Wednesday, February 28, 2007

media update: February

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary. I got a shitload of reading done this month because many of these books were either fairly short and/or so good that I tore through them. Another fantastic month for non-fiction!


1. The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon: A young woman, raised in isolation by her alchemist father, has her life turned upside down when she meets a man with underhanded motives for courting her. Beautifully written, although some of the more detailed descriptions of alchemy made my eyes cross.

2. Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto: The story of the quirky friendship that grows between Momoko, a Gothic Lolita obsessed with frilly clothes and rococo style, and Ichiko, a tough biker chick. Meh.

3. Veil of Roses* by Laura Fitzgerald: A young Iranian woman moves to the United States to find a husband, and soon she finds herself torn between the culture she grew up in and the culture she's grown to love. It's a bit cheesy and unrealistic, but I really enjoyed it.

4. The Ruby Ring by Diane Haeger: In Renaissance Italy, the lover of famed painter Rafael, who has just died at the beginning of the novel, remembers their passionate romance. Similar in theme to The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant or Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, though not as engrossing as either one.

5. The IHOP Papers by Ali Liebegott: I don't ever want to read another book in which a woman breaks her own hymen with a Magic Marker. Hear me, publishers? I will actively shun any book with such a passage in the future.

6. Charity Girl* by Michael Lowenthal: During World War I, over 15,000 women who were found to have a venereal disease were rounded up and incarcerated, ostensibly to protect soldiers from getting sick. Frieda, the main character of this book, is a "charity girl", which was a euphemism for being promiscuous. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, she winds up incarcerated in a renovated bordello with other similarly afflicted women. A powerful look at a shameful, little known chapter in American history.

7. Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess: A teenage girl tries to formulate an escape plan when her father, who was in prison for molesting her and several other children, is granted parole. I can't tell you why I didn't like this book without spoiling it for anyone who might want to read it, so suffice it to say that it bugged the crap out of me.

8. Lily's Ghost by Cheryl Drake Harris: A woman, still haunted by the things she saw during her medical tour in Vietnam, finds herself in the fight of her life when her estranged husband sues for custody of their son.


1. Love Is A Mix Tape* by Rob Sheffield: I hate the title; it's too reminiscent of bad teenage poetry. The book itself, however, is wonderful. It's the bittersweet love story of the author and his late wife, who were brought together by their shared passion for music, and if you've ever lost someone you loved more than life itself, this book will make you sob.

2. Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?: More Questions You'd Only Ask A Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour* by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D.: This book answers that question and more, like "Why is snot green?" and "Can you heal a baby's clogged tear ducts by squirting breast milk into its eye?" (Shockingly enough, the answer to the last one is yes, although they don't recommend aiming your nipple at the baby's eye and firing away; they suggest squeezing a few drops onto your finger and then rubbing it into the affected area.)

3. In Search of the Pleasure Palace* by Marc Almond: I relished his autobiography, so I decided to take a look at this book too. It's a collection of anecdotes about his "disreputable travels", ranging from pre-Giuliani New York City to Club Asshole, an underground sex club in someone's London basement. Even though I couldn't decipher some passages (example: "Looking around, those three little words came to mind: Bowen, Llewellyn and Laurence. I could imagine Carol Smiley stapling fake zebra skin pelmets over the curtains." Um, what?), I really enjoyed this book, which is a fascinating peek at places I'd never dare to go. My favorite quote: "The net for me is quite an unsexy experience. [Because I'm] dyslexic, typing and masturbating at the same time present all kinds of problems." Second favorite, about visiting the Anne Frank house: "I listened to an American wheelchair-bound tourist outside complaining about the lack of disabled facilities at the museum. With hindsight, it would have been more considerate of [Anne] to hide on the ground floor."

4. Mortified* edited by David Nadelberg: Dear god, this collection of journal entries, letters, and notes by teenagers, mostly 80's vintage, is guaranteed to make you howl with laughter and squirm with recognition. From "porn" written by a 12-year-old who thinks an orgasm means peeing on your partner to swoony Duran Duran fanfiction, I loved it all.

Side note: Somewhere in the cavernous, creepy depths of Daddy-O's basement, there may exist a story I wrote in high school in which I won a KROQ contest and Daniel Ash---originally from Bauhaus, but at the time of Love & Rockets fame---took me to the prom. I wore a Betsey Johnson "Doves in the Snow" dress (as seen in Seventeen's 1987 prom issue!) and everyone stared at us enviously as we expertly twirled around the dance floor. Then we had poorly written sex in the back of the limo. I have no idea why I'm admitting something this cringeworthy to you. I'm hoping that I destroyed it a long time ago, but if I ever happen to find it, I may force its hideousness on you, and you shall reluctantly take it, like a child accepting a lint-covered Lifesaver from his grandmother.

5. Transparent* by Cris Beam: The author volunteered at a school for transgendered teenagers, and this is an absorbing portrait of some of the students with whom she became friendly. It reminded me of Random Family by Adrian Nicole Leblanc, and although it isn't quite as good as that book, it's still a worthy read.

6. The Secret Lives of Men and Women compiled by Frank Warren: More submissions to the PostSecret project.

7. I'd Rather Eat Chocolate by Joan Sewell: The chronicle of one woman's struggle to come to grips with her unusually low libido, and how it affected her marriage.

8. Stealing Buddha's Dinner* by Bich Minh Nguyen: The author and her family fled Vietnam in the 70's and wound up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she longed for the uncomplicated lives and glorious junk food of her schoolmates. Funny, bittersweet, and memorable. Fair warning: not to be read on an empty stomach, thanks to the mouthwatering descriptions of everything from Hostess cupcakes to pho.


1. Aquarium by Tomoko Taniguchi

2. Luv Clinic* vol. 2 by Sugi Emiko


1. Snakes on a Plane: Only Samuel L. Jackson can say "motherfucker" and make it sound like poetry.

2. The Last Kiss*: Zach Braff plays a guy who starts to get freaked out about being an adult, fearing that there will be no more surprises in his life...but when a cute little brunette starts sniffing around his door, he finds out just how wrong he is. Excellent performances and script.

3. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: A cheerful little flick in which a ratty-looking Clive Owen seeks revenge against the man who raped his brother. Not exactly a happy-maker.

4. Marie Antoinette*: I've always been fascinated by the tragic tale of Marie Antoinette, and I loved Sofia Coppola's first two films, so I was really anxious to see this one...and it didn't disappoint. It's quite possibly the most beautiful movie I've ever seen, with its luscious candy colors and stunning costumes. And I'm not usually a big Kirsten Dunst fan, but I thought she was fantastic.

5. Police Story: The plot isn't much, but as expected from a Jackie Chan movie, there's lots of exciting action, including an awesome smash 'em up in a shopping mall.


1. "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe" by Afghan Whigs

2. "Miles Iz Ded" by Afghan Whigs

3. "Debonair" by Afghan Whigs: This is one of my favorite songs of all time. It's like the bass line is using my vertebrae as a ladder to the part of my brain that processes awesome.

4. "Uh Zoom Zip" by Soul Coughing

5. "Down to This" by Soul Coughing

6. "Fantastic Cat" by Takako Minekawa

7. "Standing in the Way of Control" by The Gossip: This song rocks my ass off.

8. "Smoke and Mirrors" by Magnetic Fields

9. "Country Grammar" by Nelly: I bought a used PS2 game called Unison, and this song showed up in it. Man, if there's anything funnier than watching an ultra-cutesy anime character dance to a song that includes the lyrics "Shimmy shimmy cocoa puff listen to it pound/Light it up and take a puff", I really don't know what it is. I was disappointed, however, to learn that the lyric I misheard as "cock ready to love you" was actually "cocked ready to let it go". (And as for the game, it was well worth the $3 I paid for it.)

10. "The Drowners" by Suede


This game is kind of like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books for the digital age. You play disgraced cop Kyle Hyde, who’s checked into a rundown hotel while searching for his missing partner. The hotel's inhabitants are all hiding some secrets of their own, and he must unravel the mystery of Room 215. I loved the graphics, which reminded me of the video for A-ha's "Take on Me", and some of the writing is really snappy. One of the puzzles was way too hard, and some of them were so easy they made my eyes roll, but overall this is a fun game that kept me up late at night, stylus in hand. (No, that’s not a euphemism.)


So I was surfing this site*, which is full of those cat macros that never fail to crack my ass up, and I saw this picture:

I want this kitten so goddamn bad. Look at that tiny, fluffy, round head and that eensy pink tongue! I'm of the firm belief that people shouldn't buy purebred animals and get their pets from the local shelter instead, but I would make an exception for a Scottish fold, especially one as squeeworthy as this little muffinhead.

*Warning for that site: It takes absolutely forever to load, even with DSL, because there are so many pictures. Also, some of the captions are offensive, and there's an absolutely terrifying Photoshop job on there (trust me, you'll know it when you see it), but for the most part it's just harmless, inexplicably funny stuff.

Friday, February 23, 2007

the gay Superbowl

Ah, it’s time for the Oscars again…and, just like I have for the last couple of decades, I’ll be spending the entire telecast hunkered down on the couch, eating junk food, mocking and/or coveting the outfits, and swearing a blue streak whenever what I consider to be an unworthy candidate (cf. Crash) wins an award.

I always like to predict the winners, so here are my picks. These are the ones I think will win, not the ones I want to win. Obviously, I haven’t seen every single nominee, so I’m going by reviews, the opinions of various pundits, and sheer guesswork.

BEST PICTURE: Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, The Queen, Letters from Iwo Jima

MY GUESS: Well, I’ve only seen Little Miss Sunshine, and although I loved it, I don’t think it will win because comedies always take a backseat to dramas as far as the Oscars are concerned. Personally, I think they should have separate categories for dramas and comedies/musicals, just like the Golden Globes, but whatever. I’m thinking Babel will either sweep or get completely shut out, and my money’s on the latter because I’ve heard it’s too similar in theme to last year’s winner, Crash. Therefore, it will be The Departed.

BEST DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass (United 93), Clint Eastwood Letters from Iwo Jima, Stephen Frears (The Queen), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu (Babel), Martin Scorcese (The Departed)

MY GUESS: Martin Scorcese. He’s never won, so this will be his year.

BEST ACTOR: Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Peter O’Toole (Venus), Leonardo Di Caprio (Blood Diamond), Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness)

MY GUESS: Everyone’s saying that Leonardo Di Caprio should have been nominated for The Departed instead, so he’s out. Ryan Gosling is supposed to be amazing, but who saw that movie? Will Smith is a possible spoiler, but I’m going to say no. Peter O’Toole is a possibility because he’s been nominated so many times and never won once, aside from an honorary Oscar, but again, who saw that movie? That leaves Forest Whitaker for the win.

(And by the way, I can never see Peter O’Toole’s name without thinking of John Waters’ quip: “Is there a filthier name than Peter O’Toole? What’s the female equivalent, Muff O’Clit?”)

BEST ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz (Volver), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Kate Winslet (Little Children), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)

MY GUESS: There is absolutely no way anyone but Helen Mirren will win.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children), Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls), Mark Wahlberg (The Departed)

MY GUESS: I’ve heard that Eddie Murphy is fantastic, but some people think he screwed the pooch by releasing Norbit so close to the Oscars. Hollywood loves a comeback story, so Jackie Earle Haley can’t be ruled out, but I’m going to say it will be Mark Wahlberg. Dear God, let it be Mark Wahlberg, and please let him thank the Funky Bunch.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Adriana Barraza (Babel), Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)

MY GUESS: This always seems to be the category with the biggest surprise. Jennifer Hudson’s the favorite, but the voters may not reward her for what’s essentially more of a singing role than an acting role. Whenever two people from the same movie are nominated in the same category, they usually cancel each other out, but I’m still going with Rinko Kikuchi for Babel.

I can’t be arsed to type out every single nominee for the “lesser” categories, but I’ll give you my predictions. Full list of nominees here.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Little Miss Sunshine probably won’t win in any of its other categories, so barring a Babel sweep, it will grab this one.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: As much as I’d like to see Borat win, especially after Sascha Baron Cohen’s hysterical Golden Globes acceptance speech, it will be The Departed. And they better give a nod to the writers of Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong masterpiece on which it was based. ‘Nuff respect to my HK peeps!

CINEMATOGRAPHY: I haven’t seen it, but everyone who has raves about its cinematography, so I’m going with Children of Men.


ART DIRECTION: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

COSTUME DESIGN: It damn well better be Marie Antoinette.


ORIGINAL SONG: “Listen” from Dreamgirls

MAKEUP: Pan’s Labyrinth has this one sewn up. I mean, really, CLICK?

SOUND: Dreamgirls

SOUND EDITING: Letters from Iwo Jima

VISUAL EFFECTS: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: They might as well just hand this to Pixar every year; no way it won’t be Cars. I was happy to see Monster House get a nod, though; maybe that will get more people to see it.


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: An Inconvenient Truth


ANIMATED SHORT: The Little Matchgirl

LIVE SHORT: West Bank Story


BEST DRESSED: Cate Blanchett

WORST DRESSED: Rinko Kikuchi, because she seems to show up on Go Fug Yourself every other day.



NUMBER OF TOM CRUISE/KATIE HOLMES/SURI JOKES: Are you kidding? None! That crazy bastard is sue-happy!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

have you never been mellow

Stolen from all over the flim-flamming place:

1. Put your music player on shuffle.
2. Press forward for each question.
3. Use the song title as the answer to each question.

Okay, this wound up being really funny. I swear I didn’t skip ahead to ensure an appropriate answer; the only ones I skipped were untitled tracks and classical pieces.

What does next year have in store for me? “Theme from the X-Files” by Mark Snow. Oh dear…

What does my love life look like? “Supermodel” by Juliana Hatfield. Keep your zombie hands OFF my man, you skinny-ass Vogue bitches!

What do I say when life gets hard? “Puke + Cry” by Dinosaur Jr. Okay, now that’s just eerie. I may not say it, but that’s pretty much what I do. Well, that, sleep, and mainline sugar.

What do I think of when I get up in the morning? “Oh Yeah” by Yello. Um, no.

What song describes my significant other? “Gee Angel” by Sugar

What is my state of mind at the moment? “Work Is a Four-Letter Word” by The Smiths. Seriously, this is beginning to freak my shit out.

How will I die? “Candy Pop in Love” by Tommy February6. What does this mean? Will I meet my death like Augustus Gloop, drowning in chocolate in Willy Wonka’s factory?

The song that will be played at my funeral: “Light My Fire” by The Doors. Did I mention this meme is beginning to scare me? How does iTunes know that I want to be cremated?

The song I’ll put as the subject: “Have You Never Been Mellow” by The Olivia Project

The song that describes my friendships: “Beercan Boy” by Pansy Division. Why, yes, when I think of my friends, a song about a man with an enormous penis immediately springs to mind!

The song that describes what this summer will be like: “Terror in the Depths of the Fog” from Silent Hill 2. Wow, do I not like this answer.

The song that describes what people think of me: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” by Jennifer Hudson. So when you guys think of me, it's as a curvy black diva? I'll accept that.

The song that describes how I did in school: “Never There” by Cake. Not true! The only time I ever played hooky was in the fifth grade, and I got in such big-ass trouble that I never did it again. (Well, not until college.)

The song that describes my job: “Sanctuary” by Hikaru Utada. Um, no.

The song that describes my personality: “Rolling Along” by Lucinda Williams

I'm so glad "Date Rape" by Sublime and “Teenage Whore” by Hole didn't show up for any of these.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

sugar and spice

NOTE: This was actually written yesterday, but Blogger was being a little bitch, so I couldn't post it until now. Damn you, Blogger! I shake my fist in your general direction.

R, my older brother, is going to be laid up for a few weeks following surgery to correct his breathing problems. This, and the unbearable frigidity of Minnesota in February, forced him to escape to milder climes…namely, California. I put in a vacation request, and we made plans to get together for a trip to Hearst Castle and anywhere else that struck our fancy along the way.

On Sunday afternoon, I bid G au revoir, and R and I took off in his rented Malibu. I love the conversations that pop up on long car trips, and we talked about everything from the philosophical to the scatological.

“Have you ever taken a crap that looked like Ernest Borgnine?” I reminisced.

“Jesus!” R sputtered.

“You took a crap that looked like JESUS?”

“No! God! I mean, gross! What’s wrong with you?”

“Well, I’m just saying th---OH MY GOD MADONNA INN EXIT NOW!” I squealed.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the glory of the Madonna Inn, let me school you. It’s an enormous hotel located in San Luis Obispo, and each room has a different theme. Most of them are eye-bleedingly gauche, but there are a few cool ones, like the Caveman Room. I’ve always wanted to stay there, but since that wasn’t on the agenda for this particular trip, I figured I’d settle for dinner.

Our food wasn’t anything all that exciting; really, how alluring can you make a grilled ham and cheese sandwich? I was grooving on the heavy glass goblets of water and the bowl filled with pink sugar, though.

“Would you care for dessert?” our waitress asked.

“Sure, I’ll have the pink champagne cake,” I said cheerfully. R ordered the toffee crunch cake, and after the waitress left, we discussed what we were going to do the next day. I was pointing at something in his guide book when two enormous plates were plunked down in front of us.

“Oh my god,” I whispered reverently.

Yes, it really was that color!  I had eaten maybe a third of it by the time I took this picture.

This was no ordinary slice of cake. This was a SLAB of cake. I shit you not, it had to be about six inches tall, and it was an alarmingly bright shade of pink.

It was beautiful.

It was also delicious---sort of like wedding cake---but I was unable to eat more than a third of it. I sadly trailed my fork through the fluorescently festive frosting until the waitress took it away.

R and I rolled ourselves back to the car and continued on our way. Upon arriving at our hotel, I took one look at the sign and wailed, “R, you booked us into a Best Western?”

“What’s wrong with Best Western?”

“Well, K and I haven’t exactly had the best of luck with them,” I said.

“Why don’t we see the room first before you freak out?” he rationally replied.

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. Not only did we have a beautiful view of the ocean, but the room itself was quite nice. The beds were comfortable, the TV was large, and the minibar was well stocked and reasonably priced. We put our clothes away and then walked down to the beach, where we sat by the fire pit and watched the waves roll onto the shore.

On Monday morning, we got up, showered (separately, thank you), and went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.

“Oh my god, R, look at this!” I squealed, jabbing my finger at the menu. “Bailey’s French toast: two croissants dipped in a Bailey’s and cinnamon custard batter. I am SO THERE.”

“Good choice,” the waitress commented when I placed my order.

I was trembling with anticipation. When the plate was set down in front of me, I fretted: would it be as good as it sounded, and looked, and smelled?


Oh, sweet Christ, yes.

As I shoved forkful after forkful into my drooling maw, I made noises that would make a phone sex operator take notes. I followed this delectable treat with three sausage links and a Coke, burped (there was no one else around), and patted my swollen belly happily.

I’ve been to Hearst Castle several times, but it was still impressive. The tour guide mentioned that employees and their friends are allowed use of the Roman Pool once a year, and she was immediately swarmed by clamoring tourists begging to be her friends.

After the tour, R and I went to Piedras Blancas to look at the elephant seals, who were on land for mating season. They were enormous and ugly and made horrific grunting noises, so of course I loved them. We couldn’t get very close to them, but according to the sign, they’re very aggressive and their poop carries a nasty virus, so that wasn’t much of a loss.


We finished off the day with dinner, and then we headed back to the hotel and called it an early night.

Yesterday, we went to Cambria to visit Moonstone Beach, which was amazing. The beach is composed mostly of rocks, including jade, agate, and quartz. I picked up several beautiful rocks and wondered if I could borrow a rock tumbler from someone. We also visited Morro Bay, Buellton (made famous by Sideways), and Solvang, the kitschy-cute Danish-themed town.

We got back to my neck of the woods around 9PM, and R dropped me off at home on the way to his hotel. He’s visiting college friends today, and he heads back to Minnesota tomorrow, but I’ll be meeting him for one last breakfast before he returns to snow and slush.

In case you haven’t noticed the ads and the store aisles that look like Cupid projectile vomited hearts and lace all over the place, it’s Valentine’s Day! I was at the grocery store earlier, and as I gazed at the Ben & Jerry’s selection---G’s right, Dublin Mudslide sounds more like a nasty sex act than an ice cream flavor---I remembered those lonely days when I either didn’t have a boyfriend or I would have been better off NOT having a boyfriend, and I smiled at my good fortune.

Then “All Out of Love” by Air Supply came over the loudspeaker.

Someone at Albertson’s has a sick sense of humor, methinks.