Sunday, June 28, 2009

"I'd rather be doing MBE problems"

My review:

Confession: I wanted to like "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."

I'm not pretending to be some sort of movie buff/snob. I enjoy many summer movies for what they are - entertaining, mindless fun. But that doesn't mean I enjoy being hit over the head repeatedly.

It was Saturday night. We had already spent most of our beautiful Saturday in another class and a few fruitless hours at the library. So two of my classmates and I decided to take some time off studying and watch the new Transformers movie.

Anyway, here's the quick summary - Shia, our dorky young hero, is all set to go to college when Optimus Prime calls on him. Optimus Prime sacrifices himself to save Shia. Shia's mission is to resurrect Optimus Prime with fairy dust. Everyone wins, robot butts are kicked.

Alas, even Megan Fox's piercing green eyes and push-up bra couldn't save it. I think Richard summed it up best when, half way through the movie, he whispered to us, "I'd rather be doing MBE problems."

First, the positives: the transforming machines were kind of fun.


Sorry, that's all I've got.

I felt bad for the robots. I started to pray that movie would be over soon, that Shia would never reach Optimus Prime, and that someone would put these poor robots out of their misery.

It was as though Michael Bay needed to beef up the script by throwing in every teenage movie cliche possible: Boy must embrace his destiny as a leader. Boy tries to run away from destiny. Mom eats pot brownie and embarrasses boy. Parents keep popping up at heart-wrenching moments for some good ol' fashioned bonding. Boy and girl refuse to say "I love you to each other." Boy "dies" and girl screams "I love you." Boy wakes up from stupor and says "I love you" back. Passionate kissing ensues. There were so many cringe-worthy scenes that I spent most of my three hours in the fetal position.

Richard and I decided to write and exchange reviews of the movie. See below for his hilarious review:

Richard's review:

"For those of you who don't know, I have been studying for the bar for the better part of 6 weeks. This is an all consuming experience, and basically means I put in 9 am-9 pm days everyday, memorizing law in the hopes I pass. I wanted a break this weekend so I decided to take Saturday night off. I put in 3 hours of studying and called it a night. I went out to dinner with my family and thought... "Hey, why not see a movie?" So with my little brother and 2 classmates in tow I watched "Transformers 2: Megan Fox runs in slow motion a lot."

I wasted a perfectly good evening. But first the pros. Megan Fox is still very pretty, and she prances around a lot in booty shorts, skin tight jeans and stares seductively in the camera pouting her lips. Excellent. Now for everything else. Let me say, I would have been more fulfilled covering the tv screen with Vaseline, putting a paper bag over my head and popping in a porno and turning it on mute. Where do I even start? First, Tyrese reprises his role and is basically stuck making obvious. It's like the directors had no idea what to do with black actors. The jive talking robots are something you need to see to believe. It makes Jar Jar Binks look like Nelson Mandela. Also, the whole draw of this movie is watching kick ass robots beat the crap out of each other. All the transformers are this gray-steel color, so in the end, all the fight scenes look like a jumbled mess. You could get the same effect if you imagine throwing a washing machine into a ball pit, but the pit is filled with dented soup cans instead of plastic balls.

Good god. And the dialogue. The "dialogue." Essentially, if you commissioned a 14 year old boy to write love poems, you'd get half the result with this script. I kid you not, half the movie is about waiting for Shia Lebouf to say "I love you" to Megan Fox. Also, there is pixie dust and robot heaven. I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. The movie is also 2 1/2 hours long. That's about 45 minutes too long, especially when all you want to see is robots fighting and Megan Fox. You get to see her underwear by the way, so that was pretty awesome. Speaking of that scene...ugh, just watch it, I think it was a showcase for the Charlotte Russe fall collection, Megan Fox made 3 wardrobe changes in 2 minutes. I know it's difficult to rationalize and conceptualize. Just watch it and you will be baffled as me.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being horrible, 5 being awesome and 10 being horrible again, I give this movie a "how the hell is a student price ticket $10.50" stars."

And see Charlie Jane Ander's review, which might possibly be one of the funniest reviews I've ever read: "Michael Bay Finally Made An Art Movie."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A&E Factory Service - acronym for "Abominable and Extremely bad service"

A&E Factory Service claims that it is a "nationwide leader in product repair service that provides a professional and enjoyable repair experience." I urge A&E Factory Service to refrain from misleading the unfortunate people who come across their website. My experience with A&E Factory Service was far from professional and enjoyable. Definitely, I will never use their services again.

I scheduled an appointment with A&E Factory Service to fix my washing machine. The technician spoke to me rudely and rescheduled me several times. I waited for four hours and he never showed up or bothered to call in the end and let me know what time he would arrive. He claimed there was no parking in the area even though I could see several parking spots.

A&E Factory Service is staffed with several customer representatives who lack common sense and sound as though they read from scripts. I spoke with four different customer representatives who failed to address my questions adequately. I am extremely disappointed with the poor service and the lack of professionalism.

As one final slap, A&E Factory Service also charges a $70 service fee, even if the technician is unable to fix your problem.

Shame on you, A&E. Shame on you.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Evelyn Hsieh, my friend and recent Columbia Journalism School grad, writes a thought-provoking piece about what it means to be "black" in America:

Students Define "Black" On Ivy League Campuses

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Sometimes my mom is too, too cute.

"I'm glad you wrote to us. Because I tried to call you an hour ago. Somehow, I thought about the poor cat Waffles' swollen front paw. Then, I was smiling at the cute bunny picture that you sent me. Did you see the 'little girl and a penguin' picture that I sent you and Kristin? Her smile reminds me of you when you were her age." Mom

Monday, June 8, 2009

Waffles the Cat

Poor Waffles was stung by a bee! Guess which foot was injured?


"The Joy of Less" by Pico Iyer

“The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches…My [life] is one long sequence of inner miracles.” The young Dutchwoman Etty Hillesum wrote that in a Nazi transit camp in 1943, on her way to her death at Auschwitz two months later. Towards the end of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,” though by then he had already lost his father when he was 7, his first wife when she was 20 and his first son, aged 5. In Japan, the late 18th-century poet Issa is celebrated for his delighted, almost child-like celebrations of the natural world. Issa saw four children die in infancy, his wife die in childbirth, and his own body partially paralyzed.

In the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.

I’m not sure I knew the details of all these lives when I was 29, but I did begin to guess that happiness lies less in our circumstances than in what we make of them, in every sense. “There is nothing either good or bad,” I had heard in high school, from Hamlet, “but thinking makes it so.” I had been lucky enough at that point to stumble into the life I might have dreamed of as a boy: a great job writing on world affairs for Time magazine, an apartment (officially at least) on Park Avenue, enough time and money to take vacations in Burma, Morocco, El Salvador. But every time I went to one of those places, I noticed that the people I met there, mired in difficulty and often warfare, seemed to have more energy and even optimism than the friends I’d grown up with in privileged, peaceful Santa Barbara, Calif., many of whom were on their fourth marriages and seeing a therapist every day. Though I knew that poverty certainly didn’t buy happiness, I wasn’t convinced that money did either.

So — as post-1960s cliché decreed — I left my comfortable job and life to live for a year in a temple on the backstreets of Kyoto. My high-minded year lasted all of a week, by which time I’d noticed that the depthless contemplation of the moon and composition of haiku I’d imagined from afar was really more a matter of cleaning, sweeping and then cleaning some more. But today, more than 21 years later, I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack.

I’m no Buddhist monk, and I can’t say I’m in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I’ve written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world).

When the phone does ring — once a week — I’m thrilled, as I never was when the phone rang in my overcrowded office in Rockefeller Center. And when I return to the United States every three months or so and pick up a newspaper, I find I haven’t missed much at all. While I’ve been rereading P.G. Wodehouse, or “Walden,” the crazily accelerating roller-coaster of the 24/7 news cycle has propelled people up and down and down and up and then left them pretty much where they started. “I call that man rich,” Henry James’s Ralph Touchett observes in “Portrait of a Lady,” “who can satisfy the requirements of his imagination.” Living in the future tense never did that for me.

Perhaps happiness, like peace or passion, comes most when it isn’t pursued.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend my life to most people — and my heart goes out to those who have recently been condemned to a simplicity they never needed or wanted. But I’m not sure how much outward details or accomplishments ever really make us happy deep down. The millionaires I know seem desperate to become multimillionaires, and spend more time with their lawyers and their bankers than with their friends (whose motivations they are no longer sure of). And I remember how, in the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.

Being self-employed will always make for a precarious life; these days, it is more uncertain than ever, especially since my tools of choice, written words, are coming to seem like accessories to images. Like almost everyone I know, I’ve lost much of my savings in the past few months. I even went through a dress-rehearsal for our enforced austerity when my family home in Santa Barbara burned to the ground some years ago, leaving me with nothing but the toothbrush I bought from an all-night supermarket that night. And yet my two-room apartment in nowhere Japan seems more abundant than the big house that burned down. I have time to read the new John le Carre, while nibbling at sweet tangerines in the sun. When a Sigur Ros album comes out, it fills my days and nights, resplendent. And then it seems that happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers freedom to security, who feels more comfortable in a small room than a large one and who finds that happiness comes from matching your wants to your needs, then running to stand still isn’t where your joy lies. In New York, a part of me was always somewhere else, thinking of what a simple life in Japan might be like. Now I’m there, I find that I almost never think of Rockefeller Center or Park Avenue at all.

Friday, June 5, 2009


My days have begun to bleed together. There are no weekends - every day is the same. It's Friday today but to me it might as well be a Tuesday.

Every day, I follow the same routine:

1. Wake up.
2. Drive to the Scottish Rite Masonic Center for bar prep class.
3. Listen to hours of lectures and take notes.
4. Drive to the school library.
5. Study for 5-8 hours in the same spot.
6. Drive home and go to bed.

I'm not complaining - just setting up the facts. Anyway, I wanted to describe the weirdness that is the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. ( The building houses the San Diego chapter of the Freemasonry Fraternity ( In my mind, it's really just my personal slice of Hogwarts.

This gigantic symbol is the first cue that you've stumbled onto the Scottish Rite Masonic Center.

The giant parking lot features reserved parking spots. There are signs designating that only the "Venerable Master" or "Honorable Warden" can park there. This is the second cue that there is something strange in the air.

The large entrance is carpeted in maroon. There's an ancient gift shop on one side, an office on the other, and a security guard and information booth in the front. Sloping railings lead to the giant auditorium, where class is held.

During my breaks, I've wandered down the halls and stared at all the glass displays of secret rituals, talismans, and oddly shaped caps. Ornate photographs of dead white men line the walls. Sometimes I peek into the Ionic Banquet Room and see remnants of breakfast left on white tablecloth. Strange old men shuffle down the halls and disappear into dark offices filled with amulets.

I know my imagination is probably working into overdrive. The sloping railing isn't just for effect - it works as handicap access. The "secret rituals" actually involve philanthropies, not human sacrifice and wizardry. The strange old men are just old-timers who keep everything running smoothly. In fact, the entire place feels more like a senior citizen hangout than a secret society. Oh well, at least I can dream.