30 June 2009

Live high, live mighty, live righteously

Listening to: Jukebox the Ghost, "Hold It In."

The Midwest may be devoid of natural disasters like earthquakes or wildfires but it can be extremely difficult to fly in at times. Try going through Chicago sometime during the winter. You're pretty much guaranteed a delay. I'd been getting so used to the short commute between San Diego and San Francisco that flying to Michigan this past weekend seemed really far away. When we landed, we sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half while the ground crew refused to bring out the connector thingy in the pouring rain and thunderstorms.

People around me were complaining. "Why don't they do their jobs! Get them out here! Grumble, grumble." It didn't help when the captain announced that he was trying to negotiate with the ground crew to come out. It made it seem like they were being sissies for not braving the rain. I didn't think it was very fair for passengers protected by an aluminum fortress to complain about little humans who didn't want to walk around in lightning with big metal staircases. I've decided to be wary of people who get easily frustrated by transportation inconveniences. Road rage, flight tantrums, boat berzerk, railroad rampage, whatever.

You're getting someplace faster than you could have at any point in human history and you're complaining? I wonder if this will be the case when teleportation (finally) comes around. Will hordes of tired business people, eager to get home in time for Kwanzaa, swear bitterly as they line up behind each other to be transported instantaneously across the solar system? If waiting in traffic, being jammed in an elevator, or staring down the tunnel toward invisible subway cars is any indication, humans will always just bitch about travel delays. Somehow we naturally selected for this trait.

I'll be naturally judging and silently criticizing people for this exact same trait.

I left San Francisco after an all nighter talking about girls with the boys. Fueled by Filipino food and coffee, I promptly passed out the entire way to Detroit. Six blissful hours later, Eric arrived to pick me up and as we hung around, waiting for Hong to show up and listening the Michael Jackson tributes on the radio, I slowly transitioned from California brain to Michigan brain. We were in town for a wedding, and also to hang out with our friends who have three young children, so we rarely get a chance to see them. It was family time versus single time. In the city, most of the people I hang out with are single and we go out to bars and lounges a lot. In Michigan, everyone has families and they do things like play group sports, start tribute bands, and gather for birthdays and celebrations devoid of alcohol.

Given the two, I'd prefer to hang out in Michigan. I mean, this past weekend, we managed to fit in a little bit of chess, some basketball, lots of Magic, kite flying, and Transformers 2. I'm a family oriented activities guy trapped in going out land. When the weekend rolls around and someone asks me what I want to do, I always reply, "Don't ask me, if you leave it up to me we're going to end up at home playing games." I find that this attitude strongly curtails my social life -- or at least my dating life. But that's okay. I like most games better than most girls, I think.

During our time in Michigan, we split our time between afternoons with our friends and their amazing three sons, and nights spent at the wedding (it was an Indian wedding, so there was a sangeet on Friday). Late nights were reserved for guy time spent playing games while the kids slept. We also celebrated Ryan's birthday. We probably ruined Eric's sleep schedule but it was good training because he and Anna are expecting any day now. Anna also introduced me to a new kind of gummy penguin, the Trader Joe kind. They don't replace my first love but are more widely available than the black and white peachy ones. Go get some now.

So everything was beautiful. The weather, the people, the wedding, the weekend. I held a one month old baby -- with the help of a boppy -- and I felt really accomplished. Until he started squirming and I panicked. I'm much better with a remote than a baby, but I'm working on it.

28 June 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

It wasn't going to be hard for T2 to make tons of money. Just do what every big budget sequel does. More money, more characters, more action, bigger explosions. In that respect, Transformers pretty much covered it all. Shia Labeouf didn't exactly reach for new heights and that was fine, Megan Fox was given ten times more "I'm sexy, stare at me" scenes, and Optimus Prime was twenty times more kick-ass than last time.

Any Autobot not named Optimus or Bumblebee (and the maybe racist Tweedledum and Tweedledee characters) gets thrown into the junk pile as far as roles and action scenes but I guess if you liked the first Transformers, you have no reason not to like this one. I'm still turned off by the terrible attempts at humor though. Where is it written that a summer blockbuster has to have terrible comedy lines? I don't think I really need to see brass balls during a robot movie. It's gratuitous and not even funny. Ditto for the random humping.

I can't figure out why Josh Duhamel and Tyrese are in this franchise, but I had forgotten they were even in the first one so really, they must be entirely forgettable all around.

25 June 2009

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

Where were you when Michael Jackson passed away?
A McDonald's six minutes away from Detroit airport. We were fueling up while waiting for Hong's flight to arrive. Eric got a call from Anna telling him that MJ was headed to the hospital. A few minutes later, we saw on the CNN ticker that he passed while in transit. Mega mix of his hits ensues. Michael Jackson song titles play a prominent role in the best man's speech at the wedding I was at over the weekend. It feels like Christopher Walken screaming "More Michael!" all weekend.

I'm glad I was nowhere near the Internet when everything started happening because I would have been clicking furiously on every rumor, false hypothetical, and promising link. When you're not near Internet or television, news is just information, instead of this all consuming experience. I can't decide if that's for better or worse.
  • MJ song I have to dance to: P.Y.T.
  • MJ song I have to sing to: Will You Be There
  • MJ song I like better remixed: Rock with You (Brandy and Heavy D)
  • MJ song we have on Laser Disc karaoke: Heal the World
  • MJ song that's impossible to dance to like a normal person: Billie Jean
What I really don't understand is why people felt the urge to buy Michael's music now. I mean, maybe if people had bought some of his stuff while he was still alive (and in deep financial trouble), that would have helped him out. Now people are like, "Dang, I have to get Thriller, I have to buy it. R.I.P.!" It's not like his music is going anywhere. And didn't you have it before anyway? I feel bad about the Michael-ploitation already and it's barely started.
"The renewed appetite for his music will be exploited by the release of 'new' Jackson material, ensuring the sales boost is drawn out over weeks and months."
-UK Telegraph-

23 June 2009

A Love Lost

"For most of us love is largely a matter of shared mortgage payments, evenings curled up on the couch in front of a video, or maybe a night in a hotel for an anniversary. But Cristina Nehring has a different idea. Her ardent polemic, 'A Vindication of Love,' puts forward a darker, more demanding vision of love. This is not, it should be said right away, a book without ambition: the subtitle is 'Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-First Century,' though it is not exactly romance Nehring is writing about, but a more difficult, vital image of passion she believes we have lost.


Nehring sees in the grandeur of feeling a kind of heroism, even if the relationship doesn't take conventional form or endure in the conventional way. For Nehring, one senses, true failure is to drift comfortably along in a dull relationship, to spend precious years of life in a marriage that is not exciting or satisfying, to live cautiously, responsibly. Is the strength of feeling redeemed in the blaze of passion even if it does not end happily? she asks. Is contentment too soft and modest a goal?"
-Feverish Liaisons, New York Times book review-

19 June 2009


Listening to: Mika, "Billy Brown." They're importing all these British singers and this guy never got over here? I can't stop listening to his (eclecticly) catchy album. When I heard this track I instantly loved it, and I couldn't figure out why. Then it hit me that it reminded me of Cats. I know, too much information.

To be honest, the real reason I got hooked on Mika was because of this amazing wedding video my friend showed me. Now, I'm nowhere near marriage, I'm actually sort of anti-marriage, but watching these videos made my inner groom shed a little tear and get down on one knee. Someone find me a bride; even a plastic one, as long as she can accompany me on the cake! I can't even show these heart soaring videos to anyone because I've been sworn to secrecy. That's how good they are. My friend doesn't want anybody else in our social group to hire them. So my lips remain zipped and my hyperlinks unlinked. You're totally missing out. [Update: here's the video]

This makes two Mika's I've been obsessed with so far this year. Is there another one out there lurking? If you know any, please share.

While I'm on the subject, I might as well keep it music themed. Last night, Victor was fiddling around on a guitar and started playing the Top Gun song. No, not the Top Gun anthem, but the song where Goose dies. Otherwise known as "the saddest song in the world." Seriously, if you're a child of the Eighties and don't hear that and weep inside, I don't think we should be friends.

So after hearing Victor play that track, I started thinking about what my top five instrumental movie soundtrack songs would be. The criteria is basically songs that I always have at the ready on my iPod, just in case I need to cue something up. It goes without saying that the movie has to be pretty good too, so that the song and the movie become iconic together. After a quick run down, I've decided this is my preliminary list (in no particular order):
Top Gun - "Memories"
Guitar licks, lots of guitar is always good. Top Gun actually has two hugely memorable guitar solos. The first one, the aforementioned anthem is perfect for walking around and feeling powerful. If I could have the Top Gun anthem blasting out of speakers preceding my every entrance, the world would be mine. Alas, I have to settle for humming it to myself on occasion. The Goose dying song though, is perfect because nobody can really place it immediately, but give them a few seconds and they can always dig it out of their memory. Super classic.

La Bamba - "Sleepwalk"
I DVRed La Bamba two weeks ago and have been minorly obsessed with it since. I saw it when I was little but that was so long ago. The movie is one of those terrible but great ones and a new instant time sucker for me. It's got so much unintentional humor and has even contributed a new generic name to our friendship lexicon. Now anyone who is a huge downer and continually messing things up is dubbed "Bob." Please don't take offense if we start referring to you as such. It's not personal. Okay, maybe it is. Sorry.

At first, when I heard "Sleepwalk," I was convinced it was from 12 Monkeys. My friends said I was wrong. So I checked and as it turns out, they were wrong -- as friends often are. But while "Sleepwalk" was on the 12 Monkeys soundtrack, the song is definitely more closely associated with La Bamba. Actually, Johnny and Santo's gem is all over the place in movies but you hear the guitar and the whatever else it is instrument and you just think "R.I.P. Ritchie Valens."

Boondock Saints - "The Blood of Cuchulainn"
If you need a pick me up in the morning, if you're getting ready to go for an intense run, if you need an epic sound for your epic day, look no further. Bagpipes are the way to go. Bagpipes mean serious business and nothing is more serious than the McManus brothers getting ready to take retribution on the world. This fires me up more than any Rocky theme ever could.

Last of the Mohicans - "The Gael"
There is, of course, a gentle side to bagpipes. Chasing after the love of your life and efficiently wiping out Huron warriors along the way is classified as gentle right? The last fifteen minutes of Last of the Mohicans has a special place in everyone's heart (especially mine) and it's just so intensely memorable and powerful. This is like the sunset version of the Boondock bagpipes. Play each one at the appropriate time and life will surely turn out to be good.

Brokeback Mountain - "The Wings"
I actually can't picture any particular scene when hearing this song, but the entire thing is just so haunting and evocative it brings tears to the eyes. Especially when paired with a Heath Ledger tribute. Geezes. Pass the freakin' Kleenex. Not that I cry or anything. Allergies.

I wish I could find a version online without the terrible singing, since the one in my head and in the movie is just the instrumental without the lyrics.
I guess basically what it comes down to is sad guitar riffs and fierce bagpipes to make my top five. It's a pretty simple formula really. If only some movie would combine both of them into one fabulous song. Then I could fight till I cry, or maybe cry till I fight. Whichever.

17 June 2009

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Listening to: Death Cab for Cutie, "Cath..." Apparently this song was inspired by Wuthering Heights. I whipped through half of the book yesterday when I was supposed to be writing. But it was for a good cause because book club is on Sunday.

So for the past seven weeks I've been taking this class on Tuesdays, "The Comedy of Life, Death, & Art" over at Kearny Street Workshop. Here's the blurb that sucked me in:
"Life doesn't try to be funny; it just is. Life is tragedy with embedded comedy, and vice versa. The purpose of this interdisciplinary (but mostly writing/performing) workshop is to develop creative work with an emphasis on discovering and emphasizing the comedic elements; to identify and explore comedic concepts/principles; to integrate comedy into writing and performing; and to develop skills in terms of both writing and publicly presenting your work.

The workshop will introduce participants to a variety of comedic work, including creative nonfiction essays, film, music, standup comedy, sketch comedy, and other genres. Participants will develop a new piece in their chosen genre over the eight weeks, and much of the workshop time will be devoted towards workshopping individual pieces while also introducing and exploring relevant concepts."
So the classes are over and there's a public reading happening next Tuesday, June 23rd. I'm still working on my final piece, and I have to seriously learn how to enunciate and read out loud, but I'll totally be ready by next week so come check it out. My fellow classmates have written great stories and while my sister and friends don't think I'm funny, I swear you'll laugh at least once during my piece. Or maybe not.

Our fantastic workshop leader, Samantha Chanse, is doing her solo comedy show, "Back to the Graveyard," this weekend. I'll be at the Saturday performance and you can get tickets here. She's awesome, we're going to be awesome, and you can be awesome too if you join us.

15 June 2009

The Money Line

Listening to: Bishop Allen, "The News From Your Bed." This song is just happy happy. I dare you to listen and not bop your head.

The big question people usually ask about being a writer is, "So, how much do you make?" Except for a fortunate few, that answer is usually "not enough." Then again, how much would you want to be paid to do something you love? And to have a publishing house print and promote your work? You'd probably pay them to do it wouldn't you?

For me, I've always been hesitant to say that I'm a full fledged writer until I've made enough to support myself. For most starting writers, a day job is a necessity and it could be many years before you can even begin to think about writing full-time. Then there are those brave people who quit right away and commit to making writing their career.

The basics of how an author makes money is through advances and royalties. You get an advance prior to writing the book (paid out in installments) and then after the book is published, you get a percentage of each book sold. The caveat is that you have to "earn out" your advance before you see more money. Here's a recent post from Editorial Ass breaking down royalties and advances into specifics. It's a fascinating read because most authors don't even know what a "typical" deal is.

And what happens if your book hits the best sellers list? Are you an instant millionaire? Should you plan for a trip around the world in celebration? Well, maybe not. Here's a revealing and much appreciated post about "The Reality of a Times Bestseller."

It can sound difficult doesn't it? To make it as a career author? Well, it is, but isn't finding any career pretty difficult? The upside is that once you've made it, you're totally doing what you love and become a shining example to inspire others. Here's one last link, an old article from 2004 titled "The confessions of a semi-successful author."

For my first book, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I'd actually cleared my advance and had made some extra cash to boot. I didn't ask about how well it was doing, and wasn't told, until the royalty statements rolled in months later. It was then that I found out the blogging book had gone on to a second printing and that I would be getting a check in the mail. Wonderful right?

14 June 2009


I've been kind of failing at blogging. My goal was to blog every other day starting in June -- and there's been so much happening -- but I've pretty much failed in keeping to my schedule. I have, however, been Tumblr-ing a lot. I noticed awhile back that everyone seemed to have a side Tumblr and I couldn't figure out why they'd choose to do over just posting on their Blogger or Word Press. Now I (kind of) get it. Even though the basic idea of Tumblr-ing and blogging is the same, it's actually so much easier to just throw up little quotes, images, or videos to a Tumblr.

Since I tend to get all anal about what gets on my blog versus what doesn't, my recent Tumblr-ing experience has allowed me to just link to interesting things and not feel bad that it's cluttering up my real blog. The downside of this, of course, is that I spend more time Tumblr-ing than blogging. No more I say! Back to blogging, back to real posts, back to getting rid of that itchy feeling when I have something I need to blog but don't because I've just spent three hours reading articles and re-posting them.

Basically what I'm saying is: visit my Tumblr for random articles/videos/images I'm enjoying. Stay here for blog posts. Starting, well, tomorrow.

11 June 2009

Food, Inc (2009)

As I munched on super buttered popcorn and fought the urge to fall asleep, I wondered if corn was my top one food item because I like it or if, as the movie informed me, everything is made out of corn so I'm forced to love it.

Actually, the movie didn't inform me as much as it did re-tell me. I mean, if you've read Fast Food Nation, or Omnivore's Dilemma, you know everything Food, Inc. has to tell you. In fact, the movie feels like it should have come out years ago. I mean, most of these facts and ideas have already been circulating in our collective consciousness for awhile now so I'm not sure who this movie is aimed toward. The people who don't read?

On another note, I really dislike the Michael Moore-ing of documentaries. I don't need tear jerker stories, just gimme the facts!

07 June 2009

Up (2009)

There's been ten total Pixar movies and the last few have underwhelmed me. Cars was whatever, Ratatouille was terrible, and only half of Wall-E was amazing. But maybe that's setting the bar too high. Not everything can be a Monsters, Inc. or A Bug's Life. Having said that, Up was definitely worth watching (especially in 3D) but also nothing exceedingly memorable.

My theory is that Pixar movies with humans featured prominently ruins it. I'd prefer they humanize objects, creatures, etc. Then again, that didn't exactly work for Cars now, did it?

A nice bit about Up was that the little chubby kid was understated Asian, like he was Chinese but that was just a little side trait, which was cool. And the short in the beginning, "Partly Cloudy," was perfect and fun.

Here's an article about whether or not Kevin, the rainbow colored bird, is a nod to the LGBT movement. Also, apparently Finding Nemo had an underlying Christian message? What?!

05 June 2009

Wonder Emporium

Here's an interview with Susie (boygirlparty) over at Pikaland. Susie's already like famous and everywhere but this interview has so many great pictures of her stuff I had to link to it. Plus there's a prominent photo of one of my favorite pieces of hers: the hedgehog playing the piano. I like walking into stores, finding her stuff, and saying (loudly), "Oh I know her! Isn't she great!" Then I kind of strut away.

I've seen Susie paint on her tiny little canvases with the itty-bittiest brushes and strokes. It's kind of amazing, just like all of her stuff. And Susie just had a birthday so go say happy (belated) birthday!
What or who inspires you?
Nature is always inspiring to me: whether it’s a walk in the woods, or watching close-up as a ladybug purposefully climbs around a leaf. i always feel a surge of inspiration after spending time outdoors, especially if it’s a place i’ve never been before where i can tune in surprised at everything i see. i recommend going out on a rowboat on a quiet lake for a few hours and see if you don’t agree!

also: polaroids and analog photography! the colors are always so unexpected. i could look at & enjoy photography (like lomography & cross-processed photos) for hours, days, years. also: vintage children’s books, letters from penpals, old timey cartoons (like ‘flip the frog’),...
-via Pikaland-

03 June 2009

Geek Limbo

Fantasy writer David Eddings passed away yesterday. It's only fitting then, that tonight, totally unexpectedly, I found myself geeking it out with a friend, both of us peeling back additional layers of geek/dorkdom as I sipped on my water and he downed a non-Belgian beer. We had started off at a safe place. Magic the Gathering. Dorky, but semi-mainstream (relatively). Then we dug a little deeper to talk of roleplaying games and Dungeons and Dragons. Then we went lower.

I generally love playing the "You can't out dork me game." I rarely find myself losing, and winning is oh so fun. But tonight, it was a challenge.

We spent the next half hour comparing notes on the Dragonlance animated movie, jogged each other's memory about obscure pulp fantasy books, and lamented the loss of his first editions due to a basement flood. Eventually, we started to frighten our other friends at the table, one of whom I share a not-so-secret comic book geekdom with. When a fellow geek is getting freaked out by your current geekery, that's like a new low.

Suffice to say, I've never had a conversation with someone where the words "Silvanesti, Qualinesti, and Kagonesti" were ever said out loud. I think I'll treasure tonight's conversation.

If you're a geek of the Star Wars variety, you have to watch Fanboys. I just watched it on DVD the other day and laughed like crazy. I need to rewatch it to get all the references and go memorize some more lines.

Tonight made me think about how the things you love and obsess over in middle school are so important. That's the age when you're still young enough to love something even if it sucks but not yet old enough to realize that nobody else likes it and being different might be bad.

I'm going to take a poll the next few days and test a new mini-theory: The stuff that adult dreams are made of, all started in middle school. Sounds like a good hypothesis, doesn't it?