21 November 2015

Too Late Now

Listening to: The Biebs! Between each single being straight up A+’s, all the fucking amazing dance videos, there is nobody else right now but Bieber. Here’s the acoustic for “What Do You Mean,” and I can’t even decide which dance video I like best. Right now it’s these fierce kids from “Children” getting all crazy but that could change tomorrow. Don't call it a comeback!
I’m back in the U.S. for a quick three week sprint. Basically a trip back now involves figuring out what I need to buy to bring back to Taiwan (for myself or others). See below.

Also, I found out the other day, while helping my friend pack her apartment, that she only gets her underwear in America. And so her annual trips here involve a huge bill at Victoria’s Secret and the like. Similarly, she was tasked with bringing a ton of stuff back from Taiwan for her family. Really basic stuff like bowls, toothbrushes, powdered soup, garbage bags, etc. At first this boggled my mind that you would want to transport all these necessities across international borders but then I thought about Glide floss and how important it is in my life and I stopped questioning. Act local, buy global?

Anyway, on with the shopping list... And if you want me to bring something back for you, tell me quick! And (double) cash upfront please. Obviously.

  • Codenames: The new Bond movie was trash but this board game promises to rectify that by pitting two teams of players in a race to figure out who-is-who between rival squads of undercover assassins. Sound intriguing? It’s also sort of a word game! I have to buy this immediately, and then acquire 3-7 friends fast...
  • TASCAM DR-40 4-Track Portable Digital Recorder: Because I have high aspirations for doing a proper podcast, and maybe some upcoming video stuff, this means I gotta up my voice recording game.
  • Together to the Beach, Jennifer Hsu: By one of my best friends, and it’s shameful I don’t have a copy yet. Available only in print form so gotta get it all paper and stuff.
  • Le AnimalĂ© Animal Totems: Red panda, narwhal, Fennec fox, slow loris, sloth, corgi, orca… I can’t decide! I want every one of these necklaces by Laura Johnston! Also, I need more necks.
  • $20 Zine Superpacks: Microcosm keeps putting out amazing little collections with titles like “Cozy Reads for Busy People” and “Decolonize Yourself." I’m considering doing Microcosm's BFF six-month subscription but don’t have anywhere to get it delivered to yet. For now I’m just staring hard at individual titles like 100 Years of Modern Iran (1891-1991) by J Gerlach and Pedal Zombies: Thirteen Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories edited Elly Blue.
  • Compliments Of: A deck of compliment cards courtesy of Molly Young. A must-buy. Who to compliment though? Friends or strangers? Huuuum. "A good compliment is specific, concise, and penetratingly accurate. It lands with a gentle splash. It induces a smile. It is cherished forever."
  • Tweezerman Slant Tip: My friend used mine and immediately wanted one of her own. It’s the best tweezers, as declared by Sweethome.
And of course, the two items that I always restock up on because I am giving them away constantly: a short charger cord for your phone and a lipstick sized USB charger. For $15 you could change your life and eliminate many headaches. The charger won't give you more than one full charge, if even that, but it's a perfect size and handy in a pinch.

As for the short cord, which you should always carry with you, AMR showed me the light last year by exhibiting how you really need both extra short (four inch) and extra long (six feet) cords to be living that smartphone life. The stock cord length is okay but having multiple options is the way to go. Thus concludes my pre-holiday consumerism. Also, take a read through Rob's post about his son, "Daddy's Thoughts #11: First Pair of Jordans?" It's great!

26 October 2015

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Listening to: Solange, “Losing You.” Yeah this song is old, but I’m just getting to it now and I’m obsessed. Of course it’s Dev Hynes produced, which is probably why I like the track so much. The video is great too. I’m convinced that Solange is 1000x cooler than Beyonce (and Drake) combined. Speaking of Drake, someone explain him to me. I don’t get it. [Edit: After a weekend of hearing "Hotline Bling" everywhere, I can't stop. Can. Not. Stop.]

Back in Taipei now, flew in on the heels of another super typhoon, Dujuan. When I arrived and went outside, all the motorcycles and bikes in the adjoining parking lot were flipped over on their sides. “Oh right, typhoon.” I’ve missed a number of bad weather situations of the years, mainly a byproduct of luck, or running off to warmer climates during winter. It always feels like I ditched everyone, like I ran for high ground while everyone else toughed it out. I would like to think I'm the type of person who would go down with the ship, but I'm thinking I'm probably the first one in the lifeboat kind of guy.

On my flight over, for all fifteen hours, I didn’t move. Like go to the bathroom, stretch, or anything. I slept most of time, but that was only ten hours or so. Either my body is getting really accustomed to flying or something is wrong with me. People should move on fifteen hour flights right?

Recently I’ve been meeting a crowd of people who fly all over the place. True jet setters. One of them told me, “The way to live is to be based in New York and go to <insert country> every six or eight weeks.” Sounds dreamy. That is a lot of flying though, but I wonder if that’s the answer. I’ve been thinking about if there are “perfect cities” that exist for people. How is it possible that most people don’t have a “perfect city.” Can it be that hard? My goal a few years ago was to flit around four cities, rotating as I saw fit. I was starting to think that was unviable, that maybe settling in one or two places was enough.

Now I met these people and they totally just go everywhere. If one has the means and nothing to tie you down, what’s the upside of staying put? If you can cobble together the perfect city from a few different ones, why wouldn’t you?

My perfect city requirements (ranked in order of importance): Weather, public transportation and/or walkable, late night dining options, art stuff to get into, somewhat English-speaking. Slowly sliding off that list are "proximity to beach" and "friends who reside there." Mainly because I've decided being close to a beach is too high an order, and with friends, well, you can always make friends anywhere.
While we were in Kaoshiung the other week, at Pier-2 Art Center, we got to visit some artists putting up their soon-to-open exhibits. The first piece was a giant globe built by Sudipta Das, here on artist residency from India. The artists came to Taiwan for a few weeks and from that experience created pieces to reflect that inspiration.

I am horrible at explaining things but the basic idea behind Sudipta's was one of migration and living in two worlds. I don't know exactly what books were used in its construction but do know that manga pages was included, because as Sudipta explained, the visual medium meant it was somewhat accessible to recent immigrants, even if they didn't fully understand the language.

The dark parts of Sudipta’s globe was dyed in coffee, giving it a wonderful smell. I want to live in that globe.

21 October 2015

Five Times Five

Once upon a time I did semi-weekly feature of five things I co-sign. I should bring that back actually. Anyway, here’s a short list of things I’ve been intaking, because making lists is the best way to feel productive.

Also, speaking of lists, I just found out about BJ Novak's (Ryan from The Office) iOS app, The List App. It's essentially a social network based around sharing lists. You can make lists about anything, and the blank prompts include "what I wanted to be growing up, chronologically," "my go-to karaoke songs," and "my favorite emojis and why." It's the non-generic lists that are really good though. Go download the app and take a look.

  • Food NewsFifteen minutes of news including a taste test to conclude each episode. Juliet and Jacoby have the best chemistry of any podcast hosts. Unfortunately, Juliet just resigned from Grantland so I think the show's over. The archives are worth digging through though. Come back Food News!
  • Explain Things to Me - Anna Akana and Brad Gage do interviews with people about their areas of expertise. I wish I had started this podcast... I wish I knew Anna Akana...
  • Dear Sugar - Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the original Sugars, take reader submitted questions and offer their advice.
  • Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men - If you're into the X-Men (comics), this duo is going through back issues in-depth. I think they're up to when Storm takes over the Morlocks, so it's solidly when I was still an avid reader.
  • Pistol Shrimps Radio - The Pistol Shrimps are the "Hottest Pickup Basketball Team in America." And I wouldn't disagree. I've been following via every available platform for awhile now, and this podcast is captured live in-game. It's the most unbasketball basketball podcast around.

iOS Games
  • Neko Atsume - Kotaku called it "The Japanese Game That We Can't Stop Playing" and it's absolutely true. I got many people around me hooked on it and most of my spring/summer was spent taking care of digital cats.
  • Mitchiri Neko Mix 2 - If you like one Japanese cat game, why not two?! Mitchiri Neko isn't quite as addicting as Neko Atsume, but there's a fun Pokemon collection-like thrill in mixing two types of cats together to create another one. And this music video for the game, "Mitchiri Neko March," is all sorts of amazing. I bet you can't resist putting it on repeat. Guide to Mitchiri Neko 1 & 2.
  • Vainglory - I've never played a MOBA before. And now I play the shit out of this one. I started off using Hello Kitty Koshka, but now I'm a Krul guy through and through. I need to stop playing this game. If you play Vainglory, friend me! And if you need a good podcast about the game, may I suggest The Fold?
  • Fallout Shelter - A sort of Tiny Towers game but with far more interactivity. It's a post-apocalyptic world and you need to rescue dwellers from the wasteland and keep them healthy and alive. Plus armored. I got really really into this for a few weeks.
  • Dreeps - It's an "alarm playing game" where your character goes on an RPG-like adventure but all you do is set an alarm. I don't actually know what I'm doing yet but I love the art, music, and idea of the game. Also I like saying "dreep!"
  • Nightcrawler, “Road Blaster" - Found this under a YouTube channel called NewRetroWave. Sounds as enticing as it, well, sounds.
  • Passion Pit, “Where the Sky Hangs” - I forgot how much I like Passion Pit. And I kind of miss posting song's on AMR's music blog, The End Starts Today.
  • Miniature Tigers, “Oblivious” - The best part of a so-so movie, Sleeping with Other People. Also makes for a pretty good Spotify Radio lead track.
  • Justin Bieber, "What Do You Mean?” - The lyric video features skateboarding. Also, this song is undeniable. Don't deny it.
  • Phil Collins, “I Wish It Would Rain Down” - Someone made a rain inspired playlist on my Spotify and this track called out to me, from 1989.
My League Pass Teams
  • Boston Celtics - Duh!
  • Minnesota Timberwolves - I have both Ricky Rubio and #1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns on my fantasy team. I'm invested.
  • Los Angeles Clippers - Having Paul Pierce added on just makes this better. I want the Clips to win it all this year! But they probably won't...
  • Milwaukee Bucks - Long limbed weirdos at every position, plus great uniforms and court!
  • Sacramento Kings - Will Rondo add to the destruction? Or just keep Rondo-ing?
  • Brooklyn Nets - Actually I'm not really watching them, so much as waiting for them to lose so the Celtics can get their first round pick.

24 September 2015

Great Books by Great People

Alright, so I’m in New York, have been for a few weeks, and while there’s lots to cover, let’s start with my timely arrival that enabled me to hit a few book events. All exciting stuff, so see below.

I’ve been following Alex Kleeman’s blog, technicolor.org, since maybe 2002. Like back when blogs were barely a thing. Technicolor was an all-time favorite and I pushed it on as many people as would listen. Alex’s writing was just so amazing (and she was super young), and I knew she would, at some point, be a writer. Fast forward to 2015 and here we are, Alex's debut novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine. I slipped into her reading at Asian American Writer’s Workshop last week and it was like my online life just collapsed in on itself. Kinda wild. Anyway, go read Alex's book, I’m saving it for my airplane ride back to Taipei but you can get started on it today!
I met Dhonielle one night in New York years ago, as she was in town visiting with our mutual friend. Twenty-four hours later we had canvassed the city and stayed up forever, and that set the stage for the first YA writer friend I had! Dhonielle and Sona met while doing their MFAs at the New School and their debut novel just released, Tiny Pretty Things. It’s about three dancers at a Manhattan ballet academy and all the behind-the-scenes drama. Since I was in town, I jetted to the Brooklyn Book Festival to see their panel but it was so jam packed that I couldn’t even get in. Overcapacity!

So I guess I was there in a support capacity, but you know, outside — hanging out with Sona’s husband, Navdeep, also a writer! Regardless, Sona and Dhonielle have a whole slew of things coming out so I’ll have the chance to catch them at other stuff soon. Also, the super duo launched Cake Literary last year, a book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. The world of YA is lily white for the most part, as we know, so it’s kind of amazing to have fellow authors of color who like, get it.

Actually, while I’m here in the YA world, jetting from San Diego to New York meant I missed Cindy Pon’s book launch for her new release, Serpentine. It’s set in the same kingdom of Xia as Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix and there’s also a follow-up coming!
And finally, yesterday I went to my friend Sam’s book release for her one-woman play, Lydia’s Funeral Video. I saw Sam perform Lydia’s Funeral Video a few years ago in San Francisco, and it’s literally amazing. If that’s possible. I thought last night’s event was actually a performance but as it turned out, it was just the book release. I wish there was a way for you to see Sam do the play, but if the next best thing is the book format, that’ll do.
Basically all this going to book stuff makes me feel like I need to be back in New York. There’s just so much shit to do here, and the people, the people! Of course, I should probably also get back to writing something. Heck, the long discussed project I wrote for Sam’s Kearny Street Workshop class I took in 2009 is still waiting for me to get past the proposal stage. What’s the gestation period for a writing project? Infinity right? So I'm on the right track?

06 September 2015


Listening to: Charli XCX, “Need Ur Luv” and Carly Rae Jepsen “Run Away With Me.” Summer pop struts, one featuring a saxophone. Also, the new Carly Rae album is ridiculous good.
Today’s Surf Report: Scary waves, low standing up to tumble ratio, Jon couldn’t make it past the breakers. Knocked silly multiple times, the end. Generally speaking, when I speak about “surfing,” it is of the web variety. But every once in awhile, usually in August, I take to the outdoors for my surfing.

You grow up in California and don’t surf and people are like shocked. I’m sorry, none of my friends growing up surfed okay? Like literally nobody. Even though we lived so close to the beach. It wasn’t until a summer in our mid-twenties that we got together and started learning. I never got really good, truth to tell, any good at all, but it’s fun to sit out there on a board, the ocean all clear around you, even if nothing is happening.

We always go to 11th street in Del Mar, which involves walking down across train tracks and then down this semi-steep dirt cliff. The first time we went it was scary but now it’s more mundane. It feels cool actually, to walk to a “secret” spot. The good thing about 11th street is that even though the beach is sandwiched between the touristy areas of Torrey Pines and 15th Street, the intimidating access point keeps it unpopulated.

Every day I’ve been checking the surf report and really, I have no idea what “overlapping pair of primary SW-SSW and secondary SSE Southern Hemi swells hold. Meanwhile, small shorter period WSW and SSE tropical swells mix in, along with minimal NW windswell.” Hah, ooookay. All I’m looking for is what the air and water temperatures are. The past couple weeks it’s been high seventies and low seventies, respectively. Having such warm water is pretty glorious. I’ve even been able to consistently catch a few waves this summer, so maybe I'm finally getting the hang out of it! Surfing: Five out of five stars.

What does suck is post nasal drip. Like if you get tossed around a lot, which I did the past two days, your head fills up with seawater and then an hour or two after you exit the beach a waterfall comes out of your nose. No warning, nothing, it just comes right out. It’s not snot or anything gross, just seawater that’s been lodged in your brain. But it’s still quite the experience. Nature’s Neti Pot I guess? Also I got flipped around so much today I gave up after half an hour, went ashore, and then found seaweed in my shorts while eating lunch two hours later. Whoopee.

I don't know how I just saw this right now, orcas chasing a speedboat. I'm so behind it's frightening.

The other thing I’ve been doing besides finally going outdoors — I’m still pasty, just less so — is getting my photo situation fixed up. I remember years ago when some tech people were saying that photo management was going to be the next big thing. And boy were they right! Ever since all the Internet goliaths announced their photo management solutions, I’ve been researching and debating which one(s) to use.

Before I just imported everything into iPhoto, sorted stuff into event and yearly folders, and left it at that. I had some Flickr accounts too, mainly as legacies. My photo collection felt like a nice mix of historical documents and useless fodder, but now with camera phones it's tipped way over into “too many shots of everything” territory.

Yeah, I still pick out the stuff I want to share for my personal moblog but otherwise all those photos just sit on the computer taking up space. And space, and space, and more space! I moved everything off to an external drive last year -- 130 gigs of photos stretching all the way back to high school -- but I knew that was only temporary. Enter iCloud Photo Library. I’d been waiting for a new computer (the old one barely opened that huge of a Photos file) and faster wifi to implement my photo plan. Da-dun, the big day arrived this weekend!

Well, turns out that shoving 57,250 photos to iCloud takes awhile. So the dream continues. In the meantime, here’s my photo solution:
  • Paid $3.99/month for 200 GB to use for iCloud Photo Library
  • Use Google Photos, unlimited setting, for cloud backup
  • Have everything on two externals too, one that goes with me, one that stays at home
I’ve discovered that one backup is not enough. Those in the know suggest two backups of everything, like two offline and two online. So a total of four. That means I’m actually behind. And I thought I was already paranoid. I pretty much believe in having backups for everything, up to and including friends. I mean, the most paranoid billionaire in literature, S. R. Hadden from Contact, essentially made a backup of The Machine so that when it blew up, he had another waiting for Jodie Foster to ride through some wormholes. Pretty genius. So yeah, back that shit up!

Oh, and I started clean with my new laptop. Instead of porting over all my old settings and programs from my Macbook, I started super fresh. New laptop, new life right? It took most of a whole day to get everything right but as I discovered, the most time consuming part was my Mac Mail folders. It’s embarrassing but I generally still rely on offline Mac Mail to do my email organizing. Even though I imported most of the important folders, I know it’s time to take my email habits straight to the Gmail interface. Hello IMAP, good bye POP.

The latter half of this post brought to you from my future android body. Let the cybernetic takeover begin.

15 August 2015

Turnt Down & Out

Listening to: Vancouver Sleep Clinic, "Flaws." I heard this at the end of Before We Go, Chris Evans' Before Sunrise-y directorial debut. Since then I've just had their wonderfully dreamy six song EP, "Winter," on repeat. Excuse me, Vancouver Sleep Clinic is just one guy, Tim Bettinson, and he's only eighteen. Geezes!
I hopped back to the States the other week, straight to San Francisco. The flight I took was all kinds of backwards. First to Hong Kong, then to Manila, and finally to SFO. That’s what happens when you book your flight late and try to save a few bucks. Somehow, for the entire long leg of the flight, I managed to not even get out of my seat. Pretty impressive right? I’m really getting the hang of long flights!

After a quick week in San Francisco — saw some friends, saw some movies, rode/walked a bike up unconquerable hills — I came home, finally. San Diego’s weather awaited me and right away I headed for burrito-land. Well, actually, a delicious set of chicken flautas but close enough. I was trying to figure out the last time I’d been away from proper Mexican food for such a long time. Maybe almost a decade ago. Sometimes I went to the sub-par Mexican choices in Taipei just to get some pico and shredded lettuce on my tastebuds. Desperate times you know?

It seemed like everyone I met up with in the Bay had a recent big life change. Like moving out, moving in, moving in together with their significant other, recently engaged, recently announced their pregnancy, quit their job, new job, etc. All the changes frightened me a little. I don’t know if “frighten” is the right word, but basically it felt like big things were happening for everyone. That, combined with our going to bed so early on the weekends, portended a future for me that had me scared.

See, San Francisco was the last of the West Coast cities where my friends actually still went out. And stayed up late, and hung out, and did stuff. Coming straight from Taiwan, where my schedule was super late, it was a mild shock. And I stared at the gaping maw of my dystopian Bay Area future and had to face facts: People were settling down / growing up. Oh the horror!

For U.S. cities, now it’s down to just New York, and New York will always be an exception because people there are forever young. So yeah, I’m trying to get there as fast as I can, hopefully in September, after some beach and sun back in San Diego. Plus the burritos.

I was also in L.A. for a bit last weekend. Hung out mostly in the downtown L.A. area that I was previously unfamiliar with — aside from parts of K-Town and the Staples Center for Clippers games. Driving in, I passed by the tent cities of Skid Row, which looked even crazier than the Tenderloin. I was very curious about how Los Angeles handles Skid Row, and started doing some online reading about it.
"At the time, Skid Row made sense. It corralled all that would attract ‘undesirables' into a part of the city without much of a population beyond daytime office workers, pensioners, and the homeless and semi-homeless hotel-dwellers already there. It lay far from coastal enclaves like Santa Monica or suburban hinterlands like the San Fernando Valley, which were home to more politically important constituencies.”
-The Gentrification of Skid Row: A story that will decide the future of Los Angeles-
Last year, we took a walking tour of the Tenderloin, which was both informative and eye-opening. My friend Stef and her friends are now working on launching The Anchor & Plow Project, a program to give SF newcomers (i.e. invading techies) a better understanding of the neighborhoods they’ve taken over. In related things: On the way to the airport, via Uber Pool of course, I saw my first Google Bus and the huge queue waiting for it. Anyway, check out Anchor & Plow’s mission statement and pass the survey on to anyone you know.

Also, I stuck around in L.A. to watch Sean Baker's Tangerine, because I knew it wasn't playing back in San Diego. Plus the theater was in Hollywood, a few miles from where Tangerine was set. The movie itself was fantastic. All the more overwhelming because it was shot on an iPhone. You want to talk diversity? How about two transgender leads and an Armenian cab driver imprisoned by his cultural background? So yeah, start with the trailer, then make sure to watch the whole damn thing.