23 March 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

Currently Pushing: Paris Review's Culture Diaries. I've been following this for a second, dating back to Maud Newton's week. I've also been following New York magazine's Sex Diaries, because of this article, but you know, I like the culture one better.

I like to know what people do every day -- not the actual quotidian stuff, more the what's on their mind and what they're thinking about bits. The Culture Diaries make references to things I know nothing about, and that's always exciting.

Oftentimes I wish I could sit around watching my friends browse the Internet. While this may seem absolutely boring to most people, I like to observe people's online habits. Do they save pages for later, do they type fast, do they read or skim, what sites do they open first in the day? There's a few startups focused on doing exactly this. But I can't begin to think how enough people would want to share their browsing habits. Then again, maybe there are people out in the world who do care about these things. I for one, would be fascinated to study people's interactions with the Internet.

Actually, recently I was reading an article about how Twitter has (positively) changed people's lives. Most of my real life friends do their best to avoid social media, treating it as both invasive and a bother. One great point someone made in the article was that discovering an outside world of prolific Tweeters, Tumblrs, and reposters has provided them interaction with people who are also hard wired to be networkers. See, I'm always trying to push stuff on people. "Try this, download that, click on here." I have this need to share things that I think are awesome. In my normal life, few people are like that, so I find that I'm usually the one throwing stuff at people, hoping something will stick.

However, my attitude recently has changed. Instead of trying to push things to the people with built in resistance, I'm just gonna throw it out there and if you want to explore it, you do. If you don't, I'm gonna call off the full court press. Probably for your benefit as well as mine. (This should probably be added to my list of 2011 declarations.) This clearly applies more to my real life experiences since my online existence is all about pushing things. Sorry Internet, I'm still gonna digital vomit all over you.

With that said, in a related conversation with someone the other day, we were categorizing our friends based on how well they listen to others. Not in general, but very specifically in the area of taking advice. We decided that some people approach us genuinely seeking answers and suggestions but some people approach us seeking an opinion that will not necessarily lead to change or actual consideration of our position. We've discovered that this is merely the advice askers performing their due diligence.

Short and hypothetical example. My friend is about to buy a laptop. H/she decides to consult me for whatever reason, probably knowing I sort of know about such things. They already know I'm a pro-Mac consumer; of course I'd suggest a Mac all other things being equal. In this case, after weeks of walking them through variations of "just get a Mac," it turned out that what they really wanted was the validation of having talked to a Mac person before heading out to buy a PC.

I'm not objecting to being consulted. I mean, I'm fully capable of giving someone advice with their viewpoint in mind and generally like to help. While I'd personally never recommend a Macbook Air, I could suggest one to you if you lay out the qualifications and proper reasoning. The part I'm giving up on is fighting for the sale. I'm through getting invested in a life decision when it's pretty clear you're just looking to be contrarian. In the future I'll submit my recommendation and then be done with it. We'll both go through the motions so that everyone feels better in the end. I'd rather turn my attention to the people who can be easily swayed to my side. I'd only like to evangelize to the weak minded and quickly influenced, that's my new qualification!

I mean, there's a very short list of things people call on me to consult for -- probably for good reason. But when I know something, I know it, and I'm assuming you came to me with some trust in hand. I shouldn't have to expend too much energy arguing over every point and then having my pros and cons being refuted by "but I read an article on it and it said...."

Congratulations, I've read thirty articles on the same topic. And another fifteen on articles about those articles. Maybe next time you just do your own research and stop asking me. I'm fired up with zealous fervor on this one, can you tell?

Another thing we realized, while talking about this issue, is how when giving/receiving relationship advice, it's pretty much clear that 95% of it will not be listened to. I mean, when was the last time your friend actually listened to you about breakup advice? Or actually did the thing he had agreed was in his best interest post-discussion?

Somehow though, this doesn't make either my friend or I offended. I mean, I guess I've stopped giving much friend advice anymore, as most people are just looking for reasons to continue doing what they're doing. I'm actually really good at that, so feel free to call on me for "yes's." I can be quite convincing on the positive aspects of adultery and/or why an on-and-off eight year relationship between two people on separate continents is a good idea.

To sum it all up, here's what everyone should do: Do what you want! Strip away the in-between consulting with people you aren't going to be listening to anyway. Just go straight to doing it your own way.

I mean, that's what I do.

18 March 2011

4 Seasons of Loneliness

Listening to: Relentless Miracles, "Your Consolation Prize: A (Late) Mix for Valentine’s Day." This is my friend's annual mix and this time around it's "inspired by Xavier Dolan's The Heartbeats, 2046, In the Mood for Love, patterned wiggle dresses on Etsy, and snowfall in Trinity Cemetery, love over distance, and heavy bang-ed girls." What else you need to know? Go download it now.

Over this sure to be rainy weekend, there will be a Girl Talk concert, a disco night, a keg and bhangra party, and possibly a Sunday twang thang birthday that involves country, western, bluegrass, and rockabilly. Of course my attendance at all of these events will probably be non-existent because I need to be writing. Plus, did I mention it's raining?

The only thing I actually have to venture out for this weekend is book club, where we're reading Pride and Prejudice. The bonus book is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, something I've been avoiding for years. But since I've read Pride and Prejudice before and didn't want to rebuy it, I figured I might as well find out what the fuss is all about. I've never read a zombie book; I'm much more a vampire guy. Actually wait, no, I'm much more a Frankenstein guy.

Slate's Culture Gabfest was live at SXSW this week and they were talking about the new Jane Eyre movie. During their discussion, Julia mentioned that there were Bronte girls versus Austen girls. Immediately I started categorizing everyone I knew as one or the other. If you're unclear as to the difference, think Twilight versus Gossip Girl, respectively. Those are not my comparisons, it's from this Washington Post article. Here's some additional notes to help determine which one you are.
"Austen drew her drama from the world she knew. Her characters are engaged in real endeavors: dancing, trying to make or keep money, marrying, courting, gossiping. You’d never catch Mr. Darcy mooning about the moors in a raging snowstorm or locking up a crazy wife in his attic.

The Brontes drew their drama from the imagination, pouring passion and emotion into gothic tales of star-crossed lovers. Insanity. Revenge. Passion. Ghosts. Heathcliff, the hero of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, is memorable indeed, but he doesn’t talk like any guy you've ever met."
-The Austen vs. Bronte Smackdown-

"Jane Austen is easy to love. Her heroines are smart; her heroes are righteous. People say funny things and wear lovely clothes and spend a lot of time going to balls or sitting in drawing rooms, meaning that the scenery is just gorgeous. Everything ends happily for everyone who deserves it.

The Brontes are more difficult. Things don’t end well. The writing is beautiful, but Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff -- Charlotte and Emily’s two most famous heroes -- are basically thugs in morning coats. They say savage things. They emotionally torture the women they claim to love. They keep other women locked in attics and blame drunken housekeepers for bumps in the night. Things burn. People die."
-The Battle of the Bonnet-
My initial instinct was that I was a Bronte girl/person. I like Wuthering Heights a lot more than Sense and Sensibility, etc. And I once took a class on the Brontes -- just me, two other guys, and fifty women. In theory I like the idea of tortured love and moody atmospheres but then I read those descriptions above and decided that I was kidding myself. Of course I'm an Austen girl. I mean, I have the overt emotional capacity of an ant and I'd prefer a good gossip fest over just about anything, especially passionate declarations of feelings. Plus the moors tend to be stormy and I already shared how I feel about rain. So really, I'm a Jane with delusions of being an Emily. Or at least a Branwell.

I'm excited to have this new dichotomy to categorize people by, as the Team Twilight thing was only taking me so far. And yes I'm fully aware that Austen versus Brontes pre-dates Edward/Jacob by about two hundred years but it still feels fresh to me. Either way, be ready with an answer when I ask which one you are. Thanks.

And if you are into basketball, went to Michigan, or simply watched the Fab Five documentary last weekend, no doubt you're aware of the Jalen Rose versus Grant Hill talk. The lesson here, as I should probably learn, is that simplyfying things into "us versus them" is generally a terrible idea.

I kind of can't stop though.

Lately we've been working on a theory that posits that two of our friends represent opposing poles and you're either in one person's camp or the other. Camp Jason versus Camp Henry (not their real names). One is meticulous and a perfectionist. One flies by the seat of his pants and eschews details. One has quite a strong moral center, the other is basically a klepto. One prefers a more traditional type of ramen, the other likes it nuevo gunky. They are opposites but yet insufferably the same.

Both can sometimes be hard to get along with, are always impossible to argue against, and are ultimately wrong -- and right -- about things with random measure. Both are great people of course, but the underlying philosophies they represent help locate where our other friends sit on the spectrum. I know this makes no sense but I'm working on a clearer explanation, with examples and pictures and graphs. Maybe I'll even make a Powerpoint.

16 March 2011

Sonic Boom

Listening to: Tegan and Sara, "Call It Off." I lean toward being a Sara person, but this track is Tegan. If you can't tell them apart, NPR is here to help. I didn't need the primer because I just knew.

The first day back in San Francisco, I spent the better part of a work day listening to my CD for testing audio, a task Ameer had set before me earlier in the week. He said that I needed to pick a few songs and use them exclusively for testing speaker quality. After spending an hour or two assembling my dozen songs, I was psyched to try everything out on Ameer's various audio setups.

For the record, most of my music is sent through generic iPhone headphones, which are pretty crappy. I travel light so having a speaker setup is beyond my means. The best quality I usually get from my audio setup is whatever speakers my car is outfitted with. Tragically, my one week in San Diego was speaker-less as my Honda's stereo is mysteriously out of commission. I like my music loud and overwhelming usually.

Anyway, earlier in the week, I shared this video of Jimmy Iovine talking about the Beats lineup of headphones (an interesting listen if you care about the music industry) and that got Ameer and I talking about all sorts of related items. He insisted that we test out his new purchases and I was more than happy to join him. At dinner post-airport, I got a mini-education on analog versus digital and afterwards we perused his collection of old speaker manuals.

Ameer's dad had saved all his manuals from the 1970s and they were preserved in perfect condition. Like father, like son! These things weren't simple set up and play instructions in a few different languages like you'd see today. They were more akin to manuals that taught you about how stereos worked, with lots of graphs and charts and techy language.

Informed and learned, I'm ready to change my listening ways. Ad ingenium faciendum.

In the movie The Secret In Their Eyes, a theory is proposed: "A guy can change anything. His face, his home, his family, his girlfriend, his religion, his God. But there's one thing he can't change. He can't change his passion." One of Ameer's many passions is music so I'll let him tell the story of his speakers. And of our continued search for something called the MQ101 or MQ 102. Right now those equalizers are Ameer's Moby Dick, and I'm his Starbuck. Ahoy.

Also, if you haven't seen The Secret In Their Eyes, it's kind of great. I rewatched it for Sam's For the Love of Film series last month and was reminded of how fantastic the film was. Now to find my passion, the thing I can't change! Goodness I hope it's not oversleeping. Can that be a passion?

10 March 2011

Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon

Currently Pushing: Katie Baker, "Sweet Valley High, the Great Retweening, and Why Boys Won't Read." I didn't know who Ms. Baker was until I found out she was one of Bill Simmons' first recruits for his new sports and pop culture website.

Since then I've been catching up on her stuff, such as The Confessions Of A Former Adolescent Puck Tease and other articles. Frankly, you should like Katie based on just her bio from the Sweet Valley High article: "Katie Baker had a Kirsten, and then was a Dawn (but was really a Kristy) before settling into life as a Miranda."

Another article I've been mulling over is this How Sassy (Should Have) Changed My Life one by Carlene Bauer. I read the book she's referring to a few years ago and thought it was wonderful. I referred to it often for inspiration and research while writing the EC sequel. In reading How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, it made me I wish I had known about it then. Of course, I wasn't a teen girl but I wonder what kind of impact it might have had on me? Or would I have just dismissed it as one of George's magazines lying around? The only magazines I remember her having around a lot was Bop. Maybe YM too. And Highlights.

If you didn't know, Tavi aka Style Rookie and Jane Pratt, the founding editor of Sassy (at the ripe old age of twenty four) are starting up a new magazine for teen girls. Color me excited.

When I was younger, like middle school, any time I wanted to learn about a topic, I turned to the magazine rack. For example, I went through a brief hockey phase where I wanted to know what the sport was all about. So I'd buy a few magazines, read them over and over to absorb the names and associations, and then start watching the games. I did the same thing with football. I'd study those suckers like they were textbooks.

And then in high school when I felt my knowledge of cars was severely lacking, I bought magazines and Consumer Reports and tried to memorize as many makes and models and horsepower specifications as possible. A few months later, I had some basic car knowledge to semi-understand my car geek friends when they talked about V6s and inline fours. This magazine education also worked for learning about military vehicles and airplanes. Remember those programs where you'd get a new pack of information cards to fill your binder with every month? For some reason I was subscribed to a lot of those for all sorts of random things. What was that all about?

I was thinking today about how easy it is to get into a sub-culture nowadays. Everything is on the internet so if you were a kid who wants to say, get into indie music or something, you just follow a few blogs, start aping what they suggest, and you're in! You don't even have to go to concerts or curate things for yourself. I feel like it was much harder back in the day because in order to even be exposed to a scene, you had to stumble into it or have someone lead the way. I feel like this is why the younger generation are so cool nowadays. Or is each successive generation just cooler than the one before them? Ha, who am I kidding, my generation is the coolest of them all!

What does "cool" even mean nowadays? I feel like I have that discussion a lot.

08 March 2011

Never Together Never

Listening to: The Beatles, "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" A large portion of my Saturday night was spent playing Rock Band: Beatles. My knowledge of the Fab Four is pretty slim but now I realize their genius. This track is now my theme song. Well, I'd prefer if it was named "Do You Want to Tell Me a Secret? Yes You Do," but it's still pretty good like this. I may be sixty years late on Beatles-mania but hey I'm here.

So for a long time, my friend has been insisting that many couples end up together because they look alike. Now I'm no expert on the science of attraction but I thought his observation was bogus. I went through mental snapshots of who my friends ended up with long term and most of them didn't look like one another. Then we started shifting through pictures. Hum. Our other friend, who we think married way out of his league, if you look closely at their features, they do kinda look alike! After a few more such examples, I conceded that there could be some truth to my friend's theory. Plus, casual science backs it up a little because who are we if not narcissistically attracted to someone who kind of looks like our reflections?

Well today I'm reading about this dating website, findyourfacemate.com, that finds you a date based on similar features and now my friend looks like a genius. "The results suggest that the observation of facial resemblance among couples appears to reflect a real phenomenon.... The site won't always match you with people who look like your twin. 'It's not [perfect] symmetry as much as it is shape and structure.'" So for all you singles out there, just keep a sharp eye out for someone who looks kind of like you and then make the move. Unless you're related, in which case, well. That's something they'll have to work out in the algorithm I guess.

Recently Lilly wrote about Singles' Guilt and what that's all about. It's kind of a must read so I'll wait here patiently while you go check it out.

Over the past year or so, some friends who meet my normal group of friends have remarked on how many of us are single. I mean, we're of the age where couples and babies are pretty normal. But my San Francisco friends for example, nine out of ten were single for most of 2010. Not like "unmarried" but single single. And um, with no prospects on any horizon. And out of my main group of friends in San Diego, that ratio is about seven out of ten. Does like attract like? Are we keeping each other in perpetual singledom by hanging out together? Probably.

And yes, I'm excited to keep everyone single till the end of time so we can all still hang out in our dotage. We'll solve one of the great fears of being single in your thirties (being alone in your eighties) by building a commune and having board games every night! Who needs couples and just one lifelong companion when you can have twenty! I'm not sure how my friends feel about my diabolical plan but I'm excited to continue my quest to corner the market on single friends. So if you want to stay perpetually alone and never find your one true love, we should probably be hanging out.

Also, I had no idea what OTP stood for till last week. One True Pairing. Sweet eh?