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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Julian Yap's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, November 27th, 2014
11:04 pm
13 Ways of Looking at Taylor Swift's 1989
1. “This is my very first documented, official pop album” ⎯Taylor Swift, Aug. 18, 2014

2. “On her new album, Taylor Swift employs a whole new squad of sounds and studio tools to deliver the now-classic Taylor Swift message: I love you so much, and I will kill you if you fuck with me.”—Molly Lambert, Grantland, Oct. 27, 2014

3. “Pop, like other mass-market products such as beer and red meat, has gone artisanal. It’s a boutique item now, and 1989 is a boutique record . . . You remember how on Red’s signature tune, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Swift snarked about a dim ex-boyfriend’s preference for an “indie record that’s much cooler than mine”? With 1989, Swift has made her version of a record that’s much cooler than her other albums.”—Steven Hyder, Grantland, Oct. 28, 2014

4. “Much has been made of Swift as a self-contained singer-songwriter, but this time around the credits look pretty much the same as the credits for every big pop album: representatives from Scandanavian hit factories (Max Martin, Shellback); a moonlighting member of a mainstream indie-rock band (Fun’s Jack Antonoff); an EDM producer chancing their arm in the world of pop (Ali Payami); the omnipresent Greg Kurstin, of Lily Allen, Lana del Rey, Ellie Goulding and Kylie Minogue fame. Given the cast list, you would expect 1989 to be an extremely polished product, which it undoubtedly is. Even its least interesting tracks sound like hits, which is what one pays Max Martin for, at its best, 1989 deals in undeniable melodies and huge, perfectly turned choruses and nagging hooks.” ⎯Alexis Petridis, The Guardian, Oct. 24, 2014

5. 1989 opens with the track “Welcome to New York.” The city’s response was to name her the official NYC global welcome ambassador. Other New Yorkers have not taken it so well:
o “taylor swifts new song “welcome to New York” makes me want to finally move from New York”⎯el-p, Twitter, Oct 20, 2014
o “The New York of 'Welcome to New York' is what you would get if you populated it entirely with humans raised in the Times Square Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., then let them out into the world with only a penthouse apartment, an Amex black card, and leopard-print Prada luggage to guide them.”⎯David Colon, The Village Voice, Oct. 23, 2014
o “But the good news is that the song isn’t quite as much of a disaster in context. It’s still an unforgivably dull mission statement, but it’s really only here to set the scene: Welcome to New Taylor. A clean and bright and shiny place where the subway never smells like piss because you never have to take it.”⎯Lindsay Zoladz, Vulture.com, Oct. 27, 2014

6. “'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate/Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake/I shake it off, I shake it off”⎯Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”, 1989, 2014

7. “The critics of “Welcome to New York” are inarguably correct: It is not a very true-to-life song. Also, The Warriors is an overly stylized and highly inaccurate depiction of New York City gangs in the ’70s and Ghostbusters is an insensitive portrayal of municipal bureaucrats fighting to keep paranormal investigators environmentally responsible in the ’80s. . . . Of course the sentiments of “Welcome to New York” are corny and misguided; the myth of New York exceptionalism endures because of the corny convictions of misguided outsiders who keep searching for something in the city that’s not there. Swift captures that phenomenon in “Welcome to New York” so completely that you suspect that she’s also living it out.”⎯Steven Hyder

8. “The negative traits ascribed to Taylor always sound like a greatest-hits list of every bad characteristic associated with womanhood: too emotional, too weak, too naive, too uptight, too slutty. But it’s obvious that Taylor is weak only in her songs, because that’s the only place she can afford to be, and that her weaknesses are also her muse.”⎯Molly Ball

9. “But the really striking thing about 1989 is how completely Taylor Swift dominates the album: Martin, Kurstin et al make umpteen highly polished pop records every year, but they’re seldom as clever or as sharp or as perfectly attuned as this, which suggests those qualities were brought to the project by the woman whose name is on the cover.”⎯Alexis Petridis

10. “The first half of 1989, from “Welcome to New York” up through “Shake It Off,” is particularly unstoppable. “⎯Steven Hyder

11. “The best moments come toward the end, when Swift shakes up the concept.”⎯Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, Oct. 24, 2014

12. “All Taylor Swift songs are written from the perspective of the girl who Feels It more than everybody else; the goal of every Taylor Swift is for you to fleetingly feel it as much as she does.”¬⎯Lindsay Zoladz

13. “Deeply weird, feverishly emotional, wildly enthusiastic, 1989 sounds exactly like Taylor Swift, even when it sounds like nothing she's ever tried before. And yes, she takes it to extremes. Are you surprised? This is Taylor Swift, remember? Extremes are where she starts out.”⎯Rob Sheffield
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
5:58 pm
My Favorite Comic of 2013
Apparently today is the day we make a lot of lists. Never say that I’m reluctant to jump in on a trend. 2013 was a great year in comics, giving us East of West, Uber, Three, Sex Criminals, All-New X-men, Superior Foes of Spiderman, Pretty Deadly, a wonderful new Uncanny X-Men and continuing great runs on Hawkeye and Prophet, all of which are pretty favorite, and all of which you should read.

But for me, number one with a bullet is undoubtedly Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvies’ shining, scintillating, spectacular Young Avengers. A pure pop investigation into what it is to be young and awesome.

Friday, May 10th, 2013
9:07 pm
Bike Racing!
So I have recently gotten into bike racing on an actual bike team, and part of this experience is writing race reports to share witht he other team members. It occured to me that since I so rarely post about what I'm actually up to, some of my friends might like to read them as well, edited to include some explanation of cycling terms which might not be familiar to the average non-cyclist. (Incidentally, I'm also thinking of cross posting this to Google+, and I would love folks thoughts on whether or not it's too long_

The actual race reportCollapse )
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
12:36 pm
Oscar Guesses
Best Picture: Argo
Best Director: David O Russell
Actor, Lead: Daniel Day Lewis
Actor, Supporting: Tommy Lee Jones
Actress, Lead: Jessica Chastain
Actress, Supporting: Anne Hathaway

Foreign Film: Amour
Best Animated Film: Wreck-It Ralph
Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugarman

Cinematography: Life of Pi
Production Design: Anna Karenina
Film Editing: Argo
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Makeup & Hair: The Hobbit

Best Score: Argo
Best Song: Skyfall, by Adele

Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Sound Editing: Skyfall
Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Animated Short: Paperman
Documentary Short: Inocente
Live Short: Death of a Shadow

Weirdly enough, I've seen 6 out of the 8 movies nominated for best picture this year (and hopefully Life of Pi this afternoon). Personally, I think Zero Dark Thirty was the best movie this year, but Argo was the one I most enjoyed watching, so it's only a little cynical picking it over the clearly snubbed Zero Dark Thirty. Similarly, I want to give best original screenplay to Zero Dark instead of Django (and I may change it on my final ballot), which is not as good as Inglorious Basterds, but cynicism wins out on my Livejournal ballot) I love Jennifer Lawrence, and think she was robbed for Winter's Bone, so I'll be extremely happy if she wins, but I think that Jessica Chastain's performance was ultimately the better one. As for Best Supporting Actor, I think Leo was robbed, and Joel is right that both Tommy Lee Jones and Christolph Waltz are nominated for doing what they've done beter in other movies, but I still think that Tommy Lee Jones will edge it out of DeNiro.
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
3:20 pm
"It is late now . . . It may even be too late, but shall we walk together a while, you and I?"
Monday, February 13th, 2012
10:19 am
Not a literary quote, but I liked it: In the context of the Greek Debt Crisis (but really, applicable to so much more):

"It's almost like some people think if you squeeze a society enough, it will turn into a diamond instead of explode in your face."

from @amaeryllis, Twitter
Friday, February 10th, 2012
8:13 am
charlie_ego reminded me how much I like Slings and Arrows, this is not a quote from the show, but rather one of my favorite Shakespeare monologues from the show:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

And look: it's the scene:

Thursday, February 9th, 2012
3:35 pm
We speak now or I do, and others do. You've never spoken before. You will. You'll be able to say how the city is a pit and a hill and a standard and an animal that hunts and a vessel on the sea and the sea and how we are fish in it, not like the man who swims weekly with fish but the fish with which he swims, the water, the pool. I love you, you light me, warm me, you are suns.

You have never spoken before.

From Embassytown by China Mieville. Which everyone should read.
Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
7:24 pm
"You can think and you can fight, but the world’s always movin’, and if you wanna stay ahead you gotta dance"

From Maurice and his Amazing Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
Monday, February 6th, 2012
12:41 pm
“The Jewish sages also tell us that God dances when His children defeat Him in argument, when they stand on their feet and use their minds. So questions like Anne's are worth asking. To ask them is a very fine kind of human behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up His answers, perhaps some day we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God.”

Do people like trying to guess these? I could just start putting the quotes in with attribution.

This one is from Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow an amazing book if you haven't read it.
Sunday, February 5th, 2012
12:59 pm
“The future cannot blame the present, just as the present cannot blame the past. The hope is always here, always alive, but only your fierce caring can fan it into a fire to warm the world.”
― Susan Cooper, Silver on the Tree
Saturday, February 4th, 2012
1:52 pm
Work got a little busy, which means I've gotten shockingly behind on putting quotes in my blog, so thanks to charlie_ego, pantsie, Heather, and anyone else who has been picking up the quoting slack.

To make up for it, I'll add in a couple of weekend quotes. A favorite couple of stanzas from a favorite poem:

'O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

Full poem behind the cutCollapse )
Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
7:40 pm
National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month
Another February, and yet another National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month. A little late in the day to play my regular guessing game, so I thought I'd just put up the entirety of a great poem I was introduced to recently. I was going to say "I especially like the Xth verse" but then I realized I like it all, equally.

Poppies by Jennifer Grotz

There is a sadness everywhere present
but impossible to point to, a sadness that hides in the world
and lingers. You look for it because it is everywhere.
When you give up, it haunts your dreams
with black pepper and blood and when you wake
you don’t know where you are.

But then you see the poppies, a disheveled stand of them.
And the sun shining down like God, loving all of us equally,
mountain and valley, plant, animal, human, and therefore
shouldn’t we love all things equally back?
And then you see the clouds.

The poppies are wild, they are only beautiful and tall
so long as you do not cut them,
they are like the feral cat who purrs and rubs against your leg
but will scratch you if you touch back.
Love is letting the world be half-tamed.
That’s how the rain comes, softly and attentively, then

with unstoppable force. If you
stare upwards as it falls, you will see
they are falling sparks that light nothing only because
the ground interrupts them. You can hear the way they’d burn,
the smoldering sound they make falling into the grass.

That is a sound for the sadness everywhere present.
The closest you have come to seeing it
is at night, with the window open and the lamp on,
when the moths perch on the white walls,
tiny as a fingernail to large as a Gerbera daisy
and take turns agitating around the light.

If you grasp one by the wing,
its pill-sized body will convulse
in your closed palm and you can feel the wing beats
like an eyelid’s obsessive blinking open to see.
But now it is still light and the blackbirds are singing
as if their voices are the only scissors left in this world.
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
9:01 pm
Favorite Books of 2011
It's not too late to post about my favorite books of 2011 is it?

So, in reverse chronological order, my favorite books I read last year are:

1) Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy by John Le Carre. "There's a mole, right at the top of the circus." I actually don't recall it that line's from the book or the new movie, but Tinker, Tailor is the best spy novel I have ever read. It is, famously, the anti-Bond, with Le Carre's most famous character, George Smiley--an old, bespectacled spy who cleans his glasses with the fat end of his tie--and a focus on actually spy craft rather than running around and shooting things. Wonderful.

2) The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. YA. If you've ever liked horses, Ireland, or interesting takes on traditional myths (in this case Kelpies) Then you should definitely read this book. Entrancing book set in a fictional Irish island where the men hold an annual race on carnivorous "water horses" that come out of the sea. The hero and heroine's voices are remarkably well developed, and Stiefvater does a great job making you feel like there's a lot beneath the surface of even the minor characters. Totally compelling. Plus the heroine has red hair, so Charlene and Nina, you definitely have to read it! Seriously though, this one was just fun and fantastic, can't recommend it enough.

3) River of Gods by Ian MacDonald. A sprawling, multi-character, self-contained novel set in India 50 years from now, River of Gods is a tour de force. I ended up reading River of Gods because it was one of two books (the other being Hyperion which showed up on the "desert island" list of 5 different science fiction authors. This is one of those books which creates a future world which seems both incredibly different and yet completely plausible, and MacDonald does a great job in keeping you interested in all of his various narrators and weaving their stories together.

4) Doc, a Novel by Mary Doria Russell. There was no way I wasn't going to love this one. The life of Doc Holiday, before Tombstone, as written by the author of The Sparrow. Lyrical and vibrant.

5) Embassytown by China Mieville. My favorite Mieville book since The Scar and possibly my favorite Mieville book period. Embassytown is basically a classic high concept science fiction novel, but written by China Mieville. Amazing storytelling that makes you think about the nature of language.

Honorable mentions: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under the Banner of Heaven doing fake history in the way only the master can, this time in fake China. I really liked it. The Best of Bicycling by various authors collecting the best essays from the last 50 years of Bicycling Magazine is a must read if you like bikes. It would have been in the top 5, but I understand that not everyone shares my biases. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cat Valente would have been the best YA book I've read all year if The Scorpio Races hadn't come along, but is totally worth a read. I'm a sucker for Mike Swanwick, so it will come as no surprise that I really enjoyed Dancing with Bears. Special non-fiction prizes to Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, and The Big Short by Michael Lewis (but then I'll read anything by Mary Roach and Michael Lewis.)

Dishonorable mention: I mention this because it's gotten a lot of good reviews. Ready Player One is the most pandering novel I have ever read in my entire life: high-school kid obsessed with 80s geek culture beats the man, wins the prize and the girl. Not to say that it isn't filled with some cool things, it is. And not to say I didn't enjoy it to some extent-I did. But it left me feeling terribly used afterwards.
Monday, May 23rd, 2011
4:44 pm
What I'm Up To
So, been a long time since I've posted, for which I really have no excuse. But anyway, I did want to do a quick post to give a little life update. As of today, I've moved down to DC and started my new job at the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice. It looks like it will be a fun and challenging job, so I'm looking forward to it.

Of course, right this second, I'm mainly looking forward to getting some sleep having come off slightly more than 24 hours of travelling.
Saturday, May 7th, 2011
9:23 pm
Saturday, March 26th, 2011
8:15 pm
This makes me really sad
Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011)

There's really nothing I can say about this that other people aren't going to say better. But Tough Guide to Fantasyland and Hexwood were my favorites of her books.
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
11:18 am
Fun Student Movie
You can sort of tell that it's a student film (set on campus, slightly pretentious), but I thought this was actually pretty good.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
9:18 am
Bonus Quote
I went to see Tom Stoppard's Arcadia last night, which is playing in New York for the next 15 weeks. It's a brilliant play, one of his best, with a great cast and I highly recommend you see it if you get a chance (I'll likely try to go again.) In any case, this quote stuck with me after the play, so I thought I'd share it

"We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?"
Monday, February 28th, 2011
3:49 pm
NPQiYBM: Closing quote
Sonny said, "What'll we do with all that money? Huh? What's the first thing we'll get?"
Fading light buttered the ridges until shadows licked them clean and they were lost to fresh nightfall. The birds quieted as the last light darted away. Ree stood and stretched. Twilight dimmed the snow, but icicles overhead held that gleam.

These are the last lines to Winter's Bone one of the best books I read last year.
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