Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year Letter

Under the familiar weight
Of winter, conscience and the State,
In loose formations of good cheer,
Love, language, loneliness and fear,
Towards the habits of next year,
Along the streets the people flow,
Singing or sighing as they go:
Exalte, piano, or in doubt,
All our reflections turn about
A common meditative norm,
Retrenchment, Sacrifice, Reform.

from W.H. Auden's "New Year Letter"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

臺灣地震

The first thing I usually do in the morning is check my e-mail. And I had an e-mail from my sister asking about the earthquake and if I was still alive. Of course, I was more like "What there was an earthquake?" I read a newspaper later that day and found out that the aftershocks had hit northern Taiwan around 8:00. At that time I was taking out the garbage. I didn't feel a thing.

Monday, December 25, 2006

An Open Letter

An Open Letter to that Dude in the Neighboring Building Who Hawks Up Phlegm at 4 in the Morning,

You have some impressive vocal power. Not only do I hear the hawk, in all its moist detail, the sound of the spit actually echoes throughout the neighboring buildings.

Also, why are you up at 4 in the morning hawking up phlegm anyway? Either quit smoking or drink some hot water, dude. The present state of affairs really isn't working out for you.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Banquet or Why do I keep watching these movies?!

It's got to be some sort of self flagellation on my part, why do I keep watching these movies?

Ok so here's my review of Feng Xiaogang's (馮小剛)'s The Banquet. So although the genre might annoy me I do have some genuine reasons for watching the movie. For starters, it's based off Hamlet. As a literature nerd, I have always liked Hamlet. Possibly because lots of people die. So seeing it adapted to ancient China sounded kind of interesting. I mean Akira Kurosawa adapted King Lear into Throne of Blood. Furthermore, it's then a film targeted at Western audiences, selling itself as a traditional Chinese story, which is in fact based on a Western play. How very meta.

Some of the plot devices work pretty well. For example, Gertrude's incestuous tension (some say) with her son makes a lot more sense if she's in fact his stepmom. And since she was first engaged to the Crown Prince, but was later married to the Emperor, it seems like a good indication by ancient Chinese standards of the moral weakening of the regime or the rotten state of Denmark etc. Furthermore, the part where Claudius sends Hamlet off to England is adapted to sending Prince Wuluan to the Qidan in the North as a royal hostage. Which was a nice detail, since Chinese history has many stories of hostages being sent north.

I guess for my taste, The Banquet followed Hamlet a little too closely. So I already knew what was going to happen. Also a lot of the relationships between the characters weren't really explained. Most importantly Prince Wuluan's (Hamlet's) relationship to his father. Like Hamlet he's bent on avenging his father's death, but Hamlet's father didn't marry Hamlet's girlfriend. Clearly this relationship was a little bit twisted to say the least, but the movie doesn't go there. However, knowing that this event took place makes his single mindedness a little unconvincing. Furthermore, Wuluan isn't really crazy enough. Hamlet's indecisiveness and erratic nature is excusable because he's acting insane or he is actually insane. Wuluan broods a lot, but he seems more or less mentally sound.

Zhou Xun, who I normally really like, plays Qingnu, the Ophelia character, but she doesn't really connect with the character, and honestly the character is so blindly loyal to her lover, that she comes off as annoying rather than tragic. Kudos go to the guy (who looked a lot like Shawn Yu) who played Qingnu's brother. He does exhibit the kind of obsessive (and seemingly slightly incestuous) love for his family members that Hamlet is really all about. But he's only onscreen for about 20 minutes.

Ge You, who I also normally like a lot, is underwhelming as the Emperor. He was incredibly creepy in Farewell My Concubine, he's not really all that creepy here. And at the end, seemingly acts on his feelings, and dies somewhat nobly. Which seems an odd way to go for a guy who poisoned his brother, married his sister-in-law, and tries to kill his nephew.

As for Zhang Ziyi's character, the Empress Wan'er, she wasn't out and out bad exactly. But the movie clearly intends her to be a devious monster. Instead, for a large part of the movie, she seems like a cold woman, who was caught up in royal intrigue, rather than the irredeemable monster that she's supposed to be by the end. Also her feelings are pretty obvious from the start, which makes their revelation at the end kind of underwhelming.

Aside from acting problems, there's total gratuitous martial arts stuff in here. I mean randomly characters will bust out with martial arts stunts, that seem both out of character, and also they disrupt the narrative. Also, this is the Chinese nerd talking but, there is NO WAY that every member of the royal family is an accomplished martial artist. And furthermore, I can buy that the dead Emperor was a skilled warrior, however, that he taught his young wife his skills, I do not buy for one second.

Finally, as usual in these movies, Zhang Ziyi takes off all her clothes multiple times.

checklist of CTHD clones
Zhang Ziyi: Check
Gratutitous martial arts scenes: CHECK
Philosophical/nihilistic ending:Check
Yuen Woo ping: Check
Use of bright color for symbolism: kind of but not really
Golden finger: No, although Ge You does have this large jade pendant that he uses in creepy ways

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Other things which are not ok

The cat who is in heat, and chooses to announce that to the whole frickin' world at midnight for the last couple nights. So so very not ok.

Things which make me distinctly unhappy

Running out of gas on a rather cold winter morning and having to take a shower with freezing cold water.

Talking to people from the phone company in Chinese. (I hate talking on the phone.)

Talking to the gas company on the phone, also in Chinese.

Wasting 2 hours of my life watching The Banquet. Is there a movie with Zhang Ziyi in it where she doesn't take off all her clothes?! Perhaps secretly this is why she's famous. Come to think of it, Gong Li did that too back in her Zhang Yimou days.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Marijuana US Top Cash Crop

I believe I've mentioned before that life in the US is kind of surreal. Well it's gotten slightly more surreal.

Over wheat and corn and...other, uh, legal crops?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Hibernation

A cold front came in yesterday and now it's rather cold. I've been feeling really sluggish and I've been wanting to eat a lot. Therefore I assume I must be hibernating. In order to keep warm, I've closed all my windows and doors and so I feel like a hamster in a small box.

I've also watched all of Wang Kar-wai's movies in the last three days except for Chungking Express, Ashes of Time, and As Tears Go By. For the record, that means I have watched Days of Being Wild, Fallen Angels (1.66 times), Happy Together (2 times), In the Mood For Love, and 2046. Clearly it's been rather existential. A student of mine once said that 2046 is like a summary of all of Wang Kar-wai's movies, so you have to see them all to understand it. Now that I've seen almost all of them, except Ashes of Time, I think I agree with her. Although this doesn't really make me like the movie a whole lot more. It also didn't make me like Zhang Ziyi a lot more either.

I will say there were a good ten to fifteen minutes where she impressed me with her acting, and about 35 minutes where I sort of understood why people say she's hot. However I think one of the reasons the film suffered was because she had no chemistry with Tony Leung. In the Mood for Love is a compelling story because you can believe that the two characters are in love. However Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi's characters are supposed to be in love, but I never really felt it. Since their affair takes up a large part of the movie, this really hurts the movie's credibility.

That said, Faye Wong, Gong Li, and the Japanese guy (Takuya Kimura) are all very good. Tony Leung is ok. He was rather smug throughout the movie which made it difficult to connect with his character. I know he's supposed to be hiding fear and a broken heart, maybe he hides it a little too well for me. At least the heartless cad in Days of Being Wild had a reason of sorts for being heartless.

However, 2046's ending is rather interesting, since it states that love is all a matter of timing, sometimes two people are right for each other but the time's just not right, so nothing happens. After having seen most of Wang Kar-wai's movies this does seem to be a fitting conclusion for most of them. Many couples have missed connections in his films, Andy Lau and Maggie Cheung in Days of Being Wild, Leon Lai and Karen Mok, and Takeshi Kaneshiro and Charlie Young in Fallen Angels, Chang Chen and Tony Leung (possibly) in Happy Together, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung (famously) in In the Mood for Love, and Tony Leung and Gong Li, and Tony Leung and Faye Wong in 2046. Clearly I have watched a lot of Wong Kar-wai in a short amount of time.

Well, I have nothing more to say on the subject. Except my theory that perhaps the graphic sex scenes with Zhang Ziyi was Wang Kar-wai's way of apologizing for coercing Tony Leung into doing a sex scene with Leslie Cheung in Happy Together.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Promise

I'm not sure if Chen Kaige's The Promise 無極 is out in the States. If you have a chance though, I kind of recommend it in sort of a car crash kind of way. Although Chen Kaige is probably the second most famous Sixth Generation Chinese film maker, (The most famous director being of course Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige's former cinematographer, but I digress.) I guess I've never really enjoyed his films all that much. I've seen quite a few of them, I even wrote my thesis on Farewell My Concubine 霸王別姬. The only one I enjoyed was The Emperor and the Assassin. I guess to me, Chen Kaige's movies tend to be sort of overly ponderous. And recently people have criticized him for making that art house type of movie starring Gong Li that was pioneered (with great success) by Zhang Yimou. At his best, Chen Kaige uses his films to discuss interesting ideas. The Cultural Revolution, in Farewell My Concubine, which had a great deal of personal impact to him. In The Emperor and the Assassin, the idea that power corrupts. As for Temptress Moon 風月 , I have no idea what that was about. It was also just kind of bad.

Ok, so with that paragraph of Chinese studies nerdiness aside. The Promise was a highly anticipated movie. Chen Kaige's great fantasy/martial arts(ish) epic. In roughly the same vein as Crouching Tiger and Hero. The cast is pretty good, although most of the actors are unknown to Western audiences. Cecilia Cheung and Nicolas Tze, Hong Kong superstars, Liu Ye, of Lan Yu fame.

Cecilia Cheung plays the most beautiful woman in the world, who as a starving orphan was made into the most beautiful woman in the world by a mysterious goddess, under the condition that she never know true love. Anyway, naturally, she has a lot of guys chasing after her. Such as an arrogant General, his slave who can run at superhuman speed, and the Duke, who wields a golden finger on a stick (DON'T ASK).

Cecilia Cheung falls in love with the slave, but he was wearing the General's armor at the time, so she think she loves the general. And the slave, Kunlun is too obedient of a guy to set her straight. Anyway, the general naturally loves her too. Meanwhile she's sometimes caught by the Duke who puts her in a giant bird cage and puts a bird costume on her. Meanwhile Kunlun is trying to find out about his past, and why he runs so fast that he can apparently run through time. Meanwhile, the Duke's assassin Guilang, who seems to know a lot about Kunlun's past, follows him around in a bird cloak that the Duke put on him. Hopefully, this plot outline makes some sense, I don't know that the movie made a whole lot of sense to me in particular.

To be fair there are some good things about the movie, so let's get them out of the way first. Cecilia Cheung does look like she could be the most beautiful woman in the world. Liu Ye is good in his secondary role, he's probably the only character that I cared about. Sometimes the movie does look quite fantastic.

However, the plot is so incoherent that it's difficult to connect with the characters. You never really know why people are doing what they're doing. Why is the Duke evil? All he seems to do is put bird costumes on people, does this make him evil? Why is he more evil than the General, who is seen sending some slaves to their death with very little remorse at all? Why is Kunlun so loyal to the General, who never really shows much concern for him. Stealing his girl, taking him as a slave etc. Why is the goddess wandering around manipulating events? What does she want? The movie never really answers these questions. Furthermore the ending is rather unsatisfying and seems to be one which we're supposed to think is "deep" or "philosophical," although it mostly comes across as pat.

Furthermore, for a movie that seems to rely on the visuals to carry part of the movie, it doesn't always look that good. The armor is clearly made of plastic. And the silly props, such as THE FINGER really make it hard to take the movie seriously. To top it all off the action scenes don't even look all that cool.

So to sum up, the plot and the sort of over the top visuals really kill the movie. The acting's mostly ok. But the plot makes it really difficult to care about the characters, and only Liu Ye actually made enough of a connection for me to care about him. I mean, it's kind of bad when the one person who resonates in a movie, is the tragic assassin. Chen Kaige just seems to waste a lot of opportunities, I mean if you're going to pay money for Nicholas Tse to appear in your movie, shouldn't you at least make him look cool? Instead, Chen Kaige saddles him with a golden finger and silver lipstick. And by the time he's whining about his child hood trauma, I've ceased to care whether any of the characters live or die.

checklist of CTHD clones
Zhang Ziyi: No
Gratutitous martial arts scenes: Check
Philosophical/nihilistic ending:Check
Yuen Woo ping: No
Use of bright color for symbolism: Check

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rosie O'Donnell Ridiculousness

angryasianman has been covering this pretty well so if you want to learn more about this just visit his site.

Here's a link to the segment on the show which is up on Youtube

This morning (12/5/06) on "the View," Rosie O'Donnell and the gang were discussing the Danny Devito "incident" when Rosie remarked that this was such big news everywhere that people in China were probably saying "ching ching ching chong Danny Devito ching chong ching chong drunk on The View ching chong (etc.)" I was sort of surprised about her lack of insensitivity especially considering her outrage at Kelly Ripa's Clay Aiken comments recently. I guess it's another example of how stereotypes/ racially insensitive comments about Asians can be made and no one thinks much of it, or even bats an eye. Not even sure how many others who were watching the show even noticed it, but it bugged the crap out of me!

anyway, apparently she just takes the usual cop out "it's not a big deal" route. Anyway, if you want to write to various people to tell them what you think of 'em you can write them here. It's super easy. There are three women you can e-mail. I just e-mailed them all. I guess I'd encourage all 5 people who read this to write, just because Rosie O'Donnell's show reaches a much larger audience than the assholes who make lame comments on talk radio stations. It's a good opportunity to show that Asians can't be pushed around in a bigger way. And also it just freakin' ticked me off.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Things that make me angry

Sometimes I'm hard pressed to decide what kind of person I hate more. However, articles like this make me lean more heavily towards rich people. I've sort of been irritated on a low level about the decrying of the "ipodification" of America. And now apparently the downfall of Tower Records. I guess what sort of annoys me about this is that the people who moan the loudest are liberals. This seems slightly like wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

I mean ok, if by your theory many people in America are poor, they don't have a lot of spending money right? Which means our budgets for buying luxury items, such as music, is relatively limited. So, if you can go to Tower Records and buy a CD for $20 or you can download it off iTunes for $9.99, or download it illegally for free what are you going to do? I mean if you supposedly support the rights of the working class and lower middle class, don't blame them for the downfall of Tower Records. People have a hard time making ends meet, don't blame them for not patronizing the "cool" independent record store. Also apparently the downfall of Tower Records equals the downfall of civilization, or musical civilization, perhaps they amount to the same thing.

Perhaps people gravitate towards iTunes, Amazon, Target, and Walmart because they are cheap and affordable. They offer services which Tower doesn't really offer, significant discounts, free shipping, lower prices etc. The economy is bad, people have less money to spend. When that happens, chains go out of business. It happens.

I may just be ranting though.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

O Life

Stupid things I've done this week.
Broken my water heater
Broken a mug
Life 6 Me 0

Sometimes it's a wonder to me how I manage to survive daily life. This is not a reassuring thought.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sean Bell Shooting and Institutional Racism

I thought this article was quite interesting. It's nothing I didn't know already, but it's quite a powerful piece of writing. Read, discuss if you want.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Things That Make Me Sad

When I read a federal agency described as "Kafkaesque" I couldn't really figure out which one it was because there are so many that could be described that way.

Also, when I go outside in bright sunlight, I find myself squinting and blinking more than I used to. This is because recently I haven't had time to go outside regularly during the day. My existence becomes more vampiric by the day. (Except with green tea!)

Furthermore, I didn't know it was possible for a sink to smell like Chthulu lived in it. However until I cleaned my sink this morning, that's what my sink smelled like.

I really need to go to bed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A frivolous aside

How much mileage can Korean superstar Rain get from making puns out of his name? Two CD names Rainy Day, It's Raining, and the refrain in one of his songs "Rain is coming down from the rooftops."

I guess I gotta give him credit for picking such a pun friendly name.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Prestige

Oh right, I actually went outside and did something last weekend. I saw the Prestige. It was ok. A good reminder of why I don't see American movies in the theatre. I was enjoying it until the end. Since it's a pretty plot driven movie, I won't mention many particulars of the plot. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are magicians (the stage kind, not the Harry Potter kind). Christian Bale's hair looks far too contemporary by half. I'm pretty sure they didn't have hair gel back then. One review I read of the movie described them as "magical bastards" which is kind of funny and fairly accurate. There are probably a good two sets of twins too many in this movie too.

I think after I finish up grad school apps, I'm going to see if I can track down and watch all these "Chinese blockbuster" movies from the first one Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Promise, The Banquet, and maybe by then The Curse of the Golden Flower will be out on DVD. Am I missing any? You know what kind of movie I'm talking about, Zhang Ziyi, Yuen Woo-ping choreography, Tan Dun music etc. This is turning into a regular old phenomenon, so I kind of want to see them all together and see if there are some commonalities, I mean besides all having Zhang Ziyi in them. (For the record, The Promise does not, in fact have Zhang Ziyi in it.)

Actually I already watched The Promise. Man, well I kind of have to keep working, but when I get around to writing about it... oh boy.

Things that have made me happy recently

Voxtrot released a new EP. I don't know if they're my favorite band per se. But they generally release one song that I have a tendency to play on continuous repeat for longer than I should. Since I track these things, this tends to rack up an embarrassing score on iTunes.

It's not particularly new, but I also downloaded Talib Kweli's Quality. He's probably been growing steadily on me for about 3 years. I first heard him on Black Star with Mos Def. (I'm actually not sure that anyone really cares, but what the hell.) And then about a year after that I bought Reflection Eternal. Which was pretty good, and has one song which was pretty amazing, but which for some reason never motivated me to buy any more. So I finally got around to buying Quality, and I'm pretty glad I did.

Anyway, onward ho with the grad school applications. (Or should it be westward ho? And am I in fact going west?)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Affirmative Action

An interesting article at Wall Street Journal about Asian Americans being discriminated against in Ivy League admissions. Pretty much this kid is suing Princeton for denying him admissions although a white classmate of his with test scores and grades that were lower was admitted. I guess this was probably an inevitable case. It doesn't really surprise me that there are some studies that indicate that Ivy Leagues limit admissions of Asian Americans more so than other groups. (It's called a glass ceiling.)

It will be interesting to follow this case as it moves forward. If it actually does move forward, that is. Particularly since it seems like the case calls for not only removing racial preference from university admissions, but also legacies and athletic scholarships. Although I still don't and probably never will agree with removing racial preference from university admissions, getting rid of legacies and athletic scholarships would be often. Legacies are affirmative action for rich white kids, and athletic scholarships are generally motivated more by universities' desire to earn revenue from their sports teams than in acting in the best interests of their students. However, legacies in particular, never seem to show up in terms of university admissions.

I'll probably talk more about this later.

11/11 Appreciation day

This is still one of my favorite quotes of all time.
"You know, Dad. If you really want to know how many hairs you have on your head, we can just make a grid on your head. Count the number of hairs in one square and then multiply that times the number of squares."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The King's Man

So recently, a couple of my classes were canceled, resulting in a loss of 4.5 hours and a gain of 1 hour. So resulting in a net loss of 3.5 hours. This means that I have more time, although slightly less money. Anyway, as a result of more time on my hands, I've actually done something not related to work or grad school, and therefore I finally have something interesting to write about. Well, I've also been following the elections rather obsessively but I can't really write anything interesting about that.

Last night, I took some time off of trying to write my personal statement to watch The King and the Clown although the Chinese title is given as 王的男人 or in English The King's Man, which seems a little bit more true to the story. While watching it, it didn't necessarily blow me away the way some other movies have. But after watching it, I did keep thinking about it in a way that impressed me. Although the cover kind of makes it look like The Promise, The Banquet, etc. type of period piece, it's actually seems less self-consciously artistic and more like just a movie. Visually, there are certainly some really nice parts, but it's clearly not as high budget as the movies I mentioned above. Anyway, apparently this movie was a surprise hit in Korea, which was originally why I wanted to check it out.

Ultimately, The King and the Clown will probably be compared to Farewell My Concubine, since it's essentially about a gay love triangle involving stage performers in Asia, and involves a female impersonator. However, I would say I enjoyed The King and the Clown a lot more than Farewell My Concubine, and that there are some key differences between the two. However, like Farewell My Concubine, it focuses on two performers, one very masculine, the other rather feminine, and the wealthy patron, in this case the Emperor of Korea, who comes between them. I would say that The King and the Clown is significantly less homophobic than Farewell My Concubine. (I have a lot of opinions about Farewell My Concubine, I wrote my thesis on it.) I guess I probably shouldn't say too much about the plot since it might get released in the States someday. So briefly, two street performers run away from their troupe and arrive in Seoul. They put on a skit mocking the Emperor and his consort and, through chance and various other circumstances, are installed in the palace by the Emperor. Their presence then precipitates a series of conflicts within the court.

What really made the movie for me was the characters. There's never a clear bad guy in the movie. Even the childish and tyrannical Emperor is portrayed in a fairly well balanced light. The acting is generally quite good. Both of the actors who play the performers in the movie are really good and carry the movie. I was particularly impressed by the guy that played the female impersonator. Generally "effeminate" characters aren't written very sympathetically, and are often portrayed as weak. The part seemed difficult, because most of the character's feelings and decisions occur inside, which makes the viewer wonder what's really going on in his head. However, I thought the writer and the actor do a good job of bringing his character across.

Another thing I thought was interesting, is that while this film has a fairly clear gay theme: the emperor falls in love with female impersonator, and the two performers also seem to be involved with each other. (Hence the love triangle.) Their relationship is never commented upon by any of the other characters, but I thought their portrayal seemed more like, these are two people who are in love, rather than THIS IS A GAY MOVIE, which seems sometimes to infect movies like this.

Also, the film had some interesting quirks. I don't think I've ever seen another movie that included references to Hamlet, Farewell My Concubine, and Fists of Fury all at the same time. (I could be imagining the last one though.) The Hamlet reference was actually pretty neat, because the Emperor and Hamlet actually have a lot of things in common, oedipal tendencies, living in the shadow of their dead father, madness, mood swings. That plus the theater connection makes the whole thing kind of cool. The reference to Farewell My Concubine was a lot more random, except as a nod to Farewell My Concubine, or perhaps an acknowledgment that the film will inevitably be compared to Farewell My Concubine. However, it was really more random than anything and kind of took away from the movie, as well as seeming a touch anachronistic, but I'm not really sure about that part. The reference to Bruce Lee seemed to come at the end, but I may just be imagining things.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

To clarify

I washed my wallet with my clothes last week. Also about 10 months or so before this, I washed my cell phone. Also, I washed some important work that I took home in my pants as well. Truly this is a dark day.

Aaargh

I washed my wallet AGAIN. Life 4 Me 0.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

GRE考完了!!!!

So I took the GRE yesterday, in Taipei. It was surprisingly easy, except the part where I had to get there by 8:30 in the morning, requiring me to be on the bus at 7:15 or so. It was kind of an interesting feeling, I really haven't done a standardized test in a while, so being surrounded by about 500 people who are really nervous, just like you, was kind of a nostalgic feeling. The test confirmed for me that I suck royally at math, I had forgotten pretty much all of the equations I ever learned, but since it's really not all that important for my field of study, I didn't really care. I had about an hour of being bored and then an hour of stress, bored=math stress=verbal. Incidentally there was one guy who was clearly drunk when he was taking the test. I guess he was either really confident or really dumb. I'm not really sure which.

Also, an interesting aside. I only realized at 10 pm the night before the test, that I had no pencils. Or at least no mechanical pencils. So I ran around like an idiot for an hour the night before the test looking for pencils. Apparently they sell pencils specifically designed for computer test taking in 7-11. Truly this is a wonderful country.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Deconstruction

So thanks once again to angryasianman.com I took a look at this series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle, about human trafficking in San Francisco. They tell the story of one woman who was forced into prostitution. Originally, I was curious since angryasianman mentioned it seemed rather exploitative, although it did address an important issue. After reading the article for myself, I didn't have a very high opinion of the article. First of all the accompanying pictures, I could go on about forever. They feature an Asian woman, in poses where she's looking away from the camera, making herself subject to the camera's gaze. And it also doesn't look like she's wearing clothes, which sort of eroticizes the whole story in a really weird, and kind of creepy way. I mean, addressing the issue of human trafficking is great, and giving someone a chance to relate their experiences is great, but I don't really think continuing to exploit their body, by including pictures like that is particularly ethical.

Also the title itself, "The Diary of a Sex Slave" a diary it certainly ain't. It's a series of three articles, not written from her point of view, or even featuring many direct quotes from the woman herself. And it once again gives a sense of confidentiality and intimacy that once again seems rather misleading and exploitative.
Furthermore, the article itself frequently eroticizes its subject, describing "her black hair that fell like silk to her shoulders" (I'm paraphrasing, but that's more or less what it says) which is not only rather unneccessary, but further smacks of Orientalism, and emphasizes her "small frame" in relation to her customers. Once again, it seems sort of needlessly exploitative. I mean, it's the whole point of the article that she's not a sex toy but a human being? That's why they're telling her story right? Also their description of Korea seems a little one-sided, and according to my knowledge of Korea, which is pretty basic, not very accurate.

"Today, sex work accounts for 4 percent of the country's gross domestic product, according to government reports. Prostitution brings $21 billion a year -- more than electricity and gas combined. There are an estimated 330,000 sex workers, 80,000 brothels and 69 red-light districts in a country the size of Indiana. " (I'm really quoting here.) The tone seems a little overly judgemental of Korea. I mean, it's not like Korea has a monopoly on a high concentration of sex workers in a small country.

Another thing that bothers me is who the reporters, who, from their names anyway, seem to be two white women, or at least two non-Korean women, say they get their information. "May and Fitzmaurice reported from the red-light districts of Seoul and Busan, where women are on display in glass rooms. There, they spoke with Korean military police on patrol, and "fishers," elderly women who beckon customers into the rooms. They interviewed U.S. soldiers in sex clubs near the demilitarized zone, and spoke with the "juicy girls" inside who are hired to entice men to buy them $20 drinks and pay for sex." I mean, if in fact they are two white reporters, how did they communicate with these people. Or talk to them about such personal and sensitive issues?

Anyway, I just had some problems with the article.

Furthermore, there was a response by some people in the Korean American community. What's interesting, is that they try to distance themselves from the article. Asserting the respectability of the Korean community, and quite interestingly, characterizing this in terms of class and wealth. "The exaggerated headlines and lurid photos that dominated the front page of The Chronicle for four consecutive days gave disproportionate emphasis to a small immigrant segment of the overall Korean-American population in San Francisco and California, the vast majority of whom are well-educated professionals and hardworking families. " So we complain about the model minority stereotype, but we fall back on it when it's convenient for us? They do raise some good points though, which is that they do attempt to exploit the subject, and the picture that they paint of Korean society is rather inaccurate.

Normally I really like the San Francisco Chronicle, but these articles don't really live up to the journalistic standards I expect from them.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I HAVE INSOMNIA

On a totally random note, something that makes me happy is that 7-11 now sells a green milk tea. To clarify, this is green tea with milk in it, and not green milk with some tea of an unspecified color.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Students love me THIS much

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New exciting (and not so exciting and not so new) things in my life

One of my students, Heidi, comes up to me often and pats my butt and says "My hips!" I'm not really sure where she's getting this. Definitely not from me.

Learning how to make frozen steamed buns without a microwave or an oven. Just some water and a pan. My cooking reaches new heights.

One of my students Evan has completely mastered how to imitate my voice saying "Sit down now!"

The Decemberists' new CD The Crane Wife. Very very cool, and new! Just when I think that all the bands I like have started to suck, I get some evidence to the contrary.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I am a nerd

A couple years ago, I took a class on Chinese vernacular stories. It was a pretty interesting class, and in it we studied a bunch of different theories about the characterization of different characters in these stories. Although sometimes these stories were thousands of pages long, they didn't really fall into the Western definitions of what a novel should be. What struck me particularly was talking about the characters, since a lot of the characters are pretty one dimensional, or sometimes morally confusing. Another thing that I remembered was the theory that sometimes two characters compliment each other by being completely opposite.

So recently I got addicted to manga and a lot of these sort of characterizations started to come to mind as I read it. Yes, I know manga comes from a different country with its own distinctive literary traditions, but still. There's always the dark haired, calm, often cool analytical character vs. the light haired, angry, passionate, not particularly rational character. Furthermore, there are often lots of characters that seem like they contrast with each other. And often in fight scenes it becomes the battle of the two opposites. Although most main characters have many opposites. As well as fighting characters that are in some ways, similar to, or parallel to themselves.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's been a long time

I've been lazy, and not really very busy. However, the main reason I haven't posted in 3 weeks is because during these three weeks, I finally discovered youtube. Yes, I know, I'm lame. I had always heard of youtube before. But I hadn't ever really seen any way that it benefitted me. Usually it seems like people post "funny" or obscene videos on it. However, three weeks ago, I discovered that this was a way to watch anime for free. And thus I became addicted.

I finished watching Bleach, the anime based on a manga that I like. It's about a 15 year old boy who becomes a death god and has various adventures. There's some humor and a lot of fighting, some emoting.

And also recently Monster, which is about a brilliant Japanese expatriate surgeon in Germany trying to hunt down a serial killer boy whose life he once saved.

Yes, this is how I spend my life these days. Well that and attempting to write my personal statement for my grad school applications. My secret fear is that I'll flake out and I won't hand anything in in time.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Juvenile delinquents

AdriAnne and I were sitting on the steps to the fort when she said, “Hey, those kids are smoking." If you look close enough, you can see that she's right. They must be 11 tops. Posted by Picasa

無話可説

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A picture that I took at Taida

after I finished taking the GRE. I'm not sure why I like it, but I do. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

And slowly my life returns to normal

This was the last day of summer vacation in Taiwan. Everyone goes back to school tomorrow. Today I spent from 9:30-8:00 at school. A healthy or perhaps not too healthy part of that time was teaching. If you've been wondering why I haven't posted much in the last couple months, it's been that I'm either sleeping, at school teaching, or somewhere in transit between the two.

I've even really given up eating. For example, today consisted of breakfast: 1 rice ball (musubi) filled with tuna, lunch: 涼麵 from Family Mart 全家 the small size, and dinner was a bowl of beef noodles. The noodles I kind of forced myself to eat, because otherwise, I wouldn't have really eaten anything all day. And I'm never hungry.

Anyway, I'm free. On the upside, I've seen my summertime intensive class, in their new slot at 5:00 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I ended up in a pile of little girls once again. I guess some things never change.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More pictures of students

Justin and Kevin (not mine) and in the back, Bess, Hubert's sister. Posted by Picasa

I just liked this

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Sisters

In one of my classes, I have three pairs of sisters. And it's always interesting to me how something the older sister does within 1-5 minutes will be imitated by the younger sister. It's kind of amazing. I guess I forgot how closely sisters imitate each other.

Speaking of that class, they're a very touchy class. During the break, I'll usually be in the middle of a pile of children, with one sitting on my lap, two on either side and usually someone behind me too. It's like having 9 little sisters.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Student pictures

Hubert (choker) Douglas (chokee) Cherry (in the back) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 10, 2006

CSI Taiwan

So I've been looking for a new roommate and briefly found one. He moved in and lasted four days. A couple days ago, I came home totally beat after a marathon of teaching and studying Chinese ready to collapse. My new roommate told me our apartment had been broken into and his savings (which he had in cash for some weird reason) had been taken out of a locked drawer. Now, this apartment was supposed to be fairly safe, and I had never had any problems. I never locked up my stuff, so my first thought, selfishly, was Shit, my stuff must have been taken too. I go into my room and my laptop, money, passport and anything else of dubious value was still there.

That seemed really weird, who goes into a house and only burgles a locked drawer and doesn't take anything else? Also how would anyone know it was there? My roommate decided to go to the police, and eventually I went over there too, with my Chinese teacher and her husband. The police then went to my house, and it became a sort of strange CSI like moment. There were all these policemen in the house. A CSI made fun of my room for being messy. It was all very surreal. And the next day my roommate left.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Some (not so) amusing things about teaching

1) One day during break I ran into a kindergarten student at my school named Eric Li coming out of the bathroom. He did this double take and then ran out to the front desk anonouncing “老師上了廁所。" The teacher went to the bathroom! I forgot that at the age of six, you don't know your teachers are real people who sometimes use the bathroom.

2) Hiccoughs in class. It's ok if you're a student and you hiccough. But a teacher isn't supposed to get them. I've had them in class. It's not fun.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tianxiang

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Little girls

The author of one of my favorite books once described someone as having "the cow-like face of a girl who's always told she's beautiful."

I have lots of little girls as students. And it's always sort of disturbing to see how some of their parents dress them. They dress them like little models or something. It's just weird to see a kindergartner wearing hot pants. Just the other day, one of my students was swivling her hips and shoulders, except that she doesn't have much of anything to swivel.

Also a lot of them are dressed up like dolls. I think people sometimes expect their daughters to cute and that's about it. This happens particularly when the little girls really are pretty.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Random picture of a student

Waynichiro. He's more or less like this all the time. Posted by Picasa

Temple at Tianxiang

Tianxiang, a town in Tailuge, apparently consisting of two small cheap hostels, one expensive hotel with a swimming pool and golf course on the roof, about five crappy crappy restaurants (the worst beef noodle soup I've ever eaten in my life for 80 frickin' kuai), and this temple.

There's also a Tianxiang park, named after Mr. Tianxiang himself. (Actually I've forgotten his family name.) He's some loyal general from the Song Dynasty. And he has a creepy creepy statue in his honor in the town. Posted by Picasa

Inside a pagoda

and in the temple there was a seven story pagoda, which we climbed. It was kind of fun although the stairs were kind of small and nervewracking. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sometimes

I felt I couldn't really do this place justice photographically because my camera just wasn't fucking big enough. Posted by Picasa

Giant spiders

and other wonders of nature. So when AdriAnne was here, she told me she had seen a giant spider strolling merrily along the sidewalk. Personally, I have been rather blissfully unaware of their existence, and figured if you just didn't look for them, you wouldn't find them. This rather ostrich-like theory was contradicted by an event tonight, in which I found a spider, the size of an anorexic tarantula in my bathroom. It has hair and everything. I may sleep with my light on according to the theory that it probably doesn't like the light.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I really have to stop being sarcastic

with kids who actually understand me. So the kid who renamed himself Ichiro's classmate Greg is our class clown. I referred to him once as "Mr. Happy" which he found so hilarious that he now insists on being referred to only as Mr. Happy. So now of the boys in my class, I have Ichiro, Mr. Happy, and the new boy Greg in his infinite wisdom has renamed Michael Jordan. (Originally his name was Jordan.)

Furthermore, during the summer vacation, I've been teaching a lot of reading classes. Although I don't really have any funny stories anymore (the like of Ken and Jerry will probably never come again), this one kind of amused me.

So I've been reading a bunch of simplified fairy tales with my classes. I've now read some of them so many times because different classes are reading them that not only do I lose track of which class is where, but I also rock Hangman because I've memorized practically every word in the book.

With the more advanced class I've been reading The Gingerbread Man. Which honestly is a pretty inane story. In an attempt to make 12 sentences stretch for 2 hours, we were discussing what the Gingerbread man has. I.e. eyes, a nose, a mouth, arms and legs. And what he doesn't have, fingers, toes, hands etc. Also, in the book we have the perspective is kind of fucked up so the gingerbread man sometimes appears to be small and then sometimes looks pretty gigantic.

At some point, Paul, one of the kids in the class said, "The gingerbread man is a monster." and then laughed in an indescribably crazy kind of way. It makes sense though, I mean here's this giant cookie that can walk and talk and apparently run freakishly fast.

So because Paul is kind of goofy, I used to (affectionately) call him Silly Paul. And then after the monster comment, I've been calling him Little Monster. However, his classmates have also started calling him Little Monster. I'm getting a little too good at this naming business.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I didn't know what this was

but it looked cool. Posted by Picasa

Tailuge from the train

Getting to Toroko Gorge involved taking a train to Hualian and then taking a bus. Little did I know that actually we passed it on the train. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 17, 2006

A things I think are cool interlude

Far East Movement came out with a new CD which you can listen to here. Incidentally, one of them is apparently the son of my dentist. I liked them before I knew that. Small world.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Slides from my vacation

I've realized that many of my pictures are actually sort of like slides from my vacation. I'm that annoying guy in the aloha shirt with the slide projector. This makes me very sad. Anyway, here's a picture from my trip to Toroko Gorge. Taken from the train, of fields. If you look carefully you may see that I am also in this picture.
 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Things that I think are funny.

thanks to Angry Asian Man

the conversation I've often dreamed of having but never had the courage to do. Rise up my people!
http://www.overheardinnewyork.com/archives/006214.html

and a drunken Jackie Chan. Incidentally there's a typhoon on the way. So if you don't hear from me in a while you'll know why.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rock stars

A bunch of people have told me that they find most Western teachers to be very arrogant. They generally mention me as an exception to this. I'm not sure in what way I'm different. Actually, it has me kind of concerned. I don't think most Westerners arrive in Taiwan automatically acting very arrogant. (In fact, maybe I'm wrong about the whole thing.) I wonder if there have been parts of my experience here that have led me to be less arrogant. Or if in fact I am less arrogant than other people.

Perhaps it's the strangely worshipful attitude that some people have for Westerners. I know this is sort of an old bone to pick, but still. Most other people I talk to find this behavior disconcerting and don't seem to enjoy it. But I sort of wonder, after being given a large number of free things and special discounts for being a foreigner who graced the shop. I sort of wonder if these sorts of things start to rub off on you.

Hopefully, this doesn't happen/ hasn't already happened to me.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Black and White Playstation

I read this article
http://poplicks.com/2006/07/white-is-coming.html on one of my favorite blogs. I'm sort of astounded by people's stupidity. I mean, what could you possibly be thinking. My favorite part of the whole thing is just how the picture is developed. The background itself is quite dark, so the white woman stands out visually as if she's shining. Whereas the black woman blends into the darkness so that she is both indistinct and is part of it. Since we can't see her features, she seems a lot less human. It's without a doubt some of the most artful racist advertising I've seen.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The fifth graders

from my CE06 class. They're already at the age where they really love the camera. (I'm being sarcastic.) Posted by Picasa

And now for some pictures of my students

Cherry, the kindergartner and all of her food. Posted by Picasa

Coolness

I think the concept of "cool" is slightly different in America and Taiwan. Many people, for example, will use "too cool" as a vaguely insulting term. Jay Chou, obviously, is criticized for being cool. Also, my student's father has very long hair, while otherwise dressed very respectably, he has also been called "very cool" in a sort of not complimentary way.

Also, my Chinese teacher told me that she didn't like Jay because he was too cool and also didn't wear any underwear. I sort of laughed in spite of myself. It's just a surprising cultural difference. I mean, in America, we criticize our pop stars for having illegitimate children, or taking lots of drugs, or sleeping with people who are under age. I guess the underwear thing never really occurred to me.

Friday, July 07, 2006