31 December 2008

Out With a Bang

It's the end of the year so why not end it with a Top Ten list? These are ten fun ideas, theories, or terms that have entered the Jon lexicon in 2008. Without further ado, the list:
(1) The Persistence Theory
We've determined that persistence and proximity is the way to a girl's heart. I hope you'll agree.

(2) Intervention Teams
Everyone makes bad decisions in life, here's what needs to happen when your friends make one. Or fifty.

(3) My So-Called Life
Are the days slipping on by? Forget what you're doing year by year? Everything blending together? Try creating a life spreadsheet!

(4) Crossing the Streams
Do you like to mix your friend groups? Should you consider it? Maybe, maybe not.

(5) Man-ic Panic
Men in their late 20s are freaking out and taking drastic action to jump start or escape from their lives. It's a phenomenon.

(6) Fussy Buddy
Find out if you suck to be around. Debbie Downer? Fussy Buddy? Nobody calls you to hang out? Here's why. Also includes the term of the year: FOMO.

(7) Social Manipulation
Admit it, you like it when things go your way socially.

(8) Karaoke Set List
Don't sleep on the power of scripting your first few karaoke songs.

(9) Arch-nemesis
Life is too short not to have frenemies and enemies. Who's the Batman to your Superman? Who's your Lex Luthor?

(10) Relationship Worksheet
Makes for great conversation starters, reference charts, and overall analysis of what's wrong with you (them).

24 December 2008

Crazy Love

From EW's 2004 review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, possibly my most romantic movie of all time:
"[Jim] Carrey has often played timid, stammering nerds, but this is the first time he has eradicated any hint of stylization. He makes Joel a deeply vulnerable ordinary man, too 'nice' for his own good, haunted by dreams of romance he's scarcely bold enough to voice to himself. We can see why he's attracted to Clementine -- she's the sort of highly eroticized, let's-try-anything girl who's a geek's idea of romantic danger -- and, more mysteriously, why she digs him: The way [Kate] Winslet plays the role, her volatility masks a deeply fractured soul. These two couldn't be more different, yet deep down they're matching wrecks."

22 December 2008


Earlier this year I introduced the the world to the life timeline. Its purpose was for remembering, analyzing, and just using the power of Excel to get some perspective on your life. Well, it's nearing the end of 2008 and I'm ready to drop another life spreadsheet on you. Introducing the Relationship Worksheet. The idea behind it is dead simple. By now, if you are around my age, you've probably had a few relationships under your belt. If you're exactly me, shit's gone wrong, patterns have emerged, issues have been fixed, then unfixed, and hopefully fixed again, but you're just lacking that overall big picture view. By taking just a few minutes I can solve this problem for you.

Open up a spreadsheet, use the template, and plug in your own answers. Then go take a break and return with fresh eyes. Take a look at your relationship worksheet. Notice any patterns? Do you always date emotionally withdrawn people? There it is, plain as day. Are all your relationships just long enough to last through a full calendar year? Afraid of commitment buddy, just admit it. Do you need to stop dating the nice, sweet, but ultimately boring guy? Been there, done that. Should you try dating older? Um, maybe.

Feel free to drop in some new rows with anything you feel might be relevant. Possibilities can range from things like "Did my friends approve?" to "Did we say 'I love you?'" Use your imagination and tell me if you hit on anything super crucial that should be part of the standard template. You don't even have to constrain this to honest to goodness relationships. Include some semi-serious dates, flings, grey areas, etc. I can't help you define exactly what a "relationship" is but maybe by putting everything down you'll figure it out yourself.

Another huge side benefit of this thing is that it makes it much easier to talk about relationships with your friends. I mean, I've recently completed this with a friend and now we have a fuller picture of each other's relationship histories and we can commence haterade-ing by talking about specifics. No more "Wait, which one was that again? When did you date? And for how long?" Cut that bullshit out and just refer to the spreadsheet. Use your valuable time deconstructing the failed relationship, not constantly rehashing the statistics of it.

I know, freaking genius, someone give me an award. Or just send me your worksheet so we can talk about it.

If you want to get real serious, I've seen this around in bookstores and always sort of want to pick it up: "Love Listography: Your Love Life in Lists." Who doesn't love lists?!

20 December 2008

Bolt (2008)

I can't quite figure out if Pixar did the animation for this movie. I don't think so since everything I can find out about it only indicates that John Lasseter helped produce Bolt. We waltzed into the movie past the previews but just in time to catch a Cars remake of Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which was probably better than the actual Cars.

While Bolt is definitely geared toward younger audiences, it's got enough entertaining elements to keep adults engaged for most of its running time. It's not witty or clever like other Pixar films but even Pixar can't do Pixar anymore. Overall the film was a quality production, with good animation, engaging sidekicks, and a run of the mill "Homeward Bound" story. Disney's been here before but that's okay I guess. The best part of watching the movie was catching it in 3D, which added a lot to the experience, unlike my last 3D movie outing.

18 December 2008

The Secret

"There are few things humans are more dedicated to than unhappiness. Had we been placed on earth by a malign creator for the exclusive purpose of suffering, we would have good reason to congratulate ourselves on our enthusiastic response to the task. Reasons to be inconsolable abound: the frailty of our bodies, the fickleness of love, the insincerities of social life, the compromises of friendship, the deadening effects of habit. In the face of such persistent ills, we might naturally expect that no event would be awaited with greater anticipation than the moment of our own extinction."
-How Proust Can Change Your Life-
I'm working through "How Proust Can Change Your Life," by Alain de Botton. It's slotted mysteriously under self-help and I guess that's useful from a marketing standpoint but I've found it just to be a great book full of interesting ideas and more personal/social commentary along the lines of Friendship: An Expose. Regardless of exactly what it is, it's a fascinating book and written beautifully.

Basically there are chapters based on Proust's writings and worldview on how to love your life, how to express your emotions, how to be a good friend, how to be happy in love, how to read, how to interpret art, and how to revel in the details. Fine, it's a self-help book. Whatevers. But it's one that's written well, isn't dumbed down to simple "Life is blah blah blah" type of pronouncements, and holds no promises for a better life. It's just a good read to get you thinking.

Of particular interest to me was his chapter on friendship, which spoke to my heart and gave me confirmation that the way I think/treat friendships might just be okay after all. Proust had cynical views about friendships in general but yet he was a tremendous and much loved friend. "It meant that Proust's overwhelming priority in any encounter was to ensure that he would be liked, remembered, and thought well of." Some call it being manipulative, some call it being a calculating bastard, I see it as a defense of cynical, self-centered, but ultimately great, friendships. Proust and I must get together more, he seems like a fascinating guy.
"Given the effort and strategic intelligence he devoted to friendship, it shouldn't surprise us. For instance, it is assumed, usually by people who don't have many friends, that friendship is a hallowed sphere in which what we wish to talk about effortlessly coincides with others' interests. Proust, less optimistic than this, recognized the likelihood of discrepancy, and concluded that he should always be the one to ask questions and address himself to what was on your mind rather than risk boring you with what was on his."

17 December 2008

The Beautiful Game

And from a recent Secret Santa (we used this site, which was awesome, Elfster.com), I received this book, "The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac" written by the great team behind freedarko.com. Basically the book celebrates and profiles some of the NBA's more interesting stars. Their manifesto focuses on the beauty of the game, the game beyond wins, losses, and stats. It's beautifully illustrated and a must-read for every basketball fan. I've often thought that the way someone plays the game reflects their personality and I know some people agree with me. I'd rather trust my fifteen minute impression of someone playing basketball than the one I get from talking to them. It's that serious.

And check out this NBA Archetypes post by Upside and Motor. It's comprehensive, well thought out, and comes with examples. Freaking awesome.

Gang Green

The Celtics are 23-2, have won their past fifteen games in a row, and are approaching a record setting start. There's even talk that they might be the best Celtic team ever. Now I know that's hyperbole, especially considering they've only won one championship, but they are really good and a joy to watch. I'm still childishly giddy about how successful they are.

I mean, last year the team was thrown together, happened to gel and coalesced into championship form ahead of schedule. The common thinking was that the KG-Ray-Pierce trio would need one full year to hit their stride. Well, now they've hit their stride and they're crushing opponents. A showdown with the hated Lakers looms Christmas Day but even though the Celts have lost James Posey and PJ Brown, they are possibly better than last year. The Lakers are better this year too but we whupped them last year so I don't see how this year will be any different. Their biggest challenge will probably be Lebron and the Cavaliers out East, not the Lakers and the rest of the ragtag West contenders. How quickly things change.

This version of the Celtics is easy to love and is so basketball perfect-classic. A point guard who's a defensive terror and can both distribute and drive to the hoop at will. A two guard with the prettiest jumper in the game. A do everything small forward equally adept in all phases of the game. An ultra-athletic four who can post up, consistently drain the seventeen footer, and defend and rebound. A beefy center who has a mean streak and lives to block shots and clean the boards.

Plus they're all so fun to follow. I mean, for one, third year point guard Rajon Rondo is amazing. His first career triple double was 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 17 assists. Oh, and add three steals to boot. The last time someone threw up such a huge triple double was, well, Magic Johnson? Rondo's been killing teams this season and is making his case for the All Star squad. Ray Allen has found his niche in the offense (after struggling a bit on that end last season) and has been the early season team MVP. He's not over the hill, not by a long shot. Paul Pierce has fully evolved into the perfect all around player and he's upped his defensive intensity another notch this year. And Kendrick Perkins is a beast. Then there's Kevin Garnett, whose mouth is used to intimidate opponents and whip his teammates into a frenzy. Heck, he even made Glen Davis cry once.

I would love to watch this team in person. Just once. It might literally be a once in a lifetime experience, to see the defending Celtics live. Last year I said I'd pay $1000 to fly to Boston to catch a Finals game if they made it. Silly me. A thousand dollars wouldn't have gotten me anywhere near the court. This year, I looked up tickets for the Lakers-Celtics bash at Staples and the cheap seats were like $300. If I'm going to go watch them live, I want to watch it super up close and personal. I want to be sweated on and never wash my shirt again. Sadly, I don't have a few grand just lying around though. Is it worth a laptop to watch one basketball game? My heart says yes but my head (and wallet) say no.


15 December 2008

And Justice 4 All

Listening to: Betty Everett, "It's in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)." But only on Youtube as performed by Aretha.

A few weeks ago, there was a Yelp holiday party. You had to email a special address and ask to be invited. I'm not really a yelper (although I was onto it way early thanks to Ameer) but I thought I'd be a shoo-in. When the time came for George and Dann's excited "We got in!" announcements, I had to hang my head in shame because I was out. That's right, virtual rejection, a new and thrilling low.

At the time, Jon G thought he was rejected too but it turned out he hadn't emailed them so he was basically choosing not to attend out of his own free will. The party featured free alcohol and a night at The Exploratorium. While the non-rejectees said it was fun, I didn't feel like I missed out on too much.

Today's a different story. Go to the main page of Yelp.com right now. Look on the right side under Review of the Day. See someone familiar (click here if it's not Monday anymore)? Yes, it's true, Jon G now has officially more hits for something he's done online than I've ever had in my Internet life. He's an sensation! I seethe with jealousy but bask in his reflected glow. I know a Review of the Day Yelper now, which will be a fact I pull out at parties everywhere. Seriously, Yelp is like huge. So far his review has been rated 10 useful, 6 funny, and 8 cool.

The worst/great part of this is that I introduced him to Ramen Club, and I'm the one addicted to ramen while he's just so-so. I'm also the one who's frequented the place three times in one week and am slowly worming my way into the server's heart to get free green tea ice cream. My review is right there (under Jonelle Y. and a few days earlier) and George and I told all our friends to Yelp this place because we needed a good ramen place within walking distance of the Marina. Well, now Jon G has done it and with this one review, I bet he's single-handedly responsible for keeping Ramen Club in business. So thanks, and congrats, to Jon G.

Just last Friday, we had been talking about how Dann stole George's first to review thunder for some BBQ place. George told him about it, said there were no reviews, but then neglected to review it herself. Dann pounced on her misstep like an opportunistic tiger, got the first to review badge, and then George sent him a scathing email like "You reviewed it first! You stole it!" That made Dann feel so guilty he deleted his review and now it looks like someone else snuck in there and stole that little blue badge away from both of them. There's a moral to the story here: Don't succumb to friend-guilt.

I know, this is like fighting for pennies when Jon G just won the lottery but still, it's important that little things in life give you motivation.

10 December 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 12

  • Evil Genius - Catherine Jinks
  • Top of the World: 2008 Boston Celtics - Peter May
  • 24 Girls in 7 Days - Alex Bradley
  • Sex and the Single Girl - Helen Gurley Brown
  • A Step From Heaven - An Na
  • Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  • Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China - Guy Delisle
  • Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • So I've been keeping this column for a year now. It's proven to be useful in remembering what I've been reading but beyond that I'm not sure it's served much purpose. I do enjoy writing it though and it's been fun to go looking through what I've read in the past month. In the long run it makes more sense to do this over at Goodreads since most of my reading friends are on there. I'm sure it'll be easier to compile and update too. So I'm thinking this may be my last "Stuff I've Been Reading."

    With that in mind, I wanted to do some statistical analysis on exactly what sorts of things I've spent my time on. A month or two ago, one of my friends asked me for my Top 50 fiction books. I didn't think I'd read that many good books period, much less fiction. But I'm a sucker for lists so I gave it my best shot. I petered out around forty books I'd generally recommend. It seemed depressing. Like all this time spent reading, a literal lifetime, and I couldn't compile fifty great books to recommend. I finished my list but only by really stretching the bounds of "great." I had to resort to using "classic," which really means nothing. I had to even dig deep into middle school and high school books. "Where the Red Fern Grows" anyone?

    Roughly speaking, I've read 75 books this year. That doesn't sound too bad, considering it's an average of a book every five days. But that's taking into account books that aren't really books. Light fluffy page turners, non-fiction topical things, and YA novels that are high in excitement but really only take a few hours to breeze through. Plus, compiling the list from my Stuff I've Been Reading 1-12 is a bit misleading because there's some books I've reread and some books I didn't fully finish. There was only one month I read nothing, March, which coincided with having to turn in one of the major drafts of Exclusively Chloe.

    The general breakdown goes like this: 75 total books read. 22 fiction, 30 non-fiction, 18 young adult, and 5 on how to write or writing related. Of those thirty non-fiction books, eight dealt with the Celtics, basketball, or chess. I don't mean to separate out YA but they are generally shorter and easy to breeze through and often were read for research purposes. Of the fiction books, three were short story compilations, five or six were part of a sci-fi/fantasy series, and only three or four were heavy and serious book-like. Oh and one was a graphic novel.

    Overall, for my year of reading, I'd be able to say that I'd recommend seven books that were definitely really great. My top ten looks like this, with the bottom three being a bit of a stretch.
    1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon
    2. Love is a Mix Tape - Rob Sheffield
    3. How To Be Alone - Jonathan Franzen
    4. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
    5. Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
    6. The Princess Bride - William Goldman
    7. Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
    8. Soon I Will Be Invincible - Austin Grossman
    9. Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk
    10. Personal Days - Ed Park
    That's kind of, well, sad. It means that approximately for every ten books I read, only one is truly memorable and worth recommending. Then again, that's probably a similar ratio with movies.

    I made three large Amazon orders this year, each time for about a dozen books. I rediscovered the wonders of the library, tried to resist buying things in brick and mortar establishments, and received lots of free YA books provided to me. Total cost of buying books (which I can write off!) is probably $600. A small price to pay for edification and knowledge right? Then again, I question what I really remember from most of these books. My long term memory is shot and even though I was fascinated by books about Google, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, The Fifties, biological civilization, Wall Street, I'm not sure what I could recall too many interesting facts or stories.

    All in all, it's probably a sign that I should divide up my reading time better. Read some books that have heft (and smaller print), try to read and process, and more importantly, remember what might be striking about each piece. Maybe it's time to start a book journal to jot down thoughts, great lines, and interesting themes that need to be explored.

    Anyhow, thanks Nick Hornby for the inspiration! It's been fun.

    08 December 2008

    Looking Glass

    "It is easier to read a book than to write one; easier to listen to a song than to compose one; easier to attend a play than to produce one. But movies in particular suffer from this user asymmetry. The intensely collaborative work needed to coddle chemically treated film and paste together its strips into movies meant that it was vastly easier to watch a movie than to make one.

    A Hollywood blockbuster can take a million person-hours to produce and only two hours to consume. But now, cheap and universal tools of creation (megapixel phone cameras, Photoshop, iMovie) are quickly reducing the effort needed to create moving images. To the utter bafflement of the experts who confidently claimed that viewers would never rise from their reclining passivity, tens of millions of people have in recent years spent uncountable hours making movies of their own design."
    -Kevin Kelly, Becoming Screen Literate-

    05 December 2008

    Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

    Stop right here if you plan on seeing the movie. I'm going to spoil a few things, if not plot details, at least the emotional ride that is best experienced first hand. To begin with, the film is incredibly engulfing. It's almost impossible not to get drawn in as you experience the childhood scenes of young vagrant Jamal and his brother, Salim. The story is structured around Jamal's amazing success at the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Because he's just a street rat (scoundrel! take that!), the unctuous host hands him over the authorities for interrogation on suspicion of cheating. Great premise, interesting set up. The frenetic energy pushes the film along and you get invested into the story. All great stuff.

    That's why it's so jarring when during the last third of the movie, you have to suspend your disbelief so much in order to make everything work. I felt like the movie was like the Tower of Terror, a slow rise to the top, a thrilling climax, and then a drop that makes you want to yack when hitting bottom. Character's motivations fly out the window, too many coincidences occur, and it becomes clear that this isn't just fiction but a fairy tale. And the game show gimmick tires a little bit, even if it's deftly done. I want to wholeheartedly recommend the movie and give it an enthusiastic thumbs up but the ending confused and flabbergasted me a little too much. It's still a worth a watch though.

    One of our friends (who hasn't seen the movie yet) said that it was supposed to be the most convincing portrayal of life in the Indian slums. Since I don't know anything about that particular subject, I'll take her word for it because the movie did seem quite realistic in that sense.

    03 December 2008

    The Air Up There

    "The rap on [Brett] Favre over the years has been his lack of impulse control, his confident conviction that he can 'make something happen' by dint of his will and a strong right arm. That's what accounts for the interceptions: forcing passes into bad situations.

    But it also accounts for his success. It's what makes him exciting, what his fans most admire in him -- and most often cringe at. Like any mythological hero, he is thus undone by the very gift that makes him heroic."
    -New York Times-

    02 December 2008

    Our Space

    Listening to: Janelle Monae, maybe the next big thing? Like Andre 3000 plus Lauryn Hill. Can't decide if I actually dig her music yet but her fusion of punk rock soul is interesting.

    I'm fighting a gradual slide into being a nocturnal person again, which is a bit disappointing because I've been waking up at ten-ish (or earlier) for the past three weeks. I suppose I shouldn't fight it too hard because the time nears when I'll soon have to start looking for jobs. I'm pretty committed to the idea of moving up and it takes a hefty penny to live here. So I will work to blow out 2008, the year of not working, in fine lazy fashion. Then I will tether my 2009 to a crappy job and long for the days of sleeping in.

    So I've been staying at George's apartment in San Francisco for awhile now and it's safe to say that it's been a grand success. In fact, I've discovered that she's kind of turned into mini-me. She's constantly on her iPhone, loves to bum out on the couch, reads before bed, and is excited when new Netflix arrives. In our old age we are connecting and fusing into one. Soon people will have to say JonGeorge or GeorgeJon and drop the "and." We also realized over the Thanksgiving weekend that we're the only single folk in our mutual friendship circle. Everyone else is either married, engaged, in a long term relatonship, or in a psudeo-relationship. We're the only ones left! Mom Yang is frankly panicked about me taking over George's couch because what kind of guy will want to date a girl who has her brother camped out in her living room?

    The good news is that I've infiltrated George's apartment completely. I have my own computer station, my own pillow, and my own super big fuzzy blanket. She's also been kind enough to give me two cubbies on her big Ikea wall shelf. I, in turn, have increased the amount of junk food in her house by 500%. I'm really settling in.

    We watch TV in matching flannel pajama pants.

    It warmed my heart to see that her DVR still has stuff I recorded months ago and now I'm busy filling it up with basketball and football games while she carves out space for Brothers and Sisters, Top Chef, and the Britney documentary. We've recently hosted an ice cream party and often desire to eat the same foods for dinner. Basically we're reliving our teenage years together.

    So far, my biggest accomplishment (aside from avoiding being kicked out) is introducing her to Felicity. I did it all strategically too, making sure we had no Netflix movies on tap, there was nothing good left on DVR, and she was ready to be emotionally bombarded. That pilot episode of Felicity. Goddam. If you can't feel anything watching Felicity be all awkward, pathetic, and lost in love, you are dead inside. We shot through four episodes in short order and really pulled the mood of the night down, but in a really great way. Take the Felicity challenge, I dare you.

    I just wanted to report that San Francisco is treating me well, and more importantly, that my amazing and super great sister is taking fabulous care of me. I've already scheduled my return flight home because I think leaving on a high note would be grand for both of us. Right after the Stevie Wonder party, I'm outta here. But oh, I'm already planting the seeds of my return...

    01 December 2008

    Hi Eliza

    I've been thinking about starting a podcast (topic: unknown) but I haven't decided if it's a good idea to have another frivolous online habit. My ideal podcast would just be me sticking a microphone in my friends' faces and asking them ten questions. It would be short in length but long in effort. So while I have that idea swimming in my head, I found out about Odiogo, which takes words and translates them into computerized speech. That allows them to be podcasted and listened to!

    The idea is really cool and after listening to a few posts, the computer voice isn't terrible, but it's also debatable whether anyone actually needs a podcast of my blog. Then again, why not have the option to make your posts into MP3s when Odiogo makes it so easy to do? Here's my Odiogo page and you can scroll down to listen to sample audio posts. Neat hunh?