Monday, June 30, 2008

media update: June

Man, I read a metric fuckton this month! This can be attributed to summer reruns and spending my lunch hours reading instead of walking because it was approximately two thousand degrees outside. Lots of excellent books this time around, too.

It's weird how many of my media updates seem to contain a theme. Occasionally this is on purpose---for example, I went through a phase where I read everything I could find on competitive eating---but usually it's not. This month's unintentional (I swear!) theme is aberrant sexuality. We've got bestiality, vagina dentata, and a woman trying to break the world gangbang record.

It's also strange how many of the titles this month have an animal's name in the title: wolf, pig, swan, moose. Extra credit: zoo!

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


1. The Book of Dahlia* by Elisa Albert: When I saw this at the library, the cover made me think it was a chick lit book. Nothing could be further than the truth...and thank god for that, because it's actually a blackly comic, heartbreaking novel about a 29-year-old slacker whose world of VH1 marathons, pot smoking, and toaster pastry binges is rocked when she's diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. And Dahlia is no saintly sufferer; she's PISSED. A blurb on the back from Publishers Weekly asks, "Should we mourn a wasted life?" I'm still not sure of the answer to this question, but I am sure of one thing: I absolutely fucking LOVED this book. It knocked my socks off, put them back on, and knocked them right back off again.

2. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything* by Janelle Brown: Immediately after her husband's company goes public and makes him a multimillionaire, his wife Janice is horrified when he leaves her for her tennis partner. Meanwhile, her daughters are having troubles of their own: Margaret has racked up a huge credit card debt after her feminist magazine folded, and Lizzie has just discovered that everyone thinks she's the school slut. A sharply observed book about three women who don't want to rely on each other, but soon come to realize that they won't survive otherwise.

3. Bright Shiny Morning* by James Frey: A sweeping novel about the beauty and ugliness of Los Angeles as experienced by some of its residents. At first the formatting and constant run-on sentences irritated me, but I soon got caught up in the story and they didn't bother me as much.

4. Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger: Three friends, fast approaching 30, decide to drastically change their lives. Predictable as hell, but aside from an idiotic (and fortunately minor) subplot about a parrot with self-esteem issues, it's fluffy fun.

5. Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk: I should have known from the title, the cover, and Chuck Palahniuk's track record that this would be an unsettling read. It's about a porn star who's trying to set the world record for the biggest gangbang, and it's the unsexiest book I think I've ever read. If you pick this up hoping for spank material, you will be sorely disappointed. Depressing as hell; I needed a shower and a session at Cute Overload after finishing it.

6. The Garden of Last Days* by Andre Dubus III: When her usual babysitter is hospitalized, April takes her young daughter to the strip club where she works. But while April is entertaining a man with sinister plans, her daughter disappears. This novel is over 500 pages long, but it's so compelling that I finished it and, upon looking at the clock, was astounded at how long I'd been reading.

7. Pigtopia* by Kitty Fitzgerald: Abused by his mother and shunned by the people in his small town, a disfigured man finds solace in the pet pigs he keeps in his cellar. When a teenage girl discovers his secret, she's initially repulsed by him, but soon befriends him and the pigs. I was blown away by this original and engrossing story; it broke my heart.


1. Split* by Suzanne Finnamore: A brutally honest memoir about the author's painful divorce, with one of the best final chapters I've ever read.

2. A Wolf at the Table* by Augusten Burroughs: In his third memoir, the author describes life growing up with an unpredictable, deeply disturbed father. I still have doubts as to the veracity of some of the anecdotes, but this book is so melancholy and beautifully written that I almost don't care if it's completely true.

3. Moose* by Stephanie Klein: An alternately funny and poignant memoir about the author's stay at a fat camp when she was a teenager. I knew I was going to love this book when she referred to this time in her life as the "Thunder Years".

4. When You Are Engulfed in Flames* by David Sedaris: A collection of humorous and occasionally poignant essays. My favorites were "Solutions to Saturday's Puzzle", about an unpleasant encounter on a plane, and "The Smoking Section", in which the author goes to Japan in an effort to quit smoking.

5. While They Slept by Kathryn Harrison: In 1984, a young man murdered his parents and youngest sister, sparing his other sister in the process. The author spoke to both the surviving sister and the perpetrator in order to understand the crime. What I found irritating is that the author kept referring to the incestuous relationship she had as an adult with her father, since it wasn't really relevant to the story at hand. Perhaps she was trying to shill her "Daddy never loved me until I was grown up, and then he loved me too MUCH" memoir The Kiss?


1. Swan vol. 13 by Ariyoshi Kyoko
2. Cantarella* vols. 1-3 by You Higuri


1. Out of Sight*: When a bank robber escapes from jail, he kidnaps a federal marshal; sparks fly. This had some great dialogue, and George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez have terrific chemistry together.

2. Zoo: A disturbing and surprisingly nonexploitative documentary about "zoos", or people who practice bestiality, with an emphasis on the Washington man who died after having sex with a horse. I'm pretty liberal, To quote The Truth About Cats and Dogs, you can love your pets, just don't LOVE your pets.

Side note #1: They wound up gelding the horse that killed that guy. I guess I can understand it if the horse suddenly thought that all people are prime humpin' material, since he could seriously injure someone if he reared up and started grinding away, but it still seemed kind of unfair. Also, before the surgery, they showed a vet washing the horse's penis, and oh my freakin' CHRIST. Someone had that in their ASS? No wonder the guy died! I don't want to sound cold, but dude, what did you expect? "Gee, that horse's cock has to be at least two feet long! I sure would like it in my butthole. What could possibly go wrong?"

Side note #2: When I was about eight years old, I went to the county fair with my family, and we paid a dollar apiece to see the world's largest bull. You cannot imagine the sheer SIZE of this thing; it was like an Airstream trailer covered in hair. It was tethered in the middle of its pen, placidly chewing away at its cud, and suddenly there was a very loud thump. People starting laughing, and to my horror, I saw that it had gotten an erection. The sound we'd heard was its colossal wang hitting the side of the pen. Considering that was probably the first penis I'd ever seen, it's a miracle that I'm not a lesbian.

Side note #3: G would probably like me to mention that I watched this on my own.

3. Teeth*: A teenage girl discovers quite by accident that she has a little something extra down below. This gets a star for camp value, originality, and the excellent performance by Jess Weixler as Dawn, who promotes abstinence in her own special way.

Fair warning: I saw this with three men and one other woman. The women loved it; the men hated it. Regardless of gender, view at your own risk, because this definitely ain't a movie for everyone.

4. Wet Hot American Summer: A spoof of 80's summer camp movies. It's not particularly good, but it has a few mildly amusing scenes.

5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade*: Can you believe I'd never seen this before? Lots of fun, and Sean Connery is great (yeah, big shocker) as Indiana's crusty father.

6. Shrek 3: Lacks a lot of the sparkle of the first two, but it's still visually stunning, and there are a few really funny scenes.

7. The Signal: A mysterious signal takes over radios, telephones, and TVs, turning people into enraged killers. It starts out incredibly tense, veers into black comedy in the middle, and returns to the tension at the end, which makes the movie awfully disjointed (and robs it of a star). Still, the stuff that works REALLY works, so I would give it a qualified recommendation. Gorehounds and postapocalyptic film fans will lap this bloody treat up.

8. Aliens*: This is one of G’s all-time favorite movies, and he was horrified that I’d never seen it, so he bribed me with a Beard Papa’s cream puff if I agreed to watch it. Well, he cashed in on our agreement on Saturday night, and for the first 30 minutes or so, I was thinking, “Um, this is BORING.” I even started to fall asleep, so he stopped the movie and played Grim Grimoire while I took a quick snooze. Fortunately, shortly after we restarted the DVD, it quickly went from bleh to balls-out hardcore action.

9. Diary of the Dead: I was afraid to see this because I’d heard it was a “shaky cam” flick, and after I had to run out of a matinee of Cloverfield to go horf my grilled cheese sandwich into the trash can, I figured this one might make me puke too. Turns out I didn’t vomit after all; I should have been afraid to see it because it sucked. The acting is terrible, and some of the scenes and dialogue are painfully clunky. There are a few really good gory bits and a beautifully eerie scene of zombies submerged in a swimming pool, but overall, this is skippable. I still have to give MAD props to George Romero, because without him, we wouldn’t have Resident Evil, Dead Rising, or Shaun of the Dead. I hope he gets his groove back soon.

10. Wanted*: A meek office worker is recruited by a secret society who wants to train him as an assassin. The plot is stupid as hell---they get their instructions from a LOOM, for chrissakes---but the action is nonstop and innovative. A fun popcorn flick, but Shoot ‘Em Up is better.


1. "The Story" by Brandi Carlile


I'm notorious for being so sappy that you could wring me out and use me as pancake topping, so it's no surprise that this article about Mr. Rogers made me cry. I can't imagine ANYONE reading this and not misting up, though. It made me miss him all over again.