Friday, November 30, 2007

media update: November

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


1. Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell: Dr. Kay Scarpetta tries to investigate the murder of a tennis prodigy, but her personal life keeps getting in the way. You know, it's a shame that Patricia Cornwell wound up sucking so bad. I'll still give anything she writes a try, though, because I keep hoping she'll write something good again.

2. The Snow Empress* by Laura Joh Rowland: In the latest installment of Rowland's historical mystery series, the son of samurai Sano Ichiro has been kidnapped. In search of their child, Sano and his wife Reiko travel to a remote part of Japan, where they discover that the lord of the province has gone mad with grief over the murder of his mistress, and he's not letting anyone leave the area until it's solved. A good read, filled with lots of intriguing period detail.

3. How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean: Is this book about a woman tutoring two spoiled heiresses predictable as hell? Why, yes, it is. But it was also amusing and fluffy, so it was perfect reading material for my Florida vacation.


1. In My Skin* by Kate Holden: A brutally honest memoir about the author's heroin addiction, which led to prostitution in order to support her habit. It's not an easy read, but it's compelling.

2. Switching Time by Richard Baer: Talk about rough reading; this makes the above look like a Dick and Jane book. It's a psychiatrist's account of treating "Karen", a patient who has blackouts and a disturbing tendency towards self-harm. Eventually, he receives a letter written in a childlike hand, and it turns out that Karen has multiple personality disorder, brought on (as it almost always is) by severe childhood abuse.

3. Leaving Dirty Jersey by James Salant: Another addiction memoir, this time about crystal meth. Some cheerful shit on my non-fiction list this month!

4. A Lifetime of Secrets compiled by Frank Warren: More submissions to the PostSecret project.

5. The Dead Travel Fast* by Eric Nuzum: What a fun book! The author decided to investigate the prevalence of vampires in our popular culture. Among other things, he drank his own blood (which made him puke), traveled to Transylvania, and watched the erotic vampire show at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. I enjoyed this book immensely.

6. The Year of Living Biblically* by A.J. Jacobs: The author decided to obey the Bible as literally as possible for a full year, which included everything from stoning adulterers (or, in his case, throw pebbles at one) to playing the shofar. Funny and insightful, even for an agnostic like me.

7. Borat: Touristic Guidings to Minor Nation of U.S. and A. and Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan*: So sue me, I still think Borat is funny.


1. Shortcomings* by Adrian Tomine

2. Lost Girls* by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie: I'm going to save a detailed review of this for my "Best of 2007" list, because this is indisputably my favorite graphic novel of the year, but I had to comment on something first. In a recent episode of The Simpsons, there's a scene with Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman (Maus), and Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) signing autographs, and the cover of Lost Girls is prominently displayed behind Moore. Considering the subject matter of this book, that took some serious balls. (Then again, I doubt the people who would be most offended by Lost Girls watch The Simpsons in the first place!)


1. Knocked Up*: A pretty young woman, drunk off her ass, goes home with a stoner schlub...and winds up pregnant. I thought it was unrealistic how quickly she seemed to fall in love with him, but I still thought this was a hysterically funny movie, and Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd really stood out in a uniformly excellent cast.

2. Bug: Ashley Judd plays a lonely woman living in a shitty hotel room. She meets a man who's convinced that the government has implanted insects inside of him, and pretty soon, she starts to think she's infected too. Well made, but incredibly disturbing.

3. Spiderman 3: I had really low expectations for this movie, but it turned out to be rather enjoyable. The dialogue is pretty hokey at times, but the action was excellent.


Hey, I may not be able to cook in real life, but I'm Julia fuckin' Child on the DS!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

how I spent my Thanksgiving vacation

Well, I’m back, and work was just as sucktacular as I’d feared. But goddamn it, I needed a break, so throughout the day, I alternated spurts of productivity with furtive blogging.

Frankly, I don’t get paid enough to give a shit anymore.

TUESDAY, 11/20/07

At the ungodly hour of 4AM, my blissful slumber was interrupted by the alarm clock.

“Nooooo…” I whimpered, snuggling closer to G. “Make the bad noise stop.”

He groaned and sat up, stretching. “I know, I’m sorry, but we’d better get up.” Reluctantly, we staggered into the bathroom, showered, scarfed down a quick breakfast, and headed to the Van Nuys flyaway.

Despite leaving several hours ahead of time, traffic and a mile-long security line meant that we got to our terminal with only a half-hour to spare. The flight was uneventful, and we were picked up at the curb of Miami International Airport (side note: those are some disturbing initials when you think about it) by G’s father (hereafter referred to as Padre), and brother-in-law J. From there, we drove to J's home, where we were met at the door by Madre, G’s sister A, and his nephews, 10-year-old D and 13-year-old I. After hugs were exchanged, G and I gratefully sat down for homemade pizza. We were worn out from our obscenely early start and long flight, so after a nice chat with everyone, we retreated to I’s room and crashed.

WEDNESDAY, 11/21/07

Although we gladly would have slept until noon, G and I were unceremoniously awakened at 8AM by Padre. The ritzy private school that the boys attend was having a “Grandparents and Special Others Day”, and our attendance was requested.

Did I say the school was ritzy? I meant RITZY, as in I saw not one but three Ferraris in the parking lot. Wafer-thin blondes in Chanel sunglasses and ruddy men wearing Rolexes and Bluetooth earpieces strolled the grounds with their impeccably clad children. I had on a green Target t-shirt and faded jeans, and I felt self-conscious for precisely two minutes before cheerfully deciding not to give a shit.

Anyway, the event was surprisingly fun. We got to sit in on a couple of classes, and there was a short concert in which D played the violin. We had lunch in the cafeteria, and although you’d think such a fancy school would serve veal in a red wine reduction or something like that, it was just your basic (though tasty) burgers and chips.

When school let out, we returned to J and A’s house and spent the rest of the day talking and playing games.

THURSDAY, 11/22/07

All I can remember is vast amounts of food being crammed down my slavering maw.

FRIDAY, 11/23/07

Now came the part of the trip that I was most looking forward to: Key West! Although everyone was going, J and A were leaving the kids in our care and spending a romantic weekend by themselves, so they hugged everyone goodbye and took off. We loaded up the back of the truck with suitcases, snacks, books, and games, and then we squeezed in.

Six adults + two children + one vehicle = one very tight fit.

About 90 minutes into the trip, we stopped at John Pennekamp State Park because several members of our party wanted to go snorkeling. “What about you, C?” Padre asked. “Want to join us?”

“It sounds really cool, but…uh…I can’t swim very well,” I admitted.

“Really?” he said. “You might not need to be a good swimmer, but let’s ask at the desk.”

So we stood in line, and when we got to the front, we asked if a doggy paddler like me would be okay snorkeling. She said if I wore an inflated life vest, I should be okay, although I might not be able to see the “really cool” stuff. Considering that you also had to buy or rent snorkels, flippers, and masks, I figured it was too expensive for me to just bob on the water like shark bait, so I decided to stay on dry land with Madre and D. We walked around for a while, visited the tiny aquarium, and then got lunch at the concession stand before heading back to the pier to await the boat’s return. When it docked, I. immediately ran over, glowing with excitement.

“That was so cool!” he yelled. “We saw barracuda and a bunch of really neat fish, and somebody got stung by jellyfish!”

“Yikes,” I said.

“It really was cool, but I think you may have had some trouble,” G said. “The currents were a little strong.”

“Well, it sounds great, but between the jellyfish and the currents, I’m thinking it was wise for me to stay behind!”

After the guys rinsed off, changed, and had a quick bite to eat, we got back on the road and arrived in Key West a little after 6PM. We’d heard about a bar that held turtle races, so we stopped there first, but we missed the races by literally minutes. Mildly disappointed, we drove to our hotel and checked in. G and I had our own room (thank you, Padre!), so we went upstairs to freshen up. I went into the bathroom and squealed with delight. The shampoo and body lotion smelled like ginger and white tea, and there was even a small bottle of lavender linen spray.

We had dinner at Mangia Mangia, a cozy Italian restaurant, where I feasted on fettucini alfredo and delicious bread slathered with rich creamery butter and amused the kids with my imitation of a farting moth. Then we walked back to the hotel and G went over to the other room to play poker while I soaked in the gloriously deep bathtub and read a trashy novel.


SATURDAY, 11/24/07

After G and I showered, we met up with everyone else in the lobby of our hotel. We walked to the Flamingo Café for a mediocre breakfast, and from there, we walked to the Key West Cemetery. To our surprise, we ran into J and A there---small island indeed! We chatted with them briefly, and then they left for their next adventure. We walked around, looking at the gravestones, including this classic:

Unfortunately, G was so tired that he could barely stand upright, and the kids weren’t too jazzed about our next planned stop, the Hemingway House. Tempers began to flare up, and Padre and I decided to keep going while the rest of our party returned to the hotel.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway, but his house was really cool. He loved cats, and he owned a six-toed cat whose descendants still roam the grounds to this day. I managed to get pictures of two of the polydactyl cats:

I loved watching them walk; they looked like they had on mittens!

The outside of the house:

Hemingway’s study:

We returned to the hotel, and fortunately everyone was in much better spirits, so we decided to continue with our day. We drove to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and had lunch first. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which may sound boring as hell, but thanks to Cuban bread, it was really delicious. The view didn’t hurt either.

After we finished eating, we headed over to the fort. It was actually Zachary Taylor’s birthday, so several volunteers wandered around in period costume. One woman, who was sweating profusely in her heavy dress, was kind enough to give us a tour. Most of my pictures didn’t come out, but this one is kind of cool in an artsy-fartsy kind of way:

Next up, we went to the Key West Martello Museum, which is the home of Robert the Doll. This creepy little fellow is supposed to be haunted, and legend has it that if you don’t properly introduce yourself to him and ask permission to take his photograph, he’ll pay you a very unwelcome visit.

True confession time: even though I wanted to see this doll, I was also unnerved by the prospect. If there’s such a thing as a supernatural agnostic, then that’s me in a nutshell, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. When I told G about my misgivings, he stared at me in disbelief.

“You CANNOT be serious,” he said. “You’re going to introduce yourself to some little tourist trap doll so he doesn’t haunt you?”

“I know, it’s silly, but why take the risk?”

“Because there IS no risk! I’m going to flip him off and grab my junk and steal his peppermints.”

“No,” I said nervously. “Seriously, G, don’t.”

When we got to Robert’s display case, I stood in front of it and said, “Hello, Robert. My name is C. It’s a pleasure to meet you! I hope you’ll let me take your picture.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah; I know you’re reading this and laughing your ass off. But would YOU take your chances with something that looks like this?

The museum had lots of other interesting things, too, including freaky scrap metal sculptures like this one:

From there, we went to Mallory Square, where we had a surprisingly good dinner at the Hog’s Breath Saloon, looked in all the little shops, and watched a fire juggler and an acrobat on the pier. Then we returned to our hotel for the ghost tour, which Madre and D decided to skip. A guide, dressed in Victorian attire and holding a lantern, took us to various places in the area that are supposedly haunted. We didn’t see any ghosts, of course, but it was still mildly creepy and enormously entertaining. Our tour ended on the steps of a museum which had this beautiful Renoir-inspired statue in front of it:

When we got back to our hotel, we said goodnight to Padre and then we went up to the seventh floor to look at the view. Afterwards, we walked down the street so I could buy a Hello Kitty Key West shirt, and then we retired to our room to crash for the night.

Fortunately, I did not dream about Robert.

SUNDAY, 11/26/07-MONDAY 11/27/07

As for the rest of our trip, it was pretty uneventful. I started watching the Giants/Vikings game with the guys, but when it became obvious that we were going to get slaughtered, I retreated to our bedroom to play Cooking Mama 2 on my DS. (After the game, Padre said, “See, G, you should never have insulted Robert!”) We hung out, played cards and Taiko Drum Master, talked, ate, and enjoyed each other’s company. I know I’ve said it before, but one of the best things about dating G is that I feel like I’ve inherited a second set of family and friends.

Something to be thankful for indeed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

another bullshit day in suck city

Work yesterday, with the exception of a lovely lunch out with K, was utterly fucking miserable. Do you ever feel like everyone else on the planet exists just to piss you off? This was one of those days for me. We were understaffed, the phones were insane, one of my coworkers was really getting on my tits, I had to learn a new system for ordering records that was about as user-friendly as a thistle-covered dildo, and---worst of all---I was subjected to an absurd Dilbertian experiment.

Around 10AM, my boss walked around to everyone's cubicles and dropped off a hardback book with a piece of paper stuck inside. Preferring not to clutter up my home with work-related items, I left them in my cube, so I can't remember the title or the exact wording of the memo. Basically the book was some stupid happy crappy shit about finding your strengths, and the memo was telling us we had to go on the author's website, using a code cleverly hidden inside the book jacket, and fill out a questionnaire that would tell us our strengths in the workplace. The due date wasn't until November 26th, but since I'll be gone on that day, I had to do it immediately.

This in spite of a workload that could choke a horse.

So I went on the stupid website, where I had to read two statements and pick the one that I felt best described me or my personal viewpoint. Example: "I do tasks in the order that they were assigned to me/I prioritize my work." When I was finished, I was directed to click on a link that took me to a detailed analysis of my strengths.

I really hope you're sitting down for this. You may want to put a helmet on, too, because this shit will BLOW YOUR MIND.

I'm creative, empathetic, and prefer to work alone.


Upon learning this astounding information, which anyone who's known me for more than five minutes could have deduced, I looked at the inside flap of the book to see how much this Rosetta Stone of the Cube Farm cost.

Thirty bucks.


There are about 25 people in my department.

25 x $30 = $750.

(And yes, they probably got some sort of corporate and/or bulk discount, but let's just go with that amount.)

They could easily have saved themselves some serious fundage, because for only half that amount, I would have been more than happy to go around the department and tell my coworkers things that they already know about themselves. "You're too loud! You're awesome! You're a fucking bitch! You're a twinkletwat! You're a shameless malingerer who would have been fired years ago if the Cube Farm wasn't so afraid of lawsuits!"

Then I would have taken the money and bought candy and magazines.

Was the fun over? By god, it was not! I had to e-mail my boss and tell her what my strengths were, according to this unbelievably scientific analysis. She wrote back and asked me what I thought of the program. Biting back the truth, since I enjoy eating and having a roof over my head, I said that I thought it was interesting but that some of the questions might raise privacy concerns.

Dumb, dumb, DUMB.

She wrote back asking what I meant, and I said, "Some people might worry that their names are being matched to their answers and not answer truthfully. For example, one of the questions asked you to choose between 'I think lying is always wrong/I think bending the truth is sometimes justifiable', and another said 'Stealing should always be punished/Stealing is sometimes okay'. If people think their answers aren't confidential, they will answer in a way that is 'acceptable', and it seems to me that this will skew the data."

In for a penny, in for a pound, right? I mean, come on, those are gray goddamn areas. Of course I believe that bending the truth is sometimes justifiable; what, if someone asks what you think of their new dress, and it's uglier than homemade soup, you're supposed to hurt their feelings? And if you're starving to death and pull a Jean Valjean, well, maybe you should have looked into a food bank or something, but still, I can see that as justifiable. But no, I answered the way I thought my company would want me to answer, because I'm one of those paranoid "people".

Anyway, she thanked me for my input, and that was the last I heard from her. Fun times!

When 6PM rolled around, I was so goddamn thrilled that I literally danced out of the building. I drove home, changed into my pajamas, took a shamefully long nap, and spent the rest of my evening watching CSI and drinking Aztec hot chocolate.

Vacation never seemed so sweet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

best of 2007: random cool stuff

As you may or may not know, I like to post “Best Of” lists at the end of the year. I’m starting a little early because I have a ton of shit to do before Thanksgiving vacation, and I get the feeling work will be crazy apeshit when I get back, so I might not have time to write for a while. (What did you say? Write on my off time? Heresy!) If something comes along between now and the end of December that begs to be included on one of these lists, then I’ll update accordingly.

Anyway, I'll start with my list of random cool stuff from 2007. A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these things first made their debut in 2007, but since I didn’t play/eat/hear/see them until this year, they belong on this list.
  • These aren't in any particular order.
  • I'm sorry about the discrepancy in picture size, but I just couldn't be bothered to make them all even.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.

When I heard that Sanrio was releasing a Hello Kitty fragrance, I thought it would be some cheap crap in a cute bottle, like the Tinkerbell perfume I used to wear as a kid. But then I found out it was created by Tristan Brando, the genius "nose" behind cult favorite Monyette Paris, and I figured it might actually be good. And lo and behold, far from being a bubblegummy scent for little girls, Momoberry is a sophisticated blend of vanilla and gardenia that has me sniffing my wrists every two seconds.

Rei, the protagonist of Fatal Frame 3: The Tormented, is a young woman who is mourning the loss of her fiance. When she falls asleep, she's drawn into a nightmare world, and she must use her wits and a special camera to survive. Out of the three Fatal Frame games, this one creeped me out the most; one ghost in particular made me scream every time it appeared. My biggest complaint is that the end boss is a colossal pain in the ass, but that made it all the sweeter when I (er, I mean G) finally put her to rest.

And, oh, that ending made me cry.

A stunning documentary series about our world and some of its most beautiful, bizarre, and ferocious inhabitants. I can't imagine anyone watching it and not gaining a new appreciation for our planet.

Gawker Media is the blogging empire that includes Defamer, Kotaku, Fleshbot, and The Consumerist, and as such, accounts for probably 60% of all my web surfing. Jezebel, the latest addition to the family, is aimed at women and consists of celebrity gossip, beauty, fashion, and sex, all written in gloriously snarky style. If you devour BUST and Bitch and think you can be a feminist without losing your sense of humor, this is the website for you.

This line of bath products is cheap, considering it's imported from Europe, and they smell fantastic. My personal favorite is Sugar---big shocker there---but it also comes in Vanilla, Blue Fruits, Chocolate, and Red Fruits. You could practically collect the whole set for what it would cost you to purchase one stinkin' bottle of Philosophy.

This game is kind of like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books for the digital age. You play disgraced cop Kyle Hyde, who’s checked into a rundown hotel while searching for his missing partner. It soon becomes apparent that the hotel’s inhabitants aren’t quite what they seem, and he must unravel the mystery of Room 215. I loved the graphics, which reminded me of the A-Ha video "Take on Me", and some of the writing is really snappy. One of the puzzles was way too hard, and some of them were so easy they made my eyes roll, but overall this is a fun game that kept me up late at night, stylus in hand. (No, that’s not a euphemism.)

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!

These energy bars (or, er, cakes) are packed with vitamins and utterly delicious. I didn't particularly care for the Berry Pomegranate flavor, but the Vanilla Macadamia and Orange Blossom ones are yummy.

How brilliant is this...pina colada gum! I'm addicted to the taste and the way it makes your mouth as cold as a penguin's panaynay.

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!

RPGs have never been a favorite genre of mine, but Odin Sphere is an action RPG, which means that it focuses more on red-assed beatdowns. The graphics are gorgeous, the story is engrossing, and they give you a choice between the original Japanese dialogue (with English text onscreen, of course) or English dubbing. There are some aggravating flaws, like massive slowdown during some areas and a couple of borderline impossible boss battles, but overall Odin Sphere was an enjoyable surprise.

This TV show is about Chuck Bartowski, a "Nerd Herd" computer tech, who opens an e-mail that transmits top-secret government information into his head. Two agents, a lovely blonde and a sarcastic guy, are sent to protect him; hijinks ensue. The action in the first episode was particularly good, because it was directed by McG (Charlie's Angels), but the stunts have gone downhill from there. Still, I love this show. The dialogue is crisp and funny, and Chuck is the most genuinely likable TV character I've ever seen.

This is caramel ice cream swirled with cinnamon streusel and studded with cinnamon dough. It should be renamed Happy Mouth Flavor Explosion, because every time I eat it, it’s like my tastebuds are having an orgasm. My favorite B&J flavor used to be Uncanny Cashew, but now that they’ve sent that one to the flavor graveyard (bastards!), this one is definitely the new winner.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

double gush bust (NSFW)

WARNING: This entry contains links to pictures that, unless you work for Larry Flynt, may not be suitable for work. Don't worry, I'm not going to spring Tubgirl or anything on you, but you still don't want to get caught looking at these on your company's dime. Originally I had the actual pictures in my entry, but Photobucket took umbrage at their sauciness.

Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist best known in America for the limited edition Louis Vuitton purses he designed; he also did the cover of Kanye West's latest album. I'm a longtime fan of his cute yet mildly disturbing style, as seen here:

So when I read that MOCA was going to be hosting an exhibit of his work, I knew I had to see it. As a bonus, MOCA is located smack dab in the middle of Little Tokyo, which meant I could also stock up on magazines, stationery, and junk food. I asked G if we could go, and he readily agreed.

While we were driving to LA, I said, "Did you hear that the dude who plays Jin [from "Lost"] got popped for drunk driving?"

"Yeah, I did. I hope that doesn't mean he's going to get killed off on the show."

"Why would you say that?"

"Remember when Michelle Rodriguez and that other chick both got arrested for drunk driving, and then their characters got killed? Do you think maybe they found out their characters were going to kick the bucket, so they went out to celebrate and got busted?"

"That's an interesting thought."

G grinned. "I mean, which came first...the kickin' or the keg?"

I groaned and buried my face in my hands.

Once we got to Little Tokyo, we had lunch and then walked over to the museum.

"Oh my god," I said, stopping dead in my tracks. "Look at that freakin' line!"

"Wow," G said, surveying the 200+ people in front of us. "I think we're going to be here a while."

"I knew this would be a popular exhibit, but I didn't think there would be this many people here," I grumped, scooching over to stand in the shade.

We'd only been standing in line for about five minutes when two guys came over and offered us their member passes. "You won't have to pay anything, and you get to go right in," one of them said.

"Holy crap, thanks!" I said, eagerly taking the admission stickers. But once they were out of earshot, I said, "Wait...let me go in and check with an employee first to make sure this thing is legit. I would hate to lose our place in line because someone was playing a trick on us."

Don't you love how I assume the best about everyone?

But no, we hadn't been punked. I don't know why they picked us out of such a huge line; G was wearing a Giants shirt and I was rocking my Alessa Gillespie shirt, so maybe they were Giants and/or Silent Hill fans. I know not, but I was damn grateful as we breezed past the unwashed masses and into the museum.


Okay, you saw that picture up there, right? Cute, colorful, perhaps a tad sinister with the eyeball wallpaper. Certainly an artist that kids would enjoy, and there were plenty of them in attendance. So you can imagine our shock when this was the very first thing we saw.

Yes, that chick is making a JUMP ROPE out of the milk gushing from her grotesquely huge breasts.

But wait! There was more!

Not to be outdone by his compatriot, Japan's answer to Peter North is fashioning a lasso out of his own jizz.

Modern art freakin' RULES!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Viva Las Vegas: the finale

On Friday morning, I woke up with a nasty migraine, which only happens two or three times a year. Generally, the only thing that helps is making myself puke, which I can do without sticking anything down my throat (America’s got talent!), so I fumbled my way to the toilet and let ‘er rip. Afterwards, I still had a headache, but it wasn’t nearly as bad. I brushed my teeth, showered, coated myself with sunscreen, and headed down to the gift shop to buy a big bottle of water and a packet of Advil, which killed off the remaining owie in my head. Then I walked across the street and met up with Susan and Gunny, and we took off for our day’s adventure.

Our first stop was Jack in the Box for breakfast, and then we drove to the Valley of Fire state park. Showing is probably better than telling in this instance, so peep these pics. Unfortunately, they don't really do the area justice; those rocks really were red!

(That last picture shows some of the ancient petroglyphs in the area.)

When we got back to Vegas, I suggested that we go see the Bodies exhibit at the Tropicana. I’ve been wanting to see this ever since I first read about it in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 earlier this year. It’s a collection of real human specimens dissected and posed so that you can see the workings of the human body up close and personal. I know it sounds morbid, but it was actually really fascinating.

One thing did piss me off, though. There was a big sign saying “These specimens have been treated with the respect they so greatly deserve.” Okay, that was true…until you got to the gift store. There, you could get a picture of yourself with one of the bodies in the background, or eyeball keychains, or a Bodies mousepad. I don’t think these people donated their bodies to this exhibit so they could serve as a macabre prop in a tourist’s souvenir photo.

Anyway, after the exhibit, we decided to part ways for a couple of hours and meet up again for dinner. I went back to my hotel room and curled up for a nap. When my cell phone alarm went off, I took a quick shower, and as I was drying off afterward, my phone rang. It was Spock, and the first thing he said was, “You got me into so much trouble at work today!”

“What? How?”

“Because I was reading your entry about the silverfish, and I started laughing really hard. Well, it turns out the guy next to me was telling someone about some medical problems he’d been having, and since it was obvious that I wasn’t on the phone, he thought I was laughing at him! I had to go up to him later and say, ‘I swear I wasn’t laughing at your diverticulitis.’”

Anyway, he said he wouldn’t be joining us for dinner, but asked if he could meet up with us later and bring his friend Stuart. I said sure, and after I hung up, I finished drying off, got dressed, and walked over to the MGM Grand to join up with Susan and Gunny. After debating our dinner options, we decided on Fiamma. When we walked in, I was worried that I was severely underdressed, but they seated us anyway and we immediately tucked into the bread basket. When the rolls had been decimated, Susan shook the basket in Gunny’s face and demanded, “More. Make more.” Gunny flagged down our waiter and asked for another basket.

I like a guy who understands the importance of carbs.

But how was the food, you ask?




I had roasted organic chicken with creamy polenta and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. I can’t vouch for the latter item myself; being loath to consume anything green that isn’t a Skittle or an M&M, I passed that on to Susan and Gunny, who said it was excellent. But the chicken was yummy, Susan seemed to enjoy her scallops, and Gunny loved his steak so much that he asked the waiter to pass his compliments to the chef. We were all pretty full after the plates were cleared, but Susan and I are total dessert junkies, and after careful scrutiny of the menu, we both chose the same thing.

According to Fiamma’s website, the dessert in question is called Caramello di Noce.

According to ME, it should be called Happy Fun Fun Delicious Orgasm Heaven Tart.

Salted caramel, caramelized walnuts, Valhrona chocolate ganache, and a scoop of sweet cream gelato.

There were noises coming from our table that wouldn’t have been out of place in a porn film. I made LOVE to that fucking dessert. It’s probably one of the five best desserts I’ve ever had in my freakin’ life, and you know I don’t joke ‘bout no dessert. Truly first-rate.

After dinner, so sated we were practically purring, we met up with Spock and his friend Stuart in the MGM lobby. Spock made introductions, and then we decided to walk down the Strip and see what caught our fancy. Gunny was several steps ahead of us when a porn peddler said, “Come on, don’t any of you like girls?” Spock laughed and called back, “Uh, no!”

I can’t remember what in the world we were talking about at the time, but I made a joke about “gapes”. Spock said, “What the hell is a gape?”

“It’s a shot in porno flicks where the camera zooms in on a gaping asshole directly after penetration,” I said cheerfully.

Everyone stopped dead in their tracks.

“Why the hell do you KNOW that?” Spock said.

“I dunno, read it online somewhere,” I said. “There’s a popular series devoted to the topic called Planet of the Gapes.”

It took several minutes before we could stop laughing long enough to continue on our way.

Anyway, the rest of our evening consisted of drinks, gambling, and lots of wonderful conversation. In the middle of Billy’s Casino, I asked Spock to tell the infamous “Gomer” story.

“Pleeeeeeeease,” I begged, wringing my hands. “Nobody can tell it like you!”

(Note: this story will lost a LOT in the retelling, because Gomer---a pseudonym, by the way---had a really heavy Texas accent. Never having met Gomer, I can’t attest to the accuracy of Spock’s imitation, but it’s funny as hell either way. I’m assuming it’s pretty accurate, since Spock does terrific impressions. I still remember his Ethel Merman impression back when we were teenagers...and yet I was stunned when he came out of the closet, go figure. I think my gaydar needed a tune-up. Anyway, I’ll try to spell the funnier words phonetically.)

“Okay, fine,” he relented. “I was at a mall with my then-boyfriend Gomer, and he excused himself to use the bathroom in Sears. When he came back, he was really pale and said, ‘Mah gawd, that bathroom was disgustin’! There was shit all over the WALLS! It was lahk someone just…just spread their AYUSCHAIKS and let flah!’ I said yes, that was gross, and we continued. But he seriously would not fucking shut UP about it! Ten minutes would go by and he’d say, ‘I mean, what would possess someone to just…just back up in a public bathroom and SPRAY shit all over the walls?’”

By now, we were all clutching our sides, and Spock continued. “I thought I was safe after a half-hour, but no, right next to people who were fucking eating, he starts up again. ‘Lahk…lahk they spread their AYUSCHAIKS…”

Affecting a really bad accent, I said, “It was lahk Hershey bars in a woodchipper! It was lahk beef stroganoff in a paint sprayer! It was lahk POOCASSO in there! Lahk Jackson POO-LOCK!”

Okay, I’m really a 12-year-old boy in a 36-year-old woman’s body.

Finally, sadly, it was time to say goodbye to everyone. I hugged Susan and Gunny goodbye and extracted promises that it wouldn’t be another three years before I saw them again. Then Spock and Stuart escorted me back to my hotel, where I hugged Spock and blubbered, “I love you so much!”


I went to bed around 2:30AM and woke up at 7. That was fun! But at least my trip back to California was about as smooth as it gets. The flight was short, I managed to get on the flyaway bus literally minutes after getting to the curb, and the drive home from Van Nuys was uneventful. And the timing of my trip was perfect, too; I had three days in Vegas (which is pretty much my limit; after that it gets kind of depressing, and much harder to resist the slot machines), followed by a full weekend with G, and then a day off to run errands and log some reading and TV time sprawled out on Big Brown.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I got to spend time with terrific friends, consume chocolate-covered bacon, watch half-naked acrobats, eat one of the best desserts I’ve ever had in my life, visit the Neon Museum, see ancient petroglyphs, watch a drunk chick in a skimpy referee costume flash her panties to everyone who walked by, and see dead bodies in a non-criminal setting. And, bonus, I may not have won a ton of money, but when you subtract what I lost from what I won, I only lost about $25 to one-armed bandits.

Vegas, you beautiful, greedy whore, how I love you. I'll see you again, I promise. Keep the (neon) lights on for me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

media update: October

The third (and final) installment of my Vegas entries will appear tomorrow, as it's time for the media update. Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. The Nature of Monsters* by Clare Clark: In 1700's England, a young pregnant woman named Eliza is forced into seclusion, working as a maid for a mysterious man who wants to prove that frightening a woman during her pregnancy will result in the birth of a monster. When his experiments on Eliza fail, he turns his attention to Mary, a mentally challenged woman, and Eliza is determined to save Mary and her unborn child. Beautifully written, although unnerving and bleak at times; I couldn't put it down.

2. Five Things I Can't Live Without by Holly Shumas: A woman starts her own business punching up other people's personal ads, and in the process, she begins to wonder how happy she really is in her own life. A fun read that's a cut above most chick lit.

3. Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay: The third book in the series about a serial killer who only takes out bad guys. It should have been called Deeply Disappointing Dexter, because I loved the first two, but this one was just meh.

4. Smart Girls Like Me* by Diane Vadino: In this funny, bittersweet novel, set in 1999, a young woman prepares for Y2K and her best friend's wedding while trying to figure out what she wants for herself, and if she should even bother trying to find happiness when the world might be coming to an end. My only real complaint about this book is that it wasn't longer.

5. The Abstinence Teacher* by Tom Perrotta: Ruth, a human sexuality teacher, creates a firestorm of controversy when she tells her class that some people enjoy oral sex. Tim is her daughter's soccer coach, a former drug addict who found religion. This sharp, funny satire is about what happens when the two butt heads. Highly recommended.

6. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold: After years of suppressing her rage, a woman snaps and kills her elderly mother. This book starts with the murder, and then goes on to tell how she finally reached that point. Just a really unpleasant novel with no sympathetic characters and some truly cringe-inducing lines. ("There it was, the hole that gave birth to me...This was not the first time I'd been face to face with my mother's genitalia.") I loved her other two books, Lucky and The Lovely Bones, so this was a real disappointment.


1. Blonde Ambition by Rita Cosby: Yes, I'm about as sick of Anna Nicole Smith stories as anyone else, but I wanted to read this before it gets yanked off the shelf. Howard K. Stern is suing the author for $60 million, and after reading this, I can see why; it's filled with unbelievable amounts of dirt. I'd heard most of it before, such as the supposed videotape of him and Larry Birkhead sucking each other off, but a few things were news to me, like the photograph he allegedly took of a distraught Anna Nicole cradling her dead son, hoping to sell it to the highest bidder. If even half the allegations in this book are true, I hope karma exists so that it can bite Howard K. Stern in his disgusting, greedy ass.

2. Sick Girl by Amy Silverstein: This is the author's account of her heart transplant and the tense years that followed it. I had a hard time getting into this because she seems so friggin' unpleasant. On the one hand, it was refreshing that she didn't try to act like some nobly suffering saint, but instead she just came across as selfish and whiny. I know full well how truly shitty it is to be seriously ill, but it doesn't give you carte blanche to be a constant sniveling bitch either. (Occasional sniveling and/or bitchiness is, of course, excused.)

3. Dating Amy by Amy DeZellar: When the author moved to Seattle, she started a website detailing her adventures in the dating world. It's not consistently funny, but it has its moments. My personal favorite: an anecdote from a friend of hers about using Alka-Seltzer to cure a yeast infection.

4. The Vixen Diaries by Karrine Steffans: Trash, garbage, swill. I found it especially grating when she referred to herself as an "icon". Yeah, because fucking every famous and/or rich guy she meets makes her an icon. The best part of this book was when it ended.

5. Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison: In this memoir, the author talks about living with Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism often characterized by, among other things, high intelligence, limited social skills, and an inability to look people in the eye. (Jesus, sounds kind of like me!) Some of the descriptions of his engineering feats drag, but overall it's an interesting read.

6. Beyond the Body Farm by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson: The renowned forensic anthropologist describes some of his most memorable cases.

7. My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith*: This book gets repetitive at times, but if you love Kevin Smith and his movies, you ought to enjoy this immensely. There's a great section about helping Jason Mewes ("Jay") through heroin withdrawal, as well as some really funny lines and the occasional deep insight.

8. Foreskin's Lament* by Shalom Auslander: Terrible title, but the book itself is damn good. Growing up in a strict Orthodox family, the author struggled against Judaism in any way he could, from sneaking Slim Jims at the public pool to eagerly reading the skin mags he found abandoned at a place he reverently nicknamed the Stone of Pornography. There are some great lines in here; at one point, talking about using a stolen jar of Oil of Olay to masturbate with, he says "I was depressed and I was lonely, but my genitals never looked younger." Funny, angry, excellent stuff.


1. Swan* vol. 11 by Ariyoshi Kyoko


1. 28 Weeks Later*: Just when you thought it was safe to return to England, the "rage virus" starts spreading again, turning people into bloodthirsty, super-strong zombies. Nerve-wracking as hell.

2. The Bourne Identity*: I hadn't seen any of the Bourne movies before, so I wanted to catch up before the third one comes out on DVD. Anyway, I thought this was quite good and very exciting; my right thumbnail became a casualty during a particularly tense scene.

3. The Lookout: A young man who suffers from memory loss is duped into assisting with a bank robbery. Not as good as I thought it would be, but Joseph Gordon Levitt is amazing as always.

4. Flight of the Living Dead*: This flick about zombies taking over a plane was so much better than I thought it would be; there are some great lines and a couple of innovative death scenes. We're obviously not talking about a classic for the ages, but you could do far worse if you want a little gore spiced up with black humor.