Wednesday, April 30, 2008

media update: April

I didn't watch too many movies this month because G and I were busy catching up on Anthony Bourdain and Dexter. But I read a shitload of manga, several "trauma porn" memoirs, and not one but two books that talked about chimpanzee orgasms! (This was pure coincidence.)

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


1. Ai no Kusabi: Destiny by Reiko Yoshihara: Mansex in outer space!

2. 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro: This seventh installment of the Women's Murder Club series is primarily about a series of arson murders, with a subplot about a teenage boy who disappears after visiting a prostitute. Patterson's books run the gamut from excellent suspense to unreadable trash; this fits in neither category, but it's a quick and entertaining read.

3. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming* by Joshilyn Jackson: A woman wakes up one night and sees the ghost of her daughter's best friend standing by the window. When she finds the girl's body floating in her swimming pool, she asks her estranged sister to help her uncover the truth. Part ghost story, part family drama, completely riveting. I seriously did not want to put this book down.

4. What I Was* by Meg Rosoff: In 1962, the narrator is sent to boarding school, where he discovers Finn, an enigmatic boy living by himself on the coast. He becomes obsessed with Finn, spending every moment he can with him, and then Finn’s illness brings forth a shocking revelation. This book perfectly describes the wonder and agony of first love.

5. Mudbound* by Hillary Jordan: Set in Mississippi in 1946, this book follows two families. The white McAllan family consists of ambitious farmer Henry, his dissatisfied wife Laura, their daughters, and Henry's nasty, racist father. The black Jackson family lives on the farm as sharecroppers. The racism of the day, coupled with the growing attraction between Laura and her brother-in-law, lead to tragedy. A powerful and sad debut.

6. The Girl With No Shadow by Joanne Harris: In this sequel to Chocolat, Vianne Rocher has changed her name and moved with her two young daughters to Paris, where she opens a chocolate shop. Then a charming woman comes around who's much more than she seems. Chocolat was better, but this has its moments, and parts of it are like food porn.


1. Swallow the Ocean by Laura M. Flynn: A deeply moving memoir about growing up with a schizophrenic mother.

2. Manic by Terri Cheney: A disturbing (and occasionally very darkly funny) memoir about living with manic depression.

3. Beautiful Boy* by David Sheff: A devastating account of the author's relationship with his meth addicted son.

4. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex* by Mary Roach: A lively, hysterically funny, and wildly entertaining look at everything from vibrators to "panda porn". Roach's book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is one of my favorite nonfiction books of all time; this one's going on the list too.

5. Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human* by Elizabeth Hess: The titular primate was part of an experiment to see if language is an exclusively human trait. He was raised just like a human child and taught American Sign Language, but when he became too difficult to handle (or, as the author puts it, "too animal for a house, too human for a cage"), his life took a turn for the worse. This book is heartbreaking; have tissues handy.

6. Stori Telling* by Tori Spelling: Yeah, yeah, you can stop snickering. This was actually a really fun read. It's obviously not great literature or anything, but she's candid and dishes about everything from her rocky relationship with her mother to a bizarre encounter with Terence Trent D'Arby that changed her life. And there are some great lines in here, too. For example, when she visits her then-boyfriend's parents' house, she sees a knickknack that says "Gardens grow with love." She writes: "My mother's version of that knickknack would say 'Gardens grow with a large, full-time staff of horticulturists.'" I'd let Tori Spelling buy me a drink any day.

7. Bar Flower by Lea Jacobson: A memoir about the author's stint as a Tokyo nightclub hostess. The writing isn't the greatest, but it's still an interesting look at the seamier side of Japanese society.


1. Marmalade Boy vols. 1-4 by Wataru Yoshizumi

2. Hot Gimmick vols. 1-12 by Miki Aihara

3. After School Nightmare* vols. 1-6 by Setona Mizushiro: This is a truly awesome mindfuck. I haven't been this excited about a manga series since Death Note.

4. Black Hole* by Charles Burns: Okay, funny story. I saw this at a comic book store in Santa Monica, and it looked pretty interesting. On a whim, I checked the library's card catalog, and they actually had it, but it said "Check shelf - locked case". Since I had no idea what this meant, I asked at the information desk, and the librarian led me to a locked case which had all these sex manuals and huge art books and marijuana growing manuals, and she got the book out and actually escorted me to the circulation desk! She didn't leave my side until it was scanned in. It was really bizarre. What with all the hoopla, I expected this graphic novel to be full of sex, nudity, and intense gore...and it was. It's also freaky as hell.

5. Peach Girl: Sae's Story vols. 1-3 by Miwa Ueda

6. Kaze Hikaru vol. 4-6 by Taeko Watanabe


1. The Mist*: A small Maine town is taken over by a dangerous mist, trapping dozens of people in a grocery store. Out of their minds with terror, they begin dividing into two groups: one that wants to get the hell out of there, and one led by a psychotic religious woman who thinks the mist is God's plan to cleanse the world of sin. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say it's a very tense thriller with some seriously jawdropping moments.

2. The Orphanage*: A woman moves back to the orphanage where she grew up, intending to turn it into a home for special needs kids, and her son starts talking about his new imaginary friends. Turns out they're not so imaginary after all. This movie is unbelievably freaky---at one point, I actually started chewing my knuckles and moaning "Oh my GOD"---and surprisingly poignant.

Side note: G and I went to bed shortly after watching this movie, and I was convinced I'd have a nightmare about it. Which would have sucked, but at least I would have woken up next to G and he could have consoled me. No, I had to be in my apartment all alone at three in the motherfucking MORNING for this little bastard to show up:

...hold me.

3. Forgetting Sarah Marshall*: Devastated by a bad breakup, a man goes to Hawaii to try to get over his ex...only to run into her and her new boyfriend. This movie is not only hysterically funny, but it's also refreshing to see a man in the role that would typically go to a chick.


1. "Losing My Mind" by Liza Minelli and the Pet Shop Boys: The day after I downloaded this, my iPod disappeared. In its place, I found a note that said "Later, I'm off to Pride!"

2. "Living on Video" by Trans-X

3. "Shy Guy" by Diana King

4. "Ain't No Other Man" by Christina Aguilera

5. "Candyman" by Christina Aguilera


Okay, I'm pretty late to the "Flight of the Conchords" bandwagon, and I've only seen the first episode because I fell asleep during the second one. (Not their fault; I'd gotten up early and spent all day outside in the sun.) But man, I gotta watch the rest, because I LOVE these videos.

The Onion recently had an interview with the Kids in the Hall, which inspired me to check YouTube for one of my favorite KITH skits: "The Dr. Seuss Bible". Not for the easily offended!