Five words meme

Tue, Jul. 14th, 2009 12:17 pm
oyceter: Pea pod and peas with text "peas please" (peas)
First: Help! I'm currently on Picasa trying to post some pictures... is there any way to get it to post all the pictures in the album with captions instead of a link to the album and/or an embedded slideshow? At least without my getting the link to each individual picture and copy-pasting?

(On Picasa because my LJ photos are nearly at the storage limit and I'm not planning on renewing my paid account and because I set up Flickr a long, long time ago and now cannot remember my username or password and am too annoyed to create a new Yahoo ID.)

Reply to this meme by yelling "Words!" and I will give you five words that remind me of you. Then post them in your LJ and explain what they mean to you. These were given to me by [ profile] rachelmanija.

Peas )

Taiwan )

Cracktastic )

Food photography )

Spiders )
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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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Description: Not everyone is born in one country and grows up there. Some are born in one country and then grow up in another, or several others; these are third culture kids. Often, they find themselves out of synch with both places. What is it like to a third culture kid and where can we find ourselves in sf/f? Is Temeraire of the Naomi Novik novels a third culture kid?

Panelists: Lawrence Schimel ([ profile] desayunoencama) (mod), Alma Alexander, [ profile] yhlee, me

This is going to be a rather sketchy write up, since I didn't take notes. Also, it will probably be rather self-centered because I remember what I said best, heh.

Lawrence was the mod, but he was coming from a reading in a non-Concourse building, so the panel started a little late. Also, he had only found out he was the moderator a couple of hours beforehand! Alma Alexander, Yoon and me sort of stared at each other for a bit before deciding that maybe we should introduce ourselves. Thankfully, Lawrence ran in a bit after the introductions and saved us from more aimless staring.

Alexander said she was born in Yugoslavia but grew up in various countries in Africa and got her education in the UK and South Africa. Yoon said she was born in the States and alternately moved between the US and Korea several times. I said I was born in the States and then moved to Taiwan when I was 8 or 9. Lawrence said that he was not really a third culture kid, but more a third culture adult, having moved to Spain a while back.

I interrupted the panel mid-discussion sometime to ask if people wanted a definition for TCKs; I figure it'll be useful for people reading this now to have it at the front. Third culture kids are generally defined as people who grew up in two or more cultures (and usually countries, so hyphenated Americans and etc. don't usually count). Growing up in two or more cultures generally means that they form a "third" (or fourth, or fifth, etc.) culture of their own. General traits tend to include a feeling of perpetual alienation and a more global perspective (at least, I hope so for the second).

I also defined the difference between immigrants and expats as: immigrants are viewed as moving "up" culturally while expats are viewed as moving "down" or across. Lawrence also mentioned that expats generally have the option to return or move back and forth between their adopted country and their chosen country, and that they have a different relationship with their adopted country than immigrants tend to. I think a lot of this (or all of this) has to do with class; expats have the resources to move about and to keep options open while immigrants don't. I add my usual disclaimer that I am defining immigrant vs. expat descriptively and not prescriptively; this is how I think the terms are consciously or unconsciously used.

Someone later (in conversation or in the panel, I can't remember) brought up refugees as well, who are usually perceived to be even lower on the class scale (though not always; my grandparents for example).

Cut for length )
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1) So... does anyone have examples of sf/f books with third-culture kids, or anything resembling a third-culture kid?

A third-culture kid is basically someone who is born into one culture, raised in another, and then returns to the first culture or moves on to different cultures, thereby creating a "third culture" that is a mixture of the first two. Or something. The difference between a third-culture kid and an immigrant seems to be that last step of returning to the "original" culture and finding it foreign as well.

My one example so far is Temeraire, and that's a sort-of example.

2) Also, any examples of movies in which a white man goes into a non-white culture and saves it or somehow one-ups it? Or basically, movies set in non-white civilizations that still end up focusing on the white guy.

My current list:
- Last Samurai
- Dances with Wolves
- Kingdom of Heaven
- Glory
- Cry Freedom
- Blood Diamond
- Constant Gardener
- Geronimo
- The Last King of Scotland (critique + example of trope? Haven't seen it)
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (from current casting reports)
- Wind Talkers

The 9/11 post

Mon, Sep. 11th, 2006 04:57 pm
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So, I've been procrastinating so much on this post that I've actually done some book blogging, wow.

I am going to be wimpy and default and blog about the personal; I have been keeping my head in the sand and not following any of the political ruckus, particularly that concerning ABC's "docudrama." Suffice to say, I don't want to get in any sort of political arguments, and I am tired.

Pictures under the cuts.

When 9/11 happened, I was still in college. I had been in New York City from around the 8th through the 10th; my dad had just flown back to Taiwan the night of the 10th, and my mom and I had taken the train to New Jersey. Despite only being an hour away, I didn't go see Ground Zero while I was in New Jersey.

I saw it for the first time this Labor Day weekend; my sister, her friend and I were trying to find our way to the subway to get to Chinatown for dinner, and there it was. )
I've been to the Two Towers before, the most memorable time being during freshman year of college. I don't really remember the landscape around there, but it's so odd to see such a large flat space in New York.

The odd thing is that it's incredibly beautiful. )
It was the setting sun reflecting off the buildings, or something.

I hadn't seen the gallery of pictures before. )
I really liked how multicultural they were; black and Asian and white and Latino (I don't remember if I saw Native American or not). I liked the feeling that they were trying to include everyone in the memorial: the people who live in New York and the workers actually trying to find people in the rubble and children and old folks and women and men and people of all races and ages and sizes and tourists and bystanders and people watching from TVs everywhere and people caught out in the streets.

It was particularly nice because right after 9/11, I felt so excluded because of the rise in nationalistic sentiment. Despite my US passport, I was very aware of being from Taiwan and not being "born and bred" American, particularly in conversations about foreigners and Muslims and how the French sucked because they wouldn't back "us" up and how the British were wusses. I put "us" in quotations because I didn't feel included. As a side note, while I appreciate the sentiment in trying to make me feel better by saying that no one deliberately excluded me, I think there is a very good reason as to why I didn't feel included, and it is because anti-foreigner sentiment was running high back then (not that it's necessarily stopped now).

Furthermore, whenever American values of mom and the flag and apple pie get pulled out, many of the images used are images of white America. I am not a part of white America. I don't particularly want to be a part of white America, as I am quite happy with who I am. And my America, the one I live in every day? That's not white America either.


There was a long list of names posted. )
It reminded me a great deal of the Vietnam Wall, but more for thematic purposes rather than political parallels.

Underneath the long list were small memorials people had put up Picture! )
As usual, the flag bothers me, but this is more related to my own tangled issues with nationality and nationalism, and people have to right to remember their dead in any way they see fit.

I still found it very touching, despite my flag issues, and was glad that people were still putting things up five years after the fact.

I couldn't read through the entire timeline. )
But, uh, to make it All About Me, this is where I was in time when I learned what had happened. And I am going to stop here, because I am too tired to write up 9/11 and race relations in America and nationalism and racism.
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I randomly stumbled across this in the library while I was looking for more Pearl Cleage. I figure I should try and read more non-white, non-American focused books, so here we go!

This is a collection of interconnected short stories focusing on the lives, loves and tribulations (there are lots of tribulations) of members of around three families and their friends, all of whom are Chinese or Chinese-American. Most of the characters have connections with Hong Kong, and the short stories take place shortly before and after the 1997 Hong Kong handover.

I have historically had some issues with Amy Tan, which pretty much is all the Chinese-American literature I've read. I've read quite a bit of classical Chinese literature, often under great duress in preparation for a test or memorization, but I haven't read much contemporary Chinese literature at all.

I think much of this is because I was operating under the assumption that contemporary Chinese-American literature needed to somehow echo my own experiences or speak to them, but I think that's placing an unfair burden on the authors. The only reason I look to them for representation and for a voice is because there is still relatively little Chinese-American (or Chinese-other-nationality or third-culture-kid) literature out there, and so, there isn't that much in general fiction in America that speaks specifically to me.

I append this by saying that I do not think that people of other sexes, genders, races, ethnicities, ages, nationalities, etc. cannot identify with people unlike them. I frequently find myself identifying with white males. My issue is that there should be more options, not less, and for underrepresented people of any sort (be it sex-based, race-based, age-based, etc.), representation is emotionally important.

Anyway, back to the book. I'm not saying that the book isn't representative of the Chinese-American experience, because that is unfair to the book, and the only reason I ask it of the book is because I have so little exposure to a) the Chinese-American experience (am third-culture kid, so I sort of have a half-Chinese-American experience, if that makes any sort of sense) and b) Chinese-American or half-Chinese-American literature.

That said, I kept hoping to find myself represented somehow, but I kept being put off for the same reasons I kept being put off Amy Tan's books in the past. I knew that it wasn't fair to ask the book to represent me, but I kept looking for representation all the same, and that's how I was disappointed. Chiu is writing about people with problems, people that I sort of know, but people who aren't necessarily me.

Much of this is because the book is so firmly grounded in its characters, which is a good thing. It's just that the characters are connected to New York and Hong Kong, and I am not (Taiwan and California for me!).

To put all my personal issues to the side, I really admired the craft of the stories, particularly in how they intertwined. One character mentioned briefly in one story would show up as a supporting character in another and end up as the POV character in yet another. I also loved being able to see all the family dynamics from different POVs; Chiu balanced out everything by giving everyone a starring role and a supporting one, all at the same time.

I think this book would particularly reward re-reading; alas, I had to return it to the library before I could reread.

That said, it was a little too depressing for me. Chiu's characters deal with alienation, anorexia, problems with their sexuality, interpersonal relationship problems, and etc. Also, I wanted to slap some of the characters (particularly Jonathan). On the other hand, I can't tell if I feel this way because I don't want this to be seen as representative of the Chinese-American experience, because I am scared that people will read it and come away thinking that Chinese reserve hides all sorts of dysfunctions.

In the end, I can't manage to separate my personal thoughts on race and representation from the book itself, which is again unfair to the book and to the author. Ergo, (and this is my conclusion to pretty much everything) must read more! Also, wish there was more published like this.
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I found some of my old sketchbooks a few days ago, and I've been flipping through them nostalgically. I forgot that I used to draw a great deal before... wasn't particularly good at it, but apparently it was just something that I did. Maybe I'll try and do that again, not so much serious drawing or anything, but just trying it out every so often.

It's rather funny. There's a giant chunk in there of Gundam Wing inspired drawings (aka me learning to draw anime by copying artbooks and the like), and now I'm also slightly nostalgic for the days of GWing obsession and first discovering anime.

In the Beginning...

I had watched anime and read manga prior to the discovery of Gundam Wing in junior year of high school, but most of it was Sailor Moon (the season with Sailor Uranus and Neptune, who, btw, were really cool. Esp. Sailor Uranus). I also read a good chunk of the manga while I was getting my braces done, because the dentist's office had them and I wanted to find out what happened with the Sailor Uranus/Pluto/Neptune/Saturn arc.

Of course, this was in Taiwan, so finding oft-read copies of manga in the dentist's office was par for course, as well as the (really bad) Chinese dub of the anime. I also watched a lot of Robotech, dubbed in English, which I didn't know was actually a rather cut version of Macross. Fighter pilots falling in love with the aliens sent to assassinate them is apparently one of those plotlines that will always get me. Who would have thought.

Read more... )

Culture Shock and Confusion

College was in America. I realize this is a bit of a silly statement to make, but while I had intellectually realized that I'd be moving to a different country, albeit one I'd lived in before, eight years is still a long time, particularly when those eight years happen during childhood.

Sorry all people reading this who are really bored by the Third Culture Kid talk by now. It does seem to be rather inseparable from pretty much everything in my life ;).

Read more... )


I did a two month homestay in Kanazawa, Japan to study Japanese, and my host family was rather amused to learn I was an anime fan. They actually had all of Evangelion stashed somewhere, and my host mom let me borrow their copy of the Nausicaa manga, none of which I could read, since having taken two years of Japanese does not actually mean one can read sci-fi, to my great dismay. I never really talked with my host family that much; it was difficult to maintain anything resembling an intelligent conversation. I do remember several instances of pointing to the Evangelion videos and saying something like "I watched that and liked it."

Read more... )

Miyazaki in Three Countries

Despite announcing his retirement after Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki had a new movie coming out the summer I was in Japan -- Spirited Away. I was very, very excited, as I'm sure everyone can imagine (insert lots of loud squeeing and the mad waving of hands, and you've probably got it right). It was coming out around my birthday, and there were ads everywhere. The studio or someone had made some sort of partnership with NTT DoCoMo (the lead cell phone company at the time) and Lawson's (a popular convenience store) to provide i-Mode kiosks everywhere advertising the fact that you could buy your Spirited Away tickets with your phone. The stuffed animals were already in department stores -- I also desperately wanted a stuffie of the fat purple mouse with the buzzy bird on his head, but alas, Japan is expensive. Posters, TV ads, everything. We all pre-ordered tickets and went when it came out, to a crowded theater. I had no idea what it was going to be about, only that there was a girl with some pigs on the poster, with the caption "At the other side of the tunnel, there is a mysterious town..."

I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but I laughed hysterically everytime the purple mouse was on the screen. All the other people seemed to enjoy it though.

Read more... )

Things Change

When I was doing research for my thesis, I dug out some old newspaper and magazine articles on anime and manga in the US, to frame the general climate most English anime and manga scholarship was written in. The trend wasn't surprising to me -- there were many articles on the shocking nature of anime and manga, emphasizing the strangeness of using animation, generally thought of as a medium for children, to portray sex and violence. Several articles were on the manga industry in Japan, and while there were mentions of the broad array of subjects that anime and manga could cover, the author inevitably reverted to the "But it's animated sex and violence!" theme. Around 1999, things had started to change a little, with the Pokemon phenomenon reaching the general audience and with Princess Mononoke winning critical acclaim. There weren't that many other articles published; the bulk that I found were written around the Pokemon/Princess Mononoke timeframe, since that was when everyone started to sit up and notice these things.

Read more... )

[ profile] coffee_and_ink also has a post on feminism, manga and anime in the form of a personal history.

Anyone else have their personal anime/manga experiences posted?

Personal history of anime/manga index


Wed, Jun. 22nd, 2005 10:49 pm
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And an addendum to the previous post:

(obviously, this topic strikes something rather deeply in me)

I think part of why I think of nationality and nationalism/patriotism as a dangerous thing is not because of the current context of liberal vs. conservative or Taiwan's green vs. blue. I think part of it is because my understanding of the concept of nation comes from history classes, and as such, my concept of the modern nation-state is one based on the historical background of the first notions of nation-state arising from imperialism on one end and the repercussions of being colonized on the other.

I think the history of imperialism and colonization are so deeply embedded in my mind that I cannot think of most history without somehow relating it to this theme; my instinctive reaction to studying early East Asian history is to find factors in it that say the eventual colonization of various countries was not inevitable, that something could have been done. But I also read history in an attempt to understand how it happened, to understand all the factors that tied into each other so that instead of sailing to America, China was instead divided up into pieces by European nations (and Japan and America).

This is not a subject of strictly academic interest to me, just as my lifelong interest in feminism and gender issues is not strictly academic as well. I grew interested in them academically because these concepts are so central to my personal life -- I am a Chinese female who was born in America but spent half her life in Taiwan, I am a woman living in a world where I am still aware that most of the management positions in my company are filled by men, I am an Asian living in a world where many look to Asia for technology but America for culture, where China is a growing threat and opportunity in people's minds. I don't always think about being Asian. Usually I think of myself as just me, living my small life. People usually don't overtly remind me that I am Asian. But I notice when I'm one of the handful of non-Caucasian people at a scifi convention, I notice when I ogle at celebrities in magazines and realize I can never have that haircut because my hair is different, I notice when I am in a pearl milk tea store and instinctively order in Mandarin. I am not saying this as though it is a bad thing. It is just a thing. It's a part of me, just like my fingers and toes are a part of me; it's something about me that I only notice when I am conscious of it, be it out of pride or recognition or of a feeling of sticking out. Similarly, my English marks me as well. It's another one of those things that I don't usually notice until I realize how strange it sounds to hear perfect English coming out of another Asian's mouth. That's when I stop and think and realize that that is how someone has probably reacted to me before. I don't notice until I'm in Taiwan again and all the salesladies are asking me if I'm going to college in the States.

So for me, declaring myself to be "Chinese" or "American" means something, it's not something I can say without conflict. Similarly, the notion of nation, the formation of that notion in conjunction with the rise of imperialism in Europe, all these ideas are not academic. They mean something personal to me because they help me define one of the questions I have been struggling to answer all my life. What nationality am I? What race am I? Why are these questions that I have to think about? Why must I have a race or nationality? (since the previous post was about nationality and patriotism, I'm sticking to those parameters. But since this is me, whenever I say something about nationality or race, you can probably apply the same question to gender and sex.)

I identify myself with a race because of historical factors, because even if I may not identify myself with a race, other people probably are, consciously or unconsciously. It's not something I can ignore because it's something that's just there. I think about nation so much because topics like this come up in casual conversation; there will be the occasional statement about how America is the best country in the world, or how America is lazy and has no work ethic, or how China is Communist and Taking Over the World (tm). And I can't even have that conversation, because I'm still at the stage in which I'm wondering, "What does the concept of 'America the country' or 'China the country' mean? How did those concepts come about? How can they exist in the minds of millions of people when each person has a different take on it?"

Similarly, how can I even talk about "Chinese history" when what we now think of as China wasn't what China used to be? How can I even think about it when several centuries ago, the Qing Dynasty didn't even think of their territory as "China"?

And in the same vein, I cannot think about identifying myself with a country or a nation without remembering post-colonial history and the nationalist revivals in many areas with colonization in their pasts. And as such, I always remember the conflicts inherent in those nationalist movements, in the problems of declaring a nation to be a territory and ignoring different ethnic groups and struggles, the problems of declaring nation to be a people who have no land, the problems of declaring nation to be a government or movement that doesn't necessary have the backing of everyone they claim to be representing.

I don't even know how to begin talking about nation, national identity and patriotism because I can't even define the terms.
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Anyhow, a recent post on LJ and associated comments got me to thinking. I'm not posting this as a comment in there because I figure it will be fairly idiosyncratic on my end, very long and rambling, as per usual, and also because I don't feel up to making an argument or being rational or anything. So to keep in mind: these are some gut feelings of mine, some of which I have thought about for some time and some of which I haven't quite puzzled out yet.

I don't quite get the visceral response to the flag that I am getting that some people do. I'm not quite sure if it was because I spent half of my life in Taiwan, because I seem to not glom onto other symbols much or what. I suppose I just never quite wrapped my brain around the thought that flag=country, despite the parade with flags at the Olympics or the encyclopedia article with numerous flags or flag pins and everything, or a childhood spent listening obsessively to "Wee Sing America" and singing very loudly about the red, white and blue.

I can't tell if this is a response-to-America-the-nation thing, which on my end is extremely complicated, or a simple me-no-get-symbols thing. I'm not sure. I've never seen anyone desecrating a cross, so I don't know if I would have a gut reaction to that. I have more of a gut reaction to national anthems, probably because I sing them and that connects me to them emotionally. I feel an extreme gut reaction if I think about someone burning down my house and all my things, or a library, or ripping books apart. I think this may be because those things, while physical, are still things -- they represent something to me, but they don't represent something to everyone. They represent my memories, or the potential of knowledge or something like that.

Also, I find that I am rather wary of symbols. I guess I am ambivalent toward any concept that can be boiled down into a symbol, be it flag or family crest or whatnot. Symbols in fiction I grok; symbols in real life are a bit iffier for me. I think this is because I tend to be hesitant to adopt a symbol, because I feel that so many different people believing so fervently in one symbol probably means that there are many different interpretations for said symbol, so that when two people say that they fight for the flag/cross/keychain/who knows, they may be fighting for completely different things, depending on what they believe on, but they are projecting their different ideologies onto a single item.

I'm still trying to dig around for symbolic objects that I find meaningful that are also meaningful to a large group of people (aka, people who are not just me and my group of friends), but I think the last one I really stood behind was... er... our senior class flag from high school (don't mock me!). And now, thinking back on it, I suspect a large part of that was because my class was so small (17 some people) and that I had known them for so long. It was intensely personal for me, and the fact that 16 other people shared it didn't matter quite so much. When I went to college, the whole college mascot and team and colors thing never quite clicked with me. First off, we had ugly colors. Haha, right, I suppose that's not supposed to matter, but honestly, I didn't want to walk around everywhere with college paraphernelia on. I don't think it's because I don't want to be associated with my college, but that I don't feel all that personally involved with it. Hrm. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't wear a Taiwan flag or an American flag.

I think I am just tired of politics. I am tired of political parties and how polarizing they are -- in Taiwan my parents and most of their friends are for one political party, and my friends are mostly for another, and each side keeps accusing the other of things, and I know people on both sides, and while I should be more involved, I'm not, so both sides just end up looking silly. In America, well, I do identify more with one party than another, but I'm just so sick of people going around saying "blah blah conservatives do this blah blah liberals do that blah blah." I know, I should practise what I preach. And also, patriotism/nationalism frightens me. I use the term patriotism/nationalism mostly because I have a sneaking suspicion that if you (generalized) do it, it's "patriotism," but if "they" do it, it's "nationalism." And I dislike the grouping of people into left and right, or top and bottom, or any such simple categories, because the cultural studies part of my brain mostly just wants to squiggle about on the floor and yell, "But it's all so complicated!"

I guess my general opinion is that I don't particularly believe in nations.

*waits for everyone to drop dead of horror and start flaming me*

(sorry, I've said stuff like this before to people back in college and gotten some fairly boggled looks and gotten into quite a few arguments)

What do I believe in? I'm not sure. I believe in people. I believe that most people in most places, regardless of nationality or race or gender, get hungry and are tired, enjoy being happy and dislike being sad. I believe that a lot of what we consider to be nationality are actually bits and pieces of historical cause and effect that go way back. I believe that history affects people, and that history is what builds that fragile notion of culture and nationality, and historical aftermath is what keeps much of it in place. And while I believe the notion of nation has a place, especially in uniting people, I am more wary of people united than people being individual people. This is probably because I tend to feel that I can understand people being people, but people acting under a big flag or political party or army begin to frighten me because of how ideals can take over. And yes, often these are good ideals, but I feel that the group mentality can often overtake the notion of the individual person and render the "other side" faceless and impersonal.

And I am still debating how to live nationless, because while I love America, I know that I am a creature who is more local than national. I love my city and my downtown street and my apartment, and I love the multiethnicity of the area I live in, but I know that my city and my street and my area are not America-the-nation, only a part. I don't know America-the-nation. I haven't gone everywhere there. I deeply love some things about it that I have experienced, but I find other parts problematic. Same with Taiwan. I feel this is not a contradiction, although I suppose a great deal of people must. I feel like I can live in different countries and love it there all the same, to enjoy the good things about a country while wanting the bad things to be made better, and I feel that I can do this for anywhere I choose to live. Also, it is fairly difficult to identify myself solely with one country and one nationality when I have lived in two, and that's just the two I have lived in. I want to live in more. I personally do not feel like this is a bad thing that brings down the nation I currently choose to live in, but as I said, I probably feel like this because it's me I'm talking about.

Anyhow, I am not quite sure what I mean to express in this post, except possibly a deep sense of ambivalence in symbols and in nations that I am still trying to understand.

ETA: Addendum

(no subject)

Sat, Apr. 23rd, 2005 01:37 am
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Watched The Interpreter tonight... we were going to go see The Upside of Anger, but we ended up getting the wrong tickets and then switching for this one, which is fine with me, since I wanted to see it anyway.

I really liked it. Really liked how delicately the relationship between Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn's characters were played, how there was tension but how it didn't tip over into romance.

I don't know. The movie just got me thinking about things, about how little I know about African history. I took a class called "The World Since 1500" in college -- mostly it was on the effects of colonization and imperialism and how it shaped the world today, and it was fascinating. One of the profs. who taught the course was an expert on African history, and although we touched on it a little for the class, I've forever wanted to know more afterwards, because there are so many things happening there and I don't know the historial backdrop at all, so I feel like I am not informed about it at all. Yah, that's me... I never feel like I'm informed until I've had about 5 centuries worth of historical context so I know how all the ideas and whatnot developed.

And it just seemed to be a very idealistic movie about the UN, about the power of words and diplomacy, which I particularly appreciated, especially since the movie seems to be marketed as a thriller, and usually thrillers have a more conservative political stance. I am a horrible idealist, and while the boy used to argue all the time that the UN was ineffectual, it is still something I believe in, and there is still something rather inspiring about so many nations gathering under one roof to hear something and to discuss things. I also liked the movie because of how it made the political personal, and how it felt so international.

This is me just making gigantic generalizations, but I feel that thrillers, particularly political thrillers, tend to have a very nationalistic bent to them at times. Air Force One, the Tom Clancy adaptations, etc. It's about saving the president, saving the reputation of the country and such. And it's about it being ok to use guns and violence as long as it's to protect the country, and this is a concept that does disturb me. Of course, this is me, and I really dislike violence. I liked that even though there were the trappings of a thriller about this movie, in the end it was about words and about putting down guns. And I can hear the quiet whispers of Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn's voices in my head still, and for a thriller, it's got a remarkable amount of dialogue about some rather abstract things, and I don't think it's a coincidence that there is this emphasis on voices and words and speech, given that the Kidman character is an interpreter and that she stresses the importance of words and connotations in one of the beginning scenes.

This concept of words and diplomacy, of interpreting languages and of being multi-national or trans-national, this is important to me in a way that I can't quite pinpoint. I think part of it must have something to do with not feeling like I'm a part of any nation, and so this gathering of nations is something that I like. And while I understand the love of nation, I am wary because love of nation often leads to polarization, to rhetoric against other nations (the jokes about France floating around when the US first sent troops to Iraq bothered me a great deal). I don't know. I feel that underneath everything, there should be a sense of the personal, of how it is political because being human should be enough to make other people and governments care about your fate.

As I said, I am an idealist. And now I am going to go rent Hotel Rwanda and finally read the book on that event that my sister gave me, because I feel responsible, in some way. Not quite responsible for it, but responsible for knowing, for bearing witness. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone, but that's how it feels in my head.

On a lighter note, I went to Borders and was bad. Borders had a buy-2-get-one-free sale for manga. Er. Yes. Luckily, they did not have the new Connie Brockway in stock, so I was not tempted further, but I got vols. 1-3 of Angel Sanctuary and a book on the modern history of Tibet, which was on sale for $4. It's a remainder, so it's sort of beat up, but it's got a great blurb from the NYTimes on the front, and I know nothing about Tibet, and I feel I should know something. Onto the pile it goes.
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Because I am feeling Victorian (haha! I appropriate you, O imperialist culture of the past!):
In which I type a heck of a lot on cultural appropriation, cultural authenticity, imperialism, anime, manga, fandom, East Asian Studies, and Taiwan, with the gratuitous use of parenthetical interjections and multiple tangents and wish that I could have included feminism and gender studies to include all of my academic interests in one gigantic post.

I was going to start writing about this in response to [ profile] coffee_and_ink's post and her comments here, except I realized it would get so lengthy that I should probably stick it in my lj.

Actually, a lot of it sparked thoughts beginning with the problems inherent in using a certain genre or type of literature/art/pop culture/what have you to extrapolate the psychology of an entire nation of people. Or an entire nation of schoolgirls, if you're talking specifically about shoujo manga studies. Much of this is also sparked by the fact that almost all of the scholarship that I've read on manga and anime has been about why manga and anime are somehow intrinsically "Japanese" and how they can be used to make telling arguments about the Japanese psyche. This is particularly the case when people can make a connection between culture and sex and/or gender, and so there does seem to be a great deal of focus on the extreme pornographic nature of anime and manga as well as the strangeness of an entire subgenre written for women by women (or for shoujo by women) dealing with two beautiful boys having sex with each other and how it indicates a certain perversion in the way the Japanese deal with sex and why the entire nation is completely messed up in terms of gender roles. I suspect that all these scholars have never spent a day or two on the internet with all the meta about slash, or they would see that this subgenre on male-male love by women for a female audience isn't exactly a specifically Japanese incidence.

I am in no way saying that slash equates shounen ai, because it doesn't and there are some distinctively different tropes between the two, largely because (I generalize horribly here) slash seems to be more based on romance novel conventions and shounen ai is based more on shoujo manga conventions.

But anyway, I still think it is rather silly to point to anime and manga and say, "Look! This means blah about Japan/Japanese culture/the Japanese!" One, it's pointing at not just a genre, but an entire group of genres in two very different media, which is just sloppy. Two, even when the argument about shounen ai being an indication of Japanese shoujo's fear of sexuality and their desire to stay in the sexually ambiguous space between childhood and womanhood limits the discussion of the genre to shounen ai (more of a subgenre, I would say, but I am splitting hairs now), it almost invariably completely ignores the fact that wow, shounen ai is a genre populated by many, many authors and has officially been in existence for about thirty years and as a consequence, has had at least one generation of authors and probably several generations of readers. Never mind the differences that thirty years can bring in a culture, never mind the differences of social and economic class, of region, of education level, of individual preference. Also, never mind that shounen ai (and much of manga and anime) borrows from assorted Western/classical and Chinese mythology and literature, even if it is on a shallow level. Anyway, to stop ranting, I think it is just sloppy scholarship to point at a body of work and make not a judgment about the pool of authors/creators of the work or the time period or whatnot, but a huge generalization about the psychology of the readers of the work, especially when said scholars don't even bother doing something easy like asking some of the readers and instead apply weird Freudian theories or somesuch. Plus, witness the huge fandom uproar whenever someone says "Slash means that female fans are afraid of their own sexuality!" and expand that statement to include an entire nation of people, and then see how it sounds.

Anyway, this was a really long way to get to what [ profile] coffee_and_ink was saying about cultural appropriation of the arts and just how problematic the notion of cultural appropriation is. I haven't read up much on this at all, but on a personal level, I'm very conflicted about it. I think Mely got around to the topic when she said something about culture being something learned, not something inherent in someone's genes or heritage or sopped up with breast milk or whatever. And I very much agree with the thought that there is no national ownership of ideas, and the reader in me is all for the "all art is mine" approach. I think the notion of the impenetrability of Japanese literature or Islamic literature or Oriental or insert-culture-here is pretty stupid. On the other hand, I think it is difficult learning an entirely new canon of literature that differs completely from the canon you are familiar with, and since so much of literature does allude and refer to older works, yeah, it's hard. I mean, it was weird enough for me learning how to read romances without rolling my eyes and learning the tropes and the language and etc., much less learning an entirely different mass of literary works (or art or music or whatever you like). Ergo, as I found out the hard way, you cannot just show someone anime and expect them to know what everything means. Amazingly, people who have not seen chibi form before are very weirded out by people randomly turning into smaller, cuter versions of themselves ;).

I think, though, the flip side of this learning curve is the tendency to view it as an impossibly steep slope, or a slope that only a selected few people can climb, which is what I think happens in a good deal of East Asian studies academics and in anime/manga fandom. Er. I speak as someone who majored in EAS but wasn't particularly enmeshed in her small department and as someone whose last experience in the anime/manga fandom was six years ago, so grain of salt! I sort of want to equate scholarly jargon with fangirl/fanboy speak, as a certain code into a culture. Except I do think scholarly jargon has a place, because when I say things like "Japan," I really mean "the notion of Japan-the-nation in the early twenty-first century with the caveat that it is composed of many individuals of varying statuses and thoughts and opinions and what really is nation anyway but this is too long of an explanation to say every time so I will just say Japan." Or "the West" meaning "what Japanese discourse around the late nineteenth century referred to all the European and American nations by." It's hard to have a discussion without first defining all the terms. And in a way, that is what fans do -- think of all the meta discussions on what "slash" means, what "canon" and "fanon" are and all the arguments that happen when people talk about these things without realizing that their definitions of the terms are different. In anime/manga fandom the terms seem to be "yaoi" and "shounen ai" and whatnot, and I've seen several cycles of people claiming different linguistic origins for "yaoi."

I'm not sure if it's the combination of fandom terminology and the new cultural context, but the anime and manga fandom seems to be particularly suscept to the notion that you need credentials to watch anime or read manga (or just the GWing fandom ~1999?). I guess it's like this in most fandoms -- in sci-fi/fantasy, there's a canon of works that you should have read to be "well-read" (it was interesting seeing this at Norwescon!) and it's a way to identify members within the group. But it seemed like in every single argument on mailing lists in the Gundam Wing fandom, someone would invariably pop up and say, "Blah means blah and I know this because I took Japanese for a year!" Or because my Japanese friend said so, or because I went to Japan, or because I lived in Japan for eight years, or because I have done homestay, or because I wrote a paper on it (hee, that's mine). And I sort of wonder why people feel the need to justify their knowledge or their theories in this way. On the other hand, I'm not arguing, because this feeling of constantly not knowing enough is what lead me to do East Asian Studies, which I adore. And it's just particularly funny because (here is where I gratuitously flash my creds) I majored in this, took four and a half years of Japanese and did a two-month homestay there, wrote my thesis specifically on shoujo manga and anime and manga scholarship and to be honest, I feel like I have only gotten a hint of the answer. Actually, I think the answer is just, "It's complicated." Anyway, it does seem that people that I've seen getting into anime and into my department start out feeling like they don't know much, gain a little knowledge and start overgeneralizing or making huge statements of truth, then start splitting hairs and saying I don't know to everything. And then, finally, the big professors who have spent decades doing this have answers, but with about ten bazillion complications and exceptions and footnotes that they are generalizing.

Ok, I completely lost my point somewhere in there. I think I was actually going to talk about cultural appropriation. Anyway, all this was supposed to say something about how people can guard a culture or an artform as "theirs" or as something you have to be initiated into or have some sort of special knowledge to do. And while I would not say that you should go into an unknown canon and immediately start saying it's stupid because it doesn't conform to your canon, I would also say that these artforms, they are not mysterious things that need to be decoded by a Tibetan monk who lives in the center of the earth. And because of this, I think it is rather silly to say one artform is intrinsically Japanese/Chinese/American/blah, because saying that means that 1) culture is genetic 2) culture is monolithic 3) only people within the culture can understand it. This is where I start taking offense as a reader, because basically it's telling me that I shouldn't be going off reading other cultures' texts and whatnot because I'll never understand them anyway! And hey! I like reading, so I don't like it when anyone tells me I shouldn't read something.

Plus, having sort of grown up in two cultures, I personally think that nationality and culture and all that stuff are boundaries that people make up for themselves to make it easier to put the world in categories. Because in the end, how do you untangle the parts of me that are Chinese and American from what is just me and from what I got from reading books and growing up in Taiwan and going to college in America?

Again, I get off the point. This is where I put the big "but" in on why I think the opposite assumption, that all culture belongs to everyone and that it completely doesn't matter who uses what artforms, is also too simplistic (again, Mely says this better than me... I just say it with more words and confusion!). Aside from the problem of appropriating physical cultural treasure (i.e. the Egyptian collection in the British Museum), which I think most people can see the problematics of, I think the bigger problem with this assumption is that it is really idealistic and unfortunately ignores about two centuries or so of nationalism and the formation of national identities hand in hand with colonialism and imperialism. (Wow, I used "problem" three times in that sentence. Technically one use was "problematic." I like that word ^_^.)

More text here )

(no subject)

Wed, Nov. 24th, 2004 04:39 pm
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Having a lot of fun reading everyone's Thanksgiving posts, though I am boggling slightly at the sheer amount of food out there! I'm not really used to doing Thanksgiving -- in high school, the moms would prepare a nice lunch with our best attempts at pie (usually bought), smoked turkey, as it was a general consensus that no one liked dry white meat (I am a big dark meat eater, which works perfectly because the boy likes white), mashed potatoes and gravy made by people who had no idea how to make mashed potatoes and gravy, and fried rice and fried noodles. So now, somehow, mi fun (sort of fried rice noodles) have become part of my Thanksgiving landscape.

In college I went to a friend's family's house (with the friend) and had turkey, mashed potatoes, and assorted Chinese food. Sort of a strange mix, but still tasty.

I think the boy's is more traditional ;). Pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce(s), a ginormous turkey, pumpkin soup this year out of pumpkin tureens (they are none of my doing. I shall say that and leave it at that), probably something like yorkshire pudding and green bean casserole. And hopefully some sort of fresh veggies and fruit for me. And, of course, the ever-present cheese table, on which I gorge, so I can eat about three bites total for dinner. Ooo, and I hope there are yams. This year I am also bringing one of the few tasty things that I can bake -- applesauce cake! Tradition for one year now.

This is my third real American Thanksgiving! How exciting ^_^. Maybe next year I shall graduate to attempts at pie.

It's probably rather commercial and not at all based on things to be thankful for, but for me, this is the holiday of food and good eating. I am, however, very thankful for that, and for food in general. I like food.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Calvin and Hobbes comics)
(subtitled The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, but it wouldn't fit in the subject field)

ETA: [ profile] rachelmanija, this is the book I was talking about in the food post before. Offer to lend it still stands.

I liked this book more for what it wanted to say than for how it said it, if that makes any sense at all. Mostly I liked that little moment of revelation in which I went "Oh! There's a term for people like me." The premise is basically that third culture kids (TCKs) and ATCKs (adult third culture kids... er, you know what they mean) have more in common with each other, despite completely different cultural backgrounds, than they might have with people from cultural backgrounds that they partially share. Of course I generalize horribly when I say that I feel this is true, but in my own experience, having moved around to a different country is something that people have in common. Whether it's a closer bond than that shared by people who read the same books or watch the same TV shows is an entirely different matter.

My main problem with the book was just how anecdotal it all was. It's all good and fine to say that people's stories have similar threads to them, but I really wanted something much more substantive than aforementioned anecdotes. And then they took the anecdotes and began with common character traits of TCKs, and while that was sort of fun, part of me (most likely the bit still left over from AP Psychology in high school) kept thinking that the definitions were so vague and so flip-floppy that they could apply to anyone, not just TCKs. And once the authors began dispensing advice as to how to deal with TCKs (finding schools, etc.), it did get a little better. Well, mostly just the finding schools section, because it was more specific to the entire situation in which one is moving around. The others mostly just sounded like good overall family advice (aka. communicate with your kids. Duh).

Also, I kept getting confused by trying to find myself in the examples. Pollock defines a TCK as "a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture" and adds that what distinguishes a TCK from an immigrant is the fact that there is the expectation that the TCK and family will eventually re-locate to the original home culture. I probably shouldn't be trying to make it so specific to fit me, but since I bought the book mostly for that reason, I did anyway. So I had a rather hard time figuring out what was supposed to be my home culture and what was the host culture. America should technically be the home culture, because that's where I first lived, and I have sort of adopted the host culture of Taiwan in a way that many of the other TCKs do. But according to the definition, it doesn't quite work, because America isn't my parents' culture. Whenever I try to figure out culture and nationality in context of my own life, I just end up with a giant mess on my hands. Pollock does briefly say something about children born in the host culture while their parents are staying there, but doesn't go into detail, and thereby skips the entire section I'm interested in for navel-gazing purposes.

I also wanted a large, fat study on if TCKs did have a sort of signature worldview, and what were common problems and benefits and etc, with lots of statistics and graphs that I would probably end up skimming over anyway. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't really want some giant psychology text. I want some giant treatise on culture and authenticity and liminality and the imagined communities of nation and ethnicity and the problems thereof. Of course, that's pretty much what I always want....
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[ profile] jonquil had an interesting comment on my giant rambling post on cooking Chinese food (among many other things) and on being Chinese, which made me start wondering just why it is that I take offense to suggestions to cook American food. And my knee-jerk reaction is taking offense, which is sort of strange once I sit down and think about it, given that I eat pretty much every kind of food and enjoy going out and hunting for new foods to eat. I think if people were to suggest things like a great recipe for pad thai or for palak paneer or for hummus, I would be much more amenable.

I tend to associate food with home (most people do, yes? or just me?), and I associate home with Taiwan. I also associate Chinese food with being Chinese. Maybe I am saying things that are completely obvious to everyone, but I only started really thinking this out today, so it's still interesting to me to watch the paths my brain takes. Probably more importantly, I associate American food with being American, which is a big part of my mixed reaction.

So for anyone who had no idea: I was born in the States and lived here until I was eight, which is when my family picked up and moved to Taiwan (where my parents were born and raised). Contrary to now, I hated Taiwan the first few years I lived there. It was hot, it was humid, and everyone spoke a language I sucked at (Mandarin Chinese, though now I think it is shifting more to Taiwanese, which I don't even have a rudimentary understanding of). And everyone ate really weird food. I don't actually remember that much of what I ate back in Colorado, but I'm pretty sure we didn't go out to eat in Chinese restaurants all that often, given that there weren't all that many back then. In Taiwan, my parents were probably overjoyed to finally be able to eat good Chinese food again, and we went out to Chinese restaurants a lot. Also, there just weren't as many western restaurants back then, much less American goodies like Doritos or Oreos. Anyhow, there was much culture shock on my part, and food was very closely associated with this. One of my very first memories of Taiwan is being taken to a traditional marketplace in which various vendors had hunks of raw meat lying out, whole chickens and ducks, fish and etc. It was very dirty, very noisy, and very strange. The one thing I remember most was the stand that sold frogs (for eating), and half peeking to grimace at the frog vendor taking out live frogs and chopping them in half for consumption. Needless to say, I was a very grossed-out kid.

My parents tried to get me to eat slightly more traditional Chinese food in Taiwan -- frog legs (my mom lied and told me it was chicken), raw clams, jellyfish, etc. My mom would always ask me to just take one bite, and if I didn't like it, I wouldn't have to eat it. If she ever did manage to get me to take a bite, I would almost certainly say I didn't like it if only for the principle of the matter. There were specific foods I liked, especially spring rolls and hu fun (flat rice noodles), but usually I would throw screaming fits about going to eat at Chinese restaurants again and again and again. I wanted to be an American girl, not a Chinese girl who had to eat weird food, and as a reflection of that, I wanted to eat things like mashed potatoes and pizza and macaroni and cheese.

After a few years in Taiwan, I started becoming more and more used to it and liking it more. But I think the general feeling that America was a superior country was a fairly common one in my school (bilingual, set up just for people like me, whose parents had moved back from abroad with their possibly non-Chinese-speaking kids). Shopping in America was better, the politics and government were better, and it was all in all a better place to live, so lots of people said. Plus, Doritos. And while this was going on, I was starting to get more and more attached to Taiwan, and so there was this awkward position of trying to defend it while not really being a part of it -- much as though I love my school, it was definitely a bubble of expat kids. Cut for length )

(no subject)

Tue, Nov. 16th, 2004 11:06 pm
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Hee, I accidentally submitted a review for Rebecca Tingle's The Edge on the Sword, a YA historical, to Broadsheet even though I know full well that Broadsheet is for women writers of speculative fiction. Apparently my brain must somehow equate pre-modern times and girls with swords with fantasy. My brain is quite odd. But to be honest, historical fiction has about the same appeals fantasy often holds for me. For the shallow aspects, you've got people wearing fancy clothes and swords and kingdoms and the like, which, unfortunately often turns into derivative junk. But on a deeper level, both of them seem to be about world-building, about creating (or re-creating) a world with enough detail and facts and sensations so that I begin to fully believe that I live there, that I know that world almost as well as I know my own. I know both must have their own difficulties -- creating a world from scratch is very different from trying to resurrect a world from the past. And it must be rather nice to be the only specialist on the world you have created, knowing all the little nooks and crannies that aren't necessarily let out to the reader but are there in the background all the same. Historical fiction is subject to more nitpicking on a purely factual level (much like me sitting and having lots of fun listening to two otaku nitpick The Last Samurai. Ok, I admit, I was doing a good deal of nitpicking in my head as well). But then, having tried to create a world out of scratch in my own head before, I'm not sure which is the scarier option ;). Researching a known period, having facts on your side, is also very comforting (so speaks she who is enamoured of research). Anyhow, historical fiction and solid world-building fantasy occupy the same space in my head, apparently.

But I think the more magical type of fantasy in which the world-building isn't quite as important as the characters and the images is usually equated with fairy tale, fable, myth, and legend.

Still, no wonder I've been on such a fantasy kick after reading Dunnett. And no wonder I keep picking up YA historicals.

Called my mom today. She has been greatly encouraged by the fact that I have seemingly taken her advice and started exercising. Very minimally exercising, but still exercising. So now she has decided that since I do apparently listen to what she says, she should begin urging me to exercise even more! And to cook! *sigh* I should have know caving wouldn't make her stop complaining ;). Oh well. As my boss says, she's a mom. Of course she does this.

I keep almost getting into a big gender-role-inspired rant on why everyone keeps asking me if I cook and why everyone keeps encouraging me to cook. This is particularly annoying when people start offering me American recipes. I'm sure it is meant with the best of intentions, but to be honest, I'm Chinese. I prefer to cook Chinese food. I don't think anyone is really implying anything -- rather, they're all being quite enthusiastic about the things they like to cook, or things they find easy to cook. And I don't want to be snobby or anything. But, I mean, I've eaten Chinese food for most of my life, and the thought of cooking something like a taco salad or meatloaf or the like is much further away than the thought of cooking good rice porridge. I suppose mostly it's people of good intention not quite realizing that, to me, Chinese food is comfort food, not strange and exotic and difficult to cook. Actually, that's probably a very good metaphor for much of my life -- people tend to assume I'm a fully integrated Asian-American with great knowledge of pop culture and whatnot, which I am not, or they assume I'm a fully integrated Chinese person in Taiwan (before I open my mouth, that is... and not using the term "Taiwanese" because I'm still not quite sure if it is an ethnic label or not, and seeing as how my grandparents are from China...), which I am also not. Mostly I feel like a person for whom all things are vaguely foreign and exotic. Anyhow, back to the almost-rant. I keep wanting to start ranting on why people only seem to push me to cook, and not the boy, but luckily the boy has nipped this mid-bud and said his parents annoy him about it too. Although sometimes when I am there, it feels suspiciously as though they are urging me to cook for him, which is vaguely creepy.

In other news, I have found out that I sort of know [ profile] fannishly's cousin from Taiwan!!!! OMG SO WEIRD!! SO COOL!! And I had no idea when I found her LJ (or she found mine)!! The internet (and Taiwan) is a very small world indeed. Actually, I attribute this more to the Taiwan factor, since apparently everyone with some sort of connection to Taiwan who has ever been in America will somehow end up connected with someone else I know with a connection to Taiwan. And if you think I'm bad, it's ten times more extreme with my parents. I used to joke that my dad would meet someone he knew every time he walked through an airport.

Randomly: Is there any sort of good "how to write book reviews" website ala all those good "how to write sci-fi/fantasy" sites out there? Nyargh, must remember not to be too ambitious, but I suppose there is no harm in trying, yes?

(no subject)

Fri, Nov. 12th, 2004 10:28 pm
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Owowowow, this made me laugh so hard I cried. I think the best one is in the comments, on a cat, a hamper, and a rubber band.

*collapses into giggles*

I think I am finally beginning to understand the cult of Friday (otherwise known as "TGIF"). In Taiwan, we went to school Mon.-Fri. with another half day on Saturday. They changed that my senior year so that we only went to school every other Saturday (but took out a few national holidays for it). I think after I graduated (of course), they finally changed it so that people had a five-day week like the rest of the freaking world. But, I got rather used to working on Saturdays.

College, everyone's schedules were completely out of whack, especially later on. I had the occasional free Tuesday, or one class only on Thursday, or etc. At the bookstore, I worked Saturdays and got Sundays and Wednesdays off.

Now, I have normal weekends. And on Fridays, there's this incredibly different atmosphere. Everyone is somehow bouncier, anticipating the weekend, more jokes are made. I sing loudly in the car. It's quite nifty, really.

I've found that I don't actually mind my commute all that much. Well, I hate driving, so it's on the tolerable level, and there are many annoying cars on the road. I think those super-fast cars that like to weave in and out of lanes without a turn signal deserve a special place in traffic jam hell. But I have my bouncy CDs and Assassins in the car, and since it's just me, I sing at the top of my lungs. And somehow, the driver's seat has shower-like acoustics, so I actually sound not-so-bad when I do it. The bad thing, though, is that now I'm in the habit of randomly bursting into song for my favorite bits ("Chaaaaarlie said, 'Hell! If I am guilty than God is as well.' But God was ac-quit-ted and Charlie com-mit-ted until he should haaaaaaaaaaang... still he saaaaaaaang..."). That wouldn't be so bad, except now I do it at the top of my lungs and when other people are still in the car. So far, "other people" have mostly been the boy, who doesn't really mind, but I fear I will start doing it and completely embarrass myself one day.

I'm very good at embarrassing myself. Lately I've begun haphazardly walking into cubicle walls. I don't think anyone has seen me do this yet (thankfully), but still. It's not like the cubicle walls have moved or anything. My feet and brain just somehow manage to miscalculate so that I bounce off them. I used to be very good at opening doors and not coordinating it very well so I would just perfectly get the half-opened door edge right in front of my face and walk smack into it.

Really, how can I be expected to play video games and make those characters walk in a straight line and avoid walls when I can't do that in real life with my own body?
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
It's strange, but I feel as though I can like Amy Tan's books more now that I've read her essays. One of my mains problems with her books are just the "Asian-American literature" part of them, so it's rather nice to know that Tan finds it rather strange to be stuck in the ethnic writers' ghetto and to be evaluated on how accurately she portrays an ethnic group, or improves race relations, etc. And I feel bad, because I generally do criticize her books on that level -- it's sometimes hard not to when there are so many similarities and differences between her experiences and her characters and my own.

I've read some of the essays before, most notably the one on language. The thing that struck me most was just how eventful her life has been and how painful it must have been -- she lost her father and brother in about a year, then her mother had them all move to Switzerland. Plus, of course, the depression her mother had and how that affected their relationship. I think she sounds like a person who would be interesting to talk to, but that I might not necessarily want to know.

Many of the essays are on her mother and her maternal grandmother, on her relationship with them, and through them, with China and Chinese culture. Other subjects include crazed squirrels (my personal favorite), being a rock star, going to Hollywood, etc.

Book-related personal thoughts )

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 28th, 2004 12:36 am
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Now I kind of feel bad about being so snarky about the Judith Tarr book. It wasn't bad by any means, it was just the bad parts were so distracting from the good parts that it was very frustrating.

[ profile] yhlee's got some interesting thoughts on nationality/ethnicity (I can't think of the right descriptive) and writing.

As a reader, I like having sci-fi/fantasy that has different cultural influences. But I also get rather irked when it goes wrong, when it feels like the author has only sort of paid lip service to research or something and ends up perpetuating stereotypics instead of offering an interesting look at the culture. It's a fine line to walk; plus, I'm probably a more touchy reader than most. And I have to remember that something that doesn't feel "Asian" or "Chinese" to me might just be me, because it's not as though I've grown up being entirely Asian or Chinese or whatnot.

Then there's the fun flip side -- I remember reading a Time Magazine article in twelfth grade, in which the author suggested that maybe the multi-colored hair and big eyes of anime characters indicates some sublimated Japanese desire to be Caucasian. I don't really buy into that, but it's interesting, and it made me think. I guess for anime it's hard to tell sometimes -- the guy who basically invented anime and manga in their modern form was highly influenced by Disney. Plus, there are all the pseudo-European fantasy landscapes in so much anime and manga, particularly shoujo.

I think this is why I get a bit huffy sometimes at America-the-conceptual-entity (which I think is different from America-the-political-state or America-which-contains-lots-of-different-people). Obviously, no one in America is forcing other countries to adopt bits of American culture, and of course, globalization, etc. and America itself definitely has lots of other cultures influencing it as well. It's just that sometimes it seems so prevalent that one comment on the superiority of America (which would annoy me anyway) just sets me off. I used to argue with my friends a lot about this in college -- I think I've cooled down about it, but it's still a niggly little annoying thing.

Hrm, now wondering if I have said too much -- I am a total wuss about confrontation and argumentation.
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I've been kind of mulling over morality and fiction/fictional worlds lately, not sparked by anything in particular. It's more a combination of old AtPo and LJ posts examining the morality of various Buffy and Angel characters, particularly of the reaction to LMPTM, to Jenny-O's post on misogyny and the Connor arc, and to many previous things.

Sometimes I wonder why it matters to us so much that our characters or shows have a moral theme. I hear stuff about Eowyn abandoning her duty to Rohan, and I have that instant in which I feel I must defend her, or something silly like that. Why does it matter so much to me that Eowyn be in the right? And it obviously does, even though intellectually I can appreciate how having these moral dilemmas for her character makes her a much more dynamic and interesting character. And I hate it when characters are always in the moral right, like the Heralds of Valdemar or something. Except, now that I think about it, that's not what bugs me the most. What annoys me the most is that they are not always in the moral right, and yet, everyone treats them as though they were -- they being any fictional character suffering Mary Sue-itis, or being whitewashed somehow. It's that they are making choices which I find morally grey to say the least, such as killing people (no matter what the cause) and suffering no consequence.

Because it is getting long... )

(no subject)

Wed, Mar. 24th, 2004 11:09 pm
oyceter: Delirium from Sandman with caption "That and the burning baby fish swimming all round your head" (delirium)
I'm having so much fun reading other people's food memes ^_^. Partly because I adore food, and partly because I find the cultural background really interesting. I've always had this fascination with "American" food. I mean, what did they eat at home? Did they really have spaghetti and meatloaf and mac and cheese a lot? It's weird, but it was so completely foreign to me, because I eat rice and stir fry and that stuff all the time.

The first time I ate dinner in America with an American family was when I visited my roommate sophomore year of college. It was weird. They did not have a wok in their kitchen or soy sauce. And they did things like make salad and had interesting pots and different spices and everything! Now I want to go see other kitchens. My aunt's kitchen is very American as well (she is married to one) and it completely freaked me out when I was visiting because nothing was familiar! They had tons of knives (on that fancy magnetic knife strip) and one of those salad dryer things and they cooked steaks and tuna melts. But they didn't have a rice cooker.

Up till then, I don't think I could actually imagine a kitchen without a rice cooker. It's just one of those things. Like a wok.

Eating home cooked food with my Japanese host family was incredibly fun too -- mostly from eating out here, you get the impression that they eat lots of sushi and raw fish and stuff, but really, my host family at least didn't. Lots and lots of miso soup though. And lots of little dishes and okra and fish and things that were kind of like Chinese food and yet not. And their staple was the tea machine (just tea steeping in a hot water heater thing, I suspect). But basically, they drank barley tea all the time -- with ice or hot, depending on the weather. I actually got really addicted to it, but I can't seem to find it that much here. Too much of it is sweetened, and I like that slightly malty barley taste.

It's just really fun seeing how home cooked food intersects or doesn't with restaurant food.

And it's fun reading different people's ideas of essential stuff. Me, for instance, I completely do not get pasta as comfort food... usually I can't eat too much pasta or I feel kind of bloated. But almost all of my roommates and my friends at college loved it! And of course, the boy gets tired if he eats too much Chinese food, but I really have to have Chinese food fairly often. Or if not, at least some sort of Asian food. And Chinese, especially the very non-fancy Chinese, is the best if I'm feeling homesick.


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