Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frat Stanrey

Okay, okay, I know.  As an English teacher in China, it's totally unprofessional and insensitive of me to take such a cheap shot at the ever-elusive Asian accent.  Sometimes, though, I do think that speaking English is overrated when actually understanding and interpreting accents is the true challenge in championing the English language.  I mean, what would you think if your student said the following to you?

"In zer countryside, some time you weel find some unhygienic sh*ts on the bed.  In a hotaire.  You know hotaire?  They don't often cling the sh*ts.  So, you must pay much monays to go to a nicer one to slip on the cling sh*ts."
True story, folks.  Translation:  "In the countryside, sometimes you will find the sheets on the beds in hotels are not clean, as the sheets are often left unwashed between stays.  So it's worth it to pay a bit more to stay in a higher-end hotel where you can sleep on clean sheets."
But that's totally not the point of this blog post.  As stated in the title, I wanted to tell you about Flat Stanley (whose Chinese name is Frat Stanrey), who was sent via envelope from my cousin's home in Pleasanton, CA to spend some time with me in Beijing.
In case you haven't figured it out by reading this blog, my life is actually quite boring.  Work, home, work, home.  Sometimes I'll bake something.  That didn't stop Flat Stanley from seeing the sights, though!  (Like the little Chinese track suit I gave him?  His hat says "Bei Yu Xiao Xue," for BLCU Primary School.  Represent!)  Here are Flat Stanley's Greatest Hits from his trip to China.

BeiHai Park, Beijing

Forbidden City, Beijing

Map of Beijing at a bus stop

Bus schedule

Flat Stanley got to "visit" two places that I still have yet to travel to!  The grasslands of Mongolia and Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan Province!*
Ride 'em, Mongolian cowboy!
Jiuzhaigou's natural terraced mineral lakes

What's a trip to China without a little Chingrish?

Of course, Stanley had his fill of traditional Chinese dishes, plus some Cantonese icy desserts!  Yum!

All in all, it was an eventful trip for Stanley.  Now it's back into the envelope from whence he came.  Bon voyage, Flat Stanley!  Send my love to my cousins back home!  And try your best to steer clear of the unhygienic sh*ts!

*All right, so he didn't actually go there.  But c'mon.  We're talking about a paper doll, here, people!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Art & Film

"These are a few of my favorite things."

I'm back today with a few more images from Cathy Lomax, whose work I wrote a little about yesterday.  Here are a few more images that Ms Lomax has generously shared with me to post of her favorite pieces from the series.  The names of each painting is written at the bottom corner of the canvas.

All images used with permission from Cathy Lomax

Here is what Ms Lomax writes about her inspiration and thoughts on the project:

The boredom of everyday life is punctuated by episodes of escapism. The most easily accessible escapist experience for most people is provided by film – 90 min slices of someone else’s life. 

I decided to keep a diary of all the films that I watch, selecting one image from each to make into a small painting titled with a perfunctory explanation of what is happening in that image. This record of what drew me in and kept me rapt could be viewed as one of those arbitrary un-scientific exercises that artists indulge in. But as with any recording of everyday events the choices that I make say something about me and probably define me at this moment as much as anything could.

This certainly makes me think twice about the pivotal moments I chose to feature from some of my favorite films yesterday.  Some are purely sentimental while others are moments that are burned in my brain for their quiet significance, and yes, I do suppose that this does say something about me and what is can be considered pivotal in my life outside of consumption of film.  In my relationships and daily life, it is often the quiet, understated acts of kindness or what is silently spoken through subtext that get me thinking, move me, or keep me up at night.

What do you think?  What do your favorite movie moments say about you?

Around the World Wide Web

Delightfully Engaged.  For our three-part wedding feature!  Hooray!  Plus a few of my thoughts on wedding planning (if you're really bored).

This fascinating article about what really goes on when you're a parent.  (Spoiler: it ain't pretty.)

Cathy Lorax's amazing series "Film Diary," in which she recreates pivotal scenes from a wide range of movies.  It's really fun to click through and see which movies you recognize.*

From "Film Diary" series, posted with permission from Cathy Lomax

So, in honor of Ms. Lorax's genius, let's play a little game of "Guess the Movie from the Pivotal Scene," shall we?  I don't think we can ever expect to see that name on the outside of a Milton Bradley box any time soon, so my wee little blog will have to suffice for now:

#1:  Two boys race against each other in a filthy motel swimming pool.

#2:  He pushes broken glass on the ground out of her way with his foot.

#3:  A man sees a stranger crying in a theater.

#4:  They find a dead body in the freezer next to the ice cream.

#5:  A man moves into a familiar apartment, and puts his cigarettes on the shelf over his bed.

#6:  A man gets something in his eye, then tells his daughter that he loves her very much.

#7:  He watches her put money into a cookie tin.

#8:  He fetches her a pitcher.  (This one is so easy-peasy, I shouldn't even include a picture, but I will be kind.)

*She also painted a fascinating series studying Mia Farrow's costumes in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby-- a film I still haven't developed the courage to watch. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bed Head

Months before the wedding, I was itching to cut my hair short again.  I'd been growing it out for more than three years and was growing weary of the same old style.  So one of my first orders of business as a married woman was to get a haircut.  I chopped it off and sent my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which uses donated hair for wigs and hairpieces for cancer patients.  My hair grows really quickly, so donating my hair every few years is a practice I'd like to continue doing.

This is my third hair donation in the last seven years, so I've gotten pretty used to going from style to style.  One thing I'll never get used to, though, is waking up every morning and seeing what sort of wild, gravity-defying feat my hair has done overnight.  Here's what I'm talking about:

See what I mean?  I'd encourage all to try donating their hair at least once in their lives.  I've also found that it's a lot easier to part with your hair knowing that it's going to a good cause rather than just being swept up off the barbershop floor.  Plus, you get the bonus of waking up in the morning to hairstyles that rival the Donald Trump's "Which Direction Does It Grow From?" Comb-Over!  The deer in headlights look may not come as naturally, however.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mystery Fruit

I recently hosted my first student gathering for the semester, and as expected, the students did not come empty-handed.  Fortunately, they didn't show up with 100 ripe bananas, but they did show up with a ton of fruit.  Most of the fruits were of familiar (albeit expensive) varieties, but one left the Husband and me puzzled.

It's about the size of a small grapefruit, light green with small ribs going up the sides.  When opened, it resembles a small cantaloupe tinted yellow-green and has a melony smell.

As far as taste and texture go, it's like a funny cross between watermelon and cantaloupe but mushy.  So, not a fruit that I'd be going out of my way to pursue.  Still, an interesting experience either way.  At least it didn't taste like chou doufu.

Happy Birthday, Ma

It's her birthday today.  Oh, my mother. 

I imagine that in Heaven, God keeps a library of everyone's "Greatest Hits" on DVD (or whatever new awesome technology He keeps up there) and we get to watch them.  Except my mom's "Greatest Hits" DVD will probably have seven discs and need bonus features and a separate disc of outtakes.  THAT is how legendary my mom is.

I can't put it into words, and she'd kill me if I ever posted the photos or videos we have, so you'll just have to wait until we get to Heaven to see what I'm talking about.

Until then, here's a little teaser.

Love you, Ma.

On Being "American"

On a daily basis, I find myself having to argue with a Chinese local that I truly am an American.

"But you don't look like an American.  You look like us.  Like an Asian."

Pushing my heavy sighs aside, I try to explain that America is a diverse place where there are all sorts of different people.  "In fact," I remind them, "people of Asian, African, and Latin descent have been in American longer than you've been alive.  Not to mention the real native Americans.  So really, 'Americans' don't look any certain way."  Usually, they're confused because "Americans" are all supposed to look like Cameron Diaz or Julia Roberts or this young woman here:

and move on with their day convinced that I'm just nuts and all Americans still look like a moving Eddie Bauer advertisement.  On occasion, I'll meet someone who is truly perplexed by this whole idea that an entire country couldn't be populated by a bunch of people who share similar physical characteristics.  It takes a while to explain to them that most Americans don't live the way Ross and Rachel do on Friends, and that you can't depend on television or movies to determine what you believe about an entire country full of people.  (Same goes for the Americans who assume that all Chinese know kung fu.)

You can imagine how upsetting it is to see a video like this circulating the net when I spend hours explaining to my students that not all Americans are racist (though many still are), that somehow we manage to find a way to live together and respect- or even appreciate- our differences, and that things like being polite or non-confrontational aren't solely traits of Chinese culture.  It's not worth it to go into the many ways in which this young woman is misinformed in her thinking and in need of some serious diversity training.  I know we've still got a long way to go, but one hopes for something far greater from the educated youth of America, especially in a place as diverse as LA.

As a teacher, my goal is to broaden the scope of my students' understanding of an ever-shrinking world.  As an American, my goal is to break a stereotype about who I am and what I am not.  Both are difficult here, and it's so disheartening to see how it's still such an uphill battle back home.  With great hope, we shake it off and press on. 

C'mon America.  You're better than this.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Of course, the world is at a standstill today watching in horror at what has happened in Japan.  It is difficult to put into words a response that is appropriate for the magnitude of what so many people are facing in Japan.  Instead, I'll leave you with a few illustrations by Kate T. Williamson from her book, A Year in Japan, which is filled with beautiful images from her time in Japan.  We pray for restoration, healing, and redemption.

All images from, copyright by Kate T. Williamson

Hammin' it up

While I anxiously await my Mom's next birthday, another less personally significant birthday has just passed...

Jon Hamm's!  Ah, Jon Hamm.  I've suckered the Husband into watching Mad Men and I'm pretty certain that he just likes watching it with me because of how I'm always yelling Mom-like advice to Don Draper.  It still puzzles me that no matter how loudly I yell, Don (played by Jon) still doesn't listen to me, that naughty man.  He still sleeps with all the wrong women.

Jon Hamm photographed by Paul Jasmin for Interview Magazine

Still, Jon Hamm has always delivered, whether it be on Mad Men where you frustrate me as one of the most confusing and conflicted characters I've ever seen on television, or be it on SNL where you've shown what I like to believe is your more natural personality, poking fun at yourself and trying desperately to be an unattractive idiot.  Sorry, you do fail at that.

Happy Belated 40th, Mr. Hamm.  I had no idea who you were before you were Don Draper (or even before you were Dick Whitman), but oh, how you've stolen my heart.  Here is one of my favorite Hamm moments on SNL.  Enjoy.

Bonus: Pretty hilarious interview of Jon Hamm by fellow four-lettered-last-name-that-ends-in-two-consonants actor Paul Rudd

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Our First Home

I've heard it's not really your own home until you move the furniture in.  I give you our first child: Ikea BEDDING sofa bed.

Beyond These Walls

Do you ever stop to think about what sort of amazing things your friends are doing with their lives, and then are blown away by the fact that you get to rub elbows with them?  No?  Maybe you need some cooler friends.  (Kidding!)

One such buddy of mine is David Gaulton.  He is an amazing worship leader, songwriter, and just an overall cool dude.  This past summer he released a new album, called Beyond These Walls, which I've been coming back to every few weeks and have been so blessed by.

photo courtesy of David Gaulton's Facebook Page
A few weeks before I was scheduled to come back to China, I found myself in my parents' kitchen, wrestling with the thought that I'd have to go back to a place that I, frankly, don't like.  As I looked out the window at the beautiful Oregon clear skies and open fields, I kept asking why I had been asked to leave my loving family, friends, and my home when so many have the luxury of doing the Father's work from the comforts of their homes.  As I silently fought with the calling that had been handed to me, David's song played...

"For we are called to be light into the world, and not conform to the patterns of the earth
For we are saved, we are free, we are redeemed...
This world is not our home, and we will not conform..."

From my experience, David's heart is not to perform (though he does perform well), but to generously spread the spirit of worship to the nations.  His songs hold interest melodically and rhythmically, but are simple enough to be accessible to the average kid in your church who just wants to sing.  While Christian music has changed drastically in the last twenty years, it is refreshing to see how David has reconciled contemporary sound with lyrics that retain their power in their directness and convicting honesty.  To add to his "overall cool dude" status, David also shares all his chord charts and other resources on his website for other worship leaders, so you don't have to sort through 15 different versions on to find one that is actually correct.

I could go on and on about how each of his songs has been life-giving in different situations, but I will simply let you experience it for yourself.

Favorite Tracks:  Holy Nation, Beyond These Walls, Awake O Soul, With One Touch

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friends in High Places

I don't usually do much writing on music on my blog because it's often such a personal thing.  But sometimes, something so good comes along that you must share it.  This time, it's even more "so good" because the pianist/vocalist for this group is a friend of mine from my university days!

Aura was awesome back then, owning it in the world of Santa Cruz ethnic music, classical piano, and then singing her heart out to top all of it off.  Plus composing, and being generally a lovely person to be around and swap stories with.

She's now in a band called The Horde and the Harem.  I love their music.  I'm a huge sucker for harmonies, and they nail it-- balancing their female and male vocals delicately over upbeat, indie-rock instrumentals.  Their slower songs will melt your heart.

Lucky for all of you who reside in my native American West, they're on tour, as well!  Be sure to check 'em out if you live in Portland, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

Thanks supermarioz for the video.

Stuff My Sister Finds, Part 2

Shortly after my undergrad days were over, I gave up my crazy bar-hopping-on-Tuesdays habit.  As far as I could see, it was fun for a few years, but got old quickly, not to mention the fact that my savings account had been spent on a few too many lackluster bars that lit up the humble downtown Santa Cruz strip.  My friends called me Grandma.  Some nights, I could hear the debauchery occurring outside my studio window while I was trying to focus on whatever movie I'd rented for the evening.  Yes, I am a boring person.

Mostly, I stopped drinking because I realized what drunk people look like to sober people.  And it ain't pretty.  And you know what?  It just gets worse as you get older.  Sloppy drunk kid on his twenty first birthday?  Might have its nostalgic charm.  Sloppy drunk people trying to relive their fraternity/sorority days in their mid-thirties?  Not so much.

So I bring you this amazing video clip found by my sister, who just finds the best stuff on the internet.  No one could make sloppy drunkenness look this adorable.  But the next time you think about picking up the bottle, ask yourself... will I look as cute as that baby on YouTube by the time I'm done with this?  Chances are, you probably won't.