Book, cinema and media studies, Essay, Fiction, Film, philosophy

When the Movie is Better Than the Book: Drive My Car and I’m Thinking of Ending Things

A week before my 35th birthday, I kept having a recurring dream involving cars and me losing something significant to me. I was sitting in the back seat of a boxy old red car, being driven by someone I did not know. I pulled out my keys, cellphone and wallet, and placed them on the seat of the car, which had stopped on the freeway. I stepped out of the car, then the car just drove away, joining the myriad of other cars. I started to panic because everything that was important to me was in that car and now lost. I knew where to go though. I went to the airport because, for some reason, I knew that the car would be at the airport. When I got there, however, the airport parking lot had hundreds if not thousands of other cars parked and I could not fathom ever locating this boxy old red car to recover my belongings. Nevertheless, I felt determined to find it, and I began my search. Then the dream ended. I dreamt a similar dream a few days later in a slightly different iteration.

Then one late Saturday night, I felt determined to go and see Drive My Car by Ryusuke Hamaguchi—a film based on a Haruki Murakami short story called “Drive My Car” found in a short story collection called Men Without Women. I stopped reading Murakami books shortly after graduating college over ten years ago. There are many authors whose works I’ve stopped reading after college and it’s generally because I exhausted myself of their works by reading almost everything they’d ever written while I was in school. I read pretty much everything that Murakami published up until 2009, and I did the same with Vonnegut and Bukowski by 2010. Today, when I try to read works by these authors, I find myself losing interest almost immediately from the first paragraph in. It’s because I’ve lost interest in these authors. Even if they write anything new, it wouldn’t feel all that different to me because I feel as though I know their voice at this point, and it wouldn’t matter that they had anything new to say. It would be said in the same way. It’s like watching a Hong Sang-soo film. It’s the same film pretty much every single time. Even if I don’t see it, I know what I’m getting. And the window to access their worlds is now completely shut for me. This is not a sad thing. It’s just a shut window. I have other opened windows where my reading attention is now fully dedicated to.

That Saturday—February 19th—I was quite determined to locate a lamp. I had been eyeing this multi-headed, brass floor lamp from Target for a year now. My floor lamp had stopped working the night before, and I threw it out without any attachment because my heart was now set on this new lamp that I finally had a reason to purchase. I went to my go-to Target on Sepulveda, but they were sold out. I went to another Target in North Hollywood. They were also sold out. A staff member told me that the Target in Van Nuys—a location I was not even aware of despite it being the closest to where I’ve lived these last three years—had just one left in stock. When I went to that location, the one that they had in stock was the floor sample, and it was too big for me to fit in my car, so I left it behind. Instead, I purchased a way smaller lamp to tide me over till I could locate a floor lamp that satisfies me. Then I drove to Burbank to catch the last showing of Drive My Car.

My decision to see this film at such a late hour was very last minute but it came with some culmination. I had been thinking about seeing the film for a couple of weeks but I knew nothing about it. I only knew that there was a lot of Oscar buzz around it, and that it was based on fiction written by Murakami. While I do not choose to read Murakami, I am interested in seeing a filmic interpretation of his works since he is not the one delivering it. Perhaps this is a new way for me to access the authors I’d loved reading many years ago when I was a completely different person.

At the opening scenes, I was a bit shocked because the old boxy red car I’d seen in my dream was exactly what was on the screen. There’s an old red Saab in the film which I guess you could say is partially the film’s protagonist. It’s the subject of the film and the short story. The car. And one of the places that the car drives to is the airport. These are familiar coincidences for me. I’ve had precognitive dreams before, but this is the first time I’ve consciously witnessed a fusion between a film I’ve never seen before melding with my subconscious.

I was incredibly moved by this film. It’s a daring movie. Runtime is almost 3 hours. That’s bold. Even though I’m a film scholar, I hardly have the patience to sit through films longer than 90 minutes. If it’s longer than 90 minutes, it had better be a work of art. Drive My Car is a work of art. It is masterful and full of complex feeling. After seeing this movie, I immediately put Murakami’s book on hold at the library, and I finished reading the short story “Drive My Car” this morning. The fiction is far less interesting than the film, and Hamaguchi’s adaptation of it for the screen is a completely different and massive animal.

Hamaguchi developed whole new characters with whole new lives and entirely new circumstances for his film. Murakami’s short story is a very lightly etched sketch where the graphite meets the paper with the least amount of force. Hamaguchi’s script is an oil pastel drawing that covers every blank space of the page. Then let that oil pastel drawing sit over a hot plate. Watch the movements of the colors blend, meld and animate on the page’s surface. Then watch the waxy liquid rise and become full bodies with full movements. That is Hamaguchi’s film. The film version of Drive My Car has far more life, thought, question, and feeling than Murakami’s short story. The characters who resonated quite deeply with me are Yoo-na and Misaki. Yoo-na is not in the short story but she is the tender heart of the film. Weirdly, Hamaguchi’s film feels very much like a Murakami short story. The concept of Oto narrating stories in a trance-like state while having sex with her husband and her lovers feels Murakami-esque. The scene with Yoo-na leaving an impression on Kafuku with her sign language delivery in the audition feels Murakami-esque. When Yoo-na is later revealed to be Yoon-soo’s wife who was once a dancer but suffered an abortion which subsequently caused her to quit dancing and find acting feels Murakami-esque. And yet none of these details are in Murakami’s short story. They are all from Hamaguchi’s mind. Perhaps this is what makes a masterful adaptation–to adapt one’s stories into the voice of the author whose work one’s work is based on.

Part of the reason why I stopped reading Murakami is precisely this preoccupation with female bodies and sexuality as oracles into a man’s deeper understanding or knowledge of himself. I see this time and time again in Murakami’s books and stories, and by the time I was 22, I had had quite enough of it. It felt, to me, elementary and a bit exploitative. I wrote a whole essay on the topic which Thought Catalog published. While this hang-up on a woman’s sexuality as being mysterious is present in Hamaguchi’s film, it did not feel abusive. I guess because the stories that Oto narrates felt so allegorical, and serve such a concrete purpose in the film—a concreteness that Murakami’s stories tend to lack. Hamaguchi also melded Chekov’s play Uncle Vanya into his script in such a nuanced and fine-tuned way, more deeply reflecting the souls of each of his own script’s characters, that I was left impressed by his craftsmanship as a screenwriter. Hamaguchi’s film showcases how humanity reveals itself with great might in scenarios where it is grossly absent like when Oto dies and Kafuku develops a relationship with Takatsuki. Or how Misaki’s driving is perfectly smooth because she chauffeured her physically abusive mother around since she was in middle school. How Takatsuki’s acting gains human understanding and substance only after taking away a man’s life. How the theater company remains softly and coldly resolved to replace Takatsuki and go on with the show mere minutes after Takatsuki’s arrest and confinement, which finally draws out a human response from Kafuku who’d remained deadened to human emotions after the death of his daughter and wife.

The scene when Kafuku embraces Misaki and delivers lines of support that reverberate from Chekov’s play is cinematically and theatrically moving. Seeing Misaki play with the Korean couple’s dog as a way to express joy at Kafuku’s compliment of her driving and later seeing her with a dog of her own in Korea while driving Kafuku’s car brings such subtle yet lasting joy, like a distinct flavor in a soup that I can conjure time and time again years after I’ve had the soup but never being able to name what ingredient it was and never wishing to know.

 In the mainstream, critics and audiences frequently say that movies are never as good as the books but Drive My Car is an instance where the film outshines the story. It’s like comparing a star to a candlelight.

I’ve recently had another experience where the film broke all expectations for me compared to the book it is based on and that is I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a 2020 movie written and directed by Charlie Kaufman that is on Netflix. It came out in 2020—the same year that the world came to a full stop and I had all the time and mental capacity to rewatch the same movie over and over again trying to gain footing in it. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a challenging film but not without brilliance. It’s like trying to read a difficult book. It’s comparable to reading Kaufman’s novel Antkind which came out the same year that his film was released. I’ve been reading Antkind for four months now, and I’ve only now past the midway section. It is a difficult book but also hilarious. It’s Kaufman-esque in the way that I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a difficult film. But I love this film for so many reasons, and after I first saw it, I rewatched it again almost immediately and a couple times more thereafter. Each time I watch it, I can see it with new eyes.

The film follows a woman played by the wonderful Jessie Buckley visiting her boyfriend’s parents’ house in a snowy wintery night, and that’s pretty much the whole movie. But it has so much strangeness and heavy beauty throughout. It’s hard to tell whose mental breakdown we are following because everybody appears to be having a mental breakdown. There is also a mysterious elderly male janitor spliced in there who we follow without being able to connect why we follow him. The film has a poetry recitation, a school musical, and a dance number. They all do the work of making the story more than what it is—a movie.

When I first saw Adaptation, I was 17. I didn’t know how the film was going to unfold but I was engrossed in it. My classmates started to yell in agony when they saw that Charlie Kaufman had a twin brother Donald Kaufman, and they said, “This had better not be a movie about a guy imagining his own twin brother.” The film is and is not about that very thing, and being that ambiguous is what makes Adaptation a brilliant film. Kaufman is an expert at using hackneyed concepts in his film yet skirting the hack part of it by making it completely and unpredictably new. That’s the service of the poem, the musical number and the dancing in I’m Thinking of Ending Things the film. I read the novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid which the film is based on and the book is far less luminous precisely because the ending reveals this lackluster hackneyed concept so brazenly. Yes. We’ve been reading a single man’s mental breakdown and ultimate suicide all this time. How jejune. But we never come to this conclusion or realization in Kaufman’s film version. No sure nail to the head is necessary. It is never ever necessary if it means the life of a far greater story and its characters. Kaufman’s film does hint at this conclusive possibility all throughout but it could be from anyone’s position—the boyfriend’s, the girlfriend’s, the old man’s, the father’s or the mother’s. Even the pig’s. Even the anxious teenaged employee at the ice cream shop. It doesn’t matter because the film is not about coming to a conclusive resolution. It’s an attempt at maintaining the film’s life, letting that resound and reverberate as questions, possibilities, frustration, sadness, joy, madness, or whatever else and holding it for as long as possible. That resonation continues to ring long after the film ends. It still rings. In that sense, Kaufman’s style is expertly Modern.

I think this is what makes a film so different from a written story. I’m both a writer and a filmmaker, and I sense their vast differences whenever I work on a new project. When I write, I write with such freedom, and the worlding that I produce feels like a privilege. When I make a film, it feels far more difficult to create the worlding because the pieces are so many and it takes an enormous amount of energy to maintain that world in the mind upon creation, but I enjoy it nonetheless because the end result is a true visual manifestation of what I held in my mind and so much more which everyone can see with their eyes and hear with their ears, grounding viewers into a singular collective experience which splinter off into various subjective opinions and emphases. When making a film, though, the writing is what takes place first. The script, yes, but also the artist’s statement, and the synopsis and the logline. The emails. The pitch. The convincing to get the capital. The words come first. The visuals last. Then after the visuals, the words return again, like it does here.

The difference is that the words can be transformed into the most unpredictable outcomes in a film whereas in a story, the words remain as those words, and the worlding that takes place in the reader’s mind is their own private ritual. This is also what makes reading a special activity. In the case with Drive My Car and I’m Thinking of Ending Things, I felt that the worlds that these filmmakers created for me as the reader of these stories far surpasses anything I envisioned in my mind, and for that I feel a big chunk of gratitude this very moment.

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aapi, Art, asian american, comedy, Essay, ideology

a meditation on mushrooms

my favorite pizza topping is mushroom. i like mushrooms’ sponginess. i like the earthy-alien weirdness they have as a flavor, and i like that they are not meat but feel like meat.

i saw a headline while browsing the web yesterday that said something like how mushrooms are the new “threat” to the meat industry.

mushrooms to replace meat! it’s only a threat if you have something to lose.

mushrooms are a sensible meat substitute. right before or during my monthly menstrual cycle, i eat a lot of mushrooms. the reason for this is because when a person menstruates, their iron levels drop, and mushrooms are high in iron. if you suffer from iron deficiency and are anemic, i recommend mushrooms.

as a child, i once saw my pet hamster eating soil when i let her loose in the grass. i freaked out but my dad assured me: “she’s getting iron.”

fungi grow from the earth which is chock full of iron, and therefore mushrooms are full of iron.

i accidentally overdosed on my microdose of albino shrooms this afternoon, and while stretching on my yoga mat, i caught a whiff of my feet which smelled like my yoga mat and the usual feet smell.

the fungus that grows on our feet is called “tinea pedis.” “tinea” is “ringworm” but it is not an actual worm. it’s a fungus. “pedis” is latin for “on the feet.” so athlete’s foot is caused by fungal-worms lol. the smell, however, is from bacteria.

but the smell reminded me of blue cheese, and why so many people are attracted to smelly things like blue cheese which supposedly stink like feet: mold Penicillium roqueforti which is what gives blue cheese that hue, and supposedly aids in immune health. the attraction to savory stink is a very mammalian response and connected to primal behaviors linked to eating and fucking.

truffles are usually found through the aid of sows—female pigs—who sniff out truffles because they trigger a hormonal response. the pungent savory scent of truffles remind them of a male pig’s saliva. when a pig goes hunting with her snout, she is actually looking for love and she winds up finding truffles for humans to shave onto their pasta which’ll enhance the price of that plate by an extra $15. the reason why we humans love truffles is for the same reason: we like the musky savory scent that smells similarly to pheromones. it’s similar to the reason why they put deer musk in perfumes and cologne. when we eat truffles, we’re simulating a love-response.

while continuing to stretch on my yoga mat, i realized that yeast infections are also a fungus. that fungus is called “candidiasis.” it grows not only in the vagina but also our mouths, throat, and guts. if candida enters the bloodstream, heart, brain, kidneys, or other vital organs, it can cause an infection and become deadly. how interesting how our bodies understand boundaries through infections and diseases.

about 80 different types of (currently found at this point in time) fungi grow on our bodies’ surface. how many different varieties of fungi grow inside our bodies? do the numbers of fungi vary depending on our environment? do our inner fungi have a vital function in our aliveness and, more importantly, consciousness?

are mental “illnesses” or “visions” caused by inner fungi which some people have and some people don’t?

i saw that new wes anderson film the french dispatch last night and i’m not sure but it reminds me of the editor of the paris review who also died. but when he was living, he was, supposedly, a very good and loving boss, and an eclectic character of high pedigree.

i know this only because i read a book called my korean deli which was written by a white man married to a korean american woman, and he wrote very fondly of that editor in his book because he was a writer for the paris review. when this book was first published, i was in the middle of writing my first novel deli ideology, and i remember telling the author, “you stole my book idea,” at the korea society when i met him in person, and he looked at me with terror, and i said, “i’m kidding.” but i was bitter. when a white guy writes about “his” korean deli, it’s a novelty and it becomes of a publisher or agent’s interest because it’s weird and zany. when a korean american woman writes about a korean deli, it’s just a memoir and therefore not interesting, and therefore not worthy of mainstream/white attention.

i published my novel in 2014–3 years after i read that white man’s book.

the deli i worked at definitely had a lot of fungi. the apartment i lived in during the time i worked at the deli also had fungi commonly known as “black mold” or “aspergillus niger,” which release mycotoxins that cause respiratory illness. sometimes the same black mold grows on food—fruit and bread–and when eaten, they can be harmful. aspergillus niger, however, is also the fungus that can cure infections in the throat, lung, mouth, ear, and skin in the form of penicillin v potassium. it is also used to treat sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis.

the fungus that grows on rye, barley, oats, and wheat is called “ergot.” it is a psychoactive fungus that apparently plagued the middle ages, and for some reason, it is only associated with terror. i guess the middle ages were rough. set and setting mean everything before a trip, and if hyper-religious christian zealots are telling everyone that their souls will burn in hell, then i think i would freak out, too.

ergot, however, can literally kill people. it causes infections and illnesses. in some cases it causes convulsions. they call this “ergotism.” but ergot has medical uses for people like me who suffer from migraines. it can also be used to regulate our serotonin which contributes to our mood, digestion, sleep, sweat, and muscles. ergot is also used to treat complications after pregnancy.

ergot causes hallucinations. the most documented forms of hallucination in the middle ages (AKA “dark ages”) are of hell. the “witches” that were hanged during the salem witch trials were able to induce hallucinations because of ergot from rye.

this is all before “set and setting” became more mainstream, i suppose. if i only knew what i knew from my childhood christian life which was that god was to be feared because of the firey pits of hell i would fall into if i did not believe in his son jesus christ as my lord and savior, i think i would assume that i was dying in hell during my ego dissolution.

psychedelic hallucinations cause “ego dissolution” sometimes referred to as “ego death.”

while i’m sure ergotism was immensely uncomfortable for folks in the dark ages, i also wonder if ergot hallucinations are what re-awakened some folks to be able to see the light and envision the future ahead of them. shortly after the dark ages came the industrial revolution.

when i was meditating today, i saw countless numbers of fan/scale/feather shaped objects streamlined and coming down in a zigzag towards me, and i thought, all it takes is for someone to monetize this, and they’ll become millionaires.

i’m sure that hallucinations from those times led to mass-production, which, unfortunately, led to a slew of other problems primarily related to labor and health, and eventually the environment. these problems still plague us. we are still in the dark ages. we are still in hell.

back to ego dissolution: the “confusion” that occurs during this process stems from your “self” being gone. all the things you/i cared so deeply about are gone.

what is your name? don’t know.

where are you from? who cares.

what is this thing i’m holding in front of you? i don’t know.

what is anything? i don’t know.

what were you saying? it doesn’t matter.

what are words? what is breath? what is number? what is sky? what is memory? what is dream? who is that? is that a person, animal, memory, object, circumstance, color, line, shape, smell, thought, accident, purpose, intention, rock, sand, pebble, waterfall? why anything? how anything? so what?

in ego dissolution, you experience hell when you try to cling onto your ego/identity/desires/worries/values. but the moment you let go (surrender) you become one with the evolution of earth and experience the Oneness that dr. bronner keeps shouting about on the sticker of that soap bottle in your bathroom and kitchen.

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann was experimenting with ergot in the 1930s to find cures for Parkinson’s disease (the cause of convulsions may have the answer to stopping the convulsions). on april 19th, 1943, Hofmann came up with LSD-25 which he accidentally consumed and fully tripped on while biking. 4/19 is Bicycle Day–the day before 4/20.

ergot’s existence goes back to wherever and whenever ancient grains existed, including the times when christ was tripping people out with fish and bread, walking on water, turning water into wine, raising the dead, and rising from the dead. including the times when buddhists and yogis were seeing visions in their egoless meditations. including the times of surreal art which goes back to the beginning of art.

ego dissolution is a lesson from fungi to let us know that we all die and become consumed by fungi, and return to the earth. ego dissolution is about absolving fear of death. it therefore makes sense to go to the place where birth/death starts/ends in order to remind ourselves of where we come from and where we go, and that this body is a temporary vessel we borrow, and none of it matters.

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Film, Literature, Novel, philosophy

what’s in a title?–ARRIVAL (2016) and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017)

since i have a phd in film and tv studies, i guess i’ll leave a couple drops of knowledge (they’re mostly just thoughts) on these two films–Arrival and Call Me By Your Name. my thoughts are unrelated but they could be related if one thinks on it long enough.

it’s really about the titles of these two films.

why is Arrival called “arrival”? the film was actually a short story entitled, “The Story of Your Life,” written by Asian American author named Ted Chiang who writes sci-fi. it was adapted into a screenplay by Eric Heisserer who wrote Birdbox.

Arrival is about a linguist named Louise Banks who gets hired by the US military to figure out what the aliens who arrived on earth want to communicate and for what purpose. the aliens tell Banks that she has the gift of being able to know the future. this is what made the movie so wonderful for me: time is utilized as language. i find this idea quite marvelous and beautiful.

ok–so the title then is not just about the arrival of aliens. it’s about Banks arriving to the future flashes she’s seen or “remembered.” “recall” and “memory” are no longer the past for Banks; they are also the future. thus, Banks is arriving. the film is about Banks’s arrival to her present/future self and her ideations, understandings, catharsis, realizations, etc.

the film Call Me By Your Name is also based on a work of fiction written by Italian fiction writer André Aciman. it was adapted for the screen by James Ivory who has experience adapting literary works; Ivory directed A Room with a View (1985).

well, why did, in fact, Oliver suggest to Elio that he call him by his name and vice versa? what is the point of calling one’s lover by one’s own name?

the ending of the film is a static long take of Elio sitting by the fire staring into it for an extended period of time right after getting off the phone with Oliver. Oliver and Elio both called each other by each other’s names over the phone, just as they had when they first became physically intimate as lovers. after Elio hangs up, he sits by the fire, gazing at it, appearing to be either deep in thought or no thought at all.

and nothing is happening. nothing is being said. we just see Elio gazing into the fire.

suddenly, his mother calls out to him: “Elio.”

then Elio looks up from the fire and breaks the fourth wall.

eureka!

the meaning of the film’s title comes to us full force: because Elio called Oliver by his own name, “Elio,” whenever Elio hears his own name, he will think of Oliver.

and the fourth wall breakage is Luca Guadagnino’s way of asking the audience: “get it?”

this was a brilliant directional choice by Guadagnino. it is subtle yet impactful, hidden yet obvious, and an easter egg only for the ones in the know.

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Book, cinema and media studies, Fiction, Film, ideology, Novel, Short Story

Meditations on Tony Takitani, The Great Gatsby, and Tears in the Presence of Materiality

I read Haruki Murakmai’s short story “Tony Takitani” in his collection of short stories Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman when I was in college.

A couple years after I graduated college, I stopped reading Murakami’s works altogether because I found his depiction of women too painful. I could say “problematic” here but I’ll just go with my feeling rather than social commentary. It’s really a personal decision. I’m still not fond of any literary, filmic, or televisual works that use women’s bodies and psyche as playgrounds for male fantasies.

In my in-between stage between college and “the world,” I was living in Seoul. A childhood friend of mine asked me out to a movie at an art house cinema located in a basement somewhere. I remember seeing the poster for the film The Vegetarian, which is a film based on the book that won the Man Booker Prize for Han Kang a few years ago. The film was out way before Han Kang gained international recognition for her book.

There was just one film playing at this art house cinema, and it was Tony Takitani—Jun Ichikawa’s adaptation of Murakami’s short story.

Ichikawa had just passed away a year prior to when I saw this film at this theater. The theater didn’t have theater seating. They were just a couple of chairs. My friend and I were the only audience members. The film played on a projection screen. The theater wasn’t even really a theater. It was more of a small art gallery space. The room we were in was about the size of a small studio apartment.

I recall liking the film very much. I found the aesthetics of the film very pleasing. I liked the soundtrack, too, which was by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The choices that Ichikawa made for the film like letting the voiceover narration transmute into the actor’s line-delivery to blur diagetic and non-diegetic narration, and the staging for each shot were so lovely. They stimulated artistic pleasure for me. The friend I went to see this film with—also an artist, and now a creative director at a luxury sunglasses company—also commented on these stylistic and directional choices.

As soon as the film ended, another film began to play. It was a documentary on the making of Tony Takitani. I learned that all of the sets were created in an isolated urban space outdoors so that Ichikawa could make use of the city lights glimmering or blinking in the backdrop. This adds a great deal of mood to each scene in the film, and a sophisticated aesthetic to the picture that matches the high-end luxury clothes that Eiko was obsessed with.

Tony Takitani is about a man born to a jazz musician—trombone player—who was nearly killed as a POW during WWII. Tony was named after an American soldier that his father had met. Tony’s mother died 3 days after his birth. Tony became an illustrator, but his works were often critiqued for lacking a human touch or warmth. Tony is a loner. He is used to being alone all the time. He is so alone that he doesn’t even register his own loneliness. He meets a younger woman named Eiko, falls in love, and proposes. She rejects him initially but he explains how he feels—that he might not be able to live with his loneliness without her. She marries him, and their married life is blissful, but Tony eventually takes note of Eiko’s shopping addiction. She cannot stop. Eiko one day dies in a car accident. Tony is back to being alone again. He cannot withstand the isolation so he hires a woman who has the exact measurements as his late wife, and asks her to wear his wife’s clothes whenever she comes to do housework as a uniform.

There’s a scene in the film when this hired woman goes into the room where all of Eiko’s clothes are. She looks at them and breaks down into tears saying she’s never seen so many beautiful clothes all at once.

This scene reminds me of the scene in The Great Gatsby—both the Jack Clayton version and Baz Luhrmann version, and of course, the line in the original book by F. Scott Fitzgerald when Jay starts throwing his shirts into the air overwhelming Daisy who starts crying, saying she’s never seen such beautiful shirts before.

This made me wonder—what is it with men imagining women crying at the sight of clothes? Is it like men celebrating themselves when a woman cries during sex thinking that she came, and crediting himself?

I’ll say that both filmic interpretations of The Great Gatsby and Tony Takitani were all directed by men. Both the novel and the short story were written by men.

Do men think women cry when they shop? Do men think that women are crazed by clothing? Do men really think that women fill their “emptiness” with clothes and accessories?

In Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, she calls out the patriarch’s hypocrisy when they criticize women for being materially occupied. Woolf points to parishioners and priests–men–who wear ornate garments in the church—gown, hat and all—to impress who? god? Is god a materially-occupied being? According to that logic, god really is a woman….

In the modern era, women’s material occupation was shaped and constructed especially after WWII in America and moralized. The woman’s place was the home—back in the domestic sphere. Forget about the fact that she worked while the men were gone. She ought to do nothing but sit at home and purchase what radio, television and magazines tell her to purchase, and she ought to be the most right and responsible household manager, and the only way to do that is to buy the best stuff on the market for if she did not, she would be letting down her entire family, and there is no greater shame than that.

And who were the people in charge of these material goods at ad agencies and corporations? We’ve all seen the show Mad Men, so we know who they were.

But I think Tony Takitani and The Great Gatsby also point to the male protagonists’ sense of emptiness without a female presence in their lives, too. So for these men, they need to fill their emptiness with another person—a person who is not right for them or good for them. They feel that they can do this because the woman they admire is beautiful, and knows how to doll herself up through beautiful materials such as clothes, accessories, shoes, etc.

So these works are pointing to the cycle of material despair, and how none of us can fill this void with any noun—a person or thing.

I was thinking about Jay Gatsby, and wondering why the title of that book calls him “great.”

Jay Gatsby is far from “great,” really. He’s a liar and a crook, but most of all, a stalker. Wait, what? He saved clippings of Daisy for 5 years? He kept throwing huge lavish parties hoping she’d show up? He told people that he went to Oxford and inherited his wealth from his family before they died when those things aren’t exactly true? He says he’s a business man when he’s actually running business from the underground?

I just feel like the word “great” here is used in a confused way. Jay Gatsby isn’t that different from the characters that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book appears to be critiquing (at least in high school standards); if people like Daisy, Tom, George, and Myrtle appear immoral because of their life choices, Gatsby is just as easy to judge. But Nick regards all of them as victims of desire, then the playing field is level. They are all lost souls trapped in longing and wanting. “Desire leads to suffering.”

I question Nick’s character, too, because he sees only Gatsby as the victim in all of this. Gatsby was a nut. He was out of his wack and obsessed with a married woman. There’s nothing great about him. Fitzgerald was right to punish him. I question Fitzgerald in letting Tom and Daisy off scott-free though. Perhaps this where the expression “scott-free” comes from. From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s questionable plot choices where the poor and destitute are punished for being poor and destitute, and the lives of the rich remain uninterrupted no matter what immoral act they commit.

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aapi, Art, asian american, comedy, Essay, Gender Studies, ideology, korea, Korean-American, Literature, philosophy

the INTJ-female Korean American rationale

The first Google search engine result when I look up “INTJ woman” is an article written by a fucking MAN.

Can you believe that shit? The system is against us. This is why we’re always yelling at you or rolling our eyes and just not bothering. We just can’t be bothered. We must ignore you.

The rest of the search engine results for “INTJ woman” were articles all written by white women. I don’t have anything against white women other than I don’t (can’t) always relate.

This essay is about INTJ-womanhood as me—a Korean American woman with the INTJ personality type.

The thing about these Myers-Briggs personality categories is that they just offer a surface-description of personalities and don’t offer any explanation as to why it is (nothing ever just is [unless you’re on psychedelics or meditating very deeply or something]).

I am the INTJ personality type. INTJ stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judgment. It’s also referred to as the “architect” personality type.

I took this test about 10 years ago and had the same result whenever I took the test again since (2 more times).

I can relate to this personality type a lot. For one, being INTJ-female is the rarest. INTJ women make up less than 1% of all women. I’m bad at math but it’s like 4 out of every 500 women are INTJs (according to those other sources written by white people).

here’s a descriptive list of INTJ females:

independent

confident/assertive

eye-on-the-ball/focused

appreciates alone time (isolation)

not a good team player

doesn’t respect or trust most authorities

no-nonsense

type-A

creative thinkers

appreciates authenticity

are good leaders by design but does not want to lead most of the time

extremely private

hates incompetence

hates time-wasters

hates inefficiency

loves (good) art

loves newness/innovation

appreciates professionalism

appreciates good skill/talent

A weird Google search engine result for “INTJ female” is the question, “Are INTJ females attractive?”

What a stupid fucking question. Why don’t you cut to the heart of what you really want to ask which is, “Are INTJ females bitches?”

That really depends but if you ask me, I’ll say that if an INTJ woman is being a bitch, she’s being a bitch because the situation 100% calls for that reaction/response, and she is nothing but RIGHT.

INTJ women are efficient as fuck. We hate wasting time and energy on anything not worth our damn. So if we take the time to engage, we do it because we feel it is worthy of our engagement, even if it means giving someone a talking to, yelling, or expressing assertion and/or correction. But most of the time, we really don’t want to be bothered with anyone’s shit.

Why are we so bent on being corrective? Well, have you seen the world? It needs constant correcting and changing. We can see the mistakes, errors, injustice, etc. We see them very vividly and clearly. They torment us.

So when we speak up, trust that we know what we are saying/doing. Thank us for offering some guidance.

Even if you don’t think we are right, you will never ever change our minds. We will always wonder, “Why aren’t they just thanking us for telling them that they walked out of the bathroom with their skirt tucked into their underwear?”

You think that INTJ women are “insensitive.”

We are. We have no time for sensitivity. You know why? Because we see the bigger picture. We’re focused on getting the job done and not so much on anybody’s fucking feelings.

Does that mean INTJ women don’t feel? Absolutely not. I feel everything all the time. That’s why I have to ignore certain people when I enter the room or disengage a lot of the times. As an INTJ woman, I have a hard time not being a deep empath. I feel everything very intensely so I developed boundaries as a skill. This took many years to hone. I did it for my survival and my own sanity.

We’re intuitive and quick to judge not because there’s anything wrong with you but because we are highly sensitive. The irony is that we may appear insensitive. But whenever you see anyone being insensitive, you can bet your money that that person is acutely sensitive. That is, in fact, how the world is, and how most people are.

INTJs are not good team players.

Yeah, this is true. I don’t like being part of assigned teams that I had no part in creating. Even when I create my own team, I still find one or two players I regret adding (and they become reminders of my mistake/error, and I despise them for it even more).

I don’t like working as a group or in teams. Why? Because of the same problem mentioned earlier. I see how everybody is doing something wrong. I can see a faster path or direction but the rest don’t. And I have trouble communicating that politely—in a way that would not hurt anyone’s fucking feelings. I’m gritting my teeth trying not to say, “Are you stupid?” So I either shut down completely (disengage) or I speak up and watch people cry.

Noticing when something goes wrong and being attentive to it makes INTJ women great problem solvers but it doesn’t mean we can always solve the problem. The fact is, harmonium is required in a team mission. Feelings should not be injured. Ideas should not be shot down. But INTJ women are impatient and we have a hard time dealing with the “normal” slow-paced “warm-up” to reaching those goals. We’ll be rolling our eyes the whole way through. Even though a part of us knows that this is the right way, we still won’t agree with it or trust it. If an INTJ woman is particularly silent during group work, just know that she is doing everything she can to PRESERVE harmonium by not speaking up and damaging morale. Just thank her for that. She’ll contribute when she feels ready/wants to.

INTJs are not good with authority.

Yes. Of course we’re bad with authority. We don’t trust anyone but ourselves. How could we trust a fucking stranger who was randomly assigned to be the leader in our lives? Does it mean that we NEVER trust authority? Not true. We all need good mentors/leaders/examples/teachers. INTJ women have GREAT role models and teachers at all times. In fact, see who INTJ women look up to. You’ll learn a LOT.

INTJ women befriend many strong and successful women. We gravitate towards them naturally because they’ve already EARNED our respect as fellow successful women. They are living the life WE aspire to. So they are our respected leaders/examples, and when they say “go” or “sit” we will militantly oblige. However, if anyone who is an authority figure LOSES our respect, there’s a good chance that they will never regain it back fully in this lifetime. (Perhaps we can begin again in another lifetime. But as for this, it’s over.) There are jobs I had where I saw my performance dipping real fast in direct correlation to how much respect I had for my supervisor. No matter how much I tried or how much they tried, once the respect was gone, there was no bringing it back. Scary for some people but completely logical for fellow INTJ women like me.

Bosses have been baffled at my behavior and comments. If they tell me to do something that I don’t understand, I never do them. If I do, I’ll fuck it up. If they say something that offends me, I straight up tell them that what they said was rude (because it is rude to be sexist, racist, classist, stupid, etc.)

It’s not that we stubbornly wish to be this way. It’s that we have major trust issues. This difficulty with authority comes from experience. We’re not just anti-authority a priori. We have lived experience with untrustworthy authority figures be they parents, teachers, any adult, any older person, church leaders, politicians, bosses, etc. Call us jaded. Call us stubborn. Call us pitiful. Call us enlightened.

The fact is, all leaders have some dirt, and it’s a good thing INTJ women are here sitting with our legs crossed in the corner with a cigarette, side-eyeing some rich fuck who thinks they’re hot shit just because they think they have the right to be. We can’t even bother to laugh. It’ll exert energy onto an undeserved place.

For INTJ women, we don’t respect anything that insists on being a GIVEN. We need to see the goods, the work, the proof. We need to see it and feel it. And even then, as long as you have authority, there’s a good chance we still won’t trust you because the very notion of hierarchy is absurd to us anyway.

We’re just like, “Why aren’t you under a tree somewhere smoking a joint and coloring in a sketch book? Instead, you’re sitting here talking way too much about shit that nobody cares about and calling yourself a leader. Just buy some big shoes and call yourself a clown instead. That’s all you’ll ever be: A CLOWN. And a shitty one, too.”

INTJs make good/bad leaders.

INTJs have the make-up to become good leaders but we hate leading because it means we’ll have attention. The INTROVERTED part of our personality and our agitation with authority make us detest being leaders. We won’t lead unless it is absolutely called for. I noticed this about myself very viscerally when people asked me to co-produce live comedy shows with them. I would think about it and make a long as list as to WHY it would benefit me in the long run to do such a thing because producing shows is a huge fucking pain in the ass. I hate doing it. I hate my co-producer while doing it. I hate everybody while doing it. It’s a nightmare. Everybody sucks.

I did it twice, and I never want to do it again. Co-producing live comedy shows as an INTJ woman is a fucking nightmare. If you’re an INTJ woman, I think you can relate.

We don’t like it when a million parts are moving and people keep asking me STUPID fucking questions. Whenever anyone asks me a question, I almost always ask myself first if that question is stupid. 65% of the time, yes, it’s a stupid fucking question (why are they asking it?!).

It annoys me when people make me repeat myself (inefficient; shows that they lack listening skills). It annoys me when people don’t know how to help themselves (incompetent; shows that they lack problem-solving skills).

In this regard, we’d make terrible leaders, and we know it fully.

Good leaders are attentive and respectful of all questions and contributions. We fully know that we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to handle that, so we will naturally back out.

We’ll only step up as leaders IF AND WHEN a situation absolutely calls for it. And that’s not to say that we’re not bossy anyhow. We are hella bossy, and not fucking sorry.

INTJ women are not sorry.

This is true and not true. I am sorry all the time for the way that I am, and this is why all the blog posts you read on INTJ women say that “INTJ females are the most misunderstood.”

We can’t help but be who we are and how we are. Greater self-awareness and mindfulness help a lot but can only go so far when we start to feel like our own space is being taken up by others.

We are radically independent (like hamsters!!!). We are fastidious and quick (we love efficiency!!!). We like PARTICULAR people. We LOVE them. We dislike or are not interested in most people.

We are misunderstood because of this. And people think we are unapologetically bitchy or mean. Not true. The damage that our personality types cause do bring us grief but we’ll never show it or tell you to your face. We will tell our closest allies or our therapists or ourselves when we’re on mushrooms, and do what we can to adjust to your needs.

But we won’t guarantee it. Because we really fucking love ourselves for who we are and how we are.

I love myself so much and I am grateful to my personality type for protecting me at all times. This personality is an armor. That’s why INTJ women are so misunderstood. That’s why your stupid fucking question, “Are INTJ women attractive?” is the wrong question.

To assume that INTJ women are unfeeling, disassociating, insensitive, or lack insight is a grave mistake. We are hypersensitive, always feeling, fully in-the-know of how we impact people, and that is why we compartmentalize the way we do, and we do it by ignoring or not responding or withholding or whatever demeaning words you want to replace the aforementioned with.

We’re the rarest because we’re special, and we’re required in all societies. Having one of us in your corner is a blessing, so count us in your prayers every night, little babies.

But leave us alone to do our thing at our own pace. That’s the greatest gift you can give us. We’ll notice you doing this and grow lonely and come to you on our own. Respect the dance of push-and-pull (밀당). But don’t over-do it. There’s nothing we dislike more than affected anything (words, behaviors, art, conversation, etc.). If it’s not authentic and not called for, we’ll just be like, “Why the fuck is this in here?”

INTJ women are creative.

Yes, and we have to be. Creativity doesn’t just apply to the arts although I am an artist. Creativity applies to any kind of critical thinking. Whenever I work in groups and I see people thinking just one way, I lose my shit because I’m like, “Hello? Why are you not looking out the fucking window? There’s a bigger world out there.”

We manage our creativity by spending time alone to recharge, meditate, self-reflect, grow, heal, and listen to our “muse.” We need that alone time to hear our own independent/authentic voice so that we don’t repeat what others say (inefficient!!!) or offer a no-good idea (incompetent!!!). We’re the hardest on ourselves. If an INTJ woman hurt your feelings today, check in on her. She probably demolished her own feelings that same afternoon. You got off easy, kid.

“The INTJ Korean woman is a fucking weirdo and she scares me.

Yeah? So what. No one asked you. Sit down. Go read a book in the corner or something.

Being Asian American, I often encounter confusion, chaos, and offense as a reaction to who/how/what I am. I don’t believe in uncalled for politeness. I abhor despise small talk. I don’t understand hierarchy. Living this life in the female body as a Korean, Korean American and Asian American is tough.

The world expects me to be subservient, unopinionated, quiet, “respectful,” caregiving, emotionally available to others and not myself according to information they got from the dumbest places ever–wanna hear it? OTHER SCREENS. Projections imagined/constructed by filmmakers, TV writers, internet bloggers, etc–people who are not ME and have no business creating and projecting some hull of what I am supposed to be on massive mediated screens that you absorb and wind up believing (ugh–when the fuck will you learn?)

These non-Korean-American-female-INTJs with influence think they know something. Now is your cue to laugh: LOL. They don’t know jack shit.

I am the opposite (or completely off-the-wall something else) of all of that which was imagined FOR you by those who are NOT me. And I wasn’t always like this. When it came to those I really loved and admired, I poured all of these very limited affective labors (awareness, sensitivity, respect, dedication) onto them, and they all let me down. Sometimes the JUDGMENT side can be weak when it is tarnished by admiration or love (this is why we often times don’t adore or love or respect). ‘Tis a lonely life for the INTJ woman.

And our judgment protects us because of the pattern we noticed in our lifetimes which developed the mantra, “There’s nobody you can rely on but yourself.” And we firmly believe this despite its limitations which we know about already so don’t fucking come at me.

So say all you want about what your expectations of me was, and how I am blowing your mind right now. That just sounds like YOUR business.

I got my own to take care of. Any reaction you have in response to me is all about you, and it has nothing to do with who/what/how I am. I just am and I have my own reasons for it unrelated to you. So sit down. Go in the corner and read a book or something.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll re-post if I think of more INTJ-female related stuff.

If you’re an INTJ Asian diaspora woman, please share your experiences. Thank you.

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aapi, asian american, cinema and media studies, comedy, Essay, ideology, korea, korean drama, Korean-American, TV

new journal article publication on Johnny Yune

I wrote this back in 2017, submitted it to the Society of Cinema and Media Studies TV SIG’s essay contest, won, and now it’s published in the New Review of Film and Television Studies.

Check out “Recovering the TV career of Korean American comedian Johnny Yune” here.

I also made a video about his life and career a few months ago and it has pretty much the same content.

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aapi, asian american, Book, deli ideology, ideology, Korean-American, Literature, Novel

goodbye to your deli ideologues

one of the sad things about flying home this year was seeing a lot of closures of time-old establishments. one of these includes A&H (also known as Applebaum) deli across the street from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. i worked here on the weekends as a cashier back in 2010 & stood by the register with cutouts of cigarette cartons which i wrote my book on. i loved this place for the people i stood alongside and the other employees on the same block of fast food restaurants and bookstores.

in remembrance of them here’s a link to my book again. hope you enjoy ♥️♥️♥️

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aapi, asian american, Book, eBook, Fiction, korea, Literature, Short Story, translation

Asymptote Journal’s review of SWEET POTATO by Kim Tongin, translated by yours truly.

check out their review of Sweet Potato–a collection of select short stories by Korean modernist Kim Tongin (1900-1951), translated by me.

also, Sweet Potato is now available on Amazon for Kindle readers. hard copies of the book are still available via Honford Star!

sweet potato_img

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