Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Odyssey

While eating lunch in the cafeteria today, I couldn't help but reminisce about that fateful day in November almost 13 years ago on which my sister, Mom, and I took the inter-continental trip to the States from China. Our first trip on an airplane took us across the globe. In hindsight, it would have been much more enjoyable if our eyes hadn't been all puffed up from pink eyes. I also had my first encounter with cheese, something that I had never tasted back in China and about which I had read extensively in many books, from Grimm's Fairy Tales to The Arabian Nights. Because the first word in the Chinese compound word for cheese ("nai luo") means milk, I had always imagined it to be deliciously sweet, like ice cream, except not frozen. Therefore, when I finally got my hands on the little packet of cheese that was included in the boxed airplane lunch, I eagerly peeled away the wrapper and took a huge bite out of it. Big mistake. It was without a doubt the single most disgusting thing I had ever tasted in my life up to that point. I almost spitted it out on to the seat in front of me. I can recall with ease that horrible, disgusting taste in my mouth to this day, which probably explains my aversion to cheese.

Now as I am about to embark on my momentous trip back to China, I'm experiencing a mixture of nervous anxiety and eager excitement: nervous because I have no idea what to expect after having been away for so long, excited because I have been looking forward to this trip for so long.

Here are a few goals I have for the trip:

1.) Don't get busted by customs for packing so many bottles of multi-vitamins, which are apparently extremely popular and pretty expensive in China right now. I hope they won't suspect me of being some drug dealer trying to smuggle Ecstasy.

2.) Don't get ass-ripping diarrhea (my precious pack of Immodium AD is all packed and ready to go) or any life-threatening diseases.

3.) Don't say anything unwittingly horribly offensive that will upset the relatives.

4.) Don't say anything too controversial that will get me quality torturing time in some gulag.

5.) Buy lots and lots of cheap namebrand knockoffs from the markets. It's cool to have the spending power of a foreigner and yet still be able to melt into the crowd like a normal Chinese person. Hopefully I won't get ripped off.

6.) Pay my respect to those relatives who have passed away by trekking to their burial places in the mountains and bring them food offerings.

7.) Hopefully won't have to dissuade relatives from trying to match me up with some girl.

8.) Eat tons of real Chinese food.

9.) Go visit some of the coolest places on earth and take tons and tons of pictures to post online after I return.

10.) HAVE FUN!!

I will try to update my blog while I'm in China, but I don't know how often I will have access to a computer with internet access, and even if I do find an internet cafe, I don't know if I can access my blog since Google (which owns Blogger now) is currently blocked in China. This blog may be stale for a couple of weeks.

One More Thing

I find the fact that hundreds of muslim fanatics are pouring into Iraq to fight infidels while hundreds of Christian zealots are pouring into Alabama to fight infidels quite amusing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Yay For The Law

In light of the current brouhaha over the Alabama Ten Commandments debacle, I offer the following words, in all their glorious eloquence, from Thomas Jefferson (taken from a post on

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.

They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.

The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.

Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.

Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.

Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.

And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors. "

"The Christian god is a three-headed monster, cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three-headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites."

Tuesday, August 26, 2003


After hearing about the Mumbai bombings yesterday, I thought of Urvi, who is currently living there. I emailed her asking if she's all right and just received a reply today from her that began with "gary-wary." Haha, it looks like the silly girl is definitely all right. She was actually headed towards the bombed areas when the explosions hit. Because the cellphone lines were down, she didn't know what happened until she got into the city. Fortunately, she was able to hop on the last train out of the city before the lines were disrupted. Talk about relief!

Dazed And Confused

Yesterday I went to Century 21 to buy some gifts for the relatives. Because my sister suggested that I buy make up kits for the aunts, I went over to the cosmetics counters to check out the merchandise. Jesus Christ, I got so fucking lost. How do women keep track of all this crap? I mean, there was anti-aging this, anti-gravity that, mascara for the eyes, stuff for under the eyes, stuff to take away wrinkles and hair, crap to clean the pores, crap to cleanse all the crap, bubble bath crap, night cream, morning cream, moisturizers, hand lotion, lipsticks, foundations (my sister actually had to explain to me what that stuff is). I didn't know what half of the stuff was for because everything was printed in French. And a tiny ass bottle of facial cream cost as much as $45. What a scam! They need to find cheaper animals to do all their allergy testing on, damn it!

I need to figure out a way to break into this lucrative business. Hmmm...

Monday, August 25, 2003


God I wish Google would stop returning my site on the first page every time some kid searches for Hillary Duff or some pervert searches for Hillary Duff in short shorts.

The Week That Was

Last week was definitely one to remember. Although I spent way too much money, it was all worth it because I had way too much fun.

Monday: Birth day dinner followed by drinking, as described previously.

Wednesday: Went to see Aimee Mann/Ben Folds with Annie and her moped buddy Dave. Right before Ben Folds was about to get on the stage, all the girls around me started screaming like someone just cut off their fingers. When I actually saw Ben Folds I was somewhat disappointed and puzzled. He was a geeky looking guy with poofy hair and wore dorky glasses and a plaid shirt (gasp!), not some Justin Timberlake clone, as one would expect based on the crowd reaction. I didn't know much about Ben Folds at all, but I was pretty impressed by his musical talents and sense of humor (between songs). I especially admired his minimalistic style: no fancy lighting, synthesizers, or accompanists, just him and his piano. When he crouched over his piano slamming the keys and bobbed his head up and down, I somehow had this image of Kermit the frog getting sucked off. I have no idea why I thought of that, either.

After Ben Folds, it was all Aimee time. My God, that woman is a goddess. Her voice is even more incredible to listen to in person. The lighting effects were really cool and used very effectively to get everyone in the mood. She didn't crack as many jokes as Ben Folds, but there were moments of levity, like when she introduced "Save Me": "This is the song that lost an Oscar to Phil Collins's song for a cartoon." While she was singing "Wise Up," the security guy busted some guy in the crowd who was trying to bootleg the concert. He definitely had a pretty fancy portable system wired up. I was somewhat annoyed because I couldn't enjoy one of my favorite songs when some guy is waving a flashlight next to me. At the end, Aimee played a cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist," adding a unique twist to what was already a great song.

After the concert we decided to go get some food. Because Dave and Annie both wanted to ride their mopeds, I was forced to hop on the back of Dave's moped with some trepedation. We weren't even going that fast, probably less than 20 miles/hr, but it was still a harrowing experience because of all the yellow cabs zooming past us, and that fucking huge bus that was tailing us, its grille looking menacing as hell. I felt like if I had stuck out my arm for even just a little bit, I would have gotten hit by some car.

The extra excitement definitely enhanced the evening though, which we capped off by eating some big greasy slices of brick oven pizza in front of the Met. I definitely felt more cultured just by sitting on the steps of the Met, which was quite a grand sight to behold at night. Annie and Dave were feeling really dorky so I took a few pictures of them in wacky poses next to their mopeds.

Friday: Went to the Whitney with Amy and Annie (aka A-Dubs) and check out The American Effect exhibition, which featured works that purported to represent the diverse perceptions of America by artists from around the world. It definitely kicked ass. One of the most memorable exhibit featured a bunch of ailing comic super heroes in a nursing home: The Hulk with thinning gray hair sitting in a wheelchair watching TV; a pot-bellied Captain America gasping his last breath on a hospital stretcher, tended to by a sagging Wonder Woman; not far from them sat Elastic Man, who had apparently fallen asleep with his head resting on the desk next to the chair and his long stretched out arm lying limply on the ground. That exhibit was definitely my favorite.

There was also a glowing portrait of Guiliani with a Mao-like pose by a Chinese artist. Underneath the portrait was painted two elephant dungs, a clever reference to that whole elephant dung fiasco a while back.

There were a bunch of other cool exhibits that were just as cool, but I'm too lazy too describe them all. I did not have a single "they call this art?" response towards any of the artworks in "American Effect," which says a lot, given my past disdain for retarded modern "art" exhibits.

Afterwards we grabbed dinner and had some beer at a pretty cool bar that had outside tables. Sitting outside enjoying the breeze and drinking and laughing made it a perfect ending to a great Friday evening.

Saturday: Helped Josh move his numerous boxes from his near-Bronx 5th floor walk-up apartment (meaning, NO ELEVATOR!) down to the rented van. I knew he was very athletic and strong because he's really into sports, but I had no idea how much of a stud he was. The man hauled around boxes, which were filled with books and were twice as large as what I carried, with no rest down 5 flights of stairs. After meeting Regina, I told her that she was engaged to a gorilla. I also met Regina's sister Jenny and Josh's other friend/manual laborer, Jacque. Josh had told me a lot about Jacque, who was every bit as interesting as I had imagined. When we were riding on the train towards the upper east side (where Josh's new apt was located), we chatted quite a bit. As a black man who grew up in Kentucky, went to an Ivy League school (Brown) and then traveled and worked in China and Taiwan for a couple of years, Jacque definitely had an interesting perspective on things. His Chinese is even better than Josh's. Too bad he's going back to Cornell Law on Monday for his second year. He will be back in the city occasionally though.

After the move, I hopped on the train with Caroline to check out the Bjork concert, which also kicked fucking ass. Hands hurting, need to take a break. More on that later.

UPDATE: Yeah, Coney Island and Bjork both rocked hard. While waiting for the Bjork to get her little impish self on stage, Caroline and I lay on a blanket and listened to some opening bands. The sky was perfectly blue and there was a gentle breeze. What a perfect day for a kick ass concert! Then Bjork came on stage wearing a really weird costume that looked like a big saran wrap and a green-and-purple head dress kind of wig kind of thing. Of course, no one gave a shit. We would have gone ballistic anyways even if she wore a fucking diaper. Then she opened her mouth, and said, "ThankYou." OMG, that was the cutest "thank you" I've ever heard. She sounded like a six-year-old trying to hurry through the pronounciation because she was too shy.

Then she started singing.

I was watching this special on MTV2 a while back called "The Greatest Voices in Music" or something like that and someone described Bjork as having a voice from another planet. He was absolutely right. I have yet to hear another voice like hers, which can mutate and amplify from a breathless whisper to fierce screaming/wailing/howling in a nanosecond, and yet still retain the kind of ethereal beauty that has characterized all of her songs.

I was also pretty shocked by how much of a role classical instruments play in her multi-layered songs. Out of the 25 or so songs she performed, she was accompanied by a circle of violinists as well as a harpist in like 22. I can't even begin to comprehend how she is able to meld techno, classical, and (in some cases) big band/swing so effortlessly. Just when you least expect it, she tosses in an accordion. That chick rocks, even though she's a mother already.

When I first saw the $55 ticket price (which came out to be $65 after TicketMaster's gouging), I groaned. But after almost 4 hours of music, including contribution from the 2 bands that played before her, and a ridiculous amount of fireworks and other pyro eye candy (yes she actually used fireworks to accompany her songs too), I realized that every single penny was well spent, just like in Aimee's concert. Long live Bjork!

After the concert, Caroline and I gulped down some tasty hot dogs and walked around the carnival before heading back to Manhattan. What an awesome ending to a great week!

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The Best Ad Ever

Click on pic for full size. Here's the original ad found on 5th Ave.