Friday, January 31, 2014

media update: January

And how was your January?  Mine was pretty good for the most part.  G and I went to Florida, where his parents were renting a condo, for Padre's 75th birthday.  Since my dad and stepmother live about 15 minutes away from the rental condo, and they've become good friends with G's parents, they attended too.  Overall it was a very nice visit, aside from a few tense travel moments that wound up fine and a brief argument with my dad, which is always a treat. ( And by "treat", I mean "dangerous spike in my blood pressure".)

No video game review this month, although G and I did play and finish one game that didn't merit a full review but does merit mention.  It was called Project Diva F, and it was a rhythm game starring Hatsune Miku, the computer generated Japanese pop idol who, I shit you not, has actually sold out concerts in Japan.  Take a look:

...she's a better lipsyncher than Britney Spears, at any rate.

This was my favorite song/video from the game, shown here without any of the gameplay.  (After clearing a song, you could watch the video without all of the prompts, which was nice because some of the videos were really cool.)

Anyway, it was really fun, although I'd only recommend it to rhythm game fans or aficionados of bizarre Japanese cultural phenomenons.
 Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. Ace, King, Knave* by Maria McCann:  Betsy-Ann Blore is a former prostitute who now makes her living by gambling and selling stolen goods.  Sophia is a naive young woman who's just married the incredibly handsome and charming Ned Zedland, whose mysterious past will come to affect them all. 

Maria McCann wrote my favorite book of all time, so when I saw that she had a new one out, I immediately went on Amazon's UK page and ordered it.  (For some reason, her last two books have not been commercially released in the US.)  I tried very hard not to let my passionate love for As Meat Loves Salt affect my perception of this book, but I failed, because I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed.  But that's not fair to Ms. McCann, because although Ace, King, Knave took a while to hook me, I did wind up enjoying it quite a bit.

Side note #1:  If you read this, I suggest immediately flipping to the back (try not to accidentally see the ending, of course!) and marking the glossary with a Post-It, because you will CONSTANTLY be referring to it; this book is filled with obscure 17th century slang. 

Side note #2:  Thanks to Amazon's discounts, even though this book was sent to me from England, it cost about the same as an average hardcover at Barnes & Noble. 

2. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey:  The second in Grey's trilogy about Marie Antoinette.  I have a soft spot for Marie Antoinette (probably thanks to the anime/manga series The Rose of Versailles) as well as historical fiction, so I liked it, even though the cheeseball cover made it embarrassing to read in public.  I'll definitely pick up the final book because I need to know how it ends!

3. Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano:  Morgan is a teenage girl who lives in a floating utopian city called Internment.  But when another girl is murdered, Morgan begins to wonder how perfect her world is after all.

I was really looking forward to this because DeStefano wrote the Chemical Garden trilogy, which I loved, but Perfect Ruin was just okay.  I'll probably finish the series, but I won't rush to grab the next installment as soon as it's released like I did with the Chemical Garden books.

4. Enders by Lissa Price:  This is a direct sequel to Starters, so I can't properly review it due to potential spoilers.  It was meh.

5. Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau:  Oh look, another YA dystopian third this month!  It's a direct sequel to The Testing, so I can't properly review it due to potential spoilers.  It was aight.


1. Autobiography* by Morrissey:  I was a bullied and lonely teenage girl in the 80s, and The Smiths made me feel like someone out there understood me, even if it was an effeminate vegetarian singer from Manchester.  So of course I had to pick up Morrissey's autobiography, and it didn't disappoint.  I was particularly thrilled to see that he spent almost 2 full pages singing the praises of Sparks, the criminally underrated band that's one of my favorites of all time.  (Refer to my blog title as proof.)  I'm still not thrilled that Morrissey recently compared meat eaters to pedophiles, because seriously WTF dude, but I will always love the guy.  I was lucky enough to see him in concert in San Jose, Halloween 1991, and it remains one of my most treasured memories.

2. Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah:  The author's husband received a diplomatic assignment in Paris, but shortly after they moved there, he was reassigned to Iraq for a year.  Quite understandably, she stayed behind in France, and she decided to devote her time to studying (and eating) French food.  As you might imagine, it made me hungry as hell.  There's a scene where she talks about salted caramel crepes, and I almost burst into tears from jealousy. 


1. Revival* by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

2. Hack/Slash: My First Maniac by Tim Seeley and Daniel Leister

3. Fables: Snow White by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Shawn McManus

4. Priceless Honey by Shiuko Kano

5. Demon Love Spell vol. 5 by Mayu Shinjo

6. Kizuna vol. 1 (deluxe edition) by Kazuma Kodaka

7. Lies Are a Gentleman's Manners by Marta Matsuo

8. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 2 by Nico Tanigawa

9. Otomen vol. 17 by Aya Kanno

10. Aria vol. 12 (final volume) by Natsumi Ando


1. 2 Guns:  Two dudes (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) try to infiltrate a drug cartel with disastrous results.  I can't say much more due to spoilers, but it's a decent action comedy.

2. Dead Man Down:  Victor (Colin Farrell) is contacted by his beautiful neighbor with a request: help her get revenge on the man responsible for scarring her face or she'll tell the police that she saw him commit a crime. Good performances and a decidedly Luc Besson feel, though he had nothing to do with this movie.

3. Thanks for Sharing:  When Adam (the always delicious Mark Ruffalo) and Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) meet at a party, their chemistry is instantaneous.  But there's a catch: Adam is a recovering sex addict.  It wasn't great or anything, and it drags in spots, but I liked it well enough.

4. Prisoners*:  After his little girl and her friend disappear and the primary suspect is released by the police, Keller Dover takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps the man, intending to get the truth out of him.  Very tense and well done, and Hugh Jackman is excellent as the anguished father.

Side note: I can't get over how much Hugh Jackman looks like Ethan Mars in the poster.  The movie has some interesting similarities to Heavy Rain, so I guess that's appropriate.  (This is not a huge spoiler for either the game or the movie.)

5. You're Next*:  Erin joins her boyfriend for a weekend at his parents' estate for an anniversary celebration.  But things turn ugly when a very unwelcome group of party crashers starts picking people off.  A gruesome treat with the savviest "final girl" since the horror heyday of Jamie Lee Curtis.

6. Blue Jasmine:  After her husband is jailed for fraud, formerly wealthy socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) reluctantly moves in with her sister.  But as she tries to rebuild her life, it keeps falling apart.  A compelling character study, but it's depressing as hell.  Blanchett is amazing, though, and the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar next month.

7. Insidious 2:  I have no idea why I watched this, because I didn't like the original much.  Jesus effing Christ was it awful.  Even Patrick Wilson was terrible in it.  Skip.


1. "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush

2. "Secret Police" by Hatsune Miku

3. "Weekender Girl" by Hatsune Miku

4. "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities

Monday, January 06, 2014

2013: the year that was

JANUARY: Bought a new laptop and struggled mightily with Windows 8. Went to LACMA with G and his family, the highlight of which was standing next to Padre looking at a Mapplethorpe photo of a guy getting fisted. (Padre's comment: "Ow.") Got a nasty cold. Finished Resident Evil 6 campaign co-op mode and got all the bonus figurines. Went to a gastroenterologist for a second opinion on gallbladder surgery and liked her so much that I wanted her to be my bestie. Finished Braid. Read 4 novels, 8 volumes of manga, and 7 graphic novels; watched 13 movies.  

FEBRUARY: Went to Little Tokyo with G and C and was delighted to find that our favorite macaron place had reopened. Watched the Super Bowl. Had to get three fillings replaced. Made arrangements to get my gallbladder yanked out. Valentine's Day was lovely; G sent me flowers at work, and we spent the evening exchanging cards/gifts/sweet nothings, eating pizza, and playing video games. Finished The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. Got my gallbladder taken out, and was relieved beyond belief that they didn't have to do the much more complicated open surgery or a post-op endoscopy. The hospital released me that afternoon, and I spent the next several days recuperating under G's careful and loving eye. Read 7 novels, 2 nonfiction books, 6 volumes of manga, and 1 graphic novel; watched 11 movies.  

MARCH: Reluctantly returned to work. Finished Dead Space 3. Went antiquing. Got pretty far into the Saw video game until it got so frustrating and repetitive that we returned it to Gamefly. G got whomped by the flu, and although I remained unscathed, I got hit with allergies. Went to the crotch doc. Work drama, coupled with training for a new phone system, left me exhausted. Went to Santa Monica with G and M. Read 6 novels, 3 nonfiction books, 2 graphic novels, and 2 volumes of manga; watched 16 movies.

APRIL: Went to the animal shelter and loved up on kitties, including 15-year-old Siamese sisters named Silky and Fluffy. (Hey, I didn't name them.) Got a new phone system at work that's about as user friendly as a thistle covered dildo. Took a day off work to get some shit done. Spoiler alert: I didn't get shit done. Finished DmC: Devil May Cry. Lost my XBOX Live virginity and played Dead Space 3 co-op with a cool and mellow bro; the key to his easygoing personality can probably be explained by the fact that his gamer tag contained the numbers 420. Finished Ghost Trick. I wore my Teddie (from Persona 4) shirt to Red Robin, and when we stood up to leave, the kid in the booth behind G jumped up, said "Every day's great at your Junes!", and gave me a fist bump, which was bizarre but cool. Read 3 novels, 5 nonfiction books, 5 graphic novels, and 5 volumes of manga; watched 9 movies.

MAY: May was an unbelievably boring month; pretty much all I did was work and read. The California wildfires got so bad that work let us go home early. Mainlined season 3 of Game of Thrones and season 7 of Dexter. Read 5 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 4 volumes of manga, and 3 graphic novels; watched 8 movies.

JUNE: Work continued to blow goats for quarters. G and I went to a botanical garden and canoodled by the koi pond. Developed an intense crush on Ray Stevenson thanks to his awesome performance in season 7 of Dexter. Finished the Tomb Raider reboot. Got a mammogram, and fortunately everything is fine with my jigglypuffs. G surprised me with a piece of my favorite cheesecake (almond biscotti crust, represent!) after I tweeted about being sad. Madre and Padre came to California for Padre's military reunion, and we spent a nice day together. Scorching heat kept me inside as much as possible, running up my electric bill and loafing in air conditioned comfort. Finished the HD Collection version of Silent Hill 2. Read 5 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 4 graphic novels, and 5 volumes of manga; watched 10 movies.
JULY: Continued to be incredibly lazy due to the SoCal heat wave. A coworker kept playing and crying over a video of her son and pregnant daughter-in-law cutting their gender announcement cake, leading to lots of headaches. Received a moisturizer sample from Sephora that turned out to be self-tanner; fortunately I found out before the bright orange tint of my face became semi-permanent! G, C, and I had a shared birthday dinner. Finished The Last of Us. Spent G's birthday fawning over him, as is his due. Spent MY birthday off work, lazing about the house, and when G got off work, we went out for a nice dinner and then he gifted me with a Nintendo 3DS. Back at work the next day, my work bestie surprised me with a Hello Kitty decorated cube and lots of delicious goodies for lunch. Won two magazine contests (basically every Garnier hair product in existence and a bottle of Jurlique perfume) in the span of a week. Read 5 novels, 5 graphic novels, and 1 volume of manga; watched 11 movies.  

AUGUST: Finished Cooking Mama 4: Kitchen Magic. Was startled to see an Aston Martin in front of me in the Wendy's drive through. Finished Resident Evil: Revelations. Went to a new dentist, who happened to be Japanese-American, and was mortified when my cell phone went off during my appointment; I wouldn't have cared quite so much if my ringtone wasn't "Turning Japanese". Had to call my landlady about my ornery toilet for the second time in as many months. Went to Little Tokyo, and in addition to my usual purchases like magazines and macarons, I bought a painting. Finished Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove. Finished Dragon's Crown. G and I celebrated our 9th anniversary. G, C, and I went to Washington DC, and we spent a lovely week visiting friends, seeing the sights, and eating fabulous food ranging from dim sum to homemade salted caramel Pop-Tarts. Read 5 novels, 2 nonfiction books, 6 graphic novels, and 2 volumes of manga; watched 6 movies.

SEPTEMBER: Was deeply saddened to find out that Winston, Padre's friend's gorgeous British shorthair that I was in love with, had died. Finished Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper. Came home from work to find that G had left me a surprise: avgolemono soup, pita bread, and rice pilaf from my favorite Greek restaurant, as well as a Godiva truffle for dessert. The NY Giants lost 4 games in a row, putting G and Padre into a deep funk. Read 5 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 5 volumes of manga, and 2 graphic novels; watched 10 movies.

OCTOBER: The Giants continued to suck. Went to Florida to visit Daddy-O; trip highlights included feeding a sausage on a stick to a grizzly bear at a rescue sanctuary, the Ringling Brothers Museum, Mote Aquarium, Selby Gardens, and a glorious dessert called Dreamsicle cake, as well as spending lots of quality time with my dad. We did have one nasty argument, and he worked my last nerve a couple of times, but overall it was a fun trip. Returning to work was not nearly as fun, of course, especially since I came back just as a colossal shitstorm erupted. Finished Hakuoki: Memories of the Shinsengumi. Went to C's mom's funeral. Got massively sick with sinusitis and an ear infection, and then I had a bad reaction to the first antibiotic I was on, so I was pretty miserable. Read 8 novels, 2 nonfiction books, 4 volumes of manga, and 2 graphic novels; watched 11 movies.

NOVEMBER: G and I went to D-Con, an art/toy designer convention in Pasadena. It was fun, although the traffic was awful and it took us forever to find parking. Spent a lovely day in downtown Ventura with our friend M. Finished Beyond: Two Souls. Spent a wonderful and gloriously lazy Thanksgiving weekend with G. Was shocked and saddened to hear that Paul Walker died. Read 5 novels, 4 nonfiction books, 10 volumes of manga, and 3 graphic novels; saw 14 movies.

DECEMBER: My stepmother effed up her knee playing tennis. SoCal was hit by a cold snap which forced me to bust out my Nanook of the North parka. Finished Deadpool. Went to Santa Fe with G and spent almost 2 glorious weeks socializing, reading, eating fabulous food, and catching up on my sleep. Read 5 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 7 graphic novels, and 1 volume of manga; saw 9 movies.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

media update: December

Happy New Year, everybody!  I can't believe 2013 is over.  It was kind of a wash; nothing really terrific happened, but nothing really bad happened either.  Well, I guess the gallbladder surgery was no picnic, but considering that it's major surgery, it wasn't that bad.  So yeah, a wash.  Here's hoping that 2014 is supermegafreakin' awesome for everyone who deserves it!  (Assholes and bad people, of course, can have a breathtakingly shitty 2014 as far as I'm concerned.)

No video game review this month.  G-Vo and I finished Deadpool, which was pretty funny, but the action was standard boilerplate and it didn't really warrant a full review.

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


1. Ashes* by Ilsa J. Bick:  Trying to come to grips with her inoperable brain tumor and the deaths of her parents, Alex decides to go on a solitary hike in the woods.  But during her trip, an EMP of unknown origin hits, turning some people into bloodthirsty monsters.  And for the first time in a long time, Alex finds her will to live.

Yeah, yeah, it's the first volume in yet another postapocalyptic YA trilogy, but it's goddamn good; it's like The Walking Dead meets Cheryl Strayed's hiking memoir Wild.   I loved it so much that I went back and added it to my favorite fiction list of 2013.  It ended on a cliffhanger, but it didn't matter because soon after finishing, I went to the library and checked out...

2. Shadows* by Ilsa J. Bick:  ...which I can't review lest I spoil the previous book.

3. Monsters* by Ilsa J. Bick:  Ditto.  I'll just say it wraps up perfectly, and that I'm glad I discovered this series shortly after the final volume was published.  That way, I was able to mainline all three books in the course of two weeks!  Anyway, I highly recommend this series, though I should warn you that the violence can get VERY graphic.  Don't let the YA tag fool you.

Side note: at the very end of the book, there's a list of characters and a recap of what happened to them in Shadows.  I have no idea why they put that at the end of the book, but if you need a refresher, go to the back of the book first!  Just be careful not to spoil the ending for yourself, of course.

4. Delirium Stories by Lauren Oliver:  A collection of three short stories about minor characters in the Delirium universe.  Not necessary unless you've already read and enjoyed the Delirium trilogy.

5. Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey:  This novel is told from the perspective of Marie Antoinette as she leaves her home in Austria and goes to France to marry the dauphin, ending just as she and Louis become the new king and queen.  There are two more novels covering the rest of her life, and although this wasn't phenomenal, I'll probably still read them.

TOTAL READ IN 2013:  63


1. Anything That Moves* by Dana Goodyear:  Usually books about food make me ravenously hungry, but this one sure didn't!  It covers the extreme foodie movement (think raw milk, marijuana infused dishes, and bugs), and although it can get really gross, it's very interesting, especially the section on an underground farmer's market in Venice, California.

TOTAL READ IN 2013: 22


1. The Joker: Death of the Family* by way too many people to list here because this story arc spanned several different series.

2. Hyperbole and a Half* by Allie Brosh:  The best of the blog collected in one full color volume, in addition to some new stuff.  Her series on her battle with depression is one of the best things I've ever read on the internet.

3. The Last of Us: American Dreams by Neil Druckman, Faith Erin Hicks, and Rachelle Rosenberg

4. The Walking Dead vol. 19 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn

5. Deadpool: Suicide Kings by Mike Benson, Adam Glass, Carlo Barberi, and Shawn Crystal

6. Judge vol. 2 by Shiki Tonogai

7. Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

8. Batwoman vol. 3 by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman

TOTAL READ IN 2013: 102


1. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane:  Mandy (Amber Heard) is a beautiful high school student who's lusted after by every boy at school.  When she and her friends go on a weekend trip to a secluded ranch, a mysterious killer begins picking them off one by one.  An interesting throwback to 80s slasher flicks (even the title screen is an homage), but if you've ever seen a horror movie in your life, it is VERY predictable.  There was also a serious missed opportunity where a future victim plays with magnetic letters on the fridge.  The killer could have made a perfect anagram out of the exact same letters Future Victim used.  

2. The Wolverine*:  Wolverine is living in seclusion when he's summoned to Japan by an old friend.  Wolverine agrees, but it turns out to be anything but a pleasurable vacation.  It's a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the which I mean both Japan and Hugh Jackman shirtless.  GodDAMN!

Side note:  be sure to watch the credits!

3. R.I.P.D.:  After being killed in the line of duty, a cop (Ryan Reynolds) is assigned to the Rest in Peace Department, which protects the living world from "deados".  I hoped it would be the fun kind of bad, but it was just plain bad.

4. 10 Items or Less*:  An actor (who is never named; he's just listed in the credits as "Him") doing research for a role runs into a testy grocery store clerk named Scarlet.  He's fascinated by her ordinary life, and after her shift ends, he bums a ride in order to get a better look at how she lives.  It's a enjoyably quirky little film, oddly reminiscent of Lost in Translation, and Morgan Freeman is excellent.  (As opposed to, you know, his usual underwhelming performances.)  I especially liked the scene where he's astounded by the bounty of Target.  I do wish, however, that they hadn't included the wacky scenes in the credits because I felt they lessened the impact of the ending.

5. The Purge:  In the near future, the US holds a yearly "purge" that lasts for 12 hours.  During that time, any crime is legal, even murder, and emergency services are suspended.  Rich people buy expensive security systems and barricade themselves in their homes until the purge is over, but the poor are shit out of luck.  James Sandin has made a fortune selling those security systems, but he didn't count on his young son taking pity on an injured man and letting him inside.  Unfortunately, the man's attackers don't take too well to losing their prey, and the Sandins find themselves under siege.  Interesting premise, poor execution.  I also found myself distracted by Lena Headey's terrible wig.

6. Elysium:  In the future, the very rich have fled Earth to live on a luxurious space station called Elysium.  Back on our planet, Max (Matt Damon) is exposed to radiation at his job and learns that he has five days to live.  He wants to take an illegal shuttle to Elysium and use one of their "med beds", which can cure any illness, but Elysium's secretary of defense (an unusually hammy Jodie Foster) is determined to stop him.  I wanted to like this movie, because I loved District 9 (which was also written and directed by Neill Blomkamp), but the allegory was incredibly heavy handed and the ending sucked.  Beautiful visuals, though.

7. Equilibrium:  In a dystopian future where emotions are suppressed through mandatory drug use in order to prevent World War IV, a cleric (Christian Bale) tasked with keeping the peace skips a dose of his medicine and discovers what he's been missing for so many years; chaos ensues.  Some good gun fu and an interesting concept, but you can safely skip it. 

8. The World's End*:  Gary King (Simon Pegg) longs to go back to his teenage glory days, so he gathers up his old friends for an epic pub crawl that doesn't go quite how they planned.  The less you know, the better, so I'll just say it's a bittersweet end to the Cornetto trilogy. 

9. Incendies:  After their mother dies, Jeanne and Simon go to the Middle East to fulfill her last wishes.  It's well done and has some interesting plot developments, but my god was it DEPRESSING.  Padre wanted us to see it because he was so blown away by it, but once it was over, we all just sat there in a shellshocked state.  I would never have finished it if I'd been watching it on my own.

TOTAL SEEN IN 2013: 128


1. "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage" by Killer Pussy

2. "I Kiss Your Lips" by Tokyo Ghetto Pussy: No, I'm not on a mission to download songs by bands with the word "pussy" in their names; this was sheer coincidence.  Sometimes magic just happens.

3. "Eclipse (All Yours)" by Metric

4. "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)" by Muse

5. "In Anticipation of Your Suicide" by Bedroom Walls

6. "Hearing Damage" by Thom Yorke

7. "The Violet Hour" by Sea Wolf

8. "A White Demon Love Song" by The Killers

9. "I Belong to You" by Muse

10. "La Receta" by Kemo the Blaxican

11. "Sister I'm a Poet" by Morrissey