Dec 10

2010 in Retrospect: Terrible Movies I Saw

In addition to reading books, I like to go to the movies.  And while I’ve seen some great movies this year – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Social Network, Kick-Ass – I’ve seen some real stinkers too.

Here they are, in no particular order, the stinkiest movies I saw this year.

The Lovely Bones. A HUGE disappointment because I loved this book so much.  I was getting ready to have to watch an incredibly difficult scene, and the movie just totally glosses over it.  One moment the girl is entering the murderous pedophile’s shack, the next she’s in heaven.  Not that I need to see the scene in gruesome detail, but something like that can be done without showing much but still convey the horror.

Then the whole rest of the movie was basically the girl running around in heaven with other murdered girls, whereas the book focused a lot more on how her family dealt with her death.

Enter the Void. Boy’s on drugs in Tokyo. Boy does a drug deal. Boy gets killed in drug deal. Boy dies. Boy becomes ghost-thing that floats all over the city watching his sister have sex. Boy-ghost-thing keeps floating over city. And floating and floating and floating. He watches other people have sex. He enters a vagina. We see a giant penis. The End.

Monsters. Perhaps the least stinky of the stinkers. A promising premise: six years ago a NASA ship on its way back with alien life forms crashes in Mexico. The life forms propagate and take over that part of the country, now the Quaruntined Area. A man and woman need to cross the Quaruntined Area to get back to the U.S.

But! Why where they there in the first place? Why are we spending the whole movie listening to them talk? WHERE ARE THE MONSTERS? This movie is called Monsters and expect to see some monsters, goddammit! Oh, there’s a monster, and another.  Attack, monsters, attack!  No, they’re just getting it on. The End.

Prince of Persia. This literally stank because we sat near someone who had smelly feet, but the movie itself was pretty odoriferous too –  from the extremely un-Persian Jake Gyllenhaal, to the lack of build-up or suspense, to the lame love story and cringingly awful banter, to the time traveling cop-out.  Prince of Persia had it all – all that was bad.

Here’s hoping 2011 will bring far fewer stinkers (though they are fun to rant about).

Dec 10

2010 in Retrospect: What I Read

As this year comes to a close, I thought I’d do a series of posts rather than a big summary. Kicking things off: my 10 favorite books.

As you may know, late last year, I started to tackle the BBC 100 Books everyone should read.  I read 22 (to make a total of 42 I can cross off) before I, not so much lost interest, but became more interested in other books.  So my top 10 includes BBC and non-BBC books, and books both old and new.

10. Half a Life, by Darin Strauss. A Nervous Breakdown book club selection. When Strauss was 18 years old, he accidentally killed a girl with is car.  In Half a Life, he sparely yet eloquently recalls the incident, the immediate aftermath, and the years since.  A poignant study in grief, remembering, and letting go.

9. Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks. Originally published in 1997, I read Birdsong as part of the “BBC 100 challenge.”  Set in Europe right before, during, and after World War I, the book is more than just a war novel, though the battle scenes are gripping, vivid, and fittingly gruesome.  It’s also a love story and a story of family history.

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susannah Clarke. A recommendation from my friend YP.  This gargantuan novel is set in a sort of alternate early 19th century England, in which magic, while still on the fringes of society, is very real. Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange are England’s only two practicing (as opposed to theoretical) magicians. Small tricks escalate into a risky Lazarian deal with the mysterious “man with the thistledown hair,” which ends up, literally, rocking the world.  Clarke does an amazing job blending the magical with real-life history, and peppering the tome with footnotes that smack of a fictional history and culture of Tolkienian proportions.

7. The Visiting Suit, by Xiaoda Xiao. Another selection for the Nervous Breakdown book club. I’m only halfway through but I can easily say this memoir is one of the best books I read this year.  The author was in his early 20s when he was imprisoned during the height of the Cultural Revolution for “defaming” the Great Leader Mao’s image – ie, carelessly ripping a poster of Mao in a drunken state.  The Visiting Suit chronicles the five years’ of Xiao’s detention in a hard labor camp, and the constantly changing cast of prison-mates (many imprisoned for as trivial “offenses” as the author’s) he encounters during his stay.

6. Rebecca, by Daphne bu Maurier. From the BBC book list and the basis of the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same title (which I’ve yet to see).  An innocent young woman takes up with a rich and moody older widower, becoming, as she is only known, the new Mrs. DeWinter.  Soon she realizes she’s gotten more than she bargained for: the responsibility of running a large and complex household, dealing with the mean and sour housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, and living in the shadow of the first Mrs. DeWinter, the beautiful and mysterious Rebecca. But not everything is as it seems!  Dark and gothic, a total page-turner that had me both gasping at the narrator’s naiveté and tearing in sympathy at the pressure she felt trying to live up to untenable expectations.

5. Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters. YP recommended Waters’ latest book, The Little Stranger, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I thought I’d try one of her other books.  Fingersmith happened to be the only Waters’ book at the store, and I was delighted to find that it was even better than The Little Stranger.  Another 19th-Century English setting, this novel has everything – orphans! thieves! trickery! plot twists! more plot twists! I’ll say no more except Waters is definitely one of my new favorite authors.

4. Room, by Emma Donoghue. The first Nervous Breakdown book club selection, and what a way to kick off a book club.  I’ve raved about Room already, so I’ll just say this: the only reason it’s not the number one book I’ve read this year is because of. . .

3. 2. 1. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. Yet another YP recommendation. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingbird have been my obsession for the past month. Technically YA novels of the Twilight age, they’re about a billion times better than the sparkly vampire series.  Set in a future dystopia, the Hunger Games are sort of Survivor meets Man vs. Wild but FOUGHT TO THE DEATH. With kids. Who are not immortal.

The books are totally gripping and surprisingly gruesome, but also brought tears to my eyes.  I loved all the characters, and kept picturing who would play them in the movie. I actually forced myself to slow down while reading the last book, Mockingbird, because I didn’t want the series to end.

By the way, Robert Downey Jr. is my first choice to play Haymitch, though I think he’s about 10 years older than the character.

Honorable Mention

The Harry Potter series. I have to give a shout out to all the Harry Potter books, which I read for the first time this year. Like the Hunger Games trilogy, I didn’t want the life and times at Hogwarts to end.  Reading the books (almost) in order, it was very interesting to see the dramatic arc – from light and magical childhood to dark and troubling growing up.  I laughed and cried.  I couldn’t put the books down.

As every book should be.

Dec 09

2009: The year in retrospect

2009 was a year of big changes for me.

First off, I graduated from library school. For my second to last semester, I decided three classes would be doable since one of them was on a Sunday. Two were fine, but the third made no sense to me for a long time. I had a handle on everything till about April, but managed to finish everything.

I capped off my MLS with a two-week e-publishing course in London, where I stayed in a shitty dorm (that was in a good location), ate good food, went to museums, walked a ton, got lost a lot, and oh yeah, went to class. While at the time I thought two weeks in London was enough forever, I’d totally go again.

I went public. First, tired of waiting to get published, I decided to be my own pimp and put my memoir online. Then I put my name to my blog. This was scary because of past experiences, but I didn’t want fear to rule my decisions anymore.

We decided to move to California. The biggest change of all. What started as an idea in June became a reality in August when MB got a job and we got an apartment.

Of course this meant challenges, like getting rid of my stuff, giving my notice, doing battle with bacon grease, and of course leaving New York. While there’d be some things I wouldn’t miss, there’d be many things I would. The restaurants of course, even my job, but most of all my friends and family.

Luckily I had lots of opportunities to hang with my buddies, including monthly photo expeditions with YP, visits from ES, a trip to Boston, and my last weekend in New York. I even ran into an ex-friend which threw me for a loop.

MB and I visited with my parents often too, like on Chinese New Year and in the summer when MB climbed on their roof. This year, as always, my mom worried a lot. I did too, but relaxed after officially moving to San Francisco, unlike Mom. At least Thanksgiving was fun, and she actually sounded happy on Christmas.

In these last few months in SF, I accomplished a lot as well. I’ve explored the city, questioned the sleaziness factor, and continued to adjust. I decided to tackle the BBC 100 books list (I’m only on the last book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), dressed up for Halloween, and did NaNoWriMo. I tried to be more social, got a freelancing job, and started writing for The Nervous Breakdown.

As for 2010, I won’t have any resolutions or even any goals. Something else I learned this year is how to deal with expectations. It’s natural to have them – but too high and you’ll be disappointed, too low and you’ll never really enjoy a positive experience.

So should you have any expectations at all, especially about other people? You can’t control their feelings or actions. They don’t know what you’re thinking, and if they did, I know I’d feel unwanted pressure to behave a certain way, instead of simply being myself. I remember reading somewhere that all you can really ask of someone is that they’ll follow through on their word.

What’s the difference between low expectations and no expectations? With low you expect the worst to happen; with no expectations, you expect, well, nothing. It’s sort of a zen state, neither negative nor positive. It’s living completely in the present, neither thinking of the past nor trying to predict the future, like willful short term memory loss.

I find the most positive experiences result when I’m distracted by other stuff. Maybe that’s why they say the right person will come along, in terms of relationships, when you’re least expecting it. Having high or low expectations may put out a certain energy that people can unconsciously sense.

Anyway, so what does that say for this year? The only thing I expect is the day to day routine I’ve come to enjoy – writing, working out, writing more, running errands, practicing piano. I’ll continue to try to get published but focus on the actions of writing and submitting and try not to wonder too much what the result will be. I’ll apply for jobs in the same way. It’s sort of like being a machine who immensely enjoys herself.

And enjoy myself I will. Happy New Year, everyone!

Jan 09

2008: The year in retrospect

First off, happy new year, everyone! MB and I spent the evening at P*ong, which was what we did last year. Like last year, we sat at the bar and Pichet Ong was there, acting as host, server, and coat getter. He seems really nice and the food was incredible. Our favorites were the kobacho squash coconut soup, the citrus cured char, the braised wagyu beef short rib, and the warm date pudding. Also the bread and parmesan/olive oil spread were something I could definitely live on.

Now 2008. A lot happened. The last time I had this much change was back in 2005: separation, divorce, moving into the city and living on my own again for the first time, well, ever (living in a dorm and/or with roommates doesn’t count). Then it was two years of quiet – I got used to my new life, I thought about stuff, made some decisions, made some mistakes.

Then towards the latter half last year, a few things happened. I decided that I wanted a real relationship, not just a fling; I decided to go for library school and therefore a career change; and I met MB. Effort and luck.

This year: I started library school (which I can’t believe has only been a year), I moved in with MB, and I got a new job. But not only that, I thought long and hard about my jealousy and insecurity, the fact that I’m not used to being in a relationship based on unconditional love, that I’ve had to or thought I had to act a certain way to earn love, and that I automatically compare myself to others.

This year I learned to believe in unconditional love, in speaking up immediately instead of letting something fester, and to try and stop comparing myself to others. It’s not a quick fix. I have to keep remindng myself of these things, and practice them like any new exercise.

I don’t really have any resolutions for 2009. I kind of hate the idea – all that pressure and then a sense of failure if you don’t keep them up. I know what I’d like to do: lose five pounds, start running outside again, finish my memoir once and for all. Totally doable but I refuse to call them new year resoluations – they are simply things I want to get done, regardless of timeframe.

Also I want to worry less and do more. I want to accept my wrinkles. People claim they don’t see anything, but the fine lines on my foreheads and cheeks are like Grand Canyon fissures to me. I’ll do what I can to be healthy, and will try to stop fretting over the inevitable.

And I vow to eat more fiber. I’m sure you all wanted to know that one.

Happy New Year!

Dec 07

2007: What I Learned

It’s that time again! But rather than do a month-by-month, as I’ve done in the past, this year I’ve decided to do a post on 32 things I learned. Why 32? Cuz that’s how many there are.

1) L.A. has awesome food and my cousin’s baby Mia is adorable.
2) New York has awesome food too
3) I love running (duh).
4) I like to procrastinate by writing about procrastination.
5) An awesome 8-hour date doesn’t necessarily lead to happily ever after.
6) I’m supposedly negative.
7) I’m no good at being positive.
8) I’m good at ranting about someone I hate.
9) I’m supposedly a worrier.
10) At the time I can be very positive about a breakup, and in retrospect I can recognize when someone has been projecting their anxiety onto me and making me feel like I’m the anxious, worried one, when I wasn’t before meeting said individual.
11) When someone answers, “Let’s just live in the moment,” to your question, “Are you dating anyone else?” it’s a red flag.
12) When someone tells you his ex was also Asian, and when you say it’s not a big deal, and he says, “Don’t repress your feelings,” it’s really him that has a problem with his ex also being Asian and not you.
13) When someone who is not drinking insists that you shouldn’t feel the need not to drink just because of him although you’ve told him a million times that you are allergic to alcohol, that it’s him who really wants a drink.
14) A man who NEVER lets you pay your half, at the same time complaining that he’s poor and after you’ve offered to pay, has a real problem.
15) Hindsight is 20/20.
16) Bastard.
17) 35 can be a really depressing birthday.
18) I like TV.
19) 35 is not too late for a career change.
20) Las Vegas sucks.
21) D.C. does not.
22) Bear Grylls rocks.
23) So does running in Central Park.
24) So does a steam pipe explosion in midtown, which I somehow don’t hear.
25) One fun date with a history professor also doesn’t mean happily ever after.
26) Library science is popular. Who knew?
27) Naked comedy doesn’t equate pretty, or even funny, comedy.
28) A first date in a dark bar is not a good idea.
29) A first date in a well-lit musem is.
30) Dressing up for Halloween can be fun as hell.
31) Seeing naked comedy can be even less fun than it was the first time.
32) It’s possible to find the right person.

Dec 06

2006: The Year in Retrospect

It’s that time again. Part of me wishes I still had my 2005 year in retrospect, which I chose, due to circumstances beyond my control, to delete along with almost all of the corresponding posts. But I’m trying to be very Buddhist about it.

I won’t have posts connecting to all events in 2006 (the fleeting thing again), but I’ll try my best to summarize. Luckily, I have my trusty journal to refer to.

I spend New Year’s weekend with ES. We do a dumpling run, going to The Dumpling Man (yum!), Jing Fong in Chinatown, and Mandoo Bar in Koreantown.

We also see The Chronicles of Narnia and The Light in the Piazza (snore-o-rama). New Year’s Eve we have dinner with SB, who gets sick and goes to bed at 8. Fun!

I celebrate Chinese New Year by visiting the Flower Market in Chinatown. I go to Florida for work. My former boss shows her psychotic colors by giving YP an unsubstantiated bad performance review. I sign up again for online dating. I go to Japan and have an amazing time.

I go to a speed dating event, and although I get three matches, none of them interest me, not even the Chinese Canadian doctor. I go on a date with a Satanist. He likes me but I don’t like him. I go on a date with J., a film editor. I like him but he never calls me.

I go to Banff, Alberta with my brother. We go dog sledding, walk across frozen Lake Victoria, and hike in the snowy mountains. I go to the Berkshires with SB. Poor Ellie barfs the whole drive up.

My online dating correspondence flourishes. I go on my first date with DK. Mr. Crazy sends me on a scavenger hunt, planting a DVD of his artwork in a newspaper machine near where I live.

I go on three dates in one weekend. Mr. Crazy is not so crazy after all but a southern gentleman. BB is cute, nice, and funny, and, weirdly, friends with my friend PL. DK is also cute and nice but I like BB more. Unfortunately BB never calls me so DK it is.

I turn 34 (yikes!). I go to the Small Press Center’s Writers Conference, where I meet with an agent who encourages me to submit to columns like Modern Love.

I travel to Atlanta for work. I go to Williamsburg for the first time to see YP’s comedy show. I go to the NYC Tattoo Convention. My co-worker takes a writing class with my former teacher, who raves about me. I get back in touch with him. He suggests I take a newspaper and magazine writing class with one of his colleagues.

DK and I continue date. I become vaguely dissatisfied, feeling that DK is keeping me at a distance. My wicked witch of a former boss hostiley confronts me about why I’m not more ambitious. I speak to her honestly and what I think is in confidence. She repeats my words, incorrectly, to my co-workers. Later that week it’s announced that she’s been canned.

I start my writing class. I have a tattoo consultation at New York Adorned. DK and I become closer. We go hear Joan Didion read at Central Park’s SummerStage, where a sudden and sustained rainstorm forces the reading to end early and us to bolt to DK’s apartment. Our clothes soaked, we stay in, DK cooking us dinner.

Things continue to warm up between DK and me while the city turns as hot as hades. I get my first UTI (don’t ask) and take my first trip to the E/R. Two weeks later I got my second UTI (don’t ask again) and take my second trip to the E/R. The very nice and rather amused doctor advises cranberry pills. I take them. They work.

DK gets a piece published in a New York paper. The following week I get a piece published in the same paper. We go to our first writing event together, after which we have dinner at the Spring Street Cafe, where we’re seated beside Delroy Lindo.

My feelings for DK intensify. I decide against a tattoo. I go to D.C. to visit SG.

I run the Race for the Cure. I find out DK doesn’t feel as strongly about me; we break up. He rejects my olive branch of friendship. I inch towards recovery.

I think going away would be a good idea. I read a book that inspires a life change. I go to Boston to see ES. We have dutch pancakes for dinner, go to the Life Is Good pumpkin festival, and the Head of the Charles.

I start NaNoWriMo. I go watch the NYC Marathon. I’m satsified as a single woman but do battle with hormones. Thanksgiving is an up and down weekend. ES and I have fun but my mother and I have a fight. I complete NaNoWriMo.

Work is busy but I do a fun Savory Sojourns tour with my team. I volunteer at the Small Press Center’s Book Fair. I discover I can conjure a real-life author from an author picture. YP gets a job elsewhere and decides to leave the company.

I go to the 11 Spring Street open house. I have a quiet but nice Christmas.

~ ~ ~

Whew! 2006 goals are next. I just have to find them. Haha, like that commercial where the family tears the house apart looking for their new year resolutions.