Archive for April 2010
In a world where we know exactly what our neighbors are doing (some examples of Facebook updates/Tweets I’ve actually seen – Woke up today. Yay, I just took a shower. Hahaha, leaving my apartment now!), we have somehow cornered ourselves into this place where we’re bombarded with sensory and information overload.
Tonight, I watched two movies at the Kabuki – two that could not have been more different from one another. The first I watched because I read its description on the SF Int’l Film Festival site, and the director’s statement resonated with me. It’s an observation of a new relationship that leaves you questioning how long the lovers have known each other and what it is that keeps their union intact. While some of the intimate moments and characters’ sentiments may seem familiar to you, it was difficult to genuinely feel sympathy for them. I walked out feeling like I didn’t even want to empathize with either character. She, too needy and impulsive because of her insecurities. He, subconsciously dependent on success and acceptance by others, but lacking real confidence, resulting in the mistreatment of her and their relationship altogether. It’s not the type of movie you want to see with a date (something I should have emphasized more when Aaron offered to accompany me). That’s two hours he’ll never get back. Sorry, Aaron.
The second, and not just by comparison, was a complete breath of fresh air. Through luck (and being late for my shift as a festival volunteer), I was placed as an usher for the screening of Constantin and Elena. The young Romanian man who walked in on crutches (an injury due to partying at a post-festival event in another country) introduced us to the film with a humble demeanor that only a first-time, feature length documentary filmmaker could exemplify. He spoke of how he had hours of footage of his grandparents at their countryside home in a small Romanian village and how he’d never thought about turning it into an actual film until the footage was viewed by his mentor, Walter Murch. Murch convinced him that this was a project worth pursuing, and the editor-turned-director decided to work solely on it until late 2008 when he shopped it around the international festival circuit and received critical acclaim. A particular way to describe the film would be – Small events, large themes. A patient look into the daily lives of an elderly Romanian couple (who happens to be the director’s grandparents) will leave you with a lingering sense of hope. They’re in their 80s, fill their days with farm and needle work, revel in delight over grandchildren who visit, sing songs of their youth, declare simple truths, loyally attend religious gatherings and community events, practice vanishing traditions, and make being together and just getting along look easy. As a director wearing multiple hats, Andrei Dascalescu demonstrates effective intuition by using static camera positions in different locations of his grandparents’ home. There’s no musical score, except for the occasional sound of church music in the background and the heart warming singing of the two individuals portrayed. The audience is awarded an honest, no-frills view of idyllic (but economically challenging) life in a slow paced village.
What struck me was how much these two people reminded me of my own grandparents who still live in Hong Kong. In their tiny apartment in Oi Man Tsuen, they wake up each morning (bright and much too early), walk down to share a meal of dim sum, buy groceries for that night’s dinner (walking a number of additional blocks just to get a better deal on produce), shuffle around their apartment re-arranging things/looking for things, turn on the TV to watch a mid-day soap opera or the local news, misplace things, blame each other for misplacing things, and so on…As I watched Constantin and Elena go through their daily chores, I couldn’t help but feel a strong desire to walk out of the theater to call my grandparents and just check in on them. What’s worse is, I have a grandmother who lives in the same city that I only make an effort to see once or twice a month. The joy in their eyes when they’re visited by grandchildren is always transparent, which is why I’m ashamed that it takes an outside source to get me to see that. A simple phone call, a brief visit, even a handwritten note in the mail – these gestures mean so much to them, yet we don’t do it enough. And I’m not just talking about grandparents.
The director stayed for a Q&A and noted that this film, although unintentional, is a legacy that his grandparents are leaving behind. Just like the rugs that Elena works on continuously throughout the film, people who see this are going to remember them for being themselves while the cameras were rolling. And really, what lovely selves they seem to be.
Do you ever feel sadistic? Like you’re out to get yourself and willing to threaten any good thing that can happen to you? On more than one occasion, I’ve entered a romantic relationship hearing these words in the back of my mind: “This relationship will self destruct in…X.5 seconds.”
I have this theory that, in general, creative people thrive most when they’re unattached. Think about it. All that pent-up sexual frustration (that’s if you’re not getting any), all that free time being independent, all those people you meet and talk to without thinking for a second, “Oh no! Should I go back to insert name here? They’re looking over here. Maybe I shouldn’t be so wrapped up in this conversation with someone other than shmoopy pie.” Don’t worry. I don’t actually call my significant other “shmoopy pie.” I only use that with the guys I really dig.
Anyway, I keep going back and forth about how being in a relationship (negatively) affects you as an individual. My boyfriend and I have discussed this, and although you wouldn’t think this when meeting him, he is so damn sweet in his conclusions. It usually makes me wonder whether he’s being genuine – it’s that damn sweet. And the ironic thing is, I’m not even looking out for my best interest. I’m really looking out for him. I want him to not just be full of potential, but actually be able to reach his full potential.
Sometimes, I think that my ex-boyfriends are better off without me. My college boyfriend, after we broke up, became a research assistant to this amazing, well-respected professor slash CNN correspondent who wrote a successful book that I’m sure you’ve read or have come across in any popular global studies/political science/international relations course. He went on to get accepted into a competitive, paid-for, Masters program at a prestigious institution in London to pursue further studies and world travel before settling down in good ol’ Portland. My former boyfriend got promoted to being a manager at his large corporation and is now getting well-deserved recognition for the great work that he does every day in his job. Why does it seem like things get better for them after you’re out of their lives? These two individuals now have new girlfriends, and things are just fine and dandy (or so they seem).
I might be completely sabotaging the price of my stock as I write this. But hey, I’m the only one who’s stuck with me forever, so, might as well be honest, right?
To my “shmoopy”, who may or may not be reading this, you know how I feel about this sort of thing. I hope our relationship isn’t hampering your ability to be creative. (Do people even say hampering anymore? I swear, my vocabulary is so archaic sometimes. *Note to self – observe and listen to what the kids are saying these days.)
I wish my school programs would start already. Then, I wouldn’t have the time nor energy to write about things that may or may not get me in trouble.
A particularly proactive woman who attended an APAP meeting at my apartment tonight mentioned she’d just set up a fundraising page to benefit a few families of the Asian victims who were attacked in Oakland and SF over the last few months. Please consider donating, even if it’s only $10, to assist in covering the funeral expenses these families will have to face. No one should have to bury their family members due to “random” acts of violence.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the San Francisco screening of Vincent Who? This was the first public event hosted by APAP’s Bay area chapter, and it turned out very well. Initially, we worried about headcount since the amount of space available was limited; however, we didn’t have any problems accommodating everyone who showed up. Looking forward to the next event we put on. Until then, here’s an overview I wrote about last week’s screening on APAP’s website.
There have been multiple times during my 3.5 years here when I have felt “starstruck” when spotting or meeting a chef. There was the time when I was on a date at Absinthe, and we asked if Jamie Lauren (one of the past contestants on Bravo’s much-loved Top Chef) would come out to meet us. There was another time at Out the Door, off of Fillmore, when I shook hands and briefly chatted with Charles Phan. I even got a little hot and bothered when I was browsing racks, elbow to elbow, at Macy’s in Union Square, with another Top Chef contestant, who (to be honest) didn’t even seem all that impressive on the show.
Are we obsessed with food? From what I’ve observed since coming back from my SE Asia trip – even though I’m unquestionably “under-employed,” I’m still spending the same amount of money and frequenting the same type of places I was going to when I was receiving a direct deposit of a F/T paycheck twice a month. The way I try to justify how and what I consume on a daily basis remains mind-boggling. I’ll skip riding the bus a few blocks to save the $2 fare, but that same day, I’ll order a locally sourced, organic, gourmet meal from a Zagat-rated, Tablehopper-approved, 5-star Yelp-reviewed, Thrillist-email blasted restaurant thinking, “Ah, this is the good life.”
In this city, we talk about food more than we talk about anything. I’ve come to realize that some of the longest conversations I’ve had with others have revolved around the places we’ve tried, ones we’d recommend to friends, those we’re dying to try, and the actual physical reactions we’ve had to flavor combinations/creations/delicacies we’ve put in our mouths. Hell, I feel like I gain a few pounds just talking or thinking about all the pig parts I’ve consumed in the last 12 months.
We’re so fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing resources. The farms, the vineyards, the dairies…this area has it all. You couldn’t eat badly even if you tried, with all the options available. Yes, there are chains in San Francisco. But really, look around, there are a lot of mom and pop places, as well as “foodie” places to get your munch (or brunch) on. You really can have your pick here.
Trust me, it pains me every time I have to shell out anything close to $10 for a sandwich (which I could definitely make at home), but when someone like Jamie Lauren is handing it to you, who could resist?
Note: I do plan to find another p/t job to support this lifestyle of luxury eating.
Note (post-publish): I can’t neglect to say that finding a job serving in this city doesn’t require you to sleep with the manager (as it might for actresses with directors in the film industry); however, it almost requires that you have tattoo sleeves, at least one facial piercing, an alternative sexual orientation, and skinny jeans in every wash, if not several pairs of “jeggings“. Ok, I’m stepping off the box now.
In the fall of 2001, I was a freshman living on the co-ed, 7th floor of a UCSB dorm called San Nicholas (aka San Nic). I was majoring in Psychology and loving every minute of what dorm life had to offer. Coming from a small town where Friday night football games were the climax of your weekends, this was the ultimate, young adult’s paradise. (Little did I know that the next four years would encompass more freedom than any ordinary young adult could handle.)
I met my college boyfriend through some of the guys we hung out with whom lived on the floor below us. Unbeknownst to me, he was in my Intro to Psych course and was seated a few rows behind me in the discussion group we attended the first day of class that September. Later, he would reveal that he chuckled when he saw that I was one of the very few students who had to get up and collect parental permission slips in order to attend the course, since the content would cover adult “themes.” I was not yet 18.
After a few months of bumping into him within the halls of my floor (he was frequently paying visits to “the guys”), seeing him in mutual friends’ rooms during “Century” sessions, listening to him on the balcony next to my room ramble on and on about global politics and complain about how Americans just don’t get it, I started to warm up to him. He suddenly dropped out of my Psych class, and for about a month, I didn’t see him as often. One night, I came back from the dining commons with my roomate and another girl friend who lived a few doors down and opened the door to our room to find a label-less cd in a blank case lying on the floor, just past the threshold. I picked it up and read the small, typed, cut-out label that said,
“For Winnie, We live in a crazy world.”
At first, I was intrigued. Why would anyone leave something like that for me, unsigned? Was that creepy? Did I have some kind of stalker? Was someone on my floor playing a prank and waiting to see my reaction?
My friend Liana and I sat there and tried to come up with ideas on what this meant. We threw the cd in my Dell (remember those?) and decided to spend the next hour or so deciphering the songs to figure out who this mystery person could be. We came up with all sorts of ideas, went off on tangents, analyzed the lyrics of each song, and came up with nothing. I had no clue. Neither did she. We kept pointing our fingers back to one of our friends who lived across the hall from me, Brad. You could tell from listening to the selection of songs that this person was either very deep, very disturbed, or going through something very emotional/spiritual all by himself (or herself).
Some time later, he revealed himself to me (although I can’t remember whether it was through a 4-page letter he left in my room while I was gone or unabashedly in person). Regardless, his methods of getting my attention struck a chord. We went on to be part of a three-year relationship (although on and off), and I have him to thank for introducing me to some of the best underground hip hop music I had ever been exposed to. Ironically, he was a very American guy from a very American town in Northern California. You would’ve never guessed from the beats he would play.
The relationship I was in almost a year after graduating college was different from any relationship I had ever been in. I had learned so much after reflecting on the mistakes I made in the past. I tried to be as open, honest, and giving as I possibly could be. Most importantly, I tried my best to accept the fact that being in a relationship means you’re going to have to be vulnerable. At first, I resisted getting into the relationship. I wasn’t sure I was ready. I didn’t want to be so close to someone. I had just moved to the East bay, literally meeting him a few days after having arrived. We met at Dave & Busters through another mutual friend I went to college with, and I have to be honest, neither of us remember much about that night except for the fact that he got my number before I walked out the door. We said our farewells, and about a week later, on NYE, I got a text wishing me a Happy New Years. At the time, I didn’t know who the sender was, but texted back something along the lines of the same sentiments. I finally figured out who it was a few days later, and thus began our courtship.
At the beginning, when I was most resistant, he gave me a cd he had made. There was one song on this disk that I could not get out of my head and would eventually become the song that would remind me of him every time it played, even to this day. I truly believe that it was this one song that opened my eyes and allowed me to open my arms and welcome him into my life for two and a half years.
I know what you’re thinking.
It’s not to say that I’m swept off my feet every time someone of the opposite sex hands me a mix. I just see a pattern where music represents phases of my life, especially in regards to being in relationships. I’m certain I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’m certain that you can name particular songs that remind you of particular people or historic moments in your life. I just find it amusing that music can play such a major role in bringing two people closer to each other. There are times now, in my current relationship, that I’ll look into this person’s eyes and hear a song playing in my head, and it’s a song reserved for him. Even the most vivid memories can blur, but like scents that you pick up from a draft through an open door, a chord can bring back the nostalgia of something that was very important to you at a point in time. Nothing can get in the way of that.
With that said, I hope you hear all different types of music throughout your life.