Palo Alto by James Franco

Today was gloomy, cloudy, windy, rainy, and cold. It’s almost May and should be spring. Yet, I had to wear a jacket on my way out. But before I went out, I finished Palo Alto, the book by James Franco.

Not long ago, he was all over the news for flirting with a 17-year-old via Instagram. Reading this book just reminded me of the news.

Palo Alto is a book of stories about all these rebellious teens. A lot of pot, alcohol, and some sex. These kids were 14, drunk and high. In an age when they think they knew everything, thought they could be responsible for themselves, or thought they were smart enough to avoid being responsible for their trouble. To some degree, they might have been right. They could play the innocent card, the immature card, the curious card. But when you, or me, get to mid 20s, especially after college, you grow up in the night because parents no long back you up financially. You and I are all on our own, you know?

I wouldn’t say I wish I could go back to when I was a teen. Not that I don’t want to; it’s just different. I would go back to do some crazy stuff, knowing I could play the immature card to adults and authorities. When I was reading the stories of these kids killing animals, smoking, drinking, trying to have sex, I had mix feelings. At the age of 14, I was spending my second year in boarding school. In America, going to boarding school may not mean a good thing. But in China, private boarding school are usually good schools. So, there I was studying hard and gossiping with my girls because there were a lot of rich kids, whose family own business, factories and work for the government. There was no pot, vodka, or sex. I miss the dorm with my girls. I enjoyed the days where gossips were just about that girl who did not fit in with me and the other three girls. I talked behind a teacher and got caught. Teachers looked at me differently and probably hated me for a while. But I was one of the better students in the class. So they couldn’t really do anything to me. It was good days.

But I was curious if I were put into this situations with these teens, would I fit in? I was in American for my sophomore year in high school. It was in a Detroit suburb. It wasn’t like Palo Alto crazy. Or may it was just because I was hanging out with the good people. I was just wondering what if I were one of them. I might have been just one of them if I were in American high school. Or I might have been the nerd that nobody talked to. Who knew.

I picked this book also because I was curious how good a writer James Franco was and is. Well, this book is about these rebellious and irresponsible teens in adults’ eyes (these teens, if they really lived, for sure thought they were being themselves and cool). I didn’t find any evidence of adults and judging like we adults do in the book. All stories written in teens’ eyes. Even how they describe authorities, like the probation counsellor, and old people, adults, etc.

Writing techniques were pretty unique. But especially in Part I, each story has its own narrator. I didn’t learn who the narrator was until I read the conversations. In addition, in Part II, within the same story, the narrator changed. It could be very confusing.

When you get to certain age, you know to obey to the authority. You, at least pretend to, respect them in the presence. But some teens, like Teddy, just did what he wanted to. He was late to the meeting with probation counselor. He was cursing. He was kicked out of the library for drawing dicks and vaginas in children’s books instead of completing his community services.

After six years in America, I am not surprised by teens here do such things. It’s the culture here. It’s the peer pressure here. Bad kids were cool. In the school, they knew who had sex first, who could get alcohol or pot. They wanted to go to party and get shitface. This, more of less, is like college.

I am also curious how the movie will turn out.

 

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To-read Book list!

I have slowly stopped writing about three years ago. I used to make notes of daily life. That slowly became weekly, then monthly, and in the past year   semiannually. This had saddened so much.

My mentality towards writing also has changed. Writing, beyond expressing myself in words, also has become my career and skill. If I continue to stop writing, my career will crumble.

Then I looked back to the days when I write almost daily, in middle school and high school, and wondered why I wrote much more frequently. It was because I read a lot back in the days. I read novels mostly. I read in science classes, the least liked ones. I also read essays for Chinese class. Some are modern essays, some ancient. So I am picking up reading, and writing again!

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How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid

This book has inspired me to rethink China as a rising middle-class. The story gave me some reader experience I never had before, especially the capability to imagine and characterize the protagonists. Usually a novel gives a set story, where the write determine every and each details. But this one, you can even name them yourself.

Mohsin Hamid also left gaps between different stages of “you,” when you can fill in events for “you” and “the pretty girl,” by which Hamid writes the protagonists. What happened when they didn’t meet? When did he get married? How was his wedding? All kinds of questions you have in mind, and, as a reader, you can create answers for these questions.

This is a novel, a very realistic one. All characters reminded me of certain friends and family members. You may not be a novel fan. If you are interested in the rising Asia and its middle class, this is a good book. It gives you details. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was based on real story and experience. In fact, I think this is a novel of many’s life experience. At the end, Asia means Asia. It doesn’t refer to any specific countries, which even leaves more room for you to imagine and relate to.

Related Blog: Speaking as a rising Chinese middle-class…Hello, Cappuccino

 

To-Read Book List:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: Wiki | Amazon

Over the years, Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite author! This is his new book. It came out last year in China. The English version is expected this summer.

I have found the Chinese version in earlier January. But it was only half of the book, which made me really sad for a week. But last week, I have found the complete version of it!

I am planing to finish this book by Monday. I read really fast in Chinese. Murakami is very detail with feelings, especially loneliness. This is another book that describes loneliness. Under his pen, loneliness is always curious.

Two years ago, I read 1Q84. It took me a month to finish the book because it was a little heavy to finish. At the time, loneliness was too much to bear because my grandfather was very sick and passing away. The book was hard to read. On the other hand, it was a LONG story. But I really like his novels and can’t wait to finish this new novel!

While waiting, you can also look for 1Q84. FYI, it’s a LONG story though. It’s composed of three books.
Related Blog: Meant to Be

The Wolf of Wall Street, by Jordan Belfort

Since The Great Gatsby, I have fell in love with Leonardo Dicaprio. In the past three months, I watched many of his recent movies, including the Great Gatsby, Django Unchained, The Departed, and Shutter Island. And I sat through three hours of his new movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, walking out of the theatre completely mind-fucked by the story and his acting skills.

I was once a sales person, and did not like what I was doing. I couldn’t even convince myself in the products. I made no sales and quit before I got a total brainwash. Besides Belfort is really a jerk in this wrongful business, I am interested in his book, wondering how he reviews his past in words.

Wonder if he ever regretted being such a jerk. Oh well.

Or any of the left behind filthy details of his past that weren’t put in the movie? Let’s find out, film VS book!

 

 

Year Zero, by Ian Buruma

I have not learned much about World War II. All I learned as a history major in high school and minor in college was mainly modern history, in 1990s, and  back in to 1800s, and also ancient Chinese history of all kinds of dynasties and regimes.

Hopefully this book will be a good read and fill me in about 1945. So many years before many of us existed and the year when many nations recovered from violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your book list? Or any recommendations?

Speaking as a rising Chinese middle-class…

This blog would have been censored if I were in China due to the strict media censorship. Therefore, enjoy my thoughts as a middle-class daughter, as well as the first college educated in the family, and a recent Journalism graduate from an American university.

I

Two years ago, my grandfather passed away. He was submitted into the hospital after diagnosed the terminal stage in esophageal cancer. He shared the room with two other patients. Initially, he could still walk. Then it became more painful for him to swallow food, and he lost the energy to get off bed.

After final exams, I immediately flew home. I arrived at late night. The next morning, I rushed to the hospital. My grandma was feeding him breakfast. He smiled at me as I approached him and called him, “Ah-Gong… (Grandpa in Cantonese)”

That was the last smile he gave me. One and the last one. I watched him almost every day, getting weaker and weaker, becoming skinnier and skinner. At last, he couldn’t even talk, or have strength to hold a pen to tell us his thoughts in words. He had a strong will of returning home. We scheduled an ambulance to get him home. It was a windy and chilly day.

Before midnight came, my mom’s phone rang as my parents and I were about to go to bed.

“He’s gone,” my mom spoke in calmness.

He was fine when we visited him at home after dinner around 7. He was breathing. Before I left, I patted his hand and wished he could open his eyes and smile at me one more time. I stared at him for a few seconds.

He died in peace, and it was the only way for him to relieve from all the pain he suffered.

II

As I was reading How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid, all these memories flocked into my mind. Besides a painful loss, it’s also sad to recall all the unnecessary details, as a granddaughter and the daughter of hardworking middle-class parents.

My parents are friends with a higher-ranking manager in the hospital. It was his help that we were able to submit my grandfather as soon as he was diagnosed and needed immediate medical assistance. The hospital was full, very full. It was very difficult to find a bed for an old terminal-stage cancer patient. I assumed they already predicted that he only had maximum two months and were unable to make his stay more profitable.

During the almost two-month submission, we refused chemotherapy and any additional medical assistance, such as more pills, or even surgery. He was too old and sick to suffer unnecessary pain. Therefore, we turn down their offers. My mom was once told by the main doctor that the rejection was making it difficult for the hospital because, by taking the basic-need medicines and IVs, my grandfather would not get any better and the health condition would go downhill fairly quickly. And we might expect a quicker good-bye. Therefore, they wanted the bed for other awaiting patients.

In other words, they were saying that he would die very soon, and we might as well bring him home. They were trying to kick him out… My mom and I were totally speechless. We had no choice but turned to the manager friend for help. He made some phone calls and we were able to stay however long he could. Later, he also helped us schedule the ambulance to take him home, given that he couldn’t walk or stand. But he was happy to return home.

Side Note: When no beds are available and where patients need immediate medical assistance, hospitals sometimes may set up bed in the hallway in order to provide help. You may argue it’s bad. But it may be the best thing the hospital could do to help.

III

Think about if we didn’t have this manager friend to help us. We may have been kicked out. We would have to part ways with my grandfather few weeks early. It wasn’t time for him to go yet. He wanted to go home.

In addition, if it weren’t the manager, it’d be very difficult for him to travel home given his critically weak condition. The request of an ambulance to help him travel home would take much longer to process. In this situation that my grandfather was so sick, they might not want the liability for anything happen during the ride. For example, if he fell, or if he felt uneasy, etc. It was the passive attitude that made me sick and disgusted of their ethics.

In the book, the mother was diagnosed cancer. Without much further treatment, she eventually passed away after the cancer metastasized to bones and her lung.

Among the rising middle-class in China, many have doubts towards hospital, medicines and doctor ethics. When you Google recent news about medicines, vaccines, doctors malpractices and social security system, you find so many ridiculous and sad news.

Your mother is quiet throughout, as she tends to be in her interactions with medical professionals. They are unusual in their capacity to cause this behavior in her. Their power to kill in the future by uttering mysterious words today ribs her if her confidence and she, a customarily confident woman, resents this. She longs to resist them but has no idea how to do so. (P.70)

When the rising middle class men, women and children are fallen ill, they can only turn to doctors whom they don’t even trust. It is because they don’t have other options. They don’t have the extra funds for private or better doctors. You are handing your life over to whom you don’t and can’t trust. Great. Just wait and see how that would turn out. It’s very sad to see this happening.

Therefore, when I read “she longs to resist them but has no idea how to do so,” I couldn’t stop myself from sighing. This sentence alone reminds me of my mother. She never really had good experience with hospitals. Well, who does. Like many, she hates pain and needles. Her dislike of hospitals grew much more after her father passing away two years ago and her father-in-law died of leukemia in 2001.

From time to time, she had minor issues like coughing or headache. She stayed home, kept herself hydrated and took non-prescription medication. Generally, she didn’t even go for an overall physical health exam, ever. At times, she feels a little lump by her left ear.

“It doesn’t hurt at all. There shouldn’t be anything. It’s not a big deal,” she would say it as she was feeling the lump with her hand, unsure of what that lump truly is. It really worries me. But I can’t even persuade her because I’ve seen both my grandfathers as victims under the system.

The perception of doctors is that they give you healthy advises and will try to eliminate you from pain. From the past decade, it seemingly fails to match this perception. The recent vaccine crisis worries many parents. Officials denied to relate deaths of 17 toddlers and babies to   the vaccine.

An epidemiological analysis showed the 17 deaths were due to various “unidentical” problems, including severe pneumonia, kidney failure and suffocation, which were similar to the causes of deaths of children under five monitored by a national reporting network, they said in the statement.

Doctors shall alert parents before vaccines that their children are not suitable for vaccines, or suggest an overall physical exam before prescribing the vaccine, rather than blaming on “unidentical” problems those innocent babies have.

In all developing countries, health is always a big concern. More people required assistance due to a change in lifestyles due to economic development. However, the federal and the system are unable to provide the help. It’s a long process that the authority shall secure people get the help they need, rather than hastily trying to get done and proceed to the next step.

It’s a like a building, if there’s no firm base, it will collapse. Humans are like this. So is society. So is a nation. So is everything.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Short story VS Film

It turns out that the original short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the film in 2008 is quite different. Rather than saying I am not sure which one I like more, I would say they are very different except that Benjamin Button in both occasions was born old and died young.

Spoiler Alert for both the story and film! Be aware. The_Curious_Case_of_Benjamin_Button_and_Other_Jazz_Age_Stories_cover

Fitzgerald’s story is realistic compared to the romance in the film. I wasn’t as sad to finish the book than the film though. Studying journalism has allowed to see more of the realistic society. It’s not perfect. People always judge by the cover, though they say they don’t. This is what exactly happened in both the books and film.

Since two versions took place in different time of the society, there were a lot of potential social and historic issues to be discussed. For instance, in the film, Benjamin was born in 1918 when World War I ended in a wealthy and socially high ranked family. He was left at a senior home and raised by an African American nurse? Could this be racist that Thomas Button disliked his child so much that he left him to Queenie?

In late 1800s and early 1900s when Benjamin was growing up, it was a society where people outweighed others’ opinions on them and couldn’t care less for who they really were and what they truly enjoyed. Benjamin and Hildegrade’s romance ended as her unhappiness with his backward growth. Well, Benjamin in the book didn’t have Daisy from the film, after all.

The message from the book I received was that Benjamin was quite a strong character. After one abandoned him, he moved on to another. His discontent drove him to join the army. After the army, he still wasn’t happy. He took on Golf and played very well. He went to Harvard.

Both version reminded me of a line from Prime, a romance comedy:

Sometimes you love, you learn, and you… move on.

Below are the differences I found from the book and film.

At Birth

  • Benjamin’s mother did not die from giving birth (book) VS she died in the film and asked the father to find him home
  • Benjamin’s father is Roger Button VS Thomas Button

    Image Source

    Image from the Internet

  • Story happened in Baltimore VS New Orleans
  • Benjamin was born a talking old man VS a crying elderly baby
  • Benjamin wasn’t abandoned at birth VS he was left in a local nursing home
  • Benjamin was born in September, 1860 VS November 11, 1918

Romantic Relationship, not really

  • Benjamin met Hildegrade at a dance at 22 VS Daisy at 6 at the nursing home
  • Hildegrade was the daughter of General Monrief VS a professional dancer
  • They were engaged six months afterwards and got married VS they never married in the movie!
  • Benjamin and Hildegrade had a son called Roscoe VS a daughter named Caroline
  • “Hildegrade had ceased to attract Benjamin” VS Benjamin had always loved Daisy (I guess the book is more realistic)
  • Hildegrade did not appreciate Benjamin’s backward and youthful growth VS Daisy’s affection for Benjamin
  • Hildegrade moved and resided in Italy VS Daisy living in the nursing home with infant Benjamim

Career

  • Benjamin Button had been working for the family business (Roger Button & Co.) since 22 VS he’s been a boatman
  • Benjamin joined the army in 1898 at the outbreak of Spanish-American War VS he didn’t just happen to be at the battle with a German submarine
  • He attended Harvard VS he was taught by some boatmen
  • Benjamin took up different hobbies like Golf VS travelled around the world in 1970s

Family, but more of himself

  • Roscoe was never a fan of Benjamin Button VS Caroline didn’t learn about Benjamin until Daisy was dying
  • Roscoe’s first child was born in 1920 when Benjamin appeared to be 10 year old VS Caroline didn’t remember Benjamin appearing in her early childhood
  • Roscoe wanted Benjamin to call him uncle when there were visitors because Roscoe was embarrassed by Benjamin and thought Benjamin refused to look accordingly to his real age
  • Benjamin and the little boy (his grandchild) attended kindergarten but stay on in the kindergarten while his grandchild moved up to elementary school; he was eventually removed from kindergarten and being taken care of at home by a nurse called Nana

Have you seen the film or read the book? What do you think of them? Let me know by leaving a comment. I would like to know.

 

Yet, until next time, happy blogging, happy sharing. 

Never Eat Alone: Throwback memories and valuable lessons create more motivation

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Immediately after finishing Never Eat Alone, I rushed to the library and got Who’s Got Your Back, Ferrazzi’s second book on interpersonal skills in business world. I can’t wait to start reading it later this week.

Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, was found in the library I recently go to almost daily. I was looking for books on Public Relations and Marketing. I typed in the keyword, and this book turns out to be one of the top results on the list.

I gave it a try and find myself lost in the book, finding some similarities with Keith Ferrazzi, especially in family upbringing. It throws back a lot of old memories of who I was.

After finishing the book today, I really wish I would have found and read this book four years ago. If you are college student, you should rush to your library and dig this book out of the shelf. Bring it home and finish the book. 

Many international students studying in the U.S. come from wealthy family. They live in the luxury apartment buildings on campus and drive luxury cars, like Land Rover, Cadillac and BMW. Girls wear Ferragamo ballet flats and carry Chanel and Prada purses to school, while boys put on their limited editions of sneakers and expensive watches.

I come from a middle class family. My dad is an electrician who works different shifts every other day and monitor machines in a water-recycling factory. My mother is a self-taught accountant who works for a family business and also purchases materials for the company. All they earn goes to my tuition and living expense in America.

Throughout the book, Ferrazzi mentions his parents made every effort possible to make their son successful, by sending him to the best schools and helping him become comfortable in connecting with the older who are also the experienced. (I am the only child of my parents as the One Child Policy was strictly implemented in late 1980s and 1990s) Before my younger cousins were born, I was the youngest and hung out with older cousins. My parents worked longer hours when I was younger, and they sent me to my cousins when they were busy. It was then when I got more comfortable in communicating and becoming close with the older. My oldest cousin, nine years older, often took me out with her to her middle school, high school and even college reunion and gathering.

The district middle school seemed too much trouble to my parents, as I was a rebel in elementary school. This new private middle school was newly built and formed. I passed the entrance exam and got accepted in 2002. That was the first turning point of my life. Kids I went to middle school were mostly the wealthy’s sons and daughters from government officials and business owners. Their bag packs were Nike and Adidas. (They were expensive and foreign brands.) This private school is a boarding school. Every Saturday noon, parents come pick us up from school and we go back to school on Sunday late afternoons. Whenever students were picked up or dropped off, it was like a big parking lot of nice cars, Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, etc. My parents didn’t even own a car. Since there was a traffic jam, I was actually proud of parents’ scooter.

I went to extracurricular English classes. I was always good at English, getting nearly perfect score in tests since fourth grade. My parents paid for the first international trip for me to Australia with the middle school. (Remember, the school is private school. Rich.) I was only 14. My best friend and I stayed in a local host family for almost three weeks. We barely spoke any English. We knew English from the book but nowhere near fluent. It was a lot of fun because we had to be so independent. We went to school and return home by ourselves. We were 14 and in a foreign country.

I guess my parents had appreciated me becoming independent at a young age. I was involved in some other activities throughout middle school and made friends with people from other classes. I had became close with this one girl, who introduced me to this one-year exchange program to U.S. high school. There went my second turning point of my life. My parents got the bill. It was almost $15,000! Thereafter, I met so many friends who were so different from me. They showed me another (Read: Rich) side of the world.

In 2005, at the age of 15, I left China for Michigan and lived a year in Wixom, Michigan. When the program ended in June 2006, I was very fluent in speaking English. In that year, I also made a life-long friend, aka soul sis, Vanessa.

First of all, I wouldn’t have had made it without my parents financial and spiritual supports. I was only 15 when I left. I attended a new school where I had no friends. They didn’t even speak my language, Chinese. It was tough. But teachers were nice to me. Some classmates were interested in this exchange student from China. The other exchange student from Germany also helped me learn English. Vanessa helped. My host family took me to church; it was when I practiced understanding English from listening. It was our friendships that helped me through a lot of difficulties that year.

As the Chinese idiom says, one who stays near vermilion gets stained red, and one who stays near ink gets stained black. In translation of Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone, you are more likely to be successful if you are close with the successful. The beauty of networking is to share knowledge and experiences. It’s not a “cheap and easy means of getting ahead.” The successful sees more in your potential. By creating a relationship with them, they devote, aka invest, time and resources on you because they think you can make them more successful as you become an elite in the network.

Another key point throughout the book is generosity. Less complaints will help you focus on achieving your goals. When I took the Advanced Reporting class earlier, I complained quite often. But now I look back, I actually enjoyed taking the time to interview people, ask them obvious questions, listen to them and stay up all night finishing ht 1500-word report in the engineering library. In addition, generosity also means to give before receiving. I feel this is a common characteristics of the younger generations. It may be the social media that easily bring us the attention that we always expect to receive attention, as one form of rewards, before we put in our effort to maintain the right attitude to work hard and succeed. Therefore, make them successful before you ask for anything.

Donald Trump: As long as you are going to think anyway, think big.

I have an American dream that I hope to establish my career here. I chose Journalism. Information plays an essential role in our daily life in this social media age. I like the freedom of speech in this country. My dream is the motivation. Realizing the dream will make my parents proud for their investment and trust in me for all these years.

Like I said, I wish I had found this book earlier. I wish I would have read it during college. Seriously. 

Yet, happy blogging, happy sharing, my friends.