Sunday, April 30, 2006

media update: April

Before I get to the media update, I'd like to take a moment to discuss my third favorite animal, which is named for my second favorite deadly sin...sloth.

Now, despite my love for the sloth, I always used to say I would never touch one, because they're so damn slow that algae grows on their backs. But then I saw this picture:

This is Buttercup. Buttercup lives at a sanctuary in Costa Rica and is as neat and clean as can be. I would not only touch Buttercup, but I would cradle her in my arms and press her shaggy head to my bosom, because THAT'S HOW I ROLL.

And lest you mock me for loving the humble sloth, I ought to warn you that sloths are actually much more dangerous than you might think. Their lives of leisure are a front for their evil machinations, and I for one plan on sucking up to them as much as possible to avoid evisceration and/or enslavement when they take over the world.

Viva la revolucion!

(The preceding was brought to you by generic Sudafed mixed with Diet Dr. Pepper.)


1. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult: A family is thrown into turmoil when the teenage daughter says she was raped at a party. It's excellent until the halfway mark, at which point it becomes too melodramatic to enjoy. There's a unique twist to this book, though: the main character is a comic book artist, and pages of his graphic novel separate the chapters of the "real" book.

2. The Typhoon Lover* by Sujata Massey: A typically excellent Rei Shimura mystery. In this one, Rei travels to Japan in search of a missing pitcher and winds up making a huge mistake.

3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy: Um, holy freakin' depressing. The writing is utterly amazing, but I needed a hug and a Vicodin when I finished.

4. The 5th Horseman by James Patterson:, the short chapters are a nice concession to the ADD generation.

5. The Assassin's Touch by Laura Joh Rowland: The latest installment of Rowland's samurai mysteries isn't quite as good as I'd hoped it would be. Then again, perhaps I was somewhat prejudiced because the first copy I checked out smelled like urine...a fact I didn't discover until I opened the cover and the stench assailed my poor tender nostrils. Oy. Seriously, WTF is wrong with people?

Read so far this year: 16


1. How to Cook Your Daughter by Jessica Hendra: The author was infuriated when her father, Tony Hendra, published a "confessional" memoir because she felt he left one major detail out...that he sexually abused her. It's basically one huge "fuck-you-Dad" stretched out over 250 pages, but it's not bad.

2. I'm Coming to Take You to Lunch* by Simon Napier-Bell: A bitchy, dishy book about Wham's meteoric rise to fame, penned by their manager. It's not great literature or anything, but I can't imagine it could be much more entertaining.

3. A Piece of Cake* by Cupcake Brown: A riveting memoir about the author's messed-up childhood, even more messed-up adolescence, and her totally FUBAR'd adulthood. Not as depressing as it may sound; it's liberally spiked with humor and hope. (And yes, that's her real name; her mother craved cupcakes throughout her pregnancy.)

4. Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be by Jennifer Trynin: An interesting account of the author's rise and fall in the music world. (No, I'd never heard of her either, although I did download some of her music off iTunes after reading the book; man, that shit is catchy.)

5. Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Alusio: The authors photographed families throughout the world posed with a display of all the foods they eat in a week. I particularly liked the picture of one of the authors "enjoying" a deep-fried starfish on a stick.

6. Love My Rifle More Than You* by Kayla Williams: This fascinating story about the author's tour of duty in Iraq is like Jarhead with ovaries.

Read so far this year: 25


1. Keep Out* by Akira Kanbe

2. Fortune Fortune* by Mizuki Jun

3. Pathos* vols. 1-2 by Sadahiro Mika

4. Neighborhood Story vol. 5 by Yazawa Ai

5. Love Monster vols. 6-7 by Riko Miyagi

6. High School Girls vols. 1-3 by Towa Oshima

7. Nana* vol. 13 by Ai Yazawa

Read so far this year: 35 volumes


1. The Warriors*: A charismatic gang leader is shot and killed on the night of a truce, and the Warriors are falsely accused. With every rival gang in New York City after their asses, they have to try to make it back to their home turf. Stereotypical 70's wah-wah music, some hilarious macho posturing, and the gang outfits (Baseball players? MIMES?!?) are brilliant. And feast your eyes on this Warrior:

Cochise is the coolest mothafucka alive!

2. Waiting...: Okay, I really didn't need to see Luis Guzman's scrotum.

3. Slither*: A gleefully disgusting movie about alien parasites that invade a small Southern town at the height of deer season. Be warned, it's unbelievably gross, but it's also really damn funny, and if you can stomach the gore and goo, you'll have a blast.

4. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit: Very cute, and the stop-motion animation is impressive. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't been watching it while suffering from the crud.

5. Chronicles of Narnia*: Beautiful special effects enliven this enchanting tale about four siblings who find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe.

6. Junebug: A quirky little indie about a sophisticated art dealer meeting her husband's colorful family for the first time. Amy Adams' performance as a cheerful pregnant woman is by far the highlight of the film.

7. Silent Hill*: While I will always be a rabid and loyal follower of the Resident Evil games, especially after the brilliance of RE4, my fangirlish heart belongs to the Silent Hill series. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of RE’s gory antics and jump scares, but Silent Hill’s got the edge when it comes to the psychologically disturbing. I care more about the characters in SH because I can relate to their quests; I can’t really imagine myself fighting an evil corporation, but I can sure imagine myself searching for a lost child or missing spouse.

Anyway, when I heard they were making a Silent Hill movie, I was utterly convinced they’d screw it up. Then I became optimistic when I heard about some of the people involved: Christophe Gans, director of Brotherhood of the Wolf; Roger Avary, who cowrote Pulp Fiction, and best of all, Akira Yamaoka, composer for all four SH games, doing the score. G warned me that it was probably going to suck, but I scoffed. “I’m not expecting a masterpiece,” I said. “If I don’t leave the theater feeling like they’ve completely trashed everything the series means to me, then the movie is a success.”

It was a success.

It's obvious that the movie was created by people who admire and appreciate the source material. The sets could not possibly be more accurate, the music is perfectly chosen (no big surprise, since they use music from the games), and my god, I almost had an orgasm when Pyramid Head made his first appearance. All this and Lisa too!

So to sum up, if I hadn't played the games, I would have enjoyed the music and the sets, and I would have found parts of the movie scary as hell (those nurses!), but I wouldn't have given it a star. But because they didn't crap all over the franchise, it gets one.

(And for the record, G admitted that it didn't suck.)

Seen so far this year: 30


1. "Li'l Red Riding Hood" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
2. "Gouge Away" by The Pixies
3. "Black Is Black" by Los Bravos
4. "Wave of Mutilation" by The Pixies
5. "I Walk the Line" by Joaquin Phoenix
6. "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel
7. "It Ain't Me Babe" by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon
8. "No. 13 Baby" by The Pixies
9. "Tame" by The Pixies
10. "That's Alright Mama" by Tyler Hilton
11. "Don't Worry" by The Beach Boys
12. "Milk Cow Blues" by Tyler Hilton
13. "Crackity Jones" by The Pixies
14. "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians
15. "Monkey's Gone to Heaven" by The Pixies
16. "Dead" by The Pixies
17. "Mr. Grieves" by The Pixies
18. "There Goes My Gun" by The Pixies
19. "Ring of Fire" by Joaquin Phoenix
20. "Jukebox Blues" by Reese Witherspoon
21. "Here Comes Your Man" by The Pixies
22. "Better Than Nothing" by Jennifer Trynin
23. "La La Love You" by The Pixies
24. "Debaser" by The Pixies
25. "I Bleed" by The Pixies
26. "Get Rhythm" by Joaquin Phoenix
27. "They Say Vision" by Res

Thursday, April 27, 2006

my top 10 gottawannahaveto

Always subject to change without notice, but of course:

1. Ride the Maid of the Mist around Niagara Falls. My friend Debbie just got back from Niagara Falls, and her pictures have me jonesin’.

2. Stay at an authentic Japanese love hotel or its American equivalent, the Madonna Inn. Oh, the jungle room!

3. I really, really want to touch a monkey. Seriously. I would give just about anything to touch a monkey. Monkeys are my second favorite animal, right after cats and right before sloths. I've touched plenty of cats in my life (say now!), and I would never touch a sloth because they're covered with icky stuff, but monkeys? Oh yeah, hand me a monkey and I'll be the happiest person alive.

4. Climb Mt. Fuji. Yeah, I know, I’m not the most physically active person, but come on, old people do it!

5. Write a book and/or a screenplay.

6. Stay at every major hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

7. Eat Kobe steak.

8. Go to Ten Thousand Waves. They have a Sailor Moon room, for god's sake!

9. Attend a New York Giants game. (Yes, for real, G.)

10. Learn how to friggin’ cook already.

my big fat Jewish seder

Yeah, yeah, I know...I'm posting this way after the fact, but I've been so sick/busy since I got back from New Jersey that I just haven't had time. Here's a recap of the highlights (and, in some cases, the lowlights).

We went to the Natural History Museum in New York City, where G's nephew D was presenting an ecological lesson with his classmates. After the presentation, we met up with G's sister A and brother-in-law J, as well as D and Nephew #2, I. (I. gave me a hug when he saw me, which touched me immensely.) We walked around the museum, looking at giant sloth skeletons and T. Rex bones, and then we went to Central Park to soak up the sun. We had dinner at an Italian joint called Foccaccio's, and then we walked to Magnolia Bakery.

Now, as you may or may not recall, my Magnolia Bakery aspirations were thwarted last December when we found the storefront shuttered and a sign saying they were closed for the week. I've wanted to try their famous cupcakes ever since I read about them in USA Today, and now I was finally (probably) going to get my chance!

And lo! Joy! Were those lights in the windows, was there a line out the door, was there a cloud of delicious sugary goodness that gathered me up and floated me up the steps like a cartoon hobo to a windowsill pie?



Finally, YES!

I selected a pink cupcake and, of course, a red velvet one. We paid for our selections and stepped outside, since there was nowhere to sit inside the bakery. The lads sat down on the steps of the (closed) Bond No. 9 store, and I crouched down beside them.

With trembling fingers, I divested the pink cupcake of its wax paper negligee. I took a big bite and...


The frosting was way too sweet (and for ME to say that...), and the cake itself was dry and crumbly, more like a corn muffin than a cupcake.

When we got back to the house after the long slow trek through the Holland Tunnel and back to Joisey, though, I ate the red velvet one, and it was considerably better than its predecessor. The icing was still far too sweet, and there was enough of it to cover a small baby's head with an inch-thick layer of creamy goodness, but once I'd scraped off half of it, the cupcake was delicious.

Seder #1 was spent at G's parents' house. (Apparently, the Jewish powers that be can't decide which day is actually Passover, so they celebrate it twice.) We all sat down at the dining room table and received booklets so we could read along as Padre did the honors.

First, we received matzohs, which are basically really dry and flat saltines. They represent the bread which didn't have time to rise before the Jews fled Egypt, and really observant Jews don't eat any leavened bread for (I think) a week. Personally, I don't think their ancestors would mind if they had a nice Twinkie or a good Wonder Bread sandwich, but I'm a gentile and have no say.

Next, Padre held up the roasted shankbone, which commemorates the Pascal lamb, and a roasted egg, which beginnings? Ovo-tolerance? I forget exactly.

We each received a piece of cucumber (karpas) dipped in salt water that represents the tears of the Jewish slaves. G smirked as he watched me eat it, and then he patted my leg and whispered "Who's a good girl?" as I glared at him.

Then came the charoses, a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, and wine that was actually quite tasty. We had to mix moror (horseradish) into it, but I pussed out and just put a little dab on the top. It's another symbol of the bitterness of slavery; the charoses (which, by the way, sounds a hell of a lot like cirrhosis, only with a really guttural "h" at the beginning) represents the mortar the slaves had to use.

And there was also ritual handwashing and letting Elijah (the prophet, not Wood) in through the front door and splashing wine onto our plates as we recited the names of the plagues. We also sang a song called "Chad Gadyo", or "One Kid", about a kid that gets eaten by a cat who gets bitten by a dog who gets beaten by a staff, etc. etc. Very festive.

Oh, the food! Yes, the food was damn good. There was brisket and chicken and tons of vegetables and Manischewitz blackberry wine and cheesecake. I shall gladly sit through just about any religious ceremony that ends with cheesecake.

And there was klezmer music, but I'm trying to forget about that.

Seder lasted long into the night, and once G's parents' friends left, we all retired to our respective rooms.

"Oh, I meant to tell you," I said to G as I changed into my nightie. "Did I tell you about that anime I saw with a Jewish character?"

"What? Really?"

"Yeah! It was kind of cool. It was about a Jewish Japanese schoolgirl [here G's eyebrow quirked in that way it does when he knows I'm about to pull his leg really freakin' hard] who turns into a superhero and fights evil! She is the one called Seder Moon!"

G got under the covers, sighed heavily, and turned his back to me.

Seder #2: Electric Boogaloo meant more brisket and bitter herbs, this time at Uncle R and Aunt E’s in Philadelphia.

I came downstairs after blow drying my hair to find G in a glum mood. “Those kids are coming,” he said moodily.


G had told me horrible things about his cousin M’s kids---hereafter referred to as Beavis and Butt-Head---and I was scared shitless of them.

I must have looked pale, because G took my hand and said “You’ve got nothing to worry about, m’dear…well, not much to worry about, anyway. They usually leave women alone, and J [the one person they actually seem to fear] has promised to keep an eye on them and run interference if necessary.”

When we got to Uncle R and Aunt E's house, introductions were made, and then a group of us (not including Beavis and Butt-Head, fortunately) went to the Tyler Arboretum, which had some truly gorgeous trees, including an enormous magnolia in full bloom. We took a 3-mile Bataan-ical death march (pun courtesy of G) up a steep hill, and I began to reconsider my dream of climbing Mt. Fuji someday.

When we got back to the house, the seder was about to begin. I excused myself to wash my hands, and when I returned to the dining room, Aunt E seated G and me ACROSS FROM BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD.

And here I thought she liked us.

Fortunately, although they were loud and obnoxious, they weren't actually mean. This left me free to relax and enjoy the food and yet another rousing rendition of "Chad Gadyo".

By the time we’d said goodbye to everyone and climbed into Padre’s car for the ride home, I was beginning to feel rocky. I chalked it up to too much food and tried to concentrate on the conversation instead.

But on Friday morning, I woke up feeling like someone had packed my head with cotton and my throat with broken glass and needles.

“G…” I moaned piteously. “G, I’m sick.”

I suppose it was inevitable, for A had been sick earlier in the week, which she attributed to a nasty bug that D had brought home from school.


G valiantly roused himself from the bed and went downstairs to get me a glass of water and a couple of Dayquil. When he returned, he also put a souvenir Liberty Bell on the bedside table. “Ring this if you need anything,” he said.

“’Kay,” I mumbled, tossing the Dayquil down my gullet and pulling the covers over my head.

I finally dragged myself out of bed a little after 1, showered, and stumbled downstairs. “Oh, you poor thing,” Madre clucked. “Let me get you some chicken soup.”

“You’re already on the road to recovery!” G said as she put a steaming bowl of soup and a mug of cinnamon tea in front of me. “Actual chicken soup served by an actual Jewish mother.”

“It’s Progresso,” Madre said.

The mere act of eating wore me out, so I dragged myself back upstairs and flung myself into bed. I alternated reading with sleeping, and every few hours, I would drag myself out of bed to go downstairs for more water and feeble stabs at conversation.

I felt a little better on Saturday, but to be on the safe side, we stuck around the homefront.

And on, Sunday, it was time to go home.

I woke up utterly miserable (so much for feeling a little better!) and barely able to talk. We packed, had delicious homemade pancakes for breakfast, and said our sad goodbyes.

We got to the airport about three hours early, which was a good thing because we went through the wrong security line and had to turn around, find the correct terminal, and go through that friggin’ security line. After securing seats in the terminal, I went to the gift shop and bought a bottle of water and $25 worth of magazines.

The flight was filled with several babies, one of whom was crying at all times. Our pilot got his license through the John Denver Quick-E-Fly Correspondence School. The food was…well, nonexistent aside from a small snack pack filled with dried fruit and crackers. But we tried to occupy ourselves as best we could; sleep wasn’t an option thanks to the squallers, but I flipped through my magazines and we worked on a cryptic crossword together. (Sample clue: “Effects of a pale piranha swimming around a river.” Answer: Paraphernalia. Yeah, see why we have to do these things as a team?)

When we got to LAX, we made our way to the curb where the Van Nuys flyaway bus was supposed to pick us up. We only had to wait for five minutes, and as we settled into our seats, G said, “Wow, that was surprisingly easy.”

Famous last words.

A gorgeous redhead got on the bus and sat down in one of the first seats. I took an instant dislike to her not just because she was so beautiful, but because she had a pissy look on her face as though she’d just smelled something very bad.

“Damn, she’s hot,” I whispered to G.


“Are you being sarcastic?”

“She’s okay, but I wouldn’t say she’s hot.”

(Sometimes I don’t get his taste. A couple of weeks ago, I held up TV Guide and said, “Mariska Hargitay is so pretty she puts her mother [Jayne Mansfield] to shame,” and G said, “You really think she’s pretty?”)

Anyway, so we were sitting there waiting for the driver to finish putting the luggage in the compartments below the bus, and then we were rocked forward as something slammed into the back of the bus.

“Oh my god, we just got rear-ended!” I gasped.

The driver got on the bus, crying hysterically. She grabbed her cell phone and jumped back off the bus, walking right into traffic.

“What the…where is she going?” someone asked.

“I guess to flag down an airport cop,” someone else said.

Eventually, she returned and sat down in her seat, shaking and crying. The redhead got up, knelt down beside her, and said in a low soothing voice, “Are you okay?”

“No, I’m not okay, I was in the luggage compartment when he hit me and my back is hurting real bad!”

“I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?”

I started to feel bad about my initial impression of the redhead.

“No, they’re gonna send another bus for you guys, I can’t drive. I’m hurt so bad!”

A young man got on the bus and said, “I’m so sorry about that, man, I don’t know what happened. That was totally my fault. Here’s my driver’s license and my insurance card. I have [company I work for].”

I groaned, and G squeezed my hand. “Ten to one I wind up working this claim,” I whispered.

Finally, another bus came to pick us up, and after we had been transferred, the new driver said, “Okay, folks, I just have to go to the other stops and then we’ll get you home.”

“Our luggage!” someone said. “It’s still on the other bus!”

The new driver groaned. “Man, gonna be a long night. Okay, hold on and I’ll get the luggage.”

“Why don’t we help you?” the redhead said. “It will go a lot faster that way!”

So she and five other people (G and I not among them; I was sick and he was starting to get sick by this point) hopped off and soon enough, all the luggage was transferred and the passengers settled back in their seats. “Thanks for helping, guys,” the redhead said, and I think I fell in love with her a little at that moment.

And finally, thankfully, we were on our way home.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

do you have Prince Albert in your pants?

If you work in auto claims for more than a day, you’re bound to come across some truly grisly claims.

Yesterday, a gaggle of coworkers was paging through a thick coroner’s report, detailing the rather mangled condition of a gentleman who thought it would be a great idea to stroll down the middle of the freeway naked while under the supervision of Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan.

“It’s so sad how the dead lose all their privacy,” Giggles lamented. “I mean, look at this…it tells you how much he weighed, all his scars and moles and tattoos and piercings...”

Suddenly, she stopped and broke out into a peal of laughter. “Oh my god, oh my god, listen. Piercings: two in left ear, three in right ear, right side of nose, and…and…oh my god, a Prince Albert!”

I began chortling, but no one else joined Giggles and me in our merriment.

“What?” Kitty, a sweet Filipino woman, said. “What is this Prince Albert?”

“Got me,” someone else said, and for some reason, everyone turned to look at me.

“C, what is this Prince Albert?” Kitty demanded. I waved my hand at her and tried to regain my composure. “Like the Prince Albert in a can? What?”

Chortles turned into guffaws.

G, the mail and file guy, stopped to grab the mail from the baskets, and Kitty accosted him. “G, tell me, have you heard of a Prince Charles?”

“Prince Charles?” G said, mystified. “Of course. He was married to Princess Diana.”

“No, no, Prince Albert, Kitty!” Giggles said.

“Okay, then, what is a Prince Albert, G?” Kitty beseeched. He shrugged and went on his way, and Kitty stomped over to my cube and said, “C, tell me what is a Prince Albert!”

In between giggles, I wheezed, “A Prince…Albert…is a piercing in…uh…a man’s most sensitive area.”

She gasped in horror and covered her mouth. “You mean in his…his TESTICLES?”

I banged my fist against my desk, howling.

I think I’m going to like these girls.

Monday, April 03, 2006

cold as ice

Yesterday we were leaving a matinee of Slither, and I stopped to put on my sunglasses. I was just rezipping my purse when G suddenly hissed, "Shannen Doherty is coming up the stairs!"

"What? Are you sure?" I asked, and sure enough, Ms. Brenda Walsh herself was stalking towards us. There was no mistake about it, because I looked her right in the eye---both the normal one and the squinky one---and I'm telling you, I have never gotten a look like that from a total stranger. If I'd been a man, my balls would have shriveled up and crawled into my bodily cavity for protection. I swear, that bitch's gaze could freeze water.

Man, I had no idea she hung around these wealthy but sedate parts. I still have an anti-Shannen 'zine called "I Hate Brenda" from way back when, and I'm thinking I might have to carry it around in case of future sightings. If I got up the courage, I could ask her to sign it and sell it on eBay for a tidy profit.

...hmmm, then again, maybe not. I have the feeling she'd reach into my chest cavity with her French manicured claws and rip my still-beating heart out. I mean, we ARE talking about someone who told her first husband (Ashley Hamilton, George's kid) she was going to have him raped.

Oh, Shannen. Cheer up, emo kid!