Friday, August 31, 2007

media update: August

My coworker A has recently discovered Rachael Ray, and she's started saying "Yum-MO!" every time she eats something. It is so unbelievably annoying, and she's just lucky I like her; otherwise, I'd stand up on my desk and scream "Shut the fuck UP! Why are you parroting an obnoxious Oprah puppet whose husband pays hookers to spit in his face?"


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


1. Bollywood Nights by Shobhaa De: The lurid story of a Bollywood actress who sleeps her way to the top. Soapy and marginally entertaining, but I would have appreciated a glossary of the Indian terms that pepper every page. Some of them were obvious from the context, but most of them weren't.

2. The Next Thing on My List* by Jill Smolinski: The narrator, June, blames herself for a car accident in which her passenger Monica was killed. Upon finding a list of 25 things that Monica wanted to do before her 25th birthday, June decides to finish the list on Monica's behalf. It's pretty cheesy, but it's also sweet and unpredictable. There were a couple of times when I thought, "Oh, please, [such and such] is totally going to happen now," and then it didn't, so bonus points on that front.

3. Beyond Reach* by Karin Slaughter: Luckily for me, I discovered this author right around the time that Patricia Cornwell jumped the shark. This book, which deals with white supremacists, meth dealers, and family secrets, is a bit of a letdown after Triptych (which was one of my ten favorite books of 2007), but it still kept me riveted, and the ending was so unexpected that my jaw literally dropped.

4. Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick: A meticulously researched historical novel about a young, musically gifted woman growing up in a Venetian orphanage. Nice masturbation scene near the beginning.


1. Other People's Dirt by Louise Rafkin: The author, who has worked as a housecleaner for many years, reminisces about some of the houses where she's worked. She also looks into some of the more unusual aspects of the business, ranging from nude housecleaners to people who clean up crime scenes. It was pretty interesting, but I'll admit to raising an eyebrow when she bitched about getting fired from a job where she left a couple of Cheerios in the sink. Um, if you're getting paid to clean someone's house, shouldn't you maybe...oh...clean the sink too? It's not like the Cheerios were left in some bizarre hidden location as a test.

Cleaning side note: When I moved into my new place, I decided that I'd thoroughly clean one room every week, reasoning that if I tried to do the whole apartment in one fell swoop once a month, it would be too overwhelming, and I'd just wind up ignoring it in favor of flopping on the couch and reading a magazine. You wouldn't believe how nasty the top of the medicine cabinet was. If you carbon dated the gunk I wiped off, it would probably go back to the seventies.

2. Bunny Tales by Izabella St. James: One of Hugh Hefner's ex-girlfriends tells all about life in the Playboy Mansion. About as vapid as you'd expect, although there were a few interesting tidbits thrown in here and there. For example, I didn't know that Hugh Hefner actually has to pay rent on the Mansion (it's owned by Playboy Enterprises and its shareholders, not by him personally), nor did I know---or, frankly, want to know---that he never has an orgasm unless it's by his own hand.

3. Unusually Stupid Celebrities by Kathryn and Ross Petras: A compendium of some of the stupidest things celebrities have said and done. My personal favorite is this rant Marlo Thomas (allegedly) aimed at her butler: "How dare you serve cold cuts in my house. It's just so low-class and common. And white bread and pickles! And my god, MEAT lasagna! Fucker, you've done it again."

4. Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster: Humorous essays on everything from Target love to mind-numbing temp jobs. I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as her previous book, Bitter Is the New Black, but there are some chuckles to be had.

5. Ask a Mexican! by Gustavo Arellano: FINALLY, an explanation of why Mexicans love Morrissey so much! I mean, not that Mexicans can't love Morrissey too, but considering what a macho culture it is, their embrace of a very fey British singer is a little odd. Anyway, there's a ton of other illuminating information in here as well, and now I know that if a Mexican ever whistles the "shave and a haircut, six bits" tune at me, I have been gravely insulted. (It matches the meter of the putdown "Chinga tu madre, cabron", or "eff your mother, you castrated goat".)

6. Let's Spend the Night Together by Pamela Des Barres: The recollections of some of rock 'n' roll's most famous groupies. There's some interesting stuff in here; for example, not only was Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira) a groupie, but she lost her virginity to Tom Jones, and he was so big she needed stitches afterwards. Yeowch!

7. The Late Bloomer's Revolution* by Amy Cohen: The author had several truly crappy things happen to her in short succession: her mother died, the man she thought she would marry broke up with her, she lost her job, and she developed a disfiguring skin condition. She writes, "I felt as if my life hadn't quite started, and I was already running late." This wonderful memoir is about her attempts to change her life for the better once and for all.

8. No Speed Limit by Frank Owen: After I practically had to submit to a strip search in order to buy a package of generic Sudafed at CVS, I became interested in how meth addiction became so rampant throughout the United States. This is a fascinating account of how meth grew from a drug used to keep soldiers awake and housewives slim into an epidemic that's spread across the country.


1. Full Metal Panic Overload!* vols. 1-5 by Shouji Gatou and Tomohiro Nagai

2. Parfait Tic* vol. 15 by Nanaji Nagamu

3. The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

4. A Sex Therapist* by Kazuma Kodaka

5. Child's Time* vols. 1-4 by Kaworu Watashiya


1. Zodiac*: A riveting account of the search for the serial killer who terrorized the Bay Area in the late 60's and throughout the 1970's. It's almost three hours long, but its fantastic cast (including Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, all of whom I freakin' love), tight script, and tense directing by David Fincher make the minutes fly by. Highly recommended.

2. Hard Boiled: An action-packed cops and mobsters thriller directed by John Woo, the king of gun fu flicks. Bonus points for the scene in which a small fire is extinguished in an unusual way.

3. Disturbia*: A surprisingly fun thriller about a teenage boy on house arrest who, out of boredom, begins spying on his neighbors...and starts to suspect that one of them is a serial killer.

4. Hot Fuzz*: A cop is transferred to a quiet English village, where it soon becomes obvious that the "accidents" plaguing the town are nothing of the sort. Another hysterically funny movie from the guys who brought us Shaun of the Dead, although it's not as good as that movie (and really, how could it be?).

5. Inland Empire: This movie freaked the absolute SHIT out of me. Barring an actual horror movie, I could not possibly have chosen a worse movie to watch while housesitting late at night all by myself. Some of it is straight out of Silent Hill. At one point, I got so scared that it felt like someone had grabbed my stomach from the inside and pulled hard. I didn't understand it at all---even by David Lynch's standards, it's really complicated---but it was definitely an experience.

6. Mysterious Skin*: I read this book earlier in the year and loved it; fortunately, the movie does it justice. It's about a young boy who wakes up bleeding in his cellar, and because he can't remember the previous five hours, he starts to think that he was abducted by aliens. He obsesses over this theory for years, and then he tracks down someone who knows exactly what happened. Since I'd already read the book, I was prepared to be disturbed, but parts of this movie were still extremely difficult to watch. Still, it's worth it if you can handle the strong subject matter, and Joseph Gordon Levitt is phenomenal as a teenage boy who holds the key to the secret.

7. War: An FBI agent hunts down the man (Jet motherfuckin' Li, recognize!) who killed his partner. It's loud and stupid, but it has its moments, including a nifty surprise near the end and a couple of decent action sequences. But come on, Hollywood, could you PLEASE learn to use Jason Statham properly? Rapid-fire editing is no substitute for actually watching the man bust out his martial arts chops. It's like making a prize racehorse live in a veal pen. Also, he needs more nude scenes.


1. "Sweet Talkin' Woman" by Electric Light Orchestra: Hey! Don't think I don't hear you out there, disrespecting ELO. They composed the music for Xanadu, and props must be paid. (And don't go disrespecting Xanadu either. Sure, the script and direction and acting are awful, but it's so gloriously, unrepentantly cheesy that you just have to love it. Spock and I made a pilgrimage to see the wall from which Kira emerges at the beginning, such are the depths of our love. I totally want to see the Broadway play!)


And we have to wait until 2009 to get our hands on this awesomeness? Capcom should change their name to Cocktease.


Planet Earth is an amazing documentary series that features breathtaking footage of some of the world's most beautiful, unusual, and fearsome animals. I know this makes me sound like Corny McCheeserson, but it gave me a new appreciation for our world and the animals that inhabit it. And oh my god, I must have made G rewind the following footage about a million times:

Those little dudes are stylin'!