Sunday, October 22, 2006

The City of Walking

Hello, just got back today from Portland, the City of Roses. I decided that this blog might be more topical in nature from now on, instead of oriented on daily rambling. I stayed with Kristi's half-brother and his family. Chris (who is very attractive and also very married) and Hope were so sweet to set me up with a place to stay for a few nights. They are such chill and cool parents, who never hesitate to tell it like it is. They made my stay in the city 200% better.

Let's see, I had high hopes of the city before coming in, labeling it as my future home - for the next few years, at least. Something that sort of took my breath away at first sight was the beautiful and abundant foliage - and not only that, the leaves were brightly golden and flaming red. It's a nice change from Texas' bi-seasonal productions of monotonous green and dead brown. Mount Hood towers amongst clouds in the east, perpetually blanketed with snow so that it is possible to ski year-round. Portland is pretty similar to Austin in that a river (Willamette) runs through it, dividing downtown from the East, and housing many a cute bakery, restaurant, and theater, especially down a certain Hawthorne St. I'd say that the street is comparable to South Congress, except that it was less like Factory People and other pricey/pretentious shops, and more like Jo's Coffee, having a very cozy, community feel to it. There is also a pair of beloved brothers called the McMinimans who actively restore old schoolhouses and other forgotten buildings and turn them into quaint hotels with character and theaters that serve pizza and beer. (Chris said that he has gotten to the point where he can't watch a movie without a beer in hand.) And a handful of microbreweries are scattered near downtown that enjoy fierce loyalty from the locals. Oregonians do love their beer.
Something of interest: there is currently ongoing hostility towards Californians, because more and more of them are moving to Portland, thereby driving up housing prices, bringing along their hoity-toity attitudes, and introducing rudeness and rage on the previously honk-free, "let's everyone take turns" road. I wonder if they like Texans. I found myself saying "ya'll" a whole lot, but it didn't elicit much of a response.
After attending getting in late Thursday night, and attending most of the conference on Friday, my brain was fried from everyone's data and findings. Also tired of being lectured at (which is something I can get anyday in Austin), I left the hotel like a bat out of hell once the dreadful receptions began. What took place there was nothing more than small-talk and networking, terms which are sometimes interchangeable, among people who were much older, more nerdy and intellectual than I. As a mere undergraduate, I had nothing to offer anyone, except an ear and naive wonderment, and even that wasn't enough most of the time.

So with the conference behind me, I trekked throughout downtown, weaving in and out enough times to help me memorize the map I was constantly unfolding and folding. Powell's City of Books bookstore was one place every Portlander and knowledgable visitor raved about, and after stepping into it, I see that it most certainly lives up to its purported title of "best independent bookstore in America." How can you not love a bookstore that has giant rooms labeled by color, books on sale that are actually worth reading and have won prizes, said sale books in every room, a Sociology section, a Leftist Politics section, a Knock Knock stand, and has hosted two weddings and a funeral? What's more, you kinda need a map to get around the warehouse-sized place taking up the whole block on Burnside and 10th. It's hard not to pick up every book you ever heard of or has a long, lovingly-written employee recommendation attached to it, since they sell good, used copies of most of their titles. It was at Powell's that I finally purchased David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. The funniest book I've read in 21 years, it besought me with its $7.98 sale price and near-dead mint condition. When considering whether I truly needed a Penguin reader on Nietzche or a yellowed paperback on then-modern Marxists, I made the quick decision without even thinking about how I would have to lug my weighty purchases throughout the rest of the day. While walking around the nearby trendy Pearl District, I saw a sign advertising the Art Institute of Portland open house that very hour. Delighted, I stepped into the school, registered, attended a session, walked around and chatted with an advisor. It was all very fortuitous, considering that my wobbly future plans currently consist of attending graphic design school and residing in Oregon.

Portland does indeed have a very cozy feel to it. Apparently, the recurrent rain just comes down in drizzles and everyone who is seen with a raincoat on or hoisting an umbrella is clearly a dryness-loving visitor. The weather, Chris explained, is pretty mild and is only around 30 degrees to 90 degrees year-round. Texas would burn with shame at that stat, but only if it actually cared that it melted its denizens away every summer. Because Portland's beauty lies not just in its old buildings and homey houses with basements, but in its natural environment, outdoor activities are not simply athletic hobbies - they are part of a Portlander's lifestyle. Chris mentioned an annual 400-mile long bike ride around the state that he participated in and a citywide, scenic ride along the main bridges across the river that brings out every citizen from the cycling enthusiast to the grossly obese.
Portland's population is also relatively young. Hordes of high schoolers loitered around Pioneer Square and coffee shops, each identically wearing skinny jeans and styled hair (yes, now both boys and girls can squeeze into true denim tights, where nothing is left to the imagination). That scene is decidedly hip, alright. The rest of the older folks are happy with their loose-fit jeans, German wool clogs, fleece pullovers, and Crocs. Casual best describes the dress code there. Also, Chris mused that Portland was probably "Lesbian Capital, USA," noting that out of all his female friends, the majority of them were lesbians. Hm. Must have to do with Portland's gorgeous scenery, friendly atmosphere, and rich cultural offerings. Or not. Anyway, after that my imagination let loose and no pair of females walking down the street was safe from my guess stab at their relationship. Sorority sisters, sisters, acquaintances, friends, best friends, two strangers who happened to be walking at the same pace and less than 4 feet from each other- nobody escaped entering my personal ruminations. (OK, that was partly a joke.) But then again, they make it public there with little fuss by slapping a blue-and-yellow equal sign bumper sticker on their autos (or in Rivers' day, a pink triangle). <|

It was a nice trip, but sitting in the airport, waiting for my 11:10 PM flight, I was deeply homesick (for Austin) and missed having my friends/roommates around. It was this lonesome feeling that cut short my evening downtown, repulsed by the thought of having to eat dinner alone. (Everyone else was getting their money's worth and still back at the conference.) So, Portland, or any vibrant city, in all its greatness, would lose its shine if there was nary a person with whom you could connect. That is my only fear of moving away from Texas, but you know what, it might just be worth it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I love you, Mr. Loblaw

class, two internships, bugs, theory, ideas..

"i love you" - the pipettes

Friday, August 25, 2006

The case for homeschooling

Today, I lamented over just how little I learned in high school. History, government, science, economics, whoops, all down the drain. Despite AP/Honors curriculum. Does anyone feel the same? After doing some searches, I found some compelling arguments for the intellectually- dead conditions of our schooling system. Some of it overlaps with what I learned in Soc of Ed last semester, mainly that the main purpose of schooling is not to educate, but to indoctrinate.

A high school valedictorian's graduation speech takes a surprising turn as he lambastes the public education system for its cookie- cutter, thought- suppressing pedagogy. As he says, "the spirit of intellectual thought is lost."

Points from Everett Reimer’s School is Dead: Alternatives in Education, An Indictment of the system and a Strategy of Revolution.

He writes that institutionalized school fulfills four distinct functions:

  1. Custodial care: this is where most of the school budget goes - child care
  2. Social-role selection: the sorting of the young into social slots they will occupy in adult life
  3. Indoctrination: children learn conformity, hierarchy, and dependency on others for learning what is deemed important
  4. Education as defined in terms of the development of skills and knowledge: The real question, writes Reimer, is whether children can’t learn more/better on their own outside of compulsory schooling. “People forget that there were educated men (sic) before there were schools…” (92)

Reimer calls school an “institutional prop for privilege”. School creates a hierarchy of privilege; the education system is the indoctrination of youth into a technological, capitalist system.

Quotes from Nobel prize winners who denounce public schooling.

Question is, before long, why were most of us, the students, already uninterested in learning? We hardly even wonder, question, ponder, or seek truth. Ignorance is a highly effective form of social control, then.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The world's problems

Thomas Carlyle, "Every noble work is at first [seemingly] impossible." (adjective added by me)

Saw An Inconvenient Truth yesterday. Fact is, the problem of global warming is exceedingly inconvenient to deal with. Could the world really end in a hot way in a mere 50- 100 years? And we can halt the process by doing something about it now? It seems impossible to change our set ways here in America. It's just so wasteful and excessive how we live in comparison to people in other countries. 1 Ex. big honkin' trucks here.. vs. super fuel- efficient cars in Asia. Rather than rant on and on, I'd like to reflect on how huge of a task it'll be to get most people to be green. Funny how this sort of responsibility to our current home, the earth, has a phrase set apart for it: green. It doesn't imply a sense of normality or ethicality, but is considered an oddity and has been inducing the rolling of eyes and annoyance for a while now.

I guess the thing about some things is that those who are aware can't just be spiteful and wait until it's too late to say 'I told you so' to the non-carers, because then, it really is too late.

God, the world is just riddled with problems. Global warming, AIDS, wars in the Middle East, famines in Africa, lives still devastated by natural disasters, those are some of the big ones. There must be something more right than and between (1) not caring and going on with life as if nothing was happening and (2) being consumed by despair, choked, shocked, frozen . We (or at least I) are extremely privileged to be mostly untouched by them.. but really, who knows how long that will last?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Postcard to Iraq

Isn't this nice? Pick out a picture postcard, attach a message, and Xerox will send it to an American soldier in Iraq for free. Here.

Places I don't want to go

So, the summer laze has kicked in and I decided to start a film watching spree. Being mindful of moderation, I only rented four from Blockbuster. WARNING: Spoilers ahead, but I don't think they'll detract very much if you decided to watch them.

#1. Mysterious Skin. I had no idea what I was in for when I popped in this 2005 indie critics' darling. Note: Those rave reviews on film cases are not to be trusted, especially on more recent releases, as they were hand-picked by the producers and more deceptive than ever. In short, MS is one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen, primarily for its sexually graphic scenes and themes. (It's unrated, but apparently the theatrical version is NC-17, I later found out.) The film deals with pedophilia, homosexuality, gay prostitution, and the trauma of sexual abuse. Besides the shock factor, it left me utterly befuddled about Hollywood's stance on those intertwined issues above. (Not that Hollywood anywhere near resembles the public population in terms of their views.) It sounded like 'bad, ok, not so good, and bad.' What?? The value assignments all seem so arbitrary. After searching long and hard for a Christian review and finding no such thing, the closest thing I found was a sneering remark by a non- Christian against Christian fundamentalists who would probably reject the film for its portrayal of 'immoral behavior.' There is no evidence for or against this, except that few Christians have probably seen it to make that sort of judgment. Joseph Gordon Hewitt did a smashing performance as one of the lead characters, though. One thing I'm glad this movie taught me is that even though it was highly acclaimed for its masterful filmmaking, being good art is not the only criterion for watching movies or experiencing any other kind of art. Meaning, I really didn't need to see this film.

#2. The Virgin Suicides. I thought I was doing myself in by watching this one hours after being pummelled by two sordid tales of sexual abuse. The title itself is so suggestive and racy, a perfect moniker for a modern cult- classic. But besides featuring the charming Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett with a hotness- extinguishing haircut, this movie was plain vanilla boring. And shallow. Romanticizing the pointless suicides of five suburbanite teenage girls from the eyes of their prepubescent male counterparts, whose nameless characters were barely developed anyway? Please. There are more serious and substantial topics worthy of million dollar undertakings. Perhaps if I was eight years younger (age of the first Lisbon daughter who committed suicide .. boo hoo) and had an unnaturally long attention span I would have enjoyed this self- indulgent film and tucked it away as an triumphant teenage piece against clueless adults. There was nothing violent here, just haze, soft fantasies, and a handful of odd scenes meant to be meaningful but ultimately weren't. Sofia Coppola, even though I like your style (outside of filmmaking), that's already two strikes out. (No, I wasn't entranced by the plodding Lost in Translation either. Anyone care to explain?) At least the soundtrack was really good.

#3 and #4. Taxi Driver and The Manchurian Candidate. Now we're getting to the real time- tested classics, so hopefully no more of this disappointment or deception.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Strange News From Another Star

So, I'm jetlagged after all at 6 AM and checking out the iTunes store, which isn't as lame as I thought, especially the celebrity playlists. And I found out that Jack Black, the wacky actor/ musician, is married to a lady named Tanya Haden, who plays in the very indie bands Let's Go Sailing and Silverspun Pickups. In addition, her triplet sister Petra used to be in That Dog., a 90's power-pop band, and now she's a member of The Decemberists. Their father, Charlie Haden, a jazz legend double- bassist most known for his association with famous free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. How's that for marrying into a super-musical family?

Friday, July 28, 2006

1+1 = 3

Hell's bells! Threadless wall decals!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


It's my last week here in Japan ( I leave on Sunday) and things have been going especially great! It's like a punishment for not having fully enjoyed my time here while the end seemed so impossibly far away.

Chinese medicine is amazing. I put some Yu Nan Bai Yao powder on my toenail and today it felt attached, instead of like it was on a hinge yesterday. There are also two mysterious little red balls inside the container that you take only in dire circumstances, like if you're going to die or something. You think I'm joking?

This morning, we had lunch at our across-the-street neighbor's, Takami San, and then she took us to a nearby shrine for a tea ceremony. It was so lovely and peaceful sitting in the tatami room with the doors slid open, gazing at the neatly tended garden outside. At the Bagel K office, my aunt and I walked to Osaka Jo (Castle), which is hundreds of years old, surrounded by a moat and tranquil as well. People were bicycling and jogging around the castle, which was very cute and reminded me of Town Lake. Then I finally went and got a haircut at a nearby salon, which was very intimidating at first, because everyone who worked there was young and stylish and had really nice hair. And here was I, couldn't speak more than eight licks of Japanese, dressed extremely casually in a shirt and cords (it was nearly rude), and sporting a very overgrown, unkempt mop- I do that a lot to haircutters: terrify them by bringing them a big rescue project of cleaning up to do; they are probably tempted to start making before-and-after ads, it's nearly shameful. I just don't believe in $50 trims, ya know? Anyhow, I got to strike up a mostly successful conversation in English with the girl who washed my hair, despite that she was alarmingly pretty (Erin says that being intimidated by people who are a lot more beautiful than you are is rather normal).
OK, let's get this straight: in general, Japanese girls are very pretty and fashionable (a.k.a. super vain and materialistic??), and contrary to "popular" belief, they don't look clownish one bit.
After my quick cut, which looks pretty different, very thin (so this is what early cancer hair maybe feels like..), kind of glammy rocker, poofed- up hair atop my head, but for girls, but not altogether bad- looking, I started chatting with a few of the other girls there and by the time I reluctantly left, I was chummy with half the staff. I'm just regretful and I slap myself for not going there sooner, because it was so neat getting to know them, even if it was just for a few hours. And to think, the only good intentions I had going in there was informing them that the 'luxurly' in their company logo wasn't a real English word. ('Luxurious' would've run it terribly out of alignment though.)

After getting over the fact that I may never see them again, I realized that the main reason I wanted to get to know them was because they were simply attractive people, and they were just excited at the rare chance to talk to a foreigner, especially an American. Well, this isn't coming out exactly the way I imagined it, but the general point is, we were each attracted to the imagined idea of who the other person was based on one characteristic and not seeking reality. So, now would be a good time to inject a comment about how there are so many ugly white guys with pretty Japanese girlfriends he
re. (But to my surprise, that's not accurate at all.)

It makes me feel guilty, because I feel that I am cheating through much of life instead of earning it. Ex. Rightful B's at the end of the semester inexplicably turning into A's on the grade report, receiving high marks in fencing nationals twice due to underhanded placement by the coach (long story), getting treated with favor and special interest here because of my "exotic" American status, securing high- paying, low- effort summer jobs because of connections, tricking teachers into believing that I got writing skillz even though I never properly learned grammar rules in junior high and because of a big word vocabulary I amassed from reading other writers, and just being able to inspire awe. It's much too easy. And if that's how everyone else's experience is, that's dreadfully disappointing.

Sometimes, or rather, because of a recent viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany's, I like waltzing into expensive jewelry shops with a $50 budget (adjusted for inflation).. well that too, but mostly, I think about:

"She's a phony, but she's a real phony."

Oh well, I hear that you can't completely fake through getting a Ph.D., which is somewhat reassuring.
It's probably all thanks to that killer thesis.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Birks for Looks

Today I made lunch for us all by myself. Potato salad (3 kinds of potato) with wasabi, and eggplant tomato garlic stirfry. Normally, my aunt slaves away while I'm off browsing webpages. Cooking is very enjoyable! We'll put it next to gardening on the healthful things to do list.

Thought I'd get a break from anything academic here, miles away from school, but it's been frustrating and a bit of a downer sitting through and dealing with rants from my highly opinionated uncle and provincial aunt about, say, Koreans as barbaric and belligerent, and Chinese people (literally from China) as uneducated, rude and uncouth. And this is all just within the Asian ethnicity! I'm more offended at their jabs against Koreans, since I have Korean American friends, and after being told that they are a discriminated group in Japan. 'Sure, we'll eat your oishi barbecue and kimchee, but don't show your face in my neighborhood or employment.'

On an entirely different note,
Birkenstock makes really great- looking shoes here in Japan. The more you look outside, the more it seems that the US gets all the conservative goods in general. Notables:

Montana. (The current location of Rachel Self.)

Part clog, part moccasin, part elven. They be illin'. With the steady demise of the Clarks originals Wallabee boot, could this be the next expensive footwear picked up by Patagonia fleece- sportin', cheap beer- guzzlin', sockless, frat boys who have a taste for the taste of the outdoors? Well, maybe if they are ever made available in the US.

(OK, I apologize for that. Even members of fraternities have enough dignity to deserve some protection from being reduced to a stereotype. Which are never harmless.)

Tabora. I have an old pair of these, but the colorway is no way near as cool as this one. Tasteful art!

So, the news lately has been rather bleak. Or maybe it has always been- I've just recently started paying a bit more attention with all this free time and whatnot. We, as in me, my friends, peers and family, are living very comfortable lives, pretty much untouched by happenings elsewhere (unless you know someone in the war in Iraq).. and most of us don't care about the news, especially not international news. Not that this is a good thing at all, but at what point is it imperative to care?
The rainy season has been atypically long this year in Japan, and while people are complaining about the wetness, countries in East Africa have been experiencing a crippling drought and are beginning to starve. This did not sit well with my grand breakfast of bakery items, fresh fruit from the garden, and cinnamon cafe latte.
It seems like the gravity of current world events is dire enough, are we screwing ourselves over with voluntary ignorance? It's so easy getting lost in the heated arguments and passionate opinions of attention- paying citizens, but at least there's a dialogue going on. I guess the only person I can truly change is myself, so I will try to be more aware of what's going on in the world today, difficult as it is living in a bubble at school, bumping into other people's bubbles.

The only thing that can stop us is hopelessness.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Went to this really neat 9-story store called LoFT. It's like a Bed, Bath and Beyond/ gift store, but 100 times cooler because its target range is people in the 20's and young couples. I wouldn't mind setting up a wedding registry here, if xxxxx. Plus a paper/pen/ stationery/ office supply section with only the good stuff. And the prices were relatively reasonable. Nothing overwhelmingly original, but pleasantly design- conscious and usable. Their products reminded me of IKEA, but less sterile and more vivid. Like Anthropologie/ Urban Outfitters housewares, but less Euro chic, less artsy fartsy, and more simple. Like Book People, but in Japanese. Like The Cadeau, but less vintage, less hoity- toity, and more playful. Literally, I had to tear my eyes away to make progress towards the door. They also had a wide range of Roototes, so I broke down and bought a few as gifts (omiyagi). And the Breath Palette toothpaste tubes too, I got Pumpkin Pudding (tried it tonight, it wasn't so tasty).
I guess it sounds like I go shopping all the time because there is little else to do and I'm a very materialistic person. Well, all that is true. But don't worry, there is a way out. I care about people, not things! (Repeat: People, not things!)
Anyway, all these gifts I've accumulated over the weeks are really burning a hole through my thoughts. Just take them already! I can't wait to go back and see people I miss. Goodnight and yay for church tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Smokestack Lightin'

a vs b
a. New Ratatat! Tacobel Canon
b. The Go! Team - Huddle Formation (RJD2 Remix)
..b wins!

Mural of a certain city (courtesy of Lena Corwin).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Define A Transparent Dream

Went to the Suntory Museum and Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium today. It took 1.5 hours by bus/train/train, but that's not so bad for public transport. The exhibition featured Snoopy artwork by Japanese artists. Or something like that. Found a Charlie Brown tee, but it was made by Tokyo- based Beams T, which merited its $48 price tag. Shopped around downstairs and found some interesting items, like a Baby Holga, Dick Bruna Paperback notebooks, and Marimekko bags. Ah, I do like museum shops.

And then, after getting picked up by SL500 Lucky #8, we headed off to Koreatown for some Korean BBQ. Mm again! Now I know why I don't really care for steak, only the best cuts are tasty!
Also, been looking around online for decor to cover our naked walls. Saw this neat piece by Warhol,"Neuschwanstein Castle." I'd never seen it before, but it looks great. Have you?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tasty, Tasty Murder

Oh my goodness I am about to burst my gut, no kidding. Just came back from the most expensive dinner of my life, which also included the best steak of my life.. teppanyaki! I rarely eat steak (or meat really), but this was some good stuff. The cook prepared a multi course meal in front of us on a huge, thick iron griddle, which included a bit of shrimp, scallops, onions, sliced garlic, pumpkin, and then the main dish was different cuts of Kobe beef. After that is full portions of fried rice and cold soba noodles, top it off with tiramisu for dessert and you're set to go for the next few days. Of course, I sat silently while they did business with their guest, but the price was 0 Yen and an evening of patience from me. Not bad at all.

Went to Kobe today and walked around the small Chinatown and covered shopping walkways. It's strange seeing Chinese products priced so highly. (They're cheap.) Been buying too many earthenware/ porcelain bowls, mugs and such for souveneirs, my hand baggage will be quite a doozy. Trains are cheap to take, but they're kind of inconvenvient with all the fare- buying, waiting time, sometimes being smashed against strangers' bodies, sitting on chairs whose patterns resemble stretch marks, etc. But public transportation is so much better for the environment than cars, you gotta admit. Let's carpool more!

Watched most of The Notebook a few days ago. They've got a few American movie channels on their cable station, which I discovered rather late, but got caught up on some older, renowned flicks such as The Terminator and A Few Good Men. Anyhow back to The infamous Notebook, there were a few parts I didn't remember at all, and overall, it was more enjoyable than not. There are some very unromantic parts, like when Ally has to choose between Noah and the other guy, the turmoil plus her utter unfaithfulness to her vow makes it a little hard to believe. And, I understand that it is a love story and all, but the two main characters are so enraptured by each other it's like there's no world outside of theirs. That's romantic for sure, but it seems a bit selfish for them to bestow all their love on each other alone, without much thought on others. Perhaps that's what the mind becomes in old age. Oh man, if there's a stage in this life I recoil at entering, it's old age, for many a reason. But I am rather impressed at the success of this film, because it has a great deal of OLD people showing up near the last half. I know it's central to the story, but nonetheless, haven't we been trained to look towards the media with our eyes and not with our minds?
The first time I saw The Notebook was during my camp counseloring at Mystic two summers ago, on my prized weekend break, and by then I had heard so much about it that I went in the theater with a frown and a rigid determination not to cry, feel sad, smile, soften up, feel anything, etc. Hype is a dangerous thing. As you can see for yourself on Facebook, this recent movie is a favorite of many college girls; gee, it must really be that good. No, maybe, maybe not. The point is, I wanted to stamp out their collective joy and excitement once it reached a certain level, and this could only be trumped by the movie being absolutely genius, which it is not. See what kind of person I am? But also, the more movies one watches, the more discerning one would be after a while, right? Do you know who writes all the scathing reviews of the latest record that you thought was pretty decent or even great? People who have listened to a whole lot of music. I thought the same would go for viewers of chick flicks, but apparently, that genre is an entirely different beast.

I managed to get out of working at Bagel K this whole week up til now. Not so sure about tomorrow, but thus far I have been leeching off the folks. This lack of labor is kind of unnerving and makes me uncomfortable, because I feel like I owe them something for allowing me to live so easily, like a lot of courtesies, submission, smiles or creative business ideas. That's the thing about not being on your own. For example, I enter a sour mood and get annoyed at my aunt's apologetic mannerisms. Moments later, it's noon and she gladly buys me lunch. "Gee, I am tired of being in Japan without people my own age," I silently whine. A floor up, and my aunt pays for my clothing purchase at X shop. Again, it's me being terrible. I'm surprised they can even stand my adolescent attitude, because I sure can't.

Friday, July 07, 2006


SS Symphonic Tour! Article.

Went shopping today at Tennoji Station, since this whole week malls are having super sales all over town. Prices are sometimes decent, like $12 shirts, and sometimes not. Also, you can't swing a cat in these shops without hitting a stack of striped shirts or someone wearing one (over and under layers, of course). Anyway, I pawed through the junk and picked up these two gems:
Beehouse round teapot - cute me out: it is coral, classic, made in Japan, and just small enough for 1 -2 persons

Rootote - I know totes are so three years ago and that Urban has carried these for a while, but their designs are pretty great and can you believe that it was only 1050 Yen (~$10 USD).

We went to Costco today to pick up some restaurant supplies and it was almost like being in America again. Bulk monsters in Japan!

Yay point, triumph of culture over experience: I offer up my ideas for the business every time they form and one stuck: Passionfruit Italian Soda. This soda drink is pretty common in American coffee shops, but they have nothing of the sort here in Japan, especially not the tropical flavor of passionfruit. It took a little thinking to get the proportions correct, but it was just a matter of taste and being economical. Bagel K will be selling it starting next week as a special new item. Hold your breath!

In the meantime, I got my hands on some train and subway maps in English, so we'll see if any moving around happens these next few weeks.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Handful of billions

Okkervil River - Song of Our So- Called Friend

New photos uploaded for your Internet consumption time.

I think I will be adding photos less often (lower quantity, higher quality), since I find that the protocol in viewing other people's (whose lives are separate from yours at the moment) personal photos, the only ones worth scrutinizing are ones with people, and these people should be a combination of the following:
a. young
b. beautiful
c. sexy
d. posing in a:
i. cool fashion
ii. artsy fashion
iii. disinterested fashion
iv. ridiculous fashion

And alas, I cannot promise anything of the sort, being on physical, relational, islands here.

Breakfast bagel: Green tea. It is a light green color and has visible tea flakes in it, but is sweet too. When you see it, you expect a lot because of its Asian influence. Then, when you bite, the taste is rather subtle and tame. But it's not bad at all, just not what you imagined.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Greenest Grass

First of all, a hearty congrats to John Roberson, who is now engaged!

As said early, today I was home alone with no set schedule. Now, when you have such a wide expanse of free time like that, you get to thinking. Good process, variable results. I've been in Japan for nearly two weeks now, crashing into novel things one moment after another. But now a routine is starting to sink in and I have noted a few things I greatly dislike (relating to spiritual atrophy and lack of physical independence and autonomy). Things that seem quite harmful. So, after turning around a few things in my noggin, I prepared a little mental speech:

"Uncle and Aunt, I am really grateful for your hospitality in letting me stay at your house and work for you. However, I feel like 7 weeks is much too long and I plan on returning two weeks earlier instead. Hope that doesn't crunch your plans or anything.."

You see, hearing tale after tale about my friends' adventures abroad, and fantastic notions began to grow and swell in my mind about life in foreign countries. Nothing seemed more necessary than an escape from this boring, cooped- up, old life in the States. Not that I find Japan distasteful, but I've finally realized something about physically running away from restlessness and boredom to another country: it doesn't work that way. People live normal lives everywhere. It is truly a matter of perspective. Likewise, the world is largely the same everywhere. So, my uninformed ideas were quickly replaced by facts of reality. As a result, thinking I had some good reasons on my side, I inquired to my parents about going home earlier, believing that they would easily comply. Wrong, so wrong! I mean, Kristi Kaiser got the 'OK' from her parents to leave Spain earlier on July 10th, so I thought I'd give it a shot. My mother's explanation of her negative, but firm response: You have to stick to the commitments you make. This is called reality. Novelty fades, but you have to keep on going if you ever want to succeed. Of course, Keke stuck with Smart Start all last semester, even though it wasn't always sweet roses and fluffy clouds every day. However, I got the feeling that she really grew to love those kids and also, she couldn't just quit the job whenever. Despite all that, I think she learned a lot from it.

So. One must not always be running away from difficulties? I really thought I knew that already. But then again, it irks me that one day after marriage I'll be tired of my future husband, love of my life. Life does not consist one thrill after another, but hopefully, a regular rhythm of stability. Tell me that once more. Ah, reality strikes again. Well, because this is so, and I don't want to swallow a bitter pill in a larger circumstance, I'll try to make the most of my time here and switch gears from "passive" to "proactive." Sounds self- help- ish, but it is a move that must be made.

Older people: they're often wiser than you.
On with life!

Monday, June 19, 2006

cansei de ser sexy. tired of being sexy.

home alone all day. here are my favorite songs of the moment. that's how I live.

1. "Back In Town" - SOUND TEAM (from Austin, TX!!!)
2. "Baby I" - Amy Millan
3. "Sometimes In a Fall" - Phoenix

new is value.

ha, this little piece is too good. if only we, the inhabitants of an uninsulated house, could outfit ourselves with some before winter rolls on by.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

No Key, No Plan

Konnichiwa! Hello! Just returned home from the stay with Matsumura San this weekend. Driving away from the familiarity of my week- old home in Hakuhodai with a stranger lady at the wheel was a bit tense. But it's in your most uncomfortable and new experiences that you learn a lot, I have come to think. We spent the day in Kyoto and picked up one of her son's friends to be an English guide for me. That wasn't in the plan, but fortunately, Hiroshi turned out to be a dear and gracious fellow. We visited Nijo Castle, underwent a traditional tea ceremony, and walked the streets of Kyoto. Matsumura San even bought my mother some expensive stationery and fine green tea. These two women don't even know each other! We had yakitori for dinner, different types of chicken on a stick. She had paid for everything thus far and commenced to pay for us to have some drinks as well. I don't know if it was the Japanese plum wine or the deceptive chicken hearts, but I was ready to heave at the end of dinner. (I didn't.) Plus, this lady is a crazy driver, with lurching stops and a lead foot. I slept off most of my drunken stupor as she drove to us ... a funeral. Yes, I passively tagged along, what was I thinking. Let's just say that it was supremely awkward stepping into a room full of a hushed family members all dressed in black, while I was looking disheveled and dressed so casually. However, after being introduced, a fatherly- looking man started speaking to me in excellent English. He was the son- in- law of the deceased and as we chatted, he expressed that it was good for me to experience a traditional Japanese funeral and explained the ceremony. Turns out he lived in Richardson, Texas for a year and worked at my mother's current company, Nortel. Small world! I would've taken a picture of the interesting occasion, but even a foreigner like me sensed how that might not have been such a good idea.

Matsumura San's house was very large and traditional, with sliding paper windows and trees all around. I slept on a tatami floor. Or, should I say, laid there, since I have no recollection of ever falling asleep. She calls me "Lee" (or "Ree", phonetically). The next morning, I met her 22- year old daughter, Yuki, who is a medical student. Her English is not bad, especially when she is equipped with the ubiquitious electronic Japanese- English dictionary. We spent the afternoon at the Nara deer park feeding them round crackers, running away from aggressive deer (Yuki), grabbing evasive antlers (me), and at the adjacent Todaiji Temple, which houses some rather large Buddha statues. [And then my camera battery died.] Then dinner at a second- floor restaurant which only seats 12 people, whose menu changes every month, and offers 10- ish small dishes for dinner at the master chef's discretion. I really enjoyed spending time with someone around my age and I think Yuki and I are friends now. (Although, her teeth aren't that great for someone whose father is a dentist.) I've also made it a point to try everything at least once, meaning sashimi, but I've not acquired a taste for it. Raw meat? Not my style, but at least you can drown undelectable things in wasabi.

My English is deteriorating, while my Japanese is bettering (bettering? ah, improving). It also just occurred to me during a quiet car ride back home that it seems awfully rude of me to accept compliments. Like, someone will say something nice and I'll just nod and thank them. Then, silence. Everyone else in Japan vehemently protests with five to eight 'No!'s while shaking their heads and chuckling, pleased as punch. Perhaps that's why Americans are viewed as arrogant?

Missed, missed going to All Saints this morning. I unwisely planned on waking up earlier to listening to a sermon on the iPod, but actually "slept" til 11:30 since the room was so closed off that no sunlight could enter. Sigh. And when I try to pray before meals, they misinterpret it for a traditional saying (itta taki mas) while folding your hands before a meal.

Our poor tree back in Dallas is special: it has gotten hit by lightning three times (!), and since three times does the trick, the old clunker finally fell over this time, crushing our swing. Hm!

In the meantime, I am tricking people to read my writing by sending things out to the rest of the world.

Friday, June 16, 2006

all th epeop le that ilovea r edrunk

Ah, the happy, idle days of summer.. just ended yesterday.

First day of work was rather tiring. Learned how to make Honey Raisin and Cappuccino cream cheese (sound delicious? I agree, even though I don't eat cream cheese), simple coffee beverages, and package sandwich ingredients. Not even moderate brainwork, but after standing for 7 hours on hard marble, I got kind of sore. What if the thing you are most good at is making sandwiches? I am starting to imagine. Anyway, like, I'm not even that great at cutting veggies, but Japanese people *cut* their vegetables into shreds. It took me a good 30 minutes to chop a mere 1/4 of a cabbage into (ginormous)1 mm strips, with all fingers intact. Shame, shame. I wear my shame and cut it too. At least the girls working there were very nice and even knew the English words to the ingredients. My uncle is quite strict to the employees there for the most part, and nice sometimes. He is joking/ serious, but they always feel the hint of his real edge. The way he says something is often loaded with more meaning than what he is saying. I feel like a spoiled child, because he is always nice to me, and in front of the employees too. Me, a blundering, sweaty, slow- cutter, break- taking, non- Japanese. I would totally be afraid of him if I were not his niece, that's for sure.

My first bagel sandwich (to eat). Oishi! Delicious.
Went shopping at MUJI for family presents during my lunch break. Its name literally means "no- name brand." The store is nearly amazing. It can be described as a Japanese Gap, but it's much more classic, no- frills and also sells stationery, home supplies, and some food. They have a signature, plain, brown cardboard notebook with a simple red/ white label and black binding. Its clothing line is relatively cheap for Japan, but still too much for me to choose as a wardrobe replacer/ updater. I did get a plaid skirt there for $7; material looks like a preppy boy's old shirt. Er, was that a mistake?

The song below has been stuck my head. It's not a great, great piece of music and I'm not crazy about the guy's wispy voice, but I love the banjo in it. What other bands have that sort of banjo backbone to their sound? <33 "Various Stages" - Great Lake Swimmers
(They are on Misra Records. Hm!)

BONUS track:
"Pushover" - The Long Winters
Now here is a band that has been quietly making wonderful pop songs that make you feel like life is only two things: sweet and simple. They're just getting more attention nowadays. Smile!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

ok, notok

Waking up with a dog hair in my mouth Dog hair (and breath) all over home life. Not OK.
Threadless t-shirts OK! Not OK. OK ??
My aunt's too many teas from around the world. OK!
Half of them expired. Not OK.
Last song on Calexico's Garden Ruin, "All Systems Red." OK!!
Almost drowning the iPod in hot water. Not OK.
Free food and service at U&A's restaurant. OK!
Engrish on their menu. Not OK. OK?
Walabe mochi made out of calorie- free glutinous rice. OK!
Start of rainy season. Not OK.
Manbags. OK??
Elevator music - style sax solos. Not OK.
Japanese economy has been going down. ??
Everything is cheaper than ever. OK!
100 Yen Store (Dollar Store). OK!

Total: OK > Not OK.


Football Frenzy

I haven't been watching the World Cup. It's not so fun trying to decipher the commentary and team names in Japanese. Anyhow, I still feel somewhat connected with my friends abroad, who are also residing in soccer/ football - crazed countries (aka not the US). Like, what's up with the US and American football?

This ad is ridic. But very creative.

Today we went to a talk by an ex- US ambassador, ex- CEO of some corporation, ex- journalist about corporate communication. The old man with a very red face and a pus- colored comb- down threw around concepts like 'niche marketing' and the decline of the efficacy of print media. Yawned half the time, but it was useful. Now I know I want to be as far away from business as possible. Of course, there is always the possibility of huge profits, but you always have to be on your toes, seeking out more information, non- stop work. There is no life beyond work. Not my idea of a career I want. And friends, what friends? Everyone is a contact, a connection, only useful for what they can do for you and your standing. Dreadful stuff.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Okok, so I got those pictures back. Good iPhoto. Big picture update, including HK/ China ones. Click to the right, if you will, and check Albums 24 and 25. And, I spent time writing captions.

Today my aunt and I took a train to Kyoto and walked around the streets. It's the most traditional city in Japan, with 100- year old buildings (some turned restaurants) standing next to modern ones. I like it. Bought some super postcards at a museum showcasing the artwork of Renoir, Picasso, Warhol, and a lot of other painters I do not recognize. I'm so uneducated when it comes to art and art history. A lesser known piece titled "A Break In the Woods" by Geberoy caught my eye, because it captured something I'd actually like to do- go on a hike in the forest and then sit down for a little 19th century picnic, porcelain teacups and all.

Endured a long, multi- course dinner at a fancy pants restaurant with my A&U and another prestigious couple. Even though I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, I managed to break both cultural and fine dining rules in less than an hour. Anyway, the wife was so sweet to me and tried to get to know me, even though I was a perfect mute for most of the time. She gave me some expensive face sunscreen at the end of the night. Turns out she is a well- known TV commentator in Japan who has her own show. All the older Japanese women I've met are so delightful! And assertive as well. The more assertive, the more delightful, beacuse they are seasoned with kindness.

Been thinking about the plans for a birthday party. Instead of a let's get wasted and mess up a house party, hows about a favorite/ fine beer/ wine tasting party? I'd much rather do that than waste my capacity on a cheap beer or another type of untasty alcohol. Sara's St. Peter's Cream Stout at the EK Birthday Bash inspired me. And then maybe a camping trip as well to top it off. Nothing like being dirty and hungover on a beautiful morning in a secluded state park. Will have to discuss with the lovely Rachel Self, who is hiking and camping her heart out in the big MT.

Am searching for internships next semester to fill my schedule. Currently working on my cover letter for a General Office Duties intern position at Misra Records. Duties include compiling promotional packages, entering data, and the like. It's a small label recently relocated to Austin; it has releases of Destroyer, Flotation Toy Warning, Centromatic, Great Lake Swimmers. Still wondering if it is the best choice. Sounds rather exciting though, as exciting as an unpaid internship can be.

Cheeze, my U&A are always bringing back fine desserts from their Italian restaurant because they don't last for more than a day. Constant temptation for me!


Monday, June 12, 2006

By the big slippers of big slipperdom!

I've been helping my aunt prepare the meals, and it's been great learning the Japanese way of cooking. For example, many dishes are delicious, and they don't even require a drop of oil! That's pretty amazing. We are making curry rice for tonight, which has loads of veggies, some grated apple, sliced beef, and Japanese curry. I aim to make it back in the States for the household. And there are so many different kinds of nori (seaweed) to match with each flavor. I aim to bring some home as well. As we speak, I'm eating chocolate cookies that expired either in February or have not yet. Hard to tell, since in Asian countries, they do day-month-year. And, we were short on curry so we opened up a dusty bottle of it and dashed it in the soup. Unfortunately, I looked too late, and when I did, the bottom announced an expiry date of 1994. Hm, I was only 9 then. Spices last pretty long, right? Even though I'm definitely getting over my strictness with expiry dates, I put down my foot for Nike Dunk Low SBs (same reason). They are quickly becoming my favorite sneaker to keep up with, because their non- general colorways are most excellent and there is such a mad sneaker culture and ensuing demand for them.

odd flavors
JAPANESE PIZZA (osaka style) = shredded lettuce + beaten egg + shrimp + noodles + mayo + oyster sauce
a MESS that awaits my touch
Q AND I posing in front of a shrine
a FARMER at rest

aiyaaaaa my imbecile iphoto program just deleted all my newly uploaded pictures. it's hard to keep the things you can't touch. Terrible x 10!

* Harajuku:
"It is the best place in the world to go stare at Tokyo fashion. And to go shopping. You know those great books with kids dressed as punks, mods, goths, ravers, sex fiends etc - all those people hang out around here, which is why pervert photgraphers swarm the joint on the weekend."

Keke, don't worry, I will have my camera ready. It just depends if I have the guts to shove it in their glammy faces!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Good Earth

Nara, Japan
(Links to pictures)
San = Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., Mr. & Mrs.

I read the above book on the plane ride to Hong Kong. Not my favorite, but a good/sad story. Today, on our morning walk with Q (her golden retriever), we stopped by a farmer produce stand in her neighborhood and bought some vegs. The farmer's wife was so sweet, she invited us to pick their strawberries and also eat all we can for free. Normally, H-E-B strawberries turn me off, so I wasn't super excited, but when we got in and saw all the bright red dearies waiting to be chomped.. Ooh, they were the most beautiful, sweetest and juiciest strawberries I've ever tasted! Of course, I am always one to wash fruit before eating, but the farmers use no pesticide, and each one was free of blemishes and insects. After eating our fill, we picked a boxful for home. Then the farmer (Naganishi san) came and showed us his tomato, cucumber, and cabbage patch, and taught us how to choose ripe ones. And we took some of those home too. Mm. This reminds that cultivating food and gardening is a good way to enjoy the earth.

And, all the Japanese people I have met have here been extremely kind and generous.* I just wish I could communicate with them. Of course, me being shy and not being able to speak Japanese is doubly terrible- I'm afraid my silence and awkwardness is received as rudeness. Fortunately, my aunt is having a second year college student come over once a week to teach me some beginner Japanese, and I will also have a chance to converse with my uncle's nephew for him to learn English (and me Japanese). It's difficult, especially the grammar. The language borrows from Chinese characters, so sometimes I can decipher half a meaning. It's amazing, language, I mean. Same meaning, hundreds (thousands?) of ways to express it.

* Another case. We were taking the subway to go meet my aunt's friend (Matsumura san) to help her plan her trip to Hong Kong. Five minutes after I was introduced, this 50-ish year old, small, bubbly lady insisted on inviting me to stay overnight at her home. She has a 23- year old daughter in med school (who knows English). Perhaps we can be friends.

I also get to soak in a traditional Japanese hot bath every night (ofuro) for good health, 'cause you sweat a lot. Will download some language podcasts and listen to them during that time. The water here is very good to use, it's spring water from the mountains. Tap is OK to drink. Will update on China at a later time. Sayonara!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cemeteries Take What You Give Them

We stopped by a traditional Chinese medicine shop a few days ago. The old, wizened medicine man took my pulse, looked at my tongue, and clucked at my skin. Some of the more exotic sights in jars: dried seahorses, swallows' nest, antlers, deer tail, goji berries, and various kinds of roots, seeds and 'shrooms. He wrote out this recipe of ingredients and I had to drink the "water" boiled from it: mysterious, black, thick and super bitter. Apparently all the Western medicine I had taken over the years for my various ailments had done me wrong (side effects) and all that bad stuff had to be flushed out. As much as my taste buds and stomach objected, I'm glad for this age- old alternative medicine.

Ahh, I've been drinking lots of hot tea here. I really like the Asian philosophy of eating. Even though there is a share fair of unhealthy fare here, everyone knows what is and what isn't good for you. Ex. Rice vinegar, royal jelly (the food of baby bees), and ginger all strengthen the body. On the contrary, it seems like American cuisine is not based so much on health and science, but on arbitrary traditions and convenience. I mean, extol the nutritious benefits of a vegetable or grain and get an eyeroll and strange looks from your fellow meat- loving Texans. But that doesn't happen in our house, eh?

Am going on a Beijing tour next Monday with the folks. I wonder what it'll be like, especially now with China rising to its feet and all that jazz. I'm enjoying the thick foliage here and just waiting for the mosquitos to eat me alive. Yesterday, my grandma, mom and I went for a walk around the mountain to see their old house. They hadn't gone in decades, and we saw my mom's elementary school, the hospital where she was born, and the community center where she used to check out lots of books. It was pretty dear.

Shot the Tiger 'Round the Chain

After finishing Naked by David Sedaris and getting myself up to date on (former Top Model contestant) Elyse Sewell's livejournal, I'm ready for their new influences to shape my blog writing! Mr. Sedaris does two things well: self- deprecation and grotesque description. And Elyse, blessed with both brains and beauty, peppers her lively entries with words I have to look up (i.e. overcoiffed). Somehow, my title as the 6th grade spelling bee winner pales in comparison. I saw her photographed in a series of ads passing by a jewelry store today. Wonder if she's still in HK.

Airplane seats: could they be any less comfortable/ ergonomic? The 13 + 4 hour flight to Osaka, Japan and then transfer to HK was not as grueling as I remembered, but I did get a bit airsick (or as Keke would say, carsick) near the end. Some people are very skilled at hiding their discomfort in public. Like, say they're at H-E-B and their foot gets run over by a shopping cart gone wild, and they manage to twist their face into a lopsided grin at the offending brat whose mother is off nosing around in another aisle, and steadily walk away. I have far to go in achieving physical stoicism, as I must've scared the flight attendants with my unladylike grimaces and indelicate postures. What a regular baby.

So the fashion here is interesting. It spares no one under the age of 55, and then some. It's ordinary to see even hunchbacked grandmas walking with canes and sporting Pumas and Asics that would make a rock band singer proud. When I was here during high school, I recall wanting to assimilate, because everyone was cuting me out with their fitted jeans and thick, plastic spectacles. Well, five years later, everyone still looks that way. But now that is much less appealing, after I devised and continually failed the t- shirt test this semester. The girl sitting next to my mom on the plane nearly blinded me with her white Converse Chucks. So did my forty-ish year old aunt. Now, it's kind of unnerving when your own aunts are trendier than you are. Like, I'm not that nerdy, right? I mean, I only wear tapered exercise pants, free t- shirts and granny undies every once in a while. Give a girl a break!

The first thing we did after settling into my grandma's little second story flat was walk down to the streets and get me a haircut. It's kind of a girl mullet, not unlike Sara Linville's current mop. However, the natives can still tell that I'm not from around these parts. Must be the heavy American cookery in my flesh.

Rain, it's been three days now. Time to stop!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ready, Set, Pack

Oh Jens, you steal my heart. Kinda sad how that happens nowadays via reading strangers' blogs. Here's his. <333 style="font-style: italic;">
"What I'm trying to say,
What I want to say,
Without trying to say .. I LUH-UH-UH-VE YOU" (mp3)

Ditchin' music for books, Attempt #46. With that goal in mind, I moseyed over to 1/2 Price Books today and purchased on whims. Summer '06 reading material:
Scandinavian Design / Taschen Press
Les Miserables / Victor Hugo
Jude the Obscure / Thomas Hardy
The Good Earth / Pearl S. Buck

They had some really old books that were clearly as old as their average customer, very loved, and yellowed to the max, with list price $1.99 on the corner, and they went and slapped a $2.98 price sticker on it. Sick capitalists. 1/2 is sick anyway from the way they squeeze out a few quarters for a whole grocery bag of your gently used books.

I just realized something. That government influences design. You can see it all around.

I have mixed feelings about this adolescent nation. I know that all the comfort and convenience I enjoy on a daily basis is because of it, but I can't help but be more critical. The US is brash, bumbling, arrogant, would do anything for a dollar and primarily, whose workaholic, success-crazed people are going nowhere at a breakneck speed. And it's really ridiculous (well, many things here are really ridiculous) how ignorant the public is. Like me. Being in college is like living in a cave. Yes, it's a very fun, but closed- off cave. We trolls do not get out enough, nor do we care to. I don't think we need to adjust a few steps. I think we need to turn around or do some major weeding out. But who cares what I think, I'm just a materialistic, crazed twentysomething who's a little disoriented from being hit by the start of summer.

How do you enjoy youth? Really, give me your thoughts. I think I'm doing a bad job with that. Perhaps I should be extroverted sometimes. Like, in my essay for planning out the last 24 hours of life, I said I would shed my perpetual shyness and actually talk to boys I like. Sad that it takes the thought of impending death to make me do that. Haha.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Today I worked on a few scholarship essays when I woke up. Shouldn't even have attempted to, since I have no appreciation or drive for a finished product. My writing's always half- baked, which is not ok when money is involved. Anyway, the first question was

Imagine that you have just found out that you have 24 hours left to live.
Tell us what you plan to do in your last day on earth. (80 - 120 words)

And in formulating my answer to this question, I got really down .. and really excited. What does that mean? That I fall apart without deadlines? Or, most of us are too busy to notice how miserable we are. I was. What is this, the rich, middle- class kid syndrome? Or is it just another stupid American affliction. I see a scale: People who are poor (-5) only see far enough to realistically aim for 0, but I feel like not many people go beyond that into the positive realm (+). There are too many choices in life, as if choices set us free.

Also today, a misplaced story. My brother Sam and I were going on an evening walk around the neighborhood because it felt so deliciously chill outside, like Seattle or Montana up north. We ambled a bit near the elementary school across the street and came upon this swaggering old man. It looked like his bag, which must've been heavy for him, was swinging him this way and that. The crossing of our paths was inevitable- he proclaimed an atypical version of the fire-and-brimstone speech: "Let me give you some advice. Jesus Christ is returning soon with all the aborted babies. And they are going to KICK ASS! ..blar..blar..nice couple like you .. in hell.. I love you.." My bro was a bit taken aback, but as we brisked past him, I wondered aloud what the guy was doing outside of Austin. Because that's a pretty weird occurrence for a quiet, Dallas suburb.

Girl crush:
I'm a fool for missing her in Austin last month!!

P-fork: From Fox Confessor, on a song like "Star Witness", I'm guessing there's a car accident involved but the details are sketchy.

Case: I spent a while on that song. It's about an actual event that occurred in front of me. It wasn't actually a car accident but someone being shot to death. That was a real event that happened in Chicago.

P-fork: What happened?

Case: It was one of those things where there's gang violence and somebody gets shot right in front of you, and you live it and it's horrible. And, of course, it doesn't make the news because the kid is black. Nobody gives a shit except for his family, and you see how much nobody gives a shit and it's fucking heartbreaking. He wasn't even the kid they were looking to shoot. He was just some kid who they mistook for somebody else and they shot him. I saw it happen. I didn't make the song about me either. The song is pieces of different people but the event is in there.

Full interview

Boy crush:
Sufjan Stevens (of course)

P-fork: You say "these songs sound like songs I wrote," as if that's a surprise to you. Are you getting tired of your sound?

Sufjan: Yes. I'm getting tired of my voice. I'm getting tired of...the banjo. I'm getting tired of...the trumpet.

P-fork: Do you think that's because you've been so prolific over the past few years, or are you just getting restless?

Sufjan: I'm writing too much, for sure. I think it's important to get a season of rest, and I'm not so sure I've done that. That's why I'm not touring, I'm only playing one festival this summer. I have the summer off. I need to ride my bike more.

Yeah, me too. But it's in Austin.

Full interview

Listen to this song and think of adjectives, like high- soaring.
*S*t*a*r*s* - Set Yourself On Fire

I don't mean to end on a happy note, despite Suf's playful "last look" and the innocent poppiness of Stars.
And hey, no need to knock my affinity towards practicality. It's not a requirement, but I do find that newly acquired possessions lose their luster much more quickly if they're not really that useful. No company will ever manufacture an article of clothing sublime enough to hold all of my devotion. Everything you own gets old, so it might as well be somewhat practical in the long haul. Alright, I'm out for another lame essay.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Week Ever!

I wish I brought my djembe to Eeyore's Birthday Party on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

there aren't enough tears to drown the world's sorrow

Mostly, because people like me don't cry enough about anything.

"Who Killed Vincent Chin?" - a documentary about a hate crime against an innocent Chinese man who was beaten to death with a bat by two white workers (Nitz and Ebens) who mistakenly thought he was Japanese. "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work," declared Ebens, referring to U.S. auto manufacturing jobs being lost to Japan. The perpetrators spent one day in jail and were eventually cleared of charges.

F. Less now than before, but still once in a while, I will leave a lecture, discussion or video viewing absolutely floored by a true glimpse of extant evil and injustice in the world. These accounts effect changes beyond mere clinical depression, they inject cruel reality into the fat of our flowery and lavish lives. They should crush all humanly hope. You really think that people are good inside?
These are deep-rooted problems on a macro scale, inside and way outside of me, seemingly alien to my tiny, comfortable particle of existence, yet it touches everyone. OK, so this major makes me a really un-fun person to be around sometimes, with me moping around about abstract issues from time to time. But what I think is the real sin is that we don't mourn enough or care about what's happening to people. Blah, blah, blah: wait until it hits you at the heart, at the friend, at the loved one. I don't want to wait, I'd like to believe it and internalize it now. What can be done? There are the things you care about, some justified and others not, and then there are things you should really care about.
As Anne Lamott so honestly inquired (althought she was referring to Bush's reign), how can I help? I pray that I'll never stop pondering and asking this question.

What about the little, good things in life, you say? These should require similar scrutiny. For me, here are a few examples: quality time spent with my family, eating lunch on Fridays at the 100-year old sandwich grocery with my group of friends, trying new recipes with roommates, finding a well-fitting pair of jeans, pre-rain weather, listening to a song for the nth time and experiencing maximum auralgasm, watching old movies on Kristi's trundle late at night instead of doing homework. But let's examine these further. In my ability to enjoy these things, how am I privileged, and in contrast, how are others not? This is not to say that we should be abstaining from everything good and pleasurable, but that we should not take these things for granted because they come at great cost, and for many individuals, they don't even come.

Reader, I write this down so I will not forget. Carry a pen around everywhere and you're half there. The next time you see me I'll probably be sprawled on the couch, munching on a Wonka bar and rifling through the pages of the latest Star. I am the very problem I cry out against! Even if it takes thousands of failures before a breakthrough, the fist of triumph is still steadily raised.

"If you forget how to feel
Reach inside your chest
Is there a heart beating?
Is there there just emptiness"

There's a bloody heart in there! Use it.

Ah... forgetting already..

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Instead of blogging this time, I wrote a school assignment. First instance in which I was completely into a paper (it had to only be 2-3 pages and I vomited out a 7-page monster). There was hardly any difference in the result, because it was nearly cathartic and my thoughts are now more sorted. Make do with it for this time, my friend, Oh, and soapbox, anyone?


Sociologists and other researchers have all noted the decline of marriages that last in the United States over the past few decades. Interestingly enough, even though the divorce rates are higher today than 100 years ago, after a recent peak in the 80’s, it has been steadily decreasing ever since. Despite this nonlinear trend, the current statistics indicate that 1 in 2 marriages will end in divorce. As a result, many families are headed by single parents or are knit back together by remarriage or cohabitation, resulting in a myriad of alternative family forms, which include step-relatives, half-relatives, or a live-in parent. Appropriately, the US has been labeled as having a “high marriage, high divorce” culture. In instances when marriage is not the only option, the rate of couples that are cohabitating and children who are born out of wedlock are also steadily rising over the years.

There is little disagreement over these changes that have taken place pertaining to marriage and the family; what is hotly debated is whether they are beneficial, harmful or simply one of the many adaptations to our ever-changing culture. Conservatives strongly champion the model of the traditional family as the only and best way, howling that divorce wreaks havoc on families and their children, and denounce government welfare programs for facilitating the birth of children in single-parent homes. They feel that in current times, the moral fabric of American society has sizably unraveled and only by willfully restoring these lost values can society begin to function normally again.
Liberals criticize conservatives for having too narrow of a view; they assert that these trends have been a result of change in economics and “common sense,” that people are now more free than ever to make decisions for their own personal fulfillment and that gender roles, especially in marriages, are much more egalitarian. In this way, our society is being led by classic American ideals. They also validate newer, alternative forms of kinship, which have become more common. Because more and more women are getting degrees and entering the workforce, they are more able to support themselves and their children, allowing for less dependence on their husbands or other males. Both sides agree that divorce is disadvantageous for children, but both also propose different solutions to this problem. Conservatives push for legislation to further impede the process of getting a divorce, while liberals aim to attack the root of what they perceive to the be the underlying cause by setting up programs that would ultimately result in economic restructuring. In short, conservatives blame the marriage and family “crisis” on a collective loss of morals and liberals attribute the trends to economic reshaping, not necessarily viewing the situation as completely negative.

Growing up in an Asian and religious family (double conservatism!), I had only been exposed to one side of the debate. So upon actual examination of the other stances while researching for this paper, I was duly surprised (and a bit sheepish at myself) at how, once again, few things in the world are ever black and white. Even though I agree with the liberals that the conservative stance is much too narrow to propose viable national solutions, I still uphold the importance of family values and agree that our culture of tolerance has gone too far. However, I would not say that marriage and family in America is in a huge crisis, because the numbers clearly speak otherwise.

The institution of marriage and the family structure are extremely important. The family is the place of primary socialization, where children are in their most malleable stages. As Freud would say, early childhood experiences directly or indirectly affect one’s adulthood, to varying degrees. Although the deleterious effects of a traumatic home life are obvious, what is less acknowledged are the essential skills learned and emotional needs met through having both parents in the household. Without a strong father figure, who will teach a boy how to be a man? Or in sociological terms, how will this boy learn his proper gender role? Of course, as we have discussed in class, modern gender roles are still very much problematic, but that does not provide any substantial defense for the benignity of single-parent households. When two people have sex, they are supposedly engaging in the most intimate stage of their relationship, which should entail a high level of unselfish commitment. How does it make any rational sense for two people to bring a child into the world, but for only one to nurture and raise it? According to experts in the field of sociology and the body, there has been an increasing separation of the body from nature. Humans, intelligent and accomplished as we are, are still an animal species. I feel that this “divorce” of sex from childbirth dehumanizes us and drives us even further from nature and its intended functions. Even for animals, sex is performed primarily for reproduction, and as we as a society focus exclusively on the pleasures (and fantasies) of sex, we are losing touch with our humanity and offer to forgo one of the greatest joys of life: being a parent and raising a family.

A compelling argument promoted by liberals to dispel any cause for alarm is our culture’s unprecedented embracement of freedom and choice in relationships, which results in a loss of stigma for these non-traditional forms discussed above. As the occurrence of arranged marriages has died out, love has replaced economics as the primary motive for marriage. While these revised norms are largely preferred by individuals in modern society, myself included, the necessity of commitment inherent in arranged marriages in the previous ages was unwittingly jettisoned during this time of romantic fervor. American culture and media today is still saturated with fantasies about living happily ever after and the triumph of true love over all else. This starry-eyed notion that a marriage relationship functions mainly on romantic deeds and fluffy feelings cannot be farther from the truth. Regrettably, youths and adults alike are entering marriage and starting families with these foolish expectations, and nothing short of a paradigm shift will to expose them to reality- not even multiple, disastrous divorces. How is love a necessary, but not sufficient ingredient to a happy marriage? Actually, love prior to marital union may not even be necessary, as evidenced by the high success of arranged marriages practiced in cultures outside of the US, like in India. The most common reasons cited by couples with a long-term marital status are commitment and companionship. Feelings will always change and fluctuate, which make them an unreliable basis for anything long-term, but one’s will is completely self- controlled. So, rather than claiming that happy couples stay together because they never have difficulties, the decision of commitment implies that happy couples choose to stay together and stick it out, regardless of spells of loss of love and other negative feelings. In this regard I believe that a lack of stress on the fundamental importance of commitment in a marital relationship is a huge cause of divorce.

That is not to say that I feel that divorce should never occur in any situations, as there are exceptions to nearly every rule. The liberal claim that these trends are a result of economic change is a valid, but partial explanation. Even though I don’t intend to go so far into another topic of debate, I will say this: you cannot deny a conscience or morality in every human being that causes internal guilt when one commits a wrong deed, such as murder of an innocent person, or in general, strong feelings against injustice. And regardless of the societal pressures to conform, even when economics are at play, a person still has free will and can make blatantly countercultural decisions if they feel that it is best. Divorce is a problem whose ill effects cannot be totally blamed on structural forces outside one’s own power. We, as members of society, made collective choices that resulted in these trends; therefore, it is also an issue of lack of claiming responsibility.Thus, to totally ignore the moral aspect of our society results in an incomplete examination of a complex issue at best.

In reference to running wild with our freedoms, I’d like to address the issue of cohabitation, a lifestyle which increasing numbers young couples are choosing to adopt. Even though liberals are very hesitant to bring up the hard research that shows that cohabitation destabilizes relationships and is associated with increased risk of divorce, the facts cannot be denied. You cannot get something for nothing. In my mind, cohabitation assumes all the emotional and sexual benefits of marriage without ensuring the actual commitment. It cheapens the experience of love. Yes, you may be “test driving the car”, but you do not engage in sexual relations with the car, nor can you get into a heated argument with a car. Human beings are infinitely more complex than a hunk of metal with wheels. A vehicle will hardly be any different after a single test drive, but a person will be changed by the deep experience of living and sharing a life with another person. This impact is undeniable, as we are humans and not machines. Cohabitation is not a replacement for marriage; studies show that couples who cohabitate resemble singles more than they do married couples, because they experience lower levels of health and are generally more oriented towards their own personal autonomy at the expense of their partner’s wellbeing.

And, what incentives are there to marry once a couple is already used to living with one another, now that they are already sleeping together? There are scarcely any, especially for the male partner. One may question the worth of marriage, but once kids enter in the picture, their wellbeing is contingent upon parental commitment (and happiness). A recent study conducted by Dr. Glenn Norval, a professor in UT’s Department of Sociology, shows that even amicable divorces have lasting negative effects on children. Thus, the wellbeing of children- emotional, physical, social, sexual, and intellectual- may be the most powerful argument against cohabitation, divorce, single-parent families and other forms of non-traditional families.

Another facet of the sticky marriage debate is the statistic showing that families have declining rates of childbirth, meaning that the average number of children in a family has shrunk, with methods of contraception and abortion as direct culprits. Contrary to the outdated belief of the threat of overpopulation in the world, which first emerged in the 60’s, a more updated look suggests quite the opposite. Much of the undeveloped world is underpopulated and much of the world’s natural resources have yet to be exhausted. My parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers, garnered their nickname because of their own parents’ rates of reproduction; the trend to which I am referring indicates that Baby Boomers are having less children than were the previous generation. In a few decades, the current workforce will be completely retired and supported by a much smaller workforce, our generation. Countries like Germany and Japan have the greatest concern for economic harm because of the growing divergence of their worker to retiree ratio. The effects of underpopulation on the US economy have been thrown off thus far by our relatively high rates of immigration. However, this problem is already becoming apparent in the issue of the future collapse of the Social Security system. So in response to a proposed solution of discouraging childbirth or marriage to lower divorce rates, since both sides agree that children are harmed by divorce, the facts show that this option is not only impractical, but also exceedingly unwise when investigating the dire large-scale effects on the future national and world economy.

As you can see, in probing the nature of change in marriage and families, one must look closely at each reason without bias and with a broader time perspective. I feel like the future of the American family is in limbo and it depends on which side, liberal or conservative, will win in terms of policymaking and influence on the public. It will be difficult to slow down rates of divorce, since people whose parents divorced are more likely to divorce themselves. I hesitate to make any solid claims in predicting the future for American families and I hope to read up on research that is currently and will continue to be conducted alongside this fascinating trend, one in which we are all stakeholders.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Contrary to popular (foolish) belief, love does not exist in a vacuum.

Pulling a Britney Spears and going out in public with black, dirty feet is vastly unsexy.

Live is imperfect.

Sufjan Stevens - "For the Widows In Ypsilanti.."

Neko Case - "Hold On, Hold On," on Jay Leno

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Texas Heat

I'm so bad at school, worse than ever. Missing class once again this beautiful warm morning. I forget that someone's paying for my education.

I had to put my Life cereal in the fridge yesterday cause it was so hot that the yogurt clusters had melted and gotten messy. It was disheartening- another downer to living in an old house with no AC in the kitchen. Now that's the sort of thing that happens in a car, not in a pantry.

Ooh, I just registered. See here: Advanced Expository Writing, Beginning Hapkido, Sociological Theory, Criminology, Religion and Society, Pre-Graduate School Internship. Figured I could use a good semester before getting kicked out onto the streets.

In reference to Rinsty's blog, she's good at making stories out of her life, and I am not. Ignoring the fact: One afternoon last week I was at the foot of the long Duval uphill and my TA in one of my classes rode on up next to me. Turns out he lives one block away from Green House. We spent the next 10 minutes or so chatting and riding very slowly up the hill, dodging low tree branches and all. Boots is his name, and he's actually the TA for the class I am skipping out on this very hour. Anyway, he's a nice guy, and has a pretty bad sunglasses tan- everyday he's dressed like he's going out on a hike right after class lets out: sunglasses, boots (haha), hiking socks, outdoorsy shorts, plaid shortsleeve buttonup shirt. It's kind of amusing. It's sad though, cause he teaches lab, and while he is patiently explaining away, everyone else is either on myspace, facebook, or typing up mammoth e-mails. So, since I have this great big research proposal due in a few weeks, I tried to ask him a little about that. And since I am interested in grad school, I asked him about that too. He just finished his dissertation, and I forgot that getting a Ph.D. take six years. Six whole years. Wow, talk about single-track, for women at least. Ok, this is turning into a boring quasi-story. So the point is, I forget that my TA's are people sometimes, and they're often pretty nice folks. How they morph into mean and cynical professors later on, I don't know. It must be because of us. Looking back, I should've introduced myself to Jeremy, my English TA in fresh/soph, because now Rinsty sees him all the time. Oh whizzle.

Whoops. Stupid me, I just put bids on two cameras on eBay, not realizing exactly what I was doing. They're winning and ending in 5 hours. Granted, they are relatively low-quality and old Soviet Leica copies, but two ain't cheap. We'll see what happens.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Pedal feelings up the hill

Weh, my cortisol levels are much too high at the moment. God, I am so weary of taking the brunt of other people's anger, as if I could control everything. Too much, in too little time. F that shit! <..raging guitar solo>

On another note, the parentals are coming in tomorrow for Honors Day/ Talk About Future Frances Day, so that should be good. I love my parents. When I grow up and make lots of money, I'll give them whatever they want all the time. And sorry roomies, the roommate and parent lunch thing probably ain't gonna happen tomorrow, since it'll morph into a longwinded discuss about my life and other boring things like that.

On the LACS info sheet, it says that you should narrow it down to a few cities where you want to live. How does anyone know? Well, some people know. I like Austin, and I'm not sure I appreciate it enough, but the only other place in which I've resided is Dallas. What if you get to your desired city and find out you hate it? I've been hearing lots of 'woo-hoos' for Portland, Oregon lately. Yeah, but boo on perpetual rain and big D, says I.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's a wonder tall trees ain't laying down..

Wikipedia states that:
A Meritocracy is a system of government based on rule by ability (merit) rather than by wealth, race or other determinants of social position.

What has been drilled into us from an early age is that intelligence, ability and especially effort will get us where we want to be. "You can do anything you set your mind to!" That statement fills us with dreams and so much hope, yet countless people will drag this unrealized hope to the grave. But we only hear about the triumphs of people who started out with nothing and worked their way to the top. Those stories, however, are the exception and not the norm.

America is not a meritocracy, but everyone believes it to be, to a certain extent. Why else would there be an "American Dream" and immigration issues? Evidence against it:
- The power of social networks : "It's not what you know, it's who you know"
- The privilege of the wealthy
- The overrepresentation of minorites in the working and destitute class
- I'm sure you can think of plenty more examples in your own life.

Anyway, do we truly want a meritocracy? We all clamor for it like it's a good thing, but do we really want everyone to start out on a level playing field? But also, don't we want the most able people running our country? I dunno about you, but the implementation of this type of mechanism for social stratification strikes fear in my heart. (I may get good grades in school, but what does that really mean or measure?) Having this sort of rule means that I would not be able to enjoy the plentiful benefits of growing up in a middle class family, which includes being able to pay for SAT prep, more parental involvement and influence in the schools, riding the "model minority" stereotype, networking by getting to know my professors, and learning how to work the system. There is no working the system if status is based on merit. So people with advantage want to keep it - what's wrong with that? Well, someone/ some group has to get screwed, so who's it gonna be?

In a hypothetical situation, having a meritocracy would probably produce some very unexpected and undesireable results. To simplify measurements, let's consider the use of an IQ test to measure intelligence (based on M. Young's satire The Rise of the Meritocracy):
- Privileged parents would get very nervous if their kids weren't very bright. There will be no extra tutoring or preparatory schooling, since intellectual ability is something you are born with. So there will be a significantly large mass of frustrated parents who are upset that they cannot transfer their huge capital to their children, that maybe their children have to fend for themselves and stop living in an unearned lap of luxury (what an idea!).
- What about the people who aren't "smart"? They will have all the reason in the world to be depressed, since they cannot blame society- they were given an opportunity to prove themselves, and they did. What should be done with them, if they're "stupid" and not very useful?
- What about education? Should the state educate all students, or not waste time with the "stupid" kids and just seek to develop the potential of the "smart" kids? In a way, this is also a dilemma in the real world. There is a thing called tracking which puts kids in different levels of "tracks" according to their perceived ability. Perhaps you were in Honors/AP/IB courses in high school, rather than in Regular. Even though the measurement methods for placing kids are quite inaccurate, it still happens and many students fall in the cracks. But it's efficient, no? Is it fair? What's the point of the education system? Now that's a whole 'nother debate.

OK, so you say, "Silly Frances, success in America is acquired not only by one's intelligence, but through hard work and diligence. There are geniuses who are total idiots when it comes to communication and social skills, and that prevents them from getting the best jobs." You are very correct, but that still doesn't get you off the hook: would you want to live in a society where everyone is rewarded for his/her own efforts only, and there would be no such thing as working the system? It resounds with much more fairness, but it's a chilling concept. The sentiment of response generally seems to be "yeah, that's good for everyone else, but let me do my own thing."

O, I should end every post with something like: it's more complicated than it seems.

Provocative quotes drawn from a relevant reading:

"How could men be equal in the eyes of God and yet unequal in the eyes of the Psychologist?"

"As men became more like machines, machines became more like man."

"All babies are creeping socialists and some never grow out of it."

"There are so few clever parents with nothing but stupid progeny, with a whole brood of ugly ducklings."

On an entirely other note,

Wal-mart grows, looms and threatens..
p.s. Future Economist, this issue should be especially important to you because they are are a huge threat to global economics. article

"We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world - yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions." That's right, America!