31 December 2009

As we make our great escape

Listening to: DJ Earworm, "United State of Pop 2009 (Blame It on the Pop)." We celebrated New Year's Eve at U31, with alcohol, dancing, and ear busting party horns. Ameer received a Flip Mino for Xmas and George learned how to edit using her new Macbook Pro, which resulted in a fun little NYE video. George chose this song as the video's soundtrack and now it's stuck in my head. It's a mashup of every single hit from Billboard's year end Top 25 list. The full track listing is here.

I've been meaning to throw up some sort of post about the end of the year/decade but I've been waylaid by two weeks of everyone coming home and extensive hanging out. There's been a lot of family dinners, late night Mexican food runs, and a flurry of catching up with friends old and new. All that has torn me away from any useful computer time and my task list for the beginning of 2010 is running quite long. I need to do so many top ten lists but since the year is already over, I feel like I missed my chance. I guess the general consensus is that 2009 was sort of a down year and despite having some very exciting successes, I sort of feel like, "Thank goodness it's over and what's coming around the corner?"

At the beginning of last year I attempted to do some resolutions and was all gung-ho about it before everything collapsed and I finished with like four out of fifteen things checked off. This time around I'm tossing out the resolutions and just hoping to do things in an orderly fashion. I've got some important projects lined up and all it'll take is some discipline to knock them out, or so I tell myself.

One thing I did get a chance to do over the holidays was start a rough draft of an essay chronicling the last decade, which roughly coincided with my twenties and me (theoretically) becoming a full fledged adult. That last part is a perpetual work in progress of course but in trying to put together three hundred or so words about each year pair, I did find some nice areas of growth -- as well as highlighted multiple areas of stagnation. So the plan for the next year is to just use the time I have in January to tie up some loose ends, start things I said I would start, and to revisit any calcified habits or opinions I might have. It is, after all, a fresh new decade.

Oh and if there's one thing anyone should, and can, accomplish at the start of a year, it's to change your passwords. This is a public service announcement: Redo your password matrix/system and fix it now before you get stuff hacked or stolen. Safety first people. Safety first!

27 December 2009

Fill Me Up, Buttercup

Listening to: Pete Townshend, "Let My Love Open the Door (E.Cola Mix)." One of the all time greatest film soundtracks. They've had Grosse Pointe Blank on repeat lately and I've been rewatching it in spurts. Man, the songs are so fantastic and were probably my first introduction to most of these classic Eighties songs. I was late to the Eighties, it's true.

I like my movies in theaters. When I don't have a whole lot going on, I'll head to the theater and plop down twenty for a ticket, popcorn, and Icee. Some people like bars and going out, I like movie hopping. Can you call watching movies in theaters a hobby? Probably not. But it's a top hobby of mine. While I'd prefer to always watch a good movie, I'm not that discerning when I'm hopping since I'm pretty willing to wander into anything on down time.

Sometimes I'll go watch a movie just because I'm craving popcorn. I take the creation of extra salty and buttery popcorn very seriously. I nearly always get the largest size available, and then ask for a cardboard box and an empty water cup. Butter and salt the top, then pour that layer out into the box. Butter and salt the next layer, shake shake shake. Repeat until you've got everything to taste. Then fill the water cup with half an inch of butter and salt to pour on the bottom half of the popcorn later. I promise good times.

By my calculations, I've watched roughly forty movies in theaters this year, which comes out to about three and a half movies per month. Count in ticket prices and my addiction to the popcorn and we're looking at close to $600 spent at the movies in 2009 -- assuming I hopped about a quarter of those films. And what did I get for all this cash? Ten "A" rated movies, eighteen "B," six "C", and two "D's." Basically my ratings come out to be: (A) Thoroughly enjoyed it or worth watching for some reason or another (B) Decent but definitely flawed (C) Average all around (D) I kind of wanted to walk out. Luckily, I only watched two D-rated movies this year, "I Love You, Man" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." I wouldn't have walked out of Benjamin Button but by no means did I enjoy the experience nor would I recommend it.

My top ten of 2009 looks like: Coraline, The Hurt Locker, 500 Days of Summer, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Inglourious Basterds, The Time Traveler's Wife, An Education, Precious, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Avatar. I don't think any of them were classics actually, with the possible exception of Inglourious Basterds (but only upon re-viewing did I think this). Of the entire set, I'd recommend watching An Education on its own merits and Avatar and Precious because everyone will be talking about it. Everything else is Netflix-able.

It strikes me that paying $600 to watch ten good movies is probably not a wise investment of my money. Netflix delivers a much better good movie ratio at about a fifth of the price. Oh but I love the theater popcorn!

My very favorite movie I watched in 2009 was a recommendation from a friend with whom I rarely share any common movie-likes. He told me to watch "Dedication" (2007) because it's about a writer and it's dark and snarky yet romantic and hopeful. I watched it and loved it, placing it immediately into one of my all time favorites lists. How high I haven't determined yet but Dedication has everything I look for in a movie: Great dialogue, good acting (including Mandy Moore of all people), an interesting premise, a touch of quirkiness, and lots of verbal sniping. It's seriously fantastic and I need to buy the DVD immediately.
"Henry Roth, a misanthropic, emotionally complex New York author of a hit children's book series, is forced to team with a beautiful illustrator after his best friend and creative collaborator passes away."
-Dedication movie trailer-
So what next year? Cut back on movies in theaters? Invest in a popcorn machine at home? These are the questions that face me heading into 2010 and it's not a trivial matter at all. Even though it sounds like it.

22 December 2009

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Listening to: Tegan and Sara, "I Was Married." A month or two ago, music fiend Ameer made me a mystery CD featuring Tegan and Sara and successfully won me over ("It's a compilation of live and recorded Tegan and Sara songs that I personally hand-picked based solely on what I know of your music tastes. With no track titles."). I've done my homework on them since then and can correctly identify which songs are Tegan songs and which are Sara songs. They are identical twin singer songwriters from Canada who are much admired for their music, their DIY and unique promotional efforts, their fashion styles, and their great hair, among many other things. "I Was Married" was the first track of theirs I fell in love with, but I doubt it'll be the last.

Cruising down the 405 yesterday, heading back to San Diego after a long weekend in LA, we played an easy and spectacular road game. The rules are simple: Everyone pulls out their iPods (or iPhones) and then shuffle plays ten tracks from each. Everyone except the owner of a particular iPod rates each track. The points system is variable and if you don't want to write down the scores, just give each song a 0, 5 or 10. The goal is to get a combined score out of 100, and then a letter grade. In real testing though, a pretty decent score is generally 60-65 points. You can basically make up rules as you wish, and the underlying idea is just to see what songs randomly come up when you shuffle through your friends' MP3 collection.

You also get a chance to learn a few things, like when George surprised us with three straight hip hop tracks, a Chicago semi-classic, and then a Mariah Carey song about Jesus. Ameer's iPhone had a lot of cover songs, two sub-par Mirah selections, and not as much techno as we would of thought. He did hit upon this ridiculous Frankie Vallie remix. It was an obvious ten all around. My random songs were mostly slow and brought the mood down and then pushed George over the edge into sleep. Whoops.

While I'm here, I'll share two other crowd pleasing music games. The first one is super easy and requires no technology whatsoever. You just need a (preferably large) group people willing to sing. Divide into two teams, pick a word, and then take turns singing songs containing that word back and forth. If the word was "star" for example, Team 1 might being with "Star Spangled Banner" while Team 2 follows up with "Ghetto Superstar." The key for maximum fun is to sing the songs out loud. Don't just say "Ghetto Superstar, your turn." That's lame. Sing that shit. And if you personally don't know the lyrics or a line, just background hum or something. A team loses the round when they can no longer come up with any songs with that particular word. Note: The word doesn't have to be in the song title; being in lyrics is perfectly acceptable. For example, you could do "I Swear" because it contains "...by the moon and the stars in the sky."

This is my absolute favorite group game but it can get pretty loud and obnoxious pretty fast. But it's really fun if you're waiting in a long line. We've had strangers jump in to offer songs while we played. If done correctly and with maximum competitiveness, the game can get intense. The picture inserted up above is from one of our games. Notice people are practically praying for a song with the correct word to come into their head. That's how seriously the game should be taken.

Our next game requires a little more technology, Midomi in particular (on the iPhone or otherwise). If you're not familiar with Midomi, it's this software that allows you to sing into your device and depending on how well you sang, it will successfully or unsuccessfully find the song. The app is supposed to be used to find a track that you don't know the title of but it doubles nicely as a game.

For starters, the Midomi game is very similar to the song game since it involves singing out loud and dividing into teams. This time however, you need a moderator. Each team will fire up Midomi on separate devices and have it ready to be sung into. The moderator then calls out an artist ("Ne-Yo!") and the first team that can successfully get Midomi to identify a song by that artist wins the round. We generally allow any results in the top three to count. So if the artist is Ne-Yo, one team might sing "So Sick" while the other one does "Miss Independent." Part of the strategy is figuring out how to get Midomi to perform faster and more accurately than the other team.

Again, with the Midomi game, just change the rules or make up variations as you see fit. Last time we played, we took turns singing Michael Jackson songs individually to get to a last man/woman standing. Songs could only be sung once. This variation only works for certain artists that have enough repertoire to last at least half a dozen tracks.

Trust me, both of these singing game are fantastic and super fun for all. Well, unless your friends hate music (and singing), in which case you should probably reevaluate things with them anyway.

21 December 2009

Avatar (2009)

For the record, there are two kinds of IMAX screens. There was a bit of controversy over this earlier in the year and the basic issue was that IMAX screens come in smaller sizes than the gigantic ones we normally associate with the term -- 70+ feet versus only about 30 feet high -- yet the small sizes aren't marketed with any differentiation. There aren't a lot of real IMAX screens so buyer beware. I had really wanted to see Avatar 3D on a huge IMAX screen but alas, that was not to be.

Still, we did catch it on a mini-IMAX and in 3D and the movie was just incredibly awesome. There's no review necessary because it's a must see for nearly everyone. Even if you hate adventure movies, even if you hate sci-fi and big budget schlock, this is a must see (especially in theaters) because the experience is so unique. James Cameron uses CGI and 3Dtechnology so well and the visuals in this film are just wonderful.

This won't rank anywhere near my favorite movies of all time, nor can I say it's incredible from a plot or story standpoint, but added up, this is the type of movie you go to because it'll be the talk of the town and it's worth it. People will nitpick, people will complain, but if you like having your breath taken away and being transported to a gorgeous world, it's worth the fifteen bucks. Watch it in 3D, watch it in IMAX, and heck, watch it again. I probably will.

Of course, all that is being said about how Avatar patronizes women, fetishizes native cultures, and is just like Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai (or Pocahontas or etc.) is all true. It's hard not to overlook that aspect of the film but behind my 3D glasses, I'll suspend that part of my brain for a few hours because the movie is super awesome to look at. Do I wish the interaction between the humans and the aliens could have been more nuanced, less cliche, and imbued with greater depth (maybe a movie version of Speaker for the Dead)? Sure, but I understand that Cameron was here to create a visual spectacle and give us wow's. So yeah, I was wow-ed.

18 December 2009

Such Great Heights

I've been following Realm Lovejoy for a little while now. Aside from having an awesome name worthy of a mega-celebrity or beloved fictional character (and yes it's her real name), Realm's got excellent taste in music, is a video game artist, and has a book about clones that's not only written by her but completely self-illustrated as well. How cool and multi-talented does she sound? Since Realm is super awesome, she does Q&A's with authors and then does a drawing of their main characters. Very nice of her right? She was kind enough to do one for me so go check that out now! Thank you so much Realm!

One of the things about the Exclusively Chloe cover is that Chloe-Grace is mysteriously turned away so readers don't really know what she looks like. I mean, technically, I don't know either. And since I can't draw I guess nobody will ever fully know. So this may be as close as it gets!

I'm delighted Realm chose to draw the undercover persona, which is Chloe-Grace post make-under, with her hair chopped off, trying to be all unnoticed and incognito. Notice the suspicious look in Chloe's eye, which I like because it shows that she's wary, and aware of the dangers that lurk in the "normal" world. Chloe-Grace is trying to blend in and hide her absolute fabulousity, if that's a word.

Actually it just occurred to me that I sent Realm a photo of me and George as reference for Chloe-Grace. So maybe that's why the illustration of Chloe has a suspicious gleam in her eye...

17 December 2009

The Killers

Listening to: Camera Obscura, "French Navy."

I have a friend who loves heist movies. She likes the recruiting, the planning, and then the execution. Ocean's Eleven is obviously a prime example of such a film. Ever since hearing about her favorite sub-genre, I've always wanted one of my very own to love. I waited a long time and then like all great loves, it found me. It dawned on me the other day that I like movies featuring assassins. I know, totally unoriginal, but after watching the Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas movie, "Assassins," twice in the last week, I've decided that I'm a total sucker for this stuff. But it's not enough to pick a genre, especially such a broad one, you have to get more detailed.

Assassin movies I like generally feature heartless efficient killers who do their job but aren't sociopaths or insane. I like my assassins with good reasoning skills, some rules and boundaries ("No women, no kids"), and eventually a heart of gold. But they can't crippled with an abundance of guilt. Nobody likes watching a killer who likes to cry on the inside. Just do the damn job buddy. Of course, this could go against what I previously said about no sociopaths but it's admittedly a very fine line. If the assassin has a trusted assistant -- and not just a contact -- I like that a lot too. Also, I generally prefer guns over other weapons which is strange since I usually hate shoot'em ups.

My favorite hit men movies have to show either the background training of an assassin or give us some insight into what tricks an assassin might use in their daily work -- the most basic of these being sleeping on the ground or in a corner, with a gun in hand. This qualification is very important. For example, in Assassins, Antonio Banderas is constantly doing things like putting his hand on a car's hood to see if his target recently arrived (checking heat), or taking a whiff of perfume to remember the scent for tracking purposes (I will begin doing this immediately). Those are the types of details I like.

This is why the Bourne series didn't really excite me. Jason Bourne was just too well trained and I never got to see why. He'd just show up out of nowhere, kick some ass, and then disappear. I even enjoyed schlock like Wanted more just because of the training scenes.

I will spend this Christmas break catching up on some assassin classics and then begin a mission to compile a top ten list. So far my list features The Professional, Gross Pointe Blank, Ghost Dog, and I guess the Kill Bills. One assassin that's way overrated is Javier Bardem's menacing character in No Country for Old Men. Too mysterious, too hilarious with that hair cut. Anyway, already coming via Netflix are Enemy at the Gates, The Jackal, and La Femme Nikita. It's going to be an exciting holiday season.

Did you know that "Assassins" was the Wachowski brother's first sale in Hollywood? Joel Silver also bought the rights to The Matrix around the same time. Director Richard Donner said that if he had to make the movie again, he would have swapped the leads, which would have been really interesting. I think I'm going to cue the movie up again now that I've saved it on DVR.

15 December 2009

Fly High

When we had our book signing at Borders last weekend, Daisy Whitney, a 2010 Deb, came by to support us and to say hello. Her book, The Mockingbirds, is coming out next November and is about "an underground, student-run secret society at the prestigious boarding school and their job is to serve as the judge, jury and prosecution of the students, for the students and by the students." Sounds pretty awesome right? The book's title immediately made me think of Mockingbird, a Marvel comics superheroine who just happens to be from San Diego. The real inspiration for the title was, of course, "To Kill a Mockingbird," which just goes to show what I know and how my lens of life works.

Daisy's energy and enthusiasm was incredible and after meeting her I understood completely how she manages to do more in a day than I get accomplished in a month. Read her bio and visit her various sites and see just how many hats she wears and how many projects she's involved in (and how famous she is). I kind of need to learn how to be this productive, in anything.

She's doing giveaways of the signed books she got from us at the signing and they're all here on her blog. Exclusively Chloe is up next and it's easy and fun to enter. To win the book, just share five words about what it means to be a normal kid. Go, go! The contest ends tomorrow! Thanks so much for doing this Daisy, and congrats on The Mockingbirds!

Update: The contest is over and the winner is announced.

Here's an interview with Daisy:
"I think the BEST books being written today are for teens and what I love most is you can write virtually anything -- there are no formulas, rules or structures you should follow. You can write romance, fantasy, suspense, humor, quests, high-concept, fantastical, paranormal, edgy, dark, light, weird, and so on. And you can mix and match many of those in one story. Teen readers crave and demand inventiveness and new ways of storytelling, so it’s a treat and a pleasure to write for them."
-Interview with Courtney Summers-

11 December 2009

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Watching: Since I make a dance show reference below, here's a clip from the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (LXD) on SYTYCD. The three guys flipping at the 1:25 minute mark are ridiculously together. Like stunning. If you haven't seen the LXD trailer, watch it now. This show is going to be amazing.

Debs West Coast visited two high schools the other day, Casa Grande and Petaluma, as part of Holidaze of the Debs. The first event involved arriving at eight fifteen in the morning. The last time I was up doing something at eight in the morning? Maybe 2008? I tend to not sleep until the sun rises and I knew getting up and driving an hour north was going to be rough. I tried to pass out early, I really did, but only succeeded in lying around fitfully until five, when I finally dozed off. I guess you can't change a night owl's habits in one day can you? An hour and a half later, my alarm rang and I bolted out of bed, fueled by panic and the adrenaline of needing to be somewhere. This had to be the first time I was up before George, who is usually groggily rising for work just as I'm about to sleep. With music blasting (I played the Full House theme song as I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge of course) I jammed up the 101 and arrived just on time. My day was already a success!

Casa Grande book club members were assembling in their beautiful library -- decorated with various student-created graffiti paintings that said "read" -- and waiting for us were homemade scones prepared by their cooking class. Oh and a banner that said "Welcome Fantabulous Debutantes!" A banner, made for us! Ms. Koval, their teacher/librarian was amazingly nice and enthusiastic and actually, if I had an educator like her I think life could have been so different. The CGHS book club site, "Big House Book Club," is all up on technology and from the looks of it, they do all sorts of fun activities. The whole thing just looks super fun to be a part of. My high school lunch days of finding a corner to read (ahem, alone) could have been done en masse. I don't recall school libraries or librarians being this cool back in the day, do you? There was this article from the Times a few years ago about how a stereotypically nerdy profession was becoming very cool and I'm gonna have to agree. Were there even school book clubs, much less cool ones, back in the day? I don't recall any.

I don't know if you know this but high schoolers can be intimidating. A bunch of high schoolers gathered in a single room staring at you is straight up frightening. I think it's because they're looking at you, oftentimes with this penetrating expressionless face, and you have no idea what they're actually thinking. It's a skill perfected as you advance through school (and a valuable skill indeed), and high schoolers are definitely peaking in those powers. As we got up to talk about our books, do a short reading, share our paths to publication, and answer some questions, I was reminded of how eloquent my fellow Debs are. They know what they're going to say, they say it clearly and with practiced gusto, and they're great at syncing their minds with their words. My introductions usually start with, "Um, this is Exclusively Chloe. The cover is pink and it has glitter...um..." Probably need to work on that a bit.

Also, where do you look when you're facing a crowd? I chose to look down, at people's feet. I can give you exact descriptions of every person's shoes in the front row, no lie. Semi-Ugg boots, black Chucks with purple laces, diamond Chucks with white laces on one foot and black laces on the other, etc.

This being my first high school visit, I wasn't sure what to expect afterward. Dead ringing silence? High fives all around? Detention? What I found out is that after being all intimidating and scary, high schoolers then turn all super nice and friendly and ask you to sign things. After chatting it up with some of them and learning about stuff like whether or not the title of book club president is an elected or volunteer position, we all took pictures, said thank you's and good bye's, gathered our stuff, and headed off to the next stop. Lunch.

Post-food stop, we went crosstown to Casa Grande's rivals, Petaluma High. It's the Gauchos versus the Trojans. Green versus purple. East versus west. Brother against brother. Actually I have no idea if those last two are true, I just like rivalries. The student reporter from Casa Grande told us how their newspapers face off every year for awards and r.e.s.p.e.c.t. I'd like to imagine that it's epic like ACDC versus Miley and Mandy. I think one downside of attending a small private school was that we didn't even have a journalism class. (Or did we?) I think my next book features the editor in chief of a school newspaper so I grabbed copies of both the Gaucho Gazette and the Trojan Tribune for research.

The front page of the Trojan Tribune said that their econ teacher was coming out with a book, his memoir, "Game, Set, Life: My Match with Crohn's and Cancer." I got to briefly meet Mr. Street at our event and since we had only a very short time with the Petaluma students, just half an hour, when they wanted to stick around for more, he gave them permission to miss some of their next class. Keep in mind this was the week before finals for both schools. If I was about to be in finals I'd be like, "Peace, I'm off to class!" so it was cool of everyone to stick around. Talking to us was better than studying for finals, yes!

After our long but exciting day, I've decided that high school visits are fantastic. There are so many aspiring writers, book clubs are now cool and awesome, teens have some really great questions about writing and getting published, and yes it's true, like Whitney said, "Teach them well and let them lead the way." Or just make them late for their next class. Either works.

So thanks to both schools, Copperfield's Books for setting it all up and then inviting us to check out their wonderful store, and of course to my fellow Debs because group events are great together. Lauren Bjorkman (My Invented Life), Cheryl Renee Herbsman (Breathing), Malinda Lo (Ash), Sarah Quigley (TMI), and C. Lee McKenzie (Sliding on the Edge) who was there in spirit.

Recaps of the week's various events so far from Cheryl, Lee, and Malinda. We got one more event this Saturday at Barnes & Noble in San Bruno. This one's at two so I'll definitely be fully awake, I guarantee it.

Photos from the events are located here.

09 December 2009

Sound Off

Stand back, griping ahead. I've discovered a very important point as you progress in adult life. "Free" is no longer the only reason to attend something. Back in college, anything advertising "free food" was a must go. Time was abundant and you just needed to fill your days doing something. Fast forward a decade later and "free" doesn't necessarily mean the same thing anymore. Spending your time doing one thing means you aren't doing something else. There's an economics term for that. I want to say that it's "opportunity cost" but somehow I doubt it. If I had paid more attention in my economics classes I would be able to tell you exactly what that term should be. But I didn't since I was deeply engaged in free napping. Actually, if I had paid more attention in my economics classes I would probably be doing something entirely different now. Like um, manning a cubicle in a gleaming glass building downtown, dressed in a snazzy suit and tie.

Still, when you have a chance to go to a Yelp Elite party, a free one, you have to go. George and Co. went last year and they had a grand time at the Exploratorium. They received free drinks and spent their time playing with all the hands-on exhibits. Since I am no Elite Yelper, my friends got me in and I should be grateful, which I am. But I'm gonna go ahead and say it, "The party sucked."

I've realized that the "elite" label Yelp uses is pretty spurious. What makes an elite Yelper? A minimum number of reviews? Well written reviews? Accurate reviews? Lots of fans? Some other random qualifications? I don't know. But from the looks of the line yesterday, I'm pretty sure they give you "elite" status for just about anything. Which explains why we waited in the freezing cold for an hour, wrapped three blocks away from the entrance, along with hundreds of other elites.

Things I don't do anymore: lines, crowds, cold. The Yelp party had all three, which would have been acceptable because it was a special event, but the organization was just horrific. A bajillion staffers working the lines but nobody getting in. If I wanted to stand around for arbitrary reasons, I would have gone to a club. And I don't do that anymore for just that reason. And once you got inside, it's not like there was anything particularly exciting going on. It was just more lines for a few morsels of food. Plus a few artists painting, underwhelming breakdancers, and strangely, some Taiko drummers. They even ran out of Yelp fanny packs, which I was really looking forward to. We did say hello to a co-founder of Pandora, which was cool, but nothing else made the wait in the cold worth it.

I gotta hand it to Yelp. They are geniuses for handing out the elite status to so many people. Everyone likes to be special and what spurs more reviews and use of your site than to give out a title? So with that in mind, everyone commenting here will now be an "elite" fan. That's right. You are all elite! Welcome to the club!

For the record, I've been on the Yelp bandwagon since the beginning but have decided to nose dive off because the reviews are largely useless nowadays. Most restaurants average 3.5 stars and you have no idea if people are actually qualified to review the food in question. One man's amazing fried chicken is my "I wish I had just gone to KFC." Plus people treat their Yelp reviews like journals and ramble on and on about their lives. Hello, that's what blogs are for? Yelp is for reviews.

Needless to say, if Yelp extended me elite status, I'd accept in a nanosecond. I like to feel faux-special too. And really, I think I had fun because even bad experiences can bond people. Plus my Reviewer of the Day friend apparently practices the moves to Beat It for use on the dance floor at just such an occasion.

07 December 2009

Wyld Stallyons

Listening to: The Swell Season, "Falling Slowly." A couple of years ago, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova starred together in "Once," a semi-musical and a great movie. I didn't realize this but they partnered up and perform as The Swell Season. Maybe you knew this already? Sadly, their romantic partnership is no more but their new album is out. Which proves you don't need to be in love to make beautiful music. Or in love with each other anyway.

I'm in San Francisco for about a week and a half, to do some book events as part of Holidaze for the Debs. I'm not exactly sure where I live at the moment since it seems to change every few weeks, but the Bay definitely has lots of things going on, which is a major plus. Just today I jauntied over to the SF Public Library for a panel about community and academic writing programs, hosted by Barbara Jane Reyes. I totally forgot about the parking situation in San Francisco so arrived late and missed Claire Light's intro bit, which was half the reason I got up at the crack of one-ish to attend. Life lesson: Show up to time sensitive events on time. I'm one of those people who are perpetually twenty minutes late and that's just not going to cut it in the real world is it?

The panelists were evenly split between writers and poets who had MFAs and those who didn't. I know a lot of writers struggle with the question of whether or not getting a MFA is necessary or something to work towards, and I'm definitely not knowledgeable about the topic so go read Claire and Barbara's opinions on the matter, which were sparked by, I believe, an article in the New Yorker that asked if creative writing should be taught.

I hope someone recaps some of the wonderful things the panel covered but basically they shared personal experiences about how they've built their writing careers, the positive and negative things they've encountered in both grad school and community writing programs, and what avenues they've explored for mentoring and growth.

One audience member asked "What's a MFA?" Which seems like a silly/stupid question until you realize, wait, yeah, what is a MFA?" Master of Fine Arts is the short direct answer. Oscar Bermeo gave a much better and more eloquent response actually, and I wish I could summarize it here but I'd be doing him a disservice if I tried to paraphrase it. Oh it looks like he has a recap of his talk here on his blog (and PAWA has a links page from the panel).

The West Coast Holidaze kick-off event was my first bookstore signing and it was definitely interesting. I'll write about all the book events later but let me just say that I have much respect for all authors who are sitting at a table piled with their books. If you ever see some nice authors sitting behind a table at your bookstore, go over and talk to them. Don't run away! Especially if there's candy for the taking.

We were slated to be there for only about an hour but stayed for two and I met some excellent people and had a really good time so it was definitely a nice start to the week. Plus my support staff of friends and George came with me so that was kind of awesome. I also bought (ahem, pink and glittery) Gelly Roll pens to sign with. Which caused people to come out of the woodwork declaring their love and allegiance for Gelly Roll pens. Since I didn't know what they were beforehand I guess I didn't even have the cool pens in middle school, which helps explain so much. Grown up me would go back in time and give less grown up me a collection of Gelly Roll pens. My social status would have been top of the charts then, obviously.

The rest of my first weekend here was spent upgrading George to a new television. Her old one was ridiculous and well, old. Her new one allows us to make comments like, "This picture is so clear! We can see his pimples!" Between this and the cold weather, we were highly unmotivated to leave the house.

We did drag ourselves out to SOM Bar on Saturday, and decided to take impromptu awkward prom pictures. Well, we decided to take prom pictures, the awkward part just happened. It's amazing how you get into the prom picture position and weird smiles, terrible facial expressions, and ridiculous body positioning just happens.

For the record, I have a horrific prom picture. I never went to any dances until a blind date prom my senior year. I thought I had pulled off the picture fine until the pictures arrived and my friend pointed out that I was hunched over and my butt and hips were positioned like three feet away from my date. Real winner. Maybe grown up me needs to go back and fix quite a few things.

03 December 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

The eponymous Mr. Fox does this little whistle and mouth click thing whenever he does something particularly clever. He calls it his trademark. Used sparingly, it's catchy and super fun. I might be adopting his trademark until I can find my own.

I'm not sure if this has been marketed primarily as a kids movie but it's anything but. The humor is sly, the dialogue is witty, and the stop motion animation is very pleasing. Making the foxes slim and slender was really weird at first but then I understood as that skinniness made them seem more lithe and graceful on-screen. And it's hard not to be amused by badgers, moles, and opossums stuffed in business suits and other human outfits. As always, anthropomorphism is awesome!

The pace of the movie is quick, the voice acting is superb, and Wes Anderson was clearly the perfect director to do this movie. The only thing missing for me was my desire to see more detail about some of Mr. Fox's capers. But that might have just been my expectation creep. I'd read somewhere that this was like a heist movie but it's really not. Overall, the Fantastic Mr. Fox was very enjoyable and well worth watching, especially for Wes Anderson fans. Now to find my trademark...

Throughout the movie, a few of the characters and lines of dialogue reminded me of "The Squid and the Whale" and it all made sense after I saw that Noah Baumbach was a co-writer. I didn't realize Baumbach also co-wrote The Life Aquatic (which I loved) and now I'll know to just look for his writing credit and line up to watch the movie.

For a large portion of making Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson was in Paris while his crew was in London. Which is kind of crazy if you think about it. For a film that needs to have every little detail created and fussed over, to not even be in the same country seems extremely difficult. Anderson did send videos of himself acting out many of the scenes, which you can get a glimpse of here. Also, a short behind the scenes featurette hosted by Jason Schwartzman is neat.

01 December 2009

So Sick of Love Songs

I've been meaning to highlight a few things from around the web that are related to Exclusively Chloe or me but I kept putting it off. So now I guess I'll just throw them all together into one post with lots of links. Bear with me as I wax unpoetically about myself.

Jordyn of Ten Cent Notes recently did a Debs '09 Playlist giveaway. When she asked me for a song to represent Exclusively Chloe, I immediately thought of "Glamorous" by Fergie. I know, I know, the book is about getting away from all that glamour and celebrity life. But when Fergie Ferg starts showing off her spelling skills ("G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S...") you can't help but get excited and dance along. I have a list of "songs that are inherently girl songs but are impossible to resist dancing to as a guy." Glamorous is a top three track on this list. Sandwiching it at number one and three is Britney's "I'm A Slave 4 U" and the Pussycat Dolls "Don't Cha." I mean, seriously, these songs have such great beats but as a guy what are you supposed to do with your hips when you're trying to dance along? And singing along seems wrong too -- even though you have to. The songs on this list force you to the dance floor and then it's just fantastic awkwardness.

Check out the rest of the Debs '09 Playlist track list for everyone's selections and thanks to Jordyn for putting such an awesome project together!

After a rankings reset and some obvious mathematics error, my profile somehow popped up in the top ten over at Rice Bowl Journals. During the course of the next week, I rose all the way up to number one and stayed there. Well, until this week, when I crashed and burned. So yes, all is well with the universe again. Your conception of good and evil can remain unchanged. Things are back to normal. But it was a thrilling few days as I've been around Rice Bowl Journals for awhile, back in the days when my favorite blog ever, Technicolor.org, was regularly top of the charts. To have stood where she stood, computational error and all, made me giddy with delight.

And just as exciting was realizing that Cindy Pon (Silver Phoenix), a fellow author and Deb, was the very first Rice Bowl Journalist, as you can see by her cool ID number. Being number one at anything is never bad is it?

And while we're here, a scan of another Chinese interview I did, this time with We Chinese magazine. I sat down with publisher and editor Ping Ma back in July and hopefully said some cogent things in my lackluster Chinglish. Much like my earlier interview with a Chinese newspaper, I have no idea what the text says. Oh those many years of Chinese school, all for naught apparently. Sorry Mom!

Also in a nice surprise, I got a review of The Rough Guide to Blogging from Down Under Views. Maybe this means the book has now made its way to Australia! Either way, thanks a lot Jamie for nice quotes like these, "Yang introduces you to the world of blogging in a way that won't overwhelm the beginner but also won't bore the experienced blogger. Blogging jargon is explained in a way that doesn't make the reader feel dumb or talked down to."

If you've made it all the way to the bottom of this post, maybe you should consider following my blog. I mean, for a limited time I've placed the box so conveniently on the top of the sidebar for you. Here, I'll even show you how. I have a dozen fans now but it would make me feel better to have more. Having more is always good. Having more of being number one is doubly good. And who doesn't like to feel good?

Thanks for visiting. Do come again.

30 November 2009

Precious (2009)

People have been talking about this movie, pushing it into the "must see" ranks. After watching it, I participated in three separate conversations about it. The first, huddled in Lilly's car post-movie, trying to come to terms with what we just saw. The second, in the parking lot outside my favorite ramen house, and then another extended conversation in my friends' living room later that night. This movie was made for talking.

First things first. The movie is good. It's done really well, the acting is incredible (Mo'Nique should win an Oscar), and I'm definitely glad I watched it. However, the buzz and pre-hype around the movie bothered me and I definitely didn't walk out thinking I'd just watched something illuminating or fantastic. I felt slightly manipulated and didn't feel much better after talking it out. Slate's Dana Stevens called it "poverty porn," and it's hard for me to disagree.

Precious depicts and showcases a lot of issues that should give it weight. Emotional abuse, rape, incest, poverty, physical violence, the education system, etc. It's a laundry list of things and part of me recognizes that while all these terrible things do happen, some of it felt over the top. Then again, one of my friends pointed out that she knows people who go through these things, in combinations more intense and numerous, so perhaps I'm just overly sheltered and unaware. Still, it felt like a game of "how low can you go."

A few critics have come out harshly against the movie, some pointing out that the movie is receiving the highest praise from mostly white audiences and that it's reinforcing negative stereotypes of black America. I watched it in Hillcrest, with a crowd of older white folk, and I think the experience would have been very different with say, a black audience. There was a hearty round of clapping as the crowds rolled and nary a boo.
"Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious. Full of brazenly racist clich├ęs (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show."
-Pride & Precious-
Anyway, take a cruise through the reviews about this movie, both good and bad. And then we'll talk because there's a lot to talk about. Which makes it a worthwhile movie, I guess.

And yes, that is Robin Thicke's wife, Paula Patton. And does she not look just like Alicia Keys? I know it's not just me.

28 November 2009

You Don't Know...

Listening to: Jermaine Stewart, "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off." Dedicated to/from a friend, High Entropy. They just don't make songs like this anymore. And probably for good reason. Sample lyric: "But I'm not a piece of meat, still you like my brain."

We have discovered the greatest party game since, well, Catchphrase? My list of fantastic group games is pretty short but this one has vaulted into the top five immediately. Buzz! is a Jeopardy style triva game for the Playstation 3 that allows you to go head to head with up to seven other people.

The questions range from super easy to slightly obscure but never too difficult. And even if there are a string of easy questions, most of the game modes reward you for answering quickly so it's still very competitive at all times. The controllers that come with the game are like phasers and are wireless, effective, and easy to use. Basically if you like trivia (and aren't quite hardcore enough for Trivial Pursuit), this is a really great compromise and everyone can be involved and entertained, even if they're not directly playing.

There have been a few versions of Buzz in the United Kingdom but the series has only made its way Stateside recently. We played Buzz Quiz the other night but the more recent version, Buzz World is far better. Throw in downloadable content, fun character animations, the ability to make customized quizzes, and it'll be the best sixty dollars you can spend on a Friday night.

The only bad part about Buzz is that it requires a Playstation 3, a television, and the game -- not to mention friends. But for something this exciting, it's worth befriending PS3 owners. So yeah, I'm taking applications now for new friends, but only ones with Playstations please.

Okay and the other thing that has consumed our Thanksgiving week is Papaya Farm. My friend Lil'Ho got her iPod Touch and insisted that we play this game. So I joined after she told me that you can steal each others' vegetables and fruit. I'll play just about anything that involves theft. So Papaya Farm is similar to Farmville or that zoo thing you've seen (way too much) on Facebook. I've avoided these games successfully until now so this was my first foray into that world.

Basically what happens is you plant things, wait for them to grow, steal the occasional fruit from your friends, and then wait a few days to level up so you can repeat the cycle with new seeds. I've decided the game is totally inane but somehow it's fired up my competitive juices. For example, I was upset as all hell when I tried to steal some potatoes and got bit by a friend's dog, thus losing 200 hard won respect points. My sister sets her phone alarm in order to make sure she harvests her crops before anyone can log on to steal them.

My favorite part of the game is participating in serious talks with other players while your other friends wonder if you've gone loony. "Hey! Come over and plant something in my friend patch. And water my plants please." Or "What do you think we should do with this carrot blender, use it or give it away?"

Basically the game is a total time waster, requires no skill or strategy, doesn't really reward you as you progress, and goes against everything I stand for in games. Yet I play because I refuse to be left behind. I even downloaded Mafia Wars and Epic Pet Wars for an evening before deciding that one stupid time sucker is plenty. I hate you Papaya, but I can't quit you. If you are a fellow farmer, please friend me so I can get enough points to buy a dog to ward off would be thieves. Thanks.

24 November 2009

Shut It

Listening to: Girls, "Hellhole Ratrace." Apparently frontman Christopher Owens has quite the origin story. My friend Victor who recommended the band likes this track.

I was at a Container Store the other day and wondered what these little plastic boxes were for. Storage obviously, and the bigger sized ones seem useful, but they have these tiny thumb sized ones that I can't begin to imagine what people buy them for. All adult uses seem creepy to me. Kids using these tiny boxes, I totally get. You can put in the first tooth you lost, a treasured pebble, a lucky bead, a bit of pixie dust, something. But what is an adult doing with them? Anything you'd want to store -- earrings, screws, one pill -- seems nefarious or inefficient since you could just get an organizer with many compartments. Nobody's getting organized by using a dozen of these tiny things, even if they do come in a nice assortment of colors. If I pulled open someone's drawer and saw a stack of mini boxes, I'd immediately turn tail and run. I recommend you do the same.

While wandering around looking for a spice rack, I tweet asked some friends the following: "Who would you rather date? A guy who knows his way around Home Depot or the Container Store?" The answers were mixed but according to my very scientific poll, the Container Store won by a narrow margin. One telling answer was: "I'd date Home Depot for actual usefulness, but I know I'd like Container Store guy better." Two guy friends tried to submit write-in answers: Target and Fry's Electronics. In related news, they're both single.

23 November 2009

The Bloggers League

This Saturday was Bananas, the first ever Asian American bloggers gathering and round table discussion. The whole thing was organized and co-hosted by Lac Su, author of "I Love Yous Are For White People" (aka, the greatest title ever) and Steve Nguyen, a Los Angeles based film and video producer. I've had the event on my calendar for awhile but almost didn't make it. Waking up early enough to drive two hours to USC by three pm is not my strong suit. But I'm glad I made the conference because it was definitely well worth the time and incredibly interesting. I had high hopes of doing a running diary on the event but (a) I got there late (b) there were no power outlets and (c) at least four video cameras were taping the proceedings for posterity. So instead I spent my time taking notes, jotting down some questions, cruising the featured bloggers' sites, and trying to find their Twitters to get insta-commentary.

A lot of bloggers came out but unfortunately I missed most of their names and introductions so bear with me when I mess it all up. Here's a post panel picture of everyone. I was familiar with a lot of the sites but by no means a steady reader or follower of all of them. I was psyched to recognize Ernie (Little, Yellow, Different), who is blog royalty and well, someone I've been following for years. Immediately upon seeing him I wondered about the possibility of asking him to start another blog reality game -- heck, combine two things and have a blog reality game with Asian American bloggers. If someone knows and can influence Ernie, get him to do one asap, thanks.

When I walked in, the discussion was focused on the gender divide in the Asian American blogging world. Someone commented and said that this event had felt very male dominated so far. As I took my sweet speed limit time up the freeway, I'd actually been wondering what the male to female panelist ratio would be. As it turned out, the split was nearly fifty fifty and it was interesting because for this particular group of panelists, the women seemed to have a lot more to say.

For example, I really liked the things that Christine (pop88), Taz (Sepia Mutiny), Oiyan (APAs for Progress), Sylvie (Antisocial Ladder), Erin (Hyphen Magazine), and Julie (Kimchi Mamas) pointed out. Many Asian cultures traditionally value silent and weak willed women and these bloggers proved that they weren't going to play into that by being consistently eloquent, thoughtful, super educated, and willing to share their perspectives across the board.

To be fair to the guys, they definitely had some really well formed opinions and thoughts to share too but some of the topics -- blog stalkers, sexism -- didn't provide them with the opportunity to chime in much. Overall, I did wonder why the guys weren't speaking up as often though. I mean, I really liked a lot of what Byron (big WOWO) and the guy from Bicoastal Bitchin had to say and wanted to hear more from them.

I was actually hoping to get some perspective on the whole scene from the bloggers who were doing this pre-blogging. People like Nelson (AA Rising) and Gil (Nikkei View). They've been online since the early days of the Internet and I really wanted to hear what they had to say about the roles that these "new" bloggers had, the changes they might have witnessed or experienced, and what niches they saw being filled by this generation of blog writers.

A lot of the discussion actually wasn't focused on anything blogger-centric. Outside of some bits dealing with censoring comments and tips on overcoming writer's block, most of the topics were similar to things you'd find at the APA conferences you attended in college -- I mean, if you did, I went to school in the Midwest, we had a lot of them. I thought there would be more focus on blogging and since the group was diverse and clearly had different viewpoints about many things, I was hoping there would be some more insight into specifics as far as content covered, what friends/family/significant others thought about them becoming public figures, maybe some of their blogging inspirations, and if they felt like a part of the broader blogging community versus just an Asian American one. Of course, I could probably find answers to these questions by going through their blogs, so um, I'll just go ahead and do that.

One thing they did talk about was that the next forward step was to reach an audience of non-Asian Americans. Angry Asian Man revealed that a large part of his fan base isn't Asian at all and gave some insight into how and why. A follow up question, related to the blogging audience issue, was if it was easier to "preach to the choir." Actually, why am I recapping this thing? The video of the event will be up at some point I'm sure. So go watch it when it's ready.

One last thing though, speaking of diversity, Taz (Sepia Mutiny) asked Lac to bring up her question about whether or not Sepia Mutiny was invited along to be the token brown folk. Which was an amazing point. Out of all the panelists, the group definitely skewed heavily toward the "traditional" Asians. Chinese, Korean, Filipino, etc. Next year, will there be more South Asian bloggers represented, some Persians bloggers, some Indian bloggers? I'd hope that the guideline for "Asian American blogger" would be expanded. I'm not exactly sure how Hyphen delineates but maybe their definition would be a good rule of thumb? And part of expanding that diversity will come as more bloggers appear. As Lac mentioned, he wasn't able to find any Vietnamese bloggers for example.

I realized listening to everyone talk was that these bloggers (and the ones who couldn't be in attendance) are clearly the growing voice of Asian Americans nowadays. People know Angry Asian Man, they know Disgrasian, they know 8asians. When I interned at A Magazine post-college, they were close to shutting down and another influential magazine, Yolk, shuttered soon afterwards too. Since then, these bloggers have helped by stepping into the breach and they do it out of an honest love for the community, for activism and awareness, and to simply express themselves.

Attending Bananas was exciting because it echoed what it was like when blogging first started picking up steam in the early 2000s. The Asian American blogging world is really new and it'll only continue to proliferate, become more influential, and many of the voices that weren't represented here will be here in the near future. So for that alone, this was a landmark event and Lac and Steve really did a great job putting it together and pulling it off in a short time. At the end of the event, there was definitely a spirit of unity and hope for more community based togetherness and action.

The night certainly stirred my mind and opened me up to a slew of new sites. My Reader is packed. So yeah, even more time to spend on the computer. Fantastic.

Recaps of Banana from AA Rising and Nikkei View. Oh and from Absolutely Fobulous, who were also in attendance. Actually, I feel like a lot of the people in the crowd were Asian American bloggers, but unfortunately I didn't catch all their names. Obviously I need to learn to take better notes.

Update: Additional recaps from big WOWO, Hyphen, Julie from Kimchi Mamas, Minority Militant (plus apology), and AzN and CBruhs of Bicoastal Bitchin. Plus Channel APA, Asian American Movement, and Dariane of Racebending
Strange but true:
  • The guy from Militant Minority started off seated at the tables, added a few (mildly cogent) comments here and there, left to refill his drink, came back, moved off the stage to sit in the front row, moved back again to sit next to his friend, and then left the event entirely about an hour into it. Aside from being rude I couldn't help feeling like it was Puck-ish. If this were a reality show, he would definitely be the polarizing figure. The thing is, after checking out his blog, it's actually compelling and well written. So I guess his behavior can only be explained by the alcohol? Perhaps he was demonstrating that indeed, Asians can't hold their liquor.
  • One audience member asked/stated a meandering non-question about Asian women being the new blondes or something and his convoluted point got him a hasty "next question!" and a hearty hand clap from the crowd when he exited. I think he was driving at something about if the bloggers wanted their children to eventually marry non-Asian for a better future? I dunno, something offensive anyway. Afterwards I overheard him going on about the same thing and wondered if he could really be serious about his viewpoint. I kind of wanted to ask him how he arrived at some of his conclusions about the hierarchy of Asian-Americanness (he wasn't Asian). Wikipedia? Ouija board?

21 November 2009

New Moon (2009)

You know how it took Natalie Portman a few years to recover from her epically wooden performances in the Star Wars movies? Well, Kristin Stewart is facing an even bigger uphill battle. Not that I blame Natalie or Kristen too much. It is much better to go for the paycheck and name brand recognition when you're young, and still have plenty of time to build a solid career while making some bank along the way. But while I love Kristen, it can't be ignored anymore: she's terrible in the Twilight movies. It's not really her fault though. There's not much to do as Bella except sigh, run, fall, scream, cry, and look like she's smitten. If an actress as wonderful as Natalie can be hampered by a bad script, it's no wonder Kristin sleepwalks (and trademark squints) her way through these things.

Actually, there's still no clear answer on if Kristin is actually a good actress. She was perfect as an almost mute girl in Speak, par for the course in Adventureland, good with her limited screen time in Into the Wild and In the Land of Women. And I'm embarrassed to admit it but I've YouTubed her scenes in Zathura: A Space Adventure just to see what the hell it was about. I guess her upcoming Joan Jett biopic, The Runaways, will tell us right? I feel like there's an iconic movie coming from her, and I have to remind myself that she's still just nineteen and has many more movies to come.

So is New Moon good or what? I expected the Twilight series to follow a similar book/movie path to the Harry Potters. The first few movies would be shaky but things would get better and at some point the right book would result in a good movie (for Potter it was "The Prisoner of Azkaban"). Well, it looks like the opposite is happening. New Moon wasn't nearly as exciting as Twilight and seemed choppy throughout. If you haven't read the book I feel like there's a lot of unexplained motivations going on. Not that there's much to figure out, or much depth to be plumbed, but New Moon the movie lacked any sense to urgency, adventure, mystery, or emotional heft.

The good news for fans is that Taylor Lautner buffs up and becomes a fitting competitor for Edward. While I'm definitely Team Ed all the way, it's hard to make fun of Team Jake anymore. I'm a sucker for giant wolves, what can I say? I've decided I can forgive homewrecker Jacob since he's a nice guy and really has Bella's best interests at heart. Meanwhile, Edward is kind of heartless as he tells Bella she won't ever see him again -- even if he's doing it to keep her safe. Way to send her into an emotional tailspin buddy.

And Charlie has to be the most obtuse dad ever. He's really the chief of police? He doesn't wonder how/why all these boys are driving Bella home in her truck and then just loping off into the wilderness? Never mind the whole "there are multiple murders here in this tiny town every few months" thing, Charlie would be more believable if his day job were, say, a baker. Not a sheriff. His powers of perception are not strong.

I guess my take on the movie is that if you're a Twi-hard, you'll watch this and love it. If you're not, well, what can I say? Buy Exclusively Chloe?

During the previews, I noticed that Amanda Seyfried from Mean Girls (the "I have ESPN!" girl) is the lead in two upcoming romantic comedies, Dear John and Letters to Juliet. I'd be pissed if I was Lacey Chalbert. All those years on Party of Five and she can't get at least one romantic comedy to star in? I'd consider going blonde right away if I was Lacey. And how does Lindsay Lohan feel having not one, but two, of her former costars have more successful careers five years post-Mean Girls? Then again, I'm not so sure Lindsay cares much about her "career" anymore.

20 November 2009

Oh Brother!

You might be only familiar with Jonathan Franzen because of his whole "I don't think I want to be an Oprah book selection" drama. I've never actually read "The Corrections" but his non-fiction stuff is fantastic. I picked up his 2002 book of essays, "How to Be Alone," a while back and loved how smoothly and intelligently he wrote. I'm going through his book of memoir essays and it's really great so far. For example, here's an excerpt from his piece about Peanuts.
"On my night table was the Peanuts Treasury, a large, thick hardcover compilation of daily and Sunday funnies by Charles M. Schulz... Like most of the nation's ten-year-olds, I had a private, intense relationship with Snoopy, the cartoon beagle. He was a solitary not-animal animal who lived among larger creatures of a different species, which was more or less my feeling in my own house. My brothers were less like siblings than like an extra, fun pair of quasi-parents. Although I had friends and was a Cub Scout in good standing, I spent a lot of time alone with talking animals. I was an obsessive rereader of A.A. Milne and the Narnia and Dr. Dolittle novels, and my involvement with my collection of stuffed animals was on the verge of becoming age-inappropriate.

It was another point of kinship with Snoopy that he, too, liked animal games. He impersonated tigers and vultures and mountain lions, sharks, sea monsters, pythons, cows, pirahnas, penguins, and vampire bats. He was the perfect sunny egoist, starring in his ridiculous fantasies and basking in everyone's attention. In a cartoon strip full of children, the dog was the character I recognized as a child."
-"The Discomfort Zone"-

17 November 2009

Little Earthquakes

Listening to: A Fine Frenzy, "The Minnow and The Trout." It can't be easy to make a song about fish so charming. I love the lyrics. "Help me out said the minnow to the trout / I was lost and found myself swimming in your mouth / Help me chief / I've got to plans for you and me /I swear upon this riverbed / I'll help you feel young again"

Blondes have more fun, brunettes are smart, and who doesn't love a red head? I know I certainly do. My friend obsessed over Alison Sudol a few months ago and since we were on similar Pandora tracks, we were both similarly enchanted. He saw her last weekend in San Francisco, I saw her yesterday in San Diego. He told me to watch out for her gyrating hips. And yes, her hips do gyrate and she moves in this very magical way that we believe only she can pull off. I mean, it's pretty difficult to do the hands above the head sing and dance thing but she does it effortlessly and naturally.

Of course, the thing A Fine Frenzy is noted for isn't her dancing but her singing. Most people are probably familiar with her haunting "Almost Lover," and rightfully so, but she's got quite a few fantastic songs. Her voice is incredible, even more so in person, and she's got a tremendous amount of stage presence and energy. I thought her concert might be low key and ballady but it was nothing of the sort. She and her band kept the excitement level high, she was luminescent, and she did fun covers like "Heart of Glass."

The fact that Alison is dizzying beautiful also helps keep your attention. I think I could just watch her on a stage taking the GMATs or LSATs or something. "Oh, she pursed her lips, this is a hard one... Oh, she smiled, she knows the answer! Goooaaaalll!"

The Del Mar crowd was a bit lame (we saw her at the Belly Up) and when she asked for people to sing along, there was barely a murmur. Afterwards she flashed her dimples and joked, "You guys are the cutest chorus of mice." Which is the same as saying, "You guys are lame-o." I wanted the crowd to return her energy but it seemed like the slightly older fans were only capable of some enthusiastic hand clapping after songs. And by slightly older I mean me.

From reading her Wikipedia, I suspect Alison is a shy person at heart but has honed her stage presence over the years. It also said that she was known to mingle after concerts and talk to people and I had my topic of choice all ready (talking about children's books) but alas, she did not make a beeline off the stage to hang out with me post-encore. Shocking, I know.

This July, A Fine Frenzy hit a million Twitter followers and she currently has over a million and a half. She was an early featured act by Twitter and she's been apparently very good about using social media to grow her fan base. I know when she was in the Bay, my friend and I were definitely tracking her progress through the city. Tracking, stalking, whatever.

I did a quick Twitter search while we were waiting for her to appear (her opening act was Landon Pigg, the romantic lead from "Whip It," who's arguably a better musician than actor) but could only find one other Tweeter there. I thought maybe we should say hello to each other via tweet but then thought that might be weird.

The conversation with a complete stranger would have basically started and stopped with: "You're here for a concert, and you tweeted about it! So did I!" Cue silence and awkwardness. Right, so why put yourself through that? I'm not gonna lie though, I was kinda hoping the other person would tweet me because I've never met a random person off Twitter before and secretly hoped to. Oh I dream big, it's true.

16 November 2009

New Eclipse

Listening to: Ce Ce Peniston, "Keep on Walkin." I didn't know who Ce Ce was before but now I'm all caught up. And I'm ecstatic she's in my life. From her Wikipedia: "Among the list of those who have personally requested Peniston at private engagements are Aretha Franklin at her private birthday celebration in Detroit, Michigan, Pope John Paul II in Rome at The Vatican, and President Bill Clinton at both of his inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C." She's definitely invited to perform at my non-wedding.

There should be a statute of limitations on how long you can dislike somebody. You always hear how important it is to make a good first impression but what if you fail to do that? Should you be disliked for life based on twenty minutes of bad interaction? And on the reverse side, how long can you hold a grudge for until it becomes necessary to give the other person another chance? Initially I thought maybe these things should be reevaluated every two years. That seems like it should be enough time to get the bad taste out of your mouth. But then again, two years seems awfully short. Say you only interact with this person at birthday parties or something. That's once a year. Two sightings will not make you feel better about anyone. So the limit needs to be extended.

I gave it some thought and have decided that the new rule of thumb is four years. Just like U.S. Presidential elections, the Olympics, relationships, and the World Cup, personal grudges need to be dusted off every so often. So four years is how long I'm giving people (and myself) to get over something. For example, if two of my friends don't get along and would rather not be in the same room together, I'll respect their wishes and keep them apart whenever possible. At the end of four years however, sorry, you'll have to try again. Open your hearts, maybe it'll be different this time around.

A mini-real life example. A few years ago, a friend of a friend came into our house as we were preparing for a Halloween party. He sat down, said hello to some of us, and then at some point wandered over to the kitchen and poked through the cabinets for food. Note that this wasn't a party, an after party, or anything like that. Plus, he hadn't been invited to go anywhere in the house aside from the living room. But there he was peering into the refrigerator when the owner of the house walked up.

The stranger had the gall to ask, "Hey, got any milk?" That was it. We hated him. You don't go wandering around somebody else's house looking for milk unless you know them already. That's terrible. However, more than four years have passed so that incident can no longer be discussed or related to in anything other than "oh we've let that go." Clean slate.

If he did it again though, then you can get another four year cycle started.

Exceptions to the four year rule: Exes, people who have stolen your girlfriend or violated a bro/ho code, people who have broken your heart, people who treated you badly when you were children. Those people you can hate forever and I'll be more than happy to add my hate to your hate to create ultimate hate. You're welcome.