Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hello, telly

There are people who don't watch TV. Some of them go out of their way not to, to decry the trash that is this accessible god, this American idolatry. Sure there's lots of trash but I find this behaviour a bit strange. As if they would be afraid that they might like something on the boob tube. And then I'd make them say "boob tube."

Anyways, I like TV. And you may know about my latest tv show crush, Grey's Anatomy. Part of what is so great about the show is the seemingly unconscious presentation of a racially diverse cast of actors. Okay, maybe unconscious isn't the right word; it makes it sound as if the creators and producers were bludgeoned on the head for a time, knocking them out, and then the next thing they knew when they woke up, there are all these black and asian peoples (no latino? I haven't watched all the eps) running around in scrubs to canadian pop-rock. What I mean is that the episodes aren't special hallmark issues about race nor are all the minority characters marked as such from the start. They're subtle pokes, take it or leave it.

It's how Sandra Oh's character didn't get the "Yang" affixed to the Cristina until Oh got the part and this past week's "Steve Murphy" character was an Indian dude. It's how Joe the bartender introduces his gay, Asian boyfriend at Thanksgiving dinner and Cristina's like, "whatever. where's the booze." Cristina's called on to translate some Chinese lady, and she deadpans, "No. I grew up in Beverly Hills. The only Chinese I know is from a Mr Chow's menu. Besides, I'm Korean."

The blog, racial pro-file, has has some good entries on this subject, most recently about the inclusion of Asian males. He brings up a really great point that I'd never considered about one of my favorite characters, Dr. Bailey, excellently played by Chandra Wilson:
When Rimes isn't writing, the show is worse on all levels, including racially. But the Bailey character is the prototype minority activist warrior--she not only outperforms the white folks and men around her, she destroys them. Her character is so powerful, that even when white folks write, they are forced to consider a minority perspective in order to make her at all believable. That's a major accomplishment on Rimes' part.

Imagine that! Creating such a great character that other writers have to take alter their way of seeing things! She's retained in her creation some amount of control.
And that's the thing. I think I've more clearly figured out what bothers me about stuff like that book by the Kim sisters, urging others to keep it real and go for the money. It's about power. Yes it's hard to argue that those who earn lots of money, especially doing good works (or even bad) through doctoring or lawyering or other things, have a lot of power. But those minorities who carve out a place in the media have a lot of power for change as well.
I once wrote something about this issue whilst in school, tempering my stance saying something like well, maybe it's not the answer to say, lay down your scalpels, your briefcases all, and pick up those guitars, those scripts! And I got called out on that, with a comment that reminded me, well no, nothing's going to change, perception will not be majorly influenced, unless there is more visual representation.
We're not just social animals now, we're media animals. And who's going to listen and look if you're not even there? At least we have a general situation here that doesn't require resorting to setting cars on fire, merely to remind others to look, listen, and learn, we are here. Some of you, who are so inclined, can just work really hard, maybe even appear on the telly, and change things that way too. Don't spurn the boob tube.

Monday, November 28, 2005

thanksgiving at the fortress

The formerly titled Fortress Nightingale goes all out on Thanksgiving. Sometimes there is kimchi. Sometimes there is not. But otherwise, it gets all american what with a green bean casserole where all the ingredients come from a can, and cranberry sauce, which sploops out from a can, and you'd almost expect sweaters and scotch glasses and golden retrievers and people who work here instead of pink-faced Korean ladies uproariously laughing about something or other and their children of all ages loyally making fun of them.

Then there's the question gauntlet portion of the evening. "So, are you having fun at work?" Fun? Do I ask them if they had fun bringing up their children? No. I am eating my corn. Are you having fun? What a weird question. I'm envisioning a line like at an amusement park to get in the fun elevator to get in the fun door with my fun security magnetic card thingy and sit in front of my fun computer to deal with my fun spam e-mail and then answer questions from fun old people. It's pretty freaking exhilerating. They should make it the new ride at Great Adventure.

Following quickly is the question of, when am I going to school again? I dug out my 'stonewall-janet' act of icy "I don't know's" and moved on to my yams. Or were they sweet potatoes? Go soon, they urged, while you are young. And you can catch a man. Fortunately, I was spared any further man talk.

My middle-aged cousin who is getting her masters is some sort of education thingy came a little late. She asked me the same questions. Then her mom started nagging her too and she got the same routine. And then I realized, my heart mashed as my potatoes, oh.my.god.it.never.stops.

My other cousin, mother of two herself, reminded me because I wouldn't know this, that this is how Korean mothers are.

A couple of days later, I read over some college essays for the son of a family friend. His mother had implored me to advise him on choosing a major. She seemed, very dramatically, at the end of her parenting rope. He seemed to have leanings towards politics and law. So driven, these young! He explained his mother's sighs of woe and terror. She wanted him to be a doctor. I then said a bit too loudly, okay well, maybe I shouted a bit too crazily, "Don't let them get you!!!!!" He hunkered down and looked for escape routes as I shook my fist.

Friday, November 18, 2005

chocolove

gingercho.jpg My new favorite chocolate - by chocolove. 65% dark with crystallized ginger. Yummy! And they have a policy against exploited/forced labor. Their FAQs also answers, "Why is there a strong association between chocolate and love?" I know that one already. Because it's calorifically DELICIOUS and fills that void of chocolove within my chocoheart.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

AzN upDaTe bY **anGelZbaBeEkimChi***

So, Jun Choi is mayor of Edison! He's Edison's first Asian mayor. I hope he does good things. He'll have a lot on his plate. If he fails, he'll *GASP*... dishonor the family, the nation of Korea, all Asians everywhere!!! Look JunChoi, don't go all Butterfly and let some white sailor dude come swinging by with promises of marriage and asking you to go to see Green Day, and then when you say you've never heard of them, he'll say "how cool is that?" and then he'll go to your room and read your diaaarrryyy. Dear Diary: I think I like strawberry lip gloss the best. My friend got some pink Ugg boots. I'm soooo jealous. Oh, and today I won the mayoral election. YEssssss - I just made an irrelevent, unfunny opera-Weezer mash-up joke.

Jun to the Choi won to this sore loser. Interesting fact in this article: The US Dept of Justice was called in to monitor primary polls. Some findings: poll workers telling federal observers voters should learn English in order to vote; and a poll worker stating when a Gujarati or Hindi-speaking voter appeared she would "send them to the nearest gas station. For shame!!! And besides, tell those poll workers that Edison and neighboring Iselin is integral to the New York Times Dining section for every article on Indian food that they do. That'll ... not shut them up. It'll be interesting to see if/when there will be any racial backlash and how Choi's term plays out.

And following up on those pesky Kim sisters, an article that focuses on the negative effects of such parental pressures to conform to a narrow definition of success. 50 Cent had nothing, I'm assuming, to do with the titling of this piece: Succeed or Die Trying. (Sensitive!) Now, if the 'trying' had been 'tryin,' I would have suspected that Ms. Eng got a helping hand from Mr. Fitty. Still, a very sobering and not well-known fact: Asian-American women holding the highest suicide rates in the nation among women age 15 to 24--an American age category that holds the highest general suicide rates to begin with, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Joy Dietrich is in the process of making a movie, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, which addresses this.

I got some St. John's Wort yesterday at Whole Foods and will be giving it a try to see if that alleviates the 'sitch'.

healthy <strike>wealthy</strike> and <strike>wise</strike>

I love Hummus Place. You can spend less than $10 here and get stuffed with hummus and pita until your preppy-button down shirt pops off like a cartoon with a big ping! and then your eyes get all big like saucers. Plus they have mint tea and turkish coffee and baklava and yrmrmrmmummm.

They also have a salad on their menu called "Health Salad" that is quite refreshing (and cuts the uber-hummusness of every bite) and quite easy to make. Or imitate, at least. The ingredients are listed on their menu, and I decided to try making some.

What to do:
Chop up a tomato or two. Pretty small pieces - that goes for the rest of the chopping.
Sort of peel and chop up a cucumber or two
Chop up some red onion. Go easy if you will be breathing on people.
Chop up some parsley
Squeeze some lemon. Don't be stingy.
Pour some nice olive oil. Do not call it E.V.O.O.
Add a pinch of salt.
Mix that up.

et Voila! Health! Salad! SO EASY! I like having it with the Sabra hummus I get from the store, sometimes with a boiled egg, and warmed up pita or flatbread.

There's a picture of it at gothamist that YP took if you are curious to see what chopped up vegetables look like.

Monday, November 14, 2005

State of Emergency

Last week, I attended PEN's State of Emergency:Readings Against Torture, Arbitrary Detention & Extraordinary Rendition – continuing a series that began with a reading last summer on free speech. Salman Rushdie, as president of PEN, again headed the stellar line-up whose reading choices were excellent: moving, forceful, and engaging. Especially for the woman behind me who sealed each turn with a sympathetic-sounding-I'm-so-into-this "Mmmmmm."

Rushdie started off the proceedings with a little logic puzzle. W. says the US doesn't torture. But the administration is moving to block any legislation against torture. (Today, the Post announces a compromise among McCain's amendment to ban torture, putting us back into being more in accords with the standards set by the Geneva Convention and Sen. Graham's original proposition to strip away the prisoners' rights to habeas corpus.)

I highly recommend checking out the audio of the whole event, which left me more angrysad with disturbing lingering images from the readings, of people adorning trees like spanish moss and dismembered ears leaning on the ground. All the poems were excellent, many of them by Latin American poets. Other recommendations include the incredibly satirical story by Donald Barthelme "Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby" read by Heidi Julavits and From "Exhibit D," legal documents from a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay read by the fabulous Jessica Hagedorn, and the journalist/lawyer Emma Reverter's account of Guantanamo.

Playwright Edward Albee signed off his reading with, "If we dont learn from history, they tell us, we're bound to repeat it." You know, even after we've figured that part out long ago, stuff like "Never again," it doesn't seem to change our behaviour, does it? We are so smrt.

More reading material:
A Deadly Interrogation. Jane Mayer from the New Yorker takes an in-depth look at prisoner abuse and the government/military response. She is interviewed and talks about her article.

An excerpt, Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division, from a Human Rights Watch report, published a few weeks back in the New York Review of Books.

Broken Social Scene did a really great live session at KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic playing stuff from the new album and it's nice cuz it's acoustic-y, not all fuzzy from production, and you can even make out some of the lyrics!! Plus the Feist song, Intuition, not that one that Jewel does in that razor commercial. Pink! for Women!

Two fans have ripped mp3s of the thing here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

the sympathetic nod

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In compensation for not being able to attend the Chocolate Show, an extravanza of a substance which Robyn most appetizingly called, "the best turd colored food in existence," I bought a nice bar of Jacques Torres Wickedly Spiced 60% Dark Chocolate. Best $5 therapy I ever had. The description on the site says: Imagine what dark chocolate with ancho and chipotle chilis would do to you. It's a warm penetrating heat in your throat. Share this with someone special. I think sharing with all my selves count. They're all nodding back at me with ancho chili smiles.

Anyhow, last week, I was supposed to meet some friends for tea on Monday. When we were on the phone discussing a meeting place, I was clearly not really paying attention. I said something about tea and I said something about sympathy and see ya there. I went to Sympathy for the Kettle while my friend went to Tea and Sympathy. Our collective sympathetic bads.

I decided to go meet them as I'd never been to the Brit ex-pat outpost. We met up at, well, a café across the street (called "Soy". yeah seriously.) because there are rules. You follow the rules at Tea and Sympathy. The customer is not always right. You can't be seated without the whole party. But I brought the party and we entered the cosy establishment. (There are some rules on the door and on the menu - stuff like you can stay if there's nobody around but leave if there are people waiting. $9 something minimum per person. etc etc)

The atmosphere was at once warm and butter-like. In that it smelled like butter. It was fantastic. You can come here for traditional English fare like shepherd's pie, baked beans on toast, welsh rarebit and pretend you're in the land of the queen mum. Our service was brisk but not unfriendly. My friends got scones and something with rhubarb, I don't remember. And I got warm spicy ginger cake. I was unprepared because I didn't realize it was a pudding. So it was warm spicy ginger cake in a bath of warm custard. I was positively giddy. GIDDY with custard and cake sugary joy. Paired with black ginger tea, perfectly brewed and tea strainer provided (I kept forgetting to use it), it was a lovely nighttime teatime. It sounds kinda pricey for tea time but it was just as expensive as a fancy martini. CUSTARDDDDD!!!

I also found Teamap, a pretty nice tea directory with pictures and reviews etc. so go find a new tea house and drink a cuppa.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Voice complaints

Sorry the commenting function was all cracked out for a couple of days. Apparently, "http" is called "questionable" and then rejected.

So if you had wanted to contribute your lovely voices and were denied, argh! and sorry!!!

And when did the new version of movable type come out? Now I have to upgrade and I hate it. Because I'll do it all wrong.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

grey's anatomy



Okay. Well, Grey's Anatomy is my TV crush of the season. I lurrve it. It plays that silly indie music I like, and makes me laugh (on the inside) and cry (on the outside), and generally feel a little bit ridiculous because this weirdly soap-opera-ish primetime hospital dra-medy knows how to push my emotional buttons. The cast aint bad-lookin' either. Ha!

Some commenter in the TVoP forum described the show as "shockingly watchable" to which I wholeheart-on-my-sleevedly agree. So there you go. I'm on the slippery path towards becoming one of those people who become part of a tv forum community to post something like: I lurrurururuuvee George and my forum icon will be a picture of him. Because he is so damn dorky-cute. Or maybe the icon will be the fabulous Sandra Oh. Cuz she's Korean. And we're all alike.

T.R. Knight, who plays George, was actually in a couple of good plays I saw during my stint at LANY. I went digging through my old playbills after some googling. Yeah. Nerd. Watch out. Next time you'll be like, "Hey, watsup J?" And then I'll be like, "Oh you know. The usual. Running the fan websites for Grey's Anatomy cast members and writing some more fanfic..." And then that's your cue to run far far away from me, flailing your arms and bemoaning the end of the world as you know it.

At least it's not the O.C.

Friday, November 04, 2005

4.48 psychose

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(Long entry. Looooongggg. And probably lots of verb tense mix-ups. Like your favorite cocktail. Bring me my mojito with the past present! Wheeeee!)

This past friday, I went to see Isabelle Huppert in 4.48 Psychose. I think I was sufficiently warned about this difficult theatrical experience. First of all, it's Isabelle Huppert; what I know of her work is enough to cause squishy happy huggy people to explode with combustible troubled thinking into noir-ish smoke. I knew the play was something to the tune of Sarah Kane's exploration of deep depression and contemplations on suicide. Plus, ticket-buyers also received a letter in the mail beforehand making sure we understood that the play, originally in English, was to be performed entirely in French, with "relatively rare" supertitles. The director Claude Régy also chimed in: The static actress is the center. It is through her face, her voice, her body, that the whole "show" takes place...It would be destroying Isabelle Huppert's work if one had to look up too often in order to read the supertitles. Okay – super depressing static untraditional play in mostly untranslated French by one of the most intimidating actors alive today in an intermissionless 1 hour and 45 minute work. Give me my popcorn and m&ms and bring in the clowns! the sad crazy french clowns and let's get this crazy whirlwind of fun circus started!!

So I was a bit nervous as I sat down in the balcony of BAM and snuck some bites of chocolate before the lights went dark to calm my elementary French understanding nerves. Then after a bit of silence, there is Huppert, standing center stage in a rectangular pool of light with actor Gérard Watkins behind a scrim. The play is written out almost like free-form poetry. Thus, dialogue is not necessarily assigned to specific people. The first production of the play had three actors, while in this, Huppert was the character struggling with psychosis, with herself, and Watkins was the ambiguous conflation of doctor/lover/oppressor/outsider who remained behind that scrim when he was visible. And not more than fifteen minutes passed when people started leaving the theater. Didn't they get the letter? I pondered. In any case, the leaving, which continued at a trickle throughout the next half hour, was otherwise totally understandable, as a matter of taste and level of French comprehension.

While I find the lack of translation thing rather questionable, I wonder how the perceptions of the audiences were affected differently, depending on their competence in the language. I think I got by with maybe 40-50% of the French, even with the help of the "rare supertitles," and for me, for a good amount of the time the gap didn't matter so much right then. It made me pay perhaps the closest attention I have ever had to in the theater, to the sound of the words and their rhythms, to Huppert's stare at us and her vocal modulations (or lack thereof), her barely noticeable shifts with her hands. And made me wish I was sitting closer.

The performance had the curious quality of being absolutely riveting while having very little expression of outward emotion, with mostly slow, sharp pronunciation, with occasional loudening and rhythmic incantations of adjectives, verbs, and downers like "No hope. No hope. No hope......" This Times review is spot on, likening Huppert's delivery of the text to a French diction class. Except instead of, "Please give me a coffee," it's declarations like, "I feel that the future is hopeless and that things cannot improve."

It wasn't all doom and gloom. Throughout the piece, there is humor... of the doom and gloom. The darkest and gallowiest of humors: sharp, dry, sardonic, but quite funny, if you appreciate that sort of thing. "Have you made any plans," the shadowy doctor asks. "Take an overdose, slash my wrists then hang myself." [beat] "All those things together?" A bit later: "I dreamt I went to the doctor's and she gave me eight minutes to live. I'd been sitting in the fucking waiting room half an hour." Yeah, life's like that sometimes.

The title comes from the time of early morning that Kane would awake during a period of depression and find herself in a state of clarity, a state which she called sanity, and as in the play 4:48 was a kind of "happy hour." (Huppert threw out those two words in English, perfectly, with a throaty world weariness.)

But the questioning of this work, structured and poetic as it is, as a piece of theater rolls easily off the brain. It's different, alright, but is this theater? Is there drama and all its trappings up there on the stage? Well, it doesn't have many trappings, and without a powerful actor like Huppert, I can imagine that it is near impossible to stage and some people would find this a boooooorrrringggg snoozefest in any staging. But I think this production made it work. Huppert's near impassive and immobile acting was appropriate, embodying the paralysis rendered by the chaos of the inside and the incapability to really take part in, to take in, life. She cannot Do things. This character is so angry, so begging to be saved, and to be loved, not to be looked at but watch her, she wants you to watch her disappear. She wants to die but she wants to live too. It's an utterly shifty state, which seems to call out for the immediacy of theatre, its verbalization and dialogue open for an audience to take all that in, all that madness and frustration and your own distance or proximity to someone else's breach from the so-called sane.

Kane killed herself not long after finishing this work at the age of twenty-eight, a fact that haunts the work and plops itself with no subtlety into every discussion of the play. Perhaps not fair, but near impossible to separate. But the intro to the complete plays of Sarah Kane brings up a good point and another reason why this works for the stage, describing the play's openness as something that allows the audience "to enter and recognise themselves within." The experience was fascinating, frightening, resonant, stark, and in large part thanks to one of the craziest, and yes talented, actresses of today and a really powerful work of art.

More on Sarah Kane

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mountain Goats

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The Halloween was well-spent, neither waiting for the Great Pumpkin nor wading amongst costumed revelry, though I did give the best costume award to a girl dressed up as a piece of sushi.

Instead, I accompanied a friend to the Knitting Factory to catch Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, Grizzly Bear aaaannnndndddd the Mountain Goats. I also have found that saying that I am going to see the Mountain Goats, in particular, provokes a strange little response from people who have never heard of them. "What? Mountain goats? Like ba-a-a-a-a? That's so weird." No, those sound more like sheep, but yeah. Like ba--aa-a-a.

Despite it being the big 3-1 of October, by the time the Goats came on, the place was packed, with some people in costume too. I was excited to hear prayers and tears... since I practically tattooed their song "lisa" on my ears and then cried the tattoos out through my eyes. (It doesn't even have to be possible. The Great Pumpkin FORGOT about me.) I had not however listened much to their likewise lengthily-titled album, and though I knew they were relatively peaceful players and I'm glad they rocked out a bit.

Grizzly Bear was interesting and yet not. Because my feet hurt. When they all sang, it was cool. I liked the drummer's sad clown makeup. And that, my friends, is scintillating music criticism.

I wasn't much familiar with the Mountain Goats prior to the concert, also being kind of put off by John Darnielle's voice. But it's probably something that takes a few listenings to get used to. But the set was great! fun and funny and great so that equals grfunneat! Yay! I loved the songs, the story-teller lyrics, the delivery, the fans' exuberance (even their singing along to every word was endearing), Darnielle's in-between-song-darkly-humorous-banter and his friar costume while singing about hailing satan and his so-happy-to-be-musicking-grin and bassist Peter's Death costume. I laughed many-a-time just looking over at Death With No Face, rocking out on the bass. Darnielle thanked the fans after each song and mentioned how much he loved coming to the Knitting Factory to do these shows and that if for some reason they blew up and played MSG, they would keep on doing the KF shows. A-w-w-wwww!

PTADB came back to back the duo, one member having joined the mummy cause and I wouldn't have minded if they just played every show together, as long as they played Lisa too. So now I guess I've been converted or something. Or at least I'll borrow some of my friend's cds.

Some more pictures of mine here (I need camera help.) and over at the dependable brooklynvegan.