Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the monster

I am in a narrow tower with a spiraling staircase. It stretches and extends infinitely. It is abysmal.

It is the Tower of Babel.

I cannot see the top. It calls out to me, whispers enchanting tales, speaks of greatness and all things desirous. But the downfall of the tower is equally palpable and imminent.

I thought that I had been ascending the nautical stairs. But, all this time, I’ve just been on a perilous descent.

I pick myself up, and I realize the reality:

If I walk all the way down, if I reach the lowest level—the base of this tower, I’ll find it.

I’ll find the corridor to the dungeon, where the deepest, darkest, and foulest monster is housed.

How can I describe this monster to you?

It is Beowulf’s mortal enemy, the dragon; it is Jörmungandr, who will surely bring about my demise; it is the creation-gone-awry of Dr. Frankenstein.

The monster is my own—a manifestation of my greatest flaws and fears.

If I do not muster the will and courage to face it, I will be destroyed; it will be a slow, tragic and pitiful end to me.

I fear, I delay, I evade it. In the end I am simply running away, tail between my legs, cowering, because I do not have the will to face it head-on.

But I will not lose if I confront it. I cannot lose against my own creation.

I must confront it,

The monster called procrastination.

their friendship

A short story told accompanied by photographs featuring Janie & Chole.

It all started with the secret...

You quarreled. You swore you'd never hit them, but...

" Next time there will be no next time...if she ever tries to fucking leave again..."

The parting:

"Wait where you goin'?" 
"I'm leaving you!" 
"No you ain't! Come back!"

Well. They made up. 
The resolution:

The end.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2011 New Year resolutions

In no particular order:

  1. Get nothing less than a B. Not even in pre-calc.
  2. Get a 5 on the AP Lang exam.
  3. Get a 4 or higher on the APUSH exam.
  5. Get at least a 1950 on the SAT in March.
  6. Apply for 3 scholarships by February.
  7. Study two days ahead of time instead of one.
  1. Direct and shoot a short film. 
  2. Direct and shoot a silent short film.
  3. Experiment with film photography.
  4. Have a nighttime bowling alley shoot.
  5. Snow shoot.
  6. Do a shoot for someone I don't know.
  7. A shoot at the BEACH.
  8. Successfully perform Arabesque No. 1 (Debussy) for recital.
  1. Improve on pages--and start at least 4-5 days before Friday deadline.
  2. Dream In-Depth.
  3. Sell more ads.
  4. Do more work for online.
Life in general
  1. Get my driver's permit.
  2. Reduce procrastination...
  3. Sleep earlier. 
  4. Keep in touch with people better.
  5. Go to NYC (and meet Emily).
  1. Internship 
  2. Or job
  3. NYC (or abroad)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

poem inspired by poetry

I wrote this the very day of Poetry Out Loud. I had it in English, which was my first period class. Then I wrote everything down off the top of my head during Pre-calc (LS) on the back of this random sheet of paper that I inadvertently lost (and then found, just now). So this is rough, and rather spontaneous, but inspired nonetheless.

The room fell deathly silent
Hushed abruptly
As if the very air within the room had been
Sucked out by a vacuum.
The only sound that could be heard was
the sound of silence.
Palpitations setting the heart
A thousand butterflies filling
the cavity of a cavernous heart
The words are all there before me,
I can see them in every corner of my mind,
But when I stretch my arm out before me to
grasp them,
all that falls into my hands are
remnants of the butterfly's powdery wings.
Words I know and have known
take flight,
they are here,
they were here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

something i've always wondered about is...

my voice.

I wonder what it sounds like--to other people.

If it's really like they say, if it's really like how they try to imitate my voice--well...

I don't know.

I always thought that I simply had an unusually lower voice than most people, but that was it. I guess it's not. But it really does confuse me. And kind of scare me.

There's always those people you see or hear in movies and even in real life who have annoying voices that nobody likes to hear--or the ones that everyone snickers and laughs about.

I really hope that mine does not fall into that category.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

i should've had this epiphany years ago

Clearly I am not the slightest bit fond of mathematics or the sciences--I've never been the sort to have had a knack for them anyway.

But today, I had an epiphany of sorts regarding that matter.

I woke up late and was a disaster as I scrambled to gather my stuff (disconnected the laptop, packed my bags, brought the camera, etc.) for newspaper work day and tried to compose myself. About an hour later, when I finally got in the car, my aunt was talking about how I need to constantly practice for the SATs (even though I go to SAT prep every Saturday and Monday and have homework for each session!)--mainly the math part.

Amidst all the hooplah, sitting in the car--I had a moment of clarity.

Numbers are not alive. They are, as far as I am concerned, cold, stagnant, unresponsive things. For me to refer to an object or subject as a thing is rather derogatory. But in the end--numbers aren't like words. I cannot love them, they cannot convey feelings like words do, they do not hold meanings like words do. They are concrete and limited (by the way, infinity is not a number, it is a concept), whereas words are truly boundless and infinite.

I don't have anything against math or science, or numbers. But they don't even come close to words.

Monday, December 6, 2010


 Today I spoke with my counselor about college and my prospects. It was a nice little chat, I suppose. But it just made me realize how unclear my prospects really are--if I even have any--in the field of print journalism--let alone journalism in general. And it dug up something I'd long tried not to think about for a while--if I can even take photography into consideration.

And then, I thought about other things.

Hell. I can't write anymore.

Today I realized clearly that I have not been recovering at all. I've been relapsing. I'm fighting an uphill battle, or a losing battle. Call it what you want.

I'm not getting any closer, I'm not getting any better. I think I might be getting worse. But I can change that. I will, I'll have to.

I cannot accept defeat. I might have lost a battle, but I can still win the war. It's tiring, sometimes, to try remaining optimistic. But I still believe in myself. And surely that will take me somewhere. I know where I want to go. It's just a matter of getting there. So long as I know, I can still fight for it.

But the fears never leave me--those what if's. What if I end up as a nobody? What if I don't get to that place? What if in the end I'm just the biggest failure? What if I end up crashing and burning?

But I still have time. It's a fallacy to think that way, I know. It's dangerous to think that way--that I still have time, because I'll just keep on prolonging and procrastinating as I usually do--but now is the time to really take advantage of having time and make the fucking best of it.

That being said--I have a lot to correct. Right now, I'm frankly a disappointment. No denying it. Not only to others--but to myself. I can't undo the past, neither do I have much desire to do so. What's done is done. I'm going to strike out and go forward, and stick to my words. I'll be better, stronger.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A look at the all the photo shoots I've ever done thus far

Five, not counting one of the most indelible portraits I've ever shot from this one time I went to the magical woods with Kanna.

In chronological order:

wishing well

Luna lines

don't forget

fallen leaves

start of the adventure

So that's five.

And here's possibly one of my favorite portraits:

and then came Autumn

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You know it when you feel it.

 I know when a photo shoot goes well. It has that vibe to it. I can't define it completely. It's not simply the atmosphere. But you just know it because the feeling--that vibe--is so palpable. It's like the feeling you get when you know that you're living instead of simply existing. That's about as close as I can get to explaining it. Like I told Ariana, I felt alive while shooting. Most of the time I feel that I am simply existing, and the vibe is just meh, but when I'm feeling alive and living, it's inexplicably wonderful. It's the feeling that all my hopes and dreams are founded upon, a manifestation of all the happiness, passion and strength that I have.

As a side note, I had a photo shoot with one of my loveliest friends today. I felt like I was living it. It was wonderful.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Challenges are either equal or cannot be subject to be compared.

Every person is an individual, therefore his or her life is unique to themselves. The same goes for their challenges.

What may seem insignificant or significant to one person is not the same for the others. It is incomparable. Our roads and circumstances are different. Not everyone is on even ground, and not everyone is equal.

You may be an "adult," one who has familial and financial responsibilities, as well as a "job." But that does not make your struggle any worse than a student in high school who has the deal with expectations and insecurities exceeding skyscrapers.

Someone may have been born into the most unfortunate family and circumstances--poor and starving--but that does not mean that you have it better or that they have it worse when you've got a family that hates you, a dysfunctional family.

What I'm getting at is that no matter how significant or insignificant you feel that your struggles are in comparison to others--don't think that way.

Your struggles are yours. Do people have the exact same circumstances and problems as you do?


I do not think that it is reasonable to compare, for better or worse.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

[diary] epic day

Today, I sold my first ad for newspaper. Jane (EIC) was awesome enough to drive me to the store (well, it was a spa/beauty parlor place). I don't know what I would've done if she hadn't followed me in because I seriously think that just with her presence, it managed to put the co-owner at ease. I had no idea what to continue saying or where to go with it all after I was done with my spiel, but Jane jumped right in and just said a few words (maybe a sentence or two) and I think the lady was just about sold.

Oh boy. I didn't think things could get any better than they already were. But then Jane took me to the Dairy Queen only a few stores away and bought me a BLIZZARD. WHOOO! Epic day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

[film] Meliae by Paul de Luna

Meliae (Zen Sevastyanova by Paul de Luna)

This truly plucks at my heartstrings.

So heartbreaking, poignant, expressive, precious, tender, beautiful. Ethereal.

I feel like I know what these feelings are.

I feel as though, despite the ethereal, fairy-tale like quality to this film, this world exists. It might be a different world, a world apart from ours, but I feel like it’s so real at the same time that it could exist.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You know what I want to know?

I don't want to know how to be a good person, or whether we are part of something larger, or why the world was created or any of that.

I want to know:

What is beauty?
What is beautiful?
Is what is beautiful what is good?
Is there goodness truly?

That is what I want to know.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Artist vs. Art

So here's the question:
Do you like the artist or the art?
The singer or his/her songs?
The photographer or his/her photographs?

Or both?

Renowned fashion photographer Guy Bourdin was infamous for abusing the models he worked with. Is it solely his work that fashionistas are enamored with, or is it not only the work but also his character that people choose to love?

Let's have a modern-day example.

Take Terry Richardson. Many people are disgusted by his supposed "work ethic." And yet we see people loving him all the same. There are people that automatically dislike everything that has to do with him just because of his reputation.

Is this fair?

I'm not saying it isn't. But I'm not saying it is either.

Is it fair to associate a piece of work with the character of its creator, to be biased and pass judgment on something based on its origins and not its true substance?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Never the same

Things will never be the same, never exactly the same.

I have instinctively known this for all my life. Ever since I was younger, I always had this inherent belief in me. That I could never occupy the same space again, not exactly. Where I was standing one moment, if I went back to the "same" position, it still wouldn't truly be the same. It's hard to explain. But interestingly enough, this is one of my deepest of beliefs. And it has been with me for as long as I can remember.

But now this philosophy of mine rings stronger than ever.

Last semester was the time when things fell apart, much like the book I read in English class last semester by Chinua Achebe. Or they started to, at least. I kept fighting. I was in agony, and I was deeply unhappy. Toward the end of that terrible semester, which was probably the worst part of it all at that point, I found myself, very occasionally, wishfully thinking, "If only things could go back to the way they were." And more often, I found myself reassuring myself that I could go back to the way things were before my great slump. I could go back to being the stellar student that I was, with a stellar academic reputation.

But deep inside, I knew that that was not possible. I will never be the same person again. Never. Not the exact same girl I was the year before. You can never go back to the way things were. Time elapses, things change. But I can be better. That is my resolve. I will be stronger, I will be better. But it is simply impossible and against the foundations of my philosophy to even think that things will ever be the same.

Just like how I believed, and still believe, that you can never stand in the same exact spot more than once or that you can never occupy the very same space or atoms or whatever it is that this earth and air is composed of--I believe that you can never be the exact same person you were. You will change. Every day. You will never be the same. I will never be the same. That is simply how my life works--how I think. Yes, my love for everything that I have loved and presently love will still remain, but I cannot be the same as I was yesterday, or the day before, or the year before, and so on.

I've been meaning to write this post for quite a while, and it has always been on my mind, but I never really got to it or felt especially in the mood. But I just read Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami, and it really inspired me. I swear, the man is a genius--he knows how I think and feel. Or Mr. Murakami simply shares my sentiments.

Here's the quote of the passage that inspired me:
"But tomorrow I'll be a different person, never again the person I was. Not that anyone will notice after I'm back in Japan. On the outside nothing will be different. But something inside has burned up and vanished. Blood has been shed and something inside me is gone. Head down, without a word, that something makes its exit. The door opens; the door shuts. The light goes out. This is the last day for the person I am right now. The very last twilight. When dawn comes, the person I am won't be here anymore. Someone else will occupy this body."
 --Sputnik Sweetheart (Haruki Murakami)

This describes my life. My philosophy.

I have just shared with you, one of my most sacred beliefs. And it scares me, because I have always regarded this belief most highly, and no one else has ever known it. And I feel that no one really does--no one could understand this. Does anybody?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It eluded us then, but that's no matter--

Lately (for the past three days), I have been asking myself a question of paramount importance.

Am I happy?

And I honestly don’t know. I can’t say “no,” immediately, but I can’t say “yes” either.

The reason I live is because I am chasing after happiness, truly. To me, happiness comes in many different forms. (One, of which, includes achieving goals and realizing dreams, just so you know).
Sometimes I fear that I will never achieve happiness; that I will spend the rest of my life; all of eternity chasing after that which cannot be attained.

But there is no other way for me than to try, no, to do all in my power to grasp it.

After reading The Great Gatsby and doing so much analysis of it, I cannot help but relate to Gatsby, the man himself. And what was he doing…he was chasing after the green light, Daisy, his dream, the American dream.

The dream—his dream—the American dream, whichever one it is—it represented not just a desire, but also the underlying emotions that go into it. (I can’t think of a better way to say that, but it does sound strange, no?) This dream is fueled by an untarnished optimism—a burning hope in us that cannot ever be crushed and diminished, no matter how many setbacks we encounter, no matter what the precedents. We will always think that there will be tomorrow—that tomorrow—”…we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…”


I will always chase after happiness, dreams, and everything in between.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Nighthawks by Edward Hopper (1942)

I felt an impulse to swear (ecstatically) when I began writing this, but I refrained from doing so because I feel that it would soil the magic of this--THIS monumental painting. I only found out about a few minutes ago the origins of this painting. But this painting is very special to me. It dug up a well of memories from my childhood that had been gnawing at my subconsciousness all these years.

I first saw this painting when I was in elementary school. Probably the fourth grade--so that was about seven years ago--while taking a cursory glance at my history textbook or something.

But the moment I saw this painting, I knew it was special. The emotion--the mood--it captured me right away. I think I was predisposed to gravitating toward melancholy at a young age, if not from the very start, for that was what I perceived immediately. Hooper himself said that he--"unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city." The gloom, the loneliness, the melancholy--it was so ubiquitous. Nighthawks settled into my brain. It was imprinted into my mind, my subconsciousness, and it probably took up residence in my heart.

What I knew throughout all these years was that this painting was, and is, indelible. It lived on vividly in my memories all these years, despite my not knowing anything about it, despite my lack of understanding its historical significance. It pervaded my dreams at night, and even nowadays, I find myself, often, thinking absentmindedly about the city, and this image always resurfaces in my imagination. Yes, I've had dreams centered around this lonely diner. Cinematic flashes of this diner in my imagination. When I envision the city, I often think about this diner, this painting, and the sentiments that it evokes.

I deeply love it. Not with exuberance, but a very calm accepting sort of love, if that makes any sense at all. It settles with me all too perfectly. It is inherent that I would feel irrevocably fascinated and drawn to this painting. But the strange thing is that I am not sure if I would call it beautiful--not beautiful in the sense that I would identify with, say, Celestial Eyes (the art gracing the cover of The Great Gatsby). It's a different sort of painting. More personal--ironically--despite the impersonal theme.

Nighthawks is quietly powerful and pervading, ubiquitous, indelible, transcendent of time, and everlasting in my eyes and mind.
It has been on my mind and in my dreams all these years, and I have finally rediscovered and discovered it again.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I notice I haven't posted here for more than two weeks. (I've been busy Tumbling and being occupied by school and newspaper.)

I meant to post this the night I took these photographs, but anyway, here's my FNO (Virginia) post:

255: FNO Georgetown

night sketch


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Love, Chloé.

Choosing Raquel Zimmermann to be the face of Love, Chloé, was definitely a good choice. Raquel Zimmermann definitely has that strength of character that Ezra Petronio speaks of, and she does embody the spirit of Chloé.

Chloé never fails to assert itself as my favorite fashion house--over and over again. (This time with the making of video of "Love, Chloé.")

The Chloé woman is the ideal woman. Hannah Macgibbon and Inez van Lamsweerde describe the Chloé woman perfectly. She has natural beauty, inner elegance and loves life. Three of the most important aspects of the ideal character, I believe. And in my opinion--the Chloé woman is refined, attractive, and alluring, but not pretentiously so.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Is this a universal childhood theme that I missed out on or what?

My Amelie

If you have watched the French film Amelie before, you'd know exactly how delighted I feel right now.

But if you haven't watched Amelie...check this out:

This is the character Amelie (in her childhood) from the film Amelie.

It's so interesting. My sister has never watched Amelie before, yet...

The portrait I took of my sister was completely spontaneous. It was all my sister's idea--holding her hands splayed like that with globs of dough on each finger.

Like, oh my god, is this a universal childhood theme or something? Am I the only person who missed out on doing something like this as a child? (Did you guys ever do anything like this as a child?)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Familial ties are disintegrating?

As I read Japan, Checking on its Oldest, Finds Many Gone by Martin Fackler of The New York Times, I found it interesting that many statements in the article resonated with what I have been thinking about for quite a long time--but now more than ever.

"Or was the whole sordid affair, as the gloomiest commentators here are saying, a reflection of disintegrating family ties, as an indifferent younger generation lets its elders drift away into obscurity?
“This is a type of abandonment, through disinterest,” said Hiroshi Takahashi, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo. “Now we see the reality of aging in a more urbanized society where communal bonds are deteriorating.”

It should come as no surprise that I ponder deeply about all aspects in regards to family. But through my observation, it seems to me that familial bonds presently, in the 21st century, are not as strong or important as they seemed to be in previous time periods. It saddens me to think that while my aunts, uncles, and parents gather together quite often (at least three times a month, if not every other week), I can't see myself having such frequent reunions with the family members of my generation (the F1 generation to be exact) in the future.

"Some health experts say these cases reflect strains in a society that expects children to care for their parents, instead of placing them in care facilities. They point out that longer life spans mean that children are called upon to take care of their elderly parents at a time when the children are reaching their 70s and are possibly in need of care themselves."

When I was younger, my aunts and family members would ask me if I'd take care of them and give them money when I grew up. Of course I said yes without hesitation. Now, I am sure that it still holds matter how strained our relationship. Because, unfortunately at is still family. But I cannot see myself living with my parents or anyone else in my family for the majority/the rest of my life. I would absolutely go insane. Another example that adds to my theory that family bonds are disintegrating. 


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Inception-induced dream regarding gorilla suits

I've no idea how exactly the plot of the dream came to be, but here's another one of my epic dreams that I had an hour ago while napping:

I can only vaguely remember the beginning--I couldn't see myself in the dream so it was told in third-person point of view. All I can remember is that there was a cruise ship coasting at twilight (as in between day and night) and on the deck of the ship was an extremely azure pool. Well, the water was really blue anyway. But the sky was a glowing dark blue and the waves were so dark blue that they were almost black.

That part is irrelevant, however, to what I remember consequentially:

Suddenly my dream cuts to an airport terminal. It reminds me of Dulles International Airport a lot. You know, the back of the terminal behind the baggage claim section on level three? Yes, that place. It reminds me of an exact, real memory I had of it--I had come home from Shanghai a year ago in the summer night, around 2 a.m. (yes, my flight was delayed by three hours), and I took note of how eerily quiet, dim and empty the terminal looked. So that exact memory somehow infiltrated my dream. Except, if any of you know what I'm talking about, a chunk of the Lotte supermarket (the food court, to be exact) near my house in real life also implanted itself into the airport terminal in my dream.

So I'm standing near this potted plant, and everyone in my dream (including myself) is wearing winter garb--tweed coats, cashmere and down jackets, etcetera. I was wearing a bulky white vest. I think I was actually wearing an assortment of all-white clothing. But anyway, I was standing next to the potted plant, just looking around the airport terminal as I watched hundreds of people eating in the food court. In the far left of the terminal, an automatic sliding door opens and this gorilla walks in. It is wearing a huge yellow t-shirt/jersey that reminds me of Brazil's futbol jerseys, because there are also two thin green stripes running down the sleeve of the yellow t-shirts. So it walks in unnoticed by everyone except myself. I look at it in horror. In the dream, I know that it is going to kill me/everyone, which I inform my friend "c-dawg" who happened to be standing behind me. Then I scream, immediately, and loudly. Everyone then notices the gorilla and starts panicking. I can't remember if anything happened after that, but my dream cuts to another scene.

There's this long counter where everyone is standing by, and the gorilla has a pistol in its hand, aimed at all of us. It tells us, "Give me $4,000 dollars each and I will let you free." Somehow everyone has received an empty white envelope where we are inherently supposed to put our $4,000 in. I look at my friend, who swiftly takes out a thick wad of blue coupons (they all look identical) and stuffs them into her envelope. In my dream, those coupons represent money. Everyone has coupons--except me. I look at her and say gruffly, "I can't afford $4,000--I don't have it! So I'll kill her [the gorilla]!" because it seems that there is a pile of kitchen knives on the counter in front of every person that couldn't afford the $4,000, myself being one of them. So I looked around me cautiously, making sure the gorilla wasn't looking my way, and chose two knives to stuff into my vest pockets. I tried to make it look inconspicuous because obviously you need to be covert to kill someone, but it wasn't really working considering the knives' handles were sticking out quite obviously. I then attempted to stuff another two knives into each of my pants' front pockets, but gave up on that. I suppose I decided that two knives would be enough to kill the gorilla, even though I was terrified as hell.

Everyone who had their $4,000 prepared then went to put it (the envelopes with the money) into a plastic crate. I think I just put the empty envelope in the crate but managed to pass it off as it being filled with the money-coupons. Then everyone lined up to go through this gateway that reminds me of the security sensor you have to walk through during security checks at airports. The gorilla was actually just a fully-body gorilla suit. A woman replaced its presence (the woman that was wearing the suit the whole time) and she turned out to be a stunningly beautiful (but deranged) femme fatale that was wearing a black/dark purple velvety body-hugging dress--it actually kind of reminds me of Mal/Marion Cotillard's dress in Inception.

But speaking of Inception, a certain song was being broadcasted throughout the speakers of the airport terminal. And I know that song is from the Inception soundtrack because I have it (lol).


The crazy femme fatale then demands that everyone each fill out a letter or something answering a riddle she proposes. I cannot remember what the riddle was or whether I even filled one out, because I was concentrating very hard on deciding when would be the perfect chance to kill her. But then my thoughts were interrupted in the dream when I wondered if she would kill me on the spot if she discovered that I didn't fill out the letter. When I finally approached her after lining up for quite a long time, her eyes immediately bore into mine and something was going to happen but I was woken up to real life by my mother, who said it was time for dinner.

I woke up and attempted to walk but ended up stumbling down the stairs with a raging headache.


Applying the Miranda Dream Theory (which means that the dream is a processing of memories, sights, sounds, etc. that I have recently experienced in real life or memories that have been lingering around my brain):

  1. The cruise ship (in the beginning of the dream) probably appeared because my aunt informed me yesterday night that my cousin and her family were on a cruise.
  2. Setting being Dulles Int'l Airport: well, I've been thinking for the past couple of days about the ending of Inception where Dom Cobb walks through customs and the whole setting is in the airport terminal, which is probably why the setting was an airport terminal. And it was probably Dulles to be exact because I am really familiar with Dulles airport. Plus travel is always on my mind.
  3. Reason for food court being present: well, today at lunch I told my mom about a funny story regarding Friday where I went to see Inception and bought a smoothie at the food court next to it (in Tysons Corner, there's a food court next to AMC theaters), so the food court thought was probably processed in my dream. But I can only conjecture why it was Lotte's food court--because I've seen it more than any other food court.
  4. Gorilla/gorilla suit: I can't say for sure why it turned up in my dream, but these are some theories at to why:
  • Yesterday I asked my aunt if she had seen my red pen anywhere in Cantonese. I had to ask her repeatedly because she wouldn't answer my question, but she finally said (jokingly), "Why are you looking for a red butt? Are you a monkey?" Explanation: "pen" in Cantonese sounds like "butt" in English. So apparently (some) monkeys have red butts. So maybe that's where the gorilla came in--being a type of primate and all...
  • This does not really explain why the gorilla/suit appeared in my dream, but I remember that the mask of the gorilla suit had eye holes and they looked like they were gouged out and it reminds me of this really creepy mask my dad has (it's either a werewolf or a really scary looking gorilla) which he used to scare my cousin and I when we were still little children during Halloween.
5. Christina/C-dawg's appearance in my dream: well, I'd always meant to watch Inception with her, but things never worked out... but since she's associated with Inception, that's probably why she appeared in my dream. She was the only person I could distinctively identify in the dream out of all the hundreds of other people.

6. The blue coupons worth $4,000 dollars:
Right before I went to take my nap, I was looking at tips on using my Canon AE-1 and where to print and scan its film. A website mentioned Costco being a great place that sometimes offers coupons so you can get discounts on the prints. That's probably why coupons were the equivalent of cash in my dream, and considering in reality I was bummed that I didn't have any coupons for Costco, that's probably why I didn't have any coupons in the dream either.

7. Kitchen knives:
The knives I hefted in my dream looked exactly like these knives I was washing when I was at my aunt's house two days ago. I remember (in reality) that I was surprised to see the knives since they were pretty big and I had never seen them around the house before. No doubt my brain processed that into the dream...

8. Femme fatale (that reminded me of Marion Cotillard) beneath the gorilla suit: Well. I don't know. Maybe it's because Marion Cotillard is just that phenomenal.

9. Inception music: I WAS LISTENING TO THE SOUNDTRACK AS I LAY IN BED, and I still had my headphones on even when I woke up, which means I was listening to the soundtrack even as I fell asleep. This is the most profound part (I suppose) because it's pretty much just like how the song "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" by Edith Piaf was heard in the dream world in Inception. (Yes, it's the French song used for the "kick" if you know what I'm talking about.) I can't quite remember which song it was that pervaded my dream, but I definitely know that it was either "Dream is Collapsing" (ironic!) or "Waiting for a Train" because I clearly remember there were blaring horns at the end of the song in my dream. It woudn't be surprising if it were "Waiting For a Train" because that scene in the movie really impacted me and my favorite quote in the entire movie was: "You're waiting for a train - a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope the train will take you, but you can't know for sure. But it doesn't matter--because we'll be together."


Monday, August 9, 2010

First Look: Stefano Tonchi's September 2010 W

First Look: Stefano Tonchi's September 2010 W

"Tonchi plans to keep the usual cadre of W photographers and add a few new faces — the September issue has two Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott portfolios, a Craig McDean portfolio, and a story by Tim Walker, who has never before contributed to W. Terry Richardson was brought back to contribute for the first time in a long time for the August issue. "Paolo Roversi had a fantastic story in the August issue and wants to work for the magazine, so he will again," Tonchi says. "Steven Klein — we have not had a project for him right now, but we may have a good project for him. Juergen Teller — we’re going to work with him again in November, I think . . . In October, we have another Tim Walker story. We are doing something with Platon. Inez and Vinoodh shot this cover and they are going to shoot the next cover. They had a relationship with the old W, but I look forward to working more with them."

Well, I suppose I am quite happy with the lineup of photographers that will be shooting for the upcoming issues of W--that I certainly cannot deny.

As for the new tagline and italicized logo... I'm not too sure. I don't dislike it, but I feel hesitant of letting go of the former logo. You know, there is a sense of loyalty tied to the former W...

I suppose the only thing I can't see eye to eye with is the focus on actresses (even if they're not the most prominent). But oh well.

[fashion] Vogue Italia August 2010 cover/editorial of Kristen McMenamy by Steven Meisel

A couple days ago, I happened to come across Yahoo!'s homepage which featured this article from Yahoo! Shine about Vogue Italia's oil-spill themed editorial featuring model Kristen McMenamy shot by Steven Meisel.

The supposed controversy regarding this editorial has lingered in my head for the past few days, and I've been mentally running through my thoughts. Now is the real deal on what I think of this.

(Image via Fashion Gone Rogue)
I LOVE this editorial. It embodies what every magazine and photographer should aim to produce: an evocative cover that you absolutely cannot stop to look at; an image and theme that will linger in your mind. But this, this is so much more than that. It's ineffable. When I first saw the preview of this editorial from Fashion Gone Rogue, I was immediately drawn to it. No doubt, it was the sole preview that took my breath away.

Now, getting back to the Shine article, which I find extremely irritating...

Firstly, Joanna Douglas doesn't even have her facts right. In the first paragraph, she refers to this cover/editorial as part of the September issue of Vogue Italia. But it's actually the AUGUST issue. This error made me skeptical about her credibility/anything else that she was going to say, but anyway...

According to Joanna Douglas of the Shine staff, "Without question the photographs are beautifully constructed, and overwhelmingly dark. They bring about a sense of urgency that makes you want to educate yourself, donate money, or help in clean up efforts. But we do question the intentions of Italian Vogue, and whether or not they wanted to make a poignant statement or merely hoped to get attention by being provocative."

Well, Douglas, like you said, these photographs "bring about a sense of urgency that makes you want to educate yourself, donate money, or help in clean up efforts." So if that's the case, that is GREAT. I do not see why it is so important that we question the "intentions" of Vogue Italia. The ends justify the means. If these photographs really do instigate a sense of duty in us to contribute an effort in helping with the oil spill (which they do), it doesn't matter whether or not Vogue Italia was aiming for a poignant statement or hoping to get attention. And for heaven's sake--this is a magazine (but so much more than just a magazine, if I may say so)--it's pretty inherent that magazines would want to GET ATTENTION, because who the hell would bother picking one up and actually reading it if it didn't grab your attention?! If magazines did not "hope" to attract attention, then I really must say that this marks the end of the print industry.

And we shouldn't forget that "Water & Oil" was shot by Steven Meisel. Anyone who is going to write something related to fashion magazines should know that this man is one of the most highly-regarded photographers in the fashion industry. And it's not just because he has this star status that I respect him (I wouldn't if that were simply the case). It is that he is daring, innovative, and masterful at shaking the world with his craft: photography. He has shot many remarkably controversial editorials (many of which are some of my all-time favorites), but it's not controversial or striking because they're racy or anything like that--it's because his work makes you think, it opens up your mind and eyes, makes you consider things, evaluate, it moves you, it--words wouldn't do his work much justice coming from me. But you get the point. (If not, I suggest you check out his work.)

The man thinks. He thinks about his work. I don't know him, I've never spoken to him, but I implicitly believe and know that he thinks about his work, and what it does, and how it impacts viewers. He is a thinking artist, whose works have a motive. "Water & Oil," was shot both artistically and meaningfully--it is intense, stunning, eerie, fascinating, provocative, evocative. Clearly we see that the editorial stresses the aftermath of the oil spill.

(Image via Fashion Gone Rogue)

You can see the rest of the photographs from the "Water & Oil" editorial at Fashion Gone Rogue.
Earlier in the night, my aunt asked me if my uncle from my mother’s side of the family ever kept in touch with me. I said no. She said that she thought it was quite strange considering he and my mother were siblings, and thus very close, even up til her death. I said that it didn’t seem strange at all. I mean, I’m not my mother, so why should he bother keeping in touch with me? She then retorted, “Then why do I care about you and your cousin?”

Both my cousin and I lost our mothers and were largely raised by this very aunt, even though we had fathers. It isn’t a wonder why she is the most important and beloved person in my life.
It was 11 p.m. as my aunt lay on the sofa, when she brought up my mother’s last few moments.
She said that even though my mother was comatose, that she could not move or speak or open her eyes, and was nearing her death, it was as if my mother could hear that she was being spoken to—my mother’s hands twitched and tears rolled down her face from her eyes when she heard my aunt reassure her that she would take good care of me.

It was the first time I had heard about this. I was surprised to find a single tear roll down each side of my cheek. It happened so quickly. My father often told me (and he still does, once in a while) about how he promised my mother as she lay in the hospital bed during some of her last moments that I’d become a well-educated woman, but I never cried when he told me about that moment all those times. My aunt’s recollection of my mother’s final days added an even heavier weight on everything I had ever heard about my mother’s final days.

Something struck me deeply. It grieved me that even though my mother was unable to wake up, speak, move or open her eyes, and that she never would wake up…tears formed from her eyes. It turns out that it was not only my father that promised my mother something on my part—to make sure I became a well-educated woman—but also my aunt who promised my mother that she would always take good care of me.
I knew nothing about my aunt’s promise or my mother’s tears when she heard them.
Sometimes a single word will resound in my head bearing an emotion. It’s hard to explain, but it just crashes down on me. As shocking as this may sound, I’ve never felt this strongly about my mother’s death.


After birthing me on June 30, 1994, Tina Shen went into a coma thereafter, passing away on July 29, 1994.
Once in a while, I wonder whether things would have been different if I had never been conceived. I think that life would have definitely taken a different course.

Friday, August 6, 2010

a day of smuggling smoothies, straws, inception, mad dashes for the bathroom

Today was a wonderfully fun-filled day. Too bad I freaking forgot my memory card at home (plugged inside my computer) although I did bring my camera along. That's the one regret I have today; that I wasn't able to photographically document my experiences along with my friends.

During the car ride to Tysons Corner's AMC, I told random funny stories to Ariel (and I suppose the rest of the car listened in) regarding my Taipei experiences. Let's see... I can't remember what I said. I'll ask Ariel to give me a refresher.

Then we went to the food court so Cindy could go grab a bite. Ariel and I had already eaten a bit of lunch before we got picked up, so we decided to go to Coldstone's to buy a drink for ourselves. As I was scanning the smoothies list, Ariel remarked something about the smoothies being '110' something to which I naturally assumed she was speaking about the price range. I found it quite strange, so I immediately said, "REALLY?" She gave the affirmative. I balked at her.

"I thought it says that the Like it size is $5.49!" I exclaimed.

It indeed was $5.49. It was just that Ariel was talking about how many calories the smoothies contained. Miscommunication resolved. Not. Finally, when we got to the cashier to pay for our drinks, the dude naturally assumed I'd be footing both of our tabs. We told him we were paying separately. So then he also got the change mixed up. That was pretty confusing. I had no idea what was going on. After we finally paid for the drinks, I brought up a recap of a McDonald's experience of mine.

It was my first time paying for myself at any form of a store, so when I went up to order and pay, the cashier, a Hispanic lady with a heavy accent, said something about the price but I couldn't distinguish what she was saying, so I said, "What?" about three times. Oh, how mortifying.


After that... we walked over to the movie ticket counter to redeem our AMC coupons. It seems that both Cindy and Ariel also kept their AMC coupon from a birthday party we all went to two years ago. We all somehow decided to use it on this occasion, which was pretty cool. We hadn't even planned on that happening.

Finally, we neared the entrance to the actual movie theater, but I spotted a sign that said "No Food Or Drink Allowed." Ariel and I still had our smoothies, barely touched. I didn't want to was my $5.49 so I started to chug the ice cold smoothie. Ariel seemed to have a little more difficulty finishing off her smoothie. She jokingly demanded that I help her. Cindy said she could help out... so I said, "Aw geez, if only we had extra straws..." to which Cindy responded, "I do! Four, actually." Wow. Funniest thing ever.

Eventually Ariel and Cindy still couldn't finish Ariel's smoothie, so we deliberated whether to throw it away or somehow smuggle it in in her bag. She put it in her bag. The straw was still sticking out. I pointed out that it was really obvious. Eventually I decided to help out by lending her my black sweater, which was hanging around my arms. I ended up subtly wrapping the smoothie up in my black sweater and put it snugly under my arm. Ariel remarked that I looked like I was holding a baby. I laughed. REALLY LOUD. I think she did, too. Eventually Cindy told us all to calm down as we approached the ticket person. I passed through without being stopped.

I'm an experienced spy. I can smuggle smoothies right under my arm into movie theaters.

The whole movie lasted at least 2.5 hours. At the point when Fischer approached the safe in a totally dramatic, cinematic manner, I muttered under my breath, "Geez, can he walk any slower?" Inception was really good. After it was done, I stood up and walked quite awkwardly...because I really needed to pee. Turns out Ariel needed to, too. I told her to walk faster and we cracked up the whole way out the movie theater and into the bathrooms. We left Cindy behind in a hurry, haha! We both admitted we were squirming and shifting uncomfortably the whole time we were watching Inception.

Awkward place to end this post, but those were the highlights of my experiences today.

Oh. I just ate a scoop of ice cream the size of my fist. REGRETS.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

[photograph] when you smile in a family photo...

You know it was taken right. Because the memories it held--you remember them fondly.

Aunt Lily, Aunt Donna, Me
Capitol Hill in the distance

I must admit, I was not the one to take these photographs. It was my cousin's uncle who was visiting with his wife (my cousin's aunt, to the right of me above) that took these photographs with a Leica M8.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

toad + ham & egg sandwich = great start

Sunday, August 1, around 10 a.m.

I was woken up against my will, but I suppose it was not all that bad since I ended up cooking myself a delicious ham and egg sandwich. Mm. I can't remember the last time I actually cooked for breakfast, so it was a good morning in that respect. 

But before that--the whole reason I was woken up by my sister was because she came running into my room yelling at the top of her lungs something along the lines of "A FROG IS ATTACKING!" 

Of course I woke up immediately then (though I was quite groggy) and stumbled down the stairs, following her to the patio at the back of the house.

My aunt pointed at a piece of carpet lying on the patio. She lifted it gingerly, revealing a toad. 

I think toads and frogs are quite cute. I slowly got in front of it, camera in tow, and crouched down. We stared at each other for goodness knows how long. It was quite frightened, because I think I could see its skin quivering to the beat of its heart. Finally, it cautiously turned around and made one hop to its left. 

 I continued to take photographs of it. I wasn't able to get as close to it as I had wanted, but oh well. 

Interesting morning.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

dream filled with Harry Potter references and an unusually somber plot

I had a really unusual dream.

Normally my dreams are very exciting in a good sense. Often filled with happiness. But sometimes I get somber dreams.

I had a dream that I was the cause of a war (much like Helen of Troy, but alas, not because of staggering beauty), and that I had to go to war against a mafia family.

It's hard to explain, but the same war kept happening over and over again in the one dream. The result was the same: everyone on my side of the family died, myself included, even though it wasn't explicitly shown in my dream. But that same sequence of events and results repeated over and over, at least three times.

Then, there seemed to be a disturbance that interrupted the endless cycle.

The fourth time the war began, there was a much more in-depth coverage on it in my dream. Before I actually went to war, I could see that I was very solemn and did not want to leave my aunt's side, because she is naturally the person who is most important to me. Everyone in my "army," I suppose, gathered and found their loved ones, and we all bade them farewell. Somehow, I lingered behind and cried because I didn't want to go to war, because I knew I would die, because that was the result of the three previous cycles. I deliberated hiding myself so I wouldn't have to go to war. However, a strange thought struck the me in the dream: if I did not go to fight the war (which I was inexplicably the cause of), which was at its last battle, then what would my comrades think of me?

Somehow, the notion of being hated and belittled by others/my comrades/family was even more distressing than dying itself, so I formed my resolve and went to the battlefield, which isn't really a battlefield. Let me try to explain the setting...

The battlefield is pretty much like a grass-less stadium, with two scoreboards. One on each end of the stadium. The ground is flat and made of concrete. Gray. My army/comrades are gathered at the west end of the stadium. I recognize everyone as members of my family or close friends in real life. On the east side of the stadium is the mafia. ...This is the kind of funny part. A lot of the mafia consists of Slytherin people. HERE COMES THE HARRY POTTER REFERENCES.

Okay. So.... everyone is dressed in the traditional black robes of Hogwarts students. Except my team also has this crest of Gryffindor colors (red and gold), while the mafia consisting of Slytherins have crests of green and black, DUH.

All of the sudden the battle begins and people from my side charge at the oncoming mafia members. I stay behind, fear still gnawing at my heart. Listed on the two scoreboards on the east and west side are names of each army's people. As people die, a strike visibly goes through their name on the scoreboard. It was déjà vu as I watched in horror as more and more of my comrades got their names crossed off. Finally, when it was down to six (I think) people on my team, something in me changed and I just well... tore straight across the battlefield. Each person was dealing with one adversary, and mine just happened to be Draco Malfoy (wtf?).

Somehow there came a point where both teams decided to call a temporary truce/break/half-time and the fighting was disengaged as each team regrouped. At that point, the me in my dream found it rather strange, because I felt a tiny, growing optimism--a little shred of hope--that we might actually be able to survive the slaughter. That was because, at this point in the previous three cycles, I was already dead! But this fourth cycle was different.

Unfortunately, I got woken up shortly afterward, so I have no idea whether I managed to stay alive or not.

And you guys probably found it funny that Harry Potter characters and elements were part of my dream, but I honestly felt really scared and sad in the dream... (that I was going to die and never live to see the people I loved).

But anyway.

As you all must know, I love to analyze my dreams to find relevance to reality.

How did this dream come about? I am not too sure, but it probably has something to do with my constant worry for my aunt and loved ones in general. I can't help but feel afraid, very often, of what will become of me if the people I love leave me. Forever.

I swear I have not read a single Harry Potter book since... the year the Deathly Hallows came out. And I stopped watching the movie series after the fourth movie. But I suppose that the Harry Potter chronicles mean a lot to me--a lot more than most other book series.When I was looking at my bookshelf yesterday, trying to find room to usher five new magazines into the magazine section (which shares the same shelf as my most sacred books--home to the Harry Potter series), I was surprised to discover that all but one book from the series was there--I was missing the Deathly Hallows. Like, what the fuck? It came as a shock to me because I remember very clearly that when I ordered it (which was a long time ago), I accidentally ordered two copies and kept both. I pondered it for a while and forgot about the whole missing-book incident, or so I thought, but no...

The Harry Potter series found its way into my dream.

And as to how I was the cause of the war in my dream? Well... the night before, at dinner, my parents got into an argument and I felt bad because it was about me. My dad, being ignorant, chastised my mother for not cooking shrimp "for me," when he didn't even realize that I wasn't even fond of eating shrimp (while my mother knew). So then they started arguing because my mother felt like my father was wrongly accusing her, which he was, although he vehemently denied it. And so that's probably why my brain decided to process such sentiments into my dream.

[photographic diary] an in-depth foray into Luray Caverns

July 28, 2010. The first time I went to Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia. Much to my chagrin, I did not realize that we (my family and I) were going today when I woke up at noon (to be expected if one sleeps at 3 a.m.), despite my mother claiming that she informed me yesterday of today's travel plans. 

The whole Luray Caverns experience was very fascinating. I mean, I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I'm a rock nerd. I keep a collection of fascinating minerals and rocks in a GODIVA CHOCOLATE BOX. I'm extremely proud of my rock collection--they have all been from my excavations--since third or fourth grade, elementary school, when I would dig rocks up during recess time at this one little corner of the playground. I remember that I had fellow colleagues help me with the tasks to unearth this one humongous, semi-translucent crystal-esque rock, too. But okay, enough of my childhood rock excavating stories. Back to the Luray Caverns.

I've chosen a handful of photographs out of the 216 that I took on this trip to show you all:
Taken descending the stairs into the caverns.

These remind me of rows of teeth...

Dream Lake, my favorite part of the caverns. The bottom portion of the photograph is actually a reflection of the top. The water is truly the essence of "crystal clear." It's absolutely mind-blowing and breathtaking.  

The ceiling!

This reminds me of a fish's tail.
I leaned over the railing to take this shot... 
The patterns on this rock formation remind me of a sea turtle's fin.

How to get this shot: look up and take it from below.
These things always remind me of weird stony mushrooms or freaky trees.

An organ in the midst of the cavern. It utilizes many stalagmites/stalactites throughout the cavern. 

Okay, forget that I ever said I picked a "handful." I just couldn't limit them all! So I ended up choosing 46 out of 216. Not bad, huh? Well, honestly, I don't really think that my photographs did the caverns enough justice. If you haven't been to Luray Caverns before, you should definitely see it for yourself. It's utterly fascinating. And the temperature is nice. 

After walking the whole cavern, I went to the gift shop and bought a large chunk of an amethyst. It's beautiful. I mean, how could I walk out of there without buying a gorgeous rock to add to my collection--right? (Besides--it only cost $6.99). Since my camera battery is dead, I can't really take a photograph of it right now, so maybe I'll do it some other day.

dream lake
Dream Lake

look out above
You wouldn't want one of these things stabbing you in the head.