Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lateral thinking puzzles and cultural awareness/norms

A friend gave us this lateral thinking puzzle on Boxing Day.  I'd heard it before but it took me half an hour to remember the solution.  The next day we asked my boyfriend's mum and partner it, and we asked another friend.  Some people got it within 20 seconds, others couldn't get it.   The puzzle is this:

A man lives on the 20th floor of an apartment building. Every morning he goes to work, comes back in a limousine, and gets in the lift to his apartment.  Some days he gets off at the 12th floor and walks the remaining 8 flights.  Other times he gets off at the 20th floor and goes straight into his apartment.  Why does he sometimes get out at the 12th floor?

Scroll down for the answer.
He is a dwarf (or little person - a quick google search says little people may be the correct term, but I feel awfully patronising saying that, however I realise that's my issue and if anyone who this affects is reading this I'm sorry if I'm causing offence) so he is too short to reach the button for the 20th floor.  He can reach as far as the button for the 12th floor though, and if other people are in the lift they press the button for the 20th floor for him.

Before I start waffling on about cultural norms, the pedant in me would like to ask whether lift buttons are always in one long vertical line, or if they are in sets of three or four vertical rows?  Because, this whole lateral thinking puzzle only works if the lift buttons are in one or two long vertical rows.

Right, cultural stuff.  For people who didn't get the puzzle straight away they went through tons and tons of ideas about why the man would get off t the 12th floor, all based around things they'd do.  E.g.  He had a girlfriend or lover on the 12th floor. There is a restaurant there  He liked the exercise.  There is a launderette on the 12th floor.  The lift was broken.  The limousine had a ramp to the 12th floor (that was my idea, no, I don't know why I said that either).  People who didn't get it were very surprised when they heard the answer.  I knew that the numbers of the floors were key, but I thought it was more of a numerical answer, rather than a physical capability answer.

Which led me onto thinking, that if we were all more aware of different abilities and disabilities would we get the puzzle earlier?  The answers that people gave were within their life experience, based on what they'd do, they was a certain amount of putting yourself into someone else's shoes, but not into something too different.  When I was trying to solve it I was thinking of cold hard data.  Logic.  I guess that's me not understanding the puzzle - lateral thinking isn't the same as logic.  The bloke who got it immediately is also quite short - about 5 ft 3, perhaps that helped him think outside the box?

Then I think what is the box? It's just the cultural norms that we operate with.  The way in which we think of certain body types as the default.  Men for instance.  Able bodied people.  White people.  I guess I'm saying that this puzzle really illustrated that for me.  How much does this type of thinking impact on all the other decisions and viewpoints we hold in our life?

I googled the puzzle and found this page which also has these puzzles:

2. Acting on an anonymous phone call, the police raid a house to arrest a suspected murderer. They don't know what he looks like but they know his name is John and that he is inside the house. The police bust in on a carpenter, a lorry driver, a mechanic and a fireman all playing poker. Without hesitation or communication of any kind, they immediately arrest the fireman. How do they know they've got their man?

Answer - the carpenter, lorry driver and mechanic are all women.
(my question - were they all there dressed in their workclothes with their work equipment on show as well?)

6. A man and his son are in a car crash. The father is killed and the child is taken to hospital gravely injured. When he gets there, the surgeon says, 'I can't operate on this boy - for he is my son!!!' How can this possibly be?

Answer - the surgeon is the boy's mother.

I'm ashamed to say that I didn't get either of these before looking at the answers (I only gave myself about 5 seconds but let's be honest here).  That sexist programming is still in full force.

This post is yet another example of me having half formed thoughts and wanting to get them out on the page for no other reason than to clear my head!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Time to myself!!

Me and my boyfriend are at his mum's for Christmas.  It's good here, suitably different but with no pressure.  However we have done something or seen someone every day and it's felt a bit exhausting to me.  I also haven't been sleeping well - really tired during the day then when I go to bed I perk up and can't sleep. Bah.  But today no one else is around for a couple of hours so I am going to be a right proper introvert and spend the day blogging and thinking and listening to my youtube playlists and ignoring everyone.  Hurrah!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Princeless volume 3: Interview with the artists

Have you all read Princeless?  If you haven't I hope you've at least heard about it.  It's written by Jeremy Whitley and the official tumblr is here.  It's about Princess Adrienne who is locked in a tower and told to wait until a Prince comes to rescue her.  Stuff this, she thinks.  She rescues herself, befriends a dragon and decides to go rescue her sisters who are also stuck in towers (put there by their crappy yet loving parents because that is how things are done).  Adrienne befriends a female blacksmith who is quite exuberant about anything, battles demons protecting her sisters and in volume 3, rescues Raven, the Pirate Princess, who is also stuck in a tower.  Raven is also known as the Black Arrow.  Obviously, I like her a lot.

So I got an interview with the two UK artists who are doing volume 3.  Ted Brandt and Rosy Higgins.  We talk about lettering, inking (because I love hearing about that shiz) the art process, their influences and how they got the gig.

Read on!

What parts of the art do each of you do?
Ted: It's a completely collaborative work, honestly. We have pretty complementary strengths, so it works out pretty cleanly, at least most of the time.  In theory, I do the layouts, Rosy pencils, I ink, Rosy colours and I letter, but it doesn't always quite work out that neatly. 

Rosy: Ted pretty much summed it up really. It's a lot of juggling about, there's a lot of suggestions to each other about things that could be improved or need fixing. We keep each other on our toes. 

Ted: We are doing all the art for volume 3; it's all been handed in and approved, so all that's left is to solicit and get it into stores!

Rosy:  We really hope the fans enjoy it. There will be 4 issues and I think issue 1 comes out January 28. 

So, after a few years I've just got the joke in the action lab logo..... Can you describe to me, or link me to, your favourite visual pun?  Or draw me one....
Ted: I can't find a link to it now, proving my Google-fu is weak, but I always loved that Alex Ross line-up of the Justice League, with the whole “picture with flash”/”picture without flash” that saw the latter both dimmer, and missing Barry Allen.

Rosy: I'm quite fond of this one.

How did you get the Princeless gig?
Ted: We got the gig mostly by luck, honestly; I was following Jeremy's tumblr, when I saw him say that the third volume was going to be delayed as the scheduled artist was having difficulties. Since we both wanted to get into comics, I suggested we ought to get in touch and offer our services!

Rosy: We sent an email saying how much we'd love to be a part of Princeless and asked if we could get some sample scripts to show off what we could do. Jeremy liked our stuff and our approach and we got the job!

How much guidance did you get from Jeremy for panel lay out, new character's design, mood of the comic etc?
Ted:  The great thing, and the challenge, of Jeremy's scripts is that they're very open to interpretation. It means that as far as the layouts go, it’s an open playground, which is as terrifying as it is freeing! The mood of the work was fairly evident from the scripts; it comes organically through the characters and their exploits.

Rosy: As for the character design stuff, for the main characters we're given a name, a race and a brief physical description which is again very open to interpretation really. For the less significant characters we can go wherever we want, unless there’s anything specific that Jeremy had in mind and even then it’s usually only suggestion. Jeremy is very trusting of us for that kind of stuff.

How long did it take you to do this issue of Princeless?  How many redrafts did you go through?
Ted: The first issue took…a little longer than we would have liked. It was our first professional issue, our first time collaborating together, and our longest comic to date. There was a steep learning curve!

Rosy: A very steep learning curve, yes! I'd never done anything on this scale before and it took a little while to get into the swing of things. It’s quite a test of stamina!

Can you explain the job of the inker to someone who doesn't know anything about comics?
Ted: I've never inked anyone else outside of my collaboration with Rosy, so I can't speak for the job as far as others go. For us, it's about clarifying, really: as the penciller, Rosy creates all the expressions, body language, and all the other details that breathe life into the comic and the characters. It’s my job as the inker to create a purer, condensed version of her lines so that they're neat and consistent, without taking away the spark that she gives them.

Rosy: Ted also corrects any mistakes I make, most frequently he makes hands look like hands rather than some kind of weird root vegetable.

I really appreciate the art of lettering but I don't know much about the technicalities of it.  Can you explain how you decide on a font and placement of the letters, and how you make the lettering work?  Do you draw the panel first then fit the lettering on or do you work out where the speech bubbles go and then draw the panel around it?
Ted: Lettering is a grossly underappreciated art in comics. I didn’t even realise how underappreciated it was until I started lettering this book and realised how many critical choices letterers make. For the fonts I use, they are mostly made by the excellent Comicraft font foundry - there simply aren’t any better out there.

The lucky thing about this book is that I do the layouts as well as the letters: it allows me to take into account how much speech is needed in the panels before I design each page, which means I can shape the panel sizing as well as the layout to make sure that our art balances with Jeremy’s dialogue, neither treading on the other’s toes. That said, I'm still pretty new to this, so it’s definitely a case of learning as I go!

Is comic-ing your day job? If not, how do you fit the comicing in with the day job?
Ted: It is! This volume has been our first outing into the world of full-time comics work. It's always scary leaving the regular world of work behind, but I'm pretty sure we'll have more fun this way.

Rosy: We're really lucky to be in a position where we were able to take this job on.  I feel very privileged to have this opportunity.

Any advice for Brits wanting to break into comics? Do you feel like you've broken into comics?
Ted: I'll probably feel more like I've broken in once our first collected volume is out in print. Once we have our first book in our hands, it’ll all feel more real!
As for advice: chance favours the prepared mind. If an opportunity does arise, you need to not only see it but be ready. That said, take those chances! Fail upward!

Rosy: The chance to work on Princeless came completely out of the blue so I'd advise anyone wanting to get into comics to always keep an eye out for opportunities and don't be afraid to make a grab for them when they turn up.

What comics would you recommend to new readers and to long term readers?
Editor's note: Links are to the Comixology or Amazon storefronts but don't forget you can get the issues in your local comic shop too!

Ted: Lucky you asked! There are a lot of great books out there right now. Superhero-wise, I'd recommend Marvel’s Captain Marvel (editor's note - I reviewed the first volume of Captain Marvel here), Ms Marvel and Thor; from DC, the revamped Batgirl and Gotham Academy are both flawless. All of the above are pretty all-ages friendly, fun, and wicked-smart; perhaps most importantly, they're all new enough to be new reader-friendly.

I’ve tried to pick ones that worked for new or longer readers - they all are new enough that there's not a lot of catching up on the specific stories currently being told, while (in the case of the superhero books, at least) still having plenty of characters and references that longer readers will appreciate.

Independent book-wise, I was bowled over by the first issue of ODY-C, loved Gail Simone’s Red Sonja, and am waiting very impatiently for Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new Image book (Bitch Planet).

ODY-C might be more suitable to longer readers simply because of the way the pages are constructed - they're as much design pieces as comics pages in a lot of ways, so I can certainly see that being intimidating for people who are new to the medium in general. Content-wise, however, it's a new book, so accessible to all.  Bitch Planet and Red Sonja are both suitable for new readers, though may be less suitable for younger ones.

I'm not reading much that's mired much in continuity generally; while I can easily get it, I generally find that stuff that's accessible to new readers is more entertaining. 

While I'm not reading anything really non-accessible continuity-wise right now, older series are a gold mine for that kind of stuff. Final Crisis is definitely fantastic (editor's note - for non comicers I explain Final Crisis here). That said, DC's Multiversity is definitely steeped in continuity - not just in terms of DC, but in terms of Morrison's work there: it stands as the final piece of a story he started back when he first took the reins on Batman, and including Final Crisis, his run on Action Comics, and more. 

As to the other part of your question, looking for comics recommendations for books that are less accessible to new readers in terms of being new to the medium, well, that's harder. Jason Shiga's Meanwhile is a great example - it's a fantastic comics version of a make-your-own adventure with an alarming number of stories to be told. David Mazzucchelli's AsteriosPolyp is similarly challenging in its storytelling, but is possibly the most intelligent book I've ever read. Semiotically speaking, Asterios Polyp is active on every level, with each line and colour imbued with meaning that may not be obvious on immediate inspection. 

Rosy: For someone who wants to work in comics I’m actually really, REALLY bad at reading them.  To be honest I'm not even really that big a reader.  Unlike Ted I don’t like to get individual issues because I'd end up losing one of them and then wouldn't be able to follow the story, so I prefer to get the trade paperbacks. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to pick up any in a while so I'm really behind
on the books I do enjoy. My favourites being Image’s Chew and Invincible and Daniel Way’s runon Deadpool. Actually pretty much any run on Deadpool…I wouldn’t recommend you read those with your kids, though.

I guess I'd recommend anything Stuart Immonen has worked on, because even if you don't completely get everything that's going on you'll still have spectacular visuals to look at.
(Editor's note - I review two Stuart Immonen books here).

Oh, and absolutely everyone should read Princeless, obviously.

Question to Rosy: May I ask how you find drawing comics/storytelling when you don't read that much of them?
Rosy: The truth is that Ted is the one who sorts out where everything is going on the page, blocking out not just the panels but the general positions of the characters and how everything flows together. My job is to flesh out his ideas. It's sort like he's the director to my actors. 

My background is that I learned to draw through watching cartoons. I initially wanted to be an animator; I found out I lacked the patience and stamina for animation during my first year at university. I did, however, really enjoy doing storyboarding and animatics and thought comics could be an avenue to go down. I ended up transferring to another course at another university specifically for graphic novels, which was where Ted and I met. 

Now, to find out more about Princeless and these guys' work, follow these links:
Ted's tumblr:
Action Lab website:
Release date for Princeless vol 3 issue 1: January 28th 2015
View all Princeless available issues here (and go buy them!):

Thanks to Rosy and Ted for their time!

This interview also appears on my New readers... start here! blog - - which normally contains comic reviews for new readers.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Feminist comics for teenagers

I mean male and female teens.
I was trying to think of DC new 52 comics for the feminist teen in your llife and I couldn't think of any
Marvel has the lady x-men, ms marvel, cap'n marvel and did have fearless defenders.
I couldn't think of any from dc's new 52. Sensation Comics would work though.

I guess by comics for feminist teens I mean stories with badass women saving the day, alongside men is fine, women that are bright and talk back, that stand up for what they believe in. That are heroes every bit as much as men are.  Team books would be fine. A male led book would work so long as there were decent women in it as well.

I've got my second issue of the new batgirl creative team to read - w/o the transphobia that could work. And i also have Gotham academy to read. JLU might be OK, I guess.
But they used to have flash (wally west years), Connor and Palmiottis Power Girl and the Gates/Igle Supergirl run.

I guess I'm just lamenting the narrow range of stories they tell now. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible 20th anniversary gig

On Tuesday I went to go see the Manics perform, in it's entirety, for the first time, their most accomplished album, The Holy Bible.

I've been a fan for 20 years.  Some of these songs have never been played before.  This is the one thing I've been looking forward to since my son died.

They were good.   They played very well.  I was too short to see much of them on stage but I'm always too short to see much of them on stage.  They noodled a lot.  They are different musicians to their 20 years younger selves and so they played the music differently.  It was good.  I got emotional, of course I did, it's a Manics gig, I've had a pretty shit 6 and a half months and I'm a cliche.  But!  For a few seconds, for a little while, I forgot my troubles.  I felt OK enjoying the gig. I felt OK being out.  I didn't feel guilty.  This was the first time since June that I have been in such a big crowded environment and it didn't freak me out.  That's good.  I also started signing to 4st 7lbs and This is Yesterday.  I haven't really voluntarily and unconsciously signed since June.

They did 2 sets. The first was the Holy Bible in full.  Then there was a 10 minute break and then they did a mix of hits, songs from Futurology and rarely played.  And a little bit of Last Christmas of course.

I wore a leopard print skirt and a DC Roller Derby girls vest:
No one commented on my vest.  There's a distressing low number of comic fans out there.  Or maybe there were lots and they all thought I was a fake geek girl (ha!).

I didn't come out of the gig feeling elated and buzzing.  Of course I didn't, I imagine it will be a long time before I feel elated and buzzing again. But, I am glad I went.  I'm grateful for the chance to be there and I'm grateful for how I could forget my troubles for just a short while.

I recommend you go listen to the Holy Bible now.  There are various playlists on youtube, this is one of them:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

I'm just going to provide a link here, to an amazing group of Wondy cosplayers doing Nubia, Artemis, Kingdom Come Di, Donna Troy and Cheetah.

Go visit this page:

You won't regret it!

Here's a picture of Nubia if you aren't sure who she is:
That's from Final Crisis 7.

Monday, December 08, 2014

A little trip to Lille

I went to Lille with work a few weeks ago and I took photos.

Lille is a strange little city. It's grey and concrete and a little bit grotty, but nonetheless has a certain charm to it that makes me rather quite like it.  I didn't get to see much of it because I was there at a work conference.  We stayed int he world's shittest hotel - it smelt of smoke, it was noisy, the temperature control was just bizzare and the sliding door to the bathroom broke so I had to really struggle with pushing it open and closed.  The shower was a tray with a curtain and at the end of each shower the floor was sodden with pools of water.  When I arrived I found this delightful towel on the bed:

It doesn't make up for the shitty hotel.  We went out to a cafe for the breakfast each morning - croissants and coffee - which was alright.  The second morning I got some street harassment - it was 7.30 am and a bloke in his 20s/30s starts walking beside me and asking me questions.  Fuck off.  I thought he was going to follow us into the cafe at one point, but thankfully he didn't.

The conference had some good stuff:

Mmmm delicious French pastries.
Artisan lemonade.  They also had pink and yellow stuff.  It was tasty.

Being so close to Belgium there was good beer:

And food baked in beer:
This was the sweetest stewed beef I had ever tasted.

We also briefly visited the Christmas market before we left:

It sold tat.  Made up gifts that only exist to fill the consumerist clamouring in our capitalist souls.  I didn't buy anything.

There was this ferris wheel.  If you look closely you can see that the cars are painte dliek Christmas puddings:

I read Raising Steam while I was there.  This page reminded me that the romantic relationships I want in fiction are those where the couple has been together several years and are comfortable with each other and still deeply in love, but also have lives outside of the relationship:

In summary, if you can visit Lille, do it.  Also read Raising Steam.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Crafty stuff

A month or so back I wrote about how I wanted to start making things.  I could link to the post but i can't be arsed.  Anyway, I made things.

First of all, I made reusable wrapping paper out of cotton fabric and a ribbon.  Et voila:

It's an elephant print fabric with a cow print ribbon.  Because I like mixing up animals.  Or more likely because I'm shit at finding matching things.  It's a rectangular shape.  I'm quite aware that the wrapping paper clashes horribly with the duvet cover.  I don't care, I couldn't be arsed to find somewhere else to photograph it.

Here's a close up of it:

Neat huh?  I had a friend help me do it.  It was pretty simple.  It involved folding over the edges twice (twice! who'da thunk it!), pinning them, ironing them them using the sewing machine to hem it.

Example of my hemming.  I can't work out how to rotate the picture.

There was a fancy technique to do the corners so they didn't end up really large and bumpy.  This technique involved cutting triangles out of part of the corners but I can't remember what it's called or exactly what we did.

The corners where the sewing machine was going over the folded fabric from the side of the folded bit worked fine.  The other corners where you run the sewing machine over the edge of the folded fabric didn't work so well as it bunched up, which you can sort of see here:
 Sewing the ribbon was also pretty easy.

It's quite a large piece of fabric so will wrap many things.  If you wrap a small thing you can use hairbands to tie the ends of the fabric into a cracker shape, which was an unexpected bonus.
I want to make a shirt out of this fabric but I am told that shirts are really difficult because of boobs and shoulders and backs and waists.  Bummer.

I also made a double sided apron for my niece:

This involved lots of measuring and cutting out of material and wooden spoons to turn tubes of straps inside out.  And lots of ironing.
We opted for velcro for the neck strap and the waist bands so she can have fun and control over taking it on and off.

I had to hand stitch some off the velcro for the waistband on and I am terrible at handstitching because I have no patience.  See:

Eek.  On the plus side, my niece is 2 and a half so she won't care about the quality of stitching.

And that is me getting crafty.  In the new year my friend is going to teach me how to make a skirt.  I want to make a Captain Marvel one.  Blue with a yellow star and some red stripes on.  I want a gathered skirt a bit like this but maybe rounder.  No idea how easy that is to make though.  I shall wait for advice from my friend.  Or just do whatever pattern my friend comes up with.  We are both in agreement that A line skirts suit nobody.  My friend is a great teacher and I'm really grateful for her help (thank you Christina!) because I would have had no idea how to even make an apron (turns out they are really simple) without her guidance.  And now I feel (sort of) comfortable with my sewing machine.

I still want a Captain Marvel dress, a bit like this one but with sleeves.  Maybe in a year or so when I am more skilled.  Or maybe I should buy a base blue dress and customise it myself.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

December can do one

Being in town with all the Christmas stuff and the shoppers is so stifling.  It puts me on edge and sets my mind working overtime and it's horrible.  I feel like I'm quelling the start of a panic attack.  I can't think, I can't browse for shopping, I can't do anything that's not pre-planned.  Even the pre-planned stuff is difficult.

I finally put something on facebook requesting no christmas cards or presents and asking that instead people to Sands, which is a stillbirth and neonatal death charity providing support to bereaved families and has been a lifeline to me.holi

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Comics of the last week in November

Spoilers ahead for this lot:
Supergirl 36
It's the new creative arc and lo and behold I actually enjoyed it. This is a good writing team. Art was OK - the first panel was a boobs and butt pose which isn't great, obvs, but the rest was OK. Kara gets full armour and it looks better than the unitard.
The comic opens with Kara working in a coffee shop, frustrated with earth tech (till machines) and a bearded Clark turns up and lectures her. I liked Kara in these scenes. She felt real.

Then she gets whisked to space and introduction d to the crucible academy. This wasn't bad. Nice to see Maxima there. I hope we get to see her back on earth though.

Aquaman 36.
I dip in and out of this title. I bought this one for for the Lego cover (also got the Lego Supergirl cover). It's a strong issue. Good plotting, good writing and good art. I like Mera's catsuit.

Batgirl 35
This is the new creative team.  It's really, really good.  I will be putting this on my pull list.  Black Canary is in it (winner).  The art is kinda reminiscent of the art from Archie/Betty/Veronica type stories.  C'est triple good.

Batman/Superman 16
I got really edgy and grumpy while reading this.  It's a tense story with really touching moments.

Multiversity 3 (4)?
These are all numbered 1 on the cover, it's confusing.  (woe is me, ect ect).  This issue had watchmen, Midnighter and marvel references.  I preferred the previous issue, it made more sense.  Then again, this is Morrison and he's not interested in writing linear easy to understand stories.  I'm sure that as a whole it will all come together.

Sensation Comics 4
Ugh, just check out the boobs and butt pose on the cover it is horrible.  It would be nice if she wasn't twisted so much.  It looks like it's aping Adam Hughes, but for all his faults he doesn't usually create spine twisters.
Inside the comic is much better.  Gilbert Hernandez's Wondy, Supergirl and Mary Marvel art make for a very enjoyable alternative story.  I'm not sure I have a view on the plot or characterisation - it;s maybe rather stilted, but perhaps that's the point - but the art makes it worth reading.
The 50ft Wondy story is quite nice, with a bit of cheeky gender bending at the end.  The final story also has good art and fat Etta - always worthwhile.

Harley Quinn 12
Good fun. Harley has a red and black Peej outfit on.  I bet we'll start seeing that at cons soon.  Peej has named Harls her sidekick and they fight a giant pizza slice then visit Manos, bearer of the infinity rings.

Jonah Hex new 52 volume 2
I'm halfway through this and it's OK so far.  I'm not a big fan of Westerns hence why it's only OK.  I would quite like to read the issues when Jonah gets plumped forward to the present day.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

Another one that I can't find a source for.
I like it because Diana is skinny, and because she looks a bit Asian.  I like the simple style of the costume and I like the look in her eyes.  Like she's sizing you up to see if you are worth anything.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

Wondy fist bump anyone?

This is an Adam Hughes piece.  I really wish he would draw Di with a bustier that supports her breasts.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Supersonic - an indie superhero film

I just watched Supersonic.  It's an indie coming of age superhero film by a British director, set in London, possibly Lambeth if I remember the credit sequence correctly.

It's only half an hour long, I recommend you go watch it -

It's about a 16 year old who slowly comes to realise he has speedster powers and has to choose what to do with them.  It's also about family - blood family and chosen family - and responsibility.  Check it out!  It's all in BSL but there are subtitles if you need them.  I'm quite gratified to realise I didn't need the subtitles.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

DC's Girl Power and Busy Bodies books

A while ago I wrote about my excitement at these two books for kids.  I said I'd review them.  So this is a review of sorts.

Here are my books:

If anyone recognises the kids books to the side of them you get a prize of my respect.  Yes I bought 3 copies of the Girl Power one.  One for me, one for my niece and one for another kid, who I shall be giving it to for Christmas.  I'll also give the Busy Bodies one to another child.

The books are pretty much as you'd expect from the solicit photos.  They are board books, definitely intended for babies and I guess kids aged up to about 2 or 3.  They are designed to help kids to read, to help parents interact with their kids, to promote bonding.  I guess the Girl Power one could be read by an older child with an interest in superheroes (maybe a 5 year old?) but the Busy Bodies one is unlikely to be enjoyed by any kid that already knows their body parts.  Unless, maybe they like the superheros and they use the books to stimulate their imaginations?

I like the books for their traditional (non sexy, non violent) take on the superheroes, for reaching out to kids, for being durable and for being good to look at (if you like stock 70s art).

I'm going to give the Busy Bodies one to a 4 month old boy and the Girl Power one to a 7 month old girl.  I think the parents will enjoy them and I like the idea of the kids growing up with them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sequential Sartorial from Women Write About Comics

I found this post on Women Write About Comics (WWAC) about fashion in pop culture and I just love it:

I love the nerdiness, the appreciation for detail, the importance of the subject, the critical thought behind the passion and all the rest. It's great. I love the comments too.  Go read it.

On twitter I got in on the action by talking about my three favourite Supergirl outfits that really show her personality through her clothes:
 I don't know the artist here, sorry.

Art by Amanda Connor.  Pre new 52, post crisis, was issue 12 I think.

Art by Ian Churchill.  Also pre new 52, post crisis.  This is before issue 20, possibly 13, 14 or 15.  It had the new Captain Boomerang in it.

You may not like the art, or that incarnation of Kara, but you cannot deny that thought has gone into what she is wearing.

Wonder Woman Wednesday

This is the cover of JLA Classified 50.  It's by Joshua Middleton.  How gorgeous is this?  I love the body language, their frustration, the fact they aren't a couple.  It's so different to DC's New 52 house style, which I hate.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

From the style, I'd say this was 1960s or 1970s art. Anyone know who the artist is?

Wonder Woman Wednesday

A young, pouty Diana.  Good colours.

The credit says Cedric Poulal/J-estacado deviantart.  Link here:

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Comfort food for a winter's night

Since I started eating meat again I've re-fallen in love with this recipe.  It's pretty perfect for a cold dark evening.  Considering I don't usually like chicken or peanut butter consider it a winner.

Chicken and peanut stew
Serves 2
I chicken fillet, chopped into bits
1 400 gram tin of tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of mild paprika
1/2 a tablespoon of oregano
Couple of garlic cloves, chopped or crushed, whatever you can be arsed to do
4 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
1/2 a tablespoon of rapeseed oil (or whatever oil you have in the cupboard, butter would work too)

Mix the cut up chicken, paprika and ginger in a bowl.  Make sure the chicken is well coated.
Heat oil in a saucepan, add chopped onions.
Fry onions until soft.  I do this on a middling heat.  This should take about 5 minutes.  If you've got the heat too high they'll go crispy.  If it's too low it will take aaaaaaaaages.  I keep the lid on to help keep the heat in and get it to cook quicker.
Take onions out and add the cut up piece of chicken and chopped garlic.  Keep the heat on a middling to low temperature.  Fry until the chicken has gone white and there's water in the pan.  You know, I think this means I'm buying the wrong chicken, but it seems to be quite hard to find chicken fillets that haven't had water injected into them. Le sigh.
Anyway this stage should take about 5 minutes.  Keep an eye on the chicken - if you overcook it it will go dry and hard and rank.  I tend to keep the lid on as it helps the stuff to not dry out.
Once the chicken is cooked put the cooked onions back in the pan.
Add the tomatoes, peanut butter and oregano.  Stir everything until the peanut butter has melted.
Add about 100ml of water.  The sauce should be reasonably thick. You want to be able to stir it and not see the bottom of the pan, but you don't want it really runny.
Keep it simmering for about 20 minutes with the lid on.
If the sauce is really runny just take the lid off and boil some of the water off to reduce it.

Serve with brown rice (takes about 20 minutes to cook) and vegetables - I tend to either steam my veg or roast squash and aubergine.  If you are roasting veg you could add a sprinkling of chilli flakes, that would go well with the main stew.

You could add a bit of chicken or vegetable stock with the water too.  I'd put in just a sprinkling.  Any more and it gets really salty.  If you forget to coat the chicken pieces in the ginger and paprika don't worry too much, just add them after you've fried the chicken, stir everything, then continue as normal.  The original recipe calls for salt to be included in the spice mix, but I find this makes it ridiculously salty.  It also asks for a litre of chicken stock, but I don't think that amount is necessary.

To make it vegetarian you could replace the chicken with quorn chunks, but it's not quite the same.  You can't coat the quorn chunks in the spices to start with.  If anyone knows of anything else to replace the chicken let me know in the comments.  I'm a bit rubbish at being creative with recipes.  Quorn does soak up a lot of liquid though, so either use tons of oil, or cook the quorn in a little stock and the spices, and then add onions, tomatoes, peanut butter and the rest.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A statistical breakdown of pregnancy outcomes

This was done by a friend of mine:

It makes me even more furious, and scared, and hollow, and feel like I've had my teeth kicked out and all those emotions I don't want to face.
The wheel is plotted from 2012 data and uses these stats:
  • Around 1 in 5 pregnancies ending in miscarriage
  • 1 in 200 ending in stillbirth
  • 1 in 200 resulting in termination for medical reasons
  • 1 in 45 births classified as having some form of birth defect
  • Insufficient data available to include neonatal deaths as an outcome

Remember that miscarriage includes the death of a baby up to 24 weeks.  After 24 weeks the death is classified as a stillbirth.  7 in 10 babies die in the first 28 days of life - that's a neonatal death.

PS, I hate the term pregnancy outcome, nearly as much as I hate the term pregnancy loss.  It makes it sound like there's no child involved, no other human, like it just something that happens to the woman.  Fuck that.

Why the FUCK did no one tell us stillbirth happens.  How the FUCK do doctors and midwives think they have the right to decide what we should know.  If the baby was born breathing they wouldn't shy away from giving us all the information.  Instead we get vague cautions given in wishy washy language.  The baby is distressed.  They can have problems.  You don't want to risk anything.  That means FUCK ALL if they don't tell you that there's a risk of death.  If they don't say that a distressed baby means it's not getting any oxygen.  They make it seem like all problems can be fixed.  Fuck right off.

If you've been affected by this post support is available at Sands.  Sands is a UK stillbirth and neonatal death charity.  They support forum is here:  The main site with all the information on is here:

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Samaritans radar

The Samaritans launched a new app on Wednesday, called Samaritans Radar.  From their website:

[Samaritans radar is] a free web application that monitors your friends’ Tweets, alerting you if it spots anyone who may be struggling to cope. The app gives users a second chance to see potentially worrying Tweets, which might have otherwise been missed.
Created by digital agency Jam using Twitter’s API, Samaritans Radar uses a specially designed algorithm that looks for specific keywords and phrases within a Tweet. It then sends an email alert to the user with a link to the Tweet it has detected, and offers guidance on the best way of reaching out and providing support.

The website for the app says 'turn your social net into a safety net'.

Purple Persuasion wrote about why the app is creepy.  Obviously I also have Ideas.

Let's take the description for the app - who is it a safety net for?  Safety nets are usually for vulnerable people, not friends of vulnerable people.

I have questions about who would use this app.  If you care that much about someone and are wondering if they are struggling, why not just look through their twitter feed. Send them a message. It's not hard to do.  If you don't care enough to do that why would you use the app.

I have concerns about how people will respond to notifications that someone may be in trouble, which is linked back to their motivations for using the app.  Do they just want to feel like they've done their bit.  Do they think that if they send a quick supportive message then everything is OK.  I kind of feel like anyone doing that is more interested in salving their guilty conscience than in actually helping people.

If the person you are following is not a good friend of yours, if you don't know them beyond a twitter persona, if you don't know much about the details of their life, then you aren't best placed to respond.  You don't know jack and you could make things worse.  Using the app doesn't make you more aware of people in crisis, it makes you ghoulish and voyeuristic.  What *really* are you going to do if you see that someone you don't know very well appears to be in crisis.  What could you do.  Unless you know them well, or are trained, you'd probably be better off butting out.

All in all, it's a ridiculous and creepy idea.  If I find out that anyone is using it on me I'll be having Words.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween/All souls day

Another year, another Halloween.  I'm coming to hate the festivals as they mark the passage of time.

This year I miss my uncle, my gran and my work friend.
But most of all I miss my son.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Well whaddya know, bras do wear in

I was all ready to write a furious and blistering post about how bras are really hard to fit and how it's infuriating when you think something fits in the shop and then you wear it for a day and it turns out it doesn't.

I bought 2 bras last week. A zebra print one and a leopard print one (my first in each print!!)  I got fitted in store, we'd decided on the sizes that fit me (one of them is a 30J...) and I took them home.
Wore the 30J (!!! I was expecting to come out with a 30HH at most!) the next day and within 2 hours the bit between my breasts was digging in.  It continued doing so the next few days I wore it.  This has happened before and I came to the conclusion that it's due to the difference in size between my breasts.

Having different sized boobs isn't unusual.  I'd say there's a 2 cup difference between mine.  Usually bra fitters fit to the larger size because if you don't you get that double boob/spillage effect on the larger one.  You do get some gaping on the cup on the smaller side, but this is at least hidden under clothes and you can't hide the spillage.

After having the wires dig into my sternum for a few days I decided that when the bra is fitted to my larger side the wires are much too big on my smaller side, hence the uncomfortable feeling and occasional pain.  I was pretty narked about this because having worn it for a few hours you can't take it back.  I planned to take the other, unworn one back, because I figured I'd have the same problem.

Lo and behold, I put the worn one on again yesterday to find I had no pain!  It appears to have worn in.  this had never happened before.  I'm amazed.  I'd heard some women talk about how they wear in bras but I'd scoffed at them and thought they were just wearing the wrong sizes.  Oops.  Sorry ladies.

Now I'm debating whether or not to take the leopard print one back or whether to keep it and hope that it also wears in...

Anyone else experienced this??

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

Canary, Shiera and Peej (look in his shades) try to hold Di back, while Zee looks on aghast.
You can see the credit in the image.
This is reminiscent of this Barda and Plas sequence from JLA 33, written by Mark Waid:

I don't like this depiction of Plas.  It's creepy.

Wonder Woman Wednesday

A playful Wondy by Adam Hughes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Comics do pregnancy and baby stuff

A while ago I asked if anyone knew of Superman titles which dealt with Ma and Pa Kent's infertility. A few people reminded me of Grant Morrison's Action Comics, issue 5, with a backup about their attempts at making a baby.

It's a good story. It feels real. You feel their love and their desperation. It's a serious issue not often talked about and this comics treats it with dignity and understanding. Because it's a Superman comic it has to tie in with the Kent's finding Superman and this is the one part which falls down, for me.
I think good fiction generally, and superhero comics in particular, should tell us something about our lives. They should reflect the important stuff and give us ways to deal with it,or gives us insights into other people's stories, other people's lives.

Superhero comics, with their good vs evil narratives and their subjects being people with amazing powers, have a really big mandate to talk to us about the important stuff. Not every single comic has to do this, comics about two people going shopping can also be fun, and there are issues which are just beat em ups. But unless these events acknowledge the wider picture - the cause they are fighting for,or the shoppers' characters, they become quite dull.

Back to Action Comics. Near the end of the backup a priest tells the Kent's that he thinks God has a plan for them.  Fast forward a few scenes and as they are driving home we see Clark's ship coming into land.

The IVF and infertility stuff was handled really well, but seeing Clark's ship come in kinda ruined it for me. I realise I'm more sensitive to this than most but for most of us, babies don't fall out of the sky. For those of us childless not through choice, saying that God has a plan for us is simply twisting the knife in further.   If God took our children from us on purpose he can go to hell. If the purpose is for us to have another child, well, that won't make up for the one we've lost.  Saying things like 'god has a plan' or 'people are only given what they can handle' is trite bullshit said by people who have no concept of real pain.

And that's where Action Comics 5 falls down for me. If they hadn't linked the priest's words with Clark's arrival I'd think it was fine. But to do so takes away from the real world themes of the previous story.  It makes me really really angry,

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book review : The Mortal Instruments book 1 & 2

So the lovely Kariss sent me these 2 books as part of the equally lovely Char's blogger book swap.  I'd said I'd liked adult supernatural stuff so she got my tastes pretty right when she sent me these.
Spoilers ahead.

The front cover has an endorsement by Stephanie Meyer which sets the the tone for this series. If you like Twilight you'll prolly like these. It's about a teenager called Clary who finds herself part of an underground world of magic, werewolves, vampires, demons and demon hunters. Clary thinks she's plain looking, but clearly is very pretty. She's also clumsy and has two other teenage boys lusting after her. The magic boy is snooty, dangerous, unbelievably beautiful and a bit of a rude prick, if I'm honest.  The other boy is a regular mortal and has been her friend since they were toddlers.  Sound familiar? It should do!

This book is riding hard on the coattails of Twilight. Having said that, it is pretty enjoyable, in a trashy way. I like trash, I loved twilight. Both series are good escapist rubbish.

These books are better written than Twilight, the prose is better, but they aren't as engrossing, somehow Twilight plot was more gripping. Clary is also more three dimensional than Bella, as are the rest of the characters.  There are plot twists in here that I genuinely didn't see coming, and there are plot twists I did see coming, a mile off.

The love triangle is a bit odd. The set up doesn't make you particularly support either boy, and then it's revealed that Clary and magic boy are siblings, yet they still clearly want to do each other.  This is odd because the book presents it as forbidden love but in the same way that other books say a fella from the wrong side of town is forbidden. It's weird. The book doesn't seem to acknowledge how creepy an incestuous romantic relationship is.  It's touched on, but it's not really felt throughout the pages.  Part of me suspects that this is because magic boy is clearly not really a blood relation of Clary, but is actually an elf. NB: by the end of book 2 this hasn't been confirmed, but it's fairly obvious it will be a book 3 reveal.

Now, love triangles and love anguish in YA fiction are usually there so readers can empathise with the heroine and the situation.  But why would a teenager want to fantasise about a forbidden love forbidden because the hot boy is your blood brother?? It's weird!  I'd be really interested to know what teen girls thought of this.  Maybe the writer wanted to rival Twilight's creepy love story (the baby and the werewolf imprinting on each other - less creepy than it sounds, but still an odd choice for the plot).

The other odd thing about the book is the introduction of magic boy and his two friends.  Considering we are meant to be rooting for these guys, their first scene paints them as bullying murderers.  We later find out they aren't really murderers as they are killing demons, but the whole bully thing is not really addressed.  I thought of Buffy when I was reading this.  Buffy explicitly tackled the joy-in-killing-demons thing and decided it was Not Good. This series, so far doesn't.

Now, I don't want my texts of choice to be morally 'correct', and I am quite happy being challenged, but I'd like them to tackle  the dodgy stuff, to be aware of it, and not just ignore them (unless that's a major theme of the book).  In this case it just reads like shallow writing.  All surface and no feeling.  Maybe not quite as bad as that.

So, it's a fun couple of books, set in a daft supernatural world, with ridiculous plots and odd choices in relationships.  Nonetheless it's a nice easy way to pass the time.  I shall be passing these on to a friend of mine who I am sure will get some trashy enjoyment out of them.

FWIW, my thoughts on Twilight (and The Hunger Games) are here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

From pregnancy to post-natal: Energy levels and bodies

I have always considered myself a tired person. I have always complained that I'm tired, that I don't want to stand up any longer, that I need more sleep. It got worse in my first trimester so I started taking iron tablets at around 12 weeks, and I perked right up.  As my baby grew I got progressively more tired, until I was absolutely shattered for the last few weeks. Pregnant readers - go on maternity leave at 34 weeks, don't wait till 37, it's hard work!
I went back to work a month ago and you'd think I would again be knackered. But I'm not. I have energy. I don't want to go bed at 9.30 or 10 every night. I can do things. And I can focus!  I can work and make decisions! I guess baby brain is a real thing after all.  It's odd how things sneak up on you. I didn't notice my sluggishness when pregnant,and now with this extra energy that doesn't waver my life feels even more surreal.

 I'm also slightly anemic, so I figure if I start taking iron tablets I'll be bouncing off the walls.

I sit here, at the doctor's surgery, with my arms resting on my flesh and my belt, and for the life of me I still feel pregnant. I feel this bulk of flesh that I associate with pregnancy.  I remember it took me a while to feel like I had a proper bump, a full on expanding outwards big pregnant belly, and I was, of course, much bigger than I am now, and differently shaped.
Yet now, I sit here and I rest my arms on my sides and I feel pregnant. I wonder if other post natal women feel the same or if it's a feeling experienced only by those who have lost their babies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

I recognise this artists but can't remember the name.  Anyone got any ideas?

Monday, October 20, 2014

DC's My First Book of Girl Power

I am absolutely thrilled! DC are starting to publish more books for little kids. They aren't quite comics, but that doesn't bother me.  I saw this on the Women Write About Comics website and promptly told various twitter friends about it.

Here's some picture samples:

Isn't is great? Here we have something for little girls, that isn't pink (ignore the cover, it;s not fully pink!), that doesn't patronise them, that celebrates them and teaches them they are worthy. The art is gorgeous stock art from the 70s so there's no issues with the characters being sexy.  Here we have an educational book saying that girls are heroes. This is amazing!

I've pre-ordered 3 copies - one for nw, one fir my 2 and a half year old niece and one for my friends' daughters - aged 2 and 5.  Both UK and US Amazon stores have it available.

Earlier this week I'd seen DC's Busy Bodies, which I have also ordered. I'm not sure what age is it aimed at but samples from inside show that it's DC characters talking g about what they use parts of the bodies for, e.g. Aquaman uses his arms to swim. So I'm guessing it's for a young kid, maybe toddlers.  When I get it I will review it.  Here are some samples:


I am so pleased that DC is now doing this sort of thing. I can't help but wonder if this means they might reprint their super dictionary. You can read the whole thing on a tumbl here, but I really want a physical copy.  Having said that, I did just find this - is it the same thing?  How exciting!