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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

I think it’ll be this kid.

The pigtails, the half-assed costume, the exaggerated eye roll … this is what the next generation of me would be like.

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I’m in the middle of writing a story featuring some bitchy female lead characters, and it got me wondering – how bitchy is too bitchy?

It’s important for the characters to be identifiable, so some darkness is okay. I think it makes the reader feel more comfortable reading about someone who has weaknesses and faults just like anybody else. That’s why so many people find Superman so insufferable – physically and morally invincible? Snoresville!

But if the character is too mean and nasty, or cocky, or obnoxious, it gets harder (or just more annoying) to read a story about them. It’s all subjective of course, and sometimes I’ll surprise myself with which characters I will and won’t get behind.

Last weekend I watched Young Adult, which I’ve been dying to see since I first heard about it. It seemed to have all my dreams come true in it -

  • A plot featuring an ex-popular girl, disgusted by news of her old high school sweetheart having a baby and deciding to return to her hometown to wreck his life by winning him back
  • Played by Charlize Theron, a fave of mine (especially when she’s playing a bitch)
  • Patton Oswalt
  • Star Wars references featuring Patton Oswalt
  • etc.

At first I was worried I wouldn’t like the movie because Theron’s Mavis character would be too cringeworthy – forcibly throwing herself into too many awkward situations. I can only stand so many of those onscreen before I have to bury my face in a pillow. (I think I hit my threshhold watching Lisa Kudrow’s awkward antics in The Comeback). Or like when anyone in any movie EVER starts going through someone’s drawers looking for something while that person isn’t home. I will want to rip my hair out. THEY’RE GOING TO WALK IN ON YOU DOING THAT!!

Mavis is unlikeable to a fault. At the beginning, we’re introduced to her pathetic life, holed up in a filthy high-rise apartment with a little rat dog and reality TV on 24/7, desperately clinging to the last remnants of her bitchy powers as she meets with an old high school friend for coffee. Mavis clearly never learned how to take care of herself, care for anyone else, or properly grow up. So when she decides to go on her home-town rampage, it’s comic because we know she can only get so far.

But can she? Part of what I loved about her character was that she managed to surprise me with her level of commitment to the identity she’d created for herself and her insistence to remain oblivious to the world changing around her. After all, at 37 in a dingy apartment with a rat dog she could still go out any night of the week and snag a reasonably attractive one night stand. She could still convince people who loathed her in high school to try to befriend her, even now. She shamelessly manipulated people who were just trying to show her a little kindness and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt. And yet, as selfishly horrible and ridiculously, cruelly ignorant to anyone else’s suffering as she was – you still kind of wanted to see her go stir things up and wreck all those hometown lives.

Or maybe that was just me?

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Incognito

I have to apologize for being a bit in hibernation over here. I’ve been wanting to redesign my website for a long time, only recently settling on creating a new site in WordPress, and I’m afraid it’s going to take me a while to figure all this stuff out! I’m pretty old school HTML/CSS. It’s like I want to rip WordPress apart and see the nuts and bolts, but then I go “Woaaahhh” when I see the nuts and bolts and remember I don’t know PHP or jQuery. I decided the best thing for me to do rather than create a whole site from scratch was to buy a template and play around from there, but apparently it’s still going to take me a while to figure things out. I wanted a site that was clean, minimal, and better organized than my current site, but when I started creating one I realized I kind of found it a bit boring. LOL. Clearly there’s going to be no satisfying me!

So anyway, if I’m a bit quiet over here, it’s because I’m spending my nights and weekends yelling at my computer screen. In the meantime, here are some pics from my recent trip to pretty, pretty Portland!

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I spent all of last weekend accidentally holed up in my house by myself. There’s a particular weekend in May that is usually reserved for the perfect storm that is my mother’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, and Mother’s Day all rolled into one. But even though this weekend was all reserved for those festivities, they were all cancelled at the last minute and I found myself with loads of free time.

Now, for a lot of comickers, this would be a dream come true. We crave solitude and the indoors, shunning sunlight and interaction. And this is usually the case for me too. I work at home one day a week, and it’s always a struggle to force myself to leave the house just on that one day in order to mail stuff, run errands, drop off books at comic stores, etc. Do I drag myself out of the house the four days of the week I’m not working at home? Yes. But begrudgingly.

My dream is to someday make my own schedule and work from home at will. I love being holed up all day myself and not having to go out into the sunshine and be around the public.

So that’s why it was troubling that this recent unexpected stretch of hermitdom . . . Started to get to me after a while. I made it through Friday without a hitch. Plenty of stuff to do, plenty of fun meals to make. Come Saturday, knowing I had limited time before I’d have to go out and meet up with family, I was productive and level headed. But once Saturday plans fell through, even though I delighted in having more free time to myself, I started to feel … twitchy.

I read somewhere once that people need to see at least one human face a day. Not a photo, not TV. They had to get out and look at a real life person in order to feel okay. Like when you work in a cubicle all day, they tell you just being able to see something green and alive outdoors reduces your stress levels and allows you to pretend you don’t work in a tiny box.

Something must happen when you’re sequestered, even for a little while, that requires you to remind your brain you don’t live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. That there are other people outside, in case you need them.

I don’t think I’d ever get cabin fever. I see The Shining as a fun vacation spot. But I do know this – on Saturday, I was forced to break hermitdom by powers beyond my control and go out in search of a face. And then, magically, I felt better again.

How do you guys deal with the solitude? What’s your quota of human faces per day?

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Tomorrow is the most magical day of the year – Free Comic Book Day!

Even though I’m freshly back from visiting Portland and exhibiting at the Stumptown Comics Fest (and dying to talk about it), I wanted to take a minute to plug how awesome Free Comic Book Day is and the independent comic book stores that support it. Held the first Saturday in May every year, the main mission behind FCBD is to support comics and get new people interested in reading them. Most stores offer free comics, giveaways, fun events, creator signings (I’ll be at Collectors Corner in Baltimore – hollah!) – simply check out freecomicbookday.com for a list of participating stores, or just google the closest comic shop in your area!

When I was growing up in a teeny Maryland suburb, I found an amazing comic shop called Zenith Comics. The fact that it was located a couple stores down from a used CD store and next to a 7-11 made it a perfect storm of teenage hangouts. Zenith had a great selection of comics, graphic novels, and anime rentals, but most importantly it had owners who were willing to talk to 15-year-olds and let them lounge about the place for hours, happy to sit and chat and lounge someplace outside of their family homes.

My first comic obsession

Unfortunately, as is usually the case, Zenith eventually folded and was replaced by a run of the mill “Sports Cards & Memorabilia” shop. But I quickly found another comic store to fulfill my needs at the local mall (now a freestanding shop – Beyond Comics!), and thereafter every place I moved I was able to find a great local comic shop to suit my needs (these days I rely on Collectors Corner, Amazing Spiral, and Atomic Books). Even when I went on family vacations, I insisted on dragging my dad out to thrift shops and comic book stores. There will always be a NEED for these local comic shops and their hard working purveyors. We trust them to scour the distributor listings, get to know the repeat customers, and recommend titles to choose from. They provide a wonderful haven for imagination and lively discussions of what everyone loves – stories.

So as long as we keep remembering to support them in their noble mission (a.k.a. bringing comics to the masses) and don’t just buy everything via Amazon, they’ll continue to stick around and not go the way of Zenith.

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I know this was supposed to be a WEEK of Kick-Ass Women, but I’ve been a little busy this week prepping for Spring Bada Bing, so I think I’m going to turn this into an ongoing series on them instead. Because, let’s face it – I will never get tired of talking about them.

The next Kick-Ass Woman is actually THREE women who all impacted my view of what at a kick-ass woman could be. And they all happen to be named Michelle!

No, not Michelle Obama, even though she has charmed the entire country with her guns:

The three Michelles I want to talk about are Pfeiffer, Rodriguez, and Yeoh.

MICHELLE #1: Michelle Pfeiffer

After I saw Tim Burton’s Batman, I wanted to be Vicki Vale. I don’t know what it was about her I admired so much – the blond hair, the big red lips, the awkward way she handled herself around The Joker? I would draw her face over and over again, I suppose thinking I could transfer some of her power into my own body.  I couldn’t see her being surpassed in my mind as a memorable female character in Batmanverse until, of course, Batman Returns rolled around.

Michelle Pfeiffer was amazing as the pitiable, weak “administrative assistant” who, at the beginning of the film, lets people walk all over her. So great, that even when she transforms into the whirligig force that is Catwoman, we don’t have to squint too hard to see Selina still in there, calling the shots. Catwoman is incredibly sexy, but she wields her sexiness as an accessory. Her motivation and her appeal is her craziness, her craftiness. (After all, she did whip up her whole black vinyl outfit on her cute little pink sewing machine she had tucked away amid her stuffed animal collection.)

One of my favorite scenes is when Catwoman stops a mugger attacking a woman in a lone alleyway – the stereotypical set-up for a hero to save a damsel in distress. Catwoman instantly recognizes the opportunity for what it is, and DOES save the woman, but she also takes a dig at the woman for letting herself be vulnerable. It’s an interesting parallel to her past, having been manipulated and abused at the hands of her boss, Max Shreck. Catwoman abhors the part of herself that was victimized but luckily doesn’t use that as a weapon against other victims. She still has her humanity left.

MICHELLE #2: Michelle Rodriguez

I don’t pretend to know anything about Michelle other than in her role as Anna Lucia on LOST (Although my 17-year-old cousin thinks the only movies are the Fast & The Furious movies). Anna Lucia was a damaged ex-cop who wound up amongst the unlucky pack of Tailies on the island TV show. Before the island, Anna Lucia had brought vigilante justice down on the guy who had shot her and unwittingly killed her unborn child. As soon as craziness starts happening to her little group on the island, Anna Lucia defaults into protector mode the only way she knows how — by blurring the lines between necessary force and an excuse to shoot everything that moves. And yet, even though she lost her confidence in herself as a police officer, she’s still damn good enough to recognize Goodwin for being the lying murderer that he is.

I really wish they hadn’t cut short her character on the show and had allowed her more time to develop. And, I also wish I looked as buff as her in a tank top.

MICHELLE #3: Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh is the only honest-to-god action star I’ve mentioned so far. She doesn’t just play one onscreen, she IS one. She’s in it, doing the action, fighting the fights, falling the falls.

I first saw her alongside Jackie in Supercop, and then in the regrettable Tomorrow Never Dies, playing probably the most competent and bad-ass of the Bond Girls in any of the movies.

But in the graceful, beautiful Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, you get to see how incredible she is in every single scene. LONG, continuous scenes that show you the range of her skills and talent and don’t try to hobble it together with cuts and fancy angles.

She’s the real deal.

I’ll admit it’s been several years since I’ve seen CTHD, so I won’t discuss the aspects of that particular character in terms of an action star. Michelle Yeoh is an action star that WAYYY supercedes any single role.

Those are your Michelle’s for the day. Anyone else got a Michelle who’s particularly bad-ass that they want to bring up?

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I consider myself to be someone heavily influenced by story. When I read something, I want to believe it. When I watch something, I feel like I still linger in that world a little bit, long after the credits role. And with characters onscreen, there’s always a piece or two of them that I want to absorb.

Since I announced that this is Kick-Ass Women Week, I’m going to celebrate just a few of the female characters I consider to have been the most inspirational on me growing up. Why? Because, just like when I watched the male action heroes onscreen, I wanted to fill those shoes for a moment and be them. Without crushing fear, doubt, hesitation, or (let’s face it) puny muscles. I wanted to be running, jumping, punching things. Sort of the reverse of Eddie Izzard’s desire as a young lad to be an action transvestite. Instead of dressing up in feminine clothes and running around, I wanted to mimic the male counterparts, put on a tank top, show off my guns. Until I finally found some females I could drool over.

Inspiration #1 – LINDA HAMILTON

Linda Hamilton is pretty much the pinnacle of what women interested in female action heroines look up to. Although she only really existed in the form of Sarah Connor in Terminator 1 and 2, and was pretty average in Terminator 1. In Terminator 2, however, she brought it.

Terminator 2 was when Sarah Connor realized, after being tormented by a robot in the first movie, that this shit had gotten real and she was going to have to learn how to defend herself, her son, and her human race. From the MACHINES. So, naturally, she got herself locked up in a mental institution for telling the truth.

Luckily for us, being locked in a mental institution means Sarah gets to do loads and loads of chin-ups. Otherwise known as the bane of my existence when I was 11 and this movie came out. Hang on – women can DO those? And be casual about it?? After the chin-ups, Sarah treats us to some pretty sweet bad-assery as she breaks out of her cell and nearly the whole institution before her son and Arnold Schwarzenegger come along and ruin everything.

So what if she’s a little nutty, and it takes her a while to remember that her son is not old enough to be a good soldier yet? Look at those arms and look at the fear she instills in those guards. Later on in the movie she gets some guns and grenades and stuff, but this is where I fell in awe with Linda Hamilton. Just a woman, all by her lonesome, cooking up ways to be prepared for the Robot Apocalypse.

Now, don’t you feel like running around barefoot and shoving people who get in your way?

How about you guys? Did Terminator 2 similarly change your life?

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