Wednesday, May 25, 2011

like a translation

One of my middle school students told me that they had just started a unit on Shakespeare. She goes to an American system school. They were going to read Romeo and Juliet.
Initially I thought great finally on par, another middle schooler student of mine who goes to a British system school was doing Romeo and Juliet as well.

She told me that they'd read the play for the first time in class.
All in one day? I asked.
And then she showed me "the play". It was entitled Romeo and Juliet at the Mall.

The opening line, "Two households alike in dignity" had been turned to "Like this is totally a sad story."
I wish I were joking.

The story continued with "and then the characters had these geeky names like Tybalt and Benvolio... not cool ones like J.Lo or Ke$ha."
"And then her nurse pulled Juliet away and totally freaked out because she was kissing some guy."
"And then the chick Juliet was like hello where are you Romeo?"
"And he was like hey hello I'm standing right underneath your balcony."
"Tybalt didn't know they were married but he should have been happy because he totally got out of buying a wedding gift... and then Mercutio was like 'screw both your houses.'"

Like no way and then they die at the end? Uncool.

While she's reading Romeo and Juliet are like dying at Verona Mall, the British school system middle schooler is reading the actual text of Romeo and Juliet and then moving on to Macbeth. They do have one "fun" project which is to do an illustrated research paper on Shakespeare and the Elizabethan era.

This American system middle schooler's project is to construct a paper mache representation of the Globe. They are also supposed to create a talk show interview between Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare.

"You know this isn't the real version of Romeo and Juliet right" (just in case.)
"Yea I know, but it's a modern translation."
"NO.. no it is not. At all!"
She shrugged.
"We are going to read the real text ok? Two houses alike in dignity yes? I want you to understand the language, the imagery, the..."

anti gravity

Hong Kong advertisements are never subtle. There are dozens of billboards and posters pasted around the subway station, on street corners. Most are aimed at women. The most common are posters for weight loss, they show a slightly pudgy girl with a downcast expression. They even print her weight, before 55 kg and then after, blown up to life-size is the same girl at 49 kg! wearing a bikini and a radiant smile.

There are posters for cleavage enhancers, skin brighteners, facial reconstruction. The least subtle are the bra ads. The message of the bra ads is quite clear: padding. Revolutionary padding that is probably manufactured in the same factory as the shoulder pads that go into a football uniform. It is a mentality that also extends to swim suits, which have hard cone padded inserts that could provide floatation.

Anyway, there are even bras that have a sling that actually fits under the chest, pushing it upward, then it has these compression things that come in from the sides to push the bust together. Something out of nothing. It defies physics. The brands have names like Voila! Illusion! Triumph!

Triumph! I cannot breathe but I have created the semblance of a figure! The model's arms are raised like an olympic gymnast who has just stuck the landing. It sounds a lot like the method that I once read was used on Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. The producers taped her chest together to create a figure worthy of a southern belle. Apparently it cut off her circulation. Triumph!

At the risk of sounding like a shrill commentator, I wonder if Clark Gable should have had his own attempt at triumph. Some sort of anti-gravitational compressing insert/sling to make him look like he could properly fill out those tight pants of his.
Maybe I should invent one of those.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the radio said

If the world were to end tomorrow
I would eat a tray of oysters
Drink vodka with extra olives and vermouth
Paint my nails a red too bright.

I would chase away all mean thoughts with a big stick and
only let the bright ones in.
I would have no cruel words only kind ones.

I would listen to opera even though I don't understand the words
I would take deep breaths and watch the clouds swing past

I would watch the night parade and stars
I would hold the one I love
Hear the universe in his breath
And we would dream in color

If tomorrow the world ends.

It sounds like such an extraordinary thing, an announcement meant to cause fear and awe. When actually every tomorrow is a possible end.
I don't know why it's so easy to forget this. I only remember it in the off-moments, the hush before something begins.. the pause before the light is turned off, the moment before the water starts in the shower, and then I panic until I can forget again.

Maybe we are trained to forget, so that we don't live everyday with a frantic necessity, it would drive the world into chaos. Instead we keep our heads down and worry about the grocery bill, the cost of oil, what new things to buy.. anything to distract and cushion us from the truth.
Because the truth is harsh and it is as unforgiving as it is unknown
There will be an end, whether or not we dream in color.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

oh insight

12 year old student:"what is that?" She's pointing at a spot on my face courtesy of exam week and sleep deprivation.
Yay observational skills.

"It's a sign of wisdom why you want one?"

"Oh... no."

"No it's just from stress.. actually it happens in adolescence."

"Aren't you kind of old?"
"It's stress."

"From what?"

"From you. Keep reading!"

"Ugh I hate english it's so boring. I'm bored."

"People used to say only boring people get bored."
( great now I'm quoting my mother)

"Oh I like that quote.. I'm going to remember it."
Oh good.

"I'm never going to use this vocabulary... it's so useless."

Hm. "Justin bieber holds a certain Allure. When he has a concert there is Pandemonium. He has a huge Ego. If he wants to be Incognito he should use an Alias."

:Speechless: i'm guessing from awe. Or possibly horror at her idol being associated with vocab words.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


For my 25th, we went to an Italian restaurant, one of those nice ones with waiters in bow ties, place settings and 10 different types of forks. It was a place with white tablecloths and napkins, a sure sign of elegance, as my godmother would say "real fancy. White? My goodness do they trust their customers!" Of course restaurants like that wouldn't say "customers" they wouldn't say "restaurant" they'd prefer "dining experience". The menu descriptions read like odes "angel hair capellini essence of white asparagus" "reductions" and things that are "foam". The appetizers were announced as "medallions of melon with sea salt and carrot sea foam," which then arrived as a button size cucumber slice with orange fizz on it.

I think growing up in a small itown it's hard to be discerning about food. Food was hearty, quantity is king, why be refined as long as it tastes good? Italian meant fazolis or olive garden. Steak was a slab of nuked beef with gravy or maybe even breaded. Asian meant Chinese - general tso's or orange chicken (although it's mandarin orange). Cheese was either orange Kraft slices or the powdered kind, nothing fermented or god forbid moldy. And anything slightly foreign was viewed with suspicion. It may not be like this now, but it was back then.

I remember the first time eating sushi it was a revelatory experience, although I could say the same about pancakes. So I don't know that unrefined palate is something so wrong.
I think my introduction to 'higher' dining was from my grandfather, a minister who has a taste for earthly luxury. He shook his finger at me when I stuttered over how a steak should be done -um well? "No! Rare! It should bleed on the plate!" And then he showed me by poking his with his finger til there were trails of blood.
he was convinced my parents were raising me as a non lady - and decided to drag me out to eat "refined things" although that was hard to find in our town. I think as a concession we drove an hour to a red lobster.

And then in new York almost everyone was a foodie. It was something to be discussed, to have a opinion about. Food was fetishized, almost worshipped. I didn't really understand the crowds of people who would line up everyday for the sushi or the oyster bar next door (until I tried the lobster roll once - I started to believe).

I remember ordering a bottle of wine and when the waiter poured like a half cm I wondered why he was being so stingy. And then being told to "try" it? Uh OK.
Although note it is important to pay attention to the ceremony of the waiter presenting the wine and asking you to try -it would have saved me a lot of shock / embarrassment / money when a few years ago I accidentally ordered a half bottle of Lafite from the 1950s. We merrily downed it wondering why there was so much sediment stuff, and a tiny voice in my head wondered whether the waiter had really said 1956? That sounded old.. when the bill came we realized we'd chugged 600 dollars.
People asked whether I could tell the difference. Well no, at least not then.

Anyway sitting in this beautiful restaurant with a beautiful view wondering what it meant to be "grown-up" and why I didn't think oh how grown up this place is.. I guess that was the quiet realization.
And as we drank and talked and ate squid ink muffins with truffle butter, looked at the fresh cut flowers and the white linen of customer trust, I thought of time passing and how things come to be.

Monday, May 2, 2011

book it.

I went to Macau over the weekend to see Ferry Corsten in an attempt to escape from the reality of exams and possible failure.
It was pretty amazing, we stood in front and just jumped around. Completely sober, but drunk on lights, although by the end my legs were shaking and I felt like I'd been running a marathon.

The only downside was that the concert was at a club, a club that just opened a few weeks ago. I guess I'm the type of person who overthinks things or feels self-conscious at the wrong times, but clubbing has always seemed a bit of a bizarre concept.

It's sort of similar to the feeling about house parties. slow realization - yes we are standing around awkwardly. We are attempting to talk to each other over loud music. We are drinking out of plastic cups. yes and we are in a house.

But try feeling hyper aware at a club. Hrm... We are standing in a room with lights and music. Males and females are going to rub up against each other rhythmically in a socially accepted imitation of fornication. (This is usually in my head in a National Geographic voice. The male ascertains a female's intentions by her attire. The female's high heels limit her mobility, but give her an exaggerated posture while the pigment which stains her lips red mimics arousal... The female then accepts the male's attempt at courtship.)

In Korea they've had a specific type of clubbing for awhile, it's called "booking". Guys pay a fee for tables at a club, and girls get in for free, but in return they are brought to the guys' table by "booking" waiters. If the guys don't like the girls they can ask for a new rotation, and vice versa. The girls drink, they talk to the guys etc, and perhaps afterward if things go well, they can move to the hotel upstairs where there is a discount rate. It's like getting a ticket validation. Booking waiters who are particularly good at matching people will receive a tip.

When people hear about this they tend to react in shock, how crass.. etc. but actually it's just very efficient. It cuts all the extraneous bits and eliminates the formality of 'hey do you want a drink?' and then the customary 10 minutes of 'dancing' that is expected in exchange.

Something that's always made me uncomfortable about clubbing in the U.S. is the way that guys dance at asian clubs. I know that it's unfair to generalize and it's a stereotype .. these are unclear statistics and as my mother would say, is this the correct sample size? But many asian guys at clubs seem to approach dancing like one would a ride at an amusement park. A group of guys will approach the 'ride' (girls who are dancing) and then surround them in a sort of semi circle and watch. They wait their turn one by one to hop on a girl and latch on until a) they are shaken off or b)are allowed to grope and grind.
if it's a) and they're shaken off, then they shrug their shoulders and leave to approach another ride, while another one of their peers decide to try doing the same.

I suppose it's necessary to recognize that it's difficult to approach a girl and it's unfair that a male is expected to make the first move and still deal with rejection. It must be crushing to tap a girl on the shoulder and ask her to dance only to be ignored or rejected.
Maybe hopping on is the only way.

But anyway in Macau at this trance concert, I realized that that approach was actually not so bad.
In Macau guys will do this watching and waiting, but they do it individually, spread out within the crowd. The worst part is, they will creep up behind a female and then stand there pretending that they are doing anything but trying to get the female to bump into their crotch. They will look at their phone, adjust their shirts, look pensively in the distance, all the while creeping towards so that one's hand or body bumps against them. And if a girl finally turns to realize that there is some creeper behind them, the guy pulls out his phone, acts like he's mortally offended but still keeps standing there.
It's disgusting and offensive... it was crass.