Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This is exactly why our economy is in the crapper. People spend money they don't have on things they don't need. The average person owes $4,200 in credit card debt. $8,100 if you count per household. That is averaging in the 25% that don't even own credit cards. What that tells me is we've been a society living on borrowed money and borrowed time. We lived beyond our means in a false pretense of being a part of the so-called middle class.
So, it's no wonder the sales person was shocked to learn I used cash to pay for my purchases. Instead of seeing me as an anomaly, retail shops should expect people to spend with money they have. If they don't have it, then they should either save to purchase objects or at least use the lay away method. Request the shops you frequent add this payment option if they don't already do so. Lay Away is where stores put an item aside for you and you pay in increments until the item is fully paid off. Then and only then are you allowed to take the item home.
How else do you think we an change our horrific spending habits?
Monday, December 29, 2008
I also have another ritual that began in college. I wait until after x-mas and even after new years to purchase "new" ornaments. I usually can get them for 75% off. I then package them and store them for the following year. Because I have short term memory, every time I open my decorations the following year, I am pleasantly surprised. It's like getting gifts you know you'll like.
What did you do this year to celebrate x-mas?
Friday, December 26, 2008
How can a feel good film be gritty you ask. This oxymoron was achieved with delightful results in "Slumdog." Based on the book "Q and A" written by Indian author, Vikas Swarup, and directed by Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "28 Days"), the film is about a kid, Jamal, who grew up in the slums of Mumbai but rose to become a popular contestant in India's equivalent of the game show "How to be a Millionaire." Though a person from such modest means should not have such a vast knowledge required to answer the game show questions, we quickly learn that Jamal's rich life experiences allowed him to possess obscure information. The tale of his life is what unfolds for the majority of the film.
There's also gems such as the music soundtrack with collaboration from M.I.A. that really added to the energy and intensity of city living in India. It was also very cool to see the insides of a "call center" now ubiquitous in countries like India and the Philippines. I'll write more about that another time.
Already winning prestigious film festival awards, accolades from critiques and audiences worldwide, it is also capturing Oscar buzz. The LA Times, NY Post and Chicago Sun Times all chose it as the #1 film of 2008. Cannot say enough about this fascinating movie. Watch the film and get the soundtrack.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I'm not unique in my "shopping" methods. All across the nation Americans are using retails stores as showrooms to: check on a size of shoes or garment; play with an electronic product or even flip through pages of a book. But then we return to our computers and surf the net for the best deals. Stores cognizant of this trend have offered on-line stores along with their rock and mortar ones.
I predict that soon retail stores will only serve as showrooms for e-commerce. Retailers like Macy's will close most their stores save a few for showrooms. You can go there to check out the products, ask questions from live "consultants" and order your items from the rows of computers available. Of course you'll get some kind of discount from purchasing online from one of these computer terminals.
Virtual stores will also broker deals with places like Macy's so their Customers then can get some sort of code from their showroom visit to purchase items from home through their virtual store at yet another deal (with code). Details details.
Point is, showrooms will take over rock and mortar stores as we know it. The sooner the retails establishment realize this, the better off they will be. It may not yet be too late for them. Re-invention is key in our internet age. Too bad print media never quite caught on.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Come on, a hot hapa, geeky hero and a rag tag multi-ethnic crew fighting against white "agents"? You gotta love it. This cool and influential sci-fi remains THE all time favorite film for me.
Brilliant indictment of classism as presented in a futurist film noir style. Also free on Hulu.com at the moment.
This is one movie that takes the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” quite literally. Also serves a good representation of Korean "art house" films by master director Kim Ki-Duk. This is my favorite of the past five years.
"All these memories will be lost... Like tears in the rain..." That says it all. Oh, and in this future we speak Chapanese.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Burning bed that melts plastic tulip in hand. Now, that's insane. See how Spanish women deal with stress.
My Sassy girl
Tear-jerker comedy like only the maudlin Koreans know how to make. Girl finds boy, girl runs away from boy, boy becomes love slave, they part and reunite—maybe. Oh, and I'm referring to the original Korean version and not the sad American remake. Watch for the new trend of US remaking Korean films only a few years after the original was made. Will blog more about that another time.
Another great sci-fi film noir (aka cyberpunk) that asks the question and attempts to answer, "what is the meaning of life?".
There are so many more I can recommend but start here. Enjoy!
Friday, December 19, 2008
During this economic downturn, I often think about poverty. I believe that those who give the most are those who have the least. I’m a self-professed cheapskate, but even I find myself giving more than normal. In the last few months I’ve donated to more political campaigns than I have my entire life. I also tip more than I ever thought I was capable of. Something about empathy that moves people to give in ways they don’t even do when they are well off.
So, if you’re affected by the doom and gloom of the global economy, do you view things differently? Do you find yourself more generous and humbled? I’m curious.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
This is the cutest fan video for Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" song! The little girl, Arianna, is adorable beyond belief. My little girl (if I had one) would dance her heart out like what you see here.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
What do you get the women in your life with everything? Well, a fruit preserver of course. For only $10, these ingenious containers, named Banana Bunkers, can keep your bananas from premature bruising. Girlfriends, moms and even grandmas will love them. Trust me.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
With the BSG hiatus, I have to get my sci-fi fix somehow. Thank god there's "The Sarah Chronicles" (SCC) to keep my spirits up weekly. Briefly, this series is about how Sara Conner trains her son, John Conner, to kick ass as the future leader of the human resistance. Essentially we get to see how the kid becomes this brilliant military strategist against legions of terminators.
The best aspect of the series for me deals with A.I.-android capacity to understand and imitate human emotions. Before SCC, we knew that armageddon began when an A.I. developed at Skynet industries discovered self-awareness and self-perseverance. We understood from the the Arnold Schwarzengegger terminator, that they can evolve to have emotions and to know right from wrong. But, in the SCC, we learn that much of these emotions were not a product of evolution as much as taught and cultivated by humans themselves. In the quest to create perfects A.I. metal "humans," the real humans brought on their own destruction. This comes hand in hand with the android's curiosity, sense of survival or need to destroy (and or be like their makers) that motivates them to learn about them.
The question remains, when will the terminator be so close to being people as to be humane, ending their desire to destroy humans? Inversely, when will humans come to terms with alternative lifeforms and be open to sharing the planet with them. It's the age old sci-fi question really.
In "Salvation," the forth installment in the Terminator franchise, this time directed by McG (Charlie's Angels, the O.C....) and staring Christian Bale (American Psycho, Machinist, Batman...), we get a glimpse of a different reality from the original Teminator (which remains the best IMHO). How different and how much is happening in SCC relates to the "Salvation"? Since in the trailer we hear John Conner saying, "This is not the future my mother warned me about," anything goes.
I look forward to the rest of the season of SCC and "Salvation." What do you think? Catch the cool trailers below. Illustrations above and clips below reminds you of anything, say, "Matrix" or "Transformers"?
Very Cool Unofficial Teaser
Official HD Trailer
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Gosh, I'm such a hardcore NPR listener that I actually paid money to see the late Robert Altman's final movie about NPR's "A Prairie Home Companion." I was the only non senior citizen in the theater. Point being, I'm sad to know I'll be hungry, immobile and now ill-informed.
To be honest, I think in the decades that I listened to NPR, I gave only $20. Shameful admission for sure. It seemed like I was never in a good position to give but that's just bullshit excuses. The truth is, being a cheap bastard, I loved the idea of getting quality radio programming for FREE. Well, I was wrong to think this and will be sending my grocery money to NPR today. It's the right thing to do.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
...What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure...
Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.
Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life...
Monday, December 8, 2008
I still cannot get over that Clinton was impeached for screwing around with an intern (even Nixon resigned before he was formally impeached). So, he's a cad, big deal. Latin American named him Lover of the Year but, yet we punished him. We had so much better things to do at the time then to hold up the president in court for a ridiculous "sex scandal." Since leaving office, Clinton has raised millions for humanitarian projects around the world. Let's wait and see what the "village idiot" (aka Bush Jr.) can do post presidency. I'm guessing another long-ass vacation to match the one he's had this past 8 years.
Oh, and why did people hate Hilary so much during the presidential primaries? My most intelligent democratic friends could not stand her because, why? Well, here are a few choice words: "Something about her I don't trust." "She's a crybaby bitch." Or my favorite, "She just wants the job too badly." All of this does not talk about her intelligence or ability to lead a nation. It does speak to underlining misogyny if you ask me. And yes, some of those who hated her were women; talk about self-hate. I attest that Obama got the nomination because Americans are more sexist than racist, though not by much.
Saturday Night Live
Why are the Clintons so fabulous? Well, some of you may be too young to remember, but when Clinton won his first term, he said the American people will be getting "two for the price of one"; implying that Hilary would also be aiding him in running the country. Why not? She was very gungho about bringing universal health care. Yes, the American people were too brainwashed by cold-war propaganda, claiming we'd die in lines waiting to get substandard medical care in a socialist system, to accept the promise of health care for all. Still Hillary's desire and vision was there to make change DECADES AGO. And let's not forget this hippie power couple promised rights for all including gays.
In both the heath care case and gay rights issues, the Clintons learned the hard way as Washington outsiders that: America was not ready for "radical" change, and without support of the old guards in DC, nothing was going to move quickly. So, now years later, as old hands in politics but no less idealistic, the Clintons are back. Though now with the baggage of being overexposed, they get haters from the left and from the right. No good reason really other than because the Clintons have been around long enough to garner disdain from enough folks out there.
So, congrats newly appointed Madame State Secretary (and her hanger on, Bill, too). I feel safer already and confident our international image will change. Hillary 2116 and Chelsey 2024, unless Michelle wants to throw in her hat then Michelle 2024 and Chelsey 2032. That should be fun!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I'm certain it will be really excellent based on the original plot and trailers (below). What gets me is this, how does just about the worst actor out there, Keanu Reeves, land such choice rolls in great films? Matrix? Dangerous Liaisons? My Own Private Idaho? I love Keanu, I do. He can just stand there and I'll give him an Oscar; but really, why are the casting directors so blind? Or do they turn to mush too when Keanu enters the room?
In any case, I do think he is best playing rolls like a monotone alien. Neo from Matrix, on the other hand, definitely should have gone to the first choice, Will Smith. That guy has a decent range of emotions making him a very good actor. Keanu, however, played the airhead messiah to a tee. But, for some reason I don't think that's what the director was looking for. Morpheus, a mere mortal, was much more charismatic. Even Anderson, a machine, was more dynamic in comparison to Keanu's character.
Why do you think Keanu gets just juicy rolls?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight) by the Ramones
I love you and you love me
And that's the way it's got to be
I loved you from the start
'Cause Christmas ain't the time for breaking each other's hearts
I Will Be Hating You for Christmas by Everclear
I must be losing my mind
Theres gotta be a better way to deal with the pain
There's gotta be a better way to deal with the hate
Wish that I could find some way to make you go away
Wish that I could have a drink and make you fade
I wish that I could have myself a drink and make you fade
I wish that I could have a drink and make you go away
Yeah make you go away
Wish that I could make you go away
I will be hating you for Christmas
Yeah I will be hating you for Christmas...
Killing Myself for Christmas by Sick Puppies
I could slice my wrist but you know it'll only get real messy
(Angry parent: Look at the mess you made)
I could shoot myself but you know they would never recognize me
(Angry parent: That's not my boy, that's not him)
I can take that mistletoe
And hang myself from the Christmas tree
(Angry boss: That Christmas tree is coming out of your parking money)
Another Lonely Christmas by Prince
Oh baby, last night, oh, I spent another lonely, lonely Christmas
Darling, baby, U, U should've been there
Cuz all the ones I dream about
U are the one that makes my love shout
U see, U are the only one I care 4, yeah
My mama used 2 say always trust your lover
But now I guess that only applies 2 her
Cuz baby, U promised me
Baby, U promised me U'd never leave
Then U died on the 25th day of December
Santa Baby by Ertha Kitt
Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
I've been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight
Santa baby, an out-of-space convertible too, light blue
I'll wait up for you dear
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight
Think of all the fun I've missed
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed
Next year I could be oh so good
If you'd check off my Christmas list
Boo doo bee doo
Christmas in Jail by the Youngsters
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
They are singing down the Street
While everybody is having Christmas turkey
They given bread and water to eat
Wore my shoes pacing the floor
Got rocks in my head
I wished I was dead
Ain't gonna drink and drive no more
Things We Don't Need Anymore by Jenny Owen Youngs
Hark the herald angels sing
But not for us my dear
I can't recall a single thing
Worth celebrating this year
Watch the clock and pace the floor
Shut my eyes and slam the door
Tear down the lights
We don't need them anymore...
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Then comes along the Free Hugs Campaign to answer this quandary. This movement all started in Australia 2004 with one man who goes by the pseudonym "Juan Mann" (cute coinkidink, huh?). While dealing with issues of sadness during a trying time, Mann returned from overseas. He longed to be back in someone's waiting arms but found no one there upon his arrival. With this earnest desire and equipped with only a large cardboard having the words, "free hugs" handwritten on it, Mann proceeded to offer, well, free hugs. Mann's act was even documented on film and clips were used in the music video "All the Same" from the band Sick Puppies (see below)? His popularity grew so great he also appeared in Oprah.
Juan Mann in Sydney
Now an international phenomenon, these random acts of kindness is a testament to the human soul. It's so widespread that even in places like South Korea where PDAs is seen as immodest, especially by the older generation, you will see the Free Hugs Campaign in full swing (see video clip below).
Jinwoo Shin in Seoul
Who doesn't want a hug? Dammit, I can use one right now going through this writing hell. So go out and hug a stranger. Make sure you can run real fast in case they become irate. When could you have most used a hug and why? Please share your thoughts.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
My siblings and I ritualistically see each other on Thanksgiving (save this one because I'm tied up writing). We travel anywhere and everywhere to meet up: Atlanta, NYC, San Diego, Davis, Oakland...All our gatherings have been memorable in their own special way. But, one I'll never forget because it began and ended when my eldest brother-in-law said grace.
"God, bless our family and this fine meal, and thank you for bringing the Pilgrims to save the savages." Whooh, Nelly. I nearly keeled over in my chair. Needless to say he and I got into it in a big way. I accused his cherished Pilgrims of being opportunists that would have died without Natives helping them out, and all the natives got in return was disease. I topped it off with how incredibly filthy the Europeans were and how shocked they were to learn Natives bathed regularly. So, take that.
Well, what our family learned from that dinner was to not talk politics or the crazy Berkeley sister will go nuts with her left wing politics. Oh, I don't know, am I that bad? Just because I do not glorify the white "saviors" but rather bare truth to the situation, I think I should not be feared but rather loved and appreciated. So, on this day, I'm thankful that my family still loves me even though I hardly ever walk away from an argument.
What are you thankful for today?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Former mobile phone store manager, who spent his own savings studying opera in Italy, surprised all of England with his awe inspiring rendition of "Nessun Dorma" at the audition for the first season of "Britain's Got Talent". I always get choked up watching his performance and hearing the story of how he took solace in music when he was bullied as a boy. Never judge a book by its cover, huh?
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I think there exists residuals of the "colonized mind" where, through years of colonization and general occupation by those in the West, the "native" subject see themselves and their culture as substandard compared to the West. Hence, when a foreigner speaks in an Asian language, it is made more significant than need be. The positive attention given by "natives" to such spectacles reveals their feelings of pride and gratitude that those in the "higher culture" would willingly choose to partake in the ways of their "lesser culture."
This I have witnessed with a singer named, Dalena. Overseas Vietnamese could not get enough of the image of a blond woman singing in their native toungue. Dalena is not mixed race nor married to a Vietnamese man which was rumored to explain her interest in Vietnamese. The real reason is that Dalena has the skill to imitate foreign languages to perfection. She can sing fluently in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese, French, Spanish and Hebrew. However, she is most known for her Vietnamese singing for which she has found resounding success within the Vietnamese Diaspora music industry of the 90s (see video below).
Dalena and Henry Truc
Other times it is because of heritage connection that stays in tact for generations that explains the "pig speaks" phenomenon. It could be that your grandmother who is full Japanese taught you archaic Japanese songs that only grannies know. Nevertheless, this unique experience exposed you to the Asian language at an early age. This is precisely the case with Jerome Charles White, Jr, better known by his stage name, Jero. Jero is 3/4 African American and 1/4 Japanese, but it is this smaller fraction that he's found affinity with. While in her care, Jero's Japanese grandmother taught him how to sing Enka, a genre of ballads from the 1940s that reflected the sorrows of post war reconstruction. Dressed in typical 20-something, trendy hip hop clothes consisting of baggie tees, jeans and baseball caps, Jero can belt out some truly moving Enka songs (as a Japanese friend relayed to me). Recently his debuted song shot up to #4 on the Japanese music charts; the first for an Enka song in years. Jero is serious about a future in the music career and now lives and performs in Japan. You can see a CNN documentary of him below.
Jero on CNN
Sometimes it is because certain institutional apparatus is in place that allows one to learn an Asian language to near fluency. As I have said many times, if you see a white boy speaking some relatively obscure foreign language, you can almost be certain he's a government employee such as CIA (see image to right), foreign service officer, or military interrogator. Or he is a Mormon missionary. All of the above have centers for intense foreign language training. The training is in the interest of the Westerners even if there is appearance of humanitarian work.
A good example is Muk (Octopus), a band made of four white Mormon boys who sing in Khmi (Cambodian language). In the tradition of mandatory missionary service, the Church of Later Day Saints assigned Trevor Wright, A. Todd Smith, Jordan Augustine and Joseph Peterson to two years in Cambodia. Their experience there left a huge mark and they returned to the country to make a documentary and even start a rock bank. Equipped with fluency in Khmi, a base, guitar, drums and trumpet, these men are now a music sensation. What started out as a joke when they commented one of their traveling photos could be a music cd cover (see left), snowballed into a pseudo-music career that has included national television appearances and tours. Sample of their singing is below.
I wrote about the past and current trends that involve Asians singing in English. But, who is to say that in the future Asian countries such and Hong Kong, Japan and Korea with their cantopop, J-pop, and K-pop respectively, won’t dominate the international pop music market. If so, then we may see Westerners singing in Asian languages having more mainstay value versus short-lived novelty appeal. Stephen Colbert ("neo-con" satirist of The Colbert Report) did a parody of a Rain (Korean pop sensation) K-pop video, with all the typical images such as; flipping a hoody, background dancers, running to where we don’t know, and screaming in anguish. Though it is a comedy skit, it speaks to the growing popularity of Asian pop music in American pop culture.
"Singing in Korean" by Colbert
HipKorea - ColbertSegment
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What do make of all this? Please comment. Thank you!