Foist

is a word that I cannot handle. No matter how many times I’ve encountered it and looked it up, I have to look it up again for the next encounter. Same for words like flout, flounder, flaunt. F for failure to remember. I don’t know about native speakers, but for non-native speakers like me such an inadequacy is negligible, compared with other annoying language incapacity I’ve discovered and felt powerless to deal with. I can always attribute my memory lapse to the fact that my mind is not wired for alphabets. Genetically I am a tonal language live machine even if scientists haven’t found the tonal genes, or probably will never find.

Then I watched an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and all those cool things Leon teaches Larry. By the way, I think Leon should open a language school for immigrants since he can make the language alive and kicking, unlike those English language courses I took in school for which vocabulary memorization and grammar rules strangled the last bit of spirit out of English. Leon tells Larry that he’s been foisted with a secretary that everybody wants to unload onto somebody else. Bingo! I suddenly learned the word foist without really learning it and memorized it without beating my brain with a mental stick.

And “foist” is the most suitable word to describe the central character Sterling Lung in “The Barbarians Are Coming”. His relationship with Bliss is practically foisted on him by Bliss’ one-sided enthusiasm, sort of like the motherly love. Bliss is pregnant with his child. Even this unborn child seems to be foisted on him. Then he cooks for a beautiful Xena like woman and the next thing he knows, she’s drunk and tries to foist herself on him. His parents try to foist all kinds of things on him–the idea of going to medical school which he rebels against, their contempt for his culinary aspiration etc. They even arrange to get a picture bride–I think the barbarian in the title actually refers to her but I can be wrong–from Hong Kong for him, forcing him to ditch other women and to marry this barbarian. This last piece of foisting is the most egregious of all.

I am still at the 4th chapter of the book and I don’t know if more foisting is going to happen. It seems that cooking is the only thing nobody foists on him and everything else in life is imposed and unwelcome.

He writes so well and it almost pains me to talk about the prevailing foisting in his book. Fortunately he passed away two years ago and would not get hurt by whatever I say about his book. Only 63 years old. Too young to die for a modern man.

Old News and New News

I’ve often seen the phrase “old news”, but never seen the phrase “new news”, which is obviously considered as redundancy, pleonasm, tautology or whatever other pedantic words available. However in the age of frantic pace of various media, there should be a phrase “new news” to distinguish the news within two or three hours, from the news of older than three hours.

Whenever I heard anything related with Watergate–an event, a journalist, a reference, a passing remark–I would often think of Nora Ephron. Now Bob Woodward becomes news again and I’m reminded of nothing else but how much I like Nora Ephron’s essays and movies and of course her book “Heartburn”. I don’t trust my memory, especially when people’s names are concerned. So I checked online and confirmed that Bob Woodward is not Ephron’s ex-husband. So I’m safe to buy his book. If he is, I would have second thought, due to my loyalty to Ephron, whatever that means. I feel that I owe Ephron this loyalty. I don’t know why I feel this way, but I do. I have to say her ex-husband is quite forgivable even though I totally support Ephron’s decision to quit the relationship. An untrustworthy partner can mess up one’s mind and after a while one feels that one is entangled into a web of deceit that one is forced to do things–if one doesn’t do it, one feels weak; if one does it, one despises oneself. My parents live their life in a tug-of-war kind of relationship. Everything everybody says has implications in family politics and every action is considered an act of battle necessity–provocation, reprisal, counteract, spying, sabotage, stalling–rather than an act of love or care or just plain old routine. It has detrimental effect on everybody’s psyche.

I went back to YouTube to watch the highlights of Ephron’s movies. Not the famous restaurant scene in “Sally Meets Harry”, but rather the one in “Sleepless in Seattle”. The actress–I think she’s a popular one since I definitely see her in many movies–cried when describing “An Affair To Remember”. That scene is so good that when I watched it, I gasped for its authenticity. Women behave like that. I could relate so well to it even though I had never watched “An Affair To Remember” and didn’t know the plot at all. I think my grandma behaves like that; my friends behave like that; those of my relatively less crazy relatives behave like that. Even though we are Asians and have a completely different cultural backgrounds, we can relate without even knowing the context. I don’t know why there are not more scenes and more movies like that. Well, I guess it is a chick movie and a chick scene. Consequently less valued.

“Heartburn” is one of the best books, although the movie is not so good. It is better than most of the literary classics, although Ephron has never aspire to make it a very literary work. It’s a book almost without a plot but mostly everyday occurrences and mundane events; a book without anybody dying; a book without any serious moral questions; a book without a hero or a villain. The plain language is almost a deliberation. I love the book despite the fact that Ephron is completely different from me. Her tastes and her aspirations–cooking, decoration, social circle–are something I have no idea of. I am saying this not to be self deprecating but rather to be self assertive. I am glad that I don’t have all these baggage–to cook to a certain standard, to show yourself and your house to a certain standard, to associate with certain level of people, to be able to keep a “help”. I don’t since I am a poor immigrant. We do what we can to survive and we don’t even have the privilege to take on such baggage. I am glad of it. I know people among immigrants who try to live up to certain standards, and I am glad that I haven’t fallen into that trap. I have nothing against setting up a material goal to live up to, but I’m afraid that women have to sacrifice so much to achieve these standards. Women’s intellectual aspiration is usually the first to be given up since it is the easiest to be laughed at, most elusive to be adhered to, and most difficult to be transformed to visible material results.