Saturday, February 28, 2009

What's Going On?

Sitting in the barber shop today, I was randomly thumbing through a magazine when a quote came flying off the page like a paintball and splattered itself all over my brain. At the very least you would think it could have gotten my memory going again (I don't know where it is these days), but no, here I am, forced to paraphrase: "A lot of people are on to the emptiness; it takes real guts to acknowledge the hopelessness." My barber was still working on the head of a four-year old, so I allowed myself to ponder.

What does it mean to be courageous in these trying times? Does it take courage to admit we are living in a hopeless world? Are we lying to ourselves when we claim the world can be a better place? Here we are into the 21st century, at the pinnacle of scientific and technological advancement, and yet according to the World Bank, half the world's population, 3 billion people, are forced to subsist on less than $3 a day. The Ivy-League banking brains on Wall Street found a way to trash the world's financial systems, and yet, they couldn't find a way to simply clear away the garbage that rots in mounds in the slums of Mumbai and Nairobi.

I am trying hard not to be cynical, not to be negative. I guess it doesn't help that the HIV clinic I have been going to for the past five years told me I couldn't come anymore because they've lost a lot of their funding on account of the financial crisis. We're bailing out the banks and the insurance companies and the automakers to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, but I can't see my doctor anymore. Will someone please tell me that this calculates correctly? That this all somehow makes sense? I can't make sense of this world anymore. I'd hate to think it took me this long to figure out that it's not supposed to.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

These are my Brother's Doggies...

The one on the left is a Bichon Frise. The one on the right is a Maltese. Aren't they adorable?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Alison Des Forges, Human Rights Activist

Coming home on the train tonight, I gasped out loud. More than once. Stunned into disbelief. I was reading this week's Economist, came across the obituary, and there she was: Alison Des Forges. Alison was a human rights activist who devoted a great part of her life to highlighting the plight of Rwanda, from its days as a European colony to the genocide in 1994 that cost the lives of up to 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

I was fortunate to have met Alison on a number of occasions when I went to law school. I had helped arrange for her to speak on campus about the Rwandan genocide. You couldn't really call the way she spoke "speaking". She fired off her words. About how Rwanda was too far away, too poor and too black for any Western government to give a damn. I would have sat there completely mesmerized had I not also felt embarrassed to see how few people had shown up to hear her. She later graciously accepted another invitation to speak, this time at a hearing on women's rights violations. She stood on a stage in a darkened auditorium before 200 people. But who needed a spotlight when you had such an aura of moral authority? She was an angel who had been placed on Earth to help and cry out for those who couldn't. Her tiresome campaign to raise awareness of Africa led to a MacArthur fellowship in 1999 and a senior advisor position with Human Rights Watch.

Alison was one of the passengers on the plane that crashed near Buffalo on February 12. All 50 people on board killed. Like everyone else, I saw the story on the news. But had I not bought that Economist at Penn Station tonight, I would never have known that Alison had been on that plane. She was only 66. I still can't believe that she's gone.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Don't Know Anymore

Lost in the hustle of this week's edition of life in New York City was a phone call I received from a friend in Korea last Sunday. He was calling about "H". Some of you know my back story, but for those who don't, suffice it to say when I was deported from Korea for being HIV+ I arrived back in America with the clothes on my back. I asked my friend "H" to clean out my apartment, but all he did was clean me out. Nine years I had lived in Korea, and I never saw any of it again.

Never say never.

My friend was calling me to let me know that he had found H. And that H apparently still had some of my things. My friend asked me was there anything I wanted? Something he could bring back for me? I was stunned. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to say Nothing. Why would I want anything when I'd replaced it all with a perverse pride in being able to ruthlessly forget? It only took me five years to become world-class in this discipline. Even as I pathetically hoped for a cure. A change in Korea's immigration laws. Anything. Something. That would allow me to go back. That would give me a needed reprieve from constantly having to dream at night, only to wake up exhausted. I wonder if he still has my pictures, I muttered. Your pictures, he asked as if to confirm, but his voice was fading, rippling away. I've long acknowledged that I can't recall faces, let alone names, anymore. I've had to find happiness in splintered images. Why would I want to see any of it whole again?

Finding out about my HIV status was a pivotal event in my life. It was the event that marked "the before" and "the after". For some people that event is getting married. Or having children. Or losing a parent. But it's more than an event. It's an event horizon. The point at which even light can no longer pull away from the force of a black hole. The point where it's not supposed to be possible to look backward anymore.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sometimes I'm Glad I'm Not a Girl

I guess I was the stupid one for even bothering to click on the link, but once I did I was blinded by the greatness of the article, courtesy of Cosmopolitan, that bastion of wisdom for the girl who has got it together. I mean, really, how stupid can an article get? (I had to post the link because otherwise I could have been accused for making up this garbage.) It said to ask yourself four questions to determine if your man is a keeper or a tosser. And here they are, the four questions that shed so much insight into the human condition we should all find ourselves evolved into a totally different species by the end of the year:

1. Is he the jealous type?
2. Is he a cheapskate?
3. Is he afraid of commitment?
4. Is he trustworthy?

So what I want to know is how in this mess of a world would this test work? Well, my guy is TOTALLY jealous and he's a TOTAL cheapskate and he's TOTALLY afraid of commitment, but he's trustworthy, so I guess I need to take another test that's so TOTALLY NOT inane.

Or perhaps...

He's SO not jealous (I mean, he wants to share me with his other friend... awwww... how sweet is that?) and he's SO not a cheapskate, but he's TOTALLY afraid of commitment and he's SO not trustworthy so that means.... uh... that means.... he's a keeper? No, wait, he's a tosser, like oh my god! I TOTALLY don't KNOW!!!!!

Is this the kind of crap that American women read on a monthly cycle? Who needs Al Qaida to terrorize us and Religion to save us when we get two for the price of one in this month's edition of Cosmo???

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Guess What I Did For Valentine's Day?

1. I counted all the Valentine cards that I got in the mail. (Did you know that it takes no time at all to count to "0"?)

2. I waited for someone to return my call so that we could go out and have Valentine's Day Dinner. (Did you know that Cold Soup at Home is one of the easiest meals you can prepare on Valentine's Day? I'm going to can it and market it and sell it to recoup my losses. [See next item.])

3. I opened the box of chocolates that I bought to give to that person who never returned my call so that we could go out and have Valentine's Day Dinner. (Did you know that eating twenty chocolates in a row can give you a bad stomach ache?)

4. I bought 2 movie tickets online, you know, one for me and one for that person who I was going to give that box of chocolates to if he had ever called me to go out and have that Valentine's Day Dinner! (Did you know that is the quickest and easiest way to buy movie tickets, allowing you to avoid the hassles of crowds and lines at the movie theater?)

5. I stayed at home and wrote this post. (Did you know that the sound of a breaking heart is quite hard to hear because the rest of the world is shouting out to you, "LOSER!"?)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Drive Away All the Hate

I don't always get the lingo of the younger generation. The stuff that I do get can annoy the hell out of me. Like when young Asian-American kids try to speak ghetto and use terms like "a'ight" for all right. That is so frickin' annoying. It's almost as bad as when, years ago, everyone was saying "word" to express amazement or agreement or whatever it was they were trying to express. THAT. WAS. FRICKIN'. ANNOYING.

One word that I DO love that I hear young kids using is "hater", as in "Don't be a hater." I just love that expression. It beseeches you to not be negative. To stop being a jerk. To make the right choice and start showing a more loving attitude. "He's such a hater" is one of the worst things I could probably say about a person. So what brought about this post? My girl Michelle. That's Ms. Wie to the rest of you. She's the phenomenal 19 year-old Korean-American golfer whose star shone bright early on, fizzled a bit, but now burns strong and true again as she enters her rookie year on the LPGA starting today in Hawaii. In the years she didn't play so well, I'd read the sports blogs and message boards, angered and shocked by the amount of poisonous negativity people chose to dump into cyberspace. How could 50-something male golf writers so publicly mock and humiliate a girl who could just as easily have been their daughter? How could so many bloggers, both male and female, write shit like she had raped Nike out of $10 million for being a slut who could drive it 300? Did it make them feel more manly and secure? Did it make them feel less jealous of the very real things she had accomplished? Whatever it was, there were a lot of Michelle haters out there.

Michelle, now a sophomore at Stanford, is playing at Turtle Bay in Hawaii this week. In her very first tournament as a full-time LPGA member. She just finished her first round and finds herself in a tie for second. She may not win the tournament this week. But I hope she does. But even if she does, I doubt that would stop all those haters out there from hating her. Seriously. Don't be a hater. I love saying that. It makes me sound cool. Chyeah!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Most Gorgeous Guy...

These things only happen in the movies, but today it happened to ME in the supermarket. I totally just bumped into the guy, in the dried seaweed aisle at the local Korean supermarket. (Dried seaweed gets its own aisle, believe it or not.) Anyway, 5'10, 170, totally muscly, effortlessly beautiful hair swept off to one side. I thought he saw me, but apparently he didn't so that's how we ended up running into each other. The thing was, he kind of took hold of me with both arms and then looked into my eyes. Those piercing eyes!!! Oh my god, I was mentally drooling. And then he smiled!!! The most perfect set of white teeth ever. Now I'm melting like a Wicked Witch, absurdly fretting if the supermarket manager is going to yell at me for making such a mess in the dried seaweed aisle. I'm sorry, he said. I'm not, I replied. You're not, he laughed. Did I say that, I gulped. You did, he said. I'm sorry, I said. I'm not, he replied. You're not, I laughed. Did I say that, he gulped. You did, I said. I'm sorry, he said. And so and so on until... do you think I could get your number, he said. My number, I said. Your number, he said. My God, I said. What's wrong, he said. I don't think I can remember my number. Well, in that case, he said, let me write my number instead. And then he took my hand and wrote his number on my palm. He winked one of those devastatingly dark eyes, drew me close and whispered in my ear, call me, I think you're hot. And then I woke up to the sound of my alarm, cursing the world for being so cruel.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ask a Blogger #11

OK, this is a game created by a guy named AJ, at his blog AJ's Ramblings, and here are the rules:

1) Blogger 1 posts a question on his blog. 2) The first person to comment on said Blogger's post needs to post a comment directing readers to his/her blog, and then becomes Blogger 2. 3) Blogger 2 answers Blogger 1's question on his/her own blog (so Blogger 2's blog). 4) Blogger 2 posts a question on his/her blog. 5) And then the new Blogger repeats step 1-4.

(I feel this is so chain-lettery, lol, but I liked the question that Blogger #10 posed,, which was: Where's the most romantic place you'd like to go with the love of your life? And where's the most exciting place you'd like him/her to take you? Why?

Well, I don't have a BF, so this question really stirs up the imagination. Hawaii was a beautiful place, and I went to the Bahamas a few years ago. I don't think you could go wrong with any tropical island. But I think I would like to go back to Kenya, a country I visited about 12 years ago. Kenya seemed to combine the endless possibilities of romance and adventure and peace. I won't ever forget riding a jeep on the wide open plain, the wind ripping through my hair, the sun beating down, as we chased the zebras, gawked at the giraffes and marveled at the family of elephants. From my hotel window, the sun would sink in a glorious sky of melting colors. In the evenings you knew the Earth was a living creature, as you sensed its heartbeat and were made to feel like a cherished visitor. Good food, mellow wine, the warm night embracing you all at once. All this I would like to experience again with the one that I love.

As for the most exciting place I'd like HIM to take me, how awesome would it be if someone would take me to his parents' home and introduce me as the one he loves. I'd love to be able to sit down to dinner, and have stimulating conversation, and be part of birthdays and anniversaries and family celebrations. To be there in good times and bad times. I think that would be pretty exciting.

The next question I'd like someone to answer is: Who was the last person who made you feel better on a day when you were feeling totally depressed? Please describe why you were feeling sad and what specifically the person did to make you feel better.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Smell Something Foresty Here...

null - Watch more free videos

Eric Roth, the guy who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Forest Gump, has given us a very Curious Case to say the least. You see, he's also the writer of this year's blockbuster Oscar nominee The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Before I saw Button, I'd heard that it was quite a bit like Forest Gump. As I ogled Brad Pitt in scene after scene, the similarities somewhat eluded me, maybe because Button seemed to ring so hollow. It wasn't until I saw this video that I started cracking up.

So what was going through the mind of Eric Roth? Was he consciously plagiarizing himself, trying to catch that storm in a teacup again? Or does a writer, at some level, simply tell the same story over and over again? A curious case, indeed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Where Do You Want to Be Buried?

After all the health problems my father went through the past few weeks, I seriously thought that I was going to be planning his funeral. Thank God I can put that off for now. My mother and I discussed where he should be buried, as my father has indicated no preference. There's a cemetery out in Long Island that many of our family's Korean acquaintances are buried at. But that seemed far away.

My next door neighbor had his wife cremated and kept her ashes over his fireplace for 10 years until he passed away at the age of 88. He said he missed her all the time. I used to think that was kind of creepy until I realized how much I was going to miss my father when he was gone. (Of course, I could die first and then this post would all be moot.)

I think, as a general rule, people want to be buried in a place that they feel close to. For the longest time I thought I wanted to have my ashes scattered over a mountain in Korea, or over Korea's western coastline where I spent some of the happiest summers and winters. But having been away from Korea for over 5 years now, I am acutely aware that my heart isn't as close to those places as it used to be. At the moment I would have to say that I want to be buried next to my parents (which will probably be somewhere around New York City) since they have become my best friends and supporters. I told my brother as much (and I kind of hope I die before he does because I think it would be so sad to be the last surviving member of my immediate family.)

Maybe one day I will meet someone who loves me as much as I love him. Then I think I would want to be buried next to him. Of course, death can come at any time so there's no guarantee where I would end up.

I read the other day that in about 2.5 billion years, our Milky Way galaxy will collide with the Andromeda galaxy and when that happens there won't be any Earth anymore and everything buried on this planet will revert to being the stardust from which we all came. In middle school we learn that the heaviest element the sun can produce is helium. But not many bother reasoning that over 90 elements on this earth--many of which are in our bodies--came from somewhere outside our solar system. I think that's kind of spectacular--that we are all made of stardust that floated in from somewhere far, far away. And that one day we'll be back out there roaming the universe until by some miracle we come back to life once again.

It's The Housing Problem, Stupid

I just don't understand what all these highly-educated people in Washington are doing with all this money, when they really need to be doing ONE thing with all that money: STABILIZE THE HOUSING MARKET! I don't have a degree in finance or economics or business, but I do know that the problems started when average people back in 2006 were no longer able to afford $500,000 houses with $50,000 salaries. In short, the housing bubble burst.

Every day, I read online or watch CNN or MNBC and these so-called experts are trying to offer "clues" as to where the market may be heading, looking at retail numbers and manufacturing numbers and whatever other numbers. The only number that REALLY needs to be watched is HOUSING!!! Until average Americans know what their house is really worth in this market, no one is going to spend a dime. Plans for home rennovations will be scrapped. Maor purchases will be put on hold. College educations may have to wait. For most Americans, the house is their biggest asset, and when there is so much mystery surrounding the true worth of your most important asset, or even worse, when there are so many signs that the value of that asset continues to plummet, there is just NO CONFIDENCE to spend and loan any money.

For example, Obama has earmarked $6.2 billion for home weatherization, claiming that this will put people to work. I'm sorry, but which American homeowner is going to embark on a major home weatherization project in these times? Who can afford to throw thousands of dollars at a home weatherization project that might not recoup its value?

STABILIZE HOUSING!!!!!! A man's home is his castle. In America's case, housing is the foundation on which everything else is built. I remember back in 2005 when real estate was going through the roof, everyone was talking like they were millionaires. Taking out home equity loans to buy that second BMW. Go on vacation. Expand the business. Whatever. Now that homes are worth considerably less than what they were only three years ago (NYC just LOWERED its tax assessment of my house! Seriously, government NEVER lowers these numbers!), people are feeling a lot poorer.

The best thing the government could do with $900 billion is to have Fannie and Freddie buy up all these toxic mortgages and cut off a few percentage points for the borrowers. Force banks to make housing loans so the ONE-YEAR glut of NEW HOUSES still on the market starts disappearing; until those houses go, there will be constant downward pressure on housing. This is 7th grade economics! And then throw the banking architects into jail so that this problem does not repeat itself. Greed is a Hydra with a million heads that refuse to die--actually, even worse, because Greed is not mythological. This is not to say that the myriad of programs Obama wants to shore up are not worthy. They are. But he's putting the cart before the horse in his recovery strategy.

Really, these guys in Washington and on Wall Street are so clueless as to how Joe Six Pack lives and thinks. Stabilize housing. People will get a grip on what they're worth. They'll spend accordingly, and the economy will take off from there. God, it's really not that difficult.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I'm a Fan of Roger Ebert

Growing up, I was a fan of Siskel. Siskel was the nice man, with the nice smile, the easy way of talking and glints of good nature in his eyes. Ebert, the pudgy one, was of course, the mean one. The sour one. The one liable to be judged based on his mediocre looks. As long as Siskel gave his thumbs up, I didn't really care what Ebert thought.

When Gene Siskel died from complications of brain cancer in 1999, I was living in Korea and shocked by the news of his passing--you never expect someone to die at the age of 53. (He died on February 20.) And I wondered how Siskel and Ebert would continue. But it did. With a number of guest hosts until Richard Roeper stepped in and the show was renamed Ebert and Roeper. I think I saw maybe one or two episodes of Ebert and Roeper.

At some point I started reading Roger Ebert's reviews online. At first, for just the current batch of movies. But then, as I realized how great his writing was, I started reading the reviews for all the movies I had ever seen, and even for movies I hadn't seen. I read them for the insight they provided not only into the movie, but into the human condition and recently, into Ebert's own soul. The reviews aren't very long. Just long enough to say something meaningful and hopeful, and when the movie sucks, comical. And then I started reading his essays. On politics. On the sadness he felt when Siskel died. On how his own bout with cancer made him a lot more human. I began to really, really like Roger Ebert.

Ebert recently wrote an article about an emotion he dubbed Elevation, the feeling of uplift that's created when you see a good person doing a good thing. You hardly see many stories on the news, especially these days, that produce this feeling of Elevation. I wanted to post something today that would have been elevating. But after scouring the Internet, I kind of gave up. Which is how I ended up writing about Siskel and Ebert.

I will reveal a corny dream of mine: I dream of getting a four-star review from Roger Ebert someday for one of my screenplays. He gives out lots of 3-stars, and you know the movie was really kind of mediocre if it gets anything fewer than that. But he doesn't give out too many 4-stars. I think getting 4-stars from Roger Ebert would be even better than getting an Oscar.