Monday, October 30, 2006

everything must go...

After much deliberation and great reluctance, I'm going offline for a while until I get me a job. I'm playing it safe for fear that stories of my ass-clenching adventures might jeopardize an otherwise promising career in academia. I officially have no opinion or personal life. Sad, isn't it? Mind you this decision has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I have been subsisting exclusively on NPR, coffee and canned soup. So all writing will be suspended until I get hired somewhere. For now, I bid you peace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

always in motion is the future

I've been a little preoccupied lately.

This is the season of job applications, the time when I take the first steps towards becoming a person with a real job. That is if all goes well. But, added to the stress of looking at the past 10 years of my life under a microscope, lamely bulleted on the pages of my CV, I also had a medical emergency.

What really prompted this was a scare that I had as I was lying on the floor watching TV. Maybe I was watching Dr. 90210, maybe I wasn't. In any case, I gave myself an impromptu breast exam, quite possibly my first ever if we don't count the exams conducted while parked in a driveway in the back seat of a car, when I thought I felt something on my left breast. Could it be? Was it? Aren't I too young for this? My future swirled before me eyes. Bandaged up in the hospital, surrounded by friends and family, I wouldn't have to finish my dissertation or go through any of the hassle of a job search. It all seemed terrible and wonderful at the same time.

It's surprisingly easy to convince yourself that you have a tumor.

I went in for my physical this afternoon, feeling vulnerable in my paper robe, and mildly obsessing about whether the protective sheet that I was sitting on had been changed since the last patient. I told the doctor that I may only have a few months to live and pointed to my breast, upon which she asked me to lie down so that she could pummel my boob with the tips of her fingers, taking little teeny steps all around, back and forth, without any detectable expression on her face.

After a minute of this she stopped and asked, "Why don't you show me where you felt it?"

I pointed to the specific spot and she probed around there for another minute, revisiting the same spot over and over until she stepped back at last and looked me square in the eye.


I took a deep breath. My heart paused. She didn't smile.

"What you felt there. Was your rib."

Alright. So I'm not dying. And she was sympathetic, saying that it was an easy mistake because I was thin, though I know she really meant... flat-chested. I guess I won't be trading in my 34A's for a pendulous set of double D's after all. It would have been such a good excuse. But at least this experience has confirmed a couple of things for me. First, I would have made a really crappy doctor. Second, I should go ahead and make that dental appointment soon because that root canal that I had been fearing may just be nothing more than plaque buildup.

I feel so relieved. And empowered. Maybe that comes from referring to my boobs five times in this post. Wait, that's six.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

buns of steel

I picked a friend up from LAX yesterday and got on the 10 headed east. I was going about 40 mph in typical late afternoon traffic, listening to my friend talking about paragliding in Yellowstone, when I suddenly realized with some degree of embarassment that I had been clenching my buttcheeks in rapid fire succession for the past 15 minutes, a behavior which can only seem to the uninitiated to be... a bit bizarre. I would alternate between my left and right buttcheeks, clenching one at a time, so that it corresponded to the gaps in the highway lines. On a highway there are, of course, a lot of gaps, thus explaining why my ass was firing like a machine gun set to kill and destroy.

I think it may be a sign of OCD.

I have, quite frankly, been doing this ever since I can remember. As far back as middle school, with my dad driving, I used to clench my buttocks whenever we'd cross intersections, not just once or twice, but during the entire drive marking every single break in the curb with a little squeeze. Reading Catcher in the Rye might have had something to do with it. Especially the part where Holden Caulfield describes his fear of disappearing every time he stepped off the sidewalk onto the street. I identified with him the most right then, he gave voice to something I didn't even know was there. In any case, it's not something I've thought about much since, it's just something I do... usually unconsciously... and it gives me a sense of overall well-being. Over the many years that I've been doing this, it has also given me a pair of very tight buttocks.

I don't want to claim that I have OCD lightly, because it is apparently a serious medical condition that people suffer from daily. And I'm not sure if I have the "obsessive" part or just the "compulsive" part of it. Supposedly, "obsessive" behavior is when you obsess about an unreasonable fear or anxiety while the "compulsion" is to neutralize those fears with some sort of repetitive act. If Wikipedia can be considered an authority on the matter, it seems that I have at least a few telling characteristics of OCD. For instance, a fear of "human body secretions such as saliva, sweat, tears or mucus, or excretions such as urine or feces." But who doesn't have these fears? Let's save that discussion for another day.

The more I think of it, the more this buttclenching compulsion seems okay to me. I bet everybody out there has a significant degree of compulsive disorder. I think this tendency is programmed into us to make up for our lack of innate behaviors like rabbits or lizards have. It's a survival mechanism. Just one that no one really talks about. And if anyone has ever seen Nomar Garciaparra up at bat, they'd realize that greatness can only be achieved by the truly compulsive. So it is with one butt squeeze at a time that I too will try and make my mark upon this world.

Monday, August 14, 2006

my plums are better than yours

"This is Just to Say"

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

--William Carlos Williams

(I know what you were really thinking...)

(shame on you)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Despite my complete disinterest in George Clooney as an actor or sex figure, I spent the greater part of my dreams last night stroking his stubbled cheek with the back of my hand. I can still feel the prickliness of it. It was so tender and intimate that I think I am now totally smitten with him. Can someone give me a good reason to feel otherwise? I really don't want to have to give Joe Mantegna the boot.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

picnic at the tar pits

At an outdoor screening of Cinema Paradiso this past weekend, I saw Joe Mantegna, a guy who I've had a crush on since I saw him in The House of Games in which he, a professional card player, delivers my all time favorite line:

"So, you wanna see how a truly bad man plies his trade?"

He had me at "so". Never mind that he's a hundred years old now. I could recognize that buttery soft voice anywhere. But alas, I think he's already taken. If a stranger happened to sidle up next to me and whisper that line in my ear, I think I'd have to bear his children.

In any case, this topped off a spectacular night outside. Just spectacular enough that I finally managed to stay awake through the whole movie, which in the past was not for a lack of trying. Cinema Paradiso ranks among my top ten snoozers, right up there next to Yentil. And at least Yentil is broken up with some catchy song and dance numbers... "Papa, can you hear me...?"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

for the good of golf!

Not to beat this golf thing to death or anything but one of the reasons why I find golf endlessly amusing is that it is a game that actually makes rulings as inane as the ones below, all published on the official USGA website. To these, I've added my own suggested rulings.

18/3 Ball in Fork of Tree Moves in Relation to Ground But Not in Relation to Fork
Q. A ball rests in the fork of a branch of a tree. The player climbs the tree to play his next stroke. The branch bends under his weight. Although the ball has moved relative to the ground, it has not moved relative to the fork. Is the ball deemed to have moved?

A. The ball is deemed not to have moved since it did not move in relation to the fork of the tree in which it was lodged.

Me: Wha? First, dislodge the ball up your ass and get down from the freaking tree.

18-1/6 Ball at Rest Moved by Blowing Tumbleweed
Q. A tumbleweed blowing across the course strikes a ball at rest and knocks it into the hole. What is the procedure?

A. In the circumstances, a tumbleweed is an outside agency. Rule 18-1 applies and the ball must be replaced without penalty.

MS: Blowing tumbleweed is an act of god. Collect your damn clubs, head to the 7-eleven immediately and play the lottery.

18-1/7 Ball in Plastic Bag Moves When Bag Blown to New Position by Wind
Q. A player’s ball comes to rest in a plastic bag that is lying on the ground. Before the player can invoke Rule 24-1b, a gust of wind blows the bag and the ball to a new position. In proceeding under Rule 24-1b, should the player drop the ball?

A. Wind is not an outside agency. However, if an object being moved by the wind moves a ball, the object is an outside agency in the circumstances — see Decision 18-1/6. In this case, the bag, not the wind, caused the ball to move. Accordingly, under Rules 18-1 and 24-1b, the player must drop the ball directly under the place where it originally lay in the bag.

MS: Plastic bags are acts of man. Lie down on ground, place head in bag, wrap golf towel around neck.

23/3 Half-Eaten Pear
Q. A half-eaten pear lies directly in front of a ball in a bunker and there is no pear tree in the vicinity of the bunker. In the circumstances, is the pear an obstruction rather than a loose impediment, in which case the player could remove it without penalty?

A. No. A pear is a natural object. When detached from a tree it is a loose impediment. The fact that a pear has been half-eaten and there is no pear tree in the vicinity does not alter the status of the pear.

MS: Yeah but, when the pear fell on the fairway and no one was there to see it, did it make a sound?

23/5.5 Status of Insect-Like Creatures
For the purposes of the Rules of Golf, creatures that are similar to insects, such as spiders, are considered to be insects and are, therefore, loose impediments. A web made by a spider is considered to be a cast made by an insect and is also a loose impediment, even if attached to another object. (New)

MS: This is clearly more than a ruling. It is a total reclassification of the natural world.

23/6 Dead Land Crab
Q. A ball lodges against a dead land crab in a bunker. May the crab be removed without penalty?

A. No. A dead land crab is a natural object and thus a loose impediment and not an obstruction. Removal of the crab would be a breach of Rule 13-4.

MS: What is a dead land crab doing on a golf course? And more importantly, do you have any butter on you?

25/6 Status of Saliva
Q. What is the status of saliva?

A. In equity (Rule 1-4), saliva may be treated as either an abnormal ground condition (Rule 25-1) or a loose impediment (Rule 23-1), at the option of the player.

MS: The status of saliva is that it is disgusting and meant only for the mastication of food. That is, unless there is the swappage of saliva which should be conducted in the nearest bunker with the flagstick tended and all balls in their sleeve.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

the ugliest swing in televised golf

I had a chance a to catch Charles Barkley on TV at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe a couple of weeks ago. I knew he was a fanatic golfer, getting into serious betting matches with Michael Jordon on the course. So I was completely unprepared for how indescribably ugly his golf game was, despite the announcer's warning right before Barkley teed off "Any viewers who are faint of heart should turn away from the screen now."

I've been a Barkley fan for years. Ever since he used to drag his fat ass up and down the court at The Spectrum in Philly making unexpectedly sprightly plays. And now that he's retired, the way he plays golf only makes me like him more. He is simultaneously humble and arrogant. And you have never heard better self-analysis of someone's own game. What can I say but, dude, I love this guy. The following are some excerpts and priceless quotes by or about Barkley. Even if you can't stand golf, he'll still manage to entertain you.

Barkley on himself:
Q: What do you think when you hear all these other celebrities mocking your golf game? Whenever you ask a celebrity who the worst celebrity golfer is, it's always your name coming up.
A: It doesn't bother me. I can take a joke. That's what wrong with a lot of people these days. Nobody can take a joke anymore. Besides, my game's not good right now. If they make it funny, I'll laugh. What am I going to say, "I don't stink"? I do stink.

Q: What's the state of your game right now?
A: It's not good. It's not good at all. I've retired from golf. It just got too frustrating. I don't play anymore.

Q: So this is sort of a boxer's retirement?
A: It's a don't-hit-no-more-people retirement. I get in those celebrity tournaments and I'm hitting some old lady in the crowd. I'm rich, man. I can't be hitting people. It's a liability issue. Especially with all these white people in the crowd at golf tournaments. I can see the headlines: "Charles Barkley kills white dude with a golf ball." I don't need to be looking for my Al Cowlings. [Fellow TNT studio analyst] Kenny Smith and I aren't that close. Seriously, I hit too many people.

Barkley on Tiger:
"Tiger and I were in Vegas playing golf not so long ago, and he asked if I'd heard about the new super Kmart store being built there," Barkley recalls. "And I said, 'No, where are they gonna build it?' And Tiger said, 'In the space between your ball and mine.' My God, he even beats me talking trash."

Joe Kleine on Barkley:
"We loved playing golf with Charles. The only thing easier than playing golf with Charles is going to the ATM. He’s awful.

We were playing over at Gainey Ranch one time. We had some death match going with Roy Green and Majerle. We’re putting everything out and playing the ball as it lies. His ball was right next to the car path but he’s got a great lie. He and Roy are over there plotting. He said, “I’m not going to take a drop. I’m going to stand on the path and I’m going to hit it.” That’s when they had spikes on the shoes and so he proceeds to start with his back swing and you could just hear (his feet shuffling). It looked like he was moonwalking, making all this noise. It was a par five and he proceeds to smack this ball. He probably hit it 260 yards and it never went higher than three feet off the ground. If somebody would have been standing out there he would have killed them. It was in the air for a long time. After he hits it, the club stops on the way through, and then he goes into his follow through and poses. We just sat there. He’s the worst golfer I’ve ever seen.

The thing that was weird, when I first came to Phoenix he had this really nice swing. It was a normal swing and then he went to Houston. He came back that summer and we were playing golf, and he had that hitch and giddyup and getalong thing. I don’t know who got a hold of him in Houston. My theory is he started teaching himself. It’s painful to watch. He was out there hitting balls on the range and we thought he was joking. Then he went to the first tee and he had the same swing. "

And that swing would be this one... (look away if you're feeling queasy.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


A good friend of mine, whose judgment leaves a lot to be desired, has left me two boxes of heavy weight cotton paper that hold his dissertation, the same one that he's been slaving over for the past couple of years, and one that if I don't file in a timely manner will ruin his career irreparably and probably leave him starving in the streets, him, his wife, and his goddamn adorable children.

I suppose when I accepted the responsibility of filing it for him, I should have mentioned a couple of my more obvious flaws so that he'd have a better idea of what I was capable of... not doing. Like the fact that I have a $280 fine at the university library for overdue books. And the fact that these books have been sitting in the car for about 3 months now but I've yet to manage to carry them across the 50 yards from the parking lot to the return counter. Or perhaps I should have mentioned to him that I haven't been to the dentist since 2001, and only then because my BFF forced me to go out of sheer disgust. It's a wonder that I can get boys to kiss me.

The sad truth is that sometimes it's easier to do stuff for other people than it is for yourself. If only there was such a thing as a dissertation swap meet. Where you could trade writing a whole chapter with someone else for a couple of weeks. Life would be much easier if, for instance, I were writing a paper on the "Statistical anomalies surrounding sasquatch sightings in the great American Northwest".

Well, since I know he reads this, I will consider him now fully disclosed. He better pray that I have a greater likelihood of filing his dissertation than, let's say, rotating my tires. The latter will never happen any time soon.

Just kidding of course. CH, I won't let you down. The check is in the mail. The book is in the depository. The dissertation is... wait, where does it go?

(The photo above is not mine but I love it. The work of Edward Burtynsky.)

Friday, June 30, 2006

The day that I got over you
The sun was gold, the sky was blue.
I went to Woodleigh, went by train.
What fate, or sense, had tried in vain
to say so many times before
I heard at last. At last I saw.

What sense, or fate, had tried to say
Was that a stunning summer's day
And all life's other little treats--
kir royales, sports cars (leather seats)--
Could never be enhanced by you.
You are not good. You are not true.

You are not brave. You are not sound.
Outside the pub I look around.
Your absence gave the village scene
That perfect glow. It might have been
Paradise, or the South of France.
For giving you a second chance

Fate could have scolded me with sleet,
Dark grumbling skies. Instead, a treat
Your joyless hand could not describe.
No chance. This shining day's a bribe
I'm way past ready to accept.
Briefly I missed your rude, inept,

Changeable, narcissistic form.
Then I cheered up. It was so warm,
The sun so bright, the sky so clear
The day I made you disappear:
Today, the twenty-eight of June
Have a nice life and afternoon.

-by sophie hannah

Friday, June 23, 2006

it feels so good when it hits your lips

When I was five, my brother used to be in charge of our after-school snacks. We lived in Plymouth Gardens at the time, a rambling apartment community surrounded by an imposing metal fence. Sometimes we would have to climb that fence which would scare the bejeezus out of me. After school, I would walk with my brother to the 7-Eleven down the street where he would buy us a slew of candy to tide us over until dinner: Poprocks, Bubblicious, Blowpops, Ringpops, Now n Laters. Then to round things out nutritionally, Slim Jims for himself and a Firecracker for me.

A Firecracker, for those who grew up in some remote village far from civilization, is a processed sausage that usually sat right next to the cash register, unrefrigerated and theoretically fully cooked. It was packaged in a plastic sheath that was clear on one side, looking a bit like a used condom--though certainly I didn't think so at the time--marinated in a fiery, vinegary, heavenly brine that you could see through the loose plastic film.

Oh how I loved the Firecracker. Having been raised almost exclusively on a breakfast of scrapple, I had a very refined palate when it came to processed meat products. This particular sausage was milled to a wonderful smoothness, like a hot dog, but with a powerful kick that marked the beginning of an inexhaustible affinity for eating spicy foods. I would eat it slowly, one meaty bite at a time, gently pushing the sausage up through the wrapper until it was gone. Succulent. Then I'd tilt the wrapper upside down and let the hot vinegar seep into my mouth... And if my memory serves correct, I proceeded to suck that thing dry.

Somewhere along the way I seem to have lost my tolerance for heat. This was made abundantly clear the other night at an Ethopian restaurant where a stuffed jalepeno kicked my ass, a change in me that has only occurred in the last year or so, making me suspect that my tolerance for spicy foods is somehow tied to the viability of my eggs, if it is true what Max B. says about my declining years of fertility. He informs me I have at most 4 good years left. But at this point, my greater sense of loss is not over my unborn but over whether or not I will be able to enjoy a Firecracker in the same way ever again. But I daresay, it's worth a try.

It only now strikes me, after writing this, belching cheap and watery sentiment, that maybe I'm not writing about Firecrackers at all but about sex and blowjobs. In the process of recounting this story, I seemed to have lost my bearings and for an instant I really thought that I was telling you a revealing and affectionate story of my childhood. I should know better by now... a story about sausages is always about sex.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

someone tell me what is up with this weather!?!?

I swear it's not the bottle of wine talking, nor the salmon shitake parpadelle pasta with ginger dressing salad that is making me think that tonight is the most beautiful of early summer's evenings when the kiss of picnics and bbqs are in the air, nor the smell of jasmine or whatever the fuck kind of white flowers they are that have haunted me ever since i've moved to l.a. that i've never figured out quite what they were, nor the korea-togo soccer match (actually screw that cuz i don't think i really care) , nor the coffee that i had midafternoon with hijoo with an illicit cigarette or two where we talked about absolutely nothing and still had a good time, nor that quiet beauty of dusk when i can barely hear the traffic anymore and the pressures of late night have not yet set in, nor the feeling like i still have an entire summer of fucking around left to do without major recrimination for the real responsibilities of papers, writing, conferences, deadlines, where my neighbors can screw as loud as they please because i'm just happy that they're getting some and that it's all really just funny anyway when you listen to people having sex and but what is that ouie-ouie sound that that guy is making how very californian, and oh, the sun is gone now but still warm enough outside for a constitutional around the block to make the day last just a little bit longer... yeah that's right all you indolent motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally.

Now that I think of it, maybe it is the bottle of wine talking.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


"...We have located the enemy fleet under the command of Admiral KompĆ¼ter, but do not yet have visual contact. We suggest the best course of action is to fire at random into their vicinity and listen for the impact of the shells..."


"...We believe this battle will not be over until one or other fleet is sunk in it's entirety. Our gunners await your commands. We're counting on you, Sir..."


You sunk my battleship!

(Awesome photo not my own.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

elephants' graveyard

I don't know why but a lot of old people go to Carl's Jr. to eat salads. There's something depressing about this. Partly, it's just annoyance at having to eat my six dollar jalepeno burger in such an environment of reprobation. This afternoon, I was biting down into this formidable creation, my eyes closing involuntarily to get a good mouthful, jaws unhinging like a boa constrictor, when I felt the gaze of the grey-haired lady next to me, clutching the perversity that was her low carb bunless and seemingly meatless "burger" in hand. She had a pair of those wraparound sunlight resistant sunglasses on so I couldn't really tell what she was thinking. But I imagined that her eyes were sending me darts of jealousy, suppressed torment, resignation. Her companion, unaware of the tensions being exchanged, was stirring fat-free Italian dressing into his salad.

When people get older, and are that much closer to death, I think they should enjoy what is left of life. Instead of squandering away their last available years of pleasure on illusions of good health. Isn't it a little late for such preventive measures? How many more minutes will they be adding to their lives by eating one more salad? It's unethical to eat salads at burger joints. And senior citizens should be particularly prohibited from this type of behavior. Those sorts of people are probably the same ones who convert to Christianity on their deathbed, futilely searching for truth in the cliche "better late than never". I'm sorry but sometimes it is too late.

Only slightly more depressing is the MacDonald's in Koreatown on 8th and Western. That branch is popular with old Korean folks who have no place to go during the day. If they were in Seoul, they would be meeting their friends at Pagoda Park, flirting with other seniors, playing chess outdoors under the hum of the cicadas hidden in the canopy of trees. But in LA, where there are no parks and only blocks of concrete, they amass at this MacDonald's with packed lunches and thermoses of tea, too frugal even to buy themselves a cup of coffee. I was told that the owner of that location felt so sorry for them that he erected a tent outside and put picnic tables out there for them. So now you can see them lounging about a little more comfortably, but still with that displaced look about them like they didn't know how it is that they came to be in America.

When I get really old, that's when I plan to be truly debaucherous. My current regimen of exercise and healthy eating is all just part of my greater retirement plan. I figure that once I pass 60, that's license to start drinking continuously from morning to night. I'll take up smoking again and live exclusively on fried chicken and pork products. All of us need goals and have dreams. Some are more attainable than others. I feel very fortunate right now that I have the foresight to work towards a tangible future and achieve these goals though they may loom distant and daunting. I vow to let nothing stand in my way.

Monday, May 22, 2006

rossum's universal robots

People do things that surprise me all the time. I think I may be guilty of chronically underestimating those around me. Like when my brother got into his first choice college early decision when I was sure that I was the smartest one in the family (early delusional symptoms). Or when a friend from high school became a successful children's book writer. Or when all my friends started getting their Ph.D.'s before me... no wait that's another issue. But my friend Kathleen has really outdone all my expectations.

I'm leaving for London today ostensibly to help her with her "robot project" but I don't think she needs my help any more. In one of those rare flukes where someone not only does something they say they're going to do, but they do it quite impressively well, this robot project, which started out rather humbly as just a performance of the play "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)" by Karel Capek, the earliest robot piece probably ever written, was transformed into a full blown, Microsoft sponsored event with films and discussions led by famous professors, all made possible by the sheer will and tenacity and vision of one Kathleen Richardson, Ph.D. student extraordinaire. Though I'd like to think that my believing in her had something to do with it.

She's gotten some press through Cambridge University and the BBC. For anyone interested in Kathleen's work as an anthropologist studying robots and their relation to the people and society that have created them go to her website here.

And for those who read my last post and think that I'm actually on the lam, I will not confirm or deny. But I certainly can confirm that I will be punting down the Cambridge River and reciting ee.cumings under the pale moonlight. So if/until I return... beedeebeedee.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

don't pass go, go directly to jail

I feel dirty.

Somehow I didn’t file my taxes this year.

I used to have an accountant named Don Chang. He worked in Koreatown out of a little strip mall. Quite on a whim, I’d saunter in unannounced every April clutching the five pieces of paper that constituted my tax portfolio and sit in his waiting room being chatted up by his secretary who reminded me of my mom. He’d eventually call me in, calm in the eye of a storm, ensconced in a tornado of papers, wall to wall, floor to ceiling, all of it belonging to people who clearly had very complicated financial lives. And despite the fact that I usually walked in quite at the last minute at the busiest time of the year, he would ask me how I was doing, talk about his kids, ask me about my studies, and generally just be the nicest guy in the world as if we were sitting on a porch in Tenessee sipping lemonade just to pass the day. Quite the charmer. That’s probably why I could never bring myself to complain about the fact that he would ream me with a $70 bill after he spent about three minutes actually filling out my tax forms. The best part, outside of the luxury of pushing a wad of paper in his direction as my sole tax filing act, was that he would bundle my copies into a lovely envelope with company letterhead that made everything so very official feeling. It was also a comfort to know that in the case of any error, he would be investigated before I would. In fact, I almost had to take no responsibility whatsoever. That is $70 of pure freedom.

I should never have stopped going to Don Chang. His name “Don” by the way is synonymous with “money” in Korean. Very auspicious.

At some point, I had the brilliant idea that I would save the money and file my taxes myself. It was a deluded attempt at being a responsible adult. But, hell, everyone else was doing it. And it was starting to get embarrassing having an accountant. After all, I was in grad school, I was poor and Asian, which in some twisted way translates into having to file your own taxes.

Well, the whole point of this is that I didn’t do such a good job on my own. After efiling my taxes this year, in an over optimistic gesture, I went back online to check and see if my tax return had come in yet. In one of those heart stopping moments that only can happen in things computer-related—like when you accidentally delete a document, get the blue screen of death, or unintentionally reformat your hard drive—that I realized that while I had diligently finished the whole efile process, I had never actually… filed… my… return.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure that those Turbotax programs are designed to be idiot-proof. Which only points to one sad fact. Don’t say it, don’t say it.

So, do you think there's a warrant out for my arrest? Will I still get my return? I plead innocence. Incompetence. Insanity. Oh, how I hope that Don will take me back next year despite my errant ways. I really miss him.

Tell my mom I love her.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

they slay me

I have a bunch of favorite writers who you could say number among the famous people, like (in no particular order) David Sedaris, Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto, Dave Eggers... just to name a few. The things that is especially important about this list is that they are alive and still producing so that there's a feeling of suspense that I'll never know what they'll come up with next. Suspense is very important in sustaining people's attention.

But the other kind of writer that probably impresses me more are those rare writers who really know how to turn out a good email. What distinguishes a pretty good email from a truly fanstastic email is generally whether it can solicit a solid snort out of me, or even better if I get spit on the screen. Spitting being my unofficial academy awards for email genius. If I take a loose count right now, I can say that there has been only... hold on... seven people in my entire lifetime who have been able to make me spit on my computer screen. I'm not going to list them here lest the people who didn't make the cut get offended.

But prominent on this list has to be my brother. I don't know what it is about the way he writes, maybe it is our genetic compatibility that makes his writing so appealing to me.

This is a digital artistic rendering of my brother, the one who is currently in Cambridge, England being inducted as partner into his firm, and one with whom I clearly share no common genes. Outside of the obvious fact that we don't resemble each other at all, myself being the far better looking one, he is also much better at everything than I am--smarter, funnier, better writer, earns more money (though not hard mind you), lower golfing handicap.

Friday, May 05, 2006

thinking out loud

At a practice practice jobtalk that I gave early this week, where I bedazzled my audience with a slideshow to the extent of which has never been seen on this side of the Pacific, I was taught a very important lesson about giving presentations.

Apparently, or so my friends tell me, if you're trying to be convincing, especially to people who you eventually want to hire you, it's not a very good idea to say in the middle of a speech anything along the following lines: "While I know that history should usually be grounded in empirical fact... I have to admit that this particular chapter is based on pure conjecture."

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Having not posted for what has been nearly a month, to the chagrin of the two people who read this blahg, I can't figure out how best to start the ball rolling again, so I'll just launch right into it by saying that I sat in someone else's urine today.

Like all people, I'd like to say that this has never happened to me before. But that would be a lie. It would be closer to the truth if I said that I used to sit in urine all the time growing up, never quite having mastered the art of putting the toilet seat down in the middle of the night. Combine that with my brother's rather questionable aim and you have one soggy ass.

What just might be worse than sitting in someone else's urine is the realization that you totally forgot you sat in someone else's urine until you got into bed just a moment ago. Any potential for blissful sleep ruined by that routine mental review of the day that takes place just before you nod off. In a fleeting moment it all came back to me, the suspiciously warm seat, the creeping tingling sensation in my damp pants, the faint smell of ammonia and then... the crippling knowledge that I haven't showered since this happened.

Which is why I sit here typing.

What better way to get over my personal mortification than to share it with anyone who will listen? It's always worked for me before. Now, the big dilemma is whether I bother to get in the shower after I've finished this ritual cleansing here. Is there really any point? Can't it wait until tomorrow?

Let me just tell it like it is. There is a 99% chance that I will jump right back into bed after this. I think that this is a good thing. It means that I have my priorities in order. Sleep is clearly more important than good hygiene. Although sleep ranks lower than the Food Network but higher than my dissertation on my scale of importance.

For anyone who was wondering, it was a sordid month for me this past month but I am well on my way to returning to top form. In addition to getting over some hurdles in the past week or two, I have a most exciting trip to London coming up in a couple of weeks that involves robots, thespians, great big pints of beer and if the gods are kind, no more urine stories.

Friday, April 07, 2006

giant fish googled

Aw hell. I only just realized that I missed April Fool's Day. My second favorite holiday after Buddha's Birthday. And by a week no less. My plans are foiled! So I guess I'll just have to wait until next year. Until then, allow me to post a picture that I found somewhere on the internet under the search "giant fish".

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

a baby after my own beer

At no insistence of my own, my dear friends the Hanscoms named their second child "Stella" who was born today, named I hope after one of my favorite beers which I foresee will ensure that she'll be crisp, fragrant and delightful especially on a lazy summer night. Or else she will drink and cuss like a sailor. In either case, she'll be great fun at parties, something that just makes me want to love her more.

Congratulations to bringing child #2 into the world. I hope she'll live up to her namesake in spades. And here's to starting on a third. I'm thinking... Franzeskaner?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

flip it and reverse it

(or "How to evolve faster")

Have you ever wished that you could be part of one of those sleep studies? The ones where they put you in a windowless room, which I imagine is buried deep near the earth’s core, and then see what happens to your sleep schedule? Because if we can manipulate our sleep cycles, then isn’t this as close to manipulating time as we will ever get?

So, for the sake of science, as well as the betterment of all humankind, I’ve been engaged in a sleep study of my own.

For the past couple of weeks now, I’ve gone to bed and woken up when I felt like it. As a result, I sleep with the rising sun and have my first cup of coffee at noon the next day. Of course, this whole thing really started because of one fateful night when I happened to catch “Dirty Dancing” on TV at 3 am. It totally screwed me over. Though I must have seen that movie at least a dozen times, I was compelled to watch it one more time just to see Patrick Swayze’s jazzy dance moves in the final scene. Man, he really knows how to bring it home. Who knew men’s hips were designed to swivel like that? It didn’t help that my ex-boyfriend is the spitting image of Patrick Swayze, a fact that to his embarrassment was realized on an overnight ferry bound to Tientsin watching “City of Joy” with a roomful of Chinese people. I'm not saying this to say that I think Patrick Swayze (or by implication my ex-boyfriend) is particularly hot. They are both okay looking. But everyone in the room, including myself for a brief moment, thought he was the person in the movie. He didn’t have the same rotator hips though… which was undoubtedly the reason I had to break up with him. But that is another story for another time.

So back to the sleeping thing. My ultimate quest in this experiment is this. Is it possible that if we listen to our bodies, we don’t need as much sleep as we think we need? All of us are bound by the strictures of certain commonly accepted ideas, such as the food pyramid, not swimming after you eat, pumping the brakes on a wet road, yada yada yada. But just as we know that the food pyramid is full of shit, it is very possible that the accepted wisdom that guides our daily lives have been built on ephemera, concocted from some stuffy white guy’s impaired brain.

I’ve already managed to dismantle the notion that we need regular meals at regular intervals throughout the day. My snake-eating thing is still working like a charm. So I have a good feeling about this. I’m thinking that I may be able to shave a good 10 hours a week of sleep time off my normal schedule. Sleep and food, two things that I think the modern person overdoses on through over-rationalization, these are the two obstacles preventing the everyman from fulfilling their greatest destiny. If we unchain ourselves from the enslavement of time, what will we not be capable of?

Previously unbeknownst to me, it just so happens that it is National Sleep Awareness Week. I suggest that in celebration of this happy coincidence, we all lie down for a nap…

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

dreaming of blogging or blogging dreaming me?

I dreamt last night that my friend Joe had a blog. And he wrote something in the comment section about how I never comment on his blog. So I did. And then I dreamt he thought it was funny.

Tell me I'm not mistaken but somewhere out there I think people have interesting technicolor dreams. That's because they probably lead interesting technicolor lives. Clearly I don't do either...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

it's hard out here for a... grad student

It's award ceremony season here in Los Angeles and as I watched the Oscars the other night, I was reminded of how few opportunities we are given to commemorate our accomplishments, or even to mark the passing of time. As much as Hollywood represents something materialistic or superficial about American culture, and as much as we ordinary folk are divorced from that lifestyle, we should also recognize the absolute necessity of it, especially for its role within our ritualistic universe in this increasingly secularized world.

Our diminished capacity to commemorate things has left us without a formal venue to gather around and celebrate achievement, though I wonder if it is simply because commemoration at least in my academic world is generally associated with loss through graduation and departure. While there are holidays and birthdays, is it too much to want more? To want the formal integration of award ceremonies into our life? Why do kids and actors get all the trophies? Since when did they stop giving us those things? And for most people, is their college diploma going to be the last important commemorative document they get? Hell, that's not even an award. You paid for that piece of paper.

There are so many things to award in life, at least in terms of the things that I would like to have recognized. My best research paper, my first outside grant, best conference presentation, a published article. Even juicier are those other more intimate events--best kiss, best blowjob, best all time fuck ever--these are events that become diluted down to nothing more than information passed along in whispers over coffee, events that deserve greater fanfare. Screw that! Sound the trumpets, fire the guns. Maybe among the many skills we have to learn in the course of life, we should also learn to celebrate our achievements no matter how small, because for the rest of us, there is no Oscar waiting behind the curtain.

I suppose that in the pea-brained graduate student's imagination, the Ph.D. itself is as close to winning an Oscar as you can get. Except that by the time you get to this stage, there is a sense that the degree itself is not award enough for the pure hell that you have to go through to get it. The loneliness, the poverty, lack of any security about the immediate future. The sense that no one really cares about your work. Anyone I've talked to who have actually gotten their Ph.D. (and there are many of them because I have an enormous number of brilliant friends!) says that it is meaningless and empty. Of course, not only do I think these people are overly modest, I also think they're lying sacks of shit.

Everyone says that doing your Ph.D. is more like running a marathon than a sprint. Having actually run a marathon, I rather compare it to an iron man triathlon, the kind that beats you down and makes you feel like donkey dung. When I ran the LA marathon back in 2002, I hit the proverbial wall at mile 17. The subsequent 9 miles were indescribable agony. I have never recovered. No wonder it is taking me so long to finish my degree. I hit that wall in 2002 and I'm still trying to make it over the finish line.

At this moment, about a hundred and fifty pages of my dissertation stand between me and my degree. I have a feeling like I will finish or die. One of the two. It is that degree or me. I have no idea what I initially intended to say when I started this, because now that I brought up my dissertation, I can feel it trying to stare me down and all I can do right now is stare back and hold my own.

Monday, February 27, 2006

the emperor wears vintage

Go away 80s. I'll not mince words when I say that 80s fashion sucks. So stop it, please I beg of you.

It’s hard to tell if my visceral response to the 80s revival has to do with my own traumatic fashion faux-pas growing up. Like that time that I was waiting for my dad to pick me up from school when Courteney Schlein, an upperclassman who was waiting next to me, looked me up and down and said, “… Nice… vest.”

I was clad in a navy-colored puffy down vest, the kind that would be very comfortable if you were, let’s say, skiing in Vancouver. It might also have been unseasonably warm out that day. Of course, I never wore that vest to school again. (I have left out the part where my dad eventually pulls up in our rattling two-toned brown and beige Chevrolet cruiser as Courtney’s mom pulls up right behind him in an immaculate black Mercedes sedan.) Or maybe it’s because of the time that I arrived at a formal wearing a homespun creation that involved black and white houndstooth and a balloon skirt. A formidable combination to say the least.

Regardless, I like to think that my offense is simply on an aesthetic level, pure unadulterated aesthetics, of which mine are very refined and vastly superior to other elementary humans that walk this earth.

But it only dawned on me this afternoon that there is even such a thing as an 80s fashion revival. This occurred as I was eating lunch and taking a moment out of my otherwise very busy and important day when I happened to catch Beverly Hills Cop on TV. The opening montage had Eddie Murphy strolling down Rodeo drive and checking out all the fashion victims wearing clothes that look disconcertingly like the hipster fashion of today. My superfast brain proceeded to make the connection that there are people out there, I dare say very young soulless people, who never actually lived through the 80s, resurrecting out of some sort of retro tomfoolery a fashion wave that should lie deeply buried in our shameful past. What’s worse is the culture of what I call “ironicalism” surrounding it. Whatever (insert finger quotations here).

Let’s call things as they are. First, this so-called “vintage” craze is nothing more than used clothing. That’s right. That would be stuff that other people didn’t want and were almost willing to throw away but were too cheap to do so. So, while I am a believer of recycling and restoration of quality goods (homes, furniture, old typewriters, cars, handmade bespoke suits) I refuse to buy into this delusion over what is in fact thrift store shopping. And if you’re going to buy thrift store stuff, fine, it’s all good, but let’s not go calling it “vintage”. It’s just used shit.

The thing is, some of my best friends wear "vintage" and I love them despite it. I understand that old stuff has a lot more character than off-the-rack Banana Republic. I will even claim to have a couple of prized used items in my own sartorial collection. But if we could only be a little more honest about what it is. And if we could just refrain from pretending like 80s clothing has been around long enough to be "vintage". And while we're at it, can we please not pretend that wearing "vintage" shoes is not completely gross? Someone else's foot was in there for chrissakes.

Fashion is inherently referential. All the looks have been done before and even the bubble skirt of the 80s can be found to date back to the 50s. But what I would like to believe is that if there can remotely be such a thing as "progress" that this would somehow entail leaving the bad stuff behind, being able to judge the ugly from the beautiful, or at least place things in a refreshingly new context where to be ironic isn't just to reproduce a look but to reconfigure that look into a real statement with true irony. When it comes down to it, the whole 80s vintage thing is just a physical manifestation of everything else going horribly wrong in the world. It invokes Reaganomics, Less Than Zero, square headlights on cars. So I don't think that it is overreacting when I say that the next person I see prancing down the road in an ill-fitting "vintage" dress and some outlandish beaded necklace and Jackie O sunglasses is not only committing a crime against fashion but a crime against humanity and should be punished accordingly.

On a side note, it's fracking freezing in LA today. It must be 50 degrees out or something.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

the dragon whips its tail

In an uncharacteristic departure from my general policy not to post pictures of myself, I'm publishing this picture to prove to my beloved friends that I indeed still live.

Here is a curtailed list of some of the things that have prevented me from writing anything:

Olympic curling, out of town visitors, karaoke, car wreck (okay maybe just a bump), grey goose martinis, 2 am chacharoni, Alee, huge fight with the BFF, minor fight with the dad, teaching, and did I mention olympic curling? All while ineffectively trying to make progress with my dissertation.

What I learned from all of this was that human relationships are require work. Sometimes if you're lucky, everything happens effortlessly so that there is a seamless flow between one's personal and professional life, but in most cases you have to make sacrifices to make one or the other succeed. And in the past week I've dropped the ball in showing how much my real friends mean to me.

So on a very personal note, I'd like to send out this belated Valentine's message to the following people:

1. To my "not-so-secret" admirer, thanks for the anatomically correct one pound chocolate heart. It is so grotesque/lovely that I cannot bring myself to eat it.

2. To the Hanscoms, my adopted family, thanks for being a constant in my life.

3. To Alleycat, thanks for making me miss you more.

4. To Kathleen, eat more sushi and call me in the morning.

5. To Walter and Lambda, I wait with bated breath for your visit.

6. Ditto for Anne.

7. To Lily, Happy Birthday.

8. To Rebecca, when life gives you lemons get your legs waxed.

9. To Strongsad, someday Marzipan will answer her phone. In the meantime, stop letting Homestar smoke so much.

10. To "the other Cho", I'll be in Boston in July.

11. Luigi, I know you're out there somewhere. I miss you.

12. And last of all, to the Xoo. Please don't be mad at me anymore. I'm not perfect but trying my best. I have a pig in a blanket and I'm at your door. If you hear me knocking, let me in.

Apologies to anyone else who is reading this. But sometimes you just have to bring it down and keep it real.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

has it really come to this?

Okay listen. I honestly don't know what is more disturbing. That it took me over thirty years to learn how to tie my shoelaces properly. Or that I sat here with my sneaker in my lap reading "Ian's Shoelace Site" for fifteen minutes following Ian's shoetying instructions. Either way, I can celebrate knowing that my days of bungled shoetying are over. No more of those inferior loosey goosey slip knots for me. I'm all reef knots from here on out. Yes! Is this what nirvana feels like? There were certainly no empty promises here... Ian really does know how to bring the fun, fashion and science of shoelaces!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

they are dead to me

The fog rolled in on Palos Verdes friday night in a thick blanket. You could barely see five feet ahead of you. Cars disappeared into the mist like sharks slipping out of sight on a dark ocean floor. It felt incongruous with the room that I had just left, warm and lively, full of sounds of tinkling glasses and muffled laughter. Like stepping out of a cocktail party directly into a zombie movie. That's when a group of zombies actually emerged from the mist and began to chase me. I pulled my camera out just as the leader started to shuffle over to devour me, almost succeeding, before I ran screaming away like a blasted flibbertigibbet. Miraculously, I lived to tell the tale.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


The following words are to be forever excised from the English language:


If you find yourself using any of the above at any time you should send me $100 per word per violation. I accept paypal. However, I'm prepared to provide some wholesome alternatives so that we might begin to incorporate language into our vocabulary that inspire our imaginations instead of regurgitating stale platitudes that have lost any descriptive power whatsoever. Let's exfoliate such linguistic sleaze from our lips and begin to revel in the verbal delights of:

loosey goosey

Screw homogenization and let's live a little.