Monthly Archives: April 2010

Run, Batman, Run!

I’m not what you’d call a sports fan.  I like playing some sports.  I really enjoy the occasional basketball scrimmage, for instance.  But, I don’t particularly enjoy WATCHING other people play.  Maybe it’s because watching people be active makes me want to get out of my seat more.  Maybe it’s because they’re getting paid huge sums of money to essentially have fun and get famous.  Maybe it’s because I don’t understand all the rules of some sports (like in the case of American football).  Whatever it is, it’s always more entertaining to play a game than simply view it.  Sure there are some feats of athleticism that are so amazing and impressive that I don’t mind watching–gymnastics is a good example.  But, equally, there are some sports that are sooooo unspectacular to watch that I just can’t bear it.  Rowing, golf, bowling…all fun to do and not fun to view.  My girlfriend will watch ANY sport.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I came into the T.V. room to find her crying over a darts match once.  That’s right, crying.  Apparently, some underdog was winning.  (In my opinion all professional darts players are underdogs…at life).

Then there are the sports that are neither fun to watch nor participate in.  Marathon running comes to mind.  In fact, this past weekend was the celebrated London Marathon.  It’s one of the ‘big five’ marathons on the international circuit and comes in at just over the 26 mile mark (like all the biggies).  It’s also the NUMBER ONE fundraising even in THE WORLD!  Yes, even bigger than “Idol Gives Back” (you know, the annual episode of the program where they send people like Fergie into the third world and get them to hug poor black people).

So, I don’t want to denigrate the good work that people who run marathons are doing.  Bully for them and their terrific cardiovascular systems  and all the generous people who sponsor them for various charities.  But…it’s boring as shit to watch, isn’t it?  And it makes me my lungs and knees hurt.  That’s why today’s great thing goes to the fantastic group of people who help to provide a bit of spectacle.

129.  People Who Run Marathons In Costume

Here’s a normal boring-ass marathon runner…

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yeah, yeah, we get it...your fitness level is high.

Here is a heroic person running the distance as Pac-Man.

http://jazzrunner.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/pac-man-marathon-costume.jpg

Now THAT'S worth watching...

I think we can all agree that running a marathon is an incredible feat but it’s hardly a selfless one.  It’s not that I think altruism DOESN’T exist in the world, it’s just…come on…nobody runs a marathon for purely altruistic reasons.  Even if you are running it for charity and not for victory, you know you’d expect some minor rewards to come your way.  You’re running 26 miles!  You want at least a pat on the back if not accolades from your colleagues whenever you bring up the fact that you’re doing it, the pleasure of eating giant meals in preparation for the run and not least, the warm embrace of a tinfoil wrap to wear after it’s all done.  But pity the poor bystander who may be supporting that runner, as a friend or family member.  They’re gonna be standing there for hours watching a bunch of do-gooders jog by in Nikes and tank-tops.  The least you deserve, as a loyal spectator (doing the REAL selfless hard work of cheering people on and handing out cups of water)  is the slight possibility that you’ll be entertained.  Thank God for people like these two banana ladies.

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One banana, two banana...

What would be even more entertaining is if their presence caused other runners to do comedy pratfalls.  If only we could get two more runners dressed as ‘rubber chicken’ and ‘whipped cream pie’.  I’m also a big fan of runners dressed as superheroes.  It’s like being at Universal Studios Adventure Island (but with less roller coasters and funnel cakes).

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You go on ahead, Supergirl. I'm gonna hang back. That last cup of water must've had Kryptonite. I'm all cramped up and shit.

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I like that The Flash covering his junk with his number. Courtesy.

But, at the end of the day, I’m not critical of ANY effort to make the race a bit more interesting.  I mean, I have no idea what this guy/girl is dressed as, but I still appreciate it.  Let’s pretend that s/he is running as an iced-cream sandwich.  Yum.

http://rodale.typepad.com/.a/6a00e54f86af56883301157063a818970b-320wi

I wish I had a cookiewich right now.

Of course, runners should take some precautions before heading out in a gorilla suit or the like.  It gets mad-hot under mascot outfits, as any poor slob wearing a Chip or Dale costume from The Disneyworld parade can tell you.  I had to wear a mascot outfit once when I was an elf at a Santa’s workshop for The Erie Zoo.  Walking around with a giant costume head was stifling and I felt super clumsy in it.  And that was in the winter and in an enclosed space.  Let me tell you, my hot chocolate breaks were frequent and necessary.  So, here’s a couple of links from runner’s sites about how to do it right:

Elitefeet

Runner\’sworld

Mercifully, this whole costume/dress-up thing is a trend that has legs (no pun inte–well OK, yes I like it.  Pun indeed intended.)  You’ll find runners putting the effort in at most of the major races nowadays.  Whilst NYC’s most recent put out some good efforts (my fave being Mr. Incredible), I think this year’s London race wins by a mile.  They’ve thrown down the gauntlet for the 2010 marathons, in my opinion.  Check out the best of lists here as linked below and judge for yourself.

NYC 2009

London 2010

Come on NYC 2010!  There’s still time to take the title this year.  You can start prepping for the marathon here:  The best costume shop in the world?

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Filed under Hobbies, People

Good at Fighting Crime and Probably Softball Too.

Even folks who have never entered a comic store (nary an Atomic Comics or Dragon’s Lair have they patronized)  are at least familiar with the character of Batgirl.  This is largely thanks to her presence in other Bat-media–cartoons, films, television, etc…  But not many people, outside the minerdity of us that still purchase and read actual paper-based comic books, know that there’s also a character called Batwoman.  In fact, there’s been a Batwoman since Detective Comics 233 (which was published way back in 1956)  I know, can you believe that Detective already had 233 issues by the mid fifties?  Dang.  I haven’t done anything 233 times.  Anyway, her name was Kathy Kane–a loving homage to Batman creator Bob Kane.

Today, I’d like to celebrate the reincarnation of that supremely excellent superheroine.

128.  Batwoman

I should clarify here that I think her current incarnation is the one that’s deserving of the praise.  I must confess that I haven’t read many of her 1950’s based exploits.

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Go on, smash through that glass ceiling! Ka-Pow! (tinkle tinkle tinkle)

When Kathy Kane (that’s The Bat-Woman if you’re nasty), first debuted it was due to some shocking allegations made by one Dr. Frederick Wertham.  An alarmist who blamed juvenile delinquency on comic books.  Violent, sexy, cheap, delicious comic books.  I’d like to call his allegations baseless…and for the most part they were…but one of the biggest bones he had to pick with comic book publishers was what he viewed as Batman’s unhealthy homosexual relationship with Robin.  I think what Wertham did was wrong wrong wrong and the comic book industry is still reeling from the restrictions that he helped to implement.  He’s the senator McCarthy of the publishing world!  But, come on–look at this picture.  The guy may have had a point.  Homosexuality shouldn’t have been scorned or criminalized anyway, but truthfully, Batman did come off a bit gay.

They left out Batman's second thought-sentence: "No homo."

Regardless of whether or not Batman was a chicken-hawk to Robin’s twink, Wertham went on about it that much that DC felt that they HAD to do something to salvage Batman’s reputation.  So, they did what most Hollywood agents do, they got him a beard.  Kathy Kane, like Bruce Wayne, was a socialite with seemingly endless resources and a penchant for dressing up to punch people.  The comics will tell you that she did it all to get Batman’s attention (straight girls are nuts), but I think it was because she was bored.  I mean, what else is a rich girl from the 1950’s supposed to do?  She has staff to cook and clean, after all, so she’s not needed for chores or domesticity.  It was either fight crime or take up drinking.  She was a sort of Calamity Jane to Batman’s Wild Bill Hickok…very ‘anything you can do I can do better” in a very flirty way.

One of the best things about the Bat-Woman of olde is that instead of having an androgynous utility belt, she actually lugged around the more feminine utility purse!  All of her gadgets were built to look like stuff you’d typically find in a purse, but with a vigilante purpose…like a lipstick that was a telescope, exploding hairnets and crap like that.  This was obviously pre-cargo pants days.

At any rate, this saucy character enjoyed both popularity and some romantic attention from Batman until Julius Schwartz, then editor of DC comics decided to tidy up the ‘Bat-Family’ in the mid sixties.  He got rid of all the second stringers, like Ace the Bat-Hound, Bat-Mite, and yes, Bat-Woman.  She pretty much remained unspoken of until the 1980’s when ALL of the DC Universe decided that they needed to do some spring-cleaning with their wonky continuity.  At this point, characters like Batwoman were labeled as being ‘from another alternate universe’ and pretty much frog-marched off the plane of existence.

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Skip forward to two confusingly redundant continuity-fixing mega-events later, and we have a REintroduction of the Batwoman character.  But, this time…get this…she’s a gay!  Seems to be the ultimate justice doesn’t it?  Suck it, Frederick Wertham!  You don’t know how much my head exploded when I first caught wind that this character was coming back as a homo!  Full disclosure time, I’m a massive Bat-fan.  I also have a rich Walter Mitty-esque alternate life that runs through my head.  Yes, when I was 13, I thought if I just worked a bit harder in my karate classes then I too could become a member of the bat-team (or possibly a ninja turtla), but, like in REAL LIFE!    Yes, I practiced jumping off of furniture and landing softly.  And yes, I’ve always wanted to carry smoke bombs around with me just in case I needed to make a quick getaway.  Do you know what it did to me when I found out her name was going to be Kate?  Kate Kane?!  My name’s Kate!  Granted, she’s a Katherine and I’m a Kathleen, but still…OMG, it’s like I really am Batwoman!  Plus, I dated a girl named Vicki once!  Batman dated Vicki Vale!  Aaaaah!  Crisis in Deluded Woman-child Brain Matter!  I hope she gets a cool motorcycle.

The Batwoman of today is still a rich girl, like she was in her former incarnation (her stepmother is extremely wealthy).  Why don’t all socialites fight crime?  The rest of her back story is thus:  Basically, she grew up a military brat.  In early childhood she had to watch as her mother and twin sister were executed in a botched kidnapping.  Her father, a colonel, had tried to rescue them.  She was sent to a military academy but was kicked out after refusing to lie about a romantic relationship she was having with another female pupil.   After fighting off a mugger, she witnesses Batman swoop in to help at the last-minute and is awestruck as he just as quickly vanishes into Gotham’s nighttime skyline.  So, she does what ALL good socialites should do, she steals high-tech military equipment and starts fighting crime on her own.  Her Dad, no dummy, quickly learns what she’s doing and agrees to help her in her missions (advising and providing further training and such).

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Looking a bit like Kate Pierson from the B-52's here, yes?

Anyway, flash forward to almost two years later and the character is sooo popular that she’s going to get her own series.  More exciting than that, Greg Rucka, who pretty much gave birth to her is going to continue writing her and the art will continue to be supplied by one of today’s most celebrated pencillers, JH Williams III.  Pop open the champagne and throw the confetti!  Whoop whoop!  Let the parade begin!  A lead lesbian character in one of the big two publishers?  Free at last, we’re free at last!

And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t happening anymore.  Greg Rucka had some disagreement with whosey whatsey or needed to do another book or focus on his own creator-owned characters or something and for the last few weeks, I’ve been left to grieve what could have been.

The timing of this gushing write-up is due to the fact that I’ve recently learned that this character, who was created in the fifties, then shelved by editors that were sweeping unessential bat-characters under the rug, then erased from continuity, then revived in a new form, then almost lost to us again, is still alive!  JH Williams III has, heroically, stepped up to the plate and agreed to write as well as pencil Batwoman’s solo title.

Speaking honestly, I am trying to lower my expectations for this book, just a wee teeny tiny little bit because right now they are unrealistically high.  Greg Rucka is such a terrific comic scripter that I don’t know if Williams III will be able to reach the same caliber in his storytelling.  It’s like taking the next lap in the pool after Michael Phelps has gone.  But!  There are a handful of pencillers that have been able to do both the drawing and the writing successfully in the past:  Alan Davis for one.  Plus, he’s going to get a bit of help from writer W. Haden Blackman AND penciller Amy Reeder when he needs it.  So, I think all in all, she’ll be in good hands.  Williams III certainly has respect for the character (he did get rid of those ridiculous high heels that she debuted in during his recent work on Detective–a good move.)  What follows is an excerpt from a NEWSARAMA interview:

Newsarama: Back to Batwoman’s costume – as many folks have noticed – you took her heels away. While female readers are certainly thanking you, where did this decision come in at?

JH Williams: This falls into what I mentioned above about the “hokiness” factor. Heels are fine and all in the right context but that didn’t fit the context that Greg and I wanted for this character. It was also important to us to present a character that would appeal to both men and women. I don’t think the previous aspect of her really did that. It weakened her in terms of how much you could believe in her. It was not changed to dampen her sexiness in way, but rather for her to have a different kind of sexiness. A tough as nails attitude that anyone could believe in, but no one in their right mind is going to jump from rooftops with agility wearing high heels.

Here’s the interview in its entirety if you’re interested:  Newsarama.

JH Williams II is no chump.  The team also promises to continue focussing on her fascinating back story and expanding her rogues gallery as well as maintaining the intriguing balance of light and dark within the character.  I won’t give anything away for folks who may wish to chase up the last story arc in Detective Comics, but the introduction of her first rogue was definitely worthy.  Alice speaks only in Lewis Carroll quotes (fitting tidily into the Bat-Universe of villains).

Further mirroring Bruce Wayne, the character has already had the figurative snot beaten out of her and lived to tell about it.  Whilst Batman may have had his spine broken by Bane, Batwoman has been stabbed in the heart by a cult hell-bent on sacrificing her to the God of crime.  Badass!  (Although, she might want to work on keeping those defensive hands up whilst engaging in the fisticuffs).

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JH Williams III...mighty fine stuff.

For further commentary on the lesbians of Gotham, check out an article that wrote up for Prism Comics recently.  Prism Renee Montoya, the current face behind the mask of The Question, is an ex-girlfriend of Batwoman.  Dyke drama!  I’m just loving the mainstream success of this character.  Sure, lots of idiots have protested her sexuality, but just as many folks have been way more than cool and were just as disappointed as I was when the Batwoman title was momentarily without a future.  The only way that Kate Kane/Batwoman could possibly be any more awesomely gay is if someone put images of her (and of Batgirl too) in a photo montage with  “You Were Always On My Mind” by The Pet Shop Boys as the backing track on YouTube.  Oh, look!  Unbelievably, someone has actually done that!  Enjoy:

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Filed under Comics

Ellen Makes Even Shooting Fish In a Barrel Funny

I can’t lie…I haven’t been the best Ellen fan lately.  My admiration for her hasn’t wavered.  She’ll always be a shining beacon of what is good in this world.  But, even though she’s on television more than ever nowadays, I rarely get to tune in.  They only broadcast her talk show when I’m at work over here.    Also, I just don’t care about American Idol anymore.  I don’t doubt that she’s making it ten times  more watchable.  But, I don’t think I could get enthused about Idol nowadays even if My Mom were the fourth judge.  I think it’s because I rarely agree with who wins.  Adam Lambert losing last year was kind of a last straw type thing for me.  No offense to the perfectly adorable Kris Allen.  But, backing the more talented losing horse every year just shreds my nerves.

In this way, I feel like I’m not being a very good fan.  I can’t be a completeist with all of her appearances.  Her very omnipresence makes it too difficult.

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I am everywhere, man.

However, I still relish the occasional clip from her show now and then.  Ellen is just as easy to love in small, snackable bits.  It always feels like I’m falling in love with her comedy again for the first time.  That’s why today’s great thing is:

127.  Ellen Demonstrating The Hawaii Chair

The Hawaii chair  is one of those television offer-type products.  It can cost well over three hundred bucks and it looks like a fairly uncomfortable office chair.   One website that is shilling a version of the product describes it as a:  “MULTI SPEED ELECTRICALLY DRIVEN MASSAGE CHAIR, 3 SIZES AVAILABLE
PUT YOURSELF IN SYNC WITH NATURE’S CYCLICAL RHYTHMS”!  Yes…Earth’s natural, vomit-inducing rhythms…  The benefits of sitting in such a chair and allowing yourself to be jerked around in it are supposed to be in the building your core abdominal strength…you know, like Pilates for people without gym memberships.

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Sit and spin, buddy!

MSNBC reviews the chair here:  Product Tested Though this is a serious product review about The Hawaii Chair’s perceived health benefits (or lack thereof), the video clip that is embedded is still side-splittingly funny.  There’s just no way to sit on this chair, while it’s in ‘on’ mode, and maintain your dignity, it seems.

Still, nobody can point out the inanity of this product better than Ellen can in her silly, fun-loving way.  Watch her and adore:

The chair has made a few subsequent appearances.  (I think we can all agree that it has the necessary appeal to become a recurring prop).

Here Ellen invites some lucky audience members to enjoy the ‘workout’ during the show.  Look how excited the guests are as they run down.  I know it’s because they’re suddenly on teevee, but let’s just pretend that it’s all for the opportunity to use the Hawaii Chair:

Lastly, here is Ellen surprising Rob Lowe with a Hawaii Chair:

It seems that no matter who is inhabiting the Hawaii Chair, all chair-sitters just wind up with their legs to the side, being relentlessly pushed and bullied up against those rather uncomfortable looking blocky arms.  NASA should use these to teach about motion sickness.

The Hawaii Chair is also sometimes  known as the Hula Chair…or is that a competing brand?  Honestly, I couldn’t even be bothered to check that info out…what with my midsection being all static here in my regular chair.  I feel sluggish and not muscular (torsally speaking).

For extra bonus fun, here’s a parody ad for The Snuggie.  Jack Douglass (who is responsible for this) has a few doozies on his YouTube page:

Oh, one last thing.  About American Idol–make no mistake, Crystal Bowersox should win.  I don’t watch, but I still have an opinion.

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Filed under comedy, People, TV

Party Peeple

When I think about good things that come from Pennsylvania a few names pop up in my head immediately.  Tina Fey…Gertrude Stein…Gene Kelly…My Mom…and today’s great thing:

126:  Marshmallow Peeps

It being Easter-time right now, I figure it’d be practical to write about these festive little treats.  It should be noted, however, that Peeps aren’t just for Easter anymore…they release different Peeps for almost every holiday now.  They’ve got trees at Christmas and bats and pumpkins at Halloween, and teddy bears at Valentine’s Day.  Though, to be a wee bit critical, I don’t think any of those things make anything near a ‘peep’-type noise.  Baby chick marshmallows at Easter were how they started, of course, and the little bunnies followed swiftly after.  Though they were originally dreamt up by a Russian immigrant in NYC, production soon moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Incidentally, Just Born Candy Co. also makes Mike and Ike, another favorite of mine (though sometimes I wish I could buy a box of JUST the red ones).  Here’s their website.  It’s got pics of the Peepster (a tricked-out VW Beetle):  Just Born

I brought some Peeps back from America for my British co-workers and just passed them around a few days ago.  I hadn’t realized what a curious novelty they were until I saw their reactions.  At first befuddled, they didn’t instantly recognize them as foodstuff.  I explained that they were essentially just marshmallows with crystal sugar on them which had been dyed a festive color.  They were delighted but conflicted… my manager said, “It doesn’t look like you should eat it”.  Though that’s true for many health-related reasons, what she meant was that it was too cute.  That feeling is normal, I assured them.  I advised them to tear the head clean off so that the pangs of guilt would abate.

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Too cute to die...

In trying to explain the omnipresence of Peeps in American culture, I found that I didn’t really know where to start.  I heard myself going on about different holidays but mostly Easter and that they’d sometimes get Easter grass stuck on them from your basket and if you leave them out in the open air they go a bit hard but some people like them that way and other people microwave them.  I wasn’t making much sense (though that’s not a new sensation for my British co-workers when I’m talking at them.)  But there is truth in my confusing tangent.  Everyone likes their Peeps in their own way.  Some prefer one shape to another, some like ’em fresh and some prefer stale.  Some clever folks will top their hot chocolate with a Peep–letting it melt down into the scalding deliciousness  (I would have to tear the head off before I did this).  Others freeze them (something I’ll have to try).  Some people even play games with them.  There’s something called “Peep Jousting”, wherein you and a partner each stick a toothpick into a Peep and place them in the microwave.  As they melt, one Peep will inevitably stab the other first.  The winner gets to feast on both gooey corpses.  Barbaric.

Some people like to wear their Peeps on their chest:

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Peep fashion

https://i2.wp.com/rlv.zcache.com/love_is_marshmallows_rolled_tee_tshirt-p235717281670768022t59a_210.jpg

You got that right!

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Rollin' out...

Some people like to disguise their children as Peeps:

Makes children easier to love...

I love the very showbiz pose that this toddler has been ordered to strike.  His/her knees have barely hardened and already she/he’s been put to work.

Some people spend hours crafting dioramas for Peeps.  Did you know that?   Did you know that there is an annual Washington Post-sponsored “Peep Show”?   This is perhaps the most awesome link that I’ve put on my blog to date.  I implore you to click on it.

Breathtaking.

Knowing that this contest exists…and that SO many people participate in it makes me want to keep living.  I could seriously weep over this…like the weird kid in American Beauty when he loses his shit over that plastic bag in the wind.

Do you want to know more about the proud history of Peeps?  I do!

The homepage for this doc, Power of the Peep, says that they’re still looking for distributors.

Won’t some network or investor please purchase this?  Food network?  TLC?  Duane Reade?  Anyone?  I wanna see it!

How do you like your Peeps?

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Filed under Vittles