Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Saw Two Movies This Weekend

Marie Antoinette.
Beautiful to look at, but shallow story. Hardly any history or politics. Imagine the slick trailer stretched out over two hours. I don't recommend.

Not bad. Similar to his other films in that there are three stories that are sorta intertwined. I thought the acting was good. You can put this on your Netflix queue.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Japan Revisited

I'm not ready to let go of Japan yet. When I got back from my trip, I put Lost in Translation at the top of my Netflix queue. As my recent comments have revealed, I didn't like this movie when I saw it in the theaters. Still, I thought I'd rewatch it, give it another chance, mostly because I wanted to see how Tokyo was shot.

Well, the movie was better the second time around. It wasn't as annoying or offensive as I'd remembered. The story and dialogue were thin, but Coppola surrounded herself with good people (actors, cinematographer, art director), which made her otherwise mediocre movie visually appealing. Having been to Japan, I think she did a good job of capturing the foreigner's experience-- the isolation, the polite society-- and the Park Hyatt looked great. Midway through the movie, I started calculating when I might be able to go back...

Me and My Peeps

One of the things I like to do is get a mani/pedi. I got on the mani/pedi boat some time around 2001 and haven't looked back. I like getting my nails done, yes I do.

But since we moved to LA, I barely ever go. And frankly it's because almost all of the nail people in LA are Vietnamese. It pains me to say it, but that's why.

So let's explore this. When I go for a mani/pedi, I don't want to talk. This also goes for other services, like getting a haircut, massage, facial. I just want to sit and veg. In NY, most of the nail folks were Korean or Latino, so it was easy peasy. They didn't talk to me, I didn't talk to them. But whenever I get my nails done by a Vietnamese person, I always end up having a conversation, and it's always the same.
"Are you Chinese? No? Vietnamese? Really? You don't look Vietnamese ... You born here? How long have you been here? ... You have any brothers or sisters? No? Only child? Oh, your parents must really love you ... Where do you live? Are you married? Is your husband Vietnamese?"
I feel like a total bitch complaining about this. They're just trying to make conversation and they're almost always nice. I get it. But I just want to relax. Mind you, sometimes this entire conversation takes place in Vietnamese, which makes it even more less relaxing. And of course, I can't tune them out when they talk to each other because I want to hear what they're saying about other people (and possibly about me).

Digging deeper, I don't think this is solely about me wanting to veg out. On some level, I think Vietnamese people (my family excluded) may make me uncomfortable. Proud Vietnamese that I am, when it comes to dealing with them, one on one, I feel out of my element. The language is an issue, no doubt. My Vietnamese is pretty good considering I've been here almost my whole life, but speaking to strangers makes me nervous. Maybe it's a fear of being judged or something. Maybe it's the thick American accent that I'm sure I have. It all makes me feel very Americanized, and I don't like feeling that way.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

October Randoms

Had my first Thai massage over the weekend at a place called The Raven in Silverlake. Mmmmm, good. It was like a deep tissue massage, but with some stretching and pulling now and then.

Never without a vacation in the works, Mr. Octopus and I will be going to Paris later this year. It'll be his first time and my second. I'm planning on hitting some of the more unusual attractions this time around-- like Les Egouts (the Paris sewers-- pictured below).

Season 3 of Lost has begun. I'm waiting to be blown away, but I'm not holding my breath. Too many story lines. The show is spread too thin. The Kate-Sawyer-Jack love triangle is so old. Locke is only mildly interesting. Who cares about The Others and their little commune? Okay, I do, but not very much.

Jeffrey won Project Runway and, though I wanted him to sink, I thought he put out the best collection. I wonder what part of LA a punk rock glam jerk like him lives in. Any guesses? Westside?


Mr. Octopus and I recently started watching Arrested Development on DVD. Mucho great. I can't think of another show like it. Gob is probably my favorite character, with Buster a veryclose second.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

All Nguyens Not the Same

I'm none too happy about the recent news out of Orange County. I'm referring to some idiot named Tan Nguyen. Nguyen is the most common Vietnamese last name and this guy is mucking it up for us good hearted Vietnamese folks.

In a nutshell-- Tan Nguyen is a naturalized citizen (born in Vietnam in 1973, arrived in the U.S. as a youngster) running for Congress. He is running as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez in one of O.C.'s most racially diverse districts (the Santa Ana-Garden Grove area). Nguyen is a relative newcomer to politics. In 2004, he ran as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher for the neighboring Huntington Beach-Fountain Valley seat. I don't know what the requirements are for running for Congress, but it's odd that within two years, someone would switch parties and districts. I guess he must want to be a Congressman real bad.

So bad that Nguyen is now being investigated for allegedly sending out thousands of letters to Latinos warning "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

Granted, Nguyen is still being investigated and he's not guilty of anything at this point. But people in his office have been connected to the letters and it's just a matter of whether there is enough evidence to show that Nguyen knew and approved of them. His office and home have been searched, computers and files seized. The GOP, which never threw much might behind Nguyen in the first place, has disowned him and asked him to withdraw. As of yesterday, Nguyen was still in the race and maintaining his innocence.

This bothers me on so many levels. Where to start. Voter intimidation of any kind is plain sick. And the substance of the letter is just wrong, wrong and wrong. As a naturalized American citizen, Nguyen knows that immigrants can vote in certain cases. Then there is the irony that all this is happening in Sanchez's district. It was just ten years ago that Sanchez unseated Robert Dornan, a longtime Republican incumbent. It was ugly. Dornan created a huge fuss, threatening a recount and alleging this and that. Now it's come full circle again, but this time it's ugliness of a different color. The last thing we need is for Vietnamese-Hispanic race relations to go sour. Thanks a lot, sh*thead.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Three Things

Junebee tagged me for this (my first tag!):

1. Three people who make me laugh:
Mr. Octopus and his family (I’m counting them as one person)
Chris Rock
Jon Stewart

2. Three things I can do:
Write backwards (like in The DaVinci Code)
Scuba dive
Drive stick shift

3. Three things I can't do:
Roll my tongue
Butterfly stroke
Fix cars

4. Three things I'm doing right now:
Sitting on the couch
Looking forward to dinner (spicy vegetarian chili)
Watching Everybody Hates Chris

5. Three things I want to do before I die:
Speak Vietnamese without an American accent
Run a marathon
Go on safari

6. Three things I hate the most:
People who are perpetually late
Drunk drivers
Hearing politicians talk about God

7. Three things that scare me:
Water that I can’t see through
Public speaking

8. Three things I don't understand:
Overly emotional people
Grammar (never learned it)

9. Three skills I'd like to learn:
Speed reading
Public speaking

10. Three ways to describe my personality:
More influenced by my parents than I’d ever thought

11. Three things I think you should listen to:

12. Three things you should never listen to:
People you pretend to like
George W. Bush

13. Three favorite foods:
Vietnamese soups (particularly Bun Bo Hue - pictured)
Kamonan soba (duck soba)

14. Three beverages I drink regularly:
Coffee with skim milk
Tea (usually green or peppermint)
White wine

15. Three shows I watched a lot:
I Love Lucy
Sex & the City
Three’s Company

16. Three people I'm tagging to do this:
Hoosier’s Nest
Tonic Blotter
Guardedly Optimistic

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Firmly Back in LA

And back to watching TV. Project Runway. How do we feel about last night's episode. Did Jeffrey cheat? Do we feel bad for him? I'm starting to like Uli. Not sure that I want her to win, but I'm starting to like her more and more.

Marie Antoinette. I've seen two trailers for this movie and already I feel nauseated. I can't explain what it is that bothers me. It's not the story, because I don't know anything about it. I think it's the presentation. Overstylized. Overcool. Over-something. I like New Order, but I don't want it in a Marie Antoinette trailer. And The Strokes, too? Is it too familiar? It's like a trailer I would make if I had the money and the connections. Perhaps I'm flattering myself. I'll probably see the movie, but I'll fight it all the way.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Back to the New Grind

Vending machine in Tokyo.

I've been back in LA for over a week now. I've started my new job. So far, so good. Just trying to adjust and fit in. I'm hoping to turn a new leaf in my life generally. I have pretty regular hours at the new job, so I'm thinking about creating a schedule of sorts for myself-- e.g., work out M-W-F, cook dinner T-Th. Something like that. I think I need structure, otherwise nothing happens.

I want to get back in yoga. There was a time in NY when I went to yoga classes at least three times a week. I was so into it that I would actually take the subway downtown to take the class. The whole thing (class and travel time) would take a good three hours. There is a studio in Los Feliz that I like quite a bit. I should stop making excuses and just go. I've started to feel a little creaky in the morning (feet and legs feel stiff) and my shoulders are sore in the evenings (must be the way I have my computer set up at night), so clearly something needs to change.

Door in Kyoto.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Day 7: Kyoto and Tokyo

Kiyomizu Temple. Originally built in 798; rebuilt in 1633.

The interior of Sanjusangendo Hall, a Buddhist temple famous for its 1,001 life-size wooden statues of Kannon (Buddhist goddess of mercy). It was quite a sight, and more than a little creepy. As photographs were not allowed, this is a picture of a postcard I bought.

A street in the Gion district, famous for its geisha houses.

I spotted a geisha, much to my surprise. She scuttled away quickly and disappeared down this narrow alley. I was really tempted to follow her.

Waiting for my train back to Tokyo.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Loved it!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Day 6: Kyoto

I took the Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto (2-1/2 hours).

Ginkakuji (the Temple of the Silver Pavillion). It was built by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1482. It was never painted silver because he died before it was completed.

I bet this moss has a superiority complex.

The Philosopher's Path. So named because philosophers and priests have strolled along this canal for centuries. I pondered what I should eat for dinner.

A view of Kyoto from Eikando Temple.

Further Thoughts on the Trip

Traveling alone is a unique experience and I'm glad I did it. I would heartily recommend Japan to those traveling on their own (especially women). It's a safe and clean place. I didn't feel vulnerable. I didn't catch anyone leering at me. I wasn't groped. People went on their merry way and didn't pay much attention to the tourists.

Not as many people spoke English as I'd expected. As a result, I made an extra effort not to get lost because I would have a really hard time asking for and understanding directions. Some folks looked frightened when I approached them. I think they would've run away if they could. I've heard that many Japanese have never really interacted with foreigners.

Hotels weren't as expensive as I'd expected, but other things, like clothes, were crazy expensive. Jeans at the Gap went for over $100. Even average clothing stores were expensive. Food, however, was good and cheap. I ate mostly soba and sandwiches during the day and bought my dinners in the department stores in the evening (the basement floors are a mecca for wonderfully prepared dinners and desserts). The two times that I had sit-down meals in restaurants, I had difficulty getting the check. I'd forgotten my conversational Japanese book and didn't know the word for check, so I opted for what works in the U.S.-- I flagged down the waiter and pretended to write my signature in the air. It's the international sign for 'check, please,' right? Ummm, no. Both times I did that, the waiter brought me a pen. Yes, a pen. I eventually realized that since Japan is still a cash-based society, waving your hand in the air doesn't necessarily mean that you want to sign for a credit card.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Day 5: Ueno and Akihabara

In the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno.

Ueno Park.

Stray cat (there were many) in the park.

Homeless tents in Ueno Park. I saw one man carefully cleaning off his tarp. I've heard that the homeless typically take off their shoes before entering their tents.

The neighborhood of Akihabara, electronics central.

Day 4: Tsukiji Fish Market

The fish market was the highlight of my trip. If there is one thing I would recommend on a visit to Tokyo, this would be it. Unlike the rest of Tokyo, which is so tidy, well-mannered and stylish, the fish market is smelly chaos. The delivery area is teeming with trucks, cars, bikes and pedestrians. The market is a cacophony of men yelling, slicing up sea creatures and throwing them on trucks. It's an experience like no other.
The entrance to the fish market. I walked past it twice thinking this couldn't possibly be the place. Turns out, the front is the main delivery area; the market is tucked away in the back.

This guy helps keep the peace.
At last, the market.

Frozen tuna, anyone?

Weird red sea creature.