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.