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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
  • July 29, 2006


    Perils of Dating

    I'm feeling lazy today so this won't be too much of a post. After finishing a couple books required of my students for class, I can also take a break from Penguin Classics-type of books and take up a couple of light reads. I am reading Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me by Michael Thomas Ford, a collection of essays drawn from queer life. His addiction to home-making Martha Stewart-way and his frenzied pursuit of Alec Baldwin's furry chest crrr-a-c-k-s me up. (Confession: Alec Baldwin and furry chest were what caught my attention of the book at first!) Then one particular essay titled the Perils of Dating hits me. Here is an excerpt:

    Nor does it help that I'm completely oblivious when someone is interested. I do not know when I am being cruised. I think men who smile at me knowingly are looking at something amusing behind me. I once had a man I was intensely fascinated with kiss me for a full three minutes on a crowded New York street in front of a whole phalanx of firefighters battling a restaurant grease-fire inferno. Afterward, I politely said good night, went home alone, and wondered for days if he liked me. It never occurred to me that sticking his tongue down my throat before an audience of toasting diners might be a clue. I thought he was just being nice. By the time I figured it out, months later, he'd moved on to someone [else]. p.79

    It hits me not because it touches on the recent wound from my past relationship. In fact I don't even think about myself in this situation. The writing makes me feel for the people who are afraid to give their heart, afraid to be vulnerable with his feelings, and afraid to commit in a relationship. I can put this guy whom I had seen on and off for 10 months last year (yes, old drama) in MTF's shoe. I find it very interesting (sad and heart-breaking, if I've read this article three months ago when I still thought he was the only gay male human being on the face of this earth) that the guy shares striking similarities with the dater in the excerpt--he is always cordial and polite, he is disarmingly down-to-earth, he always says good night to me, and he thanks me for giving him a kiss!

    For whatever the reason he cannot reciprocate the love to me I no longer care--over it. I'm happy that I can break away from this relationship woe, which has lingered for months to an extent so pathetic that I would rivet at my cellphone and hope that he would at least call to say hello. If he didn't get a tincture of an idea that I was very interested in him, maybe that was not meant to be--blame it on the wrong timing. I just hated it that no sooner I had got over him than he called me, imploringly.

    But I never returned the call.

    July 30 Update: Sunday Sing-a-long

    July 27, 2006


    Ideal Marriage Ceremony?

    Reading this post at Fluent In Fag cracks me up about how I used to be frenzied about my own marriage ceremony. But deep down in my heart and in my mind I know there won't be a bride at my wedding. Anyway, quoting Fluent In Fag:

    "I also wanted the whole white-dress and tuxedo Western church wedding - somewhat odd in retrospect, because in addition to being a flaming queenlet, I was also a raging atheist - with the hushed awe as I walked down the aisle (I wanted to be in the dress), the solemnity and explicitness of the vows, and the awesome drama queen moment where the priest asks if anyone has any reasons that these two should not be wed, and everybody looks down while priest and couple glare accusingly at the crowd. It all sent shivers down my spine. I wanted a honeymoon too."

    Okay. I used to dream about a tiny chapel, ribboned pews, pealing bells, the plush red carpet, the hushed awe as my bride demurely proceeding down the aisle, the beautiful unraveling of Pachelbel's Canon, the solemnity of the vows, and finally the first kiss. I have been to wedding like this, and in fact a few times already, as the best man! I enjoy being the right hand man to the groom because everyone--friends, family, and guests, treats the best man cordially and with a shade of deference and appreciation that is a tribute to his friendship with the groom.

    I appreciate the personal aspect of marriage, which is a vow between two people who love each other unconditionally. For better or worse, till death do they part. Two people, unite into one, negotiate through their difference in life experiences, their selfishness, treat each other with kindness and consideration. Of course there will be argument but being honest and vulnerable with feelings shall overcome any barrier in relationship.

    If I am having a marriage ceremony, it will be very simple. I'll take up the vow at the beach, feet waddling in the glittering water, on an tropical island, maybe like Langkawi, late in the afternoon awaiting sunset. There won't be tuxedo or cummerband just Irish white linen shirt and white capri (I know that's so gay) pants and sandals, maybe a straw hat to block the sun. Nor would there be catering, or live music. All our friends will come witness the exchange of vow and celebrate with us like a beach party. Honeymoon would be to take up residence in the shacks built on water.

    Meanwhile my iPod is playing:

    July 26, 2006


    Buddhist Thoughts in Russian Lit?

    I'm not sure if finishing War and Peace is a big load off my chest, but it's certainly a big load off my Timbuk2 bag! The 1443-page epic novel has been tugged into the bag for three weeks and puts an extra few pounds to it. While Tolstoy, who is more a moralist than a mystic, makes frequent allusion to Christianity, I find the novel stippled with Buddhist thoughts and ideas:

    "While imprisoned in the shed Pierre had learned, not through his intellect but through his whole being, through life itself, that man is created for happiness, that happiness lies in himself, in the satisfaction of simple human needs; and that all unhappiness is due, not to privation but to superfluity. But now, during these last three weeks of the march, he had learned still another new and confronting truth--that there is nothing in the world to be dreaded." [4.3.12]

    "The absence of suffering, the satisfaction of elementary needs and consequent freedom in the choice of one's occupation--that is, of one's mode of living--now seemed to Pierre the sure height of human happiness. Here and now for the first time in his life Pierre fully appreciated the enjoyment of eating because he was hungry, of drinking because he was thirsty, of sleep because he was sleepy, of warmth because he was cold, of talking to a fellow creature because he felt like talking and wanted to hear a human voice. The satisfaction of one's needs--good food, cleanliness, freedom--now that he was deprived of these seemed to Pierre to constitute perfect happiness; and the choice of occupation, that is, of his manner in life, now that choice was so restricted, seemed to him such an easy matter that he forgot that a superfluity of the comforts of life destroys all joy in gratifying one's needs,..." [4.3.12]

    If love is among human needs, then recently I have for a very long time tasted love and basked in the happiness of love. The suffering from the past relationship--the chilly reception, the days when I looked at my phone raptly to see if he (the ex) had called {I know that was pathetic), the deprivation of intimacy--all constitute my happiness now.

    Reading Update
    What I am reading for my classes: The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky and The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer, Michael Warner Life
    What I am reading for summer: Four Tragedies, William Shakespeare
    What I am reading for fun: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me, Michael Thomas Ford
    The last book I purchased: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov for John.

    July 24, 2006


    Dim Sum Ritual & A Surprised Treat

    John and I had dim sum (Chinese small plates and tea) yesterday at Mayflower on Geary at 27th. We weren't sure if we would be able to grab a table since it was around 1 p.m., as Chinese families pack almost every dim sum place during the lunch rush. Traditionally dim sum is a morning ritual that brings together people from around villages--housewives catch up with the latest gossips, older men flaunt their birds. Now the Chinese families, who have yet completely ridden of their gregarious nature, would usually gather around the round table on Sunday for a feast of chicken feet, beef tripe, and pigs blood.

    John and I didn't have any of the innards thank God, nor did we have any gossip to catch up with. No sooner had we sat down did the ladies who were carrying tray full of deep fried squids, deep fried shrimp puffs, and a variety of sweet-stuffs flocked to our table, but John passed all those plates that were usually catered to a gweilo (Chinese slang that refers to a foreigner). The servers at Mayflower were somewhat taken aback at John's reckless rebuttal to all the hot-sell plates made for the Americans. Anyway we opted for plates that were not only the staples of dim sum but were also reminiscent of my childhood: cha siu bao (pork bun), har gow (steamed shrimp dumpling), har cheong (steamed thick rice noodle with shrimp), steamed tunip cake, siu loong bao (Shanghai dumpling), and the disappointing wu gok (crispy taro puff). I am very impressed with John's adroit chopsticks skills!

    For tea the expert in John called for gook bow, a mix of chrysanthemum and the Chinese black tea pu er, and the strength of which lasted through the meal. Hidden in his plastic bag were secretive dessert treats he would save for the last. So we hopped back into the car and headed for the water but instantly regretted it because there were absolutely no parking at Ocean Beach nor its vicinity. So we went up to Twin Peak instead, sat on the heated stoned rail and had these cream puffs from Beard Pa Pa, a Japanese phenomenon that had swept all over Asia more than 5 years ago. Enjoying the panoramic view of the city, we munched away those cream puffs in no time as the tourists who scuttled about striking their best posts for pictures watched us with envious eyes.

    July 22, 2006


    My Type of Guy

    I was sitting quietly at the coffee shop working on the handout for The Brothers Karamazov, which the class will dive in this coming week (my 2nd all-time favorite fiction) next to The Master and Margarita until this guy walked in and everything out of the world seemed to disappear. It's not like I'll go strike a pass at him or anything--he's more like an eye candy. A white male in his late 30s (maybe early 40s), not too tall, around 5'8", buzz cut, goatee (facial hair gets to the very front of the line), thick calves (legs are the usually the first physical attributes I look at in a guy). This guy has an athletic-fit baseball T-shirt on, which accentuates his gym physique and the knee-length shirts do his muscular legs justice. Anyway I hope that will answer many of your questions regarding the type of guy that usually gets my attention. I also find a little belly sexy in a man so the 6 pack ab does not really matter to me. When I walk around the Castro and see guys who are endowed with this musculine, ruggedly, and gruffy appearance, I often find them being attracted to guys who look just like themselves. So I haven't had any luck finding a guy like that and, no sooner had I stopped looking (contriving to even think about looking) did I meet someone who not only has all the physical attributes but a sense of humor and a brain! He makes my heart throb with joy.

    July 21, 2006


    Wrapping up War and Peace

    I'm wrapping up War and Peace in class today with a few closing comments. It's difficult to discuss in minute details a novel that affords innumerable nuances of relationships, philosophy of the mind and chronology of war. But I do wish to make a remark about some new meaning and thought that radiated out of this reading. The French gained a victory near Moscow, took over the city, burned it and trampled under their feet the abundant provisions, munitions and wealth, and made no further engagement before their fatal retreat. Peace in this sense might seem a collective element--peace from war, delivery of the country. But I find it very paradoxical that it was during the daunting time of his being taken a prisoner that Pierre finally attained to the peace and content with himself for which before he had always striven in vain. He had spent long years in search for the tranquility of mind and the inner harmony. How ironic that it is through the extreme limits of privation a man can endure that one attains this tranquility of mind. The satisfaction of one's needs roots--now that Pierre was deprived of what appeared to him to constitute the perfect happiness. It seems to him an easy matter that he forgot a superfluity of the comforts of life destroys all joy in gratifying one's needs. I ponder at how the same idea can tag into relationship. It's usually when people lose the love and bliss do they finally realize how much they have taken love for granted.

    July 20, 2006


    Update on Thailand Trip

    I talked about my upcoming trip to Chiang Mai in this post a while ago. After gathering more info and reading tidbits from fellow travelers and National Geographic, I have come up with a list of must-do for this trip:

    • Thai cooking class -- a full day course that specializes in Northern Thai cuisine and curry and includes a trip to the grocery market
    • Thai Language class -- two-week intensive program on conversational Thai
    • Laos -- cross the border to the Laosian capital Vientiane, where one can find fields of rice and vegetables, agriculture hidden behind tree lined avenues. French Colonial architecture sits next to gilded temples.
    • Hill tribe and trekking
    • Golden Triangle -- where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet, visit the town of Mai Sai, where I can even cross into Burma for some shopping; the small village of Sop Ruak, where the Ruak and Mekhong rivers meet, forming the borders of three countries; and finally the ancient city of Chiang Saen
    • Sukhothai -- the first truly independent Thai Kingdom, which enjoyed a golden age under King Ramkhamhaeng, credited with creating the Thai alphabet. The superb temples and monuments of this great city have been lovingly restored in this UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Then a train ride down to Bangkok where I'll probably stay for a few days paying tribute to the Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha), Grand Palace and the weekend Chatuchak Market. Last time I only have a couple hours scouring for souvenirs and I only had seen the tip of in iceberg - over 13,000 stalls there. From Bangkok I'll catch a train to Singapore and visit a friend there. Anyone wants to come along?

    July 18, 2006


    [The Way You Look At Me]

    I don't think I can keep on talking about War and Peace without making you all fall asleep. So I'll save all my harangue for my class. I wake up this morning with snuggling thoughts of J. The image of him instantly lifts me into another world, a serene realm of bliss and love which it is worth living for. A song for J:

    No one ever saw me like you do
    All the things that I could add up to
    I never knew just what a smile was worth
    But your eyes say everything without a single word

    Coz there's something in the way you look at me
    It's as if my heart knows you're the missing piece
    You make me believe that there's notheing in this world I can't be
    I'd never know what you see
    But there's something in the way you look at me

    If I could freeze the moment in my mind
    Be the second that you touch your lips to mine
    I'd like to stop the clock make time stand still
    Coz baby this is just the way I always wanna feel

    Coz there's something in the way you look at me
    It's as if my heart knows you're the missing piece
    You make me believe that there's notheing in this world I can't be
    I'd never know what you see
    But there's something in the way you look at me

    I don't know how or why
    I feel different in your eyes
    All I know is that it happens everytime

    Coz there's something in the way you look at me
    It's as if my heart knows you're the missing piece
    You make me believe that there's nothing in this world I can't be
    I'd never know what you see
    But there's something in the way you look at me

    The way you look at me

    July 17, 2006


    Reading, Reading...On War

    The weekend had been madness. I was changing the game plan for one of the classes I teach this summer due to the lack of stock of a book on the reading list. So I have to move things around on the syllabus, re-write some handouts, and leaf through some 300 pages of reading of another book which we will be discussing this week. All that took me a day. So the gay studies class will read Michael Warner instead of this. The highlight of the weekend would be the 12-minute conversation on the cellphone with J, who had been running errands and hanging out with friends, while I was trying to make things smooth for the classes. So Russian lit seminar, we're still plowing through War and Peace. I managed to get past Book 2 and am on Book 3, p.950, over that big sumptuous piece of brownie at SI.

    For an epic novel whose story line builds upon the war, I find War and Peace rarely breathes about moral conscience on bloodshed. It seem to delve quite a bit on man's free will and destiny. After going through almost 1000 pages of it, I get the idea that war can be a fortuitous event. It's almost like slow chess game. Myriads of causes (and motives) might have coincided to bring about what happened in war. Men who fought the war were no more than pawns on the chessboard (battlefield)--every man lives for himself, using his freedom and his whole being that he can at any moment perform or not perform an action, but so soon as he has done it, the action accomplished at a certain moment in time becomes irrevocable, which belongs to history. Can we still say the action has a free significance or is it predestined?

    July 15, 2006


    [At Least I Have You]

    "J" made dinner for us last night--some baked ham and mixed greens salad. We chowed down our quick meal under the invading fog that could be seen scuttling above the moon window. Then we cuddled up to watch Lost In Translation. In Tokyo, a burned-out American movie star named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) shows up to appear in a whiskey ad. Stranded in a sleekly pompous modern hotel, he can't connect with anything or even sleep, but he does encounter (chastely) with a very young woman, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), whose fashion-photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) is rapidly slipping away from her. Both Bob and Charlotte are in emotional limbo, and they become an odd, inappropriate couple. We retired for the night after the movie and I woke up with gritty eyes, with this tune playing in my head.

    I'm afraid the time is out that
    I have to hold you tight and
    Feel the vestige of time's indifference
    In your wrinkles
    Until I lose my strength to
    Know that you're real
    For you
    I'm always willing
    Even if my vision loses focus and
    I gasp for breath

    Even if I can longer move
    I still have to look at you with
    My riveting eyes
    Until I can lather the traces of your
    Snowy white hair and
    My vision fades and the breadth gets short
    Never do us part

    I'll give up the whole world for you
    Whom I cherish
    And not regret because
    You're the miracle life in my life
    Maybe I can forget all that is in the world
    But I will never wish to
    Lose touch with you

    July 13, 2006


    First Date With "J": What A Bliss

    I had a date last night for the first time since my relationship debacle back in March. Not that I have deliberately evaded dating, I have given myself some time to adjust, and to reflect what might have gone amiss in that relationship. Honestly I haven't been looking--zero effort--holding on to the somewhat consoling belief that everything has it's time and I'm in no position to force it. In a recent post I shared about how I have been approaching relationship too seriously, focusing only on finding Mr. Right, and thus depriving myself of all the fun and joy friendship might have bestowed. friend Matty had nailed it--as soon as I stop searching and thinking so hard on it is when I seem to meet someone.

    So I've been e-mailing "J" back and forth over the past few days and we decided to meet for dinner on a Wednesday (I don't usually go out during the week) night. He told me how he usually has qualm about having dinner on a first date for fear of meeting a total slop with no table manner. lol It's a bit scary to ponder at how much "J" and I have in common: the same academic background, the low-key, laid-back lifestyle, reading interest, places we have traveled, enjoying a quiet evening and things I can't blog about on here. lol His physical attributes--the facial hair and the slightly stocky build--afford this air of masculinity that I've come to appreciate in a man. Plus he has a brain and maturity.

    We strolled around the Castro and peeked into various restaurants. We decided to go for Thai (I know, I'd never be sated with Thai food) at Thai Chef on 18th next to Badlands. We started off with Larb Gai (chicken salad), then Green Curry with Chicken--that was very tasty and creamy, and a so-so Fried Calamari with Tamarind Sauce. With riveting eyes I looked at him, we talked about our life and travel. I was so enraptured by him--the way he carried himself, the gentile manner, the tincture of humor--I realized that between he and I there was not that barrier of decorum I had always been conscious of between myself and other men, especially not on the first date.

    After dinner we held hands and walked up to Cafe Flore and chatted a bit more over coffee. For a weeknight, the grand central station was mellow--sans DJ, sans loud music, sans flamy boys. We couldn't help sidling closer to each other and on the way back to the car, he bear-hugged me. I hope I can break the post-first date curse this time with "J"--can't wait to see him again.

    July 12, 2006


    A Finale For Cody's Books

    Like a comment that was made by a blogger in the previous post, the closing of the famed bookstore on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue is the end of an era. The original Cody's Books opened at 11 a.m. and closed for the very last time at 8 p.m. on Monday night. I headed out there just to pay final tribute to the amazing bookstore that has spurred my reading interest and nourished my mind since my undergraduate days at Berkeley. Upon walking in the store, business was as usual--savvy staff was solicitously assisting customers, regular customers were browsing through the classic wooden shelves. On Sunday hundreds of writers and longtime customers crowded the store for its 50th anniversary celebration. But the festive decorations, balloons, confetti and champagne could not mask that the event was not only a celebration but also a grand finale for the store.

    When I arrived in Berkeley as a freshman, I immediately discovered the intellectual haven in Cody's. The store used to stay open late, until 11 p.m., packed with bookworms and students in the aisles of shelves that were infused with variety. My friends and I always made a quick stop at Cody's whether we were on the way to grab a bite on Telegraph or walking back to the apartment from campus. Cody's was part of the equation of campus life--how poignant and shocking that it will become history. Sometimes I wonder why Cody's should never set up an online store to boost sales since big-chain like Borders, Barnes & Noble, and have seen business boom over the past decade. But even as online sales of books became a major revenue source for bookstores, Cody's, which holds obdurately to the philosophy that books are meant to be browsed in person, relinquished the idea.

    I'm sad to say the society doesn't read as much as it used to--the world, bombarded with new technology, the internet, fast media--does not embrace the same values and reading culture that the wide-ranging intellect in the 70s and 80s sustained. I look at my students--they are reading Penguin Classics only because the books were required of them for the course. They use internet (I use internet, everyone uses internet), they rivet at their gigantic organic chemistry textbook and art history pictorial. But I still believe that reading nourishes the mind, expands our horizon, and exposes us to culture, ideas, and chronological distances that are so remote to us and our experience.

    My bow to Cody's.

    July 10, 2006


    Muscle Talk

    The weekend was laid back but it was not without the demand of life's obligation. I spent almost all day Saturday preparing this week's lesson, which will plunge into the meat of War and Peace, as the climate of politics tautens and the fortunes of key characters change. Then I spent some time with my friend Stephen with whom I hadn't had a chance to catch up after he came back from a trip to the big apple. We took a stroll up to the Castro from his apartment in lower Hayes Valley under the glittering sun and decided to have noodle at Thai Noodle Express at Castro and 19th. We arrived just minutes before the neighborhood's blend of yuppie-meets-grunge people poured in. The waitress seated us at the window which commands a view of the street. A couple of tank-topped macho daddies walked down the street holding hands, followed by a young lanky guy with the build of a gymnast. Then a flamy Asian queen donning a hunter green contour-fit T shirt and a striped tie busied himself kissing his partner while crossing Castro. Stephen and I were amused by the street sights and we almost voiced out the concurrent opinion about big muscle being a gay icon.

    The aspiration to be big, macho and muscular sweeps through the gay community. Not that I'm into the porns but look at all the big posters and advertisement: they all have the appeal of big muscular men. Those thick pecs and bulging biceps that are barely confined under the tight fabrics of the skimpy muscle shirt give away a man's sexual orientation. And even with a tinge of vanity does a man like to flaunt the fruit of his long hours of hard labor at the gym. I can relate to that. I remember when I first noticed my chest showing under my athletic ringer T shirt--I was so excited that I would want to show it despite the Mark Twain's saying the coldest winter he ever had was San Francisco's summer. I've never known the thrill and intrigue of flexing that muscle on my arm known as the bicep until I have my own! This is all vanity in the working. I first worked out for health reason, wanting to lose weight and get fit, but I'm sure if it was not for the purpose of looking good and attracting attention from other men, I wouldn't have been able to accomplished this much--losing 50 pounds and then gaining the muscle that I could only have dreamed of having. I know many gay men don't even sweat about the 6 pack but at the same time an invisible pressure--the pressure to look good and the pressure to conform--hangs over their head. Meanwhile I'm happy with my 41". *g*

    Anyway, enough of my babbling for the day.

    Tonight I'm going to witness the postscript of Berkeley's landmark Cody's Books, which will close the door for good after being in business for 50 years. That would be something for me to blog about tomorrow. Until next time everyone.

    July 08, 2006


    What Am I Living For?

    I was so busy yesterday dealing with mechanics of the seminar I teach this summer. The class is full with 25 undergraduates and a waiting list with equal amount of students. In addition to all that, there were students shopping for class and hoping to add it. The bad news for everyone who is not on the official class list is that they can only get in unless someone on the roster doesn't up. Anyway, juggling between the class and all the errands, I've managed to read only 22 pages of War and Peace. Reading assignment for my students covers the first two parts of Book 1, which amounts 230 pages due on Monday for discussion. (Should I surprise them with a reading quiz?). I'm a little bit ahead on Book 2 Part 4. However meager in the number of pages I read yesterday, it is quality reading that gives insights to meanings of life and delves with peace of mind and human conscience.

    I will not reveal the circumstances that lead to the scene in question to avoid spoiler. Two men, whose lives and fortunes have changed dramatically during the fetters of war, chance to reunion and find themselves at loggerhead in their view of life's meaning. One has sworn off any army service after living a life for honor and glory--the desire to do something for others and the desire for recognition and praises--and not almost but quite spoils his life. He laments over someone whom he has irretrievably wronged and never has the chance to put right, all because of his chasing after honor and glory. The other man is the exact opposite. He has lived for himself until he realizes all the happiness in life only comes about from serving others and denying himself.

    I put down the book and lapsed into a pondering silence. What am I living for? I have spent almost my entire life living for others--not necessarily serving them and meeting their needs but rather doing things that please people. I can be such a people-pleaser in order to avoid conflict and confrontation. I am always the "nice guy" who is morose, who is sitting at the corner in class, who smiles but never talks much, who is always the first to volunteer, who never complains about anything and who doesn't know how to say "no" to people. My mother's terminal illness dawned on me--I have to break apart from that fake, unrealistic, conforming public image I have meticulously nourished for years.

    Opening up about my sexual orientation is for sure the giant leap toward self-transformation. I realize that if there is ever one thing in life that will render me to be true to myself, that will be the fact of my being gay. It's the inarguable truth written on stone. The revelation of who I am not only removes that burden off my back--but also affords a refreshing perspective of life. I will no longer live for others in the sense of conforming to their standards in order to please and to win approval. I know I have been stupidly obdurate in relationship--how I thrive to change for someone, to conform to his desire, and in the end only to hurt myself so badly. Being true to oneself, after all, is knowing when to let go and move on. Being true to oneself is to preserve that human dignity and peace of mind.

    July 07, 2006


    I Was Outed Over Thai Food!

    I hung out with my friend Tony and my cousin Fiona on Sunday. We were planning on Indonesian food in downtown but after circling around the block several times we couldn't get a parking space. For Plan B we were off to Valencia for Thai food at Osha. Squeezed into a gritty Mission block, the small dining room is a stylish, peaceful respite from the outside, with jungle-foliage wallpaper and fluorescent lights softened by a gauzy mesh curtains. Blond-wood tables, Jetson-like plastic chairs and black-clad waitstaff complete the mod-squad feel, though the patrons are the neighborhood's standard blend of yuppie-meets-grunge. I opted for my usual noodle plate--Pad Khee Mao--fried thick rice noodles with tofu, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, basil, bamboo shoots, chili, Chinese broccoli. The street food stalls in Bangkok make this noodle plate very savory and spicy, but it was somewhat bland at Osha. The fried rice plate Fiona ordered tasted better, and so did the rice paper spring rolls and the papaya salad.

    Tony mentioned something about the night market in Hong Kong and the conversation nudged to the street prostitutes donning tube tops and carrying fake LV bags awaiting patrons. Anyway, I made a comment about how I'm not interested in women and Tony seized the opportunity to out me over Thai food! While I'm out to all my friends and co-workers, coming out to family is a difficult terrain I have to negotiate. The funny thing is, Fiona has always known from my innuendos and the ways I carry myself, and she's been waiting for me to tell her in person. I've been holding back from telling her because I don't know how she would have taken the truth. I wish to thank my friend Tony for releasing some of the worries and burden off me, and am grateful for Fiona who doesn't think less of me now as she did before. Thanks cousin.

    The next and the ultimate stride will be talking with my father, who might have suspected or even known about me but decides to be hush about it. I came out to my mother when she was battling against cancer 8 years ago--but there is a mysterious, tacit understanding that exists between mother and her children. After all, I shared her pulse and heart beat inside her womb before she brought me to this world, right?

    Picture 1: Fiona 9 months, and me 4 in Hong Kong.
    Picture 2: Fiona, Yanny, Jeremy, and me.

    July 06, 2006


    Reading War and Peace

    My third time reading Tolstoy's epic moves quite swiftly--the story itself may not be the most captivating, like The Master and Margarita (my all-time favorite piece of literature), but it affords a tapestry of the society and its throbbing life. By the end of Part 2 in Book 1, we see extensive scenes of domestic life, familial dealings, and seditious plot of seizing a count's fortune. All these are juxtaposed with scenes of the war. It might be a presentiment of the imminent changing fortunes of all the characters.

    The bloggers at Reading...War and Peace raise a very broad but significant question: What is the novel about? Tolstoy gives us a diverse picture of characters who come to grasp their fate and destiny--whether it was out of free will or not. For some conforming to fate will deprive them of all power of thought and make them incapable of anything but habitual compliance. Tolstoy might have exposed readers the military schemes, familial gatherings, and domestic life, he doesn't show us the characters' fate and their decision--decision that leads to happiness and filfillment of life. We are, therefore, in the same shoes with the characters to gingerly, with fear and trembling, to see what's in store for them.

    July 04, 2006


    [Kong] A Music Video That Hits Home

    I'm flattered and floored by the 1081 hits to my blogger profile and the 22 sites that have links to A Guy's Moleskine Notebook in less than 6 months after I launched the blog on Jan 18. I bow to you all for the support and feedback. It's 4th of July and I'm just kicking it at home and reading War and Peace along with these bloggers. Never into any of the celebrations or cookout. Too many people anywhere, everywhere.

    The music video features a very special song that really hits home to me. Kong refers to King Kong falling in love with a beauty and the amazing love affair becomes a legend. I'm no King Kong nor am I interested in girls but I am a very loyal person in relationship, even if the relationship might not have worked out. Sensitive and emotional vulnerable, I wear my heart on my sleeves. If I fall for someone, I pour out my heart and swear loyalty--like that in the song--lay down my life and protect him at the expense of my safety. After a recent debacle in a relationship, I have had doubt if my being loyal is a mistake--am I being so stupid and stubborn to have sold out myself?

    No. I realize I have been approaching relationship too seriously and narrowing my perspective to only looking for Mr. Right. I have deprived myself of the pleasure and fun of socializing with other men and getting to know them. Sometimes guys smile at me but I pretend I don't pay attention. I know it's lame. I find myself faring much better and more comfortably in a small group than a large crowd. I'm often at a loss for words when I see someone I like. That has to change. After years of chasing after Mr. Right and dating people off my checklist, it's time to chill, just have fun, socialize, make friends and see where life takes me.

    Happy 4th everyone!

    July 01, 2006


    Sleepless Night

    I got up early after an almost sleepless night. The bitches upstairs came home at 2 in the morning (to be exact, 2:02), f**king walked around the carpetless apartment with high heels and cranked up the music. Since they moved in back in early March, I had to live with the harassment of their galloping around in high heels. Literally it sounds like the rumbling of a peal of thunder that persists for at least an hour. Last night I had my final straw of patience with them, I got up and called the police. The SFPD has set up this report line for non-violent issues. No sooner had the officers showed up and given a warning did they turn off the music. A small group of buzzed people stumbled down the stairs and left shortly after. Today I'll have a word with the landlord about them. These bitches are the most obnoxious, annoying, and rudest neighbors I've ever had in my whole life.

    2:02 AM Bitches got home with a party of six, screaming, yelling, high-heels rumbling
    2:11 AM Laughing and screaming from kitchen upstairs
    2:27 AM First call to SFPD complaining about noise
    2:37 AM The party got high, turned up the volume of stereo and the bitches started dancing on hardwood floor
    2:38 AM Second call to SFPD complaining about noise and wild party
    2:46 AM Officers showed up and raided the apartment
    2:50 AM Party dispersed; saw a few people leaving the building

    I don't think the long weekend justifies rowdy, noisy behavior at 2 AM in the morning especially when you co-habit with neighbors from 5 other units. It's just plain rude.

    **No apology***

    I'm off to the gym to vent out my anger and frustration now. Then I'll spend the day reading War and Peace.

    Enjoy the weekend everyone.