28 August 2014

In Revolt

Currently pushing: Amos Barshad, “This Is Their Youth.” Someone should go watch this on Broadway and then report back to me. Starring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and most importantly, Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson -- who was great in Enough Said. Kenneth Lonergan wrote the great You Can Count on Me, which single handedly made me love Laura Linney, so there’s a pretty good chance this will be good.

Since being back in San Diego, I’ve ripped through a ton of movies, thinking (erroneously) my MoviePass was about to expire: Hercules, TMNT, Sin City 2, Lucy, What If, CalvaryGuardians for a third time. What I gleaned from all that was basically that Taiwan is the new it place for films. Well, if representation in two movies is enough to qualify as “it.” Luc Besson shot the first part of Lucy in Taipei (although villains were Korean), and during the back half of What If, Zoe Kazan’s manic pixie dream girl character has a big job opportunity that would involve moving to Taiwan.

Coincidentally, I will be visiting Taiwan myself in a week or so. I haven’t been back in over a decade so this should be interesting. Last time I spent the back half of my trip in smoky Internet cafes, waiting for our trip to be over. This time I’ll be there for about the same amount of time, but I think I’ll enjoy it more. My mom showed me our birth certificate today. I was born at 2:46am, George two minutes later, at Taiwan Veterans General Hospital. She weighed 5 lbs 14 oz and I was six ounces smaller. The story we tell is that I was supposed to come out second, but right beforehand, I switched places. Thank goodness.

Here’s John Cho, Asian-American Hollywood hero, in the first episode of Selfie. His co-star is Karen Gillan, who plays blue-skinned Nebula, sister to Zoe Saldana’s green-skinned Gamora. I’m hoping Gillan returns for the Guardians sequel because I found her bitter cyborg to be quite compelling. ABC has two shows featuring Asian-American leads this season, with Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat debuting in October.

It’s fantasy football season and I’m mired deep in my drafts. This year I’m cutting back on all leagues, save my long time ten teamer, and my new-ish sixteen teamer. Oh and I’m counseling a friend for her league. Last year my friend piloted her team featuring LeSean McCoy, Calvin Johnson, and Matt Stafford to the top of the charts before sputtering in the Super Bowl. It was an impressive rookie run and her dedication was extraordinary. Heck, I wish she was in my leagues! “I think I woke up in the middle of the night once to check my lineup.” Direct quote.

This offseason, I was hoping to blow up my monster team featuring Adrian Peterson, McCoy, Larry Fitzgerald, Rob Gronkowski, and Andrew Luck but nobody wanted to trade me for A.P. so I’m just going to have to try to win a title with him. My team is massively impressive on paper but it never seems to do well at the end of the season. I blame All Day, even if he’s been the best fantasy running back for years.

Most of my attention this season going to be spent restocking my sixteen teamer, which has gone 5-8 in consecutive years. My first year, I traded away Drew Brees, which may have been a little hasty. In my efforts to rebuild a winner, I had to pull the trigger for Ray Rice, taking advantage of the good moral fiber of his ex-owner. Do I want a wife beater on my team? Not really, but you gotta leave your emotions off the (fantasy) field.

This season’s Hard Knocks features the Atlanta Falcons. They, like me, haven’t won anything in awhile, so I’m hoping we both have resurgent seasons. It’s been awesome to get some behind-the-scenes on my favorite team, and for the Falcons to actually get some national attention. Each episode features little segments about players on off days or at home, and my favorite so far is when Ra'Shede Hageman and teammates go to the Georgia Aquarium to take a dip with whale sharks. Also, the nuggets of wisdom that D-line coach Bryan Cox drops: "If you ain’t got a vice, something's wrong with you."

22 August 2014

Wet'n Wild

Currently pushing: Roy Choi's perfect instant ramen. Putting cheese in ramen? Oh yes. I've tried this recipe a few times and it makes instant ramen much more palatable. Not that it wasn't delicious before, but this is a huge upgrade on an old/desperate classic. Here's the actual recipe. (That scallion is not optional in my opinion.)

Picked up this quarterly magazine, Specimen, at Borderlands Cafe. It features “candid in-depth interviews with experts for everyday people.” Issue number eight is math meets nature, and contains conversations with a mathematical physicist, a computer scientist, a Nobel laureate, and an interview about "why is math still so dominated by white guys when it’s supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy?” There’s no ads in the thing, and it costs a mere nine dollars. I hope they stick around for awhile, because while I don’t normally like reading interviews, these managed to capture my attention.

Oh yeah, and I didn’t make it past the first section of Dog Eared Books because Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me grabbed me completely. From an informal poll of my friends, nobody knew what “mansplaining” meant. C'mon, the term was recently included in the Oxford dictionary! Then again, the indiscriminate Oxford also added "amazeballs, cray, hot mess, and subtweet" so that’s not saying much. In my never-ending quest to keep up with the times, I’ve also recently been caught up on “party nail” (so two years ago), “basic bitch” (somewhat tired), and "quiff" (both late and early). Please continue telling me things so I don't fall behind.
We went to the Russian River for AMR’s bachelor party. Twelve guys, one house. And one slow moving, drought-ridden, river. We opted for the long route, not realizing that it would take more than four hours to go just a few miles. At first, floating around was an absolute blast but soon it got cold and exhausting. A mile or so from our house, I got out of the river shivering and so over it, and decided to trek back alongside the road. Mistake?

One friend cut his bare foot immediately on a shard of glass so my other buddy assembled shoes out of cardboard, string, and sticks. Gingerly picking our way back home was the most dangerous thing we did all weekend. No wonder the first thing people look for when on the run is some footwear. I feel your pain fugitives.

I stopped at every mini-motel along the way, asking if they had some complimentary slippers to give us. Nada. I even tried to barter with one store that we would pay for some flip-flops after we retrieved our shoes. Not even a pause to think about it. Apparently the three of us looked entirely untrustworthy in our swimming suits, holding only inner tubes and no cash. Overall, the great outdoors was good. I just wish someone had brought a Go Pro. I mean, we had two of them but both owners somehow forgot to bring them. I guess you’ll just be spared the inevitably gorgeous video of us basically hiking the river.

Also, I finally got someone to play the Game of Thrones board game with me. Sure, it took some preparation -- one hour just to put the set together -- and some cajoling, but we hunkered down over the table on Sunday and mucked our way through a streamlined version of the rules. Most of the guys weren’t hardcore gamers so it was quite a feat of concentration for them to sit still for three hours. All that and we only got through six of ten rounds.

Overall, the game is a nice blend of Diplomacy and Risk, and I would love to play it some more now that I understand the rules better. (It took me a lot of reading and some serious YouTubing to get even the general gist of the game down.) The whole thing is begging for an iOS version, as the little pieces are just impossible to keep track of. But I guess when you’re trying to conquer Westeros, the first thing you should be is organized. I played as House Tyrell but instead of “growing strong,” I got pushed around and blamed for almost letting the Greyjoys take the win. That would never happen in real life, obviously. "Real life" meaning the show.

21 August 2014

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Jan - Aug 2014

Who’s responsible for the non-updates on fiftyfifty.me?! Oh wait, me. Whoops. Well, let’s take a half year-ish look at what’s been going on. As of late August, the numbers look good…on the movie side. It’s 60 movies and 12 books for me so far. Clearly I have a lot of books ahead of me, but the good news is that I’m definitely one hundred percent gonna make it this year. I made a blood pact with Susie and Lilly that we were all gonna do it this year. I mean, Susie’s even throwing in fifty new tangible skills. That’s impressive!

First recommendation: Saga Vol.1, which is a graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. I wrote earlier that "Saga is like a master class in cliffhangers” and that’s definitely true. The third volume came out in March and I’m eagerly waiting for the rest to follow. Second recommend: If you’re into animals and philosophy, John Berger’s Why Look at Animals? is a slim collection of essays exploring the relationship between man and beast is a must-read.

As for old time classics, I did give The Giver a read-through before watching the movie, and I must say that I was impressed. I had mistakenly written The Giver off for years because I thought it was something like The Secret. Instead, it’s the progenitor of YA dystopian and I was super impressed with how efficiently and effortlessly Lois Lowry builds her world. It puts a lot of the modern stuff to shame. I wouldn’t say The Giver is a great book, but I can understand how it might have been amazing back in the day. The classic that I did like quite a bit was Katherine Paterson’s Jacob Who I Have Loved, featuring finicky/plucky protagonist Sara Louise, who is trying to escape from the shadow of her perfect twin sister.

And I'm really giving The Goldfinch a go, because everyone said it's amazing, and I want to love it too, but it's not really working for me for some reason.

Now let’s take a look at movies. I give pretty much all Marvel films a sterling grade, so you’ll have to excuse me there. I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy at least twice each. Overall it's been a pretty weak movie year, and it’s possible that Her, which came out last year but I only saw in January, will end up being my favorite film of the year. I saw pretty much all the summer "blockbusters," and can only recommend Edge of Tomorrow and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Tom Cruise still has it (he’s never lost it, if you ask me) and the more buff Emily Blunt in my life the better. As for How to Train Your Dragon 2, it’s easily the most fun movie I've had in a movie theater in 2014. If you loved the first one, this is even better. Dragons, dragons, always more dragons!

For the quieter stuff, try out Margin Call, a tense thriller about the 2008 financial crash, Le Passe from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (he made 2011’s incredible A Separation), and the charming and hilarious Obvious Child. I had semi-mixed feelings about Boyhood, but I’m certain Richard Linklater is a genius so it’s impossible not to give it high marks. And please keep a special eye out for my friend Ursula's documentary, 9-Man, which focuses on a volleyball-like streetball game that has flourished exclusively in Chinatowns.

05 August 2014

Dance or Die

Listening to: Tank, “You’re My Star.” We spent some of the weekend trying to learn the choreo for the MJ Slide, clearly the best line dance ever. Please practice so we can do this at weddings. As I've discovered, I can’t bounce and do footwork at the same time -- plus this move is impossible for me, it's just never going to happen. Sigh. Anyway, here’s an easier video of the MJ Slide to learn from.

Just got back from Daybreaker, an early morning dance party serving juices and coffee instead of alcohol. I’d been trying to go in New York but couldn’t find anyone to attend with me. Fortunately, folks in San Francisco are morning people so off we went! The idea behind Daybreaker is that you head into work energized and alert, and I’m sure for those with normal jobs, it’s totally worth the early wake up call. I, of course, am heading straight back to bed.
Actually, maybe I’ll stay up just a bit longer. I mean, I’ve practically become a morning person out here, and last week I even rolled out of bed before ten once. For a walking tour of the Tenderloin no less. Del Seymour leads people through the TL, showing them parts of the neighborhood that are often overlooked. Generally I’m trying to stay out of the TL as much as possible, but the two hour tour through St. Anthony’s facilities, the Glide Foundation’s various buildings, and St. Boniface Church where the homeless sleep in pews by day were all very interesting -- even if the experience felt pretty voyeuristic. Del also pointed out painted markings on the sidewalks, which is a "yellow brick road" for children to stay on, one manned by volunteers and serving as safe passage for kids to and from school. Overall, I’d recommend the tour for anyone looking for a different take on San Francisco’s “Fortress Against Gentrification.”
Speaking of churches, we went to the Church of 8 Wheels last week, for a little weeknight roller skating. As you (probably don’t) know, I love me some roller skating. Lilly and I used to go every Tuesday in San Diego, until that rink closed down. Even though I can’t do anything fancy, just gliding around and around is thrill enough. At 8 Wheels, we even got to go clockwise, which is something I’d never done before. For some reason, all the roller skating places I’d ever been to only let us go counter-clockwise -- unless you went backwards during specifically designated laps. Turns out going clockwise doesn't change your life, even though I was sure it would. Another dream shattered I guess.
And let’s talk about the basketball game I got to play in. My friend needed an extra for his league game last week, and I was more than willing. Organized basketball! Something I haven’t done since college, which basically means I haven’t done it at all. I have this rule that things you haven’t done in a decade should be expunged from your skills/life list. Like George and I used to ride horses in middle school but since that was almost twenty years ago, we can’t really claim that we know how to ride anymore. Unfortunately this rule negates a lot of things…

Anyway, I was the sixth man and it was twenty-three minute halves so it was pretty grueling. Usually when I play pickup I’m loafing around and trying to not get hurt, but when you play in a league game, you gotta go all out. "Run, run, run!" Our game ended in a tie, despite my best efforts to will the ball in from the bench. Next time I'll cheer harder.