28 February 2011

Greatest Love of All

I had this old VHS that I wore out to death: NBA Superstars. It was one of my first basketball videos and I'd watch it over and over again. At the time I had yet to have any music preferences so I just listened to all the artists featured on the video. Luckily for me, the artists and songs highlighted were pretty classic. Janet Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Kool Moe Dee, John Mellencamp, Yanni, Steely Dan, Whitney Houston. Each song was paired with an all pro and it was all so beautifully done. A few years ago NBA Entertainment released all three Superstars sets on one DVD. Only the first one is timeless, but for a few bucks it's a must buy for every basketball fan. Check out some of the videos and playlists from the first Superstars tape here. And this NBA Jam Session tape was my second favorite, but it never hit DVD sadly.

Of course, when I went to make my memory video of my first in-person Celtics game this weekend, I dipped into the Superstars playlist for a classic, Billy Joel's "This is the Time." Their version features NBA greats from the past; my version features my Saturday night at the Clippers versus Celtics game.

Basketball games I've attended in my lifetime: (1) Golden State Warriors versus Clippers when I was a teenager. My dad brought me because the Clippers were doing pre-season in San Diego and we sat way up. (2) Pistons versus Hawks, in college, when a group of us got tickets for the Palace and sat as high up as humanly possible. Dikembe Mutombo was an ant. (3) Lakers vs 76ers once on Christmas Day. Somehow my friend had box seats and George and I both went to see Iverson battle Kobe and Shaq. I thought that would be closest I'd ever get to a NBA game.

Oh no, this time around, we sat seriously three rows from the front. Like it was us, then two rows of VIP seating, then courtside seats. I've been telling people that we were well within the Splash Zone. Suffice to say, the only time I've been closer to a basketball game was when I'm sitting on the sidelines of a pickup game, waiting my turn.

How did I end up with such great seats? Well, my friend's girlfriend got him the tickets for his Valentine's Day present. And then she so kindly suggested that he take me. Initially I wasn't sure if I could take them up on their kind offer since I was clear across the country and flying in for a game seemed extravagant. But my friend said, "C'mon, it's once in a lifetime. Get here and we'll go. " So of course I had to come because this was my only chance to see Paul Pierce, KG, Rondo, and Ray Allen all together. No amount of money would be worth staying away. I love Valentine's Day! (Actually I think I just love my friend's girlfriend, but in a grateful way.)

You would cry too it if happened to you.

So how was the game? It was amazing of course. Everyone looks exactly like they do on TV, just life sized. It's weird. Celebrities tend to look different than they do on-screen, but sports people are just the same in person. Maybe I need to get closer or something. But what you can't feel at home is the absolute confidence and coolness of all the players.

The Clippers, who aren't even a good team, all carry themselves with swagger. Backup players are looking out into the stands as if they own the place. And when Blake Griffin is about to get loose for a dunk, the entire arena stands up in anticipation. He had two open court slams and a few other mighty ones. The man is a monster. And when they say Kevin Garnett just exudes cool, it's absolutely true. Just looking at these prime athletes walking around on the hardwood made me want to faint. "How do they walk around being so awesome all the time?"

The floor looks tiny though, like way smaller than it is on television. More narrow and not nearly as wide. The players look like they are all mushed together and it seems like there's no room anywhere. And when dunks or spurts of action happen, it's all incredibly fast. Blink and you miss the pass that leads to a score. You really gotta pay attention. I tried my hardest not to take pictures, video, or look at my phone because I needed to maximize my forty eight minutes of heaven. My hands started hurting from clapping so hard about halfway through the first quarter. I had to pace myself. I found myself yelling out non-sensical things even though I'm not much of a screamer.

I'm also not normally an autograph or picture guy but I was hoping maybe I'd sneak close enough to a player for one or the other. My semi-realistic goal was to say "hey" to Brian Doo, the Celtics strength and conditioning coach. He's always on TV and he's like the Asian face of the organization. Sadly, no Celtic came within hailing distance of me. However, my friend did get to meet Ben Baller, who is the new Jacob the Jeweler -- among many other things. Just the night before, my friend had been showing me Baller's blog and website and filling me in on his history. And then at halftime this blinged out Korean guy goes walking by and my friend's like, "It's Ben Baller!"

When he came by again, my friend congratulated Baller on his recent engagement and then we snapped a quick pic. The encounter made us seriously giddy and it was our biggest brush with celebrity that night. Unless you count Pat Sajak, who also walked by, looking all orange and old. Or Billy Crystal, who looked kinda bored and probably wished he had Oscar hosting prep to do. I did keep an eagle eye out for Bill Simmons but no luck there.

Afterwards, we drove back down to San Diego and immediately rewatched the game on DVR to see if we made any of the shots. Our seats were situated so that every time the teams transitioned from one end to the other, we appeared as little blurbs in the background. It's such a small thrill but man were we excited. I want to save that recording forever. During the game, we tried to jump out of our chairs before anyone else in order to get on TV but that clearly didn't work. Next time I need to wear my gear -- which we had run out of time to pick up beforehand. I have logo-ed out high rise socks, wrist bands, a jersey, and a sweatband, I swear!

This was quite possibly the best night of 2011 for me. And it's only February. Sorry March through December, it's all downhill from here. Thanks Hong and Jenn, Sweetest Day this year is on me!

27 February 2011

I Am Number Four (2011)

If you didn't know, this movie is the first result of James Frey's Fiction Factory. However you feel about his company, there's no denying that I Am Number Four has a great setup and premise. The story goes that there are nine alien survivors who are being hunted and killed in order. Each one has special powers with which to defend themselves -- and Earth. And really, Frey delivers on his big name promise by having Michael Bay produce and Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville) as writers. I had to watch this movie on curiosity alone and after viewing it I can say that it's just as great and terrible as you'd expect.

Timothy Olyphant is perfectly miscast, Dianna Agron is fantastic (despite some horrific head wear), and I guess Alex Pettyfer as the lead was bufferific okay. The real breakout star might be Australian Teresa Palmer, who plays the awesome ass kicking Number 6, and will hopefully feature prominently in the sequel. That sequel will hopefully be called "Number Five is Alive." I think I need to start reading this series, if only to find out what happens next.

25 February 2011

Family Business

Currently pushing: NBA's The Association, featuring the 2010-11 Boston Celtics. The third episode just came out and there are only two more left. Clearly episode four will be about the end of the regular season -- with a strong focus on the loss of Kendrick Perkins -- and then the season finale will be about the Celtics winning their eighteenth championship. Sorry to ruin the ending.

Thursday was the day I was scheduled to fly back to San Diego and also the NBA trading deadline. Already thrilled by the bevy of basketball happenings this week, I was afraid that I would be in the air when all the drama unfolded. Luckily my layover in Baltimore was three and a half hours long. I had the chance to stand by for an earlier flight but figured between my laptop and trying to keep tabs on what my beloved Celtics would do, I'd stick around Charm City. (For the record, I haven't hung out much in Baltimore but "Charm City" is a very unlikely moniker.) Anyway, as the trade deadline came and went, I kept hitting refresh on my sports feeds. Earlier, George and I had been texting back and forth, building excitement and discussing possibilities.

Lemme lay out the story for those uninitiated: The Boston Celtics have been one of the best teams in basketball this season and are the favorites to reach their second Finals appearance in a row. The only thing holding them back would be injuries. Missing an additional big body and a swingman, all Celtic fans knew that Danny Ainge had to do something. Often hailed as one of the savvier general managers in the game, I was excited for the magic Ainge would undoubtedly pull off. Personally, I was hoping for Shane Battier or Grant Hill, a couple of classy veterans whose experience, defense, and solid shooting would secure our title chances. Instead the deadline seemed to pass with the Celtics having done nothing.

Then I read on some NBA analyst's Twitter that the Celtics had agreed to trade Kendrick Perkins in exchange for Jeff Green. "Trade Kendrick Perkins!" I thought, "how ludicrous!" Perkins is our scowling center and the key to us defending the likes of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. After busting his knee in Game 5 of last year's Finals, Perkins' absence caused the Celtics to get pummeled inside as they eventually lost to the Lakers in seven games -- it hurts to type this, yes it does. There was no way we'd trade Kendrick!

Well, as the world now knows, we did trade him. Along with Nate Robinson. What we got back were two softies, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. It boggles the mind. I won't go into the pros and cons of this trade, or what made Danny do it, but read some analysis here if you want to. The jury is definitely out on whether or not this was a wise move. Along with trading away Perkins and Robinson, three other guys were moved for some roster space and future considerations. The Celtics starting five that had never lost a playoff series together is no more.

What hurts the most is that Kendrick Perkins loved being a Celtic. He was loyal, he cared, he worked hard to come back from injury, and he's never known another professional basketball home. It's possible he would have left this summer via free agency but Perk deserved to try to win one more ring with his guys. Reports are that he cried when he heard about the trade. Kevin Garnett, the heart and soul of the team, said it best: "Very tough day to play basketball, to even concentrate. Just being bluntly honest. You feel like you lost a family member today. Tough day."

Maybe this trade makes the Celtics a champion again. Maybe Jeff Green is actually good. Maybe the Big Shamrock can keep it healthy for a playoff run. Maybe Ainge is smarter than everyone else. Still, this trade is so painful. I swore I'd care less about sports after last season's Finals loss, but I guess I was all sucked in again.
"Selfishly, I wanted one more chance with them: Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rondo, Perkins, Baby and Doc, the only seven guys who mattered here. But that's the thing about sports -- 'them' always seems to change when you least expect it.... Doesn't matter how old you are, where you are in your life, where you're living…there's no feeling quite like your favorite team trading someone you genuinely liked."
-Bill Simmons on the trade (scroll down)-
In related news, I'm going to the Clippers versus Celtics game tomorrow. It's my first ever Celtics basketball game. I'm going to be sitting super close. I'm going to witness the first night of the Jeff Green experiment. I'm probably going to have one of the best times of my life. I'm probably going to be wearing my Celtics jersey and matching headband and long socks. But I won't be seeing Kendrick in Celtic green. Sigh.

19 February 2011

Vidal Sassoon: The Movie (2011)

I've seen more than my share of Blow Out and Tabatha's Salon Makeover. Okay, fine, I've seen every episode of the first two seasons of Blow Out okay? Don't judge me. I needed to know how a salon with my name on it would fare. Plus there is no drama like hair drama. Well, at the time anyway. Now everything from that show would probably be pretty tame. We've come far in reality salon television.

I've also seen more than my fair share of instructional hair videos, for I used to date a hairdresser and she taught me all about proper technique and gave me some insight into the art of hair styling. Those scissors she used to cart around were no joke. Having revealed all this, a documentary about Vidal Sassoon was obviously a must see.

Originally, this film was commissioned to be an eightieth birthday gift for Sassoon. Then it was expanded into a movie and therein lies the problem. It feels like a birthday gift. All positive testimonials and talking heads praising the impact Vidal had on the industry. I mean, yes, he did modernize the idea of a salon, and his five point haircut is a thing of beauty, but I would have enjoyed some more technical details or a bit more historical background -- and some analysis about why his ubiquitous hair product line collapsed. Still, the story of Sassoon is a compelling one, as he rose from humble beginnings to not only become an influential artist, but possibly the fittest octogenarian ever. The man is a crazy health nut! (I think I'd recommend Valentino: The Last Emperor over this movie though.)

The woman on the movie poster is Nancy Kwan. If you don't know who that is, my friend did a short post on Hyphen about her. Speaking of that poster: great photo, horrific tagline.

16 February 2011

Midnight Marauders

Listening to: T.V. Carpio, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." I saw Across the Universe when it came out but probably erased from my memory for the many scenes that were just utter ridiculousness. I should have paid attention to this Beatles cover by T.V. Carpio though as it's kinda killer. Carpio is now starring as Arachne on Broadway for the Spider-Man musical.

Few things make me happier in life than when someone asks me to help them start a blog. My answer is always: "Yes yes, a thousand times yes!" What I like even better is after they've started a blog and kept up with it, I ask them about a redesign. Or maybe they suggest that they need a new look. That's when I know I've got them hooked.

After doing a redesign on Reena's blog, I was starting to get jealous of all the doodads Blogger has. The last time I redid my blog was right before EC came out, which was about two years ago. Technology has come a long way since then and I needed to put my newfound skills to the test. Plus my site was looking dated and I like to keep it semi-fresh.

Let me just say that we are at the limits of my coding expertise. I was fine copy pasting HTML and stuff like that but now Blogger has gotten slightly too complicated for me and there are little things I get stuck on. Ameer suggested we take a proper programming class online through iTunes U but I'm not sure I have the time for it right now. I'm hoping he gets real good at it though, so I can ask him my programming questions. For the record, iTunes U is kind of amazing and I can't believe I just found out about it now.

Below I'm gonna summarize my redesign process, mainly so I can reference this when I do another look.
  1. Save the old template. This is really the most important step. I also do most of the initial redesign on a dummy blog.
  2. Think about what could happen with the site in the future. For me, there will be new books, new projects, and just more new. Thus I went with a three column layout. Plus I couldn't figure out how to get to two even if I wanted.
  3. Pick a template, usually off btemplates.com because they're easy to install. There are a ton of templates on here but I recommend starting with Adapted from Wordpress or one of the categories. Otherwise you'll go crazy looking.
  4. Use dafont.com to find a good header font. The header drives the entire look of the site I feel. I'm in love with dafont.com because you can preview the text and then download the files very easily. This time around, testing out various fonts took the longest. Font overload!
  5. Import the new template file and make all the necessary adjustments. Fine tune colors and little details.
  6. Add on the Sitemeter and Google Analytics code.
  7. Adjust the Blogger widgets. This step killed me because originally the site was only displaying posts in summary format with a "read more" link. I hate that. I couldn't figure out how to change it but then I hit a magic button and everything worked out somehow. Seriously, I detest websites that make me click to read more. I understand the utility on certain sites, but generally it's just annoying.
  8. This template auto-refreshes photos on the main page, which was a huge reason why I went with it. It took some time to find and cut pictures to 520x300 specifications and then throw in all the appropriate links and descriptions. I love rotating photos on my blogs so this is exciting indeed.
  9. Found fun icons for Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and RSS feed on the sidebar. Who doesn't love buttons? This may now be my favorite part of the site.
Problems still to be solved:
  • The navgation is wonky at the bottom of each page. It's hard to get to later posts or to go from one month to the other without accessing the archives.
  • Sidebar links are not in the right color. The small line height also annoys me.
  • Redo each EC book page to consolidate them.
  • Rewrite my bio and general text info.
Short of fixing a few minor things, the great blog revamp of 2011 is done. And it semi-coincides with my tenth blogging anniversay! Quick, I need another project. Everyone start blogging!

14 February 2011

212s & Heartbeats

Listening to: Theophilus London, "Why Even Try." This track features Sara of Tegan and Sara fame. We're watching Theophilus in concert tonight, after he tapes an appearance on Letterman. I didn't really know anything about him before agreeing to go to the concert; except that his first name is impossible to remember.

From what I can tell, that may soon not be a problem for him because he's got Pharrell/Kanye-lite potential. Apparently London used to be a music journalist, released a mixtape in 2009, and is "the most-connected man in alt-pop." His EP just came out last week, it's called Lovers Holiday.

After the concert, assuming it goes amazing, I could maybe say that I'm finally ahead of the curve on a music act. I mean, Mr. London doesn't even have a Wikipedia yet. I'm gonna be so in the know!

Update: We missed everything but the encore due to bad timing. From what I could tell, Theophilus is better through speakers than live. His Letterman performance confirmed it. Also Theo's dance is a double shuffle with one arm pointed out. You can't call that "my dance", it's just basic aerobics. I still have his tracks on repeat though.

I have the birthdate of an ex-girlfriend tattooed on my left arm. People shake their heads when I tell them what the numbers mean. The cardinal rule of getting tattoos is to never get a significant other's name, etc. embedded on your body. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the wisest move, as that girlfriend and I broke up about a year later. Was I so deep into the relationship that I thought this would last forever when I got it? Not really. We had been only dating for six months or so. But it felt right and I've never regretted it.

When I decided to get the tattoo, I didn't exactly consult her. I basically said, "Hey, I'm getting a tattoo of your birthday." She asked once if I was sure before I announced that I was doing it pretty much either way. In theory it could have been seen as a gesture. A sign that we were clearly going places because of my willingness to etch something in permanent ink. But because I gave her no say, discounting her potential positive or negative opinion, it probably wasn't a gesture on any level. Especially a romantic one.

I called her about an hour before I went into the shop and she arrived as I was paying and thanking my artist. The whole thing took about twenty minutes from smooth start to itchy finish. A few days later, the wound started oozing little droplets from infection.

Having now been in New York for three months -- right around the time when I usually get antsy -- I'm still digging it. The weather has curtailed a few activities but for the most part I'm just as enamored with the city as before. I don't see an end in sight, which is a good thing. I'm still exploring and excited about everything.

A few weeks ago I met a guy who's been more transient than I am. He's been traveling the country, and a bit of the world, with just a rucksack and a guitar. We traded notes on packing light, the constant ebb and flow of friendly faces, and what internal signs usually mark the beginning of our exits. One conversation we didn't have is what we're looking for in a particular place. I think it's because we both understand that you don't find what you're looking for in a physical location. After all, situations change, places change, and people definitely change. What's that axiom? You can't return whence you came?

Actually I butchered that. Google tells me James Baldwin said, "Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go." That's fitting since I'm headed back to where I came, just for a little bit. Then I'll be back. So let's end with another Baldwin quote: "Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

No, I have no idea what that means either.

Starting tonight, Watson, a super computer, will be facing off with past Jeopardy champions in a much hyped battle. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a ridiculous ratings grab. Of course Watson would win with its unbeatable reflexes and limitless electronic brain. Where's the suspense? Then I read this article, "Why IBM's Jeopardy-Playing Computer Is So Important," about how the programming challenge was to make the computer figure out what it was looking for amid Jeopardy's "nuance, puns, double entrendres and complex language designed to mislead human contestants." Great point. So I guess the lesson here is that it doesn't matter how intelligent you are if you don't know what you're looking for.

Here is a fan maintained database that has been archiving Jeopardy questions for quite some time. Take a look because it's insanely comprehensive. Can somebody please make this an app already?

09 February 2011

The Obvious Knife

Currently pushing: The Bechdel Test. I thought I was late to the party on this one but I found out about it a few months ago and have been asking around to see who else knew it. Very few people in my circle apparently. So here it is: The Bechdel Rule states that a film must follow these three rules: (1) It includes at least two women (2) who at some point talk to each other (3) about something other than a man.

Alison Bechdel, the creator of the rule, said this during an io9 interview from 2008, "For me, the Rule is kind of like feminism in a bottle -- applied theory, quick and easy. I think whatever name one gives it, the rule should be applied to everything everywhere, including real life." Here's the comic in which the rule originally appeared, written in 1985.

Holy crap, I somehow missed my ten year blogoversary. I started blogging in October of 2000 and whiffed on the big date last year by four months. That must mean something. There was no party or confetti like I thought there would be. Maybe I can plan something with pizza and laptops. But that might infringe on my dream bachelor party scenario. Well, either way, happy tenth blogging anniversary to me!

I started my first blog while interning at A.Magazine, which is now defunct and a distant memory. It was my first job out of college and many of my posts described office life. Like the time Curtis from Big Brother Season 1 used my desk to participate in an online chat. That was a brush with famousness. Throughout the decade, my blog has basically been my best friend. Or at least the friend I've been most dedicated to. I mean, I have thrown hundreds of thousands of words at it, it's always been there for me, and it's led directly to my writing career. What else can I ask for? "His best friend was his blog," would actually make for a pretty pathetic epitaph actually. I better work on fixing that.

Sometimes people ask me what's the point of having such a long running blog. Well, just the other day a friend told me about how her family still has her (great?) grandmother's diaries. By reading them, my friend found out about stuff like their shared love of films and how her grandmother would trek into town to see the latest movies. That's pretty rad right? One day my great nephews/nieces or something will find out that we share the same passion for Wizard of Oz. Except the version they're familiar with would have starred CGI versions of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. Or I guess Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus?

My old answer to any problem in life used to be "start a blog." I think that still holds true.

I keep reading about the death of blogging and even if the naysayers are correct, I refuse to believe it. Okay, fine, almost everyone I used to follow has stopped blogging. And among my friends, maybe ten percent remain committed bloggers from our heyday ten years ago. Now it's all about Facebook and Twitter or nothing at all. People are over the novelty of sharing, and blogging is now a thing that sucks away time and energy. I can't even say I'm sad because these days I'm just happy when anyone posts. The other day my friend mentioned that he might resurrect his blog -- defunct since 2006 -- and I wanted to reach across the country and give him a hug.

Lately I've been recommending that people start Tumblrs versus blogs. It's theoretically the same thing of course but the ease of use of Tumblr, and the simple way to follow and "like" things wins out for the casual user. Actually Tumblr isn't even for the casual user anymore as major magazines, professionals of all types, and celebrities are all Tumblr-ing away. I mean, check out Dianna Argon's Tumblr, which is all sorts of normal looking except for the Glee people and movie star stuff on it. Tumblr is the new coolness. But something will come along to take that away from Tumblr and Blogger will still remain. My loyalty for Blogger is pretty deep, and really, shouldn't Google be hiring me to say this over and over? Oh wait, I already do this, for free.
"This saturation of opinion dripped into the personal blogging sphere as well, with Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter becoming the preferred mode for oversharing, the sharing sort of being the point, and aggregation.

To establish the very basics, the personal blog took the form of a passive Web site that offered a glimpse into one's inner life to anyone interested, whereas these networks broadcast these thoughts to friends, who would presumably be best suited to receive them, and who in turn used these networks over the others, without having to trudge through, say, Wordpress."
-The End of Blogging-

04 February 2011

The Smartest Suckas in the Room

Listening to: The Radio Dept, "Heaven's On Fire" and "David." Their music is categorized as dream pop, twee pop, and shoegaze. "Musicians in these bands stood relatively still during live performances in a detached, introspective, non-confrontational state, hence the idea that they were gazing at their shoes."

After some back and forth and more last minute decision making, I ended up going to a concert last night. My rules for concerts had been pretty strict but I knew the band, the venue was right down the street, and my friend was willing to go. After buying some walk up tickets and skipping the opening act for some mussels and fries nearby, we went inside and I found out the answer to the question that had been haunting me hours before: "Is Radio Dept gonna be good live?"

The answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Sometimes with these indie pop bands their music can be too mellow and everyone just stands around pretending they are into it but really falling asleep. Radio Dept's music didn't strike me as terribly dancey while listening at home but on stage, just about every song was terrific, melodic, and upbeat. I could have danced if there was any room. Their set was awfully short and they left in melodramatic fashion -- exiting the stage one by one -- without an encore. In theory I applaud their unwillingness to bend to the tyranny of the traditional encore but in reality I wasn't emotionally ready for them to stop playing.

A short while afterward, my friend's friends were familiar with the band and they were all standing outside sharing cigarettes. The guy who knew them had literally travelled all over the world to watch Radio Dept in concert. He referenced a show in Barcelona they had done two years ago, and pointed out some songs they had never played live before. He was obsessively knowledgeable. It was great. I like people like that. For example, a week or so ago, I was eating with some chefs and I got a lot of very specific food knowledge -- a lot on oysters -- and I felt satiated both physically and mentally.

So please, if you know about something to an almost embarrassing degree, feel free to show off around me! I'm totally open to it. I'll even throw in a pat on the back and some unprovoked "Wow's."

There's a pretty big gap between obsession and fandom. I'm a fan of many things, but probably not actually obsessed with anything. Well that may not be true. But I wouldn't say I was a leading expert in anything. I tend to settle for upper-ish mediocrity though, so that's okay. I guess a better question would be what things would be most considered obsessions in your life? And if you don't have any, why not? (Wait I just possibly nerfed myself.)

Comedian Patton Oswald has a book out, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, in which he offers up the theory that "creative teens gravitate toward three subjects for their early stories: zombies, spaceships, or wastelands." There's also a recent Wired article by him about geek culture. Some of the article is nonsensical and silly but I liked what he had to say about how geekery has invaded the public at large.
"In Japan, the word otaku refers to people who have obsessive, minute interests -- especially stuff like anime or videogames. It comes from a term for 'someone else’s house' -- otaku live in their own, enclosed worlds. Or, at least, their lives follow patterns that are well outside the norm.
[Nowadays] everyone considers themselves otaku about something -- whether it’s the mythology of Lost or the minor intrigues of Top Chef. American Idol inspires -- if not in depth, at least in length and passion -- the same number of conversations as does The Wire. There are no more hidden thought-palaces -- they’re easily accessed websites, or Facebook pages with thousands of fans."
-Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die-

01 February 2011

Shiny Happy People

Listening to: Phil Collins, "Against All Odds." As a friend duty, I'm compiling a list of my friend's top five karaoke songs. I figure it's a service that will pay off in the near future since we karaoke weekly. During these karaoke sessions I'm introduced to many songs that were once popular but I completely missed out on. So now I associate these songs with my friends, instead of the original artist. I usually prefer my friends' versions. Get thee to a studio, friends, so I can listen to you on shuffle and one track repeat.

During a dinner conversation last week, I commented to someone that he's always got friendship rivalries going on. I noted that there's usually some pair of friends in his life that are either subtly or overtly trying to secure or win a higher place on his friend totem. This got me thinking about how to create your own friend rivalry. But before we get into that, let's talk a few basic types of friend rivalries.

(1) First, there's the equitable friend rivalry. Two really great friends, two equally valuable people who might even play similar roles in your life. The more the merrier you'd think, but for some reason, these two people just can't get along. You've tried to bring them together and to plan some trio brunches but at the end of the day, "any friend of yours is a friend of mine" just gets proved false once again. The niche these two occupy in the context of your life is too small for them to ever get along. Or they're just way too opposite because they survive in independent friend ecosystems. This type of rivalry is usually subtle as neither party wants to smear their own reputation by bad mouthing the other VIP in your life. There's some real intensity here but also some great respect.
NBA Parallel: Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson.

(2) Then there's the one sided rivalry, where a friend thinks h/she's in competition with another friend but in reality, they are so far behind their target that they're never actually in BFF contention. Keep in mind, friend rivalries don't apply just to best friends, it can be for anything. The plus one for a wedding, the extra ticket to that play you scored from work, or the top spot in your phone's favorites list. Feel free to consult the Friend Hierarchy for positions that could be rivalried about. In the one sided rivalry, one person is definitely waging a campaign to take down the other -- friend war is declared and openly discussed. The unassailable friend barely cares about this matchup though because they know they'll win. Think of a sports team who is 30-2 all time versus another team but the media keeps playing it up as a rivalry and often fails. Remember, proximity does not necessarily equal rivalry.
NBA Parallel: Los Angeles Lakers versus Los Angeles Clippers.

(3) The historical rivalry. This isn't what it sounds like. While there could be a lot of actual history for this rivalry, I'm talking more about when one person competes against the ghost of another friend. "Did you ever tell ____ this? Am I the first person to have ever done ____ with you?!" This kind of rivalry is more common than you might think; and awfully common in relationships. There's nothing tangible placing these two figures in competition but one party is so obsessed with what the other one has done in the past, the heights that have been achieved before them, that they are determined to match and exceed it. The hidden tragedy is that they are competing with the past and will have to overachieve by a wide margin in order to combat the halcyon memories of yesteryear.

As the person at the fulcrum of this type of rivalry, it's very easy to milk this for good or for evil. "You know, Brent used to always make sure he got my coffee order right, and he even went back the one time they messed it up. I really liked that about him." I'm guilty of this one quite a bit, as all it takes is a little historical competition for me to be motivated to be a better friend. I'm always gunning for that almost top spot as you should know.
NBA Parallel: Kobe Bryant versus Michael Jordan.

(4) Another very common rivalry is the new kid on the block type. Sometimes when you gush over a new person, the old friend starts to feel a little slighted. "Wait," he thinks, "we used to do that. He used to talk about me that way." This creates anxiety in the old friend as they see the potential threat of this new friend. Don't be surprised if oldie inexplicably turn their noses up at your new friendship or says things like "Whatever, you'll be over that in a few weeks. Let's see how long this lasts."

When you introduce them to each other, the new friend will be super nice and say "I heard so much about you!" while the old friend will likely dismiss them to take a fake phone call. Oftentimes this type of rivalry is mostly hype and only time can tell if it actually evolves into something real. The newbie has to achieve some success that actually bruises the oldie's friend ego before this can properly be called a rivalry.
NBA Parallel: Miami Heat versus Boston Celtics.

(5) Last, there's the hate rivalry. These two friends detest each other. Given the chance, they'd tear each other apart and you have to do your damnedest to not to even mention them to each other. Usually this comes about because the two of them had some sort of falling out and both sides can't believe that you're still friends with the other one. The hate rivalry goes a little overboard and you wish they would just get along so you don't have to panic about having them in the same room at your thirty third birthday or second wedding or something. This type of friend rivalry is not only dangerous all around but also the best for bystanders and media types (aka your other friends).
NBA Parallel: Los Angeles Lakers versus Boston Celtics.

Okay this got way too long so I'm going to save the "How to Create and Maintain a Friend Rivalry 101" for a later post. Maybe I'll bring in a guest writer, my friend who I made this rivalry observation about. A true expert in the field. That would be exciting right?

Actually I'm pretty sure I missed a few broad friend rivalry categories, but there could probably be an infinite number. I will define them all in due time. It's good to make life goals.