From SCMP: “An opinion piece in the Shaanxi-based Huashang Daily read on Tuesday: ‘As those who are alive, we have to find out why those who died had died, we have to assume responsibility for those who died, we have to guarantee security for those who are alive.’ The piece titled ‘We have to wake up from a historical tragedy’ referred to the fire in Jilin province, but many understood it as a veiled reference to the Tiananmen incident.”
I. “There is what I call ‘the master narrative of American history,’ the familiar but mistaken story that this country was settled by European immigrants and that Americans are white or European in ancestry… In US history courses, what have they learned about Asian Americans or Peurto Ricans or Chicanos or the native peoples of this country or even African Americans?… Americans are not thinking about who is an American, it’s in the air, it’s an unacknowledged assumption that American means white or European ancestry." [Ronald Takaki on NPR, "Living in a Multicultural America,” 2008]
II. “By about 3-5 years old, kids start labeling themselves with racial terms." Racial groups as a social construction: while children notice racial differences very early on, they don’t learn the rules of how our society treats different racial groups until elementary school. ["How Do Children Process, Learn About Race?,” 2008]
III. The politics of defining racism: "With the modern rise of scientific disciplines, racism had access to a whole new language. When that language was discredited…new forms of expression were found—those others don’t share our way of life, they cook food that smells, they control the media, or they have a culture of criminality… Racism proceeds through euphemism and code" [dissentmagazine.org]
…egg tarts, sweet buns, tea drinks on every corner, quiet walks home from the night-bus at four in the morning, little red lights of the sleeping cable cars, night fishermen, pausing in the middle of Central after hours to look upward at all the lit-up buildings, Hong Kong green, striped plastic tarps, summer insects humming in the trees so loudly and obtrusively next to the local library, intermittent rains, wet markets, old men playing soccer at Victoria Park, cat fights on street stall roofs in Mongkok, 魚蛋燒賣 and 雞蛋仔, opening windows at night, heat rising in the morning, the view from the MTR just before Sunny Bay, where wooden stakes rise out of the water…
“Thus I find it completely unsurprising that the growing use of instant replay coincides with a growing clamor for the “absolute” knowledge that a college football playoff will bring coincides with the use of remote-controlled drone strikes in Afghanistan that appear simultaneously true and video gamey coincides with the strategic disinformation of WMDs and the invasion of privacies under various un-truthfully named artifacts like the Patriot Act coincides with the rabid de-truthification of presidential campaigns coincides with the growth industry of on-line fact-checking sites coincides with our own conversation about how sacrosanct the Truth is when writing creative nonfiction.”
“I wonder if part of the reason that the contemporary creative nonfiction of right now keeps circling around the limits and validity of truth-fidelity correlates precisely to the growing lack of clarity we experience in our world”
“theorists like Derrida and Foucault and Althusser and, my personal favorite, Baudrillard, who all rise up to more or less say, truth is not true. Or knowable. Or is always in negotiation”
Day 6. We begin our journey through Thekkady, the bus winding around narrow mountain paths, reminding me of Hong Kong. I ride an elephant named Maria.
Day 7. The goat charges at me, and I grab for the nearest arm. From the boat we see a herd of elephants drinking water by the shore. After we circle the lake and return, they are still there. I wake on the bus to the last of the light: thin trees from the eucalyptus family, and then a valley with a river.
Day 8. Two girls and I take an early morning walk along a mountain road. The cows outside our hotel are the first to greet us. After breakfast we find ourselves surrounded by hilly fields of manicured bushes with bright green leaves. Tea process: cut, ferment, dry, grade.
Day 9. Across the dams, at the foot of the hills, is a spot where you can yell and hear your echo reverberate; so we yell curses in as many languages as we know.
Day 10/11. Before we leave, we visit the historic administrative houses of Kochi’s ruling bodies. The first lift in Kerala was gifted from Britain forty years before the city obtained electricity to power it. Epigraphy, palm leaf inscriptions, village records, copper plates, the alphabet over time.
Food Notes: Things I cannot name (his mother’s house, the banana leaf lunch), butter naan, chicken 65, prawns on the houseboat, the fish his mother fries, dosa (finally), sesame wheels & spicy crackers & fried bananas & chai.
(Photos uploaded soon, somewhere else…)
kerala, india (i)
Day 1. After getting lost in Kochi’s neighborhoods of unmarked alleys, the groom’s sister brings us to a department store where fabrics of every color and brightness are unrolled with a flourish. During lunch at home, their mother asks, How do you make your fish? Similar, we say. Sweet instead of spicy.
Day 2. At the temple, there are elephants. Lunch is served on bright green leafs: a glossy palette on which we dip and scoop our fingers. Hours later we ride the autobuses, weaving through traffic. This is an experience: Indian traffic. The sound is a medley of horns. On foot in the darkness, we attempt to retrace our steps to the groom’s home. A wild dog follows us.
Day 3. In the morning a woman helps with wrapping our saris. At night we drink Kingfishers in the hotel bar.
Day 4. Waterfalls and rocks and mist from the falls. Cows tied up in the woods.
Day 5 (morning). Spider boats with large fishing nets attached to bamboo cranes. Plants that float, carried by the tide to gather at the shoreline. The day begins with a ferry that carries our bus to the other side of the river.
Day 5 (afternoon). Our houseboats are like three woven cocoons on the backwaters. After lunch, we stop in a neighborhood with a temple, only to get caught in a flash flood. We run through the heavy rain, but at some point, there is no need (we are already soaked).