90 percent of success is showing up but you have to show up for a very long time. Every week I get to sit in “art” class and hear about three hours worth of criticism. Mind you this is the positive kind of criticism. The kind you’d only hear in group therapy, and here. Our produced art works are not up for class discussion only cold mechanical review from ourselves. The teacher always yields a laundry list of mountains to over climb from each participant on their art. Inciting change is such an incrediblely laborious struggle but it always begun with awareness. Intense, disgusting awareness. Like reverting back to hideous screaming newborn, the class and I are forced to face our work with grotesque, up close dissection. This dissection of ourselves and our work is scary to confront. Each class everyone’s beautiful skin is stripped for three hours leaving only bloody organs and skeleton eyeballs. Leaving only the reality of our feelings, wants, desires, flaws, and gapping imperfections. We show up not to soar ambitioudly, but to fail and understand to exactly what decimal of failure we have fail at. And because we paid for it. The classes are suppose to create a defence mechanism against failures by indifference and intelligence. But no one is indifferent. I am always disappointed. With myself, my works, my progress. I care too much to let go and know too little to attempt being brave. And that is why I went there. To practice my assaults despite my ineffective means. To go against instinct. To know that I will be slaughtered but to stand and bare it anyway. I am not having any success except the success of showing up. I am just enduring.
You have to know it beyond knowing it.
I use to think that sharing an experience, or giving an experience worth remembering was one of the most important things I can do as a person. That life was wasted if I didn’t live in the moment and fuel the momentum. Recently I’ve began to feel that it more important for me to like the definition of who I defined myself as.
I’ve had the opportunity in the last few weeks to work at 4 jobs and take a class. It was incredibly rewarding because I was so busy I didn’t have space for the typical daily hardships that weighted me down. I was high off sleep deprecation and everything felt light and clear. I always knew what I had to do in every moment and what was coming up. I had 17 hour work days at my worst and 11 at my best. I felt unstoppable.
I became part of the group of people I never thought I would be apart of. The 7am commuter group. The ones who would walk in a tired manner, and wear long heavy clothing to protect their bodies from the early morning misery. I felt like a kid in the adult world.
Pushing, trying, saying yes to everything, taking in the work without limit. Flying.
But it doesn’t last, I can’t make it last forever. At some point a lull occurs and I got to see myself in an apartment that doesn’t quite look like anyone really lives there, or in a car ride off to the sun set and wondering if it ever gets any better than this? And feeling like the answer might be no.
I found myself talking about the future a lot. That someday, it was going to change. That someday I would find the right fit, the right circumstance but with a hesitation because I had been saying it for so long.
There will always be jobs, and sunsets, and discussions, and sleep deprivation. And they will be there long after I’m gone. If I let myself become defined by only those things. I will eventually discover those things don’t matter all that much and therefore I don’t matter all that much.
It was much important to define from the inside out than from the outside in. I am not my job(s), I am not the sun sets, and I am not my sleep deprivation.
I am a living, feeling entity. I am helplessly connected to the world at large and the universe whether I know it or not. It is in the best interest of the living world for me to develop my empathy, diligence and understanding. Along with that a liking of who I sense myself to be. Two ways to do that is to realize everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has felt incomplete at some point in their life whether it is evident to others or not. And if I make an unintentional error that everyone else makes, I need to forgive myself immediately.
It is more important to define yourself and actively choose to have the experiences you want, than to experience the fate of the world at large and base who you are off the occurrence of anything.
I have spent part of my early afternoon looking at the reaction of the online community towards what will probably be known as one of the racist songs / music videos made to date. The reactions are still coming out from social media platforms and it’s an intense and also very personal response. Since the release of the music video, the ‘like bar’ somewhere around 30% slid down to 10% after one day. Some say it is Alexandra Wallace all over again. Her youtube video about Asians at UCLA was a thoughtless rant at best. This was a full on production involving many people who worked on the song and music video. This passed through many eyes and many hands before it reached the public at large. And so there lies a lot of the disappointment and anger from the audience of this music video.
If you have not seen it, it can be easily summed up as a band of five guys, singing about Asian girls in the worst possible way anyone could do it. The pure laziness of the lyrics, which is just a mediocre list of mediocre Asian insults and perpetual stereotypes that are already familiar and well known. Except for this one line about stabbing ninja pussies, only because its strangely confusing.
The band is racist. The internet has pretty much agreed on that. Except for the band. This is what I call a prime example of what not to do on the internet with social media. The band is called Day Above Ground. They are using the same mentality they used to make their Asian Girlz music video as they are in dealing with the outcry of it’s aftermath. They are justifying it through naming their Indonesian bass player and using the “but I’m not racist!” line. I am positive that a lot of people would appreciate an apology from them. A sincere one, perhaps where they also promise to commit an act to earning social forgiveness. The Rolling Stone recently featured the face of the Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as their cover page photo. Jack Osbourne has petitioned that the editors at Rolling Stone donate the money from that issue to the families affected by the bombing. I love this idea and so I would suggest that if Day Above Ground could donate a portion of their revenue to fund an award scholarship for Asian women then they could perhaps begin to acknowledged the hurt they’ve spread. I do not want to force this band into acknowledging their mistake. I want them to want to change their own ignorance. To want to perform a behavior that shows their dedication to renewing the dignity and respect they’ve stolen from one group of women.
Let’s move on the tattooed vixen who appears in the music video. Her name is Levy Tran. Her facebook page was racked with hateful comments and she has since taken it down, 2 days after the video release. She has apologized three times on twitter, and admitted she made a mistake. Her participation in this video has caused an uproar, catapulting her into spotlight. It’s not the first time an Asian girl has angered the Asian community. In 2012 Pete Hoekstra created a racist Super Bowl Ad featuring an Asian girl on a bike with a straw hat and broken English. The background was even set in a rice paddy field. The point of the ad was to make fun of the opposing senator candidate Debbie Stabenow. The girl in the video is Lisa Chan. She is a UC Berkeley grad who started a non profit at age 17 to improve education gaps from kindergarten to grade 12. If it wasn’t them, some other Asian girl would have taken their place and so their participation was more unfortunate than hateful. I do not applaud their choice but it was one choice out of many and to judge them for this one choice without gathering a better understanding of them is an easy way to act as thoughtless as they did. The internet has already punished them severely. I do understand that it’s the responsibility of Asian women everywhere to tell their stories to reduce this type of ignorance. Asian women need to begin to portray themselves in their light instead of letting others do it for them.
What I was really looking for while spending time searching the internet is something I often do when I see things like this. I feel like I am not getting the whole story. The stupidity and ignorance of the song is truly astounding but why did they make something so stupid? And how did they rationalize this to themselves while making it? It almost feels like a whole other topic is hidden just out of sight. I would be really curious to know if any of the band members have had Asian girlfriends. Or an Asian female teacher. It almost feels like they have not had a significant person in their life who was a female Asian girl. Why is this important? Because if they didn’t, the members of the band would have only had a perception of an Asian Woman through one bias and inconclusive medium called the media. And if this was their only source of bases, which it feels like it was, then making this horrible god awful song with absolutely nothing likable about it makes perfect sense. They have no idea what an Asian girl really is, the subject of their song.
And they won’t know until they do met an Asian girl and really get to know her. To see her in everyday life doing everyday things, crying, cleaning, scooping her dog’s poo, drawing Powerpuff girls, studying for a college exam. They won’t understand her because they’ve never seen her wear her work uniform to her minimum wage job, hear her yell in a fight with her parents, feel her joy after winning her first design competition. No band writes a song like ‘Asian Girlz’ about somebody they deeply know and love. These songs are born out of ignorance. I hope this band will get to know an Asian girl and perhaps write a different song. One that can accurately describe their unique spirit born from their unique hardships. To find out who they are through hearing them speak about their bitter sweet journeys.
1st Grade (China) – You had to be age six to attend grade one. Due to my birthday, my parents had to lie and say that I was six. All the other kids were older, bigger, more developed. A boy in my class started picking on me. I didn’t know what to do. I talked to my mom about it. She came to school the next day and went to my class. She yelled at every child in the room asking who had been bullying me. No one answered. Then she looked at me. I pointed to the boy. She ran up to him and grabbed his shirt. She screamed at him. Shaking and excuses started to erupt from his body. She gave him one clear threat to never touch me again. That was the end of that.
2nd Grade – I was still trying to get English down. A bunch of kids came over and asked me to play. I had a green buttoned up sweater with a sleek bob hair cut. They put sand in my hand and told me to eat it. Telling me it was instant noodle mix. When I refused, they dumped sand in my hair, rubbed it in. And then smeared sand all over my sweater. The sweater itched, my hair itched. I couldn’t say anything. I just sat in class and waited until home time.
3rd Grade – The black kids started giving a few punches here and there. One time I was playing in the sand, just squatting and drawing like kids do. When one of them kicked me on the butt. I tipped over. I stood up and patted myself down to rid of excess sand. I went to a different area and played. My back towards the field and my eyes on the jungle playground watching them.
4th Grade – I made a best friend, Scarlette. It was amazing. She came up with the most amazing imaginary games. She was batman and I was robin. She tried to scare me by dripping a few drops of fake blood down the wall trim once. I told my mom, who told Scarlette’s mom. The day next Scarlette was covered in bruises and limping. We were 10. Her mom had beaten her up over the streak of fake blood in our house. It was all fun and games until the adults got involved. Scarlette moved away soon after. I gave her my tennis ball, then I cried.
5th grade – A weird skinny Chinese boy joins my class. He, like all the other Fresh off the boaters, was entrusted into my hands as a the only bilingual class member. The boys in the class tried to corrupt him. They taught him to swear. He changed. We became enemies. He wrote FU’s all over my notebook. He threw spitballs at me. I didn’t even understand what spitballs were. Someone in the cafe put yogurt in my hair.
6th grade - I had been eating a steady diet of instant noodles with a dose of MSG every single morning before school. I was insanely hyperactive. The kids around my desk had to put up with that. After getting them all mad at me for whatever reason I slammed the drawer on the hand of the kid beside me. He had dyed his hair buttercup brown. He face went full red. There was a lot of sobbing. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I didn’t regret it either. Making a tough guy cry didn’t feel so bad.
7th grade – First day of school. I was wearing black capris, with red stitching on one side in a design and a lavender t-shirt. A group of pretty girls were staring me down. One of them called me over in this friendly, and sweetly inviting voice. I didn’t understand. I came to them. We have something to tell you, the pretty Asian one of the clique said. Then in unison, their voices chanted, “You’re wearing the same thing.” I was wearing the same outfit as the first day of school in grade six. To me that was the point. If you like something don’t you want to wear it a lot? All the time even? Apparently this was a problem. So? I said. They giggled to each other. At me. That was fine. Even at that age I thought it was a pretty pointless thing to care about. Good for them and their nice, variable clothes. I went to go talk to some other people with less vapid concerns.
8th grade – I was in the washroom. My friend was crying. The teacher, in his heavy Jamaican accent, had just called her stupid, and swore at her in front of the class. I had also been in trouble with him previously. This particular teacher was racist and insecure and a retard. She was sobbing and I wanted to just change places with her so she could feel as indifferent as I felt and not take any of what he had said personally. I kept waving my arms futility and yelling “No! He’s the stupid one!” while she sobbed. Still tearing and huffing she confessed to me, “You know, everyone thinks I’m really tough but I’m not. I just pretend I’m tough. I’m really sensitive and stuff like this hurts.” I wanted to tell her nobody on earth thinks your tough. You’re 13. But I didn’t. I told her the understatement of the year. “Everybody gets hurt sometimes.”
(Originally published Nov, 12, 2012)
Every kid dreams of meeting their superhero one day. For most people that will never happen. For me it will happen in about four days, my next upcoming Tuesday. In fact he lives about a 20 minute jog from me. Go figure.
Mr. Steve Murray is a comic book artist who writes his own column at the National Post. Every week he impales the stake of wisdom into the hearts and minds of the public with his extremely bad advice. He delivers top notch “professional” bad advice, the kind you just can’t get from your college buddy who still lives at home. Mr. Murray goes by the pen name of Chip Zdarsky. He provides absolute nonsensical financial advice as Todd Diamond and has even made a mock campaign run for Toronto mayor. He is a man of unique. He is the sensei I’m about to meet.
Thinking about meeting Mr. Murray makes me feel like a pudgy, freckle faced, Canadian boy in a blanket size hockey jersey asking his favorite hockey player to show him to how to play hockey and oddly enough, the hockey player agrees. So now here I am with this Tuesday appointment. I’m about to see how great hockey is played.
I think back to about four years ago, when I was still in high school in my first creative writing class. I remember the day my class attended a lecture by a lexicographer. By a random draw of luck I was selected to win a lexicon. Any other normal teenager would have received the prize with hearty thanks. I, however, was totally blown away. I was ecstatic over it. I was going to be the owner of a shiny, new, latest edition, not even in stores yet, Canadian Oxford dictionary! I loved words and I loved writing. I remember hugging the dictionary with delightful glee. Worse, I followed the lecturer to the bathroom, stood outside the entrance door and waited until she finished her business. When she came out I asked if she would autograph the dictionary she authored. She gave me a confused and unsure look, followed by the warmest laugh and quickly wrote her insignia. Best of Luck to you Li in your future endeavors. – K. Barber. And then I spent the rest of the day telling anyone who would listen that I had my “lexicon autographed by a lexicographer” and flashed the signed dictionary like a pimp flashing his dough. Some people get excited about movies, or make up. I get excited about lexicons, apparently.
This is the kind of weird passion that makes a person the special nutcase they eventually become in the future. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe being weirdly passionate is necessary to great hockey, great writing, or great anything. If you have that, great things can happen, like getting to pick the brain of Steve Murray to start.
I use a face brush. I use acne face wash. I bought a silicon scrubber. I use toner and moisturizer. I have retinol cream. I have vitamin C cream. I drink lots of water. I drink tea. I have a safety-pin tea infuser. I use crushed up aspirin pills for exfoliation. I have put on dabs of tooth paste. I have tried proactive. I have tried four face washes all at once. I eat raw garlic slices. I avoid sugar. I avoid raw eggs. I don’t drink milk. I have put grapes, tomato paste, honey, sea salt, plain yogurt, tea tree oil, baking soda, oatmeal, apple vinegar, lemon juice, cucumber, and olive oil onto my face. Sometimes separately, sometimes in groups, but lately all on, all at once, all together. I have squeezed, scratched, poked, prodded and talked pimples into leaving, but it hasn’t worked. I decided to sign up for hot yoga for my face and I didn’t end up sweating. On one occasion, I was at an ex boyfriends apartment and he offered to give me his current girlfriend’s prescription benzoyl peroxide topical cream. I didn’t think twice about it. It went straight on my face. It kind of had a burning feeling.
I haven’t cured my acne yet but at least I’m having a wonderful time tormenting myself one variety after another.
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Candy Crush Saga. What began as a cellphone game has become to the lives of many, including myself, an unstoppable addiction. The game is literally candy bejeweled but somehow eviler and full of cruel candy sweets out to ruin your productivity like nobody’s business. The sound effects in it and the music are terribly pleasing to listen to. Words like “Delicioussss.”, “Tasty!” and “Divineeeee” have become velvet to my ears. Here are the signs of addiction as per introspection.
1. You find yourself screaming at friends to “Give me lives! Give me lives fudge darn it!” Because you’ve used up your 5 lives and can’t wait 0.5 hours to gain a new one.
2. You become a candy crush “drug dealer” and start pushing the game onto others in your life, this may include boyfriends, co workers, friends. I have slowly surrounded myself with a horde of Candy Crushing zombies who also play it day and night just like me. My apologies?
3. You make weird noises in addiction to Candy Crush Saga’s own sound effects. Like when you make a Stripped Candy Bomb, well… um, you go ‘WHOOSH’ and ‘KA-BOOM’ and ‘WHOOSHKA-BOOM!’. And the faces you make during it are equally redundant.
4. You play a different game advertised by Candy Crush Saga in order to keep play Candy Crush Saga. I played half an hour of another game called Pet Rescue Saga, (saving innocent virtual pets from innocent virtual deaths) the game is literally Collapse/Bubble Pop but with cute animals on top? I played 8 levels of this just to get 5 lives for Candy Crush because I was out of lives. I let a game force me to play a totally different game in order to play that game!
5. You develop a six sense that is both useless and annoying. What is this six sense? It’s a Candy Crush six sense. I’ll get this weird jolt in my body and then a sudden and scary realization comes. Somebody somewhere nearby is playing Candy Crush. It will take me a second or two usually to realize the cause of this is because I am hearing the Candy Crush music playing somewhere in the distance. I have heard it at a Karate waiting lounge. I have heard it on the subway, I have heard it on the bus, and sometimes I even see people play it when walking by pedestrians on my way home. Is it a disturbing Baader Meinhof phenomenon or divine intervention?
6. Other people laugh at you because you are a loser who can not stop playing Candy Crush. They roll their eyes at you every time you become glued to you phone with the Candy Crush music eerily playing its hypnotic tune. So what do you do? You smite them with all your Candy Crushing smite and dare them to play one level of Candy Crush and then they BECOME JUST LIKE YOU. ADDICTED.
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Spring rolls, wontons, egg rolls. It’s a long process. The instructions are easy enough, until you do it. Each one is a micro lesson in the art of perfection.
I’ll admit they looked ugly at first. My spring rolls were lumpy bananas. The cook would come over and shake his head, spew out some Cantonese and look at me all ashamed and what not. His little round head sighing his guts out. Come on man. I’m trying.
After three weeks of spring roll making, they did start to look much nicer. Uniformity was achieved. That lovely pillowcase look overtook my spring rolls. I mean if you do anything for three weeks, anything you make is bound to look less towards ugly and more towards awesome.
Something different happened yesterday. I was about 5 packs down and about 2 and a half hours in when I made a completely and unnaturally perfect spring roll. It was entirely perfect in its small uncooked essence. I showed it to myself amazed. I made this. Huh?
I feel anything made to perfection is a haphazard tease. If you do create perfection, you have to live with the disappointment that your future works will always be less than what you’re optimally capable of. On the other hand, you have to be grateful to each of your ugly spring rolls for inching you closer to the one, the perfect.
I’m not crazy. I know that spring rolls are arbitrary. It doesn’t really matter if I make them perfect or not. It doesn’t matter if I achieve spring roll perfection. This is practise. Your dreams, your work, your hobbies, these are the real spring rolls. (Update: I was wrong, it does matter. They explode if you don’t seal them tight >_>)
These small cold appetizers actually taught me the patience to not get upset if things aren’t perfect. To just persist and keep working. Improvement is inevitable and perfection possible, probable.
The perfect spring roll only cost 10,000 ugly spring rolls. And thats just one. There’s still egg rolls and wontons to go. This post? It’s an ugly spring roll. But I’m working on it.
(Author’s note: I dislike posts like this because I feel responsible to tell stories not diary entries and I fear them to become the norm.)
The words won’t come. My mind is a waste basket and the words can’t be sorted clearly from the bits and messes. I’m regressing back into time, trapping into a single cycle. A single day for all of time. Do you know what it’s like to feel extraordinary? To have an intelligent individual identify you with only the attribute —wonderful? As in “Who is she?” “She, is the most wonderful.” I have and the validation of that was breath-taking. As if to have been born a book and finally handed to a reader who declares you his favourite novella.
I forget what that feels like now. I spend my days praying like a beggar with no last resorts for the words to come. Make the words precipitate. Make me write. Give me stories. Feed me jobs that breathes life into the pages, into me. I am waiting to be called upon by intimate stories. By humour, and wars and gods thundering desire to be amused and delighted. I am crazed with desire to write, to produce the stuff, but still hesitant of pushing mere madness glazed heavily in pretentious anecdotes as a passable sacrificial goat to my lexicon overlords.
Why words? Why writing? I don’t know. It halts the maddening, crushing, inadequacy of daily reality if only for a moment, a short cycle of time before you have to realize you are not unique anymore. Before you have to dawn a uniform and call yourself a man, and not the spiritual shaman with voodoo Matilda powers you think you are (or something less crazy along those lines). To delay from having to get back to being less than what you really are.
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