five dollar milkshake  

1.30.2007 : 2:08 PM :
in the past two weeks i've had a taste of three dollar cupcakes, two dollar (drip) coffee, dollar and two dollar cream puffs, and seen a crowd line up for frozen yogurt that is made to taste like, well, regular old fermented yogurt. sounds crazy to pay that much for these items doesn't it? then again, ten years ago people would have laughed if you said you paid four dollars for coffee every morning -- and then again in the evening. and they say cigarettes is a waste of money. a pack of cigarettes could last me a week, a starbucks coffee lasts maybe fifteen minutes.

welcome to aspiring upper middle class consumer goods. instead of splurging on real luxury products, which we can't quite afford (yet), we invest in daily luxury items. what do you do when you can't hire your own chef, barista, or confectioner? you just go to the local coffee shop, cupcake store, boba shop, or jamba juice. five dollars will buy you instant gratification and a taste of the good consumerist life.

if you don't know about specialty cupcake stores, you're missing out. the first one i visited was in new york. magnolia's was already a manhattan institution but an episode of sex and the city put it on blast. a few years ago, i stood for an hour in the dead of winter to get my lips around one. the verdict? overrated. it was just a mountain of (admittedly good) frosting on a hard little cake. hardly worth the wait, or the price. i prefer twinkies or ho-hos -- readily available at the 7-11.

the public doesn't agree with me however. magnolia itself has like two or three spin-offs in the city. specialty cupcake stores are springing up everywhere. at least magnolia serves all kinds of desserts along with their vaunted cupcakes; most stores just serve cupcakes, straight up.

the famous cupcake place in los angeles, sprinkles, is cupcake only. it was closed when we went there so i never got a taste. we did get to try the hot new susie cakes last week. it came at the cost of $36 for a dozen. and i thought golf balls cost a lot. the susie cake was pretty good -- "dense like antimatter" is my review -- but for three dollars apiece a birthday party for your kid's kindergarten class would set you back a bill. never has homemade sweets made more sense.

this weekend we were introduced to "individually dripped coffee." it's just regular coffee but each big cup is filtered individually. we walked by this alley with a grip of people waiting outside and upon investigation, it turned out to be a hole in the wall coffee joint. as you'd imagine, waiting for individual cups of coffee to be filtered can make for quite a bit of standing around. it took us twenty minutes to get three cups of joe. the coffee was strong and quite tasty but not really worth the effort. it's funny how starbucks used to be the premium coffee and now everyone is willing to stand in line anywhere else just to get "extra"-premium coffee.

i was amused but not overly impressed with the coffee experience. but then we were talking to some other friends on vacation in SF and it turns out they had just had the same coffee at the farmer's market that morning. now we were in the know and cool. i certainly felt cool when ameer saw this picture and then mentioned that he used to walk from work just to get this precise brand of coffee.

it's retarded but these things matter; even if they cost a grip. i wouldn't give up my boba habit for anything and a few disposable dollars here and there for a steady supply of coffee, boba, cupcakes, and jamba juice seems like a small price to pay for a bit of sunshine in your day. think about all those struggling low income folk who can't even afford a three dollar cupcake!

for my money however, i'd rather be addicted to thirty-five cent diddy riese and buck fifty cuban corn. these items are priced as treats, not as exorbitant mini-meals.
ps - in the famous jack rabbit slim's scene from pulp fiction referenced by the post title, "martin and lewis or amos and andy" refers to the flavor of the shake - vanilla or chocolate. "martin and lewis" refers to white comedians dean martin and jerry lewis while "amos and andy" refers to the african-american hosted radio show. did you get that? i sure didn't.

there's some real flavor combinations we could come up with here. kimora lee, tiger woods, etc.

howling mine  

1.24.2007 : 1:29 PM :
the best minds of my generation are running out of places to live. we're mad, starving, hysterical, naked, and dragging ourselves through a very constricting set of cities to reside in.

the four cities that people flock to: new york, san francisco, chicago, los angeles. that's it. there are a few second tier cities that people live in such as san diego, boston, or washington dc, but hardly anyone moves to one of these secondary cities without a scholastic or family-related reason. barring actually being from the midwest or the south, nobody chooses to live there. i mean, i've heard good things about austin but really, why go there?

in all the continental united states there are only four cities that are desireable to move to. usually, one of these options are already eliminated due to lack of individual desire (for me, chicago). one of these cities you've already tried out (new york), and that leaves, at most, two options for future expansion. that's like being presented with chicken or beef when you're really looking for a salad.

taking a look around the globe, you can expand your horizons to target a few more destinations that might be appealing to twenty-somethings. asia is our largest continent and oh so mysteriously oriental. china, japan, or hong kong are all interesting, and potentially exciting, places to live for a few years. plus employment is not a problem as there are always people in these countries eager to learn english from soul searching college graduates.

europe is similarly populated with amazing places like london, paris, barcelona, amsterdam, athens, florence, vienna, and frankfurt. but moving to europe is a pretty difficult trick to successfully pull off. most residents there know english better than we do, so you'd have to go with some sort of marketable skill -- or on study abroad. and the cost of living in most european countries ain't exactly cheap. europe is mostly a romantic's pipe dream destination.

for the record, nobody goes to africa. unless you are there on a vaguely defined humanitarian mission; or to adopt -- or really brave and adventurous i guess. i'm not sure why nobody goes to south or central america but it probably has something to do with the heat, the third world conditions, or the murderous soccer crazies; or some combination of all the above. maybe argentina is a sleeper place to live? i guess i'll never know.

now, australia would be nice (where lynn is heading), but australia is pretty damn far away and while there would hardly be a language barrier, there's not a huge difference there except for the killer accents, the more talented movie stars, and the animals on display. i'd assume they have shit like squirrels, ducks, gold fish, deer, mountain lions, and donkeys at the zoo; things not commonly found in the southern hemisphere. they wouldn't even have wombats, dingoes, or koalas at australian zoos since they're as common as cats and dogs are in the rest of the world. australia can also be prohibitively expensive. and if vegemite is any indication, the food sucks too. anything australia can do, southern california can do better.

so where does that leave us? it leaves us facing the fact that we're destined to live in either new york or san francisco/los angeles for the rest of our young adult lives, until we slough off our need for "excitement" and move into one of the secondary cities to raise children, till the soil, and take the long cyanide bubble bath into old-agedness.


old six eyes  

1.19.2007 : 8:54 AM :
as a child, you are given only one pair of glasses. if you're lucky, those glasses aren't huge, thick, or terribly ugly. if you're asian, your childhood glasses were assuredly huge, thick, and terribly ugly. chances were, they also made your eyes even more slanted and tiny.

the biggest, and easiest, makeover a young asian geek can make is to upgrade from that terrible pair to a trendier pair (or just cut out glasses altogether). that usually happens mid-high school when a lightbulb goes off and the geek starts to think "wait, my glasses are two inches thick and i look like a total dork. i need something new." i'd guesstimate that this revelation occurs somewhere around fifteen years old. what a difference new glasses can make. it's the first step toward normalcy for a dork.

it's pretty easy to get asian parents to spring for anything eye-related. anything that can directly help the studying cause is quickly paid for. try convincing your mom to buy you a nintendo versus new frames.

my previous pair of glasses were of the thick, faux-artsy, black rimmed kind. these were very popular a few years ago when i got them. my pair before that were oval and had served me well since high school. when i transitioned to my new black specs, i liked them enough to wear them around nearly as often as my contacts. i had hard, sometimes uncomfortable, gas permeable contacts at the time.

once i switched to soft contacts, i had to undergo yearly examinations in order to buy new contacts. i thought it was a pain (in my wallet), and the yearly expense of $100 seemed exorbitant to me. it's the ultimate adult decision: vision for the future or cash in the present? i usually sacrificed my future for the present and stocked up on extra boxes before my prescription's expiration date so i could avoid an exam as long as possible.

truth be told, i love getting my eyes checked. there's no potential for pain (eg, the dentist), the darkened optometrist's office is always soothing, and i like being asked "which is better? one? or two? three? or four?" it's very comforting to give correct answers all the time.

sadly, the days of being asked to read off the eye chart are nearly over. the costco optometrist i went to recently had a machine that measured your prescription with 99% accuracy. you just look into the machine, focus on a red barn, and then you're done. no more "E I O T P" stuff. the entire exam took about five minutes.

i was getting headaches from using expired eye glass lenses and contacts. apparently getting that yearly exam is worth the price of admission. of course, i then had to spring $200 for a new pair of glasses.

one of the few usable tips i've ever gleened from GQ is to own two pairs of eye wear. it's said to switch up your "look." having one pair of glasses is for children, stylish adults know that glasses can be used as accessories and for proper vision.

so now i have that black pair (with the outdated prescription) and a new pair -- square, with no bottom frame, "korean glasses" as it were. i feel very prepared for my new adult life.

turtle doves  

1.17.2007 : 3:31 AM :
this past weekend, we participated in a couples dinner. it was five couples and a plus one. i'll pause here for a moment for situation identification. the dinner was originally set up for six couples, but martin's girlfriend couldn't make it at the last minute -- leaving him as the eleventh wheel, a role which is unlikely to phaze martin, of all people; which is great.

i've rarely had dinners that encompassed three couples, much less five. i'm still getting used to hanging out in a flock of four all the time so anything couply is novel to me. it wasn't bad though.

in fact i kept smiling over this glimpse into the very probable future. some day (in hell) all of my friends will have a significant other. we'll all gather around a table and we'll have a big dinner reservation divisible by two -- discounting kids. this was a look into that some day.

hopefully that dinner will turn out just like this dinner. the food was wonderful, the couples were wonderful, and it was relaxed and a lot of fun. i felt like if we had to split up, all the girls would get along nicely, all the guys would get along nicely, and the mix of new and old friends was pretty good. all in all, an entirely delightful dinner that almost masked the fact that "holy shit, it's five complete couples all eating together! is the apocalypse (aka adulthood) here?"

it's hard finding your "perfect pair" to hang out with. if you're in a relationship, you know what i'm talking about. i think it's almost as difficult as finding an actual person to pair up with im the first place -- almost. some couples never achieve this type of inter-couple harmony because there are just too many factors involved.

in order to match up with your ideal pairing, everything has to mesh perfectly. boyfriend-a has to get along with boyfriend-b. girlfriend-a has to be comfortable with boyfriend-b, and be very close to girlfriend-b. they don't have to be the best of friends, but all combinations of the four should yield satisfying results 95% of the time.
on a side note, i think it's more important that the female halves of the partnership are comfortable with each other. the way most girls are, it's almost a miracle to find two females who are willing to hang out with each other for more than a few hours. girls like to hand select who they open up to; guys are more used to being socially mashed together with other guys. this is a broad generalization but you all know it's true.
once you achieve this perfect pairing, any activity that involves the other pair then becomes easier to agree to, and the follow through on attendance is much more successful. however, just like a comet in the sky, a perfect pairing can also come and go swiftly. you hope against hope that neither couple breaks up, or that one of the couples don't move away. once one of those tragic events happen, you're left back at square one; albeit with the love of your life next to you -- unless you're the one who broke up the happy home(s). she always knew you were a bastard and they always knew you weren't good enough for her!

hoping for more than two perfect couples to hang out together is just outside the realm of my imagination. if noah didn't pay attention to inter-couple relationships when filling his ark, the damn thing would have turned into a floating mausoleum by the end of those forty days and forty nights. then again, if he did pay attention to how well the various pairings would get along, the ark would have never set sail in the first place and everyone would have died.
a quick quiz:
1. when getting into a car, can the couples be separately seated? boys in front, girls in back?
2. can the two girls go to the bathroom during dinner for ten minutes and return to find the boys still chatting unforced?
3. would any two of the four be able to hang out by themselves if they had to?
4. is the relationship between all four people more or less equitable? and not just best friend status for two of them while the other two are along for the ride?
5. do you sometimes prefer to hang out all together versus just as a romantic pair?

one man band  

1.15.2007 : 4:33 PM :
there a few new reality tv shows that i've got a keen interest in. j-lo's "dancelife" is cued up and ready to be religiously watched simply because it'll show us what sorts of mountains k-fed had to climb on his way towards divorcing britney. it'll also be interesting to see exactly how good you have to be to become a professional dancer -- and not a cheerleader for a sports team, or an amatuer winner of "so you think you can dance."

the other show is "i'm from rolling stone" which is about aspiring journalists vying with each other for a spot on rolling stone's staff. six writers are given the opportunity to work with the music magazine to interview artists, to write internet and print articles, and to see if they have what it takes to become real journalists.

of course, with either show, they'll invariably show the drama, the personalities, the bullshit, but i'm hoping that in-between all of that, i'll get a brief glimpse into the life of a budding dancer or writer. and for the rolling stone show, i want to know how good these writers are, to be considered "promising."

here's the thing with writing that would seem obvious but is often overlooked: the skill of writing is as specialized as playing an individual instrument. sure, all musicians can read music, much like all writers can write, but the area of expertise differs greatly. just as there are huge differences between playing the drums and playing the trombone, similar differences exist between writing fiction and say, writing poetry.

this has been a hard aspect of writing to explain to parents (or i guess, adults). when i've said in the past that i'd like to aspire to be "a writer," invariably i get suggestions to pursue writing copy for businesses, to edit scientific manuals, or to pen website introduction pages and company bios. it's as if any act that involves stringing twenty six letters in combination would qualify as "writing." i think it's mainly a matter of miscommunication, but it's also a matter of misperception.

when you try to pursue writing that can get you paid, you have to start to focus. dabbling in poetry and short fiction, or in little reviews and articles, won't get you anywhere unless you can turn it into a quantifiable and definable skill. before you can even get to the question of "style," you have to acquire "skill." and being skilled in writing non-fiction versus writing fiction, in interviewing versus reviewing, in analysis versus explanation, are all separate things.

and it's not easy -- especially if you're not really trained or well versed in anything in particular. whether you're aiming for high literature or just semi-organized scribblings on paper, you have to really study the conventions that define the "good" of any of these writing sub-genres and then dig down to figure out why you'd do things one way versus another.

maybe for some people, being able to do one of these things is natural (or they've had enough practice to figure it out), but for me, i've always been a much better mimic than originator; and that failing could prove to be a big one in a world where being original is pretty damn important.

so i feel like i need to learn, then forget, then focus and define what i can do; but in an original way. to find my "voice" if you will. i'm by no means complaining, but it's pretty apparent just how far behind the eight-ball i am.


1.12.2007 : 2:44 PM :
"bill and his friend hench own a fake baseball team together. i call it the league of dorks. it's hard to say how much time they spend on it, but i'd guess five hours a week, maybe more. hench is one of bill's nicest friends, but he's even nuttier about this stuff than bill.

i made bill get a second phone line just for hench's calls -- they call it the 'bat phone.' i can't believe i married someone who needed a second phone line to talk about a fake baseball team.

this week, i noticed playoff baseball started, so i asked bill, 'what happened with the league of dorks?' bill said they won first prize. he didn't even seem happy about it. he was just relieved that they didn't lose. then he said he's having a celebratory lunch with hench next week. i said they should order a bottle of fake champagne and fake pour it on each other. i hate the league of dorks."
-the sports gal-

more than meets the eye  

1.10.2007 : 9:28 PM :
say, in your current life, you're at a crossroads. the big five of happiness (friends, career, relationship, family, miscellaneous?) are all in disarray or in disorder, would you switch places with someone? i think children think about this alot. they dream of being somebody else completely. they're very willing to throw away their identity for another; assuming the new identity is "better."

however, as adults, are we less willing to do that? i mean, as the years pass, we become more comfortable in our own skin, we get attached to our self-conception, and we want to be ourselves at all costs. all of young adulthood is figuring out who we are so we're less apt to surrender after that sort of battle. we value our unique combination of quirks, tics, and failings.

sure we may get jealous of other people's lives, we may covet the things our peers have, we may hate our love handles that are settling in a little too easily, but mainly, we understand that the journey is just as important as the destination. we would not sell ourselves out to achieve the end goal of "success," right?

if you had a friend who was gorgeous, successful, happily married, etc, would you pull off a freaky friday and just go with it? or are we wise enough to understand that everyone has their own set of problems, however hard to fathom they may be from the outsider's perspective.

it seems like certain segments of the general public, they want out of their bodies -- and situations -- as soon as possible; the plastic surgery people, the wannabe star people. however, what's the difference between taking the straight surgical route and the windy hard work route? if you get to the same place in the end, why not get there faster?

if you are mildly happy and have some life goals in mind, would you really pass up the chance to just skip ahead a few steps, take a ride on the reading railroad, and just get there? i think we all would, right? even if it meant skipping or sloughing off parts of current selves in the process?

if identity is what we make of it, what's the difference between slowly evolving and instantaneously transforming? is it just about personal integrity at that point?


1.09.2007 : 2:54 PM :
what i have learned, from working in the (telephone) customer service industry over the past six months or so, is that never trust anything you are told. basically, the people on the other end of the phone know about as much as you do, they just pretend to be informed and authoritative. if you are calling to contest a bill, to ask a question, to fix something; be sure to call more than once. do not take the word of anyone behind the phones, regardless of how eloquent or well-versed in the subject they seem.

the goal of customer service sales reps is to get you to do something -- fill out an application, leave feeling placated, etc -- or to pass the buck on responsibility. beyond that, they could really care less. trust and honesty are keywords in these industries, however, intensive training is not.

generally how a call center works is that one or two supervisors know everything and then that knowledge is diffused throughout the office in sporadic burst of memos and emails. situations where one representative thinks one answer is right while another rep thinks completely the opposite is common. more than likely, both of them are wrong.

when dealing with tough questions, things get kicked "upstairs" when customers get hot -- or ask questions that are outside of the rep's limited expertise. any so called "expert" who is barely a cut above minimum wage labor is hardly an expert at all. except me. i mean, i'm totally trustworthy and know exactly what i'm talking about.


1.06.2007 : 12:29 AM :
"if closeness forms the basis of friendship, it stands to reason that your best friend would be someone with whom you enjoy supersized intimacy. but according to social psychologists, there's another component to best friendship that may trump even intimacy: social-identity support, the way in which a friend understands, and then supports, our sense of self in society or the group.

we become best friends with people who boost our self-esteem by affirming our identities as members of certain groups, and it's the same for both genders. men who derive their most cherished identity through their role as high school quarterback, for instance, are most likely to call a former fellow teammate 'best friend.'

we stick with people who support our social identity and withdraw from those who don't. we may even switch friends when the original ones don't support our current view of ourselves.

most of us would prefer to think that we love our friends because of who they are, not because of the ways in which they support who we are. it sounds vaguely narcissistic, and yet the studies bear it out."
-friendship: the laws of attraction-

panic! at the cubicle  

1.04.2007 : 2:07 PM :
when you used to sit in school, under the table and dreaming, did you ever think about escaping? not escaping school for the day or for a month, but forever. like, "man, i wish i was outta here and i didn't ever need to come back." probably not right? school, at least up to the high school level, was a chore we had to undertake. our day dreams were probably more along the lines of "i wish the bell would ring so i can get out of here already" or "i sure wish so-and-so would acknowledge my existence."

i think part of the reason why our little minds never reached beyond the scope of skipping school temporarily is because none of our peers were escaping education either. aside from a few home schooled freaks, a few delinquents, and the occasional athlete, everyone went to school. there was no escape, for us or for our peers.

the problem nowadays is that there are plenty of our peers opting out of work. i define "working" as being chained to a desk nine-to-five. just in the last month, i've had friends dreaming big -- beyond the scope of the office. they are leaving a steady job to start their own company; they are leaving their lucrative, but hated, professions for the unknown; they are preparing to move across the country, or even across the world.

the point is, we're quitters. without either (a) proper motivation or (b) excessive compensation -- sometimes both -- nobody's sticking around. changing jobs is part of our lifestyles. bigger and better, or even simpler and better if that's your style.

maybe all this is happening because my friends now have enough experience and leverage to call their own shots and to dictate their own paths. the "oyster" that was promised to us almost a decade ago is finally opening a crack. that's a nice way to think about it. we're not quitters, we're progressors. however, i have a sneaking suspicion that some of us are just hitting dead ends rather than open fields of grass.

actually, i'm a quitter. i've quit every real job i've had. i'm aiming to go three for three. at this rate, i'll never gain the "5 years or more of experience necessary" to obtain a real craigslist or job. i feel like with most jobs, you can learn everything you need to know within a year -- six months for exotic sponges like me. apparently nobody else agrees.


1.03.2007 : 3:44 PM :
"modernism reversed the 19th century relationship of public and private: in the 19th century, public buildings were horizontally expansive for a variety of technical reasons, and private buildings emphasized verticality -- to fit more private space on more and more limited land. whereas in the 20th century, public buildings became vertically oriented, and private buildings became organized horizontally."

new year's eve, actually  

1.01.2007 : 10:33 PM :
for the first time in a long time, the new year started off with a bang. that's in direct contrast to the many new year's eves spent in either mid-commute, in a parking lot, or at my parent's house surrounded by a few dozen chinese adults singing auld lang syne.

actually, as i get older, the last one isn't a bad thing. it's refreshing to see people (old or young) really enjoy and ring in each new year surrounded by friends and family -- over and over again. hell, if we're bored of new year's during our mid-twenties, how exciting can it be in our mid-fifties? at least these parents are showing us young kids how it's done.

the new year is however, for couples. i think december 31st has to rank (a distant) second as the worst day for those who aren't romantically linked with someone. forget mistletoe and christmas, nobody goes into christmas hoping for a kiss. valentine's and new year's however, different story. i believe the singles usually suffer a moment, however slight, of: "another year, another moment i'm alone in this universe -- possibly forever."

the only reason new year's is a distant second is that there's only one moment when you have to confront the idea of not having someone to kiss (or rather, to avoid being punched when you try); valentine's is the whole damn day. plus, there's eternal hope on new year's. i mean, there's always a chance that the hot platonic girl/guy next to you will smooch you just on basic principle.

few people have high hopes of scoring a relationship on valentine's in the same manner. anyone out and about is probably already taken, or for the truly cynical, obviously flawed since they can't find a valentine's either. losers.

i heard that my mom was struck by a gripping loneliness two new year's ago, and that's why she's avoided new year's celebrations since. i feel lonely any time i'm left to my own devices for more than a few days -- i start to go bonkers and seek out friend contact anywhere i can find it. i can hardly imagine the depths of loneliness that my mom feels each and every day; much less on new year's eve, with chinese parents hugging and singing. it's just like the familiar new year's eves of the past for her, but totally not.

i spent the stroke of midnight trying to call a friend, to tell him that the dj was spinning a song that reminded me of him. maybe i should have spent that time sensitive phone call less flippantly, and more caringly.

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