Sharing = Caring

time for love5

I think I see Valentine’s Day this way because of the way it portrayed to me by my own parents. Growing up, neither of my parents were never very romantic with one another. (It’s always made me insanely curious to know what they must have been like while they were dating — I’m almost 100% sure it was the opposite.) Throughout high school, every time Valentine’s Day rolled around, my dad would leave for work and peck my mom on the cheek — if he remembered what day it was. “Oh great, the one time a year I get any affection,” my mom would retort, thrusting his boxed lunch at him. Sometimes he’d already be getting into the car when either my sister or I would remind him what day it was. Already in work-mode, he’d tell us, somewhat begrudgingly, to get Mom so he could deliver the peck while he was halfway in the car. Then as the day would end, my sister or I would call him to ask if he had gotten anything for her before dashing off to the store to buy some overpriced flowers and a card that he could sign in the garage.

In my head, as I got older and learned that love can be showed in other ways than holding down a job or paying the mortgage (no small feats!), I told myself I’d try my best to find that balance between the love I was shown at home through my parents and the love I knew existed through the media and my White friends — that outward, unprovoked physical demonstration of love. I thought it would be cool if one day I could be still so in love with someone after years of child-rearing and housekeeping that I’d still want to show everyone around me just that — we were still in love. I wanted to make my kids feel just a little bit uncomfortable about how much their parents liked each other and teach them that being affectionate both physically and verbally is natural and healthy.

Then, as I got even older, I learned more about love from my own experiences. That love can make no sense and feel great, but it can also not make sense and feel really awful. It can be a fickle and unreciprocated. It can feel weird and empty. It can disappear. I slackened my expectations of myself and resolved to just try my best never to get divorced.

My dad’s way of showing his love for my mom is and probably always will be through provisions — paying utility bills, for doctor’s visits, car repairs, vacations. And probably because we’re an Asian family, of the progeny that’s never placed a high value on hugs, kisses or audible ILYs, I knew well that other displays of love could be expected, but really, what’s more more important than having a partner who can provide for you?

I don’t blame my parents for showing me marital love the way the only way they know how. They’ve taught me what consistency, companionship, stability and living a moralistic life can look like. They’ve also nurtured one of the best families I’ve ever known (totally biased, of course). I have a lot to learn from their relationship, even if I’d made some tweaks of my own.

For first time in a long time, I went out on Valentine’s Day evening and walked around some of Hong Kong’s busiest districts, seeing young and old with giant bouquets and silly grins spread across their faces. I loved that I was in Hong Kong, in Asia, amongst people who are too quickly typecasted as “submissive”, “emotionless”, “non-demonstrative” — sometimes even “prudish” or “not sexy”. Not tonight. It was fun and cute and heartwarming in a way my overly cynical self would have gagged at a few years ago. I hope I never go back to cringing visible acts of love and happiness (unless it really deserves to be cringed at).

I wanted to share some stories on love that I found in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Most of them I read forgetting that Valentine’s Day was at the end of this week — I merely came across them as expressions the type of affection, gratitude and appreciation we should strive toward everyday. I like being reminded of how to better love people, whether it’s romantically or in the interest of being a better human being.

Every week month time I can… I plan to post a few interesting reads I find worth sharing with others. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Cheers to being in love and learning how to love better.

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Photo: Nicholas Nixon

“A Lot of Love (and a Little Out of Control)”  – An intimate series of portraits entitled “Bebe and I”, chronicling the love between photographer Nicholas Nixon and his wife, Bebe.

sal mountain1

“Remembering a Folk Art Visionary” – My visit to Calipatria was very hot and very stuffy but memorable because you don’t find art like this everyday. If you ever find yourself in Southern California, I hiiighly recommend a visit to this unique section of Slab City! Even if you don’t believe in God, it’s a good place to think about universal love. RIP Mr. Knight and long live folk art!

“Can Marriage Cure Poverty?” – Less about love and romance than marriage, politics and poverty. Still, a read that ought to make us think about our reasons for getting married and pressuring others to do the same.

Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein writing on getting married (to NYT’s Annie Lowrey, author of the aforementioned article). It’s (super) sweet.

“Seduced By A Gift That Broke The Rules” – This one is a year old but I come back to it from time to time because it’s hilarious, heartwarming and makes me wonder if I have Asperger’s.

“Before the Web, Hearts Grew Silent” – Another warm and fuzzy from NYT’s Modern Love column. It’s about long distance love, life before Facebook and real-life reckless adoration. So good.

Top image: my own, taken in San Diego after visiting Salvation Mountain.


Stranger than fiction copy

Is it possible to fall in love with a book?

I’m just wondering because I really think I’m in love with The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m probably not the first person who’s felt this way about this particular book (or that she felt like she could marry a bunch of words) but man this Alexander Dumas guy is GOOD!

I’ve recently decided to take a break from non-fiction which is what got me into The Count in the first place. Typically 80% of my reading time is consumed by news articles on the Internet and for a while, the remaining sliver was devoted to book on light and fluffy things like deconstructing race or understanding restorative justice. You know, stuff you read at the beach or on the toilet. Oh, wait, you don’t read A People’s History of the United States at the beach? Right, of course not. (No really, it’s not relaxing at all) While none of these were bad reads (completely the opposite actually!), sometimes it’s good to exercise your imagination in a way that only fictional literature can. And being the type who already over-analyzes everything, I figured could probably use a little whimsy.

It has been such a fantastic journey getting back into this genre. When I started reading The Count, I realized just how much great fiction lit I was missing out on. I’m only fourth of the way through, (it’s 1276 pages!) but I haven’t been able to put this book down! It’s truly is an “epic” read, in all senses of the word. And when you come across something really great, don’t you just want to share it with everyone? I could go on and on about the poignancy and sincerity and romance that Dumas writes with but I really think you should just read it and see for yourself. In fact, if you need any convincing, here is a link to some of the greatest quotes from the book to get you started.

All that to say, I’m curious to see what everyone else reading? What have I been missing out on? I’ve tried to keep track of all the books I have read and am reading on my Good Reads account. So far, I’ve enjoyed everything from Mindy Kaling to Haruki Murakami and am eagerly looking for more. Share with me what you’ve been reading, I’d love to hear your suggestions!


It poured yesterday in Hong Kong. The electricity was knocked out of several buildings for hours and people scurried from one overhang to another, completely unprepared for the unexpected downpour. Thunder and lightening are no joke in Asia–the first time I witnessed these two weather forces in the Eastern hemisphere, I was on a boat in China, heading down the Yangtze River. Never before had I been so terrified of weather. The loud, thunderous crack of these electrical whips of light, streaking across the sky physically jolted me out of my seat, almost out of my skin.

Yesterday was no different. It was petrifying to hear the thunder crash down from above. Luckily the brief storm didn’t last long. I had to wonder if this was the beginning of our spring showers. And if so, the only other thing I fear more (or “loathe more” to be exact ) than thunder is the impending drastic, subtropical summer heat that will engulf me in a mere few months.

I was doing a massive clean of my aunt’s apartment in preparation for my good friend, Val, who is coming to visit me. She will be the first person who is traveling here for the sole purpose of visiting me! (After my mom, of course) I’m so touched and super excited for the packed itinerary we have planned.

I decided it’s time to crank up the peppy springtime jams because fairer weather is on its way and it’s always nice to have something fun to listen to while you sweep and scrub. 🙂 I made this mix via Spotify, and was going for a hearty amount of funk, mixed with some light-hearted rock. It’s time to get your frolic on!

Image: here

Visiting art museums, reading long books, brunching, owning artwork, knowing your reds from your whites… really, what does it mean to be cultured?

18 days ago I turned 27. Reading this just before my birthday gave me a great deal to think about as I continue to live abroad, meet new people and figure out how to be myself in a new place. I found Chekhov’s words, written when he was about my age, very motivational and necessary for me at this point in my life. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too. 🙂

From Brainpickings:

What does it mean to be “cultured”? Is it about being a good reader, or knowing how to talk about books you haven’t read, or having a general disposition of intellectual elegance? That’s precisely the question beloved Russian author Anton Chekhov, born on this day in 1860, considers in a letter to his older brother Nikolai, an artist. The missive, written when Anton was 26 and Nikolai 28 and found inLetters of Anton Chekhov to his Family and Friends (public domainpublic library), dispenses a hearty dose of tough love and outlines the eight qualities of cultured people — including honestyaltruism, and good habits:

MOSCOW, 1886.

… You have often complained to me that people “don’t understand you”! Goethe and Newton did not complain of that…. Only Christ complained of it, but He was speaking of His doctrine and not of Himself…. People understand you perfectly well. And if you do not understand yourself, it is not their fault.

I assure you as a brother and as a friend I understand you and feel for you with all my heart. I know your good qualities as I know my five fingers; I value and deeply respect them. If you like, to prove that I understand you, I can enumerate those qualities. I think you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts; you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil…. You have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of men, for on earth only one out of two millions is an artist. Your talent sets you apart: if you were a toad or a tarantula, even then, people would respect you, for to talent all things are forgiven.

You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it. That is your utter lack of culture. Forgive me, please, but veritas magis amicitiae…. You see, life has its conditions. In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent. Talent has brought you into such a circle, you belong to it, but … you are drawn away from it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers vis-a-vis.

Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

  1. They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say “nobody can live with you.” They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.
  2. They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone. Their heart aches for what the eye does not see…. They sit up at night in order to help P…., to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.
  3. They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.
  4. They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others. Out of respect for other people’s ears they more often keep silent than talk.
  5. They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play on the strings of other people’s hearts so that they may sigh and make much of them. They do not say “I am misunderstood,” or “I have become second-rate,” because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false….
  6. They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken P., [Translator’s Note: Probably Palmin, a minor poet.] listening to the raptures of a stray spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns…. If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted…. The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement…. Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.
  7. If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women, wine, vanity…. They are proud of their talent…. Besides, they are fastidious.
  8. They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil stove. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual instinct…. What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow … They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood…. They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion…. For they wantmens sana in corpore sano [a healthy mind in a healthy body].

And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read “The Pickwick Papers” and learnt a monologue from “Faust.” …

What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read…. Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not read.

You must drop your vanity, you are not a child … you will soon be thirty.
It is time!
I expect you…. We all expect you.


Aiyiyiyiyiyiyi. I’ve been gone too long! Well I’m back now and I’m ready to bust out a slew of posts. Between the holidays, a bit of traveling, some getting sick, skipping the commercials embedded so carefully in my Taiwanese dramas, and an unattractive amount of eating, I wasn’t able to post as much as I had wanted in my 3 week break. But I need to post this list before the first month of the year is over so keep reading!

If you read about music at all, you’ll know that most publications come up with end of the year top album (or song) lists. In all honesty, I’m not sure that these lists are so much important as they are informative, considering how subjective a an individual’s taste in music can be. I find it’s better to regard these lists as valuable for their ability to introduce you to groups or artists you may have heard of but never considered listening to. I know barely anything about electronic dance music but being part of a music blog has taught me more than I would ever have naturally learned about the genre.

For the second year in a row, I helped to compile EARMILK’s Top Albums of the Year. Last year we divided the albums by genre, creating Top 50 lists for electronic, indie and hip-hop, the three main genres the blog covers. This year we opted to combine all genres into a singular list to encourage our readers (and ourselves) to venture beyond their regular music preferences and see what all of our writers and editors are listening too. Whereas 2011 had me binge listening to at least 3-4 hip hop albums for a two week period, this year I was able to contribute in a more well-rounded fashion with regards to the formatting of the list, as well as to the indie picks on the list.

Check back for my personal Top 10 Albums of 2012 (Yes: I know it’s 2013. No, I do not care that my list is almost a month late) and without further ado:

EARMILK’s Top 50 Albums of 2012 — #50-26

EARMILK’s Top 50 Albums of 2012 — #25-1


This is pretty gross on so many levels but there’s a silver lining that I could not help but embrace.

Dad and I driving home from grandma’s house.

Me: “Oh shoot! I forgot we have to stop at the store to get something for Vics. She called me earlier.”

Dad: “Okay, we’ll just go to Safeway.”

A moment later…

Dad: “What does she need?”

Me: “Uh.. pads.”

Dad: “Oh okay. I need to get shoelaces, maybe they’ll have some.”

Dad starts laughing.

Me, confused: “??? What’s so funny?”

Dad: “I don’t know if you remember this. But when you guys were really little, one of you asked what a pad was. Mom and I didn’t know what to say so we told you guys they were mouse beds.”

Me, laughing hysterically: “OH MY GOD. Of all things, MOUSE BEDS?!? As in a bed where a mouse sleeps?!”

Dad: “Well what do you expect!? It was pretty complicated trying to explain all of… that… to a kid.”

I die. Someone please shower them with a trillion awesome points.