Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trannyshack Kiss-Off

Haven't had a chance to post this until today, since I've been busy with the new gig, but here was a hilarious Saturday night out last weekend.

I accompanied a small gang of friends to the final edition of Trannyshack, a long-running San Francisco drag show. After running every week for the last 12 years, it was finally shutting down so that its creator and emcee (the witty and fashionable Heklina) can take a break. Saturday night's final show was billed as something of an all-star reunion, featuring many past winners of the show's celebrated Tranny-of-the-Year Award.

To my delight, the performances were more than just entertaining (though they were that, too) -- some were downright inspired. One act condensed the entire history of Madonna into a riotous 10-minute medley; a gal named Ana Matronic wowed the huge crowd with a sultry cabaret act; and the biologically-female Faux-Nique did a transvestite-ballet performance entirely en pointe in ballet shoes.

Having never before experienced San Francisco drag cabaret, I was very impressed. And, of course, I came away with a souvenir Trannyshack t-shirt, which I'm sure will go over well at my new office when I wear it this coming Friday.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Baseball Geekout Day

This week I had no job, no boss, nowhere to be and nothing to do -- which is exactly what I needed. Not starting at EA until Monday, it was time for an extended holiday of the mind, which could only mean one geekout.

So on Thursday, I got together with the illustrious Shawn Roberts, my former colleague at Future, and himself a noted baseball geek. The both of us having the day to waste, we hatched a two-part plan that we immediately entitled Baseball Geekout Day.

Part One: Ballgame. Meet up at Telephone Conglomerate Park to take in an early-afternoon Giants-Marlins game. Shawn scored a pair of sweet lower-box tickets.

Part Two: Strat-o-Matic Duel. Strat-o-Matic is a beyond-nerdy tabletop baseball game played entirely with statistical charts and dice. Shawn, like me, has had a lifelong obsession with the statistical universe surrounding the game of baseball, and, like me, has had a lifelong interest in stats-based tabletop simulations. It's a good thing he and I have other qualities, because if women saw us playing Strat-o-Matic Baseball, we'd be off their "boyfriend radar" forever.

After taking in a surprisingly entertaining ballgame, the two of us headed into ACME Chophouse, the fancy restaurant located inside the Giants stadium. We spread out our Strat-o-Matic charts all over the table, and out came a handful of dice (included the Holy Grail of nerdness -- a 20-sided die). And we played! While our servers scrunched up their faces in total confusion, we played a 2004 Athletics vs. 2004 Red Sox contest (Shawn seeing his A's through to a thrilling 6-4 victory), and then we made it a time-warping double-header by playing a 2001 Giants vs. 2001 A's matchup. (I'm pleased to say I evened the score, winning the second game 4-0 behind a sensational eight-inning performance from Jason Schmidt, who used to be good in 2001 but sucks eggs now.)

Shawn and I have always been like-minded comrades on the business front, and now that we're no longer co-workers, our true inner spaz can finally come out and "speak its name."

I declared this a highly successful Baseball Geekout Day and hopefully we can make time for more.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Buddha Jones reunion

Been a while since my last post, but I've been crazy-busy on some exciting new things -- major announcements soon if you haven't heard them already.

In the meantime, I've been making time for some fun diversions, not the least of which was a get-together with Dave Rees and Jeremy Williams, the two talented musicians who joined me in my first band, Buddha Jones. Back in 2000 -- before the Dubya years, can you believe it? -- we recorded a bunch of cute little songs and pressed an album that embarrasses me to this very day.

While not exactly a band that lit the world on fire -- our only performance was a party at Jeremy's house -- Buddha Jones was great fun for us and an educational first step in my own journey toward what would eventually be a full-scale, gig-playing rock band.

So it was great to get Dave and Jeremy back in a room for an afternoon to mess around with guitars, bass, a drum kit, and a digital four-track recorder. The illustrious Mr. Rees (pictured above) brings the mad guitar chops, Jeremy the percussion powers, while I contribute only the slightest hint of musical ability and a happy talent for the occasional catchy hook.

In the span of a few hours, we recorded:

An R&B "I wanna sex you up" type crooner. Hot stuff -- it even includes the line, "I love you girl, and wanna do you right." High hilarity, especially since I managed to more-or-less approximate the generic basso profundo pimp voice that makes those songs such enduring classics.

The frame for a pop-punk anthem. By "frame" I mean the chords and arrangement for a song, with placeholder vocal-gobbledygook in place of final lyrics. It's not exactly Green Day, but there's a hook there and a cool little tune if we ever return to it in earnest.

A hip-hop cover of The Roots' "Respond/React": What's this? An R&B pimpin' song and a cover of a rap classic? What can I say, we must have been in a mood to "keep it real." Real white, that is.

And, last but not least: A bona fide, nicely arranged acoustic folk-rock song with lyrics ready to go as soon as I can make time to get over to Jeremy's studio and record them. Buddha Jones back from the grave? I doubt it, but a rockin' fun Sunday in any case.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Steve Jobs makes a ding in the universe

When he was a young man and Apple was still just finding its legs, Steve Jobs told a TV reporter: "I want to make a ding in the universe." And you know what? He has.

This morning I made my way to my local San Francisco Apple store at 7:45 AM and found myself seventh in line to pick up a new iPhone. An hour later, I was the gleeful owner of a 3G iPhone with 16 gigs of memory. The ultimate fetish-totem of consumer electronics was at long last my own.

I have good friends who waited several hours in line to pick up an iPhone on the day of its release. (Jeremy, I'm looking at you.) I personally couldn't quite work up the energy to wait in a three-hour line at the mall on a Saturday, so I've been putting off my instant gratification and biding my time to strike when the lines might be a bit more manageable. Instinct said that today was the day, and sure enough, my wait was a mere 30 minutes.

I have to hand it to Mr. Jobs: there is surprise and delight waiting around every corner of the iPhone experience, and Apple has much to teach us about how companies can fulfill basic needs of their consumers (let's face it, we all need a cell phone) while "wow"-ing us with the extras we never knew we wanted.

Take, for example, the Major League Baseball application for the iPhone. For a mere $10, I can now receive video highlights of all baseball games minutes after the plays occur. My cellphone now connects me to the wide world of baseball in real-time, with video snippets of the important plays as they happen. That's all I've ever asked of the future: baseball highlights in real-time on my phone, wherever I am in the world. Forget flying cars, forget world peace, all I really want is video highlights of the Rangers-Indians game as they happen. Thank you, Apple!

(Here's my favorite story about Steve Jobs: after Apple fired him the first time around, he went to Italy, rented a bicycle, and spent two weeks pedaling around the hills of Tuscany. He had no hotels...he slept on hillsides, looking up at the stars at night. Just thinking; dreaming up his next move. Two weeks of aimless bicycling and sleeping under stars. There's a lesson to be learned there.)

Added bonus of iPhone ownership: the iPhone has a high-res camera in it, so the quality of my blog photos should be improving significantly. Sweetness!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Karen Eng in America

Twelve years ago, in my first magazine job at PC Games, I became great friends with the estimable Karen Eng. Essayist, book editor, zine mogul, and currently writer for the United Nations Environment Programme, Karen was one of the first friends I made in the magazine industry. She's been distant for years, living in South America and now England, but she made a rare cameo in the Bay Area this week and I was lucky enough to grab a short visit with her in Berkeley today.

She and husband Ian have not aged a day in 12 years, which is deeply unfair when people like me have aged 20 years in the same timespan. But it couldn't happen to nicer folks, and their toddler Xoxo is a delightful-looking chip off the block. (I've never known the pronunciation of the name's "Zozo." Maybe the kid will settle on "Pat" or something like that.)

Lots of great stories about Karen, but here's one that speaks volumes about her unique sense of humor. She had this great gag that she used to employ when we'd be driving to lunch or somewhere. I'd be at the wheel, Karen would be in the passenger seat, and when a car would pull up next to us at a red light, if it was a guy driving the other car he would inevitably look in at Karen. Whereupon she would freeze rigidly and assume the caricatured pose of a sex doll -- eyes wide open, mouth agape in an exaggerated "O," and arms straight out like Frankenstein. The reactions of the other drivers were pretty priceless.

It was great to see two old friends, and their tiny new addition. (I've known Ian the same 12 years, as they've been together the whole way -- who says true love is dead?) It's also good to know that one of my writer friends is actually putting her talents to world-saving use, for the UN of all places. Good on you, Karen -- and great to see you again.