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Things We Like: Hospital Food, Cold Frankie and a Well-Read Rat

19 December 2009 Things We Like 4,100 views No CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

Every Saturday, the editorial staff of Monkey Goggles and its friends rummages though bookshelves, toy boxes, DVDs, music collections and stacks of assorted stuff to pick out a few choice items that will make your life better.

Scarecrow Video’s Movie of the Week: “Ski Party” (1965), directed by Alan Rafkin

Dwayne Hickman replaces Annette Funicello as Frankie Avalon’s sidekick in one of the last “beach party” movies — albeit in an alpine setting. Avalon and Hickman play two sexually-frustrated college roommates who’ll do just about anything to get laid. Before you know it, the guys resort to cross-dressing in order to get closer to two hot snow bunnies, thus providing the missing link between “Some Like It Hot” and “Hot Dog: The Movie.” Don’t worry about the snowbound setting, because there are still plenty of young folks twisting and gyrating in bikinis, shorts and miniskirts. Annette shows up in a cameo as a horny sex-ed instructor, Yvonne “Batgirl” Craig plays Frankie’s love interest and Leslie Gore sings “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” on the ski bus.

While some of the gags are pretty stale, “Ski Party” is elevated from its ocean-bound kin by the appearance of James Brown and the Famous Flames (performing “I Feel Good” in cozy, matching ski sweaters) and a running gag with a yodeling polar bear. The end credits promise a sequel called “Cruise Party” that never happened. On DVD, “Ski Party” is paired with the more traditional “Muscle Beach Party.” – Spenser Hoyt

Elliott Bay Book Company’s Suggested Reading: “Firmin” by Sam Savage

Sam Savage published his debut novel with the nonprofit Coffee House Press in 2006, and a look at the author photo will tell you that he waited until he was good and ready. Savage holds a PhD in Philosophy from Yale and, according to his bio, has worked at various occupations such as bicycle repairman, commercial fisherman, and carpenter. He is my kind of writer.

Reading Firmin it would seem also that he spent some time in the stacks of a moldering old bookstore as well. The novel follows the life of a rat born and raised in a Boston bookshop. He is literally and figuratively raised on the classics; he nests in and feeds on scraps from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, and when he later learns to read he regrets the destructive disrespect shown that lofty volume. Firmin also learns a great deal from observing the ins and outs of the daily traffic through the shop, the dealings both shady and innocent. Mixed with his frequent trips to a neighborhood cinema where he watches classics in the day and porn at night, he is able to piece together an understanding of human nature in all of its gutter-to-stars duality.

I sometimes have a hard time with books narrated by animals, but Savage uses his bookstore rat to powerful effect. Firmin has read every important piece of literature and thus gained the subsequent crushing weight of human knowledge. But he has also gained an inescapable sense of self-awareness, and so exists as a startling dichotomy, one able to ponder the ephemeral while still made to scrounge for stale popcorn. And the poor rat has to endure more than his share of indignity; he is beaten, poisoned, locked in; the brick and stone of his historic neighborhood is being hauled away to make room for condominiums. The bookstore closes, the theater closes, everything material is hauled away and he is left a pure kernel of thought. As unlikely as it seems from the concept, Firmin is truly a thing of beauty. – Christopher Sabatini

Riva, Latvia’s Hospitalis

I’ve never felt a burning need to visit Latvia, but I must admit that I’ve been recently tempted to check out the city of Riva, where a restaurant has successfully breached the barriers between fine cuisine, cute girls in miniskirts and Picasso’s “Guernica.” Hospitalis serves an elaborate spread of international cuisine in an “extraordinary pseudo-hospital atmosphere.” The food is adorned with (hopefully) fake ears, tongues and fingers, and is rolled out on gurneys by waitresses dressed as nurses.

Conceived by a cheerfully morbid gaggle of doctors, artists and chefs, Hospitalis stands ready to confound every restaurant critic on this planet, even the ones who TiVo “House MD” because they think Hugh Laurie is dreamy. The menu on Hospitalis’ website looks appetizing enough, including such tempting dishes as potato-filled tortellini, sweet-and-sour pork won ton soup, and sirloin steak with a caramelized onion and bordeaux sauce – but the kitchen does its level best to make every plate look as if it was ladled out of a potential malpractice suit. News.com.au has a photo gallery that I strongly suggest you check out a couple of hours after lunch.

Here’s another piece of advice: When you check out the “about us” page on the Hospitalis site, imagine it read aloud by Natasha Fatale from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” It may keep you from fainting away in mid-sentence. – Geoff Carter


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