And now I’m done

2 01 2010

Okay, I finished the 4th Twilight book.

And while I stand by my last ranty post, I’ve decided that these books are not the most evil things ever.

Yes, I still think that the lessons and portrayals of female sexuality are just . . . wrong. Very wrong. But I also think that these books aren’t well-written enough to matter, in the end.  They’re simply not good enough to stick with anyone for a lifetime, which will hopefully negate the ass-backward themes in them.

Also, I read some objectively terrible-for-me literature as a pre-teen or younger (Flowers in the Attic, anyone?) and have not been scarred by it, so far as I can tell.

So I’m willing to admit that I was overreacting about the possible long-term effects of Twilight.

Anyway, let’s get to my review of the last book, since I haven’t really done a review of any of them that has anything like a plot summary. They’ve mostly been me shouting.  Here be spoilers:

This was the stupidest book of the bunch. Hard competition, I know, but really. There’s honeymoon sex which leaves Bella all bruised (and as AvB pointed out to me, she’s oddly proud of it). Mkay. I’m going to gloss over that.

She gets pregnant, there’s a mutant baby who, once born, grows at an astounding rate. Much like that blonde half-alien baby from V. You’re original, Meyer. Jacob the werewolf falls in love with the baby as soon as she’s born (no really, there’s this thing called imprinting and it’s just so stupid) and just like that, all his love and angst over Bella is over. Poof. So the Team Jacob freaks can calm it on down, because it’s never going to happen.

Another thing I mentioned to AvB, and I stand by it, is that all these books read like semi-literate fanfiction.  (For the non-dorky, fanfiction is when fans are not satisfied with where the books end and take it upon themselves to write new stories using the same characters. Or to make random characters have sex with each other in fairly inventive ways. It’s pretty funny). The point being, most fanfiction is a pale imitation of a real story. Characters aren’t that fleshed out because that part, the hard part, was taken care of in the original work by the author. That’s how Twilight seems.  The characters have little motivation for their actions other than “and that’s how it is” or “because these are the things I know.” But the process leading up to big decisions is rarely revealed.

So there. I did it. And now I can say with authority that Twilight kind of sucks. It’s not complete dreck, but it’s also not good enough to get all in a lather over. Even for me.


Laughing at the absurdity

10 11 2009

I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You’ve Ever Heard by Tom Reynolds

i_hate_myself_and_I_want_to_dieYou know how in High Fidelity, the big motif was the top 5? Top breakups, movies, songs by theme, whatever.

Well, imagine if Nick Hornby took all the plot and characters out, but left the wit and the obsessive need to categorize and list things.

That’s what you have here. Reynolds has gathered and sifted through decades of music just so he can present them, complete with mocking commentary, to you. And who are you, mysterious reader, to enjoy such a thing?

Honestly, you’re probably a Pajiban or something close to it. There’s no getting around it. The style here is not unlike what made me a fan of Pajiba’s writing in the first place, albeit it with a bit less cursing and fewer sexual innuendos. But the snark is straight up stinging—Reynolds doesn’t hold back when it comes to pile-driving a deserving song right into the ground.

Seeing as “depressing” is kind of a catch-all adjective (hell, depending on the day I’ll find a cereal commercial as depressing as, say, worldwide famine), Reynolds breaks it down into categories by theme such as:

  • I Was a Teenage Car Crash
  • She Hates Me, I Hate Her
  • Horrifying Remakes of Already Depressing Songs
  • I Had No Idea That Song Was So Morbid
  • Perfect Storms

Now, Perfect Storms really are something to behold. Described as “the audio equivalent of a Donner Party guide loudly insisting he knows the way through the pass,” they necessitate the use of at least two things:

  • BCM (brain-concussion modulation): “When vocalists, anxious to show they can hit a high J, wait breathlessly while the orchestra slams the music into a higher key”
  • Rasputin Effect: “Right when you think the song is over and dead, it comes back to torture you further”

And he’s not kidding, they are awful. But the entire book is hilarious and fun to read. I was laughing out loud at some of the low blows he takes at what is considered by far too many to be really deep and meaningful music. Smart, witty writing, and thank God because these songs really are downers.

The only, only thing missing for me was an accompanying CD. Some of the older songs just aren’t in my music collection and it was hard to read along if nothing about the song was sticking in my memory. To satisfy my own craving, and to encourage some of you to read the book, I’m providing a handy dandy playlist with most of the songs.

I don’t consider this to be a spoiler—any fool can see the songs listed in the Table of Contents—but it certainly helps to listen to the songs first. It only makes the book that much more enjoyable, I promise.

Click here to go to the playlist!

The e Before Christmas

6 11 2009

e before christmasFollowing my re-reading of Matt Beaumont’s e: A Novel, I discovered that he wrote a short sequel to it.  Further investigation revealed that it was made available digitally as a PDF from for a mere $4.25.  Sold!  All I needed was a handy reader for digital books (available free) and I was all set.  I don’t ever intend to own a Kindle or anything like that and prefer to hold a book in my hands, but this is a short 152 pages.  Not too hard to read on a laptop and much cheaper than the print version (which was going for a whopping $17).

The story begins in October 2000.  Following the tumultuous events in the first book, the new CEO has got her hands full with a Barbie campaign gone awry, new copywriters with attitude (and oddly, a complete lack of correct spelling), and a Christmas party that coincides with the Miller-Shanks European CEOs visiting the London branch.  Of course, that means David Crutton, the former London CEO will be making an appearance.

All of the old favorites are back in full form.  Suzi the crazy secretary  is more prominent this time and manages to step in it spectacularly.  Even Simon makes an appearance, which is awesome considering how he left the company in the previous book.

While it’s a shorter story and not nearly as good as the first, it’s nice to revisit these characters once more.  It’s especially fun to see Harriet step into the role of CEO and fall prey to the stresses of the job.  In retrospect, I’m now a little more sympathetic to David.

Overall, it was enjoyable and fun.  Apparently there’s another sequel, e Squared that has already been released in the UK and will be available here in January.  At this point, I’m invested enough in these characters to check it out.

e: A Novel by Matt Beaumont

4 11 2009

eI’m sure most of us have been introduced to the epistolary novel at some point.  Classic examples include Dracula, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liasons), The Color Purple — stories told exclusively through letters between characters.  This technique allows multiple viewpoints and narrators, often providing more than one version of events and truth.  This was especially used to great effect in Dangerous Liasons, with each letter presenting a facet of an elaborate and devious game.

Beaumont takes the spirit of the epistolary novel and the social intricacies found in Dangerous Liasons and updates it with emails sent back and forth in Miller-Shanks, a London advertising agency.

We’re first introduced to David Crutton, CEO of the London branch, as he sends a company-wide email reminding everyone that he intends to ring in the new millennium with rousing success.  Namely, he intends to land their biggest client, Coca-Cola.

Other characters soon follow: Pinki, a “hippie dipstick” copywriter who objects to everything she can.  Simon, a pretentious Creative Director who lapses into French phrasing mid-email in order to bolster his own importance and sophistication.  Suzi, Simon’s secretary and nosy drama queen of the highest order with an amazing superiority complex.  Harriet, a master of diplomacy and tact who is attempting to keep everyone from killing each other.

There are actually more characters than I can possibly list, enough to fill an office. While it’s hard to keep up with at first (I had to keep checking the names at the top of each email for a bit) I soon eased into it and began recognizing characters just from the content of their emails.  The rapid back and forth is entertaining, but the most enjoyable part is seeing just how far office politics and ass-kissing can go.  One character will eviscerate another for being creative, then turn around and spin it to the CEO as an example of his skills as a mentor.  Apparently Beaumont works as a copywriter, which explains his particular freakish knowledge of advertising and inter-office scheming.

Definitely recommended, especially for anyone who’s worked in an office setting.  Some parts of this book will seem painfully familiar, and it’s nice to be able to step back and giggle at the nonsense.

Kicking off the Cannonball Read!

2 11 2009

As I had mentioned earlier, I’m participating in Pajiba’s Cannonball Read this year, along with a whole slew of other participants.  And I’m starting with a book that I adore.  Yes, I’ve read it before, but I picked it back up yesterday for the express purpose of reviewing it.

They Call Me Mad Dog: A Story for Bitter, Lonely People by Erika Lopez

they call me mad dog The main character, Tomato Rodriguez is an artist.  By which I mean she makes sculptures of the male anatomy that Babeland afficianados would squee over.  She’s also head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Hodie.  The easy, comfortable kind of lesbian love that consists of watching Matlock reruns in a hazy bliss of uncoolness and contentment.  The older, more experienced Hodie promises to love only  Tomato forever in the waiting room of the free clinic and they celebrate their newfound monogamy by throwing away the latex gloves.

But once Tomato finds out that Hodie’s been cattin’ around on her, revenge is the only thing on her mind.  A botched kidnapping leads to Tomato being framed for murder, and she passes time in jail while she tries to figure out what went wrong and where.

But that little plot summary isn’t really capturing what I love about this book. Lopez fills the pages with her crazy, weird illustrations.  The story is brimming with pop culture references and flashbacks that are at best embarrassing and at worst wildly inappropriate.  She compares Oprah and Jerry Springer as opposing ways of life, claiming that on Jerry’s show “whether we’re black, yellow, red, or American blue we can all be proud white trash on parade.”  She is irreverent, she is insane, but most of all, she is hilarious.

Lastly, I’m including a favorite passage from the book, on how to deal with anger:

We give tissues for tears, we give hugs for accomplishments, and we hand over teddy bears in the dark. But when you get angry, some people cower and think it’s all over between you, while others threaten to drive powder blue Cadillacs through your front door. Therapists tell you to sit and feel the electricity of angr burning through your extremities, while religion tells you to just go do something nice for someone. Give them a corn cob duck . . .
Because although there might be that sisterhood thing poking up its little fallopian tentacles everywhere, that gets tedious and boring the way most NAACP stuff gets, so then it really all comes down to simply looking good, doesn’t it? Lots and lots of glitter. Puerto Ricans and drag queens knew it all the time.

Really, check this one out.  Though it might not be available in your library, you can find it online and in bookstores.  And if you really can’t find a copy no matter how hard you try, give me a call.  I have two.

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus: a real-time review

14 09 2009

mega shark

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a while, and it popped up on my Instant Netflix today!  And I was so recently charmed by another real-time review of Lost Boys, that I figured I would do one for this movie.  It has such a brilliant, cheeztastic premise; how could I resist?

We begin with an aerial shot over some snow-topped mountains. This is how you know you’ll be watching a movie about nature.  The music is creepy, and kind of sounds like something from a Harry Potter intro or a Tim Burton movie.  I’m not really understanding that choice, but okay.

00:32  Electric Youth is in the house!  I refuse to refer to Ms. Gibson as “Deborah.”  I don’t care how much she whines, I ain’t doing it.

01:10  The view keeps switching between deep ocean and mountain scenes.  All of nature will be addressed here.  I’m just waiting for a shot of a lion on the veldt and narration by Sigourney Weaver now.

01:21  Nothing has even happened yet, and I’m already cracking up because the visual effects are by Tiny Juggernaut.

02:18  A helicopter and a caption that says something about sonar testing. I’m pretty sure the pilot is wearing pink lipgloss.  It’s pretty shiny and very fetching for a man in a helmet. Read the rest of this entry »

Customer Service

6 12 2008

I have a new favorite restaurant in town, El Greco.  I unabashedly love it.  C and I go there, M and I go there, sometimes all three of us, I brought my parents there while they were in town over Thanksgiving.  It’s great.

And because I love them, I give them good reviews on yelp.  They deserve it!  I hope they stay in business.

Anyway, last night I was there with C and M, and ran up to the counter to get dessert and coffee.  As I was paying, the guy who always asks after us (I think he’s the owner) caught my eye and said “You! You wrote those very nice reviews online.  I wanted to say thank you.”  And then an older woman walks out (his mother? I’ve seen her around) he whispers something to her, looks at me, and then SHE thanks me.

I say something like “Oh please, I love this place! I even brought my parents here when they were in town.”  And the owner remembered what day we were in and what my mother had ordered.

Take note, other businesses.  This is customer service done right.  Start with great product, but then make a point to talk with your customers.  If someone says something nice about you, thank them.  Not that hard.  I already thought the restaurant was great, but now I’m kind of in love with them.  And good on them for reading customer reviews online–not enough restaurants do that.  Which is weird, given the numerous places for people to post their opinions.  Plus, their gyro is one of the best.