Random Musings


Mint Snowball

Page 582, paragraph 2, line 8.

“She closed her eyes to see the Swiss village my great-grandfather’s parents came from.”

This paragraph is so evocative.  I can almost taste the mint syrup in my mouth.  Everyone has a similar experience where a certain food takes you back to a childhood memory.  Whenever I eat spring onion and ginger crab at a restaurant, it takes me back to frosty Christmas holidays back in England.  Crab is our Chinese equivalent to turkey and my mother makes a superb version.  My sister and I would be parked in front of the sofa watching James Bond reruns while mother is in the kitchen.  Chopping, hissing from the steam, glorious aromas would emanate from the kitchen while we waited for the succulent crab and gooey wine sauce.   There is something about home cooking that transcends even the most prestigious restaurants.  A master chef could never replicate the warmth and care of my mother’s cooking.

Chop Suey

Page 587, paragraph 2, line 3.

“In that instant, I thought my mother was going to hit the man.”

This line reminded me of an anecdote my mother told me once.  It was when I was six and my sister was five.  Our father was overseas on a mysterious trip.  My mother was very much alone in London, a land quite foreign to her.  She was walking alone from a trip to the supermarket when a young thug accosted her, trying to steal her handbag.  My mother, remembering some kung fu stances my father taught her, quickly adopted a martial arts pose.  To her complete surprise, the thug looked frightened and ran away, leaving the handbag with her.  This was in the 70’s when kung fu movies were all the rage and Chinese immigration to Britain was just trickling in.  Even till this day, my mother chuckles at the fact that a tiny Chinese woman could scare away this tall, athletic man.  I guess stereotyping isn’t so bad after all.

Chop Suey

Page 585, paragraph 1, line 2

“I knew her distaste for blonde American women she feared would seduce her son.”

I was blonde once.  Not the dark, caramel color associated with trendy Japanese pop stars but platinum, “Marilyn” blonde.  

Blonde women throughout Western culture have always been considered to be more feminine and seductive than brunettes.  A notable example would be “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.  The title itself is a giveaway, with fiery dark-haired Jane Russell playing second fiddle to the scintillating Marilyn Monroe.

As an Asian blonde, I had twice as much attention than a Caucasian blonde.  Cars honked, men wolf-whistled and I received awe-struck looks from passersby.  Being blonde was fun for a while – until my hair fell out.  


What Makes People Gay

Page 745, paragraph 4, line 5.

“LeVay showed a tiny clump of neurons of the anterior hypothalamus – which is believed to control sexual behavior – was, on average, more than twice the size in heterosexual men as in homosexual men.”

This has been at the forefront of the nature vs. nurture debate.  Can someone be born gay?  If this were true, then discrimination may be a thing of the past. Since nature created the gay gene, then homosexuality is just another form of sexual expression.  You cannot change what nature gave you.  

On the other hand, if you know your child had the gay gene, would you try to abort it?  I believe that the beliefs of the parents would determine the fate of the child.  Personally, a child with the gay gene would not bother me.  Whether they become gay or not is up to the individual.  My belief is that you should love the child no matter what, sexual orientation or otherwise.  

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Page 564, paragraph 3, line 1

“The world opened up, and it was with great joy that I responded, “I know the thing that you speak exact now.  Talk me more, you, please, plus.”

This reminded me of the importance of learning another language, especially when you are traveling to another country.   Like David Sedaris, I was taught French too, as it is a requirement in England.  Learning French was an eye opener.  In ethnocentric France, where speaking French can get you better service and set you apart from ‘les tourists.’  In Morocco, one can either speak French or Arabic.  I learnt so much through conversing with the locals.

My sister is a shining example of understanding culture through language.  She has lived in France for 8 years, married a Frenchman and is working for a French company.  Being in France for so long has made her more French than English.  She even speaks English with French grammar.  For instance, she would say, “I propose we do this.”   What she really means is, “I think we should do this.”  

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Page 562, paragraph 4, line 2.

“…to Japanese Yukari, who loved paintbrushes and soap.”

My name is Yukari Tanaka.  I am from Niigata prefecture, Japan.  I am 26 years old.  My parents sent me to France so I will learn French and I will get a husband.  They say it will make me more cultured.  My age now is almost too old to get a husband.  I was an office lady in the city.  I like to watch painters in Montparnasse.  There is one painter that I like.  His name is Loic.  Yesterday he buys me soap.  It smelled very nice.

Hitting Bottom: Why America Should Outlaw Spanking

Page 646, paragraph 1, Line 7

“..a spanking ban represents a sinister effort to take a crucial disciplinary tool out of the hands of good mothers and fathers – and to encourage the sort of permissive parenting that turns kids ratty and rotten.”

While, I do not agree with the ban of spanking – it should only be used as a last resort.  America is an obvious example of why more discipline should be introduced to children.  My friend’s friend, a young woman in her early 20’s, spoke to me once about how her mother was almost afraid to discipline her when she was a child.  “If she dared hit me, I would punch her.”  When she spoke to her parents on the phone, it was in a belligerent and sullen tone.  

In Asia, speaking to one’s parents with disrespect is almost tantamount to a capital offence.  Elders are revered and parents do not coddle their children.  Limits and boundaries must be given to children, for it is essential to their growth as responsible adults in the future.  Nevertheless, we must not be tyrants with our offspring.  Violence should only be a last resort.

Why America Should Outlaw Spanking

Page 648, paragraph 3, line 7.

“More often I think, we strike kids when we’re mad – enraged.”

Downstairs, I heard the clatter of pots and pans as my mother cleared the kitchen.  Father was gone, usually to the bookies next door.  I was seven years old and my sister a year younger.  The tension in the air was palpable, as we braced ourselves for another spanking.  Mother was angry at father for leaving her at the shop.  He had lost money at the bookies, but that didn’t stop him from trying again.  So mother was going to punish us – for what father did.  With each step my mother took up the stairs, we stiffened.  She said our room was untidy; it was more like a snarl.  The feather duster was held feather side up with the wooden handle outwards.  I tried to run; she grabbed me and held me down.  As the hits came hard, my sister huddled in the corner crying.  I will never forget this day.



Page 594, paragraph 8, line 1

“Ah, the old Jennie Garth video, Body in Progress.  Some nights you go to the mall with your squeeze, you’re both a little wasted, and you come home with a Jennie Garth workout video.”

I hate to give away my age but the 80’s to early 90’s are still lucid to me.  Far from rock music, I was a popster at heart.  A true Madonna wannabe, I would practice her moves from the Virgin tour, which I recorded on VHS over mom’s endless collection of Chinese soap operas.  The Madonna discography was the soundtrack of my life.  From my trusty walkman, as I walked to school, she dispensed advice like an amiable, bossy sister.  ‘Express Myself.’ was my mantra for overcoming shyness.  Being a deeply introverted schoolchild is never easy for anyone, Madonna egged me on until I managed to make some friends.

My sister on the other hand, was a cool rock chick who liked Nirvana and Gun’s and Roses.  Decked out in the most hideous plaid shirt, she would hide for hours in her room, music blaring from the stereo.   She had an eclectic taste in music from Bon Jovi to Mariah Carey, all neatly stacked up in a CD tower.  

Eventually, our collective music disappeared into used record stores but it remains forever in my mind.


Page 596, paragraph 3, line 1.

“I was a shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston, I’d never met anybody like Renee before.”

You piqued me with your Morrissey haircut and intense, furrowed brows.  Your hazel blue eyes portraying earnestness and curiosity.  As we revealed ourselves, it became clear that our interests were mutual.  Life together would be a fusing of passions.  As I am watching you from above, as you feel and think about us.   I leave these last words:

“A dreaded sunny day

So let’s go where we’re happy

And I meet you at the cemetery gates

Oh Keats and Yeats are on your side”

(The Smiths – Cemetery Gates)


Page 598, paragraph 4, line 9.

“It was the decade if Kurt Cobain…”

Ode to Kurt Cobain

You were the knight of angst, in the kingdom of pain

Denounced the world with songs of hurt

Now you are gone, bleeding and inert

Somewhere in purgatory, on a plain

You felt free in your death liberation

While fans stood in the Seattle rain

That you would always for us, remain

The symbol of our generation


Here I Am Taking My Own Picture

Page 733, paragraph 3, line 1

“Everyone’s a little narcissistic,”

They call Generation X, the narcissistic generation.  In the online showcase of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, young people these days can promote themselves as if starring in their own reality show.  Call me an oldie – I’m only Gen Y and with a Facebook account too, in case you youngsters want to know but is tweeting your trip to the supermarket really necessary?

Back when I was a teen, getting a weekend job and finishing my GCSE’s were my goal.  I did not consider my life to be interesting enough to document.  It was the Nirvana era and everyone was worried about unemployment, including my parents.  

Nowadays, it seems that the kids are indeed coddled into media-induced shallowness.  Yesterday, I had the misfortune to glimpse at the vomit-inducing Kardashian Show.  There she was, one of the sisters, shamelessly splayed out in a hospital bed, giving birth on television!  It seems that there is no end to self-promotion.  These days it is almost a prerequisite for Generation X.

Here I Am Taking My Own Picture

Page 733, paragraph 5, line 3

“..the self portrait which has become a kind of folk art for the digital age.”

Taking a good self portrait on your cell phone requires patience.  For every photo that you take, ten will be deleted.  Take time to play with different backgrounds, your best side.  Also adjust your settings.  For instance, my Motorola Droid has many different camera settings.  The settings include flash to portrait mode, as well as sepia tone, if you prefer.  Finally, editing your photo has never been easier.  On the Droid, you can download the PicSay or Photoshop app.  Cropping, clearing red eye takes a matter of minutes.


Almost Before We Spoke, We Swore

Page 727, paragraph 8, line 1

‘People can feel very passionate about language,” she said, “as though it were a cherished artifact that must be protected at all cost against the depravities of barbarians and lexical aliens.”

Cantonese movies are always lost in translation.  While watching a Hong Kong crime thriller with my western friends, there is a scene between two bar brawlers.  “Go Away!” the subtitles cleanly state but Cantonese slang is quite clear, “I’ll f**k your thousand year old mother’s urine-stinking c**t to death, you b*****d!”  They have no idea why I’m laughing out loud.  When I translate it to them, they can’t help but feel cheated.

Profanity in Cantonese has always been more amusing.  After all, Hong Kong’s ancestors consisted of gamblers, thieves, smugglers, tax-evaders, gangsters and escaped convicts of China.  The popularity of ‘Bus Uncle’, a profane, utterly demented man on a bus shows just how funny the Cantonese can be.  

The Cantonese are an uncouth bunch.  We are known as the ‘southern barbarians’ to the Mainland Chinese.  Swearing just isn’t the same in frilly, Mandarin tones.  Where else can you say, “F**k eight generations of your ancestors!” or “I’ll pull your eyes down to you’re a**, so you can watch me kick the s**t out of you!”

From the 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation

The whole report

The subway in Tokyo was jam packed with commuters, full of salary men staring intently into their comic books.  Schoolgirls were clad in their quasi-sailor school uniforms while clutching the latest ‘boy love’ manga.  Advertisements featuring cute anime girls and cartoons were even displayed garishly on the subway handles.

Japan is a comic obsessed country.  Comics often reflect upon political and economic issues, as well as the nihilism and sense of despair that has been plaguing the country.  Corporations are dispensing with dull newsletters for easy to read comic strips.  Even serious tomes have reverted to manga fashion.  A four-volume economics primer called A Cartoon Introduction to the Japanese Economy has sold 1.8 million copies over the past three years.

If America created comics instead of dry reports, people would ‘read’ more.  The 9/11 report would be more widely read.  

From the 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation

Page 628

How 9/11 changed airport security

Remember the good old days when flying was fun?  Not anymore.  9/11 was the impetus for increased security for all our airports.  Before 9/11, airport security was manned by private companies.  In November 2001, the TSA was created to handle airport passengers.  Liquids and knives (of course) are forbidden on aircraft.  We have to x-ray our shoes and all perfumes and lotions are confiscated.  There are now x-ray machines to view our naked bodies as we stroll through customs.  The unlucky ones may be frisked, if you have the same name as someone else on a watch list.  Today, getting on a flight is about as fun as a trip to the dentist.  I know it is all worth it.


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