Thursday, December 29, 2005


It's hard to say goodbye to a blog but it's become way too retrospective, so here it all ends, not gonna quote Eliot, go read his poetry ...
Disclaimer: any mental trauma from reading this blog is not to be blamed on the author, wives/girlfriends and mothers of male readers should not fault the author for any sexual orientation changes that might occur in their guys and husbands and boyfriends should not fault the author for any femmie symptoms of their gals. Bye!

7 Searching for a cultural identity

Though the author has had some very funny ideas about different cultures , there has never been any doubt about the Chinese cultural identity, even if people always mistake the author for Korean, Japanese, American Asian etc. Even though like most contemporaries, the author hated Chinese class in school - probably more'cos of the pressure to achieve perfect grades or advance/acceleration course credits than any animosity for the language. The author's probably never gonna write poetry in Chinese, there's this sense of happiness that you can comprehend another language, that even though the land of your ancestors is miles away, you haven't lost all sense of your cultural identity.

Yet it's kinda weird 'cos the author doesn't think in a Chinese fashion, it's more of a translation exercise. Apparently, according to parents, the author was great at Chinese and the various dialects as a kid (probably 'cos of the grandparents) but Mom's reading programme drastically altered that . Though Dickens was a pain and Austen made the author think that the English were very weird people - it's not recommended that kids read serious reads before the ubiquitous enid blytons or be allowedto read pulp fiction at the age of 9; the author is proof of that folly- it was fun and the author thought in English and a style that was foreign . Yet, the culture that the author was brought up to aspire towards was so diametrically in opposition to the cultural values and traditions of the Chinese race . This merely resulted in the author, like so many foreign diaspora , being a foreigner to both cultures ; not quite immersed in either culture , yet having an understanding of both at some level. Frankly, some culture specific references are mystifying; be it the passion for cricket, the fad of traffic cone -napping (a drunken pasttime?!) or the Chinese brand of socialism or what could have prompted the more devastating aspects of the Cultural Revolution

This is the reality of the ideal of (a simplified) melting pot - you either subscribe to the illusion of blending with the larger social set or end up standing alone

However, those who blend too well risk losing part of their identity; many have heard of that NRI friend who returns to Mumbai for the first time in his adult life and is so traumatized by the culture shock that he returns to the States on the next available flight and when asked says there were too many indians in Mumbai. Whether you laugh or cry at that story depends on which side of the cultural divide you stand on

With culture comes cultural stereotypes and we're not talking about those who can't tell Arab from Sikh, but the perception that certain cultures are socially backward in their thought or conventions. There was a student of Middle Eastern origin who was typical guy's guy, hardly the type you'll expect to evoke "aww" from the gals; that he disproved when he led a family of very lost ducklings out of the quads to the nearby university park, much to the "aww, how sweet" and amusement of the gals and the dissing of the guys. This was the same guy who purportedly expressed views about women which were less than, erm, progressive and dismissed as typically Arabic

So what's your cultural identity?

The author wishes to thank Modern Renaissance Guy for his great photos which he has kindly permitted to be reproduced in this post, you can view more photos at his blog

There seems to be some problems loading the photos, please refer to the following
the relevance should be pretty obvious if you read the post

6 The crazy little thing called love

That's a really bad thing to talk about with this author; at an age when most thought Romeo and Juliet was a romantic lovestory, this author thought the real tragedy would have ensued if they had lived - c'mon, look at Rosalind; one minute Romeo's all lovesick, the next he's all puppy like after Juliet - not unlike some friends of the author?! Not naming names, but if you want a generic name, what better other than 'men?!'

The author's belief that love is inherently irrational stems from the fact that against better judgement, ignoring the blaring sirens and flashing neon lights that scream "wrong type", girls tend to go straight for the guys that break their hearts; statistically speaking; it's about 98%, the 1% is les and the last 1% are cynical detached femmies (sounds familiar?!). Besides, love is ironic, you meet a guy that seems to be a duplicate of your dream list, then ... you hate him; you travel 354degrees round the earth to meet the guy who's just 6 degrees in the opposite direction (like the spin on 6 degrees of seperation?); you like a guy's who's in a relationship, when he finally breaks up with his partner, you realize he's not your type, need more be said?
Men and women have their quirks, for example, some men like competition, they won't be interested in the gal unless there are half a dozen other guys competing with them, all lined up like some track race. Some guys are just slow, you won't see them move till they're geriatric, by which time they need a hip replacement, so they can't move. Women like to personalize, that might explain the home decoration impulse, it's kinda like marking territory - that might also explain why they like to reform the guys; think of it as personalizing the guy. Of course, most of these guys have way too much history, hence the greater impulse to mark territory. Sadly, the more successful the gal, the more likely she's to discover that the guy she liked is gone, and the reformed guy is someone she'll rather be friends with

Faults and how you view them is one of the best indicators of whether it's love or friendship. Generally, we're more tolerant of faults when it comes to friends,we don't like these faults but we're civil; mebbe it's 'cos we can choose our friends. You can't quite choose love, love tends to choose you, which is why you accept his faults , they are as much part of him as what you like about him . When love ceases, that's when the faults are intolerable

The most exasperating are those who are in love with the idea of love. The more flippant tend to view love as it seems in A Midsummer Night's Dream , fairy dust and ephermeral. Those with artistic pretensions will probably be more like the protagonist of The Well-Beloved, flitting from muse to muse, think Picasso

The conclusion? This isn't a thesis, so go figure the conclusion for yourself - summon some courage and love

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

5 Pride, Prejudice and the ugly face of racism

The flare up of racist or race related incidents aren't surprising- race tensions have never gone away and post 9/11 tensions just added fuel to the fire . Just because you don't talk about it doesn't mean the issue won't plague society

The author has encountered some racism over the years, the odd yelling of 'chink' , the throwing of banana peel , the amusing/irritating habit of people speaking english reallyy Yet, none of that was bothersome, only one incident jarred. That was at a college drinks party where the dean had posed the question about the future direction of language in an increasingly globalised world. Whilst most speculated that English would continue its supremacy, the author thought that a multilingual world would be more likely as the world developed and nationalistic pride demanded the safeguarding of languages from an all encompassing domination by English. - Bad, bad idea - a classmate actually retorted (via a loud whisper to another) "why is she here then?" Whilst it wasn't racist, the lack of open-minded attitudes amongst the finer minds of the country was jarring, that this individual is currently working for his government probably warrants a chuckle from some of you. Mebbe it's a public school attitude problem - watched the 7up series and sorry, but there were eerie echoes of sentiments - that , of course is a form of prejudice too! affirmative discrimation?!

4 The Semantics of Politics

Since 9/11, the language of politics has been colored and reinvented in very disagreeable shades, terms have not been so reinvented since Labour spindoctored their way to victory in the '90s.

The creative circumvention of SEC and legal regulations by corporate America reflects the government's circumvention of the Geneva Convention- human rights are denied 'cos POWs aren't defined as POWs, all that despite Bush's declaration of war on terror. Bush is displaying a tiring pattern ; deny, condemn, then admit - the inaccuracies of information, that is; see Guantanamo Bay, wiretapping and those secret prisons in eastern Europe (are they crazy?, WWII started from those sensitive states!) - the last he hasn't admitted but if the issue doesn't disappear, it's a bet that some day Bush is gonna admit

Whilst Bush Sr had his read lips soundbite, Bush Jr is saying why bother when you can hear them in surround stereo courtesy of fbi or the homeland security organisations . Curious how soon politicians forget the scandals of yesteryear ; Watergate and Monicagate - well, how can you fault a prez who wants to institutionalize "eavesdropping" albeit on a more hi-tech level?! Besides, that might mean new job opportunities for stalkerrazzis - those reporters that celebs so hate - a licence to spy?!

Irony ruled this year's politics - we were told by politicians that free trade needed to be facilitated by protectionism (Smoot Hawley lookalikes are promoted in the senate) and can anyone see how the Patriot Act has more ironic readings than the Bush government intended?! Go figure

3 Recipes, Food and anecdotes

There was some tv chef who was reinventing traditional asian recipes and his roast pork recipe was rather funny, reflecting a more european version of a cantonese favourite. It also reminded the author of an old family friend, more precisely a late Hainan villager friend of late maternal grandparents, who had figured out the recipe for roast pork without consulting any chefs - that was one tough biddy (no offence meant) who brought up quite a few children by herself (being a widow from quite a young age) and started a family business that saw the family from rags to riches . She was nice except for several obnoxious attempts to set the author up with her grandson (the author's parents weren't thrilled 'cos dad particularly disliked the guy's parents) which explained why the author spent many festive occasions at bookstores, music retailers and with friends, it also explained why the author had a holy fear of meeting countrymen from Leeds Univ

The more altruistic (vs commercial) chef, Jamie Oliver, thankfully rocked the world of school lunches, pretty sure that contemporaries who have tasted school food agree. No more toad in the hole with chocolate sauce, right Elaine?!

2 Movies to the rescue

Saw Dr J's writeup on old movies, agree with some aspects, but have to admit that this author's list of old movie favs are hardly as highbrow as his. Old movies are a load of fun, they may lack the "suspense" of new movies but they make up for that in terms of great content and memories. And somehow when you haven't watched some in some time, the movie is always different from what you remembered (of course, you could call that ageing?!)

You know you're ageing /maturing as some people prefer (god, you're not cheese!) when you prefer to watch movies at parties than to talk to the people, of course, it doesn't help that the guys on screen are funnier and "more intellectual" than those around you - agreeing with jeannie, holidays are way too commercialized these days, btw, they are playing cny songs now?! and when you're a certain age, 3 piece parties and theme parties are passe ( unless you're male and can't wait to find out if that girl is a natural blonde 'cos she forgot to have a bikini wax!)

Back to movies, they can teach you certain truths about men if you aren't already in possession of those facts , for example, the recent series of hindi specials will teach you that men are "brainlessly" stubborn (Mohabbetein and Khabi Kushni Khabie Gham ) , they are "blindly" dumb (Muhjse Dosti Karoge and Kuch Kuch Kota Hai) and perfect men are either married or a dying breed (Ka Ho Naa Ho)

Fantasy seems to rule these days; mayhap, some producer will consider a Eddings' Belgariad movie or a McCaffrey Pegasus series?

What the year taught this author

1 Musical Sentimental Fool

Not that most friends don't already know, the author is no eclectic genius when it comes to music - most kinds of music are fine (except heavy metal and punk rock, techno requires a heavy dose of alcohol - sorry stefan!)Ok, so the taste is mainstream, even corny, but doesn't certain music just evoke unexplainable emotions?

Certain movie themes are unforgettable - St Elmo's Fire (ok, but who doesn't remember the corny 80s, sure beats the miami beach theme!) And who can resist Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's as the country girl singing Moon River
Certain music is just associated with friends - Coolio's song in Dangerous Minds is always associated with very bored female foreign students in a university town jiving in a desolate cinema

Drama themes are another "awww" evoking type of music , even if you have no idea what they are singing - think Fujii's theme (can't remember his name but think ex-Checkers singer ) for "ai qing bai pi shu" ( the jap drama that was remade as a taiwanese idol drama years ago). Of course, Misia's "you're everything" for " da he fu zi" is unforgettable in winter!
Friends' theme is always reminiscent of days when you had to sneak with exchange students to the MCR just to watch an episode of Friends 'cos the guys were hogging the cable of JCR watching football?! (hey, wasn't that why the x-files were watched at a very weird senior's place - it was surreal, she had shot some spoof video parodying the xfiles and santa claus - of course she was a ppe-ist!)

Current corny favs? Maroon5 (etc, see the "yahoo music playlist" at the music site) and 2 notable drama themes; the end theme for the SHE drama (can't quite remember the drama title) by fei shi jia - it's the music , not the lyrics, and the end theme for "she diao ying xiong zhuan" (the lyrics are pretty cool, more poetic than most lyrics these days - not even thinking of translating, some sentiments are just lost in translation! the last song translation attempt was hua xin and it was hilarious even without the alliteration and puns)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Good tidings

To tortured friends who actually read this blog, ending this blog after the "what this year taught the author" series, see ya at the new blog after the new year! there's always email!

Merry X'mas!

Merry X'mas everyone! Hope no one's overindulged on turkey or mincepies (guilty of the latter ;p) - just think, you might be facing a week of turkey pasta, turkey pizza, turkey sandwiches - feeling bilious yet?! just kidding!

apparently, some people received dog collars for x'mas - no it ain't for their dogs, no blingbling and not kinky - just a really loud insult, way to go! guess the santa's resigning soon?! sigh, the death of subtlety!