21 November 2012

Five Times Five

A sorta weekly feature of things I co-sign:

(1) What Claudia Wore. Babysitter's Club fans, this one's for you. Everyone else, this is also for you. 

(2) Signing Tour: The Reality TV Show. I would like to expand on this and take it to the next level. The level where it actually happens.

(3) Life in Publishing Tumblr. I usually can't do animated GIF blogs but this one is just too good. Plus a companion Why Authors Are Crazy version. Whoever you anonymous geniuses are, thank you.

(4) Let's Discuss Disqus. As Disqus is my preferred commenting platform -- Blogger's generic comments are the worst -- here's Forever Young Adult's breakdown.

(5) Help Revitalize Books of Wonder. If you go to any children's book events in New York, you know about BoW. Now they need some help so go donate at their Indiegogo campaign!

16 November 2012

Stuff I've Been Consuming 10

  • Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
  • Truth & Beauty, Ann Patchett
  • Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, Kirsten Miller
  • Don't Get Too Comfortable, David Rakoff
  • Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, Alison Klayman
  • The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Argo, Ben Affleck
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
  • Cloud Atlas, Andy & Lana Wachowski & Tom Tykwer

After two highly lackluster reading months, I finally pulled it together and got some books out of the way. I'm on book #38, with a dozen left for November and December. That's doeable, I believe. Best of all, October's reads are all highly recommended. For our inaugural two person book club, we did Kafka on the Shore. Unfortunately, I thought we were doing 1Q84 and I read through most of that before realizing we had agreed on a different Murakami. I feel like I should get some fiftyfifty.me credit for 1Q84, since it was originally published in three volumes. But that seems to be cheating and I'm not that desperate to pump up my count yet. Sadly, until I loop back to 1Q84, I won't find out what happens to Aomame the assassin and Tengo the writer. "Aomame" is kind of a great name right?

Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty is about friendship but also alot about pursuing a life in writing. I coudn't stop raving about it after ripping through the whole thing in one sitting, and have pushed the book upon anyone who would listen. Regrettably, nobody has listened to me yet, as per usual. That's okay though because I finally got to read some David Rakoff and now aspire to be as curmudgeonly as he. It'll be a tough trick to pull off because in comparison, Rakoff is ten times more observant, a thousand times funnier, and also a million times better writer than I/me. (Which admittedly, I guess, isn't saying much.) In Don't Get Too Comfortable, Rakoff skewers our culture of narcissism and excess. In solidarity, I want to hate all the things he hates. I also want to be his Instagram friend. Sadly, he is deceased.

Another book I've been pushing hard is Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City. Here's the tagline: "Five delinquent Girl Scouts, one secret city beneath Manhattan, and a butt-kicking girl super spy." What else do you need?! Well, author Kirsten Miller's blog also contains a series called The Irregular Guide to New York City and it explores many of Manhattan's lesser known -- and often subterranean -- secrets. Check out Chinatown's Bloody Tunnels or The Mystery of Track 61. I'm zipping through book two of the series and am relieved another one is about to come out. They are ridiculously good in all respects and I wish there were more books like this. I also need a Kiki Strike in my life to lure me into capers and adventures.

As for movies, not a bad one in the bunch for October. The Ai Weiwei documentary is a must-see, not only because Weiwei is such a compelling artist, but also because of director's Alison Klayman's really great editing and presentation. I couldn't believe it when I did some post-watch research and found out that this was her first documentary effort. Regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar you are with Weiwei's work and his political activism, Never Sorry will resonate. We watched it with my friend's parents, who immigrated from China in the Eighties, and it was interesting to get their perspective on the film. They explained some of the play on words we didn't know, such as caonima and why Weiwei hosted a river crab feast as protest.

I read Perks of Being a Wallflower awhile ago -- way before I knew what YA even was -- but didn't remember much about it. The movie itself was impressive, especially when I realized that the book's author, Stephen Chbosky got to do the screenplay and directed as well. I don't know how many authors get to direct their own movies, much less pull it as well as Chbosky did. The film's soundtrack is kind of killer too. Pretty much I hate Chbosky for accomplishing everything I've ever wanted to do. Okay I don't hate him, I admire him...

Both The Master and Cloud Atlas were overly long but mostly worth the watch. I didn't know about the whole 70mm hype around The Master so I kind of want to see it again, even though I didn't love the film. I have never been so excited to listen to a movie's Slate Spoiler Special. Afterwards I was like , "Please, just someone explain to me what I just watched." I'm not sure who to recommend The Master to, except cinephiles. Actually, upon reflection, Cloud Atlas wasn't a pure recommend either, but I was entertained throughout and I think my interest was pre-piqued by reading about the adaptation of a so-called unfilmable book. Here's the article: "Bending Time, Bending Minds."

Man, this got long. Usually I only talk about the high and lowlights but I guess October was just a banner month. Coming up next, I just read these two great articles about Truman Capote's interview of Marlon Brando and now I need to see some of young Brando's standout movies. On the Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire? The answer is clearly, "both."

15 November 2012

Stay Stay Stay

Currently pushing: Letterpress. If you're into word games, Letterpress is for you. I hate Words With Friends for many reasons but this is a delight. And the intuitive and simple design is outstanding. Go try it out, you won't regret it.

After a bit of calculation, I realized I hadn't left the confines of my Brooklyn block for almost three weeks. Between Hurricane Sandy, work, deadlines, the election, the start of the basketball season, and a general downturn in weather, I basically only left the house to eat. And then I figured out I could get ninety percent of my meals delivered over, so why leave? Of course, you can't just hermit up forever. Or so people tell me.

When my roommate came home the other day and declared that it was beautiful and hot out, I knew I had to take a break from writing because otherwise my brain would explode. With a few precious hours of freedom, I bolted out to the city. After some shopping, dinner, and a movie, my phone battery died and I was left to figure out the way home without electronic assistance. (The bane of my existence so far is the crappy iPhone battery.) Predictably, I got off at the wrong stop -- the trains are slightly different post-hurricane -- and ended up far away from my house.

I didn't mind though, I wanted to take a long walk anyway. It was three in the morning, with nobody around, and since this could be the last warm night in New York for some time, I was happy to just set off in the general direction of home and get there eventually.

When I'm out here, I carry a small compass to orient myself. Unless you're pretty familiar with the whole city, or just have an outstanding sense of direction, it's kind of hard to know which way you're facing when you pop out of the subway. Also, I am not good with direction based directions.

People out here love to say, "It's on the west side of the street." Dude, I have no idea what that means. Is it on my left or my right? Unless the Pacific Ocean is nearby, I don't know which way west is. A compass solves all these problems. I recommend everyone carry a compass. Pro tip.

As I belatedly discovered however, my faithful compass is now broken. I wandered the wrong way for awhile, until I noticed that I hadn't hit the Barclays Center like I'd expected. Most of the cabs going by slowed down, figuring correctly that I was lost. Just once I would like to look like I blend in with the neighborhood/environment enough so that people don't wonder what the heck I'm doing there. Oh to be belong! A couple of miles and two hours of walking later, I arrived at my front door, shining bright in-between a coffee shop and a pet supply store.

This is the most exciting thing I've done since Halloween.

I am concerned that the time for long walking nights are over, as the very next day returned us to chilly weather. The good news is that I bought a semi-proper winter jacket -- as opposed to the light one I used through the wind and snow two years ago -- so I'm sticking around New York for some portion of the winter at least. The bad news is that my compass is busted and I could be lost forever.

Which, I guess, really isn't all that different from when I had a compass.