30 December 2015

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Part I, Books



Earlier this year Susie (Boygirlparty) introduced me to Spritz, which is a speed reading app. I didn’t end up using it much but did take a series of speed reading tests. Surprisingly, I found that I read with more comprehension than I assumed, and at a pretty fast clip. I’ve been accused of skimming too much and I thought that was becoming a problem. I always knew I was a fast reader but now it’s mathematically true! The average reading speed is 300 wpm and I think mine was around 500, which is roughly the average college students i think. Still, despite all this, it was as dark dark year for books.

My big comeback to reading was derailed by, well, I don't know. I guess it's time to face facts: I am no longer a reader. After successive years of not getting to fifty books a year, I thought I could find the motivation to get my numbers back up. Instead, I went from twenty-six books read two years ago, to twenty-two last year, to a whopping eleven in 2015. That's a downward trend if I ever saw one.

I mean, technically I will "finish" fiftyfifty this year, but mainly because I teamed up with my cousin Cleo, who finished with a tremendous 100+ books read — which will combine nicely with my movies watched for this year’s version of fiftyfifty.me, +BUDDIES. But I'm not trying to win this challenge through a technicality. Three times a failure equals out of the club! Luckily, fiftyfifty has a "no kicking people" out policy so I can still stick around for another go.

Anyway, with barely double digit numbers of books read this year, I can reel off the recommendations pretty quickly. Here they are: We Were Liars by E.Lockhart and You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman. Those were my two five star books for the year. Basically all of E.Lockhart's books are great and I've already talked about how much I like Kleeman's writing, and her debut novel was as brilliant as I knew it would be.

Somehow I've met more male readers in my short time in Taiwan than I have in many years back home. The bartender at Taipei's R&D Lounge is a voracious reader and he told me to get behind The Forever War. Joe Haldeman's a huge name and influence in "hard sci-fi" and after reading Forever War I can see why. I've been reading derivatives of Forever War for years and just never knew it. Also, if you were like me and didn’t know, hard science fiction is "characterized by an emphasis on scientific accuracy or technical detail or both."

Also, a brief take on Crazy Rich Asians, the book that took the U.S. by storm last summer -- where I wasn't residing and thus I had no idea what it was. "I hate Kevin Kwan." There, I said it. It's sheer professional jealousy but still, I hate him. It's all the salacious things that I would put in a book but didn't think about doing. So yeah, anyway, Mr. Kwan, congratulations on getting everyone addicted to your book (and its sequel). And I hate you, in the most admirable way possible.

So that's my pathetic tale of books read in 2015. Most of all I need to read the Ferrante's Neapolitan series next because I feel like they could set my life on fire and get me hooked on something.

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Part II, Movies



Listening to: Dean & Britta, “Mistress America.” Saw the movie, loved it, and this soundtrack is killer too. I could listen to this first song forever.

Having spent most of the year in Taiwan, I felt like I missed a lot of the big hitters this year. But looking over the final movies watched list, I guess I managed to see a good amount and ended up with lots of A and B grades. Here is the list of no hesitation recommends, A or A- grades: The One I Love, Wild, Whiplash, In a World…, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Mad Max: Fury Road, Magic Mike XXL, Amy, Tangerine, Mistress America, The Martian, Sicario, Spotlight.

Then again, as I was watching David Ehrlich's "The 25 Best Films of 2015: A Video Countdown," I realized I saw most of the mainstream stuff and missed almost all of the indie ones. (Thanks to Slate Cultural Gabfest for the link to Ehrlich though.)

If I had to pare that list down to my favorite movies of the year, I'd go with The One I Love, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tangerine, Mistress America, and Sicario. Mad Max and Sicario were just pure adrenaline rushes and both are imminently rewatcheable and so brilliant. It's criminal to not watch either in the theater but I guess at this point you don't really have a choice if you missed them.

Mistress America was Noah Baumbach's second film to come out in 2015, but the only one with Greta Gerwig's fairy dust. I’m basically ready to declare that I’m over solo Baumbach but when Baumbach teams up with Gerwig I’m all the way in. I loved Mistress America so much, and need to give it some time to see how it fares against Frances Ha in my heart. The One I Love was the first movie I saw in 2015, and it actually released in 2014, but it's stayed with me all this time, both for concept and execution. I mean, what couple wouldn't want to meet the version of themselves that first got into that relationship? I love Elisabeth Moss and respect the hell out of Mark Duplass and this movie was just fantastic.

And then there's Tangerine, which was just, well, everything you’d want in a quirky movie. I recently rewatched it with a group of friends, not really knowing their movie tastes, and it passed the smell test. Funny, crazy, unexpected, plus diverse and shot on an iPhone 5, with quotable lines aplenty, Tangerine was probably my favorite movie of 2015. But not the most fun, for which I'd suggest Magic Mike XXL. The sequel gave up all pretensions of being a movie movie and just let Channing and crew dance and have fun. Somehow I have friends who didn't love XXL but I've de-friended those people already, so no matter.

As for most disappointed movies, the list runs to Dear White People, Beyond the Lights, While We’re Young, My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, and Ex Machina. Too much hype, or just not good period. And I can’t even talk about the new Star Wars, which made me almost yawn in boredom midway through.


You'll notice a real dearth of Taiwanese, even though I said that I would try to dive into some Taiwanese stuff. My friend gave me a list of essential Taiwanese movies, such as Millennium Mambo, but I've been handicapped by very slow Internet, so that has curbed my ability to download this stuff. So I saw a handful of Taiwanese/Chinese movies in the theater but didn't get far beyond that.

As a year ender, I'll drop this for you, a short film recommended to me: Gang by Stuart Winecoff. It's pretty great.

21 November 2015

Too Late Now

Listening to: The Biebs! Between each single being straight up A+’s, all the fucking amazing dance videos, there is nobody else right now but Bieber. Here’s the acoustic for “What Do You Mean,” and I can’t even decide which dance video I like best. Right now it’s these fierce kids from “Children” getting all crazy but that could change tomorrow. Don't call it a comeback!
I’m back in the U.S. for a quick three week sprint. Basically a trip back now involves figuring out what I need to buy to bring back to Taiwan (for myself or others). See below.

Also, I found out the other day, while helping my friend pack her apartment, that she only gets her underwear in America. And so her annual trips here involve a huge bill at Victoria’s Secret and the like. Similarly, she was tasked with bringing a ton of stuff back from Taiwan for her family. Really basic stuff like bowls, toothbrushes, powdered soup, garbage bags, etc. At first this boggled my mind that you would want to transport all these necessities across international borders but then I thought about Glide floss and how important it is in my life and I stopped questioning. Act local, buy global?

Anyway, on with the shopping list... And if you want me to bring something back for you, tell me quick! And (double) cash upfront please. Obviously.

  • Codenames: The new Bond movie was trash but this board game promises to rectify that by pitting two teams of players in a race to figure out who-is-who between rival squads of undercover assassins. Sound intriguing? It’s also sort of a word game! I have to buy this immediately, and then acquire 3-7 friends fast...
  • TASCAM DR-40 4-Track Portable Digital Recorder: Because I have high aspirations for doing a proper podcast, and maybe some upcoming video stuff, this means I gotta up my voice recording game.
  • Together to the Beach, Jennifer Hsu: By one of my best friends, and it’s shameful I don’t have a copy yet. Available only in print form so gotta get it all paper and stuff.
  • Le Animalé Animal Totems: Red panda, narwhal, Fennec fox, slow loris, sloth, corgi, orca… I can’t decide! I want every one of these necklaces by Laura Johnston! Also, I need more necks.
  • $20 Zine Superpacks: Microcosm keeps putting out amazing little collections with titles like “Cozy Reads for Busy People” and “Decolonize Yourself." I’m considering doing Microcosm's BFF six-month subscription but don’t have anywhere to get it delivered to yet. For now I’m just staring hard at individual titles like 100 Years of Modern Iran (1891-1991) by J Gerlach and Pedal Zombies: Thirteen Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories edited Elly Blue.
  • Compliments Of: A deck of compliment cards courtesy of Molly Young. A must-buy. Who to compliment though? Friends or strangers? Huuuum. "A good compliment is specific, concise, and penetratingly accurate. It lands with a gentle splash. It induces a smile. It is cherished forever."
  • Tweezerman Slant Tip: My friend used mine and immediately wanted one of her own. It’s the best tweezers, as declared by Sweethome.
And of course, the two items that I always restock up on because I am giving them away constantly: a short charger cord for your phone and a lipstick sized USB charger. For $15 you could change your life and eliminate many headaches. The charger won't give you more than one full charge, if even that, but it's a perfect size and handy in a pinch.

As for the short cord, which you should always carry with you, AMR showed me the light last year by exhibiting how you really need both extra short (four inch) and extra long (six feet) cords to be living that smartphone life. The stock cord length is okay but having multiple options is the way to go. Thus concludes my pre-holiday consumerism. Also, take a read through Rob's post about his son, "Daddy's Thoughts #11: First Pair of Jordans?" It's great!

26 October 2015

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Listening to: Solange, “Losing You.” Yeah this song is old, but I’m just getting to it now and I’m obsessed. Of course it’s Dev Hynes produced, which is probably why I like the track so much. The video is great too. I’m convinced that Solange is 1000x cooler than Beyonce (and Drake) combined. Speaking of Drake, someone explain him to me. I don’t get it. [Edit: After a weekend of hearing "Hotline Bling" everywhere, I can't stop. Can. Not. Stop.]

Back in Taipei now, flew in on the heels of another super typhoon, Dujuan. When I arrived and went outside, all the motorcycles and bikes in the adjoining parking lot were flipped over on their sides. “Oh right, typhoon.” I’ve missed a number of bad weather situations of the years, mainly a byproduct of luck, or running off to warmer climates during winter. It always feels like I ditched everyone, like I ran for high ground while everyone else toughed it out. I would like to think I'm the type of person who would go down with the ship, but I'm thinking I'm probably the first one in the lifeboat kind of guy.

On my flight over, for all fifteen hours, I didn’t move. Like go to the bathroom, stretch, or anything. I slept most of time, but that was only ten hours or so. Either my body is getting really accustomed to flying or something is wrong with me. People should move on fifteen hour flights right?

Recently I’ve been meeting a crowd of people who fly all over the place. True jet setters. One of them told me, “The way to live is to be based in New York and go to <insert country> every six or eight weeks.” Sounds dreamy. That is a lot of flying though, but I wonder if that’s the answer. I’ve been thinking about if there are “perfect cities” that exist for people. How is it possible that most people don’t have a “perfect city.” Can it be that hard? My goal a few years ago was to flit around four cities, rotating as I saw fit. I was starting to think that was unviable, that maybe settling in one or two places was enough.

Now I met these people and they totally just go everywhere. If one has the means and nothing to tie you down, what’s the upside of staying put? If you can cobble together the perfect city from a few different ones, why wouldn’t you?

My perfect city requirements (ranked in order of importance): Weather, public transportation and/or walkable, late night dining options, art stuff to get into, somewhat English-speaking. Slowly sliding off that list are "proximity to beach" and "friends who reside there." Mainly because I've decided being close to a beach is too high an order, and with friends, well, you can always make friends anywhere.
While we were in Kaoshiung the other week, at Pier-2 Art Center, we got to visit some artists putting up their soon-to-open exhibits. The first piece was a giant globe built by Sudipta Das, here on artist residency from India. The artists came to Taiwan for a few weeks and from that experience created pieces to reflect that inspiration.

I am horrible at explaining things but the basic idea behind Sudipta's was one of migration and living in two worlds. I don't know exactly what books were used in its construction but do know that manga pages was included, because as Sudipta explained, the visual medium meant it was somewhat accessible to recent immigrants, even if they didn't fully understand the language.

The dark parts of Sudipta’s globe was dyed in coffee, giving it a wonderful smell. I want to live in that globe.

21 October 2015

Five Times Five

Once upon a time I did semi-weekly feature of five things I co-sign. I should bring that back actually. Anyway, here’s a short list of things I’ve been intaking, because making lists is the best way to feel productive.

Also, speaking of lists, I just found out about BJ Novak's (Ryan from The Office) iOS app, The List App. It's essentially a social network based around sharing lists. You can make lists about anything, and the blank prompts include "what I wanted to be growing up, chronologically," "my go-to karaoke songs," and "my favorite emojis and why." It's the non-generic lists that are really good though. Go download the app and take a look.

Podcasts
  • Food NewsFifteen minutes of news including a taste test to conclude each episode. Juliet and Jacoby have the best chemistry of any podcast hosts. Unfortunately, Juliet just resigned from Grantland so I think the show's over. The archives are worth digging through though. Come back Food News!
  • Explain Things to Me - Anna Akana and Brad Gage do interviews with people about their areas of expertise. I wish I had started this podcast... I wish I knew Anna Akana...
  • Dear Sugar - Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the original Sugars, take reader submitted questions and offer their advice.
  • Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men - If you're into the X-Men (comics), this duo is going through back issues in-depth. I think they're up to when Storm takes over the Morlocks, so it's solidly when I was still an avid reader.
  • Pistol Shrimps Radio - The Pistol Shrimps are the "Hottest Pickup Basketball Team in America." And I wouldn't disagree. I've been following via every available platform for awhile now, and this podcast is captured live in-game. It's the most unbasketball basketball podcast around.

iOS Games
  • Neko Atsume - Kotaku called it "The Japanese Game That We Can't Stop Playing" and it's absolutely true. I got many people around me hooked on it and most of my spring/summer was spent taking care of digital cats.
  • Mitchiri Neko Mix 2 - If you like one Japanese cat game, why not two?! Mitchiri Neko isn't quite as addicting as Neko Atsume, but there's a fun Pokemon collection-like thrill in mixing two types of cats together to create another one. And this music video for the game, "Mitchiri Neko March," is all sorts of amazing. I bet you can't resist putting it on repeat. Guide to Mitchiri Neko 1 & 2.
  • Vainglory - I've never played a MOBA before. And now I play the shit out of this one. I started off using Hello Kitty Koshka, but now I'm a Krul guy through and through. I need to stop playing this game. If you play Vainglory, friend me! And if you need a good podcast about the game, may I suggest The Fold?
  • Fallout Shelter - A sort of Tiny Towers game but with far more interactivity. It's a post-apocalyptic world and you need to rescue dwellers from the wasteland and keep them healthy and alive. Plus armored. I got really really into this for a few weeks.
  • Dreeps - It's an "alarm playing game" where your character goes on an RPG-like adventure but all you do is set an alarm. I don't actually know what I'm doing yet but I love the art, music, and idea of the game. Also I like saying "dreep!"
Songs
  • Nightcrawler, “Road Blaster" - Found this under a YouTube channel called NewRetroWave. Sounds as enticing as it, well, sounds.
  • Passion Pit, “Where the Sky Hangs” - I forgot how much I like Passion Pit. And I kind of miss posting song's on AMR's music blog, The End Starts Today.
  • Miniature Tigers, “Oblivious” - The best part of a so-so movie, Sleeping with Other People. Also makes for a pretty good Spotify Radio lead track.
  • Justin Bieber, "What Do You Mean?” - The lyric video features skateboarding. Also, this song is undeniable. Don't deny it.
  • Phil Collins, “I Wish It Would Rain Down” - Someone made a rain inspired playlist on my Spotify and this track called out to me, from 1989.
Articles/Sites
My League Pass Teams
  • Boston Celtics - Duh!
  • Minnesota Timberwolves - I have both Ricky Rubio and #1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns on my fantasy team. I'm invested.
  • Los Angeles Clippers - Having Paul Pierce added on just makes this better. I want the Clips to win it all this year! But they probably won't...
  • Milwaukee Bucks - Long limbed weirdos at every position, plus great uniforms and court!
  • Sacramento Kings - Will Rondo add to the destruction? Or just keep Rondo-ing?
  • Brooklyn Nets - Actually I'm not really watching them, so much as waiting for them to lose so the Celtics can get their first round pick.
Miscellaneous

24 September 2015

Great Books by Great People

Alright, so I’m in New York, have been for a few weeks, and while there’s lots to cover, let’s start with my timely arrival that enabled me to hit a few book events. All exciting stuff, so see below.

I’ve been following Alex Kleeman’s blog, technicolor.org, since maybe 2002. Like back when blogs were barely a thing. Technicolor was an all-time favorite and I pushed it on as many people as would listen. Alex’s writing was just so amazing (and she was super young), and I knew she would, at some point, be a writer. Fast forward to 2015 and here we are, Alex's debut novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine. I slipped into her reading at Asian American Writer’s Workshop last week and it was like my online life just collapsed in on itself. Kinda wild. Anyway, go read Alex's book, I’m saving it for my airplane ride back to Taipei but you can get started on it today!
I met Dhonielle one night in New York years ago, as she was in town visiting with our mutual friend. Twenty-four hours later we had canvassed the city and stayed up forever, and that set the stage for the first YA writer friend I had! Dhonielle and Sona met while doing their MFAs at the New School and their debut novel just released, Tiny Pretty Things. It’s about three dancers at a Manhattan ballet academy and all the behind-the-scenes drama. Since I was in town, I jetted to the Brooklyn Book Festival to see their panel but it was so jam packed that I couldn’t even get in. Overcapacity!

So I guess I was there in a support capacity, but you know, outside — hanging out with Sona’s husband, Navdeep, also a writer! Regardless, Sona and Dhonielle have a whole slew of things coming out so I’ll have the chance to catch them at other stuff soon. Also, the super duo launched Cake Literary last year, a book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. The world of YA is lily white for the most part, as we know, so it’s kind of amazing to have fellow authors of color who like, get it.

Actually, while I’m here in the YA world, jetting from San Diego to New York meant I missed Cindy Pon’s book launch for her new release, Serpentine. It’s set in the same kingdom of Xia as Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix and there’s also a follow-up coming!
And finally, yesterday I went to my friend Sam’s book release for her one-woman play, Lydia’s Funeral Video. I saw Sam perform Lydia’s Funeral Video a few years ago in San Francisco, and it’s literally amazing. If that’s possible. I thought last night’s event was actually a performance but as it turned out, it was just the book release. I wish there was a way for you to see Sam do the play, but if the next best thing is the book format, that’ll do.
Basically all this going to book stuff makes me feel like I need to be back in New York. There’s just so much shit to do here, and the people, the people! Of course, I should probably also get back to writing something. Heck, the long discussed project I wrote for Sam’s Kearny Street Workshop class I took in 2009 is still waiting for me to get past the proposal stage. What’s the gestation period for a writing project? Infinity right? So I'm on the right track?

06 September 2015

Cowabunga

Listening to: Charli XCX, “Need Ur Luv” and Carly Rae Jepsen “Run Away With Me.” Summer pop struts, one featuring a saxophone. Also, the new Carly Rae album is ridiculous good.
Today’s Surf Report: Scary waves, low standing up to tumble ratio, Jon couldn’t make it past the breakers. Knocked silly multiple times, the end. Generally speaking, when I speak about “surfing,” it is of the web variety. But every once in awhile, usually in August, I take to the outdoors for my surfing.

You grow up in California and don’t surf and people are like shocked. I’m sorry, none of my friends growing up surfed okay? Like literally nobody. Even though we lived so close to the beach. It wasn’t until a summer in our mid-twenties that we got together and started learning. I never got really good, truth to tell, any good at all, but it’s fun to sit out there on a board, the ocean all clear around you, even if nothing is happening.

We always go to 11th street in Del Mar, which involves walking down across train tracks and then down this semi-steep dirt cliff. The first time we went it was scary but now it’s more mundane. It feels cool actually, to walk to a “secret” spot. The good thing about 11th street is that even though the beach is sandwiched between the touristy areas of Torrey Pines and 15th Street, the intimidating access point keeps it unpopulated.

Every day I’ve been checking the surf report and really, I have no idea what “overlapping pair of primary SW-SSW and secondary SSE Southern Hemi swells hold. Meanwhile, small shorter period WSW and SSE tropical swells mix in, along with minimal NW windswell.” Hah, ooookay. All I’m looking for is what the air and water temperatures are. The past couple weeks it’s been high seventies and low seventies, respectively. Having such warm water is pretty glorious. I’ve even been able to consistently catch a few waves this summer, so maybe I'm finally getting the hang out of it! Surfing: Five out of five stars.

What does suck is post nasal drip. Like if you get tossed around a lot, which I did the past two days, your head fills up with seawater and then an hour or two after you exit the beach a waterfall comes out of your nose. No warning, nothing, it just comes right out. It’s not snot or anything gross, just seawater that’s been lodged in your brain. But it’s still quite the experience. Nature’s Neti Pot I guess? Also I got flipped around so much today I gave up after half an hour, went ashore, and then found seaweed in my shorts while eating lunch two hours later. Whoopee.

I don't know how I just saw this right now, orcas chasing a speedboat. I'm so behind it's frightening.

The other thing I’ve been doing besides finally going outdoors — I’m still pasty, just less so — is getting my photo situation fixed up. I remember years ago when some tech people were saying that photo management was going to be the next big thing. And boy were they right! Ever since all the Internet goliaths announced their photo management solutions, I’ve been researching and debating which one(s) to use.

Before I just imported everything into iPhoto, sorted stuff into event and yearly folders, and left it at that. I had some Flickr accounts too, mainly as legacies. My photo collection felt like a nice mix of historical documents and useless fodder, but now with camera phones it's tipped way over into “too many shots of everything” territory.

Yeah, I still pick out the stuff I want to share for my personal moblog but otherwise all those photos just sit on the computer taking up space. And space, and space, and more space! I moved everything off to an external drive last year -- 130 gigs of photos stretching all the way back to high school -- but I knew that was only temporary. Enter iCloud Photo Library. I’d been waiting for a new computer (the old one barely opened that huge of a Photos file) and faster wifi to implement my photo plan. Da-dun, the big day arrived this weekend!

Well, turns out that shoving 57,250 photos to iCloud takes awhile. So the dream continues. In the meantime, here’s my photo solution:
  • Paid $3.99/month for 200 GB to use for iCloud Photo Library
  • Use Google Photos, unlimited setting, for cloud backup
  • Have everything on two externals too, one that goes with me, one that stays at home
I’ve discovered that one backup is not enough. Those in the know suggest two backups of everything, like two offline and two online. So a total of four. That means I’m actually behind. And I thought I was already paranoid. I pretty much believe in having backups for everything, up to and including friends. I mean, the most paranoid billionaire in literature, S. R. Hadden from Contact, essentially made a backup of The Machine so that when it blew up, he had another waiting for Jodie Foster to ride through some wormholes. Pretty genius. So yeah, back that shit up!

Oh, and I started clean with my new laptop. Instead of porting over all my old settings and programs from my Macbook, I started super fresh. New laptop, new life right? It took most of a whole day to get everything right but as I discovered, the most time consuming part was my Mac Mail folders. It’s embarrassing but I generally still rely on offline Mac Mail to do my email organizing. Even though I imported most of the important folders, I know it’s time to take my email habits straight to the Gmail interface. Hello IMAP, good bye POP.

The latter half of this post brought to you from my future android body. Let the cybernetic takeover begin.

15 August 2015

Turnt Down & Out

Listening to: Vancouver Sleep Clinic, "Flaws." I heard this at the end of Before We Go, Chris Evans' Before Sunrise-y directorial debut. Since then I've just had their wonderfully dreamy six song EP, "Winter," on repeat. Excuse me, Vancouver Sleep Clinic is just one guy, Tim Bettinson, and he's only eighteen. Geezes!
I hopped back to the States the other week, straight to San Francisco. The flight I took was all kinds of backwards. First to Hong Kong, then to Manila, and finally to SFO. That’s what happens when you book your flight late and try to save a few bucks. Somehow, for the entire long leg of the flight, I managed to not even get out of my seat. Pretty impressive right? I’m really getting the hang of long flights!

After a quick week in San Francisco — saw some friends, saw some movies, rode/walked a bike up unconquerable hills — I came home, finally. San Diego’s weather awaited me and right away I headed for burrito-land. Well, actually, a delicious set of chicken flautas but close enough. I was trying to figure out the last time I’d been away from proper Mexican food for such a long time. Maybe almost a decade ago. Sometimes I went to the sub-par Mexican choices in Taipei just to get some pico and shredded lettuce on my tastebuds. Desperate times you know?

It seemed like everyone I met up with in the Bay had a recent big life change. Like moving out, moving in, moving in together with their significant other, recently engaged, recently announced their pregnancy, quit their job, new job, etc. All the changes frightened me a little. I don’t know if “frighten” is the right word, but basically it felt like big things were happening for everyone. That, combined with our going to bed so early on the weekends, portended a future for me that had me scared.

See, San Francisco was the last of the West Coast cities where my friends actually still went out. And stayed up late, and hung out, and did stuff. Coming straight from Taiwan, where my schedule was super late, it was a mild shock. And I stared at the gaping maw of my dystopian Bay Area future and had to face facts: People were settling down / growing up. Oh the horror!

For U.S. cities, now it’s down to just New York, and New York will always be an exception because people there are forever young. So yeah, I’m trying to get there as fast as I can, hopefully in September, after some beach and sun back in San Diego. Plus the burritos.

I was also in L.A. for a bit last weekend. Hung out mostly in the downtown L.A. area that I was previously unfamiliar with — aside from parts of K-Town and the Staples Center for Clippers games. Driving in, I passed by the tent cities of Skid Row, which looked even crazier than the Tenderloin. I was very curious about how Los Angeles handles Skid Row, and started doing some online reading about it.
"At the time, Skid Row made sense. It corralled all that would attract ‘undesirables' into a part of the city without much of a population beyond daytime office workers, pensioners, and the homeless and semi-homeless hotel-dwellers already there. It lay far from coastal enclaves like Santa Monica or suburban hinterlands like the San Fernando Valley, which were home to more politically important constituencies.”
-The Gentrification of Skid Row: A story that will decide the future of Los Angeles-
Last year, we took a walking tour of the Tenderloin, which was both informative and eye-opening. My friend Stef and her friends are now working on launching The Anchor & Plow Project, a program to give SF newcomers (i.e. invading techies) a better understanding of the neighborhoods they’ve taken over. In related things: On the way to the airport, via Uber Pool of course, I saw my first Google Bus and the huge queue waiting for it. Anyway, check out Anchor & Plow’s mission statement and pass the survey on to anyone you know.

Also, I stuck around in L.A. to watch Sean Baker's Tangerine, because I knew it wasn't playing back in San Diego. Plus the theater was in Hollywood, a few miles from where Tangerine was set. The movie itself was fantastic. All the more overwhelming because it was shot on an iPhone. You want to talk diversity? How about two transgender leads and an Armenian cab driver imprisoned by his cultural background? So yeah, start with the trailer, then make sure to watch the whole damn thing.

10 July 2015

How Long Do I Wait?

I’m not often called a genius, for obvious reasons, but sometimes I get so close to genius it’s confusing. For example, I’ve solved the “how long do I wait" problem. With a spreadsheet, as per usual.

See, I tend to always be waiting for a friend to do something. Maybe it’s to catch a specific movie, maybe it’s to go on vacation, whatever. I’m loathe to do anything alone so part of that always wanting companionship thing is agreeing to wait. And wait, and wait.

My friend pointed that this was ridiculous and offered up a few different strategies to fix it. She was very helpful. I'll try a few of her suggestions but in the meantime, we came up with a formula to mathematically figure out how long a person should reasonably wait. After extensive testing, our system basically works for every situation, including and up to “How long should I wait to break up?”

So yeah, all everything you need is right here: "How Long Do I Have to Wait: An Answer," with a step-by-step and explanations below. It’s an incredible system, and one I’ll be applying to my own life immediately.

STEP ONE: Pick a time frame. Is it hours, days, weeks, months, or years? Most of the time, the answer is obvious. When in doubt, pick the shorter time frame.

STEP TWO: Go through all five categories, scoring from 0-5 for each. Zero is low, five is high. The formula is weighted like this:
(A*0.35)+(B*0.25)+(C*0.20)+(D+0.10)+(E+0.1) = How Long Do I Wait
STEP THREE: Inform your friend(s) how long you’ll be waiting. That’s it! Feel free to live your life now without suffering guilt about how you didn’t wait for someone to do something.
Categories Explained: 
Word is Bond, 35%
This category covers how fixed in stone the plans were. A passing “Oh yeah, we should watch that together merits just a one on the scale. But if you’ve looked deep into each other’s eyes and promised to do something together, that’s a five. I can’t emphasize enough how important this category is, thus it’s weighted very heavily because the agreement part is where most of the future disagreements stem from. “But you said you would wait!?!”

Closeness, 25%
How close are you to the person you made a commitment to. Is it just a so-so friend, or perhaps a co-worker that you’re friendly with but owe nothing to? A five on the scale is someone who will slit your throat (deservedly) if you ditched them. Irreparable betrayal really.

Worth the Wait, 20%
Is experiencing this event with the other person going to be worth the wait. Sure, you could go ahead and watch the Game of Thrones finale with anyone, but wouldn’t it be better to wait and enjoy it with your die-had fan? If so, that’s a high Worth the Wait score. Also, this is the category to take into account how important this thing is to the two of you. Is your bond with so-and-so all about roller coasters and you’d have the most fun with them? Or you traditionally ALWAYS do this one thing together. Then that’s a five.

Frequency of Event, 10%
Is this the kind of thing where opportunities will come again? Or is it a once-in-a-lifetime deal? A brunch or a movie can happen quite often, so that would score low. Taking a trip to pet penguins in Antartica? That’s probably pretty rare, score it a five.

Crucial Figure, 10%
Is the person you’re waiting for a big part of the event? Are they central to the planning process, will they have connections to free housing or VIP seating? That’s what this category is about. If this person is irreplaceable, then they should rank highly.
Let’s take a real life example. Piper is headed to jail for transporting drug money across international borders. Her fiance, Larry, promises that he’ll wait for her to be released before continuing Mad Men. How long should Larry wait?

He verbally promised he would wait (score it a 5), he and Piper are engaged (5), it seems like watching Mad Men is their couple thing (4), they could likely replace Mad Men with another show when she gets out (2), and Piper isn’t really a crucial figure to watching the series (1). Final answer: 3.9.

The timeframe part is up to Larry. If he wants to be a backstabbing, lying asshole, then he can wait 3.9 hours to watch Mad Men. If he wants to be a stand up guy, then he can wait up to 3.9 years for Piper to get out and watch Mad Men together. Your call Larry.

Please, use the spreadsheet, test it out. I think you'll find that it's both simple and effective. As always with my world changing spreadsheets, I welcome comments, questions, and improvements. This is just an alpha version, created in an evening, but I think it has the potential to change how we interact with each other. As rational, responsible adults who shouldn't get upset at each other for superfluous stuff. You know, like what I did when my friend ditched me to get her tattoo. I'm still holding that one against her...

Caveat: This “how long should I wait” formula doesn’t work for things that can only happen during certain timeframes. If an event happens on a specific date and time, then it’s simply a matter of whether you can go together or not. Along those same lines, this formula doesn’t work for things that you absolutely can’t delay. Like, say, childbirth. “It says I should wait 3.47 weeks to give birth, should we go ahead and tell the doctor?” No.

01 July 2015

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Okay, so the first Magic Mike wasn’t technically a dance movie since it was Steven Soderbergh’s attempt to make a semi-serious film about male strippers. For the sequel, Soderbergh is just exec producing and XXL has totally turned into a dance movie! I mean, SYTYCD and Step Up alum Twitch is in this thing! That's when you know it's official.

A little backstory on my history with Magic Mike. I (mistakenly) made like half a dozen friends go watch it with me on opening night in 2012, leveraging Soderbergh's auteur credentials and the pull of Channing Tatum. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t very good. I mean, I loved it, and Matthew McConaughey was amazing, but Magic Mike wasn’t say, The Wrestler. It tried to sort of be dark and have human emotions but really, Magic Mike ended up squarely in the “pretty awful but fun” camp.

This time out, XXL has embraced its inner campiness, turned the focus on pure entertainment, and tossed aside all previous pretentiousness and given us a movie that is just fun, fun, fun. Spoiler alert: This movie is gonna rank really high on my dance movie scoring scale, like frighteningly high. Like maybe the best one ever high. Beware.

Tagline: “Back to the grind.” Someone should receive an award for this tagline. Absolute perfection.

1. Plot (6)
Magic Mike, aka Channing Tatum, left stripping behind at the end of the first movie to pursue his custom furniture business and home life with a steady girlfriend. Like he says in XXL, he was ready for that Downton Abbey life. Instead, with a broken heart and a head of shattered dreams, he’s ready to join his friends, the former Kings of Tampa, when they come calling for “one last ride."

While this isn’t exactly an original premise, there are two or three set pieces along the way, as the boys road trip toward a stripper convention, that makes XXL a cut above the rest. Also, as my fellow moviegoer pointed out, there’s no “oh shit, everything is going wrong” downturn in the story. XXL is simply a joy ride all the way through with no lame speed bumps to slow things down.

2. Can the lead characters dance (10)
There was a time where I would get into arguments about whether Channing Tatum could dance or not. My take is that while he’s pretty good, he definitely wasn’t amazing or anything in the first Step Up. Of course, as hindsight always proves, I’m an idiot and of course Channing Tatum is a great dancer. And when he’s stripper dancing, like wow. Off the charts. If you thought Magic Mike had some fantastic dancing, XXL will take it to the next level.

And while Tatum is clearly the star of the show, this time out, four of his buddies get a nice amount of screen time too. Joe Manganiello, Adam Rodriguez, Matt Bomer, and Kevin Nash aren’t on Tatum’s level but they can definitely get the job done dance wise. So yeah, get your dollar bills ready.

3. How’re the dance scenes? (10)
I’ll just leave a big fat "10" up there and let you watch this movie for yourself to witness the dance stuff. Suffice to say, there’s something for everyone. There’s sexy dance scenes, fun dance scenes, hilarious dance scenes, acrobatic dance scenes, “OMG what is happening” dance scenes, and genuinely holy shit dance scenes — the end one with Twitch and Tatum doing mirrored choreography was quite impressive.

Plus, there’s a Backstreet Boys scene by Manganiello that may have been my favorite of the movie. Yeah, just go watch XXL already. I guess you could take a peek at the trailer if you're still not convinced.

4. How’s the love story? (6)
Short, painless, and mostly non-existent! Simply subtracting the awful Cody Horn from Magic Mike was an instant improvement. Sure, Amber Heard is nominally around to be the love interest — and she’s okay doing a blonde Kristin Stewart impression — but this movie isn’t about heteronormative relationships.

Instead, the relationships that XXL focuses are the bromances between Channing and his boys. You get the feeling that everyone really missed each other during Mike’s time away and while there may be some hurt feelings, the guys actually talk them out. And at one point Channing even gets his cell phone tossed out the window because his friends want him to focus and "be present," to bond during their last weekend together. Sweet stuff! And deserving of a higher than average grade.

5. Rate the sidekicks (10)
Technically speaking, each of the other Kings of Tampa are Magic Mike’s sidekicks but the movie goes out of its way to imbue each of them with a personality or backstory, unlike the first movie. And as it turns out, that depth makes for a much funnier and enjoyable movie. They're co-stars this time around, and not just window dressing. So let’s set aside the idea that Big Dick Richie, Tito, Ken, and Tarzan are sidekicks so we can focus on the amazing cameos in XXL.

Seriously, what a cameo list. Let’s start up top with Jada Pinkett Smith, who was just amazing in her role as Rome, proprietor of a Savannah's best-kept secert and eventually the guys’ MC. Jada is great in this movie, like G-R-E-A-T. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Housed within Rome’s house of pleasure are Donald Glover, Twitch, and I swear it’s true, former NFL superstar and Hall of Famer Michael Strahan. I was like, “Wait, is that seriously Michael Strahan? No!” Also, apparently Ric Flair made a cameo? But I didn’t see him. Maybe on the rewatch…

On top of that, Andie MacDowell, sweet sweet Andie MacDowell is in this movie. And she’s perfect. In fact, every cast member in this movie is perfect actually. Unlike, you know, the disaster that was Cody Horn and Alex Pettyfer in the original. Speaking of Pettyfer, his career went down the tubes pretty fast eh?

6. Best line (7)
There’s a lot of conversations in the movie, and a lot of lines directed squarely at the movie’s prime demographic: thirsty women! Especially those raised on a diet of late Nineties era boy bands, Disney movie references, and say, young adult book/movie phenomenons. Not to mention that little Fifty Shades of Grey thing. Whoever wrote XXL definitely knew what to serve up to its audience in wink wink asides and references.

I can’t even remember most of the good lines (“We’re like healers or something…”) but the best one was definitely when Tatum is introducing himself to Heard’s character. “Nice to meet you. [I'm] Magic…*twirls*…Magic Mike.” So good! Just watch it. Also, the guys perform as "Resurrection," which is kind of a good name for a boy band. Plus there's five main characters, and they're from Florida...aha! I see what you did there you clever script geniuses.

7. Music (8)
Of course there was “Pony,” just like there had to be. But then there were the D’Angelo and Bruno Mars covers, by Matt Bomer and Donald Glover respectively. Also: Bomer can sing man, he does an acapella cover of Bryan Adam’s “Heaven.” Bryan Adams in a stripper movie, who would have thought?

Throw in some Jodeci, some R.Kelly and 112, and the soundtrack was definitely headed toward the top of the charts. The clincher for me was Glass Animal’s “Gooey” over the closing credits. “Gooey” is great and totally unexpected and well, it’s just high scores all around. Am I gushing, can you see it on my face?

8. Fashion (5)
I mean, most of the characters are in (very temporary) tank tops and half-naked for most of the movie so there’s not much fashion to discuss. Amber Heard’s character had her troubled hippie/hipster look down, but nothing else really stood out.

Oh wait, there’s the costumes that the guys put on to perform. After throwing out all their old getups, there's a “putting it all together” montage that involves lots of cutting and snipping as the guys make their new outfits. Tarzan even shows off his glitter skills. It was all very arts and crafts. Hello glitter! Plus, shout out to body oil, which definitely had its own line item in the budget.

9. Cultural Impact (8)
XXL isn’t just mere throwaway entertainment either. A movie centered around a couple of dicks is getting the feminist Mad Max: Fury Road once-over and it mostly fits. "This time the movie explores more about male/female gender identity and dynamics, suggesting that the strippers, whose bodies are sexually objectified the way actresses often are in cinema, can not only shamelessly impersonate women but give them what they really want: attention and pleasure.” Click on for the think pieces:
10. Miscellaneous (8)
Well, we can hope XXL eclipses all box office records but it’s been contending with Jurassic World and Inside Out so it won't ever likely hit #1 at the box office, like it so obviously deserves. Seriously, this was one of the most enjoyable movies of the year so far -- not even grading on a dance movie curve -- and I won’t be shutting up about it for at least a month.

After all, XXL was about fulfilling fantasies and chasing dreams. When revamping their routines, each of the main characters do so with their personal ambitions/interests in mind. For example, Big Dick Richie is a man afraid of fire who has been doing a fireman routine for years. What he ends up choreographing is far more in tune with his inner self. The XXL lesson is that if you put your passion into your work, you’ll have a greater chance to succeed. Or something like that. There are a lot of quasi-deep moments in XXL, like seriously.

Also, if you've made it this far into the review, then you clearly are interested in Chocolate City, aka the black Magic Mike. Chocolate City has Ginuwine and Tyson Beckford in it. (Tyson Beckford, where you been!?!) After Chocolate City will surely come the Asian, Hispanic, etc. versions of Magic Mike right? #weneeddiversity

FINAL VERDICT (78/100)
Yup, just like I suspected, Magic Mike XXL topped the charts for my dance movie series, narrowly edging out Centerstage by one point. It also tied Centerstage's record for three perfect category scores. What else can I say really? This is a good ass movie, and guaranteed to be a fun time simply for its ridiculousness.

While you go buy tickets for XXL, I'm gonna go work on my body roll because seriously, you cannot get anywhere in life without a decent body roll, right?

25 May 2015

MAY: Week Three & Four

Listening to: Flight Facilities, "Clair De Lune.”

Sometimes, I’m sitting in a cafe here and a great (relatively old) song comes on. Like the Flight Facilities track above. And I wonder how it got here. "Here" being Taiwan. Do some of the cafe proprietors just have the same taste in music as I do? Or more likely, they are just using Spotify playlists. Which is both good and bad. Good because I like the music but bad because you can't even tell who has good taste anymore when we all just resort to pre-curated playlists.

This is the “What I miss about America” edition of weekly updates — besides certain foods, that’s a constant. Basically, I’m starting to feel out of the loop on everything back in the States. Not that I was on top of everything but at least I could keep abreast of the conversation. I was behind on some stuff -- as generalized here -- but for most things I was either slightly ahead or right with the zeitgeist.

Now I’m just behind on everything: movies, books, TV, news, whatever. The same thing happened when I lived abroad last time, like fifteen years ago. I used to be on top of everything and after eight months in China I came back lost and confused -- especially music wise. And it took forever to semi-catch up. For someone who prides themselves on being aware of what’s trending or coming down the pipeline, I’m distraught.

“But the Internet…” you say. I mean, of course the Internet. But when nobody else around you is talking about stuff, it’s easy to let it slide too. I mean, what is Empire. What was Ferguson? Who is Drake? Has popular slang changed while I've been gone? How long can I live like this? Is it time to return?

I can only imagine how this effect magnifies if one's been away for longer. I fear being that out of touch. My friend likes to ask, "But behind according to whom?" And my answer is invariably, "everybody!"
This week was our big exam for the semester. I showed up, took the test, and then disappeared again. School’s out in two weeks, technically, but I’m done — I’ve lost the motivation. Theoretically, I have no reason to be in Taiwan anymore, now that school's over, but I’m not quite ready to leave. So what to do with all this time?

Well, the U.S. is pulling me a bit, and I was looking at swinging home for summer camp, a June wedding, and then some weeks in New York, but somehow it feels like my life is, more or less, here. It’s only been seven or eight months but Taipei feels home-ish.

The weather has been warming up though, which could quickly drive me away. Heat is my enemy. Given the choice, I’d take frigid winter over torpid summer but maybe with enough air conditioning and cool thoughts I'll survive. "Brr, it's cold in here..."

Without school I don’t have much of a routine, unless you count dance class on Wednesdays (the only thing I regularly commit to), and then an assortment of random social things during the week, followed by weekends trying to find music and/or dancing. Chasing the stars, as it were. It’s a shapeless existence, and not that different from when I lived anywhere else. But it’s starting to become tiresome. For awhile it was nice having school to anchor the day, but truthfully, I was feeling resentful about the daily obligation.

So yeah, now what?

Our friend’s rooftop has become our de facto hangout spot and we go up there at night to drink wine, chain smoke, and blast music. The most enjoyable dance party I’ve been to in awhile has been on this rooftop, just three or four of us, dancing like idiots because nobody’s watching. And because we could play our own music. Fun danceable music is impossible to find here. That alone might drive me back to New York.

Question: What is the smallest number of people that qualifies as a “party?” Same thing for “crew.” I’ve noticing the term “crew” thrown around to describe just a handful of people. That seems like overstating the fact. The minimum number for a crew can’t be lower than, say, seven people right? Please rank in ascending order: crew, posse, entourage...

There are certain things you can only do here in a bunch of people. I have yet to assemble that many friends but one day, I would like to. If simply to take advantage of the sharing potential of a high headcount. Come, let us break bread together friends and semi-friends.

My new thing is skipping the going out portion of the evening and heading straight for the food at 3AM. It’s much more efficient.

11 May 2015

MAY: Week Two

Currently listening: Wiz Khalifa, “See You Again.” Yeah it’s the song that they play at the end of Fast 7 during the Paul Walker montage. Yeah it’ll make you want to cry. And they ended the night with this track at a club last week. It was wonderful. Move over Al Green, this is my new closer. Here’s an hour of “See You Again” on loop, just in case you need it. Nine million views can’t be wrong...

This week marked my DJ debut. Yes, my long awaited dream of having someone let me DJ a party finally happened! My friend had a photography studio for her birthday party and her roommate (and me!) in charge of the music. Finally, yes yes yes! Basically I put together my dream dance playlist — mostly girl pop, with tons of Mariah, Janet, and Whitney — and downloaded Traktor.

By the way, Traktor for iOS is incredible. So easy to use and I haven’t even figured out any of the cool features yet. Just being able to semi-mix one song into the other is good enough though. Armed with a playlist that was sure to get the party jumping, I made my debut around midnight… and flamed out. I didn’t account for the fact that people literally a decade younger than me might not appreciate Denice Williams or Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam quite as much as my peers. Argh, Millenials! Oh well.

I was booted after about forty minutes (“Do you have anything newer? More hip hop-y?”) or what I’d like to say was me “taking a break after my first set.” When the party was winding down and most of the crowd had left, I jumped back on the zeros and ones and cranked out more Madonna and Taylor Swift. "But I got a blank space baby / And I'll write your name." Anyway, I have an awesome playlist, please invite me to DJ for you soon. Especially if you’re over thirty.

List of ender songs I was considering (none of which was used, yet):
  • Adam Levine, “Lost Stars”
  • Ritchie Valens, “Sleepwalk”
  • Kanye West, “Family Business”
  • Spandau Ballet, “True”
  • Debbie Gibson, "Lost in Your Eyes"
  • Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together”
  • 2Pac, “Check Out Time”
  • Hall & Oates, "Everytime You Go Away”
I made the stunning realization this week that I don’t have (as) many American friends here anymore! Most of my first semester classmates are gone and of the people I normally hang out with there’s a Brazilian, an Indonesian, a Taiwanese, and a Malaysian. Only one American friend in the bunch! Of course, we mostly speak English so it’s not really that much different. And all our pop culture references are the same.

When I met my Brazilian friend, I swore she was from California because her English is tinged with an American accent (whatever that is). When I asked her how come, her reply was the best: “I learned English from watching Friends. Every episode."

One of the downsides of the past few months in school is that it’s severely stunted my meeting actual Taiwanese people opportunities. As you can imagine, everyone at Shida is a foreigner and it’s far easier to just clump together. So my goal, moving forward is to meet Taiwanese people again!

School’s over at the end of the month but honestly I’m already tapped out. I moved down a level and it got too easy and my previous dedication is just not there. Plus, my classmates are very quiet compared to my previous group and I'm much less inspired to attend. So yeah, I’m out! Now that I have a methodology to learning Mandarin, I can practice vocab on my own and it’s time to get my oral skills up to speed. I don’t feel like my speaking skills have improved much while I’ve been here — mostly a function of knowing only people who speak English well — so in the future, that’s what I need to focus on.

At the rate of 40-50+ new words a week, I’ve probably learned a thousand characters so far, in six months. Of those, maybe I’ve retained half? Chinese goes quick when you aren’t constantly practicing. I wouldn’t say I can read/write that well, but it’s still exciting to be able to decipher basic stuff. Or really simple karaoke songs.

Over the weekend I went to my first Taiwanese wedding. I’d been wanting to attend a Taiwanese wedding because it sounds so different than American ones. To start, you don’t really have to dress up. Sure, you can wear a suit if you want but nicer pants and normal shoes are fine. I’ve straight up seen pictures of people showing up in sweaters and sweats. The wedding I attended was very classy though, so people came looking good.

At the banquet portion of the night, the food was course after course of rich foods: Lobster, duck, fish, crab, steak, etc. It was a little nuts how much there was. Traditionally the wedding is just a massive feast, and this one lived up to that advertisement plenty.

The big difference between American and Taiwanese weddings is that there's no party. You eat the food and then you’re done. The whole affair might take only a short afternoon even. Now I understand why the parents jet out of regular weddings so fast... For this particular wedding, since the bride was Christian, there was a church ceremony (similar to any church wedding I’d been to) so I didn’t get to see any of the traditional Taiwanese stuff. Next time I guess. Overall, a great time and the bride and groom had a singing/dancing portion that was in line with their fun personalities — not at all like most traditional weddings so I'm told.

Speaking of weddings, my sister and AMR’s December wedding was featured in a post from Exquisite Weddings! Click through if you wanna see: "Real Weddings: Georgette and Ameer."

Friday, we discovered badminton. I was unprepared in my camo shorts and no athletic gear. But next time I’m going with a headband and a plan. And I’m gonna win, win, win.

06 May 2015

Food Review: Slurpy Things

Let’s talk about some of the more off-beaten food choices in Taipei. This week I was introduced to octopus noodle soup, a Tainan specialty, at a downstairs mall sorta of area by Fuxing. I wish I could tell you where it was but I forgot to check-in for it. (That’s how I track stuff I’m eating, by checking in on Swarm.) The thin rice noodles, clear broth, and loads of octopus rings are a delight.

And then at Ningxia night market, we stepped into a seafood place on the side and my friend introduced us to milkfish soup. Milkfish is very popular but hard to eat because it’s very bony. I don’t like to work that hard for my food but in this version, the milkfish is already de-boned! And served with some ginger strips in the soup and a side of wasabi/soy sauce dip, the entire taste is very 輕輕, or light and delicate. At least I hope that’s what 輕輕 means.

Also at the night market we had this sesame peanut shaved ice concoction with giant mochi balls stuffed inside. The lady slinging the stuff was ruder than the Soup Nazi but her product was amazing. I guess if you have a huge line you can be as un-customer friendly as you want. This ice thing is totally worth the wait.

Other discoveries this week: a pretty acceptable tsukemen spot and also a very nice soba place, both in a part of town I’d never explored before. I’m starting to feel like Taipei is kind of small but I know there’s lots of little areas I’ve yet to explore, so it was affirming to find such a cool area still within striking distance of my house. Note: The tsukemen place is right across from the famous unagi-don spot, which I've never been to yet because I have a slightly irrational fear of eel still, after my college roommate got a bone stuck in his throat like ten years ago and we had to hit the emergency room. Also, I am not trying to eat Flotsam and Jetsam, thank you very much.

So this soba place, 二月半, is located in Zhongshan, which used to be quite a popular arty area before Huashan sort of took over. There’s a bunch of intriguing Japanese spots we walked by and this soba place was a definite find. Located right across the street from the old, Spot, an art house cinema, 二月半 served delicious soba in a relaxing and authentic atmosphere. Well, I don’t know if it was authentic, but hey, it had Japanese stuff on the walls.

And while I’m here, a plug for 小李子, which serves congee all night and is open until six in the morning. It’s basically my go-to place after a late night and to be honest, I’m more excited about the rice porridge than the actual going out portion of the night. If you want to get me out of the house fast, just text “Wanna go get 稀飯?!"

Also I did important work this week and compared the filet-o-fishes from McDonald's and MOS Burger, a ubiquitous Japanese hamburger chain here. Despite copying McDonald's in every way, the MOS Burger filet-o-fish is a mere knock-off. Don't settle for anything but the real deal.

04 May 2015

MAY: Week One

At the beginning of the week, I moved out of my little room by school. My three month lease was up so it was back to the motherhouse, literally. My rent for this room, which was barely bigger than my queen sized bed, was NT$15,000, or about US$500. That’s considered pretty expensive here and I definitely paid a premium for having such a short lease. Of course, five hundred dollars for your own room is a steal practically anywhere in the U.S., so I didn’t mind.

“套房,” one of our first vocabulary words last semester, means “suite, apartment, flat” and it’s what a lot of young people start off living in here. Basically a 套房 is a larger space gets cut up into separate rooms and each portion is rented out separately. Oftentimes you share amenities, like showers or whatever, and the walls are thin and you're very close to your neighbors so being quiet is a big deal. Just like cheapo housing Manhattan actually!

My number one qualification for my own place was to have in-unit laundry. You wouldn’t believe how much laundry I do here. Between the smoke in bars/clubs, the sticky heat, and my limited wardrobe, I am constantly washing things. And you gotta have fresh towels and stuff right? Sidenote: I would pay a princely sum for Febreze here, as all the fabric deodorizer alternatives I’ve tried are ineffective.

While the laundry machine didn’t turn out to be in my rented room, the communal one was located right outside the front door so it was close enough. Also, dryers are not a thing here so everyone hangs stuff. That’s not so bad in general but when the apartment below me churned out greasy food three times a day, the smell pummeled my clothing and made my fresh shit smell like oily Chinese food. Problem! Thank goodness my mom purchased a dryer for her apartment recently, so that’s like a major life upgrade when I move back in.

So yeah, my three months of living like a college kid are over, and now I can say I lived like a semi-local. Of course, in such a confined space, I didn’t spend that much time in the room, much less sit down at the tiny desk to crank out writing. Or much studying for that matter. Whoops.

As for this week’s happenings, there was a lot but I’ll summarize since I spent so much time rhapsodizing over noodles and soup. The only thing I’ve got scheduled nowadays — aside from school — is my friend’s hip hop class on Wednesdays. After dance class this week, I jumped over to a semi-new friend’s house near Taipei Main MRT and we had wine and cookies and talked about like, life and stuff. It’s been awhile, I guess, talking about that sorta thing. Ensconced in school, it’s easy to just talk about the present — what classes are like, what’s due tomorrow, etc. — but when you’re around thirty-somethings, and people who are working, you get to talk about life over red wine and Hello Kitty chocolates.

There was a lot of “stuff” talk this week actually. My friend, the one who took me out for octopus noodles, also invited me to a business-y seminar she was involved in. Our conversation involved a lot of sharing about life goals and desired achievements. I’ll spare you my non-answers but it was a good reminder that school’s almost over and it’s probably time to start looking at what’s next.

Other things this week included a quick run-through the MOCA (unaffiliated with the one in L.A.) for a straw and feathers exhibit, and then another gay club on Friday. This one totally sucked though, with music that was not nearly as fun as last week, with way too small of a dance floor. Oh well, the search continues… The weekend wrapped with a hookah lounge — first one in Taiwan — and then a long night of karaoke.

Anyone know if the "secret KTV" with a large English language selection is now closed down or what? I didn't even get to go!

Oh, also saw a trio of movies this week. First up was a double-feature of Park Chan-Wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. My friend hadn’t seen any of Park’s films so that was a doozy. Of the two, I think I liked Lady Vengeance better (almost solely based on the strength of the long coda), but Mr. Vengeance was more interesting plot-wise. Both are must-sees, of course, and maybe if you’re feeling lots of “WTF am I watching!?” then toss in Old Boy too for a night of light entertainment.

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young was a total disappointment. Like I was I was stunned that this was a Baumbach feature. After Frances Ha I thought Baumbach would give us a great take on getting older, but it seemed like he aimed squarely for mass appeal and the potshots he took at Millenials seemed so broad and cliched. The result was funny but not in any sort of Baumbach-ian way. I was hoping to gain some insight into what it's like being child-less in your mid-thirties while hangout out with people in their twenties but Noah was no help this time around. I guess I'll just have to look inward.