DISNEYLAND – old poems 2008 vi

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DISNEYLAND

I write love stories, for stupid children

Happy faces make happy places
Buy shit you don’t need

Let’s spin in the tea cups
and dance and pee and sing

(And buy shit we don’t need)

I’d be so madly in love with you
if only you had good posture

Life would be so great
if only the government would give me more free money

And I’d write a happy ending
if only I was any good at that.

 

 

5/2/08

Vegetarian Oasis

Originally posted on Love, Shenzhen:

A vegetarian oasis to explore in Luohu

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Source: SZ Daily

In the past, many viewed vegetarianism as strange and faddish. Nowadays, properly planned vegetarian diets are widely accepted as being nutritionally adequate, and may help in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

But, alas, ask any vegetarian expat in China and they will perhaps tell you that they don’t find it easy going out for a meal here. Most restaurants seem to put meat in everything. Having previously lived in health-conscious California, I find constantly explaining “bu yao rou” (I don’t want meat) to be frustrating.

Luckily, there is always the oasis of Bao’an Road South. The strip north of the iconic Diwang Mansion is lush with Buddhist vegetarian restaurants — great for both devoted vegans and tourists seeking that sort of spiritual Eastern experience. Right in the heart of Luohu, the restaurants are full of monks and Buddhist statues…

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Weirdo on the bus – old poems 2008 v

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Weirdo on the bus
breathes heavy
cries

I politely ignore

Your tar-black eyes

Weirdo on the bus
hums to himself
sings to us all
A warning
of danger
behind

I’m sorry I don’t have any change

I lie

And I can’t wait
to step off the bus
and forget you exist

 

 

3/18/14

Book Review: Good Chinese Wife

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“GOOD Chinese Wife” is a new memoir published by Sourcebooks, and is a poignant tale expats should enjoy about the overlap of China and the West. Susan Blumberg-Kason details her unfortunate marriage to a Chinese music scholar, as they meet while studying in Hong Kong and then travel to his hometown in Hubei Province before eventually settling in San Francisco, California.

The central question posed by their troubled relationship is whether their differences were due to culture or personality. Interracial marriages may have some problems, but are certain individual defects masked by the excuse of culture?

As their relationship begins, Blumberg-Kason appreciates her future husband’s background. She studies Mandarin as a postgraduate in Hong Kong in the early 1990s, and stays there through the time of the handover in 1997, and for a reader familiar with South China it can be very interesting to compare that time with the current era.

The shy student falls in love with Cai, a handsome divorcee and ethnomusicology major, and the fact that he quickly escalates into topics of marriage on early dates seems to be a source of attraction for her. In that sense, the cultural difference was an advantage.

The book goes over her travels to the Hidden River village in Hunan and subsequent meetings with Cai’s family, and serves as a good introduction to Chinese culture for readers new to the subject of China. Blumberg-Kason is very knowledgeable, and the book is also peppered with quotes from Ban Zhao’s traditional “Instruction for Chinese Women and Girls” which contrasts well with the narrative.

The memoir deals with many hard truths, and Blumberg-Kason can be very frank with personal matters. The first sex scene comes as a shock to the reader, not because of graphic depictions, but because of the realization that the couple is engaged to be married yet they have not even reached that intimate stage. When she does get married, at the young age of 24, their passionless first night together during a honeymoon in a Hong Kong hotel further foreshadows more troubles.

Time and time again, as the book progresses, Blumberg-Kason questions herself and accommodates Cai’s behavior, yet he doesn’t seem to care about his wife’s concerns. From the isolating vacations in his home town, to skipping out on going to an import foreign-language bookstore in Shanghai and an interest in “yellow films” over his own wife, the reader wonders why she comes across so weak and why she puts up with him.

Pregnant, they move to America and the situation worsens. He does not adapt well to living abroad, and constantly complains to her. Though Blumberg-Kason claims he is a good husband during her pregnancy, he grows more distant after their son is born and the book darkens in tone. In particular, when he gives her a STD and then denies it, the situation couldn’t be worse. Always trying to keep the peace, she repeatedly states that she didn’t want to know the truth about his private life.

It soon becomes obvious that their marriage will not work, and yet it takes a long time for the book to finally reach the point when Blumberg-Kason stands up for herself and leaves him. Cai even says to her: “You’re lucky I don’t hit you.” After she gives birth to their son, he tells her “Women are dirty.”

It is a sad state that this is a nonfiction memoir, and so many real women stay in such relationships for far too long. Perhaps there is a lesson there about not rushing into marriage.

“Good Chinese Wife” is well-written and reads like a page-turner novel, although it does get stuck in details at times. If it were a novel, the passages about student dances and descriptions of clothes and food might be cut due to not being relevant to the plot. But the book is a memoir, which is dense with everything Blumberg-Kason has chosen to share.

This book is recommended for readers interested in contemporary Chinese culture, as well as for anyone who has ever experienced problems stemming from cultural differences.

“Good Chinese Wife” is available at bookstores in Hong Kong and on Amazon.

For more from this author, see Susan Blumberg-Kason’s blog at susanbkason.com.

Susan Blumberg-Kason photo

Dating… the Stalker

2013 was my Epic Clusterfuck Year. I like to process it that way, because it gives me hope that other years will better. There’s no other way to describe it. I made some serious mistakes, and the drama caught up with me, and I hope to never go through that again.

I wish to reflect, but I hope I’m not coming across as whiney. My problems are my responsibility, I deal with them in my own way, and hopefully the point of this blog is not to complain but to look upon myself in the mirror as harshly as possible and grow from it. Hence I’m sharing.

I was travelling in January of that year. It was nice but it wasn’t my most confident time, seeing everyone else settle down except for me. Though I had fun. Some fun in America, that is. Then I completely embarrassed myself with a friend in Hong Kong. After that, I felt the need to rush into Internet dating. Two websites: OkCupid and POF. I’ll write about OkCupid next post. Mostly it was POF. Seems to be a fairly popular site in Shenzhen and China and Asia; I’ve met Chinese and foreigner women alike over that year.

Generally speaking, while Internet dating is obviously growing more mainstream, people who are into it tend not to be the cream of the crop. Me included! Some people are simply too busy or shy to pick up at the club or meet through mutual friends or whatever more natural methods, and other people are the desperate socially-awkward who use websites. I’ve been lucky enough to meet the cool people, for the most part. My luck was about to run out.

I lowered my standards, I admit it. I accepted anyone who would have me, and I paid the price for that.

It all started with a woman whom I shall now refer to as The Stalker. I won’t even think up a name.

She was a bit older than me, very thin, an independent businesswoman with various streams of income. You’d think she would have her life together, but you can never know for sure.

It was standard fare at first. Met up and went to dinner and walked in parks and went to some parties and got to know each other. She stayed at my house on occasion. It was supposed to be causal. I wasn’t looking for a deep relationship, and I said as much. We did specifically talk about it; we agreed we weren’t going to be boyfriend and girlfriend. I bloody had that conversation, I truly did. Like that ever works.

That spring, my beloved old flame Julia came to visit me from abroad. I was so excited. And I had to be completely honest and told my new date that a previous girlfriend was to stay at my place and I think we should break things off. Nothing romantic came of Julia’s visit, although I was extremely happy to see her and show her around my current life. Well, it was as good an excuse as ever to get over this woman and move on.

The first time The Stalker came to my apartment crying, I had no idea what to do. What a terrible feeling. Was I guilty of some horrendous crime? How was I supposed to handle this?

When she started demanding that we meet once a week, it was initially just annoying. I wouldn’t necessarily mind staying friends, if it was natural and organic, but she made it into this chore. And I’m busy; I don’t see most of my friends as often as once per week so why should I focus so much more attention on her?

I tried my best to gently push her away. While simultaneously letting her down easy. She begged me to be with her for three months or she’d die or something. I said no way. That’s ridiculous, that’s not how it works. I still answered the phone, replied to her messages, read her rambling emails, and met up from time to time. This lasted months and months and months. It didn’t work at all.

This strategy to let her down easily was a bit ill-conceived.

This ‘friendship’ I was stuck in was no fun at all.

Suicide threats in particular are a real downer.

Before I get into the suicide threats, here’s a funny convoluted story. Coulda’ been a sitcom plot:

Some people just attract chaos to them, you know those kinds, for some reason  they always have a dark cloud of complications hanging over them (I dare hope I’m not that kind of person). So The Stalker had a sort of stalker of her own. There was some creepy guy that would call her and harass her, that was her own issue from before she even met me.

She decided to tell this guy that she married me. Then she asked for my help. I’m not above pretending I’m in a relationship with a platonic female friend so guys at parties won’t hit on her and so on, that can be a thing, but the lengths this particular deception went to were getting ridiculous.

There is no sucker in the world like me, I can’t believe I agree to things like this.

It’s like this. Chinese people really like to take wedding pictures. More than they like to have actual wedding ceremonies. You see these studios all over the place, where they seemingly take pictures of the couple in European cafes and pirate ships. So she paid a photography studio and I spent a hellish 5 hours waking up early and going to this studio and dressing up in their wardrobe. She promised it would only be two hours. My lord I hate having my time wasted. Hours of makeup and changing clothes and going outside and faking smiles. I can’t believe I had to have a cheerful face through it.

She always was a black hole of time. The endless conversations all night. Morosely and silent long walks to bus stops. Making me meet her at train stations after her random disappearances. She loved taking my valuable time – time I could be doing something productive and happy – and making it all about her darkness.

 RaypicWell, I suppose I got some good pictures got out of it

If she thought this photo session was some way to seduce me, she was way off. It really pissed me off. After it was finally over with, the more I thought about it the more I realized how stupid I had been to get in this situation.

Later she gave me the picturebook thing and they were jut cheap remnants of the stupidest memories ever. She put them on her Facebook or something, I made sure she didn’t tag me, and I went along with it for a while.

Occasionally she’d buy me gifts, like clothes. I didn’t like that either , it made me uncomfortable. She wasn’t going to win me over, ever, and if only she could accept that and moved on long ago. Instead of letting it turn out the way it did.

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3 A.M.s to hold on to – old poems 2008 iv

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3 A.M.s to hold on to

If I…
(Poems that start with “If I…”)
If could save these 3 A.M.s
I’d have more time
If I was asleep
Instead of on the Internet
till dawn
looking at porn
I wouldn’t be so busy with everything else

I like my 3 A.M.s
I hate my 3 A.M.s
But I love my 3 A.M.s
me and the goddess and my credit card number
and video

No, If I saved them up
I’d have more time
for Netflix
Or, uh, read books.

 

 

3/7/08

Burning Man, announcement

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Over the past week, I happened to notice these ‘Top Searches’ in my dashboard of this blog:

burning man naked, lsd at burning man, burning man 2014 art, is there lsd at burning man

If you look to the right, under ‘Top Posts,’ you can see my old Burning Man blogs are trending at the moment:

(And do feel free to read up)

How I Came to China: Burning Man

Part 2: Doing LSD at Burning Man

 

Why now? Well, this year’s famed anarchic music & arts festival in the desert has just concluded and everyone is interested again .

Not to repeat myself, but I went in 2007 and 2008 and at the risk of sounding cliche I must say it; yeah it changed my life.

Much has been written about what this weeklong fest truly is, and I won’t repeat myself here but I’ll share some pictures and the above links and trust anyone new hear to look it up.

And yes I know it sold out over the years, it’s not as good as it used to be, all the evil rich people have ruined it, blah blah etc. That’s all probably true but I still believe it’s one of the best things going on in the world.

Here it comes… I’ve become one of those people making obnoxious announcements…..

Ready for it??

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to state that I wish to attend next year in 2015. It’s been too long. I’ve met a lot of great people in the intervening years, and I’d like to catch up with some Burners too, and I’d also like to invite old friends to go with me. Check out BurningMan.com for details, look up crazy pictures online and crazy videos on youtube, be inspired and let’s go.

Save up money, get into debt a little it’s no big deal, buy camping supplies, make costumes if you like, make a plan, and meet me on the American West Coast next August. I’m still working out whether I should make Southern California or Northern California the homebase, but plenty of time to figure that out in the coming months.

I mean, we’ve waited all our lives and it’s the Back to the Future year! 2015. Although we don’t have hoverboards, let’s celebrate making it this far!!

As soon as the next bout of tickets are on sale I’ll be reminding you all.

Who’s with me?!?!!!!

Let’s go home… …

 

 

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Mid-Autumn Festival short story

I wrote this short story a while back — a short short or flash fiction really, and posted on Smashwords – to commemorate the Mid-Autumn Festival in China and to speculate on how mooncake plus the story of Chang’e going to the moon would be celebrated on a future Lunar colony Chinatown. More a premise than a narrative, I explore these ideas and more. Seemed to go over well for most people. Do enjoy:

 

Yue

 

Mooncake

In Lunar Colony 01111001, Mid-Autumn Festival is a special time of the year. Especially so in the colony’s festive Chinatown. One of the four great holidays of the ancient Chinese tradition, for the colonists now living where Chang’e once flew, it has become the highest day of all. The irony is lost on no one.

Parades of Chang’e robots and glittering jade rabbits adorn the streets. People take a break from their mining and export duties, children have no school, and people the moon over enjoy eating mooncake.

Mooncake manufacture is a good business to be in. Wang Xing, the owner of the largest gene-splicing grain and proteinstuffs factory in the colony, and has subdivisions in lotus seed splicing as well. Yet he finds he spends most of his time in Chinatown with his family in the humble bakery where he started it all, mentoring his niece and expanding relationships with the Lunar elites.

Guanxi is very important, he would explain to young Xiao Yue, a first-generation Lunar and smallest of his family.

– Uncle, I’m very bored I want to play computer games! she scoffed.

It was the night of Mid-Autumn Festival and mooncake sales were very high. A full Earth was up in the sky, and trading vessels carrying ingredients and life-giving essentials were flying in. Wang Xing had diversified investments in eggs, sugar, chocolate, and icings; vertical integration as they call it in the business community.

Many customers were Chinese, of course, the labor class and their ilk. But in a tightknit community of interlunar expats and the growing importance of Luna-themed holidays for the new culture, the bakery had a diverse cast of clientele. Mooncakes were a commodity with ever-growing popularity. One customer of particular concern was an American consulate representative, Wang Xing’s most important contact. As everyone knows, America as first flag-waver boasts official colonial sovereign power over all Luna and any influence (in business and otherwise) must be fostered through certain friendships…

– Valued customer, what would you like? asked Wang Xing.

– Hello Mister Wang, said the American consulate representative. – You are always so kind. A box of your finest iced cakes sir.

– It is my pleasure, good sir.

That was all. The American left, their brief acquaintanceship to be refurbished for another day.

– Pay attention, Wang Xing said to his niece, – this relationship is like a seed. One day it will grow enormous fruits of wealth, of contracts and trade and untold fortunes, but in this early stage of growth only just the right amount of water and sunlight is needed.

– What is a seed?

– Oh my dear niece, your generation gives me worry.

That night, the family gathered to the roof of the dome and watched the full Earth. They ate the highest quality mooncakes, and though the burning of incense was forbidden due to high oxidation, it was still as nice a Mid-Autumn Festival gathering as Wang Xing could have hoped for.

– Uncle, asked Xiao Yue, ever precocious and curious, – why is this day called ‘Mid-Autumn’?

– Because we celebrate the middle of Autumn, the turning of the seasons, for the sake of the farmer’s calendar. That is of the ancient calendar, which is in fact Lunar, and ties so into our peoples’ history. And we celebrate this day here on the colony because we blessed to live in such times that we can enjoy being upon the moon itself.

– But I still don’t understand, she said. – What does ‘Autumn’ mean?

He paused for a moment, and thought of what to say. – You poor youths these days. I keep forgetting. Autumn is a cyclic time on the Earth that signifies when the leaves fall from the trees, and we transition from the hot days of summer to prepare for the frigid nights of winter. The seasons change, and every year we have our accompanying rituals.

– But what are seasons?

– Something that only exists upon the Earth. Scientifically, it has to do with the axis of the poles in proportion to the rotation of the sun, and every revolution brings a cycle of temperature and weather patterns.

– I see.  And all the Earth has these ‘seasons’, and we here in 01111001 just follow the pace?

– Not just the pace of the Earth. Because even what time is night and day varies across the Earth. Here in our Chinatown abroad, of course, we go by Beijing Shijian.

At this time Xiao Yue was no longer paying attention. Apparently satisfied with the answer, she found herself distracted with video consoles. Wang Xing sat, sipped at his rice wine, and looked at the Earth, his mind filled with the memories when he was her age.

– Why don’t we have our own festivals Uncle?

Xiao Yue pleasantly surprised him, and he suddenly awoke from his nap and turned to her. – A wise question, my niece. I presume, because we are an early culture still, we must wait for the culture to grow in its own time. For now, it is more prudent to respect the Terran past that has already been long-established.

– Uncle, I have another question.

– Yes, my niece. The old uncle was infinitely patient.

– Is Chang’e real?

– Pardon?

– Is she real?

– Yes I think so.

– But how can that be that Chang’e and the jade rabbit truly come up to the moon four thousand and five hundred years ago?! I was made fun of at school, all the other kids said it is impossible! They said that was before jet propulsions, and in class they said the American Armstrong was the first in Luna. Why do we say Chang’e was here first?

– In a sense, Xiao Yue is real and not real.

– What? But where is she now? Over in Colony 01101101, or on the dark side? Does she live in Tycho Crater? I think that would be a great hiding place!

– Xiao Yue, she is not hiding in the Tycho Crater.

– Oh, she said with disappointment.

– Listen to me. There are many kinds of truths, many kinds of places. Cheng’e is true, but somewhere else. Wang Xing smiled to her and tapped at his head. – There are scientific facts, of which you must study carefully and make good marks. And there is, in another sense, the metaphoric truth of mythology and dreams. I hope you can believe in symbols just as well. It is important. But it may take you a long time to realize this.

– Oh.

– Do you understand? he asked, knowing that she probably didn’t.

Xiao Yue confidently answered, – I understand.