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.