Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Re-Visiting the Past...

It Comes In Waves...

On Halloween, around 2:00pm, my grandmother, my halmuhni, left us to be with the Father.

She passed away with her daughter, my mom, beside her singing a song of Praise to our Maker. As my mom sang, "Hallelujah," my halmuhni exhaled her very last breath.

Around an hour after, I arrived, at her room in the hospital. There, on the bed, my halmuhni rested, her face serene, peaceful... she was freed from the emptiness of Alzheimer's and the slow agony of congestive heart failure.

There's so much about her that I want to share, but I don't know where to begin.

She raised me. It was just us three... my halmuhni, mom, and me, living together in a tiny one bedroom apartment in Flushing. Even when I was living in Korea, I think it was just us three.

My halmuhni was strong. The many years of hardship as a housewife taking care of her husband and the in-laws: his father, his mother, and his siblings; made her physically strong. I don't think I ever felt her hands soft; Hers were calloused and thuggish. But they were there to blow my snotty nose. And they reached out during the final weeks of her life... to be held. I didn't get to hold her hands at all when I saw her on the bed.

My halmuhni was strong. Her father didn't believe that girls should learn to read or write. She was illiterate. But her lack of education didn't stop her from asserting herself when people better educated than her would try to cut her down. She demanded attention and respect, especially from her well educated children and grandchildren. However much we knew or understood about anything and everything, no one had better disrespect her. My mom called her stubborn, but I think halmuhni had to be.

My halmuhni was fierce. She had lost two children. One at birth and the other in adulthood to a disease common to children. She even suffered her husband's infidelity many times over. But she still stood tall. When granddad, hallabuhji, was too sick to take care of himself and moved in with us, she got him to convert to Catholicism, just so that they could be buried as husband and wife, together in a land sanctified by the Church.

My halmuhni was fierce. So fierce that she died on a day where we're supposed to commemorate the dead and the paranormal, Halloween. She was fiercer than Jennifer Hudson ever was when she told Jamie Fox, "You're gonna love me!" I think her final statement to us, and I laugh when I think about it, was: "you'd best remember me; you'd best love me!"

My halmuhni was beautiful. I remember when I was in grade school, I was teaching her how to sign her name for some reason. She was on the kitchen table, with a pen on her name, writing her name one letter at time repeatedly. Her penmanship was shaky at first. But after several sheets of paper were used up, after she was satisfied, she stopped. It was like watching her make noodles, kalgooksu. After the dough was flattened to the perfect thinness, she'd carefully fold it a few times, dusting each layer with flour so that it wouldn't stick on to itself; and with a chef knife, she'd cut each noodle strand so fine and perfect. It was art. Her signature had to be beautiful, like her noodles.

My halmuhni was beautiful. It's funny... late in her life, many non-Asian hospital and nursing home clerks and staff mistook her for a man. I don't know why. She was beautiful.

Strong, fierce, and beautiful.

Her given name was Do-Im, a very uncommon Korean name for a very special lady.

She's survived by her eldest, my mom, and her grandson, me; by her second daughter, her three grandchildren, and her five great-grandchildren; her grandson, the deceased son's son; her youngest daughter and her two grandchildren; her middle son and her two grandsons; and her baby son, and her two grandchildren.

We never used the word, "Love," in our household. It's a very Korean thing to do: not using the word, "Love,' but expressing it in other ways. But I want everyone to know, I loved my halmuhni.

I love you, Halmuhni. And I miss you.

Re-Visiting the Past...

100 Things About Me

Since I suffer from a certain lack of originalité, I figured I'd imitate those who have gone before and defer to their better sensibility.
  1. I was born in then a rapidly burgeoning metropolis of a small, still divided, Far East Asian country. The year Mom and I emigrated, the city was a year away from hosting a big Pan-Asian sporting event, an event the country leaders called a dress rehearsal for the largest 16 days of international sporting festivities the city was to host in three years time. The city was in a buzz beautifying for these two events by tearing down shanty neighborhoods, putting in a few new subway lines, widening roads, building skyscrapers, and oh yeah, planting flowers. When I last visited my old neighborhood three years ago, I hardly recognized it at all: it was completely transformed, lined with many tall apartment buildings that looked uncannily like pre-school Lego blocks. Too bad there aren't any earthquakes in that country.
  2. I’m a dragon; that is I was born in the year of the dragon. We, the dragons, are supposed to be well suited to be an artist, politician, or priest. If what happens or rather what is not happening in my bedroom is any indication, I’m on my way to becoming the pope.
  3. I’m also a “bullheaded twin.” According to my star sign, I’m a cuspian, born between Taurus and Gemini. I’m supposed to be very expressive both physically and verbally. Hello? Have you met me? One of the many complaints I have of myself is that I lack eloquence.
  4. Dad retired from his temp job of smuggling in golf clubs and Southeast Asian “entertainers” to Japan. Yeah, I think that sounds a little more interesting than saying he was in the import/export business. Mom is a concierge at a place well known to me as “Home,” the abode where I grew up.
  5. I have a half-sister. Half, only because she and I came out of different uteruses but share the same spunk source.
  6. I currently live in the “World’s Second Home.”
  7. I’m a little ambivalent about living here. Now with the city possessing such a clever tag line, I feel like I should have a first home somewhere else. I mean, I moved back here with the intention of making this city my primary residence. But it seems like Bloomberg wants me to believe that our city isn't good enough to be number one; gawdammit, he made me second-guess my own decision to return. The signs are there! Look, the city has even shown me “the Gates” and wants me out.
  8. My job? Well, let me tell you. I work in an exciting field of…. Who am I kidding, I don’t have a job at the moment, and the moment is getting longer than I’d like…. Fuck, yeah, I'm a bum! This is such a sore spot; I’m going to stop.
  9. I’m 179-cm, 68-kg. I personally think that our system, the American system, of measurement is anachronistic. Okay, sure, it was the French that came up with the SI system, but it is so much simpler to use! Let’s look, for example, at how we use our standard of measurement in the kitchen. You’re making, I don’t know, chili con carne, and the recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Oh, by the way you’re throwing a dinner party for 14, and this recipe is good for three servings. So, because you are making chili for 14, naturally you need to modify the recipe. I have a point, so just follow where I’m going. Yeah, so…what was I going to say… oh yeah. So how many tablespoons of salt would you need? (Singing the Jeopardy theme song.) Give up? The answer is you’d need one tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. See, you would needed to have known that one tablespoon is made up of three teaspoons. If you didn’t know that, you might have stood over the stove with your 1/4 teaspoon, going back and forth from the salt to the pot 14 times. Yes, you would, and you know it. But if we were to use the SI system, the recipe would have said 3.75-ml of salt per 3 servings (1.25-ml/serving), or a total of 17.5-ml of salt. And voila, you’d immediately see that you have two measuring spoons, one that reads 15-ml and another that reads 2.5-ml. You won’t use the 1.25-ml spoon 14 times, ever. And instead of using cups, teaspoons, quartz, ounces, or gallons, you could be using just one form of measurement for all, ml (milliliter). Did you follow all that? Good. If you don’t cook or if you need more convincing, hmm…. Well, it’s said that 90% of males have an erect genitalia in the 5” - 7” range. In centimeters (cm), the range is 12.7-cm – 17.8-cm. Now, doesn’t the metric measurement seem to make one’s rod bigger?
  10. I’m not a geek. Really, I’m not. Okay, maybe. But I’m not as geeky as I might appear.
  11. I’ve never broken a bone; I’ve never sprain an ankle or anything.
  12. I used to love swimming as a kid. My cousins and I would compete, but after a very long losing streak, I decided to hate swimming. One of my cousins ended up competing at various swim meets, winning bucket loads of medals and trophies. Yeah (downward inflection needed), I hate him.
  13. I’m too competitive, and if there is no chance of my success, I tend to opt out from participation. It’s a big character flaw, I know.
  14. Besides, my hand and eye coordination isn’t very good, so any sports involving balls, I suck at.
  15. Yeah, I suck. (Grinning devilishly.)
  16. My major in college—biology. How stereotypical Asian of me! Sigh.
  17. I decided to take biology because I figured it would have given me an edge in getting into medical school. During my junior year, however, I realized that I wanted nothing to do with biology. I’d rather have studied architecture/design. But Mom was saying, blah-blah-blah, and I didn’t want to stay in school any longer than I needed to, so I per/se/vered with my major. Dumb/dumb/n-dumb! If there ever were a strong evidence for disobeying a parent’s directive, this would have been it.
  18. I will never go back to work a 9 to 5 job. I just don’t want to be one of the drones for the Man anymore.
  19. My friends think I’m successful, very successful, at what I’m doing now. (See #8.)
  20. I’m a virgin. But my hand sure ain’t. Har-har-sigh.
  21. My friends don’t understand why I’m still single. Well, then again, all of them think that I’m into girls.
  22. One time my friends and I, having gone to our favorite watering hole, drank and drank till the sun rose. And that morning I went straight to work, which was at a public school in Japan, to be a human tape player for a couple of hours and to sleep during the remaining six hours I wasn’t “teaching” English. Then, upon returning home, I showered, changed, and headed out to the same watering hole. I repeated the same routine for the next three nights. It was one of the many best weeks ever.
  23. I loved, loved, LOVED living and “working” (see also teaching) in Japan.
  24. If you’re young and feel directionless, I’d recommend you try Japan.
  25. I’ve been in only one car accident. It happened when I was behind the wheel of my friend’s car and involved my driving down a steep driveway, a mailbox to my right, and the left front headlights. Yeah, figure that one out.
  26. I am a safe driver! Yes, it’s true once I’ve driven on the wrong side of the road and had to swerve away from a car heading straight towards me. But no one got hurt. Besides I was slightly intoxicated. Again, I like to reiterate that I am a safe driver. I am.
  27. It’s funny that I’ve owned a car in a foreign country, but never in my own. Okay, it’s not ha-ha funny, but it is.
  28. The first impressions people get from me are that I am a guy who is shy, quiet, well-mannered, an intellectual type, the Mr. Nice Guy. But it’s all a façade, people. Get to know me and you’ll regret that you did.
  29. No, I’ll admit that I’m a hard person to get along with. I don’t open up easily to people. I need to feel that the person I’m talking to is being real with me and that the person can deal with and accept my many idiosyncrasies.
  30. I have never been in love.
  31. I’m wondering whether I should give up on the idea of love.
  32. If loving someone is like being able to sacrifice yourself to the point where you feel and know dying for that person is not just something you can say but is something you can do and will do, then nope, I’ve never loved someone. I have never been in love.
  33. Love? I don’t know.
  34. As a boy, I’ve never had any medical problems, such as having hypersensitive mast cells. But recently whenever I find myself in close proximity to a cat, it elicits such a strong physiological reaction that I really need medication to function. I won't die of anaphylatic shock, though.
  35. I don’t believe in marriage. (More on this later.)
  36. I’ve been to a lot of small concerts, but I have yet to experience a stadium concert.
  37. That needs to change. I'm missing out, I know. But I haven’t found a band that I love enough that I’d be willing to cough up a wad of cash to buy a ticket.
  38. Having written these past few lines, I’m beginning to worry that I lead a passionless life.
  39. My family is my family. I’m ambivalent about my family.
  40. Seriously, I’m worried. Am I that indifferent about love, marriage, family, etc.?
  41. I’m thinking perhaps I should rewrite everything from #30 ~ #40. They're too dull. I was hoping for droll, not dull.
  42. Now I’m being asked about my dad. You know what? Maybe they’re too personal for me to answer. They stir strong emotions in me, and I don’t like to be stirred. See #41.
  43. I’m leaving this blank. I think it’s another family question. Although I can’t really be sure, because truth be told, I’m not sure what the questions are. Most of my answers are based on his and his answers.
  44. I love meat! If you have to kill it to eat it, then I love it. I think I’ve pretty much tried all sorts of critters that have been laid out in front of me.
  45. I love cooking. But it has to be for a dinner party. I’ll still cook for myself but I need people telling me how much they loved my cooking. Me praising my own cooking isn’t as satisfying as others worshipping my culinary delights.
  46. I like to think myself a Renaissance Man in Progress. There are still many things to learn, to experience, to see, to discover, to feel, etc…
  47. I’m starting to enjoy working out, though I haven’t seen much change in my physical appearance. I just can’t seem to bulk up. It’s a plight of every ectomorph.
  48. I’m usually patient with people. If they need me to explain further until they've understood I’ll do it. But if a family member needs to be told things more than once, I see blood.
  49. Wines are my downfall. I can drink bottles of wine all night. It’s my joie de vivre.
  50. I used to be crazy about German Rieslings, partial to the ones from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. But I moved on to red Bordeaux wines, especially the ones from Saint-Emilion. And don't get me started on Sauternes, so sweet, oh so sweet. Now, having watched Sideways and listening to Paul Giamatti's character Miles talk about Pinots... I am intrigued.
  51. I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear…
  52. Not just any tea, genmaicha. I loves me some genmaicha. Plain ryokucha ain’t bad either.
  53. At the age of 13, I was baptized becoming a born-again Christian. But I think that part of me died.
  54. I can’t remember lyrics, quotes, verses…, however much I try.
  55. I get interested in things way after the rest of society has gotten bored with them.
  56. I’m attracted to innocence because I can corrupt it.
  57. I have a very dry, sarcastic humor. I am also an apostle of schadenfreude.
  58. But I’m sure my life is delicious fodder for others to feel schadenfreude.
  59. I am a plebeian who care deeply for the proletarian cause.
  60. I love it when someone plays with my hair.
  61. I’ve dyed my hair because I think it’s too black.
  62. Once, I had my hair dyed grey. It looked good for a couple weeks.
  63. I miss being a college student, but to quote from Avenue Q, “but if I were to go back to college, think what a loser I’d be—I’d walk through the quad, and think, ‘Oh my God…these kids are so much younger than me.’”
  64. I have to live in a mega-large, pedestrian-friendly city. But I’m open to other areas: I could tolerate living near a big city only if it's accessible by public transportation system that runs frequently and often. Had I a choice of buying between a one-bedroom coop in a large city and a two-story house in the suburbs, and both cost the same, I’d choose the coop.
  65. There’s this energy in a large, swarming metropolis that can’t be found elsewhere. A man can only deal with certain amount of peace and quiet the suburban life provides.
  66. Supposedly I need to answer another family related question.
  67. Okay, I have one… when I was 13, visiting Japan, I got to sleep over at my sister’s. While going through my sister’s photo albums, I found to my horror one album with pictures full of her and her now ex-husband going at it. I was traumatized.
  68. I don’t know what would be the best way to segue into a different topic… Have you tried green tea flavored ice cream? They're delicious.
  69. I have an earring. I want two more and a tat.
  70. I don’t know what tattoo design I should get or where to put it, so I need to think more through it.
  71. I rarely remember my dreams. But the ones I do remember, I often wonder what Freud would say about them.
  72. One dream takes place in a swamp in Eternia near Castle Grayskull. I, however, am not me, instead I’m Orko, the levitating creature whom I, as a child, often wondered about, asking myself, “what’s underneath his magician’s hat and his big scarf? Is he some shadowy creature with no physical form?” Anyways, I am him. I don’t know why, but I am. Looking back, I often wonder why I didn’t dream myself as He-Man or even Skeletor? Well, in the swamp, I hear a cry for help and I’m floating towards the source to see what’s going on. When I arrive, I see He-Man sinking; he’s trapped inside a quicksand. I also find Cringer helplessly pacing, unable to rescue his master and friend, and crying out for someone to come and help. (Why he wasn’t transformed into Battle-Cat, I have no idea.) Anyways, I calm Cringer down and I decide that we would rescue He-Man. My plan is I’d use my magic to conjure up a rope, throw it to He-Man, and then both Cringer and I would pull him out. But as it is characteristic of Orko, the magic fails miserably. Instead of a rope, I somehow get trapped inside the quicksand as well. Yet He-Man and Cringer are gone. I’m all alone, sinking. I’m thrashing about, yelling for help. I can feel the sand entering the void that is me; I’m being filled with the sand. I’m suffocating. Everything turns black. But suddenly the sand is gone. I find myself in total darkness and I feel heavy, like something is pushing or pulling me down (or maybe both). Then a deafening noise sounds above me, and an armoire the size of Castle Grayskull drops, crushing me. I try yelling, but no sound comes out of me… That’s when I woke up. I couldn’t get up because I still felt the weight on my chest and I had trouble breathing. It was only time that I actually could not get air in and out of me. I was nine, then.
  73. For this second dream, I need to give you a little background story. In High School, I was what people would have labeled a Crazy Corean Christian. Being a born-again Christian, I was very active in church eagerly participating in and helping out with various church activities. Church Lady would have been proud. Anyways, during my sophomore or junior year, my church was gearing up for a huge Youth Revival. The guys of the High School Youth Group decided that we’d put on an elaborate musical skit based on Carman’s the Champion. We were really into Spiritual Warfare—in the other worldly place the army of Heaven and the army of Satan meet face to face a la LOTR to determine who will have dominion over the soul of every individual here on Earth (or check out South Park’s interpretation). And the lyric to the Champion is a narrative set to music describing the Ultimate, No-Holds-Barred Fight between Jesus and Satan. How poignant that we, the enthusiasts of warfare, would choose this as our production piece. Although I would have loved to be up on stage, I opted to play the part of Stage Manager. Well, it was the night before the performance that I dreamed the dream I’m about to share with you. We’ve been rehearsing this so often that I was even dreaming about it practically every night. But on that night… The skit begins. An ominous, synthesizer infused music fills the Worship Hall. Carman narrates: “In the vast expanse of a timeless place, where silence ruled the outer space … the war between the lord of sin and death and the Omnipotent Creator of man’s first breath, who will decide who forever will be the Champion.” (By the way, if you read the lyric, God the Father is the referee and Satan’s arch-nemesis, but only indirectly of course. It’s God the Son, who will be Satan’s direct opponent. Already we can see that Satan is in an unfair disadvantage. And also Satan sounds like Gollum. But that’s beside the point.) The music sudden changes style to something Rocky-esque. Carman continues: “the angels came in splendor from a star.” This is the point when the guys playing the angels enter the stage. Most of these guys are the heartthrobs of the High School Youth Group. I look at them from my station corner and I’m suddenly filled with awe, these guys are actually glowing; light is emanating from their faces. From their broad backs bright, brilliant, white wings start to sprout out ripping open their white shirts. At this point I wake up, but not really. And I can’t move my body, but I can feel the bed beneath me. I am awake, and yet still I am dreaming. I see these Angels flying high above me; my eyes are fixed onto their glorious manifestation. Then, some invisible strings are pulling me up—not all of me though, my shell is left behind and my spirit is lifted up. ‘Perhaps Rapture has arrived,’ I think, enjoying and fearing this unusual sensation of flight and paralysis. Then waves of muscle spasms begin from the tips of my four limbs and head, all joining at one point of my spiritual form. The strings that were carrying me up are suddenly slack and I fall only to be united with my physical form. The Angels are forever gone. And I’m brought back to full consciousness and control of my physical faculties, only to find my body soaked with sweat and my underwear soaked with...
  74. I have an obnoxiously eclectic taste in music. My music collection ranges from contemporary pop to obscure Indie rock, from Godly Christian rock to Satanic Metal rock, from Gangsta Hip-Hop to Broadway Show Tunes, etc.
  75. Also I’m always in search of good music, so if you would like to share your music with me, please go ahead. I would post my music for you to “sample” on this site, but I don’t know how. I’m not yet proficient, nor will I ever be, in creating a webpage. But if you’d like to have a crack at educating this sorry arse, you shall find a willing pupil.
  76. I lost touch with practically all the friends I made in college. It’s a good thing. They’ll turn their backs on me should they find out about me.
  77. In Junior High School, many ladies were constantly crushing me. But it didn’t do much for my social standing because all these ladies were over 50.
  78. I went to a “specialized” high school. Before my matriculation, I thought I was intelligent. But the school has shown me how average I am. You see this school had students who thought certain Ivy League schools their safety schools. During the days when it was impossible to get 1600 in your SAT, a good number of students scored 1590. I was not one of them. Getting into my Ivy League school was a hard-earned prize. Getting my average SAT score was an achievement!
  79. I am not good looking in any way. Perhaps I’ll let you decide one day.
  80. I wonder… Probably most of my college friends thought me average. But I know better. I’m unique and I’m special.
  81. I love amusement parks. If I don’t puke at the end of the day I didn’t enjoy myself.
  82. I used to watch far too much T.V., then I didn’t, but now I am back with a vengeance.
  83. This is my first ever foray of showcasing my words in cyber space.
  84. So far, not very good. But I’m trying. I need to find my voice, people. Patience and indulgence are humbly requested.
  85. I neither know when I’ll become a grown up nor what I want to be when I eventually do grow up.
  86. Hmm… I wonder. Can I see myself as a hustler? Will people actually pay me for my services? Let me think… No and no.
  87. It was a beautiful April day and the first day of a new school year. Although I didn’t need to teach, I needed to show up for the opening ceremony. But I pissed the night away with a variety of alcoholic beverages until the dawn’s early light. Returned home, showered, got dressed, made sure I didn’t reek of alcohol, and went to work somewhat sick. During the ceremony, I quietly excused myself to worship before the porcelain god.
  88. And I didn’t get fired!
  89. God, I miss Japan.
  90. I really do. But I don’t miss the teaching.
  91. I should try to get back. I should try to get all my peeps together for a reunion.
  92. Forget it! I’m too lazy.
  93. I don’t believe in soul mates. Why would a guy who doesn’t believe in love believe in soul mates?
  94. I want to be an addict. But wait, I used to be. To cigarettes.
  95. Yes, people, I have been clean for four months and am still counting. I quit cold turkey. The first two weeks were hard. I don’t ever want to feel that again.
  96. Let’s come back to talking about my peeps. I really need to get better at calling/e-mailing them. Or else, I’ll lose track of them and we’ll grow apart and we won’t be friends anymore and I don’t want that to happen.
  97. But who am I kidding? I’m lazy.
  98. I think it’d be nice to have a warm body next to me every night. It doesn’t have to be the same person, though.
  99. I get very annoyed with people who can't form coherent statements, and can't recognize an allusion if it bit them on the arse. Hold on, that’s me! No wonder I’m so annoyed.
  100. Making this list was tough because I didn't have the questions, I only had the answers, and I probably did it wrong. Oh well. And it took a very long time.

I began this list on 03/11/05 and finished it on 04/27/05. The date seen above and the time seen below are not accurate.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Now is the Winter of Our Discontent...

Now is the winter of my discontent.

The frightful magnificence of this wintry season has disguised and cloaked the contents of my mind and heart in glacial sheet. Frozen, addled and lulled, made inert. Forms made insubstantial. No, maybe they are just formless substances. Like ideas and passion that have yet to crystalize. But they feel so tangible. If I dig a bit more, I can grab this something and bring it back to life. If I can find just one content that will spark up and propel me forward...

... Then it comes to me. A truth. My truth. But it neither sparks nor propels. It truly is the winter of discontent: I need my friends more than they need me.


It's been almost three weeks since I wrote what I did above. And it depressed me too much that I didn't publish it. But I'm gonna publish it today (2/21/11). Because once I let this depressing truth out, it'll be like I'm taking out trash. I don't want to look it anymore. I want to replace it with a different truth.

Monday, January 31, 2011


My lack of focus brings you this, my latest obsession:

The song is called "It Hurts" by 2NE1, which is pronounced "To Anyone" or "Twenty-one." Basically, it's a break up song.  Granted that I've never been broken up with, because I had the WONDERFUL experience of NOT having dated anyone, the song still speaks and reflects my melancholy.



The 2011 Book List
(Or, A List of Books I've Read So Far)
  1. The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan
  2. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5), by Rick Riordan
  3. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4), by Rick Riordan
  4. The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3), by Rick Riordan
  5. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2), by Rick Riordan
  6. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1), by Rick Riordan
I totally agree that I need to move away from reading children's books, namely books written by Rick Riordan.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Just wanted to say, I is drunk.  I guess that's it.

It's good to go out and get trashed.  It's been a while.  I missed it.

But I can't seem to pass out.  What's up with that?

And I don't want to end up alone.

Huh. Weird.

Nite nite.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Host the Way of Julia Child

When throwing a dinner party, it is essential to use Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Seriously! I've no shame in admitting that I was inspired from watching Julie & Julia two summers ago and that subsequently I purchased the thick cooking treatise on French cookery.  However, unlike Julie, I did not vow to cook every recipe in this book in a year.  My goal was modest.  I wanted to throw a dinner party every now and then, inviting a small group of friends to break bread and to imbibe the gift of Dionysus, so that we can revel in our witty exchanges and simply chillax.  But obviously, I wanted us to eat something delicious, and Julia was the answer.

This weekend, I threw my first dinner party.  I made Coq au vin (Julia translates it as 'Chicken in Red Wine with Onions, Mushrooms, and Bacon,' but I think 'Cock in Wine' sounds better) and Haricots verts à la provençale (Green Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Herbs). I like to take this opportunity to pat myself on the back, because the food was ah-may-zing. Of course, I went a little crazy with the preparation. At one point I had a flow chart made and I was following it step by step in addition to following Julia's instructions.  I planned it so that the food would be done by 7pm on the dot, the time all my guests were to have arrived.  But when two of my friends were 15 minutes late, I almost spazzed out, because I was worried that my main dish would have cooled and I would have to spend time reheating it.  If I had known that they would be late, I would have inserted into the flow chart Julia's additional instructions for setting aside the dish to be served later and then reheating it for service. But, alas, I didn't need the additional steps. The food cooling a little is not a catastrophe make.

All in all, the food won universal high praise. Julia knew what she was doing when she wrote her masterpiece. And I thank her for it.

Now, I must plan for my next dinner party. What to make, what to make. Hehehe.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hey Hero, Are You Me?

The 2011 Book List
(Or, A List of Books I've Read So Far)

  1. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4), by Rick Riordan
  2. The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3), by Rick Riordan
  3. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2), by Rick Riordan
  4. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1), by Rick Riordan
Random Thoughts

Firstly, I figured that I would have finished more books by now. But then again, I am slow at everything I do. Time is my enemy.

Secondly, even though I've been reading the Percy Jackson saga this couple of weeks, and secretly (and now publicly) enjoying this children's series, I have a couple of issues with it. 

I don't like Riordan's concept of "Western" Civilization. In his books, he seems to imply that the world has known only one civilization, giving no thought of other civilizations and their influences to the rest of the world. The gods and their seat of power -- or what they represent in our modern world: philosophy, morality, governance, etc. -- have moved with the power centers of the mortal world, relocating from one dominant "Western" civilization to the next: from Ancient Greece to Rome, then to other power centers in Europe, and in the Twentieth Century, transferring from Britain to settle now here in the United States, with Mt. Olympus on top of the Empire State Building, and the gates of Hades somewhere in Los Angeles.  It makes me wonder however, what happened to the Great Spirits of the Native Americans, or to the Aztec and the Mayan gods, or to the Incan gods? What happened to the ideas and ideals these native spirits represented to the people who were here before the children of the "West" arrived?

More importantly, I wonder about who the heirs of Western Civilizations are now.  And if America of Riordan's imagination belongs only to the children of the "West." Granted that Riordan has written in minority characters--I won't take that away from him. Then why does he out of the way to point out that this demigod is "African-American" or that pegasus is black, who then speaks in jive? And to be frank, these minority characters are either white-washed or stereotypical.  Maybe, I'm reading too deep into nothing. Yet, I am a minority in America. I am a product of the East and the West. My own mind has been nourished by and has flourished with the light from the Western sky; my own personal mythology has its roots deep in the Eastern soil. And I will read with a prism of color, if compelled. But I am still like everyone else: I read to get lost in the story; and there is joy in reading.  The joy is you get to put yourself into the protagonist of the story. Percy Jackson could have been me.  But Riordan took that joy away from me, by indirectly narrowing the description of who Percy is by explicitly describing his friends and the world they live in the context of American race politics.

Lastly, to stop myself from rambling, I'm going to finish by introducing a comparison: the fantasy world and characters of Percy Jackson can't hold water to the magical world and individuals of Harry Potter.