Ten Things: General Observations From Thailand, July 2013


I’ve just returned from a trip to Thailand! The whole thing actually came into fruition fairly quickly — I was feeling burnt out from the usual post-grad woes of unemployment and self-doubt that came with it, and my friend Tim was itching to leave the country around that same time, so we both kind of just were like, f this, let’s go.

So, we went. Here are ten general observations:

1. Thai spices are no joke. That shit is legitimately spicy, son. Keep in mind, I love spicy food and am always that person who’s always dousing her food with hot sauce, Tabasco, or Sriracha, even when the cuisine/meal doesn’t really appropriately call for it. But, yeah, pretty much every street stall, restaurant, cafe, and food-nook-and-cranny in between that you visit all over the country will accompany your meal with a rack of 4-5 different condiments. They are usually sugar, fish sauce, vinegar with chilies in it, and this ground up red pepper powder. Most of the former is pretty much safe and what you’d expect it to taste like, but I made the (not regrettable) mistake of always going after the red chili powder and putting heaping spoonfuls  in my food and being unable to finish the whole bowl/plate without feeling anything but this searing, sharp, hot pain in my mouth. Even the noodle soup at the hotel breakfast we had in Bangkok had intensely spicy chilies, and I’d assumed that since hotel breakfasts are fairly Americanized, it would be safer. Uh, it wasn’t.

2. Fish sauce is a fairly prominent ingredient in Thai cuisine. I was actually surprised by this, maybe because my limited knowledge of the use of fish sauce consists of the assumption that it was mostly used in Vietnamese cuisine. But, it was not only offered as a condiment (that we used fairly generously) at every meal, but in the food as well. We took a cooking class in Chiang Mai and this was where I learned that fish sauce is a pretty primary ingredient in Thai curries, stir fries, and noodles (including the popular-amongst-American dishes of pad thai and pad see ew, etc).

3. Last food point, for now — all their noodles are delicious. I’m finding that, in particular, the wide noodles they use there for stir fries are fresh – as opposed to the U.S. where they come in packages dry, and need to be soaked in water/boiled first before being cooked. But, in Thailand, most of the noodles were fresh, and the result? A world of difference. A great bite, while still soft, and just so fresh-tasting. Think of the difference between fresh vs. dried pasta, and with rice noodles, it’s like 100x better. (No offense to fresh pasta, of course – it’s pretty delicious, too).

4. There are only two seasons in Thailand. Hot (and humid), or hot and rainy (and humid). We encountered both while we were there, and I don’t think my San Franciscan blood adapted really well to this, though I didn’t personally mind the temporary change in weather from our cold Bay Area summers. It was actually the most foreign experience I’ve had to date regarding the weather. Especially to be standing in the pouring rain that constantly fell in the still heat (no wind) all the way down, while simultaneously still sweating profusely.

5. You can easily tell, sometimes, when someone is local vs. a tourist or a visitor, especially in the big cities like Bangkok. This is an extension of my observation about the weather, but obviously locals are accustomed to the heat and their body temperature levels are way more conditioned to handle it. So, while T and I would be leaving our hotels in shorty short-shorts (especially him ;)) and skimpy tank tops, we’d be running into locals who would brush past us on the street with their thick jeans, blazers, and even scarves, all while dry and cool as cucumbers. Really, a scarf?! In 90 degree humidity? Yes, they’d scoff.

6. They don’t really scoff much in Thailand, though. With the exception of cab drivers, I found that everyone was mostly kind, accommodating, and pleasant to deal with, despite the often frustrating language barrier at times. This especially is a nod to children smiling and waving at us as we passed them, and the ladies manning clothing booths and such at the markets. While they’d be simultaneously trying to sell you their products as you bargain with them, they were rarely pushy, misleading, or tried to guilt trip you (save for this one surly girl at the mall – but I’m going to chalk her up to an anomaly). T tried to buy a shirt once, and the lady honestly told him that the size he had in his hands wasn’t going to fit him, as opposed to just taking his money, which he was ready to hand over. (She was basically calling him a fat-American and I lol-ed, so, really, I’m the bitch here. Oops.)

7. Nobody could tell we were from the U.S. – like, literally nobody who we encountered, at least. I know that T and I are both ethnically East Asian (he’s Korean, I’m Chinese), so we may have stood apart from the rest of the Thai/Southeast Asian folks, but nobody thought for a second that our nationality was American. This surprised me, a bit, actually, considering how much Thailand has blown up in recent years as a major tourist destination. I also would’ve thought that our Californian accents and the fact that we’re not rail-thin like most of general Asia would’ve tipped us off as obvious Americans, but everyone – cab drivers, airport workers, hotel workers, and Thai folks in between would be shouting “ni hao” at us and when we’d tell them we were American, they’d always seem incredibly surprised. I did get asked once if I was Filipino once by a cab driver, and when I asked why he thought that, he said it was because my English was so good, and Filipinos spoke great English.

8. The Bangkok train/railway/underground bus station was incredibly easy to navigate through, efficient, cheap as dirt (less than a $1 USD/30 baht to get clear across town), and super clean. Far cleaner than Muni in San Francisco. But, then again, most underground stations in other places are cleaner than Muni. Except, maybe the NYC subway system.

9. There are far more stray dogs everywhere than cats. Also, all the dogs and cats (the cats more so than the dogs, by a mile) have super small frames. In other words, even the animals are not fat-American animals.

10. I lied — one more food point. Thais are strangely obsessed with the American hotdog. You see them at hotel breakfasts (more understandable) and pretty much on every block with a street stall (whyyy?) Where there is a skewer stand (and there were literally hundreds that we came across), there will be a hotdog. They also weren’t even as good as American hotdogs (less salty, more rubbery), which I learned the hard way by purchasing one out of curiosity.


Ten Things: Why Justin Timberlake Kinda Sucks.

(ETA: Comments are now closed for this post — if you have any questions or concerns that you’d like directly addressed to me, feel free to do so by filling out the form through the “About Me” section. Thanks!)

I’ve kept this personal opinion to myself for a while, but I finally feel like it’s time to reveal publicly that . . . I cannot stand Justin Timberlake. I know that he’s beloved and adored by many, and likely a lot of people who end up reading this, but I’m definitely not a fan. In general I just find him overrated, overhyped, over-loved, pompous, and think that there’s a very artificial quality about the way he is that bugs me. Anyway, here’s my list of reasons expounding on that. Some points I think are fairly legitimate, some are definitely petty, and some are silly (but at one point, that I probably considered also legitimate).

1. His ridiculously self-aggrandizing announcement that he was finally ready to return to music was self-indulgent, obnoxious, totally unnecessary, and I doubt it gauged any new interest from those who weren’t already in his fanbase.

2. He gets so much insane praise for his songs – WHY? Yes, his music is cool, and it’s totally decent and catchy and I don’t question that he is without talent but, his debut single for one, after seven years, “Suit & Tie” is kinda crappy. It’s definitely not comeback music worthy, to me at least. But nobody is going to bash him for it because it features Jay-Z. And, well, obviously nobody is going to mess with Jay-Z. Well played, JT.

3. He had Ellen Degeneres and Beyonce introduce his performance at the Grammys this year. Are you serious? Possibly the two most powerful women in mainstream pop culture – one beloved, selfless, hilarious, the other just with ridiculously fierce stage presence with thunder thighs and a catwalk for days on end. And they commanded a standing ovation for him. Has Justin Timberlake really contributed that much to music and society? Not gonna lie, I’d applaud whoever Ellen told me to, it’s just . . . Justin Timberlake? Doesn’t really go in the same sentence as “standing ovation” to me. Somewhere in the audience, Prince and Madonna were not pleased.

4. For some reason, I suspect that he evades blame and responsibility on purpose at times. He comes off as immaculately polished, imperfectly perfect, and appears to be without a speck of drama on his rap sheet, despite having been in the business for years. I firmly believe in taking ownership of your faults and it’s just an unfortunate and incidental side effect that if you work in the media — the public eye, that others are going to catch wind of it. Some will support you, others will bash on you, but there’s generally a reaction – is that what you’re so afraid of, JT? Because how is it almost all radio silence when it comes to news about JT faltering or struggling. Why is that? I mean, come on, he’s been around for a good number of years (decades, even). He (rather seriously) dated Britney Spears for years and look how the media trampled all over her (love you, boo) while he seemed to just slither off, faultless.

5. Okay, since we’re on the topic of Britney, and even aside from the fact that I am clearly a huge advocate of anything she stands for, what the hell with writing a song about her (“Cry Me A River”)? Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that during their relationship, she did cheat on him, and that is horrible, and they broke up thereafter and he’s crushed and hurt and devastated (seriously, benefit of the doubt, right?) But why is it that airing out your dirty laundry and casting essentially a blond stunt double so obviously meant to be B-Spears in a scathing, spiteful song and music video only seemed to have garnered him more critical praise and more hordes of fangirls? This is essentially trash-talking your ex in the most humiliating, public way ever. It’s not okay for Taylor Swift to write songs merely inspired by her ex-boyfriends and past relationships without being the brunt of a million jokes. But, if Justin does it, to the Queen of Pop no less, it’s cool? It’s. Not. Cool. IT’S NOT COOL. (Britney, I love you)

6. I have this theory that his role as Sean Parker in The Social Network (all-consumingly arrogant, paranoid, fake, and with a somewhat keen/smarmy business eye) is essentially how he is in real life. More proof of this is that this was the only role that he acted in that I found fairly decent, and I think otherwise he’s a pretty shitty actor. Ergo, it was because he wasn’t acting here, but playing himself. Right . . . right? Okay, maybe just me.

7. I generally hold a distaste for any privileged white boys who had cushy upbringings to a. act like they’re Black b. think they are as cool as Black people c. attempt to urbanize their style and tastes to align with those of the Black community. Please, just don’t. You were in the Mickey Mouse Club, okay?

8.  He cried like a bitch and ran to his mommy when Ashton Kutcher Punk’d him in the debut episode. Later on, JT also reported that he was high at the time. And that, ladies and gents, is the real Justin Timberlake.

9. This is an extension of an earlier point, but to continue on #4: it makes me very uncomfortable that he doesn’t seem to possess that “human” quality to him. Back when I blogged about my distaste for Lady Gaga, one of my main complaints was that she had stopped being accessible for me. That led to me just not caring about her product because I was not able to resonate, at all, with the artist putting it out. I feel the exact same way about JT and his (what appears to me as) fake humility. It makes me wonder what he has to hide, what kind of person he’s really like underneath his (again, what appears to me as a) facade, a representation that he’s carefully concocted and taken on solely for the public. Never mind the fact that he’s had no arrests, never shed a tear in public, or even have any melodramatic monologue segments we can cut from any Behind The Music-esque specials, but, again, why does he seem to repel any apparent struggles or faults off him like water? Let’s not even get back into the whole Britney thing. What about the Janet Jackson Superbowl debacle, where her career essentially took a huge nosedive while he seemed to walk away unscathed?

(Seriously, though, what about Britney?)

10. I’m pretty much done with this list, but for the sake of capping off on a lighter note and, as I mentioned above, a petty one, let me just put it out there that for the record, I was a huge, avid Backstreet Boys fangirl during the 90s and well into the early 2000s. I was seriously in love with them for the bulk of my high school years and to this day, I can shamelessly confess that I’m a committed fan. So, with that said, lol, NSYNC, BYE.

Just kidding, though. I respect NSYNC – enjoyed their music a lot, and thought they were a great group, also.

Oh. But, I’m not kidding about not liking Justin Timberlake. At all. See above.

In My Closet (Is This Dress)




(Credit for the first image goes to Modcloth, the second one was taken at Intelligentsia in LA, third is from my brother’s graduation back in May.)

I have a serious obsession with dresses and skirts (especially ones with pockets). This is one of my favorites, that I purchased on a whim as soon as I saw it on Modcloth. The only unfortunate thing is that I don’t exactly have weather-appropriate tea parties and spring weddings lined up as often as I’d like in my planner, so it’s not an everyday dress that I’ve been able to put good use to. But I’ve managed to wear it whenever an occasion in my life will welcome a fancy floral dress.

Wait, I lied, there’s actually two unfortunate things about this dress, the other being that I can’t pull it off without a jacket or cardigan, as the picture above will depict. Just because my pale, San Franciscan skin is almost quite literally the same color as the dress, so wearing it without a cover-up doesn’t look quite right. Oh thanks, genes.

Anyway, I just wanted to share an item from my closet that I think is worth posting, even if my life is devoid of Pintrest-y photo shoots.

Memorable Meals: The House, San Francisco.

Because something along the lines of “stuffing my face” is mentioned in the hobbies/interest section of my resume, I often get asked what my favorite restaurant is. Instead, I answer with the last great restaurant I ate at. To date, it’s still The House — a really tiny, unassuming, and understated (but super popular) restaurant located in the North Beach district of San Francisco. I last dined there earlier this year in the spring, but first tried a couple years ago. Each time, I prepared myself for a decent meal. Each time, I was still impressed.

The House has always had a low-key but very consistent buzz surrounding it, so I don’t know why I was so surprised that it was as great as it was for me. I think, because their menu is filled with all these frou-frou sounding New American dishes with an Asian flare to it; and on top of that, there were a lot of fish dishes.

Asian fusion and cooked fish are two components of restaurant eating that I generally just haven’t been able to get down with.

My wariness over cooked fish dishes in restaurants I think is easy to explain. There’s Anthony Bourdain’s rule of never ordering fish on certain days because of the freshness factors and me never being able to keep straight what days those are because I’m not in the industry and usually too hungry/eager to eat delicious fish that I don’t care. On top of that, and mostly, it’s that it’s also a delicate protein so it’s really easy to overcook. Overcooked fish is garbage – it turns into this chewy mush that renders the dish almost inedible.

I generally don’t like Asian fusion because the very, very vast genre of Asian food and all its many, many subcategories is my favorite type of cuisine. That and, I think, very generally speaking, it’s that a lot of Asian food packs a punch with the flavors and spices. I also grew up with a lot of it, so on top of the flavor components that are familiar to me is the emotional and nostalgic connection that I have to it. Then, there’s American food, which I also love, as its own separate entity. I think it’s less complex, but comforting and easy to love. With Asian fusion, too often, the attempted mix of these two fall flat. It leaves me either wanting one or the other and questioning why the marriage had to happen.

Not at The House. Everything just worked. The fish (and all the other spotlighted proteins) were cooked perfectly – tender and delicious. The flavor and texture combinations of every dish had my taste buds praising halle-freakin’-lujah. I’m not going to attempt to delve into descriptive food writing because I know my capacity, and I just won’t be able to do it justice. I just wanted to chronicle the beauty of all the food of this restaurant.

(From top to bottom: 1. the placemat at the restaurant, 2. steak with wasabi noodles and a kimchi slaw 3. lobster tempura 4. deep fried salmon rolls with hot mustard dipping sauce 5. kurobuta pork chop with pomegranate currant sauce, asparagus, and mash 6. curry sea bass 7. grilled lamb chops with roasted cauliflower 8. miso cod with california roll. Other notes: I think the purple chip is taro, and the yellow is plantain)









Even in a culinary mecca like San Francisco, The House shines. That’s worth blogging about. 🙂

On Gay Couples Raising Children

Neil: we really, really wanted kids. We really had thought it through. Financially, emotionally, relationship-wise. We didn’t just accidentally get pregnant and decide that now, oh, we need to make this work.

Oprah: yeah. Yeah.

Neil: like, these kids come into our world with nothing but love, and—

Oprah: (interrupts abruptly) I just had a moment. It almost brought me to tears. You know what? I just realized what you were saying. I had an “a-ha” moment.

Neil: nice.

Oprah: Because same sex-couples, in order to have a child – it means you really, really, really gotta do a lot of work to make it happen.

David: oh, yeah.

Oprah: and, so, if you’re a same-sex couple who has a child, it means that child is so loved. And, so wanted.

* * *


What More Hip-Hop Should Aspire to Be Like

i believe jehovah jireh
i believe there’s heaven
i believe in war
i believe a woman’s temple gives her the right to choose
but baby don’t abort
i believe that marriage isn’t between a man and woman
but between love and love
and i believe you when you say that you’ve lost all faith
but you must believe in something, something, something
you gotta believe in something, something, something

i still believe in man
a wise one asked me why
cause i just don’t believe we’re wicked
i know that we sin but i do believe we try, we all try
the girls try, the boys try
women try, men try
you and i – try, try, we all try

i don’t believe in time travel
i don’t believe our nation’s flag is on the moon
i don’t believe our lives are simple
and i don’t believe they’re short
this is interlude
i don’t believe my hands are clean
can’t believe that you would let me touch your heart
she didn’t believe me when i said that i lost my faith
said you must believe in something, something, something
you gotta believe in something, something, something

i still believe in man
a wise one asked me why
cause i just don’t believe we’re wicked
i know that we sin but i do believe we try, we all try
the girls try, the boys try
women try, men try
you and i – try, try, we all try

“We All Try” – Frank Ocean.

* * *

Time and time again, I will rediscover this kid. And, time and time again, I’ll be totally smitten. Frank Ocean’s product is smart and beautifully thought-provoking. It has a complex dichotomy of being both cynical and optimistic, pulling at you from all emotions in that regard.

Very basically and very simply, though, it’s also just really good music. Highly recommended.

Because She’s Britney Spears

I’m going to start an “artists I love” tag and hopefully build on it. This entry right here is, to say the least, a given.

So it’s really not a huge secret that I love Britney Spears. I don’t actually think that my reasons are that plainly obvious, though. There are the obligatory factors. Like, simply put, I really just enjoy her music. I think it’s fun, it’s catchy, it’s sexy, and well-produced. Admittedly, I don’t connect to it on any personal level, but most of her songs possess that extra ‘oomph’ factor that give them staying power, beyond the usual generic Disney tween or Bieber-esque stuff. Other contenders worth mentioning are that she’s gorgeous, she is a fantastic dancer, and she legitimately works really, really hard. I’ve never seen any holier-than-thou type of attitude from her, and she’s Britney mother-effing Spears.

Where my adoration for her actually gets personal, though, is not directly through her music, but is rooted in an almost, creepily enough, maternal kind of love. I watched her grow up, and stuck by her side throughout her many phases. It started off with just this teenage girl from a small town in Louisiana with a population of 2,500 entering onto the scene with some nonsensical catchy explosion of a song. It transformed her, over many years and many crazy fixations from the masses (her alleged breast implants, rumors/obsessions regarding her virginity, her coupling up perfectly with pop prince, Justin Timberlake) into one supreme female powerhouse of a star. There was no one like her. No one else, in present times, quite matches up to the level that Britney had reached regarding the fascination, the fixation, and the fandom.

Then, she and Justin broke up, she married Kevin Federline, she acted recklessly in public/in general, and, well, this list can be painfully drawn out and sliced however many ways you want it to be. But, in short – her pristine, pop-goddess image was shattered. But, aside from the hot mess of a person and career that came about during that period, then, was the very obvious fact that she fell apart for a bit. She fell into a dark place, and who was I to judge or to even begin to understand what that kind of fame would do to you? Aside from the fact that privacy was a completely foreign concept to her, she had risen to stardom before she even fully developed as a woman. She hadn’t even hit puberty yet when she became part of the Mickey Mouse Club, and was not even legal when “Baby One More Time” hit the scene. Going forward from there, her stardom only rose and any semblance of normalcy that was there to begin with in her life promptly went out the window. And that breaks my heart. Because all the money in the world can’t buy you a childhood or the nurture and process that you need in order to grow in those fundamental years of being an adolescent to a teenager to an adult.

So, with bated breath, I waited. I wasn’t even entirely sure of what I was waiting for, during her “break,” really, because her music was something that I probably could have lived without hearing any new developments from. I didn’t know her personally, so why did I want to see her better herself? Because I had decided to flimsily commit to her in 1998, and after years of being exposed to her and subsequently putting so much more emotional stock into that following, I refused to disengage myself from over a decade of what had turned into a full-blown dedication and loyalty. By then, it had gone beyond just any basic music fan liking an artist and their product. It became a personal investment. It became a love that knew no bounds. It still is just that.

In that same vein of the creepy mom-like love that I have for her, I ultimately just want her to be happy. I want her to come back onto the scene with her catchy pop-hits only if she wants to. I want her to tour on massively produced sets and all over the world if that’s what she legitimately enjoys doing. I want her to take time off and be with her kids because she now is a mother, on top of being a popstar celebrity. I’ve grown over the years, as she has, from first being exposed to her, to slowly realizing that the entity that we know as Britney Spears is a human being. That makes her no different than you or me. That makes her no less better, no less worse.

She is still pretty fuckin’ fabulous, though.

Worth the Hurt / SF Marathon, 2011

I ran the San Francisco Marathon this past weekend! Well, I ran the half (13.1 miles). It was one of the few specific goals and possibly the biggest one I’d set for myself this summer. I’ve never really been a runner . . . more of a gluttonous sloth, so it was a little painful throughout the process, but, just like with anything else, starting and disciplining yourself throughout the process was harder than the actual activity. I don’t come out of this experience exactly with a newfound hobby for running or an addiction to exercising or anything. But, I do appreciate the runner’s high, I love the feeling of elation that you get from accomplishing something huge, and I feel the most healthy I’ve ever been in my life so far.

I feel accomplished. It’s been a good summer. 🙂

Other Cultures

“You know the little stone pots that they serve bibimbap and tofu soup in? Is there like . . . a bigger communal or family version? Like a cauldron?”
“Um, no. We’re Korean, not witches.”

Me, Brian Kim.

Some of My Favorite Boys

Barney: She’s a fifteen
Ted: She’s fifteen!?
Barney: No, like in blackjack.
Ted: … as in … not sure whether you’d hit it or not?
Barney: Yeah.
Ted: Nice.

Barney: Which one of us has more game?
Marshall: Uh, neither of you guys has any game, right? Or else you’d be married, like me.
Barney: What?
Marshall: If dating is the game, then marriage is winning the game.
Ted: Yeah, if you’re playing in the women’s league.

– How I Met Your Mother.