Monday, April 30, 2007

media update: April

Y helo thar.

I neglected to tell you about Administrative Assistant's Day, didn't I? Well, perhaps because there wasn't much to report. My fellow peons and I gathered in the break room, where our bosses served us a mediocre breakfast and one of them read a poem out loud that was so saccharine, so unicorns pooping rainbows, that it made Hallmark sound like Anne Sexton.

But we all got a gift! Wanna guess what it was? No, silly, it wasn't a bonus or a raise so we could all try to live in Southern California without eating recalled pet food! It was ONE PAID HOUR OFF! Aren't you jealous?

...yeah, didn't think so.


Anyway, on to the media update. Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. The Perfect Royal Mistress* by Diane Haeger: A historical novel based on the life of Nell Gwynn, who began as an orange seller at the theater, became a celebrated comic actress, and wound up as the mistress of King Charles II. Well-written, with an indelible heroine to root for.

2. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig: A historical romance/spy novel hybrid that, aside from a rather nice sex scene near the end, was humdrum.

3. A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies by Ellen Cooney: Yet another historical novel! In this one, Charlotte, the protagonist, spots her husband about to kiss another woman, and she flees to a hotel where the male employees offer, shall we say, additional services. You would think a book about a brothel would have at least one or two really hot sex scenes; in this case, you would be wrong.

4. Helpless* by Barbara Gowdy: A man obsessed with a beautiful little girl kidnaps her during the confusion of a neighborhood blackout, and his girlfriend is torn between keeping his secret and turning him in. That description makes it sound like a thriller, which it isn't; rather, it's a searing look at how love, or what we mistake as love, forces us to do crazy things. I had a few quibbles with the ending, but overall, this is so freakin' good.

5. Parallel Play by Thomas Rayfiel: A young woman finds herself overwhelmed by motherhood; she feels emotionally unattached to her baby daughter, and she can't make small talk with the other mothers at the Tot Lot. When a former boyfriend makes an unexpected reapparance in her life, she has to figure out her priorities. It started off really good, but my attention was wavering near the end. Still, it has its moments, and I found the prickly narrator refreshing.

6. Grotesque* by Natsuo Kirino: A woman reflects on the murders of her despised younger sister and a former classmate, both prostitutes. A dark but fascinating look at the other side of Japanese society.

7. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman: Alex Delaware investigates when a former patient tells him about her adoptive mother's deathbed confession. Kellerman's books are usually either really good or really bad; this one is just meh. Needed more Milo.

8. Fly Me to the Moon* by Alyson Noel: If you're in the mood for brain candy, you could do far worse than this funny, breezy read about a flight attendant who tries to heal her broken heart by traveling to exotic places and indulging in romantic flings.

9. Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner: In the 1960's, an American woman teaching in Japan inherits a chest full of plum wine from her mentor. She finds letters wrapped around the bottles, and when she hires a man to help her translate, she learns about the devastation of Hiroshima. A decent way to kill a couple of hours.


1. Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl: The author reminisces about the beginning of her career as a food critic and how it intertwined with her personal successes and sorrows.

2. Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl: Even though I didn't give the previous book a star, I liked it well enough to check her first book out too. This one covers her early days of learning to appreciate food.

3. Hyper-Chondriac* by Brian Frazer: The author chronicles his lifelong problems with rage and illness, and his attempts to deal with them using everything from Zoloft to ayurvedic medicine. That description doesn't make this sound like a chucklefest, but it's actually very funny.

4. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max: You know, it's not like I didn't know what I was getting into, since the first line on the back of the book is "My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole." But my god, 300 pages about the same kind of drunken, horny, inconsiderate prick that I spent my entire college career avoiding was 295 pages too many. I hope he gets a penicillin-resistant strain of syphilis and his dick falls off.

5. Jesus Land* by Julia Scheeres: This is one of those books that's so fucking good you resent anything that takes away from your time with it. The author grew up in Indiana in the 1980's, and to say the least, she didn't have a good adolescence; she and her adoptive brothers, both black, were treated like shit at school, and her parents were religious people who alternated between cold indifference and outright abuse. Eventually, they sent her and her youngest brother, David, to a Christian "tough love" camp in the Dominican Republic. Beautifully written, completely devoid of self-pity, and utterly essential for anyone who enjoys memoirs or, for that matter, reading in general.

6. The End of the World As We Know It* by Robert Goolrick: A haunting, lyrical, and deeply sad memoir about the author's dysfunctional family and how he suffered at their hands. It took my breath away.


1. Bittersweet Cafe* by Akira Kanbe

2. Twin's Labyrinth by Akira Norikasu

3. Under Grand Hotel* vol. 3 by Sadahiro Mika: I love happy endings...and this volume had both kinds!

4. Cat Street* vol. 3 by Kamio Yoko


1. Flushed Away: In London, a pet rat is flushed down the toilet, and he discovers a secret world in the sewers. The cast and animation are top notch, but for some reason it just left me flat.

2. Grindhouse*: Now THIS is entertainment! Planet Terror is an ultra-gory zombie flick starring Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer who winds up with a machine gun for a leg. Death Proof isn't nearly as good, and it takes forever to get going, but once it does, it's a wild car chase/women's revenge hybrid. And in between the two movies, there are fake trailers spoofing Nazi exploitation films, giallo, a Mexican revenge thriller, and best of all, an incredibly sick and twisted homage to 80's holiday-themed slasher flicks called Thanksgiving. Grimy, nasty fun.

3. Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The opening, a spoof of those old ads trying to get you to visit the concession stand, is a howler; the rest was disappointing to say the least.

4. Fast Food Nation: I wasn't sure how they were going to do an adaptation of the book without making it into a documentary, but they did a surprisingly good job. The book is about the horrors of fast food, including its negative impact on health and the environment, but this focused mainly on how the plants exploit illegal immigrants. Well done, but incredibly disturbing, especially because they show real animals being slaughtered and processed.

5. Curse of the Golden Flower*: This sweeping epic, set during the Chinese Tang dynasty, is basically just a classy soap opera spiced up with martial arts, but I had to give it a star because the costumes and sets are so unbelievably gorgeous.

6. The Pursuit of Happyness: Will Smith stars as a man who struggles to raise his young son while serving as an intern for a brokerage firm. It's good, albeit a bit "Lifetime movie of the week".

7. Searching for Bobby Fischer: A young chess prodigy is pushed to be a champion by his father. Excellent performances, especially from the kid.

8. Tears of the Black Tiger: Three words for you: pad Thai western. I can’t say I liked it all that much, but it sure was different.


1. "Grindhouse (Main Theme)" by Robert Rodriguez: This is the music that plays while Rose McGowan is dancing during the opening titles, and it's just really sexy and dirty-sounding.

2. "I Like Your Booty (But I'm Not Gay)" by Insane-O-Flex: Okay, so Movie #3 blew, but I liked this song.

3. "Chick Habit" by April March

4. "Heart-Shaped Glasses" by Marilyn Manson

5. "Just You Wait" by The Paybacks

6. "Shadowplay" by The Killers

7. "Cat Brain Land" by Melt-Banana: This bizarre song by a Japanese (of course) noise band makes my head spin in the most delightful way.

8. "Que Sera Sera": No, not the Doris Day song; this is the song from Katamari Damacy with the classic "I wanna wad you up into my life" lyrics.


This is an insanely addictive game that tests your skills in everything from logic to math. Some of the games seem really easy at first, but they quickly become more challenging as you go along. There's also a fun test mode which "weighs" your brain; my highest score was 1590 grams, or a B+. Needless to say, I didn't do so well on the math puzzles, but it turns out I'm a dab hand at memorization!