Thursday, July 26, 2012

i can not argue with you from a long ling time ago... but as i'm a father..

Mom is turning sixty today. I'm driving down to Palo Alto in an hour to celebrate with her, in the modest way we usually celebrate (serve-your-own-salad buffet restaurant with Grandma, stroll around the block with Boo).

Events in recent days have turned my attention to the past. I'm digging through my emails for clues, but I'm finding more questions than answers. How did I miss this? Or, What does this mean? What erratic wind blew me back and forth from fretful to bold twenty times in a day? It sounds neurotic but actually the exercise has lots of pleasures. One of them is unearthing this email from Dad, from last August:

dear [bananarchist],

i have been bullied since my 2nd job.

my boss then, was a half-german half ugoslavia man, has very bad temper, looking down on me all the time.

( my english was even poorer than it of today, and just changed major from math to EE, with no lab experience )

Gave me all the dirty jobs to do, i have to wake up at 6:30AM and show up at work around 7:30AM every day,

Listened to him in a narrow office for more than one hour for job status of me or other colleagues, often got humiliated by him, then worked until midnight in the Labs.

i endured for 5 years until i got green card, we're in US immigration office SF 2~3 days before you were born, then the next mondy day i applied transfer and got accepted to test engineer department. my boss got divorced a few weeks later and stayed in mental hospital for several weeks after 5 guys quit him the same day.

We've done it for our family to stay in a safe country, U.S ( Taiwan was kicked out of UN few years before we left, communist was looming to take over ), to find a still considered as a good job to feed our family and for my kids to have better opportunity for healthier educational environment.

but at least i've learned or developed some skill that i can use to transfer to other group.

I got more bullied for my next so many jobs, assigned with dirty jobs on almost all holidays and weekends.

Mom was also bullied by her Taiwanese boss, M.X., almost every day, enter dollar values of thousand piece of receipt with her finger, no zero fun. physical abuse ( no heating the winter, and seat next the the chilly door) in combination with harassing to replace her with other newly interviewed candidates, and she interview everyday. She has same culture.. same town in taiwan, same street, in Zhong Li..

They has their own circle, we are always outsider. Same culture , same race.. no difference at the end.

Unless you own a business and have business partners and you guys run a successful, money making business.

Then pretty soon you're suspicious about each other, there will be more politics .

If you decided not to have family with kid that you can sacrifice for , may be you should endure more for you present work,

Do every dumb thing they told you to do, but , hermetically learn every skill they know, then hermetically find a new job then hermetically learn ...... in these cycle until you are ready and have found partner, chinese/indian/mexican etc, to start your own kingdom, and in parallel to this process , you are investing your enviable high salary reward, marching toward your 40 year old retirement, as a backup measurement.

forgive our poor IQ.

a poor dad. and mom ,

love you


Yesterday on my bike commute home, I saw something brown and soft drop from the window of a big rig in front of me. It hit the ground heavy.

I rolled past it a few seconds later. It was a Hostess cupcake, smushed.

At the next red light, I peered into the cab of the truck. The three guys sitting inside wore their facial hair in trimmed, narrow, straight lines, in the manner of certain heavy-lidded men in their early 20s who live in cities and get the munchies and drop their cupcakes out of trucks. 

I shouted up into the cab, "You dropped your Ding Dong!"

"Whaaaat?" They smiled.


"I knoooow!" said one.

"It's so sad!"


I turned right at the next intersection and I will never see those boys and their cupcake again.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

In defense of Magic Mike

The scene that ends the first act of Magic Mike layers irony on so thick it's hard to remember what your expectations were in the first place. The eponymous character should be the embodiment of power. He is a lantern-jawed, tall, symmetrically-featured, white, straight, male, 30-something mesomorph who has all of his hair. From his mouth comes charming banter in unaccented English. On him are a suit and a tie and an expensive wristwatch. The setting is a private office in a bank. 

The cleaners ruined my favorite shirt!
But he is sitting on the wrong side of the table. Not lender, but borrower. He needs a loan to start a custom furniture company. His various day and night jobs - mobile auto detailing, roofing, and, most spectacularly, on weekends, headlining a male stripper troupe billed as "the cock-rocking kings of Tampa" - don't cut it anymore. He has ambition, but he needs a lender to realize it.

So he begs. The woman sitting behind the desk bends the slightest to his appeal - in the manner of the successful pick-up artist he is, he flatters her with individualized attention, and presumably because his sweaty testicles emanate invisible spores smelling of evolutionary supremacy, she responds  ("That is a really nice necklace!" he says, to which she responds with flustered self-molestation) - but his Magic Mike ethos fails to persuade her logos and she says that his all-cash income doesn't give him the credit score he needs to secure a loan. The audience can barely watch as he becomes first desperate, then angry, powerless even when holding a comically large stack of bills, telling the banker, "Distressed? Does this look distressed? I read the news, lady, and the only thing that's distressed is y'all."  Nobody wants to see a straight white man lose. Pathos wins. 

In Louis C.K.'s bit about white male privilege, he says, "If you're a straight white man in this country and you're not the president, then you've failed."  Perhaps my understanding of power is primitive, but when I take my change back from the cashiers at the organic co-operative market/cafe/vaginal suppository shop in my gentrified hipster neighborhood, sometimes I want to ask, "Did you learn this at Vassar?"  (Spare me, for one moment, the homily. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had, blah blah blah I know.) 

What makes Louis C.K. funny is what makes Magic Mike feel so topsy turvy. The movie asks its viewers to suspend disbelief of this fantasy of disempowerment. 

That it succeeds makes the ticket worth its price.

Because you find yourself rooting for this guy . . .

Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings.

. . . even when your mind knows Channing Tatum doesn't need your help at all.  But you still care, because we have all felt infantilized and disempowered in that way, where you are a god in an arena you suspect doesn't really matter - lord of the stage at a stripper bar, owner of the stiffest fauxhawk at a queer dance party, head of your household, most upvoted commenter on YouTube, seventh most-shared meme on Facebook, huge in Japan - but a loser when it comes to the rest of the world. Outside of the party this fauxhawk is just a silly crown on an androgynous thirty-something clown who has to walk the lonely half mile home with a cheap liquor headache. Outside Club Xquisite, Magic Mike is just Mike, no magic.

Another irony that is pleasurable to watch is the inversion of the normal chiasmus. We have two simultaneous narratives, one character's rise and another's downfall. A desultory musclebound youth everyone calls the Kid attaches himself to Magic Mike. The younger adores the elder. "I want you to be, like, my best friend," he says after a night of drugs, sex, and swimming in Tampa bay shitwater. The Kid's star is on the rise. He starts out a violent, apathetic college dropout who can't talk to girls and ends an equity partner in a Miami business venture who can, as he says, "fuck anybody I want to fuck."  On the other hand, Magic Mike is nearing the end of his dancing career (he is approaching the age where his stripper acrobatics could herniate discs), he has lost six years of savings to angry drug dealers, his fuck buddy stops returning his calls, and a preening narcissist named Dallas (Matthew McConaughey, playing himself) tells him he is cold product. 

Shining, shimmering, splendid.
But here is the thing: Magic Mike's is the upward narrative. The Kid's fame and fortune foretell his fall. Redemption in this movie comes with traditional values! 

I have managed to get through this post without talking about the most obvious reason to go see this movie: MAN FLESH.  Copius, chiseled man flesh, forty feet high in high definition. Moving athletically, squeezing here, thrusting there. R. accused me of watching this movie because of my "undying thirst for gyrating meatheads." Which he then described with this picture, of shawarma:

The epilogue: when dancers retire, they can feed a village.
Mea culpa. Yes, the visuals will titillate generations of straight women and gay men. But don't hate the movie because it's beautiful. It's also pretty on the inside.

After the movie, M. looked over and asked, "Are you straight now?"

Yes, yes I am.