28 June 2007

Jesus and the Truth

About a month ago, I was in a room full of friends when out of the blue, I got a text that said simply "5." And I died. What did it mean? It meant that my beloved Boston Celtics -- the second worst team in the NBA last year -- had somehow managed to snag only the fifth pick in the draft.

For those of you who don't follow basketball, this year's draft is only two-deep in potential franchise changing superstars (Greg Oden and Kevin Durant). Picking all the way at number five meant getting an okay player, but not an amazing one. The Celtics haven't won shit since the Larry Bird days. We need a championship, bad; the coveted number seventeen.

The 2007 draft is happening right now -- I'm at work so I can't watch -- but I've been on pins and needles all day because it's been the Celtics' modus operandi lately to do the dumb thing. And the dumb thing this year would have been to trade all the young talent they've acquired (and lost many games with) over the past few years for just one big star -- even if that star is Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion, or Jermaine O'Neal.

I was hoping they would stay put and just take Corey Brewer, or at worst, maybe Yi Jianlian if they really had to. That would have been a stand pat move but just fine with me.

But out of the blue, the Celtics acquired Ray Allen from the Supersonics for the low low price of their #5 pick (Georgetown's Jeff Green), Wally Szerbiak, and Delonte West. Who? Exactly. They just got one of the purest shooters ever for a bunch of scrubs and a rookie? Ray Allen was born to be a Celtic -- as was Tim Duncan, who we should have had -- with his quiet demeanor and assassin's touch. Plus the Celtics already have a player named Allan Ray so this is just kind of fun.

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. People are saying that Ray is old but players who stroke it like Ray will always be valuable. He's an All-Star and his nickname (Jesus Shuttlesworth) evokes one of Larry Legend's nicknames (Basketball Jesus). This hardly makes up for the slide we've been on since Len Bias died but for now, it'll do.

With Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and the up-and-coming Al Jefferson, I think I love the outlook for my Celtics (although Simmons hates it). Heck, I think I love the NBA again.

22 June 2007

Shine your light on the world

I told you I fell in love with Brooklyn right? Well, the six block radius of Brooklyn that I was in. Two unique places that I have to talk about are the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company and Cafe Habana Outpost.

First, the Superhero Supply Company is exactly what it sounds like; a superhero supply store. Its got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty, its got whozits and whatzits galore. Capes, utility belts, x-ray glasses, sub-atomic molecular re-organizers, invisibility cloaks, the whole works. Plus they sell t-shirts. Oh, and they double as a writing/tutoring center for kids. Children come ripping into the store, ignore the supplies and head through a secret entrance to enter the classroom. How cool is that?

I've seen the 826 tutoring centers in San Francisco (it doubles as a pirate's den) and heard of a few other locations but this New York one is the one I was dying to visit. It's small, it's gimmicky, but it's an amazing idea. Plus, if you buy something, they make you say a superhero oath.

Cafe Habana Outpost is the Brooklyn branch of the famed Cafe Habana. If you love corn, this is the place to go. To be honest, half the reason I love visiting New York is to go get Cuban corn. It's ridiculous how delicious the corn is.

The original Alphabet City location is small and cramped but this new Brooklyn location is colorful, expansive, and eco-friendly. Like corn-based plastics (or something), solar panels, pedaling a bicycle to make your own smoothie.

The entire restaurant is recycled (the outdoor picnic tables, the food truck) and the hand-dryers in the bathroom are the super powerful fun kind. This Brooklyn location just recently opened up and apparently it also hosts free movies on Sunday, local art exhibits, and cool little community based things like that. Go for the corn, stay for the atmosphere.

20 June 2007

Triple Feature

FF4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
I'm a sucker for comic book movies and it's rare to find one that's even halfway worth recommending. Well, if you thought FF4 was bad, this one's better! I liked the original FF4 to be honest. It was breezy, entertaining, and compared relatively, quite excellent. It keeps the melodrama low, the action somewhat believeable, and has likable characters (and actors). The Spiderman franchise pales in comparison. The Fantastic Four are twice as fun. Squared. This sequel is actually really good and the epitome of breezy summer flick. Not that this needs saying, but Jessica Alba is ridiculous and actually pulls her weight in this film, more or less.

Ocean's 13
Will this series ever die? Sticking to the same formula as the first one, Ocean's ends (once again) with open endedness and the possibility for a sequel. Does anyone even want to watch Ocean's 14 -- or god forbid, 15? While 13 is better than 12, it's too similar to 11 to warrant any true excitement. We know they're going to win, we know there's going to be some twists, even Pitt and Clooney are getting boring. And this time out there's no Julia or Catherine (although Ellen Barkin works as a nice substitute). I know people love this series but honestly, should we really be supporting it anymore? They're robbing a bank all right, by taking ten dollars out of every movie watcher's pocket.

Pirates 3
I watched this movie in bits and pieces as I movie hopped. From what I could tell, it's long, convoluted, and better than the second. The first one is the only one in the series that's actually stellar but the second and third one will do. It's hard to say why this franchise is so fun but it is and it's not even worth commenting on. You either like it or you don't. It's silly, it's melodramatic, Johnny Depp is getting overrated (as Captain Jack) but they throw enough characters at you that you just kind of follow along for three plus hours. I like it. Ahoy matey?

16 June 2007

Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003)

Probably my favorite sleeper movie of all time. Nobody's heard of it, nobody's seen it, it's a great film. The only reason I even watched it was because we were trying to rent "You Got Served" and Blockbuster goofed. We got served "Melvin" instead and are better off for it.

It's a conversation movie -- based on a play -- and there aren't a whole lot of those around. My Dinner with Andre, the two Before Sunrise/Sunset movies, and that's it. It's like an ultimate DDT on film.

The amazing thing is that last night, Ameer had "Melvin" sitting in its little Netflix envelope and ready to be watched. He had seen the trailer and tossed it in his cue. Nobody knows about this movie! Except me and Ameer apparently. High-perwest indeed.

15 June 2007

The Circle of (Literary) Life

It's not easy finding a (literary) agent. On the path towards being a published author, a few people are lucky enough to be contacted directly by a publisher, or know someone directly at a publishing house, but otherwise it's all about submitting a manuscript and hoping for the best. Ever submitted manuscripts to a publisher before? Good luck hearing back from them. It's like mass emailing companies to find a job. It'll get to the point where you're just praying for a rejection letter to acknowledge that someone looked at your work.

Here's where your agent steps in. A (good) agent will know the book industry, they'll know which publishers are more amicable to certain types of books, they'll have a Rolodex full of contacts and a network of publishers to sell your book to. On top of that, your agent can offer insightful advice on shaping your manuscript, they can find you a good editor, they can find other avenues for your work to be shared to the world. After they get you signed for that elusive book deal, they'll also work with you on a marketing strategy and things you could be doing to increase sales.

For all this, your agent receives a tiny percentage of your pay. Trust me, agents are way underpaid. Way.

An agent sounds great right? But how does one go about finding an agent? In my case, I got lucky, incredibly lucky. Full Circle Literary, run by Lilly and Stefanie, like my work, they do everything for me, and offer me not only writing advice but also keep an eye out for projects that might fit my style. On top of that, they double as my legal representation for contract negotiations and everything else under the sun. They really are a full service agency (read their blog) and I got supremely lucky having them find me. I didn't have to seek them out in a direct way, thus, I'm totally unfamiliar with the process of acquiring an agent, and I didn't quite realize (like really realize) how much of an uphill battle it can be.

For many aspiring authors, the search for an agent is as difficult as getting a book published. Finding an agent who believes in you is half the battle because literary agents want to represent quality work that they can get behind and sell. A good agent (I keep saying "good," but there really is a huge difference between good and bad agents) will be able to place your manuscript in the right hands -- and those hands will, at least, take a closer look at the manuscript than if you were just some unrepresented Joe Nobody off the street. Some publishers won't even look at an unrepresented manuscript. At all. Hello shredder.

At the Ann Arbor Book Festival we attended, Lilly gave an excellent talk about pitching your work to an agent. Afterwards, there was a pitch session where prospective authors were given five minutes to give their pitch for a book. Five minutes. That's three minutes of pitching, and two minutes of American Idol-style verbal evaluations. You generally have less time than that to sell your idea to an agent. It's hard work to find an agent and I know that I'd never even have the gumption to be a writer without an amazing agency by my side -- or actually, dragging me along and being my cheerleaders the whole way. Thank you Full Circle!

12 June 2007

Waitress (2007)

Keri Russell is criminally underused in the movie industry. When they killed her off in MI:3 after a few minutes, what was the point? Everyone knows she was on the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney/ Christina/ Justin right? She's got crazy skills! Plus she had her own hit show (which lost steam after the Pink Power Ranger left, but still).

The most unbelievable part of this movie was that nobody saw Felicity's beauty? Please. Only in Hollywood would such a beautiful (meant in all senses of the word) person slip through the cracks in a small town atmosphere. In real life, she would have been the starlet of the town, headed to Hollywood (to be an aspiring actress but in reality a waitress) or American Idol, and came back after getting knocked up.

Oh right, the movie is quite good too. Not what I expected at all, and smaltzy at times, but well done. The saddest thing is about writer/director/actress Adrienne Shelley. Man. She was really good in the movie too, pulling off a very successful Zach Braff trifecta -- wait, Braff never pulled it off successfully, whoops.

10 June 2007

Sound Wave

Hey, remember that time I was on TV talking about the book and blogging? Months later, I figured out how to get the audio up (click here)!

Of course, anything to be done should be done half-assed so I only have the audio and not the video/audio synced together.

If you want to, as you're listening to the soothing sounds of my verbal stumbling around a television set (I inserted some beats so you can jam or work out to "my track"), you can imagine me using lots of hand gestures and doing weird things with my hands. That's apparently what I do when I'm speaking in public; I gesticulate.

I have no idea why my voice dropped two octaves. Television adds ten pounds and makes girly men sound like they have deeper voices apparently. Enjoy.

07 June 2007

In N Out

If you thought Pink Berry's (or Red Mango's or Kiwi Berry's) were set to take over the world, get a load of Yogurt World. Fad foods come in cycles and the latest craze -- if you've haven't seen the lines -- is low-fat yogurt. I personally think Pink Berry's and Co. is way overrated. Stand in line to buy overpriced frozen yogurt that tastes like regular yogurt? Pass.

James informed me however, that there was a new self-serve yogurt place in Convoy which was the talk of San Diego. Upon first inspection, the idea of a whole store dedicated to self-serve yogurt is pretty lame. I can get self-serve yogurt with customized toppings any time I want; it's called Souplantation. Or my old college dorm's dining hall. What's the big deal?

There are plenty of stand alone frozen yogurt places (Froglander's and TCBY comes to mind) still around, even if they seem on the verge of financial freefalls every time you neglect to get extra toppings. I almost feel bad for these once crowded yogurt places, who rode high on the wave of frozen yogurt in the early 90's but are now faced with extinction like those tie-dye puffy paint T-shirt places.

It must kill them that the next trend of yogurt domination will be a little corner store that has virtually no staff, low overhead, and has customers serving themselves. We visited Yogurt World on a Tuesday night and the place was jam packed with a line stretching way out the door. The crowd of forty was mostly college students with plenty of time to spare; college students willing to spend twenty minutes in line are the target demographic apparently.

For 38-cents an ounce, you can get as much yogurt as you want (in tart and sweet flavors), dump on as many toppings as your eyes desire (get the mochi balls, it's killer), and then get the faux satisfaction of having had a healthy dessert.

This set-up is a financial gold mine. A staff of three collects and cleans, the yogurt serves itself, and the money just comes pouring in. It's ridiculous. We overheard a few enterprising college students remarking about how easy this idea was and how they should just do it. It's that simple. The crazy thing about it all is that only one out of a thousand people will actually man up and start a self-serve yogurt shop -- getting rich in the process -- while the rest of the world still tries to figure out what we want to do for our "careers."

The worst thing about it all is that I don't even like frozen yogurt -- much less waiting in line for it -- but since two days ago, it's been my number one food craving. It's addictive like boba and that's about the highest praise I can offer any food item.

01 June 2007

Paris, je t'aime (2007)

Any movie starring Natalie Portman and Steve Buscemi -- my favorite actress and actor -- would be guaranteed to be at the top of my viewing list. This might have been their first movie together actually. Then again, the entire film is a just a series of ten minute vignettes so they actually weren't in anything together.

Let's talk about the movie. Well, go see it. That's it. It's that good. Just see it. It's pretty amazing and even if one of the bits doesn't quite work, it's over in a few minutes. Some pieces are more memorable than others, some are probably better upon a second viewing. To be honest though, I enjoyed every segment and minute of the film, which is something that can be rarely said about anything.