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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
  • December 31, 2006


    The Year in Review: Books

    I'm reading E. M. Forster's Maurice, which most likely will conclude the year of 2006 in reading. Since I started this blog back on Janurary 18 this year, a sense of responsibility, which inevitably takes up more of my time and effort, has imbued in me. The immediate effect is that I have read less. But when I looked back on the readings I have done this year, I realize reading less does not necessarily make me less bookish of a reader, who has evolved to become more serious, and cultivate a more eclectic taste. I still read more non-living than living authors, more Penguin classics than airport novels. Here is the year of 2006 in review:

    1. Jan 01-Jan 08 The Civilization of Angkor by Charles Higham (NF)
    2. Jan 10-Jan 19 Literary Theory by Terry Eagleton (NF) (not finished)
    3. Jan 22-Jan 28 Mr Muo's Travelling Couch by Dai Sijin (F)
    4. Jan 30-Feb 07 What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel A. Helminiak (NF)
    5. Feb 08-Feb 15 The Atonement by Ian McEwan (F)
    6. Feb 17-Feb 24 The Spell by Alan Hollinghurst (F)
    7. Feb 25-Mar 05 The Egyptologist by Arthur Philips (F)
    8. Mar 07-Mar 09 Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (F)
    9. Mar 14-Mar 22 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (F) (re-read)
    10. Mar 23-Apr 04 Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone by James Baldwin (F)
    11. Apr 05-Apr 18 Covering: The Hidden Assault of Cicil Rights by Kenji Yoshino (NF)
    12. Apr 19-May 03 The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics and Ethics of Queer Life by Michael Warner (NF)
    13. May 04-May 16 Virtually Normal: An Argument about Homosexuality by Andrew Sullivan (NF)
    14. May 17-May 30 The Wings of the Dove by Henry James (F)
    15. Jun 01-Jun 07 The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco (F)
    16. Jun 07-Jun 12 The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (F)
    17. Jun 13-Jun 21 The Pillars of Earth by Ken Follett (F)
    18. Jun 30-Jul 25 War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (F) (re-read)
    19. Jul 26-Aug 01 Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me by Michael Thomas Ford (NF, Essays)
    20. Aug 02-Aug 10 The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem (F)
    21. Aug 14-Aug 22 The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl (F)
    22. Aug 24-Aug 30 White Teeth by Zadie Smith (F)
    23. Aug 31-Sep 05 The Double by Jose Saramago (F)
    24. Sep 05-Sep 15 In September, The Light Changes by Andrew Holleran (F, SS)
    25. Sep 18-Sep 24 Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran (F)
    26. Sep 25-Oct 09 Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (NF, writing)
    27. Oct 10-Nov 03 The Marquise of O- and Other Stories by Heinrich von Kleist (F, SS)
    28. Nov 05-Nov 20 Arthur and George by Julian Barnes (F)
    29. Nov 24-Nov 29 Runaway (Short Stories) by Alice Munro (F, SS)
    30. Nov 30-Dec 05 Little Children by Tom Perrotta (F)
    31. Dec 07-Dec 30 Stories by Anton Chekov (F, SS)
    32. Dec 13-Dec 18 The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (F)

    33. Dec 19-Dec 25 The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (F)
    34. Dec 25-Dec 31 Maurice by E. M. Forster (F)

    The titles in boldface are my top 10 picks for the year. In-depth reviews of all the above can be found in this blog. Click over to the sidebar on the left should you're interested. Out of 34 books read this year, 6 are nonfiction and 28 fiction. The breakdown:

    Non-fiction: 6
    Fiction: 28
    Re-read: 2
    Gay-related titles: 11
    Number of journal pages: 147

    Happy New Year!

    December 29, 2006


    A Few Light Fares to Complement the 50 Things

    I consider myself a little weird and picky...but...
    You Are 90% Weird

    You're more than quirky, you're downright strange.
    But you're also strangely compelling, like a cult leader.

    Friends make up part of my life. They have modled and pruned me.
    You Are A Good Friend

    You're always willing to listen
    Or lend a shoulder to cry on
    You're there through thick and thin
    Many people consider you their "best friend"!

    And this one really hits home...
    How You Are In Love

    You take a while to fall in love with someone. Trust takes time.

    You give completely and unconditionally in relationships.

    You tend to get very attached when you're with someone. You want to see your love all the time.

    You love your partner unconditionally and don't try to make them change.

    You stay in love for a long time, even if you aren't loved back. When you fall, you fall hard.

    Happy New Year!

    December 27, 2006


    Now To The Round of New Year...

    Another Christmas had come and gone. Now to the round of New Year's festivities that will cut down some of the food indulgence! This time of the year is usually full of merrymaking, giving and receiving, as well as surprises. Santa has really been good to me this year. When I finally got to unwrap all the gifts--the holiday mysteries under pleasant disguises of wrapping papers--late Christmas night, I found:

    • a black Armani Exchange embroidered/woven shirt
    • a newspaper boy's cammello hat
    • a copy of Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes
    • a couple of Illuminations aromatherapy candles
    • a pair of AussieBum nylon rower midcut swim trunk (If you doubt yourself, wear something else. So true!!! LOL)
    • a Gap athletic-cut t-shirt
    • a Club Monaco V-neck wool striped sweater
    • an Abercrombie & Fitch gift card
    • a copy of Gay Life & Culture: A World History
    • a Hugo Boss mesh (oh my god) close-fit sweater
    • two pounds of La Colombe coffee, Nizza
    • a Joseph & Lyman cashmere sweater

    I'm so grateful although I have to say thank god no more gifts which I have to return or exchange at the store. Gone are also books that would be disgrace the library collection and that frighten me out of my wits! Just kidding. The best part of the holiday is to be ensconced with family and friends, in thier company, sharing, and conversations.

    December 26, 2006


    [62] Little Children - Tom Perrotta

    Light reading fare for Christmas. I saw the movie with Matty a while ago and so this movie tie-in would be somewhat interesting to read. After all, it's not too bad of reading.

    Talk about dysfunctional families and their drama. Set in a quiet suburb where nothing ever seems to happen in a way we think well-to-do upper middle class families have any issues, (WRONG!!!) Little Children brings forth inner-workings of what becomes a roaming crisis. Sarah, mother of a three-year-old, is a relapsed feminist, an ex-gender studies graduate student aborting her PhD who studies the behavior (which she concludes monotonous and boring) of suburban women. Their stroller rut at the park, which consists of playing, snacking, and strictly adhering to the offerings' timetable (which they deem conducive to the kids' being admitted to Ivy-League schools)was pleasantly interrupted by the surprised return of Todd, a stay-home dad whose dark feature, cropped blond hair, and jock physique have captured the hearts of the moms.

    No sooner have the thirty-something parents met did they hit it off. At least they have one thing in common: Unhappy (unfulfilling?) marriages. Sarah's husband has become more and more involved with his fantasy life on the internet than with his family. His indifference toward her engenders in her a sudden and desperate desire to visit the town pool, where she knows Todd would take his so on a clammy afternoon, as the cloud looms low, promising rain but not delivering. Todd, despite his being married to a fine woman with a svelte body, brooded over his failing to pass the bar exam. His problems are more intrinsic, springing from his troubled ego, salt-and-peppered by wounded vanity. Piqued at his uncertain career, he realizes something must be wrong with his being, as if he had sleepwalked through life to realize he cannot possibly be happy with any of the choices that the world offer him.

    Maybe Todd's wife, an aspiring documentary filmmaker, has incurred on him that he must feel to live up to a vision of himself that had never really been his own. But satirically who is this novel is NOT wearing a mask, hiding behind his/her true self? While the residents of the quiet suburban town wrangle out of their wits with these emerging dramas, sexual fling, unhappiness over wrong marriages, a ex-convict of child molestation returns to the community to live with his mother. How ironic and satirical that the one person who has nothing to hide, whom everyone in town shirks and scorns, in somewhat a positive way, helps these lost folks come to their own senses about who they are.

    December 25, 2006


    Merry Christmas!

    Wishing all of you and your family, loved ones peace, joy, and happiness during this holiday seasons, and a very prosperous new year. The picture, which has remained one of my favorite of any Christmas trees, was taken at the Festive Walk in Hong Kong a couple years ago. It might be somewhat difficult to see but the trimmings were all crystals.

    I had to do some last-minute Christmas shopping but I managed to had a mahjong game, which I know has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus and Christmas (but hey it's a holiday...) with my cousins last night.

    Not only that this Christmas is the first one in 6 years that I celebrate in San Francisco, it also marks some very special time for myself and my friends. I'm very thankful for all the people in my life. Despite some of the disheartening episodes, has marked some special brushes in life. On Thursday night, Ken and I had our Christmas dinner at Slow Club. He has enriched my life since he made the entrance back in October, right before I left for Asia. We have slowly got to know each other and I can only look forward to the future.

    I'm grateful for Bill D, who is now spending Christmas with his family in Ohio. He has been more than a friend--a mentor, someone who watches over my academic well-being, who listens to my struggle, who mitigates my relationship woes and who always comes into succor with sound advice. We don't get to see each other much but have maintained that inexplicable bond bewteen friends who have stuck out through thick and thin.

    My best friend Fernando: I'm so excited that you and Maria have a second baby--Julian. Thank you for always being so supportive to what I do. You surely have pruned me, through your eyes to the world, your own experience, which is completely distant to my own background, and made me a better person.

    My college buddy and rommmate Weizhu: Thank you for always letting me to tag along and being the third wheel to you and Patty. I'm so excited you finally tied the knot this year. I'm lookinf forward to spending time with you guys.

    My very good friend Estrella: Thank you for always being so thoughtful and kind to me. I appreciate your creativity and your helping to reconstruct some of my clothing. I wish you, Deniis, and your family peace, happiness, and joy in this holiday season. We need to hang out and go eat until the stomach bursts okay? Neecha or Slow Club, you pick!

    My partner in crime and good friend Tony L (who doesn't really read my blog no more): We have really come a long way. Thank you for always being there listening to me whine and gibberish.

    My good friend Stepehn, who should be on the way somewhere at 35,000 feet to Bangkok: Thank you for all always cooking for me--all the delicious pastas, grilled chicken and salads. You've always been a mentor to me in both my writing and in coping with life.

    Thank you all the bloggers who have stuffed my mailbox with holiday greetings. Thank you Robert for being so thoughtful in sending a Christmas CD. It's been a pleasure to have met all of you, especially Greg, Danielle (who inspires a lot of my current reading), Iliana, Jef, Kalvin (one with some of the most thought-provoking posts), Tony (glad I brush shoulder with his brushstrokes), and our very own, local Matty (thanks for your Christmas e-mail), and all the hunks at Gay Men Rule, especially Joshua, you rule!

    I know there is no way I can list everybody--but to all of you, wherever you are, be well and be safe. Happy Holidays!

    December 21, 2006


    Un-Skipping Christmas

    People who know me for years know I'm never around for Christmas--I'll be vacationing at places where the sun doesn't go down before 5, where I can still saunter around in liner pants or shorts, like Thailand, Cambodia, and Bali. It's also a time to visit friends and family in my hometown--Hong Kong. But not this year. For the first time in six years, I'm staying in San Francisco for Christmas. Although my consistent absence during the holiday season has instilled in people's mind an inevitable deception that I shirk (if not skip) Christmas, this year I have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that Christmas cards have inundated my mailbox. Some of you fellow bloggers have sent me warm wishes for which I'm in utter gratitude. Robert sent me a CD like I've never had ever. Greg from Oregon sent me a card with a picture of Eugene from Skinner Butte.

    Honestly when the Christmas shopping season kicked off after Turkey Day, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the whole holiday idea. Not being savvy of the day when Union Square lightened up the Christmas Tree to boil up the holiday spirit, the day that diastrously coincided with the monthly biker critical mass, I was stuck on Stockton Street outside Macy's for almost an hour, stranded in the jostling elbows of shoppers, contrived to shirk and get around the bikers.

    But my qualm of the holiday quickly mitigated as I start writing Christmas cards to all my friends and wrapping the gifts. Today I walked past Union Sqaure again and couldn't help lingering around for a few moments to appreciate the tree. I held the tree, which was surrounded by picture-takers and kids, in a reflective gaze of affection, like gathering thoughts from distant memory. A surge of emotion gradually rose in my body as if some medication is coursing through my veins. The sight of a mother straightening up her son's outfit for a picture provoked a sense of nostalgia in me about my mother. It was just that. The feeling was almost as morbid as if you're being possessed. Sometimes a very small thing will have a tremedous effect on you out of all proportion to the event. It depends on the circumstances and your mood at the time.

    I slowly picked up my pace started walking away when I returned to my usual element. My mind was beaming at the fact that I'm here for Christmas this year because this year is going to be very special. I realize the meaning of holiday is not just the gifts and parties, it's about giving and sharing love with those who are in need and those who are special. Tonight I'm having dinner with a very special person at Slow Club, one of my favorite joints tucked away in an inconspicuous corner in Potrero Hill. Then I'll be celebrating the holidays with my dear bunch who works at Cafe Flore (a.k.a. my office?) on Christmas Day. The tender thoughts of all my friends like Tony, Estrella, Fernando, Maria, Stephen, Bill, Tore, Weizhu, Patty, Matty, Jan Song, Be, O,so many of them...etc. warms my heart and makes me realize this is really the season to cherish. And gosh, it will be another one for indulgence of eating.

    December 19, 2006


    50 Things About Me

    I've been getting e-mails from readers who good-naturedly suggest a post that lists 25 Things or 50 Things about me. Honestly I've had long conceived the idea but never mustered up to do it because I simply don't know where to begin. Vital stats are boring. Hobbies and favorites can be morbidly narcissistic. Tony's post yesterday came to my rescue--I decided to cover his meme of 50 Things. Proceed at your own risk. Enjoy.

    1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
    OMG I need a hair-cut.

    2. How much cash do you have on you?
    You mean in my wallet now? About $500. Gotta have a little extra cash for holiday shopping.

    3. What's a word that rhymes with "DOOR"?
    Pour? What does this have to do with me?

    4. Favorite planet?
    How am I supposed to know if I've lived my whole life on Earth? I guess Earth?

    5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone? friend Stephen who will be leaving for Bangkok for vacation this weekend.

    6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
    It's one of the generic tones called "Notify."

    7. What shirt are you wearing?
    At the moment just a ringer t-shirt, from Target!

    8. Do you "label" yourself?
    We live in a country that is morbidly obsessed with labels. Other than the fact that I'm homo sapien (the taxonomical term for human); I don't want to be labeled nor classified in any ways. I rather to be myself and do the things I like to do instead of wasting time to come up with labels that suit other people's interests.

    9. Name the brand of shoes you're currently wearing.
    Flipflop at home...a pair of Keen sandals, Timberland loafers.

    10. Bright or dark room?
    I'm an avid reader, so the room must be bright. I prefer dark room for certain activities that I can't elaborate on he...

    11. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
    I've never met Tony, but gathering from the e-mails he sent me and his posts, he is disarmingly down-to-earth, friendly, and thoughtful. Oh...did I say he's cute?

    12. What does your watch look like?
    I can't afford one! LOL Nah...I usually don't wear one since I've grown used to looking at my cellphone.

    13. What were you doing at midnight last night?
    That would be Sunday bed.

    14. What did your last ext message you received on your cell say?
    One of my best friends whose name happens to be Tony as well sent me a text message saying he can hang out this weekend, on Christmas' Eve.

    15. Where is your nearest 7-11?
    Dunno. The only one I know that exists for sure is in the Castro, which is at least 2 miles from my house.

    16. What's a word that you say a lot?
    "So what's going on with you?"

    17. Who told you he/she loved you last?
    I'll have to ditto Tony's response on th...For my ears only. Haha!

    18. Last furry thing you touched?
    George the puppy.

    19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days?
    No drugs unless you count Tylenol.

    20. How many rolls of film do you need developed?
    Don't we all use digital cameras these days? I just got my second Canon with 10 mega pixel. I haven't bought a roll for years.

    21. Favorite age you have been so far?
    I guess now (I'm 31) because I'm still in grad school but I make decent money so I can still travel freely all over the world.

    22. Your worst enemy?
    Myself. I'm a perfectionist and, like Tony has said, I wish to be perfect in everything I do even though I realize sometimes it's not possible.

    23. What is your current desktop picture?
    The picture of Angkor Wat I took in 2005.

    24. What was the last thing you said to someone?
    Goodnight. See you Thursday evening. I was on the phone with Ken.

    25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly what would it be?
    I definitely want a million bucks because I have fear of height.

    26. Do you like someone?
    I like all kinds of people. But yes, I do like someone now.

    27. The last song you listened to.
    Horn Concerto #1 by Mozart.

    28. What time of the day were you born?
    I think my mom told me I was born around 3 in the morning.

    29. What's your favorite number?
    12. Don't ask me why since I don't know it myself. I've had a sentimental attachment to this number since I developed memory as a child. I collect t-shirts with the number 12 on them.

    30. Where did you live in 1987?
    Hong Kong, back then it was still a British colony. That same year I moved to San Francisco.

    31. Are you jealous of anyone?
    Not really.

    32. Is anyone jealous of you?
    I hope not! I guess not!

    33. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
    At work, the UCSF chemistry lab. I was watching the TV in utter consternation and disbelief.

    34. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
    Pound on the machines like that would really help.

    35. Do you consider yourself kind?
    I don't bite so I guess I'm kind. I am trying. Haha!

    36. If had to get a tattoo. Where would it be?
    I have never considered getting one. But if I have to pick one, that would be my upper arm, like around my bicep.

    37. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be?
    Spanish. I've dropped that cotton-picking Spanish class three times in college!!!

    38. Would you move for the person you loved?
    This one is negotiable. But at the moment I won't move anywhere for anyone for I love San Francisco.

    39. Are you touchy feely?
    Are you asking me if I wear my heart on my sleeves? I guess I can be but I've had enough drama and woes that taught me it's not necessarily a good idea. Once I get comfortable and trustful with someone I can get very touchy feely. Try me! LOL

    40. What's your life motto?
    Living life to the full and make the best out of each moment in time.

    41. Name three things that you have on you at all times?
    A pen, a book, and iPod.

    42. What's your favorite town/city?
    San Francisco (it's beautiful, lots of friends), New York City (museums), Hong Kong, Vancouver.

    43. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
    That would be an iced double say latte at Cafe Flore. $3.50

    44. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
    Last week I scribbled some notes along with Christmas cards which I sent out to friends.

    45. Can you change the oil on a car?
    Yup! That's one of the few things I can do with a car, besides washing it.

    46. Your first love: what is the last thing you heard about him/her?
    My first love moved to New York City the last time I spoke to him. I think he's still single and jhopefully not in love with me! LOL

    47. How far back do you know about your ancestry?
    My great-grandparents. My uncle showed me the village where they had lived in China, it was about 4 hours away by car from Hong Kong.

    48. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?
    I was part of the wedding party for my friend's wedding last month. I had on a tuxedo, slacks, and dress shoes. I don't dress up too often, I'm more a smart casual type of person at a fancy restaurant.

    49. Does anything hurt on your body right now?
    Thank goodness no. Touchwood.

    50. Have you been burned by love?
    Yes and in fact not too long ago back in summer. Maybe he didn't think it was love so he could just walk away and pretended nothing happened.

    Okay that's it folks. I'm not tapping anybody. Just step in if you feel like going through this ordeal. Happy Tuesday!

    December 15, 2006


    Lowell Contrived To Keep Quiet Antigay Hate Crime

    Has it not been the unswerving aspiration of the Lowell, the school paper, what seemed to be a passing tale of poor behavior might have escaped our attention since the school administration had seemed to go out of its way to cover up a bizarre antigay hate crime that took place at the city's premier high school in September.

    SF Guardian, upon the release of the story in the Lowell, dug out the inner workings of what might have caused this ugly incident. An early-bird faculty member routinely unlocked the door of the World Language Department office on the morning of 9/21 and was greeted by the most unusual sight: There was paint all over John Raya's computer. Thick streams of pink paint dripped from the monitor onto the keyboard and were splattered on the wall behind the desk and the chair in front of it.

    And that was not the end of it. Slightly drenched on the keyboard was a note that addressed to Raya:

    "Big mouth fag!!!!! You start too much trouble in this department!!!! Mind your fucking business and go back to New York!!!!! Or Cuba or wherever the fuck you come from!!!!!"

    The principal and administration knew better to contrive keeping the ugly incident under the wraps, because a prank was out of the question. Even though it took place in one of those heavily trafficked rooms, the scene is an office to which only faculty have keys and access. And when the Japanese teacher arrived for work early that morning, the door was locked and showed no sign of forced entry. That's led Raya and the administration at Lowell to a truly disturbing and indisputable conclusion: The hate crime was committed by a disgruntled, angry member of the faculty.

    But I'm all the more disturbed by and disappointed at the fact that the school, one that is ranked 26 out of 1200 top public schools in the country, one for which some 3000 elite 8th-graders vie for admission every year, one that is known for its academic rigor and excellence, seeking to safeguard its prestige, would pretend the hat crime didn't happen. To say nothing of it is just as bad as being in complicity because the administration’s shady reaction conveyed tolerance of hate crime.

    Now this is scary. I'm talking about not only tolerance of the crime, but the administration's subtle (manipulative) effort to remove freedom of speech not just from gay people, but also their friends and supporters. Students were never formally told what happened. Faculty were discouraged from discussing it. This is like, to me, red China, some kind of a Communist regime that monitors what is said and what should be said. The story, although escaped the throttling hands of the administration, not only raised some deep-seated questions about how the school is managed, but also pinged the alarm about what seemed to be a tolerating attitude was just a deception. Lowell's tolerating attitude lies in a hypocrisy--a combination of private tolerance and public disapproval.

    How can you teach the kids to respect social diversity when all you care at the outburst of a hate crime like this is to keep it at bay? Silence is not always golden especially when you're to take a strong stand to safeguard one's civil right. It seems to me the incident had been downplayed from the beginning, for the principal, who insisted on students being involved, asked the faculty not to say anything to the students. The discomfort with which the student paper felt toward this unusual poise bespeaks the flawed handling of the incident. The school has allowed a staff member who has resorted to the sort of racist, homophobic act that's rarely seen in San Francisco workplaces these days at large. It also shows how the principal, who seems to be autocratic in her ways of dealing with the staff, is imbecile in resolving conflicts among the staff.

    December 13, 2006



    When Bill sent me an invitation to dinner through, I had no idea what or where Barracuda was. He wrote,

    "It's listed as Japanese, but there's a lot of fusion going on."

    True. The menu has alludes to a delightful mixture of shushi, sashimi (raw cuts of fish), nigiri )slice of raw fish over rice) and ceviche. The newest addition to the unique dining scene in the Castro, Barracuda (barracuda is a fish, but upon a little research I arrive in the conclusion that this Japanese-sounding word is not Japanese, kind of like hagen diaz) serves Japanese cuisine with Peruvian and Brazilian influence.

    With a funky and colorful interior, the upscale quasi bar ambience of Barracuda can be a deception if you take a peek from the outside. Candle-lit tables, creative and modern interior render the restaurant a very sublime ambience.

    Bill and I selected the high table with stools by the window, which one of the cute servers deemed as the warmest and most private table for conversation. Since Bill is not a sushi fanatic, he opted for a grilled fillet and being the connoisseur of sushi that I am, I order the Barracuda sushi set with 11 pieces of nigiri including shrimp, yellowtail, white tuna, tuna, salmon, fish eggs, and eel. Our server has suggested a starter of cerviche, which represents their assortment of experimental fushion dishes, but since we came for a Japanese dinner, we politely declined the offer.

    About half way through our dinner, over conversation about the past semester and our writing, a skein of their Christmas lights that was taped (a gay boy wouldn't have used Scotch tape?) on the wall above us collapsed to about an inch short of Bill's head. We joked about how that might forsee a possible lawsuit that will entitle us a lifetime of free sushi. Overall it was a pleasant dining experience at a stylish ambience. It's more of a hipster spot with mod decor but I can find better sushi elsewhere, maybe even for less. It's a fun place to be but don't expect serious authentic Japanese food especially if they serve this queer lollipop tempura thing!

    December 12, 2006


    Pet Peeves

    I have many people-think-it's-not-a-big deal pet peeves. Like the way you put in a new roll of toilet paper on the holder--I prefer the the end of it to be coming over on top instead of the bottom under. My other pet peeve is the adoption of movie poster to book cover when publisher releases new edition of a novel. When I saw the trailer of The Painted Veil starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts at the theater watching The Queen, I knew I had to take imminent action to scour the bookstore for a new copy of the pre-movie edition--and I found that copy at the new Borders in Westfield San Francisco Center. I don't hold anything against a film that is made out of a novel but, I do feel there should be a demarcation between the film and the novel. I know I am being a little too crazy on this idea but as a reader, and a bibliophile, I feel infringed when a movie poster supersedes the original book jacket design. I don't know. Myabe I'm like being fault-finding. Anyway, The Painted Veil has remained one of my favorite novels by Maugham. Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s (in the film it doesn't look like Hong Kong), it's the story of the love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. I'll have to re-read it soon.

    December 11, 2006


    The Queen directed by Stephen Frears

    "Tradition prepared her. Change will define her." The poster of The Queen reads. Ken suggested we go see one of the few movies that captures my attention with some of the most marvelous performance. Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) faces the tough decision on how to arrange for Princess Diana's funeral in the wake of her sudden tragic 1997 death in Paris. While the film honors and acknowledges Princess Diana's work, it inevitably reveals her rocky relationship with not only the Queen but also the royal family. It makes me wonder how the funeral and memorial service would have turned out had the recently elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), who favors a public funeral which allows the British people (the populace) to pay their final tribute to their princess, not advised the Queen.

    The Queen, subtle, and often funny, explores the inner-workings of a ruler whose power has become purely decorative. The film stoically basks in the doleful pondering of royal manners and meaning. The sensitive mourning of Princess Diana only accentuates the Queen's realizing of her decorative power. We're let into behind the closed doors of Buckingham Palace and the Balmoral Castle to see how the royal family copes with the death--as the raging public rebukes Buckingham Palace for its lack of remorse in Princess Diana's death. No formal statement has been given. The flag on top of the palace is not lowered to half-mast.

    To the populace, Diana, as real clips inserted into the film suggest, was "the people's princess," hounded to her death by in-laws, the media, and the public; their self-chastising guilt just whips the flames higher. To the Queen, she was a shameless ex-daughter-in-law who wasn't shy about her celebrity. Of course there should not be a state funeral, Elizabeth maintains, since the divorced Diana was no longer a member of the royal family. The drama of the film--and it's both delicious and potent--lies in how the queen comes to understand this error in judgment and how it rattles her as a human being.

    "I've never been hated like that before," she says at one point, and there, very quietly, is the shock of a waxwork startled to realize she's still alive. And the man who helps Her Majesty sail through this tempestuous water of a national disaster that captured the sad ness of the world is Tony Blair.

    December 08, 2006


    Cafe Flore III

    Yesterday was not as dreadful as the day before, I could actually sit at Cafe Flore and have an iced soy latte which O made me. It was actually study hall at the cafe, as my friend Rod, who is a PhD candidate in philosophy, was there as well. The guy sitting next to me was working on his paper on Nabakov. As the day shortens and the sky seems to loom downward, demography of Cafe Flore shifts to laptop campers and students cranking for their papers. You see less of the toursy crowd and the fashion-trendy boys whose main hobby is to people-watch.

    I decided I needed a 15-minutes break from the work on thesis and took to reading an interesting article from Gaytimes, an UK publication which I brought back from Asia.

    Brad Pitt said, "Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able."

    Everyone. Right, so that includes us gays.

    While his declaration of solidarity with the gay community may have heartened campaigners for gay marriage rights, I can already see how his speech must have enrage straight women who have been trying to get their men to the altar for years. Straight men, especially the ones who are commitment-phobic, can now quote Brad Pitt to put off the dread nuptials.

    What about us gays then? Gay rights activist groups, which have been striving to overcome religious resistance to gay marriage, might beam at this viewpoint with smugness. But consider the way things are here, commitment-phobia will inevitably become a gay phenomenon too in places where marriage or civil union are legally available. In fact, commitment-phobia has already prevailed in the gay community. Those of us romantics who want to plight our troth with our dreamboat should know better. How many of us can really say we are ready to commit?

    What Brad said is no more than a welcoming complement to the euphemistic (almost cliche) saying: Until I find that special someone, I'll play along. Not convinced? Go check out and see for yourself. To call it a jungle is an understatement, it's a meat market out there!

    No sooner had I finished Brad's perspective on wedding bliss for homos than I spot a very hot, familiar looking guy, a celebrity, who saunters into Cafe Flore in an insouciant air. I have to search my memory and to see where I had crossed his path--well; it was more like where I had seen him before. It dawned on me in less than 5 seconds.

    This man (a hot daddy!), in snuggly charcoal t-shirt that hugged his athletic-built body, layered with a black hooded sweatshirt that seems a bit short on him but accentuates his body contour, sports a goatee that looks as if it's just been dyed. His hair is cropped short with streaks of gray. He seems somewhat skinnier, but still commands an air of calmness and charisma, than I last saw him on prints and flicks. He is not too tall, no more than 5'9". He is Cliff Parker!

    I remember he used to be an exclusive of Titan Men, the local video production company that featured muscled, rugged-looking, and butch type of men. Something about his dreamy eyes, somewhat beetling brows, and the stubble-goatee look mesmerized me. He was part of the reason why I was so absorbed by those magazines I talked about in this post. How my heart beat upon seeing his pictures. At least 10 years must have gone by since I discovered Cliff Parker and from a source which I can no longer recall Cliff had retired from the porn industry. Rumor has it that he is back in school.

    It's good to see him, in person. He seems happy.

    December 06, 2006


    [61] In September, The Light Changes - Andrew Holleran

    In September, The Light Changes is a collection of 16 short stories that with such literary erudition and keen prose capture the melancholy and meditation on mortality in the context of autumnal reminiscences. The fact that Holleran wrote these stories over 20 years' period renders a taste of gay life over changing times.

    The stories might be heartrending to read at times but through his acute social vision and his elegant prose we can all, one way or another, identify ourselves and relate to his unforgettable characters. Who are so true to life in facing medical challenges, in dealing with loss of love, in being so obsessed with pumping the iron, and in scouring the bars. Most, if not all, of the stories take place during the changing fortune from the 70s to 80s, with vivid delineations of bar scenes, ominously shadowed by the looming epidemic.

    One story reminds me that despite the recent advance of gay right on the battleground of marriage (civil union), society, bound by the inveterate heterosexual values, still treats the gays with straight standards. (Who cares what straight people think about us? … The only reason what we do interests them is because they're so deeply bored.)

    Another story, one that is so close to my heart that I can put myself in the character's shoe, explores what it means to want someone so much that you would do anything not to be banished from his presence, even if the love is unrequisited and your future will be forfeited.

    One story meditates on how a man deems sex the most important thing in life—that he would only take temporary job in order to pursue these no-strings-attached flings, encounters, escapades, and whatever-you-wish-to-call sexual relationships. Careers and family responsibility leave no vestige on him. Life to him is not defined by success nor failure. Not until reaching the encroaching middle age did he realize he had lost his lost chance to make a connection with another human being. The dominations of sex in gay life began to distress him.

    One of the most heart-breaking stories owes the grief not to parting upon death but to the character's forlorn scope in find love. He is poignantly preoccupied with failed love—that he always assumes he would be dumped. He was in a standby mode to take the blow of relationship failure.

    Another story delivers the blunt but sad truth about the ones endowed with GQ looks: They are eye candies, good to look at but be aware not to be too serious with them. Some people are worth loving; some are perfect. These people are rare, of course, and they almost never happen to love you in return (unrequisited, non-reciprocate love is such a bitch), but they do exist. What's even more demoralizing, we have to admit that most of the time people who go out looking for love end up with sex instead.

    Another story takes up a slightly critical voice and contrives to steer the gay community back to the right direction of evolution. Instead of finding new ways to relate to one another, or progressing in humanity (in Holleran's words), we regard each other as nothing but fantasies, always fear of commitment, and always fail to integrate sex with the rest of our lives. (We’re just going to keep on going to gyms and dance clubs, taking drugs, dancing, cruising bars, and playing games.)

    Finally, in one of the gloomiest piece of writings, Holleran gives us someone whose incurable disease has irretrievably plunged him into depression, along with the chasm of his own personality. His whole life had been condemned by his family in his hometown—part of the reason he chose to live a life of recluse in Amsterdam nearing death's threshold. He is ready to let go of his teetering social life as he thinks everyone who takes pity on him is being condescending.

    Pick up a copy of In September, The Light Changes and start reading. You'll see yourself in at least one of the stories. It's a sobering book.

    December 03, 2006


    Gay-Blogging Community

    When I received Joshua's e-mail about what I enjoy about being part of a gay-blogging community, I was reflecting on, against my own experiences, a couple of books in which men come to terms with their sexuality and/or sexual fetish. We all know it's ridiculous, at usually futile to be at war with our desires. For so many years, Governor James McGreevey, not that he's been in denial with his own sexuality, has chosen a path that will ensure success in his political career, and being gay, or openly being gay is not part of the equation. He must have agonized over his decision to divulge his true self in national television. The fear, the pain, and the mind-wrestling of coming out must have surpassed the actual declaration--takes a great deal of courage and to accept the reality of one's true self and reality of desires. For some people it might take their entire life to be able to give in and get on with life.

    Why am I talking about this? What does this have to do with being part of a gay-blogging community? While many of us share similar coming-out stories, the process that prepares, prunes, and leads us to that point must be altogether different, let alone the walk of life when coming out takes place. A gay collaborative blog like this provides a friendly converging ground for us to share our thoughts. If such a blog existed when I came out more than 10 years ago, it would really boost my morale. Even though my parents embraced the truth with a surprisingly equanimity, I always felt a feeling of revulsion, of unease lurking in my mind. That inexplicable qualm was not so much about what others thought of me being gay, but my own refusal to come to terms with my gay desires.

    I remember walking into Merill's drugstore, or Bretano's Books (now Walden and Borders), furtively, and nervously, pretending to look for Scientific American or browse the Newsweek as a disguise for picking the hot, steamy Playgirl and Men Magazine. I would hide at the quiet corner with very thin shopper-traffic, carefully tugged the porn magazine into the Newsweek and suureptitiously flipped through page after page of hunky showcase. I was 16.

    I guess at that point I was past the guilt. Even the excitement--the aching indecision and wild anticipation of pictures of nude men--had pretty much run its course. But I also knew that it was beyond my power to stop, now that I had come that far. Experiences had taught me that in the end I've always lost the battle with desires. The trony, of course, was that I had so strenuously resisted my own inclinations to view those magazines. No sooner had I looked at Men than I started craving for more--wouldn't it be even better if these gorgeous men are engaging in some steamy actions? Sure. But my conscience kept whispering to me in a rebuking voice: You can't want this. You're not the kind of creep who wishes to see guys fucking each other.

    I got over the inner voice too. In fact, I could never get past the uncomfortable fact that these guys existed for me solely as just images on magazines. I've never heard their voice, their groan, and their moan. Sometimes I'd have to flip through pages of these images before finding one that brought me to the state of arousal that a single picture used to inspire. As the years went by I became regular audience of gay porn--the ones that are starring my "type" of men--the gruffy looking, the ruggedly good-looking, the moustached, the daddies, and the beefy jock without the all-American look. That was my second coming out: to come to terms with the specific type of men to whom I'm attracted. I was 24.

    Now that I'm out to everybody around me, at 32, I think I'm lucky to have a very supporting group of friends who accept me the way I am. It's been more than self-discovery and enlightenment--it's a liberation.

    I might have digressed so outrageously Joshua's original question. But i truly appreciate a gay-blogging community where we, as gay men, and also others come together and discuss issues, share thoughts and feelings. It should be the starting point where people can embrace difference and diversity.

    December 01, 2006


    My New iPod Nano

    The serious consequence of my leaving the iPod Mini at home in Hong Kong is that now I have no music to pamper me to sleep. Don't laugh, I have made it a habit to put on some music, usually classical and easy listening, that will put me to sleep, since nobody is telling me bedtime stories. So for my birthday I treated myself a brand new iPod Nano with 8 GB. Unfortunately it is only available in black and red (odd combination of colors). I opted for the black it for a more slick look at the Apple Store on Stockton Street.

    It's one delicate piece of toy that, until the arrival of the iPod case shipment, I have to toss in a roll (maybe not a roll) of saran-wrap to protect the fragile screen and keep the dust out of the control knob. I registered the new iPod on iTunes and set the update mode to manual. I have a pet peeve of not being in control of things: The automatic update mode, although very quick and convenient when you connect the iPod to iTunes, does not categorize the songs into respective playlists. I like certain songs to be grouped together under a playlist by the year of the albums' release, by artists, or whatever. And since most of the entries on my iPod are Cantopop (Chinese pop), for display purpose, I set the language to Chinese. The next acquisition would be the exquisite iPod dock by Bose.