six pack

Wonder Twin Son has decided to follow a 22-day Abs of Steel workout he stumbled across YouTube.

Me: Why?
Him: so I can have abs of steel.
Me: You already have abs of steel. Your abs could not be any steelier.
Him: I want a six-pack.
Me: You have more than a six pack. You have like a 16-pack.
Him: This other kid on YouTube put duct tape on his stomach in the shape of a six-pack to get his six pack.
Me: Whoa, did it work?
Him: Not really. He ripped the tape off and the skin was lighter where the tape was.
Me: Ouch.

I learn so much from this kid. I see him performing plank and ab curls around the apartment. But I think he stopped on Day 2.

billy porter/lizzo

i’m late in posting this but these two major life forces gave me a nice pick-me-up this summer.

Do you know Lizzo? Do you know Billy Porter? I don’t mean to lump these two major life forces in one post, but dude, both of these peeps are the light! Whew! What joy! They are both exceptional singers and are way out of the bounds of what’s considered normal.

Lizzo, unapologetically full-figured, celebrates her self and her desirability all the time. She is a professional-level flutist and has discussed her crossroads of going either the classical orchestra route or the hip-hop/pop/composer/church-influenced singing route. A lot of her current hits incorporate flute music.

Billy Porter is a star of FX’s “Pose,” but really broke out when he was cast as a lead in Broadway’s “Kinky Boots.” A graduate of the prestigious Carnegie Mellon acting program, he’s a late bloomer (love that). At drama school, actors were told to be authentic and themselves and real, but he always felt that message did not include him, being told that he was too gay and too black. When he was cast a high-heeled, larger than life drag queen, he has said that it’s the first time where he felt liberated — it was the first part where he felt what was traditionally considered his weaknesses were an asset. Once he made that connection, his career boomed. I find that fascinating! In any case, I didn’t really click with who he was until I heard his joyous, impromtu performance of “Gypsy” songs during the commercial break during the Tonys, which I linked above. He’s also made a name for himself because he flirts with gender lines, often pairing a tuxedo blazer with a large gown.

Both of them, embracing what makes them different, asserting their authentic selves, really makes me feel relaxed. It’s not like i have an inner Phoenix-cross-dresser inside me, but I am inspired. If they can be themselves, I can too.


SsingSsing/Intangible Cultural Assets of Korea

I was minding my own business, reading an article on Linda Ronstadt (and why was I reading it? I don’t take any particular interest in Linda Ronstadt, although I love her voice. Check out “Blue Bayou.” Killer. [Incidentally, when I went to look up this song, I searched for “Spanish Eyes,” which apparently does not exist. “Blue Bayou,” it is.])

In the interview, Ms. Ronstadt said she caught a group called SsingSsing on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series and says she feels like she saw the future. This South Korean band fuses traditional Korean folk music with rock, glam rock and disco. Say what now? Among the traditional music style they incorporate is Gyeonggi Sori, which is Asset #57 on the Intangible Cultural Assets of Korea. Other styles of traditional music they use include Seodo Sori (from the northwest provinces of North Korea), Hwanghae/Pyeongan folk songs, and the shamanistic-ritual based Seoul Gut. (Don’t know what that means, but am fully prepared to research.)

They also dress in costume and crazy makeup, using cross-dressing as a tool, so that the male singers can emulate shamans — who need to channel both male and female spirits. One of the singers said he tries to be as gender neutral as possible.

First off, thank you linda Ronstadt for putting them on my radar. Second, thank you Wikipedia and SsingSsing for putting the phrase “Intangible Cultural Assets of Korea” on my radar. (Doesn’t that sound like a Beastie Boys lyric? Don’t you think Lin Manual Miranda could create an entire musical from the that turn of phrase? It is also cracks me up — such an official take on something that can’t be officially, realistically captured. Nice try though.)

I think you need to see the visual before listening to their songs, and I’m not positive the music is as compelling without their showmanship, but oh my god, I am not freaking hooked. I am looking for up all sorts of concert links, made one of my friends promise to come with to a concert (he said yes but only if he could eat an edible), and am considering crimping my hair in homage to the lead singer. I’m so inspired iI might try to teach myself Korean so I can understand what the lyrics are.

stranger things hair

I was in a rush so I went to a turbo-fast-hair-salon for a haircut. That was a mistake. The guy took the scissors and dragged them through my hair, a technique I hate (an aside: people on occasion tell me “hate is a strong word,” as in, they are implying I shouldn’t use it. I think the word itself is fine. It’s all about context. For example, “I hate cilantro” is not as horrific as “I hate [certain demographic of humans].” Also, only because I don’t really like when people try to pin random rules, I break it freely. SORRY HATERS!!!).

I’ve gotten enough haircuts to know that when a person starts dragging scissors through your hair to create layers, they are beginners. They have learned a template of cutting and never got better. It totally gives the person split ends. After the scissor dragging, the kid also thinned out my hair with random cuts. I was over it. The good new is the haircut only took 15 minutes and I was out of there! The bad news is my hair looks like Steve from “Stranger Things.”

But Steve from “Stranger Things” is a terrific character. I had forgotten about the show, but the mullet I haver reminded me to watch this 1980s-period series and it is simply a delightful show. Husband and I are enjoying it very much.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall seems too good to be true. A beautiful, English scientist, she found her calling without much training – she went to Tanzania in 1960 when she was 26 to study wild chimpanzees with a notebook. The thing that made her different was she excelled at listening and observing. Through that talent, she discovered chimpanzees were quite similar to humans (points for evolution theorist) – they make tools, eat and hunt and hunt for meet, and have humanistic social behaviors (taking care of each other, forming families, fighting wars.)

Anyway, that’s all the stuff you can find out online. I think it’d make a great feel-good movie that probably already exists. She’s a global conservationist and a lot of people look to her for inspiration. She did a Reddit conversation a few years ago, and she says a lot of encouraging things. Here’s a quick summary: how to fight despair and apathy over how cruddy the world is? She says we have a few things going for us: 1) The energy and commitment of young people; 2) our awesome human brain; and 3) the human spirit.

Here’s what she said that trips me out:

“I think there’s a growing tendency to explore the intellectual ability of all kinds of different animals, and now we even know trees and plants can communicate through pheromones spreading messages in the wind or through micro fungus in the roots sending messages through the ground. And because science has now opened its mind to the possibility of intelligence in creatures, we are learning so much more and it’s a very exciting time.”

I have heard this concept once before on a podcast interview with Ann Harris who says she has observed that there is behavior in trees that indicate they are COMMUNICATING. Are you actually telling me that trees and plants are sentient beings? That blows me away. What the heck.


Husband took Wonder Twins to the laundromat the other day, and they were slightly crabby and were squabbling, as per usual, but when they entered the facility, they calmed down. He said Wonder Twin Boy noticed a dryer with a window, spinning a white and black sheet. He sat in front of that dryer and remained very quiet and calm, mesmerized. Husband asked Wonder Twin Boy what he was looking at, and he said this:

“The white sheet and black sheet were in a fight. I was rooting for the white sheet.”

They can make the ordinary world very interesting.

who’s raising these kids

Husband found fifteen dollars in the bottom of the Wonder Twin Boy’s backpack

Husband: Wonder Twin Boy, where did you get all this money? Let’s put it in the front pocket so you don’t lose all of it.

(My ears perked up because the kid owes me $3. I would also accept five recycling bucket emptying jobs as payment.)

Wonder Twin Boy: I got it from First Son.

Husband: Why? For what?

Wonder Twin Boy: He gave it to me so I don’t ever tell on him again.

This was the best story I’ve heard all week. As Husband and I discussed, this was pretty shrewd of First Son. First Son bought lifetime rights with only fifteen dollars –- absolutely worth it. In the end, Husband made Wonder Twin Boy return the money, and cautioned all kids that if they spend more than a dollar, they needed to check in with a parent. Both boys wept intensely –- First Son wept because he was cornered into admitting the parameters of the arrangement (which he absolutely knew was shady) and because he lost out on a super sweet deal. For Wonder Twin Boy, it was simpler: a loss of fifteen dollars’ worth of tiny plastic figures, rubber balls, and fake teeth he would have bought from the quarter machines on the corner.

Oh my god, parenthood is so hard, but I love moments like this. They are not robots. They have heir own ideas and practices.

kelly mcgillis

She was the romantic, blonde, antelope-like lead in “Top Gun” when it went out decades ago. Since the flick, she’s gone through the wringer. She’s been an alcoholic, she’s been sexually assaulted — she’s had a bunch of things to get through and it shows. When asked if she was involved with the new “Top Gun” that is coming out this year, she very bluntly said that since she actually looks appropriate for her age, she doubts it was a remote thought in the production team’s mind. She said she’s very comfortable in her skin and that she wouldn’t trade a thing. Look at her and then look at how Tom Cruise has aged (or not aged) and just wonder what kind of hell is corporate Hollywood.

I love how honest she is. Makes me laugh out loud and root for her.

koreans at the american natural museum

We took the kids to The American Museum of Natural History. It’s a bit ambitious for us, but Husband had never been and I was psyched to show him the place. I will always love the the Milstein Hall of Ocean Stuff-n-Nuts with the gigantic whale on the ceiling or the gigantic dinosaur skeleton by the main ticket sales, the life-size dioramas and the miniature dioramas of villages of yore. Every time I go, I visit the Koreans under the section of the Stout Hall of Asian Peoples. (I used to be an “Asians people.” Now I’m just an “Asian person.” I feel so less than.) It’s two wax figures in old school traditional garb with fewer vintage items than in my parents home, a perfunctory profile of the Koreas. Serviceable, I guess, and deeply weird. You know, with my generation, there were no public representations of Koreans. Just some extras on stretchers in the syndicated “MASH” TV show, so any public mention of Asians was an occasion.

On this visit, the museum felt strange. I think the whole premise of this incredibly old-school museum is to bring the wonders of the world your arm chair. It was founded the ye olde days of 1869, by President Roosevelt’s dad (I think I have that right) who was a naturalist. So these theatrical dioramas of like water buffalo fighting over the opportunity to mate with a lady, or a cheetah about to pounce on prey, etc., is so that we can have an up-close look. That’s cool! But then in addition to the elephants from Asia, there are also wax representatives of people Asia. Hmmm. Like sure in the 1800s, you probably won’t ever meet a Korean, but now, there’s a cornucopia of Koreans from a buncha states of the good ol’ US.

In the museum’s defense, it’s from the 1800s, and shoot, it is still bringing wonders of the world I will never see, eg, the bottom of the ocean floor (I saw a movie that featured a fish using tools to open a clam shell. That blew me away, to witness fish with operating with intelligence as opposed to instinct. I never thought about it before, and to be honest, it makes me consider going vegetarian. I am mostly vegetarian due to Husband’s Buddhism, but I never examined the whole notion of eating other sentient beings for myself.) And the museum itself seems to try to be figure out how it’s translating itself for the 21st century, beyond the fancy dinosaur exhibit. They’re hosting an exhibit exploring how to deal with their statue of Roosevelt out front on a horse with two people of color at a lower level, which hurts peoples because some feels it implies a racial superiority. I’m impressed that they’re going public with their thought process and not claiming they’ve figure it all out.

In any case, I got to bring my kids to the replica of two Koreans, so we can start a new generation of having random memories, and I got to show Husband the gigantic whale hanging form the ceiling in the ocean hall. They were preoccupied with whether the apples on the table in the display were real. (They did look very real.) Despite my questions, beyond its antiquated character, the museum does have something very unique. You sense that their dioramas can come to life. It’s no wonder that it inspired movies where this actually happens. Plus, they have these teeny village replicas that just fills me with absolute delight.

you never know people, do you.

I just finished Anthony Bourdain’s first book, Kitchen Confidential. He was a celebrity chef turned food adventurer who hosted a cable show called “No Reservations”; wrote several books, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as some TV series scripts. I haven’t ever watched his cable show but heard he was known for trying any kind of food made by anybody in any part of the world. He had an episode where he has beer and Vietnamese food with Obama in Hanoi. (Sounds pretty cool to me.) I, of course, knew of him, he was that famous. I knew he had a beautiful, much younger celebrity girlfriend (Asia Argento, one of the leaders of the #metoo movement, though has been more recently mired in scandal that may or may not have been based in reality or manufactured to deter her. Who the hell knows.) So of course, when he committed suicide, I heard about that too. Kitchen Confidential drops the skinny on behind the scene truths in the kitchen of major east coast restaurants. Whew, the writing is amazing – the book pops with energy. I feel like I can see the kitchen – the overwhelming noise, the insane pace, the jazz piano knife skills, the arduous physical labor, the smell of sweat and delicious food. I mean, this guy – what a wonderful, confident writer. What a prodigiously talented man! And his accounts bounce with a vibe of merriness, a relish, a pleasure in wondering what’s around the corner. And this is the man who killed himself. Really? Really? I guess if I dig deeper, he talks a lot about drugs, alcohol, staying up all night, the addiction of the insane pace of work. I guess there are things he hid from his public self, not that I blame him. We all have public selves, our work drag.

Alan Cumming is a Scottish actor who exudes joy and mischief like nobody’s business. I remember his portrayal of the Emcee in “Cabaret” – he was so funny and charming in this noirish dark, new fangled interpretation. I still remember his face in the song featuring pineapples – he was so good. I recently listened to him on a podcast focusing on mediation, heard he had a book out, and read it for random kicks — and I was shocked. His book Not My Father’s Son is a memoir of getting the crap beaten out of him by his dad for years. He has endured painful, humiliating treatment – in one story, his father took him to the barn and shaved his head on the same table they shave sheep. He shaved his hair as an attack, so poor Alan had a bloody scalp and an irregular hair pattern. His mother could not fix it. So not only did he have to endure the terror of an irrational monster of a father, he had to go through acute humiliating in front of his peers because of his hair. I do not know how he could bear it all and emerge this incredibly joyful performer. (Short answer: therapy.) His Cabaret performance was a career high, but his personal life was falling apart (marriage dying, bad memories pressing him to a reckoning). Luckily, he is close to his mother and brother, with whom he validates all his experiences, eg, “Do you remember…?” “Yes, absolutely, I do!” (As an aside, this is totally why I had more than one child. In case foul them up, I want them to talk smack behind my back and be there for each other.) But watching the ease and lightness with which he performs, I would have never guessed he suffered so terribly as a small child.

A friend from grad school, Jimin, recently published a nonfiction piece that is quite excellent and must have been excruciating to write. I don’t know how she managed to put it down into sentences. I don’t know her that well, but she’s always been so warm and kind. In grad school, she seemed impossibly adult, at age 29, married with one child. I was 23? Twenty-four? And utterly clueless. When I ran into her years later, she busted my chops by saying how I kept saying how she was sooooo old at age 29. She’s a terrific writer, super nice person, and a very generous reader and teacher. Her piece is an account of growing up with a father traumatized by the Korean War who took it out physically on her mom and verbally on the kids. I was really shocked reading it. The piece recounts how her mother suffered dementia and how her father continually threatened to move back to Korea, despite the fact that their children and grandchildren were all in the U.S. They thought her father had given up on the idea of moving back to Korea, but one day, he up and went with Jimin’s mom without telling anyone, sneaking past his kids. So all she had of the remainder of her mother’s life were photos her cousin took during visits, and god, I’m so sad for her. She really loved her mom. It’s painful enough to have a parent go through dementia, but then not get to be there as she is dying — it just makes me grieve for Jimin, for that missed time together. I don’t think I will ever say this stuff to her (though I think she’s open enough that I could), so I will just share it with you — private, exclusive audience of seven.

But anyway, my point is just I never would have guessed any of the above secrets shared. It makes me wonder if we ever really know each other. Or is it just that there certain kinds of suffering that is so intense, causing pain so overwhelming that the person in question can’t bear to share it until they have absolutely no choice. Maybe that’s why it feels like it comes out of nowhere. I have no idea.