Monday, June 30, 2008

The Same as Me

This is a photo of Amy Tan and her Mother, Daisy.
Currently I am reading The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan. I'm excited because I love feeling like I am a member of the Chinese culture. Tan makes this possible for an outsider by introducing the generational transition to American culture. It is easier to understand the Chinese culture when the main character grew up in America with Chinese parents because the writer can identify with the American and Chinese cultures. Tan’s style of having reluctant appreciation of her elder generation and culture is exhibited in both The Kitchen God's Wife and The Joy Luck Club. I'm excited to learn more about the themes of mother-daughter and cultural appreciation she often defines. I love to see the process of reluctance to appreciation though learning and experience. This is definitely a mother-daughter read.

When I as little my mom used to read books to me. I remember lying in her California King with my head on her arm as she read me books. My favorite was The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I re-read parts of it last year and it brought back all of the magical memories I remember as a child. Every once and a while I would get distracted by my thoughts and ask, "What just happened? I wasn't paying attention." Mom would always summarize what she has just read and I would ask questions. I always loved that she didn't get upset with me for not listening. Sometimes her throat would start to hurt and I would try to get her to keep on reading. The first book my mom and I read together was Are You my Mother? I think that book will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first book I learned to read. There is something so sweet about knowing who your mother is--that she is the same as you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"The Walrus and the Carpenter"

One day when I was little I went to visit my dad in his office. When I came in he told me had something to show me. He reached for an envelope with the IN-IN-OUT logo on it. I wondered what could be so exciting about an advertisement. Then, he showed me it was addressed to my grandfather who had died when I was under four. He opened it up and showed me the complimentary gift certificate inside. He explained to me that it was his birthday present from his dad and he was going to get a Double-Double. I can imagine the face he had--all big, happy eyes and flared nostrils. It's a family thing.

This story reminds me that sometimes we can get reminders from the people we love. I had a similar reminder recently when trying to name my blog. Yesterday, while making some changes it came to me instantly. I told you my Dad's story, here's mine:

When I was in my teens I would go hang out with my dad in his office. We'd both sit in office chairs and relax. My office chair was fluffy and dark brown. The arms were covered with a rubbery material that I would play with when I was hearing his story, but wasn't listening. His chair was navy blue with dark wood arms. The padding in the top of it was starting to wear and when I put my hands on the back of it I could feel the structure of the chair under the padding. It always reminded me of my dad's aged shoulders. I think this is because he used to keep his favorite blue coat forever draped over the back of his chair. It was covered with patches that paraded all of his accomplishments. Most of the patches were pictures of airplanes. He used to wear this coat when he went on walks. He loved to walk in the rain. It was in those times, when we were both relaxed and sitting in his office chairs that he would always say, "Let's talk." Without fail I would always respond with, "What do you want to talk about?" and very often he would reply with a happy sigh and, "Oh, shoes and ships and sealing wax". I can't imagine how many times he must have said this before I asked him where it came from. My dad had a habit of quoting movies, singing songs, and dancing an occasional jig. He said that the day he ran out of songs that I've never heard would be when it was time for him to die. That's why years later, when he started singing the same songs over I would lie and respond as I always had with, "I've never heard that one before." When I asked him where he got the saying from he told me that when he was a boy he had a book that was titled "Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax". I asked him what it was about and he told me, "all sorts of things--shoes and ships and sealing wax". That is how I came understand that it was a term for random topics. Shortly after he died I found the book in some of his old belongings. But, it wasn't until yesterday when I titled my blog that I looked it up online and found out that it originally comes from the following poem by Lewis Carroll. This makes me happy because my dad died before I went away to college and chose to major in English. It seems like his little contribution to my life after he died. I guess my dad knows I like to read, just like his dad knew he liked IN-N-OUT.

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,Shining with all his might:He did his very best to makeThe billows smooth and bright--And this was odd, because it wasThe middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,Because she thought the sunHad got no business to be thereAfter the day was done--"It's very rude of him," she said,"To come and spoil the fun!"
The sea was wet as wet could be,The sands were dry as dry.You could not see a cloud, becauseNo cloud was in the sky:No birds were flying overhead--There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the CarpenterWere walking close at hand;They wept like anything to seeSuch quantities of sand:"If this were only cleared away,"They said, "it would be grand!"
"If seven maids with seven mopsSwept it for half a year.Do you suppose," the Walrus said,"That they could get it clear?""I doubt it," said the Carpenter,And shed a bitter tear.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"The Walrus did beseech."A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,Along the briny beach:We cannot do with more than four,To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,But never a word he said:The eldest Oyster winked his eye,And shook his heavy head--Meaning to say he did not chooseTo leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,All eager for the treat:Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,Their shoes were clean and neat--And this was odd, because, you know,They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,And yet another four;And thick and fast they came at last,And more, and more, and more--All hopping through the frothy waves,And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the CarpenterWalked on a mile or so,And then they rested on a rockConveniently low:And all the little Oysters stoodAnd waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,"To talk of many things:Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--Of cabbages--and kings--And why the sea is boiling hot--And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,"Before we have our chat;For some of us are out of breath,And all of us are fat!""No hurry!" said the Carpenter.They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,"Is what we chiefly need:Pepper and vinegar besidesAre very good indeed--Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,Turning a little blue."After such kindness, that would beA dismal thing to do!""The night is fine," the Walrus said."Do you admire the view?
"It was so kind of you to come!And you are very nice!"The Carpenter said nothing but"Cut us another slice:I wish you were not quite so deaf--I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,"To play them such a trick,After we've brought them out so far,And made them trot so quick!"The Carpenter said nothing but"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:"I deeply sympathize."With sobs and tears he sorted outThose of the largest size,Holding his pocket-handkerchiefBefore his streaming eyes.
"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,"You've had a pleasant run!Shall we be trotting home again?'But answer came there none--And this was scarcely odd, becauseThey'd eaten every one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Me and Mr. Gatsby

I just finished The Great Gatsby last weekend. It was a strange experience for me because I usually become very absorbed in the characters I am reading about. This wasn't the case with The Great Gatsby. I found it difficult to identify with and like Mr. Gatsby, but I don’t think that was Fitzgerald’s purpose. Still, by the end of the book I was able to sympathize with his passion for the elusive Daisy and appreciate his methodical mind. To me he resembled somewhat of a mad scientist in his obsession with Daisy.

I felt that The Great Gatsby was eloquent and descriptive. I really enjoyed the glittering atmosphere of the twenties it provided. I felt like I was spending a hot, lazy, aristocratic summer in the West and East Egg myself. While reading I visualized the muted, summery, and glittery tones of blue, yellow, and pink.

The novel’s purpose is to explore the changes that were taking place in the early twenties in regard to the disintegration of the “American dream”. Fitzgerald explored faded morals and excessive availability of financial success. He modeled this change by introducing characters that were not particularly likable as they lacked moral decency. He also chose a setting that indicated the wealth he meant to describe. The West and the East egg were symbolic of both new and old money respectively. This showed the social division between the classes as well as the dynamics of excessive wealth.

When taking the novel to a more personal level, I took this from my reading: Take advantage of your opportunities especially when it comes to love. Don't deny your feelings because you will likely feel the same way years from now when your time is passed. I also feel that it exemplified that once a commitment has been made and you have lost your opportunity it is honorable to keep your peace.

For those of you who haven't read The Great Gatsby, I recommend it as a Summer or Spring read. I think this would be the perfect book to read in a lounge chair on the lawn sipping a sweaty glass of lemonade.