Friday, July 29, 2011

(early) media update: July

I'm posting this early because the next several days are going to be a little hectic, so I probably won't have time to post this otherwise, much less read, watch, or play anything else.

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


1. Fallen* by Karin Slaughter: When GBI agent Faith Mitchell arrives at her mother's house to pick up her daughter, she finds chaos: her mother is missing, the baby is locked in the toolshed, and there's an alarming amount of blood everywhere. Oh, and there's a dead man in the laundry room and two more armed men lying in wait. Faith takes down the two gunmen, but finding her mother won't be as easy. Karin Slaughter is one of my favorite authors, and this is another gripping mystery with a development about halfway through that ought to make longtime fans very happy.

2. Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo: At a rural Amish farm, three people are found dead in a manure pit. Initially it seems like an accident, but when the autopsy tells a different story, police chief Kate Burkholder begins to fear that the recent hate crimes against the Amish have taken a deadly turn. I loved the other two books in this series, but this installment seemed a bit off to me. Plus it drove me nuts how often people "snapped" (27 uses according to Amazon's search function, and twice on the same page by the same person). Mix it up a little! Say they "barked", or "said sharply", or something else instead.

3. The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen: In Boston's Chinatown, a tourist finds a severed hand. The police find the hand's owner on a rooftop with her head nearly cut off and two mysterious hairs clinging to her body. The investigation leads detective Jane Rizzoli to dig deeper into a mass murder-suicide 19 years earlier. Not one of Gerritsen's better books, but at least I finished this one, unlike its predecessor Ice Cold.


1. Don't Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley: A chronicle of the author's lifelong struggle with severe food allergies encompassing everything from dairy to mustard. The title comes from when she was a child and her mother would have to warn well-meaning party guests not to kiss her lest their frosting-tainted lips cause her to have a reaction.


1. Library Wars vol. 5 by Kiiro Yumi

2. Grand Guignol Orchestra vol. 3 by Kaori Yuki

3. 20th Century Boys vols. 6-9 by Naoki Urasawa

4. The Spiral of Sand by Yuna Aoi

5. You Will Drown in Love by Hinako Takanaga

6. Black Bird vol. 9 by Kanoko Sakurakoji

7. Butterflies, Flowers* vol. 7 by Yuki Yoshihara

8. Caricature* by Daniel Clowes

9. The Walking Dead* vol. 14 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn

10. Flower in a Storm vol. 2 by Shigeyoshi Takagi

11. Kobato vol. 4 by CLAMP

12. Stepping on Roses vol. 6 by Rinko Ueda

13. Empire State by Jason Shiga

14. Sakura Hime by Arina Tanemura

15. Rin-Ne vol. 6 by Rumiko Takahashi


I did not see Zookeeper (nor will I ever), but I had to share Gawker's review of it: "Kevin James farts and falls down for two hours and you just paid $60 to take your family to see it. So just think about that on your minivan ride home."

1. I Am Number Four: More like I Am Number Two, amirite?

...okay, fine. This breathtakingly stupid flick about a hot teen alien boy struggling to fit in and avoid the not-hot alien bounty hunters after him had its moments. Not enough to warrant seeing it, mind you, but I ain't mad that I watched it.

2. Unknown: A tidy thriller in which Liam Neeson (unf) plays a doctor who gets in a car accident in Berlin. When he gets out of the hospital, another man has assumed his identity...and stolen his wife in the process.

3. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights: An animated anthology of Green Lantern stories, including one by Alan Moore (though he refused credit, as is his pissy genius wont). Not fabulous or anything, but it's diverting enough, and probably much better than the live action Ryan Reynolds movie.

4. Hobo with a Shotgun*: Rutger Hauer plays a homeless man who relocates to the ironically named Hope City, a place filled with senseless cruelty and corrupt cops. All he wants to do is buy a lawnmower and start his own business, but when he tangles with a crime lord and his ruthless sons, he takes up a shotgun and becomes a vigilante instead. I showered before watching this, and afterwards I felt like I needed another one, which I mean as a compliment.

I mean, look. Everything you need to know is right there in the title, so if the title doesn't grab you, you'll hate this movie. Personally, I loved it because it reminded me of sweltering summer nights as a teenager in NYC in the 1970's, when my friends and I would go catch a double feature at a Times Square grindhouse, and we'd be passing a joint and a bottle of cheap wine in a paper bag back and forth and nobody even gave a shit. Those were some amazing times.

...what do you mean that never happened? YOU never happened!

5. Cedar Rapids: A naive insurance salesman (Ed Helms) reluctantly leaves home to attend a convention in the "big city" of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It had a few good laughs (most notably an impression of Omar from The Wire), but I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

6. Just Go with It: Adam Sandler plays a plastic surgeon who pretends he's unhappily married in order to pick up chicks. When he needs to keep up the charade in order to convince his hot new girlfriend, he recruits his office manager (Jennifer Aniston) to play the part of his bitchy wife. Unbelievably predictable and stupid, but funnier than I was expecting it to be.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2*: the saga has finally come to an end. On the plus side, though, they made up for Part 1's two hours of mopin' in the woods with nonstop action, some wry humor, and floods and floods of tears. I walked out of the theater with my face dry and tight from crying practically nonstop throughout the movie. A fitting end to one of the greatest stories ever told, and my favorite movie of the year so far.

Side note: The movie had been on for all of two minutes when a very small child began screaming and crying. Several people began shushing him, and a woman in back called out "Show some respect and take him out of here!" Poof...brattus disappearo! That freakin' ruled. There's something to be said for public shaming.

8. Life During Wartime: This sequel to Happiness once again follows three sisters, though it focuses primarily on Trish, whose lie about her convicted pedophile husband comes to light, and Joy, who is haunted by the specter of a man she rejected. Every part has been recast; for example, Joy is now played by, I shit you not, Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter films, and the obscene phone caller originally played by Philip Seymour Hoffman is now played by Omar from The Wire. Yes, really. I will always watch anything Todd Solondz does, because Welcome to the Dollhouse is one of my favorite movies and Happiness is probably in my top hundred as well, but this one was way too fucking bleak. Jesus, he's such a misanthrope he makes me look like Will "I never met a man I didn't like" Rogers! Even though all of his previous films were dark as shit, they still had some humor to them. This one, not so much.


Imagine that Devil May Cry and No More Heroes had hot dirty sex while Silent Hill music played in the background. Then a demonic tattooed baby was born whose first sentence was a dick joke, and they named it Shadows of the Damned.

Garcia Hotspur is a badass, heavily inked demon hunter with a filthy mouth, but he still loves his girlfriend Paula with all his heart. So you can imagine his horror when he comes home and finds her hanging from the rafters. Fleming, the lord of hell, claims her as his own, and Garcia will stop at nothing until Fleming and his minions are destroyed and Paula is back in his arms. He's accompanied by his sidekick, a wisecracking British skull named Johnson who can transform into weapons and even a motorcycle (though only in the opening cinema).

Picking up this game was an absolute no-brainer because of its sterling pedigree: it was created by No More Heroes mastermind Suda51 and Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil, God Hand, and Devil May Cry fame. Throw in a soundtrack by genius Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka and I was there.

So does SOTD make its papas proud?

THE GOOD: First and foremost, despite the fact that it starts with a woman's suicide and takes place primarily in hell, SOTD is hysterically funny, as you'd expect from the creator of vigorously masturbating otaku assassin Travis Touchdown and zombie slaying cheerleader Juliet Starlink (in the upcoming game Lollipop Chainsaw, which I will be purchasing as soon as humanly possible). If you have the slightest problem with salty language, adult content, and constant penis jokes, well, first of all, why are you reading my blog, and second of all, this ain't the game for you. To give you a few examples: at one point you have to let Johnson listen to a dirty phone call, which makes him turn into an enormous gun called the Big Boner. Garcia then uses this gun to mow down approaching enemies, all the while shouting "Taste my big boner!" In the same, uh, vein, one of the moves you can use with Johnson is called the Hot Boner Payload. You save your game by startling a creature named One-Eye Willy, who leaves a flaming pile of shit behind as he flees. In an area reminiscent of A.I.'s Rouge City, you have to climb over your girlfriend's enormous, topless, lingerie-clad body as she sucks on her fingers. Along the way, you find books that give you backstory on bosses, and one of them talks about a guy burying his face in a woman's beaver. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Not that I was expecting anything less, but Akira Yamaoka's soundtrack is flawless. If you'd played me the music a couple of months ago and told me that it was from the next Silent Hill game, I totally would have believed you. It even features a track by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who provided vocals for several SH installments. But not every song sounds straight out of Silent Hill; there's also a heavy metal track that plays during many enemy encounters and a weird upbeat chanting song when you're following the sushi lamp. (Don't ask.) The voice actors also do a great job, especially the obscenely prolific Steven Blum as Garcia Hotspur. His Mexican accent occasionally strays a bit too far into Taco Bell chihuahua territory, but overall I thought he brought Garcia to life admirably. I especially loved the parts where he'd read a boss storybook aloud and hesitate over the harder words, which Johnson would then helpfully pronounce for him.

THE BAD: None of the bosses have life meters, which sucks because some of those bosses are absolute bitches to kill. It would have been nice to know when they were almost dead.

This is a very short game; it took us about 10 hours on normal difficulty. And you don't get a "new game plus" option when you finish, so you don't get to keep all of your nifty upgrades if you decide to play again. For a game that costs $60 (though we rented it from Gamefly), taking away any real reason to replay it is weak sauce.

And I don't know about "bad" exactly, but the graphics aren't really up to par for the 360. Although the backgrounds are generally crisp, the facial animation is pretty uninspired for a next-gen console. Granted, anything I played after LA Noire was going to suffer in comparison, but I still think they could have done a better job with the faces.

While we're on the topic of graphics, hey, how about those cutscenes? Pretty cool, eh? Well, you better damn well think so. You can't skip cutscenes, which is unfortunate because you'll be seeing several of them more than once. Why? Because...

THE UGLY: ...This. Game. Is. Fucking. HARD. Like, wrist-crampingly, vein-poppingly difficult. When the game starts, you can choose between Lemon Hunter (easy), Demon Hunter (normal), and Legion Hunter (hard). We chose normal, and I gotta say, that was a mistake. And oh, hey, too bad because you can't change difficulty once you've started the game! By the time I realized "Hmm, this might be a bit too tough for my particular skill set," we were too far into the game to justify starting over, especially since it was a rental. I hate to admit it, because it plays into the worst stereotypes of girl gamers and I pride myself on generally being a pretty good one, but more than once I had to pass the controller off to G to beat a boss or a particularly thorny character. Since SOTD does provide an easy option when you start, it might not be fair to knock it down a couple of notches based on its difficulty level, but this is my blog so neener neener.

Anyway, is SOTD worth playing? Absolutely, if you're a fan of any of the creators' previous games and you have a high tolerance for penis jokes and naughty language. But do yourself and your blood pressure a favor, and if you're not sure you have the patience or wrist strength to handle the normal difficulty, play on easy. I promise not to tell anyone.


I'm going to describe something to you, and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind.

In an idyllic small town, flanked by forests and famous for its stunning waterfall, a beautiful young woman is found brutally murdered. The FBI sends an agent to investigate. He's quirky and overly fond of coffee and cherry pie, but he's got some amazing insights into the case...some of which come to him while he stands in a red room occupied by strange characters.

Twin Peaks is what sprang to mind, right? Wait, there's more. What if I told you that occasionally the agent is suddenly thrust into a dangerous otherworld that nobody else seems to notice? And every once in a while, he must hide from a seemingly immortal murderer?

"Well, Jesus," you must be muttering to yourself. "That sounds like Silent Hill with a bit of Clock Tower or Haunting Ground thrown into the mix. What the hell are you talking about?"

Friends, I'm talking about Deadly Premonition. It's one of the most seriously flawed games I've ever played, and I fucking loved it.

Deadly Premonition (hereafter referred to as DP despite the sexual connotations) was initially supposed to come out in 2007 under the title Rainy Woods, but was delayed after people pointed out how similar it was to Twin Peaks so the developers could rework it a bit. During the first couple of hours, I wondered how much MORE derivative it could have been. Was the murder victim named Laurel Palmer? Was the agent called Dale Hooper? But as the game progressed, it became much more original and even started to rival its inspiration for sheer batshit crazy.

After the body of Anna Graham is found strung up in a tree, FBI agent Francis York Morgan ("Call me York") comes to the small town of Greenvale to investigate. There are similarities to other murder cases he's been working on, especially the presence of strange red seeds in the victim's mouth and her bitten-off tongue. He's joined by sheriff George Woodman and deputy Emily Wyatt, not to mention his invisible friend/alternate personality Zach, who seems to share his love of 80's movies. York has to find the infamous Raincoat Killer (who likes to give chase at inopportune moments) and navigate the Otherworld filled with backwards-walking, Joker-faced ghosts, all while trying to catch lovely Emily's eye and making time to shave and send his suits to the cleaners. If you don't keep York groomed, he actually attracts flies and you receive a "Stinky Agent" penalty!

This game is terrible on so many levels. The graphics are about on a level with early PS2 or even Dreamcast games. Emily is generally done pretty well, but most of the characters are just plain butt-ugly. Anna was supposed to be a legendary beauty, but when you see flashbacks of her, she's about as attractive as those aforementioned ghosts. Greenvale is a large area, so you better enjoy driving all over hell's half acre with a borderline useless map. (Though to be fair, by completing a certain sidequest, you obtain a radio that allows you to warp to any area you've previously visited. Getting that radio cut down on a lot of my frustration with the game!) York controls like a tank and aims like a wino with the DTs. Enemies keep repeating the same stupid things ("Kiiiiiiillllll're going to diiiiiiiiiiie...") over and over again in a voice that sounds like a 45 rpm record played on 33 rpm speed.

But oh, dear reader, the things that are right with DP are glorious. York is a really fun character, prone to such inappropriateness as nattering on about a particularly gory case ("He urinated in their skulls!") while completely oblivious to his dining companions' nauseated expressions. The soundtrack is also a ripoff of Twin Peaks---a couple of songs in particular sound like somebody snuck into Angelo Badalamenti's house and stole his composition book---but that's not a bad thing at all.

And best of all, the story. I can't go into too much detail because ruining this game would be like spoiling an excellent movie. Suffice it to say that it stops being a Twin Peaks clone and transforms into something wholly original. It unfolds in classic mystery style, peeling back layer upon layer to expose the sinister heart of Greenvale, and at one point, it even had me in tears. The plot elevates DP from a 4 (and that's being generous) to a well-deserved 8.

As of this writing, DP only costs $15 on Amazon, so if it sounds remotely interesting to you, buy a copy before they get wise and raise the price. It's definitely not for everyone; some of the plot elements are disturbing in the extreme, and you'll have to be willing to tolerate some truly abysmal combat and graphics, but the unusual characters and incredible story will make it well worth your time.

So says Mr. Stewart!

And speaking of Deadly Premonition, creator/genial kook Swery65 recently posted this picture of himself on Twitter. I swear to God I did NOT edit this in any way; if you don't believe me, check out the source here.

I. Love. Him.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

the Shriners loaned us cars

We raced up and down the sidewalk twenty thousand million times.

Here's a survey stolen from my online amigo Peggy.

1. Favorite color?


2. Longest friendship?

Spock, who I've known since junior high. I can't remember whether we met in 7th or 8th grade, though.

3. Last gift you received?

The Las Vegas trip.

4. How many times have you dropped your cell?

A couple of times, most notably in the (freshly flushed, fortunately, and try to say that three times fast) toilet here at work. In an example of the most perfect timing ever, Yahoo had recently posted an article on how to save a wet cell phone, and it worked! My phone smelled like rice pilaf for a couple of weeks, but I like rice pilaf.

5. When's the last time you worked out?

If walking a mile counts, then 3:30PM today. If not, then Tuesday night, when I used my Wii Fit.

6. Thing you spend a lot of money on?


7. Last food you ate?

A bag of Cheez-Its.

8. First thing you notice about the opposite sex?

Honestly? Their shoes, because I have such a hard time making eye contact.

9. One favorite song?

As my title/opening line will attest, "She's An Angel" by They Might Be Giants.

10. Where do you live?

Southern California.

11. High school you attended:

One in Southern California.

12. Cell phone service provider:


13. Favorite mall store:

Sephora. I rarely wear makeup, but I am a slave to the smellies. I was there last Sunday and bought a rollerball of Donutella, one of Tokidoki's new fragrances.

14. Longest job ever had:

My current one. I've changed positions (say now!) numerous times, but I've been with the same company for 12 years. My shortest job was cashier at Media Play, but that was because they closed down my local store literally two months after opening it. The work itself was nothing thrilling, but I worked with some really cool people and got a 40% discount on just about everything, so that was aces at least.

15. Do you own a pair of dice?


16. Do you prank call people?

No, but I was known to call my high school crushes and then hang up squealing before anyone answered. This was pre-caller ID, of course.

17. Last wedding attended?

I don't even remember. I think I've only been to three weddings in my entire life!

18. First person you'd call if you won the lottery:


19. Last time you attended church:

College. My friend L was religious, and she knew I was agnostic, but she asked me to come to a special service at a predominantly African-American church. If more churches were like that one, I'd probably go just for the entertainment value! I don't mean that in a snide way; the singing was amazing and the food afterwards was excellent. I also appreciated the fact that the sermon focused on love and acceptance rather than "OMG you did x and y and now God hates you."

20. Favorite pastimes:

Reading, movies, and video games.

21. Biggest lie you have heard?

Drawing a blank.

23. Where's your favorite place to eat with friends?

A local BBQ joint.

24. Can you cook?

BRB, LOLing forever.

25. What car do you drive?

2008 Honda Civic. His name is Ginji.

26. First celebrity crush?

Harrison Ford.

27. Last time you cried?

Sunday during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I cried several times, but one scene in particular left me borderline dehydrated. I'll just say one word which won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen/read it, but those of you who have will know instantly what I'm talking about: "Always." Floods and floods of tears.

28. Most disliked food:

Onions are the devil's own vegetable. And they're in everything! And you can't just pick them off because they permeate everything with their foul juices. I think one of the reasons I love sweets so much is that you ain't never gonna find onions in no goddamn creme brulee.

29. Thing you like most about yourself?

I think I'm moderately smart and funny.

30. Thing you dislike most about yourself:

I'm going to focus purely on non-physical things, because if I included appearance-related things, this would take forever. I hate my temper, my inability to let things go, my impatience, and my raging misanthropy.

(Oddly enough, there was no 31 on the list. I even went back and double checked Peggy's entry to be sure I didn't skip one.)

32. Longest shift you have worked at a job?

17 hours. No, that's not a typo. I opened for Blockbuster one morning, and then the closing manager never showed up. I called every other store and begged for someone to come relieve me, but no dice. So I was there from 8AM to 1AM, on a fucking SATURDAY, back in the days before Netflix when people would actually GO to Blockbuster. And hey, I got to open again the next morning! Wheeee!

33. Favorite movie?

I can never decide on one, but if I absolutely had to pick one, I would go with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which I saw 3 1/2 times in the theater. (The half comes from seeing it with Spock in Lancaster at a dingy dollar theater, and the film broke halfway through and they weren't able to fix it.)

34. Can you sing?

Wow no!

35. Last concert?

John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl.

36. Last kiss?

Monday morning.

37. Last movie rented?

I started watching Life During Wartime, the newest Todd Solondz movie, last night but had to turn it off because I was starting to pass out. I must say, watching Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) spitting "Eat shit, you fucking c---!" in a woman's face literally made me jerk back against the couch in shock.

38. Thing you never leave home without?

My purse.

39. Favorite vacation spot?


40. Do you like Chinese food?

My options are somewhat limited due to my aversion to most vegetables, but I love lemon/orange chicken.

42. Is your room clean?

I keep my bedroom pretty clean. It's the living room where crap tends to accumulate.

43. Laptop or desktop computer?

Laptop at home, desktop at work.

44. Favorite comedian?

George Carlin. (RIP)

45. Do you smoke?

I had a brief dalliance with cigarettes as a teenager, but quit when I realized my dad would kick my ass if he found out.

46. Sleep with or without clothes?

With. I usually wear a t-shirt and yoga pants.

47. Who sleeps with you every night?

It's just me except on the weekend.

48. Long distance relationships work?

It really depends on the people involved. Never worked for me personally, though.

49. How many times have you been pulled over by the police?

Three: once for turning right on red (there was a sign posted, which I didn't notice), once for going a whopping three miles above the speed limit, and once for doing a "California stop" (i.e. just barely slowing down at a stop sign and then coasting right through). I got tickets the first two times, and the third cop let me off with a warning.

50. Pancakes or french toast?

French toast, but G's mom makes some bombdiggity blueberry pancakes.

51. Do you like coffee?

I don't drink it on a regular basis, but once or twice a year, I get a major craving for it.

52. How do you like your eggs?


53. Do you believe in astrology?

No, but I still read my horoscope every morning.

54. Last person you talked to on the phone?

Daddy-O, who is currently vacationing on the Jersey Shore. I told him to give Snooki a fist bump for me, and then spent the next five minutes patiently explaining who Snooki is.

55. Last person on your missed call list?

My credit card company.

56. What was the last text message you received?


57. McDonald's or Burger King?

Burger King.

58. Number of pillows?

I only use one when I sleep, but I have four on my bed. I use the other three to prop myself up when I read in bed.

59. What are you wearing right now?

What are YOU wearing, handsome?

...okay, fine. I'm wearing a navy blue shirt with white accents around the neck and sleeves, jeans, sneakers, socks, and the usual undergarments. Perfume of the day: Diptyque.

60. Pick a lyric, any lyric or song?

From Magnetic Fields: "The cactus where your heart should be/has lovely little flowers/and though it's always pricking me/my ardor never sours."

61. What kind of jelly do you like on your PB & J sandwich?


62. Can you play pool?


63. Do you know how to swim?

I can doggy paddle well enough, but that's about it.

64. Favorite ice cream?

Unfortunately, several of my favorites are either impossible to find (blue moon) or retired (Ben & Jerry's Uncanny Cashew, Archer Farms Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel). But I love pistachio. It has to be that unnatural green color, though.

65. Do you like maps?

Only in the Silent Hill universe, because they have the best mapping system of any video game ever.

66. Tell me a random fact about yourself:

I can hold a piece of popcorn in my dimple.

68. Ever attend a theme party?


69. What is your favorite season?


70. Last time you laughed at something stupid?

This happens on a near-constant basis.

71. What time did you wake up this morning?


72. Best thing about winter?

It's cool enough to walk outside without sweating like a virgin at a whorehouse.

73. Last time a cop gave you a ticket?


75. Name of your first pet?

Pixie, a monstrous little bitch of a hamster. But she was pregnant when we got her---surprise!---and she had an enormous litter, only one of which I was allowed to keep. (Don't worry, the others were donated to the pet store. And yes, they probably became snake food, but let me have my delusions that they were all adopted by nice families.) I named that one Honey Bunny, and she was as sweet as her name.

76. Do you think pirates are cool or overrated?

Pirates are cool, but will never be as cool as ninja.

77. What are you going to have for dinner tonight?

A can of Annie's organic cheesy ravioli.

79. What is the third letter of your name?

First or last? Well, I guess it doesn't matter, since the answer is the same: R.

80. How old are your pets?

I have no pets because of my stupid lease. Occasionally, I'll get all "RAWR must touch cat" and G will take me to the local shelter, where they have a special room where a selected group of mellow cats will mill around and you can pet them with abandon. They also have a separate area for cats who must remain caged for whatever reason, and one time they had a 4-week-old gray kitten and I just about exploded in a shower of glitter. I turned to G and said, "I would name her Tanpopo [Japanese for dandelion] because her head is fluffy." Yes, I name pets I don't even have.

81. What color is your backpack?

I have no backpack.

82. Are you sick?

My sense of humor sure is.

84. Is the bathroom open?

...uh, sugar in the what now?

87. Are you smiling?

No. I am at work.

88. Do you have eyeliner on?


89. Do you miss someone right now?

I miss a lot of people.

90. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

The Seychelles.

91. Do you have a Myspace? Do you have a Live Journal?

No to both.

92. Are you in high school?

Darling, I'm FORTY.

93. Do you have a crush?

Christina Hendricks.

94. What is your favorite nickname for yourself?

G has one for me that I'm not going to share because it's private, but one that I AM willing to share is Donut. Only my dad calls me that, though.

95. What color is your bathing suit?


97. Did you go on vacation last month?


98. Have you ever been on a cruise?


99. Do you have a sister?


100. Are you upstairs?

I'm on the second floor of a three-story building.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vegas pt. 2: the Jugs 'n' Jousting Tour 2011

(Continued from the previous entry)

On Sunday morning, C wasn't feeling very well, so G and I went downstairs and had a late breakfast at the Pyramid Cafe. I should have listened to the waiter when he told me I should only order two blueberry pancakes, because they turned out to be the size of hubcaps, but I didn't much like his "Told ya so!" when he took my plate away.

Later in the afternoon, we met up with C and did some shopping, gambling, and casino hopping. Here are some assorted pictures for your viewing pleasure (all taken by C): one unfortunate name.

Don't you feel like you just snorted a line of uncut cute?

My two favorite primates.


Our evening's entertainment was the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur. It's basically the same thing as Medieval Times, i.e. eating dinner with your hands while watching knights joust on OMG LIVE PONIEZ. I've always wanted to go to Medieval Times, and I have a very high tolerance/fondness for kitsch, so I really wanted to check this out. The food was actually surprisingly good for the most part: excellent tomato soup (yes, I loved a vegetable-based item; alert the media accordingly), Cornish game hen, and roasted potatoes. There was also a biscuity thing which was kind of bland, all the Pepsi you could drink (feh!), and a mediocre apple tart that probably originally came in a food service sized box of Entenmann's. They provided us with a wet wipe, but I'm glad I brought extras because one wasn't enough to thoroughly cleanse our hands of chicken grease. The show involved jousting and a Dragon Knight and lots of shouting for "our" king (we sat in the section for Russia) and was good cheesy fun.

After the show, we went to City Center, a new upscale mall with gorgeous architecture and cool/strange fountains.

Waiting for the tram.

Next up, Bellagio! We watched two of the fountain shows. The first one was set to "Proud to Be an American", which was just kind of eh, but they played "Time to Say Goodbye" during the second one, which was gorgeous. C got this terrific shot with the Paris casino in the background:

Then we went inside and walked around the conservatory...

...and went to the Jean Philippe Patisserie to admire the world's largest chocolate fountain/Willy Wonka's wet dream:

Of course, I was unable to leave without getting an early birthday treat.

Believe it or not, this tasted even better than it looked. It was a key lime tart with almond crust, topped off with a disc of white chocolate and white chocolate blades of "grass", one of which I accidentally dropped on the ground, much to my despair.

Back at the Luxor, we did some more gambling, and a particular slot machine called the Spin 'N' Win was REALLY kind to me. It had a roulette wheel on top, and it would just randomly begin a bonus round from time to time, even if you didn't have a winning payline. Whatever number the ball landed on, you got that number of credits. Most of the time, it would give you TWO bonus spins, and I wound up doing very well indeed. How well? Let's just say that my car payment for the month is taken care of. I've probably been to Vegas at least a dozen times in my life, and this is only the second time I've left ahead. It certainly didn't hurt that G was the angel on my shoulder saying "Are you sure you don't want to cash out?" if my finger started straying towards the "Repeat Bet" button after a big payout. Thanks to his gentle guidance, I got to the point where---no exaggeration---my wallet wouldn't close. Now THAT is a glorious feeling!

Monday was my birthday, and I started the morning off right with a sweet birthday card from G that made me mist up fiercely. We met up with C and went to the Mandalay Bay buffet for breakfast/lunch. For the most part, it was pretty unexciting, aside from excellent coconut shrimp and an unexpected suitor. There was a guy sitting at the table next to us, and he was an...interesting fellow. He was probably mid-40's, long greasy hair, aviator glasses, a Raiders of the Lost Ark shirt, and bermuda shorts. He kept looking over at us, but I didn't think much of it until I got up to get dessert and he followed me. As I stood there pondering the selection, he sidled up next to me and said, "Soooooo...what brings you to Vegas?"

"Oh, my boyfriend was nice enough to treat me to a birthday weekend," I replied, taking a piece of cheesecake.

He sniffed. "You could just say you weren't interested."


Okay, first of all, do I emit some sort of pheromone that makes people react negatively to the benign comments I make? (cf. the Barnes & Noble "You don't have to be a bitch about it!" incident) Second, this guy SAW me sitting at a table with two men! Is it really so weird to think that one of them was my boyfriend, especially since I am physically incapable of keeping my hands off G? I mean, I try to rein it in in public so he doesn't get uncomfortable, but he is the magnet and I am the steel.


After lunch, we decided to walk down the Strip. It was about 800 degrees out, so we tried to walk through the casinos as much as possible to avoid heatstroke. We wound up at Bill's Saloon, where we watched Big Elvis perform. True to his name, he was certainly...robust. (Though, according to the emcee, he used to be over 1000 pounds and is now literally half that.) He also sounded so much like the King that it was uncanny. I got a picture with him afterwards:

Well worth seeing if you love Elvis and happen to be in Las Vegas on a weekday. Word of advice, though: get there early if you want a decent seat. I guess it doesn't matter all that much, since he sits down for the vast majority of his performance, but you don't want to be so far away that the sound of slot machines is louder than his voice!

We started heading back "home", but first we stopped in MGM Grand for drinks and appetizers at Fiamma. This is the restaurant where my friend S and I once had a dessert called Caramello di Noce, which holds a place in my Top Ten Desserts of All Mothereffin' Time list. Unfortunately, they no longer had that dessert on the menu, so after mercilessly beating the head chef with a sock full of quarters, I went the savory route and settled for kobe meatballs in marinara sauce instead.

Back at the Luxor, we collected our luggage from the bell desk and then took a cab to the airport. The flight was, once again, uneventful, but something rather funny happened at the Burbank airport when we arrived. C and I were waiting for our luggage, and all of the sudden we heard people squealing "Oh my god!" and laughing hysterically. Eventually the cause of their amusement came tumbling past us:


It's not immediately apparent what this is from the picture, so I'll just tell you: somebody's vibrator. It's partially sticking out of a protective bag, but trust me, it was a vibrator. (I, um...saw one on TV once, which is how I know. Yeah.)

Apparently, as C said, what happens in Vegas winds up on the conveyor belt.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

so I guess I'm fuckin' forty

I have a lot of things to celebrate this year: my 40th birthday, G's and my 7-year anniversary, and 10 years of living in California (again). The last two things are awesome; the first thing, not so much.

And yes, yes, I know turning 40 is "better than the alternative"! True, if the alternative is death. False, if the alternative is eternally looking and feeling like you did at your absolute best, whatever that age might have been. But that alternative exists only in vampire novels and sci-fi movies, so I have tried to make peace with getting older, though it's not easy. It sucks, actually.

When my mom turned 40, she was really depressed about it. I was 15 at the time, and remember thinking that 40 seemed really old to me, but nothing to get upset about. None of us knew at the time that she had only 11 more years to live.

I'm not happy about the gray hairs snaking their way through my brunette strands or the lacework of spider veins on my thighs or the fucked up metabolism that makes weight loss borderline impossible (and my major sweet tooth sure doesn't help). But I'm here, for however long that may be, and I want to enjoy myself while I can.

So that's why I wanted to do something special for my 40th birthday, and to celebrate all of those other milestones I mentioned. Glenn, his best friend of 30+ years/my good buddy C, and I all have our birthdays within a few days of each other, so we started kicking around the idea of doing something special this year.

And let no (wo)man doubt that my sweetie loves me, because despite Glenn's deep-seated hatred of not just Vegas in particular but traveling in general, he suggested Sin City!

Fast forward to last Friday, when C, G, and I piled into the car and headed towards the Burbank airport. We were really worried about getting caught in Carmageddon; true, we weren't taking the 405, but we thought traffic might start backing up on the 101 once the exit ramps were closed. Fortunately, that wasn't the case; I've never seen the 101S so deserted!

Our flight was deserted, as well it should have been considering it was less than an hour to get to Vegas. Once we landed, we caught a cab to the Luxor, bought frozen drinks at the daiquiri bar, and checked in. We took our luggage up to our rooms (C stayed in a separate room, of course) and then we went back down to the casino to gamble until the wee hours of the morning.

When we woke up on Saturday, we were shocked to see that it was after 10AM. Not because we'd overslept, but because it was completely pitch black in our room! Those blackout curtains were amazing. (Perhaps TOO amazing, because I think they threw off our circadian rhythms throughout the whole trip; none of us slept very well during the trip.)

We had lunch at the Sugar Factory, which was basically my dream restaurant. (Seriously, just look at this fucking menu!) I had a French dip sandwich and fries and then followed it up with this glorious monster:

(Side note: I get more compliments on that $10 Target shirt than any other item of clothing I own.)

That right there is a red velvet sundae: vanilla bean ice cream, red velvet cake chunks, raspberries, whipped cream, chocolate beads, and white chocolate shavings. Did I finish it? I did not, even with G and C helping me. I hated to leave it behind, sadly melting into a sweet gooey puddle, but even a glutton like me has her limits.

...which apparently I need to get better at realizing when I've almost reached them. While we were walking through the Forum Shops in Caesar's Palace, I noticed a food stand that had cans of Coke Zero for sale. Joy! Seriously, practically every place on the Strip only sells Pepsi products; I was convinced that if I were to walk into the Coke store next to M&M World, they'd only have Pepsi. Even the McDonald's at the Luxor had Pepsi. And don't even begin to tell me that they're the same thing. They are not the same! I hate it when I order a Coke and the server says "Is Pepsi okay?" Gee, I don't know, is Monopoly money okay?

/ colawarsrant

Anyway, so when I saw actual Coke Zero for sale, I had to buy one immediately. I also got a bottle of water for G, and my grand total was just a hair shy of ten bucks! What the fuck? I actually looked at my receipt to see if I accidentally got charged for someone else's lunch. Didn't Vegas used to be, you know, cheap?

I digress yet again.

Unfortunately, that Coke Zero was the straw that broke this camel's back. I don't know if it was the carbonation or just the fact that I dumped 12 ounces of liquid into my already sloshing belly, but I had to run to the bathroom and, in true ancient Roman fashion, vomit. At least, thanks to the red velvet cake, it was pretty! (And at least I KNEW why it was red, otherwise I would have thought I was bleeding internally and would have passed out on the floor.) Thankfully, I felt much better afterwards, and we continued along our merry way. We returned to the Luxor and napped, and at around 7PM, I headed downstairs to meet with my friend Spock.

A primer for those of you who may not know who that is: Spock is my longest lasting friend, and one of my dearest. We've known each other since junior high, when we bonded over a poem about a caterpillar that made us crack up because it sounded so obscene. We even went to senior prom together, and I was madly in love with him. Turns out that he's gay, but although that put the kibosh on my "OMG marriage and supersmart bebehs" dreams, it certainly didn't affect our friendship any. He lives in Las Vegas now, so when I knew that we were going there for our birthday weekend, we made plans to get together.

Anyway, we were supposed to meet up in front of the Tender steakhouse, where we'd all be having dinner. When I got down there, I saw him at a slot machine next to the restaurant, smoking up a storm. I was annoyed, since he’d quit the last time I saw him, so I went over, grabbed his shoulders, and said “I thought you quit!”

And then a TOTAL STRANGER turned around and said, incredulously, “Quit?!?”

I was mortified! I apologized profusely and told him that I was supposed to be meeting a friend that I hadn’t seen in almost 3 years, and then I slunk away and sat in front of the restaurant to wait. After a couple of minutes, I saw Spock walking towards me, but I waited until he said my name before hugging him! I told him the story and he got a good laugh out of it. We had drinks and talked in the bar, and at 7:30, G and C joined us for dinner. I had a wagyu steak that practically melted in my mouth, as well it should have considering it was, you know, $75.

After dinner, I sadly said goodbye to Spock, and then we headed upstairs for the titties portion of our evening: the Fantasy revue. (Note: no nudity on that page, but the ladies aren't wearing a whole lot either.) Aside from a rather hot bondage number set to "Black Velvet" that made me forget I was straight for five minutes, there wasn't much to arouse me, but I still had a terrific time because of MC/amazing singer Lorena Peril and comedian Sean E. Cooper. We finished off our evening with lots of gambling and then it was off to bed.

(To be continued; sudden shitstorm at work that needs tending to)