30 December 2019

Stuff I've Been Consuming 2019

Well, it's that new year's tradition, time to go over last year's consumption! Why isn't this spreadsheet more filled out and organized? Why isn't there an app for this?! I'm gonna go with final numbers of 57 movies and 20 books, give or take. That's um, not great. That's even down from last year's pathetic totals. Should there be a penalty for not hitting the goals? There should be right?

BOOKS: Well, this is just embarrassing. Despite being home most of the year, I only read very few books. After last year’s debacle of twenty-two books read, I think it’s safe to say that I am no longer a reader. The sum total of books read for 2019 was only twenty, plus six graphic novels. I think cutting out graphic novels in the count is probably the way to moving forward, because yes, I'm using them to pump up my weak numbers.

There were probably some other books I read for research but that’s just a pile of stuff sitting on my desk. Lots of how-to and craft books, along with many others that are related to the book I'm writing. So yeah, in my defense, I was working on a book most of the year and so had no time to read. Ahem. Okay that’s not true but let’s pretend it is. Twenty twenty, the year I'm ready to read again!

The good news is that our San Diego book club is starting up again -- the famed Celebrity Book Club -- because L has returned and that will spring us forward into the year new. Could our book club from a decade ago, Literary Urbanites also make a return? 🤞

I found out there was a Speaker for the Dead graphic novel and read it asap, dying to know what Lusitania’s pequeninos look like. After I read it online — all five issues can be found here — I bought the paper version just to have it. The other book I want to recommend is Six of Crows — and its sequel, Crooked Kingdom — by Leigh Bardugo, which just blew me away. Away! It was so good. (And here is Kevin Wada's character art, and again.)

And I kept seeing Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties on my feed forever and finally got around to reading it. It’s fabulous and you can read the first story here: “The Husband Stitch” (2014). So yeah, books read this year, an embarrassing fail!

MOVIES: The biggest event of the year was Frozen II, which was about as expected. Better maybe? I dunno, I need to watch it again. The past month has just been me pushing Parasite onto anyone who would listen — strangers and friends alike, and also Knives Out if I think they’d be remotely into a whodunit. (If you watch it multiple times like I did, here’s the Rian Johnson audio commentary.)

But in my late year enthusiasm, I cannot forget that April brought me double bill of Go Back to China and then Swing Kids / Seuwingkizeu. I had a whole post in draft about Go Back to China but I guess I’ll wait on it since it was just bought of distribution and will be out in March 2020. The Emily Ting directed, Anna Kana starring, vehicle hit so close to home. I’ve moved to China before to work at the family factory and this film brought up so many personal touch points.

And then there was Seuwingkizeu, which was undoubtably my favorite film of the year. I mean, I gushed hard already. The sad news is that the official version lacks captions for the English lines, which makes it a tough watch — especially if I was trying to share it with non-native English speakers. Who does this? Offers subtitles but not through all the dialogue regardless of language?!

Overall it was a light year for movies, with fifty-six consumed. The Marvel auto-tens were Avengers: Endgame and Spiderman: Far From Home, with the other ones being Seuwingkizeu, Go Back to China, Parasite, Knives Out, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

2019 was also the year the Deadwood movie finally came out, which was mostly fan service-y but led me down a rewatch path. Still a top five show ever! And shout out for two Penélope Cruz films, Almodovar’s Pain and Glory and Farhadi’s Everybody Knows. It’s a tough call who I liked better as her co-star, Bardem or Banderas, so we’ll call it a tie. Actually on, it has to be Bardem, it’s always Bardem!

Underwhelming: Uncut Gems, Hustlers, The Farewell, Beverly Hills Cop 1/2/3 (I’ve been listening to a lot of Rewatchables so we’ve been watching a lot of old stuff), and the truly awful The Dead Don’t Die, which pretty much almost killed a new friendship before it had a chance to fly, because I recommended it and we had to suffer through it together.

TELEVISION: The hits were Sex Education, True Detection S3, Russian Doll, Mindhunter S2, and Watchmen. I’m not even done with the latter as it just needs to be slow dripped. Also I quite liked The Boys and The Society (also unfinished). I guess I didn’t watch that much TV this year actually! I really wanted to like Umbrella Academy but ultimately lost interest, and with Netflix throwing out some Taiwanese movies and series, I was sure A Thousand Goodnights would be a hit with my mom but it wasn’t good, like at all.

And even though this is a yearly staple, I need to mention the most recent season of MTV’s The Challenge. It was called War of the Worlds 2 and featured a US team versus a UK team. We bought the entire season on Amazon to go ad-free and it was a great decision. Even better, we suckered AMR into watching it with us and he led us to an Alliance Reality Bites victory. It was thrilling. Also I got my friend a Cameo from Johnny Bananas himself, which was truly a highlight. Bananas!

GAMES: I played many a game this year, the product of being homebound and also having a Switch. Lichtspeer is a fun two-player game that can be challenging but also meditative. I loved the art and action of Guacamelee 2 but have yet to finish it. Actually I’ve yet to finish any of the games I’m about to talk about because, well, I guess that’s just what I do?

Most of my Switch buys are for local co-op and of there were two throwbacks that were wonderful: New Super Mario Bros. U is a Wii rerelease but it features simultaneous four player action. Yes, that means classic Super Mario action with four players at once!

And then there’s River City Girls, which is a semi-follow up to one of my favorite games of all time, River City Ransom. Playing as Kyoko and Misako, the girlfriends of Kunio and Riki, makes River City Girls even better than the original. I mean, teen girls punching and kicking their way through malls and squads for cheerleaders? Bring it on!

Oh, also Marvel Alliance 3, which is kind of a throwback. I’ve already spent many hours on this game and will continue to play it over and over, leveling up Spider-Gwen and her friends. All of the old X-Men Legends and Alliance series were great and this one is more of the same. Am I lacking three friends to come over and play with me all the time? Yes, I am, but I push on. Other good co-ops: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Yoshi's Crafted World.

To start 2020, I will be continuing on my quest to catch them all. After some debate between Sobble and Scorbunny, I chose Scorbunny to start, a decision I haven’t regretted. Oh and I got Shield because well, I need Galarian Ponyta. Need! I’ve spent more hours organizing my various Pokemon boxes than actually catching Pokemon, but that’s just setting the foundation for a beautiful Pokedex.

For iOS, I kept buying games but not playing them, but of the few that I did, Meteorfall sucked me in the hardest. I spent a week trying to perfect a particular strategy — at one point even throwing my phone down on the couch with some force, which for me is a huge display of disrespect to my phone. When I finally beat the Lich King on hardest difficulty with Queen of Shadow Rose, I felt like I had conquered Everest. It’s the small victories my friends…

Two wonderfully meditative and beautiful games: Alto’s Odyssey and Sky: Children of Light, Apple’s game of the year. We were taken with Alto’s Adventure when it came out and then AMR started playing the follow up, Odyssey, which is basically the same thing but still splendid. And Sky, from the makers of Journey, was just magical. You meet friends and wordlessly join them in traversing the world, flying and twirling around. The only communicate is by emotes and hand holding and I think I made many deep connections to people who helped me along the way. You’ll be forever in my heart, random helpers of the internet!

Also, this was a big moment for me in my LOL career. H-U-G-E. Taliyah forever...
EVENTS: I must have done something between January and August right? Well, the records tell me a resounding "no!" So I guess it was just a Carly Rae concert in August, followed a few weeks later by a Kacey Musgraves show, and then Poolside right around Christmas. Oh and a Todrick Hall, I can't forget that! Very dancey concert, as expected.

I apparently only saw one musical this year, The Book of Mormon in Mexico City, which was super fun mainly due to sitting right in the first row -- with nobody else around us. Being close to things is the way to go. We were a few rows back for Carly and that was life changing. The lesson to be learned is to be very close to things...and to Carly. Fave song off Dedicated: "Too Much."

PODCASTS: I was on the community panel for Self Evident, a new Asian American podcast that debuted this year. Episode one came out in May and the season ended a few months later. Hosted by Cathy Erway and featuring an experienced and ultra-competent team behind her, Self Evident should have another season coming soon!

I swore my cousin introduced me to The Empty Bowl, “a meditative podcast about cereal.” Alas, it was not her I should thank for this gift. The deep dives into cereal life are indeed meditative, if you can believe it.

For months, writer and all everything Mary HK Choi was making daily minipods with "a focus on mental health and creativity," as part of her Hey, Cool... banner. As a fan of Mary HK, it was like getting her piped directly into my life. The mini format was interesting and I was sad when the episodes got less daily. I would love to see more people do this sort of thiung.

And then there’s Deadline City, which is Dhonielle Clayton and Zoraida Cordova’s new bookish podcast. I listen to quite a few YA podcasts and this one has a friend and is just super fun!

Michael Lewis’ Against the Rules was great. And while this isn’t exactly a podcast, Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers audiobook is pretty much exactly that and I heard that his audiobook was outselling his physical and ebook, and it’s probably because the audiobook is just a podcast. If that makes sense.

28 May 2019

Night Time Sharpens

So I’ve had about a few weeks off in-between writing and that meant I had some time to go out and play. "Suffer local, enjoy somewhere else” is my motto. First up was a trip to Los Angeles to see the LA Philharmonic. I’ve never actually seen anything at the Walt Disney Concert Hall I realized recently, and made it an immediate must-rectify. So I gathered up some friends who would be free on a Thursday night — aka people without regular jobs — and off we went to see "Beethoven: Piano Concerts 4&5.” I hadn’t realized that you could sit behind the musicians underneath the organ in special orchestra view seats where you face the conductor. That will have to the next thing I try out.

A friend in New York has been hitting up musicals and shows left and right, after never really going to them, and I have been eagerly awaiting his reviews on everything. He goes to them mostly solo and has been absolutely loving it. I told him that he should expand his intake to include some stuff at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. My god sister actually plays harp for the Boston Orchestra and its a damn shame that we’ve never actually seen her play there. Another thing to get to. I mean, no need to watch the Celtics minus Kyrie anymore right? Ha.

This slight resurgence in classical music owes much to a visit to see our friend sing with his new choral group in Torrance. They did Brahms' "A German Requiem, Op. 45" and George and I made a whole half-day of it, which was our big day out in March because well, deadlines and children, respectively. The day afterwards I watched the local Poway Symphony Orchestra with a friend’s family. The PSO played some very recognizable tunes but were decidedly off-key, owing to its very amateur status. (My friend’s wife pointed out later that there were no auditions required to join the Poway Symphony, which means if I pick my flute back up, I got a shot to get in.) All this reinvigorated my interest in symphonies and such so c’mon, let’s go to more!

For those wondering, there’s a specific explainer for the difference between an orchestra, symphony, and philharmonic. The short answer is: just say “orchestra” if there are any instruments involved.
I also hit up the Broad Museum and the MOCA downtown branch while waiting for the concert. I’d not been to either and realized that I haven’t visited any LA museums in years, probably since somewhat regular visits to the Getty. When I’m anywhere else, one of the first things I do is head for museums. I guess I’ve just been overlooking everything in my semi-backyard. The Broad was actually a bit disappointing, as I hadn’t realized it was just one family’s collection basically. Interesting building but it’s also mostly just a giant storage unit and most of the art inside was quite, well, broad and so-so. The MOCA was very small but slightly better, but I think I need to hit the LACMA next.

My faith in random people karaoke was restored the next night. Usually in LA I go to Max Karaoke in either Santa Monica or Chinatown but they are decidedly low budget and very sparse. The Chinatown location doesn’t even serve alcohol anymore, which was a major limiting factor for some people. So instead my friend audibled to Star Karaoke in K-Town, which was a major boon to the night’s success.

I realized one day that with all the karaoke I do I should really be more organized about it. So I started making a spreadsheet of songs that are good for groups, and the genius idea I had was to add tags. So far it’s just a beginning but I’ll be doing some deep research and evaluating individual tracks across three important factors: tempo, difficulty, feeling. Tags include notes like “banned, cut at chorus, deep cut, duet, enders, need a great voice, etc.” I’m sure I’ll be making a separate post with my findings. I think my destiny is to write a book about Asian karaoke. Well, maybe it’ll just be a pamphlet. Either way, I desperately need to codify all my karaoke rules, tips, and suggestions.

As an unofficial private room karaoke ambassador, my basic rules for karaoke are these:

  1. Enter and push all the tables to the edges of the room. Nothing I hate more than a static table in the middle of the room.
  2. Any songs with long repeating choruses need to be cut quickly. (Most pop songs basically.) I am very ruthless if the energy drags. Cut, cut, cut!
  3. Group karaoke is best thought of as also a dance party. Keep the energy high, or at least make sure the crowd is feeling it. When in doubt, refer to rule number two.
This night restored my faith in strangers as a whole as the disparate group of friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends came together for an incredible time. People brought their A-game and were full of excellent surprises. The room at Star was fantastic too, with a long U-shaped booth area for the food, dual screens front and back, and an open area for dancing up front. After a few lackluster group karaoke sessions recently, I had thought that the magic was gone, but now I believe again. I welcome all new friends, but only if you come bearing a microphone.

The last thing we did in LA was to watch Booksmart, which I quite liked but didn’t love since I was no fan of Superbad. Still, it was an enjoyable watch and I love that this was Olivia Wilde's directorial debut. Please watch this movie because it is tanking at the box office and that means America hates books and teens.

Next up: Baby shower in the Bay...

14 April 2019

Swing Kids / Seuwingkizeu (2018)

When Swing Kids dropped late last year, I recall watching the trailer and thinking "this is so my movie!" Tap dancing in a POW camp, what is this?! However I believe I was traveling right around then and totally missed it. And somehow nobody in my circle saw it and grabbed me by the collar and dragged me a theater but hey, I don't have real friends I guess.

I'd risk hyperbole and say that there was never a movie that was more made for me but right before I watched Swing Kids at SDAFF Spring Showcase, I saw another film that was literally about my (past) life. So, two movies made explicitly for me in one day? Banner stuff. Either way, the only thing to do is to immortalize the experience by adding one more to my dance movie review series.

Review spoiler: I didn't think there could be a finer dance movie than Magic Mike XXL but this movie was that great. Whereas XXL stripped out all the stuff we didn't want to see -- anything not involving dancing -- Swing Kids managed to insert dramatic tension and high stakes while maintaining the plot veracity of the actual dancing. 👏

Tagline: I don't know Korean so I'll have to settle for the American poster. That tagline was "We Want Just Dance." But the "we want" and "just dance" are separated so maybe it's "Just Dance." Either way, who cares!

1. Plot (9)
The plots of most dance movies are not that dense. Considering there’s sub-plots galore here, plus a semi-mystery, in addition to motivations for all the major side characters, this was practically the Oscar winner of dance movie plots. Oh wait, the Oscars are trash, so that is no honor.

Anyways, if you’re aiming high by combining tap dance and a POW camp, then you gotta deliver. Swing Kids delivered. I wouldn’t fast forward a single one of the non-dance scenes and it’s a 133 minute movie.

The year is 1951, the setting is Geojedo POW camp. Roh Ki-soo is the North Korean soldier who hates capitalism, traitors, and yankees but loves to dance. Jackson is a black American soldier tasked by his scene chomping commander to start a dance troupe for the benefit of journalists and wartime propaganda. What else is new? Splash a ragtag bunch of other dancers into the mix and we have a dance team.

If White Nights scored an eight in terms of plot, Swing Kids was at least a nine, and I’m only leaving room at the top for some sort of mega-complicated, multi-generational Gabriel Garcia Marquez type epic in dance form. Please tell me if this movie already exists.

2. Can the lead characters dance (10)
Um, yeah, I’d say so. Doh Kyung-Soo in a mega Korean boy band and Jared Grimes has danced for all the biggest names. Mariah and Barack. His letter to his teenage self could use a little bolstering though. I couldn’t find out the dance backgrounds of the rest of the cast but there were no weak links. In fact, every dancer deserved and got their moments of shine.

3. How’re the dance scenes? (10)
🔥👞🔥. Two new words/terms I learned while reading about Swing Kids: terpsichorean and diegetic dancing.

  • Terpsichorean: of or relating to dancing
  • Diegesis: the telling of a story by a narrator who summarizes events in the plot (in the case of Swing Kids, through dancing). Here are some handy links. "What’s Diegetic?" and "Dirty Dancing and Diegesis."
This dancing was the best kind of movie dancing. Most of the scenes fit into the emotionality of the characters, and you can’t just separate out the dancing from the plot. As for specific dance scenes, there were so many that I lost count. I was very pleased that Swing Kids delivered on all the correct ratios of group on group, hero vs villain, friends vs frenemies dancing setups.

There are a few individual dancing clips from the movie online but it would an injustice to watch them first in that format. Peek at the trailer but then just get on with it. Then return to the Youtubes for highlights.

Additionally, I would like to point out director Kang Hyoung-Chul’s homage to the David Bowie “Modern Love” dance sequence. Strong move.

4. How’s the love story? (5)
Practically non-existent. Unless you count the fact that one character was literally dancing to get famous enough so that his possibly dead wife might hear about him, and thus they could reunite. 💦Oh, did I mention Swing Kids was set during wartime? Prepare accordingly.

There is a bit of flirting here but both the execution and pay off of the romance was extraordinary and surprisingly, quite funny. Actually, let’s me just warn you that overall this movie is extremely funny. There were other warnings given to us preceding the movie but I'm not gonna repeat them as to color your perceptions. Because this post is obviously spoiler free.

5. Rate the sidekicks (10)
You could not have asked for more winning sidekicks. And I’m not just talking about the other three dance troupe team members. There were memorable characters across the board. Heck, I even liked the asshole general a lot. Whoops.

6. Best line (8)
I can’t recall. I was enjoying the movie so much I forgot to find a favorite line. Maybe when I go rewatch it in a couple of days I’ll find one. And yes, I'm gonna go rewatch it when SDAFF screens it again next week. There was no dearth of fun dialogue in Swing Kids though. Bonus points for the numerous instances of humor as a result of purposeful false translations.

7. Music (10)
One interviewer asked Kang Hyoung-Chul this question about some of his earlier movies.
Q: It’s quite strange that you selected western songs. Were they both popular songs in Korea at the times both films were made?
A: In the 1980s in Korea, western music was very popular, so they these songs were a useful tool to recreate the atmosphere at that time.
I’d imagine that was the polite translation of what Kang Hyoung-Chul actually said. I’ll leave the actual word-by-word translation to your imagination.

Anyway, there are songs by the Beatles, Bowie, and um, other famous peoples on display. For some reason some reviews really honed in on the anachronism of the music. Okaaaaaay. You realize this wasn’t historically accurate right? This wasn’t Mad Men. Mad Men wasn’t Mad Men.

Another comment, both informative and biting, from the same review: "The only thing, do you consider all Korean music to be part of ‘millennial' kpop? Cause I’m pretty sure the korean song is from the 80s and disco more than anything else.”

Translation: “do you think we/I/us all sound the same?” Burn! Here’s an explainer, “How K-pop became a global phenomenon"

8. Fashion (6)
Gotta mostly give this one a pass since prison movies don’t usually have a wide sartorial selection. But there was some good hair and traditional Korean costumes and masks. And a lot of facial scars, if you’re into that kind of thing. Oh wait and also some, well, never mind.

9. Cultural Impact (6)
In the US market? Not great. $200,000 grossed and a paltry 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. But again, anyone who actually takes Rotten Tomatoes seriously probably only eats at "four-stars and up" Yelp restaurants as well.

I’m not exactly sure how much this movie made in its native South Korea -- ten million? -- but I can only imagine it ushered in an entire wave of tap dancing in the streets. Right? I’ll try to go to Korea next year and research. Forever 21 and tap dancing, yes please!

Broadly speaking, I assume that having Doh Kyung-Soo, otherwise known as D.O. of EXO fame, helped Swing Kids’ international success. America just ain’t ready for a group of diverse tap dancing POWs I guess. And it's not lost on me, the non-subversive subversive aspects of the film. No sir!

To America’s savaging of this movie I have only this to say: 🖕. Or 🖕🖕, I suppose.

10. Miscellaneous (7)
As soon as we got out of Swing Kids, I had to find out what else writer-director Kang Hyoung-Chul had done. Turns out he’s the director of Sunny, aka the movie I’ve recently dedicated my life to watching — the original and all the remakes.

Armed with that fact, everything clicked because the blend of humor, angst, silliness, dance battles, American pop culture references, tidy character arcs, and very serious yet humorous political settings and asides, all wrapped up in this kind of “light” movie were all previously displayed in Sunny. Now I must watch every Kang Hyoung-Chul film ever made.

Swing Kids was based on a Korean musical that was written by Jung Woo-sung, the South Korean actor and multi-hyphenate who co-starred in The Good, the Bad, the Weird. I’d recommend watching that one as well if you enjoyed Swing Kids. And well, if you didn’t enjoy Swing Kids I guess you’re a colonizing bastard and this movie wasn’t made for you anyway.

I’m surprised this wasn’t a clean 💯 since I left the theater asking myself “was that the best dance movie ever made?” All of Swing Kids' dings — in a scoring system not really designed for it — are not exactly applicable categories. But I’ll buffer in some room since I’m a renowned overhyper but there’s not one thing I would change about this film. Eh, except maybe the name, if only to distance itself from the Christian Bale Swing Kids, which I also liked but that was child me. Seuwingkizeu was made for adult me and it’s a must-see.

No, that's not a strong enough recommendation. I fucking loved every second of Swing Kids and I won't be shutting up about it for awhile. There. Let's (dance) battle.

10 March 2019

Ranking: EW’s GoT Collector’s Edition Covers

There was a time when I might have wanted to collect all sixteen Entertainment Weekly covers for the final season of Game of Thrones. I used to have boxes and boxes of archived EW issues hoarded away, until the great Kondo-ing of ‘09 —aka my mom made me do it. Nowadays I prefer to save digital images on my desktop and these are the five I’ve selected as the absolute best.
First off, after perusing the collection, most of these covers aren’t good, for reasons I’ll detail out below. All of the major characters get their own cover, including a frightening Night King, but why the solo Bran? The rest of the cast gets split up into some fun pairings but overall I wish the covers had the actors in more casual, or fun, poses instead of being all in-character. But I’m not an art director so what do I know.

Let’s start with the fails. The Bran one is completely unnecessary. While he could be a huge part of Season 8, nobody needs Bran as a collectible cover. Isaac Hempstead Wright should enjoy this career high. (Comment from the internets: "I like Bran's bowl cut; it looks very appropriate for the aesthetic of the show.”) And while I love Varys and Jorah, the composition of their cover just seems off and definitely needs some re-centering.

The Jaime and Arya covers are just plain bad. Jamie’s has a lot of unnecessary fog that makes the bottom of the cover look desaturated while Arya’s photo is set at an angle for some reason. Perhaps it’s to show off her new Valyrian steel dagger — bye Needle! — but still, why the tilt? Arya’s asymmetrical coat and skirt combo are amazing though. Where can I get this outfit?

Literally nobody cares about Euron and Theon, and their cover seems entirely unnecessary. At least throw Yara in there if you’re going to give us Theon. As for the best couple in all of GoT, the Gilly and Sam cover pulled at my heartstrings until I realized that they left out little Sam. Entertainment Weekly does not care about family. Biggest missed opportunity, a pairing of Drogon and Rhaegal. Isn’t that just obvious? Oh and Tormund, I would have liked to see some Tormund. Perhaps paired with a 🧸?

Honorable Mention
The Clegane brothers cover seemed great at first glance due to the fact that these two would never pose together in real life / show life, but then the terrible banners in the background caught my eye. Somebody should’ve just Photoshopped those uneven red borders out. Sorry Greg and Sandy, you deserved better.

5) Jon Snow
This is the best Jon Snow has ever Jon Snow-ed. Kit Harington has the perfect amount of fierce on his face and looks clearly like the Prince Who Was Promised. Spoilers: Maybe.

4) Daenerys Targaryen / Sansa Stark
These two close-ups are gorgeous and both actresses are luminous. The photographer clearly took care to make sure that the backgrounds enhanced the characters' looks. The same can’t be said for most of the rest of these photos. Frankly, I would have preferred close-up shots of each individual character taken by this photographer, and then I would have considered buying all sixteen to display on my office wall House of Black and White / Hall of Faces style.

3) Cersei
Everything about her pose, expression, and outfit is perfect here. Queen Cersei would never be just hanging out on a castle stoop like this but Lena Headey sure would! Cersei looks more regal here than seated on the actual Iron Throne.

2) Brienne
Has Brienne ever looked better? This is Brienne as Vogue cover model and Gwendoline Christie looks incredible. She manages to maintain Brienne's rigid warrior-like presence while giving her face a gentle softness. And again, this is a pose Brienne would never actually do in the show, just like Cersie's above. Absolute perfection all around. This is the author photo I would strive for had I armor and a sword.

1) Missandei / Grey Worm
Sorry I was too hasty earlier in dubbing Gilly and Sam the “best couple in all of GoT.” These two are the real OTP and here they are in the perfect couple shot. That’s a wedding invite right there, let’s just fire them up and print them! While some of the aforementioned covers might be technically better, this is definitely the one I would buy to display because I'd want people to think Missandei and Grey Worm were my friends.

If you've made it this far, consider playing fantasy GoT with me at Fantasora, and yes our very unexciting death pool is still going... Someone please die this season. Just not Gilly please!

12 February 2019

Shop It: 200ml Water Bottle

There’s nothing better than a well written piece about a product someone loves. I’ll point you to Molly Young’s collection at New York Magazine, where she highlights products like dry shampoo, her favorite notebook, and a Japanese Soylent replacement. Or take a look at this recommendation for Rohto Cool eye drops written by Or Gotham. Spectacular!

As is my wont, I find myself recommending certain things just from the reviews themselves — a dicey proposition for my reputation, I know. Still, once in awhile I come across a product so wonderful I feel the need to push them upon the world. This series of posts are about the things that are me-tested and I can’t shut up about.
While I have purchased three or four aluminum water bottles in my life , I have rarely used them except as decorative items. Carrying a tall bottle just never fit my lifestyle. However, when I went to Tokyo last year, I stumbled upon a magical item: the 200 millimeter water bottle from the Tiger Corporation, aka a Baby Tiger.

The typical water bottle size is double that, at about 475ml, or 16 ounces. These babies are small — we nicknamed them "Baby Tigers" for a reason — barely the height and width of a regular sized iPhone and can slip into a large pocket if necessary.

Now, some have asked what’s the point of such a small drink container? 200 ml is about 6.5 ounces, or a smallish coffee.  Unless you need to down drinks Big Gulp style, this is a perfect size for an espresso based drink. The Baby Tiger would probably not work for your daily consumption of water, but as a coffee/chai/tea/smoothie receptacle, it’s fantastic. And while there are various flip open lids and the like available, I prefer the simple plain lid that keeps the size factor slim. Plus did I mention the whole thing is incredibly cute?

The bad news is that the 200ml size is generally only available overseas, and while there are some available on Amazon an eBay, they'll need to be imported. The alternative is to try an eight-ounce soup cup, as Tiger has these for sale Stateside. They are also a tad cheaper, as my pistachio green soup cup cost $21, versus $26 for a 200ml Baby Tiger. However the soup cups are chubby and not as easily thrown into a bag. Also, eight ounces is 236 ml, so a tad bigger than the magic 200ml number. In sum: go small(er) with the thermos and expect big results in return!

30 December 2018

Stuff I've Been Consuming 2018

So I made this brand spanking new Stuff I Consumed spreadsheet, to track everything I consumed — inclusive of books, movies, TV shows, music, games, podcasts, and events — and then promptly didn’t really update it as I got lost in the swirl of traveling and, um, not updating. So I find myself scrambling to figure out how many books I read and how many movies I watched in a nod to Fifty Fifty, even if we had retired it for this year. In the end, I watched approximately 62 movies and read 22 books, a far cry from last year. Still, on with the recommends!

BOOKS: Despite starting strong with a string of good books earlier this year, I really faltered down the stretch. I can still readily recommend The Girls and Annihilation — which I endorsed in my lone 2018 issue of Cool It Now — and I can add to that two more. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen was fantastic, and I liked it much better than The Refugees. I also enjoyed Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers and Saints, a two-book companion graphic novel set about the Boxer Rebellion.

And then there’s my long time friend Dhonielle’s solo debut, The Belles, which came out in February and has a sequel, The Everlasting Rose, coming out in March. It’s a thrill to see friends publish, especially people that you were friends with way before the writing thing. The Belles hit the New York Times Bestseller list right out of the gate and deservedly so!

MOVIES: I feel like I missed almost all the major “good” movies this year, so much so that I just made a list of things to catch up on for the beginning of next year. So Burning, Shoplifters, Roma, First Reformed, The Rider, Skate Kitchen, Wildlife, The Favourite, Shirkers, I’m coming for you!

I changed my film rating system from A-F to 1-10 and ended up with only four ten-score movies: Avengers: Infinity War, Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and A Star is Born. Clearly three of those four were auto tens and A Star is Born blew me out of the water. I wanted to drag my sister to go see it on the big screen but she just wouldn't go with me! Ultimate sibling fail.

There were only six movies that netted a nine and they were Go-Go Sisters, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, All the President’s Men, First Man, Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, and this lovely Japanese movie I saw on an airplane, Kako: My Sullen Past. Still, to be honest, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend any of these for everyone as they seem pretty genre specific.

Of course, I’ve dedicated my life to watching every remake of Go-Go Sisters so I guess I’d recommend that, but only if you are open to teenage tales that’ll make you cry. So far I’ve seen the original Korean Sunny, the Japanese remake, and Go-Go Sisters twice on the big screen on two different continents. Plus I watched 1995’s Now and Then for research. My favorite remains the Vietnamese version.

My big downvote? Minding the Gap, which is a documentary that is getting lauded everywhere but I found mostly unwatchable and not compelling in the least. Nice skate scenes though. But overall, bleh.

TELEVISION: I finished ten TV series and most of them were so-so, but I really loved The End of the F***ing World (again), Succession, and Maniac, which we haven’t even finished yet. A special shout out for Jean-Claude Van Johnson, which was a nostalgic, and unexpectedly fun, delight.

Oh and if you’re looking for some Taiwan/American romcom, Netflix is carrying A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities, about two women who swap locations. It’s not for everyone but the Taiwanese cultural stuff and overall FOB-ness is spot on and hilarious.

GAMES: I bought a Switch this year, mainly to play Overcooked 2. I’ve been afraid to jump into more games because well, I’m bad at regulating my time with games. So more on this next year. In the meantime, for iOS games I can wholeheartedly recommend AntiheroPolytopia, and Soul Knight, the latter of which is a free-to-play rogue like dungeon crawler that works seamlessly for local co-op. High recommend for all three! And although I’ve yet to play it on any platform I’ve bought it on, Stardew Valley for iOS dropped and I can’t wait to get into it.

EVENTS: I didn’t get to that many events this year, but did see Katharine McPhee on Broadway in Waitress and then an absolute highlight of the year, Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour, which is now showing on Netflix as a concert film. My friend offered me two free tickets that morning and a few hours later I was out in the rain, singing along to Tay Tay!

PODCASTS: As for podcasts, I already gushed about Night Call, and I’ll add Shedunnit to the list, "storytelling podcast that unravels the mysteries behind classic detective stories.” I had been following Caroline Crampton’s No Complaints newsletter and her podcast was a real thrill. Plus I’d like to push my cousin’s podcast, APT 504, which is Ashley and Emily talking about their pop culture and celebrity obsessions. I also love their tagline: "It's time for pillow talk.”