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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • April 30, 2006


    Three Times

    My friend Ron and I went to see the screening of Three Times, a Taiwanese movie directed by Hou Hsiao Hsien featured in the San Francisco International Film Festival. The title in English reflects on three unrelated stories that took place in 1911, 1966, and 2005, respectively. The film is titled The Best of Time in Chinese - the time for love, the time for freedom, and the time for youth. Shu Qi and Chang Chen each stars in three roles in the three cuts. The movie marked Hou's sixth bid for the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. Hou drew from his memories of the past in making the film: the best moments are memories that are forever lost, some irretrievable memories whose vestige one can only cherish.

    In the first segment, the pool hall turns up in 1966 Kaohsiung, the setting represents an episode from Hou's own adolescence: Chang Chen is a youth on his military service, chasing Shu Qi from one pool hall to the next. The opening of the middle segment occurred in late-Qing Dynasty, in 1911 (the year of China's first revolution) Shu Qi plays a tea-house courtesan (like a geisha) worrying about her prospects of marriage and Chang Chen is her regular customer, an activist who visits Taiwan between fund-raising trips to Japan and dangerous forays into China and scarcely notices her needs. The last segment travels back to the modern day Taipei in 2005. Shu Qi is a bisexual rock a singer who is afflicted by epileptic fits; she is torn between the love of Chang Chen, who is a photographer and her girlfriend.

    What strikes me the most is that the lovers in the modern segment are completely lost in touch with their feelings: a complete disorder or conflicting emotions. It portrays the vulnerability of human isolation in an age of cell-phones, internet, and text messages. They're endowed with all the communication gadgets and yet they are not connected on a level as the deep as the long-lost lovers did in the 1960s, with letter correspondence. The scripts of the movie are very rare, and the middle segment was filmed in one setting, without any dialogue. It could be pondering at points.

    Love changes, Hou suggests, and love stays the same.

    April 29, 2006



    Yesterday I came home to a very pleasant surprise in the mailbox. A friend whom I met in the recent trip to Cambodia/Angkor Wat sent me a postcard from Algeria! My my my, Ally is in Africa! A Taiwanese expatriate in Hong Kong, she has this formidable predilection for uncharted territories and places off the beaten path. No wonder she opts for hiking boots and binoculars, favors seismically-unstable monuments over Club Med retreats. It was not until the battery of her digital camera went dead at Bayon Temple (one of the highlights of the tour) did I get to talk to her and find out she was all by herself! She asked if I can take a picture of her at the smiling stone. She truly impressed me as someone who doesn't just glue to her camera and make sure she takes all the pictures. She desires a thorough understanding of what she sees, a deeper level of interests in history, religion, and architecture that tourists complacently dismiss. She would rummage through her guidebooks while we were shuttled between temples and sites. Anyway, I would not be surprised that Ally would tackle the Sahara alone. From her dog-eared postcard (it was date-stamped April 16 so it takes 12 days to arrive in San Francisco) I realize she was there to attend a wedding. Her 10-days journey saw the urban areas along the Mediterranean coast petering out and brought to the edge of the dunes. Fine sand and dust pervaded even small ridges of wrinkles on the face.

    I write loads of postcards when I'm away. They verbalize the moment-to-moment feelings of a traveler, capture that dialogue inside the traveler's mind. I treasure every postcard I received: it's a token from somewhere far beyond reality.

    April 28, 2006


    Book Snob That I Am

    An article on SF Weekly talks about how it doesn't matter what we read, as long as we do. Karen Zuercher is identified by her sister as a book snob - she doesn't talk to her sister about books because she assumes her sister is some "lower" kind of reader. Hmm...I can relate! I think I've got that "book snob" so written on my face. I second Zuercher's frank opinion about how anyone who reads a romance novel would enjoy a conversation about some obscure title the The New York Times Book Review has recommended. I've always read a lot of contemporary fiction, to name a few that most register my mind, for one reason or another: Yu Hua's To Live, Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind, the 2004 Booker Prize winner The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, and The Atonement by Ian McEwan. As I'm basking in these contemporary best-sellers, I develop a scruple for drifting away from the classics. I know it can be difficult, and sometimes dry, to keep up with books like Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita and Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil, and sometimes you just want a breath of fresh air, a quick read, something fluffy, as Zuercher notes, "a palate cleanser between heartier dishes." Now with all the law suit and movie hype that are going on with The Da Vinci Code, which I own but have yet read, I can relate to many people's belief that snobbery can impede one's reading pleasure. I flipped through the 2-dollars hardback that I acquired from the goodwill store and immediately saw why even people who aren't book lovers read this book. I found the reading compulsive although I have cringed at every awful sentence. No wonder I've experienced a snobbish hesitation to reading it! I do not pick my reading materials out of the best-seller lists because (excuse me for saying this) there's so much crap on the New Books tables. Nor would I have trusted completely what the blurbs say. This month has seen very heavy, thought-provoking readings in gay rights titles like Covering: The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights, The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, and Virtually Normal, none of which is fluffy or palate cleanser but for sure a change of reading taste. I don't think I can ever lower my literary values with some C grade pocket fictions or romance. What a book snob I am!.

    April 27, 2006


    [40] If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler - Italo Calvino

    If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler is a rarity in fiction reading and writing in which the book boldly denounces the inveterate relationship between authorship and authority, proclaiming a revolution in which readers are to be liberated from the "tyranny of the author's single canonical meaning" and free to make their own interpretation.

    The Plot
    A certain reader is reading a novel that breaks off into another novel and the reader seeks to investigate the origin of such unpardonable publishing mistakes. It turns out that a certain translator Ermes Marana had proposed a stratagem in which he would break off the translation at the moment of greatest suspense and would start translating another novel, inserting it into the first through some rudimentary expedient. When translating literature of a moribund language, he got confused and the texts that he had translated was from another novel by a Polish writer. Such production defect in copies on behalf of his egregious blunder repeatedly forced readers to abandon reading.

    Through the help the very diabolical Ermes Marana, a Japanese firm plotted to manufacture author Silas Flannery's novels by computer and contrived to produce absolutely new ones in order to invade the world market. The books were re-translated back to English and none of the critics could have distinguished which from the true Flannerys. The books were really plagiarisms from little known Japanese authors of novels that, having had no success, were sent to be pulped. The art of writing and reading what an author means for a reader to read from the writing is brought forth to the full actuality through the reader's indefatigable effort to unmask the identities of translations.

    Writer-Reader Relationship
    The author addresses directly to the reader and shapes the story in the perspective of the reader-in other words, the author somehow deprives his authority and has to involve reader into decision-making. The book has left open to the reader who is reading the possibility of identifying himself with the reader who is read: this is why he was not given a name, which would automatically have made him the equivalent of a third person, of a character, and so he had been kept a pronoun in its abstract condition-suitable for any attribute and any action.

    Reading about Reading
    The book begins (and subsequently throughout which) asks the reader to reflect minutely on the very activity of reading, which most of us take for granted. The book itself is also about characters (readers) practicing such reflection so raptly (and so absorbed in their books) that the world around them falls away. The novel explores the complex relationship between reading (what is being read, what the author means for reader to read...), writing (what is being written and not explicitly written...), and publishing (how translation of text might have forfeited the meaning...).

    Stimuli Reading
    The most magnificent aspect of If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler is that the book explores the relationship between what the author has written explicitly and how what is being written down in the book stimulates, evokes, and obviates past experiences, memories, and thoughts. Reader might remember very well everything he has read, perhaps for whom each book becomes intensified with his reading of it at a given time, once and for all. As a result, reader might have preserved the books in the memory and prefers to preserve the books as objects, keeping them within proximity.

    Italo Calvino further explores this argument about reading a "different book" other than the one currently being read. Reader, in other words, might be reading another book besides the one before his eyes-a book that yet does to exist, but since the reader wants it, cannot fail to exist. Reading becomes some abstract idea through which reader measures himself against something else that is not present, something that belongs to the immaterial, invisible dimension, because it can only be thought, concocted, and imagined or it was once and is no longer attainable.

    If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler challenges reader to have seized on a thought that the text suggests to it, or maybe a feeling, or a question, or even just an image. The book encourages reader going off on a tangent and wandering from thought to thought, in such itinerary of reasonings that reader should feel to persue to the end.

    April 26, 2006


    Women, Men, and Books

    So are women still a closed book to men? The verdict of The Observer is that men finally realized what they are missing (to know women) and yet they don't seem to do anything about it. This is the conclusion of a study into sex (gender) differences in reading habits. According to Queen Mary College academics Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins, who have interviewed 500 English men and women, men's top choices are The Stranger by Albert Camus, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Women opt for reading materials that usually belong to the stereotype that is imputed on them: the romance and the literary. Reading and books constitute to the bedrock of women's values, thoughts, and emotions. Women outvalue books so much more drastically than men do. In addition to being the lightning rod of ethic and morality, women rely on novels for solace. Novels could be the ultimate source of emulation in women's living and behavior. Men is the opposite pole. Books to men are no more than instruments to kill time. They seem to draw a clear demarcation between the characters and themselves, meaning, what goes on in the books stays in that virtual world of language and authorial meaning. Men are completely detached from the figurative and literary content in novels that women deem as reflections of their lives. Note that the novels men favor all share common themes of alienation, personal struggle, and indifference. But I'm a little surprised that thrillers and mysteries fail to dominate men's poll as much as I think men have a predilection for them.

    April 25, 2006


    Season of Good News & Birthday Gift

    Bits of good news from my friends and family keep flooding my mailbox. After Fernando found out his wife Maria is pregnant, my cousin Yanny in Hong Kong announced her becoming a mother in September. My other cousin Frank will tie the knot with Stephanie in October, a week after Weizhu and Patricia walking down the aisle. I realize, after the initial jolt of joy and excitement, people from my generation are all moving forward and unveiling a new chapter of their lives: engagement, marriage, and parenthood. While the celebration might be ephemeral, behind these festivities is laden a lifetime commitment that transcend the understanding of all outsiders. I wish them all happiness and joy, and love.

    So I went out to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant with Fernando and Maria, little JD (isn't he adorable? Fernando, you need to change your blog profile because JD is no longer 3 months old...), Fernando's mom and dad and his nephew Anthony. The giant fish tank immediately captured 7-years-old Anthony's attention, who observed so raptly and claimed the fish speaks English and understands sign language! He complained about the smelly (probably the fish sauce that is quintessential of Vietnamese marination) food and spent most of the time keeping the fish's company. JD demonstrated his craving of my imperial roll and BBQ pork with zealous thrashing of his arms and legs in his cradle.

    This year for his birthday I've been going out of my mind to figure what I should get for Fernando. The avid reader would not mind a giftcard from Borders, which sounds convenient but at the same time lacks the personal touch. Then an idea came to my rescue as I was walking down toward Union Square before hopping on BART. I darted into Borders, located the phone-book-sized 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die in the literary criticism section, and wrote my dedication on the front page in the train.

    A preliminary leafing of the giant reveals I have read some 250 books listed. Not too bad eh? Dr. Peter Boxall covers a century of memorable writings with selection of seminal works that are key to understanding and appreciating the written word. Nowhere and nobody, after all, can be inclusive of all the reading tastes of bibliophiles. This book doesn't cover and do justice of some of my favorite works like the ones I elaborated in the previous post on reading and books MEME. Well...I'm contented to see the glow on his face as Fernando eagerly and assiduously flipped thorough the pages of his newest acquisition to the book collection.

    April 22, 2006


    [39] Covering: The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights - Kenji Yoshino

    Professor Kenji Yoshino combines law manifesto and memoir (his coming out of the closet) to advocate for the lifting of the outdated civil rights into a higher, more rational and universal register. In a society where explosion of identities have overwhelmed judiciary institutions to an extent that courts solve the problems of the ubiquitous identity politics issue by moving toward protecting no behaviors but safeguarding only the immutable aspects of identity, the book conveys the urgency to adopt a new convention that is rooted in rationality. This rationality should focus not on people's capacity to assimilate, but on the legitimacy of the social demands made on them.

    For the most part of this elegant work, Yoshino touches on a social phenomenon that pervades social and ethnic minorities: covering. Covering is the most subtle form of assimilation (in comparison to conversion and passing). Covering almost like a social "camouflage" to mask the true nature of identity. It is almost completely invisible because it has swaddled itself in the benign language of assimilation. To cover is to tone down a disfavored identity, to downplay a stigma, to forfeit one's true self in order to fit in the "mainstream." But Yoshino reviles this notion of "mainstream," deeming it a myth because mainstream is no more then a shifting coalition of indefinite human identities that struggle for self-expression.

    In America today, all minority groups (outsider groups) are systematically and expectedly asked to assimilate to some formidable, inveterate mainstream norms (most likely the Anglo-Saxon white norms, Yoshino argues). Covering and assimilating burden, and even divest of the civil rights of women, the disabled, the gays, and the ethnic minorities. These groups have a profound legal vulnerability to the demand that they cover the behaviors stereotypically associated with them. Women find themselves in an incorrigible catch-22: the conflict between assertiveness and aggressiveness required to get the job done and the image required to fit the female stereotype. The gays are asked not to engage in public display of same-sex affection. In downplaying their disability, the disabled pay for normalcy not just with psychic repression but with physical pain. Religious minorities are pressed to tone down expression of their faith. Many of the racial minorities develop a predilection for assimilating to white norms. Such covering behaviors confirm my qualm about the crisis in which America might have plunged.

    The courts have made the same distinction between being and doing - discrimination based on status is immediately disfavored, but the law does not favor nor protect mutable or correctable behaviors concomitant to the status. In other words, court opts to protect being a member of the group, but not doing or engaging things associated with the group. Under this assimilation paradigm, court protects skin colors but not language, chromosomes but not pregnancy, homosexuality but not homogenital acts, and same-sex desire but not same-sex marriage. The tug of war between being and doing, and status vs. conduct have become the ultimate battleground for lifting civil rights into a more reason-forced, humane register. In fighting for this new convention, all minority groups should establish common cause against coerced covering, demanding an equality not staked on conformity. The shocking fact that courts still predicate an entitlement on whether a minority individual covers fosters a disquiet culture of complaint and should provoke cause around a new paradigm based on our desire for authenticity.

    Covering: The Hidden Assaults of Civil Rights is a work of impartiality and sentiment. Yoshino's argument draws deeply on his personal experiences as a gay Asian American, two immutable aspects which he battles with assimilation. He favors authenticity of self that can only be achieved with an individual's commitment to autonomy: the freedom to elaborate one's true self rather than to some rigid notion of what constitutes an authentic (gay) identity. This autonomy claim is probably the origin of the schism that divides normals (the openly gays who embrace the politics of assimilation) and the queers (the gays who denounce to measure the worth of life by mainstream standards).

    While I belong to neither of the spheres, I find myself being in accord to Yoshino's autonomy theory. Some choose to be openly gay but refrain from flaunting, while others only flaunt the belief that they deem constituting equality. Whatever the cause might be, Yoshino calls for a register that recognizes the reason from one's visceral principles of equality. Until we overcome that sexual shame and the moral panic, equality will never dawn.

    April 21, 2006


    Another MEME on Books & Reading

    I adopt this meme from Candy Box, a neatly done blog from Taiwan. The original text, of course, is in Chinese, so I have translated and rewritten the questions here. Reciprocate in the comment field or post your answers on your blog.

    1. How many books are in your collection?
    On the shelves probably 500, plus five sealed cases of books. I buy at least 2 a week.

    2. What are you reading now?

    • The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, Michael Warner (continuation reading of Covering: The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights, Kenji Yoshino)
    • Virtual Normal, Andrew Sullivan (the oppsoing school to Michael Warner's perspective, another further reading of Yoshino)
    • Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me and Other Trials from My Queer Life, Michael Thomas Ford
    • Arthur & George, Julian Barnes
    • Adrift on the Nile, Naguib Mahfouz
    • The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil, Nikolai Gogol

    3. What are some of the books you want to read?

    • War and Peace (translated by Michael Burn), Leo Tolstoy
    • The Page Turner, David Leavitt
    • Almost Like Being in Love, Steve Kluger
    • Beyond the Closet: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life, Steven Seidman
    • Selected Writings, Meister Eckhart

    4. What is your most recent acquisition?

    • The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, Michael Warner
    • Virtual Normal, Andrew Sullivan

    I've been on a binge of civil rigts, gay rights, and social assimilation. So there you go. I have never read this many non-fiction at once. It's quite a change of rhythm for me.

    5. Which five books register the most in you?

    April 20, 2006


    Snooty 2 Cents on Wedding Preparation

    My friends Patricia and Wei finally decide to tie the knot this October and preparation for the wedding is immediately in full gear. The top items off the list will be venue, wedding theme, colors, budget, wedding party, guest lists, gift registry... Like buying a house, everyone (especially the bride) since the coming of age and from experiences of going to weddings formulates mind the intricate ceremonious details, the setting, the nuances of style, the undertone of music, the drifting aroma of hors d'oeuvres of a dream wedding. Practical consideration and plain reality may inevitably introduce conditions under which the ideal could not be met. Imagine the behind-the-scene undertaking, the collaboration of a team of people who assiduously work to coordinate various aspects of the wedding to make it the most memorable event for the couple and the family and friends. If life is broken down into snapshots of choices and decisions, then the snapshots of wedding must be impeccable.

    Once the wedding gets past the planning stage, responsibilities seem to have befallen the coordinator and the wedding party (wedding party namely limits to the maiden of honor and the best man). I've been a best man three times so I can give my two cents about the all the errands and expectations rained on this right-hand man to the groom. Best man should have the ability to think clear when something very wrong happens, such as when one of your groomsmen locked out of his car two hours before the ceremony. Always allow room for mistake. Always be cogitant of the wedding run-down. Be prepared to run errands for the groom and bride until 2 AM before the big day. The three weddings in which I was the best man might proceed in ways dictated by the respective culture and tradition, the responsibility of the best man is immutable. My best friends Fernando and Maria, who just celebrated his birthday and found out Maria is pregnant again, had one of the most memorable, heart-warming outdoor wedding back in 2000. The sunny, elegant lakeside wedding brought more guests than the prospect of catering, owing to their warm, magnetic personality. Ceremony proceeded in the beautiful undertone of an oboe/flute concerto that culminated perfectly at their kiss. That was the first time I ever wrote a toasting speech (the delivery of which overcame my stage fright and stuttering) and buy a wedding cake (the cloy tasting session was a buffet of some 20 samplings of cakes).

    My other best friend Victor got married in 2002. The low-key wedding afforded a completely different style and rundown owing to the family's religious preference and the traditional Chinese ritual. The father didn't walk down the aisle and marry his daughter to my friend. Instead my friend would bring brocade and red envelopes to the bride's house and ask for her hands, after completing stunts (designed by the bridesmaids) that subjected him to self-humiliation. Gestures tinged with symbolism and superstition dominate the ritual: tea bestowing, butchering hens, touching coconuts, unveiling the bride, etc. The evening banquet was the highlight of the wedding day. It was a sumptuous meal with a convivial atmosphere lavishing with roasted pig, steamed fish, shark-fin soup, abalone, crispy hens, and other colorful colors delights that embody all major style and methods of Chinese cooking. Wedding party would gaily make the round of all the guests and give toast. The best man will embrace a very significant role to take the brunt of all the drinks offered and demanded of the groom.

    I can here the wedding bells now...

    April 19, 2006


    [38] Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone - James Baldwin

    If Giovanni’s Room is an unresolved love story between two men, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone puts its protagonist in the center of social spotlight where ideals of ethnics, politics, and sex force him to put on a mask. Leo Proudhammer, a 39-years-old black man, suffers from a heart attack at the height of his theatrical career, forcing him to abort all ongoing performance and rehearsal. As he hovers between life and death, James Baldwin delineates a tapestry of human life that is terrifyingly vulnerable – through the meticulous choices that have rendered him enviously famous in theater, through the racial and gay covering that have split him into multiple identities.

    There exists something edgy and cruel about a childhood riddled with braving the Harlem streets. Proudhammer often found him in the spotlight of eyes: eyes of children who outjocked him, eyes of the white cops toward whom he felt a rush of murderous hatred, and the tell-tale eyes of the older folks who suspected of his sexuality. The prose sustains a tincture of anguish, a tinge of paranoid, of being black in a society that at times seems poised on the brink of unstoppable racial war owing the ludicrous demands to cover stereotype associated with both race and sexuality.

    The theatrical industry which Proudhammer desires throws him further in disguises. Ironically it is through the many disguises he wears that he comes to term with his means. Instead of fleeing from the truth, he is approaching the reality. Disguises in a sense help make the truth a quantity with which he can live. In the juggling selves, Proudhammer retains loyalty to a white woman and a young black man. At first he might be most intimidated by his color for he does not appear to know that he is colored. He is met with people’s baleful exasperation as if he is possessed by some evil spirit. Then he begins to be intimidated (and confronted), far more grievously, by the fact of his sexuality. He is gripped with the realization that he has never, in the sexual context, arrived at an understanding of being bisexual or gay.

    Written during a time in which racism and assimilation to white norms are horrifyingly rife, Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone brings to vivid view a man struggling to become himself through identities of a black man, a bisexual man, and an artist. Various occasions demand him to cover one of more of these identities in order to fit in. The novel pieces together moments of a man’s life that teach one the price of human connection. Trapped in the wrong time, at the wrong place, and with the wrong ambitions trapped in the wrong skin, Proudhammer’s perseverance earns him a reward that redeems and justifies all that pain, stigma, and bewilderment he once experienced.

    April 18, 2006


    Best Friend

    My best friend Fernando finally returned my call to take him out dinner for his birthday on April 17. When I haven't heard from him for a few days after I left a message on his voice mail, I mentally formulated hypotheses to justify his not calling:

    1. he is visiting his folks down in LA for Easter,
    2. he and his wife Maria are having a second baby,
    3. he is relocating to Hong Kong for a job (a belated April fool for the gullible me), and,
    4. he is just being a knuckle-head

    Well...while all my guesses are plausible, it turns out that he found out about Maria's pregnancy on Friday. So they spent the weekend juggling multiple tasks to make preparations. We agree on having dinner this coming weekend. After I got off the phone with him, I realized that this Easter has afforded doubling meaning for our friendship. I met Fernando on Easter 11 years ago in Berkeley and that Easter fell on the exact same date - April 16, 1995. Then a friend of mine threw a surprised birthday party for him on April 17. Now I look back and reflect on all the years through which we have struck up for each other, through thick and thin, leaves me with an overflowing sense of gratitude for the precious gift of friendship. Eleven years after the first spark of friendship, we celebrate our friendship with the elated announcement of a new life.


    And I feel just like I’m living someone else’s life
    It’s like I just stepped outside
    When everything was going right
    And I know just why you could not
    Come along with me
    That this is not your dream
    But you always believed in me

    From I Wanna Go Home Michael Buble

    April 17, 2006


    Moving On

    I've been having issue. Has it not been for Moby's post my relationship issue would never have projected to the spotlight of the blog. One fine September day last year I was gripped with the realization that I have fallen for someone. He was someone I thrived not to fall for, just like what Moby said in his post. Anyway, I gave him lots of attention, calling him and initiating conversations, which normally nudged to a numerous of terrains covering literature, arts, current affairs, and life. Somewhere on the road I realized he might not be the one but I persisted in giving my heart, thinking he might feel differently about me. A horde of conflicting emotions inundated my mind: anxiety, love, excitement, hopelessness, depression, fright. Until last month, I was confronted with the ultimate rejection. The truth was plain and cut-throat: he didn't feel the same affection for me as I feel for him (so I love him too much? I express my affection too soon?), and he constantly signaled to me about my unrequisited love and that he felt sorry to be the object of my yearning. Now that a month has elapsed since the painful confrontation, I'm excited I'm still capable of getting back up after I have fallen so deep. I haven't made any contact with him consciously, until I returned the e-mail Sunday night. I don't know if I can love someone (now, or in the near future) with the same fierce intensity and nuance of heart as I have loved him. The tincture of the unfulfilled love will cast a shadow of melancholy that would be concomitant to my being. The rejection, after all, is not as obtrusive and it seemed at the first place. The most difficult thing is to excise someone from my life in which he has grafted and left indelible mark. The light of all this drama is that my willingness to talk about it brings about the dawn of healing.

    April 16, 2006


    Telemann Flute Concertos

    My iPod playlist of the latest Billboard Adult Contemporary 40, with James Blunt's You're So Beautiful, Michael Buble's I Wanna Go Home, The Fray's Over My Head (Cable Car), and Daniel Powter's Bad Day has become cloy to me. For a change of music I rummage through my CD shelf and find my favorite "thinking" music.

    Telemann: Flute Concertos is a rarely beautifully compilation. The five concertos for flute chosen for this recording illustrates exactly what suits the instrument best and accentuates the instrument's beauty. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) not only wrote concertos for one flute or two, but also variously combined the flute with other concertante instruments, showing the virtuoso flute in a wide range of different roles.
    The five pieces heard in this compilation were composed over a period of more than 20 years and fully demonstrate Telemann's engagement with the concerto genre. In each of the five works almost every member in the orchestras at Telemann's disposal was capable of taking solo parts. The beauty of sound springs forth from the combination with softer tone of instruments such as oboe d'amore, viola d'amore or violone, which enhance the flute's brilliance and crispness, while an often astonishing playfulness could develop in the high registers when Telemann introduced a second flute or a violin, as manifested obviously in the Concerto for Flute, Violin, Cello, Strings and Continuo in A from "Musique de Table I" (5-8).

    Concerto for Flute, Strings and Continuo in G (1-4) is a first recording because the only manuscript copy of the parts was in an extremely poor condition that the piece was sadly considered unplayable (until 2000). The concerto was composed for oboe as well as for the transverse flute of the time. The andante movement is the most beautiful movement, so elegantly and stately executed. Pahud makes such a strong case for the first recording of this concerto.

    Concerto for Flute, Violin, Cello, Strings and Continuo in A from "Musique de Table I" (5-8) is probably the most beautiful concerto in Musique de Table. The agility and swiftness of notes best suited the festive occasions for which Telemann composed in 1733. This might be the most well-known and most played piece out of this compilation. Even Handel himself performed some of the pieces and some of his own compositions (flute sonata and oboe sonata) show the inspiration of Telemann.

    Concerto for Two Flutes, Violone, Strings and Continuo (9-12) is also a debut recording for the piece, with a deep, velvety tone of the violone that creates an impressive contrariety to the agility of the flutes, notably when the flutes and the violone play together in parallel for long stretches.

    Concerto for Flute, Oboe d'amore, Viola d'amore, Strings and Continuo in E (13-16). The Largo in D minor forms a sharp contrast to the vivacious movements to Part 1 of Music de Table. In the Siciliano, the repeated theme and expression is achieved by repetition of three concertante instruments without the continuo.

    Listen for the only concertos with a combination of flute and two other different solo instruments in the final piece of the compilation, Concerto for Flute, Strings and Continuo in D (17-20).

    Overall high marks for the agility, flow, and swiftness of all the performances in this compilation. The music whiles away a rainy afternoon of papers grading and writing.

    April 14, 2006


    Normalcy or Queerness

    Some new acquisitions this week, none of which are available at Borders so my personal shopping day privilege will be in vain:

    Beyond the Closet, Steven Seidman
    The Trouble with Normal, Michael Warner
    Virtual Normal, Andrew Sullivan

    These are all additional readings to Professor Kenji Yoshino's Covering. Warner and Sullivan belong to two opposing camps that split the gays, technically speaking. Sullivan represents the group that calls for the embracing of politics of assimilation. His normalcy claim urges the gays to reject notions of sexuality as cultural subversion, because it will further alienate the majority of gay people who not only accept the natural origin of their sexual orientation, but wish to be integrated into society as it is.

    Warner vehemently reviles Sullivan's view-he believes the society should integrate into the gay culture. He argues that people who are defined by a variant set of norms (namely, straight norms), commit a kind of social suicide when they begin to gauge the worth of relationships, thoughts, and ways of life by the yardstock of normalcy. This radical emphasis on schism from mainstream (meaning straight norms) is conducive to queerness.

    I see myself in neither of the spheres. I don't flaunt my homosexuality but I don't mind holding hands or showing affection in the public. The men in speedos and women with bare breasts at Gay Pride are being criticized for propping up misconceptions that further undergirds inequality. I think it's another way of expressing, or flaunting their belief that they think it's equality. But I won't walk around naked simply not because I think it's a shame, but rather a personal condition. I believe in a level of commitment to autonomy: choosing the axes of which I wish to cover or to integrate. Gays should be given the freedom of coming out at the expense of their own time frame.

    April 13, 2006


    Going Cracker Over Chinglish

    I was reading this post (a blog of a student of Translation at Hong Kong University) about a funny but common phenonemon that prevails the former British-colonized Hong Kong: people speaking "Chinglish." Chinglish is a portmanteau of the words Chinese and English. It is the humorous version of English that appears (often in instructions for assembling or using products) after a translation from the original Chinese (or any other language) fails to come across in "normal" English.

    Chinglish is not a racist or bigoted term and should not be taken as such. If anything, The Chinglish Files are a way of poking fun at how difficult our flawed English language can be to translate at times. It is not intended as a dig at the intelligence or linguistic capabilities of other nations. Some deem it a bombardment of assaults on English but I think they can be pretty darn funny.

    "Small potato" is good example. It refers to trivial characters whom we call "you are nothing." "Jetso" in Cantonese means perks. I heard a Chinese man asking a store clerk if paying by his credit card would ensue "any jetso?" I tried to hold back cracking up. Usage like "jetso", "CD carry case" or the bizarre "a member gets member program" are all examples of Hong Kong English. The term is sometimes used to refer to the accent and characteristics of English spoken by some of the ethnic Chinese residents of Hong Kong. It is not a mixed, creole or pidgin language, nor a dialect of English. It is only a variant of English with some local influence.

    Grammatically erroneous usage of English, which shows the writer "thinking in Chinese while writing in English", may also be considered Chinglish. Such examples include verbatim word-for-word translation. Two English words, when poorly pronounced, may resemble each other to the extent that the two are indistinguishable; this further creates confusion. Sometimes, the poor pronunciation of a single English word can create a Chinglish pronunciation that is almost nothing like the original English word.

    Although most Chinglish phrases originated from poor translations, many were created deliberately as language humor. "You go see see lah" (Go and have a look). Other phrases stem from misunderstanding of the meaning of words. For examples,

    The price for the jacket was too expensive.
    I feel very painful in my right hand.

    Another common mistake is not being aware that Chinese is a verb-abundant language while English is a preposition-and noun-oriented one. Conjunctions, pronouns and other substitutional or introductory words are more frequently used in English than in Chinese.

    He ran out when it was raining hard.
    We were shown in by those who wore uniforms.

    And this is my all-time favorite. From the wrapper of instant noodle, it reads,

    The products are well known as the smooth. Delicious taste. It's favorable for breakfast or dinner,at home or travel.It's quick to prepair, soup noodles or fried noodles,as you like.

    1.Instant noodles:
    Put noodles and sauce into a bowl add with boiling water,cover for 3 minutes,then mix and serve.
    2.Soup noodles:
    Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 2 minutes add in sauce and cooked vegetables, chicken,eggs etc.
    3.Fried noodles:
    Cook the noodles in boiling water for 1 minutes,rinse,then fry the noodles roith cooking oil and sauce,cooked vegetables,chicken, eggs for 2-3 minutes.

    I am convinced that the best way to master a language is through reading and writing.

    April 12, 2006


    Passing or Covering

    I was reading about how gays in the 1950s sought medical help to convert homosexuality to heterosexuality. Medicine was on the side of the gays to assimilate them into the society through conversion rather than banishing them through condemnation. But now in America, although homosexuality has been depathologized in 1973 among the DSM, homosexuality as a disease paradigm still exists together under the skin. It manifests as a kind of figurative disease, a disfavored condition, something that requires protection extended by the civil right laws. The classics example of such hypocritical double standard is the co-existence of no-promo-homo laws and laws that govern gay rights in some states. It simply conveys the underlying message that wavering children need to be protected from the contagion of homosexuality. It's okay to be gay, just don't flaunt it.

    While conversion demands are made most rampantly on sexual waverers (individuals who are unsure and ambiguous in their orientations), covering and passing are more common the gays. I never feel the need of conversion (to heterosexuality), which is the ultimate demand of assimilation that destroys true identity. But I do find myself covering, which subtly and deftly leaves the underlying identity relatively intact. Sometimes I compel to act straight and make the straight commands in order to gain acceptance. The continuous battle of micromanaging my gay identity surely takes a tool on my stress factor: thinking about who knows, who should know, who should not know and whom I think knows. Taking a step further, I decide to break out and make the commitment to authenticity. What bothers me is not that I have to engage in straight-acting behavior, but the felt need to mute my passion for gay subjects, people, and culture.

    Now this brings up another issue. If the commitment is to authenticity, then the same authenticity will be just as threatened as individuals are demanded of acting according to the stereotypes associated with their groups. It's sort of like an African American would be expected to order fried chicken at the diner. Or what's even worse, Asian people should dress like they are fresh off the boat. Historical norms shit. If you're gay, you're definitely cruising the bars, hooking up with a different guy, and acting effeminate. This is what mainstream does to our society. Gays will only be equal only when society stops conditioning the inclusion on assimilation to straight norms.

    April 11, 2006


    [37] What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality - Daniel A. Helminiak

    Prejudice and downright loathing for homosexuals must have inspired the writing of this book. It is a sad realization, in fact, reality, that Bible religion plays a pillar role in allowing the persecution to happen. Sexuality, at least in the regard of showing affection for one another, should be detached from any religious judgment because it is the core of human experience in which person gets emotionally close to another person and commits passionately to the person. Granted the affection is genuine and mutual, it should be recognized and honored regardless of sex. Embracing this firm belief Helminiak thrives to study, through a historically critical perspective, the Bible’s stand on the issue.

    The hinge must lies in how the Bible is being read. According to Helminiak, the Bible supplies no basis for the condemnation of homosexuality. Why should God condemn homosexuality if all of us are part of God’s inscrutable and loving plan for us? Moreover mounting scientific evidence shows that homosexuality is not a choice. There is no credible evidence that sexual orientation can be changed or convincing argument that it should be.

    The biblical scholarship has overturned inveterate beliefs that over the years the church has so meticulously imbued to me through selective use of scriptures. Popular culture, social taboo, and customs have stamped the seal of approval to these beliefs. But looking back at these teachings, they are nothing more than customs being adopted as the law. Helminiak’s position is forthright and is fueled by judicious assessment of historical-critical research. The Bible itself takes no direct stand on the morality of homogenital acts or on the morality of gay and lesbian relationships. Detailed study of language and translation confides that it makes no blanket condemnation of homogenital acts and even less of homosexuality. It is indifferent to homosexuality in itself.

    When the Bible does talk about same-sex behavior, it refers to it as it was understood in those ancient times. In other words, hermeneutics from literary theory affords the importance of the biblical interpretation over time. Meaning of the scriptures remains the same but the significance fluctuates. The Bible must be situated within its historical horizon and be examined under the context of cultural meanings within which it was written. Therefore, the biblical teachings will apply today only insofar as the ancient understanding of same-sex behavior is still valid.

    What does all this mean? To my understanding from Helminiak, the Bible is not addressing our current questions about sexual ethics. The Holiness Code embedded in Leviticus, for example, in the context of its historical horizon, spells out the requirements for Israel to remain holy, meaning to separate from the Gentiles. So Leviticus forbids homogenitality as a betrayal of Jewish identity. This concern about male-to-male sex is an offense against Jewish religion, not violation of the inherent nature of sex. No thought is given to whether the sex is right or wrong.

    Paul’s letter to the Romans also presupposes the teaching of the Jewish Law in Leviticus, and Romans mentions male-to-male sex as an impurity. His usage of the word nature refers to circumstances when people do something surprising, something, unusual, something out of the ordinary or beyond the routine. The key in interpreting this passage is to recognize that Paul uses certain words for male-to-male sex. A study of these words (in Greek and Hebrew) shows that he makes no ethical condemnation of male-to-male sex, but merely points out the social disapproval of it.

    Helminiak’s presentation of the highly debated translation of malakoi and arsenokoitai is somewhat disjointed, owing to the ambiguous nature of these words and the circumstances under which these words are used. For example, oute malakoi is translated as nor adulterers; while oute arsenokoitai is interpreted as nor homosexuals. Helminiak hastily concludes that if biblical treatment of same-sex acts shows Paul being indifferent to the matter, the benefit of the doubt about arsenokoitai should fall in the same direction. Helminiak’s argument for the favor stems from the lack of certainty about the meaning of the terms.

    April 08, 2006


    Wallet-Liquidating Month

    It's the time of the year when a binge of birthday gift-giving liquidates my wallet! My sister May, my cousin Fiona, my best friend Fernando (the knuckle-head who obviously has not been updating his blog for ages), and my designer friend Estrella all celebrate their B-days this month. Usually I would have given my sister a gift card from The Gap, Banana Republic, or J. Crew. But I realize she might not be able to make an immediate purchase off the current line and she might have to wait. So I ask if she would mind receiving cash instead. My cousin Fiona is on the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to ideas for gifts. She is the last person for whom I should buy apparel or accessories. So I resort to consulting her wishlist, which usually contains literature on interior design. The current titles include Dwell Magazine, Interior Design, the chic Elle Decor. Since the gift of a magazine subscription does not usually begin for another 8 to 10 weeks, I might just take her out to a dinner at the local hip Slow Club, a promising restaurant and bar in a loft with eclectic music, and features New American cuisine. A pan-seared halibut is brought to life with a pea puree, while an avocado cream crowns a juicy chicken breast that's paired with blue-lake green beans. Just the thought of these entrees make me drool now. Fernando is now a dad of a cute 10-months-old baby and a self-taught cook, he would probably wish for a breadmaker or a set of knife from Williams Sonoma. Last year the now hyped-up Peruvian joint Limon, which concocts some of the best cerviche in town, dropped the ball of my reservation for Fernando's big night with no explanation, apology, or any rescuing gesture. So I haven't been going back there for a year but have brought my business to its rival, Fresca, with much warmer service and a richer Peruvian flavor with undertone of citrusy sauces. With all that is going on, plus the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival, which I have mentioned previously, and in which a few films catch my attention, I certainly wouldn't have much money left in my pocket.

    April 07, 2006



    沒有膽色纏你 心亂如麻 回去吧 回去吧 來讓我傷口結疤
    是你不想我嗎 是你不找我嗎 無非幾天變化 就像刮我幾千巴
    難道你共我親吻抱擁之後竟有偏差 不想和我好 不如直說真話

    July Rhapsody (2002)

    I mentioned this film in passing yesterday. Then it dawns on me that I should do it justice and talk about Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui, who were both singers to begin with in the 1980s.

    The Chinese movie title of July Rhapsody is "Man at the Age of Forty". The man is Lam Yiu-kwok (played by Jacky Cheung), a secondary school Chinese literature teacher in Hong Kong. The film somehow evokes American Beauty starring Kevin Spacey, except Lam did not go as far as smoking weed and neither his wife Man-ching (played by Anita Mui) hate him nor his sons regard him with contempt. Lam is fed up with life-the perfunctory school politics and de-emphasis of Chinese language study, the plummeting zeal for justice of '89 Tienanmen massacre, the increasing charivari that shows disapproval of the SAR government, a torpid marriage and the bittersweet reminiscence of his mentor Mr. Seng. He desires a change in the beat of his life, an ecstasy to which he can escape and from which he finds solace.

    Lam's student Choi-nam (Karena Lam) seems to provide that solace, if not a guilty pleasure. She has a crush on Lam whose marriage turns cold as his wife suggests taking a month off to take care of Mr. Seng, whom suffered from a terminal stage of cancer. Mr. Seng had an affair with Lam's wife (who was 20 and not yet married to Lam) and the betrayal had always pricked Lam. Man-ching feels the scruple.

    The film unravels slowly, with jump cuts of different plots over different intervals of time, in a stream-of-consciousness technique. The story is told in the perspective of Lam's older son, a university student who reveres his father and seeks to break the ice in his parents' marriage. While the son pieces together vestige of his parents' troubled past, Lam draws closer into Choi-nam's forbidden fruit. Lam might be using Choi-nam as an escape from dealing with Mr. Seng and his wife. The relationship between Lam and Choi-nam, while somehow unusual, is far from risqué. The catch is that Lam is on the verge of repeating Mr. Seng's wrong some 30 years ago.

    July Rhapsody deftly exposes the qualms underneath a perfect middle-classed family. For Lam, the age-old unresolved relationship between Mr. Seng and Man-ching renders them bitter, distrustful and guilty. Combining with the political uncertainty after the handover, the stagnant economy, uprising unemployment and plummeting real estate values, Lam's qualms and the desire to escape from cruelty of life really hit home for many Hong Kongers. Anita Mui (deceased) delivers a solid, convincing performance of a midlife housewife that is never known but refreshing to especially the Hong Kong audience. July Rhapsody is Ann Hui's best since Eighteen Springs; a movie adopted from Eileen Chang's timeless classics.

    April 06, 2006


    San Francisco International Film Festival

    The 49th San Francisco International Film Festival, which features 29 films, will kick off with the Big Opening Night on April 20. This year's selection of the opening night is Peter Ho-Sun Chan's Perhaps. Love (如果‧愛). Premiered in Hong Kong during Christmas 2005, it drew merits and acclaims across the board of critics but not much to the box office, owing to the fact that it's a proxy musical, drama type of film, drastically different from the usual cop-spy thrillers or soapy farces that have pervaded the Hong Kong film industry.

    Peter Chan, who has directed Comrades, Almost a Love Story (SFIFF 1997; Hong Kong 1996), starring Maggie Cheung and Leon Lai, in recent years has shifted toward pan-Asian films including the highly controversial Thai production Jan Dara (2001), and Three...Extremes (2004). Perhaps, Love embraces the love trangle of three people spanned over time. It is told through a kaleidoscope of flashbacks and lavish film-within-a-film musical numbers. It is set in Shanghai and Beijing, featuring a ravishing pan-Asian all-star cast, including Hong Kong singer/actor Jacky Cheung (July Rhapsody), Chinese actress Zhou Xun (Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress), Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers, Chungking Express) and Korean film and TV star Ji Jin-Hee (If You Were Me).

    The story might be a little slow but Perhaps Love is one of those rare films so visually impressive that you cut literally take it apart frame by frame and not find a single weak image. The images on screen are simply stunning. Rounding out the quartet of lead stars is Korean actor Ji Jin-Hee as Monty, the film's narrator and lone fantasy element. Monty bookends the film with his explanation of purpose: basically, he's an emotional tax collector (or maybe a memory cop) whose purpose is to return emotions or memories to those who have forgotten or denied them.

    The first thing that appealed to me when I heard about Peter Chan's planning of Perhaps, Love was the thing that hinges on the movie's flaw. Movie musical seldom pleases. Movie musicals are seldom known for their amazing stories, but instead for how they marry song, dance, and drama into a coherent, and hopefully enchanting whole. Unfortunately for Perhaps Love, that is where things hit a bit of a snag. The film features many musical sequences, but they are all set within the "musical within a musical". Ji Jin-Hee handles the score quite well.

    I'll say no more about Perhaps, Love. You should check out the DVD which just came out from Hong Kong. Since I've seen the movie when it premiered in December 2005, in Hong Kong, I'll opt for Three Times (最好的時光), a proxy Proust novel set to the intricate rhythms and becalmed beauty of director Hou Hsiao-hsien's inimitable aesthetic. This Taiwanese film moves across the history of Taiwan—and the arc of the director's career—to explore the memory of love in the best and worst of times.

    April 05, 2006


    Break From The Rain | Jogging

    The sun finally cracks out of the crevice of clouds today after some heavy pour during the morning commute. I haven't been a scrupulous runner lately due to the inclement weather. So I've decided to head out there and jog around. I jog like a beginner since I've skipped a couple weeks: start slowly again and build up. Lots of new runners get carried away and try to do too much too soon. This can easily lead to disappointment, loss of enthusiasm and possibly injury. If you want to be able to enjoy running for the rest of your life, start out slowly and build up. I'll do 20 minutes of walking and another 20 minutes of slow jogging for the day.

    For those who are completely new to running, I advise them to walk for three weeks. There is a statistically good chance that you will be becoming injured during the second month of running if you do not start with a period of walking. For us San Franciscans, we probably do more walking and negotiating up the hills around town. It takes time for the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to get used to the impact and mechanics of running.

    The overall fitness tends to increase before your body has fully adapted, and that is when you get injured. Use the first three weeks of walking to get into the habit of exercise, and adjust your daily routine, and let your body get a head start on adapting to running. If you have jogged a little, but never run far, it is still advisable to begin a programme of mainly walking before you start running. Consider visiting a physiotherapist or podiatrist.

    April 04, 2006


    Your Future Ex-Boyfriend T-Shirt

    I've seen people wearing it and it always intrigues me. Anyway, the much anticipated package that contains my Your Future Ex-Boyfriend T-Shirt quietly arrived at my front steps yesterday, patiently waiting for my return from work. I found it at the International Male catalog, a vendor from which I never thought I would buy anything. IM has been importunately in sending catalogs for several seasons and I always feel deprived of the necessary confidence and body type to wear their line of flamy, edgy, and somewhat revealing clothes - until I discovered Your Future Ex-Boyfriend T-Shirt! The cotton/polyester blend crew-neck tee has this athletic fit that does not fit the contour of the body and provides great comfort. It's for sure a classics and a must for the wardrobe. I'm quite picky and specific about T shirts: they have to fit perfectly around the body and a contrast textured trim at neck and sleeves would be a plus. I'm also looking for something with a well-worn look, something that is sure to have a life beyond the gym.

    April 03, 2006


    [36] The Taming of the Shrew - William Shakespeare

    Unlike any other Shakespeare's plays, The Taming of the Shrew has an induction, which lives up to its name in the sense that the prologue scene does indeed lead into the play that follows. It seems likely that Shakespeare had adopted the device from medieval narrative poetry, where it was extensively used to introduce a story in the form of a dream. In the induction, far more is involved than the mere setting of a scene and the informing to audience. In fact, Christopher Sly seems to have lapse into a dream as he is forced to adopt a new identity. The brief yet vigorous altercation between Sly and the hostess with which the induction begins is a curtain raiser for the dramatic struggle between Petruchio and Katherina that is to follow. Equally as significant is the Lord's instructions to his servant-boy as to the behavior he is to assume when he appears disguised as Sly's wife forebode the main theme of the play.

    The Taming of the Shrew has a powerful appeal for the Elizabethan audience at the time it opened because the struggle for mastery in a marriage remained a fact of existence and hot topics for writers. A true-to-life domestic scene opens the play and instantly grasps attention: Signor Baptista forbids all suitors to court his younger daughter Bianca until he finds a husband for the ill-tempered, difficult, and waspish elder daughter Katherina. She is notorious for her hot temper, foul tongue, and caprice. Out of jealousy and the qualm not remaining single, she often vents out her anger on her sister. Suitors of the younger sister, who decide to put aside their rivalry, contrive to find a match for Katherina.

    Gremio and Hortensio bear the cost of Petruchio's courting Katherina while Lucentio, who is madly in love with Bianca, and his crafty servant Tranio cunningly switch role to infiltrate the Baptista house. What inevitably follows is a facetious pursuit of love and a farcical melodrama that culminate in a riotously funny final scene in which Lucentio's real father, who has no clue of his son's betrothal, confronts the pedant-disguised impostor who reverse-accuses him of a charlatan. Equally as clueless of the entire crafty scheme is Baptista whom the suitors have tricked and outmaneuvered. He is consistently mistaken about everything and everybody, so that he does not even understand why Bianca later asks for his forgiveness. He and Vincentio are merely the butts for all the intrigues that go on throughout the play.

    The Taming of the Shrew maintains an irresistible appeal among the comedies owing to the intriguing trickery with which characters rival for courtship. Just as suspenseful and entertaining is Petruchio's calculated, punctilious campaign to tame his wife. His line of attack is psychological, although persuasive words carefully planned for each step accompany his actions. He somehow outsmarts his wife and deliberately outdoes her in his perversity and bad temper. The quintessential spleen of tantrum flourishes in the scenes in which Petruchio abuses his servants and tailor. His being abusive, tyrannical, violent, and capricious functions more than a reflection - it is evident of a caricature of Katherina through an exaggerated parody of her wild behavior. His evaluation of her mind is confirmed by her softening and surrender for she welcomes the opportunity of meeting an antagonist who will put up a good fight.

    The Taming of the Shrew is highly rhetorical (even more so than As You Like It). Whether it is Petruchio's aggressive, vituperative taming or the milder courting of Bianca, the play never lacks an elite style with which Shakespeare exploited language to a linguistic virtuosity. For example, Petruchio's taming distinguishes from the usual method that might involve violence. What differentiate his campaign are the subtlety, the sophistication, and the ingenuity of his conceiving of Katherina's mind. His perspicacious mind justifies the use of highly rhetorical, puny, and literary discourse that somehow alienates the ordinary speech in the play and paradoxically brings in a fuller, more intimate possession of his witty scheme.

    April 02, 2006


    Clear Lake, CA

    April 01, 2006


    Books Read in the First Quarter 2006

    We're now officially emerging into daylight saving time (it's not April fool!) as the first quarter of 2006 closes out. Looking back at my Moleskine journal, I haven't really achieved much reading in the past three months. Nine books in three months, all but one in the fiction/literature category. But I'm starting a non-fiction by Professor Kenji Yoshino called Covering: The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights, a book that talks about coerced conformity exercised by minority groups. Minority embodies ethnic groups, immigrants, the physical challenged, gays and lesbians. Anyway I'm slowly plowing through the could-be-the-next controversial book of the year that explores the struggle for equality of gays in America from the broader perspective of the civil-rights movement. A gay Asian American, Yoshino argues that society resists allowing full equality for gays by instead advocating conversion, passing as straight, and covering homosexuality, tactics similarly imposed on racial and other minorities.

    Anyway I'll leave you with my list of books read in the first quarter, in chronological order of which they were read:
    1. The Civilization of Angkor | Charles Higham 12/27/2005-1/8/2006
    I finished this book in Hong Kong shortly after the return from Angkor, Cambodia. It draws on some of the latest and authoritative research in archaeology in order to illuminates the unique architecture and motifs that were dictated by religious influence of the Angkor ruins. The book affords a better understanding of what I actually saw in Angkor.

    2. Mr. Muo's Traveling Couch | Sijie Dai 1/22-1/28/2006
    A modern fairy tale under the disguise of a political allegory. The elements of the short second-novel bear vestige of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. It represents a conscience of the social injustice to which many Chinese people were subjected. It's an okay read, although I enjoyed Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, his debut, more.

    3. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality | Daniel A. Helminiak 1/30-2/7/2006
    An eye opener. I'm completely amazed. It clearly states that the Bible supplies no basis for the condemnation of homosexuality. In fact, it is indifferent to the issue. Point by point, scripture by scripture it shows how some of the most controversial passages in the Bible are irrelevant in accusing homosexuality.

    4. The Atonement | Ian McEwan 2/8-2/15/2006
    At first I thought it was chic-lit because everyone was talking about it or buying it at Borders. This novel explores the ineluctable consequence of a misconduct prompted by a child's incomplete grasp of adult relationships. It somehow provokes a sense of sympathy with the vulnerability of human heart.

    5. The Spell | Alan Hollinghurst 2/17-2/24/2006
    This could be the best read so far this year. Tinged with pique and cross-purpose jokes, page by page the novel weaves a tapestry of love, lust, and loss among a group of middle-class gay Englishmen who are friends, ex-lovers, father and son. In exploring each of these relations and the uneasy conflicts, Hollinghurst's elegant, crisp prose fosters a sharp observation and psychological insight that accentuate these men's vulnerability.

    6. The Egyptologist | Arthur Phillips 2/25-3/5/2006
    I really had high hope for this one: rich historical background with a touch of adventure. But the unreliable narrator and the confusing effect the author (who obviously thinks he's very witty) bore me. ZZZZZZZZ... I regretted I didn't check this book out from the library. I managed to finish for the sake of finishing something I paid money for.

    7. Giovanni's Room | James Baldwin 3/7-3/9/2006
    Touching and moving story. This one, at least for me, makes us examine our heart in relationship. Why can't we just let down the guard and be loved? We always want to wait to make sure the feeling is right, but how can we be sure? It explores the troubling emotions of man's heart with unusual candor and yet with dignity and intensity. It delves into the most controversial issue of morality with an artistry.

    8. To Kill A Mockingbird | Harper Lee 3/14-3/22/2006
    Re-visit a timeless classics in American literature after I saw the Capote movie, which reminds me of Dill in the novel. What strikes me the most this time is the narrative of the nine-years-old. Her perspective is unbridled of the biased and disapproving voices of the town, of which nobody does even one thing to help Tom Robinson, let alone risking one’s own life to defend a black man who in the secret courts of men’s hearts have no case.

    9. Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone | James Baldwin 3/23-4/1/2006
    A man hovering between life and death struggles to make out of his multiple identities: black, bisexual, and artist. He is torn between a white woman and a young black man, to both of whom he shows admirable loyalty and love.