Working on my Next Book(s)

As it turns out, I have two books I'm working on right now.

I am in the filling notebooks stage with baffling, illegible crud stage hoping to turn up some leads, x 2 projects. 

One of the projects is developing a crude quantitative model for "bothness" and using it to compare two pairings of Chinese and Western concepts.

The other project is "The 13 Principles of Ouhua," which if my first book was about creating a starting point for conversation, and basically getting mired into some (as feedback suggests) not that interesting groundwork as to what is Chinese and what is Western, this one is all about advancing the puck up the ice. I reckon I could do this one in a much more fast-paced style, and though I am talking specifically to Chinese-Western mixed people, actually produce a book that might inadvertently have greater crossover appeal.

Let me know what you think!

Why I Wrote My Book

It is not in my nature to want to try and wield a megaphone. I am shy. I am introverted. But it is time to call it like it is. Half-Asians do not lack for choice. It is the opposite. I'm here to tell you that despite the reality that there are obstacles some of which could be construed as "racist" glass ceilings and "racial" rudeness and stereotyping and the presence of many douchebags, half-Asians face the problem of too much choice. Today the question is not who can tear down walls, but rather who can build bridges. And to build bridges I invite you to say "no" to those who lure you to "who wronged us." 

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What Should This Blog Be About?

Do I want to get more personal? 

The structural editor of my book, Sam Holmes, advised me not to make my blog about "me."

In other words, don't make it about the nuttiness of my branded muesli that morning.

As far as I can see, there are three areas I could cover:

  1. My startup, microascetic
  2. Bothness and the being mixed Chinese-Western
  3. Everyday musings and a writing scratchboard for my next book

What do you reckon? 

What about the balance between words and images? More images? More volune of words? 



5min to Understand Occupy Central's Theme Song

Reporting on the ground in Hong Kong, various media have written about protesters singing the “Do you Hear the People Sing” tune from Les Misérables (see here, here, and here). I’m sure that is the case that it was sung, and sung in various places in and around town at the protests sites around the city (including the latest one to sprout up, in Tsim Tsa Tsui) in the #occupycentral civil disobedience movement.

But I’m not sure that song is the anthem of the protest. There’s another tune that is a much likelier contender.

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"Bouncing Around" as Theme for Mixed People

Mixed people have to deal with “bouncing around.” There are different terms that folks use, but “bouncing around” to me includes both (1) others pushing you around such that they would restrict your identity, and (2) you yourself making near-sighted choices about your identity, for example, embracing “exotic” when it is cool, while being outraged by “exotic” when it doesn’t suit you.

This old yarn exemplifies the first half of “bouncing around:”

The white man said, "Colored people are not allowed here."
The black man turned around and stood up.
He then said: "Listen sir....
when I was born I was BLACK,"
"When I grew up I was BLACK, "
"When I'm sick I'm BLACK, "
"When I go in the sun I'm BLACK, "
"When I'm cold I'm BLACK, "
"When I die I'll be BLACK."

"But you sir."

"When you're born you're pink, "
"When you grow up you're white, "
"When you're sick, you're green, "
"When you go in the sun you turn red, "
"When you're cold you turn blue, "
"And when you die you turn purple."
"And you have the nerve to call me colored?"

The black man then sat back down and the white man walked away....

The Black man is Black, and proud, and steady, and resolutely Black. There is something so poignant about this joke- such an indictment, told, of course, in jest. The White man has all these things he is allowed to be, all of these changing identities- this sum of power- the power to re-mold one’s identity, change it by fiat, and expect others to adjust their schema immediately.

Ludacris alludes to this idea in his song "Hopeless"

Ludacris "Hopeless"

We realize that the Black man in the joke has to both adjust externally, and be restricted internally- hyprocrisy; utterly a bum deal it is, meaning little means to negotiate one’s identity.

Has Chinese and Western, it is never as stark as described in the joke- neither in Greater China, nor in the West, but that is not to say that bouncing around is not an issue.

The second half of “bouncing around,” I’d describe as follows.

While working in Mainland China- there was perpetually an issue of “what approach should I take to this hour’s problem?” I had to compute on an ongoing basis, “well, this would be more of a Chinese approach, yet this is a Western supplier, so is he going to assume his classic, go-to approach, or is he going to adjust for the circumstances, namely- is he posturing for how I’m likely to act?” Everything becomes an exercise in game theory. Could I not go to a golf game or other social function or would the implicit task related to “task A” actually be bloody important? I mean, how should I craft business correspondence: “do I make it direct or more obtuse and/or flowery? Do I come out of the gate with the main point in the first line, as every American English teacher will tell you for your tenth grade thesis, or do I bob and weave and leave it out till the end?” How do I handle negotiations, or negotiate the expectations of business favors from suppliers or vendors? There is rarely any absolute truth in the business world, no matter the country, no matter the culture. But what happens when your sensitivity is used against you? These are the types of cultural claims a mixed person has to deal with. They are relentless. They come at you in such a way that if you pay them the wrong type of heed, you’ll have narrower and narrower bandwidth to ponder the bigger picture.

And that is the issue with “bouncing around.” Sometimes you want to just fall into someone else’s stereotypes. You can’t be bothered. You take the easy road. I know, I know. It’s tiring otherwise, and people can be rude, and obnoxious, and seem racist even, at times.

But. Avoiding “bouncing around” is the only way to really negotiate your identity.


9/11/2001: 12 years on

Knowing that I had been in Manhattan during the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001, a family member in maybe 2003 or 2004 gave me a elegantly framed New York Times front page with super-sized font saying "U.S. ATTACKED. HIJACKED JETS DESTROY TWIN TOWERS AND HIT PENTAGON IN DAY OF TERROR." Somehow it angered me. I thought it was insensitive. I was thinking "WTF!?" Only not in acronyms. 

I declined the gift, something I never do. 

I understand what the family member was trying to do, what they were trying to communicate to me- that they loved me and wanted to acknowledge this historic event, and my brush with it as a resident of Manhattan. I get that. Admittedly, I should have been more graceful and just accepted the gift; nonetheless, I don't want to be reminded of an event like 9/11 on as frequent a basis as a wall hanging would provide me.

I have been reticent to talk about 9/11 because it was such a horrifying day, and I am not a pundit, or a talking head that must talk about it. So I have elected to be rather silent about it. The photos that I took that day I have never shared with anyone before. I have posted them here on, and hope that I can field any and all comments or questions about that day that anyone may have.

I have just launched; I know there is plenty of content out there, on many different platforms. I want to use these initial posts to convey to my earliest of supporters that I am committed to quality content, constantly pushing for new insights, and a meaningful dialogue.


The Craft of Writing

I will be talking more about, and of course the book that I have been writing Violet, in the days and weeks to come. In the next couple of posts, and as a means to introduce myself and this new blog, I would like to talk first about my experience at the "coalface," with the craft of writing itself.

Violet will be my first book. I always liked writing; I always liked reading, which as I have learned seems to be considered an essential part of the toolkit for any writer. I remember in high school a lot of emphasis on "writing to be read." Nonetheless, it seems that professional writers place a huge emphasis on being well read. Not only to glean some insights from the old masters, but as Ian McEwan alludes to, to have a sense of what has come before you. In other words you need to be well read in order not to sound cliché without even knowing you are being clichéd

I will share some glimpses in the next couple of posts as to what my writing process has been so far. It would be great to get some feedback and other comments however unrelated.

One thing I realized rather early is that writing takes a lot of energy. It isn't a type of "constant partial attention" that will cut it; to write is to focus. The readers' attention, her or his willingness to stay with you, to pick up on details and draw inferences that you wish she or he would, is a fickle thing. Any lapse by the writer and it is "see ya" from the reader, indeed.

It takes another level of energy, to really focus. Answering phones, responding to business emails, even managing people are things that can all be done well without this type of high energy output. Sure, you need to be "switched on," you need to maintain eye contact- but the it doesn't quite require the same focus.

Stephen King call it "hypnosis." That is his word for focus; he says that writing is hypnosis.  And what I think he means is that there is a windup, and of course a winddown; once you get into the hypnotic phase in-between, you are sort of like Neo in the Matrix for the first time- the trance doesn't last long but, a lot of stuff happens, and when all the fiendish activity is all over, you fall down, wrecked with exhaustion.

I doubt the writing process is ever that dramatic for most writers. Nonetheless, I realized that I could rarely go more than 4-5 hours of actual writing per day. I would take lots of mini-breaks, dive into lots of mini diversions just to re-energize a little bit before I went back into writing. Clearly I am a rookie with all of this and one would expect the process to come more smoothly with time and experience. It has been a lot of fun. I must say that I have really enjoyed the process, and the type of brain use, one very different from business, that is part of writing. Hopefully the end result is halfway decent :)

In the next couple of posts I will talk more about my writing routine and habits- of course I would love any writers or bloggers to offer critical feedback or any thoughts if appropriate.