innocent bystander //a weblog

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Saturday, December 23, 2000

12:46 AM: 

the heavens bless ang lee, for he has given me back my soul. i'm not being overdramatic. let me explain why, and how.

i just saw crouching tiger, hidden dragon, and well, just several posts ago i was saying how i was giving up on my chinese half (not that i'm half-chinese; i'm full, but that i grew up in america). forget it, i was saying. i don't understand chinese people! my mom always raised me to believe that chinese people knew what was best for me, and i should do what they, every single one of them, say. and then i realized that what they've really been doing all along is using me to the benefit of themselves. telling me that i wasn't a good enough chinese person, just because they couldn't be good enough americans. heaven forbid i realize that i could get along much better in this country than they ever could, far surpass them.

oh wait, i never said that thing, several posts back. i'll write it up in a sec.

back to... so, i said to myself, fuck this! forget it, i'm not going to try and measure up to something i can never understand. every time they open one door, they close another. every time they give, they take away, and i can never get approval from these people, never be good enough, because that's the whole game. keep the american-born from ever being good enough. give them no shelter. i set about being a happy american.

it was going okay.

i threw away all the old mindsets. i tried living on what direct, outspoken yankee wits i had. it wasn't quite working out, but i figured i had a lot to learn. after all, the old world ways didn't work, did they? they held me back, personally and professionally. because of them i couldn't speak my mind. because of them i had always danced around what i meant to say. no more. i was going to come right out and be what i wanted to be, do what i wanted to do, say what i wanted to say because it was the Great American Way.

and then i saw the movie, and i realized. i can't put my chinese part away. all my eastern ways— even the habitual, excessive courtesy i'd come to see as duplicity— they couldn't be put away. seeing them onscreen i remembered them. i'd been trying so hard to forget. and yet they made me rich— it was like the first plunge of cream into coffee, for those of you who take their coffee with lots of sugar and cream— until that moment you have only the basic, nothing special, wonderful, useful. and i came out realizing that these cultural things that had turned sour and dysfunctional in just about everyone else chinese that i knew had their beauty. i had never seen their beauty. only someone truly wise could bring that out, and how many truly wise are in any culture? i have a hard enough time finding them here, among the english-speaking. i have barely the tools to find them in mandarin, and so until now i never had. what books could i read? what culture could i find, when everyone i knew who was enough of that world to have the tools (knowledge of the language, ability to read) was traditional, inflexible, blinkered, blind. sure, a hell of a lot of americans are, too. i'm not going to glorify those bastards. but i am blessed with reading and speaking english well enough to be able to find my own wisdom here, in the realm of the indo-european. enough to be able to ignore the rabble.

of the old world, rabble was all i had known. until now.

and so, what does it boil down to? i know this: there is empowerment and individuality yet in my chinese half. i have always had it in my american half, but the other 50 percent... i had been ready to dismiss. now i see that it's not so. it is possible to be okay in it— i saw the characters in the movie get exactly what they wanted without coming out and asking for it, get across exactly what they meant, even though they never came out and said it. they had an easier time because they were chinese speaking to chinese. i have always had a harder time because i was, in most cases, a chinese speaking to americans. (people are always saying that, still: jean, why didn't you just come right out and say that?) i wanted to give up my chinese part because i thought the problem was mine. now i see— the problem is theirs. ours.

i admire the orthodox jews at work in this way: their numbers are strong enough that they can be american and yet be orthodox. they have their strange cultural habits, too, but they stand stubborn in them. it's easier when you work among other orthodox. i am either brave or through bad luck too alien— i don't and couldn't work among other, very traditional, chinese. chinese americans, yes, but we are too disparate to be able to run companies full of ourselves. these jews, i can see that they stand their cultural ground. maybe it hurts them in subtle ways— a look, a comment, discrimination both personal and professional. and not to glamorize: i'm sure they're very discouraged from giving it up, and all the same so many are giving up— jewish people complain all the time that the young are assimilating and forgetting their culture. but those who don't give up don't at least lose that part of themselves. i have that part also because of my dual heritage; it's some kind of rare nugget. and now i see how preserving it preserves my peace of mind. that it is worth preserving despite the risk. that it is like honor. you hold to it even if it seems to hurt you, because not holding to it will hurt you even more.

ang lee saved my soul. i realized that not holding to my chinese heritage would hurt me dearly. i am eternally grateful.

Thursday, December 21, 2000

11:52 AM: 

Salon again:
Wealth, this guy told me, was a matter of choice. And I had simply chosen not to be wealthy. It's the kind of story that brings the real psychology of capitalism into stark relief.<>
i think that i, too, have chosen not to be wealthy. i'm not an engineer, or a programmer, not even a doctor. not a lawyer, although my lawyer friend isn't making big bucks yet, anyways. so maybe i really can't keep buying longcoats from armani exchange for long. but... at least i have never been so foolish as to think i should buy shoes from fred segal.

i suppose i can buy anything from anywhere. there are no sumptuary laws in the modern world. only in some people's heads. and i've jumped that hurdle. just because my mom bought all my childhood clothes from kmart and mervyn's doesn't mean that i can't pull off a|x and benneton just as well now. and i'm sure that, given a little more time, i can rise to compete with all the fendi- and moschino-wearing bitches that have infested my hometown in recent years. maybe even get a bimmer. the real question is whether i should. whether the act clashes with the choices i have made. and maybe i should figure that out before i have a closet full of clothes that i regret more than enjoy.

for, again, i have chosen not to be wealthy. there's no way to be a lowly writer and be wealthy unless my parents were wealthy, and they most certainly were not. they're a bunch of habitually-impoverished, old-world people dumped into the land of financial milk and honey who have no clue how to take advantage of what's going on. the social mobility. i say this with all possible sympathy. i don't cringe anywhere near as hard as dickens's Pip when the relatives come by. i try really hard not to cringe at all, really i do.

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

7:56 PM: 

parting shots:
Mac lovers settled in with popcorn, eager to witness the next quantum leap in the relationship between man and machine, while DOS/Windows users were just happy that they could use their cheap PC as a cash register and a payroll system...

Processors kept getting faster but only gamers could figure out what to do with them...

From Microsoft, people expect, at best, incrementally less annoying. From Apple, they demand insanely great.

7:48 PM: 

realizing that liking macs makes me a better democrat... priceless.

from Salon:

The father of a good friend of mine once lamented that his son entered college as a Republican Windows user but graduated as a Democrat and, perhaps worse, a Mac lover. <>

Tuesday, December 19, 2000

8:00 PM: 

i dated my first 2001 document today. got a little panicky when i wrote it down — where did the year go?! i thought — THE year, THE MILLENNIAL YEAR! of course, next year is the real millenium, and what does it matter anyways, the chinese calendar is several millenia ahead. 2 millenia? no big whoop.

i'm always regretting this last year, though. what a shitty year. shitty job, shitty life. i learned a lot, though. got an A in the school of hard... eh, you know.

hey, how's about i blog a link? SINFEST... i loved it in college, and it's even better now. go tatsuya!!! deny thy father and refuse thy name, who ever wanted to be a doctor/lawyer/accountant anyways? be a comic artist! i am proud that he used to be in The Daily Bruin.


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