Tuesday, December 26, 2000

Back on the East Coast.

It's wrong. It's all wrong. There's just something terribly wrong about getting a nasty cold on one's birthday. Came down with something yesterday afternoon and spent the evening with severe head congestion, sore throat, and fevers. Am a little better today, though probably only because of massive amounts of medications I am on. (Flying on a plane with a cold is nooooo fun.) Hope this will pass soon. Am still going to DC tomorrow morning where I will be until New Year's Eve.

Excited that my brother liked [The Clapper]. At least he said he was.

A lot to process mentally from return home this past week. Nothing crisis-like happened, but still many things to think about in my life, how I see things differently now, how California is different from North Carolina (or New York City)...

This'll all have to wait, though. Off to DC tomorrow morning for that [MLA convention].

Have a happy new year, all you wonderful people.

      >> 10:37 PM

Monday, December 25, 2000

(5:39 pm, PST)

Hey, the traditional gift opening at the crack of dawn. The traditional walk. Lunch, etc. Another Christmas, another year, under the belt, fast adding up. It's been real. Tomorrow morning I leave the Golden State for colder pastures. Homeward bound.

      >> 7:39 PM

Sunday, December 24, 2000

Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas and happy birthday. Although, I guess it's not technically the twenty-fifth yet where I am...

      >> 11:32 PM

Ok, so here are some of my thoughts on [Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon].

It was a fun movie to see in general. I got mixed messages from it, though, and therefore have mixed feelings about it. There is a central tension (as in many, perhaps all, of Ang Lee's films) between following the rules of social engagement and romanticizing the individualist who follows the heart. From what I remember of his other movies, Lee seems to emphasize the re-integration of these individualists into a social fabric. They start out as outcasts, as strong-willed people who trouble their parents, but ultimately return to the fold, albeit sometimes in novel ways, producing the children, the social marriages, desired. (For example, The Wedding Banquet gives us the story of a gay Chinese son in America who, though partnered with a white boyfriend, marries a Chinese woman to get his parents off his back and ends up producing the son his parents want, creating an unconventional family in the process. [Cynthia W. Liu] writes of how Lee "resuscitates" the patriarch in a transnational, postmodern breakdown of the nuclear family in his trilogy of movies: Pushing Hands, The Wedding Banquet, and Eat Drink Man Woman.)

In this latest movie, however, Lee seems to side more on the side of the individualist/idealist. The film's heroes realize, tragically, that their lives spent honoring the codes of their profession, of social rules, have prevented them from realizing true love. I suppose that unlike Lee's other films, which tend to be comedies, this film was a tragedy -- one in which happiness cannot exist in a world governed by social rules that preclude the pursuit of true love and passions. And yet, because it seems to resort to death as the only realm of achieving dreams, it casts these individualists as idealists of the fatal type -- unable to deal with the real, the pragmatic.

The other odd bit of the movie was in its portrayal of a "feminist" perspective. The movie clearly had strong women characters. (Indeed, the strongest fighter was a young girl.) However, the main enemy was this woman who came across as an embittered person because she could not gain access to the secrets of the Wudan temple (reserved only for men). The masters of the temple only used her for sex, never treating her as an equal in learning the powers of their art. While these facts could have created a much stronger figure to critique the male-centered slant of the Wudan culture, the woman only became a figure of the crazy, the murderous, the manipulative. Even towards the end of the movie, when our heroine, the young, confused girl, goes to the Wudan temple, we never find out if the men end up accepting her as a disciple.

I guess there's a difference between liking the ideals a movie espouses and liking a movie as a work in itself. And the two things aren't inseparable, but I think I have a tendency to read into the morals, the messages, the ideals a movie works from or towards. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a very well-crafted movie. Beautiful cinematography, costumes, story development, etc. I suppose where it is less successful for me is in describing what it means to be someone who follows social rules (marries according to socially appropriate and advantageous matches) versus what it means to be someone who pursues dreams and love. Is the tragedy of failed dreams in the dreamers (not realistic) or in an oppressive social milieu that suppresses passion?

In any case, the fighting sequences were awesome. They were very much like the fighting flix I remember seeing in Taiwan when I was young. I like how the fighters fly, spin, walk on water. The flutter of their robes was hypnotic and their acrobatic moves left me breathless.

      >> 8:15 PM

(5:20 pm, Left Coast Time)

Happiness is checking voicemail and finding a message from your lover singing "Happy Birthday."

My family and I had lunch today at [Yoshi's Japanese Restaurant] in Oakland. Yoshi's also has a live jazz bar. In any case, it was a yummy lunch. We were maybe going to see a movie afterwards or go to the jazz performance, but we just ended up walking around Jack London Square a lot. The exercise was good.

It's truly amazing how much the Berkeley/Oakland hills have been revitalized since the [1991 fire]. For many years after the fire, the hills remained charred, blackened, desolate mounds. But slowly, the debris was cleared away. And now, after almost a decade, you wouldn't notice at all that the hills had literally and completely been razed. Trees, grasses, and other vegetation have been planted all over the hills and homes have been rebuilt. The only clue to the recent disaster is that the vegetation is a little too neat, not overgrown, ruly, like it is on other nearby hills.

      >> 7:20 PM

Don't you hate those dreams where you get a present, but you wake up before you get to open it? Happy Christmas Eve.

      >> 8:40 AM

(6:10 am, PST)

There is an immensity of the silence in this house that is beyond even what I [remembered]. Late at night, the darkness and silence are everything. There is not even the humming of electrical appliances or the faint glow of streetlights (there are no streetlights at all) to break the blankness...

Doesn't help my state of mind these days. I miss him so much. And I was thinking how much our relationship is expressed, reinforced, through the sense of touch. While we don't always talk all the time, we stay in constant contact. We can't sleep without at least feeling the heat of the other's body in our bed. I feel him around our small apartment, even if we are in separate rooms. And then of course there are the embraces we give each other when we return home from outside (where, even when we are together, we keep a distance like we are only roommates) or from our respective day jobs.

Last night, an at-first inexplicable loneliness came over me. My entire primary family was together again finally -- parents, two sisters, and twin brother -- all under the one roof that housed us as we children grew up. We ate dinner together, watched tv, talked, read books. It was like old times. But these old times, as I'm sure it was for everyone in my family, just weren't quite the old times of our memories anymore. I don't know how my sisters feel about being away from their partners, their rest-of-the-year lives. I don't know how my brother feels about his life away from home these days. I do, however, know my parents are happy that we are all back together for a few days. (They didn't say it, but I know.) But perhaps I was lonely in the old days. Perhaps this recreation of our family unit only re-emphasized that something missing from my life -- is it communication, understanding, touch?

So far away. That's all I can think of now, is how far apart we are.

There's a [Holcombe Waller] song -- ["Twist"] -- concerned with distance and separation of love. Waller writes of the genesis of this song, "My bonky-head's movin' to the South Pole. It's so very sad. I sat down and wrote this. Then I sat down and recorded it." (It's been a favorite song of mine for awhile because of its beautiful, shy music, a sort-of-hesitant foray into musical communication. The acoustic demo version, a simple track with guitar and vocals, is incredibly touching. Waller's sense of loneliness, infused yet with hope in reunion, is palpable on the recording.) I've been particularly drawn to "Twist" these past few days...

It seems even so that this sort of separation is very common. A friend of mine asked if I, like he is, am doing the "good gay couple thing" -- going to our respective homes for a bit, then meeting up later. And if so common, then that much more survivable? I know I will get through this, but I just wish that I could be home with Joe, keeping each other warm at night, facing the scary world out there together. Where does this leave my other family, my parents and siblings? I don't know. I miss them when I am away. I do want to see them. I do want to spend some time with them. But I just miss so much being able to hold my Joe, to smell and touch him, to live with someone with whom I can share my everything.

I think this touch, the physical contact, explains best our inability to be away from each other, of not knowing where we are. Some people might think that we don't really trust each other, hence the keeping of close tabs on each other's locations, and though that might have been true (at least for me) in our first few months together, I think the need to know, the need to be together, is different than lack of trust. It is simply that we have defined, validated, each other so much in these past couple of years. Apart, we feel alone, atomized, unthought of, existence-less. The hardest thing was in this past year when we lived so far apart for nine months -- I was in New York City, Joe in Durham. By the first month's end, I was so ready to move to North Carolina to be with him. I know he felt the same way, ready to move anywhere to be with me. But we stuck it out. I did my time in NYC, able to enjoy what the place had to offer, began preliminary explorations into the culture of writing there. I took the time to apply to schools at UNC so that I wouldn't be moving all the way down the East Coast without a job or school to attend. Perhaps someday we might return to the City together. Many people might think that ours is not the "healthiest" of relationships -- we can't really be apart -- but what is the point of "healthy" in love?

      >> 8:10 AM

Saturday, December 23, 2000

(9:42 AM, PST)

Lounging. My parents, sister, brother, and I are going to see [Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon], the latest film from director Ang Lee, early this afternoon. Ought to be cool.

My brother came back last night. I got to wake him up this morning. Hee hee. My sister woke me up first, then we ganged up on my brother to torture him as he was sleeping.

      >> 11:46 AM

Friday, December 22, 2000

(6:24 pm, PST)

Rewatched the last two episodes of [Buffy]. Such an amazing show. Truly, truly truly. (Truly, madly, deeply?)

I did end up sending off a box of books to myself in NC. Should be fun trying to find a place to stash them. Ah well. Nothing much new around here. Days are cloudy. My brother should be coming back from Davis/Sacramento tonight.

      >> 8:20 PM

This is not a place for sleep. I'd forgotten how my sisters and brother like to come wake me up early in the morning. Ah well. I guess I can always catch up on my sleep later...

I excavated about fifty pounds of books from my closet. I'm planning on mailing them to myself today, but I have doubts every once in awhile about whether or not I should cram our apartment with more books. (There are already books spilling off the bookshelves onto window ledges, floors, piles on desks, etc.) But what good is it to have books if I don't have access to them? There are even some books that will be handy as references -- like my books of Plato's writings, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. I'm also bringing my complete edition of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Maybe I'll get past Swann's Way someday, too.

I watched a taped copy (from my sister) of Olive, the Other Reindeer last night (fighting sleep all along the way). It was a fun Christmas cartoon. Olive is a little dog who realizes her destiny in saving Christmas as a reindeer. It's fun. Olive has never felt like she is a dog and she doesn't do the typical dog things (bark, chase cars, chew slippers). But she is not exactly a reindeer (no antlers, half their size, hoof-less, etc.). But she still manages to save Christmas. Yup.

      >> 11:25 AM

Thursday, December 21, 2000

(12:17 pm, PST)

So after unsuccessful gift-shopping yesterday, I drove on over to San Francisco from the East Bay to meet up with my sisters. (My sister who lives in RI came in yesterday afternoon and my other sister who lives in SF picked her up at the airport.) After chatting awhile at a cafe, we stopped by my sister's apartment to pester her cats. Then we went to pick up Carlos and went to dinner. We had tapas at a restaurant (the name escapes me now). After that, Carlos drove us around SF. He showed us different neighborhoods. We went up Twin Peaks and had a nice view of the city spread out, lights beautifully tracing the outlines of streets, buildings. And then, we settled into [The Last Day Saloon] for the performance. Ah....

So today I've not done much yet. My sister woke me up at 7:20 am. I got up, but only in body. I've been zombie-like for the last few hours. Then we went to get some batteries (clocks, watches, the death of time). She insisted on walking back from the store (about two miles, a large hill, no sidewalks on winding roads, and a misting rain). Now I'm here waiting for her to get back. Also, our mom is coming home to join us for lunch somewhere. Can't wait. Am hungry....

      >> 2:25 PM

Yay [Holcombe Waller]!! Saw him in a performance last night at The Last Day Saloon in San Francisco. I like him on recording better than live, though. It's not so much that he's not as musically talented live, but that there's a sort of flatness to how he presents his songs. Everything is loud, amplified. On his recordings, each song takes on different tenors, different moods. And part of that has to do with the accompaniment. Live, he has a drummer and a bass player to complement his guitars (acoustic and electric). On recordings, he has much more texture (the beauty of overdubs), using organs, violins, multiple guitars, etc.

Still, it was fun to see him live. There is a certain appeal in his performances. He has a personable personality (helps that most of the people there are probably his friends) and makes funny comments between (and during songs). And there is always the appeal of seeing someone sing and play instruments. He gave an a capella performance of a song that, as Carlos described, was an amazingly "naked" moment in the evening.

I also got myself his second album, [Extravagant Gesture]. I already have most of the songs from his Rush! EP, but I guess I'm a fan. There's no keeping me away from his music...

      >> 2:12 PM

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

So I just watched last night George Michael's "Outside" video (my mom has Michael's greatest hits videos). Just thought it was interesting how he tries to regain control of the media spin on his arrest for public sex in a bathroom. I've always liked his understanding of sex as pleasure, as something that shouldn't be completely caught up in ideas of traditional morality and the nuclear family. But also, the video is very much about the surveillance of sex. The video goes through many looks at sexual encounters, and each one is shot as if a camera, a voyeur, someone else, is watching the encounters. Sometimes the people involved on-screen even turn to look at the camera, acknowledging its presence, spinning the surveillance into exhibitionism, implicating the viewer (of porn?) in the sexual acts.

Towards the end of the video, two men are caught in the back of a truck having sex by two policemen. After these men are carted off, the two policemen (both men) turn to each other and start kissing. Hmmm... Commentary on the hypocrisy of laws against homosexuality? Laws against public sex?

      >> 3:23 PM

Am about to embark on a shopping expedition. Have no idea what to get as presents. Maybe I should give as presents some of the books I read this past semester about gift exchange as particular economies? (Meta-gifts?)

      >> 2:56 PM

Oh my God. My posts have been reduced to [intellectual curiosities]. Can I just say I find [this article] totally off and offensive? Dave Roos is entirely right in thinking that his "analysis" of blogging might elicit hate mail because it is so woefully reductionist and mean-spirited. He makes this statement about "disgruntled, sharp-tongued" bloggers responding to his article as a way of labelling before-the-fact any criticism of his article as the product of crazy bloggers deluded into thinking they (we) matter.

What is most insidious about Roos's argument is how he implicitly casts bloggers as outcasts who seek the popularity they are denied in the "real world" of the socially loved (the hip, the cool, the beautiful). He thereby reinscribes a power differential of popularity and invisibility. Such an argument is evident in his claim that all bloggers are out for blogging "fame." As if the only reason we bloggers blog is to become popular. (And how is he gauging popularity anyways?)

I, for one, blog as a way of exploring my thoughts, of wrapping my head around ideas and debates -- as a way to think about how things matter in our world. Of course, calling my posts "intellectual curiosities" implies that thinking and all intellectual activity is frivolous. Why is critical thinking such an uneasy concept for Roos (and indeed, for so many people in this country)?

While Roos's noting of the partial-anonymity of blogging is important in the psychology of blogging, he can only see it as reinforcement for a kind of hiding, a negative disavowal of "real" identity for a forum detached from the material world. One might as well ask why he is making the sweeping generalizations he does if he understands his tenuous grasp on the wide world of blogging. Why is he a failure at blogging? What makes him superior as a failure? His insistence on repeating that he failed at blogging throughout the article strikes me as his way of saying that he is not a social outcast like true bloggers who must blog. Perhaps what he sees is how blogging can help to constitute someone's self-awareness, a sort of identity. And he is uneasy with that possibility since he wants to remain firmly entrenched in socially-prescribed ideas of popularity. What is popularity if in some way you can define your own popularity (and maybe it is a popularity of one person--yourself)?

      >> 1:27 AM

10:58 pm, PST.

Sleep. Must get sleep. Sitting at home alone. Parents out at a symphony concert. Had a nice day hanging out with Anne. We had Top Dog sausages for lunch. Visited stores. Failed miserably at buying Christmas presents for family members. Met up with Marty after his exam. Came out to the little town where I spent ten years of my life. Watched [Buffy] and Angel. Anne and Marty left after Buffy. Sleep for me. Yes.

      >> 12:59 AM

Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Using my parents' computer: I think another reason why I feel a little uncomfortable using my parents' computer, as my sister reminded me on the phone earlier today, is that there are always traces of what I do, web pages I browse, files I open, on the computer. In fact, back when I wasn't "out" to my parents, it caused a bit of an uncomfortable situation when my dad came across a gay web page in the "history" of web visits on the web browser while I was home for break...

      >> 11:37 AM

(9:31 am, Left Coast Time. Currently reading Galatea 2.2 / Richard Powers.)

To: Joe
Subject: planes, the lights, a computer

Dearest The Baby,

Well, here I am in California, sitting in Anne's apartment at 6 am, wide awake. I was dead tired last night, finally getting to sleep at around 11 pm or so, but awoke at 4:30 am (PST) anyways. I tried to go back to sleep, but for some reason I couldn't. I did relax with my eyes closed, though, stretching my tense muscles. I pressed my back against the cushions of the sofa, trying to imagine your body pressing back. But you were not here for me to hold...

My flights were smooth, uneventful, and relaxing yesterday. I couldn't help but wish that you were next to me, though. I thought about what it would be like to fly with you, to hold your hand while the plane took off and landed. And as we came in to San Francisco yesterday evening, I thought about how excited you would have been to see the beautiful aerial view.

As we flew over some of the mountains to the East of the Bay Area, I remembered how I used to see small mountain ranges in the distance or hills surrounding the valleys where I grew up and think that they were dinosaurs, laid down to rest. As the years passed, they were covered over with grass, trees, houses -- the outline of their bodies still visible under the overgrowth, mountain ridges looking strangely like backbones or armored plating. I used to think that someday, they would wake up, a giant brontosaurus pushing up out of the ground, shaking its eyes loose of dirt, and bringing its tail slithering out.

Our arrival time was the perfect time for landing in SFO, too, because it was dusk -- the lights were on all over the cities, the land covered in shadows, but the horizon lingered with its light, orange and red clouds signalling the departure of the sun. Further above the horizon, the sky was still blue, but quickly fading. The mountain range against the ocean was a silhouette against the sky, not a deep black mass, but a slightly faded one. Looking down, I could see the cars going along the streets, lights moving slowly in singular directions. The bay itself was a wondrous, placid blankness. And I was amazed again, as I always am, by the immensity of the body of water, and by how much larger the oceans of the world are -- so much space, such large volumes of water. I couldn't help but imagine the life swimming and drifting in those waves.

Anne picked me up at the airport and drove me here to her apartment. Then we walked a few blocks over to a street filled with restaurants. We ended up eating at a sushi place. So yummy. It was fun catching up on stuff happening in our lives. She remains one of the few friends around whom I feel comfortable talking a lot. After dinner we strolled down the block, stopping at an Asian dry goods store (I bought some dried mango), and ended up at a book store. We spent quite awhile there, with me recommending various books for Anne to read (most of which I haven't read yet, but have meaning to read). Then we walked back to her apartment. It was cold outside, clear and brisk. I wouldn't have wanted to be outside much longer than it took us to get back to her apartment, but the cold helped to wake me up a little.

We watched the last new episode of [Buffy] on tape, and then it was sleep time...

I can't believe I actually brought my computer with me. I was thinking yesterday just how much I've become attached to my computer. It's not like I couldn't e-mail or surf the web while I'm in California. Anne does have a computer with an Internet connection, and so do my parents. But for some reason, in the delirium that was these last few days of paper writing, I decided that this, my computer, was the single most important thing I had to bring home with me. I guess part of the reason is that I like to be able to write my e-mails in Eudora so the files organize themselves into my folders. I guess another reason is that if I use my dial-up ISP connection, I can have a little more privacy using my computer when I'm at home -- I can hide upstairs instead of using the computer in my parents' bedroom. But still, I never felt the need to carry my computer across the country before. Maybe it's just because I've been carrying my computer around with me to campus these last few weeks...


      >> 11:32 AM

Monday, December 18, 2000

Dear Diary,

ARGH. Why do I have such a hard time staying awake in the evenings now? Fell asleep (again) after dinner around 8 pm and now I'm up at 2 am because I need to finish this paper by 7 am. Why couldn't I have just finished it by midnight, then gone to sleep?

Well, I will be leaving the area in less than twelve hours. And spending a whole week apart from Joe. Sadness. (Joe mentioned last night that we haven't been apart for more than a week since July or so.) Why is it so hard to be away from each other? On Friday, Joe gave me a surprise birthday cake -- a strawberry ice cream and daiquiri ice ice cream cake. Yay! I had told him when passing a [Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream Store] weeks ago that my family used to go there after dinners out. My favorite flavor was strawberry ice cream. Also, my brother and I used to get a strawberry ice cream and daiquiri ice cake from there as our birthday cake (those were our favorite flavors). I almost cried when Joe held up the cake and sang "happy birthday to you" when I got back from that [oral exam] Friday night. It was such a thoughtful gift and he was so cute singing. We won't be together for my birthday.


      >> 1:15 AM

Sunday, December 17, 2000

disbelief: n. a state of shock reached upon hearing that Time has selected George W. Bush as 2000's [Person of the Year]

I mean, come on. They even explain that they didn't select him because of what he's accomplished, but because of the position he is in as a president elected not by popular vote, but by a suspect electoral college system and the Supreme Court's decision. He is Person of the Year because he faces the great task of proving himself capable of the position. Even the concluding sentence of the article is: "This time it will be for real, the easiest part of the job and yet harder than he could have imagined, because while the office has at last been won, the honor remains to be earned." Well, why don't you wait until next year to see if he has earned the honor????

And what is it with this sentence?: "The candidate with the perfect bloodlines comes to office amid charges that his is a bastard presidency, sired not by the voters but by the courts." Perfect bloodlines? So what, we're falling back on a monarchy and dynasties of presidencies now? Grrr....

      >> 2:36 PM

To: Lai Li Jun
Subject: Re: oh no!

okee dokee. i'm really only posting messages i send to people that talk about what i've been doing or thinking. but sometimes people's responses are an interesting counterpoint to what i've said, so i like to add it. i guess i could paraphrase, too, which i might do instead sometimes. but there is something about the "actual" e-mail (although it's not like anyone people would know what is an actual e-mail or not) instead of describing the contents of an e-mail. (i'm trying to figure out the limits or the reasons for voyeurism, like with reading griffin and sabine, people were always saying how cool it was that it was like reading a personal correspondence, but i was just like, it's a nice story and i like the pictures... i didn't really feel particularly voyeuristic or anything, and not just because i knew it was "fiction.")

so you understand lacan now?? :P i think the other part of my problem with talking amongst people (and sounds like it might be something you experience too) is feeling like no one ever really listens to me. it's like the whole invisibility thing. and there are two parts to that--one, that people just don't hear me 'cuz i don't talk loudly enough, and two, that they don't understand me because i don't know how to use the darned language. as for me seeing people's disgust and disbelief, i don't know if i actually see that in people's faces as fear seeing it. i do constantly try to read people's reactions as i'm speaking, and that's really distracting. (maybe i should take my glasses off when i have to talk in class--i guess giles does do that!!!)

isn't that [color test] thing interesting? but what i was thinking is that it doesn't seem like it would be able to account for non-Western acculturation to colors' symbolic meaning. it's actually based in some european country, i think, and even that could be different than american ideas. and then there's that whole thing about how everyone in a culture would respond to colors similarly that i don't know if i agree with. but despite all that, the results i got were veeeery eerie and reminded me of myself a lot.

you read gold by the inch already?? gah, you're a fast reader!!!!!!!!!!!!! the paper i have still to write for tomorrow morning is on gold by the inch. part of my problem in writing it has been that i haven't had much feedback or discussion on the actual book. my paper is on looking at the transnational aspects of the novel (this if for the economic theory class). i feel like what i have so far is not enough about the actual novel itself. like i'm just doing a reading of what literary and cultural theorists have said about the effects of globalization and transnational capitalism on cultures.

but anyways, i really don't know quite what to think of the book. it does feel schizophrenic to me. discombobulated thoughts, yup. you've definitely got a better feel of the book than i did when i first read it, too. i think chua is definitely questioning the whole idea of identification with a homeland. and i think part of the narrator's problem is that he imports paradigms of racial thought from american into thailand and his relationship with thong. i read the narrator as a reactionary asian american man who, in trying to refuse or refute a western white exoticization and emasculation of asian men, inverts these hierarchies of power between white and asian and thinks he is different. so, he is all excited about "falling in love" with thong who is "just like him" and yet this beautiful object of lust (you don't get any sense of the relationship being more that the narrator luxuriating in being seen in the presence of this beautiful man).

but i don't know. the other interesting aspect of the novel is the relentless presentation of historical and cultural knowledge about southeast asia that points to the industrialization of the area and a concomitant (integrated) development of an international sex tourism industry (for which bangkok is famous). and there is a way in which chua is trying to combine the narrator's personal history and a family history with this larger narrative of the global restructuring of economies.

in any case, i think that chua is presenting a very bleak view of the human condition when corporations, profit, and prostitution are all that matter. what i am trying to figure out is how he thinks we can get away from this total objectification of bodies and the dehumanization of landscapes. i know he is really into buddhist ideas, but i don't know these very well. i think he believes in a spiritual side of human life that can save us from the commodification of postmodernism. that's why the second part of my paper (the first part describing the objectification of the region as raw resources for consumption) is going to talk about love, sex, desire. i'm going to work in shulie's stuff on love and romance from the dialectic of sex and this new book by bell hooks called all about love: new visions. (bell hooks is a friend / collaborator of chua, and i think they definitely have similar views -- see the interview with hooks in muae 2. i'm not so sure i agree with her views on love, but they definitely will help with figuring out what chua sees as missing from the narrator's conceptions of love.)

you should also take a look at the first essay in muae 2: collapsing new buildings, by chua. it talks about a lot of the same themes as i his novel.

anyways, wish i could explain more coherently what i am trying to figure out about the book. if i had more time, i could ask you for feedback on my essay. ah well.

it is really windy outside right now. shortly before midnight last night, it started getting really stormy around here. there were tornado warnings, thunder, lightning, and rain. joe had to sit up in front of the tv a lot of the night, watching the weather channel. even i had a hard time falling asleep at first because of the thunder and stuff. freaky.


      >> 10:18 AM

Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2000 15:21:17 -0500
Subject: Re: grr!
From: Lai Li Jun
To: duck vamps

I think that it's very interesting this idea of writing to a specific person/thing as duck or Paul or someone. I've often thought about that. Virginia Wolf thought that people are defined by the people around them. I think that it can really direct writing, or make an utterance more specific and interesting.

Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2000 14:39:22 -0500
Subject: Re: grr!
From: Lai Li Jun
To: duck vamps

Oh yeah, by the way, how come you're able to talk in the chat room? I have a hard time. I get just as anxious and self-conscious on line as I do in real life. But there are definitely instances when I can talk on line better than in real life. I like having a different identity and stuff. I guess the problem with lucy chat was that Ellen would totally know who I was when I talked or not, so it's not as fun. There was one time when I was on Buffy bulletin board, and somebody said that I was just being a guy to not understand something about Buffy.

      >> 12:30 AM

Surveillance note: Wow. Someone on a UK domain name actually found me on [Google] by searching "shadowy duck weblog." I'm indexed in the search engines! This also means that [someone] actually bothered (and knew) to look me up (either that or there's another damned shadowy duck weblog out there... grrr....).

And what is this [Ashtray Light] thing? "Ashtray Light is a communal hack, or just another channel." Eh?

And it looks like I'm linked by [The PreSurfer]. Hmmm.... I've always wanted to visit or live in the Netherlands (and did, briefly, this past summer, as a drive-by tourist). A friend of mine in high school lived in the NL for awhile. I guess I must be exoticizing the place, the idea of windmills, below-sea-level cities, polyglotism, etc.

      >> 12:28 AM

To: Zo
Subject: hey zo

My sister!

Got your phone message. I was asleep. I've been sleeping weird hours lately while stressing out about my papers. I get up after midnight or early in the morning (4 am or so) to work on them after falling asleep shortly after dinner (or skipping dinner altogether). Only have one left, thankfully.

I will be back in CA Monday evening. I'm first staying with my friend Anne at Stanford (she's picking me up from SFO). Then I'll go home on Tuesday. On Wednesday night, I want to go to a concert in San Francisco. I can see you then if you're free. Do you want to go to the concert with me? It's a Holcombe Waller concert. I don't know if you would like the music. You can check him out on the web (sound clips) at [http://www.cdbaby.com/waller2].

This is the concert info:

Secondly, we'll be playing Wednesday, December 20th in San Francisco at the Last Day Saloon (406 Clement Street at 5th Ave, tel: 415.387.6343), 9pm...

Anyways, I'll try calling you sometime Sunday (today, during the actual day).


      >> 12:22 AM

Saturday, December 16, 2000

To: "Felicien, Faslyn Lucelta"
Subject: hey you


So, you want to go to DC Dec. 27-30, yes? I will be there with Joe for the [MLA convention]. You'll come visit???? Don't you know people there? Yes?


      >> 1:17 PM

To: "Meyer, Anne Sara"
Subject: anne!

better fangs :F? --

how goes it??? i'm almost done! well, sort of! only one paper left! yay! new [buffy] tuesday! yay! will i see you monday?!

i went to this oral exam at a [professor's] house last night. it was such a strange experience. first of all, i went with two of my classmates, and we were half an hour late (they were finishing their papers, i was trying to finish my paper, there was traffic, we had to pick up some food to bring, etc.). we had good directions to get to the house, but there were so many turns and stuff it was a good thing i decided not to go alone without someone navigating. so we got there finally. the house was cool. we got some drinks, then settled in to the exam. the exam consisted of each person drawing a quote from a selection the [professor] had picked out and given to us earlier. then the person had to explain the quote and speak about it for five minutes. kind of a stressful concept, but in a low-stress environment. and the professors are really friendly, too.

so, when the first person started talking, the power suddenly went out. then came back on. we were confused. we laughed. etc. but then as he started in again on his quote, the power went off and stayed off. so the professor had to go get candles. here we were, sitting around in a circle, having an oral exam by candlelight. hee hee. it actually helped me out because i have that strange fear of talking in front of people. since it was dark, we could only see each other barely and i wasn't as conscious of being watched when i had to speak.

then we had dinner. and it was fun and new. i've never had dinner at a teacher of mine's house before. we had yummy lasagna. we got to hear fun and exciting things (as well as scandalous things) about the english department's past.

the end


      >> 12:49 PM

Here's the [link] to the chat I had with [Lucy].

      >> 12:29 PM

To: "Eric A. Friedman"
Subject: Re: election (fwd)

Dear Eric,

Quick reply to your message. I think you have written a very sincere note to your colleagues. There are doubtless people who believe, as you mention in the first paragraph, that (1) the next four years will only be about damage control and (2) it is better to withdraw from the political arena in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds (Republican President AND Congress). And I think this is where your commitment (in the rest of the note) to a course of human rights and social justice is a refreshing response to the election of Bush to the presidency. As always, I love your images and your optimism. What might help to spur some more comments and thoughts is perhaps to suggest one concrete example of how to continue pursuing social justice in light of a political-legislative atmosphere that would seem to discourage such a pursuit. For example, what is something that you/we could do to address issues of poverty even as our elected representatives seek to disavow responsibility for the poor?


At 08:57 PM Friday 12/15/00, you wrote:

Dear Paul,

Could you let me know if this is okay? I was thinking of putting it up on the Wall at the law school tonight or tomorrow. (I think you know the Wall, a place of public comment.) In particular, do you think it needs more, or is my point made? Or do you think I should cut down on the ending (Sweet Survivor? -- but I do love this song!)? Also, do you think there are people who feel as I describe in the 1st paragraph? Thank you!

(Winter break is official 12/22-1/1.)

Bye bye,


Justice, we may fear, is doomed to at least four years of painful setbacks. You know what I am talking about. Al Gore was elected President, but George W. Bush won the election. Where does this leave those of us who supported Al Gore? We may be tempted to turn our energies to damage control. And there may be much damage that needs to be managed. We may be tempted to withdraw from the public debate and public sphere, rather than exhaust ourselves swimming against a relentless current. And we will be swimming against the current.

But I hope that we can have a different reaction. When you are walking along the road, headed for a destination at which you must arrive, and it starts raining, the ground turns muddy, fallen trees block the road, what do you do? You keep on walking, only with even purpose and determination than before, for it is only with that added vigor that you will be able to push on through the mud, climb over the trees, and continue on your way.

We are walking along a road to a destination at which we must arrive -- justice, equality, human rights for all. It has never been an easy walk, and now it seems that the rains have come. So how do we respond? With a renewed sense of purpose and determination, so that we can continue progressing towards our destination. Forward, forward, forge forward through the storm.

Many of us are not happy that George W. Bush will be the next President of the United States, that both the Congress and the Administration will be Republican. But this is the reality. Bush said recently, "I can't tell you how excited I am . . . how enthused I am about the opportunities . . . to work with other world leaders to make the world more peaceful." We have at least a foundation on which to build. We may not feel that Bush is our President, but let's not give up on doing what we can so that he does what we would want our President to do. In the words a song written when the idealism of the 1960's was transmuting into the greed of the 1980s:

Carry on my sweet survivor . . .
Don't give up on the dream, and don't you let it end.
Carry on . . . .

-- Peter Yarrow, "Sweet Survivor"

Carry on.


"I have only dreams: to build a better world, a world of harmony and understanding, a world in which it is a joy to live. This is not asking for too much." -- Yitzhak Rabin

"Don't say the day will come. Bring the day! Because it's not a dream." -- Shir LaShalom, Song for Peace

      >> 12:14 PM

Friday, December 15, 2000

Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2000 09:48:08 -0500
Subject: Re: grr!
From: Lai Li Jun
To: duck vamps

Ellen emailed Brine to tell me that pylduck was "totally amazing" on chat yesterday. Geez what did you do. I just lurked Wed night. But I'm going to try and go on again today, it's the last day. I think that the chat is archived, so I'll go look at it.

I watched and taped Olive too. It was cool.

Drink lots of water, take like tablespoonfuls of echinacea and 1000mg of vit C. Got it?

      >> 1:45 PM

Thursday, December 14, 2000

(Editor's note: I seldom e-mail or talk about "politics" because I used to be e-flamed and insulted for being "naive" about the ways of the political arena. I realize now how evil these people were, resorting to ad hominem attacks to discredit my views.)

Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 14:22:41 -0500
To: "Eric A. Friedman"
From: duck vamps
Subject: Re: weblog

Dear Eric,

You're welcome.

I do indeed write in my weblog more than I perhaps have time for. But it helps me to think, so that's good.

The Supreme Court decision was not really what kept me up. These papers I have to write are what kept me up. I had sort of reconciled myself to the imminent election of Bush to the presidency back in late October. I was surprised that Gore actually gave Bush a run for his money. But as the political cards fell, there really was no way that he could have generated enough support given the way he campaigned. (Maybe I'm not giving him enough credit, but I was just disgusted by his pandering to conservative "swing" voters who really only exist anyways to homogenize the two parties' platforms. I have this sneaking suspicion that they are a political-media constructed group of people anyways.) I guess I'm just pessimistic. Well, the good thing is that it's highly unlikely Bush will get re-elected in four years.

When does your winter break begin? (I forget if you mentioned it before.)


      >> 1:46 PM

To: "Dastidar, Joyeeta"
Subject: hey you

it's all your fault that i'm obsessed with thinking about writing TO people in my blogs now. but i was thinking, other bloggers often address fellow-bloggers directly in their posts. so it's not as if journal-style (archival) blogging is completely distinct from a more communicative e-mail type posting. but anyways, i'll keep posting e-mails for awhile until i have time to think about this some more.

/ duck

      >> 1:39 PM

Dear Self,

Ah, so it appears that I have been visited by the folks at [MIT] in connection with the [Lucy Project] (site surveillance is a handy tool for procrastination). Wonder if they noted how I came across them and tried to figure out who I am.


      >> 11:17 AM

To: Lai Li Jun
Subject: Re: grr!

hey gien--

so i'm on the [lucy chat] right now. i should save the transcript of the chat. wonder if i can do that or if i have to cut and paste it. anyways, it's interesting. we're talking about ducks and cats and cakes and stuff. haven't had a chance to look at the whole site yet.

finished round one of my papers. it's nice to have a completed paper on my desk, no matter how crappy it is. two more to go. i'm taking a break for a bit this morning. went to get groceries this morning, stopping by a bagel place to get mmm....bagel, cream cheese, and lox...it's really cool outside. it's gloomy, but there's this white mist that is hovering over everything. it's like a diaphanous (love that word) curtain that mists the windshield of my car.

i took a loooooong, nice hot shower when i got back from getting groceries. it relaxed me very much. i wanted to just go to sleep, but instead i'm back at my computer, ready to type.


Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000 20:34:26 -0500
Subject: Re: grr!
From: Lai Li Jun
To: duck vamps

on 12/13/00 5:48 AM, duck vamps wrote:
argh! how do you write???

So,,,,, when you're done writing, check this out:
It's Ellen's performance that she's doing for her art in residence at MIT.
I'm going to try to go to the live chat/performance stuff...

      >> 9:51 AM

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Dear Mr. Rabbit,

Hey. Just came across yet another mind-turning (that's a good thing) entry at [worsethanqueer]. This entry, dated and time-stamped 12.11.00, 10:01 a.m., addresses some of the same questions about web cams, surveillance, and disciplinary gazes that came up in one of my classes and that I'm blindly flailing at in my paper. Slander asks, "why not invite intrusion when there's nothing to see?" as a way of interrogating the appeal of web exhibitionism. And here she is really writing about the superfluity of public surveillance if the watched object conforms to (and in fact enacts) disciplinary norms. I agree with her reading of how common disciplining gender via a sort of "collective social inspection" is, whether it is through the forum of a web site or a television talk show.

What Slander notes is that "there's nothing particularly titillating or interesting, even," about what many people do on their web cam, "but that may not be the point." And this is where thinking about the convergence of exhibitionism and surveillance is interesting. While there is something that's supposed to be sexy about web cams because it opens up the possibility of Freudian exhibitionism (i.e. the showing of genitals), is this transgression of social propriety what creates the appeal? If so, where does that place web cams of office cubicles (making flashing mostly unlikely)?

I think it perhaps has to do with something that a classmate of mine, Will, is touching on in his paper -- namely, personal "solutions" to the problem of privacy. It seems simple to believe that by opening up all boundaries to what is private, by making everything public, one can preclude censure since private things are those marked as important to be kept from a public gaze. And in some ways, that's the way I feel about disclosure and privacy. I am much more inclined to reveal things about myself because I don't want the knowledge (or "open secret") to hang over my head like a sword dangling from a single thread (this image from a children's story my mother used to read to me about the pressures / dangers of being a king). Regarding sexuality, if I let people in a new situation know from the outset that I am gay, I don't have to worry about how they will react when they "find out" later (especially through other means, as this will perhaps signal to them that I was trying to hide the knowledge). But of course, this is not such a practical and total "solution." Drawing a military analogy, de-classifying top-secret information does not make that information completely harmless.

(My computer is making a strange humming sound every once in awhile. Perhaps I should've turned it off for a rest sometime in the last twenty-four hours.)

Mr. Rabbit, Mr. Rabbit, your coat is mighty grey / "Yes, indeed, 'twas made that way" / "Every little one must shine, shine, shine" / "Every little one must shine, shine, shine"

Mr. Duck

      >> 5:16 AM

My friend Joyeeta has noted that she has different personalities depending on who she is with. It's an observation worth noting because the common knowledge is that everyone has "one" true personality that they are. Every other way they act is just artifice. But isn't how we act in front of people exactly an act, always a way of presenting ourselves to those around us? So where does that "one" true personality lie? Is it you when you're alone? But then taking out all social relations (and expectations) from your conception of yourself is infeasible as well as uninstructive in determing a social identity and personality (and is akin to trying to imagine a tabula rasa or "state of nature").

In any case, I was thinking I'd start addressing my blog entries to specific people I know (and don't know, such as celebrities, the admired-from-afar). Would I write about different topics? Would I present the ideas differently? How would that change how others read the entries? (What is the qualitative difference between reading a "private" journal and reading "private" correspondence?) And what if I only [blogged] things that were in fact also e-mails to various people? (My blog becomes an archive of sent e-mails?) As you can see, my head is only about the questions these days. Can't seem to answer anything, even to myself.

Speaking of reading "private" correspondences, I just reminded myself of [Griffin and Sabine], a trilogy of illustrated books by Nick Bantock. The story is the exchange of letters between the two characters Griffin and Sabine. It enjoyed some popularity upon release because of the richly textured illustrations and pages (the letters were in fact separate pages on beautiful stationery in wonderfully designed envelopes attached to the pages of the book-proper). From the web site: "Welcome to griffinandsabine.com. Created in collaboration with author/illustrator Nick Bantock, this site celebrates the voyeuristic tale of love and mystery that is Griffin & Sabine . . ." [Go.] Indulge.

      >> 4:25 AM

After staring at my computer screen for so many hours lately, I decided to change the look of the darned thing. I ended up choosing this Leondardo da Vinci themed desktop. It uses a Book Antiqua font for the text. Kinda strange. The hour-glass cursor when the computer is "thinking" has been replaced by a paintbrush mixing colors on a palette. Sometimes it's a picture of Mona Lisa fading in and out. I like the desktop background a lot. It's a mix of some of da Vinci's illustrations (or at least imitations of them). I like the texture of the pen strokes as a ground for the theme. It provides an aesthetically pleasing counterpoint to the "antique" look of the font that is at the same time pixelated with a computer-rough-edged look. The faded-black ink (sort of a reddish-brown) color scheme is marvelous, too.

In less than a fortnight, I will finally be 23.

And now back to the main event...

      >> 3:42 AM

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Wow. I guess I never really listened to the lyrics of [NSYNC's] "Digital Get Down" until Joe pointed them out:

"I can see everything you do / Bouncin me from satellite to satellite / I love the things you do for me so late at night / So turn me on yeah / It's like I'm right there next to you yeah."

"Here's what you do: leave a message / You know the kind I like to get back to."

"I see you on the screen, I get to freakin' / So get down babe / And I'll get down for you / I get so excited when I'm watching girl / I can't wait to see you touch your body girl."


      >> 10:25 AM

[This] is a fun holiday greetings e-card to send to people if you want to torture them.

      >> 10:01 AM

Monday, December 11, 2000

Dear Joyeeta,

Read me.


      >> 1:16 PM

Today is the last day of classes. I had my last class on Thursday, but still. This is really it. It's almost the end. In less than a week, I will be all done with the semester. Hardly seems possible.

Elizabeth pointed me to this fascinating article on [gay teens online]. I think it'll be an informative complement to the paper I'm writing on [Buffy] and the embodiment of gendered identity in new technology. I know that I would have had a much different (probably more tortured) time with forming a self-aware consciousness if I didn't have the resources of the Internet as a communication tool that linked me to other gay people "out there." My first encounters with self-proclaimed gay men were all on-line. My first crush was a man I e-mailed for years. We were able to talk to each other in ways that we couldn't otherwise (I was still living at home, he lived with his married brother). It was such a strange, liberating situation. The funniest thing, too, is that we had actually become friends before we came out to each other, so he was also the first person I came out to.

      >> 7:58 AM

Sunday, December 10, 2000

Well, I did end up going to the holiday party at the big ol' [Carolina Club] Alumni Hall. I'd been to the Club once before about a year ago to have dinner with Joe and this guy who worked at the Club. It's quite a fancy little place. Anyways, the party was fun. Lots of food. I couldn't keep myself away from the chocolate mousse desserts in little pastry shells. Mmmm....chocolate.... I also had some wine (made me tipsy) and got to talk to my fellow first-year students. Also talked to [Mr. Thompson], one of my professors, and saw (but did not get a chance to speak to) [Mr. Curtain] in a fabulous green velvet coat that everyone loved.

I've never been one to go to parties, especially not institutional parties, because I do not talk to many people and end up being a floating loner in seas of people. But I did have a good time this afternoon. I guess I have made some very friendly acquaintances here at [UNC's English department]. Since I don't see these people outside of class and campus, it was nice to take a break to hang out with them.

      >> 10:43 PM

To go or not to go?

[sunday 10 december 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Holiday Party at the Alumni Hall III]

I would like to go see some of my friends for a bit. It'd be nice to see Elizabeth's boyfriend again, too, who's in from out of town for the next few days. But I had told myself I would go only if I had made enough headway into my papers (hasn't happened yet). And, Joe has said he does not want to go. So do I go it alone? Or do I forgo it altogether?

      >> 11:17 AM

There are two things, aren't there?:

The first thing is, dinner at [Rick's Diner] on a Saturday night is not such a good idea. The place is full of little kids (and their parents, of course) making loud noises, talking loudly. And on cold nights, it is just no fun to be in a full restaurant while people keep opening the door, standing in the doorway while assessing the situation, trying to decide whether or not to wait for a table. You would think they would try to get completely inside, out of the cold. But they insist on wavering on the threshold, half the party inside, the other half outside, and the door gaping maliciously wide open as the cold air outside and the warm air inside try to reach an equilibrium temperature.

The second is that [Jerma] and Consuela are such great company. Joe and I had dessert with them at [Francesca's Dessert Cafe] after they (that is, Jerma, Consuela, Joe, and this other guy) went to a Christmas concert at Duke Chapel. (I stayed home and stressed out about writing.) Jerma is a particularly fun person to be around because she generates such heated and involved conversations. She doesn't accept anything anyone says at face value. She's always very interested in getting into why people believe certain things, why they like things, etc. It's a unique experience being around her. It's fun watching her and Consuela interact as well. Just because they are together (to whatever extent, however they define their relationship) doesn't mean they don't take each other to task for what they think. I, of course, like listening to the way Jerma's mind tries to wrap itself around other people's thinking. It's amazing. She also makes Joe laugh and that's really nice.

      >> 10:24 AM

Saturday, December 09, 2000

I just visited my friend Eric's [homepage]. It's not been updated in awhile (he's a very busy guy and he actually spends soooo much more time on his course work than I do), but his message is as important and alive today as it was when he put together the page a few years ago. As with other writers I admire, Eric presents his ideas through words that portray such a beautiful personality.

      >> 4:11 PM

Have I mentioned here yet that I want to write stories?

Amber at [www.ooooner.com] mentioned a personality quiz today. I took [The Color Quiz] just now. The results are eerie in their insights:

Your Existing Situation
Needs warm companionship, but is intolerant of anything short of special consideration from those close to him. If this is not forthcoming, is liable to shut himself away from them.

Your Stress Sources
Delights in the tasteful, the gracious, and the sensitive, but maintains his attitude of critical appraisal and refuses to be swept off his feet unless genuineness and integrity can be absolutely vouched for. Therefore keeps a strict and watchful control on his emotional relationships as he must know exactly where he stands. Demands complete sincerity as a protection against his own tendency to be too trusting.

Your Restrained Characteristics
Feels trapped in a distressing or uncomfortable situation and seeking some way of gaining relief. Able to achieve satisfaction from sexual activity. Clings to his belief that his hopes and ideas are realistic, but needs encouragement and reassurance. Applies very exacting standards to his choice of a partner and wants guarantees against loss or disappointment.

Your Desired Objective
Feels the existing circumstances are hostile and is exhausted by conflict and quarreling. Wishes to protect himself and hides his intentions to avoid exposing them to attack, so that they will be safer and easier to achieve. Careful to avoid stirring up any opposition which might endanger his plans.

Your Actual Problem
Needs to protect himself against his tendency to be too trusting, as he finds it is liable to be misunderstood or exploited by others. As a result, he adopts a critical and stand-offish attitude, being willing to participate only where he can be assured of sincerity and trustworthiness.

I wonder how the thing works. The test consists solely of choosing blocks of color.

      >> 3:45 PM

Was there life before the body became an equation?
     -- [Lawrence Chua], Gold by the Inch

This is the question that is eating up all my time. Actually, I've modified the question to ask, how did the body become an equation and is there any relief from this condition of commodification?

      >> 10:13 AM

Friday, December 08, 2000

I remember when I was in [college], I very much wanted to be an op-ed columnist for either the [Yale Daily News] or the [Yale Herald]. I applied two or three times to be a columnist, sending in sample columns, but never so much as received a rejection notice. They must've just thought my writing was completely worthless. Ah well. It would've been fun to write about what mattered to me on a public forum. One column I particularly admired (and wanted to emulate) was ["Marking Time" by Annie Koh]. There was just something so insightful and personal about her columns. While they addressed a wide range of topics, there was always a very definite authorial presence and perspective in her writing. I wonder what she is up to these days.

The closest I got to writing a column for these papers was working for a semester as a contributing reporter for the YDN. I'm surprised my [articles] are archived on the web. I was more of an event / entertainment reporter than anything else. (By the way, the cheesy first lines are none of my own. My editor always insisted on writing a "catchy" first line for my pieces.)

Oh, and I really loved Matt Wiegle's comic strip, [The Idiot's Tales]. My favorite one is [this one]. (The voiceless rage of the spider. Hee hee.)

      >> 10:50 AM

Mmm....donut..... (Which reminds me, I saw [The Simpsons Clue] game in the mall yesterday. Sounds like fun. I've never actually played the original Clue board game, but the [movie] was a riot.)

One reason why I like [Christina Aguilera] (or, what I was thinking as I drove to school today):

When I talk to people face to face for the first time, I often get the feeling that their gaze keeps drifting to my earring / tragus piercing. (Look on the [web] for pictures of tragus piercings if you don't know where the tragus is or what a piercing there looks like.) I'm not going into detail why I decided to get such a piercing (that's a post for another day and would in fact involve constructing a narrative of intentions that would be as much after-the-fact as before), but in essence, whatever my intentions, having such a piercing places me more blatantly in a position of negotiating my self-expressions and what people read and see on my body and in my actions. In other words, it draws attention to me. As a general rule, I don't like to draw attention to myself, so I am faced with this strange situation of either keeping the piercing and what it means for me or removing it and disappearing from people's gaze or censure.

I feel that Christina Aguilera recognizes a similar dilemma in confronting the media's (and the public's) interpretation of her, her actions, and her music. But the fact that she meets that challenge head on is very heartening for me. I am not saying that she knows her situation in any full way -- no one ever can, in my opinion -- but it seems to me that she has such a strong faith in what she intends with her music career that other people's negative views of her actions can never fully demoralize her. And this is not to say that she completely ignores any criticism or what other people say. She in fact takes these things seriously. In one interview (on MTV's Diaries series), she says that when you no longer consider the advice or views of other people, then you are lost (as a person) and in a bad place.

Put another way, I think part of Christina's attraction for me is her strength of conviction that is not so resolute as to be dogmatic. In some ways, it means that I appreciate the moments of vulnerability that pepper stories of her life. In this same MTV Diaries show, there's a moment in which she talks about Fred Durst's snide comments about her music in apology to his fans for their joint performance on an MTV award show. Although she was angry at such a betrayal and understood Durst's comments as a puerile reaction, she was also sincerely hurt by the betrayal and the ability of others to re-interpret situations radically and flippantly.

I remember when I first heard her "Genie in a Bottle" song, I thought Christina was incredibly naive for engaging the idea of a genie as herself. Given the cultural weight of female genies as compliant wish-granters for their male masters, I couldn't see how any woman could successful adopt such an identity. However, because Christina did attempt to explain the "meaning" of the song in interviews, I began to see that she was positing a different perspective on the female genie trope. By shifting the story to the point at which "you" must rub the lamp "the right way" in order to release her, she was presenting herself as a genie that needs to be treated fairly before a relationship can develop. She draws on a Spice Girls-esque "girl power" theme here (as well as in "What a Girl Wants") as the driving idea of self-empowerment for women.

Well, in any case, I just like the fact that Christina as a person is able to be / perform Christina as a pop star.

      >> 7:10 AM

Thursday, December 07, 2000

(And it seems, from the website, that The Clapper is made by the same company that makes [Chia Pets]! Chia Pets are definitely another one of those weird products that walk that line between useful and silly. The commercials for Chia Pets have that same low-tech, dare I say slightly campy, aspect, too. I, in fact, have a Chia Pet, but it is currently stored in its box in the closet. I grew the Chia bunny once when I first got it. I managed to grow this strange grey fuzz. I don't think it was mold or bacteria or something disgusting like that, but so odd that it wasn't green chia fuzz... Maybe I should get one of the new [Looney Toons] Chia Pets as a gift for someone...)

      >> 9:55 PM

Ok. I don't think my brother reads this journal, so I can make the following comment. It's just silly. I was helping Joe do some Christmas shopping this evening. We were at a store somewhere in the mall when I saw [The Clapper]. Clap twice to turn on the lights. Three times for the TV!

Now, my brother had told me last week that I don't need to get him anything because he already got a big gift from our parents for Christmas / our birthday (a five-piece speaker system). Anyways, I figured I would just get him some small gift. I haven't been thinking about what to get him (or anyone else) yet, but when I saw The Clapper, I was just struck with this strange feeling that it would be a fun gift for him. I have no idea what his new apartment space is like (except he's decorating it with furniture from [IKEA]), but I know he must've seen the hokey commercials on television for The Clapper. It just seems to me like a "useful" gift that few people would really buy for themselves. It's almost a gag gift, but not totally. Or maybe I'm just delirious.

      >> 9:49 PM

Hmmm. Ok, so I am not totally disenchanted with [EarthLink], my ISP. In fact, it's been fairly good to me so far -- I don't have trouble with busy signals or getting cut off -- until this recent problem. I called up tech support just now. After a ten minute hold, I finally got to talk to someone (didn't catch his name). He walked me through a whole bunch of steps, altering hardware setup files. And now the dial-up file transferring stuff works again! He said that the files controlling file transfer with the modem were corrupted. He doesn't know why it happens, but apparently it happens with some frequency with people's computers. Luckily, he did know how to fix it. I would not be able to fix the problem again, however, if it were to re-occur. This computer stuff is totally mystified for me. Yes, that means I am a mystic.

      >> 9:33 PM

On a slightly happier note, our kitchen floor is back in place -- the floor boards, at least. All that's left to rebuild now is the linoleum / vinyl covering. And the apartment manager thinks that it'll probably be done by the weekend. I was also able to get the screw for my glasses-frames replaced. And I suppose the car covering is holding in place after I shoved it back behind the bolts the other day...

      >> 10:36 AM

When things fall apart, they really fall apart. What a crazy week it's been. I guess it started with the [missing kitchen floor], then there was the [car trouble], then yesterday, right before my class, a screw popped out of the frame of my glasses, leaving me mostly blind, and this morning, my computer was being recalcitrant and I couldn't check my e-mail or browse the web. So, after being beaten senseless by things not working as they should, I crawled back into bed under the warmth of the covers and Joe's embrace. And when Joe had to get up to get ready for work, I put on Christina Aguilera's [debut album] and let the music and her voice take me to a happier place far far away while I convalesced under the sheets.

Being in class yesterday without my glasses was quite an interesting experience. I should try going to a class blindfolded sometime to see what that's like. I couldn't see very well, especially not people's facial expressions (something I watch fairly closely in all my classes), but I still could see blobs of color and movement. What if even those visual cues were absent? Although it was a bit disconcerting not to be able to see people's reactions to what I was saying, it was also a blessing of sorts because I was a little less self-conscious about saying things. At one point, I babbled on, unable to formulate the words I needed to express my thoughts. Usually, I would've been much more flustered than I was because I tend to interpret people's expressions as boredom, uncomprehension, spite, etc.

I almost wasn't able to drive home last night, either. As I was trying to rubber-band the lens onto the frame so I could get home, I dropped the lens under the car seat. It took me a good while groping around in the dark and squeezing my hand into not-very-fun-and-full-of-grime crevices before I was able to retrieve it. But then I managed to drive home with a rubber band around the center of the right lens, holding it (and my sanity) in place.

I hope my computer isn't singing its swan song. It's been getting buggy little by little over the past few months. I have no idea why I wasn't able to download my e-mail this morning. I hope it's a problem with my ISP. The dial-up program seemed to be functioning alright, though. I was able to connect to a few different numbers. But once I connected, there didn't seem to be any more data transfers. My mail program and web browsers all claimed that they couldn't locate the servers. Another problem is that sometimes my computer won't recognize the CD-ROM drive. Re-starting the computer seems to help with that problem, at least. I wonder if there' s a virus on my computer. Just my luck. If it doesn't get me through this next week and the paper-writing I still have left, I will seriously throw it over a bridge somewhere.

      >> 10:21 AM

Wednesday, December 06, 2000

It's frightening how incapacitated I become when I don't get much sleep. Yesterday was one of those zombie-like days. I drifted around, tried to write, gave a presentation in class, and yet was so unaware of what was happening the whole time. It's like my mind and body are in power-save mode, fearing yet another night of little sleep.

      >> 7:50 AM

Tuesday, December 05, 2000

Damn. No new [Buffy] episode today to get me through the week.

It's a good thing there are large windows in [Davis Library]. I don't like dark, dusty book stacks very much. Probably because I'm afraid of the dark. And get sneezy around dust.

I wonder how many books I can fit into my backpack...

      >> 5:53 AM

Monday, December 04, 2000

The most significant theme of the new cultural politics of difference is the agency, capacity and ability of human beings who have been culturally degraded, politically oppressed and economically exploited by bourgeois liberal and Communist illiberal status quo. This theme neither romanticizes nor idealizes marginalized peoples. Rather, it accentuates their humanity and tries to attenuate the institutional constraints on their life-chances for surviving and thriving.

-- Cornel West, "The New Cultural Politics of Difference" (1990)

This makes me feel better.

      >> 7:14 PM

I'm so excited that I'll be able to see [Holcombe Waller] perform live on December 20th when I go home to California for winter break. His new album, [Extravagant Gesture], is finally available as well. Yay!

      >> 7:10 PM

This my new motto by way of :F Better Fangs?: Quit whining and walk!

      >> 6:48 PM

No doubt, I shall be excommunicated as an enemy of the people, because I repudiate the mass as a creative factor. I shall prefer that rather than be guilty of the demagogic platitudes so commonly in vogue as a bait for the people. I realize the malady of the oppressed and disinherited masses only too well, but I refuse to prescribe the usual ridiculous palliatives which allow the patient neither to die nor to recover.

-- Emma Goldman, "Preface" to Anarchism and Other Essays (1917)

There is something so seductive about libertarian / anarchist rhetoric about the individual as best determinant of freedom, life, pleasure, etc. And I have few qualms with Goldman's refusal to endorse a majoritarian rule as democracy and her insistence on working with "the oppressed and disinherited masses." But sometimes it's just all too much. I just want to say, forget about the world. Let everyone else believe what they will and be self-interested. What is it to me to be taken advantage of? If someone else must always get the better deal in exchanges with me, then so be it. It just seems so petty, fighting so constantly for "fairness" when it really shouldn't be anyone's to claim or manipulate.

      >> 9:27 AM

If I ignore it, it will go away. A plastic covering under my car is coming off. I discovered the problem Saturday night when I drove the car out of the parking lot and heard a constant scraping noise. I stopped driving. Yesterday, I pushed the plastic piece back into place. Unfortunately, it is by no means attached securely. I should get it fixed, but I just don't want to deal with it right now. I can only hope that nothing crucial to the functioning / safety of the car has fallen out.

      >> 9:15 AM

I can't believe no one told me about Christina Aguilera's Christmas special ["My Reflection"]. Grrrr.

      >> 7:16 AM

Sunday, December 03, 2000

French: ombragé canard
German: shadowy Ente
Italian: oscura anatra
Portuguese: shadowy pato
Spanish: vago pato

(Are the adjective-noun orders/syntaxes correct or is this just a word-by-word translation of "shadowy duck"?)

      >> 4:40 PM

Wow. [Babel Fish] at [AltaVista] is a fun-interesting service. It apparently translates webpages for you. I don't know how well it works though, being (frustratingly) such a monoglot. I did translate my blog into French for fun. Here's what it returned for my previous post:

[ quelqu'un ] svp enchaînez-moi à mon clavier, cachent la ligne téléphonique (ainsi moi ne peut pas composer vers le haut de mon ISP), et m'incitent à écrire mes papiers.

Does it make any sense?

      >> 4:35 PM

[Someone] please chain me to my keyboard, hide the phone line (so I can't dial up my ISP), and make me write my papers.

      >> 4:23 PM

Re: 1 December 2000

It was important to me to mark World AIDS Day on my weblog because my understanding of sexuality (however confused) has undeniably been shaped by the media discourses on AIDS and homosexuality since the late-80s. The knowledge of so many gay men who died from AIDS complications was a sobering influence on personal negotiations with desire. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my first, and for many years only, contact with talk of homosexuality was filtered through the disease-inflected homosexual-panic of the time. For me, AIDS equaled gay men equaled death. It was a bleak equation, but one that stirred a sense of critical inquiry into how others defined (my) identity.

The community in which I grew up was sufficiently concerned with the AIDS crisis to emphasize AIDS / safe sex workshops in the general sex education classes. By the time I reached the sixth and seventh grades, students from the local high school were giving us AIDS awareness talks and passing out red ribbons. Of note is the way in which these safe sex and AIDS awareness talks focused on "saving" heterosexual intercourse without acknowledging the importance of queer resistance in fighting the AIDS crisis. AIDS, by this point, had become both a disease-of-the-gays and a problem for the morally upright heterosexual population. As a result, I remained trapped in the problematic of AIDS=gays=death.

It wasn't until I got to college (and importantly, moved away from home) that I encountered a far more open atmosphere about homosexuality. I began to realize that there was a pernicious ideological bent to AIDS discourses. I became aware of ACT UP's work (though by this point their heyday had passed) and others' in fighting for prevention and treatment while also attacking the equating of AIDS and disease with "deviant" sexuality. And because AIDS still remained (and still does?) firmly entrenched in my psyche as a marker of homosexuality, I began to engage with AIDS awareness / prevention groups. If nothing else, these groups provided me with a social context that affirmed (my) homosexuality without requiring me explicitly to proclaim my desires. In fact, for the next couple of years while I remained closeted, I looked to AIDS prevention work as a way of acknowledging to myself that I was gay.

Fast forward a few years. At the start of the new millenium, I look back to see just how difficult it has been for me finally to disengage myself from that equation AIDS=gays=death. While the AIDS=death part is still a crisis, albeit deferred greatly by anti-viral treatments and a move towards decoupling HIV-infection from moral discourses, the AIDS=gays part has for me largely been replaced by / translated into an embrace of queer resistance to homophobia.

      >> 7:46 AM

Where's the snow? We were supposed to be blanketed by heavy snowfall by daybreak. Yet not a speck of snow in sight. The weather forecasters need to work on their prognostication. Maybe they need some fresher entrails.

I woke up this morning with a head full of night-dreams. Kind of scary-strange that two webloggers showed up in one of my dreams because the only contact I've had with "them" is through reading their blogs. (Although, I guess movie stars and TV stars have showed up in my dreams before--and I know them in a similar way.) Other elements in my dreams: kidnapping, intent to jump out of moving car, car accidents, trucks falling off bridges, betrayal, a sense of utter lack of agency, and slow-motion scenes that highlighted the inevitability of disasters.

      >> 7:07 AM