Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I am a bad neighbor

Some people have moved in upstairs, and I sometimes wonder whether their loud thumping coincides with the times I play music without headphones. It seems to sometimes.

Perhaps it's because I listen to things like XiuXiu -Boy Soprano without headphones. Maybe I should buy a more comfortable pair and wear them all the time, you know, to be nice.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hooray for Soapboxing

So FireflyNightLight called my attention to this kid who needs a bone marrow transplant.
The site above lets you know more about his story and also gives you several useful links to registering. So register!

Also if you are Asian or partially Asian, this website
will also help you register, since this issue is of particular concern for Asian Americans. Something you're probably aware of if you read Angry Asian Man as obsessively as I do. In case you don't that's why I posted it here.

You can also read more about the guy here

And even if you're not Asian, register anyway. I found out I was 10% Native American, your ancestry may surprise you and therefore save a life!

See I'm not crazy

Remember when I wrote about a sea change in Asian American youth? Well check out this article which was part of a study done by some brand insight firm (whatever the hell that is) called, "Ten Things Every Brand Should Know About Asian- American Youth."

It's not the awesomest thing ever. A lot of the items it mentions are pretty obvious to anyone who is Asian American and is moderately aware. I.e. being hapa or part Asian is ok; we don't want to be the nerd on TV; we want to look cool; we hate that "where are you from" question; we hate William Hung etc.

Some stuff on there did surprise me. We like easy listening??, I guess if Josh Groban counts as easy listening, I've known a couple people who like him, but still, easy listening??, and apparently we gamble.

Ambivalent things included: Korean culture is "hot", I think that would vary depending on which ethnic group you ask. As for Korean culture, especially film being hot, you don't need to be Asian American to know that. As if Oldboy, the entire filmography of Kim Ki-duk, and the dreaded remake of My Sassy Girl didn't clue you in already. I was also not aware that Martin Luther King was a particularly Asian American role model. Malcolm X seems like a figure whose ideology has been far more influential among Asian American activists.

Anyway, despite the no duh-ness of this article, it is kind of interesting to me that someone bothered to even make this study. It does sort of support my crazy theory of a shift in identity of Asian American identity right? And as usual, I'm sure someone will try to use this to try to make money off it. However, they shouldn't get too excited, even MTV couldn't make money off of us yet.

Monday, February 26, 2007


My sister told me today that I don't update enough. To which I reply, "Fie! I update more than anyone else I know with a blog." This is probably because I have less of a life than anyone I know with a blog.

Besides, recently I've been sick so nothing interesting physical or mental has really happened. Also I think at this point, I'm in danger of posting a lot about "Aagh, I don't want to be here anymore! I want to quit my job and go backpacking!" type things.

On a lighter note, while waiting to throw my garbage away, this man and his wife walked by and the guy was repeatedly patting his wife's ass. It's cool that he loves his wife and all, but do I and the rest of the people throwing garbage away really have to be part of the moment?

Saturday, February 24, 2007


I dislike dialup internet with the passion of a thousand suns. In other news, I have returned to the land of the living. Although I still get this strange sore throat only at night. I'm unsure how to interpret this.

In other news, I went to the National Palace Museum which finally reopened with its total collection. It's very pretty and shiny. However, I find that my enjoyment of any given museum is inversely proportional to the number of people who are in it. And there were a lot of people there. That said, there were a few things that were cool enough to make me weak in the knees.

Oh yes, and I'm reading Hongloumeng in the original Chinese. It's 500 times better than the translation.

That's all for now folks.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gandhi and other saints

Salman Rushdie is one of my favorite writers. Although, like Virginia Woolf, one of my other favorite writers, sometimes I like his essays more than I like his novels, probably because they make me think.

His review of the film Gandhi in Imaginary Homelands "Attenborough's Gandhi" really made me think. The implications of the essay have been with me for quite some time. The essay itself is so good I'm tempted to just quote all of it, but I'll restrain myself. Rushdie asks the question of why the British would want to deify Gandhi and then answers himself.

The answer may be that Gandhi ... satisfies certain longings in the Western psyche, which can be categorized under three broad headings. First, the exotic impulse, the wish to see India as the fountainhead of spiritual-mystical wisdom. Gandhi, the celluloid guru, follows in the footsteps of other pop holy men. The Maharishi blazed this trail. Second, there is what might be termed the Christian longing, for a 'leader' dedicated to ideals of poverty and simplicity, a man who is too good for this world and is therefore sacrificed on the altars of history. And third, there is the liberal-conservative political desire to hear it said that revolutions can, and should, be made purely by submission, and self-sacrifice, and non-violence alone.

The most interesting point, to me, was the third point. Because it sounded quite familiar. Isn't that what we learn in elementary school when we learn about Gandhi? It's a simplistic story, but it's one that's been fed to schoolkids in America for decades. And often the story that we hear is the one that Rushdie cites, that through non-violence, and shall we call it submission, the civil rights movement or Indian independence, or whatever struggle of your choice, was accomplished. What kind of effect has this had on our thinking? On the strategies of activists? It seems slightly conspiracy theorist-ish but really, does the American education system choose to valorize this type of thinking on purpose so that when the masses rebel they're easier to squash?

The message of Gandhi is that the best way to gain your freedom is to line up, unarmed, and march towards your oppressors and permit them to club you to the ground; if you do this for long enough, you will embarrass them into going away. This is worse than nonsense. It is dangerous nonsense. Non-violence was a strategy chosen for a particular people against a particular oppressor; to generalize from it is a suspect act. How useful would non-violence have been against, say, the Nazis? Even in India, the leaders of the independence movement did not succeed because they were more moral than the British. They won because they were smarter, craftier, better fighting politicians than their opponents. Gandhi shows us a saint who vanquished an Empire. This is a fiction.

Rushdie's discussion of Gandhi puts me in mind of America's treatment of Martin Luther King. Their stories are remarkably similar if you think about it. Men dedicated to nonviolence who were assassinated by someone. Both of them had rather significant character flaws, but were later sanctified by history. This seems like a variant on The Noble Savage. The native nobly demonstrates his dedication to a strict set of ideals, which which results in his death at the hands of his own people. And in the end the white man survives to tell his story, The Last Samurai is an excellent example of this.

This is not to say that Gandhi and Martin Luther King themselves would have advocated this. But after their deaths, their images have been manipulated in order to fit this model of martyrdom. Whereas revolutionaries who advocate violence, such as Malcolm X, or Nelson Mandela are not handled with the same ease. They make people nervous, and generally they find acceptance only by their late conversion to nonviolence. Why mus all good revolutionaries be nonviolent?

What does this mean for us exactly? I think it raises some interesting questions on how we've been taught to think about acceptable resistance. For example, most left wing activists use peaceful means of self expression. How much of this is due to the rhetoric of nonviolence? Maybe we should rethink how we think about resistance and the struggle and how we intend to go about this.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Golden Fire Pig would make a great band name

As a former classmate reminded me today, it is in fact, the year of the Golden Fire Pig. Apparently a time of great fertility. Asian countries with negative population growth rejoice!

In honor of the New Year, I have compiled a random list. I don't know why being sick compels me to write about music. You guys will just have to deal, or not read, it's really up to you.

Albums I'm Very Glad I Bought in The Year of the Dog
The Decemberists The Crane Wife
The Decemberists Picaresqueties
Lateef & The Chief Maroons: Ambush, I've started liking Quannum Records more and more. This album isn't particularly long, but damned if I can find a song that I don't like.
Blue Scholars- Blue Scholars, Remember when I said it might be love. It really is love. I listen to this every day and haven't gotten tired of it yet.
Ladytron- Witching Hour, this is definitely not particularly deep, but it really is fun.

Albums I Feel Guilty for Downloading Illegally
Blue Scholars- The Long March EP, so I went out and bought a bunch of Common Market to make up for it. They're pretty good too.
Magnetic North- Magnetic North In all fairness, I can't buy this in Taiwan. Asian American emo-rap, as Wendao Jinxin calls it.
Far East Movement- Folk Music, my opinion is that Jin should just get these guys to produce all his albums for him. Their verbal skills aren't as good as Jin's, but they can build a much better album than he can. That said, any "cred" they had vanished when I found out that one of the member's dad is my dentist. I would have bought this too, but I can't find it in Taiwan either.

Albums I Should Have Downloaded Illegally
Pretty Girls Make Graves- Elan Vital, there's one or two good songs on here, that's the best thing I can really say about it.
The Far East Movement mixtape, eh this was really just a warm up for Folk Music. Anything on here is done better on their CD.

Albums I'm Very Glad That I Downloaded Illegally
Sufjan Stevens, I do not like slow sad, lo-fi indie pop. I keep trying it in the hope that I might like it. I never do.
Jay Chou- Still Fantasy, not bad, but just indifferent. It was a big disappointment after November's Chopin.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Breaking News on the Mummy 3

If Jet Li is in fact the villain in the Mummy 3 I will abjure all faith in the Creator.

Looks like I have come down with some sort of stomach bug. So I will not be traveling during the New Years holiday. Instead I will lie on my bed reading the library books my Chinese tutor gave me, and wait for death and drink EmergenC.

If I die, I leave my Sleater Kinney and Le Tigre CDs to my sister. May she torment my mother and the parakeet with "I'm So Excited" as she wishes.
All Asian American hip hop and my Better Luck Tomorrow soundtrack I leave to Wendao Jinxin.
All strange electronica that sounds like it was made by a robot, particularly a lady robot, I leave to Laurel, so that I may continue to humor her obsessions as I did in life. Ditto for my Decemberist CDs, and Pretty Girls Make Graves' Elan Vital, it's a crappy CD but it has a song about pirates on it.

Over and out.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A random theory

The more I read Chinese poetry the more I become convinced that Chinese poets and contemporary rappers are actually quite similar. Seriously! Chinese poets even had pen names and often went by multiple aliases! Also most classical Chinese poetry was once set to music, even though the music is no longer extant.

There are still differences of course, there were no ancient Chinese battle MCs (that we know of, although if there were that would be awesome). And Chinese poets had to observe complex and more fixed patterns related to the music and rhyme scheme they were using. However, some of these poems did become extremely popular as popular songs.

I'd love to do a project where I matched famous Chinese poet with a contemporary popular musician. You know, based on style, image, and general public perception of their personality. There's this one Tang shi I read that could totally be an emo song.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The best thing to come out of American remakes

of Asian movies is the release of Infernal Affairs 2! If you haven't seen Infernal Affairs 1 go check out the review at It's definitely one of the most famous HK films in recent memory, and has yet to be surpassed. However, one of my favorite films of all time is Infernal Affairs 2, the prequel to Infernal Affairs 1. If you like triad drama, gun fights, and hot Asian men in black shooting other people, this is definitely the movie for you. (Perhaps the absence of hot Asian women is why this series never got a wider release. Elva Xiao's kind of hot but she's only in IA 1 for about one minute. Whereas Shawn Yu, who's quite hot, stars in Infernal Affairs 2.)

Thank you, Martin Scorcese for making a remake of Infernal Affairs because the powers that be will finally release Infernal Affairs 2 and 3 in America. Although I still say that Tony Leung, Shawn Yu, Edison Chen, and even Andy Lau could kick Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio's asses any day.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A couple weeks ago, a discussion about poetry got me thinking about what poetry is exactly. There is, I agree, a certain sense of recognition. That's half of it. I guess for me it's also a question of rhythm. Some poems or their rhythm or something will get in my head and once inside, it's usually rather difficult shake off. I'm not really sure why that happens, it just does.

Like this, for example.

When the green field comes off like a lid
Revealing what was much better hid:
And look, behind you without a sound
The woods have come up and are standing round
In deadly crescent.
(from W.H. Auden, "The Two")

I don't know why it got stuck in my head, but reading the whole poetry discussion, I remembered it, and felt compelled to go look it up.

Honestly, as a former literature major I've often had to analyze things in great detail. While I probably gained a lot of insight from the process, it took a lot of the magic out of things. Knowing the why and the how usually do. I never really studied English (language) poetry, and I'm really glad, actually. So I can just say, poetry is just magic, simple as that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What 50 kuai will buy you

You know I never usually buy lunchboxes on train platforms. But on my last disastrous train trip, at 3:00, I finally gave in. And I didn't get food poisoning. Go me.

As much as I respect Margaret Cho

sometimes her "mother" schtick makes me uncomfortable. To her credit, the time I saw her, she did the "mother" thing only on request. But why do people like to see her Korean mom act so much anyway. Generally, I'd say that it's not Asian people making the request, it's the white people. Why do they eat it up so readily? What's with the fascination with crazy Asian parents.

I bring this up, because I have noticed that many of my white friends and acquaintances quite readily think that every Asian person has "crazy Asian parents." If a parent does something weird, it must be because they are a "crazy Asian parent." Sometimes parents are crazy, not because they are Asian, but because they are just crazy.

For example, one of my white friends told me "Oh right. M, she has this crazy Asian family." Later, I find out this probably came from the story about how M's mom forbade her to eat bananas since she was a child. And also characterized them as worse than alcohol and pot. Other than that, M's family seems fairly functional. Now, I'd probably characterize the story as somewhat amusing and prejudiced against bananas, and perhaps taking the whole no banana thing a bit too far. And possibly crazy. But certainly not "crazy Asian." Hating bananas really has no relation to Asian culture, unless there was a memo and I wasn't paying attention.

And also, isn't the label "crazy" just a label for "fresh off the boat" or just "Asian"? And therefore Asian parents are crazy because Asian culture is on some level repressive and crazy? I may just be performing some faulty mental algebra, but really it's sometimes seems that way.

I'm hypothesizing here, but possibly the "Asian parent" thing is kind of exotic to people. They've read about it in the Joy Luck Club and so it's this novel experience. Also, I think it gives them the chance to laugh at Asian people through their children's eyes, so since it's being mediated through another Asian person, maybe it seems ok, than just laughing at someone's mom on the street. I'm just throwing it out there. What do you think?

Monday, February 12, 2007


It's just not in the cards to take good pictures. I uploaded the pictures from my camera and only two or three were any good. This is the best one of the lot.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Is it just me

or is the Democratic Primary looking almost as diverse as the cast of Captain Planet?

We have Dignified Black Man, Icy Blonde Lady, Cocky White Guy, and Hispanic Dude of Dubious Origin, all we need is some Asian Lady from some unspecified part of Asia and they can combine their powers to form Captain Planet! (Or maybe that's Al Gore.)

(My student gave me some bubble tea tonight, he may or may not have spiked it with some fairly hardcore crack.)

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Super Sign

Damn Magniloquence, making me think in the morning. It strikes me that perhaps a healthy discussion of what these words, like equality, diversity, and equal opportunity mean. Recently I read The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making by Lydia Liu. Some ideas from there resurfaced when I was thinking about equality, and now again when Magniloquence and her link bring up diversity. Liu brings up the concept of the super-sign "a linguistic monstrosity that thrives on the excess of its presumed meanings by virtue of being exposed to, or thrown together with, foreign entymologies and foreign languages."

Equality and diversity don't necessarily fall under a strict definition of a super sign since this is an English language term, being used in relation to the English language. However I think Liu's discussion of the super-sign could be useful in a discussion of what equality has come to signify to various parties, as well as the discussion of what diversity means to the academic establishment.

"What is a supersign? Properly speaking, a super-sign is not a word but a hetero-cultural signifying chain that crisscrosses the semantic fields of two or more languages simultaneously and makes an impact on the meaning of any other discrete verbal phenomena that linguists can identify within particular languages or among them. The super-sign emerges out of the interstices of existing languages across the abyss of phonetic and ideographic differences." (Liu,
The Clash of Empires, 13.)

Again, equality and diversity, these complex terms don't fully qualify as super-signs under Liu's definition because they exist in one language. However, I think Liu's term does articulate, to some extent, the questions of ownership and the struggle for mastery of a word.

She mentions as the struggle between the British who sought to ban the Chinese word 夷 from use, because they identified as "barbarian." The two words then became lumped together, although historically,
夷 did not have the same derogatory meaning as "barbarian." In this case, the Chinese word came to be identified by its English "translation" and banned.

In terms of equality and diversity, people may be talking about entirely different concepts or values which are just lumped under the same word. When I talk about the need for more diversity, does this mean the same thing as some college administrator talking about "diversity"? And also, more importantly, whose interpretation of diversity is ultimately winning out?

I'll leave the question of what I think diversity means myself for another time.

Day in the the life

So as some of you may remember, I made various flippant predictions which continue to come true. One of my former Kejian students stopped me on the street tonight to chat. O Life, just when I think we might make some kind of peace, you come up behind me with a beer bottle. I should really stop keeping score of how many matches with Life that I've lost. I was always really bad at sports.

In other news, Magniloquence and I were linked by Little Light. This may be the biggest thing that has ever happened on this blog. I've been linked by a couple other people before, but not anyone whose blog I enjoy as much.

My (Chinese) New Year's resolution will be to eat three full meals at regular times for a week regardless as to whether I'm working or not. If I can do this, it will be a personal best.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Score

as it stands today.

1 Point for me, I manage to take a picture in a photobooth today that does not make me look like some sort of criminal or a fugitive from the law or the INS.

1 Point for life. I also manage to mishear a total 3 times because I have my headphones on. Once again making an ass of myself.

I think Life and I can call it even today. However, the night's still young.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thoughts on 2008

Recently I read this article about the whole Joseph Biden "articulate, clean black man thing" It's not available at the Washington Post anymore, so I can't link to it, but the part that caught my attention was this passage,

It's interesting that Obama's reaction dealt solely with the A-
word. "I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally, but
obviously they were historically inaccurate," he said in a
statement. "African-American presidential candidates like Jesse
Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a
voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one
would call them inarticulate."

The author goes on to say

I realize the word is intended as a compliment, but it's being used
to connote a lot more than the ability to express one's thoughts
clearly. It's being used to say more, even, than "here's a black
person who speaks standard English without a trace of Ebonics."

The word articulate is being used to encompass not just speech but a
whole range of cultural cues -- dress, bearing, education, golf
handicap. It's being used to describe a black person around whom
white people can be comfortable, a black person who not only speaks
white America's language but is fluent in its body language as well.

2008 is going to be interesting because there are so many "token" players this time around. We have "the woman" "the black man" and "the Mexican." In a normal election, we'd be lucky to even have one of them, and they probably wouldn't be a very serious contender. Right now "the woman" and "the black man" are the front runners.

Anyway, as this progresses, it will be interesting to see how these candidates, particularly Obama and Clinton present themselves and try to craft their identities to claim the best advantage. Just like how Pelosi, was, by some newspapers' estimation, attempting to use her gender as to identify herself and her party more strongly as a breath of fresh air.

Love triangle

There's totally a love triangle developing among my sixth graders. Alice has consistently liked Wayne (Ichiro) for quite some time. Which both me and my friend Iris have noted with amusement. However Wayne's a typical 12 year old boy, and he has no clue. Yet every 10 minute break, Alice is always right by Wayne, giving him crap.

However recently, one of the other boys, Greg, and Alice have been having these yelling matches. And Patrick, another student, commented “一個兩口" or "Oh, a couple." I think Patrick might have something there. It's like a Korean soap opera only with 6th graders. How will it end?

It's funny how this stuff which used to annoy the hell out of me when I was younger, I find sort of amusing now.

Anyway, I'm also in the midst of planning a month long trip to China and Japan in the summer. I hope to hit Hong Kong, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Beijing, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. Possibly in that order. If you've been there and want to tell me something that's cool to do, send me an e-mail.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Adventures on the train

So yesterday I attempted to go somewhere new. However I didn't plan my trip very well, and therefore spent a lot of time on various train platforms waiting. By the time I got to where I was going, it was getting late and I was tired, so I only stayed for about an hour and a half, and then got the train back.

On the way back, this screaming child was banging the bathroom door open and closed. While his mother half-heartedly (and ineffectually) tried to stop him. He wasn't really listening. This young guy looked over, smiled, and shook his head at the kid, gently but firmly. The little kid got so scared that he went away and never touched the door again. I had to cover my mouth because I was smiling. It was seriously the awesomest thing I'd ever seen. Although the mom was probably kind of embarrassed, this 20 something year old guy accomplished in one second what she'd been trying to do for 5 minutes.


Why can't he just build statues to himself like other absolutist dictators? What's good enough for Kim Jong Il should be good enough for him.

Also, why is he so concerned with his legacy? He's still alive. If he wants to be remembered forever, he should go build a pyramid in Texas. With gold, lots and lots of gold.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Deep thought for the day

Part of getting used to having long(er) hair again, is that now I actually have to comb it once in a while in order not to look like a hobo.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Place settings

So now that I've taken care of equality and race, I promised my friend I'd go back to his original intent which was to discuss the possibility of equality between the genders. As much as Wendao Jinxin will attempt to get me to talk about gender once in a while, I've never felt all that qualified to talk about it. It's probably due in some part to my discomfort with feminism, or at least the feminism that I've run into in my small life.

This is a topic that Magniloquence or Little Light could probably do better. However, since both of them are probably a lot busier in more productive ways than I am right now, I'll give it a shot.

Much like my ramblings about minority equality, I'm hard pressed to figure out what true gender equality would look like. Equality, as Magniloquence points out, should not mean the same thing as sameness. Although the two are often conflated. It also depends on what you think equality is.

According to some people's world view, the genders are equal. Each gender has its own assigned role, passive and active, aggressive and submissive, strong and weak. It was always an argument that the sexes had separate but different spheres, each completing one another. According to this world view, the sexes are already equal.

What makes this theory problematic is its rigid definition of gender roles and its assumption that all men perform their masculinity in the same way, and all women perform their femininity in the same way. And of course that all men are 100% masculine and all women are 100% feminine. It's too rigid a theory to allow for "deviancy" from the norm.

Also according to contemporary, progressive ways of thinking, the problem with the theory lies in the difference in status between the two. Their roles may be complementary, but their places at the table are not equal.

While the silence in the comments section indicates that many of you are rather bored by what I've been doing recently, I would, as always enjoy hearing comments on this.

The Light of Other Suns

I'm not sure why but every time I buy a light bulb I'm convinced that there are light bulbs with bases of different sizes, although in reality they're all the same and I should just stop stressing.

Anyway, in an attempt to get more natural light, I picked the Energy Saver "warm light" bulb. Now, it seems that while the rest of my house has normal florescent light, my bedroom exists on a separate world, with an aging yellow sun.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bad Day or a Change of Pace

Yesterday, I locked myself out of my apartment, and then a minute later, stepped in dogcrap. According to Taiwanese thinking, I should have bought myself a lottery ticket. I refrained, mostly because had I attempted to do so, I probably would have set myself on fire in the process.

I only write about this now, because it's now impossible for Life to make the day any worse.

Oh yes, and remember how on New Year's Day I predicted in jest that this year I'd see more people from my past. Ran into another old coworker at the Fine Art Museum a couple weeks ago. He didn't recognize me either.

You win again,Life