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Archive for February, 2007

Weighing In

I’m neither a fan of Britney Spears, nor a fan of Craig Ferguson’s show – which is to say I know next to nothing about both of them.  But Every. Fifteen. Minutes we get bombarded with news about either Britney or Anna Nicole Smith, and it’s really, really sordid.  And I’m with Craig Ferguson 100% when he says that these are people who need(ed) to be left the hell alone.

In BS’s case, all I know is I’m having a hard enough time adjusting to being the mom of an adorable and utterly lovable 1 1/2 year old, and I’m a good fifteen years older than BS and I’m not doing it in the middle of a divorce and in the public eye.  The kid’s breaking down and someone needs to help her.

Hmph.

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It’s not all Asiaphilia…

I’ve been worried that this weblog is devolving into some kind of All Asiaphilia All The Time kind of creepy blog. Maybe I’m turning into what M. describes as “those guys who study kanji on the train in Tokyo” – next thing you know, I’ll be enrolling for Kung Fu (which I’ll annoyingly call “Jeet Kun Do”) classes, whipping up some of my mouth-watering red bean-shiso dumplings, putting some soothing shakuhachi tunes on the stereo, and lighting up a little incense.

Oh, and red Chinese character tapestries. Must get me some of those.

But, see, the fact of the matter is I do know what “Jeet Kun Do” is (okay, I don’t know what it is, but I do know that it’s Bruce Lee’s martial arts methodology). I know what red bean & shiso dumplings are (kind of…I know that there’s one Japanese sweet that involves anko and shiso leaves and that I don’t like it…I can’t remember if it involves mochi or not, but I think it does? Maybe?). I don’t particularly care for shakuhachi tunes (because, oh my God, shakuhachi is musical Valium), but I’ve been known to throw on a little Cantonese opera (courtesy of the show “Something in Chinese that I Can Kind of Read” at the RTHK website) and rock out. And incense…well…I just like it – cho beri natsukashii.

I haven’t gone completely over to the dark side and decked the whole house out in red, though. I have my pride.

Seriously, though, this really, really bugs me. To be honest, it always has – it is, if you will, a quintessential TCK kind of feeling. On the one hand, I really, really do not fit in in my “home” culture. Yeah, I was born here, and, yeah, I was raised by Texans, and that leaves a mark on a personality. I’m all about the saccharined iced tea (although I went cosmopolitan and added lemon juice about a decade back), the mashed potatoes, the fried chicken. I love “King of the Hill” because it captures West Texas life so perfectly – at least, the Texas life that my family seems to lead. I lived in Connecticut for years, too, and I love old rambling mansions by the shore, seagulls flying over cool summer water, and seeing the NYC skyline on the horizon on car trips. I lived in the Midwest for…um (gotta think about this one)…11 years, and even THAT grew on me…eventually.

But I also went to the beach and lit candles inside of plastic lanterns for the Moon Festival. I got dragged off to enough Buddhist temples as a kid to know I never need to see another one again. I ate GOOD dim-sum as a kid – not the over-cooked and bean sprout/celery laden stuff that passes for dim-sum in the Costco freezer section. I knew who Sammo Hung Kam-bo was before he starred on TV with Arsenio Hall. I got laisee (hongbao) for Chinese New Year, and otoshidama for New Year in Japan.* My musical tastes were formed by listening to Commercial Radio and visiting a Chinese commune in 1978**, and I’d never even heard of Nirvana until I found out that bit of music I liked in Moulin Rouge was actually “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (my husband told me).

In other words, I can’t help the things I like or know. I sometimes feel like I should apologize for being white and yet being this way inside. I’m always on the lookout for indications that it’s really just a wannabe kind of thing; that it’s all essentially inauthentic because I’m inauthentic. I don’t look the part of the person I am inside (which obviously isn’t “Asian,” but more of a hybrid), and I don’t really act the part of the person I look like (which is white. Very, very white).

Most of the time, I’m okay with the liminality of the whole thing. Being neither one nor the other, neither here nor there, has its freedoms. But its potential inauthenticity – as much as I think that “authenticity” is a limited, and limiting, term – bugs me sometimes.

*funny story that, involving me grossing about $200 in otoshidama from my host family’s relatives the first year I spent in Japan, and then not noting who gave me what so that I never wrote thank you notes. I still feel stupid.

**Yes, I like Chinese revolutionary music. A LOT. “The East is Red” gives me chills every time. Seriously. I’m a Communist dictator’s dream come true.

ETA: I fixed the “East is Red” link so that it actually takes you to a site with the song.  Oops.

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Gung hei fat choi!

As has been reported ad nauseum, 2007 is the year of the Golden Pig and, as such, is an especially auspicious year to have a child.

We are not having another child this year. BUT, M.’s sister, N., is expecting a daughter in June, and since her husband’s family is Cantonese/Vietnamese, I’m guessing this is pretty big news in their part of the world. Medetai, medetai!

I only lend so much credence to this birth-year stuff, since I was born in an especially inauspicious year. According to Japanese tradition, women born in that year are supposed to kill their husbands; but I haven’t killed M.

Yet.

*As an aside, is it just me or is most of the stuff online about Chinese geomancy really, really tacky?

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The daily slog

I have a couple of posts on identity/parenting/thirdculturekid stuff in the offing, but right now all I have is a quick update, which isn’t even all that interesting.

  • MM should be taking a nap. But, like Kitchen Fire’s Bella, she seems to be trying to make this an optional activity. At 20 months, it’s neither optional nor negotiable. On the plus side, she hasn’t made any serious moves to try and get out of her crib yet, so she’s still contained for the time being.
  • M. is off having some me-time. He’s been home since last Wednesday, when the weather turned ugly and we just couldn’t get out of the house (it wasn’t the amount of snow so much as the ice that preceded/followed it). He has tomorrow off, too, but I’m taking MM and heading off to my parents’ house so that both of us can get a little work done.
  • I’ve been really trying hard to create opportunities to meet people. It’s hampered somewhat by my shyness and by the fact that I simply forget about email sometimes (which means that I’m often very late in responding to people who have been so nice as to email), but it’s better than just holing up in the house and trying to be okay with the fact that we know no one here, really. Outside of family, that is.
  • I guess I’m still a little down…although it’s hard to tell how much of that is just feeling dog-tired, for some reason, and how much of it is actual down-ness. On the plus side, though, I did a little writing over the past few days, and my office in the house is now very beautiful and inviting, which at least makes me want to have reasons (ie. writing) to stay in it when I get the chance.

I hate February.

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Just out of curiosity

Is anyone reading this weblog?  If you are, even on a feed, can you leave a comment and let me know?  Right now I kind of feel like I’m writing to a howling wilderness, but my stats page suggests otherwise…so I’m just wondering.

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When I try to describe the actual process of writing a dissertation, The Lord of the Rings always makes a good analogy. I was secretly pleased to discover that I’m not alone in thinking this, and this woman does a much better job here in Frodo Baggins, ABD.

It just works. And in the LoTR of my dissertation, I’ve barely made it out of the Shire. I’m probably laying on the ground after getting all stabbed by the Ringwraiths at that place…you know the one I’m talking about.

And don’t even get me started on poor, poor Sam/M.

The only thing I’d read differently is the Ringwraiths themselves; sure, the unending financial difficulties, the feeling that I’m not pulling my financial weight, the costs of attending conferences on my own dime, it’s hard. But that’s nothing but the LoTR equivalent of camping out along the way to Mount Doom – huddled in the rain under cloaks, eating nothing but Lembast bread, that kind of thing.

The Ringwraiths are really the phantom voices of disapproval that you can’t escape. The academic who emailed you to criticize your first real publication without having actually read the piece first, thus sending you into a spiral of insecurity for three years and counting.* The fellow conference-goer who takes one look at your nametag and breezes right past you and into the company of someone better known. The faceless, nameless masses of established academics who will certainly recognize your dissertation/publications for the tripe they are.

THOSE are the real Ringwraiths, and damned if they’re not everywhere.

*This is true; s/he actually said “I haven’t read it all yet, but…”

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Norm Chow

By way of 8 Asians is this article about USC offensive coordinator, Norm Chow.  It’s a little bit of brilliance in the way it reads Chow’s inability to be appointed head coach anywhere in terms of systemic, institutional racism rather than one Asian guy being discriminated against.  A really nice piece of writing.

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