Thursday, May 31, 2007

media update: May

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


1. Mr. Maybe by Jane Green: A woman who's always wanted to be rich finds her dreams coming true when the wealthiest bachelor in Britain asks her out...but then she's not sure it's what she wants after all. Predictable.

2. Mysterious Skin* by Scott Heim: A disturbing, beautifully written novel about two teenage boys who share the same childhood secret. One of them believes that he was abducted by aliens because of an incident where he woke up bleeding and unable to remember the previous five hours, but the other one knows exactly what happened. This is the basis for the film of the same name, which I've been wanting to see for a long time, especially now that I know Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in it. (I always thought of him as just that kid from "Third Rock from the Sun" until I saw his excellent performance in Brick; boy's got chops.) Anyway, this is a terrific book, but be warned that it gets pretty damn dark between those covers.

3. Polly by Amy Bryant: Set in the 80's, this is an underwhelming book about a teenage girl who defines herself through music and her relationships. I wouldn't have finished it, but I was hurting for reading material at the time.

4. Buddha Baby by Kim Wong Keltner: Shortly after her engagement, a young Chinese-American woman finds herself drawn to a former crush. It has its moments, but parts of it are very awkwardly written, and I think first person would have fit the narrative better.

5. Perfume* by Patrick Suskind: A supremely vivid novel about a man born with an unbelievably keen sense of smell. He begins to work as a perfumer, but then he becomes obsessed with creating the ultimate perfume...which involves a very unorthodox production method. I had a hard time putting it down; it's a horror novel for the literati. (And oh my GOD, what an ending!)

6. What Is the What* by Dave Eggers: This is a fictionalized memoir of Valentino Achek Deng, one of the "lost boys" who fled the civil war in the Sudan and escaped to the United States. It's a truly powerful and remarkable piece of work.

7. A Model Summer by Paulina Porizkova: I probably would have enjoyed this a bit more if I hadn't started it right after finishing #6; after reading about people losing their homes and being slaughtered, it was kind of hard to care about a teenage model's rise to fame. Still, it was better than I thought it would be.

8. The Unquiet* by John Connolly: Those of you who have been reading my diary for a long time know how much I adore John Connolly. I've been lucky enough to attend three of his book signings (and plan on going to my fourth next month), and he's not just an awesome writer, he's also a really cool, funny guy. Unfortunately, his last couple of books were very disappointing, and I was beginning to wonder if he'd lost his touch. Well, it might have gone missing for a while, but now he's got his groove back. In this novel, private investigator Charlie Parker is hired by a woman who's being stalked by a creepy man who wants to know where her father is. When Charlie starts digging into the case, he finds some truly nasty shit. My one complaint is that there's not enough Louis and Angel, but for me, there never is. (Recurring characters Louis and Angel are gay hitmen who always get the best dialogue.)

9. Hollywood Car Wash by Lori Culwell: This book is about Katie Holmes a young actress who lucks into a part on a TV show, but when the show takes off, she's forced by the studio to remake practically everything about herself. Just when she's started to get her bearings in Hollywood, her publicist sets her up with a big movie star who has an even bigger secret. It's the perfect light reading for those of us who devour the weekly gossip mags, but be warned that it includes an outrageous number of typos---at least one on almost every single page, I shit you not---and every paragraph is followed by a double space, which is really odd. Apparently I'm not the only person who noticed the complete lack of proofreading (and I would HOPE I wasn't, or else our educational system is much worse off than anyone thought); according to a comment by the author on Amazon, they're going to reprint it without the errors.

10. Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton: Remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books you used to love as a kid? Well, this is the grown-up version, complete with drugs, unplanned pregnancies, intrigue, violence, and lots of sex. (On my first run, I wound up being shot in the face in front of Arby's...and on my second run, I was sexually violated by a chimpanzee. Whee!) Anyway, it's certainly not great literature, but it's different and fun.


1. Poster Child by Emily Rapp: The author had her left leg amputated when she was a child, and she became the March of Dimes poster child. This powerful memoir is about her struggles to reconcile her self-worth with her disability.

2. Waiting for Daisy* by Peggy Orenstein: In this brave, often funny, and frequently heartbreaking memoir, the author chronicles her struggles with infertility. Bonus points for having the sense of humor to name a chapter "Jizo Saves". (Explanatory note: Jizo is the Japanese patron saint---for lack of a better word---of aborted and miscarried fetuses. The author suffered a miscarriage while traveling in Japan.)

3. Bitter Is the New Black* by Jen Lancaster: I really hope this chick is exaggerating, because I have a hard time believing that anyone as annoying, shallow, and materialistic as she comes across could possibly have a husband, friends, and unestranged family members. Anyway, this is a memoir of going from riches to rags; she made an assload of money during the dot com boom, only to lose her job and wind up clipping coupons and passing up the latest Prada purse. I wound up really enjoying this book, though. She's really funny (at one point she refers to herself as "Carbohydrate Barbie"), she becomes more tolerable as the book goes on, and that's a great title.

4. Easter Everywhere by Darcey Steinke: A memoir of growing up in a religious family and how her views changed from her childhood ideals to her adult reality.

5. Ant Farm by Simon Rich: A slim volume of humorous essays covering everything from anti-Semitic mnemonic devices to cashing in "love coupons" after the relationship has ended. Blurbed by Jon Stewart!

6. The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz* by Ron Jeremy: I'm sorry, but I freakin' love Ron Jeremy. Not in that way, mind you; I've never even seen him in action. But I saw him in a documentary and on "The Surreal Life", and he just seems like a sweet, lonely guy. Anyway, this is a riveting account of his life as a porn star, complete with celebrity gossip, hysterical (and occasionally poignant) anecdotes, and tons of photos. Not great literature to be sure, but it would be hard to beat in terms of sheer entertainment value.

7. Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums: A memoir about growing up different during the sixties. It loses steam as it goes along, but the first half, which deals with a childhood filled with loss and doubt, is pretty good.

8. Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway: This memoir details the author's childhood with truly nasty parents and how she sought escape by hanging out at a local mortuary.

9. Snake Hips by Anne Thomas Soffee: Apparently, May was Memoir Month, because here's another one. This one is about the author finding solace in bellydancing after a breakup sent her reeling.

10. Dark at the Roots* by Sarah Thyre: Why yes, it's another memoir! In this particular outing, the author describes her weird childhood growing up in the South during the 1970's. Parts of it are excruciatingly funny; the chapter about drawing her own porn reminded me of a similar experience from my own misguided youth. As a fellow child of the 80's, I was horrified when she referred to Andy Taylor as Duran Duran's drummer---that was, of course, the unrelated Roger Taylor---but this book is so awesome I'll let it slide. (Fun fact: She's married to Andy Richter.)

11. Stacked* by Susan Seligson: The author examines the role of breasts in our society, interviewing everyone from "Dr. 90210" to Maxi Mounds (link not safe for work or, for that matter, human eyes), an exotic dancer with breasts the size of two Thanksgiving turkeys. The writing occasionally veers towards the juvenile, but for the most part it's an amusing and informative read.

12. If I Am Missing or Dead* by Janine Latus: When the author's younger sister was murdered by her boyfriend, the author began to take a long hard look at her own life, trying to decipher why she and her sister always wound up with men who abused them. It's devastating, but it was hard to put down.


1. Maka-Maka* vol. 2 by Kishi Torajiro

2. Royal Seventeen vol. 3 by Kayono


1. Year of the Dog: Molly Shannon is excellent as a lonely secretary who goes a little crazy after the death of her beloved dog. It's not bad, but it wound up being completely different than what I was expecting, and not in a good way. Also, it kind of freaked me out because I totally fear winding up like her...well, if you substitute cats for dogs.

2. Sleeping Dogs Lie*: It's sheer coincidence that this was the next movie I saw after #1. Anyway, a woman discovers that honesty isn't always the best policy when she discloses a stunning secret that sends her fiance and her family reeling. Considering the subject matter, the fact that Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed it, AND the unbelievably juvenile DVD cover, it's surprisingly poignant and quite funny. It stumbles in a few spots, but overall I really enjoyed it.

3. Kill Zone: Now why the hell would you bother getting Donnie Yen AND Sammo Hung to star in your action movie and then barely use their mad martial arts skillz? There are a couple of good sequences, though, including an awesome knife fight in an alley.

4. The Science of Sleep: A man with a rich dream life wants to share it with his pretty neighbor. This movie is about as quirky as it gets, but I didn't like it nearly as much as I thought I would. It gave me a bit of a girlcrush on Charlotte Gainsbourg, though.

5. Children of Men*: This chilling film is about a future dystopia in which everyone has become infertile, and the world has descended into chaos as a result. Clive Owen plays a man who is entrusted with the safety of a young woman who, against all odds, has become pregnant. Thought-provoking and disturbing, but not without a glimmer of hope.

6. The Departed*: 2007's Best Picture winner is a twisty thriller about the war between the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish mafia. Great dialogue and terrific performances.


This is the high-tech version of those puzzles where you look at two seemingly identical pictures and find the differences. Sounds like a breeze, right? Well, not exactly. Some of the puzzles are easy, of course, but there are several that made my blood pressure skyrocket. There are some fun innovations, too; in one special level, you have to blow into the microphone of the DS to clear leaves from the screen, and then you have to quickly circle the differences before the leaves fall down again and obscure the picture. The artwork is excellent (the picture above notwithstanding; there are over 200 pictures in the game, and for whatever reason, they chose some of the most boring ones for the cover) and encompasses everything from ultra-cutesy anime pictures, nods to previous Namco/Bandai games like Katamari Damacy and Dig Dug, and truly weird shit that looks like it was taken from an art therapy session for schizophrenics. All this and a daily fortune, too!


1. "Hold Back the Rain" by Duran Duran: A fellow blogger is to thank for this particular download, since she posted a clip of Duran Duran performing this song and I had a total Proustian moment while watching it. Instantly, I was transported back to the summer I was 12, when I would sprawl out in an indolent haze on my bed, flipping through fan magazines and getting up only to turn Rio over. Ah, to be 12 in the summertime again, away from bullies and bitches, when my biggest worry was trying to get my allowance early so I could run to Scotty's Liquor and play Q*Bert and buy a Sno-Cone and the latest issue of Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. Those were some of the best summers of my life.

2. "Maneater" by Nelly Furtado


Okay, ordinarily I'm not real big on kids (I don't hate them either, so no need to break out the torches), but this baby freakin' rules. Safe for work, although you do need the sound on to fully enjoy it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

easily amused

Okay, you all know how much I love those cat macros, right? Imagine my joy when I was directed to this site, which lets you create your own. Here's my first try, featuring the most awesomely squoozable cat ever:

And here's our very own Sneakers after hittin' the nip:

Make your own! It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Exhibit 2,090,199 in the case against God

I used to work with a guy I refer to as Komodo, thanks to his disturbing resemblance to a komodo dragon. If he had been ugly and nice, I wouldn't have given him such a mean nickname, but he was a dick. He treated me like his personal servant. Once he yelled at me for using the "wrong" kind of paper clips, and on one memorable occasion, when the power went out in our building, he came over and asked me to photocopy a file immediately.

Yeah, um, Mr. Edison? Just so you know, when there's no power, THE FRICKIN' COPIERS DO NOT WORK.

Oh, and there's this little gem. I wasn't around for this personally, but HangDog, who I trust, swears that it happened.

Picture a bright California day. In the parking lot of our office building, people waited in line for complimentary barbecue, provided in honor of Employee Appreciation Day. (I should note that this was a couple of years before the infamous Employee Appreciation Day barbecue that sent several people to the emergency room with severe food poisoning.) HangDog was chatting with a fellow coworker when Komodo slithered up behind him.

"Hey, [Komodo], you look awfully tired," HangDog commented. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Oh, I had a rough night," Komodo groaned. "I had to go to the emergency room because one of my hemorrhoids burst."

All together now: holyfuckingEWWWW!

I can think of maybe one or two instances where telling someone about your bleeding hemorrhoids is appropriate. Needless to say, standing in line waiting for FOOD---food covered in RED SAUCE---is not one of them.

So yeah, Komodo is disgusting on many levels. Fortunately, he transferred to a different department, so I very rarely see him anymore. When I'm taking my morning walks, I occasionally see him pull up in his brand-new silver Mercedes, and I take a moment to think about the unfairness of someone like Komodo driving a sweet piewagon like that.

Well, guess what lizardlike, ass-bleeding, jerkoff dick creep just won $11,000 in the lottery?


Hear that noise? It's me falling off the theological fence I've been straddling and landing squarely in the atheist's camp.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

goddamn whippersnappers

I went to the grocery store on my lunch break to buy a few necessities: sunscreen, a bottle of the new vitamin-fortified Diet Coke Plus, and the latest issue of Star. I wasn’t going to buy it, but the cover story is all about “Paris’ Prison Hell”, and my god, that whole situation sent my schadenfreude glands into overdrive. I roll around in her misfortunes like a dog rolls in vomit. "Waaah, I'm being treated harsher because I'm rich and famous!" Cry me a MAC-stained river, skank.

Anyway, when I went over to the sunscreen aisle, there was a gaggle of teenage girls standing there in tiny shirts, eensy skirts with whale tails peeking out over the top, and Coach bags. I noticed that they had set several bottles on the floor, and I thought, Damn, that’s a lot of sunscreen. Glad to see they’re being safe, at least.

And then one of them said, “Omigod, here goes!” She strutted past me in a cloud of Tommy Girl, flicked a disdainful glance at me, and went to the end of the aisle, where she proceeded to uncap a jumbo-sized bottle of sunscreen and HURL it down the aisle, knocking over the other bottles. A puddle of coconut-scented goo began oozing across the linoleum.

“Strike!” she squealed, jumping up and down.

I shook my head in disgust, grabbed a bottle of sunscreen, and walked to the cash register. I was debating whether I should tell the cashier; on one hand, it fell under the "That's not an MP, that's a YP" category, but on the other, I could just see some poor elderly person slipping in the mess and breaking a hip or something.

I didn't have to make that decision, though. A man walked up behind me and said to the cashier, “Excuse me, miss, but you might want to send the manager to the cosmetics aisle. There’s a group of teenage girls over there making a righteous mess.” She thanked him and got on the PA, and the man looked at me and said, “Man, those were some nasty little spoiled bitches.”

Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Monday, May 07, 2007

for the birds

K has some potted plants hanging out on our balcony, and a bird built a nest in one of them. As much as I want to peek at the babies and squeal happily, I try to refrain from doing so, because I don’t want the mother bird to get freaked out and abandon them. But on Saturday, I could not resist taking a look, especially because I wanted to try to get a picture of them.

So I went out on the balcony, pulled a chair over, and stood on it to peek inside the potted plant. There were three of them, and because they had already gotten over that hideous, featherless stage where they look like tiny scrotums with eyes, they were very cute indeed. They were covered in gray down, and their beady black eyes looked up at me. Peeping, they shrank against each other, and they looked so terrified that my heart squeezed up guiltily. Not wishing to traumatize them any further, I quickly stepped down and went back inside, gently shutting the door.

Then I realized that I had my hair up in mismatched clips, and I was wearing only a New York Giants shirt and pink panties.

Good thing none of my neighbors saw me; those birdies wouldn’t have been the only living creatures traumatized that day.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I prithee, speak not to me in the privy

So I walked into the bathroom here at work, and J, one of my coworkers, was washing her hands. (Not an unusual situation, of course; I only mention it so the rest of this story will make sense.) I went in the stall, sat down, did my business, flushed, and went to the sink to wash my hands.

I have to say that the lighting in our office bathrooms is probably the least flattering in the world; Gisele Bundchen could walk in there and look like Manuel Noriega, so you can imagine what it does to lesser mortals. I always try to avoid looking at my reflection when I’m in there, but today I noticed a silver hair waving in the breeze, taunting me, and I leaned in to try to pluck it out.

Then a toilet flushed and J walked out of the stall and came over to the sink to wash her hands. I thought this was mildly weird, since she’d been washing her hands when I came into the bathroom in the first place, but it was no skin off my critter. My expression must have changed, however, because J said, “Oh, I always wash my hands before I go to the potty.”

Okay. Number 1 (er, no pun intended), I don’t care. Number 2, you’re at least my age, if not older. You are not allowed to say “go to the potty” unless you are talking to a small child or an animal.

And really, what was I supposed to say to that? I chose a noncommittal “Oh.”

As though she were about to impart a juicy secret, she leaned over and whispered, “Because when you touch yourself down below, you could get germs on yourself.”

Okay. Number 1, I don’t care. I mean, I really, REALLY don’t care. Number 2, you’re at least my age, if not older. You are not allowed to say “down below” unless you are talking to a small child or discussing Fire Down Below, the 1997 movie starring Steven Seagal.

Seriously, people, I don't want to sound antisocial, but unless you're telling me the building is on fire, please don't talk to me in the bathroom.