Friday, December 21, 2007

Uh, hasn't this already happened?

Last weekend, Glenn and I were taking a walk when we came across a heap of garbage that someone had tossed into a vacant lot, including this:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

best of 2007: movies

Finally, it's time for my highly opinionated list of 2007's best movies. A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were originally released in 2007, but since that’s when I first saw them, they belong on this list.
  • Aside from the first two, these aren’t in preferential order.
  • Your mileage, as always, may vary.

1. Shortbus: The title refers to an underground salon for the "gifted and challenged" where disaffected New Yorkers meet up for conversation and sex. This movie gained notoriety because real sex is shown onscreen, but it isn't pornography; one reviewer put it best when he said "It's like Manhattan with money shots." Brilliant, heartbreaking, brave, and utterly uncompromising, it's another fantastic film by Hedwig and the Angry Inch's John Cameron Mitchell.

2. 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 (also one of my 2007 favorites), I was prepared to be disturbed, but parts of this movie were still extremely difficult to watch. Still, it's a must-see if you can handle the strong subject matter, and Joseph Gordon Levitt is phenomenal in an Oscar-worthy performance as the teenager who holds the key to the secret.

3. The Simpsons Movie: Yes, it's like an extra-long episode spiced up with mild profanity and (animated) full frontal nudity, but it's also extremely funny.

4. Grindhouse: Now THIS is entertainment! Planet Terror is an ultra-gory zombie flick starring Rose McGowan as a go-go dancer who winds up with a machine gun for a leg. Death Proof isn't nearly as good, and it takes forever to get going, but once it does, it's a wild car chase/women's revenge hybrid. And in between the two movies, there are fake trailers spoofing Nazi exploitation, giallo, a Mexican revenge thriller, and best of all, an incredibly sick and twisted homage to 80's holiday-themed slasher flicks called Thanksgiving. Grimy, nasty fun.

5. Marie Antoinette: I've always been fascinated by the tragic tale of Marie Antoinette, and I loved Sofia Coppola's first two films, so I was really anxious to see this one...and it didn't disappoint. It's quite possibly the most beautiful movie I've ever seen, with its luscious candy colors and stunning costumes. And I'm not normally a big fan of hers, but Kirsten Dunst is fantastic as the doomed queen.

6. 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.

7. Casino Royale: The latest installment in the James Bond series cuts out the camp, opting instead for relentless action and more cerebral quips, and Daniel Craig's leaner, meaner Bond made all the haters shut up.

8. 300: Leonidas, king of Sparta, leads a small army against the king of Persia; heads (and arms, and legs) roll. Exciting action sequences + dazzling visual style + lots of half-naked men in leather Speedos = a spot on this list.

9. Pan's Labyrinth: A dark, twisted fairy tale about a young Spanish girl who discovers a magical world in the backyard of her new home; imagine if Alice fell into hell instead of Wonderland. Beautiful and disturbing; its images and ending haunted me for days after seeing it.

10. Superbad: In hopes of getting laid, two teenage boys try to score booze for a party. Needless to say, things don't turn out quite the way they expected. This was like an unbelievably raunchy John Hughes movie, and I laughed my freakin' ass off.


Stay Alive, in which a group of teenagers gets their hands on a video game that kills its players if they die in the game. You know you’re in trouble when the biggest name in your cast is Frankie Muniz.

By the way, I had a hard time deciding whether to pick Stay Alive or the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, but the opening of ATHF, which had me laughing so hard I was literally doubled over, saved it from receiving this dubious honor. (The other 85 minutes or so? Unadulterated ass. )

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dear Fuckface:

I had a lovely night on Friday. Oh, sure, it wasn’t exciting by most people’s standards; I went to Target and gleefully killed off the giftcard that my dad sent me for Christmas, and then I went to Borders and read magazines until closing time. Then I drove home, parked in my assigned spot, got my purchases out of the trunk, and went inside to make myself a cup of Aztec hot chocolate, which I enjoyed while watching CSI.

On Saturday morning, I got up, showered, and puttered around my apartment until 1PM, at which point I gathered up my stuff to leave. I planned to stop at the library, and then go straight from there to my boyfriend’s house. We didn’t have any major plans for the weekend, but I was looking forward to spending time with him, just laughing and talking and maybe going out to see a movie.

Well, when I got to my car, I put my laundry basket and overnight bag on the passenger seat, and when I closed the door, I dropped my keys. I bent down to pick them up, and I noticed what appeared to be a sliver of plastic, about three inches long, on the ground.

A piece of plastic that was the exact same shade as my car.

With dread mounting in my heart, I walked around to the back and saw that you had hit the back of my car, knocking the trunk lid askew, fucking up the paint on the bumper, and cracking my tail light.

Ever the cockeyed optimist, I checked under my windshield wiper, but of course there was no note to be found.

I know nobody likes to deal with insurance companies, anonymous driver. Hell, I work for one, and I don’t like to deal with them myself. And I know you were probably scared, and you didn’t want your rates to go up, but goddammit, if you hit someone’s parked and unoccupied car and cause damage, you are both legally and morally bound to LEAVE A FUCKING NOTE.

Merry Christmas to you too, you syphilitic cum bubble. Please do me a favor and die in a fire posthaste.

No love,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

winter whinederland

I know it’s against the spirit of the season and all that jazz, but I gotta get a few things off my chest.

My pillowy, pillowy chest.

First off, since when is it acceptable to say “Whoops!” instead of “Excuse me” or “Sorry”? I’m so sick of people banging into me at work or Target or wherever and then saying “Whoops!” “Whoops” is fine IF AND ONLY IF followed by “Excuse me” or “Sorry”. “Whoops” by itself, as an apology, is not okay.

Second, my eternal pet peeve: stores that have their OPEN sign on when they are clearly not open at all. I drove past a Jiffy Lube last night at 10:30PM, and their neon OPEN sign was lit. Bitches, you ain’t open! Don’t lie to me! What if I wanted to get an oil change at 10:30 at night, and I was all “Oooh, Jiffy Lube is still open!” and then pulled into the parking lot only to discover that their doors were locked? (Not that this would ever happen, mind. For one thing, I hope I would notice that the other lights were off; for another, I would never go to Jiffy Lube again because their incompetence cost me a radiator.)

Third, who thought mint macaroons would be a good idea? We had an employee appreciation meeting yesterday, and the powers that be brought in several trays of holiday cookies. Now, I actually like coconut, as opposed to just about everyone I know; one friend described coconut as having the texture of a hangnail. But mint and coconut together? Blech.

Fourth, Giggles is out for the second day in a row. This may be my fault, though, because I was just thinking the other day that her attendance record was surprisingly clean as of late. I hope she gets diarrhea while wearing white pants in the middle of a crowded supermarket.

And finally, what happened to that global warming I've heard so much about? It's fucking COLD out! I don’t pay the monetary equivalent of a black market body organ for rent just to turn on the heater first thing in the morning. I got up today and the thermostat said it was 40 degrees in my place! I'm about to take a can of hairspray, go outside, and just spray it upwards towards the sun. Sorry, polar bears; sorry, ozone layer; sorry, Al Gore. Mama can't pay no big electric bills this winter.

Don’t get me wrong, though; things are mostly awesome, so here’s some cheese to go with my whine.

I was going to buy a PSP for the sole purpose of playing Silent Hill Origins, which has gotten surprisingly good reviews (including one from Kelly Not My Roommate, who is also a major fangirl and whose opinion I trust completely on all things survival horror). But now it turns out they’re going to port it to the PS2 and it may be released as early as March 2008. Huzzah!

It’s almost Christmas! True, it doesn’t hold any religious significance to me, seeing as I’m an agnostic, but I still love the season (and, yes, the loot). G and I are going back to New Jersey to spend the holidays with his family. This is awesome for two reasons: I love his family and I love his mother’s cooking. I mean, I LOVE his mother’s cooking. Her cheesecake is one of my five favorite desserts of all time, and you know I take my desserts seriously.

Plus Madre and Padre have friends who throw a themed New Year’s Eve bash every year; you may recall my 2005 trauma when the theme turned out to be clowns. Anyway, they don’t usually disclose the theme ahead of time, but they’ve made an exception this year so that people can dress appropriately.

The theme? “Black and White Bizarre”, which means we have to dress completely in black and/or white, and the weirder the better. I have a perfect ensemble in mind, and let’s just say I hope there’s a prize for best outfit, because I intend to WIN that shit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

best of 2007: fiction

And now it's time for my favorite novels of 2007! Just a few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were originally published in 2007, but since that’s when I first read them, they belong on this list.
  • Aside from the first three, these aren’t in preferential order.
  • Your mileage, as always, may vary.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: Was the final book worth the wait? Oh yes, and then some. This is a beautifully woven tapestry with some dark, genuinely tearjerking moments leavened by hope and humor. Finishing this book was truly bittersweet.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim: A disturbing 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. It's beautifully written, but be warned that it gets pretty damn dark between those covers.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin: In medieval England, the butchered bodies of four children are discovered, and because one of the bodies was found on the front lawn of a Jewish citizen, the Jewish population is in danger. The king, fearing a riot, calls on an Italian doctor (the "mistress of the art of death") to investigate the crime. One of the reviews quoted on the back calls this novel "CSI meets The Canterbury Tales", which perfectly describes this very satisfying book.

8. T Is for Trespass by Sue Grafton: When Kinsey Millhone's elderly neighbor Gus is injured, his niece hires a private nurse named Solana Rojas to look after him. Kinsey doesn't like the nurse, and when she finds out that Solana is a sociopath who's stolen a former coworker's identity, she must try to stop Solana before Gus falls victim to her scheme. By far Grafton's most disturbing book, and (in my opinion) also her best.

9. The Unquiet by John Connolly: Private investigator Charlie Parker is hired by a woman who's being stalked by a man who wants to know where her father is. When Charlie starts digging into the case, he finds some truly nasty shit. I was pretty disappointed by Connolly's last couple of books, so I didn't have high hopes for this one, but I'm glad to report that he's got his groove back. My one complaint is that there's not enough Louis and Angel, but for me, there never is.

10. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain: Oh my god, this was so fucking creepy. It's a thriller about a cop who was kidnapped by Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful female serial killer who tortured him to the brink of death and then inexplicably turned herself in. Years later, he's trying to find a new serial killer who's preying on teenage girls, but he can't seem to break free of Gretchen's spell. It's a little derivative of Silence of the Lambs in some parts, but overall, it's fantastic. Warning: not for those of tender constitutions.


Losing It by Lindsay Faith Rech. Color me critical, but I found it really hard to get into 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.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

best of 2007: manga/graphic novels

And now for the best graphic novels, manga, and comic collections from 2007. A few disclaimers before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2007, but since that’s when I first read them, they belong on this list.
  • Aside from the first two, these aren’t in preferential order.
  • As ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie: Just before World War I, the three heroines of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz meet in a secluded hotel. Alice, now old, is a snobby lesbian; Wendy is trapped in a sexless marriage; and Dorothy is a free-spirited young woman in a beautiful pair of silver shoes. This graphic novel takes the stories we all know and turns them into astounding narratives of sex, love, and loss, captured in Moore’s masterful prose and Gebbie’s beautiful illustrations. To say the least, this is NOT a book for the prudish or easily offended; it is very explicit, and pretty much every sexual peccadillo you can think of is either graphically shown or described. But although you may occasionally get a pleasant tingle in your nethers while reading Lost Girls, it’s not pornography, but (to borrow the title of Dave Eggers’ memoir) a heartbreaking work of staggering genius that perfectly encapsulates that moment of stepping through the looking glass of sexual awakening.

2. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine: The protagonist of this graphic novel is a cranky young Japanese-American man named Ben, whose girlfriend doesn't appreciate the way he's always looking at white women. Finally, she gives up on ever changing him and leaves for New York City, causing him to wonder whether he can change...and if he even wants to. The art is simple and beautiful, and the dialogue is sharp and realistic. An example of the graphic novel form at its best.

Side note: In an example of perfect timing, today’s Salon talks about Shortcomings if you’d like to read a more detailed review.

3. Bittersweet Cafe by Akira Kanbe: The manager of a cafe takes in a pastry chef, and romance blossoms. Beautifully drawn and very cute.

4. Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova: A teenage girl is excited about attending her first anime convention, especially since she and her boyfriend will be selling their new comic book in the artist's alley. But when her boyfriend starts being a dick and flirting with every cute girl that comes to their table, she starts thinking about a possible romance with the guy at the next booth. I wasn't expecting much when I picked this up at the library, but I wound up reading it in one sitting because it's surprisingly funny and occasionally very dramatic.

5. A Sex Therapist by Kazuma Kodaka: An enigmatic young man provides impromptu therapy to the lovelorn men who visit his bar. This therapy, as the title states, involves lots of sex. Obviously not for the yaoi haters, but if you like this kind of thing, Kazuma Kodaka is one of the geniuses of the genre.

6. Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara: In this poignant manga series, a woman and her teenage daughter Ann move to a small town, where Ann finds love and tragedy in equal measure.

7. The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso: There are two stories in this collection, "Meow Face" and "Split Rock, Montana", that still haunt me months after reading them.

8. The Best American Comics 2006 edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore: Whether you're already a fan of comics and graphic novels, or you're just starting to explore them, you'll find something to love in this diverse collection.

9. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: This graphic novel is made up of three separate plotlines---a Chinese folk hero, a lonely teenage boy who wants to belong, and another teenage boy who's embarrassed by his visiting cousin "Chin-Kee"---that wind up being part of a greater story. The artwork is simple and clean, and the story is thought-provoking.

10. All the Rage by Aaron McGruder: An excellent selection of some of the most controversial strips from The Boondocks and interviews with its creator.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

best of 2007: anime

This particular list will be of interest to only a few of you, but I’m posting it anyway.

2007 was an absolutely terrible year for anime; to make up for the drought, I wound up rewatching some old favorites like Noir. Still, these five were enjoyable and managed to keep me entertained. In no particular order, they are:

Afro Samurai

Some hardcore otaku claim that this series isn't "real" anime because it was originally shown in America and features English dialogue and American voice actors. Well, that may be true, but it was created by GONZO, so nyah. Anyway, Afro Samurai (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) is a badass dude who wants to avenge his father's murder by any means necessary. Ultraviolent but fun.

Nodame Cantabile

Chiaki wants to become a famous conductor, but he's afraid he'll never accomplish this goal because his fear of travel keeps him stuck in Japan. Nodame is a quirky but sweet piano genius. This charming and funny anime series follows them and their friends as they try to make their dreams come true.


When I heard Satoshi Kon had a new movie coming out, I couldn't wait to see it because he's the genius behind my favorite anime movie, Perfect Blue, and one of my favorite anime series of all time, Paranoia Agent. While this isn't as good as either one of those, it's still a gorgeously animated mindfuck about a psychiatrist who enters her patients' dreams through the use of a new invention.

Devil May Cry

Inspired by the hit video game, this series is surprisingly addictive. I don't know why they tried to make Dante "nicer"---the anime version has a cute little girl as a mascot and loves strawberry sundaes---but when he's slaying demon ass, all is forgiven.


In Japan, there’s a series of books aimed at teaching English to anime and video game geeks. (Sample phrase, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Let’s decide the supremacy over the earth by the blows of robots.”) In the anime, she’s a girl named Ink-chan who receives a magical cell phone that allows her to transform into the scantily clad Moetan, who fights evil and gives English lessons to her crush. A very cute show with some hysterically funny, occasionally raunchy moments.

Monday, December 03, 2007

best of 2007: non-fiction

Now it’s time for my favorite non-fiction books of the year. Just a few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2007, but that’s when I first read them, which is why they belong on this list.
  • Aside from the first two, these are not in preferential order.
  • Your mileage, as always, may vary.

1. Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres: This is one of those books that's so fucking good you resent anything that takes away from your time with it. The author grew up in Indiana in the 1980's, and to say the least, she didn't have a good adolescence; she and her adoptive brothers, both black, were treated like shit at school, and her parents were religious people who alternated between cold indifference and outright abuse. Eventually, they sent her and her youngest brother, David, to a Christian "tough love" camp in the Dominican Republic. Beautifully written, completely devoid of self-pity, and utterly essential for anyone who enjoys memoirs or, for that matter, reading in general. It's not just my favorite non-fiction book of the year; it's now my favorite non-fiction book of all time.

2. Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody: I wanted to read this book mainly because the author worked in Minneapolis (including a stint at the notorious Sex World), and I wound up really enjoying it. She neither glamorizes nor demonizes the industry, and her writing is sharp and snarky (for example, Minneapolis is the "city that never wakes"). I can’t wait to see her first feature film, Juno.

3. I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell: This memoir about the author's nights as Aquadisiac, a drag queen with live goldfish in her plastic bra, and romance with a crack-addicted male prostitute is hysterically funny and absolutely riveting.

4. Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup: After her husband's death, the author decided to become a game warden chaplain in Maine. It's a profoundly moving memoir that brought me to tears more than once. There's a definite religious bent, obviously, but it didn't bother me at all.

5. Dark at the Roots by Sarah Thyre: 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.

6. Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott: At the beginning of the 20th century, two sisters took their sizable inheritance and started the Everleigh Club, Chicago's most luxurious brothel. This terrific book may be a true story, but it reads like a juicy novel.

7. If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus: When the author's younger sister was murdered by an ex-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.

8. 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.

9. Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen: The author and her family fled Vietnam in the 70's and wound up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she longed for the uncomplicated lives and glorious junk food of her schoolmates. Funny, bittersweet, and memorable. Fair warning: not to be read on an empty stomach, thanks to the mouthwatering descriptions of everything from Hostess cupcakes to pho.

10. 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.


I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max. You know, it's not like I didn't know what I was getting into, since the first line on the back of the book is "My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole." But my god, 300 pages about the same kind of drunken, horny, inconsiderate prick that I spent my entire college career avoiding was 295 pages too many. I hope he gets a penicillin-resistant strain of syphilis and his dick falls off.