Archive for January, 2011

Cannonball 3: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

hipster kitty

They're not LOLcats, they're Hipster Kitties. Deal with it, Rowles.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Confession #1: I hate hipsters. I hate their skinny jeans and little, curly mustaches and pretentious music and smug sanctimony. I hate how they’ll ask you if you’ve heard of some band and, after you say you haven’t, their jaws will drop and they’ll gibber at you for thirty minutes about how awesome the band is and end with: “Seriously? You’ve never heard of them?” Well, I have now. For thirty minutes.

And the following week, after the band starts getting played on the radio, they’re suddenly lame because they’ve “sold out.”

I hate how they jump on you for eating at McDonald’s and shopping at Walmart. Pick something real to criticize me for.

I hate how they spend all their money on staying on the cutting edge of music and entertainment, act like martyrs when they can’t afford a nicer place because they’ve blown all their money on fair-trade coffee, and then look down on actually poor people for having bad taste.

Confession #2: I am a closet hipster. You almost have to be one to be a Pajiba regular and debate the merits of films with a healthy dose of snarky comments.

hipster kitty

I may not wear scarves in 87° weather, but I do wear my glasses every day and claim that it’s because I don’t want to waste money on contacts. I may not drone on and on about some indie film that none of my friends have seen, but I have seen it, and am secretly proud of myself for knowing about it (thanks to Pajiba). I may watch “America’s Next Top Model” religiously, but I also fill my Goodreads “To-Read” shelf with selections from The New York Times’ “Ten Best Books of 2010” and other book lists from sites that I respect.

… which is how A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius made it onto my reading list in the first place.

Dave Eggers’ parents both died of cancer within five weeks of each other. His mother’s death was lingering and drawn-out. His father’s was sudden and unexpected. Their deaths left him, at the age of twenty-one, to fend for himself and to raise his seven-year-old brother, Toph.

He has an older brother and sister, but their responsibilities at work and law school are a priority, and so it falls to Dave to take care of Toph. He wants to do right by his brother, but has no idea how to raise a kid while he’s still trying to become a man himself.

Eggers had an extraordinary burden to bear, and extraordinary circumstances often create extraordinary people, and I can’t deny that Eggers has talent. But the type of person that the young Eggers became was exactly the type of hipster that I hate. It made it difficult for me to like him. I know, he purposely made himself an unlikeable character. But that’s such a pretentious and hipster-cool thing to do that I just couldn’t appreciate it.

hipster kitty

Eggers’ writing is great; don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy reading McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (a daily humor site hosted by Eggers’ publishing house) every once in a while. His account of his parents’ last days was heartbreaking, and it made me dread the day when I will have to suffer the loss of my own parents — I already have twelve years on Eggers when he lost his parents, and I hope to gain many more before I lose mine.

But a lot of the novel struck me as self-important and indulgent; there were all these random flights of fancy that struck me as showing off: “Look at me! I can be deep!”

Once again, I understand that this was intentional, but I don’t think arrogance should be applauded just because it’s self-aware arrogance. It’s still arrogance, a trait that most people would admit that they dislike.

So if it makes me uncool for “missing the point” of this book, then so be it. You wrote a tongue-in-cheek memoir of the arrogant hipster that you were when you were twenty-one. Congratulations, you achieved your goal: you got me to despise you. But take comfort in the fact that I also sympathize with the young fool you were, having once been twenty-one myself, and desperate to be cool and relevant. Take comfort in the fact that, as I despise you, I must also despise that part of myself that made me want to read this book in the first place, and now finds a self-loathing satisfaction in being anti-hipster enough to give it a mediocre review.

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Cannonball 2: Groundswell by Charlene Li

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social TechnologiesGroundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a writer. I’m not a techie. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m just a girl who hates grammatical mistakes and improprer use of punctuation and enjoys snappy prose.

Well, Groundswell isn’t written for people like me, but it was still an interesting read. Charlene Li does an excellent job of examining the ways in which companies and brands are able to build a groundswell of support for themselves on the internet.

What it really boils down to is listening to your online community and showing them that they matter to you. Your customers are your greatest resource for improving your product, and a disgruntled customer can quickly turn into your biggest fan (and a huge source of free advertising) if you quickly rectify the situation and show them that you actually care.

Come to think of it, Pajiba has done an excellent job of cultivating groundswell. When I first visited Pajiba, it was about a year old, and there were maybe fifty regular commenters and two regular features. Now, they have thousands of fans on Facebooks, hundreds of Eloquents who spend more time commenting than working at their jobs, and has a giant pool of willing writers who are willing to give of their free time to comb the internet for fun links, highlight the funniest comments of the week, and even run a ginormo book club .

I myself shoot out of my chair and do a happy dance on the rare occasions when I happen to make it to EE or get a CBR review featured on the site. It makes me feel like I’m being heard; that people care about my opinion and are willing to have civil conversations about it. It makes me feel like I’m part of a fun, witty, and urbane online community of nerds who, despite their affinity for the scathing, are fiercely loyal to one another and care deeply about each other (see Pink, Alabama).

alabama pink

We miss you, Alabama Pink.

Pajiba has always been good at fostering community. Way back when I was still relatively new to the site, I posted a comment on a thread about music that is inextricably linked to specific scenes in movies, and I mentioned the soundtrack to Billy Elliot. That day, I got a personal e-mail from The Rowles himself, telling me that he, too, loved that movie and was planning to do it justice at a later date (I’m still waiting on that, Rowles, and I doubt that Pajiba will come to an end on that day).

billy elliot

Gets me every time.

I knew right then that Pajiba was all about listening to its community. And the community has really taken on a life of its own. And it’s because Pajiba has listened to its community that it’s able to foster such a positive community. Also, much of the community members love the TV show “Community.” That has nothing to do with this paragraph, but I’d used the word so much in this paragraph that I thought I’d throw it in there one more time.


The moral of the story? Watch “Parks and Recreation,” y’all.

parks and recreation

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P.S. Oh, yeah, and Groundswell was a good book, but I love Pajiba more.

I’m Just Here for the Food: Flame Broiler

chicken veggie bowl

Fast food done right.

Flame Broiler is an unassuming little spot in the back of a big plaza. I rarely visit that plaza; I usually stop at the Coffee Bean across the street and never make it any farther down Spring Street. But my sister stopped here to pick up lunch one day, and came home raving about it. And, one day, she treated me to dinner, on the condition that we go to Flame Broiler.

We both got the regular Chicken Veggie Bowl with brown rice. I love that they offer you the option of brown rice. I personally prefer the nuttiness and texture of brown rice to white.

brown rice

If it's brown, wolf it down.

I was bowled over by just how much chicken comes with this bowl. At most other teriyaki-type places, I usually end up eating a lot of veggies and rice first, just so that I have enough chicken to last me to the end of the meal. But about a quarter of the way through eating my Flame Broiler bowl, I realized that I was overwhelmed with chicken and would have to start eating it so that I wasn’t left with half a bowl of chicken at the end of my meal!

The portions are generous, and dirt-cheap. I believe there’s a Sunday afternoon special that scores you a bowl and a drink for $5. Unbelievable!!

They may not have a drive-thru, but they cook FAST. My meal was ready to go in less than five minutes from the time I ordered it.

McDonald's fries

Delicious, but deadly. Confession: I love them anyway. But only on occasion, now that I have better options.

Even fast food is expensive nowadays. Many of the so-called “Extra Value Meals” at McDonald’s run you more than $5 these days. For the money, Flame Broiler is a much better value, and their food won’t give you cancer, diabetes, or a heart condition, either. It’s a healthy and delicious alternative to traditional fast food.

Flame Broiler
6528 E. Spring Street
Long Beach, CA 90815
(562) 420-6201

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