Monday, February 25, 2008

Google Search

This flu has taken all the blogging right out of me. In fact, I haven't even been able to watch TV. I find myself getting all the mental and sensory stimulation I need from staring at a wall. A blank one.

However, I did check my site meter just now. Someone stumbled upon my blog yesterday by doing a google search for: "woke up with burnt hair"

Huh.

Didn't realize it was such a common problem.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Illusion of Control

I had a conversation the other day about online dating. Specifically, why do it?

There was a whole lot of subtext to that question - assumptions about the kinds of people who sign up for an online dating site and about their motivations.

Of course, it's easy to think that people who put themselves out there using that venue not only need help in some way (meaning they, for whatever reason, have trouble meeting people in more "traditional" ways), but also that they are motivated by a strong desire to be in a relationship.

No doubt that is very often true.

But there is another side to it. The best, funniest statement I ever heard about online dating was this: "Sometimes it's fun to spend uncommitted time at my computer seeing all the boys who want me but can't have me."

It's a way of having the satisfaction and enjoyment of taking action, without incurring the obligation and effort of actually doing do.

I read an article once about how happiness is derived from a sense of control over oneself and one's environment. Doing things, no matter how trivial, can provide a sense of momentary control which is, in turn, a "good enough" facsimile of happiness. For example, washing the dishes, finishing chores, completing a spreadsheet, getting a manicure/pedicure. The article did further state that such feelings of control are pure illusion, but that the illusion can sometimes be enough.

Washing the dishes certainly doesn't mean that one actually does have control over one's life, but no one can deny the feeling of satisfaction gained from looking at a clean kitchen where once there was only the chaos of dirty dishes.

It is much the same with signing onto a dating site and exerting a small measure of control of whom you "reject" online, and whom you might actually meet for a drink with your favorite bartender hovering protectively nearby.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jook Juke Joy

A private karaoke room, delicious Chinese food (the specialty of the house being congee aka jook), plentiful booze, and good friends who are also good karaoke team players: these are the ingredients for a fabulous valentine's day. Who needs ONE loved one when you can celebrate with EIGHT?

It was so much fun that SK and AN are down for the count and holed up in their respective apartments this weekend. And me? I'm still singing, re-living the highlights of the evening. I am particularly proud of my performance of Feelings.

SK and AN turned in reliably fabulous performances - despite being too sick to speak.

EA wowed all of us with her professional trained coloratura - especially on Bohemian Rhapsody.

And just so you know (back to my performance of Feelings), the lyric: "Boy, you'll never come again" has entirely different meaning when sung in a threatening manner.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bitter, Much?

I give good first date. Unless I'm in the mood to actually enjoy myself, in which case I get wildly drunk, let my hair down, and frighten the boy into running away as fast as he can.

But good first date is my norm. I see it as the polite thing to do. They pay, and in return, I shower beforehand, apply my usual haphazard make-up job, and look interested when they speak. During a recent post-date briefing, SK told me that after a date, I usually sound as though I've just come out of a grueling work meeting. That was revelatory. But I actually ENJOY long, protracted, difficult work meetings. So it's not that I don't enjoy the dates at all, they often just get categorized as "work."

And I am good a worker bee. So it makes sense that I give good first date and almost inevitably pick up a stalker along the way.

SK forwarded an article to me yesterday titled: Why Perfect Dates Make Lousy Partners. I've linked to the article, but I've gone ahead and summarized the main points:

The main finding is that the best "catches" in dating land may be the worst choices vis-a-vis relationships.

The study was led by Michael E. Roloff, a professor of communication studies. First off, Roloff states that people who monitor themselves carefully in social situations appear to be the most socially appropriate and are thus "highly sought after as romantic partners". These "high self-monitors" are social chameleons and they constantly assess how their actions affect others and adjust to fit the appropriateness of the situation.

Roloff cedes that this can be a positive and helpful trait in many circumstances. But he then points to a downside when it comes to the romantic relationships of these high self-monitors:

"High self-monitors may appear to be the kind of people we want to have relationships with, but they themselves are less committed to and less happy in their relationships than low self-monitors," and he claims that high self-monitors have trouble presenting their true selves with their romantic partners. "High self-monitors are very likeable and successful people. However, it appears they’re just not deep."

Not deep? But then Roloff continues:

"It's not that high self-monitors are intentionally deceptive or evil. They appear to have an outlook and way of achieving their goals that makes them attractive to us socially but that prevents them from being particularly happy or loyal in their romantic relationships."

Even through my hysterical laughter, I see so many problems with his argument. How does being a social chameleon translate into being shallow? The last I checked, being emotionally unavailable/leery of commitment doesn't automatically equate to being shallow. And aren't there other potential explanations for high-monitors not rating their level of happiness/loyalty as relatively high? How about the fact that they ARE "sought after" partners - and that simply having "more" options might contribute to a certain reluctance to commit and fully share their "true selves"?

OK, Roloff, darling. Bitter, much?

Did a high self-monitor break your heart? Did you think you knew her but was then shocked to discover you didn't? Did you forward your study to her to tell her that you understand that she wasn't being INTENTIONALLY deceptive or evil, that she's just incapable of being happy or loyal?

And to top it off, that she's just "not deep"?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Scales

I am almost finished working my way through Solo Guitar Playing I and my teacher has told me that next up will be scales, scales, and more scales from the Andres Segovia classical guitar technique book of... scales.

And this excites me.

Which I believe firmly identifies me as an unadulterated geek.

I'm ready for you, Andres. BRING IT.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fashion Week

I watched my first ever episode of America's Top Model earlier this week. I found it MESMERIZING.

So as IC, WC, KC and I sat at our first fashion show ever during NY's fashion week, I found myself studying the models as they strutted down the catwalk, and wondering about their internal monologues. Were they trying to remember how to do that walk - the model walk in which you lead with your pelvis and the rest of your body follows? Telling themselves not to bounce? Reminding themselves to look fierce, to OWN the catwalk? Or the poor girl who had to wear that big fuzzy hat - was she pissed off that SHE had to wear it and not the girl with the big nose?

There was an older, very polished looking man sitting in the front row across the catwalk from us and he applauded certain items. His first row seat signaled to me that he was a fashion "somebody" (we were seated in the fifth row). I found myself staring at him intently to see which outfits won his approval. I tried to discern some sort of pattern. Did he like the sleek stuff? The edgier pieces that no woman in her right mind would wear in public? Apparently, there is a reason I am not a "fashion somebody" because I couldn't make heads or tails of it. There were a few pieces that I thought were breathtakingly lovely - and I glanced at him to see if he agreed. He never did.

I never really spent much time thinking about fashion. In Asia, I had a few tailors I liked who could work magic with a sewing machine, and a couple young designers who rather liked my vision of "communist chic" as I called it and made me some edgy pieces which I am not sure I have the courage to wear outside of Asia. But the world of high fashion has always been foreign to me.

So I spent some time this afternoon at the show considering fashion as an art form. There are certain artists who wield almost total control and independence: writers, photographers, painters... Of course, there is a post-creation "dialogue" between the finished work and the audience vis-a-vis the latter's response to the former, but the control sits squarely with artist in terms of the presentation of their work.

And then there are those artists who require human tools to interpret and give life to their work, in order for it to be "consumed" at all: composers, film-makers, script writers... and fashion designers.

(At this point I considered the chasm between the "skill set" of a model and that of a musician, for example. But I decided to change tack because America's Top Model taught me that modeling is VERY difficult. And besides, I have great respect for beauty. Even if it is a genetic accident - that particular genetic accident that results in a creature that is all legs and cheekbones and absurdly low body fat is possibly just as rare as that which results in the naturally gifted musician/actor. So proceeding on the assumption that models are equal to musicians/actors and so forth... I continued my musings.)

In those artistic pursuits that require teams of skilled people to fully realize a vision - whose voice and vision is then communicated? Is that the wrong question to ask? Is collaboration the entire point?

I took a film class once in college. I can't remember the director's name - but his philosophy was that the actors were merely props - no more and no less important than a piece of furniture, or light, or shadow.

I remember thinking at the time that his philosophy seemed well... WRONG. Because the movies I loved the best would have been very different had less capable actors been given the task of interpretation.

However, after we watched a few of his movies in class - I didn't exactly change my mind - but I could understand it a bit better. His movies told very different kinds of stories. Stories which illustrated an interior world not through emotional and evocative performances - but through spare, almost stilted, exchanges and movement. The primary "actor" in his movies was the camera, and he controlled the camera.

In the early/mid 80s when Paulina Porizkova became the new break out super model, JN and I were flipping through a fashion magazine and she made me study pictures of Paulina and told me that Paulina was so beautiful, had so forceful a personality, that she was almost a bad model, because she threatened to overwhelm the clothes, and in that way, detracted, rather than added, to that presentation.

Perhaps JN shared an aesthetic similar to that film director whose name I can't remember. And, having majored in film in college, maybe she will know who he is.

My guilty fascination with reality TV shows aside, it would be a relief to watch something where an emotion or a story isn't related through tearful confessions, but through something more restrained - the deliberate placement of light and shadow on a face, the juxtaposition of the banal with the beautiful, a simple gesture.

Or even a beautifully faceless woman walking in unwearable clothes.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ex-Husbands

Gorgeous Hunk O' Man (JF) has been referring to me as his favorite ex-wife for over a decade now. And often, when he leaves me voicemail messages, he identifies himself as my ex-husband. This was not so confusing before I acquired an actual ex-husband.

I checked my voicemail on a noisy street the other day and heard this: "It's your ex-husband. The goddamn lawyers tell me you want more money. What the f*ck!?!"

I was taken aback.

My thoughts, in order:
1. OMG, my lawyer is SO stupid, that's not what I was saying AT ALL.
2. Oh wait. I don't have a lawyer.
3. I can ask for more money?
4. Oh wait, it's THAT ex-husband! *giggle*

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Overheard in Not So Public Places

"I'm gonna go sit. You know, that thing with your ass on the ground."

Whack-A-Mole

Remember that game? I never played it the first time around, in an arcade. I was introduced to it as an adult when a colleague forwarded around the link to an online version of it.

For those of you who actually worked during your work days, there's a grid of holes, from which moles pop up. Your cursor is shaped like a mallet and you get points for whacking the moles as they poke up from their holes.

The whacking is very gratifying.

SK talked about this in the context of having an anti-romantic valentine's day party - she was brainstorming non romantic activities which we could pair with drinking: bowling, bingo, slasher movies, and of course, whack-a-mole.

Now, I've played a lot of whack-a-mole in my day. And I find it to be a great metaphor for life in general.

At first, the whacking is easy. The moles pop up and you feel as though your reflexes are lightning fast and you don't miss a single mole. You can cover that entire grid of mole holes with finesse and accuracy.

But then it speeds up, and you start missing a few. But you don't get discouraged. Instead, you lean forward in your seat, take a tighter grip of the mouse, and reassert your whacking mastery.

But then it speeds up even more, and suddenly you find yourself completely lost while moles pop up faster than you can possibly keep up. You still try for comprehensive coverage, but you're not even aiming anymore - just wildly jerking that mouse around and whacking indiscriminately, hoping you'll get lucky and actually hit a few.

And then, there's the final stage. You give up trying to win the game. You give up trying to get as many points as you can. You change your strategy and simply position yourself over one hole, ignore the rest, and just whack the shit out of whatever pops out of it.

It's admitting defeat, in a way. But hey, at least you're still in the game.

Imaginary Men

A few nights ago when I had some friends over in my apartment, someone pointed to one of my refrigerator magnets: "she liked imaginary men best of all."

I was thinking of this last night as I was waiting for a friend at one of the wine bars currently in my rotation, and I was texting my love, Gorgeous Hunk O' Man (JF), and giggling wildly with each exchange.

The best "date" I have ever been on, was with JF. It was his 30th birthday and his friends threw him a party.

JF brought me as his date because he knew I would enjoy spending an evening with a houseful of beautiful gay men. He was right.

I am fully aware of the irony that my Best Date Ever was with a gay man. And while I suspect that his "gayness" contributed to the "bestness" of that "date," JF disagrees and believes that even a straight man could accomplish the same.

But this is what made it so good:

  • Doesn't hurt that JF makes Adonis look like a geek.

  • JF stuck to my side initially, introducing me to all as his love. Which is gay for: "she's my hag, be nice even though she doesn't have a penis."
  • When I immediately wandered away to play with all the new gay boys, JF just smiled and winked and didn't get all bent out of shape that I wasn't glued to his arm.
  • He tracked me during the evening. We all know how that feels - when you are working a room and your certain special someone is doing the same, but you KNOW that he's aware of you, that he knows where you are. And the fact that JF did this out of politeness and affection rather than lust, touched me immeasurably.
  • Every so often, JF would detach me from whatever group of gay men I was talking to and we'd find a quiet corner to connect and gossip.
  • When I told him of all the shopping dates I had lined up, he looked proud and informed all his friends that while they can do short term loans of his hag, that they shouldn't ever forget that I was HIS hag.
  • When I left that evening, he didn't just say goodbye to me, he walked me outside, found me a taxi, put me in it and kissed me on the cheek.

How did I start this post again? Oh yes: "she liked imaginary men best of all." Not that JF is imaginary... but check out those abs. UNREAL.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Alone Time

Following a recent party in my apartment, SK brought to my attention my need for "alone time" even in a room full of people in my own home - sometimes even in mid conversation suddenly disappearing into my own world of song and dance where I am the only person on stage and an audience is optional.

In my defense, that happens only when I am very tired, or over-stimulated. Otherwise I can usually keep my shit together and remain engaged with what is going on around me.

But SK did not point this out critically. She, too, is an only child. And while her equally extensive need for "alone time" does not usually express itself in the middle of her own party, she understands.

I get cranky without copious amounts of time alone. When I was little and my parents asked me what musical instrument I wanted to study, apparently I informed them that I wanted to learn the piano because then "I could play by myself." I never thought I was athletic in school because school was all about team sports, and I preferred to run with scissors. It wasn't until years later with the discovery of yoga and serious horseback riding ("solitary" activities) that I realized that I actually possessed things such as balance and reflexes and strength.

Don't get me wrong, I ENJOY being with others. But I wonder to what extent my insomnia perpetuates itself from my pleasure in being perfectly alone in the middle of the night, no emails, no phone calls, just me, usually reflecting on the curious fact that no matter how many headstands I do, I still throw like a girl and catch like a gay man.

Disappointment

In the wee hours of the morning, I downloaded and watched The Dark is Rising, the movie adaptation of the second book of the series of the same name written by Susan Cooper.

To quote WC: "I'm NOT happy."

Cooper's books are terrifying and magical and FIERCE. The movie made me wonder with regret how much memory it was using up on my computer. 700MB, if anyone is interested. I haven't deleted it only because I feel I have to be a good member of the torrent community and seed it to others so they can re-affirm for themselves the wisdom shared by Westley in The Princess Bride: "Get used to disappointment."

新年快乐!

I think I will celebrate the New Year by chopping off all my hair.

Yes, it's that time again. My hair is growing entirely too fast, and is now threatening to reach below my breasts. That's the Mason-Dixon line. Don't want to go below that.

Every few years, I cut off all my hair expecting to look like Halle Berry. And I am always SHOCKED when I don't.

I will consult with Hiroshi (yes, I finally found a stylist I like who resides in the same country I do) and will let him work his magic.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Joined At The Hip

I love NYC. I am reminded of that fact every time I leave my apartment. Even on those days when living here is frustrating and difficult.

But joined at the hip with total passion for NYC, is homesickness and nostalgia for Beijing and Hong Kong.

I added a restaurant recommendation application to my facebook profile. And the vast majority of the restaurants I listed are not in the United States. That's not a comment on the relative quality of the dining. Quite simply, I dined out much more frequently when I lived in Asia.

I suppose part of the fun of going through this kind of exercise is to REMEMBER these places and cities. It's a way of keeping them close.

What I would give to be sitting right now at Enoteca on Elgin Street in Hong Kong or Hatsune on Guanghua Dong Lu in Beijing.

Tag, You're It

MomVee tagged me for a meme:

1) Link to the person that tagged you.
2) Post the rules on your blog.
3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least three people at the end of your post and link to their blogs.
5) Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6) Let the fun begin!

I had to google "meme" to understand. This is what I learned:

A meme is:
  • An idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve.
  • A unit of cultural information that represents a basic idea that can be transferred from one individual to another, and subjected to mutation, crossover and adaptation.
  • A cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by nongenetic means (as by imitation); "memes are the cultural counterpart of genes".

All of which was entirely unhelpful, so I've just decided to obey the rules. So here goes:

1. My new favorite color is orange. As far as I'm concerned, it is the new black. On that note, I've decided that 38 (when I finally admit to it) will also be the new black.
2. I can recite from memory, the opening prologue to Remington Steele: "Try this for a deep dark secret: the great detective, Remington Steele, he doesn't exist. I invented him..."
3. I believed my first cat, Espy, had ESP. Hence, the name. Prior to the discovery of her extra sensory ability, I had named her "Snowy."
4. I kill plants, apparently just by owning them.
5. The first song I ever learned to sing is: Sad Movies (Make Me Cry), taught to me by my father and we would sing it endlessly on long car rides, to the equally endless delight of my mother.
6. Bach makes me tingle. In fact, I am pretty much helpless to resist a boy who sings, hums, or plays Bach.

I know only three bloggers. And two of them have already been tagged. So Joe Shlabotnik, it's all up to you!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

In Your Eyes

When my maternal grandmother passed away this summer, I didn't so much feel an immediate loss for myself as I did for my mother.

I didn't know my grandmother very well. She moved to the US (Los Angeles) in 1972. She felt she was already an old woman then so she never bothered to learn any English. Little did she know that she'd have another 30+ years.

I understand Korean fairly well, and my comprehension actually improved when I lived in Beijing. Apparently my people are well known throughout Asia for producing addictive soap operas, which I watched occasionally on TV and DVDs. They were all in Korean, with Chinese subtitles. Of course, when the vocabulary moved beyond, "But I love you!" and "What?!? He married my sister?" I was lost. But everyday conversation, I can follow. However, my spoken Korean is dismal.

So communicating with my grandmother on the few family trips out to the west coast from NY was a one-sided experience.

But she told me one story which I was thinking of this morning. Right before my wedding, I had a business trip to LA and I stopped by to see my grandmother. (Something, which, unfortunately, I did not always make time to do.) As her only grandchild not living in LA, I had to submit to being fussed over relentlessly whenever I was there.

I sat on a cushion on the floor next to her while she held my hand and patted my hair. And she told me of her husband, my grandfather, whom I never met (he died when my mother was young). Their families knew each other and the matchmakers approved of the bloodlines and the alignment of the stars. But she never liked him much, until one night. It was raining and she was looking out the window. She saw a boy walking in the rain, his shoulders hunched against the cold and wet. There was no romantic gesture - he wasn't lingering outside her window to prove his love, he wasn't holding up a boombox blaring "In Your Eyes." He was simply walking by. But she recognized him and that image of him walking alone in the rain was enough to make her think, "yes. I can want this."

Friday, February 1, 2008

So True

Deliberate Flaws

CL and I did our usual wine bar thing last night - but this time we tried out one of FT's new places in the lower east side, Solex (1st avenue, between 6th and 7th).

My review of the joint: LOVELY and GORGEOUS and might even be a reason for me to trek to that part of town more frequently. I especially liked the gorgeous stools which were, admittedly, a bit high. But that made it an adventure to jump off and hop back on. It took several tries for me to do so gracefully, and to stop merely TUMBLING off the stool because the ground was farther away than I thought.

FT graciously left his brand spanking new Soho bar to join us at Solex. He told us that he's been getting "hate" mail because of the stools! But he believes strongly that every place should have a slight flaw built in, because perfection is sterile.

And that reminded me of a quote (as most things do, apparently) that only things made by God are perfect. There is a class of gifted old Italian furniture makers - artisans in the true sense of the word - who deliberately add a single flaw to everything they create, in order to avoid hubris and to show appropriate respect.

On another note, CL reminded me that our first sex-ed class was in FIFTH grade, not third. And that Mr. D not only made us all say "penis" and "vagina," but also spent one class with a maxipad stuck to his shirt. Not sure about the rational for that.

I find it intensely amusing that CL and I are now friends. CL was one of the "cool" boys in school while I was a freak and refused to talk to anyone who wasn't studying classical music. I don't believe we exchanged a single word when we were growing up. But I do remember one time in fifth grade when I kicked CL hard in the shins (I have no recollection of WHY) and CL replied by punching me in the gut. He adamantly denies this however.