Single Guy Says, ‘Hello Moto’

I’m a big techie, and I love collecting gadgets. Often times for me, the more gimmicky the better. I’m always excited by the newest inventions and innovations. I’m usually what you would call an ‘early adopter’, meaning you don’t have to try too hard to convince me VR Fail.gifto start using (or ‘adopt’) a new product or technology. Now obviously that sometimes doesn’t work out so well. I remember being a pretty broke college student with only a part-time job but saving enough to buy the PlayStation Move. It was supposed to be the future of gaming, with a camera that would track your movements and make you feel like you were actually doing the actions in the game. I think I used it at most, five or six times. No games ever really committed to fully integrating the controller into their play style, and it was just sort of an extra add-on that sometimes you could play for fifteen minutes at a time. Other times though, it’s been great, and I’ve enjoyed the luxury of some truly advanced and exciting innovations. Like the PlayStation VR. The virtual reality headset for the PS4 that cost as much as the system itself. It was a pricey gamble, but it totally worked out. There are PS VR exclusive games that you can only enjoy with the headset, and more and more developers are enthusiastically embracing the technology to make even more in the future.

This time, I’m actually a generation late to the party, but I just couldn’t resist any longer. Between the commercials with the bright colors and all the cool gadgets, plus my really needing to replace my smartphone, I decided to buy the second generation Motorola Moto Z2 Play with all its Moto mod glory. If you’ve seen the commercials for these, you’d know that the big selling point of this particular line of phones are the ‘Moto mods’. Accessories you can attach to the phone via magnets and gold pin connectors to add powerful features. So yes, this will be a very techy, very geeky, review.

Moto Z2 Play.png

The Phone: The phone itself is already pretty impressive. First let’s talk about the physical body of the phone. I don’t know why everyone is pushing phones to become slimmer and slimmer, but yes this phone is impressively thin. For me, while impressive, it isn’t a desirable trait. I kind of would like a phone that feels secure and comfortable in my hand. I’m always extra delicate when holding this because it’s so slim and so light. That it can pack so much power and speed and life into a thin package is great for the technological aspect, but comfort wise I just need more heft. The screen is incredibly vibrant with bright colors and stark contrast. It has voice and fingerprint features for security and ease of access. 12 MP built-in camera, full day (30 hour) battery life, 64 GB of memory and 4 GB of RAM means it is fast and can handle multiple processes at once. Alone, it’s a quality phone, with all the features and capabilities you’d expect. The Z2 Play on its own could be a pretty impressive mid-level phone, but obviously the real value comes with what you can further do with it with the right mods.

Moto Mods

The Mods: This is the entirely new and completely unique component of the Moto Z mod phones. Stand-alone devices that attach to your phone for extra features. Now you do have to buy these separately, which can very quickly begin to rack up the cost, but all the mods are backwards compatible so even as new mods are released and sold, you can rest assured they will always work with your phone. I actually had a chance to speak with a Motorola representative in-person, and he assured me that the mods would be backwards compatible with phones for up to three generations. Apple outdates your phone within six months. In 2018 Motorola plans on releasing even more mods, and they even have grant programs for developers who have new and interesting prospects so they can develop them and get them released and sold. Right now I have the JBL speaker mod, the Hasselblad camera, and the projector. I was actually pretty lucky in that I got the camera at 25% off, the projector for only $100, and the speaker was actually a free gift from the Moto rep. I’m very easily bribed. (He didn’t ask me to do this though, btw. Hahah.) The speaker can very easily fill an entire floor with booming sound. Bass is a little weak but unless you’re trying to start a rave, you should be fine. The camera is incredible. In fact from now on almost all my photos will be taken with the camera mod exclusively, very rarely using the built in camera. I love the camera’s true zoom capability, which lets me get quality up-close photos, as opposed to the distant ones a phone camera usually takes. The projector is surprisingly powerful, crisp, and clear. Though it advertises it as effective up to 70″, in a dark enough room you can easily do an entire wall. Or in my case, the ceiling. My Netflix and YouTube viewing game has changed completely. At night I connect my phone to my room’s Bluetooth speaker (told you I was techie), attach the projector, put the phone on the floor, and watch to my heart’s content on the while I lay in bed and the video is broadcast in crystal clear HD on my ceiling. I’m in the future, man.

Picard Blooper

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan. Some of the most important gadgets have been inspired by Star Trek episodes. Smartphones, tablets, even automatic sliding doors were all originally conceptualized in the Star Trek universe. Big screen TVs, ironically. I loved watching and marveling at Capt. Picard being able to walk up to a food replicator and order anything he wanted and have it materialized right in front of him. (Though usually it was nothing more than ‘Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.’) I imagined what it would feel like to be ripped apart at the molecular level and transported to distant planets. Fire a phaser. Walk in the holodeck. I love gadgets because they’re fun. And bottom line, that’s what this phone is. It’s fun. It’s Star Trek. It’s having a bunch of gadgets and getting to change them whenever you want. Is it the fastest, most powerful, most impressive phone? Probably not. Could I tell you about its operating system or its processor? No. It makes the calls and it has the beeps and whistles. Hell, I even have a Star Trek computer say ‘incoming transmission from Starfleet’ when I get an email and a Star Trek door chime when I receive a text. It’s a great phone that’s great fun to use and play with. It may not be the most advanced, but it’s certainly made me feel closer to living on the Enterprise.

Jerel says, ‘hello Moto’.

Single Guy Does Music Mondays: ‘Watch’ by Milk & Bone

Milk and Bone

This week’s Music Monday selection is Milk & Bone’s song Watch. I love to listen to WFUV college radio because it gives me so many opportunities to discover new music from relatively unknown artists. It’s where I discovered Ceol na nGael (music of the Irish) and now I listen to that every Sunday afternoon. WFUV is also where I first heard Milk & Bone, a Canadian electropop duo who are francophiles but write and record in English. Because most of their friends and connections were also primarily French-speaking, they relied on things like Soundcloud and college radio to get their name and music out there. That’s why I love listening to radio stations that are more than just top 40 or classic songs. As WFUV’s motto goes, ‘music discovery starts here’. There’s a whole planet of I’m sure talented and as yet undiscovered artists out there, so it’s great we have any opportunity to discover and listen to them. Hope this music helps your Monday go by!

Watch

-Milk & Bone
Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch

I see your eyes
I see them wandering through the room
But can’t you see I’m right in front of you
You claim that I should only be holding your hand
But there is one thing I think you don’t understand

Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch

You know I adore the night
But I’m not one to pick a fight
Please believe me when I say
That I’ll come home every day

Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch
Darling, I’m not the one to watch

Single Guy Says, ‘Cheers’

Cheers.jpg

Growing up, Cheers was a regular staple on Nick at Nite and TV Land. I used to like watching old shows like Wonder Years, Happy Days, and I Love Lucy. My favorite was probably Three’s Company. Maybe because it was a bit more ‘adult’ to me, being centered around a bar and with all these adults drinking and talking about their problems, but I never really got into Cheers. But just like a lot of those old shows, damn if they didn’t have a really catchy song, and that always stuck with me.

Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

I may have not gotten into the story or the show, but I definitely understood the message of that theme song. And I was thinking about that tonight, as I was digging into my sushi at my favorite go-to sushi bar (fingers, no chopsticks, and always fish side down when dipping into the soy sauce), while enjoying a beer from my favorite go-to small craft brewery, knowing that the next day after an early morning archery practice I’d be stopping by my favorite go-to bubble tea place for a treat. And  I was thinking to myself in-between bites, why do I go to these particular places?

MS Sushi Seaweed Salad

It’s no big secret that I am a huge food enthusiast. In fact I’m so enthusiastic about food I seem to carry it around with me everywhere I go…right around the hips and stomach. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some of the finest and most spectacular meals I’ve ever had in some of the finest and most recognized restaurants around. But I’ve probably only been to these places what…once, maybe twice? If a friend or family member were visiting from out of town and asked me to take them around to try something interesting or exciting or unique, I’d probably take them to other places in the area. But if I wanted to enjoy a peaceful, comforting, satisfying meal on my own, or if I were with lifelong friends on a regular night out, or even if I were celebrating some special personal occasion like my birthday or my first paycheck with my family, you would definitely find me at one of these go-tos.

MS Sushi Gyoza

So what is it that captivates me so? What is it about these particular places that keeps me loyal, coming back for more, craving it even, like a comfort blanket during a storm. Is it the price? Hardly. Even casual craft beer drinkers will tell you that you have to pay a heavy cost for the luxury of drinking a beer five feet from where it was made. Perhaps then it is the location. But I can tell you that around my house there are at least three other places for bubble tea that are either closer or the same distance to me compared to the one I always prefer to go to. Then again, being the venerated food authority that I am, perhaps your best bet would be to say it’s the quality of the food. But I would have to be honest with you, and say that there are probably better places for the best quality examples of what each of these places has to offer. These are honest, skilled craftspeople though, and their food is without a doubt satisfying, delicious, and well made. But to achieve ‘Cheers’ status, a place has to be more about the food it serves.

MS Sushi Free Roll

It’s about the feeling you get when you walk in. It’s about being known. It’s that feeling when you walk into your favorite sushi spot with your family and the owner talks about how big your little brother has become and asking how your new job is going. It’s when you know the name of your brewer and your bartender, and they know yours. I love going to these particular places because they make me feel like I am a part of something, I like having a connection to the people there. It’s hard to sense this sometimes, especially when nowadays so much of the value of a restaurant is in how pretty their dishes are. But the restaurants that forever leave an impression on me are the ones that make me feel like more than just a customer, more than another flipped table. I appreciate the importance and value these restaurants place on hospitality, on fostering relationships. It’s a small step, and it may be completely unrelated to food, but connecting with your customers is what separates the places a thousand people will eat at once from the places one person will eat at a thousand times.

MS Sushi Sushi Platter

As I was walking home after dinner, trying desperately to start burning off some of the numerous pieces of sushi, getting whacked in the face by leaves because there are some unreasonably dark stretches of road with unreasonably low tree branches, I started thinking about how what I look for in a familiar restaurant is very similar to what I think I’ve always wanted in a lifelong relationship. I left that sushi restaurant at midnight tonight. They closed at ten. My family had already taken my car home and I was just gonna walk back, but I stayed because the owner wanted to talk to me about his 60th birthday coming up and his daughter was trying to figure out places they could go for vacation, and he wanted to know more about my job and where I had been, and it was the owner, his wife, his eldest daughter, his eldest daughter’s fiance, and myself just talking and relaxing at the end of the night and laughing. You know I know there are those foodie types who want to chase after the latest and greatest crazes, to either be the first to discover a trend or the first to declare its death, wanting one thrill after another. I know there are those who, recognizing the limitless varieties of foods and cuisines, couldn’t possibly ever consider limiting themselves, having to try something different, completely open to the world of variety. But for me, I want those restaurants that feel familiar, comfortable. The places that make me feel seen, important, known. I’m a lifelong commitment kind of person, and I’m looking for that kind of a person and place. Where I can relax, where I can feel my troubles melt away, where what I have feeds the body and the heart. I have never asked for the world’s best. Or the world’s newest. I have only ever wanted that which would make my heart the most full at every moment.

Jerel says, ‘cheers’.

Single Guy Does Music Mondays; ‘May I Have This Dance’ by Francis and the Lights feat. Chance the Rapper

Francis and the Lights Chance the Rapper

This week’s Music Monday selection is the remix of  the Francis and the Lights song ‘May I Have This Dance’ featuring Chance the Rapper, with some pretty glorious moves to boot. I love Chance’s addition to the song because now we have more than just the romantic undertone of a couple beginning their journey together with Francis, but Chance’s lyrics dedicated to his young daughter. Haven’t heard it much on the radio, but maybe I’m not listening to the right stations. Anyways, hope you enjoy!

May I Have This Dance

-Francis and the Lights feat.  Chance the Rapper

In the ground we bury

The seeds of a pear tree

All the things we carried

Now we’re down to our bare feet

May I have this dance to make it up to you

Can I say something crazy? I love you

Give me both your hands to make it up to you

Let me spin and excite you

[Chance the Rapper lyrics]

You’ve got your, your mother’s eyes

You’ve got your, your grandmother’s ring

You’ve got your daddy’s discernment

Girl, you did your thing, oh, give me one more

One, two, one, two, always on beat

You must have been born with two right feet

I know you’ve been looking for something concrete

You must have been born with two right feet

Say one, two, one,  two, always on beat

I know you’ve been looking for something concrete

You must have been born with two right feet

You must have been born with two right feet

Said I love you more than your mother

More than you love yourself

[End lyrics]

May I have this dance to make it up to you

Can I say something crazy? I love you

Give me one more chance, give me one more chance

Give me one more, let me spin and excite you

May I have this dance to make it up to you

Can I say something crazy? I love you

Give me one more chance, give me one more chance

Give me one more,  let me spin and excite you

Single Guy Says, ‘Am I Doing This Right?!’

Uh…everyone…I need some help here. So after my last post I finally took some time this afternoon to bite the proverbial bullet and create my tinder profile. But since I’ve not done anything like this in a very…very…very long time, I have no idea if it’s any good or not. Gotta make sure I do what I can to get my date offer to as many people as possible right?

Tinder Screen.png

The User Experience

Before downloading tinder and creating my profile I had a very faint idea of what the app would be like. I mean, how complicated could ‘swipe left or right’ be…right? Wrong, apparently. I have to be very very careful with my thumb. For example, I wanted to go ‘back’ to the screen that lets me edit my profile, but instead I ended up swiping left (passing) on someone who I would have actually wanted to swipe right on (liking). There’s no going back and recovering from your mistakes without paying for a subscription, and I’m absolutely just not doing that. And there are ‘super likes’ now too? Like, what the heck does that mean? When did the app that was praised for its simplicity get so complicated?

The User Profile

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’m not really looking for a relationship right now, just a fun date with someone fun. So I needed to get that across on my profile in 500 characters or less. So I came up with the below. Did I accomplish my goal? Should I have said it differently?

Tinder Profile

Also I’d like to point out that I did go to college and I do have a job, yet since I don’t put that info on my FB, I can’t add it to my tinder profile. Shouldn’t be too much of a big deal, but I just don’t want people to think I’m a freeloader.

Also there was an option to connect my Spotify account so people could see my music tastes, and that would have been great.  Because then people would see how much I love jazz and blues and college radio and Sting but instead somehow it got the impression to broadcast how many times I listen to Vengaboys, Aqua, and Spanish radio. Tinder, that was ten years ago. In high school.

 The User

I mean if we’re going to be brutally honest here…words and qualification aren’t really the attention grabbers when you’re looking at a million faces a minute, now is it? It’s the  pics. So some strategy has to into that.  So I decided to go for the strategies of…my best clothes, a pic of me cooking, a pic of me with an animal, an archery shot, and a baby photo because well…I was adorable then at least. What do you think of my selections?

That’s it then. It’s up to the tinder gods. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’ll be here, fingers busy swiping away.

Jerel says, ‘am I doing this right?!’

Single Guy Tries…ONLINE DATING?!

When I first started this new blog I said it would be about a ‘happily, but also looking, single guy just trying to live his life to the fullest, waiting and looking for that special someone‘. And for the most part so far, that’s been true. But with fall and winter (my two favorite seasons) approaching, I find there are many things I’d like to do with some company. I’m all for the fun and freedom of going out on your own, and while I would always promote that you can enjoy just about anything alone, I won’t deny that having someone to enjoy things with just adds an extra level.

Come Play With Me.gif

For example, in two weeks the nearby Renaissance Faire will be having a special ‘Oktoberfest’-themed weekend. Nothing quite says ‘big nerdy fun’ like fake jousting Ren Faire Crowd.jpgtournaments, giant turkey legs, medieval-style building fronts, and mugs upon mugs of craft beers. I’m a somewhat regular at the Renaissance Faire every year when it comes to Tuxedo Park, NY. It’s in a beautiful area in the woods, nestled into the forest with a natural lake and plenty of gorgeous park ground. On a regular RenFaire day you can enjoy a jousting tournament, plenty of food (always on sticks,  because somehow that makes it more ‘Renaissance’-y), knife throwing, archery, different skill games, random street performances from jesters and bards and magicians, and plenty of window-shopping with traveling artists and artisans at ‘ye olde this’ shop and ‘ye olde that’. There are plenty of volunteer performers who get dressed up and add to Ren Faire Tedthe ambiance but plenty of attendees also dress up as anything from vikings to pirates to knights to even elves and samurai. Whatever the imagination likes. And for those who want to get into the spirit but aren’t as committed, you can even rent costumes at the Faire itself. There’s music, games, food, kind of like Game of Thrones but more turkey and less dragons. And a lot less killing. And less penises. The ‘Oktoberfest’ weekend is really just an extra excuse for the Faire to get a bit more boozey. With ‘pub crawls’ that promise beers at stops throughout the entire fairground and medieval themed drinking games and songs.

I mean…I’m not crazy, right? There’s probably a girl out there who’d like to check out a Renaissance Faire…right?

Ren Faire Booty

Is her smile just hiding lies?!

A bit easier to market would probably be that I’d like to spend a day at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park. Specifically around October versus in the summer because October is when the park stays open til midnight on weekends for Fright Fest. Because the only thing more fun than a rollercoaster is a rollercoaster at night. You have no idea Six Flags Fright Festwhere you’re going but you definitely feel how fast you’re getting there. The fall weather is much cooler and easier to tolerate when you’re standing in line and walking around, and there’s nothing better than a hot chocolate and a churro to warm you back up on your way out at the end of the night. I’m a huge ride fiend, so I’d probably have to make sure I go with someone who’s just as much into rollercoasters. But I mean, rollercoasters, games, food, who doesn’t love a good amusement park? Now Fright Fest…that might be  a whole other beast. The reason why the theme park stays open at night in October is because when the sun goes down ‘zombies and ghouls take over the park for a truly frightening evening of fun’. Their words, not mine. There are a few ‘scare zones’ where actors in costume will run around and try and scare park-goers, but for the truly brave there are actual haunted attractions like haunted houses and mazes, and even a ‘haunted heist’ where participants are given a treasure map and Six Flags Aftermathhave to find certain cursed items to prevent the monsters inside the house from chasing after them. It’s all adrenaline-pumping heart-racing fun with a little bit of paranoia and fear mixed in. Did you know, in Japan, haunted attractions become really popular in summer? For one, it attracts a lot of people because the indoor, air-conditioned sets are much better than the extremely hot and humid Japanese summer weather. And for two, the adrenaline that rushes really ‘chills the blood’ and helps to cool down and refresh and invigorate attendees. Of course, the possibility of having to cling to each other in the heat of the moment and keep close in  these scary attractions is universally appealing in any country or any language.

Hell No

Okay fine…this might be a hard sell too.


So…since this blog is about taking on new adventures and new experiences…I’m proposing something brand new. Maybe even a bit unheard of. I’m not quite ready for a full-fledged relationship, for reasons I’ll have to write about later on. But I’m also not entirely opposed to the idea of a few dates. I’ve always enjoyed first dates and meeting people, and I think it’s important to you know, remind myself what it’s like ‘out there’. I’m not really meeting people through work, family, or friends, which means diving back into the world of online dating. And considering what I’m thinking of doing…it’s gonna have to be right into the belly of the beast. Tinder. Ugh.

Tinder.png

Now believe me. No one is more aware of tinder’s rather thorny reputation. But since I’m not looking for anything quite so serious yet, and my real aim is to try and get to as many people as possible, it’ll be a bit of give and take to make things work out. See, my idea is this. I’m going to put it right out there on my profile that what I’m really looking for is someone to go to these experiences with. I’ll still put the pics, the stats, whatever that thing asks for nowadays, but the most important thing I’ll put in is information on what the proposed date will be and when.

I figure I’m taking away at least a few of the complications with this approach? I mean a) I’m making it pretty clear there’s no pressure or expectations beyond this one encounter, so that means no awkward or uncomfortable follow up or even worse, avoiding. Plus b) I’m being very specific about what exactly is going to happen on this date, so if you’re into it, great that gives you more incentive, and if you’re not, that makes saying no so much easier. I think it’s still important that I take the same time and effort into making the profile, because the other side of this is, I would still like that the two of us are somewhat mutually attracted, so at least it’ll be fun and we can enjoy each other’s company. The last thing I want is for someone to treat this as an opportunity to take advantage of a free RenFaire or Fright Fest. Because those experiences must be in high demand.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea or am I completely insane? Is this a revolutionary approach to online dating or am I going to be permanently swiped…uh…what’s rejected…uh…left? I haven’t done it yet, I want to get some advice and counsel, but my first attempt will be a tinder profile to help me get a date for the RenFaire since that’s coming up sooner. If you don’t think I should completely abandon this idea, what should I look out for? Any advice on the profile or the date description, or how I should pick someone, assuming I’ll have more than one taker? What should I be wary of, and how should the date go? This is completely uncharted territory, so I’d love you all to let me know what you think, and if you think you know someone who might have some advice, let me know what they think too.

Single Guy Says, ‘Happy to serve!’

Souma Yukishiro.png

Happy to serve!

-Yukishiro Soma, Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma

I first got into manga (Japanese graphic novels) in middle school. A friend introduced me to Ken Akamatsu’s greatest work, the 14-volume romantic comedy series Love Hina. Before that I had never been exposed to manga or anime (Japanese animation). Now here I was reading these comics of beautifully drawn young women chasing after seemingly ordinary run-of-the-mill guys. I mean, middle school me is thinking, this is what heaven must be like, right?

Love Hina

Since then my collection has expanded much much further than just those 14 hilarious, sweet, at times ridiculous volumes. In a time when most anime and manga fans are more than content with online scanlations (scanned translations) and streaming videos, I’ve invested into my collection to the tune of more than 300 physical manga of over 20 different series and more than 100 anime ranging from motion pictures like Studio Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Princess Mononoke’ to the animated series of many of my favorite manga.

Manga Haul

There are some really great series that I absolutely would love to recommend to anyone Yakitate Japanwho is into manga and looking for some good new ones or anyone who’s never picked one up and was interested in starting. There are two great series revolving around food. Yakitate Japan is about a young man with an exceptional baking talent on his quest to create a uniquely Japanese bread. There are baking competitions, some absolutely hilarious and ridiculously over the top reactions to taste tests, and it’s also surprisingly well-researched and practical, with some accompanying recipes so you can make the same breads you read about, in your own home. The other is a still-ongoing series that has become pretty popular in Japan and abroad, Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma. It takes place in a fictional prestigious culinary academy in Japan where the best young talents are developed, and Soma is a gifted and unwaveringly optimistic chef who goes to the school to follow his father’s footsteps. There are plenty of interesting and hilarious Battle Royalecharacters from his fellow classmates and rivals to his demanding instructors. Kindaichi Case Files is a Sherlock Holmes style mystery series following the grandson of the famous fictional Japanese detective, Kosuke Kindaichi. The story of Battle Royale is both famous and controversial. Based on a novel of the same name, Battle Royale is about a class of high school seniors who are brought to a desert island and forced to kill each other until one one survivor remains. It’s emotional, grotesque, haunting, and moving. The novel inspired a manga series, two movies, and even a theatre reproduction in the Philippines. On a much lighter and more uplifting note, I love Yotsuba&!. This series centers around Yotsuba, a young girl with green hair living in a small Japanese town. She is cheerful, friendly, a bit naive, and the adorable center of all the chaos, hijinks, and fun. She has adventures with her neighbors, small animals, cardboard robots, and she feels terrible whenever she gets in trouble for disobeying her father. It’s simple, the drawings are clean and crisp and naturally evoke the calm and serenity of the Japanese countryside, and the awestruck wonder that Yotsuba still views the world with is refreshing and uplifting.

Yotsuba.gif

But alas, this post isn’t about the manga I enjoy. They’re about the ones I find myself no longer enjoying. As in, they’re becoming unbearable. I physically cringe as I rush to get through the pages and I verbally exclaim ‘oooh what the fuck’ almost every other page. They’re the kinds of manga I first started reading, the ‘one guy being chased by a bevy of beautiful and unbelievably smitten young women’ types commonly referred to as Strawberry 100‘harem manga‘. In particular, two series are the most egregious of offenders, Negima Magister Magi (written by Ken Akamatsu whose Love Hina series is still my all time favorite ever) and Strawberry 100%. Which, okay, let me explain to you its threadbare plot. Basically, Junpei, the most bland and uninteresting flat character I’ve ever read, is up on the rooftop of his middle school when he sees a mysterious young girl wearing strawberry print panties and he falls in love and seeks the identity of said mystery girl. Somehow along the journey to find this ‘strawberry panty beauty’ he gets not only one, not two, but five different girls chasing after him. One is willing to shape her education by committing to going to a lesser college just because he’s there, another rejects countless eligible and compatible suitors to continually wait for Junpei to decide on what (who) he wants, and another is so obsessed with him she takes any and every opportunity to strip and desperately try to seduce him. Meanwhile, the majority of the series is about Junpei alternating between being sad because he can’t make a decision, or being sad because one of the girls might actually move on and find their own happiness, or being sad because he’s oblivious to these five desperate and confused young girls and instead focuses on his always feeling like he can’t ‘compete’ with the other men in the series. Ugh.

Negima…what can I say about Negima… I’m surprised and appalled that it could come from the same person who wrote Love Hina. Sure, both were similar ‘harem manga’ but the protagonist in Love Hina had more important things that defined him beyond just the girls who were after him. Like his quest to get into Tokyo University, his affinity and skill for archaeology, and his seemingly immortal powers that allowed him to take the Negima Magister Magiconstant physical abuse from the girls, natural disasters, and ancient turtle civilizations. Every character was well-rounded and had their own intentions, motivations, and personality. But there were only six. In Negima, Akamatsu had to write for a class of 31 schoolgirls. He clearly ran out of personalities. There is one character who frustratingly has no better motivation than to continue to say how she is ‘just a supporting character’. And another whose sole job is to show up and do the ‘you’re such an idiot I’m going to hit you with tough love and make you realize your mistake’ cliche. Oh and the romantic center of this particular ‘harem manga’? Their teacher. Their ten year old teacher. It started off well enough. Basically, what kind of comedy and hijinks can ensue when a class of high school girls is taught by a ten year old wizard. Like, hahah, when he sneezes it’s so strong all the girls skirts lift up. Innocently stupid enough. Then it got weird. Like…really weird.

Don’t get me wrong. I know why I thought I loved these series when I was younger. Being the bland center of my own story, I loved the escapism and promise of these un-noteworthy protagonists somehow being pursued by plenty of beautiful young girls. I thought, ‘my god, wouldn’t it be great if the world worked like this’. Somehow by not doing anything on my own of any particular merit, I’d be surrounded by all these girls who still wanted me. It’s interesting, reading these series I started in middle/high school, and didn’t get to finishing until now. I can see the young kid who was drawn to these. Probably influenced by them too. Can you imagine the identity complex you can get when you are brought up with the hope of being wanted by a variety of girls and at the same time being told you’re bland, talentless, unremarkable, and constantly in ‘competition’ with other guys? Yeah, jesus. Now here I am reading them and I’m cringing, physically pained with every cliche, every repeated scenario, every ridiculous setup for even more gratuitous fan-service.

I mean…I still gotta see them through til the end though…right?

Jerel says, ‘happy to serve!’

 

 

Single Guy Says ‘I always dreamed to Square Marden’

It might have been Jackie Chan’s dream to ‘Square Marden’ but I would gladly settle for an incredible Eric Clapton concert at Madison Square Garden. And for those of you who follow me on instagram (@singleguyinstas), you would know that last night I got to do just that! And for those of you who aren’t on the ‘gram’ (is that what kids say?) and even for those who are, I wanted to not only share some photos of the concert but also share some of my reactions and stories before during and after.

Clapton Concert 2

I grew up on classic rock legends like the Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and of course, Mr. ‘Slow Hand’ himself, Eric Clapton. It was the unmistakable and unavoidable influence of my father who, until I could drive myself, had complete control over the radio. Eric Clapton was one of my favorites. There are those incredible guitar riffs in ‘Layla’, that soulful sorrowful mourning in ‘Tears in Heaven’, and I still dream of getting to slow dance with someone to ‘Wonderful Tonight’. I also loved the calm, cool, collected vibe whenever I saw his live performances. In the memorial ‘Concert for George Harrison’ at Royal Albert Hall, there was EC just teasing this incredible sound out of his guitar, no big flashy strumming, no running up and down the stage, it was just so…dignified. I feel like you could tell, when it came to Eric Clapton, the music came first, the musician second.

Clapton Concert 1

So it was great for everyone involved that my mother was able to get the entire family tickets to Eric Clapton’s concert at Madison Square Garden as a present for my father’s 60th birthday. He played all the classics, but they were just different enough that it was like hearing it for the first time all over again. Clapton’s roots and passions were always blues, and this concert really cemented that love. He’d start off with this incredible blues riff, his hands just dancing on the strings, and the rest of the band would slowly start to fill in, and then he’d just gradually start changing, shifting to the bridge, and suddenly he’d take you into the heart of one of his greatest hits, and the crowd would go wild. During songs he’d take some time to break into these wild solos and his guitar would just wail and cry and you’d have that piano and organ accompaniment come in and it’d all just accumulate into this crescendo and you’d have such a music high. Seeing him on stage, performing like he was, you know, recently every time Clapton goes on tour people go ‘oh he’s such and such years old, this will probably be his last tour’ and yet he keeps going and having full and exciting performances, you watch him and realize how much he lives for his music and you know, he’s one of those greats who just don’t ever stop.

Clapton was preceded by two absolutely incredible opening acts. First was the older brother of blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a legend in his own right, guitarist Jimmie Vaughan. Aside from their incredible music talents, Jimmie Vaughan has another more emotional tie to Eric Clapton, in that his brother Stevie Ray, and three other close members of Eric Clapton’s circle of musician friends, were all killed in a tragic helicopter accident. Vaughan is a great example of the influence of all the classic blues legends, with a real old-school soul that just oozes rich smoothness, rolling off his guitar like molasses. And from the classics to the new, the second opening act was ‘The Chosen One’, Gary Clark Jr. I’d actually heard of him before. He mixes blues with soul and hip hop and it’s just all kinds of new age cool. He can rip into a guitar solo like nobody’s business, and he had an incredible cover of the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ that he performed last night that just brought the house down. At the end of the concert Clapton came back out for an encore performance and after the second encore song, he brought out both Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. for one last song and they just took turns unleashing the most soulful sounds I’ve ever heard. It was truly and honestly, one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to.

HK Wonton Garden.jpg

Now of course by the time everything is said and done we’re getting out around midnight, and really when you’re in the city at midnight there’s nothing else to do but to go straight to Chinatown for a late night feast. So proceed to Chinatown we did, to my family’s long-standing favorite spot of all time, New HK Wonton Garden. It’s currently on Mulberry Street, across the street from Columbus Park, but we’ve been patrons since it was in its original location on Mott, right in the heart of the busy and bustling main streets of Chinatown. I don’t know why it took us so long to realize, but after years of struggling to settle on just one dish to satisfy our late night Chinese food cravings, we realized we could, you know, order more than that. So ever since then it’s always been ‘let me get a bowl of wonton noodle soup AND something else’. This time it was ‘a bowl of wonton noodle soup AND roast pork and roast duck over noodles’. Sweet and sticky roast pork paired with crispy and fatty duck, their juices mixing with Chinese egg noodles, and that incredibly flavorful soup filled with even more noodles, packed shrimp and pork wontons, and rich broth, nothing could soothe the soul more at 1 in the morning while your ears are still ringing and your toes a-tapping.

I’ll probably be listening to a bit more blues than usual for the next couple weeks. Call it a welcome after-effect of last night’s incredible performance.

Jerel says, ‘I always dreamed to Square Marden’.

Single Guy Does Music Mondays

I’ve seen something similar to this on another blog I follow, only he does it on Wednesdays. I’ve gotten some great music recommendations from that though and added some really interesting and great bands to my Spotify collection so I’m hoping to be able to do the same here and share with and educate the world on some of my favorite music picks on a new regular feature, Music Mondays.

Kurt and Brandon

My first pick is quite timely and relevant I would think, considering the events of the past week, but this was completely by chance. I regularly listen to WBGO Jazz 88.3, and on Sunday I heard Kurt Elling’s rendition of Practical Arrangement. The song first appeared on the album The Last Ship by Sting, which was a tie-in for a play by the same name by Sting as well. I love Sting’s performance but Kurt Elling is an incredibly talented vocalist who adds so much emotion and affection into the lyrics, and Brandon Marsalis is such a fantastic saxophonist and he adds a harmony and melody that was missing in Sting’s piece, which sounded more like spoken word. It’s a bit melancholy, but also I think very beautiful and romantic and endearingly tragic. I hope you really listen to the lyrics, and also enjoy the incredible accompaniment by the talented Brandon Marsalis.

Practical Arrangement
-Lyrics and composition by Sting
Am I asking for the moon’
Is it really so implausible’
That you and I could soon
Come to some kind of arrangement’
I’m not asking for the moon
I’ve always been a realist
When it’s really nothing more
Than a simple rearrangement
With one roof above our heads
A warm house to return to
We could start with separate beds
I could sleep alone or learn to
I’m not suggesting that we’d find
Some earthly paradise forever
I mean how often does that happen now
The answer’s probably never
But we could come to an arrangement
A practical arrangement
And you could learn to love me
Given time
I’m not promising the moon
I’m not promising a rainbow
Just a practical solution
To a solitary life
I’d be a father to your boy
A shoulder you could lean on
How bad could it be
To be my wife’
With one roof above our heads
A warm house to return to
You wouldn’t have to cook for me
You wouldn’t have to learn to
I’m not suggesting that this proposition here
Could last forever
I’ve no intention of deceiving you
You’re far too clever
But we could come to an arrangement
A practical arrangement
And perhaps you’d learn to love me
Given time
It may not be the romance
That you had in mind
But you could learn to love me
Given time

Single Guy Says, ‘Communication leads to community’

Panda Groceries

‘Communication leads to community: that is, to understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.’

-Rollo May

There’s nothing quite like a good bit of retail therapy to help clear the mind and calm the soul. Throw in a good BOGO deal and some bubble tea and you’ve got the making of a good Friday out. This past Friday, September 1st, one of the larger local Asian grocery stores in my area had their annual first of the month ‘buy one get one free all day’ sale. Every first day of the month around 90% of their entire store, from produce, meat, fish, dry goods, frozen, to even their prepared foods, becomes ‘buy one get one free’ for the entire day or until supplies last. I did a preliminary scope a couple days before, stopping in for some bubble tea and a chat with the bubble tea cafe owner while watching the endless convoy of trucks unloading pallets upon pallets of goods and the small army of orange-vested grocery store staff trying to fill every available nook and cranny of space left on the floor. On a Tuesday afternoon the store was practically a ghost town, save for the employees who knew that come Friday there would be a constant never-ending line of shoppers that would stretch from the registers all the way around, touching every corner of the store and ending practically right at the entrance.

Grocery Line

There are those who would say only a madman would dare to brave the chaos of a store-wide BOGO sale. That only the very desperate or the very insane would ever find themselves shoulder to shoulder, cart to cart, basket to basket, with other equally desperate or insane shoppers. Well, call me desperate, call me insane, call me what you will, but for all the madness and chaos, I actually quite enjoyed my time there. Despite the best advice of Joe, the friendly owner of the bubble tea cafe inside the grocery store, I did not think it entirely worth it to queue up outside the store at 7 in the morning, as the more seasoned veterans are more wont to do. I didn’t even think to worry about parking at the pharmacy across the street to avoid the mad dash for valuable parking space in the limited lot in front of the store. I came in around 11, and ever the child of good fortune, found a spot right up front as they were pulling out. Shopping carts were even rarer than spots, and that did actually take me a good bit of time to find. It gave me a chance to check in with Joe though and he gave me a rundown of some of the better, more valuable sales to take advantage of. It’s amazing how the words ‘buy one get one free’ can affect your decision making process. Did I ever in my life consider I’d want to buy a can of boiled silkworm larva, a delicacy in some other Asian countries? No, absolutely not. But did I suddenly find myself holding not one, but two cans in my hand, contemplating the same question because it said ‘BOGO’? Yes, I’m ashamed to say, I did. (I ended up not buying it though, thankfully.)

grocery-cart.jpg

But I did end up buying, among other things, some dried shiitake mushrooms, coconut juice, frozen grilled eel, frozen milkfish, dried seaweed, honey butter chips, shrimp chips, Korean wafer cookies, bags of white rice…etc.

After spending about an hour shopping and another hour waiting in line to pay, I decided to reward myself with some bubble tea and Filipino food from a cafeteria-style casual Filipino place also inside the grocery. As I’m sitting there tucked away in the corner with my rice and my barbecue and my drink, and I’m watching the line of shoppers pass me by and the cafeteria regulars chatting it up with the workers, thinking about the past night, I get that faint hint of what it was I’ve been missing. Community. It’s what made butting carts against endless throngs of shoppers and waiting in line for hours all okay for so many of these people. They came in with family and friends with systems and plans. One would man the cart and wait in line while the other roamed the store and returned to dump all of their findings before jumping back in. They would search the crowd for the familiar faces they knew would show up to chat and pass the time away, to ask about work and family and the health and happiness in each other’s lives. They may have been somewhere they didn’t want to be, doing things they would rather not want to do, but they were in a place doing these things with people they were happy to be with. I’ve lived in this area for twenty-seven years, and only recently started showing up at this  grocery store. I see whole generations assembling here and enjoying the benefit of that shared sense of community.

Grocery Lunch

Though I wrote a couple days ago that I found myself alone yet surrounded by people, I have to admit that I should also be partly to blame for that. I never built that sense of community, that channel of communication, outside of my relationships. Only recently have I started to build myself as a member of other communities outside of that. Obviously WordPress is one of those communities that I’ve tried harder than most to really become an integrated part of. But I have so many opportunities if I would just look where they are. I’m not saying I need to become a grocery store regular, buying stockpiles of things I don’t need because I want to make friends with locals who shop all the time. A 15 lb. bag of white rice may be  $12.99, a large taro-almond bubble tea $4.95, a two  side one rice combo with drink $6.50, but a sense of community is priceless. I’m still learning a lot about relationships. And not just the romantic type but the social, friendly, ‘you are not alone’ types too. One of the first things I learned last year was that I need these relationships as well. That I can’t hang everything of who I am and what I want to share on this one type of romantic relationship. Then I started to grow my world ever larger, bit by bit. I visited the communities of archers at ETAR, communities of people with similar interests through the MeetUp app, communities of locals through my travels. Now, I need to keep learning how to stop visiting, and become an actual member of these places. Share myself, and receive others in return, in ways outside of romance that before, I neglected, and now realized, I need.

Jerel says, ‘communication leads to community’.