28 March 2013

Starlight Express

You know I love my musicals. Well, now there's a new one that has captured my heart: F#%king Up Everything! I stumbled upon it looking for something Off-Broadway to watch and boy am I glad I clicked on the eye catching title. It wasn't easy to find stuff online about F#%king Up Everything as it didn't officially open until two days after we saw it. For our preview showing, we got to sit right in the middle, two rows back, and had a spectacular view of everything.
"Can Christian Mohammed Schwartzelberg stay true to himself and still get the girl? Or will he lose her to the guy in leather pants? Set against the backdrop of Brooklyn's indie music scene with a gallery of hipsters, stoners, artists, cougars, songwriters and puppeteers, F#%king Up Everything is a rock musical comedy with heart. And ironic t-shirts."
Having had a similar seat for Rent, I can say that I've never been so happy to get an up close and personal view. "Please, spit on me (when you sing), I'm right here!" F#@king Up Everything was part of the New York Musical Theater Festival a few years ago and it had a short run in D.C. before getting ready for its sure to be successful time here.

I'll just say it here: I think F#@king Up Everything is going to be this generation's Rent. Plus Friends. Yes, Rent plus Friends. While the music isn't quite as strong, F#@king Up Everything has Rent beat in at least one category: humor. F#@king Up Everything is hilarious! Max Crumm and Joey Gotay are perfect in their roles and their comedic timing was spot on. Dawn Cantwell is Toni Amos redux -- see her do Janis Joplin here. Overall, there were so many laugh out loud moments that I actually, well, hyperventilated during one part, which was embarrassing since I was trying to not be too loud.

Maybe the show is too cutesy indie for some, some reviews (perhaps written by some out of touch old people?) have been mixed, but I thought FUE was clever in how it sent up hipster stereotypes. And again, the show was hilarious! If you get a chance, see F#@king Up Everything before everyone else starts talking about it. The play just started rehearsing a month or so ago, as you can see by the casting call they posted in January. Amazing right?

The only downside of F#@king Up Everything is the "#@" they were probably forced to put into their title. It sure makes Googling difficult. In this day and age, is it really that offensive to put "fucking" in the name? Concessions must be made to people's sensibilities I suppose.

25 March 2013

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Jan - Mar

  • The Getaway Car, Anne Patchett
  • Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg, Geoff Rodkey
  • NW, Zadie Smith
  • Adaptation, Malinda Lo
  • Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow
  • Tears of the Sun, Antoine Fuqua
  • Gangster Squad, Ruben Fleischer
  • Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh
  • The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh
  • Beautiful Creatures, Richard LaGravenese
  • Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi

Three months in, my fiftyfifty.me is suffering. You would think that being stuck inside for multiple storms and winter weather would increase the number of books consumed. That wasn't the case. After (barely) successfully completing the challenge last year, 2013 is going to be a struggle. So far I've completed four books and seven movies. That's a good bit off the pace. I'm unconcerned about movies, of course, since I'll easily eclipse fifty this year, but books, uh oh.

The books I have read have been mostly gems. I talked about how much I loved Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty last year, and while The Getaway Car is only a Kindle single, I just had to read it. It's a short memoir about her writing life, and it made a nice companion piece to Truth & Beauty.

We did NW for book club, and if were not for that enforced completion, I probably would have put it down. I generally love Zadie Smith but this was a tough read. I think most of it could be attributed to the beginning section, told in a first person perspective that I found difficult to get into. I found myself being constantly distracted by reading other things by Zadie Smith, such as her book of essays, Changing My Mind and her famous article from 2008, "Two Paths for the Novel." I had trouble shaking the idea that Smith was experimenting a lot with her form for NW. All in all, while the book eventually improved for me, I couldn't in good conscience recommend it except to Smith completists.

Two books I can wholeheartedly recommend are Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg and Adaptation. The former is the first in a new middle grade series about pirates. Sorry, let me say that again: Pirates! The setup reminded me of so many classic adventure stories I read growing up, but jazzed up with sophisticated humor for older readers and compelling action for younger kids. I've read a lot of middle grade and can report that Deadweather and Sunrise stands out in a big way. I just saw Geoff -- whom I met at last year's KidLitCon -- and told him how excited I was for the next two books in the series.

As for Adaptation, fellow 2009 Deb Malinda Lo smoothly switches genres from fantasy (Ash and Huntress) to scifi. Adaptation starts with a mysterious series of plane crashes -- caused by flocks of birds -- and the race is on to find out what's happening. As fair warning, I was compelled to shoot through most of the book in one day, and you likely will be too. Malinda is a huge X-Files fan and that shines through. Adaptation's sequel, Inheritance, is coming this fall, so that'll give you plenty of time to get on-board the conspiracy train before September.

Short shots on the movies I've seen this year. Zero Dark Thirty was tensely majestic, Gangster Squad had Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone ('nuff said), Side Effects had a hilarious plot twist that made me question if Soderbergh was even a deft director anymore. The Gatekeepers is an Oscar nominated documentary that interviewed six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel's internal secret service. If you're into that kind of thing, it's definitely worth a watch.

Beautiful Creatures is from a pair of 2009 Debs, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and their best selling novels worked wonderfully on the big screen. The movie was beautiful and atmospheric, and let's be real, the film is way better than the first Twilight. I've been following along on Kami and Margaret's Tumblrs, which have been full of behind-the-scenes tidbits. Kami and Margaret both have new series coming out later this year, Unbreakable (The Legion) and Icons, respectively.

I was terrified that Oz the Great and Powerful would suck, since I love anything Oz-related so much. If it flopped -- like 1985's Return to Oz -- we might not see another Oz movie for decades. Luckily the movie came out huge, to the tune of an $80 opening weekend, and a sequel is forthcoming. Sure it wasn't the greatest movie ever, and maybe Mila Kunis' huge head was distracting, but overall I found Oz to be humorous, gorgeous to look at, and with some nice hat tips to the original. A lot of critics thought James Franco mailed in his performance but I appreciated his wry take on the Wizard. I think I giggled a lot, mainly at some of the lines by the little China Girl.

Speaking of James Franco, who's ready for Spring Breakers?! Aka possibly either the best or worst movie of the year...

19 March 2013


Listening to: Music for Ants, "You Just Made Yourself Available: The Breakup Songs Mix."

Can you believe it, I've only gone karaoke twice this year. That number usually represents how many times I used to go per week. Last night, after a bit of soju served in a watermelon, we went to Duet 35, which is located just outside K-Town.

On the list of things that make a great karaoke place, Duet 35 had most of them: open till dawn, relatively cheap, BYOB and food, reliable sound system, mood lighting, great song selection. Repeat, great song selection.

We'd been searching for "Thinkin Bout You" forever and there it was. Sure there weren't many other Frank Ocean songs, but "Thinkin Bout You" was there! Now if we could just find a place with the rest of Channel Orange, I would never go anywhere else. I was also stunned to see that they had Patti Rothberg's "Inside," a track that I didn't think anyone else knew, much less had transferred to karaoke status. I picked up Between the 1 and the 9 at a Wherehouse during senior year of high school and had it on repeat forever. Even then I knew it wasn't the best but I enjoyed it regardless.

I was also impressed that they had Lianne La Havas ("Elusive"), a few tracks off Foster the People's Torches, Joe's "I Wanna Know," and so much new stuff I couldn't identify most of the artists. It hit me hard that I am way aged out of the new release pages. Sad day, sad day. But if you're wondering, it's possible to almost do the entire 10,000 Maniacs Unplugged album, which if it were to happen, would make me automatic BFFs with anyone who could successfully pull off a convincing Natalie Merchant. Additionally, next time back to Duet 35, my friend JMZ and I are destined to perform "Frontin'." Don't wanna sound full of myself or rude...

Duet 35 also had the real videos to some of the songs, most notably all Mariah and Christina Aguilera tracks -- please see Exhibit A. And the karaoke video for Gilligan's Island was straight up Sweded, with a child sitting in a bathtub and D-rate actors as the Professor and Mary Anne, etc. Overall, when we stumbled out of there at half past four in the morning, I was ready to do some more singing/screeching. Last karaoke related thing: While Duet 35 had a lot of indie tracks, they did not have any Tegan & Sara, which is just fine because T&S are the coolest and provided the world with their own instrumental for "Closer" and a karaoke version just for me! Okay, everyone else too.

Big life changes I've been pondering: What to do with email greetings and sign offs. I've one of those people who always has a greeting and an outro. Typically it's just "hey" and entirely superfluous but it feels weird not to do it. And I like to sign off with something too. But after reading this Slate article about the obsolescence of sign offs, I think I should give no sign ons and sign offs policy a go. Please don't be offended if I now sound curt in my emails, I just want to be a part of a movement.

And after a month of waiting, I finally got the Mailbox iPhone app. I don't need another email application, as almost all my email is done on my laptop, but I wanted to see what the hype was all about. What could possibly be worth signing up for that had 600,000+ people in line ahead of me? So far Mailbox is decidedly not life changing but it is certainly smooth and easy to use. One day I hope to get important enough to use it to achieve Inbox Zero. Right now I don't have to deal with hundreds of emails a day, much less a thousand.
Also, the other night, I ate firefly squid. They are from Toyama Bay in Japan and look like this. Unfortunately we did not glow afterwards, as that effect would probably have cost more than a few dollars per squid. I'm not generally into novelty eating but I'll make an exception for things that light up. What other foods could I eat that contain bioluminescence?

15 March 2013

Spring Is Nigh

Currently pushing: School of Thrones. This Game of Thrones parody, set in high school, is genius. "Prom is coming!"

When news hit that Google Reader was shutting down in a few months, I did what any sane person would: I panicked. I mean, I've been a huge fan of Reader for years and am always spreading the gospel of RSS, while constantly on guard against subscription bloat. Without Reader and my 600+ subscriptions, how was I going to keep up with the world? I cursed Google's good name, and just like everyone else, started looking around for alternatives…while simultaneously holding out hope that Google would reverse its decision. However, after reading a few articles, the decision was clearly a permanent one. On Wednesday night, I went to bed with a heavy heart, worried about the future of my feeds.

"Why, why, all you idiots who still visit web sites individually, it's all your fault! If only you had adopted Reader when I told you to, usage would not have declined! "

Luckily, morning brought clarity as my friend pointed out that with the RSS king abdicating his throne, a new and better reader would emerge. From here until July, it would be a giant battle for control of Middle Earth and the hearts of the dedicated geeks that live and die by RSS. In the twenty four hours since the announcement, the Internet has already gone through the grief cycle and now everyone is scrambling (even somewhat excitedly) for a solution.

I've tested out some of the options already but so far all are lacking. Feedly and Flipboard are pretty, but not for me. I need more power and don't care about an engaging interface. The Old Reader and Netvibes aren't even working right now, but I fear they won't be adequate either. I'm thinking that the true savior won't reveal itself until the programming community has had a chance to react. Meanwhile, I will await the prophecy and hold off on declaring my allegiance to a new king.

Sidenote: If Google somehow decides to shut down Blogger, I'm gonna turn on them so hard. I might even consider giving up Gmail. I mean, no I won't. That would be blasphemy! Ack.
A few months ago, I talked about how addicted we were to Clash of Clans. Well, no more. Now it's Hay Day all the way! Hay Day is actually Supercell's first game, before they created Clash. It's the farming game we've all been waiting for. Ever since the demise of Papaya Farm, my friends and I haven't been able to replace the vegetable sized holes in our digital hearts. Well, it's safe to say that we have found that replacement. My sister actually spent money to buy speed up diamonds the other day, a first for her.

While Hay Day doesn't bring too much new stuff to the table, it is very refined and the interface, graphics, and gameplay are all stellar. Plus there's a ton of amusing details embedded in Hay Day. Like when your pigs stand up and wave at you, while plastering silly grins on their faces. Hi-la-ri-ous! I can't wait to see what the horses do. A few things I wish the game had: a global stock market, a way to directly trade with your friends, and more social features when you visit other people's farms. But that's just nitpicking. For now, Hay Day has completely taken over my life and if you download it, it'll probably consume you too. Fair warning.

While reading around about Hay Day, I stumbled across this blog, Deconstructor of Fun, that does a wonderful analysis of monetized games. Their interview with Supercell's Timur Haussila about Hay Day is very interesting. And their analysis of what makes Clash of Clans so fun, with its talk of "core loops," is a lesson in constructed addiction. The blog is a must read for anybody who plays iPhone games. I'd say throw the URL into your Reader but well... Just bookmark it, I guess.

07 March 2013

Destroy All Everything

Listening to: Soko, "I'll Kill Her." From AMR via Et Musique Pour Toi, the most charming track about annihilating your ex's new object of affection. "If I find her, I swear, I swear… / I'll kill her, I'll kill her / She stole my future, she broke my dream."

Completely missed City Bakery's annual hot chocolate festival, which ran during Februrary and featured mysterious flavors such as Sunken Treasure, Love Potion, and Ode to the Polar Bear. Regardless, I must scurry over there to get one of their giant marshmallows.

Things recently seen: Martha Graham's "Phaedra Unbound" and "Achilles in Heels" at the Joyce Theater. "Art of Scent" exhibit at Musem of Arts and Design, Museum of Chinese in America's "Marvels and Monsters," and then last night we hit up Punderdome 3000.

We got to the event late so we were relegated to the back, but it was still quite the experience. The wall art for the Littlefield Theater featured a springbok antelope as David Bowie and a white tiger homage to (possibly) Kenny Loggins. Some of the competitor's names were fantastic. Pun and Teller. Punda Express. Big Pun. The Black Punther. Punky Brewster. I think I'd like to have been "Josie and the Pundercats" or simply "The Pundercats" but those must have been used already. In-between each round, members from the audience recite classic TV theme songs, which was kind of awesome. "It's a rare condition, this day and age, to read any good news on the newspaper page..."
And let's talk about "Art of Scent," which was basically sticking your head into a giant butt in the wall. I mean, to put it in a classy way. On the real, the exhibit is beautifully designed and you go around the room smelling classics like Chanel No.5, Drakkar Noir, L'Eau d'Issey (my old college standby), and Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana. After a short time though, you'll get woozy because all that perfume and cologne will send your head spinning. There was also a guy there inexplicably carrying a flute around and occasionally blowing a few notes into it. I should have asked him if I could give it a go. We could have battled.
The night after we saw Martha Graham, we met my friend's new boyfriend, who turned out to be an ex-ballerino. You can't imagine how excited I was. I wanted to get his professional opinion about the quality of dancing in White Nights and Center Stage, but I held back. Having no opinion on Martha just a few short hours ago, after talking to him, I was ready to dismiss Graham's work as "too obsessed with mythology." Yes, yes, right on! What can I say, I'm easily influenced.
Awhile ago, I sent in a pitch for the sequel to Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, but that was summarily rejected. That sequel released late last year, Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology (Secret Identities). I have to pick up a copy and see what kind of stories beat mine out. I mean, besides all of them. My dream of writing a comic book will have to live on for another day. I won't give up because I'm tenacious like Lex Luthor, but unfortunately, far dumber.

Alongside "Marvels and Monsters" exhibit, MOCA also had "Alt.Comics: Asian American Artists Reinvent the Comic Book," featuring the works of Gene Luen Yang, Lark Pien, and GB Tran, Jason Shiga, and a few others. I'd tell you to go check it out but the whole thing is over, sorry. For me, it was most interesting to look at the artists' old works, before they were published. All the childhood drawings, the chapbooks, the sketches, it was quite interesting and makes me hope that one day someone will want to collect my archives. Any volunteers? Mom?
While we're here: Occasionally I drop in to post stuff on Chinatown Do, a Tumblr that covers anything Chinese related that the contributors see during their Internet rounds. I've never met any of the other blog people -- aside from Joy (Swash Design), who invited me -- but it's interesting to see what catches their individual attentions. Mine tend to be articles and stuff about factories, so I'm glad the others do lots of images and videos. I'd already been trained to stop at anything online mentioning "Chinese," so Chinatown Do has been a nice outlet to repost stuff.

Angry Asian Man has been going at it for twelve years, and last week he featured my friend's sister, Ursula Liang, as his Angry Reader of the Week. Ursula is making a documentary about 9-Man, a streetball game played in New York's Chinatown. They hit their Kickstarter goal last year and I'm looking forward to watching the finished product.

And if there haven't been enough links for you, two blogs I've been into lately: Writing Like an Asian and Eating Asia. Explore at your leisure.