26 September 2016

Skyline To

I went down to Barrio Logan for The Little Big Art Show at La Bodega Gallery over the weekend. Truthfully, it’s likely the only art thing I’ve been to in San Diego for at least ten years. I was curious what the crowd would be like mostly. Short answer: the same as anywhere else! Although maybe it skewed a little older than I expected. Then again who am I to talk about age?

And while on the subject, support Susie's campaign against Francesa's, who has been ripping off indie designer's designs for their own store. Susie has long been a champion of artists' rights and what Francesca's (among many other companies) is doing is just deplorable. There's more than one way to draw a cat but Francesca's just had to steal Susie's eh? If you're against rip offs, go support Susie!
While shopping at a nearby record shop before the art show, I grabbed a zine about Indian casinos and a short self-published book about cholos in college. Published in the Eighties, this book seemed intriguing on the surface but I read it and basically wanted to puke. The author was not from the community, didn't present things in an anthropological manner, and the whole thing was basically a self-congratulatory ode to himself: a professor who played self-styled savior for gangsters from the area. Big pat on the back! I would quote from the book directly but it’s just too much and I wouldn’t want to shine any light on this terrible tome.

Whew, that felt good. It’s rare you read something that makes you so angry right? I mean, offline that is. The main issue with the book was how condescending it was, and you guessed it, it’s a white dude trying to show how “down" he was, with all the lingo set off by quotes. Trash, absolute trash. But at least I’m one book closer to fiftyfifty. I’m currently at 18 books and 44 movies. I’m behind on books obviously but there’s an outside chance I could cross the finish line if I shape up for the rest of the year.

And since I’ve yet to talk any books in 2016, let’s plug some! First up, I can’t stop shutting up and recommending Ted Chiang’s short stories to people. I went to go see him speak at AAWW a few months ago but finally finished his collection of short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others. The titular story is brilliant, as well as many others, but the one that really caught my attention was "The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate," about a mirror that enables time travel. Anyway, go read this book! And then get ready for Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, which stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, and looks downright amazing.
And speaking of New York, I finally got around to reading Asterios Polyp, a graphic novel that my friend highly recommended years ago. So long ago that I think we were both still living San Franciso. Anyway, Asterios Polyp really is great, even if the plot seems a little under hatched. But the art style and thematic elements are so strong. Everyone says it gets better with each read, and I’m excited to dig into it again.
Also on the graphic novel tip, I got the first volume of Monstress, written by Marjorie Liu with art by Sana Takeda, aka two Asian-American women putting out a comic book in an overwhelmingly male dominated industry. (I mean, what industry isn't right?) The fantasy world they’ve created is filled with intriguing characters, a two-tailed cat, and when you're done you'll just with there was more Monstress to catch up on.
And although I haven't left the house much recently, I did get out to La Jolla Playhouse to watch Tiger Style!, a play from Mike Lew about growing up Chinese-American. You can see how it was right up my alley… And it proved to be exactly what I wanted: witty and arcastic, unapologetically direct about ethnicity and race, and very very funny. The line that sums Tiger Style! up perfectly, as spoken by a U.S. customs officer who is giving two characters a hard time and refuting their calls of discrimination: “I don’t hear race."
It’s been a pretty bad year for movies but I can recommend Dearest on Netflix and Hell or High Water in the theater. The latter is a neo-Western about two bank robbers down on their luck, and Dearest is a powerful “based on a true story” account of child abduction in China. Both are real crowd pleasers! Okay, don’t quote me on that...

And last thing, my friend Cindy wrote a cyberpunk YA novel set in near future Taipei. WANT features an Asian-American male on the cover. And I repeat: An Asian-American male on the cover. I stopped updating my CoverMale Pinterest board two years ago, but WANT would have been a fine edition. Just look at that beauty. And did I say it’s set in Taipei?! I can't wait to read this thing.

10 September 2016

Eu Gosto De Bolo

Alright, I’m back! After about six weeks in Brazil. “For the Olympics?” Hell no! I wouldn’t have gone to Rio if you’d paid me as I hate crowds, have little to no national pride, and can’t be bothered to pay attention to the Olympics, even if I was Stateside. I mean, aside from listening to podcasts about Team USA basketball. So yeah, I missed all the brouhaha about the two Simones and unfortunately couldn’t help but know too much about Lochte. I was simply in South America because I was done with New York and I had friends to host me in Brazil. Thanks friends!

Brazil is not that far away actually. From New York it’s just a ten hour flight down to Sao Paulo. (On the flight over I did meet someone who goes to every Olympics with her friends, all dressed up and everything, and it was fun to talk to her about her experiences in Athens, Beijing, Sochi, etc.) Also, I wasn’t near the beaches or anything, as I started from Sao Paulo and then went inland, near the border of Paraguay and Brazil.

Things I knew about Brazil before I went down there: not much. Especially the geography. Basically any Brazilian cities I was familiar with was a direct result of playing lots of Pocket Planes, which introduced me to important hubs such as Salvador or Recife, the latter of which is the closest South American city for creating an efficient route to Western Africa. Actually, Pocket Planes was also helpful in that each city on the map was accompanied by a population number, which was very useful.

I hate that my only metric for comparison is basically the United States. I was constantly Googling for city sizes (Ex: Ponta Pora is the equivalent of Alhambra, CA), prices of things, and just generally always in compare and contrast mode. I guess that’s how it is when you travel anywhere, but it just felt kind of gross. Without any American frame of reference though, I was often lost. At least the Stranger Things hype hit everywhere all the same time. Binge watching is universal.

Quick facts: Sao Paulo is a megapolis, with two more million people in it than New York. Although to my limited experience, it felt more like San Francisco. But with a better subway system. Also it’s supposedly very dangerous, but I hesitate to make any generalizations, as I wasn’t in Sao Paulo that long.

This was the first time in awhile I was in a setting where I couldn’t really understand anything. Sure, I had been playing with Duolingo for awhile to learn some Portuguese but I couldn’t pick up anything verbally. Usually I’m in an English or Mandarin speaking environment so I can get the gist of stuff, but I was mostly helpless there. The good news is that I wasn’t ever left to my own devices and my hand was held every step of the way. Safety first!

Things I did do in Brazil: Tok a sixteen hour bus ride, rode in an armored car, flossed a lot due to many meals involving meat, drank coffee in little cups that made me yearn badly for Starbucks-sized cups, talked a lot with people about how Brazilians perceive/view race, learned some history and local economy, got introduced to the works of architect Oscar Niemeyer, saw hordes of Pokemon chasers, watched an entire (animated) movie in Portuguese. Thought an insect laid an egg in my palm — “ovo” means egg — but after some friend-based needle surgery, turned out my panic was just over some clotted blood...

Also, the Museu Afro Brasil turned out to be our favorite museum in Sao Paolo’s Parque Ibirapuera. And I was stunned by the size and scope of Livraria Cultura, a chain bookstore whose Avenida Paulista branch was oh so beautiful. Another highlight was just happening to be at the local mall when Brazil beat Germany in the gold medal match. #witness

So yeah, that’s where I’ve been and now I’m back in the U.S. again. For how long? Let’s seeeee!