04 March 2016

2043

Listening to: Grimes, Art Angels, the entire album. And also watching all her accompanying videos. Start with "Kill V. Maim."

We just wrapped up 12 Monkeys, the TV show on Syfy, now Netflix. In the series, James Cole (as played by Pyro from the X-Men movies) is tasked with stopping a biological apocalypse that dooms the world in 2017. He starts off about thirty years from then starts hopping backwards in an attempt to stop the plague.

At first, I was concerned that the show wouldn’t compare to the movie — which I loved to the point of almost obsession. However, after finishing the first season, I almost like the TV series better. Blasphemy, I know! Sure, there’s no Bruce Willis, or Brad Pitt, or Terry Gilliam’s mad genius around but the extended TV format allows this 12 Monkeys to bring in more characters and sub-plots. Some of the side pieces felt a bit dragged out for no reason and there are currently too many new characters around but by the last three episodes of Season 1, I was already anticipating the start of Season 2 in early April.
"Where are you right now? Somewhere warm? Safe? Next to someone you love? Now what if all that was gone, and the only thing you could do was survive? You would, right? You'd try. You'd do things, horrible things. Until you have that last thing you have left: yourself. But what if you could take it back? All of it. A reset switch. You'd hit it, right? You'd have to. Even if you didn't want to. Because sometimes the choice isn't even yours, it's fate.”
-12 Monkeys Season 1 Finale Review: May the Circle Be Broken-
Back in college I sat around theorizing a lot about what was really happening in 12 Monkeys. The Internet was around then but it wasn’t yet the repository of fan theories so it was left to us lone idiots to puzzle out what had happened. It’s the kind of thing you do in your twenties I guess. “We need to figure out what is happening, and if it makes sense!” A good time travel movie is catnip for anyone trying to prove their intellectual prowess. Sidenote: If you want to get into a serious time travel movie, try Primer by Shane Carruth. The post-movie deep dive can go on forever for that one. All the charts and graphs and explanations, it’s wild.

Non-spoiler spoiler alert for 12 Monkeys, the movie: Basically I thought that no matter what happened, James Cole’s mission would be a success because each successive failure could just be fixed the next time around. I assumed we were just watching one version of Cole’s journey. And if there were a 12 Monkeys sequel or something that he would eventually save the world. Of course, that’s not accounting for the fact that Cole might die or that the time machine could run out of power. Both of those factors means that there aren’t an infinite amount of jumps available to fix things.

And let’s make this entire post monkey-themed. We also recently saw Zootopia, which opened out here before the States. My friend who saw it said simply, “It’s going to be huge.” After watching it, I have to agree. I don’t think I’ve giggled so much through a movie since Cloud With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Zootopia is whodunit set in a world where anthropomorphized mammals rule the earth. Minus the humans. And any primates. At the end of the movie I was just listing animals that weren’t in the movie. Like dogs, and cats. And marsupials. It’s hard to disagree with leaving monkeys and man’s best friend out of the movie — they already get enough shine — but if you’re going to use some more obscure animals like a Fennec fox, why not go all out and use cool mammals like a platypus or something? Anyway, go see Zootopia, it opened bigger than Frozen and if there was a good song attached, it would probably dominant the airwaves too.

Last thing, Vainglory, the iOS game I pushed last year, is still in my daily routine. They recently released a special map and character skins to coincide with Lunar New Year. Included with that was a new character, Ozo, who is basically like the Monkey King-lite, but this version carries around a giant golden ring as a weapon. It’s a dragon ouroboros, which also coincides with the name of my fantasy football team: Hungry Hungry Ouroboros. A big life decision was if I should purchase this Ozo character and fulfill my destiny.

I mean, do you believe in fate or not? Happy Year of the Monkey, I guess.

15 February 2016

The First Day

I used to keep a journal, almost daily. For more than a decade I had a digital journal, locked behind anonymity and passwords. Then, maybe four years ago, I stopped. As with everything, it was a trickle at first, and then I found myself updating life by the quarter: January through March, followed by April through June, etc. Or I'd backdate, and capture the general occurrences, but lose the day to day interactions.

Enter Day One, a Mac and iOS journaling app. My friend Brandon introduced to me late last year and since November I've basically been able to maintain a daily log of events. It's all a part of my efforts to re-enter the writing world. Step one: It doesn't matter what I'm writing as along I'm sitting down at the computer putting some words out. That was my thinking anyway.

Ironically, the only reason I've been able to keep up with Day One is that it's available on my iPhone. Plus, it's pretty. And there's a part of met that likes to not miss a day as the entries pile up. Basically I just log what I did that day, who I saw, anyone I talked to, real boring mundane stuff. But now that I'm back in the habit, I'm hoping to start real journaling again, about feelings and thoughts, and that kind of thing.

Wish me luck. If you're wishing you could keep a journal but could never make it happen, pay the money for Day One. It's worth it and it'll make you feel accomplished at the end of each day. Update: A new version of Day One came out, the oddly named Day One 2. This is a full rebuild, and is half price at $4.99 for iOS and $19.99 for Mac. I've found that the program works best with both pieces, however pricey.

Ideally I'd have separate journals for daily stuff, private life stuff, a creative journal, and a work journal, but that's just too many. I'm gonna try to make more full fledged entries and try to encompass everything in one. Keeping up with your life is a job in and of itself isn't it?

Along with starting to keep a journal again, I've started reading Heidi Julavits' The Folded Clock: A Diary, also a recommend from a friend. I paid a whopping $14.99 for the Kindle version, which was greater than the price of the paperback. So far it's been great and I highly recommend.

02 February 2016

Backwards, Forwards


So there's a new jonyang.org. Or rather, there's a new site that jonyang.org forwards to. Before it used to come here to this very Blogspot, but now it goes to a Tumblr. The basic motivation is that I’m trying to streamline my online presences and I wanted a forward facing site that wasn’t directly my blogger. So yeah, jonyang.org now redirects to jonyangorg.tumblr.com. Note my super cute Chanrio avatar!

Also, no new posts are going up there, but there is a new newsletter available for infrequent updates: jonyangorg Tiny Letter.

I had been hoping to revamp everything and do away with “jayang” altogether, replacing public usernames with the more available and visually appealing “jonyangorg.” But that could require a little too much work since I’ve committed to “jayang(21)” for too many things already. In the past, “jonyangorg” was personal and “jayang” was public but now I’m hoping for “jonyangorg” to be public and “jonwow” to be personal. If all this stuff sounds meaningless to you, you’re probably right, but I’ve seriously devoted lots of thought to this topic recently.

There’s nothing I like better than busy work that results in nothing productive so I may still redo everything to fall along the org and wow naming conventions anyway. Godspeed.

Along with that, I’ve been mildly seriously contemplating a name change. When George went in for her married name change, she was told that her first name actually wasn’t “Georgette.” Shock! Instead our legal names are still our Chinese names and she would have to file to change her first name along with her last. Well, that means I’m not even a “Jonathan” on anything official.

With the association of “George and Jon” likely to be further and further removed from my life, I feel like I have this golden opportunity to rename myself. The power of a memorable can’t be estimated. There is no mistaking “Wait, which Choncy is that?” There’s only one Choncy. That’s I want, unmistakeable identification.

If I’m to make my way in this world, I’ll need a more unique name. Something that will stick with people. Everyone has like five Jons in their life. (Not to mention there’s a L.A. based grocery chain named “JONS.”) In addition, I’m sick of fending off the more Google-able actors, ophthalmologists, kinetic companies, and infrastructure managers that push me down on Internet searches. There are too many “Jon Yangs” in the world and maybe it’ll be easier for me to achieve localized fame if I can just become a different person.

It would still be nice to have some consistency though, so I wanted something that would still start with J and would be unisex. Unhelpful polls of my peers have produced this list: Jorge (haha, um, no), Jamie, Jinx, Justice, or my camp name Juicebox. You should see the eye rolls when I suggest “Jessie.” So far my only preferred option is “Jamie."

A list of famous and relevant Jamies: Lannister, Chung, Foxx, Lee Curtis, King, Lynn Spears.

The bad news is “Jamie Yang” doesn't really get much further up on the uniqname scale. Nor does “Jami Young” or its alternatives. Back to the drawing board I guess. For now I’ll just remain as the same regular person you’ve come to know and love. Name change pending.

19 January 2016

The State of the Celtics


I'm watching the Celtics play in their forty-second game of the 2015-6 season, officially the NBA’s halfway point. They started the game versus the Mavericks shooting one for fifteen and accumulating a grand total of two points with about four minutes to go in the first quarter. That’s not good. Since I’m watching this after the fact, I know the Celtics fight back and take this game to overtime, but they still lose by five. Overall they’re 22-20, sitting in the eighth and last slot for a playoff appearance. It's hard to tell if they’re overachieving or underachieving. It's time for a Celtics check-in!

Basically if I’ve been home alone this year, a rarity, I’ve got an NBA game on. League Pass is dominating my life and I just enjoy having a game on in the background, even though I’m usually doing something else. I’ve seen maybe half of the Celtics games, the most in awhile, and I’m here to give you my thoughts about them. Because I’m sure you care too! (Okay, I’m mostly writing this post for my sister to read. "Hi George!")

The Coach
It’s weird when your team’s best asset is its coach. Brad Stevens is only thirty-nine years old and is generally hailed as a basketball genius. He’s been able to create a competitive team out of an ever shifting blend of bit parts and castoffs.
 Almost every player that has come through the Celtics during Stevens’ reign seems to perform better than expected. Opposing players praise Stevens all the time and he recently took a game off to visit a former player on his death bed. He’s got brains and heart, and he’s going to be Boston’s coach for a long long time. Danny Ainge has made a lot of amazing moves over his tenure but hiring Stevens three years ago was probably the most prescient of all. Now to find Stevens an actual superstar to work with, alĂ  Popovich / Duncan or Carlisle / Dirk.
The Guards
The undeniable strength of this version of the Celtics is the three guards, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart. Thomas is only 5’9” but our best offensive weapon. We acquired him in a mid-season trade last season and he sparked us to a surprise playoff run. He’s averaging 21.8 points and 6.6 assists this season, and basically if he isn’t scoring then the Celtics are in trouble. If you watch the Celtics games, Thomas has the ball in his hands 80% of the time he’s on the floor. He’s challenging for an All-Star appearance this season — although I don’t think it’ll happen — and he’s a vocal leader and fan favorite. Also, because he’s tiny, it means he’s a huge defensive liability. Opposing teams love to isolate Thomas on defense and post him up. I mean, wouldn’t you?

Luckily, Bradley and Smart are two of the best defensive players in the league. Bradley, despite being only 6’2” himself, is almost legendary for his on-ball defense. He isn’t going to be a star but Bradley has turned into a very nice player and his outside shooting is starting to become automatic. Smart, whom we drafted number six overall last season, is hurt a lot. When he’s on the court he’s a defensive beast, with a penchant for hitting timely three pointers, but overall he’s entirely a work in progress. He really isn’t a good shooter, and he’s not a really a point guard, and so far it’s hard to see him being a future perennial All-Star. But we must hope...

Effort Driven
Basically the entire Celtics roster is made up of “try hard” guys. Jae Crowder, acquired in the last year’s trade for Rajon Rondo, is all effort and heart. He’s a super solid 6’6” and is strong enough to defend almost anyone. Plus he's young and his shooting and passing is getting better as his game expands. Watching Crowder’s energy makes you just love him, trust me.

And then there’s power forward Jared Sullinger, who is only 6’9” but has a big butt, literally. Even though he looks slow and has no hops, Sullinger can rebound with anyone and he’s trying to get better position all the time. The downside with Sullinger is that he has some horrific shooting stretches and is almost never in shape. Yes, Sully's number one problem is that he’s kind of fat. Coaches call him out on it and he’s getting slimmer, but Sully is basically always chubby. But chubby can be cute, right?

Sidenote: Even if you don’t watch a lot of Celtics games, you’ll notice that they have a lot of interesting hair guys on their team. Smart and Jared Sullinger both sport Honey Badger-style blonde mohawks. And Kelly Olynyk's ponytail and occasional flowing locks is mesmerizing. Fun!

Our big off-season signing was Amir Johnson, an undersized forward-center who was supposed to bring us some rim protection — something we’ve long sought. As advertised, Johnson has given us exactly that and the long time veteran has been a perfect fit for the Celts. He’s been an upgrade over Brandon Bass and it’s fun to finally have a Celtic who can block some shots. I wish our 2015 second round pick, Jordan Mickey, would get some court time since he’s supposedly a shot blocking monster but it looks like he needs some more seasoning in the D-League.

Evan Turner
Stevens’ best reclamation project. Turner was basically considered hot trash when he was on the Pacers but after signing with the Celtics during the 2014 off-season he's turned into kind of an important player. Turner is 6’7” and is capable of handling the ball a lot and can make some very nifty passes. Then again, Turner is also often the dumbest player on the court as he takes bad shots, makes terrible decisions, and is kind of out-of-control. He’s entertaining though and the NBA-focused Sources Say podcast with Juliet Litman and Chris Ryan devoted a whole segment to Turner’s social media quotes.
"Larry Bird is not walking through that door..."
The Celtics have four white guys on their team: Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, David Lee, and Jonas Jerebko. Of the four, only Olynyk is important. He’s seven feet tall and sort of looks awkward sometimes but he’s a good outside shooter and important to the Celtics because he can spread the floor by threatening a three pointer at all times. Olynyk has slow feet and is also a liability on defense but his offense could be increasingly vital for this team. At best he'll become a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki? Speaking of Dirk, I saw his documentary, The Perfect Shot, on Netflix a few weeks ago and it's pretty good.

There was a stretch last year when Tyler Zeller was looking like a keeper, but then Rajon Rondo got traded and Zeller lost the guy who got him so many easy buckets. Now Zeller's stuck on the bench. A similar thing happened to Jonas Jerebko, who at times looks like a useful offense / defense forward but then he misses every shot and you realize that he’s not sticking around much longer. And speaking of not sticking around much longer, David Lee, former All-Star and recent world champion (with the Warriors), well, I just read an article this morning questioning if Lee would be out of the league next year. So there’s that.

The Shooters We Can’t/Don’t Use
Over the past two years Danny Ainge has drafted two guards who are supposed to be great shooters. James Young came in 2014 (along with Smart) and RJ Hunter was our second first round pick this year -- along with Terry Rozier, aka mini-Smart. Neither Young or Hunter have seen much time on the floor, and even though the Celtics need outside shooting very badly they probably won't be making appearances soon. C'mon guys, just stand there and hit a three once in awhile, how hard can it be!

The Future
Basically the Celtics are a semi-competitive so-so team and lack a franchise level star. Everyone is waiting for Danny Ainge to turn this collection of C/B-level talent and all our future assets — and we have a ton of them — into a superstar and then reassemble the type of contender we had in the late 2000s. (Can you believe that the Kevin Garnett deal was almost ten years ago? Seriously, the KG trade was done in July 2007!)

We own a billion upcoming first round picks but it doesn’t seem like we’re going to get a franchise level guy because the Brooklyn Nets aren’t tanking hard enough and the Celtics are too good to draft high. Without some major luck in the draft we’re going to be stuck waiting to trade for a star. Sadly, I can’t even imagine who’s available that we might get soon. The dream is DeMarcus Cousins but the reality is that we probably can’t even get a Carmelo Anthony or something like that. Where art thou Celtics savior?

Watching so many Celtics games can be painful because we seriously can’t score most of the time, but the definition of a true fan is watching, and enjoying, the rebuild on the way to a title. Toward that end, I follow these two blogs: Celtics Hub and Celtics Life for my daily fix. You should too!

08 January 2016

Fit to Print

To say that newsletters are now a thing is probably way behind the times. Currently I subscribe to way too many of them. It's like following blogs back in the day; there's an endless amount of good ones. I basically subscribe to everything and then try it out for a week. Newsletters for fantasy basketball, for tech stuff, for books, for heartbreak, for random science news, it's endless.
I'm also quick to unsubscribe, as I often just want a taste and a look at the format. For example, while I liked The Skimm a lot, I stopped subscribing to it to make bandwidth for other newsletters. Here are my current newsletter favorites:

Lenny
Bi-weekly dispatches from Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. Basically every issue blows my mind for who they interview or get stories from. I already recommended Lenny near the bottom of "Five Times Five." Leeennnnyyy!

Next Draft
Can’t beat Dave Pell for newsletter mastery. “The day’s most fascinating news” is just about right. I don’t click on everything but the consistent quality of Next Draft is incomparable.

This.cm
I kind of hate that this is a huge deal. "Each member can share just one link a day.” This is something so simple I/everyone should have thought of it. Jealousy is what it is. The daily newsletters This has been kicking out has been uniformly full of interesting stuff. Damn them.

Austin Kleon
The author of Steal Like an Artist shares ten things each week. This newsletter is super popular and for good reason! His recent "20 good books I read in 2015" is a pure winner.

The Ann Friedman Weekly
In an interesting model, this newsletter has two versions: free and paid. So far Friedman’s stuff has been great and I like the mix of personal and professional stuff she covers. Plus GIFs!

Hot Pod, by Nick Quah
A newsletter about podcasts from Panoply's audience development team member. Basically if you care about podcasts as an industry, a must-read. Also, here's Quah on why podcasting is overwhelmingly white.

Caitlin Dewey
The Washington Post’s digital cultural critic. The newsletter's title says it all: "Links I would Gchat you if we were friends.”

Jamelle Bouie
Staff writer for Slate, and general political analyst. Bouie’s newsletter always has a ton of great links.

The Daily Rumpus
I've been following Stephen Elliot's overly personal missives for awhile now, and recently he's handed off newsletter duties to Marisa Siegel, Managing Editor for The Rumpus.

Queen, by Alexander Chee
Infrequent but always great, and with another book about to release, The Queen of the Night, I’m expecting an uptick in updates.

Three Cents, by Manjula Martin
One half of the now defunct Scratch Magazine team, this is Martin’s personal newsletter. “I’ll send you 2 things about money and 1 about love, every 3 weeks.”

30 December 2015

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Part I, Books



Earlier this year Susie (Boygirlparty) introduced me to Spritz, which is a speed reading app. I didn’t end up using it much but did take a series of speed reading tests. Surprisingly, I found that I read with more comprehension than I assumed, and at a pretty fast clip. I’ve been accused of skimming too much and I thought that was becoming a problem. I always knew I was a fast reader but now it’s mathematically true! The average reading speed is 300 wpm and I think mine was around 500, which is roughly the average college students i think. Still, despite all this, it was as dark dark year for books.

My big comeback to reading was derailed by, well, I don't know. I guess it's time to face facts: I am no longer a reader. After successive years of not getting to fifty books a year, I thought I could find the motivation to get my numbers back up. Instead, I went from twenty-six books read two years ago, to twenty-two last year, to a whopping eleven in 2015. That's a downward trend if I ever saw one.

I mean, technically I will "finish" fiftyfifty this year, but mainly because I teamed up with my cousin Cleo, who finished with a tremendous 100+ books read — which will combine nicely with my movies watched for this year’s version of fiftyfifty.me, +BUDDIES. But I'm not trying to win this challenge through a technicality. Three times a failure equals out of the club! Luckily, fiftyfifty has a "no kicking people" out policy so I can still stick around for another go.

Anyway, with barely double digit numbers of books read this year, I can reel off the recommendations pretty quickly. Here they are: We Were Liars by E.Lockhart and You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman. Those were my two five star books for the year. Basically all of E.Lockhart's books are great and I've already talked about how much I like Kleeman's writing, and her debut novel was as brilliant as I knew it would be.

Somehow I've met more male readers in my short time in Taiwan than I have in many years back home. The bartender at Taipei's R&D Lounge is a voracious reader and he told me to get behind The Forever War. Joe Haldeman's a huge name and influence in "hard sci-fi" and after reading Forever War I can see why. I've been reading derivatives of Forever War for years and just never knew it. Also, if you were like me and didn’t know, hard science fiction is "characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy or technical detail or both."

Also, a brief take on Crazy Rich Asians, the book that took the U.S. by storm last summer -- where I wasn't residing and thus I had no idea what it was. "I hate Kevin Kwan." There, I said it. It's sheer professional jealousy but still, I hate him. It's all the salacious things that I would put in a book but didn't think about doing. So yeah, anyway, Mr. Kwan, congratulations on getting everyone addicted to your book (and its sequel). And I hate you, in the most admirable way possible.

So that's my pathetic tale of books read in 2015. Most of all I need to read the Ferrante's Neapolitan series next because I feel like they could set my life on fire and get me hooked on something.