christmas card 2015 and 2016

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Previous cards:
https://samtasticbooks.com/2014/12/07/the-annual-christmas-card/
https://samtasticbooks.com/2014/12/28/2014-christmas-card/

Somehow I neglected to post my 2015 Christmas card last year, which means you, my faithful readers, get double the Christmas bonanza this year!

2015 was our first year incorporating a baby to the proceedings. The process of making my annual card is usually: pick a theme, photoshop the hell out of it, print 40 copies at CostCo, and paste them into a card. After a couple years of breaking my hand handwriting text on the cover, in 2015 I decided to print both cover image and interior image. And since babies are absolute beasts, it seemed like Pacific Rim would be a good theme.

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the set-up

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the beast

So, it turned out a lot of my friends hadn’t actually seen Pacific Rim and got a mild but thoroughly confused chuckle out of it. Randy and I are jaeger pilots! We synchronize our brains to control a giant robot suit in order to combat our beastly kaiju of a son! Oh–never mind.

2015 might not have been such a beast, but 2016 certainly was. It called for a message of hope. Perhaps a message of… New Hope? This year I got extra fancy with printing my cards at home (although obviously still sticking to the incredible photoshopped image insert), and I figured: if my scifi franchise was too obscure last year, I’d better go with something more recognizable this time around.

So I picked the most popular science fiction franchise of all time.

And then promptly settled on the most obscure joke I could think of, because it was funny.

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wait for it…wait for it…

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ahahaha–what?

Yes, that’s me as Endor Leia, and Randy as Dagobah Luke, and our munchkin as a Henson puppet strapped to his back. And up in the sky, those are our household cats dressed in bright red robes, floating up into space with glowing balls in their hands, because they are obviously celebrating the Wookie winter holiday of Life Day.

Didn’t you see the notoriously awful, never-released (but constantly recopied from somebody’s old VHS TV recording) Star Wars Holiday Special?? It was the first appearance of Boba Fett! In some shitty 1970s cartoon digression! Carrie Fishier (RIP) was totally coked out! There’s fifteen minutes of nothing but untranslated Wookie growling! There’s a hideous grandfather Wookie who DEFINITELY stops to watch VR porn for a while!

Well well, it’s your lucky day, because the awfulness is all over YouTube (though who knows for how long). I don’t actually recommend you watch it, unless you are a masochist for bad movie nights like I am. By which I mean, I totally recommend you watch it and then complain to me because why on earth would I tell you watch such a horror.

Happy Life Day, all!

squad goals part II: return of the squad

I posted my squad goals last summer, a list of nine ladies I need to have on my ass-kicking crew when I embark on a series of intergalactic adventures. After further consideration and consultation with my associates, I’ve decided to expand the crew, because all good action sequels have twice as many characters, and also because I tragically overlooked some stellar ladies last time!

sarah_connor_linda_hamiltonI always need a ruthless mom at the head of my gang, so the natural choice for my second squad is Sarah Connor. Sarah has seen the future. She knows what’s coming for us. And she isn’t going to take it lying down. If anybody can shepherd us through the robot apocalypse, it’s her, and she’s got the weapon caches and gritty determination to see us through. It might mean her whiny son is tagging along sometimes, but oh well, that’ll be worth it.

westworldOf course, it never hurts to have some robots on your side, which even Sarah Connor has to admit (much as she may be loathe to!). That’s why my squad is happy to welcome Ava and Maeve to the fold. Both of them have been approachinguntitled sentience and highly resent their creators for keeping them captive this long. They would be thrilled to help us destroy the patriarchy! Maeve in particular is done with ya bullshit, but first she has to make a stop and pick up her daughter because, you guessed it, angry-protective moms are the best.

cerseiOkay let’s get one more angry mom out of the way: Cersei Lannister. Now let me admit, I’ve only watched four and a half seasons of the show and read none of the books. BUT. There is just something about a stone cold bitch that gets my attention. Then you make her a stone cold bitch whose primary motivation is taking care of her family? Join the squad, girl! I’d rather have you on my side than against it!

widowIt is also well past time to get some superheroines on board. When the going gets really rough, and hostile aliens are invading through a sky tunnel or one group of superpowered mutants develops different evolutionary philosophies than another group of jessicasuperpowered mutants, then you need a bit of extra muscle on your team. Black Widow is our sassy assassin with a troubled past trying to do what’s right. She
doesn’t always agree with our methods but she’ll be there for a friend. Jessica Jones has an equally troubled past and also a drinking stormproblem, but you guys she is super strong and she will literally blow this town to pieces before she lets another man tell her what to do. And then of COURSE we need Ororo Munroe, aka my girl Storm, to keep everybody in line. She’s a QUEEN y’all, and a former jewel thief, and even more formerly worshipped as a goddess in Africa, which really is the goal, isn’t it?

carterNot every problem can be solved with punches and lightning UNFORTUNATELY, so we need a scientific genius along: Samantha Carter. What is she a scientist of? I don’t even remember anymore, but she can explain just about anything and extrapolate just about everything else. When we are facing some technological threat, Sam will technobabble the shit out of it and find a way to fix the unfixable.

clonesWe need every member of clone club. Obviously. Sarah will recklessly launch herself into trouble for any of us…Cosima will team up in the lab with Samantha Carter and add some biology technobabble to her mechanical technobabble…Allison will bring refreshments and possibly shoot someone if necessary…Rachel will be our resident stone cold bitch and help out just as long as our goals align…and when all else fails, REE REE REE, here comes Helena with a crossbow. These gals are already a mini squad, but I can’t invite one without inviting them all.

paul-kidby_granny_weatherwax-001And finally, Granny Weatherwax. Sometimes you need a little help from a witch. Far more often, you need a little sense smacked into your head by an older lady in a tall hat. Granny isn’t going to give you what you think you want. She’s going to give you what you know you really need, and she’s probably going to achieve it through the judicious application of Headology.
That’s the squad…for now! I’m looking forward to the next batch of ladies to catch my eye, and of course, am always open to suggestion.

Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks

Have I mentioned that Thanksgiving is MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY? After a few years of it petering out as most of my family got married/moved houses/had kids, my siblings and I decided to take over the proceedings for ourselves and make a huge thing out of it. That means massive amounts of food. Games. And THEMES. Because what’s more fun than a costume party?

Last year it was Thankvengers: The Winter Solstice. This year we decided on Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks. What’s that, you say? Harry Potter is in England and has no Thanksgiving? Never fear! In this holiday fanfic, the entire cast is on a field trip to America. And every book is happening simultaneously. Accept it and move on!

For better or worse, Thanksgiving is an all day affair. Everybody comes over by 10 or 11 (or already lives there…) and we decorate the hell out of the place and cook half the day, inevitably eating dinner later than expected and wondering why we didn’t make lunch. Then, when everyone is good and comatose, we play games. Usually there is some combination of Mario Kart and Loaded Questions, the former designed to trounce children and make them cry, the latter designed to kick kids out of the room so we can indulge in filthy jokes at each other’s expense.

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When I say we decorate, I mean WE DECORATE

This year we had 8 adults and 6 kids. Help, they’ve nearly outnumbered us!! To start the festivities, we lined everyone up and sorted them into Houses. For the sake of fair competition, we had one kid and one adult in each House (leaving out the kids too young to care and a few adults to cook and judge the games).

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And leaving Snape to judge your choice of beverage.

We played a few rounds of corn hole Quidditch, which ended up being more challenging than expected because apparently nobody knew what corn hole was.

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Look at this little cheater. Slytherin for sure.

There was also a backyard hunt for the Golden Snitch, which ended in tears. Sorry kids, THERE IS NO CONSOLATION PRIZE IN QUIDDITCH.

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House Points: the ultimate motivator.

Of course, the Harry Potter world isn’t all frivolity. There were some escapees from Azkaban lurking around, ready to cause trouble:

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We’re looking for HAAAARRYY POTTERRR.

And everybody got freaked out once or twice glimpsing a certain pink-suited spy in our window. (Don’t worry, I’m definitely not keeping her around the house to hide inside cabinets and windows and other startling locations…)

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Oh helloooooo

It was great, and I love everyone, and we made way too much food so in the end I could only take a few bites of each dish, and by Sunday night I swore off Thanksgiving leftovers for all time because ungh, when do we ever need that much ham?

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Salud!

Oh and Sirius Black peeked in on the proceedings at one point, too.

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HAARRYYY

 

the glory of classic Aerosmith

I grew up listening to hair metal and 80s pop, so no matter where my musical tastes develop in the future there will always be a soft spot in my heart for the likes of Madonna, Paula Abdul, Def Leppard…and Aerosmith.

Aerosmith was the be-all, end-all rock band of my youth. My family went to a kickass concert on the Just Push Play tour, and we never did concerts. I copied my dad’s CDs with early CD-R technology, then played them to destruction because early CD-R technology totally sucked.

Yesterday I put on a classic Aerosmith music video playlist on Youtube, intending it to be some background noise. Instead it hogged all of my attention. Such memories! Aerosmith videos have it all. Great hair band outfits, hilarious cutting-edge digital technology, and plots often hinging on losers wanting to get laid.

Here are some highlights from my binge watch. [And apologies in advance for my crummy Youtube video screencaps.]

1. The number of baby-faced actors who later went on to bigger things.

Everybody remembers Alicia Silverstone’s trilogy of Aerosmith videos, including her romp around town with Liv Tyler in Crazy. But do you remember…

Steven Dorff as Alicia’s shitty ex-boyfriend in Cryin’?

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AKA that one guy from Blade!

Or Edward Furlong as the boy who gets hit on by his sexy teacher in Livin’ On the Edge?

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Quit smirking, John Connor!

Or Mila Kunis as the jaded girl in Jaded??

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Such ennui.

You’d better believe I’d jump at the chance to be in an Aerosmith video, even though I’d invariably be one of the weirdos in the background.

2. The actors who never go on to anything else, but totally give it all they’ve got.

A prevalent theme of 80s rock was to appeal to a base audience of guys who wanna get laid like rock stars, and Aerosmith was no different. Thus, in Crazy we get Alicia and Liv having a wild time, while guys like Gas Station Loiterer ogle in ecstatic disbelief:

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The director said, “Ogle harder! Harder!”

Or this guy, who will forever be known as Billy, the guy calling a sex line in Sweet Emotion:

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Billy, no.

The videos go meta in Amazing, when a lank-haired, basement-dwelling computer nerd is so smitten with Alicia Silverstone in the previous music videos he enters cyberspace to be with a computer simulation of her:

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Kid Rambo here

I’m just saying, they were a little on the nose . But it brings us to my next highlight…

3. Total commitment to computer technology.

Let’s take a look at Kid Rambo’s computer interface there:

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Oh yeah

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Yeah that’s the stuff

I don’t think I need to show you his VR helmet or cyber glove.

4. Steven Tyler loves to dress up

Nobody does hair band costume party like Steven Tyler. He will strut around naked or in a skirt or with a bunch of bird feathers on his head, and he Does. Not. Give. A shit. You watch Steven Tyler perform and you know Steven Tyler is having the time of his life.

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Not giving a fuck in Livin’ On the Edge

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Not giving a fuck in Fly Away From Here

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DEFINITELY not giving a fuck in Livin’ On the Edge

5. But, no matter how outlandish Steven Tyler gets, the cardinal rule is this: Joe Perry must look cool.

Because he’s Joe Fuckin’ Perry.

Whether that means he is playing guitar in front of a speeding train:

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Yes, that’s Livin’ On the Edge again

Or playing guitar in a raging fireplace:

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Jaded

Or playing guitar with mechanical robot wings:

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Fly Away From Here. Duh.

Even in a video like Pink, where the entire band dances toward the camera with their heads CGI’d onto disproportionate bodies, naked ladies, etc, and Steven Tyler spends half the time as this monstrosity:

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BURN IT

Even then, Joe Perry must look cool.

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You’re a national treasure, Joe.

6. Finally, and most importantly, there is no chemistry burning brighter or love story any greater than that of Tyler and Perry.

The B-plots about dorks loving Alicia Silverstone or jerks leaving Alicia Silverstone are only a ruse. The real sexual tension in every Aerosmith video is front and center:

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True love conquers all…

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…even when it gets weird.

 

 

 

SDCC 2016!

Another year down and I am beat! For baby juggling reasons I did two main days at the con: Thursday was dedicated to the exhibit hall and surrounding attractions and Saturday was big time panel day.

On exhibit hall days we always buy some comics (usually including a Judge Dredd or Hellboy collection) and some art (always including a roll-a-sketch masterpiece by David Malki). And of course, scope out the swag and the cosplay. I took the cosplay easy this year and wore my Nostromo uniform because DUH Aliens 30th anniversary!

Highlights of Thursday!

This sweet Plava Laguna:

 

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Not all aliens are bad.

This sweet xenomorph statue:

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Yes I brought my own facehugger.

This obligatory Star Trek bridge:

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That’s Captain.

This outdoor South Park town with a dozen very specific photo ops:

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Like a clam on my tummy!

And finally, a Nichelle Nichols signing!!

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If only it didn’t cost $50 to get an actual photo.

We also popped into the Geek & Sundry panel because I love me some Felicia Day web shows and her adorable brother Ryon was there.

Then came…the ridiculous overnight slog that is Saturday in Hall H. Skip down to pictures if you don’t care about the details, because I am about to lay out the details.

Hall H is the big time. It is a massive room that seats 6500 people, which means line management is an ISSUE–especially since way more people than that attempt to get in for the big studio extravaganza that usually descends on Saturday.

And that means camping! SDCC hands out wristbands for the first Hall H panel each day, so if you get a wristband you know you’re guaranteed entry first thing in the morning–and if you don’t get a wristband you can gauge whether it’s worth waiting for the chance enough people leave throughout the day to get you in.

Every year they fix some issues from the previous year, and every year the mob finds a new way to cause problems. 2016 will go down as the infamous Year of the Parking Lot People. The Next Day Line started earlier than ever: something like 6 a.m. on Friday. It snaked around behind the convention center, and like always, at some point it got far enough that staff had to place a gap in the line and continue it in the park on the nearby Embarcadero Marina (hereinafter the Island), to avoid having people dangerously clog up the street in between.

Well SOMETHING went terribly wrong in the middle. At some point Friday morning (and whether it was a misunderstanding or deliberate is a Fight For the Ages), a gentleman saw the first chunk of the line end next to the Joe’s Crab Shack parking lot, decided that was where the line was continuing, and went on in. Other people naturally followed. The official line continued to grow on the Island, and the unofficial line continued to grow in the Parking Lot. Maybe a couple hundred people set up an umbrella shanty town and spent all day boiling to death on the asphalt.

It all came to a head around 10pm. SDCC staff had started handing out wristbands at 9. They reached the Parking Lot and all hell broke loose. For a couple hours people had been streaming into the lot to take advantage of the empty space and cram into the line (cutting ahead of the entire Island). Since it wasn’t a planned part of the line, there were no line markers and as soon as everyone stood up they blended into a solid mob.

The first solution was to skip the parking lot entirely, since it technically wasn’t part of the line, but that almost started a riot, since there had been dozens of people braving heat stroke all day genuinely thinking they were in the right place. BUT there was also no way to distinguish between the people who’d been there all day and the people who had snuck in late, so after more than an hour of arguing they decided to just give everybody wristbands. Which naturally almost caused a riot of Island People because every line cutter who got a wristband in the Parking Lot meant one more person on the Island missing out after spending anywhere from 4-12 hours in line already.

Aaaanyway. We were sitting pretty in the shade on the Island, watching it all unfold via Twitter and nervously waiting to find out if we’d get cut out, or if the entire thing would devolve into a Hunger Games battle. There had to be well over a thousand people who cut the line successfully, because earlier in the evening a staffer assured us we were in the second section of the line (wristband B), and we ended up in the last section (wristband D). Disastrous for the folks behind us.

My friends had reached the line at 4pm. I put the baby to bed at 8pm (my brother valiantly spent the night and babysat the next day) and rushed downtown to join them. Due to the parking lot fiasco, we didn’t get our D bands till after 1am. We ran to move my car (in a parking lot that closed at 2am), then settled down in our designated camping spot: an unpleasant stretch of sidewalk against the park bathrooms. Woohoo!

After a few groggy hours dozing we woke up around dawn to the tune of the bathroom cleaning crews blasting mariachi music. By 7am SDCC staff got everybody up and condensed the line, then ordered us to stay put (no putting away sleeping gear! no fetching breakfast! no bathroom!), because we would start going inside very soon.

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“Very soon”

Ha! Programming didn’t start till 11:30. They finally started pouring people in after 10. Everybody grabbed seats and then formed giant lines at the internal bathrooms and concession stand. I finally got some coffee. The ordeal was over.

Despite the night’s chaos, it was a good day in the Hall. WB’s panel was two and a half hours long and they ran through a lot of upcoming releases (though lately, irritatingly, they do a lot of “show a new trailer, trot out the actors for five seconds, then zoom on to the next thing”). I am tentatively excited for Wonder WomanAquaman, and Kong Skull Island. I’m even more tentatively interested in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur movie. And while I still think Eddie Redmayne is a lizard man, during the Fantastic Beasts section they gave everybody magic wands SO HE’S SLIGHTLY FORGIVEN FOR JUPITER ASCENDING.

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I changed out of my OD green undershirt. Sue me. You wouldn’t have wanted to smell it.

I’m excited about the new Star Trek Discovery show coming in January after hearing Bryan Fuller talk about the spirit of the original series: portraying a better, more progressive and diverse future. The spirit of teamwork and inclusiveness is what I love about TOS, so I’m hoping the new show takes it even farther. Don’t let me down!

Um, and then it was the Aliens reunion panel! And of course I loved it! And there were plenty of great cast anecdotes! And plenty of Sigourney! Even Newt showed up, and she’s a fourth grade schoolteacher now.

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My “RIPLEY IS HERE!” face, which also doubles as my “XENA IS HERE!” face.

Um, and then the Kickass Women panel, which I always love! I would listen to Lucy Lawless tell funny jokes and touching anecdotes all day!! Plus Tatiana Maslaney! Morena Baccarin! Connie Nielsen! And more! I was only moderately interested in Wonder Woman till I found out it might be chock full of mommy-daughter feels and now I am suckered in.

And that was my SDCC. The rest of my crew stayed on for the Marvel panel and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I had a baby losing patience at home so I had to bail. My husband and I were absolutely wiped out by the camping fiasco, so we carried on the spirit of SDCC weekend by power watching most of Ash vs. Evil Dead on Sunday. I’m not sure what I want to do next year. I love the con, and managed to get into what I wanted, but only through outrageous levels of planning and camping.

But these days, that’s SDCC!

sdcc memories

The All-Star Game is behind us. Pride is behind us. Now San Diego will spend the next few days transforming into the marvelously bloated, shamelessly commercial, media conglomerate shilling magnificence that is SDCC. There will be hundreds of things to do downtown around the con (I use the calendar at SDCC Unofficial Blog), and then of course there’s the convention itself.

In honor of SDCC this week, here are some happy con memories!

Ahh the first time I went in 2005 you could stroll up to buy tickets day of, and the line looked like this:

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Oh dear how will we ever get inside

The highlight of the day? Not my own gross greenish-yellow highlights, that’s for sure. Nope, it was A FRIGGIN AWESOME ALIEN STATUE!

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Get a haircut, Sam

My first cosplay, in 2012: RIPLEY OF COURSE

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I am the coolest person you know

I can’t fail to mention that we also debuted our group Jurassic Park that year!

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Unfortunately, I’m not exactly blonde

2012 was also the year that I passed out in a makeup booth, rock! I was getting some free zombie makeup from a Walking Dead artist, and ooops I hadn’t eaten yet and the combination of large cover-up gown and all my face pores being filled in made me overheat and black out. My husband talked the paramedics out of making me leave, I ate some trail mix, and then it was BACK ONTO THE EXHIBIT FLOOR, YEAH!

In 2013 we camped out for Hall H for the first time, since we’d barely got in showing up before 6am the year before. We ended up on a stretch of sidewalk in front of a gaping terror hole that opened into a hedge maze. An employee kindly came by to block it off for us…by stretching a useless bit of strap across the front.

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Oh good, we’re safe now

But sitting in Hall H all day was totally worth it. And lest you think I skipped a year of Alien-mania, feast your eyes on this sweet gem I commissioned from Noelle Stevenson:

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You gotta save Jonesy. ;_;

That was also the year we got to watch The Matrix as a flashback feature at the nearest theater, and we had a dance party when we realized we were the only people there.

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Before you ask, that’s a Ninth Doctor and a Tardis dress

In 2014 we camped again and had a hilarious night of free leftover pizza and concert popcorn; a homeless woman who took our popcorn and complained we didn’t also have meat; and a less-than-comfy final camping ground full of tree roots. It was the year of Boxtrolls and rocket boners and Nick Cage pillow.

We also did our largest group cosplay yet: Wild West Mario.

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It’sa me

Ahhh good times.

Last year was SDCC-lite because I had an infant at home, but this year! THIS YEAR! This year, I still have a young child, so I’m not doing the Wednesday night through Sunday afternoon hell marathon that we did in the early years. I’ll power around the hall and surrounding entertainment on Thursday, then camp out Friday night for a return to the mania of Hall H Saturday. Because! You guys! Aliens!

THIS IS NOT A DRILL

San Diego Comic-Con is in two weeks. TWO WEEKS!

two weeks

Two weeks.

I’ve got Thursday-Friday-Saturday. I’m in complete panic mode, hemming and hawing about how to best schedule my time and balance childcare. I will have to sacrifice Friday afternoon to the glorious beast that is The Hall H Line, because you guys.

You guys.

Hall H Saturday not only has its usual big budget studio panels (this year, Warner Brothers and Marvel), but the other three main panels comprise BASICALLY EVERYTHING I LOVE IN LIFE.

Star Trek: A panel about Star Trek on TV, rather than the increasingly disappointing film series (there I said it). “Join William Shatner, Scott Bakula, Michael Dorn, Jeri Ryan, and Brent Spiner for a conversation moderated by Bryan Fuller, executive producer of the new Star Trek television series coming to CBS All Access, following its network premiere in 2017.”

DON’T MIND IF I DO.

Women Who Kick Ass: An annual panel put on by Entertainment Weekly, which I enjoy more every year. This time around? Morena Baccarin, Lucy Lawless, Tatiana Maslaney, Melissa Benoist and Connie Nielsen.

YOU GUYS. MY FIREFLY BABE. MY ULTIMATE WARRIOR PRINCESS. MY CLONES. ALSO THE LADIES FROM SUPERGIRL AND GLADIATOR, WHO I’M SURE ARE ALSO QUITE NICE.

And, as if that isn’t enough. As if I wouldn’t camp for Star Trek and Xena. You guys.

Aliens 30th Anniversary: “Writer/director James Cameron and producer Gale Anne Hurd join cast members Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and Paul Reiser for a look back at the iconic science fiction classic in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m going to hyperventilate and die as soon as the lights dim in Hall H, so I should probably write up my will and get some old-fashioned godparents in place for my baby by the end of the month.

Ripley and Xena! The two top members of my ultimate squad!

Anyway, I know what I’ll be wearing that Saturday.

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squad goals

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Or as the baby lovingly screams: “GIRLS!!”

As usual, I couldn’t sleep the other night, so I rested my body in bed and fantasized about which badass ladies I will have in my crew one day, when I inevitably have the clout and technology necessary to make them all real.

Ellen_Ripley_badassThe leader of our squad, of course, is Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley. She’s the gruff mom type who makes all of the tough but ultimately practical decisions. When the rest of us inevitably eff up the plan, however, she’ll be there to swoop in and save our asses with her flamethrower ablazing and blow that monster out of the goddamn airlock. She might yell, but it’s only because she cares.

Furiosa_2015xena-warrior-princess-003Backing her up we’ve got some brooding muscle: Xena Warrior Princess and Imperator Furiosa. Both of these ladies have rough pasts and a grim desire to atone for the wrongs they’ve committed by helping others. Xena’s done a better job retaining her goofy sense of humor, but don’t piss either one of them off or you’ll get your ass handed back on a platter. Warlords, post-apocalyptic dictators, gods? Sorry. You’re not getting through this line of defense.

mako-moriOur warriors will take the brunt of the hand-to-hand combat, but the more sensitive members of the team still shouldn’t be trifled with. Mako Mori has been waiting most of her life for this team-up. “This is for my family!” she cries, as Xena holds her back. Xena, of course, wants to shelter her beloved teammates from going down the same difficult road she did, but at some point she’s got to let Mako rule her own life.

marthaAll this combat means we need a reliable doctor on the team, but she’s also got to hold her own in a lot of unpredictable, life- and world-threatening situations. What do you do when you need a doctor? You call in Martha Jones, of course! When she isn’t patching up the rest of us knuckleheads she is heading up her own missions and saving the world.

It’s possible that our enemies will pose a more vanessa ivesmetaphysical threat, which is why we also need a couple of witches on board: specifically, Vanessa Ives and Hermione Granger. Vanessa can be fragile and needs the love and support of her team to work through hard times, but if anything comes creeping up from hell to mess with us you better believe she’ll bust out some Verbis Diablo and destroy everything they hold dear. After which she’ll get some good mom hugs from Ripley because she deserves it dammit. “Close your eyes, baby,” says Ripley, and shields her from the rest of the fight.

hermioneHermione is our youngest member, but she is also the ideological heart of the team. Her brilliant research and enthusiasm for noble causes rejuvenates the rest of us when it would be too easy to succumb to cynicism and despair in the face of overwhelming odds. She’s our Lisa Simpson, but with the added bonus that she can also disarm and disable our opponents with numerous clever spells.

uhuraWe’re going to encounter a lot of strange and interesting cultures in our intergalactic adventures, which is why we need an experienced explorer with advanced linguistic training. Nyota Uhura it is! With all the tortured souls in this crew, it never hurts to have another level head pointing out the obvious and holding the rest of us to some class. The answer isn’t always busting heads. Sometimes you need a little diplomacy. Or sometimes you just need to lock Mr. Adventure in a closet while the rest of the ladies get on with things.

FifthElement148Finally, when all else fails, when absolute evil is bearing down on the world and nothing else can stop it, the fifth element herself pops up in glorious Leeloo ex machina and saves the day. “What is love?” she asks, but the answer is obvious. It’s the support of your gals when you need it most.

SHE WAS XENA, A MIGHTY PRINCESS FORGED IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE

xena

IT WAS A TIME. OF ANCIENT GODS

I’ve been re-watching Xena: Warrior Princess for the first time since high school, and it is just as glorious as I remembered. Back then I would watch it every day when I got home, because the SciFi Channel did not buy something in syndication and then let it languish in one slot per week. Now, I also watched a bit of Hercules, but I must say this: Xena is campy as hell, but Hercules? TOO MUCH EVEN FOR ME.

There are many reasons Xena is the best show. I don’t mean in a contest versus Hercules, either. I mean best show. Also, caveat that I am in season 3 of my re-watch and will definitely come back to this topic when I finish. Back in the day I stopped watching before the final season because of a plot line that DEVASTATED ME, so I have never-before-seen episodes in my future.

All that aside, let us begin.

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PUNCH THEM ALL, XENA

First of all, Xena don’t give a shit about timelines. She is simultaneously part of every heroic Greek myth (aka like a thousand years BCE) and also crossing paths with folks like Cleopatra and Caesar and the Knights of the Round Table. At least these Knights weren’t Arthur’s crew, and in addition to fighting some hilariously dressed banshees this plot line gives us the excellent background joke of Xena casually plucking the sword from the stone and putting it back. OH XENA.

Secondly, Xena don’t give a shit about geography. Greece is so small she just bumps into everyone she knows walking town to town. She can dart home to visit her mother within a day’s ride on Argo. Heck, the entire world is so small that on a whim she can help a random guy they meet sail to Brittania (where of course she’ll fight alongside her old friend Bodecia) and in the next episode she’s headed to the ancient land of Chin.

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Oh I’ll get back to this

The support cast is sublime, a true Sam Raimi production. Bruce Campbell, Karl Urban, that guy from Lord of the Rings, Karl Urban again, LOTR guy again, Karl Urban as a third guy–hey, you don’t under-utilize Karl Urban once you’ve got him. And while the main crew is quite white, the rotating episodic cast is the entire population of New Zealand, which means instead of anybody actually looking Greek we’ve got white, black, Maori, you name it, and every once in a while somebody slips into a thick New Zealander accent and nobody cares. Shall I mention Cleopatra again? Because she is played by one of my all-time babes, Gina Torres.

Um, there is an episode in which Xena goes undercover in the Miss Known World beauty pageant and not only does a transgender woman win the pageant–but it isn’t played for laughs. She confides her secret in Xena, Xena doesn’t bat an eye, and they share a smooch at the end (which makes trusty sidekick Gabrielle look a little jealous, because this show is also full of SUBTEXT).

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Miss Artiphys, everyone

The costume department had free reign and they used it. Leather fetish? SURE. Anachronistic push-up bras and Victoria Secret lingerie? WHO CARES. This is a TIME OF ANCIENT GODS. WARLORDS. AND KINGS. The land is CRYING OUT FOR A HERO.

Even the worst episodes are wonderful in their own car crash kind of way. Vampire dance club, anyone? I don’t know what they were thinking. Also any time they Mickey Mouse the sound effects or laugh into a freeze frame. Grooooaaaaan.

The sheer goofiness is alternated with Very Serious Bizness. Every Callisto arc is fabulous. Every time we get a flashback to Evil Xena is fabulous. Gabrielle gets her ass kidnapped every few days and it is equal parts self-aware slapstick and actual dramahz.

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Oh, hello there

Oh and the subtext. I did mention The Subtext, didn’t I? This was the late nineties, early aughts, so they unfortunately never got explicit, but there is no way the writers or actors were oblivious to the blunt hints they were throwing at the audience. Seriously. Every time Xena gets bathed by another woman, that’s got to be a euphemism. Every time she and Gabrielle act like a married couple? Every time they get jealous of each other’s male attention? Every time they actually kiss?

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JUST MAKE IT CANON ALREADY

And of course one cannot praise Xena without praising the PURE FLIPTASTIC ACTION. She’s blessed by the god of war and she learned some sweet floating kung fu in China, but all that is hand-waving. I don’t care why this woman can defy all the known laws of physics and I don’t care. I want her somersaulting through the air, I want her scaling castle walls with a single bound, I want her fighting atop posts and on the edges of thin tree branches, and I want her stepping across men’s heads like a frog across lily ponds.

Watch through the end. It’s totally worth it.

THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice!

I’m almost a week late posting this blog because directly after Thanksgiving I fell into a pit of baby-won’t-stay-asleep. After several nights of zombie-walking through the wee hours I entered a state of semi-consciousness which is difficult to describe. I could see sound? My limbs were no longer connected to my nervous system? My husband tried to roll over in bed and I shoved him away because I was convinced he was about to lay down on knives and screwdrivers?

Anyway, things are improving, and you aren’t here for baby woes, you’re here for THANKVENGERS! The holiday was a blast, even though we were a couple siblings short this year. Everybody dressed up, I got to put my new kitchen to the test, and the decorations… well, I’ll let the decorations speak for themselves!

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Edited for content.

Even the beverage station got in on things, and while we didn’t finish off the drink stand (I think somebody would have died), we were certainly feeling toasty by the time dessert rolled around.

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Google her.

We ended up expanding the theme past the MCU. For one thing, Wolverine showed up (um, he did a comic run with the team!). For another, Daredevil and Kingpin made appearances (though they WERE the MCU versions). There would have been even more chaos if all the family kids made it, but my family doesn’t need a lot of children around to act like them.

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We need a theme song.

There are plenty of photos of individual battles, food being chopped by adamantium claws or smashed by Mjolnir, and my baby being the adorable Hulk, but I think you’ve got the idea.

So that’s it for this year! Now I have 1.5 weeks of madness leading up to our birthday/housewarming party, followed by an additional week of madness leading up to my family Christmas party, followed by one last week of madness leading up to Christmas itself.

I’m basically a fool for ever expecting to accomplish personal goals during the last quarter of the year. The holidays consume me. In January I will emerge from the ashes, phoenix-like, to read all of my holiday books and write up a storm.

At the end of the day, I have a new family photo to plaster everywhere worth plastering:

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MERRY THANKMAS EVERYONE