Friday, November 30, 2012

media update: November + medical fuckery

And how was your November?  With one massive exception, mine was quite nice, thank you.  G, C, and I went to see The Book of Mormon, the Tony award-winning musical by the dudes behind South Park, at the Pantages Theater.  Our expectations were mayhaps a bit high, but we still enjoyed it, especially "Hasa Diga Eebowai", which I'm still singing in the shower weeks later.  (And I'm still fantasizing about the mac and cheeseburger I had for dinner right before the show.  Kobe beef patty smothered in macaroni and cheese?  Cue Homeresque gurgling and drooling.  Messy as all hell, but beyond worth it.)

And Madre and Padre came to California for Thanksgiving, so we spent the long weekend in San Diego.  We went to Balboa Park, Old Town, and the zoo, where we watched as a young gorilla tossed a handful of dirt on the silverback's head and then ran away.  The silverback reached up and brushed the dirt off, and minutes later, he snuck up on the young gorilla and shoved a finger in his ass!  Then the silverback leaned back against the glass and he looked for all the world like he was laughing.  We were all hysterical. I already loved gorillas, but now?  I fuckin' LOOOOOVE gorillas. 

Oh, and my stepsister (it still feels really weird saying that) had a baby boy, so I guess that makes me an honorary aunt.  I'm not much of a baby/child person, as you well know, but I gotta admit he's damn cute.  And that kid's got some mad locks!  He makes Harry Styles look like Mr. Clean.

The part that wasn't so nice:  I had back pain that kept getting gradually worse over the course of a week, and then bouts of nausea decided to join the pain party, and on Tuesday it all culminated in me leaving work in agony, going home, puking in my kitchen sink because I couldn't get to the bathroom in time, and calling G in a flood of tears.  He was at my place in less than 20 minutes and took me to the doctor, who ruled out a kidney stone (he thinks the nausea was related to the fact that I was taking so much Aleve for the pain, which probably upset my stomach) but couldn't rule out much else because back pain is one of those things that can be a symptom of pretty much everything in the world.  So he did some bloodwork and then sent me to get some x-rays. 

When Dr. D called with the results on Wednesday, he said the x-rays looked fine but my bloodwork showed signs of "liver disturbance", so I have to get a CAT scan on Monday.  I picked up my contrast material this morning.  It came in two huge plastic cups like you'd get with a supersized fast food meal, and the cups have suns wearing sunglasses (um, what?) on them.  As soon as I saw the size of the cups, I was like "oh, fuck this shit so hard" but it turns out that the contrast material takes up maybe a fifth of the cup and the rest is supposed to be filled with water. 

Oh, and the cups came with lollipops taped to the side because the contrast material tastes like a hobo's taint.  So that's going to be awesome, but I'm just glad I don't have to have the IV contrast.  Not a big fan of needles. 

To be honest, I'm kind of freaking out a little here, so keep a good thought for me if you would.

On the plus side, I'm feeling much better aside from a bit of residual stiffness and, of course, freaking out about my impending test/the results.  And Jesus H. Christ, not like I doubted it, but this just proves anew I have the best boyfriend in the world.  Even though he's busier than a Fleet Week hooker, he came as soon as I called on Tuesday, held me as I cried and got snot all over the shoulder of his nice work shirt, took me to the doctor/radiology clinic/pharmacy/dinner, and stayed with me until I assured him that I'd be okay and would call if anything changed for the worse.  I would punch a J'Avo in the balls for him.


/nerdy RE6 references (well, for now; an RE6 review is at the end of this entry so I'm sure there will be more)

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


1. Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth:  Laura is a 24-year-old British woman living a dull life.  Ten years ago, her best friend Chloe and Chloe's much older boyfriend died in an apparent suicide pact, and the TV is filled with sentimental news stories about the anniversary of the tragedy.  But Laura knows there's much more to the story than meets the eye.  It doesn't live up to the promise of its first half, but it's decent.

2. The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga:  Since a key figure in this novel has only recently been introduced in the TV series, I'm not going to review it so as to avoid potential spoilers.  I'll just say it's nowhere near as good as the first Walking Dead novel, and I was also annoyed by several typos ("bares the scars" is used twice in four pages). 

3. Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany:  After her marriage falls apart, Cadence takes comfort in her nightly glass or two of wine.  But when those glasses turn into bottles, she finds herself in a truly desperate situation.  As I was reading, I kept thinking "Man, this is way too Lifetime movie of the week", and then I had to laugh when Cadence compared her situation to a Lifetime movie of the week.  Too melodramatic for my tastes.


1. Every Day Is an Atheist Holiday* by Penn Jillette:  More amusing and thought provoking rants and raves from the famous magician, covering everything from his stints on Dancing with the Stars and The Celebrity Apprentice (and boy, does he have some harsh words for Clay Aiken) to his atheism.

2. Brain on Fire* by Susannah Cahalan:  One night, the author was watching TV with her boyfriend when she had a seizure.  Things rapidly deteriorated over the next several weeks as she became paranoid and had hallucinations.  Her doctors were baffled until one neurologist figured out that she had an extremely rare autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack the brain.  Absolutely fascinating, especially if you're a big fan of memoirs and/or true medical mysteries.


1. The Last Zombie by Brian Keene and Joseph Wight

2. Arisa vol. 9 by Natsumi Ando

3. We Were There vol. 15 by Yuki Obata

4. Rin-Ne vol. 10 by Rumiko Takahashi

5. Kamisama Kiss vol. 11 by Julietta Suzuki

6. The Hive by Charles Burns

7. Marbles* by Ellen Forney


1. Thirst:  In this Korean horror flick, a priest volunteers for a vaccine experiment.  Unlike his fellow volunteers, he survives, but he suffers an unusual side effect:  vampirism.  Not bad, but nowhere near as good as the other Chan-wook Park movies I've seen (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance).

2. The Sound of My Voice:  Peter and Lorna infiltrate a cult in hopes of scoring an investigative journalism scoop.  But while Lorna is immediately leery of Maggie, the cult leader who claims to be from the future, Peter finds himself being drawn further in.  The frustrating ending managed to completely eradicate any positive feelings I had for it up until that point.

3. Your Sister's Sister:  Jack's best friend Iris used to date his late brother.  When Jack needs a break, Iris suggests that he spend some time at her family's cabin.  But unbeknownst to either one of them, Iris' sister is there, and complications ensue.

I was really enjoying this movie up until a certain plot point halfway through the movie, and then the ending made me want to punch a wall.  What lazy fucking filmmaking.  I almost saved this movie to watch with G, but I'm glad I didn't because he totally would have held it against me.  (The goodwill I earned from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Fall can only last so long, and I think Greenberg killed most of it already.)

4. Safety Not Guaranteed*:  Three magazine employees, including sullen intern Darius (Aubrey Plaza, who's excellent), get an idea for a story when they spot an unusual classified ad:  someone looking for a partner to accompany him on a time travel mission.  When they track him down, Darius is chosen to befriend him, and she finds herself drawn into his orbit.  An overlooked gem that's very funny and surprisingly moving.  (And after movies #2 and #3 above, #3 of which also starred Mark Duplass when I don't think I'd ever seen him in anything before, which was kind of weird, what a joy to see a movie with a great ending.)

5. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World*:  An enormous asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, spelling certain doom for everyone on the planet.  His wife has just left him in a panic, so Dodge (Steve Carell, in the type of sad sack role he does so well) decides to track down his high school sweetheart, and his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) comes along for the ride.  It's got a lot of really funny moments, but if you don't make the mistake of thinking it's a straight up comedy, you'll probably enjoy it much more.

6. Dark Horse:  Abe is a man in his mid-30's who impulsively asks Miranda (Selma Blair), who he's only known for a few weeks, to marry him.  Much to his surprise, she says yes.  But life hasn't been easy for either of them up to this point, and things aren't about to change that quickly. 

If I hadn't already known this was a Todd Solondz movie, I never would have guessed.  Unfortunately, I don't mean that as a compliment.  Although it's one of his, for lack of a better word, kinder movies, I still didn't care about a single person in it, and that always makes it hard for me to thoroughly enjoy a movie.

7. The Queen of Versailles*:  The original focus of this documentary was supposed to be the 90,000 square foot Florida home that timeshare billionaire David Siegel and his wife Jackie were in the process of building.  But when the financial crisis hit in 2008, the documentary switched its focus to how the Siegels coped with their sudden change of fortune.  It's alternately funny (Jackie rents a car and asks who her driver will be) and infuriating (Jackie cheerfully says that she never wanted kids until she found out she could have nannies, one of whom hasn't seen her own son in years; two of the family pets die from neglect) and fascinating throughout. 

8. Brave*:  Merida is a Scottish princess chafing against her mother's rules.  But when Merida makes a wish that goes awry, she has to set things right.  As you'd expect from a Pixar movie, it's gorgeous, and although it doesn't hold a candle to classics like Toy Story and The Incredibles, it's still got a lot of heart and charm.

9. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1*:  Bruce Wayne is forced out of retirement when a gang called the Mutants begins fucking up Gotham City.  Aside from some fluid fight choreography, the animation isn't great, and the voice acting is surprisingly lackluster, but the writing is awesome, which was to be expected considering the source material.  (For you non-nerds:  the iconic Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name.)


1. "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore

2. "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles

3. "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A.

4. "Situation" by Yaz

5. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes

6. "Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats

7. "Don't You Want Me" by Atomic Tom

8. "Uprising" by Muse: God, this song makes me want to fight a dystopian government!

9. "Resistance" by Muse


(Yes, that's the most appallingly ugly logo ever.  It looks like a giraffe getting a hummer from a Silent Hill straitjacket monster.)

As you're all well aware, I've been a huge Resident Evil fan ever since the first game ate my soul back in 1996.  RE: Code Veronica and RE4 are in my top ten games of all time, and I've enjoyed just about every game in the series.  (The less said about Outbreak and Dead Aim, the better.)  G is also a major fanboy, so our expectations were pretty high for this game.

I won't bother going into a detailed description of the plot, since it basically boils down to the same thing as all of the other games (evil corporation releases horrifying virus into the world, creating zombies and other mutations; a group of brave men and women is determined to stop them).

Excluding the unlockable character, who works alone, you get a partner.  Mysterious mercenary Jake Mueller is paired up with Sherry Birkin, the little girl from RE2, who's all grown up and working as an agent.  Perennial fan favorite Leon Kennedy works with US government agent Helena Harper.  And Chris Redfield, looking slightly less 'roided up since RE5, has expert sniper Piers Nivans backing his play.


  • Tons of replay value, thanks to four missions.

  • Some really creepy monsters, including one that looks like a giant walking lotus boob.  (If you're not already familiar with that infamous internet sensation, do NOT google it.  Just because it's a fake picture doesn't mean it's not fucking gross.)

  • This isn't something that can be said about most RE games, but the voice acting is pretty good.  One of my favorite voice actors, Troy Baker (Kanji in Persona 4), voices Jake, and he's perfect.  And the graphics are stunning.

  • The ending to one of the campaigns is fantastic, and provides a much needed emotional core to the story.  I was all like:

    • There are hidden blue medallions you can shoot to unlock files and secret figurines, and the interface for viewing them is really neat.  When I win the lottery, I'm going to have those dioramas recreated in my game room.

    • Chris and Piers = my OTP.  There is no WAY Capcom wasn't pandering to the slashers and the gaymers when they paired those two up.  I mean, come on, weary older veteran and idealistic young soldier who makes him care again? And when Piers [spoiler] and Chris says [spoiler] and then [spoiler]?  True love!  Nivanfield 4eva!

    • Leon S. Kennedy.  'Nuff said.

    • LOATHED:

    • By far the most difficult of the RE games.  Granted, you can play on the amateur setting if you want, but we chose normal and there were times I wondered if we'd accidentally selected hard instead.  One section was so tough I practically burst a blood vessel in my throat screaming at the TV.

    • The new system for mixing herbs is really stupid.  Instead of just combining a red herb and a green herb in classic fashion, you have to mix them and THEN put them in a tablet.  (Because of the way it looks when you take one, G and I started referring to them as our magic Tic-Tacs.)  On the plus side, once you do this, you can press the right trigger at any time for a quick heal; on the negative side, the game doesn't pause while you play pharmacist, so you better take advantage of the very few "safe" areas to mix your shit.  (And if you have to mix herbs to free up an inventory space in an area crowded with enemies, well...good freakin' luck with that.)

    • Speaking of the right trigger:  why the hell don't you use it to shoot?  It's counter intuitive, and more than once I forgot and accidentally healed instead of shooting.  Which usually wasn't a problem, because I tended to need it anyway (I refer you back to the part about this being the hardest RE game), but it was still annoying.

    • RE seems to be getting further and further away from its survival horror roots.  With the exception of the first half of Leon's campaign and a couple of the secret character's levels, it's nothing like the RE games of yore.  (Though, to be fair, this could also be said of RE4 and 5.)  It's more like Gears of War, but without the excellent cover system.  (Did I mention that RE6's cover system absolutely fucking blows?  Because holy crap does it ever.)

    • If you plan on playing offline co-op, I sure hope you have a big screen and good eyes, because it's difficult to see what the hell is going on.

    • The game autosaves, but not nearly as often as you might like.  (Pro tip:  there are plenty of checkpoints, but do NOT confuse them with saves!  You'll know the game is actually saving when you see the little typewriter icon in the top left of the screen.  If you quit after a checkpoint, you'll lose all the progress you've made since the last save.)

    • My advice?  If you've never played a Resident Evil game before, don't start with this one.  But if you're already a fan of the series and are willing to tolerate some hair pullingly hard sections, there's much to enjoy here.  Just don't expect anything like the majesty of RE4 and you'll be fine.

      Friday, November 16, 2012

      my 25 favorite movie quotes of the year

      NOTE:  Not all of the movies quoted came out this year, these aren't in any order of preference (actually, the first one probably is my fave), and a few of them don't make sense out of context. 

      1. "Do you remember when eating rats and maggots on Survivor was shocking? It all seems so quaint now. I'm sure the girls from 2 Girls 1 Cup are gonna have their own dating show on VH1 any day now. I mean, why have a civilization anymore if we're no longer interested in being civilized?" (God Bless America)

      2. "In 1400 B.C., a group of nervous Egyptians saw the Nile turn red. But what they thought was blood was actually an algae bloom which killed the fish, which prior to that had been living off the eggs of frogs. Those uneaten eggs turned into record numbers of baby frogs who subsequently fled to the land and died. Their little rotting frog bodies attracted lice and flies. The lice carried the bluetongue virus, which killed 70% of Egypt's livestock. The flies carried glanders, a bacterial infection which in humans causes boils. Soon afterwards, the Nile River Valley was hit with a three-day sandstorm otherwise known as the plague of darkness. During the sandstorm, intense heat can combine with an approaching cold front to create not only hail, but also electrical storms which would have looked to the ancient Egyptians like fire from the sky. The subsequent wind would have blown the Ethiopian locust population off course and right into downtown Cairo. Hail is wet, locusts leave droppings. Spread both on grain, and you've got mycotoxins. Dinnertime in ancient Egypt meant the firstborn child got the biggest portion, which in this case meant he ate the most toxins, so he died. Ten plagues. Ten scientific explanations."  (The Reaping)

      3. "Everybody loses the thing that made them.  The bravest stay and watch it happen."  (Beasts of the Southern Wild; I haven't actually seen this movie yet, but I read this quote in a review and it really resonated with me.)

      4. "No one wants to fuck me.  I look like Voldemort!" (50/50)

      5. "Hey, stop fucking with Korean Jesus! He ain't got time for your problems! He's busy with Korean shit!" (21 Jump Street)

      6. "My last roommate came out here to be a rock star, then skipped town.  Still owes me three months rent.  Fuck you, John Mayer!"  (Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star)

      7. "I'd kiss the ground you walked on if you lived in a cleaner neighborhood."  (Chico & Rita)

      8.  "I've been in restaurants all day and all I've gotten served is lead."  (Safe)

      9. "Would you like a lolly?  Strawberry or fuck you?"  (Killer Elite)

      10. ROY: "There's no happy ending with me."

      ALEXANDRIA: "I still want to hear it."  (The Fall)

      11. "Where are we? Look around! This is fuck city. Population five and dwindling."  (The Grey)

      12. "It's for my glaucoma." (Puss in Boots)

      13. "Mavis, I'm a fat geek, okay?  I know what a zombie is."  (Young Adult)

      14. "I'll be the first black guy to freeze to death. It's gonna be cool. Yeah, I'm pumped up about it.  It's just like that song, y'know. I get knocked down, except I get up again in North Dakota, which is the worst place on Earth."  (The Five-Year Engagement)

      15. "Better clench up, Legolas."  (The Avengers)

      16. "You phony prick fraudulent motherfucker. Do something! Come on! Prove it! Fuck faith! Earn it! Show me something real! I need it now. Not later. Now! Show me and I'll believe in You until the day I die...fuck it, I'll do it myself." (The Grey)

      17. "I have a finger that needs washing."  (Klown)

      18.  KUMAR:  "Clay Aiken's not gay?"

      NEIL PATRICK HARRIS:  "Are you kidding me?  Clay's the biggest cooze hound I know.  That guy gets mad gash."  (A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas)

      19. "Yeah I'm for pussy!"  (Neil Patrick Harris in A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas)

      20. DARIUS: "You're dangling my vagina out there like bait. What if this guy's a murderer? What if he cuts me up into little pieces and eats me?"

      JEFF: "Then the story's even better!" (Safety Not Guaranteed)

      21. "Statistical fact: cops will never pull over a man with a huge bong in his car. Why? They fear this man. They know he sees further than they and he will bind them with ancient logics."  (The Cabin in the Woods)

      22. "Are you having a boy or an abortion?" (The Dictator)

      23. "So you wanna double stuff that cookie with me?" (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World)

      24. "I wish I was a super genius inventor and could come up with a way to make a telephone into an explosive device that was triggered by the American Superstarz voting number. The battery could explode and leave a mark on the face so I could know who to avoid talking to before they even talked. Yeah, I could look and say, 'hmm, no, you're not going to say anything that's gonna add any value to my life.'" (God Bless America)

      25. “This time it really WAS the black guy!" (Chronicle)

      Tuesday, November 13, 2012

      best of 2012, miscellaneous edition: pt. 2

      There will be a third and final part to this list, but I figured I'd get part 2 out of the way.  A few notes before I begin:

      • Not all of these things made their debut in 2012, but that's when I first watched/ate/enjoyed them.
      • These aren't in order of preference.
      • Your mileage may vary.

      This is what they serve at birthday parties in Heaven.  (Available at Target)

      Persona 4 is one of my ten favorite video games of all time, so I was eager to check out the anime adaptation.  In a nutshell:  Yu Narukami moves to the rural Japanese town of Inaba to live with his uncle and young cousin Nanako.  Things seem pretty peaceful at first, but the town is rocked by a series of murders, and Yu and his friends decide to investigate.

      Because G and I sank about 150 hours into the video game, we already knew everything that happens, so we thought the anime might be a case of "been there, done that".  But even though it follows the game religiously, with the exception of a new subplot here and there (my favorite: Nanako taking on the guise of her favorite anime character, young detective Loveline, to find out how Yu's spending his free time), we absolutely loved the shit out of it.  The animation is gorgeous, the story is intriguing, and Yu and his friends are awesome.  The game has some of my favorite characters of all time, so spending time with them again was like spending time with old friends.  And even if you haven't played the game, you might enjoy the anime; our friend C had never played a single second of the game and loved the anime.  (Available on Hulu)

      This series follows Hannah, an aimless twentysomething, and her friends as they navigate life and love in New York City.  It's like the messier, grimier, more realistic flipside to Sex and the City.  Full of cringeworthy moments and characters you'll alternate between loving and hating, it's probably the most divisive new series of 2012. 

      Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my favorite TV shows of all time, so I was pretty psyched for the sequel.  The Legend of Korra follows the titular 17-year-old girl as she takes on the role of the new Avatar, who can bend all four elements and bring peace to the world.  But a mysterious masked man named Amon has a vendetta against benders, and he wants to take Korra down. 

      It's not as good as A:TLA, which would be a tall order indeed, but it has indelible characters to root for and a gorgeous steampunk meets anime style.  I'm down.

      I love crossword puzzles.  I do at least two of them every day, and G and I are addicted to cryptic crosswords, which are insanely hard but make me feel like a rockstar every time I complete one.  This showed up as a "You may also like..." selection when I was buying something on Amazon, and I wanted to get free shipping, so I went ahead and added it to my cart.  That turned out to be an excellent decision, because these puzzles were awesome.  The clues are filled with pop culture trivia ranging from Professor Layton's first name (Hershel) to the name of Aang's giant flying buffalo (Appa).  I tried to limit myself to one or two a day because I didn't want to go through it too fast, but I wound up gorging on them and finishing the book within two weeks.  I hope there's a sequel someday!

      Monday, November 05, 2012

      best of 2012: manga and graphic novels

      2012 wasn't a great year for graphic novels and manga, so this list only has 5 entries as opposed to the usual 10. 

      A few notes before I begin:

      • Not all of these were first released in 2012, but that's when I first read them.
      • All of these are commercially available in the US. 
      • These are in order of preference.
      • I doubt anybody still labors under the impression that graphic novels and manga are strictly kids' stuff, but just in case:  some of these titles contain mature content.  If a title contains exceptionally strong content, like the equivalent of an R rating or above, I've made a note of it.
      • And as always, your mileage may vary.

      After a long manhunt, Tokyo police finally capture Shinohara Keiji, a serial killer who has claimed twelve lives.  He promises to give a full confession under one condition:  he wants psychiatrist Asano Katsuya to be the one who hears it.  Asano reluctantly agrees, but he begins to regret it when Shinohara starts getting under his skin.

      Initially the cover is what attracted me to this book, although I figured the interior couldn't be anywhere near as beautiful.  Wrong; the entire book looks like that, only in black and white (and a handful of color illustrations separating the chapters).  It's one of the most visually stunning manga I've ever seen, and it's not just "gift wrapping" because the story is excellent too.  It's extremely dark---think Dexter or Chelsea Cain's work in manga form---but compelling.  I can't wait to see where it goes next.

      Reader advisory: language, graphic violence, nudity, and graphic non-consensual gay sex.

      In this gripping graphic memoir, the author tries to figure out how his strange but seemingly harmless high school friend grew up to be Jeffrey Dahmer, one of the most notorious serial killers in the world.  When his wife called him to say that one of his former classmates had just been arrested for a string of grisly murders, Dahmer wasn't even the first person he thought of! 

      It sounds exploitative, but in my opinion it really isn't; the author never tries to excuse what Dahmer did, only to describe the person he once knew.  In one particularly poignant anecdote, he recalls how Dahmer, during a class trip to DC, managed to score a meeting with then-VP Walter Mondale:  "When I think of this bizarre event, and about the kid who had the brains, charm, and chutzpah to pull it off, what comes to my mind is...what a waste."

      Reader advisory:  disturbing thematic elements

      After discussing her relationship with her closeted father in the searingly brilliant Fun Home, Alison Bechdel focuses on her mother, who inexplicably stopped touching her when she was seven years old.  Bechdel tries to figure out why, and she also explores the mother-daughter dynamic in general. 

      Don't go into this thinking it's as good as Fun Home, because it's not; that would be a tall order indeed.  But if you take it on its own terms, it's a poignant, often funny, beautifully illustrated work of art.

      Reader advisory:  sexual content, though nothing too graphic

      Tamaki, the owner of a host club, finds a badly beaten young man outside one night.  He takes the man home, and soon they fall in love.  A beautifully illustrated and very sweet manga.  (And yes, it IS manga; despite the author's pen name, she is most definitely Japanese.) 

      Reader advisory:  gay sexytimes

      If, like me, you're a massive fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender and miss the hell out of the characters, you'll love this 3-part series.  I can't really go into detail because it would spoil the show if you haven't seen it, and if you haven't, seriously, GO WATCH IT NOW because it's fucking awesome.  (Just be sure to avoid M. Night Shyamalan's abortion of a movie.)

      Thursday, November 01, 2012

      media update: October

      Before I begin, I want to send much love to my friends on the east coast. Stay safe!

      Also, Blogger, WHAT THE FUCK with this new interface?  The old one had its problems, but I didn't need to edit my posts five fucking times before they displayed properly!  Boo.  BOO TO YOU.

      Got a whole lot of reading done this month, thanks to a dearth of decent TV/a string of quickly ejected Netflix flops and sitting in LAX for 4 hours and McCarran for 2. (Thanks, Delta!)

      You may be shocked to see something other than Resident Evil 6 listed as game o' the month, but we're not quite finished as we've just unlocked the secret mission. Expect a full report next month!

      (And can I just say that I ship Chris and Piers so frickin' HARD? Oh my god, I'm like an addict. I found and promptly bookmarked a Tumblr page devoted to their sexy hot manlove. Because of rampant spoilers, don't even think of going there if you haven't finished their campaign. Also, if you hate sexy hot manlove.)


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


      1. The Incense Game by Laura Joh Rowland: In 1709, an earthquake devastates Japan, and the bodies of an incense master and two of her students are found in the rubble. Sano Ichiro, the samurai detective, quickly realizes that the women were poisoned, not killed by the earthquake, and he has to get to the bottom of it or risk the wrath of the students' outraged father. I've always really enjoyed Rowland's books, and this is a particularly good entry in the series. There's a subplot involving mystical hoodoo that was kind of bleh, but some excellent surprises made up for it.

      2. The Likeness* by Tana French: Detective Cassie Maddox is called to a murder scene, where she's stunned to discover that the victim, Lexie Madison, could be her identical twin. Not only that, but the victim was using the alias that Cassie used when working undercover. Seizing upon this unusual opportunity, Cassie's boss tells Lexie's four roommates that she was only wounded, and after "Lexie" recovers, Cassie takes Lexie's place in the household, hoping the killer will try to finish the job. But the longer she stays in the house, the more she finds that she likes being Lexie.

      Sure, the premise is improbable as all get out; seriously, what are the odds that not only is a completely unrelated individual your exact double, but you're able to imitate them to the extent that their roommates don't even suspect anything? But that aside, this is another corker from Tana French that I raced through in record time. And the very last paragraph is some of the best writing I've ever read, period.

      3. The Diviners* by Libba Bray: In 1927, after causing a scandal in her Ohio hometown, freewheeling flapper Evie O'Neill is sent to live with her uncle in New York City. Even though he runs a museum devoted to the occult, Evie is reluctant to tell him that she can learn about a person merely by touching an object of theirs. But when a serial killer with a decidedly supernatural bent starts terrorizing NYC, Evie is determined to take him down.

      Great literature? No. A fun, engrossing read? As Evie would say, posi-tute-ly! (Okay, her constant use of that word did get a little old, to be honest.) It's the first in a series, and I can't wait to read the next one.

      4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: The nation of Ravka has been split in two by the Shadow Fold, a stretch of darkness teeming with vicious monsters called Volcra. Alina is a teenage girl who discovers that she has magical powers that could dispel the darkness for good. This ability attracts the attention of a mysterious man called the Darkling, who brings her to the capital for training, but Alina begins to suspect that he may have ulterior motives. Enjoyable enough, but unlike book #3 above, I won't be pouncing on the sequel as soon as it's released.

      5. May We Be Forgiven* by A.M. Homes: Harold has spent his life in the shadow of his older brother George, a successful TV executive. But then George causes a car accident that kills two people...and then things get even worse. Harold winds up taking care of his niece and nephew and trying to make sense of his life even as it falls apart all around him. As you'd expect from the woman who wrote The End of Alice (one of my ten favorite books of all time), this book is a pitch black, occasionally funny look at human nature and dysfunctional families.

      6. In the Woods* by Tana French: When a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the woods, homicide detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox (yes, the same one from book #2 on this list) take the case. But Rob has a secret: when he was a young boy, two of his friends disappeared from the same woods and he was found with his shoes full of blood and no recollection of what happened. The cases share a tenuous link, so if anyone finds out that Rob is the same child found in the woods, now living under an assumed name, it could put everything in jeopardy. I had a quibble with something I won't mention due to spoilers, but overall, this was another terrific book by Tana French. I'm just sad that now I've read all of her published work and will have to wait a long time for the next novel!

      7. The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton: Bettina is a young girl whose glamorous mother, Babs, is the heiress to a chocolate fortune. Babs is, to put it mildly, a shitty parent, but Bettina still craves her love. Starts off strong, but it begins to peter out in the middle and falls completely flat by the end.

      8. The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell: A woman working on a dinosaur bone bed in Canada disappears, and a mysterious video clip shows up in Kay Scarpetta's e-mail. Things get even weirder when another woman's body is found being dragged by an enormous leatherback turtle. Better than most of the recent Scarpetta novels, but still nowhere near as good as Cornwell's heyday.


      1. The Burning House: What Would You Take? by Foster Huntington: A fascinating collection of pictures of the things people would take with them if they had to flee their house in a hurry. My favorite response to the question is still Jean Cocteau's: "If I had to take one thing with me from a burning house, I would take the fire."

      For the record, here are the things I would take within reason, by which I mean things that could fit in a large suitcase. (Seriously, some of the people in the book were bringing pianos and shit, which could only happen if it was the slowest fire in the history of all evertime, in which case their time would probably be better used putting the fire out.)

      • My purse, not because I'm emotionally attached to it but because it has my phone, wallet, and keys in it
      • My passport
      • A framed photo of my mom taken in 1971, when she was pregnant with me. She's wearing an awesome red jacket and sunglasses and throwing a peace sign.
      • My scrapbook, photo albums, and diaries
      • My iPod
      • My laptop
      • Don Don, a plastic gorilla that G gave me on our second date, which took place at the Santa Barbara Zoo. We didn't name him; he came with an Engrishy tag that said something like "Don Don is big gorilla!"
      • My Dreamcast (the games are inside the box too, so that's handy)
      • My prescription medication
      • As many clothes/pairs of underwear as I could frantically fling into my suitcase under duress
      • My signed John Connolly books
      • The maneki neko painting my friend Susan made for me
      • A bottle of Minnie Wilde Magic perfume. It's one of my absolute favorites and it's discontinued, but I recently managed to score a barely used bottle on eBay.
      • A stack of cards G has given me
      • A drawing of Nibbil (from the comic Small Favors) in a kimono, dedicated to me and signed by Colleen Coover

      1. Flutter by Momoko Tenzen

      2. Yotsuba* vol. 11 by Kiyohiko Azuma

      3. Otomen vol. 13 by Aya Kanno

      4. Library Wars vol. 8 by Kiiro Yumi

      5. Stepping on Roses* vol. 8 by Rinko Ueda

      6. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 3 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

      7. Punch Up! vol. 2 by Shiuko Kano

      8. An Ideal Day to Fall in Love by Ponkotsu-Works

      1. Katy Perry: Part of Me: Okay, so I'm not a huge Katy Perry fan (though I do have several of her songs on my iPod), but I heard this was kind of fun. And for the most part, it was: bright candy colors, a Japan tour that included a visit to a cat cafe (which I totally want to go to because duh), awesome costumes. But then her marriage to Russell Brand fell apart halfway through filming, and there was a scene of her sobbing before a concert that was really kind of heartbreaking. She's sitting there weeping while her manager and assistants look on, thinking she's going to cancel the show, and then she gets dolled up and hops onto the elevator, still fighting back tears, and the second she's on stage boom, she's all smiles and yays. It was a startling glimpse of the actual human behind the persona.

      2. Green Lantern: First Flight: In this direct to DVD cheapie, Hal Jordan (voiced by Christopher Meloni!) has to protect the Green Lantern from evil. The animation is meh, but the story's not bad.

      3. The Five-Year Engagement*: Tom and Violet (Jason Segel and Emily Blunt) are a couple whose wedding keeps getting delayed by unexpected events. For the most part it's really funny, but it's got some surprisingly realistic relationship moments too. And of course I love Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the script.

      4. Lola Versus: Lola (Greta Gerwig) is blindsided when her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman, who will always be Holder from The Killing to me) breaks up with her shortly before their wedding. She’s been with him for so long that she barely remembers life without him, and she struggles with being single again. It’s a little too self-consciously cute and quirky, but it’s not bad.

      5. Snow White and the Huntsman: In this new take on the old legend, Snow White escapes from her evil stepmother Ravenna's clutches and flees to the Dark Forest. Ravenna sends a huntsman after her, but Snow White talks him out of killing her, and they band together to take Ravenna down once and for all. Some gorgeous special effects, but I wasn't emotionally involved at all.

      6. Prometheus*: After discovering a clue to the origins of mankind, a group of scientists embarks on a journey to find out more. Spoiler alert: they don't like what they find. Gorgeous visual effects and some tense moments, but not as scary as I was hoping it would be considering its origins.

      7. Battleship: More like Battleshit, amirite?

      ...okay, okay, it wasn't THAT bad, though it certainly wasn't great and I'd rather have spent those two hours reading or playing RE6 or something. Anyway, aliens come to our planet, wreak havoc, shit gets blown up durn good, and Liam Neeson (who classes up everything with his mere presence; seriously, he's like a human tuxedo scarf) cashes an easy paycheck.

      8. The Revenant*: When Bart is killed in Iraq, his body is shipped back to the US, where he inexplicably comes back to life. He's not the man he used to be, though; he's a revenant, which is sort of a cross between a zombie and a vampire, and he needs fresh blood to keep from decaying completely. His slacker friend Joey comes up with an idea: as long as Bart has to feed on humans to stay "alive", why not take out bad guys in the process? Throw Dexter and Shaun of the Dead into a blender, add a pinch of Boondock Saints, and stir with a rabbit pearl vibrator, and you get an instant cult classic.

      This is a little longer than the things I usually post, but my god is it worth it. I was pounding the couch with my fist, tears were rolling down my face, I was howling like a loon, and since it was almost midnight when I watched it, I'm probably lucky my downstairs neighbors didn't bang on the ceiling with a broom. Louis C.K. is fucking awesome.

      1. Flood by They Might Be Giants

      2. "Not Pretty Enough" by Kasey Chambers: I was watching an Australian horror movie called The Loved Ones, which had a pretty interesting premise: shy teenage girl named Lola asks boy to the dance, he politely declines because he has a girlfriend, girl goes nuts and conspires with her crazycakes dad to throw a private prom that's anything but fun for the guest of honor. Then it got all torture porn and I was like "nope nope nope" and ejected the DVD. I like horror movies, but I absolutely can't stand anything that exists basically to show all of the awful ways a human being can be taken apart.

      ...why did I bring this up again? Oh yeah. Lola plays this song constantly and god is it awesome. She might be nuttier than a squirrel turd, but she has excellent taste in music.

      This will be a much shorter game review than usual, because unless you're familiar with Persona 3 and/or 4, it would take absolutely forever to explain the background and characters.

      In a nutshell: Yu Narukami (the protagonist of P4, although in the original game you got to choose his name; this is the name they used for him in the anime) comes back to the small town of Inaba for Golden Week. He meets up with his friends, only to discover that the Midnight Channel is back to its old tricks. This time, there's a fighting tournament going on, and Yu is forced to fight his friends in order to discover the truth. Along the way, he runs into characters from Persona 3 as well: cool beauty Mitsuru Kirijo, caped boxer Akihiko Sanada, and cheerful robot girl Aigis.

      Fighting games aren't usually my style, but I had to check this out because Persona 4 is one of my 10 favorite games of all time. And as it turns out, it's more of a visual novel than anything else, because you do a LOT of reading.

      • Gorgeous, smooth graphics.
      • P4 featured some of my favorite video game characters of all time, and seeing them again was like spending time with old friends.
      • With the exception of Chie and some minor characters, the English voice acting is superb. There's a reason why Yuri Lowenthal (Yosuke, who's my favorite character from P4) and Troy Baker (Kanji, my second fave) get so much work in anime and video game dubs; their line reads are perfect.
      • The fighting sequences are really fun, and Teddie in particular has some awesome moves. Even if you don't care about story mode, you should give this a try if you enjoy fighting games, because they have an arcade mode as well.
      • Excellent soundtrack featuring many favorites from P4, as well as some good music I assume is from P3.
      • Tons of replay value. You can play as every major character from P4, as well as three characters from P3, and you unlock two additional characters along the way.
      • It gets awfully repetitive at times. Even though each character's story has unique elements, they all end pretty much the same. By the time we got to the last few characters, G and I were hitting the fast forward button for a lot of the dialogue because it was basically the exact same thing.
      • Nothing really gets explained, which was annoying, but I'll forgive them if they put out Persona 5. Considering that P4 was a massive success in Japan---it even spawned a musical!---that's probably a given.

      Persona 4 Arena isn't an absolute must play, but if you enjoyed P3 and/or P4, you ought to enjoy this too.