Friday, May 01, 2009

media (and health) update: April

After 12 hours of sleep and my first shower in two days, I feel about two million times better than I did yesterday. I’m a little achy, and I feel like a washcloth that’s been wrung out and thrown into the corner, but at least I haven’t had any problems with the attic or the basement since yesterday afternoon.

In response to a couple of questions I received on my last entry:

1) Woobs are pajamas or lounging clothes.

2) I don’t know where I got the food poisoning. Unfortunately, there’s such a large window of opportunity for it to set in that it’s difficult to pinpoint the culprit. We mostly ate at the Grand Lux Café in the Venetian, just because it was so convenient, but we also ate at the Bellagio buffet and the Red White and Blue Café in Mandalay Bay.

Speaking of Vegas, I’ll probably get an entry up sometime next week. One of the pictures I took is quite possibly the greatest picture ever taken of anyone or anything ever.

It's funny that nonfiction entry #4 makes frequent mention of Morrissey, because I just recently fell in love with him all over again after checking out a "best of" CD from the library. I seriously credit him and The Smiths for helping me get through junior high. I mean, what lovelorn teenager can't relate to wistful lyrics like "Can you squeeze me into an empty page of your diary?" What bullied girl won't bite her lip and tear up over "I am human and I need to be loved/just like everybody else does" or "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate/it takes strength to be gentle and kind"? And Morrissey also figures into two of my favorite memories: Spock and me dancing at prom to "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", and making a college road trip to San Jose to see Morrissey live on Halloween 1991. I've been blasting the aforementioned greatest hits CD in my car, and the Mexicans on my block now regard me not with indifference, but appreciation.

...what? Mexicans love Morrissey! TRUFAX.

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


1. Wetlands by Charlotte Roche: The first line of this book is "As far back as I can remember, I've had hemorrhoids." The next several pages go into graphic detail about the narrator's hemorrhoids and subsequent surgery. Then it REALLY gets gross. This novel about one young woman's obsession with her body and everything that comes out of or goes into it was almost unbearable to read at times, even for someone as jaded as me. I swear, they should rebrand this book as "thinspiration". Despite some funny and occasionally even poignant moments, I sure as shit didn't enjoy it, but I was definitely never bored. Grossed out and disturbed, yes; bored, no.

2. Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin: In 1176, two skeletons are discovered, and rumor has it that they belong to King Arthur and Guinevere. King Henry II sends Adelia Aguilar, the "Mistress of the Art of Death", to investigate. This series has been called "CSI meets the Canterbury Tales", and although this was my least favorite of the three so far, it wasn't bad.

3. Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn: Holly is a New Yorker who has a much younger lover, a dog with a brain tumor, and a cheating best friend. This book follows Holly's various romantic entanglements as well as those of her friends. An engaging read with some really sharp and funny lines.

4. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee: Set in Hong Kong during and shortly after WWII, this novel centers on Claire, a newlywed who teaches piano to the daughter of a wealthy Chinese family, and Will, the family’s driver and Claire’s eventual lover. The descriptions are incredibly vivid, but I couldn’t really get into this book, probably because I didn’t like a single character, and sometimes it's a bit of a slog. Still, if you like historical fiction, you could do worse...but you could also do better.

5. Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson: The latest in the series about Goldy Schulz, a crimesolving caterer. In this one, she investigates a shady spa. Like all of Davidson's books, it's not exactly a brainbuster, but it's fun and has lots of droolworthy descriptions of food.

6. Breathers* by S.G. Browne: Andy is a zombie who reanimated after the car accident that killed him and his wife, and he lives in his reluctant parents' wine cellar. He starts attending a zombie support group, where he falls in love with a zombie named Rita, and soon he becomes determined to win equal rights for zombies. But first, he has to overcome the stigma that zombies have among "breathers" (the living). Gory black-humored fun.


1. High Voltage Tattoo* by Kat Von D: The famous tattoo artist talks about her work. Packed with photos of her stuff as well as tattoos done by friends of hers. One of them, a beautiful portrait of Sharon Tate, is probably the most realistic tattoo I've ever seen. It seriously looks like the guy just taped a black and white photo to his arm! Anyway, this was quite a fun read, and it made me want to get another tattoo. (Not that I will; one is enough for me.)

2. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven* by Susan Jane Gilman: The title and cover (which shows a squatting woman wearing nothing but sunglasses and a huge backpack slung over her front) of this book are misleading because they make it seem like a breezy, sexy romp...and it's anything but. Instead, it's the story of how the author and her college friend were inspired to visit China by, of all things, an IHOP Pancakes of the World placemat. It was 1986 and the country had been open to international visitors for "roughly ten minutes", but they were determined to have an authentic experience. The trip started off on the wrong foot as they tried to find clean and comfortable lodgings, but they had no idea just how bad things would get. I couldn't put this riveting book down. Highly recommended.

Side note: Although the above review might give the impression that this is an "ugly American" memoir, I swear it's not just 300 pages of trashing China and its people. (Explaining why would be a colossal spoiler.)

3. I'm Sorry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph: In this book, the author devotes each chapter to a different male in her life, from her son to her sexually insatiable puppy. My favorite was "The Girl Who Only Sometimes Said No," in which she tries to explain to her son why calling his classmate a slut is a bad thing.

4. It Sucked and Then I Cried* by Heather B. Armstrong: A chronicle of the author's pregnancy, struggle with postpartum depression, and experiences with motherhood. For obvious reasons I couldn't relate to a lot of this, but I still enjoyed the hell out of its irreverent humor.

Side note: Apparently her blog (which I'd never read or even heard of before this book) is now so popular that she and her husband were both able to quit their jobs and live off the ad revenue. Um, how do I get me some of that? I mean, I write this diary for love, but I'd be glad to throw money into the mix. I will happily accept sponsorship.

Speaking of which, have I mentioned how much I love Archer Farms Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel ice cream? Smooth, rich, creamy...the perfect combination of sweet and salt...ribbons of caramel wrap your tongue in delight...crunchy fudge-covered pretzels merrily snap between your teeth in a symphony of flavor. your mouth is having an orgasm! Archer Farms Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel ice cream: available at Target!

(Target, call me.)


1. Kitchen Princess vol. 9 by Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi

2. The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga

3. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For* by Alison Bechdel

4. Blank Slate by Aya Kanno

5. Nightmare Inspector* vols. 1 and 3-5 by Shin Mashiba: Each chapter is a self-contained story, so it doesn't matter if I read these volumes out of order (which I ordinarily wouldn't do, but volume 2 is waitlisted at the library). I know you were concerned.

6. Mixed Vegetables vol. 3 by Ayumi Komura

7. High School Debut* vol. 8 by Kazune Kawahara


1. Religulous*: Bill Maher's documentary about religion is equal parts hilarious (like the scene where the music from Brokeback Mountain starts playing as he interviews an "ex-gay" preacher) and disturbing. I was kind of surprised that he wasn't as tough on religion as I was expecting, especially after his caustic comments at the Oscars, but his monologue at the end is blistering. (Warning: brief but upsetting news footage of animal cruelty and other atrocities.)

2. I Love You, Man*: I love Paul Rudd, but you know who I love even more? Jason Segel. Therefore, when a particularly poisonous mood struck and I desperately needed to cheer up, I went to see this movie. Good choice, because it was so freakin' funny that I left the theater with a big dipshitty grin on my face. Peter (Rudd) is a nice guy who has always gotten along better with women than men, so he doesn't have any friends to serve as his best man. He starts going on "man dates" to find a candidate, but he eventually meets the perfect guy (Segel) at Lou Ferrigno's open house. They get along smashingly; so much so, in fact, that it starts to cause friction in his relationship with his fiancee. As previously mentioned, it's hysterically funny, and it has some sweet moments too.

3. Sunshine Cleaning*: Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play sisters who begin a crime scene cleanup company. There were a few times where I thought this movie was trying too hard to be quirky, and there was one moment near the end that hit 10 on the Hoke-O-Meter, but excellent performances and black humor mixed with poignancy made up for it.

4. Tokyo Sonata: A Japanese movie about a salaryman who loses his job and, unable to tell his family, still pretends to go to work in the morning. Meanwhile, his dissatisfied wife dreams of something better, his oldest son wants to join the American military, and his younger son is sneaking piano lessons on the sly. Depressing, although it ends on a hopeful note. Warning to anyone planning on seeing this (because I'm sure you're dying to see it after my glowing review): the subtitles are TERRIBLE. I don't mean the translation (like I'd know anyway); they're plain white with no backing, and in several scenes they were almost impossible to read.

5. Slumdog Millionaire*: An Indian teenager winds up on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", answering every question correctly because of the things he's learned growing up in the slums. I don't know that this should have won Best Picture, but I did enjoy it. (Doubt it did much for the Indian tourism industry, though.)


1. "John Wayne Gacy Jr" by Sufjan Stevens: This showed up on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 most heartbreaking songs, so I gave it a listen, and oh my god. I don't know if "heartbreaking" is the right word, but it's unnerving as hell. I think the only song that could trump it as far as sending shivers up my spine is "...a psychopath" by Lisa Germano, which features a real 911 call of a woman about to be raped. Whenever I listen to Geek the Girl, I have to skip that track because it actually makes me nauseated.

But yeah, back to this song. Excellent, but best followed with a happy tune as a chaser. For example...

2. "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson