Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why does it have so many nipples?

I frequently find myself questioning the things I see at the antique store. What is that? Why would someone buy that? What kind of home decor does that fit in with? After my trip today, when I stopped in while I was running errands, I have another question:

creepy ceramic pig

Why does that white pig with the giant ears have so many nipples?

And who's going to buy that? Who walks through the antique store and thinks, "Gosh, I really need... a seven inch pig ceramic lactating pig! Oh, happy day! This is the answer to my prayers!" other than someone with terrible, terrible issues?

It's like a Halloween farmyard nightmare.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Race" implies "speed"

This year, like I did last year, I participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure here in Knoxville. Backed by my sponsors, I raised $300 to help fight breast cancer, and I got to go for a brisk walk in the early morning.

it's cold and dark

The really early morning. It was cold, dark, and foggy when I left the house, and the sun was just coming up when I reached World's Fair Park for the race:

dawn at world's fair park

Last year I got there right before the race started, so there wasn't time to look around, but this year I got to stand on the Clinch Avenue bridge and watch people gather, and it convinced me of one important lesson:

before the race (1)

before the race (2)

before the race (3)

When I do this next year I definitely need more pink than just the shirt and my bandanna. Given the slight difficulty I had purchasing a pink shirt, I'm thinking that for pink warmup pants I'm probably going to have to go ahead and just buy some from the women's department. Female friends, if there's anything I need to know about ladypants prior to purchase, please, feel free to offer some pointers.

The first pointer is probably going to be to just call them "pants".

Anyway, people eventually started lining up for the race, with the timed runners moving to the front:

runners, that way

and the rest of us massing behind them for the second start:

assembled racers (1)

assembled racers (2)

And then we were off!

the race has started!

At first, I was excited. I was moving at a steady, almost brisk pace, passing the river:

misty river

and the cheerleaders:

Karns cheerleaders

and then I got passed:


by a girl on crutches.

Let me repeat that, in case I'm not humiliated enough yet:

I got passed by a girl on crutches.

Not only that, but we weren't even at the first mile yet:

mile marker 1

Another mile:

mile marker 2

or two later:

mile marker 3

and I still never caught up with that girl on crutches.

She didn't just pass me. She stayed ahead of me for the entire race.


The loss of all that self esteem that was apparently weighing me down may have worked to my advantage, because I ended up with a decent time:


and a horrible sun flare in that photo.

Anyway, here I am at the end of the race:

racer #4657

I have no idea where the girl on crutches was, or what her time was, but clearly, I need to make better life choices.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lois Lane: 24-Hour Black Lady

I've been picking through my comic collection for the past couple of weeks because I'm pulling back issues for a presentation I'm doing, and it means that I keep running across hilarious back issues. It also means that, because I have trouble with impulse control, I've been reading a lot of back issues, since stories like the tragic tale of Fortress Lad or David Cassidy #1 never get old, and that's how I happened to stumble over "Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane" #106.

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (1)

This is one of DC Comics' more famous (famous among comics fans, anyway) attempts at adressing a "serious issue", and like so many of the others it ends up kind of hilariously bad. It's not quite as terrible as when Green Arrow suddenly disovered that his sidekick, Speedy, was addicted to heroin:

Green Lantern #85 cover

but it is way more awful than the time the Legion of Superheroes tried to convince Tyroc that they weren't racists because they had a blue girl and a green guy:


Still, they were trying, so you kind of have to give the writers some kind of credit when they could have just said nothing at all. In some cases, though, you wonder if maybe silence would have been a better choice.

Like a very special episode of "Saved by the Bell" where Jessie takes too many caffeine pills or "90210" where David's friend plays with his parents' handgun and accidentally shoots himself, this issue starts off by immediately finding a way, however forced, to connect Lois to a social issue that she's never dealt with before or since. How do they do that?

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (2)

Through Lois' all-consuming narcissism, of course. She doesn't want to expose the horrors of racism or help poor, oppressed people. Lois wants a Pulitzer, and if she has to take a taxi down to "Little Africa" (Really, DC? I've heard of cities with a Chinatown or a Little Italy, but I've never heard of a Little Africa where all the black people live) to do it, then she just needs a quick check in her makeup mirror and she's ready to go.

Before we follow her, take a second to notice just how annoyed Clark looks with this whole thing. You can tell that he's positively seething, thinking, "Great. Now I'm going to have to watch Lois all day while she goes downtown and irritates people. Damn it, I wish Titano would show up and start climbing the Daily Planet building before she had time to get a damn cab."

No such luck. Before you can say, "At least it's not a story about black kryptonite" Lois is downtown in Little Africa, and she's already running into trouble:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (3)

No one will talk to her. Why not?

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (4)

She's whitey.

This story is much more hilarious, and actually makes more sense, if you imagine that children and old blind ladies at the bus stop are turning away from Lois not because she's white but because she's Lois Lane.

"Oh, shit. Lois Lane? I gotta get outta here before the whole neighborhood gets turned into witches or fat people or something."

Anyway, Superman checks in on Lois and finds her weeping on a park bench, her Pulitzer dreams shattered by her white skin:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (5)

She's drawing a blank, all right. A white blank. She has a plan, though, and I'm incredibly disappointed that they don't actually show her talking Superman into it. As you can see from the panels, she somehow convinces Superman to fly her to the Fortress of Solitude, so that he can use his super-advanced Kryptonian plastic surgery machine to make her a black lady so that she can win a Pulitzer. Again, I have to emphasize that Lois' motives are completely not altruistic. She doesn't want to help anyone but herself, and she somehow convinces Superman to go along with her. Nobody mentions that using kyrptonian super-science to turn yourself black so that you can win the Pulitzer instead of doing actual investigatory journalism for it is pretty much like using super tanning pills to get into Harvard on the Henry Q. Bouchard Memorial Scholarship, but the reader already knows this will be a disaster because, even black, she's still going to be Lois.

It happens pretty much just like on the cover, and there she is:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (6)

Lois Lane, 24-hour black lady.

And why does she have to get changed? Because even though all of the people in Little Africa were wearing average, contemporary fashion, Lois is going to be the blackest black lady ever, and puts on the Little Africa equivalent of Josie's first day of school outfit in Never Been Kissed:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (7)

She has to take the subway back to Little Africa because taxi cabs wouldn't stop for her now that she's black. I have no idea why everyone on the train is staring at her, though, other than the size of that head wrap. I mean, they live in a major metropolitan city that not only has a Little Africa but has a subway stop there. They must have seen a black lady on the subway before.

Once she returns to Little Africa, Lois goes back to the apartment building where the lady slammed the door in her face before, and immediately puts out a fire under their staircase. The grateful lady explains that the slumlord won't pay for a janitor to clean out the dangerous flammable trash, so it just builds up under the staircase, and then invites Lois in for coffee:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (8)

With a scoop of plaster. And a side of rat:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (9)

And here's why this irritates me: by placing this in the context of a "race" story, the writer implies that the reason this lady lives in the crumbling rat-infested fire trap tenement is that she's black, not that she's poor. They even back it up with the lady's, "I don't have to tell you about that", as if Lois knows exactly what it's like to live in a run down slum because she's black now. Granted, there's only so much they can cover in ten or twelve pages, and I'm sure someone somewhere could make the argument that she's poor because she's black, but this whole scene tells me way more about how the author thinks black people live than I actually wanted to know. It couldn't possibly be more stereotypical except for the part where the happy, nobly suffering poor black lady calls Lois her sister, just because they're both black:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (10)

Lois is, of course, moved to tears by the idea that she's now that much closer to her Pulitzer, and she heads out to find the guy who called her "whitey" earlier. No sooner than she does, though, do they see trouble in a nearby alley:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (11)

Man's business? I thought this was a comic about equality.

Lois and Dave follow the kids into the alley where, predictably enough, they interrupt a drug deal, and the drug dealers respond by opening fire:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (12)

Dave gets shot, or at least we imagine that he does, since he has no visible wounds:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (13)

It's too bad, really, that Lois doesn't have a boyfriend watching her, a boyfriend who's faster than a speeding bullet and could have maybe showed up to intervene before her new friend gets plugged in an alley. Just too bad. Or, possibly worse, it's too bad that maybe Superman let that guy get shot on purpose just to teach Lois a lesson. He was doing stuff like that all the time in the Silver Age.

Anyway, Superman disarms the drug dealers and flies Lois and Dave to the nearest hospital. Of course, since the hospital is also in Little Africa, all of the doctors and nurses are black:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (14)

And right there is why I think that Superman is maybe being a dick about this whole thing on purpose. According to the comic, "tense minutes tick by" as they wait for the blood typing information, but here's the problem: Superman has microscopic vision and a super-brain. He can see molecules and read protein chains. It should take him about a second to go, "Hey, doctor, that guy's type A negative," but instead he lets Lois pace the waiting room and twist in the wind for several tense minutes before we find out that she and Dave have the same blood type, and she can save him:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (15)

Or maybe he's trying to teach Dave a lesson about not being mean to white people. Who knows, really? It's just clear that Superman could be doing more, and isn't, but again, he was like that a lot in the Silver Age. Lois, also true to form, continues finding a way to make a tragic shooting all about her:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (16)

Did she really just accuse Superman of being a racist? She knows that when he was just a Superboy he was friends with a blue girl and a green guy. Sure, he did just let a black guy get all shot up in an alley and then stood around the waiting room uselessly when he could have done something to help, but seriously, Lois, some of his best friends are black. Just ask Tyroc, or Black Lightning, or... some other black people that Superman must have known in the Silver Age. Black Vulcan, maybe?

Anyway, before she can harangue him into proposing, Lois' transformation wears off, to the nurse's great surprise:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (17)

Lois seems pretty smug there, but I have to go with the nurse on this one. If I walked into a room and a lady had turned from black to white while I was gone, I'd be pretty damn surprised, too. The nurse isn't the only one who's surprised, though. Dave doesn't say anything when Lois, newly whitened, walks into his room, but he doesn't have to:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (18)

Because, really, we all learned something today. We learned that Superman is sometimes a dick, and that there's no length that Lois won't go to for a Pulitzer, even physically transforming her body with alien superscience no matter how risky or foolish that seems.

And also that coffee's not really good with plaster in it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Arizona Part 2: "That's not really pronounced that way, is it?"

In the previous entry I mentioned that the conference ended earlier than we expected on Wednesday, which left us with an open afternoon and a rental car, so we decided to drive to Sedona. I only know of Sedona as the place where Miranda moved up a shoot after she killed the autumn jackets feature in "The Devil Wears Prada", but Tim stopped by the concierge desk and picked up a map, leaving us slightly better equipped.

On the way there Tim asked if we wanted to stop at Montezuma Castle, and since we had nowhere else to go and no agenda for the day, we readily agreed. I'm so glad that we did, because it was a really interesting little walkaround. Montezuma Castle is a national park in Arizona:

montezuma castle visitor center

which houses an impressive pre-Columbian cliff dwelling:

montezuma castle (1)

montezuma castle (2)

montezuma castle (3)

I don't know if it looks particularly impressive in any of those photos (especially the middle one, where you can see why it's being restored and you can't actually go up into the structure) but there's such a sense of history in visiting something like this, and also a little bit of awe when you imagine early settlers crossing Arizona, coming around the corner, and seeing a house set into the cliffside. I haven't traveled outside the United States in over a decade, and inside them I rarely see any mostly-intact structure over a few hundred years old. There are artifacts, like the Moon-Eyed People's wall:

fort mountain wall

that I saw in Georgia that time, or serpent mounds and other earthworks, but people didn't live in those like they did in a cliff dwelling:

model castle

It's one thing to look at a pile that used to be a house or a foundation, but to see the house itself is to feel a sense of continuity with the past, and I don't know that our mostly consumerist, disposable culture (which I fully participate in; I'm not lecturing anyone) gets enough of that.

On our way back to the car, I also saw a huge beetle, which was the only native wildlife I saw in the entire trip besides birds:

large beetle

My fears about scorpions, poisonous spiders, rattlesnakes, vultures, vampire bats, coyotes, and other desert critters proved somewhat unfounded.

Once we were back in the car, we headed for another impressive but significantly more modern building, The Chapel of the Holy Cross on the outskirts of Sedona:

chapel of the holy cross (1)

Comissioned by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the church is designed to blend in with the surrounding countryside, which it does admirably well:

chapel of the holy cross (2)

It's a bit of a hike up a twisty path to actually get there:

chapel path

but when you do the simplicity of the interior is moving even for non-religious people:

chapel window

chapel candles (2)

chapel doors

It's very quiet and peaceful inside, but that may be due to everyone trying to catch their breath after the climb. Either way, it was another good stop on our day of sightseeing, and we immediately left the church and parked at a Horrhouse:

Grandma Horr's Cookies

Grandma Horr's, to be exact. And yes, it really is pronounced the way it sounds.

Also, Grandma Horr makes a delicious dark chocolate coconut haystack.

We didn't spend more than an hour or two in Sedona:

You Are Here

so I didn't really get to see a lot of the town, but it reminded me a lot of Gatlinburg, in that it is a small town in a beautiful setting filled with touristy crap:

pink javelinas

and signs with poor grammar:


Not that I don't love touristy crap. When Tim asked if there was anywhere in town specifically that we felt like stopping at, I immediately blurted, "The place with the giant chicken!"

giant chicken of sedona

Because, well, giant chicken. If I have to explain why we had to stop there then you really don't know me well enough yet. The place with the giant chicken turned out to be a wonderful store filled with random stuff for everybody, like cat Buddha:

cat Buddha

regular Buddha:


and a really bloody Jesus:

very bloody Jesus

Seriously, why are there multiple streams of blood running out from under Jesus' loincloth? What's going on under there? And who looks at that and thinks, "Perfect for the living room!"

Possibly the same people who buy ceramic pumpkins:

ceramic pumpkins

or random suns:

suns and moon

but I did find the room of drying peppers somewhat interesting:

drying peppers (1)

drying peppers (2)

mostly because it smelled so good.

We were all starting to get a little sleepy and jet-laggy at that point, so the place with the giant chicken was our last stop in Sedona, but we did get back to Scottsdale in time for me to meet up with Rod for a late dinner where we both ended up ordering the same thing, I guzzled about a gallon of diet Coke, and we debated whether playing "Piano Man" in a jazz restaurant was cliche or de rigueur. We did not come to an agreement, but a lovely time was had by all.

Then in the morning I had a long layover in Chicago:

section H

and was back home and crashing in my bed by the time it was dark.