Wednesday, December 31, 2003
I just bought a used copy on-line of Marshall Lee's Bookmaking: The Illustrated Guide to Design and Production, 2nd edition, because one of the long-time Press denizens has been telling me about the old ways of designing and printing books. (She started working here almost a year before I was born!) She showed me Lee's book, the second edition, published in 1979. She told me about the various hot-metal machines and linotype presses and the weird paper tapes they used for the typesetting computers. (See [The History of Typesetting] for a brief overview.) Such cool stuff. And I just found out on-line that the book is being published in a third edition early next year by [Norton]. I'm excited. I'll get to see how Lee has reorganized his book and reconceptualized the history of bookmaking after the computer revolution.
>> 2:39 PM
Yay last day of year.
>> 8:00 AM
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
I've decided I really want to visit [Vancouver] sometime this next year. The only place I've been in Canada (and remember visiting) is Toronto which is cool, too. Eh?
>> 3:01 PM
Monday, December 29, 2003
>> 3:23 PM
Every time I'm thrown into the company of other people, especially other families, I realize how unprepared I was for the social world by my family. We lived pretty much like hermits, never really having people over to our house (any of us, especially not our parents) or going over to friends' houses for dinner or to spend the night. I can count the number of times I spent at my friends' houses on my hands over all of our schooling years. Even within our family, we kept largely to ourselves. We never really had dinner together since my dad came home late every night from work.
I'm realizing how much there are sets of skills and conventions involved with dinner talk. Sharing embarrassing moments seems to be an important mode of connecting with others in these kinds of settings. At holiday dinners this year, I watched Rob's family and their friends basically rehash a lot of silly moments in their past. At lunch one day, Rob's sister asked me if there were any particularly silly moments in my past. I couldn't think of any, though, perhaps because I am not used to that kind of remembering.
I'm one of these people who only knows how to talk to others when it's about the questions that plague my mind. I'm not really all that nostalgic, and I don't dwell on shared past experiences much except perhaps a little with my siblings. But mostly, I only know how to talk to people if we're discussing stuff like music theory, artistic "talent," literary studies, feminism, critical theory, and other such stuff. I guess that's why I'm doing what I'm doing.... But it definitely does make me one of these weird, awkward people.
At Christmas Day dinner, I was silent mostly except one little moment when one of the family's friends asked me about Asian American literature. (This was the woman who asked me a few times earlier in the evening if I knew about these box/purse things that Japanese women wore under their kimonos.) I started talking about some of the writers like Frank Chin and Maxine Hong Kingston. And she nodded her head. But then suddenly, the lights went out and Rob came walking in with my birthday cake. This woman who had asked about my work was only distracting me after all, keeping me from turning my head to see them lighting candles on my cake.
>> 1:12 PM
Global marketers like H&M, the cheap chic clothing chain with stores in 18 countries, increasingly highlight models with racially indeterminate features. "For us the models must be inspiring and attractive and at the same time, neutral," said Anna Bergare, the company's Stockholm-based spokeswoman. The campaigns contrast notably with the original marketing strategy of Benetton, another global clothing chain, whose path-breaking 1980's ads highlighted models of many races, each very distinct. These days even Benetton's billboards play up the multiracial theme. In a typical campaign, a young man with Asian features and an Afro hairdo is posed beside a blue-eyed woman with incongruously tawny skin and brown hair with the texture of yarn.This is rather odd.... I've never heard this phrase before -- ethnically neutral. What does that mean? Ethnically ambiguous or indeterminate makes sense, but neutral? That implies ethnicity is not simply a range or variety, but some sort of polarized field. But somehow I doubt that Ms. Bergare or the other people are really thinking about how ethnicity functions as a culturally legible marker for differences in social status, economic means, and such.
>> 9:06 AM
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Duck and goose in store front (camera phone)
>> 4:53 PM
Empty store front in mall (camera phone)
>> 12:37 PM
Saturday, December 27, 2003
These days of rest are going by too quickly. Just a short week and a half before the new semester starts up again, and much to do by then. At least I think I'm finally in the mental state to tackle some of these projects -- put together syllabi for the classes I'm teaching, put together a course proposal for a fellowship in the Women's Studies department at Duke, put comments on final papers for a class this past semester, and start drafting my dissertation prospectus....
>> 9:35 AM
Friday, December 26, 2003
But as I was saying, I hope to see the day when the division between Asian American literature and Asian literatures is more evident to a university public (as well as a general American public -- but I think there are different questions at play there). At dinner last night, wonderful as the gathering was, I couldn't help but feel dejected that a couple there -- he a retired history professor and she a retired high school principal -- had no clue what Asian American literature was. He kept asking me if I knew of these Japanese writers (Mishima and Oe) and she kept asking me if I knew about these boxes/purses that Japanese women wore with their kimonos. At a certain point, I just feel like there is too much ground I have to cover even to respond to their questions. The assumptions underlying those questions are immense and heavy. I suppose this is the work that Asian American literary studies as a pedagogical project in the university is to undertake. But really, to have to deal with these things in a social setting with people who should know better really is disappointing. And in so many ways, that project is not the most interesting one for the field now, though it is an important foundational move.
>> 11:25 AM
Thursday, December 25, 2003
I want to be a drag king. It would be so cool. I've on occasion, mostly when I have longer hair, been called "miss," so the way I scan visually for some people already seems to be on the edges of gender truths. I've read a number of essays by butch Asian lesbians and the way they are read, often by other dykes, as boys. It would be so cool if I could cultivate a visual appearance that leads people to think they are seeing a dyke in drag.
Rob already knows about my obsession with lesbians. I'm not sure why, but I think the lesbians I've met are all so cool. I need to be closer friends with them. In college I wanted to join the Lesbian Avengers, but I couldn't because I wasn't a woman. There are all these communities and identities of lesbians, women-identified-women, lesbian feminists, and so on that I find so vibrant and engaging.
Me on my new camera phone
It's hard not to feel incredibly spoiled when I get a camera phone from my boyfriend for Christmas/my birthday when I already have a digital camera and a cell phone. Christmas at his mom's was definitely a loot-fest. As we left last night, he commented that his family must have collectively rescued the economy. It's incredible how much people do spend on gifts this time of year....
>> 2:05 PM
Cat and wrapping paper
>> 12:08 PM
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Silly giving me the look.
Wombats next 5 km.
>> 3:42 PM
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
My cool new watch, birthday present from my brother.
>> 8:18 PM
>> 2:32 PM
>> 2:08 PM
I am frog. Be nuts.
>> 2:05 PM
I also have been on the verge of finishing SKY Lee's Disappearing Moon Cafe, a novel that I didn't find particularly interesting, though it is well-written, for the first hundred-fifty pages, but then suddently it took a turn for the better when the narrator stopped in her tracks of narrating the suppressed past and began to question what it was that these narratives do since everyone tells these same supposedly-buried stories of family dramas, affairs, and tyrannical oppressed mother-in-laws. Of course, I'd been skimming the last fifty pages, so the details are a bit fuzzy for me. I really want to finish up the novel now, but haven't found the time to do so yet. Maybe today.... It's great that I finally see why so many literary critics cite this novel as one that is interestingly engaged with the question of narrating the past. At first I thought it was going to be one of those situations when people claim that a work of art does something new and exciting when it really doesn't.
Ok, time to run off to help Rob finish up some of his Xmas shopping. Maybe I'll play some [Xtina] Xmas songs. :)
>> 11:02 AM
Me at the Oakland Airport a few days ago.
Me yesterday in my apartment.
Santa is my co-pilot.
I killed Jason.
No pictures, please.
This man was taking the coins out of the photo booth. Later, he left behind his keys in the booth.
Sunny day, car window.
>> 10:51 AM
Monday, December 22, 2003[See's] Café Latté Krispys I brought in for the Press. For all of us, See's Candies was the chocolate candies place that our families loved. Seeing a box of See's Candies can evoke memories of our childhood homes all the way on the other side of the country. As you can see in the photos I posted a few days ago, my mother, brother, sister, and I stopped by a See's Candies store while I was there. We picked up a pound of Walnut Squares, quite possibly the most delicious nut-and-chocolate candy EVER. It's weird that we all like it so much because we tend to despise nut-and-chocolate candies (except my mom who loves all things nutty). The funny thing is that I bought this particular box of Krispys here a week earlier at a seasonal stand at the mall.
>> 3:46 PM
Sunday, December 21, 2003[Volcano High]. It is apparently this Korean kung fu flick that they have brought over and had various hip hop stars record the voices for the characters. There is definitely this continuing fascination with Asian martial arts, though looking at how and why black musicians and actors are interested in it adds a twist to the usual arguments about how mainstream America imagines Asian bodies. It does seem that a number of hip hop artists are particularly interested in the aesthetics and philosophies of martial arts. But there doesn't seem to be an understanding among these people that the constant insistence on Asian bodies as kung fu masters can be stifling to Asian Americans...
I saw the trailer for Spider-Man 2. I am so excited. (Surprise, eh? Like the new design by Sony?)
So much cleaning here in the apartment left to do. Actually, I haven't really started much. Piles of books I still need to organize and read. Lots of papers to file away. Lots of things to weed out and recycle.
I've been meaning to get back in the habit of writing a little something every day, here or elsewhere. Can't say that I've succeed yet, though I often find myself thinking at various points in the day that I should write down what I am thinking. This sprained wrist makes it slightly more difficult, though, since I can type but not handwrite very easily.
I ran into a friend at [A Southern Season] today. We ended up grabbing coffee at the bar there and chatted for two and a half hours. It was nice to catch up, though I realized only more agonizingly how incompetent I am at talking about my work. She was very encouraging, though, and said all the right things about how my project, as much as I was able to discuss it, seemed important and promising. We'll see.
>> 8:24 PM
Friday, December 19, 2003
Golden Gate Park.
Sign posted in parking garage.
Waiting for lunch.
Doors to restaurant.
Shopping carts at Andronico's Market.
Duck and frog storage bins.
Home of the chocolates.
Mirrors and doors.
Blurry trees on the way home.
>> 1:19 PM
Tuesday, December 16, 2003[Secretkings] writes,
5. Parenthood. I never want to be a parent. Never never never never never. Never never. Never never never never. Never! God, it would freak me out to have so much influence over the life of another human being. I don't want that kind of responsibility, ever.Ha ha. Yes.
>> 10:09 AM
Sunday, December 14, 2003[Arabs' Welcome of Arrest Is Tinged with Regret]:
"It is happy news but we wish it were the Iraqi people who had captured him, not U.S. troops, because this will give Bush a boost in the upcoming election," said Bahraini salesman Hussein Jafar as news of Saddam's capture swept through Arab capitals.This is of course really interesting. These are the nuances of the war against terrorism that generally get lost. Even if Iraqis and other Arabs and Muslims in the region are happy to be rid of Saddam Hussein, there can still be hostility against US intervention in the region. It's more than just the Iraqis being "ungrateful" to the US for liberating them from the dictator, though, but how it all happens and how the US does it. To be against Hussein does not mean to be with the US. To be glad to be rid of Hussein does not mean to embrace the US military.
Of course, some would argue that without the US, Hussein would still be in power as dictator. Probably. So what do you do with that understanding? It is really interesting how the interviewed people in the article note that some people saw Hussein as a hero for standing up against the US, unlike the other Middle East leaders. Errr....
This video of Hussein being examined by the doctor is really eerie. He looks like a crazy old man.
>> 8:55 AM
Hey look they caught Saddam Hussein. This is going to be big. What will the trial of Saddam Hussein be like? The Iraqi council asked the American military for an Iraqi-run, public trial, I think. It's kind of weird this NBC coverage on the capture. I'm sure it's the same on other television news stations. The way it was described.... he was cowering in a hole, running from the military men who found him. Whatever happens from here, at least there is some sense of closure here...
>> 6:49 AM
Thursday, December 11, 2003[Abercrombie Shuts the Book on Catalog]. Oh well. That's about the only thing the store had going for it -- the soft core porn photos blown up bigger than life-size in the stores and in the catalogs. The clothes they sell are utterly boring.
Which, of course, brings us to other stuff about the chain: [A&F's Image Problem: Racism]. You know, I don't really know what to say about the claim that A&F hires whites preferentially. I wouldn't want to go so far as to say that they're necessarily breaking any laws.... but then what could I say? Is it right for A&F to prefer young white salespeople to bolster the image they want to project of their brand? Legally, perhaps. Ethically (in regards to a sense of social justice), maybe not? So A&F celebrates a kind of jock/frat culture. Why is it important to claim that non-whites can be a part of that culture as well? Are we talking about some kind of social power that accrues to these representations that doesn't accrue to representations of non-white peoples? Frankly, many people would not really want to be like the guys and girls in the A&F catalogs. But is that the same as feeling that their images are somehow the embodiment of their social privilege?
>> 5:01 PM
I actually managed to finish grading the first set of final papers (portfolios) and calculate final grades for that one class by today. Portfolios are actually easier to grade since so many students don't bother to revise their earlier drafts and/or make only superficial changes. So they just get the same grade I gave them earlier (provisionally). It is wonderful to see some students really get what revising a paper is, though. I suppose that's why I give myself this extra burden of looking at the papers twice for this first semester of composition. (I don't do it for the second semester of the year-long composition sequence.)
I just picked up the second set of final papers, though, and must now sit down to grade those. I think I'll actually calculate the grades of all the students' other work first, though, rather than waiting until later to compile all the numbers. This set of papers will take much longer to grade. In addition to having eleven more students (and hence papers) in this class than the other, I have not really looked at these papers before, and they are 8-10 page research papers. Eek. I've not done this before. I hope they will be more interesting to read, at least.
I (unrealistically) hope to finish grading these by tomorrow night since I leave for my short trip to California on Saturday morning. I'd rather not have to grade on the trip, especially since it is a four-day visit. But we'll see what happens.
In any case, it feels great to have turned in grades for the composition course already. As usual, I gave about half the class A's and the other half B's, though this semester I actually failed one student. I hope that doesn't come back to bite me. (He's a student athelete, and I'm afraid the pressures of maintaining a certain GPA to play might make the situation even worse than a non-athlete failing.)
>> 12:24 PM
Friday, December 05, 2003
>> 3:28 PM
Thursday, December 04, 2003
I'm ordering a pizza with artichoke hearts, fresh garlic, and spinach to take home for dinner with Rob tonight. Mmmm.... Peppers Pizza.....
I'm trying to rev up my research for defining a dissertation topic, but I'm unable to do much reading or writing since I'm falling asleep as soon as I get home. I hope this jet lag thing doesn't last too long. I'd like to try to read at least one novel a week between now and the beginning of next semester. And do a lot of writing down my thoughts.
I had my last class sessions for my two classes today. What a relief! Now I just have to grade a set of portfolios (collected today) and a set of papers (collecting next Thursday). I also have to do the annoying thing of compiling and calculating final grades. There's always a lot of little things to do. As much as teaching stresses me out, I somehow keep saying yes to teaching courses. I'm not only teaching two sections of composition next spring, but I've been asked to take over the course that I taught this semester for next semester (the instructor backed out this week). And being the fool for money that I am, I said yes.
>> 3:36 PM
Wednesday, December 03, 2003[Beijing Warns That Taiwan Referendum Could Lead to War]:
But mainland leaders, who regard Taiwan as a renegade province, now seem alarmed that softer cross-Straits diplomacy, and China's preoccupation with its extensive leadership transition, may have sent the wrong signals. They have now resumed making bellicose threats whenever they see Mr. Chen tip-toeing toward the edge of declaring independence, the kind of aggressive posturing that some American officials fear could spiral into armed conflict.Certainly not the time for my parents to be moving back to Taiwan. But as long as the status of Taiwan as a sovereign state remains unresolved, it might never be the time.
My childhood life goal was always to be a hermit (and it still is a lot of the time) because I just don't understand what really is at stake with all these political conflicts. How much is mainland China in control of Taiwan these days anyways? Why is it so important for China to consider Taiwan one of its provinces?
When I was in Taipei this past week, it was strange to see how important it seemed for the city and country to be "Chinese." I've always had a very different understanding of what it means to be Taiwanese or Chinese. My parents, while of Chinese descent, were of the population that settled on the island prior to the twentieth century who were subsequently relegated to second-class citizenship by the KMT regime. The stories of the repressive violence of the time are horrific. (There's one film by [director Hou Hsiao-hsien], A City of Sadness, that is incredibly moving and beautifully shot and tells the story of one family broken by the violence of the times.) My parents have always been very anti-mainland Chinese. As a result, I have always thought of being Taiwanese as being somehow distanced from being Chinese despite the shared language (though of a different dialect) and cultural history. But even those Taiwanese today who want independence for the island are heavily invested in the idea of being culturally Chinese. (Many of these people are of course descendents of the Chinese who fled Communist China during the civil war.)
In any case, I will always be wary of these discourses of being somehow "authentically" Chinese or Taiwanese. While I was in Taiwan, I got a lot of attitude from people when they found out I didn't speak Chinese. This is something that is a sore spot for many Chinese Americans, and something that many have argued is what makes us importantly American. (That English-only attitude of being American is troubling in itself, but for a different reason.) I find it puzzling that there is this sense that if you are ethnically "Chinese," then you should speak the language. On both sides of the Pacific Ocean, people seem to think that language is somehow a part of your blood, and that you cannot be a whole person if you don't speak the language of your ancestors. No one rolls their eyes, though, if a German American doesn't speak German. No one insists that she should get in touch with her ancestors by learning German.....
>> 2:54 PM
Monday, December 01, 2003[Link and Think]
I don't think I have ever, in the last few years of doing this World AIDS Day / Day Without Art / Day Without Weblogs / Link and Think type thing, really talked about my relationship to the AIDS epidemic. It's a complicated thing, of course, since being a gay man the last couple of decades has meant somehow being a part of AIDS discourse. Like many others coming of age in the 1990s, I first connected with visible gay male communities (at least in spirit) through AIDS organizations and other AIDS-prevention related work like safer sex programs. Way before I could even allow myself to think of myself as gay, I was more willing to consider myself someone who worked to combat the AIDS epidemic. Being an active supporter of HIV-transmission prevention work and AIDS education meant in some ways being gay affirmative, without having to say those words....
That much isn't very difficult to talk about. For all those very confusing years, I was never worried that I might have contracted HIV because I had never had sex with anyone. But now is different. I was tested once while I lived in Connecticut. Negative then. It's been five years now. It may seem strange, but I haven't been tested since because in addition to all the anxieties the test brings up about my health status, I have also been particularly anxious about being "out" with the campus health services and the state of North Carolina. (Now that sodomy laws are no longer constitutional, it makes it a little easier, in theory, for me to talk openly to student health services about certain things.) As far as I can tell, the state still keeps a list of all people who test positive for HIV (and who's to say they don't keep a list of all people who even take the test?).
I think I remember checking when I first moved here, and it looked like student health services offers confidential testing, but all results would be added to your medical file. (Duke's student health offers a "super-confidential" test; only positive results are reported to the state and put in your medical file.) Anonymous testing is not allowed in the state. It just freaks me out to think that the state could have my name on a list somewhere. Here are some links to the issue of name reporting of HIV positive persons:
[ACT UP NY Position on Names Reporting]
[HIV Criminal Law: Confidential Names]
[ACLU HIV Surveillance and Name Reporting]
A cursory web search doesn't seem to reveal any very recent sources on the issue. In 1997 and 1998, there was a big to-do about the state laws requiring a name registry. And as far as I can tell, all (most?) states now still require the reporting of HIV-positive results and there isn't much of a push to undo the laws. Are these laws helpful? Are they necessary? Have they helped to curb the spread of HIV? Have they done any harm to HIV-positive and/or gay populations? Have they further stigmatized or criminalized AIDS? Whether or not I am justified in feeling threatened by mandatory reporting in North Carolina, it has definitely made it easier for me to put off getting tested.
When I started going out with Rob, he seemed much more confident about these things. It was a foregone conclusion for him that he should get tested and share his results with me. I could only offer him the observation that I hadn't really had a history of transmission-risky behavior. And it was enough for him. We played it safe at first, but in the past year or so, have often abandoned safer sex. It's really inexcusable on my part, though, not having been tested....
The student health services is providing free HIV testing this Thursday. I think I will go in for the test.
>> 3:47 PM
atom site feed
asian american writers' workshop
the new york times
jon carroll @ sfgate
the village voice
let bygones be...
the old stuff