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Stuff I’ve Been Consuming: Sep – Dec 2014

January 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Here we go, the annual recap of all movies watched and books read. Let’s not bury the lead: I failed fiftyfifty.me again. Somehow I ended up with only twenty-two books read, which is even less than last year’s total. Movies also dropped, from eighty-nine to eighty-seven this year, but who’s counting movies at this point? I knocked out the requisite fifty by July. It’s the books that are every year strugg-ling.

Sidenote: How to use hyphens and numbers.

The good news is that this upcoming year’s addition to fiftyfifty.me — now in its fourth year — will feature the addition of “buddies,” or team ups. So now you can (pre-)call how many movies and books you’ll aim to finish, splitting a total of 200 books/movies between you and a friend. More details about 2015 fiftyfifty.me+BUDDIES at the site, so come join up because it’ll be just as fun with a more flexible challenge!

Anyway, while quantity of books was a total bust, there were somewinners. I’ve already talked about Saga, the Vaughan/Staples graphic novel. And then there’s Sister Mischief by Laura Goode, which is a YA novel about four girls in Minnesota who band together to start a queer hip hop group at their religiously conservative school. Yes, read that again.

And not only does Sister Mischief feature a Desi co-lead, with passages about white privilege and the sexuality spectrum, but it also drops references to rap artists that I can’t imagine most YA readers get but which I absolutely loved. (Unless there’s a big crossover between Atmosphere or 9th Wonder fans and the YA audience that I don’t know about. If you fall into that narrow category, let’s be friends?) Either way, I can’t believe Sister Mischief exists. And author Laura Goode also had a film come out this year, Farah Goes Bang, which I have yet to watch because I missed it at all the film festivals. But at this point I’ll consume anything Goode puts out there.

I also finally bit the bullet and read one of George R.R. Martin’s books: A Song of Ice and Fire. We went heavy into GoT during Season Four, including buying the board game which I’ve only been fortunate enough to play once. A long flight served as the perfect opportunity to dive into the GoT novels. Verdict: It’s good! As if millions of rabid fans could be wrong. But I just had to know for myself. Because, you know, many times millions of rabid fans are absolutely wrong. I think I’ll stop at the first GoT book though, since I’m already deep enough into the GoT rabbit hole as it is.

Over the summer, I recommended three A books in a row to a new friend: Americanah, The Goldfinch, and The Golem and the Jinni.  Afterwards, this beautiful human gave me the greatest praise I could ask for, “What do you recommend next? I’ll read anything you say!” Life peak reached, it’s all downhill from here… And even though I recommended Goldfinch and Golem and Jinni, they did fall a little flat for me. The setup in the latter was so great too: a story about the two titular supernatural creatures who meet in turn of the century New York and become semi-soul mates. But ultimately the book petered out. Goldfinch I couldn’t even all the way finish even as I recognized that it was pretty good.

As 2014 is winding down, I’m finishing up Meghan Daum’s Unbreakable, which is captivating. Daum’s voice and writing are spectacular and even if I wasn’t already a sucker for essay collections, I would highly recommend it. And again, Bad Feminist, my favorite book of the year and a must-read for everyone.

And although I’m not reading many books, I still tend to read about books, which is almost like the same thing right? Okay maybe not. Here’s my new favorite book site, The Oyster Review, which features posts like Choire Sicha’s “Everything you ever needed to know about the work of Ursula K. Le Guin and where to start.” And here’s Electric Literature on “Why 2014 Was the Year of the Essay.”

I watched a record tying thirteen movies in August, tied with June 2012. Perhaps next year I’ll really achieve in life and break that record. Dare to dream! Even though I sucked in a ton of films this year, I feel like I missed most of the good stuff. Excepting the Marvel blockbusters that I basically auto-A, my list of recommends boils down to Her, Le Passe, Edge of Tomorrow, 9-Man, Obvious Child, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Sure, Gone Girl and Boyhood were good too, but I admired the directors and behind-the-scenes more. Also, being in Taiwan, I think I missed a lot of the late arriving stuff like Whiplash, Nightcrawler, Dear White People, The One I Love, Inherent Vice, Citizenfour, and Wild. So there’s some serious catching up to do.

I think my favorite movie of 2014 was Her, which I saw on the fourth day of January, and it wasn’t even released this past year. Basically there wasn’t an overwhelming movie that just knocked my socks off in 2014. Maybe Edge of Tomorrow for sheer enjoyment? I pushed that on a lot of people this summer. Guess I’ll just leave movies behind with a recommendation for Arvin Chen’s two Taiwanese rom-coms, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow and Au Revoir Taipei. Chen is a Taiwanese-American director from the Bay who moved to Taiwan in 2001 and made Au Revoir Taipei despite not being fluent in Mandarin. Like what?! *Insert super jealous eyes* Anyway, here’s Au Revoir Taipei’s end credits library dance. Ugh, so cute.

Also, a note about TV shows, even though they aren’t counted in fiftyfifty.me because TV is eminently more consumable than movies or books. (But if you want to do fifyfify+PLUS for TV series, go for it.) This year I was all in on Sherlock S3, the phenomenon that was True Detective, GoT S4, Orange is the New Black S2, and of course, all three seasons of Deadwood, which vaulted into one of my top TV series of all time back in February. There’s a lot of great TV for me to still catch up on, namely The Americans and Transparent, but until I figure out this foreign VPN situation, I’m stuck without my trusty Netflix or HBO Go. Quelle horreur!

[Cross posted from jonyang.org]

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Everyone Loves a Comeback Kid?

January 10, 2015 in Books, Movies

comebackI begin this year with a confession.

I didn’t make it in 2014. I want to tell you I tried, that I was reading until the final hours of 2013, but I’m too lazy to lie to you. I realized I was in trouble sometime around mid-June, but I didn’t stop long enough to plan a strategy for a return to grace. Here I am, your shamed co-founder, admitting that I read all of 23 books this year and saw 38 movies. Those 50 new recipes I was going to cook? Got through 21 of them.

I would tell you about how I was on a plane every other week, but that would only give you the impression that I have no good excuses. So let’s just fast forward to that impression, shall we? Because it’s about on point.

Favorite book discoveries of 2014:

I Suck at Girls by Justin Halprin (the guy who created Sh*t My Dad Says) – the first time I believe I’ve publicly snorted while reading and laughing.

Calling Dr. Laura (Nicole Georges) – a reminder of how powerful graphic novels can be. And a great title.

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside (Kelly Cutrone) – a nonfiction book that makes you fairly sure you can kick a little ass before you put it down

(My) best movies seen in 2014:

The Book Thief – Exactly twice in my life have I said the movie lived up to the book. The first was The Firm. Now, The Book Thief. One of the most creative and beautifully-written books I’ve read; I may have actually enjoyed the movie more. The opening scene is one of the most gorgeously shot I’ve seen in a film – ever.

August: Osage County – One look at the cast and you knew this would be powerful. I had no idea how funny and relatable it would be. Loved every minute of it; it felt like going to the theater.

I Give It A Year – Let it be said that I will watch any romantic comedy on Netflix. It’s an addiction, it’s openly acknowledged, and I understand that my lack of quality control must be addressed. However, this movie was one of my favorite finds of the year. So awkward, so perfect. Total sleeper find – I watched it a few times!

American Hustle – I’m always up for a good gangster or hustle flick. The absurd costumes and great acting made this one a favorite.

20 Feet From Stardom – A documentary (thank you, Netflix!) about background singers. The people whose voices have powered the back sound for our favorite stars. Absolutely fascinating, whether or not you’re a music aficionado. If you are, you will absolutely love it.

Wolf of Wall Street – See gangster/hustle comment above.

Fab 5 – This was an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary. I am now officially obsessed with this series. This particular installation covers the Fab 5 basketball team at University of Michigan, their effect on hip hop culture, and more. Riveting, can’t believe it took me this long to watch it.

Finding Fanny – Randomly saw this Indian film (a major release, in English), which probably only had limited distribution in the US. Absolutely charming, beautiful writing, wonderful acting. The story of an older man who goes on a road trip with a motley crew to track down his childhood love.

Parent Trap & Freaky Friday – This year I had a reckoning with the youthful acting days of one Lindsay Lohan. I found out that not only did I like, but I absolutely loved her sassy personality and adult delivery. While it’s hard to replace a childhood favorite like Parent Trap, the remake was actually pretty great and I found myself as fascinated with the split screens as I was back in the 80s when I first saw Hayley Mills play the role. I went on a Lindsay Lohan bender at the end of the year, but it was cheerful and wonderful and I will not take that back!!

Looking forward, in 2015 I’m hoping to step out of my comfort zone with books a bit more. I’m beginning my first read of the year with a recommendation – a book my mom picked up at the local bookstore Warwick’s, and hasn’t even read herself. This goes against my reading protocol, where books are heavily weighted and researched before I dive in. I tore through the first fifty pages of Crazy Rich Asians and can’t wait to get back to it. Stay tuned.

This year I will NOT be taking on a third “50” category (last year: recipes). If I couldn’t get through a basic 50/50 last year, who am I to add to the challenge, really?

Stay tuned for more updates on what I’ve consumed and I’ll look forward to yours, too.

Here’s to 2015: The Year of the Comeback Kid.

- Lilly

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Welcome to 2015, and now with buddies!

December 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

fiftyfifty-bandwagonIt’s our fourth year of fiftyfifty.me! Four!?! You know what that means right? After adding +PLUS last year, we’re ready for another twist… Yes, introducing fiftyfifty.me with a buddy! Officially we’ll call it fiftyfifty+BUDDY, or something like that.

What that means is that now you can split your 100 books and 100 movies with a friend. Team up with someone, and encourage each other to read and watch more! (Rumors are that we came up with this grand idea because neither Lilly nor Jon crossed the finish line last year…) We’re still here to say that fiftyfifty.me should be a true challenge, but maybe you’ll want to find a partner and stay accountable to each other. There’s no pressure like peer pressure right?

Welcome back to all our returnees and hello all you gorgeous new people! Come to the forums to say “hi” and sign up with a friend for fiftyfifty.me +BUDDY.

Introducing fiftyfifty.me +BUDDY
We’re still doing majors and minors, you can still do +PLUS, but this year we’re still encouraging people to interact with each other, but we’re also adding another wrinkle . Yes, you can add a friend to the challenge and team up! That means between the two of you, you’ll split up 100 movies and 100 books. One hundred! Maybe you can split the challenge up, like you would call out hands in spades. “I’ll do thirty movies and sixty books, you do seventy and forty. Deal?” So yeah, 2015, it’s the year of sharing!

Our Twitter is @fiftyfiftyme and email us if you need anything! Have a great start to 2015!

Things To Do:

  1. Register for the fiftyfifty.me site if you haven’t already. Introduce yourself on the Community topic page if you like!
  2. Sign up for our mailing list, which will be the easiest way for us to communicate with you.
  3. Read, watch, record what you’re consuming and share away (leave a link in the comments below for your blog/Pinterest/etc if you like)! And if you want to guest post on fiftyfifty.me, we’d love it. Just contact us!
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Guest: Chapters & Scenes

September 18, 2014 in Guest

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 1.47.31 PM (2)We’re a family of four: dad, mom, and two girls aged 12 and 9 doing the fiftyfifty.me challenge for the first time. Brigette thought she’d feel less guilty about taking time for herself to read if everyone else was participating, so it began. We figured if we each read one book and watched one film each week, we could finish with minimal problems.

Brigette also thought that documenting the whole thing on our blog Chapters & Scenes would be fun, motivating and start conversations with like-minded people. We all enjoyed a new-found joy in our shared love of reading. We would sit around and discuss them at every meal. We even decided to pick one author to share. We chose Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler. Pete read Adverbs, Brigette read Why We Broke Up and the girls read The Series Of Unfortunate Events.

At first, the documenting of our progress through reviews was fun and a novel experiment. We regularly posted things on Facebook and Twitter, made a Pinterest board for everything we read and watched and made playlists for both books and films. But about halfway through the year, everyone started to feel like it was all too much work and not enough fun. Life started to get in the way of both Pete and Brigette’s reading progress and in order to catch up, we spent less and less time as a family and less and less time loving reading books and watching films.

Now, with a really big move on the horizon (read: lots of disruption and stress), we made the decision to reduce our blog posts so that we can spend more time enjoying the challenge. We still intend to meet our goal, but we’re taking the advice on this website and not spending a bunch of time documenting it on a blog.

We have started asking friends and family to guest post so that we can still put content on the blog, but it doesn’t all have to come from us. We’d love to offer our blog as a platform for fellow fiftyfifty.me participants to use when they have that one book or film they just have to shout out to the world about. So far we’ve read a combined 137 books and watched a combined 61 films. Pete’s already realized that he won’t be able to keep this up for another year, so we might just combine our efforts next year.

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Stuff I’ve Been Consuming: Jan – Aug 2014

August 22, 2014 in Books, Movies

 

Who’s responsible for the non-updates on fiftyfifty.me?! Oh wait, me. Whoops. Well, let’s take a half year-ish look at what’s been going on. As of late August, the numbers look good…on the movie side. It’s 60 movies and 12 books for me so far. Clearly I have a lot of books ahead of me, but the good news is that I’m definitely one hundred percent gonna make it this year. I made a blood pact with Susie and Lilly that we were all gonna do it this year. I mean, Susie’s even throwing in fifty new tangible skills. That’s impressive!

First recommendation: Saga Vol.1, which is a graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. I wrote earlier that “Saga is like a master class in cliffhangers” and that’s definitely true. The third volume came out in March and I’m eagerly waiting for the rest to follow. Second recommend: If you’re into animals and philosophy, John Berger’s Why Look at Animals? is a slim collection of essays exploring the relationship between man and beast is a must-read.

As for old time classics, I did give The Giver a read-through before watching the movie, and I must say that I was impressed. I had mistakenly written The Giver off for years because I thought it was something like The Secret. Instead, it’s the progenitor of YA dystopian and I was super impressed with how efficiently and effortlessly Lois Lowry builds her world. It puts a lot of the modern stuff to shame. I wouldn’t say The Giver is a great book, but I can understand how it might have been amazing back in the day. The classic that I did like quite a bit was Katherine Paterson’s Jacob Who I Have Loved, featuring finicky/plucky protagonist Sara Louise, who is trying to escape from the shadow of her perfect twin sister.

And I’m really giving The Goldfinch a go, because everyone said it’s amazing, and I want to love it too, but it’s not really working for me for some reason.

Now let’s take a look at movies. I give pretty much all Marvel films a sterling grade, so you’ll have to excuse me there. I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy at least twice each. Overall it’s been a pretty weak movie year, and it’s possible that Her, which came out last year but I only saw in January, will end up being my favorite film of the year. I saw pretty much all the summer “blockbusters,” and can only recommend Edge of Tomorrow and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Tom Cruise still has it (he’s never lost it, if you ask me) and the more buff Emily Blunt in my life the better. As for How to Train Your Dragon 2, it’s easily the most fun movie I’ve had in a movie theater in 2014. If you loved the first one, this is even better. Dragons, dragons, always more dragons!

For the quieter stuff, try out Margin Call, a tense thriller about the 2008 financial crash, Le Passe from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (he made 2011’s incredible A Separation), and the charming and hilarious Obvious Child. I had semi-mixed feelings about Boyhood, but I’m certain Richard Linklater is a genius so it’s impossible not to give it high marks. And please keep a special eye out for my friend Ursula’s documentary, 9-Man, which focuses on a volleyball-like streetball game that has flourished exclusively in Chinatowns.

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Podcast: Episode 004

March 4, 2014 in Podcast

5050-boxers

Our special guest this episode, Susie (Boygirlparty), did all of the visuals for our site and we’re indebted to her forever and ever. We’ve been trying to grab her in-between all her extensive books/movies consuming to come podcast with us. Listen along as Lilly and I chat with Susie about how our new year is starting off, if we prefer to watch movies alone or with people, and then some recommendations plus raising the possibility of teaming up next year to complete challenges! [25:11 mins]


Download fiftyfifty.me Episode 04 | (Direct MP3 link)

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Guest: A Challenge Newbie!

February 21, 2014 in Books, Guest, Movies

A guest post from Melissa, an artist, illustrator, and maker from Michigan! Visit her portfolio at www.melissadettloff.com (pssst don’t miss her blog) and say hello on Twitter @melissadettloff. Thanks Melissa!

This is my first year participating in fiftyfifty.me! For the last four years I’ve kept track of what I read and want to read on my Goodreads, and when I got an email from Goodreads noting the pathetic number of books I read in 2013, I decided to commit to reading fifty books this year. And watching fifty movies, though admittedly I’m way more interested in the book part than the movie part.

My goal is to read at least four books a month. I’m not following a theme or a list, but reading whatever I’m in the mood for, whatever I’m interested in knowing more about, and books recommended by friends. My to-read list is usually pretty long, so I’m not too worried about running out of potential things to read.

It’s the second week of February and I’m on my eleventh book : Gulp by Mary Roach. A friend told me about this one and it sounded really interesting. This year I’ve also read a couple of career guidance books (including the famed What Color Is Your Parachute? one), McSweeney’s Quarterly Concerns #43 and #44, and some art/illustrated books (Cola Madnes by Gary Panter, My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt, and Find & Keep by Beci Orpin). A friend recommended The Circle by Dave Eggers and I read that.

I’ve been keeping track of my books-read in a notebook, and writing down whatever comes to mind after finishing the book and reflecting on what stood out about it. I wrote 2.5 pages of notes about The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell.

Yesterday I watched my sixth movie of the year, Alfred Hitchcock’s silent comedy film Champagne, which was recently restored and was playing at the Detroit Film Theater with a live piano player. Lest you think I am a fancy film person, the night before that, I watched Predator 2 (and I know according to fiftyfifty.me rules I can’t count all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000s I watch for the hundredth time).

Though some of what I’ve read so far is on the lighter side, I am definitely reading (and watching) more than I normally would thanks to the fiftyfifty.me challenge. And I’m keeping track of it, digesting it, which feels important, too.

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The Year I Didn’t Scramble

January 28, 2014 in Articles

cat-mirrorToday’s post is about this year. I know 2014 has barely gotten off to a start, but I’m here to tell you, to publicly declare, that in 2014 I will NOT spend December scrambling to accomplish 50/50! I won’t have it!

To that effect, we’re three weeks in to the year and I’ve read two books and am part way through a couple more, and I’ve seen six movies. I’m roaring to go. Before this whole fiftyfifty.me thing started, I would have rolled my eyes if you told me I’d voluntarily see six movies in such a short timespan. And yet, here we are. Fiftyfifty.me changes people.

As I start my third year, I’m determined to complete a winning streak. I’m taking a few key points with me on my journey:

1) Value Your Own Time
I still watch long movies or read long books, but if I’m not enjoying it, I put it down. In previous years, I’ve podcasted about “molasses reads”, books that just wouldn’t end. No more. I barely have enough time to relax at the end of the day, so you bet it’s going to be with something I actually enjoy. As the great Sara Nelson said, So Many Books, So Little Time.

2) Get Addicted
I used to read things in the order I felt I was supposed to. Now if I find a topic that interests me, I roll with it. Lately I’ve been obsessed with spy things. The end of fiftyfifty.me saw me watching Skyfall (James Bond) and The Italian Job and other heist movies, and then I continued my spy theme with The Expats, my first book this year. The point is, if you find a topic you like, indulge in it. Fuel the fire. You’ll have fun – and as it turns out, you’ll accomplish more because you’re so stoked on the topic.

3) Try Something New
The more I step out of my comfort zone, the more I find to like. I think part of the stagnation in previous years had to do with me reading the same old same old (which for me is a steady diet of heavy international literary fiction, celebrity trash bios, and chick lit – you can’t say the girl ain’t got range). Lately I’m picking up books I never would have thought to (last year’s poetry bender, for example) and watching documentaries on topics I know nothing about, and I’m feeling smarter by the minute.

Looking forward to hearing how you’re all doing with your fiftyfifty.me, and any 50/50-related resolutions you might have. And since I’m on that spy bender I mentioned before, if you have suggestions, send them my way!

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2014 Welcome, and Introducing +PLUS

January 15, 2014 in Site

fiftyfifty-bandwagon

Welcome to our third year of fiftyfifty.me. Can you believe it? Three years! That means for some of us we’ve booked 100 books and 100 movies since 2011. Ahem, “some of us.” No worries though, as this challenge is about challenging ourselves to consume more than we normally would. A book and a movie per week may seem daunting but we’ve been so happy with the people who have undertaken our challenge. This year we vow to do a better job of connecting people, maintaining the site, and um, achieving our goals. So come to the forums to say “hi” and sign up for another year of the fiftyfifty.me challenge.

Introducing fiftyfifty.me+PLUS
We’re still doing majors and minors, we’re still encouraging people to interact with each other, but we’re also adding a new wrinkle for this year. Some Overachievers have already been adding on to their fiftyfifty.me challenges so let’s make it official: fiftyfifty+PLUS, meaning you’re going to try to read fifty books, watch fifty movies, and do fifty of something else. Whoa! Some people have chosen music albums, some people are going for graphic novels, Lilly is doing her +Plus on recipes. Whatever you want! Get creative and tell us what you’re up to. Again, our Twitter is @fiftyfiftyme and email us if you like! Have a great start to 2014!

Things To Do:

  1. Register for the fiftyfifty.me site if you haven’t already. Introduce yourself on the Community topic page if you like!
  2. Sign up for our mailing list, which will be the easiest way for us to communicate with you.
  3. Read, watch, record what you’re consuming and share away (leave a link in the comments below for your blog/Pinterest/etc if you like)! And if you want to guest post on fiftyfifty.me, we’d love it. Just contact us!
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Podcast: Episode 003

December 31, 2013 in Podcast

5050-boxers

Here with our third, and final, podcast of the year, Lilly and Jon go over their 2013 challenge results. Namely “Will they finish or won’t they?!” Also, they brainstorm some ideas and talk about hopes and dreams for next year’s fifty books and fifty movies. Thanks to everyone for joining us for another amazing year of books and movies! [18:12 min]


Download fiftyfifty.me Episode 03 | (Direct MP3 link)