Thursday, June 29, 2006

media update: June

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

NOTE: there is a picture of polygonal bow-chicka-bow-bow near the end of the entry; please use caution when viewing.


1. Cage of Stars* by Jacquelyn Mitchard: A teenage girl's world is shattered by the brutal murder of her two little sisters. Although her religious family makes the difficult decision to forgive the killer, she can't bring herself to do the same, and she begins plotting her revenge. Some of the writing, especially the dialogue, is stilted at times, but I could barely put this book down.

2. Black Swan Green* by David Mitchell: The chronicles of a teenage boy growing up in England in the early eighties. This book took me forever to read because I couldn't understand a lot of the slang and cultural references, but it was well worth the effort.

3. Lost and Found* by Carolyn Parkhurst: I about had an orgasm when I found out that Carolyn Parkhurst had a new book out; her debut novel, Dogs of Babel, is one of my ten favorite books of all time. While this isn't quite up to its predecessor's lofty standards, it's still riveting. It's about a group of people on a reality show (obviously based on "The Amazing Race") and the things they learn about themselves and each other. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Read so far this year: 24


1. Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs: Not nearly as good as Magical Thinking, his previous book of essays, but there are a few gems to be found between its covers. The best one was "Moving Violations", in which Augusten's friend finds a truly unique way to deal with bad drivers.

2. Strange Piece of Paradise* by Terri Jentz: In the late 70's, the author went on a cross-country bike trip with her college roommate. One night, when they were camping, a man deliberately drove over their tent in a pickup truck and then attacked them with a hatchet. Both of them survived, but with horrible mental and physical scars; the man was never found. When Jentz got older, she decided it was time to face her inner demons, and she returned to the scene of the crime. While she was investigating, she got some information that led her to a man many people believed was the perpetrator...and Jentz decided to confront him. An amazingly powerful and disturbing book.

3. Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson: I picked this up at the library and hadn't gotten very far before I realized it was basically Schlosser's Fast Food Nation rewritten and edited for a much younger audience. I went ahead and finished it, though, because it's been so long since I read FFN. Ugh. After reading this, I won't be hitting the drive-through for at least two days. (I keed, I keed. Actually, believe it or not, I don't eat fast food more than once or twice a month, provided you don't count Subway. Or, um, pizza.)

4. Eat, Pray, Love* by Elizabeth Gilbert: Devastated by a nasty divorce, the author decided to spend a year traveling the world and trying to find herself by engaging in the titular pursuits. Occasionally too corny and/or hippie-dippy, but generally funny and illuminating.

5. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn: Goddamn, that's a fantastic title. The book itself, which is about the author's tumultuous relationship with his alcoholic, homeless father, isn't as good.

6. Girlbomb* by Janice Erlbaum: A searing memoir about the author's "halfway homeless" teenage years. I knew I had to read this as soon as I saw that the author is a regular contributor to BUST, one of my favorite magazines, and I wasn't disappointed.

7. Secret Girl by Molly Bruce Jacobs: When she was 13, the author found out that she had a mentally challenged sister who had been institutionalized since birth. Many years passed before she found the courage to meet her sister in person, and even longer before she was able to forgive her parents for the choice they'd made. A heartbreaker.

8. Girls of Tender Age* by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith: The author's recollections of growing up in Connecticut with her autistic brother (back when nobody knew what autism was) and a classmate's killer on the loose. As the review blurb inside the jacket says, this is Memory Lane as a crime scene, and it's damn good.

9. Tales from the Scale (anthology): A selection of essays on women's struggle with their weight. There are a few good ones to be had in here, but most of them have the depth and wit of a Hallmark card.

Read so far this year: 42


1. Desert Moon by Hisami Shimada: A family of superheroes transforms by consuming semen. They're not the X-Men, they're the C-Men! (ba dum dum) And no, I'm not making up the plotline just so I could make that stupid joke; that's really what it's about.

2. Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben

3. Swamp Thing: Love and Death* by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, and Shawn McManus: When G told me I should read the Swamp Thing graphic novels, I laughed out loud. Come on, how could a story about a swamp thing be any good? Talk about cheesy! But this super-dark, hallucinogenic take on Dante, in which Swamp Thing must rescue the woman he loves, is brilliant. And oh my god, that "sex" scene? Not remotely erotic, but one of the most bizarre (and strangely touching) things I've ever seen in a comic, that's for damn sure.

4. High School Girls vols. 4-5 by Towa Oshima

5. Whip On! by Chouno Shibuki

6. Poor Sisters' Story* by Kazuto Izumi

7. Swamp Thing: The Curse* by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben: There's a great feminist fable in here, a la Ginger Snaps, that was so damn cool and observant I had a hard time believing a man wrote it. Yeah, I know that sounds sexist as hell.

8. Fun Home* by Alison Bechdel: Written and beautifully illustrated by the woman behind alternative comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, this brilliant memoir is about her closeted gay father, his apparent suicide, and her own sexual awakening. Lovely, melancholy, and occasionally quite funny, this is a prime example of the medium at its best. And oh my god, that last page.

Read so far this year: 51 volumes


1. Final Fantasy: Advent Children: Okay, I didn't understand a single friggin' thing that was going on, because I've never played any of the Final Fantasy games, but my god was this gorgeous. They should have called it Final Fantasy: Welcome to the Uncanny Valley.

2. The Omen (2006): I KNEW hump-dumplings were evil!

3. Jesus Is Magic*: Sarah Silverman is quite possibly the funniest woman alive. I had "Give the Jew Girl Toys" stuck in my head for hours after watching this.

4. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: Excellent performances, a quirky script, and innovative direction by George Clooney heighten this biopic of game show host Chuck Barris and his alleged time in the CIA, but something about it left me cold, so I couldn't bring myself to give it a star (much to G's dismay; he absolutely loved it).

5. Adaptation*: A very quirky movie about a screenwriter's struggle to adapt a book about orchids into a feature film. Ordinarily I find Charlie Kaufman's movies way too twee and self-referential (see #4), but I really enjoyed this one.

6. Running Scared*: A gritty, superviolent movie about a guy who disposes of guns for the mob. His neighbor's kid gets hold of one of the guns, which was used in a cop killing, and all hell breaks loose. It's got amazing style, an almost unbearably tense and creepy scene that ends in the most justifiable vigilante act in cinematic history, weird Tim Burtonesque ending credits, and the famous laundry room scene, which is far too short, but scorchingly hot. This flick won't tax your brain or anything, but if you can handle the violence and the unbelievably blue language (according to IMDB, the f-word and its variants are used over 300 times), and you're willing to forgive a couple of rather large plotholes, you'll enjoy the hell out of it.

Oh, and speaking of that laundry room scene: the official movie website used to have a game where you must recreate that scene, complete with slurping sounds. I am so not even shitting you; if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I'd think it was a myth. Unfortunately, they seem to have taken it down, but here's a screencap from Defamer's archives:

(And for those of you who are about as blind as me, the text at the bottom says "Your wife just came her fucking brains out! Now go wash your mouth out with booze".)

7. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang*: A twisty film noir with snappy and smart dialogue. Be sure to watch the gag reel; you will be both horrified and aroused by Val Kilmer and his hummingbird tongue.

8. The Ringer: Johnny Knoxville plays a guy who pretends to be mentally challenged in order to throw the Special Olympics. Is it as bad as it sounds? No, actually, it's worse. Jesus Christ, this is a definite contender for the worst movie I've seen all year. I smiled once when he said "I can count to potato!", but I didn't laugh once. Johnny Knoxville is still hot, though, even though he allegedly introduced Jessica Simpson to the joys of salad tossing during the filming of Dukes of Hazzard. (I said ALLEGEDLY, Papa Joe, keep your law goons away. I don't have anything you'd want anyway.)

Seen so far this year: 47


1. Silent Hill 2 (soundtrack): Some of the most beautiful music ever used in a video game. Akira Yamaoka is a genius.

2. Silent Hill 3 (soundtrack)

3. "A Little Pain" by Olivia

4. Silent Hill 4 (soundtrack)

5. Silent Hill Remixes

6. "Stars Are Blind" by Paris Hilton: If you think I'm proud of this, YOU ARE SO FREAKIN' WRONG. But it's actually not bad. It sounds like mediocre Gwen Stefani, and it's very catchy, but I think it gave my iPod herpes.

7. "These Things" by She Wants Revenge

8. "Rose" by Anna

9. "Himitsu Dolls" by Nakahara Mai and Shimizu Ai

10. "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie

11. "Your Heart Is An Empty Room" by Death Cab for Cutie

12. "Tenshi no Yubikiri" (KareKano theme song)

13. "Planet of Sound" by The Pixies

14. "Alec Eiffel" by The Pixies

15. "Head On" by The Pixies

16. "U-Mass" by The Pixies

17. "Somebody Hollaback" (Killers/Gwen Stefani mash-up) by DJ Riz

18. "Samson" by Regina Spektor: I was so excited when this finally showed up for download on iTunes; I've been wanting it since it was featured on an episode of CSI:NY.

19. "Do You Love Me Now?" by The Breeders

20. "Don't Call Home" by The Breeders

21. "Safari" by The Breeders: The part in the middle where the guitars build into a sludgy wave of sound = the shit.

22. "So Sad About Us" by The Breeders

23. Bust a Groove 2 (soundtrack): The Bust a Groove games are so damn fun; they're like Dance Dance Revolution for lazy people!


Doggy Poo: This is a short stop-motion religious fable that uses TALKING DOG SHIT to drive home the point that God has a purpose for everything...I shit (er, sorry) you not. I forced G to watch this, and I'm lucky he's still speaking to me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

the first day of summer

She once said, looking out the window by her hospital bed, that she didn’t want to die in the winter. She was used to Indiana winters, sparkling and clean as a Norman Rockwell painting; she hated the city snow that piled up by the freeways, turning black from exhaust, the bleak gray skies.

She died on the very first day of summer.

It was, of course, the worst day of your life, and the smallest comfort you could get from this fact was that nothing would ever hurt you that badly again.

And the days stretched on interminably as you picked out an urn for her ashes, wept against your brother’s shoulder at the memorial service, listened to the horrible animal moans from your parents’ (no, not anymore, just your father now) bedroom late at night when he thought no one was listening. And you rocked back and forth in your own bed, keening.

There is no healing from a wound such as this, but you do learn to cope. You see loud and senseless action movies, you eat bad Italian food, you go on blind dates, you laugh again and, eventually, you stop feeling guilty for going on with your life. You stop obsessing over every adolescent roll of your eyes, every nasty remark spit out in the heat of anger. You know she forgave you, though you never asked for it, nor did you deserve it. You begin to focus on those moments of such blinding happiness that, all these years later, you remember with such intense joy that you find yourself clumsily swiping tears from your face with the back of your hand.

She is with you every second of every day of your life.

You take her along with you, entwined in the infinity signs of your DNA. You think of her whenever you read a really good book or see an excellent movie. You smile when you think of how much she’d like your boyfriend. You take her with you to Paris, to Oslo, to Tokyo, to all the places she would have loved and never got a chance to visit.

You could no more forget her than you could sever your shadow.

NLC, August 16th, 1946-June 21st, 1997

Friday, June 16, 2006

pic o' the day

Ordinarily I'm not a big fan of the hump-dumplings, but if I ever had a kid, I sure hope she'd be like this one:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


We had a big employee appreciation BBQ last week, and dozens of people were struck with food poisoning…some so severely that they had to go to the emergency room.

Today, we received the following e-mail:

In order to conduct the investigation in a timely manner, please complete the attached questionnaire and send it via fax to [redacted]. The Department of Health Services needs information not only from those that were ill, but also from people who were not ill.

The Department of Health Services is also working on contacting a nurse to drop off stool specimen collection kits. More specific information to follow.

Fortunately (and strangely, considering that I have a really tetchy tummy), I managed to escape the outbreak, so I don’t have to submit to the indignity of dropping trou at work and squeezing out a cup of my brown bounty.

Thank god for (not so) small favors.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I heart 7-11

I love convenience stores.

First of all, they remind me of my childhood. Every week during the summer, my mom would take my brother and me to a convenience store up the street, and we were allowed to pick out one treat. (If the latest issue of Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, was out, I'd get that, and I usually managed to coax a couple of quarters out of Mom for the Q*Bert machine in the corner, too.) Then we'd go home and have "Quiet Time", during which my brother and I were sent to our respective rooms for two hours. We could do anything we wanted as long as it was quiet, and as long as we stayed in our rooms (exceptions were made for the bathroom, of course). Now that I'm older, I realize that my mom was probably using this blessed free time to take a much-deserved nap.

Secondly, where else can you buy condoms, beer, batteries, candy, ice cream, a hot dog, magazines, "energy pills" and jumper cables under one roof?

Anyway, tonight I ventured out into the beautifully balmy night on a mission to buy Diet Dr. Pepper.

< tangent >

When I was in Japan last year, after our tour group had disbanded for the night, I stopped in the 7-11 down the block from our hotel for a bento and a Coke. It smelled exactly like every other 7-11 I've ever visited. Is it Slurpee mix? If you know, please advise.

< /tangent >

I honestly intended to buy my Diet Dr. Pepper and leave, but my stomach was growling, and ice cream sounded like just the thing on a warm June night. I stepped over to the cooler and surveyed the treats within.

Mmmm...Chipwich? Dibs? Haagen-Dazs vanilla almond bar? Or maybe a HOLY CHRISTBALLS WHAT'S THAT?

With trembling hands, I pushed the cooler open and grabbed...

...a Cadbury Creme Egg drumstick.

The wrapper said, "Vanilla ice cream with a fondant creme center dipped in Cadbury chocolatey coating", but it might as well have said, "Cadbury creme egg + ice cream = damp panties".

Fling! Into the basket with you.

Remembering my mission, I grabbed a 12-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper and headed towards the register. The cashier had just rung me up when, to my astonishment, I saw something in the magazine rack that I'd been dying to get my hands on: Shock, the brand-new, ultra-cheap ($1.99!) schlocky rag that's already made the news, both for its lowbrow content and because they're getting sued by a photographer for using one of his Iraq photos on the cover, allegedly without permission.

"I need this too," I said breathlessly, tossing it onto the counter.

As soon as I got home, I unwrapped the Cadbury Creme Egg drumstick and, to my dismay, found that it was encased in a thick layer of ice. Apparently not a big seller. I picked the ice off as best I could and took a bite.

Hmmm...not bad. The ice cream wasn't the best quality, and the chocolate was a bit thin, but that fondant center was a killer, and they had the obligatory chocolate plug in the bottom of the cone. As it stands, it gets a solid B, but if I had a fresher one, the grade could potentially go up to an A.

As for Shock, I'll open it up at random and see what we're dealing with here.

Page 19: A picture of an ultra-hairy Val Kilmer licking Paris Hilton's lower lip. Ewww!

Page 23: Celebrities flipping the bird! That's not very Christian of you, Jessica Simpson.

Page 74: Frickin’ NASTY. My ice cream is about to make a repeat appearance.


Okay, it's utter trash, but I have a headache, and I think my current novel will only make it worse (Black Swan Green by David Mitchell; it's excellent, but very British, and it's taking me forever to read because I have to figure out the slang and cultural references from context, and when that doesn't work, I have to Google it), so I'm going to pop a couple of Tylenol PM and climb into bed and read Shock.

Think I'll paperclip pages 74-75 together first, though. I don't need to be dreaming about that shit, thanks.