Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year, New Projects

First and foremost, I want to wish all of my loved ones, family, friends, and readers a very Happy New Year. Thank you all for supporting me and my writing. It means a lot to me, especially in a tumultuous year like this. 

I have lots of plans for Hero Girl, and many exciting topics to cover in the weeks and months to come. But I am also pleased to announce that I have been asked to be a contributing writer to the blog Together, We're Better. TWB is a goal-oriented blog in which the contributors write about their goals and share their successes and failures along the way. Our goal is to help those with similar goals find strength and support to be successful. I will be writing about my continuing struggles with weight loss and better fitness. 

Take care and be well. See you in the future. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

Wishing all of my Jewish loved ones, friends, and readers a very Happy Hanukkah! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coming Back Home

I have been silent on this blog for a little over a month now, and I feel it is time to correct that. At first I took a small break because I had a medical issue I was dealing with. Then Thanksgiving came, and John was here for a while, and then the other holiday season started and I just got out of the habit of writing here every day. And it's not like I didn't have anything to say; I just didn't make the time to share it. 

My medical issue is something that is relevant to this blog and to people who read it, so I'll take a moment to share what was going on with me. In the second week of November, I was having a period that had already been going on about two weeks. I didn't think much of it, as I had bad periods when I was younger. But then I started clotting heavily, and something just felt wrong. 

As I've written about before, my brother Jon is recovering from an aneurysm. I took this quarter off school to be there for him, which left me with no insurance as my insurance is only active when I am enrolled. I don't qualify for public insurance (and I'm self employed as a writer, which has no benefits), but I didn't think it was a big deal. It was only for a few months, and I am pretty healthy. But as luck would have it, this issue came up when I was without insurance, and I found myself scrambling to find someone to help me. 

I called Planned Parenthood first. After many phone calls, including one to the regional office in Cincinnati, I found out that all the Planned Parenthoods in my area have lost Title X funding, meaning that they can no longer have a sliding fee scale. The only one that still has Title X funding in this part of Ohio is in Columbus, which is a full hour from my house. And because they are the only women's clinic that's able to help low-income women in roughly a 150 mile radius, they get a LOT of patients; so much so that they have a limited amount of appointments they can take daily and those are doled out in a lottery system. You have to start calling this number at 8am and hope you can get in. For someone having an emergency, that's not at all viable, but the clinic is swamped. 

I was going to go to the emergency room, figuring it was better than nothing, when my mother offered to pay if I went to Planned Parenthood. She wanted to make sure I got good, specialized care from a facility that would actually be able to follow up. I am very lucky to have my parents, and I am sincerely thankful for their help when times are rough. Not all women are lucky, but more than that, a low-income woman should NOT have to rely on family assistance for medical care. The gutting of Title X is shameful. How can "the greatest country in the world" let so many women fall through the cracks? 

Aside from all that drama, I found out that my clotting was caused by the use of tampons. The tampons caused abrasions in my vagina that were bleeding, and the blood was getting trapped and clotting. The nurse practioner said it looked like I had had a longer than usual period, which meant more tampon use, and that the current blood was caused from the damage. I could have kicked myself because I simply know better. I'm well aware of the dangers of tampons, but was using them anyway because I was being lazy and sometimes an insertable is more convenient. Sure enough, after three days of not using tampons there was no more clotting or bleeding. My vagina was sore for a while and felt very irritated but I am ok now. The period I had after it was completely normal. And tampon free. 

I will have insurance again in January, and I plan to continue using Planned Parenthood for my reproductive health needs. I got excellent care while I was there, and was treated with dignity and respect. I am very thankful they exist and I will keep at my Congressional representatives and elected officials until they pull their heads out of their asses about Title X. I encourage all of you to do the same.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Le Boob Tube

I count myself lucky for having the good fortune of growing up in the 80s and 90s, as it was an era of really great television. From Saturday morning cartoons, including 90 whole minutes of smurftastic Smurf time, to after school cartoons including The X-Men and The Tick, to having new episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 every week, to The X Files, to the rise of the animated sit com, it was an awesome time to be a television viewer. 

Some time after the end of TNG and Deep Space 9, I completely lost interest in live action television. Nothing held my interest, and nothing excited me. And live action sit coms were awful (with the exception of Herman's Head, which left the world all too soon). I got tired of the Home Improvement formula - well-meaning, lovable, but ultimately stupid and bungling dad has to be talked to like a child by the over-bearing, intelligent mom who keeps everything together while the dad floats around aimlessly and causes trouble. This formula was lampooned to great success by The Simpsons and is probably one of the many reasons it was popular. But this formula didn't reflect my life, nor the lives of anyone I knew, and it certainly wasn't the kind of life I wanted for myself. It was obnoxious and grating. 

So I stuck to animated television - The Simpsons, Futurama, The Critic, Family Guy, and later South Park. There were a few shows I liked throughout the late 90s and early 00s - Dead Like Me, Boston Public, and Dark Angel. I also became hooked on American Idol and watched every episode until Adam Lambert didn't win. And then I just lost interest and stopped watching. 

But then something awesome happened in 2009 - Glee premiered and I got hooked on television again. 

I love musicals. Love, adore, cherish, consume. I also love dark, twisted humor and satire, and Glee is all these things. It's an over-inflated parody of high school that still somehow manages to be sweet, touching, and heart-wrenching. The show has tackled some of the biggest issues that teens face today - bullying, sexual identity, living out as a GLBT student, navigating the often hostile cyber world, eating disorders, etc. They even took on teen pregnancy in a very blunt and direct manner, with teen mom Quinn often stating how much it sucks (she didn't keep her baby, but opted to have it adopted). And on top of it all is the great music. The current story arc that just ended was the group doing the musical West Side Story. This past Tuesday's episode used the music from the musical to tell the story of what the kids were going through in their real lives, and it was brilliant. I haven't loved an hour of television as much since TNG went off the air. 

And then last year I started watching Mad Men. I know, little late to the party. But I had Netflix and an interest in the subject matter as it's often studied in Women's Studies. I had a friend who started watching it and she said "Was it really like this for women? Could you really be groped in the work place?" Yes, sadly, it was. Man Men fascinates me for it's linear, real-time progression through the 1960s, and it's depiction of the evolving lives of women. Betty Draper is the epitome of "the problem with no name" that Betty Friedan wrote about in The Feminine Mystique in 1963. She is a bored and lonely housewife, suffocating in her white-washed suburban existence while her husband Don does whatever the hell he wants. Peggy Olsen represents the rising women's movement. She brilliantly points out that the discrimination faced by blacks are also faced by women. She tells a friend and civil rights supporter "There are clubs I can't go to because I'm a woman. The country club told me the only way I can have dinner there is if I come out of a cake." She uses this point to talk about the glass ceiling and how business deals are often made places that she can't even go to. It's all very fascinating stuff. 

Sadly, though, Mad Men isn't on right now and won't be back until about March. I have Glee, but I missed being in the 1960s for an hour a week. So how fortunate was it for me that Pan Am debuted? 

Like Mad Men, Pan Am is set in the 1960s and has a real-time timeline. But what's great about it is that the principle characters are all women. The show does a great job of showing the incredibly sexist and degrading physical standards that stewardesses had to endure just to keep their job in those days - wearing a girdle, stockings, make up, hair just right. They had to meet minimum height requirements and were weighed in weekly and had to keep under a certain weight. Christina Ricci's character, Maggie Ryan, often speaks out against it, and also speaks out against the sexual harassment the women often face from the male passengers. It's a great show, and like Mad Men, accurately portrays life for women in the 1960s. 

I also started watching these new shows:

  • American Horror Story - holy poop this show is intense. I always make the mistake of deciding to get caught up on my shows late at night, when I'm alone. Brilliant, I know. This show has me hooked, and I'm totally in love with Jessica Lange who is beyond fantastic as eccentric neighbor Constance. She steals every scene and is a force of Nature. What I love most about American Horror Story, though, is that it's scary in the traditional sense. It doesn't resort to cheap, jump-out-at-you tactics, nor does it turn into a gore fest like far too many horror movies today. It's just good and creepy, full of mystery and suspense. 
  • Once Upon a Time - another love of mine is fairy tales. I'm a lover and reader of folk lore and myths and love stories that assume fairy tales are true. The premise of this show is that a Wicked Queen has put a spell on all the fairy tale characters we know - Snow White, Prince Charming, Jiminy Cricket, Geppetto, Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty, etc. - and they're all trapped in the modern day town of Storybrooke, ME. The Queen's adopted son Henry (played by the awesome child actor Jared Gilmore who used to play Bobby Draper on Mad Men) has figured it out, and sets a plan in motion to unravel the Queen's plans. I can't get enough of this show. The principle characters are women - The Queen, Emma, and Snow White and none of them are feeble or stereotypical. It's refreshing to see a Snow White who isn't useless and helpless and who can take care of herself. All of them show their strength and capability without being masculinized or stereotyped, and I love that about it. I also really dig the naming conventions and word play - The Queen becomes Regina, Snow White's last name becomes Blanchard, Rumpelstiltskin becomes Mr. Gold, etc. I don't want to give too many of them away, because part of the fun of the show is figuring out who everyone is. 
  • Grimm - just like Once Upon a Time, Grimm's premise is set in the world of fairy tales. Taking inspiration from The Brothers Grimm, these stories are darker and more violent than those of Once Upon a Time and is more in line with American Horror Story. I like this show, but some of it is sloppy. For instance, the depictions of police work don't seem well researched and some of the plot devices are a bit contrived. But over all, it's a good show with promise. I'm interested in seeing where it goes. If nothing else, it's helping me brush up on my German. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Football and Rape

I have been debating writing about Joe Paterno and the child rape cover up at Penn State for a few days now. I was going to mention it in yesterday's Weekly Roundup, but decided it probably wasn't the right time or that perhaps this venue wasn't the best place for that discussion. But after the events of tonight, I can't hold back on this topic any longer, and I feel that it's more relevant than ever to talk about it here. 

Students at Penn State are currently on the verge of rioting. They are outraged by Paterno being fired for doing nothing when he found out that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting children on PSU grounds. Sandusky runs an organization to help inner city youth, and also has full access to the football grounds at PSU - the field, the showers, etc. And if you're having trouble putting two and two together, let me spell it out - Sandusky was molesting the inner city children in his youth organization on the grounds of PSU. The very children he was praised for helping were actually his victims. That alone sends me into a rage and is why I am up later than I should be, writing this post and getting it all out of my system. 

Paterno found out about this in 2002, and went to his superiors about it. They did nothing, and so did he. He did not go to the police. And now he has been fired from PSU and the students are pissed off. Not pissed off because of the child rape, but because Paterno was fired for helping cover it up. If that makes you angry, congratulations! You have a moral compass. 

I'm currently discussing this situation with my friend Matt, and he said "What the fuck is wrong with them? [the students] How can they be so stupid?" These were my responses:
There is a well establish precedence, particularly in Pennsylvania, that football is more important than justice for victims of sexual assault, rape, and molestation. Look how many sex crimes offenders are in the NFL, consequence free. It's sickening.
I think we've become way too desensitized to the plight of other people. We are exposed to horrific news stories every day (mostly via the internet), but at the end of the day we're looking at lolcats or bullshitting on Facebook. Most people read the news as if it were just another story on the internet and not as if real people's lives were impacted or destroyed. These kids are a product of that. Football is real to them. A faceless child who was raped is not. It didn't happen to them, they can't relate, they don't care.
I have been a victim of sexual violence. It's a horrible thing to go through, and no two people deal with it in quite the same way. But I can say with all certainty that recovering from sexual assault is made even more demoralizing and dehumanizing when the people around you praise your rapist and call you a liar. Can you imagine what it must be like for the victims of Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? (or as we call him around here, Rapistberger) To have thousands of people, including women, cheer him on week after week and call you a whore, all because you spoke up about what he did to you? Can you imagine what it must feel like to see your rapist get a slap on the wrist because he "found Jesus?" Or was part of the football legacy of a major university?

Now imagine you're a kid, and an adult has done a horrible thing to you. And imagine that another adult knew, and didn't help you. And imagine what it would be like to see the students at PSU rioting because that person was finally made accountable for their actions (or inactions, in this case). It's already hard enough to reassure a sexual assault victim that it isn't their fault, especially when the victim is a child. It's almost completely impossible to process that someone did this because they are a sick and twisted. It's much easier to believe that you did something to cause it. But you didn't. Some people are just that fucking evil. 

And I won't even get into how the Occupy protesters have been arrested in some places for far less than what these students are doing. It's un-fucking-believable.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Weekly Roundup

New of the Geek
Good Internet Reads
  • How to explain gay rights to an idiot. An awesome, illustrated guide to share with the idiot in your life who just doesn't get it.  
  • The Tetris Effect uses videos games to explain how everything went to hell.
    • When I was in fifth grade, we were sometimes allowed to use the computers in our school computer lab to play games. We were allowed to play them not because of them being fun or exciting but because they were "educational," because they were supposed to teach us things about the world, things that would help us in the future, as we grew up. Most of them weren't really games, it didn't feel like, even if that's what they were technically called. Just because you called typing or doing math problems a "game" didn't make it a game, I didn't think.
  • This is a great article from Jezebel on why older men chase younger women. And it's written by a man in case your knickers got sufficiently twisted on the first sentence. 

Neat Finds

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New on DVD and Blu-Ray today

13Vince Ferro is a man in desperate circumstances. While on a quick fix-it job, he steals an envelope containing instructions for a mysterious job that promises a potential fortune. He assumes a false identity and follows the instructions, only to find himself a numbered participant in an underworld Russian roulette competition, where gamblers place bets on who'll survive when the trigger is pulled. The stakes are high, but the payout is more than he can resist. Many are competing for the first time, and a precious few have even returned to play again, but are his odds any better than other players in this most deadly game? What will it take to be the last man standing?

Arthur - Irresponsible charmer Arthur Bach has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and the good sense of lifelong nanny Hobson to keep him out of trouble. Now he faces his biggest challenge -- choosing between an arranged marriage that will ensure his lavish lifestyle or an uncertain future with the one thing money can't buy, Naomi, the only woman he has ever loved. With Naomi's inspiration and some unconventional help from Hobson, Arthur will take the most expensive risk of his life and finally learn what it means to become a man.
Atlas Shrugged: Part One - Ayn Rand’s timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice comes to life for a new millennium. The year is 2016, and America is on the verge of economic disaster. The greatest citizens are being targeted, and dark forces are working to bring about America’s final days. Our only hope for salvation lies with Dagny Taggart and Henry Rearden, rugged individualists whose bold ideas may have the power to spark a revolution and reclaim to the American Dream.
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season - This season the Big Bang gang's romantic universe expands. On the rebound from Penny, Leonard falls into the arms of Raj's sister Priya. Sheldon gets a girlfriend, or rather a friend who is a girl: Amy, a dour neurobiologist who declares herself besties with Penny. Howard and Bernadette heat up. And so do Raj and Bernadette (at least in Raj's Bollywood daydream). All in the furtherance of award-winning genius comedy.
Boy Wonder - A young Brooklyn boy witnesses the brutal murder of his mother and grows up obsessed with finding her killer. Thus begins his life as a quiet, straight-A student by day and a self-appointed hero at night. But what is a real hero? And who decides what is right or wrong? As the boundaries blur, Sean's dual life wears on his psyche and his two worlds careen dangerously close to colliding. Like a graphic novel you can't put down, Boy Wonder challenges morality, distorting perceptions of what is right and what is justified, as it races to its shocking conclusion.
The Change-Up - Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star in the outrageous comedy from the director of Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover. One drunken night, two friends admit that they wish they had the other's life. Mitch (Reynolds) thinks Dave has it all: a beautiful, loving family and a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm. But Dave (Bateman) thinks Mitch's stress-free life without obligation or consequence is the real dream come true. The next morning they wake up, hungover, in each other's bodies, and proceed to freak out! With time not on their side, Mitch and Dave comically struggle to avoid completely destroying each other's lives before they can find a way to get their old ones back.
Doctor Who: Series Six, Part Two - Matt Smith and Karen Gillen return to DVD and Blu-ray for the second half of the hugely popular sixth season of Doctor Who! The first half of the season premiered on BBC America in April, 2011, to record ratings for the channel, and the continuation promises to be equally popular when it premieres this fall, promising new thrills, new monsters, and an unbelievable climax, thrilling beyond all time and space.
Life in a Day - Oscar-winning film director Kevin Macdonald's Life in a Day was born out of a unique partnership between Ridley Scott's Scott Free UK and YouTube. The film is a user-generated, feature-length documentary shot on a single day—July 24, 2010. Enlisted to capture a moment of the day on camera, the global community responded by submitting more than 80,000 videos to YouTube. The videos contained over 4,500 hours of deeply personal, powerful moments shot by contributors from Australia to Zambia, and from the heart of bustling major cities to some of the most remote places on Earth. Life in a Day brings together the most compelling footage from YouTube to create a 90-minute film crafted by Macdonald, executive producer Ridley Scott, producer Liza Marshall, and their teams. The film offers a unique experience that shows—with beauty, humor, and joyful honesty—what it's like to be alive on Earth today.
The River Why - Sick of living in a home shrouded with secrets, lies and a smothering sense of competition, Gus (Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights) runs away from home and the shadow of his famous fly-fishing father (William Hurt). Determined to live life like he wants it, Gus makes his new home in a secluded cabin on the banks of a river where he plans to fish all day. Instead, he is propelled into a quest for self-discovery. An assortment of eccentric characters, including a free-spirited girl (Amber Heard, Zombieland) who shares his fondness for fishing, helps him find his way toward adulthood. Based on a book that has become a cult classic and set in the breathtaking wilds of Oregon, THE RIVER WHY will cast a spell on your heart.
Supernatural: The Anime Series - The otherworldly TV phenomenon that is Supernatural makes history entering another world: as the first-ever live-action television show to be reimagined as an animé series. The internationally acclaimed animation powerhouse Madhouse Studios produces the show with the blessing of original series creator Eric Kripke. With storylines mirroring Supernatural’s first two seasons plus supplemental tales derived from prequels and spinoffs, this 3-Disc, 22-Episode Collection expands the dimensions of the familiar Winchester mythology. Journey down the backroads of America with brothers Sam and Dean as they search for clues to their father’s disappearance, hunt down the supernatural in all its unearthly forms and enter into the unexpected mystery of their destinies – in vibrant, exciting animé.

Hero Girl is Now on Google+

Today Google+ launched Pages, a way for users to create pages for their art, work, organization, etc. I created a public Google+ Page for Hero Girl to better help my readers get updates

I look forward to connecting with you on G+! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Best and Worst of Our Lives

Last month my friend Aimee attended the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX and made detailed reports about it on her Facebook wall. It sounded like a wonderful festival, and Aimee enjoyed herself immensely. Out of all the things she posted, one thing in particular stood out to me, and I'm bringing it here to you all today. 

During the festival, author Chuck Klosterman was asked the following question:
Imagine it's several hundred or a thousand years in the future, our civilization is gone and alien anthropologists and archeologists are excavating the earth and finding artifacts of our popular culture. What would be the worst thing you hope they would find and the best?
This is how Aimee documented his response:
Klosterman had some great answers. First he said the best thing would be his apartment, in tact, so that future beings would use that as a blueprint to base their own lives on. Then he said he'd give some more serious answers. He said the worst thing would be Tucker Max's book (Assholes Finish First), because that's such an untrue version of what the world is like and it would be a shame for them to think it was a real reflection on us. The best would be The Beatles' movie Hard Days Night, because they might think that we were all charming and happy. He said it all much better, but I didn't want to be rude and take notes while I was in there.
 Ever since I read this, I haven't been able to let go of the question. I have rolled this around in my head, each time adding to the lists, defending my answers, taking from the lists when my defense was stupid. But what I can't do is narrow the question down to just two answers, one best thing and one worst thing. I've never been the kind of person who can answer these kinds of questions succinctly. In a situation where I have to make a decision between two things, I can certainly decide for myself which of the two is the most beneficial. But when the selection pool is everything in the world, well I'm not so good at narrowing it down. Being a geek, I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and there are far too many things in the world I find fascinating. Add to that the fact that I'm opinionated (yes I know you're shocked), and that I spend a great deal of time assessing and reassessing the value things bring to society, and you can understand that I have things on both sides of the question that I feel strongly about. 

So after an epic internal debate, I have whittled my lists down significantly. Since the question says "our popular culture," I have decided to only include things in the 20th and 21st centuries, as anything older than that is no longer pop culture but considered classics. 

The Best:

  • Star Trek. I say this not only because I am a huge Trek nerd, but because Star Trek is hopeful science fiction that presents us with a world in which people are living and working together peacefully. The entire Earth is united, and we have strong allies with other planets. At the time the original Star Trek came out, it was revolutionary. There was a multi-ethnic, multi-gender, multi-species cast who all lived and worked together on the Enterprise. So I would want future people to know that we one day dreamed of a united, peaceful planet free of sexism, racism, and poverty. 
  • Harry Potter books (but not the movies). The wizarding world that Harry and company live in has its problems, no doubt. But among the witches and wizards that aren't followers of He Who Must Not Be Named you will not find racism or sexism or soul-crushing poverty. In fact, J.K Rowling created what is arguably the best feminist icon in modern literature - Hermione Granger. 
  • Rock and Roll music. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. All of the classics. Joan Jett, Melissa Ethridge, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Amanda Fucking Palmer, and though she's not rock, Adele. And modern nerd rock - Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants in particular. And I would be remiss if I didn't give a special mention to "No Rain" by Blind Melon. That song makes me very happy. 
  • Pictures of people with their pets. I think few things show who we really are better than how we love our pets. 
  • Role Playing Games. From pen and paper types like Dungeons and Dragons, to video games like Chrono Trigger, RPGs show off our creativity and imagination. And they're a hell of a lot of fun. I want future people to know that, despite everything, we had a lot of fun. 
  • And on a similar note, board games. Particularly Monopoly. Like Star Trek, Monopoly came out at a time when there wasn't a whole lot to look forward to, and it gave people an opportunity to step into another world where they had money and assets and have fun. 
  • My grandmother's meatloaf recipe. Cause it's delicious. 
The Worst:
  • Twilight. Yeah I know, it's easy to hate on Twilight. But I would hate for future people to think that women of our time were blank voids unless we had an abusive, controlling man lusting after us. 
  • Cook books of the 50s and 60s. There was some regrettable food back then. But I hope this isn't found just so we can save face, but so future children aren't subjected to eating ham Jell-O loaf at their 20th century festivals. 
  • Infomercials. I don't want people of the future thinking we were too stupid to use blankets, skillets, and knives
  • This video:
    • Now I try very hard not to be a judgmental person, but in this case I just can't help it. First off, your boobs are not a bag of holding. Second, this is your wedding. That phone shouldn't even be anywhere on your person on a day like this. I get so frustrated with people who can't disengage from their phones to watch a movie, have lunch, or spend time with people, but this just takes the cake. I certainly would like future people to know about our technological advances, but I don't want them to think that everyone was a slave to them. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Weekly Roundup

News of the Geek

Good Internet Reads
Neat Finds

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New on DVD and Blu-Ray Today

Bunraku - A mysterious drifter (Josh Hartnett) and a young Japanese warrior Yoshi (Gackt) both arrive in a town that has been terrorized by outrageous and virulent criminals. Each is obsessed with his separate mission, and guided by the wisdom of The Bartender (Woody Harrelson) at the Horseless Horseman Saloon, the two eventually join forces to bring down the corrupt and contemptuous reign of Nicola (Ron Perlman), the awesomely evil “woodcutter” and his lady Alexandra (Demi Moore), a femme fatale with a secret past.

Californication: The Fourth Season - The Showtime Original Series Californication ended season three with bad-boy novelist Hank Moody being hauled off to jail for assaulting the boyfriend of his troublemaking, underage, former fling Mia. His home life with Karen and Becca is in ruins, but the scandal surrounding the publication of his latest book has turned him into a hot Hollywood commodity – in more ways than one. Can Hank navigate the mess he’s made of his life and come out on top? Don’t miss the all-new season four!

Cars II - Star racecar Lightning McQueen and the incomparable tow truck Mater take their friendship to exciting new places in “Cars 2” when they head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. But the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes, detours and hilarious surprises when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage. Mater finds himself torn between assisting Lightning McQueen in the high-profile race and towing the line in a top-secret mission orchestrated by master British super spy Finn McMissile and the stunning rookie field spy Holley Shiftwell. Mater’s action-packed journey leads him on an explosive chase through the streets of Japan and Europe, trailed by his friends and watched by the whole world. The fast-paced fun includes a colorful new all-car cast, complete with menacing villains and international racing competitors.

Crazy, Stupid, Love - At fortysomething, straight-laced Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is living the dream--good job, nice house, great kids and marriage to his high school sweetheart. But when Cal learns that his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), has cheated on him and wants a divorce, his "perfect" life quickly unravels. Worse, in today's single world, Cal, who hasn't dated in decades, stands out as the epitome of un-smooth. Now spending his free evenings sulking alone at a local bar, the hapless Cal is taken on as wingman and protege to handsome, thirtysomething player Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). In an effort to help Cal get over his wife and start living his life, Jacob opens Cal's eyes to the many options before him: flirty women, manly drinks and a sense of style that can't be found at Supercuts or The Gap. Cal and Emily aren't the only ones looking for love in what might be all the wrong places: Cal's 13-year-old son, Robbie, is crazy about his 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica, who harbors a crush on Cal. And despite Cal's makeover and his many new conquests, the one thing that can't be made over is his heart, which seems to keep leading him back to where he began.
An Invisible Sign - Jessica Alba delivers a most unexpected performance as Mona Gray, a quirky young woman who has hidden in a private world of numbers ever since her father became ill. When Mona is offered a job as an elementary school math teacher, at first she is terrified but soon she introduces the students to her numerical obsession and inspires their own love of numbers. Can the joys of arithmetic multiplied by a shy romance with the school science teacher (Chris Messina of Julie & Julia) help Mona discover a new life she can count on? J.K. Simmons (Juno), Sonia Braga (Sex and the City), Bailee Madison (Wizards of Waverly Place) and John Shea (Gossip Girl) co-star in this offbeat and heartwarming comedic drama about second chances, emotional equations and calculating the power of love.

The Last Mountain - THE LAST MOUNTAIN is a spellbinding tour along the frontlines of America's most spirited battle over the environment and the economy. Set deep in the heart of Appalachian West Virginia, this consciousness-raising film captures a rowdy band of citizens as they try to stop a giant coal company from blowing up a pristine mountain for its coal. The daring solution proposed by this small Appalachian community takes on national significance when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. joins the Appalachian families to fight the extraordinary and insidious power of Big Coal. Featuring the stunning visuals of Appalachia, THE LAST MOUNTAIN is a passionate and personal tale that highlights the extraordinary power of ordinary Americans when they fight for what they believe in, showcasing a battle for the future of energy that affects us all.

Luther 2 - The dark psychological drama starring Idris Elba as John Luther, the near-genius detective struggling with his own demons, returns with two distinctive, thrilling crime stories. Devastated by the brutal murder of his wife, John Luther returns to policing in a different world. His old unit has gone and he's working in the newly created Serious and Serial unit, headed by former police complaints officer Martin Schenk. Luther quickly gathers together his team, rescuing his old partner Detective Justin Ripley from uniform. It's not long before they're dealing with their first case. A masked man wanders the streets of London, carrying out ritualistic murders in historic locations, working his way up to one final masterpiece... Crackling with energy and beautifully shot this series sees Luther take bigger risks and face even darker challenges.
The Nutcracker: The Untold StoryExperience the classic holiday tale of the Nutcracker brought to life like you have never seen it before. This all-new film features a highly-acclaimed cast including; Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane, Frances de la Tour and John Turturro. Join Mary on a magical adventure when her toy nutcracker comes to life and whisks her away to a magical kingdom filled with fantastical toys, sugar plums and dancing fairies. Mary soon discovers the evil Rat King is threatening the kingdom and in order to save the Nutcracker, Mary must uncover a hidden secret to free the prince and restore his kingdom. Based on the story that inspired Russian composer Tchaikovsky to create the music for the iconic ballet, the film includes eight new exciting songs written by Oscar®-winning lyricist Tim Rice (The Lion King, Evita).

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Inspired by the bestselling novel SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN by Lisa See, the film is a timeless portrait of female friendship. In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever. What unfolds are two stories, generations apart, but everlasting in their universal notion of love, hope and friendship.

Tabloid - Thirty years before the antics of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears were regular gossip fodder, Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney made her mark as a tabloid staple ne plus ultra. Morris follows the salacious adventures of this beauty queen with an IQ of 168 whose single-minded devotion to the man of her dreams leads her across the globe, into jail, and onto the front page. Joyce's labyrinthine crusade for love takes her through a surreal world of kidnapping, manacled Mormons, risqué photography, magic underwear, and celestial sex-until her dream is finally realized in a cloning laboratory in Seoul, South Korea. By turns funny, strange, and disturbing, TABLOID is a vivid portrayal of a phenomenally driven woman whose romantic obsessions and delusions catapult her over the edge into scandal sheet notoriety and an unimaginable life.

Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon - Talihina Sky is the story of Kings of Leon, whose strict Pentecostal upbringing in Oklahoma and Tennessee preceded their unlikely transformation into one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The film follows Nathan, Caleb, Jared and Matthew Followill back to Talihina, Oklahoma for their annual family reunion. This reunion serves as a catalyst to explore the band’s roots and the difficulties they faced growing up. Home movies, childhood photos and revealing interviews with family members -- including a colorful group of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins -- expose how the influence of their family has informed the creativity that drives Kings of Leon today. Now a multi-platinum act, Kings of Leon continues to feel the influence of their past while confronting the evolving set of struggles that come with massive success. The band’s achievements have rippled back home to affect their family, who take great pride in, and some of the credit for, the cousins who made it big.

Trespass - What happens when a man with everything - a beautiful wife (Nicole Kidman), a teenage daughter (Liana Liberato) and a wealthy estate - is confronted with the reality of losing it all? That is what Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) must come to terms with as he and his family become the victims of a vicious home invasion. Led by Elias (Ben Mendelsohn) and Jonah (Cam Gigandet), a gang of cold-blooded thugs holds Kyle and his loved ones hostage as they carry out their plans to take everything that Kyle holds dear, including his life.

Water for Elephants - Devastated by the sudden death of his parents at the height of The Depression, a young dreamer from the wrong side of the tracks, Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson), abandons his veterinary studies at Cornell University. With no other family, no house, and no money, Jacob stows away on a train carrying the circus performers of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Hired as a veterinarian to care for the troupe’s animals, Jacob is temporarily filled with the promise of an exciting life that comes with a traveling circus troupe. However, as he builds a rapport and falls in love with the star of the show, Marlena (Witherspoon), they become prey to the circus’s owner, Marlena’s violent and abusive husband August (Waltz). As the circus begins to crumble from within and against all odds, Jacob and Marlena come together and fall in love through their compassion for a special elephant. With their love on the line, Jacob and Marlena come to a crossroads that will forever change their destiny.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ride With the Moon in the Dead of Night

Happy Halloween, one and all! Today I'm going to talk about another Neil Gaiman classic, "Coraline." 

Written in 2004, "Coraline" tells the story of a little girl who isn't quite neglected by her parents, but they aren't very attentive either. They pass her back and forth, give her busy work to do, but Coraline is bored, even after exploring her new home and meeting her colorful neighbors. One day while searching through the new home, she finds a small, locked door that piques her curiosity. She begs her mom to unlock the door with the key she found in the kitchen, and is sad to see there is nothing but a brick wall behind the door. 

However, that is not the end of the story. 

At night, the brick wall moves aside to create a tunnel to a fantastic world that Coraline is all too eager to be in. In this new world, her parents are attentive, they make food she actually enjoys, and there are plenty of things to do. 

But this utopia has a price...

In 2009, Coraline was adapted into a feature film by Henry Selick, the creative genius behind "Nightmare Before Christmas." Though there had to be minor changes to the story to make it work on screen, it stays very true to Gaiman's original work. The changes enhance the story rather than take away from it. The film is done in stop-motion animation and the voice cast is an incredibly talented mix of actors. I saw it i the theater in 3D, and bought the 3D edition on DVD.

Also in 2009, a graphic novel of "Coraline" was released. It is the same story as the book, and doesn't use the art style of the movie. It is wonderfully macabre, and is exactly the kind of book I loved as a child. Though the original book has some illustrations, I think "Coraline" plays out very well as a graphic novel.

"Coraline" is a great movie to curl up on the couch to watch on a cold, dark Halloween night, or a great book to snuggle in bed with. However the story finds you, you'll enjoy it. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blizzard Apologizes for Homophobic Tirade at Blizzcon

Blizzard president Mike Morhaime posted an apology for the homophobic tirade presented at this year's Blizzcon:
It was shortsighted and insensitive to use the video at all, even in censored form. The language used in the original version, including the slurs and use of sexual orientation as an insult, is not acceptable, period. We realize now that having even an edited version at the show was counter to the standards we try to maintain in our forums and in our games. Doing so was an error in judgment, and we regret it.
I like they part where they "realize now" that alienating their LGBT players and customers by promoting hateful homophobic comments is wrong. Better late than never I guess. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stop the Sexy Costume Insanity

There is only one thing about Halloween that bothers me and that is the trend that has cropped up in the last five years or so that states all women's costumes have be sexy. Sexy nurse, sexy vampire, sexy barbarian, etc. Last year the insanity of this reached critical mass when I saw a sexy bumblebee costume. That's right, bees can now be sexy. I don't have an issue with sexy costumes per se, but when the only options are these sexy variants of every day things there is a problem. Even worse is that the sexualization of costumes is now reaching down into girls' costumes, and some of the ones you find in stores now are quite inappropriate. 

But there is hope! The website Take Back Halloween is a website dedicated to women with an imagination. It's not a store, but a resource guide to creating fantastic costumes that move beyond the sexy trend. 
So while you're getting ready for Halloween parties this weekend, know that you have other options than being a sexy package of M&Ms

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stan Lee Reads "The Raven"

This is one of my absolute favorite Halloween videos, and I have shared it with friends and family every year since I first saw it in 2008. Sadly the original website that hosted it isn't around anymore, but someone put it up on You Tube. I'm disappointed that they broke it down into two parts, though. Nonetheless, it is a very enjoyable experience. Excelsior! 

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