Sunday, December 27, 2009

Here's what's been going on

So I'm in Singapore for the next week and a half. It's mostly a family trip - they already roped me in to some family parties, and for New Year's Ever as well - but I'm going to get to see my old friends as well, which would be nice.

Before I got to Singapore, I was regularly pulling doubles at both my jobs, so it's been a really crazed period for me. Even though I'm away now, I'm still clocking in hours at one of my jobs and constantly on email for them.

I am also starting to lose steam on the Cannonball Read in terms of writing reviews. If you look at my book gadget on the sidebar, I'm still doing the reading. It's just really difficult for me to write a review. Perhaps while I'm here, I'll be able to get to them.

Other than that, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and ate lots of delicious holiday food. The end of 2009 is near, and I am so excited for it. I am so over 2009.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cannonball Read #8: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Cannonballer's note: Writing reviews are hard, especially since now that it's started getting really cold here, all I want to do is curl up in bed and watch movies on my computer. I read this a week ago, and am writing it only now, when my memory of it is fuzzy. Not good.

I couldn't say anything about the movie because I have never seen it (yet. Really gotta remedy that situation because I love John Cusack) but holy cow, this book is completely neurotic. The best thing about it is that the main character, Rob Gordon, is completely honest about his neurotic-ness, so it doesn't seem like a big whine fest. Instead, it seems like he is genuinely confused with his behavior around women, with women's behavior around him, and just confused about the type of person that he wants to be.

There doesn't seem to be too much of a plot because most of it takes place in Rob Gordon's head (which makes me wonder how they managed to adapt this into a movie - again, I'm gonna have to see it soon.) Rob Gordon is 35 years old and the owner of a failing record shop. His girlfriend recently left him, and this break-up left him going through all his past relationships and wondering why these girls rejected him. It's interesting to see a guy ruminate so obtusely over his personal life, because a) we usually expect girls to do that (please don't scream "sexism." You know it's true) and b) Rob's actions and thoughts were so incredibly contradictory and myopic.

For example, he would go on and on wondering why girls reject him, then he would insert this innocuous statement about their past relationship, which reveals so much about the way he treated her. I would think, "Well... no wonder." But then he would continue rambling on and on about his rejected feelings, and I'm thinking, "DUDE! You just skated past the reason why she left you, you dumbass." So I veered from being very frustrated at him to completely understanding his point of view. And I think what's authentic about his ramblings is that I've gone through that same irrational thought process. I suppose it takes one neurotic to understand another.

Anyway, I really liked the book, even though Rob frustrated me several times (A good British way to describe him is "thick.") After I was done reading the book, I told my boyfriend about the book and how neurotic he is. I guess I was trying to indirectly ask my boyfriend if his mind operated that way, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I want to know.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I should name my Kindle...

I'm having a little bit of trouble falling asleep tonight* so I figure I should entertain a request of Blakspring, who asked me about my experience using a Kindle. As I mentioned in my previous post, my uncle and his girlfriend gave it to me as birthday gift, and I was pretty excited about it. The first thing I read on it was Stardust, and one immediate observation was how... the lack of pages really affects my reading experience. It seems an obvious lack ("What? A Kindle doesn't have pages?") but I honestly did not factor that in when I started the first chapter of Stardust.

If you are like me, you anticipate the turning of the page by holding it between your two fingers. I found myself unconsciously doing that and feeling nothing. Instead, when I first started using it, I had to keep looking down at the "Next Page" button before pressing it. It was not an automatic action.

Once I got the hang of it however, I was just clicking through the pages. It's not hard for your brain to get used to and I can see why there might be many converts out there. You can also highlight a passage, or make a note in your reading by using the typing area. Then later, if you want to go back to that passage, you can go to My Notes, and just click through it until you finally get to the passage you crave to remember.

The other fantastically convenient thing is the Kindle shop, which you can access from your "hand-held device." (When I was reading the instruction manual for the Kindle, those words kept reappearing, which I found kinda funny because 10 years ago, a "hand-held device" was a euphemism for the new-fangled cellular phone.) You can subscribe to newspapers and magazines on it. I didn't, but I wondered if there can be colored pictures if I do subscribe to it. As far as I have been able to tell, everything that appears on my Kindle is black-and-white.

This reminds me of something I read, possibly from Jess and Josh (but I'm just going off memory here), about how if The New York Times bought every one of their subscribers a Kindle, and their readers started getting their news electronically transferred to them, the company could save a fortune on not printing millions of copies everyday, and probably avoid all the layoffs and buyouts we see announced in the paper.

If we are fast approaching a time when we would have to seriously consider giving up on certain items for the sake of the environment, I sincerely hope (very selfishly, I must point out) that it will be a long time til newspapers meet their demise. I love the feel of paper in my hands. All that stuff the old-fashions say about feeling more connected to the news/story is true: As stupid as it sounds, the inability to flip through pages to get to a certain part of the book, and instead having to click click click click to that part, makes it harder for me to feel like those words I'm reading – the story that I am absorbing – is something that should be remembered. Imagine clicking through a PDF document to find a certain piece of information. Does that feel like you are reliving your experience of having read that document?

This could all very well be nostalgia speaking. I don't want you to think that I dislike using it – I get really excited when I find a book worthy of purchase on the Kindle. But I have definitely narrowed my Kindle-reading to books that I hope that I would really like (Stardust, Heat Wave) but that I don't really care if I love yet. When I decide that I love those books, I will buy them in book form.

One more super cool thing about the Kindle: Whenever it goes to power save, a portrait of a famous author will appear. So far, I've had Virginia Wolf, Ralph Ellison (he comes on a lot), Jules Verne, Jane Austen, and John Steinbeck. Probably more, but those are the ones that I remember. Steinbeck has only appeared once so far (we can't choose, unfortunately. If we could, I would choose to have Ellison taken off the sleep screen) and I got so excited about him that I didn't want to "wake" it. Maybe I should name my Kindle Cal, just to psychically encourage it to go to the Steinbeck screen saver.

*I am currently reading a novel about a serial killer in New York in the 1800s and it is so, so interesting and keeping me up with its gruesome facts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cannonball Read #7: In A Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

The beginning of Jiselle's life, before her marriage, reads a little like George Clooney's voice-over in Up In The Air. As a flight attendant who is required to live within driving distance of the airport, her work is a big part of her life. As a result, she does not have any close friends whom she can confide in, nor much of a chance to meet a lover. She does not have a lot at home, and most of her belongings are souvenirs from other countries. Once, when her friend was anxiously fretting over her runaway teenage soon, she said to Jiselle, "Never have children. You are so lucky you have no one."

That changes quickly when she meets Mark Dorn, an airline pilot, at an airport bar. He is probably what George Clooney was like in his younger days - handsome, suave, and he just swept Jiselle right off her feet. In three months, they were married and she had quit her job to play stepmom to his three children while he continues to pilot around the world. Suddenly, Jiselle has a husband who is constantly in the air or delayed in countries due to a health epidemic, known as the Phoenix flu; or she has to worry about taking care of his children, Sara, Camilla, and Sam. Sara and Camilla pretty much hate her and try to make her life as difficult as possible by stealing her clothes, dressing slutty, and just generally acting like teenagers. Sam, the youngest, is nicer to her. He plays board games with her, or they go on walks together... but Jiselle suspects that it's probably because he knows she has no friends and is lonely.

The interesting thing about Kasischke's novel is its direction. At various parts, I thought I knew where it was going, and then I'd be completely wrong. I thought the beginning made it sound like a fluffy, better-written romance novel; then in the middle, I thought it was going to be a Stepmom kinda thing, where Giselle eventually becomes Julia Roberts; many, many times, I really believed that Kasischke was going to go the apocalyptic route, where everyone dies because of the Phoenix flu (no one knows how it's spread or caught) and Giselle has to make the Ultimate Sacrifice.

In the end, the Phoenix Flu may have propelled certain events to happen, but Kasischke always focuses on Giselle's quiet resolve and her reaction to the world around her. Reading the book, I realized that Giselle did not really have much of a discernible personality. Her self really isn't evident in the beginning of the book. It isn't until she has people to love and to care for that she starts developing a self and a purpose. I started rooting for her when I realized that she was capable of more than just reminiscing about her and her husband's escapades.

"In A Perfect World" is incredibly melancholy, with a pervasive sense of dread through it, like you feel the author is foreshadowing something and you are just waiting for the worst to happen. Even when there is a happy event, it is difficult to feel like the troubles are over. But I think that Kasischke's point is that although her world is much more uncertain in the end, and something bad may happen, what's important is that Giselle now had a family, even if all she does is worry about them.

Cannonball Read #6: Heat Wave by Richard Castle

I decided to pick up Heat Wave after Tereasa reviewed it on Pajiba, saying that "if you like the show you will like the book." Well, I really like the show, and I was really bored during my Thanksgiving vacation back to California so I figured, why not?

The book is exactly like an episode of Castle. There is a murder and Nikki Heat (a female detective modeled after Kate Beckett from the TV show) tries to solve it with the help of journalist Jameson Rook who is currently following the NYPD for an article. They run into some false ends, red herrings, and actually end up having sex with each other (I chuckled when I read that because I thought, "Of course Castle wrote a sex scene for himself. Of course.")

The crazy thing was that while reading it, I could very clearly picture all the characters as their alter egos on the TV show. It got to the point where I actually believed that I saw the book's plot as an episode. The murder du jour comes when a real estate tycoon breaks the concrete ground with his forehead by falling to his death from his luxury apartment. He has a trophy wife who lies through her teeth, a financial consultant who seems a little too benevolent; and enemies in the real estate industry who are not sad that he has broken ground (Yes, that is a construction pun. Shut up.) Needless to say, Heat and her gang of minions have a bunch of leads to follow up on.

One thing that people often complain about the show is that they know who the murderer is from the very start. Well, that was the case for me in the book, but I absolutely could not figure out the motive, and even after it was revealed, I had to read backwards for some clues. And I guess that's why I like Castle (besides the fact that Nathan Fillion is on it): I know where the story is going, I just don't know how we get there.

A big difference between reading the book and the watching an episode is how much more thorough the book is about the grunt work involved in investigating a murder. There are some parts which I thought were simply borinnnngggg and unnecessary because I knew that once the case went a different route, all that evidence that was dug up will be tossed out. My other quibble is Castle's character, Jameson Rook. Throughout the book, he is shown as a celebrity journalist (really an oxymoron in my opinion), but he has also interviewed war lords and been a war reporter of sorts. However, he behaves more like a novelist than a journalist. As a novelist, Castle can get away with not getting specific answers to specific questions because he can fill in the blanks himself. As a journalist, Rook needs to paint a clearer picture than what he is able to observe from shadowing Heat. Maybe he got all his questions answered just by watching her do her job... but no, there are still a million questions he should have been asking her and her detectives. So typical for a celebrity journalist.

That was a very dorky journalism quibble huh?

The having sexual relations with the source is pretty spot-on though.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cannonball Read #5: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust is the first book I bought for my Kindle because I just couldn't wait for my local library to have it freed up. I've been in such a Stardust-y mood ever since I re-watched the movie with Jana, and I just needed it in my hands right away because I am such a fan of everything in that movie. So it was a little disappointing, in the beginning, when I realized that the movie did not adhere very closely to the book. ("The book doesn't follow the movie!" I thought irrationally.)

But a couple chapters into the book, it totally clicked for me. I started seeing the book (reading the book?) for itself and stopped comparing it to the merits of the movie. When I describe the plot, it will sound a lot like the movie, but it's the details in the book (and they absolutely matter) that are really different. Unlike the movie, Gaiman spends a lot more time setting up the context and describing the people living in the town of Wall. Wall borders the magic world and it is separated by a wall and some very insistent guards. We learn about Dunstan Thorn, who wishes to seek his Heart's Desire, which apparently is... either getting laid by a hot girl who is across the Wall; or a son. Because in 9 months, a son is delivered to him across the Wall named Tristran (which is really difficult to say out loud.)

Though Tristran seems like a young boy who is painfully aware of his ordinariness, he still exhibit signs of boldness. When his true love, Victoria, told him that she would do anything for him if he were to fetch a shooting star for her, he immediately agrees and sets off across the Wall in search of the star. The star, as it turns out, is a person – a girl named Yvaine. Tristran goes through a series of crazy adventures to get to her, and then goes through another series of adventures to get her back to his town. Meanwhile, they have an old witch who is hot on the heels of the star because eating the heart of a star promises immortality.

The ending is really different than the movie, and it really highlights how subtle all the characters are, even the evil ones like the Princes fighting for the crown or the crazy witch. We don't need loud proclamations of love to know that a person's in love; sometimes evil witches can still be evil after they choose a different route (no crazy voodoo is needed); and sometimes a hero does not need to be a swashbuckling sword-wielder to prove that he has grown up. Gaiman managed to show the growth of his characters through their very subtle actions - not by some grand, dramatic gesture – and I really appreciated that because that's kinda like how real life works.

I wrote in my Coraline review that Neil Gaiman used a minimal amount of language to convey something with maximum impact, and I wondered if that was something that is prevalent in his books. In Stardust, there is a very different writing style. He is more descriptive, yet there is so much poetry in his writing. I loved how he used certain words and phrases, and highlighted them in my Kindle:

"The evening sky hangs above us, the color of a bruise, and clouds carpet the world beneath us, all grey and writhing."

"So," said a voice from behind him, soft as a silken strangling-rope, sweet as a poisoned lozenge, "you thought that you would warm yourself at the burning of my cottage?..."

If I wrote like that, it would just come off as pretentious. I really need to buy this in book form so that I can hold it in my hands. This is a book I want to flip back to certain pages to reread passages, or to remind myself of a favorite moment. It was so good that I stopped seeing Yvaine as Claire Danes or the witch as Michelle Pheiffer. That's not to say that I like the movie any less now. I just like both the book and movie for very different reasons.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cannonball Read #4: First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

The first book I ever read from Ian McEwan was Atonement, and I remember nothing about it except that there was a pervasive feeling of frustration during my reading of that. I don't remember details, or plot points, or even character names – but I just left that book feeling... unsatisfied. I felt like there should have been more (keep in mind that I remember nothing about that book so more what? I cannot say) and that I have somehow been deceived and cheated from having a good time.

With First Love, Last Rites, that feeling came quicker, and with much more severity. It's a collection of short stories which, by the the second, I felt so repulsed with that it turned me off to the rest of it. After that, I couldn't help but feel like there was an underlying current of misogyny in McEwan's words. If I have to pinpoint a theme between all these different short stories, it would be that McEwan has written them from the point of view of men who are misunderstood in their public lives, and whose inner monologue are presented to the readers as an explanation for their awful behavior. I think McEwan is trying to get us to sympathize with these male characters with his beautiful language and sentence structure, and even with the horrific circumstances. Maybe in 1975, when this was first published (I think it's his first collection ever, and he was in his twenties) that might have been what people told themselves when they read. "Because he's so fucked up... right, right, I get it." I don't know. Reading it now, I just kept thinking, "Seriously? No sympathetic female characters whatsoever??"

The other problem is that because these are short stories, McEwan doesn't really get ten chapters to get into his character's psychosis and get us to understand his actions. And a lot of their doings/thinkings have severe consequences, and then... the story just ends! I think, "Wait... that's it?" and I just feel angry. I don't feel sympathy for his lonely/fucked-up/repressed/immature main characters – there wasn't time for me to truly understand them. All I'm left with is thinking that they are a bunch of psychopaths and McEwan is a fucking misogynist, and fuck his beautiful words and sentence structure.

I'll give you an example: the first story (why would this be his first story?? To show how controversial he is?? How ironic he can be??) opens with a young girl crying in a bathroom and a young male, the narrator, looking in the mirror, pleased with himself. We're not sure what's going on, but the narrator draws us in by telling us how he has an older friend who constantly challenges him about his youth by showing off some thing that "grown-ups" do. Like smoke cigarettes, or steal, or drink whiskey. Then one day, the older friend mentioned sex, and of course the young narrator had to feign knowledge of it, like he's actually experienced it somewhere. So he goes home with a taste of it in his mind and an urge in his loins, and look – he has to babysit his little sister. Oh, can you see where this story is going? The end result, which is actually mentioned in the beginning, is that his first foray into sex has made him a sexual adventurer, someone who others look up to in sexual prowess. Maybe McEwan was trying to say, "Oh hahaha, these boys are fucked up, but boys will be boys, and look – now, he is a man" in a mocking voice to show how truly misguided youths can be, and I might take him at his word.... except all the other stories are similar, in terms of women being subjugated, mistreated or just terrible human beings in general and so they probably deserved it.

Here's another one: A man studies his great-grandfather's diaries, and his wife is jealous of that because he spends hours and hours poring through the contents and no longer pays attention to her. The man wishes she would stop nagging and shut up, the wife breaks a precious family heirloom in a fit of anger (it came with those incredibly captivating journals from his great-grandfather) and then storms out of the house. The man – MIRACULOUSLY AND WHAT GREAT TIMING! – finds a solution that could potentially make a person disappear. So he tricks his wife into such a situation. And she disappears.

Bam! the story ends! (By the way, I did not the spoil any of these stories because I am leaving out so much of the terrible, horrific details.) No explanation, no fall out, or anything. I FUCKING HATE THESE CHARACTERS.

The only story in which a women is presented in a neutral light is still insulting. This short story is where McEwan takes the title of his entire collection, and it's about a young couple whose relationship changes as the season changes. The girl doesn't die or cry in the end; she isn't sexually or emotionally abusive; and she isn't a shrewd or a minx. What she is, however, is nothing. McEwan barely fleshes out her character, and if so, it is only done in the point of view of the boyfriend and even her boyfriend did not really understand her. There also didn't seem to be any real intimacy or affection between both characters, unless if you count their excessive fucking during the summer season. She was just an object in which McEwan used for a metaphor as their changing relationship in the boy's eyes. All I could think after that story ended was, "Well, at least she wasn't raped or made to disappear." But "at least" really is not good enough, especially in the midst of its sister (or i guess I should say brother) stories.

Honestly, I picked up this book at random (my criteria was 1. an author's name I recognized and 2. a paperback) so I really was not expecting much out of it. After the third story, I honestly wanted to just throw the book down and write "I HATE THIS CRAP!" over and over again. But I thought, "Let's stick it out. After all, he can't have become a famous writer off of just these kind of stories." I kept hoping that a strong/favorable female character would appear, and maybe be wrongfully killed/murdered/raped/abused. That absolutely did not happen.

I am not going to touch anything by McEwan for a long time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My computer has no virus, I do not have swine flu, and no one called me dirty names today. Phew

Two weeks ago, my uncle asked me what I wanted for my birthday. Keeping the Cannonball Read in mind, I said, "A book!" Well, being as awesome as they are, guess what he and his girlfriend got me?


Yes! I am now a very proud owner of a Kindle! I was so excited when I saw the Amazon box because I was like, "OMG IS THIS WHAT I THINK IT IS!!" (By the way, that's Ralph Ellison on the power save page. Which is funny because The Invisible Man completely frustrated me in high school. It's ok – I still love it!)

I mean, two weeks ago, I'm sure I said something along the lines (to friends) about how I like books better because it's tactile and personal like newspapers and blah blah blah, but now that I have this, I am so excited about it!

I really did have a lovely birthday today, especially since I was kinda expecting a shit storm to descend upon me. It's tradition for me to have the worst absolute luck on my birthday. Serious, ever since my 6th birthday when my mom threw a party for me and all my ballet friends were invited and then some adult there called me a little pig because I was pigging out on cake, and then other people caught on to that and thought it was pretty funny, and being a 6-year-old, I was naturally upset about it. Didn't want another birthday party for a very long time.

On my 16th birthday, I got a computer virus on my home computer that I shared with my mother. A porn virus! Yea, that was awkward. Not what you think – a friend's AIM profile was hacked and had a link with the requisite "This is AWESOME!" So I clicked. Palm/Face. The funniest thing was when the technician guy came and he just looked at me and said, "Porn sites are very bad for computers." I felt so embarrassed that I couldn't even explain how those pesky popups with blow jobs and penetration got on our computer.

Everything else bad that happened is too personal to go into great detail, but trust me – my birthdays are bad luck. My yearly ritual is to go about my daily routine and then get home and sit in bed and hope nothing happens.

But yes, this year's was nice, and not just because of the Kindle. I suspect the past couple weeks of terribleness (I had a shitty, shitty month in terms of everything in my life) might have cancelled out the Birthday Bad Luck. There needs to be a balance somewhere, right? I'm superstitious like that.

I had the day off from work (I usually get Tuesdays off) and I went to Crunch on a guest pass with my friend, Jana. That was an eye-opener. I hate gyms because I feel like a hamster on the treadmill and I don't like looking at myself in the mirror for long periods of time. However, since it was my first time working out in a long time, it was actually kinda nice to get sweaty and play pretend-healthy. The best part of the gym was the showers in the locked rooms! Yea, it does not take much to impress me apparently. I was just in awe that they had shampoo, conditioner and body wash, and you are standing on nice black tiles and the hot water was actually hot and cold water came out when you turned the dial, and you get to use lots of towels when you get out. It kinda reminded me of being in public pools as a kid and I just liked that so much.

Then Jana and I went to lunch at a low-key restaurant down the street, The Smile, and I had the creamiest, butternutty butternut squash soup. My sandwich – a baguette with black forest ham, gruyere and grain mustard – was pretty sweet too, but the soup was definitely a highlight. After, I wandered around the city looking for a gift for my uncle's girlfriend because it's her birthday on Friday. Then I finished a book that I've kinda been sloughing through (review should be up in a couple days).

For dinner, my uncle and his girlfriend brought me and my friend, Marissa, to the Gramercy Tavern. It was pretty fancypants and I was definitely under-dressed so I felt a little out-of-place. I relaxed after a couple sips of wine and good conversation with awesome company. The food was so delicious and unexpected too. My uncle had venison and he said it was delicious. That dish came with potato pancakes! I tried a flat iron steak for the first time tonight, and flat iron is basically the meat behind a cow's shoulder. It was braised and accompanied with slices of sirloin steak, all served with a drizzle of burnt milk (what is burnt milk? I'm not sure – Google can help you here – but it was pretty tasty.) The flat iron was the best part of the dish though. It was like happiness in my mouth.

Finally, walking home from the train, I spoke to the boyfriend (He's out of town) and he told me that he got me a subscription to New York Magazine! My jaw dropped and I am so excited for my first issue! He used to get a bulk subscription and NYMag was included and I would be allowed to steal it because he initially thought it was a girly magazine (I think they were fashion week covers or the design issue when he started receiving them.) He likes it now though (Phew, I guess i don't have to break up with him then. Totally kidding.)

So yea, that gift was unexpected and completely useful and a perfect fit for me. The boyfriend always finds the best ways to surprise me. He had asked me for my address yesterday and I thought he was going to send flowers or something (I complained last week that he needs to give me flowers) but he got me something much, much better.

Good day!

Ok, one more photo of the Kindle!

And here's one of Max lazing on the empty Kindle box. Max is our fiesty house cat. Do you know that blogger demands that you spell-check the word fiesty?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Please help me because apparently, I don't know how to use the library.

I got my library card last Tuesday and was really excited to start using it. I haven't been to a library for pleasure since – gah! – middle school and I remember all I read then were Stephen King books. So I was hoping to revisit that feeling of being in a nice comforting corner with a book that I am halfway through.

But this new library is so huge! I was just so overwhelmed by the shelves and shelves of books, and why was everything in hard cover? I hate hard cover books! The books I read need to be slim and easy to carry around because I only read on the subway!

So I just walked up and down the fiction aisle and looked at different titles and authors, but I just couldn't pick anything because I had the same feeling as when I walk around Blockbuster trying to figure out what to rent. I'm not a picky reader but I think my years of not-reading-for-pleasure made me want a book that I will really enjoy.

In the end, I just went to the computer and typed in Neil Gaiman and tried to find a Neil Gaiman book (Coraline – my review is below this post). Then I grabbed The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud because it was on the "Recommended Books" shelf. And for my third book, I just picked at random for an author's name I recognized and got First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan.

Really not the satisfying library lounge that I was anticipating, but I'm not sure how I should go about my book choosing in the future. So I think I will just go to the library with a specific book in mind and just search it in the system (and hopefully it will not be hard cover.) Any recommendations? My favorite books are East of Eden (my life and love). I know Steinbeck well), The Lovely Bones, and The Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (I worship this series.) I don't like chick lit because there's enough girlish drama among my friends so I don't need to read about it too; and I really enjoy great writing and great characters. To me, plot is sometimes secondary. I will also give just about anything a try.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cannonball Read #3: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline was my first Neil Gaiman book ever (Thanks for recommending it, Rebecca!) and it was not like I imagined. I didn't watch the movie, just the trailer, so I wasn't spoilered by much. My synopsis is gonna basically be like how the preview set up: Coraline is very bored with the world she lives in. Her parents seem like regular parents; her neighbors like old farts; and there aren't interesting places to explore around her house. One day, she discovers a little door in the drawing room (I'm gonna assume that's like British for home office or something) that leads to a different parallel world. It's similar to her old life, yet there are some peculiar modifications. The most disconcerting difference (to Coraline) is that all the people in this world had dark, shiny buttons for eyes instead of... well, eyes.

I'm not sure what else to say about the plot because I don't want to give everything away and it was quite short (My copy is 162 pages with big-ish print.) What stood out to me about Coraline was how mature she was about her seriously bizarre situation. I don't remember how old she's supposed to be (was it mentioned in the book?) but I assumed around 10, and there was a part where she went on a speech (it was long, considering how short most of the dialogue/descriptions were) that basically boiled down to her realization that being brave does not exclude being scared. In fact, doing something even though you are scared is what makes the action brave. That little speech was really my favorite part of the book.

As I said before, I've never read anything by Gaiman so this was really an en eye-opener. I don't know what I was expecting but I was really surprised by how sparse, yet detailed, his language is. His diction and sentence structure was really carefully chosen because he conveyed a lot without writing a great amount. It's strange because I consider reading fiction to be something I have to slough through – it's a enjoyable slough though. And I admire people who can write long detailed descriptions that make me want to read them, not skim through it. But even more than that, I aspire to write concisely about things that aren't necessarily full of facts (comes with my journalism degree/dreams.) So Gaiman's style was just such a pleasure to read. I look forward to checking out other stuff from him.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I didn't break my uncle's baby

I babysat last week for my cousin, B. Most of my friends know that it's probably not wise to have children around me (I'm not a fan), but my uncle thought it was a good idea because his daughter actually recognizes me. So on Wednesday night, I was left alone with a 6-month old baby.

Now, keep in mind that I haven't babysat since middle school, and even then, those kids were in grade school. I was a little nervous and asked B's mommy for tips in case she started wailing. But I really didn't have to worry because she was just a lovely baby all night. We surfed the Internet together for takeout and then I let her watch a couple movie trailers on Pajiba (nothing centipede-related, of course) because she was fascinated by the colors and sounds. Then when my sushi came, we watched episodes of Bored to Death together until she fell asleep.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cannonball Read #2: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

This is another book I picked up off my roommate's shelf. She has a lot of non-fiction books that are devoted to the troubles of children with special needs. Since she is a speech therapist, it is a subject that interests her and that she is able to relate to.

Anyway, I was trying to avoid a non-fiction book because of my first book, and the cover of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time intrigued me. So even though it is quite a popular book (I googled it after I was done reading it), I basically went into it cold, not knowing what to expect. It took a little while for me to get used to the voice of the protagonist, Christopher, because his sentences were so stilted and choppy; and the connections he was making seemed kinda... random.

The book is fashioned as being written by Christopher, and it begins with him finding a dead dog in his neighbor's lawn. Christopher is sad for the dog, so he decides that he wants to solve the mystery of its murder and write it into a book because he loves Sherlock Holmes novels.

It's a simple enough concept, and I went into it expecting some kinda murder/mystery tied with a coming-of-age story. I don't think that's what it was. Wellington's murder (that's the dog's name) allowed Christopher to better explore the world for himself, instead of constantly being looked after by teachers and his father. And the fact that he was writing everything down really made it interesting, because as a reader, I kept thinking to myself, "He has already experienced that, and is re-experiencing it as he consciously puts the words to the page." To me, that meant that Christopher is more aware of the gravity of his situations than he is letting on.

I'm not sure exactly when it clicked in my head that Christopher was a "special needs kid" (I know it's before he talked about being a "special needs kid.") It might explain the weird random anecdotes in the book (like when he went on and on about math puzzles - I didn't like that) but the trouble is that since the book is written from his point of view, a lot of what he says may seem random, but they actually have an emotion behind them. I think...

I don't know. I'm really confused about this book. I really wanted to like it because I thought the writing was quite clever (and very faithful to the character) and the plot was jaw-dropping (I literally was trying to figure out the mystery along with Christopher) but some of Christopher's interjections about maps or science or math really lost me. And it also frustrated me that he never dwelt on emotional scenes, even though I know that by doing so, the author would be betraying the character.

I finished it last week and attempted to re-read it, but I think I need to give myself sometime before I give it another go. Honestly, this was one book that I just "didn't get" and I'm kinda bummed about it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cannonball Read #1: Sweet and Low by Rich Cohen

I picked up Sweet and Low from my roommate's bookshelf because it had an interesting cover, and I think I recognized the author's name, Rich Cohen. The cover and the back is illustrated like a comic book with each panel showing a highlight from Cohen's story. The "comic strip" – if read from left to right, up to down – seems a little disjointed, weaving personal family history in between general factoid-y facts, and it ends with a cartoon character Rich Cohen with a talk bubble that says, "To be disinherited is to be set free!"

The inside of the book very much reflects the spirit of the comic-cover in the sense that readers will not only get the family history behind Sweet N' Low, a substitute sweetener that can be found in just about any dine, but also a good knowledge of post-war Brooklyn, the history of sugar and saccharin, sugar's eventual usurper, and lots of politics. Cohen has taken a personal family history and tacked on facts, facts, facts. Though it complemented his narrative, the real interest (for me) lies in the family tension and the reasons for Cohen's mother's disinheritance from the Sweet N' Low fortune.

In the beginning, there was Ben Eisenstadt. Grandfather Ben (to Cohen) had The Eureka Moment while pouring sugar out of those canisters atop diner tables, and then followed that idea through by building a machine that stuffed sugar into little packets. After that idea was stolen by a company (he didn't get his plans patented), Ben came up with a sugar substitute by combining saccharin and cyclamate, stuffed it in a pink-colored package (because pink stood out) and sold them to diabetics at first, then later to people who just don't want to get fat. Sweet N' Low became a huge hit, and it created a market for something that people didn't know they wanted until they had the options.

Ben was married to Betty – who seems to have the most depressing childhood ever because Cohen tells us readers that she came away from it believing that love is finite and is never unconditional – and they had four children: Marvin (Uncle Marvelous who later ran Sweet N'Low's factory), Ira, Gladys, and Ellen - who is Cohen's mother. Throughout the book, Ellen seems to be portrayed as the black sheep of the family: as the daughter that moved from Brooklyn to Illinois, the daughter that had absolutely nothing to do with the factory or the business, the daughter that left her "real family" to be with her husband. Of course, this was also written by his son (who dedicated the book to her) and she was disinherited from Ben and Betty's wills.

I felt like Ben and Betty's problems with Ellen was the driving force in the story. After all, if Ellen had gotten a nice inheritance, Cohen would not be writing the book right now. Why she was included so little in Ben's will compared to her brothers and sister (who got property and the company, and hence, the fortune of the company), no one will ever know and Cohen does not really speculate. The real drama happens when Betty left Ellen absolutely nothing (not even a necklace) and the words on the will seemed to have an intent to hurt. The readers could guess that it's because Ellen had introduced Ben to the cardiologist who operated on him, and Ben eventually died (the family blamed the doctor, as well as Ellen); Cohen allowed speculations of his aunt Gladys manipulating her mother's will by whatever sort of coercion (Gladys oversaw her mother's medication and then the woman – Cohen made sure to let us know that he thought she was batshit insane – installed a fucking camera to her mother's bedroom just so she could watch her); and maybe it was because Ellen was a girl and the youngest, and to Betty, love was finite and love was never, ever without conditions.

I realized that I have written a lot, but I really only covered half of the book. The middle of the books dealt with the embezzlement scandal in Sweet N' Low and the indictments of two key employees, and also how closely connected the company was to Alfonse D'Amato (former senator of New York who is like a lightning rod for scandals) and the mafia. That was interesting, but I think I could have gotten those from reading loads of old newspaper clips and court documents. Cohen just helped us put all the pieces together in one place, and then tried to connect them with some family story or other.

I wish there had been more Gladys-Ellen-Betty drama included because I felt like nothing was really answered. Cohen had interviewed his Aunt Gladys for the Sweet N' Low history, but her voice seemed absent during the Ellen-got-disinherited-because-of-crazy-Gladys part of the book. Instead, he got the dialogue from depositions to highlight the hypocrisy and insanity of his aunt, yet he didn't ask her during their interview, "Hey Aunt Gladys, why did you say that about your sister if it wasn't true?"

But then again, writing your own family's history is difficult, and it may be even harder when everyone is so at odds with each other. While reading this book, I kept picturing my mother's family (they had an inheritance problem too, though it's really not at all similar to the Eisenstadt's) and I remembered that knowing all the back-and-forth between the family members did not answer any of my questions (this happened in my childhood.) If anything, it made me more confused about her family, about our place in her family, and what it meant for the future (Weddings? Funerals?) . So honestly, I have to give SERIOUS props to Rich Cohen for going to estranged family members who don't like his mother and interviewing them, and then coming out with such a well-written, humorous (he's very dry, like when he tried to illustrate Gladys' hold of reality by telling the readers that she always believed that OJ did not do it), and relatable book.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cannonballing like whooooaaa

I had a terrible day today (though my Halloween was good - will have my costume pictures up soon!) but when I got home, I remembered that November 1st is the beginning of the Super-Awesome-Amazing-Godtopulicious Cannonball Read, and I am now a little bit cheerier. I haven't finished a book yet, but I am currently three quarter of the way through one, so hopefully, after a couple more subway rides since that's where I do most of my reading, I should have a post up soon.

I've been thinking about what I want to read. If anything, the Cannonball Read will get me to read all the books that I say that I would if I could. I could, I could, and I should! Last week, I re-watched Stardust with a friend, and I realized that I have never read anything by Neil Gaiman. So perhaps I can start with Stardust...

Anyway, here's a list I've came up with:
1) Stardust by Neil Gaiman (right, you know that now.)
2) The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
3) Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson
4) The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (yea, yea I know - shoot me.)
5) The Assassin's Gate by George Packer
6) Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
7) A History of Love by Nicole Krauss (If I'm reading the husband, I gotta be reading the wife too.)
8) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
9) Whatever else that I can find on my roommate's bookshelves.

This first book I am reading is from my roommate, and it's a non-fiction book. Looking above at my (really short) list, it may seem like I don't discriminate between fiction and non-fiction. However, I am usually more of a fiction reader. I only started on non-fiction in my free time (college books don't count! coz all the knowledge has left my brain) because I really like reading war books, so that turned me on to that kind of writing.

Speaking of war, I was in one yesterday. No, actually, I was at a party yesterday and I met a man who used to be a war correspondent for ABC News! He worked in various war-torn regions in Africa, and he speaks French, Italian and Farsi. I was pretty buzzed when I met him so I must have came off a bit fan-girl-ish and gushy. I just kept asking him questions about his career and the various wars that he's been in, and what he does now, and if he wishes to get back into it. I also remember telling him that I think anyone who is a war journalist must be a little bit crazy, which I meant as a compliment, but now that I'm thinking about it, he might not have taken it that way. I don't know.

Anyway, going back to Cannonball Read, I really should try to read more classic fiction. I feel like all I read in college was philosophical papers and newspaper articles. Granted, they were my area of study, but I do miss reading fiction. I used to say that only grown-ups read fiction, "which suuuccckkkss." I don't know if this means that I am getting more grown-up (shoot me, please.)

Point of this post: Cannonball Read makes me smile.

Update: I just got inspired by a fellow Pajiban's Cannonball Read blog. Alli has covers of the books that she is reading and books that she has finished on her sidebar, and I really wanted that too! So I went to Book Gadget, took a much longer time than I will admit to set it up (Seriously, it's embarrassing especially since I consider myself to be pretty savvy with the Internetz), and now I have it! Look!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Malcolm Reynolds! Malcolm Reynolds!!!!

on Castle. They mentioned Buffy too in this episode, but this costume is just too amazing!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Godtopus worship time

I am about to embark on a personal project! Pajiba is having its second round of the Cannonball Read and I am jumping on the bandwagon this time. The deal is to read as much as possible, and blog about each book I read. Last year, Pajibans aimed for a hundred books (which I just think is incredibly daunting) but reduced this year's goal to an attainable 52. Phew. I could - maybe, possibly - do that.

Also, this will get me not only more motivated to read, but also to blog, and we know I have a real problem with keeping this thing regular. I'm so uninspired with my life right now that maybe a little fiction and non-fiction can get my brain moving again.

Recently, I moved into a new apartment with two roommates, and I took a quick glance at their book shelves. One of them has books that deal with 4th grade reading, math and literature (she's a teacher, not an idiot) and the other roommate has a bookshelf with an eclectic collections of randoms (I read the Velveteen Rabbit two nights ago for the first time! From her bookshelf!) Or maybe I just think so because I read so little and know so little about books. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is I have lots of material to choose from!

I think this will also give me a chance to finish books that I have previously started and failed to finish. For example, I am currently trying to get through Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson, but for the love of all gonzo journalism, I can't seem to get into the groove of his writing (please don't throw books at me.) So that is probably something I should make a goal of finishing.

I'm really excited about this. I mean, this is gonna sound really cheesy and fan-girl-ish, but doing this makes me feel like I am a part of Pajiba. This is probably the first time I have mentioned this here, but Pajiba is such a big part of my life - I check that website like I check my Gmail. I've been reading that site for 4 years (Holy cow) and I love everything they do. I love the movie reviews, I love the commenters, I love the community and the inside jokes (and I high-five myself when I get it).

I really, really hope I will be able to keep up with the Cannonball Read and not let "life" get in the way.

*I know that's Godtopussy and not Godtopus, but I really like the ribbon. Because I am a girl.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Awesome weekend in Talahassee - Manatees were spotted!

Three weekends ago, the Boyfriend and I went to Tallahasee to watch the USF/FSU game. It was my first time at a college football game – my college does not care about sports, and we are proud of that! – and I wasn't sure what to expect. B got me a USF tank top (he's a USF alum) which I must say is pretty cute, and it even had little tabs that keeps your bra straps in. Very innovative. 1 point to USF merchandise-designers for creativity and caring about girls who don't like bra straps sticking out.

Anyway, they won!!! They won, they won they won!!! It's always awesome to be part of the winning side, especially when this game was a huge deal for USFers. Granted, this victory probably is not as important to me as it is to them, but I was still pretty psyched.

So that was pretty much the highlight of the weekend, though there were some other really great parts. The day after the game, we went to Wakulla Springs, which is about 20 miles from Tallahasee. They have a two story jumping platform, and looking down into the dark water (there wasn't much sunlight that day) was terrifying. I was absolutely terrified to jump off the platform – meanwhile, all these 10 year olds were cannon-balling off of it and making me look like a giant wuss. It was kinda embarrassing. I did jump eventually though, and again, and again. I was terrified every time I did it though. I had to keep reminding myself that nothing bad was going to happen, and all I had to do was step off the platform.

After we were done with the water (it was getting really cold anyway) we went on a boat trip around the springs. I saw soooo many animals, but B was so not impressed. He grew up in Florida, and said that those were pretty standard Florida animals. Whatever, I live in New York, and the wildest animal we get there are squirrels.

The tour guide pointed out lots of different types of birds, swanee cooter turtles (I love saying that out loud), alligators, and we even got to see a mommy and baby manatee hanging out underwater.

You can see the white body of the manatee, but not very well in this picture. The boat that we were in was trying to quietly slink by them - but our tour guide, who was also the driver, was really nervous being near the manatees because she was afraid of crashing into them and hurting them. So we had to turn off the boat and drift for a little bit.

I went to Massachusetts the next weekend, but no photos were taken. It was a pretty ordinary time. B and I just hung out with his family and relaxed. But those relaxing weekends away are officially over for me. I started working weekends again, which means that any day that I have to myself will be spent catching up on sleep or trying to get my life together.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Summer is basically done.

I am a terrible blogger. My updates are so infrequent that I am probably the only person reading this now. I could throw out a couple excuses for my absence but "trying to figure out my life" just sounds so trite and cliché, especially for a recent graduate.

Anyway, summer flew by, and I feel like all I did was work way too much and play very little. I barely got myself a decent tan! But there were some worthwhile trips I took which are worth mentioning. Like fake-camping in July with some new friends; or my trip to Tampa with the boyfriend – first time down South even though Florida doesn't really count as the South.

On the camping trip, we stayed in the backyard of a friend's house that was up in the woods in Pennsylvania. So I guess I can say my camping cherry has yet to be popped since I slept inside the house instead of in the tent I put up.

There are these amazing waterfalls around the area we were at. This is one of the two we encountered. I jumped off that ledge (I know, I know – pix or it didn't really happen). It doesn't look that far but being up there and looking down into the pounding water, and then stepping off into nothing – well, that's gotta be one of the scariest things I have ever done. It was pretty awesome.

I didn't take many pictures when I was in Florida, but I did take one of a heron that was just hanging out in someone's backyard.

Apparently that happens a lot. They also have manatees and alligators just hanging out around Tampa's waters. I didn't see any though, but I did get to go fishing for the first time.

I'm actually heading to Tallahasee next weekend because the boyfriend's is an alum of USF and there is a big game with FSU (I think.) So... first college football game coming up for me!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Great. Now I'm Craving Cake.

Hello there, summer babies! I do mean that literally, like babies of summer, because July has been the month of birthdays. Now I am not usually great with birthdays– two years ago, one of my best friends called me to remind me that it was her birthday that very day, and without skipping a beat, I replied, "Oh, happy birthday!"– but I'm trying more now. I think. I hope.

Anyway, tomorrow is the birthday of a person most important to me: my mom. This past Monday, I sent out a birthday card with a kitten on it (she loves cats, as do I) with a present. Her gift idea was kinda inspired, if I may say so myself. I'm not good at getting the right gifts, but since I have so much history with my mom, it was just a matter of searching for something from our past. When I was very young, my mother was a graphic designer before she was a piano teacher. That meant that we have really interesting artistic books lying around our apartment. I ignored those; my favorites were my mother's collection of pop-up books. I think I broke a couple because I got a little over-zealous with the popping-up. So I haven't seen a pop-up book in years, and my mom stopping collecting them I think. But I bought a Chronicles of Narnia pop-up book for her– there's some pretty amazing stuff in there actually, like the Lion literally looks like he is climbing out of the page. Unfortunately, I didn't any pictures of it before sending it to her, so you would just have to use your imagination.

In addition to my mom's birthday, it was also my friend, Marissa's (really, it was in June, but close enough-I got her one of my favorite books); my boyfriend's (got him a harmonica- he wants to learn to play it); Paulina's (an orange scarf- it was a color she would never buy for herself and therefore needed it as a gift); and Magda's birthday (a Paris-inspired coaster: Her reaction when she saw the very posh French lady painted on the porcelain was, "Does this remind you of me?" It actually kinda does because Magda is very stylish and dignified.) There are a couple folks whose birthdays I'm forgetting (it's not like they read this anyway), but those people were the only ones I got gifts for (final parentheses.)

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I'm broke.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Kept Calling Them "Horse-ys"

Two (or three- I can't remember) weeks ago, I went to the Belmont Stakes with a group of people. I've been wanting to write about it because it's my first time at a racing track, but a combination of reasons prevented me from doing so immediately. The first was that I did not have the pictures with me, so I had to get them from the boyfriend; and the second reason is because I'm lazy. Hey, at least I am honest.

Anyway, we got to the Belmont Stakes around 2 pm, and the tracks looked so beautiful. We had been getting gross rain all that week, but Saturday, the skies were clear and the sun was actually out. There were many races going on before the actual race, so the boyfriend and his friends betted on a bunch of them. For The Race, the boyfriend and I put in a total of $25 on Dunkirk- he really seemed to have great faith in Dunkirk and since I am no race expert, I shrugged and just gave him $5. If Dunkirk didn't win, I wouldn't have lost that much, and I would have gotten in the spirit of screaming at the horses.

If you can't tell, I don't know very much about horse racing, or betting, or anything. I mean, I guess my terminology "The Race" really gives it away. But one of Boyfriend's friend tried to give me a crash course in betting. It was just really confusing to me, and he was trying to make it sound simple. He explained it by using the bets that he and another friend had just placed as an example. They had put money on both No. 2 and No. 4. If either of those horses come in first, they win something. If not, they don't.

I think it was the idea that you could bet on multiple horses that confused me so much. I responded, after his very lengthy explanation, by asking, "So do you get anything if you lose?" He had this look of confusion on his face then he started cracking up. Apparently, what I said was incredibly funny because he went and told his other friends and they all laughed at me too. I just kinda stood there protesting that I know nothing about betting. I really felt like a dunce.

That's not to say that I know nothing about horses. When I was about 13, I used to take horse-riding lessons and I used to love it. We eventually had to stop because the lessons just got to be too much money. I think part of the reason why I avoided horse-racing is because I just don't believe that horses should be forced to go that fast. Plus you hear all these stories, like how owners push the horses so hard until they end up with a broken leg and must be immediately put down. It breaks my heart. So I was relieved when I saw that all the horses at the Belmont stadium were incredibly healthy-looking. When we got down to the show stables, where people got a closer look at the horses, I caught a whiff of horse poop and hay, and you have no idea how comforting that smell is to me. Honest, I'm not trying to be funny! That smell just brings back memories of me grooming horses in Evanston and how much I enjoyed it back then.

Behind the spectator stands, there is an open area outside where everyone was having picnics and just drunkenly milling about before The Race starts. That, I think, is probably my favorite part of the Belmont Stakes. There were also food stands and beer carts! I got really excited by all the food and beer, and I think I dropped way too much money on booze- they totally upcharge it because people aren't allowed to bring alcohol into the Belmont stadium. In the picture, it looks like I am reaching for the girl's beer, but I promise I wasn't.

Around 6:30 ish (they announced a very exact time, like 6:27 or something), The Race began! I was actually kind of excited in the beginning because it looked like Dunkirk was the horse that was pressing forward. But then toward the last leg of the run, he dropped back and came in third (I think.) Boo. Oh well. Boyfriend and his friends had actually betted on the horse that won, but because the odds were not that great, they ended up winning a dollar (on top of the $11 they each put in, which means technically, they got $12.)

After the race, we took a train back to Brooklyn and ended up at a cute bar/restaurant on 5th ave called Alchemy. I got macaroni and cheese (they called it shells and cheese but whatever) and it was delicious. I think they use white cheddar as their cheese, and there are little bacon bits and peas mixed in with the shells. It was the perfect gooey/cheesy end to the day.

My next weekend away actually starts today, if everything goes as planned. I am a little sick right now, but if I feel better by 5 pm, the Boyfriend and I will be heading to Ocean City, NJ, to join a group of my ex-co-interns at our boss' beach house. I know it sounds bizarre, but my boss basically invited all of us down as a thank-you present. Hopefully I would have fully recovered by then so that I can make it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Here's What's Been Going On

I know I've been taking my time to update this thing lately but life has gotten real busy for me in the past month and a half. I can hardly believe that it's already June. Please, Time Master, let this month go by less quickly. I want the summer to last forever because it may be my last as a kid.

Anyway, as I said in my last post, my best friend, Cynthia, visited me during the second week of May. She was only in the city for three days, but we crammed a lot of quality time in. While her first trip here three years ago was a bit of a shit show, this past visit was quite a bit calmer. She got to see my apartment, meet my boyfriend, and meet the friends I have spoken to her about. iIt was great to see Cynthia and spend time with her, even if we did no partying. She really is my better half– nicer, more patient, and very cute. My friends were glad to finally meet her and confirm that she does indeed exist.

She and I didn't even take pictures to document our time together! This pictures is from my friend Magda. This was the night that Cynthia met most of the Prague gang, which should have guaranteed a drunken night of shots and makeout seshes (My friends are cool) but she and I ended up calling it an early night because I hadn't slept the night before, and she had flew in on a red-eye.

The day after Cynthia left New York, my mother came into town. I was going to graduate in two days and she arrived just in time to give my apartment a spring cleaning. She did, however, say that my place was a lot cleaner than she expected, compared to the last few places I lived in with my roommates. Oh well, I guess a back-handed compliment from my mother is like the greatest compliment ever.

And so that pesky graduation thing happened, and it was long and boring and I fell asleep during the actual ceremony (due to another all-nighter, of course)

I took no pictures during my graduation, and this is once again from Magda. As you can see, Paulina is on the other end taking the same picture from a different angle. That means there is more than one picture up on Facebook showcasing my lack of a chin. I told my mom after the ceremony that I fell asleep during Hilary Clinton's speech (I'm still gonna brag about her even if I wasn't awake for it) and she said, "Oh. Me too."

But hey! I have matriculated! Commencement is over and I can now commence with Real Life. I'd say that the day called for champagne and whiskey and a drunken game of darts! Instead, my mom and I lunched at my uncle's apartment and played with his new baby (I say it like he just got the Wii.) Then we took a short nap at his place before heading downtown to NYU Skirball Center for a dance performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company.

It's been a long time since I've seen a dance performance, and MGDC was just such a treat. This is going to sound weird, but during the performance, I kept thinking, "I want to go home and blog about how amazing this show is right now." But obviously, I didn't. It's just so hard to put into words the awe I have for these people who are able to express so much with their bodies and movements. The style was nothing like I have seen before– the movements were sharp and graceful (is that possible? I never thought so) and it all seemed so simple but there was so much emotion conveyed in a single arm-sweepy gesture. There was this beautiful, heart-breaking performance by two female dancers who were trying to depict war ("Lamentation Variation") and instead of the cliched heart-pounding fury of movements that I expected, it was almost painful to watch because I could see the story of confusion and tragedy behind their movements. How in the world is it possible for me to want to cry when I watch that, and yet be unable to tear my eyes away?

I actually just youtubed some videos but I decided against putting them up because it's just not the same. Honestly, talking about dance is like dancing about architecture so I'm just going to leave you with this: Catch a performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company if they are in your city.

Since my mom left New York, I have been completely caught up with work. I waitress several times a week, and it is surprisingly time-and-energy-consuming. My mom sent me an email this week advising me to take some time for myself, maybe do yoga or start up dance classes again. It was sweet of her to try and convince me to have some me-time, but my life still feels unreal. I'm still in transition, still trying assess my ("real") job situation, still trying to get a grip on my life. Today, I was chatting with some former co-workers and one of them said, "Everyone always thinks graduation is such a joyous occasion, but I remember being absolutely horrified with having to immediately deal with life. I don't envy you."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friends in The City!

I am so incredibly lucky! My two best friends from high school decided to pick this semester to visit me. The above appears to be the only picture that I could find off Facebook of the three of us together (I think it says something about our generation that we don't look to our photo albums, or even or online photo albums, to find our pictures now; we turn, instead, to Facebook.) What you can't see in this picture, which was taken at prom, is that I was sea sick for the majority of prom and therefore moody.

Katie came to the city last week for her spring break and it was just so nice seeing her and bringing her to the places that I love. I took her and her friend, Taylor, to Grey Dog Cafe, and she had my favorite sandwich that comes with brie, granny-smith apple, turkey, and raspberry mustard (which is key to the sandwich.) I also took her to Cafe Orlin, which is this delightful restaurant in the East Village that has such a homey feeling, and exposed brick interior. And of course, the food is really good- if anyone makes it there, I recommend the salmon, or the cuban sandwich.

Having Katie here also encouraged me to go to some new places that I wouldn't normally go. We drank up a storm (bartender gave us pretty girls free drinks, as you can see from that picture there) at Off The Wagon, a frat-a-licious establishment that I've only been once before and had judged it quite unfairly since my second experience there with Katie was a lot of fun.

Next month, my best friend Cynthia is coming to visit! She would only be in town for three days, but it would be right before my graduation which means I would not have any homework to deal with while she's here. I am so excited, and I have already started making a list of places that I have to take her. She is no stranger to New York though. The last time she visited was during my freshman year, and one of the places I took her was to a salsa bar in Brooklyn (that place has since closed down.) The night ended in a diner, in which she later informed me that she puked in the bathroom- hardly her fault, I say, since the bartender at the salsa bar was sneaking her drinks when no one was looking.

I can't wait for Cynthia to come!

Friday, February 20, 2009

This Will Not Be A Quick One: My Ode To New Journalism

Full disclosure: I have been a weekly blogger for NYU Local since last August, but am not an entirely active member. I do pithy posts about New York City and the occasional event coverage, but that is usually it. I was not informed about this sit-in or Charlie's embed; I learned about it the same way as the rest of NYU did- by reading NYU Local.

I don't have much of an audience here but the ones who do know me know that I love journalism and everything to do with it. Those who know me better know that I am an old man when it comes to it– I have always preferred print, even if I do enjoy blogging. So you can imagine my sadness when I read articles about the impending demise of print or how the greatest newspaper is strategizing on how to survive to recession.

But last night, something happened at New York University– or more specifically, at NYU Local– that has made me so excited about the future of journalism. Take Back NYU!, a student-run group, barricaded themselves into the Kimmel Center (for non-NYUers, that acts sort of like a resource center/cafeteria/study area/hangout spot) in order to get their demands met by NYU. They are conducting a sit-in, ladies and gents, like New School did last year to protest against their president. But that's not why I am excited.

Here's why I am excited: My editors at NYU Local heard about it on Tuesday so they planned to get Charlie Eisenhood, the National Editor, to be in Kimmel with his laptop, camera, and camcorder so that he could follow this entire thing. So since 9 pm on February 18, Charlie has been at Kimmel live-blogging his heart out for all the world to see (and criticize, if you check out some of the comments.) He has added pictures, conducted interviews with various members of TBNYU!, and put up videos of the barricades being barged by students wanting to join the protests. And yes, it's not a hundred percent objective, a la The New York Times, but it is so easy to read and follow everything that is going on with Charlie's easy wit and matter-of-fact observations.

Not only that, NYU Local has supplemented Charlie's live-blogging with other related posts, like the op-eds from each differing end, the surveys on whether or not kids or going to get arrested, student opinions of the TBNYU! sit-in! This is an entirely new and interactive way to experience news, and I am absolutely going crazy for it! There is so much to know and so much to read, and some might complain it's an information-overload, but I think that if you don't want to read it, just don't click it. It's so easy and yet so much fun.

The sit-in has entered its 30th hour, and Charlie has just signed off stating sleep as a reason (Sleep is for the weak!- I kid. Charlie might be my new hero.) But I have been absolutely exhilarated throughout this entire thing, refreshing and re-refreshing my page and the NYU Local Twitter page for new information like my life depends on that periodic click of my mouse.

Is it because I care about TBNYU!'s demands being answered, or even about Kimmel being taken over? Hell to the no: I think TBNYU! is wasting their time and NYU's resources; and I never go to Kimmel anyway. But I care so much about this production because it has finally shown me that there is hope for new journalism. It's not going to be all about snarkiness and super-biased opinions from some supposed expert. In the last day and a half, NYU Local has shown me that blogging the news can actually be productive, informative, and educational. And sure, there was some sarcasm from Charlie's end, but that's what made his posts so addicting. He was never either malicious or excitedly supportive (except when it came to the food being brought in for protesters) about TBNYU!'s agenda. I think Charlie steered a great middle between being newspaper-objective and omg-bloggzz-unobjective, and it just makes me so happy to be able to see this at work.

Is my optimism coming a little too soon? I don't know. And please, don't label me as a total convert to new journalism. The newspaper is irreplaceable in my heart and I will always love the feeling of getting the paper in the morning (before it gets stolen- YES!) But I think that whatever comes next could really add to the newspaper, not suffocate it.

That is, if newspapers don't choke themselves to debt before it happens.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pest Control Overkill

I was walking around Brooklyn last weekend, near the southwest end of Prospect Park, and I came upon this.

I must say, I thought it was a little out of control. But at least now if I ever need an exterminator, I know where to find one that takes its job (too) seriously. Or not seriously at all, however way you wish to look at it.

Singapore Over Winter Break– Long Overdue

Over winter break, I spent two weeks in Singapore, just hanging out with family and old friends. I spent 10 years of my childhood there, so I have very fond memories of it– one of my friends remarked that I probably have a very romanticized view of Singapore. Maybe, I don't know. Anyway, I think the country has changed so much in terms of the landscape. There are some buildings that I didn't recognize, which was rather sad for me because, in a strange way, it made me feel less Singaporean. I guess that's what happens when you leave a country for more than 8 years.

This was one of my favorite shots of Singapore. I find it really hard to shoot at night because I hate using flash but I don't have a tripod so everything usually comes out blurry. But I liked this shot alot because of how everything is dark and orange.

Chinatown is all decked out for Chinese New Year, which was so early this year. It was like in the end of January/beginning of February– Chinese New Year usually falls in mid February so this year was extremely unusual.

Singapore Supreme Court.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Piano In The Subway

I snapped this photo at the Union Square subway station. My first thought was, how in the world did he get the piano down here? Some guy asked him, and he simply gestured towards himself, but didn't say a word. Anyway, he rocked out at the piano- played some classical and some Coldplay.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pixelated New York City

I have been neglecting this blog and my news blog for the past three months, but I will try my best to be more diligent in my blogging since I have an audience now (Hi Cynthia! It's just you I am referring to, by the way.)

Anyway, these Lego depictions of New York City showed up on the Gothamist, and they made me so happy that I just need to share them. These are all done by Christoph Niemann, who is an artist who has previously designed covers for the New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. He is also the author of a fun Chinese children's book, The Pet Dragon, that teaches Chinese characters to children.

I used to work near this street, so the above image is quite accurate.

The waitress in me smiles at this.

Honestly, any person who tries to make learning Chinese easier for children is good in my book.