Friday, December 23, 2005

(early) media update: December

I took today off to pack, run errands, and get a marvelous full-body massage (no happy ending), and now I'm going to share a pizza and a bottle (or three) of wine with my HSLM. Later, I'll read a trashy magazine in the tub and try to shave around the hideous rug burn I gave myself last weekend when I tripped over the PS2 controller on the way back from the bathroom.

Tomorrow I'm heading over to G's on Saturday morning for the Giants game, and then we're hanging out with C, M, and R, and THEN we leave for vacation on Sunday. I probably won't be online for awhile, so I'm posting this now. All y'all enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate, and may everyone get exactly what they deserve in 2006.

CC out!

EDITED 1/3: Added a movie.

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket: The series still isn't grabbing me the way it did at its inception, but any (ostensibly) children's book series that mentions Henri Bergson is aces by me.

2. Predator by Patricia Cornwell: Marginally better than her last few books; nice twist near the end.

3. PopCo* by Scarlett Thomas: What a bizarre book; it almost defies categorization. The main focus is a woman who works for a toy company, but there's everything from animal rights to cryptograms to homeopathic medicine thrown in. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though parts of it were hard to get through; math and logic aren't exactly my strong suit.

4. Grimm's Grimmest: The uncensored collection of delightfully dreadful tales by the Brothers Grimm. This ain't no Disney version!

5. The Truth About Diamonds by Nicole Richie: I've read more articulate cereal box copy, but I must confess it's trashy (and I do mean TRASHY) fun. I particularly enjoyed the photo insert, which looked like Glamour Shots taken by someone on acid. (And Nicole, honey? Please, eat something. Have a nice grilled cheese sandwich and a side of fries. I'll even treat.)

6. Mary Mary by James Patterson: Mary, Mary, why ya buggin'? Er, sorry, that's something entirely different. Anyway, this is typical Patterson fare...not fantastic or anything, but an okay way to kill a couple of hours.

Total number read in 2005: 66


1. Tab Hunter Confidential by Tab Hunter: The former screen idol tells what it was like being a closeted celebrity in the 50's. Not as much gossip as I'd hoped, but I love the chapters about working with Divine and John Waters.

Side note of limited, if any, interest: I can actually sing Tab Hunter's song "Young Love" from beginning to end. Daddy-O bought a Thunderbird in the early 80's, and it had a tape deck, which was a real novelty in those days. (Okay, typing that made me feel positively Methuselahian.) The first tape he bought was a 50's compilation, and we listened to it over and over again, hence the aforementioned ability.

Side note of limited, if any, interest 2: I went to Borders about two days after finishing this book and saw a sign saying Tab Hunter would be there signing his book. I became inordinately excited and then realized it had been the day before. Goddammit!

2. The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Marten Troost: Not as good as the title might suggest, but really, what COULD be? Anyway, this is the author's recollection of going to live in what he thought was paradise (Tarawa, a tiny island in the South Pacific) and finding hell instead.

3. What Cops Know by Connie Fletcher: Various anecdotes from police officers. Dated but interesting enough.

4. Freak! Inside the Twisted World of Michael Jackson by David Perel and Suzanne Ely: As you can see, I'm all about quality reading material. Christ, I think PopCo was the only thing I read this month with any literary merit whatsoever.

Total number read in 2005: 57


1. Free Soul by Yamaji Ebine

2. Death Note vols. 6-11 by Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi

3. Brave New World of Love* by Yamada Nari: A really interesting, funny manga about a teenage boy who wants to be a girl. Handled tactfully without being too unrealistic about it.

4. Swan* vol. 3 by Ariyoshi Kyoko

Total number of volumes read in 2005: 121


1. Batman Begins: Much better than its predecessors, in no small part due to Christian Bale. Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrow.

2. War of the Worlds*: Does a great job of remaining utterly tense and action-packed from start to finish. However, I didn't care for the happy-crappy ending or Dakota Fanning's constant screaming (although, to be fair, I'd be screaming my ass off too).

3. March of the Penguins*: Proving that there is nothing cuter than an emperor penguin chick.

4. King Kong*: Okay, so it takes a little time to get moving, but once it does, you won't get a second to catch your breath. The special effects are absolutely amazing, Naomi Watts is fantastic, and I cried my ass off throughout; it honestly broke my heart.

5. Brokeback Mountain*: To be honest, I was a little disappointed, but after literally two years of waiting to see this movie, I was bound to be! That aside, though, this is a heartbreaking movie about what happens when you deny your true feelings for too long. Heath Ledger deserves the Oscar for which he will no doubt be nominated.

Total number seen in 2005: 48

Saturday, December 17, 2005

waxing poetic

Man, do I love me some early dismissal! I burned up the last two hours of my personal time today and went straight to a small outdoor mall near the Merry Mansion. First of all, I went to Sears because I had to piss like a racehorse. From there, I dropped off my beloved mary janes (is that supposed to be capitalized when you're referring to shoes? How about marijuana?) for a shine and reheeling, and then I stopped in my tracks and stared.

The tacky Patrick Nagelesque art on the door beckoned me inside.

"Wax my ass!" I demanded, slamming my fist on the counter.

Okay, I didn't slam my fist, nor did I ask for my ass to be waxed, unless by ass you mean eyebrows. Actually, and much less colorfully, I said "I'd like a wax, please."

Here I pause for a second to reiterate how much I dislike my eyebrows, as they look like little Hitler mustaches perched above my eyes. I've only had them professionally waxed twice before: once by a German woman in a white lab coat ("Achtung! Your brows, so unkempt!") and once by a woman who was a dead ringer for Daddy-O's clingy ex-girlfriend Legs. The first one did a decent job, but the second one waxed and tweezed and plucked my brows within an inch of their hairy little lives. "You can fill in the spaces with a nice eyebrow pencil!" she chirped.

Do I look like a chola to you? Is my name Sad Girl or Mousie? Mi vida not-so-loca doesn't involve drawing my fucking eyebrows in every morning.

I digress. (In other breaking news, shit stinks!)

So the aesthetician took me to a back room, closed and locked (??) the door, and said, "Okay, jeans and panties off, please."


"I, uh, I think there's been a misunderstanding," I said meekly. "I just want my eyebrows waxed."

"Oh, no Brazilian?"


"No, just the eyebrows, please."

"Oh, sorry. Eyeglasses off, please, and hop on table."

It only took about five minutes, and it really didn't hurt all that much---well, considering that hot wax and tweezers were involved. I regarded my reflection in the mirror she handed me and was most impressed with her mad waxin' skillz. Once the redness and swelling goes away, Ima look awesome!

"Oh, I do facials too, so let me give you my card." I accepted the card, and she added, "Not that you need much done. Your skin so beautiful. You what, twenty-nine?"

Yeah, she got an extra buck in her tip for that one.

And, and, and! Not only did I get my eyebrows tamed, but I found the perfect New Year's Eve ensemble in Old Navy...on sale even. It's a black top with fluttery sheer sleeves and a matching black skirt with a tulle overlay and a black sequin design around the hem.


And, and, and, and! Not only did I get my eyebrows tamed and find the perfect New Year's Eve ensemble in Old Navy on sale even, but I got spam musubi takeout at the Hawaiian barbecue place!

Spam spam beautiful spam

I bought two pieces and a side of steamed rice, and I went home and gobbled it down like it was going out of style. And it was so fatty and so salty and so, so very good.

...what? Hey, sometimes a girl's gotta get her pork on.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

the best of 2005: movies

You know, I hadn’t planned on posting this just yet, because I was sure I’d have to change the list to include Brokeback Mountain. Unfortunately, it won’t be playing in my neck of the woods until January 20th, so unless something marvelous and unexpected happens, I guess it will have to mosey its way onto my 2006 “Best Of” list instead.


(And yes, I know I’m building it up in my mind, but I cannot imagine, with the stellar cast and crew and the achingly beautiful short story that served as its inspiration, that I will be disappointed.)


  • Not all of these were first released in 2005, but if that's the first time I saw them, then onto the list they went.
  • These are not in preferential order, aside from the very first one.
  • EDIT 12/19: Number 10 has been changed.
  • EDIT 1/3: Number 9 has been changed.

1. Me and You and Everyone We Know: A delightfully quirky movie, by turns hilarious and poignant, and filled with smart, nuanced performances. AND it had Virginia Astley on the soundtrack, AND a fantastic scene where a character yells “We could be together forever, you fucker, but you have to call me first!” at her irritatingly silent cell phone. And if all this wasn’t enough on its own, there’s a scene that cannot be improved upon in any way (for those of you who have seen it, it’s the part where they’re walking to the car) and a scene near the end that perfectly encapsulates that feeling when you finally find someone that just gets you. No question here…this was my favorite movie of the year.

2. Broken Flowers: If you're looking for a tidy resolution, you won't find it in this Jim Jarmusch gem about a man who sets out to find the author of an anonymous letter from a woman who claims he has a son he's never met. What you will find are a beautifully subdued performance by Bill Murray and a bittersweet screenplay. Expect an Oscar nomination for Murray.

3. Million Dollar Baby: An emotionally staggering film about a gruff trainer who reluctantly takes a female boxer under his wing, only to find himself becoming attached to her. When tragedy strikes, he finds himself in a terrible position. Painful yet beautiful, with astounding performances by Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. Have Kleenex handy.

4. Unleashed: Okay, parts of it are really hokey, but I friggin’ loved this movie. Bob Hoskins, playing a creepily charismatic crime lord, has trained a man named Danny to beat the shit out of people who owe him money. When Danny isn’t busting heads, he’s kept collared and caged. Danny eventually escapes and is taken in by a kindly blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman), but the crime lord wants his “dog” back. Jet Li shows surprising emotional depth in his performance, and needless to say, there are some seriously kick-ass action sequences that had me yelling at the screen. (G after the showing: “Next time we go to a Jet Li movie together, I’m making you wear a ball gag!”)

5. Dawn of the Dead: This flick had it all as far as I’m concerned: characters I gave a shit about, a few poignant moments, some great black humor, and plenty of splatter to appease the gorehound in me. One of the rare remakes that did its predecessor proud.

6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: I had high hopes for this installment, because the corresponding book is my favorite HP to date (and one of my five favorite books of all time), and I wasn’t disappointed; it’s the perfect blend of action, humor, and pathos, and the special effects are top-notch.

7. The 40-Year-Old Virgin: One of the most consistently funny movies I’ve seen in a long time, and surprisingly sweet too, although the chest-waxing scene will make you flinch.

8. A History of Violence: Terrific thriller about an unassuming man in a small town who may have a big secret up his sleeve. Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello are both great (and have an incredibly erotic 69 scene together), although an unrecognizable William Hurt chews the scenery so thoroughly you’d think it was made of rich, creamy nougat.

9. Brokeback Mountain: A heartbreaking story about what happens when you deny your true feelings for too long. Heath Ledger deserves the Oscar for which he will no doubt be nominated.

10. King Kong: Okay, so it takes a little time to get moving, but once it does, you won't get a second to catch your breath. The special effects are absolutely amazing, Naomi Watts is fantastic, and I cried my ass off at the end.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Transporter. After I said, only half-jokingly, that white men can’t do martial arts, Glenn sat me down in front of the TV and made me watch this movie. The plot is negligible, but Jason Statham is one bad-ass, sexy cracker, and the fight in the oil puddle was immediately deposited into my spank bank. In a better movie year, this wouldn’t have made the cut, but it’s enjoyable.

WORST: Boat Trip. I think I saw Cuba Gooding's career on the side of a milk carton.

Monday, December 12, 2005

the best of 2005: random cool stuff

In totally random order:

1. Resident Evil 4: This installment, featuring the ultracool Leon S. Kennedy, is extremely difficult, occasionally frustrating, and the most fun I've had playing a video game in a donkey's age. Between the Gamecube version and the PS2 version, I bet G and I have logged at least 100 hours of game time, and it's STILL fun!

2. Haunting Ground: An unusual take on the survival horror genre. You play as Fiona, a buxom British teenager who finds herself being chased by freaks through a castle. Fortunately, she has a brave canine companion, Hewie, to help her out along the way. (I fear the inevitable doujinshi featuring Fiona and Hewie.) Fun extras upon completing the game include a movie gallery, character sketches, and costumes ranging from the Texas Cowgirl (a patriotic bikini, cowboy hat, and chaps) to Illegal in Some States (a black S&M number complete with riding crop).

3. Shojo Beat: An English-language manga magazine? Yes indeed, and they actually picked a great selection of stuff, too, from the gothic (in the original sense of the word, not the trendy Hot Topic sense) creepiness of Godchild to the alternately funny and poignant Nana.

4. Minnie Wilde Magic: This perfume smells like tigerlilies and sunwarmed skin slathered with Bain de Soleil to me, and it's basically Spanish fly in a bottle.

5. "Starved": A hysterically funny, unrepentantly offensive sitcom about a group of New Yorkers with some serious food issues.

6. The Owls: I just discovered this band, but damn, they're good. My favorite songs are "Air", one of the best breakup songs I've ever heard, and "Luck", which sounds like something you'd listen to while driving all alone at night in a melancholy mood.

7. True Lemon: Thanks to these handy little packets of crystallized lemon juice, I'm drinking way more water than I used to.

8. Ben & Jerry's Uncanny Cashew: My new favorite ice cream flavor...well, after blue moon.

9. Jack FM: The radio station that dares to follow Supertramp with Moby.

10. The Chappelle Show: Yes, I'm very late to this party, but I had never seen the show before G introduced me to it, and now I am thoroughly convinced of Dave Chappelle's genius. "Fuck yo' couch, Eddie Murphy!" Too bad he hit the brakes.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

hair's a little story I got to tell

In addition to vacation days, the Cube Farm grants us three days of "personal time" every year, which is a wonderful thing indeed...except for the fact that they don't roll over, so if you reach December and have any PT left, you'll receive an e-mail from your department secretary, telling you how many PT days (or hours) you have left and reminding you to use it or lose it.

Well, I was under the impression that I had used all of my PT, but no, I had four hours left. I decided to take two hours on Thursday and two hours next Friday (and Brokeback Mountain better be playing around here by then, goddammit), and when 2PM rolled around---a mere hour after I'd come back from lunch!---I bolted from my chair and escaped to my car.

Okay, so two hours all to myself...what to do, what to do? I mentally went over my to-do list. Go shopping for a nice dress for the Christmas trip? Nah, not in the mood for shopping. Get my eyebrows waxed? Nah, not in the mood for having hardened wax, hairs, and two layers of skin ripped from my forehead. That left getting my hair cut, which I hadn't done since early August. It didn't look too bad, but I had some serious split ends, so I figured I might as well get those snipped off.

So I drove over to Supercuts and plopped down in the stylist's chair. "Just dust the ends, please," I said nonchalantly.

She ran her hands through my hair, and then she regarded my reflection in the mirror and pressed her rhinestone-encrusted nails together. "Can I make a suggestion?"

Oh boy, here we go.

See, I've always had thick hair, and stylists just LOVE to fuck with it. When I was about eight years old, I allowed a hapless stylist at Eddie Lou's Hair Hut to cut my hair shorter than I'd originally wanted, and I can still remember her horrified expression when I looked in the mirror and burst into hysterical sobs. Then there was the time someone gave me a pixie cut, which---for you boys and women under the age of 30---is when they cut your bangs like the top part of a heart, ostensibly making you look adorable. Nope, it made me look like a reject who spent hours hunched in the corner in a puddle of her own urine, eating paste and laughing at dust motes. And of course I can't forget the time a beautician wreaked havoc on both me AND my mom, giving us bizarre updos that made us look like startled poodles.

Thrice bitten...uh...six times shy.

But no harm in hearing her suggestion, so I said "Sure."

"Well, your hair is kind of brassy, and then it's like darker in spots."

Gee, thanks, sweet talker. I mean, this is true, but still not something I wanted to hear.

"So I'd love to give you some color and a couple of highlights, which would cover that up and add flair."

Yes, she said flair.

I was about to refuse when I remembered something that had happened just that morning: I'd brushed my hair and, to my abject horror, found not one but TWO long white hairs stuck in my brush. As much as I'd like to believe Oldie Olderson crept into my cubicle while I was in the shitter and used my hairbrush, I knew the truth. Those hairs were mine.

They needed to dye.

"Okay," I said.

Twenty minutes passed by as the dye soaked into my scalp...twenty minutes to ponder the potential consequences. What if she accidentally dyed my hair green? What if it ALL FELL OUT?

When the timer went off, she shampooed my hair and then she did some bizarre alchemy with tin foil and a paintbrush. "Do you want BLOND blond highlights?"

"No!" I yelped. My friend/coworker L is the sweetest person on the face of the earth, and I hate to say anything even remotely negative about her, but she has very bad, skunky highlights that don't work with her coloring at all. True, she's a bit darker than me, but we're close enough that I could tell it wouldn't work any better on my hair.

When she'd finished, I got to bake under the hairdryer, and then I got my hair shampooed yet again and was led to the chair.

"I have some ideas for how to cut it too," she said, and then she demonstrated with elaborate gestures.

"Fine," I said with resignation, closing my eyes and relegating myself to my fate.

I'm going to look like the ass end of a dingo.

But when she finished and handed me my glasses, I looked in the mirror and for the first time, I looked more like my mom than Daddy-O. (Not that there's anything wrong with Daddy-O, but what's handsome on a man doesn't necessarily work on a woman.) I had lovely caramelly highlights and, for the first time in forever, I had bangs.

Not bad.

Still, I knew I wouldn't feel right until I got a (semi-) unbiased opinion from my heterosexual lifemate. I drove home, walked into the apartment, and yelled, "Hey, K, I got something to show you."

"What?" she called, just as I walked up the stairs and into her room.

"OH MY GOD HOW CUTE!" she squealed.

Okay, excellent. Now let's hope that G likes it too, and let's hope that I don't start looking like the aforementioned ass end of a dingo. I spent my formative years reading and playing Colecovision, not futzing around with makeup and hairdos, so it's going to pretty much have to style itself.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

the best of 2005: non-fiction

And now it's time for the next in my "Best Of 2005" series. Just a few reminders:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2005, but if that's the first time I read them, then onto the list they went.
  • I didn't even try putting these in preferential order, but I did make note of my definite favorite.
  • My tastes can be somewhat eccentric, so your mileage may vary.

1. My Friend Leonard by James Frey: I still have my doubts as to the veracity of some of the events Frey writes about, but this story of his continued recovery and the titular friend who helps him get back on his feet after rehab is still compelling stuff. I cried my freakin' ass off more than once, including in the break room of my workplace, which was embarrassing. My favorite non-fiction book of the year.

2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: A stellar memoir about the author's childhood with an extremely unconventional, constantly broke, nomadic family.

3. Julie & Julia by Julie Powell: The author felt stuck in a rut, so she decided to make every single one of Julia Child's recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. This book is a feast for the senses and, at times, incredibly funny. Warning to the sensitive: the chapter where she prepares lobsters is somewhat upsetting.

4. The Lady and the Panda by Vicki Constantine Croke: The true story of the Manhattan socialite who trekked to China in the 1930's and brought back a baby panda, causing a media sensation. It's both a rollicking adventure story and an utterly heartbreaking tale of a woman's fierce maternal love for an odd little creature. If you like animals even a little bit, you'll probably mist up more than once.

5. A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain: A fascinating culinary travelogue that really made me want to visit Vietnam. Cambodia, though? Not so much.

6. Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas: Uncompromising memoir of one woman's love affair with alcohol.

7. The Dancing Girls of Lahore by Louise Brown: A fascinating peek into the lives of Pakistani prostitutes.

8. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach: There's not a whole lot I can tell you about this book that the title doesn't already imply, but I will tell you that it's a must-read. Roach's previous book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, is my favorite non-fiction book of all time, and this isn't quite as compelling, but it's still great, especially the jovially disgusting chapter on ectoplasm.

9. Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg: A highly amusing and very informative book with answers to all the questions you’ve always had (why does poop float, is sperm fattening, etc.) but couldn’t bring yourself to ask.

10. Fat Girl by Judith Moore: Wow. I'm not even sure what to say about this memoir about a woman's struggle with her weight and her nasty mother, but it's uncompromising and occasionally blackly funny, so I would recommend it with a caution that it gets very dark between those covers.

WORST: Witness by Amber Frey. Pointless.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

the best of 2005: novels

  • Not all of these were first published in 2005, but if that's the first time I read them, then onto the list they went.
  • I didn't even try putting these in preferential order, but I did make note of my definite favorite.
  • Your mileage may vary.

1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: The powerful and moving story of an Afghani immigrant's return to his home country in an attempt to atone for the sins of his past.

2. Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant: A young woman in Renaissance Italy longs to be a painter among the turmoil of Savonarola’s religious fanaticism. Beautifully written.

3. The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty: A man loses his parents in a car accident, and shortly thereafter, he learns that his long-lost schizophrenic sister has been a Los Angeles morgue. Without thinking, he gets on his old bicycle and starts riding to California from Rhode Island. A tremendously moving road trip story of an entirely different color.

4. The Bachelorette Party by Karen McCullah Lutz: Okay, yeah, it's chick lit, but it's really, really funny. During one particularly choice scene, I was wracked by the kind of soundless, hysterical laughter that leaves your cheeks bright pink and tear-streaked.

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling: My expectations were not particularly high for this book, because I was so disappointed with Order of the Phoenix, but Rowling gets back into form with this one.

6. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld: This is the book was touted as the new Catcher in the Rye (albeit with a female protagonist), and although it's not up to Salinger's standards, this is a damned good book.

7. The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder: A troubled young woman, inexplicably obsessed with the atrocities in Nanking during World War II, goes to Japan in search of a scholar/Nanking survivor. She makes some dangerous friends and even more dangerous enemies, all of whom are obsessed with a mysterious elixir. There are some scenes in here (most notably involving "The Nurse") that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and the ending packs a powerhouse punch that left me in tears. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days after I read it, which hasn't happened since the first time I read As Meat Loves Salt. Fair warning: NOT for the squeamish; it contains very graphic and disturbing violence and certain upsetting psychological elements. This is absolutely my favorite book of 2005.

8. The Pact by Jodi Picoult: A deeply engrossing story of an apparent suicide pact between two teenagers, the ensuing murder trial of the surviving teenager, and how the families must struggle to survive and forgive.

9. Towelhead by Alicia Erian: This is a great book about a 13-year-old girl whose mother sends her to live with her abusive, extremely traditional Lebanese father in Texas. She winds up experimenting sexually with the man next door and a boy at school, trying to make up for the love she doesn't get from her family.

10. What Do You Do All Day? by Amy Scheibe: An uncommonly funny and incisive story about a woman who finds herself wondering what she may have given up in the process of trying to be the perfect mother.

WORST: The Diet by Edita Kaye, an offensive, poorly written, sizeist piece of shit diet book masquerading as a chick lit novel. Every single copy should be burned, and then the pile of ashes should be shat upon. I declare a fatwa on Edita Kaye.

Monday, December 05, 2005

the best of 2005: manga (+ sharp jolt o' reality)

I went to the mall the other night to finish up my Christmas shopping and return two sweaters to Anthropologie. I wore the same thing I’d worn to work earlier: a black sweater, a long silk floral print skirt, and high-heeled mary janes.

Yes, this is semi-relevant.

So I did my returns and bought my presents and gave myself synesthesia in Sephora, and then I had a cup of pretzel bites that came drenched in butter and were insanely delicious, and then as I was walking towards the mall exit, I noticed that Electronics Boutique had Resident Evil 4 on the PS2 demo machine.

Oh, like I could resist that.

A previous player had stranded Leon inside the safe room. I reloaded my shotgun and went a-huntin’. Expertly, I popped the heads off a couple of cult members, and then I went to the inventory screen, equipped a fire grenade, and blew some shit up. I did this for about five minutes before realizing the mall was about to close. I set the controller down, and I turned around to see a teenage boy wearing a Misfits shirt and an eyebrow ring staring at me in awe.

“Dude, you’re like the coolest mom ever,” he breathed.

I didn’t know whether to hug him or commit suicide.

Yeah, so anyway, here’s the second in my “Best Of 2005” series. I’m starting with the lists least likely to be updated; I know the movie list will be last. Shit, if the trailer for Brokeback Mountain made me cry, I’m thinking the movie will have me on the floor.

  • Not everything here was first released in 2005, but if that's the first time I read it, then onto the list it went.
  • I read all of these in English, but not all of them are commercially available in the United States. I put an asterisk after the titles that have been licensed and/or published here.
  • These are not in preferential order, but I did make note of my definite favorite.

    1. Itadakimasu! by Yoshihara Yuki: A woman working at a bridal salon starts seeing the younger brother of her ex-husband just to spite him, but she winds up falling in love with him. A smutty and extremely funny series by one of my all-time favorite mangaka. (Note: The title doesn't translate well into English, so I left it in Japanese. Basically, it means "I will receive" and is said before meals.)

    2. Darling by Yoshihara Yuki: The hilarious and steamy adventures of two newlyweds.

    3. Loved One by Yoshihara Yuki: A woman is obsessed with one of her college professors, and through an improbable (albeit hysterically funny) series of events, she winds up living with him and his lecherous brother.

    4. Brother Dear Brother by Riyoko Ikeda: The basis for one of my all-time favorite anime series, this is about the psychological damage girls inflict upon each other in an effort to be popular.

    5. Nana* by Ai Yazawa: Two young women, both named Nana, meet by chance on a train to Tokyo and become immediate friends. Through a series of coincidences, they wind up sharing an apartment, and the manga follows them through their friendship and various romantic entanglements. Beautiful art and an alternately touching and funny storyline; one of the most realistic depictions of female friendships I've ever read in any medium. My favorite manga of the year.

    7. Death Note* by Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi: A teenage boy finds a notebook which includes written instructions on how to kill people from a distance: write down their name while thinking of their face, and they'll be dead in a matter of seconds from the method you choose. The boy, skeptical at first, tries it out on a criminal featured on the news and is astounded when it seems to work. He develops a major god complex and decides he'll use the notebook to clean up the scum of society, and when the police finally figure out that some sort of strange vigilante is at work, they send the brilliant and mysterious detective known only as "L" (one of the greatest, oddest manga characters ever, in my opinion) to find him. The boy can't kill his pursuer with the notebook because he doesn't know the guy's real name...and the chase is on. Unfortunately, it does start to lose steam eventually, but it's still addictive and raises all sorts of profound ethical questions.

    8. I Want to Lose Myself by Yuki Yoshihara: Amusing romantic stories. I just discovered this mangaka recently, but she's damn good, as you can tell from her domination over this list. Her heroines are unrepentantly raunchy, which I love.

    9. Yotsubato* by Azuma Kiyohiko: From the genius who brought you Azumanga Daioh comes this great series about a strange little girl and her daily adventures.

    10. Swan* by Ariyoshi Kyoko: I am an absolute sucker for 70's shojo, and this ballet manga is an excellent example of the genre at its best.

    WORST: Bambi and Her Pink Gun* by Atsushi Kaneko. Unusual art and an interesting storyline, but it's very nihilistic; I felt really grimy after reading it. Not everything has to be unicorns pooping rainbows, of course, but this is just too ugly.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Bored and unable to take my lunchtime walk due to rain, I drove over to a nearby shopping center and hunkered down in the pharmacy waiting area with the current issue of People. As I flipped through the pages, an elderly man slowly walked past me and gingerly sat down at the blood pressure machine.

A couple of minutes later, I was distracted from the sordid details of Nick and Jessica’s split when an old woman, who smelled alarmingly of stale urine and cheap perfume, walked up to the old man and said, “I’ll be over in the toothpaste aisle when you’re done here.”

“Okay, sweetheart,” he said. “I’m going to do this again because I think the cuff was too loose.”

She walked past me again and I thought, Jesus, lady. Pick up some freakin' soap while you’re at it.

The blood pressure machine stopped, and the man said, “Is someone else here?”

“Um, me,” I said stupidly. “Do you need help?”

“Can you read these numbers off for me, dear?”

So I stood up and checked the machine, telling him the numbers, which even to my untrained eye looked alarmingly high. He sighed and said, “I better ask Marjorie about this. Could you get her for me?”

“Sure,” I said, and then I realized I had no idea what she actually looked like. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get a good look at her face. What does she look like?”

He turned filmy eyes towards me and smiled. “She’s the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

the best of 2005: anime

It’s that time of year again when I post my “Best Of” lists for posterity. This is earlier than I would ordinarily do it, but since I’ll be gone for the last week of December, I figure I might as well post them as soon as I get them done. If I read/see/experience something so stellar in December that it cries out for inclusion, then I’ll edit as necessary. Keep in mind, of course, that your mileage may vary.

Anyway, here we go with the first list. This one will be of limited interest to all but a handful of people, but I’m doing it anyway.

(Beat-to-Death Angel Dokuro-chan)

A high school student's life is turned upside down when an angel comes to live with him. She gets angry easily, and beats him to death on a regular basis, only to revive him immediately. Then another angel shows up with the intention of assassinating him for good...but why? Lots of raunchy toilet humor, outrageous fountains of gore, and some absolutely priceless facial expressions make this a must-watch. My favorite anime of the year.


Beautiful watercolor art highlights this sweet anime about a group of art students struggling with life and love. It ends on a perfect note, too, which is an unfortunate rarity in anime. Good manga as well.


A teenage girl falls in with a motley crew of fashion students. I've read the manga, so there are no real surprises to be had for me, but I love the unusual art style, and the opening and ending songs ("Lonely in Gorgeous" by my #1 favorite J-pop singer EVAH, Tommy February6, and "Do You Wanna" by Franz Ferdinand, respectively) rock mucho ass.


A teenage girl is tapped to exterminate vampire-like monsters in this stylish and thrilling anime, a sequel of sorts to the wildly popular movie Blood.


A Japanese figure skater is possessed by the ghost of a dead Canadian named Pete Pumps, proving once again that the Japanese are all on some serious drugs.

(Useless Animals)

It was inevitable…anime for furries. Still, it’s very cute, and the opening song rules.

(Gokujou Student Council)

The student council of an elite academy is given more authority than the teachers...which isn't necessarily a good thing, considering that half of them are stupid. One of the best things about this show is that the main character, Rino, has a hand puppet that seems to think for itself.


Jeeeeeebus...apparently, this was the "Blood-Spattered Heroine" anime season in Japan. Anyway, a photographer goes undercover at a secret sex club, where he accidentally receives superpowers that allow him to use his camera as a weapon. He escapes with a young girl at the club and they must deal with an assortment of freaks, such as a woman who eats diamonds and a dentist who enjoys his job far too much, sent by the girl's mother to retrieve her. The opening credits to the first season featured women masturbating to "Girls on Film" by Duran Duran. Yeah.


If Merchant-Ivory were to make an anime, this gentle show about a Victorian maid and the upper-class man she falls in love with would be it.

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(Hell Girl)

There's a website where, if you log on at exactly midnight, you can petition to have Hell Girl exact revenge on your behalf. Of course, there's a catch...(insert maniacal voice here) YOUR IMMORTAL SOUUUUUUL! Deliciously creepy.