30 July 2009

These Are Days

A month or two ago, I had the chance to hang out with Lara Zielin, fellow Deb and author of "Donut Days." It turns out she's the editor for my college's alumni magazine and was flying around meeting Wolverines -- she's interviewed James Earl Jones before! -- and stopped by San Francisco. We had a really great time (successfully) wandering around Chinatown in search of dim sum and spent a few hours talking writing and books. She was the very first young adult writer I've gotten a chance to hang out with and it was supremely exciting and enlightening.

Lara was awesome enough to ask me to post a guest entry on her blog and it's up now. I'm talking about voice and how I "managed to create the absolute girliest character [Lara's] read in a long time." Oh and she's gifting off a signed copy of Exclusively Chloe too!

Donut Days comes out in exactly one week, on August 6th, so go pick it up. And if you haven't seen her videos yet, check them out because they are high quality productions and hilarious! Lara's website and blog. Thanks for letting me guest post!
"Emma Goiner has a lot going on. Her best friend’s not speaking to her, a boy she’s known all her life is suddenly smokin’ hot, she’s at a camp-out for the opening of a donut shop, and oh yes—her evangelical pastor parents may lose their church. And that’s just this weekend. Suddenly, sixteen-year-old Emma has to make some serious choices: creationism or evolution, faith or freedom, Harley bikers or Frodo wannabes, and of course, cruller or glazed."
-Donut Days-

29 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Can you believe there will be eight of these things once it's all said and done? I was listening recently to a Harry Potter podcast and someone mentioned that they wouldn't mind seeing a BBC style super long series with almost all the scenes, characters, and lines intact. That would be something wouldn't it? As it stands now, the Potter movies are pretty much what you'd expect. I saw the first four, missed the fifth, and have decided to try to find the fanboy in me somewhere for the final two movies after watching this one.

I actually didn't finish reading the entire series. I think I stopped around book six. After awhile, I just wanted to know what happened versus reading the entire things. It's hard to say these are amazing movies but it's hard to gripe because this is such a fan experience. I mean, I'm the guy who'll defend Wolverine to the death. So comparing this to the other Potter movies, it's probably one of the better ones.

Things that are totally unbelievable: Ron Weasley being coordinated and quick enough to be a goalie for any sport, much less one played on a flying broomstick. Dumbledore being incredibly weak and then suddenly flaming the heck out of everything. The whole Ron and Hermione romantic relationship. Harry getting a serious lack of support (from the staff, other students, etc.) despite being The Chosen One.

Most importantly, here is a picture of my friend dressed up as Hedwig. And yes, the costume is designed for children.

27 July 2009

Of Demand

Listening to: New Buffalo, "Recovery."

Things I learned flipping through a recent issue of Fast Company: Experts predict that fish stocks will be overfished by 2048. The world population in 2050 will be 9 billion; it's currently at 6 billion and climbing. Forty percent of the homeless people in San Francisco have been there for less than three months. Olive Garden and Red Lobster are owned by the same parent company (Darden Restuarants) and have average check prices of $15 and $19, respectively.

In sum, I'm glad I'll be close to death when fish and space on Earth run out, I've been in SF longer than almost half the homeless in SF, and I need to go to a Red Lobster soon because it's great. I had cut all magazines out of my reading diet, focusing strictly on books and online things for awhile. However, I think I should subscribe to a few magazines again because I miss flipping through articles while brushing my teeth, making something to eat, etc. And you can learn a thing or two. Sometimes more than you wanted to know actually.

If I had a permanent address to send subscriptions to, I'd want to get: Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker, Fast Company, Us Weekly, and Wired. A few weeks ago, when I was over at Victor and Anne's house, I was flipping through their Cook's Illustrated, which is an awesome magazine with Wall Street Journal-like pen and ink pictures. They scientifically test all sorts of cooking gadgets and have very tightly composed recipes. I don't even cook but found much of the content fascinating.

Once upon a time, I had dreams of starting my own magazine. Nowadays, I'll just happily settle for admiring others. The magazine business is under as much fire as the newspaper industry and now's not the time to start something. Or is it?
"Some of the problems that have beset music magazines are familiar from discussions about the publishing industry's woes in general: Readership's down, advertising's down, the old guard has been slow in adapting to the Internet. But like newspapers and shelter titles, music magazines have proven especially vulnerable."
-Why music magazines are dying-

22 July 2009

Passing Me By

It's been an incredibly entertaining NBA offseason and the first game of the Celtics' sure fire eighteenth championship season is still three months away but I gotta talk about something right now. It's been killing me. Yao Ming, the pride of China, the great seven and a half foot center, is going to have foot surgery. Again.

If he were a normal young man of twenty eight, this wouldn't be too terrible. As a middle aged athlete, this is horrific, since he'll miss all of next season. And Yao doesn't have much time to waste. His window for becoming an immortal, for winning a championship, for fulfilling his promise, is rapidly closing. In fact, it might have closed already. Big men age faster than little guys, and twenty eight plus a year of rehabilitation doesn't bode well for the rest of his career. Sports prognosticators are already declaring that we've seen the best of Yao.

The best of Yao hasn't been too bad either. He was drafted first overall seven years ago and it was a semi-toss up whether he would eventually wind up being the game's best center or a huge dud of Shawn Bradley-esque proportions. Well, he's been on an All-NBA Team five times, he's a seven time All-Star, and he owns career averages of 19 PTS, 9 REB, and 2 BLK. He shoots a sterling 52% from the floor and 83% from the charity stripe. If we re-did the 2002 draft, only Amar'e Stoudemire could outrank him.

And he's done this while having few summers off, as his commitments to Team China have kept him a very busy man. No wonder he breaks down all the time. He's gigantic, he runs around all day, and he never gets to rest. My mom would be appalled at how much abuse his body takes. She would make him sit still for two weeks, feed him like crazy, and turn off all the lights to get him to go to sleep.

The thing that has been bugging me since hearing about Yao's newest season ending injury is that he'll probably go down in NBA history as a not quite success. He won't win any championships, he won't average a 20-10, he won't get to properly showcase his competitive drive, his soft shooting touch won't be appreciated, his fine passing will be forgotten, and he'll just fade away. The last of the dinosaurs.

Superstar seven footers are always highly coveted but unless you get the best of a generation, you aren't winning a championship built around them -- thus Hakeem, Shaq, and Duncan. And even they needed true All-Star teammates as complementary pieces. The Houston Rockets have been abysmal the entire time Yao's been with them. They haven't had the worst teams but they've had the most ill fitting considering their franchise player is a potentially dominant big man.

The Rockets have never had a point guard who could/would pass. Steve Francis liked the ball in his hands way too much. Rafer Alston wasn't a real point guard. And whoever they got now isn't a passer either. And name some good shooters they've surrounded Yao with. Cuttino Mobley, maybe. That's it. Cuttino Mobley is the cream of the crop and he's pretty average. Then there are Yao's "All-Star" teammates. Steve Francis was a ballhog. T-Mac is a (constantly injured) ballhog. Ron Artest was a ballhog. Great, who's going to get Yao the ball?

If I were Yao, I'd have demanded a trade two years ago. I don't know where he would fit in, but Houston clearly ain't it. But Yao is loyal, Yao is nice, Yao is used to being part of the system. Yao's going to waste his career away on some crappy team that has done him no favors. Sure, they paid him, they tried to win with him, but they should do one more thing: trade him to a contender -- with a real point guard and shooters. I don't care if Yao doesn't actually win any championships, but he deserves to play deep into the playoffs at least once. See, Yao is a great man. He's thoughtful, he's smart, he's responsible, he's respectful, he's got wit and humor, but it's all going to be overlooked because he's not going to be a so-called winner when it's all said and done.

He deserves better. And he's likely the best Chinese basketball player we'll have for awhile. Please help him out.

19 July 2009

500 Days of Summer (2009)

There's not much out of the norm in 500 Days, but the charisma of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are hard to resist. I'm not sold on Zooey as a great actress, but she definitely embodies a particular "girl of your dreams" type really well. We never get to know her character much but Deschanel makes her feel familiar and perpetually out of reach at the same time.

In comparison to the other quasi-indie romantic comedies recently, Nick & Norah's and Adventureland, this is far better. Everything moves nicely along, things aren't too contrived, there are lots of good scenes and emotional touch points, it's humorous, and the way the structure bounces around makes everything feel compelling and (semi-)fresh. This movie may not break new ground but at least it doesn't ruin anything that was previously planted.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Heath Ledger, Jr. In your mind's eye, without the benefit of pictures, you would shake your head and go, "No way." But then you watch this movie and you're like "Okay, I see it." One review of the movie mentioned that Gordon-Levitt was a "stone fox" and I guess that's about right? He's a good actor, either way.

On a semi-related note, here's a website called childstarlets.com that has pictures of starlets when they were kids. It's fascinating.

14 July 2009

Might is Write

Listening to: Common, "The Light (Kero One remix)." It's been awhile since I've found any hip hop I've liked. Well, here's a throwback. Kero One is from SF, he's Asian, and he raps/produces/everything. Seriously, read about his skills here. I plugged him into Pandora and got all sorts of good stuff spilling out. Love it.

I'm not entirely sure how much time most people take to kick out a first draft, but I'm aiming to crank one out in about a month and a half. With most young adult novels, that means somewhere around 60,000 to 80,000 words. Writing at top speed, about two or three thousand words a day, that's pretty insane. To be honest, I never gave much thought to my work flow before. If I had a deadline, I'd just put my head down, shut out everything else, and write. Somewhere at the end of the time (and usually a bit more than that) I'd have what I needed.

Then after I wrote Exclusively Chloe, I started to meet a few other authors and it dawned on me that not everyone has time to do that. I mean, without a normal job, without any real obligations, I could make my schedule fit the writing when I needed it to. But what about people with jobs, or families, and kids! Can you imagine doing anything while having children? I played with my friends three sons a few weeks ago and was worn out after like an hour. It boggles my mind how so many of my fellow Debs and other authors have full fledged, amazingly busy lives, and yet manage to crank out books.

And I thought about whether or not I was being efficient. I mean, I started reading about when other people write. Some people wake up an hour earlier, sit down at the computer, and then throw down a few hundred words before work. Some people set out a lunch hour, or two hours after work, to write a few scenes. It slowly dawned on me that blitzing through (till dawn) wasn't the only way to write. You could parse it out into little bite sized pieces. A half hour here, a half hour there, is still an hour.

So my experiment starting with this draft is to see if I can set my goals for the day, say two or three scenes, or two thousand words, and sneak it in once in the morning and once at night. I want to see if this helps to relieve the pressure that constantly hangs over me when I'm like "Oh I have to write today, I have to write!" By doing it for an hour at each sitting, like taking a meal, it might just free up the rest of my day.

Basically I'll be running my personal National Novel Writing Month this July. Wish me luck.

11 July 2009

The Hurt Locker (2009)

What else to do on a lazy Saturday night but go hit the movies by yourself? Ever since reading Black Hawk Down and watching Three Kings on cable, I've become really enchanted with (desert themed) war movies. The Hurt Locker is a top contender. The film follows three members of a bomb disposal squad in Baghdad as their rotation winds down. It's powerful, tense, and not a typical war movie at all. Everything you'd expect to see in a war movie is here, but done in a way that is always unexpected. On top of that, the movie has a surprisingly amount of depth and focus on the characters, so it's not really about the action at all.

Director Kathryn Bigelow's name is new to me but her movies are not (Point Break, Strange Days). She was married to James Cameron once upon a time and it's hard to say that she isn't just as talented. I wouldn't recommend the movie for everyone but it's really hard to think any part of it that I didn't enjoy. Was it worth a nine dollar admission fee and seven dollar (!) popcorn? I think so.

08 July 2009

She's Your Queen to Be

Listening to: Ron Sexsmith, "This Is How I Know." I was just tweeting the other day about how I didn't like this nobody's version of Feists' "Secret Heart." But then I found out that he's Feists' co-writer so I guess that was okay. Something about this particular track appeals to me deeply.

Earlier tonight, my mom called me downstairs in an excited burst. "You have to come see this! I have something to share with you!" I lollygagged because she does this at least twice a day. Sometimes it's something funny on the computer, something I genially smile at and then walk back upstairs quickly. Or she might need some computer help, something with attachments or forwarding. More often than not, she calls me because I have to pick up a pile of stuff I left laying around. I can't say I exactly jump at her beckons. "An an!" she repeats.

My mom is a huge plant person. She loves flowers and plants. She's got a green thumb, she likes to talk plants, she teaches flower arranging, and she's often called upon for floral decorations for church or parties or whatnot. Tonight, her summons resulted in something really cool. She showed me our queen of the night, otherwise known as a nightblooming cereus. These cactus things (although they look nothing like cactus) bloom only once a year, at night, and for just a few hours. The flowers are white, super huge, and smell delicious. Here's a video of the blooming. This whole thing happens in late spring or early summer so from now on I'll use it to mark the official start of my summers.

Pretty fantastic right? I'd invite you over to look at it but it'll be all gone by morning. Next year maybe.

I'm home for the next couple of weeks, working on my next book, and doing it within fifteen feet of a pool and five miles of an ocean. It should be relaxing, and much needed. While I can't say I necessarily missed San Diego when I was up north, just a few days here in the sun has convinced me I need to stay for a bit. Let's just hope I can be super productive, and super tan, by the time I return to San Francisco.

07 July 2009

Midas' Cupid

"No evolutionary biologist will ever tell you that humans have evolved to mate for life. Lately some of them will tell you that humans have evolved to pair-bond for four-year increments (about as long as it takes to get a child up and running), which seems about right. This information is not particularly hard to come by. But a weird thing about the show [Millionaire Matchmaker], and about American culture in general, is that we are so eager to hear and believe scientific and pseudoscientific explanations of why people "fall in love," but then we cover our ears and hum so that we don't hear the end of the sentence, which is about why people fall out."
-Emily Gould, Qualify Your Buyer-

03 July 2009

Whistle While You Work

Listening to: The Bird and the Bee, "Diamond Dave." I'm not sure what jazz-influenced electro pop is supposed to sound like but I sure like this band. I mean, what a great name right?

Remember that thing I was talking about two weeks ago? I had a public reading as the end project for my class? Well, I was given the opportunity to do a write up about the experience over at Kearny Street Workshop's blog. Head over there to check it out. I had a great time and only wish the class had gone on longer.
"What we learned was that humor often bubbled up from inherently unfunny events, such as death, or depression, or losing romantic love. Life tends to bring out the absurd and the laughable in the least likely situations and that, when highlighted and told well, can be hilarious. So we wrote about life experiences rather than 'think of something funny and write about that.'"
-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Comedy-