30 April 2010

I Am Not A Robot

Listening to: Florence and the Machine, "Dog Days Are Over." When we hit London next month, I'm going to prep by creating a special mixtape of British musicians. Florence and the Machine are new to me but she'll be on the mix for sure. I think her big track is "You've Got the Love." And this is the original of that song, from 1991 by The Source.

It's come to my attention that some people don't know about the wonders of Google Reader. I thought this was something that had hit the mainstream but somehow RSS readers are still slept on. Now, I understand people don't have time to be skimming the Internet all day long, or aren't necessarily addicted to the computer like I am, but that's exactly why Reader is amazing. One of my first Internet sites was simply a list of links to sites and blogs I read daily. I'd go through and click on every single link hoping for an update. Hop over to ESPN for an article, go check headlines at CNN, cruise a few blogs, click click click. Talk about time consuming and backward. People are still doing it that way though.

Just in the past month I've had to personally berate a handful of friends -- whom I thought were Internet savvy -- and publicly shame them into using Reader. "Of course you don't know what's going on, you are still wandering the Internet with a candle you dummy."

It's okay, I'm not (only) here to judge, I'm here to help. See, Google Reader eliminates the constant clicking and checking for new content by updating you when something is posted. Ninety five percent of all sites now have a RSS feed that allows you to subscribe to their content. When a site posts something new, it immediately pops up on your one stop Reader site. If a web page only posts once a month, that's okay, because Reader will alert you when it does. No more clicking and wishing and hoping. Reader is about convenience and efficiency. Who doesn't need that?

The only downside of using Reader (or another RSS reader) is that your Internet cruising might become too efficient. Instead of checking just five or ten sites a day, you'll find that you can keep your eye on dozens, or even hundreds, of sites. I for one, RSS anything I'm remotely interested in so I get Reader bloat quickly. I fight to keep it down but even now I'm at 600+ sites and climbing.

The other fun thing about Reader is that you can share items between people and see what your friends are looking at. Reader also has a "sort by magic" option that works pretty well once you've integrated it. Most of my Reader reading is done on my iPhone and it's very easy to star and share items with it. Most nights and mornings, as I'm drifting off to bed or trying to wake up, I pull up Reader in Safari and cruise through the news of the day.

Another great feature about Reader is that you can create bundles of your feeds. This way, your friends can just subscribe to all the feeds you recommend in one easy click. Like here's my bundle of fifty or so sites, think of it as a starter set of feeds if you don't have anything to subscribe to yet. Thank me later.

I can't believe I had to post about Google Reader but seriously, it'll make your life better.

On a related note. I have four things I'm looking for in a date. One of them is "she must have Gmail." Yes, it's that serious. I know people still have Yahoo or Hotmail or whatever but not having Gmail is just silly. People may not like the threaded conversations, the plainness of the design, the "not another email address" mindset. But I'm here to tell you: Gmail is the greatest. Unless you are wary of Google bots skimming your email for advertising reasons (which is the only legitimate anti-Gmail excuse I accept), you should make a Gmail account. Heck make two. One for personal use, one for Internet sign ups and/or business. Even as I write this I'm guiding a friend through the Gmail process. With it she'll be accessing Google Reader, Calendar, Docs, Blogger, Voice, and a whole host of other goodies.

When Gmail first came onto the email block, they set themselves apart by offering huge amounts of space. "Don't ever throw anything away" was their philosophy. While other email providers gave you a paltry four megs or whatever it was, Google was like, "Here's a gig of space, have fun." That forced other email providers to up their ante, open the storage vaults, and now we have a world with virtually unlimited email space. Thank you Gmail.

If you have an email address that has Yahoo or Hotmail appended to it, or heavens forbid, an AOL or Earthlink or NetZero account, it's time to switch. Think about it, you don't use the same computer from ten years ago, why use the same email provider? Just try out Gmail I say! Archive everything, keep your inbox clean, make a label or filter or two, slap on a fun theme, fire up some Gmail Labs, and see the difference it can make in your life.

Also if you're still downloading songs one by one, through Limewire or Kazaa or Napster or homing pterodactyl or something like that, I'd love to talk your ear off about torrenting. If you love music and download stuff, this could change your world. Not that I download music or anything, never.

And while I'm here, if you're looking for just a few tracks at a time, BeeMP3 is nice. I don't know how it works or why it's legal but they have tons of music files just for the taking. Look on the right side after you find a song, and then the "Download MP3 for Free" section. Search and take I say, it's a wonderful world out there. Rock out.

27 April 2010

Center Stage (2000)

The long awaited second review in my running series of dance movie reviews, here's Center Stage, which might be termed a sleeper but a lot of people have watched it. And for good reason because it's amazing!

Surprisingly, Center Stage was not available at video stores. This gem of a dance movie wasn't anywhere to be found in Target or Wal-Mart. With time closing in, and an appointment viewing downtown, we finally got a copy of Center Stage at Barnes & Noble, for the discounted price of $9.99 (plus a cheap copy of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," to be watched and reviewed soon). The Special Edition includes a director's commentary, a making of featurette, and extended dance sequences.

Tagline: "Life Doesn't Hold Tryouts."

1. Plot (8)
There are three main storylines through Center Stage: Jody Sawyer (Amanda Schull) gets into the American Ballet Academy, against her parents' desires and tries to overcome bad feet, a less than ideal body, and poor technique. Maureen Cummings (Susan May Pratt) is the queen bitch and the best dancer in the school but lacks the heart for a dance lifestyle, especially after meeting a nice young man. Oh right, she's also bulemic. Eva Rodriguez (Zoe Saldana) is the gum snapping, chain smoking, bad attituding but great dancer who just needs a change of heart to embrace her talent. All three are trying to get into the Company. Taken separately, none of these three plotlines stand out but together they are pretty engaging.

2. Can the lead characters dance? (10)
Since I don't know anything about ballet, I had to defer to my experts on this one. I watched the movie with three other people who all had ballet experience. They assured me that these were legit dancers. While the lead actresses weren't professional level dancers, they were more than capable to my untrained eye. Long limbs, skinny necks, no egregious cut-aways when they danced. I'm gonna give the main actors/actresses high marks because they sure looked like they knew what they were doing. Plus, the male lead, Ethan Stiefel, is a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and acquits himself nicely as an actor. Unless in real life he actually is kind of douchely annoying but strangely appealing, in which case, "Great job playing yourself man!"

Unrelated to Center Stage but I really wish I had seen this movie when it came out in limited release, "La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet (2009)," which probably contains much more authentic ballet dancing. If I could I'd have a double showing of CS and La Danse. You're all invited.

3. How're the dance scenes? (10)
Chock full of teaching footage, individual practice scenes, a ballet performance or two, an absurd city dance class part (where everyone is super old for some reason), and a thrilling final workshop. Center Stage doesn't skimp on the dance scenes, which is good because hello, it's a dance movie! It's amazing how often dance movies forget that they need more than three dance scenes, Center Stage comes through in this regard famously. There's also a lot of detail thrown into the practice bits and by the end of the movie I even wanted to tell Jody that she "wasn't turned out enough."

The best dance scene is probably when Cooper and Charlie, Jody's dueling love interests, engage in a ballerino dance off for her love. Seriously. They take turns twirling around in the air, flipping, skipping, posing, floatating, all in an attempt to win her heart. It's like watching two bucks lock antlers and um, ballet each other for dominance. Sadly I can't find any Youtube footage of this scene, otherwise we could revel in its wonderfulness together.

4. How's the love story? (5)
There's two main love triangles in this story. Jody is torn between her bad ass instructor, Cooper, and her dedicated and supportive classmate, Charlie. Does the viewer care which one wins? Not really. You sort of root for Charlie because he's the nice guy but really neither of them make compelling reasons to be liked. The other triangle involves Cooper and his former flame and dancing partner, Kathleen Donahue, who ditched him by marrying the director of the Academy, played by Peter Gallagher. This triangle serves mostly as backstory but pops up now and again, most prominently when Cooper's final performance is a thinly disguised stab at Gallagher and Donahue's relationship.

The only other love story is the pursuit of ice queen Maureen by a guy named "Jim Gordon." I'd like to think this wasn't a nod to Batman because this Jim Gordon is a Paul Rudd lookalike and a total dud in the personality department. He seems like a good guy, stating that he's attending Columbia, pre-med, and has impeccable hygiene, but he mostly serves as a bland reason for Maureen to ditch her dance career. He shows her that there's more to life than dancing, like eating pizza with his buds, kissing while holding ice cream, and being a well rounded normal person. Eh, boring. As Maureen states upon meeting him, she only has ten years to make it as a ballerina, and that leaves no time for romance. That's how I feel about this movie's romance quotient. It was necessary to move the plot along but hardly memorable in any regard.

5. Rate the sidekicks (8)
Center Stage is the Robert Altman of dance films. While there are three main characters, it really feels more like a true ensemble film because there are lots of mini-plots, a lot of characters, and no true stars. As for sidekicks, there's the Russian emigre, the chubby ballerina, the gay black guy, the gaggle of yes-girls, and the usual flurry of dance stereotypes. Plus there's the overbearing dance director, the demanding but caring instructor, and the sports mom who cares more about dancing than her daughter. Overall you couldn't ask for much more so let's not penalize the ensemble nature of this film, which is harder to pull off than you'd think.

6. Best line (10)
Lots of good lines in this movie. A few of my favorites (all taken out of context):
Maureen: I am the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy. Who the hell are you? Nobody.

Eric: My stage name is Eric O, the "O" is for Oprah

Eva: Being nice when you say something pricky is even prickier.

Eva: What, did you go to a special bitch academy or something?
But of course, the best line from this movie, probably the greatest dance movie line of all time is this: "You didn't have the feet. I don't have the heart." Here's the dialogue from the scene (and video) so you can feel the full impact.
Maureen: If this is what I wanted, I wouldn't be as unhappy as I've been. I'd have friends, I'd sleep well, I wouldn't throw up half the things that I eat.
Nancy (her mom): You watch your weight, there's nothing wrong with that!
Maureen: Mom, I'm telling you I'm unhappy and sick. I can't do this any more!
Nancy: But it's your dream. You just don't give up on your dream.
Maureen: It's your dream, and it matters more to you than anything ever did to me. So I did it, but I can't any more.
Nancy: I know what regret feels like, and I don't want that for you.
Maureen: That's what ballet would be... a life of wishing that I found something I loved, instead of something I just happened to do well. I'm not you, Mom. You didn't have the feet. I don't have the heart.
7. Music (7)
Powered by Jamiroquai, the music here immediately dates itself by using so many of their tracks. The final dance is performed to "Canned Heat" and you've probably got a lot of other associations with the song that's not Center Stage related. Still, Jamiroquai is underrated and his music is a good fit here. MJ's "The Way You Make You Feel" makes a cameo appearance too, so a bonus point for that. The other star on the soundtrack is Mandy Moore, who had a music video for "I Wanna Be With You," based on the movie. The song is okay but not one of Moore's better efforts. Which brings to mind the question: What is Mandy Moore's best song?

8. Fashion (5)
Pretty ho hum. Since they spend so much time in the ballet studio, most of the outfits are typical ballet gear. Then you have the wide variety of plaids and vests without t-shirts by some of the guys. In fact, Center Stage was pretty bland as a fashion movie. Nothing stood out and in retrospect, they probably set the dance scene back a few years with their lack of vision.

9. Cultural Impact (6)
For a movie widely acclaimed to be "awesome," I feel like few mainstream folk have seen it. Made on a budget of eighteen million dollars, the movie barely made that back upon its theatrical release. DVD sales and foreign gross probably made it profitable but Center Stage definitely wasn't a big money maker. Still, there was a sequel made in 2008, "Center Stage: Turn It Up." If Center Stage had been released this year, in the post-SYTYCD environment, I guarantee a much bigger splash. As it is, Center Stage was a cult hit and barely registered on the radar for most people. Still, it has lived on in the hearts of its fans and is the perfect blend of soap opera and dance movie.

10. Miscellaneous (8)
Center Stage's biggest star at the time was Peter Gallagher, who was "that guy in While You Were Sleeping," until he landed the plumb role of Sandy Cohen in The O.C. Now you look back at the cast and the standout is Zoe Saldana, who looks exactly the same now as she did ten years ago (except for a possible nose job). Three months older than me, Saldana has seen her star rise to Avatar and Star Trek heights since Center Stage in 2000. Meanwhile, I've been um, doing other things.

The other strange thing about the movie is how many B-level lookalikes there are. For one, keep your eyes out for the similarities to other stars that half the cast possess. Tatyana Ali (Saldana), Evan Rachel Wood (Amanda Schull), Eric Stoltz (Ethan Stiefel), Paul Rudd (Eion Bailey), Celine Dion plus Jennifer Aniston (Donna Murphy, the dance instructor), Anthony Bourdain (Stephen Stout, Jody's dad). It's eerie, like they went about casting for actors and actresses that might pass as more famous people at a glance. Also, if you're wondering where Susan May Pratt is from, she was Julia Stiles' best friend from 10 Things I Hate About You. I had that sudden revelation three days after watching Center Stage. Joyous.

And of course, bonus points for the worst dance movie poster of all time. I mean, is putting the dirty soles of ballet flats on your poster is supposed to attract me to your movie? Fail.

Overall, this is one of the best dance movies ever. I'd say it's a sleeper classic since everybody yet nobody has seen it. If that makes any sense. How come one of the best dance movies couldn't even hit eighty points on the scale? Well, one reason might be that the love story was weak. But really, that's not a bad thing. Who cares about the love story in a dance movie? Also, due to the strict adherence to all things ballet, the fashion involved wasn't that awe inspiring. Again, minor quibbles. Having scored perfect tens for dancing and memorable lines, I think Center Stage sets the benchmark for eminently rewatchable dance movies. In fact, I'm gonna go cue it up again right now.

22 April 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Normally I'm all about 3D summer movies. I get sucked in by the trailers, set my expectations low, and walk out feeling satisfied after munching on a few pounds of popcorn. Well, I'd heard from every party that Clash of the Titans was absolutely the pits. But my good friend was celebrating a very important birthday and wanted to watch it because the original Clash was his favorite movie as a kid. I didn't mind because I'll watch anything with Greek mythology.

I'll save you the time and say that yes, the new Clash of the Titans is pretty terrible. Is it the worst movie I've seen so far this year? Probably not. Compared to Percy Jackson, to which I assigned the grade of "D," Clash is probably about comparable. There was no suspense or good action. If anything, there was anti-suspense. I found myself chuckling most of the way through and cheering only for Pegasus sightings. I like flying horses, don't you? Compared to the original the only aspect that was improved upon in this version was the visuals. The plot is weak, the acting is pathetic, and some of the lines are just terrible.

Yes, that is Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, not just Liam Neeson playing both Zeus and Hades. The receding hairline on poor Ralph is horrific by the way. I had a hard time taking the Lord of the Underworld seriously with that hair. I doubt you will be able to either.

21 April 2010

Things I Love to Hate #492

Listening to: Nikki & Rich, "Cat and Mouse." Yes, I'm finally ahead of the curve (thanks Reena)! How can you not love their retro pop sound? Previously, Rich produced tracks for Thicke, Mario, and Luda, while Nikki was a backup singer for Carrie Underwood. Their album is out this summer and I expect it to blow up. I also love the simplicity of their name. None of this Ben Folds Five but there are only three of them. Or "We're Miike Snow, and that's not a person." They're just Nikki and Rich. Clean, memorable, elegant.

Oh wait, after some web research, I'm not exactly early, I'm just about on time. They were the 90210 season premiere and just appeared on Ellen. Well, it's good to be timely as opposed to late right? Also, their newish single, "Next Best Thing" is also hotness. Their live shows are probably amazing. I need to go.

2010 has been the year of embracing my hate. I know, it sounds terrible, but at least I'm honest right? I want to open myself up to new things while also closing the door on things/activities I'm pretty certain I don't enjoy. "2010: Embrace the Hate!" Tell me if you want a t-shirt, button, or just someone to commiserate with when all your friends ditch you.

A few months ago I wrote a post about things I "don't do" anymore. I'm back with a few more. Okay, just one more. I'll hold my tongue on the rest. Remember when I said I was over hip hop concerts? Let's just extend that to pretty much all concerts. There was one summer years ago when I willed myself to attend as many concerts as possible. It was mostly hit or miss and I decided that I'd only watch concerts where I had seats. I was getting old and standing around was just rough. Of course, I've broken that promise quite a few times since then, all in an attempt to prove myself wrong. Sometimes the results have been good, like when I watched A Fine Frenzy, other times it's been terrible and I spend the night wondering "Why did I do this again?"

Here's the thing. I really like music. I think I really like live music. But I have space and crowd issues. When we went to the Morning Benders recently, we were two rows from the front and in perfect formation when these two girls squeeze by. Before I could do anything, they snuck between our phalanx and planted themselves in front of me. Fine, whatever, you're short. I'm passive, we'll just go with it. Then the music started and the inebriated duo started swaying and grooving all over the place. You're going to take up my space and then big dance? I don't like random people shaking their butts in non-rhythmic fashion in front of me, thank you. Please move.

Also, the opening acts at most concerts are usually not that great. So for an one hour set, you show up two hours earlier and listen to some crappy music, and then you get to see your band while being simultaneously crushed and danced upon. Ugh. I'm gonna give it one more try in a few weeks with Two Door Cinema but I fear my concert days may be over. I think I just like music in the confines of my own house, speakers, car. I know, so lame.

Also, R.I.P. Guru. I've already talked about my great love for Gang Starr. Keith Elam passed away early this morning. I had no idea he had any issues with Premier, which may or may not be true? Definitely read Slate's article on Guru's rhymes. For the record, why are all the reports saying it's MC Solar? I'm pretty certain it's Solaar with two "A's." It's not a misspelling people. He's just French.

Update [4.28.2010]: Okay, I'm wrong. MC Solaar is not the same Solar that is entangled in all this Guru mess. I probably should apologize to the French MC Solaar for soiling his name. But everyone has been confused too. Anyway, the whole Solar-Guru situation is crazy sad and there's a movement to F*ck Solar for his shady role in Guru's life. I'm with it.

20 April 2010

Kick-Ass (2010)

From the minds of Mark Millar, super famous comic book writer, and John Romita Jr., super famous comic book artist comes Kick-Ass. Oh right, as directed by Matthew Vaughn, whose previous work was, um, Stardust. I've been excited about this movie because well, it's got super heroes in it. I mean, just last week I spent an evening watching Hancock twice and then web researching it. I'm a sucker for anyone in tights and a cape.

Kick-Ass is sort of a logical take on the super hero world. There's been a trend for the past fifteen years of superheroes who aren't superheroes. So Kick-Ass is a dorky powerless teen, who dresses up anyway and sets out to do good. The movie is perfectly cast, the action sequences are quite thrilling, and Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl is plain awesome. I saw her on Leno the other night and for a thirteen year old, she's incredibly composed. There's been some controversy over having such a young girl cussing, doing ultra-violent scenes, and getting beat up, but none of that stuff bothered me. Then again, it probably would if I were parent to a pre-teen or watching someone that young go through the work.

When I was first naming my Exclusively Chloe character, I web searched around for "Chloe Grace" and found out that there was a really young actress by that name. I was hoping she wouldn't get super huge because that would knock the crap out of my character's Google ranking but hey, Chloe Grace Moretz is super cool and a good actress so I guess it's okay. Plus I sent Ms. Moretz my book and maybe she read it, so maybe we can become great friends and I can have two Chloe Grace's in my life.

Also, if you like superheroes, check out RoganJosh's modern art prints. The individual descriptions are quite amusing too. I wish I could have every one.

13 April 2010

We Had a Time

The scene about two weeks ago. My friend and I are emailing, doing some debriefing after our recent Tahoe trip. She then forwards me this thing for a Glee red carpet event and asks if I want to come. It's on a Monday, it's in Los Angeles (I was in San Francisco), and while I'm a huge fan of Glee, going down for a random weekend event seemed irresponsible. See, doubters of the world, I have an adult side and that was him doing the serious talk. "Oh, I'd love to go but I just have too much going on. It sounds super fun but I'll have to pass." I felt strong, I felt mature, I felt like a mature man for resisting temptation.

An hour later, my normal (much less adult) brain took over and was like, "Hey stupid, when are you going to go to another Glee party? They're the hottest thing right now. They just dropped on the cover of Rolling Stone, they are going to the White House and Oprah. Go you idiot!" I called my friend to ask if she was sure the cast was going to be there. Of course they were she replied, this was their spring premiere event. "Great, because I already bought the ticket." See, my normal self is impulsive as all hell and I got the ticket in a rush, before confirming the spot was still open. Luckily

Next question: What does one wear to a premier party? After a day of shopping and much fretting -- the details of which I won't bore you with -- I had my outfit ready. And by outfit I meant something fancier than my normal hoodie and jeans. I even put on black shoes, yes, actual leather black shoes. On Sunday night it started pouring so I was fearful that the event would suffer from bad weather. Just my luck I thought, to have it rain on my parade -- well, technically their parade, but whatever.

Somehow we arrived at Chateau Marmont a bit early, zipping from Santa Monica to West Hollywood in record time. There was like no traffic at six o'clock on a workday. Los Angeles traffic parted for us and we arrived before they were even letting the non-press folk in. The one time I'm not late to an event and we were tryinig to get there fashionably on time. A word about Chateau Marmont. Located on Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau is famous because celebrities reside and party there. In Exclusively Chloe, I had Chloe-Grace and Rachelle go to a happening spot in Hollywood and named the place "Maison" (page 75) in honor of Chateau Marmont. Of course I'd never visited Marmont before so I only did research via the Internets. To actually go to Marmont was another reason to fly my ass down. I mean, hypothetically this could be a write off right? I'm flying to LA to research the celeb life! Ha, just kidding auditors, just kidding.

Oh, before attending this thing I did as much online research as possible. I prepared for this like it a SAT II Subject Test. I looked up everyone's previous acting history, brushed up on their real names, read their Wikipedia histories, found out how everyone was, and thought of things I could bring up in case of conversation emergency. Lynn wasn't sure what sort of access we'd have to the cast but if they happened to want to chat, I wanted to be fully prepped. I might have even been ready with some of their mom's names. (Thanks Oprah!)

When they let us in a few minutes after seven, Lynn and I positioned ourselves at a prime location in the middle of the outdoor area. A few guests milled around but it was still mostly staff. We sipped on our Glee themed cocktails -- we started with "Cheerios" -- and munched on appetizers. I know I generally photograph and moblog the crap out of everything but I had decided beforehand that I wasn't going to be one of those people. Not tonight. I wanted to act like, you know, I go to the Chateau on the regular. The whole night I only pulled out my phone to tweet a bit and to check the time. That's right, I tried to play it cool. Plus, even though I secretly freak out when I see anyone mildly famous, I don't like asking them for pictures or autographs. They're famous, they want to be left alone, I can respect that.

Half an hour in, as we were talking about our favorite characters and who we were hoping to see, Finn walks in. No fanfare. He was just hanging out at the buffet line, picking up some food. The one thing I was most interested in finding out this night was how tall everyone was. I'd heard actors and actresses are generally shorter than you'd imagine. I'd been told Finn was six four. From our vantage point, he seemed pretty tall but later I walked near him. Six two, max. A lady sitting with us had commented earlier on how nice Cory Monteith's skin was, observed from a time she met him during an American Idol event. My goal list immediately grew to include asking Finn how he kept his face so pore-free and what product he used. Unfortunately for you readers and for me, I never found out. In fact, I never talked to any of the Glee people.

I know, I know, lame. But I really don't like talking to people when they are sort of forced to talk to you. Everyone was uniformly nice and awesome but I mostly wanted to just observe their interactions. After Finn came in, the rest of the cast started appearing everywhere. Oh hi principal guy. Hi guy with the huge Jew-fro who stalks Rachel. Hi background minorities who I hope will get bigger roles soon. There were only a few hundred people at the party so it never got crowded and was very casual. Just some fans, producers, press, and people associated with Glee. I tried to not keep my head on swivel and succeeded for the most part, but I was keenly aware of where the Glee folk were at all times.

Overall it felt like attending a wedding with a dozen brides. Being famous means people are watching you all the time and as a guest and spectator, I found myself just watching Mr. Schuester, Kurt, Sue Sylvester, or Tina as they walked around and did their thing. I was most excited to see Chris Colfer and he suddenly appeared behind my chair, leaning an arm over and touching my jacket slung over the back. Mission accomplished! Famous people emit attention heat, as everyone in the room kind of watches them out of the corner of their eye. And by everyone I mean me.

In my dream of dreams, I'd have wanted to tell the Glee cast about the music game (rules explained in this post, about halfway down), and then force them to play it. I knew there was no chance of this happening but it would have been amazing. I'd make Quinn and Rachel captains and let them pick the teams. The word I would have given them would have obviously been "star." I wonder if real singers and people like playing games when they would obviously be amazing at it. Or if the Glee cast ever go karaoke together. Or is being on the show basically like a giant karaoke session?

I lost my shit when Idina Menzel showed up. I was talking to Lynn and she suddenly started waving to someone behind me. I turn around and Taye Diggs is waving at her. I didn't even realize it was Taye Diggs because I figured it was someone we knew, that's how casually Lynn was saying hello. That started our night of waving at people like we were old friends. Lynn waved at Sue Sylvester a few minutes later, and the wonderful Jane Lynch auto-waved back before doing a comedic double take and basically thinking, "Why am I waving to those people, I don't know them..."

I had told another friend earlier that I was willing to break my vow of no picture taking only if Idina Menzel showed up. I mean, I've been such a huge fan since forever and I even flew to New York to try to catch her before she left Wicked. That didn't really work out but here Idina was, just a few feet away. And Taye Diggs was Mr. Cool, just sitting on a chair checking his phone. Tragically, they left before we mustered up the courage to wander over. I guess I'm just never meant to say hi to Idina.

There was one other person we saw that had us all geeked out. Early on, I noticed this Asian dude, chilling, standing and smoking by himself. "Man that guy looks crazy familiar. Do I know him from somewhere?" Lynn came back from the restroom at that moment and she had just spotted him too. "Is that?" "Yes it is..." The guy was Jon M. Chu! The director of Step Up 2 and the absolute genius behind The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. He was there with Harry Shum Jr., Glee cast member (The Other Asian) and amazing dancer and choreographer. Needless to say, Lynn and I were wow-ed out. Later in the night, we got a chance to talk to Jon and asked when LXD was releasing. "Soon," Jon said, "very soon." Chu was seriously laid back and super down to Earth. I told him to go to Ippudo in New York. I gotta push good ramen spots to everyone, even if clearly they don't need my help. Ippudo is that great. Jon was really gracious and personable and now I owe him two smokes. But maybe we're both quitting.

We also met Shum's girlfriend, actress and dancer Shelby Rabara. She was super nice and spoke about her experiences as an Asian-American in Hollywood. For the record, Shelby was also wearing the greatest dress and earrings combo and I wish I could find a picture so you could agree a hundred thousand percent. Lynn and I were also hoping to watch Shum dance and we sort of followed him into the interior bar area, where the DJ was playing some great music. Upon entering, we were greeted with the sight of half the cast members dancing and grooving in a little circle -- yes, apparently even celebrities dance in circles, not just Asians -- led by Matthew Morrison, who was teaching someone a slide step. Of course we had to sort of bop around with them and we were like "Man, we wish OUR dance friends were here (we'd dub ourselves the League of Average Dancers, the dreaded LAD) and then totally battle the Glee cast." This was clearly a highlight of our night.

While most of the cast members were hanging out, just walking around and stuff, it seemed like Dianna Agron, Lea Michele, and Cory were tasked with sticking to the main area and talking to people. Both Dianna and Lea were in incredible dresses. They were constantly being engaged and talked to and I can only imagine how tired they must be. They've had events all week long leading up to tonight's premiere episode and if doing one wedding is tough, these people have been running the PR gauntlet every night. But I'm sure they're happy to do it because Glee is such a huge success. I wondered if the casts from My So Called Life or Freaks and Geeks ever had parties like this in their honor. Shut down after just one season, I'd imagine they never got huge in time for the studio to back them and throw such an event. That's so sad right? Imagine doing this amazing show and then not seeing each other again. I mean, look at this picture of Angela and Jordan reunited. So wonderful.

Okay I'm gonna wrap up this monster post and get to packing. It's back to San Francisco tomorrow. I'm still giddy over Glee, even though I woke up with the hugest headache. Don't drink sugary drinks and suck on rock candy swizzle sticks kids. Instant hangover. And of course, thanks Lynn for bringing me!

Also, here are some fun links: an article and photos from the party, Harry Shum Jr. and Dianna Agron's Tumblrs, shumbodynamedharry and felldowntherabbithole. A whole bunch of the cast Twitter too and don't think I wasn't checking them throughout the night. Oh right, and the Glee episode is on right now. Time to go watch.

08 April 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Remember in Nick & Norah's how Jay Baruchel played the cool guy? Yeah, didn't work. He's much better suited to dorky stuff, as evidenced by his possibly outstanding turn in "She's Out of My League." I put in "possibly" because I didn't watch that movie. I mean, if you actually watched it, you should probably be ashamed of yourself. How is the premise of that movie -- a ten dating a five -- any different than the romantic pairings behind Garden State, The Last Kiss, Knocked Up, and hey, Nick & Norah's? Basically you're an idiot if you watched She's Out of My League. And I say that with all respect to people's personal choices. I just can't condone this one.

If however, you watched "How to Train Your Dragon," you probably had a very enjoyable time. There's absolutely nothing that will surprise you about the plot or the set-up or the motivations and characters of this movie, but that doesn't matter because as Hiccup (voiced by Baruchel) states, the land of Berk is all about the dragons. And that's enough. I mean, you have all these dragons see, and then these burly Vikings that fight them. What else do you really need? Throw in nice animation, superb voice acting, and another scoopful of dragons and it's a great kid movie for adults. George came out of the flick saying, "I want a pet dragon." Who doesn't?

In an attempt to have my own dragon, I downloaded the iPhone game, "How to Train Your Dragon: Flight of the Night Fury" after the movie. The game itself isn't that good but since it allows you to play your own music, there is a bit of fantastic thrill tilting/flying through the air. I cruised the skies backdropped by Little Bit (heavily recommended) but I tested other songs and they all imparted a different experience and mood. So the app is worth ten minutes of actual fun but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience even aboard a tiny digital dragon. Now imagine actually riding a dragon with an iPod attached? Oh heaven.

04 April 2010

Been there, done that, messed around

Listening to: La Roux, "Armour Love." I think Bulletproof is their big song but I think I like Armour Love best. Then again, the whole album is kinda great.

When NKOTB released "Games" I thought they were saying "Oh, ee, oh, oh, oh, gangs, gangs, gangs, gangs, gangs." I saw these five tough looking Boston guys and thought, "Oh yeah, they are singing an anti-gangs song, definitely. Because they know about the streets." In my defense, English was not my first language and I was pop culturally retarded at the time. Now I know the difference between a gang and a game and I'm here to tell you about two new ones I'm currently playing.

Remember last year when I started up a MTV Challenge: Ruins 2 fantasy league? Well it ended with me finishing a solid third (out of ahem, five) even though my team was filled with super boring people. I did get to watch in awe/shock as Shauvon's breast implants popped and she was forced home, and then Brad gave me some nice late season drama during an alcohol fueled tirade and fight. But that eliminated himself and my number one draft pick, Darrell. Anyway, I've been eagerly anticipating April because MTV is back with a new challenge, Fresh Meat 2! Twenty six contestants pair up and fight their way to three hundred thousand dollars.

But that's just small stakes compared to what I'm competing for: pride, honor, and a non-existent medal. Yes, we've got another fantasy season drafted up and ready to go. This time around we've got six owners and the next few Wednesdays should be mighty exciting indeed. If you're watching Fresh Meat too, follow along at Ain't Too Proud to Watch! And don't be all like "But I'm so above MTV, blah blah." MTV is the truth and I won't have it any other way. Unless you believe Netflix Instant Queue is the truth, in which case we can still get along.

The other game I'm all excited about is Ngmoco's "We Rule." Near the tail end of last year, my friend Des got us all hooked on Papaya Farm and despite my protestations and mockery of all that is Farmville-related, I find myself still checking on my vegetables on the daily. Papaya Farm added an animals ranch and my sole goal in life for awhile was to get a super panda and some special dinosaurs. These games have no skill involved and they're so lame but somehow P-Farm captured all of our attentions and we have this long running email chain -- I think we're on our fourth centithread -- talking about stuff like when we get caught in embarrassing situations harvesting. Ameer contributed this gem just last week: "At a concert once, some girl looked over my shoulder and said 'nice dog'... it was between acts I swear."

We recently confirmed our suspicions that the makers of Papaya Farm were Chinese (bad grammar, constant misspellings, way too smart at staying one step ahead of us and feeding new things into the addiction pipeline) and I needed to get us out. But we didn't want to give up our social gaming so I went on the hunt for something new. That turned me onto We Rule, which is a very similar game but has the added bonus of just having been released and showing some promise.

My favorite aspect of this game so far is that you can rearrange your buildings on the fly. It's like being an architect and landscape artist. You can also have buildings that produce wares for your friends to purchase. The game isn't perfect (or that stable yet) but there's room to grow. Won't you join us? Or um, save yourself a few months of your life and avoid this game at all costs. As for me, I'll be thematically building my little plot to resemble Gaudi's Barcelona, or creating a wonderful maze of trees, or perhaps a university campus, complete with little medieval school children escorted by their dragon overlords to arithmetic class. The possibilities are endless. Unlike your respect for me, which probably just nosedived.