The 11 Most Compelling Books I Read in 2011

It’s time for my 2011 list of books! If you like this list or have read books that appear on it, leave a comment, or let me know about some of the most compelling books you read that didn’t make the list.

Also shoot me an email at if you like this list and want to chat. I’m always happy to hear from fellow readers.

K here we go. 

2011, huh? How ’bout it? In the midst of a 10-year anniversary of the worst American disaster in recent memory, the death of a legend (albeit sometimes questionable), insane plastic surgery stories and a tragicomic political caucus, I found some time to read some fantastic books this year. The 11 books (get it, 2011? 11 books? 11/11?) on this list represent the best of the best, and hopefully will include some you haven’t heard of.

My list from 2009 focused on the most inspiring books, and last year’s list was simply about the best. This year, I decided to go for compelling. That means some of these books grabbed me at page one and forced me to continue reading at inappropriate times and places (during sex, for example. Just kidding?) Others that weren’t so much page turners made me want to talk about them until people told me to shut up (and often even after being told to do so.)

11. Public Enemy Zero by Andrew Mayne

Public Enemy Zero, Andrew Mayne

I got a Kindle recently. I know there are haters out there, but for someone who is constantly on the go and lives out of a small bag most of the time, having all of my books on one lightweight device is essential. Sorry (not really) if you still hate Kindles, it’s a lifesaver for my lifestyle. And this book is only available as an e-book, so… skip ahead to number 10 if you want.

The main character of this book, Mitch, is a radio host recently out of a relationship and pretty much a flat-out loser. Everything changes when, on a seemingly random day, it appears that everyone, from his ex-girlfriend to truckers to babies in strollers, wants to MURDER him as soon as he gets within a few feet of him. In other words, it’s a zombie book where the zombies are only after one guy – and that guy is lovable.

My biggest complaint is that there definitely needs to be some editing on this one, since Mayne only had readers help him edit. But it’s still fantastic. Go pick it up!

10. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin

Imagine a planet named Urras, large, lush and full of natural beauty. The people who roam the planet are greedy, materialistic, incredibly intelligent and more than happy to oppress lower classes in order to benefit the wealthy. Sound familiar? Something tells me this was an allegory…

Now imagine that a small group of oppressed people from this planet rose up, and after a struggle, were “allowed” to form their own colony on the planet’s large moon, a dusty wasteland known as Annarres. Stay with me, it’s not as nerdy as it seems. Le Guin uses this premise to compare and contrast two worlds – one that is remarkably like our own, and one that is, in almost every way, a perfect anarchist society.

This book is very deep, and much of it reads like a philosophy text. I was tempted to give up a few times, but I pushed through because every time I started to set down the book, Le Guin would slap me in the face with some undeniable but previously unrecognized (by me) truth. It was worth it, hence it being on this list.

9. Seeing by Jose Saramago

Seeing, Jose Saramago

To be fair, I just finished this book last night, so I apologize if this is an emotionally charged review. This book is the sequel to a book that was on my previous list, Blindness. If you haven’t read Blindness yet, I have one question for you: What is wrong with you? That book is amazing, and go read it before you read anything else, including the rest of this post. I mean it, cause there are spoilers ahead for Blindness.

In the firs tbook, we were introduced to an unnamed city in an unnamed nation that was stricken with a plague of temporary blindness that caused everyone to lose their sight for a matter of weeks. The only person to maintain her sight was a wife of an ophthalmologist. The second book, Seeing, is similar in style, with no character names and few periods. The story picks up in the same city, four years later, but it took me a long time to figure that out. In fact, the plague of blindness and the characters in the first book are completely absent from the first half of Seeing. Instead, we are treated to an inside view of a government agency coping with a new crises – in the most recent elections, the vast majority of the population cast a blank vote. This causes all of the government officials to, for lack of a better term, FREAK THE FUCK OUT.

Of course, the relationship between the white sheets of paper cast by the voters and the milky white blindness of the first book is easy to “see,” but the poetry in Saramago’s language takes this link to a whole new level. After treating us to the horrific innards of government for half the book, we are then dragged back into the city, among the people who cast the blank votes, including the heroine of the first novel.

This book gets the award for biggest regret of 2011 – Saramago, why did you have to die before you could turn this two-book series into a trilogy??

8. Alcoholica Esoterica by Ian Lendler

Alcoholica Esoterica, Ian Lendler

The first non-fiction book on my list was given to me by my boyfriend, and I am eternally thankful. As a gin-soaked booze hound, this book has made my love of the drink more compelling and justifiable than ever. In this incredible and hilarious book, Lendler catalogs the history of every type of alcohol, as well as all of the idiosyncratic factoids that you’ve never heard of. The book starts with beer, allegedly the oldest of the boozes, and then takes us on a long romp through the rising popularity of wine. Rum, gin, spirits, cocktails, port, sherry and everything in between get their own chapter, each punctuated with quotes and a biography of famous alcoholics. From the construction of the pyramids to the lounges of Las Vegas, alcohol has been a major character, and this book shows you how. FUN.

What makes this book truly special, and sets it apart from a lot of other historical non-fictions (which can be pompous and hard to digest without a drink) is that Lendler is a true comedian. This book had me laughing out loud on the toilet more than once. Speaking of which, it’s a great bathroom read if you’re one of those poopers out there or needs a little literary boost to get things moving.

7. The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl, Paulo Bacigalupi

This book is perhaps the most “hard” science fiction work on my list (though true lovers of the genre would scoff at that classification in their nasal, nerdy voices). The entire novel takes place in a future Bangkok, well after global warming has ravaged the entire planet. The city is walled in from the tides via a complicated dyke system, and the pressure of the water coupled with the oppressive heat makes this book tense and frightening. Each chapter is told from the perspective a different, seemingly disconnected character, who of course all end up being somewhat connected by the end of the novel.

But more than anything else, what makes this story come to life is the descriptions the author gives you. It doesn’t seem like it’s set in the future, it seems like some awful place we could go visit today. I don’t know who commissioned the cover of the novel (this is one I read in paper, thank Goodness), but as you can see below the artwork is outstanding, and it matches the book very well.

A Megodont

The Wind-Up Girl in the title of this book is only one of the many compelling main characters, but she was by far my favorite. As an escaped life-like robot who had once been a proud servant and since forced into crude and sickening sexual slavery, her voice is original, depressing and the stuff of nightmares. Even if you skim some of the other chapters, it’s worth picking this book up just to read her story.

6. Last  Night at the Lobster by Steward O’Nan

Last Night at the Lobster, Stewart O'Nan

Ah, now we are getting to the books that really rocked my 2011. These are the books I didn’t know I couldn’t live without.

This quick read (only 140-some pages) catalogs one night at one of the worst places in the world – a Red Lobster in Connecticut. It’s closing night, and Manny, the manager, is severely depressed that the restaurant that has been the center of his life is about to shut down for good. Not only that, but the last night at the lobster is taking place only a few days before Christmas, which would typically be a good day for business, but is marred by a massive blizzard. The book opens when Manny arrives at work alone for his last day, and follows him through his numbing, depressing but oddly beautiful routine in its death throes. The last pages see Manny drive off to a future that is uncertain, leaving behind a chapter in his life that will drill a hole in your heart.

You fall in love with Manny and the hodgepodge collection of co-workers who slip away from him slowly. The “love” story that takes place between Manny and another co-worker is also heartbreaking, and O’Nan doesn’t do anything to sugarcoat it, sticking to his hyper- realistic guns. This book is ideal for those of us who are feeling bludgeoned by the economic slump and consumerist depression that has become a main tenet of American life.

Last Night at the Lobster also gets my award for Best Title of 2011.

5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

After reading two popular sci-fi/fantasy novels for adults and finding them less than enjoyable (here and here if you want to know) I was thrilled to find this peculiar novel about peculiar children that didn’t feel as contrived or plagiaristic.

The story of this book follows a teenage boy, Jacob, as he uncovers his late Grandfather’s past. His PopPop was a victim of World War II, and possibly suffering from dementia in old age. When Jacob was a child, grandpa would tell him wild tales of a “home for peculiar children,” who had bizarre abilities, watched over by a bird-like woman named Miss Peregrine. As a teenager, Jacob is disenchanted by his grandfather’s tales, until the old man bites the dust, and Jacob is confronted with evidence that his grandfather was telling the truth. Or is Jacob losing his mind as well? Jacob goes on an international trip with his father to find the peculiar home, and that’s when things get really crazy. I won’t say anymore, because the plot is too exciting and bizarre to be ruined by a blog post.

What was most enjoyable about this book was the pictures. Yes, pictures! In a grown up book! All of the photographs the grandfather in the tale uses to convince his grandson that the Home for Children is real are right there in the book for your viewing pleasure. And the best part is, they’re real aged photographs, and boy are the deliciously bizarre. Look:

There’s LOTS more where that came from, but again, I don’t want this list to ruin anything for potential readers. Just go and get it, even if you have a Kindle. The pictures look great on e-readers and paper, so you have no excuse.

4. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender

My sister gave me this book, along with two others on the list (numbers 5 and 10) and I’m eternally thankful. She’s a smart chick, so check out her blog here.

This is the best piece of magical realism I’ve read by an American author. The main character and heartbreaking narrator, Rose, is celebrating her 10th birthday when she bites into a piece of home-made lemon cake baked by her mother. Instead of tasting delicious lemon and chocolate, she finds that the cake tastes like sadness. As the book goes on, we learn that Rose can taste the emotions in all of the food she eats, right down to the factory workers who make processed goods. This changes her life forever, as it not only gives her the ability to read people’s emotions, but it also makes it almost impossible to enjoy food the way it is meant to be enjoyed. As the book continues, we begin to realize that Rose isn’t the only person in her family with peculiar powers, and she spends the entirety of the novel trying to make sense of her family’s secrets – both metaphysical and utterly real.

This book won’t give you answers to all of the questions, but it will give you insight into how a sad, odd family functions, and the detriments unhappy familial relationships bring about.

Aimee Bender is a genius with language and story telling, and I can’t wait to see what she cooks up next.

3. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

Room, Emma Donoghue

Oh God, Room. OH GOD ROOM. I still have nightmares about this book. I could say a million good things about this masterpiece, but what will probably drive most people to pick up a copy (assuming they enjoy reading macabre news stories as much as I do) is the plot.

Jack is 5-years-old and has never left Room. He was born there, and has no idea about anything, and I mean ANYTHING, on the outside world. He only knows one other person, his Ma, who has been held captive in Room by a psychotic man known as Old Nick since before Jack was born. The story is told entirely from Jack’s perspective as he struggles with growing up in captivity, and the world that waits outside the four walls that have enclosed him his entire life. The story follows the sad formulas of real-life tragedies such as the Jaycee Lee Duggard and Friztl cases. You can read the true stories of those women if you want, but I recommend picking this one up instead – though no promises that it will be any less horrific.

What most impressed me about the book was the voice Donoghue conjured up to tell the story. It’s nearly impossible to write convincingly in the voice of a child, but Donoghue pulls it off, and she deserves immense respect for doing so. It couldn’t be pleasant, as a writer, to put a child and his mother through so much torment. But the end result is a book that won’t let you put it down.

2. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling, Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler, you are and always will be my favorite science fiction writer. She was the author of the number one book on my first list, and I liked this one almost as much (though since the first book was a trilogy, I have to say it trumped Fledgling.)

Brace yourselves, this is a vampire book. I know, I know, you HATE Twilight and all of the negative attention it’s brought the classic vampire genre. But before you start getting your fangs in a twist, listen to me – I hate Twilight too. THIS book has nothing to do with the awful Stephanie Meyers trilogy, so, OK?

The twist this book takes on vampires is delicious and creepy, but not nearly as terrifying.  It opens in the dark, where a small person (thing?) is waking up with complete amnesia, starving, in pain and confused. It stumbles blindly for a while, killing and eating raw meat, and generally being scary. Eventually we come to learn that this thing is a small girl with extraordinary abilities – primarily in the strength, intelligence and teeth departments. She still has no memory of who she is, but it’s quite clear from the start that she’s no human – and a little girl only in appearance.

The girl, Shori, is indeed, a vampire, but not the kind that want to kill you for your blood. When these vampires bite, they do something to their “victims” that could be seen as a form of hypnosis – or a form of love. Whatever it is, it creates an unbreakable bond between the vampires and their “symbionts,” a relationship that is unknown in the world you and I inhabit. Each vampire needs 8 or 9 simbionts to survive, and they live in bliss (or something eerily like bliss) together in isolated, nocturnal villages.

What has happened to Shori involves an unbelievable crime – and possibly a the beginning of a racially charged war between vampire families. The last 100 pages of this book are a rapid account of a major trial that left me screaming in frustration and cheering in joy, though not necessarily in that order.

This is Butler at her finest, and the vampires in this book have more clout, terror and intrigue in their creepy pinkies than the vampire-sphincter-human hybrid Edward Cullen could even dream of.

1. A Billion Wicked Thoughts Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam

A Billion Wicked Thoughts, Sai Gaddam and Ogi Ogas

Surprise! My number one pick this year is a non-fiction book. As a lover of fiction and a skeptic of non-fiction, this is a big deal for me. I usually use my leisure reading as form of escapism, and leave the non-fiction on the shelf. However, when I came across A Billion Wicked Thoughts, I was so intrigued I picked up a copy right away, and thanks to that choice, my life has changed dramatically. No exaggeration.

Raise your hand if you like sex. I hope you’re sitting there in the dark, in the light of the computer screen, alone in your underwear, raising your hand. Even if you’re not, and you don’t like sex, you should read this book. Compelling is the only word to describe what lies within, which is what makes it the top book of the year for me.

Gaddam and Ogas are two neuroscientists who had a genius idea that I hope makes them very rich. They realized that the internet is the largest untapped pool of potential sexual science study participants. With search engines receiving millions of searches every day, there is a large amount of anonymous information just sitting out there for us to dine on. And much of it is about sex.

The billion “wicked thoughts” in the book refer to a billion or so web searches recorded by the internet powers that be, then analyzed by the two authors of this book. Using this data, they expand the known world of sex into a universe of unbelievable information, and the facts, suppositions and analyses that they bring forward will make you feel like your fetish for sucking on dairy soaked stuffed teddy bears (or whatever) is perfectly normal. Eat this, Freud.

I would try to explain some of these facts, but I won’t be able to do so as eloquently and comically as the two authors did. But here are some things I picked up on:

  • Searchers for “gay content” are the second most common in terms of sex-related search engine requests, preceded only by those searching for “youth content” and followed by searches for MILFS (or searches for sexy older woman.) WOW.
  • Lots of people are turned on by adultery.
  • There’s a fetish that involves hiding in people’s closets and masturbating while they don’t know you’re there.
  • The penis may have its odd (but hot) shape because it acts like a shovel to scoop out any competing sperm that might be in a partner’s vagina. How ’bout it, evolution?
  • People are often aroused by topics that should be particularly taboo to them, personally.
  • On average, gay men have larger penises than straight guys. SUCKAHS.
  • Porn for men may have unrealistic depictions of women and female sexual behavior, but it’s no more or less unrealistic than the depictions of men in books that are often seen as porn for women:

Yes, there are entire chapters dedicated to romance novels. And gay sex. And adultery. And so much more. This book changed the way I think about sex, my own sexuality, sex with my partner, women, men, straights, gays – even vampires. Please, for the love of god, if you are a sexual creature in any way, go read this book. It should be required for anyone who plans on getting nasty.

So that’s it for 2011! I hope you enjoyed. If you want more recommendations, be sure to check out my lists for 2010 and 2009. Also, leave a comment with any recommendations you may have for me. Happy reading!

An Open Letter to Bachelorette Parties

In short: Stay out of gay bars on your big night.

Dear Bachelorette Parties,

It was May, wedding month, and my boyfriend and I were visiting some friends in Washington D.C. Our hosts took us to an excellent gay club called Town, a fun dance arena with wild music and very cute boys. We were doing our thing, having some drinks and cutting all available rugs on the dance floor, when it happened. We were attacked.

No, we weren’t hate-crimed or anything like that. The beast that attacked us wasn’t that bad – but it was still terrible. It was the shrieking hydra known as a bachelorette party – a hateful, relentless beast whose obnoxiousness knows no bounds.

Really, I shouldn’t say “we” were attacked, I should say my boyfriend was attacked. He and I were with each other, doing a gentleman’s grind, when out of nowhere this girl in a tiara came up behind us and put her claw on my boyfriend’s shoulder. She pulled him away from me and began to grind up against him. My boyfriend, horrified, shook his head at her and turned away, somehow wrenching his small self from her manicured grip. She looked insulted and turned away in a huff.

I’d like to say that this was an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. Bachelorette parties have been plaguing gay bars and gay men for years, and it appears to only be getting worse.


Before I go any further with this rant, let me give two disclaimers. First: I have nothing against bachelorette parties. I think it’s a good idea to celebrate the end of your singledom by going out with your best friends, getting wasted and drinking out of penis straws. By all means, as long as you and your groom-to-be have agreed on what is OK during this party, then go ALL OUT.

Second, I have nothing against women in gay bars. I don’t like it when gay bars make women feel uncomfortable, because I think gay bars are supposed to be some of the most welcoming places on earth. However, I DO support obnoxious people being banned from gay bars, and I think most people would have to agree that there is little more obnoxious than a bachelorette party.

But it’s more than that. Bachelorette parties are obnoxious, and rightfully so, but to gather  your gaggle of shrieking gal pals and bring them to a gay bar is, frankly, degrading to gay men and our culture.

I understand why women would want to go to a gay bar for this kind of a party. Going to a gay bar means you can get as drunk and as sloppy as you want, and while you will probably get some scowls, you most likely won’t be groped or drugged. So that’s an upside.

I fear that beyond this, a big part of the reason girls like to go to gay bars for their bachelorette parties is because they operate under the mentality that “gay men love women.” This is wrong. Some gay men love some women, just like some blondes love some brunettes. And if you’re an obnoxious, entitled drunk girl who is hosting or participating in a self-centered ritual of heterosexual marriage, then odds are most gay men are not going to like you.

Which brings me back to the anecdote I shared in the beginning. I have many female friends – in fact, most of my friends are chicks. Awesome, awesome chicks. But what makes them awesome, among other reasons, is that we chose each other. Like any normal and healthy friend relationship, we found each other and decided to become friends after developing an understanding and realizing we had things in common.

No one, under any circumstances, get to “pick a gay BFF” as if we were packs of gum at the check-out aisle. And that is what it feels like, when you stroll into a gay bar with your pink boa, scanning the dancing crowd for the cutest, most-approachable gay guy you can find, and ripping him away from his boyfriend to thrust your groin into his own un-aroused pelvis.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Absolutely not. Far from it. There’s an entire Facebook group dedicated to the cause. In fact, one gay bar in Chicago went so far as to ban bachelorette parties – though they are doing it for a slightly different reason.

“The women are a hoot, and some can be just delightful,” said Geno Zaharakis, the owner of Cocktail, a gay bar on North Halsted Street. “But because not everybody can get married, watching them celebrate, it’s such a slap in the face. Prop 8 just reopened the wound.”

Well, that’s not really the reason why I hate bachelorette parties in my gay bars. I live in Massachusetts, so I can get gay married when and if I please. And you bet your sweet bippy that if/when I do, I am gonna have a rager with my friends, men and women alike. I’ll probably go to a gay bar.

What bothers me is that gay bars are created as a place where we homosexuals can go to be with one another. Women and lesbians and straight men can come to our bars, of course, as long as they acknowledge that they are stepping onto gay turf, and that our bars are about us, not them.

While gay bars were initially put in place because gay people didn’t feel safe being themselves at straight bars, now they mostly exist because gay guys like to be with each other. Straight men hang out with other straight men, women hang out with other women, lesbians flock together like no others – and gay men like to be with gay men. Hence the gay bar.

A bachelorette party is meant to be all about one person, and that person is almost certainly not a gay man. Women who are celebrating their “last night out” typically want everything to be about them – and I agree, that night should be all about them. But that doesn’t mean you can come into a gay bar and expect gay men to leap at the chance to make your night something to remember. That, my girlfriend, is degrading and humiliating. We are not a penis-shaped gimmick gift – we are human beings with gay lives.

What I find ironic about this whole situation is that women come to gay bars to avoid being groped, at least in theory. But then, once the music starts pumping and the jagaer bombs start flying, who becomes overly aggressive and doles out unwanted physical attention? It’s you, ladies. I can’t count how many times I have been forcibly grinded with by a member of the opposite sex. No thanks.

So what should we do?

A few months ago, I went to a non-gay bar (straight bar?) with a few friends – two straight men and a straight girl. When I got to the door, I was informed that though my female friend could go in for free, I and my male pals would have to pay a cover.

“But I like penis,” I said to the door man. He just shook his head and told me the fee still applied. I understand why – straight people, like us gays, go to bars to meet other straight individuals, and possibly sleep with them. A bunch of dudes in a straight bar won’t do much for business unless there are some ladies around.

So let’s apply this reasoning to gay bars. How about any man who shows up to a gay bar gets in for free, but ladies need to have at least 2 men with them in order to avoid an entrance fee? Is that fair?

That way, if you really must bring your bachelorette party to the gay bar, at least you’ll bring something for us gays, too.

– Liam

Marina and the Diamonds Changed My LIFE

Guess what? I have experienced a bit of a meteoric rise at my job, which means I am no longer trudging through the underbelly of Google News, now I am overseeing a group of writers who do that trudging for me.

This in turn means that I no longer come home feeling like the last thing I want to do is write something on a computer screen. Which hopefully means that I will be doing more blogging and creative writing. Thank you Gay Black Jesus, for your help at work.

So here it is, my first of what I hope will be many more blog posts this year.

Marina and the Diamonds Changed My LIFE

Digging through the catacombs of my email, I found a note I had written to myself long ago. It was a brief email, simply titled “Look Into this Band.” In the body of the email, there was only one artist: Marina and the Diamonds.

I was on a hunt for good, new music, so I typed in the title into Google. This is what I got back. Sit back and be amazed, please.

HOLY CRAP. That was a SWEET VIDEO and an equally satisfying song. Who is this amazing chick?

Her name is Marina Lambrini Diamandis. She is Welsh and hot and young. Her last name means Diamonds, and though she sounds like she has a band, she is the mastermind behind her music. The Diamonds, she explains, are her fans. Her whole album is amazing – and though she only has the one record, The Family Jewels, she has created several enchanting and really freaking weird music videos. Like this one:

What is up with those blue legs and arms? I am simultaneously frightened by them and in love with them.

So what did I do when I found out about Marina? I immediately emailed a bunch of people who I knew would appreciate her musical prowess and unique style as much as I did. And was I right! Many of my friends jumped on board, and my good pal from high school, Leah, did a little research and found out that Marina was performing at the Paradise Rock Club, right in my very own city!

Marina is a combination of many of my favorite artists, with a beautiful twist that is all her own. She is Amanda Palmer, Regina Spektor, The Pretenders, Florence Welch, Feist and just a spattering of Lady Gaga. But there is something about her, too, that seems to call out to a very specific subset of the population – but more on that later.

Tickets were hastily purchased by myself, Leah and a number of other people I am friends with/work with. We ventured to the concert, which was at a relatively small venue, and I began to feel very strange.

I am a pretty calm guy – and while there are certain musicians that I become obsessed with, it is very rare for me to go crazy at a concert. Honestly, I prefer most concerts to last about one hour – and I never need an opening band. I just can’t sit and listen to music for that long, even if the music is rockin. I am definitely not the type to get out-of-my-mind thrilled or physically amped up at a concert, but as I have said before Marina and the Diamonds has changed my life.

I was growing anxious, and I could not shut up about what I loved about Marina. The list is long – her lyrics are funny, smart and deeply telling; her tunes are a catchy hybrid between pop and peculiarity; her style is so out of this world that it’s clear to me she is a quirky, fun and intelligent person. She’s really hot – universally so – men and women, gay and straight alike have spoken to me about her allure. What is not to love about this woman? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing is not to love.

Let me diverge for a moment here and talk about her lyrics. She is an incredible writer, and manages to pull open truths as though they were loaves of warm and healthy bread. Some of my favorite lyrics are found in the song Oh No, which also has a sexcellent video:

I managed to make it through the pretty good opening band still relatively under control, but I lost my shit when Marina got on stage. She was preceded by her band, a group of very attractive, potentially homosexual boys.

Then she appeared. And she was wearing a very sexy, little-girl-in-mommy’s-clothes 50’s housewife dress with clear high heels adorned with pink poofs. I was floored.

I began to blabber, nearly incoherently, about how much I loved her. My feelings for the woman on stage, whom I had never met, mind you, went from intense fascination to a slightly concerning need to befriend and protect all that is Marina.

And I wasn’t alone. As I listened to the crowd scream out in delight, I realized something – the vast majority of people at this concert weren’t girls like Marina or straight guys who think she’s hot or even the ubiquitous Boston hipsters – they were boys just like me.

Something about Marina called out to gay boys in a way that is unexplained by science. What is it about her that makes gay men so obsessed? My guess is that it’s her confident sense of style coupled with music that contains sensitive lyrics. The fact that she could be our adorable little sister helps too.

Coming upon this realization, I began to wonder if Marina intended to reach out to gay men, or if it was a happy mistake. I say happy mistake, because having a gay following is a lucrative thing, no matter what type of artist you are. Keep that in mind, Repubs.

Throughout the course of the concert, Marina would disappear off stage to change costumes. This was a tiny venue with almost no back stage, as far as I could tell, and she is the ONLY artist I have seen there who has done this. She also had some awesome visual footage going on behind her on a screen, again something that was difficult given the space, and something that only she has done in my experience at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club.

Marina appeared later in a pair of SPARKLING pajamas. That’s right, blue stripped pajamas with sequins all over them. Unheard of. She also wore a Mary-Anne-from-Gilligan’s-Island get up, but nothing could prepare us gay concert-goers for her final costume – a yellow leather cheerleading outfit. PERFECTION.

Apparently, her cheerleader-ness wasn’t an isolated event. She had a 1980s video of a complicated cheerleading competition playing in time with one of her songs while she performed. Also this:

Heart on the vagina!

Which brings me to the subject of…

Marina’s Tambourine Antics

Like many gay nerds, I love the tambourine. It’s one of the few instruments my delayed motor skills can handle, and it’s silliness and routes in Gypsy culture only make it that much more appealing. I love when an artist picks up this jangly, sparkly music-maker while rocking out on stage, and my Marina delivered.

But there was something that Marina did with her tambourine is truly the impetus for saying that Marina has changed my life. Marina would bang on that tambourine for a few beats, and then, without warning, she would cast it aside, as if it were a scorned sexual partner or a rabid animal that had been nipping at her beautiful fingers.

I’m not sure if Marina was even aware of the way she so authoritatively tossed her tambourine, but I sure was, and so were my concert-companions. It was as if she was saying, “I’ve gotten everything out of you that I need, tambourine, and now I’m done with you. BE GONE.”

After the concert, while I was still very high on Marina, I was discussing this peculiar trait with my good friend Elizabeth. Together, we made a pact to take Marina’s treatment of tambourines to heart, and use it as a therapeutic method in our day-to-day lives.

Now, when I encounter something that had served its purpose and is no longer useful, be it a co-worker, a meal or, best of all, a rotten emotion, I imagine I am Marina. I toss the emotion or whatever I am imagining is my tambourine aside.

“Be gone with you, Jealousy! You’re done here.”

“I’m full of you, be gone, Grilled Cheese.”

You get the picture. It works very, very well. I urge you to fall for Marina, and then employ this tactic yourself.

In Conclusion

What I found in Marina is better than a talented and creative artist. It’s better than an attractive singer and songwriter. What I found was a sincere connection between what comes out of her head and what makes me want to live on Earth. While I admit that, sadly, Marina has no idea who I am, her music affected me in a way that only one other artist has – Aimee Mann. But that was a long time ago, when I was a depressed high schooler.

Now I have Marina, who is perfect for the 20-something gay man. And she may be perfect for you. Keep singing, Marina, for the love of god keep singing.

The 15 Best Books I Read in 2010

Hey all. It’s that time again. 2010 is long gone. It was a fucking crazy year, no? For me, 2010 saw a lot of Ohio, a throwback to Boston, a new (and really excellent) boyfriend who I’m thoroughly enjoying, a new and weird job, and lots of great books.

I made a list of the most inspiring books I read in 2009 at the end of last year, and it proved to be useful to many people. I received lots of feedback, and I love hearing from you all, so email me at if you loved last year’s list, this year’s list or if you have any books you think I might like. In fact, if you think I should add a book to my list, why not post a comment describing why you loved the libro!

Anyway, this year, I did a lot of reading. I wasn’t traveling in South America this time around, instead I was working full-time (wah wah), so I had slightly less time on my hands to turn pages. No 18-hour bus rides this year. But I still managed to squeeze a lot of reading in, and here are my favorites of the year:

15. Pobby and Dingan Ben Rice

Pobby and Dingan, Ben Rice

This book was a breeze, just over 100 pages, and compelling all the way through. Its setting is what grabbed me first, in distant (to me) Australia, near opal mines. The story follows two children, a brother and younger sister. The little girl has become deathly ill because her imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan, become lost in a mine.

The rest of the story follows her brother, who in a heroic effort to save his sister, is faced with not only the dangers of a mine, but also with the struggle every child who ever had a rich imagination must go through – the challenge of comprehending reality.

It’s a little heavy, but it’s peppered with great phrases like “violet crumble” and “opal claims,” as well as odd characters that will definitely bend your reality for 100+ pages. Not my favorite of the year, but most definitely noteworthy.
14. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Philip K. Dick



Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

One of several science fiction classics on my list. This list, like last year’s, is probably going to be a little science fiction heavy, but hey, I’m a nerd. This year I’ve been reading books to spice up my day-to-day living, and nothing helps more than a good story about robots.

The image of the book cover is excellent, but unfortunately the copy I got from my library featured the movie poster for the film version of the book, “Bladerunner.” Which made me look even more like a loser.


Still, the story is intriguing, and the book is very different from the movie, which was enjoyable but not quite as deep. However, as a side note, the movie does feature Edward James Olmos playing a very skinny Asian (?) man, even though he’s a Mexican-American. Here’s to you, Captain Adama.

In the book, Earth has been mostly deserted, and is now a polluted wasteland almost completely devoid of animals. Exotic animals are now used as a status symbol, but the main character of this book can only afford a very realistic robotic sheep.

His day job, is hunting down robots who have rebelled and killing them. NERD OVERLOAD, I know, but this book was one of the first to really deal with whole human/robot conflict. If that conflict is your cup of tea, then this is a bit like the dictionary.


13. Children of Men P.D. James



Children of Men, P.D. James


I’ll admit, I didn’t know this was a book when I saw (and fell in love with) the movie. I would say that I enjoyed the movie more, except that, like the above entry, it is so starkly different from the book that a comparison doesn’t really make sense.

The film Children of Men, starring, Julianne Moore, and Clive Owen, both of whom I would have sex with if they asked. They are in an aging world in which women are no longer able to produce children. They meet a young girl who is pregnant, and embark on a long and horrific journey to protect her from the viciousness of a hopeless populace. In other words, this sorta thing:

Children of Men, The Film

Those things happen in the book, but unlike the movie, the pregnant girl doesn’t reveal herself until nearly halfway through. Instead, the majority of the book focuses on the government and it’s charismatic yet brutal leader Xan, who happens to be the cousin of the main character of the book (Clive Owen for your movie fans.)

This book is a downer, there’s no getting around it. But it’s so detailed and well done that it seems as though P.D. James somehow caught a glimpse of the future. It’s definitely a good companion piece to the movie, and there’s a rumor that a TV show based on the concept is coming our way, written by none other than the man behind Battlestar Galactica. Again, here’s to you, Captain Adama.

12. Timequake Kurt Vonnegut

Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut

Think of all the things you’ve done since the year 2001. For me, those include but are not limited to, moving over 6 times, having one or two STD scares, over-drawing my account and crying about it more than once, having several boyfriends and getting a tattoo in Peru.

Now imagine reliving each one of those things you’ve done again – saying the same things you said over the past year, making the same mistakes, enjoying the same victories. You’d still be conscious you were repeating these actions, but you wouldn’t be able to stop yourself from carrying them out. Even if you had to re-do some horrible, horrible things.

That’s the premise of this weird Kurt Vonnegut book. The story talks about the “timequake” or time hiccup, and the insane aftermath when everyone finally finishes the 10 years of repetition and snaps back into the land of supposed free will.

This is not my favorite Kurt Vonnegut book, but it was still class Kurt and therefore brought all of the witty insight and oddity that I needed to enjoy it. For Kurt V. lovers, it reads like an old friend, but if you haven’t read any Kurt yet, I’d recommend you start out with his classic book that appears further down on my list.

11. American Psycho Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

Oh my fuck. This book is to be read only once. I had heard a lot about this book before I picked it up, but I had no way to prepare myself for what would be inside. There are scenes in this book that freaked me out so much I had to shut it and stop myself from gagging.

This book is all you need to decide that you never want to be a rich, young New York Socialite. Which I guess would be an encouraging message considering how much TV and movies make that lifestyle seem ideal…but I hesitate to say that anything about this book is encouraging. That being said, it’s a curious read, and there’s nothing quite like it on any bookshelf. It’s really great for people who enjoy fucked up books. I know you’re out there.

The portrait that Ellis paints of a member of the New York elite who has a serious mental illness is worth the trip. The book also does a wonderful job of making you go insane with the main character, and leaves you wondering whether the horrific acts inside the book were really…

10. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Tom Robbins



Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Tom Robbins

Tom Robbins is a weirdo, and I love him for that. This book is about several things: a girl with enlarged thumbs, a flock of whooping cranes, and a ranch that a group of cowgirls seized from a douche tycoon. I mean real douches, like the kind women and gay men may use from time to time to clean themselves “down there.”

This book was shorter than many on my list, but it was so chock full of odd storytelling and incredible, bizarre phrases such as, “His smile was like the first dent on a new car.”

This book came to my attention while I was in the sleep study, because all of the research assistants were reading it and loving it. I also thoroughly another novel of his, Still Life With Woodpecker, which is about cigarettes and redheads, if that’s your thing.

Also, when I would pull this book out in public, such as on the train or in a park, quirky strangers would feel compelled to tell me how much they love Tom Robbins. I see that as a plus.


9. Boomsday Christopher Buckley



Boomsday, Christopher Buckley


Here’s a crazy statistic: Every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will become of retirement age. How insane is that? So many old hippies!

Just kidding, I love baby boomers. At least the one’s that haven’t turned into crazy politicians.

This book is about the zany world of politics, and the way the government handles this onslaught of old people. It often had me laughing out loud, then cringing at some ugly insight into the political system nestled in the jokes.

The story centers around a young, am”bitch”ous woman who is a psycho-blogger (ahem) and comes up with a harebrained way to fix the baby boomer problem of social security and all the rest: offer tax incentives for aging boomers who agree to kill themselves at a certain age.

This idea explodes, and ricochets through the slimy government, incredulous Catholic church and everywhere else in Washington. I strongly recommend this book to anyone in their early twenties with parents in their early 50s, and vice-a-verse.

8. Slaughterhouse V Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse V, Kurt Vonnegut

I’m guessing that out of all of the books on this list, this will be the one that most people have read. I first picked up this book in high school, and it has remained one of my favorites of all time ever since. I prefer its alternate title, “The Children’s Crusade,” because that really drives home the point of the book – war is stupid and involves the killing of children. This was also the theme of the top ranking book on this list.

If you haven’t read this, it’s a great introduction to Vonnegut, and is a must-read for strange people who like books. The story follows (sorta) Billy Pilgrim, a war vet who has somehow become “unstuck” in time. Every few moments he wakes up to find he’s in a different time of his life, and sometimes on a different planet.

The best part of this read, in my opinion, is the race of aliens Billy meets called Trafalmagorians, who look like toilet plungers with a hand on top. They see time like a mountain range instead of linearly, meaning they can see all moments of time at once. Try to wrap your brain around that!

7. The Unnamed Joshua Farris

The Unnamed, Joshua Farris

This very new book is a complex story on a simple premise: a man named Tim is afflicted with a disease that forces him to walk aimlessly for long periods. He has no control over where he goes, how long he walks or when he stops. When his long walks finally do come to an end, he falls into a narcoleptic sleep for hours, no matter where he is.

This, obviously, presents a problem for Tim, who tries desperately to hang on to his career, family, body and sanity. Each of those four things slip away from him slowly, some come back, some don’t.

The lawyer, who spent so much of his life chained to his desk, comes completely unhinged, forced into nature and the dangers of the outside world by a force which no doctor or therapist can curb.

Joshua Farris is an excellent writer, and I strongly recommend his other book, And Then We Came to the End. It’s told in the first person collective voice, meaning everything is told from a group’s point of view. Get it, girl.

6. The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood


The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood


I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Margaret Atwood was sent from the future to give us a warning. She is a time-traveler, and she has painted a picture of a very viable and very scary future. This book is not a pre-quel and not a sequel to her recent book Oryx & Crake (OC), but rather runs concurrently with that novel. I read OC before I read this one, and I can’t decide which I like more.

The characters in these two stories link together only in the slightest ways, so it might be interesting for someone to experiment and read The Year of the Flood before OC. However, the world in which the characters operate is the same. Genetic hybrids run rampant, environmental crises has made everything scorching hot, and moral decay has led to a world where anything (from live-internet executions to mystery burgers made more than questionable meat) is legal. And it’s only going to get worse.

Something tells me there will be a 3rd book in this series soon, and I’ll read it as soon as it comes out. That might be a rumor I’m starting though, so don’t be depressed if I’m wrong.

5. Gun With Occasional Music Jonathan Lethem

Gun With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem

Ah, this book helped my boyfriend woo me (as if he needed help.) I loved this book, by the incredible author of As She Climbed Across the Table, also worth a read. This book is Lethem’s shout out to mystery novels and film noir, but he twists it all with his bizarre, unreal and flat-out weird imagination.

The book takes place in Oakland, California, in a time when animals have been scientifically enhanced so that they can walk and talk. The vast majority of the population, including the Private Investigator narrator, are addicted to government issued snort-able drugs with names like Forgetol and Acceptol. They’re titles give you a hint about what they do for the addicts.

The rainy, gray pages of this book definitely drew me in, and it’s making me want to read every Lethem book ever written. This book is the murder-mystery for people who don’t read murder-mysteries. For sci-fi lovers, it’s required reading.

4. Let the Right One In John Ajvide Linqvist

Let The Right One In,John Ajvide Lindqvist

Oh lord, this book scared the CRAP out of me. Not literally, but it is a seriously frightening book. You may have seen either a Swedish or recent U.S. remake of a movie version of the book titled Let Me In. The book is so, so much scarier (and better.)

This is a vampire book, and when my co-worker gave it to me, I rolled my eyes. I am not into the whole vampire shtick that’s happening right now in popular culture. I much preferred (at least in a phobic-fascinated way) the zombie craze of a few years ago. But I gave this one a shot, and I was not sorry.

The story is told from several perspectives, but primarily that of a little boy who is an outcast at school. He is tortured by his classmates, but makes friends with a strange little girl (boy? creature?) who can’t enter rooms without being invited and who won’t go out in the daylight.

It’s all set in Sweden, where extended darkness gives vampirism a  whole new meaning. This book makes you feel as though you’re reading in the dark, and that someone is looking over your shoulder.

The climax of this book is unbelievably tense, and left me shell-shocked. I had to hide the book for a while, which is something I haven’t done in a long time.

3. Soon I Will Be Invincible Austin Grossman

Soon I Will Be Invisible, Austin Grossman

And now for the nerdiest book on my list. My boyfriend also gave me this book, and it was the funniest thing I read this year.

The story of Soon I Will Be Invincible is told by two narrators: a super genius villain and a recent superhero recruit. Dr. Impossible is socially inept, super-intelligent, and all in all a pretty nice guy who is bent on taking over the world, while Fatale, the other narrator, is a young woman who lost most of her body in a car crash, and has been turned into a cyborg soldier with super strength and amazing gadgets.

Nerdy, I know. But Austin Grossman has such a soft spot for the world of superhero comic books and all of the outrageous concepts, costumes, weapons, powers and personalities tucked inside that he wrote a whole novel about them. He praises the sappiness of comics in a way that makes you wish that superheros really did exist

He has also melded the superhero world seamlessly with the modern age we know today. The heroes in his book own makeup companies and are backed by corporate sponsoring. They have press releases. When they’re not working, they wear sweatpants. The Batman-ish character is slightly autistic.

The book is a page turner, and very cathartic for people such as myself, who suppress their nerd every day so as not to freak out normal people. If you’re feeling the winter-doldrums, then move this book to the top of your list.

2. Half Life Shelley Jackson

Half Life, Shelley Jackson

This was the second book I read last year, and my second favorite. Shelly Jackson is weird: her last novel was written in actual tattoos. She enlisted volunteers who were willing to have one word from the book tattooed on themselves. My friend did it. He got the word “It” on his bicep.

Anyway, this book takes place in an alternate future in which nuclear warhead testing has caused a spike in the population of conjoined twins. The narrator has a twin, a second head coming out of her shoulder. Her sister has been asleep for 20 years, which the narrator, Nora, finds quite annoying. She has decided to do something about it.

In her quest to ditch her permanently attached sister, you learn Nora’s looping, bizarre history. The book weaves back and forth through California and Nevada (and a little bit of England), and is interspersed with bizarre poems, notes and other oddities that help tell the story. There are doll houses that are surreally intricate, cooky old women, stuffed animals galore and characters that have no place in the real world, but fit in well in Jackson’s universe.

So far I’m the only person to love this book with such fervor, it may be a little too weird for some people out there. But if you like strange books like I do, then this is a must-read.

1. The Hunger Games Trilogy Suzanne Collins


The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzzane Collins

So I cheated again this year and picked three books (a series) as my top choice. The Hunger Games. A lot of people have probably heard of the series, and that’s because it’s so damn good. These books stand out in my mind as the best thing I’ve read across several genres in the past year- It’s the best young adult series, the best postapocalyptic series and the most riveting page-turner I’ve read in a long time. The way the books tell a story reminded me of the hunger (pun!) and intensity I experienced reading the His Dark Materials trilogy and Harry Potter. Though, I like this better than Harry Potter. There I said it.
I’ll give a brief description of the series below. If you trust me enough, I encourage you to just buy the books and don’t read the description. In fact, don’t even read the book jacket, because it gives away too much. You won’t be sorry.

Panem is a country that encompasses all of North America some time in the distant future. There are 12 districts throughout the area, each responsible for the creation of a different form of good, (fish, electronics, agriculture, etc.). Katniss Everdeen is the 16-year-old-narrator, living in the 12th district, which  is responsible for coal mining. She and her people are the poorest in the country, though everyone living in districts one through 12 is destitute, starving.

The lowly people are kept in place by barbed wired fences, oppressive police officers called “peacekeepers” and ultimately a city of wealthy people known as the Capital (which is somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.)

At the start of the second book, it has been 74 years since the districts attempted to rise up against the Capital. They lost, and the result was the Hunger Games: a barbaric, televised event in which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are sent to a high-tech, natural arena and forced to fight to the death for the blood-thristy Capital audience. Their family members are also made to watch the events.

The story follows Katniss as she enters the arena herself, and all that follows after her time there. You will not be able to stop reading once you pick them up, and it’s not just the plot. I found myself eager to find out everything I could about the strange, yet familiar world of Panem. The country is both decrepit and highly technologically advanced. Genetic mutations are normal, and the Capital has invented many new (and terrifying) species to keep the districts in their place.

This book has so much to say about the world we live in. It makes sharp, intense points about children and the roles they play in warfare and in the modern society of reality TV and materialistic worship. I think about the book every day, and talk about it so much that my boyfriend has told me that I need to stop comparing things to the world Suzanne Collins created. Shout out to my best friend Rita and her boyfriend for sending this my way.

Go! Read it! Now!

So that’s it! I spent the beginning of this year re-reading the Hunger Games, but I just started a new book last night, and it looks like it will most definitely be on my list next year.

For now, feel free to email me any suggestions! is the way to go. I’m happy to hear from people who enjoyed this list.
Also, come back to my site soon. I hope to do more posting throughout 2011. Read on, readers.


Bad Advice Column #1-3

Hey all.  So it’s been a while, and I could apologize and tell you how I’m planning on making this blog its own thing and spending more time on it, maybe, or I could tell you that I’m busy with a paying job and apologize that I don’t have more time for this, or I get just get on with it.

So McSweeney’s, a neat website that is a great way to waste time at work, recently had a contest seeking out a new columnist.  I entered, and failed to be selected for anything, but that means I get to maybe turn my column into something regular here.

Here was my idea for a regular column.

Taking issues I have faced in my own life, I have written a few questions for an advice column.  Then I tried to think of some of the worst people to respond to these answers, and constructed the responses I think they might give.

Below are three Bad Advice Columns, followed by some ideas I might write if people think this is funny.  If not, then fuck you I’ll understand.

It would be neat for you to send me some questions of your own!  I’ll happily answer them if they’re good questions, and if you make a suggestion as to who would be the worst person to answer your question, I’ll take that into account too!  Just post your question in the comment arena or e-mail them to me at

Bad Advice Column #1

My Middle School Self

Dear My Former Middle School Self,

I am currently at a new job, but I am having trouble connecting with my co-workers. Though they’re all nice people, there is little interaction outside of business, and I am getting bored! It seems like I could be friends with these people, but I’m not sure how to break the ice. Help!


You in 12 Years

Grown Up Self,

Listen, whatever you do, DO NOT BREAK THE ICE. Your co-workers will most likely laugh at you and/or think you’re weird. (And they may be right!) The best thing to do is to relax, try to pretend like you don’t exist, and remind yourself to tell your mom that the next time she buys you work clothes she should get black slacks instead of khakis. Cause frankly, I think everyone in the office except you is in on an e-mail chain about how stupid you look in those pants.  You’re lucky Steve Sickler in HR hasn’t given you a swirlie yet.  He’s scares me.

If the company tries to organize some sort of group get-together, such as a picnic or martinis after work,  I would avoid it at all costs. This will only lead to future humiliation for years to come, as everyone will remember every idiotic comment you make for the rest of recorded time.

Good luck, and congratulations on the new job!

–   Your Former Middle School Self

Bad Advice Column #2

Whooooo are yooouuuu??

Dear Caterpillar from Alice and in Wonderland,

My girlfriend insists that I accompany her on shopping trips, even though I loathe going to the mall. She’s convinced that if I go with her enough times,I’ll “come around,” but I know that’s not going to happen. What should I do? I can’t stand one more minute in JC Penney!


Bargain Boyfriend

Dear BB,

The Lady and the Shopkeep

The lady and the shopkeep were a most successful pair,

he helped her steam her toenails, then he gently trilled her hair.

He showed her ways to save her green,

and where to purchase dress fins,

but ask the lady’s boyfriend sweet?

He’d rather munch intestines.


In time the lady left her man, he could not satisfy her

it wasn’t the sex life, he didn’t cheat, she wanted a fellow buyer.

The lady and the shopkeep laughed,

at last, alone together,

they decided they would wed in June,

after a turn in weather.


And so, my dear, if you love your lady,

just watch her pay the fares.

Or else you may end up bridesmaid-y,

in just your underwears.

–  The Pillar

Bad Advice Column #3


Dear Tourist Walking In Front of Me,

I’m late for a job interview! What should I do?

– Career on the Line

Dear Career on the Line,

First things first, slow down.  You city folk with your hustle and bustle stress out those of us who are here to visit your beautiful home.

Okay. Now, try to pass me on the left. And now the right.  And now the left again.  There’s no point in stressing yourself out, it will only make your interview more anxiety-ridden.  Also, you won’t be on time, because no matter how quickly you change your course to pass me, I can guarantee you that I will remain one step ahead of you, despite my heavy, circuitous trajectory.

Hold on, it’s a challenge to unfold a map, give you advice, and walk at the same time. I better just walk slowly so I can concentrate. There we go, all better. Now let me have a look here.

When you arrive at your interview, simply apologize and – oh wait.

My shoelace is untied.

Just a moment, the center of the walkway seems like the most appropriate place to safely tidy things up down there. All better.

Now that I’ve so kindly offered my advice, I have a question for you.

Can you point me in the direction of the nearest station?  I’m eager to take a ride on one of those charming subway cars you have here, but I just can’t figure out this map.

– Tourist

Future Column Concept

Lady Gaga on formal wear for an office party

The Cop That’s Busting Up My Party on carpet cleaning methods

Liberace on strategies to get girls to notice me

Emily Dickinson on ways to get involved in the community

Ex-Boyfriends on strategies to better myself

The Dark Underlord of Hades on creative random acts of kindness

My Mom on ways to relax and not get anxious about the future

Martha Stewart on masculine decor for my college dorm

The Hamburglar on the Atkins diet vs. a low-cal diet

Let me know what you guys think, and please send me some questions that warrant bad advice!  I’d like to give this a swing with some questions I didn’t formulate.  Just post below, or send to

Final thoughts on 23

In just about an hour and fifteen minutes I’m going to turn 24.  It is not a particularly glamorous age-change this year – I don’t get any new privileges or rights.  However, I have to say that closing out 23 is rather poignant, as this past year has been one of particular curiosity.  So instead of talking politics or texting executives, I’m going to reflect on this past year in a very personal way.

23, you were rough.  Whenever I reach a birthday, I try to make the year seem as positive as possible, and tell myself that though there were certainly downs throughout the year, overall I came out on top.  This year, however, I am not sure I can tell myself that with a straight face.  A lot of very sad, very confusing things took place this year.  I’m wondering if this is something inherent to the age range in which I fall, so those of you out there in your early twenties, let me know if you feel similarly to however I end up describing the strange experience of turning 24.

Trustworthy sources tell me that the 20s are supposed to be confusing.  It is an adolescent period all over again – now I find myself torn between that final safety net of college and the vast, hazy, amusing and often terrifying prairie known as adulthood.  Instead of working part time at a cafe to support myself as I get an education, I’m working full time to pay off that education.  So, despite the occurrences that took place this year, the period of time between last July and this one started off in a funky wa, to say the least.

Returning from South America, I selected Columbus, Ohio as the location of my next move.  Here are the reasons I chose Ohio:

  • My sister, who I adore, and her boyfriend, who I also adore, lived there and invited me.
  • I had never lived in Ohio before.
  • It sounded kinda funny.
  • I had heard mostly bad things about Ohio, and so I wanted to investigate.
  • It was only temporary.

Fast forward 2 months in Ohio, and I’m jobless and broke, in debt to my patient sister, and so disoriented due to the lack of ocean that I lose myself as soon as I step outside of my sister’s quaint and slightly askew Ohio home.

Around this time, my beloved dog Autumn succumbed to old age.  If God exists, then I have a bone to pick about dogs’ life expectancies.  It is so cruel and unfair to have a sweet, innocent and loving animal taken away from you, particularly when you are far away.  It is one of those sadnesses that, no matter how much armor you think you have put on, will slice your heart in two.  I still miss my little Autumn almost every day, and wonder what it would be like now, to have her here, cuddled by my feet snorting like a pig while she slept.  I bet I’d feel a little better.

Sister, Luke, Autumn

As I sunk lower into depression in Ohio, realizing how difficult it would be to escape, I was slammed with a greater loss; I experienced the pain of losing a young friend for the first time.  Matt Starring, for those of you who didn’t know him, was a solid human being.  He was a role model for the human race.  Sadly he, like so many others, died too young from cancer.  Matt’s death brought me halfway across the country by bus, where I reunited with friends who were even closer to Matt and his family than I had been.  Those few days in Rhode Island were some of the most painful, but also some of the most eye opening.  I will say this – I hope that when I die, my funeral is at least half as fun as Matt’s.

The shock of losing Matt, and the rattles it sent through my closest friends, still move me on a regular basis.  His death was a first, and though I’m sure to lose more loved ones in the coming years, this loss will stick with me, I’m certain.

Kid was good at scrabble.

The days before Matt’s funeral also proved to me that I needed to get out of Ohio, which I did rather swiftly, after a lovely trip to Puerto Rico with my loving boyfriend (at the time) and my adorable and incredible parents.  Here we have the highlight of the year.  In a few short days I jumped off a cliff several times, felt the sting of a jelly fish, and skinny dipped in ocean water the color of…well…

This color.

Next I made an uncharacteristic move – I retreated.  Back to somewhere I had been before, where i sit now, a city that has merged in with my blood almost as much as the alcohol.  Once again, I neglected to remember that after you leave somewhere, the place continues to exist.  One can never truly return to a place they’ve left.

However, there are still things for me here.  A new job brings new, intelligent friends who make the somewhat diabolical work I do meaningful.  Old friends are still fantastic and sharp, and though many are moving away, they are moving to cities I am eager to visit, and which are nearby.

Furthermore, if everything goes as planned, this year I will be donating my own bone marrow to a stranger in need.  I don’t know much about her, but I do know that she has developed the same kind of cancer that took Matthew.  I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in elegant coincidences.

Life in Boston isn’t permanent, but it’s here, now.  24 begins in a half an hour.

So this has been kind of a downer of a post, but I’d prefer to think of it as a cathartic venting session on the past year of multiple fuckups.  I’m sure part of my meloncholy tone comes from the fact that I don’t get to party hardy on my birthday, thanks to the bone marrow transplant.  (More on that later.)

I do take pride in the composure I held throughout the year.   I was going to try and end this post by saying something along the lines of:  Now that 23 is over, 24 will be a bigger, better year.  But the truth is, I have no idea what’s in store for me.  That’s how I like it – I’m no tralfamadorian.

I will leave with something slightly more positive.  When I’m really low on cash (like right now) I often find solace in the fact that in a couple weeks, I won’t even remember this point when I was desperate for money.

And that, I hope, is how I can look back at 23.  The darkness of it will smear away while I remember those good things – picking up hermit crabs the size of my nose, listening to my boyfriend play jazz piano, eating a buffalo chicken sandwich with my best friend, scratching the ears of dogs that said hello as they passed me on the street…

Don’t talk to me about the World Cup

Seriously, don’t.

Once again, I took a mini-hiatus from this bloggy.  This whole writing for 8 hours straight about inane topics for my job is really taking away my desire to write blogs, or even look at electronic screens, after my work day is over.  But as the world slowly creeps onto the edge of its seats in anticipation of watching some pot smokers battle some mullets on a field in South Africa, I feel compelled to say this on behalf of all of those out there who, like me, aren’t going to watch:

Please, please, please don’t talk to me about the World Cup.  I don’t care, and I don’t want to talk about it or even listen to you talk at me about it.  Thanks.

I understand that many people are excited about this.  I get that for a lot of folks out there, this is like the Olympics, maybe even more exciting.  I see how it is a unique opportunity for nations to come together for some competition that doesn’t result in actual bloodshed.  These things are nice, but they don’t make me, personally interested.

Anyone who knows me intimately is aware that I actually harbor a dislike, rather than just an apathy for sports.  The World Cup has helped me focus on why I have this deep-seated spite.

In American culture, and it appears, in many other cultures across the globe, sports seem to hold some sort of special place in the public consciousness.   It has its own thick section in most newspapers, thousands of websites dedicated to discussion of every game imaginable, and I swear there are over 200 ESPN channels that even get their own special green color on my OnDemand.  What gives?

In my family, my father is what one might call fanatical when it comes to baseball.  It’s endearing, but it’s also borderline obsessive compulsive.  Even he understands, however, the frustration my mother and I feel when we are preparing to watch an engaging and intellectual program, such as 60 Minutes or King of the Hill, only to be interrupted by a football game going into overtime.  For some reason I don’t comprehend, more Americans would rather watch fat men in tight pants call time-outs repeatedly then learn about, oh, I don’t know, the current status of ground zero.

I’m not sure what it is, but sports have been placed on such a high pedestal that claiming to have no interest in them is often regarded with open remarks of ridicule.  Why is that acceptable?

What really bothers me, though, is when people try to force me to talk about FIFA (Which, I may point out, is a terrible title.  Federation and Association in the same acronym?  Someone call an editor.)  Allow me to give you the following anecdote:

I had just finished a rather satisfying bathroom experience, and was washing my hands, when a surprisingly well dressed crazy person started babbling about nonsense to me.  He was asking me questions, but moving on before I could comprehend what he was saying, as the insane are wont to do.

And then I realized, he wasn’t a person off his medications at all.  No, in fact, he was what appeared to be a businessman trying to talk to me about the World Cup.

Before I could even gather myself to say something back to him, probably my usual phrase, “Oh, I missed that game,” he was gone, muttering to himself that he had to catch the next inning (or whatever) of the game as he walked out.

Two words:  Unnacceptable behavior.  I am interested in a wide variety of topics, as some may gather from this blog.  However, I do not go talking to strangers in bathrooms about my mundane interests.

Imagine, for a moment, if I cornered a man after he had just passed a sizable stool and tried to force him to talk to me about the recent scientific endeavor to mix the DNA of goats and spiders to make a super strong silk-milk material.  I would be regarded as out of my mind, no?  That would be a socially inappropriate move, yes?

And yet, in our society, it is perfectly acceptable for men to talk to each other in bathrooms about other men kicking a little ball at each other.  Frankly, I don’t get it.

I was routinely “informed-against-my-will”  during the basketball world series (or whatever), and I expect to be regularly uncomfortably confronted about the World Cup this weekend, and probably for several days afterward.  So if you find yourself compelled to chat with me about the big game, I ask you to limit yourself to the following topics:

  • Vuvuzelas
  • How hot David Beckham is
  • What kind of cocktails you will be offering me for free if you are hosting a World Cup party

Anyway, there’s my monthly rant.  Maybe not my most informative post, but hopefully there are others who sympathize with me.  And if you have a reason why you think sports should be held in such high esteem, please, enlighten me!

I’ll be back with something more…substantial…soon.  I hope.


Look at that, one day after I said I wasn’t going to be blogging as much I feel like posting a blog.  Maybe I just needed to get back into my groove-thang.

Usually I give a little background on the person who sent me a post-worthy text, but I think we are all a little too familiar with BP and his shennanigans regarding a teeny-tiny oil spill.   Just look at this text.

BPizzle:  FML

LIAM:  What now?

BPizzle:  Fucking saw got stuck in the pipe.

LIAM:  😦  Wasn’t it dipped in diamondz?

BPizzle:  Yeah.  I had my own African-child-slaves mine the diamonds too.  😦

LIAM:  You suck.

BPizzle:  Don’t blame me.

LIAM:  Why not??  Itz ur fault.

BPizzle:  Blame Americanz who need oil to run their cars.

LIAM:  Omg, srsly?  I ride a bike.

BPizzle: LOL.  Faggot.

LIAM:  Corporate Satan.

BPizzle:  More like Corporate Santa.  BA-ZING.

LIAM:  No…pretty sure you’re more like Satan.

BPizzle:  Corporate Satin?

LIAM:  How do you figure?

BPizzle:  Have u ever touched an endangered bird covered in oil?  So soft…like satin.


BPizzle:  }:-)

LIAM:  So how are you gonna fix this mess?

BPizzle:  Um…no idea.  Figure the oil will stop on its own eventually.

LIAM:  but…


The Invisible Blogger

Hey all.  I am entering this blog post with my head hung low.  It has been ages since I posted, and my life has changed dramatically.

I have made what can only be called a triumphant return to Boston, and have settled into an interesting (to say the least) and busy job, and a lovely and strange apartment.

On paper, I am a “news and content writer”, which is nice.  However, what this means is that I show up at an office and begin writing at 9am, and typically don’t stop until 4pm  when it’s time to edit and post news articles on a variety of topics.  For instance, today I wrote about credit card reform, how to decorate your home for a party, what Brangelina did for their Memorial Day, and about a new restaurant in Harrisburg, PA.   Wild.

This typically means that during my free hours, the last thing I want to do is sit down and blog.  But I’m working on it.  Actually, I have to say, this feels pretty good right now.

So hopefully as this job progresses and I get more into the groove of things, I’ll be able to post more.  Until then, enjoy my best friend’s incredible blog that is, in an almost ethereal way, coming out of slumber just as mine is beginning to take a bit of a break.

It’s right here, waiting for you.

This is not goodbye, Arnie.  It’s just a reminder that I am still here, and hope to return to a regular schedule of blogging.  Maybe one short blog a week and a one longer blog a month?  Though I may be being am-bitch-ous with that estimate.  We’ll see.

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled.  I hope to be back here with more words soon!

Winning The Great Obama Scavenger Hunt

Only to fail to see Obama.

I’m still confused as to exactly why Obama chose Portland, Maine of all places as the final stop on his tour-du-making-healthcare-sound-awesome, but it couldn’t have been better timing.  Obama came into Portland exactly 1 week after my exodus out of Ohio.  His trip was a surprise to almost the entire state (which isn’t saying much), and it was announced that you could get free tickets only 48 hours before he arrived.  This meant that you had to wait outside in the rain; some people started waiting at midnight the night before.  For Liam, this meant that I wouldn’t get to see Obama.  It wasn’t worth it.  But then, my mom saw this advertisement on craigslist at 4:00pm the day before Obama was to speak:


I burst out of my room, and my mom started microwaving a piece of bacon.  We had toothpicks, and I had some Argentinian pesos in my bag left there from my recent trip.  Mom snapped a pic of herself on her cell phone (since mine has no camera), and I grabbed Fiskadoro, a good book I was willing to give up.  I conjured up my favorite funny joke, which you’ll have to send an email to me to hear.  (A good way to get my email address is to subscribe to my blog, above and to the right.)  Unfortunately, I hate sports, and therefore didn’t even know that The Raiders were a team.  Fortunately, my neighbors are big sports fans, and happened to have an Oakland Raiders Christmas Ornament that they lent me.  Then I wrote the following haiku:

A Scavenger Hunt

Hard for a Football Hater

Good Thing I Write Poems

Then we were off.  We raced to Gritty McDuff’s, a pretty typical (and therefore pretty sweet) Portland bar.  I got there and asked the bartender if anyone had come in asking about a scavenger hunt.  She said no, but that she witnessed that I was first.  Then I sat at the bar, had a beer, and proceeded to call several people and talk loudly on my cell phone about what I was doing.  Little did I know, the orchestrator of the hunt was sitting right behind me.  At exactly 5:00pm I turn around to see him waving a ticket at me.  He’s with 3 friends, all of whom are smiling and invited me over.  I brought a shot of tequila, told my joke, and sat down to finish my beer with them.

The guy told me that he got the extra ticket to give to a friend, who subsequently couldn’t go.  His first idea was to give the ticket to the last guy in line, but apparently that guy was a total dick, so he decided to do something more fun.  He said he came up with the list quickly, off the top of his head, which explains the randomness of it.  Obviously, the guy and his friends were pretty cool, and I wish I could have stayed longer to get to know them better.  But my mom was idling outside, and I hat my ticket in my hot little hand.  I was going to go see Obama!

Or so I thought.

The next day, I rode my bike to the Portland Expo like a good socialist democrat global citizen.  The line to see Obama was ENORMOUS, stretching around several blocks.  I walked to the end of the line, and waited excitedly while reading a book.  The people around me were jovial and varied widely in age (though not in race, this was Maine after all).  People were peaceful and quiet, and chatted anxiously about the impending speech.  Rumors in the form of tweets were flying around about whether or not they were going to be able to fit everyone in the Expo.  The line was moving at the speed of smell, and there was some belief that they had overbooked the place.  There were 4,500 tickets sold.

Still, I held up faith.  A girl in front of me was tweeting at the rate of 8,000 tweets a second, and was constantly updating us that things were getting fuller inside the Expo.  Finally, after 2 hours of waiting, when I was about 200 feet from the door of the Expo, the line came to a halt.  Soon we heard cheering from the crowd in front of us, and that’s when I knew it was too late.  In minutes people were getting texts and tweets that Obama was on stage, speaking, and that no one else was getting in.  FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!

But I don’t get upset for long, as a rule.  So I calmly walked away, thankful that it was such a nice day, and only slightly irked that no one had the gall to come out and tell the approximately 1300 people still in line that they weren’t getting in.  (Ok, I’m still a little upset).  But I made the best of it, and decided to go take a stroll through the protesters that were standing across the street.

They were a strange menagerie.  The unfortunate thing about being a protestor, no matter how sane and logical you are, is that there will inevitably be some total wackos corralled into the same space as you.  So even next to the people who were legitimately only upset about their taxes, there were some signs proclaiming that 9/11 was a hoax, and some other nutties screaming into a microphone about Jesus coming back.

The crowd was creative.  There was a man playing a banjo and singing songs about “the Obama-nation”, which is a witty play on words that I’ve heard of many times before.  There were old ladies dressed completely in American Flag print with signs that had Tea-Bags attached to them.  There was one sign that I found intriguing that said “End Warfare Before Healthcare”.  Talk about a non-conformist.  Then there were the signs that made a little less sense.  One said “Obama Youre a Lier”.  For shame.  Another said “HEY DEMS!  THERE IS NO TOOTH FAIRY”, which I found shocking.  No Tooth Fairy?  Malarky.

I decided I was going to work up the courage and speak to a Tea Party activist, to see if I could get any more information from them.  I scanned the crowd for the person that was most clearly (loudly) linking themselves to the movement.  And then I saw her.  A 3-cornered hat, a frilly shirt, a velvet blue jacket, pantaloons, tights, buckle shoes and a chunky cellphone in an exterior leather case clipped to her belt.  Was I seeing a tour guide on the Freedom Trail?  Alas, no, it was a Tea Partier.

Along These Lines

I have to admit, I stalked her for a little while before I had the courage to talk to her.  She was intimidating, because she so clearly was differently-minded from myself.  I wanted to calm myself, and get to a place where I could ask her objective, non-accusatory questions.  It took a while to reduce my pre-judgement, but finally I was able to say, “Excuse me, can I ask you a few questions?”

The woman had on large sunglasses, so it was hard to tell if she was looking at me.  That, and she also kept turning away from me even when she was in mid-sentence.  I tried hard to be objective and understanding, but she made it hard.  I forgot to bring my tape recorder, so I have tried to recreate the conversation here:

Me:  Can I ask you a few questions.

Her:  Uh…sure.

Me:  Are you a member of the Tea Party movement?

Her:  Uh…yes.

Me:  Can I ask you what that means to you?

Her:  The constitution.

Me:  The constitution?

Her:  Yep.

Me:  What about the constitution?  Can you elaborate?

Her:  Uh…upholding the constitution.

At this point a rather surly older woman turned around and spoke to me angrily.

Surly Woman:  We want ALL the socialists out of office NOW.

First Woman:  Yeah!

Me:  Who do you view are these socialists?

First Woman:  Uh…Barack Obama.  Nancy Pelosi.

Me:  Thank you.

I would have stayed longer but I felt as thought my brain might fall out of my rectum.  I want so badly to hear someone articulate clearly and concisely what the Tea Party movement is all about.  Anyone out there have someone who might be able to explain it to me more clearly?  I would love to conduct a serious, open-minded interview.