Thursday, October 31, 2002


      >> 3:53 PM

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Ha ha. Rob was confused this morning when he saw the new desktop image on my computer. He said in shock, "There's a [girl] on your computer!" She's the only girl for me. I'm very bummed that I seem to have missed the Rolling Stone issue (October 25, 2002) featuring her. Where do past issues of magazines go when more current issues take their place at newsstands?

      >> 9:24 AM

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I've been so out of it not to have known in advance that both [Christina Aguilera's Stripped] and [Tori Amos's Scarlet's Walk] came out today. Procrastinating just a little bit ago, I surfed to their web sites and discovered, much to my surprise and joy, that it was time for me to run over to the local record shop for some purchases. Say what you will, but I still find Christina fascinating and attractive. I'm still musing over her evocation of strong woman-ness as an embrace of sexuality and her turn to an autobiographical, confessional mode. I'm troubled by the too-easy claims to "realness" and "real emotions" that characterize her explanations of this second album, but I'm neither intent on simply dismissing her as naive and deluded by the powers-that-be. And I also love the fact that she can say (on the album and in interviews) that she is not a virgin anymore. As for Tori, she just rocks. More later when I've had a chance to listen to these albums.

      >> 2:10 PM

Monday, October 28, 2002

Oh. My. [God.]

Also, here's ["Fighter"] as a download.

      >> 9:18 AM

Freshly washed and air dried, my hair stands out abruptly and defiantly. I like my hair at this particular length -- long enough to be a formidable presence, but not so long as to irritate my ears and neck. My hair also stands up recalcitrantly. Only the stiffest of hair wax will get it to lie down flat. Otherwise, it's like a porcupine.

. . .

["Black in the 'burbs: Racial strife in Contra Costa has families rethinking 'American Dream'"]: Came across this article last night while I was avoiding work. This is the world I grew up in. On the [attached map], you can see Orinda, the little town where my parents still live. It was a very white suburb. And I remember an incident at my high school one year where one student used the horrific image and idea of racial lynching very unthinkingly as humor during a pep rally. Luckily, the student responsible was reprimanded and the students, teachers, and administration rallied to discuss the unacknowledged racism of our mostly white school. And the strangest thing was that the incident really stood in for the more consciously hateful racism that was always lurking in the community (white supremicist thinking that erupted in other cities in the county, as noted in the article).

I thought I had something more to say about this article, but apparently not at the moment.

      >> 6:32 AM

Beer at 2:30 in the morning!

I think I might be developing a sleeping pattern out of this sleep for a few hours in the evening then wake up for a few more thing. I am really going to try to do some work now, though. Maybe the beer isn't the best idea I've had...

      >> 1:33 AM

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Well hey. Lookee that. End of daylight savings time. We get an extra hour this weekend!

Having a bit of insomnia. Woke up around 1:45 am (after falling asleep with lights on, tv blaring at 11:00 pm), quieted and darkened the apartment, brushed my teeth, drank some refreshingly cool water, then climbed back into bed to curl up next to Rob. But I couldn't sleep. Half an hour later, I realize it's now 2:30 am or rather, 1:30 am again (that 1:00 to 2:00 time playing itself over). Might as well up and while away some time.

So I went to see [The Transporter] last night. And boy was it bad. I didn't realize one of the filmmakers was also responsible for The Fifth Element or I wouldn't have been so surprised. Anyways, The Transporter was just cheesy beyond belief. It's also definitely clamoring for the role of the next Rambo (a special forces kind of guy works as the lone savior, fighting legions of armed enemies with just a knife). If I see another movie about the lone male warrior with a heart of steel whose world falls apart (but for the better) when he learns the love of a woman, I might just have to puke.

In any case, the movie did have some interesting aspects. For one, it had this weird not-quite American feel even though it's a Hollywood movie. And it'd be interesting to see what the stylistics are that define Hollywood cinema against others (French, in particular?). For another, the very poorly worked out plot has some very interesting implications. You see, (stop reading if you're deathly afraid of spoilers, though really, the movie's only worth it for the action sequences and shirtless [Jason Statham] anyways), the beautiful woman named Lai with whom our hero the transporter falls in love is this brave daughter of a ruthless Asian businessman (in cahoots with an American businessman simply known as "Wall Street"). The business practice that is at the root of all the explosions, shootings, etc. is the smuggling of persons in ship freight containers across the ocean from China to France. So it would've been very interesting if the movie had given more thought to this story. Why were they smuggling these people? What are the histories of business practices that allow "Wall Street" and the Asian entrepreneur to profit from the mistreatment of people? It was also very interesting to see in the conflict between Lai and her father that she kept speaking Chinese to him even though he only spoke English; and then at one point, he finally yells at her that he's paid a lot of money to educate her in English and the least she can do is speak it. So even though this movie is set in France, it oddly revolves around the hegemony of English as the lingua franca of business.

. . .

Lying in bed unable to sleep, I was thinking about what I would do if I could live high school over. Perhaps these thoughts were spurred by this new show Do Over that I caught a glimpse of this week. But in any case, I imagined myself a much more expressive person. I was very withdrawn and shy in high school (still am). But I remember seeing so many fellow students who seemed to have a much harder time with the whole experience. At least I wasn't picked on nor suffered any other indignities like having to struggle through classes or even phys ed. I imagine myself being more expressive by talking to these classmates, maybe even giving hugs and kisses. Oh, how much I want to believe in the power of friendly contact. If only hugs and kisses could solve all our insecurities and pains.

      >> 1:59 AM

Saturday, October 26, 2002

In high school, I was (surprise) an editor of the art and literary magazine, The Inkspot. At the end of some of the issues, we editors would print a list of grievances (or sometimes of celebrations). These lists were meant to be humorous; though since I lack a funny bone, when I once had to pull together an issue by myself, I came up with the lamest list. I still remember one thing I did that I thought was hilarious, though.
  1. Having to repeat myself.
  2. Having to repeat myself.

And it's very true. I find people who tell the same stories over and over at parties and stuff to be very odd, especially if these stories are (and they tend to be) meant to be funny. Even if the people at the parties are mostly different, I couldn't really see myself telling the same things over and over. I hate repeating myself. It's like what I say doesn't count or people weren't paying attention the first time. Why can't I just say things once and get it over with?

Ok. That was much more of a rant than I intended. But I do find it strange how this world is so much made up of repetitions. Over and over again. If someone ever said something new, would we even recognize it?

      >> 11:12 AM

Thursday, October 24, 2002

The world would be a far lonelier place without chocolate.

      >> 2:15 PM

I got up, showered, ate some breakfast, and now it's already almost noon. I think time's racing against itself or something.

I've recently rediscovered spicy foods, especially hot peppers. Joe was much unable to deal with spiciness, and since I was never particularly fond of hot stuff, I just learned to avoid spicy foods and to order dishes "mild" at restaurants. But you know, spiciness has its own pleasures. I've been eating slices of jalapeño peppers, sprinkling my food with red pepper flakes, and ordering Mexican food with the hot salsa. I'm enjoying the way hot peppers, marinated in vinegary juices, explode in my mouth with a scorching, sour sensation. Yes, I enjoy that. I like to feel my lips burn, my tongue bristle with indignation. And hey, a few months ago, I heard on the radio (so it must be true) that hot peppers do not irritate stomachs, do not give us indigestion or other such ailments. It's really rather a coincidence that we often get indigestion after eating spicy foods, the uncomfortable burning sensation coming from other elements of those foods like the oils and cream.

      >> 10:57 AM

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I am but a piece of ice floating on the surface of an ocean while other people are more like massive icebergs. Their lives are much more than I see. Every once in awhile, I'll get a glimpse of all the stuff hidden below the surface -- what they do on weekends, what other people they know outside of this department, what pastimes they have beyond reading books and watching movies -- and I'll wonder why I am such a bore in comparison. I'll hear that someone does all sorts of things outside of classes, even if it is just reading other books. Or I'll hear that someone plays in a band. Meanwhile, all I do is go home after school, collapse, then wake up the next day to stumble through classes again.

I've always had this sense that I live my life on the surface. Everything I do is visible to the world because I really don't do much; I don't do nearly enough. And somehow everyone else lives so much more involved lives. I had this sense in high school art when it seemed that everyone in class did so many more drawings, paintings, sculptures, and other works of art than I did. They had sketchbooks upon sketchbooks filled with ideas, trial runs, drafts of extensive work. On the other hand, what I showed on critique days, what I ended up submitting for my portfolios, were all I had.

I want to have excess. I want to have a wealth of stuff-I've-done to draw on when I engage the world. I want to be able to say I've thought about things already, that I am not entering into conversations with a total lack of experience with seemingly common debates and ideas. Where do people get the energy to do so much that isn't tied to work (what must be done for school, for a job, etc.)?

      >> 9:21 AM

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Though Eric has not been sending out [Better World] messages recently, he has not been idle in working on those issues. In [An Assessment of the Feasibility of WHO’s Proposal to Treat 3 Million HIV/AIDS Patients by 2005: A Physicians for Human Rights White Paper ], he has analyzed the situation surrounding the funding of large-scale HIV/AIDS treatment. As the press release [Physicians for Human Rights Says WHO's Plan to Treat 3 Million HIV/AIDS Patients by 2005 is Feasible; Group Outlines Steps Needed for Implementation] explains, this analysis

outlines the overwhelming benefits that could be achieved in the fight against the AIDS pandemic if the international community, especially the United States, embraces and supports the World Health Organization's (WHO) goal of treating three million HIV/AIDS victims by 2005 (known as "3 X 5"). The paper, prepared by PHR Bernstein Fellow Eric A. Friedman, found that the significant obstacles to achieving this ambitious standard could be overcome, or at least largely ameliorated, by concerted financial and logistical support by donor nations.

The paper concludes that concerns about the feasibility of large-scale funding programs for HIV/AIDS treatment are unfounded. Though Eric tactfully does not explicitly go to such extremes, he ultimately suggests that worrying about how to implement such programs rather than working to put them into action is just another way of saying the lives of millions affected by HIV/AIDS are not important. He writes, "The real question is not of feasibility, however, but of commitment."

      >> 4:39 PM

Suddenly my world has gotten smaller.

I forgot to mention earlier that I got to see [Lea Salonga] in Flower Drum Song, and it was wonderful. She's the real reason I bought the ticket for the show. There's just something about her voice that gets me. I was pleasantly surprised by the actor playing her love interest, too. When [Jose Llana] broke out into his first (of only two, really) song, singing to Lea's character, I got all hot and bothered.

On another note, I find it odd that there hasn't been much discussion about the cross-ethnic representations of Flower Drum Song. The two romantic leads are Filipino; yet the characters they play are supposed to be Chinese. The whole category of Asian American is just so complicated. I don't know what to do with it. On the one hand, the visibility of Asian actors as a whole benefits from plays (and movies) like Flower Drum Song, but if this visibility comes at the cost of effacing the differences within Asian America, aren't we simply reinforcing the idea that we're all the same? And no, I'm not saying that only Chinese people should play Chinese characters, only black people should play black characters, etc. But there's a remarkable way that this revised version of the play about racial identity doesn't deal with the complications of ethnicity.

. . .

I'm loving the [Norah Jones] song "Don't Know Why." It's comforting to me with its cabaret-like intimate sound. Though I'm trying to curb my book-and-cd buying, I might just have to get her album soon.

      >> 4:23 PM

I'm so over straight love stories. They just make me want to retch. That was my first reaction after seeing [Flower Drum Song] on Broadway last Friday. I did like the show, though. My favorite line came from the queeny character named Harvard. He said, "When the Europeans were still living in caves, we Chinese were already being fabulous," and waved around the sleeves of the Chinese opera costume (for a female character) he was wearing. I just wish his queeniness, his gender-bending, was less simply a comedic element and more developed as a possibility for human expression. (He was tolerated more than loved by the other characters. I can just see the hetero-reproducing couples in the sequel saying, "Oh, Uncle Harvard is so much fun, but we sure hope our children don't turn out like him.")

What I hate about these stories is how they reinforce a particular narrative of boy-meets-girl as natural. I totally can't get over how much people are still invested in a patriarchal gender hierarchy. Like, this new version of Flower Drum Song was SO much better than the old version in so many ways, including its views on what it means to be Asian American and what women are. But it still was very much about how men's egos have to be stroked by women and how women's roles in society are about making men flourish. The improvement in this new version was that even though these roles are still central, the story creates a little space, a little bit of room, for people who have different ideas of what they should be doing as men and as women.

But worse than straight love stories are gay (or more accurately, gay-marketed) movies that only hint at gay love while showing explicit hetero sex. I mean, like totally X-rated straight sex. If you ever go to the gay section of your video rental stores, I guarantee that at least half the movies fall into this category. Sure, they deal with gay "main" characters. But somehow, all you ever see is the development of heterosexual sex. Gay sex still only exists in between the lines. Even when gayness is ostensibly the substance of the movie. Just goes to show that even if being gay is more acceptable now, actually having gay sex is still unthinkable.

I've decided I only want to deal with gay or queer people.

I think I'm a gay separatist.

. . .

But this also has something to do with what I want to read, study, research, whatever. While much important work in gay and queer studies has come out of reading literature between the lines, reading for aporias and such, I want to deal with those writers and other artists who have taken on homosexuality head on. I understand influential arguments about how mainstream discourse relies on the abjection of homosexuality, of making gayness invisible or horrible. But how can we reclaim alternative sexualities beyond simply revealing their invisibility in these mainstream discourses? What about all the people who have been writing about being gay?

. . .

While in NYC, I picked up The Golden State, an album by [Mia Doi Todd], and the concept album for [Making Tracks], a rock musical about the history of Asian Americans. Making Tracks is one of those things (the usual analogy is the car accident, but I won't go there) that I just must pay attention to, even though it seems somehow not very good. It might just be that I think the creators, in calling the show an "interdisciplinary" exploration of Asian American history, are being pretentious. I don't know.

. . .

I didn't get to see many people in the City over the weekend. I was a stress case, lugging two tons of papers on the plane with me to grade. I did get the important stuff done, though, and made a sizable dent in those stacks of student papers. I spent most of my time in the city grading. Grading in the hotel room. Grading at cafes. Grading. Grading.

I did manage to stop by [Palacinka], a little crepe restaurant in the SoHo area. I had a very delicious chocolate crepe for brunch, and that alone made my trip worthwhile.

Next time I visit, I'll have to make sure to make time for seeing my friends. And there were also a lot of people I know here who went there for fall break. I totally should have met up with them at some point rather than stressing out by myself.

      >> 3:07 PM

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Reading the other day ["Seeing Dragon's Disabilities"], a review of the latest Hannibal Lechter movie Red Dragon, I thought again about how important social interactions and cultural representations seem to be in forming one's relationship to the world. Taken to the extreme, this argument is of course untenable: our identities and characteristics are driven solely by how people treat us. But of course the opposite extreme is also unrealistic: there is some sort of inner core of identity that we project that the world cannot change or alter through our social interactions. This article discusses two characters with disabilities in the movie and how they seem to have developed as persons based on how others treated them.

I'm very drawn to the importance of social interactions in the development of our selves. One reason I like [Smallville] so much is that by retelling the Superman-Lex Luthor story from the beginning, before they become arch-nemeses, the show is exploring this very interesting dynamic of villification and good faith. Clark Kent is Lex Luthor's friend. He gives him the benefit of the doubt always. Clark's father, on the other hand, always assumes the worst of Lex and doesn't trust him in the least. The dynamics are changing now, of course. And on the other side, Lex has this very antagonistic relationship with his father who refuses to treat him with any modicum of generosity (supposedly to prepare him for the ruthlessness of the business world). Despite his intentions to become a kinder, gentler businessman unlike his father, Lex seems to slip every once in awhile, revealing a darkness that is a result of living in a world that constantly degrades and mistrusts him.

      >> 2:50 PM

Monday, October 14, 2002

Last night I stumbled on an episode of [Law and Order: Criminal Intent]. I was flipping through the channels when I came upon the opening scene involving the chair of an American Studies department stepping down from his position and opening up a contentious battle over who will be his successor. I thought it rather odd that academia would be interesting enough fodder for some prime-time television show, so I continued watching. And of course, there was a murder leading to the opening credits for the show.

But what really interested me was how the story obviously "ripped from the headlines" the controversy over Cornell West at Harvard U. A number of months ago, I remembered hearing about the problems West was having with the administration at the university over his work. The administrators didn't like how West was doing his scholarship. The show didn't really end up developing much that controversy over what constitutes appropriate academic scholarship, though.

Instead, it played up the more prurient aspects of the university - the stories we all hear in circumspect ways about inappropriate liaisons and affairs, about the silliness of studying pop culture, and the ultimate bankruptcy of literary studies as a field of study. I really found the episode disturbing in how it dealt with all these issues. Its portrayal of literary analysis was especially troubling because in the hands of the detective, literature simply becomes a "coded" way of saying things, the thesis that interpreting poetry is simply either translating consciously veiled meanings of a work or revealing the repressed psychology of the author. There's also just something about Vincent d'Onofrio that I find eerie.

      >> 3:52 PM

Saturday, October 12, 2002

[A New Musical by Rogers and Hwang]:

As a result of these explorations, I have become less interested in seeking some holy grail of authenticity and more convinced of the need to create characters who burst from the page or stage with the richness, complexity and contradictions of real people.
At its core, a stereotype is bad writing: a one- or two-dimensional cutout devoid of humanity, and therefore prone to demonization. Whether your characters are cooks, laundrymen, computer scientists or gangsters, if they are well written, they will exude humanity, which is ultimately the most effective weapon against stereotypes, and the most visceral measure of authenticity.
In 1958, Rodgers and Hammerstein opened a musical that presented Asian-Americans as a vital part of this country's great social experiment. In 2002, how people from the far corners of this earth gather together to become Americans remains as vital and relevant a question as ever. Perhaps the riddle of identity is not one that we are ever meant to answer definitively. Rather, it is by asking the question throughout our own lives, and over the course of generations, that we give meaning to our existence, and assert our common humanity.

I'm going to see [Flower Drum Song] on Broadway this coming Friday. It was sort of an impulse buy this summer -- the theater ticket and a plane ticket to get me there during Fall Break. (Yeah yeah, I'm such a yuppie to be able to "afford" such an impulse buy. This is also probably part of the reason I have a few thousand dollars of credit card debt, though.) Gosh, I haven't exactly found a place to stay yet. Better start asking people if I can crash at their places or start looking for a cheap hotel. Though I do want to get out of town, I'm also rather reluctant to take this trip because I won't be able to hunker down and do work. But it's not like that's going to happen anyways. Might as well travel and have some fun.

In any case, I like what Hwang says about authenticity and representation. It's a tricky question, especially in the literary academy at large where the knee-jerk response to "identity politics" or any work that recognizes racial difference is to run away and hide. Sure it's ultimately unproductive to rail against stereotypes. They shift constantly and railing against them produces a sort of policing of what is "good" representation versus what is "bad" in a way that erases individual differences. But still, if we didn't do anything about stereotypes or simplistic representations, things would suck. In some ways, we might just be stuck in this continual give-and-take of representational politics, where there aren't definitive answers about what a "good" representation is. Maybe it is just a question of good writing versus bad, complex characterization versus flat.

      >> 11:05 PM

By the time I left campus yesterday, the steady, heavy rainfall had stopped. I thought the drive home would be smooth, if perhaps a bit slow. Everything went fine until I was about halfway home. Then suddenly, there was stopped traffic in every direction. I crept along in stop-and-go traffic for almost an hour (usually a ten minute stretch).

When I finally got home, I found Rob still awake (yay!). I made us some hot chocolate. It was delicious.

      >> 5:24 AM

Friday, October 11, 2002

It was awful in class. The woman sitting next to me took off her wet shoes and socks. And there was just this awful stench. EEEWWW!! I had to breathe through my hand the whole time.

      >> 12:56 PM

It's rainy. And it's wet. And I LOVE it!

I love how everything is drenched. I love the puddles randomly obstructing walkways. I love the way campus looks deserted, the few people out in the rain scurrying frantically to their dry destinations. I love how suddenly Chapel Hill reminds me of the constantly-rain-drenched world of [Tsai Ming-liang's films].

      >> 11:24 AM

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Two reasons to move back to the Bay Area:

1) Considerable (not just talk) work on improving California's air quality by pushing for low and no-emissions cars. Of course, this work is being undermined by [Bush].

2) [Bay Area out of step in U.S. march to war]: It'd be interesting to figure out why the Bay Area seems to be different from the rest of the country. Could it be linked to higher numbers of immigrants?

      >> 10:20 AM

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Why is Carson Daly popular? Why does he have his own late night talk show?

      >> 12:46 AM

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

I'm drinking [Mr. Green] right now.

      >> 3:28 PM

[Once More, With Feeling!]

      >> 3:05 PM

A is for Autumn, the cooling of days. B is for Balance, finding mental equilibrium. C is for Calm, peaceful quiet. D is for Divine, cousin to sublime. E is for Effortless, floating through life. F is for Final, my alphabet only goes so far.

      >> 10:12 AM

Sunday, October 06, 2002

[Victor Webster] is sex on legs. Hummana hummana. Of course, we could never be a couple. Because standing facing each other, I would always be staring at his navel. He's reason alone to watch Mutant X, that weekend tv show (thank god for a show that actually airs Saturday and Sunday afternoons, though) that seems slightly amateurish at times. But hey. Spiffy special effects, complex characterization, intricate plot-lines, and good acting aren't everything.

      >> 11:21 AM

Somehow I intimidate my classmates. I never say anything, but somehow they all think I'm silently judging them, their comments, their intelligence. Do I scowl? Do I still raise my eyebrows quizzically at inopportune moments? (I thought I stamped out that habit a couple of years ago.) Yesterday my advisor joked that I am a testament to the power of silence. Despite my inability to contribute to class discussions, to voice any coherent argument, I've developed this almost-mythic reputation as an intelligent, always-reflective person. Everyone thinks that I am hiding in the back, in the corner, loathing the pitifully inadequate discussion.

If they only knew that I often sit in class, not having done the reading, trying desperately just to follow the trains of thought manifested in discussion.

If only they were right. If only I understood all and more. If only I knew what I was doing in class, in graduate school. If only I could grasp the totality (rather than the futility) of my life. If only.

      >> 11:13 AM

Life is a mystery, they say. And everyone must stand alone. But I hear you call my name, and it feels like home.

Or perhaps like rain. I've always thought calling my name would sound more like rain than home. Rain. I feel it on my fingertips. I hear it on my window pane.

I brought strawberry cupcakes to the Pig Pickin' yesterday, but no one ate any.

I also have a bug bite the size of Mount Olympus on the back of my neck.

      >> 9:36 AM

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Have been reading a novel all afternoon. I'd forgotten how incredible it is to fall into reading stories. Despite the fact that I'm in graduate school for literature, it's been awhile since I've read any fiction.

      >> 4:37 PM

Where are you going?

      >> 12:50 PM

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

I've rediscovered the pleasures of seeds. I'm not talking about shelled seeds, though those are plenty tasty, too. I'm talking about seeds still encased in their protective shells. I'm talking about the activity of eating them, of cracking the shells between your teeth, gently extracting the kernels, and popping them into your mouth. I'm talking about the pace of eating returned to a slow, leisurely activity. I'm talking about eating for the sake of using your mouth rather than simply filling your stomach. I'm talking about the delightful tastes of the salted shells as they brush across your lips and the tip of your tongue. I'm talking about whole kernels, splintered kernels, and crushed shells. I'm talking about the satisfying crunchiness and roasted flavor of the seed kernels themselves. I'm talking about all of these pleasures of seeds.

      >> 9:42 AM