30 July 2013

Third and Fifteen

I haven't been in a bookstore in awhile, a terrible shame I know. This past weekend we slipped into McNally Jackson to see if they carried my trusty fantasy football magazine, Fantasy Football Index. I didn't have high hopes because well, McNally Jackson isn't the type of establishment to carry fantasy sports anything.

This despite Fantasy Football Index being the most literary fantasy football magazine of them all, meaning it has (relatively) dense text, non-gratuitous graphics, and enough content to be worth eight bucks. Over the course of the season, I'll dog-ear it and probably read through everything at least three times. Sometimes when I'm back home, I dig into old fantasy magazines I've kept around and take a spin through the Nineties, when Steve Young and Sterling Sharpe ruled the gridiron. Oh those were good times.

Earlier this morning, over computer chat, my friend asked what I was so busy with. "Fantasy," I shot back quickly, and she assumed I was doing book research or productive. It wasn't clear until much later into our disjointed conversation that most of my morning had been spent looking into potential fantasy football trades. If only I were so dedicated to actual writing, I would probably have finished five hundred projects by now.

Then again, some of my greatest work has gone into maintaining blogs for my fantasy leagues. Last season, I finally got into this sixteen team keeper organized by a few of my college friends. They had me on the waitlist for years and owners almost never dropped out. Seriously, these guys discuss passing their franchises down to their kids. Well, I finally got into Maize and Blue last year -- taking over the defending champion's team no less -- and promised them I'd be a one man blogging machine. Since I never break any promises, like ever, I spent an hour or two doing heavy duty research and then wrote the first article of the season, a 750 word opus about a blockbuster for Russell Wilson. Keep in mind that this is a fake league, with an audience of maybe sixteen people, give or take. Some might say that my writing energies are all focused on the wrong places, but to them I say, "Who cares, it's fun!"

During the last NFL season, Alex Pappademas, a non-football fan, did a column for Grantland about following the Cincinnati Bengals. In it he talks about everything but football, dropping references to Piotr Rasputin, James Ellroy, and Steely Dan, among many other wonders. His column was one of my favorite football reads last year and I'd consider aping the idea -- much like I tried to copy Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" Believer series -- but it's hard to watch football with no television. And I generally abhor watching sports in bars. Someone gift me a TV, thanks.

I wish I was better at writing about fantasy, since really that's what my million practice words were probably spent on. I've been playing fantasy for too long to suck this much -- at both the writing and playing parts. I submitted last year to Grantland's Fantasy Island writing competition but didn't even get to sniff a jockstrap. Oh well. I guess it's good I failed since it sounded like a lot of work. And we know how I feel about that word.

Also, I like it when Stephen Elliot interjects fantasy football asides into his Daily Rumpus. I'd like to interject more fantasy stuff into my conversations but there really isn't anything more boring than hearing about somebody else's fantasy team. Unless you're a good writer I guess, like Pappademas and Elliot, then you can talk about anything. So I guess I'll just stick to whatever it is I write about...

Wait, I got sidetracked. I was supposed to be talking about books, not football. What I wanted to focus on was showrooming in bookstores. Actually, not even focus, just admit to that mortal sin. Yes, most of the time when I'm in a bookstores nowadays, I browse real fast and jot down titles of stuff that I'll look up in full later. And sometimes if I'm feeling especially lazy, I'll just take a photo of the cover. I know it's bad, because I always do it surreptitiously, with a glance to see if employees are watching. And not the kind of bad where you feel so good afterwards. This is just bad bad, the guilty kind of bad.

Showrooming is ruining retail, it's leading to the demise of brick and mortar stores, etc. Where will people go to read books if everyone shops at Barnes & Noble but buys discounted online!? These are great questions I have no answers for. All I know is that I showroom and rarely buy a book in stores anymore unless it's a must-have right then or a person I know wrote it. I don't know if this reveal will lead me to being excommunicated from the writing community. Are we supposed to not participate in showrooming? What's the right move here?

Either way, I think I'm super good at picking out intriguing stuff on the fly because I snapped six photos and I batted a perfect one thousand. I picked up Thomas Israel Hopkins' The Year of Living Autobiographically because, well, the title. And the premise. Hopkins wrote one status update per day -- within Facebook's imposed 420 characters -- but never posted it, instead collecting it into this slim self-published volume. I only read a few entries but was charmed by the premise and execution.

Then, with time winding down and dinner reservations waiting, I nabbed photos of the really intriguing Inferno (A Poet's Novel) by Eileen Myles and The Chairs Are Where The People Go by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti. On the way out, we swung by the middle grade section right by the stairs and I was sucked in by the covers for What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World, Michael Edna's Momo, and After Iris, another book about a dead identical twin. Identical twins dying is so a trend right now, be careful all you lookalikes!

The lesson I learned during my foray into the bookstore was that covers matter, placement matters (all the books I grabbed were face out on shelves or on tables), showrooming is wrong, and um, buy your fantasy sports magazines at the bodega on the corner of St. Mark's Place. Also, I still don't own any of the aforementioned titles because I'm backed up on everything book related. I can't buy anything until I make at least a small dent in my to-read pile.

Included in the post photo is evidence of my crimes -- those are my thumbs. I have a whole collection of these on my computer from all the showrooming I voluntarily participate in. I'm going to author jail. Oh wait, tautology. Or redundant. Eh, whatever. Closing thought: If the punishment for writers showrooming and buying on Amazon was poor sales for their work, would anyone ever do it? My unwitting answer was obviously "yes." I apparently struck some sort of reverse Faustian bargain. Currently I have no knowledge or power. Maybe I'm destined to live forever or something. Otherwise I demand a refund. Or at least a deep discount.

26 July 2013

The Art of Killing

Where were you when Magneto ripped the adamantium out of Wolverine's body? Well, more accurately, when were you? I believe I was about fifteen, right on the cusp of becoming a teenager ignored by his peers. Ah, those were good times. When Wolverine got all that metal ripped out, I felt his pain. We were spiritual brothers, sort of. I mean, many of my afternoons in class were spent wondering what it would be like if I had unbreakable claws. What/who would I slash through? How fast could I cut down a steel beam? When would my mutant powers kick in? Needless to say, puberty was a disappointment when my X-gene failed to kick in.

Wolverine isn't my favorite X-Person but if you read the comics, it's really his drama that carries the stories throughout the Nineties, so everyone is a de facto Wolverine fan. (It was a sad day when I figured out that Wolverine was splashed onto every cover and drafted to be on every super team mainly because he upped sales.) Aside from the adamantium pulling moment which seared itself into my memory, I won't ever forget how shocking it was to find out that Wolverine's claws weren't implants. That meant each time he popped them out, it hurt something awful. Or how about when Marvel revealed that his real name was "James." Heck, I know more about Wolverine's personal history than I do about most of my friends. And that's the way it should be.

Did I mention how excited I am for The Wolverine? Due to bad life choices, I haven't been able to see it yet. I know, what am I really doing at midnight on a Thursday that I can't go stand in line for my most anticipated movie of the summer? I don't know. Maybe I was at home, eating the leftover half of a roast beef sandwich and watching MTV Challenge. And washing it all down with a side of Haribo Smurfs. Whatever. Don't judge me.

In doing my pre-movie research, I found out that there's an alternate Earth version of Wolverine named James Howlett, and he's got all of Wolvie's powers, but with golden claws made of adamantine, a mystic version of adamantium. Howlett is also homosexual and loves/fights alongside Hercules. What?! Basically I need to get back into comics.
Clearly, priority one this weekend will be to watch The Wolverine. Priority 1B will be to go watch Blackfish. Blackfish is a documentary about Shamu and why orcas in captivity are a big no-no. I love Sea World but I'm pretty sure this movie will make me boycott it forever. Or maybe I'll just re-up my season pass in anticipation of the public outrage that will shut down all Sea Worlds. Gotta get in a few more moments with the Shamu family before they get freed. This super long article from 2010, "The Killer in the Pool," is a must read for any killer whale fans and all humans. Sigh, I wish a whale would eat me...

Also, Ryan Gosling's new movie, Only God Forgives, is out, so I have to see that before it quickly disappears from theaters. The film has been getting trashed and people reportedly walked out of festival screenings. Idiots. You never walk out on Gosling, ever! Here are two Grantland articles about The Gos, one about his dual movie personas and another about his many onscreen affectations. I discovered recently that I'm only two degrees removed from the person who started Feminist Ryan Gosling. I feel so much closer to him already. And if you're wondering how we can get Gosling into the movie X-Universe, the obvious answer is a spin-off starring him as Longshot. Throw in Rachel McAdams as Dazzler and Marvel can just start printing money.

Actually, McAdams isn't the right pick for Dazzler but I just want her and Ryan to get back together. An interstellar adventure is surely the first step on the path toward relationship rehabilitation. Gosling+McAdams Forever.

The other night, Amit introduced us to Heads Up!, an iPhone game from Ellen. It's basically Celebrity but the kicker is that it records your friends while they yell clues at you. If you need to laugh and have a good time, Heads Up is the answer. Plus there's a comics category that Amit and I killed together. Who is Ben Grimm, Bullseye, Norrin Radd, what!

10 July 2013

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Apr - Jul

As of my last fiftyfifty.me check in, I was at only four books and seven movies. The good news is that since then I've tacked on a ton of more movies while not exactly catching up on the books front. Currently I'm at a respectable thirty five movies and a deplorable twelve books. Obviously I'm going to have to step up my game on the books end or this will all end badly.

I am in the middle of some stellar books, and am already looking forward to more. For example, I can't wait to get into Christa Parravani's her, a memoir about losing your identical twin. Having recently backed Samantha Futerman's Twinsters documentary, I'm basically a sucker for anything with twins involved.

If you do young adult, Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Summer Prince deserves all the acclaim and publicity it's received, and so much more. The world building is tremendous, and with main characters that express themselves through political art statements, it's a breath of fresh air in a genre that I was tiring of. We'll be covering it more over at Rich in Color soon. We'll be doing the same with Maurene Goo's Since You Asked, which I already rhapdozied about earlier. And if you're into Caitlin Moran, which I hundred percent am, then her collection of mostly previously published articles is a must read. I sped through them all in a weekend and am ready for More Moranthology.

Our book club selection was Salman Khan's One World Schoolhouse semi-manifesto, and if you're interested in education on any level, this will fire you up. After reading it, I was ready to adopt Khan's educational ideals lock stock and barrel, and wanted to invert every classroom and have computers replace teachers. Some of my fellow book clubbers -- who have Masters in education -- reined my enthusiasm in a bit, but I still believe that our education is screwed up and I'm ready to blow it all up. Our public school model was basically made to foster conformity, quell dissent, and pump out obedient workers. Does that sound like something you want to subject your children to? I think not.

I'm fully back on Goodreads after a many years' hiatus. The website UI is still a mess but at least they have an iPhone app that I can get behind. So I spent some time updating my books and am now all Goodready again. Friend me! At a thrift store this weekend, I found a book from 1999 titled Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition. It's both dry and thrilling at the same time. I just had to buy it for two dollars.

Moving onto movies, there's quite a bit I could talk about but I'll limit my focus to some sharing with you some actresses that I've either long admired or just discovered. Way back at the Tribeca Film Fest, I saw The Pretty One starring Zoe Kazan, and since I loved her work writing and starring in Ruby Sparks, I'm pretty much a fan for life. The movie is another identical twin sister story actually -- see, I'm a sucker -- but it's more of a comedy. Jake Johnson from New Girl also stars, and he's quite winsome.

Somehow I never got tipped onto Brit Marling, who decided to write her own movies after not being satisifed with the kinds of roles she was being offered. While Marling has the looks and appeal to go the traditional Hollywood romantic lead, girlfriend in trouble, etc. route, she is instead doing her own thing. It's all very admirable and impressive. Her third movie, The East, an eco-terrorism thriller, isn't terrific, but was good enough to make me want to see all of Marling's other work.

And now Sarah Polley, who I've long been a fan of. Well, not super long, considering she was a huge child star in Canada before my time. I've just been tracking Polley since Go and wondered why she didn't do more movies. Turns out she's been involved more behind the camera, and now her newest film, Stories We Tell, has blown me away. It's a documentary exploring her family's convoluted backstory and while that road has been traveled often, I'm positive Polley's work eclipses just about everyone else's attempts. It's impossible not to admire how deftly Polley pulls everything together, devoid of schlocky sentimentality and full of subtle tidbits that capture your attention while she reveals the story. I admired Polley a lot before, but now I outright love her.

Oh, and I can't not talk about Frances Ha! Gerta Gerwig is another must-see actress for me and we caught a showing of Frances Ha where both she and director Noah Baumbach were in attendance for a Q&A. The movie plays to every Gerwig strength and I've already seen it twice. There is a long tracking shot where she gets to run/dance through the streets of Chinatown and I want to be right there alongside, skipping over all the trash and swirling by angry tourists.

It's summer movie season and ever since I got my MoviePass in late May, I've banged out just about every one. Most of them were average save Iron Man 3, Fast and the Furious 6, and World War Z -- absolutely loved the Israeli soldier in it, Daniella KerteszMan of Steel was outright boring, although the sight of superhunk Henry Cavill is probably worth the price of admission alone. Sidenote: Why are Superman's teeth all crooked? I guess that's irrelevant since my fellow moviegoers didn't even notice when I asked them about it afterwards. "His teeth, who's looking at his teeth?" Well said.

Anyway, This Is The End was pretty hilarous, even if it's normally outside of my genre, and if you can, skip Monsters University, Much Ado About Nothing, and Bling Ring. I've decided the goodwill from Sofia Coppola's earlier movies have run out with me so I will no longer get excited about anything she does. And Joss Whedon's version of Much Ado is just a travesty. Oh awful, it's bad when you miss Keanu.

During this past week, I've been on a terrific run of movies though, knocking out three great movies in a row: 20 Feet From Stardom, Despicable Me 2, and Stories We Tell. I'm just sad the great run will inevitably have to end. I'm already fearful that Pacific Rim will be that assassin. I am hearing terrible things about it.

Oh and unless I haven't made myself clear, Spring Breakers is my favorite movie of the year already. It's just, everything. I've seen it multiple times, I listen to the soundtrack, I sing the Britney song at karaoke. Always. However, I am done pushing the movie onto people as it's decidedly very hit or miss. If you love Spring Breakers, like went through an obsession with it, then we should talk because that's enough for me to start a friendship with you.

And as for the much anticipated Before Midnight... I can't even talk about it. It has to be a conversation. A long conversation.

08 July 2013

Tearin' Up My Heart

Guess how much time I spent this morning "researching" a boy band's background? And not even a relevant boy band like One Direction. Allow me to catch you up onto the wonder that is IM5. Here's their "Disney Dudez" parody. As you'll see, the band contains a black Justin Bieber sing/dress/lookalike, and an Asian kid. More importantly, the (mixed-)Asian one is the cute one. And the tallest. And the most talented. #hotasianboy can now literally be applied to a boy. Move aside Godfrey Gao.

I don't have to tell you that having an Asian American boy band member is unprecedented. I mean, you'll have to go back to MTV's original Making the Band to find a predecessor. Even then, not quite. Bryan Chan got cut early on and I can't tell if Ikaika Kahoano was mixed or what. Neither of them made it to O-Town, but did end up joining forces later on to form their own by band. Trivia: Matthew Morrison was also in LMNT. Yes, a young Mr. Schuester. Mind blown.

Anyway, let's bring it back to Will Jay, trailblazer and soon to be icon. He fucking kills it in the Disney video -- as, ahem, Shang/Mulan -- and he should clearly have fan girls following his every move. Heck, I may be fangirling him. Read his bio. He's got Jason Mraz on there, Al Green on there, and omg, Tribe. A seventeen year old who listens to ATCQ? Just give me the papers to adopt him or date him off to someone I know. Of appropriate age of course. Also, young Will drops Catch Me If You Can references in interviews. What's not to love?

The ultimate capper here is that this boy band you've never heard of was founded by Simon Fuller of Spice Girls/Idol fame and Perez Hilton. "We don't want any ugly ones. We don't want any Joey Fatones, if you know what I mean." IM5 is clearly about to be the next big thing. Can any of them actually sing without auto-tune? Are any of their songs any good? The answers are "probably not" and "definitely not," and but I mean, does that even matter?

And to prove that I don't just go gaga over boy bands, here's a "The Cup Song" cover featuring Kina Grannis and some other Youtube people. Related, I am on the lookout for three friends who can sing, clap, and flip cups around at the same time. Auditions only done in-person, apply via text message. Start practicing.

Heat wave time is officially here. I've never owned this many tank tops in my life and just the other day I caved and got an air conditioner for the apartment. It's hard to hibernate by day when your room is a furnace. This mini 5000 BTU beauty does the job and I'm happy to include it among my growing inventory of "things that control the weather/temperature." Between a space heater, humidifier, and this AC, I'm ready for every season. What I'll do with these items when I move is beyond me.

Living in New York, and staying put in one place for so much longer than I'm used to, has made me pile up stuff. My old "only have what you can carry" rule isn't quite working out anymore. Thus, time to declutter! Here's a nice Medium post about doing exactly that, "The Noise of Stuff." I was also reading a good article about the whole getting rid of extra fluff and living a minimalist lifestyle thing and how it's only for the privileged. The article made some remarkable points but unfortunately I can't find it. The basic takeaway was that privilege wasn't about having the money to buy stuff, but also about being in a place where you can choose where or  how you spend your resources.

I choose to spend my money on multiple shaved ices and bubble teas. As any sane person would do in this weather.

Bad segue alert. You know who has really been decluttering? Danny Ainge! Over the span of a week or so, he tore apart my beloved Celtics and is going into total tank mode. Last time we did this, we whiffed on getting a high pick, aka Kevin Durant, but made out with the revised Big Three and a championship. Now our head coach basically quit on us, and we jettisoned our team leaders and the beating heart of Celtic pride -- along with the guy who maybe jumped the gun on a tattoo. Then we went ahead and hired a head coach who's barely older than me. It's a definite recipe for success.

To be honest, I wasn't unhappy to see the rebuilding start. Next year's draft is supposed to be stacked so if we're gonna hit rock bottom this is the time to do it. When we went to Vegas a few weeks ago, I didn't even put my traditional fifty dollars down on the Celtics to win the championship. It'll be super weird and tremendously sad to see Paul Pierce -- and to a much lesser extent, Kevin Garnett -- wearing the Brooklyn white and black, but I'd rather have them fighting for a title as opposed to rotting away in Boston. Although I did hope they would join Doc, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin in Clipperland. That would have been an interesting contender.

The biggest question now is what happens to Rajon Rondo. I'm not sure he's a viable franchise cornerstone, what with his sometimes genius level play alternating with huge deficiencies in his game, but I don't want to see him go yet. Maybe he'll take the reins now, without a few old men to slow him down. Anyway, the NBA off-season has been super exciting and I'm refreshing Twitter and checking news like crazy.

01 July 2013

To Infinity and Beyond

As we all know, today marks the death of Google Reader. Post-panic, I haven't been super diligent about finding a replacement, hoping something would just emerge and come save the RSS world. Well, that didn't quite happen so I've had to make the tough decision to narrow down the field to just one or two.

I've given a quick spin to The Old Reader, Newsblur, Byline, etc. and come to the conclusion that Feedly is the answer. The team is obviously dedicated to RSS, and their product seems to hit most of my check marks. I was hoping Digg would come in at the last minute and blow us all away, but that clearly hasn't happened. (I mean, the lack of read counts bothers me to no end on Digg Reader. How can I trust a RSS reader that doesn't give me read counts?) If you need a replacement for Google Reader, I recommend hopping to Feedly.

I'm currently getting another copy of my Google Reader Takeout and re-migrating Feedly in anticipation of Reader collapse. You've got a few hours to do the same.

Things I like about Feedly: Super easy to transfer over from Google Reader. In fact it's so easy you should do it even if you're not 100% sure you're going to use Feedly. Their iOS app is also very nice and syncs fast. I still plan to primarily use Reeder for iPhone, which is temporarily free. Both the web and iOS Feedly has lots of preference settings such as colors, views, and fonts. The super easy drag-and-drop interface for organizing RSS feeds almost sold me on Feedly by itself. I mean, this is already so much easier than how Reader did it. Sure, Feedly doesn't have a search function but neither does anyone else yet so that's okay.

This is it. Good bye Google Reader, it was real. Now I'm off to re-organize my thirty categories and 650 subscriptions, wish me luck.