28 September 2009

The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse

Listening to: Jack's Mannequin, "Dark Blue"

I've done a fair amount of sample sale shopping in my life. One glorious year my friend and I worked in Northern San Diego where a lot of clothing companies have their headquarters. He'd get the tip that a blowout sale was going on and we'd run over to the ATM, sometimes on lunch hour(s), and head to the sale with eyes on the prize. We got some incredible deals. One dollar for a pair of new shoes. Swim trunks, hoodies, sunglasses, jackets, shirts, and all sorts of wonderful items for five dollars or less. Snowboard jackets and pants for ten dollars. We were in shopping heaven.

Eventually we wised up and figured out a system. Instead of slowly making our way trying to find stuff that fit us, we would each grab a huge cardboard box, start from opposite ends, and just start grabbing. We'd do that real quick, load up the car with round one, and then return for more. We figured someone we knew could fit anything cool we saw and if not, we could just resell it. After a summer of these shopping extravanganzas, I'd be outfitted for the entire year.

Of course, this also ruined me for normal shopping. Why pay more than a few dollars for something when I could just wait for the next sale? For example, one time we went to a Converse sale in LA and got Chucks for seven dollars. Which was amazing but now I can't get myself to buy them at retail price. When you buy twenty-ish pairs at such a steep discount, your whole relationship to the very important "how much should I spend on shoes" question changes. And another negative side effect of all this sample shopping was the "buying frenzy," which results in ridiculous purchases like fake silk wrestling boots. What in the world was anybody possibly going to do with these?

Having said all that, I'd never been to a book sample sale. Well that changed as of this past Sunday. I went to the San Francisco Public Library Big Book Sale and everything was one dollar since it was the last day. One dollar, for an entire book. That's amazing. Since I'm in the process of moving most of my stuff back to San Diego, I thought it would be smart to avoid buying too many books because I already had a boxful to drag home. I figured I'd just mosey in, browse around for five or ten books, and escape quickly with some essentials. Did I mention that the sale is held in a football sized pavilion, with over 300,000 books in fifty categories? In retrospect I don't know what I was thinking.

I mean, the very first table I went to, Science Fiction, already netted me three books. That was seven minutes in. Then I detached myself from trashy fantasy novels and crossed over to the Writing and Literary Criticism area. I doubled up the number of books in my hand within five minutes. It was starting to dawn on me that I was going to have a really heavy walk back to the apartment. Sheer laziness (and an inability to lift very much with my, ahem, muscles) restrained me from grabbing a shopping cart. My new promise was to limit myself to just one plastic grocery carry thingie. In order to accomplish that goal, I decided to just skip over entire sections. I wouldn't even look. I mean, there was no way I was going to wander into Nature, Architecture, Film and Music, or Textbooks without having something catch my eye. And those books can be big. With pictures. Heavy pictures. I skipped over all hardcover fiction for a similar reason.

I also elected to avoid the Dummies table, cast a wary eye toward the people crowded around Military, gazed longingly at Religion, and only briefly profiled the shoppers in Self Help. Okay fine, I did dip into Self Help and for some reason found "Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future," filed there. I tossed it into my carrier because it was a must buy and not really self help at all was it? I had to rescue her.

The children's section was an absolute goldmine. Sitting on the corner was a whole bunch of classic Baby-Sitter's Club books. I took one look at those covers and was convinced they'd make great gifts. I had a conversation at a party just awhile ago about who everyone's favorite sitter was. (Claudia won by a landslide.) I figured giving someone "Claudia and the Phantom Phone Call" would give me huge friend points. But then I noticed that volumes two through six were just there for the buying. So I had to take them, and now my sister's bookshelf will be retro and awesome. And to hell with the friend points.

Of course, if I was going to go Eighties, why not grab some Christopher Pike and Nancy Drew too? Cubby five of George's Ikea bookshelf will now be tastefully decorated with dusty nostalgia. The inscription inside one of the Baby-Sitter's Club books reads: "This belongs to: Jennifer Kahn, daughter of Michelle Kahn." Thanks Jennifer and Michelle, you're the best!

I didn't even bother going to the CDs, DVDs, and VHS section. There were scavengers all over those tables and I didn't feel like fighting for outdated media. Who still uses VHS's? The Mythology section was woefully understocked. I tried to figure out if there was some reason for that. Do people just hang onto their mythology books or something? Hand it down from one generation to the next? I saw at least a hundred Bibles but only three books about the Roman gods. Hum, an insight into the true nature of religious folk perhaps? I'll let you divine the meaning contained within.

My biggest laugh was picking up a book called "How You Can Make $20,000 a Year in Writing." The author promised to show you how to achieve a high paying career by freelancing. Sadly, the book was printed in 1943 -- and that sum would probably be just as welcome today. The edition four years later increased that princely figure to $25,000. We've come far in sixty years.

The line to get out of the sale wrapped around one side of the building. Along the way you could see people's discards as they'd whittled their selections down. Someone had decided that "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" was just not going to work on their coffee table. Same with a giant picture book of the solar system. And multiple "Where's Waldos?" I managed to pick up "Why I Am Not A Christian" as I waited in line. If I'm going to be a hack philosophy major, I might as well play the part -- and figure out if Bertrand Russell had a theory on why used mythology books were in such short supply.

Some of my favorite finds included: "Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch" (for obvious reasons), an advance reading copy of Bennett Madison's "The Blonde of the Joke" (which just came out and I already have a real one so you should get one too), and a whole bunch of fiction journals and non-fiction essays (my favorite and most productive section). Plus I was excited to find "Red: Teenage Girls On What Fires Up Their Lives Today" because Jordyn (Ten Cent Notes) , YA book blogger and great writer has an essay in it -- and she's bonus cool because she reviewed Exclusively Chloe.

All in all, I left with thirty plus books and that was with a strict time and quantity budget. Now I'm going to have to ship everything home because books are just too heavy to carry on an airplane. But next year, I'm coming back for more. The only thing that could possibly top this experience is attending BookExpo and getting all new books for free. I need to put that on my list of life to-do's actually. Until then it'll be catching up with Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey and Dawn for me.

26 September 2009

Reality Bites?

Listening to: Eric Hutchinson, "Back to Where I Was" and "All Over Now." Some people say he's the new Mraz. I wouldn't go that far but I'm digging his stuff. Of course I'm a few years behind in discovering him so he's probably only new to me.

I watched Slacker the other night, the film that put Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise/Sunset, Waking Life) on the map. Slacker follows the semi-intersecting lives of a large handful of Austonians as they go about their daily lives. The film is dialogue heavy, plotless, and changes its focus to different characters every few minutes. It's probably not everyone's cup of tea but it's pretty genius -- and made for under $23,000. The characters in the film are mostly eccentric twentysomethings wandering from place to place, with either no purpose or often, seemingly crazy purposes.

"Slacker" the word is commonly used as a pejorative but Linklater had wanted the term to have positive connotations. He wanted to depict people who were living outside the mainstream ideals of white picket fence, stable careers, and general conformity. He succeeded within the scope of his vision for the film but "slacker" still mainly brings to mind "a person characterized by apathy, aimlessness, and a lack of ambition."

Hey, you can't fight them all right? Especially not from the couch. Morning people get to wield the term, not the ones who wake up at noon. Or four.

In related things, I read an article from a forty-two year old, unmarried, cartoonist that introduces his idea of "The Referendum." What is that exactly? I'll let him explain.
"The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers' differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. "
-Tim Kreider, The Referendum-
It's basically about looking around and seeing how you measure up to the people around you -- and wondering about your life choices. For most of your life, you've probably evolved in lockstep with your peers. Childhood, elementary and high school, maybe college, and then pushed rudely out into the real world. Until the age of twenty five or so, you're likely not much different than the people you've grown up around. Sure some people found their calling early, some people got rich, some people got married young, but for the most part those people are outliers. The quarter life crisis isn't epidemic for no reason. So up until your mid-twenties you've pretty much been within hailing distance of everyone else in your generation, even if it can only be measured in hopes and dreams. The achievement gap, as it were, hasn't happened yet.

But something changes as you circle your thirties (aside from not celebrating birthdays with as much verve): You compare yourself to others constantly, which is nothing particularly new, but you do it with, how do I say, more feeling. It's more serious. There's an encroaching sense that options and doors are closing. The horizon isn't quite as limitless as before. And if you don't agree with that statement, then I salute you. Live strong.

People like to say that age ain't nothing but a number but Aaliyah released that album when she was fifteen, and I think she meant, "I may be young but I'm old enough." Age IS an important number and it gains ever increasing pressure as you get older. Especially if you're keeping up with the Joneses. Since I've last been a productive member of society, I've gone to ten weddings, had many friends get pregnant (some twice), and celebrated a whole lot of law, business, and medical school graduations.

That's not to suggest that I've been doing nothing all this time. For example, just this week I've started and finished the first season of 10 Things I Hate About You, blitzed through three Netflix movies, and revised and written a few thousand words on my draft that's due next week. Plus I've experienced my longest winning streak in Warcraft ever. Beat that. Productivity is in the eye of the beholder.

However, I'm very aware of the fact that real life has definitely been on pause for awhile. And that may have to change soon. Or rather, it should change soon. It's nice that late bloomers exist but who wants to be one when other options are still available? Luckily, my disposition doesn't dwell on all this stuff very often, instead it more readily focuses on what I should be late night DVRing right now, Little Women or Single White Female? The answer is clearly: both.
"Yes: the Referendum gets unattractively self-righteous and judgmental. Quite a lot of what passes itself off as a dialogue about our society consists of people trying to justify their own choices as the only right or natural ones by denouncing others' as selfish or pathological or wrong. So it’s easy to overlook that hidden beneath all this smug certainty is a poignant insecurity, and the naked 3 A.M. terror of regret. The problem is, we only get one chance at this, with no do-overs. Life is, in effect, a non-repeatable experiment with no control."

24 September 2009

Why Read?

"The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book."
-Ursula K. Le Guin, "Notes on the alleged decline of reading"-

22 September 2009

Where Are the Wild Things?

Listening to: The Blow, "True Affection."

I stole a book from the library once. Just once. I won't say where or when but let's just say I had to do it. This was pre-Internet and pre-Amazon so I didn't think I'd ever find such a wonderful book again. I felt terribly guilty for awhile but justified the crime by saying that with this book in my possession, my life would be forever changed. What was the book? A field guide about whales, dolphins, and porpoises. I think it was this one. It was truly a marvelous book with incredible illustrations, detailed descriptions, and good maps and facts. I had to have it. So I took it and ran (not literally), and it's still in my collection somewhere.

Three things I hope to live long enough to see: teleportation (for people), a shrinking ray (for luggage and furniture), and someone finding an undiscovered giant animal (at least fifty feet long/tall). A previously disputed legendary creature would be a big bonus. The chances of the first two happening are pretty slim. I can barely get consistent iPhone coverage so I'm not sure I'd trust technology to teleport anything anywhere. And the whole shrinking ray thing is obviously a long shot. So I'm left with unearthing gigantic animals. The closest I've come to realizing that dream was learning about the basking shark, which is the second largest living shark. It's so cool and alien looking isn't it? See why I had to steal that damn book?

Do you remember a few years ago when Cornell researchers proposed importing lions, elephants, zebras, wildebeest, and other large animals over to the Midwest and then letting them roam? It was kind of a stupid -- yet undeniably intriguing -- idea. I wonder if that would have put a dent in African safari tourism. Or would people still clamor to see "the real thing." I guess we'll never know now, will we? Alternately, I'd settle for a shrinking ray that works on animals, so we could all have cat sized giraffes and rhinos as pets.

At the California Academy of Sciences History Museum (CAS) here in San Francisco, they have a preserved coelacanth in their aquarium section. This fish was thought to be extinct but was discovered alive and well in 1938. Now one of them sits in this little water box as kids tap on the window asking, "Why isn't he moving? Is he dead?" How inglorious.

The other day I had a conversation with someone and "selkie" came up. I didn't know anyone else knew what one was and was surprised to hear the word said out loud. Like just thrown into a normal conversation. It was kind of delightfully jarring. Basically a selkie is a seal that can turn into a human. It's a strange combination. I can understand how sharp fanged werewolves or beautiful mermaids capture the human imagination but having morphing mythology centered around a seal is very strange. Until you realize that the stories come mainly from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, or places way up north and probably lacking in a menagerie of cool animals to myth about.

I guess what I'm saying with all this animal stuff is that it's good to dream.

17 September 2009

Is that so?

"Young people, heed this advice: Never marry someone who doesn't love the movies you love. Sooner or later, that person will not love you. I could go even further, and quote the great French cineaste Pierre Rissient, who instructs us: It is not enough for you to love a movie. You must love it for the right reasons."
-Roger Ebert-

15 September 2009

Eye Opening

So for the past few months I've been helping out as a member of Kearny Street Workshop's general planning committee in preparation for APAture 2009.

"Kearny Street Workshop's APAture is an annual multidisciplinary arts festival showcasing the work of emerging Asian Pacific American artists. APAture's mission is to provide artists with an early experience presenting their work at a large event; to build audiences for emerging APA artists; to strengthen the sense of community among artists; and to raise awareness of the existence of and diversity within the APA arts community. APAture values community-building, ethnic and artistic diversity and collaboration across ethnic and disciplinary lines."

What's really cool about APAture is that it spotlights up and coming artists so the work is fresh and innovative. I had tried volunteering with KSW a few years ago but after the first meeting, I moved away from the Bay and couldn't continue participating. This time around, I've been able to attend most of the meetings and am super excited for the eleventh annual APAture to kick off this coming Thursday. The last few months have been a really great experience and I've met lots of wonderful and passionate people.

This year the show is spread over two weekends, with a visual arts show, a music night, a literary night, film night, performance night, and a handmade fair. So six shows in six nights. I was part of curating for the literary committee so please come check out our wonderful roster of writers and poets. Literary night is this Saturday at the Hotel Rex and our featured performer is Aimee Suzara. For more information and a detailed schedule of the whole show, click here.

So come out and support all the artists and keep up to date on the latest KSW happenings by following their blog, which I was lucky enough to do a short guest post for in July after our reading for "The Comedy of Life, Death & Art" class I was taking. See you guys soon!

Update: Literary night went off super well. All the artists were incredible. It's very strange to have only read someone's work and then to see them perform it is just a whole 'nother experience. For tonight, all the pieces were so much more powerful and stirring when read out loud. I was quite impressed with everyone. Amazing work all around. Pictures here.

13 September 2009

Keep Smiling, Keep Shining

"Historically, we have often thought that having a small cluster of tight, long-term friends is crucial to being happy. But Christakis and Fowler found that the happiest people in Framingham were those who had the most connections, even if the relationships weren’t necessarily deep ones.

The reason these people were the happiest, the duo theorize, is that happiness doesn’t come only from having deep, heart-to-heart talks. It also comes from having daily exposure to many small moments of contagious happiness. When you frequently see other people smile -- at home, in the street, at your local bar -- your spirits are repeatedly affected by your mirroring of their emotional state. Of course, the danger of being highly connected to lots of people is that you’re at risk of encountering many people when they are in bad moods. But Christakis and Fowler say their findings show that the gamble of increased sociability pays off, for a surprising reason: Happiness is more contagious than unhappiness."
-Is Happiness Catching?-

11 September 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

I've been waiting a long time to watch this. It's been out for awhile now but I thought I would round up some friends to watch it together. Turns out nobody wanted to watch it (for various reasons). Turns out that was a great idea as I was an emotional wreck afterwards. Well, an emotional wreck by my standards.

I'm not much of a movie crier, or a crier period, but Time Traveler's Wife vaults into the top three of movies that have made me sit there and fight back tears. Unsuccessfully. The last time this happened, I had to stare straight ahead and not look over at my movie companion because I knew we'd both totally lose it if I did. I could sense her struggling through the same fight. That movie? Finding Neverland. I couldn't tell you what exactly made me feel that way because I never dared to watch it again.

Time Traveler's Wife did the exact same thing to me. My heart hurt after watching it. Still super fresh in my mind, I know exactly which scenes my emotions crescendoed and when the metaphorical dam broke. Ugh. Painful. But great. The movie isn't amazing or anything but in combination with how much I loved the book, it did exactly what I wanted it to do. So thank goodness I wasn't with a whole group of friends. I mean, I have a reputation as an emotionless robot to maintain. There's no crying in baseball! I'm not so sure I could sit through another viewing, it might wipe me out for the weekend.

Rachel McAdams glows and is just amazingly beautiful. I had my doubts about Eric Bana as Henry but he pulled through. And he probably fits the role better than Brad Pitt. It would have been so interesting to see Jennifer Aniston and Pitt as the leads but thankfully that didn't happen (Thanks Angelina!) because Rachel McAdams is a much better actress and absolutely perfect as Clare.

And if you're confused by the timelines and how all the time travel works. Here's somebody who made up a chronological timeline for the events of the book, as well as individual ones for Clare and Henry. Bravo and thank you stranger!

08 September 2009

Singles Conferencing

Listening to: Jets, "Crush on You." I cannot get enough of this song. I just can't. "How did you know / if I never told / you found out / I've got a crush on you!" Plus a live version.

Awhile back, Lilly and I were discussing why it is that we look to our single friends for advice on relationships and dating. We both promised to blog about it and she's done her part so I must hold up my end now. Here's an excellent point she made, "When you take a step back, you suddenly realize that singles advising each other is a truly weird phenomenon. In no other world would a rookie ask another rookie. It's the same reason athletes are coached by guys with championship rings and not some beer-bellied guy in his armchair with Cheetos breath. Everyone has an opinion, sure, but you gotta be smart about whose you take." That's a pretty good point. You don't learn from amateurs in other fields of struggle. You get inspiration and advice from the pros.

I mean, single friends know how to stay single. If they were any good at finding their mates, they'd have paired off or been married by now, right? You couldn't have said that ten years ago when I was still in my early 20s and steady couples were as rare as the sun going round the moon but now, according to Socialistics, 75% of my friends are married, engaged, or in a relationship. That's a frighteningly high number. Yet I rarely turn to them for advice. I still go commiserate with my single friends. And look at where that's led me. So maybe it's time for a strategy switch.

The problem in the past is that there's been this mental divide between those who have found eternal happiness versus those who haven't. For some reason, as soon as someone is happily paired up, they are written off as non-useful members of (single) society. In the world of the lonely, these people turn into anecdotes instead of success stories. "Joan and Kevin have gone out since high school and never had a fight!" Or, "My friend met his girlfriend online and they dated for three months. Now they're getting married in Bermuda. I'm looking for a plus one to the wedding, interested?"

There's a tinge of "It happened to them but that's not the way it'll happen for me" when we pass around these stories. Like they were one shot wonders. Rarely do we try to analyze the commonalities of highly successful relationshippers and then apply those lessons to our own lives. We're more likely to scoff than anything else. We add a "but" to a lot of these anecdotes. "But I didn't have a high school sweetheart. And online dating has only resulted in recurring credit card charges..."

Or maybe girls think differently than guys. Girls might be inspired by stories from successful couples but we don't. (Is that generalization even true?) Single guys hear about someone dating and wonder, "Wait, how in the world can this dude have a girlfriend and not me?" This happens all the time. After all, tons of our loser friends we thought never could have landed a significant other have done so successfully, so we've long given up the idea that being a good guy equals finding a good girl.

I personally know lots of guy friends who have landed amazing girls way out of their league in every respect. These tales don't serve as inspirations, they serve as signs that the universe doesn't play fair. So we're a bit more skeptical about the whole process maybe. We aren't looking for stories to inspire, we're looking for our chance at upsetting the odds. Plus we can still kind of hang onto the idea that the married man secretly envies his single friends. After all, a man down is a man down, regardless of how wide his smile is.

But again, huddling up and circling the wagons with our fellow singles has clearly not gotten us anywhere. If you want to become a pro, you gotta think like a pro. So from now on I turn to my married friends for advice. I will ask them, "What do you think has contributed to your happiness and tell me the story of how you met." And when they tell me I will dutifully take a lot of notes, create circle and bar graphs, and try to plot out all the intricate dance steps that result in a successful relationship.

Here's the thing though. In turning to the pros for advice, you have to admit to one fundamental fact: "I've been doing it wrong, I need to learn how to do it right." Singles can talk to singles all day long because on some level you know that both of you have been making some sort of mistake. It's two amateurs talking to each other. But when you talk to the marrieds or to the happily togethers, you are walking in with you head bowed low and with the idea that "Hey, you did something better than I could, please help me."

Now I know it's not as dramatic as all that, but maybe that's part of the reason the singles and the not-singles have avoided each other for so long. But no longer. I will now model myself after only people who have tread the path of success before me. Those lost souls I was traveling and going around in circles with? It's been nice chatting with you and I'll leave some breadcrumbs behind me but talk to you later!

04 September 2009

The Percolator

Listening to: Nina Nastasia, "Our Day Trip." It's not often you hear "amble" in things anymore. I like it.

Someone told me that you can get hypnosis treatment for low self-esteem. That struck me as odd. How can hypnosis do that? Is self-esteem really as simple to cure as say, smoking or drinking? I'd imagine that it would involve making your mind think that you're a great person when you're usually used to judging yourself too harshly or something. And what would happen if you increased your self-esteem too much? Would you then become a cocky jerk that continually thought you were better than you were? Clearly I need to explore the powers of hypnosis a little more. What else can it do?

This past weekend, I attended a fantastic Indian wedding. There were lots of ceremonies and events and many costume changes. Girls in traditional Indian outfits look beautiful. All that silk and shiny jewelry. Now I understand why the wedding in "Rachel Getting Married" was Indian-themed. Everyone looks amazing.

For the few days leading up to wedding, I was in a state of mild anxiety because I'd agreed to dance for it. Generally, when we have giant wedding reunions with this set of college friends, there's always a throw back dance performance. I'd never done one before because, well, I can't really dance. However, seeing as this would be the last marriage in our group for the foreseeable future, I thought it would be time to break out the dancing shoes. Unfortunately, even though I was only in a tiny part of the dance, I couldn't pick things up all that well. Which was okay, because a celebration doesn't demand perfection but nobody wants to be the guy sticking out and messing up.

I really wanted to do this dance because most of the people performing were friends I'd never danced with before. I always enjoyed the practices more than the performances and so wanted to relive it for a weekend. With the help of a friend who can actually dance, I learned the ten eight counts and prepared to embarrass (yet challenge) myself. It's been nearly ten years since I've had to do anything semi-coordinated to music. I'd forgotten how slowly I learn. I mean, I knew I'd lost a few steps but this was ridiculous. We used to have to learn entire dances in a week and then perform them.

The day before leaving for Michigan, George caught me standing in front of her mirror, trying desperately to make sure my arms were straight, or my moves were on time, or something. I was a sweat box and my heart was beating way too fast for such little exertion. I should really stop judging and criticizing all the dancers on ABDC and SYTYCD because well, I just shouldn't.

Overall, the dance went well. I ended up totally missing out on my goal (to finish on the same beat as everyone else) but the rush of the thirty seconds I was out there obscured all that. You'd think time slows to a crawl on the stage but it doesn't. Not at all. Under pressure, your mind goes blank, the music speeds up, and it's muscle memory that can save you. Unfortunately, my muscle memory didn't do any such thing. The good news is we were dressed in snazzy bowties and slender suspenders. So that was fun.

If I were a DJ, I'd be sure to switch the track often. I don't understand how someone can call themselves a party DJ when all they do is slip a song on and let it run. Nothing annoys me more. I went with a friend to a Yelp Elite party the other night and the DJ was amazing (Yes, I am talking about this only to say that I went to a Yelp Elite party and now I feel special). All old school stuff but remixed up and just all sorts of wonderful. He would play each song for no longer than a minute and generally cued up only the choruses. That's how I'd want to DJ, like a music freak with ADD. I'm going to get this guy for my birthday party.

02 September 2009

Water Runs Dry

Listening to: Colin Hay, "Overkill." I don't watch Scrubs so I'm about seven years late on this song. Better late than never they say.

Over drinks in an empty bar on Russian Hill, one that played most of Paula Abdul's hits in succession (there's quite a lot of them actually), a friend told us that Comcast cable has free karaoke under their music channels section. He said that it had quite a few recent songs and would suck us in immediately. Well, after trying it out tonight, he was totally right. As we sat around on Leslie's couch going through Jodeci, Lady Gaga, The Fray, Etta James, Michael Jackson, and a Celine Dion, I wondered why nobody had created an online karaoke site yet. Lo and behold, the free Comcast karaoke was produced by such a site. The Karaoke Channel is exactly what I was thinking of. Thousands of songs and an easy interface that allows you to sing to your heart's content.

One of my genius ideas years ago was "caraoke". I'm sure I've talked about it before. I thought having a built-in karaoke machine attached to your car's GPS touch screen would make road trips instantly amazing. Of course, technology has done us one better because of iPhones and such. Now I just look up the lyrics on the fly and caraoke along. For some reason though, I never thought to actually explore the web for karaoke sites. Now I have and I can safely say that my weekends in might be changed forever. I'm a little disappointed in The Karaoke Channel's selection -- no Ne-Yo, no Mraz, no Shai? -- but in a pinch, it'll do just fine.

Other things I learned tonight: All those songs by British singers that sound great? It's impossible to replicate their sound unless you can sing with an English accent. And seeing as most people can't pull that off successfully, singing Adele, Lily Allen, or Amy Winehouse is sort of an exercise in futility. But we sang them anyway because hell, it was free karaoke.

A few weekends ago, it was the SF Zine Fest and as I'm actively reverting to my teenage (girl) years, I decided I need to make a zine. What I discovered in my hour or so of crusing the venue was that I'm not actually a huge fan of zines with drawings in them. I'm basically looking for zines that have mostly written content. And if it's too hard to read I can't get into it either. Sadly, I've somehow trained myself to only like nicely printed words in Verdana or Arial or Times. Basically I'm looking for print versions of blogs. I did pick up a few zines heavy on the graphics and drawings but they weren't my first choices.

Things I did get that I'm excited to read:
I guess I'm now a Cristy Road fan, and I've yet to even read through anything. But some things you can tell you love already.
"Cristy Road has always brought us breathtaking artwork (some of my favorite) along with literary stories that remind us of the strength and ability of punk youth. This new issue is more of the same with some reflection of Cristy's various homes between Miami and Philadelphia, racism in her communities, the strength of her friends, coming to terms with assault, gender, sexuality, and identity, and much more. The words are powerful, the stories make you feel like anything can be accomplished, and the artwork adds another strong element. Once a true fanzine devoted to Green Day, this zine has now evolved into literary prose devoted to the strengths of our communities."

01 September 2009

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

I really really really wanted to love this movie. I did. But even though it's Quentin and even though it was thoroughly entertaining throughout, I left feeling a bit let down. Having said that, anything Quentin does is still loads better than the norm, so I'm giving Inglourious Basterds an A. Plus, Quentin never fails to keep your attention and interest.

But overall it was missing a few things. The plot and characters just seemed to be lacking the usual Tarantino panache. And he has so much style in his other movies, so much personality, but this one didn't seem to have much of it. For the most part, it was just a straight forward story without lots of flourishes. Even the dialogue didn't crackle as it usually does with his movies. I wanted to love it but didn't.

The casting and acting was really great all around though, as usual. Quentin never fails to introduce us to, or reinvigorate, actors and actresses.

Update (12/23/09): I rewatched this on DVD and all the things that I felt were missing for me the first time around disappeared. I love the tension each scene creates, and without much action, just through words. It's incredible. I change my mind, I love this movie!