Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

All right. *deep breath* I’m going to try and tackle this because I feel like this is something I have to say. I feel a bit like stepping off into the abyss of privilege and ignorant obliviousness, but…

I’m not disputing that Eleanor & Park has certain aspects of it that are troubling. I do not dispute this at all. Wendy Xu has a great summation of just what was wrong about the handling of the subject matter. Laura’s take on it is also brilliant and brings up much needed historical background about that time period that sheds some light on the portrayal of Park’s life. 

I agree with 100% of what they’re decrying about the execution of the book.

What I disagree with and what I expect will get me tarred and feathered, is that I disagree with the opinion of some that this book should never have happened.

The self-hatred, the obsession with height and looks and all of that — that is something my brother went through and still deals with now. It doesn’t matter how much we tell him that he’ll find someone who will love him the way he is and that how he carries himself is more important than his height — it’s something that has made him voice thoughts like “I wish I could hit reset on my life and start over with a new body”.  It’s been a month or so since I read E&P, so I can’t recall if Park just wants to be taller and have more masculine features or if he actively wants to be white. The two I feel are different and it’s important which. One is a basic rejection of what he is and another is a very teenage “I wish I were skinnier, had tits, have a lower voice, bigger eyes” thing that I see as a phase that many go through while figuring out how to be comfortable in their own skin.

As Mike Jung says:

I love Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. It moved me tremendously, and there were moments when I was flabbergasted by the existence of a character whose inner life so closely resembled mine, in ways I’d never found in a book before. I’m not mixed-race (although both my children are), but I spent my middle school and high school years as one of the very few Asian kids in an overwhelmingly white community. I was, and in many ways remain, deeply alienated from my Korean ancestry, and I became as thoroughly assimilated into the privileged culture of white suburban America as I probably could have been.I was confused, and I grew more psychologically distanced from my extended family by the day.

My feelings of self-loathing weren’t rooted solely in my disengagement from my racial and ethnic heritage, but they weren’t separate from it either. I think Park is a character with more than a little self-hatred, a deep sense of alienation from his own racial and ethnic roots, and a very compartmentalized, incomplete understanding of himself. And some part of me fell back and sang out in relief that a book had captured those old feelings of mine so truly and so well.

Of course, he also goes on to discuss how his feelings have since become more complex once the racism was pointed out.

I feel, for some, it might be comforting to know that they are not alone in their complicated feelings about themselves. I feel that for some, it might give them some hope that somewhere out there is a person who will love them as much as Eleanor loves Park and find them attractive for what they are, not despite what they are.

I feel that the measure of comfort that might be derived from that is worth the existence of the book. Barring that, I believe that if we say white authors aren’t allowed to write POC characters unless they get it completely right will just continue the trend of having too few books with POC characters rather than helping it. It’s like every author’s debut novel — you do the best you can and after a certain point you need to put it out into the world, learn from it, and then do better next time. And I’m not saying the first ever book you write as an author. I mean the one that’s actually worth publishing and has had more than just your friends and family’s approval.

I’d rather more people tackle POC issues than not. I just would. I believe that slightly damaging perceptions are still better than nothing, especially in this case where I believe the intent is good. Art and the improvement of it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Some might argue that Park’s self-hatred and Eleanor’s exoticising of him reinforces racial stereotypes and feelings of self-inadequacy and might be harmful to kids’s psyches.

I would say, yes, maybe. But then maybe we shouldn’t write novels involving the thought of suicide, depression, anorexia and a whole slew of other things.

No, maybe not entirely the same, but on the other hand, isn’t it?

They’re teenagers. The question of whether we infantalize our children for too long is not something I want to address here. I’m saying that it’s not impossible to imagine teens being that oblivious, that ignorant of the historical context of things (I especially bet most teens now won’t know the historical facts that Laura laid out), to consider their blinding Romeo and Juliet passion as something understandable if not laudable.

I do wish that Park had worked through more of his problems, but to be honest, I believe that Eleanor’s love for him helped. She let him see that he was attractive to her and that was important. Yes, she was othering him the entire time, but I saw that othering as part of the fact that he’s essentially the fairytale prince from another land come to bring light into her life. Which is not great, but if we’re going to allow Prince Charming stories from Disney…

Which, yes, I’ve heard arguments against that too.

But I believe that if our children read broadly and deeply, this isn’t going to damage them. At worst it’s going to be some of the same bullshit we see in media, but then we can’t keep them in a bubble of perfectly rendered input forever.

The only way to work toward perfection is to try and fail and try again.

*throws up a shield against rotten tomatoes*

 

Painted Faces by L. H. Cosway

I have to admit: I didn’t finish this. I read to about the 38% mark and skipped to see what the ending was. I badly wanted to love it, but it just wasn’t happening. I tried again hours later and got hit in the face again with the bat of “pathological self-depracation” and quit.

What worked:

Viv worked. I love a hero who can talk dirty and Viv has a way with panty-dropping lines. I loved that he was a straight drag queen. I could have done without his dick moves to Dorotea, which dropped him a lot of points, but otherwise he was a character that just really did it for me.

I will repeat: straight drag queen. Viv’s got an alpha streak despite his effeminate ways and it shows through brilliantly. I think part of why it works for me is because he reminds me of Moriah Jovan’s amazing Lord Macaroni.

What made me end up not finishing:

The “pathological self-deprecation”. I don’t care how many people tell me that it’s real and it’s a show that she’s a person and that it’s … I don’t care. I eventually got ground down by the incessant negativity and self-doubt and just wanted to shoot myself or something out of sympathy. For some that may be a hallmark of great writing. For me, I just wanted to die.

There’s a lot of over explanation and telling of what she’s thinking and un-self-aware self-analysis of her thoughts because it’s in first person and so it really quickly got to be far too much. She just wouldn’t let up. It was a never-ending stream of negative consciousness. Again, I’m so tired of the “I’m perfectly fine and acceptable as I am, except I really,really, really don’t like myself” trope. Can we be done, please?

Overall, there was a lot of telling not showing. A metric ton of it.

He squeezes my wrist once before letting go; the skin there gets all warm for some reason. Despite my ambitions to be the “friend” of a cool customer like Nicholas, I’m not sure if my insecure female heart can take it. I’m doomed to feel butterflies at his touch, like a desperate old maid eager for any human contact she can find, who gets tingles when people brush past her on a crowded street.

Nicholas pays for the food once we’re finished, even though I offer to pay for half. He says he owes me since I made him dinner last night. We chat as we walk back to the apartment building, stopping to have a look around the markets at the front of the arcade. When we get home, we part ways and agree to have a drink together after his gig tonight.

Up until I quit, it was all like that.

It’s, as obvious here, written in first person present. To Cosway’s credit, I didn’t pick up on that until more than a bit in.  I was also mostly able to ignore it. I’m not certain if it’s because the witty dialog and snappy banter carried most of it or if I was too distracted by the endless self-hate going on.

What I really want to know is what happened between Viv and his father’s colleague. If anyone knows, could you tell me? My curiosity is happily, or not so happily, not stronger than the depression, so I’m unlikely to find out unless someone straight out tells me.

 

Welp. I’d give this a solid D for the witty banter, fun premise, sexy dirty talk, and a hero I’d love to know in real life. I considered giving it a C, but it was a DNF.

 

 

Once Bitten Twice Shy – C.C Wood (spoilers spoilers spoilers)

I picked up this book on Penny Reid’s rec. Which, btw, if you have not picked up Love Hacked or Neanderthal Seeking Human, you should go do that, stat.

First thing: the title is an issue.

Once Bitten turned up 2881 results on Amazon. Once Bitten Twice Shy turned up 2745. Twice Shy turned up 571.

We have what we call in Taiwan “supermarket names”. The ones where you shout it in a store and more than ten people of various ages look toward you.

You do not want one of those for a title. You have one chance to grab your audience — make it count. It will also help if when your avid fans mention your title to a friend in passing IRL, the friend can then have a good shot at grabbing the right book.

I liked the voice of the narrator. Her personality was vivid and she was amusing. However, she did have a tendency toward over-explaining. It’s in first person POV and she goes into a lot of detail over what she’s thinking and why she’s thinking it. For me, it slowed down the pace and pulled me out of the story because a lot of what she was thinking had no bearing to what was going on at the moment.

For example, she has this complex about her weight. Which, by the way, I’m tired of seeing. I’m done with heroines who are beautiful but somehow magically don’t know it or don’t believe it. I’m also done with heroines who both support their right to be curvy and think it’s healthy but have deep, abiding complexes about it. It’s been done ten million times. Let’s move on.

I stared at her blankly for a few seconds. “He said I’m losing too much weight?” I asked incredulously.

I was short, but not a small woman. In fact, my mother, who had been the same size since high school, gave me a huge guilt trip about my weight almost every time we spoke. I even had a bit of a complex about it. I had curves and I likely always would. No way in hell would I starve myself to fit what society considered the ‘norm’. Did I want to be healthier? Yes, but I didn’t necessarily think those stick-thin women were healthy either.  A person who enjoyed good nutrition shouldn’t be able to count every rib.

All right.

So couple of things:

1. Way too much info. A lot of it could have been woven in with a more delicate hand instead of being a huge chunk of text that interfered with the flow of the action/plot.

2. -ly words. Watch ‘em like a hawk.

3. Saying her mother had been the same size since high school doesn’t mean much because for all we know, her mother could be a blimp and that’s why she is so hard on Ivie because she wants her to be healthier/prettier.

4. The way she mentally speaks isn’t actually how most people think. It feels like she’s talking to the reader, so breaking the fourth wall. It’s distracting and it disrupts the flow of the writing.

5. The author tends to repeat. It’s been mentioned before, prior to this, that the MC’s mother was a nag about her weight. To repeatedly come back to it is distracting, disruptive, and shows lack of faith in the reader’s ability to read and retain.

 Note: She said she was 5 foot 4 somewhere prior. For the record, that’s the average height of women in the U.S right now. I’m not sure why she keeps insisting she’s short. 

Another thing: careful of over-description and over-writing.

That night, after Donna and I spend the day hanging out and going to the movies, we were sitting in the hot tub, drinking wine. It had been a wonderful, relaxing day, one of the best I’d had since the attack. wearing my utilitarian black swimsuit, I let my head loll back against the side of the hot tub and took a deep drink of the red wine Donna had opened. It was superb.

Since the last chapter ended with Donna suggesting a movie, repeating it is redundant.

And show, don’t just tell.

I let my head loll back against the side of the hot tub and took a deep swallow of the red wine Donna had opened. It was superb.  My muscles loosened and softened in the heat. My mind felt pleasantly fuzzy from the alcohol. I hadn’t felt this relaxed in ages, not since the attack.

Some other quibbles:

The vampire mind-reading trope doesn’t do it for me usually. Either the heroine has no privacy to speak of or she learns, really fast, how to block. 21% in and Ivie is still broadcasting really loudly.  It’s also inconsistent whether or not the other vampires can hear her thoughts, which is a little bit frustrating for me.

The “vampires can hear all the things” thing also seems to be inconsistent. Donna and Ivie have conversations that according to everything else said before, should be less than private, yet the two of them seem fine with it.

If you’re going to write in first person POV and it’s in past tense —  you cannot have the narrator describe something that they don’t remember. Can I repeat that for emphasis? If they don’t remember, and it’s in past tense, then it cannot be in the book as a “this is happening” thing. It needs to be a retrieved memory or a flashback later. Also? The “I said something but I didn’t realize it/ forgot” thing is ridiculous. If you have “no idea” you said something — you have no idea you said something. The person you said it to needs to let you know.

I don’t get the women insisting on tagging along to dangerous things thing when they’re going to be more of a liability than help. I really don’t. It makes them look stupid and makes them look like petulant brats. If they are going to be helpful, that’s fine. But most of the time that isn’t the case. The fact that usually authors have them somehow magically save the day doesn’t make it better. It actually makes it worse. Either they are competent or they aren’t.

I really also wasn’t fond of the BDSM aspect. For a while it felt like she was being non-con dominated and then sometimes it felt like the D was spilling over into daily life when they weren’t in a 24/7 D/s relationship. Didn’t work for me. Someone who really does the BDSM thing that works for me is Sophie Oak.

…and the ending gave me a cranky.  There’s this other vamp, Finn, who apparently was into Ivie and was in a way the catalyst of them finally getting together. Which is fine, although I hate the “throw another guy at the MC and watch sparks fly” trope, but at the end it turns out that he’s been dream-communicating with his real soulmate. So now I feel like he’s a skanky cheater.

 

…welp. All in all?  I’d give it a D-.

I’d suggest that C.C Wood get a content editor. There’s a good story there and it could really shine, but I feel like it’s a bit obscured. Her writing style and the plot reminds me of Kristin Ashley, so take that as you will. Personally, I’m not sure it’s a plus, but then I’m getting a bit tired of bratty, childish subs and their Doms who think they’re adorbs.

 

 

What would you do during your last seven days on this Earth?

Thinking on this question makes me realize anew that I’m really an extraordinarily lucky person. I have a vague bucket list of things I’d like to experience one day, but nothing of the sort where I’d pull out my life savings to do if I knew I was only going to live seven more days. 

So…

I think I’d write out my will first and update all of my beneficiary information. At this point in time, it’s likely to all go to charity. Specifically, probably to Doctors Without Borders. I’d set up notifications that would post to my online social media accounts informing people as to my death that would post the day after my supposed death day. Day after so I would have the chance to cancel them if a miracle happened.

I’d hire someone to clean the house and car, thoroughly. No sense in making grieving people clean up after your mess. Then I’d figure out where I wanted to die and pull out enough money from my retirement accounts and savings to cover it. Right now I think I’d want to find a quiet cottage somewhere in Scotland by the sea.

I’d have one last dinner party with all my friends and then I’d fly back to Taiwan to see my family.

Then I’d spend the rest of my days quietly doing whatever the fuck I wanted, alone. I’m thinking I’d need to find a pretty town by the sea. A place with coffee shops and restaurants with great food. Small boutiques to duck into and explore.

The interesting thing for me, thinking about this, is that right now I think I would like to die alone. I wouldn’t want to tell anyone that this was happening because I wouldn’t want to deal with their grief and their questions. At the point where I’m dying, then I’m going to make it all about me and part of that is I would want to be in a position where I don’t have to take care of anyone else and their feelings.

The only friend I have currently who I’d consider taking with me and letting in on the secret is Thene. I’m thinking that she’d be good for long  rambling walks, quiet meals at the local restaurants and being sane and sanguine about what’s coming next.

I probably won’t, just to spare her. I’m not sure that I’d be thrilled to be recruited to be someone’s companion for their last days before death and have to deal with the after details. Perhaps I’d walk into a hospital, day of, and let those who know how to cope with deaths of a stranger deal with it.

I’d write long letters to everyone I thought I would be leaving behind, in the hopes that I could alleviate their grief. I might or might not spend some of my time writing, since I don’t know how much I’d care if I only have seven days to live.

Part of me realizes that this sort of plan might sound very selfish. I’m essentially deciding that probably no one will have a chance to say a final goodbye and I’d be withholding information that I’d probably rail at someone else for keeping from me.

But you know what?

If I’m dying, then I don’t give a fuck.

You never know what’s going to happen in this life. I could tell you that I have seven days to live and the next day get the terrible news that my boyfriend was killed instantly in a metro accident. Nothing is certain.

I can only live each day to the extent where I will not regret having spent a day on what I spent it on.

I can only be as good a friend as I know to be and always say farewell to my friends and family with love and my best wishes.

If I’ve done that, if I manage that — then I don’t think it matters if there’s a final goodbye or not.

Besides, I don’t truly believe that it’s a final goodbye.

I believe in reincarnation. I believe that souls who are drawn to each other will be drawn to each other through time and space. There will always be another meeting, should you and I wish it. There will always be more chances for love.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Godzilla, and above all, fire, fire, fire.

I’m a bit of a pyro.

Especially when it comes to burning things. Bridges, in particular.

I was reading a book by Charlene Teglia, who is, btw, one of my new favorite authors on my auto-buy list. It isn’t just that her writing is funny and sexy, that her characters are amusing and alpha and hot, or that she has a great handle on the line between adventure and romance — but because her characters come up with some of the funnier ideas I’ve read.

In “Dangerous Games”, her heroine compares the hero to Godzilla.

In a good way.

Apparently, Godzilla is the tragically misunderstood hero of the Tokyo-ites,  who defeats other monsters to save them and causes urban renewal in the process. As Melinda put it, she wasn’t in need of nice; she was in need of urban renewal. Tokyo needed to be razed to make way for new construction.

More and more, I’m coming to realize that we humans are creatures of habit to the point where we often invite abuse and neglect.

Man cannot be an island.

Yes, that is true, but too often we take that to the extreme.

I’ve reached the point where, due what has happened in the last two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that in friendships as well as love, it is better to be alone than to be with someone and lonely.

A nine year old friendship blew up because we had different ideas of what it meant to be a friend and what support meant.

Another ten year old friendship is on the rocks because once again I’m being asked to set aside my personal morals and qualms in order to be a good and supportive friend.

Other relationships I have with various other people are also faltering because I’m getting to the point where I’m not willing to wait for Godzilla to come out and raze the city for me — I’m ready to fire the first cannon and set fire to everything in sight.

Those friends who haven’t quite gotten the note on general reciprocity?

Those bosom buddies who somehow always manage to make you feel small and not quite up to scratch?

Those who only know how to take and take and take with never a thought as to how they could lighten your burden and bring a smile to your face?

The promise-breakers?

The ones who are only ever around when the going is good and gone in times of famine?

The ones who message you in the middle of the night with their traumas but who don’t want any part of your dramas?

Those who think that their own comfort  and lack of drama is more important than standing up for a friend when they’ve been wronged?

I’ve done a fair bit of pondering and one question that keeps cropping up is: are these people really worth my time, energy, and money?

A family friend said to me once, “Get you out of that huddle of misery and spread your damned wings already.”

He meant that our lives were intertwined because of a mutual need for warmth and comfort but not anything deeper, that we were a nest of chicks shivering together to stay alive, and whatever relationship I thought I had with them was doomed to never survive the improvement of their circumstances.

I didn’t want to hear it. I was offended and upset and I didn’t want to believe it.

However, I’ve been thinking back to what he said this past week and I’m coming to the conclusion that he was right.

I only have so much time, so much energy, and so much money. How can I justify placing myself last when my resources are so very finite? Even second place is too far down the list when the person you value above all else doesn’t similarly value you.

It is better to be alone than lonely.

Life’s too short to spend upon those who don’t bring you true joy, those who don’t love and cherish you for who you are, and those who don’t understand you.

Sometimes you need to burn the world down around yourself, turn every single bridge and road to ash, before you can truly see yourself and where you need to go.

Bring on the torches.

 

 

Recovering (?) third-culture kid

Of course, my first question to that is: is that even possible?

It’s like saying that you want to heal the trauma of being born — sounds great on paper and then you really start thinking about it…

Cecilia Haynes wrote a post a couple of years ago which touched on the suggestions of “down with the label of a recovering TCK” and “down with the pity parties”.

I’m not going to presume her thoughts are still the same on the situation, so this post isn’t really so much a response to what she said as an exploration of my thoughts about being a global nomad.

Aside: I don’t really want to use the term TCK when I’m really not a kid anymore, but much as I love the sophistication of the term global nomad, I get this feeling that only having lived in three countries ever probably doesn’t really constitute ‘global’.

I recently saw an episode of Community where Britta tells everyone (paraphrase) not to get so caught up in frivolous excitement that they push aside their true grief over what is something that should cause sorrow.

And that’s sort of where I stand right now.

Yeah, I appreciate and pay tribute to what made me who I am: I don’t call it being born lightly.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a corresponding and equal darkness behind the glimmer of every mirror.

Saudade. The ever present, so-softly-lingering unresolved grief that is simply a part of who I am.

“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness. ~ In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell”

I think that’s what makes it so insidious, why TCKs are more likely to have depression, why it’s usually seen more as a part of who we are rather than what we have.

It’s not a wild, passionate, keening sort of grief. It’s not even the quiet solidity of finding yourself in bed, aware of  the weight of every single ton of air above you and every newton of gravity dragging you down.

It’s not even really “Ragaouna Misr” all the time.

It’s simply a knowledge, deep inside, that there will always be pieces missing. There will always be something just out of reach and to hold something in your hand, you must let go of something else.

Everything has a price.

Of course, you can scoff and say that’s the way of life. How is that so much more tragic and sad than all of the other petty grievances being alive visits upon us?

I don’t think it is. I don’t claim it is.

I just know that for every move we did, it was like a little death.

It was saying goodbye to the possibilities of lives lived out there, of specific joys that would forever now be out of reach, of universes turned aside.

The BFF who is almost a sister/brother who would want you to stand by their side at their wedding?

Childhood friend turned lover then husband?

Best friend that knows you, every wrinkle of your nose, every glint in your eye, every story of your forming and being?

Getting to know your relatives well; actually being a part of the family rather than a treasured guest who is still a bit of an outsider?

Learning a city inside out, growing with it, and melting into its very heartbeat?

Having the solid assurance of knowing who you were, where you were from, and where your roots are?

Getting and maintaining a solid group of friends of the no-matter-what and call-to-hide-a-body type?

The bone deep happiness that comes from having only a couple of easily accessible comfort foods that don’t require Moriarty levels of handling to get?

I’m not saying it’s impossible.

But it didn’t happen for me.

Every time we moved: every time I lost friends who previously swore they’d keep in contact; every time I felt like the ugly duckling in my family because of how rarely I saw them; every time I put down something I wanted because it wasn’t portable enough; every time — all of it was the detritus of lives lost that could have been.

And so, saudade.

 

I was talking with my friend the other day and I think we surprised ourselves.

I was talking about how being back in Taiwan was really good for me.

Being in the majority.

Being welcomed ‘home’ by immigration rather than interrogated.

Being able to speak Chinese, think Chinese, be unabashedly, unreservedly Chinese.

Eating all the comfort foods that I love.

Being able to talk about acupuncture and Chinese traditional medicine as valid methods to health.

Simply being a part of myself that I am not when I am in the US.

 

She said she never knew, that she was never aware.

 

Now I can simply smile and say, “Saudade.”

 

Third culture kid, global nomad, or simply living a life in circles

I was linked to a survey designed by my friend’s sister yesterday. It asked questions about being a global nomad and how I used technology to keep in touch with friends and family.

Suddenly, I was thrown back into that perpetual state of wry resignation. The remembrance of being caught in limbo, enfolded by endless space. Of always being in the dark, unknowing of what was ahead, what was behind, and only knowing that there was too much emptiness.

See, my problem was that before college, I wasn’t aware of what I was. Only that whatever it was, was wrong and undesirable.

Too Westernized. Too independent. Too defiant. My mother made a comment recently about how I seemed to have no fear and how she was relieved when, after a particular traumatic incident involving being abandoned by the side of the road and the car driving off for five minutes, I seemed to have developed a healthy sense of fear.

It horrified me. The thought that my mother, one of the two people supposed to love me best in the world, wanted that knowledge of fear for me.

But then, that was how they were raised. How they saw the world to be.  I thought about it and even if I could never condone it, never really forgive the relief she had, I could try to understand her thought process.

In Chinese, there is a maxim: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

At least a generation ago, maybe even now — not having any fear was a recipe for disaster.

Then I arrived at college.

There, I was told that I was a third-culture kid, that I was a part of a community of global nomads.

One would think that I felt like I belonged. Isn’t that supposed to be how it goes? Global nomads finding community within themselves rather than among others?

But I didn’t.

Again that faint niggle of inferiority.

I don’t adapt well. It takes me three nights or so to get used to sleeping in a different place than normal. Crashing on someone’s couch is a recipe for poor sleep and short tempers. I carried around a safety blanket for years, insisting on dragging it along even at the expense of clothing when luggage restrictions became prohibitive.

I wasn’t adventurous.  I’m deathly afraid of heights, anything with many legs, dogs, men I don’t know, and the dark.

I didn’t know how to swear in multiple languages. In fact, I was hard pressed to swear in one.

I don’t like change.

I’m actually a fairly particular eater. I don’t like things that are too sweet; I dislike fruit with meat dishes; I detest nuts in anything other than desserts or on their own.

Moving and going to new places didn’t fill me with a sense of excitement. It suffused me with dread.

I didn’t know more than two languages, which put me as the odd person out in a community where often people know three, four, sometimes eight languages.

Somedays I feel uncomfortable claiming to be a global nomad. The skin doesn’t quite fit right, with wrinkles where the sun don’t shine and tight across other places.

So right now, I find it entertaining that once again I’m being asked to represent something that other people think I am but which I feel ambivalent about.

In China, people, even the taxi drivers who took my fare used to ask me whether I preferred Taiwan or China.

In Taiwan, every time I liked something, my relatives would smugly ask if there was such a thing in America.

In the US, even though I hold the passport, even though I speak with no real accent, even though I am for all intents and purposes American — I get asked my purpose and length of stay when I pass through immigration.

And now I’m being surveyed for my habits and thoughts as a member of a group I do not really feel entirely at ease in.

Then again, it’s always been thus. Why would I expect it to be any different?

Fiscal reflection for 2013 and projections for 2014

So it’s the beginning of December 2013, and I spent a couple of hours staring at my finances. I’m going to quit soon, because honestly, some things just aren’t going to change the more I stare at it, so I might as well quit now.

Currently, I have $18592.76 in credit card debt.

The saving grace is that I also have 45,812.54 in my ROTH IRA.

Goals for next year:

Stay within budget. I might have to resort to writing down, every single day, how much money I have left to spend in my budget on my hand and stare at it every. single. time I want to buy something that isn’t related to the bare necessities of life.

I want to pay off that debt aggressively. I’m currently budgeting $600 a month toward debt repayment. I wanted to do $1k, but that is simply not reasonable if I also wish to fully fund my IRA at the same time.

I’m going to have to scrounge up the money to finance  my self-publishing journey and actually do it next year. My ambition is to have the first novel fully edited and ready for self-publishing in Feb. 2014. The second novel will hopefully be ready by April 2014. Hopefully this will eventually bring in more money rather than simply being a time and money sink.

Find a second job, or three, or four — whatever it takes to bring in the bacon and fry it.

As I’ve said before regarding other things, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s time to stop running and face the zombies.

Useful posts for writing about blood and gore

Written in blood by Lisa Blair:

Nurse and writer, she goes into pretty specific detail about many things, from how much blood you actually need to smell it in the air as a human, and whether or not someone really will drop over dead immediately if you cut their jugular.

Also, a summary of people die (and don’t) in swordfights.

 

Farmers to you — or not?

In the most recent delivery of my CSA share, there was a flyer for “Farmers to you” at the bottom of the box.

It sounds very tempting — you can pick and choose what foods you want, with a $40 minimum per week, and they’ll either deliver it to your home for $10 or you can pick it up at one of their sites on a given day. A cursory look of the offerings show that they offer things that I can’t always get from my usual farm share (celery, beets, milk, buttermilk, cream, etc) and having the luxury of picking what does and doesn’t go into my box would be great.

One of the main problems I have with my CSA share this growing season is that because it’s delivered, I can’t pick and choose what I get in it. There’s no way to efficiently tell my farmshare people that I only want one head of lettuce, that I don’t want the kohlrabi, and/or that I really hate radishes. It would hardly be efficient for them and I understand the limitations, but it is a bit of a negative. I have to say though, not having to fight my way to Central Sq during a set time is fantastic.

The only quibble I have right now is that this can’t actually really replace the rest of my grocery bill. Asides from the vegetables and fruits that I still need to pick up in stores because they’re either not grown locally or I’m buying them out of season (shhh, don’t tell), the selection of meats isn’t as varied as I would like. I use a lot of pork bones and oxtails for stock, for example, and we eat a lot of lamb stew meat and top round steak — none of which is offered. Neither is pork belly, or pork ribs, or beef flank with the silver skin on (for long, slow braising in Chinese dishes, you want the silver skin for extra flavor and texture), or leaf lard, or…or…or… As for other things, I’d like to see more local fruit and vegetables, either dried or frozen if it’s not in season any longer. Right now there’s only frozen blueberries which is all very well and good — but dried apples, freeze dried strawberries, and frozen rhubarb are all possibilities.

This effectively means that I’m not sure that I can get up to the full $40 a week. Add in the $10 delivery fee because there’s no way I can guarantee that I can make it to the pickup site every Wednesday and I’d be looking at quite a chunk of change for something that isn’t going to adequately round out my grocery shopping.

I would love to split a share with a friend, but none of my friends are quite ready to take the plunge into paying a premium for their food.

So, for now I think this is not going to be a viable thing for me, much as I’d love to test drive it. However, I have nothing but the best of hopes for them — if they flourish and their selection grows broader, it would become a pretty amazing service.