27 March 2017

In the Mix

Currently pushing: Oprah’s Legends Ball. Apparently back in 2005 Oprah threw a three day celebration honoring twenty-five African American women who have done some stuff. Just watch this clip of the gospel brunch, and be stunned by everyone in it. Patti, Dionne, Tina, Diana, Gladys, Chaka, Janet, Mariah, Naomi, Halle, Mary J, Tyra, Alicia, uh, Ashanti. Basically everyone. (Notable no-shows or uninvited included Whitney, Aretha, Toni, Lauryn, Vanessa, Beyonce.) The best part, I found this via a tweet and the one post Tumblr it was shared on was called "trumptaxreturns2005.tumblr.com.”

So I left the comfy confines of home a few weeks ago to attend a friend’s wedding up in the Bay. While I was there, I not only experienced the magic of the Impossible Burger and rewatched Logan, but also got to go to my friend Jasmine’s first Bhangra in the Bay class. I mince no words in saying that Jasmine is the greatest bhangra dancer of all time and she’s now teaching a class in Oakland — along with her co-instructor, Chetty. Our videographer friend brought all this fancy gear to make an intro video and I got to help, meaning I stood around and manned the camera’s remote control while Victor did all the (literal and figurative) heavy lifting. Needless to say, the video came out great and if you’re looking for a workout, bhangra fusion is the way to go. Also, I went deep into the world do bhangra forums and YouTubes, and now consider myself an amateur expert.

And while I’m on a dance theme, I’ve been following this Taiwanese hip hop dancer, Nike Chen — and her three person crew called MoveOn Dance Taiwan. I’m a little surprised I’ve never seen her before, considering Taiwan’s small dance scene. However, I listened to her short TED Talk and am intrigued by how she talks about being inspired by the hip hop ethos in Taiwan. One of the first things I did upon moving to Taiwan was to explore the world of hip hop and dance, as it wasn’t something I was expecting to find there. The number of students and people practicing under freeway underpasses, next to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial around sunset, and other wide open spaces would astonish you. Also, I attended an all-female dance show once that had literally twenty-plus acts. I haven't even seen that in the U.S., so it's safe the say the dance scene is thriving there.

I found Nike’s stuff through her work on Dizzy Dizzo’s music video, "Radar" (choreo video). Dizzy's another Taiwanese artist I’m pretty intrigued by. She swings between styles pretty comfortably, from vintage J.Lo to  acoustic to Iggy Azalea-like, but most of all I like her song “Stray Love,” which has production that is very Drive-esque, a sound I haven’t heard before in Taiwanese pop.

Dizzy (real name Dominique) is an Australian Born Taiwanese married to actor Sunny Wang, and he appears in a lot of her videos. Also, Dizzy’s videos certainly have an aesthetic that sticks out prominently from her Taiwanese contemporaries. Overall, I think she represents an interesting mix of what’s current but also throws in her own flair and influences. Special stuff.

And lastly, here's friend and my former dance class instructor Clio dancing in Ty's "美 國." Awhile ago Clio told me that there exists a documentary on Taiwan's burgeoning rap scene from twenty years ago. For the life of me I can't find this film but I would love to see it. Or to make a new one, but on dance instead.

03 March 2017

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Jan - Feb

Listening to: “Shut Up,” Anna Marina. From Riverdale’s soundtrack, which is superb.

So San Diego is cooooold! Who knew! I haven’t been back for a San Diego winter in awhile and it’s all I can do to stay in sweats and blankets all day. Toward that end I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to tons of things — and some writing too. Off the top I’m heavyweight obsessed with Riverdale right now. George and I grew up reading Archie comics and this CW version — described as Twin Peaks meets The O.C. — is not only good but heavily nostalgic. Throwing in a murder mystery and noir feel to Archie was just what an update needed. And the casting for Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead is spot-on. Plus, Luke Perry plays Archie’s dad...!

Additionally I’ve been following NBC’s Emerald City very closely, waiting for Ozma to ascend the throne. I’m not sure this Game of Thrones-y version of Wizard of Oz will get a second season but it’s been great to me so far. However you feel about the admittedly erratic plotting and sometimes sparse characterizations, there’s no argument that the sets and costuming are amazing. For example, Emerald City is now literally Park Guell and the show uses a lot of other beautiful Gaudi locations.

The entire first season of Emerald City is directed by Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) and while his movies can be messes, there’s no arguing they’ve got visual panache. So yeah, Emerald City! If there was ever a crossover between two things I love, Emerald City with Oz and Barcelona has it in spades. (Plus a Faruiza Balk 2.0 in Ana Ularu, who plays a delicious Wicked Witch of the West.)
While I’ve seen about twenty movies in the past two months, the only one I can wholeheartedly get behind is Mike Mill’s 20th Century Women, which I absolutely loved. I'll have to rewatch Beginners again to see which one I liked more, but Mike Mills is just wow. I'm still getting my head around how well Mills writes female leads and then I think about his relationship with Miranda July and suspect that he's probably the only male director capable of doing it. Or maybe I'm overstating his on-pointness. Either way, Mike Mills!

And obviously I loved the shit out of La La Land, which means I was/am on the wrong side of "it's some white people shit," and I haven't been on that side for something popular culture in awhile. I can't defend La La Land against any of its racial downfalls but find myself wanting to celebrate its musical-ness and Gosling-ness first and foremost. So reading all the anti-La La Land posts and seeing people (rightly) savage the film has been quite the novel experience. Something you like so much, hated by so many you respect, how does that change your take on it you know?

Anyway, onto reading! I’m up to fourteen read books this year, which is huge considering where I usually am. And while I’ve read a few really good things, I have to go out of my way to discuss Ann Patchett. I really loved Patchett’s Truth & Beauty, a memoir about her intense friendship with Lucy Grealy, back in 2012. Truth & Beauty immediately vaulted itself onto my all-time favorites list but I hadn’t gone to any of Patchett’s fiction yet — I did read The Getaway Car, but that was a short memoir about writing.

Well, in three don't-sleep-till-I-finish nights I ripped through three of Patchett’s books. First it was Commonwealth, then State of Wonder, and then Bel Canto. I literally haven’t read nonstop like that in ages, and much less back-to-back-to-back of just one author's work. I couldn't stop or gush enough to other people and now I want to make everyone read Patchett.

I'm not sure how to push her though. Literary Michael Crichton? That’s how I'd sell State of Wonder I guess. Aside from her instantly engaging writing, Patchett is brilliant at plot building and throwing incongruous things side-by-side. For example, Bel Canto is about a terrorist hostage situation, plus opera. State of Wonder is a bit more straightforward, with a scientist who goes into the Amazon to recover a wonder drug, but it also has multiple surprises. And then there's Commonwealth, which has no high concept at all and focuses on just one (extended) family. Overall, I just can't recommend Patchett's stuff highly enough. Go read her now, thank me later.

Also, my friend Kiersi’s middle-grade horse series just came out, and of course I read them all right away. Kiersi’s one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever met -- plus genre spanning -- and her published stuff is just starting to come down the pipeline. When I was young I read every horse-related book I could get my hands on so getting a chance to read Kiersi’s horse books has been a delicious throwback. If you've got middle-grade aged people in your life, check out the Quartz Creek Ranch series!

And somehow Kiersi presciently knew that the Falcons would make it to the Super Bowl but then become ultimate losers. I read that section a few days after the Super Bowl collapse and um, let’s just say it hurt. Deeply.