Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CUONG’S BOOK CLUB

Letters To A Young Poet is a collection of 10 letters written by reknown German poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Franz Xaver Kappus. In 1902, Kappus was in Military Academy in Germany when he wrote to Rilke to seek counsel on how to go about living the life of an artist. Rilke responded and as Kappus said, “When a truly great and unique spirit speaks, the lesser one must be silent.” (I know it sounds like the fortune cookie you got last night, but deal with it)

In his letters, Rilke lays bare his soul into an artist’s life, and in doing so speaks about passion and the struggle to pursue one’s dreams. It will inspire the creativity and artistry in you, even if you are not an artist. Here is one of my favorite words of wisdom from Rilke...
There is only one way [to be an artist]: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to written? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write? ...If you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity. Your life, in even the most mundane and least significant hour, must become a sign, a testimony to this urge.
Even though Rilke’s words were written over 100 years ago, I think they ring true. It is a reminder that one must bring to life what is in their deepest core, what aches them to live. We must do so.

Letters To A Young Poet

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BE MY FRIEND...

It has happened to me three times this year. Three. To be honest, I am not sure how this could happen to someone like me - quiet, demure, considerate, appropriate, nice, and always sober. I mean I'm not even promiscuous. Damnit... But somehow, I got "de-friended" three times this year on Facebook. Three times. Why me?

Well, it turns out I'm not the only loser. Yah! This article on WSJ.com examines that latest online offense - "de-friending" your friends. Friends are "purged" for a variety of reasons - you lose touch with them, they're acquaintances, loss of privacy, or you hate constant updates from losers. And then you do a search or they come up in People You May Know, and it hits you like two handfuls of poo-inducing prunes - you've been "de-friended" by lame-o. Ugh! I can't understand why I've been "de-friended," but those who update their Facebook status everytime they do something retarded should be. Listen, I don't need to know your every move. I don't. If I wanted to, I would stalk you. I would.

Friend me!


So if awkward mornings with that special little random stranger isn't enough, social networks like Facebook and Myspace are creating more anxieties - who should you "friend," will my request be accepted, do I reject or leave a request in "friend purgatory"? Yep, that's why we're on meds. (Oh, and by "we're," I mean you...)

P.S.: I know every single one of you who "de-friended" me and I am waiting for your special friend request. Waiting...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

FOR ALYSSA L. & DAVID A.

I haven't done anything substantive in the Asian American community since creating UC Berkeley's hardboiled in 1997, with the exception of volunteering with Chinese Progressive Association to teach English to Chinese immigrants this year. That said, I take my role as Asian American advocate and activist seriously.

To that end, I have stumbled up something that will immediately elevate the social status of Asian Americans nationwide - a cure for the dreaded "Asian" flush - that bright glow of red after one sip of alcohol, followed by bright glow of humiliation. My fellow Asian Americans - and you know who you are, particularly Alyssa and David - this will change your life!

Oh, the shame!


We know that most Asian Americans lack the enzymes to process alcohol - I am, however, lucky, but most of you Asians, well, not so much. Thus Sobrietol provides the enzyme to help prevent "Asian" flush. I am not endorsing the product, but I think that many Asian Americans will benefit from it. And I'll finally stop mocking you for turning red after one drink... Oh, the shame. I know I will get lots of letters and emails thanking me, so, you're welcome.

Monday, December 22, 2008

CUONG’S BOOK CLUB

Being an up-and-coming celeblogger is hard. Fans stop me, they watch me miss at urinals, they talk about my weight, and chicks want me to sign their boobs. Awful, boobs! And the one thing they all want to know is this... So by popular demand Cuong's Book Club is back! And to that old nun that said Oprah's Book Club is better, my probation officer wants me to say I'm sorry I pushed you onto on-coming traffic...but all I gotta say is: Hells yes, bitch!

*****
Randy Pausch probably never intended to become an internet sensation, but he did. Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and a husband and father of 3 young children. As part of the academic tradition, professors there give a "last lecture" during the end of a semester, on what they would say if they were dying. But in this case, Randy was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. His lessons reverberated...to many, particularly online, and led to his book The Last Lecture.



I have to admit that despite the lackluster writing, the book touches on lessons we should remind ourselves of each day. They include:

• Live with integrity. Be truthful, be earnest. Earnest is long term.
• ...It's about how your lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.
• Brick walls let us show our dedication. They are there to separate us from the people who don't really want to achieve their childhood dreams.
• Find the best in everybody. Just keep waiting no matter how long it takes. No one is evil. Everybody has a good side, just keep waiting, it will come.
• When you're screwing up and nobody's saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.
• Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself. An apology is three-parts: say you're sorry, take responsibility, and ask what you can do to make amends.
• It's just a thing. Things don't matter.
• Never lose that childhood wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us. Helps others.
I was touched when Pausch wrote about his hope that the niece and nephew that he used to take on weekends to show the world to would do the same for his young children... Randy Pausch died July 2008, leaving behind his Jai, had three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe, and a legacy that will resonate with many.

Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TOM CRUISE RUINS EVERYTHING

Cameron Crowe is the excellent writer of Almost Famous, Singles, and Say Anything..., but not so much Elizabethtown. He is a master of dialogue, of emotions, of storytelling. But in Jerry Maguire, a movie I do like, Crowe wrote a terrible, though omnipotent, line that millions use as a guide to finding that one. (There is more than one)

I have always detested Crowe's "You complete me" line and now it has the distinct and prestigious honor of being included in EW's list of the Worst Movie Dialogue Ever. Ever.

Monday, December 15, 2008

LONG WALKS ON THE BEACH...

I dated someone once who made an observation about my TV-viewing habits: "Why do you watch this junk? What a waste of time." I turned to him, gave him the eye, and threw my beloved TiVo control smack in between his eyes. He made that comment exactly once, and still has a slight indentation in his face. (Sorry about that). And yes, I do watch bad TV. Fuck off.

Here's my shame: I TiVo'ed a show on Lifetime. Yep, TV for women. No. Judging. It was a Heather Locklear TV movie, and I'm a fan of Dynasty and Melrose Place. Heather starred in Flirting with Forty with Lipstick Jungle star Robert Buckely (my future ex).

Heather and Robert hook up in what is a seemingly one-night stand. (Not that I know what those are like...) After, he leaves and she cries. (Yep, typical one-night stand stuff) But lo and behold, Robert shows up at Heather's hotel the next morning. He says, I wanted to take you to breakfast. (I mean, I would settle for a thank-you note, but breakfast is grrreat!) So she says, I already ordered breakfast. Good, I'm hungry, he says and comes into her room. Emmy-winning writing!

In real life, showing up at your hook-up's place the next morning is called stalking. That's happened to me before so I know. And you know who you are. And the restraining order is still valid. Anyhow, I abhor the romanticism of love in Hollywood productions. It creates a false sense what people should strive for, what love is, and what happiness is. Love isn't about completing you (love can't do that). It isn't about finding the one. It isn't about romance. I believe love is a choice. It is the will and discipline to extend beyond yourself for the purpose of spiritual growth and that of your partner. Love is a lot more...

I know I contribute to this by watching a lot of shitty TV that ill-prepares our horny, pubescent teenage boys and girls for real life. For that, I'm sorry. However, I hope that by posting the below I am making amends. Hope that helps.

Robert Buckley


Robert Buckley


P.S. Robert, call my 800-number!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

BRADLEY TALKS

I'm in MP, the first time I've been home since Bradley, my 21-month old nephew, turned 1 in March. It was the weekend he started walking, and since then he's started to talk.

When I arrived home today, Bradley was in the middle of a nap. But when he woke from his nap, he opened his eyes and said in Chinese...

Uncle.

In his first words to me, he knew me... OMG, that's so precious!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

BILL RICHARDSON: FRIEND OR FOE?

So here I am doling out political insight. I know, it's just crazy. It's like Oprah giving advice on food and nutrition. Should. Never. Do. It. But I am...

Bill Richardson, President-Elect Obama's pick for Secretary of Commerce, has drawn criticism from groups, including Asian Americans. In 1998, while serving as President Clinton's Energy Secretary, Richardson accused Wen Ho Lee of being a spy for China at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which led to Lee's arrest and solitary confinement without due process. In the case of the United States vs. Wen Ho Lee, Lee was vindicated. The FBI apologized for lying, Judge James Parker apologized when he released him and accused the Department of Energy of misleading him and bringing dishonor to the United States. President Bill Clinton and the New York Times have both apologized publicly to Dr. Lee. However, Richardson has admitted to no wrong-doing and has disavowed any responsibility.

Wen Ho Lee who was paid a $1.6 million settlement by the government and five media organizations after officials leaked information that portrayed Lee as a possible spy. He is, however, a convicted felon.

Richardson recklessly attempted to ruin Lee's life, and really it's hard, actually very hard, to believe race had nothing to do with it. So, should Richardson be our Secretary of Commerce?

Monday, December 08, 2008

FIRST VIETNAMESE ELECTED TO THE HOUSE

Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana became the first Vietnamese elected to the House on Saturday. Circumstances made it an unusual win, but...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

BIGGER BRAINS = HIGHER IQ

I kid all the time about being supersmart. I'm, sadly, not. Damnit.

But according to this article on Slate.com Asian Americans typically have higher IQ scores: "Among white Americans, the average IQ, as of a decade or so ago, was 103. Among Asian-Americans, it was 106. Among Jewish Americans, it was 113. Among Latino Americans, it was 89. Among African-Americans, it was 85. Around the world, studies find the same general pattern: whites 100, East Asians 106, sub-Sarahan Africans 70. One IQ table shows 113 in Hong Kong, 110 in Japan, and 100 in Britain."

It's attributed to the fact that Asian Americans - get this! - have bigger brains! Its true, it goes on to say: "On average, Asian-American kids have bigger brains than white American kids, who in turn have bigger brains than black American kids."

So, are Asian Americans smarter than Whites? If so, why aren't I smarter than Whitey? I am the worse Asian ever! Loser...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

GUILT, PART II

My family and I had moved in with our grandparents into a big two-story house. My grandfather had lost the ability to walk. I think it was from diabetes but I’m not so sure, but I remember that when we were in the refugee camps in the Philippines one day he just couldn’t walk anymore. So his body hurt, he was always in pain, and Grandmother massaged the blood through his body every day so he could live. I don’t think I quite realized all of it then. But we had to massage him too – his grandchildren. But I really hated it. I think I resented it more than I should, more than I wanted to, and it wasn’t a chore I enjoyed. I just wanted to be a kid.

A few months after we moved in together, Grandfather had finally managed enough strength to walk up the stairs into the second floor of our home. He was on his way down the stairs with my grandmother’s help, and a simple smile of accomplishment on his face. I met him on his way down.

“I walked up the stairs and saw our entire house,” he told me.

I looked at him blankly, “So…”

“Motherfucker."

I can still hear the sadness in his voice that day. I was eleven years old. I think by then you're old enough to know better, to do better. I wasn’t. But that was then…

Thursday, November 20, 2008

GUILT

Last night, I saw the Upright Citizens Brigade in Chelsea. Their show was on guilt. It was riotous, I was impressed and excited about the performers' creativity, and it spurred in me thoughts of...well, guilt. Lots of guilt. Lots and lots of guilt.

***


When we were six years old, Jamal Henderson and I were friends. I don't know if we were best friends. We hung out, our siblings hung out. Our families gravitated towards each other and we created our own land within the world of the school playground. It was our corner of the universe.

We were each other's world for a long time that I don't remember when it changed in my mind. Kids are cruel, though I really don't think they, we meant to be. I am not sure when I loooked at the rest of the world outside of ours - a world we had happily created - and wanted to be part of their world.

The first time Jamal came over to my house, I was sure I wanted more. I wanted what was theirs. There was no going back. Never. Jamal's mother had driven him to my house in the alley so he could get my phone number. He had wanted to invite me to the movies. He had handed me a blank white piece of paper. I pressed it against my refrigerator and wrote my number on it. And I am not sure what happened next, but I crumpled the piece of paper. Jamal bent down to pick it up. I am not sure if I saw the look in his eyes, but he ran out. The paper crumpled in his hand. I saw his mother as the screen door swung close.

Kids are cruel. It was the only time Jamal came to my house. There's no going back.

Monday, October 27, 2008

FAMILY QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Listen, I know you like being fun uncle, but you can not offer ice cream to my kid for breakfast. That is not okay."
- My cousin, Sandra


Sorry Sandra. But being fun uncle is...well, fun. I love it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

FAMILY QUOTE OF THE WEEK

As promised, more family fun quotes...

"Your cousin Yvonne had [her first baby] - a girl. Ah... Too bad!"
- My Mom


Again, it's really more of a culture thing than gender. See, we are not racism or sexists. Just misunderstood.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

FAMILY QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Your mom and I talked. We don't care if you marry a guy or a girl. But we don't want you to marry a black person."
- My Uncle


My uncle prodding me to come out. I have to add that it's more of a comment about cultures than about racism. So, whoever reading this, please don't take it out of context. More fun family quotes to come...

Friday, September 19, 2008

MY OWN...

I saw it this morning. Tens of tiny little drops sprinked on the floor like stars in the night. Sprinkled the marble floor. I am stepping on my own piss. Wow, that feels so good!

Monday, March 17, 2008

MY LAI: FORTY YEARS LATER

It is now forty years since the massacre at My Lai that killed innocent, unarmed men, women and children. When the atrocities were discovered it shed a dark cloud over American involvement in Viet Nam. CNN.com reported this story.


MY LAI SURVIVORS GATHER TO PRAY FOR VICTIMS

Story Highlights
• NEW: More than a thousand people gathered to remember victims of My Lai
• Former helicopter gunner Lawrence Colburn returns to My Lai on 40th anniversary
• He is reunited with the man he rescued from the massacre in 1968
• More than 100 unarmed civilians were gunned down by U.S. troops at My Lai

MY LAI, Vietnam (AP) -- Forty years after rampaging American soldiers slaughtered her family, Do Thi Tuyet returned to the place where her childhood was shattered.

"Everyone in my family was killed in the My Lai massacre -- my mother, my father, my brother and three sisters," said Tuyet, who was 8 years old at the time. "They threw me into a ditch full of dead bodies. I was covered with blood and brains."

More than a thousand people turned out Sunday to remember the victims of one of the most notorious chapters of the Vietnam War. On March 16, 1968, members of Charlie Company killed as many as 504 villagers, nearly all of them unarmed children, women and elderly.

When the unprovoked attack was uncovered, it horrified Americans, prompted military investigations and badly undermined support for the war.

Sunday's memorial drew the families of the victims, returning U.S. war veterans, peace activists and a delegation of atomic bombing survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"We are not harboring hatred," said Nguyen Hoang Son, vice governor of Quang Ngai, the central Vietnamese province where the incident occurred. "We are calling for solidarity to defend peace, to defend life and to remind the world that it must never forget the massacre at My Lai."

Although the occasion was somber, many visitors said they drew hope from it.

"So much positive energy has come from such a negative event," said Richard Chamberlin, 63, a returning veteran from Madison, Wisconsin. "The people here have amazing resilience. I'm grateful that they've treated us as friends, not enemies."

Chamberlin was part of a delegation called the Madison Quakers, a Wisconsin group that has built a peace park and three schools in My Lai, including a new one that was dedicated Sunday. The group's leader, war veteran Mike Boehm, honored the dead by playing a mournful fiddle tune.

Boehm also arranged for a group of atomic bombing survivors from Japan to join his delegation.

Among them was Fujio Shimoharu, who was playing in a Nagasaki schoolyard on August 9, 1945, when the earth shook, a strong wind howled and the sky went dark as a mushroom cloud rose over the city.

"I'm very angry about the indiscriminate killing both here in My Lai and in Hiroshima and Nagasaki," said Shimoharu, 74. "I came here to send a message of peace to the world."

Shimoharu feels connected to My Lai survivors such as Tuyet, who returned to a replica of her home and wept after Sunday's service ended. U.S. troops torched the original thatch-roofed house; the new one is part of a museum dedicated to the victims.

On that morning 40 years ago, Tuyet and her family were getting ready to go to work in the fields when members of Charlie Company burst into their house and herded them outside at gunpoint.

They were pushed into a ditch where more than 100 people were sprayed with bullets, one of which hit Tuyet in the back, paralyzing the right side of her body.

Her parents, three sisters and a brother were slaughtered. The oldest child was 10, the youngest just 4.

"I was here when the shooting started," Tuyet said, sitting by a family altar in the replica of her simple two-room home. "The troops rounded us up and took us to the ditch."

Her 4-year-old brother, who was eating breakfast when the troops came, died with his mouth full of rice, Tuyet said.

Four decades later, she is still overcome by grief. But Tuyet has managed to build a life for herself. She became a pharmacist, married and had two children.

When they arrived in the hamlet 40 years ago, the frustrated and angry members of Charlie Company were on a "search and destroy" mission, trying to track down elusive Vietcong guerrillas whose tactics had depleted the company's ranks.

The soldiers began shooting in My Lai that day even though they hadn't come under attack. The violence quickly escalated into an orgy of killing.

The young troops had found themselves in a bewildering war where it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe, said Stanley Karnow, an American historian who wrote "Vietnam: A History."

Their actions shocked the American public, who had preferred to think of U.S. troops as heroes making the world safe for democracy, Karnow said.

"But there is a human capacity for committing atrocities," Karnow said.

Do Ba, another My Lai survivor, lost his mother, his brother and his sister in the massacre. But he, too, has managed to build a new life for himself.

He now lives Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, with his new wife and their 14-month-old daughter. He has a job in an electronics factory.

Ba had a chance reunion this weekend with Larry Colburn, who saved him from the rampaging American troops 40 years ago. Colburn was a member of a three-man U.S. Army helicopter crew that landed in the midst of the massacre and intervened to stop the killing.

Colburn returned for this year's ceremony, as he did 10 years ago for the 30th. He came the first time with Hugh Thompson, the pilot who landed their helicopter, who has since died.

"Today I see Do Ba with a wife and a baby," Colburn said. "He's transformed himself from being a broken, lonely man. Now he's complete. He's a perfect example of the human spirit, of the will to survive."

Boehm, whose Wisconsin group helped plan Sunday's ceremony, takes solace from such stories.

"If hope can rise from the ashes of My Lai," he said, "it can rise from anywhere."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.