Monthly Archives: April 2011

Dear Birthers

Bwahahahahahahahahahahah! Take the long form and stuff it, you racist crackpots.  As for the opportunistic Jim Crower Donald Trump, Baratunde Thurston of The Onion sadly says it best:

Profound and institutionalized racism always comes at times of great social change. I can only hope that the hatred on so many fronts being trotted out by public officials and media figures for my daughter to see is a sign that things are in the end advancing, that despite regressive Jim Crow laws or attempted Jim Crow laws in states like Arizona and Florida, we will eventually have a more equal and democratic America.

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Things You Learn When You’re Sick

1) The world is meditative — you can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Preferably on sleeping.

2) The first lesson goes out the window when your old dog throws up.

3) Doctor Who episodes do indeed make good medicine. However, you will develop a morbid fear of angels.

4) Do not watch the movie Piranhas.

5) School projects that involve your husband making his apple pie are good school projects.

6) The papers on my desk seem to be growing and possibly mutating into a new life form. (Paperless world, my ass!) Or possibly this is just a hallucination from Doctor Who and Piranhas.

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Babies have the best laughs

This made me feel better about the ice pellets in my yard:

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It’s spring/fall! Depending which hemisphere you’re in.

1) Tiptree Award: The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council has awarded the 2010 Tiptree Award to Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, by Dubravka Ugresic, Ellen Elias-Bursac translator (Canongate, 2010). The novel offers three different modern variations on Baba Yaga folklore that look at female aging, concepts of beauty and the power of myth.

2) Shadows Awards: The 2010 Australian Shadows Horror Awards have been announced:

Best Long Fiction: Under Stones by Bob Franklin (Affirm Press)

Best Edited Publication: Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Edited by Angela Challis & Marty Young (Brimstone Press)

Best Short Fiction: “She Said” by Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes from the Second Storey)

3) While development on his Sandman, the classic comics series, for a t.v. series has been stalled yet again, author Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel American Gods may finally be getting a live action adaptation. At first it was announced that the book would be a movie, but it now seems to be coming to HBO in the U.S. as a miniseries or t.v. series. Award-winning cinematographer and director Robert Richardson brought the rights to Playtone, run by actor-director Tom Hanks and producer Gary Goetzman, and Playtone took the project to HBO, with whom they’ve done Band of Brothers and other projects. The novel, which won the Stoker Award and Hugo Award, concerns an American ex-con, Shadow, who while grieving for his dead wife, encounters a number of incarnated gods, old and new, and gets caught up in a potential divine war. Richardson and Gaiman will write the pilot episode. Gaiman’s children’s novel, The Graveyard Book, is also being adapted into a film, directed by Neil Jordan, and the ever busy Gaiman also penned an up-coming episode of the ever-running, iconic British t.v. series Doctor Who.

4) Also in the comics arena, F. Paul Wilson’s series of young adult fantasy novels, Jack: Secret Histories, Jack: Secret Circles and Jack: Secret Vengeance, are being turned into a comic series adaptation by Sea Lion Books. The YA series is a prequel trilogy to the author’s famed Repairman Jack novels. The Jack trilogy features the future mercenary as a young adventurer solving mysteries in the world of the occult.

5) Also in YA news, the film adaptation of best-selling SF novel The Hunger Games, the first in the Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, is rapidly filling in its cast. In addition to Jennifer Lawrence playing the main role of Katniss, the film will star Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale. The Hunger Games is a post-apocalypse story in which a blasted and torn North America has become an empire where the rich and privileged live with technology in a central city while the poor struggle to survive in walled-in slums. In retribution for a failed rebellion, these poor neighborhoods have to sacrifice two of their children each year to participate in televised gladiator games to the death, the winners of which will bring prizes and food for their home area. Katniss and Peeta are forced to compete in the games, and Gale tries to help Katniss and protect her family. Other new casting: Willow Shields will play Primrose, Katniss’ sister, Amanda Stenberg will play the pivotal role of Rue, another competitor, and Dayo Okeniyi will play Thresh, an older competitor. The movie is coming out from Lionsgate with Gary Ross directing.

6) Sony Pictures Entertainment announced on Monday that actor Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith will star together in director M. Night Shyamalan’s up-coming science fiction film. The movie is set a thousand years in the future, when the two characters as father and son will have to navigate an abandoned Earth after their spaceship crashes. Shyamalan’s track record on movies for the last several years has been all over the place after the smash horror film The Sixth Sense. Most recently, he annoyed a lot of people in directing the anime martial arts adaptation The Last Airbender with a way more anglo cast than the original creation. It’s to be seen whether Smith, who is co-producing the new film, and his son, who starred in the hit remake The Karate Kid, can provide the juice needed for such a big budget production.

7) Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wasted no time after leaving politics in returning to his Hollywood stomping grounds. His first project is a satiric animated superhero t.v. series called The Governator, after the nickname given to The Terminator star when he took political office. Schwarzenegger teamed up with comics legend Stan Lee to produce the series and a tie-in comic book series, and lends his voice to it. The Governator is about the triumph of marketing – also about the man himself taking names as governor and fighting deadly robots or whatever.

8 ) Also a blast from the past, the Wyld Stallions will apparently ride again in a reunion picture of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter earned cult fame playing two California teens who learned that they would one day bring peace and harmony to the Earth through their band and who time travel with the help of George Carlin to complete their high school history project and keep the future on track. In Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, the sequel, Bill and Ted have to deal with Death and other problems. The franchise also spawned an animated t.v. series. Twenty years later, Reeves and Winter are agreeing to do a third film in which the now grown-up boys find the predicted future didn’t happen and time travel to find out why. George Carlin unfortunately passed on in 2008, but given Reeves’ star status and the cultural touchstone of the films, the new movie is likely to draw a nice cast. Reeves, who throughout his career has been accused of actually being just like Ted, the role he played, is probably going to have a lot of fun with it. Winter became a director as well as continuing to act, and produced the sketch comedy show The Idiot Box.

9) And yet another blast from the past, it’s been confirmed that there will be an Evil Dead re-make. The cult film franchise, the first one guerrilla film-making in their youth by director Sam Raimi and actor-director Bruce Campbell, has become legend, with fans eagerly hoping for a fourth Evil Dead film. That plan never quite came together, but Campbell and Raimi are executive producing the re-make. Campbell, who is currently busy on the spy t.v. series Burn Notice and making My Name is Bruce 2, may make a cameo in the new version of the film that made him a god of all SFF conventions. I can’t see anyone else playing Ash, the young man whose friends turn into demon zombies in a cursed cabin in the woods, but if they’re going to remake something, it might as well be something both crazy and good. Shemp lives!

10) On the book front, since 1968, Anne McCaffrey has been writing novels about the Dragonriders of Pern, the post-apocalypse colony planet with genetically engineered dragons. And now movie-t.v. technology has finally caught up with her, and Dragonflight, the first Pern novel, is being turned into a live action movie. David Hayter, who has worked on everything from Transformers to the up-coming Real Steel, will write the screenplay. I’m guessing it’s going to be in 3-D. I will not lie; I have always wanted a fire lizard.

11) Earlier, it was reported that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt would join his Inception director Christopher Nolan’s last Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, as Alberto Falcone, son of mob boss Carmine Falcone, played by Tom Wilkinson. This was apparently incorrect. Instead, Gordon-Levitt will be playing John Blake, a Gotham City beat cop who gets a special assignment from Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman.) (I’m guessing one that proves very traumatic.) Other Inception stars are also on board in the new picture: Tom Hardy will play villain Bane, and Marion Cotillard will play Miranda Tate, a Wayne Enterprises board member. Anne Hathaway will be taking on the role of Catwoman, following in the footsteps of Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry and leading to endless costume speculation. After The Dark Knight Rises, they’re going to start all over again with a reboot, because that’s just what they do.

12) The much-anticipated and darkly sumptuous television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones, debuted on Sunday, April 17th, to a fruitful audience of 4.2 million, and HBO has already renewed the show for a second season. So we can all breathe easy now. The second season will follow the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings. Game of Thrones is produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

13) After much harrumphing and complaints that they needed to at least come into the year 2000, Analog, the venerable and always cool science fiction magazine, is now accepting electronic submissions of stories. In fact, they say that they will prefer to get their submissions electronically, but through their website, not as email. Editor Stanley Schmidt asks for patience as they get the new system rolling. Authors respond: you really don’t know much about the Internet, do you, Stanley? But at least now the screaming can stop.

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Gender Silliness and SFF

So this Sunday marks the debut of the first episode of Game of Thrones, the HBO t.v. series adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s alternate world fantasy series, Song of Ice and Fire. Song is a favorite of mine, a spin-off look at the War of the Roses combined with a zombie invasion tale. It has a little of everything in it, with brilliantly done points of view, and I would have up until recently assumed that it was the sort of story that would never be made into film or t.v. But times change, and so they are bringing this vast story to life and all bits and clips so far indicate that it’s going to be pretty good. It will also be a template for what may be possible for fantasy fiction in the future in the dramatic mediums.

But girls, according to folk who pay selective if any attention to the world around them, are not supposed to like cool things, something I’ve been told all my life — and yet curiously ignored. And so the New York Times reviewer, a woman, roundly denounced Game as throwing in some romance porn for the ladies, most of whom would otherwise flee, to allow guys to go and enjoy their cool stuff (which curiously does not apparently include porn.) This bizarre review, which made almost no mention of the show whatsoever, was accompanied by another one in Slate magazine online, which also didn’t really talk about the show and instead had the reviewer, a guy, talk about how awful he thinks all forms of fantasy are. But it’s the New York Times one that really has everyone up in arms, because in 2011, after Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Supernatural, Smallville, Heroes, Dead Zone, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Charmed, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, the legendary Doctor Who, etc., not to mention times past — Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, The Wild Wild West, The Avengers, Lost in Space, The Flying Nun, Nightstalker, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Fantasy Island, Wonder Woman, Highway to Heaven, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Xena, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, etc.  — to declare SFF a guy thing when it’s your job to watch t.v. for a living is basically having your head up your ass. Not to mention virulently anti-feminist.

Of course, what the reviewer meant was that the D&D fantasy stuff — what she imagines that to be — is the guy stuff. Things like Charmed, where three sisters worried about their love lives while kicking ass with spells to save the world, that’s not the same thing as lots of political skullduggery and women and men running around with swords. Girls can play house, but not soldier, and definitely not against a dragon. Oddly enough, you run into this attitude a fair amount among hardcore fantasy fans as well. They might agree that Games is really all theirs.  And just like always, millions of women will ignore them.

Here’s the article, if you want to read something strange, and below is the response that I’ve found to be the funniest so far, from io9.

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Scat is More Fun

American Idol, which I’ve only been watching bits of, basically sucks this year. But a couple of years back, the producers realized that having the contestants sing duets sometimes on the results show did almost as well as having rock stars in to guest sing, if not moving as much merchandise. They teamed up Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams, two jazz singers with interesting voices who are utterly out of place on the Idol stage and let them wail. Which was a lot more lively and fun than any of the performances the contestants have been making.

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Stick Aliens in Pretty Dresses Persist

I haven’t had to do an aliens in pretty dresses post in awhile, for which I’ve been very glad. But I guess spring is likely to bring the stick aliens out in full force as clothing advertisers continue to use a skeletal starvation victim approach in selling their wares. The latest controversy occurred in Britain, when the Prada division Miu Miu did a handbag ad with model Kasia Struss, a 5′ 10″ very slim, pale model seen sitting in a mirror:

Complaints were made about the model’s diseased appearance, and the British Advertising Standards Authority reviewed the ad re the new rules there about anorexic models. The Authority ruled that lighting, the dress and make-up made the model look overly skinny and so the ad was okay.  If you think okay is using a model who resembles a concentration camp victim with elongated limbs to sell a handbag. It does make you look at the ad, but does it really make you want to get the handbag? Or worry that she will not be able to lift it? I’m hoping that they are right and it is just airbrusing, photoshopping, special effects and 1980’s lipstick that give the model her stick alien appearance. But lighting, clothes and make-up did not give her that collarbone and shoulders that scream anorexia, so I’ve really got my fingers crossed for photoshop.

This new controversy seems to have brought up again an infamous older stick alien controversy from two years ago, involving Ralph Lauren and model Countess Filippa Hamilton. A regular model for Ralph Lauren ads, Hamilton looked like this:

At 5′ 11″ and a Size 4 U.S., there’s not a lot of meat on her, but she’s purty and clearly human. In a Ralph Lauren ad that was over photoshopped, however, she looked like this:

(Yes, her pelvis is smaller than her head.) The stick alien ad appeared, mistakenly, in advertising for a Japanese department store carrying Lauren’s line of clothing before being pulled. Apparently, the Japanese didn’t notice anything was wrong with it.  But of course in the age of the Net, the photo spread round the globe, causing Ralph Lauren to throw a brief and useless legal tantrum, and to announce that no one was supposed to see the messed up photo. Towards the end of that year, however, Ralph Lauren dumped Hamilton as one of their models. Hamilton claims this is because Ralph Lauren saw her as too fat for their clothes.

What’s disturbing about this on top of the usual disturbing  is that Ralph Lauren, two years ago, at least understood that their stick alien picture went too far and was unattractive — even if they decided that somewhere between stick alien Hamilton and human Hamilton was where they wanted to be — whereas Miu Miu thinks their ad of a model who looks as if she needs to be hospitalized is a-okay, so much so that they are willing to defend it to British regulatory agencies.  This seems to indicate that the stick alien approach is becoming more prevalent, not less as hoped.

What also seems to come out of this in my puzzlement over the logic of advertising is that it shows it’s not the advertising companies driving it and conning the companies into it or the magazines, but the companies themselves. Clearly companies like Ralph Lauren and Miu Miu think that this look is a stylish lure for their clothing ads. They presumably have demographic research on this, which would be interesting to see, as my anecdotal reaction to such images is “oh wow, that’s totally gross.” I might not mind quite as much if they didn’t have the stick alien arms all the time. Those give me the willies.

In any case, please join me in sending good wishes for Ms. Struss to survive into middle age. Isabell Caro, the model who developed anorexia and became a prominent activist about this issue in the fashion world, did not. She died this last December at the age of 28.

Even if the laws she worked for are passed in countries to prevent companies from exploiting anorexic models and exacerbating their condition, there will still be the issue of this desire to photoshop alter models and actresses into stick aliens for ads. Which is why I didn’t put a Warning: disturbing image before Ms. Caro’s picture. Because according to companies like Miu Miu/Prada, Caro’s image isn’t disturbing at all.

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Interesting Writings for a Finally Warm Saturday

This is actually a short one:

1) The Borders Blog fake duels of words between authors is fast becoming one of my favorite things. (More on that in a later post.) Here’s one between fantasy authors Sam Sykes and Ari Marmell:

2) McSweeney’s writer James Warner takes us into the future of book publishing: – James Warner

3) An issue that authors, publishers, fans and bloggers need to keep in mind:

4) A rather depressing article about the difficulties small presses face in the online market and in general:


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Word of Mouth Goes Across All Boundaries

So it’s been a period of minor but serious and exhausting calamities in my household these past couple of weeks, so today, to celebrate having rode those out, my teenage daughter and I decided to hit the coffee shop inside the bookstore after school for baked goods.  And my daughter asked if she could buy some books while we’re there.  She knows that this is a win situation for her when out with her parents. Can I buy a game? No. Can I buy this blouse? No. Make-up? No. Can I have an iPad? Only if you win the lottery. But, can I buy a book? Ummm…

In this case, she’d been building a list, and as she pointed out, even though she has several books she’s still working on at home, it’s not like books go bad if you keep them around for awhile. So she’s trying to talk me into as many as she can manage, and she brings up this one YA book, a SF bestseller, but not something I had thought she was aware of. How did she hear of it? Well, she’s involved in this site online where lovers of SFF and pop culture from countries all over the world geek-out to their hearts content about the stuff they love, and some young folk who like things she likes recommended it to her. (They also have gotten her interested in watching Doctor Who. Luckily an Easter time marathon on t.v. is going to help us out with this.) And a video blogger she follows on YouTube recommended another book she really wants.

So I’m standing there in the store full of dead tree items, thinking, social media is causing my daughter to buy and read books. You know, the thing that is supposedly rotting her brain and causing her to be void of real and polite connections in the world. My kid is a child of her age. We had television, she has the Internet. She skypes with her classmates on school projects. She chats with a former school chum who now lives in Singapore. She is an ardent fan of a troupe of comic young actors in Chicago called Starkids who upload their stage productions to the Net.  She tells me news items in case I missed them about events on the other side of the world.

And she talks about books on the Net. She reads fan commentary on books. Columns written by authors of books. Book recommendations on sites. All mixed in with movies, t.v., comics, games, art, etc.  Word of mouth has always been the way that written fiction has principally sold and grown in awareness, along with art in general. On the Internet, word of mouth is bigger and it’s broader.

Now if I can just get her interested in gardening and putting away her laundry, we’re all set.


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Movie Trailers For A Lovely Sunset

Since the summer movie season officially begins in March now, kicked off with Sucker Punch and Paul, April is kind of like the way that  May used to be long ago and belongs to the comedies and less big action films. Besides the very dark, quirky superhero Super, starring Rainn Wilson, April brings us:

1) An Arthur remake. Okay, yes, first initial question is why do this, but by gender switching the butler and handing the role to Dame Helen Mirren, and letting Jennifer Garner explore her crazy side, the new flick manages to make some yucks on its own. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is his clowns:

2) Ceremony, a quirky comedy about a young guy, played by Michael Angarano, trying to break up the wedding weekend of his older ex-girlfriend, played by Uma Thurman, gets a wider release in April. The supporting cast looks like it runs away with this one, particularly Lee Pace as the groom. (We still miss Pushing Daisies, Lee.)

3) There have been many movies about high school proms, but this one may be the whackiest of them all, and from Disney no less. Prom, starring the next group of young ones to keep an eye on:

4) Hoodwinked was a terrific animated movie and a big hit across a wide age group.  It took them awhile to get the sequel off the ground, and so Anne Hathaway, who voiced Red Riding Hood, has been replaced by Hayden Panettiere, but the rest of the voice cast is back and joined by people like Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, etc. The gang, who have a cool new headquarters, have to save the fairy tale world from disaster when Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped in Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil:

5) The Scream franchise has gone through its ups and downs and the Scary Movie satire franchise, but now they’re back to end the thing properly in Scream 4, in which Sydney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, returns back to her hometown ten years after her ordeals, where her pain has become a lucrative tourist trade. And a new Ghostface Killer goes after younger stars like Hayden Panettiere (there she is again!) Emma Roberts and Kristen Bell, apparently not remembering that all the other Ghostface Killers met grisly ends. And yes, it is more fun watching David Arquette and Courtney Cox relate to each other as characters in the movie with an unraveling marriage, than in real life.

6) Dylan Dog is a famous comic book series from Italy that was set in London. This new film version adapted from the series moves the locale to Louisiana, characters have been changed and there’s still plenty of horror, but they’ve added a lot of comedy. Old fans will probably hate it, but for the rest of us, it actually looks rather fun with decent special effects for a B-level supernatural thriller. Brandon Routh, like a lot of actors, got a raw deal being cast in the weird Superman reboot and forced to stiffly channel Christopher Reeve. Since then, he’s shown more of what he can do in cameos in things like Chuck and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and here he plays Dylan Dog, a “nightmare hunter” private eye in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night:

7) Keanu Reeves plays a slightly dazed man who accidentally ends up in prison for a bank robbery, meets James Caan in prison, and when he gets out, decides to actually rob the bank he was accused of heisting in Henry’s Crime. It looks silly, in a good way:

8) Historical drama thrillers can vary, but The Conspirator, about the woman accused of being part of the assassination conspiracy of President Lincoln, looks kind of interesting and has a great cast:

9) I watched The Fast and the Furious and enjoyed it, but didn’t bother to watch the rest. But since they’ve now brought Vin Diesel back into the franchise and are upping the ante in the cast each time, the fifth one in the franchise, Fast Five, is looking kind of good. Watch the Rock deliver the killer line in the trailer:

10) I read Water for Elephants and it’s a lovely novel, but I’m not sure what made it special will translate well to film. Robert Pattison and cast attempt it, however:

11-13) Trailers I’ve shown before which have settled into April release dates: Rio, the animated comedy about parrots, a new trailer for that; Hanna, the thriller about a teenage girl who may be a secret government experiment trained to be an assassin by her father; and Your Highness, the stoner comedy gone medieval fantasy with a great cast:

And that’s April, a little something for everyone.


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