Category Archives: Thoughts & Ideas

Visiting Hillary

Yesterday, I got a sample ballot for next Tuesday’s primary… Which is puzzling because I thought I registered as Independent.  I also received a rally call for Hillary being in Newark on Wednesday June 1st.

I’ve never gone to a political rally before–It’s on my bucket list. With the ballot in hand and the rally call, I thought I’d check that off. I also thought it’d be interesting to see her through my own eyes, in person–The potential history maker. If she does become the first woman president, I will be glad that I went to her rally in the state that potentially put her over the line to become the Democratic nominee.

The day of the rally was very sunny and pleasant in the morning–Not too hot. IMG_5052

I arrived at the location and waited in the very long line of women, blacks and Hispanics around the block. Soon I was handed a small form to fill out. The volunteer announced: “You must fill out this form, or you will be blocked from entering the building.”  I looked at the form, it’s asking for my personal information–Name, email, contact phone number, and select a choice time to volunteer…

OK, I really don’t want to fill this out–I don’t like giving out my personal information, plus I’m registered Independent… At least I thought I am. But if I say I’m an Independent, would they still let me in? I could lie on the form and say that I’m Betty, a housewife from Clifton, raising 2 kids… But I just can’t lie–I’m a terrible liar… It’s uncomfortable for me either way!

Suddenly, I remembered that I brought my ID from my part-time job. So I got the attention of another volunteer, who happened to be very nice and pleasant. I said to her:

“I don’t think I can fill this out… Because I work for a news organization.”  

“Oh I get it–You can’t support a political party because your work has to be unbiased… Do you have an ID?”  I flashed my work ID immediately.

IMG_5053
The blue card that identified me with the rest of the journalists at the event

“OK, you don’t have to fill out this form. You just need to get in line with the press.”

She showed me to the front of the building, where the rest of the journalists await. Shortly I was handed a blue card that reads “Credentialed Press.” I am so glad that I’m prepared!

Journalists got to enter the building before most people, so they could get through security with all their equipment, start setting up and get to work. With the blue card, and my phone in my hand, I blended right in with all the journalists.

Gradually, the barricades were setup, people started coming in, and music started playing. There was a live jazz ensemble and performance from Malcolm X Shabazz High School marching band. Right around 1:30pm, Senator Teresa Ruiz kicked off a series of motivation speeches by Congressman Donald Payne Jr., and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, to encourage people to vote next Tuesday. Then, to my pleasant surprise, Mr. Jon Bon Jovi (!) showed up to introduce Senator Cory Booker and Secretary Hillary Clinton. (I always liked his music.)

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Malcolm X Shabazz High School marching band

As soon as Secretary Clinton was on the stage, I was pulled by a security member to stand behind the barricades setup for Press. That’s why I couldn’t get a better picture of her–I only had my iPhone.

My favorite speech today was really by Senator Booker. (Sorry Hillary–I’ve already formed my opinions of Donald Trump. So your speech today, to me, was preaching to the choir.)

I met Senator Booker years ago, when he was the mayor of Newark. He not just talked the talk, he pragmatically walked the walk. As Mayor, he cleaned up Newark and setup a new course for future mayors to follow, before he went on to represent us in the Senate. When I met him in person years ago, he was very charismatic and persuasive. He actually got me to consider investing my business in Newark… He even charmed my late father-in-law, who was a long time Republican.

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Senator Cory Booker speaking

Today, Senator Booker’s enthusiasm at the podium kept me engaged through the entire time. He used historical references to make his points heard. Being someone who likes statements backed up by facts, I really like this style of communication.

 

Hillary, a fellow October Scorpion, is poised, as always, graceful, steady and strong–Never a disappointment to me… Even during her toughest time as First Lady, before the world knew about her husband having an affair with a White House intern, she was reasonably and notably upset. But she still managed to keep the matter private by making Bill sleeping on the couch. According to Business Insider, she dealt with the affair by spending time alone and eating lots of her favorite mocha cake–In other words, she handled the matter well, never made a scene in public. This episode was a strong indicator that showed Hillary having the wisdom, and being strong enough to suppress her emotions in public, at a time of doubt over her very public marriage to the President of the United States.

Think about it: Too much would be at stake if she had acted up on this affair–Not only her marriage would end, she would have setup a bad example for Chelsea, her teenage First Daughter at the time, who was already in the public spotlight, and it would also negatively impact her life. Expressing jealous rage at such a stressful time would only add oil to the fire and would not be conducive to solving problems…

I would much rather choose a wise person to be the leader of our country, who evidently is strong, organized and wise enough to draw the line between private and public lives, has the experience dealing with domestic issues and foreign policies, and knows her people and the government, inside and out.

Today in Newark, Hillary touched on all the issues that faced our country, and promised to address them, if she were elected President.  The headline-maker today was calling Donald Trump a “fraud” – Not surprising from the news that came out around Trump recently.

I started tweeting as her words stuck in my head… Hey, I was granted a press pass, why not use it to do what I’m “supposed” to do! LOL

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Hillary taking a selfie with a fan

At the end of the event, they removed the press barricades. So I rushed toward the stage trying to get a good picture of Hillary… With Secret Service agents around her, she was walking along with another set of railings, taking selfies with fans as she walked by, shaking their hands. I couldn’t get any closer than a few heads away–it was so crowded! But I managed to get an overhead shot of her taking a selfie.  🙂

 

 

If you want to follow me, my Twitter handle is @mohgirl1030.  And @artifactuality, where Bob is also an admin.

 

 

Go VOTE next Tuesday, my friends!! 

This election is too important for anyone to pass up!

Don’t take my word for it… See it for yourself in the recording of the live event on June 1st:

 

Foot note:

“Add oil to the fire” is a literal translation of the Chinese phrase 火上加油 (huo-shang-jia-yiou,) meaning making the matter worse.

I can type, I have Mother to be thankful for…

It was late summer of 1985. We just moved from Flushing, NY to Harrington Park, NJ. First time alone, without my cousins and Chinese-speaking friends around, in a completely homogeneously white neighborhood… I turned on the TV, tried to make sense of American television, but it was hard. I went back to my room, turned on the radio, and started to setup for a drawing…

Mother came in and gave me a large book. I cannot recall whether it was in English or Chinese, but it was certainly a book on learning to use a standard typewriter. She said, “When you go to school, you are going to need to know how to type. So here’s a book for you to learn from.” The next day, Mother bought me a typewriter, and immediately I began to play with the keys.

I started learning by memorizing each alphabet’s location. My exercise was to type all 26 alphabets in its order in as little as a few seconds. By doing so, each alphabet’s location is permanently engrained in my brain, and set the foundation for my capability to type-write words and sentences without looking at the keyboard. Often I practiced with the radio on Power 95. The songs on the radio piqued my interest to know what they mean. Then I would somehow find lyrics of songs I like, and practiced typing out the lyrics. There were Duran Duran, Hearts, Joan Jets, and Tears for Fears among them.

Through the learning process, my little hand had a hard time reaching for the numbers on the top row. So I always “cheated” with typing numbers by using extended keyboard… Later I got good with extended numeral keyboard by doing a few part-time jobs as a cashier.

Today I can type, even better than my co-workers. 🙂 Thanks mom!

“Please… Enjoy my horrible dish!” (“請多指教小人的拙菜”)

If you ever happen to attend a Chinese immigrant’s dinner party, and when you are about to dive into to what seems like a delicious meal, chances are, you may hear the chef saying something like what the title suggested. The literal translation for the Chinese expression above is “Please advise me in this horrible food created by little me.” 

I bet this is very confusing for the westerners. For the sake of explanation, it is an expression of modesty. This kind of expression applies to any creative work, not just culinary, when a Chinese person presents to his/her guests and strangers. 

 

Statue of Confucius
Confucius (551 – 479 B.C.)
The ancient Chinese philosophers taught us to be humble: Modesty is a virtue — even when we know we’ve done good. Because, the more we are humble, the more we are to listen. The more we listen, the more we learn. The more we learn, the more we improve. 

The word “proud” (驕傲,)in Chinese, has a shared character “傲” with the word “arrogance” (傲慢.)  It makes sense because pride, when not curbed, can easily become arrogance, which is detrimental to one’s self-improvement. So we, the Chinese, have been taught from very young age to be humble at all situations, and to avoid any chance for ourselves to become arrogant. 

A very good example here: With the western influence, only the latest generations of Chinese people had begun to admit that they are proud of their children. Because, in the ancient Chinese language, one would refer his son as “犬子” –meaning “dog-son”– when conversing with other people.

In the western world, display of humbleness would often be mistaken as passiveness, weakness, cowardice, lack of self confidence, or even lack of self esteem  (“自尊”).  Thus, when the Chinese are modest about their achievements, they often do not get the respect they deserve. It maybe the reason why the Chinese government decided to show off during the opening ceremony of 2008 Olympics.

Here’s another related social interaction case:  When someone pays a Chinese person compliment, the Chinese does not say “thank you” but, instead, he/she says “I do not deserve this,” or say nothing at all, or play deaf. The reason is simple: With humility in their every being, the Chinese may feel that the praises would feed into their ego. And, in order to prevent themselves from becoming arrogant, they would shy away from the compliment. This reaction therefore could easily be wrongly perceived by the westerners, and the poor Chinese person could wear a hat as an “unappreciative jerk.” 

So when you see Chinese people being modest about their success, it’s is not them being dishonest, nor being unappreciative–It’s them being Chinese. 

The Chinese community, however, has been more aware of this cultural difference that caused them lots of missed opportunities. So there have been many discussion forums and articles written to inform everyone to accept compliments with gratitude. There are also warnings about being overly modest in a competitive situation, such as a job interview. 

By the way, the Chinese government’s grandiose display during the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony, and its lavish spending on new constructions for the event, is nothing short of an arrogant exhibition… In my most humble opinion.

References:

“Why do Chinese people humble when they hear words of praise” (中國人為什麼聽到讚美的話會謙虛?) 

Excerpt from “Not reconciling lost of competition to the witty: Wittiness is ability, understanding silence is wisdom.” (”輸給會說話的人不甘心:會說話是能力,懂沉默是智慧“) 

“The authenticity of modesty to progress of self-improvement” (謙虛使人進步的真偽與對錯)

Self reflection

Confucius’ disciple Zeng-Zi once said:
吾日三省吾身:
為人謀而不忠乎?
與朋友交而不信乎?
傳不習乎?

This translates to modern English as:
At the end of my day, I reflect upon myself:
Have I done my best for my employer?
Have I been a trustworthy friend?
Have I practiced what I was taught?

Personally, I live by these words everyday by reflecting every night. Sometimes it keeps me up at night. But the result of this practice made me a more thoughtful person. Made me always wanting to seek improvement and resolution. In the end, I’d have no regrets, because I’ve done the best I can, and it’s all I can do.

Charlie Hebdo

In light of the horrific murder at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine based in Paris, I came across an article about some leaked emails that uncovered Al Jazeera’s internal editorial debate amongst their staff. The composers of this email chain expressed their opinions, which are very different from each other, because of their diverse ethnicities around the world. These emails certainly highlighted differences of their belief systems, as they reflected upon the Charlie Hebdo incident–a cultural clash to a violent extreme…

Everyone knows that Asian cultures are more repressed, compared to the western ones. But, on the flip side, the disciplines were there based on respect and thoughtfulness. We Asians were taught to respect others before we get respected. Any criticism must be expressed carefully, sometimes using ancient phrases, expressions, metaphors, and/or humor, to keep it subtle. Otherwise it can be easily perceived as insults.

In Asian cultures, insult is the perhaps the biggest form of disrespect, equating bullying, and often times worse than physical assault, because of the psychological effect it can cause someone. There are many stories where one would rather die, commit suicide, than to be insulted, in order to protect his/her honor, or dignity.

In countries that champion freedom of speech and expressions, unfortunately, their laws also protect insults.

While Pope Francis condemned the murders, he warned against insults. He also said, with freedom, comes greater responsibility–He is totally right–The responsibility to protect and respect other people’s rights and space.

We have the right to bear arms, doesn’t mean we can go around killing other people…

We have the freedom of speech and expression, doesn’t mean we can go around hurting other people.

Words and expressions of criticism, if not careful, can be easily perceived as insults. And hurtful insults can escalate into another world war! Because, like murder, it can pierce a heart.

In the case of Charlie Hebdo, I would never ever make a drawing or write words like that. Because, for one, religion is people’s spiritual lives. Secondly, satire is often taken out of context, therefore become untruthful and perhaps insulting. If there’s an issue that I must criticize, I would carefully and thoughtfully craft the criticism in a way that wouldn’t insult others. It’s very hard to do… But doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, for the sake of peace.

That’s just me… So…

I condemn the heinous killing. But I am not Charlie. 

————–
Leaked Aljazeera internal emails

Taiwan and its Cuisine

During Christmas party, a newly wed couple told me about their upcoming foodie adventure to experience soup dumplings in Chinatown. Besides giving them some of my recommendations, this topic has lit my creative fire… I went on to tell them about Taiwan, where I came from… I said,

“If you want good Chinese food, go to Taiwan… Once you are there, you could eat your way–north to south, top to bottom–no kidding! Because… ”

I then briefly told the history of Taiwan and why such a small island about the size of New Jersey has a variety of Chinese cuisine. Later, as I reminisce the conversation, I decided to write it down and craft it better, here:

Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was ruled by the Empirial Japan. The Japanese built infrastructure and economy in Taiwan, to setup foundation for its intended expansion plan. At the time, native Taiwanese were deemed as savages and slaves by the Japanese. They had to learn the Japanese culture and traditions in order to survive.

At the end of Sino-Japan War in 1945, Japan surrendered Taiwan to the ROC (The Republic of China,) ruled by the KMT Party (Kuo Ming Tang.) When the Communist Mao took over KMT-ruled China, KMT exiled and settled in Taiwan. The KMT people, composed of mostly educated and talented aristocrats from all over Mainland, brought with them their knowledge, culture and traditions. They set up businesses over the Japanese infrastructure; shops, restaurants, spawned all over Taiwan…

Today, Taiwan has become a great cultural hub, that incompasses a variety of Chinese cuisines, music, arts and crafts, with occasional Japanese flare. People there are friendly and welcoming. In my childhood memories, I always recall seeing one or two westerners walking down the streets of Taipei City, with smiles on their faces… Because we smile at them.

 

Here is my favorite Taiwan tourism video on YouTube:

 

A Story of a Jade Bangle

Every piece of jade is unique. The Chinese believe that jade have their own spiritual callings. With an artisan’s crafty hands, the beauty and characteristics of a piece of authentic jade can be revealed. A piece of jade jewelry, made especially to be worn by humans, are not to be pursued. Due to its own spiritual calling, it would make its way to its destined owner.

Mother acquired the jade many years prior to moving to California in the spring of 2005. Before she moved, I went to her house often, helping her pack the house and accept whatever she didn’t want to move with her.

During one of those days, with her house full of cardboard boxes everywhere, she came to me and said, “This, I bought for you…” as she held up in front of me a bright red satin silk pouch. She unbuckled the brass snap button of the red pouch, adorned with golden threaded embroidery… A circular ring of pale green slid out and emerged in front of my eyes…

I recognized it’s a jade. It looked commonplace under the light. I appreciated her gesture, and knowing I wouldn’t see her often soon, I wanted to put it on right there and then. The unforgiving stone didn’t budge my big stiff hand… It was painful!

Mother saw the struggle, smiled and said, “It’s not time yet… Just keep it.” She put the bangle back into the pouch and handed it to me.

Years gone by. I started a creative and design business. Recession came. Time was tough and life was hard. Constently tried to reinvent and get by… I thought of Mother often–Her ways, her cooking, her words of wisdom…

One day I went through my drawers and rediscovered the red satin silk pouch. I couldn’t remember what it was until I felt the 2.5″ ring it contained. I opened the pouch and recalled the moment when Mother presented this. I held the bangle against the light and discovered the never before seen complexity within this simple ring of pale green, composed of smoky beige clouds and little dark green clusters of veins scattered throughout inside this perfectly round, crafted and polished wrist bangle.

I felt comfortable with it. It’s not stunning, not impressive. It didn’t look expensive. But it has its subtle and natural beauty that is honestly what it is… It made me feel close to home… Close to Mother…

Holding it with my right hand, without much thought, I gathered my left hand fingertips and put it through the bangle. I naturally slid it toward the wrist, slowly… Then, without really knowing what I was doing, the jade made it past my knuckles and landed on my wrist in no time… Without any pain.

Suddenly I realized that I was wearing it. “Oh no, can I take it of?” I thought, and tried to pull it out. But it was stuck! I was experiencing the same pain and struggle I felt when I tried to put it on the first time… Now it’s not letting me taking it off!

I’ve been living with the jade bangle ever since. In the beginning, it took me some time to adjust to the clunky noise it would make, every time I rest my left hand on a hard surface. But, as I hear the subtle banging noise, it’d always remind me of Mother, as if she was here with me — Because she wears a jade bangle too, and it’s the same noise she would make.

Day after day, the warm thought of Mother helped me I grow very comfortable with the jade. The noise has become a part of my life. The jade itself has become a part of me, my being, and an inspiration of Mother’s wisdom.

Trigger… Effect… Results.

[This is the second publish of my Facebook Note, originally written and published in March 5, 2010]

Recently we received a link of a music video from a friend of ours. It’s really cool! We favored it on our YouTube channel. After watching this video I can’t help but remembering back in the early 90’s, while I was only a freshman at Cooper, during a 3D Design class, we had an assignment to design an installation to move an object without using hands. My solution to this assignment had become a process to turn a fresh pineapple into a canned pineapple… without the expense of a factory. 🙂 So my friend Victor, who was my partner for this assignment, and I together built something very simple, trying to achieve the schematic in the picture below. It sort of worked–We needed more time to plan and design the perfect mechanism… But let’s get real: it was only a college assignment with limited time and resources. (Classmates: remember this one?)

Rough sketch of one of my projects in 3DD @ Cooper, freshman year

The grand meaning behind this small project was a sarcastic expression of protesting against the food industry in the United States–Where every natural thing turned into processed canned goods… As for the execution– Was I inspired by Rube Goldberg? Maybe… I can’t say that for sure. But I can say this: At the time, while commuting to NYC daily to school, I walked pass a sculpted public art in the Port Authority terminal, which gave me the inspiration. Also at the time, I only lived in the U.S. for about 6 years, still in the cultural shock, so I really didn’t know who Rube Goldberg was. :-[

In 2003. Honda produced a multi-award winning commercial: The Cog. That was so satisfying to watch… Simply amazing! That was one of the most expensive commercial to make. I heard it took something like 150 takes to get it right version… Yikes!

Maybe one of these days, I’ll really fully execute the idea that I had back in 1991. (Dream on!) 😛

Capitolism and Exploitation of Labor

The nature of capitalism is to exploit. The Internet provides the perfect pipeline to enable exploitation to the extreme. Capitolism exploits artists egos and the Internet has done a fine job to facilitate the act… A.k.a. Crowdsourcing.

As a proud supporter of public radio, it really hurts to hear my favorite radio station, WNYC, exploited graphic designers by soliciting free work to fill their content of Map Your Move Data Visualization project. Their reward for the submitting artists: Dedicating 30 minutes of airtime interviewing the best 5 on the air…

Is that enough? Promotion never guarantees future profits and/or advancement of career.

Is it worth spending 50 hours of your time to do work for free?

They put you on the air for average 6 minutes per person–You are suddenly famous. You feel great because they fed your ego…

But
Does your bank need to be fed?
Does your ego bring food to the table?

Sad.

ID this!

Recently I started to draw a family tree, of both sides of my parents, trying to make sense of who is who in my family. Then I suddenly realized: I have cousins whom I haven’t spoken to or seen in more than 20 years!

So, prior to my annual trip to California, I had a mission: To visit as many relatives in California as I can and to collect as many family stories as possible.

With an open mind, not only would I catch up with everyone with their life and career, I would try to uncover their stories that they usually don’t share with a stranger… (Hey I’m family!) And, of course, this was a chance to be a spectator to look into these relatives lives like I have never done before.

After more than 10 years being “conditioned” by Bob, my husband–the ultimate opposite of me–I was lost for a while. Internally struggling to be a better person for many years, at times I would drive myself crazy because I could never be good enough! This is another reason why I decided to venture out to visit distant family relatives, to search my soul and reclaim my identity.

As a result, I discovered many things-good, bad, and dysfunctional-and it’s OK! I was extremely enlightened from this trip. I’ve become more accepting and have come to a deeper understanding of why and how I am who I am… A certain way––

Because it’s all in my blood. 🙂