Friday, September 30, 2016

media update: September

Ugh, what a weird month.  My job continues its merry spiral down the shitter as they've taken all of the physical work away from us and basically turned us into a call center.  As you may recall, I started with this company in the ACTUAL call center and fucking hated it, and that hasn't changed.  The only good thing about this "call center" as opposed to the initial one is that they aren't randomly scoring our calls.  Everything else, though, remains sucktacular:  rude and/or stupid people, constant emails from management nitpicking over your average call time/why you took 2 extra minutes of lunch (not kidding), etc.  I was actually sort of enjoying the work they had us doing, which of course is why they had to take it away.

And if THAT bit of asscrackery wasn't enough, they added to the fecal fiesta by changing the way we request time off (mixed bag) and update our timecard.  The new system is about as user-friendly as a barbed wire dildo, so it's been a lot of fun figuring THAT out!

One final peanut in the turd sundae is that they're closing our lobby down.  It sounds counterintuitive, but the receptionist doesn't have to answer phone calls; she only has to sign for packages and direct visitors to the right place and so on.  Needless to say, she is STEAMED at having to come back here and answer calls with the rest of us peons, and I don't blame her.  I'm personally irritated by this because every once in a while, I have to cover lobby and it is fucking awesome.  It's basically like an additional, really long break because I can read or putz around online while waiting to help people.  Shit, sometimes I'm up there for 90 minutes and don't have to do a single fucking thing!  So yeah, the closure of the lobby is not a good thing.

In less obnoxious news, my work bestie J, who transferred to Arizona 6 months ago, came out for a visit so I got to spend a lot of time with her, and G's sister, brother-in-law, and youngest nephew were also here for a few days.  We went to see the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at LACMA, and it was really cool.  If you're a GdT fan and live in/are planning to visit Los Angeles anytime soon, it's definitely worth seeing.

Anyway, on to the media update, which is a big 'un again since SoCal hasn't gotten the memo that it's actually fall now.  Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  As always, your mileage may vary.


1. Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn:  Mercedes is a girl with an interesting secret: she specializes in deflowering teenage boys in hopes that they'll then go on to provide the perfect first time for their girlfriends.  But obviously she can't keep her hobby a secret forever, and when her best friend's boyfriend doesn't take kindly to Mercedes' refusal to help him, shit gets complicated.  Not badly written, but completely unrealistic; I didn't believe a word of it for a second.

2. Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry:  When Nora arrives at her sister's house for a visit, she discovers that Rachel has been stabbed to death.  Nora becomes obsessed with finding the killer, so instead of going home after the funeral, she stays in town to investigate.  It's a good mystery, but where it really shines is in its exploration of grief.  (The title refers to a C.S. Lewis quote comparing grief to being trapped "under the harrow"; a harrow is a sharp agricultural tool.  The quote is at the beginning of the book, but I had to google harrow!)

3. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena:  Bogged down by postpartum depression, Anne doesn't want to go to a party next door, and when her babysitter cancels, she looks at it as a golden opportunity to stay home.  Her husband Marco convinces her that their daughter will be fine alone, so Anne reluctantly drags the baby monitor with her and she checks on Cora at regular intervals.  But when Anne and Marco get home, they discover that Cora is missing.  The writing seemed really off at times, to the point that I wondered if it had been translated from a different language, which it hadn't. Not only that, but this book made me SO FUCKING ANGRY because it was all so cliched and stupid and obvious and argh.  Some major authors provided blurbs on the back cover, but do not be fooled. I hereby proclaim this novel an overrated turd.

4. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow:  After being discharged from a mental health facility, Charlie heads to Tucson to start her life over, but the strain of being on her own is making her want to cut again.  It's pretty good, but because it contains several graphic descriptions of self-injury, I've got to slap a big trigger warning here. 

5. The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood:  When she was a teenager, Mila's 3-year-old half-sister Coco disappeared during their father's debauched 50th birthday party.  12 years later, their father has died, and Mila reluctantly agrees to take Ruby, Coco's twin sister, to the funeral.  But many of the people who were present on the night of Coco's disappearance are also at the funeral, and some long buried skeletons begin bobbing up to the surface.  I didn't like it as much as Marwood's previous novels, but damned if the epilogue didn't give me goosebumps.

6. The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel:  This is the sequel to The Moon in the Palace, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.

7. Loner by Teddy Wayne:  David is extremely smart but very socially awkward.  When he arrives at Harvard for his freshman year, he meets a beautiful young woman named Veronica, but his infatuation spirals into obsession.  Unnerving and creepy.

Side note: if you're interested in reading this novel, do NOT read the blurbs on the back first as one of them contains a massive spoiler. 

8. Losing It* by Emma Rathbone:  Julia is a 26-year-old virgin who isn't particularly happy about that fact.  She quits her job and moves in with her aunt Viv for the summer, only to discover that Viv is also a virgin.  Julia becomes even more determined to lose her virginity so she doesn't end up like Viv, but is being like her aunt really such a bad thing?  Funny and strangely touching.

9. Empire of Storms* by Sarah J. Maas:  Sequel etc.

10. Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger:  Rob is excited to go on a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods with his boyfriend Liam, Liam's best friend Mia, and Mia's boyfriend Galen, but it soon becomes obvious that someone else doesn't want them there.  I appreciated the fact that it had a gay protagonist, but the rest of it was just meh, and the ending was pretty much exactly like [movie title withheld to avoid spoilers].

11. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis:  When her older sister Anna was murdered, Alex tracked down the culprit and killed him.  You'd think that would be the end of it, but Alex's desire to mete out justice has only gotten stronger.  Not as Dexter-esque as that synopsis makes it sound.

12. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake:  Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of female triplets is born.  One has the power to control the elements, one can control animals and plants, and one is immune to poison (which is a pretty shitty power in comparison!).  They're all equal heirs to the throne, but when they turn 16, they have to kill their sisters in order to become queen.  The premise was much better than the execution, though I'll admit that the ending was so good that I'll probably pick up the next one when it comes out.

13. All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker:  After a teenage girl is brutally raped, she undergoes a controversial treatment that removes the memory of the trauma...but is it really gone?  Some provocative ideas and an interesting conclusion.

14. The Kept Woman* by Karin Slaughter:  When a dead body is found at a construction site, it turns out to have startling links to detective Will Trent.  As you'd expect from Karin Slaughter, it's engrossing as hell and filled with plenty of surprises.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  98


1. Super Sushi Ramen Express: One Family's Journey Through the Belly of Japan* by Michael Booth:  Curious about Japanese food, the author took his wife and two young sons on a culinary adventure through Japan (lucky).  A really fun book that (as you can imagine!) made me ravenously hungry.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 17


1. Citrus vol. 5 by Saburouta

2. Dragon's Breath by MariNaomi

3. The Walking Dead** vol. 26 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard:  This series has gotten SO GODDAMN GOOD that I read this volume twice.

4. Your Lie in April by Naoshi Arakawa

5. Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 15 graphic novels and 52 volumes of manga


1. Keanu:  Rell (Jordan Peele) has been depressed since breaking up with his girlfriend, but when an adorable kitten shows up on his doorstep, it's just the thing to make him feel better again.   But when Keanu is stolen, Rell and his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) pose as drug dealers in order to get the kitten back.  It's about as dumb as it sounds, and I wish the kitten had been in it more because goddamn that is a cute fuckin' kitten, but it had some good laughs.

2. The Intern:  70-year-old Ben (Robert DeNiro) has been in a rut since retiring, so he jumps at the opportunity to serve as an intern for an online fashion company.  His new boss Jules (Anne Hathaway) is high-strung and not too thrilled about having to mentor Ben, but he soon makes himself indispensable.  Gentle and endearing, and DeNiro and Hathaway have great (platonic!) chemistry together.

3. Batman: The Killing Joke:  Based on the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore (who, in his usual grumpy way, refused to have his name on this movie) in which the Joker proceeds to do some very horrible things to Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon.  The animation is pretty blah, but the story is good aside from one absolutely perplexing and decidedly gross scene that wasn't in the original source material.

4. Midnight Special:  A man (Michael Shannon) goes on the run with his young son, who has some very strange powers.  Do not believe the rave reviews; it's not a bad movie, but it wasn't all that great either.

5. Take Me to the River:  A family reunion turns ugly when a teenage boy named Ryder is accused of sexually assaulting his young cousin and his mother has a strange reaction to her brother's claim.  Beautifully acted, but really unnerving.

6. Hush:  Maddie is a deaf writer who lives deep in the woods.  When a masked murderer shows up and tries to kill her, she has to use all of her wits to survive.  Surprisingly good for a low budget horror movie, probably due to the fact that it was co-written by the same guy who wrote Oculus, and I appreciated the fact that it avoided some of the more tiresome horror cliches.

7. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping:  A raunchy mockumentary about a singer named Connor4Real and his rise to the top.  The concert scenes are so funny that everything else completely pales in comparison.

8. Now You See Me 2:  The Four Horsemen are recruited to steal a priceless piece of tech that will allow its user to hack into any computer on the planet.  This was an odd movie in that a really fun or exciting scene would be followed (or preceded) by something almost unbearably embarrassing to watch.  Mark Ruffalo remains the tastiest of dishes, though.

9. Me Before You*:  Perpetually cheerful Lou (Emilia Clarke, who's absolutely charming) is hired to look after Will Traynor, a bitter quadriplegic.  Lou wants to show him that life's worth living, but it might be too big a task for her.  The book made me cry; the movie made me wail.

Side note: Charles Dance is also in this movie, so it was kind of weird seeing Tywin Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen interacting and not trying to kill each other!

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 82

Thursday, September 08, 2016

rubbed the wrong way

During my lunch break, I got to experience the kind of embarrassment that makes you feel like your entire body has been engulfed in flames.

A bit of backstory first: 

There's a massage school in my city where you can get super cheap massages from the students because they need hands-on (pun intended) hours to get their certification.  By "super cheap", I mean $30 for an hour of full body massage.  They also have a few graduates who either haven't gotten jobs elsewhere or want to make some cash on the side, and they get $45 an hour.  Still cheap, but generally not worth the extra money.  Obviously, some of the massage therapists are better than others, but I've been going there at least once a month for the last 11 years, and I've only had a few really bad experiences.

Anyway, like Bill Clinton, I always prefer a female intern.  It's not like I think the male therapists are going to do something awful to me; the doors don't have locks, and it's such a small office that a scream would bring someone running.  But like every woman in the history of the world, I have body image issues, so I really don't want any strange dudes checking out my goods.

But last month, they didn't have any female interns OR graduates available, and my shoulders felt like granite and I was stressed out as hell, so I went ahead and booked a massage with a male graduate named Tony.

What can I say about Tony?  Well, Tony turned out to be pretty fuckin' awesome.  He has the warmest hands ever and his playlist (ambient, Hotel-era Moby, stuff like that) is a very welcome change from the usual Enya/whale songs/Gregorian chants.  Plus he's just really, really talented.  Sometimes he can be a bit too rough---I swear we need to set up a safe word---but he's always very quick to ease up when I say something.  I've seen him three times now, and he's definitely worth the extra money, especially because the effects of the massage actually last for a few days.  Usually I go to bed the night of a massage and wake up the next day with my shoulders and neck just as tense as they were before, but not when Tony works on me.

As far as how Tony looks, he's basically a human version of the city of Portland, Oregon.  He's got a man bun and a beard and his arms and legs are covered in tribal tattoos.  He looks like he knows every vegan restaurant in the area and he probably attends a drum circle at least once or twice a year.  I don't mean any of this in a pejorative way; I'm just trying to give you a general idea of what he's like.

Okay, back to today.  (You:  "JFC, about time!")  I had to go to the bank on my lunch break, and the ATM is located inside a grocery store, so after I got my money, I decided to grab a few things.  I walked into the beverage aisle and lo and behold, there was Tony!  He was with a woman in a batik skirt and a "Free Tibet" shirt, i.e. exactly the type of woman I'd expect Tony to be with.  I don't know if they were actually together or not, but the vibe between them sure read as romantic to me.

As they approached, I said, "Hey, Tony!"

He squinted at me and said "...hi?" in a voice that sounded like he was trying to place where he knew me from.

I said, "Oh, sorry, I'm [name].  You probably didn't recognize me when I'm not lying down!"

And that's how I know embarrassment will not actually kill you; it will just make you wish you were dead.