Friday, December 19, 2008

Girl Geek Must Reads

So it's Christmas, end of 2008, time of lists and lists and more lists.

So what is on your girl-geek must-have reading list?

1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog
This book is not brand new, but I just discovered it, and can't stop talking about it. Love philosophy, cheesy movies, Japanese pop culture, love/hate the French? You'll love this book!

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 (Season 8)
The year in Buffy comics. Let's face it: in a Bella versus Buffy smackdown, Buffy is hotter, stronger, cooler, and just an all-around better role-model. So, forget buying your neice one of the Twilight books - get her Buffy comics instead!

3. Pretty Monsters: Stories
Loved Kelly Link but was afraid Stranger Things Happen had too much adult content for your sixteen-year-old little sister? This short-story collection is still disturbing and weird, but safe for all ages.

More to come...but if you're still shopping, here are some names of some of my favorite short-story writers: Haruki Murakami, Osamu Dazai (Blue Bamboo is his best), Catherynne M Valente, Neil Gaiman (still charming - and I love his "The Dream Hunters" comic - gorgeous and touching)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Our Father" - Heroes Review

I want to like Heroes. I really do. In last night's episode, I loved how Claire and Hiro interacted to each other and to the scene from their childhoods. I loved Claire's sunny impression of a babysitter for her parents, Hiro's touching scenes with his dying mother.
And then the writers completely spoiled those wonderful previous scenes by having Arthur Petrelli appear in the past (who, as far as we know, has never shown time or space travel capabilities - or the ability to know where mutants (sorry, Heroes) are in space and time.) What the hell? It was like - well, we have no reason to believe Daddy Petrelli can do any of the things he just did to get here, but why do we care? We're the writers! Uck. Then poor Hiro gets defeated a second time by Arthur, just when his character was finally allowed to have some gravity again. Where's the love for Hiro's character, I ask?
And what's with the stealing of Buffy Season 4's "Initiative" plot line? Lame.
And you just know Sylar and Peter didn't really kill that Arthur character. Sure, they burn Elle, but they just leave Arthur on the floor like he didn't come back from a coma just a month ago?
In other words, writers of Heroes, really? Really?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Superhero Antiheroes

I watched and enjoyed Will Smith's Hancock, whose tales troubled production and mediocre reviews might make you expect a worse movie than you got. Now, the deleted scenes might help, too - the original movie felt very rushed, especially after the midway point. And some of the jokes seem geared towards the lowest common denominator. I loved Justin Bateman as a ethical PR guy trying to reform Smith's classic antihero, and I liked the explicit connection between the mythology of ancient worlds and today's superhero myths - something that I usually have to explain to classes when I'm explaining archetypes and the way that comic books reflect out culture in the same way that, say, Greek mythology reflected that culture at a certain point in time. I'm pretty sure the female superhero character was underdeveloped and underwritten - I wonder if trying to create the "twist" became more important than helping the audience connect to and understand her backstory?
Anyway, not the disaster I was expecting.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Video Games for Girls?

Salon just did a new piece on a female video-game designer named Mary Flanagan:
I've seen these kinds of articles before, and I'm interested: what do you think? Do women prefer different kinds of game-play - more social interaction, less puzzle-solving and shooting? Or is this a lie? There are a lot of you grrl gamers out there these days - what do you think?
My first experience with video games was my old Atari and the text game Zork. I also tried programming basic maze games and alien-or-asteroid zapping games in BASIC as a kid on my TRS-80. (Yes, I'm old enough to have had a TRS-80 as a kid!) Some of my favorite games currently are old-school Galaga, the first or second arcade version of Area 51 (the kind you can still find at pizza places and movie theaters,) some of the more advanced snowboarding games, or games that have an appealing storyline to me. I don't know if any of those preferences make me any different than my gaming little brother. I think maybe the gender thing gets overstated - I don't think girls or women need pink ponies or anything to pick up a game.
Do men like to play female video game characters purely for the voyeurism or because they are experimenting with gender-swapping?
That's an interesting question. Tell me guys - why do you play female characters?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Heroes has started to cheer me up by being slightly less bad! Yay! I hear Brian Fuller (whose Pushing Daisies, I hear, is sadly on its way out - a charming, offbeat show) may be back on the writing staff at Heroes. And what about Joss Whedon? Can he come write the female characters?
Anyway, this week's episode, which actually added human dimension to characters rather than spinning them through mystifying plots in all directions (clones? alternate futures? dead Linderman?) felt satisfying, and most of all, I felt that there was something at stake during the episode. They made clear-cut bad guys (like HRG's former boss) ambiguously good, while HRG himself seemed ambiguously bad, creepy even. They tied random bad fire dude from level five back to the cheerleader's biological mother - they are brother and sister. ("Remember what Daddy told you? God gave you a big sister instead of a brain.") This is something they always say in writing classes - there's got to be something at stake in the poem or fiction piece, or else, who cares?

Anyway, not enough to get me out of my chair to cheer, but definitely a positive direction.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Review of the new Futurama Movie, "Bender's Game"

So, of course, after the election, we went out and purchased the new Futurama movie, "Bender's Game," for some non-election-related relaxation. How was it, you ask?
Better than the first two movies. Better, but still not great. If you squint, and run the air conditioning really loud, you can make believe you're watching the old Futurama of the television series.
The animation seemed more expensive, more sophisticated, and I could also swear they've upped the budget and gotten a full orchestra going again (something missing from the first two movies.)
My favorite bits? "Tea with Morvo" and a "Scary Door" episode in which in which the attacking aliens' weakness is exposed...
Strangely, there were no references in the movie to "Ender's Game," which seems like a lost opportunity, and a lot of references to D&D and Lord of the Rings, some of which were funny, some of which were "meh."
My least favorite thing: a bizarre misogynistic bit having to do with Leela and a shock-collar that seems very female-viewer unfriendly, and bad guys labelling Amy's "water-nympho" character a "slut," which again, seems female-viewer unfriendly. You hear what I'm saying, Futurama writers? Get a girl to go over your jokes with you, boys, before you release them into the world. A cool girl. Call me, for instance. Although, I guess Family Guy does all right and contains tons of misogyny.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New season of Heroes

So, what do you think of the new season of Heroes? Better than season 2, but sort of a mashup-rewind of Season 1? What do you think of the new "Dark Willow" Claire-o-the-future? Bad ass cool, or just insane? Is Peter as annoying as ever? Did you not love Sylar's "You drink decaf, right Noah?" Hee! I think they must have finally hired a writer with a sense of humor over there, because I've laughed out loud during the last two episodes, and if I complained about anything during Heroes season 1, it was because it lacked humor.

So, what else are you watching this season? Doesn't the apocalyptic tone of Heroes seem a little too apropos these days? How about season 2 of Chuck?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Notes on samurais, vampires, and Miyazaki movies

Of possible interest:

A mini-series on ABC Family of all places called "Samurai Girl" about a San Francisco teenager who must avenge her brother's murder by becoming a samurai! Has potential...

The new series on HBO called True Blood has vampires and synthetic blood and Anna Paquin!

For you Miyazaki fans, news about Ponyo, his newest movie:
and also an update on possible US distribution of The Tales of Earthsea movie from Ghibli...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Buffy Updates: Buffy Versus Fray, Animated Buffster

So, I picked up the latest issue of the Buffy versus Fray "Season 8" comic, in which Dark Willow of the Future is revealed on the very last page (Whoops - is that a spoiler? But you totally know it's her all the way through the issue.) I'm enjoying this plotline - where Buffy learns that fairly sad state of slayerhood far in the future, and Fray's ongoing struggle with her evil twin.

And, via Television Without Pity, I learned about a YouTube version of the Buffy animated series pilot. It's good, not great, but still entertaining in that "I miss Buffy" sort of way.
Here's the story:
and the YouTube link:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why Twilight Sucks, Penelope, Hellboy II

So, you say you're interested in a series created by a Mormon housewife for teenage girls that encourages them to abandon their own lives and ambitions to hang out with a guy? Look no further! The Twilight Series is here!
To read more about why this series sucks, read this:
Not only does it steal from Buffy but make the main girl character much less interesting and empowered...But also, the writing! Hurts! my! Head!

Okay, on to more pleasant topics:

Hellboy II is a surprisingly romantic and funny superhero film, if a little uneven. I love the star and I love the character, so I was going to like this film no matter what, but the way the writer manages to inject a little sensitivity and existential questioning into a gung-ho testosterone fest is pretty great. The director's pacing left a little to be desired - there were at least ten to fifteen minutes that were realllly slow and served no purpose - but his visual reference checks:
--Miyazaki's forest spirit blooming onto the land in Princess Mononoke
--Indiana Jones fight with the giant German wrestler into the helicopter blades
--many scenes reminscent of Spirited Away and other references to La Puta/Castle in the Sky Robots
--the "welcome to diagon alley" scene in the first Harry Potter movie
are pretty flawless. So, overall, a thumbs up! I even give it a "date night" recommendation.

Penelope is a fairy-tale fable about a contemporary girl cursed with a pig's nose. The first half, in particular, is great - gothic and strange and Christina Ricci is so charming, as is a scene which has the main love interest character literally kissing a (ceramic) frog. Definitely worth a rental.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tips for sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers from Kelly Link

If you're a fiction writer who dabbles in sci-fi, fantasy, or the speculative thing, check out this interview with Kelly Link (author of one of my favorite books, Stranger Things Happen) - she talks about her work at the low-res MFA program at Stonecoast, her teaching gig at the Clarion Workshop in San Diego (with Neil Gaiman, fellow teacher) and general publishing stuff here:
Oh yeah, you have to get about 12 minutes in to get to her part of the interview.
Anyway, makes me wish I wrote fiction instead of poetry! I would sign up for that Clarion deal in a heartbeat - and maybe even sign up for another MFA!
PS Kelly Link has a new Young Adult book, Pretty Monsters, due out in October. I've been recommending her other two books (chock full of sex and violence) to teens, so I'm glad to have something on the "safer" side to recommend.

PS Buffy and Fray crossover comics going on now! So get to your comic shop!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kurosawa's Dreams

More from my series on the work of Akira Kurosawa...

Now, "Dreams" is a series of vignettes taken from, you guessed it, the dreams of the director. The main character starts out a young boy who witnesses a wedding procession of foxes, which is forbidden, and then goes to seek their forgiveness under a rainbow. He also speaks with life-sized dolls who celebrate a chopped-down peach orchard by dancing in ceremonial kimono. Several of the vignettes are explicitly about war - one in which a commanding soldier encounters the soldiers he sent to their deaths is particularly moving - and nuclear holocaust. Most jarring, although beautiful, was when the movie suddenly shifted into French - then English - in a piece about Vincent Van Gogh (played by Martin Scorcese) and the main character finds himself lost inside Van Gogh's paintings.
These pieces are really more like visual poems than a fictional narrative, with a lot of imagery and very little dialogue. A scene in which men are lost in a blizzard is little more than flying snow and sound effects of wind and walking for ten minutes - until they encounter "Yuki-Onna," a snow maiden. The sense that Kurosawa was trying to make sense of the Japanese society's (and his own personal) love of the natural world and the devastation that arose from technology and war really comes through in the film.
Since I've written both about the legend of the kitsune and Yuki-Onna, I really loved the film. It's not about action, it's very lyric and experimental. The more I get to know his work, the more I enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Futurama Movie - Beast with a Billion Backs

We rented Futurama's second movie, "Beast with a Billion Backs" tonight, and I can tell you after watching the first twelve minutes, I've already laughed more than I did during the whole "Bender's Big Score" movie, which was so bad I ended up watching the math lecture in the special features again and again instead of re-watching the movie.
An early satire of "Steamboat Willie" in "Beast..." was wonderful, and the special features were fun. In other news, the sneak peek at the next movie also looks pretty promising - a satire of LOTR.

Update: Well, sorry to say, it stopped being funny after the first twenty minutes. Then it devolved into an unfunny-tentacle-porn-religion plot thing. Which wasn't really good at all. But, at least the first twenty minutes were funny! Sigh. Futurama is apparently only good when kept to those original running times of a little over twenty minutes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Links between Mythology and Comic Books: Discuss

Dear Readers,
I'm teaching a creative writing class next week, and one of the main topics is the connection between ancient mythologies (Biblical, Greek, Norse, Japanese...) and comic books, Manga, and graphic novels.
So, I've got some examples (Superman was inspired by stories of Sampson and Hercules, Wonder Woman and her mother, Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, Miyazaki's Nausicca which was inspired by both the character Nausicaa in The Odyssey and the Japanese folk tale, "The Princess who Loved Insects...)
But I'd love to hear about more! Were the X-Men inspired by tales of demi-Gods? What about Batman and the tradition of the samurai? Tell me your favorite (or most obscure) mythology to comic book connections!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What's Your Dream Superheroine Movie?

So, the huge success of Sex and the City has made me optimistic about female comic book superhero movies, perhaps foolishly, given the terrible, terrible treatment given most female superheroines by Hollywood so I need to mention names? Aeon Flux, Catwoman, Underworld, etc...Bad writing, bad budgets, it's like they were trying to sabotage these movies or something!
But the success must mean that girls are desperate to see movies about...gasp...girls! You know, with stars who are female. And stories that are interesting to females.
So, besides the Joss Whedon Wonder Woman movie, what would your dream superheroine movie be? Who would you cast? Who would write it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NPR and graphic novels?

NPR has a story on the influence of comics and graphic novels on three writers, including Joss Whedon and the new Wonder Woman writer:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Feminists in Manga

Ain't It Cool news sometimes leads to amazing discoveries, which is why I read it despite the sex-crazed idiots that often post on its talkbacks - and review movies. Like this article that previews a new guide to Manga by Japanese Manga artist and, dare I say, feminist-type grrl Mimei Sakamoto.
Check out her cartoon from Time Asia: "When No Choice is a Good One: A Girl's Guide to Happiness in Japan"

And here's her scathing comment, as an anime fan or otaku herself, on the young male anime fan-fascination with "moe" (fetishizing innocence and childhood) anime:
"Perhaps it's because 'Train Man' (the story of an otaku who wins the heart of a pretty woman) was such a hit, but recently I've seen all these dorky guys walking around in thick glasses and checkered shirts and it pains my heart to think that they may be hoping to meet some pretty girl who's going to fall in love with them. Sorry guys, the chances of that happening are zero...This fetish you call 'moe' is a pedophiliac fetish and is nothing more than perversion. It's not really something you should be gushing over," the manga artist says, addressing the otaku. "In other countries, they'd call what you're fantasizing over 'child pornography' and you'd all be arrested. I'm ashamed that these 'otaku' who are perpetual criminals have entered the mainstream and started an otaku boom."

Pretty interesting stuff, huh? Here's the whole article on Aintitcool, which includes a lot of other anime news as well.

Monday, May 12, 2008

News - a Live Action Witchblade Movie?

Wow, first the live-action television show is finally out on DVD, now this!

A Witchblade live-action movie, based on the comic book, will start production this fall. I thought it was very promising that several Top Cow guys will be very involved in the movie. Here's the Variety article about the movie (Thanks Aintitcool News for the link!)

Those of you who don't share my enthusiasm for Witchblade yet, I hope the movie will change your minds. Sara Pezzini is the quintessintial ambivalent, tormented female comic book antiheroine.
Now, if only they would make a really cool Wonder Woman movie...Darn you Joss Whedon - why oh why didn't you make it when you had the chance?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Comic Book Saturday!

It sounds too good to be true - but it is! Check out your local independent comic seller this Saturday, May 3, for a free comic book!
Here's the web site for more info:

In honor of the day, this person posted some comic-related poetry on her blog, including my own "Female Comic Book Superheroes." Check it out!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kurosowa's The Hidden Fortress, and new comics!

After not being blown away by "The Seven Samurai," I finally got what Kurosowa fans love about him after watching "The Hidden Fortress," apparently one of the main inspirations for George Lucas' Star Wars: A New Hope. A spunky teenage heroine probably helped endear the film to me, as did repetitive use of curse words and slapstick humor by the two peasant/clown characters - who were the models for C3PO and R2D2. He had a great eye, a good sense of humor, a way with scoring, and a way of making a movie visceral and satisfying. If you haven't seen it, "The Hidden Fortress" is a suprisingly fun popcorn flick. I also felt that, besides the resonances to A New Hope, I felt there were echoes of the film in Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke.

A new comic series called "Fables" has been called to my attention, in which different folk and fairy tale characters come to life in the contemporary world, and I finally got my hands on the last three Buffy comics (I've been living too far from any comics stores for six months now...) And I read there's going to be a Buffy/Fray crossover soon, which is good, since I became very attached to Fray's character.

Monday, March 31, 2008

X-Files Movie

Is anyone else getting excited about the new X-Files movie? The more shaky, fan-filmed versions of the movie trailer I see, the better, I say! Still very few female tv role models can hold up to the scientific Scully, and I love David Duchovny in his role as Mulder.

In other news, the second-rate Japanese anime version of Witchblade is making me impatient for TNT's Witchblade non-anime movie and seris to come out on DVD, already! I guess the anime version's Sara is okay, but Sara Pezzini as the tough-talking cop who defied the always-bustier-wearing comic stereotype was better.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ten tips for great short stories

I'm not a fiction writer, but I think these are helpful tips, whether you're writing for a literary or a sci-fi audience:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Poetry, Robots, and Post-Apocalypse: an Interview

Think poetry and post-apocalyptic anime landscapes have nothing to do with each other? Check out this interview at the Poetry Foundation:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Teaching a Class on Mythology and Comics

I'm going to be teaching two weeks straight - two weeks of junior high kids who come to this site to learn to do art, to dance and to act in a play and make puppets out of wax and, with me, learn about the many connections between poetry, mythology, and comic books.
I grabbed up a bunch of illustrated mythology guides in case the kids didn't have much of a background - one illustrated Greek and Roman, one illustrated Norse, and a giant 40-pound World Mythologies Guide, which include everything from Egytpian, Native American, East Asian, etc, to African and Celtic, with lots of fascinating pictures. I'm debating whether to bring in a beautifully illustrated "Tales of Genji" I found in the Manga section, but it does have some female nudity, so it's probably fof the list.
Then I was trying to decide which comic books were safe enough - that is, free of blood-and-guts-and-nudity - to bring in for these junior high kids (who will be chaperoned, so I really can't break the rules.) Astonishing X-Men? Some new Gail Simone Wonder Woman? Fray? Buffy? Even the ones I consider pretty safe have a surprising amount of adult stuff in them.
Recommendations? Ideas?
I'm going to have them do some writing exercises every day, including writing their own creation-type myth, two persona poem in the voices of a villain(ess) and hero(ine), a character sketch of a comic book character that includes some archetypal realtionship to a mythological character...some fun, right?
Thank you, Centrum Young Artists Project, for setting something like this up. Should be a blast!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Poetry and Comics, Chuck Renewal

Bookslut alerted me to an interesting blog post:
on the relationship between poetry and comics. Obviously, as a comic book geek who is also a poet, this was an interesting topic for me.
I'm teaching a class in a few weeks in which I'll encourage kids to write about comic book characters, mythology, and even illustrate a comic book character of their own creation. It seems like a good way to include stuff kids are naturally interested in (say, comics and graphic novels) with things they may not initially be so excited about (ancient mythology, persona poetry, archetypes.) Maybe I'll post about how it goes.
I personally would love to have a poetry graphic novel or comic. Maybe publishers will start publishing hybrids like these soon.

In television news, Chuck was renewed, yay! Although boo, Heroes won't be back til the fall. Reaper has a few more new episodes to burn, but not sure about its renewal yet. In other news, we need more female-centric hero shows, no? Neither Bionic Woman or Terminator's Sarah Connor Chronicles really scratched that itch, what with their bad writing and bad acting and all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No Flying, No Tights

Sometimes you find a web site so uniquely cool, you must tell people about it right away.
Here is one:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Witchblade News, Heroes finale

Hey all! Sorry for the long haitus, for which I have very little excuse, except I moved, came down with a bad case of bronchitis, and have since been hiding out in the new rental house.

But this news item, if not the lackluster "season finale" of Heroes, shook me awake:
TNT's Witchblade series, inspired by Top Cow's comic of the same name, is heading to DVD release, finally! This series, especially the first season, was unbelievably exciting - lots of interesting, high-budget special effects, and strong acting (if not from lead Yancy Butler) fr0m a lot of minor characters.
Here's more, but not much more, on this release:

So, Heroes - Nathan getting shot was supposed to be a big surprise, but seemed sort of inevitable - Peter saves the world from the release of the virus (in older scripts, he did not) and bad old Kensai gets buried alive, a la Alias. This second season just didn't have the juice, the "wow" factor, or the first season, and I hope when it comes back it will be with renewed, more creative writers.

Anyway, that's all the news for now! Not watching much television due to the writer's strike, but looking into acquiring some Gaimon Sandman comics, among other things. Happy 2008!