When I was in eighth grade, longing for the endless stretch of summer ahead, my school implemented a summer reading list. My care-free sun-drenched days of beaches, biking and comic-book reading were marred by the over-hanging threat of reading three books like an anvil over my head. Everything became less enjoyable.
Of course, part of the problem was that most of us were too young to understand the subtleties of Scarlet Letter, or too old to really care about the Yearling. The other part of the problem was just that we all had to scramble for the Cliff’s Notes the week before classes started, or hope that our beloved dead-deer movie would show again on TNT.
Luckily college loads enough books on you during the semester that they don’t expect you to read much over the break. You’re free to pursue your E! Internship; your travels in Europe; return to the family life, harboring secret hopes of meeting Steve Kemetco; pleasures in Amsterdam; and not having to do your own laundry for a few months. But here’s some suggested pieces of entertainment nonetheless, whatever you may be doing this summer. No family pet gets killed in any of them, and there’s very little persecuted adultery in these films, books, and websites I’ve grown to love. Clip this article and put a check next to it as you complete the assignment!
n Everything Bond. If you’ve just joined the series, go back and watch the best of the Bonds – Sean Connery, save the world with real style and cruel, irresistible good looks. And before the next movie comes along, catch the Gamecube game or pick up one of the many soundtrack compilations with theme songs from everyone from Shirley Bassey to Wings. Sure, Bond’s a little misogynistic, but he’s bad-ass, and he’s got Judi Dench on his side.
n Attack of the French Films. Perhaps after watching Amelie your appetite for French films has been whet? Or perhaps after Amelie you think all French films are sickeningly cute and don’t want to see another one again? Either way, here are some movies for the believer and non-believer alike. The Vanishing is one of the scariest movies you will ever see. There is also a small plot point about a golden egg that I haven’t figured out, but you won’t need to get it either. Belle du Jour is a hilarious look at an unsatisfied housewife with a gorgeous street criminal to boot. La Lectrice, available on VHS, shows the literary value of cinema, quoting everything from poetry to Marx in the heroine’s readings, while still scandalizing with school-boy seduction, prostitution and adultery. A good enough reason not to throw out your VCR just yet.
n Spit On Your Grave. Forget Moulin Rouge. Sure, the singing, dancing, and visuals are a spectacular spectacular, but strip it all away and the plot is paper thin, a gendered role-reversal of Titanic. Poor idealist falls in love with unattainable beauty, short-lived affair, forever-cherished romance emotionally-heightened by killing off a heroine. Why not enjoy something a little more trashy, a lot less glossy, and one in which the abused female gets some comeuppance? Spit On Your Grave is for you! A Bust magazine recommendation, it follows the exploits of a woman, who, after being raped, finds her four assailants and kills them one by one. Not exactly Take Back the Night, but a challenging, perhaps inadvertently feminist film nonetheless.
n Bollywood. You need this. It might not be a first date activity, but you need to rent some of these movies from India, make or order in some spicy chicken curry dish and make a night of it.
n Kylie Minogue’s Fever. This album was made for you. Kylie shows that Britney has nothing on pop, giving you a soundtrack to work out to, blare at home and dance to at the clubs. You will love her, so just get over that elite-music critic part of yourself and buy it.
n RuPaul.com. There are a few problems with most personal websites. Even with the advent of journal-design aides like blogger, there’s still a certain element of people just throwing up pictures of their kittens or disguising personal ads as meaningful content. And when people actually have something interesting to say, they usually don’t. Leave it to RuPaul to be the one to have the balls to tell everything like it is. Her weblog details her life amid normal people as well as the famous. Honest and funny, her latest entries find her visiting a party filled with porn stars, meeting Bon Jovi and recommending recent favorite movies.
Other things to enjoy this summer: grass underneath bare feet, mangoes and vanilla ice cream, naked-eye astronomy, shell-collecting and getting the smell of campfire on your clothes.
– Japiya Burns can be reached at email@example.com.