Friday, March 15, 2013


it's late afternoon. i'm sitting in a cafe sipping on tea while pretending to work but really watching people in the streets. when i think about the alternatives, either on the beach in california, or in one of the two densely populated asian cities i grew up in, i am happy that i decided to spend my mid to late twenties in grad school this small city of cambridge. here i live with roommates, i walk everywhere, i cook, i have coffees at cafes, i go to bars with friends, i work and think at leisure. i don't live with my parents, i don't have to driver everywhere and i'm not married. somehow, i feel very much like an individual.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


regular late night internet crawling behavior led me to the 1972 musical movie cabaret, starring the extremely talented liza minnelli and joel grey. the film was nominated for 10 oscars and won 8 of them when competing against godfather.

i was positively blown away. i have seen and liked minnelli in arrested development, but had not the faintest idea what was coming at me when i loaded the title clip and the money clip. the cabaret scenes look like a moving matisse(probably in keeping with the early 1930's berlin setting of the film). they are filled with quick swirls of contrasting bright and intense colors, gold, navy, maroon, royal purple, red, orange...the lighting is as deliciously rich as the costumes. the exaggerated makeup echoes the bold, loose, expressive and almost intentionally ugly dance moves. it's amazing how everything still manages to work precisely in concert with each other and make a lot of sense.

minnelli is a natural performer, of course. besides her unforgettable, startling large eyes, it is incredible how freely she moves her body parts. most of the time she's just walking about the stage in ostentatiously large strides, her arms flailing about carelessly. and she sort of just becomes a channel for the enormous amount of life squirting out of her, and there seems to be not the least bit of self-awareness.

i haven't even seen the whole movie, but just the couple stage clips i can watch on youtube entertained me like nothing else i've seen in a long time.

Friday, December 25, 2009

about google wave

on first look, google wave seems to just make things more salient and organic, with its flashy formatting options and integral embedding functions.

however, there is one thing you can do on gwave that you can't do on gchat/gmail. (although i think skype pioneered it). that is you can go back and edit your or others' thread. this came up in a gwave conversation i had with G. H.. we found that we can easily make reference to something that has been discussed in the past (in time) in the conversation, by typing comments next to it, with arrows and different formatting to indicate new lines. this has philosophical impact! :) it technically makes all parts of the conversations (in time) accessible (in space), and hence expands the linear irreversible style of conversation into a more network like structure. effectively this also expands our working memory, and captures the structure of information transfer that is more natural (and indeed needed, especially by the ADD generation of ours). this, not only gmail and gchat can't do, but normal person to person talking conversation can't do either. the only thing resembling it is a white board discussion.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

time and again, i listen but never hear. since i bought a more than extravagant pair of earbuds, i'm going back to plow my library. and today i did some surgery to Leonardo. this is the first time i paid attention to the lyrics, and it is absolutely brilliant! what Whitacre had done with the text is indescribable. i probably dismissed it because it sounded baroque-ish, but when i heard the lyrics, it made total sense. i think he's trying to capture a rennaissance flavour (the exquisite counterpoints, the major chord ending to a phrase in minor key, the occasional break into a fugue, the delicious clashes and resolutions, ostinatos here and there.) it's full of human energy. it made me see Whitacre in a completely different light..
Tony Silvestri is heck of a poet. the imagery is amazing...i'm following him on twitter now :) @TonySilvestri

Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine
Music by Eric Whitacre
Text by Charles Anthony Silvestri

leonardo dreams of his flying machine
tormented by visions of flight and falling,
more wondrous and terrible each than the last,
master leonardo imagines an engine
to carry a man up into the sun...

as he's dreaming the heavens call to him,
softly whispering their siren-song:
"leonardo, leonardo, vieni a volare."

l'uomo colle sua congiegniate e grandi ale,
facciendo forza contro alla resistente aria.

as the candles burn low he paces and writes,
releasing purchased pigeons one by one
into the golden Tuscan sunrise...

and as he dreams, again the calling,
the very air itself gives voice:
"leonardo, leonardo, vieni a volare."

vicina all' elemento del fuoco...
scratching quill on crumpled paper
(rete, canna, filo, carta)
images of wing and frame and fabric fastened tightly.
...sulla suprema sottile aria.

as the midnight watchtower tolls,
over rooftop, street and dome,
the triumph of a human being ascending
in the dreaming of a mortal man.

leonardo steals himself,
takes one last breath, and leaps.....
"leonardo vieni a volare! leonardo, sognare!"

Monday, August 03, 2009


i decided at some point that i see no merit in nationalism. what is nationalism? why should i care about something that happened hundreds or thousands of years ago just because it happened in the (arbitrarily defined) geographic region i was born in by chance and do not even live in any longer? china is so big that kin selection doesn't even begin to explain it. but what's consciously conceived doesn't change what in fact happens. stuff to do with china's past and present frequently gets me very emotional. it's not rational.and why is it such a visceral response?

i used to justify the conflict between my disappointment in the country and its people and my love for the bits and pieces of chinese culture by distinguishing the loyalty to one's government from the affinity to one's culture. however, i have always known that what makes the government the way it is, and the people the way they are is an integral part of the cultural genome. the good and the bad stemmed from the same source and had coexisted alongside each other all this time. going further on the same thought, what am i but a collection of memes that i gathered over the years? what i am but what i've seen and heard. i AM a continuation of the system of ideas that has been put into the plastic mind of mine. i have been wired to respond to emotionally taxing issues related to my grandparents, and even my ancestors. this nationalism is, in fact, biological. if i decided to rebel against the bits of the culture i don't like, i'd lose a lot of me. and then for consistency's sake, i have to lose the bits i like, whatever that's left, too. my options are to lose a large part of what makes me me, or to live in contradiction.

maybe this is why people from cultural entities with longer history carry more baggage with them, because the longer a culture persists and the more vast and complex it becomes, more unlikable things accumulate in the culture itself. this makes it hard for the offsprings to decide on an appropriate reaction to their own culture, and eventually results in the love-hate relationships, and frequently conflicting intellectual agony which some, like me, experience.

i've always wanted to copy this down

"It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later, to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk, the anticipation of dinner and a book. The dinner is by now forgotten; Lessing has been long shadowed by other writers; and even the sex, once she and Richard reached that point, was ardent but awkward, unsatisfying, more kindly than passionate. What lives undimmed in Clarissa's mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other."

Michael Cunningham
The Hours