Martin’s Top Ten for 2011

OFF!'s free midnight show at the Echoplex

As it was for a lot of you out there, this wasn’t the easiest year for me and my family. Following Giant Robot’s print magazine going on hiatus at the tail end of 2010, I was unemployed with no job leads or responses to my queries for the first six months. Then, after I got an awesome job out of nowhere, the company my wife worked for was purchased by a competitor and shut down. Fortunately, we’ve managed to get by through frugal habits, a rock-solid support system of family and friends, and the PMA. And yes, there have been highlights. Here are ten of them–some of which has been written about in the blog, others merely alluded to, and a couple of odds and ends–in no particular order.

Cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con 2011

1. Comic Con as a fan -  Perhaps nothing underscored my post-Giant Robot magazine life more than attending the San Diego Comic-Con as a civilian and not as vendor or journalist (blogging doesn’t count). It took a variety of hook-ups from unbelievable friends to get my brother Greg and me into the hallowed gathering of nerds for our thirtieth time–and our cousin Jimmy for his third–and rewards included bumping into old friends in the aisles (Willie Santos, Kiyoshi Nakazawa, GR crew), attending a ton of panels (Pee-Wee Herman, Los Bros Hernandez, Brian Ralph and Anders Nilson), witnessing unbeatable eye candy (original art, old comics, cosplayers), and stressing  over how to get back in 2012.

Boris at the Casbah (November 11, 2011)

2. Boris trifecta - The stoner rock/doom metal/ambient noise band from Japan went out their minds in 2011, releasing two albums at once (Heavy Rocks leaning toward psychedelic metal, Attention Please with more dreamy noise) and then following up with a New Album of deconstructed and challenging pop. Of course, the trio from Tokyo still totally rips onstage with axe-master Kurihara standing in the shadows.

Descendents at GV30 (December 18, 2011)

3. Descendents trifecta - I got to see my third favorite band–The Clash and J Church are tied for first–open for Bad Religion (actually Rise Against), headline FYF (w/ OFF!, No Age, Kid Dynamite…), and then headline GV30 (w/ X, Social Distortion, The Dickies, Vandals…) three times in 2011. My brother and I saw their last shows in the ’80s and ’90s, and figured that any of this year’s gigs could have been our last chance forever. The band from Hermosa Beach might not be able to sell out a telephone booth, but how many bands can follow up a set of Black Flag songs played by Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, and Bill Stevenson with Stephen Egerton?

Harry Kim and David Choe at the Art Theatre in Long Beach

4. Working for interTrend - I was picked up off waivers by the raddest advertising agency around. Two of my main tasks for my friends and colleagues in Long Beach include documenting the restoration/renovation of a psychic temple (no shit!) and developing a project that will promote mental health awareness among Asian Americans (hell, yes). Oh yeah, I got to moderate a talk with old friends David Choe and Harry Kim, too…

Bridal Falls, Yosemite

5. Local travel - International or even out-of-state trips weren’t in the cards or budget this year, so I channeled my inner Huell Howser to arrange trips to local treasures such as Disneyland’s Club 33, Yosemite, the tide pools in San Pedro, and the set of Yo Gabba Gabba! (when the reunited Rocket From The Crypt happened to be taping). Just because Eloise can’t collect frequent flier miles doesn’t mean she can’t hoard experience points.

Dirty Beaches at The Echo (April 28, 2011)

6. More cool shows - Dum Dum Girls, Melvins, The Binges, Night Horse, Street Eaters, Forgetters, The Muffs, Ted Leo, Gang of Four, Versus, Asobi Seksu, Dengue Fever, Yuck, Dirty Beaches, Prince, Corin Tucker Band, Nosaj Thing, Cults, Guided By Voices, Youth of Today, Mouthpiece, Unbroken, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Cibo Matto, Buffalo Daughter, Obits, Disappears, Coliseum, Big Audio Dynamite, GridLink, Phobia, Maruta, Steven Malkmus, John Doe, TV on the Radio, Arctic Monkeys, Panda Bear, Warpaint, Smith Westerns, Fishbone, Shellac, Shonen Knife, Bob Mould, The Colourist, Iggy and the Stooges, Le Butcherettes, Tera Melos, Adolescents, Love Canal, Shattered Faith, Ill Repute…

California Design, 1930-65: "Living in a Modern Way" at LACMA

7. Big art shows - Although MOCA’s Art in the Streets was hipper and Under The Big Black Sun has a ton of attitude, LACMA was consistently amazing in 2011. The Tim Burton retrospective may have debuted in New York but its installation in Southern California was a real homecoming for fans of pop art, twisted cinema, goth culture, and cool clutter. Meanwhile, California Design was a statement for art as a lifestyle and the Golden State as a Modernist Mecca. And then there was Ai Weiwei, Edward Kienholz, Sandra de la Loza, Glen Ligon…

The Working Man hippie jumps a rail on a Penny Board, right across the street from The Smell

8. Skateboarding - As evidenced by my torn pant legs and constantly scabby knees, I’ve rediscovered skateboarding. I’m still no good, but I have to say that the Anthony Van Engelen pro model for Vans might be the best skate shoe ever (mixing classic style with modern function) and Penny Skateboards are outrageously fun (and I even got a roll-on cameo in a Penny short by The Working Man team). Salman Agah’s Pizzanista! is sweet, too.

English translations of books by Louis Cha

9. Martial-arts fiction by Louis Cha - With no review spreads to fill I can’t justify buying DVDs from Asia like I used to, so I’ve been dipping into my library of unread books. First up has been the martial-arts novels of Louis Cha. The Book & The Sword was insanely good, equal parts hyper imaginative action by Tsui Hark and craziness of Wong Jing. Now I’m digging into The Deer & The Cauldron, which was the source material for Stephen Chow’s The Royal Tramp. Where are the other high-quality translations of Cha’s sizable canon?

Dehara at GR2 (July 2, 2011)

10. Giant Robot blog – Finally, I’m appreciative of having this outlet on the Giant Robot site (in addition to the www.alivenotdead.com/martinwong feed/backup). I don’t know how many of you are out there, but I get a kick out of sharing the stuff I dig and appreciate your making time to check it out. Hopefully, 2012 won’t let you down.

11 Comments

  1. Lillian
    28 December 11, 9:12am

    Everything on this list is totally rad. Thanks for sharing your year with us. :)

  2. mikio4
    28 December 11, 9:25am

    Keep on keepin on in 2012!

  3. Ryan
    29 December 11, 9:21am

    Hey Martin,

    I’m saddened to know that the print magazine is on hiatus. I started reading Giant Robot at issue 10 back when I was 15, of which I became a major obsessive. The amounts of amazing bands and art, stories and scenes of which I had no idea were opened up to me because of your guys’ vision. I’m glad to know Giant Robot is still going on the web (love the design) and I hope 2012 brings great things for you.

  4. Gayle
    30 December 11, 9:19am

    I appreciate your positive attitude Martin! I miss the print GR.

    • 30 December 11, 10:55am

      Thanks for the rad comments and nice thoughts. They mean a lot to me, and I hope we get to hang out in 2012!

  5. 30 December 11, 10:22am

    [...] MARTIN WONG’S TOP 10 FOR 2011By MARTIN WONG [...]

  6. Jasmine
    01 January 12, 9:44am

    Lovely list, Martin. 2010 and 2011 have been rough for so many people I know, but the “keep on keepin’ on” spirit is clearly alive and well here, which helps a lot.

  7. Karol Heinecken Mora
    03 January 12, 11:00am

    I miss the print mag so much. Your list is wonderful and great to see Boris and all the other bands. I agree!
    2011 was a challenge for me as well but it’s perfect to look at all the very cool stuff too. Here’s to a new year with new challenges and successes.
    Rock on GR! Thanks for being there in whatever form you take.
    Karol

  8. LittleFish
    23 January 12, 5:41am

    I’ve been reading Giant Robot for quite some time now, and the print magazine leaves a hole that will never truly be filled. Sure, reading blogs like the GR blog, Neojaponisme, etc. helps satisfy my obsession with obscure asian stuff, but it feels like the difference between artificially flavored strawberries verses the real thing. I’ve discovered so many neat bands, stories, etc. from GR, and hopefully that will continue.

    Also, if you guys would release your entire collection of Giant Robot as a pdf collection, I would gladly purchase it. There are many back issues that I haven’t read, thus many more undiscovered cool stuff. Could you guys do it? Please…?

  9. Garry Gillett
    30 January 12, 9:52am

    I miss the printed mag terribly! Always a first class effort and have yet to find anything else like it. Someday…….
    Best,
    Garry

  10. Riley Swingle
    27 February 12, 4:27pm

    Hey there Martin,

    As with everybody else, Really missing the mag, i really think about them from time to time. They really were my go to during high school. Before I went to art school here in San Francisco (I actually got to catch the store right as it was closing for good, got a picture in with my buddy jordan for you) Giant Robot magazine was my outlook for what was to come and the culture that i was about to envelop myself in. It really was one of my fondest memories of high school going to that store every month to pick up the latest mag. Anyway, Best of luck to you, I hope to see things go better for you in the future.

    -Riley

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