OakMonster.com - Doctor Who - Silence in the Library

My Reading Evolution

Brandon reads on average a book and a half a week. You wouldn’t believe how much of a relief it is when he got a Kindle for Christmas the year it first came out.  Our shelves were overflowing with books back then. We were taking boxes to our friend’s used bookstore or local library. At one point, I started re-selling them on Amazon.

As for me, as you know, my goal is ALWAYS to read 12 books a year. Some years I did well. Some years I didn’t. So far, this year I’m on a pretty good path. Thanks to some really good books I couldn’t put down. I’m about to add some big volumes of graphic novels to the list this year too as my neighbor loans me his collection of Alan Moore’s work.  (That’s the guy who writes V for Vendetta and The Watchmen.)

Still, compared to some of my friends and even to my husband, I’m crap for a reader.

But then, as I was talking to a few coworkers the other day about books, someone said to me, “Wow, you’re so well read.”

Well read? Is she talking about me? Oh, I don’t know about that. I read well, perhaps. But far from well read.

There’s always that list of books you should read before you die or something like that, and I would come up to about 20 out of 100 while my friends would score a lot higher. For example, the recent Best 100 Novels of All Times by Entertainment Weekly, I’ve only read 12. (We’ll discuss this further below.)  I also cheated a little as I read so many of Western classics in Thai. They were a series of these classics on paper back and I wanted to read them all. I’m pretty sure it was a bit more of the translation of the Reader’s Digest version of the books because there was always one page of illustration every other chapter so so.  Nevertheless, I read Call of the Wild, Moby Dick, Black Beauty, Around the World in 80 Days, Robinson Crusoe, Three Musketeers, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that way.

I was fortunate to have grown up in a household where my parents would buy us as many books as we wanted.  The first place I’d run to when we went to the mall would be the bookstore.  Anything in the kids section I could reach, I’d very likely go home with at least one.

In first grade, I was introduced to the library at school. Once I discovered that there was a room full of books, I practically lived there. When I was not at dance practice or any other activities, I would be at the library. All the way to 9th grade. My mom agreed to let me hang out at the library until it closes as long as my homework gets done (or mostly done).  Even before the librarian trusted me with putting the books away, I was already helping her close up shop almost everyday.

Once I got to be an actual library assistant, I found myself making notes of what I was putting back on the shelves. A special note on what the older girls were reading. (Advanced reading! What a challenge that would be!)  I got to read bits and pieces of Daddy-Long-Legs, and Charlotte’s Web (in Thai).  Putting a wrong book away yielded another about an expedition to find a Coelacanth and the horrific cover of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which got me flipping through a few pages. (That’s soooo very fucked up.)

During my an archeology phase, I went through the entire small section on Egyptology.  Ditto when astronomy got me interested in Greek and Roman mythology.  But the nerdiest of all the phases was my encyclopedia phase.

Around 7th grade, my mom said that the Encyclopedia contains everything you ever need to know. If you can finish A through Z–in English–you’d be the smartest person in the world. So, I went to work on that as my lunch break project.  I would have an Encyclopedia and a notebook open on the table and a dictionary nearby.  A slow process, yes, but I think I got through the first volume before quitting.

My folks turned around and invested in a set of Disney-licensed kid’s Encyclopedia (about 2 dozen books or so), and book sets on science, along with other Disney stories in English.  They weren’t cheap, for sure. I remembered my parents debating about it but I promised that I would read everything. And I did. Over a few years.

With all the encyclopedia reading, I never thought to pick up a proper literature in English. Not until it was required of me to do so 20 years ago.

Ah. American high school and their summer reading list.  To my surprise and horror.  The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises were my first assignment. It was hard enough finding a copy of them in Thailand to begin with. We couldn’t find Sun so I got started on Gatsby (again, with a dictionary nearby).

Talk about a culture shock. Not only the language was flowery (as you know, encyclopedias were kind of dry), there were cultural references and time period about which I had zero knowledge.  Thank god my mom was a Robert Redford fan and remembered the movie!  Surprisingly, we managed to find a copy of that in Thai video store. That helped quite a bit. But it was still a struggle.

The Sun Also Rises, though, that one I was told to wait until I get states side to get a copy. My host mom took that time to also introduce me to Cliff’s Notes.

That was a beginning of a new adventure in reading, and also the end of reading for pleasure.

When I first came to the U.S., it was like having a learning disability. My English was great but I was missing a lot of context, nuances, history, and cultural references. It wasn’t just culture shock, but it also applied to school work.   It took more time to study most of the subjects at school, and even a little more writing reports. (In Thailand, we had a lot of tests and not many reports. Learning to think for yourself was also new.)  2 dictionaries always on hand: Oxford Student one and Thai-English/English-Thai that I would only use if I was really stuck.

So time to read for pleasure was no longer something I could afford.  The only non-school work I was reading were magazines and newspapers to better acclimate myself to the new environment and keep up with the world, respectively.

College was pretty much the same.  With so much reading I had to do already, I didn’t have the heart to read much more.  But I did spend ridiculous amount of time at the Stacks at USC Doheyny Library. It was my happy place. The Stacks are below ground with low ceiling with tight rows of shelves and secret corner tables.  Always quiet and smell of old books. (Best place to nap, by the way.)

Oh, the eau du Old Books! I don’t know where it started. I could be my grandmother’s books or my dad’s old dictionary. I just love that smell. And down at the Stacks, among the first volumes of several classics, you can get a lung full of it.  This is probably still why I insist on reading analog book instead of digital ones. But I digress.

Now, back to my first English-language book I read for pleasure.  It was Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, on a road trip to Texas with my friend Jennifer and her family.  I tried to start a non-school book reading habit back then but it didn’t stick. I was already spending a lot of time journaling so reading more of an afterthought.

Until I met Brandon. The man READS.  He reads everyday. And this is when I moved the journaling to the internet and picked up a book.

We read different things except for Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. When the latest book Cold Days came out, instead of having Brandon read it first, we decided to read to each other so we can both “read” the book at the same time. That lasted about 4 chapters. LOL.

So what do I read? Just about anything, really.  While Brandon is strictly sci-fi, I’m all over the map. I like murder-mystery and thriller best, but I do like me some of the Young Adult (YA) sci-fi series once in a while.  If I come off of something dark and heady like Haruki Murakami 1Q84 (What the FUCK was up with that book?!? Seriously.), I’d pick up something light like YA Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  

I cried over Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child and laughed with Seth Graham-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies.  I pored over popular bestsellers like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and total guilty pleasure of Richard Castle’s Nikki Heat series. I don’t have many books that I would re-read but Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is one.

There were books I started and never finished like Emperor of All Maladies, Lord of the Rings, and many business-related books like Seth Godin’s Linchpin or Malcom Gladwell’s Blink. Then there were books that I wanted to rip into pieces and burn in the hottest bonfire known to man after I read it like Ann Rice’s Angel Time (A modern day assassin chosen by an angel to go back in time to save a life sounds like a good premise…until the end of the book when you realized it wasn’t a book you thought it was going to be.), and MANY Dean Koontz’s books. (I fell in love after Watchers and I tried to read others. I hated all of those others.)

But books are books. I will always love them even though I hate some of them.  I grasped in horror when the video of this idiot making arts and crafts out of old books hit the internet. There’s a special level of hell for that separate for people who actually burn literature because they were “inappropriate” or “immoral”.

That said, I’m always on the look out for new things to read. I get most of my ideas from EW, I have to say. So far, their editors haven’t steered me wrong yet.  Currently, I’m alternating Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.  (You can see my reading list on the left hand side on the home page.)  I have nothing lined up after Henrietta Lacks but a stack of graphic novels from my neighbor I mentioned earlier. So, please leave your suggestion in the comment.

OakMonster.com - Doctor Who - Silence in the Library

Out of the 100 books on EW list, I have read…

81. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818) – High school.

67. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) – A recommendation in EW way back in the days. I did like it and still remembered many parts of it, oddly enough.

62. Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) – High school. This is also where I stopped killing spiders if I can help it.

59. Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897) – High school.

39. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002) – Another EW recommendation. Not my favorite, but it was intriguing.

37. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926) – High school

33. Art Spiegelman, Maus (1986) – College. This is a part of studying signs and symbols in Communications class. I still have the book and wouldn’t part with it. Brilliant work.

18. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851) – I read this in Thai. Perhaps it’s time to do over…

17. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006) – This book is a Dementor realized.  The most depressing book I’ve ever read but yet I could NOT put it down. I needed to watch 3 cartoons before I started to feel happy again.  Yet, the impact on my emotions is a testament to how good this book is.

12. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929) – High school. I still don’t know what that was all about.

7. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter: The Complete Series (1997-2007) – I actually started on Prisoner of Azkaban on accident. Half way through, I realized I’ve missed the first two books. LOL

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) – High school. First book in English!

Henry Cavill - Man of Steel

Crushing on Superman

Then again, who isn’t? Am I right?

It’s been well documented that I love me the dark haired, blue eyed boys. So it shouldn’t surprised anyone that I walked out of Man of Steel with a crush.

Hi, Henry.

Henry Cavill

Yeah, you, sir. Clark Kent. Kal-el. Superman.

(Nerd note: They’re just calling him “Kal”? That bugs the living hell out of me, by the way.)

(More nerd note: Yes, I kind of like the new back story of Man of Steel. So I thoroughly enjoyed the movie up until he and Lois met, and it pretty much went downhill from there for me. No, I don’t like any of it once Zod landed. Yes, I liked that Lois tracked Clark down. No, I did not like [SPOILER!] what the writers/director decided that Supe do to Zod at the end. However, in their defense, I could see Clark not paying attention to his surroundings from being new at the super hero thing. He’s blinded by emotions over it all and went all “Kal Smash Zod!” on everything, and didn’t pay attention to the destruction. Sure, older, more experienced Superman would do that. If you look back at it, Christopher Reeve’s Superman get to play hero in the cape for a while before fighting evil. Brandon didn’t buy my excuse one bit. lol)

Yeah, you.

Henry Cavill - Man of Steel

Hi.

I only watched a few episodes of The Tudors and I totally remembered you from that. Mainly, this scene.

Henry Cavill - Tudor

Although, not so much in Immortal.  But your character has to be skinny/ripped, so I get it. But so, so gaunt, Henry. Don’t ever get there again, please.

Henry Cavill - Immortal

But anyway. You’re adorable. But you know that. I can tell by the way you carry yourself.

Yet, so humble.

Can we get an awwww for Fat Cavill?

This part I didn’t know before, but I know now. You’re a gamer nerd too.

WAIT.

AND you’re dating a possible Wonder Woman?

Henry Cavill - Gina Carano - PerezHilton.com

Photo: PerezHilton.com

ETA: Okay. Fine. He broke up with Gina. And now publicly dating Kaley Cuoco, also a nerd starlet.

Huffington Post - Henry Cavill - Kaley Cuoco

Huffington Post

While I’m not entirely happy about this piece of news, my last statement kind of still works. Kaley WAS Wonder Woman too…

Big Bang Theory - Kaley Cuoco - Wonder Woman

That’s it, Henry. You are perfect.

So, if either you or Russell Crowe show up at my door one day, you know what the answer is.

And as for the rest of us mere mortals, watch this. You’re welcome.

 

OakMonster.com - Otto and Victoria Cosplay

Friendship is Magic

I was told a few times that my life would make for a great reality television show.  All the things I do are fascinating, they say.  I am quite certain someone else’s life is probably a hell of a lot more interesting than mine. But mine really ain’t that bad.

But none of that fun stuff wouldn’t happen without my awesomely diverse group of friends I have come to know.

I mean, what got me to write this post is this twitter conversation.

OakMonster.com - Scorpion Chile

Sure. You’d laugh at that little miscommunication about a recipe for the world’s hottest chile pepper.  But the thing is Aric CAN actually secure me scorpions.  His question is 100% valid despite the misunderstanding of chile being a pepper and not the stuff you put on your hot dog.

(And later on, another friend also sent me a link to a Trinidad Scorpion Chile recipe.)

“Only Oakley would have a friend who does THAT!”  Whatever THAT is, is something uncommon to the general population.

I hear that a lot.

For example, I have a friend who is…

a dark fashion photographer.

“The Bacon Vixen” who makes bacon candies and unique ice cream.

…an award winning home brew master.

an artisan jam maker.

…a bow hunter.

…a jazz musician who can play just about any instrument handed to him including a didgeridoo.

…a flash mob professional.

…an ER doctor.

…an armorsmith. Yes, he makes suits of armor. And more friends who can fight toe to toe with each other wearing said armor.

…a shaman in training.

…a retired drag performer.

And of course, I have friends in many flavors of tech geeks and sci-fi nerds including a few cosplayers.

My broad range of awesome friends always lead me into some kind of an adventure. There’s always a good story to be told.

I mean, like this one.

OakMonster.com - Quidditch

Yeah.

Last week, my cosplay buddy and soul sister Christine and I did a dress rehearsal for our Brian Kesinger’s Otto and Victoria cosplay a few days before heading up to Clockwork Couture, the steampunk outfitter and home of the TARDIS, for a book signing event.  Mainly, we just needed to know how much time it would take us to get into our corsets and wigs.

Christine is a HUGE fan of Brian’s work. Naturally, she got me excited about it too.  She originally suggested that I’d come with her as the TARDIS to her Victoria so we can recreate this moment.

Brian Kesinger - Otto & Victoria - Doctor Who

I thought it’d be more fun if I’d go as Otto the Octopus–or in this case, the DOCTOpus–instead. I mean, who else would think to dress up as an octopus!

However, I do not own a sonic screwdriver. (*GASP!*) At first I thought I wouldn’t need it, but the whole thing wouldn’t come together without the sonic.

Then Brandon remembered that our friend Lee has one. So after we got out of our corsets, we all piled into the car and headed over.

At a stop light by Whaley Park in Long Beach, Christine’s gaze drifted to the activity in the park.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are they playing Quidditch?” Christine asked from the back seat.  I craned my neck around Brandon who was also looking over to see.

Before I could confirm, she answered herself. “They ARE totally playing Quidditch!”

“Holy shit! You’re right!  Do I pull over? Should I pull over? Do you want me to pull over? Can I pull over? Fuck it. I’m pulling over!”

And so I did and we walked out to watched a few last minutes of the game.

“Well, now I have to text Lee to tell her we’re going to be a little late,” I told Brandon as the team captain came over to talk  to us.

Brandon laughed.  “I think a girl who is loaning us a sonic screwdriver would understand.”

I’m telling you. My friends are fantastic. And my life is richer because of them.

Hooray for friends!

Oh, and I was right about cosplaying Otto, by the way. Not only was I the only Otto there, according to Brian himself, I was the first Otto cosplay ever!

OakMonster.com - Otto and Victoria Cosplay

More pictures from Otto and Victoria’s day out here.

OakMonster.com - Disapproving Asian Father

I don’t take compliment well

It definitely is an Asian thing to ALWAYS be humble.

Humble even though the other side of the humble facade is the push to be the best at everything.

Get straight A’s. Excel in music. Be the best at dance. Win all the medals.

But NEVER tell anyone that you’re the best or agree with anyone else who tells you that you are the best.

Your parents and teachers always tell you that you’re good but not THAT good, and that you need to do better.  All at the same time, be humble about how good you are. Even if you’re the best, you can’t accept that you’re the best.

You go out there with your head low. Do your best…which is never good enough. Anyone tell you you were great, you shake your head.

“No, I’m not great. YOU’RE great.”

Your mouth will always tell people that you suck while your heart seems to go first to “I’m the fucking shit!” then quickly to “Nah. Not really. I’m being cocky. Someone else is still better.”

More or less…

Your friends and relatives, and perfect strangers would always compliment you. Your parents will tell them quickly, “Oh, he/she is not that good,” not only to be polite but to let you hear it, out loud, told to the world, that you’re still mediocre.

People can compliment all they want. You’re not to accept it.

Humble pies are served daily in most Asian household by Tiger Moms and Disapproving Dad.

So, no. I don’t take a compliment well.

A conversation with a typical American:

“Great job on that report!”

“Aw, thank you! I worked hard on that.”

“It’s an A+!”

“Pretty sweet, right?”

The same conversation with an Asian:

“Great job on that report!”

“Oh, no. That was not very good. But thank you.”

“But you got an A+!”

“There are still things I need to fix. But really, thank you. You’re very kind.”

Am I right?

So, no. I don’t take a compliment well.

The pressure for us to be perfect and yet humble has always been a constant battle culturally and psychologically.

Fucked up? Yeah, I know.

Now, substitute all the things about your skills with your physical appearance.

Same damn thing. Probably more fucked up actually because unlike your skill set, it’s harder to change how you look.

Life under scrutiny. Every aspect of it.

One exception to the rule here though.  You get to wallow in the compliment if you are indeed pretty. That’s one thing you get to fake being humble and get away with it.

There’s an article recently written by a Chinese-American about the “Asian Perfection” perception that we all have to uphold.  We may think we’re not affected by it, but deep down, we are.

I’ve been brought up this way too. Still being called “fat” every time I visit home.

The good news is that I’ve always been sure of myself and had plenty of confidence to go around. I’ve always known who I am and what I wanted to do, so I didn’t feel like I have to conform to anyone. (A huge reason why I’m a kept sister.)  I’ve always been happy with my appearance, knowing full well I do not fit “the standards”. Not one bit.

It bewilders me to find out that other people are okay with how I look. *sigh* Alright, I’ll say it. Urgh. Gah.  Some people even find me attractive.

Case in point, the man I’m married to thinks so. ;-)

It has taken years to deprogram myself to accept that fact.

So, no. I don’t take a compliment well.

But I’m working on it.

OakMonster.com - Old West Avengers - S&W Photography

The Old West Avengers’ Day Out

Team cosplay is FUN!

At the beginning of the year, I had a thought. What would Lady Deadpool look like if she was in the Old West? Not like the present Lady Deadpool that get transported back in time, but if Wanda Wilson really did exists then. Obviously, it wasn’t be this.

OakMonster.com - The real Lady Deadpool

The real Lady Deadpool aka Wanda Wilson

And so, the cosplay idea for the Wild West Wanda Wilson was born.

WonderCon2013 8

Photo Credit: Michelle @ The Suitecase Studio

Originally, I was going to debut Wanda at 2013 Comikaze since I had so much fun as Hulk Bunny last year. But then WonderCon announced that they were returning to Anaheim. Since I didn’t cosplay there last year, I wasn’t going to miss a chance this time around.

When I shared that idea with my friends Christine and Annette, they all wanted in on the action! Then Brandon decided to join in too. Christine also invited her boyfriend and her friends Michelle and Tony to join our team as well.

Behold. The Old West/Steampunk Marvel Avengers. (Minus Annette as Storm. She joined us later on.)

OakMonster.com - Old West Avengers - S&W Photography

Photo credit: S&W Photography

Michelle: Countess Antonia Stark. Brandon: Wade Wilson aka Deadpool. Christine: Lady Deathstrike (although at some point we just started calling her the Oriental Harlot because people couldn’t quite guess who she was!). Chris: a totally bad ass Wolverine. And yours truly as Wanda Wilson.

I tried to get pictures with as many Deadpools as I could. Not entirely intentional, I skipped into the arms of the famous Merc with the Moves of Deadpool VS YouTube channel.

I might not have made it into The Nerd Machine Slave Leia PSA, but I get my own section here at 2:04!

Between Brandon happily snapping away with his new camera Nikon D32000, and Michelle’s professional photographer’s eyes, we have wealth of photos from our adventures. And we even found a few others, like that awesome group shot up there, from other folks who stopped us for photos too!

Can hardly wait for Comikaze! My cosplay won’t be quite as epic, but it’ll be fun. :)

Here’s our Flickr album:

OakMonster.com - Work Is Love

Work Is Love Made Visible

Remember how I ran home from the Office about a month ago?  Well, running home is no longer an option.  My hours have been extended to 6 hours a day now, and that would mean I have to run home after lunch. There was no way I could do that with my issue with side stitches, and I wasn’t about to starve myself all day for a run.

The key point from that paragraph is that I am now working 6 hours a day. At that same company.

I’m 2 hours away from working full time, y’all.

This gig was supposed to be 4 hours a day for 2 weeks. It was extended to 4 weeks. Then last week, my contract is extended to 6 months and hours increased to 6 a day.

Indeed, this alone is pretty sweet. But wait, there’s more!

Instead of running, I’ve saddled up on my beach cruiser for my daily 1.5-mile commute.  Seriously, this close, there really isn’t a reason to drive. Well, except when the weather is bad, or I hit snooze one too many times in the morning…*ahem*

And the best part yet.

I’m talking to people about food on social media. Everyday.

Boom.

OakMonster.com - Mic drop

So, as I was scouring the web for my daily content, this quote grabbed me.

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

– Khalil Gibran

I have worked with distaste for 6 years AND begged at the gate of the temple for the most part of these past 2 years.  But I have also worked with love on and off.

I now know what it’s like to love your job. And I’m here to tell you that I’m smitten.

I’m just hoping that the love is not unrequited.