no train to china

i'll never give up my history
to assimilate into a culture
that has forgotten its name
a culture whose web
of ancestry.com videos
tries to sell back family history
that was lost
because it was more convenient
not to have to carry ID.
the stories of my people
involve telling white people
with white tongues
how to fill out white papers.
a white stamp on our head
tax certificate: a white lie.
the least wanted:
the most documented
and white i white my story,
50, 100, 150 years later
white letters turn brown
in well-whited archives
listed addresses in the white pages
never white delivered
to village homes
in red china.

still,lost
grandfather's secrets murmur
beneath white
blankets on gold mountain,
under a fresh layer of
white noise.

This poem was inspired by the ACCESS community television broadcast series Uncovering Gold, which discusses Chinese-Canadian migration through a multimedia format. Part 1 can be found here: http://youtu.be/eP5dakbuXG8.

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music

i hate the look

i get

when people hear
that i love music
made by asians:

half-koreans, full chinese
south asian blood...


as if they think this is 'all i listen to'
that i am happy to be in a world
b e y o n d
their boxes,

and sometimes

i   dare   ask them,

do you    "only" listen to white music?

(What) Beauty is

Found this on (yet again) Tamarack Song’s blog Mongrel Scratchings:

I just read about a man who had a flower garden that he continually improved by pulling out the plain-looking specimens and throwing them in the garbage. One day while he was out walking, he passed by a flower garden more beautiful than is. Wracked with jealousy, he asked the gardener were she got her plants. She told him she was his garbage collector.

There’s more to the post that is very worth reading, but the power and the accuracy of these words are so overwhelming that I needed to share it.

What is now?

What follows is an incomplete blog post inspired by this article by film critic Roger Ebert.

What is now?
Many self-help “gurus” will tell you that the key to happiness is living in the present – but what does that really mean? I think what they mean is that you need to be with yourself in the “now,” in the current constant motion that passes. But I feel like there’s something missing to that. Inspired by this post, I want to challenge what being present means.

First off, for there to be a “present” by necessity there must be a past and future. Just like there needs to be a concept of dark for there to be a concept of light, there also needs to be a concept of lived-time and to-be-lived-time if we are to consider current-time. So if that’s the case, living in the present means living with a conscious understanding of the continuity of our lives: that our now is only significant as much as it acknowledges our pasts and futures.

In my ancestral culture (Chinese), we pay respect to our elders and those who have come before us – as we do those who are born after us. There is some connection to a bigger picture, a timeline that is happening on the macro level yet lived on the individual level. And I think the leap that we took in our Western society (the colonized world dating back to Ancient Greece) is that we think it’s always been about the individual. That because we can only seem to experience things as individuals, that that must be the fundamental quality of reality.

Getting back to the yoga article, I think that where we veered off as a society was in separating pieces from wholes. To understand the benefit of exercise we’ve teased apart an entire way of life embedded in a culture thousands of years old so that we can fit it into our daily schedules. And yet, do we really benefit in the long-run because of it? Maybe we’re missing something.

Taking my time

A depiction of the Nuclear Family. Borrowed from nursingcrib.com

“Yeah, but you’re taking your time.”

There’s something that irks me about this statement. Not necessarily any one thing about it, but there a few things that rub me the wrong way. Allow me to explain.

The other day I was having a conversation with my co-workers about the changing nature of tuition and how I’m paying double the fees my co-worker paid when she went to the same school ten years ago. Some held the opinion that there are better services in place like a transit pass that enables students to use unlimited transit for the semester and some held that it’s still pretty damn expensive, especially if you include inflation. Although we all agreed the bottom line was that post secondary education is now expensive, and that colleges like Douglas College are cheaper alternatives to universities like Simon Fraser University (SFU), we differed in our experiences.

Currently I’m taking 3 courses this semester at SFU, and my tuition (including student fees, rec fees, etc.) was $1913.32. To add, I paid $378.30 in textbooks. That amounts to a semester of $2291.62. That’s a lot of money. To put in perspective, a full courseload of 5-courses for my co-worker ten years ago was $1400, including student fees, rec fees, etc. Although they had no U-Pass for transit, this is undoubtedly much cheaper than my semester.

To see just how much of a difference our fees were, I used myself as an example because I attended Douglas College before SFU. The main point was that my last semester at Douglas College I took 4 course totaling $1450 after a medical plan opt-out whereas when I took 3 courses at SFU, my tuition (and student fees, rec fees, etc.) was already $1,518.27.

Then to my surprise, the response was: “Yeah, but you’re taking your time.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear this I really feel stunned. It’s like I have this experience and it’s denied empathy. Now, I don’t think the intention was to ignore that it takes a lot of money to go through university, but I felt like the part about me actually living this reality right now was kinda brushed to the side. Sure, I’m not taking 5-courses at full steam, but 3 courses is a full course load in policy and in practicality. Nowadays it’s not so easy to get a job with credentials alone (although it helps, and I know that credentials alone weren’t a surefire hire in the past either), nor do I agree that this is a handy practice.

We live in a culture that rewards and idealizes Type A personalities and lifestyles while at the same time is stuck with the consequences this produces. I respect the people who plug through their degrees and finish in 4-years (or less!) but I also respect that some students don’t know what they want to do and take their opportunity to wander the system while finding out. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to take their time if they so choose?

In this lifetime we will see friends and colleagues change careers two, three, or more times. Instead of being locked in the traditions of movie and TV portrayed life paths, we have the opportunity to create our own. If I’m going to be doing something completely different in ten years, why should I stop doing what I love now?

Looking at the Age of Scrap

Static. Static. Beeeeeeeeeeeep. I interrupt your normal programming for this rant brought to you by the letter Q and viewers like you.

After doing some thinking on my own after my Family trip (which was refreshing as hell) I’ve regrettably reacquainted myself with the Internet. Not the actual systems thing, but the culture of limitless information and useless junk thing. Ran gets it right when he says we’re now entering the Age of Scrap. Of course he’s talking about the fall of industrial complexity and technological revolution, but we’re also living in postmodern times where a lot of “it” – stories, achievements, movies, plays, novels, songs, pictures, food – have already been done and now we’re looking at new ways of doing the old, making cars and boats out of pop cans and murals out of shopping bags. You know what I mean. That Green movement. But sadly, ending our destructive reign on the planet is not so easy as tweaking our actions, it’s also going to take a serious overhaul of our cultural understanding (or lack thereof) with which we make our choices; our values determine our actions.

And values we are lacking. Facebook and Twitter flutter with gossip, FML, and hash tags for look-at-me-I’m-so-important. Social media (noise) is a multi-million, multi-billion dolllar industry. Big business dollars litter cyberspace, floating their ads in every direction and suddenly gravity is a great, grounding gift. And so us peasants escape into the celebrity machine, feeding on the latest details of someone’s life and leaving a trail of our own baits and lures to capture everyone’s attention.

But no I will not look at you. Thankfully there are ignore friend requests in Facebook and ways I can gladly “deny” your existence in my online social media accounts. So I can go soak up the sun in the park and explore the mountains in my backyard.

But seriously, I’m disgusted with this internet narcissism. It perpetuates a careless culture that would rather make remixed YouTube videos of some person’s oh-so unfortunately-timed moment of weakness than make a pass for real socialization in our day and age. The way we interact on a daily basis has become so sterile and convenient and repetitive and pointless and automatic that we consider logging into a website ten times a day (twenty if you’re at work) and browsing people’s statuses as “keeping in touch.” But that’s a lie; the truth is we’re out of touch.

I read somewhere that watching the new 3D televisions atrophies depth perception. That’s Mother Nature’s irony at its best: that our love and fascination with our enhancement of reality – that is, our technological obsession with making the virtual even more “real” (which is just a substitute word for “enjoyable,” “painless,” and “easy”) – leads us to lose the very ability to appreciate the everyday and ordinary, which is no less magical than meteor showers, city walks filled with the fragances of world cultures, meadows of blooming flowers, and babies being born…OK I’m getting a little carried away but you get the message: there is a curtain to our reality that when we peer behind it, we enter the world again for the first time and see new things. So, excuse me while I make observations about the trash in our cybersphere. I’m thinking of what I can make with it.