Patisseries Discoveries // Kouign-amann

Like a trite Christmas tale, it began with a second glance through a shop window. I had just walked out of Pirates of the Caribbean with some friends and we were looking for a kebab or a bar. Whatever would keep us out for a while longer, because that’s what youths do. And there was this shop, one of those “delicacies of France” establishments – all sleek and black and kind of intimidating, and in the window were pastries I had never seen before.

I call this series Patisseries Discoveries, but let’s face it – few of these pastries are completely new to me. We’ve all seen éclairs and macarons and tarts and mille-feuilles and opéras and religieuses and mont blancs, at least in pictures. It’s mainly been about putting taste to names.

But these were new, and I was so excited to finally actually discover something. Believe it or not, this experiment was not created to present a series of increasingly unfortunate pastries. (I just can’t tear myself away from a good train wreck and you’ve all been dragged along for the ride.) At last, here was something where there used to be nothing. Just when the world starts feeling small…

I couldn’t figure them out at first. Turns out there was nothing to figure out. Butter and sugar make for pastry magic. Simple. Fool-proof. A double whammy of sweet and umami that hammers out dopamine in truckloads.

So for those like me who were not aware, I had just come across kouign-amann. Created in the 1860s in the town of Douarnenez, they’re a Breton dessert made by folding butter and sugar into layers of dough, similar to puff pastry. The butter makes it nice and puffy, and the sugar caramelizes into a rich, chewy crust.

The name comes from Breton words for cake (kouign) and butter (amann).

Traditionally it comes as a large cake rather than individual cupcake-sized pastries. My new chosen cause of death: foolhardy ingestion of a large kouign-amann.

And they come in different flavors too. I got an original and another in salted caramel. Truckloads and truckloads of dopamine. A five-lane collision of dopamine. I don’t know what else to say. You just can’t go wrong with butter and sugar. See also: the Canadian butter tart.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Paris Diaries // 01

Funny how one can fully intend on documenting all the things one does in Paris, yet only find the motivation to write about misshapen pastries. I’m about two weeks into my stay in Paris and I’ve been dutifully taking photos as I go. Something must be done with them. So – bullet points it is.

  • Seeing the six tapestries of La Dame et la licorne at the Musée de Cluny. One of those works of art that is even more impressive in person – we call that the anti-Mona Lisa (oh shit shots fired what’s she gonna do stab me with her eyebrows).

  • Obligatory traipse up the stairs of Shakespeare and Co. It’s cliché, but I bought A Moveable Feast there last time I was there and it changed my life in a Wal-Mart parking lot on New Year’s Eve. Hemingway is the Worst but A Moveable Feast was the right thing at the right time. I read a bit of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in the upstairs reading room. Spent another afternoon reading a beaten volume on Norwegian history. Found a note from a Kaleido writer on the bulletin board. Left clumsy notes of my own above the typewriter. And those are all my Shakespeare and Co. stories.
  • Lining up for Mulholland Drive with no inclination as to what you’re about to see, then walking home with no inclination as to what you’ve just seen.

  • The classiest scratch ‘n’ sniff of all, Le Grand Musée du Parfum, for an introduction to a sense that I find far removed from the cerebral, making for an evocative experience that transported me from Europe in the days of the plague (whooo plaaaague) to modern perfume labs. I smelled so many smells, you guys.

  • Having your lazy afternoon at the Champ de Mars interrupted by a the rehearsal of a huge ass Russian festival feat. football players dancing in unison with batons, a woman singing just off key, and a short film about world peace with music from the Jurassic Park soundtrack, not to mention “Johnny” from “Ireland” who wants to know what drinks you like and if you like to drink and do you want to have some drinks with him

  • A voyeuristic wander through the 14è and finding architectural details, communal gardens, shops full of old knick knacks…
  • Jardins at the Grand Palais – an exhibition on the evolution of gardens with surprise wooden sculptures by Yoshihiro Suda in the corners, sun prints by Anna Atkins, moody photographs by Yann Monel, and more 17th century garden plans than my 10 yo wannabe architect heart could take. Also two meticulously collected piles of pollen. Art.

  • Morning people-watch at a café, dipping a flaky croissant into a hot chocolate, playing that old game, tourist or local?
  • Accidentally walking 3km toward the Bois de Vincennes along La Coulée Verte, an old rail line transformed into a very long trail.
  • Picnics, dinners, and drinks that mean nothing and everything at the same time. Minutia that build up into an era of one’s life…nostalgia eats this shit up.
  • One dead pigeon is unfortunate, two is a sign from the maker.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean followed by kebab + fries + Samouraï sauce in the dingy upstairs seating area of a narrow little shop…followed by drinks in a stony alcove of a bar that you’d never want to see in daylight, while a guy and a girl switch off playing guitar in the corner to no one in particular and 80s music blasts in the main part of the bar where normal people are sitting.

  • Being caught off guard by All That Jazz and its efficient cinematography, unexpected depth, and rhythmic interwoven editing. I may have enjoyed the cutting room scenes too much – seeing a KEM, 35mm benches, and synchronizers in their glory days is like seeing a college photo of your grandfather.

  • Disneyland Paris where dreams come true and little girls wear pink embroidered shirts that say time has no meaning here. Where you can stroll through an exaggerated version of Hollywood on your vacation from Hollywood and then be shrunken down into a land made of toys and then take a picture with Dingo or Tic et Tac (Goofy and Chip & Dale, respectively – isn’t language beautiful).
  • Summer nights in the northern hemisphere where the sun doesn’t set until it’s nearly midnight, and you wonder where the day’s gone.

Stay tuned for a long weekend in Aix-en-Provence, and whatever else I wake up with the urge to do. There are no plans, time has no meaning here, and that’s the best anyone could ask for.

Patisseries Discoveries // La Boule Noire

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, we stopped at a neighboring boulangerie for a treat after lunch. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed at all the intricate designs behind the glass. A mille-feuille turned literally on its head. A perfectly balanced religieuse. A spray of color on a crumbly fruit tart.

“…What is that.”

Now you know me, friends. I will always be drawn to the…avant-garde pâtisseries in the shop. Consider me the patron saint of the smashed, the lumpy, and the ill-conceived. My blessing is a good jostle in an open-faced box and my benediction smeared chocolate on the inside of a paper wrapper.

It could only be described as a lump of moldy coal. It was a boule noire and Reader, I bought it.

Normally, I like to provide a bit of history and cultural context to my pâtisseries, if only to make up for a lack of description or opinion. This time I can only say: do not Google “boule noire.” Don’t do it. Do not.

We brought it home and cut it open with silent reverence. And like the nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we could not look away. The knife kept catching on something inside and the chocolate…scales? that coated the exterior began to melt under my touch.

Our faces melted off and the boule noire sucked them in before snapping shut, taking our identifiable features and our personas with it. In fact, I am writing to you now as la Boule Noire. At last.

All kidding aside, it was méringue. It was filled with méringue, like the world’s most disappointing Pokeball. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to eat an apple-sized méringue, which is essentially whipped egg whites and sugar. It gets old fast. This one smelled kind of eggy, not in a fun brunch-y way but in a oh, that is a bird womb kind of way.

As far as I can tell, there is no precedent for what this pâtissier(e) dreamed up one day: a ball of méringue the size of an apple, covered in chocolate cream with a coating of tiny chocolate flakes and a dusting of sugar.

We all have dreams, sir/madame. I dream of becoming soluble in water. Doesn’t mean we have to follow through. But I will grant you this: innovation is the lifeblood of society. And one day we may all be flocking to Paris for a boule noire and wearing clay versions of it as earrings and misspelling it macaroon- ahem. I get ahead of myself.

For now the boule noire is a hidden treasure somewhere in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, to be found when you least expect it, and you’ll ask yourself, I wonder what’s inside that lumpy black ball thing? And the answer, if you give your heart and 2,90€ to it:

It’s méringue. It’s all méringue.

Patisseries Discoveries // Tea at Mariage Frères

Like a woman who’s just found out she’s dying of cancer and has inherited millions from a previously unknown aunt in a single text, I’ve booked a month-long stay in Paris. And so, by popular demand (and by popular I mean one person mentioned it in passing), I’m bringing back Patisseries Discoveries – a thinly veiled excuse to eat every pastry in sight. Long time fans and train wreck enthusiasts may recall the turd-like Paris-Brest from Reims or the smashed “eggs nest” Easter special.

To its credit, Paris did not disappoint. Not that I went out seeking more misshapen pastries. No, I went to the Mariage Frères, which is as classy as you can get. It’s on all the Paris guides, right next to Angelina and Monoprix.

There, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, we sipped on Paris-Kyoto tea, infused with yuzu and vanilla, from dainty porcelain teacups and mirrored teapots. Dappled sunlight danced across a row of serene white orchids at the window. Colonial caricatures hung on warm yellow walls next to immaculate rows of black tea containers. It was all very nice.

And then our chariot of cakes arrived. That is what it was called, and no, there were no horses involved. Yes, I know.

We decided on a matcha and framboise financier and and a madeleine glacée with yuzu and rose. Both were delicious, although the financier was a little gritty for my taste. Some dislike matcha for its earthiness, but the grittiness here came from the texture itself rather than any of the flavoring. A tart burst of raspberry at the center gave me something to remember it by. Overall, it was alright.

I may be biased, however, as my favorite financiers were the ones Victoria made in Montreal and even though she put in the usual flour, sugar, etc., pesky shit like friendship and laughter managed to get in and taint the batch. So the Mariage Frères never really had a chance.

But the madeleine. Oh, the madeleine.

The yuzu and rose complemented each other perfectly. The flavors were natural, subtle yet strong enough to be memorable. Such a shame it looked like a three-year-old pimple.

I thought I’d taken some nice photos. It was only when reviewing them that I realized the madeleine lurked in the back like a chewed up peach pit (also an apt description of me at social gatherings).

But there’s a reason people keep going back to Mariage Frères. As far as ambiance goes, quality, and interesting tea-based designs, they hit it out of the park. You don’t need me to tell you that. And madeleines and financiers are some of my favorite desserts. They’ve got a simple elegance that rarely disappoints.

Still, it seems no matter where I go, be it an expensive teahouse or a Carrefour, the least photogenic pastry will find its way into my hands. It’s the world’s greatest love story.

Black White & Read All Over // 03

Been a while, but a productive while hammering away at stories and scripts. Between those projects and the day job, these roundups are the one thing I can toss together. That’s not to say they’re thrown together last minute – these are all articles that have stayed with me over the week. The same way a cat keeps a dead bird behind the shed for a few days before laying it on your pillow.

I don’t have cats, but if all my metaphors came from personal experience 75% of them would involve elaborate coffee orders…okay, take two: the same way your assistant keeps your skinny coconut milk cappuccino* with two pumps of kale inside her fraying faux-leather purse for a few days before handing it to you.

Moving on. It’s pouring all weekend in LA – perfect weather for reading in bed. And if it’s sunny where you are – why go outside anyway? Condition your body for the end times.

Illustration by Katie Fricas

The Trash Heap Has Spoken by Carmen Maria Machado

Unapologetic fat women embrace the philosophy of displacement. They manifest the audacity of space-taking. They cleave the very air. This is not just fatness of the body, it is fatness of the mind. If you have a fat body, you take up room by default. If you have a fat mind, you choose to take up room.

A Chronicle of My Attempts to Live an Integrated Life as a Mother, Wife and Filmmaker by So Yong Kim

I wish there was a “How to … ” booklet on how to be a woman, a mother, a wife, a filmmaker – and do it all with ease and a smile. What I’ve learned is that all those things come with the messiness of life’s emotions, grit and kid stains.

Death is the Curator by Lauren Wilford

Every artistic act is an act of consumption, in the same way that you cannot enjoy your fruit without destroying it. You don’t contemplate an apple and say ‘Oh, Apple, how beautiful are thee,’ you know? You eat the apple, you crush the apple, you consume it and there—for a moment—you have the apple in you. And it’s the same with art. It’s an act of consumption, an act of arrangement, and you are posing an object that is a pinned butterfly. But it is the only moment where you can absorb the butterfly, you know? Otherwise it is life. And I think life and art meet in that little moment, in that moment of consumption.

Dyers at Work. Bartholomaeus Anglicus and Jean Corbechon, Le Livres des propriétés des choses, manuscript copied & painted in Brussels, 1482 

The Red of Painters by Michel Pastoureau

It was believed to come not from a plant resin but from the blood of a dragon, gored by its mortal enemy, the elephant. According to medieval bestiaries, which followed Pliny and the ancient authors here, the inside of the dragon’s body was filled with blood and fire; after a fierce struggle, when the elephant had punctured the dragon’s belly with its tusks, out flowed a thick, foul, red liquid, from which was made a pigment used to paint all the shades of red considered evil.

Miyazaki Meets Kurosawa

He’s nothing but a blur on each of those frames. . .and you can’t really see his face either. Only when you play back the film do you actually see Mifune in combat. That’s how fast he’s moving.

Barry Jenkins: “Where I come from, people just don’t have the means to make a film’ by Adam Woodward

I love how movies make the world seem like a very small place. I was talking to a reporter the other day about the use of ‘Caetano Veloso’ in Moonlight. That’s an homage to Wong Kar-wai and Happy Together – a very overt homage I must say, but I wanted to be upfront and honest about how there’s this filmmaker working in Asia whose cinema I love and here I have my characters in inner city Miami and the emotions they feel are the same. Totally the same. These people will never ever meet and yet through this art, through cinema we can show how much alike they are. They’re a world apart but they’re so so close. That’s what I love about movies.

The Mothers by Doreen St. Felix

Regardless of which side of the Atlantic a daughter ended up on, she knows about yams; she’s likely heard whispers about Oshun, the coy idol of fertility, and other goddesses.

*Coconut milk does not foam enough to make a proper cappuccino, a fact that the baristas at Starbucks never fail to tell me each time I order one. Sorry guys, but the boss orders what she orders.

And How Does That Make You Feel

Been thinking a lot about La La Land and the merit of how a movie makes you feel. Putting aside theory and craft to focus on the collision between creator and audience, the moment of impact in a dark room.

Like was it a good ride? Did it stir up feelings that reality can’t muster? Did it illuminate something about human nature (although my experimental side wonders if we could center a movie about anything other than people)? I’m talking about the emotional aspect of film, the oft-cited catharsis of theater. There’s a quote from Herzog, “Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.”

I watched Arrival and La La Land in one night. And while Arrival was the more intellectual of the two, La La Land is the one I can’t stop thinking about. There’s something to that that transcends technicalities and cerebral showmanship. I finished the movie feeling like I’d run a mile and also lived a whole other life.

I’d be content if I could get someone to feel the same way about one of my stories, because that’s what we’re ultimately chasing as filmmakers. We’re just poking people and watching them jump. Yes, even the ones who are pushing the boundaries of the craft. If we didn’t care how people felt during our movies, there’d be no boundaries. And there’d be no point.

Then I saw the new musical Amélie at the Ahmanson. The suspension of disbelief required is high. The most grounded part of it were the relationships between characters. Some will say it wasn’t whimsical enough, others too much so, but I wasn’t bothered. As Amélie gave into her attraction to Nino, I remember making a conscious decision not to resist their earnest love story. Like La La Land, Amélie was about all the feels. And there is a simple power to that when the audience surrenders to it.

Because for me there is a right way to consume stories. It’s sitting down and giving yourself over to the journey. I see a movie like a wave – you have to do some work to stay on it, but you can’t redirect its path. You can only surf along, trusting the tide to bring it to shore.

I want to earn that trust from my audience. More and more I don’t think I’ll find it through dazzling intelligence or flashy techniques or the ~aesthetic~. I’m still searching for the answer, knowing full well there isn’t one. And therein lies the catnip.

Black White & Read All Over // 02

Illustration by Loredana Micu

I’m not inclined to personify years – or trust the passage of time, for that matter. Even as a kid I side-eyed the kitchen clock that told me it was 8am because I wanted more evidence than the authority of a collection of gears. Time is a social construct, I say at every opportunity, with or without irony, whipping it out like a handgun from my back pocket*. The sun simply rises and sets, as oblivious to our attention as an It Girl pretends to be. After the shitstorm of 2016, however, I’m grateful for the collective deep breath the new year has given us.

I’m eating a barely ripe banana on the fifth morning of 2017. The cool things I want to pelt at my friends have grown too numerous and so I will pelt them instead, into the void. Do you think Frodo wanted to show his friends the ring but thought that maybe that would be bothering them too much and if they were interested they would have messaged him first, so he threw it into Mount Doom instead? I’m eating the banana slowly to give it more time to ripen.

Imagine answering a frantic knock at your door and there I am, barely holding together a pile of boxes, then screaming and dumping them at your feet. This is what’s happening.

This morning I listened to the BBC’s dramatization of Northanger Abbey during my drive to work. I sat in the parking lot to finish it before going into the office, which I’ve never done before except for Smetana’s The Moldau. Make of that what you will.

Another dramatization I loved recently was Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, but that goes without saying. Dirk Maggs’ productions are always so immersive I spend the first minute of most other dramas thinking, this is not my beautiful house.

They’re also doing reruns of Cabin Pressure, which is laugh-out-loud funny and got me through many a walk to class. Basically, just throw yourself at the feet of the BBC Radio site/app while the pickin’s good.

This morning I also came across the work of Krish Raghav, an Indian artist living in Beijing. There is realness and poetry in his comics, and a dash of sci-fi too. Sometimes other people’s work clogs up my mind, other times it feeds it. This is the latter.

I recently wasted a whole day on Julie Houts‘ Instagram. Her drawings make you laugh in that funny cuz it’s true, half your smile is gums kind of way where you’re grateful not to share an office.

While looking up etymological connections between bald and bold (there are none), I came across this French book written in English about the etymology of English words. Then wasted another day on this. but was it a waste tho  


I also can’t stop watching Uncharted play-throughs but I’m just gonna leave that here at the end because god knows all my friends and family are already more than aware. Here I was thinking I’d be a 3-beret ~auteur~ and then video games had to pop up as a fascinating burgeoning medium when I’ve buckled in on the film train. Video games were not in my Richard Scarry animals in clothes doing jobs book!

My history teacher once told me, you can do anything but you can’t do everything, and I vacillate between resenting him for it and begrudgingly acknowledging his wisdom. In the face of the storytelling/art directing greatness of Uncharted, I’m tending toward the former. I want to do everything, dammit.


*This metaphor immediately disclosing that I know nothing about guns

Black Friday Roundup

On my first winter break from university, I discovered the true meaning of Christmas. I loved looking at trinkets and lights while sipping vin chaud at French Christmas markets, but it wasn’t until I got home that it really felt like the holidays. Because what makes Christmas in America? Cold hard capitalism. Throngs of people packed inside a three-story shopping mall with oversized tree ornaments while carols sung by dead men are piped into their subconscious. The feeling that anything is possible (at a heavily discounted price). And every American knows the holiday bonanza celebrating our lord and savior consumerism inc starts on Black Friday, when people camp out at Wal-Mart in the cold and maim each other for Elmos.

Well, I am who I am. When it comes to holidays, nurture wins. I could have been wrestling moose and dog-sledding, but fate had other ideas. You don’t get to pick what warms your heart. But you do get to pick some things. Like boycotting companies that do business with Trump. Or not supporting corporations that would throw you under a bus for a profit in general.* And flinging your money instead at businesses that support marginalized communities.

I realized I barely knew any such businesses, so I asked around and did some digging. This list is by no means comprehensive. Not even a little bit. But it’s a start, and I think the following are all worthy of patronage.* It’s like, if you’re gonna drink anyway, don’t drink the shit that dissolves your innards on a Sherman’s march through your body. If you’re gonna shop anyway, don’t enable the consumerist complex that will disregard your humanity in the pursuit of profits.

“At the Pool” by Eleanor Davis

ShortBox

It’s a quarterly box of comics curated by Zainab Akhtar (Comics & Cola) and Clark Burscough (Thought Bubble). They’re currently taking preorders for ShortBox #3. The artist line-up: Bianca Bagnarelli, Nuria Tamarit, K.L. Ricks, Seekan Hui, Molly Mendoza, Sophie Franz, and Eleanor Davis. Are these boxes themed, you ask? Yes and the theme is quality. Me too, ShortBox, me too.

PLUS 10% of proceeds from this box will go to Standing Rock.

Free Negro University

A recommendation from a friend, this shop offers t-shirts, jackets, and pins, including a Fuck Trump shirt. It’s censored in the photograph, but arrives at your house in its full four-lettered glory. Simple but effective.

Shop Tuesday

When it comes to sticking it to corporations, you’ve gotta put Tuesday Bassen on the list (Zara stole her designs and she made Shop Art Theft in response). Her patches, shirts, and bags either have a wickedly irreverent image on them or are named some sort of pun and that in itself is almost worth the purchase. I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that the “take a stab patches” come in varying skin tones. We should demand this of more than our emoji.

Foxie Cosmetics

Vegan bath bombs and salts by Kayla Phillips, writer and hardcore/punk/metal musician, that help soothe aches and pains. They’re so colorful and cute I’d be reluctant to actually use them. There’s a blood red bubble bath mixture and some gravestone-shaped bath bombs. If you’re not in the mood for spoops there’s also a bath bomb called the Violet Beauregard and it looks exactly like what you think it looks like.

Roo Charms

Somehow, RooCharms makes microphages adorable? Her shop is full of cute designs, ranging from bacteria (…yes) to corgi Disney princesses. My ears aren’t pierced (at this point it’s almost more rebellious not to pierce them) but if they were I’d be wearing the red panda ones so my coworkers could ask me about them and I’d tell them about the video of the red panda getting scared by a zookeeper and falling over. Anything to bring up this video in conversation.

For a way more comprehensive list, Quirky, Brown Love has a great roundup of black-owned businesses. In the meantime, what are some of your favorite shops? As someone trying to wean myself off box stores/fast fashion, all recommendations are welcome.

*Corporate Law 101: corporations are constructsssssssssss all it takes is two dudes to be like yo let us incorporate they don’t even have to be where they actually are just wherever the law is friendliest to them which tends to be Delaware this is a simplification but you know what the qr code on my diploma is a simplification it’s not even on par with a crop circle

*Disclaimer: I didn’t get asked to say any of this, I just got halfway through writing this post before realizing that I didn’t have to write a gushing paragraph per business. Then I realized that would help to disguise how short this list is and carried on. 

Black White & Read All Over // 01

It goes without saying: this week has been rough. The tightrope between resistance and self-care is wobbly and I am no Philippe Petit. One thing I can say is that I’ve been feeling what can only be described as whiteness fatigue, which manifests as literal nausea at the thought of consuming another story that at best treats whiteness as a default and at worst celebrates it (again. and again.). So I’ve been inhaling work by artists and authors of color. Because while we’re boycotting businesses, it is just as, if not more important to boycott problematic storytelling and amplify underrepresented voices.

The House of Aunts by Zen Cho

Ah Ma always tells you, eat the first man you see.

Starts out as a tale of young love between a vampire girl and a boy, then blindsides you as a multi-generational matriarchal love story. It’s also such an accurate representation of Chinese grandmothers and aunts, and made me realize I’d been settling for apple pie and cross-stitch grandmas (not that those grandmas are less valid, but I process that kind of affection cerebrally whereas these grandmas I felt deep in the heartstrings. Because this is what my grandmas and aunts are like! Also, it means so much to read Hokkien in dialogue.)

Another Round Ep. 71: Burn 

Made me laugh and cry on my way to work. I appreciate Bim so much. And the title, the title!

Regina Spektor: The Only Reason I’m Jewish is Antisemitism

I had dumb teenagers telling me to go back to my fucking country. Telling me we were taking their jobs. I got so pissed off I was like, ‘You’d better believe I’m going to take your job, I’m going to take your job and three other jobs, too’.

And yet it doesn’t feel like home; it feels like a kind of ancestral land where I’m in love with a culture that doesn’t really exist. My Russia has gone.

Did not go into a promotional interview expecting to find so much truth. The defiance in vowing to take 3 jobs – that’s going to fuel me for at least a month. And I’ve never really been able to express my relationship with Taiwan (and to a greater extent, China) in anything other than self-doubt and insecurity, but Regina Spektor comes close. Our homelands do become fantasy lands, built on a seabed of mythology and memory. It reminds me a little of Chaitali Sen’s statements on choosing to set her novel in a made-up place.

A Fistful of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong

Illustration by Rovina Cai

There was nothing phoenix-like in my sister’s immolation. Just the scent of charred skin, unbearable heat, the inharmonious sound of her last, grief-raw scream as she evaporated, leaving glass footprints seared into the desert sand.

A story of turning the world upside down for family, of realizing the weight of your own hands. I’m slowly discovering Alyssa Wong’s work (“tiny horrors” as she calls it is right up my alley, or as my sister would say, “one of your stories with the gross endings”) and I’m already impressed with how many different parts of the Asian American experience she touches upon.

This poem by Safia Elhillo

Here’s why this poem resonated with me: 99% of contemporary society is based on a faith in abstractions that were dished up by and serve a small group of people. For diasporic peoples, that disappointing reality is underscored by a sense of placelessness. Never completely one or the other, our faith in those abstractions – nation-states, political systems – can never be complete. The only thing I can put complete faith in is my immediate circle. So I cling to the concrete, mundane details that make up my small world. Expressions of affection, the gait of people I love silhouetted against the sun, Saturday morning traditions: these are my monuments.

 

Also: go see Moonlight. Go see Arrival, then read the short story it’s based on, “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. Find some new filmmakers on Youtube and Vimeo and share their work.

Or tuck these away for a rainy day and go breathe in your mother’s perfume, your best friend’s overuse of gifs, the way the pages of your favorite book pucker in the heat. Celebrate your monuments. These stories will keep.

2 Days in the Bay // Musée Mécanique

IMG_2905e

I can’t believe it took me this long to visit the Musée Mécanique. From the outside, it’s an old warehouse in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf. Step inside, and you enter a collection of mechanical oddities: puppets dance for quarters, animatronic dolls tell fortunes, and disembodied metal hands wrestle human ones.

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PicMonkey Collage

To the modern eye, most of the old arcade amusements are underwhelming. Perhaps our forebears were more easily entertained. But the museum’s miniature carnivals and lifelike automatons nevertheless retain an odd charm, which begs the question: were they always creepy, or does time bestow a sheen of creepiness?

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This has easily become one of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco. It’s true, some of the games haven’t aged well, and I had to hype myself up to walk past a few (I’m thinking particularly of a very narrow cul-de-sac of animatronic dolls at the end of which was a jolly Tim Kaine-esque drunkard who would take a swig of beer at your behest – and quarters). It actually reminds me of the toy museum in Edinburgh, where I walked into a room and found displays of disintegrating teddy bears and porcelain dolls pressing in on the narrow walkway where I stood. But in the end I’m still a sucker for old creepy things, even if my amygdala haven’t quite caught up.

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