Friday, January 16, 2004

Don't be an Asshole

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Lost In Translation

I walked with Phil for almost 20 minutes to Time Square to see this movie Tuesday night because he likes to walk. Too bad neither of us could feel our limbs at the end of our little jaunt because of the unbelievably frigid weather. The wind cut through my leather gloves and jabbed at my hands mercilessly. I think I would have gotten frostbitten if we hadn't finally reached the movie theatre.

But it was all worth it. Lost In Translation is easily the best movie I have seen in the past year and now ranks among my top 5 favorite movies of all time. I knew I would love the movie when I saw the first scene, which featured Scarlett Johansson's lovely behind. Of course, the movie was much more than that (before Rita scolds me for being a chauvinist again). I hadn't seen Bill Murray in any movie recently, but I don't think he will ever top his performance in this movie. The only thing that's remotely far-fetched about his character is the fact that a former action movie star could be so subtle and could have such a witty, sarcastic sense of humor. The deadpan expressions he puts on are priceless.

I've heard about this Scarlett Johansson girl for quite a while. After seeing her in this movie, I deem all the hype completely warranted. It boggles my mind that a 19-year-old is capable of such a nuanced performance. It didn't hurt that she was heart-achingly cute and had charisma up the wazoo. I need to check out some of her other movies.

I think the movie really struck a cord with me because I totally understand how it feels to be lost in a totally foreign land unable to comprehend a single sentence uttered by people who don't look anything like me. This movie was able to capture that sense of complete bewilderment so effectively that I had no trouble at all relating to Murray's character, even though he was a white former action movie star undergoing a midlife crisis and saddled with a marriage that doesn't have much meaning to him anymore.

The wonderful chemistry between Murray and Johansson really made the film work. Their relationship is so much more complex and feels so much more realistic than any other cinematic portrayal that I have seen recently. I was rooting for them to be together at the end of the movie because I felt strongly that they belonged together, even if both were married already.

Now I will need to check out some of the other critically acclaimed movies, like 21 Grams, In America, American Splendor, and Mystic River.

As a side note, in the theatre lobby next to the concession stand was a huge ad. In this ad, 4 hot, teenage cheerleader-type girls with their arms fully stretched reached out in desperation to a good-looking boy showing off a sly smile. In the background, another boy appeared almost hysterical with excitement. What's all this commotion about? A freaking TI-83 Plus graphing calculator!! Apparently, the girls would have fellated Mr. Rocket Scientist if he would only let them touch his TI-83. It was one of the wackiest ads I've ever seen. I wish I had the presence of mind to steal that poster.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Lanzhou Pictures

I can die with a peace of mind and without regret now that I've finally put up the Lanzhou pics.

(click on the picture)

Highlights: Family, The Yellow River, feasting, more feasting, childhood home, kindergarden, elementary school, Lanzhou University, family history, Dragon Park, Liu Family Dam (no we don't actually own that place), and finally, White Pagoda Mountain.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Friday Night

I worked like a dog again and didn't leave work until 6:45. Then I rushed to Brooklyn for a final get-together with Amy. This was her last day working at our company because she decided to join the Teach for America program, which means she's moving back to Buffalo to take some education classes and won't be back in the city until after the summer. I wanted to buy her drinks to celebrate, but I only had $23 in my wallet.

Earlier in the day, I walked from my company to the bank across the street to deposit my bonus check and get some money. Those 30 seconds of exposure to the frigid weather we've been having was traumatic enough to knock the ATM PIN out of the depths of my memory for a critical moment, during which I punched in the wrong code 5 or 6 times at the ATM and was then denied access to my account for the rest of the day.

Back at the bar, Amy's boss bought me a beer after I told him my story. I was pretty shocked: "but I barely know you!" But he was really cool about it. I spent the rest of the time at the bar talking with Amy's other friends. Watching Amy getting progressively more intoxicated was definitely entertaining, until at one point she said, "now that I'm not working at the same company as you, we can date!" I was somewhat taken back and then realized that she was probably just joking. I think. But in all honesty, I had never seen her look hotter than she looked then. There must have been at least 5 or 6 guys hitting on her, excluding the guys from the company that were pursuing her. Then she went on and on about how even though she's "straight as an arrow," she's been having lesbian fantasies. Of course, I was thinking, "why the fuck didn't you tell me all this earlier???" Realistically, I don't think I could or should ever be in a relationship with her for some rather complicated reasons.

One of the guys I met through Amy was Jon, who graduated from UM-Amherst in 2002 and lives one the UES. He is 3/4 Chinese and 1/4 Peruvian and seemed like a pretty cool guy. I REALLY could use an Asian friend now because I've been hanging out with way too many white people since I moved to NYC.

At around 9:30 I hopped on a Manhattan-bound train with Amy, Jon and this guy Tom, who, for whatever reason, was acting like a total asshole toward me. Maybe he didn't like the amount of attention that I was getting from Amy, or maybe he didn't like my sweater. Who the fuck knows? Although he did redeem himself somewhat by taking us to this ultra cheap hot dog place called Gray Papaya in the West Village, where we each got two hot dogs and a drink for a mere $2.45! Naturally, the joking got a little raunchy at a hot dog place.

[Amy gobbles on one of Jon's hot dogs from his second order]

Jon: Hey, how do you like my weiner?
[Amy laughed]
Me: Take it easy Amy, you are dripping Jon's weiner all over your mouth
[Amy looked horrified, laughed even harder, as did Jon and Tom]
Jon: I came close to crossing the line, you just did!
Me: Hey Amy, do you want some of my coconut champagne [the drink that I actually got] too?
[We all laughed hysterically while the people near us eyed this strange white girl and her entourage of male Asian chaperones]

After the weiners, we went inside a Starbucks to buy some stuff so Amy could use the bathroom for what seemed like the fifth time of the night. Of course, I also took advantage of the bathroom. I've never been a big fan of Starbucks for the simple reason that I hate coffee. I like it even less now after seeing this in China. Therefore, after the bathroom trips and convincing Amy and Jon to go visit Molly, who left a message earlier during the day asking me to visit her at the bar where she was bartending, over the objections of Tom, we finally headed out.

Molly's bar was almost completely empty because people were reluctant to go to the party being hosted there as a result of the cold. She also wearing a comfy white down coat. I laughed and said, "Shouldn't you be working it with a tight black shirt?" She replied, "I AM wearing a black shirt underneath, it's just so cold back here because I'm standing next to all this ice!"

I found out from Molly that she's enjoying life in the city quite a bit by working on her writings during the day and bartending at night. She knows a lot of people here from bartending and hanging out with her fellow Tori Amos crazies. She said she will let me know about future parties so I can meet her friends.

It was great to catch up with Molly because I hadn't seen her for almost 3 months, but I did feel somewhat guilty because I was kind of neglecting Amy. After 45 minutes, I hugged Molly goodbye and moved on with the rest of the gang. It was almost midnight already and Tom had to give Amy a ride back to the Bronx apartment where she currently lives, and which she will definitely not miss when she returns to Buffalo.

I had $3 left in my wallet at this point because I bought Amy a s'more at Starbucks and a drink at Molly's bar, as well as some hot dogs for myself, so taxi was not an option, even though I was freezing my ass off. I ended up walking and running for almost 20 minutes in 10 below wind chill weather because the closest I could get to my apartment via the subway was 42nd & 6th. Fucking weekend subway repairs meant all the cross-town trains were out of commission. Bjork never sounded better though, as I jogged down the street listening to "Vespertine" on my iPod. And the Chrysler building never looked more magnificent. It's such a beautiful building, aesthetically pleasing to the eye in virtually every regard. Fuck the Empire State building.

When I reached my apartment, the door was locked: "Door man will be right back"


To be honest, my face and ears were already numb by that point so I didn't even feel that cold. I guess I was just looking for an excuse to scream. My cellphone felt like a brick of ice even after 15 minutes in the apartment.

I fell asleep on the couch watching "The Most Controversial Music Videos" on MTV2.

Later that night I had one of the most random dreams ever, featuring high school friends I haven't seen in ages, random Chinese people telling me about their great supermarket in Chinatown, me parachuting out of a helicopter, among other things. The highlight had to be the part where Paola tells me how she wants to try to be a lesbian, (which I'm sure had absolutely nothing to do with Amy's earlier admission) or something like that. I earnestly encouraged her to pursue her dreams and then grabbed her ass. Then she grabbed me back.

This morning I woke up shaking my head at the absurdity of the night before.