Category Archives: Joie de vivre

foodies

“I’m not a foodie, I just like what I like,” she says. “Yes, I know, it’s just like hipsters saying, ‘I’m not a hipster.’ ” (The cliché cracks her up.) “But it’s like when my boss says, ‘Oh, you’re such a foodie.’ I’m like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don’t want to be lumped in with Yelp.” – Young Foodie Culture via @Davidchang

I’m not taking offense because of the narrow exception of myself and a handful of Yelp friends whose reviews are merited not only for their candor but also for the writing itself. I have a problem with people who so emphatically dismiss (or worship)a group of people without exception or clear basis. While I’m not a cheerleader for team Yelp, I can’t deny the undeniable place the site has established for itself regardless of the deteriorating quality of its reviewers (o, it can be personal). This influx of “foodies” seem to take that aversion to new heights, effectively establishing a hierarchy of a sort of authenticity (oh, exploring new foods is a personal hobby, it’s a part of my identity. It’s inherent in my being; I didn’t need an external incentive like a forum of expression.) Well, having your rhetoric memorialized in a publication like New York Magazine closes every inch of that gap – the magazine’s perspective and identity being informed by what everyone else is saying. Plus, the obvious fact here is that your reference to Yelp in that context renders your whole shit reactionary and derivative – as if not being a Yelper is supposed to validate and legitimize you, as if the restaurant owner who replied to my review with: nyt gave us 2 stars, is supposed to render my review invalid. To you I say: who you? Seriously, like who are you to tell me that you know better just because you’re not on Yelp? The problem isn’t “Yelp”, sure it provides a medium for people who delight in an imaginary audience (hi!), but really, you’re both drawn by the same force and your self-branding as a non-foodie food lover who likes what you like follows the same rhetoric. It’s the same whether you use your hands or a toy; you’re still just getting yourself off.

Food is a basic and subjective concept the quality of which anyone can discern (some might choose to be more or less discriminating). That sort of faux denial laced of a self-congratulatory tone (oh, I’m a hipster without the shackles of a label). Spending your money on pickled lambs tongue, because it’s a new frontier and soon to be item du jour is not “liking what you like”, and you, Diane Chang, are a sucker. This is not about the ridiculousness of your chosen lifestyle from my point of view (I mean spending a quarter of an income that’s described as modest is pretty bad finances, but I probably spend more on worse things like dresses I never wear), I could care less about how you spend your money. Buying into a marketed commercial movement all the while coloring yourself as an exceptional instance is delusional, as if a label is your problem.

economy travels

I am back from Shanghai, adjusting to the jetlag that sneaks up on me like a ninja at the most inopportune times – like right before dinner.

This is a post I was writing on the plane ride to Shanghai, but thanks to the tyranny of censorship (wordpress, like blogspot, tumblr, twitter, facebok, is blocked in China), publication is delayed until now.

I have just spent 15 hours confined to a space I couldn’t and wouldn’t tolerate for more than 20 minutes under quotidian circumstances, but alas, the constraints of travel and modern accommodation. More than 2,000 miles later, I have arrived in Shanghai[1].

If our identities change along with our contexts, it is no wonder that travel writing has become its own genre – rumination on the implications of the temporary displacement and perhaps transient identity crisis being a natural byproduct of travel and human perception.

I won’t contemplate those issues.

Between my last final and my departure, there was a flurry of visits with friends whom I’ve had the displeasure of the typical compulsory estrangement during a law school semester. These rendez-vous were punctuated with a “so, what are you bringing me from China?”, facetiously delivered – something between a “a bientôt” and a “bon voyage”.[2]

The real testament to gratuitous capitalist consumer culture is not the speed of fast fashion, or ostentatious label touting goods of a higher caliber, it is souvenirs with its artificial manufacture of a larger experience which eludes capture. I don’t reject the sentiment behind this kind of gifting that despite the distance and extraordinary time difference, here is an object that reminded me or invoked in me some essence of a faraway you. To this romantic manifestation in a material object, I have a profound affinity

But we all know that most souvenir shopping is not done this way. More likely, it is done in a frantic manner. I don’t object to souvenir shopping if I really did find some kind of token of remembrance that’s meaningful, but inevitably, and especially at a place like Shanghai, that’s nearly impossible.

What is the difference between symbolism and commodification?

If you can’t have the real thing, why bother?

which is to say, i didn’t get any souvenirs for ya’ll.


[1] To be honest, I am an hour away from destination – all of this being prospectively written on the plane to wile away the last hour of transit

[2] This is not meant to be a critique of these friends, though they did give rise to the reflection on the more general concept of travel, especially I do not except myself from the characterization I will set forth infra.

(are footnotes in a blog post entirely pretentious? If so, how would you characterize comments referencing footnotes – a sort of a footnote to a footnote? Does it speak to the trainings of my trade that they are becoming more and more instinctual and less an exercise in appeasing academic norms?)

This warms the cockles of my heart

If only because it makes my current position just a touch less insufferable: New York’s Literary Cubs.

Fueled by B.Y.O.B. bourbon, impressive degrees and the angst that comes with being young and unmoored, members spend their hours filling the air with talk of Edmund Wilson and poststructuralism.

Intellectual circle jerk for the win, Comp Lit seminar redux.

Unemployed Columbia grads are relegated to sponsor their own obscure literary interests whereas the market is rewarding the creative labors of people like Kim Kardashian with numerous book deals.  In theory, copyright laws promote innovation and creativity, but you really begin to question the validity of that statement when society just doesn’t have a demand for anything resembling intellectual efforts. So, the theoretical purpose of the system of protection is kinda moot if there’s not market demand.

Nawlins Pralines

#stillkillingtheserhymesinanawlinsaccent

Earlier this month, I took a short jaunt to NOLA. I’d never been and didn’t know much about it except for Mardi Gras, which is still a vague reconnaissance. Fortunately for me, we stayed in the French Quarters where every night sees a circus-like ambiance of drunken debauchery. I’ve had my share of debauchery in life but something about Bourbon Street nightlife is almost pathetic. It’s like misplaced and feigned enthusiam, but that would be my projection since I can not at all imagine such deliberate lack of self-regard/awareness. It is the 20 year college reunion of every college third tier fraternity/sorority wherein they do the same thing they did as 19 year olds.

Otherwise, the most unsavory aspect of traveling to tourist driven areas would be how often tourism can make caricatures out of a place, which is natural when there is a high concentration of kitsch “embodiment” of a city’s specialty or whatever. If your initial contact (and it is often the case) is with that setting, well, it’s hard to see the charm behind such syndication. I find it a little insulting that people choose to just proliferate and peddle a formula without standard rather than try to find new ways to appeal to visitors and draw them in.

Not that it’s completely without its redeeming qualities, many areas of the city are beautiful.

It goes without saying that visiting the site of Katrina is moving in the way that seeing the aftermath of any tragedy can be. I think this is especially true after having witnessed 9/11. My reaction to any tragedy – all human tragedy after all – has become much more visceral.

Last observation: I’m not sure if it’s because I live in New York and am just accustomed to seeing the kind of poverty that New Yorkers show or have just accepted them as a part of New York’s social fabric or the city is organized in a way that it’s never that outstanding or if New York’s obsession with image extends to every socio-economic class. But every other city, the state of the impoverished is always very jarring. This is true for NOLA, many cities in Europe, Shanghai and Beijing. On the plus side, this manifestation made the tour guide’s pride in NOLA’s low unemployment rate and resilience sound especially optimistic.

YELP

When I first started Yelping, I had no idea of its associations or whatever with douchey yuppie foodies. I just liked it as a medium for musings more inane than those I’d post here. That and I wanted to impose my superior tastes on the rest of the community. This urgent agenda was especially so considering Yelp was responsible for the terrible setting of what was at the time a very important first date. The build up and subsequent let down of the meal were, in many ways a way, symbolic of the ensuing liaison.

After which, I was like, hell the fuck nah, a first date already has enough stacked up against itself, do not let a woman sit through a bad meal on top of it, too. Because, we are each individually (not as a group) deserving of all the gems life has to offer. I took on the honorable role of a vigilante facilitater of oral pleasures. pause.

Since then, I’ve heard many iterations of Yelp bashing, the most prevalent being: Yelp is the new Asian Avenue.

Y’all, as much as the Asian supremacist in me would like to believe that Asian taste buds are superior, they just aren’t. Some of us were meant for greater things in life and some are just supposed to be happy with white rice and soy sauce.

Now, don’t think I actually read the article, I’m completely going by presumptions. But focusing on the appeal of Yelp for Asian girls and their perverse fans is completely missing the point. There is an issue far too sinister to leave unaddressed. Aside from the vanilla ass language that rival the restaurants they critique, my major gripe with Yelp is people who feign to be well-versed and cultured when they’re simply bumpkins. I, too, worship at the alter of Epicureanism, but too many Yelpers have false idols. It’s the disease of our generation that everyone wants a voice in the ugly cacophony of nothingness. Aspiring designers, bloggers, tastemakers, photographers, political pundits and yelp reviewers are all plagued with the same narcissistic illness of needing the world to witness and acknowledge their soggy and affected point of view.  Also, proof that democracy and libertarianism can only work in a society of people with functioning brains, a minimum level of self-awareness, adequate level of truthful self-assessment and a healthy dose of shame. Plurality of shitty uniformity aside, they serve to mislead people to venues of subpar quality and waste money they don’t have. Yelp’s 3 to 4 stars reviews contain a dangerous curve – going to a three starred and sometimes even four starred restaurant is a gamble as risky as playing Russian Roulette. There’s got to be a better system.  It also begs the question why. I stated why I began Yelping, but for the rest of you common reviewers of run of the mill taste buds, I have to wonder what you’re trying to achieve by upsetting the curve so. Can I eat? Can I live?

To be fair, my severe standards are genetic – my grandmother thinks 95% of NewYork restaurants serve unrefined, peasant food that deserve a place no higher than the dishwasher’s dinner plate. I’ve been eating snakes and razor clams since I was 7, you chumps are only now catching on. Please.

On fat girls and jeggings

On Sunday, I was breakfasting at Pain au Quotidien and reading the Times (poseurrrrs). In the Style section, some girl wrote in saying her friend and she both bought jeggings and wore them to work, her friend wasn’t reprimanded and she was. In response, I said something like, yeah well they both should’ve been fired but her friend was also probably thin and she was probably fat therefore looked obscene in jeggings. I said fat really loudly and the girls at the next table were fat and eating a basket of bread and…remained silent for the rest of the meal. I don’t know I thought it was really funny.

Have you ever

been on an extended flight where your mind is just BRIMMING with thoughts on your trip and life in general, but you couldn’t write it down because your fountain pen has run out of ink and when the kind stranger next to you offers you a pen, you’re too flustered to be a big homo with your leatherbound journal, because he’s like a totally suave italian gentleman whose musky scent was distracting you from having an intelligent thought, so instead you fill out the customs form and promptly return the pen and now, because you’ve been sick and jetlagged, you are scrambling to gather any remaining ideas in your head into a post, but also regretting cutting down the convo with handsome stranger because you were feeling about as sexy as a walrus who’s just been shot and feeling like a tool on both counts.

anyway, I’m back.

Behold the embodiment of all that is wrong with Americans: the entitlement, irreverence, appropriation/bastardization. I have so much hate for California rolls.