30 December 2007

The Oneders

Over Christmas break (I still refer to this period as break although I'm many years out of school), I've finally fallen prey do the addiction that has been sweeping the country. Yes, I'm a wannabe Guitar Hero. I thought it would never happen since the game looked semi-lame and I was more of a Bustagroove dancing rhythm kind of guy. But after being exposed to Guitar Hero for more than ten minutes, I got hooked. Big time.

Everything they say about the game is true; you really do feel like you're playing the guitar. We played co-op mode for hours on end and after each successful song, I would scream, high-five, or pump my arms in celebration. It was a rush.

Apparently I'm a real jittery type of player and I have to stand up and bop around to play. I can't just sit there on the couch since real rock stars would never do that. It's funny to see other people's "styles." George sits there still as night and Star Powers in super slow motion. James and Victor are cool, calm and collected. Des has the whole rock starlet stance down.

As a truly cross-gender game, Guitar Hero (and Garage Band) is the perfect party game. Heck, my mom started playing it and is addicted as well. Sure, she can only do a few songs on Easy but she loves it. She had to take a day off from playing because the movements were causing her bad shoulder to get too sore. Still, with the help of some Salonpas, she soldiered on.

Tragically, my skills may have already peaked. I've also been pigeon-holed as a bass player. In my learning stages, I played too many songs as bass so now I'm only good at that. I'm an Excellent bass player but only a Hard guitar player. It's a real shame because I feel like I have so much more to give to the world. I'm not just a bass dammit!

29 December 2007

No Country for Old Men (2007)

There's certain films that critics adore that I really can't get into. A History of Violence was one. Most David Lynch stuff is another. Apparently my one Art of Film class wasn't enough to shed any light on what it all means. What I can say about No Country for Old Men is that it's finely acted and everything seemed to be really dramatic and important, but in the end, I just felt like I'd missed something. And not just because of the abrupt ending. If you see it, you'll know what I mean.

Bigger film brains than I are hailing No Country as a powerful film that says something meaningful about the nature of violence and evil (in men). I didn't catch any of that; maybe we're desensitized nowadays. Javier Bardem was cool though. It's not easy to rock black slacks, a denim jacket, and that so retro it's now-tro hair.

26 December 2007

Juno (2007)

Everyone's calling Juno this year's Little Miss Sunshine but it's far and away a better experience. Little Miss Sunshine was saccharine drippy and disgusting to swallow. Juno is sarcastic, caustic, and filled with hilarious dialogue. What's not to like? I think Ellen Page is one of the finest actresses around -- of any age -- and she deserves to have an amazing and fruitful career. With all the positive press Juno has been getting, it's sure to win some awards. Jump on the bandwagon asap.

I'm been reading the blog of Juno's screenwriter, Diablo Cody, who's exactly my age but has done so much more. She began as a blogger, then wrote a book based on her blog, and now has a hit movie to her name. I'm green with envy -- and admiration.
"Vanessa: Your parents are probably wondering where you are.
Juno: Nah... I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?"

21 December 2007

Starting Out in the Evening (2007)

Full of excellent dialogue and characters that immediately catch your attention, Starting Out in the Evening begins quite well but then drifts toward an ending that is altogether unsatisfying. Frank Langella is a literary lion working on his last book when a young graduate student invades his space and proceeds to turn his life upside down, sort of. Sadly, the expected epiphany or denouement never arrives and it bugs because the movie as a whole is so finely acted and constructed.

The best thing I got out of the whole experience was newfound respect for Lauren Ambrose of Six Feet Under fame. She shows another side of her acting ability and really glows in her role as the beautiful graduate student. Hopefully this will springboard her into bigger (but not necessarily better) roles.

19 December 2007

King Dork (2006)

"In youth-oriented movies and books, the guy like me often has a huge crush on a specific blond cheerleader who doesn't know he exists and would never stoop to talking to him. Or maybe she is kind of mean to him even though she's friends with him and asks him for advice on how to get the football guy to make out with her, which drives him crazy, and so forth.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm definitely that guy. But there isn't any one particular girl that fits that formula, and the idea that someone like that would ever be friendly with me in any sense, even as a device to dramatize my own pain and loneliness, is rather preposterous.

But of course I do have this mousy but cute female sidekick who has been right under my nose all along, only I won't realize how great she is till I've learned a few painful lessons about commitment and responsibility and what's important in life.

Just kidding; I don't have one of those, either."
-Frank Portman-

17 December 2007

Lonelygirl

Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick have a new show called "Quarterlife" and the material is right in-between thirtysomething and My So-Called Life. It's about a group of twenty-somethings trying to figure out what's next -- exactly the type of premise I like. With Herskovitz and Zwick behind the project, I'm very willing to sift through every episode and while it's not amazing so far, it's also not bad. The interesting thing about the show is that it's being released online through MySpace in 36 eight-minute episodes (they're currently up to thirteen).

The general manager of MySpace TV said that this is the "single best-produced piece of serialized content for the Internet, ever" because of its production budget and the creative team behind the project. Of course, the show was picked up by NBC and will hit regular television soon and it'll be interesting to see how well it does. Either way, if this thing is a hit, it can't be cancelled after one season; there'll always be MySpace!

In the show, the main character, Dylan Kreiger, blogs about her life and runs afoul of her friends by revealing too much. Heck, that's something I want to do! I'd love to write a dishy blog about everyone I know. But that seems like a poor life decision since I'd soon be hailed as a pariah and outcast from any social groups that I claim membership. But I'd have millions of fans to compensate right?

An awesome thing about the show so far: the end credits have the little ditty so familiar to any fan of MSCL. "And dance by the light of the moon..."

Wondering if you qualify for a quarter-life crisis? Here's some common characteristics, as gleaned from Wikipedia. You "win" if you score more than ten.

  • feeling "not good enough" because one can't find a job that is at one's academic/intellectual level
  • frustration with relationships, the working world, and finding a suitable job or career
  • confusion of identity
  • insecurity regarding the near future
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships
  • disappointment with one's job
  • nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life
  • tendency to hold stronger opinions
  • boredom with social interactions
  • financially-rooted stress
  • loneliness
  • desire to have children
  • a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than you

12 December 2007

Three-Peat

Into the Wild
Christopher McCandless graduated from college, gave away his savings, and set off to traipse around the United States in an attempt to escape consumerism and become one with nature. Inspired by Henry David Thoreau and Jack London, he also subsequently joined them as RIP two years after he disappeared.

You could look at the whole thing as a touching tale of a young man finding himself or as a spoiled kid who died because of his arrogance. I lean toward the latter despite the movie heavily promoting the inspiring version. While the film has been getting all sorts of great reviews, I felt it was a bit dry and hardly revelationary -- or insightful. Good cinematography though.

The Golden Compass
Fine, I only watched the back half of the movie (the better half so I'm told) but if the entire thing is anything like what I experienced, it's no great adventure flick. In fact, the entire film seems stilted and aside from the very cool snow bears, there wasn't much we hadn't seen before in either Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia -- neither of which I was in love with in the first place. While this first movie will undoubtedly extend into a franchise, I can't see it measuring up as a classic.

I'm halfway through the book too (and have been for months) but I can't seem to commit to that magic either, although the series is always touted as a classic. I guess I'll give the book another go when I can. The movie? I'll pass.

Enchanted
Would you believe that out of all these movies, Enchanted was the best one? I mocked somebody at work for printing out preview passes to watch this; turns out he was just ahead of the curve. Walking out after the magic of "The End," I just felt happy inside. Happily ever after as it were. The film mocks Disney's classic stories but in a really funny way. The mix of animation and live action is done really well and it's refreshing to see the Disney princess tale given a new spin. Seriously, it's good.

Check out this NY Times story, "The Line Between Homage and Parody," for an interesting behind the scenes.

05 December 2007

Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Well, this was a first. I've watched plenty of movies by myself but never in a completely empty theatre. Like a little girl, I initially thought, "Wow, I hope this movie isn't too scary." But then like a man I strapped on a portable machine gun, readied my rocket launcher, flipped the safety off the pepper spray, and dug into my popcorn.

I'm happy to report that the movie is as good as everyone says it is. I won't even go into any plot details since it's definitely better to watch this thing with no idea what's about to happen. It's mostly a basic crime suspense thriller but done very well.

I've read Dennis Lehane's books before (but not seen or read Mystic River) and Ben Affleck does a great job bringing Lehane's world to the big screen. The movie is paced and shot well and the Affleck behind the camera emerges as the one that truly impresses. Actually, what's most impressive is Michelle Monaghan's slightly snouty nose. I mean, I feel like most actresses would have gotten a new nose long ago but now it's her cute trait, like Jewel's snaggletooth.

The movie made me feel a little discombobulated so I drove home in radio silence, with fog settling in everywhere. Which made me scoot home just a bit faster. Because, you know, real men drive fast.

30 November 2007

Publishers Lunch

Here's the little blurb about my upcoming book from Publishers Lunch, the industry email where deals are announced. The first draft is finally all done and submitted so I'm looking forward to some time off before I hit the revisions. The book is due in Spring 2009. Pre-order now! Or you know, wait.
Children's: Young Adult
14 November, 2007
The Rough Guide to Blogging Jonathan Yang's untitled novel about the misadventures of a "celebutante" who decides to shake things up in her life, to Karen Chaplin at Puffin, in a two-book deal, by Stefanie Von Borstel and Lilly Ghahremani of Full Circle Literary.

26 November 2007

Hangin' Tough

My Thanksgiving was mostly spent transported back to the late 80s as Lilly introduced me to New Kids on the Block: Greatest Hits - The Videos. I don't care what you think of me after my next statement but here it is: That shit is hot. NKOTB wasn't just a boy band, they were clearly the boy band. Driving down to Lilly's in preparation for time travel, I was trying to figure out who the fifth member was.

"Danny," his name was Danny.

Some observations: It's clear that Jordan Knight is a marvel -- as was his hair -- and the greatest boy band leader of all time. Joey McIntyre had a crazy voice for a twelve year old; shame puberty didn't skip over him. Donnie Wahlberg looks increasingly out of place as the years went by. Jonathan is like an 80s version of Ross -- but with no personality -- and he consistently gets the worst outfits. I was also informed that he went out with Tiffany during this time, which discredits the gay theory. Danny is simply ridiculous (not in a good way).

Seriously though, the New Kids are good. For five white guys from Boston, they can dance, as evidenced here and here -- even if it's way dated. And damn, I'd forgotten how good some of their songs were. It all came flooding back. I've been listening to their greatest hits all weekend. Insanity.

In honor of all the joy they've brought me this holiday season, here is the dream team boy band lineup. Note, the members don't have to necessarily have been in a boy band, although most of the following have.
  1. Jordan Knight
  2. Justin Timberlake
  3. (Young) Michael Jackson
  4. Chris Brown
  5. Ricky Martin
Look over that lineup. Tell me you wouldn't pay money to see these guys. There was some talk of throwing in a member of New Edition, Color Me Badd, Boyz II Men, B2K, something like that. But all potential prospects were all eliminated for various reasons.

I had originally slotted in Usher for Chris Brown's spot but Brown's a better dancer and seems more boy band material. I'd take Usher as a replacement for Michael when MJ quits halfway through the first tour, claiming plagiarism and identity theft against everyone else.

And no, I have no idea if Ricky Martin can dance but he adds to the group's multi-ethnic appeal and I assume his experience with Menudo is a plus.

That's how my weekend went, how was yours?

25 November 2007

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Retarded good. While 2007's not quite over, this will probably be the movie I most enjoyed watching this year. It's absurd and really quirky but manages to fill you with true emotions -- pathos, sadness, humor. Ryan Gosling (The Believer, The Notebook) is underrated, but everyone says that so maybe he's just amazing and everyone agrees? What a difficult movie to make since it could have so easily crossed the line into farce and disaster. Go watch it before it totally disappears from theatres.

20 November 2007

Stuff I've Been Reading 1

BOOKS BOUGHT:
  • Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made - David Halberstam
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game - Feinstein/Auerbach
  • The Princess Bride - William Goldman
  • Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times - Kevin Smokler
BOOKS READ:
  • Playing for Keeps
  • Let Me Tell You a Story
  • Firstborn (Dragonlance Elven Nations, Vol 1) - Thompson/Carter
  • Children of the Mind - Orson Scott Card
  • Black Hawk Down - Mark Bowden
  • About a Boy - Nick Hornby
Here's what I've been trying to figure out: how much should a book budget be? This past weekend I exited a bookstore with product in hand for the first time in months and it felt wonderful. The problem was, it also cost me $50 for four books -- two of which were in the bargain bin. Nowadays, that's just about a gallon of gas but still, books (especially bad ones) have a short shelf life. A fifteen dollar book will last what? Four to six hours?

I would like to set my book budget at $200 a month but when I stop to look at that number, it's the same amount as a month's worth of insurance, bills, or car payments. Let's say I make two thousand dollars a month, that figure would then represent ten-percent of my income. If I flipped that into a Roth IRA, I could be a millionaire in forty years or something.

But it's so much fun to buy books isn't it? Sure the library is cheaper and semi-convenient but the selection is never what one would like. Although I've heard that some libraries have organized themselves bookstore style, which seems like it would be pretty awesome.

The point is, how much is buying new books worth to me? Ten percent of my paycheck per month? Should I look for other (stimulating) alternatives? Netflix provides unlimited movies for a mere $20 a month; Internet is around the same; after fixed costs, a videogame is the most economically efficient form of entertainment around. So again, how much is literature worth?

My number one criteria for buying books for their retail price (in a bookstore) is re-readability. Am I likely to read this book multiple times? Then I should buy it. Also, is it a book that should be in my collection ten years from now? Auto-buy. The last kind of book I'll purchase in-store is one I just happen to stumble upon and don't have the patience to wait for it post-Amazon. These are often the dumbest buys of all time because it's like committing to a girl after the five minute meet and greet; totally hit or miss. Sometimes you have to judge a book by its cover (or blurb or title) right?

Since the basketball season's starting, I was forced to buy the Halberstam and Feinstein book just to gear me up for the Celtics' championship run ahead. Princess Bride made the cut because I've been told it's a true classic. After purchasing Bookmark Now and opening it up, I realized that the editor, Kevin Smokler, was on Lilly's pitch panel for the Ann Arbor Book Festival we attended in May. The local bookstore and my book life is starting to collide! It must mean I'll soon be a real author. Yes!

17 November 2007

Beowulf (2007)

"Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?"
Do yourself a favor, pony up the extra bucks and go watch this in the theatre, with dorky 3D glasses on. There's no better way to experience this movie. While reviews said that this was more of a visual experience, I found the plot to be much deeper than in something like 300, which was just fight fight fight.

In fact, I'd almost say I like this better than 300 because there was hardly a moment when I wasn't entertained. Beowulf clearly proves himself to be the hero among heroes. Of course, the movie differs from the classic (it's the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language) by quite a lot so don't expect a history lesson; just an awesome guts and glory movie.

The CGI is impressive as well. While it's not pure CGI, but rather photorealistic animation, most of the shots are pretty amazing. Then again, the characters also tend to move in some unnatural ways. It's sort of like watching a video game's cut-scenes, but for two hours.

I wonder when this technology will get good enough to start using it for everything. It can already make Ray Winstone -- whoever that is -- look just like Russell Crowe apparently. I swore it was Russell as Beowulf...

09 November 2007

Bloggie Awards

Another year, another round of Bloggies, the Academy Awards of the blogging world. I'm a little disappointed that so many of the winners I already know about. I was hoping to find a few gems to add to my reading collection. Then again, I haven't had too much time to dig through everything quite yet. I'm also sad that the "Best Tagline of a Weblog" category is now defunct. That was always good for a laugh or two. Anyway, check'em out!

What I have been exploring is this site, CollegeOTR.com, which is a blog portal focused on colleges. It reveals a side of campus life that wouldn't be available in any sanctioned outlet. I keep thinking about how fun it would have been to have blogs when I went to college. I would have blogged my little life away. At my alma mater, Michigan, there's been this recent brouhaha involving an an anonymous blogger who takes (hilarious) potshots at the Umich Greek scene. He was unveiled recently so I hope he runs fast and carries a big stick.

04 November 2007

American Gangster (2007)

Denzel and Russell should make for a classic right? There's really nothing wrong with the movie but there's definitely a lack of energy about the whole thing. Scenes taken individually are well constructed but nothing held together and at times it was almost boring. The best thing about the film is that it's based on a true story and you can research the real Frank Lucas afterwards. here's "The Return of Superfly," the article that got the ball rolling on the movie.

Compared to something like Heat, American Gangster had nothing to recommend it.

27 October 2007

The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D (2007)

This movie's a classic, or so I'm told. I thought watching it in 3-D would be a life altering experience. Final verdict? Not so much. The novelty of 3-D was cool but afterwards I was told that most of it wasn't in 3-D anyway. I kept on hoping for more things to happen. And the songs need some help. Get Tim Rice on the phone. Still, the production design was awesome and I can see how this was pretty mind blowing in 1993. I prefer Wallace & Gromit.

25 October 2007

The Polysyllabic Spree

I'm sure not a lot of people know about this book, The Polysyllabic Spree (Complete Hardcover version), but if you love to read, this is a must buy. Nick Hornby (author of "High Fidelity," among other books) has a monthly column in The Believer magazine where he muses about books he's read that month. Sometimes the columns fling off into weird and wacky directions but for the most part, Hornby gives readers an inside look on how one (very literate) person goes through the world of books.

His columns always begin with a list of books bought and then a list of the books finished (sample). It's basically a book diary and a genuinely fabulous idea. I can't do enough justice to his column with such a brief review. Just go pick it up. Highly recommended.

22 October 2007

Home Is Burning

When we were in the fourth grade, our neighbor's house burned down. A thief was using the house as a base of operations while he looted the community. As the cops closed in, he set the house on fire as a diversionary tactic. For some reason, I had a crazy dream that night and made my dad come sleep with me in my room. A few hours later, he woke up with a start and thought it was our living room on fire. Later, he joked that he went immediately to rescue my mom because hey, you can always make more kids, but wives are once in a lifetime.

Yesterday, I glibbly suggested that the fires in Southern California were less scary than a flight of Raiders fans. Twenty four hours later, it's Fire 451 - Raiders' fans 0. Most of the people we know in San Diego are from Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, and Poway. Evacuation! Our old house is in that area but I think it's okay -- I notated our homes in little blue circles on the map.
It amazes me how much the Internet has changed the way we track disasters. I was right across the river during 9-11 so never really experienced something like this from the outside. Watching San Diego burn from up here in LA, it's frustrating the lack of information we have available. Then again, awesome people like Chris (whoever he is) whipped up stuff like this Google Maps / SD Fires mashup incredibly fast so he deserves some sort of medal.
The little church where we attended kindergarten burned down. That church is located a few dozen yards from Hong's house (Hotel Pan), which quite possibly might be the only house in his cul-de-sac that still stands. I hope the hang out of all hang outs is safe and standing proud.

The fire's headed toward Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. Guess where our other house is? Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. I'm hoping the friendly fire decides to skip our community. Strangely, I can't think of many things I'd go down there to save. Pictures, mementos, important papers, all that stuff of course. But aside from the obvious, what else is there?

Luckily my mom's in Taiwan. Hi Mom.

17 October 2007

Heartache?

I'm not sure how I missed this but the Sci-Fi channel is coming out with an original TV mini-series about the Wizard of Oz. Tin Man is an edgier version of the story we've all come to know and love and while I'm in support of anything Oz related, I'm a little scared about this one.

Zooey Deschanel stars as Dorothy. Alan Cumming of Nightcrawler fame is the Scarecrow, Neal McDonough is the Tin Man, and Raoul Trujillo is the Cowardly Lion. Richard Dreyfuss plays the Wizard and Kathleen Robertson is the Wicked Witch. No idea who's playing Toto.

The cast sounds great but the problem starts with the abbreviations. Dorothy is now D.G., short for Dorothy Gale. Say that out loud. Sounds stupid right? Even worse? Oz is now O.Z. (as in Outer Zone). Nevermind the similarity to "The O.C.," that just sounds straight up ridiculous. And the Cowardly Lion is now named "Raw." Not "Rawr" mind you. But still pronounced rawr, I think.

The other problem I have after watching the trailers is that Zooey Deschanel, otherwise known as Fairuza Balk lite, doesn't seem very into it. Her lines sound wooden as hell. I mean, please, give it some emotion. I've always been on the fence about Zooey as an actress but this could make it or break it for me. Some of the dialogue seems pretty horribly written too. I cringed a few times.

Anyway, the series starts in December so I guess I'll be dedicating six hours of my life to it, even if it sucks. All this reimagining of Oz is good on the surface but I'm not sure I'd be ready for Todd McFarlane's version if it hits the big screen, even if I did enjoy his twisted Oz toys.

For a dark reimagining of the Wizard of Oz that I surely did enjoy, check out "Was" by Geoff Ryman. "Ryman's darkly imaginative, almost surreal improvisation on L. Frank Baum's Oz books combines a stunning portrayal of child abuse, Wizard of Oz film lore and a polyphonic meditation on the psychological burden of the past."

14 October 2007

Michael Clayton (2007)

Not as intelligent or as dramatic of a movie as I was led to believe. While the acting and the direction was nice all around, there just wasn't much going on the whole time and in the end, there was nothing that made you go "Oh, nice!" George Clooney is excellent as a lawyer who is brought in to fix sticky situations but to be honest, we don't get the sense that he's "The Wolf" at all. He's almost kind of a loser actually. There's a message and a brain to this movie but it's all muddled.

I should have checked out one of these flicks: Lars and the Real Girl, We Own the Night, 3:10 to Yuma, Across the Universe, Outsourced, Darjeeling Limited, Assassination of Jesse James, This Is England, or any number of movies I've been so far unable to watch.

09 October 2007

Part of Your World

I'd always known there was something a little bit different about me. I was afraid to name it, to put voice to it, but now, it's all coming out. The good news is, it'll be for a good cause and I'll be paid to do it. An inner teen girl has always lurked deep within my soul but now she'll be exposed for the world to see. I'm writing a new book, this time fiction. It's about a teenage girl who's adopted into a celebrity family. It'll be like My So Called Life plus US Weekly. Well, that may be aiming a bit high.

This whole thing has been in the works for quite awhile but now it's seriously here. I signed the contract a few weeks ago and the first draft is due in a little over a month. There's some serious writing ahead of me. The coolest thing is that I now get to go around asking questions like "So, the way you do your eyeliner, what would you call that exactly?" and play it off as research.

The downside is that I'll be spending lots of time in places where teen girls hang out, or in the teen girl section of the book store, and people will wonder about me. And probably not in a good way.

Most importantly, thanks Full Circle Literary!

26 September 2007

The Final Frontier

I've documented my hate for MySpace on multiple occassions. I rail against it, it's totally pointless, it's super ugly, it's more inane than any other social networking tool. So, of course, it's the market leader and worth millions of dollars. Of course.

My old MySpace was created in order to test out the site's blogging function for the book. I added a few friends, played around a little, and then left it alone. Of course, I got in trouble for not adding a certain someone during my brief test run but that's a whole 'nother story. With some prodding and goading (and people actually making it for me), I now have a personal MySpace.

I feel so awesome now. Very awesome. Like very connected awesome. It's almost a spiritual high. Euphoric I'd say.

I'm trying to figure out what sorts of things I can do now but I can't think of a single thing. I guess when I fall out of touch with people, I can publicly message them and briefly and generically ask how they're doing but really, isn't that what email is for? And I guess having a MySpace would enable long lost friends to find me but I highly doubt anybody's missing much in their lives without me around. If they were, wouldn't they have found me already?

You would think that I'd be super big on social networking since I have this constant fear of losing friends. I like making sure I have one or two ways to find somebody in a worst case scenario. I've managed to fall out of contact with only a few friends here and there and each time it's been semi-traumatic for me. Social networking should be my friend tracker but it's been totally ineffective.

Anyway, despite its many shortcomings, I'm giving social networking a chance. I even tossed things onto my Facebook in order to give it some life. I read an article about the recent success of Facebook and how it's really good at (1) connecting people and (2) keeping them apart -- by not accepting an invite, you can bar people from your circle. I can really appreciate this mix of openness and exclusivity so I've decided to embrace the dichotomy.

20 September 2007

Bug Juice

Did you see this show the other night? Kid Nation? Like a supervised Lord of the Flies but hopefully, hopefully, with less disastrous results? Forty children aged 8 to 15 are picked to live in a New Mexico ghost town for forty days. During that time they'll have jobs, they'll have town councils, they'll have fun, and they'll show the world how smart kids are and I guess, how dumb adults are. Or that's what I took from the concept anyway.

During the first town meeting, the kids are asked if they'd like to go home. Nobody takes the host up on his offer until shyly, meekly, one little boy raises his hand and despite protests from the group, makes up his mind to return to mommy and daddy. His reason? "I'm really homesick. I'm not mature enough for this." He was eight. And obviously mature beyond his years.

This show is wrong on so many levels. What kinds of parents let their kids go on national TV to mingle with a bunch of other children? Don't they know that these kids are about to be exploited -- or placed in danger? This is hardly a benign summer camp or a quick sleepover at a trusted neighbor's house. Who knows what will happen behind-the-scenes?
Critics have rounded on parents for signing waivers that stated the program "may expose the minor to conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness, or death, including drowning, falls from heights, encounters with wild or domestic animals, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy."
The worst thing about the show is that every three days, the council gets to pick a team member to reward with a gold star, and along with it, twenty thousand dollars. Pretty soon this thing's about to get cut-throat and nasty. Just like the producers want it. There's no way something dramatic won't happen and these children will suffer irreparable psychological and emotional damage. I'm already setting my Tivo for "Kid Nation: A Decade Later" on VH1.

Currently I'm ready to devote my television time to Beauty and the Geek 4. While the beauties only get dumber and boring-er each season, the geeks are as real as reality television gets. You can't fake being that weird. And the twist is enough to entice me; although I'd hoped for an entire switcheroo with all beautiful guys and geeky girls. Maybe next year.

16 September 2007

Return of the King

Here's how to live "the life." Quit your corporate job, start your own company, work from home, surf in the morning, travel cross-country attending events like the Super Bowl and Gen Con. After spending a few years working for places like the NFL and Upper Deck, James is now his own boss and using his many talents in combination to create a lifestyle that is the envy of all of his friends.

While the distinction of "Alpha Male" is hotly contested among my group of guy friends, it's no question that Jmz is a Renaissance Man among Renaissance Men. Aside from excelling in art, photography, and graphic design, he's also managed to acquire serious cooking skills, (any)boarding skills, Halo skills, guitar, piano, drums, and singing skills, and an enviable collection of movies, music, posters, and designer vinyl toys. Plus he's high up on my list of people to take on a survivor island should I need someone to hunt, build, or change a flat tire.

Of course, no person this talented can be anything less than a perfectionist and in James' case, very OCD. Put it this way, when I used to wake up in the morning and the vacuum cleaner and duster were strategically placed outside my door, there was no question its intent or purpose. It takes two Virgoes to make an apartment clean apparently -- one to bitch and one to supervise.

Anyway, Jmz was responsible for introducing me to the world of blogs many years ago and while he's been an on-and-off blogger [ 1, 2, 3 ], he's back again. This time in moblog format. Plus, his personal site, jameswang.com, is finally updated, and his business site, Okapix, is rounding into shape.

It's about time Jmz came back on the scene because I'm sick of stealing his pictures. Well, actually, I'm not sick of it, but I'm pretty sure he is. Basically any amazing pictures you've seen on my sites the past few years were probably taken by James. I'm not above appropriating other people's works. It's ethically perverse, I know. But I only steal from the rich to show the poor; it doesn't hurt anybody to have James' work out there in the world. Let's hope he sticks around to put his own stuff up this time.

15 September 2007

Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

It's a tale as old as time: Assassin can't recall why they kill or who they are. They slowly start to figure it out and aim to take out their creators. Long Kiss Goodnight, etc.

The kicker here is that it's taken three movies for Jason Bourne's tale to spin out. Having missed the first two films but willing to watch the third due to rave reviews, the basic jist is this: I can't wait for Wolverine to come out soon; which will be like this movie but with more fur and claws. Snikt.

10 September 2007

Man vs Ink

Admittedly, this is a long shot but Lilly put my good name out there when one of her contacts was exploring casting options for the host of a television show that explores international tattoo cultures. They're looking for writers who write about or engage in travel, international culture, and adventure.

I wonder if having several smallish tattoos would disqualify me from consideration. I mean, I doubt I would have the tattoo credibility to be allowed into these secret cultures with anything resembling credibility. For a moment though, it sounded like an excellent oppurtunity for me to get my breakout role.

I mean, I'm engaging, inquisitive, earnest and male; which were some of their qualifications. Sure they probably want an older gentleman with a sense of adventure -- like Anthony Bourdain -- but casting a 22-year old (looking) Asian would probably bring in millions of viewers. Nothing would bring more street cred to the show than a slightly OCD, sprig looking, tiny tattoo sporting Chinese boy. Nothing.

The show will be looking to follow the host on "a journey to some potentially dangerous places." I was trying to imagine what would qualify as dangerous to them but decided that anything more exotic than the local Target or Souplantation would be pretty risky to me. I imagine I'd have to rough it a bit too; which probably doesn't mean sleeping on the ground of your friend's apartment.

All in all, I'd say I'm ready to risk my life to explore some tattoo cultures. So, History Channel, hurry up and call me so we can get started on this thing. Bring on the pain; we've got a world to explore and I've got skin real estate to spare.

09 September 2007

King of Kong (2007)

Documentaries about little niche interests have been the hottest thing for quite awhile. Crossword puzzles, Scrabble, spelling bees, etc. Inevitably the hisattention would turn to video games. While the set-up and payout for the film is pretty much as expected, it's hard to not be amused/amazed by the efforts that humans will take to perfect one thing.

It makes one wonder what you could achieve if given the same dedication. I hope someone soon contacts me to start filming "Wizard of the Coast: Jonathan and the Amazing Technicolor Deck," to be released in 2010 after I become an International Grand Champion. I'm pretty sure geek fame is worth twice as much as normal fame.

29 August 2007

boygirlparty

Everyone knows Susie of boygirlparty fame right? If not, they should because she's an amazing everything. One of her many talents -- and I mean, very many talents -- is being a renowed illustrator and artist. Her online shop is filled with ridiculously amazing things.

Since Susie is yet another of the amazing Ghahremani's I know, I've been fortunate enough to see her workshop and watch her paint with her teeny tiny brushes. It's quite the honor.

She's got a show, entitled "Teacher's Pet," going on at the ultra-cool Giant Robot store in New York until September 12th so if you're anywhere in the area, you should check it out (the pieces are also available for sale online). Susie's stuff is everywhere actually. I'm constantly wandering into stores and finding Susie's signature style and pieces in stores from coast to coast. Susie's like an intergalactic rock star. Seriously.

26 August 2007

Fort Knotts

Someone's been trying to steal my identity and it's not funny. Actually, the person in question doesn't even want my entire identity, just a few hundred dollars from my bank account. It's almost depressing to think that the most valuable part of my good name is its attachment to money. I can guarantee that a few years ago, nobody would have wanted to hack into my bank account for any reason.

Suddenly, as I finally come into (some) money, I'm being attacked. By a Spanish speaker located in New Jersey no less. And they're not even that good at hacking since I found out where they live, their name, and just about everything else about them with my Internet-sleuthing skills. If only they had a MySpace or Facebook to exploit. By the way, is Facebook making a huge push into the market or what?

Coming on the heels of having funds drawn out of my bank account by another Jonathan a few months ago, I've decided that my security measures are really not working. Then again, I'm not sure who to blame because if I have to explain to Paypal's resolution center person how their system works and why there's a weird Catch-22 in it, I'm guessing it doesn't take a genius to crack Paypal's security measures either. Did I mention this is the second time in a month Paypal has failed me?

Anyway, my old password security system -- created maybe six years ago -- utilitized a cunning algorithm of a certain cartoon-ish theme and numbers. It seemed capable of thwarting fools and also forget-proof. You know when IT articles tell you to change your passwords every few weeks? I've decided it's probably a good idea. I've used the same generic password for most log-ins since 2001. It makes it easy to access things but I guess it's probably not that good of an idea.

I just never thought I would see the day when supervillains would target me as a source of potential income. It's nice though, because it obviously means I'm coming up in the world. Unless this guy is the reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Then I guess I'd be a little embarassed for him since that's not very original. Nor the stuff of legend.

18 August 2007

Stardust (2007)

Where has Claire Danes' career gone post-MSCL? It's hard to name a signature movie for her yet she's been in a ton of stuff. She's on my list of actresses that I enjoy watching but at this point, I'm starting to think it's just because I liked her from MSCL.

I mean, she hasn't really done anything I'd consider a classic or even semi-good. Well, now Danes plays the human incarnation of the evening star fallen from heaven but for some reason, her eyebrows were singed away. It's a bit discomforting. I kind of wish she'd stop shying away from being a redhead again since with her pale skin, it's her best look.

Stardust is being recommended as a "Princess Bride" clone and in that sense, it's spot on. While it isn't going to achieve classic status, the story and plot move along quickly enough to be thoroughly enrapturing for its two-hour running time. There are a ton of name actors/actresses in this movie and that alone justifies the "star" in the title. It's a throw back to the fantasy films of the 80s and the song for the ending credits pays homage -- hilariously -- to that fact.

12 August 2007

El amor en los tiempos del internet (or) Cien anos de soledad

With my copious amounts of spare time, I've got a few projects in the works. "In the works" is synonymous with "probably won't ever happen." The first of these must-make projects will be a dating site for Asians. It's totally racist, I know, but it's potentially very lucrative. In fact, I'm afraid to look around for competitors because I'm sure they already exist. Asians like to date Asians. Like attracts like. With the semi-recent collapse of MTV World, it may be time to try K-Date, C-Date, and I-Date. Perhaps Nintendo can pick up the slack with a Wii-Date.

And if Asians don't want to be segregated from the rest of the dating community, then at least there'll be an online space for Caucasian males to gather and poach. Can you think of a better idea? Probably not. And trust me, after dating a few sexy Orientals, these guys will lose that exotic sense of mystery real fast. (Most) Asian women have serious issues, you knew that right?

The other target demographic for this site would be Asian parents. Imagine how happy they'll be to find a site where they can easily recommend each other's children. It'll give that whole "Kid Test, Mother Approve" slogan a new spin. No more discreetly but clumsily introducing your son to her daughter. Just push the "Your Mommy Thinks We Should Date" button and voila, instant communication and connection -- forever, with lots of grandchildren in the near future or your money back. It's a real shame the Internet is too much to handle for most Asian parents, otherwise I'd focus exclusively on parents' desperate needs to marry off their children. It's a burgeoning market.

Speaking of recommendations, my other big innovation for the online dating scene is user generated reviews. Think about a Match.com combined with a Yelp, with a bit of Friendster thrown in. What do you really need to know about a person in order to date them? Their favorite books, movies, hobbies? Please. Stop right there. Wouldn't it be much easier if you could just read how their past dates went?

We need accountability in online dating. Ebay has buyer feedback, why can't TrueDating.com? Catchy name isn't it? Too bad that URL is already being squatted. Anyway, the idea is solid gold. Allow people to comment on profiles of the dates they've recently been on.
Sample comments might be:
"The picture tells a thousand lies."
"Didn't offer to pay for the meal, yet went in for the good night kiss."
"Not right for me, but maybe perfect for you (if you're desperate)!"
"His mansion in the hills belongs to his parents; they still live there."
"She didn't mention the baby (and baby daddy) at home."
There will be a list of easy drop-down comments for those daters who don't have much time to dedicate to responding. We could even work in a pro membership that allows you to see the comments. Pay to see comments or take your chances with an unrated and uncommented version of the site. Mix in premium comments from ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, plus advice from an in-house psychologist about their issues (or yours), and everybody will choose to go pro.

What would make you reach for your wallet faster than knowing that for only $49.99 a month you could use the power of peers to pre-screen your dates? Isn't this the greatest idea ever? Dating 2.0? Somebody fund me already.

09 August 2007

The Science of Sleep (2006)

Michel Gondry sure has an eclectic portfolio. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Dave Chappelle's Block Party? And apparently award-winning music videos? I'm pretty excited about his next movie too (Be Kind Rewind). But what of his most recent creation? I was really anxious to see The Science of Sleep in theatres but then skipped out after some so-so reviews.

After watching it I think I should have ignored the critics. It struck me as similar to "Waking Life," but with a plot. Actually the two movies have nothing in common except dreaming but still. The themes of this film were intriguing and Gondry is excellent at providing visual stimulus at all times.

I really enjoyed how the film unwaveringly intermingled English, French, and Spanish. Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal is at his charming best. He's like the actor Orlando Bloom wishes he could be.

30 July 2007

34+20+21 = 17

A few weeks ago I posted about how excited I was, on the heels of their trade for Ray Allen, that the Celtics would be relevant again. I said, "While I'm not delusional enough to think that adding Ray Allen will take the Celtics to a championship, this will at least make them respectable." Well, forget respectable. The Celtics have landed the original kid wonder, Kevin Garnett (who wears my favorite number) and despite having to mortgage the future, this will make the Boston Celtics a contender in the weak Eastern Conference.

If Lebron James and nobody can get to the Finals, what will Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett do? That's a fantasy team roster filled with a trio of franchise players. I bet Larry Bird is ready to suit up and give it a go. Or at least Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale -- the two GMs and ex-Celtics who have screwed up their respective franchises for the past few years -- are getting ready to play again. Celtic pride made them agree to this blockbuster trade and championship number seventeen is surely on the way.

Doubters may say that we won't have enough depth but I say: "What, Brian Scalabrine doesn't scare you? Are you crazy?"

28 July 2007

Ratatouille (2007)

I heard from semi-reputable sources that Ratatouille was surprisingly good. After I watched it the only surprise I got was how mediocre it was. Sure it's a Pixar film but Pixar films written/directed by Brad Bird need to come with a caveat: they suck. Incredibles was pretty bad (with some good moments) and Ratatouille is worse than that. Put it this way: We sat directly behind an obnoxious lady laugher but after the film trailers she didn't laugh once. That's how un-entertaining this film was. 'Nuff said.

20 July 2007

The Takeover

It makes sense right? Billions of people plus blogging? Eventually some Chinese person would take over the top of the blog charts. It's finally happened as Xu Jinglei, a Chinese actress and director, became the world's most widely read blogger recently. For approximately two years she's averaged 167,000 page views a day. That's a lot of page views -- and cash, if she monetized her site.

Tragically, I can't read a lick of Chinese -- despite years of Chinese school -- so I can't understand anything she's blogging about but apparently she's pretty good. Then again, the abundant use of emoticons and pictures of her cats makes me pretty wary to read her blog, even if it were in English. Some things require no translation.

More importantly, this means I'm about 166,999 page views a day away from being the world's most widely read blogger. Maybe I should get a cat.

17 July 2007

Fallen Angels (1995)

"Wong Kar-Wai" directly translated from Chinese means "pretty good movie." Well, unless you don't really get what happened -- like my initial watching of Fallen Angels. I kept fearing the dreaded "it's about to end with no resolution" moment. I think you'd have to be a real film buff to enjoy this guy. Well, maybe not a real film buff but a viewer who goes in with an understanding of what Wong is doing.

The acting, mood, and scenery are all excellent but it's hard to wrap American film ideals around this movie. I can't honestly say I liked it or got it, but I'm going to watch it again. Who knew it's a semi-sequel (part of a semi-trilogy) to Chungking Express? I didn't.
"The best thing about my profession is that there's no need to make any decision. Who's to die... when... where... it's all been planned by others. I'm a lazy person. I like people to arrange things for me. That's why I need a partner."

10 July 2007

One Is a Genius,

I was once a psychology major. Well, I was once an everything major, meaning I went through a new major about once a semester. My fondest memories of psychology class involve me showing up after a shift at Rendezvous Cafe -- a Middle Eastern spot that served killer sandwiches, grape leaves, crepes, and smoothies -- stinking like all hell.

One of my friends in class insisted she possessed an enhanced sense of smell and refused to sit next to me. It really wasn't a subtle hint that she didn't like me; I just stank from all the delicious aromas. What're you gonna do when you have a $400 long-distance (girlfriend) bill to pay for? Keep working and stinking, right? I started skipping my psych classes, maybe partly out of shame, maybe mostly out of sheer laziness, whatever. A few weeks later, psychology wasn't for me.

Fast forward to this past weekend when I met a Professor of psychology -- who, very coincidentally, taught the last six years at Michigan. The "p" in professor shouldn't be capitalized but trust me, when you meet an actual professor, even in a social setting, the "P" screams to be capped up.

This very young for her age professor specializes in social psych, the exact area of psychology I'm most interested in. Her further focus is toward Asian-Americans and people of mixed descent. How it affects their self-esteem, how it forms their identity, why Asian-American males are such wussies, that kind of thing. It's the exact topics I like to think about on an amateur level. I wanted really badly to validate some of my observations and theories with a professional but I curtailed that curiosity as much as I could.

You can't barge in on someone's lazy Saturday and pound them with questions about their work. But looking through her bookshelf filled with familiar social psych books, I was like, "Hum, there's a good chance she's written some of these. I should probably stop talking right now and just shut up -- about anything."

It must be so cool to be a social psychologist. You get to dream up fun theories like the "Dunning-Kruger effect," which states that people who have precious little knowledge believe they know more than everyone else. Basically, people overestimate how good they are at something. Wait, this isn't news! Everyone (needs to) thinks they're better than they actually are. But Dunning & Kruger get to create blanket statements like this:
  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill,
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others,
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy,
  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.
Then they design human lab rat experiments to test these hypotheses out. How fun is that? How about I make up some tests to figure out how much I think people are incompetent and then you sign up to prove it. Sound good? Thanks.
"Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."

09 July 2007

Transformers (2007)

Talk about a much hyped movie. I was pretty excited to watch Transformers but was prepared to be underwhelmed. Then I started getting emails, texts, and blog comments about how great it was. It boggled the mind. How good could this movie be? Well, we finally watched it on Friday night (after waiting in a long ass line) and the verdict? It's good. Like, pretty good.

Michael Bay knows how to make an entertaining movie. All the gripes I had with the way they designed the robots melted away once we saw the first few scenes. Throw explosions, cars, robots, and hot girls (omg, Megan Fox -- soon to be Megan Austin Green) together and Bay knows what to do with them. Sure, it was like watching Armageddon, The Rock, and Gone in 60 Seconds mashed together but hey, who cares?

There's plenty to nit-pick about the movie -- and some horrible lines and a weird cheezy sense of humor -- but I'll leave it all alone because at the end of the day, there are plenty of "this is so cool" moments to justify the long running time. Transformers, just watch it.

02 July 2007

iLust

Here's what's going on right now. I have an iPhone. Well, I have an unopened box with an iPhone in it. I have an iPhone charged to my credit card. I haven't opened it because I'm not sure I'm fully committed to the wonder that is the iPhone. I thought I wouldn't have to worry about this since iPhone's would be in short supply and I'd have a 3-month window of waiting to decide.

But no, Jobs and Co. insured that there would be plenty of iPhones on-hand and my technology Moses easily purchased one at the mall on Saturday. So being the sheep that I am, I bought one at the mall on Saturday too. However, I need a week to think this out. The iPhone comes with a fourteen day return policy -- if it's unopened. Thus, I'm not opening it. Turns out I'm an indecisive, conservative gadgeteer despite touting the benefits of the iPhone for months.

I hate T-Mobile right now (no reception at my house); yet I love my Sidekick. If I could only keep the Sidekick but be able to make phone calls on it. It's a digital era Elizabethan tragedy. I have loved and lost and I'm about to dump my steady companion of many years. Here are the most important thing to me in a smart phone:
  1. Ability to type fast
  2. AIM
  3. Easy and efficient email client
  4. Ability to moblog easily
Guess what the iPhone doesn't do well? All the above. I'll get faster on the keyboard but there's no AIM on the iPhone. On top of that, the email client isn't easy to use and moblogging would require sending an email of each picture. That's retarded.

What do I like about the iPhone? Well, just about everything else. I mean, sure it's not that fast Internet-ing -- unless you're near Wi-Fi -- sure it's still got some weird little kinks in it, but there's no doubting it's an amazing piece of technology. $650 worth of amazing technology? Well, that's tough to say.

I've been researching other options, and I'm narrowing it down to the iPhone or Helio's Ocean. It's stupid to even doubt Apple but the things I need a smartphone for, the iPhone doesn't provide. Also, the reception on Cingular isn't that much better at my house than on T-Mobile.

This may not sound like a love letter, but it is. It's like I'm deciding between the hot girlfriend that makes no sense or the boring girlfriend that makes perfect sense. The thing is: Aren't I a senseless guy? Hasn't this been proven over and over? Should I even bother fighting myself?

I hope I have the mental fortitude to resist tearing open the box without considering every angle. God grant me the strength to resist technological temptation. Amen.