10 July 2015

How Long Do I Wait?

I’m not often called a genius, for obvious reasons, but sometimes I get so close to genius it’s confusing. For example, I’ve solved the “how long do I wait" problem. With a spreadsheet, as per usual.

See, I tend to always be waiting for a friend to do something. Maybe it’s to catch a specific movie, maybe it’s to go on vacation, whatever. I’m loathe to do anything alone so part of that always wanting companionship thing is agreeing to wait. And wait, and wait.

My friend pointed that this was ridiculous and offered up a few different strategies to fix it. She was very helpful. I'll try a few of her suggestions but in the meantime, we came up with a formula to mathematically figure out how long a person should reasonably wait. After extensive testing, our system basically works for every situation, including and up to “How long should I wait to break up?”

So yeah, all everything you need is right here: "How Long Do I Have to Wait: An Answer," with a step-by-step and explanations below. It’s an incredible system, and one I’ll be applying to my own life immediately.

STEP ONE: Pick a time frame. Is it hours, days, weeks, months, or years? Most of the time, the answer is obvious. When in doubt, pick the shorter time frame.

STEP TWO: Go through all five categories, scoring from 0-5 for each. Zero is low, five is high. The formula is weighted like this:
(A*0.35)+(B*0.25)+(C*0.20)+(D+0.10)+(E+0.1) = How Long Do I Wait
STEP THREE: Inform your friend(s) how long you’ll be waiting. That’s it! Feel free to live your life now without suffering guilt about how you didn’t wait for someone to do something.
Categories Explained: 
Word is Bond, 35%
This category covers how fixed in stone the plans were. A passing “Oh yeah, we should watch that together merits just a one on the scale. But if you’ve looked deep into each other’s eyes and promised to do something together, that’s a five. I can’t emphasize enough how important this category is, thus it’s weighted very heavily because the agreement part is where most of the future disagreements stem from. “But you said you would wait!?!”

Closeness, 25%
How close are you to the person you made a commitment to. Is it just a so-so friend, or perhaps a co-worker that you’re friendly with but owe nothing to? A five on the scale is someone who will slit your throat (deservedly) if you ditched them. Irreparable betrayal really.

Worth the Wait, 20%
Is experiencing this event with the other person going to be worth the wait. Sure, you could go ahead and watch the Game of Thrones finale with anyone, but wouldn’t it be better to wait and enjoy it with your die-had fan? If so, that’s a high Worth the Wait score. Also, this is the category to take into account how important this thing is to the two of you. Is your bond with so-and-so all about roller coasters and you’d have the most fun with them? Or you traditionally ALWAYS do this one thing together. Then that’s a five.

Frequency of Event, 10%
Is this the kind of thing where opportunities will come again? Or is it a once-in-a-lifetime deal? A brunch or a movie can happen quite often, so that would score low. Taking a trip to pet penguins in Antartica? That’s probably pretty rare, score it a five.

Crucial Figure, 10%
Is the person you’re waiting for a big part of the event? Are they central to the planning process, will they have connections to free housing or VIP seating? That’s what this category is about. If this person is irreplaceable, then they should rank highly.
Let’s take a real life example. Piper is headed to jail for transporting drug money across international borders. Her fiance, Larry, promises that he’ll wait for her to be released before continuing Mad Men. How long should Larry wait?

He verbally promised he would wait (score it a 5), he and Piper are engaged (5), it seems like watching Mad Men is their couple thing (4), they could likely replace Mad Men with another show when she gets out (2), and Piper isn’t really a crucial figure to watching the series (1). Final answer: 3.9.

The timeframe part is up to Larry. If he wants to be a backstabbing, lying asshole, then he can wait 3.9 hours to watch Mad Men. If he wants to be a stand up guy, then he can wait up to 3.9 years for Piper to get out and watch Mad Men together. Your call Larry.

Please, use the spreadsheet, test it out. I think you'll find that it's both simple and effective. As always with my world changing spreadsheets, I welcome comments, questions, and improvements. This is just an alpha version, created in an evening, but I think it has the potential to change how we interact with each other. As rational, responsible adults who shouldn't get upset at each other for superfluous stuff. You know, like what I did when my friend ditched me to get her tattoo. I'm still holding that one against her...

Caveat: This “how long should I wait” formula doesn’t work for things that can only happen during certain timeframes. If an event happens on a specific date and time, then it’s simply a matter of whether you can go together or not. Along those same lines, this formula doesn’t work for things that you absolutely can’t delay. Like, say, childbirth. “It says I should wait 3.47 weeks to give birth, should we go ahead and tell the doctor?” No.

01 July 2015

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Okay, so the first Magic Mike wasn’t technically a dance movie since it was Steven Soderbergh’s attempt to make a semi-serious film about male strippers. For the sequel, Soderbergh is just exec producing and XXL has totally turned into a dance movie! I mean, SYTYCD and Step Up alum Twitch is in this thing! That's when you know it's official.

A little backstory on my history with Magic Mike. I (mistakenly) made like half a dozen friends go watch it with me on opening night in 2012, leveraging Soderbergh's auteur credentials and the pull of Channing Tatum. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t very good. I mean, I loved it, and Matthew McConaughey was amazing, but Magic Mike wasn’t say, The Wrestler. It tried to sort of be dark and have human emotions but really, Magic Mike ended up squarely in the “pretty awful but fun” camp.

This time out, XXL has embraced its inner campiness, turned the focus on pure entertainment, and tossed aside all previous pretentiousness and given us a movie that is just fun, fun, fun. Spoiler alert: This movie is gonna rank really high on my dance movie scoring scale, like frighteningly high. Like maybe the best one ever high. Beware.

Tagline: “Back to the grind.” Someone should receive an award for this tagline. Absolute perfection.

1. Plot (6)
Magic Mike, aka Channing Tatum, left stripping behind at the end of the first movie to pursue his custom furniture business and home life with a steady girlfriend. Like he says in XXL, he was ready for that Downton Abbey life. Instead, with a broken heart and a head of shattered dreams, he’s ready to join his friends, the former Kings of Tampa, when they come calling for “one last ride."

While this isn’t exactly an original premise, there are two or three set pieces along the way, as the boys road trip toward a stripper convention, that makes XXL a cut above the rest. Also, as my fellow moviegoer pointed out, there’s no “oh shit, everything is going wrong” downturn in the story. XXL is simply a joy ride all the way through with no lame speed bumps to slow things down.

2. Can the lead characters dance (10)
There was a time where I would get into arguments about whether Channing Tatum could dance or not. My take is that while he’s pretty good, he definitely wasn’t amazing or anything in the first Step Up. Of course, as hindsight always proves, I’m an idiot and of course Channing Tatum is a great dancer. And when he’s stripper dancing, like wow. Off the charts. If you thought Magic Mike had some fantastic dancing, XXL will take it to the next level.

And while Tatum is clearly the star of the show, this time out, four of his buddies get a nice amount of screen time too. Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez, Matt Bomer, and Kevin Nash aren’t on Tatum’s level but they can definitely get the job done dance wise. So yeah, get your dollar bills ready.

3. How’re the dance scenes? (10)
I’ll just leave a big fat "10" up there and let you watch this movie for yourself to witness the dance stuff. Suffice to say, there’s something for everyone. There’s sexy dance scenes, fun dance scenes, hilarious dance scenes, acrobatic dance scenes, “OMG what is happening” dance scenes, and genuinely holy shit dance scenes — the end one with Twitch and Tatum doing mirrored choreography was quite impressive.

Plus, there’s a Backstreet Boys scene by Manganiello that may have been my favorite of the movie. Yeah, just go watch XXL already. I guess you could take a peek at the trailer if you're still not convinced.

4. How’s the love story? (6)
Short, painless, and mostly non-existent! Simply subtracting the awful Cody Horn from Magic Mike was an instant improvement. Sure, Amber Heard is nominally around to be the love interest — and she’s okay doing a blonde Kristin Stewart impression — but this movie isn’t about heteronormative relationships.

Instead, the relationships that XXL focuses are the bromances between Channing and his boys. You get the feeling that everyone really missed each other during Mike’s time away and while there may be some hurt feelings, the guys actually talk them out. And at one point Channing even gets his cell phone tossed out the window because his friends want him to focus and "be present," to bond during their last weekend together. Sweet stuff! And deserving of a higher than average grade.

5. Rate the sidekicks (10)
Technically speaking, each of the other Kings of Tampa are Magic Mike’s sidekicks but the movie goes out of its way to imbue each of them with a personality or backstory, unlike the first movie. And as it turns out, that depth makes for a much funnier and enjoyable movie. They're co-stars this time around, and not just window dressing. So let’s set aside the idea that Big Dick Richie, Tito, Ken, and Tarzan are sidekicks so we can focus on the amazing cameos in XXL.

Seriously, what a cameo list. Let’s start up top with Jada Pinkett Smith, who was just amazing in her role as Rome, proprietor of a Savannah's best-kept secert and eventually the guys’ MC. Jada is great in this movie, like G-R-E-A-T. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Housed within Rome’s house of pleasure are Donald Glover, Twitch, and I swear it’s true, former NFL superstar and Hall of Famer Michael Strahan. I was like, “Wait, is that seriously Michael Strahan? No!” Also, apparently Ric Flair made a cameo? But I didn’t see him. Maybe on the rewatch…

On top of that, Andie MacDowell, sweet sweet Andie MacDowell is in this movie. And she’s perfect. In fact, every cast member in this movie is perfect actually. Unlike, you know, the disaster that was Cody Horn and Alex Pettyfer in the original. Speaking of Pettyfer, his career went down the tubes pretty fast eh?

6. Best line (7)
There’s a lot of conversations in the movie, and a lot of lines directed squarely at the movie’s prime demographic: thirsty women! Especially those raised on a diet of late Nineties era boy bands, Disney movie references, and say, young adult book/movie phenomenons. Not to mention that little Fifty Shades of Grey thing. Whoever wrote XXL definitely knew what to serve up to its audience in wink wink asides and references.

I can’t even remember most of the good lines (“We’re like healers or something…”) but the best one was definitely when Tatum is introducing himself to Heard’s character. “Nice to meet you. [I'm] Magic…*twirls*…Magic Mike.” So good! Just watch it. Also, the guys perform as "Resurrection," which is kind of a good name for a boy band. Plus there's five main characters, and they're from Florida...aha! I see what you did there you clever script geniuses.

7. Music (8)
Of course there was “Pony,” just like there had to be. But then there were the D’Angelo and Bruno Mars covers, by Matt Bomer and Donald Glover respectively. Also: Bomer can sing man, he does an acapella cover of Bryan Adam’s “Heaven.” Bryan Adams in a stripper movie, who would have thought?

Throw in some Jodeci, some R.Kelly and 112, and the soundtrack was definitely headed toward the top of the charts. The clincher for me was Glass Animal’s “Gooey” over the closing credits. “Gooey” is great and totally unexpected and well, it’s just high scores all around. Am I gushing, can you see it on my face?

8. Fashion (5)
I mean, most of the characters are in (very temporary) tank tops and half-naked for most of the movie so there’s not much fashion to discuss. Amber Heard’s character had her troubled hippie/hipster look down, but nothing else really stood out.

Oh wait, there’s the costumes that the guys put on to perform. After throwing out all their old getups, there's a “putting it all together” montage that involves lots of cutting and snipping as the guys make their new outfits. Tarzan even shows off his glitter skills. It was all very arts and crafts. Hello glitter! Plus, shout out to body oil, which definitely had its own line item in the budget.

9. Cultural Impact (8)
XXL isn’t just mere throwaway entertainment either. A movie centered around a couple of dicks is getting the feminist Mad Max: Fury Road once-over and it mostly fits. "This time the movie explores more about male/female gender identity and dynamics, suggesting that the strippers, whose bodies are sexually objectified the way actresses often are in cinema, can not only shamelessly impersonate women but give them what they really want: attention and pleasure.” Click on for the think pieces:
10. Miscellaneous (8)
Well, we can hope XXL eclipses all box office records but it’s been contending with Jurassic World and Inside Out so it won't ever likely hit #1 at the box office, like it so obviously deserves. Seriously, this was one of the most enjoyable movies of the year so far -- not even grading on a dance movie curve -- and I won’t be shutting up about it for at least a month.

After all, XXL was about fulfilling fantasies and chasing dreams. When revamping their routines, each of the main characters do so with their personal ambitions/interests in mind. For example, Big Dick Richie is a man afraid of fire who has been doing a fireman routine for years. What he ends up choreographing is far more in tune with his inner self. The XXL lesson is that if you put your passion into your work, you’ll have a greater chance to succeed. Or something like that. There are a lot of quasi-deep moments in XXL, like seriously.

Also, if you've made it this far into the review, then you clearly are interested in Chocolate City, aka the black Magic Mike. Chocolate City has Ginuwine and Tyson Beckford in it. (Tyson Beckford, where you been!?!) After Chocolate City will surely come the Asian, Hispanic, etc. versions of Magic Mike right? #weneeddiversity

FINAL VERDICT (78/100)
Yup, just like I suspected, Magic Mike XXL topped the charts for my dance movie series, narrowly edging out Centerstage by one point. It also tied Centerstage's record for three perfect category scores. What else can I say really? This is a good ass movie, and guaranteed to be a fun time simply for its ridiculousness.

While you go buy tickets for XXL, I'm gonna go work on my body roll because seriously, you cannot get anywhere in life without a decent body roll, right?

25 May 2015

MAY: Week Three & Four

Listening to: Flight Facilities, "Clair De Lune.”

Sometimes, I’m sitting in a cafe here and a great (relatively old) song comes on. Like the Flight Facilities track above. And I wonder how it got here. "Here" being Taiwan. Do some of the cafe proprietors just have the same taste in music as I do? Or more likely, they are just using Spotify playlists. Which is both good and bad. Good because I like the music but bad because you can't even tell who has good taste anymore when we all just resort to pre-curated playlists.

This is the “What I miss about America” edition of weekly updates — besides certain foods, that’s a constant. Basically, I’m starting to feel out of the loop on everything back in the States. Not that I was on top of everything but at least I could keep abreast of the conversation. I was behind on some stuff -- as generalized here -- but for most things I was either slightly ahead or right with the zeitgeist.

Now I’m just behind on everything: movies, books, TV, news, whatever. The same thing happened when I lived abroad last time, like fifteen years ago. I used to be on top of everything and after eight months in China I came back lost and confused -- especially music wise. And it took forever to semi-catch up. For someone who prides themselves on being aware of what’s trending or coming down the pipeline, I’m distraught.

“But the Internet…” you say. I mean, of course the Internet. But when nobody else around you is talking about stuff, it’s easy to let it slide too. I mean, what is Empire. What was Ferguson? Who is Drake? Has popular slang changed while I've been gone? How long can I live like this? Is it time to return?

I can only imagine how this effect magnifies if one's been away for longer. I fear being that out of touch. My friend likes to ask, "But behind according to whom?" And my answer is invariably, "everybody!"
This week was our big exam for the semester. I showed up, took the test, and then disappeared again. School’s out in two weeks, technically, but I’m done — I’ve lost the motivation. Theoretically, I have no reason to be in Taiwan anymore, now that school's over, but I’m not quite ready to leave. So what to do with all this time?

Well, the U.S. is pulling me a bit, and I was looking at swinging home for summer camp, a June wedding, and then some weeks in New York, but somehow it feels like my life is, more or less, here. It’s only been seven or eight months but Taipei feels home-ish.

The weather has been warming up though, which could quickly drive me away. Heat is my enemy. Given the choice, I’d take frigid winter over torpid summer but maybe with enough air conditioning and cool thoughts I'll survive. "Brr, it's cold in here..."

Without school I don’t have much of a routine, unless you count dance class on Wednesdays (the only thing I regularly commit to), and then an assortment of random social things during the week, followed by weekends trying to find music and/or dancing. Chasing the stars, as it were. It’s a shapeless existence, and not that different from when I lived anywhere else. But it’s starting to become tiresome. For awhile it was nice having school to anchor the day, but truthfully, I was feeling resentful about the daily obligation.

So yeah, now what?

Our friend’s rooftop has become our de facto hangout spot and we go up there at night to drink wine, chain smoke, and blast music. The most enjoyable dance party I’ve been to in awhile has been on this rooftop, just three or four of us, dancing like idiots because nobody’s watching. And because we could play our own music. Fun danceable music is impossible to find here. That alone might drive me back to New York.

Question: What is the smallest number of people that qualifies as a “party?” Same thing for “crew.” I’ve noticing the term “crew” thrown around to describe just a handful of people. That seems like overstating the fact. The minimum number for a crew can’t be lower than, say, seven people right? Please rank in ascending order: crew, posse, entourage...

There are certain things you can only do here in a bunch of people. I have yet to assemble that many friends but one day, I would like to. If simply to take advantage of the sharing potential of a high headcount. Come, let us break bread together friends and semi-friends.

My new thing is skipping the going out portion of the evening and heading straight for the food at 3AM. It’s much more efficient.

11 May 2015

MAY: Week Two

Currently listening: Wiz Khalifa, “See You Again.” Yeah it’s the song that they play at the end of Fast 7 during the Paul Walker montage. Yeah it’ll make you want to cry. And they ended the night with this track at a club last week. It was wonderful. Move over Al Green, this is my new closer. Here’s an hour of “See You Again” on loop, just in case you need it. Nine million views can’t be wrong...

This week marked my DJ debut. Yes, my long awaited dream of having someone let me DJ a party finally happened! My friend had a photography studio for her birthday party and her roommate (and me!) in charge of the music. Finally, yes yes yes! Basically I put together my dream dance playlist — mostly girl pop, with tons of Mariah, Janet, and Whitney — and downloaded Traktor.

By the way, Traktor for iOS is incredible. So easy to use and I haven’t even figured out any of the cool features yet. Just being able to semi-mix one song into the other is good enough though. Armed with a playlist that was sure to get the party jumping, I made my debut around midnight… and flamed out. I didn’t account for the fact that people literally a decade younger than me might not appreciate Denice Williams or Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam quite as much as my peers. Argh, Millenials! Oh well.

I was booted after about forty minutes (“Do you have anything newer? More hip hop-y?”) or what I’d like to say was me “taking a break after my first set.” When the party was winding down and most of the crowd had left, I jumped back on the zeros and ones and cranked out more Madonna and Taylor Swift. "But I got a blank space baby / And I'll write your name." Anyway, I have an awesome playlist, please invite me to DJ for you soon. Especially if you’re over thirty.

List of ender songs I was considering (none of which was used, yet):
  • Adam Levine, “Lost Stars”
  • Ritchie Valens, “Sleepwalk”
  • Kanye West, “Family Business”
  • Spandau Ballet, “True”
  • Debbie Gibson, "Lost in Your Eyes"
  • Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together”
  • 2Pac, “Check Out Time”
  • Hall & Oates, "Everytime You Go Away”
I made the stunning realization this week that I don’t have (as) many American friends here anymore! Most of my first semester classmates are gone and of the people I normally hang out with there’s a Brazilian, an Indonesian, a Taiwanese, and a Malaysian. Only one American friend in the bunch! Of course, we mostly speak English so it’s not really that much different. And all our pop culture references are the same.

When I met my Brazilian friend, I swore she was from California because her English is tinged with an American accent (whatever that is). When I asked her how come, her reply was the best: “I learned English from watching Friends. Every episode."

One of the downsides of the past few months in school is that it’s severely stunted my meeting actual Taiwanese people opportunities. As you can imagine, everyone at Shida is a foreigner and it’s far easier to just clump together. So my goal, moving forward is to meet Taiwanese people again!

School’s over at the end of the month but honestly I’m already tapped out. I moved down a level and it got too easy and my previous dedication is just not there. Plus, my classmates are very quiet compared to my previous group and I'm much less inspired to attend. So yeah, I’m out! Now that I have a methodology to learning Mandarin, I can practice vocab on my own and it’s time to get my oral skills up to speed. I don’t feel like my speaking skills have improved much while I’ve been here — mostly a function of knowing only people who speak English well — so in the future, that’s what I need to focus on.

At the rate of 40-50+ new words a week, I’ve probably learned a thousand characters so far, in six months. Of those, maybe I’ve retained half? Chinese goes quick when you aren’t constantly practicing. I wouldn’t say I can read/write that well, but it’s still exciting to be able to decipher basic stuff. Or really simple karaoke songs.

Over the weekend I went to my first Taiwanese wedding. I’d been wanting to attend a Taiwanese wedding because it sounds so different than American ones. To start, you don’t really have to dress up. Sure, you can wear a suit if you want but nicer pants and normal shoes are fine. I’ve straight up seen pictures of people showing up in sweaters and sweats. The wedding I attended was very classy though, so people came looking good.

At the banquet portion of the night, the food was course after course of rich foods: Lobster, duck, fish, crab, steak, etc. It was a little nuts how much there was. Traditionally the wedding is just a massive feast, and this one lived up to that advertisement plenty.

The big difference between American and Taiwanese weddings is that there's no party. You eat the food and then you’re done. The whole affair might take only a short afternoon even. Now I understand why the parents jet out of regular weddings so fast... For this particular wedding, since the bride was Christian, there was a church ceremony (similar to any church wedding I’d been to) so I didn’t get to see any of the traditional Taiwanese stuff. Next time I guess. Overall, a great time and the bride and groom had a singing/dancing portion that was in line with their fun personalities — not at all like most traditional weddings so I'm told.

Speaking of weddings, my sister and AMR’s December wedding was featured in a post from Exquisite Weddings! Click through if you wanna see: "Real Weddings: Georgette and Ameer."

Friday, we discovered badminton. I was unprepared in my camo shorts and no athletic gear. But next time I’m going with a headband and a plan. And I’m gonna win, win, win.

06 May 2015

Food Review: Slurpy Things

Let’s talk about some of the more off-beaten food choices in Taipei. This week I was introduced to octopus noodle soup, a Tainan specialty, at a downstairs mall sorta of area by Fuxing. I wish I could tell you where it was but I forgot to check-in for it. (That’s how I track stuff I’m eating, by checking in on Swarm.) The thin rice noodles, clear broth, and loads of octopus rings are a delight.

And then at Ningxia night market, we stepped into a seafood place on the side and my friend introduced us to milkfish soup. Milkfish is very popular but hard to eat because it’s very bony. I don’t like to work that hard for my food but in this version, the milkfish is already de-boned! And served with some ginger strips in the soup and a side of wasabi/soy sauce dip, the entire taste is very 輕輕, or light and delicate. At least I hope that’s what 輕輕 means.

Also at the night market we had this sesame peanut shaved ice concoction with giant mochi balls stuffed inside. The lady slinging the stuff was ruder than the Soup Nazi but her product was amazing. I guess if you have a huge line you can be as un-customer friendly as you want. This ice thing is totally worth the wait.

Other discoveries this week: a pretty acceptable tsukemen spot and also a very nice soba place, both in a part of town I’d never explored before. I’m starting to feel like Taipei is kind of small but I know there’s lots of little areas I’ve yet to explore, so it was affirming to find such a cool area still within striking distance of my house. Note: The tsukemen place is right across from the famous unagi-don spot, which I've never been to yet because I have a slightly irrational fear of eel still, after my college roommate got a bone stuck in his throat like ten years ago and we had to hit the emergency room. Also, I am not trying to eat Flotsam and Jetsam, thank you very much.

So this soba place, 二月半, is located in Zhongshan, which used to be quite a popular arty area before Huashan sort of took over. There’s a bunch of intriguing Japanese spots we walked by and this soba place was a definite find. Located right across the street from the old, Spot, an art house cinema, 二月半 served delicious soba in a relaxing and authentic atmosphere. Well, I don’t know if it was authentic, but hey, it had Japanese stuff on the walls.

And while I’m here, a plug for 小李子, which serves congee all night and is open until six in the morning. It’s basically my go-to place after a late night and to be honest, I’m more excited about the rice porridge than the actual going out portion of the night. If you want to get me out of the house fast, just text “Wanna go get 稀飯?!"

Also I did important work this week and compared the filet-o-fishes from McDonald's and MOS Burger, a ubiquitous Japanese hamburger chain here. Despite copying McDonald's in every way, the MOS Burger filet-o-fish is a mere knock-off. Don't settle for anything but the real deal.