Virginia Tech

It’s awful what happened, let’s just say that up front, lest you think I’m completely heartless. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose someone like that, in the middle of their lives, for absolutely no reason, for preventable circumstances, in such an insane, violent manner.

After the shooting, a co-worker came up to me and said that she thought the actions resulted from an individual who was pushed to the breaking point of an environment filled with the haves and the have-nots, someone dealing with being a minority. She had gone to Vassar for one semester — and the class, values, and ethnic differences were more than she wanted to bear — so she transferred and flourished at a NYC institution.

I don’t know that I completely buy that explanation — class stress and misfit status contributed shaping this kid, for sure, but from everything he’s quoted as saying? He was just clearly nuts. Anyone saying that they have an imaginary supermodel girlfriend named Jelly from the planet Neptune is suffering from — I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist — but how about schizophrenia? Delusion? Narcissism? He was just plain crazy. Lots of kids contend with being a misfit in a severe way — being the only middle class among the wealthy, being the only non-Christian and Christian world, or non-white in a white campus, and they do not flip out and shoot 30 some-odd people. So that rationale alone does not make sense to me, and yet…

Another friend told me that she feels those social/financial circumstances are not enough to compel a student to behave that way, that we all have certain challenges to overcome, and that your attitude and perspective dictates how you survive and handle such stress — and we both kind of got annoyed by each other in the moment. Maybe she was annoyed with me b/c I wasn’t getting what she was saying, and I was getting annoyed b/c I didn’t feel like she was giving sufficient recognition to how much these kinds of circumstances can break you. You might be a confident kid with a healthy set of adaptability tools, but I also think some kids are subject to such intense racism or classism or what-have-you that breaks their spirit and they never fully recover. I think it’s much harder for a nonwhite boy than a nonwhite girl to fit in into mainstream American society. I think kids sense weakness/insecurity and attack like like wolves on the lone sick moose member. I’m lucky — whatever racism, etc. that has crossed my path has not been so overwhelming that I haven’t been able to recuperate, but I still remember freshman year, taking an Asian American lit class — there were kids who grew up in North Dakota and other parts of the country where they were a minority living in communities that were not all that educated and enlightened, and the barrage of prejudice was so relentless and cruel that the result is that they just plain out hate white people. Racism can drive people crazy, and though ultimately, that’s not why I think this kid went ballistic at Virginia Tech, aspects of his personal story make me think about this.

At the same time, I have a handful of Asian American friends who identify with the shooter, feeling the pain of his social ostracization due to his race. And I’m just like dude, he was crazy. I know you went through racism but you could not shoot 30 people and feel detached from that! That kid was totally CRAZY.

I hope this incentivizes people to pay attention to people who are clearly in trouble. There were signs this kid was mental, people seemed to sense it — his very presence disturbed other students to the point where they dropped out of class. It makes me think of every kid I’ve ever observed who fits this bill. When I toured with a feminist theater group, one kid in Iowa threatened to kill us. There was one kid I went to high school with who never talked and was caught punching his locker. In college, there was one freshman football recruit who didn’t seem to have the same regard for fellow students the way the rest of did — he threw a tray of food at the cafeteria employees, he actually went to the bathroom in a sink when two stalls on his floor was occupied (sorry to be gross, but it just demonstrated how whack he was), never mind the freshman who walked around in a hairshirt and no shoes during the winter semester.

I guess it’s hard to imagine someone like that will ever snap, you kind of expect them to stay in their own quirky bubble or something. They don’t become this way over night, and though it’s easier to assume someone else will deal with their problem, it’s not okay to let this go, especially on a school campus where there are presumably safety nets, to observe a kid who has no friends, who talks to themselves, who is clearly unstable. I don’t want this kind of violence to ever erupt again, but I’m worried that we’re in for more freakouts. And I hope when I encounter someone like this again that I try to get them help. Who knows. I hope I do.

Kurt Vonnegut

vonnegut.jpg I know I’m a little late posting this, since every newspaper has gone on to ruminate on other topics (my cousin Ed was graciously transfering the home of my site to his server.)

I actually don’t enjoy Kurt Vonnegut’s writing. I can see he’s quirky and talented, but so is Joan Didion, and I can’t stand her writing either — apologies to both sets of fans.

There have only been two big loves in my life — I married the second one (I know, just like Gwen Stefani). Anyway, the first named Vonnegut as a favorite, so I was obliged to read the first edition Slaughter House Five he loaned me.

He got mad when I returned it with a hamburger stain. I can still hear him ask me with complete disgust how this could’ve possibly happened, it wasn’t really a possibility in his universe, but so routine in mine (Maybe that’s one of the whys of the breakdown). Those days, I was using a brown suede pocket book I loved. I got it for 50 cents (thus the big love for the bag) from a New Haven thrift store, and carried the Vonnegut in it to read on the subway and stuff. And you know, at lunch, I couldn’t finish my hamburger so I threw it in my pocket book with everything else.

Of course, the girl I am today wouldn’t borrow first edition books, or treat it like a lunch pail, or stick a burger in her bag…at least without throwing some napkins in after it.

Aside from writing a kabillion books that gave people pleasure, Vonnegut also wasn’t afraid to speak on behalf of other people, on behalf of what he thought was right and wrong. He had like three biological kids and adopted four more, so all those little facts make me believe that he was one of those folks who made the world a better place. They are out there! That’s really all I wanted to say. He seemed cool.

TV Land

TV TV in general. Who knew I would grow up to be such a TV “ho”? (It’s such a ugly term that the quotes help me deny that I’m using it.) Growing up, when we were living with my aunt, my cousins and I were FORBIDDEN from watching any boob tube. My aunt never let us watch TV because she noticed it made all the kids fight more.

And long after I moved out of my aunt’s house, I still showed little interest in TV, just didn’t have a taste for it. So why am I now mesmerized 24-7 by it now? Maybe it was the influence of roommates who grew up in households with different TV attitudes than ours. My husband’s taste for taste for ESPN, ESPN1, and ESPN2, among other sports channels leads our tube to be on like on ALL THE TIME.

At first, it started with telling myself that there is truly great storytelling going on TV today. There are more interesting writers and actors working in TV than even in film, and sometimes theater. And initially, I think my tastes backed up that take on the situation — 24, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy’s, Six Feet Under. I had weekly appointments with all these shows, I shaped my socializing around them, and experienced great agitation and restlessness when a friend would not realize I had to go RIGHT THAT MINUTE if I were to get home in time for the beginning of ER (I think that friend no longer talks to me b/c I ditched her for ER. I might be the only left who still watches it. Okay, she should ditch me.)

And then as these programs began their slow descent and inevitable decay, I didn’t quit. Somehow, over the years, I developed a voracious appetite that had to be fed almost every day. It’s like the plant Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors.” I’ve watched American Idol, So You Wanna Dance, CSIs, Law and Orders, and even Medium to satiate this endless hole! And as the program quality worsens, so do my standards. I have even teared up at Medium. (Though in my defense, the guy who plays Patricia Arquette’s husband is a really good actor, and it was a very moving episode, okay?)

But when I stop and think, I wonder, what would I be doing if I weren’t watching these shows? Maybe finishing my novel draft? Or the play I owe at the end of June? Taxes? (Bad scene.) Laundry? (Really, really bad scene.) After such a realization, a bigger person would then take the next step and perhaps curb their boob tube time and begin their new life as a crusading environmentalist, a teacher of children, a world-class bob sledder…but I am…me. And honestly, I don’t think wasting time is all that bad. Is it? We’re all here on earth passing time anyway. There’s so much emphasis on productivity equaling a valueable life that perhaps it’s a sign of a mentally healthy person who can just relax and click on the remote. That’s right, I’m so secure that I don’t feel threatened by wasting hours on my DVR, while you’re out there supporting your family, discovering the cure for cancer, becoming a knock-hockey champion.

That almost sounds convincing.

Eeeek! It’s the Host!!!

host.jpg I don’t always have rico suave taste in film (um, or in music for that matter), or it’s more that i like tuna tar tar and cheese doodles (but i hate fois gras…i don’t even really like tuna tar tar….okay, so maybe i’m just 100% low-brow). For instance, I got mega-psyched when “ghost rider” came out. “Premonition”? A supernatural thriller/romance featuring confusing story line and Sandra Bullock? I’m so there. And as I’ve gotten older, I’m slowly gotten comfortable with scary, B movies. So with that disclaimer, take this movie recommendation!

I loved “The Host”! I’d go see it again. Finally, a good flick from Korea so I can feel proud! (“Take Care of My Cat,” another Korean important, earned rave review from the New Yorker–that rag–where four teen girls grow up and grow apart. One ends up in the big city, another ends up framed for the murder of her grandparents in Inchon….huh? It’s awful and annoying, and made me grateful that my parents immigrated.)

In any case, I digress. The HOST covers a inspired-by-real-life incident from 2000, where some U.S. military dude ordered a South Korean employee to dump formaldehyde (a lot of it) into the Han River. People were really upset, apparently, b/c it’s a little infuritating to have a foreign military prescence order you to pollute your country, and this dude is still working today!

In any case, the fictious story says a crazy-ass sea monster emerges seven years as a result, and just eats people!!! It just runs on sidewalks and eats people!!! I never laughed so hard in my life, and one point, got so startled, I hit myself in the face, which only made me laugh harder.

Apparently, Hollywood is already remaking it, but I’m guessing they’ll need to edit out 75% of it, due to the anti-U.S. sentiment. Whatever, ya losers.


Read “Denial Reopens Wounds of Japan’s Ex-Sex Slaves” in today’s NYTimes. It talks about Japan’s current decision not to recognize its role in the whole comfort woman saga during World War II. If you don’t know what that history entails, in short, it’s when 200,000 women (mostly Korean, but also caucasian and Chinese, perhaps other groups were also involved) were kidnapped and forced into sex slavery to serve Japanese soldiers during WWII.

Japan officially does not have any public acknowledgement that they played any role in this, even though there is evidence through various military personnel diaries, documents and the survivors’ testimony, etc., but the official explanation is that these women VOLUNTEERED to serve as comfort women.

Hello? What the heck? Does that make any sense that a 15 year old girl would volunteer to have sex with 20 soldiers A DAY for years??? It pisses me off. Most of these women are in their 80s and 90s now and look like my grandmother and didn’t talk about this issue for years, so the denial, to me, seems especially painful. Sponsoring an organized effort to kidnap young girls and women and deny it still goes on now, unfortunately as my co-worker Ali reminds me, but this is the only example I know of where a government is the one actually behind it.


But then in a more “We Are the World” note, there’s also an article today on how the first of the Chinese babies adopted by American families are starting to get bat mitvah-ed and there’s a photo where the Jewish rabbi is hugging the Chinese-adoptee girl, and I gotta say, it’s very moving. I love that she was so accepted by another culture. Cooool!!!! 

New Amsterdames

images.jpg So this weekend, I’ll be in a reading, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It’s free and they’re serving snacks. Who knows, perhaps, my parents will come and we can ask them what Staten Island was like in the 80s. The script is called “New Amsterdames” and covers the time when the Dutch were settling New York. People like Anna Joralomon and Peter Stuyvesant are in it. There are talking beavers and I play a perky NY1 reporter Sweetie Chin who seems to be the only one in the 21st century who keeps seeing them.

WHERE: The Parlor, Trinity Church Offices, 74 Trinity Place, Second Floor. Take the 2, 3, 4, 5 to Wall Street or the 1, W, R to Rector Street

WHEN: March 8, 2007-March 10, 2007, Thu – Sat at 7:30p

HOW: Free — Make a reservation at

WHAT: for more info


baby brush mom grandma brush As our Kitchen theater producer Lesley said, she knows only one Korean phrase, which she tested on my parents — EET-da-kah, which means “Brush your teeth.” Cuuuuuute.

We spent about four days up there, where it seemed to snow every hour. Though we were in town performing, it was still a retreat filled with lots of rest and relaxation between shows. Watched lots of cable, swam in the Holiday Inn pool, got a massage, grabbed breakfast at the Mate Factor, where we seemed to draw the attention of odd hippie commune members and a garden variety of eccentrics. Drank Horny Gingeritas and Zen Marys fused with fresh ingredients and ate homemade twinkies at Felicia’s, got fabulous brunches at Just a Taste.

We wanted to go to see Cornell, but everyone warned us not to walk. “Oh no, it’s too far. It’s on a hill. Let me call you a cab.” It took a couple tries to actually get directions and when Amy and I finally got up the hill, it maybe took 10 minutes? What a cute school nestled in the mountains, like a haven for hobbits or something. I was also excited to find a handful of Korean Ithacans in the audience of the show. Most of them kept quiet during the Q&A session after the show, but I guess that’s better than having them come up to me and saying YOU SUCK or something. When I go to a new place, I try imagine living there, a quieter place than New York City, where the frenetic, breakneck pace can wear you down to a nub if you’re not careful… I thought, nah, I’m so not ready…

…even though our commute back to NYC was a lot less than adorable. Traveling with props and set pieces is always the point where I question why I perform EVER. So there’s like a blizzard Sunday night, which had our bus, which seemed to be a local, traveling 20 miles an hour at some points. We stopped in several obscure, upstate towns, one of which the driver willingly left a 20-year-old kid behind. We all piped up. The kid snuck out for vending machine refreshment and in the dark of the terminal, I could see it took him a while to notice the bus left and break out into a run. (The drive finally stopped a block later, thankfully, maybe just angry enough to teach him a lesson. But the kid clearly didn’t understand that much English, so to leave him in the snow storm at 11 p.m. in like this tundra in upstate didn’t seem like the most compassionate gesture, though I’m sure the driver was stressed out with the gargantuan task of getting us through to Port Authority.)

Once in Port Authority, Amy and I schelpped. She had her suitcase and accordion. I had my suitcase and my big map on foam core which kind of waved in the wind like a mammoth kite, blowing me back on occasion. I yelled directions to that 20-year-old kid, who looked completely lost (but he ignored me, probably assuming I was like a serial killer.) Then Amy and I walked to find a cab. None would pick us up to Brooklyn, people! And pulling a suitcase through snow? The wheels don’t work. We finally limp down a flight of stairs to the subway station with all our suitcases, etc., purchase Metro Cards, and turn to enter the turnstiles — which were all gated off. I promptly started laughing. (Thank god that’s my typical response to stress!!! It was like 2 in the morning!) And as my reward, a man exited through an emergency gate, which I caught and waved Amy in.

“But we’re breaking the law!” she said.

“I don’t care! I’m not dragging that suitcase up those stairs.”

The A arrived right afterwards and we were safely delivered home. Ay caramba.

Asian American writer or Writer? True or untrue? Caf or decaf?

So many choices. This weekend’s show at the Kitchen Theatre had some interesting questions. One young Korean American woman asked whether I preferred to be considered an Asian American writer or just a writer? And as always, I come up with witty comebacks HOURS after it really matters.

Oh, I said something intelligible, but here’s what I would love to say: A good story is a good story. You can’t ignore the socioeconomic context of a character, and I do think it’s good to crank out work that describes people who do not get as much coverage as others. And I’m serious about always including a Korean American character in scripts and stories, so that someone who looks like me can play the person in the movies. I also believe how we represent people in art can impact how we treat each other in real life. I’m not interested in perpetuating stereotypes–that’s not real, they’re not human. We do need more Asian American characters who are not Chinese food delivery guys with accents, hookers, nerds, etc., but also, that idea alone doesn’t create the heart of a good story. You can’t write a story from a place of “I’m a Korean American.” It’s got to be how you feel about it — I feel alienated it, I love it, I feel ostracized from it, or SOMETHING. It’s got to be a feeling, not just a theory. And every story, swear to goodness, if it’s really good, is something anyone can all relate to.

Still, as long as we have the option of choosing which prism to see through, why not Asian American characters? It’s not like the market is flooded with them.

And to the one gentleman who requested where he could find my fiction, I will post publications on this site. I’m a little leery of sharing fiction, mostly b/c I think my fake stories are so much more revealing than my true ones. 


Bored? Lonely? Have four hours to drive?

MomAcrossPoster.jpg Come see My Mom Across America featuring myself, the lovely Amy Kohn on accordion, and the saucy Jesse Jou as director in Ithaca, New York this weekend — February 23 through 25th at the Kitchen Theatre.

Go to for more info! We’re so excited to go up and have fun, and escape NYC for the weekend!!!

Celeb Sighting

Verizon Weird, I took the subway uptown on Monday to buy a triangle mallet, and who sits across me with his novel but the Verizon guy. Same haircut, same glasses. Very odd to be so close to him! And what I do with all famous people in my vicinity, I think about them for a short intense time, for the duration that they’re in my obrit. Why is he riding the subway? He’s like in a kabillion commercials, this guy has got to be loaded. His family in Westchester probably still remember in “Pippin” in the ninth grade and how he showed something special, but till he booked this recent gig, they still thought he should give law school a whirl. Perhaps his friends in Brooklyn still invite him for parties on Saturday which he shows up less and less for. Some will say he hasn’t changed, others will think he’s definitely gotten a little too big for the britches, but only Verizon guy will really know if he’s different or not.

Sad. That’s why I can’t handle being near famous people. Kirsten Johnson once worked out at my old, now defunct gym West Village Workout (which I loved because the average gym user age was like 66. Awesome!) and I thought about her and “Third Rock” the whole time. Too distracting.

Celebs I have seen:

* Verizon guy

* Kirsten Johnson

* Woody Allen and Soon Yi Previn

* Natalie Portman

* Scully or Gillian Anderson

* Sapphire, the poet who wrote “Push” (No one else recognized her in African dance class. I’m like, oh my god, that’s Sapphire. Maybe b/c I was in publishing when her book came out and I saw her author photo a kabillion times.)

* Michael Stipe (tiny in person. very pretty blue eyes)