Ladies I Love: M is for Marjane Satrapi, Graphic Novelist and Film Producer from Iran

I can’t believe I’m already writing my “M” post for the A to Z Challenge!  I’ve got another cartoonist (I think this is the last one) for today’s Lady I Love: Marjane Satrapi.  I chose Marjane Satrapi for today for two very interesting reasons:  first, she grew up in Iran under the Muslim fundamentalists who took power after the Iranian Revolution; and second, she’s an outspoken woman who lived to tell about it.

Marjane Satrapi header

Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran in 1969 and lived in a middle-class family with highly educated parents in Tehran until 1983.  During her childhood, she was rambunctious, strong-willed and outspoken, and her family feared that her behavior (and mouth) would get her into serious trouble with the authorities, who had strict behavioral codes for women.  So, her family arranged to have her study in Vienna for high school.  She returned to Tehran after a near-deadly bout of pneumonia and stayed there for several years, but now lives in Paris with her husband.

Satrapi’s childhood and teenage years are detailed in her autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis 1 and 2.  I loved them because she grew up in an entirely different world than I did (geographically, at least, which was fascinating in and of itself), but for all those differences, I could see ways in which she was no different from many of us growing up: questions, conceptions of right and wrong, repression (in her case the government, in my case, parents), and general teenage angst.  Half a world away, and it was like I knew her!

Marjane Satrapi - Michael Jackson

In 2007, Persepolis was made into a feature film and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.  In 2008, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making Marjane Satrapi the first woman nominated for the category.  In 2011, her graphic novel “Chicken with Plums” was made into a live action movie as well.  There are several interviews with Marjane Satrapi about her work, but I found this one and this one to be very interesting – if you have the time, check them out.  And, below I’ve included the trailers for both Persepolis and Chicken with Plums.  Perhaps you will put them on your “to watch” list!

Ladies I Love: L is for Lioness, badass hunter and watchful guardian!

http://avaxhome.ws/blogs/igor_lvIt may come to you as no surprise that I am a cat person.  I LOVE cats, big and small.  So today, for this installment of the A to Z Challenge, the Ladies I Love are Lionesses.  Lions as a species (Panthera leo) are incredibly majestic creatures and they are interesting in a number of ways.  Aside from Sumatran tigers, lions are the largest cats on Earth, with males weighing up to 500 pounds, and females weighing up to 300 pounds.  One of the most interesting things about lions is that they live in groups of 3-40 individuals called “prides”, whereas almost all other cats live solitary lives.  While the male lions’ primary role is to defend the pride’s territory and father cubs (and sleeping, ahem, up to 20 hours per day…lazy bums…), the female lion plays a much different role.  Here are a few reasons why I think female lions are such admirable and fascinating creatures:

Hunting.  Female lions do the majority of the hunting for the pride.  However, because they are so muscular and large, they are not well suited for long sprints (like cheetahs, for example).  Lions live in environments that are fairly open, and it is thought that one of the reasons they evolved to live in groups was so that they could hunt prey that would otherwise see them coming and outrun their would-be predators.  However, lionesses are skilled in trickery and found ways of outsmarting their prey by hunting in groups!  While lions hunting by themselves capture prey only about 17% of the time, hunting cooperatively nearly doubles the chances of successfully capturing prey.  Using a cooperative strategy, a few lionesses will sneak behind the targeted prey (whether its an individual or herd), crouching in the grass so as not to be seen.  Then, a couple of other lionesses will run at the prey, chasing them towards the ladies in hiding…but it’s a trap!  And even though lions may not be the swiftest predators, they can jump up to 35 feet in one leap, so look out!  It’s no surprise that lions working together using this scheme are more successful in their hunts than lions working by themselves.

Lioness 2But after the ladies have managed to capture and kill a prey animal, who do you think gets to eat first?  You guessed it – the male lions.  They’ll move in on the downed meal, chasing the females away from the kill.  Only after the male lions have fed do the females and cubs get to eat, and sometimes there’s not much left.  But with a good kill, large lions can eat up to 40 pounds of meat in a single sitting.

Raising Cubs.  Besides hunting, another important job of the females is to raise the pride’s cubs.  Females will often stay behind from hunting to watch over young cubs, making sure they are safe from potential predators.  In fact, lionesses will help raise each others’ cubs, ensuring higher rates of survival among youngsters.  Since cooperative hunting results in more frequent and bigger meals, having many mothers to watch over the cubs increases health and growth rates.

Lions are amazing creatures.  Unfortunately, habitat loss and an increasing human population is putting them at risk.  Lions were once found over most of Africa, southern Europe, and into Asia.  Today, however, they are limited to some areas in Africa and a very small game preserve in India’s Gir Forest, which contains only about 250 lions.  Lions need a large enough territory to support ample prey to eat, and protection from humans.  As human populations encroach on land closer to lion territory, prey populations decrease and lions find themselves having to hunt domesticated animals, which often results in humans killing “problem” lions to protect their livestock.  One of the best ways we can protect lions is to preserve and maintain national parks and other refuges that give lions what they need to survive; otherwise, these magnificent animals may continue to decline until they are simply pictures in books that our children read.

Ladies I Love: K is for Killers (and they say we’re the gentler sex…)

Killers - Keep CalmJust a heads-up: this post does contain some violence.  It’s fictional, but could be disturbing to some of you softies.

For today’s Ladies I Love post in the A to Z Challenge, we’ll be talking about killers.  Just to set the record straight, I’m not a huge fan of violence, and I don’t believe there’s a place for murder in society (heck, I’m even opposed to the death penalty).  But do you ever watch movies and wonder why so many primary action heroes (whether they are good or bad) are played by men?  And when you do see badass females in an action role, do you notice how they really stand out, and they stand out even MORE when they have at least a touch of villainous attitude about them?  If you’re like me, sometimes you just can’t help but say WOW and admire the artistry of their fighting, trickery or determination to survive by whatever means necessary.

So today I thought I’d write a little about those (fictional) women who yes, are killers, but who (in some cases) have complex backgrounds and reasons for acting the way that they do.  Others are just badasses.  Here are my top 10 favorite lady killers – how do they match up with yours?

10.  Tank Girl.  Tank Girl, played by Lori Petty in the 1995 movie of the same name, pretty much sucked.  However, I first started admiring Tank Girl (a.k.a. Rebecca Buck) as a comic character drawn by the British team of Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin several years prior to the movie.  I loved the artwork in the comics, and Tank Girl’s take-no-prisoners attitude.

9.  Aeon Flux.  This is also another movie character, played by Charlize Theron in 2005, based on a cartoon that aired on MTV’s Liquid Television during the early 1990’s.  Aeon was an acrobatic assassin in a futuristic dystopian society, fueled by imaginative science fiction story lines.

8.  Annie Wilkes.  Oooooh – this is one of my favorite roles of Kathy Bates!  Annie Wilkes was the crazy “number one fan” of Paul Sheldon, a writer who was taken in by Annie to rehabilitate after his car wrecked in the snowy mountains.  The 1990 film was adapted from Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery and earned Bates the Academy Award for Best Actress.

7.  Haley Clark.  Ever see the movie “Hard Candy”?  Ellen Page plays a young girl in this 2005 thriller that will completely creep you out.  She basically hunts a man she suspects is a pedophile and tortures him…a truly horrific story, but a brilliant performance from Ellen Page.

6.  Hit-Girl.  Starring as a sidekick in all the “Kick Ass” movies, Hit-Girl is an 11 year old girl who is “truly dangerous and genuinely mad”.  She was raised in an environment where she wasn’t taught anything else but violent crime-fighting, and isn’t treated “like a girl” in any respect other than she wears a skirt and likes purple.

5.  Trinity.  With a starring role in the Matrix, Carrie-Anne Moss plays a computer programmer / hacker who is also skilled in martial arts.  She works with a group of like-minded rebels to crack the Matrix’s coding and free the human race.

4.  Ellen Ripley.  Is there a bigger badass in the universe than Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies?  Yes, there are three of them (see 1-3 on this list).  However, Ellen Ripley is my number 4 because she is a pro at killing aliens, and anyone who wants to keep them alive.

3.  Jen.  In “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“, Zhang Ziyi plays Jen, the pupil of Jade Fox who killed Li Mu Bai’s master.  The film is about revenge, loyalty and honor, and features amazing fighting scenes filmed in traditional martial arts style – lots of acrobatics using ropes and an abundance of skill.  Beautiful story, amazing acting.

2.  Arya Stark.  The tomboyish daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, Arya transforms throughout A Song of Ice and Fire from a girl chasing cats through castle halls to a murderous assassin on an unknowing journey towards the Iron Throne.  Arya is skillfully played by Maisie Williams in the TV adaptation of the novels, Game of Thrones.

And my number one favorite female killer is:

1.  Beatrix Kiddo.  In a role that seems to be crafted just for her, Uma Thurman played Beatrix Kiddo (codename Black Mamba) in both Kill Bill movies, directed by Quentin Tarantino.  A former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Kiddo is attacked by her former team members and left comatose in a hospital.  But after waking and finding she has had a child, she proceeds to seek revenge and retribution from those who sought to kill her and harm her child.  Uma Thurman does an AMAZING job in her role as a huntress, survivor and martial arts superstar.

This is one of my favorite scenes from the Kill Bill movies.  It occurs when Kiddo goes to Japan to kill O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Liu).  However, first she has to get past Gogo and the Crazy 88!  This clip shows the battle between Kiddo, Gogo and the Crazy 88, stopping short of her fight with O-Ren Ishii.  Enjoy!

Ladies I Love: J is for Julie Doucet, Artiste Fantastique

Dirty Plotte No. 1Ready for another A to Z Challenge post?  I have another Lady I Love artist for you!  I first became acquainted with Canadian artist Julie Doucet when I was doing a lot of cartooning in the early 1990’s.  I had immersed myself in underground comics, and was particularly interested in those drawn by women about non-traditional topics, and Doucet certainly fell into that category, writing and drawing about topics such as sex, violence, menstruation and male/female issues.  The first work I read by Julie Doucet was called “Dirty Plotte”, a series that started publication through Drawn & Quarterly in 1991 (although before that it had existed as a photocopied zine as a record of her daily life, thoughts and fantasies).   Similar to her subsequent book, “My Year in New York“, her comics were gritty, loud, messy, honest and just about the exact opposite of “Cathy” (drawn by Cathy Guisewite, remember?).  I loved them because the style was so incredibly new to me, and Julie didn’t seem to shy away from topics that had otherwise been taboo, embarrassing, or atypical of the feminine “ideal”.

Even though Julie Doucet achieved some success with comics (for instance, winning the esteemed Harvey award for “Best New Talent” in 1991), she ultimately tired of that medium and quit drawing comics altogether:

I quit comics because I got completely sick of it. I was drawing comics all the time and didn’t have the time or energy to do anything else. That got to me in the end. I never made enough money from comics to be able to take a break and do something else. Now I just can’t stand comics. — Julie Doucet in “A Good Life: The Julie Doucet Interview” by Dan Nadel

Currently, Doucet writes and makes collage in Montreal; you can see some of her more recent works on her tumblr.  If you’re interested in seeing more of her comics, you can find several of her dream-related comics at the World Dream Bank (search by author – she has several comics on the site).  Additionally, here is a recent interview with Julie Doucet about what she’s been up to in the past few years.  Even though she has abandoned drawing comics, I will always love her drawing style and ability to tell a cringe-worthy story.

Cat Baby

An excerpt from The Recurring Dream (Cat Baby) by Julie Doucet 1994-1995

Ladies I Love: I is for Introverts (Celebrity Females Edition)

introvert_partyToday’s A to Z Challenge post is for the letter “I”, and I thought it might be interesting to talk about a specific group of people – introverts.  I’ll relate this back to my theme, Ladies I Love, in a moment; but first, a lot of people have the wrong idea about introverts.  They think we are shy and withdrawn, or maybe grumpy and stuck-up.  However, being an introvert is not about those type of personality traits at all!  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, when it comes down to it, it’s mostly about how you gain and lose energy.  Extroverts get recharged by being around people, talking and interacting with groups.  Introverts, on the other hand, usually are drained by these kinds of interactions, and recharge their energy by spending time alone, often in quiet settings, with their thoughts to keep them company.  There are shy extroverts, and there are outgoing introverts.  Apparently, 1/3 to 1/2 of us are introverts, and I’m guessing that there is a high probability that YOU are an introvert because reading and blogging is generally a solitary activity (at least in the physical sense), the results of thought and contemplation.

Even though we might be in the minority, the world needs our creativity.  Because extroverts tend to be more vocal, our cultural norms favor the way extroverts develop, share and use information.  Kind of like the squeaky wheel getting the grease, right?  Well, even though the introvert wheel isn’t so squeaky, the cart still needs to maintain it to get where it’s going.  Here are several famous introverts, ladies who have contributed much to our society through the arts, politics, science, and other fields (although this list is heavy on actresses):  Audrey Hepburn, J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Grace Kelly, Julie Roberts, Barbara Walters, Susan B. Anthony and Virginia Woolf.  There are, of course, many many more than just these women – just google the Interwebs to find out more!

Susan Cain wrote a wonderful book called Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  Below is a manifesto for introverts, created by Susan Cain, and below that is a TED Talk that she gave a while back; if you have some time, come back to this page and watch it (it’s about 20 minutes, but it’s really engaging and fun).  She talks about how introverts fit into today’s society, what we have to contribute, and the best way to tap that resource.  What about you?  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  Take this short quiz and see what side you fall on.  And leave me a comment letting me know how it turned out!

Introvert-Quiet-Manifesto-Susan-Cain-Facebook

Ladies I Love: H is for Hanna Hart of “My Drunk Kitchen” (Uurrp!)

Hanna HartDo you like eating?  Do you like drinking?  And most importantly, do you like puns?  If you like all of these things, you’ll definitely want to get to know today’s H-related A to Z Challenge Lady I Love, Hanna Hart.  I discovered Hanna’s YouTube channel through an article in BUST magazine, right when her “My Drunk Kitchen” sketches hit the scene.  She’s done a TON of episodes at this point, but I contend that some of her best work is featured in her earlier pieces.  She’s got quite a collection of recipes recorded by now, so if you’re interested in learning how to cook mac’n cheese or tacos or toad in a hole or smores while drunk, be sure to invest a few moments to get some pro-tips from Hanna.

Actually, Hanna Hart (nicknamed Harto) is quite an accomplished comedian, and is very smart (she graduated from Berkeley with two degrees – English literature and Japanese).  Her short films are peppered with puns and quick word association jokes, and she’s an amazing comedic writer.  Take a look at this wiki page to learn more about her life, travels and other projects!

And after all that, I know you’re all hungry for a little taste of Harto, so here’s one of my favorite episodes (“Not Easy, Bake Oven”) where Hanna attempts to bake cookies.  A word of warning – the language she uses is quite salty, so if you’re not a fan of expletives (yay, swear words!  All the cussing!), you might want to watch this on mute.  But that probably wouldn’t be quite as funny.  Just saying.  Enjoy anyway!

Ladies I Love: G is for Grumpy Cat! Meow!

Today we have another non-human A to Z Challenge Ladies I Love-themed post for the letter G.  Let us return to the year 2012.  April 4, 2012, to be exact.  Events that occurred on this day in the little town of Morristown, Arizona, resulted in the world being forever changed: a little bit furrier, a little bit cuter, and a whole lot grumpier.  On April 4, 2012, Tardar Sauce (a.k.a. Grumpy Cat) and her brother, Pokey, were born.

Tardar and Pokey

Original Grumpy Cat photo that swept the world up in a fit of crabbiness!

The original grumpy cat photo that unleashed unprecedented crabbiness into the world!

According to Grumpy Cat’s head minion (and yes, Grumpy Cat *is* a female), Tabatha Bundesen, Tardar’s features are permanently grumpified as a result of feline dwarfism, which has also left her back legs somewhat out of proportion to the rest of her body.  But her vet has given her a clean bill of health, and Tardar has the green light to spread curmudgeonly crankiness to her heart’s content.  But truth be told, as grumpy as Tardar Sauce looks, she’s actually the more friendly of the two, with Pokey being the grouchier of the siblings.

The Grumpy Cat phenomenon all started when Tabatha’s brother uploaded an excessively grumpy photo of Tardar Sauce to Reddit (back in September of 2012), and the world has reveled in the glow of a cat that is both adorably cute and excessively grumpy ever since.  Some of Grumpy Cat’s favorite phrases, built into popular memes that have circled the Interwebs thousands of times over, include “…it was awful”, “…I hate it”, and the classic “NO.”  Grumpy has an official website (The Daily Grump, where you can purchase Grumpy Cat Odor Eliminator and Grumppuccino), a Grumpy Book, and more awards than you can shake a stick at, including the Lifetime Achievement Award that she received at the 2013 Friskies.  And she deserves it – with a face like hers, she’s impossible to ignore, especially when she’s throwing insults around like nobody’s business!  Here are some of my favorites:

And speaking of Friskies, Tardar Sauce has done several commercials with Friskies in the “Will Kitty Play With It?” series!  They are grumpy and adorable!  But, in honor of Tardar’s second birthday (she’s entering the Terrible Two’s, everyone!!!), here’s a special Friskies birthday video (no, I’m not a sales rep for Friskies…they just do great Grumpy Cat videos!).  Long live Grumpy Cat!!!