3 Reasons Why The Mortal Instruments Series Has Been a New York Times Bestseller for 2 Years (And Why the Movie Failed)

City of Bones Book CoverWhen my sister clamored to see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones last month, I was skeptical. I wasn’t raring to see yet another bestselling YA series turned money-making movie franchise in the vein of Harry Potter (2001-2011), Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), Twilight (2008-2012), The Hobbit (2012-2014), Hunger Games (2012- ), and the upcoming Divergent (2014- ) series. It’s not that I don’t love YA, or even Fantasy. Like many, I am weary—and wary—of vampires and werewolves.

What eventually sold me was staring at City of Bones stars Godfrey Gao

Godfrey Gao and Cat

and Kevin Zegers, Kevin Zegers

who I still remember for his poignant, award-winning turn as the male prostitute son of a male-to-female transsexual in the hit Oscar-nominated indie Transamerica (2005).

But there’s only so far beautiful Canadian actor-models can take you, and the movie is proof that pretty ain’t enough. Still, my sister convinced me to try the books, saying how humorous they were.

And…she was right.

Here are 3 reasons why I enjoyed City of Bones, and why I will—despite its flaws—read City of Ashes, though Hollywood has delayed (and perhaps even cancelled) adapting the sequel: Continue reading 3 Reasons Why The Mortal Instruments Series Has Been a New York Times Bestseller for 2 Years (And Why the Movie Failed)

Art Saves People

Sunset Community Festival Sept. 28, 2013

At the Sunset Community Festival today, I was reminded again of how art can transform lives. The Festival was founded 19 years ago by Dawn Stueckle, her husband Reverend Ron Stueckle, and their friend Reverend Delvin Mack, all co-founders of Sunset Youth Services, an amazing community center which provides case management, artistic programming, and a whole lotta love to in-risk youth around the city. Some kids bus over an hour to spend time there, and if you met anyone on staff, entered that space, or saw today’s performance, you would know why.

Continue reading Art Saves People

Why They Won’t Stop: Miley Cyrus and the Formula for Profit

Miley Cyrus 2013 VMAs

During the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus simulated analingus before slapping her black backup dancer’s ass—three times. That moment captures the two biggest issues I have with Miley’s new image: the exploitation of black culture and the exploitation of queer culture.

Continue reading Why They Won’t Stop: Miley Cyrus and the Formula for Profit

Why Self-Publish

June 1-2, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending a Self-Publishing Summit by Brooke Warner, one half of She Writes Press, and Howard Van Es, President of Let’s Write Books, Inc.

The Summit was an inspiration. More and more writers are using the internet to personally control how their work gets into the hands of readers, and this summit clarified why every writer should consider self-publishing.

Continue reading Why Self-Publish

2012: Year in Review

New Year 2013

Looking back over this year, there is so much to be grateful for.

It’s not something I’m good at: gratitude.

I often think of time passing as an ugly thing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve woken with my heart gasping, imaginary speedlines like in an animé, indicating time, activities, progress—lost. To quote good ‘ole Bush, “Everything zen, everything zen? I don’t think so.”

Continue reading 2012: Year in Review

Friday Mixtape: Eve 6

Photo: Ben Zvan

IT’S FRIDAY!!!!

That means it’s time for the Friday Mixtape. There is no tape and no mix, just 3 tracks from a single artist. Hope this skates you into the weekend! Today I bring you:

Eve 6

Who They Are: Pop-punk trio from La Crescenta, California. “SoCal is where my mind states, but it’s not my state of mind.” –“Inside Out,” Eve 6 (1998)

Max Collins – frontman: lead vocals, bass
Jon Siebels
– guitar, backing vocals
Tony Fagenson
– drums, backing vocals

Why I Love Them (and Why You Should Too): Like most, my intro to Eve 6 involved the infectious, tongue-twisting “Inside Out”, a song that propelled their 1998 self-titled debut to platinum status before the boys were even—(as they state in their official bio)—“of legal drinking age.” They signed with RCA records while still in high school. As such, most of Eve 6’s discography involves a teenaged boy’s priorities: gettin’ laid and gettin’ in trouble. Continue reading Friday Mixtape: Eve 6

Friday Mixtape: Bloc Party

From Bloc Party’s “I Still Remember” video. If you like trains, this one’s a must.

IT’S FRIDAY!!!!

That means it’s time for the Friday Mixtape. There is no tape and no mix, just 3 tracks from a single artist. Hope this skates you into the weekend! Today I bring you:

Bloc Party

Who They Are: 4-piece indie rock band from London.

Kelechukwu “Kele” Okereke – frontman: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Matt Tong
– drums, backing vocals
Russell Lissack – lead guitar
Gordon Moakes
– bass, keyboards, synthesizer, glockenspiel, backing vocals

Why I Love Them (and Why You Should Too): Bloc Party came to me in the most beautifully unexpected way. The last day of class, one of my students gave me a compilation CD of bands he loved and thought I should know. He handwrote the various tracklists, some brief notes: the second album was Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, their 2005 debut. The year I heard them (2007), Bloc Party released a follow-up, A Weekend in the City, which I wasn’t ready to listen to yet—still soaking up the glory of the first. That changed this week. After revisiting Silent Alarm, I read back up on them—admittedly, the band had fallen off my radar. They now have four albums to their name, one released just this past summer. I have some catching up to do. Check it out: Continue reading Friday Mixtape: Bloc Party

Friday Mixtape: Third Eye Blind

Third Eye Blind. Photo: Jacked from the Princeton Lawnparties site. Thank you, mates.

IT’S FRIDAY!!!!

That means it’s time for the Friday Mixtape. There is no tape and no mix, just 3 tracks from a single artist. Hope this skates you into the weekend! Today I bring you:

Third Eye Blind

Who They Are: 4-piece rock band from San Francisco. Best known for their heart-stomping “Do-do-do, do-do-do-doodoo” hit “Semi-Charmed Life” in none other than ’97, one of the best years for music.

Stephan Jenkins – frontman: lead vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion, keyboards, drums
Brad Hargreaves – drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals
Kryz Reid
– lead guitar, backing vocals (2010–present)
Jon Pancoast
– bassist, backing vocals (2012–present)

Why I Love Them (and Why You Should Too): After singing along to every one of their songs on the radio, the first time I heard Third Eye Blind’s eponymous debut, I couldn’t get through it. Years later, I still don’t know what happened. It’s become a staple—no other song explodes into summer quite like “Semi-Charmed Life” with its notoriously joyous references to meth, sex; meth-induced sex. When that song blasted out of every car window the summer of ’97, the lyrics would get a little jumbled (you know the part I’m talking about) and it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized the explicit drug reference. No matter: four more singles made their way to the charts my freshman year of high school, showcasing a now-unheard-of fourteen—(fourteen!)—track album that is still one of the best debuts of all time. While the band’s had its share of difficulty and controversy (the firing of co-songwriter and lead guitarist Kevin Cadogan in 2000; the departure of founding bassist Arion Salazar in 2006; the firing of Cadogan’s replacement Tony Fredianelli in 2010; the implosion of Elektra Records; and the cancellation of a live DVD and CD in 2008), they have continued to release outstanding music. And of course, the last 3 tracks on 3eb’s self-titled are some of the best I’ve ever heard; I’ve even used them to teach metaphor and imagery to high schoolers.

Check it: Continue reading Friday Mixtape: Third Eye Blind

Friday Mixtape: Tracy Chapman

IT’S FRIDAY!!!!

That means it’s time for the Friday Mixtape. There is no tape and no mix, just 3 tracks from a single artist. Hope this skates you into the weekend! Today I bring you:

Tracy Chapman

Who She Is: American singer/songwriter, 4-time Grammy Award winner (if that matters to you). Ridiculously talented, she plays guitar, harp, bouzouki, banjo, clarinet, keyboards, organ, harmonica, and percussion instruments. Her voice is like a warm blanket, carved wood.

Why I Love Her (and Why You Should Too): I first heard Tracy Chapman in the late’90s, not long after I first heard Alanis Morissette. I was 13, my family had just moved to Indiana after 8 years in Madison, WI, and I was so lonely I could have chewed off my own arm. I spent the summer before high school lying in a rectangle of light between the garage and the family room, drowning in songs like “One of Us” by Joan Osborne, and “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. For the longest time, I didn’t know who was responsible for this track that so perfectly captured the ache in my heart. For years, I actually thought the singer was a man; it took me a long time to wrap my head around the fact that Tracy Chapman is a black woman. (I know, I know. In retrospect, how could I have thought she was anything but?) “Fast Car” is one of many hits off her first, self-titled album, which came out in 1988 (I was 5 years old!!!!). Continue reading Friday Mixtape: Tracy Chapman