Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Detox

I will be ushering in the New Year by fasting, in every possible way. Extreme detox.

No men, no booze, no smokes, no caffeine, no solid food.

SK and I will meet for yoga twice a week in the evenings so she can confirm I am still mobile. IC will weigh me every Friday to make sure I do not go below my lower weight limit. WC will check in on me once a week and hold a mirror to my nose and mouth to confirm I am still breathing and sprinkle water on me if I look dehydrated.

At boozy brunch yesterday, I asked WC what social activities exist that do not involve booze. I must have been speaking in Urdu because she just looked at me blankly.

My calendar for January looked so virginal that this morning I scheduled in things such as: "shower", "sit around", "be cranky", "crave something" just so I am not mocked by the absence of any real activities.

And while this may sound bleak, I am consumed by excitement. My focus will be inward. Work, yoga, piano and guitar, and dare I hope it? Sleep. The dance classes with IC and SK will wait until February after I have re-introduced myself to solid food. Evidently IC's jazz dance instructor is well worth staring at twice a week for an hour each time.

The good news is that I should be a really cheap date for my birthday. By 6:45PM, with half a glass of wine in me, I should be completely out and my exceedingly tolerant friends can haul my unconscious body to my bed and then continue my birthday celebration without me.

How FUN!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gesture Dramatically

With JN in town from Austria, I have a handy resource if I need reminders of things I had said and done as a child. Which is about as fun as one might imagine.

We were in my apartment working, and, as I am wont to do, I was dancing to Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart. JN pointed out that this isn't a good song to dance to... that it's better suited to sitting to, while gesturing dramatically from the waist up - which is what she was doing.

As I ignored her, she asked me, "Remember when you didn't like to dance? When did that change?"

It wasn't so much about things changing as it was about blocks suddenly, mysteriously vanishing.

Once I danced only to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive and Men at Work's Down Under. And one day, to my surprise, I found myself dancing to Crowded House and Duran Duran. A block removed. And as the years progressed, blocks kept disappearing.

The final block was removed this weekend. And this time, I can point to the precise moment of block removal: dancing to that Techno crap at that club on Friday night. Apparently, after that experience, I can now dance to ANYTHING.

SK and I had boozy sushi last night, and we found ourselves sitting at our table, eating sushi and drinking pomegranate martinis, listening to the musak that was piped in, and shimmying happily away.

Off now to gesture dramatically to the Bangles' Eternal Flame.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Laugh Lines

Some cities are whores. They open up to anyone. Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Shanghai. With certain cities, armed with a Fodor's guide or reviews, even the most inexperienced of travelers can quickly feel that they've developed a certain intimate knowledge of the rhythms of a place.

But then there are other cities that don't PLAY hard to get. They ARE hard to get. New York and Beijing, for example. You need an introduction to these cities. And even then, it's not often easy. Certain cities, like certain people, require work and patience and a level of commitment. Sometimes, it SHOULD be difficult.

With every city I have lived in as an adult, there has always been that moment when it becomes mine.

After college, I moved "back" to NYC for work and graduate school. I was also a shoe model for 5 minutes. (The dogs are a perfect size 6, thank you very much, and that is the only requirement for modeling shoes). One night I had dinner with my photographer friend, the owner of the modeling agency, and a few of their friends. The discussion revolved around ex spouses, alimony, and step-children. Having had no direct experience with any of those things at the tender age of 21, I contributed several charming stories about my childhood pet - a near-feral Siamese cat.

I was struck by the incredible beauty of one of the women at the table. Ten minutes later, I was struck by her utter lack of warmth. Ten minutes after that, I was struck with the notion that perhaps she had died and no one had noticed. But she wasn't dead, nor was she cold and unfriendly. She was a former model and so terrified of aging and laugh-lines that she had trained herself not to smile and to move her mouth as little as possible when she spoke. I was skeptical of the efficacy of this approach, and thought that she would have been far more beautiful with a few laugh-lines. There's a quote I can't attribute correctly, but it goes along the following lines: that we can't take credit for our beauty (or lack of it) when we are young. It's only after decades of living that we can take credit for our faces - because whether we've spent those years laughing or scowling will, only then, be evident on our faces. Of course, in the age of botox, this is less relevant, but the truth of it still applies. After that dinner, I took a taxi home and asked the driver to drop me off several blocks away from my apartment so I could walk the rest of the way. I was feeling terribly sophisticated and glamorous and the city was humoring me that night and that's when NYC truly became home for me all over again.

In Beijing, it took a full year. One night, I was working late and alone in the office. And outside my window, I could see the lights of Guo Mao and The Kerry Center. In the dark that night, suddenly Beijing seemed beautiful and familiar to me, and reminded me of... New York.

New York surprised me last night. I found myself in a club where I am fairly certain there were only 3 people over the age of 30, and their initials are CK, SK and MT. It was a club I had been to just once before, 20 years ago. I was too young then, too old now, and interestingly enough, it felt... the same - so odd and ill-fitting that all one can do is shrug and join the dancing throng. It was a side of NYC I had completely forgotten and it was lovely to see it again.

Just goes to show, even after you think you understand a place and can categorize it, predict it, you can be surprised. The same goes for people.

Personal Care Item

The Hello Kitty Shoulder Massager:

Sanrio, upon learning that Hello Kitty was being used to massage parts other than shoulders, expressed official outrage and discontinued the item. However, I discovered recently that the item has been re-released, but only available in Japan.

Naturally, I asked MM in Tokyo to purchase 15 and to ship them to me in the States. Being the fabulously sexy, "hey, it's all good" kind of woman she is, she asked no questions and simply placed the order on my behalf.

Friends don't question friends when they are asked to acquire multiple "massagers" for them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Burnt Hair and Birthdays

Just discussed my upcoming birthday dinner plans with WC. I prefer to start such planning discussions at least a month in advance.

I have only vague memories of my birthday last year. But when I called WC the following day, she was able to explain to me why my hair was burnt on the ends and why I woke up with an apple in my bed.

I am hopeful I will remain unsinged this time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On Communication

Can't sleep, nothing new.

But one big advantage for insomniacs, is having friends in different time zones. Someone's always awake.

I speak to my former Chinese language teacher, now friend, CZ, every few days over skype. She tells me the weather in Beijing. I tell her it's much the same in my part of the world. She works on improving her already proficient English; I work on trying to slow the steady deterioration of my Chinese.

When I was living in Beijing, I made egregious, usually hilariously entertaining, mistakes with my pronunciation on a daily basis. So I particularly enjoyed the rare times my Chinese friends made English language mistakes - after all, while it's tremendously fun to laugh at oneself, it's equally fun to laugh at others.

I studied martial arts for several months at the Capital College of Physical Education in Beijing. (BTW, being anywhere near me as I wildly flail my sword about is probably more frightening than any horror movie. My instructors were unflinchingly brave).

There was a small group of expats studying there, and we were fortunate enough to befriend three of the full-time Chinese college students, despite the language barriers. They wanted English names, so we obliged: Max, Jack, and Raphael. (The last was the contribution of someone who thought it would be funny to name them after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was too late to affect the naming of Raphael, but I put my foot down for the other two).

One day, after an especially grueling training session, Raphael lingered to wait for me as I packed up my assortment of weapons. I simply adored all of them, but I had a soft spot for Raphael. Mostly because out of all them, his English was the worst - completely non existent, in fact. So, in lieu of speaking and potentially pissing me off, he made do with smiling. And it was the first time I think I'd ever seen a smile that was actually "impish."

But that particular day, I was exhausted, and didn't feel up to taxing my brain by trying to speak in Chinese. So I smiled at him and silently, we trudged down the stairs together. Well, I trudged, he flew.

And then, at the bottom of the stairs, he turned to me and said, "You smell a lot."

Now, I'm an Asian female. This means I can marinate in my own juices for quite some time before smell becomes an issue. So I was still trying to process that statement when he continued, "You make me smell too."

That was another remarkable statement. I know how BO can sort of fly around and attach itself to unsuspecting, innocent passersby, but really... that kind of virulent BO from ME?!?

And then I realized his smile had transitioned from impish to sweet.

Ah. SMILE. Not SMELL. I told him, "Ni de fayin butai hao." And I spent the rest of that short walk to the taxi stand correcting his pronunciation and teaching him useful phrases such as, "Hey baby" and "Who's your daddy?"

I recounted this story to CZ over skype and she corrected my pronunciation and we had a good laugh.

But it led me to thinking... is it possible to be TOO articulate? Facile use of language is surely a wonderful thing, but can't it also sometimes be used as a shield, to obscure and complicate? I think of what I say, limited by my elementary Chinese, to my Chinese friends: "I miss you", "You are my friend", "I am happy to be talking to you."

All things I should be telling my English-speaking friends in English. But in our own way, I suppose we do communicate those sentiments to each other. It just comes out as, "Whaddup, bitch?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Stalking

In the Big Book of Apologies (which should exist, if it doesn't already), there is one apology which is not included (unless it's put in the chapter of BAD apologies, which, now that I think of it, would be a very worthy section). I will paraphrase:

99% of what happened was not my fault. But for the 1% that was, I am sorry. And I want to have sex with you.

Now this is the kind of lame ass apology which incites only rage and disgust and will be forwarded to friends and posted on blogs for ridicule.

Footnote: Credit goes to WC for the "Big Book of Apologies" witticism.

You Make Me Wanna Wait

When was the last time you laughed so hard you peed a couple drops? A couple months ago, WC and I saw Altar Boyz, and loved it. About a Christian rock boy band, Altar Boyz tells the story of 5 "boyz" who share a goal - to save souls through their music - and they track their progress on the Soul Sensor DX-12, manufactured by Sony.

WC snagged front row seats, close enough to be splattered by sweat and saliva, and I really hope nothing else.

Matthew, the leader of the boy band, sings this one lovely, romantic ballad. And for that particular performance, he knelt down right at the edge of the stage and held out his hand to... ME. Of course, I put my hand in his and furiously batted my eyelashes.

He sang:
When I met you girl
When I hold your body next to mine
It feels so good
And feels so right
And it also makes my Levi’s feel real tight

All my friends they think I’ve lost my mind
And they tell me I’m a fool
But I’m doing what I learned in Sunday school...

Girl, you make me wanna wait

Later, though, they brought up some ugly chick to sit on stage for the last part of the song while I fumed inwardly with a fury that could destroy worlds.

But then I got over it, and after the show, WC and I bought little tees that proclaim across the bosom: "You make me wanna wait."

I think I'll wear it when I decide to start having sex again. That should send a nice mixed message.

But anyway, I was doing yoga yesterday afternoon, and I was wearing that tee. My father looked at it and asked me, "Wait for what?"

"I don't remember," I replied. Which was truthful enough.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Ever since MomVee mentioned Love Actually in a recent post, I've been obsessed. I searched on iTunes to no avail. Netflix's video download service is for PCs only. (Actually renting the DVD seems entirely too complicated). But I've done it; I have figured out this new fangled thing called: "torrent." Called SK to tell her about it. She told me that next I should check out something called "e-mail."

After a few false starts and an unacceptably long download time, I am watching Love Actually, and enjoying myself immensely, despite Hugh Grant, despite no one dying violently.

So as I'm watching, I'm playing the game AM told me she plays in boring meetings. She looks around the room and chooses the man with whom she would be most likely to have sex.

I'm having trouble with that in this movie. Obviously, from a sheer "he's so hot and hardbodied he can't possibly be hetero" perspective, Laura Linney's love interest wins. And yet Colin Firth? Alan Rickman? I've been in love with Alan Rickman since Die Hard. I even watched Truly Madly Deeply because of him (and realized halfway through that the movie is gorgeous, and even has dead people in it!)

But if I had to choose just one...

And if the rules state the CHARACTER in the movie, not the ACTOR...

Colin Firth.

If the actor, then Alan Rickman.

Interestingly, my mother just voted for Laura Linney's hot, hardbodied, improbably hetero love interest.

That was fun. In real life it's a toss up between creepy-skin-care-product-stalker guy and sociopathic-alcoholic-stalker guy.

Golly, the imaginary world is SO much more appealing.

Mi Ze Hidlik

I remember recording this - we were on stage standing in our socks so there would be no sound of our shoes against the wooden floor.

And yet there's applause at the end...

SK, VH, KD: Help me out here - the version that made it onto the CD - was it our live performance in the holiday concert? Or did the engineers splice the applause from the concert to the end of the "recording" version? I'm fairly certain we wore our shoes for the actual performance? Or was the shoe-issue not relevant here because we were simply standing in place for this song?

So many questions.

But regardless, memory tells its own story and I remember us shoeless, brave, and almost entirely on key.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Home For Christmas

AL once described my family as a bunch of cats. Upon seeing each other after a long absence, we touch noses, sniff a bit, then proceed to completely ignore each other - unless one of us does something very interesting, in which case, the rest of us will come over to watch for a short while before wandering off again.

Christmas, though, being a special holiday, sees a few other elements.

Over Christmas Eve dinner, after my mother and I finish arguing about her dissertation or religion or politics or music or my haircut, my father tells his joke. Always the same one. And I haven't the slightest idea why he whips it out only at Christmas, with no apparent recognition that he's told the joke many times before. And what KILLS me, is that he tells it WRONG, every time.

Daddy: Gorbachev has a long one, Bush has a short one, and the Pope has one but doesn't use it. What is it?
Me: (Playing along, but cringing inside) What, Daddy?
Daddy: A penis!
Me: Er, I think the punchline is "a last name."
Daddy: No! It's a PENIS! GET it?!?
Me: *sigh*

But then after the dishes are cleared, I sit at the piano and accompany my father while he sings Moon River in an untrained yet remarkably beautiful baritone, and my mother sits nearby, closes her eyes, and smiles.

And that's when I think that perhaps I wasn't adopted after all.


He Got Rhythm

I was looking for my childhood copy of Wind in the Willows so I could visit with it awhile, when I found Riddley Walker, instead.

It was assigned to us in 11th grade English class. And I don't mind admitting that I had absolutely no understanding of what its deeper meanings might be. On the most superficial level, it's a "coming of age" story set in post-nuclear-holocaust England, where mankind has regressed to an almost primitive, semi-literate state. Huck Finn merged with Holden Caulfield meets Mad Max.

Russell Hoban invented a new language for this book. Perhaps that's what threw me when I was trying to read it at 15, but to be honest, it still throws me now. But that's also the thing I like best about it. You have to read it aloud. You have to read it slow. It's the rhythm which is absolutely infectious - and Hoban maintains the beat of it throughout the entire book.

Hear it for yourself, read it aloud:

On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there we wer then. Him on 1 end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy. I said, 'Your tern now my tern later.'

Makes me rethink what constitutes good writing. Throw out what's "trivial", focus solely on poetry and rhythm. It's like a jazz riff... where certain fundamental rules are followed, but others are broken. And it leaves me in awe and envy. I suppose this is one reason I have such a thing for Bach - I feel comfortable with rules and precision and established patterns. But that doesn't stop me being overwhelmed with admiration for those who can improvise.

And Riddley has his own explanation for why he writes:

Our woal life is a idear we dint think of nor we dont know what it is. What a way to live. Thats why I finely come to writing all this down. Thinking on what the idear of us myt be. Thinking on that thing whats in us lorn and loan and oansome.

Perhaps this means I shouldn't be so hard on boys who can't spell? I will consider it.

New Crush

By the way, have developed a new crush just now while in the bathroom, flipping through the latest Time Magazine I found in there.

Vladimir Putin.

He's got that manly, "You know you want it" look about him. Oh yes, Vlad baby, oh yes you know I do.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Overheard in Public Places

Q: "Have you ever been with a married man?"

A: "No. Not even when I was married."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's a Tiara Kind of Day

Holly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly: No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of.

-from Breakfast at Tiffany's

Holly should have tried just hanging out at home, wearing a tiara.

Watch More TV

How do you interpret the world around you?

In a recent conversation about writing, BL said that some people have large warehouses of stories and "knowledge" from which they can dazzlingly produce insights and connections between seemingly unrelated things. His example was Stephen Jay Gould.

Of course, Gould was in a class by himself with an warehouse, but we all have our warehouses, albeit smaller and filled with less interesting things. And the stories we've collected, the stories we've "written" ourselves, provide a basis for understanding the things that happen around us. It's pattern recognition - but in order to see a pattern, we need to RECOGNIZE it, it needs to be familiar. This is why you can always identify the women who've read too many Harlequin romance novels or the guys who've watched too much porn, because there's always the desire (or habit) to mold things into familiar patterns.

IC and I, in starting this business together, have had many a conversation about our respective strengths and weaknesses. Conventional wisdom as touted by self-help books and job performance reviews would tell you that you should identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on improving your weaknesses. We disagree. Our stance is that you should work on getting even better at the things you already do well and COMPLETELY IGNORE your weaknesses. You can always find people who do well what you can't.

SK and I discussed this in the context of IQ tests. I've taken three in my life - IQ tests administered by someone trained to do so, lasting HOURS. The first was when I was very young, and the hungrier I got, the more my answers involved food:

"What's the answer to this?"
"And this?"
"Fried SPAM with rice and kimchee."

The second was in High School, and the third was part of a job interview process (also involving countless sessions with shrinks, polygraphs, EKGs and MRIs and blood work, and sessions where I was instructed to wear comfortable clothes and I showed up garbed in my Juicy Couture sweatpants and matching hoodie and wedge sneakers purchased in Florence. But I'm not really allowed to talk about it so maybe I'm lying to make this post more titillating and as an excuse to type "titillating" again.)

There's a common thread throughout all my results. There are certain things I'm very good at: pattern recognition and production involving numbers and puzzles, in particular. And there are the things that I am VERY BAD at: essentially everything requiring an understanding of what motivates other people - my scores for those sections confirm my mother's worst fears that I am retarded.

This explains why I am constantly asking SK and IC why so-and-so did this or that, and what will so-and-so do next? However, they're not particularly good at this either, so we usually end up just making shit up, or trying fruitlessly to apply game theory, or going to's yes/no oracle.

WC and KK are far better resources for me. They both have vast warehouses of stories illustrating the calculus involved in interpersonal relationships. And just as people very fluent in a foreign language no longer have to translate when they speak or listen, WC and KK have internalized these patterns and pieces of patterns so that their analyses don't have to involve overt translation from a particular story. In contrast, if I haven't read a book or watched a movie that describes that exact interaction, I am at a loss.

So I guess my big take-away from this is that I should read more. And possibly watch more porn, or at least watch movies other than slasher flicks. Maybe the Lifetime Network?

Someone Like That

After WC and I got thoroughly rubbed and moisturized, we trekked over to the east side for dinner at her favorite sushi place, which has now become my favorite as well. Think art deco diner turned sushi bar.

Not only is the sushi lovely, the two-for-one happy hour drinks can't be beat. (SK, we are so going there for our post-Christmas dinner together!)

We decided to see a horror movie (big surprise), and the natural choice was I Am Legend. But we did cruise around Fandango on WC's blackberry to see what the rest of our options were, and this led to a perfectly ridiculous conversation. Ridiculous mostly because our post-spa glow was accompanied by a sudden descent to room temperature IQs and 6 pomegranate martinis didn't help.

"Atonement is playing, but that's sort of serious. Don't think you want anything serious right now that doesn't involve the spilling of lots of blood."

"Need blood-spill."

"Wasn't that a book?"


"No, Atonement."


"Who wrote it? "Mc"-something. Like that guy, "Mc"-something. The cute one."

"From Moulin Rouge?"

"And Star Wars."

""McEw"-something. Very cute. Can sing, too. Lovely tenor."

"Wasn't he the one who wrote Angela's Ashes?"

"The guy from Moulin Rouge?"

"No, the guy who wrote Atonement"

"Huh. Maybe. It's definitely a "Mc"-something name."


"Wasn't he Gandalf?"

"What are the chances Gandalf the Grey wrote books?"



"Another round?"

"Yes, please."

So on the way to the theatre, we ducked into the Borders and the information kiosk clarified all:

Author of Atonement: Ian McEwan
Author of Angela's Ashes: Frank McCourt
Actor in Moulin Rouge: Ewan McGregor
Actor who played Gandalf: Ian McKellan

We bought our movie tickets then went to a bar across the street, stole glassware, threw back another cocktail, and returned to the theatre. As we found seats, WC told me, "I knew it wasn't Gandalf the Grey who wrote Atonement, just someone like that."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cleanliness Gets You Next to Me

Talked to SK this morning as she was waiting for her flight out of Newark.

The topic at hand was hygiene.

You know how, when washing your hands, you are supposed to lather up with soap for the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday"?

Well, we have a song choice to guide boys when they are washing their other bits and pieces: "The Sound of Silence", ALL the verses. Scratch that, WC had an even better suggestion: "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". iTunes tells me that it is a full 8 and a half minutes long. So soap it up.

What's wrong with a guy who smells of Tide and Ivory soap? Nothing. At least from an olfactory perspective.

Suksan Wan Christmas!

With the holiday season upon us, I have had the following conversation multiple times with various people:

"You're not getting me a present, are you?"
"Nope, wasn't planning on it."
"Oh thank goodness. Not getting you anything either."

This is my new interpretation of the Christmas spirit.

MG texted me the other night; she wanted to drop off a "small giftie to tuck under the tree." This immediately elicited a flood of panic as I tore through my closets, looking for something to re-gift. I did pause briefly to consider my apartment - can a dying jade plant count as a Christmas tree? Maybe if I attach my tiara to it.

WC and I negotiated Christmas this year. After 20 years of diligently buying each other Christmas and birthday presents, we've run out of ideas. So for this Christmas (later this afternoon, actually), we will be spending equal amounts of money on ourselves at a spa, during which we won't actually see each other. But we will, afterwards, all limp-limbed and drooling after 3 hours of being pummeled and rubbed, have an early dinner together.

Two years ago, I spent Christmas by myself at the Banyan Tree Resort in Bangkok. It was a contemplative Christmas. Spent 8 hours in the spa, then ate mangosteens and drank wine with the bell boys in the lobby who tried their best to teach me dirty words in Thai. Well, that part of it wasn't so contemplative. But it was a test for myself, and one I think I passed. If you can keep laughing, then all is calm, all is bright. Wine and mangosteens don't hurt.

The Tragedy of Being Earnest

Waiting to Exhale was on television a couple hours ago.

Didn't watch it because I'd rather shove a hot poker in my eye than watch most chick flicks, and I eventually settled on Blood Rayne II on On-Demand.

After I graduated from college, I worked for a literary agent for about 5 minutes, and one day, when going through the "slush pile" of unsolicited manuscripts, I came across one that was written in response to Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale.

Brilliantly, the manuscript was titled: Struggling to Inhale. Tragically, it was written with total sincerity.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Demon Eel

I know what job I want. I want to be a judge for the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award. How fabulous would that be!?! Get to skim through books looking for the nasty bits - rather like being in 6th grade all over again, flagging the choice pages of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Here's my favorite entry from a couple years ago, replete with alarming images.
...the hot grip of her mouth, triggered his orgasm, which was not juice at all but a demon eel thrashing in his loins and swimming swiftly up his cock, one whole creature of live slime fighting the stiffness as it rose and bulged at the tip and darted into her mouth.

Paul Theroux, Blinding Light


Excuse me, something in my throat.


Still thinking of music school, so I sat down at my piano today and painfully worked my way through pieces I had played effortlessly when I was nine. Oddly enough, I was feeling frustration and enjoyment - odd, because I usually derive pleasure from my own sense of competence. But this was all about acceptance of compromise - and that reminded me of something I had learned in theory class...

The piano as we know it is a relatively new thing. The tuning, or temperament, wasn't always the way it is now. Often, the tuning was maximized for music written only in a certain musical key.

This is the issue: perfect intonation cannot be achieved for all the notes on a keyboard. Musicians, bear with me, or skip ahead. If you have a piano or a guitar, try this: bang/pluck on a key/string. The note will sound, and as it begins to fade away, you'll hear the overtones, different notes that are fainter and higher in pitch. (Rather like the dry-down of a perfume, but in reverse). For simplicity's sake, those other notes you are hearing create consonant (nice sounding) intervals with your original note you just banged or plucked.

However, on a piano keyboard, there is no way of tuning the twelve pitches so that every consonant interval is "just" or "perfect." If you were to try, you would not return to where you started, which is what you need to do every 12th note (except one perfect octave higher).

And if you were to try, you would end up with an instrument on which you could play music only in a certain key - which is NOT the wonderfully versatile piano that we all know and love today.

So to make the piano what it is today, almost every note is slightly "bent", ever so slightly out of tune, tempered.

Bach's Well Tempered Clavier is a collection of piano pieces, each written in a different key, demonstrating the ability of a single instrument, in tempered tuning, to play in ALL 24 keys.

I like to think of it as the celebration of something not often celebrated: the beauty of imperfection.

Are You A Player?

CL and I met for drinks last night and we had an interesting conversation which culminated in a "revelation" I am not quite willing to accept. So I asked TO to weigh in on the matter, as he was refilling my wine glass. TO replied, "Darlin', you don't KNOW this about yourself?" So I went home to my source of All Information and found a quiz which could settle things. Somewhat to my surprise, I found it explains quite a bit, because I SUCK at chess.

You Are a Total Player!

Congratulations, when it comes to the game of love, you're a pro.

Not only are you an expert player, you are a highly evolved one.

For you, dating is like a game of chess - with a much happier ending.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Suzanne Somers, Cellist

I have been thinking of music school a great deal lately.

One day, we had a substitute teacher for our ear-training class. He was a cellist and very handsome, so the girls stayed after class to flirt with him. He asked if we knew what was most important for cello mastery. We eagerly awaited his answer:

"The grip of your thighs."

We swooned.


Dildos are everywhere in Bhutan. Painted on the sides of buildings, hanging under the eaves of homes, wielded to great effect by monks.

When WC and I arrived in Bhutan, we climbed into the van and plastered our faces against the windows. And we began to see something pop up (so speak) repeatedly. The first time we drove by a house with a penis painted on the outside wall, complete with testicles and a few straggly hairs, I blinked and told myself, "Nah. Couldn't have been." But then it kept happening. WC was having a similar experience. Finally, we turned to each simultaneously and said in unison, "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?"

Then we whispered to her brother, "Ask the guide why there are penises EVERYWHERE."

As it turns out, the penis is a powerful symbol of fertility and good fortune in Bhutan.

We visited a temple with lovely murals painted on the inside walls. Our guide told us the story depicted: One day, a buddha decided to take a new lover. This particular buddha was an accomplished archer and so he took up his bow, fitted an arrow into the shelf, pulled back the string, and let the arrow fly. The thinking here was that the arrow would lead the buddha to his next lover. As it happened, the arrow landed in Bhutan, on the doorstep of a house. When the buddha arrived, he found a beautiful woman living there. So naturally he began to make love to her. Turned out however that she was married and when her husband arrived home to find his wife so occupied with another man, he was understandably a bit peeved.

The buddha, having reached enlightenment, possessed great power and demonstrated it (the exact nature of that demonstration was vague, I suspect something dirty). The husband was appropriately cowed and offered his wife freely, only asking that the buddha bless him before leaving.

With perfect comedic timing, just as WC and I were digesting this remarkable story, a monk appeared in the temple and told us that he would bless us. This sounded lovely, but then he produced his hands out from behind his back and approached us with a bow in one hand, and a perfectly enormous wooden dildo in the other.

I did what I do when scared, I froze in place. WC did what she does when scared, she ducked behind me and pushed me forward.

The priest thwacked me on the top of my head, HARD, with the bow and dildo, and then leaned around me to do the same to WC.

Thusly, we were blessed.

But please note that such behavior would certainly not be considered a blessing if done by anyone other than a Bhutanese Buddhist monk.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

High Brow Smut

My mother is a genius. This is an objective statement of fact, not colored by love or familial respect. Earlier this year, she finished her second PhD, in Religious Philosophy (her first was in Computer Science - those of you enjoying mp4s can thank my mother - she built much of the technology involved). She also has a deep seated suspicion that her only child might be retarded since I have yet to earn my first doctorate and didn't go to Harvard. But whatever, Daddy thinks I'm smart.

Because she gave birth to me, I have been editing her dissertation to ready it for publication, gratis. And we have been arguing about the appropriateness of applying different philosophies of the scientific method to her thesis. Her thesis aside, our most recent "discussions" (where most commonly repeated, on both sides, is the accusation of sloppy thinking, and I usually lose) has led me to apply these philosophies to dating and sex and love.

There is a "well known" conflict between the opposing views of two twentieth century philosophers of science - Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn. In this post, I will argue that their views are not conflicting when applied to the topic of sex and dating and love and that the specific stage of dating determines the prevailing paradigm followed. Note that I am not being prescriptive, merely descriptive, based on the data points I have gathered from my experiences and those of my friends.

Initial Stage - Dating:

Popper's theory of Falsificationism states that scientists should give up a theory as soon as they encounter any falsifying evidence. He maintains that theories should be held very tentatively and that basic assumptions should be continually questioned and criticized. Commitment, for Popper, is a crime.

Consider the prelude to a first date when online dating. Even after the picture and the written profile pass muster, and the initially formed, tentatively held assumptions appear promising, there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. The guy who looks cute in his profile pictures can suddenly email pictures of himself in his underwear which is just plain creepy. Or the guy whose written profile suggests the completion of a college education might send emails rich with tragic mistakes: "it's vs. its", "further vs. farther", "less vs. fewer".

Even when the prelude to the first date is successfully completed with no horrifying falsifying evidence, there's the first date itself: the guy who eats with both elbows on the table; the guy who licks his butter knife; the guy who says, after asking for the check: "I feel strongly that we split the bill because I don't want you to feel obligated to have sex with me."

Later Stage - the Relationship:

If all the preliminary stages of dating are successfully completed and an actual relationship ensues, then Thomas Kuhn steps in.

Kuhn describes science as consisting of periods of "normal science" (the relatively routine, day-to-day work of scientists) during which theories are held tightly, with great tenacity and commitment, even in the face of anomalies, and only questioned in rare times of crisis.

Sort of like: "Ok, so he can't run for President because of the felony conviction, but I don't need to be the First Lady."
Or: "He's 20 years older than I am and balding and impotent, but hey, doesn't every relationship have its problems?"
Or: "He doesn't really know what the hell he's doing in bed, but he makes a mean omelet."
Or: "He's really annoying when he talks and walks and eats and breathes but at least he's not a sociopathic alcoholic."

The Intermediate Position:

Now, there is a philosopher who sought a methodology that would harmonize the stances of Popper and Kuhn. Imre Lakatos proposes an intermediate position: commitment to a "hard core" of central ideas which are protected from conflicting evidence by making adjustments to the "protective belt" of auxiliary hypotheses.

Rather like: "He's thoughtful and sweet, and hey, what guy DOESN'T lick the butter knife?"
Or: "He's handy around the house and listens to more than 50% of what I say to him, and as for sex, that's why they invented vibrators!"

But Lakatos has an interesting twist: he doesn't ask whether a hypothesis is true or false. For him, the important question is whether the entire research program as a whole is progressive or degenerative. A progressive research program grows, and that growth is accompanied by the discovery of new information. A degenerative research program either stalls, or grows in a way that does NOT lead to new information.

I think this is a good point to close this post. Here's to the promise of a progressive Lakatosian research program for dating, sex, and love!

Turkey, Anyone?

When inviting a boy over for a food preparation activity, there are things one should be cognizant of regarding food choice. This is all theoretical for me since I am on a man fast, but I believe it has the ring of truth:

"Come over and we'll bake cookies": This is clearly an invitation for sex, and will be construed that way. Cookies are simple. If one cooks as I do, slicing a premade log of cookie dough doesn't require much time and leaves the evening free for other activities. If one actually makes the cookies from scratch (I've heard this sometimes happens), then the allure of simplicity still applies, only now there are opportunities to lick cookie dough from each other's fingers and so forth.

"Come over and we'll bake a pie": Pie just seems so complicated. And generally speaking, "crust" has no place in sex (sex with another person, not a la American Pie). So if one is at the pre-coital stage with a boy, pie is just pie. Pie baking is best leveraged as part of the post-coital, bonding phase.

"Come over and we'll cook a turkey": OK, that just means that a relationship is already fully underway and sex is only a distant memory.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Writing Sex

I once watched infomercials and re-read books after losing the fight with insomnia. But there are only so many flowbees one can buy as gag gifts for friends you don't like so much, and there are only so many times one can re-read a trashy airplane novel. Even Nabokov begins to suffer on the 127th read at 3AM: "She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line".... blah blah blah, I get it Humbert, you had a pervy thing for a little girl, SHE seduced YOU, you still loved her even when she grew up and became all gross with heavy breasts and arm hair, you killed for her, and now you are in jail because of it. I GET IT!

(Wow. The BLASPHEMY. I'm waiting for lightning to strike.)

Lately, I've been reading blogs when I can't sleep. And last night, I read a bunch of blogs describing sexual encounters with great attention to detail. This is my big takeaway: It's HARD to write a good sex scene. The mechanics of sex, when written down, are NOT sexy. I'm not saying that it's impossible to write a good sex scene. It's just absurdly difficult and I've read very few descriptions of sex that didn't make me cringe.

In my epic trashy novel, I avoided sex scenes like the plague. Imagine, a trashy novel with no sex scenes! Not everybody can write a scene about a little girl and an apple and make it erotic and compelling and strangely beautiful despite the obvious ick factor. And I gave up trying years ago - my trashy novel sex scenes were like those out of black and white movies - the leading man plants one on the leading lady in a manly, closed mouth sort of way, and then it cuts to trains going through tunnels.

Well, last night I tried again. I ended up using lots of words beginning with the letter "T": turgid, tumescent, tumultuous, torrid, torrential, tango. I know, I know, "tango"? (It sort of made sense though). At one point, delirious with lack of sleep, I tried to alphabetize my "T" words, but it just didn't fit with how I wanted the scene to flow if I used "tango" first.

Instead of referring to the internet, I've gone old-school, back to my bookcase, to end this post with a REALLY GOOD sex scene describing a girl's first time:
"Let's just stay," he said, breathing hard.

"Well, okay." I closed my eyes as tightly as I could. "I'm ready," I said bravely. When nothing happened, I opened my eyes.

He look at me as if he had amnesia. Then he looked surprised, then frustrated. "Okay, okay," he said, half pulling me up. We stood and I saw his erection and was so surprised I walked into the doorjamb on the way out. When we got in bed I was surprised how ready I was, and how easily he slipped in. He moved in and out hard at first, making my head hit against the headboard. I wouldn't have minded, expect I was scared I might get knocked out, and then I'd miss the most important part; but that didn't happen.
- Cynthia Kadohata, The Floating World.

For the Bookworm


A horny old snake slithered up to me
on his scratchy scaly belly and said,
"Hey girl, let's move, you and me."
I thought for a moment but the sun was hot
and the air was fine and he felt so good,
so sweet so dry so I said goodbye
to the people I'd known and
together, this old snake and I moved.

Movement just for movement's sake.
We slithered into cool dark mosques,
curled up on painted tile,
Slept in the shade on a rocky beach
and dreamt of water flowing free.

It was in the cool, in the dark, on the scratchy sand,
that the snake uncoiled and touched me one last time.
That old snake had touched me one million times before
but never, never had I felt that burn.
"Hey girl," he said, and he moved on without me.

On my return, my old lover walked up to me,
held out one hand, and smiled slow and sweet.
"Hey girl, I missed you. Stay awhile."
I thought for a moment, but the sun was hot
and the air was fine and I was young and strong.
"Fuck it," I said, "watch me move."


I stayed in today. Far too cold and wet and dreary outside to get me out of my apartment, not even for the inducement of boozy brunch.

So I turned on my newly acquired electric heater that looks like a wood-burning stove, curled up on the sofa and re-read Hemingway's Garden of Eden this afternoon. From the back cover:
"Set on the Cote d'Azure in the 1920s, it is the story of a young American writer, David Bourne, his glamorous wife, Catherine, and the dangerous, erotic game they play when they fall in love with the same woman."
Well, that pretty much sums it up. Catherine decides to bring another woman, a gorgeous young vibrant woman, into the marriage. That seems singularly ill-advised, if you ask me. And it ends as much as you'd expect it would.

Hemingway was exploring the dynamic between two damaged people, and what better than the addition of a destabilizing third party to forcibly reveal what might be strange and confusing or even ugly. Add destabilizing ingredient, throw in some Bollinger Brut 1915, stir, serve very very cold.

But I can't help but think that there must have been an element of self-indulgent prurience on Hemingway's part as well. Don't ALL boys fantasize about having more than one beautiful woman in their lives?

But then again, there is nothing wrong with a little self-indulgent prurience.

There is a scene I particularly like: David (the husband) is drinking cocktails with Marita (the "other" woman). David, having finished his own drink, reaches for Marita's and drinks from it. As he sets the glass back down, he realizes that his lips touched the glass at the exact place where Marita's had touched. And that thought gives him pleasure. That is the moment he realizes he's falling in love with her.

I must remember to try that one day.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Overheard in Public Places

"There's a good chance that if I had met him in person, I would have had sex with him because he was just so irritating online..."

"I probably would have done him 'cause it's not like I'd have to see him again."

"He's perfect. Young, French, gorgeous, and leaving in two weeks."

"You know how some guys point to one side? Dude, it's a dick, not a divining rod."

"I'm sure his thingy has grown since he was nine. Otherwise he'd have been a really awkward nine-year-old."

"I do feel insecure about commas."


I was told recently that the best blogs are intensely personal, and that with those blogs, there is no effort apparent in the writing because the process is not self-edited or self conscious, it's an unchecked outpouring of one's secrets and true self. This was all a precursor to telling me that my blog does not elicit that voyeuristic thrill of peeping into a stranger's windows late at night.

With my new obsession with blogging, I've been doing my research, studying others' blogs, comparing and contrasting. And I see the point. I find myself drawn to blogs that seem to provide a direct line to a person's deepest secrets. But I also find myself drawn to those blogs that describe the trivialities of everyday life with sensitivity and humor and Good Writing.

(Of course, this person might have been trying to tell me that I am simply not a good writer, but... PSHAW!).

So these are the conclusions I have drawn regarding the level of intimacy shared in a blog, or at least, in MY blog:

1. If people are onions and occasionally (or often) "hide" beneath layers of humor, jokes, bluster, flirtation, or whatever... those outer layers are no less real and true than the more tender layers that sit below. We ARE our layers. Peel back all the layers of an onion and what's left is nothing but a strong smell and tears.

2. I have this belief that I can't shake: that great intimacy shared indiscriminately dilutes the intimacy deliberately shared with people specifically chosen to receive it.

I had a conversation with a priest once, who told me that he loved me, with all his heart. I was a bit taken aback by this. He went on to say that he loved EVERYONE with all his heart, that his love was universal. I understand the point he was making but my immediate reaction was to think that universal love for all, translates into meaningful love for none. Shouldn't love, of all things, be specific and highly discriminate?
"Love consists of overestimating the difference between one women and another."
- George Bernard Shaw

3. I will continue to read and enjoy the blogs written by people far more courageous than I am. And I will continue to do what makes me happy with mine, and right now, that's to type again with all caps: TITILLATING.

The More Things Change...

The summer after I graduated from college, I visited my old music school. Feeling terribly grown-up and worldly, I wanted to revisit a place of my Youth And Innocence.

I went to the fifth floor and walked down the hallway to pause at the spot where I had thrown up after having eaten a bad hamburger.

I went to the third floor and sat outside the practice room where a boy had tried (quite nearly successfully) to woo me by humming Bach's Piano Concerto in D Minor in my ear.

I went to the cafeteria to sit at the table where we had gotten drunk one lunch-time on some cheap wine someone had smuggled in.

I walked by the sofa on which JL had cried and cried her heart out upon learning that Simon Le Bon got married.

I left my music school that day feeling quite smug that I was so much more sophisticated and mature than I had been as a child.

One day soon I'd like to go back and do that tour again. But I suspect that this time I'll walk away with the realization that I haven't changed at all.

The Power of Citrus

When I was little, I read a pirate book, and afterwards, whenever I was the slightest bit sick, I was convinced I had scurvy.

I would find my mother and inform her, "I have scurvy again." She'd usually ignore me.

I'd try my father: "Daddy, I have scurvy." He'd give me an orange and win my heart anew.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My First Time

I've heard people say that yoga calms them, quiets the voices in their heads, and that while on their mats, they are fully in the moment, focused solely on the union of breath and movement.

Yoga doesn't do that for me.

Depending on the day, it might be hard hard work, or it might be effortless. But either way, my thoughts never reach that place of quiet. Usually, I risk serious spinal injury by twisting around to compare my form to that of everyone else in the studio. I guess the entire non-competitive aspect of yoga is likewise lost on me.

On horseback - that's a different story. Unlike yoga, where you have only yourself to contend with, riding involves another creature with a mind and moods of its own. And with every thought and feeling communicated instantly through your arms and hands and legs and seat, you HAVE to be focused. And you also have to be open enough to receive messages as well. Is the horse about to try to throw you? Is the horse about to startle at something? (I have yet to meet a horse that wasn't a complete pussy. I mean really, why in the world would a 1200 pound animal be afraid of a sparrow? I rode a horse in Australia that was petrified of MAILBOXES). But I digress: being preoccupied is generally a surefire way of getting thrown, at least for me.

I fell in love with a horse once. Not in a Catherine-the-Great kind of way. Half American Appaloosa and half Irish Draught, his name was Killer. I was told his sire was the first Appaloosa in Ireland, but I can't confirm this. He was ugly, with an oversized head and graceless neck and stocky body and he had me at the first canter. In fact, I lost my galloping virginity to Killer. I am not one to appreciate speed. Driving too fast makes me nervous. I am a careful skier. But galloping at full speed on a sure footed horse? There's nothing better.

Killer's gait was so smooth that the three-beat rhythm of the canter was barely discernible. Encouraged by this, and with a long straight run ahead of me, I asked for the gallop: gently squeezing the reigns in my hands to get his attention, leaning forward into half seat, and then ever so slightly applying more pressure with my heels. Killer's gait changed, his stride lengthened, and it truly was like flying.

Too bad the loss of my actual virginity wasn't as enjoyable.

*Oh SNAP!*

Friday, December 14, 2007


IC and I spent the afternoon together as we do every Friday to talk shop. Afterwards, I walked her down to the intersection to keep her company while she waited for a taxi. There were quite a few people similarly occupied, all claiming their respective corners. But then IC spotted a taxi and we ran for it. I heard a woman yelling from one of the far corners: "Oh no you don't! Oh NO you don't! Oh no you DON'T!"

But this is my thinking: If you are willing to risk life and limb by running diagonally across a busy intersection to catch a taxi, you DESERVE that taxi.

97 Keys

When I decided to move back to the US from Hong Kong, I chose my neighborhood in part because WC told me that I would need to live on her subway line if I ever wanted to see her. (Although I've noticed that she suddenly has no problems trekking to the east side of town to see her BF, but hey, I understand - he possesses attractions which I lack.)

But I also chose this neighborhood because someone I once knew lived here.

When I was 16 years old, attending music school on the weekends, I cut my afternoon theory and composition classes one Saturday to go to Patelson's Music House. I was comparing two different scores of Beethoven's First, when I got that familiar tingly sensation on the back of my neck. I turned to find myself watched by a frighteningly elegant older woman. She asked me, "Are you a musician?"

My response was something like this, "uh... well... I take lessons... but... uh... you know... uh...."

She placed a perfectly manicured hand on my arm to cut short my eloquence, and said, "So, you are a musician."

There was something both challenging and reassuring about how she made that statement. So I took a breath,  threw my shoulders back and said, "Yes, I am."

I never learned that much about her. The sum total of our "relationship" was that I would go to her townhouse on the occasional Saturday afternoon and practice on her Bosendorfer grand piano while she read or typed or even talked quietly on the phone. Often, she wasn't even in the same room.

The Bosendorfer was astonishing. Sweeter than a Steinway - and with those extra keys on the bass end which I never quite knew what to do with, but was terribly pleased to see there.

I remember once I decided to take extreme liberties with a piece so I could take advantage of the extra keys and that was the only time she ever commented on my playing. She told me to stop and just play it as it was written. I must have looked crushed, because then she added, more gently, that when I got more skilled, I would figure it out. That was also one of the longer conversations she and I ever had.

Then I went to college and never saw her again. But I've wondered about her and I've written her story in my mind a number of times. But it always goes back to a simple question: "Why?" To my chagrin, I am nearing the age she probably was when I met her and I ask myself what would drive ME to "befriend" a young music student?   I've explained it to myself that she was a music lover - but then why spend the time listening to a student practice when she lived in a city where you can't swing a cat on the sidewalk without hitting a gifted, professional musician?

I've pored through my journals from when I was 16 and 17 looking for clues, and while I documented copiously detailed accounts of the boys I liked and the calories I consumed on a meal by meal basis and countless drafts of college admission essays, there is nothing more than the barest of references to this woman. I never even wrote down her name. Certainly not her address. Apparently I thought that this was a secret I should keep - even from myself.

Sometimes I think I'd like to find her to talk to her and tell her that while I've never figured out when or how to use those extra keys, I think I've learned when not to. But then I always decide that I would leave her in peace, even if I could find her again.

Sometimes a moment just passes and you should let it do so.

But that doesn't stop me from walking down a tree-lined street of townhouses in my 'hood and peering into the windows, looking for a Bosendorfer.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Intimations of Childhood

A few years ago, The Girls went out for dinner at a terribly posh karaoke sushi restaurant. We didn't exactly endear ourselves to the waitress. All bare shoulders and expensive heels, we were dressed to be seen - and we wanted to sit in the center of the room, closest to the microphone.

"Sorry," the waitress explained, "those tables are all reserved. But the corner table is free." We looked back at the corner table (it was actually quite lovely and appealing) and discussed the issue among ourselves. But unwilling to be so readily appeased, we asked what we imagined to be a very pertinent question, "Are the microphones wireless?"

"Wireless?" Not quite sighing, she shifted her weight, the heavy cardstock menus cradled in one arm. "Sorry, no."

Our rapport with our waitress did not improve after we sat down. Did we know what we wanted to drink? No. Were we ready to order? No. What were the specialty cocktails? Did they have grey goose citron? The wasabi, was it fresh, or reconstituted?

But upon remembering some advice from WC - regarding the wisdom of not alienating the waitstaff until AFTER you have received your food - I attempted to make amends. An elegant design of seagulls tattooed across her collar bones and down one arm provided me with the opportunity. "Those tattoos are great. Are they your own design?" I smiled warmly.

With a slightly surprised expression on her face, she said, "Yes, my own design." She looked at me a moment, as if gauging my sincerity, then added, "thanks." And she smiled back at me.

It was her smile I recognized.

When we were children, we were inseparable. We bought our training bras together. We imagined ourselves on Broadway, singing showtunes. When I got my period first, she was inconsolable. Then, when we were 12 years old, her family moved away and we quickly lost contact. And 20 years later, I recognized her smile.

We sat at the bar, ignoring friends and customers, and caught up over specialty cocktails and cigarettes. The conversation went mostly as follows:

"OMG, you DRINK?!?"
"OMG, you SMOKE?!?"
"OMG, you have SEX?!?"
"OMG, you finally got your period?!?"

I have yet to really learn about the woman she is now, but I have thought often of the children we once were. And to this day, my most vivid memory of childhood is of the two us, lying next to each other on piles of leaves, staring up at the sky, and truly believing that we could make it rain just by wishing hard enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More On Stalking

Tip 1: if you are being stalked, ALWAYS keep the stalker's phone number programmed into your phone - that way, you know when not to pick up and you can tell all your friends, "Oh good lord, so-and-so called me again. Didn't pick up 'cause I knew it was him." Also applies to ex's.

Tip 2: if you are doing the stalking, STILL keep the stalkee's number in your phone, because as these things go, the tables often turn.

The first tip is simple enough and is pure common sense. The second tip is a bit more problematic. After a matinee showing of Xanadu and an evening of drinking sour apple martinis and eating gourmet mac n' cheese, a great many things seem like good ideas.

We all know the "morning after a drunken night" routine: check your phone's outgoing texts and calls, check your email sent items folder, check yourself for any UDIs (Unidentified Drinking Injuries), check your shower for any strangers in it.

I was talking to SK about this earlier today - purely hypothetically, of course. And I was reminded of a completely brilliant feature offered by certain mobile network operators in China. For a small fee, you can block certain numbers during a specified block of time. And I don't mean blocking the numbers so that the callers can't reach you. I mean blocking the numbers so you can't dial them yourself.

So let's say you are off to an evening out with the girls. Before throwing back that first cocktail, you can program your phone so that you cannot make outgoing calls to a certain someone, say, between the hours of 11PM and 8AM.


Another Bayne Gibby classic, "Drunk Dialin":

Where Will It Tickle You?

Dating has changed in the internet age.

Despite the world steadily getting smaller, we seem to be ever increasingly isolated from each other. We no longer find each other in the classroom, or the office cubicle down the hall, or in the frozen foods aisle.

With the shrinking of real-life communities, the internet, with its inherent ability to create virtual communities, seems to provide a very natural vehicle through which to meet people.

The steps to online dating are straightforward:
1. Browse through the listings
2. If the pictures are attractive enough, read the profile
3. Exchange witty email banter for one or two rounds
4. Meet
5. And here things get a little fuzzy based on personal preference. But there is SOME consensus - if the reaction to this first meeting is extreme, you have acquired either a significant other (for a while at least) or another hilarious story to share with your friends during the de-briefing.

Also possible to acquire a stalker, but that's another post.

Otherwise, if the first meeting falls into that murky middle ground, proceed steadily (barring anything unusual) to no more than three dates to figure out if you ever want to be naked with this person. If after the third date you still have no desire to share nakedness (then or ever), then send a polite "no thank you" email.

Now that seems reasonable enough.

However, this is the problem: the lack of sufficient data points.

Attraction can compensate for a great deal. I find it TRAGIC when a guy can't spell or has no understanding of basic grammar or just generally gives "bad email." But if I LIKED him... then I'd just give him an English usage dictionary for Valentine's Day. We've all been there - mainsqueeze is so stupid he/she can't pour water out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel, but with a face/abs like that, who cares?

But attraction (distinct from attractiveness) cannot be communicated in a picture. I would argue that attraction cannot be fully assessed sitting across a table either. Don't we need to see the other person in motion? How do they talk to other people, can they hold their booze, what are their friends like, are they good at their jobs, are they passionate about their hobbies, what books do they read (and not just SAY they read), are they polite to waitstaff, do they have criminal records?

In short, we need the data points that are more readily available when sharing the same real-life community. Or, to quote Hannibal Lecter: "We begin by coveting what we see every day."

So what do I see every day? Apparently, given the demographic of my neighborhood, I will have to push a gay man back into the closet. Fortunately, I, like Bayne Gibby (mp3 a few posts down), look really good in men's pants.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pearl Diving

IC and I have started an internet business. Among the countless things we are trying to figure out, is a name for our own "destination" site (although, FYI, that's not a fundamental part of our business model). We have a "strawman" name already, but just to cover our bases, I asked SK and JN to brainstorm alternatives, since they are far more creative and clever than I can hope to be.

SK produced a list of names, my favorite of which was My first thought though was: doesn't that sound... well... dirty? But I wasn't sure, it could be that I have been overly affected by an ex of mine who watched prodigious amounts of internet porn - enough to tire out a teenage boy (clearly that's hyperbole, I don't think teenage boys (or boys of any age) can ever tire of that particular activity).

So one night, to determine if there's any inherent and objective smuttiness to, SK asked a guy what he thought of the name. He promptly started winking suggestively and said he'd love to try it. That answered that.

Well anyway, my second thought was... is a little lasciviousness a BAD thing? People enjoy being titillated, don't they? Hell, I enjoyed just typing the word "titillated". After all, porn sites have long been the front runners in figuring out how to actually make money on the internet - both because they have content people are actually willing to pay for, and in their use of the most sophisticated technologies and marketing tactics.

But all this is mental masturbation. The URL is taken. And, incidentally, it's not a porn site.

Everyone's Doing It

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Stalking

I have sympathy, I do. I have recently demonstrated certain tendencies in that direction myself.

I told Gorgeous-Hunk-O'-Man (JF) about my stalkers. He replied that he would like one or two himself. I chalk that up to modesty on his part. I have no doubt his stalkers count in the dozens. But I told him if it would make him feel better, I could stalk him. Unfortunately, I don't have the necessary bits and pieces to make that an attractive proposition for him.

The interesting thing about my stalkers is that they rarely stalk me all at once. They appear to take turns. One takes a break, and just as I'm beginning to feel a bit neglected, another steps in, he takes a break, and so on.

Do they communicate? Do they have some sort of schedule negotiated?

Stalker 1: "I've emailed her 15 times a day for the last 3 weeks. Going on vacation tomorrow, Your turn."
Stalker 2: "Ok man, no problem."

I mean really. And it's so foolish. Everyone knows, if you want to make yourself irresistible to a woman - IGNORE her.

Well, I'm going to bed. But first, I'm drawing the curtains closed, turning off my phone, and changing my email.

A Downward Spiral

This blogging thing is like crack.

I started with questioning myself: oh WHY should I blog? Do I have anything to add to the chorus of voices already blogging? Do I have anything to say that would be of interest to people other than myself and my mother? (Who, incidentally, does NOT know about this. But I assume that she would be interested, being my mother and all that. Maybe even entirely too interested which is why I'm going to keep it from her).

Now, in a matter of hours, I've swept all of that aside to become fully obsessed with expanding my "readership" and pestering people about my blog. Since WC has told me that she'd rather talk to me than read my blog, I called her and read it to her over the phone. After some whining on my part, JR told me he would bookmark it. And to confirm that the people who have promised to read my blog actually are, I will from time to time write rude things about them and see who calls me to yell at me.

Miss Holiday Golightly, Traveling

" know the young woman would be to find her a truly awful pest"
- Dorothy Parker, on Holly Golightly

My love for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (both the novella AND the movie) aside, I have to agree with good ol' Dot.

Sure, there's something positively mesmerizing about that kind of beauty and frivolity with the suggestion of fragility and damage hovering just under the surface.

But on deeper acquaintance, she would be ANNOYING. She would be hard to pin down for drinks, either never showing up or doing so outrageously and unrepentantly late. She'd be in therapy, but never get anything out of it other than the amusement of talking about it over cocktails. She'd either be surgically attached to her cell phone, or stubbornly refuse to have one at all. And just as you throw your hands up in the air and write her off, she'd turn on all her charm (and that suggestion of fragility), and staying mad at her would be like kicking a very cute puppy, so you'd have to forgive her and it would start all over again.

But then, if she were well adjusted and responsible and funny and smart, she would be completely uninteresting to read about.

I woke up in the middle of the night homesick. For Beijing. This struck me as odd. Living there was... well, Dickens already said it best: "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

So, feeling contemplative and not liking it, I snapped myself out of it by wearing my tiara and watching Hellraiser I. Hellraiser is always a mood lifter and the tiara usually is as well, except that this time, it made me think of Holly, traveling.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bread Crumbs

I started my first journal at the age of 12, and I wrote on the title page, just beneath my name: "I write this so that it might be read after I am dead."

Give me a break, I was only 12.

But I've kept a journal ever since. Many of my childhood journals are still in my room at my parents' house, all lined up in the shelves of my bookcases. And the older I got, the more austere and well... black... got the covers. (The last 7 years, I have been all about the small, black, moleskine journal with unlined pages. I prefer not to have the constraints of lines and feel somehow that it is unappreciative of me to willfully ignore pre-printed lines).

How is a blog different from a journal? I know I'm a blog novice, so these are rookie questions I am pondering, but this is what has been going through my mind as I am training myself to reach for my computer instead of my pen and latest moleskine.

At first blush, I thought the primary difference lay in the existence of a possible audience. But clearly even at the age of 12, I had anticipated an audience for my journals, at least one day. And then of course, there is the realization that only SK will be reading these online musings of mine. (WC has already informed me that she won't be reading my blog and that she will just continue TALKING to me everyday).

When WC and I went to Bhutan a couple years ago, we ended up one day in a small, isolated village just in time for their yearly Festival. This was no McFestival designed to provide tourists with photo ops. This was the real deal, and WC and her brother and I were the only tourists on hand.

Prior to making the trip, we had carefully read our Bhutan travel guides which cautioned tourists to be polite, and not to hiss or snap at the locals. So we squelched our natural inclination to hiss and snap and we carefully stayed along the periphery, just watching and enjoying while WC's brother (an accomplished, award winning photographer) unobtrusively took his pictures. But on the second day (it was a three day long Festival), the villagers included us in the festivities. They taught us traditional folkdances and songs (although no one would allow me to take part in the swordplay, despite my assurances that I was adept at the curved single-edged blade. Did I mention the Bhutanese are very smart? The Chinese thought nothing of handing me a deadly weapon.)

And I was struck by something. EVERYONE there sang and danced. Of course, certain people were better than others, but these were activities in which EVERYONE took part. If you could walk, you could dance. If you could talk, you could sing. There was no sense as there is in many other societies that these activities are reserved for only the elite few with talent and/or training.

Do blogs and homepages and facebook status updates represent a democratization of self expression? Even if so, do I care about the broader societal/anthropological/cultural ramifications?

Everytime I am at my parents' house, I randomly choose an old journal of mine from my bookcase and flip through it. Once, in my late 20s, when I was home for the holidays, I selected a journal and accidently dropped it and it landed open on the floor. When I picked it up, an envelope fell out. It was sealed, and on it was written in my handwriting: "To my 26 year old self." I had completely forgotten about it. Of course I immediately ripped it open and read the letter inside. It was exquisitely personal and painful and it was signed: "Love, your 16 year old self."

Perhaps my current blogging efforts are motivated by the exact same desire I had when I was younger - to leave some kind of trail of where I've been and who I was - if only for myself at a later age, so I can follow the trail back, meet myself along the way, and say: "Hey girl, I remember you."

And yes, that's a big wooden dildo in my hand. Maybe I'll explain that later, maybe I won't.

Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night

When she was younger, my mother was madly in love with Yul Brynner. She told me that she married my father, in part, because she thought he resembled Yul.

My father at the age of 24

My father, while a very handsome man, doesn't resemble Yul in the slightest. Except maybe somewhat in the eyebrows. But who am I to disagree with my mother on this point? We all carry around our illusions of ourselves and our loved ones and for the most part, they should be left intact. Nonetheless, as a family, we watched and loved everything Yul Brynner was ever in. Of course, that included "The King And I." I believe the 11th or 12th time I saw it, my parents and I went into Manhattan to see the musical, starring the great Yul Brynner himself - in fact, if memory serves - it was his last performance before he died of lung cancer, and it was already a well known fact at that point that he did have cancer, which served to make the King's death at the end that much more heart-wrenching.

Many years later, WC and I made our college roommate, PT, watch the movie with us. PT is Thai, grew up in Bangkok, and was accustomed to an entirely different kind of life, a fact which only came up very occasionally, and only after we got to know her well. Every once in awhile, she'd make a reference to her family's compound, or how I shouldn't feel bad that I couldn't cook because she didn't know how to either before her family's live-in cook taught her.

WC and I thought PT would enjoy the movie as much as we did. We were wrong. She was outraged at the suggestion that the King would have had ANY contact at all with a low level servant (which is how a governess would be categorized). She loathed the characterization of Siam and its people and she was vocal in her utter disapproval and contempt for the movie.

PT: "The King does NOT walk around barefoot and shirtless!"
WC and me: "Really, he doesn't?!? Are you SURE?"

Of course now, I understand her feelings, and I think I felt similarly when I saw "Lost in Translation." I HATED that movie. I watched it when I was living in Beijing, an expat myself. I hated the characterization of the Japanese as so inscrutably FOREIGN. I mean really, Scarlett Johansson's character was PATHETIC. It's a gift to have the opportunity to have an adventure like that. And I firmly believe it's demonstrable of a fundamental failing in one's character to see only what is alien on the surface instead of what is familiar beneath. Her character should not have been depicted with such sympathy. But before I sound too strident, I have to admit, I did love that scene when Bill Murray's character was filming that commercial and the director gave about five minutes of instruction in Japanese, only to have the translator say, "Turn to the right." I think Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous and Bill Murray, FABULOUS, so I don't hold them accountable. I put the blame squarely on Sofia Coppola.

But back to Yul...

I've watched "The King And I" many times since college, and of course now I think of PT's outrage each time I do. But it has not diminished my enjoyment of the movie at all. Rather, my memory of her indignation has merely added a layer of fond nostalgia for her and for college.

In fact, it was on TV just the other day, and so of course, I watched it again. It's the final death scene that gets me (and everyone else) every single time. But there is a very specific moment that I wait and watch for, and no matter how many times I've seen, it BREAKS me. In that final scene, the King has had his bed moved into the library because he wants to be surrounded by knowledge. And his eldest son, the soon-to-be King, is describing the decrees he will make when he is King. All the attention is on the young prince, who is standing with his arms akimbo, pronouncing that his people will not bow, but rather, they will show respect by standing tall and proud. The King dies during that speech. And NO ONE sees it. No one is looking at him during that moment when life leaves him, his eyes close, and his hand falls to his side. I understand that there is something poignant and beautiful in the fact that the prince is forging forward into the future, and that all eyes are focused on the future.... but the King dies with no one watching. I find that immeasurably sad.

I suppose this means that when I finally go kicking and screaming into that good night, I will insist that all my loved ones surround me, not risk distraction by talking, and stare fixedly at me.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why Does the World Need Another Blog?

Well, it doesn't. But of late, I have had a couple interesting conversations that have made me rethink things.

Some background: For years, I have successfully avoided being pulled into the universe of social networking sites, but I found that I was helpless to resist Not sure what confluence of factors attributed to its stickiness for me. I tell myself that it's because many of my friends living in other countries are on there, and I rather enjoy reading that AW in Hong Kong is coveting a new set of patio furniture, or that FC in Beijing is memorizing the streets of Rome, or that EH in Beijing is cooking a turkey, or that SB in Sweden is learning Korean. I have also told myself that in my new incarnation as an internet entrepreneur, I really should do something on the internet other than googling absolutely everything. But the reality is, I just plain like it - even the utterly uninteresting updates such as "JR is at work." Status updates on Facebook suddenly seem deeply and importantly fascinating to me: "Wow, at work, really?!?" And I have started to contribute to this highly minimal "dialogue" with "my friends" - "CK is surprised to see she that somehow threw a sheep at herself." (I was confused by that dratted SuperPoke application).

So it started one morning as I sat down at my computer, saw that I had a friend request, and dutifully signed on to to accept. I was humming a song. And to my surprise, facebook informed me that VH was singing the exact same song. The coincidence was too great, and, as it turned out, not a coincidence at all. I had shared the fact that "It's Cold Out There" had been running incessantly through my mind with SK who was then immediately similarly affected, and noted her state of mind in her blog. Which VH read. This elicited a feeling of exposure that was both disturbing and oddly comforting.

Well, after I complimented VH on her blog (which is one of only two I read), she asked why I don't have one of my own. I answered quite flippantly (but also a bit truthfully) that facebook status updates were more than sufficient for my self-expression needs. But the idea sort of tooled around in the recesses of my brain.

This morning, during my daily, inappropriately early, morning calls to SK, I asked her "Should I restart my blog?" (I had maintained one briefly when I first moved to Beijing). She promptly replied that she always assumed I had one and was always a bit pissed off that I hadn't shared it with her. Which I found interesting since nary a thought goes through my head that I don't share immediately with SK, WC, KK, and IC.

So why does the world need another blog? So SK doesn't think I'm holding out.