Sunday, April 30, 2006


Ok, big surprise. So I'm still a procrastinator. Here's an interesting post by Cassandra, a conservative blogger who I read frequently. I definitely don't always agree with everything she says, but here's an interesting post on Credo, in which she writes about organized religion and how people tend to see "institutional vs. individual vices."

Here's my response:

Why is it people always conflate individual with institutional vices?...People carry their failures within them, and the Church is at worst a vehicle rather than a root cause of their inhumanity to their fellow men.

That is pretty much a universal truth that doesn’t just apply to Christian churches. There is a big difference between individual and institutional vices, but one that is not seen. There are good, well meaning Communists, Evangelical Christians, Muslims, Socialists, Republicans, Democrats, who are dedicated to making the world a better place through peaceful, interactive means in a way that doesn’t see the “other” as an enemy, but rather colleagues to work with. Colleagues, who may draw from a different set of values, and perspectives, but colleagues nonetheless in this crazy game of life. Unfortunately, depending on who we are, and what we’ve been exposed to, we hear those categories, we think Stalin, Eric Rudolph, bin Laden, Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson.

All beliefs are not created equal; and I’m not arguing for moral equivalence. But we need to understand that beliefs come from experience, and that each person’s particular experience, life story, and perspective is just as unique and valid as our own. Once we understand their experience, then you can begin to understand why their beliefs are what they are. You can’t shift a person’s perspective until you know where they stand.

We tend to move in social circles with people who are “like us,” and thus our only representations of “others” are the media. That is why it is important to recognize that the loudest, most repugnant/ridiculous voice does not necessarily represent the millions more who are actually making a difference, albeit in a less showy, media-attractive manner.

I believe that dialogue and conversation with those we disagree with are key to changing the world, one sentence at a time.

And cue the hippie bongo drums… “Kumbaya" :)

Monday, April 24, 2006


“Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they're ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” (Jo Walton)

from Making Light

Sunday, April 23, 2006

busy busy busy

I've got the end-of-the-semester caffeine hyped up busy busy busyness.

Needless to say, I'll be on hiatus for the next few weeks or so as I attempt to write about a hundred pages worth of academic blah blah blah.

Enjoy the weather! It's gonna get hot soon!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Food Philosophy

"Americans have no taste."

That's what alot of foreigners visiting this country say. All they eat is McDonald's and KFC. And after they eat that, they swear off of American food entirely (to be fair, have you ever tried an "ethnic food," like Bangladeshi, and hated it? Did you eat the Americanized version, or the authentic version? There's a big difference.) And I have to partially agree.

Many Americans, have NO CONCEPT of what good food is. It is NOT Prego tomato sauce or Kraft macroni & cheese, or Wonderbread. Many have never tried fresh fruit off the tree, vegetables in season, or a freshly killed fish. (Agribusinesses have plasticized they way we eat, but that’s another rant for another day.) Which is such a shame, because America today has arguably has some of the most diverse eating options available in the entire history of humankind.

In the area of Long Island that I live, the restaurant scene is predominated by either very upscale restaurants, or chain restaurants like Friendly’s, Olive Garden and Pizza Hut. It’s been hard finding affordable (an absolute necessity for a grad student) food that is also good, without resorting to chain restaurants. But I’ve been able to find some. Jane & Michael Stern’s (also authors of "Roadfood") book “Eat Your Way Across the USA” was about finding the best American food in local diners, shacks, buffets etc. They wrote:

In most parts of this country, the truly wonderful food is not the pricey fare sold in linen-tablecloth dining rooms. From the po’boys of Cajun country and the pig pickin’s of the Carolinas to the pie places of the upper Midwest and the old-time pizza parlors of the Northeast, America’s most distinguished food tends to be of-the-people-fare, eaten without pomp-and-circumstance and fine wine, but with a large stack of paper napkins and a tumbler full of iced tea or a cold beer on the side.

I agree with their assessment of American food, and a few years ago, got to follow their book across parts of the country (I still have dreams about the German potatoes at Otis Café; a tiny little local neighborhood place in Otis, Oregon). But I would argue that there is more to American food. America is about the diversity of cultures. It is also about Santa Fe Tamales, and California banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), and Long Island Turkish food.

Don’t eat the food of people who have been in America a long time. Eat the food of the people who just got here; many of them come from places where vegetables picked yesterday was the norm, and they truly know how to make the best of their food. The secret is to find out where these poorer immigrants (usually ethnic minorities) shop and eat. In the coming days, I’ll post some real gems that I’ve found on Long Island on this blog.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Great Expectations

My friend Eric has found himself in the middle of a cultural debate after writing a review of an anthology of “Irish” fantasy in which people jumped all over him for his expectations of what “Irish” fantasy. No leprechauns and wood elves, he said. Others replied, but that’s not what “Irish” fantasy is! You’re being racist!

Poor Eric is not racist by any means but I think his critics have some valid points. I think he’s a victim of how the demands of the mass market subversively shapes our how we view the world (such as the way that teenage girls think they must all have bodies like Playboy bunnies). In this case, it shapes how we view “other” cultures. Read my comment, posted to his blog, (it's the third comment down) here.


It's 10:55AM and I have the worst craving for a "Crunchie." Crunchies are a made by Cadbury, sold in the British diaspora (Canada, New Zealand, UK, etc), but not so much here. They're this honeycombed crunchy sponge toffee covered with milk-chocolatey yumminess. I had a small bar this past Sunday because a cousin from Ireland sent over some. And now I want more!

Silly Americans. Why is there no market for Crunchies here? Because if there were, Cadbury, would definitely be selling them and making money here! Instead we get those stupid cream-filled Easter eggs.

Trading books

So I just discovered, and I'm totally hooked. It's a site where you can post DVDs, cds, and (most importantly for me) paperbacks that you don’t want and swap them with someone else. I read a lot (this is probably my personal mantra), I would guess, around 30-40 books a year. And while I enjoy most of them, I don’t enjoy them enough that I know I’ll read them again. This is a fantastic way to exchange my old books, for books I want. So far I’ve traded:

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway for Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Do Penguins Have Knees for Sex and Religion: A Textbook

Comfort Woman by Nora Okja Keller for We Are the Stories We Tell: Short Stories by North American Women since 1945 ed. by Wendy Martin

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce for First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

Unfortunately you have to pay a $1 to the site for the swap, but I figure, at least these books are not collecting anymore dust on my shelf and not going into a landfill, and furthermore, I'm making sure that the books that I'm getting are not going into a landfill.

My annoyances about this site are:

-limited selection (probably because it's relatively new)
-no categories for Fantasy or Romance (hello, it's like the largest market there is in all of American publishing!)
-limited science fiction section

Still, I'm looking forward to getting rid of the two bags of books collecting dust in my closet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


A poem about history...Can you see it?


Wislawa Szymborska
trans. Stanislaw Baranczak & Clare Cavanagh?

Nothing has changed.
The body is susceptible to pain,
it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
In tortures all this is taken into account.

Nothing has changed.
The body shudders as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are as they were, it's just the earth that's grown smaller,
and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

Nothing has changed. It's just that there are more people,
besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
but the howl with which the body responds to them,
was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

Nothing has changed. Maybe just the manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same.
The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
its legs give out, it falls, the knees fly up,
it turns blue, swells, salivates and bleeds.

Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its
own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Breaking Point"

I love Suzanne Brockmann’s books. Every time I pick one up I learn something new. Right now I’m reading “Breaking Point,” which came out last year. What I really like about how this book is that she gets the reader engaged into the characters as human beings without emphasizing their race or class background. I’m a quarter of the way through the book and only now did I realize that one of the main characters is of Indian descent. Another of the main characters is gay, and not a silly frivolous man, but a real, tough FBI agent. It doesn’t matter (it shouldn’t matter) but it makes the story so much more realistic because it shows modern American society as it is: multicultural. She does an excellent job of writing minority characters without emphasizing their…minority-ness, and rather shows them as human beings.

When I finish reading this book, I may just have to go out and buy it now rather than later…

Finn's Emotional Mini-bio

Right now I'm reading Nancy Kress's Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint : (Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints). I find it helpful when stuck to go back to the basics and re-evaluate what's going on characterwise and plotwise. I figured I'd try one of the excercises in the book for my MC.


Emotional Mini-Bio for Finn

Name: Finn Foxjoy

What 3 or 4 things does this person value most in life: Memory, friendship, loyalty

What 3 or 4 things does she most fear: Never knowing finding her past, doctors, inadvertently hurting someone

What is this person’s basic underlying attitude about life? To know who you are, you need to remember what you were. Everything else falls into place from there.

What does she need to know about another person in order to accept that other as “all right” and trustworthy? She never fully trusts anyone. Everyone she cares for only has pieces of trust; it's all the easier to avoid complete betrayal. Except for Takeo. Takeo has her full and complete confidence. Why? I have no idea. There's a story there that I haven't explored yet.

What would cause this person more pain than anything else possible? Not finding her past; never knowing who she was.

What would this person consider the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to her? Finding her past and a family and place to whom she belongs.

What 3 words would she use to describe herself (accurate or not)? Odd, Lost, Artist

How accurate is her self-description? She paints very well but art is not truly her passion. She doesn’t know this yet.

What organization most embodies this person’s values? Hippies? Artists?

Does she belong to this group? If not why not? Hippies and artists generally don’t have an organization.

Playing on the ipod now: "Diamonds Are Forever," Kanye West.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Foreign News Source Update

I've updated the post on Foreign News Sources so that all you have to do is just click on the link.

April is National Poetry Month

Apparently, April is National Poetry Month! I think everyday is made better by a little poetry. Sign up at this list here and get a poem in your email box everyday, along with a link to the poem of the day from last year. In today's email:

Anne Hathaway
Carol Ann Duffy

'Item I gyve unto my wife my second best bed …'
(from Shakespeare's will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where we would dive for pearls. My lover's words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he'd written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer's hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow's head
as he held me upon that next best bed.

[Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife so this is, appropriately
enough, a Shakespearean sonnet, a form I've always loved because of
the punch of that last rhyming couplet. I really like the creativity
in building a love poem like this out of that line from Shakespeare's
will, the link between sex and writing, this idealized but still
lovely look at their relationship. The way it's responding to and
referencing all of his work -- the forests, castles, torchlight,
clifftops, seas.

In her book, The World's Wife, Carol Ann Duffy has written a whole
series of poems by the wives of famous men, some of which are
hilarious. I recommend Mrs. Darwin, which you can read here:]


Thanks to Anna Louise for posting this over at her blog

A New York Fairytale

So below is a brief book jacket blurb I wrote as an exercise to try and remind myself not to get lost in random subplots. I've tentatively titled my novel New York Sidhe: An Epic Urban Fairytale (and no, you don't pronounce Sidhe like "city"). Once I finish the novel, it will be interesting to see if there's any resemblance to this blurb written in the beginning.


Three years ago, artist Finn Foxjoy was found in a coma in the New Mexican desert, with nothing but a scrap of paper from a fortune cookie company in Queens. She has no memories of what came before, and so comes to gritty glitzy New York City looking for answers. But even mysterious dreams of pixies and fox-spirits don’t prepare her for the true diversity of New York City, where oblivious mortals dine at Rashaaka-run restaurants on Murray Hill, and dance to the beats of Sidhe hip hop artists of Chelsea. Where wisdom and comfort from Hopi elders can be found in 24 hour diners in Queens, selkies dive Brooklyn waters, and angels roost in the crown of the Statue of Liberty.

This is the real New York City.

There are some things that can’t be seen until you close your eyes. And for Finn, New York City is only the beginning…

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Never did I even think...

You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Thanks to Wendy who posted this on her blog.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I used to be afraid to call myself a writer

On of the books that really inspired me to become a writer was Stephen King’s “On Writing.” If anything, it showed me that almost everyone’s first draft sucks and needs editing, and heck, my first drafts didn’t seem all that different from his. Maybe I could be a writer after all!

I went to college intending to be an English major, but found the department so intimidating that I majored in history. (Not that I regret that choice at all, in fact it’s helped me in other ways). But some of the raw talent I saw just blew me away. How could I, ever hope to be a writer when this person could take apart Joyce and Faulkner so easily when I couldn’t even get past the first 10 sentences (though I did make it through both authors eventually, kicking and screaming). These people wanted to write great lit, be hailed by the critics, and be considered American classics.

And me? Little old me with my fantasy/ science fiction heavy bookshelf? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate good lit too; Cisneros, Rushdie and Dostoevsky come to mind. But I like good stories. I can’t stand the post-modernist lit that critics love (and why is it always about whiny people whining about their lives). Good writing is good, but will your story stand up to translation into Swahili? Into Farsi? May be all the literary lit is good writing, but I like good stories more. I like stories like the Ramayana, the epic of Gilgamesh and that stand the test of time and transcend cultural boundaries.

That’s what I hope to write some day. Only, from a woman's point of view :)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lovin' Libraries

I love LibraryThing! This is like, smut for booklovers. I have so many books that it would take me days to enter them all in, so I'm going to keep adding a few day by day. I've added a new category today of "Books I don't own but will buy when I have money some day."

Yes, I know, LibraryThing is only supposed to be for books you actually have. But I read so much and so quickly that I would go poor if I ever had to buy all the books I read. (Plus, I really do not have the space in my tiny apartment). Also, there are some amazing books that have really shaped some aspect of my writing or thinking, that, for various reasons of space and money, I can't own right now.

That's why I love libraries. The local one where I live is fantastic. If they don't have a book, dvd, or cd, they will interlibrary loan it for me from the county. If the county doesn't have it, they will actually go and buy it for me.

Am I being a hypocrite, you ask? Don't I want people to actually BUY my books someday? Well, yes, but I understand that some people don't have the money, or the space. Should people not be able to read because they don't have the money? (Personally, I think it's stupid that in some places, you can watch tv for free, but not read for free). Also, if they read it at the library and enjoy it, maybe they'll think about picking another one of my books if they happen to be browsing at the bookstore.

Going to the library keeps me open-minded and lets me experiment with books I might not normally read. (I don't know about you, but I hate it when I blow $10 on a book and I hate it).

Furthermore, if people like my books enough that they ask that libraries actually buy them, well, it's GREAT. In the weird bizarre world of publishing, somehow sales to libraries count more because the books they buy are never returned (as opposed to the unsold books sitting at your local bookstore that will eventually be returned to the publisher). There are authors I love so much (Guy Gavriel Kay) that I will buy the book AND demand that my local library buy it, just to encourage him to write more.

All of the authors I love and routinely buy, I've found through the library. Once I'm not a poor grad student whose geographic location changes every few years, I WILL buy those books.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


You know it’s slightly to be frustrating than pounding away at a novel for a year or two, only to be half done when you find out that another book just came out with a similar concept as the one you've been working on for 2 years.

I am not going to be a baby.

Just because he wrote about an “other” New York City of elves and fairies, doesn’t mean that I can’t write about a New York that has fairies (to be more specific, it also includes djinn, rakashas and hsien). How many “middle-earth” Tolkien-esque fantasies are there in print? Or more recently, have you notice how many women have been writing vampire and werewolf romance novels? Maybe his novel will be the one that opens a new sub-genre of urban New York fantasy.

Someone once said that there were no new ideas, no new stories, only variants of the same 2/3/4 stories over and over again.

I just have to keep telling myself that.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Say no to language ignorance

The NYTimes today has a funny article about westerners getting tattoos in Chinese or other Asian characters. You know, after i started studying Chinese and seeing the ridiculous characters brazenly emblazoned on clothing, pillows, and sheets, etc, without any concept of meaning I thought people were silly. But it's just beyond stupid to get a tattoo of words you don't even understand. Tian Tang, an engineering student born in China has an entire blog devoted to misuse of Chinese characters over at My favorite has got to be the "ease of gas retention" and the Finnish racist who downloaded an "Asian font" and got "Say No to Niggers" tattooed on his back. Riiight. That's what you get for being a racist.

Oh, and is Chinese really the language of god? Tien Tang says, "I don't think so."

I don't agree with the Asian person quoted in the article that it's "insulting" to Asian culture (these people are too busy insulting themselves), but in fact, it's rather...sweet, in a wanting to be multicultural and open-minded kind of way. Though I guess it can also be seen as exoticizing a language system used by millions of people, and as a result, reinforces the idea of Asians as "other" rather than fellow human beings. Whatever. That's their stupidity; and by the way, I have great secret mystical Chinese characters that will touch your soul all for the low price of $99.99.

Of course Asians in Asia are also obsessed with how "cool" Western characters are. Just take a look at See if you can find Elmo under the toy section