Friday, December 31, 2010

best of 2010: movies

And finally, we have my favorite movies of 2010. The usual disclaimers apply:

  • Not all of these movies were first released in 2010, but that's when I saw them.
  • Aside from the first two movies, these aren't necessarily listed in order of preference.
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. Kick-Ass: Dave is a teenage boy who loves superheroes and dreams of becoming one, even though he's just an ordinary kid. So he makes himself a costume out of a wetsuit and heads out to fight crime. He sees a man being beaten by thugs, and he interferes...and promptly gets the shit kicked out of him. But bystanders tape the incident on their cell phones, and he becomes an Internet sensation. Of course, he soon gets in over his head, and he's rescued by Hit Girl, a foulmouthed 11-year-old with supremely mad skills. He also meets her father, Big Daddy, and a fellow teen superhero named Red Mist, but when they all run afoul of a crime syndicate boss, things get nasty indeed. I absolutely loved this over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall movie. It's funny, action-packed, exhilarating, bloody, and even poignant at times, they had the good taste to put Sparks on the soundtrack, and Hit Girl is one of the coolest characters to hit the silver screen in a long time. Despite its stunningly poor box office, they're making a sequel, and I'll be there opening night, guaran-fuckin'-teed.

2. Toy Story 3: When Andy is preparing to leave for college, he decides to only take Woody with him and put the rest of his old toys in storage. But a mix-up leads to the toys being donated to a daycare center, and when it turns out that things are much more sinister than they initially seemed, Woody has to figure out a way to save his friends. Another gorgeously animated, funny, and bittersweet masterpiece from Pixar. If you trust nothing else I ever say in my life, trust this: have tissues handy.

3. The Hurt Locker: A searing movie about a cocky bomb disposal expert working in Iraq. Almost painfully intense at times, and Jeremy Renner is perfect in the leading role.

4. Easy A: A teenage girl's lie about losing her virginity gets her labeled as the school slut, and she decides to use the rumors to her advantage. An unusually sharp script and a terrific performance by Emma Stone elevate this movie far above the average comedy.

5. The Kids Are All Right: When the teenage children of a lesbian couple track down their sperm donor, it has unforeseen consequences for everyone involved. It hits the perfect balance between funny and touching, and Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are superb as Nic and Jules. They truly inhabit their characters, and during their interactions I had no trouble believing that they had been together for over 20 years.

6. Black Swan: Natalie Portman turns in a stunning and fearless performance as Nina Sayers, a ballerina who begins to completely lose her shit after winning the role of the Swan Queen. Even though it was a bit campier than I'd expected, I almost had a nervous breakdown watching it. That might not sound like a glowing endorsement, but its claustrophobic atmosphere, stellar acting, and nerve-jangling suspense make this one of the best psychological thrillers I've seen in years.

7. Zombieland: After the zombie apocalypse hits, a teenage boy sets out to find a safe haven. Along the way, he joins up with an especially enthusiastic zombie killer (a hysterical Woody Harrelson) and two scheming sisters. As far as zomcoms go, this is just about perfect, thanks to a wildly funny script and generous splashes of gore.

8. Inception: I'm not going to tell you anything about this movie, because I think the less you know about it, the better. (Plus, let's face it, you've probably already seen it!) I will say that it wasn't quite as good as I thought it would be, but considering how hard the hype machine was running, that would have been a tall order. Still, it's got some amazing visuals and it will twist your brain into knots, so thumbs up from me.

9. How to Train Your Dragon: Hiccup is a scrawny Viking boy whose lack of interest in slaying dragons is a huge disappointment to his father. But one night, Hiccup is toying around with a contraption he built and manages to knock a dragon from the sky. When he goes to investigate, he winds up being charmed by the dragon (which is more like an overgrown kitten or puppy than a fearsome beast) and eventually befriends it. Then...oh fuck, I'm seriously tearing up remembering this movie. Let's just say it's stunningly animated, often funny, and achingly sweet.

10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: When the title character (Michael Cera) meets Ramona, the girl of his dreams, he has to defeat her "seven evil exes" to be with her. These battles play out in hyperkinetic video game style, and are frankly quite awesome. Although the movie is really funny and I enjoyed the ever-lovin' hell out of it, I think it would appeal primarily to gamers and/or comic book fans.

And now, for your amusement, my random movie awards for 2010! I'll try to avoid spoilers as much as humanly possible, but if you're majorly spoiler-phobic, best to move on now.

BEST "BIRTH CONTROL" MOVIES: Orphan, Grace, Joshua

WEIRDEST FUCKING MOVIE OF ALL TIME EVER: 70's Japanese psychedelic horror flick House

YOU'RE GONNA GO FAR, KID: Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan)

BEST AMERICAN ACCENT BY A NON-AMERICAN ACTOR: Aaron Johnson in Kick-Ass; Russell Clank in The Crazies

WAY BETTER THAN I EXPECTED: Orphan, A Perfect Getaway, House of the Devil, The Invention of Lying

SCENE STEALERS: Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), Greta Gerwig (House of the Devil), Bart the Bear (The Edge), Sean Combs (Get Him to the Greek)

I AM DISAPPOINT: Ong Bak 3, Where the Wild Things Are, Paranormal Activity, Jennifer's Body, The Lovely Bones, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

BEST LINES: "Within your 'purview'? Where do you think you are, some fucking regency costume drama? This is a government department, not some fucking Jane fucking Austen novel! Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your purview and ram it up your shitter with a lubricated horse cock!" (In the Loop); "Y'know, I've come across a lot of psychos, but none as fucking boring as you. You are a real boring fuck. Sorry, sorry, I know you disapprove of swearing so I'll sort that out. You are a boring F, star, star, CUNT!" (In the Loop); "Fuck you, Mister Bitey!" (Kick-Ass; I refuse to spoil THE best line in that movie; suffice it to say it's the first line Hit Girl speaks); "Was I good?" (Black Swan); "When the world slips you a Jeffrey, stroke the furry wall" (Get Him to the Greek); "After we watch The Bucket List, remember to cross 'watch The Bucket List' off our bucket list" (Easy A); "Chocolate, candy, biscuits, love, and dreams!" (House); "Time to nut up or shut up!" (Zombieland)

ANYBODY GOT ANY PROZAC?: Animated Danish downer Princess, The Lovely Bones, Big Fan, Black Swan, Sex: The Annabel Chong Story, The Road

MOST VISUALLY STUNNING: Daybreakers, Black Swan, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, Red Cliff, Inception, Alice in Wonderland, The Fountain

MADE ME CRY: Toy Story 3, Grace, How to Train Your Dragon, The Princess and the Frog, The Lovely Bones


I JUST MAY VOMIT: The train set scene in Jackass 3D; the assorted "body horror" scenes in Black Swan; the orgy in The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!; "Inside you!" (Splice)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

how Olivia Newton-John saved my life

December has been quite rainy here in Southern California, and after a few welcome days of respite, the rain returned this morning.

I was driving to work and "Have You Never Been Mellow" came on the radio. Now, it's not one of my favorite songs, but it's inoffensive enough. I ain't gonna download it off iTunes or anything, but I won't frantically change the station if it starts playing either.

Anyway, I was lending Olivia backing vocals on the chorus and letting her take care of the verses.

"No, I just want you to slow down!" she implored.

"Okay, whatever you say, Olivia!" I replied, for I live alone and am prone to talking to the radio, myself, the TV, my laptop, and---on one memorable occasion after taking an Ambien---my bedspread. And I checked the speedometer and noticed that I actually was going a little fast, and I did in fact slow down...

...and turned a blind curve and saw a fallen tree branch across the road. Because I'd slowed down mere seconds before, I was able to swerve around it without skidding out or running over any of the splintered limbs that were just waiting to take out a tire or two.

Thanks, Olivia. The Vegemitinis are on me tonight!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

best of 2010, miscellaneous edition: part 2

(Please see my 10/23/10 entry for part 1.)

Here's where I talk about the miscellaneous things that rocked my world in 2010. A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these things made their debut in 2010, but that's when I first saw/played/watched/ate them.
  • I've already posted an extensive review of the game listed, so this one is less detailed. The month in parentheses indicates the month when it showed up in my media update, so if you want more information, please take a gander at the original review.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.
  • Finally, have a wonderful holiday!

Ordinarily I couldn't give less of a shit about shoes, but these Kobe Levi kicks, called Gumshoe and Miao respectively, are so freakin' awesome. The hell with wearing them; I'd put them in a Lucite cube and display them as art!

Thank Christ for the "reveal" at the end, or this commercial would still be haunting my dreams. I'm only helping!

When motocross champion Chuck Greene is falsely accused of a zombie outbreak in the gambling mecca of Fortune City, he has to clear his name, find medicine for his infected daughter, and save as many people as he can. That's a lot for one man to handle, but Chuck is a total fuckin' badass and he's up to the challenge. Filled with gallons of gore, DIY weapons, humor, tens of thousands of zombies, crossdressing, lap dances, strip poker, and even some heart, DR2 managed to kick the original out of my top 10 video games of all time and take its place. And if that wasn't enough, the downloadable prequel Case Zero added over 20 hours of additional play time. Case West, the next DLC chapter, drops on December 27th. Best belated Christmas present ever! (October)

I've been a fan of The Walking Dead graphic novels for years, so I was pleased to hear that it was being adapted into a TV series. "Pleased" quickly morphed into "thrilled" when I found out that Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) would be involved. Fortunately, I wasn't disappointed. It's a potent mix of humor, gore, suspense, and heartbreak; even non-zombie aficionados, assuming they can handle the intense violence, will find much to admire here.

Side note: the opening sequence is fine, but these fanmade credits are much better.

"Fuck yo' couch, Mister President!"

In Dead Set, a five-part British miniseries, a zombie outbreak traps contestants inside the Big Brother house...adding new meaning to "elimination episode". Clever and grimly funny, but the accents are awfully thick, so be prepared to turn on your closed captioning if you're a Yank.

I love how the ads for this gum try to make you think it's just as good as eating a slice of key lime pie. Yeah, not so much, assholes...but I gotta give them credit, it's such a decent imitation that I think Willy Wonka had a hand in its creation. I swear there's even a graham cracker note in there. I fear that they'll pull it off the market, so I always stock up whenever I see it. They also have a strawberry shortcake flavor (tastes like regular strawberry gum to me) and a mint chocolate chip ice cream flavor (haven't tried it) if those are more to your taste.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

best of 2010: fiction + the rest of my vacation

It occurred to me after posting my last Thanksgiving recap that I probably should have just finished it off because there's not much else to report. The day after the glorious petting of the sloth, we went to the Naples Art Museum, which was absolutely spectacular. The third floor was all glass stuff, including a breathtaking Chihuly ceiling and really cool works by an artist named Stephen Knapp. It's kind of hard to explain, but the "paintings" consisted of treated glass angled in the wall with a light shining down on them, and all of these kaleidoscopic rays shimmered against the wall. There was also an exhibit by Steven Assael, who worked in "old masters" style with modern subjects, like a heavily tattooed and pierced woman and a homeless couple riding the subway.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at J's father's house, and there were 28 people there! As is the custom, I ate until I was at the bursting point, and particularly enjoyed a piece of rockin' pecan pie. And everybody was extremely nice to me. When we left at the end of the night, I thanked J's father and stepmother for inviting me to their home, and she patted my cheeks, beamed, and said, "Now it is your home too."

The rest of the trip was spent visiting the Everglades, having a key lime shake at the oddly named Robert Is Here that was so good I'm adding it to my "last meal" list, and of course, playing with the kittens as much as possible. I was so enamored by them that I didn't even care if G's family heard me crooning, "Oh, look at you, you little fluffenrumpens! Look at your little muffin heads! Oh, what a loud purr! Such a big purr from such a little!"

...shut up.

Anyway, now it's on to the best novels of 2010. A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2010, but that's when I read them.
  • Aside from the first title listed, these are not necessarily in preferential order.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.

1. If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous: Still reeling from her father's suicide, Marina decides to take a job teaching English in the small Japanese town of Shika. She and her girlfriend Carolyn live in a cramped apartment across from a family that takes offense at their constant, though unintentional, disregard for the neighborhood's confusing rules for trash disposal. As Marina struggles with culture shock and the strain it puts on her relationship, she realizes that the grief she tried to leave behind in the US has only gotten stronger. Beautifully written and bittersweet; many scenes are quite funny, but the last few pages made me cry. (Not necessarily due to something bad happening, mind you; I shall neither confirm nor deny.)

2. Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson: The story begins with a woman named Tillie Harris going into labor and reluctantly calling her estranged father for help. Then it switches to Tillie's childhood, when her mother became mentally ill and then suddenly disappeared. A stunning, heartbreaking book.

3. Little Face by Sophie Hannah: A young mother leaves her baby daughter Florence in the care of her husband while she runs a quick errand. When she gets back, she looks in the crib and sees a different baby than the one she left behind. Her husband and domineering, wealthy mother-in-law insist that she's suffering from postpartum psychosis and that the baby is Florence. Undeterred, she goes to the police, who don't believe her either. The tension gets ratcheted up to almost excruciating levels, and I stayed up an hour past my bedtime to finish it. I was tired as hell the next morning at work, but it was worth it because this book is a corker.

4. Breaking Out of Bedlam by Leslie Larson: Cora Sledge is an obese, feisty 82-year-old woman who's addicted to junk food, cigarettes, and pain meds. Against her will, her children put her in an assisted living facility. Her granddaughter gives her a journal as a gift, and although she initially scoffs at it, soon she can't stop writing in it. She talks about the tragedies that befell her when she was younger, her daily life at the home, and the new resident who catches her eye. Funny and freshly original; I loved this book, and I loved Cora.

5. Horns by Joe Hill: Ignatius Perrish wakes up one morning, looks in the mirror, and sees horns growing from his temples. Initially, he thinks it's a hallucination brought on by heavy drinking, but it turns out the horns are real. He also has a new power to go along with them: people instantly blurt out their darkest secrets when they see him. He decides to use this power to his advantage and find out who raped and murdered the love of his life. Joe Hill is Stephen King's son (which, to his credit, he tried to keep secret for as long as he could in hopes of being judged on his own merits), and obviously he inherited some of his father's chops, because this book was fucking AWESOME.

6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: When Katniss Everdeen's sister is chosen by lottery for the Hunger Games---a televised fight to the death to gain food and favor from the oppressive government of Panem---Katniss volunteers to take her place. The other competitor for her district is a boy named Peeta, who seems to have a bit of a crush on her...which would be sweet if they weren't supposed to kill each other. This dystopian novel suffers from some choppy writing, but it's as addictive as potato chips.

7. The Wilding by Maria McCann: Jonathan Dymond, a man in his late twenties, lives a peaceful life with his parents until the day a letter arrives from his dying uncle. His father reads the letter and destroys it, but Jonathan later finds a scrap that hints at some dark secrets. He decides to go visit his Aunt Harriet, a truly nasty piece of work, to see if he can find out more. While there, he finds himself growing attracted to her servant Tamar, and it turns out she's hiding a few things herself. Nowhere near as good as As Meat Loves Salt, my favorite book of all time, but it's still engrossing and beautifully written.

8. The Truth-Teller's Lie by Sophie Hannah: When a woman's lover goes missing, she lies to the police and tells them that he raped her so they'll take the search more seriously. But it turns out that her story bears some striking similarities to several unsolved rape cases, and things get very complicated indeed. This novel has more twists and turns than a snake with a broken back, and although I thought I knew where it was going more than once, I was always proven wrong. Another winner from the supremely clever Sophie Hannah.

9. Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo: The small town of Painters Mill is rocked by the brutal murders of a local Amish family. Police chief Kate Burkholder, who was raised Amish but left that life behind, finds a diary hidden by one of the teenage daughters talking about her secret affair with an unnamed "English" (non-Amish) man. The entries are sweet at first, but quickly turn ugly with lurid descriptions of being drugged and forced into pornography. With very little to go on, Kate has to find the murderer and bring him to justice. Utterly gripping and almost impossible to put down.

10. The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah: Sally is a British woman who has a big secret: she told her husband she was going on a business trip, but---overwhelmed by the demands of her two small children---she went on a solo vacation instead, met a man named Mark Bretherick, and had a weeklong affair with him. Cue present day, when she's watching the news with her husband and they announce the murder-suicide of a woman and her young daughter. When they show her grieving husband, his name turns out to be Mark Bretherick...but it's not the man she had an affair with, despite every other detail (such as his job position and the names of his wife and child) matching up. Not only that, but the dead woman could be her twin. Sally starts to investigate, and pretty soon she's in way over her head. A creepy thriller that practically glued itself to my hands until I finished it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Thanksgiving vacation, part 2

Because J, A, and the kids had work and school until Wednesday afternoon, G, Madre, Padre, and I decided to go to Naples for a couple of days. We left on Monday morning and drove to the Corkscrew Bird Sanctuary, which is just outside of Naples.

The sanctuary wasn't as birdtacular as it had been on previous visits, according to Padre, but it was still pretty cool. Here are a couple of pictures, courtesy of Padre (mouse over for identification and/or comments).

By the way, does anyone know how to get rid of those white borders on Photobucket? I don't mind the smaller ones so much, but the big ones are effin' annoying!


Anhinga.  Look at that eye!


Great blue heron

On Tuesday, we went to the Naples Zoo, which was really terrific. It was a fairly small zoo, but we were there for almost 6 hours! They had a lagoon with several different islands, and you could take a boat cruise around to look at the animals. They were all primates, including gibbons, spider monkeys, and G's beloved lemurs.

Hay gurl

Don't mind me, I'm just airing out mah ballz

Why you staring all up in my business?

But there were other animals to gawk at, too:


So tie tie

Coming soon to a state fair near you:  Tiger on a stick.

But by far, the highlight of the zoo for me was a show where the trainers brought out several different animals and talked about them, including this gorgeous girl:

Who's a pretty girl?  You are.  YOU are!

And a sloth: my third favorite animal and second favorite deadly sin!

Her name was Molly, short for Molasses

Afterwards, they let you come up and ask questions or pose next to (or in the vicinity of; needless to say, nobody was allowed to get close to the ocelot) the animals. Of course, I wanted to get a picture with the sloth, and...



I think he might have done so because he thought I was mentally challenged, considering the look of manic glee on my face, but I don't give a shit because I got to PET THE SLOTH. Ever so gently, I petted the sloth's back, and she was surprisingly soft. She felt like a shaggy dog!

I've censored this picture because, in my pure joy, I look like the sister of the banjo-playing kid in Deliverance, but here's me and the sloth post-petting:

Afterwards, I said, "I went to Costa Rica to see sloths, but it turns out I had to go to Florida to actually touch one!" Truly awesome, and I got to check that off my bucket list.

When we left the zoo, we went to downtown Naples for dinner and I peeked in a clothing store that, according to our guidebook, had two store kitties. I only saw one: a white Persian with a lion cut. He was a bit grumpy, but tolerated some brief petting before sashaying away. Then we had dinner at a place called Yabba. The hostess was kind of bitchy, but the food was worth it. I had a particularly good burger and fries, and G and I split a slice of key lime pie with tequila-infused blueberry sauce and vanilla chantilly whipped cream. Y to the mothereffin' UM!

Back at the hotel, G and I wanted to use the whirlpool that the guest services binder promised us. We didn't find it, but we did find this:

They turned the whirlpool into a cactus garden. But hey, at least they left the "NO DIVING" sign!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Thanksgiving vacation, part 1

I'm still waiting for a few pictures from my trip, but I figured I'd better go ahead and start writing before my memory gets too fuzzy!

...okay, fuzziER. Gosh!

Anyway, we left for Florida on the 20th, and it was about as painless as travel gets. We caught a bus at the Van Nuys flyaway immediately, traffic to LAX was light, and the security line took all of five minutes to get through. (I was kind of hoping to get the full TSA treatment just so I'd have something new to bitch about, but no dice.) Our flight was also uneventful, aside from a brief bout of turbulence.

When we arrived in Miami, we were met by G's brother-in-law J and his nephew D. After dispensing hugs, we tossed our luggage in the trunk and drove to the house to meet up with G's sister A, his other nephew I, and G's parents, who I shall refer to here as Madre and Padre. I was taking off my shoes when I heard J say, "I think you might want to take a look at this." So I glanced up...

...and he put this into my arms.

As I stood there, stunned, holding the kitten, he put another one into my arms!

Dear reader, I freaked the fuck out.

I shifted my weight from side to side, gazing down at my glorious fuzzyheaded bounty, as J explained how they came to be in possession of two tiny MUFFINHEADED KITTYHEADS. One of I's classmates had been feeding a feral cat who gave birth, and once the kittens were old enough, she tried to find homes for them. After getting permission, I. brought these two loveyboos home. The gorgeous calico is Arwen, and the sweet black and white boy is Gandalf.

Spoiler alert: I fell in massive love with the kittens and spent as much time as I could with them during the trip. I know I shouldn't have a favorite, but I favored Arwen, because she was so feisty and Jesus Christ LOOK AT THAT FACE.

But of course they were both heart-meltingly, tooth-achingly cute. They loved playing with empty toilet paper rolls, and would rear up on their hind legs and paw at the air before leaping upon their prey.

...I miss them.


Monday, December 06, 2010

today he is a man

Thursday, December 02, 2010

best of 2010: nonfiction

And now it's time for the best nonfiction books of 2010, at least in my humble opinion. A few notes first:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2010, but that's when I read them.
  • Aside from the first title listed, these are not necessarily in preferential order.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.

NOTE: On December 9th, I changed number 2 from The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker.

1. Everything Is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert: After graduating from NYU, the author had an opportunity to visit Europe and perform in a play directed by a famous theater director. She knew upfront that she wouldn't get paid and that she'd have to play a man AND wear a "poop hat", but she didn't want to miss the opportunity. When she told her mom she wanted to go to Europe to find herself, her mother's tart reply was "We've already sent you to Europe twice. If you didn't find yourself then, you're probably not there." But she blithely went anyway, and found herself dealing with everything from the shock of seeing her first uncircumcised penis (she describes the end of a foreskin as looking like "a wrinkly Cheerio, or a hemorrhoid cushion for a dollhouse") to buying a stolen bicycle from a junkie in Amsterdam and suffering karmic consequences almost immediately. I couldn't read this in public because it made me laugh out loud constantly, but there are also a few heartbreaking moments.

2. You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers: The author grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic mother and an alcoholic father, so when she got older, she wondered if she might have mental issues of her own. This fear was only compounded when she developed a rare condition called prosopagnosia, which means that she can't recognize faces, even when they belong to someone she knows, like her boyfriend or a coworker. A terrific book, refreshingly devoid of self-pity, and well worth a read.

3. Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest to Find the Worst Movie Ever Made by Michael Adams: Make sure to have several empty slots in your Netflix queue before reading this hysterical book, because I guarantee you'll find at least a dozen howlers listed that you'll want to watch immediately.

4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: The powerful true story of the woman whose cells (called HeLa) survive to this day. She died of cervical cancer in the fifties, and doctors took cells from her body without her family's permission. The cells have been used for everything from developing the polio vaccine to testing the effects of outer space and atom bombs. Medical companies have made tons of money off her cells, but her family can't even afford health insurance. A troubling and brilliant book that raises some very important questions about ethics, race, and science.

5. Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh: A wildly entertaining book in which the (Jewish) author explores the lucrative world of Christian pop culture. He visited a Christian retail show and looked at everything from golf balls imprinted with Bible verses to Salvation Challenge, a board game so awful that "the only people I could imagine enjoying [it] were Rod and Todd Flanders". He also went to the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, explored the abstinence movement, and talked to Rob Adonis, the founder of Ultimate Christian Wrestling. Many of these anecdotes are hysterically funny, and often in a snarky way (oh, does he ever rip on Stephen Baldwin), but I thought he was generally fair. (Though ultraconservative Christians would no doubt disagree with me.)

6. People Are Unappealing by Sara Barron: A hysterically funny collection of essays covering everything from the author's stint as an Olive Garden waitress (where on one memorable occasion a customer asked her if a pork dish was vegetarian) to landing a date with her dream guy and discovering his pee fetish.

7. Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman: Shortly after graduating from college, the author's girlfriend convinced her to smuggle money for a West African drug lord. Kerman initially enjoyed the excitement, but eventually it got too scary and she stopped doing it. She thought she'd gotten away with it, but years later the police showed up at her door and arrested her. After pleading guilty to a lesser charge, Kerman was sent to federal prison for 13 months. Her experience in prison wasn't nearly as harrowing as you might think; she made friends with several other inmates, and she was never sexually or physically assaulted. But, of course, it wasn't exactly summer camp either. A fascinating look at a place most of us will hopefully never visit, and peppered with black humor and lots of bizarre details, like a prison recipe for cheesecake (ingredients: graham crackers, 4 pats of margarine, Laughing Cow cheese, vanilla pudding, Cremora, and a squeeze bottle of lemon juice) and how to make a dildo using a spork, a maxipad, and a rubber finger cut from a glove. Crafty!

8. I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner: An uproariously funny book about the author's many disastrous relationships. My favorite parts: when she talks about having a sexual awakening over a Night Court episode she watched during a slumber party ("I had a case of 12-year-old blue clit that an army of Coreys couldn't slake") and the inherent unfairness of girl/girl/guy threesomes. "With the exception of maybe Oskar Schindler, I don't believe there's a man who's ever lived who deserved sex with more than one woman at a time...Isn't it enough that they run society? A guy claiming he's entitled to a three-way with two women is like a chubby kid demanding frosting on his Snickers bar."

9. Role Models by John Waters: The famously filthy filmmaker talks about some of his favorite people, ranging from a lesbian stripper named Zorro to "Manson girl" Leslie Van Houten. As you'd expect, several of the chapters are funny and eye-opening ("blow roasts" HAVE to be an urban legend!), but this book can also be surprisingly poignant.

10. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach: It's a testament to this author that I read a book on outer space just because she wrote it. In her usual informative but funny style, Roach covers topics ranging from the hassles of crapping in space (let's just say the term "fecal popcorn" is used) to the unfair reputation of "astrochimp" Enos as an unrepentant masturbator.