Sunday, December 28, 2008

10 Honest Things

I was tagged by Kim Kasch to list 10 honest facts about myself. I'd already done an entry similar to this posted here earlier this month, but I liked the love/hate aspect as well as the brevity of Kim's list, so I'm shamelessly going to duplicate it (just with my answers instead). To keep things fresh, I'm going to try to list things not already mentioned in my previous entry.

So, Ten Honest Things About Me:

1) I hate karaoke;
2) I love Peking Opera;
3) I hate dancing;
4) I love foreign movies -- (especially from any country east of Greece and west of the International date line);
5) I hate horror movies (so boring!);
6) I love freshly cut pineapple;
7) I hate eggplant;
8) I love leather-bound classics;
9) I hate ethnic pride;
10) I love summer thunderstorms (I feel so ALIVE!);

Well, that list is certainly all over the place, eh? Kinda like me. :) I'm supposed to tag 7 other people, but I don't think 7 people even read this blog. Cindy was already tagged by Kim, so that leaves only Tarrell Childs out of people I know for a fact read my blatherings.

So get cracking, Relly, and then let me know when it's done.

If anyone in my group of friends is out there lurking, and if you keep a blog, consider yourself tagged as well. Come back here and let me know so that I can read your list too, okay?

Testing Out Blogging From My iPhone

Okay this is just a quick test of this blog application I've downloaded to my iPhone. Makes it a lot easier to blog from the road--KEWL!

I'm adding a qwik pic from Times Square to see how this works.



Oh, now that worked just fine! Awesome sauce!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Have Turned To The Dark Side!

Yes, folks. It was bound to happen someday. I've fallen into the evil clutches of the Apple empire! I resisted its nefarious pull for as long as I could, but no longer can I ignore the sweet seductress song of progress.

Yup, I'm the proud owner of a new iPhone 3G!


It was a gift from Lisa. At first I wasn't sure that I really needed this shiny gadget in my life. After all, I'm not a big cell phone person. I use my old Motorola Razr only for emergencies and quick hellos. Nothing more. And I almost never text. However, after just a few hours playing around with the iPhone, I'm now IN LOVE!!!

Wow, the number of different things you can do with this phone is amazing! Within minutes of unlocking my SIM card, I had already synced all of my Favorites over from my home PC's Internet Explorer and was visiting my websites through Apple's proprietary web browser, Safari, with the quickness. And the ease with which I was able to add to and update my contacts list was simply mind-boggling! At first I was unsure about the touch-screen keypad, but DAYUM--this is way faster than my Razr's clunky number key texting. I'm so impressed.

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with all the many other functions this phone can perform. Suffice to say I already feel like I can't operate without it. And while I truly hate iTunes' pushiness factor, I must admit it is a far superior music download and management service to anything else I've seen. In fact, it is too easy to use! I'm beginning to see why Apple has so many devoted legions of followers. While I still prefer my old trusty Dell DJ when it comes to listening to music (mostly due to the numerous personal playlists I've constructed over the years), I'm looking forward to downloading podcasts and audio books to the phone so that I can listen to interesting non-music items while riding the subway to work.

I plan to make full use of Audible.com's offerings once I get the chance to sync my phone with their software. Some of you may remember me pimping their service here and here. I advise you to check them out if you haven't done so already, as they have been steadily amassing a huge inventory of well-produced and voiced readings of the biggest and best novels out there. I'm specifically impressed by their genre coverage, which has grown substantial recently.

Anyway, I'm off now to play some more with the phone. :)

The Evolution Of A Music Player


Back in 2002 I got the Dell Digital Jukebox (pictured on the far left), a 20GB mp3 player in the rough shape of a brick. At the time, the mp3 player phase had not yet caught on. Folks were still walking around with CD walkmans, of all things! The iPod was just a glimmer in Steve Jobs' eye, and the Dell DJ was quite the shit! Over the years since getting this player I've amassed a hefty collection of eclectic songs and obscure albums, in addition to the usual pop stuff I occasionally listen to. And so when the first iPod came out, I didn't care.

Then I got Lisa the iPod Mini (pictured in the middle) as a wedding gift in 2005. It was much smaller, sleeker, and lighter than my DJ, which was already showing its age. By now, roughly half of NYC had iPods it seemed, but at the time the Mini was the "in" thing. Smaller even than the already tiny standard iPod. What the Mini was left lacking was in space. It only carried 6 gigabytes compared to my DJ's 20. But, I had to admit the iTunes app was a damn sight better running than my DJ's MusicMatch p.o.s. software.

And now, just this Christmas, I got Lisa the newly redesigned iPod Nano (pictured on the right). It is almost paper thin--shinier and even smaller than the Mini. And it carries a whopping 16GB in such a tiny casing. Still not as much as my DJ (which I continue to use to this day), but close. And the size and pure SEX factor of the Nano makes up for the paltry 4GB difference, I think.

My, how technology advances! I had resolved myself to never fall into the nefarious Apple clutches, despite starting my PC literacy on a Mac back in the early 90s. But after getting the iPhone from Lisa for Christmas, and seeing this iPod Nano in action, I must say Apple has done a wonderful thing here making their products both accessible to the average layman as well as solidly backed with awesome support.

Anyway, here's a sideways comparison so you can see the difference not just in overall size, but in slimness as well.

Xmas Photos -- Now With More Cheeks!!!


Visited Lisa's family on Christmas day. And as promised, I took plenty of pics of our nephew and little chubster of a niece. Chandler got his Elmo, which he just loves very, very much. He calls out his name every chance he gets!


Here he is getting into to trouble in one of his eldest cousins' rooms. He got attached to this sparkling glitter microphone and would not let go for the life of him. Between this and dancing to all the Beyonce music videos on MTV, I think Chandler may have a future career ahead of him in showbiz. Either that, or dress up in drag! Haha, I kid of course (you hope?)


Of course, no get together would be complete without little miss chubby cheeks herself, Arianna! Everyone was so happy to see her, all but fighting each other to get to her first! Here she gave me a big smile as I took her picture. She's such a calm and well-behaved baby, I think I've mentioned. Here she looks like an escaped pink convict from the Prison of Cute!!!


Chandler's older sister, Ashley, got to her first. Arianna was quite taken by the Christmas tree. She's 7 or 8 months old now, so everything is a curiosity to her -- especially if it is big and has blinking lights!


And of course, Chandler was not immune to the powers of her cuteness, either. I swear, this boy loves his little cousin so much! He wouldn't stop kissing her cheeks all night. Here he's trying to feed her. So cute!


After a while, Arianna had enough of all the doting attention and numerous hugs and kisses from Chandler. Check out the expression on her face -- LOL, priceless!

It was a long and tiring day, but overall I'd say this Christmas went smashingly and on a pretty low key. Which I definitely needed. A stark contrast to Christmases past, I must admit. Phew!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rare Sighting


Due to divided obligations (read: in-laws complications), my family celebrated Christmas a day early this year over at my Aunt's home in Queens. If you think I'm camera phobic, my family's even worse. It's like pulling teeth getting anyone to stand for a pic, myself included. So the above pic is a rare event indeed. In this you get two for the price of one -- my sister and me!

My baby sister, Kita, is much more like me than my brother, Jose, but we all share a lot of the same quirks and sense of humor in fact. It was fun getting to see my (very) small family together in one place, so I had a good time tonight.

Tomorrow promises to be tortuous as we wrap the last of the presents and then visit Lisa's side of the family in the north Bronx. I'd rather be spending the day at home playing Prince of Persia for the PS3 (read my side bar further down the page), but Christmas is a day of compromise and grinning through it. Well, isn't it?

Nah, it won't be so bad. If anything, I should come back with plenty of cute baby pics! I can't wait to see my nephew, Chandler, and niece, Arianna. They're truly the life of any gathering in Lisa's family now. :)

Hope everyone is having a good Christmas! May your days be merry and bright, and all that jazz.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ha-Ha -- My 80s Cartoon Inner Geek Smiles!

Sometimes--just sometimes--YouTube has something truly geeky and amazing to behold. This my friends . . . this is that time! :)

Someone went ahead and, as a purely technical exercise, constructed a fictitious trailer for a fake live-action Thundercats movie. For those of you who do not know the awesome animated greatness that was the Thundecats series -- it was pretty much the be all and end all of existence for little 8 and 9 year old boys in the mid 80s like my brother and I.

Well, this ingenious person or persons spliced together a bunch of clips from various recent movies like: Pitch Black, Lord of the Rings, Troy, Planet of the Apes, Chronicles of Riddick, Farscape, Stargate, and a few more I can't quite place but know I've seen. The faces were superimposed with gimpy Thundercats F/X makeup, but it still works somehow. I mean, check it out for yourself. Kudos to whoever is behind this. You will go far in Hollywood someday, methinks.

And while I'm not particularly itching for a live-action Thundercats movie to be made (my childhood would be raped yet again, I fear), I confess I did suffer a minor geekasm watching this!

Enjoy.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Vacation


Phew, at last! The time of the year I love most. Nope, not Christmas but . . . holiday break! As a creature of habit, I was quite upset the year I graduated from college and realized that, in the real world, there is no such thing as winter recess!

What, after almost 2 decades of being conditioned to expect a nice reprieve at the end of the year, you expect me to actually come to work now? Surely you jest?

And so, as soon as I had seniority to accumulate enough days, I put aside two weeks worth every year in order to enjoy the holidays properly and work-free! Yesterday was my last day of the year, and as it so happens it was also a day for more snow. Yay! And we got quite a nasty one. The above picture was taken from the window at my office, overlooking St. Paul's across the street (one of the oldest churches in the city). As you can see, we got a good coating of the white stuff. Which always makes me happy. And there's more on the way in the coming days before Xmas. Hooray!

Due to the inclement weather, my company let us leave at noon to beat the hazardous conditions on the road. As I take the subway home, I had no road conditions to worry about, so Lisa and I took in a few movies. I saw The Punisher as I waited for Lisa to get out of work. It was a terrible movie, made worse by the fact that they made Montreal stand in for New York. At least, I think that was Montreal. Montreal is good for a few things, but standing in for NYC is not one of them. If they absolutely have to use a Canadian city to double as my hometown, I prefer Toronto. But maybe that's just me.

Anyway, Punisher was good in terms of the action and actually, you know, sticking closer to the comics (especially the Garth Ennis MAX line) than the horrible previous movie a few years back did. But it was still a brutal mess. The poor acting and uninvolving storyline detracted hugely, but the brooding atmosphere and take-no-prisoners, balls to the wall, firefights made up for it a little bit. I rate it a 5/10.

Lisa and I went to see the latest Will Smith flick, Seven Pounds, afterwards. I swear to god I figured out the entire plotline within the first 50 minutes of this 2-hour tear-jerker. At least, it was a tear-jerker for everyone else who apparently didn't see the obvious clues that were being thrown about at the beginning. But, while the impact of the big reveal at the end was robbed for me, the emotional impact was still there at least. I actually thought it was a very good film, especially thanks to the outstanding performances by Will Smith and Rosario Dawson. Dawson in particular was mesmerizing to watch. She can make me pancakes any day of the week, yessir! I give it an 8/10 rating.

We had dinner at our favorite Chinese place in that part of town (near Hell's Kitchen) called Ollies. I asked the waiter where the bathroom was in Mandarin and he damned near tripped over himself smiling before telling me. I almost never bust out the Chinese when at a restaurant, because most of the time the waitstaff are Cantonese or, more recently, Fujianese, and I end up being greeted by confused stares. But at this place almost everyone speaks Mandarin. Which is nice. Hearing it around me almost feels like home, which is funny since I'm not actually Chinese. I guess it reminds me of college, which after 4 years really did feel like home.

Afterwards, we walked back to the theater and watched the final movie of the day, Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood. Wow, what a great movie! I loved, loved, LOVED it!!! It was so superbly written and acted. Clint served triple duty as director, actor, and producer. And once again he pulls out an Oscar-worthy performance on all counts. He even sings the closing song during the credits. Was not my cup of tea (the song), but kudos to him for having the balls to do it. The story itself is about an old Korean-war vet living out his retirement in solitude with his dog, Betsy. His neighborhood is quietly being taken over my Hmong refugees, and the old man begrudgingly forms a relationship with the teenage brother and sister living next door. It's sort of like a reverse Karate Kid story, but with no karate. The old white handy man who takes in a displaced Asian kid who cannot defend himself against the local gangs. He has the kid fix up the odds and ends around his and the neighbors' houses, and in return he serves as a sort of father figure to the young man. Aww. In all seriousness, go see this! I don't think it's in wide-release just yet, but when it is . . . SEE IT!!!

I give it a 9/10.


We got back to the Bronx at midnight (subway ran just fine) and it was still snowing! I took this pic on the walk through the park so you can see how much snow actually fell. Sorry for the motion blurriness. Guess I was walking faster than I realized.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aw, Damn!

This is a sad day for Star Trek fans.


Majel Barrett Roddenberry, actress and wife of legendary Start Trek creator, the late Gene Roddenberry, passed away today at the age of 76 due to complications with leukemia.

Affectionately dubbed the "First Lady of Star Trek" by adoring fans, Majel Barrett appeared in the original Star Trek series in the late 60s. But many fans remember her best as the loud and eccentric Lwaxana Troi, mother of Counselor Deanna Troi, a reoccurring character on the hit spinoff, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Her last involvement with her husband's franchise before her death was as the voice behind the ship's computer in J. J. Abram's upcoming feature film prequel, Star Trek.

Her character on "Generation" was always grating to me, but she played the role exactly as was required, and then took it a bit further. She was definitely a talented actress, and I can't deny she was an integral anchor to the Trek universe -- both on the camera and behind it. She will be sorely missed.

So Much For Global Warming

Wow, that looks so eerie! And that's where Lisa and I got married in July of 2005 -- the Luxor Casino and Hotel.

So, turns out it sometimes snows in Las Vegas. Who knew? Somewhere, someone is making a joke about hell and snowballs I'm sure.

Vegas got 3 inches of snow overnight, shutting down the schools and local airport. WTF? For 3 inches of snow? Wow, people in the desert and SoCal really loose their shit in any other kind of weather except sunny.

Still, to the locals it must be nice being that it's Christmas time and all. Although if I were vacationing there, I imagine I'd be pretty pissed. Then again, most of the fun of Sin City is decidedly indoors I suppose. With chances like these, I would be betting big at the blackjack tables! :)

I Hate The F'ing Ghetto!

I live in a middle to upper-middle class apartment building in the South Bronx. It's a pretty cool place to live. The apartments are HUGE and well-maintained, we have a laundry room in the basement, and 24-hour doorman service in the lobby. They even hold packages for us since everyone in my building works for a living (imagine that).

Anyway, once you leave the vicinity of my block, things go drastically down hill--both literally and socio-economically. The building where I spent all of my childhood after my mother died is just across the street and through the park from where I live now. And yet it might as well be a 3rd-world country.

So I was stopping by to check in on my grandma's place this morning . . . and I guess the economy must be really bad, because it looks like Christmas came early for one industrious criminal asshole in her building. I came into the lobby to find the mailbox room in complete shambles. Around 70% of all the tenant's boxes had been pried open with a crowbar and their contents stolen.

Holy @$%^!!! WTF is wrong with people?

Luckily my grandmother's mailbox is on the lower end, tucked away from line of sight. So it escaped being pilfered. Phew! But all the mailboxes above and to the right were tore up pretty bad. And these are metal boxes, folks. Not the flimsy plastic or wooden ones. You'd have to be pretty damn desperate and persistent to do this level of damage to not just one but roughly 30 boxes in all!

This is a very serious crime. There's no telling what was in those boxes. The thief or thieves left behind the junk mail, but I'm sure somebody's social security checks or credit card statements were in there. Certainly the potential for identity theft. Not to mention that tampering with the mail is a Federal offense. I mean, you can tell this person was a buffoon. There's one thing you don't mess with in this country, and that's the mail. The Feds don't play that shit, and if they're getting involved, I'm pretty sure the people who did this are about to get an unfriendly visit from Uncle Sam through the form of a size 12, black-polish government issued boot to the ass!

I only wish I could be there to see it happen. LOL, please don't tell me these fools actually live in my grandma's building. There's a camera in the lobby, so lets hope it's working. I doubt it, but I think the Feds will have other means of catching who did this. All it takes is one attempt to cash a check that's not yours -- and BAM! Whoever it is is looking at a LONG time in a Fed penitentiary.

Way to fail at life, ghetto assholes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

First Snow Of The Season!!!


Well, this was a surprise. NYC got its first *real* snow finally, just less than a week before the winter solstice. Before now we got a dusting here and there that melted before it could even do anything. So those didn't count. And while this is just a pittance, clearly it is sticking. And I'll enjoy it while it lasts. By all indications, this will all switch over to rain tomorrow and then that's probably going to be it for the white powder until mid-January. That's usually how it goes in the city.




You can see the new Yankee Stadium eerily lit in the background. They've been testing out all the different lights and jumbo screen video systems over the past few weeks, which means I get an interesting kaleidoscope in my bedroom at night if I forget to close our windows. Going to have to invest in some heavy drapes before baseball season begins next year. Ugh!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weird Things Abound On Home


Well, I spent last night doing some more exploring on the PlayStation Network's online world, Home. Things are still rather bland during this Beta testing phase, but apparently there are ways to amuse yourself . . . and then there are *ways*. I chose to purchase some new duds so that I can at least tell myself apart in a crowd. The above sweater and pants cost me under $0.50 cents each of my real money. Chump change, and I don't plan on doing this often. But as you can see it's a bit of an improvement from the last look.

Anyway, I was sitting by the pond doing some people watching when a rather curious commotion began to build up near me. An "attractive female avatar" (AFA) was dancing with some dude near me, which immediately caused a bunch of other guys to rush over and surround the AFA while trying to spit game.

Yeah, you read that right. It looked as pathetic as it sounds. Anyway, the AFA strung them along until a rowdy bunch of about 6 or 7 guys started dancing in unison with her, trying to get her to take them home. (yes, you can do that in Home, although the protocol does not yet exist to do anything risque once you get back to your pad.) And then "the trap" was sprung. Oh, it was glorious people! I wish you could have seen it.

Well actually, you can.

Apparently, some people have perfected the art of what is known as "Quincying" on Home. Very quick, Quincying is when a male gamer creates a female avatar to dupe other horny and nerdy male gamers into trying to pick her up -- something they wouldn't have the balls to do in real life. And when you have a bunch of them sufficiently baited . . . well, that's when it's time to do a fast-switch and change into something a little more, um, appealing.

The guys at this site duplicated the feat with textual and video documentation. Click on the link and read all about the setup, then check out the video at the end of the article. Or, you can just skip straight to the same video posted below. I'm telling you, it's well worth your effort to watch. Oh hell yeah!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Heading Home


I finished up Gears of War 2 for the Xbox 360 today. The game was a blast; I loved every second of it. It was also one of the easiest games I've played in a while. Which is odd considering that the first one was much harder.



Anyway, I decided to give the 360 a rest and boot up my PlayStation 3. And lo and behold I was greeted with a new addition in my icon list, as you can see from the pic above. Yup, Sony's much anticipated Home service has finally launched late this week!

And what is Home?

Well, it's a virtual live gathering place where gamers can meet, mingle, and do all sorts of cool things. It's a little bit like the Sims for those of you not in the know, or a lot more like Second Life for those of you who game on the PC. You basically create an avatar, get assigned an apartment, and then go forth and, er, multiply I guess. No, in actuality you can roam around the virtual world doing all sorts of things like chatting with other avatars, go bowling or play some pool, go shopping at the mall, dance, etc, etc. Right now the options available are very limited. Home is still in Beta testing, so it's going to be a while before we see the good stuff. For now, I suppose, you can go to the mall and buy some new duds and perhaps a lamp or chair for your apartment. I haven't done it yet, but I hear you have to use real world money to purchase some items. Like $5 or $10.



This is my avatar. I tried as best I could to get him to look like me, but even though there were quite a few sliders and options to toggle with, this was the best I could do. Dude doesn't look anything like me at all, but it's good enough for now. The clothing options are limited right from the start. Presumably we'll eventually be able to buy a variety of different clothes from the mall so that everyone can have their individualized identity. As it stands, I've ran into 20 or 30 near identical clones of myself in just 5 minutes of wandering around. Bleh!



After choosing my avatar, I was given a swanky studio apartment overlooking the harbor. This is pretty cool. I wish I could have this place in real life! It's a bit bare now as you can see, but eventually we'll have more decorating options to chose from. Furniture, wall art, color scheme -- the works.



And check out the view from my terrace! All these pics are taken off of my tv screen using a digital camera, btw, so pardon the low quality here. But I can assure you that the ocean water looks almost real on my HDTV--wow! I'm really impressed with the graphics on this service, which--like the PlayStation Network itself--is completely free. Eat that, Microsoft!



Anyway, I eventually wandered down from my loft to check out the lobby, which is called Central Plaza. This is an open-air rotunda in which everybody materializes literally out of thin air, and which leads you to other accessible areas like the Bowling Alley, the Mall, and the Theater. If you notice, there are even real-world ads up in the form of revolving billboards. I guess this will generate the revenue to run this place, among other sources. Right now, as you can see, the movie Twilight is being promo'ed.



I'm in the mall here. You can see for yourself that there isn't much diversity in terms of clothing style. But this will change. For now, everyone seems to be running around the place with their heads cut off. Like over-eager children let loose in a toy story. It's hilarious! We're also given many different options to play with in our actions. You can choose to interact with your surroundings in various ways, and even play music and dance. I spotted quite a few small gatherings of 4 or 5 gamers swaying and jamming to the beat of music you can't hear until you get close enough. I avoided these gatherings (naturally), and instead bid my time exploring.

A few people tried to chat me up, but I wasn't feeling the awkward typepad interface. Unlike with the PC, chatting here requires using your game controller to individually type each letter of your message one at a time at an agonizingly slow pace. Unless you happen to have a USB keyboard connected to your PS3, which I don't. I could use my PC one, but constantly changing it back and forth between systems would suck.

The other option is to use a bluetooth headset to voice-chat with people in real time. Sony's PS3 is cool in that it allows all types of third-party accessories to pair with it so long as they connect via bluetooth or USB. So I was able to use the same headset I use for my mobile to chat on Home. I didn't, of course, but I left it powered on in my ear so that I could eavesdrop on other people's conversations. That was seriously weird. I mean, really. Walking around the Plaza, you'll suddenly hear someone's real voice speaking inside your ear just out of the blue. As long as you're standing near enough, you can listen in as people carry on real conversations inside of this virtual environment. For those using the typepad to communicate, you can read their conversations above their heads.

I think this is beyond cool. Once I actually do start to interact, I don't see how I'll ever type my messages out though. But maybe not all people are comfortable with this? We'll see.



I can't wait until more people sign up and this place turns out to be a real haven for gamers. There is much skepticism on just how successful Sony's gamble will be. But judging from the amount of new people creating accounts and materializing into the Plaza just this afternoon, I think this is going to be HUGE. And I'm so glad I get to witness Home's humble beginnings from pretty much Day 1 here. It will be interesting to watch it expand and improve.

I'll keep ya'll updated.

It's Christmas Time In The City


My company moved into a new office this summer, as some of you may recall. The building is the former AT&T headquarters and is located just across from the World Trade Center. Apparently the building is a landmark, along with a lot of other old buildings in the area. Our building has the distinction of having the most marble columns in any lobby anywhere. I don't know yet if they mean the city of New York or the entire world. I kinda doubt the last, but it is a friggin huge and beautiful lobby nonetheless! I like the dramatic lighting and officious ambiance the columns lend, don't you?

Anyway, the lobby was decorated for the holidays and a huge tree set up by the entrance. A couple of days ago they had a live mini orchestra performing Christmas music in the evening as we left to go home. Was very nice.






Sorry for the blurry pictures, but security was looking at me funny so I went without the flash. They don't allow tourists in the building, but they knew I worked there. Still, didn't want to take any chances.

I can feel the season coming on . . .

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's In Our Nature


I don't get the whole "let's dump on America for being fat" craze that seems to be a universal constant by citizens of other nations. Heck, by citizens of our own country, too. After all, unless you're living in an impoverished 3rd-world country, chances are your own people are not all that light in the loafers either, if you know what I mean.

Take the U.K. and Germany, for instance. Both on the fast track of actually *surpassing* the U.S. in tubbiness over the next two decades. It's ludicrous to think that the fat gene is somehow isolated to Americans only, when in fact every country showing favorable increase in their GDP has had to contend with an equally rapid increase in national waistlines. It's not just one people, but ALL people who suffer from this.

When you give folks nearly unlimited access to food (processed or otherwise), it is in our nature to eat to fulfillment. And to then eat a little extra "just in case." It's a survival instinct left over from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. When game was not plentiful, we died. When it was, we chowed down like there would be no tomorrow. Because back then, you know, there might not be!

And it's not like this is even just a human thing--it's prevalent all throughout nature. Most animals, if given a chance, will eat themselves into a stupor. Because that's what nature wants. In the wild, you never know where or when your next meal may be. So if you've managed to snag some food, eat more than you can possibly digest in one sitting. The extra fat reserves will fare you well during leaner times.

Just look at our pets. If we don't regulate their food (and some owners shamelessly don't) cats can get as big as beach balls! Yes, part of it is the TYPE of food that's being consumed. But that's not the whole picture. Most of it is because of their (and our) hard wiring.

No one can know exactly how true this is unless they grew up poor and hungry most of the time. While my mother was not destitute, we were on public assistance. And let's just say that Welfare back in the 70s and 80s was not as generous as it is these days. They literally only gave families just enough allowance to not wither away into dry husks of starvation. Oh, and they gave us free 5-lb blocks of cheese every 3 months in case we wanted to, you know, go crazy and throw a celebration or something.

So while I wasn't "save the children" or "hunger aid" starving, my brothers and I only enjoyed maybe two meals a day -- breakfast and dinner. And no snacks of Cheetos and Ho-Hos to tide us over in-between.

However, when my psycho stepfather came into the picture, sometimes we would get less if we were being bad. One such punishment had me missing meals for an entire day. I was always underweight as a child (I was born preemie), so I probably was feeling it worse than most would on this occasion. I clearly remember thinking I was going to die. Looking back, it seems almost silly. But as kids we tend to exaggerate life experiences, right?

Anyway, I was saved that evening by a neighbor rushing over and inviting us all to her kid's surprise birthday party. Since this was a predominantly hispanic neighborhood, this meant the party was really for adults in terms of the time, food and copious amounts of alcohol present. I remember hoping that my stepfather and mother would not remember that I was on punishment, and lo and behold -- they didn't!

So I did what any self-preserving human animal would do in such a scenario -- I scarfed down everything I could get my hands on (in case they realized the oversight). I mean, seriously, my body went into a full-out Jack London "Call of the Wild" feeding frenzy. I think the neighbor's dogs howled upon recognizing a kindred spirit. All I remember is a sort of haze going over my eyes and completely ignoring all sense of decency and protocol and just attacking EVERY SINGLE dish on the table. Fuck the cake and ice cream -- I wanted the MEAT and RICE and VEGGIES. Butter that biscuit, grandma, and I'll take the rest of the pan, thank you very much!

Needless to say I ate long, and I ate good that night.

Afterwards when the red haze and blood-curdling howls subsided, I sat back and surveyed the damage I had wreaked. Adults were staring back at me in shock, complimenting my mother on having such a skinny kid with such a man-sized appetite.

If only they knew.

Ever since this incident, however, I always remember the way instinct took over and basically bitch-slapped the rational, civilized portion of my mind aside in pursuit of what my body thought was self-preservation on the line. I was only 7 yrs old, and maybe the situation wasn't as dire as all that, but the basic lesson I learned was the same:

Don't mess with someone when survival is in doubt.

No matter how much civilization we put between us and our cavemen ancestors, we're still barely restrained animals at heart. When push comes to shove, we WILL fight to survive. And nothing is more basic to survival than eating. No country and its people are immune to this.

So instead of bashing other countries when yours is really no better, take a moment to stop and think what overeating is really saying about people in general. Some people, for whatever reason, simply cannot shut that instinct down. Even when they know better. I'm not trying to excuse all the fat-asses out there. You have a problem, and you need help. But at the same time I know where they're coming from. When you have a surplus, it's hard not to think it might some day vanish and to indulge while you can. We wouldn't be so successful on the food chain if we didn't behave like this.

The real problem, of course, is in distribution. We need a better way of distributing that surplus evenly across the globe. Then maybe we would all eat within our means.

But if I knew how to make this happen, I would be High Prince David, Overlord of Earth . . . and not writing this blog right now.

What do you think?

A PING On The WTF?-O-METER This Morning

Sometimes I hop on the ole interwebs and am just astounded by the crazy crap that's out there. And now--because IE and FireFox are obviously way too white for some people--we have an African American web browser for black people to call their own. I wasn't aware this was even an issue. Were you?



The web browser is called "Blackbird" (oh, that's original), and you can find out more about it here. Blackbird is one of those "made for the people, by the people" products that targets a specific cultural group or ethnicity, and has this to say about its many offerings:

"Features:

* Black Search
* Black News Ticker
* Black Bookmarks
* Blackbird TV
* Social Bookmarking
* Email Manager
* Social Network Manager

"The Blackbird Browser gives you access to Internet sites just like Internet Explorer, plus more community-specific features when you want them. For example, Black Search moves important information from African American sites higher in your search results. Try the Blackbird Browser and see how we are customizing the web experience just for you."

Say what?

Wow. I wonder what poor whitey will do now? Oh yeah, that's right . . . continue using Google like everyone else! To be fair, this sounds more like a social networking community endeavor, a little like BlackPlanet.com. In which case, anyone is really welcomed to sign up regardless of their ethnicity. But if you're black and this makes you feel better about yourself to use, then more power to you.

I'm personally waiting for the Yellowfin browser to roll out myself, then all my Asian homies* can finally step out of the shadow of Mr. Whitey and have something they can call their own, too.

(*NOTE: This is sarcasm, and in no way, shape, or form do I consider myself Asian.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Has Someone Been Raiding My DVD Cabinet?

As some of you know, I'm a huge China buff. I love the country, the people, the language, the art, the music, the literature, etc. And I especially love its movies--both the dramatic and the wu-xia varieties. I like the serious and the action-y stuff alike!

Recently, however, I've been expanding my tastes to include other Asian cultures. Japan was a natural, followed by Korea. But now I'm totally hooked on India, too! While still not a terribly huge fan of Bollywood-type movies, I do in fact enjoy the music a lot. I've been on a serious Indian DVD watching fix since the beginning of this year, collecting the ones I like and scoping the music of the films from various sources both on the web and in the stores.

Well, seems like someone has made a movie just for me, and it's being called: Chandni Chowk To China. It's sort of a zany East meets . . . er, further East mismatch. Bollywood meets Chinese Kung-fu comedy -- a wickedly fun looking actioner in the vein of Stephen Chow! I had no idea this movie was being made, but now I MUST watch it when it hits stateside. Thank god I live in NYC, where I always have access to limited release art-house and foreign films. Sweet!

Check out the trailer for yourself. Oh, and the movie will have Gordon Liu playing the villain. You don't get any more awesome than having the original Master Killer of the 36 Chambers in your movie. I'd pay full admission just on this fact alone!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Please Be Patient. I Certainly Am.

Sometimes this waiting game seems like it will go on forever. I'm talking about this period/phase/whatever I'm in right now where I've been putting my nose to the grindstone in terms of my writing and paying my dues. When I first set out over two years ago to write seriously and get published, it was with the understanding that success would not come overnight. I was ready for AT LEAST five years of churning out story after story, getting rejected left and right, and learning from my mistakes.

Some days this grueling ordeal is easier than others. But you know what? I'm patient. Like Father Time patient. I'm in no rush, and I'm still young. In the last two years I feel I've really come far in terms of my writing, but in no way do I feel like I'm *ready* just yet. My writing is not quite where it needs to be, although the ideas are coming faster and faster now. Seriously, it's all I can do to write fast enough to contain them all. That right there is something I'm happy with. It means that although my stories still lack that certain something to elevate them a notch above pedestrian, I still have that hunger and fire to make it in this genre. That's not going away.

So, looking back on the last two years, I feel that I still have a long road ahead before I can start cranking out good stuff. It might be three more years, but you know what? It could be five more years! I'm really not that hung up on it. I just want to keep writing.

In an interview, Elizabeth Bear admitted that she was rejected at least 700 times before finally publishing a professional short story. But she thinks it was more like over a 1,000! And yet she's one of the best and brightest--not to mention PROLIFIC--of the new crop of sci-fi writers that have emerged over the last couple of years. Other new writers have similar accounts.

Rather than sobering me, this makes me even more driven now. If they could keep on going, so can I.

So to all my friends and family reading this who are still asking me: "so, how's the writing coming along?"

It's coming, it's coming. Just be patient with me. I'll get there in my own special time. (ha ha)

Monday, December 8, 2008

In Which I Get My Man Card Revoked



I know I risk my masculinity by admitting this . . . but Love, Actually is one of the best Christmas movies of all time! Definitely my favorite romantic comedy bar none.

That's right, you heard me. I watch romantic comedies on occasion, so sue me. Of course, I wouldn't be able to stand them, I'm sure, if not for Lisa being with me. I'd probably want to stab myself in the eye if I were single and all angsty about love and what not.

But as it stands, I like a well made romantic comedy. Don't you? And Love, Actually is the most heart-whelming and funniest of them all.

Anyway, I thought about this movie after cracking open my special Xmas playlist on my music player today -- which I only listen to in December, before closing it again for another year. But I had to listen to Mariah Carey's song "All I Want For Christmas" twice, because honestly it is just so damn awesome.

Like Love, Actually, this is the best Xmas song of the modern age, imo. Seriously, how can you not get into the holiday spirit after listening to that? It is sublime perfection, I tell ya. And that Mariah sure can sing her heart out!

It's only fitting the song was featured so prominently in the movie. It was perfect. And, with that being said, I of course leave you with the perfect scene from the movie to set the mood off. Watch the video and see if you don't agree. This little girl does an impressive cover of the song. And how cute was the little boy and his puppy-love crush? Ah, young love. Where have you gone? (ha, ha)


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tips For Clueless People Who Get Mugged

Here's a funny bit of advice posted online at Craigslist "best of" section. It's written by a sarcastic NYPD patrolman and provides tips to stupid people (read: out of towners) who are moving to the rougher areas of the city (like where I live) thinking that nothing will happen to them. Click on the above link to read the full article.

It's very funny, and oh so true. Unfortunately I can't say that he's wrong. This is very much what it's like to live here. At least where I live. My neighborhood's been getting slowly gentrified over the last five years or so, although it is still mostly low-income housing in the surrounding neighborhoods. But I'm getting more and more young couples from the Upper East and West sides moving into my building complex every year. Some of them think they're still in Manhattan, where the police hang off of their beck and call. Not so, not so.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Well, I Caved And Bought It!

A while ago I posted an entry here about a DVD box set dilemma I was having. I'm still up in the air about the Fraggle Rock box set, but I finally bowed to the pressures of consumerism and purchased the Blu-ray HD dvd set of the Planet of the Apes. Because, you know, I care so much about our economy that I thought I'd give it a little boost. Yeah.

This set commemorates the 40th anniversary of the original film starring Charlton Heston. It also contains the 4 sequels as well. And since this is a collectors' set, it comes with a hefty and very, very nice 200-page production booklet. Oh, and the box art/construction is pretty SWEET, too! Take a look:






I don't know when I'll get the chance to watch this, tho. Probably during my 2-week Xmas vacation I'm taking starting on the 2oth. I plan to be busy during my time off, but I should have free time at night at least to sit back and watch a movie or two. It will be a luxury for me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why Must That Which I Eat Try To Kill Me?

I love snacking on almonds. Especially unsalted, dry roasted almonds. Mmmmmm! Yet, I noticed the almonds . . . they not be liking the chewing and swallowing part. This may explain why a short time later -- sometimes seconds, usually minutes -- I find myself inexplicably choking and gagging on ground up almond residue. The episode only gets worse with each cough, and does not abate even after drinking copious amounts of water.

Why is that?

Do the almonds have vengeful spirits that seek my demise? I fear one of these days I may lose the battle to the shelled nuts! And then my buried body will sprout an almond tree of its own, and thus the cycle will begin anew.

Evil things, these almonds.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What If . . .

Those who're into SF are familiar with the infamous "what if" scenarios genre geeks can come up with. And perhaps no more heated argument has arisen in these hallowed halls of nerd-dom than that of: which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars?

Well, here's a video to help put things into perspective. This is pretty old, but I haven't seen it in a while. And in fact, the very first iteration of this now classic scenario was on paper when I read it back in college . . . when the World Wide Web was just a baby and YouTube was not yet a glimmer in anyone's eye.

So, What If the Star Trek universe crossed-over into the realm of Star Wars?

The Best Family Sitcom Evar!!!

I was listening to some good ol' Ray Charles this afternoon, and I came upon one of my favorite songs: The Night Time Is The Right Time. This is such an awesome track, and no one can sing it better than Ray himself.

But as usual, the song instantly reminded me of that one episode of the Cosby Show when the entire family performs the song to celebrate the grandparents' anniversary. Most people agree that this is one of the best moments in TV history. So funny! Of course, my favorite part is when little Rudy starts lip synching. LOL! Look at how much emotion she poured into that performance. Priceless!



Oh, and I'm sure I wasn't aware of it at the time I first saw this episode when I was just a little tyke . . . but dayum, Lisa Bonet was smokin HOT!!!! Jeez. (She's the one with the white gloves, for those of you who don't know.)

Anyone else remember this scene and love this show, too?

I need to get the complete series on box set sometime.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Food For Thought . . .

Allow me to wax philosophical for a moment here . . .

Do your memories truly make you who you are?

I always used to say: yes! Everything that you are in life is due to the memories you've had since birth. What you are today is shaped by the experiences of your past.

Yet on the morning commute I started to wonder: are memories just window dressing for the core essence that is you? In other words, would your personality really alter so much if your memories were stripped bare and replaced with others?

There is no easy answer to this. If baby me were taken from this world and plopped on an alien planet, how much would the grownup alien me really differ from the Earth me of today?

Sure, due to a difference of experiences, I would certainly have altered views and attitudes on the universe, no doubt. But would I go from being a mild-mannered, semi-pacifistic New Yorker to a raging, uncontrollably murdering psychopath? Perhaps not. More importantly, would those who love me recognize the alien David as possessing the same core essence as the Earth me?

Religious people and spiritualists would believe so. But I still lean more towards my initial view. Or perhaps it's a little of both? Our memories *are* us, but we are not our memories. At least, not completely. If you were to perfectly record all of my life memories and transfer them, say, to an empty pod-person clone, would that clone suddenly be me?

Seems unlikely, no?

There might be something more to us than just the sum total of our memories . . .

Monday, December 1, 2008

10 Things That Make Me Different From You

Just thought I have a little fun and reveal 10 not-so-outrageous secrets about myself that are off the beaten path, so to speak, but interesting even to those who think they know me.

If you're up to it, reveal 10 things about yourself in like fashion and let me know.

  1. I cannot stand seafood. I'm not allergic to it, nor do I have any bad associations with *fruits de mer* or anything like that. I've just never had a taste for it.

  2. Circuses bore me to tears. I don't know why, but humans performing acrobatic feats do not impress me. Cirque du Soleil is particularly unengaging (sorry Ashe!)

  3. I listen to an eclectic mix of musical styles. But my number one favorite is Classical. The "presto agitato" of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14; Puccini's sublime opera, Turandot; and J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor. To me, there is nothing finer.

  4. Roller coasters don't thrill me. I used to get severely sick on them as a kid, and now they're just something I sit through and endure. I don't get what all the excitement is over them.

  5. The sight of a full moon over a darkened plain, moor, or even a high ridge electrifies me like no other scene in nature can.

  6. For a period of about three years when I was a child, my one goal in life was to become an ordained minister.

  7. No matter how many times I've gone fishing (and I've gone quite a few), I've *ALWAYS* caught at least one fish. Even when others don't. Some kind of weird fisherman's luck, I guess. Which is ironic considering No. 1 on this list.

  8. My greatest fear in life is drowning. And yet I'm an excellent swimmer.

  9. I have zero interest in nude "gentlemen's" magazines, as the clothed form is far more sensual and open to the imagination. I'm not a prude, I just find overt sexuality from strangers a turn-off.

  10. The absolute, most thrilling moment of my life? The night I waited in the cold by the abandoned bus stop for Lisa's Greyhound to pull in the first time she ever came to visit me at college. I'll never forget that moment, frozen in time as it were.
See, that wasn't so bad. Now's your turn! :-)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Double Movie Review: Four Christmases & Transporter 3

Saw two movies today with Lisa. And unfortunately, I chose poorly. This is 0/2, folks! I rarely pick 'em this badly. We avoided checking out Australia due to the 2hr 45min running time. But I think we would have fared better if we'd stuck to just this one movie, rather than the two turkeys we did end up seeing. Hey, at least it was season-appropriate (har, har).

Due to this reason, I don't have the energy (read: enthusiasm) to give a full, in-depth review of either. So here are two mini-reviews instead.

FOUR CHRISTMASES


This was one of the unfunniest comedies I've seen in a long while, which is a shock considering the otherwise high opinions I have for both Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. Their chemistry was fine, just the scripting of this stinker was way off. The humor (when it was there) was flat, and the "serious" moments were a little too heavy-handed at times, especially since the comedy was not where it should have been to balance everything out. The editing was also very strange, especially at the end when we suddenly and without warning jump a whole year ahead just to deliver an insignificant closure to the dilemma the two leads were facing as a couple. The resolution, as a result, felt rushed and with no emotional investment from the audience. Skip this one at all costs.

Rating: 3/10


TRANSPORTER 3


To be honest, I didn't really want to watch this movie. The first one had been a decent, if anemic, little action flick. And I really do like Jason Statham in most other things (Crank notwithstanding). But the second movie in this arc was just awful and boring to boot. So I should have known better than to go into this one blindly without first reading any professional reviews.

Ugh, if anything this one is even worse than the second one! A feat I didn't previously think was possible. Statham was good in the action parts, and decent in every other scene. But for all the guys who were in attendance at my theater, this seemed to be geared more towards the ladies, as Jason almost literally took his shirt off every 15 minutes. Do they know who their target audience is for these things? The action was okay, but the story was a very dumb plot at its finest. A thug threatens an environmentally-conscious politician to sign off on a dubious company handling toxic materials in his country's backyard, in exchange for the well-being of his daughter. The Transporter's job is to drive the daughter around long enough until the deal is made. But things don't go according to plan, and stuff blows up. The end. I can't even recommend the driving scenes, as they were boring as well. Stay far the hell away from this one. I really wish I had.

Rating: 4/10

Two Thanksgivings - Of Nieces And Nephews

My family was having Thanksgiving in Queens this year, while Lisa's was in the usual place in the north Bronx. Stupid me waited until the last minute to decide that renting a car was preferable to riding the subway back and forth all day long, but alas EVERY SINGLE rental place was all sold out. Luckily, we were able to borrow my sister-in-law's car for the day, and despite horrific traffic tie-ups in Queens, the day went smoothly. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!



This is Lisa's sister's son, Chandler. He's only 16 months old, but he looks bigger for his age. I believe he's 28 lbs. He was really happy to see his auntie, and every time the warning light lit up on my camera, he startled giggling hysterically. I swear, every single picture of his looks like this one! Afterwards, he spent most of the night running around and kicking his ball around and soaking in all the attention he was getting from all the ladies in attendance. Definitely a ladies' man, this one.



Lisa's brother and his girlfriend just had a baby this year. Her name is Ariana, and she's 6 months old. She's also the darling of any get-together. I mean, look at those cheeks! She's the chubbiest and most well-behaved baby I've ever seen. Every single woman there was trying to steal her and keep her for themselves all night. Even Chandler gets excited when his baby cousin shows up. He went running straight up to her and gave a big kiss. Then he pointed at Ariana and said: "Baby!" It was too cute.



She was loving my camera. She kept grabbing it and stuffing it in her mouth. It must be baby drool-proof, though, as it still works. Yay!



Lisa kept getting Ariana to smile all night. Here she was just fed, so she's extra happy. The babies in Lisa's family are generally well-padded, if you know what I mean. Which is how babies should be, no? :)



I just couldn't resist taking one last pic before she left for the night. Here Ariana is all decked out in a pink pea coat and matching hat. Stylin!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Really Am Stubborn

In reading my previous entry on how/why I learned Chinese, Cindy commented on my stubbornness. And you know what? She's absolutely right!

She would say it's a Virgo thing I'm sure, and that's probably true. Thing is, I'm not stubborn when it comes to personal relationships or anything like that. Where my stubbornness rears its ugly head is when it comes to my ambitions and dreams.

I just don't give up! I take the most extreme sorts of abuse and keep on going in order to obtain any goal I've set for myself. It's always been that way for me, but more so in my adult years.

Learning Chinese was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Hell, it IS the most difficult thing I've ever done. But it was something I *wanted* to do. I wasn't told I had to do it, or that my life would be better because of it. No, for the first time it was something I did outside of my family's influence and something I'd made my own. And no amount of hardship was going to deter me.

And for the most part, this stubbornness has served me well. Does it mean I always get what I want?

Oh, hell no!

Sometimes it feels like my whole life is nothing but me not getting what I want. However, if the thing is something that is within my power to get, then nothing can stop me.

I'm this way with my writing. I've been critiqued to hell and back again and, from all indications, I haven't even seen the worst of it yet. It's going to get very, very bad before it gets better. Another person might give up on their dream of ever becoming a published sci-fi writer.

But not me.

I simply don't care how many rejections I get. I have ideas, and they need to be written. Whether I can learn how to spin those ideas into gold is what my journey is all about. A hectic day at work or an argument at home are only obstacles to work around, not to defeat me.

I want this bad, and I've decided that I'm going all the way until I either run out of steam or I die. The latter will hopefully mean I made it to the point where my name is in a bookstore, and hopefully multiple times over. The former will mean that despite my best efforts, something defeated me. Which would not be good. Not good at all.

I'm stubborn where it counts. Because I know of no other way to get that which I want in life.

This has been a Public Service Announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Learning Chinese

As I've mentioned before, my father was hispanic and my mother was anglo-saxon/American. His family was from the Dominican Republic, while her family was from Scotland and England. My parents split when I was two, and at that time I had only learned rudimentary Spanish as a second language. Once my mother got her own place, however, my brothers and I spoke only English. I had to learn Spanish the hard way like everyone else -- through high school language class. But thanks to being exposed to it when I was a baby, the one advantage I had over everyone else was a natural authentic spanish accent that I didn't really have to work at, and a smattering knowledge of individual words like the words for "juice" and "dog".

What does this have to do with me learning Chinese? Well, you see, I hate Spanish and all things associated with the language and hispanic cultures. I was given crap all my life because I had a Spanish last name but yet could not speak the language or undersatnd the customs the way other hispanic people expected me to. So because of this I developed a negative stigma against the culture. To this day I refuse to learn more than the basic level of proficiency in Spanish because I vehemently do not identify with the culture.

However, I did want to learn another language. I'd been told so many stories about how naturally adept my mother had been at learning languages. She learned Spanish fluently over the course of one summer, according to my grandmother. I always entertained the idea that I had inherited her easy fluency with languages. I picked Chinese as the language I myself would chose to learn, rather than being something others expected me to learn simply because of my features and last name.

Let me put it another way: I felt I could only learn another language when it was a language no one on Earth would expect me to know. If my teacher or peers perceived me as somehow having an unfair advantage over a non-native speaker (as what happened with Spanish), I could not learn it. Additionally, I wanted a language that was so far out of left field that no one would expect it. I thrive in situations where people underestimate me. So naturally I wanted to learn something not too many people can learn easily.

This was one of the reasons I chose Mandarin. And yet it is only a superficial reason.

The other, real, reason I chose Mandarin was because of all the cultures on Earth, I've always identified most with Chinese people. That might seem strange for a mixed kid who grew up in the south Bronx ghetto to say, but it's true. From so early on that I can't remember why or when exactly, I've been fascinated with China. I used to read children's stories written by missionairies working in China. The stories were written by Westerners, but were about Chinese children and often took place during Imperial history (almost alway the Qing Dynasty, but I read a few from the Tang Dynasty as well). As a kid I found the culture so alien from anything I had ever seen before, that I used to think China was this mystical magical place. For me, the Far East was a real-life fairy tale!

For someone who hated his surroundings and the life he'd been born into, you can imagine why the allure of Asia had been so strong for me. As I entered puberty, it only grew more profound as I began reading histories and non-fictional accounts of China. I also read more serious Chinese folklore stories written by Chinese authors and poets throughout time. China felt like my home away from home, and yet I'd never been there.

In 1990 when I began high school, the Japan-o-phile invasion of manga and robotech anime cartoons had only just begun to take over hordes of dweebish American teens. And while I admit to being mildly susceptible to the allure of Nippon as well (particularly Samurai culture and coda), it did not even come close to the love affair I had with all things Chinese. Since I was a boy, naturally this chiefly developed into a keen interest (bordering on obsession) with all things kung-fu.

By the time I was 16, my main goal in life was to run away to China and seek out the legendary Shaolin mountain and study with the monks for the rest of my life. Say goodbye to my friends and family, and just disappear! That's how badly I wanted to be away from America and the materialism and senseless violence of the South Bronx ghetto mind in particular.

By the time I was 18, common sense won over and I realized that a more sensible plan was to go to college and study as much about Chinese culture as I could. I went to Middlebury College in Vermont primarily because it was a very strong private liberal arts college -- but also because it was one of the most esteemed and recognized leaders of undergrad language education in the entire nation. Not an insignificant accolade, I must say. Particular renowned were its Chinese language classes and instructors.

I started taking Chinese classes at a time when I did not yet know what my major would be. I came into Middlebury expecting to major in pre-med. Then this switched to Psychology. But when I realized how much fun I was having in Chinese language class--and that, in fact, I did indeed have a knack for learning the language--I came to an epiphany one restless night in January and decided to make my major Chinese Studies. And once I crossed that threshold, there was no turning back. I threw myself headlong into the endeavor of learning everything I could possibly learn about China. Not just its official language--but all aspects of this great culture and nation. Art, history, politics, economics, and, most of all, its literature. Although language study took up 60% of all my education time at Middlebury, my second love was studying Chinese literature. I devoured all of the classics, some of which I would later re-read in the original Wenyan -- the (classical) Chinese literary system of writing.

By sophomore year of college I was already taking advanced classes and preparing to study abroad in China during my junior year. However, plans unfortunately fell through due to financial reasons and also an oversight I had made in choosing my curriculum, which forced me to have to stay behind and take specific Middlebury-based classes or else risk getting kicked out of my major. It was a dark time for me because I had been so looking forward to studying at the Beijing Normal University and then, later, in the northern frigid city of Harbin. My friends ended up going, and I stayed behind. To this day it is my single most regret about my college education.

However, staying behind junior year turned out to have been a blessing. Because it allowed me to turn my studies towards modern Chinese literature and politics, a subject that I would find myself singularly attracted to. I also became engrossed in mainland China's dramatic film works, most of which had been banned by the Communist censors from being seen in the directors' own homeland. Had I gone to China, ironically, I never would have seen these movies during my junior year. Which would have been too bad as, due to these movies changing my world view forever, I was able to form the basis for the thesis I would have to write senior year in order to graduate.

Senior year, in addition to writing my 100-page thesis, I had now entered a super-advanced level of language study by this point. A level designed for only the serious Chinese major. This meant I was in classes with only 6 other students at all times, all of whom I'd been classmates with for almost my entire college career.

By this point we were studying Confucius and Lao Zi in the original script, conducting entire classroom discussions in Chinese, and writing out thousand-character essays every single week for each class! It was grueling, and my brain was mush--but I learned so much! I had long ago started dreaming in Chinese, but by senior year it had gotten to the point that I no longer remembered any Spanish. Whenever I tried to speak Spanish, the words would come out in Chinese first. It got so bad that it was sometimes difficult for me to even speak English, so immersed had I become in Mandarin.

I can't even wrap my head around that right now! Can you?

I ended up acing the thesis and graduating with honors. I had accomplished one of my main goals at college. Yet I knew enough to know that all my studies had only exposed me to the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, and that the next step was to actually move to China and basically "turn" Chinese! :)

Unfortunately, I could not leave the people I loved behind after all. Most importantly, Lisa. We were too much in love that I could not bare the thought of abandoning her to live out my selfish dream of being some kung-fu hermit living on a mountain top in central China. I faced reality, and realized that I had other dreams to follow. Like becoming a writer . . . and marrying Lisa. So far, I've realized one of those dreams already. And I'm working hard on realizing the other.

I regret now, however, that in the 10 years since graduating, I have not found any use at all for my Chinese language skills. I don't have Chinese family members to converse with, my friends from college are all over the globe and of sporadic contact, and I've allowed myself to be too distracted by other personal concerns over the years.

All of which are excuses for me admitting that I have drastically forgotten a lot of what I've learned. I can no longer read Chinese even half as good as I used to be able to do, and my writing skills are almost non-existent. However, I can still carry on conversations in Chinese, as the lingual part of the language was the part most ingrained in my brain after all.

And, you know what? I still have the occasional dream in Chinese to this day! So I guess that's a good sign.

Over the past year I've been thinking of taking up remedial Mandarin classes. It's going to make me feel like a dumbass paying money again for something I've already learned before, but I jut can't allow for all that I worked for to go down the drain. I also need to figure out some way to keep the knowledge active so that I don't lose it again.

And, of course, I desperately want to go to China. I keep seeing three-week excursions being offered here and there, and want so badly to go. Maybe someday I'll work up the funds and courage to do so.

And there you have it folks. Why it is that I know more Chinese than Spanish, and why I feel more of an affinity towards Chinese people and culture than I do my own father's culture.

Thanks to Cindy over at A Little Sweet, A Litte Sour for asking me to write this. I know it was a rather long read, but I hope I covered all the bases! :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Weird Contraption, And Another Man-Bag Sighting!!!

Lisa and I went to the movies Sunday -- a rare outing indeed, as Sundays are usually our stay-at-home and unwind together day. We saw two movies: Twilight and Slumdog Millionaire. The review for the latter is one entry down on this page. Read it. It was an awesome movie.

Twilight was not so awesome, which is why you won't find a review of it here. It's really only for teen girls or women who've read the novels (or both). I don't include men in this category, although I'm sure there's one or two who might really, REALLY like this kind of thing. Basically, it's very teen angsty and emo -- the type of film someone watches just before slitting their wrists. Now, I like vampire movies. You know I do. And I've read my fair share of vampire-themed novels in my time. A *lot* in fact. But Meyer's version of vampires (at least from what I can tell from this movie alone) seems like a rehash of everything I've read/seen before. For some reason, the mythos strongly evokes the "Underworld" brand of games/movies/literature for me. Anyway, if you like high school lovey-dovey drama with a bite (ahem), then this is the film for you. Just be prepared to wade through the throngs of giggly teenage girls to get to your seat, tho (yes, there were quite a few of these groups in my theater).

Anyway, as me and Lisa were riding up the escalator to get into the theater, guess what I just happened to see? Yup, another freaking MAN PURSE!!!! Arghhhhh!


You see? You people thought I was exaggerating, right? But literally one fucking day after posting that entry, I get smacked in the face with this thing! God help us, but they're taking over NYC I tell ya! Run!

(ha, ha)

Oh, and I went to the restroom before the movies and was confronted with an odd gadget when looking for the paper towels after washing my hands.






Has anyone seen this before? Lisa informs me that they've been out for a while now, and asked: where the hell have you been? But honestly, I was taken aback by this. It's some sort of fancy, new-fangled type of hand dryer. You basically stick you hands right inside that slot and get what feels like a jumbo jet turbine unleashed on your wet hands. Seriously, the air is amazingly powerful. It gets your hands bone dry in literally 3 seconds flat! Whoa!

I'd hate to see one of these puppies attached to the inside of a toilet seat, although I hear they have them in Japan. I would imagine some people would get a little *too* much pleasure out of that, if you know what I mean.

Eww!

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