Friday, March 30, 2007

media update: March

I'm posting this early because I'm leaving for New Jersey tomorrow morning. I'm really looking forward to seeing G's family and chowing down on Madre’s fabulous cooking again…and, of course, being away from friggin’ work and my obscene phone caller for a week.

G begged me to tell the "six ballerinas" joke during Seder, but I love his family and wish to be invited back, so that's obviously not going to happen. Instead, I'm compromising and telling this classic Jewish mother joke:

A Jewish college student comes home for summer break and says, "Ma, I'm engaged!"

"Mazel tov! Oh, my little boy, I can't believe it!" she says. "When do I get to meet her?"

"Well, actually, I brought her home with me. A couple of her friends came along too, and I thought it would be fun to bring them all inside and see if you can guess which one is my fiancee."

So he opens the front door and three women walk in. His mother takes one look, and without hesitating for even a fraction of a second, says, "The one on the right."

"Wow, Ma, that's unbelievable! You're right! How did you know?"

His mother sniffs and says, "Because I don't like her."

Rain + reruns + an unusually dead month at work = lots and lots of reading.

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


1. Tell Me Everything by Sarah Salway: A young woman leaves home and winds up living above a shop. In exchange for free rent, the shop owner makes her tell him stories, mostly sexual in nature. It started out really good, but by the end, I disliked every single character.

2. The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi: The story of two people who marry in 1920's India and try to find their way through life's joys and sorrows. The lush prose reminded me of The God of Small Things, but it's not nearly as sad (or, for that matter, as good) as that novel.

3. Empress Orchid* by Anchee Min: The fact-based tale of Orchid, a young woman who is rescued from a life of abject poverty when she becomes one of the emperor's concubines; eventually she reigns as the last empress of China. A beautifully woven tapestry; if you like historical novels, you'll love this one.

4. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert: An epic novel about a leprosy settlement in 19th century Hawaii. About as entertaining as you'd expect from that description.

5. Heart-Shaped Box* by Joe Hill: An aging death metal star, looking for something new to add to his macabre collection, buys a haunted suit online. He doesn't expect it to actually be haunted, but it his dead lover's stepfather's ghost. The ghost blames him for her suicide, and now he wants revenge by any means necessary. The author has a ways to go before meeting the lofty horror standards set by his father, Stephen King, but this is a damn good first novel.

6. Hide by Lisa Gardner: The discovery of six mummified corpses bring a young woman, determined to find out who killed her childhood friend, out of hiding. Not great literature or anything, but a fun, suspenseful read.

7. Pig Island* by Mo Hayder: I couldn't wait to read this, because her last book, The Devil of Nanking, is one of my ten favorite books of all time. This one didn't grab me quite like TDON did, but it's still damn good. A mysterious apparition is seen wandering the deserted beaches of Pig Island, so a journalist decides to go check it out. What he finds is a religious cult whose leader, Malachi Dove, has gone completely off his nut, and things get very nasty indeed. A deeply disturbing book that's sure to raise some serious gooseflesh on all but the most jaded reader.

8. Firefly Cloak* by Sheri Reynolds: A woman abandons her two young children at a campsite, leaving behind her parents' phone number and a robe embroidered with fireflies. The children are adopted by their grandparents, and when the girl becomes a teenager, she sets out to find her mother. When you get about fifty pages away from the end, be sure you have a box of Kleenex and someone to hug nearby, because you'll need them.

9. The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds: Hey, another religious cult novel! In this one, a teenage girl living in a strict religious community gets pregnant, and...well, I don't want to say too much for fear of spoiling the plot for anyone else, so suffice it to say I wasn't expecting what happened.

10. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult: A small town is shattered when a teenage boy goes on a shooting rampage at the local high school, killing 10 people and wounding several others. Picoult likes to put twists in her books, and this one wasn't as outlandish as most of them (My Sister's Keeper, I'm looking at you), but it still annoyed me. Not bad, but for all your fictional school massacre needs, I would recommend We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Now that was a mothereffin' twist.

11. Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis: Emily, the protagonist, is a flighty chick who tries to form a relationship with the father who left her years ago. Eh.

12. Mistress of the Art of Death* by Ariana Franklin: In medieval England, the butchered bodies of four children are discovered, and because one of the bodies was found on the front lawn of a Jewish citizen, the Jewish population is in danger. The king, fearing a riot, calls on an Italian doctor (the "mistress of the art of death") to investigate the crime. One of the reviews quoted on the back calls this novel "CSI meets The Canterbury Tales", which is a perfect description of this very satisfying book.

13. Step on a Crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge: A group of celebrities and high-powered politicians are taken hostage at the funeral of a beloved former First Lady. You can tell this is a work of fiction because the book is set in the present, yet they talk about the New York Giants' quarterback having a Super Bowl ring. BA DUM DUM! (I kid because I care, G.) Anyway, this isn't exactly stellar, but it's a damn sight better than the last several Patterson books I've read.


1. I Know You're Out There by Michael Beaumier: The author used to edit personal ads, and this book is a collection of some of the more memorable ones, in addition to personal anecdotes. Not as entertaining as it should have been.

2. Alternadad* by Neal Pollack: Want me to star your parenting memoir? Start off with a gloriously foul poop anecdote, and follow it up with a horrifying story about your girlfriend's cat "assing" all over her hair. This book is screamingly, laugh-out-loud funny (mostly; chapter 7 is a notable exception), and I loved it.

3. Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart: An informative look at the floral industry, including a behind-the-scenes look at the world's busiest flower auction and the neverending quest to create a perfect blue rose. Fun fact: a pinch of ground-up Viagra will extend the life of cut flowers.

4. The Sex Life of Food by Bunny Crumpacker: An entertaining look at how food and sex are related, complete with mouthwatering descriptions and witty anecdotes. (And in regards to the author: as K would say, that's not a name, that's a curse.)

5. Microthrills by Wendy Spero: A collection of humorous essays covering everything from learning how to drive as an adult to smoking pot in a phone booth with Hugh Grant. Like most books of this type, it thinks it's far funnier than it is, but it has its moments.


1. Swan vol. 9 by Ariyoshi Kyoko

2. The Best American Comics 2006* edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore

3. American Born Chinese* by Gene Luen Yang

4. Love Monster vol. 8 by Riko Miyagi


1. This Film Is Not Yet Rated: An insightful look at the MPAA's biased rating system, complete with controversial movie clips and entertaining interviews with everyone from John Waters to Kevin Smith, who cemented his place in my heart by roundly mocking Jersey Girl.

2. Jesus Camp*: A fascinating and disturbing documentary about a summer camp for evangelical Christian children. Ted Haggard, the preacher who bought drugs and sex from a male prostitute, is shown pre-scandal talking about the evils of homosexuality, among other things. 'Sup, hypocrite?

3. Feast: A dive bar in the middle of nowhere is beset by nasty, ravenous monsters, and the patrons of the bar must defend themselves against the onslaught. Ultra-gory, but leavened with some very, very black humor. I was going to give it a star, but a scene that I found incredibly offensive and upsetting kept me from doing so.

4. The Holiday: Two women, both dealing with heartbreak, decide to switch houses for two weeks over Christmas. A very cute and fluffy movie with a great cast (Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, and Cameron Diaz), although it could have used a firmer hand in the editing room. And oh my god, between Kate's adorable little English cottage and Cameron's plush LA spread, it's like house porn.

5. Casino Royale*: The latest installment in the James Bond series cuts out the camp, opting instead for relentless action and more cerebral quips, and Daniel Craig's leaner, meaner Bond is sure to make all the haters shut up.

6. 300*: Leonidas, king of Sparta, leads a small army against the king of Persia; heads (and arms, and legs) roll. Exciting action sequences + lots of half-naked men in leather Speedos + dazzling style = star.

Confidential to the guy at the ticket window in front of us: It's not really my business if you want to take your son, who looks to be about 10 years old, to The Hills Have Eyes 2. I'm sure a discerning parent such as yourself already knows that it contains graphic violence and mutants gang-raping a woman. But still, can I just say that you suck? I mean, really, dude, you SUCK.

7. Shortbus*: The title refers to an underground salon for the "gifted and challenged" where disaffected New Yorkers meet up for conversation and sex. This movie gained notoriety because real sex is shown onscreen, but it isn't pornography; one reviewer put it best when he said "It's like Manhattan with money shots." Brilliant, heartbreaking, brave, and utterly uncompromising, it's another fantastic film by Hedwig and the Angry Inch's John Cameron Mitchell.

8. The Prestige*: Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play two rival magicians who keep trying to outdo each other. I think the less you know about this movie, the better, so I'll just say it's an incredibly clever thriller that kept me guessing until the very end.


1. "Starlight" by Muse

2. "It's A Small World (Ducking Hardcore Mix)"

3. "Sky High" by Jigsaw: This 70's song is just as cheesy as Velveeta and twice as delicious. Christ, next thing you know I'll be downloading Bread or some shit. (Mmmmm...bread...)

4. "Standing in the Way of Connection" (Gossip vs. Elastica mash-up)

5. "Polaroids" by Kitchens of Distinction

6. "Quick As Rainbows" by Kitchens of Distinction

7. "Kunoichi" by GO!GO!7188

8. "C7" by GO!GO!7188

9. "Floating Boat" by GO!GO!7188


This is a very Japanese game...which is another way of saying that it's weird as shit. You play Mackenzie, a young detective who picks up clues by touching things. In fact, sometimes she touches things just for the hell of it, and she keeps a list of things she's touched along with descriptions of how they made her feel when she touched them. Okay then!

It's a very short---4 levels plus a minigame---and surprisingly tough game. (Why, of course that skeleton wanted ketchup to drink! How stupid of me for bringing him a soda instead!) But on the plus side:

  • It's very cute and funny.

  • Mackenzie has Funghi, a walking mushroom, as her companion, and he makes a cool noise when you click on him. (That's him in the picture above, not a big ol' wang.)

  • Atlus gives a shout-out to their previous game, the criminally underrated and magically lesbilicious Rule of Rose; Mackenzie's notebook has a drawing of Stray Dog in the back.

  • At one point, Mackenzie must enter the Dream World to find out who's been stealing her friend's dreams. In order to do so, she rolls up mushrooms in "herbal paper" and smokes them. Shit you not do I.


These are both for 300, and are both SFW...well, maybe. I guess it depends on your workplace's policy on looking at half-naked soldiers in leather Speedos. No spoilers unless you've never seen the trailer.