23 June 2016

Marginalia

And now I’m fully in the swing of things, having gone so far as to fill out my Google Calendar with potential events. You know, things you think you’ll do but then pull out at the last minute? Like this Romy and Michele's Saturday Afternoon Tea Dance that I really want to go to — just look at those playlists! — but I know there’s slim chances of me making an afternoon dance party. Still, dare to dream.

As I’ve already covered my NBA Finals exploits, the other things of note I wanted to highlight was Eclipse, a play I saw on Wednesday. Actually I’ll just quote myself (how gauche!), from the fourth issue of Cool It Now: "Let's be real, you're never going to get Hamilton tickets. So what's the next best thing? How about the first all-black, all female creative cast and team to premiere on Broadway? Eclipse is a play about four captive wives during the Second Liberian Civil War....the whole play was amazing, and Eclipsed will likely make the rounds, even if it's leaving Broadway soon. Just keep the play's name on your cultural radar!”

So that was Wednesday, and then on Thursday I hopped to AAWW again for a reading featuring Esme Wang, a writer I’ve been following online for awhile. Wang’s work is emotional, confessional, and often has a focus on creating while struggling with mental disorders, specifically schizophrenia. Her new book, The Border of Paradise, is partially set in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and I can’t wait to read it.

Also, during the reading, a new writer I was introduced to, Wei Tchou, shared with us her Tiny Letter about Wendi Deng, aka "the world's most perfect woman.” Sign up with me and stay up-to-date on the former Mrs. Murdoch!
And last Saturday I went to a local B&N for Dhonielle and Sona’s book panel, as part of B&N’s inaugural YA book fest. (And in a month is their debut party for Shiny Broken Pieces, the follow up to Tiny Pretty Things). Afterwards we trekked, well Ubered, to Shanghai Cafe for some Chinese food. And after hanging out at yet another great NYC secret bar — Genuine Liquorette, which served wonderful music —we cleaned up with more Chinese food at Congee Village. Verdict: Chinatown Chinese food is greasy! But we knew that. Sigh, I guess you can't have Taiwan back again... Unless you go to Flushing! Please someone take me to Flushing?

Exactly a week later I found myself at Parkside Lounge, waiting for my friend’s DJ to spin. It was a long wait, as he didn’t come on until 2AM or so, and in the meantime I just sat on the sidelines, not moving. It got to the point where my friends were worried I was sick or something. “Nope, nope, just old!” I wasn’t feeling the middle set and had to conserve energy for the old school hip hop that was sure to come. And when it finally did, we got in a good hour or so of fun and finally I got some good proper dancing in.

Maybe this will portend more summer dancing, otherwise I’m not sure what I’m even doing with my (night life) here. Note: The usual crowd at Parkside is not one we like, but the once a month party is old school hip hop and had some amazing throwback jams.

Oh, popped by the Brooklyn Makers Market on Sunday, and bought a handy pouch with an egg on it, but otherwise passed on all the jewelry and various other tchotchkes. One guy was selling pens shaped like disembodied eye stems and eyeballs. No thank you!

20 June 2016

Finally, and Good Riddance

What were you doing when LeBron re-ascended the throne? I was surrounded by like twenty TVs in a previously raucous Golden State bar. Oh how the Cleveland fans emerged from their silent bubble after Kyrie hit the game clinching three over Steph. Fifty-two years between championships is basically a lifetime, so I guess I’m happy for Believeland.

Up until GM7, I was cheering for the Warriors, but after a piss poor GM6, I switched allegiances and wanted LeBron to win. Mainly to just get him out of the headlines, and have this “Cleveland hasn’t won…” storyline out of the way. Make no mistake, I have no love for the Cavaliers. I mean, I hate/fear LeBron, wasn’t sold on Kyrie as a star, pray every day the Celtics don’t trade for Kevin Love, and basically have cheered against the Cavs for years. But if it takes LeBron making the greatest comeback in Finals history to get him out of my life, so be it. Congrats King!

Trying to watch big sports games in New York is always an exercise in scrambling. Most people don’t have big enough apartments, or a large TV, to invite people over. And since I hate sports bars, my ideal setup is just to have a handful of people in a quiet space. For example, I watched GM5 at my friend’s hotel lounge down in Tribeca. It was just three of us, with the occasional stop in from some of the staff. The television was large and the room was quiet, it was glorious.

Here’s where I watched all the games for the 2016 NBA Finals.

  • GM1: Landed into JFK airport, flipped on League Pass, and watched the Warriors dismantle the Cavs from the back of a cab. Then turned it off to get Korean chicken wings in the East Village.
  • GM2: Went to a friend of a friend’s apartment in Flatiron after watching The Nice Guys, and ate pizza and Italian food for a home style viewing experience.
  • GM3: After going to last week’s AAWW thing, I watched the first half at a Five Guys on my phone and then went to meet my friend cross town. She was watching it with a bunch of her younger co-workers, who were streaming off an illegal Reddit stream. Also, there were bongs.
  • GM4: Trekked out to Long Island City for my friend’s combo pizza and watch party. Cleveland lost and we thought the series was basically over. No surprise: Pizza parties are the best!
  • GM5: The aforementioned hotel lounge. So quiet we could’ve taken a nap. Ate McDonald's cookies to power up for the second half. Both us and the Warriors petered out by the end.
  • GM6: A Cleveland blow out as I sat around at a Times Square area bar, trying to squint across the room at the televisions. USA was playing Ecuador too, and half the bar was split between basketball and soccer. Not ideal.
  • GM7: Reserved a table for eight at Campeon in Union Square. There are almost TVs on every square inch of the walls. The place was packed, the volume turned up high, and DJs spun during commercial breaks. It was like we were at the game. For a big sports event, this was the perfect viewing experience. High recommend.
So yeah, that’s how you gotta scramble around if you’re devoid of a regular spot to watch, and also don’t like to be around rowdy drunk people. At first I was thinking how this long ass series was ruining my New York social life, but upon consideration, the games did provide a good reason to gather random groups of people together and hang out. Now I guess we'll have to just focus on Game of Thrones... Until that ends too.


This coming Thursday I’m attending the NBA Draft at Barclays Center. While tickets seem overpriced for something that would be far better to watch on TV, this is rare opportunity. The Celtics have the #3 overall pick, plus two more first-rounders and four second-rounders. We’ll be in the action all night! Plus, for a mere $50, who knows when I’ll get a chance to go to a NBA draft again?

For the record, assuming Danny Ainge doesn’t trade away our top pick, I hope he swings for the fences and drafts Dragan Bender. Boom or bust baby, boom or bust! And if Ainge somehow trades that #3 pick for Jahlil Okafor I'm gonna cry.

09 June 2016

The Town

Here we are, one week into New York, aka another summer! My first take upon arriving last Thursday was that it’s a cesspool here, as I biked down toward the East Village on 1st Avenue. But I tried to remember that’s who I always feel when I get here — especially post-Taiwan and having such clean subways and stuff. With New York, you take the good with the bad and a few whiffs of garbage and drunks wasn’t going to diminish its greatness. As a Lucky Peach article comparing SF versus NY food stated, "People move to New York to be plugged into the pulsebeat of the world.” I needed to feel the pulse.

After a weekend of co-ed bachelor party stuff, mainly consisting of a burlesque show at Duane Park, I was ready to dive into some of New York’s cultural offerings. Oh, this time around, I’m subletting a room in Stuy Town, which is located between 1st Ave and Avenue C. Stuy Town is a private residential village, six blocks high by three avenues deep, and filled with massive brown buildings where nice Manhattanites are silo-ed in. It’s a bit far from most of the subway stops but my summer plans are to just Citibike everywhere so no matter. (While I probably wouldn’t live here full time, my sublet is only for two months so I figured I would want to be in the city at least.)

If there’s any restorative for my joy in the city, it’s biking up and down the streets at night. 2nd Avenue bike lane, you're the best!

On Tuesday night, I went to my friend’s open salon at his School for Poetic Computation. Brandon, who’s actually my classmate from Taiwan, has also moved here from overseas concurrently with me, and is engaged in this ten week course. (The school's motto: "More poems less demos.”)

The salon featured a variety of artists, coders, video game makers, and other speakers who were sharing their works. It was a packed room and it made me think of how just about any niche interest in New York can bring in a crowd. That’s the beauty. Plus the crowd was quite diverse, filled with minorities and women, which was a pleasant surprise.
And then last night I went to a reading at AAWW, after biking up to the Flatiron and picking up dumplings and boba on the way. Hua Hsu, of Grantland and The Atlantic among many others, was introducing his new book, and the co-guests were stellar. Jon Caramanica, music writer for the New York Times. Ashok Kondabolu, formerly Dapwell from Das Racist. Plus Kiese Laymon, whose work I’d been following for years. (Laymon couldn’t make it unfortunately.) It was an all-star lineup and even with all that, I found myself there by way of Esther Wang, a writer I’ve only recently started following on Twitter.

Again, packed house. And a thought provoking event. I didn’t stick around afterwards because I rushed out for a hamburger and to watch the GSW-CLE game, but I’ll be back next week for an event with Esme Wang.
And I guess that’s what I’m talking about, that stuff like this doesn’t happen for me elsewhere. Maybe it’s there, maybe I’m not digging hard enough, but in New York things are just easy, accessible. There’s too many things that bring my various interests together. Of course this is weighed down with the inconvenience of living here, and the high cost, but that's just part of the package isn't it?

My stated goal this summer was to revamp my circle. Find some community, find some new friends, get inspired, get some work/writing done. And underpinning that is to find out where to stay for the next few months. I guess it’s a beginning. Again.

30 May 2016

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

I have never seen a season of the Bachelorette but due to following many Grantland / Channel 33 podcasts, I know more than my share about the shows. And while it’s fun listening to Juliet and Co. break down the contestants, I’ve decided that I’m going to follow the Bachelorette even more closely: by watching it.

I’m in because there’s a hole in my summer programming — the NBA playoffs are ending soon — and also because I hear good things about this season’s Bachelorette, Joelle “Jojo" Fletcher. She’s supposedly down to earth, goofy, a good hang, funny, and pretty real, by reality standards.

Oh right, if you don’t know how the show works, and really, congrats on avoiding the mega-franchise all these years, one lucky guy or gal gets sequestered in a house with twenty-plus members of the opposite sex and then they go about a process of dating, elimination, and heartbreaking to win a chance at eternal love. Currently only a few Bachelor/Bachelorette couples have made it all the way through to a successful post-show relationship, but hey, that’s just math isn’t it?

The popular parlour game is to ask your friends if they’d go on a show like this. Most sane people would say “hell no!” but really, when you think about it, when else are you presented with twenty odd people who are all vying for your attention? Sure, most of them have ulterior motives and some of them are total douchebags, but chances are you’ve probably never had so many people working so hard to get to know you.

Having now caught up on the premiere episode, here’s what I noted from EP1 of the twelfth season of the Bachelorette.

• There’s a meet and greet when the guys first get to the house. They emerge from a limo and have a few minutes to make an impression on Jojo. As one of the guys in the house succinctly puts it, there’s two types of guys in the house: classy dudes who project confidence, and then the ones who try too hard, were super nervous, and trotted out the gimmicks. The latter type sometimes got a laugh but when the jokes fell flat and the gag flopped, it just left the contestant in shame, on national television.

While there were a lot of shockingly horrible entrances, bad puns ("I must-ache you a question, but I'll shave it, for later”), and cheesy lines, the ultimate fail grade goes to Jon, the hapa contestant who actually said, "I’m half Chinese and half Scottish. But luckily for me, I’m half Scottish below the waist…” Whut?! Jojo was not amused. And while we can bag on Jon for his awful line, the fact that everyone else in the house ragged on him for wearing a “skirt” was even worse. Get over it, it’s a kilt. (Oh yeah, by the way, most of the Bachelorette contestants are total douchebags, even from the go, and I wouldn’t want to hang out with more than one or two of them for longer than five minutes.)

• Most everyone gave Jojo some variation of “you’re so beautiful, sweet, beautiful, etc.” A few contestants came out sincere, with move like "I didn't come here for a rose, I came here for a relationship.” The one was my favorite, “I love that you have a really good sense of self, that you're grounded, and that's super sexy.” I don’t know if this kind of stuff works, but it’s probably better than just saying how stunning Jojo looked all the time. Seriously, Jojo must have been gorgeous in person because all the guys were drooling over her.

• And there was one guy’s job description that was simply “hipster.” Unfortunately, a show like The Bachelorette has no idea what a hipster is and Brandon simply has longer hair than the other guys — and a weak chin. He confessed to having no idea about this show, or Jojo in general, and I was shocked to see stick around until next episode. (At the end of EP1, six contestants are sent home.)

• One guy also came out of the limo and greeted Jojo with a cheery, "How's it going girlie?” The use of “girlie” irked me to no end and it seemed so condescending. Tell me, is it condescending or not? Especially when the guy using it had just awful hair.

• Who knew All-4-One wasn’t a group of white guys? They came out to sing “I Swear” for one of the contestants and I was like shocked. All those years of George playing the song over and over and I had no idea they were a diverse group. In my defense, I didn’t know Billy Ocean was black until at least fifteen years ago.

• When in doubt about what to say, repeat Jojo’s mantra: “I’m so excited you’re here, we’re gonna have so much fun!” This will be my new go-to line in awkward situations. The best thing about Jojo was her absolute lack of a poker face. You could tell when she was into someone and when she was simply confused or put off. And that’s when watching her fake interest in stuff got 200% more exciting. To her credit, Jojo was really good about being game for everything the guys threw at her. Including sitting on an ex-Marine’s back while he did push ups. Who does push ups to make an impression? Oh right, little dudes with a Napoleon complex.

• So the big loser move of the night had to go to the guy who did the origami fortune telling thing and the “prize” was a kiss. After Jojo gave him a half-hearted peck, he asked her if it was a sympathy kiss. C’mon! If you have to coerce someone into a first kiss then you’re doing awfully wrong. Especially when you’re doing it elementary school style.

• Let’s talk about touching. Like is it normal for guys to touch a girl so much on a first date sort of thing? Technically the contestants weren’t on a date but they each had a few minutes alone with Jojo and the camera really zoomed in on how certain guys were so touchy with her. Caressing her hair, rubbing her back, holding her hands, etc. Is this okay? I feel like guys who are touchy feely off the bat are so gross. Who’s with me?!

• The Canadian guy with the creepy stare. Was, creepy. And then he got drunk and took off his clothes and started poking people in the belly button. And then he jumped in the pool. That is why you definitely need to meet your dates quickly in the process, otherwise a perfectly nice looking guy could turn out to be a total creepster. It's all in the eyes!


• Dating tip: If the best thing a girl can say after meeting you is “he’s so sweet,” you’re in trouble. Most of the guys who got the “sweet” kiss of death made no impression and were swiftly kicked out. Maybe nice guys don’t finish last in reality, but on reality TV they certainly blend into the background.

• Aaron Rodger’s younger brother, Jordan, is on this show. There’s no question he had the best chemistry with Jojo, both physically and emotionally, and he really put her at ease while most of the other guys were tense and nervous. However, there’s already drama about him as Jordan’s ex-girlfriend has taken to the interwebs to call him out for cheating. "Riding the bench [Jordan used to play in the NFL] doesn't get in the way of a relationship, but cheating does.” Oh snap! There’s also allegations that he’s on this show for exposure and not “in it for the right reasons.” While all of this may be true, it’ll be a major upset if anyone but Jordan wins Jojo’s heart.

• My friend Des is in a Bachelorette pool at her office so I'll be exclusively cheering for Chase, Derek, Robby, Chad Jordan, and Christian. The promos suggest Chad becomes a physically dangerous maniac so luckily Des crossed him off her initial list. I will be cheering extra hard for Christian, who seems like a stand up guy, and more importantly, is biracial and would be a nice reprieve from the complete whiteout of the previous Bachelorette winners. Oh yeah, there's so many basic dudes on this show it's like a documentary for me. David Attenborough presents Planet Earth: White Guys. Then again, most reality TV is full of these types so maybe it'll be nothing new.

• So far it has been interesting to see the guys size each other up, get jealous, sweat in nervousness, and generally try to create a pecking order. I'm hoping this type of shenanigans continues and I'll be taking careful notes all season long about what tips I can glean from Bachelorette.

25 May 2016

Hello Robot!

For many years I’ve kind of co-opted Kidrobot’s robot head logo and used it as my avatar for everything, especially social media. Back in the mid-2000s, we loved Kidrobot and would always make a point to stop by if we were in Santa Monica or in the Bay. My friend JMZ had a nice collection of designer vinyl figurines but I don’t recall ever buying more than a few small items. Instead I adopted, ahem stole, the Kidrobot Mascot.

Well, a month or so ago I started using Fiverr to make random stuff like cartoon portraits for my friend. The first time I heard of Fiverr was years ago, when another friend hired someone to make a hamster eating lettuce birthday video. It was brilliant.

For some reason I’d never touched Fiverr until recently, when it occurred to me that I had some websites to redesign and wanted to revamp the logo. Well, turns out that Fiverr was perfect for the job. While there’s a lot to be said for undervaluing graphic designer’s work and paying just $5 for a logo (I tended to pay $50 due to extras, revisions, and ownership), I couldn’t resist. It's hypocritical, I know. But if you don't have lots of money to splash around, and can take good creative control, I can see using Fiverr for an abundance of tasks. Although here are some links to read through before you embark on your Fiverr quest:

Personally, I have enjoyed the results of my Fiverr gigs. For example, I redid the Rich in Color logo, and then used Fiverr to make a matching tiled background too. And I had another logo person do my podcast logo which I'll throw up later. And while I may have been able to make something with my limited Illustrator/Photoshop skills, it was nice to offload the work to someone technically superior to myself.

Most importantly, I found a guy who specialized in robots and it occurred to me that I could have my own robot head! So I commissioned him to make me a robot head and after some back and forth, I emerged with my very own logo. Wheeee!


Another friend liked this robot-me idea so much that she recently commissioned her own -- complete with a signature hoop skirt -- and now we both have robot-me’s. So, despite how you may feel about the gig economy, and how Fiverr operates, it can be handy to use for a quick purchase or even for something purely for fun. I mean, its only five bucks! I downloaded the Fiverr iOS app and kind to like just scrolling the various options.

While many have complained about the quality of service and results they receive on Fiverr, I’ve had a great experience so far, and would like to link to the Fiverr designers I used. And encourage you to get your own robot avatar!

15 May 2016

Stay Cool


I read a lot of newsletters, like a lot. I rattled off a list of my favorites at the beginning of the year here, "Fit to Print," and now I finally have my own. Okay, well, I have like a ton of other newsletters, just like I have a bajillion blogs, but my new newsletter actually has a purpose. And a mission.

The format is four or five things a week about movies, words, music, books, apps, TV shows, random stuff, etc. All with the idea that those who have lost their "cool" can stay semi-relevant by subscribing. Mostly I just want to get the song stuck in everyone's head. "You got to cool it now / Ooooooh watch out / You're gonna lose control." Partially it's fun to say I have a newsletter in polite company, partially it fulfills my dream of being a pop culture coach, and partially I'm learning how to use MailChimp on a higher level.

So yeah, subscribe to Cool It Now! Like right now. And here's the quickie Tumblr I threw together for it, featuring Snoopy. Plus past issues if you want to take a look.