crouching cousins, hidden family
11.30.2006 : 12:07 PM :
we've never been a family orientated family. at least, a family holiday orientated type of family. sure we had a few thanksgiving, christmas, and new year's gatherings, but those usually involved other families or big ski trips. so this thanksgiving, when we got together with the northern california portion of our family, we got to talking about what else? family.
as it turns out, not only am i not the last male yang (capable of child birth), i'm not even close to the end of the line. i have male cousins in china, who are the sons of my father's older brother and sister. wait, i thought i was the first son of the first son of the first son. no?
my father has always been the oldest in his family among his generation of siblings and cousins -- the ones that escaped to taiwan when the communists took over china. we were raised with the perception that he was the oldest male of his generation. not true apparently. my dad has an older brother and sister who were left behind in china. that older brother is actually only a step-brother, but that's just a minor detail. the fact of the matter is that my dad isn't the oldest male of his generation and subsequently, neither am i. wow.
in more shocking revelation news, my grandfather also had another brother (we already knew about his younger brother, a grand-uncle we grew up with). that missing grand-uncle was given away at a young age to be taken care of by strangers so he was never considered to be part of the family and was also left behind.
and some more news: my grandmother was my grandfather's second wife. who knew? i surely didn't. this changes everything. for those of you who are well versed on your family's history and lineage, this may not sound so exciting, but imagine and me and george's surprise at hearing all of this.
on top it all, my father's older siblings didn't even know that he owned a factory in china, or that he had passed away (at least at the time). i have no idea what they know now or don't know. the old homestead -- where my father was born -- is decorated with many pictures of george and i however, as the exalted twins of the family. they want george to write something to say at my grandfather's funeral dedication service -- they're moving his resting place from taiwan to china this year.
when my grand-uncle passed away recently, two of my aunts went back to attend the funeral. they brought back with them pictures of our family in china. shocking stuff. here was photographical proof that we have a huge extended family! here was proof that our regal line continues to thrive in the motherland!
there were some talks -- jokes really -- of a trip out there to meet up with our chinese cousins. how crazy would that be? here we are! the missing yangs! or i guess, not exactly missing, but definitely here. or there?
11.23.2006 : 4:20 PM :
there's no place like home... what would we do during the holidays without television marathons? families certainly don't hang out with each other do they? i mean, isn't that what football games, classic movies, and tryptophan is for: to avoid having to hang out with family for too long? family bonding occurs around the television, i'm sure of it.
so what recent marathon have i been watching? "beauty and the geek." wow, how did i miss this show the first (and second) time around. it's a great show. it sounds super gimmicky, but after watching all six or seven episodes in one shot, it turned out to be great in execution as well as concept. despite a very basic premise, the show works because it actually seems like the show changes its participants. it gives people room to open themselves up; it's not over-sexed (hello umpteenth real world), it truly transforms the participants (sorry makeover shows), and it has a cast of characters who actually grow on you and make you want to cheer -- as opposed to gag.
the show also doesn't focus on melodrama and instead points the spotlight on how the beauties and the geeks are getting along. it's a positive show. it makes you really want to see how these people turn out in the end. it seems genuine, it seems unscripted, and it's easily one of my favorite reality shows.
the biggest thing that jumps out while watching the show is how non-catty the girls are. maybe because there's really no guy prize to be won or maybe because these girls are just genuine or happen to be nice but they are great with each other and more importantly, amazing in their interactions with the geeks.
the only drawback to the show is that not all the geeks seem like real "geeks" but they were definitely not alpha males; which makes for a refreshing change. so the show mixes up some non-catty beautiful girls, some shy awkward guys and it turns into gripping television.
the lesson learned is, of course, "don't judge a book by its cover." the other lesson is that it's hard for guys to talk to girls. it doesn't matter how geeky or non-geeky you are. it's hard. the smoothest guy in the world can still be knocked on his ass by some girl who walks in the door. fumbling idiocy is in no way restricted to the geeks of the world. but you just have to go for it. talk to people; talk to the hot chick; talk to the super dork, see what they're about and then judge them.
so in the end, the guys get courage, the girls get brains, and reality television gets some heart.
11.22.2006 : 3:57 PM :
the slaves must be crazy. for some, ahem, illogical reason, black slaves had the strange habit of attempting to run to freedom. their slave owners were mystified by this action -- since slaves were provided with everything they needed, so why run? -- and had a doctor look into it. in a diagnosis appearing in a louisiania medical journal (1851), a physician created a psychiatric diagnosis to explain a slave's tendency to flee from captivitiy. he said that these slaves were mentally ill and diagnosed them with "drapetomania." with the proper medical advice, this running away thing could be cured/prevented. the prescribed medicine? copious amounts of whipping. and if that didn't work, amputation of the toes. and you thought getting a flu shot was bad.
this brilliant doctor also came up with the term "dysaethesia aethiopica," to explain the lack of motivation exhibited by some slaves. the cure for that was also, you guessed it, whipping.
if you're smart and you know it, clap your hand
11.20.2006 : 12:05 PM :
you know when you go to frye's or a mailing store and see those laminated pages that give you the 101 on a particular subject? it's like i want to buy every single one. for five dollars, i could become well-versed in any topic at hand. it's literally knowledge at your fingertips as you wait for the cashier. i wonder why they choose an electronics giant and mailing stores to prominently display these things. bookstores, sure, that's logical. but where's the obvious logic in placing a rack of them in mailbox etc? it's not a gift item, that's for sure. "thought you needed some brushing up on meiosis and mitosis, and here's the mix cd i promised you. love, jon."
if the baseline logic is that people in these stores would be enticed into an easy education, why not put them in fast food joints? who needs it more? the guy waiting in line with a $300 hard drive, or a guy eating $1 sandwiches every day? do you think your experience at mcdonald's could be enhanced with a few sparkcharts doubling as placemats? hell yes.
put the damn charts where the common folk go. cheap restaurants, grocery stores, starbucks, jamba juice, the gap. i don't need to see tabloids as i check out, i need to learn something about european history. actually, they should just cut to the chase and give the charts out as book covers for schools; but that would be too obvious a statement and ruin the whole idea that schooling leads to knowledge.
then again, say you knew everything there was to know on these cards, what good would that be? has anyone's life ever been (positively) irrevocably changed by a sparkchart? these "five minutes and you're smart" gimmicks are targeted toward the lazy people who won't actually want to study a subject in detail. the same people who think that a few pages of summaries can make them seem intelligent. no wonder i'm deathly attracted to these things. i'm exactly their target demographic.
my (not so) brilliant idea would be to combine sparkcharts with cigarettes. the packaging, the matches, the actual cigarette would be wrapped in information. then smoking would be destroying your body but enriching your mind. wouldn't that be worth five dollars (and a few less years lived)?
ps - while i'm here. did you know that the word "decimation" is derived from the latin word meaning "removal of a tenth." "it was a form of extreme military discipline used by officers in the roman army to punish mutinous or cowardly soldiers." read all about it. i hope to use this word correctly in a sentence this week. dude, you totally decimated that turkey!
11.18.2006 : 9:35 AM :
game over. man, playing video games today isn't quite the nostalgia driven past time we've come to know and love right? it's so violent! and that's not even the games. people are getting robbed, stabbed, and shot at while purchasing the new ps3. that's some serious gaming love. how do you explain to your children, "oh, this gunshot wound? that's from the one time i stood out in front of a wal-mart for 72 hours [you could really end the sentence right here if you wanted to] to purchase a video game system." then again, i admire their dedication. anyone that passionate about an item should be applauded.
the average age of a gamer is twenty nine. 29! that's even older than me! and the stereotype of gamers as all geeks and unable to get girls is totally out the window by now. most -- ok, some -- hardcore gamers i know have perfectly healthy social lives; complete with girlfriends, alchohol, and with that combination, probably sex. the whole gaming industry is driven by middle aged males and their increasingly hot girlfriends who can also play -- or the hot girlfriends gamers want to have, who already play.
isn't it totally wrong that gaming machines have gone over (way over) the $300 mark? i can't get myself to invest in a gaming machine that costs $400-600. you can buy a whole damn computer, with all the trimmings, for that much. the only video game related purchase i'm willing to make is laying down a hundred dollars for the awesome looking gameboy micro famicon version; but even i haven't done that yet because i can't imagine using it often enough to justify the price.
while i think that video games are certainly one of the best forms of entertainment -- and surely worth every penny for the amount of hours you can waste playing it -- it's hard to justify using money on such an item when there are so many other pressing financial needs. i'm sure i would be singing a different tune if $500 was a mere drop in the financial bucket for me. however, until that day, i guess i'm going to be left behind in the era of ps2, gamecube, and the original chinese nintendo. at least i have my loyal starcraft/warcraft cds; like cheap whores those guys. not flashy or pretty, but dependably gets the job done.
having said all that, i'm desperate to play marvel ultimate alliance on one of the new generation consoles. maybe not take a bullet in the chest desperate, but a small one in the leg perhaps. plus, it's absolutely criminal that i still haven't played my own game yet. someone lend me a damn xbox 360 already.
11.14.2006 : 11:44 AM :
"i live in what is likely the beauty capital of the world [los angeles] and have the enviable fortune to work with some of the most beautiful women in it. with their smooth bodies and supple waists, these women are the very picture of youth and attractiveness. not only are they exemplars of nature's design for detonating desire in men, but they stir yearnings for companionship that date back to ancestral mating dances. still, beauty is driving me nuts, and although i'm a successful red-blooded american male, divorced and available, it is beauty alone that is keeping me single and lonely."
-why i hate beauty-
call me jonathan
11.11.2006 : 3:41 PM :
i'm still feeling dizzy and seasick; this is twenty four hours after we went whale watching. note that i never get even remotely seasick while actually on a boat. but apparently the rocking feelings stays with you even after you come onto land. so while we sat there eating dinner (sushi of course), we both commented on the constant swaying and dizziness we were both feeling. a more romantic man might have made a crack about it being the feeling of love sickness; tragically, i'm only witty and romantic in retrospect. then i leaned into the mirror later that night to floss my teeth, and almost toppled over. even today i feel as if i'm still standing astride a small dinghy -- karate kid style. it's frightening to imagine what being on a real boat for more than three hours would do to me.
the problem with trying to depict the elemental forces of the ocean on-screen (be it a perfect storm, maelstrom, or otherwise) is that it's totally futile. special graphics, award winning wave algorithms, men being tossed overboard, closed in shots of panic and flailing... none of those scenes can bring justice to the feeling of a wave tearing into your boat. i tried to extrapolate the feeling of us gently gliding over three foot waves to what it must feel like to be in the middle of a storm. it's like pricking your finger to get an idea of how much running a sword through your body might feel like; similar in theory, but totally unrelated.
the ocean is just frightening; it frightens me more than fires or heights (if i really stop to think about it). i love swimming, surfing, boat rides, and marine animals but when you get a chance to really think about the seas/oceans, and get a chance to experience how vast and unpredictable it is, how can it not be the scariest thing in the world? the ocean is power.
this grand setup isn't intended to diminish the awesomeness of what we saw today but to reflect on the idea that the entire concept of whale watching is kind of hilarious. i mean, you go out on a boat "in search of whales." you hope to see the biggest animals on earth in the biggest environment on earth and you want to do all of this within three hours, otherwise you feel somewhat cheated out of your money (in this case, $25). the monterey bay is the "serengeti of the sea" and is one of the best places to go whale watching. yet, when you set off on that little 100-foot schooner (wrong word but i just like to use it), which previously seemed battleship-esque when docked, you realize just how difficult finding a whale could be.
about ninety-five percent of the time a whale watching boat leaves from monterey, they are successful in finding a whale. that seems kind of nuts to me. i couldn't reliably find you a rabbit or squirrel around my house; much less year-round. of course, seeing a whale actually do something besides send up a few puffs of steam is an entirely different story. if you think you'll see whales breaching, rising out of the awesome depths to take a good look at you, or come sidling up to make friendly with humans, you're terribly wrong. most of the time you'll be viewing from a safe distance away as a few whales swim along peacefully.
it's amazing mind you, but if the biologist wasn't telling you what was going on, and if you didn't have preconceived notions of what the other ninety-nine percent of the whale looked like, it would be about as exciting as watching the kettle boil over. so the math here is that 95% of the time, you're guaranteed to see 1% of a whale. not that i'm complaining mind you; nature does not dance to our beats and neither should it.
it's all still pretty astonishing. especially as you become accustomed to the whale's rhythms. when he's going to breathe, when he's going to blast, when he's going to take that one final gulp of air and disappear with the flick of his tail. i mean, i've been to sea world many times, i've been whale watching once already (in fifth grade), but nothing really makes you more excited than to see even a tiny bit of whale. the prospect of seeing one potentially jump out of the water is enough to keep you on pins and needles. and after straining your eyes, looking for any sign of exotic marine life, you are relieved to have some success, any success. i'd compare the high, and the experience, to seeing a bit of exposed nipple, but really, that would be juvenile and immature.
we saw three humpback whales, no blues, no dolphins or porpoise -- and most exciting of all, three orca. the humpbacks were exciting because they vindicated our experience. having no dolphins jump and play in our wake was sort of disappointing, but we've all seen dolphins before in one form or another. the three orca we saw as we were heading home (look for a big black fin cutting through the water like a knife), so it was a huge bonus and the cherry on top.
the hunting trio were in shallow waters and possibly honing in on a sea lion or two. if we had seen a killer whale actually kill something, i would have screamed for joy. instead, due to time contraints, we were forced to leave them after too brief moments. it's strange, in normal life, i childishly insist on calling killer whales "shamu," in the wild, they are nothing less than "orca." it's as if you can't compare the domesticated killer whale with the wild one, even in name -- like "bruce wayne" versus "batman."
never have i paid more to see less. i saw a few flashes of whale, a lot of sea lions, a gaggle of sea gulls, withstood high winds and cold, and am still stumbling around whenever i sit down. but it was so worth it. here are the pictures. don't laugh. animals were closer than they appear, my camera just sucks.
11.07.2006 : 3:39 PM :
"coniferous" rhymes with "ferocious." i'm reading this fabulously interesting book entitled "why big fierce animals are rare." i saw this gem in a used bookstore and just had to get it. a book titled "how to make a million dollars doing nothing" wouldn't have been half as enticing. if i had happened upon a companion volume titled: "pandas: totally useless from a biological perspective?" i could have read both books and died happy.
i'm only into chapter two of this book (no signs of animals yet, big, fierce, or otherwise) and already i'm learning boatloads of new information. for example, ever wonder why certain trees are the way they are? a tree's shape is determined by what it needs to do. remember, nature -- as pretty as it can be -- is always about function over style.
take this assertation: trees lose their leaves in the winter because it gets cold.
sounds logical, sounds about right. yet christmas trees with their pine needles don't lose their leaves ever -- until they're yanked from their roots and planted in our living rooms for two weeks anyway. in contrast, the beautiful oak trees we're all so fond of change colors and lose their leaves in the winter, despite not living in especially cold climates. the answer of "some trees are evergreens, some are not" was always enough to answer my curiousity. but it's oh so much more complex -- and exciting.
the oak tree, decorated with leaves of large surface area, has to go leafless in winter because it loses energy too quickly during the short winter sun and heavy winds that it gets exposed to. those beautiful big leaves are great at sucking in energy but they're also great at releasing it quickly. the pine tree, with narrow needle leaves, can't get as much energy during a sunny day, but they won't lose much energy either. thus, the pine tree can keep their leaves during the winter, even in colder weather. plus those pine needles are located very close to each other, which results in less heat loss overall as the leaves work to warm the air around each other. neat hunh?
now that i'm getting a glimpse of the guiding principle to tree building -- energy expenditure and suckture (not a real word) -- i'm seeing trees in all new ways.
it's confusing living in california, because we tend to take plants from their natural environment and then place them wherever we like -- in the middle of parking lots, alongside freeways, lined up a driveway, etc. you aren't really given a sense of the "natural" plant life around us.
reading books about science and biology always makes me lean toward the nurture side of the nature vs nurture debate. high winds equals a certain type of tree, high [blank] leads to a certain kind person. cause and effect, cause and effect. i think people must be built the same way. we are who we are because of what we've encountered, not what we're genetically programmed to be.
if you can find out the guiding principle to how a person is built, then you can find out all about person, and everything will make sense. right? oh to unravel the mystery of personality. what would we need? certainly words is hardly enough.
11.05.2006 : 5:58 PM :
memory lane this past saturday was my ten year high school reunion. i won't bore you with exclamations and proclamations about how it doesn't seem like ten years ago, blah blah. i can easily believe that it's been ten years since high school -- i mentally exited out of high school long before that. what i can't wrap my mind around is the fact that i'm already six years out of college. i still have, essentially, the mentality and lifestyle of a college student. no great responsibilities, no family of my own, no pets, no ownership of anything larger than a toaster, the most consistent (and important) bill i pay is my cell phone one.
me and george had talked often of making sure that we attended our high school reunion. first, a bit of background. we were fortunate enough to attend a prestigious (and overpriced) private school that did its part turning us into positive, integral, members of society -- she went to state school and i ended up, more or less, dropping out of college.
george wanted to attend the reunion mainly to catch up on some gossip, create some gossip, that kind of thing. i wanted to go because it might make good fodder for future comparison points -- and my auto-biography. plus, how often do you have high school reunions? i also wanted to see who exactly all these people i spent so many years with were. the school was k-12; we attended from fifth grade on, which translates into roughly seven years together.
our graduating senior class only numbered eighty or so individual names resonate with us through the years, even as the memory of exactly who they are fade. so, we wanted to go to a reunion to see how everyone turned out. and by "see," i mean just that. we didn't really want to "hear" or "talk," just "see." i mean, heaven forbid telling your old high school friends what you do now and how your life has gone.
then again, i can't really call any of these people "friends" since i can't recall any lasting conversations or moments from my high school career. i mean, i must have done something all that time right? sure i had a few good friends but near the back end of high school (right around the time girls popped up into our geeky radar) i stopped hanging around with them. i wonder what i did my junior and senior years. i didn't interact with anyone, or much of anything, that's for sure.
i remember middle school much better than high school. middle school had role playing game lunches, vicious sports played on the lawn, sleepovers on the weekends, and assorted little distractions. high school was a blur. so i wanted to relive high school for just one night, to see if any of these people would recognize me (in the metaphysical, not literal, sense) and to see if maybe i had missed out on hanging out with some incredibly cool people.
so where were we come saturday night? george was at the movies at the new mall in san francisco, i think i was watching the last season of sex and the city. we tried to go, we really did. but i work weekends now, and flying down to san diego to attend a reunion of people i don't really know seemed extravagant. without me, there was no way george was going -- thus, no ten year reunion. i did try, at the last moment, to convince some friends to go to the location and do some spying for us. unfortunately, nobody was up to the task. apparently friends -- high school or otherwise -- are totally undependable.
so i staged a little reunion in my mind, i tried to google everyone's name i could remember. i figured this was more "me," and more efficient and less stressful than trying to talk to someone over a contrived reunion dinner. what exactly were we going toremininsce about anyway? i didn't interact with anyone in high school. i think i was a ghost in the shell. how this happened i'm not sure but i'm sure i had hardly an impact on anyone outside of a handful of friends and teachers. i wonder what anyone in high school thought of me. i guess i'll never know. maybe next reunion?
what did i find out on my grand tour of the internet:
encounters with former high school classmates in the last ten years:
and that's it. goodbye high school. hello college? oh wait, college is still right here, lurking.
11.04.2006 : 11:10 AM :
"one reason an underground brand sounds nonsensical is that countercultures are supposed to oppose the mainstream, and nothing is more mainstream than consumerism. but we no longer live in a world of the mainstream and the counterculture. we live in a world of multiple mainstreams and countless counter-, sub- and counter-sub-cultures.
11.02.2006 : 11:29 AM :
winning isn't everything, it's nothing. i've been watching a lot of reality competition shows. obviously, if you watch any tv at all, this is sort of unavoidable. in these shows, there's a main goal (eg. win the girl) and then an overarching goal (get good ratings). basically the shows i'm focusing on are the ones where a panel of judges are making the eliminations, not fellow contestants or the audience. examples of shows that fit this description is project runaway, top model, and any of the numerous "cheerleader" competitions available on the nfl and nba channels.
in all of these shows you get a behind the scenes glimpse at how a selection process is made. how one negative comment can turn the tide of favor, how one person can have undue influence in a supposedly democratic environment, and how arbitrary many of the decisions are. "i liked her/him because of this..." it's very rare that the audience seems to agree with the panel of experts. perhaps this is an indicator that those skilled in their profession are looking for entirely different things than the average viewer, but really, can we be so wrong?
but that's not the issue that springs to mind when i watch these shows. the thing i can't stop thinking about is how judgemental these shows are. if real life worked like this, where you're being judged for every action (or inaction), that would be hell right? but then it hit me. wait, we are being judged like this, for everything we do. and not in the spiritual sense either. tupac had it wrong, god's not the only one who can judge us now.
we're judged at every moment by strangers, friends, family, and um, friends. but even aside from that type of judging, when you enter onto the path towards a career (essentially, that starts in kindergarten, if not earlier) you're always in direct competition with someone.
forget selling your soul, you have to sell yourself first. in order to get a job, and then maintain a job, you have to constantly prove that you're better than the next guy. there's no room for complacency. since i'm shallow and ultimately only interested in celebrities and athletes, it pains me to hear about their travails having to prove themselves time and time again. even a spectacularly talented actress such as charlize theron had to go out of the way to gain credibility and respect in her field of work. an athlete is constantly pressured to prove himself to be as good, or better, than yesterday. even when you reach the top of your field, you'll find that you can't escape the rat race. and if you choose to exit the rat race, you're a loser, straight up.
understanding that life is a rat race is no great insight. sometimes i look at the crushing amount of future competitions that stand in the way between here and now and i just get tired. and then i feel bad for these girls on television who are giving it their all, for what? nothing! to enter into another round of competition, this time with more competitors and less press coverage. it all seems like a waste sometimes doesn't it?
i work at a very performance based job. you have a goal, a target number, for each day, each week, each month. at first it was a mini-thrill to do well. to prove that you could be good, that you could exceed the norm. but that buzz quickly fades. after all, when faced with another couple hundred days of this, what's the point? promotion? bonuses? please. i don't work in jobs where promotions and bonuses are part of my lexicon. so why compete and win against your co-workers when there seems to be no point to it all?
the long term perspective on this is that there will always be winners and who really cares, or notices, if you're not one of them. the key to job satisfaction is to be happy at being slightly above the norm. no better, no less. of course, this is not the stuff inspirational movies are derived from. and it makes any job sort of boring and makes you unmotivated. extrapolating this feeling out to all aspects of life, the question has to be asked: why win at all?
the only things i actually enjoy winning in are the ones that give me little spurts of pleasure. board games, trivia games, fantasy sports, real sports, some video games, etc. but in those instances, it's not about the winning as much as the playing. but for someone to be fueld by purely winning, that's not "competitive," that's just "winning." so i'd say i'm competitive by nature, but not really a winner (double entendre, i know). and the longer i think about it, the more i'm convinced that i don't really want to win at anything since really, "winning" is just a function of the mind. nobody makes you a winner, you make you a winner! and even when you win, that satisfaction lasts only so long -- the lifespan of winning seems to last about as long as a stick of juicy fruit.
there athletic champions each year, top model winners each cycle, olympic gold medalists every four years, men of the year each year... why win? why compete? it's all pretty pointless don't you think?
me : hyperwest : labels : jdotyang : flickr : movies : books : delicious : rss
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