Friday, October 28, 2011

Who knew unicorns could be jerks?

Vanilla Xtrakt wants you to represent. Represent who? THE UNICORN!

For all you unicorn lovers out there: this book is amazing.

For all you unicorn hater out there: you deserve the plague.

If you have any measure of intelligence and a sense of humor, you will love CW Moss's "Unicorn Being a Jerk". Here's a tantalizing sample:

Putting a kitten in a microwave.
Feeding pigs bacon.

To all my students: you will earn lots of heart points in my class if you get this book. Yes, they might be fiscally and academically meaningless points, but they will make your face into a shining visage of hope in my eyes.

To those of you who are too lazy to haul your sorry ass to a bookstore, you can order it through Amazon:

This link should also work for all you international readers (all of whom I LOVE, by the way, thanks so much for reading!).

Vanilla Xtrakt out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sriracha and Insanity

There is an danger, very close to you, breathing down your neck at all times. It could go off at any second, and destroy your very essence.

It’s your brain.

This beautiful, wonderful, curious miracle that’s floating in the salty fluid of your head could turn on you at any moment.

Anyways, books. I promise I will get back to the brain thing. Think of the above nonsense as a teaser trailer, to trick you into reading the following book reviews in order to find out what I’m talking about.

My books this month: I read several by Chuck Palahniuk: Haunted, Tell-All, Diary, Fight Club, Invisible Monsters; then several book by various authors: The Taqwacores-Michael Muhammed Knight,  Pretties-Scott Westerfeld, Eon-Alison Goodman, Dark Secrets- by Elizabeth Chandler. Don’t worry, I won’t talk about ALL of them.

First book up on the chopping block: Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk.
 Let me start off by saying that nothing (NOTHING) he ever writes will ever be nearly as good as ‘Fight Club’. That book is BRILLIANT. I have read it bajillions (literally) of times. The language, the voice, everything is perfect. It also helps if you read up on Merton’s Strain Theory and the Men’s Movement of the 90s. That being said….
‘Haunted’ was a blend between a novel and a short story collection. Each character in the book had at least one ‘short story’ about their past, and a larger, overarching plot united them all. It was fantastic. 

NOT a book that would be enjoyed by all, however. It was extremely graphic, extremely gritty, and VERY disturbing.

Palahniuk is often considered a ‘shock’ novelist by critics. This is part of what I love about him. If you took Kurt Vonnegut’s darkly humorous critique of society, mixed in a little of a David Lynch-like strangeness and absurdity, and heaped on a whole crap-ton of disturbing sauce (by the makers of Sriracha Rooster sauce), you would have something in the vein Palahniuk.   
This stuff makes anything better. Even bad literature.

I really think he should write a zombie novel; it would be AMAZING. All the Chuck Palahniuk books I read this month were fantastic.

‘Diary’ was probably my favorite of the lot, though. I HIGHLY recommend it; it seems almost like a companion novel to ‘Fight Club’, what with its social commentary and crazy twists.

Anyways, back to how your brain can really screw you over.

There are some really strange mental disorders out there. REALLY strange. Like the way the child of two siblings is strange. Or a dog in a fedora that also rolls his own cigarettes after burning down an orphanage. Or bologna. Some of these could just pop into your life one day and screw everything up in a big way. Kind of like a kid you didn’t know about (KIDDING! a little….).

Why am I so obsessed with weird mental diseases? I kinda have one myself. I hallucinate at night. BIG time. It’s a really extreme form of night terrors that involve audio and visual hallucinations. It doesn’t happen every night, but it happens often enough to shake things up. It’s kind of like LSD flashbacks, but without the fun Woodstock memories, and much less tie-dye.

Less like this:
 More like this:

One night I saw an alligator on my dresser. Another time, I was sleeping at someone’s house and scared them to death when they woke up to find me talking to someone. They thought I was talking to them, but I told them to be quiet and said, “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to HIM” (and I pointed toward the foot of the bed). I have seen maggots crawling all over a bloody ceiling. I have seen giant spiders and large crabs in my bed. Last night, I saw a tall shadow man walking out of the room.

These trips are SUPER realistic to me in the moment. It’s loads of fun. Really. (Pour over the sarcasm sauce, also made by Sriracha). This weirdness is found most often in children. Most people grow out of it, but I was one of the lucky ones to have it into adulthood.

Eh, it’s not SO bad.

Next book: Taqwacores by Michael Muhammed Knight.

This book was one big heartbreak and disappointment. It had so much PROMISE. But in the end, all of the excitement it promised turned out to be nothing but an anticlimactic let-down (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!).

Why was it so bad? It was poorly written, for a start. The references to punk culture were all together too forced and contrived. Kind of like the kid who spends hours artfully shredding his brand new jeans and placing safety pins on his clothes, but he doesn’t know Johnny Rotten from Johnny Appleseed. 

The narrator too was like a floating voice with no character or movement. Then, it REFUSED to take a philosophical standpoint. There was very little cohesion. It switched around, never committing, and then eventually began to peter out. To top it all of, the ending DESTROYED the entire potential message. It angered me. I was angered.

What promised to be a fascinating look at counter-culture, spirituality, and the zeitgeist of youth turned out to be an epic FAIL.

I mean, I’m glad I read it, because it had some interesting thinking points and observations. But overall, it was of the bad.

So, if you think my night terrors are bad, check out this next amazing disease. Ever see Dr. Strangelove? Remember his hilarious hand? That shit is real!!!!!!!

It’s actually called “Alien Hand Syndrome”. It is when your hand is not being consciously controlled by you, but instead takes actions of its own. Not just simple stuff, either; it can even undo your dress shirt, or use tools. Maybe even murder Seth Green.

Another insane one is Alice in Wonderland syndrome. It’s not QUITE as fu as it sounds, due to a distinct lack of rabbits in waistcoats, but it’s pretty interesting nonetheless. This fascinating little malady creates the illusion that all your surroundings are ridiculously small, or in the reverse case, gigantic. Like when Alice eats the cookies, or drinks the cordial.

But again, no Cheshire Cat, so I must suggest that this disease is worked on further. With just a few minor adjustments it could be the vacation of a lifetime. We’re halfway to a mad tea party, ladies and gents…

Next book:

Tell-All, by Chuck Palahniuk.

This book is all Hollywood glam, scandal, and name dropping, with a whole bunch of crazy. It’s completely different in it’s feel than the other books, like Pygmy was, but this one flowed much more smoothly and had its shares if hilarious twists and turns. And all of his books have really interesting bits of knowledge and trivia; I fact checked several of the most interesting ones, and they turned out to be true. He’s like the Dan Brown of twisted knowledge: he takes real facts and ideas and shoves them into a really skewed story that couldn’t possibly be true. I like the mood of this book. The language and name dropping is overwhelming at first, but you get swept into the momentum soon enough.

Ready for a real crazy one? Try on the Capgras Delusion for size. This little number has you thinking that a family member or loved one has been replaced by a malevolent imposter. So, every time you see your husband, you believe that the ‘real’ husband is missing, and the man currently in front of you is an evil lying bastard. This stuff is scary. I’ve seen case-studies with this.

I’m pretty sure my dog has been replaced with an imposter…..I’m getting suspicious lately…..

By far the craziest in my opinion is prosopagnosia. This is slightly more well known than the others due to the book “The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat”. Sufferers of prosopagnosia are unable to recognize certain faces or objects. Instead, their brain sends them a completely random image. Like a hat. Or a giraffe. So, maybe your dad looks like a goldfish to you once in a while. Say you see your wife as a panda. Maybe you think that’s sexy. I don’t know what your into.  No judgement here.

Well, ok, maybe judgement. REALLY?
Cute, but far from sexy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rock'em Suck 'em Robots

Well, it's been a long time since I've posted. I'm a slacker that way. I've been reading this whole time, but even that has fallen behind. Looks like I'm gonna have to cram approximately a crap ton of book into one blog entry. I'll only discuss my favorites (or least favorites, as it were, in some cases. Because I adore bitching about bad books). The official list of the books I read this summer: Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Leviathan and Behemoth, both by Scott Westerfield, Harry Potter 1-5 (AGAIN), Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Unicorns v Zombies which is an anthology, Pygmy and Snuff which are both by Chuck Palahniuk, Ruby Red by Kerstin Geir, Tomorrow when the War began by James Marsden, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, St Lucy’s School for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, and The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy. 17 books in all. That's only a few behind schedule, actually. So not too terrible.

So, this summer, in all my slackerness, I did happen to catch a few interesting film trailers. I promptly forgot all about the interesting ones and instead became fixated on the god-awful ones. The one that stuck most painfully in my sun-softened mind was "Real Steel". That movie looks like a hot mess. And now you must share my pain. Here is the trailer, implanted in this blog to infect your mind:

What a crapfest. It's like a freeway accident....or a Rebecca Black music video. So so so gory and awful, but you just keep watching, even rewinding it, even though it makes you feel tainted inside. And you even throw up a little. Then make your best friend watch it, so they feel as bad as you do. OR you make your blog readers watch it. Suckers.

Like the aforementioned video by Miss Black, this seems to have started with an innocent childhood dream. Her dream was to be a singer, and the screenplay writers dream was to have his Rock em' Sock em' Robots come to life.

Picture little Johnny Pickhisnose, someday to be Johnny Writecrap. He sits alone and friendless in his dark, musty room. The walls are covered in peeling cowboy wallpaper, and his only toy, his faithful fighting robots, sit before him on the splintery wood floor. Below him, he can hear his amphetamine amped mother vacuuming and swearing under her breath. He wishes with all his heart that he had a friend to be the blue robot. Then he could truly play the games as it was meant to be.

Poor Johnny. No friends.

He leans in to the robots, whispering "You are my only friends". Wiping away a tear, he adds "I wish you were real."

So, instead of growing up to be a serial killer, a lil' John Wayne Gacy, he channels all this rage and pain into writing a really bad movie script. And we are left to deal with the garbage.

He should have just shoved bodies in the crawlspace and been done with it, in my opinion.

This led me down the rabbit trail of random thoughts to discover that there are a myriad of wonderful children's games out there that I am dying to see made into films.

Ok, random subject change: First book to deserve my ever-esteemed acclaim: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman:

One of the best things about this book were the fantastic illustrations by Dave McKean, one of my FAVORITE artists. THe book itself was excellent as well; one of those rarities that appeals to children and adults. It's one of those darker books that some macabre little kids just find fascinating. I was definitely one of those kids. I uses to rewind the heart-ripping-out scene in "Temple of Doom" over and over again as a child (but Mary Poppins scared the bloody hell out of me; go figure).

Ok, game to movie time, a relief from book reviews: Candyland. Now this movie will be EPIC. It will be the Lord of the Rings of the confectionary world. King Candy has been kidnapped by the evil Lord Licorice, who desires not only the Sugar Throne, but also lusts for the sweet sparkling flesh of Queen Frostine. Princess Lolly, Plumpy, and Gramma Nut must unite the kingdom against Lord Licorice. after many epic battles, they arrive at the castle to find Lord Licorice on the throne. They free King Candy and get ready to overthrow the bastard, when, just as victory seems certain, Princess Lolly slips behind King Candy and slits his throat with a piece of marzipan. WHAT A TWIST. Then, there will be a sequel.....

Next book up on the chopping block: Life of Pi.
This book was beautifully rendered. The descriptions were gorgeous yet simple, and the whole book had an almost folk-tale quality to it, though elegantly elevated above the stark simplicity that folk tales often have. The onyl beef I had with this book was the fact that the opening, the narrator's claim that the story will 'make you believe in God' had very little to do with the story. The book opened up with an interesting look into Eastern religions and a synthesis the narrator strive to find between them, but these strands don't get woven back into the story very well. They just tantalize you, then wind away. Still, it was an excellent book, and I definitely recommend it.

Remember Chutes and Ladders? It was a child's board game meant to teach us about choices and consequences. If you rolled the dice and landed on a square where a good decision was depicted, you got to climb up a ladder and get ahead. If you landed on a 'bad choice' square, you had to go down a chute and fall behind. This could easily be adapted into an awesome horror/slasher film, with just some minor tweaking. And by minor tweaking, I mean a little bit of meth.

A brilliant killer has decided, in a very Saw-esque move, to create a vast labyrinth in which he will trap his victims. They will be forced to escape or perish within. Along the way to escape, they are forced to confront several decision-making challenges, in which they must choose the correct action, or suffer the fatal and gory consequences by sliding down a chute to their doom. Rob Zombie will direct this, of course. I want intestines and grey matter spewing everywhere. And this will be one of those 4-d experience movies. where you feel the blood spatter and smell the decaying bodies.

This picture has nothing to do with anything on this blog. I am just scared of clowns.

Next book: Hourglass by Myra McEntire. HATED it. WAY too much romance. It was like a teen romance novel with a few paranormal details thrown in, and no real character development to speak of. The characters seem to fall in love for no other reason than physical attraction, then its like BAM, risk your lives for each other. The character's every thought was an obsessive half-formed idea of the person she was 'in love' with, despite all the other insane things happening around her. And they try to put a little triangle tension in there just for the hell of it. BLEGH. But it had a cool cover.

The last two books I really like are gonna be tacked in real quick:
St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by WOlves was a brilliant collection of strange and beautiful stories. I loved every story. It's an adult book, but most of the stories are written through a child's perspective. There's quite a bit of magical realism, and its handled very well, not too overdone. Though I must say, some stories seemed to lack an anding; they just sort of dropped of, right at their most interesting points.
No complaints about this one; it was excellent. It was also one of the goriest books I have ever read. Even compared to a lot of the zombie books I've enjoyed. Well written, well paced, and hard to put down.  If you like Frankenstein, then this is a MUST read. 'nuff said.

THey should totally make a movie out of Hi-ho Cherry-O.
It could be a probing look at child labor and agriculture. I could see it being featured at Sundance.

Some other people out there have also applied their brain power (which may or may not be better directed else where) into the fascinating realm of games as film. These guys did a trailer for MineSweeper:

The one for Tetris actually looks like a pretty kick-ass movie:

Stay G, people.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Numbers" can suck my Dangling Participle

Math makes me throw up. A lot. Almost in a literal sense. It is the bane of my educational existence. I just plain suck at it. To make matters worse, there are all of these new fangled shows coming out, making math-y people even more self-righteous in their numberish genius. Shows like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Numbers", both of which feature mathematical geniuses strolling about flaunting their logic and left brainedness (Yes, all of these words are REAL words, I have the degree to declare them as such. So shall it be written.), and making us little english majors feel pretty darn bad about ourselves. Where's OUR show? Why can't WE fight crime with our intellect?

As I have sailed onward through my 100 books, I have created several stunning show ideas based off of this premise. As usual, these ideas will be smattered throughout the book reviews, so as to trick you into reading this whole thing. Let's be honest: if this blog was purely based on books, I would have two followers: my mom and my husband ( FYI: I am starting a petition to ban the word 'hubby' from modern english. It makes me feel like I am married to the guy from According to Jim, but he also wears a bear costumes all the time).

First book: Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card.
I LOVED Ender's Game, so I was pretty eager to read more from this author. This is a very different book as far as setting and plot goes, but it is a really great read. It plays with time-travel, and uses themes such as Russian mythology and a Jewish heritage to weave a rich story drenched in culture and magic. It is a totally different take on the French Sleeping Beauty tale we are usually familiar with, and draws more from the Older "The Sun , the Moon, and Talia", though its is a very different version even from that one. His examination of old pagan religion is very interesting, and you can pick up interesting tidbits of Russian lore in the tale. Fans of Baba Yaga stories will find lots to love here.

So, first show idea: this could be an offshoot of Numbers, if the network decides to run with it. Picture this: Charlie is called on the scene of the crime, expecting to be able to close the case with his usual mathematical flair. But, uh-oh, this killer has left behind clues that only an English major could understand.

Charlie: "The killer left a Crossword puzzle at the scene. The circled letter will reveal a word jumble when solved, which in turn will lead to the next victim. We need an expert."
(cue awesome music, something Led Zeppelin-y, like the intro to "When the Levy Breaks". A gorgeous  female english major strolls in, with one of those pen necklaces like Joan has on MadMen. And Christina Hendricks will also play this character, cuz she's awesomely bomb.)
English Major: "I hear you boys need an expert."
(..Later, back at the precinct, she is scrawling madly on one of those wicked-cool clear dry-erase boards that they always have on the show. It has obscure 19th century book titles and authors all over, with lines going between them)
English Major: 42 Down" Melville's Scarlet crush......"*
-MAD props if anyone can post the answer to this clue in the comments. MAD props. I will give a big shout out to you, and let you name the topic of my next blog).

So that's just one idea, but don't lie: You would go cuh-razy for this show. It would kick CSI in the crotch and make it scream all high pitched and stuff.

The next book that floated my way was World War Z by Max Brooks.

From the guy who brought you "The Zombie Survival Guide", kids. Good stuff. VITAL stuff. My zombie-expert colleague Scott loaned this to me, along with a crap-ton of other zombie books. Who knew there were so many zombie books in the world, right? Pretty frickin' nifty. This book was so well written. It is set up like a compilation of real-life interviews that are taking place after the Zombie-event that almost destroyed the world. Military leaders, doctors, and civilians gaze in retrospect at the whole event, from the first know outbreak all the way to the bitter end. It follows the epidemic globally, and explores some vastly perspectives. He articulates each interview so well that it truly seems as if you are reading the words of very real and diverse individuals. My favorite part? Zombie-fighting dachshunds. Pretty fantastic. Good news: this will be a movie featuring Brad Pitt. No joke. Check it out on IMDB.

Then, I had another Undeadfest with the book "The First Days", first installment of the "As the World Dies" trilogy.

This was a fun adventure full of blood-thirsty corpses and gore galore. Plus, the main characters were girls, and not the "ohmigod, I just fell and broke my leg and now my top's coming off" kind, but actual ass-kicking ladies. The action was cool, and I liked the fact that it follows the efforts of the survivors so closely, but I could have done without all the romance angles. But that's just me. All in all, though, a really fun book.

Next idea: This one will be more of a Sherlock Holmes-ian show. The story will revolve around a literary genius who has spent his whole life shut up in his grand but messy library, reading books. It's modern era, but he has a hard time keeping pace with the times, especailly socially. Very eccentric and brilliant, he finds himself constantly bored by the day-to-day business of every day life, so he amuses himself by helping the police squad track down the serial killer who seems to be committing murders based on literature. For example: the unfaithful wife is found drowned in the ocean by her seaside vacation home (ala "The Awakening). Pretty nifty. eh?

The next book up for el discussione is "The Girl who Played with Fire", the second in Steig Larson's trilogy about Lisbeth Salander. This book would definitely not make sense or be slightly entertaining, but, as a sequel, its great. READ THE FIRST BOOK FIRST. The foreign films of the books are also great, I highly recommend them.

The last book I read was a volume of two short novels by Louisa May Alcott.

 While we might remember her best for sweet little books like "Little Women", she actually wrote many stories of a more 'sensational' nature. These stories center around deception, scandals, and secret children. The first one was called "The Mysterious Key and What it Opened", and the second was called  "Behind a Mask". Both were fun little sensationalist stories that typify 19th century pulp writing. I love sensationalist stoires; all the mortification of female flesh and the dastardly men are just plain fun. If you're looking for a REALLY dark one, try 'A Thrilling and Exciting Account of the Sufferings and Tortures Aflicted on Mister Mortimer Bowers and Miss Sophia Delaplain". This one has amazing disembowelments, cross-dressing, love affairs, and more.Not by Lousia May, but good stuff. The following murder scene for an English major show comes straight from that story:

A man lies in pieces upon the floor. His body has been severed several times all the way through. A white marble statue of the Madonna in prayer stands above him, dripping with scarlet splatter.
 Head Detective: It looks like the statue is rigged.
Loser Newbie detective:
Head D: There are blades hidden inside. They are pretty damn big, and made of folded steel. Someone spent a lot of time on this whole ting. Anyways, the blades are loaded to spring outwards and slice whoever is close enough. And from the looks of this spatter, he was pretty close. Coulda practically been kissin' her.
English Major Man: Not kissing.
Head D: Pardon?
English M: I said, not kissing. He was hugging her.
Head D: Hugging her?
English M: Yes, hugging her. And I am fairly certain that if you delve into this poor man's background, you will find ties to Cuban crime syndicates. 
Head D: What makes you say that?
English M: The killer has never before been original, he surely has not started thinking for himself at this point. I've read this all before.

RIGHT? These shows are gonna be a hit! The first one will be your average Prime Time Crime Drama, but the second should probably be on Masterpiece Mystery or something. Maybe they will do a Wishbone version of it someday.

I'll let you know when they air. If being a fake psychic detective/ ghost hunter doesn't work out for me, I could always be a TV writer.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Conspiracy Theory: Not just a movie I've never seen...

This week, I was discussing "Chicken Run" as a retelling of the Holocaust (not even kidding) when a sixth grader popped up his hand and said "Miss, you know what's weird about the Beatles?" then proceeded to tell me a very amusing and somewhat confusing story about how Paul McCartney actually died in a car accident in the 80s, but they covered it up by replacing him with a body double, but John Lennon went and spoiled the whole surprise by leaving backwards messages on his albums revealing the big secret. Wow. But after sorting through his misinformation and date-switching, I discovered that there is indeed a fully-thriving conspiracy theory out there about Paul McCartney's secret death. Then, in the next class, a kid writes a reflection article on New World Order conspiracy, mixed with a smattering of evangelical "Left Behind" conspiracy nonsense, with Obama as the anti-christ. This reminded me of several of my favorite crazy conspiracy theories, which I feel obligated to share with my small (and VERY appreciated) audience, between reviews of the myriad of books I am cramming into one blog. Don't worry, I'll only discuss my favorites.

Ok, first up: Storm of Swords. This. Book. Was. MINDBLOWING. It's the fourth in the "Song of Fire and Ice" series, and holy crap, stuff goes down in this here book. This series is a must-read. It is stunning, exciting, meticulously crafted, and there's a tv show being made. Do you really need any other reasons? These books are hefty, too, which means the story really has time to come into its own. It's a chunker with onion thin pages and the thickness of true tome, but it is not over-written in the slightest. The character development is amazing, and the story turned me into a nervous wreck with its tension. Not too fantasy-ish, so it manages to stay out of the Cheese Zone. Though I wouldn't say no to a unicorn now and then.

Now to one of my favorite conspiracy theories of all time. I say David Icke, you say...REPTILE.

From the man who brought you the "New World Order" conspiracy comes another doozy. David Icke has this very detailed theory called "The Reptiod Hypothesis", basically claiming that the world is under a subtle and meticulous siege from shapeshifting Reptilian Aliens. They have replaced many of our world leaders, such as George Bush and even the Queen. What's truly fascinating about David Icke and his whack-a-doodle ideas is that he was once a  normal and well-respected man. He was a journalist and a politician. He was a national speaker for the UK's Green party, and some called him "The Greens' Tony Blair". Then, after a few sessions with psychic healers, and a period of time in which he would wear only the color turquoise, he emerged as the face of a whole new kind of crazy.

Next book up: A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess.
I read this book years ago in high school, after I saw the movie, and I picked it up again on a whim. This book has been one of my favorites since the first time I read it. It's written entirely in a strange slang that Burgess created out of Russian, school-boy slang, and a myriad of other languages. Words like "droog", "moloko", and "devochka" are thrown around, but it's easy to catch up with the strange language after a bit. The plot is practically identical to the movie, but since all the narration is rendered in Burgess' own language, it can be harder to see the action at times. That being said, the more graphic scenes of rape, violence, and sex are easier to get through in the book, since the strange language tends to remove us from the intensity of the scene, and you aren't watching it play out before you on film. The major difference between the film and the movie is the ending, since the newer publications of the book has an extra chapter that was with-held from the American publication first time around (but was kept in the British book) HIGHLY recommended to fans of dystopian lit, but only if you have a strong constitution for violence.

Know who killed John Lennon? I do. And it wasn't Mark David Chapman. It was Stephen King. That's right, the horror novelist. At least, according to Steve Lightfoot, author of "Lennon Murder Expose", the truth can be found by examing a government code hidden in news headlines and other  news media stories. Other possible candidates he later ruled before concluding the "It" author offed Lennon were Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. For more fun info on this theory, go to: and have a look around.

During SBA testing (high school standardized testing bull crap, for those who don't know), my job was the easiest in the world. I sat in a high school library for five hours, reading and waiting for my turn as testing warde, and I plowed though several books while I waited. "Everlost" by Neil Shusterman and "The Forest of hands and Teeth" by some chick.

Everlost was great. It weaves an entirely new mythology of an afterlife, and is extremely well-written. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, however, was a big, huge, cataclysmic disappointment. It started off in a promising direction: an isolated town of people in a forest, fenced off on all sides to keep walking-dead monsters from raiding, very much like Shyamalan's "The Village". What could be cooler than a zombie tale in a medieval forest village? It started of great, but then it became entirely bogged down in a tedious love triangle, and the main chararcter revealed herself to be nothing but a selfish little bitch. The plot and the characters were inconsistent, and it dive-bombed into drudgery as soon as it began to look exciting( That's what she said. BURN!!!!) .

Ready for another great theory? Let's look at Project Blue Beam. According to those who hold to this idea, NASA is working on a vast project that will combine holograms, radio-signal telepathy, and control of natural disasters to engineer. The end goal? Earthquakes and natural disasters will strike worldwide,  dislodging and bringing to light several 'archeaological' finds, planted by the government to reshape our understanding of religion as a whole. The holograms will project a Second Coming of Christ, and other religious fugures, and the telepathy will send messages 'from God' into people's brains, which will then be used to control us. This will all be achieved using a network of high tech satellites. This is the craziest thing to hit the press since Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins ever penned up their end-times crap and added the word 'Jesus' to make people think it was biblical.
Here's an educational film that can explain more on the matter:

Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" was an awesome one from this month's adventure.

His writing is so...Vonnegut. The story is hilarious and terrifying, and his frank rendering of our world and its people is perfection. It doesn't get the attention that Slaughterhouse Five does, but it is quintessential Vonnegut, and a quick read that also has substance. READ IT OR DIE.

Quick summary of the rest of this month's list:

What-the-Dickens by Gregory Maguire. Excellently written, but a terrible story

The Downsiders by Niel Shusterman- great read, good YA magical realism meets dystopian.

The Amulet of Samarkand- first book in a  YA trilogy, and I definitely want to read more. Funny, magical, and well-written.

I did it. Sorry it's so long, I had to cram it all in at once (that's what he said!), because moving houses had me crazy busy this month.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Zombies vs Unicorns

In honor of the next book on my reading list, we will be examining the epic question, who would be more ass-kicky when thrust into battle against one another? Zombies or Unicorns? Feel free to weigh in with your own evidence in the comments below. I should warn you, however, that anyone who disagrees with my all-knowing, impartial, flawless, and adorable opinion is a cotton headed ninny-muggins.

The first book I read was "The Wide Sargasso Sea", by Jean Rhys.

For any fans of "Jane Eyre", this is a MUST read. Remember that crazy bi-otch that Mr. Rochester keeps locked up in the attic? This is her story. It follows her from childhood, charting the progress of her madness through her bloodline, and the sorrows of her youth. It also gives an interesting account of life of slave owners in the islands after slavery was abolished. The descriptions are vivid and opulent, and the narrative is haunting and well-crafted. Jean Rhys tells the tale that has been crying to be written since 1847.
Any-who, on to our first pieces of evidence for our glorious battle scenario:
As we all know, both zombies and unicorns are, to a certain degree, immortal. They do not die in conventional ways. Unicorns, for example, can be killed, but old age or disease will never take them (The Last Unicorn, book, 1968). But just how immortal are zombies? According to some well researched sources, Zombies do not only die from having their brains destroyed, but they can also starve to death (28 Days Later, 2002). Zombies need flesh/brains to survive, whereas unicorns can simply live off of moonbeams and starshine, if they wish (A Swiftly Tilting Planet, 1978). It seems, then, that unicorns are a bit more immortal than zombies. The score so far: Unicorns-1, Zombies-0.

The next book I read was "Deerskin", by Robin McKinley.
 Most people know the basic canon of fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc, and Robin McKinely has adapted and retold many of these fairy tales in a fresh and wonderful way. But most people will not be familiar with the fairy tale that she re-weaves in Deerskin. The original tale, "Donkeyskin" is usually left out of most children's collections and not often discussed due to the disturbing and violent nature of its subject matter. Apparently incest and incest is not the most popular topic these days. And unlike Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, and the other canonized tales, this one is a little harder to clean up. Here's the gist: The Queen, who is the most beautiful woman in the world, dies an early death, and makes her husband promise to never remarry someone who is less beautiful than she was, knowing that no one will rival her beauty. After going half mad with grief, the king one day sees his daughter, and, realizing that she is as beautiful as her mother was, falls in love with her. The daughter, after experiencing the full thrust of her father's madness and lust, flees the kingdom to escape. McKinley's version of this story is amazing. The descriptions are beautiful, the characters are wonderfully real, and the relationships she writes about are rendered in a tangible and lovely way, especially the relationship between humans and animals. If you love dogs, you MUST read this. If you love fairy tales, run out and grab this book right now.
Thought you might also like to know some of the secrets of the REAL fairy tales. In the early Red Riding Hood, the girl is tricked into eating her grandmother's flesh and drinking her blood, and then slowly strips down for the wolf before climbing into bed with her. FOR REALS, ya'll. In te early version of Sleeping Beauty, the prince comes upon the dozing princes and gets so 'excited' by her beauty that he, well.....takes a few liberties with her sleeping self. She awakes after her babies have been born. The princes wife (yup, he's married) finds out, and makes an attempt to eat the children. Fun with cannibalism, boys and girls. We also have a nice stripping scene in this one as well. In Cinderella, the stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by birds, and in Snow White, the evil queen has her feet forced into molten hot iron clad shoes until she burns up. And those are the parts you won't hear in class. If you want a REALLY gory story, check out "Bluebeard" and its variations. Buckets-o-blood and many fair young corpses. It's also called the Robber Bridegroom.

Speaking of corpses, back to the argument at hand. Let us examine the powers of zombies and unicorns: Unicorns have healing powers, powers against poisons, and, according to some legends they can even fly. Some legends also attribute them with pan-dimensional qualities and teleportation. They are also very strong and swift, making them fierce fighters.Check out this 13th century quote from 'Le Bestiaire Divin de Guillaume'  :"The unicorn has but one horn in the middle of its forehead. It is the only animal that ventures to attack the elephant; and so sharp is the nail of its foot, that with one blew it can rip the belly of that beast."
Crazy shit, right? Them unicorns be KILLIN' some beasts! But they do have a weakness for beautiful young girls. If they see a pretty face, they just have to go lay their head down on that fair lap and nestle in for some mane stroking and songs. And what about zombies? They seem to feel no pain from attack, so that's a pretty bad ass advantage. They only die if their brain is demolished. But they seems to lack any cognitive capabilities beyond mere instinct and bloodlust. They seem to stumble almost blindly after their prey. Most of them are slow, but even when they are wicked fast, their powers just don't seem to match up to a unicorn's magical-ness. Score: Unicorns: 2, Zombies: 0

 "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi was the next one to cross my path.
This one wasn't your average novel, it's actually a bit closer to a graphic novel. The text is paired with beautifully simple black-and-white drawings. It's biographical, so I guess it's more of a Graphic Memoir. Marji is a young girl when the Islamic revolution...
(Ohmigod, I just found gum on the butt of my oants. Probably from the movie theatre. Yuck, I'll be right back. Gonna go soak this sucker in goo-gone).
Ok, I'm back. Anyways, she very young when the Islamic revolution hits Tehran. Because she grew up in a fairly liberal free-thinking family, the change is quite hard for her. She laments about her education being taken form her, and about being confined behind a veil. She can no longer listen to her music, go to school with her guy friends, or do anything that is perceived as either western or opulent. Her family continues to fight the these changes, and she joins in despite the risk. It is a very honest account, from some one who lived though these events on the ground level. My favorite part of the text was the simple yet profound spiritual experience that the author had as a young girl, as well as her relationship with her family.

The last book that I read was Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man". Since I love Ray Bradbury, and I'm a big fan of body art, this seemed an appropriate choice.
This is more of a collection of stories, united through the art on the man's body. Ray Bradbury is a fantastic author, and his stories are amazing, and also wonderfully hopeless. The worlds he paints are exquisite and riddled with shadows and pain. A perfect moody piece, with bits of bright hope sprinkled throughout. I am sure, too, that Ray Bradbury would support my conclusion that Unicorns beat Zombies! Yes, when all facts are weighed, and all the evidence is examined (we did but a brief look in this blog), the rainbow-y goodness of magical unicorns blast away the stumbling zombies. Unicorns are obviously impervious to the zombie virus ( see 'healing powers' in earlier section) and have more strength and ingenuity than zombies can ever hope to attain.

For more on unicorn battles, please view this educational film:


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ass Seen on TV..Ooops, I mean 'As' seen on TV.

Five books thus far. Moving, right along in my usual gangsta fashion. But enough about gangstas for this month. This week we will be examining the wide, wonderful world of 'As Seen on TV Products'. This phenomenon is what happens when laissez-faire droplets of rain water the crazy capitalism that grows in the soil of the world economy, an economy fertilized primarily by bored middle class housewives and insomniacs not yet addicted to meth (well, the ones addicted to meth are spending all their money on meth, obviously). Luckily, having one hundred books to cram into a year means that I will never have to resort, in boredom, to watching Billy Mays scream at the top of his lungs about stain-fighting seltzer powder.

First up this round was "Z for Zachariah", by Robert C. O'Brien ( the homie who wrote The Rats of NIMH). The world has been destroyed by a nuclear holocaust, and our narrator finds herself completely isolated, alone, and, as far as she knows, the sole survivor of the tragedy. Her solitude is broken when a mysterious stranger in a radiation suit appears on her land. What turn of events will this stranger bring? The book was excellent, and went at a very fast pace. It brings up questions about survival and isolation that I had never before considered, and gave the reader a strong heroine to see through. I'm sure she could have passed the hours of boredom and solitude with our first amazing Infomercial product: The Fushigi Ball.
So, my biggest beef with this thing is the lameness factor. Did anybody else notice that in ALL of the picture and ads, the ball is DISTINCTLY touching his hands? Check out the one in the right corner. IT is clearly touching both of his thumbs, he's just holding them at a 'magically' awkward angle. The only thing magical about this is how quickly your chance at scoring with the opposite sex will disappear.

On another note, David Bowie does manage to look pretty awesome when he does this shiznit with glass balls:

Next on the ol' reading list was "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle", by Avi.

This Newberry winner was a historical mystery and coming-of-age story, about a young girl, unaccompanied on m merchant vessel, who finds herself accused of murder aboard a merchant vessel. A great sea-worthy novel that actually has a strong female character. It seems that every swashbuckling adventure features a male-only cast (rife with potential for Freudian analysis. Pirates, anyone?). A great girl-centered adventure story all-in=all.

Perhaps Charlotte would have been able to avoid all this accusation trouble if she would have had one of those hearing aids that looked like a blue tooth device. They are one of the 7 Great Wonders of Infomercial products.

The commercial is great; not only does it advertise a 'discreet' way to hear 'what the consarn dag-nabbit' everybody is saying, but it also encourages eavesdropping. The commercial shows a man listening in to women at a party, privately discussing how awesome/hot he is. I would like to point out that if you walked around wearing a Bluetooth headset to parties, the only thing people would be saying about you is what a douche bag lame-ass you are.

Ah, so little time and so many more books. Ok, to summarize the rest:
Matched was awesome. Even though it was another love triangle story, it was so much more. A girl must decide between the 'prefect'. preselected life before her, or learn to choose her own fate and go against everything she has ever know.
"Gathering Blue" was the companion novel to "The Giver". It was pretty good, but not nearly able to stand up to its counterpart. Though it was written with a little more sophistication, its plot was less original and did not hold the shocks and twists of the first.
"Across the Universe" was fantastico. Hard to believe that it was the author's debut. The ship 'Godspeed' has been sent to populate an earth-like planet hundreds of light years away. The journey will take centuries, so the 'colonists' a put in a cryogenic state. Decades before the journey is over, Amy wakes up from her frozen state, because someone has tried to kill her. Well written, taut with mystery, and full of interesting and believable human relationships.

And now for my FAVORITE Infomercial product: The Kinoki Foot Pads. A miracle in a box.

These amazing pads supposedly suck toxins and poisons from your body through the soles of your feet. The makers even claim that they can suck cellulite from your body. Wow. WOW. They turn brown and nasty after wearing them over night, and this is supposedly the toxins and cellulite and other nasty ass crap that should be classified as hazardous waste. BULLCRAP. And just how the hell are they supposed to work?! Did Harry Potter finally stop chasing Voldemort long enough to create magic poison-sucking foot pads with the aid of Dumbledore (Order of Merlin, First Class)?! Everyone knows that wizards are not supposed to magically intervene in the muggle world, so this is impossible.

That's it for this round, kids. Stay off drugs and don't buy crap from infomercials. 

PS-Billy Mays and Rachel Ray should have a shout-talking contest. They are both constantly screaming their lungs off about EVOO or Oxy crap.

Check out this awesome contest!