Author Archive

Japanese Fortune Cookie

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I posted this link in a comment on Kathleen’s Foreign and yet Familiar blog entry, but I think this article’s pretty cool so I decided to create a separate post for it too.  The writer, Jennifer Lee, discusses how the beloved, ubiquitous and flavorless Chinese Fortune cookie actually has origins in Japan.  Whenever I eat Chinese my meal feels incomplete without one, but maybe I should start eating them after I get some Japanese. Although, as Derrick Wong, a fortune cookie manufacturer, points out, “The Japanese may have invented the fortune cookie. But the Chinese people really explored the potential of the fortune cookie. It’s Chinese-American culture. It only happens here, not in China.”

And just because

Lahiri and the Immigrant Experience

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Here’s an NPR interview with Jhumpa Lahiri concerning the connection between her writing and her family’s experience as immigrants.  I found it interesting how she talks about her parents not wanting to be ‘American’ despite their status as American citizens, which appeared mostly the result of alienating behavior on the behalf of standard ‘Americans.’  She mentions “confronting the truth of her life,” which leads me to question if most of her books are written for a cathartic effect.  All three: Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth concern Indians or Indian immigrants.  Although what I both liked and disliked about Lahiri’s writing, in particular in the stories dealing with immigration, is that the characters’ ethnicity seems at times minor or even irrelevant to the plot and could be easily replaced with another cultural identity.  In fact, her greatest strength as a writer seemed to lie in creating and exposing realistic, complex relationships, except maybe for The Third and Final Continent.  I think her universality can apply to a range of readers but her writing sometimes struck me as impersonal for the same reasons (I know my thoughts are contradictory here).  In the interview, Lahiri speaks on the messiness of her immigrant background and how the fact she didn’t fit neatly in to one box has plagued her throughout her life.  Yet her stories often share the same focus with slight variations and I’m wondering whether or not her, and possibly the other authors we’ve read this semester, have given us an overly generalized sense of the immigrant experience… or otherwise, if all these voices have felt distinct….  We’ve somewhat touched upon the issue of the immigrant experience a few times over the course of this semester.  I have to admit I hate the phrase ‘immigrant experience’ because it’s reductive and vague.  It’s sort of along the same lines as the ‘coming-of-age’ story.  I mean, most stories are about learning and discovering that contribute to a character’s growth or decline in some way.  And just when the hell do we come-of-age anyway?  I might just have to burn the next book that includes ‘coming-of-age’ on its back cover. These phrases express the basic idea of a concept but give you nothing of the compelling, individualistic details

Affirmative Action In Reverse

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

This is a new one.  I’ve heard of schools trying to increase diversity on-campus by accepting more minority students, but I’ve never heard of a university limiting the number of Asian students to maintain a high number of white students.  According to the administrators at from Canadian universities, the question of a school as ‘too Asian’ is not an issue of racism, but rather “many white students believes that competing with Asians… requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make.”  Uh, sounds like they better get over it and get off their lazy asses maybe?  The article claims that Asian students are usually high achievers who want to attend top universities heavily invested in academics, particularly math, science and business programs whereas white students select a university based on social interaction and athletics.  Diversity, the very thing that should bring a campus together and make it more interesting, only creates tension (not to mention separation) at Canadian institutions

Just For Kicks

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

After reading Kathleen’s post on Suji Kwock Kim’s voice I noticed a suggested video with Li-Young Lee.  A year or so ago a friend of mine showed me his poem “Persimmons,” which I really like.  Here’s a link to it.

Truth and the Documentary Format

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

In the last chapter Jane references Chris Marker’s film Sans Soleil.  If you haven’t seen it it’s worth checking out.  It’s classified loosely as a documentary or travelogue and the film wanders mostly between Japan and Guinea-Bisseau, but also reaches Iceland, San Francisco and Paris.  The unnamed female narrator reads the letters sent to her from a fictional cameraman that corresponds to what is supposedly his footage.  He speaks about human memory, collective history, time and a range of drifting topics.  The text of the film is available online, and it reads surprisingly well by itself, and there’s even a reference to Sei Shonagon and her lists.  Here’s a link to the film, although I’m not sure if it plays the entire film… But I think it’s interesting that Jane mentions Marker’s film.  She continues to grapple with the notion of truth and how to represent truth, and Sans Soleil ruminates on similar topics.  Yet, it’s a curiously a film heavily laced with fictional elements that presents itself as in a documentary format.  Today in class we mentioned how Ozeki supplies a bibliography under the guise of Jane.  In both instances, I find the combination of fact and fiction (driven by a persona) particularly compelling

Meat is Magnificent

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Out of all the books we’ve read so far, My Year of Meats is my favorite*.  However, I find the meat scare tactics, well, distasteful.  Sure, I find the DES upsetting and disgusting.  I’ve read Fast Food Nation and I’ve heard of Food, Inc. I tried the vegetarian thing for a while (three years), but it ultimately didn’t work for me.  So maybe I’m in denial here when I say this, but I still don’t think the Solution is to stop eating meat.  Yeah, I know there are about a million vegetarian counter arguments to the consumption of meat other than scary hormones.  And, honestly, all I’ve thought up is that meat tastes good, meat fills me up way longer than any vegetarian source of protein, and is ultimately much more satisfying.  Anti-meat arguments might be more refined, but at the end of the day I love ripping into a plate of ribs.  Vegetarians might have the reasons, but Carnivores have the rewards.  Meat tastes good.  But the real issue to me is extremes.  Meat in excess is unhealthy, but so is an absence of meat.  Moderation is key.  Besides, meat isn’t the only food source with some terrifying $h*t in it.  In the last couple years we’ve had outbreaks of salmonella in peanut butter, spinach, eggs, and some equally nasty hormones present in dairy products.  Even veggie burgers aren’t safe.  So meat isn’t the only questionable food source. If people are going to stop eating meat as a health precaution, then hell, why bother eating anything at all?

Cool Meat Links:

*Only counting what I’ve read right now

A Little Bit of Well-Earned Recognition

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Here’s a link to an article in The New York Times about an exhibit on Japanese Fashion at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Ruth La Ferla, the writer, mentions how Japanese design is finally gaining popularity in the fashion world.  She mentions how Japanese fashion was previously “dismissed…as sexless and ungainly” given its focus on asymmetry and deconstruction.  Japanese designers, who gained prominence in the 80s, are known for their experimental techniques with fabric and an interest in synthetic materials.  Some of the most well-known are Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo (of Comme des Garçons), whose first collection was dubbed ‘Hiroshima chic’ and Junya Watanabe.  Today Japan is considered cutting-edge sartorially and major Japanese cities have thriving street style scenes full of Gothic Lotlitas and Cosplay enthusiasts.   Also, here’s a link to FIT’s write-up about their exhibit

From a previous exhibit on Contemporary Japanese Fashion at the Textile Museum in DC

Dog… Eaters

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

(Anybody else worried that she's always with a different dog?)

Don’t go to that place, they serve dog.

Don’t tell me what it is – it tastes good.

I often hear variants of these comments in reference to Asian take-out spots.  Mostly, Chinese.  When I heard the title of Hagedorn’s novel, it reminded me of From a little web research it appears that different Asian countries have differing levels of acceptability on the consumption of dog (and cat) meat.  Vietnam and Korea more open about the sale of dog meat.  However, the idea of eating dogs has long been demonized in the West.  I think it basically comes back to the fact that we keep dogs as pets and treat them in ridiculously affectionate ways.  We groom them, we feed them treats, we buy them fancy collars, etc.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure my dog has no idea she isn’t a human.  But the idea of a dog as a pet is arbitrary.  If we kept ducks I bet Peking Duck and Duck à l’orange would disappear from restaurant menus.  I found this article about dog meat in Slate well-argued.  Brigitte Bardot, apparently, has played a fairly prominent role in speaking out about eating dogs.  She claims that the practice seriously hurts the image of your country.  Her activism is problematic.  She’s forcing her and her country’s perspective on another.  But the cultures aren’t the same; for a long time Koreans didn’t consider dogs as pets.  Yet this stance strikes me as moralistic, and takes me back to our theory essays about how the West classifies the East as ‘the Other’, the abnormal.

The writer, William Saletan makes a compelling point when he states:

The value of an animal depends on how you treat it. If you befriend it, it’s a friend. If you raise it for food, it’s food. This relativism is more dangerous than the absolutism of vegetarians or even of thoughtful carnivores. You can abstain from meat because you believe that the mental capacity of animals is too close to that of humans. You can eat meat because you believe that it isn’t. Either way, you’re using a fixed standard. But if you refuse to eat only the meat of “companion” animals—chewing bacon, for example, while telling Koreans that they can’t stew Dalmatians—you’re saying that the morality of killing depends on habit or even whim.

Do I want to eat dog?  I’ll admit it – no, not really. I’d probably get a mouthful and have an awkward flashback to all my childhood pets, because I’m conditioned as well.  But why is it such a big deal if other people do?  The dogs are raised as food like any other animal we eat here in the US.  They aren’t coddled lap dogs so I don’t see much difference between a cage full of turkeys or chickens.  Personally, dishes like Foie gras seem much more disturbing and cruel.  Come on, they force-feed the animal despite severe pain or even death.  What about that Bardot?  And, yeah, I tried it.  I didn’t particularly like it.  It slimy, buttery mouthfeel.  Also, I love bacon.  And ham.  Recently I found out that pig meat* is the most similar to human flesh.  Maybe I have some cannibalistic tendencies, which might just be a little more disturbing.  So, when it comes to dog meat, are we being overly sentimental?  I think so.  Just let people enjoy a little dog. After all, we’ve got some questionable meats over here (Baloney… Scrapple… Spam….)

*This is still up for debate

Increase in Chinese Language Programs

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Here’s a pretty interesting article published in the New York Times last January. Apparently, Chinese language is becoming more prevalent within American education while other traditional languages, like French and German, are getting cut from many curriculums.  Part of the increase can be attributed to the Chinese government, which is sending teachers to the United States and other countries AND covering half of their salaries.  Previously, Chinese was taught primarily on the East and West Coasts.  But in the article, Chris Livaccari of the Asia Society notes that Chinese programs are not expanding “in the heritage communities, but in places that don’t have significant Chinese populations.” Back in the 80s when Japan emerged as a major economic rival, Japanese programs picked up.  However, the interest has since declined.  I wonder if the same pattern will occur here since China’s global relevance is increasing or if the language programs will remain steadily in place. Spanish, though, is still overwhelmingly the most frequently taught language throughout elementary, middle and high schools.  My high school only offered Spanish, French and Latin, but I think that offering Chinese in several schools (particularly early on) will raise students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge to a country that many American curriculums gloss over.

All Look Same?

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

We mentioned the site, All Look Same, in class on Friday. Afterwards I took the quiz on Faces. Initially I thought the quiz wouldn’t be too difficult. But it was surprisingly hard and I only answered half of the questions correctly. The site offers also offers quizzes on Asian Modern Art, Traditional Architecture, Travel Photography, Urban Scenery, Food & Architectural Details – and for a Westerner, they’re all pretty tricky.