Tuesday, September 30, 2008

media update: September

Only two movies this month! I think that's a record. G and I were too busy watching Dexter, Flight of the Conchords, GetBackers, Anthony Bourdain, and football.

...or, to be precise, G was watching football; I was alternating between napping and reading magazines.

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


1. The Death List by Paul Johnston: When I saw the blurb from John Connolly on the front cover, I knew I had to pick this up...but sadly, my charming Irishman led me astray. This book about a serial killer playing cat and mouse with a crime novelist has its moments, but overall it was rather disappointing.

2. Year of Wonders* by Geraldine Brooks: In 1666, the plague spreads through a small English town, and the local minister persuades the townspeople to voluntarily quarantine themselves in hopes of keeping the disease from reaching other towns. But as things get worse and worse, the townsfolk begin reacting in strange and often violent ways. Vividly written (occasionally too much so; a description of a plague sore bursting almost made me gag) and utterly engrossing.

3. Code: Veronica by S.D. Perry: Yes, this is a novelization of the Resident Evil game. No, I don't care that you're laughing at me right now.

4. Real World by Natsuo Kirino: After killing his mother with a baseball bat, a teenage boy goes on the lam; intrigued by his crime, a group of girls decides to help him. Not as good as I hoped it would be, since I really liked her other two books.

5. Out Backward* by Ross Raisin: I picked this up on impulse, and I'm so glad I did. It's a British novel about Sam, a teenage boy who starts working on his family's farm after he runs into trouble at school. A pretty teenage girl moves into the area, and they become friends, but things eventually take a disturbing turn. It's a short (just over 200 pages) and utterly compelling book, but it took me quite a while to read because of the dialect. No matter; I didn't want it to end for more reasons than one. Sam reminded me of Jacob Cullen, the protagonist of As Meat Loves Salt (not that I loved this book as much as that one; hell, I don't love my grandmother as much as I love AMLS), because he wants so desperately to love and be loved, but he doesn't know how to go about it. A small masterpiece.

6. The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen: The discovery of a mummy in a museum's basement is cause for celebration...until tests prove that the mummy isn't so ancient after all, and a twisted serial killer is on the loose. A tepid thriller from an author who's capable of much better.


1. Waiter Rant* by The Waiter: The author, who remains anonymous for obvious reasons, has worked for several years at a New York City restaurant. In this book, he dishes on everything from bad tippers to the subtle ways waiters can mess with you if you piss them off. Not all of them involve the obvious (i.e. spitting in your food), either; my favorite (and the method I would personally use if I were ever waiting tables) is "crop dusting", or ripping a silent-but-violent fart next to an obnoxious patron and quickly walking away.

2. Dandy in the Underworld* by Sebastian Horsley: Inside the back cover, there's a picture of the author winking and the words "There comes a time in every person's life when they realise they adore me. Yours has come." Well, it certainly has, because this alternately glamorous, gross, and gritty memoir about the author's experiences with art, drugs, crucifixion (yes, really), and prostitution is alarmingly obscene and screamingly funny. One of my favorite parts: in the acknowledgements section, he writes "I suppose I ought to thank you, the reader. But I don't suppose it matters that much. I only write to get my knob sucked, and the kind of girls I am attracted to are illiterate." I could share some of my other favorite bits, but I'd basically be retyping half of the book, and I just don't have the time. Christ, even the reviews in the front (and he includes the bad ones, too, under the heading "Conscientious Objections") are funny! He can get awfully misogynistic at times (example: "The smartest thing to ever come out of a woman's mouth is my cock"), but to paraphrase Paul Rodriguez, the only jokes I find offensive are the ones that aren't funny.

3. Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes* by Christopher D. Salyers: Kind of sounds like a porno, huh? But no, as the subtitle says, this slim volume is a tribute to the art of Japanese bento, or box lunches. Whereas most American kids make do with Lunchables or a PBJ unceremoniously stuffed into a plastic bag, Japanese kids get lunches designed to look like anime and video game characters.

Side note: if you're curious, you can see some examples on the author's blog here.


1. Love Com vols. 1-3 by Aya Nakahara

2. After School Nightmare vol. 8 by Setona Mizushiro


1. The Forbidden Kingdom: Jackie Chan AND Jet Li! How could it possibly go wrong? Well, you start with a stupid script, then you throw in an annoying white boy who's magically transported to ancient China, and THEN, as G put it, you throw in more wire work than a piano factory. There was one decent fight sequence and some very pretty scenery, but overall this was a painful experience.

You know what part of the problem is? Tony Jaa has pretty much ruined us for life. Once you see him in action, with no wires and no special effects, you can't watch a Hollywood martial arts flick without noticing all the rapid cuts and "flying" bullshit. Dude is fucking amazing. Spare yourself the agony and rent The Protector or Ong Bak instead. Granted, their scripts are lame too, but you'll be far too dazzled to notice.

2. Choke*: In this adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel, Sam Rockwell plays a sex addict who pretends to choke in restaurants and then hits up his rescuers for money. Meanwhile, his mother is dying of dementia in a nursing home, and he tries to find out about his father before it's too late. Raunchy, very blackly funny, and surprisingly touching. Sam Rockwell (who I've had a thing for ever since Box of Moonlight, one of my favorite movies) is terrific, too.


Lisa Bonet ate no basil.

Friday, September 26, 2008

balls, i has em

In my department, we have two women scheduled to go on maternity leave at the same time. They work in a specialized area that involves lots of complicated paperwork and facts and numbers and dicking around with the DMV; in short, just about the worst job I could imagine that doesn’t involve nudity or a hairnet.

So of course my boss asked me to sit over there for two hours and see what I thought about filling in until they returned.

Well, the short answer was “um, no thanks”. But I couldn’t just come right out and say it, so I dutifully went over there and sat there for two hours watching someone with the personality of cold oatmeal go over things that were so boring and confusing that I didn’t know whether to yawn or burst into tears. Don’t get me wrong; my current job isn’t exactly a thrill a minute. But THIS job made MY job look like getting paid to read magazines or play with British shorthair kittens all day. (Seriously, I still fantasize about Winston, the British shorthair kitten I got to play with last year. And I don’t mean “fantasize about” in an unnatural way; no, I daydream about dangling strings in front of him and him sleeping on my lap while I run my fingers over his plush fur. Shut up! You don’t understand! He was like a teddy bear that purred!) Not only that, I would have to change desks. My current cube is one of the best in the building (back to the window so that nobody can sneak up on me, conveniently located to the break room and the bathroom), and I sit next to J, the one coworker I actually like.

Anyway, a couple of days later, M sent me an e-mail that said, “So what did you think? We really need your help!”

Augh. I was in a quandary. Should I suck it up and work over there for however long it took one of the pregnant chicks to return, despite the fact that I would be utterly miserable and pray for an aneurysm every morning so I wouldn’t have to go back to that Lunesta fiesta? Or should I sack up and tell her the truth?

I opted for the latter. I wrote back and said that I didn’t think I would be a good fit in that department, but that if my transfer was not optional, I would of course perform the job to the best of my ability until one of the women returned.


Granted, this could come back on me at some point, and my boss has been rather chilly to me ever since, but it was worth it.

I went over to G’s on Monday night so we could watch the (disappointing) season premiere of Heroes, and about halfway through, I began sneezing up a storm.

“Ack, baby, you okay?” he asked.

“It’s just allergies,” I said, reaching into my purse for generic Sudafed.

Well, the next morning, things were worse, and it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t an allergy attack. I spent a miserable day at work hacking, wheezing, sneezing, snorting, and snuffling. I almost went home after lunch, but forced myself to stay.

Later that night, I was watching Dancing with the Stars. Lance Bass and his creepy Ashlee Simpsonesque partner were doing the quickstep to a horrific version of “Close to Me” by the Cure. I managed to last till the end of their routine, and then, after a giant slug of cough syrup, I went to bed.

At 9:45PM.

Handy hint: here’s how to tell if I’m truly sick or just faking it. If I have no appetite, or go to bed earlier than 11PM, there is something wrong with me.

Needless to say, I didn’t go to work the next day. Aside from a quick trip to pick up my surefire cold killers (Greek lemon chicken soup and an Orange Dream Machine smoothie from Jamba Juice), I spent all afternoon crashed out on Big Brown, alternating between naps and Law & Order SVU reruns.

I came back to work the next day to find half of my coworkers out with the same crud that had felled me. Great, I’m the Outbreak monkey.

Okay, enough about work and illness. I have two exciting things coming up in the next couple of weeks.

First off, as you all know, I am an absolutely rabid Silent Hill fan, and every game holds a rusty, bloodstained place in my heart. That's why I have September 30th, the official release date of Silent Hill: Homecoming, circled on my calendar. At first I was worried about the fact that Konami farmed the development out to an American company, but they did the same thing with Silent Hill Origins, and I really enjoyed that one. I'm trying to keep my expectations low so I won't be disappointed, but I have to be honest: when I have that game in my hot little hands, I'm going to be so overcome with joy that I may just wind up rubbing it all over my toilet parts.

Secondly, G and I are going to Washington DC next month. It's the first trip I've taken this year, and work has been so shitty that I'm absolutely dying for a break. We're going to spend time with our friends G2 and R, as well as G's parents, who will also be in town. R, who knows what a killer sweet tooth I have, sent me the link to a restaurant she wants to take us to. I only needed to take one glance at the menu to send her an enthusiastic "Yes plz!" They offer dessert tasting courses, each with a theme. Check these out:

CHOCOLATE MAYA: Chocolate jelebi, badaam milk foam, white chocolate ras malai, carrot halwa, and milk and dark chocolate kulfi bon bons

CIOCCO: Vanilla panna cotta, chocolate praline soup, three flavors of tiramisu (fraise de bois, classic, and chocolate), Tuscan ricotta petit fours, and chocolate dipped ameretti

XOCOLATYL: Churros with cinnamon cream and dulce de leche dip, hot chocolate souffle with a fiery chocolate center, Kahlua soother, chocolate infused horchata, and a Mexican wedding cookie

CHILDHOOD FAVORITES: Mini Boston cream doughnut, cappuccino panna cotta, PB&Bananas Foster split, mini cupcake, malted shooter, mint chocolate chip cone, and a strawberry cheesecake lolly with Pop Rocks

Dear reader, I sprayed 'em.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday night and the lights are low

I stole this meme because I don’t want to work right now. (Or, um, ever.)

Ten Things I Wish I Could Say To Ten Different People Right Now

1. No, I don’t want to.
2. Nobody gives a shit.
3. You don’t just make my day; you make my life.
4. I hate you.
5. Could you please put your cell phone on vibrate? I’m really fucking sick of hearing “Who Can It Be Now?” chiming from your cube every two minutes.
6. You’re nowhere near as interesting as you think you are.
7. I’m going to miss you.
8. I forgive you.
9. I know what you said about me.
10. Take this job and shove it.

Nine Things About Myself

1. I have three video game systems: a Dreamcast, a Playstation 2, and a Nintendo DS.
2. I didn’t try pizza until I was 18 years old. Believe me, I’ve made up for lost time since then.
3. Magazines are my crack. I subscribe to Star, Us, People, Shojo Beat, Allure, Glamour, Self, New York, and TV Guide. This list doesn’t even include the ones that G subscribes to on my behalf (he had frequent flier miles that were going to expire), or the ones I’ll be getting from work as a Christmas gift.
4. I have only been in one physical fight in my life. I was three years old and some kid tried to take my sand pail, so I pushed her down, straddled her, and beat her on the head with it. Don’t be messin’ with my sand pail, bitch!
5. When I was six years old, I had a dance recital solo to “Dancing Queen”. There’s a framed picture of me in Daddy-O’s living room, wearing an aqua silk leotard trimmed with fringe and matching elbow-length gloves. My love for ABBA runs mad deep.
6. I have fillings in just about every tooth. Considering that one of my favorite snacks as a kid was Fun Dip mixed into a can of Coke, I guess I’m lucky to have ANY teeth.
7. If you are ever on “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?”, and you want me to be your lifeline, here are the topics you can call me on and reasonably expect a correct answer: literature, movies, video games, perfume, Japanese pop culture, celebrity gossip. Call me about politics, math, science, sports, or computers, and you’re on your own.
8. Clothing size: 12. Shoe size: 8. Ring size: 6. Bra size: 38C.
9. I am unfortunately related to Tom Metzger, the racist piece of shit who started the riot on Geraldo. He has been estranged from our family, by mutual agreement, since before I was even born.

Eight Ways To Win My Heart

1. Make me laugh so hard I almost wet my pants.
2. Be a kitten, a monkey, or a three-toed sloth.
3. Be filled with all sorts of strange and fascinating facts.
4. Buy me candy, perfume, or magazines.
5. Be kind.
6. Be dirty.
7. Be quirky.
8. Be G.

Seven Things That Cross My Mind A Lot

1. Should I stay in this job, which is boring but pays my bills, or try to find something better?
2. God, I have to pee AGAIN?
3. I like shiny things.
4. What the hell was the name of that book/movie I wanted to read/watch?
5. I have to remember to buy ________ at the store.
6. Goddammit, I forgot to buy ________ at the store!
7. Is it 6PM/Friday/bedtime yet?

Six Things I Do Before I Fall Asleep

1. Shut down my laptop.
2. Brush my teeth.
3. Put night cream on, because I am an old lady now.
4. Obsessively check and recheck the alarm.
5. Pee.
6. Read for at least a half-hour, unless I’m too tired to keep my eyes open.

Five People Who Mean A Lot To Me

1. G.
2. Daddy-O.
3. My brother.
4. Kelly.
5. Spock.

Four Things I’m Wearing Right Now

1. A blue t-shirt with six Japanese lucky cats on the front.
2. Jeans.
3. Black sneakers.
4. Harajuku Lovers Lil’ Angel perfume. It’s like Gwen Stefani designed this line just for me! Anime-inspired bottles? Perfumes with notes like lollipop accord and coconut cream? Yes please! Feeling a bit skint, I opted for the solid coffret (all five scents in compact form for $60) instead of buying each bottle separately for $25 each. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until I’d already spread a fingerful on my wrists that the solids have glitter in them---it wasn’t obvious in the packaging---and now it’s spread all up and down my arms. I look like I’ve been fisting the Tin Man.

Three Songs That I Listen To Often

1. “Shangri-La” by chatmonchy: A sublime piece of J-pop.
2. “Fly Routine” by Hostile Groove: I like to listen to this on my iPod and relive the supermarket fight scene from Dead Rising.
3. “Give Me Back My Man” by The B-52’s: I’ll give you fish, I’ll give you candy.

Two Things I Want to Do Before I Die

1. Go to Graceland.
2. Get a job where I don’t wake up every day and pray for a meteor to come crashing through my roof so I don’t have to go to work.

One Confession

I secretly read Batman/Joker and Henry/Walter (from Silent Hill 4) slash fiction. I can’t help it; I’m a sucker for a good gay grudgefuck, I guess.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

more Dilbertian bullshit

Bad way to start a Monday: A meeting.

Even worse way to start a Monday: Going to the meeting and finding out that they’re discontinuing the alternative work arrangement.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s take a trip in the Wayback Machine!

Several years ago, the Cube Farm decided to offer an alternative work arrangement: every other week, you could get an extra day off, and work 10-hour shifts the rest of the week. Not everyone wanted this, and they didn’t have to take it. I, of course, jumped at the opportunity. Every other Monday OFF? Um, yes, please!

And lo, didst I frolic. I went to the mall when practically no one else was there! I logged marathon reading sessions on Big Brown! I got errands done! I napped! I went to matinees and joyously slung my legs over the empty seat in front of me! I mean, sure, those 10-hour days were painful, but it was well worth it to me.

But apparently the Cube Farm didn’t realize that California has a little law about alternative work arrangements: if one person takes it, everybody has to take it…and on the same day, no less. Somehow this little detail slipped through the cracks, until some astute person (WHO I HATE) noticed it and brought it to the bigwigs’ attention.

To add to the fun, they’re also tweaking our schedules. The managers for our department listed all the shifts that need to be covered, and told us to figure it out among ourselves. Bitches be wiggin’, because practically everyone wants the 8AM-4:30PM shift. Fortunately, nobody wants the 9:30AM-6PM shift except me, so odds are good that I’ll get it. I like going to bed at 1AM and getting up at 8:30. I’m a night owl. If they try to put me in the 7AM-3:30PM shift, well…let’s just say I’ll be spending a lot of time on Monster, and hopefully my new place of employment won’t consider this piece of crapitude to be fine art:

This “inspirational” poster hangs a mere twenty feet from my cube. I apologize for the shitty photo quality, but in case you can’t tell what it is, it’s an (inexplicably) wet ladybug perched on top of what is either a yellow crayon or a tightly furled flower or the tip of Big Bird’s dick, I dunno. Underneath, it says “PURPOSE: You’ll never know what you can achieve until you try.”

Hey, you know what I can achieve? Give me a hundred bucks and I’ll go to World Market and pick out a picture that doesn’t make me want to THROW IT THROUGH THE FUCKING WINDOW. Okay? How’s that for inspiration, pal? Are you inspired? Huh? How about now?

Jesus, I’m cranky. I need a Vosges Gianduja bar and a nap, stat!

I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but earlier this summer, during a book drought, I began watching reruns of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It’s not fantastic or anything, but I enjoy it, and I really like Christopher Meloni, who plays Elliot Stabler, and Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson.

Perhaps I like her a bit too much.

The other night, I was sprawled out on Big Brown, watching as Stabler and Benson tried to coax information out of a young girl who didn’t want to talk about her molestation. Stabler, sensing she might be more forthcoming if a man wasn’t around, wisely walked away. The girl burst into tears, and Benson enveloped her in a hug.

And I was jealous!

No, not because this poor kid had been the victim of a diaper sniper, of course; I was jealous that she got to put her face in Benson’s bosom.

Her pillowy, pillowy bosom.

Don’t get me wrong; Mariska Hargitay is not a turnable, even though I think she’s insanely gorgeous. But goddamn if I don’t want her to cradle me against that glorious chest. I bet it smells like rainbows and cotton candy.

Mariska, I need a hug. Please call me.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

media update: August

This media update is a bit image heavy, and a couple of the images contain naughty words, so view with care. And, as always, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. I Want Candy by Kim Wong Keltner: In the early 80's, a Chinese-American teenager, sick of working at her family's restaurant, tries to find excitement any way she can. This was an impulse buy at Target, but as soon as I opened it, I realized that I'd read a previous book by the author and hated it. This one is considerably better (and raunchier), but still not very good. I'll be sure to check the "Also By..." page before buying books in the future.

2. Fractured* by Karin Slaughter: When a woman comes home, she finds a man with a knife standing over her teenage daughter's bloody body. Crazed by grief and adrenaline, she strangles him to death with her bare hands. There's more to the story, but I don't want to spoil it because it's a doozy and a half. Karin Slaughter is required reading for anyone who loves tightly crafted mysteries.

3. The Condition by Jennifer Haigh: In 1976, after their daughter is diagnosed with Turner's syndrome (a genetic condition that stunts growth and prevents the onset of puberty), a couple's marriage falls apart. Twenty years later, each member of the family is dealing with a "condition" of his or her own. This book definitely gets better as it goes along, and although I didn't like it enough to give it a star, I thought it wrapped up beautifully.

4. Whacked by Jules Asner: When the protagonist discovers that her boyfriend's been cheating on her, she goes nuttier than a squirrel turd. Not phenomenal or anything, but certainly much more enjoyable than most chick lit, and a fun way to kill a couple of hours.

5. A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian: An Indian man is tricked into an arranged marriage by his family, and when he returns to America with his new wife, they both have a lot of adjusting to do. An interesting look at culture shock.

6. Ritual* by Mo Hayder: The release of a new Mo Hayder book always sends me into paroxysms of glee, since she wrote The Devil of Nanking, which is one of my ten favorite novels of all time. This one is about a police diver who finds an amputated hand, and the ensuing investigation leads her into a horrifying underworld of black magic. Without exception, I can recommend all of Mo Hayder's books, but be warned that her stuff is REALLY unnerving and dark.

7. Don't You Forget About Me* by Jancee Dunn: Devastated when her husband unexpectedly asks for a divorce, Lillian moves back home to the suburbs of New Jersey. While there, she decides to attend her 20th high school reunion in hopes of hooking up with her old flame. If you were a teenage girl in the 80's, like I was, you'll eat this book up. Every two pages, the author would mention something like wearing 2 Swatches on one wrist (which I used to do) or "come gum" (which I used to chew), and I'd chortle in recognition. To use the parlance of the day, this book is totally tubular.


1. Pandering by Heidi Fleiss: What an odd book. It's part memoir, part scrapbook, wholly weird. I hadn't even gotten ten pages into it before I came across (er, no pun intended) a graphic photo of anal sex. There's also a horrifying anecdote about Madam Alex (a fellow madam who accused Heidi of stealing her best workers and clients) getting bitten on the labia by a spider as she slept. Hi, worst nightmare! I'm going to start wearing chain mail to bed.

2. Well Enough Alone* by Jennifer Traig: An alternately funny and gross look at the author's hypochondria, as well as some real diseases I really wish I hadn't done further research on, like Morgellon's disease. (Disclaimer: I'm not responsible for the crawling sensations you will feel if you Google that.)

3. Life with My Sister Madonna by Christopher Ciccone: Allegedly, Madonna freaked out when she found out this book was being written, but she had nothing to worry about; there's nothing new and scandalous in here. She does come across as one stellar bitch, though.


1. Promethea* vols. 1-5 by Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, and Mick Gray

2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

3. Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa and Sai Kawashima


1. The Dark Knight*: I'd been waiting for this movie for what seemed like forever, and once the rave reviews started pouring in, I was even more excited. I didn't want to get my hopes up too much, though, for fear that I'd be disappointed. Well, you know what? I was not only NOT disappointed, but I was fucking ENRAPTURED. It's probably the darkest popcorn flick of all time, and Heath Ledger is absolutely chilling as the Joker. I loved this movie so much I wanted to take it behind a middle school and get it pregnant.

And I don't know who made these, but I had to include them here because they made me laugh for about ten minutes straight.

2. Monkey Shines*: Ordinarily I don't put things in my media update if I've read/seen them before, but I HAD to make an exception for this underappreciated gem in hopes that it might encourage some of my fellow cheese fans to seek it out. Made in the late 80's, it's a George Romero film about a paralyzed man who gets a helper monkey named Ella. What he doesn't know is that Ella was experimented on (injected with human brain cells, develops telepathy, blah blah blah) before she came to him, and she's capable of great love...and great anger. When people start pissing her master off, Ella literally goes apeshit. Don't get me wrong; this is a REALLY stupid movie. The acting is terrible; the nurse in particular chews the scenery with such enthusiasm you'd think it was made of nougat. To paraphrase Butthead, the special effects aren't very special, and there are tons of unintentionally funny scenes. But there's a cute (well, until she goes insane) capuchin monkey in it, you get to see Janine Turner, Stanley Tucci (who probably tried to bribe IMDB into erasing this credit off his page), and Stephen Root (aka Milton from Office Space) in early roles, and it has a jump scare that made me hit the ceiling even though I knew it was coming. Oh, and did I mention the cunnilingus scene? (And no, sickies, the monkey is NOT involved.) I loved this movie back when I saw it on HBO twentysome years ago; time has not dulled its gloriously trashy sheen. A must-see for people of a certain mindset, and you know exactly who you are.

3. 27 Dresses: Katherine Heigl plays a woman who, when she's not serving as a bridesmaid in yet another wedding, pines after her hunky boss. Then her sister and a cynical journalist start making her life really complicated. It's fairly predictable and cheesy, but it's elevated above standard chick flick fare by a few really good laughs, an awesome montage of eye-bleedingly bad bridesmaid dresses, and veteran scene stealer Judy Greer.

4. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantamano Bay: So very dumb, yet so very funny. I think some sort of chemical enhancement might have made this even funnier, but I have no ganja connections, and I couldn't drink when I saw it because I was taking a shitload of allergy meds at the time. I still thought it was pretty uproarious, especially the scenes with Neil Patrick Harris, who's a freakin' hoot.

NPH side note: He and his real-life boyfriend are quite possibly the cutest couple in the world, like kittens-in-a-basket cute. I mean, just LOOK at them:

Okay, so Harold and Kumar in the background are kind of distracting, especially since their expressions make them look like they're going "OMG GAYZ", but still! Squee!

5. Flashpoint: Man, I thought this Hong Kong action flick was going to be really exciting, but aside from a couple of good fights, it was actually pretty boring. Sulk.

6. The Bank Job*: When incriminating photos of Princess Margaret are hidden in a safe deposit box, a group of criminals is dispatched to steal them back. Based on the true story of London's most famous bank robbery, this is an exceptionally clever and well-written movie. Jason Statham turns in a good performance, too.


1. "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" by Eric Carmen: Don't. Even. Start. With. Me.


I love cake; cake is my friend. But the monstrosities at Cake Wrecks are not my friends.

They are, however, gutbustingly funny.


As a general rule, I'm not big on RPGs. Sure, I admire their contribution to the gaming world, and most of them have stunning graphics, but all that spell casting and funky combat leaves me cold. I'll take a survival horror or puzzle game any day of the week. But there are always exceptions to every rule, and last year, Odin Sphere took my RPG cherry. It focused more on action, but I secretly liked mixing potions and healing items. I enjoyed Odin Sphere immensely, but I knew it would take a really unique RPG to grab my attention again.

I'd say that playing as Frederic Chopin counts.

Eternal Sonata opens with Chopin on his deathbed, dreaming of a world where people with terminal illnesses are able to do magic. In this world, he meets many unusual characters (all named after musical terms) who are traveling on a mission. Strict taxation is forcing many people into poverty, and the group plans to petition for help.

This is the most gorgeous video game I've ever played, bar none. See the cover art? The whole freakin' game looks like that. It's like playing a Miyazaki film! When we weren't in the middle of a fight, G and I would frequently stop just to look at the amazing backgrounds.

Oh, yeah, that's another plus for this game: two player co-op mode. There aren't many games that G and I can actually play together, because most co-op games (like Gears of War) give me motion sickness. Instead, with games like Resident Evil 4, one of us plays until death or a save point, and then we pass the controller to the other person. But Eternal Sonata allowed us to play alongside each other, which was a lot of fun and particularly advantageous for me, since he's an RPG expert and I'm the proverbial n00b. (Although at one point, I said, "Well, I like Allegretto but I'm switching to Jazz because his sword is just too powerful to pass up." G started laughing, and I thought it was because what I'd said sounded more than a little sexual, but then he said, "That is the nerdiest thing I've ever heard you say!" After four years together, I seriously doubt that.)

Other great things about Eternal Sonata: the soundtrack, as you would expect, is beautiful. Most of the character voices were very good, especially Chopin. The costumes are stunning. The inventory screens were very intuitive and easy to figure out, even though we rented the game and didn't have an instruction manual to help us. And, of course, you can't beat playing as Chopin (though you play as other characters, too) during a deathbed fever dream for originality.

On the negative side, the dialogue during fights can get REALLY repetitive, and in the more clogged areas, it gets boring having to fight the same creatures over and over. Strangely enough, there's no mapping system. Usually this wasn't a problem, but there were two very confusing levels that were a right pisser to get through without a freakin' map. And the ending was pretty disappointing.

So was Eternal Sonata good enough to make me leap upon G's stack of Final Fantasy games? As much as I enjoyed it, no. And if you're already an RPG expert, this may be a bit too easy and/or short (about 30 hours of gameplay) for you. But for RPG amateurs who want a challenging but not teeth-grindingly difficult introduction to the genre, this is a great starting point.