Friday, June 22, 2007

Food Writing Elsewhere

Thanks for visiting! My recent writing is more likely to be found at NibbleKibble, a mostly Chicago-based food blog. (I can't believe I've neglected this one for such a long time...)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

recent creations

Aside from looking for intern positions in Chicago involving writing, I'm beading.
earings4 - enamel flower blue
enamel flower blue

An avanguard pair (each piece of the pair has slightly different yet matching design), made with classic-looking cloisonne & glass beads.

earings3 - ginkgo ring amber
ginkgo ring amber

If my boyfriend was a woman (or a man who wears this type of earings!), I would give him this pair--his nickname is Giant Ginkgo.

earings2 - middle eastern white
caliph's milky stones

Vaguely reminiscent of a harem in a caliphate, I think.

earings1 - triangle red
triangle red

Photographing them with my boyfriend's 100mm macro lens is a lot of fun, too--although it can be tricky with dim light and shallow depth of field.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

pervert on commute

In this article on CTA Tattler, Kimberli reports a commuter pervert on CTA's Red Line who takes one of the single seats facing each other at the end of the train car and exposes his erect penis to unfortunate female commuters sitting in the opposite seat. This criminal pervert takes advantage of the isolated nature of these specific seats, which prevents other commuters from witnessing his act.

Seeing the criminal musterbate in front of her twice, she says: "I knew that I should have done something, but was paralyzed. I don't know why I didn't do something, but I guess I was both embarrassed and scared to get up and go press the button on the other end of the car." Why didn't she just get up and let everybody know that there was a pervert playing with himself? Why didn't she just get off the train and call the police? Why didn't she tell the asshole to stop?

All these questions would popp up in my mind, questioning her cowardry response more than the pervert's criminal and hateful act--had I not been victimized by the same guy myself.

About a week ago, I was reading the British Lit textbook in one of the single seats facing each other on the Red Line when I noticed a young white man staring at me from across the aisle. Sipping his Dunkin Donut coffee every once in a while, the man scanned me with his sticky stare. There was something disconcerting about his stare, but I went back to reading. The train was fairly empty. A few stations later I glanced at him before looking around in the train; I recognized something flesh-colored and stick-like against the bottom of his white shirt. Huh? I thought and looked back, to find his pale yet erect penis sticking out of the fly of his pants. At that point, my head was completely washed white and all I could think of was to not let the guy know that I noticed his penis. I dropped my eyes on the page that now conveyed no meaning to my paralyzed mind. As soon as I had a chance to get off the train to change lines, I did so, without looking at the pervert again.

The rest of the day I spent in a strange state of heightened yet detached sensitivity. I didn't tell anyone about the incident. Just like Kimberli, I knew that I should have acted decisively and felt that my inaction was somehow more culpable than the man's silent aggression toward me.

The next day, the same guy took the seat in front of me. Again. Since I was paying more attention to my surroundings, I noticed him right away. This time, I observed that he was doing preliminary masturbation through his pants before pulling out the erect penis. He cleverly used his large black backpack to further shut out any possible witnesses from the rest of the car, putting his penis back into the fly at each station, making sure that customers on the platforms won't see his criminal act. I typed on my laptop, again pretending not to notice yet paying full attention to the man. Since the train was slightly more crowded, the man had fewer chance to expose himself. As the train moseyed through the construction area and as the guy continued his sneaky attack, a different kind of whiteness filled my brain. It was a mixture of many emotions, but dominant were weariness and rage. I wanted to humiliate the guy in the most humiliating way. I wanted to retaliate.

What a pathetic loser, I thought. It was obvious that he does what he does in order to humiliate, stain, degrade, the woman in front of him whom he hates and fears--woman whom he hates because he fears. What a pathetic way to deal with his fear, though--in front of me was a miserable creature who succumbed to his fear without even knowing it, who can only soothe his miniscule, crooked mind by living in the fantasy of humiliating the object of his fear and hatred by making his own sexuality despicable and obscene. If he uses his penis as an instrument of degradation, what kind of impoverished relationship does he have with his own sexuality? As I thought about the repulsive behavior of the man in front of me, weariness overcame rage within me. I felt very tired. Tired that this was the man's only way of self-placation, weary that I felt paralyzed at this utterly pathetic attack directed at women but only coming back to himself.

For some reason, calling the police or the conductor didn't occur to me. When the train became rather empty after leaving Grand, I was weighing something in my mind. There was no one between the man and me when the train arrived at my station. I picked up my backpack and stood up without looking at the man. A part of me said no, it was dangerous, but I wanted to say it.

As the doors opened, I leaned toward him, looked into his small blue eyes and said "loser" and got off the train. My knees shook as I went down the stairs. I was scared that he might retaliate. The rage and weariness were intertwined with fear. I hoped that I sounded as weary as I felt, as firm as necessary for it to be effective. I didn't have time or the guts to observe the emotions that probably sprang up in his small blue eyes. I spent the day imagining what terrible emotion might have been in his blue eyes when he heard the word.

I haven't taken the Red Line since, so I don't know if the man is still harassing other women in his gluey bog of misery.

For once, the radical feminist Catherine MacKinnon was right--sexual crime is a hate crime. Sexuality itself, sexual organs themselves, aren't despicable, obscene, degrading, or repulsive. The criminal pervert's penis wasn't nauseating in itself--it was smoothly shaped and faintly pink-hued, nothing inciting immediate disgust. It is the malice emanating from the man that turned his penis into a repulsive weapon. It was his hatred toward me, me as a woman, that disturbed me into emotional paralysis and near panic. It was his own perception of his penis as something disgusting that made me look away, not the physical appearance of his equipment itself. (This is why being a nudist and exposing oneself on a train are two different things--the former doesn't involve malice and hatred.)

In this sense, the act of exposing his penis to me is only harmful because he means it to be harmful. Somehow I perceived his desire to harm me (probably not me personally but me as a representation of all women) and felt fear and panic. It was when I saw his miserable smallness in turning his own sexuality (and his sexual organ, too) into an object of disgust that my fear and embarrassment turned into weariness. Of course this is all in my head--for all I know, the CTA perv might be leading an incredibly rich personal and sexual life by exposing himself on CTA trains--but the more I think about that man, the more pathetic and miserable he appears in my brain. I just hope that I won't see him again and if I have the misfortune to run into him again, I'll definitely call the police, not because he exposes his sexual organs but because he does it with malice and hatred.

keywords: CTA, public transit, public transportation, pervert, crime, sexual crime, sexual harrassment, Catherine MacKinnon, feminism, public offender, pervert, exhibitionist, penis, masturbation

Thursday, April 06, 2006

do girls dream of thier boyfriends' signature?

I had a dream. It was a very wrethced dream that kept me tossing and turning in the wee hours of the night, but I only remember one thing: my boyfriend's signature was different from the one I'm familiar with. Patrick's signature consists only of his first name, and is done in one of those unintelligible way with violent lines jerking up and down. In my dream, he signed something with his full name, and his handwriting was round and rather cutzy. Somehow the difference in his signatures bothered me a lot in the dream.

When I woke up, I told him about the dream. He smiled uncomfortablly as I described his weird signature. When I'm finished, he said, "You know what?"

"What?" I asked. He grinned some more and shook his head.

"I used to sign exactly like that," he said.

How could that happen? How could I see his old signature, which I hadn't seen or even heard about, exactly the way it was in my dream? I hadn't even known that he used to sign differently. I was stunned. I guess it's one of those strange coincidences that make people believe in some supernatural power or divine existence, but since I don't buy into that crap... I'm still perplexed. Wow.

keyword: dream, dream analysis, signature, relationship

Monday, March 27, 2006

somatophilia/somatophobia: what self-pornorates on Flickr tells me

As one of the million amateur photographers in need of occasional pettings on our artsy-fartsy ego, I use Flickr. Last Thursday, I posted a few black and white photographs of my legs and left hand, which I decided to call "self-pornorate."

thursday's legs #2
Thursday's legs #2

left hand
left hand

Nothing too dangerous--one might even call them "art nude" photographs, although I'm not sure if I want to call them that.

But they're getting soooooooooo much more views than my other photographs of landscapes, architecture, plants and so on. Two of the four self-pornorates were clicked on more than 400 times over the weekend, whereas most of my photos get less than 30 clicks over many months.

What does that tell us about human nature? I'm not saying that we are driven only by our "basest" instincts, which is a Victorian way to say our sexual desire (although it is tempting to say so). Rather, the disproportionately large interest shown in these body shots in the Flickr community seems to point to our strange curiosity and affinity toward our bodies. I, for one, sometimes find myself clicking on small icons of photographs that seem to zero-in on bodies or body parts. It could be the absoolutely beautiful curves defined by the back of a young (and super-fit) woman in a perfectly lit studio. Or it could be the rough texture of a creased hand of an old farmer in an African savanna under the scorching sun.

Human bodies, when photographed right, seem to be far more powerful and beautiful than a shot of the most beautiful and elaborate flower. It is often said that our modern culture teaches us the strange somatophobia (fear of bodies and bodily functions) and it is so true, but behind that drape of somatophobia, there seems to be the curious and tender child of somatophilia (love of bodies) pushing us to test our boundaries, if in the semi-secrecy of the internet.

I'm sure many of the clicks my self-pornorates get are out of sheer lust, but the rest of them testify to our universal love of, and interest in, human bodies.

keywords: photography, nude, self-portrait, sexuality, somatophobia, somatophilia, body, desire, Flickr

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

pink notebook, 1984

On my fifth birthday, my mother bought me a garish pink notebook with an illustration of a house with perspective problems, inhabited by a family of grinning purple dogs. She wrote on the back of its front cover in her large, round handwriting: "A gift to Yu for your 5th birthday. Keep a diary every day. Mom." I don't know what she expected a five-year-old to keep diary about. But I was to write something in it, every day. Anything.

The pink notebook was one of the manifestations of her ambition to raise her only daughter to be a lover of reading, just like her (as you have suspected). To learn to read, one must learn to write, she must have figured.

My mother was a woman of dicipline. She made sure I wrote something on the notebook every day. She would make me sit at the dining table and draw her chair next to me. Sipping from her mug of Nestle instant coffee, she watched me squeeze an event or two and put them on the lined pages in my crooked handwriting of a beginning speller. In a few days, I came to resent the notebook. There wasn't much to write about in my infant life of hiding in a playroom of the kindergarten when the 2 o'clock snack of the day was mango (for I hated mangoes) and riding my tricycle on the white linoleum floor of my parents' bedroom, avoiding the imaginary monsters that roamed the dark and sinister caves that was the space under my parents' twin beds.

"There must be something you want to write about," my mother would say.

"There's really nothing!" I whined, wanting to hit the table with the 2B pencil in my hand but not daring to do so in front of her.

"You have to keep doing what you've started," she would resort to her favorite line. I wanted to tell her that it wasn't me who started the diary but her, that I never wanted to keep a diary. But again, I didn't dare to say it. I felt the tears generate in the back of my eyes. It felt so unfair. My nose became stuffy with the tear I held back. Eyeing my mother, I swallowed what almost came out of my mouse: "but I don't know what to write." Her face was telling me that there's no "but." She had a very low tolerance for whining, especially when it was about wanting to quit what I'd taken up.

I grasped the pencil firmly and put its lead tip on the cheap paper. I went over my day and tried to think of something to write. Nothing. I got up in the morning, went to the kindergarten, had a normal day and came home. Nothing special. I think harder. Nothing. The pencil starts to feel slippery in my sweating palm. I must have been making that grumbling noise unconsciously, for now my mother snapped: "stop oinking!"

I flipped through the earlier pages of the notebook.

"Tuesday, Jan. 23. I went to the kindergarten today and played with Ayako-chan and Sugimoto-kun." I'd done the same thing today, but I'd wrote about that already.

"Wednesday, Jan. 31. It's a month and two days till grandma visits us."

"Thursday, Feb. 1. It's a month and a day till grandma visits us."

It would be a bit risky to do the same count-down three days in a row. I needed something else. I went further back in the notebook for a hint.

"Tuesday, Jan. 16. Mom and dad had a quarrel. It was because dad went to golf and came back late." I could remember how furious I was on that day. My mother wouldn't let me go play with Naoko-chan because she didn't have time to pick me up later. So I wanted to take revenge in my diary. Writing about the petty quarrel between my parents seemed to be the best way to do so. But when my mother looked at the entry, she didn't say anything. I remembered my disappointment at the non-reactio of my mother.

Still I didn't have anything to write about. A five-year-old doesn't have a passion for detailed description, nor has she acquired the intellectual manipulation to squeeze some deep-sounding thoughts out of the mundane. For her to write a diary entry, there has to be something extraordinary happening in her life. And my life was a finest specimen of an ordinary life. Or so it appeared to my five-year-old self.

Finally I picked up the pencil that I had dropped on the table and started writing. I'd found a thing to fill in the note space designated for today's entry.

"Friday, Feb. 2. It has been a Friday today."

I don't remember what my mother said. The yellowing paper of the old pink notebook does not reveal what happened after that. The entry for February 2nd, 1984 ends right there, curt and brief, just like the other entries of my "diary" infested with drastically deformed or completely inverted characters and skewed pencil strokes almost tearing the cheap paper, revealing the grudge the sun-tanned girl held toward her demanding birthday gift.

keywords: Thailand, Bangkok, childhood, diary, journal, mother, daughter, parent, reading, writing, education, 1984, discipline, literacy

Thursday, March 09, 2006

disrupted CTA services...

It was the slowest CTA train I've ever taken. It took me an hour and a few minutes to get from Jackson to Morse. Even worse, the train stopped a few hundred yards from the Morse station. I don't know why--I could see the track ahead, and there was no "crew working on track ahead" as their daily "we're sorry, we're being delayed" announcements always suggest. I was on the famous "blessed train" (whose conductor has a rather jolly disposition and announces that he's grateful that the customers are on his blessed train, slipping in some varying lectures on the virtues of being grateful and so on), but I wasn't blessed enough to know what was going on. When the train had been stopped for seven minutes, in sight of the station, a woman got up her seat, shaking her head and mumbling something in her mouth. It was clear that she was far more irritated than the rest of us, who were, in our own lights, pretty pissed ourselves. She pried open the heavy door to the next car.

"Well, that'd make a tremendous difference," I thought, and went back to my reading of The Devil's Highway. The dead Mexican "illegal entrants" were enjoying the coolness of the morgue drawers after days of baking in the 100-plus degrees heat in the Southwestern desert. They were waiting for their first-time-ever flight--in their government-paid cheap coffins--to their homes in Veracruz.

The young man who sat next to me stood up, folding his conservative newspaper. I looked up. He walked up to the front of the car, where some people were saring out the windows, shaking their heads and muttering something in low voices. Then I saw the pissy woman walking across the track. She must have gotten off the train from the narrow connection bridge between the cars--in her frustration at the stopped train. She furiously walked to the other end of the tracks and quickly disappeared down the bank. By now, everybody on board was following her eccentric action, half amazed and half entertained.

The train remained at the same spot four more minutes before it slowly slid into the station just two blocks ahead. A police car cruised past us on an alleyway along the track. When I finally stepped out of the snail train, a loud and cracked voice was apologizing the delay due to a "disruption to the service." Sure, the woman getting off the train mid-journey was a surprise, but that didn't explain why the train had to stop for seven long minutes before her irritation reached that point. Sometimes I'm sick of this perpetually disrupted public transit system...

keywords: Chicago, public transportation, CTA, red line, train, reading, Luis Alberto Urrea, Luis Urrea, The Devil's Highway, immigration

Spring snow and croccusses

Pure white feathers fell from the sky, one by one, like extra-large snow flakes that covered the ground a few days ago. It oculdn't have been snow, the air was too warm, too spring-like for snow. The feathers landed on the yet leafless bush in someone's front yard, and I noticed many more trapped among the intricacy of the shrubbery. I looked up puzzled. The feathers poured from a point in a tall tree, where two branches grew in their separate ways. Something moved behind one of the branches. I walked a few steps to get a better view. It was a small hawk, white throat and belly with dark brown spots, feeding on a pigeon. As it picked the fluffy mass at its talons, more and more white feathers, no, they were now softer downs, came flowing down to the shrubbery, to the ground. Tiny sparrows chirped in the tree a few feet from the grim feast. The hawk buried its compact head in the invisible flesh of the pigeon, probably still warm and tender. It seemed miraculous that none of the many, many feathers and downs did not bear the bloody mark of the violent death.


I saw the spring on that day. Three yellow croccusses had pushed their heads through the previously fridged soil, appearing right next to the apartment door. Daffodils had grown to a few inches tall, their cream-green flower buds still tucked in their leaf-wrapped stems. The air was moist and mild, making me roll down the window of my car on the way home. The yellow of the willows seemed to have intensified in the last few days.