Tag Archives: musings

Is That All You Got?

Green Day wants to be your “Dominated Love Slave” at the same time the Refreshments have “gone to the hardware store” and will procure “a really big hammer” because they want “Girly” eventually to “beat [them] till [they’re] black and blue, and [they’re] hanging by a thread.”  Meanwhile, Florence + the Machine insist on a “Kiss With a Fist.”  There’s plenty of corporeal bruising and property damage, isn’t there?  Not much self-confidence either.  I mean:

You can spank me when I do not behave
Smack me in the forehead with a chain.”

I’m gonna buy you a really heavy baseball bat
Girly won’t you knock these thoughts out of my head

A kick to the teeth is good for some
A kiss with a fist is better than none

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On a completely unrelated note, the reason why employers, acquaintances, coworkers, and random strangers may want to know where you grew up, where you received any form of education, and what you like to do in your free time is because familiarity and shared appreciation of an experience or cultural text are shortcuts to intimacy.  However tenuous and superficial it may seem, just knowing that your new hire, new boss, potential new friend, or the other side of a customer service interaction is fond of or has heard about your alma mater, hometown, or comfort music can generate a field of trustworthiness where there previously was none.

I went to get groceries today from a Fresh Market and had entered an aisle when I noticed the employee, who was stocking shelves at the time, was grooving to some kind of music.  It was in a nuanced way, evidenced by some hip and leg motions that may not have registered with someone who isn’t fluent in the visual language of the way rhythms and beats compel the human body to react.  He saw me approach; I smiled even though I was wearing a mask.

“What are you listening to?”

He hesitated.

“What genre?”

“Hip-hop.”

“What decade?”

“90s…Wu-Tang.”

“Ahh, the good stuff,” I said, my voice softening to convey a mental high-five.

His demeanor softened and brightened.  He praised my jade pendant, asked if I was finding everything all right, and to let him know if I needed anything.

Of course I have no way to confirm what he was thinking when he saw me walking towards him, but the shift in his body language and facial expressions suggests to me that he had assumed as neutral a presence as possible upon seeing me, was ready to move closer to one side of the aisle if necessary, and didn’t know what my opinions were on any genre of music, and thus, didn’t want to have an unpleasant interaction.  It was low-key marvelous to see the change in his posture and countenance.

On an even more unrelated note, NFL Films has a segment on “Cordarrelle Patterson’s Journey in the NFL.”  His first name is pronounced like “core-darryl” not “core derr-ell.”

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Pic cred: YT screenshot

The Opposite of a Catcall

Similar to other whimsically random experiences I’ve had over the summer, I had an interaction with a stranger whom I’ll likely never see again that would not have occurred if anything about my morning had unfolded differently (and down to seconds).  It wasn’t even morning when I went outdoors; it was midday.  I was at an intersection with a red light; I saw a construction worker (hard hat, a tight-fitting neon chartreuse long-sleeved shirt, and jeans) on the opposite side of the street waiting to cross in my direction.

The light turned green.  I crept up, assumed an almost-turning position, and looked at him to gauge if he was going to be a slow-walker or a mindful pedestrian.  He saw me and smiled.  I smiled back, he smiled bigger.  Time felt like it slowed down on one of the busiest intersections in midtown Atlanta.  He kept walking and I turned left.  Other pedestrians in other parts of the city have made eye contact with me and then hustled across the crosswalk, which is as it should be, but this encounter was different.

This construction worker acknowledged my law-abiding and consideration of his right-of-way by giving me one of the most radiant smiles I’ve ever seen on another person.  It was one of those just-had-the-best-sandwich-of-my-life or omg-just-passed-the-bar-exam types of smiles.  I’ve never been catcalled and have no desire to be, but whatever I’d simultaneously witnessed and participated in was the anti-catcall: non-verbal communication between two people without lewdness or unecessary sound effects.

If I ever found myself garnering the attention of men taking a respite from or in the midst of manual labor, how would I react?  I imagine doing my best impersonation of Professor Henry Higgins, but in reality, I might just stop and stare…then shout, “You can see me?!  Gawd, I was beginning to think only dogs and cats could see me, well, maybe not dogs because they tend to sense a disturbance in air molecules, and then go about their business like I’m not standing right in front of them.”

I have known the unexpected and marvelous sensation of making eye contact with someone, exchanging grins, and feeling as if the minutes were holding their breath to let the moment continue for as long as possible.  I’d thought the gods had already spent their deliciously serendipitous morsels on me and there’d be none left for the rest of the year.  It would seem, though, that they just took a long lunch.  I’ll take this kind of fleeting encounter over marathon sessions of ego-boosts.

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The Only Place to Be

It’s only cold
in the haunches of winter
when you don’t give
every last tear, breath,
ounce of self-determination
and trust on the ice.

It’s only too late
in the minutes before the buzzer
when the numbers on display
don’t stand in your favor.

You want to believe
the trophy can still be
yours for the embracing,
eyes flit across
the blue line
all bluffing.

Their best right wing against
your best center
mere seconds matter,
when blinking or sneezing
can snatch underdog dreams
and the legendary
in one swipe.

So you tame gravity
light as a whisper
strong as a sword,
charge forward and send
their goal keeper into acrobatics
the crowd into hysterics.

Your sure thing
is suddenly less sure
and after acute mourning tires
and you can breathe again,
your teammates still have you
in their brotherly hearth
where tears of defeat,
not exhaustion, fall
for as long and as much
as they must.

— yiqi 30 August 2022 1:39 am

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This poem came to me after I completed some freelance work that allowed me to watch a documentary from this filmmaker about a sport that is operationally very similar to futbol: many bodies moving very swiftly across a field of play wherein the objective is to send the game-mechanism into the other team’s net.  I love me a good sports inspirational and prefer fiction to nonfiction (with the exception of a compelling biopic), but upon finishing this documentary that follows specific players from two high school boys hockey teams in the North Star State, I’d forgotten how shamelessly formulaic fiction sports films tend to be (because they must, apparently).

My freelance work has exposed me to a cornucopia of feature films and documentaries covering a sizable breadth of artistic choices, subject matter, and languages.  As humbling, illuminating or infuriating as some of the nonfiction experiences have been, “forcing” me to learn about things I never knew existed or ever had a reason to research, this audiovisual account has taught me something related to my contemplations from earlier in the summer about the way men talk to each other.

In addition to being a very good sports inspirational (zero love-interest drama, no over-the-top tension), it made me realize why team sports are pushed on young boys so much.  The obvious benefits on the development of young men consist of physical and mental well-being, psychological lessons in forming boundaries, building trust and respect for peers, and how to parse the crux from the cacophony of criticism.*  I was more intrigued, though, by the nuanced effects that competitive group-play has on an adolescent male’s perception of his self vs the world and his self in the world.

Putting the hazing and other negative peer-pressure considerations aside, team sports are among the few societally sanctioned ways in which young men can express a range of feelings.  They can be upset and vulnerable with their teammates, cry and break stuff, without being ostracized.  Outside of sports (and maybe some other group activity like band/orchestra and debate team), a high school junior who is mad he failed at anything is less likely to receive the same kind of support for not “winning.”  If he has the right social group, then ideally he wouldn’t need to compete in athletic activities to celebrate, be impressionable or self-loathe (just for a couple days) in a healthy manner and empathetic environment….to not be made fun of for disappointing someone.

I haven’t written about the sport featured in this documentary as often as I have blogged about football, basketball, and baseball, even though I’ll watch it pretty much any time it’s on TV (and if whatever is on TCM doesn’t interest me).  I’ve been to an actual hockey game too.  It was in February of 2019: the Gwinnett Gladiators played the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.  The Gladiators scored three times; I stayed until there were three minutes left cause I wanted to beat the post-game get-out-of-the-parking-lot traffic.  It’s clear from the televised and cinematic aesthetic that hockey skating is fast, but until I saw it in person, I could not grasp fully just how quickly the players move across that ice.

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* I wonder if the extent to which team sports is rewarding depends on how much a person lives in their bodies vs their heads.  A body-oriented person would respond to the experiential aspect of athletic interaction; they’d respond to role-playing games as well.  A head-oriented person would respond more to a very well-crafted and researched essay…or a TedTalk.  A person who lives in both might prefer fencing, any of the martial arts, pilates, or dance.  A person who lives in neither would just have to be motivated sufficiently to join in anywhere doing anything to increase that heartbeat.

Pic creds: Maurice DT @mauricemaaktfotos, unsplash; and yours truly

But You Can Control Your Reaction

How many times have you heard someone tell you that you can’t control what happens to you, namely what other people do to you, but you can control how you react?  How many times have you disagreed because an unsolicited, undesirable, burdensome, painful, inconsiderate external stimulus must be met with at least a reasonable amount of dismay and recalcitrance?  Not to mention the basic human stress response that presents itself via physical symptoms of increased heart rate, sweat, and hyper-vigilance?

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How often has someone tempered that concept by emphasizing that the point is not to suppress any emotional reaction provoked by unwanted external stimulation.  Instead, your locus of control lies in the manner that you acknowledge, express or dissipate your emotional response and your formal retort.  For instance, if someone pies you in the face, you have every right to be angry and to feel it, but you also have the power to determine whether you’re going to make a spectacle of yourself and pie the person back or push them off a sidewalk like a cat might do… or if you just let yourself feel annoyed or mad and rather than pie-for-a-pie, you go to the gym, listen to metal, or whatever else that purges the wrath into a less harmful (and illegal) maneuver.

Such a clarification makes sense to me, and yet, I can’t accept the surface assumption that anyone could have complete discipline over their reaction to a range of hostile provocations.  But tonight, I learned a Chinese idiom when I was watching King Hu‘s 1979 wuxia classic Legend of the Mountain (山中傳奇) that made it click (better).

見怪不怪,其怪自敗

“Jiàn guài bù guài, qí guài zì bài,”  or “發現怪事怪物不要驚慌,它就不會危害了,” which means “when encountering scary situations or creatures, don’t panic.  The fear will disappear.”

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I’m less inclined to debate the idea when I think about it in Mandarin.  In English mode, I still tend to rebut with, “If you sucker-punch someone, you think they’re just going to take it?  You don’t think they’re going to do anything in retaliation?  If someone tells you that they don’t like the taste or smell of onions and you make them food with onions, you really don’t think they’re going to be upset?  And you’d expect them to not show it or blame them for making a this-is-gross-face?”

On the subject of Chinese idioms, my favorite one is:

杯弓蛇影

“Bēi gōng shé yǐng” — literally, “cup bow snake shadow” or “自己嚇自己,” specifically,”為了不真實的事心中驚異不安,” which means, “due to imaginary things, your heart is not at peace.”

I also really like:

一言既出,駟馬難追

“yī yán jì chū, sì mǎ nán zhuī” — literally, “a word spoken, four horses can’t chase it,” which means, “once you say something, it’s hard to take it back” and “keep your word.”

Pic cred: IMDB

Of Purity and Perversity

Why does her gaze grip you in a haze of surface desire in a hierarchical maze?  Is it her unblemished skin, her pliable demeanor?  Easy to fold, easier to bend, and to curve into a crescent of obedience?  Ever-grateful, ever-eager to please or perform, so pious in an apron and blindfold?

Or maybe, she’s beguiling, a spectacle of novelty because she’s both virgin and vixen; delicate with an edge, innocent and haunting.  You could have both…the girl in the cafe next door who might give you a lap dance if the music had a groove, the outfit were just right, and you knew how to look without touching.

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Today’s post is brought to you by an epiphany I had while watching some kpop music videos.  Specifically, Yoohyeon’s cover of Little Mix‘s song “Touch” led me to the hypothesis that non-Asian men find feminine Asian energy so alluring because it’s suggestive while still being wholesome.

Yoohyeon, a member of the kpop girl group Dreamcatcher, is cute and pretty without being child-like.  The way she dances evokes just enough to stir up sediments without the obviousness of Girl’s Day‘s “Something.”

Or the even more obvious Stellar, the iconic Hyuna, and the classic Uhm Jung Hwa with her song “Chodae” (Invitation).

And of course, the influential Sistar.

Nevertheless, I’m sure if you spend enough time with different Asian women, you’ll discover that we’re not all quick to smile and seduce or be courteous as a cue for you to become preoccupied.  Similarly, you may do a double-take not because you’re mesmerized but because you’re shocked, shocked we know how to operate a motor vehicle like a reasonable adult with turn signals, checking blind spots, and changing lanes like we know what we’re doing.

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