Thursday, August 31, 2006

media update: August

Oh, I am so looking forward to September. For one, it might actually start cooling down; I can't say as I enjoy getting into my car after work and feeling like someone just slid me into an Easy-Bake Oven. For another, there are three movies coming out that I'm eagerly anticipating: Crank, The Protector (Tony freakin' Jaa, boooooooooooy!), and The Black Dahlia. Ima get my matinees on, yeah yeah. There are also new Karin Slaughter and Sujata Massey novels to look forward to, AND a creepy new survival horror game coming out, so I'm going to be very happily occupied.

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


1. The Girls by Lori Lansens: The story of conjoined twin sisters and their journey through life. I thought parts of it were too melodramatic, but it was still touching.

2. Water for Elephants* by Sara Gruen: Through flashbacks, an elderly man tells the story of his years spent traveling with a circus during the Great Depression. Vividly written and by turns heartbreaking and funny, this is destined to be one of my favorite books of 2006.

3. The Man of My Dreams* by Curtis Sittenfeld: Even though Curtis Sittenfeld (who is a woman, by the way) wrote Prep, which made my top ten list last year, I hesitated to read this because the title and the cover photo (a crown-wearing frog) made me think it was going to be chick lit. Well, that was pretty fucking stupid of me; I should have known better. This is a wonderful book about Hannah, whose search for love and struggles to deal with family and the real world struck many a chord with me. Shit, even the book jacket raises some good questions: "At what point can you no longer blame your adult failures on your messed-up childhood? Is settling for someone who's not your soul mate an act of maturity or an admission of defeat?" I have some minor criticisms of the last chapter, but the rest is golden.

Read so far this year: 33


1. Extreme Cuisine by Jerry Hopkins: A compendium of some of the more bizarre things people eat around the world. Drugstores need to put copies of this book next to Metabolife and Dexatrim, because it's probably the best diet aid I've ever come across. Some of the full-color photos literally made my gorge rise. (And yeah, yeah, I know everything's culturally relative and people who eat cats and balut---half-formed chick embryo---might think hamburgers and ice cream are gross, but still! Fucking nasty!)

2. PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives*: So this dude named Frank Warren started passing out postcards and asking people to anonymously send in their biggest secret. This book compiles some of the best submissions, ranging from the funny ("I really enjoy peeing while I swim") to the heartbreaking ("I never said anything about my brother molesting me because I thought he’d be sent away”). Associated website here.

3. Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down-Market Dilettante by Ayun Halliday: Essays on some of the author's more unusual and/or craptacular jobs. I was reading this in the waiting room of my doctor's office and got some nervous looks when I kept laughing out loud.

4. Dirty Sugar Cookies* by Ayun Halliday: This author is a recent find, and I'm happily working my way through her entire oeuvre. This one is a hysterical collection of essays about her relationship with food and cooking. Bonus: even the included recipes are funny.

5. Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood* by Adrienne Martini: A raw, often blackly funny memoir about the author's struggles with postpartum depression, which has run in her family for generations. Choice childbirth quote: "It's like getting the best Christmas gift ever, but Santa decided to kick the crap out of you before you unwrapped it."

6. The Big Rumpus by Ayun Halliday: Okay, now I'm done with all of her books. This one is my least favorite of the four, probably because I can't relate to the adventures of a mother raising two kids in the East Village, but it still has its moments.

Read so far this year: 58


1. The Watchmen by Alan Moore

2. Parfait Tic* vol. 14 by Nanaji Nagamu

3. Death Note vol. 12 by Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi: This was one of my favorite manga series of last year, but I began to lose interest in it after [spoiler omitted for the two of you who might pick this up]. However, this was the last volume, and it ended on a very satisfying note.

4. Desire Climax* vol. 2 by Ukyou Ayane

5. Tokyo Babylon* vols. 1-7 by CLAMP

Read so far this year: 66 volumes


1. V for Vendetta: A man in a Guy Fawkes mask tries to rally the citizenry against a totalitarian British government. This is based on the Alan Moore graphic novel, and apparently he was so utterly disgusted by how it turned out---not that he's ever been happy with ANY adaptation of his work---that he refused to have his name anywhere on it. Despite the creator's loathing, I thought it was good, and it earned bonus points for employing my eternal crush Rupert Graves, as well as for a heartbreakingly beautiful scene that left me choked up. (For those of you who have seen it, it's the one where Evey is reading the note in her jail cell; classic Alan Moore.)

2. The Descent*: An almost unbearably tense thriller about a group of women who go spelunking and run into some serious trouble. Between this and The Ruins, I don't think I'll be visiting any caves for a while.

3. Jaws: G was horrified upon hearing that I'd never seen this classic before, so we watched it together. Very good, although the shark looks laughable by today's standards.

4. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance: An unrelentingly grim, albeit impeccably crafted, Korean flick about a kidnapping that has unforeseen consequences. Afterwards, G commented, "Well, THAT was happy-making."

5. Manos, Hands of Fate (MST3K version): Did the people who made this actually think it was GOOD at the time? The mind boggles. Gotta love Torgo, though; I want his theme music as my ringtone.

6. The Dead Zone: A surprisingly well-done adaptation of the Stephen King novel about a man who gains psychic powers after a car accident.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: It had some exciting action sequences and some truly great, gruesome creatures---thanks to some of the hentai I've seen, I found Davy Jones particularly disturbing---but it was waaaay too long. I was squirming like a kid with pinworms by the 2 hour and 15 minute mark, and I still had 20 minutes to go!

Seen so far this year: 65


1. "Why or Why Not" by Rekka Katakiri

2. "When the Cicadas Cry" by Eiko Shimamiya

3. "Go All the Way" by The Raspberries: I was driving to the supermarket and this began playing on Jack FM. It was a gloriously cheesy slice of power pop, and I freakin' LOVED it. Of course, the problem with Jack is that they don't tell you what they've just played. I tried Googling the lyrics I remembered, but came up with surprise, because it turns out I'd completely misunderstood the chorus.

Anyway, the next morning when I was driving to work, the Jack announcer gave their website address and said you could look up what they'd played in the last couple of days. Excitedly, I popped online as soon as I logged in at work (as you can tell, my priorities are straight), checked the block of time when I'd heard it, and I found the song. I downloaded it off iTunes, and I've listened to it at least eleventeen times since then. And in a prime example of Bader-Meinhoff, I was reading Esquire three days later and Mary-Louise Parker listed it as one of her favorite boinkin' songs. Might have to try that myself.

4. Rule of Rose soundtrack: I'm never happier than when I have something to obsess over, and right now it's this video game. It's not out yet, but after seeing the trailer and listening to its beautiful score, I'm absolutely salivating. It looks like a cross between Haunting Ground, the Brothers Grimm, and Lord of the Flies, and I've already put down a deposit for it at EB Games.