Monday, September 30, 2013

media update: September

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

In addition to the things listed here, I also played two video games that didn't really merit a full writeup, but I thought some of you might be interested. First up was the oddly named Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a rhythm game set to Final Fantasy music. I enjoyed it, but it did get repetitive, and because I've never played a "proper" FF game, I didn't get the feels. G, on the other hand, has played most of the FF games, and while he was watching me play, he was often moved to comment on how a certain song or cinema brought him back.

With lots of help from G (god that cubbyhole puzzle what the fuck), I also played Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper, an adventure game whose plot is spelled out in its title. I played The Testament of Sherlock Holmes earlier this year, and I enjoyed it enough to pick up its predecessor. The tank controls are clunky as fuck, the voice acting is blah, the graphics are nothing to write home about, and it's full of glitches. But it also has an intriguing story (I especially liked how they "solved" the mystery) and some cool puzzles, so although it pales in comparison to the sequel, it's pretty entertaining.

As for right now, I'm doing a second playthrough of Silent Hill Downpour in order to get the joke ending. My next big game will be Beyond: Two Souls, the latest by Heavy Rain creator David Cage, which drops on October 8th. Cannot. Fucking. WAIT.


1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl: When Ashley Cordova, the daughter of reclusive cult film director Stanislas Cordova, is found dead, it's ruled a suicide. But disgraced journalist Scott McGrath has his suspicions, and his investigation will lead him to some very dark places indeed.

I really wanted to like this book. It's been on my radar forever, and the premise sounded great, but it was a massive, pretentious disappointment. For one thing, the ending falls completely flat; for another, considering how transgressive and dark Cordova's films are supposed to be, we never really get a good feel for them. And finally, I swear Pessl got paid by the italic, because every single page is littered with them. What makes this even more annoying is that she often does it to underscore something obviously important, like "I knew I had seen that woman before!" For Christ's sake, trust your readers to figure out what's significant. Why don't you just throw some boldface and arrows and giant type in there while you're at it?

2. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood: When a serial killer begins preying on women in a seaside tourist town, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is dispatched to report on the crimes. But while she's there, she runs into the last person she ever expected to see again: a childhood friend who shares her darkest secret. An engrossing thriller, although if you're not British, you'll be doing a lot of googling. Some of it is obvious from context, but others are real headscratchers, like this one: "But exigency has driven her through the aisles of Waitrose like a WAG with a Man U pay cheque." (Here's what my research turned up: Waitrose is like the British version of Whole Foods, a WAG is the wife or girlfriend of a high profile soccer player, and Man U stands for Manchester United, a British soccer team.)

3. Tampa by Alissa Nutting: Celeste is a beautiful 26-year-old teacher married to a handsome cop. At first glance, she seems to have it made, but there's a catch: her husband is about 17 years too old for her, because Celeste is a sexual predator. And when she falls for Jack, a boy in one of her classes, she's eager to turn her fantasies into reality.

Man, this is a hard book to review. It's well written, but it contains numerous graphic sex scenes involving an adult woman and a 14-year-old boy. I'm not going to give it a star because it left me feeling like I needed a shower (and no, not to cool off), but I don't regret reading it. I say this at the beginning of every media update, but I've never meant it more strongly: your mileage may vary.

Side note: I'm not sure why this is called Tampa; I mean, it's set there and all, but doesn't really have anything to do with it plotwise. I hereby petition the author to take a tip from [james ensor] and rename it 50 Shades of Math Class. (Though Celeste actually teaches English, but w/e.)

4. Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta: A collection of short stories from the author of Little Children. My favorite was "Kiddie Pool", about a man who uncovers a secret after his neighbor's death. (And sorry to disappoint you, but the title story has nothing to do with a large donger.)

5. W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton: PI Kinsey Millhone is startled when a homeless man she didn't know is found dead with her contact information in his pocket, but things are about to get even weirder. Like all of the Millhone mysteries, it's engrossing and a lot of fun.


1. Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain: The author describes his mother Debbie as a woman who "didn't take any shit from men unless she was in love with them". When she was murdered by her fourth husband, the author returned to his hometown of Tombstone to find out what happened. Decent, but I don't really have anything to say about it.


1. Mistress Fortune* by Arina Tanemura

2. Intriguing Secrets by Rize Shinba

3. Locke & Key* vols. 4-5 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: I am pleased to report that I got G hooked on this series. I wasn't sure if he'd like it or not, and gave him the first volume with that disclaimer, but when he returned it he said, "Why did you think I wouldn't like that? It was fantastic!"

4. Kaze Hikaru vol. 21 by Taeko Watanabe

5. Embracing Love* vols. 1-2 by Youka Nitta: When I was in Japan in 2005, I was in a bookstore and they had a huge promotional banner for this series. Across the top of the banner, in English, was written "HE HUGGED A HOOKER". And if I had known how to ask "Hey, can I buy that because it's really fucking awesome" in Japanese, I would have.

6. Arisa vol. 11 by Natsumi Ando


1. Trance*: Auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) gets hit on the head during an art heist, and when he's released from the hospital, the thieves come looking for him. They want to know what he did with a valuable Goya painting, but he can't remember, so they hire a hypnotherapist to help pry loose the memory. An unpredictable and trippy thriller.

2. Now You See Me: A group of magicians calling themselves the Four Horsemen somehow manage to pull off bank heists during their performances. The FBI gets involved, but can they figure out the trick in time? The premise is clever, and it has a great cast, but for some reason I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

3. Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie: In the late 80's, my family and I were obsessed with Morton Downey Jr's talk show, despite the fact that we disagreed with probably 95% of what he had to say. (Which is saying something, because my dad used to be REALLY conservative. And man, if you had told me back then that he would eventually go on to support gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, I would have had you committed to the nearest mental health facility.) But it was like a train crashing into a circus, and it was addictive. I don't know that this would be particularly interesting to anyone who didn't watch the show, but it brought back a lot of memories for me.

4. The Host: Alien parasites take over humanity, erasing their memories and occupying their bodies. But when a parasite takes over a young woman named Melanie, it discovers that Melanie refuses to be erased. Not only is it stupid, but it manages to wring a crappy performance out of Saiorse Ronan, which I didn't think was even possible.

5. Behind the Candelabra: This deliciously campy biopic tells the story of Liberace and Scott Thorson's tumultuous relationship. I expected Michael Douglas to turn in a great performance as Liberace, but I was really surprised at just how good Matt Damon was as his initially starry-eyed, then bitterly disillusioned, lover.

6. World War Z*: After the zombie apocalypse hits, former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) goes on a mission to determine the cause. Based on the excellent book by Max Brooks, it's seriously intense (I was white knuckling the arm of the couch during one particular scene) and highly entertaining.

7. The Bling Ring*: A group of disaffected California teenagers gets the bright idea to rob celebrities' homes. Based on a true story (albeit with some details changed), it's an expertly directed dissection of our culture's fascination with fame.

8. Room 237: This documentary explores the various conspiracy theories centered around the movie version of The Shining, the most notorious of which is that it was Stanley Kubrick's "admission" that he helped fake the moon landing. It's got its moments, but so many of the theories are confusing (like when one guy says that a scene showing luggage that crossfades into a group of hotel guests is symbolic of the Holocaust; um what?) that overall it was kind of a pointless exercise.

Side note: When I was about 10 years old, we were visiting my grandparents at their farm, and my aunt and cousin (who lived about an hour away) came for a visit. My cousin, who was about 16 at the time, and I had a sleepover in the barn, and she said, "Hey, I just saw this movie called The Shining, and there was a scene [SPOILER ALERT] where this guy goes into a bathroom and there's a beautiful naked woman in the tub, and she gets out and he hugs her and she turns into a horrible rotting old lady!" I was seriously traumatized and ran screaming back into the house. Thanks to my goddamned cousin, I STILL cannot go into a bathroom with a closed shower curtain without checking behind it. So if you know I'm going to come over, please be advised that I'm going to check behind your shower curtain. I promise not to judge the cleanliness of your grout or anything like that; I'm only ensuring our safety. You're welcome.

9. Oblivion*: Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper, a man tasked with protecting Earth's resources after it's devastated by war. But when a spacecraft crashes and he finds a beautiful woman as its lone survivor, he begins to remember something he shouldn't. Absolutely gorgeous visuals and an intriguing story, with bonus Jaime Lannister! (Okay, fine, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. But Jaime Lannister is easier to spell.)

10. Jack the Giant Slayer: This movie flopped HARD; in fact, it holds the unfortunate distinction of making the least amount of money, compared to the amount of money spent on it, in box office history! But this retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk" was actually way better than I thought it would be. I mean, it's not phenomenal, but you could do far worse if you'd like to turn your brain off for 2 hours and just enjoy yourself.


1. "Suteki Da Ne" (from Final Fantasy X)

2. "How Many Licks" by Lil' Kim

3. "Starlight" by Muse

4. "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse

5. "Assassin" by Muse: This song makes me want to be a superhero and kick evil's fucking FACE IN. It would also be the perfect opening song for Attack on Titan, the batshit crazy anime that G and I are currently in the middle of watching. So would song #7 on this list, come to think of it.

6. "Exo-Politics" by Muse

7. "City of Delusion" by Muse

8. "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse

9. "Assassin" (8-bit version) created by Florio003: God, I want this to be my ringtone.

10. "Supremacy" by Muse

11. "Panic Station" by Muse

12. "Liquid State" by Muse

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

what's on my...

(Stolen from Marie Claire's back page)


Must-see-TV list: Right now G and I are really enjoying Attack on Titan, a beautifully animated series about a walled city fighting off (doy) titans. We're also watching season 2 of Legend of Korra and looking forward to the premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the return of Bob's Burgers/The Simpsons/South Park. On my own, I'm watching Dancing with the Stars because I have an inexplicable fondness for Jack Osbourne (and a not-so-inexplicable crush on Tristan MacManus), Orange Is the New Black, and WataMote, which is basically a much funnier anime version of Welcome to the Dollhouse. And of course, I'll be watching Law & Order SVU and MasterChef Junior.

Bucket list: I desperately want to go to Puroland, which is basically Disneyland with Hello Kitty instead of Mickey Mouse. My love for Hello Kitty is well known---I have a tattoo of her, fer chrissakes---but I also have a great fondness for many other Sanrio characters like My Melody and Little Twin Stars. Also on my bucket list: going to Italy, hugging Ron Jeremy, publishing something professionally, and I know there are about a million other things but damned if I can think of any right now.

Nightstand: A lamp, a wooden folk art angel, a vase, an alarm clock, a photo of my mom when she was pregnant with me (she's wearing big sunglasses and an awesome red coat and flashing a peace sign; it's basically my favorite picture of anyone ever), a photo of my parents, a matchbox, a Bath & Body Works candle in the Summer Boardwalk fragrance (incredible; smells like popcorn and candy and salt air and has great throw), the October issue of Marie Claire, and a small plastic container holding my ear plugs. I don't like sleeping with ear plugs in, but they're doing work on the street outside my building, and they start around 7AM. Which is delightful as fuck, as you can imagine.

Fantasy travel itinerary: Italy followed by France. I've been to Paris, but would love to explore more of the country.

Vanity: A glass jar containing Q-tips, a Liberace candle, matches, a "Lookin' Good for Jesus" statue, toothpaste, a cup holding my toothbrush, coconut scented liquid soap from Bath & Body Works, assorted lotions 'n' potions, a metal hand on which I store my rings, a Harajuku Lovers clock, a bottle of Tokyo Milk bubble bath, a box of Kleenex, a bottle of Hello mouthwash in pink grapefruit mint (now discontinued, which is a shame because it's really delicious), and three bottles of perfume: Molinard Tendre Friandises, Alice & Peter Wicked Berry, and Alice & Peter Showy Toffee. Those of you who are well acquainted with my reputation as a "frag hag" may be surprised to see only 3 bottles listed, but that's because I have so many that if I kept them all on my vanity, there wouldn't be room for anything else. (This is not an exaggeration; they take up two full shelves in my linen closet.) So I only display a few at a time.

Last credit card statement: How convenient; I just got it yesterday. The charges include a massage, a haircut, Whole Foods, Firestone, my membership fees from Netflix/Gamefly/Booksfree, the movie theater, $6 for a surprisingly good cheeseburger on Alaska Air, magazines and snacks from the Washington DC airport gift shop, the grocery store, gas, and a Kindle download. Grand total: $692.30.

Coffee table: Magazines, assorted remotes, my Nintendo 3DS, library books, and a huge stack of paperwork that I keep meaning to go through and then, um, don't.

List of charities you support: Nothing on my own, really, because I don't have a ton of disposable income. But Daddy-O always asks for a donation to charity in his name for his birthday/Christmas/Father's Day, because he's awesome. He's really into wildlife conservation, so I usually pick one of those.

Oh, god, this is so funny I have to share. When he and A got married last year, they asked for donations to the Nature Conservancy or the US Holocaust Museum (A's uncle was a Dutch resistance fighter who was captured and killed in one of the camps) instead of gifts. I chose the latter, and they send me solicitations literally every week. They really lay on the guilt, too; you'd think the fate of Judaism was resting squarely on my shiksa shoulders. Once they sent me a calendar of images from the museum, which was super festive. Yes, I want to look at piles of shoes taken from people who were slaughtered in the camps. That'll certainly brighten up my cube.

Anyway, not even a week later, they sent me a letter that said something like "Did you receive the calendar we sent you? Just a reminder, your donation blah blah blah." I showed the letter to G, and he said (remember, although he's an atheist he was raised Jewish and can joke about these kinds of things), "God, typical Jews. You never write, you never call..."

Weekly grocery list: I hate grocery shopping, so I only go once a month. But the four things I always wind up buying are Coke Zero, Uncrustables, yogurt, and toilet paper. Everything else is dependent on my cravings.

Bed: Sheets, a purple comforter, two "regular" pillows, and two large decorative pillows that I lean against while reading in bed.

Feet: Socks and black Nikes.

Netflix queue: I have 308 discs in my queue (and 128 in the saved section), so obviously I'm not going to list all of them. But the five movies at the top are Redemption, The Great Gatsby, V/H/S 2, 13 Going on 30 (shut up I've never seen it and I really like Mark Ruffalo if that's okay with you Jesus Christ) and The Kings of Summer.

Computer screensaver: It's set to scroll through my pictures folder. Enthralling!

Walls of your favorite room in your house: A painting of a pink flower against a black background and a weird photo of a rabbit and a fox wearing Victorian garb. G HAAAAATES that picture because he said it looks like something out of Silent Hill, which of course is precisely the reason I love it.

Go-to takeout menu: Aside from pizza, G and I don't usually order in.

iPhone apps: Pffft, I ain't got no iPhone! I have an old cell phone that's just slightly more advanced than a Jitterbug. As a call center survivor, I hate talking on the phone and avoid it as much as possible, so there's really no need for me to have anything fancy. I'm keeping this one until it falls apart.

Speed dial: G, Daddy-O, my brother.

Mind: Nothing, really, because I have "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse stuck in my head and it's cancelling everything else out.

Ideal dinner party guest list: I'm not going to include my friends/family here because they're obviously a given. As far as celebrities go, I'd love to have Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Caitlin Moran, Morrissey, Matt Bellamy, John Connolly, Joe Hill, Stephen King, Chris Kluwe, Swery65, Louis CK, George Clooney, Amy Schumer, David Lynch, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and Robert Downey Jr. And, for Glenn and Padre, the entire New York Giants team (both players and coaches) so they can yell at them about last week's abysmal game.

Wish list: For Doctor Sleep to come in at the library, a nap, and a cheeseburger.

iTunes playlist: Listing everything would take forever, so I'll just list my 25 most played songs. This is not an entirely accurate list, as I lost a ton of songs when my old laptop died without warning, so this only covers from late December 2012 to the present.

1. "Empire State Human" by Human League (89 plays)

2. "Bad Religion" by Frank Ocean (77)

3. "Heavenly Star" by Genki Rockets (77)

4. "Off to the Races" by Lana Del Rey (72)

5. "Resistance" by Muse (71)

6. "Confusion" by Sparks (70)

7. "Never Surrender" by Combichrist (69 uh huh huh)

8. "Push It" by Jessie & the Toy Boys (69 roflcopter)

9. "Cyclops Rock" by They Might Be Giants (64)

10. "Shadows of the Night" by Pat Benatar (63)

11. "Lilith's Club" by Noisia (62)

12. "Hataraki Otoko" by Puffy (62)

13. "Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA (59)

14. "Ai no Tenshi" by Cham (59)

15. "Shangri-La" by ChatMonchy (59)

16. "Such Great Heights" by Postal Service (59)

17. "Blue Jeans" by Lana Del Rey (56)

18. "Nothing Better" by Postal Service (54)

19. "Marz" by John Grant (52)

20. "Lollipop" by Mika (52)

21. "Uprising" by Muse (51)

22. "Amateur Hour" by Sparks (51)

23. "All You Ever Think About Is Sex" by Sparks (50)

24. "Love Today" by Mika (50)

25. "Fretless" by REM (49)

Bookmarks menu: Please forgive my laziness in not including links, but here's what I have. In alphabetical order: Amazon, the A.V. Club, Blogger, Booksfree, Cake Wrecks, Candy Blog, the CHP Traffic Incident Information page (an absolute must for SoCal residents), Consumerist, the County of Los Angeles library catalog, Cute Overload, Daily Crosswords (from Yahoo), DListed, Engrish, Failblog, Fuck Yeah Tattoos, Gamefly, Gawker, Horoscopes by Holiday Mathis, IMDB, Impulsive Buy, io9, Japanese Snack Reviews, Jezebel, Kotaku, Manga Updates, Maru, Netflix, Now Smell This, Oh No They Didn't, Passive Aggressive Notes, Rookie, Twitter, Ugliest Tattoos, Vigilant Citizen, Video Game Memes, and Weather.

Workout plan: Weather permitting, I walk three miles a day during the week and do Wii Fit at least twice a week. On weekends, though, I am a big pile of lazy ass.

Quotes to live by list: "Be yourself; everyone else is taken" (Oscar Wilde); "Be yourself, because the people that matter don't mind and the people that mind don't matter" (Dr. Seuss); "Holding a grudge is like letting someone you hate live rent-free inside your head" (Ann Landers); "I'm like Han Solo always playing with my Wookie/I'm the root of all evil babe but you can call me cookie" (The Bloodhound Gang).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

DC 10

1. Sharing a row with G and C on Alaska Airlines. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy and Super Scribblenauts on my 3DS, quickly turning the screen away from the aisle when a puzzle required me to write the word "gun". Surprisingly good $6 cheeseburger.

2. Staying at the home of our friends G and J for two days. Falling in love with their dog Olivia as she curled up by my side to sleep, chasing squirrels in her dreams.

3. Smoked mac and cheese. Ramen with pork belly that melted in my mouth and chocolate chip cookies with red miso buttercream at Toki Underground. Wood-fired pizza. Rita's water ice custard. Lemon chicken. Cocktails called My Coming Out Party and Vanilla Chili Sidecar. Warm cinnamon sugar donuts. Homemade salted caramel and blueberry cheesecake Pop-Tarts at Ted's Bulletin. Char sui buns at Ping Pong Dim Sum.

4. Cards Against Humanity. "Pac-Man uncontrollably guzzling cum", "Oprah Winfrey sobbing over a Lean Cuisine." MechaHitler.

5. Hotel Rouge. Wax lips, an "intimacy kit", and caffeinated beef jerky in the minibar, though we used our $10 credit for more pedestrian things. Photobooth in the lobby where G and I mugged for the camera. Sitting in the bar eating our continental breakfast, Obama on the TV talking about Syria.

6. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Neon installations, a dazzling row of TVs, oil portraits of John Waters and LL Cool J. A Duane Hanson statue of an overweight old woman sitting at a table, reading a tabloid and eating a sundae; the ghost of my future, just add cats.

7. Spending time with our friends R and P. Free pirate play at the Kennedy Center. Terrace overlooking Watergate, the Potomac. Bonding with P over our shared love of Sparks.

8. The Mansion at O Street, a strange mashup of the Winchester Mystery House, a hotel, and a yard sale. Secret rooms behind mirrors and bookcases. Knickknacks everywhere you looked, all of it for sale. Yellow Submarine jukebox, John Lennon holograph, pachinko machine. Stack of Star Trek novels, a dollar each or $10 for 15.

9. Smithsonian: Hope Diamond, Archie Bunker's armchair, Kermit the Frog. Forensics exhibit with the charred bones of a murder victim awaiting his final peace. Butterfly garden, where one alit on a man's head, perched there like a barrette.

10. Home.