Nov 12

Asians for Obama: Why?

I love the story that Asian Americans overwhelmingly voted for Obama. Apparently, “exit polls show that 73% of Asian Americans backed Obama, an 11-point increase since 2008.”

I keep wondering why. Asians, at least those of my parents’ generation, tend to be more conservative. My parents were fans of Reagan, and when Clinton ran the first time back in 1992, my mother threatened to disown me if I voted for him (I did anyway; she didn’t).

Then I remembered Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s wonderful piece about her Asian dad and Mitt Romney, and how although her father, who has passed away, had always been a Republican, he would have been appalled at the idea of Romney eating only the tops of muffins, which Romney said to make himself seem like a regular joe, ironically. Lee writes, “Will muffin-top-gate cause other immigrant parents to join their Democratic-leaning children?”

My parents are pretty apolitical now. I don’t think they know much about Obama and Romney’s policies. But when I told my mother that Romney only eats the tops of muffins, she immediately scowled.

“What a waste!” she said. “That guy is pretty naive.”

I think by “naive” my mother meant out of touch. He had never understood what it was like to be poor, like my parents were as children during World War II in China, and as refugees in Taiwan. My mother tells stories of how they ate meat only a few times a year, and how when there wasn’t enough to eat, her two brothers ate first while she and her sisters went hungry.

I have my own theories as to why older Asians might like Obama better. He, like them, like us, is the other. His father wasn’t born here. To the ignorant, he seems foreign. His citizenship has been questioned. He’s intelligent and slightly nerdy. He seems modest. These may be Asian stereotypes and not everything all Asians are, but they are qualities that are valued in many Asian families. I grew up surrounded by scientists and engineers. I would never not date someone because he was one of those things, which, apparently, for some women is a dealbreaker. (A smart guy with a steady job? What a fucking loser!)

My belief is that Romney is simply not relatable to older Asians. He’s too slick. He’s not like anyone they’ve encountered in real life. He’s a rich white guy who throws away half his muffins.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad the Trekkie and not the dressage-enthusiasist is in office. Now let’s hope the Trekkie does better this time around.

Nov 12

Voting Confessions

Well, it was yesterday, but who cares.

My regular polling place is actually quite convenient. It’s at a school less than a block from where I live. But I didn’t want to be in a rush on Tuesday, and the early voting place wasn’t far from where I was getting my hair cut on Saturday, so I thought, Why not!

I was wondering to myself why I never voted early in New York, and I found out not all states have early voting. I don’t know why not. They totally should. Early voting, especially on the weekend, is great if you can’t fit it into the work day on Tuesday.

Anyway, I was surprised by the long line. I don’t know why. It was less than hour before the doors closed so everyone was trying to get in at the last minute. The line snaked down one side of the hall, and up the other. However, it moved at a fast clip. We were told the wait would be over an hour, but it was more like 45 minutes.

What I noticed was that it was mostly white people.When I first moved to San Francisco, one of my first thoughts was, Where are all the black people? According to the 2011 Census, only 6.3% of the San Francisco population is black. That is freaking tiny. In New York, it’s 17.5%, which is still really small, but almost three times the number here. There are a shit ton of Asians in SF – 33.9% – and 54.5% whites, while New York is only 7.8% Asian and 71.5% white. I don’t think I realized how white New York actually is, and how few Asians there are.

The people in line at early voting were not just mostly white, but also aging baby boomers, at least the people right around me. You know, those sometimes clueless liberals who came of age in the ’60s. What do I mean by clueless liberal? I mean someone like Democrat Andrew Cuomo saying of Obama, “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference,” although he claims he wasn’t referring to Obama. (Riiiight.) These boomers were studying their lists of how they’d vote on the zillion California propositions like it was the SATs. I wanted to say to them, “You know you don’t have to memorize them, right? You can even look them up on your phone” (which is what I did while I was waiting on line).

I know, I know, I’m sure they were perfectly nice, and they were being all responsible and shit, but I couldn’t help but get annoyed by them, and at the woman who was freaking out that she was in the wrong line, despite the fact that 1) three different people told her it was the same line broken into two halves, and 2) she was in the half closer to voting.

Then it was my turn! Suddenly, it did feel like the SATs. How the heck did I select who I wanted? Ah, fill in the broken arrow. Okay, kinda weird. Almost would have preferred bubbles and a number two pencil. Check, check, check (a little random, I confess, on the smaller political offices). Prop this, prop that. Oh, so this would be against this bad thing, right, not for it? This would reduce another bad thing, and increase a punishment for bad people. Okay, okay.

And I was done. But I hadn’t voted for president. What the fuck?

Oh, TWO SIDES. Well, fuck me.

(The same thing happened to me once in college. For my American Literature final, I didn’t realize I had to turn the test sheet over. Me and many of my classmates. I was apparently the only one who called the professor at home and begged to take the rest of the test. It was just me and him in an empty classroom. I still did shitty. It was an incredibly boring class.)

Out went all the cards from the envelope. Okay, whew, there were Barry and Joe (and let’s not forget, Roseanne Barr for the “Peace and Freedom” party, whatever the fuck that is). NOW I was done. I handed in my envelope.

Afterward, I kind of felt like I deserved a cookie or some juice, like after giving blood. I would have gotten a sticker, but forgot. Oh well.

I’ll leave you with this message from Chris Rock to white voters:

Oct 12

Twitter, the city

Frankly I wasn’t so into this week’s Questioningly challenge at first, “Define Twitter in a Tweet.” It’s something I’ve thought about before. In fact just that morning – the morning after the Vice-Presidential debate – I had compared Twitter to a live, crowd-sourced Pop-Up Video. Another time I compared Facebook to yearbook (not a stretch) and Twitter to the school newspaper, literary journal, and passing notes in class all in one.

But once I started trying to define Twitter, and reading some really clever, funny, and apt definitions (“A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in typos wrapped in bacon,” from Jael McHenry, and “Finally, the voices inside my head have a home,” by Kelly Thul), I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What I came up with was, “Facebook is the suburbs; Twitter is the city. I prefer the city.” Not exactly genius, but it tells me why going onto Facebook makes me feel suffocated and depressed, while Twitter for me is fun and enlightening.

On Facebook, it’s just this circle of friends and acquaintances. You kind of know everyone. On Twitter, you know some people, but it’s also all these strangers, and the opportunity to interact with strangers in cool (and not-so-cool) ways. In New York (and to less of extent, here in San Francisco), I often had these moments with strangers. Like you’d bond just for a little while, or yell profanities at each other, and then you’d never see that person again.

On Facebook, you risk running into old classmates and other undesirables. On Twitter, you can run into and engage with real-live celebrities. Margaret freaking Atwood retweeted one of my tweets and replied back to another! My brother had Giada De Laurentiis reply to one of his, and now also Andrew Zimmern is following him! It’s like New York where you can find yourself eating lunch next to Kate Hudson, or watching a play with Sarah Jessica Parker, or riding the damned subway with Jake Gyllenhaal.

On Twitter, you’re surrounded by news, culture, gossip, and some plain noise. New York is the epicenter of all those things. It’s noisy, smart, cynical, funny, and sometimes (well, often) pretty obnoxious. Facebook, unless you like the right pages, is a wasteland of humblebragging and baby pictures, not that I don’t love baby pictures (I do, a little too much in fact), but it’s all so in your face. It’s all there is.

Twitter isn’t just the city; it’s New York. At least to me.

Sep 12

Quote of the day

“Barack knows the American dream because he’s live it. And he wants everyone in this country, everyone, to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.”

Aug 12

Mitt Romney: A Racist Fucking Joke

I know this post will make me seem a day late and a dollar short, but only after Mitt Romney’s birtherism joke, do I realize how hatefully racist birtherism is.

On the surface what bitherism to me is some crackpots, without a leg to stand on, pulled out the ridiculous theory that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., and demanded to see his birth certificate. They thought this because his first name is not “typically” American, because his middle name is Hussein and because his father was from his Kenya. But they also thought this, had the AUDACITY to think this, because he’s not white.

I know: duh.

Romney’s words: “Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital I was born at Harper Hospital. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate; they know that this is the place we were born and raised.” That’s cuz I’m white, mofos! BOO-yah!

It’s even worse hearing him saying it:

Only worse than hearing him say it is are the looks of utter fucking joy and glee on the audience members’ faces behind him: yeah, white people! woo, white people rule!!! suck it, non-whites!!!

It makes me so fucking care-mad.

Adam Serwer in this Mother Jones article says it well (hat tip to Matt Baldwin):

The problem with birtherism, however, is that the underlying assumptions driving it have always been broader than the president. Birtherism is more than just a conspiracy theory about the president’s birth. Its underlying principle is a rejection of American racial pluralism. The refusal to believe—in the face of all evidence to the contrary—that Obama is an American reads to many as saying black people don’t really count as American unless they talk like Herman Cain or Allen West.

Although Romney claims that his “joke” wasn’t a swipe at Obama, I don’t know how else it can be interpreted. As I tweeted, not only was it a swipe against Obama, it was a swipe against me and those like me. Do you know how many times I’ve been asked where I was born? Or worse, where I’m from? (For the record, Oakland, CA and New Jersey. Yeah, don’t mess with me.) How many people have said to me, “You speak English so well!” or have assumed that English is my second language (teachers and professors who should have known better), who attributed my spelling and grammar mistakes (because American whites NEVER make those!) to my foreignness? Or how many times I’ve been informed, “You’re in America now, this is how things are done in America.”

I never assumed Romney was a racist. I don’t assume all white Republicans are racists (look at John McCain defending Obama as a “decent person,” for which he is BOOED, and then shutting down a woman who calls Obama an “Arab,” implying, I guess, that he’s a terrorist). I thought at least as a politician and businessman Romney would understand that would work against him, but now in my mind, he’s lumped together with all those racist ignorant fucks who have questioned my American-ness.

Because of my “foreign-ness,” to some people I will never be American, although I was born here, although my family is essentially living the American dream. Now one of those people includes Mitt Romney.

Aug 12

My Weekend with Marilyn (and Katie and Michelle and Vivian and Marlon)

Today is the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death, and I had no idea until this morning.

Why is this significant? Yesterday I happened to read a story about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes which questions whether or not Holmes is a real victim, or if she’s the real fame-monger in this situation:

[Holmes’s NYC] building has a privacy-friendly underground garage, but. . .Holmes hasn’t even been taking advantage of it. If she wanted, she could exit the garage in a car with dark windows, and paparazzi would never catch a glimpse of her or Suri. Instead, every day, when she’s left the building for errands or meetings, she has promenaded out to a waiting car, in full view of photographers. Nor, when on foot, has she used the side entrance on 25th Street: She’s been stepping out right into the paparazzi maw for the sake of trivial grocery shopping. How about FreshDirect?

My interest piqued, I started down a garden path of links and lookups. The article says, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that Holmes was apparently “enraged” by Dawson’s Creek costar Michelle Williams’s success:

While Holmes was playing Jackie O. in a mini-series that ended up airing on Reelz—that’s Channel 238 in the Time Warner NY cable system, if you’re wondering—Williams was playing JFK’s sometime-mistress Marilyn Monroe, in a feature film, en route to a third Oscar nomination.

That led me to this GQ story about Williams, which led me to the movie, My Week with Marilyn (which I had no interest in before but now want to see). I was curious about the dancing scene in The Prince and the Showgirl, which led me to this fantastic clip.

Her little dance is so simple yet utterly captivating. That led me to Williams’s re-creation:

While Williams is charming and captures Monroe’s spirit, Monroe has something more. She has a lot more dancing experience so it isn’t really fair to compare the two, but there does appear to be something intangible about Monroe, that something that made her not just a star but an icon.

That led me even further away. The Wikipedia piece on My Week With Marilyn describes the scene: “Vivien [Leigh] comes to the set and watches some of Marilyn’s scenes. She breaks down, saying Marilyn lights up the screen and if only Olivier could see himself when he watches her. Olivier tries unsuccessfully to reassure his wife.” That led me to an article about Leigh, and this line: “Her irreverent and often bawdy sense of humour allowed her to establish a rapport with her co-star Marlon Brando.” I loved that for some reason: the fragile Leigh joking about sex with the brutish Brando.

That led me to look up Marlon Brando, which led me to this: “Singer-actress Courtney Love has claimed to be Brando’s granddaughter, making Frances Bean Cobain (1992) his great-granddaughter.” What the what? Apparently, Love’s mother, Linda Carroll, was adopted and discovered that her birth mother was Paula Fox, a well-known writer. Crazy enough right? Well, Carroll claims that Fox had an affair with Brando in the 1940s, and that she “she had DNA tests done to prove” that she is Brando’s daughter. But this seems not to be true at all, according to this People article: “Carroll, however, emphatically denies the reports. ‘First of all, it’s crazy, it’s not true,’ she told the Gazette-Times in Corvallis, Ore. ‘Second of all, my book doesn’t say that.'” How do these rumors start?

Anyway, the Brando piece led me to stuff about his first wife, including this famous picture; the tragedy around his poor kids, Cheyenne and Christian; and Cheyenne’s son and Brando’s (real) grandson, Tuki Brando, who is apparently a successful model and, not surprisingly, easy on the eyes.

But today it was all about Marilyn. What a hard life she had growing up. Reading about her mentally-ill mom, her getting passed from foster home to foster home, being sexually assaulted, all I kept thinking was that poor kid. As for her death, I couldn’t help but think, Look at all the people she had around her, but still it wasn’t enough. The timeline says she had a “casual meal” with a couple of “local playboys”; the son of Joe DiMaggio called her to talk; then actor Peter Lawford called to invite her to dinner. Afterward, worried about her, he called throughout the night but her phone was busy.

D.R. “Duke” Haney has a wonderful essay on Monroe over at The Nervous Breakdown. It’s interesting to learn that early in her career Monroe “cultivated” journalists into publishing stories about her “with Dickensian embellishments about her childhood, already so poignant that embellishments would seem unnecessary, supplied by Marilyn herself”; that “at especially desperate moments, she paid the rent by hooking”; and that she could be mean. For instance, she apparently once responded “to an assistant director’s knock on her dressing-room door: ‘Go fuck yourself,'” which cracks my shit up, imagining her dropping that breathy baby voice to say that.

Monroe, according to Haney, meticulously cultivated her look, her brand if you will (try not to barf). So much of what we see, what we think of the Marilyn, was orchestrated, like Katie Holmes’s encounters with paparazzi, Suri in tow, her divorce and current image as a free woman escaped from the clutches of a weird religion and possibly even weirder marriage. These are the stories that are fed to us, and we, or I at least, can’t help but eat them up.

Jul 11

Internet Lovin’

So I joined Google PlusMy brother invited me so I said, “Sure, why not?”  Plus with all the buzz, I was curious about it.  Now?  Wah-wah-waaaah.  I’m not sure what to do with it, aside from reposting my tweets and/or FB statuses. Right now it seems like a pain to do so, and to build up my “circles.” But anyway, if you’re on Google plus, feel free to circle me, though I’m way more active on Twitter.

I also joined Goodreads.  This so far seems a lot more useful to me right now. It was super-easy to add my book, and there are some fun marketing options, like doing give-aways and uploading an eBook.  I also like obsessively adding everything I’ve read (though I’ve only just started).  If you’ve read my book and are on Goodreads, go give it a rating or review. Or if you just want to friend or fan me, please do!

I also wanted to thank some people who’ve mentioned Black Fish on their blogs. Fellow writer Totsy Mae gave me a very nice shout-out, entrepreneur Rebecca Cao gave me a mention, and last but not least, so did my cover designer, Eva Hamden at Fat Bunny Press!

Eva designs and prints her own line of lovely and elegant handmade letterpress cards. In addition, she does customized wedding packages (save the dates, invitations, place cards, programs, etc).  If you’re getting married or know someone who is, you should definitely check her out.

And while we’re talking social networking, remember I have a Facebook page set up for Black Fish.  If you haven’t already, go like it. It’s painless, I promise.

May 11

Books galore!

black fish galore!

The books I ordered have finally arrived!  Now I can finally send free copies to the folks who helped me decide on a cover. Remember, if you still haven’t sent me your address, please do so at angelatungwriter AT gmail DOT com.

And in case you still didn’t know, my book is now available for sale!  Just $2.99 for the PDF and $9.99 for the paperback.

In writing news, I was very glad to learn from this article that “famous authors tend to write only for 4 hours during the morning, leaving the rest of the day for rest and recuperation.” Woot! And here I was kicking myself for pooping out with my writing by 2 PM. And I’m always more productive when I’m pressed for time.

In Hunger Games (squeeee!) news, Entertainment Weekly has Jennifer Lawrence-as-Katniss on its cover this week. At first I was really disappointed not to see Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit as Katniss, but now I’m satisfied with Jennifer (I’m sure she and the movie producers care).

As for what I’m reading now, I finished The Devil’s Rooming House, which after a slow start, turned out to be all right. I’m curious to watch Arsenic and Old Lace now, and see how it compares with the true, gruesome story.

I’ve finally started tackling the stack of literary magazines I’ve acquired over the months. An amazing essay I just read was Judith Kroll’s “Happy Families”. It’s beautiful and haunting, and inspires me to write something like it. You should read it if you get the chance.

Speaking of must-reads, tonight fellow Nervous Breakdown writer, Jessica Anya Blau, is reading at City Lights from her hilarious novel, Drinking Closer to Home. If you follow my blog regularly, you know I don’t go around calling every book I read a “must-read.” But Jessica’s really is. It’s funny, moving, and I just loved the characters. Again, inspires me to write something like it. And if you’re in San Francisco, you should go to the reading. I totally am.

So that’s three hours of writing. Just one more to go. ;)

Apr 11

The wedding watcher

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Prince William’s and Kate Middleton’s (now, Princess Kate? Lady Kate? Lady Catherine?) wedding was today.

Although I don’t want to get married again, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the spectacle of it all, from Kate’s engagement ring, inherited from Diana (which by the way, I wanted for my own engagement, but couldn’t have because it wasn’t traditional enough [yes I know: wah cry!]), to the surprisingly plain invitation (I guess if you’re royalty, there’s no need to show off), to – GASP! – Kate’s classically beautiful dress, to all the awesome-crazy hats and fascinators.

The question is why?

While I love other people’s weddings, when I imagine planning my own, I only feel stressed out.  I remember the huge expense, the fighting and conflict between families, the guests who would be unhappy, demanding, and critical no matter how hard you tried to please them.  But experiencing someone else’s wedding, you don’t (usually) see all that.  You see only the outcome.  You see only the shiny, pretty things – the ring, the flowers, the dress.  You don’t see arguments, insomnia, and debt.

I noticed my Twitter friends have been both fascinated and disgusted by royal wedding fever.  Why should we care? the haters argue.  They’re just two rich white people.  Yes, that’s true, but then why should we care about celebrities at all?  Yet we do.  Or at least I do.  I mean, I would never go as far as to celebrate the wedding, but it HAS crossed my mind to host an Oscar party.  I wouldn’t camp out for days just for a glimpse of a real live princess bride, but I’m sure once I get around to watching the wedding coverage, I’ll cry like a baby.

I was nine years old when Princess Diana got married.  It was July (and a Wednesday, weird day for a wedding, come to think of it) so I wasn’t in school, and got to watch it with my mom.  She was surprised I remembered it all, but of course I do.  I remember how long Diana’s train was, I remember her stumbling over Charles’ name.  Many little girls (and women too) dream of being princesses, and weddings are the one day they can be (without seeming crazy) – so the idea of an actual princess’ wedding makes our heads explode.

I don’t know why I’m fascinated by celebrities or care what’s going on in their lives.  My ex hated this about me.  “They’re just people,” he’d say.  “They’re no better.”  While that may be true, there is something about them – whether beauty, or talent, or a familial and historical legacy – that makes them seem special.

But like I said, I will leave all things wedding to others and will enjoy them vicariously.

Jun 10

June publications

In case you missed them, here are the pieces I published this month.

I’m Competitive, The Frisky, June 29
Ghosts, The Nervous Breakdown, June 21
I Want to Be Like My Dad, The Frisky, June 18