30 September 2010

Flavor In Your Ear

It's been too long since I've shared with you some of the sites that I've been obsessing over. Now that my RSS reader is well organized, I can blow through my feeds super fast but these gems below I always take the time to really appreciate and go over. Hope you like'em.

[Caits Meissner]
A poet, a writer, an artist, a teacher, a designer, a musician, a performer, an inspiration, and sort of just, everything. I could try to explain to you who Caitlin Meissner is but I don't have the words. So here's her Tumblr about page with links to her various projects and archives of past blogs. I've spent a good amount of time this summer digging through those links and it's all great stuff. Her main site is here and there's links to all her creations, events, and a video of her talking about her newly released EP, the wolf & me.
"Multi-disciplinary storyteller Caits Meissner uses an exciting blend of poetry, music, performance and visual art to deliver poignant testaments to the complexities of the human spirit. Caits has moved audiences from street corners to Columbia University, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe to Rikers Island. Winner of the OneWorld Poetry Contest, Caits attended the 2008 inaugural Pan-African Literary Forum in Accra, Ghana where she studied under Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa and other luminaries from the literary African diaspora. In addition to her own self-released work, she has been published in various literary journals and has shared sets with musicians such as Immortal Technique, Grandmaster Caz, Boot Camp Clik and many others."

[Project Rungay]
Project Rungay was introduced to me by a valued taste maker friend, and after a quick skim, she proved right once again as I immediately elevated this blog to my Reader's A-List. One of the first posts I saw was an in-depth look at Joan Holloway's style. And then one for Peggy. And then they revisit Joan. And then Peggy again. Their love for Mad Men alone was enough to make me love Tom and Lorenzo but their fashion and pop culture commentary is always hilarious. Plus they did an In or Out: Dianna Argon. Seriously, just put their feed on your A-List now, you won't regret it.
"Married for 12 years and foolish enough to leave our jobs to start our own home-based business, we found ourselves sitting at our desks for 15 hours a day, communicating with the outside world only through fax or email. Because our only co-workers were each other, we missed being the bitchy, funny gay guy in the next cubicle and looked for an outlet in order to prevent a double homo-cide. Because this is America, we turned to television to solve all our problems."
-Tom and Lorenzo's About Us-

[This Moi]
I already talked about Kartina Richardson's Mirror: Motion Picture Commentary blog over at Lonely Comma, but I wanted to shine some light on it again. Mirror is a site about film criticism and the posts feature video essays that are lovingly constructed and produced. I actually don't get many of the movie references and haven't seen a lot of the stuff Richardson analyzes, but the point is that she makes me want to -- and she'll make you want to too. I think I found out about Kartina via a Salon piece she wrote but I can't be sure because she contributes to quite a few of my other frequent reads like Bust, Jezebel, and is now one of Roger Ebert's Far Flung Correspondents.

"Kartina Richardson is a writer, filmmaker, and playwright documenting the beverages, movies, grumps, and (few) adventures that shape her life. She is of Asian and African American descent with other bits thrown in. (She mentions this because everyone asks and now you know)."
-Bout Beverages And Blog-

[Pitchfork Reviews Reviews]
A new favorite blog and it looks like that could be said for a lot of people -- although not this guy. PRR has kind of been everywhere recently. The blog is ostensibly about music but I like it because of the stream of consciousness style and the adventures that David gets into. Plus the site is updated quite frequently and apparently he types it all out on his phone and then his friend throws it up the next day. Something like that. If you have no idea what Pitchfork is, read this NY Times article. Then start your Pitchfork Reviews Reviews journey with the nice primer David's provided.
"because i suspect that what seinfeld is about is highlighting George and Jerry and Elaine’s mental lifestyle: curiosity and endless questioning and the idea that there’s something worth evaluating and discussing going on under EVERYTHING, from relationships to sports and every other aspect of existence. and part of the comedy comes from when the characters’ curiosity makes their discussions seem absurd like when jerry tries to set george up on a blind date and then george asks jerry to describe the woman and jerry describes her, and then george asks him to describe the hue of her cheeks and tell him whether, if you ran your hand through her hair, it would get tangled in the hair or you could move your hand straight through it. in its weird way, with jokes orbiting around this point, Seinfeld is trying to tell us that nothing should be left unexamined and i guess living the way Seinfeld is suggesting includes asking questions about everything, not just dismissing some things as base and holding other things up as inherently meaningful, which is something i shouldn’t have needed to be explained to me i think."
-indie music and sports and seinfeld-

26 September 2010

The Town (2010)

Gone Baby Gone was one of the better movies of 2007 and it proved that Ben Affleck can direct. A few years later and Affleck is back with another Boston-based crime thriller that is reminiscent of both Gone Baby Gone and Heat. While this movie doesn't quite live up to the lofty standards of either, it does deliver on pretty much every level and compared to the rest of this year's action-thriller offerings, it's better than all of them. Plus I have to give this movie an A because it's just fun to see Affleck doing a Boston accent again. There really needs to be another Affleck-Damon pairing, and I wouldn't even mind a Good Will Hunting 2. Okay, I actually would mind that but some genius scriptwriter must have a Boston-based movie for them right? Maybe Celtic Pride 2: The Wrath of KG?

I thought The Town was another Dennis Lehane book but it's actually adapted from Chuck Hogan's Prince of Thieves. Sorry Chuck.

On another note, where will Jon Hamm's movie career go? He plays a FBI agent here and in the upcoming Howl he plays a lawyer. Neither are big stretches from the Don Draper persona and I'm convinced his hair is holding him back. It's just too old school to be taken seriously in non-businessy roles. What can he do with it? Here's a (bad) example: Jon Hamm in a bald cap as Lex Luthor. Yeah, no good. His hair is just too Draper-ish to be taken seriously as anything else. Actually maybe seeing Hamm smile is just kind of weird.

My friend Reena predicts a romantic comedy coming from Hamm soon, maybe something where he's a frazzled dad, but I'm really hoping that won't happen. And where will Elizabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks' movie careers go? I can't see either of them outside of the Mad Men era either. It's like I want them all to be financially rewarded for their talent and hard work but am wary of what roles they'll have to take in order to cash in.

Catfish (2010)

The less you know about this movie the better. That's about all I can say. Which makes this post sort of useless. Catfish is good and definitely worth a watch though. And the lead guy has the most charismatic and contagious smile ever. If you must, watch the trailer, but really, the less you know the better.

Since I can't say anything else about Catfish, I'll just bludgeon you with a list of things I'd like to watch for the rest of 2010: Easy A. Flipped. Buried. Let Me In. Machete. The Social Network. Secretariat. Red. Wild Target. Welcome to the Rileys. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. The Company Men. Burlesque. Love and Other Drugs. Howl. Black Swan. L'Illusionniste. The Warrior's Way. Skyline. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

And a list of things I wouldn't ever want to watch, even if physically threatened: Life As We Know It. Jackass 3D. Saw 3D. Unstopppable. Hereafter. 127 Hours. Little Fockers. Yogi Bear.
It would be nice if I could be so clear in my non-movie aspirations for the rest of 2010.

24 September 2010

The New Workout Plan

Listening to: Cotton Jones, "Somehow To Keep It Going." I think I pretty much just like the chorus here. But it's nice and moody.

I woke up at nine with the urge to run. Before I could drift back to bed, I slapped some water on my face, popped in my contacts, looked around for my Shuffle, and slipped into basketball shoes. Seeing as I haven't actually run since the 90s, this would be a throwback morning. I was excited to have music to run to since people are always talking about their workout playlists. I've never had music while running. The last time I ran it was for my cross country team and since we were slackers, on hot days we'd make sure to have a few dollars tucked away to buy a Ben & Jerry's on the way back. Hearing other people tell it nowadays, music is the way to keep running fun and exciting! I queued up some Step Up 2 soundtrack before switching to Mos Def. "Quiet Dog Bite Hard" seems like running music.

Next to the garage door I placed things I'd likely need after my run. Cigarettes, water bottle, a towel and shorts in case I wanted to jump in the pool. Since I never found that Shuffle, I decided to just carry my iPhone. And since I was going to be carrying something anyway, what was wrong about slipping a cigarette and matches into my shorts? I imagined a conqueror's stroll home after running my route, happily puffing away as I came to a resting heart rate. Finally, I too would feel the exhiliration and rewards that come from exercising, like the dieter who rewards himself with chocolate cake right after the gym.

I'd steadily maintained over the years that I could pick up and run a mile easily, despite my smoking, my general lack of fitness, and my advancing age. Look, I'm the same weight as I was at nineteen, I can play basketball for hours without tiring, and a mile is really not very far. These were my rationalizations.

Our house is located at the top of a pretty steep and intimidating hill. About two miles away, past two golf courses and a horse ranch are our mail boxes. As children George and I used to ride our bikes to get the mail once in awhile because, well, we were kids with nothing better to do. Back then it was an adventure; now it's a chore.

As I geared up and took off down the hill -- without stretching because who needs that -- I felt great. Legs pumping, music blasting, even possibly running on the right side of the road (into or against traffic? I chose into). By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, I had dreams that I would easily reach the mailboxes. "Damn, I should have brought the key so I could just pick up the mail too," I thought.

I set my timer to ten minutes and estimated that would be a decent "welcome to the 2000s mile" and I'd be halfway to the mailboxes. A few hundred yards in, before I even hit the first traffic light, my eye sight was getting woozy, the ground was so dirty and uneven, and my lung or kidney or liver or pancreas was hurting. Unwilling to push myself to be a better man, I stopped and started walking. And so it was for the next twenty minutes. Run some, walk a lot, run some, walk some more. I couldn't keep up a jog for more than a minute. It just hurt too much. Before I even reached the horse ranch I'd decided to turn around. The only motivation I could use to push myself was to pretend that I was on a MTV Real Road / Road Rules Challenge. I imagined Pete yelling at me, "Keep moving pansy! You're letting the team down!" That only worked once, for about an eighth of a mile.

Knowing I didn't have the mental fortitude for this running thing anymore, I decided to alternate between stops to "look at the scenery" and fast sprints. Hey, at least my heart rate was up and I was breaking a sweat right? Mission accomplished!

Then I hit our hill. Driving back from school, I used to pick up stray middle schoolers that trudged up with immense bags on their backs. I'd pull over and they'd plop in and I'd ask them which gate they wanted to be dropped off at. Today, I wanted nothing more than for a stranger to pull over and offer me a ride up the hill. I looked at the gardeners' truck with envy as it clunked by.

I thought of the injustice of the school bus never taking kids up the hill, always cruelly depositing them at the bottom. Would it kill them to drive up the hill a little? Didn't the driver care about these little children's bodies? Didn't someone care that I was about to collapse? If my mom was home I'd think about calling her to pick me up. That's how gassed out I felt.

As I sat on the curb outside our house afterwards, in-between wheezes, I decided there should be a new system in place for describing your past exploits. If you've done something within the last three years, you can say "Yeah, it's been awhile but I used to do that." If you did something five years ago, you're allowed to say "I used to do that, or at least knew how, but have since stopped." If it's something ten or more years ago, you can't even bring it up in conversation.

"I used to run cross country in high school." That's technically a true statement but totally irrelevant now. Having been on the cross country team like fifteen years ago does not make me seem more exercisey now. No, it's actually more pathetic to bring it up now when someone asks about my running habits. From now on I'll just say "I don't run" and leave it at that.

So that's the new rule: If you haven't done something in the past three to five years, it's no longer on your list of skills. Other things I can no longer say I've done: tennis, flute, horse riding, camping, read/write Mandarin, long division, cook. The list goes on.

Tomorrow morning I'm gonna try swimming laps. It should be exciting.

17 September 2010

Hey, That's My Bike

Listening to: Vampire Weekend, "Oxford Comma."

I've decided to start a band. Everyone is in a band at some point in their lives and it always sounds so cool to have friends say: "He's like a really great musician and he was in this band before..." I think even nominally being in a band will really upgrade my social life. Recently I sat down with myself to do an interview. Also participating in the interview is my bandmate, Ameer.
So what're you guys called this week?
Jon & Ameer: We are Apex Predator!

Is that exclamation mark part of the name?
Jon: No, we're just enthusiastic about everything we do.
Ameer: YES!

Doing some research on your band, there seems to already be an Apex Predator out there. They're on MySpace and everything. Very legitimate.
Ameer: Yeah we know, but that won't dissuade us from using the name. The other Apex Predator only started a year ago and they play thrash metal so we doubt our fan bases will cross over that much.
Jon: We feel like there's enough room in the music industry for both of us to survive.

That goes against the idea of an apex predator doesn't it?
Jon: Well right. I guess it could be ironic.
Ameer: We're hipster.
Jon: Sure, whatever.

Since you don't play thrash metal, what is your sound like?
Jon: It's like Yanni. But with an edge.
Ameer: There'll be some Daft Punk-ian elements.

And what instruments do you guys play?
Jon: Ameer's the composer.
Ameer: And Jon does the humming.

Who stands in front during the shows?
Jon: Usually nobody, but sometimes family and a friend.

No, which of you guys stand in front during the show?
Jon: Oh. Ameer, he's handsomer.

Great, well that's all the time we have then. Where can we download your stuff or maybe tell our readers when your next gig is?
Ameer: We'll let you know.

14 September 2010

Baron Plays the Horses

Listening to: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, "Home."

The one thing I've been able to do this summer, since I can't surf or play basketball, is attend the horse races. Del Mar Racetrack is one of the few remaining tracks left on the West Coast I believe. It's open from July until September and the slogan is "Where the Surf Meets the Turf," which finally made sense to me once I stopped to think about it.

Little known fact: I've read the entire Black Stallion series of books. You didn't know there was a whole series did you? As a kid, I dutifully read them all. I couldn't recall the name of the author until I looked it up, and was surprised to see that Walter Falrey wrote the first book in 1941. For the next forty or so years, Falrey continued the legacy of The Black Stallion and his greatest rival, the Island Stallion -- who was a wild red horse named Flame. Twenty or so probably formulaic books about horse and human, horse and human but I absolutely loved them.

In fact I was thinking that the young adult / middle grade market was ripe for another horse series but it turns out I'm apparently already way behind on that. For example, there's the Wildwood Stables series by Suzanne Weyn, who also writes the Stablemates series for younger readers. And then there's the Horse Diaries (Catherine Hapka) and Canterwood Crest (Jessica Burkhart), the latter of which features serious looking young girls on the covers. Which is good, because horse riding should be taken seriously.

George and I used to take some horse riding lessons when we were in our early teens, as we lived around some horse ranches. We'd had some experience with horses before from this camp thing we used to go to. That had been Western style riding though, which is just being slouchy and getting over your fear of being on a moving animal. These proper lessons however, were for riding English style, which meant you had to get the special little hat and ride with your butt off the saddle and your legs get all tired because you are perched the horse.

Needless to say, we quickly gave up that hobby after investing big money in riding helmets we barely used. I think back to some of the random lessons George and I were subjected to and I guess we should thank our parents. It must dearly disappoint them that we've become pretty skill-less adults. But hey, they tried.

Anyway, my friend and I have been going to the racetrack nearly every Wednesday because that's when admission is free and beer is cheap, as long as you're a member of the ultra-exclusive Diamond Club. I thought we'd win big but so far all we've proven to be good at is picking last place horses. Even in races where we've bet on four of the seven participants, we invariably can't pick a winner. How is that possible?

Beginner horse bettors pick their potential winners based on catchy names. That's a huge mistake. We never did that because Ashley and I are not idiots now are we? So our first strategy was to pick only horses from Kentucky -- while avoiding any horse from overseas or Flordia. That led to a minor loss. Then we heard picking the best jockeys was the way to go. But it turns out that the best jockeys only win about twenty percent of the time. Still some losses. After some analysis, I determined that I was going to bet on the inside and outside horses every time. A few spotty wins. And then maybe one of us picked up a racing digest fresh from the trash and took it home with us to see if it was helpful. Maybe that newspaper had a piece of used gum stuck on it. Maybe we'll never do that again.

We like the races because it's usually a cheap way to hang out. If we win a bit of money and cover parking and a beer or two, that's a win. Then Ashley's friend won like mega money and revealed to us that we were missing the boat by not boxing a trifecta. I looked up what that was. Aha, the odds are much better. The savvy horse better trifectas it. Of course, the racing season is over now so I'll never know if I'm any good at picking the first three horses. In order no less.

I'm gonna go see if any of those Black Beauty books are still in the garage.

10 September 2010

I'm a Simple Guy

Listening to: Starfucker, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." This is a remix by the way, in case you didn't know. I just wanted that to be clear.

You know about OK Cupid right? For years I've been making people take the Dating Persona Test. Go ahead, take it and tell me which one you are. But we're not actually here to discuss that. Instead, let's talk about OK Cupid's blog, OkTrends, which presents dating research pulled from the dating profiles on the site. In the past they've posted about what cameras and phones tend to make you more attractive (or have more sex), they've delved into the lies people tell online dating, and unearthed the optimum message length. In short, you should subscribe to this blog immediately. Well the other day OkTrends did a post on what phrases tend to come up in people's profiles, organized by ethnicity.

I laughed as I read about what white guys liked and nodded along with familiarity. White guys do like Nascar, skiing, and The Big Lebowski. Haha. And of course black girls like Trey Songz and Law & Order. And I suppose Latino men are all amigos and prefer an XBox over a PS3. And of course I've seen many an Asian girl describe herself as "a simple girl" and a foodie. The OkTrends post also has some trending racial stereotypes. My favorite is (paraphrased): "Asian women show off their practicality in the cosmetics department by mentioning lip balm." This was all so true and so funny. I prepared to hit the forward button to all my friends. But then I saw the Asian guys' list...

For weeks/years I thought I thought my profile would shine like Polaris amidst a dark swath of undateables. Surely I must be so cool and interesting that I stood out from all those other Asian men flocking to online dating sites right? As it turns out, I'm just one of many minor constellations, made up of wholly average stars and trite characteristics.

Looking over Stuff Asian Guys Like, I pretty much hit three-fourths of them. Right off the top, I'm from Taiwan. I enjoy pho, noodles, and sashimi. I speak Mandarin and my favorite sport is basketball. I have an alternate Facebook account named after a character from The Rock. I absolutely love Calvin and Hobbes. Yes, I once played tennis in high school. Some of my favorite books and movies include Swingers, Gladiator, and L.A. Confidential. My sister is an accountant. I am pursuing my something in nothing. I have spent the past month addicted to a computer game. I am *sob* into gadgets and usually prefer computers and the Internet to people.

So there it was, not only am I undateable -- my OK Cupid dating persona is "Last Man on Earth," and it hasn't changed since I first took it -- I'm totally and disappointingly a cliche. The only thing I could possibly refute is that I'm neither an engineer nor have much interest in investing. And that goes for physical or emotional things, however my fellow Asian brothers meant it. Other than that I'd say I'm pretty much interchangeable with any average single Asian guy across the way. When they say "there's plenty of fish in the sea," this is what they meant.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that I've been inspired to change my profile to match these keywords on the off chance that someone realizes their ideal person is this exact description. I want to be 100% ready to be their special someone when the time comes. Love is in the air people, love is in the air.

If you scroll down to the very bottom of the study, there's a chart correlating religion and writing proficency level. That's all I'll say about that.

02 September 2010

The Peach Pit

Watching intently: The opening credits to Beverly Hills 90210, duh. And the pilot episode opening sequence, which I don't recall. And what's with the two black guys in business suits at the 0:52 mark? They were headed into high school? I want this song for my ring tone.

In about twelve hours I'll be sitting in a dental chair getting a little surgery. Nothing serious mind you, just my annual check up to make sure that my teeth haven't completely fallen apart. I have the worst teeth in the world; I'm told it's genetic. Actually I'm told to stop eating candy but what do the experts know anyway. I'm sure studies next decade will prove that sugar actually helps maintain your enamel.

I don't really fear the dentist much, unlike most normal people, mainly because every time I go it seems like something else has fallen apart and they need to fix it. "I know you came in for a cleaning but it looks like we're gonna have to go with the double root canal. Is that okay?" My response is invariably, "Sure, whatever." It's annoying and kind of stings but you buckle down and get over it. I figure if I want to tattoo every inch of my biceps one day, it'll be good practice for my pain tolerance.

Tomorrow while I sit in that chair though, I'll be absolutely giddy. So much so that I can hardly wait for my appointment. The reason? Bill Simmons will be releasing his mega 90210 podcast and I'll have two hours of amazing goodness to tide me through the appointment. Yes, tomorrow is 9/02/10! For the only time ever in the entire history of the human world. By now you've thrown aside your work ethic and emailed your boss about a mystery sickness, so please join me in celebrating this momentous occasion. It's 90210 day!

Jason Priestley, Luke Perry, Jennie Garth, Shannen Doherty, Ian Ziering, Gabrille Carteris, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling. I could recite those names in my sleep. Heck I can't identify more than four of Santa's reindeer but I can pull "James Eckhouse" out of my memory any time. George and I were twelve when 90210 first aired. I recall George being super duper excited for the show while I was still very loyal to Tailspin. This pretty much tells you about our relative maturity levels at that age. I swore I would watch every episode of a throwaway show featuring characters from The Jungle Book while George was about to launch into the world of fictional but oh we so wish it was real high school.

A few episodes in, a guy friend happened to be over and we made him watch 90210 with us. Jimmy asked me afterward, "So you watch this show because of the girls?" That question stunned me. I watched the show because I liked seeing male-female twins featured on television, I watched the show because Brenda and Dylan were so meant for each other, I watched the show because Brandon was a good guy, I watched the show to study Dylan and Brandon's relationship. At no point was I aware that teen males were supposed to watch 90210 because of the hot girls on-screen. It was the end of my innocence.

"Yeah, um I think that Andrea is kind of cute. Definitely."

That's partly why tomorrow is going to be amazing. Bill Simmons and Matthew Berry, who both work for ESPN, are grown men who know more about 90210 than probably ninety percent of females out there. They are my heroes and I can't wait to hear what they'll have to reminisce about. If you miss their epic podcast you're going to be very sorry. Plus I'll need people to talk to about it afterwards. Plus maybe I want to have a 90210 viewing party while I'm hopped up on Percocet.

And while there may have been some hidden shame in watching 90210 in the Nineties with my twin sister, I'm proud to say here, now, that it's made me who I am today. Without George's endless (girl) pop culture obsessions, I would not be up on 90210, Melrose Place, New Kids on the Block, and everything else that defines who I am today. You think I would be writing books about shopping and celebrities and dramas without her influence? Of course not!

So thanks George/Brenda, thanks.