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2018 in Review

Welp, another year in the books. Posting this a little late after recovering from a whirlwind trip through India and Asia in January—more about that later (i.e. probably in 2019’s review 😅)—but I’m certainly not gonna pass up the opportunity to celebrate what turned out to be a great year indeed. It’s insane to think that this decade is almost over, that I’ve been living in New York for so long etc. etc. but time don’t stop so let’s get on to the things! I’ll do a separate post for 2018’s Top Movie rankings but otherwise here are some of my favorite things from 2018:

Celebrating Anthony’s birthday at least three times in January, the treasure trove of science fiction artifacts in the Museum of Pop in Seattle, the croissants at Arsicault Bakery in Scott’s neighborhood in San Francisco, the single burrito I had at La Taqueria this year, Alex and Amy’s breakfast wedding in Pasadena, packing up the Crystal Lake house with my family, seeing “In the Heights” at Prairie Ridge, driving an actual bulldozer in Vegas at Kishan’s bachelor party, performing best man duties at Kishan and Elizabeth’s picturesque Sedona wedding, the legacy of Anthony Bourdain, my three-day solo retreat at Bard with an extra large pizza, the Far Rockaway beach trip with Ashleigh and Mackenzie and crew, any visit to Spicy Village and/or the Up Stairs Bar with Jing, every afternoon or evening spent at the beautiful new Domino Park, streaming play-throughs of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and the Overcooked! games with Ben, Key Bar drinks with Son, every Ghibli Fest or MoMA movie screening I made it to, Michael Swanwick asking for a round of memorial applause for Gardner Dozois at his KGB reading, the brief and wondrous life of trivia nights at Golden Years, our second straight year of Honey Deuce cocktails at the U.S. Open, seeing the column of science fiction authors’ autographs at Powell’s Books in Portland, attending the New York premieres of “Eighth Grade” and “Mid90s” with Jenny, any sandwich from Faicco’s, the surreal moment when I found myself doing tequila shots with a well-known author and actress, dinners at Sushi Noz and Decoy with Felicia, any karaoke or movie night with the Stanford writer crew, any dive bar in the Lower East Side, new Thanksgiving traditions in Philadelphia with Val, Thomas, Clarissa and Max (including my first Escape Room experience), the incredible stagecraft and special effects of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” Christmas at Mom and Dad’s new SoCal house with Aunt Crystal,

Olivia Colman in “The Favourite,” Lana Condor in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Steven Yuen in “Burning,” Zoey Deutch in “Set It Up,” Michelle Yeoh and Awkwafina in “Crazy Rich Asians,” Raffey Cassidy in “Vox Lux”, the power of croquettes in “Shoplifters”, Michael B. Jordan and nearly everything else about “Black Panther,” Carrie Mulligan in “Wild Life,” Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed,” Cynthia Erivo in “Bad Times at the El Royale,” Viola Davis in “Widows,” the score for “First Man,” the score for “Annihilation,” the first half hour of “Sorry to Bother You,” the helicopter crash finale in “Mission: Impossible Fallout,”

the “Metalhead” episode of “Black Mirror,” Brian Tyree Henry and Lakeith Stanfield and all of “Atlanta” season 2, Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh in “Killing Eve,” most of “The Haunting of Hill House,” the workman-like precision of “Better Call Saul,” the short episode lengths of Sam Esmail’s “Homecoming,” the “Diner Lobster” sketch from SNL, “Aggretsuko,”

“What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah, “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee, any story by Karen Joy Fowler, “Triumph of the City” by Edward Glaeser, “Thrill Me”
by Benjamin Percy, “Stories of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang, “The Gone World” by Tom Sweterlitsch, the short stories of Gene Wolfe, this piece on how to be an artist by Jerry Saltz,

“Delicate” by Taylor Swift, “God’s Plan” by Drake, “Lost in Japan” by Shawn Mendes, Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video, “Nobody” by Mitski, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (you know why), this Pomplamoose cover of “Make Me Feel,” “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande,

this episode of “The Daily” about North and South Korea, The Dave Chang Show, the Cast Royale podcast, every postgame show of the newly renamed Chicago Audible podcast, the Coin Talk podcast, the Robin Hood app, Swift and Node.js courses on Udemy, working afternoons at any Spacious location,

Tom Brady’s “Tom Vs. Time” series on Facebook Watch, Doug Pederson’s play calling and the Philly Special in Super Bowl LII, this Cubs walk-off grand slam, any Chicago Bears play with Khalil Mack on the field, jet sweeps with Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen and any other crazy offensive formation, any pass not overthrown by Mitchell Trubisky, Club Dub, Matt Nagy, Matt Nagy, Matt Nagy.

2015 in Review

My favorite product I bought last year was a dustbuster. No joke. And in a way, wasn’t the majority of 2015 about busting the dust of life? I wrote the most words, wrote the most code, took the most flights, took the most vacation and spent the most time in my hometown of my adult life. I went to Disneyland for the first time in two decades. I went to a feminist science fiction convention. I went to PAX in Seattle. I became an HBO subscriber. I went house-hunting in San Diego. I built a new computer in real life, and time machines in my writing life.

Still, time moves on. I’ve only managed to post a Best Of list two out of the past four years so let’s not get too precious about it. Here are some of my favorite things I remember from the year that was 2015:

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, the soundtrack of It Follows, Bill Hader and LeBron James in Trainwreck, anything and everything Amy Schumer,

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2013 in Review

Time is becoming downright relentless. One minute you’re compiling your list of favorite things from 2012, polishing it off, thinking it might even look fashionably forward to release the thing a few weeks after 2013 has begun and before you know it suddenly it’s 2014. That’s right, kids, that best of 2012 post never got published.

So to nip this thing in the bud of 2014 I present to you my favorite things from 2013 (that I’ve remembered in the past 48 hours):

Literally everything about Spike Jonze’s Her, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha, Amy Adams in anything, anything put out by Annapurna Pictures, the lighting and music of Inside Llewyn Davis, those first two long takes that open Before Midnight,

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Podcast Review: This Week in Startups

This Week in Startups

The opening title card of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid reads, “Most of what follows is true.”  The same could be said for the content of entrepreneur Jason Calacanis’s weekly video/audio podcast, This Week in Startups (or TWiST, as aggressively abbreviated throughout the show).  Calacanis’s contract with his audience is that he will always speak his mind, and he will usually (but not always) be right.

Based on the episodes I’ve seen thus far, it’s hard to disagree.  In this post-postmodern age of self promotion, where every individual is a self-branded social marketing expert (expert in the marketing of ME), a camera can be placed in front of anyone. The results are hit or miss.  TWiST succeeds primarily through its honesty: it’s clear that every opinion and anecdote the host provides is passionate, unrehearsed, and (as promised) usually insightful.  The show’s unvarnished production values lend to this authenticity — for a podcast that actually has sponsors and claims to run in the black, there’s a remarkably consistent lack of visible producing involved: transitions to phone callers, video and sound cues are nearly always muffed, and expletives are rarely edited out despite references to a human tape logger that exists solely for this purpose.  Where this comes in most unwieldy is in each show’s running length: sessions can range from a little over an hour to just over two and a half hours.  There’s something to admire in the sheer audacity of this fact, but on the whole one senses the same content could be delivered in half the time; sometimes less really is the same.

Episode 13 features many of the show’s recurring segments: there’s “Ask Jason,”  reminiscent of the lightning round on Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” where entrepreneurs call in to get Calacanis’s thoughts on their ideas; an interview with a featured entrepreneur (in this case Matt Mickiewicz, founder of SitePoint and 99designs); a segment called “The News,” where again Calacanis provides his off-the-cuff reactions to tech news stories; “The Deadpool,” where recently destructed startups are announced; and “Homework,” which appears to be an audio bookclub/marketing segment for Audible.com.

Calacanis’s personality and his ability to tell an engaging story are clearly the driving force behind the show — tangents are prone to superfluous name-dropping or backdoor bragging, but they’re usually more entertaining than not, ranging from a hilarious gift for hyperbole (“An iPhone costs what now, seventy thousand dollars a month?”) to comically vicious vendettas (pity Jimmy Wales, who had the poor misfortune to launch a competing product to Calacanis’s own Mahalo).  Calacanis’s competitive East Coast personality is a surprisingly endearing love-hate proposition, though it’s hard to envision him occupying the same room as a Mark Cuban, one of his current investors.  (For a good proxy, check out Episode 14 for some fascinating repartee between Calacanis and none other than Michael Arrington.)

Overall, the show could use the general tightening up that comes with practice.  One hopes that Calacanis will eventually be able to quarterback the episodes to a more consistent length and content, both live and in the editing room.  Guest interviews can probably follow a more standard template — perhaps prototypical of this space, Matt Mickiewicz proves an amiable but somewhat reticent fellow, requiring Calacanis to shoulder most of the work.  The number of segments could also be cut or follow a rotating schedule.

Still, Calacanis’s heart is in the right place — his fierce desire to win, his belief in the middle class work ethic and his numerous marketing ploys to boost interest and traffic for himself and his sponsors — are all worthy of admiration.  There’s also a generosity of spirit that can’t be faked; even in his harsher criticisms of pitches (during a new “Shark Tank” segment, where callers literally pitch their startup ideas to get feedback) it’s clear that he’s willing to stay open-minded and encouraging.

There’s no telling how long this train ride will last, but This Week in Startups would do well to stay true to its core passion and truths — it offers a fascinating viewpoint on the current zeitgeist of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.