Aimless Mind

Too lazy to tidy up. Remember my grandmother who has nine children, but still keep the place so clean and things so in order. Where did she get so much energy for repetitive work? Can’t imagine I have nine children. My friend told me that when I have nine children, I will be working harder than my grandmother and be very proud of every piece of chore I work on. Is that true? My friend has a talent of painting a beautiful message that is so…. Can I use the word resistible here?

Those lions and leopards in Masai Mara or other flat landscapes easy for camera crews to do their jobs are always hungry. Somehow it is hard for me to imagine that the big cats of Africa live as stressful a life as the Wolf of Wall Street, one shows the color of blood and the other the color of money. I felt sympathetic to these cats until their greediness and everlasting blood thirst started to disgust me. Are there anything moving that they don’t want to kill? No. They want to kill everything. They are like those despots that human history can’t have enough of.

Videos I Like

I can’t even remember when I started to watch Monkey Doo and how I started to watch. It probably came to me as a random recommendation since I love to watch animals–big cats of Africa, little cats going to vets, lemurs of Madagascar etc. I have to say once I started with Doo, I can’t stop watching.

Monkey Doo lives an idyllic life in Vietnam with his human parents and his human brother. His life is carefully chronicled by his human mother and promptly uploaded to YouTube. He wears clothes like a human baby, eats exotic fruits, climbs trees, clings to his human father whenever he can, plays with the family cat and the neighborly dogs.

One thing that really attracts me is their frequent family outings, especially to an orchard or a wooded area nearby for bananas, papayas, dragon fruits (which sell for $6.5 each in supermarkets here in New Jersey), rose apples and other exotic fruits that slip my mind for the moment. I can’t have enough of these videos. I grew up in the north in an arid plain very close to Mongolia, but my mother grew up in a subtropical area. She would tell me stories of walking on a path picking lychee, olive, longan, oranges off branches. Once heard about this, I couldn’t shake off this image and imagined myself sitting somewhere and all these exotic fruits just drop into my mouth. That’s exactly what Monkey Doo did in his videos–he climbs up a tree and viola a plump fruit, pomelo being one, is too big for his little hands to hold.

Often the videos only have Vietnamese sound track with no English subtitles, but that’s no hindrance at all for the enjoyment. One can easily guess what’s happening in Doo’s family, which seems to be located away from the noise of big city. The area is rural or probably small town since it has KFC. Doo is doing things for which no verbal explanations are needed–he is playing with people around him, he is climbing here and there, he is brushing his teeth, he is waiting his human dad to spoon feed him some tasty treats. I didn’t know that monkeys cannot use spoons. I thought they can since in other monkey videos, monkeys can eat with spoons, though they hold spoon in a funny way and prefer licking the spoon rather than using the spoon to shove food in. Doo is actually observant of human etiquette, at least partially, and in many ways considers himself a human being. This is illustrated by his patience at the table, waiting for the food to go to his mother and his brother first.

I often wonder about Monkey Doo videos’ attractions. Comparing with other videos which have traveling, food sampling, African cats, extreme eating, Monkey Doo videos are really simple–no far away locations in different continents, no deliberate seeking of exotic customs, no fierce actions of safaris. It is only everyday life of a nice, loving family. I have to say these videos have touched me, even if I can’t explain why, more than those more complicated videos. One of my friends used to say, “if you love it, you love it. Why do you want to know the reason?”

The Autumn

Last night I felt that familiar chill–the autumn is approaching. Just knowing it from the calendar doesn’t feel real. One has to sense it. However the grass is as green as ever, the leaves as abundant as the summer time. The heat and the humidity during the day are still there, but one feels the gradual creeping up of the coolness, the crispy air, the slower heating up during the morning, and the quicker drop of temperature at dusk. One knows the change is coming, not only in the air. I somehow feel that this summer has been longer than usual, probably because of the pandemic, which shut down everything and makes our invisible bodily clock tick slower. Probably I’ve read the news more often and searched online for more sources of Asian news–things are happening but one wants to know more and one can’t wait to know what’s going to happen next. Such an impatience adds several hours to a day and almost justifies one’s irrational sentiment that the time is too slow and the progress is disappointing.

That brings me to the paradox we can’t seem to escape–we can’t function without a routine, but our habits seem to imprison us. Writing, of all things, is more difficult to deal with than other work. If one implements a strict discipline of schedule, one feels like losing spontaneity. The desire to fit in with the rigid timetable brings anxiety, which is something desirable for other work since it gets things done and makes one feel accomplished afterwards. Trying it on your writing, it’s a disaster. Things are done but not done to your liking. The rush and the anxiety inexplicably show up between the lines and among the phrases you have placed with deliberation. How could this happen? I don’t know. Now the alternative is equally troublesome. If one takes a relaxed attitude, things are not going to be done. Period. There’s a devil in my mind, or is it an angel. Whatever it is, I haven’t learned how to deal with it.

I can always blame the language. Not being a native speaker of English is the most convenient defense of mine, a panacea for all my language ills, a scapegoats for all wrongs–grammar mistakes, awkward phrases, un-smoothed transitions. I have to say English is rather slippery and unruly, towards me at least. I often imagine something utterly beautiful and witty and irresistible, but when it’s finally written black and white in front of me, it is ugly and has to be resisted at all cost. As for the witty part, it feels like somebody trying to be witty, but failing miserably. If anybody laughs, it will be a sympathy laugh.

From A Text Message

My friend sent me a text message that the resigned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is suffering from colitis, the same chronic illness I’ve been dealing with for more than ten years. None of my friends understand this malady of mine. Whenever I tell them that I have to observe strict diet and can’t touch oily food or any alcohol, they just stare at me in disbelief. Now the news of Shinzo Abe’s resignation seems to vindicate me in a certain way–such disease really exists and my claim has been valid all along despite the fact that I’ve been unable to convince my friends.

I have been quite successful in controlling my colitis–an immodest claim but it is true. I can certainly teach anybody who suffers from the same condition. The first rule to battle this illness is understanding those prescription pills and suppositories, which are hormone based and will gradually lose their potency. I think I took Colozal first, and then Azacol, also occasionally with some kind of suppository. At first, the medicine worked wonders and I felt better than ever. However four years later, it all went downhill. That’s when I started to do research on herbal medicine and special diet. By the way, I also suffer from type 2 diabetes and have to be very careful of my blood sugar level.

Here are my “secrets”– I use probiotics–the kind with more than 400 billions count, whatever that means. Also psyllium husk, and berberine. That’s it. No other medicine. Berberine actually help both my bowel and my blood sugar level–it’s like one herbal stone against two birds of ailment. I am very strict with my diet and only eat organic chicken and egg and no other animal products. I think duck is ok too except it is too fatty. I also drink soy milk, eat tofu, all the beans, tomato etc. I think I could write my diary of living with colitis and type 2 diabetes or a book of recipe that follows the diet regime I’ve designed.

Just out of curiosity, I checked out Shinzo Abe’s wikipedia page. His elite status and his brilliant career path are dizzy to read. Then a link to his grandfather Kishi brings the shocking information. I really don’t know anything about history although I read several books about the Pacific Theater of WWII and the Korea War. Kishi is such a war criminal, a brutal racist against people of Manchuria and Korea, a murderous administrator who starved workers he colonized by tens of thousands a month, an admirer of Stalin and Hitler, a skilled money launder, a shameless philanderer. Are there any human atrocities this Kishi guy will not do? After the war, he was considered not bad enough to be indicted by the Tribunal and was released and was allowed to rehabilitate his reputation. If such a savage is considered not that bad, I just can’t imagine how bad one has to be in order to get into a trial, let alone get convicted.

It is difficult not to develop a cynical view when one takes a long hard look at the world, but we have to try to be positive and hopeful.

Overcast

It's overcast, but no rain, no wind, no leaves fly.
The tail end of Hurricane Laura passing by,
no stir, no bang, only a little sigh 
about not having sunshine and blue sky. 

It's the best time for shopping--
first stop restaurant W for takeout. 
It used to be so popular that patrons swarming,
but now so empty and desolate, 
only one client waiting and one car parking.

The entrance is dirty and ugly,
three little stools placed by the outer door, dusty and even oily.
Who would want to sit there? Nobody. 
A sheet of wrinkled plastic covered the inner doorway hideously,
with a little opening for orders to pass through barely. 

The order was supposed to be given by standing there,
shouting and hoping to be heard,
by vaguely discernible figures inside, 
behind the fully sealed glass partition. 

"Dim sum available?" I shouted.
"Circle the dim sum order sheet,
and write down your phone number,"
an annoyed voice said, barely audible. 

"No tofu jelly?"
"No."
"How about fish ball?"
"No fish ball."
How can a dim sum be a dim sum without
tofu jelly and fish ball, my favorite. 
No smile? I wanted to ask but didn't.
"Smile not included" would probably be the answer. 

The restaurant was sold right before the pandemic hit.
So I don't know these new people running the place.
Rarely any good Asian restaurants in New Jersey, 
but this is the one. 
She looks like the owner's daughter,
who's forced to help her parents,
in her frowning and grudging way. 
She probably even grows up in a restaurant,
a little crib in a dim corner,
the little hands drawing unsteady lines. 
When she's older,
she spent all the after school hours in the restaurant--
homework was done when the business was slow.

She must hate this, 
and she has a good reason to.
The work that supports us
is also the prison that shuts us in. 
Hopes, dreams, and endurance will 
numb our body and soothe our soul.
She will survive, I believe.
Her perpetual scowl makes her look older than her age,
but I see strength and toughness in her knotted brows.








Evaluations

Whenever I chat with Amazon or WordPress for assistance of one kind or another, I receive an email afterwards to ask me to evaluate my experience. I hate evaluations in general, and also in principle–giving or receiving–but I know evaluation is necessary for a functional business or society. Surely without holding ourselves to a standard, things will be in chaos. However understanding of it doesn’t make me like evaluation one bit more. I still detest it. The necessity of doing an evaluation only adds to my distress since now I feel guilty of hating the evaluation so much. If I were a teacher, I will give everybody A. If I were a member of Olympic committee of any sort, I will give the championship to every participant. Well, I should never hold such jobs or assume such responsibilities.

I think my dislike of evaluation comes from those years after years of experiences in a high pressured education system of Asia. The high pressure is actually not the primary evil of the whole thing, but rather the emphasis on memory and the overt competition with peers. Now so many years after that, I still feel the chill of it and the madness of it. And what’s the result? I’ve forgotten most of the things I learned. Now I am writing most of the time, which is something I love outside of my schoolwork–actually schoolwork only took time away from my reading of those books I love. So what’s the point? Years of wasted memorization only fossilized the mind and the relentless competition only damaged healthy friendships upon which we can build life long emotional support. And I think evaluation underlies the whole system. Probably I am overreacting towards evaluation, but I can’t help it.

Memories of Girlfriends

I can’t believe how good this book is, “Writing With Intent”. I’ve bought this book for a year and haven’t gone around to read it until now. I think it’s because I got it at the end of my feverish obsession with Atwood’s work–finally the enthusiasm waned and I didn’t finish Testament and another book, name forgotten, that molded after Tempest. This is the first several essays I read by her and they are wonderful, reminding me of those essays of Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell, Nora Ephron–not that they have similar styles, but rather I have the same fondness for them. Another reason I didn’t immediately picked it up to read it is because of the title. I prefer random thoughts and writing for writing’s sake without any other intent. I grew up in an environment that every word is carefully uttered with an intention behind and I know the effect of that. Actually my very action right now is the after effect of such an upbringing. I will be fine with appropriate amount of intent, but I know it is hard. Whenever one has an intent, one tends to overdo it. Still, I love Atwood despite not agreeing with her on many things. I especially love the fact that Atwood is witty and humorous without even trying to be acknowledged this way. Nora Ephron is funny but she deliberately crafts her writing in the way to nudge people to laugh, no matter how gentle the nudge is.

I am reading “That Certain Thing Called Girlfriend”, which inevitably brought back memories of my girlhood and those wonderful friends I had. L is my best friend and my classmate as well. She’s a clever girl who likes mathematics and computer, but most of her spare time had to be spent on house chores and the duty of taking care of her two younger sisters and the youngest–a boy, who’s nickname is “The Last One”. Thank goodness. I mean “thank goodness” and a deep sigh should be added to his nickname to make it truly a representation of the parents’ sentiment. If “The Last One” was not a boy, my friend L would need to take care of more sisters and her mother would have to try even harder to make babies. If I wanted to talk with L after school, I had to go to her place since she had no time to visit me. She lived on the fifth floor in a two bedroom apartment while I lived on the second floor in a one bedroom apartment. How much I have to sacrifice for our friendship since I had to follow her around when she was doing her chores and cooking dinner for the whole family. Our conversation was often interrupted by her yell at her younger sisters. Although “The Last One” was truly the most indulged in the family, L was not afraid of screaming at him when he made a mess or tried to come too close to the stove. My visit usually ended when L’s mother came back from work. If I didn’t meet the mom, I would think L is a little hyper. When the mom appeared, I knew who L was learning from. The mom screamed orders as soon as she got indoors. The second eldest was to mend the clothes, the third child was to tidy up, and she herself immediately picked up a mop to clean the cement floor. While she worked energetically to clean the floor, she continued to bark orders, to complain, to answer questions, to offer instructions on certain dishes L was cooking. It is so strange that I still don’t know how to explain this– she was so blunt and so loud, but I didn’t feel afraid of her at all and the children were not afraid of her either, though they started to take her orders and at least looked obedient. Probably because her voice had a quirky hilarity that one could almost laugh at it. My mother rarely raised her voice, but her gloom and silence was much more menacing. L’s father was a math professor at the provincial university where my mother also worked. L’s mother was only a store clerk, but it’s a happy marriage. Although they never showed their affection in front of others, I suspected that they loved each other and respected each other deeply. There’s some deep connection between them that other people could not penetrate. I would like to ask but never dared to. They probably came from the same village or childhood sweetheart….

So many years later, I still feel my love for L and regret that I left my hometown. If we were of opposite sex, we would have married each other. I feel strongly about that, still do. I wouldn’t mind to live with her talkative mother, getting yelled at when she’s cross. Next life, I will be born and live in my hometown as long as I live no matter how poor, provincial, dusty, rural, backward it is. VoilĂ , love and friendship!

So Easy

I am not a computer expert, but my friends will come to me with their little computer issues, for example virus issues, attachment problem etc. I am flattered with the vote of confidence, but I have to say their confidence is rather misplaced. I think the misunderstanding comes from the fact that I like to do online search for solutions and follow the protocols I find to solve what I can solve. The next thing I know I’ve gained certain reputation.

A while ago, a friend told me that she has an old pad–I can’t remember it’s an iPad or a Samsung pad–and it’s infected with virus so bad that she had to put it away. So I dig around a bit and found that she only needs to push several buttons to restore it to the manufacturer’s settings and everything would be wiped out clean. I told her right away. Hahaha, I feel clever as if I’ve made some major discovery; I feel I help people as if…

Now another friend of mine said that he wants to buy a new printer for his home office. With the current economic situation, in the midst of pandemic and other signs of slowdowns, I don’t think it is very wise to buy a new one if the old one is still usable. However I can’t just say directly that he shouldn’t buy things. The better way of doing this will be asking him what he uses his printer at home for. Since he does a lot of work in the office, his home printer is only serving a secondary purpose and no need to be really fancy or robust. He replied that he only uses it when he works from home and to print out files in order to sign them. I immediately jumped in and said he can sign files electronically now and there’s no need for a printout. When I searched online, the signature functionality of the Microsoft Word came out. It looks so easy to do.