i am a media junkie. i read a lot of books and comics, watch a lot of tv and movies, and listen to a lot, a lot, a lot of music. usually, it's the same song, book, tv show, or movie over and over and over again. i feel like this site would be incomplete if i didn't include an enormous list of all my favorite things. so, this page is about that.

books i like

THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle

i saw the movie, the Last Unicorn, when i was little. i only saw it once but it cemented itself in my mind as one of my favorite movies. as i grew up, i would channel surf thinking that maybe it would come on as a sunday afternoon movie. one day, i found the book on my parents' bookshelf.

for the longest time, it was the single best book that i had read. it was the only book, aside from comics, that i had read cover to cover more than once. it's a fairy tale story about a unicorn who leaves her home in search of other unicorns. during her quest, she is turned into a woman and falls in love with a prince and she forgets that she is a unicorn at all. it sounds simple but, every time i read it, it gets better. every time i read it, something in that book applies to whatever is going on in my life. i memorized the passage that has meant the most to me over the years. it's about a wizard who uses magic for the first time and it sums up in one sentence how falling in love feels to me: i never knew i was so empty to be so full.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger
this is my new favorite book. it's a gut-wrenching romance about a woman whose husband travels epileptically through time.
THE LIFE OF GOD AS TOLD BY HIMSELF by Franco Ferrucci
if you forgive some minor chauvinism, this is a masterfully crafted novel about the birth, youth, adolescence, and adulthood of God. the story includes thought provoking subplots about moses, jesus, buddha, einstein, and other extraordinary beings (including trees and fish and a guy who remembers everything). but the narration is ferrucci's greatest achievement. "God" is convincing because he speaks in such a fluid and articulate vernacular. if He did speak to us with words, i felt certain that He would do it with similar scope and clarity.
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon
this pulitzer prize winning novel tells the life stories of two cousins who take the golden age of comic books by storm. i wrote the author when i was just a few chapters into it and, surprisingly, he wrote me back. we carried on a brief ecorrespondence throughout my reading. the book alone was an adventure -about superheroes, escape artists, nazi germany, the hebrew gollum, antartica, magic, and death defying stunts- but michael chabon deserves a special mention for being so personable.
IT'S SUPERMAN! by Tom DeHaven
when i finished reading kavalier and clay, i was eager for a similar experience. it took me four years to find it's superman! simply put, the novel re-imagines the superman story. also, it is beautifully written and deeply thoughtful.
EDWIN MULLHOUSE by Steven Millhauser
this book is a fictional biography about a supposed elementary school genius who dies when he is ten years old. it is darkly comedic but gets progressively spooky as the boy's biographer and best friend is revealed as the true mastermind.
HAPPY ALL THE TIME by Laurie Colwin
i can't think of many good books that pull off a happy ending without being sappy. this one does. it is a four-person love story that just gets better and better without being syrupy. i don't understand it.
CHICKEN SOUP, BOOTS by Maira Kalman
this is a bee-yoo-tifully designed children's book about careers. it is silly and clever and, as much kids might like it, i believe that it was created for adults. the author herself, when i met her in los angeles, said that she doesn't care what children think about her books!
A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
i was looking for a new book one day and a friend asked if she could help. "what kind of books do you like?" she asked. i like generational stories, i answered, that have kids in them and some elements of the supernatural without being science fictional or dungeons-and-dragony. "owen meany!" she exclaimed. briefly put, it's about a teensy kid who has unusual foresight and an absolute faith that he was born for a special purpose.
A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlen
my favorite book from high school tells the story of an american baby raised by martians, discovered by astronauts, and returned to earth. the super-powered protagonist offers a critical but compassionate view of the world. years after i read it, i was still sharing his ideas at parties and family dinners.

comics i like

CAGES by Dave McKean

this is my favorite comic book. the twilight zone story (about a writer, an artist, and a musician who share an apartment in london) is good but the art is fantastic. find the book somewhere to see how expertly dave mckean moves between line drawings, paintings, sculpture, and photography.
THB by Paul Pope
THB is a super-bouncy rubber ball that, when moistened, turns into an oversized superheroic robot. his sole purpose is to protect H.R. Watson, a teenage girl who lives on a far future Mars and gets into tons of trouble. the clever design, the dynamic drawing, and the fun, fun, fun writing are what make this my favorite of all ongoing comic book series.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr.
i always loved john romita, jr. but, before j. michael straczynski took over the comic, the title should have been The Adequate Spider-Man. previous writers seemed almost bored with the series. peter parker would actually complain about how boring his life was while beating up the same super-villains over and over again. straczynski took the series into an entirely new direction. in his stories, the supporting characters aren't dumbed down. aunt may discovers her nephew in his spider-man costume. mary jane moves to hollywood to pursue her own life. peter follows her. the new villains are actually scary, really scary. and john romita, jr. is still there to illustrate them beautifully. i never miss an issue.
THE NEW X-MEN by Grant Morrison
when i first picked up this recreation of the x-men, i was offended by the changes. the characters were revamped in, what seemed to me, a blatant appeal to fans of the matrix movies. when i actually read the comics though, i was blown away. the characters are visceral and believable now. the plots are unpredictable and wildly entertaining. i am happy to admit that my first impression was wrong.
BLANKETS by Craig Thompson
this is an extremely thick and extremely gorgeous comic about craig thompson's first love, a short lived but deeply felt romance with a girl that he met at church camp.
EARTH X by Alex Ross and friends
this is the best of the best of superhero comics. this collection, set in the near future, ties up all the loose ends for anyone who ever loved the marvel universe. the conclusion is extremely satisying. plus, every panel is beautifully illustrated in an inky technique similar to chinese brush drawings.
DRAWN & QUARTERLY by Chris Oliveros and friends
this is an annual anthology of comic book stories. it is different every year but, in my mind, it consistently represents the literature and heritage of independent comics.
BONE by Jeff Smith
someone described this series to me as lord of the rings meets the smurfs. that's accurate but it forgets to mention how addictive the comic is. something about the artwork and the characters make it impossible to put down. plus, there are moments of actual terror. something gargamel could never conjure.
ONE PLUS ONE by Daniel Krall and Neil Schaffer
one plus one fizzles out in the final issue but the drawings are fantastic throughout. and i'm not just saying that because the illustrator is one of my best friends. i was harshly critical of his artwork before it got so great.
STAR WARS TALES
this anthology by dark horse gives independent comic book artists free reign to abuse the star wars universe as much as they see fit. some of the better stories include a duel between darth vader and darth maul and a star wars parady of the iron chef.
ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY by Chris Ware
do i even need to describe these books? anyone who happens onto my site probably owns one of them already (Jimmy Corrigan anyone?) or at least has some abiding respect for chris ware. he is a meticulous and elegant designer and his comics pay tribute to everything from comic book advertising to the sad humor of the Peanuts strip. of all the artists on this list, i vote chris ware as president of comic book artists.
songs i like

i met a man on the train once who was thrilled that my name was rama. he spoke to me as though i were the actual rama from the ramayana he asked me all sorts of questions and, before he got off the train, he said "i can only think of one wish for you, rama. i wish that you are so happy that you sing." i was touched by that. also, i thought it was funny because i sing all the time.

some people like it and some people don't. one of my friends gave me a drawing of a record player once. above it and below it, she wrote "who needs a record player. we have rama."

my favorite song of all time is Free Falling by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. it's my only favorite that i don't own. one of my friends taped it for me but i "lost" that tape right away. i don't want to hear the song so much that it loses its power over me. i have a lot of favorite songs though.

every year, my friends and i do a music exchange. we collect our favorite music of the year, make a mix from it, design a jacket, and send them back and forth. here is my track list for the year:

  1. Wake Up by Arcade Fire
  2. Single Ladies by Beyonce
  3. If You Want to Sing Out by Cat "Yousef" Stevens
  4. Bruises by Chairlift
  5. It's Alright by Dar Williams
  6. More Where That Came From by Dolly Parton
  7. The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A. by Donna Fargo
  8. Solar Flare by Glen Phillips
  9. There's Hope by India Arie
  10. Inside of You by Infant Sorrow
  11. You and I by Ingrid Michaelson
  12. I'm On Fire by Kate Tucker
  13. A Whale of a Tale by Kirk Douglas
  14. Here Comes The Sun Again by M. Ward
  15. Kids by MGMT
  16. Grace Kelly by MIKA
  17. Down to Earth by Peter Gabriel
  18. Straighten Up and Fly Right by Robbie Williams
  19. Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year by Rosie Thomas
  20. Ordinary Miracle by Sarah McLachlan
  21. Gimme Some Money by Spinal Tap
  22. Sentimental Heart by She & Him
if you'd like to burn you're own copy of this mix, visit iTunes. if you email me your mailing address, i will even send you my cover for the cd.

movies i like

SPIRITED AWAY

i didn't know what this movie was about when i went to see it. miyazaki, the director, described it as a tribute to precocious children. it was more than that of course. it was a ticket to another world. and an absolute inspiration.

THE NEW WORLD

terrance malick's newest film works as a biography of pocahontas, a historical diatribe, and a poem that will break your heart if you have one. i saw it several times. my friends and family talked about it for weeks. i wanted to draw the entire film.

AMERICAN BEAUTY

i feel like i created this movie. it says exactly what i always feel: despite all suffering, life is beautiful, the universe is good, and there is no reason, truly, to be afraid.

GROUNDHOG DAY

groundhog day reminds me always of existential philosphy. it beautifully explores existentialism's basic question: "in a potentially meaningless world, who should i be?"

LOST IN TRANSLATION

another bill murray masterpiece! i doubt anyone reading this hasn't at least heard of this movie already. it illustrates perfectly my heartfelt belief that even very brief relationships can have a deep and meaningful impact on our lives. plus, it rejuvenated my interest in karaoke.

DEAD MAN

death is a great companion in my life. it's always on my back reminding me to live my life well. this movie reminds me of that. plus, it is gorgeous. plus, my best friend and i have choice pieces of dialogue memorized.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

empire strikes back is the hamlet of science fiction. the ghost of luke skywalker's beloved mentor returns from the dead to guide luke toward the vengence of his murdered father. and, in a twist typical of classic greek tragedy or shakespeare himself, we discover that the murderer is luke's own father, twisted and disguised.

REVENGE OF THE SITH

star wars III might be my favorite episode. i will know for sure in a year or so but, until then, i'll be watching it over and over and over again.

THE TRUMAN SHOW

my true affection for this movie is sentimental. seeing the movie for the first time was the high point of a beautiful day. it was a great movie nonetheless. it meant something different to everyone i saw it with. we talked about it for hours and weeks afterwards.

THE GAME

when i was having difficulty learning aikido, one of my senseis reminded me that our learning curves are highest when we're confused. he was talking specifically about aikido but what he said is true, i think. we grow the most when we are forced to confront things that we don't understand.

PLEASANTVILLE

i am enamored with the christian story of creation and the fall of mankind. i enjoy most any interpretation of it. if you like this movie, you might also like mark twain's retelling of the bible. it reads like a guiltlessly romantic starcrossed love story.

THE LAST UNICORN

the movie is like cliffnotes for the book but i always liked cliffnotes. so, what does that mean? it means it's shorter but still good.

THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN

i forced a lot of my friends to watch this movie one day. some of them left the theatre. some of them fell asleep. only my sister endured. on our drive home, she asked me to explain to them what i think about when i watch this movie. "it's about how people define themselves by the relationships the build with others," i said. i went on and on with examples and imagined footnotes. when i was done, they mostly agreed that those were interesting ideas but they didn't like the movie. i still like the movie though.

THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES

this is a cartoon i saw on PBS once. i don't know if it counts as a movie but it touched me so much. it portrays the life of a single man who devoted his entire life to planting trees. the narrator describes the man as "one of god's athletes," emphasizing the creative potential of humanity. it is drawn wonderfully. the memory of it made me cry later that afternoon.

X2: X-MEN UNITED

i could lie and tell you that i liked this movie because of the social issues that it tackles but the truth is that i am a comic book nerd. i love the x-men. the movie is infinitely rewatchable and it has a lot of sentimental value because my girlfriend and i saw it on our first date.

poems i like

i read a lot of poems too. i collected them here until there were too many to fit on one page. i made a brand new page jam packed with my favorite poetry. it was one of my favorite pages on my website until i realized that the majority of the poems were all written by one man, billy collins, the king of english. he's my favorite poet. rather than robbing him of his livelihood by transcribing everything he writes into the ever expanding rama p. hughes poetry anthology, i think i'd do better by him if i just sent you to his homepage. enjoy it and this last poem i'll swipe from him:

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

if that's not enough poetry for you, you can read mine. click the haiku button up there... but don't compare me to billy collins... DON'T!

© 2006 rama hughes