Archive | June 2015

St. Vincent

On Sunday, I attended a Times Talk featuring St. Vincent – a favourite singer/songwriter/performer of mine. She’s a wonderful human being with a truckload of talent. The talk was part of Luminato, an annual arts festival held in Toronto. When I saw she would be speaking, I had to grab a ticket, regardless of whether I found someone to go with or not. St Vincent

I ended up not being able to find an accomplice, but I went anyway. The talk was good – the interviewer, a pop culture critic for New York Times seemed a bit nervous around her (or perhaps he was just a squirmy guy). Anywho, she spoke in a very deliberate and careful manner and it was so interesting to see her use metaphors and words that regular people just don’t take the time to dig up. In fact, her vocabulary made her talk so much more colourful, equating winning a grammy to a “feather in her cap” and calling her own lyrics “abortion-y”. She really took the time, too, to answer questions – her eyes would drift to the ceiling at the other end of the room as she’d try to recall the right words and paint the right picture for what she’d want to convey to the audience.

Truly an artist.

During her talk the interviewer mentioned that he found many of her tunes very deliberate – all her notes were carefully punched out, and transcending sounds were not a frequent occurrence in her songs. I agreed for the most part, in a nod to Regret, Birth in Reverse, Digital Witness… (though Strange Mercy had more of this). She responded by saying her thoughts and how she composed music was very layered – as soon as she found a PC with music-making programs, she ceased the whole “acoustic guitar by the fire” songwriting set; strumming had been replaced for the most part by dashes on the computer screen.

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An Update.

I’m currently reading “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley. And by reading I mean dawdling through four pages a day, once a week, almost out of obligation.

I’m keen on improving my writing skills. As the title suggests, everybody writes – everybody tweets, everybody posts on Facebook, everybody has a blog. When publishing content is so accessible, it’s great for those who are struggling with something they think they’re alone with (thank you Tumblr), but as a brand-making tool, it floods the e-universe with a ton of garbage. Writing better will help me stand out in that mess (but more importantly, it will add greater value to my consulting reports at work).

Anyway, in the 16 pages or so that I’ve read, I’ve learned that writing is like a muscle that you build – it’s not true that all writers are naturally gifted. Writing every day is like going to the mental gym.

So here I am, forcing out a blog post, but also putting it in writing that I should be writing more.

I intended on blogging a few days ago on the issue of Rachel Dolezal and how I’ve personally struggled to put into words why it’s complete bullshit to compare her to Caitlyn Jenner (another benefit to writing is that it forces you to articulate your thoughts in a communicable form). It really comes down to one being a genetic identification and the other being a self-deluded cultural identification.

Anyway, it’s 1:17am and I’m tired. Or I’ve inhaled too much nail polish.

One more day til the weekend – perhaps I’ll update more meaningful things then.

Prostitution is Okay.

A still from The New Era of Sex Work - Vice's piece ft. Lowell.

A still from The New Era of Sex Work – Vice’s piece ft. Lowell.

My Chinese family is conservative as shit, and they don’t even know it. 

They’ve changed a lot, but for that to have happened, I had to be the change agent. I had to first unlearn things like:

  • LGBT persons were sub-par and it was okay to make their sexuality the butt of jokes;
  • Sexuality was as black or white as “gay or straight”;
  • Women were to be seen not heard;
  • and fat people were fat because they were simply lazy.

Shit like this was so deeply engrained and perpetuated in my mostly Asian community, it took me removing myself from my family for 3 years in university (minus 3 summers) and moving to a city (mind you, from the outer suburbs to downtown Toronto) for me to be able to articulate the important why to them, without losing my patience and relapsing into a mess of “it’s just bad!”.

Needless to say, growing up, “hookers are worthless members of society” was the general thought.

In playing catch-up with other liberal revelations, I never really read much on prostitution – it remained taboo because nobody really talked about it (this is what happens).

Until Bill C-36.

It’s marketed as a law that protects sex workers.

The truth is, it criminalizes prostitution.

The bill emphasizes the number of sex victims and young underage girls sold to the trade, trapped and abused by gangs of men and pimps for the rest of their young womanhood. The video above hosted by Lowell (awesome artist and former club-dancer) explores the other side of prostitution and strip clubs that I had no idea existed: consensual sex workers.

What do you mean some women are okay with this being their career? Isn’t it demeaning? It’s so disempowering!

It’s actually empowering. I love when a worker says around the 28:30min mark, “In dancing, you have to learn perfect boundary controls – you have to know exactly where your boundaries are and how to exert control over it“.

It’s only demeaning because sex workers are victimized — regardless of whether they have been abused or are perfectly happy with their career choice — and you only perpetuate this victimization if you view them as victims. And Canada’s lawmakers are doing just that.

I’m finding life isn’t just about learning. It’s also about unlearning. That’s why I need to stay open-minded.


Ingrid Nilsen

I don’t subscribe to beauty gurus on YouTube. I follow awkward older sisters (Grace Helbig), gay men (Tyler Oakley), and talk show hosts (Jimmy Fallon).

But today I stumbled upon Ingrid Nilsen.

I don’t think this could have come at a more coincidental time. I applaud her for being able to do this so publicly.

This video broke me. I didn’t shed a single tear, but it was shattering me from the inside – seeing her so helplessly vulnerable – but it being something she has to do… alone. I watched all 20 minutes of it, unable to break away, waiting for that happy ending.

It was comforting to know she was coming out at 26 years old. It took away from the urgency that was nagging at the back of my head. “Do it when you’re ready” is the message I got from this. And she was ready.

I really want to hug her, and hug her tight. 😦

Thank you Ingrid Nilsen for shedding more visibility on the LGBT community. I hope one day I can be as brave as you.

I Finally Said It Out Loud.

I said it aloud for the first time yesterday.

It’s a bit of a blur, but I’m quite sure the words “I’m not straight” came out of my mouth at one point or another.

We sat in Trinity Bellwoods Park. I needed it to be there. I had planned to do it there and nothing could run astray from my plans – the timing had to be right, the place, the weather, everything had to be precisely as I had planned. It just had to be.

Like a YouTube video, on cue, I choked up before I could even get through start the sentence. I started talking about my relationship with my family and how they had never asked about a boyfriend (which I found weird. At the same time, they know I hate talking about that kinda stuff with them and I’d probably retreat into my head or phone). Then the gateway – “I don’t even know if I’ll end up with a man”.

I picked my words pretty precisely. Everything I said in those 15 minutes was either meticulously thought out (marinading in my head for two years) or a babble of half-english sounds. There was no in-between. And I ended on the same line of thought as I’d begun – I don’t know what I am, I just know what I’m not.

It was the most collectively emotionally, mentally, physically draining thing I had ever done. My head was numb from the emotion, I couldn’t speak words, and it was difficult getting up and walking. I just wanted to sit for an hour.

But that’s the thing with my “story”: part of the reason why it took me so long (I’m 23) was because my closer friends are not in the same city as me. It’s a mission to meet up, even for drinks or food. And at this age, we’re all tied down to our new jobs, and we’re at the bottom of the office food chain. I almost didn’t come out because my friend had to leave for a family event. Of course, that was nothing compared to the magnitude of this conversation, as my friend assured me, but it was a nagging and insecure sense that this was an inconvenience – I know, nothing logical, this is far more important, but… well, I guess the irrationality of it paints a picture of how delicate and fragile this whole thing was to me.

Plus I didn’t feel I was “ready”. I still don’t.

Right after, I met up (deliberately) with another friend – a proud, recently out, bisexual man. He’s been very vocal since he came out about his sexuality and in fact posted the day before about how he was tired of hiding anything about him and he swore to be loud and proud about everything (not restricted to his sexuality).

Within 2 hours of saying it for the very first time, I thought I’d be able to carry the momentum over and it’d be easier the second time. Nope. He had to exclaim “spit it out!” after my mouth gaped stupidly open trying to find the words, before I blurted it out. “I’m not straight.”

The last word was hushed, almost a whimper. He gave me a big long hug, and I had to fight back tears (/uncry).

His advice to me was that it gets easier. There will be times in and out of the closet, depending on situations, and that’s totally fine. I asked him when he first came out. He was moving in with a roommate, who gave him full disclosure that he was gay – and it was just the right time for him to come out.

It’s scary and exhausting putting all this in words. I had several pangs throughout today, remembering what happened yesterday. I feel like I’m still in “denial”. The string of words just don’t roll well in my mouth and as I say it in my head, I can’t help but pronounce the last word with an upswing in tone, as though it’s a question.

I don’t know.

I just know what I’m not.

WELL. Two down, 7 billion more to go.

23 years later

It’s been years since I’ve blogged for the sake of keeping a personal journal but I think it’s so important to log down what you do – it’s absolutely precious going back and reading things that have happened and the emotions you (poorly) record. I just finished uploading all my Xanga entries onto my wordpress site (since they’ve shut down) and reading through some of Highschool Fab’s thoughts is the greatest – I only wish I’d blogged daily, or more frequently. Anyway, wish I knew I how to upload them onto this site, but they’re on… in private.

I think it’s crucial to start writing more. For the past few years I’ve only blogged for the sake of building a brand and expressing my thoughts to the industry – everything was research-based. It’s going to be a new chapter in my life, possibly starting on Sunday… So here goes my attempt at summarizing everything that’s happened in my life thus far:

  • I’m employed now, full-time, at a prominent research firm. Work is more economics-based as opposed to planning… But there’s slightly more prestige in it. We’re unparalleled experts on the condo market and there’s only four of us. Moving back into planning is always in the back of my mind though – it’s far more fulfilling and real city-building on the front lines.

  • Whereas people are finding it harder to make friends as they grow older (I don’t know how true this is), I’m finding it strangely easier. I’m a lot more critical of my own flaws and social value in a party of people (self-confidence issue? tiny voice in my head? yikes) but overall, it’s easier and I think it’s because I never let my professional and personal worlds spill over – I used to never party with my university friends for fear that these are my future colleagues and I do not want them to see me sloppy-drunk (this has since changed, we drink our faces off at least once every two weeks). So when I realized I had (accidentally) used my networking skills at a friends’ party and gotten along with a few others, the skies cleared and seas parted. Enlightenment.
  • I’m not a prude. I go out and I go all out. I go clubbing. I have shotgunned. But I never made out with anyone til my early 20s. I am in my early 20s.
  • Something’s been haunting me. The only thing worse than a relationship ending is a friendship ending. It was partially by choice, but on my end it was out of respect for myself. I don’t know what the fuck happened, why it happened, but I just know that if I had any self-respect, I would get out of there and ignore this person. Theoretically, I knew the ins and outs of this situation. But when it came to practicing, it was definitely the hardest thingI’d ever done. I had become used to crawling back, and I guess a part of me believed I was the one who had changed for the worse. The truth is, I did change. But it was for the better. And this person wasn’t used to it – they were always a bad influence in the first place. I’m done justifying things in their favour. There are plenty of fish out there and this one is rotten. Anyway, it hurts. But I know what’s good for me and I just don’t see this person having a place in my future.

Anyway, if things go well, Sunday will be a new chapter.