Around the Horn: Guilty Pleasures

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In keeping with David’s theme of geeking out, what guilty pleasures do you partake in? I want to hear about your most low brow, trashy, ridiculous, cheesy, uncool, or unhip obsessions.

Reality-showise, I got obsessed with Hardcore Pawn when it first premiered on TruTv. It’s set at a family-run Detroit pawn shop. The negotiations are not your typical reality fare where everyone has already agreed on a number and do some limply choreographed wheeling and dealing only to shake hands at the end. These negotiations barely start before they end up in fist fights and bitch slapping. And this pawn shop is not seeing rare memorabilia or antiques, but everything from busted TVs to underwear and gold grills. The father who owns the shop often pits his daughter and son against each other as they compete viciously for business on the floor.

Like all reality shows, it’s probably staged but this is a pawn shop in Detroit so, no matter how you shoot, choreograph, or cut it – it’s still raw and not pretty. I confess, it’s a car accident and I can’t not watch it.

Any Decent Chinese Food West of SGV? (Or in any non-obviously Chinese enclave?)

Ever since VIP seafood on Wilshire/Bundy closed, I swore off any Chinese food on the Westside in LA.  And when I say Westside, I started to feel like that encompassed pretty much anywhere west of the San Gabriel Valley.  But finally after many years, a generous Singaporean friend took me to Joss in Beverly Hills which claims to be healthy but authentic Chinese.

Joss – Fancy pants Hong Kong food in BH

Around the Horn: Mother’s Day

Chinese mother by Bertha Lum

So Mother’s Day is rolling around and I’m at a loss at what to do this year.  As you may have read in my Tiger mom blog, she’s an OSCM (‘Old School Chinese Mom’).  So for her, an ideal Mother’s Day has always involved me visiting her in Oakland and accompanying her on errands to Chinatown while taking her out for a nice Chinese dinner.  It’s a day that’s perfect for her – it’s predictable, all on her terms, and she eats at one of the handful of usual restaurants she knows will not disappoint.

When In Doubt, Throw It Out?

If only my mess was museum worthy. Here's a photo by artist Jeff Wall, 1978 - 'The Destroyed Room'.

After 15 years in the same apartment, I’m finally moving and determined to set new and better habits to clamp down on clutter.  One of those ways will be to live by the rule that if I bring one thing in, I have to take at least one thing out.  Easier said than done for me as I have a bit of my dad’s hoarder gene.  But fortunately now that my papers, books, and scripts are increasingly digital, I’ve been able to get out from under the clutter a bit more.  Do you live by any rules that help you live in clutterfree peace?  How long are you able to maintain it before chaos takes over?

Work to Live or Live to Work?


Recently I was contacted by a young alumna from my college who requested advice on breaking into the movie business.  This woman was different from the usual newbies in that she was contemplating a big career change.  She was a successful investment banker who wanted to leave her job and chase her dream of becoming a creative producer of independent films.  So, I started out warning her as others have done for me when I first started – if you can make a living doing anything else and don’t hate yourself for doing it, then don’t build your livelihood around film as it is such a difficult and mercurial business.But in saying this to her, it got me wondering whether following one’s true calling and being able to make a living at it is a luxury or the only way to be truly successful at anything.  (Following one’s calling while being funded by parents/spouses/sugar-parents doesn’t count as there’s no skin in the game)  Some happiness theorists, consider this experience of being so positively connected to one’s work that you lose all sense of time aka “flow” as a critical component of achieving satisfaction in life (along with strong personal relationships). Granted we all need to work to cover the basics of food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and kids for some.  But to what extent is work a means to an end vs. a basis for our sense of purpose in life?  Do you work to live or live to work?  Or maybe both?
DHH: My 16 year-old son and I were just talking the other day about career choices. He said, “I think I’d rather do something I like than something that makes a lot of money.” I explained that, when I first started wanting to write plays, I didn’t expect to make money from it, and certainly never expected to have shows on Broadway. If you do something you love, you’re more likely to work hard, achieve more, and it won’t feel like work. Then, at some point down the line, there’ll be a decent chance you can find a way to make some money from it.

Work and life, in my view, are inseparable. We spend a huge part of our lives working, right?  So a good work life is a huge part of having a good life.

Around the Horn: It’s The Thought That Counts

There's something for everyone

Buying gifts during the holidays tends to be a double-edged sword for me.  It’s actually quite fun and novel for me to find things for people I don’t normally buy gifts for –  friends, colleagues, and those who have hard jobs helping people like me out (eg: the staff at my doctor’s office who normally get chewed out by fussy Santa Monica housewives).  I like to figure out what they need, what they wouldn’t buy for themselves but would enjoy, etc.

Even Addicts Have Their Limits

I don’t drink, do drugs, or extreme sports.  I do pork, fried dough, and sugar.  But sometimes, too much of a good thing can be just that…too much.  Here are the few times when I’ve crossed the threshold and moved from indulgent bliss to remorse…

Get your noodle on

Credit to theminty.com for chiu chow dry noodles (Kim Ky Noodle House)

Maybe I’m overdue for a trip to a hawker stall in Thailand or Singapore.  Or I’m just watching too many episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ – my equivalent of food porn.  I can’t help but have food envy seeing him hit up a street vendor and  get turned on as he hungrily anticipates his humble bowl of noodles.  My memories of Southeast Asia usually summon up cravings of dry soup noodles – basically noodles with all the fixings but with the broth on the side.  It’s a different experience from the traditional soup noodles.  The ingredients are not bound together by a mellow broth, but suffused with usually some kind of pork or chicken fat – a special sauce that like the Dark Knight, is both evil and good.

Last Supper

While fellow offender Phil’s working on his Judgment Day booty call list , I am also thinking about how to spend my last moments of existence before the apocalypse descends.  It’s pretty clear that despite being a good girl most of my life, I’ve been a theocratic slut keeping company with Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and all variety of hardcore non-believers who like me, won’t be getting past the velvet rope to heaven.  So naturally, these last few hours would be best devoted to doing the thing that has made my life worth living and that’s eating.  If I could have my version of the last supper, I’d have a mile long table with family, friends and some celebrity guests including masters of ceremonies Tina Fey, John Stewart, and Anthony Bourdain to keep the atmosphere upbeat.  Jonathan Gold will help curate the menu and tell us what we’re eating.  We’d have a massive multicourse meal and eat until the ground breaks wide open and consumes us.  All you yomyomf offenders, readers, and heathens are invited.  As I only have a few hours, logistically I’ll have to pull this off in LA but lucky for me, LA has lots of good ‘last meal’ choices.  Lots of gut-busting soulful stuff that will keep us happily filled up as we wait for the hellfire to engulf us.  Any suggestions welcome.

Advice to Sophia Chua aka Tiger Cub: Better Hold Off On Beer Bongs Til Sophmore Year…at least

It’s not surprising that Sophia – the ‘Tiger Cub’ aka overachieving spawn of ‘Tiger Mom’ Amy Chua has been accepted to Harvard, Yale, and probably a few other ivies.  My initial thought is to send happy wishes to Sophia who will soon be released from her minimum security prison mother’s loving supervision to indulge in all sorts of bacchanalian revelry hiding behind those distinguished brick and ivied walls.

Los Angeles Voter Alert: Why Measure L is Good for Kids, Communities, and anyone who likes to read for Free

I know that today’s election day – Tuesday, March 8th is somewhat an anticlimactic one with all sorts of odd and end measures and council people to vote in.  However, I do want to take a moment and champion a humble cause ‘Measure L’: The Los Angeles Reassignment of Funds for the Library System that has advocates as wide ranging as acclaimed sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury to LA Police Chief, Charlie Beck.  To get the quick and dirty on why ‘Yes on L’ here are the summary and facts – the main one being that this measure will not require raising new tax dollars.

For me libraries have always held a special place in my heart. So here are my personal reasons for supporting libraries….