Songs »Round the Way Girl

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Twenty Seven: Best Song for Summer Strutting Through Queens:

Round the Way Girl by LL Cool J (1991)

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Posted on May 27, 2011

Songs »Tyrone (live)

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Twenty Four: Best Song for Kicking Your Man to the Curb:

Tyrone (live) by Erykha Badu

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Posted on May 24, 2011

Songs »Informer

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Fourteen: Best Worst Cassingle to Make a Trip to the Mall for in 1992*:

Informer by Snow (1992)

*From Personal Experience

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Posted on May 14, 2011

Songs »I’m Hurt Bad

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Thirteen: Best Song to Get Creepy With for Friday the 13th:

I’m Hurt Bad by Angelo Badalamenti (1990)

PS – Twin Peaks, possibly best TV show ever now streaming on Netflix Instant!

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Posted on May 13, 2011

Books »A Sight for Sore Eyes

by Ruth Rendell (1998)

So, it’s not exactly like I had A is for Alibi sticking out of my back pocket, but even I know reading mass market paper back women’s mysteries with titles like A Sight for Sore Eyes and the author’s name printed in gold is not “cool”. But! When it’s as compelling and unexpected as this Ruth Randell thriller, it sure is pleasurable.

Beach reading time is upon us and if you’re tired of predictable master mind serial killers and tough but gorgeous women detectives, this odd tale of coincidence and murder will be refreshing.

While the psychology might be a tad simplified, Rendell does take us into the minds of her characters, even the most evil ones and gives us a very vivid picture of them and their surroundings. Even a minor character, like a nasty shop owner or a noisy neighbor feel like real people rather than contrived mystery novel plot elements.

As for the main protagonists, you have a beautiful teen whose youth was shattered by her mother’s murder and whose adolescence is marred by an insanely over protective step mother; you also have a vain former hippie living in a London mansion, and finally a psychopath young man who never knew any form of love as a child who despises humanity as much as he praises and adores beautiful objects.

All three lives intertwine in a way I thought would be rote and predictable but was pleasantly surprised to find it stranger, more unusual and almost grimly humorous.

I don’t know too much about author Rendell but she is highly praised among her peers and I plan to look to her again next time I’m in beach reading mode.

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Posted on May 4, 2011

Songs »Have You Forgotten

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Three: Best Song With Which to Wallow in Your Self Pity:

Have You Forgotten”  by Red House Painters (1996)

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Posted on May 3, 2011

Books »The Elephant Vanishes

by Haruki Murakami (1993)

Murakami’s short story collection The Elephant Vanishes opens with what would become the first chapter of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, a book that consumed and mesmerized me like only few great novels can. I tried to repeat that spell with his other works, but only came as close with Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

After finishing the second story, I was worried that this would be another miss for me and Murakami – though a miss from him is still guaranteed to be more curious and interesting than many authors’ best so I kept reading.

I was finally drawn in completely by the story Sleep, a subtly creepy story of a woman who lives two lives when she suddenly no longer sleeps. It’s a masterful study of inexplicable fears come to life, fears that sit dormant below the surface of the toil and small joys of everyday living.

Other notable favorites are Barn Burning, Family Affair, TV People, The Dancing Dwarf, and The Last Lawn of the Afternoon. Of course, every reader will have their own opinions depending on their tolerance for the bizarre surrealism that peppers his writing with such dark grace.

The best stories here have his hallmark gift for mood. You feel the people and places in essence if not in detail and are transported to strange territories that are both very near and very far from our own lives.

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Posted on February 11, 2011

Songs »California (All The Way)

by Luna (1994)

I love how music can touch you deep down and take you back to a person that you once were.

Luna’s California (All the Way) is one of those songs that will always be associated in my mind with my Junior year in college. While it doesn’t take me back to the specific memories (which boyfriend was breaking up with me at the time, again??) it does transport me to a very certain feeling.

I can close my eyes when this song comes on and see a warm afternoon outside my apartment on Arnold Street in Providence filled with all the optimism of the young and cocky and all the insecurities of the young and barely experienced.

As for the song itself, I was introduced to it by an old friend, Peat, back when mix cd’s were still given as gifts.

Even if the song holds no sentiment to you, it’s still very lovely.

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Posted on February 1, 2011

TV Shows »Iron Chef Japan

Re-Airing on Cooking Channel

I vividly remember when my family and I first watched Iron Chef. It was so flamboyantly dramatic, with a concept so unusual we – along with many Americans – were floored. There had just never been anything quite like it. I’ve been having a grand old time revisiting this epic show thanks to nightly reruns on Cooking Channel.

Chairman Kaga, with his glittering bejeweled capes, relish for biting into bell peppers and grand gestures sets the cinematic tone. It’s as emotional sometimes as it is campy. I was truly moved to amazement during the historic foie gras battle. I was swept up in the spectacle when, driven away from a French castle by dark horse drawn carraige (!), Sakai ventured off to gather his own ingredients in 24 hours throughout France.

It’s interesting how the world has changed since the show first aired. It seems people are so much more adventurous and knowledgeable about world cuisines. Once confounding dishes which we couldn’t even imagine what they tasted like, are now more approachable.

Sure I can’t exactly imagine crisp eel on chocolate ice cream – but with bacon topping ice cream these days, I have a better idea. As for fried fish bone chips – a dish that the younger me would question – now I’ve actually had and loved these at a neighborhood restaurant.

The U.S. attempted two remakes – if anyone else can remember the woefully off putting William Shatner number and the currently airing Iron Chef America – that I find too obnoxious to watch – something delicate and special got lost in the translation.

And for the record I have small crushes on all of the Iron Chefs, particularly the wise and mysterious Michiba.

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Posted on January 21, 2011

TV Shows »The Larry Sanders Show

Now on Netflix Instant

Sure, birds are falling from the sky, but there are some positives about the New Year. Netflix has started streaming all seasons of the too often forgotten Larry Sanders Show, for example.

A forerunner to cynical comedies like Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, this HBO classic still makes me laugh even if the references (Ghost, Jodie Whatley, the first Bush Administration) are dated.

Garry Shandling, a pioneer in comedy, plays egocentric incredibly well as a third tier talk show host in this behind the scenes satire. No one says “horse shit” and gets drunk quite like Rip Torn as Artie, the show’s producer and while Jeffery Tambor’s work as George Bluth (on Arrested) is great, his portrayal of side kick Hank Kingsley is a revelation in pathetic, weak, and very funny assholery. Familiar faces like Janeane Garofalo and Jeremy Piven round out the cast in their pre-famous days.

I am enjoying revisited the show immensely and think those fans of the aforementioned shows who haven’t watched it the first time around will be delighted. Makes me wish Shandling was still working on HBO.

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Posted on January 9, 2011

Movies »Ninja Scroll

directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (1993)

The words “Ninja Scroll” echoed in the halls of my freshman dorm. Nerds coming from all corners of the country and globe were getting introduced to anime with this bloody action packed oddity, all thanks, if I remember correctly, to one Hal Lee who passed a well worn VHS around Nickerson Hall. With explicit sex scenes, demon monsters, and arm ripping/blood soaked fights, well, needless to say the dudes were INTO it. I  however, never saw it til last night (thank you Netflix + AppleTV).

Like most things Japanese, Ninja Scroll is somewhat inscrutable, but that hardly matters. Whether you follow the story about a secret gold mine, an old man spy, and a bisexual who plays a deadly game of telephone or not, there’s just so much good stuff to look at. From rape minded rock monsters to ninja birds, from vagina snakes to magic bee swarms, the movie hits the ground running and never stops.

In short, though, Jubei is a ninja for hire who talks with the insensitive staccato of a teenage boy that just learned the word ‘shit” as in “Shit! A cast off skin!!”. He meets up with a girl ninja Kagero who is poison to any man that sleeps with her. Together they reluctantly (since they are fiercely independent, of course) join forces with a sneaky old man to defeat a team of demons with strange abilities who want nothing more than world domination through destruction and a pirate ship full of gold.

In a huge sea of anime, which is daunting to traverse, this one stands out with it’s inventive monsters drawn from folklore, stunningly beautiful artwork and a plot that speaks to my D&D heart.

The movie spawned a sequel series and word has it that Leonardo DiCaprio owns the rights to a planned live action movie coming next year.

Click here for the rest of Ninja Scroll

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Posted on December 19, 2010

Movies »Days of Being Wild

directed by Wong Kar-Wai (1990)

Wong Kar-Wai, whose cinematic voice is all his own, brings to the screen quiet moments in time rather than sweeping plots in Days of Being Wild. The moments certainly stuck with me, as I’ve been trying to find the movie again since I saw it years and years ago.

Set in Hong Kong and the Philippines in the 1960’s, Wild is sumptuously shot by Kar-Wai collaborator Christopher Doyle with what looks like a hazy memory filter. The fashions here are eye candy too and I swear it looks like Muccia Prada must have just viewed this movie before her Fall 2010 season.

The attractive cast is also great to look at, including China’s biggest stars like the lovely Maggie Cheung and the dashing Leslie Cheung. They fall in and out of love in this study of relationships, manipulation, sadness and desire. It’s doesn’t sound like much to explain what happens, (someone leaves someone from someone else, someone gets sad…) but there’s something haunting about the whole affair.

An all around gorgeous movie, which unfortunately looks like it was transferred from VHS for instant netflix, Days of Being Wild sounds amazing featuring lilting, mid century tropic instrumentals.

Considered inaccessibly art house by many, this was not a hit in its home country despite an all star cast. Still, many consider it to be a pivotal film in Hong Kong cinema.

Click here for the rest of Days of Being Wild

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Posted on December 14, 2010

Books »Nevermore

by William Hjortsberg (1994)

Nevermore is silly fun, though to my surprise based on some real events and relationships. The story focuses on the (true) friendship between magician Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They shared an interest in mysticism but became enemies based on their opposing views. Doyle was a passionate believer, Houdini a staunch skeptic. It’s no wonder then, that it’s Doyle who sees the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe is Hjortsberg’s serial killer mystery (the serial killer part – not so true).

Despite the spiritual leanings and fun with ghosts, actual New York events and places (I am a sucker for anything set in the early days of the city) and wild sex scenes that jump out of nowhere, this is a stunningly common mystery novel. The reveal never as good as the lead up. It’s all fine and good, but just not what I expected from Hjortsberg, whose sci fi weirdo novel Gray Matters, about the enlightenment of man and floating brains, was far more trippy and unique.

Still, judged for what it is, rather than his previous work, it’s great fun for mystery novel lovers and interesting for anyone curious about the Jazz Age in New York and the tricks of Houdini.

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Posted on November 23, 2010

Books »The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy

by Tim Burton (1997)

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories is a simple collection of quick witty poems, stories and illustrations that could only be the work of Tim Burton. Macabre and charming, they focus mostly on body morphing and children being born very, very strange.

The drawings are delightfully ghoulish yet childlike. As Halloween and before you know it, Christmas are approaching, it’s a perfect read for those wanting something a bit off center for the holidays.

I also love the design of the book from it’s black cloth binding down to its font, which embodies the mood exactly. Several of the books characters have been made into toys and Stain Boy has been made into a series of animations written and directed by Burton.

Click here for the rest of The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy

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Posted on October 22, 2010

Books »Foxfire

by Joyce Carol Oates (1993)

Teenage girls are infinitely fascinating and mysterious to me (even though I was one once!). There’s such a deep emotional well and dynamic opposing elements, it’s little wonder that their world can make for excellent fiction when handled right (see Virgin Suicides and My Summer of Love).

Joyce Carol Oates makes the rebellion of teenage girls, and the intense friendships that can be formed, especially with little or no family influence, the topic of Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang. Told through the older, though perhaps no wiser eyes of one of the gang members years later, the story is mostly set in the early 1950’s in the run down town of Hammond, NY.

“Legs” Sadovsky is the gang leader, a bold, complex young hellion, beyond her years and an idol for admiration to lost girls. Under her watch and direction, a rag tag group of outsiders, all young girls and denouncing men, form Foxfire, a girl gang that goes beyond mere tattoos and matching outfits but delves into violence, recklessness, theft and eventually worse in an uncontrolled vent against a world with few options and many obstacles.

It’s a fast paced and quick read that I have on good authority is a million times better than the loose film adaptation which seems to take all the bite out of the plot and sets the story in the early 90’s with Angelina Jolie. It’s a shame, because in the right hands it could make a compelling movie. For now, read the book instead.

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Posted on October 15, 2010

TV Shows »Gia

Too Beautiful to Die, Too Wild to Live

When you’re playing the waiting game while pregnant, you’ve got to find things on a daily basis to get excited about. For me, the fact that Lifetime Movies Network was playing Gia, and that I had it taped was one exciting, alone time afternoon taken care of. The Angelina Jolie vehicle is the pinnacle of made for TV true stories and everyone is turned up to 11 with campy performances.

Faye Dunaway is channeling her most eye brow arching faux accent. Jolie is constantly growling and writhing. Mercedes Ruehl is spectacularly theatrical as the ignorant flawed mother. Even Juliet, that smirky doctor on Lost, is here, as a reluctant lover. Sprinkled throughout are token bitchy fashion gays, flamboyant photographers and even an embarrassing Anna Wintour type who declares stuff like “Now this is meat! This is sirloin!”

While the true story of Gia is quite tragic, she was one of the first casualties of AIDS, in HBO’s hands the lesson to not take drugs makes for entertaining TV. It’s definitely the most watchable thing Angelina’s been in. Campy gems like this only come along every once in a while.

Click here for the rest of Gia

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Posted on October 13, 2010

Songs »Superstar

by Sonic Youth (1994)

If the real deal Carpenters version of Superstar doesn’t sit well with you, maybe you’re of a hipper ilk and prefer somewhat ironic covers instead. Well, despite tons of iffy attempts by lesser artists, only a band as effortlessly cool as Sonic Youth can really pull of a modern take of one of 1970’s cheesiest (in a good way) ballads. Thurston Moore sounds drugged out and heart broken in a much drowsier and noisier take than The Carpenters (little wonder Richard does not care for it). It’s even more of a departure from the jazzy first incarnations by original artists Delaney and Bonnie and Rita Coolidge.

Aside from being one of my favorite Carpenters songs, I am partial to the hit due to its large part in the very funny Cintra Wilson book, Colors Insulting to Nature.

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Posted on October 12, 2010