Thursday, November 30, 2006

Too old for "modern romance"

Myabe I'm just getting old and can no longer keep up with the new ways of communication. I understand that teenagers and people outside of the U.S. use text messaging much more than the rest of us. While I understand that texting is very convenient, I can't imagine carrying on meaningful conversations. How do you accont for intonation, sarcasm... emotion to set the tone? This is when I wonder how much I lack in social skills.

I can see how a technology like this would be convenient for friends. It would be nice to know there and then that I could say "hi" to someone a rarely get to see rather than find out days later than we missed running into each other by 10 minutes.

I heard about the growing idea of mobile romance before. At first, it seems so odd to set up your phone to alert you when a potential date is nearby. Then again, since I hate the impersonalness of the Internet, it seems like a nice way to test chemistry right away. It can't hurt to say "hello" and chat for a few minutes - kind of like a speed date.

One concern, based on my observations of online dating, what if you match what they're looking for but they don't match what you want? There are plenty of people who's preferences are quite different and yet they still try to make contact. I don't really want to meet the guy who's 48, smokes, is divorced with two kids. Nothing wrong with the person, just not anywhere in my target range. Now there's an awkward moment or more, especially if friends are present. Those possible meetings would discourage me from trying such an offering. On second thought, I suppose it would be nice to have the backup in case the guy is weird, and there'd be people to laugh with afterwards.

If I could be assured the alerts were from a mutual match, then it might be interesting. And, it would be nice to have a summary of the man's profile before they approach just to be able to double check and have a conversation starter.

Then again... I don't really go to bars or clubs these days so I guess I'm not the appropriate demographic for this new trend. ;)

Modern romance: Get texted when love is near
By Grace Wong
Special to CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Online dating is so last year. Now, if you're thinking romance, look to your mobile phone.

Match-making companies are creating new services that allow people to post their dating profile online and then automatically receive a text message on a GPS-enabled phone when a match is nearby, say, at a coffee shop around the corner.

The phenomenon, also known as "mobile romance," already has arrived in China, home to some 430 million mobile phone users. Most Chinese wireless service providers offer dating services to drive text message usage, which in turn creates revenue, according to Liu Bin, an analyst with BDA China Ltd., a Beijing-based telecommunications consulting firm.

Similar services are also cropping up in the United States. Dodgeball, which Google bought last year, alerts people to the locations of their friends and potential dates via text messages on their cell phone.

Socialight, another application for the mobile phone, works more like a tagging service. It lets users create virtual "sticky notes" wherever they are with their cell phone. If you're at a music concert, for instance, you can create a note. Then if your friends approach your location, they're notified on their phone. (A new version of Socialight is under development and the service will be unavailable until that version is launched.)

Dodgeball doesn't use GPS to track its users' locations. Instead, when a user goes to a bar, they "check in" with Dodgeball by sending a text message. Dodgeball then relays their location to the friends in their network, also via a text message.

Daniel Doubrovkine, 30, a heavy Dodgeball user in New York, said he uses the service to connect with friends, not romantic partners.

"It's a convenient way to tell all my friends where I am without bothering them," he said. "I use Dodgeball from work, home, wherever."

Leading online dating site offers a mobile service that allows members to look for romance on-the-go. They can send text messages to people who match their profile, but there isn't a location-based feature that alerts them when someone is nearby.

Mobile dating is such a new trend that the size of its user base isn't even closely followed. In a survey of online dating users conducted by Jupiter Research, barely a fraction of them said they use mobile platforms in search of romance, according to Nate Elliott, a Jupiter Research analyst.

Elliott thinks the Internet, not GPS-enabled mobile phones, will continue to dominate the hi-tech ways people seek romance in the United States. "For the foreseeable future, mobile's best use is as a channel to drive consumers back to Web sites," he said.

But younger generations more comfortable with newer technologies could change how people connect. The attitude of today's youth toward cell phones and technology is vastly different from that of adults, said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Younger mobile users have moved well beyond voice when it comes to their phones, he said. For instance, more than three in four of them use text messaging (versus one in four adults) and nearly half of them use their phones to instant message.

These so-called "tech natives" have grown up with a variety of different communication methods. "They have more tools at their disposal and aren't intimidated by technology itself," Golvin said.

But for now, some users are skeptical about the ability of services like Dodgeball to spark real romance.

Doubrovkine, the Dodgeball user, said people don't need Dodgeball to find dates. (A feature of the service lets you designate "crushes" online -- they're then alerted to your location when you're nearby.)

"People hook up in bars all the time. You don't need text messaging to do that," he said.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Underestimating Yourself

Talking about insecurities reminded me of this e-mail a friend sent recently. It makes me think of the saying "Marketing is everything and everything is marketing." It would seem that anything can be explained by the law of economics as well. (Didn't John Nash come up with his Nobel prize-winning, economics theory based on which girl to approach in the bar in "A Beautiful Mind?")

I definitely am very confused by the whole "friendly" thing. I never know whether a guy is just genuinely friendly to all people or is trying to get close to me. There doesn't seem to be a particularly consistent rule from guy to guy on how to tell. I don't think I've ever guessed that one right, nor ever will. Oh well.


Don't misunderestimate yourself
Nov 23rd 2006
From The Economist print edition

Why people think that rivals are better looking than they really are IF YOU have ever sat alone in a bar, depressed by how good-looking everybody else seems to be, take comfort—it may be evolution playing trick on you. A study just published in Evolution and Human Behavior by Sarah Hill, a psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin, shows that people of both sexes reckon the sexual competition they face is stronger than it really is. She thinks that is useful: it makes people try harder to attract or keep a mate.

Dr Hill showed heterosexual men and women photographs of people. She asked them to rate both how attractive those of their own sex would be to the opposite sex, and how attractive the members of the opposite sex were. She then compared the scores for the former with the scores for the latter, seen from the other side. Men thought that the men they were shown were more attractive to women than they really were, and women thought the same of the women.

Dr Hill had predicted this outcome, thanks to error-management theory — the idea that when people (or, indeed, other animals) make errors of judgment, they tend to make the error that is least costly. The notion was first proposed by Martie Haselton and David Buss, two of Dr Hill's colleagues, to explain a puzzling quirk in male psychology.

As studies show, and many women will attest, men tend to misinterpret innocent friendliness as a sign that women are sexually interested in them. Dr Haselton and Dr Buss reasoned that men who are trying to decide if a woman is interested sexually can err in one of two ways. They can mistakenly believe that she is not interested, in which case they will not bother trying to have sex with her; or they can mistakenly believe she is interested, try, and be rejected. From an evolutionary standpoint, trying and being rejected comes at little cost, except for hurt feelings. Not trying at all, by contrast, may mean the loss of an opportunity to, among other things, spread one's DNA.

There is an opposite bias in women's errors. They tend to undervalue signs that a man is interested in a committed relationship. That, the idea goes, is because a woman who guesses wrongly that a man intends to stick around could end up raising a child alone.

On looks, however, men and women make the same error. So go on, luck up your courage: you may think the competition is righteningly hot, but then so does she.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Welcome Weekend

I can't believe it's back to work. Time flies too quickly these days.

I awoke at a decent time on Thursday morning. I walked over to the deserted strip mall to pick up the all important newspaper. Only the parking lot of the grocery store was full of cars. I sat around all morning, with the tv running in the background, as I scanned the Black Friday ads to determine what I wanted to buy and where to go the next morning. Ever since they made it 5am opening, I've sworn off getting up early, but I still try and go as soon as I get up.

I cooked up a side dish of green beans and mushrooms before heading over to my friend's Thanksgiving dinner. Besides Jew and Matrix, her boyfriend, I did not know anyone attending. Some of my friends tried to give me the spin that I might meet a guy there, but I knew better. And, I was right, pretty much everyone there was a couple. I suppose it was interesting to meet some new people. The conversations were okay, but I have to admit, they got a bit dry. I used my early shopping plans as an excuse to leave a little early.

Friday, with all the excitement brewing in my head, I woke up early - 5:01AM to be exact. I imagined all the people pushing their way through the doors of the stores. I thought I heard cheering coming from the strip mall a couple blocks away. It was probably just my imagination. When I reached over to turn off my 6AM alarm, I realized that I had forget to set it. How funny.

I managed to pick up a few goodies, though I'm not sure it was worth standing in line for 2.5 hours. Yuck! At least I now own seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5 of Gilmore Girls. (Hopefully they'll have seasons 4 and 6 on sale next year.) It also meant that I missed going to a couple other places that had morning specials and items that I thought would make nice gifts.

I returned home with just enough time to gulp down a couple bites to eat before going up to the auto show with Tim. We met up with Ig and Turk. I'm not in the market for a car, but it's fun to attend the show every few years to see what's new in cars. GPS technology is moving towards becoming a standard. While I see it's benefits, I can't help wonder how dependent it could make some people. Where's the mental development when everything is done for you?

From the car show, a few of us gathered at Hula and Drummer's place for a friendly evening. I was rather grumpy as we arrived at the house. Getting my period and already having been awake for 14 hours of standing and walking didn't make for a good mood. When I complained to Tim about feeling lonely, depressed and fat, he was sweet and assured me that I was probably just feeling bloated because of my period and not fat. I put on my happy face and greeted all my friends. We ate Thanksgiving leftovers supplemented with take-out Thai food.

The rest of the weekend consisted of a little more shopping, watching football, online shopping, wrapping gifts, and making potstickers. I really liked staying in on Sunday and mucking around in my pajamas.


The best thing was catching up on Survivor. I watched Thursday's episode on Sunday night. During the immunity challenge, the players were required to cling to a wooden pole interspersed with ropes. The ropes provided a narrow ledge that could be used to rest feet against or grip. The goal was to remain up as long as possible without touching the ground.

As Jonathan struggle to keep his footing, Jeff Probst engaged him in conversation.

Jeff: Where are you feeling it Jonathan?

Jonathan: My feet a little bit. My feet are a lot bigger so, a little bit of rope... just hard, I guess

Yul: I think Jon has a point though...

Jeff: What's that?

Yul: Well, basically the surface area supporting all of us is about the same. Even if you're feet are a bit bigger or not. But, you know, you're, you're mass goes up at a faster rate than surface area. It's kind of like why elephants can't run up trees.

[The group laughs.]

Jeff: Just what I was thinking.

Parvatti: Clearly.

Yul: [shaking his head] I'm never going to get a date again.

Parvatti: Smart equals sexy.

My immediate thought as Yul gave his physics lesson was - oh know, this is going to make him a target. As he expressed his concern about his geekiness affecting his image, I thought "but I like hearing a guy think like that." I then added, "but then he's probably referring to dating hot girls, not gals like me."

It's something I would consider just "normal" until a situation like this where other people would find it out of place. It's hilarious because you know the other people there were not expecting that level of analysis. Maybe it's because I can see myself thinking things like this that I can relate. Sure, you don't want to get intellectual around people all the time, but an occasional sharing of knowledge makes for fun conversation. The minute I saw the challenge, I wanted a scientific explanation of the best physical position to stand in the outlast the competition. I expressed how endearing his comments were. Ig pointed out Parvatti's comment and noted "and she's hot."

Then the guys got into a bit of a discussion when Ig said, "a guy like Yul can say things like that because he's good looking."

"He's not *that* good looking, it's just that he happens to" have the whole package. I can't remember exactly what Tim said but it was interesting to see how we all had different perspectives on the situation.

We discussed how Yul's now listed as one of People's sexy men. I also explained to the guys that Yul wasn't always so fit and muscular. A high school buddy of his was surprised at the first episode of the show and exclaimed, "since when did he get so ripped." It seemed to make the Ig feel better that perhaps a few years ago, Yul was just another average Asian guy.

It seems we all have our insecurities. It reminds me how important it is to be okay with yourself and know that others aren't necessarily better than you. They may just hide things better. I don't know if I could find someone like Yul for myself, but I hope that I may keep in mind to look past the superficial and remember to get to know the person and let them be a little vulnerable with me without penalizing them for it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Almost getting what you asked for

When I'm in a bad mood, feeling depressed about life, I have sometimes expressed to myself a desire to be hit by a car. Pain begets the desire for more pain I suppose.

Over the weekend, I was continuing my holiday shopping. Going from the bookstore to the farmers' market, I waited at a small left turn signal on El Camino Real. Normally the turn onto Ph St. would be a simple turn lane with the choice left up to the driver. Since the street is parallel to two major streets, I guess the city decided a traffic signal would be safer.

So I sat waiting for my light to change to green. The light one half block ahead was red. I figured I would have my turn before the three-lane onslaught rolled through their intersection to block my path. To my surprise, however, their light turned green while I stared at my red light.

The herd of cars passed me by. I didn't really pay much attention since I figured it would be a good couple minutes before my turn came. After a small gap in the flow of cross traffic, my light turned green. I was surprised that it would let me go when there was another small group of cars headed towards me. But it seemed the cars were slowing down, so I pulled out.

As my car went forward about 50 ft. I heard some honking. I continued taking my left turn and checked my mirror to see what the commotion was about. In my rear view, I saw two lanes of cars stopped at the light, but in the third lane (nearest to the median), was a car in the middle of the intersection. The woman in the passenger seat was looking towards me in a daze.

In those few seconds as I finished crossing El Camino Real and drove down Ph, I slowly processed what just happened. I looked back again to see the cars that had stopped move again, though the honking car seemed to still be sitting in the road. At first, I was mad that they had honked at me, after all, I had the right of way.

Then, I second guessed myself and wondered if I had misread the traffic signal. Had I driven recklessly? But then why would the other two cars have stopped at the road mark? I'm sure I saw the green light illuminated. Should I have turn around to confront the car? Were they stopped waiting for me to come back to talk with them?

In my state of confusion and oblivion, I drove another four blocks to my destination, though admittedly more cautiously. I sat in my car for a moment. Based on the few facts I had gathered from that incident, one of two possibilities seems most likely:

1) The honking car had not seen the red light since it was not an obvious "T" intersection and slammed on their brakes to stop after running the red.

2) Both lights were green and the incidence should be reported so that the city can fix the light.

I wasn't scared but certainly concerned. Fortunately, nothing happened, there was no contact. Imagine what could have happened. They likely would have hit me square in the side of my car or clipped the back trunk area. My air bags would have deployed and the car possibly would have spun around. It would have been a nasty way to start the day.

There's no way to know how serious the accident would have been, but I think about it. Now, I think I shouldn't wish to be in a car accident. Driving is a dangerous activity that people take for granted. I'll be watching cars more carefully for awhile (especially this time of year) and waiting a little longer before pulling out in front of opposing traffic.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

ASIAN POP / Do you think we're sexy?

Just thought this was funny after my mention previously of Koreans in the celebrity spotlight.

So I guess the question is... with Yul being such a great guy and all... will the fame and fortune go to his head? Will he become a "jerk" despite the charms and down-to-earth attitude that have made him so popular?

ASIAN POP / Do you think we're sexy?
By Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate
Thursday, November 22, 2006

As George Clooney celebrates his second time around as People's "Sexiest Man Alive," Jeff Yang looks at the status of Asian men in American culture. From Gedde Watanabe in "16 Candles" to Daniel Dae Kim in "Lost," it seems like the image of the Asian male has come a long way, baby. Or ... has it?

Flipping through my glossy copy of People's annual "Sexiest Man Alive" issue (Double sized! Over 200 hunks-a hunks-a burnin' love inside!) has led me to a couple of quick conclusions. The first is that George Clooney is, indeed, a piping-hot serving of manwich. I mean, I'm a straight, married male with a kid, but I can still see how if I were of a different gender or sexual orientation, I'd have great difficulty throwing Clooney out of bed for eating whole-grain Tuscan crostini.

The second is that, even so, Clooney is not even close to my pick for the Sexiest Man Alive. In fact, I wouldn't even call him the sexiest man in the Nov. 27 edition of People. That's because the issue also contains Y-- Kwon, described by People's editors in interviews as a Sexiest Man Alive "finalist" and profiled in the mag's section on "Sexy Men in Sexy Environments."

Clooney is smart, funny, owns an Italian villa, and is the kind of sharply dressed man that ZZ Top correctly noted every woman's crazy 'bout. But Kwon is another creature entirely -- a genetic specimen so undeniably ideal (at least in comparison to yours truly, as both wife and mother have hinted) that he prompts thoughts of the classic comedy "Twins."

This is Y--: classically sculpted features, egg-carton abs, able to reconstruct civilization on a desert island with nothing more than a pair of coconuts and a feral chicken. And this is me: laughably doughy features, egg-shaped physique, desperately trying to file a piece on sexy Asian guys before my editor sends burly men to snap my fingers like takeout chopsticks. It shouldn't be difficult to identify who's the Arnie and who's the Danny in this comparison.

"The thing about Y-- that's compelling is that he's smart, he's strong, he's a leader, but he knows when to show strength and when to be restrained, and God, look at those abs," says Cynthia Wang, People's associate L.A. bureau chief. "Everyone was saying, 'Wow, we can't miss that man, the way he looks, the way he behaves -- he's got to be part of this issue.' And as both an Asian American and, admittedly, a reality TV junkie, it's great to see that."

There are other Asian men in the "Sexiest Man Alive" issue, too -- including "Harold and Kumar"'s John Cho, "Lost"'s Daniel Dae Kim and Hong Kong pop idol/"Grudge 2" star Edison Chen. In fact, if you take it at face value that People magazine is a reflection of, well, people and their attitudes toward mainstream popular culture, you'd have to say that the image of Asian men has taken an enormous leap forward in the two decades since the "Sexiest Man" issue was inaugurated (with the original honor going to Mel Gibson -- lo, how the mighty have fallen).

Not So Fast, a Bit More Furious?

Of course, not everyone buys into that line of reasoning. Take for example Ethan Lee, UC Berkeley grad and creator of a buzzed-about new Web comic called "Single Asian Female," which he calls an attempt to encapsulate some of what he learned in his Asian American Studies classes into "a form that's easy to read and understand."

If it seems a little weird for guy to be writing a strip called "Single Asian Female," well, Lee says it's because he wanted to talk about issues that could only be effectively expressed from the point of view of an Asian American woman -- "like the story about Asian females getting hit on by white guys with Asian fetishes."

Also, as some on the Web have suggested, people are a lot more likely to read a strip with an Asian American female protagonist -- just like they're more willing to watch news with an Asian American anchor, or more likely to accept an Asian woman as a romantic lead.

"Asian men are still stereotyped as geeky, sexless losers, including by some Asian American women," says Lee. "I remember that even in my Asian American Studies classes, there were two or three Asian women who bragged how they only date white men. I distinctly remember one of them saying, 'I'm afraid an Asian man might beat me,' and another saying, 'Well, I've always been attracted to the Abercrombie and Fitch model type.'"

But, I ask him, is that really representative? Even if there are attitudes like that out there, it's hard to think that those are really the norm today. Certainly things have changed in the past 20 years, with society moving -- slowly -- toward a more progressive, inclusive standard of beauty, right?

Lee doesn't think so. "Go to any newsstand, and just stand back and look at the magazine rack," he says. "Over 90 percent of the people looking back are going to be white. If you exclude Beyonce, Oprah and a bunch of athletes, you're talking more like 99 percent. That's what Asian Americans internalize when they think about who's sexy, about who they want to get with. They think: 'White people are sexy, and we want to get it on with a guy like George Clooney.'"

Jeff Adachi, San Francisco public defender and producer/director of "The Slanted Screen," a documentary exploring the evolution of the Asian male image in film and television, is somewhat more sanguine. "Slanted Screen" also makes the case that representation in media both reflects and impacts societal attitudes -- but Adachi believes that the worst excesses of Hollywood history are behind us, and a new breed of Asian American actors, producers and directors is crashing the show-biz gates in a way that's not only increasing the number of Asians in film and on TV but reframing the way we're being portrayed as well.

"Historically, it's true, Hollywood tended to take three steps forward and two steps back," he says. "But we're positioned now to make much larger gains than in the past. You look at this younger generation of Asian Americans, who didn't grow up immersed in civil rights, and the idea of being constrained by race is completely foreign to them. ["Mad TV" cast member] Bobby Lee, he told me he never auditions for an Asian role, because he knows he's not going to get it -- it's going to go to the really good-looking Asian guy. So he only auditions for 'white' roles -- and he gets them, because he's funny and talented and doesn't have any baggage. He went out for a commercial that was looking for a 'mountain man,' a guy living out by himself in the wilderness, and he said he was the only person of color to show up for the audition. Everyone else was a big, bearded Caucasian guy. And he got the role."

I'm Too Sexy (for This Column)

That brash, damn-the-torpedoes, what-do-I-have-to-lose sensibility isn't just a blueprint for storming the gates of Hollywood; it's also a critical ingredient in the recipe for masculine sex appeal, regardless of race, ethnicity and culture. A nation of emo boys notwithstanding, being comfortable with who you are, even defiantly so, can make the gnarliest of dudes a lovebeast of epic proportions. It's what makes mirror-shattering rock stars like Mick Jagger, Steve Tyler and Ric Ocasek such model magnets (well, that and a few million in the bank).

"I think if you compare the general demeanor and attitudes of young Asian American men now versus a generation ago -- when people like you and me were coming of age -- you'll find a lot more self-confidence," says Oliver Wang, cultural critic, assistant professor of sociology at California State University, Long Beach, and fellow blogger at the Asian American papa community Rice Daddies. "Not that we've reached the promised land of secure masculinity yet. Hell, what men have?"

Karin Chien, producer of "The Motel" and "Robot Stories," agrees. "Sexiness comes from within," she says. "It's confidence and power and success and humor all rolled up into one big package. Sexiness is knowing that you're hot, no matter what anyone else in the room -- or anyone at People magazine -- says."

Which brings me to my biggest reflection upon perusing this year's "SMA." Clooney isn't the sexiest man in the issue. But Y-- Kwon, for all of his drop-forged perfection, isn't, either. From my humble perspective, 2006's Sexiest Man Alive is none other than Masi Oka, breakout star of the hit show "Heroes."

I've dropped a lot of love on "Heroes" recently, not only because I'm an addict of the program but because I think it captures the zeitgeist in a way that other series -- including the desperate denizens of Wisteria Lane and the Other-haunted castaways of "Lost" -- do not. We live in a time when we're searching for heroes. But in searching for them, we're also redefining them, casting them in new and more mundane images. We don't want flash, we want familiarity. We're seeking the extraordinary, but with an accent on the ordinary.

The heroic quest of Oka's character, Hiro Nakamura, isn't just saving the world; it's reframing the cultural dialogue on masculinity and sexual appeal, and reinventing the notion of heroism itself. Recent episodes have shown a new side to Hiro -- his romantic streak -- and my friends and I hope that the show's writers let him succeed in his chivalrous journey to save his perky soul mate, a Texas greasy-spoon waitress with superhuman mnemonic powers. (And yes, she's white, though interracial relationship issues seem refreshingly abstracted in "Heroes" -- there are at this count three significant trans-ethnic couples in the series, with nary a single reference yet to race, which, depending on your perspective, is either a sign of more tolerant times or proof positive that the show exists in a parallel universe.)

Hiro is a doughy, bespectacled and flamboyant out-of-the-cubicle geek -- a manga addict, a comic book fanboy, a hard-core Trekker. But he's so at one with his inner dork (which is also his outer dork) that it all ultimately proves irresistibly charming -- even, you know, sexy.

"I was talking to Tim Kring, the show's creator, and he told me that Hiro's character is completely the work of Masi," says People's Wang. "The way Hiro was written, the character wasn't nearly as funny and interesting as Masi's made him. The way Masi decided to play him has actually changed the direction of how the season's playing out. Did you know that all the Japanese dialogue in the show -- Masi does the translations himself. The script is written in English, and Masi converts the lines that are supposed to be in Japanese into phrases that are appropriate, slangwise. And that's kind of lost on people who don't speak the language. But it's part of what has made his character so authentic and appealing."

That's the ticket, right? It's always been out there -- it's the moral of every made-for-teens TV movie, the end zone of every sitcom's "Very Special Episode": Be at home in your own skin -- don't try to reformat yourself to the world's expectations, be yourself, love yourself, and just maybe, the world will follow.

Of course, we -- and the cast of "Heroes" -- have a long way to go before we can fix the world's problems. For one thing, the online poll at People's Web site, asking readers to vote on the show's sexiest male cast member, has Masi Oka stuck at 2 percent; floppy-haired Milo Ventimiglia is in the lead at 30 percent. I'm not saying that everyone who reads this should head over and crash the vote. But on the other hand, on behalf of Masi, me and hundreds of thousands of other happily (extra)ordinary dweebs, I leave you with this cryptic message:

Save the fanboy. Save the world.

Jeff Yang forecasts new Asian and Asian American consumer trends for the market-research company Iconoculture ( He is the author of "Once Upon a Time in China: A Guide to the Cinemas of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China" (Atria Books) and co-author of "I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action" (Ballantine) and "Eastern Standard Time" (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin). He lives in New York City. Go to to join Jeff Yang's biweekly mailing list offering updates on this column and alerts about other breaking Asian and Asian American pop-culture news.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tryptophan and other sleep aids

Tonight I'm off to join friends for dinner and "Casino Royale" starring the new James Bond, Daniel Craig. I'm really happy they chose a less suave more rugged Bond this time around. Pierce was good looking but he lacked that edge.

Tomorrow I hope to get in an early morning hike before cooking a vegetarian side dish for my friend's Thanksgiving gathering.

Friday, I admit it, I'm a sucker for Black Friday shopping. I used to go when the stores open at 7am but screw those 5am sales. I'll just take the leftovers and enjoy those extra hours of sleep. And maybe I'll go see the car show. Wheee!

And then somewhere amongest all those activities, I'll rent "An Inconvenient Truth," inventory my donations box and find my Xmas cards. Did I mention I hope to sleep too? Phew!

Have a wonderful four-day weekend everyone!

Not your normal shopping

This article was on the front page of the local news site yesterday - 37 Percent of U.S. Births Out of Wedlock.

As I read it and thought about it, I got distracted from my work and considered my own situation. Thirty-six is fast approaching. I don't have a boyfriend, I have no current prospects, I'm not signed up for any online dating, that fact of the matter is I have little inclination beyond well-meaning friends to meet potential single men.

And yet, here I sit, knowing that my time is growing short to have a child of my own. Adoption is something I still have many years to consider, but the opportunity to share a blood line and give birth to my offspring will not last.

Whenever I try and seriously consider the idea of being a single mother, I get incredibly scared. A desire to cry emerges from somewhere deep in my heart. I shake my hands as if that makes the ghostly feeling fade away.

Out of curiosity, I googled for a couple sperm bank websites. I experienced the same feelings I used to have whenever I walked into churches before college - that I was trespassing in a place where I don't belong. (My old-fashioned notion is that this is a place for couples who are having trouble conceiving, not for some single gal who can't get a man.) The sites don't look any different from any other business in that they have a logo, a menu of topics to select, and some general explanations all sitting on a soothing palette of background colors.

What is fascinating is that you can search through the donor sperm catalog for free. I couldn't help myself but browse to see what kinds of Asians they had in stock. In most cases, the selection was rather low compared to looking at, say, men of European descent. I browsed at banks in California, Chicago, Virginia, and New England.

Honestly, it reminds me of dating. You have the guys' race, height, weight, hair color, blood type, education level, and interests or career focus. At two of the banks, you can further drill down for a short biography that provides more history in terms of the origins and health of parents and grandparents. You also learn whether they are smokers, wear glasses, and personal comments. There is an option to buy a baby photo and longer personal essay if available. It was nice to be able to see all this, but it also gave me this odd feeling.

Right or wrong, some thoughts popped into my head as I explored these sites:
1) It seems many of these men are foreigners who do it for the money. It takes away some of my willingness to want to go this route. Yes, they all do it for the money, but I guess I'm looking for some comprehension from them to the significance of what they are doing.

2) Id like to know whether these men are gay or straight. I do believe some people are genetically disposed to an orientation. Frankly, though I would love my child either way, being a straight woman, I'd like to start my child off with the odds towards the same orientation. It would be difficult enough to raise a child alone, I would want to do whatever I could to eliminate extra challenges. This may be selfish and insensitive to some, but I'm just being honest.

3) Having a choice meant feeling more control and the right to get what I want. I had a heightened sense of entitlement. Since I'd be paying for this I should have the best for my child - good height, a healthy BMI number, a clean health history, etc. Looking back now, I feel ridiculous. Some of it's very practical, but I also feel guilty for having this "designer baby" attitude. If I had a husband, I wouldn't care as much because it'd be about creating a child made from our love. In this case, it's about getting the best attributes since I would have no emotional connection to the father.

4) Even though I will likely never meet the sperm donor, I would prefer my child's father to be closer to my age. It was strange thinking that I could create a child with someone twelve years younger. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it's the reality of what selection is available. It would seem my mind is still treating this somewhat like dating.

Normally, one uses a profile to choose a man to date that could potentially progress to create a family. A lot of trial and error is involved. Here, a small amount of information is the basis from which one must take a very big leap of faith. With this process, there's a need to fill in the blanks about how the donor's personality will influence the child. Luck seems to be a big factor. What a peculiar process this must appear to be to other cultures.

There are so many implications to this for me personally that I'm not prepared to confront or accept. I've thought about all this stuff before, but it's scary idea that I'd prefer to put off as long as possible.

37 Percent of U.S. Births Out of Wedlock
By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

(11-21) 15:52 PST ATLANTA (AP) --

Out-of-wedlock births in the United States have climbed to an all-time high, accounting for nearly four in 10 babies born last year, government health officials said Tuesday.

While out-of-wedlock births have long been associated with teen mothers, the teen birth rate actually dropped last year to the lowest level on record. Instead, births among unwed mothers rose most dramatically among women in their 20s.

Experts said the overall rise reflects the burgeoning number of people who are putting off marriage or living together without getting married. They said it also reflects the fact that having a child out of wedlock is more acceptable nowadays and not necessarily the source of shame it once was.

The increase in births to unwed mothers was seen in all racial groups, but rose most sharply among Hispanics. It was up among all age groups except youngsters ages 10 to 17.

"A lot of people think of teenagers and unmarried mothers synonymously, but they are not driving this," said Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics, a co-author of the report.

The government also reported that the rate of births by Caesarean delivery continued to climb in 2005 to a record high, despite efforts by public health authorities to bring down the number.

Many experts believe a large number of C-sections are medically unnecessary and done only for the convenience of the mother or her doctor.

The government report includes information from 99 percent of U.S. birth certificates filed last year. The information for 2005 is considered preliminary, but officials said it is not expected to change much.

About 4.1 million babies were born in the United States last year, up slightly from 2004. More than 1.5 million of those were to unmarried women; that is about 37 percent of the total. In 2004, about 36 percent of births were out of wedlock.

Out-of-wedlock births have been rising since the late 1990s.

Several factors may be contributing to the trend, said Dr. Yolanda Wimberly, an adolescent-medicine specialist at Atlanta's Morehouse School of Medicine.

More women in their 30s and 40s, hearing their biological clock, are choosing to give birth despite their single status. Younger women are not as worried about being unmarried, either, she added.

"I think it's more acceptable in society" to have a child without getting married, she said.

Just because a mother is not married does not mean the father isn't around, Ventura noted. She cited 2002 statistics that showed that about 20 percent of all new mothers under 20 were unmarried but living with the father at the time of the birth. That same was true of about 13 percent of all new mothers ages 20 to 24.

According to census figures, the median age at first marriage was 27 for men and 25 for women last year, up from 23 and 20 in 1950. Meanwhile, the number of unmarried-couple households with children has been climbing, hitting more than 1.7 million last year, up from under 200,000 in 1970.

Other findings in the report:

The birth rate among teenagers declined 2 percent in 2005, continuing a trend from the early 1990s. The rate is now about 40 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. That is the lowest level in the 65 years for which a consistent series of rates is available.

The U.S. teen birth rate is still the highest among industrialized countries.

Births to women in their early 20s rose slightly, to 102 births per 1,000 women ages 20 to 24. Births to women in their late 20s — the most productive group in terms of childbirth — was about the same from the previous year, at about 116 per 1,000 women ages 25 to 29.

The C-section rate rose to 30.2 percent of all births in 2005, an increase of 1 percentage point from the previous year. The rate has risen by nearly half since 1996.

"It is clear that the procedure is being overused," Tonya Jamois, president of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, said in a statement. ICAN is a California-based nonprofit organization focused on lowering C-section rates.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

List day

Copied this from Zerodoll. I haven't filled one out in sometime.

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
"Do my freckles look paler?"

2. How much cash do you have on you?
$22 and some change

3. What’s a word that rhymes with “DOOR?”

4. Favorite planet?

5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
I only have "received" and "dialed" calls, so I can't say.

6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
On my old Nokia I have a very simple escalation of bell tones.

7. What shirt are you wearing?
Raspberry Gap tee over a black, polka-dot H&M long-sleeve tee.

8. Do you “label” yourself?

9. Name the brand of the shoes you’re currently wearing?
Nine West

10. Bright or Dark Room?
Light room, it wakes me up in the morning

11. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
Seems like a mellow and friendly city gal.

12. What does your watch look like?
What watch?

13. What were you doing at midnight last night?
Trying to stop thinking so that I could fall asleep

14. What did your last text message you received on your cell say?
It was unauthorized spam asking if I wanted to sell my timeshare.

15. Where is your nearest 7-11?
Three and a half blocks south

16. Whats a word that you say a lot?

17. Who told you he/she loved you last?
Good question

18. Last furry thing you touched?
A big orange cat and my friend's aunt's house

19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days?

20. How many rolls of film do you need developed?
Three plus the one still in my camera... and the film was more than a year old before I exposed it.

21. Favorite age you have been so far?
31 - everything seemed to be falling into place

22. Your worst enemy?

23. What is your current desktop picture?
The characters from the Lego Star Wars video game

24. What was the last thing you said to someone?
Sounds good

25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly what would it be?

26. Do you like someone?
Not really

27. The last song you listened to?
Can't recall

28. What time of day were you born?
9:30pm CST

29. Whats your favorite number?

30. Where did you live in 1987?

31. Are you jealous of anyone?
People who are happily married

32. Is anyone jealous of you?
Married women when they're annoyed with their husbands.

33. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
I was staying with a friend before flying out in a couple days to catch up with friends on a European vacation.

34. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
Curse and leave a complaint note.

35. Do you consider yourself kind?
Probably depends on the situation. I try to be.

36. If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be?

37. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be?

38. Would you move for the person you loved?
Most likely

39. Are you touchy feely?
With the right person

40. What’s your life motto?
Always try something new

41. Name three things that you have on you at all times?
Literally "on" or carrying? "On" would be eyebrow liner, lip gloss, and earrings. Carrying would include keys, cash, and a pen.

42. What’s your favourite town/city?

43. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
My breakfast oatmeal - $1.25

44. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
Xmas cards last year

45. Can you change the oil on a car?

46. Your first love: what is the last thing you heard about him/her?
Actually, he committed suicide in high school, and I attended his funeral. If we're talking about adulthood, then I already mentioned it here.

47. How far back do you know about your ancestry?
Probably just the grandparents and some vague information about my great grandfather being associated with the Boxer rebellion group.

48. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?
A turquoise, shantung silk, strapless dress that I bought on sale for my brother's wedding.

49. Does anything hurt on your body right now?
The bone joint where my big toe connects to the base of my foot. It must be due to the shoes I wore yesterday.

50. Have you been burned by love?
Would I still be single if I hadn't?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Leaving in limbo

After what I mentioned yesterday, I was reminded of something from awhile back. A co-worker share a sad story with us one day over lunch several months ago. A dear friend of hers had died after battling an illness. The friend was in her late 50s or 60s.

She was married, but the couple had been separated for five years. She had begun divorce proceedings shortly before her illness. Unfortunately, she expired before the process was complete. She had also never updated her will to reflect the change in the status of her marriage. Everything was left to her husband. The problem was he was nowhere to be found. No one had seen or heard from him for more than a year. It was implied that he was an unfriendly soul not likely to be located easily.

In the Midwest state where she lived, the rule of law is that all possessions pass to the surviving spouse and every effort must be made to find the person. In the meantime, her sister became executor of the will. She dealt with settling the estate - the bills, legal paperwork, selling the house, etc. - all this knowing that she would not inherit any of it. She couldn't even take a framed photo from the house because, technically, that would be stealing the husband's property.

Even worse, if the legal amount of time passes and the husband cannot be found, everything passes to his son (a child from a previous marriage). Someone who she had no relationship with. How unfortunate is that?!!

This story was shared with a lesson in mind - update your will regularly.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

About being older

"I need to leave now to help a single friend who was just hospitalized. She has urgent/unscheduled surgery tomorrow morning--I don't know if I'll need to be with her some tomorrow or not. I'll let you know by phone or email if I'll be out some tomorrow related to that."

This was a quick e-mail sent to me by a co-worker who had to leave suddenly to attend to her friend. It reminds me about how scary it will be as I grow older to not have many people to rely on. Sure, I have friends who would come help, but they're all married. How much would they truly be able to help me if they are married with kids?

I used to joke that it would be days before anyone would find me injured or dead in my apartment. It's the reason (besides the financial savings) why my mom always prefers that I have a roommate. Whenever I come down the stairs at a healthy pace, I wonder if I'll ever experience falling face first onto the landing. That's why I always keep a finger on the railing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I'm still on the road but had to mention something that happened the other evening.

My colleague and I were walking over to a restaurant in the city for dinner. At the corner of a street that's considered the upscale boutique block, a man stood holding up copies of the local "street" newspaper.

As we crossed the street towards him, he asked if we could help him out. He was not necessarily referring to purchasing a newspaper. Upon stepping on the sidewalk, he asked again if either of us could give him a break. Of course, he was looking for a cash handout.

My colleague said, "sure," and reached for her wallet. As she fumbled through the wallet's compartments, he elaborated that he was simply trying to collect enough "to buy a burger, fries, and a Coke."

The thought that immediately came to my mind was, "if I give you money will you buy a salad?"

Besides my usual suspicion of panhandlers using charity to buy drugs or alcohol, I couldn't help think about feeding him something that is better for him. I realize it's the easiest and cheapest opportunity for him to satisfy his appetite, but we all know subsisting on that kind of diet is unhealthy in the long run.

I felt guilty standing there as my colleague pulled out a $5 bill. I didn't offer any money. I've never handed out money, though I have handed over leftovers to the homeless after leaving a restaurant. No system is perfect in terms of feeding the poor, but I'd rather give out food with the hope they'll eat it rather than use my money for more destructive purposes.

A block further down the street I told my colleague what I had been thinking about the salad as she gave him the money. She laughed. Am I being too healthy and Californian? ;)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Day exchange

I have Friday off because I'm working (traveling) for work starting this weekend. In a way it's kind of nice having my "weekend" while everyone else is working. It's quiet. My plan is to do a little Xmas shopping once I fix my sprinkler system this morning and sweep up the yellowed birch leaves (ah the joys of having a small patio with plants.)

I'll be headed to the Midwest for the week. The weather report says the highs will be in 40s. Burrrr! I'm disappointed, however, to report there is no snow in the forecast. While I don't want it to affect my flights, I certainly wouldn't mind walking down the streets with a light dusting of snowing falling when I have a little time to myself. These are the simple things I enjoy.

"Survivor" was fun to watch. It's the first chance I've had to see a full episode in a month. Being three degrees removed from Yul makes it interesting. I'll likely never meet the guy in person, but it adds some sense of realism knowing I could. He seems like a sensible guy, and it's fun to root for a smart, attractive Asian person for a change. (And as I've said before, I'm a sucker for a man who looks sharp in glasses.)

Between "Survivor" and "Amazing Race" it's nice to see more diversity in the groups. The Cho brothers haven't been too impressive lately in their choices, but I'm still rooting for them. The other day, someone joked about how Koreans seems to be dominating television these days. Yul, Becky, Erwin and Godwin, Sandra Oh, Daniel Dae Kim, Yoon-jin Kim. Do they have some secret "in" that other Asians don't know about?

And before I go, how about them Scarlet Knights! Wow! What a win!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Themes from "Our Town"

My arm/wrist/hand is still hurting so I can't type much.

I saw "Our Town" at a local playhouse over the weekend. It seems like a very simple play - few props, no music, no fancy scenery. Maybe I expect drama more nowadays with tv and movie influences. It's a very thought provoking piece.

As soon as I returned home, I looked online for analysis and background into Thornton Wilder. It was interesting to learn that the lack of props is deliberate. Wilder wanted people to focus on the people and themes. He felt that props would distract from the purpose of his works.

In my current state of... ambivalence? towards life... I found myself wondering how to apply some of the themes of the play to my own situation.

Theme 1: People should appreciate life while they are living it. Even ordinary, uneventful activities are important.

Theme 2: Carpe diem (seize the day). This Latin phrase, which has become part of the English language, urges people to live for the moment, seizing opportunities to enjoy or enrich their lives. Life is short, after all; such opportunities may present themselves only once.

Theme 3: Little things in life are really big things. This theme points out that seemingly insignificant happenings in everyday life are actually among the most important ones. However, people experiencing them usually do not comprehend this truth at the time.

Theme 4: No town can isolate itself from the rest of the world.

Theme 5: No community is perfect, not even idyllic Grover's Corners.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another baby season - ugh

It would seem another baby season is coming. I've been bombarded by people revealing that they're expecting new additions to their families late next spring. More reasons for me to avoid people.

It was such a lovely weekend that I had to get out and do a hike. This is one of the rare times I went alone. Part of me figures that I need to grow accustomed to that idea. I thought about how happy I'd be to even just stroll through the neighborhood hand in hand with a sweet man. Great... another qualification to make my search more difficult... a man who will get up before 9am on a Saturday morning.

I drove over to an area which I usually hike with friends after work in the summer. Boy, was that a mistake. I forgot that the place is overflowing on weekends. Luxury vehicles parked along red curbs despite numerous signs reminding people to park in designated spaces only.

The worst thing, and the reason I will never go there on a weekend again, is that the place is filled with babies and couples. There's a retirement community just up the road from the park. Many older couples like to stroll through the flat areas. Same with the families. I can imagine many of these women, cooped up at home with their infants. This is their chance to escape the house and get some fresh air.

I tried to clear my mind and focus on the moment. But it was hard to ignore the stream of people. How could I not be jealous of the couple with two young children happily playing? How could I not feel like a loser seeing people younger than me, married and walking with a newborn attached to their chests? All these years have gone by when they probably met, dated, married, and gave birth. Me? I've got a collection of lame dating stories to show for those same years. Then, I'd see a lone, older women jog by and wonder if that is my fate.

Only when I went far enough back, up into the hills, did I escape all those people. I could inhale the fresh breezes and gaze out on the bay. The grasses are dry now, so the hillsides look like a nature picture in sepia or black and white. I wanted to sit under the far tree and listen to the wind. No people, no time, no worries. It was such a peaceful place.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One of those weeks

Frankly, I'd really just like to close the books on this week. It's not be the best. Nothing major has happened, just a lot of little nuisances that make for a frustrating time.

I sent Limey a thank you e-mail the next morning after the concert. I wanted to test his reaction given his lack of any enthusiasm as we parted. He immediately wrote back, saying that he had a good time and invited me to his place. He offered to cook me dinner. This seems like a positive sign.

Unfortunately, I already have plans for the night he chose (I'm finally going to see "Our Town" by Thorton Wilder at a local playhouse). He will then be away on a business trip and said we could catch up when he returns. I then realized that I will be gone the following week for a business trip. I indicated we'd have to wait for two weeks or could slip in a dinner between our two trips.

He hasn't addressed the last comment I made about dinner. Instead, he simply wrote back asking about something we talked about on the drive home from the concert. You'd think (okay, maybe I shouldn't be assuming things) that if he were that interested, he'd try harder to ask me out for another time. Maybe the few days between our two trip, he's busy. I guess with other people I've dated, they try a little more or chat with me on the phone to compensate. Apparently, Limey's not much of a phone person.

I'm getting tired of this. At the same time, I feel like a very poor sport. I hinted that we could try to meet a different time. I could go the next step and actually invite him out. But somehow, I still need him to make the effort. I don't feel like it's my turn yet to play the pursuer.

The rest of my week has been blah. My arm/wrist pain is back. It's affected my neck and made sleeping quite uncomfortable last night. I have to take a break from typing which means no more blogging the rest of this week. :( At least I'll get some reading in.

To add to misery, I found a big screw jammed into the edge of my tire. I think it's been there for awhile as the tread is worn down to nothing. At least I gained some familiarity with how to change a flat by watching the roadside assistance person when they came to my rescue. I'm now waiting for the local tire shop to call me so I can take my car in and place a new tire on the car. If only this had happened next year, when I planned to buy four new tires for the car.

None of my fellow alumni seem to want to watch the football game this weekend. Boo. How can they call themselves true fans!? This is a classic conference rivalry game, and we're favored by more than two touchdowns. I'm looking forward to watching on my 32" LCD on Saturday.

Stay warm, stay dry, and have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

That's it?

The volume of tricker treaters this years was only half that of what I had last year. Most of the kids that came by I'd say were between three and eight. That left me with quite a bit of left over candy. Strange, I wonder why it fluctuated to much?

I like to fill a bowl with all the candy for the night and let the kids choose their candy. I buy the mini bars, not the mini bites of the regular sized candies like Kit Kats, Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, etc. When the kids come, I hold out the bowl and tell them they may take one candy they like.

What surprises me is the lack of manners these days. Excusing the very little ones, I always have a number who don't bother to say "trick or treat" or don't say "thank you." Some parents will try and remind their kids as they walk away, but it is frustrating. Several times, I'd add "you're welcome" as they left but only a couple caught that and replied.

Even more distressing were the number of kids who protested my instructions. Upon hearing they could have ONE, I had kids (all ages) respond to me - "that's it?" or "just one?"

What I wanted to say was, "it's one or none, what do you prefer?"

But, of course, in the gentlest voice I would simply say, "yes, one candy."

Perhaps I'll just have to throw one into their bags next time rather than give them a choice. Several kids ignored my instructions and would grab two. I didn't say much but at least usually those kids had better verbal manners. Half my neighbors don't even give out candy. Maine took off in her car at 6:30pm, no doubt to avoid any potential ringers. I do this for the fun of it. If it's quantity over quality, then I should just buy the cheaper lollipops and tootsie rolls next year rather than the nicer stuff.

I also feel that kids get enough sugar, I don't want to contribute to their bad eating habits more than necessary. It's my candy and my choice to give one piece each. Heck, I wonder how they'd all feel if I handed out raisins.

Sure, I had plenty of candy, but it's the principle to me. Is everyone giving multiple candies to each kid that comes to the door? It worries me these kids think they're entitled to more because it's in front of them. Halloween is about good neighbors and *earning* a treat.