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.

09 January 2017

Send'em Packing

Okay, I’ve got some app recommendations, as usual. These are all utility ones but so far I’ve loved them all. First up is Bear, which is just wonderful because it’s a beautiful note taking app, perfect for replacing Notes. I mean, Notes is nice and all, but if you want/need a beautiful icon of a bear’s profile on your iPhone screen, high recommend. Also, Bear has very nice categorization hashtags, a clean interface, and a Mac app that syncs perfectly — and quickly.

The one downside is that Bear costs money to sync between devices, and while it’s only an annual subscription fee of $14.99 (or $1.49 month-by-month), I know how some people feel about paying for apps. If you’re against it, well, Bear ain’t for you. Actually, all these apps I’m gonna talk about today are paid. But if you want to support creators, you should really reconsider your stance on never paying for apps. Times have changed, and oftentimes paying for an app tends to bring you a more quality product. No more freemium, and the inevitable ads, for me if a better paid alternative is available!
With that in mind, I finally moved over to 1Password. As much as I harp on systemizing and frequently changing your passwords, I know I should have been using a master password solution long ago. So I’m making a change — and upgrade really — and going with 1Password. And I’m glad I’ve waited, as the newest version of 1Password is significantly easier to use than when I tried it a few years ago. Now, 1Password isn’t cheap. The iOS app is $10, and the accompanying Mac app is $50+. Plus if you use their proprietary service to sync/save, it’s another $2.99 per month. (You don’t have to though, you can use Dropbox or iCloud.)

Setting it up can take a bit of time, but be patient, and soon your passwords will be secure and yet easy to use. I’ve been using it for three weeks now, and it has helped in so many little ways. I don’t use 1Password to auto-generate all my random passwords, but I’m working up to it.

Unrelated but a pro tip: Do this for your phone, "The iOS ‘@@' Shortcut As A Text Expander For Emails.” It’ll change your life, seriously. Thanks to SuperLum for changing mine.
And then we get to Deliveries, which just tracks your um, deliveries. If you prefer to do all your shopping online, this is a no brainer. While I didn’t quite see why I couldn’t just check my Amazon account a lot or click on all those emails, now that I’ve used Deliveries, I absolutely love it. I know exactly where my stuff is and when it’ll arrive. No more heading to the mailbox — we have to drive to a PO Box — to see if my exciting order has arrived. And trust me, I’ve been ordering up a storm of stuff recently, from kitchen supplies to books to well, mostly those two things. Also, it’s been useful for work as I can track UPS shipments and stuff too!

Deliveries is $4.99 for iOS and also $4.99 for Mac. I bought both. And if you want to get fancy, you can use IFTTT to cook up some useful Deliveries recipes that automates the tracking info from your email to the actual app. Otherwise you gotta copy/paste tracking numbers in.

My other friend uses Parcel, which is semi-free, and seems to be just as clean and useful, but since I was recommended Deliveries from a trusted source, I went with that one. Alternately, if you want me to keep track of your packages, feel free to send me your tracking numbers and I’ll be on high alert, I promise.
And now we get down to some games. No need to get into super detail here but the two that have been living on my phone are Lost Frontier ($2.99) and Guild of Dungeoneering ($4.99). I auto-buy anything from Mika Mobile because I love their games and art style so much, and Lost Frontier is a cut above due to its Western theme. Plus I’m a sucker for hex based war games and only wish this had multi-player. But I know it won’t likely have it, sadly.

As for Guild of Dungeoneering — “dungeoneering” is just weird to see/spell right? — it’s a twist on the classic roguelike dungeon crawler because you don’t actually control the character. Instead you lay down tiles and try to lure them around a dungeon. You do get to do the fighting, and losing, but when a character dies, you have to go recruit another one to send to their death. Each character is GoD is so cute and has whimsical traits, plus the art is just unabashedly cute! This is another app I like having on my iPhone just because I like looking at the logo…

So, that’s what I got on my phone these days If you have any app recommendations, please share! Actually, just one more. If you’re into fine art, Artsy is a free app for browsing museum collections. Ostensibly it’s also for collecting but I’ve never explored the side of the site/app. Because, I mean, who am I to collect fine art?

04 January 2017

Stuff I've Been Consuming 2016

Well, here we are again, at the end of another year and I’ve failed to finish fiftyfifty.me once more. However, this is my finest effort in years, as I got to 33 books and 64 movies. I spent my NYE trying to cram in one last movie and book -- a very excellent Mustang and a confusing The Hour of the Star, respectively. Obviously I went into the new year right, and totally set the stage for twelve months of productivity and progress. Ahem. Anyway, let’s just get right into it shall we?

MOVIES: Considering I’ve averaged eighty-four movies for the past four years, this year’s sixty-four seems awfully low. But that’s okay, quality over quantity! And there were some good ones on my list. But first, where do I watch my movies? Apparently the breakdown is forty-two movies in the theater and twenty-two at home or in airplanes. I recently calculated that I spent about $1,000 at the movies last year, which comes out to a whopping $23.80 per movie I watched. (By comparison, I spent $300 buying books, clearly many unread ones.) Something about that seems awfully wrong, but it just goes to show that I either paid for a lot of other people's tickets, went to some real luxurious theaters, or I rewatched a lot of things. Like Captain America: Civil War, saw that gem three times. And La La Land, which I saw twice in four days, and almost another time last week.

Stop right here. Pay attention... LA LA LAND!!! I was so in on this movie beforehand it was hard to be overhyped. Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone. Singing. Dancing. The director of Whiplash. More Gosling (check out my all Gosling edition of Cool It Now). How could it fail!? For the most part, La La Land totally lived up to my expectations, and it actually got better upon a rewatch. Needless to say, I’ve been slamming the soundtrack hard the past two weeks. I don’t care what (some) haters say, La La Land is amazing -- and it's gonna take the Oscar this year.

The best movie of the year was probably The Lobster though. I need to watch it again but I just remember how simultaneously weird and fantastic I felt after walking out of the theater. If I had to name a film of the year, it would have to be The Lobster. With La La Land a close 1B if you want to feel happy instead of intensely morosely "whoa" — the after effects of a Lobster viewing -- then go with La La Land. Actually, Gosling + Stone in The Lobster would be interesting too. Gosling + Stone in anything really, and especially a new Sound of Music, as Juliet and Amanda from this Ringer podcast episode suggested. Semi-blasphemy, I know...

2016 list of straight A movies: 10 Cloverfield Lane, ArrivalCaptain America: Civil War, The Lobster, The Handmaiden, Moonlight (which I watched by myself in an empty theater as we descended officially into Trumpworld), La La Land, and Moana.

I also gave high marks to these too: Dearest, Dope, Hateful Eight, Love & Friendship, Manchester By the Sea, Mustang, The Revenant, and Zootopia. Here’s me talking about how much I giggled through Zootopia. And I guess that's about it for movies. I’ll have to get another MoviePass now that I’m back in the States. That almost $24 per movie figure is ridiculous right? All-you-can-watch please!

BOOKS:  Considering I read eleven books last year, I think this year’s thirty-three books read is a big win! I mean, right? Come to think of it, have I ever hit fifty books in a year after that inaugural 2012 year? Um, the sad answer is “no.” It's just been downhill ever since. So I guess 2016 was a semi-resurgence!

The numbers breakdown comes out to fourteen fiction books, ten non-fiction books, six graphic novels, and um, three zines. I know, do we even count zines? They were long zines, so I don’t care! Actually, moving forward, I think to be honest with myself, I need to eliminate graphic novels and zines from the list. So fine, I only read twenty-four “real” books this year.

Of the ones I want to push, at the top of the list is Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others. With the release of Arrival in multiplexes recently, I finally read some Chiang earlier in the year. Wait, looks like I already plugged Chiang on this very blog. So I'll skip the re-gushing. Next on the list is Shawna Yang Ryan’s Green Island, which again, I’ve plugged already. But if you read one book about the White Terror in Taiwan this year, let this be it! And also, another recommend I briefly mentioned was The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits.

I know I didn’t talk about United States of Japan though. It’s an alternative history action-y book about what it would have been like if Japan had won WWII. While it falls into a few too many tropes, I did like the ideas Peter Tieryas threw into the east defeats west setting. “A fun romp, plus giant mechas,” is what my one line review would say. My final recommend is Michael Lewis’ The Big Short. I watched the movie twice, finally read the book, and got all fired up about the 2008 mortgage crisis (again). Fuck Wall Street right? Lewis is consistently great and The Big Short is one of his best.

Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I also really liked the graphic novel Asterios Polyp, which I (once again) talked about already. Ugh, drone drone drone.

TELEVISION: Yeah, we don’t count television shows as part of our fiftyfifty.me diet because really, there’s no challenge to TV. Just sit back and watch the hours float away. Still, for the first time ever I documented all the shows I watched this year. And man was it a long list… Just like yours I’m sure.

Of the high recommends I’d put Atlanta, Black Sails, Chewing Gum, Orange is the New Black, The Night Of, and Westworld at the top. And I guess Stranger Things but everyone already watched that this summer. I want to especially put in a plug for Black Sails, which gets really good after a so-so S1, but then the subsequent seasons filled the Game of Thrones hole for me, with 80% of the conniving and plot twists GoT serves up. Too bad I have nobody to talk Black Sails with… And Tatiana Maslany finally won a well-deserved Golden Globe for Orphan Black, as she is simply amazing. We ripped through all four seasons of Orphan Black in short order, and can’t wait for the finale.

Along with all that, I watched some of The Get Down, Luke Cage, Black Mirror S3, and Joe Swanberg's Easy, but didn’t finish those quite yet. And to be honest, may never return to them. I wanted to like Luke Cage better, wanted to love Easy a lot, but both were pretty hit-or-miss. And Black Mirror, as a series, tends to disappoint on the regular so I may have to give it up altogether. All in all, I effortlessly finished fifteen shows — who knows how many seasons — and that just proves how easy TV goes down.

Sidenote: 2016 also marks the year my mom discovered binge TV, as she was high on Grand Hotel (basically a Spanish Downton Abbey) and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, a serialized detective show from Australia. She never used to watch television, like at all. And since she's not the best with technology, she didn't realize there were many more seasons of each show until I navigated to them. Now she loves her Apple TV more than she loves me, I'm sure. Netflix, bringing joy to all generations!

Okay, that's it for all things consumed 2016, thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe to Cool It Now, my newsletter for pop culture left behinds to feel less behind, as I'll soon be putting out its twelfth issue. And teaser: it's all about Gosling!

09 December 2016

TPE: Things I Bought

So I was just recently in Taiwan for three weeks again, after having just left seven months ago. This time I was there to accompany my sister, her husband (AMR), and his parents. There are a lot of things to do in Taiwan but mostly it’s two things: eat and shop. I’ve already covered the foods of Taipei in my Eat Your Heart Out: TPE posts, but here’s a listing of the stuff I bought that were necessities during this trip.

Keep in mind, these are definitely not things you should buy -- for that you could consult a list like “20 Locals and Expats Share Their Gift Shopping Ideas in Taipei” -- but rather stuff I felt compelled to buy even though I was just in Taiwan a half a year ago. Prepare for an onslaught of cute things.

But first a plug for the Louis Vuitton City Guide, Taipei edition. My friend Steph, aka Thousandth Girl, was one of the writers on it, and I just got a copy. Right off the bat I learned that Taipei developed west to east, "from temples to glass towers" and the city centre slowly moved from Ximending to East District and on. Total aha moment as I never realized that small fact.

The LV Guide has a nice overview of Taipei's neighborhoods, and provides recommendations for hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, "good things," nightlife, arts and culture, interior cachet, five walking tours, and offers up an awesome 24 hours in the city itinerary. Go check it out! And now on with the shopping...

Wall Clock ($40): Apparently it’s not easy to buy cheap well-made wall clocks that have smooth sweeping action. And are whisper quiet. No tick tock tick tock. This was one of AMR’s top shopping targets and he knew just the person to bring him to the promised land: my mom. Tucked into an alley on Dongmen’s wet market is this store that just sells clocks. AMR was in clock heaven and he walked out with three, and then somehow I purchased a wall clock on a whim for a wall I don’t have. Oh well, first the clock, then the wall!

The clocks are all Seiko and I believe the style of clock a person selects must speak volumes about them. Mine is pictured on the left, with neon-style numbers and a palette of muted colors. Divine from that what you will. The owner of the shop hooked us up and says he also does brisk business online. The store is called Nasa Watch but I can't find an address so maybe my mom will have to take you there. [Link]

Black, scoop bottomed T-shirts ($9): During my time living in Taipei, I basically just went to one guy for my upper wear. He’s located in an alley at Shida Night Market and his corner stall was across the street from my friend’s apartment so basically we saw him all the time Dare I say it, we became friends. This 朋友 also happened to be about my size and build and whenever he wore something I liked, I just got it. After awhile, I pared down my selections to just white and black versions of this extra-long, scoop bottomed tee. They were perfect for me, and also came in tank top versions. You don’t know how hard it is for me to find T-shirts, I have a whole blog post in draft about this from years ago. Perhaps I should post it. Anyway, these were great T-shirts, and a perfect thickness for me.

So I went back to his stall this trip and poof, he was gone. Replaced by two young women running a women’s clothing stall. Tragedy! It’s hard to convey how devastating this was, and I had to settle for buying some inferior related type T-shirts at a stall in Shilin Night Market. The price was cheaper, $9 versus $16, but I’d have preferred to buy them from my friend. [Link]

Forever 21 shirt ($20): While the Forever 21s in Taipei don’t differ much from the ones Stateside, it’s still my go-to store for stuff. For example, I had to wear a collared shirt for a club opening thing. And since I didn’t bring anything appropriate, I hopped into Forever 21 and grabbed a white shirt with horizontal black stripes on the upper sleeves. Later some guy at the club said it was “very Korean.” I have no idea what that meant.

Fox tote bag ($17): At this small store, located at Shida Night Market, my friend bought a dress with illustrations of samurai on it and I bought a 八涂 branded tote bag. It came in a cardboard roll and was just too beautiful to pass up. Good features include a leather handle, a metal button up top for clasping, a gridded interior design, separate hand and shoulder carry straps. Do I already own tote bags I never use? Of course I do, but I’m a sucker for bags!

Triangular folding glass cases ($5): One of my greater finds, I must say. I bought some of these glasses cases before but returned for more. Turns out they were easier to find than I anticipated, just keep your eyes open at night market glasses shops. The great thing about these glasses cases is that they fold down flat. Similar ones can be purchased on Amazon for about ten dollars. My sister and in-laws bought like twenty to give out as gifts. Everyone needs one, or two! [Link]

Skirt Pants ($9 - $50): Lately all I’ve been wearing is skirt pants. I bought my dream ones last year at Mana 嗎哪民族風服飾 — they have a few stores in Taipei — but had a hard time finding street versions. This time around, I found them at street markets and got a pair for super cheap. The Mana ones are more quality, and I bought two, but those were for friends. Straight up, pant skirts are the best, so ridiculously comfortable. [Link]

Glasses and sunglasses ($9): I bought a pair of sunglasses and a pair of regular glasses because when in Taiwan, you just have to. And if you have prescription glasses, getting them done in Taiwan is ridiculous cheap. Plus you don’t need a prescription. And duh, the frames are sized and fitted for Asian faces. You can buy expensive frames and go to expensive places to get the lenses, but I prefer to just get night market frames for like $8 and then have lenses put in for $20. Beat that.

Cell phone cases ($8): If you’re looking for cell phone cases, the night markets are a wonderland. Especially if you lean toward the splashy ones. One night, I sent my wish into the aether for a cactus design and the next day I found a great one. And then I bought another watercolor one for non-cactus days. Double steal!

Rohto eye drops ($5): While I couldn’t scientifically declare what the best eye drops are, I will tell you conclusively that these Rohto eye drops are the best in the world. It’s all in the design, which is square and flat and a joy to have in your bag. Beware, there are a few different types, including specific ones for contact wearers and non-contact wearers. I use the one with the blue cap. Which Amazon apparently doesn't offer. Get. These. Eye. Drops. [Link]

Uma Hana bags ($5): All around the night markets, especially Ximen, you’ll see these plastic-y waterproof bags with various prints on them. George wanted a nice sized overnight bag, and then once we got into a particularly large store, her and AMR ended up purchasing much more than that. Backpacks, tote bags, sling bags, you name it, they probably got it. Turns out Uma Hana is a Taiwan brand and if you’re carrying one it conveys ultimate “FOB life” status. I bought a rainbow bear printed smartphone pouch for when the trusty fanny pack just doesn't go with the outfit. Because bears are universal.

And now onto the useless trinkets that I can’t resist. Even if I basically resisted 90% of the stuff I actually would have bought.

Mouton the Elephant luggage lock ($7): The best thing to do if you’re gonna buy any mascot type stuff is to just pick one and go with it. Unfortunately, I have more than one mascot love. And Mouton is one of them. Mouton is a pale blue circus elephant with pink and white striped ears. Irresistible. I don’t even use luggage locks, but I just wanted this piece as a figurine. I mean, as a gift for my niece...

Snoopy mug ($8): My mom hates mugs. (She has no mugs at her house.) We love mugs. And if AMR was going to brew us daily cups of wonderful Taiwan roasted coffee, we had to have mugs. And so we both bought Snoopy ones and then carried them home with us to continue the adventure.

Taiwan bear magnet ($5): It’s a magnet shaped like a can of Taiwan Beer, but with a smiling Formosan bear on it. And the word mark says “Taiwan Bear.” Brilliant?! I can’t wait to buy a fridge to accompany this magnet.

Kumamon keychain, Formosan black bear keychain ($5): I don't really have keys for anything, but that won't stop me from collecting keychains. Kumamon is a Japanese black bear (apparently now "Japan's most popular bear”), and I couldn’t pass up a tiny Formosan black bear keychain. Now to get keys to pair with these keychains...

Hello Kitty tin, with stationary inside ($3): I allowed myself only one Hello Kitty themed item, aside from my subway card, and this was it. I'll probably use it to store secrets or something. Your secrets!

Cell phone ring ($2): These are everywhere now, and as loathe as I am to affix anything to my beautiful cell phone case, I did get a yellow bell-shaped ring holder, just in case it proves useful. My new cases are real slippery and I'd hate to drop my phone. Fashion versus function right? [Link]

Totoro eyemask ($4): When you need to fall into a deep sleep, why not have Miyazaki lead you the way? "Full of sweet memory, full of deeply happiness." If only it were that easy right?

17 November 2016

The Re-Do

So I’ve had a personal podcast for awhile, “You, Me, Us” that was maybe sixty or so conversations I recorded over the years with friends. But that kind of died down as people stopped wanting to speak with me. Wah wah! But I love podcasting and wanted to make more, and last year I met a friend who also loves talking -- and can tolerate me! So we decided to make a podcast: The Re-Do.

Margot and I are long distance friends — we met last year in Taiwan — and she’s a world traveler and rambler like me. Well, I can’t really be called a world traveler, but she certainly is, as she’s been to over 30+ countries and counting. (Check out this You, Me, Us interview about her trip to North Korea.) We happen to have tons of stuff in common, but enough differences to be shaded differently in just about everything, so it makes for everlasting conversations. And now they're recorded!

We get together every two weeks or so to recall, recap, and reassess, and so far we’ve covered important topics like Harry Potter World, BBQ BFFs, and Tinder adventures. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud, and so if you want to hang out with us, please do!

Note: I'm recording on a Blue Microphones Yeti, finally figuring out how to audio edit with Adobe Audition, and would appreciate any feedbackon (bad) audio. Thanks!

PS: The logo is a pencil, but sort of stylized like a cityscape. Do you see it?

26 September 2016

Skyline To

I went down to Barrio Logan for The Little Big Art Show at La Bodega Gallery over the weekend. Truthfully, it’s likely the only art thing I’ve been to in San Diego for at least ten years. I was curious what the crowd would be like mostly. Short answer: the same as anywhere else! Although maybe it skewed a little older than I expected. Then again who am I to talk about age?

And while on the subject, support Susie's campaign against Francesa's, who has been ripping off indie designer's designs for their own store. Susie has long been a champion of artists' rights and what Francesca's (among many other companies) is doing is just deplorable. There's more than one way to draw a cat but Francesca's just had to steal Susie's eh? If you're against rip offs, go support Susie!
While shopping at a nearby record shop before the art show, I grabbed a zine about Indian casinos and a short self-published book about cholos in college. Published in the Eighties, this book seemed intriguing on the surface but I read it and basically wanted to puke. The author was not from the community, didn't present things in an anthropological manner, and the whole thing was basically a self-congratulatory ode to himself: a professor who played self-styled savior for gangsters from the area. Big pat on the back! I would quote from the book directly but it’s just too much and I wouldn’t want to shine any light on this terrible tome.

Whew, that felt good. It’s rare you read something that makes you so angry right? I mean, offline that is. The main issue with the book was how condescending it was, and you guessed it, it’s a white dude trying to show how “down" he was, with all the lingo set off by quotes. Trash, absolute trash. But at least I’m one book closer to fiftyfifty. I’m currently at 18 books and 44 movies. I’m behind on books obviously but there’s an outside chance I could cross the finish line if I shape up for the rest of the year.

And since I’ve yet to talk any books in 2016, let’s plug some! First up, I can’t stop shutting up and recommending Ted Chiang’s short stories to people. I went to go see him speak at AAWW a few months ago but finally finished his collection of short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others. The titular story is brilliant, as well as many others, but the one that really caught my attention was "The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate," about a mirror that enables time travel. Anyway, go read this book! And then get ready for Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, which stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, and looks downright amazing.
And speaking of New York, I finally got around to reading Asterios Polyp, a graphic novel that my friend highly recommended years ago. So long ago that I think we were both still living San Franciso. Anyway, Asterios Polyp really is great, even if the plot seems a little under hatched. But the art style and thematic elements are so strong. Everyone says it gets better with each read, and I’m excited to dig into it again.
Also on the graphic novel tip, I got the first volume of Monstress, written by Marjorie Liu with art by Sana Takeda, aka two Asian-American women putting out a comic book in an overwhelmingly male dominated industry. (I mean, what industry isn't right?) The fantasy world they’ve created is filled with intriguing characters, a two-tailed cat, and when you're done you'll just with there was more Monstress to catch up on.
And although I haven't left the house much recently, I did get out to La Jolla Playhouse to watch Tiger Style!, a play from Mike Lew about growing up Chinese-American. You can see how it was right up my alley… And it proved to be exactly what I wanted: witty and arcastic, unapologetically direct about ethnicity and race, and very very funny. The line that sums Tiger Style! up perfectly, as spoken by a U.S. customs officer who is giving two characters a hard time and refuting their calls of discrimination: “I don’t hear race."
It’s been a pretty bad year for movies but I can recommend Dearest on Netflix and Hell or High Water in the theater. The latter is a neo-Western about two bank robbers down on their luck, and Dearest is a powerful “based on a true story” account of child abduction in China. Both are real crowd pleasers! Okay, don’t quote me on that...

And last thing, my friend Cindy wrote a cyberpunk YA novel set in near future Taipei. WANT features an Asian-American male on the cover. And I repeat: An Asian-American male on the cover. I stopped updating my CoverMale Pinterest board two years ago, but WANT would have been a fine edition. Just look at that beauty. And did I say it’s set in Taipei?! I can't wait to read this thing.