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!