Saturday, March 31, 2007 ______________________________________________________________________________

Lunch-Mates 

School has settled into a comfortable rhythm. People are starting to sit in their usual places. We know who to expect to be late, who would ask the question during lectures that's on everyone's mind, who to count on for a quick laugh, which lecturers drive which of us absolutely nuts, the usual details that are apparent in the mundane. With this ease, the class has also split into natural groups - people who lunch together, collect notes for each other, go for coffee on Fridays. Cliques have emerged (without all the attendant baggage usually carried by high-schoolers).

This wouldn't warrant any reporting, this is the natural way of things. In any gathering of people, there will be some your gravitate toward more than others. Over time, this results in the formation of stronger social bonds than with others. It's just that my little section of the class just realised that we're "The AsiansTM". More specifically, we're the Southeast Asians, but since there aren't any from the far east in class, Asians suffice. We're not all immigrants. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm the only international student of the bunch. Ethnically though, we do identify as Southeast Asians. Not all of us have the language, but we all certainly have the food culture. Everytime we run out of things to talk about, we talk about food. In fact, our Friday night out was a ba kut teh night at my place with plans for a Hainanese chicken rice night, a sushi party and a pineapple tart party (those were just the suggestions put forth last night while we were waiting for the ba kut teh to cook).

But back to the fact that we're The AsiansTM. I mean, we've all been in situations where we look at the Asian clique, nattering on in their respective languages, not assimilating, keeping to themselves. There's something inherently obnoxious about Asians that stick together. I can't articulate it. But what do you know, here we are. It all started innocently enough. We used to go for lunch with everyone. More and more people started to bring their own lunches, we started to favour a certain cafe, while others preferred another. It was a very organic evolution that really grew out of lunchtime habits rather than actual social grouping.

Or is it?

How much influence did social preference play in lunch location choices? I'm sure many of us were indifferent about where we had lunch. We just went along with the flow. With that being said, how the hell did we turn out as The AsiansTM?

Best not to overthink this, I think, and just accept it for what it is. I mean, none of us sought each other out based on ethnicity. Not on a concious level, at least.

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posted by Joie! at 2:02 AM

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Saturday, March 17, 2007 ______________________________________________________________________________

I Will Not Play Freecell Drunk 

I will not play freecell drunk.
I will not play freecall drunk.
I will not bplay freecel drunk.
I will not play freecell drunk.
I will not play freecell druinkl.
I will not play reedcell drunk.
I will not play freecell rdinks.
I will not play freecell drunkm.
I will not play free celll frunlk.
I will not play dfeerlcell. droink.
I will ernot plau freecell drunkl.

Dude. Seriously. $2.50 bottles of wine. wicked sweet.

So I'm slightly inebriated. The above assigned lines were written honestly. The rule I applied to myself was "no backspace key". So while I noticed the mistakes, I thought I would leave them up there. The last 3 sentences took soooo long to type. Backspace is my friend.

Drunk blogging aside, this message is brought to you by Joie says DON'T DRIVE DRUNK. Because flarke man, if you manage to destroy your freecell stats through half a bottle of wine over one late afternoon, you are in no condition to pilot a vehicle. Not to mention, before this excercise in blogging under the influence, I really thought I was competent enough to ride down to little Vietnam for beef noodle soup. Honest!

ETA: ZE GERMANS ARE COMING! ZE GERMANS ARE COMING! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA


posted by Joie! at 2:06 AM

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 ______________________________________________________________________________

And You Think it's Tough to Get People to Say "Johanna" Right 

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a veritable fount of liberal, first world guilt. I'm always acutely aware of the fact that being a South East Asian female, I could easily be stuck in a brothel, a sweatshop, caring for my 19 other siblings and/or supporting said siblings through prostitution or work in a sweatshop. I could be denied education on the basis of the fact that I don't have a penis, married off to someone with a penis who thinks that the penis makes him the unquestionable boss of me, or I could've just bypassed the whole penis/no penis thing by being killed off as an infant for having a vagina. I could be living without access to clean drinking water, or to basic medicines and vaccines. The reason all this is relevant is because I was signed up by a door-to-door today to give monthly contributions to some kind of save the world fund. I think it's actually called "Save the Children", but it's really just using the "children" angle as a selling point because the work it does helps communities, not just the kids.

It isn't the monthly donation directly debited from my savings account that's the point of this post though (I mean, other existing, ongoing deductions from my bank account include a sponsored Indonesian girl and Greenpeace - I told you I was a fount of liberal, first-world guilt. I'm even going to sign up as a volunteer for my local whole foods, ethical consumer market.), it's the conversation I had with the girl who came by to talk to me about Save the Children.

When it came to writing my name down on the sign-up form, she asked what title I commonly used. I always use Ms. because I think there's something fundamentally wrong about the fact that it's common practice to indicate your marital status, as though it's an integral part of your public identity, where someone who has a penis doesn't need to do the same (the implication being that unless you already have a penis, you need to let the world know about how you're doing on your quest to acquire one - seriously, what is it with the emphasis on penises?!). She misheard me and wrote "Miss" instead, and I insisted that I be put down as Ms. This then initiated a conversation about whether I would take Jim's name (she also asked what the difference was between Ms. and Miss having previously thought that both prefixes were interchangable).

It wasn't a completely out of the blue, privacy invasion question. Up to this point we were sharing details of our respective lives (she's currently seeing an ex-Canadian pro hockey player *hawt!* who's living in Sydney) and so the question was reasonable. I just wanted to put that out there because she really was a very nice person and I don't want people to get the impression that she was anything other than friendly and completely within the bounds of polite company.

This just returns me to the "Johanna Hobbs" problem: chiefly, that it makes me sound like a 17th century British peasant. Don't get me wrong, I would love to take his name to acknowledge the fact that Jimmymabo is the one person who has made me comfortable with who I am and inspires me daily to pursue life for my own happiness and well-being. In other words, taking his name would recognize the significant contribution he has made to my identity and self. I should note at this point that I have never before been even remotely happy with the person that I am. On the other hand, taking his name would be buying into the patriarchal idea that as a woman, I am tied to the man who is responsible for me at the time (first my father, then my husband - see also the tradition of a father giving his daughter away during the wedding ceremony).

Simple solution? Hyphenate! It's not like it's a big deal, I already have one hyphen in my name (Si-en), another one's not going to make a huge difference. Uh. Dudes. Have you considered Tan-Hobbs?! For one thing, it reads like some Brit who has spent too much time out in the sun. Most people outside of Singapore already don't say "Tan" right. In fact, Jonathan (my brother) doesn't even say "Tan" right - and he is one (I encourage everyone of you out there to call his cell phone and leave a message on his voicemail urging him to pronounce his own damn name correctly. You can hear him say "Jonathan Tan" on the recorded greeting).

Johanna Tan-Hobbs. What a train wreck. Maybe I should just do without a last name altogether. I mean Cher's doing just fine isn't she?

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posted by Joie! at 5:20 AM

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007 ______________________________________________________________________________

The "So Lisa No Longer Has to Listen to Wing Do Her Cover of 'Highway to Hell' Everytime She Loads My Blog" Post (that's right - 'Highway to Hell') 

There have been a few exciting things happening over her in Joie land. I've discovered that I will not have to go through my two years in Australia here lamenting the lack of affordable books thanks to the discount book warehouse situated 2 blocks away from where I stay. I'm going to host a housewarming barbecue tomorrow night for about 30 people. I have chanced upon some half-price frankincense essential oil at a hippy-dippy place down the road and am finding that I really enjoy the scent (I'm also planning to buy some myrrh eventually and burn the oils together at Christmastime). I possibly have the best landlords in the world (although I find that I have to be careful about when I sing their praises, because there are other notable people out there with shitty landlords). I've been to IKEA four times in two weeks - coincidently, the local IKEA here is situated in Richmond, VIC where the IKEA that I used to patronize in Canada is in Richmond, BC.

Oh, and my dad is coming over the weekend to stay with me.

Uhh, yeah.

Frankly, I'm rather nervous about it (and honestly, who can blame me) mainly because I'm not sure what kind of relationship my dad wants from me. I'm more than happy to be his buddy, and all signs point to that all he wants from me is a buddy. Let's hope that for the first time ever my assumptions about him are correct. Because shit man, dealing with this guy is tiring. I'm flattered that he wants to come and visit me, and honestly I seemed to have detected a little bit of "but I want to spend one-on-one time with you" from my dad.

Prior to his now 48-hour old announcement he was asking me to go back to Singapore during my mid-year holidays. Given that he also wants me to go back to Vancouver at the end of the year, I thought that it would be a better idea if he saved the redemption points and I have Jim come over in July (rather than in December as per the original plan). I told him that I would get back to him re:Singapore, once I knew what Jim's availability is. (Jim, having been recently promoted, is now single-handedly staffing an entire department might have a little trouble taking copious amounts of time off like he used to be able to.) I also mentioned that it might be a good idea for him to save his redemption points and bring the whole family to Melbourne during the July-August summer holidays seeing as how the annual family holiday destination had not yet been decided on and it would be cool to see my brothers (and no -duh- my brothers can't vacation in Singapore).

Next thing I know, he's on the next flight to Melbourne. So everyone out there cross your fingers and hope for the best for me.

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posted by Joie! at 7:53 PM

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Monday, March 05, 2007 ______________________________________________________________________________

NAAM-uh-SAA-kay 

If I had a dollar for everytime I had to explain how to pronounce my name, I could finance my education. Possible PhD included. And to this day, I'm not sure if I actually like my name*, or its less troublesome variants like Jo or Hanna (Jo sounds like a guy's name, Hanna is the plain, uninteresting pilgrim). I love Joie and I love it when the people I love use it, but I downright hate people who I've just met calling me Joie. It's a privilege, please stand in line while I process your application to use it. Thank you. Besides, only people who know me know that Joie is pronounced joe-EE, despite the fact that it is orthographically similar to the French word for "joy". In case anyone was wondering, Tammy was the one who came up with that spelling. Before that, I never spelt it out.

I could write a very long post about how name is tied to identity and how in my struggles to get my name said right (GODDAMIT THERE'S A FUCKING H IN IT. HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THAT THERE'S AN H?! AND IF YOU DO SEE IT, OH YOU LITERATE YOU, WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU ASSUME THAT IT'S SILENT?! HAVE YOU EVER ENCOUNTERED A SILENT CONSONANT IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMEONE ELSE'S NAME?! HAVE YOU?! WHY WOULD YOU THINK IT'S SILENT IN MINE?! IT'S JUST LAZINESS. EFFING-EH LAZINESS. OH WAIT, you didn't call me Joanna, you're one of those people who have to demonstrate your AMAZING world knowledge. yo-CHCHCHCHA-na! *Did I say that right? oh look at me! I can produce a uvular fricative! I'm soooo smart. Gimme a cookie and tell me that you're flattered that I'm the first person ever to get your name right.* Look goddamit. I don't give a flying fuck that you can spot the German variant of "Joanna". And for future reference, no, you are not the first person to ID it correctly, neither are you producing a convincing uvular fricative. Next time you meet someone, it might be a good idea to ask them how their name is pronounced novel idea, I know.) I've developed a certain assertiveness that can cast me in certain light when meeting new people and how that in turn shapes my social interactions blah blah blah. Simply put, my name and its attendant baggage is a pain in the ass.

Jhumpa Lahiri (Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her collection of short stories Interpreter of Maladies) has written a beautiful book on the quest for identity while growing up with an awkward name**, titled The Namesake. It's one of my favourite novels (I've read it five times, and I sorely regret not being able to find it before I had to leave for Melbourne. I might have to buy another copy) and I highly recommend it. Imagine my delight when I discovered that not only has it been turned into a movie, the main character, Gogol Ganguli (yes, he was named after Nikolai Gogol), is played by Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle fame!

Lucky for us, Kal Penn is keeping a blog about his experiences while working on and promoting the film. Being the comedian that he is, he has also posted a couple of videos on the blog that relate to the movie. This one is my favourite and it illustrates what I've been trying to say about my name all my life.

*In a recent conversation with a friend, it came up that if I decide eventually to take Jim's name, my name would be Johanna Hobbs. My Irish friend couldn't stop laughing because, according to her, that sounds like the name of an English peasant. Unfortunately, I agree. More specifically, I think it sounds like the name of ye olde washerwoman. "Got yer clean linens guv'nor!"
**Of course that's not the ONLY thing the book is about, but it is the main theme.

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posted by Joie! at 11:43 PM

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Friday, March 02, 2007 ______________________________________________________________________________

I Don't Want to Turn into my Father 

Interestingly enough, I have discovered that the way I relate to and subsquently how I interact with people mirrors my dad's actions.

The most telling examples of my behaviour come from the discussion of fights Jim and I have had after the fact (like a dissection of the events that led to the fight and things that resulted in escalation or resolution), deep soul searching moments (again with Jim) to determine why we act the way we do and plain ol' introspection. The flashes of insight into my father's behaviour come from long (duration and/or distance) conversations with my mother and to a lesser extent, my own interactions with him. Not that I fail to intuit much about my father when I'm with him, but that I rarely witness him firsthand.

I suppose it's interesting that I'm not lamenting about becoming my mother, like most women my age. I don't think I could've become my mother, what with the fact that we were all brought up to admire my father (with relatives fawning over him as though he is solely defined by his - admittedly impressive - achievements, my mother and grandmother constantly talking about even his smallest actions with awe - like how he's able to wrap books with the sticky wrap perfectly, etc.) and my father displaying thinly veiled contempt for my mother and her domain (recent quote: "I didn't worry too much about you when you rebelled because I know you have alot of me in you. Your brother [Isaac] on the other hand, I'm concerned about. He's got alot more of your mother in him."). I grew up adamant to reject any influences my mother could possibly thrust on me. I didn't aspire to be my father, but I suppose you have to learn to be a person from somewhere.

Maybe I did aspire to be like him, just a little. I mean there's a reason I can wrap books with that sticky stuff perfectly. There's a reason I was so enthusiastic about being a debater. There's a reason I treated my mother with thinly veiled contempt for the longest time - and am only now starting to break the habit. Goddamn it's a hard habit to break.

At any rate, I've noticed that I'm running the risk of becoming my father. Someone whose head is so far up her own ass that she can't parse what makes her happy from conventional measures of success. Someone whose eyes are so obscured by elements in her digestive tract that she can't see any viewpoint other than her own. Someone who is so wrapped up in viscera that she would gradually destroy the ones she's supposed to love just so that she would not be slightly hurt by the fact that she was wrong, or worse, vulnerable. Someone who doesn't really love anyone except herself. I just hope I manage to pull my head out of there before it's so far in I become a human mobius strip.

I know some of the things I do are wrong. I know some of the things I do can slowly wear down the self worth and confidence of people who get close enough to me. I know that I don't want to do these things anymore. The problem is that I'm not sure how to be any other way. I don't have behaviours that can take the place of my current ones. I don't know that I have the courage to admit any of this to the one person that really matters to me - and the one person this giant fucking flaw affects the most. You know what I'm really scared about? I'm scared that maybe this is just me. Maybe everyone's right when they say that people can't change. Maybe I am going to become someone whose family has resigned themselves to having an acquantance rather than a parent or a spouse. Someone who, due to her ability to stimulate her pyloric sphincter with her own tongue, never even realises that she's managed to alienate everyone who matters.

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posted by Joie! at 2:12 AM

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