Thursday, February 26, 2009

(slightly early) media update: February

I'm posting this early because G, C, and I are heading to Vegas for a long weekend. G2 is going to be there with his family, so we're all getting together. I'm especially looking forward to introducing G to Spock, my oldest friend.

I didn't get a whole lot of reading done this month (excluding manga/graphic novels; depending on the ratio of art to words, those usually only take about 30 minutes to read) because I couldn't FIND anything to read! Hopefully March will be a better month for books.

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


1. Precious Blood by Jonathan Hayes: After a crucified woman is discovered in her apartment, a former forensic pathologist becomes involved with her traumatized roommate while trying to track down the killer. Meh.

2. Chalktown* by Melinda Haynes: Intensely weird but engrossing Southern gothic about a teenage boy who sets out on a journey with Yellababy, his mentally challenged brother, in a sling on his back. He's heading for Chalktown, where the residents solely communicate by using chalkboards on their porches. It reads like it was written by the autistic savant child of William Faulkner.

3. Driving Sideways* by Jess Riley: Chick lit about a woman who goes on a road trip to meet the family of her kidney donor. Along the way, she meets a teenage runaway who cons her into giving her a ride to California. Funny and occasionally poignant, it's a perfect vacation read.


1. Red Carpet Suicide by Perez Hilton: Even though I don't visit his site anymore, preferring to patronize DListed and ONTD for all my gossip needs, I decided to pick this up when I saw it at the library. Reading it reminded me why I stopped going to his site in the first place.


1. Love Com* vol. 6-9 by Aya Nakahara

2. The Gentlemen's Alliance by Arina Tanemura

3. High School Debut* vols. 1-3 by Kazune Kawahara

4. Otomen* by Aya Kanno

5. Wanted by Matsuri Hino

6. Token* by Alisa Kwitney and Joelle Jones

7. After School Nightmare vol. 10 by Setona Mizushiro

8. V.B. Rose by Banri Hidaka

9. The Big Skinny by Carol Lay

10. We Were There by Yuki Obata

11. Kaze Hikaru vol. 11 by Taeko Watanabe


1. Zack and Miri Make a Porno*: Two desperately poor friends decide to make a porno in order to pay their bills, but things get complicated when they develop feelings for each other. Raunchy and hilarious, but with a surprisingly tender heart. Seriously awesome soundtrack, too.

2. RocknRolla: A "dick flick" starring my future husband Gerard Butler as a crook who gets tangled up in a bunch of different schemes. Chock full of style and studded with some great lines.

3. Hancock: Will Smith plays a surly superhero who tries to undergo an image change. Considering what a huge budget this movie must have had, the special effects are lousy, and the script is a groaner.

4. Coraline*: A breathtakingly gorgeous stop-motion animated film about a girl who finds a doorway to another world in her new house. In the other world, the parents who ordinarily ignore her are attentive and loving, and it's filled with magical gardens and tasty treats. But if she wants to stay there, she has to let her "Other Mother" sew buttons over her eyes. Deliciously creepy.

5. Black Sheep: Not the Chris Farley/David Spade movie, but a New Zealand film about genetically engineered sheep who turn bloodthirsty. Filled with some great black humor and a ton of gore.

6. Persepolis*: Based on one of my favorite graphic novels, this is about a headstrong young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The art is generally simple, but the story is compelling.

7. November: After her fiance's murder, a photographer (Courteney Cox) begins to lose her shit. It starts out with a really eerie, almost Silent Hill feel, but it falls apart pretty quickly.

8. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: A funny flick about a British reporter who starts working at a magazine in New York City, where he clashes with just about everyone. Simon Pegg is, as always, drenched in awesome.

9. Bubble: In this experimental Steven Soderbergh film, Martha is a lonely overweight woman who works at a doll factory. When a cute new employee catches the eye of her friend Kyle, Martha isn't too happy about it. The dialogue and acting are so natural that it's like watching the situation unfold in real life, rather than watching a movie. I wouldn't recommend it, but it sure is different.


1. "Up in Here" by DMX: Yes, I was compelled to download this after it was featured prominently in Zack and Miri. And yes, I like to dance around my living room while listening to it. And yes, I am terminally white.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

driving me mad

Today I drove to work in a 2008 Dodge Caliber.

"Why, C!" you exclaim. "Don't you have a 2009 Honda Civic? Where's Ginji?"

Well, Ginji is in the body shop because a rock kicked up from the freeway and took a couple of chips out of the trunk lid. They're not even that big---the total damage could fit under a quarter---but I wanted to get it fixed because, hello, brand-new car. Plus I didn't want it to get worse, and with the heavy rain we've been having, I was worried about rust.

So I got up bright and early this morning and took Ginji to a body shop close to work. I thought, Well, it can't possibly cost that much to repair since it's so small. I guess I won't call in a claim unless it goes over my deductible. Hey, maybe they can even get it done by the time I get off work!

Laugh! Laugh at my rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed optimism! I sure am! My god, I am not only a pessimist at heart, but I WORK FOR AN AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY. It's always more than you think it will be! It always takes longer, too!

So that's a kick in the juxie, but hey, at least I have insurance, and I'm damn glad I added rental coverage to my policy last year. Plus it could have been worse, of course, and aside from the frustration of the whole thing, the process was surprisingly painless. I got to the body shop at 7:30AM and I was driving back home in the rental by 8:15.

Oh, body shop, take good care of my Ginji! Return him to me all nice and shiny and chip-free. And, um, could you make it quick? Because the rental car's "CHANGE OIL" light keeps flashing and it's making me nervous.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Costa Rica pts. 9-10: back of the plane, bitch

[02/01/09; transcribed from my trip journal]

You know, that lodge in Tortuguero really changed me. I saw a spider in the shower this morning and thought, Eh, as long as it stays where I can see it. To paraphrase those t-shirts that Vietnam vets wear, I know I'm going to heaven 'cause I've already been to Tortuguero.

After we checked out of our hotel, we got on the bus and headed towards our next destination. As usual, people on the sidewalk waved and smiled at us as we passed by, and I wondered what they really think of us tourists with our pasty white legs, clutching our bottled water and using hand sanitizer every two seconds and taking pictures of animals that are as common to them as squirrels or pigeons are to us. I will say, though, with the exception of the occasional scowler, the Ticos have been nothing but friendly and gracious.

Anyway, we drove to a town called Sarchi in the Central Valley, where they’re famous for painting oxcarts in bright colors.

Um, what?

I bought a really cute stuffed sloth and a couple of magnets. One of my fellow tourists traded a $39 portable DVD player for a beautiful handcarved rocking chair that cost $100. He even managed to talk them into shipping it to the US for free!

Next up was lunch---yup, chicken again! But they had really good dancers to watch while we ate.

A few other shots:

Jose said these bright orange trees are planted to provide shade at the coffee plantations.

This shit is bananas.

This church is made of steel.

Inside the church.


Then we visited a coffee plantation, which wasn’t really my thing, but everyone else went apeshit. These actors gave us info on the coffee bean in a humorous manner.

Mural at the plantation

Afterwards, I bought a Costa Rica shirt with a monkey on the front and a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans.

On the drive back to San Jose, I started feeling really shitty. I had a sore throat and kept coughing, and I also felt feverish and dizzy. Once we had checked in, I took a very short nap, which didn’t help much.

I’d have to say this was my least favorite hotel on the trip.  True, the lodge in Tortuguero was bug-infested, but at least it had the benefits of an excellent location, and the grounds were very charming.  This was just a soulless Holiday Inn in the middle of San Jose.  The desk clerks were really rude, too.

I reluctantly got dressed up and headed to the fancy restaurant on the 17th floor for our farewell dinner. Despite feeling so nasty, I enjoyed our meal immensely: filet mignon, mashed potatoes, red wine, and flan. Finally, some red meat!

Jose gave a toast, and after we were done eating, everyone milled around collecting e-mail addresses and dispensing hugs. Although Roxanne was the only person on this trip that I could see hanging out with in “real life”, the people on this tour were all really nice. I got choked up saying goodbye to everyone.

I went back to my room, changed into my woobs, took two Arcedol, and climbed into bed. I’m going to read until I fall asleep. I don’t have to leave here until 3:15PM tomorrow, so there’s no need to wake up early. Hopefully the drogas and a good night’s sleep will take care of my ickiness.

I’ll really miss Costa Rica---well, not the bugs and the humidity, but the beauty of this place and the warmth of its people. This is my second favorite trip of all time, after my 2005 trip to Japan, but I’ll be so glad to get home. I wish I could fast forward to that moment tomorrow night when I exit customs and see G waiting for me!

[02/02/09; transcribed from my trip journal]

When I woke up this morning, despite the pills and almost ten hours of sleep, I felt worse. I felt so lousy, in fact, that I seriously considered finding Jose and asking him to take me to a doctor. But instead, I dragged myself into the shower, got dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast. I wasn’t remotely hungry, but I figured I’d better eat something, since I literally don’t know where my next meal is coming from. I listlessly spooned cornflakes into my mouth, and then I arranged a late checkout at the front desk and returned to my room, where I slept some more.

At 12:30, I got up, dumped everything onto my bed, and began the arduous process of packing. I finally managed to fit everything into one suitcase, one tote bag, and my purse. I went downstairs at 1:45, checked out, and sat on the couch in the lobby and read Chalktown. About an hour later, Jose showed up and waited with me until my shuttle came. I hugged him goodbye, thanked him for all of his help, and tipped him. He’s such a great guy, and when I get my survey from the tour company, I’ll have nothing but good things to say about him.

When I got to the airport, I checked in and then found my gate. It didn’t take long, since it’s such a small airport! I had a terrible personal pizza and drink from Papa John’s ($9), and then I returned to the terminal to read. Fortunately, I was feeling better than I had that morning; not 100% to be sure, but at least I didn't feel like I was going to pass out anymore.

After boarding the plane, I was thrilled to see that I had a whole row to myself! Beaming with joy, I pulled out my book and thought, Okay, I’ll read till the end of this chapter and then lay down and sleep. But then…SHE came.

A woman tapped me on the shoulder, said, “Disculpe…” and launched into rapid-fire Spanish. I shrugged and said “No habla espanol”, and she went and got the flight attendant, who returned with her.

“She would like to know if she could sit here, because her headphone jack doesn’t work,” the flight attendant said.

God…effing…damn it!

I mean, sure, I could have said “No”, but no, I had to be all nice and agree. I stood up, she slid into the window seat, flung her purse in the middle seat, and settled in to watch the subtitled episode of “The Closer” that was playing.

Maybe she’ll leave when it’s over, I thought hopefully, but no. She did not. She stayed there for the entire flight as I silently fumed. On the plus side, she only got up once, so I was able to take a bit of a nap. The flight attendants came around with dinner, and I was glad I’d gotten Papa John’s, as bad as it was, because, yep, it was chicken and rice. I’m never eating chicken and rice again!

At LAX, I waited in line for a good thirty minutes at customs, and when I got to the counter, the officer pointed at the list of things I was declaring and said, “What kind of stuffed animal?”

“Um, a sloth.”


I gaped at him. “No, no, it’s a toy! Just a toy! Let me show you.” I started to reach down for my bag, but he held his hand up.

“Ma’am, please keep your hands on the counter.”


Finally, I was allowed to leave, and I picked up my suitcase at the conveyor belt. Out of curiosity, I peeked inside to see if my Arcedol had been confiscated, but it was still there. Woot! Then I shuffled through a loooooooong line to exit customs. I handed over my stamped form, walked out the door, and saw G waiting there.

And that’s when I was truly home.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Costa Rica pt. 8: OMFG MONKEYS

In response to a couple of e-mails I received: the tour company I used was Caravan, and I highly recommend them. Don't be fooled by that $995 price on the website, though; you can add about another $300 for taxes, whatever your airfare costs, and, if you're traveling by yourself, add $300 more for the "single supplement". Even so, considering that it includes all meals, hotels, attractions, and transportation except airfare, it's still a hell of a bargain. I would happily take another tour with Caravan.

[01/31/09; transcribed from my trip journal. ]

Today we left at 6:30AM for Manuel Antonio National Park. Jose said that it had been listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, and after visiting, I can see why; it was stunning, and easily my favorite part of the trip so far.

But before we got there, we had to drive 2 ½ hours! We drove through the Carara Biological Reserve on the way, and Marco pulled over so we could see the scarlet macaws at the top of the trees. They were so beautiful, with their Sno-Cone colors. I didn’t take a picture because they were too far away to get a good one, but I could see them perfectly with my binoculars.

When we got to the park, Jose said that we could leave our stuff with him and he’d take care of it; apparently, the monkeys that live there like to steal things from the tourists. I gratefully took my backpack off, and as I handed it to him, I asked him which trail was best for seeing the monkeys. He pointed me in the right direction, and I thanked him and set off.

Well, the trail turned out to be pretty steep, and since it was so hot and humid (and I’m so out of shape), I was sorely tempted to turn around and just chill on the beach. I’m really glad I didn’t, though, because I heard a rustling behind me and turned around to see this:

Dear reader, I squizzed myself.

Even though they were only a few feet away from me, I had a hell of a time getting a good picture because they were so fast. It was like trying to photograph the bobbleheads in Jacob’s Ladder!

Wait! Come back, Mister Monkey!

Ah, thank you. Now let’s see your face.

Come on, don’t be shy… hold still for a second...

At last, the mon(k)ey shot!

They were so cute I could have stood there and watched them all day, but the path was narrow and I was blocking the way for other hikers, so I reluctantly kept going. When I made it to the very top, I was treated to one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, this picture does not remotely do it justice, but you’ll get an idea.

As I gazed down, it was only the second time I was moved to tears by the beauty of something I’d seen on a trip. (The other time was watching geisha walking through Kyoto, cherry blossoms falling around them like fragrant pink snow.) I rested for a few moments, enjoying the view, and then I headed back down the path. On the way, I saw a two-toed sloth. Here’s a terrible picture; it’s the blob in the middle.

Just so you know what they actually look like, here’s a GOOD picture from Wikipedia.

I prefer the three-toed sloths, just because they have those bizarre Muppet-like faces, but all sloths are cool by me. Fun fact: they’re known as perezosos, or lazy bears, in Spanish. They’re my third favorite animal and my second favorite deadly sin!

Back at the beach, I changed into my flip-flops and then walked along the water. I didn’t want to swim, but I waded knee deep, and the water was the perfect temperature. I saw tons of hermit crabs and sea slugs in the tidepools.

I found this charming declaration of love written in the sand.

When it was time to go, I reluctantly climbed back on the bus and accepted my box lunch. It was absolutely terrible (mayo covered deli meat of indeterminate origin, fruit, two pieces of pound cake), so as soon as we got back to the hotel, I hit the snack bar for fries and a burger. I was exhausted from both our early departure time and prolonged sun exposure, so I went to my room, ate, and crashed hardcore for a couple of hours. Then I got up, had dinner, went online, and caught the evening’s show, “The Four Elements”. It consisted of dancing and a really good trapeze artist. At one point, they turned on a black light and people wearing fluorescent jellyfish and octopus costumes danced to “The Age of Aquarius”. It was so bizarre that it sent me into fits of giggles.

After the show, I got an Amor Eterno and took it down to the pier, nodding at the guard as I passed. I sat at the end and gazed out at the black water and the millions of stars in the sky. It was a beautiful night, and I could have sat there for hours, but I was seized by the urge to take a crap…my first since the trip began!

And oh, was it EPIC. I’m glad I didn’t have to go until we got to the big fancy resort; I don’t think our last hotel’s sewer system could have handled my mighty American turds.

I’ve had a (mostly) great time on this trip, but I’m ready to go home. I miss G so much, not to mention my bed and my normal routine. Plus I’m a little sick of chicken and rice and being on a bus several hours a day, and my money is getting low. I don’t want to use my ATM or credit cards unless absolutely necessary, since I’ve heard horror stories about eaten and/or stolen cards, and I need enough money to tip Jose and Marco, pay my departure tax, and buy lunch and dinner on my last day, since they’re not included.

But I’m sure the second I return to work, I’ll want to hop the next plane back!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Costa Rica pt. 7: hanging around

[01/30/09; transcribed from my trip journal. Mouse over the pictures for occasional comments!]

Today we drove to the San Carlos Valley to hike through the rainforest canopy. We had the option of choosing a long, medium, or short hike; I decided to take the longest one. We saw a toucan and tons of monkeys, as well as this guy:

No, that’s not a turd; it’s a pit viper, and it’s deadly. Needless to say, I took full advantage of my zoom lens!

Even though it was really hot and humid, I was glad I picked the long hike, because it was stunning.

This was the first bridge we crossed, and as you can see, it wasn’t very intimidating.  That would change…


Cool shot, but taking it made me a little dizzy

My friend Roxanne is in the foreground.

Hanging on for dear fucking LIFE

Ahhh, now that I can live with!


Awwww, bless.

Ask your doctor if Boniva is right for you

Afterwards, I got a really good ice cream bar shaped like a clown’s head in the cafeteria, and then I hopped back on the bus for a drive around Lake Arenal.

A coatimundi

I have no idea what this is, but it looked cool from the window.

We stopped in the Guanacaste province for lunch. Yup, you guessed it: chicken and rice.

Back on the bus, Jose passed around samples of Costa Rican moonshine, which tasted like nail polish remover smells; I’ll stick to Coke, thanks. We stopped at an ice cream stand and I had my first licuado of the trip: lime juice with milk instead of water. It was excellent, but I only drank half of it because it was huge!

Just before we arrived at our next hotel, the Doubletree Resort in Puntarenas, Jose announced that it was all-inclusive. True, we’ve had all of our meals paid for anyway, but THIS place also offered unlimited booze, snacks, classes, and entertainment! A woman behind me groused, “He could have told us that before I bought all those snacks at the last stop!” and I thought, Really, lady? You’re gonna bitch about THAT?

After a brief orientation with the hotel manager, who passed out entertainment schedules and warm chocolate chip cookies, I headed to my room. It was still being cleaned, so I dropped my bags off and wandered around. I stopped at the bar and got an Amor Eterno: Bailey’s, Kahlua, and condensed milk. You’d think I would have had to wait for a long time, considering that the drinks are “free” and the bartenders can’t accept tips; you would be wrong. I waited 30 seconds, tops. The drink tasted like a boozy milkshake and was very strong.

I bought flip-flops and an internet card in the gift shop, and then I went to my room and freshened up. I was thrilled to see their toiletry selection: all Neutrogena products. And not just shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body lotion…oh no. They also had a tube of facial moisturizer with 45 SPF and a bottle of face wash! I happily stuffed my toiletry kit, and then I climbed into bed for a short nap.

The view from my hotel room.  This was one of four pools on the property, and it was also on the beach…so of course I didn’t swim once while we were there.

At dinner, I sat with a nice couple from Atascadero; she was a dead ringer for Jennifer Coolidge. It’s funny how many people on this tour have told me how brave I am for traveling by myself. If I was that brave, I’d have REALLY done all of this by myself, not gone on a tour! But I like the way this is set up, because I didn’t have to arrange the transportation (except my flight) and hotels and attractions. True, not everything we’ve done/eaten has been to my liking, but for the most part I’m having a blast, and it’s great to have a bilingual guide, someone who notices if you’re not around. If I was really by myself, and I got sick like that woman (who’s fully recovered and back with us, by the way), what would I have done? But still, I’ve come a long way from that girl who couldn’t stop crying during outdoor school and had to be sent home!

After dinner, I went to the amphitheater to see the “Vegas-style spectacular”. I got there a little early, and the previous show was finishing up: a tribute to High School Musical. There was even a Costa Rican teenager in a bad Zac Efron wig! I had just downed a Blue Lagoon, so I found this even more hilarious than I ordinarily would have.

The next show had an international theme: dancing (including the gayest man I’ve ever seen in my life; seriously, he couldn’t have looked gayer if he’d had a dick in his ass while onstage), a singer, and a guy who did the moonwalk on a tightrope. I left after his act because I was beginning to wilt on the vine.

…too bad, because it turns out that this is a big party resort, and this is the last weekend before the kids have to go back to school. (They get their “summer” break in the winter.) That’s cool and all…unless you have to get up at 5AM. I can hear the music from the disco in my room, and it is LOUD. My bed is actually shaking! I might have to take a couple of Simply Sleep if I have any chance of getting some Z’s before my big, monktacular (fingers crossed) day tomorrow.