Thursday, July 31, 2008

media update: July

Long time, no write! Things have been pretty uneventful, which of course is not always a bad thing. I turned 37 on July 18th, and I had a lovely birthday. We had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, and I started off with a Milky Way martini. I got such a fabulous buzz that I asked G, "Why did I stop drinking again?" I got my answer about two seconds later when I knocked over my water glass while greedily pawing at the bread basket. Aside from that, it was a great evening, and I received many fabulous presents from friends and family alike.

Oh! And last weekend we went to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, where I was thrilled to see the man with the monkey again. The monkey was wearing an Oakland Raiders smock and a little black cowboy hat, and I keened in delight when he shook my finger with his tiny monkey hand. WANT.

You may be shocked to see Mamma Mia! missing from my movies list. Don't get me wrong, I couldn't love ABBA more if I were a gay Swede, but that movie looks horrible. I saw a clip online and decided I would rather eat a bag of hair than sit through it.

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


1. More Than It Hurts You* by Darin Strauss: A doctor suspects a woman of deliberately harming her baby, which opens up a big ol' can of worms. I thought the racism angle (the doctor is black, the family is white) was a bit strained, but overall this is a riveting read.

2. What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn: Kate, a young girl who dreams of being a detective, goes missing; twenty years later, two mall workers (one of whom is the sister of the prime suspect in the girl's disappearance) become obsessed when they glimpse a figure on security cameras that looks like Kate. The first part of the book, in which we are introduced to Kate and her passion for sleuthing, is fantastic, but it lost a lot of my interest when the focus shifted to the present day.

3. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka: When an elderly man falls in love with a much younger gold digger, his daughters scheme to break up the marriage. This has its moments, but based on the reviews on the back of the book, I was expecting a nonstop laugh riot. Um, no.

4. Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon: A woman witnesses a little girl being kidnapped by someone in a bunny outfit, and feeling guilty that she hadn't done anything to stop it, she joins in the search. Is 2008 the official Missing Child Media year or something? This is the ninth book I've read this year about a missing kid! Anyway, the premise is intriguing; the execution, not so much.

5. The Summer of Naked Swim Parties* by Jessica Anya Blau: An alternately heartbreaking and hilarious chronicle of a teenage girl growing up in the late 70's with her hippie parents and resentful older sister.

6. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: This novel is narrated by Enzo, a dog, as he watches his master's life go through some drastic changes. It's melodramatic as hell, and things wrap up a bit too neatly, but goddamn if I didn't tear up at the end.

7. Ai no Kusabi: Nightmare by Reiko Yoshihara: The continuing adventures of our unambiguously gay duo, Riki and Iason.


1. Perfumes: The Guide* by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez: This book contains several essays on perfume and over 1500 reviews ranging from the sublime to the deliciously bitchy. (Examples: one fragrance is "okay for virginal types who keep lace-trimmed diaries"; about cK IN2U Her, they write "IM IN UR BOTTLE BORIN UR GF".) Porn for perfume addicts.

2. Perishable by Dirk Jamison: A memoir about the author's life growing up with a dumpster diving father, obese mother, and physically abusive sister. Random horrifying line: "Mother's reproductive area [resembled] an uncooked calzone with wildly long hair plugs." In addition to that charming image, there are some incredibly upsetting descriptions of animal cruelty, so no recommendation from this corner.

3. Yakuza Moon by Shoko Tendo: A memoir about growing up as the daughter of a yakuza boss, and how the author eventually fell into drug addiction and abusive relationships.

4. Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler: A collection of mildly humorous essays. My favorite, even though it was somewhat racist, was the one where she tries to get a legitimate massage at an obvious whack shack.

Side note: I don't live in a bad neighborhood, but recently a rub 'n' tug place opened up down the street. I suppose it could be a legitimate massage place, but considering that it's open until midnight, I kind of doubt it. An interesting change of pace from all the head shops in a three-block radius, and god knows I'd rather have head shops and whack shacks in my 'hood than liquor stores and gun shops. I have little to fear from a stoner basking in the afterglow of orgasms and THC coursing through his system; a drunk dude with a rifle is a different story.


1. Cantarella* vols. 4-10 by You Higuri
2. Maison Ikkoku vols. 1-2 by Rumiko Takahashi
3. Miki Falls vols. 1-4 by Mark Crilley
4. Level C* vol. 5 by Aoi Futaba and Kurenai Mitsuba: I'm reading this series out of order, but since it's basically just porn, it doesn't matter.
5. Presents* vols. 2-3 by Kanako Inuki
6. C.S.I.: Serial by Max Allan Collins. Gabriel Rodriguez, and Ashley Wood: This has the absolute WORST art I've ever seen in a commercially published graphic novel. The storyline wasn't bad, but the art was so hideous that it was distracting. The only characters who were even remotely recognizable were Sara and Brass; Grissom looks like my 8th grade algebra teacher, and Warrick looks like a goddamn Monchichi.


1. Kung Fu Panda*: In ancient China, a goofy panda is chosen as the "Dragon Warrior", and he must get his act together in order to fight a particularly nasty foe. The trailers for this were really misleading; they made it seem like this movie was all slapstick and mildly crude jokes, but it's actually really funny and beautifully animated.

2. In Bruges*: After a job goes horribly wrong, two hitmen are sent to Bruges by their boss while things calm down. There are some great lines in this, and the acting is superb; I must grudgingly admit that even Colin Farrell (who I normally dislike, although my white-hot hatred for him has cooled down considerably over the years) was good.

3. Sweeney Todd: A musical about a barber who wants to get revenge on the man who stole his wife and daughter. Despite the excellent cast, which includes my perennial crush objects Johnny Depp (who looks terrible) and Alan Rickman (who plays a really bad guy), it didn't really grab me, and with one exception, I thought the songs were kind of crappy. Yes, I know; I'll turn in my honorary gay card.

4. The Ruins: A group of tourists in Mexico head off to visit some ancient ruins, and very, very, very bad things happen. I wasn't sure whether to give this a star or not. On the one hand, it was very faithful to the book (with a few small changes, most of which were for the better); on the other, it's depressing and EXTREMELY gory, to the point where we had to look away a couple of times. In the end, I decided against a star, but if you have a very strong stomach and/or you loved the book (which we did), you should definitely check it out. The deleted scenes are worth a watch, too.

5. WALL-E: The title character is a robot who has been given the task of cleaning up Earth, which has been deserted for hundreds of years. When another robot arrives in hopes of finding life, he falls in love with her. Like all Pixar films, this is unbelievably gorgeous, but I thought it became considerably less interesting after the first half-hour or so.

Cranky old lady side note: It bugs the living SHIT out of me when people are texting on their cell phones during movies. Okay, so it's quiet, but the light is distracting as hell. Goddamn whippersnappers, stay home with your goddamn newfangled gypsy devices. Stay off my lawn, too!

6. Batman: Gothic Knight*: Batman goes anime in this collection of six short films. Absolutely stunning animation from some of Japan's biggest studios, and a couple of the stories are really good. It got me even more psyched to see The Dark Knight, which is definitely on my viewing agenda for the near future. (Superhero flick + Heath Ledger's final performance + Christian Bale in tight black costume = my shapely rump in the theater.)

7. Robin B Hood: Jackie Chan plays a burglar who gets tangled up in a kidnapping, and he finds himself becoming attached to the baby. To be sure, some of it is really stupid (starting with the title) and/or corny, but there are plenty of excellent action sequences and some genuinely funny scenes to make up for it.


One of my birthday presents was a very generous iTunes giftcard, so this month's listing is much longer than usual.

1. "X French T-Shirt" by Shudder to Think
2. "Chakka" by Shudder to Think
3. "Gang of $" by Shudder to Think
4. "Jane Fonda" by Mickey Avalon
5. "Miss World" by Hole
6. "Perfect Circle" by REM
7. "Fall on Me" by REM
8. "You Are the Everything" by REM
9. "Try Not to Breathe" by REM
10. "The Hand That Feeds" by Nine Inch Nails: I'm sure I've told this anecdote before, but it's one of my favorites. Around the time that The Downward Spiral was released, my mom was suffering from really bad insomnia. In order to keep from waking up my dad with her tossing and turning, she'd come out to the living room, where I was usually sprawled out on the couch reading or watching TV. One night, I had MTV on and the video for "Closer" came on. I loved it, but I wasn't sure how my mom would react to its Joel-Peter Witkin inspired scenes. But as Trent Reznor writhed in bondage onscreen, my mom turned to me and said, "Is it wrong that I think this is really hot?"
11. "Sweet Jane" by Cowboy Junkies: If Ass Taco did nothing else for me---and really, he didn't---at least he introduced me to the Cowboy Junkies.
12. "Bathwater" by No Doubt
13. "Bleed It Out" by Linkin Park
14. "Flowers on the Wall" by The Statler Brothers: If you were to ask me why I downloaded an old country song, I'd tell you because it was featured in Pulp Fiction, 'cause I'm pretentious. But really, it was because of this video:

15. "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield
16. "Wishin' and Hopin'" by Dusty Springfield
17. "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads
18. "Only You" by Yaz
19. "Don't Go" by Yaz
20. "Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior
21. "Take the Long Way Home" by Supertramp
22. "The Logical Song" by Supertramp
23. "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp
24. "She's So Cold" by The Rolling Stones
25. "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart" by Julee Cruise
26. "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel
27. "Superman" by REM
28. "Losing My Religion" by REM
29. "Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6
30. "Running Away" by Hoobastank
31. "Love Is the Law" by The Suburbs
32. "Without Me" by Eminem
33. "Paralyzer" by Fingers Eleven
34. "Where Eagles Dare" by The Misfits
35. "Devil's Whorehouse" by The Misfits
36. "French Kiss" by Yakooza
37. "Walking in L.A." by Missing Persons
38. "Zero" by Smashing Pumpkins
39. "Buttons" by The Pussycat Dolls
40. "Boom" by Flight of the Conchords
41. "Crimson and Clover" by Joan Jett
42. "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
43. "If You Should Try and Kiss Her" by Dressy Bessy
44. "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls
45. "Don't Do Me Like That" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
46. "Close to Me" by The Cure
47. "I Only Wanna Be With You" by Dusty Springfield
48. "Could You Be the One?" by Husker Du
49. "Bought and Sold" by Neko Case
50. "Give Me Back My Man" by The B-52's
51. "Summer of Love" by The B-52's
52. "Runaway" by Del Shannon