Showing posts from 2013

Lily Allen and pop culture feminism

Note: the following includes profanity.
The activist Fannie Lou Hamer once said, "Nobody's free until everyone is free"; yet many movements treat their causes as issues within neat self-contained bubble wrap packaging like so many Fig Bars from Costco. (The moment my dad opened the box and realized that there was a plastic baggie for every 2 fig bars was incredulity concentrated.) Take examples from history--
The movement for African-Americans' suffrage split, controversially, apart from the movement for women's suffrage. Some questioned the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. pushed as much for international peace as much as he did for civil rights at home. Many historians point to second-wave feminists' alliance with LGBT-rights activists as a reason why Americans, onboard with feminist advances but still wary of gay rights, failed to overwhelmingly support the ERA.  There are others, but those spring to mind immediately.
In truth, though it may be politically…

on teaching, smartness, and empathy

One of my favorite quotes from Cedric Villani, the Fields Medalist and mathematics professor at UC Berkeley who spoke at TEDxOrangeCoast along with my sister and me in September, was one about teaching--to paraphrase, he said that he wasn't doing his job if he made people feel dumb when he was talking to them. True teaching, he said, was making people see a complex issue as simple. It clicked with me because it made total sense, and it distinguishes between good teachers vs. the folks who interject to "help" someone when in truth they're just trying to emphasize how smart they are. (Of course, there are also just folks who genuinely don't know how to simplify things.)

I guess this came to mind because I was thinking of all the teachers I've had. Undoubtedly, the best have been the ones who treat everyone with respect, never assuming that one person is somehow less capable of learning a subject than another. Across the disciplines, there are teachers who make…

Sweet sixteen and we had arrived

The similarities between my life and the Lana Del Rey song ("This Is What Makes Us Girls") ends with the blog post's titular line, but I like the song...

"Sweet sixteen and we had arrived
Walking down the streets as they whistle, "Hi, hi!"
Stealin' police cars with the senior guys
Teachers said we'd never make it out alive"

It continues in that vein. But don't worry, I'm not going to model my life here on out after Lana's narrator (much as I find "stealin' police cars" and "drinking cherry schnapps at the local dive" to be intellectually engaging pursuits). The cultural significance of sixteen has a lot to do with the tradition of cotillion balls (thank the deep South for that)--the idea that you "made your debut" at this age. Clearly, I made my debut--albeit one of a different sort--a bit earlier. Which leads me to write this.

One of my best friends wrote on my wall that I was too young, and that…

late night dance parties

Sometimes I wonder what a passing motorist would think about Adrianna and me, if they were to catch a glimpse of us through the open windows that face the street. They'd see two girls leaping, twirling, even hair-flipping in the light of two lamps. They'd see us jumping on the couches or stomping on the floor or advancing toward each other with threatening uppercut gestures parroted from YouTube kickboxing workout videos. Yet there's something so electric about spinning until you can't stand with your eyes open, dancing worse than Elaine Benes on Seinfeld (see below), and knowing that nobody cares because it's just you and your sister and the world outside your window, maybe, if anyone takes the time to look.
On that note the word of the day (which I won't keep up every day, because I'm just commitment-phobic like that--also, I realized that "cross my heart and hope to die" may not be an especially potent promise, since I'm still kicking) is …

Flooby or Fly

I wrote this in response to a challenge from my friend to use the imaginary word "flooby," so here goes...

LaRousse took a guess, that he was floobier than fly,
but the crowd met his bet with derision; they cry,
“LaRousse! Don’t do it, you’re throwing away
your money, our goodwill, hear what we say—
you’re fly more than flooby, trust our advice,
instead of taking this guess and a roll at the dice!”

Yet LaRousse said, “I’m flooby,” with a chin set so firm
that his mother winced and his father sat stern,
as he stepped up to the table, took a swig from his flask,
and threw down a card without stopping to ask.
“What says it?” screamed the people, all bending to look,
and a glance at the “f-l-o” was all that it took,

They cheered him, he beckoned for drinks to be brought,
“On the house!” said a barmaid, hefting a draught,
and the naysayers said they’d been jesting, for sure,
they knew he was flooby, just been trying to lure
him away from the bet that was right.
And LaRousse hides the floobies he’s…

who we are and not what we do

Summer for this rising senior means college apps (and, okay, lots of fun besides), and college apps mean actually figuring out where I'm applying and where I might want to go once I (hopefully) get in someplace. And so I hit up several people on Facebook--friends currently studying at places I'm interested in, like UC Berkeley, UMich, and Williams--to get firsthand advice.

With the most immaculately written "rant" I've ever known: "What makes Berkeley stand out a lot is definitely our activism--it's not exactly the 60s anymore, but there is definitely a sense that you can believe in anything here. There are plenty of hippies, a zillion Christian fellowship groups, pro-Israel and pro-Palestine activists, College Democrats and College Republicans, etc. You can join a sorority or you can join a co-op. You can be a part of a professional pre-med fraternity or an intramural soccer team or Colleges Against Cancer or you can teach a student-run class …

"it's my fast food name, don't ask"

Grabbing Starbucks drinks with my friend Atticus yesterday, I distinctly remember what he said when the beaming cashier asked, "Can I have a name?"

"Alex," Atticus said, muttering to me, "it's my fast food name, don't ask."

"Your fast food name?" I snorted derisively, and stammered out "Uhhh, could I get an orange mango smoothie?" to the cashier. She asked for a name. "Adora," I said, enunciating (I thought) very clearly.

Her eyebrows furrowed in bemusement.

"Andora?" she asked, Sharpie tip wavering over the plastic cup.

"No, Adora--never mind," I said, and waved. She wrote down Andora. I winced. A little part of me died. That extraordinarily microscopic little part of me that is captured by the nonexistence of an "n" between A and D, the "ttic" and nonexistence of a "lex" part Atticus must kill off every time he orders fast food, the "anna" that performs a …

"you smell like a stinky old man" and other things my sister says to me

Isn't having a sibling amazing? A few more choice quotes:

"Dance party? Or else I'll bite your cheek."

"Feeling your face is so enjoyable!"

"Let's talk!" (cheery voice)

"Do you love me?"

"You don't love me."

I got a 520 on math on the SAT!

This is the kind of confession which is so good to get out you just have to say it in one breath--IGOTFIVETWENTYONMATHONTHESAT. And just like that, a weight is lifted. Okay, 520 isn't terrible. (I have friends who would read this and shake their heads right now saying, "Yes, Adora, yes it is." I have friends who have done that, in so many winces or raised eyebrows or sympathetic displays of lip-biting if not in words.) Well, it could've been worse! 400. Or 300. 520 is, anyway, 20 points lower than what I got the first time I took the test, and many hundreds lower than what the majority of my friends got their first time. For the record, I also took Algebra II as a junior and haven't done an AP science! The latter revelation prompted a family friend to sigh sympathetically, "Ohhh honey." I got F's on some French tests and a B overall that year.

In three years of high school, I have never gotten all A's.

As the modern-day prophet Billy Mays said…

the addictions we tolerate

"I shoot up heroin, snort lines of coke, have a gambling problem, chain-smoke, and drink."

"I watch Game of Thrones, Homeland, Newsroom, Big Bang Theory, and Dr. Who constantly, and LOVE rocks. No, seriously, I really like buying rocks."

Ideally you haven't heard either of these quotes too often, but which would you say has the more urgent problem? Undoubtedly the first person. They're addicted. With that said, isn't the second person too? "Addiction" is a word with a lot of connotations, most dramatically connotations like the first quote, and yet it's manifested in everything from "just one more episode" to "I swear this is the last time I'll buy ___." I question what separates the addictions we tolerate and the ones we don't.

If you think about things like illegal drugs, they're obviously far more damaging to health and safety than, say, a TV show, but we also think of them as primarily addicting substa…

the ethics of serendipity

ser·en·dip·i·tyThe occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: "a fortunate stroke of serendipity".

I've been thinking a lot about serendipitous occasions because of the role of luck in so much of my life. Relationships especially--as an example, I've met crushes because of incidents as inexplicable and random as walking faster than everyone else, being at the same event or camp or class, or asking for a ride. Okay, that may not be as crazy as seeing someone's face fleetingly through a subway window, but I still think of it as serendipity.

I suppose that everything beneficial is serendipitous, in a way, then, with a definition as broad as "development of events by chance." You don't have to be hardcore deterministic to realize that a lot of life is up to luck. All those news stories where the anchorman or woman begins with "S/he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time..." All this is in hindsight--someth…

crazy taxi remembrance

It's strange, how the images that evoke "childhood" for us aren't always the quintessential ones--stuffed animals, baby shoes, Legos. For me, the arcade game Crazy Taxi always makes me think of being little, of trips to the local "Asian store" (the Ranch 99 Market in Kent, a veritable mecca for Chinese people and a few bemused Westerners who had wandered there looking for exotic fruits, or, like my dad, went out of obligation).

Ranch 99 Market is located inside the Great Wall Shopping Mall. Fittingly for its name, it seemed palatial to me at four or five years old. Sometimes my sister Adrianna and I went inside Ranch 99 itself, with our mom, but most of the time my dad would take us around the mall to kill time window shopping. We pointed at teapots in fancily decorated tea shops, sniffed the air in the hopes of picking up the scent of the chestnuts roasting outside, gazed through gleaming glass cases at deep purple amethyst geodes with price tags that ke…

Cross my heart and hope to die

In my neverending capacity for masochism, I've decided to not only do precalc over the summer, show up for preseason cross country runs, and get through all the Game of Thrones books (currently on Storm of Swords!), but also write one poem, one short story, and one blog post every day. Cross my heart and hope to die...

Which brings me to my inaugural post. Where does that saying, "cross my heart and hope to die," come from anyway? A Google search on the term brings up mostly inconclusive answers from not especially trustworthy sources (my AP Lang teacher would not be proud of me relying on and Yahoo Answers), but they'll have to do.

Yahoo Answers user Lorreign said this, "Probably the gesture and its binding nature were originally based upon the familiar Catholic sign of the cross. In my own Protestant childhood in Ohio, and my wife says the same was the case in Massachusetts, the oath was often accompanied by the irreverent doggerel: 'Cross your h…

"teach your girl" - a new poem

teach your girl
Teach your girl to jump fences and her world will know no boundaries, teach her to sneak out in the dead of the night with no fear of the bogeymen who have never tried to hurt her, but give her the strength to kick them as hard as she can in the groin on the off chance that they do. Teach her to run until her legs can’t carry her anymore, and when that happens, to walk a little further. Teach her to walk like she owns the ground when she steps on it instead of apologizing for the air she breathes—
teach her to dance on fallen trees that make bridges in the woods as if her hiking boots were ballet shoes, because bird calls and wind-whispers make music too. Teach her that no matter what anyone says falling off cliffs isn’t the worst thing in the world, not climbing in the first place is. And if she can’t reach the final foothold lift her up on your shoulders the way you do on the Fourth of July, and teach her that shortness need never be weakness when you can stand on th…
"An odd sense of companionship arises along the lonely road--a solidarity of sorts with the darkened truckstop, the rare passing drivers you only know by their hazy taillights, and most of all the big sky that reminds you emptiness can be beauty, too.

Crossing three state borders in one night's madcap ride, and there are still twenty bottles of beer left
...on the wall
" I typed on my mom's iPhone screen, fumbling with the letters as we jolted along on the freeway in Middle-of-Nowhere, Northern Michigan.

From Friday till today (Monday where I am, here in Tokyo) every day has been spent traveling. On Friday, as soon as we landed in Chicago our first order of business was picking up the rental car that took us down that aforementioned "lonely road," all so that we could make Adrianna's graduation the morning following. We all sighed when the trip seemed to have suddenly gotten longer--in actuality, all that had happened was losing an hour because of the Cen…

A love letter to my new global family

Let me preface this with a bit of exposition: something I said on Twitter was, "it's a strange thing to feel your heart tugged across continents, but that's what I've felt this week." Over the course of the Three Dot Dash summit in downtown New York City, I had the chance to learn, eat, dance, cry, laugh, and fastwalk ;) with 29 amazing teens (and our incredible adult facilitators, summit leaders, and Global Teen Leader alumni).

Three Dot Dash (that's a V, for peace, in Morse code) is a weeklong program that brings in teen leaders from all around the world (everywhere from South America to Europe to Africa to Asia to here at home) for a summit dedicated to helping us tell our stories and ensuring that the message powerfully shared by the late poet and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek, that "peace is possible," is embodied through our lives and work. We were privileged enough to learn from Mattie's mom Jeni, aka "Mama Peace," whose persistenc…