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.