Newsletter Sign Up
This site is infrequently updated. In the mean time, I am writing bi-weekly about life & stuff & things via newsletter.
a girl lives in brooklyn
I just said, out loud to my empty apartment, “Echo, turn the living room light to 50%”. Then my living room light dimmed. Of course I said Thank You to this Internet of Things technology. Somehow I have come to rely on it. Although that was not intentional. As I regularly ask my Amazon Echo for the time, and turn my lights on remotely, it was only a matter of time I decided to add WiFi Sunglasses to my collection of things-i-dont-need-but-use-every-day-and-love.
Snapchat is an app that I truly love. Why? Because I love story telling. After all, I have been telling stories on this blog since 2009. I love telling stories via writing, audio, photos, drawing, and now thanks to Snapchat, video. It is just another medium used for long-form story telling. Though it is ultimately temporary. (Isn’t everything?) My username is lintacious, follow me!
A few years ago, I wrote a guide to using Snapchat. Recent interface changes and upgrades have made that slightly outdated. I still use the photo/video app daily to tell stories. Maybe these stories are pointless but they are my stories. My story of buying a bagel in Manhattan is different from your story of buying a bagel elsewhere.
Before Snapchat featured more corporate Discover stories, I truly believed it was the pinnacle of the shared experience. At a time, I thought Snapchat was what the Internet was designed for. I still think that for the most part.
Whether you are taking a photo of your cats, a video of your vacation, or yourself ranting, sharing every day first-hand experiences is a great way to give others a fresh perspective.
Spectacles are a hardware product by Snap,inc. (Snapchat’s parent company). They are the first product created by Snap. Considering, this is the first piece of hardware from a software company, it really is a feat in design, use, and of course, marketing.
By design, Snapchat is an app. There is not a web-based version of it. You can download your snaps (photos/videos) and post them elsewhere. But you can only use Snapchat itself on a phone. Up until now, you needed a phone to take a photo or video.
Simply put, Spectacles are sunglasses equipped with a camera allowing you to take 10-30-second videos. These videos are uploaded into Snapchat via Bluetooth or WiFi. Then you can share your first-hand hands-free experiences with your friends. The lens provides not only a truly first-person experience but also peripheral sight.
A camera’s limitation is framing. It is difficult to show the expanse of a mountain range or urban skyline because a photo is abruptly cut off. Even a panoramic shot does not give a reliable scope. With a 115-degree camera, Spectacles provide an all-around perspective similar to that of vision. Honestly, the videos feel surreal and take some getting used to.
Purchasing the Spectacles is an experience in itself. I know how “sucker” I sound right now. I know some millenial advertising exec is very happy to read this. That’s okay. I pick and choose my capitalistic battle and will let myself get sucked into this one. Anyway, the shopping experience for buying Spectacles in NYC was really… cool.
In many other cities, Snapchat has used vending machines placed in not-obvious locations. Once people hear word, the lines start and never end. It is a really good gimmick. In NYC, the purchasing experience was a little different.
NYC has a Spectacles pop-up store! Well, at least until New Year’s day. (The time of this writing is 12/22). The scarcity of the product is intentional and genius.
The way the store works is in two parts:
1) Show up to the store between 4-7p to receive a wrist-band with a time slot. This is the time you are to come back to the store to make your purchase. The last time slot is 9:30-10p. The wristbands will likely be gone by 8p.
2) Come back at your assigned time slot. You are then let into the store where there are 3 Spectacles vending machines. You are allowed/encouraged to document the experience (via Snapchat of course). At the machine, pick your color Spectacles, put in your Credit Card ($130/each), then get your tube, and you’re done! Limit 2 per customer.
This was by far the least stressful tech-buying experience I’ve encountered. No crowded store. Only the people buying Spectacles were allowed inside. No tourists inside taking lots of pictures but not buying anything. Very minimal. Super easy process all around. I got to the store right from work, so about 6:30pm and got a wristband for 9pm. Killing time wasn’t too terrible in midtown.
Currently, the Snapchat pop up store is located at 59th st and 5th avenue. Directly across from the Apple Store Cube.
My Snapchat stories aren’t always the most interesting. But I am one of those people who love seeing “day in the life” experiences. It’s the typical every day stuff that can be intriguing to watch. Also, I live in NYC. To a lot of people, it is a whole other world. Many people have only seen it in movies. I like being able to give a slightly more realistic view of what it’s like to live here. Even if most of the time I sit in my Brooklyn apartment with my cats. Hey, that’s real life too.
At $130, I am fine with the price point. I have been considering a go-pro off and on the past few years. Mostly to use while running half marathons and maybe during an event. But those action cameras are really expensive. At about $400 not including accessories, it’s been difficult to justify. Comparatively, the Spectacles are much easier to justify. Even if I don’t have a use-case for them right now. I am sure over time I will get my moneys worth out of them.
It is surreal knowing that everything I see is recording and could possibly be shared. But I also love that about it. It’s providing context to the world. Instead of looking at this perfectly framed photo of my curated coffee table that I rearranged meticulously and is not practical for every day use, you can see the entire room in all of it’s imperfect glory. That feels more real. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, yet, but for now I like it.
Let’s get right to business. How do these Snapchat sunglasses work!
Snapchat Spectacles are video-recording-enabled sunglasses debuted by Snap,inc exclusively for use with Snapchat. They retail for $130 and are only sold at Snapchat vending machines.
My username is lintacious, follow me!
Yes I love technology.
Every year I re-watch some of my favorite Christmas & holiday-themed movies in the month of December. Thankfully, many of these are available on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime so everyone can enjoy them!
I added a winter movie on this list, The Cutting Edge, currently streaming on Hulu. It is not specifically Christmas themed, although there is a Christmas scene. But it is about ice skating (and hockey!) and I watch it every winter. I’ve shared this favorite movie of mine with lots of friends over the years and everyone has enjoyed it. I’m happy to see it finally streaming.
Also included in the lists are both versions of Miracle on 34th Street. I don’t mind the remake, honestly, so I recommend giving them both a watch.
There are many more Christmas-themed movies available streaming but I’ve narrowed down the list below to ones I regularly enjoy year over year. Also, some of them are really really bad. I promise only good ones below.
I hope everyone can get into the holiday spirit this month and enjoy watching some Christmas movie favorites!
Updated 12/25/2016 to add The Santa Clause (Netflix).
as of 12/25/2016
Scott Adams is the creator of the comic Dilbert. As a successful entrepreneur, he wrote this memoir/business/self-help book to provide examples of life strategies that might help others. The book starts out strong with helpful advice about business strategy. The ending becomes preachy as he turns to habits & lifestyles. Leslie Rating: 2/5
I initially enjoyed reading How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. The best piece of advice from him is to use systems not goals. This is exactly how I’ve been looking at life for the past few years. Goals are for losers. You need to have systems. Without a system in place, you will fall back into the old routine. He is definitely on point there.
Adams also has a lot of optimism and focus. I like the idea of a forward focus. Being optimistic means learning from failures rather than becoming stagnant from them. His attitude is upbeat and the book starts out as an enjoyable read. The beginning of the book is very memoir so it is interesting to learn about someone else. However, from there the book is just him telling us how to live our lives.
Moving into business, the tone definitely changes and he starts to sound a little bit like an asshole. His business strategy is to always be an entrepreneur and sell a product, never selling his own time. He makes it clear that his comics are a business; he is not an artist. So if he will earn more money by changing something in the comic, he does not have the limitation of artistic integrity. This is a product so it must be designed for those willing to buy it. It also is simple so it can be easily recreated and mass produced. That way he is making the most money in the least amount of time. This is likely the type of attitude it takes to be really rich (and Adams is really rich, really really rich, and he won’t let you forget that fact).
From Business advice, he turns to straight-up life advice. This is the asshole bit. Because these things worked for him, he is certain they are key to everyone’s success. Yes, it is that preachy and self righteous. He states that this might not work for everyone but his attitude is clearly that it will. This section also has a Dale Carnegie feel to it. Which is no surprise because one of his Life Tips is to learn how to manipulate others. Sure, you’ll get other people to like you. And I guess when you’re asking people for money in the business world that is important. But it just feels so icky to me. (Clearly I am not cut out for the business world).
Another of his Life Tips is to drink coffee for the energy boost. Yes, that is a pro-tip. He also has a huge section on Daily Affirmations. But the whole idea is such a joke I’m ignoring it.
The few takeaways the book has can be found in other places. The rest of the book has a know-it-all tone that does not seem helpful. The more I thought of the book after, the less I liked it. I give it a 2/5 because the information is nothing new and his explanation of it is unnecessarily condescending.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel is a contemporary sci-fi novel that interweaves the possibility of alien life with current International politics. It is Book 1 of the “Themis Files”, which means this book has a non-ending and empty characters. The story line is still very strong. Leslie Rating: 4/5.
As I read this book, I loved it. And immediately afterward, I loved it. But within a short period of time, I’ve thought more about the book’s flaws. The core problem I see, which causes a lot of smaller problems, is this is the first book in the eventual series “Themis Files.” Because this novel was written with a series in mind, the characters are shallow & boring. We learn about the characters in a form of “tell” not “show”. We don’t learn about them, we are told about them. For the most part, I was able to ignore this. There is also a cliche love triangle which I also was able to tune out. At least it is used as a vital plot device. But since the characters have zero depth, they also have zero chemistry with each other. I’m sure it will become a focus later on in the series and I have no interest in that.
Let’s get back to the good stuff! The story is really imaginative and unique. I enjoyed it being the sci-fi aspect of alien life forms. Combined with the contemporary aspect of politics. The question as it is presented in the book is, if parts of an alien weapon are found all over the world, who owns the weapon once it’s together? Who provides the funding? Where is the project located? I found all those questions fascinating.
Since this is first in a series, this book has a non ending which is disappointing. I mean, it answers all my questions. But never fully tells the reader what it is they found. The alien robot weapon really is the best part of the book. I wish Neuvel spent longer finding parts and building the robot weapon. Instead, it happens pretty quickly which is why I mention it here. It’s not a spoiler. I was expecting that to be the big reveal at the end. Instead it was pretty rushed.
The more I think about it the less I enjoyed the book. But I absolutely loved it while reading so maybe that is the important part. I am still going to give it a 4/5 because the writing of plot is on point and it is an original sci-fi story.
Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is a historical fiction novel set in 1800’s Europe telling the life of an opera singer and her journey to high society. Leslie Rating: 3/5
Originally, I heard about this novel via a book podcast that I no longer subscribe to. Including this one, their recommendations have been duds for me, personally. The plot was described as something far more interesting than it actually is. However, I did not know that when I picked this up from the library.
The day I began The Queen of the Night, I was reading it outside on my lunch break. A man walked by and in passing said, I just read that book and I really recommend it. It was rather long but a good book. I thanked him for his recommendation. Skipping to the end of the book, I took notice of the 550 page count but didn’t think anything particularly lengthy about it. After finishing the story, I now realize he meant ‘long’ figuratively. Because the story definitely went on for about 100-pages too many.
The first 300 pages were rather captivating. The story begins at the end, where we learn a very popular opera singer is asked to play a role in an opera being written specifically for her. I know nothing about opera but apparently this is a really big deal. As the story is being described to her, she realizes it is based on her own life, which was supposed to be a mystery.
Then the book goes back in time and we learn about her life history. This is a typical rags-to-riches story except interwoven with a historical timeline. The middle of the story is when the Franco-Prussian war hits. In what should be interesting, these parts were definitely a slog. Chee’s writing style is exceptional when writing a character-driven story. When writing a scene-based story, he struggles. Writing about the streets of Paris when there are bombings, dead bodies, and rivers of blood had never felt so boring and forced. Chee’s method of writing is “tell” rather than “show”. There was little emotion when describing these war scenes. And they did little to drive the plot or add depth to the main character. You can easily skim through the middle and not miss anything.
Once that part is over, we are brought back to the Soprano’s life story and Chee finds his writing niche again. The story moves rather suddenly at the end but does wrap up nicely. I found the story overall enjoyable. It probably would be more enjoyable if I knew anything about Opera. Or about that period in history.
This is very much a character-driven historical fiction story. Chee’s writing is on point for most of the book. I am interested to see where he goes from here. I did not (and probably will not) read his previous work. Overall, I did enjoy Queen of the Night and am giving it a 3 out of 5 rating.
Any movie that has explosions or robots or both is my favorite movie. I love “dumb action movies” and I am not even apologizing for that. I prefer when they’re smart, of course. But I just want to see things blown up, chase scenes, and general bad ass behavior. A plot is a bonus.
The big blockbuster for the start of the summer is currently Mad Max: Fury Road. Another big-name blockbuster is Tomorrowland since it is Disney + George Clooney. One has fire on top of fire and the other has a message Al Gore spouted a decade ago. Which one is which!
I will lead with that. However, there was actually a lot more downtime than I had expected in Mad Max: Fury Road. Mainly because everyone has been so amped up about it. And you should be. The whole movie is an adrenaline rush about people who are on an adrenaline rush. But there is a real plot. And there is actual down time to address it. So, not explosions every single second. The car chase does stop at some point.
However, just as I was like “boooooring why are these people standing around talking” then the plot went BOOM and everything lit up again!
Atlas Shrugged is a book by objectivist Ayn Rand about this weird perfect society created by the best of the best because they don’t have time for “regular” people.
Tomorrowland is a movie by Disney about this weird perfect society created by the best of the best because they don’t have time for “regular” people.
An Inconvnient Truth is a 2006 documentary from Al Gore about how humans are destroying the planet.
Tomorrowland is a 2015 film from Disney about how humans are destroying the planet.
Eurovision is campy, over-the top, EuroPop performances. It is very self-aware. And it is also very serious business.
This year will be the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest! Eurovision combines the national pride of the Olympics with the live performance & voting style of American Idol. Some call it the World Cup of song competitions. There will be 27 live performances this year; usually there are 26. This year is extra special because, for whatever reason, Australia has been invited to compete.
Unlike song competitions and award shows here in the states, Eurovision is streamed live because there are no commercials. The show is not drawn out painfully forever to try to increase ad sales. Instead, the show plows through one performance to the next. The pacing makes you feel like you cant take a break until it’s time for voting! Twenty-seven performances in about two-hours!
After a speed run of live performances, there’s a break where the host makes awkward banter and bad jokes. They don’t mean for them to be bad. But, the entire show is in English. Usually in countries where English is not their first language. So you end up having two people trying to make stage-talk in a language that both of them only half understand. The result is as you would imagine (great).
Then comes the voting! The votes consist of 50% audience voting and 50% “panel of expert judges” voting. You cannot vote for your own country. While Europe is voting (we can’t vote, obviously) there are musical acts. Or a history of Eurovision montage. Then they painstakingly display the results from each country as spoken by a country representative via live satellite link. Sometimes the satellite link works correctly. And sometimes it doesn’t. You’re not supposed to vote politically…
Then, they declare a winner! Somehow, Eurovision is a very efficient award show machine. They crank out 27 live performances, voting, results, and crowning a winner in just about four-hours. I’ve seen episodes of American Idol that have barely 5 performances take two-hours! The winner is actually important because it determines where the competition will be hosted the next year. This year’s is in Austria because they won Eurovision last year.
Because simply watching a campy EuroPop song competition isn’t enough, many people play Eurovision Bingo. Or, much simpler, just a drinking game. The competition is this predictable. Yet, it’s also not predictable at all some years.
The list below make up some of the bingo card slots that I compiled this year. Read through to get an idea of what this competition is all about! Feel free to download the bingo cards pdf to print out for your own Eurovision party!
Eurovision has some famous artists under it’s belt. Like Celine Dion, Katrina and the Waves, ABBA. But more often than not, the performers competing are big in Europe just not over here (or yet). Here are some highlights of previous Eurovision performers:
A drag queen performer sings a song reminiscent of a James Bond theme song. She won last year’s competition.
This song features a group of grandmothers singing about partying. During their performance they bake a batch of cookies.
Eurovision’s only winning rock song to date. These Gwar-esque performers won in 2006.
Last year, France’s goofy entry received the lowest amount of votes with a total of 2.
Sometimes Romania sends falsetto-singing vampire warlocks to perform.
In 2008, Ireland sent a turkey. His name is Dustin. He is a TV personality and has recorded several albums.
When I first started reading Graphic Novels, I started with memoirs. I loved reading an illustrated autobiographical story. I’m a sucker for personal stories anyway. Graphic Memoirs do read different from autobiographies. Little moments are shared in a way that doesn’t work as well in written novels. There doesn’t always need to be a grandiose chapter of insight into the author’s life. Little moments can be illustrated very easily. And still portray the author’s life.
Graphic Memoirs also tend to be about a particular aspect of an author’s life, rather than a chronological telling. In this way, it’s like reading a very personalized non-fiction story. These can be of travels, family, childhood, mental illness, identity or a number of other specialized topics.
My favorite type of graphic novel are memoirs and I’ve read a lot of them. The five books below aren’t necessarily my favorite. More so, these are a good representation of memoirs and tackle very interesting topics.
This memoir chronicles the author’s brother’s struggle with epilepsy and how is family handled it. The story itself is actually very interesting. As his family tried lots of different religions, home remedies, and other natural paths to cure their son of epilepsy.
But what truly makes this book are David B’s illustrations. They are very dark. His drawing style is of mostly blacks. Thick lines. Very busy. And very grim. The book has a dark overtone to it all throughout, most of which is depicted just in his style.
His visualizations work perfectly for the story he’s telling. This is also an interesting memoir because it is, essentially, his brother’s story. Yet told from his perspective.
Burma Chronicles was the first graphic novel I ever read. I love traveling. I love reading about traveling. Guy Delisle has written several graphic travelogues of his various experiences traveling as an animator. He is a Canadian citizen, which allows him work visas in countries that us Americans don’t necessarily have access to. This memoir is about his time in Burma. But he has also written about living in North Korea. That one is also very interesting.
Since I have never been to Burma, seeing his illustrations helps to bring the country alive more than written descriptions could. He shares many little moments in his day-to-day life, which really help to show what living in the country is like. Writing this out would become mundane or monotnous. But illustrations are different and even the same drawing can represent different things.
In this one, his family is staying with him in Burma. So it is also a memoir of him being a father and raising an infant, while working in a foreign land. There is a lot to this that written text just wouldn’t do justice. He brings to life his infant son, the country of Burma, and even his work as an animator.
I highly recommend all of his travelogue memoirs!
This is the best autobiography I’ve read on mental illness. Far better than any written novel. Illustrating mental illness makes the feelings visible. Seeing a drawing of someone crawling on the floor in sadness gets the point across better than using metaphors. Having a visual for a manic episode shows the true nature of the disease. These emotions just cannot be conveyed as strongly in text.
I’ve never felt like I could relate to any book on depression as much as this one. Her drawings of sadness clouds, darkness, crawling from the bed to the couch, represent perfectly how I’ve felt in depressive episode. Rather than write in words her feelings while going through mania or depression, we are able to actually see what her feelings look like.
This novel also addressed the Creativity Factor of mental illness. She illustrates the struggle between wanting to manage her mental illness while also fearing she will lose her creativity. Forney goes into this in detail. Even discussing famous artists who were definitely suffering from depression.
Also, in the end she does learn how to manage her episodes through behaviors and meds. Most of the book chronicles her visiting a psychiatrist and how she goes about that. I love her honesty not only in her writing but also her drawings. Lastly, Forney identifies as bisexual, which is always nice to see representation in media.
Liz Prince is one of my favorite graphic novelists. Her drawings are simple yet tell you everything you need to know. Her writing is a perfect balance of wit and substance. I can also relate to her fairly well. So that helps. In the past she has published short graphic novels about a long-term relationship. And then, when that ended, her life being single again. Those are both really great and funny.
Tomboy is Prince’s first long-form graphic memoir. She is definitely ready for it. Instead of focusing on relationships or the lack of relationships, Prince focuses on her own identity. Specifically in the terms of her gender. This is not a LGBTQ novel. It is not a trans novel. Prince falls into this niche where she is both cis and straight, yet is assumed not to be. Her look is rather androgynous. And her personality/interests more masculine. She her struggles with being misidentified in childhood. And being the only girl on the baseball team.
Her illustrations help to show us all of her various phases, hairstyles, and body changes as she grew up. These visuals are key, since we her appearance is the main topic of the book. In the end she finds a place where she can be herself, and be liked for being her. This story’s message couldn’t be conveyed as strongly if it were written in text rather than the graphic memoir style.
This is a novel I didn’t love when I finished, but was sufficiently creeped out while reading. The premise of this graphic memoir, is that the author went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. He had a few brief interactions with him. And even back then knew that there was something off about Dahmer.
The book then goes into detail about Dahmer’s childhood. His early homicidal tendencies. And other high school interactions with him. But the fact that it is revolving around the author’s own personal experiences, really makes this one. Hearing this from a personal perspective is very effective at increasing the creepy factor. Reading about a serial killer is creepy enough. But to think that this person was once considered just a regular high schooler, is even creepier.
Although Backderf’s illustrations aren’t overly dark, these visuals really make Dahmer’s actions feel more realistic. And, yes, creepier. It’s interesting to see him transform from an awkward teenager into, well, a monster. Having visuals for this is really effective.
Last year I put together a playlist that consists of literal summer songs. Every song title mentions “summer” “ocean” “beach” “hot” “sun” “surf” “ice cream” “sand” “pool” etc. So songs that simply remind me of summer by association are not included.
Because the playlist is about song titles, it spans various genres of music. Hip-hop, rap, pop, punk, indie, and country. Here’s the break-down, I’ll include the playlist at the end.
Indie game Unfinished Swan is available free this month if you have a PS+ subscription. This is a wonderful, short, artistic game. There was far more detail, originality, and difficulty than I had expected. The story itself is linear but doesn’t make a ton of sense. It is set in the first person; you are a little boy following a random swan around this drawing world.
The game play changes each level and all of it is fun. I thought the entire game would be about paint splatters but they did a good job at really making each level different. Some don’t involve paint at all. But all involve light and contrast. It really is beautiful.
You can’t really die in the game. If you go where you’re not supposed to, you just come back to a near-by checkpoint. Also, saving only happens when you actually reach the end of a level. The first time I played it, I quit after reaching the first Storybook, and was disappointed to find I had to start over because it didn’t save.
This is more of an exploratory game than a puzzle, platformer, or shooter. Definitely unique style and wonderful artwork. I really recommend this one.
Erik Larson is most known for Devil in the White City. His narrative non-fiction take on the serial killer H.H. Holmes at the Chicago World’s Fair. That book is fantastic. Larson did his research and it shows. He includes mundane yet interesting facts about the fair, Chicago, and the world at this time. At the same time, he builds tension surrounding Holmes’s behavior. It never felt dull.
Since I love history, I really was looking forward to reading his latest Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. I have read many World War II books but not as many books on the first war. I do know all about the context of the sinking of the Lusitania and what it meant for the US’s involvement. Typically I find these types of stories interesting.
At 100-pages in, I’m considering bailing on this one. Larson goes way off the scope here with extraneous mundane details. Some of it is interesting. Like, that President Wilson was extremely depressed after his wife died. So much that he walked around Manhattan hoping to be assassinated. But… that has nothing to do with the Lusitania.
Larson gives us the life stories of several passengers. None of them are interesting. There isn’t a main character so we never develop emotions for anyone. And for some it just goes on for pages. At least this is slightly more related to the Lusitania.
The weaving of random facts that have a very tiny thread linking them reminds me a lot of a Bill Bryson book. Specifically, One Summer: America, 1927. Bryson took a specific year and wrote about a whole lot of various things that happened in that time period. It is all over the place. It seems that is what Larson was trying to do here. Unfortunately, ships are pretty well-contained. Unlike a huge event like the World’s Fair, a ship is pretty routine. There is a small crew. There weren’t that many passengers. Because of this, Larson has to write a lot of filler to make this full book length. He includes lots of information about events happening around the same time as the Lusitania sinking. But those have nothing to do with the actual event. This isn’t the type of book I want to read.
Without a main character, it is really difficult to care about the fate of the ship. Especially since we all know what happens. There is zero tension. And zero emotional connection. It’s more like Larson is practicing the “spray and pray” mentality of writing a hundred thousand random facts and hoping we find at least one of them interesting.