Great year

Well, the year is coming to an end, and I must say that it's been one of the best years ever. I have had a great time in radio and have learned a lot. I hope that the new year brings more adventures and takes me closer to my dream[s]. Last year I wouldn't have thought that I would have done so much or would have felt so alive and refreshed and excited. In fact, I didn't know that life can be so fun, especially in my post-travel/expat existence. Sure, I've had some good times since I returned from my life abroad, but never this consistently. And to attribute it to work is quite a feat.

So Happy New Year to everyone--I'm assuming that no one at this time is into the new year yet, though that of course will change as the day progresses.


Going to LA

I'm going to Los Angeles this weekend--I'll be back next year. Well, it's technically next year because I'm returning on January 1. So it's just a short weekend trip. I haven't been there in probably a few years, and I'm not its biggest fan. Their downtown isn't that great, and people have even compared it to a third-world country. And of course, you can't walk around, unless you drive a car to a destination and park it--in other words, you have to take an intentional stroll. LA is also very expensive--I don't know how people afford to live there. There's no way I'd be able to afford a decent place in a nice neighborhood--I'd have to move to the boonies or forfeit most of my paycheck to make rent.

But probably the most annoying thing about LA is the plasticity. There are so many people who have fake whatever, and it's quite nauseating, especially because I'm female. I don't want to become anorexic or exercise a million hours a week to become acceptably skinny, I don't want to dye my hair blond or put tons of products in my hair, and I want to stick with minimal makeup--at this point, I just wear lipstick. That's not really tolerated there, it seems. Sure, there are different kinds of people there, but the tone is set by Hollywood, which trickles down to the masses.

Still, I'll be staying in a very nice place in Beverly Hills, so I shouldn't complain about my departure from the ordinary to the wealthy.


House to hip hop

This past weekend, I went to a really cool party in the Pilsen neighborhood, which is south of downtown Chicago. It was in a large space where a very cool, friendly dj resides, and I had a great time. What I love about living in an American city is the diversity of the people--sounds trite, but it's true. One week I might be with white yuppies, another week I might be in a situation with hardly any white people at all, among a mixture of professionals and people who have no office aspirations.

I found out about the party through a friend of mine who I used to hang out with when he was spinning records around the city. The music that he and other dj's I knew played house music and underground stuff--deep sounds that had warmth, positivity (don't know if that's a word) and good vibes. So the Pilsen-dweller, who had known my friend for a while, wanted to bring some dj's together to celebrate that type of music.

When we first arrived, there weren't many people there, so I just hung out and enjoyed the tracks and mixing. I talked to some talented dj's about music and the scene, and once again, I regretted never learning how to spin or really pursuing it. Late in the night, more people started showing up until the place was quite packed. But it was weird--no one was really dancing. I don't dance, but still, I was surprised that the clubby-looking people around me weren't. The dj who was on was incredible--his selection and mixing were just so tight, soulful, and groovy (not in the 60's way), and really should have inspired people to move or at least show interest in what he was putting out there.

Since it was getting really late, my friend and I wanted to leave, and we noticed that the music went from house/underground to hip hop. I guess the crowd was so passive, the dj and host discovered the only way to get them going was to play it. And I heard that it was hip hop from then on. Which really wasn't the intention of the night.

Ok, hip hop is popular, but Chicago is known for house and for creating innovative music. Yet there are people here who want and only are aware of and open to hip hop, which is quite sad. I wish that there were more outlets for people to hear more variety, more quality, more of what the alternative has to offer.


Great book

I just finished George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. What a great book--I highly recommend it. The writing is excellent, detailed, high quality, and readable though I didn't make my way quickly through it. I think it's because he has such detail about his life as a tramp that I had to take the time to savor it.

Well, it got me interested in his life, so I looked for a biography. I settled on Inside George Orwell because it's the most psychological one I found. Other bios are either literary, which really wouldn't give me much insight into how he thought and lived, or just too academic. I want to know about the man who wrote the books I've read so far: Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, Animal Farm, and 1984.

Actually, when I was in Romania in the mid-90's traveling around, I met a Romanian who read 1984 when it was banned back during communism--someone from a British governmental entity "smuggled" it in. She said that 1984 described Romania at the time. Which would help explain why they'd want to ban it--in addition to the government's contempt of freedom, culture, and thinking.


Chinese Christmas

This is cool: last year I went to someone's house on Christmas Eve, and was one of a handful of non-Mandarin speakers there. Since I'd studied it a tiny bit, I did my best to try to guess some of the words people were saying, even using my Japanese to infer the meaning, but after a while, I just got lazy and stayed in the English world with those who were willing to speak it with me.

Well, this year, I'm going to someone else's house, but it's going to also be filled with a bunch of Mandarin speakers. And since it's happening tonight, it's too late to take out my Chinese books and cram for such an occasion. The cool thing is that since a lot of the folks there are from China, they haven't been inundated with Christmas, so to them it's a new and/or different experience. The host has decked her place out with Christmas decorations, and even though it's not a new thing for me to see them, I'm going to be seeing all that stuff differently, because to her, it's fresh and something that she never did back at home. So I can celebrate Christmas Eve with people who are discovering it, rather than those who are just doing what they "should".

I didn't grow up celebrating Christmas and never had "tree envy" or any Christmas-related resentment, and now that I'm older, I still pretty much don't care about it, but it's refreshing to be with people who are exploring it as part of Western culture.


Chaucer rapper

Mad Minerva often has interesting links--and she seems like an interesting, smart person who[m] I'd love to meet someday.

Her latest interesting contribution is a guy who raps Chaucer.

She also mentions a Chaucer blog that is written in Chaucer language--very cool and nerdy.


Jesus celebrated Chanukah?

I just told someone who goes to Bible school that Jesus celebrated Chanukah (or Hanukkah, depending on how you transliterate it), and they didn't believe me. So I'm posting this info for anyone else who doesn't know, either:

From John 10:22-30 (New Living Translation):

It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah. He was at the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon's Colonnade. The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

Jesus replied, "I have already told you, and you don't believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father. But you don't believe me because you are not part of my flock. My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me. The Father and I are one."

John 10:22-23 in the Amplified (which tries to take all words and meanings into consideration, thus the brackets are theirs): "After this the Feast of Dedication [of the reconsecration of the temple] was taking place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in Solomon's Porch in the temple area."

And finally, the New International Version (NIV) of the same: "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade."


The trenchant gamine

For some reason, I've been curious about Judy Garland's parents because she lived a tragic, short life, and had lots of talent. So I wanted to know what type of background she came from. I don't have the time nor desire to read a biography, but I came upon a good review of one.

Things were going fine until I read this sentence: "Now the gamine was overlaid with the trenchant sophisticate."

I was an English major and am obviously into language, but I could not understand what that sentence meant, even by trying to understand it in context (one of the rules of reading comprehension).

Gamine means "a playfully mischievous girl or young woman." When I saw that word, I had no idea that it implied a female, or even a human being.

Trenchant is a word I should know, but it obviously hasn't stuck yet: "vigorous; effective; energetic."

So now that sentence makes sense, and I can continue to finish the article before I move on to all the stuff I have to do today.


A movie you should see

I rarely go to movies because they're expensive and some of the other movie-goers are usually idiots who like to talk during the show or are just annoying. You'll see that I have two favorite movies, though there are other ones I've seen and enjoyed, though not enough to list them as my faves.

An excellent movie that I saw recently was the The Queen. At first, when my family invited me to see it, I was like, "Who cares about the Queen and Diana?" I was in junior high when they got married, and to me it was such a fairy tale. I still remember how I felt watching the wedding and all that surrounded it on TV--absolute envy and hopefulness that I would one day experience such a thing (though without the pomp or wealth). I'm sure I was one of millions of girls who thought that.

Little did I know what a failed nightmare it would become. And as Diana continued with her PR campaign to make up for her misery, I didn't follow her, but it was hard to avoid her exposure because she was everywhere in the media, mostly unwillingly. Surprisingly, when she died, I was really affected. I really didn't care about her, or so I thought, but she'd been in the background of my own life for so long, I just always assumed she'd continue being there.

I remember the night I turned on the TV to check the weather--it was very late at night, and I had to wake up early the next day for my Japanese lesson, so I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to melt in the hot Chicago summer. I saw the words "Diana dead" on the screen--what? I couldn't believe it. I watched TV for hours to find out what the heck was happening, and during that subsequent week, I read practically every article about her and watched all the TV specials I could about her. Stuff I usually don't do--I don't like to get caught up in celebrity crapola. I told a friend about my obsession, and she said she felt the same way--she hadn't cared about Diana, or so she thought, until she died. I think a lot of people were mourning her death.

I'm so not into movies that I didn't even know this one existed until I was invited to see it. Even after I heard the title, I still couldn't figure out what it was about--"The Queen" could mean many things. I really thought it would be uneventful and an unnecessary viewing experience, but it was absolutely incredible--so incredible, in fact, that I'm planning to see it again.

It doesn't have special effects or really awesome scenes, but the acting is superb, and perhaps because it's a British production, it doesn't have that Hollywood mercenary style or the cheapness that pervades American films as they try to rope in the world for profit. It is an elegant, understated movie that is in excellent taste, and I walked away wanting more. It's really like viewing fine art--the combination of excellent acting (which I already mentioned), cinematography, direction, whatever. If this movie doesn't get an Oscar, at least for Best Actress, then there really is something wrong with popular culture.


Not worth it

I got a free ticket to see The Pursuit of Happyness, and it's a good thing I didn't pay for it because it's not worth the dough.

Will Smith is a good actor, and so is his son--actually, everyone is great in this movie. But the story is full of struggle after struggle, obstacles followed by more obstacles, letdowns and frustrations--for most of the movie. I kept looking at my watch, wondering when it was going to end because I felt like I was being barraged with negativity and frustration most of the time. I knew what the ending was going to be, but I had to wait through a lot of stomach churning endurance to get there.

So I'm glad I didn't pay--it's not even a movie that has to be seen on the big screen.


Like swords

Bruce (who can speak Cantonese) sent me a link to this rapoff (freesyling battle) between two rappers. Definitely check it out--Jin (a Chinese-American guy who also speaks Cantonese) totally blows the other guy away. Impressive.

As I was watching it and reading about these types of battles, I was wondering why people do it. It seems dumb. But then I realized that it's really the lastest incarnation of an old activity: sword fights. They're just using words as weapons.


The bloody man

This morning, I was at a gas station and saw a gangbanger-type of guy--the type of guy who hip-hop fans revere and imitate. This guy, though, wasn't just wearing the fashion--he had the eyes of someone who was drugged and apathetic even about his own existence, and he really looked like he'd emerged from the streets--though which streets, I'm not sure, because I wasn't in the city but in Indiana near some smallish towns.

When he walked in and I was going out, he barely uttered a hello. I looked at his car, which had no license plates and was left running--so anyone could've walked up and stolen it. As I was pumping my gas, I wondered if he was going to do anything crazy inside, but he seemed so sleepily high that I wasn't sure he'd be able to manage it. After he left, I went back inside to get my change, and told the girl working behind the bullet-proof glass that his car didn't have plates. She said that there was blood on his shirt, which I hadn't noticed.

The guy is a thug, but I sort of pity his self-destructiveness.



I didn't know that there was an area of Canada called the Prairies, "an area of flat grasslands in Western Canada. The phrase 'the Prairies' in Canada usually refers to the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan."

I've been to Manitoba, but when I was up there, no one told me it was part of the Prairies. We don't really have that here--we have the Midwest, where I live, and west of us is Nebraska and so forth, which is considered the Great Plains, but I don't hear people use that term, like "my friend lives in the Great Plains." They'll just say the state. But it seems like Canadians like to say "the Prairies."

When Americans say "prairie," we're referring to what falls within this definition: "a region of flat or hilly land dominated by tall grasses, typical of the American Middle West."

So in the U.S., "prairie" is a physical condition of the terrain, rather than a geographical area that Canadians refer to. I like those Canadian Prairie-dwelling accents though. :)



I came across the term "isochronic recurrence" and since I've never gotten deep into linguistics, I had no idea what that meant. Then I found a pretty decent definition of a related word, isochrony: "A sequence of events is called isochronous if the time separating each pair of successive events is strictly equal." And, interestingly though not surprisingly, "The absence of isochrony is called anisochrony."

Now I'm trying to understand what the heck mora means. I read about it, but can't figure out what they're saying. But it sounds interesting, like lots of other language stuff out there.

Critical condition

A family member is in critical condition--it's so bad, I didn't go to work yesterday and won't go today, and I probably won't go to my beloved Japanese class, with the best teacher on the planet. One thing I've noticed is how caring people can be. A lot of people are busy, but it's incredible how some will take time out to talk to me on the phone or email or chat via IM. Even strangers--yesterday someone walked up to me at the hospital and asked me how my mom was doing and how I was doing. I had never met this person before, but they had a sick relative nearby, and heard what I was going through, and encouraged me. Incredible!

I think it's because a lot of people have experienced loss and suffering, and it's just one more thing that connects us as humans.


Canadian pizza in Malaysia

And speaking of Canada, Jordan shared this photo. What's funny is that to me, pizza is a Chicago thing more than a Canadian thing, but then again, I'm biased.

Congrats AP

Canadian Blog Awards

Arrogant Polyglot has come in third place for the best cultural blog. Considering that Canada is quite big and there are a lot of blogs coming out of there, that's quite a feat. Now I wonder if he's going to keep his "arrogance" under control--if/when I meet him, I'll find out for myself ;)


Get the book

I just got a copy of Air in the Paragraph Line #11, edited (and some written) by the talented Jon Konrath. The theme is work, and the writing is really good. It's not puffed-up literary preciousness, but real writing, where communication matters more than self-importance.

I got something published in there too: how teaching can be degrading, something which I've wanted to write about for a while.

Get the book and see for yourself.


Larry's party

I went to a party tonight in Ukrainian Village, which is west of downtown. I've had some challenging situations lately that have been emotionally draining, and a party was just what I needed. I'd never met Larry before, but I'd read his comments at Jon's journal and had been to his MySpace page, and when he sent out a bulletin about the party, I figured, what the hey? I might as well meet some new people. I knew no one there, but ended up having a good time. I even met some skateboarding dudes, who unfortunately invited their loser friends, which really killed the vibe of the party, I think. Which is pretty much why I left.

It was a night for hearty winter-dwellers: some of us were outside in the freezing cold the whole time, standing around a barrel that held burning wood. When I got home, I noticed that my face was stained with smoky ash. So now my eyes are dark, as if I've just emerged from a coal mine.