Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lend me your (pasta) ears!

I went to a cooking class last night where they taught us how to make pasta by hand. What fun! We rolled out the dough into thin sheets, cut it into a variety of shapes and sizes, and even filled and sealed tortelloni (large-sized are tortelloni, the small-sized ones are tortellini).

One of the recipes was for something called orecchiette, an ear-shaped pasta. You roll the dough (2 parts semolina, 2 parts all-purpose flour, water, lots of kneading to get elasticity) into smallish cylindrical rolls, and then slice it into "coins." You then use your finger to press each coin into an ear shape. This can be done against the counter top, but if you do it on something textured (we used a gnocchi board) it adds cool-looking grooves on the pasta surface. After cooking, it comes out looking like this:

Cooked orecchiette (top) and finished with kale (bottom). I have to say that our pasta was particularly toothsome, with the right amount of springiness in each bite.

It reminded me of the 貓耳朵 or "cat ear" pasta (noodles?) that my friend from Shandong says his family makes, and how I'd imagine them to be. I have a distinct memory of the pinching motion he made with his thumb and forefinger (followed by a toss into boiling water) when he described the dish to me. I searched online for images of 貓耳朵, gathering some photos and recipes and found them to be just like orecchiette!

"How to Make Cat Ear Pasta" A basic recipe for 貓耳朵

"Cat Ear Pasta with Pork and Mushrooms" The procedure and the product in this blog entry on how to make "肉絲炒貓耳朵" by bonnie8nz was virtually the same as our orecchiette!
Rights to these three images belong to bonnie8nz

With egg and tomato

With curry sauce
They use a sushi roller for texture!

Thus, one might be able to jokingly say that when we make the Chinese variant of this pasta, instead of calling it "orecchiette" we might actually call it "ore-kitty."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Which nation?

The Tufts alumni magazine has an intriguing feature that splits North America up into various "nations" that have distinct cultural beliefs. The author observes these to be the "dominant culture", reminding us that "it isn’t that residents of one or another nation all think the same, but rather that they are all embedded within a cultural framework of deep-seated preferences and attitudes—each of which a person may like or hate, but has to deal with nonetheless.

This conception of nations (plural) isn't that far-fetched. "Albion's Seed" makes a great anthropological study of four different colonial cultures (Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, Scotch-Irish) that give rise to enduring regional difference even in modern-day America.

Funny enough, I'm currently reading "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman, wherein the main characters contend that while there may be geographical proximity (on the continental scale), the variegated parts of the U.S. are actually different countries:
"San Francisco isn’t in the same country as Lakeside anymore than New Orleans is in the same country as New York, or Miami is in the same country as Minneapolis." 
"Is that so?" said Shadow, mildly. 
"Indeed it is. They may share certain cultural signifiers—money, a federal government, entertainment—it’s the same land, obviously—but the only things that give it the illusion of being one country are the greenback, The Tonight Show, and McDonald’s."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ring around the Rosy, Pocketful of ...

Does anyone else notice an uncanny resemblance between the Apple "Spaceship" Headquarters that has been proposed, and the GCHQ's (i.e. the British NSA's) building in the UK?

One happens to be surrounded by trees, whereas the other one is ringed by parking lots. Hopefully Apple's intention is more benign: producing consumer products instead of spying on the public.

[Images from: The San Jose Mercury News, Gensler and The Guardian]

Bonus: The dragon-shaped stadium from Kaohsiung, Taiwan that is completely solar-powerd.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ceaselessly into the Past

Part of the reason we like books is that they are timeless: temporal transportation at your fingertips. One can always return to a beloved chapter from the past and relive beautiful moments again.

It doesn't matter what the present or the future holds. You can still go back and re-experience the joy in the moment, and it is no less real -- the visceral emotion, the plaintiveness, the sorrow, the bliss. In each case, the sense of possibility exists, and exists again. Every journey, every return, holds the promise of different endings made possible again. Because these works are written, there is a mutability about the story. Even if you've read the ending a thousand times, in the moment it occurs, the tale is yet to be written. The characters may yet gain that ending where happiness awaits. Oh such belief! Belief held so closely that we might call it faith.

In this turning and returning, of pages, of times, of lives, there resides immense hope. Dangerous, narcotic, heart-shattering hope -- but lovely nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Dancing Monsters!

Via Facebook Stickers. I'm parking this graphic here to embed it elsewhere.

Friday, September 27, 2013


There was once
Good night, and good luck
I'll find you again, dear morning
Sheer nighttime

Slate gray
A day, a day, a day

Friday, September 20, 2013

Time now only for light & love

The moon is a massive mirror hanging in the sky. I wonder if anyone ever tells the earth to look at its own reflection in that mirror.

If you placed the moon in your pocket, it wouldn't emit any silvery beams because it's not a source of luminescence.

When in darkness, ask for stars. They may be small, but they burn with their own light.

Moonlight is like lace, arcing through darkened tree branches.

Heard this evening: "the moon the day after Mid-Autumn -- the 2nd day -- is actually the roundest and brightest." Just like brunch the next day, lazy day, after a night of revelry and festivities. This moon has no pressing matters to attend to: it can lounge in its chair with a book of short stories and a tray of celestial mimosas. Hours drift past, an open horizon. This moon tilts its head with a contented expression. This moon arches its back. This moon rolls over and yawns. It spreads across the sky.

-- Random #中秋節 thoughts.

Mid-Autumn Again

The world still spins round and round, orbiting that bright star. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, 中秋節快樂!

The light from the moon bathes fields and terraces,
filters through groves and glades.
It washes onto cobblestones
and wanders country lanes.
Echoes of her shining compass:
bright crests, radiant irrigation.
Watch the transfer of quicksilver
carrying all the hopes in the world.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Future Tense

Bwa ha ha. From Matt Walsh:
I always love the older folks who lecture about how THEIR kids weren’t as “attached to electronics” as kids are nowadays. That’s probably true, but mainly because, well, YOU DIDN’T HAVE ELECTRONICS. You had a toaster and a black and white TV with 2 channels, both of which were pretty easy to regulate. But, sure, congratulations for not letting your kids use things that didn’t exist.
On that note, I have a strict “no time machines or hover-boards” policy in my home. It is stringently enforced. I’m thinking of writing a parenting book: “How to Stop Your Child From Becoming Dependent Upon Technology That Isn’t Invented Yet”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

the streetlamps were like a string of silver arrowheads

Red Rose, White Rose, and all the goddamn tragedy of sunken, misfitting lives. Eileen Chang, how can you do this? From wondrous fragments of beautyabsolutely luminous!to ruined shabbiness flat-lining in the grey corner of a grey city.

Wheels spinning, the gears are grinding down and flaking apart in the hollow spaces. Household domesticity: outward serenity, with the suffocating walls of respectability folding in. The firm press, the resolute pressure of bourgeois life, built brick by brick. To what end?

It's a soundless scream: he's choking on a noose with a silken slipknot. A glint of metal, blade, edge: potential rescue. Imagined? Please; please save him! Such delicate observation.

To no avail, he does not save himself.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Next Wave

How amazing would it be if for California's next act, we showed the world how to build advanced, high-performing, environmentally-sound infrastructure? It would be wonderful if our state became the showcase for the future of transportation technologies integrated into comfortable cities and living communities.

It's how our state will move beyond "Silicon Valley", Internet bubbles and app-building. We've got the electric vehicles, the self-driving cars, and now the hyperloop ...

Thursday, August 08, 2013


I'm cleaning this computer, which must go back to the university, and found a note from May 30:

The island of lost happiness. What might have been, lost moments that ended too soon. There, these dreams are still alive, and you can live in joy with your loved one, forever.

It is the place where memories gather: lives cut short, alternate histories not written, roads not taken, paths untrodden, doors unopened, hearts unbroken. This is where those dreams reside.

Friday, July 26, 2013

With Fondness

I was searching through old notes, and I saw that I jotted this in July 2012, a full five months after Opening's last performance. It seems like it takes me a while to get over the things I'm emotionally committed to:

"I used to think that Viennese Ball was right around the corner -- that we would reunite and things would be wonderful again. Now, I recognize that we will never recapture those emotions, never gather that group together, never be in association with each other again. And so anticipation fades, and Viennese Opening Committee moves into the past, into the realm of memory and of pleasant recall, nothing more than shades and sepia photographs and laughter long forgotten. Oh, there is still a pleasant glow about the idea of it, but it is decidedly in the past tense. It is inexorably, unchangeably over, and it won't return. I know that now, so I can say goodbye."

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Named at Birth

The next pair of pandas shipped out from China should be called 「自由」 and 「平等」。If they have a cub we'll call it 「民主」。

下一對運出的大熊貓應該叫「自由」 與「平等」,如果有新生的幼仔,叫它「民主」。

* 自由 = liberty, freedom;  平等 = equality; 民主 = democracy

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I had a dream last night where I was in Roble Dance Studio. The object of the lesson was to practice grace and musicality. In groups of three or four, we traveled across the floor with a tapered object in hand, music playing in the background. Some carried swords; others rods, boughs, branches. The object I balanced aloft was my cello bow. The exercise was to interpret and flow with the music. We moved at different heights: in the air, low to the ground; in smooth arcs and sharp gestures. Playing expressively, sculpting motion.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Already you seem a memory:
a distant voice, a faint melody, a faded photograph.
The sensation of far away, a dream;
no more corporeal form, something imagined.

Dear ghost: who am I?
To have seen you and loved you
But to be nowhere near.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Technology, Democracy, MOOC

At the Tech4Dem conference today organized by the National Democratic Institute, exploring trajectories for democracy and how new technologies will influence it, one of the panels featured former VP Al Gore and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Both were in the cabinet during the Clinton Administration, and as they discussed US leadership, the role of technology, and its influence on democracy around the world, I had a serious flashback to the positive energy of the 1990s. There was so much hope back then -- a belief in the possibility for human betterment, and an understanding of the need for the US to lead and engage with the world.

Albright had a quote back then, calling the US "the indispensable nation" in international affairs, meaning that American leadership was critical to getting things done. This was echoed in Gore's remarks today: that no other nation is able to substitute for American leadership in matters of vital global concern, including climate change. (Whenever climate and environmental issues came up during his talk, he became much more animated -- thunderous even. Major props.)

However, as Albright noted today, "indispensable does not mean alone." The United States has a key role in marshaling the rest of the world to act in concert to address these issues, whether it's human rights or sustainable development or gender equality.

I grew up in that era, and these are the folks in government who inspired us as we became politically aware. So here's to hoping we reclaim that can-do spirit of the 1990s: technology powering possibility, guided by principle and ethical commitment; and caring for the world, including human beings and the many species that share the planet with us.

P.S. I laughed out loud during a panel on Internet technologies, when the moderator said, "The United States invented most of these technologies!" and then looked significantly at Al Gore.

P.P.S. The formal conference name is "Governing Democratically in a Tech-Empowered World"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Con la tea en la mano"

Gabby Giffords raises her torch in The New York Times after the failure of a gun safety bill to get past the Senate. While 54 senators were in support of the legislation, it needed 60 votes to overcome the threat of a filibuster from the GOP. (Only then could the bill get to the floor of the Senate, where it would be subject to an actual vote -- and a simple majority of 51 would be sufficient to pass it.)

In response, Representative Giffords, a heroic survivor of gun violence and a symbolic leader in the campaign for gun safety, threw down the gauntlet:
"Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list ... To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way. 
"Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s."
It brought to mind Julia de Burgos, surging at the head of a crowd:
"Cuando las multitudes corran alborotadas dejando atrás cenizas de injusticias quemadas, y cuando con la tea de las siete virtudes, tras los siete pecados, corran las multitudes, contra ti, y contra todo lo injusto y lo inhumano, yo iré en medio de ellas con la tea en la mano."
(Full text of A Julia de Burgos)

Guess the Song!

Musical quiz time! Can you guess which composers and/or what era the following songs are from?

Sample 1:

Sample 2:

Sample 3:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Avatar: The Last Dancebender

The theme for Stanford's Big Dance this year:

We are taking pre-orders for Big Dance shirts! Get Fire Nation Red or Water Bending Blue; or if you're a third-time participant in the all-night Big Dance, soar into the clouds with our Airbender "Triple Crown" shirt!

Place your pre-order HERE!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Who We Are / Who Are We?

"In Dream College Rankings, Harvard University Is Unseated" the Huffington Post reports. Myriad Facebook statuses gleefully echo this fall from grace. So Stanford is apparently a "dream" college now, topping the list.

On the surface it might seem like a point of pride, but somehow these university rankings and grandiose proclamations about Stanford's appeal worry me.  Aside from its reputation as the nebulous "best," what exactly were the qualities that once made Harvard the stuff of dreams? The intellectual rigor? The kinship among students? The inspiration of a shared vision? It ought to be those kinds of things that make a school worth aspiring to, not just the feeling that matriculating there means "being on top." Otherwise, does the appeal lie in social cachet? Is the school a name to open doors, a prop, a tool, a step on the "path to success"?

If we are indeed a "dream school," then I hope this "dream" is to contribute something to the world, not just to make money and get rich. It wouldn't burnish Stanford's reputation if prospective students simply sought entrée into wealth. (Through a distorted vision of the tech industry, for instance.)

This lands just as CS becomes the most popular major at Stanford, and while I think it's great that we are growing a corps of engineers in this country, I'm a little scared that, much as the East Coast universities of old served as finishing schools for those entering high society, Stanford could degenerate into a playground for the aspiring tech elite. (Thankfully, engineering isn't quite that easy, folks. You gotta work and you gotta do problem sets. =P)

At Stanford, we are open to new ideas, new ways of thinking. We strive for difference, we explore the novel, we embrace the unconventional. Innovation is in our blood, and we celebrate it -- but remember, it's not a catchphrase, and it's not a gimmick. It's innovation in service to our ideals.

In the end, we want to be the place that cares for society and seeks to make a difference -- an ethical university, not the school of tycoons.

What do they dream of us? I'm sure plenty of aspiring students do not think in such a mercenary way, and might have real reasons to regard Stanford as a "dream" school. Yet even the phrase "dream school" sounds so tawdry. It brings to mind prom queens and tiaras and pink frosting. (It also reeks of middle-class entitlement.) Celebrating the dethroning of Harvard in a competitive scramble to the top of a questionable heap reflects the kind of zero-sum thinking that motivates at least a subset of those aspirants and pretenders -- a motivation that is profoundly distasteful. It's about image rather than substance, sex appeal rather than heart.

That's why this ranking doesn't feel like a victory. It might even feel emptier than bounding up the list of "best schools" judged by supposedly objective factors. Unfortunately, these Princeton Review rankings perpetuate glib answers rather than considered statements of vision. They cede principle to the masses instead of stamping down and answering: this is what we stand for. I think that's what gets me: it's a popularity contest, but is that how we want to be defined? If we know who we are, we shouldn't care what these kids or their parents think. It's not an honor to be recognized for a flimsy, throwaway statement.

I also hate that we crow about "beating" Harvard. A constellation of many great institutions is far better for society -- and for democracy -- than one centralizing font of greatness surrounded by mediocre neighbors. As my friend Jennifer Rabedeau pointed out, competition from worthy peer institutions keeps us on our toes. This competition comes not in the form of jostling for rankings, but in the form of real-life striving, where we all seek to better ourselves -- to enact our ideals by reaching for the stars. I'm pretty sure in that ecosystem, we'd actually end up collaborating with our friends from these peer institutions, because we believe in the same things and seek to advance the same causes.

So please, dreamers, understand what it means to join the Stanford community. It's not a golden ticket to comfort or riches, though maybe that happens here and there. It's the opportunity to be trained in skills humanistic and practical; to exercise new ways of thinking; to find compatriots to join you, hand in hand, in a lifelong mission. In fact, a whole array of missions -- some of which seek changes that won't even be realized in this generation's lifetime, but are worthwhile nonetheless.

Becoming part of this place is to live and breathe and believe in an idea. If that is your dream, then welcome to Stanford.

Postscript: And damn, I recognize again and again that what "going to Stanford" means is being given the privilege -- sometimes ridiculous amounts of privilege -- to try something different in this world. For that, I am exceedingly grateful.

*Welcome to Stanford... oh this phrase. Despite my high-sounding rhetoric, I am actually quite cynical, having faced the monsters of bureaucracy and observed clear violations of the so-called sense of Stanford community. I have witnessed how laziness and moral apathy absolutely shred academic ideals, how the spirit of this place can be drowned by the weight of bureaucratic anchors. In such moments, I will tear the dream apart and point out how this institution fails in so many respects, fails on a daily basis, in ways small and large, to live up to its ethos.

The dream ... I would look for it no matter where I went; but I ultimately chose Stanford because that's where I thought it would be realized. It makes it desperately sad when this beloved place, my patria, civitas dei, city of wonder, falls short. Even today, I gag when I say the phrase "Welcome to Stanford!" because it is a beautiful, evanescent lie. Worse, it was one that I believed in so deeply, so hard, and for so long. I was devout, and sometimes I hate myself for having been that way.

But then the eternal idealist residing inside me fights back, refuses to yield, and my love for this place and what it's supposed to stand for eventually come roaring back. It's a dilemma, ain't it?

After all, alongside the failures, there are also fierce, bright flares of hope -- moments that charge me with joy and pride and belief, and renew my sense of what's possible. We run alongside the stream of ideals, dipping our hands in its cool, flowing waters; and we are lifted by freiheit, the wind of freedom, our champion and guide, an embrace that carries us home.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Equality: because folks have waited long enough.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Constitution and Culture

I have been reading the Constitution of the Republic of China promulgated in 1947, and these two articles in the section on culture and education stood out to me:
Article 164
Funds earmarked for education, science, and culture shall be, in respect of the Central Government, not less than fifteen percent of the total national budget; in respect of the Provincial Government, not less than twenty-five percent of the total Provincial budget; and in respect of the Municipal or County Government, not less than thirty-five percent of the total Municipal or County budget. Educational and cultural foundations established in accordance with law, and their property, shall be protected. 
First of all, that seems like a substantial amount of funding for education, research, and the arts and humanities. And indeed, in the 2013 budget, the expenditure by the Central Government for these categories totaled 18.9% of the budget: 12.3% for education, 5.2% for science and 1.4% for culture.
Article 166
The State shall encourage scientific discoveries and inventions and shall protect ancient monuments and ancient relics of historical, cultural, or artistic value.
The Nationalists often expressed commitment to tradition, seeing themselves as the defenders of Chinese culture. To highlight the importance of heritage protection, one may note that the director of the National Palace Museum, the repository of the world's finest collection of Chinese artifacts, holds a cabinet-level position in the Executive Yuan.

Beyond this ideological orientation, a political milieu in which scholars and intellectuals had relatively greater say, and a set of institutional checks and balances, with Article 166, we can also point to explicit constitutional reasons as to why the Cultural Revolution would not have occurred under a Nationalist regime. Law alone is not everything and politics still matter; but at the very least, the Constitution reveals the values of its authors and the things they consider meaningful and worth addressing. In the Republic of China, it would have been unconstitutional for the state to advocate the wholesale demolition and destruction of heritage sites and ancient relics, as was instigated in the PRC by Mao.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Constitutional Perspectives

I was inspired by my friend Yang, who made an amazing Wordle of the Chinese (People's Republic of China) Constitution:

A single image speaks volumes about one-party rule in China and the primacy of the CCP.

I wondered what the U.S. Constitution would look like in contrast:

The biggest word? "States" That's +1 for federalism! The roles of Congress and the President also seem relatively balanced. And this doesn't even include the ten amendments that make up our Bill of Rights or later amendments on abolition and the expansion of suffrage.

Next, check out the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution (link), promulgated in 1947 and the one active on Taiwan today. It places great emphasis on the major organs of government, the yuan. In this context, one can interpret the word yuan 院 to mean "branch" or "body" of government.

In the five-power model advocated by Sun Yat-sen for the new Republic, the national government consisted of the legislature (or legislative yuan 立法院), the executive (executive yuan 行政院) and the judiciary (judicial yuan 司法院) -- the traditional separation of powers in the West. Two additional branches were drawn from Chinese tradition: the body in charge of the Civil Service Examination 考试院; and the Control yuan 监察院, tasked with auditing the other branches, and thus serving as an additional check on the government's power.

As my friend Yang notes, the word "law" features greatly in the ROC constitution. Pretty remarkable! In contrast, the word "party" shows up only in the following instances:
  • 7. All citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic origin, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law.
  • 138. The Army, Navy, and Air Force of the nation shall rise above personal, regional, and party affiliations and shall be loyal to the State and love and protect the people.
  • 139. No political party and no individual shall make use of armed forces as an instrument in the struggle for political power.

These three articles focus on non-partisanship: declaring that certain national institutions, such as the armed forces, must transcend politics, and asserting that membership in a party shall not define one's rights in the eyes of the law. Since full democratization in Taiwan, an additional 11 amendments have been added to the ROC constitution, securing citizens' rights and delineating rules for impeachment and new electoral procedures. In these amendments, the only further mention of political parties is as follows:
  • A line on how to apportion seats in the legislature to political parties, according to a revised electoral scheme.
  • Another line stipulating another non-partisanship institution: "Members of the Control Yuan shall be beyond party affiliation and independently exercise their powers and discharge their responsibilities in accordance with the law."
  • A requirement for all parties to abide by democratic principles and play by the rules of the game: "A political party shall be considered unconstitutional if its goals or activities endanger the existence of the Republic of China or the nation's free and democratic constitutional order."

In fact, it would be unconstitutional for a political party to reject democracy and push an agenda that deprives citizens of their rights or advocates for the imposition of authoritarian rule. Intriguing what a constitution says about a country and its values! 

Update 3/20/2013: As Xinhong Wang notes, most of the references to "Party" sit in the preamble of the Constitution, a fawning multi-paragraph account of the Communist Party and its contributions. (i.e. the section of the Constitution that states the purpose of the document and defines a national agenda) It's a none-too-subtle statement about the CCP's role in the life of the nation. In contrast, political parties are not mentioned in the American constitution whatsoever -- they were a later creation -- and only in a constraining role in the ROC constitution.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Elevate, meditate, translocate, incantate

The "luftpause" is a breath mark,
cloud-floating, wing-fluttering:

    air ... air ... air ... (inhale)

The transcendant lift in the polka,
a pause hanging in the broad, cumulus sky.

Lips brushing before a kiss returned,
the tranquil syllable unuttered when it ends.

The breeze as you push open the glass
door into a windswept afternoon.

The time it takes for a murmured incantation,
and the wave of a wand, to translate into magic.

Watch the ballerina at the end of a phrase
stretch im-per-cep-tib-ly—
extending the line.

You could fit a sunlit idyll into the space of that breath,
An elongated moment in musical time.

Monday, March 04, 2013

To the Square!

The March from Beethoven 9 makes me want to parade down the street swinging my arms -- a spring in my step, an added touch of flair. It's full without being heavy -- solid, with weight, but still sprightly in movement. There's a certain portliness to the music's motion.

Citizens step out of doorways and soon swell the streets: bakers in white, chefs wielding pots and pans, florists carrying armfuls of blossoms, petals floating every which way. Shopkeepers and clerks, blacksmiths and book sellers, broad-chested barmen and tavern owners, all joining in the joyful stream of residents filling the city's wide boulevards, flowing through the cobbled lanes. This rally is going to be so much fun!

Catch the march at 58 minutes and 52 seconds.

So then I marched down the street to our cafe, arms a-swingin'.

I must also admit to imagining this scene during symphony rehearsals too, while listening to the growling tread of the contra-bassoon, the treble lift of the piccolo, the floor-shaking, body-vibrating "WHUMP" of the bass drum!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gears not of stars, but stardust

Return to your rooms with portraited walls,
Rejoice as you pass through our hallowed halls.
Restart the gears turning! (obedient learning)
Set machinery whirring! (obsequious purring)

Swallow the Cipro, you need not protest;
Close your eyes and gain seasons of rest.
Exams stand imminent, entertainments await;
Sleep now, dear child, for the hour is late.

Empty your head of agitating ills,
Such addled designs strain common sense, defy common will.
There's nothing here to arouse any action,
All has been cared for to immense satisfaction.
(Bravo! Such a virtuosic performance of administrative abstraction!)

Insistence on truth only hastens your fall;
Ask not! Stay enshrouded in clouds, wrapped in your perfumed shawl.
Ideals dissolve you from inside to out,
Save yourself, lie back in silence: there's no reason to doubt.

With temptation unlocked, nothing else will suffice,
Feel the anxious, magnetic tug of aspiration enticed,
Propelled by inexorable, self-fueled volition,
Compelled by the majesty of self-burning ambition,
(Assisted conveniently by ethical concision!)

Find magical form in the substance of dreams,
Look only ahead for those bright, gleaming things,
Tomorrow's a new day, petals painted in dew;
oh blessed child, the future's waiting for you.

Inspired by the events surrounding the University's forced closure of the self-organized, student-managed Dining Commons at Suites. It has outraged so many, but the question remains: can anything actually be done? Or will we simply be lulled back into our complacent Stanford lives, which the University seems intent on doing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Viennese Ball II

Early Viennese Ball Photos (c. 1979)

We are definitely part of a lineage, dear friends!

From Todd Doersch: "For the archives, attached are a few snapshots from Year Two (1979) that I scanned in a few years ago ... Alle tanzen!"

Thursday, February 07, 2013

We belong here

Apparently there are ignorant, racially-insensitive white people at Duke. Who knew? Great for your reputation, Dukies. I'm simultaneously surprised and not surprised because ... this is America. -_-

I'm disappointed, but not entirely shocked. My heart goes out to the minority students at Duke who have to deal with this BS. (P.S. I'm refraining from going off on an "exoticizing/imperialist majority" rant; others cover that ground pretty well.)

The cynical part of me wants to say, "It's America folks. Get used to it." But then I rebel, because we are Americans, too -- not outsiders, not even immigrants. (Though all those cultural groups deserve respect.) We are as American as the next person sitting on the bus, or the neighbors who share the same communities we live in, or the teachers and students who walk along the hallways of our schools. We are also as American as a corn farmer in Iowa or a rancher in Montana. Engineers in Silicon Valley and environmentalists in Washington D.C. count too! Thus, the racially-charged actions by the Duke fraternity weren't just an attack on Asians and Asian Americans; they were an attack on the idea of a diverse America.

Yet I'm not giving up on my country, on our country, just because of the juvenile (and either malicious or devastatingly uninformed) actions of a few buffoons. There's nowhere else we belong more than here. I refuse to feel alienated; we aren't the ones being marginalized in society. The racist individuals are soon going to realize they just marginalized themselves.

Given that, I see why it's important for a united community reaction -- so those minority students don't feel alone, but know they have support, that they have allies, that there are people of decency who see and care. It's also critical for Duke to come up with an institutional response. They need to define what their university stands for.

Those fools picked the wrong ethnic minority community to mess with. We aren't quiet, docile and obedient anymore. We are educated, informed, outspoken, independent-minded and connected, and we aren't going to "take it" as our parents might have, the way earlier pioneering generations of AsianAms had to endure abuse without complaint, for fear of provoking further aggression.

Despite the stereotypical image of AsianAms staying silent, even before present times and the advent of social media, there already were courageous, articulate individuals in history who spoke up for our community. (Some of these heroes are still alive!) My hat goes off to all of them. Now, more and more as I write this, I am beginning to awaken to the important role an AsianAm *community*, including student groups, community centers and advocates, can play in the fabric of our schools.

I'll end by noting that I was actually born in North Carolina; and I'm sure glad my parents decided to move to Silicon Valley. My experience growing up here is one that AsianAm kids in other parts of the country might not have had, and this reminds me to be grateful for the Bay Area: its openness, its embrace of difference, its respect for those coming from distinct backgrounds (almost a given in a place that is a global crossroads), and the general sense of celebration surrounding all these variegated ideas and identities. We see diversity not only as part and parcel of daily life, but as something of value that enriches all of us.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Things I'm Listening to Lately

I caught the last few minutes of Dylan Mattingly's "Invisible Skyline" on the radio tonight. The Berkeley Symphony premiered the piece, and it was being re-broadcast on 91.7 KALW. (Funny timing; moments before, we had finished rehearsal with the Stanford Symphony).

I don't quite know how to compliment the music, but it really grabbed me. It feels like there are different parts of my brain being activated, attention being gripped and held. The music is both focused and atmospheric. I'm here and only here; yet simultaneously, I'm elsewhere, I'm away.

It explores little moments here and there. These moments carry you along, sonic gems, bright pockets of feeling and playfulness and motion. It's "new" music, but somehow it all JUST MAKES SENSE. And now I really want to hear the whole piece!

I searched on YouTube, and am currently listening to Mattingly's "A Way A Lone A Last A Loved A Long the Riverrun." It's awash with images and memories; maybe not my memories, but memories that I can imagine, floating to the surface and then drifting downstream.

To be here and not here ... the times I have been able to feel like this are when I am dancing -- waltzing, to be precise -- which is probably the best compliment I can give. It's strange, but the music generates a very similar feeling for my brain. It's something regular and synchronized, intertwined with something that feels absolutely spontaneous and open.

It's new and familiar all at once, like coming to where I know I'm supposed to be.

Interview with composer Dylan Mattingly, plus another blog interview and five facts.

Later on, I came across this Schnittke piece, played by "A Far Cry" which is an ensemble I'm a fan of!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sustainable Flowers

Flower bases for Viennese Ball

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Let me bank sleep,
cup the wisps of z's in my hand:
snooze, slumber, hibernate.

No mere dozing, or afternoon siesta, but a
deep, bone-setting, earth-filling, sea-diving slumber.
An oceanic nap of eonic proportions,
dusted with the glitter of geologic ages.

Let me lie dormant,
spread porous, prone, and unconscious,
blissfully unawake.
unknowing unfeeling unseeing unthinking

I fall to earth and know the scent of loam,
the press of clean sand.