Archive for the 'anthropological' Category

fifteen sites that have affected my life and this blog

There’s a list of some of my favorite and most often used links on the sidebar to your right, but they don’t always reflect what I’ve been seeing lately on the Internet (such as Super Lamb Banana which I love, but… What? Exactly). I read the news as a form of procrastination and stress relief; however, there are only a certain number of times a day that you can refresh The New York Times page. As a result, over the past year I’ve amassed a collection of news sites and notable blogs to draw on for inspiration, nostalgia and brain candy. You may have come across some of their articles and posts through links in my own blog posts.

The news sites are international and opinionated, the blogs all have a personal voice and touch, and the “mix of everything” sites (blending Webs 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0) are just a dead giveaway that I live in the Bay Area.

News and opinions

BBC News – Other international news sources claim that they report with a broad scope and without bias, but the BBC is the only one that comes close to actually doing so. – Super-liberal SF-based online magazine full of people who care about things. I can only handle it in small doses, but I do enjoy reading the Ask the Pilot column.

San Francisco Chronicle – Like the NYT, but obviously with a Bay Area twist. It was between this or the L.A. Times, and the latter’s front page really sucks– it’s very generic and has little area-specific personality. (The LAT fashion blog, however, has better commentary than NYT’s.)

Mainichi Daily News – The English-language version of the Mainichi Shimbun got in serious shit last year for this one editor and his translated WaiWai column (basically a tabloid full of sick sex-related articles) which got into the “Most Popular This Week” box all the time, but they seemed to have fixed that problem. (Japan Times is probably more comprehensive, but I guess I’ve got brand loyalty– when I was in Japan I read the Mainichi Shimbun’s English version daily in my high school’s library as basically my only link to the U.S…)

Le Monde – I like this French newspaper better than the Sartre-founded (but now much less left-wing) Libération and conservative Le Figaro. It’s very much like the NYT in that it’s internationally popular and Paris-centric, and its editorial-full Opinions section is very strong.

People and their blogs

Charles Bremner – He is a Times (UK) correspondent in France and blogs thoughtfully (sometimes British tongue-in-cheek style) about French culture, politics and famous personalities. As a plus, his Anglo-French commenters are some of the most civil on the Internet. Well, that or he knows how to screen them.

Carmen Van Kerckhove – I don’t really think about being a minority in Stanford’s co-op community, but I have to sometimes: in some situations, even with friends, I get caught off-guard or feel uncomfortable. This blog helps me parse those unspoken issues. Racialicious is often a little intense for me, but Van Kerckhove’s own well-written blog concerns racism and discrimination in the primarily American workforce. She’s also got good interviews from diverse people in all kinds of careers.

Lisa Katayama (TokyoMango) – Like Peter Payne‘s blog about Japanese culture, with a less-otaku stance and from a Japanese-American point of view. By day, she’s a magazine writer who covers Japanese culture and Japan/U.S. tech crossover news; on this blog she shares fun trends in Japan that’ve caught her eye.

Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) – Ever since I got back from Paris I freely admit I’ve been super into admiring fashion and stylish people. This blog is just a bunch of quality street-level photos of people in world clock cities (Paris, Milan and New York) who have interesting looks. Possibly the simplest blog I read regularly, and also the most chic.

Trent Vanegas (Pink is the New Blog) – Reading this celeb gossip blog is my guilty pleasure. (See above. I like looking at good-looking people and am sometimes a voyeuse. There, I said it.) I like Trent because his blog’s got a warm personal touch: his posts are usually polite and supportive of their subjects (unlike his nastier counterpart Perez Hilton) and the photo collages he compiles are always adorned with pink stars and fun speech bubbles.

Penelope Trunk (Brazen Careerist) – She writes about young people and their careers (or lack thereof) while I’m about to become a recent college graduate in a recession. Her advice-giving style is easy to read, full of numbered lists and anecdotes, a style I’d like to use myself. She’s got strange relationships with feminism and Internet privacy that I can relate to. And her posts on blogging got me to keep working on this site.

Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics) – The blog of the authors of the most enjoyable and memorable academic-related book I’ve ever read. They’ve got the NYT behind them and a host of interesting people they’ve interviewed using readers’ questions. Most of their posts follow in the vein of the book– which is great, since Freakonomics II is long overdue.

A mix of everything

Wired – I still remember getting the very first issue of Wired as a supplement to Time when I was little. It looked so futuretech-cool. It still does, but now it’s got thirty times more thirtysomething geek factor; the magazine is easier to read for laypeople than the site proper. Some of the aforementioned bloggers write for it. (Unsurprisingly, the blogs section thrives online.)

Discover – Basically Wired for science and math geeks. The site could use a better layout designer (their site reads like a goddamn RSS feed), their articles are sometimes sloppily posted, and the fact that their “Blogs” are listed with the same treatment as “Articles” and “Departments” on the main page irks me. Otherwise the content is solid and the articles are easy to read.

Culinate – A 21st century member-oriented food site. Their recipes look mouthwatering; their articles and blogs cover a wide range of food topics both practical and enlightening. By the pleasing layout you can tell the site is Web-savvy, and by the farm imagery, “farmer’s markets” search box on the right, “Local Flavors” column and mentions of CSA boxes you can tell it’s committed to local organic food. All in all, a very NorCal site.

N.B.: A year ago I would’ve had more food-related blogs up here, but I soon realized I’m vegetarian and most of them involve meat. Chocolate & Zucchini is a beautiful French food blog but I only used its desserts; Vegan Lunch Box is long defunct thanks to the author’s son growing up (Lunch in a Box is a worthy bento-making successor, too bad she’s omnivorous); Wasted Food is great but sounds a bit too much like a textbook example of Stuff White People Like, and most vegetarian/vegan food blogs are a little too militantly activist for my taste.

Just doing link checks on these sites while preparing this post made me stumble across like ten different articles I’d like to write about. But they’ll have to wait until after finals. Holy shit, I am swamped. With life.


west coast is the best coast

The road trip was a success. Gas was cheap ($1.20s in Tucson, damn!), our car was pumped full of music, and Ricky, being the only driver of the two of us, drank soda after soda while I navigated and kept him talking and alert. I finished off the cans of Spaghetti-Os I’d bought for last year’s Burning Man (even though I’d bought the wrong kind of can opener), Ricky taught me about cactus permutations, I hijacked his camera to take pictures of the road, and he barreled on to destination after destination along the coast and the border. (We almost went to Tijuana just for the hell of it before we remembered that border patrol now requires passports.)

A few things I learned about the west coast and the people who took us through it:

“San Diego’s like a cross between Tucson and the Bay Area”
… what we saw of it, anyway (we stayed with Ricky’s friend in Encinitas and visited Sam J. in Chula Vista). It’s got that low-key sprawled-out suburban desert feel mixed with an alternative hippie community. Ricky wants to buy property along the coast in Encinitas because it’s halfway between Tucson and San Francisco both geographically and culturally, and has the most gorgeous views of the sea.

“Tucson should be closer to Black Rock City”
Tucson turned out to be awesome: it’s strangely chill, fairly young and alternative edgy, the kind of place Burners would love to raise their kids in, mixed with a desert Native/Mexican style characteristic of Arizona. Plus it’s actually great to visit Tucson if you’re broke—  thanks to all those hot U of A chicks, it’s got fashionable thrift stores galore with prices a fraction of those you’d find for similar clothes in the Bay Area. (Too bad I’d spent all my money in L.A. and San Diego on the way down!)

One-story houses and– always– the mountains
Ricky had to do tons of family and friend visiting, so I tagged along to see lots of people’s houses, which in Tucson are mostly one-story adobe-type affairs in bright colors, making it easy to see the four mountain ranges that border the city (in NESW order: Catalina, Rincon, Santa Rita and Tucson– they spell out CRST, or “Christ” in Spanish with no vowels). After a trip to eegee’s (which had a version of poutine italienne! And who knew you could make a Smarties-flavored slushie?) we visited his father, who lives in a new housing development across town, and that was pretty much the only two-story I saw.

A Mexican Christmas isn’t far from a Filipino one
Though Ricky’s super-native, long hair and all, and his house has a lot of Pasqua Yaqui art and stuff, I found out he’s kind of an anomaly in his family since they’re mostly Mexican culturally. (Which was awesome ‘coz I finally got to eat the “real Mexican food” Ricky always talks about when he complains about Bay Area Mex. Dear God, I’ll never think badly of tamales again!) His family’s Christmas party kind of felt like my own family’s parties when I was a little kid in Manila, especially with the posole stewing for hours on the stove and hella cousins running around.

Rain has so much more meaning when you live in a desert
Tucson is the only place I’ve ever been to where people were really genuinely happy about the rain. It’s probably because they’re in a 7-year drought right now. It wasn’t even that much, but if your climate is perpetual summer, you take what you can get.

Anyway, Ricky’s family was super nice and my stay in Tucson was great– before I knew it Ricky was burning sage to pray for a safe trip and a good year, and we were off to L.A.

Austin is the new San Francisco
On our way down we stayed with Ricky’s friends and family, so on the way back up we crashed at my aunt’s place in Glendale and partied with my sister and my aunt’s son Jerrome. He and I go way back (to daycare in NYC!), and he’d been living in El Paso for the past couple of years so it was great to see them. Thanks to him and some of my Texan friends at Stanford (and SXSW), I’m being gradually convinced to move out to Austin. It’s young and hip, it’s sort of neo-eco-hippie like San Francisco, it’s the new indie rock capital of the U.S., and the rent is cheap as hell. But more about that later.

The difference between natives and transplants
Partying in L.A. with Ricky’s friends and partying in L.A. with my sister, Jerrome and my own friends turned out to be two completely different beasts. Ricky’s friends were L.A. area natives— they’re high-rolling, really scene, borderline prepster jaded types who are L.A. insiders but are outside the entertainment industry. They’re basically characters out of Laguna Beach– their parties are at their own hot tubs and houses, they stay within their own social circles and they don’t know much about their own city because they’ve never been tourists, which made them fun to party with but not ideal guides to the city.

My sister, on the other hand, was one of the many who moved to L.A. because of the industry, and she loves the place with all her heart (save the ridiculous traffic– one night I spent 45 minutes holding my bladder in a stressful traffic jam, and realized why my sister doesn’t want to move back here anymore). All of her L.A. friends work in the movies (if we’d had more time we probably could’ve gotten into some studio backlots), she knows the hot clubs and cool tourist attractions like I know my favorite beats in Paris, and she would point out all the famous people she spotted while we were driving, as well as their houses. My former Paris friends Tim and Amy are similarly industry-oriented, and Jerrome, having gone to high school in Glendale and being a hip-hop dancer, has a ridiculous L.A. network and knows where to go to have a good time without all the glitter and coke.

All in all, L.A. the second time around was pretty tight. We got our picture-taking in at the observatory, people-watched at The Grove, and partied at a lot of low-key bars and lounges (my favorite was Little Bar, near where my sister used to live).

A side trip and a new year
Ricky headed out earlier to catch a New Year’s rave in S.F., so I drove back up on New Year’s Eve with my sister and cousin. There was some kind of insane pile-up on our way back, so acting on a recommendation from Jerrome we took a three-hour detour through the most amazing landscapes I’ve ever seen on a road trip (and mind you, I once went cross-country on a Greyhound) and still made it back in time to ring in 2009 at home. (Sort of. I slept through the whole thing.)

Happy new year, everyone. Here’s to more adventures to come.

oh, those japanese… they just love killing themselves

Forgive me for being fantastically un-PC, but this Japan Times article on how suicides in Japan topped 30,000 for the tenth straight year (about 32,000 this year) made me do a double-take.

Do the math: The U.S. has roughly the same annual number of suicides, but has a population of about 304 million. Japan has a population of about 127 million. Japan’s suicide rate per 100,000 people is 25% (America’s is about 10.5%). What the hell is going on?

Fortunately, people have already examined this question for me. In Kayoko Ueno’s 2005 article Suicide as Japan’s major export? A note on Japanese Suicide Culture, a J@pan Inc article from last year, and a recent Economist article called Death Be Not Proud, a couple of things are pointed out about Japanese society that probably make a big difference:

  1. Suicide has been historically used as the samurai’s way to avoid dishonor. Hence the Japanese businessmen and politicians who’d rather die than go bankrupt or go to jail. (Note that I said “men”: the male rate is more than two times higher than the female rate [40% versus 15%].).
  2. Suicide was also glorified in the recent past. Remember World War II? Kamikaze pilots were the original suicide bombers.
  3. Suicide is neither accepted nor rejected in Buddhism and Shintoism. It’s a sin in Christianity, so families in the West probably suffer more from the stigma of a family member who committed suicide than families in the East.
  4. However, in Japan there are tons more things with social stigmas attached to them. For example, failure, colorblindness (or any kind of physical disability for that matter), or mental illness of one family member can put a big, indelible black mark on the entire family. And the shame makes it hard for people to seek help because they don’t know what’s wrong with them and they don’t want anyone to find out about it.
  5. Japanese kids have some serious shit to deal with. For one, there’s BULLYING. American kids can sue; Japanese kids are just told to suck it up and deal with it, because “it’s a part of life“. My own bullying experience in Gunma was uncommon in that I had teachers who had been educated in the United States, so I was able to complain and get a homeroom change. This doesn’t happen too often, especially with the natives.
    For further reading, a manga called Vitamin (the scanslation is by Storm in Heaven) recounts a girl’s history of severe bullying when she’s caught doing the nasty with her guy. It’s got a happy ending, but a lot of these real-life stories do not.
  6. And, of course, some people kill themselves for the insurance money. But I feel like that happens in a lot of places.

And you thought Americans had problems.

The Japanese government is finally giving suicide prevention programs more funding because they no longer want to be known as “The Country Where Killing Yourself Is Totally Okay”. But as many an article has pointed out, that’s too late in the game to be intervening. Japanese society needs to undergo an overhaul so people stop considering suicide in the first place.

american whitebreadism: a double standard in political correctness

It’s only been on the Interwebs for like, not even two full months, but it’s gonna hit your nearest word-of-mouth source of awesome real soon.

Let me direct you to a fellow WordPress blog called Stuff White People Like. It’s a blog written like a handbook for foreigners to “white” (i.e. American liberal yuppie/hippie) culture, and handily pounces on the American double standard of using political correctness towards minorities while subjecting the majority “white” population to all forms of ridicule.

Why do you think this double standard exists? Well, this American whitebread culture has our world by the balls, and if people who have to be PC couldn’t make fun of it either, there’d be a public outcry against whitebread cultural dictatorship.

(In this blog, I am coining the term “American whitebread (A.W.)” to loosely refer to an ethnic and cultural group that consists of the mostly-Caucasian, monocultural, monolingual majority in the United States. According to Wikipedia, whitebread has already been used in the past by the Soviets to derogatorily refer to Americans, but the generic term can also refer to certain portions of the Canadian population. Anti-whitebreadism would refer to derogatory remarks towards this group.)

My favorite post was #19 Traveling. (For people who have read this blog, you can see how it’s a no-brainer for me and my dislike of sketchy old white guys.) Here’s an excerpt:

Every white person takes at least one trip to Europe between the ages of 17-29. During this time they are likely to wear a back pack, stay at a hostel, meet someone from Ireland/Sweden/Italy with whom they have a memorable experience, get drunk, see some old churches and ride a train.

What’s amazing is that all white people have pretty much the same experience, but all of them believe theirs to be the first of its kind. So much so that they return to North America with ideas of writing novels and screenplays about their experience.

Upon returning home, they will also find an affinity for a particular beer or liquor from a country they visited. They use this as an excuse to mention their travels when at a bar. “Oh, I’ll have a Czechznlishiyush Pilsner. You see, that was my favorite beer when I was travelling through Slovenia and the Czech republic.”

And it gets even better from there. (My second favorite post would be #75 Threatening to Move to Canada.)

I love this blog because I’ve done this same scrutiny of the French, Japanese and Filipinos, but I’ve never done it for the culture I’ve been immersed in for most of my life. (Okay, mostly just the past four years– living in Jersey City doesn’t count.) And it’s sort of like one of those “You Know You’re ______ When…” lists. You nod in agreement or laugh out loud or go “Hmm!” when something rings totally true… or applies to you.

My count so far? 26…ish. Not completely whitewashed, but oh-so-very liberal hippie.

aaaahhh motherland!

(If you don’t know what the title refers to, please see this Flash animation.)

I haven’t been to the Philippines in well over ten years. The last time I lived there, I was in kindergarten and Czechoslovakia was still one country. The last time I visited, my now smoking-hot seventeen-year-old cousin Jessa had just started grammar school. A lot has changed since then, and a lot about living in the Philippines has been lost to my memory. Not that that’s bad– I sort of like my childhood memories in their hazy, pristine state. If I’d known then what I know now, I would probably have never enjoyed my five-year-old self. Anyway…

One of the advantages of being a hyphenated American is that you can always get free food and lodging in at least one other country in the world– in Manila, I stayed partly with my cousins and partly with some family friends. One disadvantage (for me) is that it’s reaaaallllly hard to bring stuff up in conversation ‘coz I never know when my liberalness might push a few conservative relatives’ buttons. I’ve ended up with a couple of “Hail Mary”s being said for me when I accidentally told my uncle that I’m agnostic. -_-;

Plus, my sister and I have been so Americanized that we’ve had to re-learn our Filipino-ness— how to mano, how to eat the middle part of a mango with a spoon and fork, even how to speak Tagalog (everyone speaks Taglish anyway, but Tagalog’s useful for bargaining). As such, it’s really nerve-wracking for me to do anything in the presence of anyone except my sister and our cousins, whom we grew up with. (It’s probably even worse for my sister– at least I have her to get cues from!)

The worst part is being vegetarian in a meat-loving country. (I don’t know how an island country’s cuisine can be primarily meat-based. A century of Spanish rule, I guess?) My cousins were really considerate about it, but some other households had more of a “You’re in our country, deal with it” kind of vibe. Sometimes I feel really bad if someone panics over the issue, but I usually deal if they don’t. Vegetarianism for me isn’t a food preference, it’s more like a belief, so I think it’s only as imposing or rude as eating kosher or halal. If they have it, great; if not, whatev.

Speaking of beliefs: Unless you’re Catholic, don’t talk about your religion in the Philippines unless you want to get into hot water. (For extra points, try to stay out of conversations about other countries in general, except maybe the U.S.) The “The family that prays together stays together” billboards kind of speak for themselves. One of the first conversations I got into here was about Thailand, since my sister and I just came from there; I nearly choked on my food when someone mentioned that Thais were a bunch of Godless savages who worshipped animals. The whole table agreed.

I’ve gotten some negative reactions when I say that I’m definitely more American than Filipino, but the above reasons are why. I’m still quite Filipina at heart, and this trip has only made me more so, but being here sometimes makes me appreciate how vegetarian-friendly California is– and how tolerant the U.S. is in general.

The Philippines has its good side, though— the weather is great, the people are usually really accomodating, whatever food I *can* eat (ube ice cream, choc-nut, meatless sinigang) is totally delish, and everything’s sooo cheap. And I actually like the traffic. It gives me and my sister more time to talk to the other people in the car.

Oh, and don’t forget all the maids, cooks, drivers and security detail. Once upon a time in the Philippines, my sister and cousins and I all had nannies and maids and stuff– labor here is cheap if you’re earning in American dollars. Unfortunately, our financial situation drastically changed when I was still little so I don’t remember any of that, and thus a few days ago I was freaking out (“Jesus H. Christ, we were THIS RICH?!?!”). And the family friend we stayed with is actually kind of a powerful diplomat, so they’ve also got a police siren on their unmarked white van. O_O

the world according to the frankreich: don’t take it personally

If you are going to live in Paris for more than a few weeks and are wondering why Parisians sometimes seem like assholes, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Polly Platt’s “French or Foe?“. It explains, for instance:

– why French guys always sound like they’re arguing (they love to exercise their wits),

– or why you get lots of unsmiling eye contact on the street if you’re a well-dressed girl or guy (just appreciating the time you took to look good),

– or why you can get anything you want if you pour on the charm and the theatrics to everyone from the supermarket check-out clerk to the lady working at the French consulate (apparently French people just love to be entertained).

I brought the book with me to Paris but hadn’t read it in its entirety until last week. Wish I’d read it earlier. :P Granted it’s written by a woman of a “certain age” so it’s got some of the scoop on French manners that people who weren’t born before 1970 don’t really use anymore (unless they’re old money or politicians). But at least now I know what to do if I’m ever invited to a formal dinner party at the American Embassy…

french holidays and craigslisting in paris

I realized that my posts have been kind of boring and food-y as of late. Sorry about that! Here’s a small life update from my side as I try to scrounge up more material for an actually useful post.

France has a ton of holidays in the spring
, most of which are Easter-related (Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Pentecost and Whit Monday). But unlike Japan, which avoids having a work day sandwiched between two holidays (and sometimes creates an in-between holiday just for that purpose), France has a few awkward spring Mondays when the following Tuesdays are fériés. For my friends, this has discouraged travel plans to other parts of Europe on more than one occasion. (For my Barcelona trip, I just used one of my allowed absences and played hooky.)

But Mondays aside, there’s a nice four-day weekend starting this Thursday. However, Stanford’s quarter system completely messes up our schedule, so my midterms fall on this Friday and next Monday. Gah! I’m glad I don’t have the money to take another trip, or I’d definitely miss more classes.

Summer in France should be really interesting. I hear that In the month of August, absolutely no one works. I hope I can find a summer job regardless.

In other news, I’ve found an apartment! It’s this tiny thing just on the outskirts of Zone 1 and close to the Parc Monceau, owned by a twentysomething Russian girl who’s lived here for three years and seems chill. It’s insanely, INSANELY cheap for a Parisian apartment. (It’s also tiny, and at the top of a seventh-floor walk-up, and the shower is in the kitchen, but shit, it’s 250 a month!)

How did I find it? I have no idea, because the housing section in paris craigslist is usually full of apartment broker ads and temporary room shares, both very pricey. But I used the craigslisting strategy and waited until I pounced on something that was in my price range (defined as "cheap as humanly possible") and didn’t seem too sketch. I stuck with craigslist, but there are tons of other places to look, I just wanted to make sure that the seller knew a fair amount of English.

That’s about it. In my next post, I will talk about ice cream. No, seriously.


This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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