4 Ways to Read More (or Start Reading!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

1. Allow yourself some "recruiter reads."
I grew up in a household that shamed 小說, or pretty much any novel that wasn't some monumental contribution to the literary tradition or scientific archives, so I had to sneak home my YA romance and coming-of-age novels. My sister and I (mostly I) have been known to police our friends and each other (again, mostly me to my sister) for picking up "frothy" reads, and I've carried this condescension to adulthood. I feel really shitty whenever some white dude in a cardigan accuses me of not being well-read because I literally have not ever enjoyed something by Jane Austin, Haruki Murakami, or W.B. Yeates.
I've also mispronounced "Yeates" in a poetry class of all places (it literally looks like "yeet", what the fuck was I supposed to think), which sent the whole class tittering. I've not yet fully recovered from that, but I did end up being the only one from that class to have a published body of work, so suck my Yeates.
The point is, I kowtowed to literary gatekeepers my entire life, and thought the only books I could admit to having read had to be from a high-brow Western curriculum. But of course, this is entirely bullshit, and *flawless segue* I ended up forming my own alternative curriculum last year, comprised entirely of Asian American authors. The embarrassment of reading "chick lit" remained, though, so much so that my goodreads count is a severe underestimation because I don't want to admit to the 0.3 people that follow me that I've read soft-core erotica (ahem) or obsessively re-read the Clique series a dozen times in adulthood.
What I'm trying to say is, don't be like me. Allow yourself the little pleasures of reading a book literally written for your pleasure. You deserve pleasure. Some of my favorites:

If You Leave Me | Crystal Hana Kim

Words in Deep Blue | Cath Crowley

How to Be a Person in the World | Heather Havrilesky

2. Utilize your local library.
Nothing in recent history has made me lose my shit quite like the since-removed (I think) Forbes column arguing that libraries should be defunded and privatized in favor of Amazon-like stores (like bookstores, you mean?) One of my favorite childhood memories was our biweekly trips to the library where we could literally fill up a canvas tote with potential adventures, sagas, dramas, etc. Does anybody understand how dope it is to have so much -- knowledge, fantasy, redemption, thrill, hope -- that we can borrow for free? (Spare me the taxpayer argument here.) And best of all, you get to keep what you learn. IT'S SO FUCKING COOL, and I hope we never lose the joy of seeing these big, wide bookshelves full of who we could be and getting to pick where our little minds go next.

3. Get yourself a damn Kindle. 
(Or use the Kindle desktop/iPhone app, I guess.) 14-year-old me sneered at the philistine who carried a little gray toy instead of a hardcover, but 22-year-old me (wiser, better hair) swoons at the mysterious contents of a stranger's Kindle. Are you reading a self-help book about infidelity? An alt-right memoir? Something vintage? All of the above because that's what you can do with an e-reader????
Honestly, somebody should start a YouTube trend called "what's in my Kindle," I would 10/10 watch.

You can also download library books onto your Kindle via Overdrive (read: FREE CONTENT)!
That being said, if you can afford to purchase books at an acceptable pace, a really great way to find recommendations is through your local independent bookstore. They'll usually have staff-curated displays of interesting titles, and I agree that there's nothing quite like holding a fresh book with its wild, vivid full-color cover (and fonts, I really miss fonts).

4. (Optional) Learn to speed read. 
I've always been a pretty quick reader, but I learned to speed read in high school. I can't claim 100% retention or comprehension of everything I've speed read, but I can testify to a still-rich experience. Case in point: I've never missed a reading in college (and did very well), and skimming is still better than skipping. You can read a bunch of op-eds about whether speed reading works (I'll even do the work for you: here, here, here, and here), but the gist of it is that if you know a lot of words (by reading a lot), and are comfortable reading (by reading a lot), you'll read quickly (and therefore read a lot). There's no crazy neuroscience to this, and if you're not in any hurry (i.e. your to-read list isn't a billion titles long), it doesn't necessarily make less sense take your time and reflect on every other sentence. But if you're anxious about your books outliving you (as I am), learn to speed read. Or read multiple books at once. Here's a loose explanation of the method I learned. 

 And finally, my favorite quotes about reading:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” 
J A M E S  B A L D W I N

“Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it.
Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.” 
W I L L I A M  F A U L K N E R

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” 
F R A N Z  K A F K A

"If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't f*ck them."
J O H N  W A T E R S

With great love,

The Catalogue: No. 15

15 is my favorite number, so obviously I'm going to dedicate Catalogue No.15 to fifteen of my favorite things in life. In other words, things that make me so, so happy to be alive!

1. Archaic Torso of Apollo | Rainer Maria Rilke
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced/beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:/would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.

2. YILAN | Kristin Chang
In Yilan, they will gather the dead/parts of the tree & burn away/the rot. 
It was my grandmother/who taught me to burn/only what you must, then water
the rest. Who taught me/that a tree is a body/through which water becomes fire.

3. In Response | Shihan
If there is ever a time you can't find me/don't worry. I'm doing alright. 

4. The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship | Esther Perel
So if there is a verb, for me, that comes with love, it's "to have." And if there is a verb that comes with desire, it is "to want." In love, we want to have, we want to know the beloved. We want to minimize the distance. We want to contract that gap. We want to neutralize the tensions. We want closeness. But in desire, we tend to not really want to go back to the places we've already gone. Forgone conclusion does not keep our interest. In desire, we want an Other, somebody on the other side that we can go visit, that we can go spend some time with, that we can go see what goes on in their red-light district. You know? In desire, we want a bridge to cross. Or in other words, I sometimes say, fire needs air. Desire needs space. And when it's said like that, it's often quite abstract.
5. 'I Feel Empty' | Ask Polly
You have to abandon the empty, successful, shiny shell of a person you became in order to please your father, to win your selfish boyfriends, to gain your glamorous magazine jobs, and you have to look into the inky hot abyss of your soul and pull out this wretched, messy self that you fear. You have to wipe the goop out of this self’s sad eyes like it’s your sick puppy. You have to cradle this self until it can stand and then walk forward. The very thought of this probably disgusts you. You’re sure that this pathetic self, who cares too much, is unworthy of love. That is the center of your malady. If you stare at that, without looking away, you will discover magic where you thought there was only a void.
6. 'I Love Myself, but Hate Being Single' | Ask Polly
You will find it. People who believe in life-changing love are the ones who find it. Keep believing. You can embrace reality and keep believing. You can honor death and keep living. Say this to yourself: I will believe in love until the sky falls. This is how I choose to live. When I believe, the stars shine more brightly, the birds sing together in chorus. Love will come to me in time. My job is to be patient, to try to take the obstacles in my path less seriously, and to savor the sweet, sad wonders of this day.
7. @hotdudesreading 
Literally what it sounds like. So delicious.

8. Similarly, @dilfs_of_disneyland
Side note, I used to live across the street from both a major park and hospital system so there were often hot doctor dads jogging with their kids in strollers and it was great.

9. @garyjanetti 
The funniest Instagram, ever. This is the best thing to binge-scroll through during shitty commutes. My favorites are the sassy Prince George ones.

10. @gryffindior 
Harry Potter characters in couture.

If you follow me on Instagram (and it's fine if you don't), you might know that I've tried to dabble more with art recently. My favorite art supplies:
11. This Sakura Koi Watercolor Set, which is teeny tiny (like a travel first-aid kit) and comes with a brush pen.

12. This 24-pack of gouache paints, a long-meditated purchase when I realized I don't actually enjoy watercolor all that much (but I still like my little set that I take everywhere).

13. Punk Post Co. 
An app-based snail mail service that commissions "handwriting artists" to hand-letter and address cute cards for you! I'm currently applying to be a "handwriting artist" (fingers crossed though I'm not as good as I thought I was), and I've already sent two cards. They range from $4-$6ish (with international shipping!) and I've been so pleased each time with the artwork. You can also add confetti or photo prints for $1 each. Anddddd, your first one is free! Can't say enough good things about this, especially if you've always wanted to send a sweet love letter but have shitty handwriting/no artistic skills. And if you want a guaranteed way to make somebody's day, send them a card just to say that you are proud of them and you are rooting for their best life.

14. Ferme a Papier is a San Francisco-based stationary collection and my current art inspiration! One of my dozen (no exaggeration) side projects is an East Asian-inspired set of gouache prints. Think Rifle Paper Co. meets Hakka prints meets loose hand-lettering. Can't wait to show you on the IG if this ever becomes a thing.

15. Not really an item, but I've recently had such energizing conversations with friends/strangers about the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in PR/Advertising industries (2.6%!!), Asian American masculinity/desirability, interracial relationships, 'To All the Boys I've Ever Loved,' literature, Taiwan, religion, etc. If you ever just want to chat about stuff with no apparent segue (you don't even have to ask me about my life just to be polite!) I am here and I love to talk! I also hate small talk! Let's dive right in!

Finally, with this little snippet on joy from an AAWW interview between AIMEE NEZHUKUMATATHIL and ROSS GAY.
RG: I am spending more and more time studying joy, in part because I suspect it is connected to (or one of the expressions of deep awareness of) love. And in part, too, because I think we have an obligation, like an ethical obligation, to study what we love, what we want to preserve and keep with us and grow. Joy strikes me as one of the ways we know we are in the midst of such things. It’s like a finger pointing to the thing, saying “Take care of this!” Saying, “Sing about this!” That might be a gathering of beloveds or it might mean someone giving you directions, both of you using languages you do not speak fluently. It might mean the green birds in Barcelona, or the sound of kids’ voices from somewhere you are not sure of. It might mean the creek like a xylophone when all the frogs hop in. Joy strikes me (it is funny that I am inclined to say that joy strikes me; this is a good strickenness, trust me) as, like, I don’t quite know how to say it, because I was going to say a kind of fabric between us, but it’s more like the way the fabric itself holds together. Joy alerts us to the moments when our alienation diminishes, or, even, disappears. It reminds us of our wholeness, our togetherness—which is the truth.

With joie de vivre!

The Catalogue: No. 14

Monday, August 20, 2018

Part of my duties on my current consulting project team is to do the "snack run" every week. Frequently, I buy them from Whole Foods so I thought this week I'd write about my favorite Whole Foods snacks.

1. Aurora Naturals Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Mmmm, just thinking about these has me salivating. I love the mix of chocolate with another food item that cuts the sweetness. While Aurora Naturals also offers a Milk Chocolate version, I think the Dark Chocolate one is a little less sweet and feels more "healthy". The box is pretty big, but I could definitely finish it in a day or two if I had less impulse control.

2. 365 Cape Cod Trail Mix

My current project team is super healthy. They love Lara Bars, RX Bars, Cliff Bars, unsalted almonds, and rarely ever snack or eat junk food. I'm not super into healthy eating since I usually find that most healthy snacks don't taste good, but I love the Cape Cod Trail Mix. This trail mix consists of roasted almonds, roasted and salted cashews, and dried sweet cranberries. I love that Whole Foods has a giant bag of the trail mix, but also a bag that comes with 10 single serving mini bags so I don't eat an unnecessarily large amount in one sitting.

3. Dang Sticky-Rice Chips - Coconut Crunch

I am addicted to these. The original ones are a little meh, but the coconut flavored ones are perfect. The Amazon product description reads, "Do you like crispy bottom-of-the-pan rice? If so, you'll love Dang Sticky-Rice Chips. These crunchy snack crisps are made with a base of steamed Organic sticky-rice soaked in watermelon juice then crisped up with a touch of seasoning. They have 30-40% less fat than regular potato chips." These are definitely my ~healthy~ chip/snack go-to (and tbh until I was writing this post, I had no idea that they were soaked in watermelon juice so if that part of the description turns you off then don't worry.)

4. 365 Veggie Chips

"A seasoned blend of potato, tomato, and spinach" with "30% less fat than regular potato chips". Another healthier alternative to chips, if you're like me and obsessed with Hot Cheetos and Cool Ranch Doritos and Cheetos Puffs and Lays Barbecue Chips and all other types of chips.. These are surprisingly better than any Veggie Straws I've ever had and 28 chips are only 130 calories!!

Please let me know if you have other snack recommendations. I'm always looking to impress my team (and my tummy!)

Eat with love,

What Pixar's 'Bao' and 'Crazy Rich Asians' Meant to Me

P H O T O  B Y  W A R N E R  B R O S  S T U D I O

It's literally in my OCL bio that I'm a mama's girl. My life's work navigates a strange dichotomy between "hot pot of rice that don't need no side dish" and "most filial child #1." Like many of my Asian American friends, I am independent, opinionated, and strong-willed. But I have never believed that my life is wholly my own.

So you understand why I might be frustrated by polarizing rhetoric like “tiger moms” and “crazy Asian mother,” why the Royal Wedding reaction that broke me wasn't that of the bride or groom, but of the mother who sat alone. Why my mom cried at her wedding (not happy tears, y'all), and why I think I may, too.

The little heartache from a rom-com like ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ or an animated short like ‘Bao’ comes from seeing my/our mothers finally represented as their beautiful, complicated selves. For Asian children, every romantic relationship can feel upended, or at least suspended by a filial one. Maybe it is duty. Resentment. Adoration. All of the above. In very traditional Taiwanese households (like mine), marriage is not an affair strictly of love, but a sort of obligation -- who do I belong to now? Who did I belong to first? I didn’t realize how steadfastly I believed this until I saw, in flashes during a past relationship, that the crossroads of tradition were ahead. I never wanted to marry an Asian boy, in case his mother would expect to own me as much as my own mother does. I would have obeyed them both until my spine split into three. I am just that kind of daughter. I always will be.

In my family, love and duty are Siamese gravities. We have a duty to those we love; we are loving because we are dutiful. My mother and aunt have an old Taiwanese proverb about the girls of our family being the flowers. Any boy we bring home is only our flowerpot. My family’s affection for him will always be, first and foremost, to ensure his affection for me. That Nick Young is allowed to propose to Rachel with his mother’s ring has little to do with Rachel but everything to do with a mother’s devotion to her son.

Tell me, then: what sort of personal passions stand up to a tradition like that?  

An Asian mother’s love is bewildering and overbearing, but with age we might learn to recognize its various apparitions. The strange-smelling soups. The elusive expectations. The infinite fears, dressed as disapproval. Their absolute unwillingness to lose us, to bid goodbye to the products of such sacrifice. Bao’s mother stuffs him into her mouth so he cannot leave. Eleanor lives separately from her son to ensure his grandmother’s favor. There is no limit to what they will do for us. There is no limit in either direction.

They are the willing villains, determined to be the only ones to hurt us. Our mothers are at once the boggart and the Patronus: she whose disappointment is every filial child’s darkest fear, she who shields us unconditionally. They are the battered body between us and the casting directors who would turn us away. The producers who would tell us our faces are not commercial enough. The editors who would see too little in our stories.

They are the first ones to tell us no, for the sake of being the only one allowed to break our hearts in this way. 

Eleanor Young isn’t a straightforward hero or villain, but she is the one my heart goes out to. That's not to say our mothers are absolved of their accidental violences. They (not my own mother, because she is perfect, obviously) can be cruel, unyielding, quick to dismiss our personhood. Asian American Studies would not serve as proxies for therapy if our mothers' love was an understood and well-received one. And yet. These mothers have raised generations of daughters and sons who recognize their intentions, even if they struggle to understand them. They are mythologized to embody entire islands, cultures, histories. Mine is my compass, my passport, my home -- all at once.

So what I'm trying to say is, watching Pixar's 'Bao' and 'Crazy Rich Asians' alongside my mom allowed me to show her: the whole world honors what you have done for me. Kam sia. 

Everything You Need to Read After Watching Crazy Rich Asians

P H O T O  B Y  W A R N E R  B R O S  S T U D I O
So here's how it should go down:
STEP ONE. Read the books because they're fantastic and delicious and summery (and summer's almost over).

STEP TWO. Scan the pre-screening syllabus for a loose framework to understand what's at stake and at play: Everything You Need to Read Before Watching Crazy Rich Asians

STEP THREE: Watch Crazy Rich Asians for the first time.

STEP FOUR: Skip the media scan/Twitter binge because we've literally done it for you with this post. Or find literally very article here, on Crazy Rich Artists.

BONUS STEP: Listen to the soundtrack, especially Kina Grannis' cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" because it's making me reconsider my blue-collar courthouse wedding dreams in favor of something worthy of this entrance music.

STEP FIVE: Contribute comments and think pieces because no matter your level of fluency or experience with cultural film critique (I have none) -- for the first time in our entire lives, we have an entry-level opportunity for dialogue! Asian American journalists get to write about subjects/opinions that don't center the dominant discourse! That's what gets me giddy about CRA (in addition to Chris Pang, who was interviewed earlier in the year by TaiwaneseAmerican.org).

STEP SIX: Watch Crazy Rich Asians for the second time. Call your mom and tell her you love her.

*MUST READ* The Symbolism of Crazy Rich Asians' Pivotal Mahjong Scene, Explained | Jeff Yang for Vox
One of the most beautiful things about Crazy Rich Asians is how it refuses to explain many of its most intrinsically Asian elements. That lack of training wheels is intentional: As director Jon M. Chu told me, “We didn’t want to give people an excuse to think of this world as some kind of obscure, exotic fantasyland — this is a real place, with real culture, history and tradition, and instead of just giving them answers to their questions, we want them to have conversations.”
*MUST READ* Going Virile: How 'Crazy Rich Asians' Redefines Hollywood' Asian Man | Cary Chow for The Undefeated 
Jon Chu, the 38-year-old Chinese-American director of Crazy Rich Asians who grew up in Palo Alto, California, knows the history and stereotype of the desexualized Asian man all too well:
“I was always taught to keep my head to the ground, keep working, be better. Not let those things [negative media portrayals] affect me. That’s not easy when you’re growing up trying to define your own masculinity, trying to find out what it means to be a man to yourself, when everyone’s telling you you’re not. It’s almost like you can’t comprehend it until after you’ve been through it and look back. You don’t know why you feel like you want to hide your Asian-ness because you think people will look at you weird; or you don’t know why you’re so scared to meet your girlfriend’s parents because they have no idea that you’re Asian, but when they look at you, you’re going to see it in their eyes immediately. Those things are painful to think about. Even right now I’m feeling emotional talking about it. But you don’t know how that feels until it happens.” 
*MUST READ* Opinion: Don't Sweat the #Repsweats And Let 'Crazy Rich Asians' Be What It Is | Kat Chow for NPR
Crazy Rich Asians is not a movie that intends to tackle heady issues of race or colonialism directly; rather, it sets out to tell a love story, in the vein of Cinderella, and to poke fun at the opulence of the wealthy. It shows very plainly how a Chinese-American woman named Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) navigates a very specific household in a very specific neighborhood in a very specific Asian country. I could put on my cocktail party voice and ramble on about how one could probably argue that the movie embodies the undulating predicament of constantly being an outsider-insider and what things like place and origin and diaspora have to do with that and how that's all very much an immigrant thing, but I won't. Because to me, that is all beside the point.
Asian America's Great Gatsby Moment | Mark Tseng-Putterman for The Atlantic
But it’s unfair to single out Crazy Rich Asians for its apparent concern with white standards of respectability. The arguable crowning of media representation as the defining Asian American issue points to some deep concerns about how we are perceived. While many speak of the legitimate importance of seeing people who look like themselves on screen, the investment in mainstream depictions in particular—often to the marginalization of a thriving Asian American indie-film circuit—implies a preoccupation with not only (or even primarily) how Asian Americans see ourselves, but also how others see us.

‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,’ and the Growing Pains of Representation | Donnie Kwak for The Ringer
This is the Catch-22 of representation, raising difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about how we want to see ourselves depicted on screen. There are no absolute rights or wrongs in this uncharted territory, only worthy discourse. However, dialogue about these prickly issues—about casting, about colorism, about interracial dating—is largely occurring in private, or at least being confined to the margins. Publicly, the Asian American community has been gobsmacked by positivity, banding together in hopeful solidarity to help these films succeed. 
 Crazy Rich Asians  Is the Love Letter to My People I Never Had a Chance to Write | Adele Lim for Glamour
With Crazy Rich Asians, I had to do none of that. I felt these characters in my bones—they looked and acted like my family members or people I knew. Their voices were ones I grew up with. Their vices, predilections, and obsession with food and luxury handbags were details etched in my DNA. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is one that isn't in the book—we had to compress plot points to squeeze it into a two-hour movie—and that's a scene of Rachel, the protagonist, playing mahjong with Eleanor, her boyfriend's mother.craz
'Crazy Rich Asians': Read the Letter That Convinced Coldplay to Allow "Yellow" in the Movie | Rebecca Sun for Hollywood Reporter
To director Jon M. Chu, the only tune that could fit the bill was Coldplay’s 2000 breakthrough single "Yellow.” Warner Bros. was concerned that the song’s title was problematic (the word has been used as an ethnic slur against Asians), but that’s exactly why Chu wanted it. “We’re going to own that term,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in an outtake from THR’s cover story. “If we’re going to be called yellow, we’re going to make it beautiful.”
Crazy Rich Asians: Behind the Soundtrack's Multilingual Covers of Madonna, Coldplay, and More | Shirley Li for Entertainment
Getting into it meant gathering as many songs as possible that matched what Chu’s vision. Hilfer and the director collaborated on creating lengthy playlists of potential songs, gathering both vintage tracks (like those of Grace Chang and Yao Lee, two Chinese singers from the ’50s and ’60s) and contemporary ones (from artists like Kina Grannis and Miguel) to choose from for the final soundtrack. The pair scoured YouTube and classic films for help and searched for vocalists fluent in Chinese to handle the covers.
Crazy Rich Asians Is Going to Change Hollywood. It's About Time | Karen Ho for TIME
Even Eleanor, who butts heads with Rachel, isn’t a typical potential monster-in-law—she just comes from a different world and thinks only of what’s best for her son and the families that depend on him. “In the old traditional sense, the elders came first. They were always put ahead of us,” Yeoh explains. “That’s how we showed filial piety and love.” The film, Yeoh says, represents “a great opportunity to show our heritage and our traditions from the Asian side.” 
And, above all:
Gentle reminder that "Asian Black Panther" is less than ideal wording, especially here, where [Asian Americans] demand to be included in Black-led movements without contribution of labor or support. I get that the intention is to wish for a film that's for and by ]Asian Americans]. In this case it's more appropriate, [in my opinion], to talk about that specifically instead of using a shorthand that's evocative of our community's tendency to feel entitled to whatever Black people create. | @NoTotally

With crazy rich love,

My Editorial Scan Routine

Monday, August 13, 2018

I am the fakest Print Journalism Ride or Die ™ ever, because while I adore print magazines, newspapers, books, etc. I’m also cheap as hell and refuse to pay for any sort of subscription service that does not come with a free tote bag. I also love books more than anyone I know, but I will be damned if I am caught paying full retail price for one. But I do champion the ethos of traditional journalism the way only a millennial born in its fading days does: with imagined nostalgia, idealized longing, pretentiousness. I like poetry in my politics, politics in my poetry. I want everything to sound good and reveal something.

So imagine my dismay when someone tried to suggest that the future of journalism was in listicles and gifs! I like memes as much as the next 20-something, but not when I’m trying to figure out who the fuck to vote for. Below, my weekly editorial scan routine, otherwise known as stuff online that I like to read.

If you don’t have idle time to browse like I do, READ MY CATALOGUES! In which I round up my favorite short reads of the week! (CL does something a little different, but definitely read hers too! I always do!)

MORNING COFFEE READS (5-10 minutes to spare)
Refinery29 - I really like their Money Diaries series, almost as much as I like complaining about them with my co-workers (in a sort of affectionate, “fuck this bitch who makes 4x my salary” way) .

New York Magazine's The Cut - Refinery29’s older, urban sister. I like their Sex Diaries series. I also make it a point to peek into their Books section every once in a while to feed my bloated “To Read” list on Goodreads.

Wall Street Journal - Included only because I dragged myself through (undergraduate) business school and need something WASP-y and douchey to show for it. I make myself read (ahem, skim) 2-3 articles a day while sipping a work-issued La Croix. I don’t ever enjoy it. I’m probably better for it, though. It also puts more relevant journalists on my radar (useful for my job!). I read New York Times for the same reason.

Hyphen Magazine - Sort of my obligatory scan to stay aware of what’s happening and who’s-who  in Asian America. I wish it had a love child with The Baffler (see below). I would devour that.

Asian American Writers' Workshop - If nothing else, then at least for the monthly roundups of Asian American writers and works. I don’t actually read this very often -- maybe once or twice a month.

LUNCH BREAK/COMMUTE READS (15-20 minutes to spare)
The Baffler - Left-leaning political criticism, cultural analysis, quirky-brilliant short stories, poems, and art. This is where the cynical, smart kids from college who sold hand-cut zines go as adults. In short, super fucking interesting. I also learn a lot of big words reading The Baffler.

n+1 Magazine - A gathering of bright writers who were always encouraged to take themselves and their ideas seriously -- not as literary gatekeepers, but as preservers of the craft. Who wrote as if their lives, but not necessarily livelihoods, depended upon it. Really curious, witty, vivid work. This one makes me want to write more.

The New Yorker - Okay, this I actually have a subscription for, but only until the cheap trial period is over. (Yes! I got it for the free tote!) My favorite source of book reviews and humour (I am not a funny person, so I particularly appreciate when others are.) Disappointingly, I don’t always like the poetry they feature. But nobody asked me, so.

Anybody who knows me well knows I have a secret longing to be a rich housewife (or “household manager”) who takes crafting and brunching very, very seriously. Or a Small Business Owner with Financial Safety Net aka Husband ™ -- those women really figured life out. Until then, those who can’t, read about it.

A Fabulous Fete - Once in a while, I really think I could make it as a calligrapher, except I only have slightly nice handwriting and refuse to invest in formal training when there are lovely folks on YouTube and Skillshare who offer all of the expertise, none of the constructive feedback I generally dread. Everything she does is beautiful.

The House That Lars Built - It literally does not get whiter than this, and I love it. Whimsical illustrations, bright colors, nifty DIYs that cost four times as much as BIOA (Buy It On Amazon).


Read! Read! Read! 

With great love,

Comment your favorite sources of short reads below! Please! 

The Catalogue: No. 13

Friday, August 10, 2018

This week in Silicon Valley because I love throwing shade at Silicon Valley! (I grew up here and love it dearly, but there is a certain archetype that arises from sudden (and unequally distributed) wealth and the illusion of meritocracy and we gave birth to it.)

I'm Done Pretending Silicon Valley Tech is Visionary | Marco Marandiz for Startup Grind
In Silicon Valley, there is an entrepreneur on every corner, and a new you-sit-at-home-naked-while-i-do-your-shopping app every week. Only a handful of companies, proportionally speaking, are actually trying to do things that will have a meaningful impact, and the organizations that have true vision are generally underfunded and unnoticed.
Many startups define their mission just well enough to discover an avenue to revenue. And some don’t even want revenue. They just want users, because lately that’s as good as cash when going in for a round of funding. Most of these startups die within the year, and most people will forget their names long before then.
How Tech Campuses Hinder Diversity and Help Diversification |  Emma Grey Ellis for Wired
If tech campuses are glamorous black boxes with a special (homogenous) caste of workers jumping from one to the other and back again, it starts to look like meritocracy has no room for diversity. And that in turn makes it even harder for people not plugged into the network to find an entry point. "When you have these insular campuses where people don’t interact with the area around them, it becomes this opaque world," says Y-Vonne Hutchinson, founder and executive director of recruitment firm ReadySet, and cofounder of Project Include. "White and Asian male talent has learned how to play that system, but people from under-resourced backgrounds assume that they cannot succeed in getting through the hiring process."
How Silicon Valley Has Disrupted Philanthropy | Alana Semuels for The Atlantic
[Silicon Valley nonprofits] are taking their cues from The Giving Code, which recommends not talking about “charity” and meeting immediate community needs, but instead focusing on “impact” and getting at root causes of problems. It suggests using the language and mindsets of business, and focusing on metrics, data, and effectiveness, rather than the language of altruism and ethics. It says that Silicon Valley donors are interested in approaches to solving problems that use technology, and in causes to which they have a personal connection. 
The 'Black Hole' That Sucks Up Silicon Valley's Money | Alana Semuels for The Atlantic
But nonprofits say it would be much more helpful for donors to give out that money now, when people who live in Silicon Valley are struggling. Especially because some of the challenges facing lower-income people are directly related to the success of some of these entrepreneurs, who created companies that brought tens of thousands of new people to the region, pushing up demand for housing. “Sometimes that injection of significant funds to a reputable organization could be a game changer on a social problem,” Cat Cvengros, the vice president of development and marketing at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, told me. The food bank has seen a 50 percent increase in demand since the recession, Cvengros said, and isn’t able to respond to all the people who need its help.
Silicon Valley's Unchecked Arrogance | Ross Baird for Bright
Silicon Valley has become a “monocrop” culture where entrepreneurs are well-educated, have frictionless access to capital, and have their basic needs taken care of. The majority of resources today are going to entrepreneurs whose lived experience is in well-off, well-connected cities.
The Origin of Silicon Valley's Dysfunctional Attitude Towards Hate Speech | Noam Cohen for The New Yorker
Today, of course, hateful, enraging words are routinely foisted on the public by users of all three companies’ products, whether in individual tweets and Facebook posts or in flawed Google News algorithms. Championing freedom of speech has become a business model in itself, a cover for maximizing engagement and attracting ad revenue, with the social damage mostly pushed aside for others to bear. When the Internet was young, the reason to clean it up was basic human empathy—the idea that one’s friends and neighbors, at home or on the other side of the world, were worth respecting. In 2017, the reason is self-preservation: American democracy is struggling to withstand the rampant, profit-based manipulation of the public’s emotions and hatreds.
Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley (book) | Emily Chang
For women in tech, Silicon Valley is not a fantasyland of unicorns, virtual reality rainbows, and 3D-printed lollipops, where millions of dollars grow on trees. It's a "Brotopia," where men hold all the cards and make all the rules. Vastly outnumbered, women face toxic workplaces rife with discrimination and sexual harassment, where investors take meetings in hot tubs and network at sex parties.
In this powerful exposé, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang reveals how Silicon Valley got so sexist despite its utopian ideals, why bro culture endures despite decades of companies claiming the moral high ground (Don't Be Evil! Connect the World!)--and how women are finally starting to speak out and fight back.
Drawing on her deep network of Silicon Valley insiders, Chang opens the boardroom doors of male-dominated venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins, the subject of Ellen Pao's high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, and Sequoia, where a partner once famously said they "won't lower their standards" just to hire women. Interviews with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer--who got their start at Google, where just one in five engineers is a woman--reveal just how hard it is to crack the Silicon Ceiling. And Chang shows how women such as former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, entrepreneur Niniane Wang, and game developer Brianna Wu, have risked their careers and sometimes their lives to pave a way for other women.
Silicon Valley's aggressive, misogynistic, work-at-all costs culture has shut women out of the greatest wealth creation in the history of the world. It's time to break up the boys' club. Emily Chang shows us how to fix this toxic culture--to bring down Brotopia, once and for all.
Silicon Valley Has a Homelessness Crisis |  Michelle Chen for The Nation
For years there has been a dramatic contrast between the concentrated wealth and political influence of the creative classes and the swelling homelessness epidemic in gentrifying cities like San Francisco and Oakland. Next door to the houses of young tech startup executives, families sleep in parked cars, while many workers must pay more in rent than they earn in wages. The Guardian recently reported that in East Palo Alto, one-third of schoolchildren are estimated to be homeless, meaning they have no secure form of shelter. More than 10,000 homeless people were stranded across San Jose and Santa Clara Counties last year on any given night, including hundreds of families with children. And that number doesn’t include the “hidden homeless,” the countless people without their own shelter who “double up” at friends’ houses. Sprawling homeless encampments dot the Bay, and the crisis is so endemic in some communities, activists have begun establishing homeless trailer camps in church parking lots.
The Curb-Cut Effect | Angela Glover Backwell for Stanford Social Innovation Review
There’s an ingrained societal suspicion that intentionally supporting one group hurts another. That equity is a zero sum game. In fact, when the nation targets support where it is needed most—when we create the circumstances that allow those who have been left behind to participate and contribute fully—everyone wins. The corollary is also true: When we ignore the challenges faced by the most vulnerable among us, those challenges, magnified many times over, become a drag on economic growth, prosperity, and national well-being.
This has become painfully evident as inequality has reached toxic levels in the United States. Since 1979, the income of workers in the top 10 percent has grown nearly 15 percent. For workers in the bottom 10 percent, incomes have fallen more than 11 percent. The top 25 hedge fund managers earn more than all kindergarten teachers in America put together. Only 9 out of 100 children born to parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution can expect to rise above their circumstances, the cornerstone of the American Dream.
This Is Your Life in Silicon Valley | Sunil Rajaraman for The Bold Italic
You decide to share an article about Brexit from The Atlantic, which will somehow shed light to all your friends as to why it happened. The article is 1,000 words long — you read only half of it, but that’s good enough. It captures all the arguments you’ve been wanting to make for the past two months to your friends. Will this be the Facebook post that finally spurs your friends into action? You realize your Facebook friends all agree with your political views and social views already.

What LC Read: Vol. 9

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Still playing with formatting and content for this series, stay tuned! I've also read many, many books in sequence that have dealt with (or been informed by) infidelity, and this makes me nervous.

1. Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win | Jo Piazza
I really like Jo Piazza books (The Knockoff, Fitness Junkie, How to Be Married)!
They're lighthearted and easy to read, while making incisive commentary about the weirdness of contemporary human behavior and relationships. Every character stands for a motif/trope recognizable in our own lives, and Piazza's writing manages to feel familiar without being stale or overdone. Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win is the political response to fashion's The Knockoff and fitness's Fitness Junkie. Some delicious side-eye at the idealism and arrogance of Silicon Valley, which I always like. You'll like the set if you like Refinery29 (I do!)
From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.
Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.
A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle. 

2. What We Were Promised | Lucy Tan
Very Chinese. I feel like I've read this story a dozen times: the dissonance arising from rapid industrialization and wealth. Guilt. Obligation. Disgust. Duty. I liked it, but felt zero urgency to get through it. I usually abandon books that aren't interesting after the first few chapters, but I felt compelled to push through this one, and I'm ambivalent that I did. As an aside, if you're fluent in Mandarin/any foreign language and read a book that once in a while phoneticizes that language, it can really slow you down.
After years of chasing the American dream, the Zhen family has moved back to China. Settling into a luxurious serviced apartment in Shanghai, Wei, Lina, and their daughter, Karen, join an elite community of Chinese-born, Western-educated professionals who have returned to a radically transformed city.
One morning, in the eighth tower of Lanson Suites, Lina discovers that a treasured ivory bracelet has gone missing. This incident sets off a wave of unease that ripples throughout the Zhen household. Wei, a marketing strategist, bows under the guilt of not having engaged in nobler work. Meanwhile, Lina, lonely in her new life of leisure, assumes the modern moniker taitai-a housewife who does no housework at all. She is haunted by the circumstances surrounding her arranged marriage to Wei and her lingering feelings for his brother, Qiang. Sunny, the family's housekeeper, is a keen but silent observer of these tensions. An unmarried woman trying to carve a place for herself in society, she understands the power of well-kept secrets. When Qiang reappears in Shanghai after decades on the run with a local gang, the family must finally come to terms with the past and its indelible mark on their futures.
From a silk-producing village in rural China, up the corporate ladder in suburban America, and back again to the post-Maoist nouveaux riches of modern Shanghai, What We Were Promised explores the question of what we owe to our country, our families, and ourselves.

3. The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop | edited by Coval et al.
While Rilke was THE poetic genesis for me, I lost interest in poetry for a while until an 8th grade poetry project in which I profiled a bunch of rappers and slam poets to impress the dumb ass boy I liked then. While that boy and his misguided insistence that "only underground rappers are real rappers" (ok, white boy) are inconsequential, I did find artists who are rarely visible in the traditional middle-school canon: Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, Saul Williams. I credit Def Jam poetry for reminding me that I liked poetry at all. Anthologies very rarely disappoint. This one did not.
Hip-Hop is the largest youth culture in the history of the planet rock. This is the first poetry anthology by and for the Hip-Hop generation.
It has produced generations of artists who have revolutionized their genre(s) by applying the aesthetic innovations of the culture. The BreakBeat Poets features 78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999, All-City and Coast-to-Coast, who are creating the next and now movement(s) in American letters.
The BreakBeat Poets is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who've never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.
The BreakBeat Poets are the scribes recording and remixing a fuller spectrum of experience of what it means to be alive in this moment. The BreakBeat Poets are a break with the past and an honoring of the tradition(s), an undeniable body expanding the canon for the fresher.

4. Tell the Machine Goodnight | Katie Williams
This one was promising by all accounts (dystopic/speculative fiction! artificial intelligence! positive psychology!) but I forget that I generally dislike books split into various perspectives. Multiple narrators can be exhausting when they exist in the same time and space. I really, really liked the premise -- just wish it were done differently. (Don't let that deter you though! A lot of people have been thrilled with this and it's a fascinating concept.)
Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, she provides customers with personalized recommendations for greater contentment. She's good at her job, her office manager tells her, successful. But how does one measure an emotion?
Meanwhile, there's Pearl's teenage son, Rhett. A sensitive kid who has forged an unconventional path through adolescence, Rhett seems to find greater satisfaction in being unhappy. The very rejection of joy is his own kind of "pursuit of happiness." As his mother, Pearl wants nothing more than to help Rhett--but is it for his sake or for hers? Certainly it would make Pearl happier. Regardless, her son is one person whose emotional life does not fall under the parameters of her job--not as happiness technician, and not as mother, either.
Told from an alternating cast of endearing characters from within Pearl and Rhett's world, Tell the Machine Goodnight delivers a smartly moving and entertaining story about relationships and the ways that they can most surprise and define us. Along the way, Katie Williams playfully illuminates our national obsession with positive psychology, our reliance on quick fixes and technology. What happens when these obsessions begin to overlap? With warmth, humor, and a clever touch, Williams taps into our collective unease about the modern world and allows us see it a little more clearly.

5. The Heirs | Susan Rieger
My favorite type of fiction! Full of complex, interesting characters who say witty things that I could never ideate on the spot. I think I'm also just in love with Ivy League-educated mama's boys on principle. And there are five of them in this. A really delicious story about a dysfunctional WASP family, so basically my imagination of the Fantasy genre for obvious reasons. I really, really liked this one -- finished it overnight!
Brilliantly wrought, incisive, and stirring, The Heirs tells the story of an upper-crust Manhattan family coming undone after the death of their patriarch. Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him.
In disconcerting contrast, their mother, Eleanor, is cool and calm, showing preternatural composure. Eleanor and Rupert had made an admirable life together -- Eleanor with her sly wit and generosity, Rupert with his ambition and English charm -- and they were proud of their handsome, talented sons: Harry, a brash law professor; Will, a savvy Hollywood agent; Sam, an astute doctor and scientific researcher; Jack, a jazz trumpet prodigy; Tom, a public-spirited federal prosecutor.
The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty - a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find Eleanor's sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood has let her cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, and the brothers begin to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.
A riveting portrait of a family, told with compassion, insight, and wit, The Heirs wrestles with the tangled nature of inheritance and legacy for one unforgettable, patrician New York family. Moving seamlessly through a constellation of rich, arresting voices, The Heirs is a tale out Edith Wharton for the 21st century. 

6. The Vegetarian | Han Kang
I am told Han Kang is brilliant, and I believe it even if I'm too pedestrian to bear witness to this. I've read her Human Acts, described as "extraordinary poetry of humanity" (what a description to carry!), and felt underwhelmed, though I'm tempted to credit this to personal failures. I felt similarly unconvinced by The Vegetarian, which is supposed to be an allegory for South Korea -- if so, it went completely over my head. It was dark in ways that weren't quite disturbing enough (maybe I'm just fucked up), and its weirdness barely fascinating. Kang's books probably deserve a second read when I am a little wiser. I also think part of why I wasn't shocked by it is that I'm generally unfazed by how steadfastly we (Asians) clutch to social order.
Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.
A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

The Catalogue: No. 12

Anyone who knows me knows that I love watching TV. On average, I probably have spent more time in college watching TV than studying (sorry mom, sorry dad, sorry grades!)

This is a list of my favorite TV shows! And since I watch way too much TV, I will definitely have a part 2 in a couple months.

1. Parks and Recreation

This is a classic "feel good" show that people who can get through Season 1 and 2 love. I have never not laughed watching this show and it's a great pick for a post-finals binge watching session. By the time you finish the show, you'll be saying "treat yo' self" and wish you had met Lil Sebastian. One of the reasons why I love this show is that the humor comes from a positive place. While I also love  Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty, the show is comforting and relatable in a happier way. In case you need more convincing, here are some great quotes from the show:
  • “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly.” - Leslie Knope
  • "There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk. Which is water that’s lying about being milk.” — Ron Swanson
  • “I’m allergic to sushi. Every time I eat more than 80 pieces, I throw up." — Andy
  • "When people get a little too chummy with me I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them." — Ron Swanson
  • "I would like to be President someday so no I have not smoked marijuana. I ate a brownie once at a party in college. It was intense. It was kind of indescribable actually. I felt like I was floating. Turns out there wasn't any pot in the brownie, it was just an insanely good brownie." — Leslie Knope 

2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

This is another classic "binge-worthy" TV show with amazing set of characters made from an amazing cast. The show has viewers invested in the characters and they feel like a comedic family. One of my favorite characters is Gina Linetti for being my #girlgoals. She loves herself and is always honest with others and never tries to be anyone but herself.

A couple months ago, Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans were shocked and saddened when Fox announced this week that it was canceling the beloved sitcom after five seasons. Viewers, including a few A-list celebs, immediately got #RenewB99 trending on Twitter, and as with many other shows that were canceled too soon, it became clear just how deep people's love for the one-of-a-kind comedy goes. Fortunately for everyone involved, NBC rescued the show from extinction. If that's not proof how good the show is, I don't know what can be.

3. Westworld

By now you're probably thinking I only watch "feel good" comedic shows, but I do love my serious introspective shows too. Westworld is probably one of the most popular sci-fi shows in existence right now. This sci-fi series is based on a Western world, but you'll soon discover it's more than that. The "Westworld" amusement park is a futuristic park for rich people who are allowed to play out their fantasies on "robot humans". You'll think about immortality, human nature, your own secrets, individuality, and so much more.

It's also FULL of plot twists. Every episode, I am left with a couple answered questions but even more unanswered questions. One episode I'm rooting for one character and the next episode, I find that same character evil. This show leaves me feeling a roller coaster of emotions (especially if you binge-watch the show). The cast is also amazing and low-key diverse (Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Tessa Thompson, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright and more). A perfect time to watch this show is NOW as there are only two seasons, each with 10 and most episodes are an hour long! You're only spending a day of your life watching this if you started today and you can probably watch a couple hours a day and finish in 2 weeks.

Those are my top 3 recommendations right now.
But here are three other great shows:

Black Mirror (pretty great if you're just looking to watch an episode here or there since there's not really an overarching plot between episodes, this series features suspenseful, satirical tales about technology and what could become of the modern world), Queer Eye (amazing reboot of a show where the "Fab Five" help makeover the lives/homes/cooking styles/fashion senses/grooming habits/culture of men and women in Atlanta, this show is hilarious and full of raw emotion), and Dear White People (with a tagline like "Students of color navigate the daily slights and slippery politics of life at an Ivy League college that's not nearly as "post-racial" as it thinks" you already know it's relevant to many millenials, the show is controversial and very provocative and may simplify a lot of the racism that actually exists in elite colleges, but it's still an eye-opener for many and it comes with discussions on guns, interracial relationships, and more).

Watch TV with love,

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