New Year!!

Thu, Feb. 7th, 2013 10:32 am
oyceter: Picture of temple mirrored (taiwan otp)
Now that I have been attempting to plan Chu Xi dinner with sister and reading about other people celebrating online, I am homesick but also getting more into new year mode!

This year: I have no decorations up b/c I don't like the fancier/shinier/more decorated ones they sell around here. I just want red paper with black or gold words on it; no flowers, small children, cartoon characters, and whatnot! Fancy calligraphy and neat ways of writing the characters is good though. It is especially sad because my mom has been taking calligraphy for a while, so for the past few years, I actually had some written by her and her teacher, which was really cool.

(Now getting distracted by calligraphy. This fu is cool, though obvsly it would have to be a snake now. I also really like older style characters, esp. the ones that look like oracle bone ones. And then there are modern ones! I think my mom likes the slightly cao zi style ones, though not if they are too cao.

(As you can tell, I am a bit of a sucker for calligraphy. Also, my chinglish is crap.)

Anyway! The point being, are you guys doing anything for new year? Food details are HIGHLY encouraged. I am going to try steaming a fish again (*crossing fingers*) and the potluck with have dumpling wrapping, sister is making savory nian gao and sweet and sour pork ribs, and other people are in charge of veggies and meatballs in fen si and etc.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
I caught this at the Berkeley Rep, after reading [personal profile] starlady's review. (One huge bonus of my move last year has been much more access to theater.) Growing up, I've always liked the story of the White Snake, and most variants I know include Green Snake and the ending with the pagoda.

I really liked how the play dealt with two main characters being snakes: White Snake and Green Snake are stuffed snake puppets manipulated by two sticks (one for the head, one for the tail), rather like a really, really, really short dragon-dance dragon. They're remarkably expressive, and I loved watching the snakes petulantly coil up or facepalm tailpalm or squirm around uncomfortably. In one or two instances, a line of people holding appropriately colored paper umbrellas would act as the snake, which looked even more like a dragon dance. The paper umbrellas also make an appearance as the pagoda and as a representation of the Buddhist temple. I also loved blue ribbons unwinding from the ceiling as the sound of rain begins, then the other end dropping suddenly and the ribbons floating down and puddling on the floor as the brief storm in the story ends.

(I was also very amused to see the rain sound created by slowly pouring handfuls of rain... it reminds me of a modern ballet I saw back in Taiwan that was about Buddhism or something, except all I can remember is a ballet dancer dressed as the Buddha sitting amidst a pile of rice with grains of rice trickling down from the top of the stage. Younger me obviously had no appreciation for art, since I just snickered at the grains of rice bouncing off his bald head. )

I was worried at first to see a multiracial cast, given that the director/playwright is white, but Green Snake/Greenie and White Snake/Lady Bai are played by Asian actresses, and the love interest (Xu Xian) is played by (I think) a (non-Asian?) man of color. The various side characters, who also act as narrators, are played by people of various races. I was extremely amused to find that the evil Buddhist monk is played by an older white man with a very broad USian (southern? Texan? no idea) accent. He made absolutely no attempt to pronounce any of the Chinese correctly, and I'm pretty sure he was lampooning the USian conservative Christian movement.

I actually found myself more invested in the romance between White Snake and Xu Xian. I vaguely remember that Xu Xian rejects Lady Bai after discovering her snake nature and thinking this was very unfair, but I can't seem to find this version in the Wiki article, so possibly I just made it up. As such, I was pleasantly surprised by the trust and faith in the romance, and despite the occasional slapstick, the actors really sold me on the pairing. I've always loved the Greenie-Lady Bai friendship (so femslashy!), so I was less surprised by that, though still extremely pleased.

It's a very warm and human retelling of the story, as opposed to Tsui Hark's very weird movie version, and I'm really glad I got to see it.
oyceter: (angry dieter's fork)
I think I've recommended Radiolab, a sciencey podcast, to people before. However, they recently published a piece on Yellow Rain and the Hmong experience. I haven't been able to listen to the piece itself; I had to turn it off after the introduction of the segment, in which a CIA agent talks about being posted in the backwaters of Southeast Asia.

Despite Radiolab's many edits of the podcast, they have yet to acknowledge what Eng Yang, a documenter of the Hmong experience for the Thai government, said during the interview or the additional facts he and his niece, author Kao Kalia Yang, provided.

Kao Kalia Yang finally gets a space for her story: (ETA: content warning for racism and discussion of miscarriage)

The aired story goes something like this: Hmong people say they were exposed to Yellow Rain, one Harvard scientist and ex-CIA American man believe that’s hogwash; Ronald Reagan used Yellow Rain and Hmong testimony to blame the Soviets for chemical warfare and thus justified America's own production of chemical warfare. Uncle Eng and I were featured as the Hmong people who were unwilling to accept the “Truth.” My cry at the end was interpreted by Robert as an effort to “monopolize” the story.

I'd say stuff about the privileging of white Western points of view and voices, but Yang says it better herself.

ETA: [personal profile] sasha_feather has text of the full article, since Hyphen's servers seem to be overloaded.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
For [personal profile] chomiji, who asked for "stories about your personal history and encountering and/or embracing a situation that occurred because of a point of difference" for her [ profile] con_or_bust post.

1988-2010 )
oyceter: (not the magical minority fairy)
(Asian American Theater Company and Crowded Fire Theater, directed by Marissa Wolf)

Saw a production of Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven with Tari, S., C., [personal profile] via_ostiense, [personal profile] starlady, [personal profile] bluerabbit, and CB. I recycled the playbill, so I can't quote, but the introduction to the play said that Lee wrote it as a response to the "minority literature" pieces out there that talk about the minority experience in the US and Racism and Oppression and etc.

The play is staged in a bit of a black box theater, the entire space covered with plywood with a stylized flower in the center of the floor. It opens in the dark, with the sound of a man's voice instructing a woman who is being slapped. After a while, a video screens: a close-up of the playwright's face. She is sniffling, holding back tears, and every so often, an invisible hand loudly slaps her. We hear a pansori singer. (Later id'ed by Tari as doing a piece from Song of Chunhyang.)

Korean American comes out to introduce the play, followed by Koreans 1, 2, and 3, each in color-coded hanbok. Korean American speaks English with no [eta: a USian accent] and is dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Koreans 1, 2, and 3 spend one segment of the play speaking the respective languages of the actresses (Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese). The play continues with assorted vignettes, some of which are just odd, some of which are hilarious (Korean American with her grandmother omg).

The play itself was interesting, particularly how White People 1 and 2, a young cis het couple, had emo scenes arguing about their relationship, completely unconnected with the rest of the play. In the end, their narrative, boring and narcissistic as it is, takes over the entire play, which had me laughing hysterically.

The oddest bit, though, was going to the fireside chat afterward. I didn't connect to the play completely, but I didn't find it as uncomfortable as reviews said, and afterward, I felt even more alienated, like I was the intruder despite the play being produced by the Asian American Theater Company. All the things I had thought were obvious, such as how the White People scenes had nothing to do with anything and was narrowly, obsessively focused on itself and the occasional desire to improve the world and "I want to go to Africa," had not been that obvious to some of the audience.

Some audience members wanted to know what the point of the White couple was, especially since they seemed so mundane compared to the Asian people. I hadn't even realized that quite a few of the audience didn't even know that Koreans 1, 2, and 3 weren't even speaking Korean, and after me and the director pointed it out, another audience member commented on how Korean sounded like "angry Japanese."

But yes, this is why I mention having gone with so many people above; I think it would have been an entirely different experience if I'd only gone with a handful of friends or such. As it were, I am pretty sure me and CB were incredibly loud and nearly dying with laughter at several points when the people around us were not, and since all of us sat together for the fireside chat, I am fairly certain I was much louder and more obvious in my eye-rolling than I normally would have been. But honestly. Just the fact that the first few questions were all about the white people and what the play meant for them and OMG please explain what it is is saying about Asian culture to us?!

I am glad that later on, more Asian-Am people (some of the group I went with included) commented on their own experiences of the play, and I was particularly interested in the notes of how the multilingualness was done. (Lee wrote the entire play in English and wanted Koreans 1, 2, and 3 to be cast from any combination of East Asian actresses who spoke (an) East Asian language(s); part of Wolf's audition process was to see how each actress translated her own scene.) Tari also started getting into a bit of audience knowledge wrt the inclusion of the pansori snippet in the earliest sequence, which was a comedic contrast to the emotionally fraught scene, as opposed to an audience member wondering "what that music was." [personal profile] via_ostiense also mentioned how the play didn't feel like it was speaking to her own experience in particular. [eta: more accurate comment]

Overall, I felt that the play wasn't radical enough for me—I particularly wanted to see more being done with the multilingualness, particularly so that audience members who understood non-English languages were seeing a different play of sorts. Unfortunately, it also seemed to be too radical for many of the other people there. I realize this sounds snotty, but the points that I thought were extremely obvious to the point of being anvils had been not grasped at all by some audience members. There were some points in there about Korean-ness and general Asian stereotypes in the media, along with Korean Catholic [eta: (Protestant?) Christian] culture that felt spot on (CB nearly fell off his chair in the scene with the grandmother talking about Jesus; I nearly fell off my chair at the miming of various ways to commit suicide), but I didn't feel like I (non-white Asian-American me) was the play's core audience, which made me a bit sad.

I also looked up some reviews for this play later, and I feel that what I saw was not necessarily what the reviewers saw.

- Official page including a YouTube snippet of one of the first portions of the performance.

- SFGate review: "Besides Lee's forays into Korean American identity, she raises the daring notion that white people may be as human as anybody else."

- SF Examiner review: "One scene within the 70-minute piece, about a daughter in conflict with her tyrannical parents, is performed entirely in an Asian language (maybe more than one, as the actresses themselves come from various Asian backgrounds). Decipher it if you can.

"In another, more accessible scene, the Korean-American is persuaded by her overbearing, dying old-world grandmother to 'be humble' and pray to Jesus."

To all these reviews, I want to say: accessible to whom? Why? Deciphered by WHOM? Who are you presuming is the audience, and why in the world are you presuming that?

I do think Lee's play is directed more toward white people than I would have liked, or held back somewhat because she wanted it to be more "universal," but I also think she is reacting to the Amy Tan version of explaining it all to the white people by not explaining, or by using in jokes and making some people uncomfortable with the realization that they are in jokes. And some of them are jokes I am not in on, but you know what, that's okay. Because it's not about me (Chinese-American me who partially grew up in Taiwan), which some of the reviews and some of the audience members really did not seem to understand.

(People who went, please feel free to chime in more/correct me/whatnot in comments! I waited too long to write this up, and as usual, I have forgotten more than I wrote down.)

New Year away

Fri, Jan. 21st, 2011 07:17 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Written for Potluck.

Note: I didn't double check my pinyin, so the spelling here might be atrocious.

Late January and early February is always a bad time for me in the US. I never mind spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with friends or away from home, and half the time I don't do much for Christmas anyway. But New Year is different.

I wasn't always like this. When I was growing up in Taiwan, we did get December 25th off... but because it was the ROC's Constitution Day. We would celebrate in school by giving classmates cards and presents on Christmas Eve, and my family was one of the ones that had brought our artificial tree back from the US. I think every year we lost an ornament, and I refused to buy any in Taiwan because they were plastic, not glass. Eventually, my parents got sick of setting up the tree, and it was just me and my sister, then finally, just me. After I moved to the US for college, I stopped too. It seemed important when we were in Taiwan; the bulk of people at my school had grown up partially in the US before moving to Taiwan.

For Thanksgiving, the moms would occasionally set up a potluck lunch, where we would bring mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, and, for some reason, 米粉. No one knew how to make anything, and frequently, the mashed potatoes and gravy were from packages or powder. The turkey was difficult to find; I'm fairly sure we always got a pre-cooked one, since very few people had an oven large enough to fit one.

My first "real American Christmas" (quotations because it's not like my Christmases in the US with my family pre-Taiwan were fake) was with my white American boyfriend's family, in which they had a real tree, nutcrackers, a giant feast, stockings, and the whole deal. Ditto my first "real American Thanksgiving." I think that's when I stopped trying to celebrate Christmas in Taiwan: it was clearly not my holiday in the way it was for other people here, and I didn't care enough to try and adopt it. My family has never done the giant Christmas feast, nor has almost everyone I grew up with, and though we had our potluck lunch Thanksgivings, it wasn't with commercials and sales and crowds at the grocery store, turkey and cranberries everywhere. For us, we didn't have cranberry sauce for a while until they started imported the canned stuff (which, btw, I love).

New Year )
oyceter: (i cook)
I started learning how to cook around when I graduated from undergrad, for the obvious reasons, but I didn't really try it much until around 2005, when I was inspired by [personal profile] coffeeandink's forays into cooking to try myself. And then grad school hit, in which I would cook and wrap dumplings during the first month of each semester and gradually move toward take out, EZ Mac, and pizza as the semester wore on.

I enjoy cooking, but it may be one of those things I enjoy more when I have a lot of spare time; when I get a job again, we'll see how much I keep doing it! But so far, I feel like I've been learning how to cook all over again in the past few months. On the plus side, I think I've actually gotten to the point when I can kind of stare at the fridge and throw things together, which was my target way back when.

The really big difference, though, is that I've finally learned how to cook Chinese food.

Culture, food, family, and other complicated issues )

Would people be interested in my completely off-the-cuff, untested, and very generalized recipes?

Also, switching between languages to type is SO ANNOYING. Hopefully I will soon memorize the bopomofo keyboard on Windows (pinyin on Mac is so much easier for me).

Assorted media

Sun, Jan. 10th, 2010 07:13 am
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Back in Taiwan! Sadly, only here for another few days before school starts and I have to go back to the US.

三槍拍案驚奇/A Simple Noodle Story - 張藝謀/Zhang Yimou's newest movie, and a damn weird one too. It's based off of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple, but from what [ profile] rachelmanija says, this one is actually more Coen Brothers-esque than the original! A murder takes place in a tiny noodle shop in a deserted region of China, and half-hilarious, half-grotesque hijinks ensue. It has Zhang Yimou's now-signature color-coding and beautiful camera-work and all the violence and awkwardness of the Coen Brothers, with the addition of noodle throwing and a truly bizarre song-and-dance sequence at the end. I don't think I'd recommend it unless you're really up for something weird, and I'm still not sure I enjoyed it, but it was definitely an experience!

花木蘭/Mulan - With 趙薇/Zhao Wei/Vicki Zhao from 赤壁/Red Cliff (she played 孫尚香/Sun Shangxiang). An adaptation of the story of Hua Mulan, done with lots of extras, battles, and etc. I didn't remember much of the original poem at all when I watched this, save the loom and the twelve years, but it's interesting to see that the visit to the emperor is canonical! The beginning feels more like the Disney Mulan, though with less emphasis on the disappointment. I thought it was interesting that they still stuck with her sneaking off, especially since the press I've seen on this indicates that the director really wanted to make something different from the Disney version. However, most of the movie is not on Mulan's personal growth to accept who she is; rather, since she's in battle for twelve years, most of it is about her becoming a great general. The director also set this in the Wei Dynasty battling the Rouran nation (tribe? It feels weird using "nation" pre-nation-state-formation, but "tribe" feels so dismissive). Unsurprisingly, the Rouran are portrayed as more barbaric with furs and skins and such, but the movie mostly lays the blame on one Rouran ruler rather than all the people. And the Rouran princess was unexpectedly awesome and part of one of my favorite parts of the movie.

Spoilers )

Overall, more character development and less wuxia than I had expected. Some pacing problems, but I enjoyed it a lot.

終極三國/K.O. 3anguo - OMG people. Someone in Taiwan has remade Romance of the Three Kingdoms as HIGH SCHOOL AU! Like, this was actually filmed! Since I was only able to get through 15 minutes of it, that is all I can report on. 關羽/Guan Yu and 張飛/Zhang Fei have been kicked out of way too many schools, and when they meet a guy named 劉備/Liu Bei, he promises he can get them in one. There are also four time travelers (don't ask me).

All seven of the guys I have met so far have distinctly different hairstyles, which is really an accomplishment in and of itself. It was very handy for character identification.

Also, Guan Yu presses a button on his watch to magically zap his weapon into existence.

And then, the time travelers drop a coin which ends up tipping over a boulder that squashes Liu Bei right after the three swear to be brothers. (Seriously, don't ask me.)

I am not even describing the extremely bizarre and strange sound effects, visual effects (picture the heads of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei on little cartoon bodies), and plot or complete lack thereof. And did I mention the time travelers? That's about when I stopped watching!

One of my friends says it is fairly popular in Taiwan. I am completely at a loss.

Sherlock Holmes - I succumbed and watched! It was suitably funny and snarky, though I didn't appreciate the totally-non-subtext of "Women ruin everything between two men!" I desperately wanted to love the Irene Adler character, but she needed a much better actress. They really should have cast someone with the chops to stand up to Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, but sadly, they seem to have gone for looks instead. The movie also continues the rule that Satanism in fiction makes things funnier (thankfully, the movie was not very serious about the Satanism). And finally, although I am sure I will enjoy the snarky Holmes/Watson that fandom is inevitably writing right now, what I really want is fic with a much snarkier Irene Adler outwitting Holmes a lot.

Hong Kong, Day 2

Sun, Jan. 3rd, 2010 06:59 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Today started rather slowly for me, as I think I am still recovering from slight sleep deprivation. Rachel and I walked around a local neighborhood and ate at a tiny and very crowded cafe. I got a set meal, which had hot water with lemon and honey, a little omelette with corn and ham that I ate on buttered slices of toast, and duck breast on spaghetti noodles in broth. It was a very HK-feeling Chinese + Western mix. Rachel had a giant heaping mound of rice topped with a giant omelette with ham and barbequed pork and shrimp. We wanered around for a bit after, and Rachel bought a ton of HK movie VCDs that sadly did not end up working on her computer.

After I woke up from my long nap, we headed out to Causeway Bay again. We'd gone there yesterday too when the hotel was still prepping our room for check-in, but didn't have a chance to really wander around the streets. On the walk there, we encountered a 菜市場/traditional market selling all sorts of meat and seafood (fewer veggies), a little street stand selling Rachel's favorite black sesame rolls, and a little dive of a store that seemed to specialize in all things soy: soy milk, soy bean curd, tofu, etc. Since I wasn't able to get 豆花/dou hua in Taiwan, and since the store seemed very busy and crowded, I dragged Rachel in. It was different from Taiwan dou hua; here, they seem to pick sweet soups to put the dou hua in, whereas in Taiwan, we usually put the dou hua in a malty syrup and then top it with red beans, mung beans, peanuts, or tapioca pearls. Rachel got the one in sesame soup, and I thought I was ordering 杏仁豆腐/this jello-like substance made from almond milk usually topped with fruit cocktail, but either I said it wrong or they misheard or it just means something different here, because I ended up getting dou hua in almond milk. That said, it was incredibly delicious and very fragrant! The dou hua here is more silky and delicate than the one at my favorite store in Taiwan, which is creamier in consistency and tastes nuttier, but both were very good.

Then we eventually found our way to Times Square. Sadly, there's no giant crosswalk in the middle of the area, so you can't see the hordes of people crossing every time the light turns green. There are hordes of people nonetheless. And! I found an awesome taiyaki place that has taiyaki named after different countries. "Italian" has sausage, cheese, onions, tuna, corn, and tomato; "French" has cinnamon apple; "Japan" has the traditional red bean; and "German" has potato, onion, and bacon. There were also bacon and egg taiyaki; bacon, egg, and tomato taiyaki; and tuna, corn and onion taiyaki. Amazingly, I passed over the tuna for the German taiyaki, which was so incredibly delicious that Rachel ended up eating half despite protesting initially that she wanted to save room for dinner.

Oh! Rachel also says to say that today she wore her very cool punk shirt that she got at the night market at Taiwan. However, because the collar is very frilly and there is lace-up stuff underneath, she says it feels more like a gothic-punk fusion. "Pothic?" she said. "Or it could be... hrm. 'Gunk' isn't really a good name."

Dinner was at Chee Wai, which seems to be a fairly well-known wonton noodle shop considering the number of articles about it pasted in the windows, the extremely crowded interior, and the sign on the door saying, "Please line up outside." I said we had to get wonton noodles because it's an HK thing, even though I didn't admit until later that I actually am not all that fond of shrimp wontons. Alas, their pork wontons were sold out, so Rachel got the shrimp wonton noodle soup and I changed my mind at the last minute to get crab congee rather than have the two of us get the same thing. Although the wonton soup was pretty good—silky wontons, noodles that were nicely al dente and not overcooked, shrimpy broth—the crab congee was amazing. It had an entire small crab in it, and the whole bowl was yellow-colored from the crab insides (蟹黃*). It was wonderfully crab-flavored without being overpowering, and there were little bits of the crab insides (what do you call that in English? The yellow bits in the main body of the crab that taste very sea-like?). I thought it was extremely good, and I eat a lot of congee. And Rachel, who actually dislikes congee, also thought it was so good that she had two bowlfuls as well! I feel that should be a good recommendation if someone who loves congee and someone who hates congee both thought it was delicious.

* The restaurant menu called the dish something-蟹皇 though my computer spell check only brings up "蟹黃." So I have no idea how to actually spell it because I don't have internet right now.

And currently in the hotel room, we are being baffled by an orchestra performance that had ballerinas dancing in a museum, a piece called "Champagne Gallop" with little pop gun being fired every so often, and random images of many European countries to Strauss' "Blue Danube."

Hong Kong, Day 1

Sat, Jan. 2nd, 2010 07:47 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
After waking up at 4 in the morning and breaking a glass and spilling water everywhere (I then went back to bed and pretended it hadn't happened until I actually had to get up at 6), the rest of the day went very well. [ profile] rachelmanija and I both read cracktastic books on the plane: Vampire Diaries for her and Margaret Weis' Star of the Guardians for me. So far, I have learned from Rachel quoting various lines that Elena of Vampire Diaries looks like a sugared violet in her party dress, resembles a white tiger rather than a kitten, clutches her velvet cloak to her as she looks like a ravished princess in a tower, and has a soul of absolute beauty and a spine of steel. Or something like that. Star of the Guardians has Weis' heavy-handed infodumps and extremely unsubtle prose ("But Oha-Lau was doomed, and its doom came out of the stars as legend foretold. Doom fell, literally, on Oha-Lau in the form of a spaceplane [...] Doom did not fall swiftly. [...] Doom was poised, ready to fall. [...] Doom fell."). And yet, I remember Lady Maigrey from way back. Unsurprisingly, she was a favorite of mine: late-thirties or early-forties, scarred face, tragic connection to the villain, and a kickass fighter. Despite the book's flaws, it is still immensely entertaining.

Amazingly, upon landing, we got through the airport with no problem at all and took a taxi to our hotel because I wanted Rachel to see the scenery coming into the island. Sadly, it was very foggy so it was hard to see the jungly mountains behind the tall buildings, but I think she enjoyed it anyway. The hotel we got was a deal, so when we saw the marble-and-shiny-wood lobby, I was terrified we had somehow landed at the wrong hotel. But they found our reservation, and after we got our room, we found it was rather small, but very nice, with a giant LCD TV, a pretty bathroom, and really good service. Given the way Rachel's luck and mine combine to frequently disastrous effect when we visit each other, I even looked up the rate online to make sure we weren't somehow going to be charged more later. But no. Right hotel, right room, everything! I attribute this to the good luck pi xio Rachel got in Xi'an.

We had lunch at Starbucks, which has much tastier things here (and in Taiwan) than it does in the US. I had a turkey and mashed potato mini pie and Rachel had a sausage in flaky pastry. Both were very tasty and hot. I gasped in horror as Rachel told me that quite a few Starbucks she had been to in the States didn't have microwaves, since all the ones in Taiwan do. We then had dinner with my aunt and uncle in Kowloon, and then we ventured out to a Hong Kong 7-Eleven! The 7-Eleven here is pretty nice, though the ones we have seen so far have been smaller than Taiwan's. Also, I bemoan the lack of onigiri and 關東煮/hot pot things on sticks (including pig's blood rice cake, which is my fav) and am curious if people can pay utilities bills and parking tickets here as well. However! They did have several extremely cool flavors of Hi Chew—durian, red bean mochi with strawberry inside/いちご大福, cotton candy, candied apple (the latter two being "祭りのハイチュウ")—as well as okonomiyaki-flavored potato chips and "Black Diamond" potato chips, which supposedly taste like black truffle. I am only sad that we did not have time to find a little bakery, as we had to run back to the hotel before our ice cream melted.

After lugging our purchases back to the hotel, we watched Jet Li's The New Legend of Shaolin. It has kung-fu-fighting kids, evil eunuchs, a Poison Man whose face is literally melting, a trilobyte car, a completely random wax museum, Jet Li being so stoic that he really should have had jingling bells to emote, jokes about eating chicken butt, and a mother-and-daughter thief team. The mother and daughter are really awesome, especially the mother, who is an older woman who totally kicks ass, has sex (it's supposed to be funny, but I thought the movie managed to do it in a way that made her likable and awesome, not "Eww! Old people having sex!," which I hate), plays dead, and catches darts with her hands, mouth, and feet.

Plans for tomorrow: investigate the local drug store chains, watch Zhang Yimou's A Simple Noodle Story (film noir in period China with martial arts and guns!), wander around Central to look at tall buildings, and hopefully buy me more comfortable shoes. And find a good wonton noodle place, as well as the public library, bakeries, and other random little stores that catch our interest.

Linkspam, advice

Fri, Aug. 28th, 2009 10:07 am
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
  • I haven't had time to read it yet, but the 3rd Asian Women's Carnival is up! The theme is intersections of race and gender.

  • Submit to the 4th carnival here! The theme is "Storytelling, or reclaiming our selves through our words."

  • Found via Racialicious, this post on Asian women, suicide, and depression hits a bit close to home for me.

  • For Bay Area people, David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face is showing at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts this month.

And now for something completely different!

If you have a light box for SAD/mood disorders, what kind/brand do you have, how do you use it, and did you find it helpful?
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Steinberger is a geek girl: gamer, cosplayer, shoujo manga fan, Volks doll fan. Ever since she got into the Volks doll scene, she's been dying to visit the Volks store in Tokyo. One day, she writes to Volks and gets an enthusiastic reply; they actually know of her through her doll articles in the US! So she and two friends head off to Japan. Their plan: dress as geisha, go see Takarazuka performances, dress up in Tokyo, eat, and go see dolls!

This is more of a sketchbook rather than a comic; there's some sequential art involved, given that it's a trip, but most of the art is not in the form of panels. It's also incredibly fun to read. Steinberger's art is extremely friendly and round and happy, and she notices odd things that I enjoy. One of the slightly unfortunate things is that she can't read or write Japanese—I'm not sure if other people will care, but I really wanted to know what the Japanese on particular drawings was.

I am still not sure what to think of dressing up as a geisha. On the one hand, it is something I would love to do. Also, there's the factor that it's being done in Japan, probably making money for the Japanese people running the business, in a context in which people know a lot more about who and what geisha are. On the other hand, I do not know.

Some other parts of the book occasionally hit my "please do not make fun of Engrish" button, from the making fun of Engrish to Steinberger getting annoyed at being stared at. For the latter, I completely don't begrudge her getting annoyed at being stared at; it's probably annoying as hell. However, I still have a kneejerk reaction of "Yeah, welcome to my world!" inherited from homestay in Japan with two tall white guys who were all "We stick out! We miss American food!" after I had gone through a year of depression and lost a lot of weight thanks to a combination of culture shock, homesickness for Taiwan, and literally not being able to eat all the non-Chinese food. But I digress! Although I spend a lot of space here writing this reaction up, I didn't really hit it that often. Much of this is because you can tell Steinberger loves it there, and the overall feeling I got from her excitement wasn't "OMG this is so exotic and foreign!" but "OMG I have heard about this for forever and FINALLY I AM HERE!"

Instead, I had a lot of fun through most of the book. It made me remember being in Japan and exploring Harajuku and Shibuya and Akihabara, it made me miss the food and the public transportation, it made me wish I had had enough money when I was there to buy awesome clothes at Harajuku and the like. It also interestingly made me incredibly homesick for Taiwan. A lot of the things in Japan are different, of course, but a lot of things have either been imported to Taiwan or are shared characteristics, from the squatting toilets of DOOM and ladies on the street handing out advertisements on tissue packets to sock stores to the food. I miss the food so much!

Most of all, I loved all the geeking out, from cosplaying and Takarazuka and dolls (not my areas of geekdom) to assorted manga and anime references. I laughed so hard when they visited Tokyo Tower thanks to CLAMP, although they went because of Magic Knight Rayearth and my friends and I went because of X (sadly fortunately, when we went, no necrocuddling was involved). I am also extremely jealous that she got to see Takarazuka! Some day...

Also, if you read this, check out the omake as well! Actually, check out the omake even if you haven't read it; it's a pretty good preview of what the book itself is like. Cute and fun.

Na, An - The Fold

Fri, Jun. 19th, 2009 05:50 pm
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Joyce is dying to catch the eye of cute multiracial kid John Ford Kang, though he can't even tell her apart from her lab partner. Then Joyce's aunt sweeps into their family's life and offers to pay for eyelid surgery for her. Her older sister Helen disapproves, but what does she know? Helen's always been smarter and prettier and cooler. Her best friend Gina thinks she should totally go with it.

I read this right after I read Good Enough, which was an interesting comparison. Both stories about Korean-American girls, but Joyce's family owns a Korean restaurant and she's not much concerned with academic achievement. Clearly the theme here is about beauty, which I theoretically find more interesting than Yoo's book. However, Na's prose is extremely flat, and I felt her characters never came to life. Although she explains Joyce's dilemma, as well as problems going on with her family, they felt like explanations, not explorations.

I am also far more radical than Na when it comes to beauty myths. Na compares eyelid surgery with braces or dieting I think to kill the particular stigma eyelid surgery has in the eyes of well-meaning white people and to normalize it as a modifying-appearance thing, but she doesn't tackle the larger question of the beauty myth, societal pressure to be beautiful, and the ever-changing definitions of beauty, much less how that myth perpetrates racism and sexism for Asian women. I'd much rather have a more in-depth examination of the problems of eyelid surgery coupled with a takedown of the extremely problematic way white people use eyelid surgery as a means to reinforce their impression of the need to "save" Asian women from their patriarchal society, as well as proof of Asians being less politically forward.

So... the book tackles some interesting questions, and I especially liked what Na did with Joyce's sister Helen, but overall, not a very fun read.
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Patti Yoon is trying to be the Perfect Korean Daughter by getting the concertmaster position for the All-State Orchestra, getting into HarvardYalePrinceton, scoring above 2300 on her SATs, and volunteering at her church. But she's still trying to figure out what parts of it she wants, and what parts of it she only wants because her parents do. And then there's the cute trumpet player in the orchestra, who is definitely not part of The Plan.

The story itself is not extraordinary, although Yoo throws in a few curves at the end that I hadn't been expecting. What makes the book more than your average "Asian kid faces academic pressure, must learn what she wants" is the writing, which is sprinkled with lists ("How to Make Your Korean Parents Happy, Part 1") and recipes for assorted Korean dishes with Spam.

It was extremely odd reading this book. In some ways, it's very close to my own experience (outside of the fact that I was in Taiwan). In others, it's very not. I wasn't a good daughter like Patti; I quit piano and refused to take AP Physics and pushed as hard as I could to not do "practical" stuff and hated being first, even as I did take the SATs and practice who knows how much. Because of that, I kept wanting to reach in and shake Patti and tell her not to just do whatever she wanted, as I understand parental pressure and the desire to make your parents' sacrifices worth something, but to... think more. To question. And she does in the end, but I think I wanted more. That said, I do like that even though her parents are a big part of the plot conflict, they do not drive the plot conflict.

My other problem is the way the book posits rebellion and freedom as a white male thing. Patti does come into her own later, but I very much resent that one of the big factors in her doing so is falling for a white guy and hanging out with him more. Even before that, one of the signs of her desire to not conform is her love of a white male pop band. The unintended message is then made worse when, influenced by a white guy, Patti brings the idea of rebellion back to her Korean church group and the group also begins to rebel in order to get her a date with the white guy. I do think Yoo complicates things further by having Patti later realize that the other church group members also wanted to do their own thing and that she was projecting conformity on to them, but it would have worked much better for me had most of the characterization been of the other church group members, as opposed to the hot white guy.

That said, one of my favorite parts of the book was Patti and her relationship with the violin and with music. It's a nice counterpoint to the joke "Violin or piano?" and you can just tell how Yoo loves music as well, from classical to informal jamming.

- [ profile] rilina's review
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In response to these posts1, [personal profile] colorblue wrote:
And another thing that I find very strange is that I know more of what certain Singaporeans (I would say certain Indian-Singaporeans, but that will just reveal my own backwards thinking, giving such undue importance to race in such a progressive and strangely tolerant country) go through than someone who has lived there all her life, except a part of me doesn't find that strange at all, because this is another thing that racism does.

On my more tolerant days I consider people who mouthpiece diversity and equality while viewing the world in such a strange way foolish and useless. On my less tolerant days, and this is one, I think such ignorant, willful blindness is just as destructive as the more outright forms of racism, for those forms of racism are built on excuses and niceness and strange tolerances such as this.

She also said the following to me about including those posts in the carnival:
And you are hosting and commenting on an Asian Women's Carnival focused on intra/inter/transnationalities and either you did not realize or you did not think or you did not care enough that people like me would read the posts you were linking to and expressing thanks for and find their experiences or the experiences of those they respect and care about, the injustices they've faced and continue to face, ignored and trivialized.

And this makes me wonder just who the audience for this Carnival was intended to be or pictured as being, what was considered important and what wasn't, and that is why right now I do not care about whatever you might have found in Karanguni's post that resonated with you and that is why right now your comment doesn't have much meaning for me.

First and foremost, I apologize for not only hurting people, especially people who are being oppressed and treated unjustly in Singapore, but also for taking what should have been a safe space for them and making it unsafe, painful, and a replica of the same power structures they face at home. My intentions in this do not matter; the result remains the same.

Second, on intentions. In my excitement over the Carnival, I included everything submitted. This is an illustration of how focusing on one identity (Asian women) can act as a means of excluding identities within that one (non-Chinese Asian women in Singapore), and how those excluded are almost always the people who have less power, particularly when the person directing the focus—me—has a privileged place within that identity. This is why my intentions do not matter: they were intentions that made it easy for me to focus on people like me to the detriment of people with less power than me, and therefore, they are the antithesis of good intentions.

I do not think I was the right person to compile this Carnival. To create a space that is safe we must first and always focus on those who are most at risk, and instead, I focused first on those on top, those like me. As such, I also apologize for the overall lack of South and Central Asian women, for the lack of transwomen, lesbians, women with disabilities, older women, non-English-writing women, and lower class women, as well as the lack of ethnic minority women in Asian nations. Just like the unmarked state reads as white middle-class male, cisgendered and heterosexual, an unmarked Asian woman is also able-bodied and -minded, young, middle class, cisgendered, heterosexual. Going top down by necessity reinforces these unmarked states and furthermore divides us into "default" and "default" with added widgets of oppression, none of which interact, all of which we tack on after the fact when they should be first and foremost.

No one single post in the Carnival created that type of space; my framing and compilation and editorial choices did.

To go back to [personal profile] colorblue's words: "[T]his makes me wonder just who the audience for this Carnival was intended to be or pictured as being, what was considered important and what wasn't[.]" I believe for less privileged voices to be heard, the first thing is to find those voices and support them in what they are already doing, to prioritize them and to listen to them and to not speak over them, and most of all, to not subsume their identities into your own.

And that is what I failed to do and what I apologize for.

Please do not comment saying I should not apologize, didn't do anything wrong, etc., or that [personal profile] colorblue is using the wrong tone or whatever. It is not true.

Also, do not comment in thanks for this; it is not something to be thanked for. What matters to me is going forward and not doing the same thing.

However, critique, privilege checks, etc. are very welcome.

1. As problematic as [ profile] karanguni's posts are, she did not submit them to the Carnival; that they are in the Carnival is my fault. back
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ETA: please read this before reading the carnival

I'm sorry this is so late. I wrote up a giant post, and my computer crashed and I lost it.

These are the posts I didn't write: golden lotuses and size 9 feet; mismatched eyelids and tape; broken palms and murdered husbands; lucky nose and skimpy ears.

These are the words I can't say; not because I don't have them, but because I have too many, because they overflow and I choke on them, unable to get them out.

But, oh, my sisters and friends write—not for me, but for themselves—and sometimes I find myself in their words, and sometimes I find who I need to be in them.

I've tried and tried to write entries for this carnival and for the first one, but there is too much, and I cannot. But I can respond somewhat to what others have written.

As noted in the call for submissions, the optional theme for this issue is "hyphenates and sourcelanders and diasporas and being a minority Asian in a majority Asian country and majority Asian countries and minority Asian countries and third culture kids and thoughts about being refugees, immigrants, expats, nth generation, FOBs*, about generational gaps and cultural expectations and growing up in one place and then another and speaking one language at home and one outside and and and..."

* I think of myself as a FOB in many ways and dislike any mockery of fobbishness. Also, if you aren't one, don't use it.

Also, white people, when you're reading, don't co-opt. Don't take these pieces and use them against us. We know about intra-POC and intra-Asian racism and bigotry; we know how frequently our words stripped from us to be used against each other. Forming identities among inter/intra/transnationalities is hard; it is harder still when it is never a purely personal process, when every move we make for ourselves is taken from us and used to tar and feather all of us.

Nationality, ethnicity, and identity )

Language )

Gender and sex )

Story and remyth )

Many thanks to everyone for posting and submitting, and especially to [personal profile] ciderpress for starting the Asian Women Blog Carnival. Please contact her if you would like to host a future issue!
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Ai Ling has had a fairly good life: her father and mother love each other and her, her father has taught her to read and write, and it looks as though she will have some say in who she will marry. But then, her father goes to the capital, her mother's mood drops, and a skanky older guy tries to coerce her into marrying him. Ai Ling decides she has to find her father again, but at every turn, she's beset upon by strange creatures, from a three-breasted woman to a soul sucker to assorted other demons.

I am stubbornly annoyed that a publisher had told Cindy Pon that "Asian fantasy doesn't sell," and I sincerely hope the book's sales are phenomenal. Also, I've heard one of the big chains didn't order it... if someone tells me which one, I will go place an order at my local one. I have also gotten one of my public libraries to buy it and am going to suggest it to my other two.

The book itself is extremely fun, although it suffers a little from flat prose. Ai Ling didn't stand out for me as a heroine, but she's your fairly average YA heroine: spunky, can-do, and nursing a secret crush. What made the book for me was the sheer exuberance of it. Not a chapter goes by without another monster or a lovingly described meal, and I love that Ai Ling's appetite is as voracious as mine. Clearly she notices the important things in life! I particularly liked the climax, which has Ai Ling figuring out how to rescue herself.

My favorite parts are probably when Ai Ling and hot guy Chen Yong go beyond the Kingdom of Xia and encounter increasingly odd and interesting beings and lands. Well, that and the food descriptions, of course!

When I began reading this book, I could not get into it. I had thought it was the prose, but halfway through, I came to the horrified realization that I had been steeling myself for exoticism and foreignness, despite the fact that I very much knew that the book was written by a Chinese person who knew something about Chinese culture. There had been no exoticism that I could pick up on in the book, but the mere mention of Chinese names and ideas in English was enough to raise my guard, thanks to years and years of reading books by non-Chinese people that frequently rubbed me the wrong way, if not outright offended me.

It's never fun realizing that despite the massive effort you've spent decolonizing your reading practices, there are still (and may always be) parts of your brain that remain whitewashed.

Anyway. This is fun and frothy, and a welcome addition to the vampire- and faery-saturated landscape of YA fantasy. Also, although this book is standalone, Pon is working on a sequel/prequal. Also also, minor quibble, but every time the book used "Xian" to refer to denizens of the kingdom of Xia, I kept thinking it referred to the city of Xian/Xi'an.

- [ profile] rachelmanija's review
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The completely optional theme for the 2nd Asian Women Blog Carnival is....


I particularly want to encourage Central and Near Asian women to post, and to also note that I'd love as many Asian women's voices as possible, for all definitions of "Asian" and of "women."

The theme came from some noodling here and here, and I really apologize for the title! I figure it is probably pithier than "hyphenates and sourcelanders and diasporas and being a minority Asian in a majority Asian country and majority Asian countries and minority Asian countries and third culture kids and thoughts about being refugees, immigrants, expats, nth generation, FOBs*, about generational gaps and cultural expectations and growing up in one place and then another and speaking one language at home and one outside and and and."

Submissions due 1 June your local time, and the issue will go up a few days after.

ETA: Future hosts still needed! Please contact [personal profile] ciderpress if you'd like to host.

* I use this as someone who is proud to be a FOB and dislikes any mockery of fobbishness. Also, if you aren't one, don't use it.
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This is the first book by the author of Roots and Wings, which I liked a lot.

As with her latter book, this is the story of a Cambodian-American girl and her relationship with her parent. Only this time, it's her father. Amy grew up in St. Petersburg, Floria, among a fairly substantial Cambodian community, but when her mother leaves Amy and her father, the two of them move to San Diego to make a new start.

This book wasn't quite as polished as Roots and Wings; the story feels less focused and more like an accumulation of many individual events. At times, I got a little tired of reading about Amy's dad going through another cycle of feeling bad then feeling good. Even though I know it works like that in life, it makes for repetitive reading. The characterization of Amy's friend Sopiep also felt a little haphazard as she moved from being the girl teased at school to the pretty girl with a crush and then back to Amy's best friend. I think I would have believed it more had I had more of a sense of Sopiep's personality, but I didn't.

Still, like Roots and Wings, this is a quiet, sad book, although it ultimately has hope in the end. On the other hand, it had many more descriptions of the San Diego Cambodian-American community, which I enjoyed. Amy and her father belong to the community, as opposed to the protagonist of Roots and Wings, and although the fairly long timeline (a year or over) felt slow at times, I appreciated being able to see San Diego through Amy's eyes throughout the entire year, not just a few weeks.
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Vidya is fifteen and dreams of going to college, but she's afraid she'll be married off. But soon, tragedy strikes as her father becomes more and more involved with the Indian independence movement, and she and her family are sent off to live with her paternal grandfather. There, the women are separated from the men, and Vidya's life is so limited that the only freedom she can find is in the library upstairs. And life gets even more complicated as Britain calls on Indian volunteers to help fight the Axis powers.

This reminds me a lot of Keeping Corner in how it deals with the ideas of Indian independence, feminism, and Hindu philosophy, although I think Keeping Corner did a better job in terms of execution. This book combines many interesting elements but is ultimately less nuanced than I would like.

First is that Vidya is the only woman with agency in the book. Her amma is fairly peripheral to the plot, as is her friend Rifka, and all the other women and girls are shown as evil (periamma, her cousin, her teacher, her other aunt) or ineffective (her third aunt). This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that many of the men in this book are the ones who end up helping Vidya—Raman, Kitta, and thatha. And they're the ones Vidya talks with the most about her future hopes and dreams; they're the ones she engages with on issuees of feminism and oppression.

My other issue is the portrayal of the US as a fellow British colony and possible ally. I have a very hard time accepting parallels between the US Revolution and the Indian independence movement. I don't know that much about the Indian independence movement, but I feel it is not particularly flattering to draw parallels between it and a revolution that started mostly for the purpose of financial benefit and the protection of rich white guys' profits and property. I am, of course, heavily influenced by Conquest and Octavian Nothing in this reading, but that is why I have a problem with the image of the US as a potentially safer space for Indians. I also hate that Vidya's protests that the US didn't treat American Indians well (understatement!) and kept slaves, and that they were countered in a sentence or two with "No country is perfect. And they emancipated the slaves!"

That said, I was glad that the book grounds Vidya's growing feminist consciousness in Hindi roots and in the Indian independence movement, and that even though her relatives are sexist, we also get to see a flip side in her father.


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