Wassup Rockers

Some Words and Images.

Went to see Gary Shteyngart read for his new novel, Super Sad True Love Story at Greenlight Bookstore. This involved me getting on the A and going express three stations past the stop I needed in order to reach the store, and barely making it on time, so that it was so mo’fucking crowded (Gary’s a rock star, don’tcha know!) that I basically didn’t even look for a spot to sit and listen. I just walked around the store instead, which was great because it was my first time at the store and I’d been curious about it. Really enjoyed the space, it’s very welcoming and bright.

In regard to the reading: I don’t know why, but I felt a bit iffy about the story at first, because it involved not only Koreans, but Korean Stuyvesant alumni, which I know a thing or two about. Okay, I went to Bronx Science, and I silently wept to myself wishing some really funny writer dude would share a few kind words about Bronx Science. Except the culture at Stuy and Bronx Science is basically the same, so it’s not that big a deal. Plus, my brother went to Stuy!

(He saw the second plane crash.)

Anyway, Shteyngart did win me over with his humor. Except not enough for me to buy a copy, though I’d like to point out it’s because I can’t afford it. I’m currently #246 on the queue to receive a copy from the library. Shouldn’t take me too long. I think for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union I was in the 500s when I first joined the line, so I’m not too bothered about my place on this line.

On my way home I listened to a recent interview of him with Leonard Lopate and, combined with the reading tonight, the more I’m convinced that Super Sad True Love Story is like a bastard Russian Jewish cousin of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It’s not just that both authors are immigrants. Ethnicity plays a huge role in the books, and there’s a strong speculative aspect to them, though the approach is different: Shteyngart’s novel is set in the future, whereas Díaz’s Oscar is a huge fucking nerd in love with sci-fi/fantasy. Also, there are significant female voices, and when Lopate asks Shteyngart about it, he says the same thing I heart Díaz say at readings: he tried it because he’d never really done it before. What with the recent Kakutani stamp of approval, could the Pulitzer be next?!?!

Hopefully I’ll get a copy soon and find out for you. Then again, you might as well find out for yourself if my theory flies.

I haven’t had much time on Racialicious lately and was pointed to this post that came out a week or so ago. I saw the title and for some reason the first title that came to mind was Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow (Kiffe kiffe demain), except as I read I learned they were focusing on a rising American trend, whereas Kiffe is about French Muslim girl. The book the post mentions actually sounds really cool because it fills in these complexities and diversity that exist within the Muslim communities in America. I only wish they’d given even more examples of this trend. Kiffe is not, by the way, an urban book. It’s set in the French suburbs. I must clarify, however, that the French suburban life is actually equivalent to inner-city American life. It’s where the lower-class ethnic minorities find themselves stuck… I’m not explaining this right, but if you want to get an example of what life in the French suburbs is like, I most definitely recommend La haine Anyway, I haven’t read Kiffe but I figure if it was good enough to be translated, maybe it’s worth checking out and should provide an interesting counterpoint to this rising trend of urban Muslim fiction.

Been watching some good TV. Obviously Mad Men has started again, but plenty a column inch has been devoted to the damn show and what else could I say? It’s brilliant, it’s brilliant, etc!

I do want to endorse Louie, Louis C.K.’s show. He’s been around a long time and he’s already got a built-in audience. If you aren’t his fan, please do check it out! It’s only half an hour a week and it’s this weird combo of great, funny, sometimes foul standup, bookending two sketch pieces. Except all the sketch pieces feature stories about C.K., or more specifically, a fictionalized version of C.K., and they’re goofy and uproarious and silly and yet sometimes they’re poignant and often incredibly intelligent. It’s low-budget and yet they do so much in the span of, what, 23 minutes? Its rhythm is so different to most of (all?) the stuff on TV right now.

It’s actually thrilling to watch.

The other show I’ve been enjoying is Huge, which is just a really well-written teen drama that happens to be set in a summer camp for overweight kids, which means that it features a lot of fat actors. And they’re great! I love the characters: as in real life there’s no clear antagonists and everyone has flaws as well as redeeming qualities, and unlike a lot of kids’ shows, the adults are as wonderfully rendered as the kids. Yes, Skins, I’m talking about you. It’s not cynical, and yet, it isn’t sappy either.

I’ve been keeping up with a couple of British panel shows. First is Mock the Week. As I’ve mentioned previously I have a soft spot for Frankie Boyle, and I’ve had a hard time with the show since he left it. I get particularly annoyed when someone lame is seated to Hugh Dennis’s right; it leads me to grumble that the guest is not worth sitting in “Frankie’s seat.” His absence has led to a lack of balance among the three team leaders. It would be cool if we could just get another regular, and not one who will mimic Frankie’s role as a fucking rabblerouser but will have a good rapport with the rest of the group. In fact, I’d argue that Russell Howard has try to fill Frankie’s shoes, but it’s hard to take him seriously. And this is coming from someone who likes Russell Howard.

The show itself has gotten such a reputation amongst comedians, notably Jo Brand and Rhod Gilbert, that it seems like a lot have given up on being on it because they think it’s too much work and stress with no guarantee they’ll get a favorable edit. And then there are those, like Mark Watson, who haven’t been invited back even though they’ve been good and likeable guests, if not always at the top of their game. Mind you, there might be plenty of guests who want to be on it and get good exposure, but their schedules may not leave openings for TV appearances. That really limits the number of guests who show up and not all of them are very good at jumping in on a show where the regulars have such a set dynamic amongst one another. Either way, if it doesn’t get consistently good during the rest of the season, I’m gonna jump ship.

It’s just as well because there are better panel shows out there. Such as Would I Lie To You?, which just started up its fourth season. They tend to get decent guests, not necessarily comedians. It’s pretty breezy and light-hearted, not least because the team leaders are great. It’s great for Americans, too, since it’s not about keeping track of British current events and more about personal stories.

Bite the Apple.

This is something my mom told me just now:

My brother queued up this morning to get an iPhone. He went to Fordham, in the Bronx, to do so. While on the line some woman passed by cursing out all the people lining up how they were buying iPhones even though they’re on welfare, blah blah. Obviously annoying but who cares, the woman’s walked past, it’s over, right?

Wrong. She called the cops on everyone on line.

And clearly, this being a situation where there were really expensive items—the iPhones, I mean—involved, a shitload of police officers actually showed up. They show up all worried and ready for a major problem but everyone is waiting calmly on the line. WTF, right?

The lady’s still there cursing everyone out, and the officers find her and they admonish her, rightly so, for calling them onto the scene. Think about it, that’s a serious offense. Causing false alarm may mean that other areas, other people, might have gotten less or much delayed help because they were distracted by this non-situation. That’s what I find most infuriating.

Of course by this point all these officers are annoyed at her, and all the people on the fucking queue are annoyed at her, and being the kind of bitch who calls the police on innocent people instead of minding her own, she’s also the kind of bitch who doesn’t know when to let go so instead she’s like, trying to take a picture of the officers and basically take down their info so she can get them in trouble.

Good luck with that, you asshat.

A Mishmosh of Topics.

(1) Javiera Mena‘s new album is just gonna be called Mena, and the new single is “Hasta la verdad.” When Super 45 kindly uploaded the song I lost two days just hitting play over and over. It’s a solid lead single. I absolutely love it though I’m not sure how someone just being introduced to her music would feel. I can only hope they would dig it as much as I do. And I really want there to be enough buzz about her over in the US so that she’ll finally get to tour here.

(2) Lost ended. I liked the finale a lot, but it was incredibly flawed. I held on for a while but I finally cried when Sawyer and Juliet connected.

Yesterday my Token Twee friend and I went to the Vilcek Foundation which has a small exhibit on Lost (until June 5th!). There were a lot of visitors when we went! The props were totally cool, like the Dharma van and Faraday’s notebook and Ben’s fake passport that identifies him as “Dean Moriarty.” I think the majority of the pieces are up for the massive auction that’s coming up. The best part though? Reading the guestbook. I can only hope that whoever keeps the guestbook uploads the messages in it, they were so funny and cute. Most of them, you know, quote lines from the show, or mentioned favorite characters and moments. Like someone actually traced their hand and wrote “NOT PENNY’S BOAT” in it. Others wrote about how much the show had impacted them. As my friend and I laughed our way through the book we relished the catharsis and closure that people must have felt when they wrote these messages.

(3) I joined Twitter and it’s overwhelming but generally really fun getting a glimpse into the virtual lives of people I dig. Turns out they’re just as lame as I am. It also has this theatrical absurdity to it–when Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper died I was bombarded with over 100 different versions of the same story: “RIP.” Like they were all saying the same thing, but they were all trying to say it differently, so the fact that the substance/sentiment of this message was the same, it all felt like… noise.

Unfortunately I’m guilty of just making noise, too. I was trying to show restraint and just post relevant stuff, but it’s no use. Now I’m only putting only enough thought to it by asking myself, “Will I be embarrassed to have the Library of Congress archive this message for posterity?” If not, I go for it.

If nothing else, below is an amazing rant about Twitter, courtesy of Lee Mack. Actually, the argument that ensues is absolutely hilarious. After hearing it I thought maybe I shouldn’t have given up on So Wrong It’s Right so quickly. Josie Long’s contribution to the argument is great. Not only that, I like Mack so much more than I already did!

(4) On Twitter I had a lot of people on my feed talking about Eurovision, so after an hour of watching these people mumbling about it I was like, “Well, why the fuck not, let’s tune in.” After all, the Eurovision final is like, the most important evening of the year for The Singles Jukebox. Like an idiot, I realized just a few months ago that The Singles Jukebox is still alive and so I’ve been going through every song they’ve covered since they reopened their shop (as long as they get at least a 6.00). It’s been incredible and I’ve found some amazing songs on there, many of which aren’t even the type of music I would have tried on my own. I’m so happy TSJ didn’t die with Stylus and that they’re still so enthusiastic about pop music.

But yeah, Eurovision was gaudy and over-the-top and I really enjoyed the spectacle for the first time, even if I didn’t understand the voting completely. My connection was piss poor, too, but when things got out-of-control tacky I was glad to be missing out, haha. The Norwegians made for really good hosts, and as far as I could tell, the show ran really smoothly. I was rooting for the Romanians, and I actively disliked the eventual winner, Germany. What can you do though? I’m not one to boo and hiss like many did to Russia (I admit I LMAO’d when it happened!); I get that it’s just pop music and I’ll just patiently wait for this German singer to drop into obscurity. At least in the US (I’m pretty sure) she doesn’t even have a chance to penetrate our musical landscape, so I’m not too bothered. I felt bad for Belarus for a long while, but they finally got some points and in the end the UK was last place, which is where their song belonged.

(5) I ended up buying the Jónsi, Jamie Lidell and Janelle Monáe albums from a chain. I still have to sift through these–they’ve all offered up some dense material. I also bought Sandman #8, finally completing my collection.

(6) Simon Amstell, he of former Never Mind the Buzzcocks fame, is coming to NYC. He’ll be performing at UCB, of all places! I don’t even know how he got a visa to perform here, but kudos to him, and I’m looking forward to seeing his stand-up act. Let’s hope it doesn’t suck!

(7) Until yesterday I thought Matthew Barney was British and that he’d been, y’know, a futbolero. My Token Twee friend explained to me that, in fact, he’s some nice, handsome Midwestern boy who used to play American football. I was shocked! And felt real stupid about this confusion.

(8) This vid is off the hook:

On a final note: I am one of the few people who still watched Law & Order, and I’m sad that such a New York institution met such an undignified end. Especially to be substituted by some offshoot in LA? Por favor. Upset about the loss of job opportunities for the local theater community. Sigh.

Catch Up.

First off I just want to say that Gustavo Cerati had a stroke recently and I was pretty freaked out about it, but it seems like the prognosis is cautiously optimistic.  I thought he might die and I was very worried for his family, but hopefully he’ll recover bit by bit without any problem. ¡Fuerza Gustavo, te queremos mucho!

On Thursday I spent a shitload of cash on trinkets to make me marginally happier about my existence. I originally intended to go buy some albums—Jamie Lidell, Jónsi, Janelle Monáe, others whose names don’t start with J—but I happily improvised my day out and found some other great stuff instead.

On Wednesday I went to Housing Works to check out the Black Keys pop-up store they set up in the bookstore.  I got there around 5 but they’d already closed up because the band was gonna play that evening.  So I returned the next day and I bought myself a copy of Brothers.  It’s actually my first Black Keys album!  I didn’t know which of the older ones to choose.  In theory I’ve always liked them, but it’s always been from a respectful distance.  The main reason I bought something from the pop-up store is that a percent of the proceeds went to Housing Works.  It’s also the reason why I was willing to part with my cash money even though the record was “expensive.”  It was almost $30 and that was… a lot for me, way more than I usually pay for vinyl.  Pretty much worth the money though–it’s a double LP plus came with a CD version as well.  Well played, Nonesuch Recs.

The first single, “Tighten Up,” has two videos and they’re both hilarious.  There’s a teaser vid with a puppet (YEAHHH!!!), and an official one with kids at a playground.  The official one is pretty heteronormative and even sexist (depending on how you read it) so I gotta roll my eyes at it a little, but it’s still incredibly funny.  My favorite part is when Dan Auerbach throws that kid on the ground when he sees the pretty lady.  It cuts away from that moment so fast that it’s easy to miss, but when I saw I could not fucking stop laughing.  Belly laughs, too.  So fucking incredible.  The best part is, I actually prefer the teaser video!  I’m totally a puppet sympathizer so for me, a soulful croonin’ dinosaur puppet = heaven.

Some other vids I’ve seen recently: Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” which is an all right song but wasn’t that interesting visually except for one of the cute outfits in it, and MIA‘s “Born Free,” which in the past month or so has caused plenty of verbiage committed to its existence.

But how come no one told me that the director of “Born Free,” Romain Gavras, also directed that one Justice’s “Stress”?  Love how “Stress” has not been banned by YouTube the way “Born Free” has been.  Hm…  It seemed like a lot of the commentary was on how this video fits into MIA’s oeuvre and for me that’s slightly more difficult to consider than when I think of how “Born Free” and “Stress” complement each other.  The two videos are pretty frightening visions of authority and disobedience and violence and power—and these visions are particularly male and adolescent.  Oof.  Seriously gnarly.

Much lighter in tone is the vid for “Por la ventana,” the new track by Gepe which you can see below.  It’s pretty simple and it’s not conceptually innovative, but the execution is committed and effective, and everyone seems to be having fun.  Very colorful, too.  Clearly demonstrating that I’m a lightweight for preferring this over Romain Gavras’s stuff, but I’m not bothered.  Gepe’s song is off the hook!  I can’t wait for his new album, Audiovisión, to come out.  I’ve been really keen on the direction his music has taken in the past year or so.

Shit I got seriously sidetracked…  Anyway, after I stopped by Housing Works, I found myself at East Village Books.  I stayed for like an hour, mainly because they were playing this Carter Family album.  I hummed along to most of it while I browsed.  I got a copy of Eunoia!  Really clean condition, too.  I’m very happy about it.  I walked out as the Carters wailed away on “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”

I also swung by Forbidden Planet, got me Brief Lives (that’s volume 7 of Sandman) and Optic Nerve #8, which means I have own every issue of ON now.  I still need one more Sandman though.  I’m working on it.

In other news, I finally got In the Loop and Breaking Bad season 2 from the library.  I was very excited about the former as I recently read the script for it and I just loved it.  So it was nutty watching it and seeing how different it was from what I’d imagined, from the sets to the setup of shots to the line delivery.  I am surprised that the In the Loop DVD is seriously lacking in features.  Mainly, there’s no commentary track at all; I seriously would have loved to hear about the story, the production and how it fits in with The Thick of It, etc.  Oh well.  The movie’s still pretty awesome, really funny.

Breaking Bad… well, I got it last month, only got through the first 10 eps, so I queued myself up all over again (I know!) and now that I got the DVD I can finished the damn season.  And believe me, it seriously makes you go “DAMN!”  Very stressed out from it, but in a good way.  Trying to decide whether to catch up online before the end of season 3.  It’s gonna take forever for the DVD to come out.  I guess I better decide soon since the finale’s only a few episodes away, but I don’t know how much BB I can take without my head exploding from the tension.

I’ve also been checking out Justified, which is quite breezy in comparison.  I’m very charmed by Timothy Oliphant (read: he’s hot) and by all the twangy twanginess coming out of everyone’s dialogue.  I don’t know that I’d call it superb, but I like it enough to stick with it.  It’s not lacking in poignancy either, which makes it so much easier to like.

A few weeks ago I got the Spaced DVD from the library, too.  I didn’t get through all the commentaries before it was due, which sucks, but in some of them Simon Pegg mentioned he used to do stand up.  I had to look it up, and thank god some kind soul (his mom??  LMAO) uploaded this:

Fucking adorable.  The routine isn’t bad, actually, it’s just that the material is fairly traditional.  Good stage presence though, and I loved how the last bit ended—the crowd response is so awful I totally cracked up.

Something else that’s totally been cracking me up: Parks and Recreation.  I caught up to the final episodes of the season and they were fucking pitch perfect.  I enjoyed this season tremendously and obviously it’s because the writing has been off the hook and the ensemble totally delivers on it!  Paul Schneider and Rashida Jones were a bit misused but for the most part the characters grew and I found plenty to love about them.  Except Jerry.  Jerry sucks.  ;)

The really amazing thing is that even though it’s incredibly funny, to the point where I’m guffawing and gasping for air, I find myself really moved by some of the developments.  It’s weird.  I don’t want to let myself get taken in by a fucking sitcom and yet the show is so good at what it does that, when the grumptastic 20-year-old April failed to get into a bar and her potential date with the ever-goofy Andy came to a premature end, I got a bit teary-eyed.  Just writing about it doesn’t even begin to describe why I got emotional—the expressions on their faces killed me…  And these are supporting players!  But they still bring it.  Shit, I’d tell y’all to watch the fucking show but HEY because of its weak ratings it’s become a mid-season replacement, so it might be a while before we see all these lovely people on TV again.  Sigh.  Hope y’all buy the DVD when it comes out!

…Can’t believe I wrote all this nonsense when I should be studying for a final. Shit.

100 °C.

Oy vey.  Here we go again.  I don’t mean to be such a Frankie Boyle apologist… BUT…

Here’s the joke: “I’ve been studying Israeli army martial arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well… that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.”

Frankie Boyle made this joke on a radio show called Political Animal in 2008.  The official apology from the BBC in the past week.  The individual complained, it was reviewed, and if I understand correctly, the producers agreed and promised to take preventative measures in the future.  The complainant felt that wasn’t enough so he went higher up and whatever official committee they have handling these matters reviewed it and only now did they issue an official apology.  Full details about the hullabaloo here.

Primero: Just from reading the joke I don’t find it very funny.  I wonder how it sounded, but I’m too lazy to dig around and search for the audio.

Segundo: I’m really irritated by the complainant for a very minor reason.  I understand it is commonly accepted that “antisemitic” is mostly used in relation to Jewish people.  If I’m not wrong, however, Arabs are considered a Semitic people.  So saying that Frankie was being antisemitic doesn’t really fly in this occasion.  Besides, there’s plenty of other negative words we could use in regard to Frankie’s brand of humor.  Heh.

Tercero: Regardless of what you think about the complaint situation, Frankie’s open letter in regard to Palestine got me verklempt.  Seriously, READ IT.  Clearly the BBC apology bothered him enough to actually say something, so I don’t doubt he has thought about this long and hard and means everything he says in the letter.  Probably the most impressive statement made about the continuing Palestinian-Israeli conflict since Jon Stewart invited Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti on his show.  (Watch here: Part 1 and Part 2)  I’m not saying Israel shouldn’t exist, it’s not about shitting on Israel.  I recognize that there are way too many complex issues that I won’t delve into, but basically, the current situation clearly is NOT and HAS NOT been working for… well, ever since the state was established.  I think the most important thing I take away from Frankie’s letter is the idea of COMPASSION.

Cuarto: I’m also incredibly irritated by the headlines in regard to his open letter, which are most often quoting Frankie’s statement that “the BBC are cowards.”  I feel like one of the downsides of Frankie being pegged as a rabblerouser and for being known as “controversial” is that so many people are going to be focusing on how this is a comedians versus censorship issue.  As inappropriate as he may be, there is heft in his words and I was very touched by the last bit of his letter.  It would be cool if people would take this as a good starting point to educate themselves and to demand a better, non-violent solution from their governments.

Quinto: That said, what the fuck is going on with the BBC?  The whole Brand/Wossy/Sachs shit sent them spinning into a frenzy–it feels like post-“wardrobe malfunction” United States!  What I don’t understand is how it only takes one person to be offended for the BBC to take some official action (even if it’s just a statement).  What does it take to push people into demand such action anyway?  Whatever happened to people just getting a blog and vaguely threatening the lives of comedy writers anyway?

Even more importantly, why is it difficult to understand that something a comedian says is not a reflection of an entire fucking broadcasting corporation and may, in fact, not be a completely accurate reflection of the comedian’s attitude?  In this case it is, but it’s not always so—I mean, let’s not confuse the persona for the person.  Newsflash!  Humor requires close reading too!  You can’t just take words at face value!

I’m not sure why the BBC is quaking in fear at its own audience.  The biggest problem for me is that it seems like they’re just panicking now, to the detriment of the quality of their programs.  Frankie delves into that too.  The suppression of certain perspectives is troubling.  Of course it’s possible to shrug it off when it comes to a comedy show, but it just makes me question how widespread this self-censorship is.  To what degree, for example, does it affect the real news?  This sort of behavior on their part makes me trust them that much less.

Sexto: so, who’s next in line to be offended by something Frankie says?


More Funnies.

Well, I visited Midtown Comics for the first time because at MoCCA fest they were handing out 25% off coupons that were only valid through this weekend.  I bought the last volume of Y: The Last Man, the first volume of DMZ which looks like it’s going to make me anxious as fuck, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Batman: Year 100 which was kind of a consolation prize for not being able to get Paul Pope’s 100% in paperback just yet (and also because Batman is awesome, obvs).  I got a free issue of Spider-Man, “Grim Hunt: The Kraven Saga.”  I’m not sure why, but I’m not complaining.

The only purchase I’d really planned for was the Y: The Last Man.  I was really looking to get the aforementioned Paul Pope and some Sandman but hilariously and inconveniently they didn’t have the volumes I’m still missing.  Sheesh.  Doesn’t matter, I’m still really excited and happy about my purchase.  Yay trade paperbacks!

I remembered that it was Record Store Day so I decided to swing by Other Music.  There was a queue to just get inside!  I scoffed at the line and went on my merry way.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is.  Trying to define my pathetic life’s worth through knick knacks or summat.

MoCCA Fest 2010.

I haven’t had a chance to talk about this year’s MoCCA festival. I wanted to attend both days but I only got a chance to go on Sunday. Before I swung by the fest I had to go pick up a DVD from the library–Breaking Bad season 2. I’m on ep 4 currently and I think I’m going to puke from the tension. The show is amazing.

It was expensive, but overall I feel like the operation ran a lot more smoothly than last year, which was the first time MoCCA happened at the Armory. Unlike last year, it wasn’t incredibly hot. For some reason it felt a lot more family-friendly, and on top of that the Scandinavian presence was stronger than ever.  I guess people are really responding well.

I actually went to the Scandinavian panel. I don’t know that I got as much out of it as last year but it was still fun and I liked getting a perspective primarily from people who are more involved with the publishing industry. The panelists were: Espen Holtestaul from Norway, Fredrik Strömberg from Sweden (substituting for fellow Swede Johannes Klennell, apparently too shy to sit in on the conversation), Ville Hänninen from Finland, Mats Jonsson who is also from Sweden, and Henrik Rehr from Denmark. Sheesh, I wish I could link to more official websites, sorry.  Clearly I’m too much of a dum dum to figure out what they are.  Anyway, it was moderated by Shannon O’Leary who although cheery could have been more incisive on the question front. There also wasn’t a lot of Q&A time, although after one weird and random alien conspiracy question from some feller I thought maybe it was for the better no to have a lot of audience input this time around.

I enjoyed myself a lot and I’m really happy I spent a good amount of money on independent artists, though of course I shelled out some money to the bigger publishers too.

Adrian Tomine was nowhere in sight this time around, but I was very happy I got to meet Dorothy Gambrell. She signed the book I bought from her, and so she drew this really miserable picture of Girl that made me very giddy. Plus the company with whom she does merch (Topatoco) was giving out discount coupons so yay!

So here are the comics I picked up:

Second Thoughts by Niklas Asker
– Issue 1 of The Unwritten, which was given out free!
The Numbers of the Beasts by Shawn Cheng
– The second Cat and Girl book
Lihan Himo (“Lust for Meat”) by Olli Hietala
The Ragbox by Dave Kender – I’m assuming it was the author or one of the artists who graciously sold me the copy for $5 instead of $7
Danica Novgorodoff‘s adaptation of “Refresh, Refresh” by Benjamin Percy
– The first set of L’age dur by Max de Radiguès
Bookhunter by Jason Shiga
– Issues five to seven of Optic Nerve, since they had a special offer. Now I only have #8 left to buy.
Ayaje’s Wives and Monsters & Condiments by Matt Wiegle

Why So Serious?

“Somewhere deep down is a decent human being in me—it just can’t be found”
– Eminem (1)

Oh man. I must explain myself a bit. Recently I’ve been obsessing over British comedy, and in particular I’ve been very puzzled with myself as to what makes me laugh. This has been a question I’ve wrestled with a lot since a lot of the comedians I like can be quite offensive. In fact, I love it when comedians can offend me and make me laugh all at the same time.

Take Frankie Boyle.

It really pains me to read all this press he’s gotten recently for some jokes he made about people with Down Syndrome (2). In particular, a woman wrote about her experience seeing him live, and how, as a mother of a child with DS, she felt his jokes were unduly cruel. Of course the whole situation blew up when she called him out on it.

I want to state a few things in his defense. First, the woman knew of his comedy style, she enjoyed him on Mock the Week. She paid for a ticket to this show, which is part of a tour called I Would Happily Punch Every One of You in the Face. I’m assuming she was laughing along just fine until it got to a subject too close to home. It’s like he routinely does jokes about pedophilia, rape, etc. So no surprises, you know?

Second, I have no doubt he felt real shit about it, especially to the point that he felt he had to explain himself. Usually he handles heckles well, but she definitely had enough of an effect for him to admit it was the most excruciating experience he’s had on stage.

I’ve read interviews he’s done and he definitely has an “off” switch. Even though I personally don’t think he has the best command of the stage, at the end of the day, what he does is a performance (3). His onstage persona is not who he is as a whole. If it’s unfair for him to view people with DS in such a two-dimensional way, it’s pretty unfair for us to see him that way, too. If he was as despicable as he makes himself to be onstage, I’d demand that his children be removed from his home. There’s plenty of lines he spews out that don’t seem to have any function other than to offend, but he’s shown just as many flashes of decency and understanding (4). When I first encountered him just a short while ago, I didn’t know what to make of his humor, but reading these interviews really made me appreciate him and understand his thought process.

That said, the nature of the jokes seemed particularly nasty, at least from this woman’s account, and apparently he didn’t do a particularly good job at defending himself (would love to hear an official statement, but apparently Bigmouth Boyle ain’t talking). I don’t mind controversial subjects, but the way they are approached is key. For me, the cardinal rule is: don’t make fun of those who have less power than you (5). It’s unnecessary, cruel, and worst of all, it’s too easy. That’s one of the more annoying things about this whole hullabaloo. Boyle is really funny and really smart, and in the past he’s made exactly that point about his own work, that it targets people worth targeting. I don’t know what happened on the evening this woman attended; because of that Herald Scotland interview I want to say he was just improvising and unfortunately relying on really broad punchlines because he couldn’t think of something better at the moment. Sigh. Regardless, I don’t expect every joke (inappropriate or otherwise) to reveal some fundamental truth about the human condition, but at the very least it shouldn’t be based on such empty stereotypes.

I do see the need to tackle taboo topics. Somebody has to fill the court jester role, and I think it’s more than honorable for an individual to say what others are too afraid to say. But from this woman’s account, Frankie’s jokes weren’t the result of the buffoon speaking truth.

I do want to raise some complaints about the complainers, though. Please don’t act all sanctimonious about Frankie’s sense of humor, tutting away saying crap like “What an outrage! IS THAT ANY WAY TO BEHAVE?!” It’s like some people want a fucking medal for feeling offended. Newsflash, you dipshits, you should feel offended! Calm the fuck down  and stop huffing and puffing about how you want him to be brought down. If anything, I’d be deeply worried about the state of humanity if people weren’t offended by his humor.

Let’s just hope that the people who laughed along weren’t doing it out of malice and that they were laughing nervously. There’s nothing worse than someone who laughs at offensive shit like this because they prescribe to that world view. (For example: the difference between people who loved Archie Bunker because he was bigoted, as opposed to those who loved him in spite of his faults.) Or at the risk of sounding like I’m dripping in schadenfreude, let’s hope they were laughing at Frankie—I seriously wish I’d been at the show just to see the woman cut him down. I mean I love him, I love his sense of humor, but he knows better!

I leave you with the words of another ex-alcoholic Scotsman:

(1) One of the very few hip-hop albums I actually own. Obviously I was one of the millions who bought The Marshall Mathers LP when it first came out. For some reason that line has never left my mind, even though I couldn’t even remember the title of the song. I just re-listened to the track for the first time in like eight or nine years, and it was really fucking good! Too bad Eminem is so irrelevant because the talent was so there.

(2) I was speaking to some of my friends about this situation and someone brought up the whole hoopla about Family Guy recently.

(3) Fuck, the clip from Alan Carr: Chatty Man got taken down, but he literally says “the act is an act.” By the way, he hates doing live shows, which he also mentioned on Chatty Man; this may explain his weird stage presence. From what I’ve seen, he’s not particularly brilliant at doing long-format stand-up. Shouldn’t we commend him for having the sense of retiring in the near future?

(4) See this appearance on You Have Been Watching.

(5) Here’s a great example of this, on the subject of rape.

Avión al Sur.

I went on a short trip to Lima, Perú. Got some cool stuff:

El rey siempre está por encima del pueblo by Daniel Alarcón.
Salon de belleza and Damas chinas by Mario Bellatin (bound in one volume).
Don Quijote, the Ediciones Cátedra version that has books I and II in separate volumes.
Paradiso by José Lizama Lima.
Un lugar llamado Oreja de Perro by Iván Thays.
Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho by Miguel de Unamuno.

I also bought my brother a copy of El diario de el Chavo del Ocho, by Roberto Gómez Bolaños. We used to have a copy when I was a kid, but when we moved to the US I took it to school one day to show my classmates and by the end of the day the book had fucking disappeared! Goddamnit. I still feel bad about it. I’m sure you find it quite sad that I’ve been feeling guilty about this for 14 years, especially since it wasn’t my fault that some dickwad decided to steal it.

I failed to buy plenty of stuff. First, I wanted to get the current Etiqueta Negra. I finally saw a copy at the airport on my way home, but I didn’t even stop to look at it because I thought I was running out of time. I also wanted some Ortega y Gasset, Dorfman and Mattelart, some Luisa Valenzuela… I also saw a copy of Apuntes Autistas and I wish I’d grabbed that as well. Bah!

I also bought some CDs:

Jessico by Babasónicos.
Solo ellos… by Los Destellos (they have a song called “Elizabeth”!).
Hu Hu Hu by Natalia Lafourcade.
El ritmo de Los Shain’s by Los Shain’s. Never heard of them but I wanted to know more about Peruvian music, plus they looked totally right on on the cover, haha.
Reptilectric by Zoé.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun and I’d love to return!


It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I just can’t imagine that anyone would care. Which is funny, because it’s not like I’m writing for anyone but myself. So really, what I’m saying is that I have plenty to say but I find it all pointless and not worth uttering into existence. It’s like a light switched has been turned off inside me. You could call it a depression. I’m keen on blaming the weather instead.

Vidas Paralelas.

Uh… just watched the Lost season premiere. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything to anyone because I’ve been trying to be spoiler-free myself. People had been grumbling about the interesting narrative device, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when I saw it.

These past couple of weeks I tried rewatching all 5 seasons again before tonight. I only made it through 2.5 seasons. And frankly it’s my first time wading through season 3, because like many I jumped the proverbial ship at that point, and only returned to the show when I happened to watch the season 3 finale and was fucking stunned by it.

This premiere episode was just okay. I did miss 15 minutes of it in the middle so I’m gonna have to rewatch it, but overall I was just happy the show was back. I’m on the fence about the new characters and also the new developments in our old characters. There’s been major shifts in power and in the dynamics among the characters, so I gotta get used to it.

I can’t imagine I’ll be much satisfied with this season as a whole if it keeps this narrative device going for the entire time. I hope they find a resolution even before the mid-way point. But it was nice to get a lot of definitive answers, plus I think there will be plenty of really nicely written episodes that will pack a lot of emotional depth. So speculative of me, I know.

Lost in Translation.

The Oscar nominations were announced. You can see the entire list ici.

Way back when every country was submitting their official entries for Best Foreign Language, there was a huge hullabaloo when Chile decided that they’d be submitting Dawson, isla 10 (Dawson, Island 10) rather than La nana (The Maid). La nana is a small movie, but got distribution, was well received (Golden Globe nomination!), and surprisingly, it had a fairly good run in NYC. In the US, I haven’t heard anything about Dawson, and I don’t think it’s had a run in the city. A lot of people, myself included, thought the Chilean committee made a bad strategic move.

And so, today, we see not one but two Latin American countries get nominations. This is a huge deal because historically (and understandably) the nominations for this category have been Eurocentric. Well, both of the nominees are neighbors to Chile: Argentina and Perú. So imagine how utterly disappointed I am that Chile had a good chance, and basically they blew it. Obviously this isn’t a dis to the Argentinean and Peruvian movies nominated, El secreto de sus ojos and La teta asustada. I’m really excited for them!

I’m not even dissing the Chilean committee for their submission, either. You want your best chances, and I guess for some reason they thought Dawson, isla 10 was that chance.

No, I’m mad about the submissions policy. This is just further proof of how weird and fucked up the rules are. I mean what the fuck is this “1 country 1 rule” business! AUGHHH!

On a side note for more outrage: Lee Daniels, nominated for Precious, is only the second black nominee for Best Director, and Kathryn Bigelow, nominated for The Hurt Locker, is only the fourth female nominee for Best Director. (See here.) And this is in the 80+ year history of the Oscars! Cripes.

“Don’t Ever Tell Anybody Anything…”

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

You took the words out of my mouth, Jerome.

I’m speechless.

No Nostalgia Here.

Hm, I haven’t been to Super 45 in a while so I’m a week late on this post on the worst songs of the 90s. It’s a pretty interesting glimpse into what sort of stuff was big in Chile.

I was quite offended that they included “I Will Always Love You” in the list; I wish they’d included notes on the songs and justified why they were included on the list. Like if they’d said “Whitney butchers the song, ¡que viva Dolly!” I’d be willing to accept the song’s inclusion on this list. But the song itself? Beautiful. Dolly Parton is a brilliant songwriter-amusement park owner-plastic surgery enthusiast, okay?

The other thing that surprised me was the lack of Laura Pausini. As a little girl I fucking adored Laura Pausini but let’s face it, she’s made some incredible mediocrities and she’s a huge star in Latin America, which I would expect to mean she’s a pretty obvious target. Totally should have been on the list. Then again, Celine Dion is on that list, and for some reason I mentally put them in the same category.

Fresh Stuff.

(1) Oh, god! Guilty as charged. Seriously, I just sent an email to someone just this week. Obviously I’d like an answer but I’m not gonna slit my wrists if I don’t.

(2) I watched some videos with Daniel Alarcón being interviewed–or rather, being entrevistado–and I totally felt ashamed that my speaking Spanish is not as good as his. (You can watch a really good one ici.) No seriously, his accent is like nonexistent. Damn. But then I watched una entrevista with Junot Díaz and I felt much better. Junot speaks Spanish the way I speak Korean–it’s just sad. Haha. Though in my defense, I’m barely coherent in English as well.

(3) I’ve been pretty synth-happy with my music. Lotta Lisa Lisa avec Cult Jam, and Tears for Fears.

Dude, I can’t wait to get my library science degree.

(4) Tried to go see the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMa. It was mostly a bust. Although I expected crowds I didn’t imagine the massiveness of the multitudes. Deserved, obviously. I got to see some stuff, but for the most part I was too hot and too short to be bothered. In the lower levels, where the movie theaters are located, there was more Burton stuff, posters and also some blow-ups of Polaroids he’s taken. Very beautiful and creepy. Much less crowded, too, thank the lord. Also less crowded: the Gabriel Orozco and Bauhaus exhibits. I loved them!

(5) Last week I saw A Single Man, and it was beautiful. Wonderfully acted, poignant and sweet story, and this incredible and subtle use of color that was done very effectively. Some of the music was by Shigeru Umebayashi, always a plus. Really curious to read the novel now, as well as After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. Except I already have such a long queue of books to read for this new year. Sigh.


I was thinking about the stuff I read this year, and I only came up with the following underwhelming list, in no specific order:

(1) El llano en llamas by Juan Rulfo.
(2) Cuentos de amor de locura y de muerte by Horacio Quiroga.
(3) Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.
(4) The Chosen by Chaim Potok.
(5) The Promise also by Chaim Potok.
(6) The Proof by Agota Kristof.
(7) The Third Lie again by Agota Kristof.
(8) A shitload of Fables by Bill Willingham.
(9) Also a shitload of Y: The Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan, but I haven’t finished the series yet.
(10) Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert.
(11) The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Rodríguez-Valdés, definitely the worst book I read all year.
(12) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
(13) And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle.
(14) The 33 1/3 on Nas’s Illmatic by Matthew Gasteier
(15) The 33 1/3 on Wire’s Pink Flag by Wilson Neate
(16) The 33 1/3 on Celine Dion’s Let Talk About Love by Carl Wilson
(17) About a dozen One Story issues, I still have a few to catch up on.  My favorite one was “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre” by Seth Fried.
(18) I can’t remember anymore, but I’m pretty sure I read some more comics, like Gipi, whose artwork I really love. I read a shitload of magazine articles. I also tried reading more poetry, and hardly anything stuck, which makes me sad. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year. Finally, I’m currently on Mala onda by Alberto Fuguet, which I thought was gonna be lame, but it’s been really enjoyable and as it’s progressed it’s gotten increasingly juicy (or, actually, increasingly jew-cy…).

I already have a brief list of things to read for the next year. I hope my “to be read” mission goes better in 2010. I’m such an undisciplined reader. My mom bought me a copy of Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher, and my brother got me a copy of Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe for Christmas. When I saw the cover for Brave Story I thought it was a comic, and I was also excited by how weird it was. (So much for not judging books by their cover, heh…) It made me feel a little better about having bought The Squirrel Machine for him, which I thought he’d find too freaky. But maybe he’ll like it. I hope he does.

Also on my list is Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. Yes, that Betty Smith. You wouldn’t believe how shocked I was to realize she’d written more than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I have such a huge pile of unread books, though, I really need to curb my spending on books because they accumulate and I don’t get enough of a chance to read them. For the next year I’m gonna lay off war-related books. The Agota Kristof stories did a serious number on me; I read that shit in the Spring and I’m only just recovering. That’s why I read so much light stuff after that. I’d like to go more humorous next year.

I’d like to begin this new decade with a smile.

Favorite Songs of 2009.

Or, the year I spent too much time watching MTV Tres.  Way to kiss off the decade, right?  Heh…

1) Lady Gaga – Paparazzi

2) Phoenix – 1901

3) Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind

4) Annie – Songs Remind Me of You

5) Bomba Estéreo – Fuego

Their recorded stuff doesn’t compare to the live shit, so initially I was disappointed by Blow Up.  But after a few spins I couldn’t stop listening… They did a MBE set just a while back, you can listen/watch here. I didn’t know how they would handle the interview portion because it’s very clear that they don’t know English well, but Simón handled it deftly.

6) Sean Kingston – Fire Burning

7) Bat For Lashes – Daniel

8) Alexis & Fido – Ojos que no ven

9) Daddy Yankee ft. Jowell & Randy – ¿Qué tengo que hacer? (Remix)

Which I’ve already mentioned like a million times, IDGAF!

10) Aventura – Su veneno

11) Gepe – Las piedras

Unfortunately, I find this Gepe video incredibly goofy. The song is really good though. His label, Quemasucabeza, has the Las piedras EP for free here, if you wanna hear a more polished version.

Some others, in no order:

Plastilina MoshPervert Pop Song
Gustavo CeratiDéjà vu
The GossipHeavy Cross
ShakiraLo hecho está hecho
Los Amigos InvisiblesMentiras

Inbox Issues.

Holy mother of god! What is the deal! I don’t get a lot of mail except for a few subscriptions, one of which is One Story. It comes with just enough regularity so I’m always excited to wait for it. (The quality of the stories has, in general, been pretty good, and some have even been excellent.) On top of that, I always feel anxious about whether the issues are really gonna make it to my doorstep because I don’t trust the US Postal Service.

Well, it had been a while since I received a copy but not too long; I was still in that period of decision where I couldn’t figure out if I should write to the One Story peeps, and today I received an issue… but not the one I’d been expecting. Crap. I got issue 129, but the last one I’d received was 127. What happened to 128?? Sigh. I really don’t want to write to them. But I want my issue! Damn it. I mean, I doubt that it’s their fault since it’s Christmas season after all, but they’re gonna have to pay for it, and that sucks. Bah.

I highly recommend the magazine, though. And I’m really happy that 129 made it to my house safely, don’t get me wrong. The issues are perfectly pocket-sized, and the subscriptions aren’t too expensive compared to some quarterlies that are chock-full of advertisements and content I wouldn’t read.

Fuck Queue.

Oh man. I got an email from the Public Theater about the cast list for The Merchant of Venice, which they’re doing for Shakespeare in the Park. At first I was way excited: Jesse Tyler Ferguson! And then more excited: Jesse L. Martin!

And then my heart sank:

Al Fucking Pacino?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand it’s AL PACINO. But that’s the problem. He’s a real star. Not even a Broadway-level star, which would have been problematic enough. I mean, my mom knows the name Al Pacino, y’know? Okay, she couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, but she has heard his name. Not only that, she knows he’s a big deal. And you know what happens with big deal stars when they decide to sashay their way across the Delacorte Theater? The lines to get a ticket are fucking massive. Ohhh I’m gonna have to wake up so early for this shit!! I’m not looking forward to it.

(Don’t you love how I’m worrying about this five months in advance?)

On the other hand: I can’t wait to see a latter-day Pacino chew up the scenery. He’s already done Shylock on film though, I wonder how he might read the character this time around? We’ll see what he and Michael Greif come up with. And to think, I was already so thrilled they chose to do The Merchant of Venice!

What Is Wrong With Me?

I caved and finally started crying over not owning this fucking box set that Zoé just released. I hate it, I hate feeling so strongly about a piece of fucking pop music. I feel like such a slave to it. I know I should want more important things, like world peace or a cure to cancer. No, instead I’m cranky and frustrated over some vinyl records. I don’t even care how expensive it is, I will pay! I just want a fucking copy… I can’t believe how distressed I am over this. I mean, I was just staring at that Twitter picture, and I just started shaking.

I need sleep.

Broken Commandments.

Shakira’s vid for “Lo hecho está hecho,” watch it here while it’s still embeddable, hehe.

This is a recent post from the new Idolator.

Like many, I’ve been pretty irked by the recent change of editorship on Idolator. One of the cool things about the site was its seriously in-depth look at the music industry, and much of the fun for me was reading about all the different ways the music industry has been imploding this past decade. Another thing that I loved about their departing editor, Maura, was that she was so pro-Sugababes and pro-Amerie. I’m a huge fan of both, and knowing that there was a high-profile ally out there made me feel less alone in digging them.

The posts so far have been pretty ho-hum, and I’m still trying to figure out whether the Idolator n00bs are just trying to mark their territory and settling in, or if this is just the way things are gonna be. I see that the topics of choice have been relatively similar–lots of top 40 shit, including a lot of American Idol stuff. Which would be fine, but…

Please refer to the aforementioned link. That’s not analysis. Saying, “I don’t really dig Shakira’s hair like this, I like it more like Taylor Swift’s pretty straight white girl hair,” is so superficial… Never mind that as a longtime Shakira fan, I’m very very touchy about her hair. I mean seriously, there’s no reason I should be so consumed and busy scrutinizing a stranger’s hair, but there you go, here’s my confession: the blondeness? Listen, to me, the blond hair is still a bad dream. Okay? Like, I’m still waiting for the dark hair to come back with a vengeance. I’m getting stressed out right this second just by posting about it. You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve talked to who see this light mane as a symbol of selling out, of conforming to American beauty standards, of of of (I’m just gonna say it!!) good hair. Not that Shakira’s hair is naturally kinky, but it sure as hell ain’t that light, and it’s curly, you know? I know that pop stars have to change constantly, but the controversy that her blond hair has brought through the years distresses me to no end! I’m so conflicted about it, about how it looks, what it means, why I should give a damn…

So I’m sorry, Idolator blogger lady, I’m sorry Shakira doesn’t look like a complete güera in the Letterman performance. FYI, it’s not even the first time she’s dread-ed her hair (and that link is a more recent example, too).

Jesus, I just reread my post. Why am I so angry? I need to sleep and calm down and stop trynna start shit. It’s not like the new blogger was implying anything in terms of race… or was she? Ack! Fuck it, I don’t ever wanna talk about Shakira’s hair ever again.

Playing “What If…?”

Here are some thoughts, unorganized, maybe inflammatory, but sincere and very much based on my own experience growing up.

I was reading this post on Racialicious on Excuse My Gangsta Ways, a documentary short about a young woman who was involved in gang life from the ages of 12 to 17 and her journey to transition out of that subculture and into being a “normal” person.

Oh, and the young woman, Davina Wan, happens to be Chinese-American, so for some reason I just looked at the picture and I really had to wonder if at one point in my life I could have been that girl in the picture.

To elaborate: when my family first moved to the US, one of the things my parents emphasized over and over and over to me and my brother was that we should be careful to make good friends. At this point in my life, I’m still struggling to be a good friend, but the people I’ve chosen and with whom I’ve connected have been, by and large, really positive and inspiring and fun friends. But for a short while there, my parents really worried about whether our adjustment to American life would be a success or a failure. They knew they had to work a lot and couldn’t necessarily guide our every decision the way they did when we were 2 years old.

One of my parents’ concerns was that my brother and I would end up in gangs. Of course anyone who has met me would LOL their hearts out, partly because I could pretty much get beat up by a fucking six-year-old but also because I’m not much of a “joiner.” I don’t blame y’all, it’s easy for me to chuckle about it too.

But I look at the picture of Wan and I’m like, well, she doesn’t seem like the type of girl who’d “attend 35 funerals before the age of 18.” This young woman joined her gang when she was 12! Can you imagine what sort of pressures led her there?

What my parents kept telling me about gangs is that they only pretend to be your friends, that it’s conditional love. For some people, the conditional love of a gang is better than no love, better than no stability. These gang members will tell you they’re gonna be your second family (or sometimes your only family), but ONLY if you succeed in your initiation. ONLY if you carry out whatever tasks the higher ups want you to do and ONLY if you don’t get out of line. And don’t even think about getting out, this shit is X VIDA. My parents would try to scare me straight with all sorts of stories: “You know what they have you do to join? They have everyone in the group beat the shit out of you until you’re barely breathing, and your face is unrecognizable,” and already being so sorry-looking, I was all like, “Erm… yeah, I’ma go back to reading my BSC books.”

Now, you’d think my parents would know me well enough to know that gang life was never gonna be a career move for me or my brother, but if things had unraveled the way they did in Davina Wan’s life, who knows what kind of shit trouble I would have gotten into.

I don’t know. I mean, in my case, the whole issue of growing up in one country and then having to transplant your entire life to another country where you don’t speak the language–that’s a huge deal. And I guess my parents thought that I’d look for a support group with people who looked like me. My parents knew that public school in the Bronx wasn’t gonna be easy-peasy, especially when you were the only Asian kid in the Spanish/English bilingual class. My parents had already heard of other immigrant families who had struggled to have their kids succeed.

Oddly enough, this led me, and I think my brother as well, to set ourselves apart from other immigrant Korean kids. A lot of them tended to run in groups, they would all fall in line and they all seemed to like the same music and all dress the same way and to me it was just such a joke.  I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to pretend that I liked H.O.T. and S.E.S. and dye my fucking hair red and all that shit that was happening in the late 90s/early 00s. Most of these kids obviously end up fine, because they know there’s so much at stake to have your parents abandon their old lives just so you can have better opportunities. Most of these immigrant kids end up having pretty healthy interests and friendship circles, they join church groups or sports teams bands or, I don’t know, knitting groups. My brother and I fall into that category, but at the same time I think it was very necessary for us to set ourselves apart from other Korean-American kids because we thought that, even though most of these kids are good and not in violent gangs, there was still a group mentality that was stifling to me.

When you’re 12… It’s not even a strictly immigrant kid life narrative, though the immigration situation played a major part in my life story. But at 12, you just want to find a reliable group of friends and you’re looking to define who you are because if you don’t know who you are and what your interests are how are you gonna find friends who connect at your level and blah blah blah. A lot of times you’re not sure of who you are anymore so you wonder where you should turn. So sometimes the whole idealized concept of a gang, of protection and loyalty, can look real fucking alluring. I can see how shit can go really wrong in a kid’s life.

What am I trying to say? This is all so muddled, I’m sorry. Well, reading the Racialicious post, all I could think was, “Damn… I’m really lucky.” I doubt I might have ended up in a rough position like Davina Wan, but who knows if, at a particularly low point, I would have resigned myself to make a decision as drastic as joining a gang. I see how lucky I was, to have a stable home life with overworked but vigilant parents who really made me into a priority in their lives. I’m just acknowledging that I’m really grateful to my parents, that for every times I’ve bitched about them being overprotective, there’s way more times that I’ve felt thankful that they care about my safety and health and that they love me (unconditionally!). That’s a privilege that sadly not everyone gets, and I’m aware of that. C’est tout.

Oh wait, actually–I wrote all these words without even having seen the short.  So obviously this is way less a commentary on the film or on Davina Wan’s life, and more about myself.  I do want to see it on a big screen, it’s the sort of life narrative that you don’t hear about enough…

WFMU Record Fair 2009.

I went to the record fair today, a nice closing punctuation mark to CMJ.  Not that I did anything CMJ-related this year, whereas I seriously waited all year long to go to the fair today.  Thinking I’d learned my lesson last year, this time I decided to budget myself and also made a mental list of things I wanted: God Is For Real, Man, Del Shannon and Roy Orbison, and maybe some Carter Family shit.

So how did I end up dropping $40 on just two records?  Obviously it’s not that much, but I was really hoping to find a shitload of beat up $5 records, so an average of $20 per record is a little much.  I just entered the place and was immediately overwhelmed, as usual.  After sweeping up and down the aisles, I decided there were definitely some things I wanted (and could afford, cos God knows how much shit I really really wanted and couldn’t pay for it).

I specifically want to bitch about this Ska Au Go Go album that I wanted.  I saw it, noted in my mind to come back to it, and kept looking for other cool shit.  (Leonard Nimoy reading HG Wells, anyone?)  Anyway, when I finally finished making my round of all the exhibitors about 20 minutes later, I went back to the spot and looked all through the crate and… it wasn’t there!  No–it was in the hands of some guy standing right next to me.  So I kinda waited a couple of minutes to see if he was gonna let go of the record so I could swoop in on that shit.  Alas, he held on to the LP pretty tightly.  Damn you, dude!!  Heh, just kidding.  I understand how these things go: you snooze, you lose.  That’s okay, I was mostly intrigued that there was a track called “I Should Have Known Better.”  Well I just downloaded that shit, and indeed, it’s a cover of the Beatles song.  Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.  Sigh, if only that record was in my hands…

Well, the more expensive one is a double LP, which inconveniently doesn’t even come in a gatefold sleeve.  It’s just a greatest hits called A Arte de Tim Maia.  It’s hilarious, almost every song sounds fine except for “Não quero dinheiro,” which skips a bit.  I imagine that whoever owned the record first played the shit out of that song, and who am I to blame them?  My dad looked at the record and pointed out that title, to which I asserted, “THAT’S THE BEST SONG IN THE ENTIRE THING!!” even though this statement might not be true.  Anyway, I felt kinda wack about having paid “so much” for the record when I’d gone into the Metropolitan Pavilion looking for deals, but by the time I got to side B of the second LP, I was just crying and crying from the thrill and the honor of getting to hear this seriously beautiful music. In conclusion, it was totally worth the money and I’m very happy with this find, even if it’s a minor Best Of.

The less expensive (but still kinda costly) record is a compilation of Chilean jazz from the first half of the 20th century.  I haven’t listened to it and I’m kind of scared to.  The seller had several records that seriously caught my eye, including a nice copy of a Joe Cuba Sextet record that cost less than the Chilean jazz one, but I wondered, “Which album is more likely to be here next year?”  I understood that Chilean jazz ain’t as in demand over here as, say, bugalú, but at the same time it’s more rare to see a record of Chilean music at all, so I decided to go with it.  Plus, the Chilean record is sealed!  Do I dare open it?  Of course!  I can’t wait to see what treasures it contains.

I don’t know that my experience was wild as previous years–for some reason the whole affair seemed a bit more muted today, did I imagine it–but I still had a lot of fun.  The best genres to check out were the kids’ albums.  My friend and I found a Topo Gigio record!!  He was da bomb.

I’ve been all right, just listening to a lot of this and that.  One of my classmates burned me a copy of The Saturdays’ Chasing Lights, which is surprisingly excellent.  So many of the songs could have been major singles, really!  I’m smarting from the Sugababes breakup fiasco, so at least it’s nice to see that there’s a new generation of pop tarts bringing cute escapist ditties to the masses.  They don’t write their own songs, but they do sing live!

Also, I’ve gone back to obsessing over Zoé.  Mostly because I randomly developed a crush on Sergio, their guitarist?  Mostly because I get the feeling that he’s one of those betas who could really be an alpha if he wanted, but he can’t be bothered because he already knows he’s fucking awesome and doesn’t need that validation?  Regardless, I’ve been going through their old stuff and I’m loving it.  I found an episode of Verdad y Fama on YouTube featuring the band and they pretty much verify that the band members, especially León, are pretty much fried out of their minds, not that it was too hard to tell.

Dude, watch that video!  It’s not even their best song, but look at the way people are singing along.  It’s a huge fucking crowd and they all know all the fucking words.  It’s amazing.  I love this band so much, I wish they’d come to NYC more often.

I’m finally looking forward to stuff, too, after a long funk of not caring about what was next.  First, I can’t wait for the new Shakira, which seems like it’s becoming an unmarketable dud for her label.  I can’t believe “She Wolf” hasn’t really taken off, “Loba” is doing pretty well on MTV Tr3s and I personally fucking love that song. Awooooo…!!  The last English album of hers I bought was Laundry Service, which in hindsight I find a bit blah, but this single has me really excited and I’m totally gonna buy the new album.  I also found out that Gustavo Cerati, god bless his Jewfro’d self, just released a new album and I can’t wait to track it down and listen to it.  Not only that, Javiera Mena is finally gonna release her second full-length (about time!!) and apparently she did a song with Jens Lekman!  Hope it turns out well.  She’s also busy at the moment opening for Kings of Convenience, who also have a new album out and I’m trying to decide whether I want to hear it.  My undying crush on Erlend tells me to do it, but half of the time I find their shit beautiful and the other half I find it boring.

Y’know what I mean?

Who’s Watching?

Last year I heard about Antonio Campos’s Afterschool and I thought it sounded lame.  Like why would I care about angsty privileged teenagers desensitized by the technology that surrounds them blah blah blah.  But now it’s in a theatrical run and the reviews are out, there’s been plenty of press… and they’ve been pretty damn positive.  So it seriously caught my attention.

Impulsively, I went to the movie theater after work and bought myself a ticket even though I have a test tomorrow.  It was my first time at Cinema Village.  Can you imagine?  I passed by the theater almost every week for four years (the school newspaper offices were across the street) and as much as I love movies I never fucking went in!  I was also very curious by this Vulture post about Antonio Campos, which mentioned that he’d be willing to meet with audience members for coffee if they couldn’t make it to a screening with a Q&A.  I just wasn’t sure if it was for real, but I can confirm that it’s actually true.  Not sure if anyone has tried it out though.  I’m gonna call him tomorrow and see if I can talk to him about the movie.

The movie was really good and I’m pretty sure I liked it, too.  Maybe.  I mean there were definitely uncomfortable scenes, like this one sequence where this kid talks shit about another kid’s sister and it’s just long and lewd and you’re just like, “Please, just put a bar of soap in this kid’s mouth so he’ll shut the fuck up” and all the other kids sitting around the lunch table are like trying to ignore the filthy kid and…  I don’t know, I was just squirming.

The subject of the movie and the way it’s handled is pretty heavy, too.  But I never felt bored, I was always wondering what was going to happen next.  And there were a couple of familiar faces–Rosemarie DeWitt, who barely shows her face, and Michael Stuhlbarg, whose Hamlet did nothing for me at Shakespeare in the Park last year so it was pretty awesome to see that he’s actually a good actor when not doing drastically “interesting” interpretations of Shakespeare.  (Wow, that last sentence makes me sound like a bitch…  Sorry dude!  Congrats on the Coen Bros. movie!)

Fuck, okay, my post is already too long.  I want to dwell on the movie extensively but basically, the movie was cool and you should go see it and feel uncomfortable.  Also, there was a Q&A after the screening I attended; Campos wasn’t there cos apparently he was too busy partying hard with Michael Haneke (heh), but he sent his producer Josh… Josh something.  Unfortunately I didn’t catch his last name.  Well, the sucky thing is that by the time he came to do the Q&A the credits were over and almost everyone was gone.  The producer guy seemed kinda bummed.  There were literally four of us with him in the theater, so we just had a heart-to-heart about art and inspiration and la-dee-da.

Okay, not really.  But it was seriously fun and since the producer dude wouldn’t answer any questions about the content of the film (and believe me, I have plenty of questions about the story itself), I asked him a lot of questions about just the more business-y stuff.  It was a nice Q&A, if only because it really felt more like a conversation.  Some Q&As can be quite lame, but this one was pretty sweet.

Yes, I’m Around.

Been busy, clearly.  Mostly classes, commuting to classes, work, a lot of TV, too.  A lot!  Quickly ran through all of True Blood, which I can assure is half a waste of time, with the other half being at turns tolerable, fun, and downright awesome, depending.  Wish there was more consistency in quality, but then, not every show can be a highbrow masterpiece.  As long as Alexander Skarsgård and Ryan Kwanten bring on the LOLs I’m satisfied with the show.

Been watching Mad Men (excellent!), Glee (needs to pick up a bit), and Flashforward (undecided).  I tune into Project Runway when I remember but the season has been lackluster.

What other stuff has happened?  Well, watched the Emmys and didn’t hate it, and I was particularly happy about Kristin Chenowith and Michael Emerson’s.  Went to the Brooklyn Book Festival which was really fun, got to see Thurston Moore and Lupe Fiasco, among others, chatting about music and poetry and it was way more interesting and enlightening than I expected.  Also saw Jonathan Lethem and Mary Gaitskill have a heart-to-heart and that was great, too.  Why am I not shocked to find that Gaitskill likes Natsuo Kirino?  Got to see Wallace Shawn up close (very exciting!!) and I also saw some nut hassling Chuck Schumer as he got into a car–seriously!  It was so unexpected, too.

Yesterday I had a pretty nutty day.  After finding out that the Angelika was no longer showing The Baader Meinhof Complex because it was devoting 2 of its theaters to Coco Before Chanel and 3 theaters to the new Michael Moore (with the last theater left for the new Clive Owen movie that no one is gonna watch), my friend and I decided to watch Bright Star which turned out to be an excellent decision.  As far as chick flicks go, this was pretty sublime–definitely no Love Happens.  When I came out of the movie theater I just “liked” it but the more I think about it, my memory of the movie gets fonder.  Heh.  Though I have to say, the movie is set in an era where they don’t have the concept of sanitation that we do, so I was really horrified to see John Keats coughing all over his lady.  Yikes.  But the two leads were great, as was the guy who played Keats’s BFF Brown.  They were really fun when they weren’t being intense, makes me wish I’d been friends with all of them.  There were these kids in the movie, too, but they weren’t annoying so that was a plus.  I found the music and sound to be really well utilized.  I enjoyed the film a lot, and I kinda want to see it again.

As if that wasn’t depressing enough of a spectacle, I went to see Hamlet after that.  I showed up at the box office 2.5 hours after it opened and I was nervous they’d be out of student tickets, but I got one no problem.  Mind you, this was the farthest seat I’ve gotten in a while (I was in the mezz), but still, I got my ticket with no fuss.  The play was looooong.  But generally very good!  I liked Jude Law a lot and it was nice to see him acting instead of, er, y’know, cheating on assorted significant others.  Just sayin’.

I found myself comparing a lot to the one other version of the play I saw at Shakespeare in the Park last year.  Even though I was tired during both plays, this one succeeded in keeping my attention.  It was a more straightforward version of the play, too, at the park they had “interesting” interpretations of the work.  Here, it was more traditional but executed deftly and with confidence.  The actors were generally good, they used the stage well.  There was a lot of laughter, too, and not because the production was laughable but because the cues were right.  Like I was surprised by how funny Jude Law was, I haven’t seen him in a lot of stuff to be honest.

A lot of the directorial choices made a difference, too.  Like at one point, Hamlet’s uncle is confessing his crimes and Hamlet is ready to stick the dagger into the sorry motherfucker, but Hamlet stops himself.  The way the two of them were lit, it created this huge shadow against the set that made Hamlet’s actions way more menacing, it was so cool to watch.

Up in the mezz everyone gave a standing ovation… except me.  I thought it was solid, but not ovation worthy.  I clapped really hard, though!  And I kinda do want to see it again, even though it was super-long.  But was I moved so intensely that it shook me to my core?  Nah.  And so I didn’t stand up and cheer.

Body count in Bright Star: 2.  Body count in Hamlet: 6, I think, and that’s not counting Hamlet’s daddy, neither.  Total “deaths” witnessed yesterday: 8.  Man, maybe I’ll end up watching something frivolous like Love Happens after all.  Just kidding.

In general I thought the Broadhurst Theatre, which is housing Hamlet at the moment, is pretty wack.  I understand that managing crowds is hard but those usher were seriously tough cookies.  They had these lights they would shine on rule-breakers, which they wielded as a shaming device.  I was pretty mortified and scared to do anything other than to sit in my seriously tight seat.  There was absolutely no leg room.  At least the bathroom had a lot of stalls.  But really not my favorite theater experience.

I’ve been missing a lot of music.  My fauxpod died and there are no AA batteries in the house so I can’t listen to my CD player either.  I’ve been listening to my regular stereo which is okay but, well, not portable.  I “discovered” the Flaming Lips.  I read Jim DeRogatis’s bio on them, and it wasn’t that fascinating until I saw a picture of Dave Fridmann when he was younger and I thought he was the cutest guy ever…  and obviously that lead me to buy The Soft Bulletin?  Okay, my purchase was irrational but still totally worth it.  Also been listening to Adele’s 19 and The Eraser, both of which I love for very different reasons.  I don’t know, there’s a growing hole in the part of my life that is composed of music, and it’s dragging me down.  Gotta get back into it.