Ladies I Love: Z is for Zombie Apocalypse Survivors!

Oh my goodness – this is the LAST DAY OF THE A TO Z CHALLENGE!!!  I can’t believe it…no, wait, I CAN believe it!  This challenge was about to kick my butt, however, looks like I’m writing the Z post for Ladies I Love, so who’s kicking butt now, huh?  Speaking of kicking butt, that brings me to the subject of today’s post, my favorite female zombie apocalypse survivors (or as I like to think of them, zombie slayers).  But first, a little business:

WARNING: This post contains violence in the context of zombies being killed by badass ladies.  You might not want to watch the video clip at the end of this post if you have a problem with blood, gore, or violence against zombies.  Although I also feel obligated to tell you that it’s not real zombie blood or gore, and not real violence towards zombies.  No actual zombies were harmed in the making of any of these movies or shows.

zombie killer

Whew!  Now that that’s off my chest, let’s get started.  I don’t know if any of you know this, but I really like zombies.  Like, I like them a lot.  I read zombie novels, and I get a kick out of zombie humor.  To me, there’s something utterly fascinating about the whole “world falls apart and you have to learn how to survive in the face of horror and also other human beings who can also be horrible” scenario.  I’ve seen a bunch of zombie movies, of course, so I thought I’d write about my top five favorite female zombie heroines…but, damn, this was a difficult post!  Sure, I had my top 2 or 3, but I really had to dig to find a few others.  Most of the zombie movies out there star guys who go in to save the girls, or the girls end up taking off their tops and showing their boobs, or the whole thing is just a bad, lame joke.  Ugh.  Anyway, let’s get this list started!

28-days-later-selenaFifth on my list is Selena from 28 Days Later.  You could argue that 28 Days Later isn’t really a zombie film, but dang, all those people with the “rage virus” sure do act like they’ve lost their minds in a zombie kind of way.  Selena, played by Naomie Harris, comes to the rescue of several people in her survivor’s group of four, although she does not hesitate to kill anyone who has been infected (a drop of blood can contaminate and incite rage within 30 seconds of exposure…yikes!).  The rage virus continues to spread despite quarantines and Selena and her group continue to evade the infected, although they meet up with a not-so-nice military contingent and things get really messy from there.  Great movie and fantastic acting!

Shaun_of_the_Dead - LizI think my favorite zombie movie of all time has to be Shaun of the Dead.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are so hilarious that I couldn’t NOT include this in my list.  But who is the leading lady?  Easy – Shaun’s on-off-on again girlfriend, Liz, played by Kate Ashfield.  First, she can hold her own using a field hockey stick.  Second, she does a mean zombie impression which helps the gang get into the Winchester pub for the final standoff with all the zombies.  The humor in this movie almost makes me pee my pants every time I see it, and the cast is Ah Maze Zing (Bill Nighy even plays Shaun’s detested stepfather).  I always find something new to laugh at, no matter how many times I watch it!

AliceThird on my list is Alice from the Resident Evil movies.  This is a long series of movies and the overall plot is a bit complicated, but basically, the world is run by the Umbrella Corporation and has unleashed the T-Virus upon the earth’s populace, creating zombies all over the place. There are pockets of survivors here and there, and Alice, who is kind of a clone of herself in the movies, is there to rebel against the Umbrella Corporation and ultimately take them down.  Alice is played by ass-kicking Milla Jovovich, who is captured by Umbrella and experimented upon, and develops superhuman fighting skills and strength due to exposure to the T-Virus.  She uses her skills to escape from Umbrella, fight zombies, and destroy the head bad guy (or the Red Queen, shall I say).  I love these movies because of the complex story line, the twists and turns it takes, and of course, Milla Jovovich’s portrayal of Alice!

MaggieChopMy first and second favorite zombie survivors / slayers both come from The Walking Dead TV series.  My second favorite is Maggie Greene, played by Lauren Cohan.  The main group of survivors meets up with Hershal and his family (including Maggie) on his farm, and Glenn and Maggie hit it off and have a romance that survives longer than all of the zombies that Maggie and Glenn come into contact with.  Whether it’s clearing zombies from the prison compound’s perimeter or killing attacking zombies in riot gear, Maggie gets the hard (and dangerous, and gross) jobs done.  Maggie plays it tough but I think she’s a romantic on the inside, and will stop at nothing to get back to Glenn in season 4 when she doesn’t even know if Glenn is still alive.  Ahhh…a true apocalyptic love story!

michonneFinally, my favorite zombie slayer of all time has got to be Michonne from The Walking Dead.  I’ve kept up with the graphic novels as well as the show, and she’s my favorite in both.  Like Maggie, she plays it tough, but as we’ve gotten to know Michonne, we see more of her background and why she has had to toughen up so much.  She’s a very complex character, and is portrayed most excellently by Danai Gurira (really, I can’t imagine anyone else doing better – Danai IS Michonne!).  Also, Michonne carries a katana sword with her at all times, her signature weapon that allows her to kill zombies from a safe-ish distance quickly and quietly.  Check out this video that compiled all of her zombie kills, through season 3 (I think – the video was published July 26, 2013).  Pretty amazing, huh?

So what do you think?  Are you a fan of zombies or zombie films, comics, books, shows, etc.?  If so, who are your favorite survivalists?  Any recommendations for me, or additions to this list?

It has been a pleasure blogging the A to Z Challenge with all of you this past April – I hope to see you participating again next year!  I definitely will be, but feel free to stop by Fuzzy Undertones in the mean time to say hello! ❤

Ladies I Love: Y is for Malala Yousafzai, Education Equality Superhero!

Today’s A to Z Challenge post is an especially meaningful one for me.  My Lady I Love for the letter Y is Malala Yousafzai.  I hope that you have heard of her.  She comes from the Swat Valley, Pakistan, and is 16 years old.  On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, Malala boarded her bus as usual.  A man stepped on board, asked for Malala, and shot at her three times with a Colt 45.  One of those bullets entered the side of her forehead and ended up in her shoulder.  Malala spent a significant amount of time in critical condition, but recovered, and now her voice is louder than ever.

Hero_Malala_QUOTE

Malala-Yousafzai-QuotesWhat the hell happened?  Born into a Sunni Muslim family, Malala was largely educated by her father in her early years, himself an education activist.  The Taliban became active in the Swat Valley, and their presence and power grew stronger there as Malala grew up.  The Taliban destroyed girls’ schools and banned girls from attending school altogether at certain points.  The BBC wanted to cover the growing presence and influence of the Taliban in the area, and looked for someone who would anonymously supply them with information; after searching, Malala’s father volunteered her for the job, to which she agreed.  In early 2009 Malala started secretly providing the BBC with handwritten notes which would then turn into an anonymous blog published on the BBC’s news service.  Inspired by her father’s political activism, Malala became more outspoken in both the national and international news media and asserted the rights of girls to an education; for her efforts, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011.  Yousafzai was even planning to start the Malala Education Foundation, which would help poorer girls go to school.

But of course, you know what happened next.

Only, the actions of the Taliban had a completely different effect than the one they had planned.  Both Malala and her father are alive today.  On Malala’s 16th birthday, she spoke at the United Nations and called for universal access to education, for everyone.  She stated:

The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists. — Malala Yousafzai

Time CoverMalala has been bestowed many many honors, including winning the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice in 2012, being named one of Time‘s 100 most influential people in the world (Chelsea Clinton wrote the magazine’s article on her in 2013, and she was just included among the list for 2014); and being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2013 and 2014 (the youngest person ever nominated, I believe, to boot).  Additionally, she published her book detailing her experiences and her mission, “I am Malala” in 2013.

One Child Quote

I encourage you to watch the extended version of Malala’s interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, who is fantastically awesome.  Malala comes across as passionate and modest, and I hung on her every word – after all, with an assassination attempt under her belt and a bunch of feathers in her cap, she’s like an education rights superhero!

If you’d like to learn more about Malala and her work for education equality,
please visit The Malala Fund.

Ladies I’ve Barely Heard Of: X is for the eXotic Xochiquetzal!

Today’s A to Z Challenge post is going to be a little different.  I’m making a 24 hour temporary theme change from “Ladies I Love” to “Lady I’ve Barely Heard Of” because let’s face it – X is a freakin’ hard letter to deal with.  And they throw it at us right near the end of the challenge?  That’s pretty effed up, in my opinion.  In fact, my friend Mich over at Sick B*tch (who is also doing the A to Z Challenge and who’s theme is “I am going to complain now”) says that X is a useless letter and I’m beginning to agree with her (in fact, Mich is not even writing posts for Q and X because they are that irrelevant).  Think about it – you can pretty much make up all the X sounds with other letters.  26 is such a dumb number of letters to have in an alphabet anyway, so I’m petitioning to lower the number to a nice 25 (all the letters who will be included, please step forward…hold on there, not so fast, letter X!).  But for the sake of not backing down from a challenge, here is today’s X post anyway.

Xochiquetzal from http://www.gothambynight.com/scion/xochiquetzal.htm

A stylized version of Xochiquetzal from http://www.gothambynight.com/scion/xochiquetzal.htm

I’ll bet you thought I was going to write about Xena, Warrior Princess, right?  HA!  WRONG!!!  I’ve never even seen an episode of Xena, so I’m certainly not going to write about her.  So today’s Lady I Love Lady I’ve Barely Heard of is Xochiquetzal (pronounced “so chee ket zul”).  Her name means “flower precious feathers”, and she is always followed by birds and butterflies (the Aztec version of the birds and the bees, maybe???).  Xochiquetzal, a mythological Aztec goddess, is always depicted by a young, alluring woman richly garbed in flowers.  She represents female beauty, fertility and sexual power, and is a protector of pregnant women, young mothers, and is the patroness of lovers and prostitutes (whew, that’s a lot).  She was also one tough cookie – according to MexicoLore, she seduced a priest and turned him into a scorpion, just to show off her powers.  She was celebrated in festivals every eight years…and hey…she sounds like a Lady that many people have Loved!

Below are a couple of depictions of Xochiquetzal from historic codex, which are drawings done on sheets of animal skins and folded up, accordion-style.  These codices are thought to have been written before the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Xochiquetzal (left) from the Codex Borgia, seducing a priest (middle).

Xochiquetzal (left) from the Codex Borgia, seducing a priest (middle).

Ladies I Love: W is for the Side-Splitting Women of Saturday Night Live!

I can’t believe that April is coming to an end, and we’re rounding the final corner of the A to Z Challenge.  We’ve still got a few letters to go though, so I thought that for W, I would write about some of my most favorite Ladies I Love, the hilarious Women of Saturday Night Live (SNL)!  As I went through the entire cast history of SNL, I began to get a little overwhelmed at the thought of writing this post.  There have been a lot of female SNL cast members, and I love almost all of them.  So I decided that I would pick my top five (all pictures are from NBC) and go from there…and that was incredibly difficult in itself!

Gilda Radner - Roseanne RoseannadannaAs a member of the original cast, Gilda Radner is first on my list.  She was with SNL from 1975 – 1980, and won an Emmy for her performances in 1977.  Her most iconic characters were Roseanne Roseannadanna (a loudmouthed and crude consumer-affairs reporter) and Baba Wawa (a parody of Barbara Walters), but she also had other amazing characters up her sleeve.  Gilda Radner suffered from bulimia during her stint on the show, and eventually succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1989, with her husband (Gene Wilder) at her side.

Molly Shannon - Mary Katherine GallagherMolly Shannon appeared on SNL from 1995 to 2001.  I LOVE Molly Shannon because she was absolutely fearless when it came to throwing herself into her humor (quite literally).  She had several characters that performed physical comedy, such as Catholic school girl Mary Katherine Gallagher, who would trip over folding chairs during her talent show auditions, and 50-year-0ld Sally O’Malley who wore extremely tight and high-riding red pants and liked to kick, stretch, and kick!

Kristen Wiig - Fake Tanning MomOne of my more recent favorite SNL actors is Kristen Wiig.  She was with the show from 2005 – 2012, and also used physical humor in her sketches, doing a lot of dancing and singing in awkward ways.  My favorite characters of hers were the Target Lady, Dooneese Maharelle (the deformed singer with tiny hands on the Lawrence Welk Show), and Triangle Sally (who, uh, played the triangle).  Kristen Wiig is a very versatile actor and had many other recurring characters on SNL and there were so many to love!  I was sad to see her leave the show, but she’s had a rather successful career in movies since then.

Amy Poehler Rap with Sarah PalinI’ll bet you can guess who my next two favorite SNL actors are…and you’re right!  First is Amy Poehler, who worked on SNL from 2001 through 2008.  She was promoted from “featured player” to full cast member mid-way through her first season, an accomplishment shared by only her and Eddie Murphy!  She had a recurring role as Hillary Clinton, but also did several hysterical impressions of people like Michael Jackson and Kim Jong Il.  She, along with Tina Fey (more in a sec!) made up the first women-only pair to host Weekend Update.  Amy Poehler went on to star in several movies as well as her own show, Parks and Recreation (which I love dearly).  Also close to my heart is her project “Smart Girls at the Party“, which is a social-media based program that aims to encourage girls to be themselves, think for themselves and be confident.  Amy Poehler is not only funny as hell, but she’s a great role model for our girls!

Tina Fey as Sarah PalinFinally, it’s my very favorite SNL actor (just by a hair!), Tina Fey.  Tina Fey was on SNL from 1997 – 2006.  Aside from her doppelganger depiction of Sarah Palin, Tina Fey hosted Weekend Update (first with Jimmy Fallon, and then with Amy Poehler).  And, oh yeah, did I mention that she was the FIRST FEMALE HEAD WRITER AT SNL???  Well, I just did.  Bam.  Tina Fey also went on to make movies and write and star in her own show, 30 Rock (which I also loved very much).  AND, in 2013 and 2014, she and Amy Poehler also co-hosted the 70th and 71st Golden Globe Awards and totally rocked it.  She even wrote her memoirs in a best-selling book called Bossy Pants, and jeez – is there anything this woman can’t do???

We Killed by Yael KohenCan you believe that people have said that women aren’t funny?  Yes, and these people are even other comedians who have even worked with funny women (btw, I’m giving John Belushi, Jerry Lewis and Chevy Chase the stink-eye right now).  I know a lot of people who would disagree with these opinions…and in fact, there’s a GREAT podcast about the subject on Stuff Mom Never Told You that you can listen to here.  And, you can read the book “We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy” by Yael Kohen.  I’m sad that there are too many fantastically funny women who have performed on SNL to write about, but this post has already gone too long.  If you’ve made it to the end, congratulations and thank you!  To make it worth your while, share with me your favorite funny women – who makes you laugh your head off, from SNL or elsewhere?

Ladies I Love: V-Day is for Villainesses (who Almost got Away With It)!

I’ve been looking forward to this A to Z Challenge post for a while now, because let’s face it – being good can be soooooo boring!  Therefore, I declare that V-Day (today) is to be dedicated to a prestigious group of Ladies I Love, my favorite Disney Villainesses – muah ha ha haaaaaaa!!!

These are not ALL of the Disney villains, you might notice…I run with the classics.  These are my favorites – the most cunning, devious, manipulative and deceitful of the ones we love to hate.   Well, I don’t really love to hate them…I just love them!!!  Disney princesses can be so boring and predictable…always doing the right thing, beautiful, innocent, in need of rescue, blah blah blah.  Well, these ladies don’t need any of it, and they don’t care what other people think of them (well, ok, the Wicked Queen from Snow White wants to be the most beautiful one of them all, but whatever).  They are all unique in their abilities to seek out and craft an evil plan, and dang, they usually almost get away with it!  Here are my favorite villainesses (in order from just favorite to most favorite), and the reasons why I love them so:

  • The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland):  She’s got style and is a wee bit off her rocker.  I admire her propensity for dishing out death sentences with every other breath, but she’s honestly not THAT smart and can’t really formulate a long-term plan for eliminating potential threats to her queendom (a.k.a., Alice).
  • The Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters (Cinderella):  Oooohhhh…to treat a poor wretched orphan in such a horrific manner…these ladies must have lumps of coal where their hearts used to be!  The stepmother is cunning and cruel, and the stepsisters are mean, but in the end their obvious greed brings their quest for personal gain to a halt.  If they could’ve just been a little more subtle about things…ah, well.  Better luck next time!
  • The Wicked Queen (Snow White):  Beautiful AND clever, the Wicked Queen almost succeeded in killing off Snow White.  Shape-shifting is an amazing power to have, but her plan just needed a little more follow-through.  She let those dwarfs get in the way…and then that meddling prince shows up!  Argh!  You’d think an evil plan would hatch (and grow to maturity) much more easily!
  • Madame Medusa (The Rescuers):  This dame has it all – a decrepit river boat in a swamp, two pet alligators (although they look more like crocodiles), and the confidence to never wear a bra.  She even has a sniveling little sidekick of a man who submits to her every whim, including sending a little girl into a tidal cave to look for a jewel hidden by pirates long ago!  And if it wasn’t for two mice named Bernard and Bianca, her plan might have succeeded.  Curses!
  • Malifecent (Sleeping Beauty):  Ok, AWESOME HEADWEAR AND THE ABILITY TO TURN INTO A BLACK RAGING DRAGON???  Do I need to go into any further detail about why this is one of the best villains EVER???  No?  Good.
  • Cruella Deville (101 Dalmations):  Ah, my favorite villainess at last.  Her obvious disdain for live dogs indicates that clearly this woman is a cat-person, which I can completely relate to.  And her fashion sense?  TOP-NOTCH.  I totally want to start smoking just so that I can wear elbow-length gloves and use one of those long cigarette holders!  Her only mistake was relying on a pair of bumbling henchmen to do a job that she should’ve done herself, but I guess stylish ladies like Cruella can’t be bothered to get their own be-gloved hands dirty.  Oh, the humanity!!!
All images from Disney.

HowToBeAVillainIt goes without saying that these villainesses, while amazing in their unique approaches to evil plans, could use a little help.  In my own research in becoming an evil genius I stumbled upon a book they might be able to use:  How to Be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!! by Neil Zawacki and James Dignan.  It’s a bit basic, but they could probably use a little brushing up on the fundamentals.

What about you?  Who is your favorite villain, and why?

Ladies I Love: U is for Lieutenant Uhura, a True Star!

a_burning_trekkie__silver_by_schematization-d4rydciCan you guess what the most challenging letter for me in the A to Z Challenge has been?  Not X, not Q, not V, not even Z…but U.  However, when I thought about all the Ladies I Love and Lieutenant Uhura crossed my mind, I knew she was just the right woman for this tough letter!  That is because Lieutenant Uhura of Star Trek, played by Nichelle Nichols, was one tough lady!

Lieutenant Uhura served as a communications officer under Captain Kirk on the USS Enterprise during the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966 – 1969.  Uhura moved up the Starfleet ranks throughout the movie franchise, making the rank of commander in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Nichelle Nichols portrayed Uhura throughout the series, as well as in all the Star Trek movies except for the last two, in which Zoë Saldana played a younger Uhura.  Uhura never took a back seat in the adventures of the Enterprise, and was often a key character in story lines, very much an equal among her Star Trek peers.

Uhura_and_Kirk_kissOne of the most remarkable things about Uhura’s character was that she was one of the FIRST African American women on TV to play a role that didn’t have anything to do with being a servant.  This was a ground-breaking character, and having an African American woman in a position of equality definitely stirred the pot on occasion.  For example, in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”, Uhura famously kissed Captain Kirk (ok, it was a forced kiss because she was under the influence of alien telekinesis…but still…) in a scene that is largely cited as one of the first inter-racial kisses aired on US television.

Apparently, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fan of the show, and even let his children watch it, in part because of Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura’s character.  Nichelle actually wanted to quit the show after the first year to pursue a career on broadway, but was told by Dr. King that she “could not give up because she was playing a vital role model for black children and young women across the country, as well as for other children who would see blacks appearing as equals.”  It’s a good thing she didn’t quit, because she DID inspire many to achieve success, including former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, who said she was encouraged by Nichelle’s Uhura character.

MLK convo

Yes, Uhura was one smokin’ hot lady.  But she was also a star.  In Swahili, her character’s first name, Nyota, means “star”, and Uhuru means “freedom”.  With a name like that, how could Uhura achieve anything but success?  Set your phasers to “stunning”!

Ladies I Love: T is for Ever-So-Talented Tribal Fusion Bellydancers

Bellydance used to be a big part of my life, and for today’s T-related A to Z Challenge post, I am going to talk about a couple of Ladies I Love, my favorite Tribal Fusion Bellydancers.  Just before I moved to Portland, I started taking beginning bellydance classes in San Diego, so when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had a good foundation to explore the many types of bellydance that are out there.  I’m certainly no expert on various bellydance styles and I haven’t danced in a few years now, but I’d like to give you a taste of some of the bellydance styles you may encounter.  You might have seen solo bellydancers perform when you go out to eat Moroccan food; those are typically Egyption cabaret style dancers – lots of colors, scarves, jingly shiny accessories, and they often perform to more traditional middle-eastern music (see the photo below, left).  American Tribal Style (ATS), another another form, borrows traditional bellydance moves and is typified by multiple dancers performing the same movements at the same time.  While there is some improvisation in the choreography, complex movements are signaled by a leader to other dancers in the troupe with subtle movements so that all the dancers know what step is coming up.  ATS dancers borrow a lot of their dress and makeup styles from Eastern Europe (think gypsy!) and Africa to create a unique and recognizable look (below, right).

But let’s get back to tribal fusion bellydance!  I first saw this style at an Offbeat Bellydance show at the Blue Monk, in Portland, Oregon.  A dancer named Endymienne took the stage and I had never seen anyone dance like her before – I was absolutely transfixed!  In fact, here’s a picture from her performance that night, way back in 2010:

14 - Endi

All bellydance is about muscle control and isolated movements of the ribcage, hips, stomach, arms and head (among other parts), but tribal fusion includes so much more.  It’s an off-shoot of ATS, but has elements of cabaret, hip-hop, popping, flamenco, burlesque and breakdance.  Movements can be slow and controlled, or fast and percussive.  The style is a beautiful combination of tribal, old 1920’s and 30’s flapper and burlesque, vintage circus, and modern elements (lots of tattoos and piercings, too).  To me, it’s utterly mesmerizing!  Here are a few more photos to help you picture what I’m talking about:

The two women pictured above are probably the most well-known tribal fusion bellydancers in the U.S., and for good reason.  First, there’s Rachel Brice (the two pictures to the left, above), based out of Portland (here’s her wiki page, too).  She has her own studio called Datura, and teaches classes and workshops there.  She has performed and toured both nationally and internationally since 2002 and has a lot of accomplishments to show for it!  Here’s a fun performance she did a few years ago at a Le Serpent Rouge show at the Tractor Tavern up in Seattle (I like it because a bit of her personality comes through in interacting with the rather adoring audience):

Next, there’s Zoe Jakes (two pictures to the right, above), who is part of a musical group called Beats Antique, which formed in San Francisco in 2007.  She and Rachel Brice often perform together, and Zoe Jakes is a guest instructor at Datura, along with having several instructional DVDs of her own.  She has been bellydancing since 2000, and like Rachel Brice, has a ton of accomplishments under her belt.  Instead of a performance video, here’s one of my favorite videos from Beats Antique (called “Revival”, released back in 2011), which will give you a taste of their music (which seems to be a favorite among tribal fusion dancers…I don’t even know how to describe it!), as well as a peek of Zoe Jakes who performs in it about halfway in.

I could go on and on about these ladies and there are a ton of videos of their performances on youtube, so if you’re interested in viewing more, they’re easy to find.  Was it what you were expecting from bellydancers?  Let me know what you think!