Friday, July 31, 2009

media update (plus assorted ramblings): July

Jesus H. Macy, I am so freakin' tired right now. I was rudely awakened at 7AM by a bunch of clanging and banging downstairs. I stumbled into the living room, peeked outside, and saw a maintenance truck parked in front of my building. I'm assuming they're repainting so they can start showing the apartment immediately. Fingers crossed that it stays unoccupied for a long, long time, just like practically every other apartment in my complex. There's one on my floor that has been empty since I moved in two years ago!

As I think I've mentioned before, I eat a whole hell of a lot of Subway. I have it for lunch every Monday, and occasionally during the week I'll get a strong-ass craving and head on over. I have four franchises within two miles of my home (one within walking distance), and one less than a mile from where I work, so it's ridiculously easy to quench my carb-driven desires.

Anyway, I recently stopped by Subway after my massage. I grabbed my bag of salt and vinegar chips and bottle of Coke Zero, and I went up to the counter and ordered a footlong ham and American cheese on Italian bread.

"What kind of vegetables?" the bored teenager behind the counter asked.

"Nothing, just mustard and then that's it."

"You don't like vegetables?"


She smiled. "Me either. They take up valuable candy space."

And I was like OMG yay be my bestie!

I'll head off the inevitable comments about "why don't you make your own sandwich at home, GOD, how hard is it?" If it was just the meat and cheese, sure, but it's the BREAD. Goddamn I love their bread. And all bread. And all carbs.

Speaking of carbs, I had an awesome birthday: fantastic presents, effervescent conversation, and a trip to one of my favorite restaurants, where I had margherita pizza, a Milky Way martini, a key lime pie martini (complete with graham cracker rim!), and the best bread pudding in the world, drenched in creme anglaise and caramel sauce and decorated with a birthday sparkler. I'm not kidding when I say that I practically had to be rolled out of the restaurant a la Violet Beauregarde. (And, thanks to a little too much liquor, just about as purple.) But at the risk of sounding like Sappy McMusherstein, the best part of my birthday wasn't the food or the gifts (although they were seriously boss); it was spending time with some of my favorite people in the world.

And speaking of food, I've gotten so addicted to Hell's Kitchen. I'd never seen it before, but I was so bored that I tuned in for its season premiere, and I'm glad I did. Yes, Gordon Ramsay comes across as a bully and a colossal asshole, but like I told a friend of mine, I wouldn't want to work for him, but I'd sure love to eat in one of his restaurants because he refuses to settle for anything short of perfection. I'm rooting for Tek, the Asian woman with the spacers in her ears.

Anyway, on to the update. Not a lot of movies this month, mainly because G and I have been watching Freaks & Geeks on DVD (so very awesome; full review in next month's update, after we've seen every episode) and playing our current game, Persona 4. Man, I'm not big on RPGs as a general rule, but that game has eaten my soul. How could it not, when one of the levels is a bathhouse, complete with thumping disco music and ultra-gay, rose-bedecked boss? (Don't worry, it's not as homophobic as it sounds, but explaining why would take forever and I doubt too many of you give a shit anyway.)

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


1. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist: I just saw the movie last month (brief recap: teenage boy, strange girl, big secret), but I wanted to read the book too because it was obvious that a lot of back story had been omitted. It dragged in a few parts but I thought it was decent, and it certainly made a lot of things clearer, especially a particular "WTF did I just see?" moment.

2. Sworn to Silence* by Linda Castillo: In a small Ohio town, the chief of police, Kate Burkholder, was raised Amish and then left the faith. When a serial killer starts torturing and murdering women, she begins to wonder if a dark secret from her past has returned. An engrossing (with emphasis on the "gross"; some unnervingly graphic descriptions in here) novel; I stayed up until 3:30AM to finish it.

3. The French Mistress by Susan Holloway Scott: A novel about Louise de Keroualle, the woman who was sent to London in order to seduce King Charles II and keep him on the good side of the French. This author is one of my favorites when it comes to historical fiction. A bit heavier on the political intrigue and lighter on the sex than I'd like, but still a worthy read.

4. Undone* by Karin Slaughter: An elderly couple is taking the scenic route home from their anniversary party when their car hits a woman. When she arrives at the hospital, the doctors discover that most of her horrific injuries were actually caused by brutal torture. The police find the underground chamber from which she escaped, but then another victim turns up, and more women begin disappearing. Another nailbiter from the queen of gory, gripping thrillers, but I feel obligated to warn potential readers of two things. First off, the author is very aptly named, and some of the descriptions of the killer's handiwork are nauseating in the extreme. Second, this book will pretty much take over your life until you finish it.


1. Body of Work* by Christine Montross: A memoir about the author's experiences dissecting a cadaver during her medical training. In the wrong hands, this could have been revolting, but it's respectful, beautifully written (Montross was a poet before she was a doctor), and full of interesting tidbits. For example, "If an uncomplicated procedure such as a hernia repair or a tubal ligation is scheduled in early July when the new residents have just begun, it is likely that the operating resident will never have done the procedure before in his life."

2. Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around by Cheryl Wagner: A heartbreaking (and occasionally grimly funny) memoir about life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and why the author and her boyfriend refused to leave.

3. I Love Yous Are for White People by Lac Su: In 1979, when he was a child, the author and his family fled to the US because his father was wanted by the Communists. This memoir is about his tumultuous relationship with his father and how he turned to gangs to find the acceptance he didn't get at home. Warning to potential readers: some of the anecdotes made my bullshit meter ping, and also, there's a disturbing scene near the end where he goes to Vietnam as an adult and eats dog. I don't say this to be culturally insensitive; after all, one man's cheeseburger is another man's sacred cow. However, it will be difficult to read for your average American.

...okay, I have to share one moment from the aforementioned scene, because it is just SO GROSS. Skip to the next number if you don't want to read about it.

Still with me? Like I said, Lac Su went to Vietnam and decided to go to a restaurant specializing in dog. His friend, a native, ordered a bunch of different dishes for the author to try. The final course was a plate of dog intestines, and as he ate, he kept reaching into his mouth and picking out hard, salty lumps. Finally, it dawned on him that those lumps were pieces of undigested kibble. I have a pretty strong constitution, but I almost gagged.

4. Under the Table by Katherine Darling: A mildly interesting memoir about the author's stint at the French Culinary Institute. Like all books of this type, it's basically food porn, so read it on a full stomach unless you want to devour everything in your kitchen.

5. The Big Rewind by Nathan Rabin: A memoir in which the author, who writes for The Onion's AV Club, compares events in his unusual life to various bits of pop culture. For example, he opens the chapter about his stay in a mental hospital by talking about Girl, Interrupted, and he draws parallels between the cult classic Freaks and his bizarre living situation at the time. There were three chapters about his brief job as a movie critic that I didn't find particularly interesting, so I didn't give this a star, but there are a lot of really funny lines in here. My favorite: "Frequent drug users and depressives are both highly susceptible to a condition that renders them incapable of experiencing pleasure or joy. This condition is alternately known as 'anhedonia' or 'Judaism'."


1. High School Debut vol. 10 by Kazune Kawahara

2. Love Com vol. 13 by Aya Nakahara

3. Kitchen Princess vol. 10 by Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi

4. Papillon vol. 4 by Miwa Ueda

5. Sleepwalk* by Adrian Tomine: If a picture is worth a thousand words, Adrian Tomine's drawings are worth three thousand. He's just so fucking good.

6. ChocoMimi by Konami Sonoda


1. Towelhead: Jasira is a 13-year-old girl whose mother sends her to live with her abusive, extremely traditional Lebanese father in Texas. She winds up experimenting sexually with the man next door and a boy at school. I loved the book, but this was really disappointing, especially considering that Alan Ball (who wrote American Beauty) directed and adapted the screenplay. Plus, with the exception of Summer Bashil (who played Jasira) and Toni Collette, I thought the acting was pretty bad, especially the guy who played Jasira's father. He's so over the top in his nastiness that I kept expecting him to twirl his mustache. Also, it's a little disturbing watching someone who's supposed to be 13 masturbating and having sex. Granted, the actress was 18 at the time of filming, and she doesn't LOOK 13, but it still gave me the heebie-jeebies. I kept expecting Chris Hansen to walk in and give me a talking to.

2. Smokin' Aces: A Las Vegas magician decides to testify against a mob boss, who puts a million dollar bounty on his head. This sends a whole lot o' bad guys (and women) after him, eager to cash in on the reward. Style to spare and a star-studded cast, but for some reason I just couldn't get into it.

3. Man on Wire*: A fascinating, Oscar-winning documentary about Phillipe Petit, the French man who walked a tightrope stretched between the World Trade Center's towers in 1974.


1. "Heartbeat, Heartbreak" (Persona 4 OST)

2. "Your Affection" (Persona 4 OST)

3. "Jizz in My Pants" by The Lonely Island