Saturday, June 30, 2007

media update: June + your RDA of random crap

I have begun the process of moving my shit over to the new place. On Thursday evening, I took over several boxes and the awesome picture I bought to hang over my (as yet to be purchased) couch. I probably could have fit even more crap into my car, but consider the process:

  • I had to carry each box down the stairs of the Merry Mansion, and then go down another flight of stairs to reach the parking lot.
  • I had to play packing Tetris to make sure I could get as much as possible into my backseat and still have an unobstructed view out the rear window.
  • I had to carry each box up yet another flight of stairs at Casa C.

Multiply by seven and you can see why I lost five pounds the last time we moved. (You can also see why I wanted a full month to do it!) And remember all the natural light I was raving about in my new place? Not so much of a good thing when you don't have the electricity on yet and you're already sweating like a pretty boy in prison. Christ, you could do bikram yoga in there! The intensive cleaning, unpacking, and organizing shall have to wait until Edison can get their asses out there and I can be productive in air conditioned comfort.

Oh, and I also met one of my new neighbors. I was drenched with sweat and, despite a liberal spritzing of Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum, probably smelled bad enough to knock a buzzard off a shitwagon. She was a pretty little thing with 18-mile long legs and a perky ponytail. We were making small talk and she mentioned that she's an "art model".

Yeah, I felt a bit like Shrek.

It's weird how many of my media updates seem to contain a theme. Occasionally this is on purpose---for example, last year I went through a phase where I read everything I could find on competitive eating---but usually it's not. This month's unintentional theme is adoption.

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


1. Losing It by Lindsay Faith Rech: Color me critical, but I found it really hard to enjoy a book where the main character was disappointed to find out she didn't have cancer. That's the main reason, but not the only reason, why this book about a lonely overweight woman sucked big sweaty German shepherd balls. I was tempted to throw it in the dumpster when I was finished, but I put it in the library's donation bin instead so that somebody else can "enjoy" it.

2. The Book of Ruth* by Jane Hamilton: A woman tries to take what pleasure she can out of life, but when she gets married, her bitter mother makes things far worse than she could have imagined. As the book went along, I started getting a feeling of impending doom, but what happened literally felt like someone had punched me in the emotional breadbasket. Disturbing, but beautifully written.

3. Rules for Saying Goodbye by Katherine Taylor: The narrator---also named Katherine Taylor in a conceit I found too twee---deals with life and love in New York City, and eventually winds up in Rome, engaged to a man who has nightmares about their wedding. Chick lit for women with degrees.

4. Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt: A 16-year-old girl gives up her baby in an open adoption, but after the baby is born, the adoptive parents start shutting her out of their lives. It reminded me of Jodi Picoult's books, but without an annoying twist at the end.

5. Blaze by Richard Bachman: As you may know, "Richard Bachman" is actually an early pen name of Stephen King's, and this is technically the first book Stephen King ever wrote. His assistant recently found a rough draft, so King polished it up and it was just published, with all proceeds going to charity. It's not scary in the least; rather, it's about Blaze, an enormous, mentally challenged ex-con who kidnaps a baby for ransom and finds himself growing attached to the child. A surprisingly poignant book.

6. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz: There is some seriously florid writing in this book, to wit: "Under the night-light of the sentinel moon, ruffled hems of surf and a decorative stitching that fringed the incoming waves suggested billows of fancy bedding under which the sea turned restlessly in sleep." Jesus. The occasional craptacular sentence aside, this isn't bad. It's about a man who is mistaken for a hired killer, and when he tries to warn and protect the potential victim, complications ensue.

7. A Thousand Splendid Suns* by Khaled Hosseini: This novel covers the last thirty years in Afghanistan, and starts out focusing on Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a maid. Mariam is forced into an arranged marriage with an abusive man who eventually takes a beautiful teenage girl as his second wife. The two women start out at odds with each other, but eventually they form a friendship that is put to the test. With this heartbreaking, beautifully written novel, Hosseini proves that The Kite Runner was no fluke. Highly recommended, and my favorite novel of 2007 so far.

8. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann: Can you believe I'd never read this before now? By today's standards, it's pretty tame, but I can imagine it was rather shocking for its time, what with its oral sex scenes, lesbian affairs, and rampant drug use. Campy, trashy fun.

9. The Big Girls by Susanna Moore: This novel is done in alternating voices---a convicted child killer, her psychiatrist, a corrections officer, and a starlet---which gets really confusing at times. Not as good as I was expecting.


1. Without A Map* by Meredith Hall: In 1965, when the author was sixteen years old, she became pregnant out of wedlock. Her mother refused to have her around and sent her to live with her father and stepmother, who wouldn't allow her to leave the house lest a neighbor see her. She gave the baby up for adoption, and spent the next several decades feeling unanchored, always searching for a place where she belonged. Profoundly moving.

2. Dishwasher by Pete Jordan: The author, a cheerfully unambitious guy, decided that he wanted to wash dishes professionally in all fifty states. It gets a little repetitive (literally "lather, rinse, repeat"), so my interest began waning halfway through, but it's not a bad read.

3. My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler: The author reminisces about her many one-night stands. Not as funny as I hoped it would be, but it has its moments, and I kind of have to admire someone who's willing to admit that she left a skid mark on someone else's sheets.

4. The Alphabet of Manliness* by Maddox: A gleefully crass compendium of all things manly, from beef jerky to farting. It's low-brow humor to be sure, but it gave me several hearty chuckles. The cover illustration, which shows a muscular jungle man punching a gorilla in the face, is the win as well. (And no, it's not supposed to be written by Angelina Jolie's kid; apparently this guy runs a website of some renown.)

5. Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick: A mostly interesting, occasionally dull account of the author's time spent in Japan, where he studied zen. (The title comes from an Engrish slogan on a book of matches at the monastery; he thought it was odd to see something like that in such a holy place.)

6. Committed* by Dan Mathews: An entertaining account of the author's rabble-rousing efforts on behalf of PETA. I used to be a member of PETA until their infamous ad campaign comparing carnivores to Jeffrey Dahmer; I don't think my taste for filet mignon with a nice bearnaise sauce is quite on a par with storing severed heads in my fridge, thank you very much. Still, I think their hearts are in the right place most of the time, and I applaud Dan Mathews for his tireless efforts on the behalf of animals.

7. The Mistress's Daughter by A.M. Homes: The author was adopted shortly after birth, and when she got older, she was contacted by her birth mother, who had become pregnant after an affair with an older married man. This memoir is about Homes' struggle to deal with her somewhat unhinged birth mother, her blase birth father, and how she learned to redefine family. Not as good as I was hoping, but Homes wrote one of my favorite books of all time (the Lolita-meets-Lecter masterpiece The End of Alice), so my expectations might have been too high. It's still a compelling read, aside from one section about genealogical research that I thought was pretty boring.

8. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne: This is the book that Oprah hyped by saying, although not in so many words, that reading it would make your every dream come true. Well, I read it cover to cover and I still don't have my goddamn diamond-studded monkeypony. I'll save you the trouble of buying or borrowing the book: basically, it's just telling you to think positive. I agree wholeheartedly that thinking positive is a good thing, but come on, is that really a radical new idea? Wasn't there a book called The Power of Positive Thinking published like a hundred years ago? I'm going to write a book called Arsenic Is Bad for You and reap the profits.

Oh, and here's my favorite quote from this book: "Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can." O rly? So if I scarf down a plate of fettucini alfredo every single day, and follow it with a slab of almond biscotti cheesecake, it won't make me gain weight unless I THINK it will? What. The. Fuck. Ever.

9. Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell: The author went to China with her friend Alex, who was going to pick up the baby girl she'd adopted. When Alex actually received the baby, she changed her the author decided to take the baby instead. There's some reincarnation bullcrap and obviously fabricated/embellished dreams throughout the book, which bugged the ever lovin' crap out of me. A decidedly mediocre read.

10. Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume*: A collection of essays from female authors about how Judy Blume's books affected them both personally and professionally. Like every other woman of my generation, I devoured her books when I was young, so I really enjoyed this book.

Side note: When I was about 10 years old, I wrote Judy Blume a letter asking her for advice on a number of topics ranging from my contentious relationship with my father to the boy I liked. Much to my surprise, she wrote a long letter back, and she was just as cool as I hoped she'd be.

11. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah: The unnerving memoir of a young man who was forced to fight as a child soldier during Sierra Leone's civil war.


1. Swan* vol. 10 by Ariyoshi Kyoko
2. Buddha vol. 8 by Osamu Tezuka


1. The Illusionist: A magician tries to help the woman he loves escape the clutches of her evil fiance...who just happens to be the Crown Prince of Austria. Not bad, but for all your magician-themed movie needs, I'd recommend The Prestige over this one.

2. The Queen: A fictionalized account of how Queen Elizabeth II and Tony Blair butted heads over how the death of Princess Diana should be handled. Man, Helen Mirren totally deserved that Oscar. It wasn't just an astonishing makeup job, either; she nailed the Queen's sense of duty and tart wit.

3. Ratatouille*: When G and I had a chance to catch a sneak preview of the latest Pixar film, we jumped at it, especially when we found out that Brad Bird (The Incredibles) had written and directed it. It's about a Parisian rat who longs to be a chef, and he goes about making his dream come true in a most unusual fashion. It's a little too long, but it's really sweet, funny, and as you'd expect from Pixar, gorgeously animated.

4. Legend of Drunken Master: Jackie Chan plays a guy who fights much better when he's drunk. Lame plot, killer action.

5. Project A: Jackie Chan fights pirates! Once again, lame plot, killer action.

6. Volver: Penelope Cruz plays a woman whose life takes a turn for the weird when her mother returns from the dead. Don't judge Penelope by her subpar performances in movies such as Vanilla Sky; she's infinitely better when acting in her native language.

7. Blood Diamond: A fisherman, forced to search for diamonds by Sierra Leone's rebel army, finds a priceless stone and hides it. A smuggler hears about the diamond and offers to help the fisherman find his family if he leads him to the gem. Between this movie and non-fiction entry #11, I won't be adding Sierra Leone to my vacation list any time soon.

8. Little Children*: A suburban neighborhood is turned upside down by an affair between "The Prom King" and a woman who doesn't fit in with the other mothers at the playground. And when a convicted child molester moves in, things really go haywire. This movie is based on one of my favorite books of 2004, and they did it justice. I thought the narration was unnecessary, but the performances and direction more than made up for it.


1. "Won't Tell" by Babes in Toyland
2. "I Don't Want to Get Over You" by Magnetic Fields: This should be the number one song on everybody's "Wallowing in Heartbreak" mix.
3. "Corduroy" by Pearl Jam
4. "So You'd Like to Save the World" by Lloyd Cole
5. "9 Fingers on You" by Shudder to Think
6. "What's He Got?" by The Producers


Bento are Japanese box lunches that usually consist of rice, meat, vegetables, and dessert. You can buy them in any Japanese convenience store, and they’re usually pretty basic, but always fresh and delicious.

Now, if you’re a Japanese mother, you aren’t supposed to give your kid some plain old 7-11 bento! The quality of the bento you give your child is supposed to show how much you care. Well, all I can say is that the recipients of the following must be the most cherished kids in the freakin' world. Keep in mind that everything you see here, with the exception of obvious things like wrappers and toothpicks, is actually edible.

Oh, your kid’s not into baseball? How about a Neon Genesis Evangelion bento?

For your budding theater major, here's a bento featuring the bizarre Japanese TV personality known as Hard Gay:

But if you really, really, REALLY want your kid to be the envy of the class, why not give them an edible masterpiece like this?

It’s a damn good thing I’m not a Japanese mother; my kid would be lucky to get a peanut butter Uncrustable with a smiley face drawn on the wrapper.