Sunday, July 28, 2002

My mom would make a great spy. She likes to snoop around, picking up any and everything lying around my apartment. She inches her way around, going into each room available to her and taking everything in. She picks up books and scrutinizes their back covers for clues. She flips through anything that has an inside -- software cases, paper stacks, whatever.

And in each movement, she exudes the signs of the detective who knows what she's going to find. She will only see what confirms her suspicions, what confirms her outlandish ideas of what what gay men are, do, represent . . . of what I am.

      >> 9:22 PM

[a thousand secret kings]:

History is so messy and imperfect. I'd much rather set aside a few days to celebrate things like Justice, Equality Before the Law, and Freedom of Dissent. Wouldn't that be a kick, if we taught our schoolchildren that the nation's founding fathers were humans, with human flaws and limited visions, who should be held to the same standards of humanity that the rest of us are? Wouldn't it be cool if we actually spent a day praticing those freedoms that we claim to hold most dear?

Yes, indeed. What if we didn't evacuate all sense of nuance from the actions of our leaders and heroes? What if we decided to acknowledge the messiness of everyone's lives, that heroes can be cowards, public leaders the most servile followers of corporate cash, etc.? My goodness, what if we actually valued critical thinking over rhetorical dynamism?

      >> 8:11 PM

Well, things seem to be going okay so far. At least in that my-dad-isn't-going-anywhere-near-the-subject way and my mom is only half-heartedly accusing me of being a slut, a degenerate, a good-for-nothing. They're in a motel room now taking a nap. I think they're actually enjoying themselves. That makes me happy. We'll grab some dinner tonight and perhaps stroll through Duke Gardens. Then tomorrow we're off to the Great Smoky Mountains until Wednesday...

      >> 2:07 PM

Deep breath.

Going to pick up the parents from the airport in about an hour. I've already repressed most of the anguish I was feeling last night after the phone conversation in which I asked them if they wanted to meet my boyfriend. My dad simply gave his little I'm-upset-but-don't-know-how-to-deal-with-it chuckle and said "ok" and stopped talking. My mom (I had to ask them separately as they do not really share information with each other) started asking me entirely inappropriate questions and making accusations like "your kind of people change partners frequently (sluts)." (Note: I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with people who have many partners, at once or in succession, though I don't think my two constitutes a lot.)

They might not even show up at the airport. I don't know. All I know is that there is a lot of awkwardness in the air right now. But I'm sick and tired of playing the peek-a-boo-in-the-closet game with them where they "know" I'm gay, but refuse to acknowledge it and make it difficult for me to include them in my life. They're going to have to make a choice. Deal with it, or don't deal with me at all. I know that some people who are more sympathetic to the parents-of-gays plight might say I'm being inconsiderate. But that's a bunch of hoo haw. They have no right to dictate my life. (God I feel like such an adolescent.) I am so going to have a nervous breakdown.

After the phone conversation, I had to get mobile, so I asked Rob if he wanted to go for a drive and we cruised the streets for a couple of hours. He tried to cheer me up and told me stories about his family. My sister in San Francisco also called me a couple of times to check up on me and how I was doing with the impending visit. At least it feels good to have people who are supportive.

      >> 7:41 AM

Saturday, July 27, 2002

I just came across these [incredibly thoughtful] writings by a porn store clerk. Ali Davis writes about porn, porn rental customers, sexuality, and gender representations. She really seems to think through what most people have knee-jerk reactions to: whether porn is good or bad, whether people who watch porn are good or bad, etc. (Link via [dave does the blog].)

      >> 4:12 PM

It was like one of those nightmares when you know you're doing something you don't want to be doing, like opening a box from which will jump a creepy monster, in slow motion, but you can't stop. You're relegated to the role of self-observer, almost as if you're having an out-of-body experience in your dream. That's how my lunch cooking went.

I'll never make the ginger stir fry chicken from The Joy of Cooking again. You see, at first I thought it was a simple soy-sauce-and-ginger kind of stir fry. Just the kind of taste I was looking for. But as I was going about mixing the ingredients, I found myself mixing together ketchup and vinegar. (I'm slow on the uptake.) As I moved on to the next step, I realized I was making a sweet-and-sour type stir fry, a taste I generally despise. But I couldn't stop myself! Nothing was irreversible yet. I hadn't even started heating the oil. The ketchup-vinegar mixture was still far away from the chicken. But like in those nightmares, I kept plodding through the recipe, chopping up some ginger, stirring some cornstarch with water. And before I knew it, there it was: a plate of sweet-and-sour chicken.

Oh, and I decided to be all hip and fusion and have the stir fry over lentils instead of rice. Can't you just imagine the fireworks in my mouth?

Let's just hope my stomach doesn't revolt.

      >> 11:56 AM

Friday, July 26, 2002

[Princeton accused of Ivy League hacking]

I caught snippets of this story on CNN. Thought it was kind of strange, funny, unnerving that college admissions was being elevated (at least by CNN) into a sort of international espionage. I guess there is a lot of personal information that goes into applying for school, but I also think that a lot of "personal" information would do just as well being public as not. I mean, marketers seem to have so much access to personal information already, and they're the ones that do the most annoying things with that information.

      >> 11:49 PM

It's the most amazing thing to dive into a story and feel like you've entered a world that is far deeper even than the events unfolding on the page. I've been reading through the Finder paperbacks after [settsimaksimin] mentioned [Finder: Talisman] in a post. One thing I love about the paperbacks -- don't know if they were in the monthly issues -- is the endnote section filled with extraneous facts about details in the story but mostly in the drawings. It creates this sense that, yes, this fantastic world exists, isn't just being conjured by the author, but is simply being recorded in journalistic fashion. Fascinating.

      >> 10:59 PM

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Three Things that Have Changed About Me Since I Moved to Durham
  1. I put sugar and milk in my tea (both hot and cold).

  2. I sometimes wear shorts outside the confines of my apartment, though still never when I'm likely to run into people I know.

  3. I have a nasty habit of cultivating microorganisms in and on my body.

Yes, we're feeling listy as opposed to listless today!

      >> 4:57 PM

I'm slow on the uptake.

A couple of nights ago my friend mentioned that some important folklorist person died recently, and I commented that it seems like so many famous people are dying recently. Like the wise woman she is, she responded that it's probably because we know of a lot more people now than we did, say, ten years ago. I don't know why I found this to be such a revelation. Duh.

      >> 8:28 AM

Three Easy Ways to My <3
  1. Love my duckness.

  2. Concede to my every demand.

  3. Concede to my every whim.

(I would've called this "Three Keys to Get into My Pants," but that's not really the shell you have to break.)

      >> 8:01 AM

I can't believe I've never considered this:

You know that your studying is nearing the end for the night (actually, hoping for another 2 1/2 hrs. hmmm.) when you start getting distracted by the possibility of turning blue and yellow M&M's into green by rubbing them together hard (it's not easy -- blue one kept crumbling)....

(From my studying-for-the-bar-exam friend Eric.)

      >> 7:52 AM

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

So in fact there has been official Christian conservative response to the Carolina Summer Reading Program.

[University's Quran Reading Stirs Controversy]: "I think the University of North Carolina would allow any religion to be studied except for Christianity," [Family Policy Network chair] Moffitt said in a telephone interview. "Why not make Islamic students read from the Bible?". (Found on [interestingmonstah.com].)

      >> 5:47 PM

[The Carolina Summer Reading Program] is totally opening a huge can of poisonous, angry mutant flesh-eating worms in choosing this year Michael Sells's Approaching the Qur'án: The Early Revelations. And I'm diving head first into the ensuing melee by volunteering to be a discussion leader. Feh.

When a listener challenged Muhammad to prove he was a prophet by performing a miracle, the Qur'anic answer was that the Qur'an itself was the miracle. If anyone could produce anything like it, then the Qur'an was a human creation and Muhammad a false prophet. If, however, no one else could produce anything like it, then the Qur'an was clearly beyond the capacity of a human being, and Muhammad was not its author but simply its messenger.

A friend of mine actually convinced me to lead a discussion session because she wanted someone to talk to about the book. Then she backed out; she'll be visiting her partner out of town for the entire month of August. She left me a voicemail this morning reiterating her desire to discuss the book with me, though, perhaps over e-mail.

The first auditory revelation is believed to have been the Qur'anic words (Sura 96): "Recite in the name of your lord who created . . . " The term Qur'an, given to the revelations Muhammad would convey, is related to the Arabic word for "recite." It might be translated as the Recitation.

I've just read Michael Sells's introduction to the translated suras (chapters) of the Qur'an. I'm loving the idea of the Qur'an as a sound vision or experience, as a miracle in and of itself. It takes the word as the substance of revelation and enacts its power through recitation or performance.

The experience is a nonlinear repetition through recitation. The actual stories, which may seem fragmented in a written version, are brought together in the mind of the hearer through repeated experiences with the text. The most accomplished Qur'anic reciters are famous throughout the Islamic world, and their cassettes and CDs can be found in kiosks and music stores in any city with a large Islamic population.

I'm of course afraid how the new Carolina undergrads are going to react to this book, especially if they have been brought up staunchly in close-minded Christian religious fundamentalism. It might be an exaggeration to say that all or even most Carolina undergrads are Christian fundamentalists, but those that are seem to be very vocal and visible. I had a few students this past year who relentlessly wrote and talked about the greatness of Christ and his saving grace. (One student even sincerely believed and cited articles denouncing evolutionary theory by claiming that the complexity of the human eye was evidence of divine perfection and not "blind" evolutionary adaptation.)

The early Meccan Suras are hymnic. The complex Qur'anic sound patterns and the relation of sound to meaning--what we might call the "sound vision" of the Qur'an--are brought out and cultivated in Qur'anic recitation.

Approaching the Qur'án comes with an audio CD of Qur'anic recitations. I've yet to listen to them since I want to read through the translations first before experiencing the sound of the Qur'an. Michael Sells places great importance on the sound of the Qur'an, on the transcendental quality of its phrasing, cadences, sound-and-sense relations, and tonal inflections.

Of course, all translations are ultimately only approaches. One can never completely recapture an original in a new language. For some, adhering to a facile interpretation of the Italian cliché traduttore traditore (translator-traitor), the impossibility of perfect translation only shows the futility of trying. My own view is that translation--never complete, always only an approach--is an essential element of human existence. Even among those who speak our own language, we often find we have interpreted a word in a way other than it was intended.

Words, words, words.

      >> 5:09 PM

[Barry Zito] is a metrosexual. I had a late night snack with Rob when he got home after midnight and watched the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. First, Chris Issak was on, then this baseball pitcher Zito whom I'd never heard of until that moment. And he plays for the Oakland A's, technically the "hometown" team of my childhood. (My brother and I used to have a "Bash Brothers" poster of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco on our bedroom wall. I swear I had nothing to do with it.) He does yoga, has satin pillow cases, wears suede suits, doesn't drink, and uses aromatherapy candles.

I'd just skimmed the article ["Meet the Metrosexual"] about footballer [David Beckham] earlier in the day. Its tagline is, "He's well dressed, narcissistic and bun-obsessed. But don't call him gay." In other words, the metrosexual is a flamer. I think the increasing presence of these declaratively heterosexual metrosexuals is quite a phenomenon. It messes with the ideal of the stoic, John Wayne type masculine hero. (What's interesting is how much gay men in cinema have served to bolster and in fact create this image of the ideal heterosexual man -- people like [Rock Hudson] and [Montgomery Clift].) It's even different from the trash-talking, macho attitude of sports heroes like Babe and Ali. Instead, we're getting outrageous, fashion conscious flamers who have a flair for cross-dressing. (I wonder what's up with [Dennis Rodman].)

It's fascinating to think about that turn in gender representation. We now have people like Beckham and Zito who embrace previously taboo (for "real men") cultural practices like accessorizing, yoga, frequently changing outrageous hair styles, and (gasp!) wearing women's clothing (ooo... must find that picture of Dennis Rodman in the wedding gown). It's probably too naive to think that these examples are a manifestation of a total change in attitude about gender conformity and such. (After all, these people are still "stars" and therefore exempt in many ways from the everyday practices of gender policing, despite the excess of media coverage on their transgressions.) The fact that we see these guys, that we are allowed to experience their naughtiness, shores up the crumbling edifices of gender norms. Their actions feel more like the high school tradition of "powderpuff football" (I want to say "Powerpuff football," but that's not quite right) where the football players dress up as cheerleaders and the cheerleaders dress up as football players. Maybe their abnormality serves to point out what should be normal. I dunno. It doesn't quite make sense to me.

In terms of sexuality, too, these metrosexuals are always avowedly not gay. The first thing Zito said when he came on camera was that he loved watching Mexican soap operas because he has a thing for Latin chicks. It's as if he has to shoo away ambiguity before anyone can start to wonder... Of course Kilborn later in the show, clearly thinking Zito is a fruit, jokes about Zito having to give a press conference like [Mike Piazza]...

      >> 7:54 AM

Monday, July 22, 2002

I'm definitely a city person. Gimme lots of lights, the constant presence of people (in cars at least), and apartment buildings crammed full of life. The woods and cabins give me the creeps at night. I just got back from visiting my friend who just moved out into the middle of nowhere. It's a nice little cabin duplex, but all that darkness is too much for me. As I walked out to my car down the unlit gravel driveway, I was sure some creature from the trees was going to jump out and maul me. Gimme a dark, deserted alley over dark, deserted woods any night. And to think that in elementary school I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a nature guide...

It's odd that I'm not very social, bordering on anti-social, yet I still need to be surrounded by people all the time. I can't imagine living in a house unless it's with lots of people I know. I like living in apartment complexes, though not necessarily because I find them aesthetically pleasing. I like having people around that I don't have to interact with. I like not being alone in the middle of woods that stretch for miles in each direction. I like knowing that if I absolutely needed help, I could just run screaming across the hall to my neighbor-strangers.

      >> 10:19 PM

Sunday, July 21, 2002


There are these [Tonberry] creatures towards the end of Final Fantasy X that mete out a counterattack based on how many fiends you have killed: the more you've slayed, the more you'll be damaged. I'd like to be able to say that if I were ever to run into such a creature, I would only get loving and care in return. My new motto is: Practicing random acts of kindness since 2002.

      >> 9:18 PM

Friday, July 19, 2002

Eep. Finally figured out why I haven't been able to publish my posts here the last couple of days. Silly archive template disappeared. And I didn't have it saved with the javascript stuff to make the dates look pretty so I just spent a good half hour trying to locate and reconstruct it. Hope it's working now.

I haven't mentioned that my sister is going to be visiting! She's coming during the week that my parents are here. We'll have to go get Carolina BBQ.

      >> 11:18 PM


For those of you following my application-for-residency drama, I received this via certified mail today:

The University of North Carolina
Office of the President
Post Office Box 2688, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2688

Elizabeth C. Bunting, Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs

July 15, 2002


Dear Mr. Lai;

This is to notify you that your appeal to the State Residence Committee of your nonresident determination by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was reviewed on Wednesday, July 10, 2002. After careful analysis of your contentions and review of the appeal record, the committee moved to sustain the institution's determination.

Your administrative remedies in this appeal are now exhausted. It would be your prerogative, however, to initiate a reclassification inquiry by filing a new application for residence status at such time as you determine that your status has changed.

Yours truly,

Elizabeth C. Bunting
Co-Chair, State Residence Committee

fuckity fuck fuck

      >> 1:01 PM

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

I woke up this morning to the eerie glow of orange light in the bedroom. The sun was just rising over the trees and still held a dark, intense color. It took a while for me to realize that it was still early and not because an alien ship with orange lights was hovering outside in the parking lot.

I felt like someone had poured in my nose and down my throat the contents of those tiny packages in some dry foods labeled DESSICANT - DO NOT EAT - THROW AWAY. I stumbled out of bed, downed two cups of water, turned off the air conditioning unit, ate an orange, and took a loooooonnnnng steamy shower. After the shower, I had another cup of water, ate a banana, and am now sipping on a cup of tea that sits directly under my nose so the steam can waft up to my nasal passages. I don't know why I seem to dry out like a dead insect when I go to sleep, fleeting associations with Kafka's bug.

I've been riding the emotional rollercoaster again recently. I managed to tear myself away from total immersion in FFX over the weekend and on Monday I was positively manic, working on organizing and cleaning up my apartment. I bought a stand for the tv, shelves for the closet, two weeks' worth of groceries, and started cleaning. It felt great to be so active, to make visible progress. And then yesterday all of a sudden I was in a funk again, wandering listlessly around town in my air conditioned car, fleeing something or someone or someplace. I could blame it all on Rob who snapped at me in the morning (he gets grumpy when he's sleepy), but I know that even if it was the incident that pushed me over the edge, I was already standing at the edge, toeing the empty space before me. [Mae] wrote recently that zinc supplements have evened out her mood swings. I've suspected for a long while that proper nutrition would help my mood swings a lot, though I have never put such a project into practice. Maybe I'll start simply with this multivitamin tablet sitting on the desk in front of me.

In terms of mood, I'm on a much more even keel today. I feel reflective and contemplative. Actually, I should say by late last night I was feeling this way. I even picked up a book and started reading.

My e-mail correspondents are a bunch of potty mouths. I've mentioned this to a couple of people regarding their messages already, but I've recently upgraded my e-mail program and now it includes something called [MoodWatch]: "MoodWatch can detect aggressive, demeaning or rude language in the email you send and receive by looking at both individual words and complete phrases." It's a hilarious feature for me, even as it rankles my anti-censorship sensibilities, especially in the context of protecting "sensitive" eyes (usually children) from certain words or ideas. But it's hilarious, I say, because it consists of a three chili rating system. I haven't figured out how to get it to show me what words it considers offensive, but I'm working on it. In addition to warning you about incoming mail's content, the program proposes to keep you in line, to make you a more "responsible" e-mailer. For example, a flagged outgoing message with one chili means, "Better hope you know the person." Two chilis means, "Watch out, you're playin' with fire chilies here." And three means, "Whoa, this is the kind of thing that might get your keyboard washed out with soap." I just think the chilis are cute.

      >> 7:22 AM

Monday, July 15, 2002

I'm feeling very snacky today. I want some bite-sized soft oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Mmmm.... I'm having blueberry yogurt instead. Still yummy, but not quite what my tongue craves. My teeth seem to be incredibly sensitive to cold today, though. Ouch.

On AIM today, my brother told me that the new [Gatchaman] comic book just came out. I rushed over to the comic store shortly after and found out to my dismay that they were sold out, and indeed the main distributor of the comic had sold out so no reshipments would make it available to me. I'm sure I could find it online somewhere, but I'm too lazy. I'll just read my brother's copy when next I visit him.

      >> 4:04 PM

Sunday, July 14, 2002

I wish my upstairs neighbors would stop stomping around. Grrr.

      >> 5:29 PM

My head is throbbing in that I-need-sleep-desperately kind of way. I went to a late screening of Halloween: Resurrection last night and then stayed up afterwards playing more of my FFX game because I didn't want to have nightmares of Michael Myers walking through my apartment's flimsy front door. I'm incredibly superstitious and literal in the way of believing that movie villains/demons will and can manifest into my life as soon as I've watched/consumed their movie essence. I decided last night that I do not like slasher movies.

Can't pull anything out of this brain right now. Oh, saw Reign of Fire on Friday as noted earlier. The dragons were really cool. The story sucked ass (in a bad way). The movie was a total testosterone-fest, a pissing contest. I'm sure there are plenty of reviews out there analyzing this unimaginative repast of macho manhood.

      >> 5:28 PM

Friday, July 12, 2002

Swum. One of those verbs that just doesn't quite sound right, forcing mental conjugations swim swam swum? and sometimes a trip into the dictionary if it is convenient. Oooo, look. Right under the entry for 'swim' is 'swimmeret,' a swimming-foot in crustaceans.

The days have been blurring together, bound up not just with FFX, but headaches and blurry eyesight. I've really got to stop. The other day (Wednesday?) I saw [Lilo & Stitch] which was cute as all get out. But the story was excessively sentimental. "Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind." It's of course classic Disney-fare with the orphaned child desperately searching for family. (I'm intrigued by how Disney animated movies seem almost exclusively to deal with "exotic" locales and non-Anglo American cultures, but I don't really have any thoughts right now. Here's an article sort of addressing the topic: ['Lilo' captures Hawai'i spirit in an appealing way].) Still, there were moments when I almost teared up. I guess I have to re-evaluate (again) emotions, sentimentality, family, etc. rather than just pretending I'm above it all, a cool, rational being with no attachments.

I also saw [L.I.E.] on video earlier this week. It was... umm... I dunno. I guess it's a rather daring film as critics and commentators have said in showing the unthinkable characters of teenage male hustlers and older men who have relationships with boys. Frankly, though, it didn't seem to do much for me. I'm not shocked by the idea of a fifteen-year-old and a fifty-five-year-old possibly having sex, certainly not in the two having some sort of friendship. And the violent ending was just so unredemptive (yes, I want all my gay-themed movies to be redemptive, where the queer characters don't meet a grisly end).

In a few hours (once Rob wakes up), we're going to see [Reign of Fire]! Woo hoo! Dragons kick ass! I agree with Rob, though: if the dragons don't win the battle against humans, we will be disappointed. (And how likely is that?)

      >> 9:39 AM

Thursday, July 11, 2002

The handwriting on tonight's dinner bill made me homesick. On my way back from campus, starving to the point of dizziness, I decided I wanted sushi. I headed to a Japanese restaurant about fifteen minutes away and settled in to a meal of miso soup, agadashi tofu, and three sushi rolls -- tuna, salmon, eel. It was too much, really -- the soup, appetizer, and two rolls would've been plenty. But as happens when my stomach takes over central control, I ordered excessive amounts of food and ate it all to the point of bursting.

It's funny that so many Japanese restaurants seem to be run by Chinese people, as was the one I visited tonight. In any case, the handwritten numbers on my bill reminded me of my mom's handwriting. I flashed back to looking at columns of numbers my mom had written in her account book. There's a particular way that people who grow up writing Chinese form numbers and letters. I wonder if anyone's done graphological work based on first language learned.

      >> 7:25 PM

[Love and Bullets]: Is it really possible, for instance, to separate the spirit of an organization from its destructive acts? Or does the messy end point indict the generative hopes of groups that so clearly failed their glorious visions?

      >> 5:09 PM

The first sign that the world is ending was that I had e-mailed Hanna something like five times today after a dry spell of a year or so. Same thing could be said for my posts here today, I guess. Watch out!

Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 12:00:44 -0500
From: Hanna
To: 'duck vamps'
Subject: RE: end of the world, pt. 2

heh you crack me up!
send me the pic already!

-----Original Message-----
From: duck vamps
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2002 11:57 AM
To: Hanna
Subject: end of the world, pt. 2

and it's like 65 degrees outside here right now! not hot and humid! hell
has frozen over!

      >> 5:02 PM

Hmmm. I can't decide if I loathe the odd stares and even the compliments I've been getting about my blue hair or if I just find it mildly annoying. I hate the fact that my having blue hair draws attention. I don't want attention. I don't like having people look at me (an exhibitionist I am not). But I want blue hair. It's such a dilemma.

      >> 4:53 PM

['Life of Pi': Taming the Tiger]: Pi's battle is more subtle. The boy must finesse his demon, not overcome it, and do so by means of a kind of psychological jujitsu. He comes to realize that survival involves knowing when to assert himself and when to hold back, when to take the upper hand and when to yield to a power greater than himself. He discovers, in other words, that living with a tiger ultimately requires acts of both will and faith.

(review of book I bought per my dentist's recommendation)

      >> 9:36 AM

... maybe my body won't feel so broken when winter rolls around ...

The Internet seems broken, too. Half the pages I'm trying to load aren't working...

      >> 9:27 AM

Monday, July 08, 2002

["Underage and Under Siege"]: Levine describes the obsession with pedophiles as stemming both from a reluctance to confront incest and the rampant sexualization of children throughout the culture. Rather than focus on ourselves, she says, adults "project that eroticized desire outward, creating a monster to hate, hunt down, and punish."

      >> 7:49 PM

I managed to pull myself away from FFX. For the last two days, I've been holed up in my apartment in front of the television, feverishly fighting my way through the fiends and evil maesters of Spira. If it weren't for outside obligations, I would never leave, even after hours of staring at the screen leave my eyes strained and my neck sore from awkward angles sprawled on the loveseat. I had to return some library books today on campus and I'm out of food at home. Hunger, really, has managed to pull me away.

Pity, since it's really quite a nice day today. Well, at least the evening is nice -- not too hot and humid. I might take a stroll around campus and grab some dinner.

Has anything happened in the world while I've been gone? (In the game's world, we're currently disenchanted, cruelly -- but in a good way -- robbed of our faith in Yevon. I love how the game plays out an Enlightenment-like ideal of progress and reason, and yet is still mired in magic and a world of the elements.)

      >> 7:34 PM

Sunday, July 07, 2002

I've been a student of conversation lately. A poor one, but intent nonetheless. I've discovered that most of my life, I've consistently learned how to shut down conversations at parties, with strangers, anytime, anywhere. I'd like to say that I'm just antisocial (I am) and don't want to talk to others. But when I do want to talk, I find myself constantly mired in awkward silences. Do I talk too much about myself? Do I not show enough interest in what others are saying? How can I make comments that propel a conversation rather than end it, sounding like "The Final Word" on the matter?

I'm trying to pay attention to the tones of pronounciation. A single word can be inflected into multiple meanings, not the least of which makes it a question, a statement, a command (I stole that from Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost). In Mandarin and in Taiwanese -- tonal languages -- the tones of particular syllabic sounds make all the difference. A change in the tone makes a syllable a completely different word. Four or five tones in Mandarin, eight or so in Taiwanese. This substantial difference between Chinese and English makes learning Chinese very difficult for English speakers, I've found. The rhythms and cadences of sentences are entirely different in the two languages. While in English sentences pattern rhythms, in Chinese it seems that words pattern the rhythms of sentences. And yet, it still seems to be that for both, in tones lies the expressive quality of speech.

I find myself often just not understanding what other people say until I've responded "incorrectly." Or it isn't until later in the conversation that I figure out what has been going on. I'm slow. Perhaps I need to learn and memorize a few flexible phrases that help to sustain conversations, even if my mind is lagging a few steps behind.

But all that is perhaps less annoying than dealing with my slow tongue. It stumbles over sentences, trips consistently on polysyllabic words, swallows quickly uttered sounds in thickness. I suppose practicing elocution would help. Aaaaa.... eeeee..... iiiiii..... ooooooo..... uuuuuu..... And I remember in elementary school, my reticence in class and on the playground earned me a visit to the speech therapist in a tiny, windowless room on school grounds, guide to lispers and others with speech impediments. But then she deemed me within the acceptable range of lingual skills and simply encouraged me to speak more.

I am still a student of conversation. Speak to me so that I may learn.

      >> 9:27 AM

Friday, July 05, 2002

The house was hot and humid. Outside, ironically, was cool and refreshing. The party lasted all afternoon and into the night. Though no one brought fireworks, the grill offered fiery fun for a few moments. Over the course of the day, a few partiers battled for the title of champion ping pong player. There was no clear champion. Empty bottles of beer, wine, and hard liquor accumulated on the kitchen counter.

      >> 7:38 PM

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Can't... stop... playing... Final... Fantasy... X....

Send help...

And supplies...

      >> 1:25 PM

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Yesterday I watched on video this made-for-tv movie [The Lost Empire]. It was fairly entertaining, but such a Hallmark movie. I mean, literally. It's a Hallmark Entertainment production. It had a very sappy love story involving self-sacrifice, finding yourself, following your heart, etc.

I picked the movie out at the store because it stars [Russell Wong] as the Monkey King and boasts a script by [David Henry Hwang]. I liked the basis of the story and will have to go read Journey to the West. (The book is about the adventures of the irreverent Monkey King.) In the movie, a disillusioned China scholar (Thomas Gibson) must rescue the original manuscript of Journey to the West from evil demon censors. If the demons succeed in destroying the manuscript (it's taking five hundred years to cast a spell to destroy it), the human world will regress to a pre-modern time. The demons want to restore a "traditional" set of morals and such (i.e., feudal, patriarchal, etc.). Along the way, the scholar gets encouragement from the Goddess of Mercy (Bai Ling) and help from the Monkey King (Russell Wong) and his friends.

I loved how the movie skewers Confucius, complete with his "Confucius says..." attitude. As important a philosopher as he is, Confucius just is not a very progressive thinker. The movie did have some strange politics, though. Why did the producers [insist] on a white male romantic lead? I realize the shortcomings of advocating a positive-images-representation mentality about cultural production, but there is also something to be said for the simple fact that even in a movie such as this one, the producers couldn't seem to grant an Asian (American) male the part of the hero. Such casting also sort of subverts the intent of the script (in my mind) to insist that Chinese (American?) values are not the archaic, Confucian-centered values of feudalism and patriarchy by shifting the hero's perspective to that of Western/white America.

      >> 10:50 AM

Monday, July 01, 2002

Sometimes I really question how I could be the product of my parents, how I could possibly have come out of my mother's womb. Today I received in the mail a "care" package from my mom consisting of:
  1. Portraits of Freedom: 14 People Who Came Out of Homosexuality by Bob Davies (North American director of Exodus International), published 2001

  2. Pursuing Sexual Wholeness: How Jesus Heals the Homosexual by Andrew Comiskey, published 1989

  3. A Personal Prayer Book (duplicate of the one she sent me earlier this summer)

  4. a short article, "Happily Ever After: Marriage News You Can Use" from Family Circle about a study showing a correlation between marriage and health

  5. a short article, "Money Does Buy Happiness, But Marriage Buys More" from goddess knows what crappy family-values extolling magazine my mom's reading

  6. a 2001 USPS Love Stamp card with the written message (reproduced as is):


    Our dearest son. We love you, wish the best for your life. We are your concerned parent. Love you always.



Up until now I've essentially ignored my mother's feeble attempts at converting me from homosexuality through Christian "compassion." But it's getting out of hand now. I think it's time to respond with some queer edukaytin'. The silliest part is that my mom is not a Christian. She has never gone to church. She never showed any inklings of being Christian-religious or any kind of religious until I said the fateful words, "I'm gay."

It was bad timing on my part, I guess, because I came out to my parents in the heyday of the ex-gay movement, when those "compassionate" Christians were running full-page ads in major newspapers and magazines about the power of Jesus to save homosexuals from their sinful ways. Now my mom seems to be holding on to this promise of the Christian Right that their Jesus's love can make me an ex-.

It all reminds me of a few years ago when I applied for an internship at [the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute]. The NGLTF is a kick-ass activist organization, and the Policy Institute produces important knowledge (statistics, analysis, etc.) about gays, politics, democratic practices, etc. I had come across one of the Policy Institute's publications, Calculated Compassion: How the Ex-Gay Movement Serves the Right's Attack on Democracy [download pdf file], in the spring of 1999, leading me to apply for the internship. I sent a [cover letter] and [writing sample] (based on an unprinted letter to the editor of my college newspaper) and they granted me an interview, but I didn't get the position. In any case, I found Surina Khan's analysis of the Christian Right's embrace of the ex-gay movement as a political maneuver to be profoundly astute. I can't imagine how anyone could accept the ex-gay rhetoric as anything other than a front for despotic Christian fundamentalism.

I don't know how to respond to my mom. I'm guessing militant performances of queerness and homosexuality are not going to be helpful. (Guess what mom, I sucked my boyfriend's cock last night. We might lick each others' asses tonight.) It's just incredibly scary to even think about acknowledging to my parents that I am a practicing homosex, that I do indeed have sex with men. Since I haven't shared anything in my life with them beyond the "I'm gay," they surely are holding on to the possibility that I am still "unspoiled" in bodily practice.

I guess I could start by letting know that I have a boyfriend, that I in fact live with him. I could ease them into acceptance through the rhetoric of normality (I'm creating an "alternative" family, but a family nonetheless), much as I'm wary of trying to assimilate (go queers!). But how to tell? My sister and I have recently been discussing how much information we can or should share with our parents. I don't know exactly how they did it, but my parents have created this atmosphere of fear about telling them things. My sister went five years before telling them she had a boyfriend. My other sister still hasn't mentioned her boyfriend (after her divorce) to my parents.

At least my dad just tried to [bribe] me into leading a "straight" life.

But really. If anyone has any for a confused duck, don't hesitate to pass it on.

      >> 8:06 PM

Eek. Spent an hour-and-a-half at the dentist today. My mouth was a full-scale construction site, with up to four sucking, squirting, spinning instruments humming away at once. I got a couple of cavities filled, though I have to go back in a couple of weeks for some more fillings. :(

I had a lot of time to let my mind wander. But I'll spare you most of the random things I pondered. When the dental assistant put a rubber dental dam in my mouth, I couldn't help but think cunnilingus. The only context I'd ever seen one of those stretchy things before was in safer sex workshops and in the Women's Center at Yale. Heh.

      >> 4:22 PM

Woo hoo! New pylduck layout. [Scapegoatee] made me my shiny new image-icon. Yeah I know. I just revamped a couple of weeks ago. But when you're trying to banish depression by changing your look, might as well do it on the web, too. :)

      >> 7:54 AM