20 March 2015

Undiscovered Bum

Listening to: Carly Jae Jepsen, “I Really Like You.” Carly does it again! Hello early summer jam. I’m ready for her latest hit to take over my life. Also I’ve been concurrently listening to a lot of Enter the Wu-Tang. So, you know, I’m either skipping or poseur-ing down the street. Same look.

Ah, so many Wu memories. Remember the Wu Name Generator? I used it to create the conference names for my long running fantasy football league. So the two sides are named “Inscrutable Drama Kings” and “Spunky Misunderstood Geniuses.” It might be time to update those after more than a decade. But nostalgia you know?

My introduction to Wu-Tang was at the hands of JMZ, when we were seventeen. At the time, he was really into doing all the lines and especially the movie open from “Liquid Swords.” “When I was little, my father was famous. He was the greatest samurai in the empire…” I didn’t know Wu-Tang, I didn’t know hip hop, I barely knew JMZ. I didn’t know anything about New York or its boroughs until years later. It took me many listens of De La Soul to figure out that their "Strong Island" was not the same as Wu-Tang’s "Shaolin" aka Staten Island. Rap is geography.

Another one: Loading up Raekwon’s "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” on the drive from San Diego to Santa Cruz to see my first girlfriend. It was, and still is, the longest I’ve ever driven to see someone. I remember just feeling pumped and wondering what would power me through this epic, and romantic, drive. Mainly it was just Raekwon on repeat and repeat and repeat. We broke up three months later.

Lasting image: Watching three upperclassmen people dance to "Da Rockwilder” at a college diversity show. One was the coolest girl in pretty much all of life (still is and I count one of my major life achievements being able to call her “friend”), the second is an award winning chef in L.A. as well as a MFA grad, and the third is a hardcore political dissident for Taiwanese independence. And I believe he works for the company that makes all those Taiwanese animation videos as well. Basically, if you can dance to “Da Rockwilder,” you can do most anything.

Carly Rae, Wu Tang, and I'm finally discovering the greatness that is Fleetwood Mac. Basically my entire (current) music game has fallen off completely since being in Taiwan. Who is Schoolboy Q? What are collard greens? Why did I not know that "I'm in love with the coco" was in reference to cocaine? Because I'm lost, that's why.

Also because I'd prefer to think that the "coco" in question is in reference to the ubiquitous Taiwanese boba chain that expanded to New York last year. My drink of choice at Coco is the "three brothers 三兄弟" which is boba, grass jelly, and custard all in one cup. It's a tall glass of delicious.

13 March 2015

Broken Promises

Currently pushing: Did the LA Times lift my idea for a publishing board game and make their version of it? Of course they did! I guess they added an interactive die and actually made a whole game so they win. So go ahead, try out How to Be a Writer.
Did I totally fail on my stated goal of blogging daily in March? Did I not even post once? Of course I did! In a hilarious attempt at resuscitating my writing habits, I figured I'd start from the beginning: blogging a lot. Instead I find myself digging through half written posts, Evernotes with mysterious phrases randomly scattered around, and trying to reconstruct things I was trying to talk about weeks ago.

The obvious solution is to just back date every attempted post from this month, because blogs are basically time travel. In related time travel news, watch Predestination. It’s not as good as say, Looper or Edge of Tomorrow, but it’s better than most. Plus, Ethan Hawke in sci-fi stuff is generally good. Evidence: Gattaca.

Advanced analytic stats on my blog: A high of 140 posts in 2009 to 23 posts in 2014. And then a whopping one post for the first three months of 2015. It's been a precipitous decline; I'm the Deron Williams of blogging.

So I think I’m going to put myself on a blogging schedule. Something I’ve never had to resort to. The mere idea of a schedule is anathema to me. But once I catch up on March, it’s onward with three posts a week. I mean, can I even call myself a writer if I can’t produce three sloppily written posts a week? Of course not right?

Also, I’ve been thinking of what the grace period is for when you should stop calling yourself a writer/author after your last book comes out. Number twelve on Simmons’ rules for being a true fan says that you can’t complain about your team for five years after they win a championship. I think that five year window is also a nice way to delineate when you're not an author anymore — this is in contrast to my ten year rule for things you used to do.

After those five years, you go from “I'm an author” to “I wrote a book once.” So basically, the clock is ticking. My last published thing was almost exactly a year ago so I have four years and counting to produce something else. Hurry Jon, hurry!

In the meantime, I bought this highly recommended Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch K811 keyboard at Guanghua Digital Plaza the other day to increase my mobile productivity. Of course, I don’t have an iPad to use it with yet, but this is how I do things. First a keyboard and iPad stand, then the actual iPad. Because backwards is forwards.

06 March 2015

Concept of School, Seems So Secure

Currently pushing: The mysterious and ancient frilled shark. Of, um, ancienty. And the blue bull of India, the nilgai. You’re welcome.

Well, school started again, in early March. After initially thinking I would only stick around Taiwan for one semester, I wasn’t nearly ready to make future life plans yet so decided to continue on for another exciting three months of learning Chinese at Shida.

This time out though, I was going to drop the intensive course and take regular classes because I felt like the three hours of class plus studying and homework were providing me with little time to do much else. (Perhaps only semi-true, since I’m not the most efficient time manager ever. But many of my classmates agreed.) So my big debate for spring semester was which time slot to pick: 12-2pm or 2-4pm? Clearly the latter was my preferred option but then I decided to be responsible and go for the earlier than noon wake up.

Plus, my new-ish apartment was only a seven minute walk to school, cutting my commute time by at least half an hour. No more rushing to hail a cab to class...and then sending Snapchats to classmates that basically said "I'm coming!"

Also this semester, upon suggestion of my teacher, I demoted myself down a few levels, switching from the classes with mostly ABCs (American Born Chinese) to ones with mostly expats. Which meant that I went from one of the worst students in the class to one of the best — at least speaking-wise. I spent most of the first few days of the spring semester hopping around and shopping for a new class as being the best speaker was of little use to me.

As I discovered, in language classes, it’s far better to be one of the lesser students, because you are challenged and can learn from everyone around you. For example, my initial class was made up of people who had only started learning Chinese for six months. There was one ethnic Chinese, aside from me, and he was from Europe. Everyone else was straight foreign. Technically I’d been learning Chinese for twelve to fourteen years, plus I spoke Chinglish at home. Actually I’ve been quite impressed with how fast people can learn rudimentary Chinese — as most of the Shida beginners have their writing and reading skills comparable to mine — but it was a struggle to have basic conversations and that wasn't the challenge I was looking for.

So I went up a level and found people — still mostly foreigners — who’d been studying for maybe nine months, and while my listening/speaking might still be one of the higher ones in class, their overall proficiency was definitely higher than mine. Perfect.

One thing I do miss is my old classmates who, being mostly raised in America, were brought up in educational environments that stressed participation. Ironically, the bane of my young educational career was speaking up but now I find myself wanting a classroom setting where I won’t be the only one volunteering answers.

Having the teacher ask a question and then hearing crickets make for dull classes. Part of the silence is perhaps due to people not being as expressive in a language they are still learning, part of the non-participation comes down to individual personalities of course, but in general, the students from Asian countries tend to be quiet as mice unless called upon. Without classroom dialogue, two hours can crawl by pretty slowly.

One day I should post about the entire educational experience at Shida but for now I can say that its pedagogical model is exactly what you would expect: the Prussian one most of us are familiar with. It’s an effective method (debatable) but can be boring as hell without the right teacher and classmates. So I kept shopping around and settled for two out of three: Right coursework, right teacher, right classmates. Which would you choose?

Seen in the image above: I kept a sketch log of my classmate's earring selections. I was jealous of her many fine birds so this was the next best thing to actually owning them. And yes, I was paying attention in class. I just need to keep my hands busy when I sit down, otherwise I zone out.