25 September 2011

Once More with Feeling

In a few days I'll be embarking on my first cross country driving trip, from San Francisco to New York. Twenty year old me would have been mighty disappointed that he had failed to make such a journey during his reign. Thirtysomething me is mostly concerned with amenities along the way. Mainly which diners I'll be able to eat sandwiches and drink coffee in.

There's been plenty of opportunities for me to drive cross country before this but I never jumped on any of them. I guess I was just waiting for the perfect situation. Apparently that perfect situation consists of driving in a dying car with no AC, no stereo system, and a friend who comes self-advertised as "not the greatest driver." The good news is that I hate driving long distances. Like going from San Diego to Los Angeles is about my max. The longest drive I've ever participated in was post-9/11, from Manhattan to Ann Arbor in one ten hour burst. Going 3000+ miles will probably take much longer.

The idea of this particular friend and I setting off across the country has raised some alarm in our social circle. "Wait, are you sure? Just you two? Seriously? But you guys got lost going to Napa." We tried to recruit a third person but who has the time nowadays to just set off across the country on a whim? Nobody, that's who. So basically this trip is going to be a misadventure. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

For example, my friend also wants to go camping in Zion. Neither of us know anything about camping. In a pinch I could probably zip/unzip things and tap out some vowels in Morse code but that's about it. I'm leaving my friend in charge of planning this particular excursion. I mean, I already volunteered to bring a flashlight.

Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty went cross country fueled by adrenaline and drugs. Leslie and I will be fueled by the Janet Jackson discography and fear of flying off the road. It should be exciting. In order to prevent total catastrophe, I'm going to tweet prolifically so people can keep track of our progress and possibly pinpoint our location for the authorities or the tow truck, whichever is needed first.

I have no idea when the term "bucket list" became so ubiquitous but I sort of hate it because not only was the movie terrible -- not that I've ever watched it -- but the term just sounds kind of stupid. A bucket list consists of things you want to do before you die right? Why not just say that? Anyway, since I'm possibly putting my life on the line with this drive, I'll allow myself the use of "bucket list" just once.

Driving cross country is one of the few things that's always been on my bucket list and after accomplishing this fancy feat, there won't be many more items left. Which means I've either achieved it all and can just wallow in my accomplishments, or more likely, I need to aspire to more.

19 September 2011

New Horizons to Pursue

I've been on a Dev Hynes kick this past week or so. After reading through stuff about Weeknd and Frank Ocean, someone referred to Hynes as the progenitor of their sound. While I'm still a bit flummoxed by that assertion, there's no doubt that I love his Lightspeed Champion stuff.

Oh right, Hynes is already three musical personas deep, from punk rock (Test Icicles) to indie folk (Lightspeed Champion) to synth pop (Blood Orange).
"I'm always weary of connotations. I don't want people to listen to the music I make presently because they liked my previous work, or to dismiss it because they didn't. I'm guilty of this as well -- having preconceptions about other artists -- but it's stupid because all music exists on its own and should be listened to with a clear head. That's what I'm hoping to achieve by giving different names to each new project I begin."
-Interview with Dev Hynes-
Aside from his constant genre switches, Hynes also has an interesting approach to making music. He's also a producer and song writer and his recordings often are things meant for other artists, or they are just experiments he's testing out. He isn't afraid to just put throw stuff down and go where his creativity takes him. His latest record, the recently released Coastal Grooves, is done from a "melodramatic female perspective."
"On Coastal Grooves, Blood Orange’s full-length debut, the 25-year-old British ex-pat imagines his Brooklyn neighborhood as a romantic wonderland, infused with endless possibility and sexual confusion. Most of the album’s 10 bedroom transmissions are written from a feminine point of view, which is no accident. Having spent the better part of the last year writing songs for Solange Knowles and Florence and the Machine, Hynes can comfortably assume what he calls a "melodramatic female perspective" -- in fact, it suits him perfectly. He’s never played by the rules."
-Devonté Hynes is Burning-
Also, Hynes has synesthesia, which allows him to literally see sounds. John Mayer has the same neurological condition, but Mayer's is slightly different as he sees colors when he hears sounds. Looking over the list of artists who "suffer" from synesthesia is like looking over a roster of X-Men. Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Nabokov, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Duke Ellington... I'm hoping my super powers will kick in soon too.

Regardless of how you feel about Hynes' music there's much to admire about his constant experimentation, the re-imagining of his style, his willingness to be angry, playful, romantic, etc. and overall prolificness.

16 September 2011

The Game of Publishing

One day I'd like to design a board game that allows you to experience the ups and downs of a writer's life. It'd be super complicated and not straight up boring like Monopoly -- although I do love me some Monopoly.

I'd pattern it after Settlers and the other German games, with their more advanced and involved mechanics. It not only has to be engaging but also informative and educational. Creating such a game would be quite the challenge but if done right, it would be amazingly fun! Luckily I know how to make it just right.

There would be a general path you'd have to advance on of course, but it would also have some branching options where you can flex your powers of free will. Plus every player would have to accumulate cash and reputation points in order to buy things like equipment and good karma. Event cards would also dictate much of the action, similar to Community Chest and Chance.
Create a writing schedule and swear to stick to it: Spin your playing token in a furious circle, like an angry dreidel. Do not actually move the token forward or backwards any spaces.

Hit your word count for the day: Move forward one space. If you draw this card again, move forward two spaces. If you draw it a third time, move forward four spaces. A fourth time, move forward eight spaces. And so on.

Find a critique group: Choose someone at the table to become partners with. You will now revel in each other's successes while supporting each other through setbacks. If you pull this card again, choose another person to join your duo and decide if you want to be referred to as "The ____ Mafia" instead.
An agent wants to see a full manuscript: Move forward three spaces and roll D6 to see how many weeks before you get a reply.

Bidding war ensues: The banker flings a handful of (play) money in the air. Grab as much as you can before they fall to the ground. Other players must rate your effort as "nice, very nice, good, significant, or major" while clapping enthusiastically.

Keep the day job: Collect $X each time you complete one pass of the board. Collect $X times 2 if you're a lawyer. Collect $X divided by 2 if you work in publishing.

Decide to self publish: Draw three extra cards and keep them in your hand. You can play these cards at any time but which one is randomly chosen by another player.

Throw a book party: Roll a D20 to see how many people attend, D100 if you're famous or in your hometown. D4 if you're anti-social and people generally dislike you.

Publisher gives you their cover design: Change your playing token to the first thing you find in the person sitting to your right's pocket. Hope you love it!

Debut day: Roll a D100,000,000 to see which Amazon rank you're at. Roll it four more times. Take the arithmetric, geometric, or harmonic mean of those results. If you're confused and don't know how to do any of them, well, you should have paid attention in math class instead of journaling.
Bloggers flame your book: Dunk your playing token in any nearby acidic liquids. If nothing appropriate is around, every other player must spit on your token.

Censored: Remove your token from the board. You now must remember where your token should be and play in invisible mode until you can get 75% of the other players to sign a petition to bring your token back. Bribes encouraged.

Google check: Go to a computer, type in your real name. Move ahead five spaces if you are the first hit. Otherwise take one step back for each result down you have to go until you find something related to you. Double the penalty if it's something embarrassing or inappropriate.

Kirkus rips apart your book: Shrug, like literally. If you don't shrug, you lose your next turn.

Hit massive writing block: Quickly flip the entire board over in one swift motion. (Apologize to everyone immediately afterwards for being an asshole.) Reset the board from memory.

Royalties come in: During your next game, you get $X extra to start with but only if the next session is played at least six months from now. Any earlier and you must wait to receive that $X.

Suffer poor sales related illness and go to the hospital: Lose half your cash. Have the player sitting directly across from you shoot a Silly Bandz toward your face. You can close your eyes but you cannot move. For the next two turns, complain about lack of health insurance and threaten to go play in a game environment with socialized medicine.

Film option for trilogy sold: Collect $X minus 15% and announce to the table who your dream cast would be. Hit redial on your cell phone and scream excitedly into it for five seconds before hanging up. Move forward three spaces, then back two. Then back one more.

Disparage another author: Within the next five turns you must slap the player sitting to your left. Bonus points if you knock something out of their mouth. Like food. Or a tooth. If they slap you back, you are now enemies. If they don't, that player has chosen to take the high road and you are now penalized one turn while they go twice.

Secure a teaching gig: Change your outfit into something scholarly and semi-presentable. Other players can offer their clothing if needed. Everyone must now address you as "professor" for the rest of the session and they must raise their hand before doing so.

Make it onto the NYT Best Sellers List: Roll D10 to see how many weeks. Roll D20 to see which spot. Affix a star sticker to your token. If you land on the same square as another unstarred player, your token must be displayed more prominently and pushed to the front. That player can then give you jealous eyes.

Shortlisted for the Pulitzer: You've instantly won the game! Now keep playing.
Oh man, I had so much fun thinking about this that I may need to make such a game right now. I could create event cards for hours. Forget my other responsibilities, this is much more important. Someone please find me a distributor and some collaborators and artists. The Game of Publishing is going to sell like those Henry Potter books. Pre-order now!

I was inspired to create this thing after thinking about how much (additional) fun publishing would be if you got scores and points for every little action. A bonus for social networking, three scores for prompt email responses, etc. The idea of making everything you do count for points is "gamification" and I for one would like it to take over the entire world.

15 September 2011

Pinata Party

It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week and what better way to celebrate than to, well, I don't know what's a better way to celebrate. Cake and ice cream? Ice cream cake?

The BBAW awards is a great way to find new blogs to read, and there are categories like Best New Blog Blog, Best Blogging Event, Best Written Book Blog, Best Author Interviews, so on and so forth.

I got into YA when book blogs were just coming around and it's been amazing to watch the scene grow. What did people do before there was such a varied forum for readers, authors, and industry folk to share their perspectives, opinions, and inspirations?
"By giving readers the opportunity to engage in significant and regular conversation about literature and reading, book blogs are fundamentally changing the reading landscape. Reviews and criticism no longer come just from above, but from all around us; readers of every age and race, male and female, from pretty much any place you can find on a map, are contributing to the literary conversation. Readers are allowed, even encouraged by other bloggers, to explore any section of the bookstore to which their interests or curiosity lead them.
Some people may criticize book blogs because their authors aren’t professional. Some may criticize them because bloggers aren’t well-versed in literary theory or history. Some may criticize the quality of reviews, or the focus on a blogger’s personal life, or the exclusion of a blogger’s personal life from reviews. These, in my mind, are some of the best things about book blogs: that while some of us have studied literature, or work in an industry that keeps us around books for eight hours a day, we AREN’T professional; we are nothing more, nothing less, than average readers.

It is remarkable that so many people devote their time to writing about books, and there are few better responses to those who fear a decline in reading than the number of readers who every day record the things they value and seek in the books they read."
-Why Book Blogs Matter, And Why They Should Matter to More People-

12 September 2011

For the Very First Time

If you follow fashion blogs, or just the blog world in general, you'll get to Tavi Gevinson sooner or later. Her new (mostly online) magazine, Rookie, launched last week and already I'm hooked.

From an article about Rookie: "Rookie magazine will be much more than glossy editorials and Mad Hatter-style fashion spreads. With three posts a day (after school, after dinner, and before bed -- based around the schedule of a typical teen), a once monthly online mag, and twice yearly print mag, Rookie is an homage to the heyday of ’90s fashion journalism, an era Tavi admits to being obsessed with (despite having been born in 1996)."

I mean, I'm not their target demographic but a few Internet personalities I follow write for it, and there are some articles that just demand attention. A friend of mine, who is studying to be a clinical psychologist with an emphasis on teens, is reading the site to stay up to date on things interesting to her clients. I'm reading the site because it just calls to me.

How could it not with articles like Getting Over Girl Hate, Joe Loves Girls, how to buy your first electric guitar, playlists for first loves, an appreciation for stickers, and an advice column from Lesley Arfin (who I first started following after loving her All The Boyfriends I've Ever Had in Chronological Order series). And here's some wise words from famous adults about their high school experiences. Below is Winnie Holzman's.
"In high school, we become pretty convinced that we know what reality is: We know who looks down on us, who is above us, exactly who our friends and our enemies are. We know what’s true, and what isn’t, and there’s no room for doubt. Sadly, this condition will likely continue throughout the rest of our lives, unless we actively work to combat it. Which I recommend you do.

How do we combat it? By allowing ourselves to realize how very little we know about all the people we’re so certain about. And that what seems like unshakeable reality (he thinks I’m a fool, she hates me, they’re better than me, I’m better than them, I know what they’re thinking) is basically just a story we learned to tell ourselves. Until we know it by heart."
For awhile, it looked like Jane Pratt of Sassy fame and Tavi would be collaborating on a magazine. However, they've parted ways and now both have their own visions up and running. There's plenty of space for both of them to thrive but it'll be interesting to see how they compare and contrast to each other. I'm trying to figure out if there's a male teen equivalent to all this? Probably not right? What would a magazine run by a fifteen year old male even look like? Would anyone read/buy it?

08 September 2011

You and I Must Make a Pact

I've got two basic rules for dating requirements. (1) Must read books (2) Must have Gmail. This article does a nice job of describing why the former. If I were to pair this article with audio, I'd choose "What You Thought Hops" by Denizen Kane. Actually this is a stellar idea, pairing reading recommendations with music like we do with food and wine. I'm a genius! Oh wait, people already do this. Well, it's still a good idea.

Note: Some words and images in or near the article may not be safe for young readers. There are mature themes like procreation and lots of big multisyllabic words. If you are underage -- still in your Nickelodeon not quite MTV stage -- and insist on clicking through anyway, congratulations on your reading comprehension skills. You're gonna kill it on the verbal SAT. Oh and it could be slightly NSFW, because you should be working while at work. From what I hear anyway.
"Date a girl who doesn't read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Don't date a girl who reads because girls who read are storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so goddamned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold.

You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life of which I spoke at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being told. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. Or, perhaps, stay and save my life."
-Date An Illiterate Girl-

01 September 2011

A Mox On Both Your Houses

Normally I'd let this pass as it's obviously designed to get geeks in an uproar: Alyssa Bereznak's Gizmodo article bashing Jon Finkel, a former Magic: The Gathering world champion, after they went on a few dates. However, it's been a few days and I still feel the need to talk about it.

That plus I had the article sent to me by quite a number of people. Apparently my friends associate me with magic. Awesome!

There was a time in my youth when becoming a pro MTG player was a life goal. Hell, what am I saying. That's still on my goals list. Maybe I still have some decks hanging around. Maybe one of my friends has the Power Nine locked up in his safe, next to his gun and important documents. (I ogled the cards, avoided the gun, and photographic memoried the documents) Maybe if you call and say you're looking to play some Magic, I'll be right over.

The one girl I liked in high school was reasonably adept at Magic. Let me rephrase that. This one girl in high school was reasonably adept at Magic and thus I liked her. It saddens me to think that people would get shunned in the dating world simply because they were really great at something dorky. In today's culture, everyone is into something nerdy, as Patton Oswald argued. How you gonna hate on Magic when you obsess over _____?!

In support of Finkel, I'm going to change my OK Cupid profile. The section for what I'm doing with my life will now read "aspiring Magic the Gathering world champion." My six things I could never do without will be red, white, blue, black, green, and colorless mana. I hope nobody takes that ironically because I won't be replying if they do. In addition, the next girl that says "phelddagrif" to me I'm going to propose to. I hope she'll agree that our budget wedding should be MTG themed.

Apparently in 2000, ESPN2 televised the Magic World Championships between Finkel and Bob Maher. Where was I when this was happening? Finkel has won hundreds of thousands of dollars playing Magic, was immortalized in a card, took Vegas for lots of money playing blackjack, and is now a managing partner at a hedge fund. How you gonna reject a resume like that?

The whole time I was reading about Alyssa's article and its subsequent fallout, I kept thinking about the line Fred Waitzkin delivers in Searching for Bobby Fischer. When his son's teacher disparages chess, Fred says, "[Josh's] better at this than I've ever been at anything in my life. He's better at this than you'll ever be, at anything. My son has a gift. He has a gift, and when you acknowledge that, then maybe we will have something to talk about."