29 June 2012

Young, Wild & Free

While driving around listening to "Winter in America" by the late great Gil Scott-Heron (shared over here by AMR at T.E.S.T.), I was struck by one of the lines: "And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains." I thought, man, this has to be the only song with "buffalo" in the lyrics.

Well, after some lyric searching, it turns out that there's a lot of songs about buffalo! Heck, there are a ton of bands with "buffalo" in their name. Buffalo Tom, New Buffalo, Young Buffalo, The White Buffalo, Buffalo Springfield, and my personal favorite: It's a Buffalo.

With all these buffalo things in mind, I thought it was my duty and obligation to create a themed playlist. Also, since the American buffalo is technically a bison, I included a few bison numbers in there too. Without further ado, the best buffalo mixtape you've ever heard, named for the best scene from Dances With Wolves.
Tatanka, Tatanka
Track list - Zip file
17 songs, 1 hr 6 mins, 93.1 MB
Out of this selection, there are quite a few gems. I'd sort them in iTunes from longest play time to shortest. That starts you off with "Winter in America" and ends with "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd." The latter you can really only put up with once but since it's so thematically on point, I couldn't leave it off.

I'm pleased that the mixtape spans a few genres, from rap to indie, to reggae, to house. There's a surprise around every corner. So far my favorite line from these songs is Phoenix Foundation's "I am the mammal you adore." A lot of the lyrics to these buffalo songs are outstandingly silly and that's pretty much as it should be. And if you're like me and wondering what Neneh Cherry was referring to as a "buffalo stance," here's the Urban Dictionary definitions. I'm still a little confused to be honest.

The Buffalo Tom track, "Late at Night," must be especially highlighted because as any fan of My So-Called Life knows, that song has special significance for Angela. In the unforgettable hallway scene, Jordan finally publicly acknowledges their relationship by grabbing her hand as they walk off. I know, you just want to faint, even almost two decades later. Sigh.

25 June 2012


Running around in SF with not enough computer time lately so I interrupt irregularly scheduled programming to recommend the following non-books related things:

(1) Sound and Fury: The Angry Asian Podcast. Just a few episodes in and the guests have been great, as you'd expect from Angry Asian Man. Episode four is with Jen from Disgrasian. Now if only I could find something to replace all the NBA podcasts in my life. Football needs to start already.

(2) Ideas from Gwarlingo. One of my favorite blogs, Gwarlingo, had a quick chat with New Hampshire Public Radio. And here's the first interview Michelle did with NHPR back in January. "Gwarlingo is a Welsh word for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before it strikes."

(3) Pocket Planes. After obsessing over Tiny Tower, I've been waiting on NimbleBit's new game with some eagerness. So far I can't decide if I love it because my slow phone is killing gameplay but I suspect I'm gonna want more multi-player interaction. Sure you can start flight crews but I can't even see my friends' maps. Also, we can't decide on a flight crew name. In no big shock, #conair and #topgun are already taken.

(4) Moby's Los Angeles Architecture Blog. If it didn't have such despicable traffic, I would definitely explore more of L.A.'s buildings. Luckily Moby's here to do some of that for me and here's a quick talk with Tumblr Storyboard about his blog. (Years ago, while lost and driving through L.A. on a sight seeing expedition, we randomly came across the Ennis House and were like "Whoa?!" Totally worth a proper drive-by.)

(5) Phoenix Five. My childhood officially ended when I realized that all the huge comic book crossovers were just marketing ploys. Wait, you mean Wolverine isn't just on every cover because he's the badassest? Well, this summer's blockbuster Marvel event is to give Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik, and Namor each part of the Phoenix Force. Everything about this sucks -- especially the name. I'll still be reading it all of course. In case you forgot, some of my spare time is spent updating FY Colossus, it's a passion and a mission.

18 June 2012


I don't know if you know this but in the hills of Hollywood, there exists an actual castle of magic. "Wait, but The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in Florida," you say. Indeed it is. Newsflash: Harry Potter and Hogwarts aren't real, but this magic castle is. Constructed in 1909, the Magic Castle is a place where working magicians go to train, socialize, and perform. It's an exclusive place where only those with an accredited magician friend gain entrance.* Basically you need one of the Weasleys to get you in.

Ten years ago, I went to the Magic Castle for a friend's birthday. Since then I've never stopped talking about it and have patiently been waiting to go again. A few weekends ago, I finally got that chance. Accompanied by five of my fellow magic lovers, we RSVPed a month in advance and my sister even flew down from San Francisco for this momentous occasion.

For the record, George and I are serious magic fans. Being twins, everyone always used to ask us if we could read each other's minds. The answer: Of course we can, duh. Most of our mind reading involved ESP card tricks -- very impressive to middle schoolers based upon our performances -- and we accumulated a small repertoire. Also, when we were young, we idolized David Copperfield, aka the greatest magician in the world ever, and once saw him transmute a chicken into a half duck / half chicken hybrid. Plus we shook his hand after the show and got signed photos.

Yes, David Copperfield transferred his magic skills directly to us via touch. It's true.

Anyway, basically you go to the Magic Castle to have a mandatory (overpriced) dinner and then you line up to watch a series of magic shows. There are different performers each week so it's a toss up who you end up seeing. Most of the shows we attended involved card tricks but there was some sleight of hand and a lady who did illusion-y things with metal rings and scarves. Last time I saw some incredible close up work with foam balls and bubbles.

There's also Irma the ghost pianist, who takes requests and has an impressive song list at her phantom disposal. That last sentence is a disservice to how freaking cool it was in actuality. From Lady Gaga to classic standards, Irma knew them all. For awhile we were trying to figure out how Irma worked but as is the case with all magicians, especially the ghost kind, it's better to just go with it.

The Magic Castle is also all about old school glamour so you have to dress up heavy. I hate having to wear fancy shoes and throwing on a suit but for this occasion, there was no choice. So the sneakers came off, the shirt and tie went on. If you have a mini-cape or an elegant walking stick laying around, this is the place to bust them out. If you're a guy rocking a small ponytail, you will gain respect here as an obvious magician type. Eye liner, also not a bad idea.

Since all the shows are in pretty intimate venues, you're sitting right in front of the magicians and in some cases we were right in the front row. One thing I didn't realize about magicians is that they're basically stand up comedians with extra special skills. Everyone was hilarious and engaging and total performers. They picked on the audience and also picked volunteers from the audience.

Now I never volunteer for anything because I hate participation but since I looked fast -- and also because "you look like you're good at math," direct quote -- I was tasked to be involved in a show stopper that involved marked playing cards, a locked cigar box, running into a dark alley to hide the box, mystical mumbo jumbo, and a Polaroid. (Clearly these magicians were big supporters of The Impossible Project.) Everything then reappeared when they were supposed to and the audience clapped heartily. Basically I made their entire act worth watching. Yes, I was totally the star of the show in a peripheral way. Copperfield's powers clearly have not waned in the twenty years since I touched him.

In conclusion, I think everyone should go to the Magic Castle at least once in their lives. It's not Hogwarts but it's not a bad substitute either. And if anyone figures out how to actually cast a Wingardium Leviosa or Accio spell, I'll pay good money to come watch that too.
*= This is actually not really the case anymore. You can become an associate member and gain admittance, or just get a room at the Magic Castle Hotel next door and gain entry that way. But saying that the only way to gain entrance is to know a magician is so much more exclusive and mysterious. And you know how I feel about faux-exclusivity.

15 June 2012

5 & A Dime

A sorta weekly feature of things I co-sign:

(1) Atlantic Wire's YA for Grownup series. You knew about this weekly column from Jen Doll right? How about the The Guardian's teen books section?

(2) Sara Sciuto of Full Circle Literary. Literary Rambles just did a fantastic spotlight on Sara from my agency!

(3) Get Your Mermaids While They're Hot. I've been patiently waiting for the mermaid resurgence for awhile. I thought they were set up to take out vampires and werewolves a few years ago but maybe now is finally the time.

(4) Dear Publishing Industry, We Need To Talk. Kristina Springer (
My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours, The Espressologist) wonders where the rom-com books went.

(5) The Gossip Mill: Devising the perfect teen entertainment. You might have missed this 2009 article by Rebecca Mead focusing on YA packaging company Alloy Entertainment. Here in full if you don't have access to
New Yorker archives. Bonus: Mead wrote the seminal blog article, "You've Got Blog," way back in 2000.

09 June 2012

Stuff I've Been Consuming 5

  • The Hunt, Andrew Fukuda
  • Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
  • Delirium, Lauren Oliver
  • Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver
  • Avengers, Joss Whedon
  • Metropolitan, Whit Stillman
  • Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham
  • Submarine, Richard Ayoade
  • Snow White and The Huntsman, Rupert Sanders

It's the beginning of June and we're halfway there, ooooh, living on a prayer! If I never hear that song again, I think I'll be okay. After five months, I've hit the halfway mark of the Fifty Fifty Challenge -- on May 24th, with Ernest Cline's Ready Player One.

This should've been a cause for massive celebration but I didn't want to overdo it, as cranking through an arbitrary challenge shouldn't be lauded too highly. Oh screw it, this is the biggest thing I've accomplished so far in 2012 so I'd better break out that half can of champagne I've been saving. I've watched 29 movies and 21 books so far this year, and I don't have a day job or any other life obligations, so I was clearly Mr. Super Productivity.

This month was a struggle though. I think after watching the greatness that was Avengers (twice), I decided to give it some space to breath and settle, because otherwise its awesomeness would have annihilated all the other things I tried to consume afterward. Seriously, if you didn't like Avengers, our friendship is over. And if you can care deeply about which female Avenger might make it into the sequel, we should be BFFs.

Actually here's what likely killed my reading and watching productivity: the start of the NBA playoffs. With at least two postseason games on every night, plus my beloved Celtics battling hard every other day, I barely had the strength to get up off the couch, much less crack open a book or get out to the theater. Even Netflix, just a remote shrug away, lay out of reach. Cheering on your favorite basketball game is draining. Like oh so tiring.

I'll admit I thought about letting May pass by with just a handful of things consumed but achievement me (hate that guy) kicked in and didn't want to break my streak of at least four movies and books per month. So over the past few days I crammed in Tiny Furniture, Submarine, and both of the books in Lauren Oliver's Delirium series. This must be what it feels like to push through that last fifteen miles of a marathon. You hit the hump and just keep on churning. I feel so accomplished and better about my life already.

There's a lot that's been said about Lena Dunham and her semi-new show, Girls. I won't repeat them here but just Google it. Basically there was hype, then backlash, then more backlash, then ardent defenses, always misogyny, then everyone who wanted web traffic added "Dunham + Girls" somewhere on their sites. Now that's all quieted down and it's just finding ways to illegally stream the episodes because who can afford HBO? At the end of the day, Girls is good, and so is Dunham's Tiny Furniture. I can't decide if I would have liked it pre-Girls but I think I would have because neurotic movies that go nowhere are often favorites of mine. Now I just want Dunham to remake The Truth About Cats & Dogs. Can we get a petition going for this?

If you're feeling weird about the all white world Dunham depicts in Girls, feel better about yourself by watching The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, created by and starring Issa Rae. Start here with this episode about interracial dating. It contains the line: "Everyone knows you're supposed to ease into interracial dating. You know, make your way up the color scale. But you've jumped straight past brown and yellow and gone straight to white." Issa Rae won't be getting her own cable show anytime soon because TV is racist but YouTube is colorblind!

Speaking of all white worlds filled with privileged people, Whit Stillman's Metropolitan kind of bored me. I'm majoring in Stillman's movies for Fifty Fifty -- on the strength of watching Damsels in Distress last month -- but even though this is his most highly acclaimed work, it didn't connect for me. I guess it could be because I'm not a preppy white person from the Upper East Side whose social life revolves around tuxedos and debutante balls, but I don't think that's it.

I mean, my favorite TV show ever is My So-Called Life and I have nothing in common with any of those characters. (Except possibly Krakow. Who is kind of an honorary Asian, although his parents would then have to be engineers or doctors, instead of a behavioral psychologist and a Freudian psychiatrist.) This whole "this isn't something I relate" to thing that people talk about all the time is way overrated. I have nothing in common with fast talking assassins either but I really like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. I thought some of the enjoyment of consuming stuff was to become exposed to things that you can't understand at all. If you can only like what you relate to, that's a pretty narrow band of stuff to seek out.

On the list of things I can't relate to, I started Fifty Shades of Grey earlier this month but may not make it past 54%. I think it's my Kindle, it just refuses to go any further. I think Amazon pre-installed a safe word. "Help."