in his more autobiographical paintings, which often revolved around his troubled relationship with his father. The dreamlike imagery of these paintings shows up in Hitchcock's Spellbound, for which Dali designed a dream sequence. You can watch the scene on YouTube here.

For me, the highlight of the exhibit was being able to finally see Destino, the animated short created by Disney based on ideas and storyboards provided by Salvador Dali. Although Dali worked with the Disney Studios on plans for the film during the 1940s, the short did not actually get made until 2003. There have been a few showings of the film in Los Angeles, but Destino has never been widely released and is not available on video or DVD.

The action reminded me of a ballet in the way the main characters' movements expressed emotion and narrative. As we sat together watching the film, it became clear to me and the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend why it was not made earlier: there is a sensuous and even erotic quality to the female lead. It's not titillating so much as it is bold.

As the female character explores her dreamlike surroundings, there is a playful metamorphosis of objects as she interacts with her environment. A bell becomes a ballerina, insects turn into bicyclists. Emotions transform, too, as grotesque imagery suddenly gives way to a sorrowful tableau. The emphasis on transformations surprised me, since so much Disney animation is based on a quasi-realism.

Dali, however, embraced the theme of metamorphosis in his non-moving work, as shown in the painting I've included above. This was one of my favorite works from the exhibit, using sequential doubles to indicate transformation.

There are some segments of Destino on YouTube but they don't give a very good impression of the whole. There are also very few still shots from the film available on the web, due to obviously well-policed copyright restrictions. I hope the short will be released on DVD at some point; in the meantime, grab the chance to see Destino if you have the chance.

Transpecies Warrior

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I've been meaning to do a follow-up post on Marvel's Quasar book, which I first wrote about here, as well as the Annihilation: Conquest series to which it belongs.

I was intrigued by the characters in the tie-in books Wriath and Nova, so I've been following most of the Annihilation: Conquest titles since the series debut. But it's Phyla-Vell/Quasar and Heather/Moondragon, the lesbian lovers and heroes of the Quasar comic, who drew me into the series, and they're the reason why I'll stay.

So far, I've had one disappointment with the series, which I intend to detail here. In Quasar #3, Moondragon morphs from human form into dragon form. She gains some bitchen powers, but the downside is that Moondragon's transformation is permanent.

Quasar and Moondragon process this new development--and I do mean process it--in the middle of a battle. While striking Phalanx with her sword, Quasar says moodily to her lover, "You should have told me, Heather." Now in the form of an enormous black dragon with red glowing eyes, Heather tries to retreat from the relationship, "Phy, I'm not human anymore. I can't ask you to--"

But Quasar will have none of it. "I chose you," she assures Heather, "and you haven't changed. Not in any way that matters."

Now, if Phyla-Vell and Heather were just good friends, I wouldn't have a problem with Heather's transformation or the vow to stick together. Actually, it would be pretty awesome to have a best friend who was a black dragon.

Quasar rides Moondragon into battle

But let's shift to the lover's perspective for a moment. I sense there's some coded plea for tolerance or understanding in this little transformation story. Like, if your partner turned out to be someone else than what you thought, wouldn't he or she or s/he have the same soul and wouldn't you still love that individual just as much?

In theory, yes. In the abstract, as concept, in metaphor, in some weird-ass outer space drama where species equals race or sex or nationality or what have you, by all means, yes.

But in the here and now, in the one frickin' Marvel comic with a lesbian superhero couple in it, Moondragon has changed in a way that matters. She has a dragon vagina. And, if you take a look at the illustration I've included, some nasty spikey scales in the exact spot where Quasar rides her. Ouch.

I'm holding out hope that, in the future, Moondragon will somehow find a way to morph back into a human being, even if for a limited time. In the meantime, my concern over the couple's inability to have sex led me to give the subject of dragon genitalia my attention.

I turned first to my bookshelf, and my copy of Dragons, by Dr. Karl Shakur. Because, if you want authoritative information about dragons, it is best to get it from a doctor, am I right? But sadly, despite being a dracontologist (according to the book flap), Dr. Shakur had little to say on the subject.

I then moved to the internet, thinking that some quick "safe-search off" googling would turn up something good. A wiki on dragon anatomy, perhaps. Some YouTube videos of choppy CGI dragon sex. A small purveyor of dragon dildos made out of crystal. Such were my expectations.

Now, I don't want to alarm you, but the truth is there is a sad deficit of information about, and apparently interest in, the sex organs of dragons. The best source I found was a site with sections on the anatomy and physiognomy of dragons, with separate sections for the eastern and western varieties.

This is what I was able to glean from the site: western dragons mate while in the air, and have no visible or external genitalia. Both eastern and western dragons reproduce by laying eggs.

Armed with this information, I began to think along the lines of bird or reptile sex as a possible model for dragons. Then I stumbled on the sex life of the Komodo dragon. Believe it or not, Komodo dragons have been known to reproduce through parthenogenesis.

That is interesting; that is cool. If Moondragon self-replicates and Quasar is named the second mom, I think I could hang with that. Or, as I suggested above, just change Moondragon back into a human sometimes so Quasar can at least get a piece every now and then.

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