Saturday, January 31, 2015

media update: January

NOTE TO G-VO:  Please skip movie review #5 as I'll probably make you watch it at some point.

Hello, my cats and kittens!  My dad is currently visiting me, so I've been quite busy playing hostess for the last couple of days.  He's not staying with me, but at a very Mulholland Drive-esque hotel about 4 miles away from my place.  He's gotten on my nerves a couple of times (thank CHRIST for G-Vo, who listened patiently to me on the phone and provided some invaluable advice), but overall it's been nice having him here.  I must say, I never knew he had so many opinions on celebrities!  Here are a couple of choice bits:

- At lunch, he asked me to identify a singer on the radio and when I told him it was Rihanna, he said "Oh, Rihanna!  Man, she is SULTRY."

- Upon flipping the TV to Modern Family:  "Whew, that Sofia Vergara is one hot babe."

- While we were waiting in line at CVS, he noticed George and Amal Clooney on the cover of a magazine and asked the guy behind us if he thought Amal was pretty.  The startled dude said, "Uh, sure," to which my dad said "She's very classy!  George Clooney is a great guy, so I hope it works out for them."  (My dad has a friend who met the Cloons; it's a very long story, but the Cliff's Notes version is that George Clooney was extremely nice to the friend when he didn't have to be, and in fact if he had been rude it would have been somewhat justified, and the story made a huge impression on my dad.)

- Flipping through a magazine on my couch:  "God, [redacted because this isn't a nice thing he said] sure turned out to be a slut."  I chided him, and he said, "I'd say the same thing if a guy acted the same way she does!  It's tacky!"

- "Kate Hudson is pretty, but she's no Emily Blunt."  ?????

- And best of all:  I have a poster of Dante from Devil May Cry (reboot version, not original recipe) on my fridge, and my dad said "Is this that Justin Bieber kid?"  Dear reader, I ROFL'd.

Anyway, on to the media update!

Starting this month, I'm trying something new.  As usual, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time, but this month I'm adding double asterisks!  Double asterisks are for things that I couldn't stop thinking/raving about, and will be reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  As always, your mileage may vary.


1. Party Girl by Rachel Hollis:  Landon Brinkley moves to Los Angeles with aspirations of becoming an event planner.  When she lands an internship with celebrity party planner Selah Smith, she can't believe her luck, but her dream job quickly becomes a nightmare.  It's a pretty shameless ripoff of The Devil Wears Prada, but it was mindlessly enjoyable enough to keep me occupied on a 4 hour flight, and it had the occasional good line.  (My favorite, when Landon is about to get in a car with a hunky coworker she barely knows:  "This feels like the start of every Lifetime movie Tori Spelling ever died in.")

2. The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland:  In the final installment of the Sano Ichiro samurai detective series, Sano has to investigate an assassination attempt against the shogun.  Not one of the more engrossing books in this series, but I'm still sad to see it end as I've been a fan (uh, no pun intended) since the beginning.

3. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner:  This is the second book in the Starbound trilogy, and although it follows new characters for the most part, there's enough crossover that I won't go into details lest I spoil its predecessor.  I didn't like it nearly as much as These Broken Stars.

4. Her by Harriet Lane:  Nina is out running errands when she sees Emma, a woman she used to know.  Emma doesn't remember Nina, but Nina has a longstanding grudge against her, and she slowly insinuates herself into Emma's life.  As the novel progresses, you get hints as to what happened until it all unspools near the very end.  It was decent, but ends rather abruptly.


1. Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation** by Adam Resnick:  A hysterical collection of essays about everything from traumatic porn discovered as a kid to bizarre phone conversations with his dad.  I was reading this in the break room at work and started laughing so hard that people wanted to know what was so funny.  Great stuff, and I love this quote on the back from Chris Elliott:  "He's basically our generation's Norman Rockwell, if Norman Rockwell had ever painted a woman sucking off a horse."  (Yes, this is a reference to the aforementioned porn.)

2. I'll Have What She's Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington:  The author followed the diets of several famous women to see if she'd lose weight.  Which she did, which wasn't hard when she was eating things like sour cream and cottage cheese mixed together (a favorite of Elizabeth Taylor's).  Amusing enough, but not essential reading, and you can find many of these essays online if you're curious.

Side note:  This paperback book is 164 pages long, with double spacing between each paragraph, and it costs $15.  Fifteen freakin' bucks!  (The Kindle version is a much more reasonable $8.)  And the publishing industry wonders why it's in trouble.  Hmmm, go fucking figure.


1. Say I Love You volume 5 by Kanae Hazuki

2. My Love Story!! vol. 3 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

3. What Did You Eat Yesterday? vols. 5-6 by Fumi Yoshinaga


1. The Imitation Game*:  This movie is based on the true story of Alan Turing, a math genius who helped crack the Nazis' Enigma Code, ending WWII approximately 2 years earlier than anticipated and paving the way for computers.  Excellent, and Tumblr's boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch is fantastic as Turing.

2. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For*:  Because this is a sequel to Sin City, I can't review it properly lest I spoil the original movie/graphic novel.  I'll just say it's visually stunning and I liked it a hell of a lot more than I thought I would.  Helpful hint:  if it's been a while since you read/saw the first one, you may want to read the Wikipedia plot summary for the original beforehand.

3. Kite:  In this live action remake of the infamous anime, Sawa is a teenage assassin determined to avenge her parents' deaths.  It's not bad, but if you've seen the original, there's no real reason to bother with this version.

4. Snow Cake:  While on a road trip, Alex (Alan Rickman) reluctantly agrees to give a young woman a ride home, but when tragedy strikes, he pays a visit to her autistic mother Linda (Sigourney Weaver).  He decides to stay in town for a while to help Linda and come to grips with what happened.  The story, although touching, isn't exceptional, but the performances are.

5. The Skeleton Twins**:  Maggie is just about to take a huge handful of pills when she gets a call saying that her estranged twin brother Milo tried to kill himself.  When he gets out of the hospital, she asks him to move in with her and her husband for a while, and they begin to tentatively repair their relationship.

Jesus Christ, this fucking movie.  Holy shit.  There's one scene that rang so true and hit home so hard that I actually wept in recognition.  And Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, as you might expect, are terrific.  Not for everyone, but the people it IS for will most likely love it.

6. To Be Takei:  This documentary covers George Takei's life from his childhood in a WWII internment camp to his role as Sulu on Star Trek to his current status as a gay activist and icon.  Quite enjoyable.

7. Horns:  Ig Parrish (Daniel Radcliffe, affecting an American accent that makes him sound eerily like Aaron Paul) has been wrongly accused of the rape and murder of his girlfriend Merrin.  He thinks the crime will never be solved, but when he inexplicably grows a set of horns that compels people to tell him their darkest secrets, he sees an opportunity to get to the truth.  Decent performances, but the Joe Hill novel was about a billion times better, largely because of some unnecessary changes to the script and poor direction.  (I love how the DVD cover says "From the director of The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D" like that's a GOOD thing.)  If you've read the book, skip this; if you haven't read the book, read that instead.

8. Wetlands:  Helen is a young German woman who's obsessed with everything that comes out of and goes into her body.  When she cuts herself trying to shave around one of her hemorrhoids and winds up in the hospital, she uses her recuperation time to flirt with her hunky nurse and plot to get her divorced parents back together.

I read the book a few years ago, so I was somewhat prepared for how gross it was going to get, but there's a huge difference between reading about it and seeing it.  And trust me, there's stuff in this movie that would make John Waters barf.  Despite that, I rather...well, "enjoyed" isn't the right word, but I admired its anarchic spirit.  Please believe me, though:  not REMOTELY for the faint of heart.  If you'd like a more detailed review, you can read Jezebel's very NSFW post (with screenshots!) here.

9. Gone Girl**:  When his wife Amy disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne finds himself under intense scrutiny by the media and the police alike.  The book by Gillian Flynn is in my top 10 of all time, and David Fincher is one of my favorite directors, so I had high hopes for this adaptation...and I wasn't disappointed, because it's fantastic.  My only real complaint, and it's fairly minor, is that the musical score sometimes drowns out the dialogue.

10. No Good Deed:  When a stranger shows up on her doorstep asking to use the phone, Terri (Taraji P. Henson) lets him in, because a) she's fucking stupid and b) he looks like Idris Elba.  But the dude has bad intentions, and she must fight to protect herself and her children from the intruder.  It's basically a Lifetime movie with a couple of F bombs, and oh my god, it INFURIATED us because she incapacitates him at least four times and just runs away, which is one of our least favorite tropes ever in video games/movies.  Pro tip:  if you ever manage to get the upper hand and knock out an assailant/serial killer/monster, use that advantage and kill him/her/it!  That used to drive me nuts when I'd play Clock Tower because in one scene, Jennifer blasts Scissorman in the face with a fire extinguisher, he falls down and STAYS down, and she runs off.  Bitch, his giant fucking scissors are RIGHT THERE!  Stab his ugly ass to death!  Jesus Christ.

11. Tusk:  After a story lead doesn't pan out, podcaster Wallace (Justin Long) despairs of finding new material, but he discovers a notice in a bar bathroom offering free room and board in exchange for listening to a few stories.  He goes to the man's house, but his genial host (Michael Parks, who's incredible) turns out to have a much different agenda in mind.

This is a Kevin Smith movie, but although it's got some funny lines, it's more along the lines of Red State than any of his other work.  It's really goddamn disturbing.

12. American Sniper*:  This biopic covers the true story of Chris Kyle (played by a super beefy Bradley Cooper), the Navy SEAL sniper with the most documented kills, and the toll that his work took on him and his family.  Very intense and well done.


1. "Debonair" by Afghan Whigs

2. "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman

3. "Kids" by MGMT:  I still can't believe my dad saw MGMT in concert.  (They were playing at a music festival he was attending.  Let's just say he didn't become a fan.)

4. "Livin' Thing"  by ELO

5. "Turn to Stone" by ELO

6. "Secret" by OMD

7. "Tesla Girls" by OMD

8. "Me!Me!Me!" by TeddyLoid

9. "I My Me Mine" by Polysics

10. "It's A Mug's Game" by Soft Cell

11. "The Only One I Know" by the Charlatans

12. "I Wanna Be Adored" by Stone Roses

13. "Fools Gold" by Stone Roses

Thursday, January 08, 2015

2014: the year in review

JANUARY:  G-Vo and I went to Florida for his dad's 75th birthday party.  We stayed at his parents' rental condo and went to an art fair and a state park, played games, and ate lots of delicious food.  Since my dad and stepmother lived about 20 minutes away, I also spent time with them, and they came to the party since they've become good friends with G-Vo's parents.  Finished Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F.  Said goodbye to Open Diary, where I'd blogged for almost 14 years.  Read 5 novels, 2 nonfiction books, 3 graphic novels, and 7 volumes of manga; watched 7 movies.

FEBRUARY:  All sorts of changes at work led to some serious stress and lowered morale.  Took Valentine's Day off to spend it with my sweetheart.  We exchanged presents and cards, got all mushy, and had brunch at a nearby restaurant and found out later that we missed the Kardashians by about 30 minutes.  (Which is fine.)  Finished The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC.  Read 7 novels, one nonfiction book, one graphic novel, and 4 volumes of manga; watched 10 movies.   

MARCH:  Massive rain led to cabin fever.  Watched the Oscars.  My work bestie accepted a position in another state, which made me really sad.  In happier news, the Raccoon (one of my least favorite coworkers, so dubbed because I once caught her going through my trash can) announced her retirement effective June 1st.  G-Vo and I were awakened at 6AM by a 4.4 earthquake.  Got together with M for a belated birthday celebration; we visited an alpaca farm, had lunch at a favorite restaurant, and strolled around downtown Ventura before returning to her place to chat and love up her cats.  Read 6 novels, one nonfiction book, 2 graphic novels, and 6 volumes of manga; watched 10 movies.

APRIL:  Started off the month with a nasty cold.  The new season of Game of Thrones began, which is basically a holiday in our hizzy.  A rare opportunity for overtime came up, so I took it, but the difference in my paycheck was so meager that I doubt I'll ever do it again.  Madre and Padre came to California for a short visit.  Finally drank the Kool-Aid and got an iPhone; mere days later, I developed a serious addiction to Candy Crush Saga.   Read 5 novels, 3 nonfiction books, 2 graphic novels, and 4 volumes of manga; watched 8 movies.

MAY:  Went to the crotch doc for my annual checkup and everything was fine with my ladybits.  A scorching SoCal heat wave made me even more sluggish than usual.  G-Vo, M, and I went to a small local zoo (they had lemurs!).  My boss announced that she was accepting an opportunity in a different department, and when the email went out, people were actually screaming and cheering with joy.  (She wasn't around at the time!)  Enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend with G-Vo.  Cat sat for M, and although the commute sucked, it was nice spending time with her two sweet cats.  Boy Cat even followed me around like a dog!  Went to the movies for the first time in 7 months and saw X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Read 4 novels, zero nonfiction books, 4 volumes of manga, and 2 graphic novels;  watched 8 movies.

JUNE:  Much to my delight, the Raccoon retired.  Downloaded a bizarre Japanese game on my iPhone that involved romancing anthropomorphized pieces of sushi.  My work bestie J/next door neighbor decided not to transfer to Arizona after all, which made me very happy.  A small earthquake hit SoCal.  Work started to slow down drastically due to changes in the company, which was nice at first but led to some real paranoia in my department about potential layoffs.  Saw a live taping of Conan O'Brien with G-Vo, C, and C's fiancee, and then we ate at the original Bob's Big Boy in Burbank for dinner.  Finished Murdered: Soul Suspect.  Read 4 novels, 2 nonfiction books, 1 volume of manga, and 4 graphic novels; watched 9 movies.   

JULY:  Tweaked my back and had to cancel my indoor skydiving lesson.  Catsat for my friend M.  My iPhone started acting bizarre, which had me in tears while frantically googling the problem.  Celebrated my 15th anniversary at work, and they gave me a Kindle Fire.  Spent a lovely birthday weekend with G-Vo. Had a busy but fun weekend hanging out with assorted friends.  Southern California was hit by a major heat wave, which meant that I got a lot more reading done because I wasn't spending my work breaks walking. Read 9 novels, zero nonfiction books, 5 volumes of manga, and 1 graphic novel; watched 14 movies.

AUGUST:  Took a cruise to Alaska with my dad, brother, stepmother, and G-Vo, which was incredibly fun except for G-Vo and me getting colds and me sharting myself while walking around Sitka.  We got to see some gorgeous things and eat a ton of great food, so all in all, it was a terrific experience.  Got my mammogram done, and thankfully everything was normal.  G-Vo and I celebrated our 10th anniversary.  Read 3 novels, 4 nonfiction books, 4 volumes of manga, and 3 graphic novels; watched 10 movies.

SEPTEMBER:  Finished Breaking Bad.  G-Vo and I went to a local carnival.  Work angst due to draconian vacation scheduling and assorted fee-fees getting hurt led to hours of searching job listings online.  Catsat for my friend M.  Southern California continued to be hotter than fuck.  Read 8 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 3 volumes of manga, and 1 graphic novel; watched 9 movies.  

OCTOBER:  Finished Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed.  Had to cancel my credit card after the information was stolen in a data breach.  (Anonymous thief, I hope you choked on that fraudulent Five Guys burger.)  Took G-Vo for his first colonoscopy, and fortunately everything checked out okay.  The New York Giants' season basically came to an end with Victor Cruz's horrifying injury.  I was reading in bed and a giant spider scurried across my bedspread; I shrieked and leaped out of bed to look for it, but I couldn't find it and wound up spending a cold and sleepless night on the couch.  Went to the Tilted Kilt, a "breastaurant" where the waitresses wear tiny uniforms of plaid bras, kilts, and knee socks.  Finished The Walking Dead: Season 2 (XBOX360 game, not the TV show).  Put on cool fake nails painted with skulls and cobwebs for Halloween and had a bitch of a time removing them the next day; the process involved a bowl of hot water, dental floss, and picking away globs of glue.  Read 3 novels, 4 nonfiction books, 5 graphic novels, and 10 volumes of manga; watched 10 movies.

NOVEMBER:  Finished The Walking Dead: 400 Days DLC.  Went to Little Tokyo with G-Vo, C, and J for the Hello Kitty anniversary exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum.  Aside from traffic and a bitch of a time finding parking, we had a good time; the exhibit was awesome, and we had lunch at Curry House and shopped.  We even managed to find our beloved jyaga bata potato chips, which we hadn't seen in years, and promptly bought 10 bags!  Finished Cooking Mama 5: Bon Appetit.  At work, I found out that my new boss was being reassigned to a different department, which sucked as I really liked her.  Enjoyed a gloriously slothy Thanksgiving weekend with G-Vo doing nothing but eating, watching TV/movies, and playing video games.  Finished Dead Rising 3.  Read 7 novels, zero nonfiction books, 8 volumes of manga, and 2 graphic novels; watched 10 movies.

DECEMBER:  Finished Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.  Went to Famous Dave's for dinner and had to switch tables because ours had ants all over it.  (Appetizing!)  Finished the Dead Rising DLC chapters.  Spent a lovely Christmas with G-Vo; he made orange cinnamon rolls for breakfast and we spent the day killing zombies and watching movies.  Went to Florida for vacation at the end of the month because his parents were renting a house there.  His sister and her family drove up for the week, and we went to Weeki Wachee Springs and the Edison Ford Estate, ate tons of good food, and rang in the New Year.  My dad and stepmother live in the same city as G-Vo's parents' rental house, so I spent time with them as well.  Read 8 novels, 2 nonfiction books, and one graphic novel; watched 5 movies.

Monday, January 05, 2015

media update: December

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a lovely holiday season.  G-Vo and I went to Florida for a week and stayed with his parents, who were renting a house in the same town where my dad and stepmother live, so that was convenient.  G-Vo's sister, brother-in-law, and nephews joined us as well, and we spent the week hanging out, playing games, eating tons of good food, and relaxing.  We also visited a few attractions as well.  My favorite: the magnificently kitschy Weeki Wachee mermaids.  I've wanted to go there forever, because I have a serious soft spot for things like that, and it did not disappoint in all its cheeseball glory.

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


1. You* by Caroline Kepnes:  Joe is instantly smitten when a young woman named Beck walks into the bookstore where he works.  It's a classic "meet cute" story, but with a twist:  Joe is fucking nuts. I won't say any more lest I inadvertently spoil something (speaking of which, don't read the inside cover, which definitely ruins shit); I'll just add that it's twisted and darkly funny and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

2. Don't Try to Find Me by Holly Brown:  After 14-year-old Marley disappears, leaving a message in the kitchen, her mother Rachel is frantic.  She and her husband begin a social media campaign to find Marley, but a secret Rachel is hiding comes back to bite her in the ass.  There's no real suspense in this book, since we find out pretty quickly what happened to Marley, so it wasn't as engrossing as it could have been.

3. A Life in Men by Gina Frangello:  Mary and Nix have been friends for many years, but when they take a vacation to Greece, something happens that dooms their relationship, and they drift apart.  Three years later, Mary finds out that Nix is dead, and she returns to Europe to try to figure out what killed their friendship.  It's not bad, but it became a real slog near the end.

4. The Jewel* by Amy Ewing:  Since she was young, Violet has been trained to serve royalty, and when she comes of age, she's sold for a high price at auction.  Because she has the rare ability to affect the growth and appearance of things, her sole purpose in life is to be a surrogate for her mistress, "custom building" the fetus as it grows within her.  Needless to say, Violet isn't too happy with this idea, and she wants out of the arrangement.  It's like a YA version of The Handmaid's Tale, and although it's obviously not as well written as that book, I really enjoyed it.  Warning, though:  it ends on a MAJOR cliffhanger (I actually yelled "WHAT?!"), so if this sounds interesting to you, you may want to wait until the entire trilogy has been published.

5. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers:  This is the final book in the Fair Assassin trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessors.  I'll just say that it was pretty good and leave it at that.

6. The Killer Next Door* by Alex Marwood:  Roy Preece runs a boardinghouse in London, accepting only cash and not doing any background checks, which draws a certain type of renter.  All six of the tenants have their reasons for living in such a shithole, and one of them is a murderer.  Vivid characters made this an especially enjoyable read.

7. Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam:  After her former best friend commits suicide, Aubrey reluctantly returns to her hometown for the funeral.  I probably would have liked it more if there had been a single sympathetic character in the entire book, if there hadn't been so many typos (one choice example: "his hairy arm squeezing around my waste"), and if the ending hadn't sucked so bad.

8. Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter:  Perry and Baby Girl are friends who enjoy stealing cars and flirting online with a man who isn't quite what he seems.  Unrelentingly bleak.

TOTAL READ IN 2014:  121


1. The World of PostSecret* edited by Frank Warren:  A new collection of secrets from the popular website.

2. Kawaii! Japan's Culture of Cute* by Manami Okazaki and Geoff Johnson:  A very enjoyable look at all things kawaii, ranging from elaborate bento boxes to the ever adorable Hello Kitty.  I particularly liked the interview with artist Macoto Takahashi, whose aesthetic really appeals to me.

TOTAL READ IN 2014:  20


1. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift Part 3 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

TOTAL READ IN 2014: 55 volumes of manga and 27 graphic novels


1. The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears:  A man comes home from a business trip only to discover that his wife is missing, and in his quest to find her, he descends into a hellish fever dream.  A pitch perfect homage to giallo that could have been a great movie, but it's so fucking confusing that it's merely a good one.  I definitely wouldn't recommend it to someone who's never watched a giallo flick before.  (Try Suspiria instead.)

2. How to Train Your Dragon 2:  While exploring, Hiccup and his dragon Toothless discover a place inhabited by hundreds of dragons and a mysterious woman and have to protect them from a bad guy who wants to create a dragon army.  It was a bit overhyped, but very pretty, and I loved the scenes with Viking girl Ruffnut perving over a dude voiced by Kit "Jon Snow" Harington.

3. The Expendables 3:  I'm not even going to bother summarizing the plot, because there isn't much of one.  Dumb but enjoyable.

4. The Purge: Anarchy*:  In the near future, for 12 hours every year, America legalizes all crime, ostensibly to let people get it out of their system.  Several people who get stuck outside during the Purge band together to try to survive the night.  I liked the original fine, but this one was much better.

5. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead:  After surviving a Nazi zombie massacre, Martin wakes up in the hospital only to find that he's received an arm transplant...from one of the zombies.  This gives him certain powers, so he bands together with excited wannabe zombie slayers and undead Russian soldiers to take the Nazis down once and for all.  Tons of extra gooey gore and deliciously dark humor made this a fun watch, especially on Christmas!

TOTAL SEEN IN 2014: 57

SEEN IN THE THEATER: X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy

SEEN ON A CRUISE SHIP:  The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Divergent


1. "Close Your Eyes" by Orange Caramel

2.  "Switchback" by Celldweller

3. "Firewater" by Blue Stahli

4. "Superblast!" by Lush

5. "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways

6. "My Sharona" by The Knack

7. "That Was Then But This Is Now" by ABC

8. "Adagio in G Minor" by Tomaso Albinoni

9. "Can We Postpone Love" by Orange Caramel

10. "Bangkok City" by Orange Caramel

11. "Redemption" by Norman Corbell

12. "Fly Routine" by Hostile Groove

13. "World's End Dancehall" by Hatsune Miku

14. "French Kiss" by Yakooza

15. "Something Good" by Utah Saints

16. "Jimmy Still Comes Around" by The Loud Family

17. "Self-Righteous Boy Reduced to Tears" by The Loud Family