Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Engrish.com has a huge gallery of adventures in mistranslation. Despite the fact that Asian education standards are much higher than that of North American schools (especially in Japan and Hong Kong), much of the English written on products for general consumption are very poorly translated. This is partly because they don't necessarily intend for their products to be used outside of their country of origin, but also because they can't be bothered to hire a native English translator. The results are funny, to say the least. Hence, you get products such as "Pocari Sweat" (which is available in North American stores that cater to Asians, such as T&T Supermarket) and t-shirts that read "Toilet Love" (this is available for sale on the website).

There is a flipside to this, all of which is the indirect result of the mainstreaming of Asian culture. Because of free trade and immigration, Asian culture is becoming very prevalent in North America. Japanese cartoons are routinely translated into English for Saturday morning, and have even become more popular than domestic product. The Chinese martial arts film "Hero" (aka Ying Xiong) is the current box-office draw. And, get dropped off in the middle of nowhere and you will find an Asian restaurant within walking distance. Heck, in my neighbourhood alone, there are three places you can get sushi, all on opposite street corners. And yes, I have eaten at all three of them.

Being a multicultural society, it is only fitting that most non-Asians person partake in the many facets of Asian culture, whether it be dining at an authentic Chinese restaurant (and not just ordering what can be best termed as Gwai-Lo Chinese food -- lemon chicken, egg foo yung, chicken chow mein), studying Tae-Kwon Do, or watching Rahsomon.

And then there are those who take it a little bit further. Too bad that they're taking it in the wrong direction.

One non-Asian guy I met at the gym had a particular Chinese character tattooed on his shoulder. Despite growing up in a Chinese household, my knowledge of the Chinese language is best described as weak, most of which I know being learned from repeated viewings of John Woo's "Hard-Boiled" (for example, if you point a gun at someone's head, you're supposed to say "mo yook", which means "don't move." That's good to know). But, I do know a couple other things about the written parts of Chinese. The conversation went as follows:

"So, you know what that character means, right?"
"Yeah, it's the year I was born."
(me shaking my head) "Uh...no."
"Yeah, man. It's the year I was born."
"Uh...no it's not."
(slightly desperate this time) "Yeah, man, it's the year I was born."
"Uh...that's only one character. The year you were born should have at least four characters."
"It's the year I was born."
"Dude it could say JACKASS for all you know."
"But it's the..."
"It just says "YEAR." That's all it says."

This is essentially the opposite of what they feature on Engrish.com. Somehow, I get the feeling that there is probably someone in Asia collecting photos of the poorly translated tattoos acquired by baka gai-jin (that's Japanese for "Stupid Foreigner").

Methinks he either thought it was cool looking and decided to go for it, or he's trying to pick up Chinese girls at the clubs (the epidemic of so-called "Yellow Fever" -- fetishization of Asian females -- is another negative aspect of mainstreaming of Asian culture). Word of advice, my gwai-lo friend. If you want to get something Chinese permanently scarred on your skin, do your research. Ask a Chinese person who actually speaks and writes Chinese. Then get a second, third, and fourth opinion.

This is when Asian culture is not so much as being mainstreamed as it's being white-washed.

Stuff like this shouldn't really bother me this much, although it's generally not expected of me anyway -- I don't look that much Chinese (today, another person had no clue as to my nationality). But, it dilution of culture is a shame in just about any culture.

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Sunday, August 29, 2004


While quite a few months before Thanksgiving, whenver I am involved in large gatherings with friends where a lot of food is involved, I am reminded of how I must be grateful for the things I have in life. I am grateful for the love and support of my friends and family. I am thankful for having a place to stay. I am especially grateful for my health.

But, most of all, I am grateful for my fast metabolism and active lifestyle that allows me to eat whatever the heck I want without gaining weight. While this becomes more of a hinderance than anything else (I become weak and lethargic if I don't eat very three hours and I still can't put on muscle mass to save my life, plus my food bill is higher than average), it does come in handy. Such as when you hold a get-together where food is involved, and everybody brings much more than they can eat.

Today, I threw a small housewarming/barbecue for my mom because she didn't really want to have a housewarming per se. So, I invited my friends over and prepared a few dishes. If they wanted to bring stuff, they did. Despite my mother's insistence that people bring stuff home (boxes upon boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, stacks of desert fruit pies, hamburger patties), they are now chilling in the fridge. On the plus side, this means I probably won't have to cook for the next few days.

My eating patterns have been quite erratic over the past week, as I also started doing a lot of my own cooking. Just on a whim, I downloaded a few recipes for muffins (banana chocolate chip and blueberry) . While the first ones ended up being a little on the doughy side (blended the batter a little too much, shoulda just "folded" the mixture), I still was eating them at a fairly rapid clip. During the week, I baked another batch of blueberry muffins for my sister, who just moved into a new place.

I ended up eating half of them in a four hour span. Mind you, it was only a half-dozen batch, but still, I remember what happened the last time I ate more than two of anything in any given time (refer to my first blog on Krispy Kreme doughnuts for more details). Thankfully, I made them myself so I knew very well what was in them. I immediately made another batch and made sure I left the house to my sister's as soon as they were finished baking. To ensure that I don't eat any on the way, I fill my stomach beforehand.

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Monday, August 23, 2004

[deep breath]

Possibly one of the more masochistic forms of entertainment, I spent the evening with my Capoeira class over at Vancouver's amusement park, Playland. Having went without going on a roller coaster for the better part of eight years, I forgot about two things: how long the lineups can get, and how frickin' fast these things go.

As the outing was provided complimentary courtesy of the people at PNE (our group was doing a demonstration on the 22nd of August), we got to go on every ride. Well, almost every ride.

This one new ride was introduced to replace The Rainbow (unfortunately, the name escapes me as of this moment...I think it was called 1001 Nights). While a diagram is better to describe it, it has a platform arm which stays upright while it is being spun around in a circle. As it drops, passengers almost float out of their seats (restraining arms keep this from happening). As The Rainbow was one of my favourites, I was eager to try this one out.

As we waited in line, we realized that the lineup wasn't moving. This was because there was a massive puddle of vomit right next to the exit which had to be cleaned up. We decided to come back after another ride. When we returned, we realized that again that the lineup wasn't moving. There were two separate puddles of vomit this time, which a guy was trying to wash away with a bucket of water. It's times like these where a hose is handy. Sadly, the group I'm with take this as a sign to try a different ride.

Somehow, I'm reminded of a time when I was attending BC Physics Day at Playland during high school physics. We had a friend who had the misfortune of going with a full stomach, so we goaded him to go on ride after ride after ride. As we left the Enterprise, he complained, "The puke is right here!", pointing to his throat. We all then got him to go onto the Tilt-A-Whirl (it didn't even take that much arm twisting). It was six of us, three of us in one car, three in another, which meant we didn't see our friend all the time. Although we do remember two distinct images: one of him clenching his eyes shut, concentrating really hard not to puke; the other with his head buried between his knees. We have since re-named this ride, "The Tilt-A-Hurl".

This is truth in advertising. Rethink Advertising is a company that has an account with Playland to handle their print, radio, and television advertisements. Since holding the account, they have won several awards and garnered some controversy among the more conservative types. Their recent print campaign featured on bus shelters and the Skytrain features models covered with foodstuffs and vomit (ie: "Vomit print by Crazy Beach Party", "Mustard motif by the Corkscrew", etc.).

I will always remember the infamous "Barf Cam" television ad which was unfortunately yanked after a few complaints. In it, the camera takes a POV shot from inside a person's stomach (you see little bits of partially digested matter) while you hear the sounds of the famous wooden rollercoaster (the clackety rumbling sounds, people screaming). The camera rises and you see a set of teeth, which opens up to reveal a guy's face. "Not now, man! Not now!" He says. The camera goes back down, but then all of a sudden shoots straight up into the air, past the row of teeth, past all the passengers in the rollercoaster, falling through the rollercoaster, as all these people are running out of the way to avoid getting hit by flying vomit. The last thing you see before it hits the ground is is the Playland logo. Cut to black.

(If anyone knows where I can download a copy of this ad, please let me know! "Barf Cam" doesn't yield any positive results when punched into google.com.)

One thing I'm realizing through all of this is that we're essentially paying for the privelege of pain (Rethink capitalizes on this in their ad campaign, which is one of the reasons for their success). They seem to think that we'd be willing to pay MORE for another particularly rough ride, The Hellevator. It costs an additional $5 to go on it.

So, I pay the additional $5 and start to rue the decision as soon as the restraining arm goes down and realize that there is no turning back. The fun (or not!) thing about this ride is that it shoots you straight up in the air with no warning whatsoever. As soon as I get off, I'm feeling slightly queasy and my hands are tingling. Fortunately, I have the foresight to stop eating two and a half hours previous. I am still on the verge of collapse as soon as I get off the ride, though.

Perhaps it was a good thing that we decided not to go on 1001 Nights after all...

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Saturday, August 21, 2004

As a self-professed Person That Writes Things, I am constantly behind the keyboard, hacking away things that are as far away from the next Great Expectations or Tale of Two Cities as possible. Still, you can find me writing the occasional short screenplay, the odd movie review, and the frequent complaint letter to the local newspaper.

Take my latest published "work," for example.

Vancouver Sun editorials, Thursday, August 19th, 2004,

Re: Canadian prankster not funny: Games organizers, Aug. 18

The prankster's actions are a huge black mark against Canadian sports and an embarrassment to Canadians. The fact that this story made the front page only encourages people like Ron Benshimon. Sadly, he is getting the publicity he wants.

The only good thing is that it was probably one of the more benign ways to point out security holes at the Summer Games, and was preferable to an actual security threat.

-Vince Yim, Surrey.

I have a pretty good track record when it comes to getting stuff published in the Vancouver Sun, at least 70% of the letters I e-mailed got published. My very first piece was published back in 1995, when they were asking for opinions about the then-controversial cartoon show, Beavis and Butt-Head. At the time, I felt it was juvenile and puerile (although the film, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is a work of comic genius). Anywho, the gist of my letter was that as much as I find it distasteful, it's still up to the parents (or whoever) to decide what their kids should be watching.

It was a pretty cool experience, having the Vancouver Sun photographer come over to my parents house to take my photo. They published it too. But, the caption at the bottom of my photo indicated that I wanted the show pulled off the air. Ah, the magic of editing.

These days, I keep all the letters I send to the Vancouver Sun really short and sweet (yet cynical and sarcastic, if possible) as to avoid major edits. Still, that doesn't keep that from happening. In one when I was writing to talk about the American stance on BC's film and lumber industry, I used the phrase "400 pound gorilla," but the editors converted it to metric.

As to the letters that don't get published? Vancouver Sun's rival publication, the Vancouver Province, once ran a front page headline saying words to the effect of ""Victim" comes forth with her story" (the word "victim" was put in quotation marks in the headline). This was around the time when there was a sexual harassment case between an SFU student and a swim coach (the coach was the alleged harasser and was dismissed from his job but evidence later revealed that the alleged victim was the actual harasser).

My response to the Vancouver Province was that regardless of the outcome, it should be up to the public to decide, as opposed to what essentially was a headline from a supermarket tabloid (plus, I also put the word "newspaper" in quotation marks). Needless to say, they didn't publish it.

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Monday, August 16, 2004

In every twelve step program, the first step involves admitting that you have a problem.

My name is Vince. (Hi, Vince)

And I am completely whipped.

I can't remember when this all started to happen, although I do notice a bit of a pattern when I'm dealing with members of the opposite sex. In this day and age, a certain amount of chivalry is always appreciated, although with feminism becoming at one point more dominant than equal rights among genders, chivalry is becoming deader than disco. Nothing is more apparent when a male attempts to be a nice guy and holds a door open for a member of the opposite sex and is immediately responded with, "I can open my own doors." While incidents like these are actually decreasing, they are still causes for concern.

Yesterday, a person who I regularly deal with at martial arts ended up falling off her bike, causing multiple contusions and abraisions on her left arm and shoulder and spraining her wrists. She was attempting to carry several items (total weight: less than three pounds) to a vehicle, one of which was her handbag. Eschewing the fact that traditional male roles dictate that a male will treat a woman's handbag as radioactive (much like a tossed garter at a wedding), I elect to hold these items for her. At an initial glance, one may simply dismiss this as simple common courtesy. Those looking closer will see that I am voluntarily holding her purse.

Mind you, this was on top of a small stack of items, which meant I didn't actually have to touch it or anything. My excuse was that it didn't quite look like a purse at first (it was one of those handbags that are designed to look like a miniature gym bag).

This is nothing compared to an incident earlier in Spring, where a female coworker had a strap on her left shoe break during a shift. I offer to go to her car where she has another pair of shoes waiting for her so she doesn't have to walk barefoot to her car to retrieve them. While this isn't quite like laying my jacket down so she doesn't have to walk across a puddle and ruin her shoes, it's only after I retrieve her shoes that I realize the full implications of my actions.

That, and another female coworker observes, "I'd make someone a great boyfriend some day."

What makes it worse is that these are two people for whom I have no personal interest in, apart from being "just friends" or "just co-workers" (plus, at least one of them has a steady boyfriend already anyways). If I am willing to do this for people for whom I am "just friends" with, one can only imagine what I am willing to do for someone who I hold in a higher esteem (ie: want to be more than "just friends" with).

There does seem to be a pattern, though...if I have access to a vehicle and I am attending a group activity, I am more likely to offer a member of the opposite sex a ride home than I would if it were another guy. I consistently lie to myself and try to justify it, though, saying things like "I'm just being nice" or "It's in my nature to do so." Or, as I tell others, "My mom raised a gentleman. I'll introduce you to him some day." And when a member of the opposite sex comments, "That's awfully sweet of you" (or words to that effect), my immediate response is, "Eh, I work on it."

However, I do have my limits. I draw the line at purchasing feminine hygene products, even if asked. Or any of those other weird items that one finds in a woman's medicine cabinet, for that matter.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A while ago, I was mentioning a crazy art project which involved custom painting a computer case to my liking. After about a week of being holed up in a garage and inhaling sanded paint dust and paint fumes, the work has been complete. Well, sorta.

Click here to take a look...

It's sorta pedestrian when compared to some of the other whacked out jobs some of the other people have been known to do, but it sorta reflects what I enjoy doing, taking stuff and making it my own. I already did the same to two cell phones.

I would do a lot more, but doing so would void the warranty in a lot of cases. The reason why I can do it with cell phones is because the faceplates are removable (especially on Nokia phones, which is the main reason why I prefer them over other brands).

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Monday, August 02, 2004

I learned two things today.

1: Communication is key. I thought I was meeting a bunch of friends Downtown so we could go inline skating on the sea wall. Being that I had an appointment to make at 1:30PM and it would take me 40 minutes to blade down there. I called at 11:45 and they said that they'd be there in fifteen minutes. I go get pizza while waiting. I call back at 12:30 and tell them that I'm leaving to meet them later.

Forty minutes wasted because they were under the impression that I was going to meet up with them following my appointment. Given the rate at which they rollerblade, I was able to catch up fairly quickly.

This is either the result of me not being clear of my intentions or someone not listening, but if both of us had a clear idea of what was going on, I wouldn't be sitting on my ass next to a statue of an old woman on a park bench waiting for my friends to not show up.

We did meet up later on, but first...

2: I am either way too lazy, or way too arrogant. I managed to screw up at that appointment. That appointment was my belt testing for the upcoming batizado for my Capoeira studio. Instructor Negao was listing off moves that I knew how to do, but I didn't know the names for them. Worst of all, I was asked to sing a Capoeira song in Portuguese. It went something like this...

Sinha mandou me pegar / Na ladeira do Pia / Os feitores de sinha / Nao conseguem me agarrar

Sou um negro quilombola / Angoleiro do Pia...

[Ten second pause as I spontaneously forget the next line]

So heranca de Zumbi / Ganga Zumba e Oxala

Luto pela liberdade

[another ten second pause as I try to remember the last two lines of the verse]

Nao sou peca pra sinha

E Angola e / E Angola a / E Angola e Capoeira / E Angola

Obviously, I need more practice (which my instructor points out). Understandably, I get marked much harsher on this part, because if I am to be leading the singing in the roda, I can't really stumble over the lines like that. The second part, where I'm asked to sing two more Capoeira songs goes a little more smoothly.

Sai sai Catarina / sai a do mer venha ver Idalina / Sai sai Catarina / Catarina venha ver / Sai sai Catarina

Zum-zum-zum Capoeira mata um (zum-zum-zum Capoeira mata um) [4x] / hoje tem maribom (e zum-zum-zum) [4x].

The general Q&A (general history of Capoeira, concepts and philosphy, my place in the group, etc.) I do a little better on. But, I know that I could have done signifcantly better, considering that I actually knew all the answers that I ended up blowing.

I really don't have anyone I can blame for that, nor do I wish to. But it's still a humbling experience to have your ass handed to you. That happens to me more often than not, which makes me one of the more humble folks around.

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