Tuesday, June 30, 2009

media update: June

Christ, I'm so glad June is almost over; it wasn't a good month for me at all. Work was a nightmare, I cut my leg and it got badly infected (necessitating two doctor visits and three prescriptions), I got a nail in my tire, AND I got a haircut that made me look like that starstruck kid Megan Fox snubbed. Tomorrow will kind of suck, thanks to my annual crotch doc appointment, but at least I have a massage afterwards. Plus there's a three-day weekend coming up, and G, C, and I have our birthdays in the same week, which means a colossal food orgy is on the way!

The advent of summer means even more reading and movies than usual because there's nothing good on TV.

...then again, just because there's nothing GOOD on TV, it doesn't mean I haven't been watching it at all. I will shamefacedly admit to getting sucked into I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! I started watching it because they were in Costa Rica, but to my horror, I kind of wound up enjoying it. And even though she was irritating and whiny and her melting candle wax face scared me, I felt terrible for Janice Dickinson when she was in agony from not being able to poop. I crapped ONCE during my ten days in Costa Rica, and then when I got back, I didn't crap for over a week. When I finally released the chocolate hostages, oh my god. My downstairs neighbors probably thought I was having a baby, what with all the groaning and crying, and that's not too far from the truth. I thought I was going to need an episiotomy to get that monster out.

On that charming note, on to the update. I've mentioned this before, but it's interesting how many of my media updates seem to have an theme. Occasionally this is on purpose, like if I become obsessed with a particular topic and read everything I can find about it, but usually it's not. This month's unofficial theme: race relations!

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary. Lots of really good stuff this month, including three animated movies that rocked my world in completely different ways.


1. The Help* by Kathryn Stockett: A beautifully written novel about a young white woman in 1962 Mississippi who decides to write a book about the black maids in her hometown. Despite their fears of losing their jobs or worse, they agree to be interviewed in hopes of changing the way they live. Powerful and moving.

2. The Lovers by John Connolly: Private investigator Charlie Parker looks into the death of his father and the events that preceded it, but he's not remotely prepared for what he finds. You all know how much I love JC, but I have to admit that I was very disappointed with this one; it's probably my least favorite out of all his books. It got really confusing, and the supernatural figured much more heavily than it usually does. And, of course, my standard complaint: not nearly enough Angel and Louis, the gay hitmen who get the absolute best lines. Ah well, I have faith that he'll get his groove back.

3. Almost Single by Advaita Kala: I should have known what I was in for when I read the first line: "The phone punctures my deep dreamless REM slumber at the crack of dawn." Yeah, um...anyone else see the problem with that sentence? At any rate, the blurb on the front calls this book "Bridget Jones in a sari", which is accurate in that it tells you this is chick lit about a single Indian woman looking for love, but inaccurate in that it implies some entertainment value is contained within.

4. Ai no Kusabi: Darkness by Reiko Yoshihara: I have no idea why I keep reading these books, because they're terrible. But the movie based on them is one of my favorite anime movies ever, so I'll stick it out until the end.

5. Little Bee* by Chris Cleave: The book jacket asks readers not to spoil the plot for their friends. I think they were overstating it a bit, since it's not like there's a huge twisty reveal or anything, but I'll defer to their wishes because this book was so awesome. I'll just give you the bare bones and say that it's the story of two women, a Nigerian refugee named Little Bee and a British woman named Sarah, who meet under strange circumstances in Nigeria and are later reunited in London. Little Bee has a heartbreaking backstory; at one point, she says "In your country, if you are not scared enough already, you can go to watch a horror film. Horror in your country is something you take a dose of to remind yourself that you are not suffering from it." A powerful, unique, and even occasionally funny novel.


1. This Will Kill You* by HP Newquist and Rich Maloof: A blackly funny and informative book that describes in detail some of the many ways people can die, from alligators to tuberculosis.

2. No Regrets: The Best, Worst, and Most #$%* Ridiculous Tattoos Ever* by Aviva Yael: Hysterical; you can check out some examples here. I desperately want to know the story behind the tramp stamp that says "I'm Gonna Kill You, Ray Romano".

3. Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander: They forgot ABBA!

4. Dear Diary* by Lesley Arfin: A collection of the author's diary entries, starting when she was 12 and ending when she was 25. It's mostly a cautionary tale about drugs (though she doesn't shy away from glamorizing them at times; at one point she describes a heroin high by saying "Imagine being a melting candle, or a poured drink. Imagine being the sweater that the boy you love wears all day long"), but with snarky, funny updates on each entry. For example, she compares coming down from a crystal meth high to "a bad acid trip meets chemo meets watching your parents die in a car crash." I'd have to say, though, that my favorite line is when she describes the look on a man's face while getting a blowjob as "a cross between an infant taking a nap and Terry Schiavo". Warning to potential readers: the cover is kind of gross.

5. Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood: The author was adopted from Taiwan when she was a baby. Her biological parents gave her up because she was a girl, and they already had too many daughters. But when she was in her twenties, she was contacted by her birth family, and she decided to go meet them. A lovely and often melancholy memoir.

6. Spiced by Dalia Jurgensen: The memoir of a pastry chef who's worked for some of the biggest restaurants in New York City. Have a bottle of Jergens and some Kleenex handy, because this is food porn at its finest. Example: when she talks about a chocolate pyramid she made filled with dark chocolate and white chocolate mousse, and finished off at the base with dark chocolate ganache, crushed cocoa beans, and halvah. Pardon me while I paste 'em.

7. I'm Down* by Mishna Wolff: The author grew up with a father who believed he was black...which he wasn't. He was determined to make his daughters "black" too by living in a black neighborhood and making them hang out with only black kids. Eventually, at the behest of her mother, she started to go to a white school and became even more confused about her place in the world. Although there are some somber moments, for the most part this book is hysterical. (Sample line: Admiring a friend frying bologna, she writes "She was like Julia Child for the food stamp set.") A surprising number of typos, but it's so fresh and funny that I'm willing to overlook them.

8. I Love a Man in Uniform by Lily Burana: The author, a former stripper and teenage anarchist, never thought she would marry into the military. This memoir is about her attempts to fit in with the other army wives, as well as the story of her marriage and how it almost fell apart under the stress of their PTSD (his from war, hers from childhood abuse).

9. The Ramen King and I by Andy Raskin: A very strange memoir in which the author adopted Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen, as a sort of spiritual guru. It was such a weird premise that I don't even really know what to say about this book. Not starworthy, but points for originality at least.

10. Rattled by Christine Coppa: A highly irritating memoir about how her whirlwind, glamorous New York City life was interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. Then the baby's father took a powder, so she had to figure out how to cope on her own. Seriously, I hated this woman. Not on moral grounds, and not because I think she should have had an abortion, because being pro-choice also includes letting women choose to have the baby. No, she lost my sympathy when she talks about ditching her quadriplegic boyfriend (I didn't realize until reading this that she wrote an article about that for Glamour, which I read a while back, and if I'd known she wrote this book I wouldn't have picked it up). She even says "I think if the accident hadn't happened I'd still be with him." Points for honesty and all, but fuck you, sister. After that, it was pretty hard to give a shit about her and her situation. So sorry you can't have Starbucks or sushi anymore, lady, but at least you aren't, you know, fucking PARALYZED. Maybe I took it so personally because my mom was paralyzed for six months after her spinal surgery, but even putting that chapter aside, I still wanted to throw this book in the street.


1. Mixed Vegetables vol. 4 by Ayumi Komura

2. V.B. Rose vols. 4-5 by Banri Hidaka

3. Swan vol. 14 by Kiyoko Ariyoshi

4. High School Debut vol. 9 by Kazune Kawahara

5. Zombie Tales: Oblivion* (anthology)


1. The Onion Movie: A collection of skits and satirical news stories. Like all "gag-a-second" flicks, nine out of 10 jokes flop, but the ones that succeed are hysterical. I particularly liked the trailer for Cockpuncher, starring Steven Seagal, and the interview with a Britney Spears clone who perkily claims all of her songs, like "Take Me From Behind" (which I would totally buy off iTunes if it was real; it's been stuck in my head since watching this movie) and "Down on My Knees", are actually about friendship. And although I was horrified by one particular skit (which starred Jin from Lost, oddly enough), I must grudgingly give props to anything that manages to offend G AND me. That's pretty damn hard to do!

2. Hellboy II: The Golden Army*: Hellboy and his friends must protect the earth from an underworld prince who wants to destroy it. To my surprise, I wound up enjoying this immensely. It's a visual masterpiece---the creature designs are really something to behold, as you'd expect from a Guillermo del Toro movie---and some of the action scenes are worthy of Hong Kong.

3. Sita Sings the Blues*: An absolutely stunning animated film that combines the Indian story of the Ramayana with the story of a modern marriage that has fallen apart. Factor in 1920's jazz and you have something wholly original. Unfortunately, copyright problems with the music have kept this movie from being commercially distributed, but you can watch it online for free (and legally!). Nina Paley, the creator, has links for watching it on her website. If you love animation, you need to see this. Shit, if you love MOVIES, you ought to check it out. Something this unique and wonderful deserves to be supported.

4. Taken*: Liam Neeson plays a former spy who reluctantly agrees to let his daughter go to Paris with her friend. When they're kidnapped by white slavers, he springs into action. Takes a while to get going, but once it does, it never lets up.

5. Rachel Getting Married*: Kym (Anne Hathaway, whose Oscar nomination was well deserved) is a young woman who's given a weekend pass from rehab so she can attend her sister Rachel's wedding. Because of the things she did when she was still using (including something major that's only hinted at until the middle of the movie), her sister holds a lot of resentment towards her, especially because she thinks that Kym is taking too much attention away from her. The dialogue and acting are so realistic that it doesn't even seem scripted; it's like you're actually there. In fact, it may be a bit too realistic, because parts of this movie are unbelievably grueling to sit through. There's a painful scene where Kym says, in regards to the aforementioned tragedy, "Yes, I was stoned out of my mind. Who do I have to be now? I mean, I could be Mother Teresa and it wouldn't make a difference, what I did. Did I sacrifice every bit of love I'm allowed for this life because [spoiler omitted]?" The look on her face and the pain in her voice were so intense that I almost told G to finish watching the movie without me, but I'm glad I stuck it out because there is some small measure of redemption at the end. It was worth watching, but I never want to see it again.

6. Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood (excellent as always) plays Walt Kowalski, a bigoted war vet who lives next door to a Hmong family. When their teenage son tries to steal his prized Gran Torino as a gang initiation rite, the family insists that he help Walt out with various chores as a way of paying him back. Walt reluctantly finds himself growing attached to the family, but then the gang begins making trouble, forcing Walt to intervene. This could have been so much better than it was. I found Walt's change of heart too convenient, and some of the religious imagery was unbelievably heavy-handed.

7. The International*: An Interpol agent sets out to expose an private bank's shady dealings. The story got a bit muddled at times, but I'm giving it a star because of the beautiful locations and buildings (it's like architecture porn), an amazing scene in the Guggenheim, and the presence of Clive Owen and my eternal girlcrush Naomi Watts.

8. Lakeview Terrace: Horrified when a biracial couple moves next door, a cop (Samuel L. Jackson) sets out to make their lives miserable. Good performances, especially by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington as the terrified newlyweds.

9. The Hangover*: A Vegas bachelor party goes awry when three of the guys wake up from the previous night's debauchery and can't remember anything about it...including where they put the groom. GodDAMN was this funny. I was seriously about to piss my pants a couple of times, especially during the tiger song and any scene involving Mr. Chow. I've got to catch this again on DVD; considering some of the scenes that made it in, I can only imagine what they had to cut in order to get an R.

Two things that bothered me, though: I could have done without the f-word being thrown about by one of the protagonists...and I don't mean "fuck". Come on, people; no necisado. Also, the scene where the baby accidentally gets hit with the car door disturbed me, because there was no reason for it. It wasn't supposed to be funny, and it didn't lead to anything (like, for example, a bystander getting upset and decking the guy who did it), so why put it in there at all?

10. Up*: After his wife dies, a cranky old man named Carl faces eviction from his home. Refusing to cave in, he ties thousands of balloons to the roof and sets out for Paradise Falls, the place he and his wife always dreamed of visiting. This may be a kid's movie, but it's probably one of the best meditations on love and loss that I've ever seen. There's a sequence at the beginning that shows Carl and his wife Ellie throughout their marriage, and by the end, I was scrubbing tears away from my face with a handful of scratchy napkins. But don't worry, it's not a downer flick; there are plenty of funny lines and exciting action sequences too, and the animation is breathtaking. Absolutely one of my favorite movies of the year.

11. Let the Right One In*: A Swedish movie about a bullied teenage boy who befriends the strange girl next door. Turns out she has quite a secret. A unique combination of horror film and love story, with strong performances by the leads and gorgeous cinematography.

12. Waltz with Bashir*: A truly devastating animated documentary about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980's. The director fought in the war on the Israeli side, and trying to fill in the gaps in his memory, he interviewed other people who were there. Warning: at the very end of the movie, the animation gives way to real footage of a massacre's aftermath, and it is EXTREMELY upsetting, especially the final picture. If you're sensitive, you may want to stop the movie as soon as that footage starts; you won't miss any dialogue.


1. "Tell Me" by Wonder Girls

2. "Moanin' Low" by Annette Hanshaw

3. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson

4. "Right Round" by Flo Rida

5. "This Is Not A Love Song" by Public Image Ltd


My Milk Toof is...well, I can't really describe it. Suffice it to say that it's utterly charming and whimsical and I can't get enough. I want to live in Ickle and Lardee's world.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

25 things you don't know about me

...well, some of you may know a few of these things, but I thought it would be fun to do this anyway.

1. Remember last week when I cut my leg shaving? Despite a thorough cleaning and liberal use of Neosporin, that bitch got infected. I showed up at G's on Saturday with a red, swollen leg and a fever and begged him to take me to the urgent care center. Four days and 16 Keflex later, it's no longer swollen, but it IS surrounded by alarming red bumps. I'm not a hypochondriac, but I've made an appointment with my doctor for later this morning. I ain't risking it.

2. I subscribe to 10 magazines. It used to be 11, but Shojo Beat folded. (RIP)

3. If someone told me that they could painlessly make me pretty overnight, but it would take five years off my life, I'd do it in a heartbeat. (And no, I'm not saying this to fish for compliments.)

4. My paternal grandfather was a bestselling author in Taiwan; my grandmother still gets royalty checks every year.

5. I do at least three crosswords every day.

6. I try to avoid the Borders "buy two, get one free" and "buy one, get one 50% off" tables because I almost always get suckered into buying an armful of books.

7. The most trouble I ever got into as a kid was when I told my parents I'd won an essay contest and then, to my surprise, the real winning entry was published in the newspaper. Oops. My punishment? No video games for a full month. (See, I was always a gamer.)

8. The first time I saw the YouTube clip with Christian the lion, I seriously cried for five minutes straight.

9. Like everyone else, I have a "laminated list", but if the opportunity to bang a chosen one actually did arise, I wouldn't take it.

10. Well, I might make an exception for Clive Owen, especially if he was wearing those glasses from The International.

11. All I had for dinner last night was a cup of yogurt because I was too worried about my leg to eat anything substantial.

12. I hate my downstairs neighbors so much that every night before I go to bed, I fantasize about them moving. I go into great detail in my mind, from the U-Haul pulling up to watching them load their furniture inside. If they ever DO move, I'm seriously buying a bottle of champagne and celebrating.

13. I've had about three manicures in my entire life, and I get my hair cut maybe twice a year, but I religiously get my eyebrows professionally done every month. Otherwise, they look like little Hitler mustaches.

14. The first thing I check online every morning is my e-mail, followed by Dlisted.

15. I sometimes forgive, but I never forget.

16. I love G's relatives far more than most of mine.

17. I don't spend a whole lot of money on myself, aside from the obvious basics, but there are a few little luxuries I insist on: a biweekly massage, magazines (as evidenced by #2 on this list!), and my usual from Subway (a ham and cheese sub, salt and vinegar potato chips, and a Coke Zero) for lunch every Monday.

Mildly interesting fact I just learned recently: Coke Zero is based on the formula for Coke Classic, and Diet Coke is based on the formula for New Coke, which is why they taste so different. I think the ads for Coke Zero are BOOL-shit, because it's nowhere near as good as the real thing, but it's way better than Diet Coke in my opinion. The all-time diet soda champ, though? The late, lamented Diet Coke with lemon. That shit was choice.

18. I can't swim.

19. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an opera singer.

20. Right now, I'm wearing an Alice in Wonderland tank top and black yoga pants.

21. I almost always shower at night.

22. I own 44 full-size bottles of perfume and about twice as many samples.

23. A lot of people mistake me as being part Asian because of my eyes and my love for Japanese culture, but I'm uber-white: Swedish on my dad's side and Dutch on my mom's.

24. If I could meet one famous person, it would be Barack Obama.

25. I found this exercise harder than I thought.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

bleed it out

WARNING: the following entry contains a picture of blood at the very end. If you've ever seen a PG-13 movie, I guarantee you've seen worse, but I wanted to mention it in case anyone has hemophobia. After all, I'd appreciate a warning if you were going to post...I dunno...a picture of a clown juggling tarantulas.

A life lesson for you: if you're distracted by your horrible fucking job, you should probably avoid using sharp objects.

I was in the shower last night, shaving my legs and moping, when I felt a sharp sting. Turns out I had managed to slice a 2" gash (yes, I measured later) up my left ankle.

"Fuck!" I cried out, and watched in horror as the blood just kept coming and coming. You'd think I was Carrie, washing off the pig blood after the prom.

I turned off the water, sat on the floor of the tub, and tried to stanch the flow. My washcloth was soon more red than white, and I reached for the container of butt wipes (er, I'm sorry: "Cottonelle adult flushable wipes") on the back of the toilet.

Several wipes later, with no sign of slowing, I stood up and hobbled to the living room. I can't even begin to describe the contortions I had to get into in order to keep from bleeding on my carpet, but let's just say Cirque du Soleil would be proud. I was pretty sure G was at C's house, and they only live 2 miles away from me, so I figured I'd give him a call. I quickly filled him in on the situation, and then I said, "Do you think you could go to the drugstore and get me a styptic pencil? Except...shit...it's after 10. Goddamn it, they're closed!"

"Do you need to go to the ER?"

"No, no, no...they'd laugh me out of there. I think there are just a lot of blood vessels in that area. Shit, there aren't any arteries in the ankle, are there? Why didn't I pay more attention in biology? Anyway, I'm just glad I got a tetanus shot in January."

"Baby..." G paused. "This is really difficult for me, but I have to ask. Was this really an accident, or have you...GONE EMO?"

Bonus picture of the carnage! This is AFTER I'd already rinsed my tub out twice.


Monday, June 15, 2009

duly noted, universe

When I got home from work on Friday night, I was on the verge of tears. I don't want to go into details for a number of reasons, but suffice it to say that recent developments at work have left me feeling hopeless and drained of joy. And because of my work situation, I haven't been eating or sleeping properly, which only compounds the misery. So I took a very long nap on Friday evening, and then I pampered myself with some trashy magazines and my usual from Subway. For dessert I allowed myself to curl up on Big Brown and cry.

But the universe has a way of putting things in perspective. For example, several years ago, K and I were driving to K-Mart. I was wearing shorts, and when I looked down, I noticed a cluster of spider veins. I was really upset---my legs are the one thing I've ever been vain (er, no pun intended) about physically---but when we walked in the store, literally the FIRST person I saw was a legless woman in a wheelchair.

Anyway, on Saturday morning, I took a shower, and when I got out I noticed that the screen on my cell phone said "MISSED CALL". I didn't recognize the number, so I checked my voicemail and an elderly Southern woman said, "Manny? It's me. Please call me as soon as possible. It's very important. Thank you, honey."

Since I'm not Manny, nor do I know anyone named Manny, I deleted the message. I dried off, got dressed, and settled down in front of the computer.

But then my brain began nagging at me. The woman was obviously quite upset, and she needed Manny to call her back, and if I just ignored the message, she'd think Manny was ignoring her or that he hadn't had a chance to call her back. I wondered if maybe it was a really diabolically clever telemarketing scheme, like the recent "OMG you have a problem with your car warranty, call back right away!" one, but I didn't want to chance it.

So I checked the call history for her number and called her back. When she answered, I said, "Hi, um...you don't know me but you left a message for Manny on my voicemail. I wanted to let you know you got a wrong number since it was obviously important."

"Oh, Manny doesn't live here, honey. He's in California."

"No, I wasn't calling for Manny. You called ME looking for Manny. I wanted to let you know so you could try to get hold of him again."

"Oh! Oh no. I'm so sorry to have bothered you."

"It's no problem," I said. "Good---"

"I was just..." Her voice cracked. "Well, I was so upset I must have misdialed. His little brother had a brain aneurysm last night and died. It's so unfair, he was only 26 and he'd been back from Iraq for less than a year."

I swallowed. "I'm so sorry to hear that, ma'am."

"How do I tell Manny his little brother died?"

"I, uh...I don't know. I can't imagine what you're going through. I'm so very sorry."

"Well, I'll try to call him back. I'm sorry to have bothered you, dear. God bless you."

And then she hung up.

There are almost 7 billion people on Earth, and it's just a simple fact that there will always be someone on this planet that has it far, far better than you, but there will also be someone who has it far, far worse. Despite my shitty fucking work situation, I'm pretty sure that there are way more people who fit in the latter category than the former.

Your life lesson has been duly noted, universe.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

best random stuff of 2009 (so far)

I don't usually do this list until December, but I'm filled with so much blazing fucking hatred for my job right now---as in, I would turn in my notice today if the economy wasn't sucking so bad---that I need to take my mind off it for a while...and what better way than to talk about things that make me happy? If necessary, I'll do a second installment at the end of the year.

Not all of these things made their debut in 2009, but since that's the first time I saw/ate/used them, they belong on this list. Also, as always, your mileage may vary.

Fling is the victim of a cringeworthy advertising campaign talking about how naughty it is. But good chocolate is always blameless, and the hazelnut incarnation of this candy is particularly choice. Bonus points for the fact that this candy fucking GLITTERS. What is it? Fish scales? Hello Kitty lip gloss? Edward Cullen's dandruff? I don't know, but it's pretty, so I don't care.

Aside from the expense, my least favorite part of going to the grocery store used to be coming home because I had to choose from one of two equally unpleasant options: either make several trips up and down the stairs in the dark, or try to carry everything upstairs at once, wincing as the handles of the plastic bags cut into my hands. Now, with this useful device, I just slip the handles through the opening and tote everything upstairs in one fell swoop. No more red, aching hands!

In this insane, balls-to-the-wall installment of one of my favorite video game series, Chris Redfield goes to Africa to investigate rumors of bioterrorism being funded by his old nemesis, the Umbrella Corporation. He's partnered with a local woman named Sheva, and together they set out to take the corporations down. This game has the best graphics I've ever seen, good voice acting, decent AI (though many people disagree), a really fun co-op mode, and so many moments of sheer awesome that I can't even begin to list them all. A must for survival horror buffs.

One of my New Year's resolutions was to stop drinking so much soda. It was hard, but I managed to cut my intake from five or six cans a day to one or two a WEEK. (Well, for the most part; I've fallen off the wagon a few times.) This delicious flavored water helped keep me on track. I thought the tropical citrus was kind of gross, but the pomegranate blueberry acai and orange flavors are really good. My absolute favorite, though, is the lemonade.

To borrow a quote from The Simpsons, it's like getting a backrub from an orgasm. This may very well be my favorite ice cream of all time.

The Dollhouse is an underground operation that provides "dolls" to wealthy clients. "Dolls" are people who are basically blank slates, and they can be imprinted with different personalities to suit any need, ranging from hostage negotiations to sexual favors. An FBI agent finds out about the operation and becomes obsessed with a doll named Echo, who he thinks is being held against her will. And in the meantime, a doll named Alpha, who went on a murderous rampage and escaped, is obsessed with her too. This clever series took some time to get going, but once it did, there were plenty of "holy shit!" moments that had G and me salivating for the next episode. The future of Dollhouse seemed uncertain thanks to ass ratings, but by some miracle, it got renewed for the fall. I can't wait to see where things go from here.

Side note: this show gets MAJOR props for featuring a curvy actress (Miracle Laurie) without making a big deal out of it. Not only that, but the other actresses in the show have realistic (thin but athletic) body types too. Joss Whedon certainly has a knack for making female-friendly shows.

Wonderfalls premiered back in 2004, but Fox only gave it four episodes before unceremoniously yanking it off the air. Fan outcry led to the entire season being released on DVD. I can't for the life of me remember what made me check it out this year, but I'm glad I did. It's about Jaye Tyler, a sullen young woman who works at a Niagara Falls souvenir shop. To her horror, inanimate, animal-shaped objects (such as a wax lion and a brass monkey bookend) start talking to her and telling her to do good deeds. When it becomes obvious that they won't leave her alone until she complies, she reluctantly agrees. It may sound twee, and at times it is---it is the brainchild of Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller, after all---but there's plenty of tart humor and snark to undercut the sweetness. When I finished watching the last episode, I was actually sad that I wouldn't get to spend any more time with Jaye and her family and friends. An overlooked gem.

When I was a kid, our mall visits always began with my mom taking us to buy clothes. After an excruciating hour---I have always hated shopping for clothes---my parents would meet up and my dad would take my brother and me so my mom could enjoy shopping free from her whining children. I loved this part, because in addition to taking us to the bookstore and arcade, my dad would also let us pick out a treat. Elegant beyond my years, I eschewed soft pretzels and deep-fried goodies in favor of marzipan from Swiss Colony. It came in a fruit-shaped pack of three, and I always made it last as long as possible.

So when I saw this new flavor, of course I had to give it a try. Was it as good as I hoped? Well, the combination of sweet cream ice cream with a marzipan swirl and almond cookie crumbles led to me writhing around in ecstasy, banging my fist on the table and moaning. If you love marzipan, this ice cream will make you COME IN YOUR PANTS.

Monday, June 01, 2009

media update: May

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


1. Dark Places* by Gillian Flynn: The author's first book, Sharp Objects, is one of my ten favorite novels of all time, so I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on this one. I tried not to get my hopes up too high, even after the awesome first sentence ("I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ"). Was I disappointed?

Sweet fancy Moses, was I NOT. This is disturbing, utterly riveting stuff. It's about Libby Day, a woman whose mother and two sisters were butchered by her older brother when she was seven years old. She managed to escape, but the emotional trauma left her scarred for life. She's been living off donations that poured in after the murders, but the money is starting to run out. Opportunity knocks in the form of the Kill Club, a group of people obsessed with famous crimes. They believe her brother is innocent, and they want her to investigate the crime and see if her testimony all those years ago was coached. Libby is reluctant to do so, but when they offer to pay her, she agrees, thinking it will be easy money. Of course, it winds up being anything but. Not for the faint of heart, but if you like the new breed of female authors (Karin Slaughter, Chelsea Cain, Mo Hayder) who write thrillers that would make Hannibal Lecter flinch, you'll devour this gory treat.

2. Skin* by Mo Hayder: A new Gillian Flynn AND a new Mo Hayder in the same month? I was in heaven! Shit, if John Connolly and Karin Slaughter had published their new books in May too (instead of June and July respectively), I would have just called in sick and spent three days in bed reading.

Anyway, in this one, detective Jack Caffery is looking into several suicides that might actually be murders, and police diver Flea Marley learns a horrifying secret about her brother. I didn't like this one quite as much as her previous books, possibly because I read it right after Dark Places and it was bound to pale in comparison, but it's still very good.

Side note: This isn't out in the US yet; I bought a used British edition from an Amazon seller because it was less than the American hardcover would eventually set me back.

3. Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley: After winning an internship with a manga publisher, a young American woman finds herself trying to deal with culture shock, homesickness, an unhappy fiance, and a scheming mangaka who has it in for her. Pleasant fluff which (like all things set in Japan) made me want to hop the next flight to Tokyo.

4. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See: A sweeping novel about Pearl and May, two spoiled sisters in 1937 Shanghai. They enjoy their pampered lives and their work as "beautiful girls" (calendar models), but then their father tells them that they've been sold as wives to Chinese-American men. When the Japanese troops move into China, the sisters make their way to America to reunite with the husbands they barely even know. It started to falter a little more than halfway through, and it ended on a really weird note, but for the most part I enjoyed it.


1. I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci: A memoir about the author's love affairs and the food she made during them. A blurb on the back calls it "Eat Pray Love with recipes"; the author only wishes. It's not terrible or anything, just resoundingly meh. Some great food porn in here, though, especially if you love Italian food.

2. House Rules by Rachel Sontag: A memoir about growing up with a controlling and emotionally abusive father and a spineless mother. I had a hard time getting into this, because even though the author's father does sound like a brass-plated butthole, I don't think he was worth wasting 261 pages on. Maybe an essay in Glamour.

3. Crazy Love by Leslie Morgan Steiner: A memoir about the author's marriage to a physically and emotionally abusive man. Not particularly well written, and there was an undertone of snobbishness (i.e. she never misses a chance to talk about her Harvard degree or how rich her family is) that put me off. Also---and this is a minor spoiler, so skip to the next book if you plan on reading this---her dog died of liver cancer because, get this, she fed him a Reese's peanut butter cup every day. Um, okay, if you have a Harvard degree, how do you not know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs? Isn't that pretty common knowledge?

And this is probably an unnecessary disclaimer, but after my unfavorable reviews of this and #2, I want to make sure it doesn't look like I'm unsympathetic to what the authors went through. They both got raw deals and didn't deserve what happened to them, but a crappy life does not automatically equal a good writer.

4. Mommywood by Tori Spelling: I don't even care if you're mocking me right now (and make no mistake, I KNOW you are), because I love her. In college, one of my poetry professors passed out clippings from a tabloid, and we had to write a poem about the article we received. I got one on Tori Spelling. My poem wasn't very flattering, but after reading her first book I wound up liking her because she was so candid and self-deprecating. I would totally hang out with her and her posse o' gays anytime. Anyway, I didn't like this one nearly as much as Stori Telling, but it had its moments.

5. Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster: Various anecdotes from the author's younger years. Definitely my least favorite book of hers; I don't think I laughed out loud even once.


1. Love Com vol. 12 by Aya Nakahara

2. Otomen vol. 2 by Aya Kanno

3. Nightmare Inspector vol. 6 by Shin Mashiba

4. The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga* vol. 3

5. Make More Love and Peace by Takane Yonetani

6. Unlovable* by Esther Pearl Watson

7. V.B. Rose vols. 2-3 by Banri Hidaka

8. Voices of Love by Kanae Hazuki

9. Sounds of Love by Rin Tanaka


1. Splinter*: Two lovers on a camping trip are taken hostage by an escaped felon and his drug-addicted girlfriend. When they stop at a gas station, they come under attack by a bizarre spiky parasite. I wasn't expecting much from this, but I was pleasantly surprised; it's tense, peppered with some great black humor, and a lot of fun.

Side note: I almost didn't watch this because I'd heard that it employs the dreaded "shaky cam", which never fails to make me sick. (I had to flee a matinee of Cloverfield to go hork in the bathroom, and last month I had to quit watching Quarantine halfway through lest I repeat the feat on G's couch.) But for those of you similarly afflicted, fear not; it's only used during the creature attacks, and even though I was recuperating from food poisoning when I saw it, it didn't affect me at all.

2. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: Slight but sweet romantic comedy that follows the titular teenagers (including the always enjoyable Michael Cera) around New York City as they try to find a drunk friend, a surprise gig by their favorite band, and closure with their exes.

3. Bolt*: The canine star of an action TV show gets separated from his beloved human costar, and he tries to make his way back to her. However, he doesn't really have the superpowers he thinks he does, which makes things a little difficult. Cute and surprisingly funny (especially the manic hamster).

4. Afro Samurai Resurrection*: Afro's father's corpse is stolen from its grave, and Afro's out for blood...LOTS of blood. A visual masterpiece; the Japanese festival scene is especially impressive.

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is a gentle fable about a man aging backwards. I think it was perhaps a bit overrated, but I still enjoyed it. David Fincher was a good choice for director; in anyone else's hands, it probably would have been too mawkish.

6. Synecdoche, New York*: I seriously have no idea how to describe this movie, so I'll point you towards its IMDB page instead. Even though I didn't understand it and it left me feeling depressed and unsettled, I'm going to give it a star for its amazing cast (especially Philip Seymour Hoffman) and because it's like nothing else I've ever seen.

7. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Charming and beautifully animated movie about a teenage girl who discovers that she can leap through time, but even the smallest changes she makes in the past have enormous consequences.

8. Sex Drive: A teenage boy takes his two best friends on a road trip to meet his internet crush. Needless to say, many complications ensue. Stupid, but it has a few genuinely funny moments.

9. Star Trek: I saw the awesome trailer for this before I Love You Man, and even though I'm still traumatized by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (short version: dragged to it by my dad when I was a kid, spent most of the movie in the lobby watching people play video games, returned just in time for the horrific earworm scene, nightmares for a month), I eagerly agreed to go when G and C wanted to see it on Memorial Day. Well, um...I don't think I was its target audience, but it did have some cool action scenes and a terrific cast. (Any movie that includes Simon "Shaun" Pegg, Zachary "Sylar" Quinto, AND John "Harold" Cho among its cast is aces by me.)

10. Twilight: I enjoyed this more than the book, but that's like saying I enjoyed my last migraine more than my post-Vegas food poisoning.


1. "California Girls" by Magnetic Fields: No, this is not a cover of the Beach Boys classic. I love how this sounds like a cheery summer song until you listen carefully to the lyrics ("I hate California girls").




Awkward Boners (NSFW, obvs) is exactly what it sounds like: photographs of guys who pitched tents at inopportune times. You're welcome!