31 July 2012

Need Your Love

Two days ago, Susie tweeted me that Jessica Hische had coined the term "procrastiworking." The idea is that "the work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life." So basically I should be web surfing and going through Google Reader as a job. Which is just dandy with me.

Jessica takes procrastiworking to new levels as her side projects are more amazing than most people's main projects. I want to individually link to everything I like of hers but there's just too much of it. Better you just explore her work yourself. Her website URL is jessicahische.is/awesome. Normally that might be a bit suspect but in her case it's absolutely 1000% true.

Technically Jessica's a letterer and illustrator -- who did the Moonrise Kingdom font, the Grantland Quarterly logotype, the cover for Dave Eggers' new book, and a few other projects you might recognize -- but I just love her websites. Look at that light up navigation on her main page. It's so wonderful. Okay now I'm just gushing.

I know that she doesn't do her own coding or anything, but she clearly knows what she wants and the online look she's after. Currently I'm working through her Don't Fear the Internet videos, as I've decided I need to step up my web creation game. As in, get some web creation game.

Hische popped up again yesterday when I saw that her wedding invite was being mocked on Gawker as the world's most hipster wedding announcement ever. Take a look: The Story of Jess & Russ.

I was mid-eye roll when I started noticing the names attached to the illustrations. Nicholas Felton, Chris Buzelli, Jilliam Tamaki, etc. What the heck was going on? Then I noticed how all the images moved, which was kind of cool. And maybe it was just HTML5 or Flash magic but color me impressed. Who were these people? Turns out "Jess" was Jessica Hische.

Of course.

Right then I committed my future self to sending something better than an Evite for my eventual (non-)wedding. The love of my life deserves better than just a mass email and Facebook event. With my newly gained skills from Hische's web tutorials, my lucky partner(s) and I will create an elaborate re/deconstruction of our journey together. It will, out of necessity, be short, mostly fictional, and gloss over all the fights and walk outs, but it will scroll automatically so damn prettily. Yes, I have been inspired by Jessica and all of her, well, life. I hope you will be too.
If you're into this stuff, here's some typography blogs to hang around the Internets with: I Love Typography, Friends of Type, and Beautiful Type. (Thanks Super Sonja!) And if you're really into this stuff, Kanye's "All of the Lights" video was apparently inspired by Gaspar Noe's vomit inducing opening to Enter the Void. Wait, why am I even talking about that movie. I hated it so hard.

In related news, my friend Kelvin is trying to coin the term "bedputer." Since nearly everyone already laptops in bed, I'm not sure how far this one is gonna go. Start using it though so he'll feel better. Also, another friend of mine is in the process of revamping his artist site right now. JMZ introduced me to Nik Daum's site. Daum sort of does everything. Drawing, photography, writing, art directing, music videos, advanced calculus, who knows what else. His web site even has a guestbook, how retro. Plus he's funny.

Yeah I know right? Fuck these people and their many talents. It's enough to make you want to bedpute.

30 July 2012

Now You See Me

You know you can deep link to specific times in YouTube right? Just add "#t=3m40s" to the end of the link. The best use of this is avoiding the stupid ads by adding "#t=0m1s" onto something when ads start popping up. YouTube is wising up to this so it doesn't always work, but I pretty much automatically append the #t to any video I watch just in case it can save me fifteen to thirty seconds.

So lately I've been cruising through book blogger videos. Lest there be some confusion, these aren't just bloggers who also happen to do vlogs, but book bloggers whose main online presence is a YouTube channel. They call themselves "BookTubers." I don't know when this happened, perhaps last month when I was on a lake without Wifi -- the horror, the horror. Otherwise I don't know how such a phenomenon could have slipped by me.

I mean, I hate it when an online community springs up and I'm totally behind. Who are the right people to stalk? How can I figure out where it all started? Is there a handy list of participants somewhere? Actually, there is! Liz from elizziebooks has a directory of BookTubers on her site. Most of them are just bloggers who also do vlogs but if you click on all of them -- not saying I did that, but maybe I did -- you'll find out which ones are true BookTubers, forgoing Blogger, Wordpress, or Tumblr, and just relying on pure YouTube. Brave souls.

This is probably the wave of the future/present. Who can be bothered to write things out these days? We should just be happy people are still reading right? What I'm trying to figure out is what video adds to the experience. Having a talking head doesn't do it for me. I'd rather read the words and get it over with quick. If you have pictures, just line'em up and I'll take those too. But I hate having things dictated to me. Of course, this is because I'm strictly a visual learner and I can't even really intake audio books. "Wait, what did it just say?" Rewind.

Of course I can see why video is appealing to people, especially for the generations after me who grew up on YouTube, but I need a compelling reason to watch anything over a minute online. Is this a sign of old age, summer nights spent reminiscing about the days when you could barely upload an animated GIF, much less actual moving images? Despite my personal preferences, I'm gonna give BookTubing a whirl and figure out which ones I like best.

The message is the medium, blah blah blah.

I'm starting with This Week in YA. TWIYA is a nicely produced BookTube series that showcases movie tie-ins, does cover reveals, highlights publishing stuffs, and covers the general young adult scene. It's like an E! News hosted by identical twins Jeffrey and Jeremy -- one of them wears glasses, one does not. Devyn Burton of Teen Author Carnival is also involved.

I would love to know how long it takes them to produce each of the videos, which run for about ten minutes each. Impressive work, impressive time commitment. TWIYA also does a New Releases Tuesday feature with elizzie -- who also does a separate BookTube news segment on her own that introduces new BookTubers.

xObsessedReaderx did a "10 Quick Tips for New Book-Tubers" video way back in December 2011. I feel like she had to be way ahead of the curve. Or I'm more behind than I thought. And here's gregglies with "Why I Love the BookTube Community." He also did a "YORO not YOLO" video which I found amusing. I just found out what YOLO meant the other day -- don't laugh -- but YORO doesn't really work does it? You don't only read once. You can reread forever. Still, I like gregglies' enthusiasm.

How about Anosmic Aussie, who I'm recommending on the strength of name alone. I had to Google "anosmic" to figure out what it meant. Apparently it's the inability to perceive odors. Anyone smart enough to know that word is someone I should probably listen to more. Plus Casey recently covered The Eyre Affair which George and I need to read soon.

This has to be a first: A minority male recommending a YA book with a minority male on the cover! Applause all around for booksandbits. Tell him what he's won Jack: "A brand new diversity prize pack!" Finally, I'm following CassJayTuck and The Book Chronicles because both have a lot of viewers so that has to mean something.

And there's already been a BookTuber semi-controversy, set off by "5 Reasons Girls BookTube MORE Than Guys (A Discussion)." I'll highlight two of MathomBooks' reasons for you. Number one, girls like talking more than boys. Number three, girls are more indoorsy. Okaaaay. I couldn't tell if this was a parody video or actually serious. Pretty much I stopped watching at reason number three. However, I did watch a few of the responses so I guess people did take his incredible (sexist) insights for real.

While the majority of BookTubers are indeed female, I've already seen a whole lot more males doing it than those who have YA blogs. Why this is I couldn't tell you. Maybe Kaleb Nation is having a trickle down effect?

You won't believe how much time I just spent writing this post. I could have read so many longform.org... Perhaps BookTubers are onto something, it's simply faster to make a video than it is to type stuff out. Also, it's dawning on me that a lot of BookTubers are foreign, which means maybe I'm not that behind. Or maybe I overreached a bit describing the whole thing as a phenomenon. Well, until I see the NY Times article on it, I'm never going to know if I was ahead or behind the curve.

Actually my number one question concerning BookTubers, who seem to be primarily high schoolers or just entering college, is where they find the time. Is nobody studying in our universities? Aren't there classes to attend, homework to do, parties and social things to feel awkward at? I applaud the tech savvy, forward thinking, youth of today, they are totally going to take over the world.

If they haven't already.

18 July 2012

Thinkin Bout You

While I've seen some pretty good movies this year, with many more months to go, I can go ahead and anoint Moonrise Kingdom as my favorite film of 2012. I already gushed about it in last month's Stuff I've Been Consuming but since I just re-watched Moonrise, I can safely give it a double thumbs up. The first time around I just experienced it, trying to soak everything in. The second viewing I tried to pay attention and parse out exactly what it was that sucked me in. Here's a short list. And please, for the love of everything, just go see this thing already so I can stop soapboxing.

Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. The casting of these two were so good. I consumed every interview I could find online. I just had to know more about them. Neither had acted professionally before, can you believe that? Both were around twelve when they shot the film and they look like actual kids, especially Jared. He's a total dork but not of the type we normally see in movies. Gilman's character is prepubescent, totally oblivious in his uncoolness, yet totally assured. Kara's face is amazing. Beautiful and expressive but in an awkward way that is reflected in her slight gawkiness and imperfect symmetry. They seem wonderfully real and endearing, as actors and characters. Plus, what's the last movie like this featuring middle schoolers, Bridge to Terabithia?

First Loves. Watching Moonrise has to make you think of puppy loves. The intense feeling that you'd do anything for the other person, even run away from everything you know. There's so much (painful) sweetness in it. It ain't never gonna be this good again. Except in the movies.

Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. This is a for real thing! I assumed Benjamin Britten was fictional but indeed he is not. here's a great post from Framescourer, "The Moonrise Kingdom of Benjamin Britten," with some history and videos of the whole bit. Wonderful stuff.

Khaki Scouts. Hanging in my closet right now is a Cub Scout shirt from my younger days. I was a Webelos Scout and while I'm not sure exactly what the differentiation was, I just remember all the random skills we had to learn. Tying knots, making fires, archery, fishing, kayaking, all these outdoor things I would never be associated with now. Watching Sam Sandusky use his wilderness skills to survive brought me way back. Man, I hope my uniform still fits!

Binoculars. Suzy's superpower of seeing with her binoculars struck a chord with me. Mainly because I recently purchased a pair for bird watching. Her binoculars made me feel less creepy about owning a pair. I'm not stalking, I'm superpowering.

One-liners. I could quote this movie all day. And I probably will for awhile. I won't ruin it for you though. Oh hell, if you're reading this far you saw the movie already. The "who's the say" line absolutely kills me. I rarely laugh out loud at movies and I was pretty much giggling throughout Moonrise. "I love you but you have no idea what you're talking about."

Suzy's Books. Wes Anderson made animated shorts introducing some of the fake books Suzy takes with her when she runs away. The titles, the artwork, the excerpts, all of them are so great. I would pay good money to have these as actual books. If Anderson wrote them himself I demand he pause whatever he's doing to finish the homage slash parodies. Seriously, the few lines from these are better than most of the stuff I've read this year. I feel like these would win those first page contests hands down. Publishers, get Wes on the phone.
"Meanwhile on the plains of Tabitha, Francine rested. There would be another time for war."
-The Francine Odysseys-

"I don't believe in magic. I used to but once I started taking introduction to life science with Mr. Mathy, I realized the logical explanation for practically every mystery in the world was even more interesting than a supernatural one. Auntie Lorraine wouldn't agree. Of course that's no surprise. She's a professional witch hunter."
-The Return of Auntie Lorraine-

13 July 2012

Starting Five

A sorta weekly feature of things I co-sign:

(1) YA Bashing as an Excuse for Teen Bashing. I really couldn't love s.e. smith's blog more. It's the smartest blog about young adult books out there. And it's not even a YA blog.

(2) Nora Ephron on books that made a difference. I'm currently reading through Ephron's collections of essays now, so this was a nice companion piece.

(3) Natalie Whipple's Inside A Year Post Book Deal. Her advice for what to do is pretty much spot on: work on the next book.

(4) How to Have a Career: Advice to Young Writers. "Calling enemies out in public makes you look weak; in the company of others, act as if no enemy could possibly hurt you." What's not to love?

(5) What is NetGalley? In the aftermath of ARCgate, here's an introduction to e-ARCs and how to get in on the action. I'm excited for eARCgate already!

12 July 2012

Stuff I've Been Consuming 6

  • Whales on Stilts, M.T. Anderson
  • Ender's Shadow, Orson Scott Card
  • Camp, Elaine Wolf
  • The Robot Olympics (Tom Swift, Young Inventor), Victor Appleton
  • Ong-bak, Prachya Pinkaew
  • Prometheus, Ridley Scott
  • Mercy, Patrick Hoelck
  • Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson
  • The Chaser (Chugyeogja), Hong-jin Na
  • Rock of Ages, Adam Shankman
  • War of the Arrows, Han-min Kim
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, George Roy Hill
  • True Grit, Henry Hathaway
  • A World Without Thieves, Xiaogang Feng
  • Magic Mike, Steven Soderberg
  • Blackthorn, Mateo Gil
  • The Good, the Bad, the Weird, Jee-woon Kim

Blasted through thirteen movies this month, which would make it seem like I didn't go anywhere but in reality, it meant my social life was on an uptick. I mean, what else do you do with people around 11pm and nothing's open? You throw in a movie! Thus, the nine Netflix movies consumed. Also, I got sucked into watching a whole bunch of Asian thrillers and then Westerns.

Both genres collided with The Good, the Bad, the Weird, a Korean flick that has all the classic elements of an American Western but set in Manchuria and done with a slapsticky giddiness that would never fly here. From what I've seen, we like our Westerns gritty and serious.

Well, that's not true, I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and that was apparently highly regarded back in 1969 for taking the traditional Western into buddy cop territory --or more accurately, setting the template for those -- as Paul Newman and Robert Redford joke back and forth during gunfights. The swings in mood were a bit much for me though, especially when the "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" bicycle scene came out of nowhere. I much preferred 2011's Blackthorn, a fictional add-on to the Butch Cassidy legend. It had a much more classic Western tone and was cinematically wonderful.

And if you saw the Coen brothers semi-recent version of True Grit, you'd be shocked at how terrible the John Wayne one is. I queued up the 2010 version immediately after watching the old one and it made me admire the Coen brothers' work even more. They made such a tight, focused movie, taking inspiration from the same source material. The John Wayne version is comparatively a campy mess.

Next month I'll be working my way through some classic Wayne and Clint Eastwood stuff as they've become my late night alone movies of choice. Few people will suffer through them with me but I can't get enough of the gun slingers and dusters.

This probaby should have gone up top but I've got some super movies to recommend this month. One is for the young at heart and the other is for sadists. Let's start with the former. Since watching Moonrise Kingdom mid-month, I've been pushing it on everyone to no avail. Clearly nobody listens to me because I keep offering to rewatch it with friends but nobody will go. Even if you aren't into Wes Anderson, I think Moonrise has something to offer anyone who has experienced young love before. Hello, that's everyone!

Some of the scenes in Moonrise Kingdom are just so absolutely touching, hilarious, and poignant all at the same time that I want to live in the movie. Sure it lost me a little at the end but I didn't care at that point as I was still reveling from all the other fantastic parts. Outside of possibly Life Aquatic, Moonrise Kingdom is my favorite Wes Anderson and it's been receiving great reviews. My friend told me that Wes' movies never make any money and I didn't believe him but then I looked up Anderson's box office numbers and they are hilariously low. I'm sure he makes back his budget in DVD sales or something but I guess I didn't realize how niche Anderson was to the general public. Outside of The Royal Tenenbaums, his films' domestic grosses are pathetic. Oh well, as long as people keep financing his royal twee-ness, I'm good with it.
Here's my recommendation for those who like their crazy Asian serial killer movies: The Chaser (Chugyeogja) by director Hong-jin Na. I don't even have to tell you what it's about if you're familiar with the genre but suffice to say, it's got some seriously disturbing moments, an insane amount of tension, and afterward you'll be shaking with disbelief. Shock and awe, shock and awe.

There's a tiny sweet spot for twisted movies like this that I enjoy. All of the Japanese stuff by Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) is way too gross for me, and some of the Park Chan-wook (The Vengeance Trilogy) films are toeing the line of bearable. However, after watching The Chaser I'm ready to go on a Korean movie run to see what else is out there. Now if only I had a friend to watch them with, because these simply cannot be watched alone.

I also want to sing the praises of M.T. Anderson's Whales On Stilts, which is a middle grade novel about three kids who team up to defeat an invading cetacean army outfitted with laser eye beams and well, stilts. Lily's dad happens to work for the evil mastermind but is very non-plussed about it all, bringing her along for Career Day, which is when she figures out that something weird is happening. Amazing right? I don't know if actual middle schoolers would get the winks and nods to classic adventure tales but I sure loved Anderson's references.

If I had know there was this kind of good stuff in MG, I would have started reading it sooner and starting padding my "books read" list. Hum, seeing as I'm a little behind on the fiftyfifty.me challenge, maybe I'll start doing that. Feels like cheating though. By the way, I have a lot to say about Magic Mike and Ender's Shadow, but that'll have to come in separate posts.

10 July 2012

To the Skies

Want to be the next Richard Branson? Want to spend your free time flying planes around the world and earn honor, prestige, and fake money? Have I got the game for you. Pocket Planes from NimbleBit, makers of Tiny Tower. I briefly mentioned Pocket Planes a few weeks ago but now that I'm deep into it, I thought I'd come back to tell you more. Short verdict: I love it.

While it took a while to ramp up and get enough capital to really start moving people around, by the time I hit Level 7 or so, I was totally invested in my mini-airline. Pocket Planes is one of those games that seems a little boring at first but once you get into it, the options multiply. Which routes are the best? What planes should I invest in? Do I want to go East toward Asia or West toward North America? Is it worth spending precious bux to outfit my pilots in fun costumes? These are the kind of things you'll be thinking about the further you get into the game.

Another side benefit of playing Pocket Planes is that I feel like I'm learning a bit of world geography. I totally suck at knowing where cities are -- the only map I studied growing up was the one used in Risk -- but Pocket Planes is helping me out with that. My start city was in Recife, Brazil and now I cruise through Fortaleza, Teresina, Araguina, Porto Velho, Cuiaba, and Asuncion on the daily. Next up I'm gonna conquer Central America.

While the in-game population numbers and flight distances aren't entirely accurate, it's close enough to gauge the size of a city. Helpful info nuggets also let you learn a bit about the cities you're flying in and out of. For example, did you know Bogota was "The Athens of South America" with its many universities and libraries? I sure didn't. My recommendation for starting off is to pick the continent you know the least about. Then you can say you're getting educated while obsessing over your planes. Or you can try your hand at either of these Sporcle quizzes: countries of the world and countries by capitals. I did pretty terrible.

Usually I like to check out a few strategies before playing these sort of games but for Pocket Planes I just leapt in. That meant I made some major mistakes. For example, in my eagerness to expand to another continent, I immediately opened up an airport in Monrovia. Unfortunately my planes from Recife didn't have the range to cross the Atlantic. Whoops.

After some early hiccups, I've been testing out the hub and spoke model because I want to rack up cash. Previously I just flew around to cities that sounded interesting. Now I feel like I was hired to transform a regional airline into a global powerhouse. That means eliminating small airports, upgrading airplanes, and concentrating on using cost effective strategies. My goal is to be the airline of choice for all those little digital Phileas Foggs in my life.

Also, closing an airport costs money, sending parts to your friends costs bux, recommissioning planes from the airport, and just about everything needs a bit of pre-planning. Of course you can't really mess up in Pocket Planes but it really hurts to lose valuable bux because you didn't plan ahead. Tips that I initially scoffed at but now wholly recommend:
  • Rename your airplanes for easy identification. For example, I'd use "2P1C7" to indicate that the plane carries two passengers, one cargo, and has a range of 700 miles. Or "4C945" to show that it carries four cargo and can go 945 miles.
  • Color code your fleet. This helped tremendously. My long-haulers are white/orange while my regional airplanes are splashed in red/yellow. This visual identification allowed me to select planes easily and also had the side benefit of making me feel like I was controlling a real fleet. "Everything is painted the same, this must legit!" If only they let me make Shamu planes. Future partnership idea?
  • Join a flight crew. At first I just wanted to start my own crew but then realized that I'd never win any prizes that way. By joining up and doing world events, you can win exclusive airplane parts and bux. This wiki explains how Events work. (Make sure you do the five required drop offs or you won't get the prize.) I feel like a bandwagoner but for now I'm hopping aboard #jayisgames for a bit to get free bux. Until NimbleBit adjusts flight crew sizes -- there's no incentive to keep your team small right now, which is lame -- I'll be piggybacking off the work of others. Just like in real life...
Have I sold you on Pocket Planes? Are you ready for take off? If you do end up playing, come find me and we can trade parts and have discussions about why it matters that all our fake employees are upbeat and that our costumer service is spot on. Then we'll go find out which IRL airlines most closely matches ours. It'll be grand.