Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: May, 2007

And Madame Butterfly Too

Depression, Suicide, and Asian American Women. I’ve mused about this occasionally and have always come to the (rather unsatisfactory) conclusion that it’s the pressure to perform and conform. They may be major reasons but they’re not the only reasons. And sometimes, when I’m feeling rather perverse, I think other Asian women are just nuts–I’ve been in black moods before, but it’s never been so bad that I ever think about ending it all. Compared to them, I’m as laid back as a lazy cat. But then I know that’s unfair–because I have some sort of coping mechanism doesn’t mean that others do.

Looking back on my interactions with other Asian girls, I think there is definitely something wrong about how the way society treats Asian American females. When I was in high school, I had a half-Korean friend who seemed to be in constant emotional agony and resentment because her Korean mother was putting more pressure on her to do well academically than her brother. While I was at Caltech, an Asian female chemistry grad student committed suicide by ingesting arsenic. Around the same time, I blogged about an MIT student who committed suicide by setting herself on fire. And when I was at Dartmouth, I had a housemate (female and Asian, of course) whose depression got so bad at one point that my other housemates and I had to stage an intervention.

Although society (and the Asian American community’s expectations) consistently push the idea that failure is not an option, I’m at the point in my life where I can say, it’s okay to be a failure at something. I’ve had people tell me that certain options were closed to me, but in reality, there is always opportunity. If someone trips me up, I’m going to try my damndest to get back up again. And sometimes, I just wonder if society has the morbidly romantic expectation of depressed Asian women committing suicide. The arts certainly doesn’t do anything about dispelling it. It just makes me furious when those naysayers win by pushing someone towards oblivion.

The Thursday Threesome: “Alien versus Predator”

Onesome: Alien– movies and paranormal horror stuff: your cup of tea? …or did Mary Poppins just about take you to the limits on films.

I don’t like gore in horror so I don’t watch horror films very often. The only horror I’m usually into is the fictional short story kind.

Twosome: versus– …related to some of last week’s answers: Do you ever go to the movies versus staying at home and waiting to rent them or see them on the tube?

It depends on the movie. If it’s one I’m really excited about, I might go to the movie theater. If it’s borderline, I usually wait until it comes out on DVD. Of course at the moment, both options are moot because I’m not interested in any movies right now.

Threesome: Predator– pricing at the theatres: how are the prices locally for you? Can you afford an evening show and popcorn? …or is it a matinee with a bottle of water smuggled in?

I have no idea. The last time I saw a movie in the theater was Casino Royale, and that was many states away.

Those Course Evaluations, Again

Since the last time I got evaluated by surly undergrads, I’ve come to the conclusion that course evaluations are a bunch of bull anyway. One can sort of predict what sort of evaluations to get by the demeanor of the students–if they actually ask for help and participate, then their attitude towards the class is probably going to be better. As for the students who lounge around and do nothing and still expect an A…

Well, let’s just say I got a particularly long and angry evaluation in direct contrast with all my other evaluations. I get the feeling that this student is not only ranting about me but the university system in general. But hey, if you’ve registered for a class with a kazillion students, having at least one TA around is pretty much a given.

Where Be All The Tribbles?

LOLTrek. (via Word Salad II) Maybe you have seen this already, but this is all sorts of awesomeness.

Two Links

Tales of the Plush Cthulhu. (via MonkeyFilter) Stuff toy carnage, Lovecraftian-style.

Perturbed on Pern. (via Kate Elliott) A feminist smackdown of McCaffrey’s Pern novels. To be honest, when I read them in my early teens, I just thought the idea that bonding to a dragon was cool. I was dense to everything else going on in those books.

Reviews in Brief

Bah. If I put these off any longer, I’d have a kazillion books needing to be reviewed. So here are my brief opinions. If you want summaries, go to Amazon.

Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd. Although there isn’t too much known about Merian, naturalist and artist of the late 1600s, Todd does a good job at filling in the spaces. The biographer doesn’t merely focus on Merian’s life (interesting that she escaped her husband by going into a religious commune–divorce was not the thing to do back then–even though there was evidence that Merian wasn’t that religious). There’s also the context of the times to consider: the concept of metamorphosis–which had intrigued Merian her entire life–was closely tied to debunking some of the scientific theories of the day like preformation and spontaneous generation. Too bad the stuffy (ahem, male) scientists after her derided her for being commercialist (well, she had to sell off some of her scientific specimens to get food on the table) and fanciful (actually, a lot of her sketchbooks were “modified” by future artists who thought the new pictures would sell better). Really interesting reading on both scientific and feminist standpoints–highly recommended.

Mountains So Sublime by Terry Abraham. It’s a postcard sized book filled with old photographs, paintings, and drawings as well as excerpts of letters from 19th century British travelers to the Rockies. The thing I liked the best about this little book are the travelers’ descriptions–lush, vivid, a language lover’s dream. I didn’t pay very much attention to Abraham’s analysis (there is such thing as too much analysis) but he did have one important point. These British travelers were still steeped into the class system, and they viewed the “equal” American like British lower middle class. Through this lens their opinion, that Americans were crass in their industrial drive and myopic to the land around them, was much less out of any environmentalist attitude but more their own bias that certain people were better than others.

Night Life by Elizabeth Guest. Vampires in Vegas. This plotline has been done before, so ho-hum, right? Well, not exactly. Guest has managed to weave in vampire and Egyptian mythology to make a fresh concept. Unfortunately, this book suffered from an almost completely random side character cameo, a last minute villain, and an abrupt ending. I wonder if the author was forced to cut down on some stuff…

100 Words To Make You Sound Smart edited by Susan Spitz et al. I’m not sure this even qualifies as a book. It’s more like a word list. A word list that brings to mind 11th grade vocabulary tests. They say these words will make you sound smart and not pretentious. I don’t think so. There were some words which I have a special fondness for (byzantine, scintillating) yet others that would make most speakers sound like they’re trying too hard (spartan, sycophant, philistine, narcissist). And then there are the words which I hope some people never learn (boondoggle) because like schadenfreude and kerfuffle it could be thrown into public overuse and misuse. My advice: use this for SAT prep, not for everyday conversation.

The River Knows by Amanda Quick. There was enough (perhaps heavy-handed) foreshadowing that anyone could tell who the bad guys were in this Victorian romantic suspense, but that didn’t stop me from reading it. The major problem I had with this novel is that I felt this sense of detachment between the main characters and the mystery they were trying to solve. Maybe it was because the psychological angst each of them were dealing with seemed a bit over the top. Or maybe it’s just Quick’s sly way of saying that the Victorians were an overwrought bunch. Anyways, the dialogue had me chuckling because the author was obviously making fun of genre assumptions and conventions.

The Demon You Know by Christine Warren. After the first two books of the series (She’s No Faerie Princess and Wolf at the Door) I was expecting another fun read. But, no. I found the heroine to be really, really, really annoying. I think it was this whole Catholic guilt thing she had going on. I mean, come on. Do all Catholics have this guilt complex? And the ending–a little too convenient.

Enslave Me Sweetly by Gena Showalter. You’d think that with aliens and secret agents, you’d have something resembling the X-files, but this is more like a thriller starring characters with strange skin colors. It was okay for about two-thirds of the way through the book–I can sort of buy into the scenario that two agents are trying to break up a sex slavery ring while (futilely) fighting their attraction for each other–but then it gets weird. For some reason, it put me into mind of Piers Anthony without the puns (which still isn’t necessarily a good thing). Jarring, to say the least.

More Bookish

Random pet peeve for the day: Excessive use of exclamation points give me eyestrain. If you use too many exclamation points, I will not take you seriously. This triply goes to any punctuation offenders who are over the age of twelve.

Solidity and the Hugos. (via Naomi Novik) The Bookslut rants about how most of the nominees for the Hugo awards are males. And compares females to plants. Um. I think the metaphor is a little over-the-top. Besides, women these days aren’t passive and rooted to the spot. (I’d like to think I’d be some sort of fungus. Very Lovecraftian and insidious, heh.)

Oh what I wouldn’t give to lounge around the house in my underwear all day! (via the snarkalicious Dionne Galace) I’d go mad if I sat around and did nothing all day, but that’s just me. The really interesting thing about this post is the dichotomy, the idea of the either/or situation. Either you get a job and be a so-called productive member of society or be an artist. It’s reinforced by a certain attitude in academia (with the exception of beer and skiing, of course!) which demands that you be married to your work. Can’t I do both? Sure, I’d have to be a Jekyll and Hyde about it, but at least I’d be able to do two (abet seemingly completely different) things that I love.

Driver Obeys Directions, Gets Car Hit by Train. Maybe this is a foreshadowing. The robot overlords will soon have us right where they want us.

Pay No Attention to the Website Updates

So I got around to fixing the archive page so that links to the last four months of stuff (i.e. my blatherings) are now available. Updated the bookrolling page although I still haven’t finished the reviews yet. Soon, I hope. And last, but not least, the list of short stories page. I finally got the opportunity to create a “bibliography” section, added a story to the ones currently making the rounds, and two to WIP.


Cauldron Bubble, Add Leeks and Celery: 100% Guaranteed Ways to Create an Amazing Fantasy Novel That People Will Totally Read. (via The Flamboyant Cuttlefish) Well, fantasy adventure has always been a staple of speculative fiction so that was no surprise, but urban fantasy has definitely been on the rise lately. The article points out many of the cliches of the genre that writers (wannabe or otherwise) should take note. For more about fantasy cliches, I’d recommend getting a copy of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones (I’m in the middle of that right now).

Unshelved. A librarian comic! Really, it’s funnier than it sounds.

From the Paperback Writer, I find out that most of the book buyers are Baby Boomer women who think they can write a book themselves. So I went digging around to see where those stats came from–turns out over eight years ago from Publishers Weekly. I wonder if those stats are still relevant today. But I did come across this huge page of book publishing stats. Something interesting about book covers:

On the average, a book store browser spends eight seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds looking at the back cover. Sales Reps show covers or jackets and give a sales pitch that averages 14 seconds.

The Older-and-Wiser Hypothesis. (via 3quarksdaily) What is wisdom anyway? Psychology researchers seem to think it’s a combination of generosity, social savviness, and emotional maturity. Well, no wonder wisdom seems to get the short shrift these days.

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The Thursday Threesome: Super Mario Brothers

Onesome: Super– heroes and comic book characters? Have you seen “Spiderman 3” yet? Will you?

No and probably not. If a movie doesn’t perk any sort of interest the first time I hear about it, there’s little chance that I will watch it. However, I did see the first Spiderman movie–I even did the whole “stand in line with costumed fans to get tickets” deal. But these days, I’m just disinterested in movies in general. Now travel shows on the other hand…

Twosome: Mario– Brothers led one gaming revolution: are you a gamer? Online? …or is this one of those things you just don’t even notice?

No, I’m not a gamer. I don’t play any kind of games that often anyway. Yes, I know I sound very boring. But every so often, I do fire up the random interactive fiction game. Then again, I spend the same amount of time fantasizing about writing one of those games–if only I knew someone with the programming expertise to wrangle with the code for me.

Threesome: “Brothers– in Arms”? Just listening to some old Dire Straits this evening: how about something new on your music radar you can share with the gang!

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack to The Illusionist because the score was written by Philip Glass. But don’t ask me about the movie. I have no idea what it’s about.

Tangled Bank #79

Go read the latest edition of Tangled Bank over at Epigenetic News. Mmm. Science-y goodness. (Or maybe I’m just hungry. Haven’t had lunch yet.)