Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: November 2006

from time to time…  §

…things come out of your mouth that you didn’t expect to necessarily come out of your mouth (although often you aren’t necessarily surprised by them either)… and then you are left to reconcile the disparate threads of reality back into some sort of coherent whole once again—the words that you didn’t know you’d say but realize you meant, and the threads of thought that you expected to have instead, and the situation at hand that didn’t suggest for a moment that you were thinking one thing and not the other, and the various necessary expediences to prevent the situation from turning into something else altogether.

Truth is one of those things that turns up uninvited from behind and hits you, closed fist, on the jaw in front of everyone. And you’re not sure whether it’s edifying, troubling, embarassing, or motivating. All you’re sure of is that it is.

there is one truth  §

that stands high above all others: for a Ph.D. candidate or a writer, both of which I claim to be, I don’t read nearly enough… even though I often spend nearly all of my waking hours reading

obviously, I am lacking in a certain necessary discipline

so, what becomes of people like me, I wonder?

Lots of dreams lately…  §

…and I know what all of them mean. That’s a bit upsetting, frankly. They all mean “Boy, you’ve had too many relationships that didn’t work out, or at least not enough that did.”

It’s a world of thresholds, of lines-in-the-sand, of straws-that-break-the-camel’s-back. Some live their entire lives just against the line; they fade away without ever having crossed it or realizing that they almost led a different life; they fade away happy. Others seem to cross these thresholds over and over again, never able to find that equilibrium beneath which lies quotidia and everyday contentment.

I wish I could find my way to that other place, but so far, no luck.

I often wonder what has become of some of my exes. I haven’t kept in contact with all of them. Okay, I haven’t kept in contact with most of them. I once thought Je— was so naive; apart from being hurt by her, I lost all respect for her after she (I thought) utterly threw away years of hard relationship-work. Now, having done something similar myself, I suppose I have some of it back.

And I wonder: having held the scale, closed her eyes, and jumped, did everything work out for her? Regrets? Is she happily married somewhere now with a life her friends envy, or does she sit down and wonder what might have been different?

There are already too many such puzzles in my life, they make me dizzy if I even start to think about them. E— was shocked when I told her I was the marrying type. I am. Anyone who reads my blog knows that since 1999 the most important conceptual problem in my life has been the lack of a nuclear family to call my own. I feel the lack in my bones.

Everything else has just been a sideshow—the things I do in the meantime. Trouble is, that’s where I make all my progress. The sideshow is a great success. The personal life? Not so much. Treading water. Repeating mistakes? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think it’s a matter of the circumstances of modernity and the character of my generation.

I miss my wife, whoever she is or would be, wherever she is or might be. Find me already, dammit, I’m lonely out here and building a career for no reason!

What is missing from my life right now is  §

the road. I haven’t been on it in a while. No, living in New York is not “the road” or “travel” despite the fact that I just got here. I am talking about missing the essence of travel—the movement, the dirt, the uncertainty, the passage of time.

I had, I suppose, grown accustomed to road tripping in a serious way at least once a year. The last attempt at this was Alaska, but the “road” part of that “road trip” lasted scarcely a couple of days before the “stuck in Canada” part kicked in.

Days and nights on the road in my car, for hours on end, seeing the world, large and beautiful and not at all in need of me. That’s what I miss. That sensation that you feel when you know that you are lost to everyone and everything, and you are an observer in a privileged position outside of reality: nobody can see you, but you can see everything.

It’s been too long. If my car was here right now, I’d hit the road and drive and drive and drive to nowhere in particular. I need to get out of the eastern seaboard. I need to get out of urban eastia. I suppose that’s also a component of “what I miss” tonight: remoteness. I am from a remote place, even though it is a reasonably large city. Around it in all directions stretches the desert, for hundreds of miles, and above it stretches the wild mountains, for thousands and thousands of feet. It is easy there to escape into some kind of transcendence.

The beauty, and the sadness, of a place like New York is that you are never alone and are always a part of things. At times, it makes living worthwhile. At other times, it makes the worthwhile seem very, very far away.

I miss things tonight. Maybe for the first time in five years I miss the little apartment I once shared on the east side of Salt Lake City. I miss my car, and I miss the free soda at eBay. I don’t know what else I miss. The possibilities that lie on the other sides of the bridges that I’ve burned, and on the other sides of bridges that I burn every day and that I am about to burn. And also my youth, I guess.

Yeah, that’s it. I miss my youth. Time in general. I miss every lost present, because some of them I loved very much.

days  §

cross another one off

Empowered humans  §

are disgusting things.

I’ve had it  §

That’s all, I’ve just had it. With women, mostly, for the last sixteen years going all the way back to the first woman I ever dated. I’ve had it with other things, too, but I’ve had it with women especially.

Now I was raised by (and with) women, so I’m not naturally a chauvinist. But I’ll be damned if I haven’t been taught very well to be one by the women I’ve known.

I don’t know. Maybe things are just getting to me tonight, who knows. But I’ve had it. Had it.

Ladies, there are four ways to win a man’s love:

1. Be the one person in the world against whom he doesn’t need to defend himself. Make him feel as though he can be honest with you about his hopes, dreams, and fears (because there aren’t many, if any, other places where he can talk about such things).

2. Tell him that you need him, tell him in what ways, and then let him be there for you, even if you probably can do it all yourself.

3. Tell everyone that you’re with him, and show him that you’re proud and glad to have him, as though he’s the best man in the room (even if you know he’s not—and if that’s the case, never ever let him suspect that he’s not).

4. Spend lots of time acknowledging his personhood.

There are also three ways to lose a man’s love:

1. Take him for granted, fail to appreciate the sacrifices that he makes for you, or expect him to continue to make world-shattering sacrifices to the point of self-annihilation, especially if you’re not world-shatteringly thankful each time.

2. Let him feel as though other people might think him an utter fool for staying with you, or worse, as though other people might be making fun of him for staying with you.

3. Test his love to see if it’s real and/or watch for gaps in his love so closely that you wear out his patience utterly by making him feel as though he’s always failing an exam.

4. Spend lots of time accusing him of not acknowledging your personhood.

Too often I’ve heard women say that for men, all women are interchangeable, we see them as nothing other than a warm body and an empty head, we don’t notice any difference between them or see any of their individuality, blah, blah, blah.

Ladies: if this were so, we sure as hell wouldn’t sit still and listen to a woman say this shit to our face. We would just move on to the next woman over who was cheap, easy, and quiet as hell so that we didn’t have to hear it yet again, ad infinitium. But it’s not so. We sit there and listen to you berate us about this shit precisely because we want to be with you and we’re even willing to let you throw all this shit in our face, if necessary, in order to spend a little time with the ones we love.

But dammit we have limits. And sometimes women sail dangerously near the wind. And they’re somehow always shocked and dismayed when they realize that they have destroyed a man’s love utterly, for no reason at all.

What is this perverse desire in women to say, “Hmm… I wonder what is the precise point at which he will tire of me completely? I won’t be able to rest until I find out…”

Women  §

Women. I’m sorry, but they’re all the same. And in perfect chorus, they all scream out “No, we’re not, you bastard, you cheavenistic man!” And then every one of the women in my life—this happens every time I say the phrase “every one of the women in my life”—writes me the very same stupid pissed off email message saying “Aron, (a) I am not just another one of the women in your life, and (b) I’m not pissed off, so that disproves your point.”

The fact that they felt the need to write the damn message in the first place having proved it already, of course. It’s not that men aren’t all the same, too. We are. We just admit it. Revel in it, even. Have a beer and watch the game and say “God, isn’t it great that we men are so boring that we can just enjoy the simple things in life together, all the same?” And we do. And we don’t complain.

But women… They always complain. And they’re convinced that their complaints are very personal and unique to their own goddess aura or whatever the fuck. But they always have the same complaints. It always starts with danger and testosterone. Men are dangerous and testosterone-laden. Men aren’t nice, they’re violent and untrustworthy and dangerous. So in order to try and assuage their fears and complaints and show them that men can be caring and generous, one tries doubly hard to be nice. No good, because of course after the first nice thing we try to do, suddenly we’re spineless and we don’t take initiative. So we say to ourselves “Well, bollocks, I just won’t bother, if she wants it my way, we’ll do it my way” and we use our initiative and then they throw tantrums and say that we don’t allow them to have an opinion or input of any kind and we don’t listen to what they say. So we ask them their opinion and they say we’re putting pressure on them and after all why are we always asking when we should already know if we really care and really what is with all this asking for their thoughts anyway, are we expecting them to tell us what to do? Are we hoping that they’ll mother us? So we do our best to do something that we think they’ll be happy with without seeming too initiative-happy but also without actually first asking what they’d like and then of course we’re just trying so hard because we want to flatter them and get them into bed (and of course we got it wrong anyway). So we try our best to avoid making noises toward physicality or seeming to be too affectionate so that they don’t think we’re “just after one thing” and can see that we respect their minds as well… and then of course they’re angry because we’re not paying attention to them and we don’t love them any more. And so we throw up our hands and yell “OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO STOOOOOPID!” and kick a garbage can over, and it’s right back where we started: “See, you men are dangerous, you can’t control your emotions. You’re violent and full of testosterone. No wonder there’s so much war in the world and so many women are constantly being abused. You’re incapable of being nice.”

Wash, rinse, repeat.

And most of all, they say that they don’t want to change us. Hahahahahahaha. Haha.

To all of the women I’ve dated that are going to write me now angrily demanding (in their own unique way, not at all the same as the others, of course) that I take it down: well… no. Learn to actually deal with something for a change without leaning on (or yelling at) a guy.

life is complex  §

I really love New York. Sometimes at this point I forget that I haven’t lived here all my life.

Everybody I care about does not like New York / doesn’t live in New York. Furthermore, as much as I like it, I’m not sure I want to live here forever, since there are things that just don’t exist here (e.g. remote natural areas) that I also like very much.

I’m not at all clear on what is happening to me—short term, long term, medium term, for breakfast, for dinner, for kicks… I am completely taken by the glitter and twinkle of life at the moment, far too preoccupied to be sane or responsible or even aware of what is going on around me. I am continuously afraid that something is gonna hurt at some point, or that I’ll wreck this bus I’m driving. In the meantime, everything is too good to be true, caught and illuminated for a moment by a ray of bright sunshine.

This is a recipe for suddenly waking up in a strange place and time. You know, like the Talking Heads song.

Boundary life  §

Maybe I’m more comfortable than I claim to be with living at intersections, interacting on the boundaries between worlds. It is, in a way, all I’ve ever known, a kind of birthright. Sometimes I could swear I’m uncomfortable with it, but is this just an internal acknowledgment of the discomfort that external forces feel at seeing me there—do boundaries make me uncomfortable merely because seeing me on them makes everyone around me uncomfortable?

Does this question even mean anything at all?

Everyone lives their life in cycles by the time they pass 25 or so. Everything you do becomes familiar because (you realize with each new thing) this thing that you are doing is one of those things you do. You begin to know how the stories end and can appreciate the nuance and timbre of each thread of experience as it weaves its way through your life.

But why? How does this work? The present always begins as a kind of rupture. We are always in the process of rejecting our past, rearranging our identity, or so we believe—until we realize a little farther on that what we have done is merely progress through new iterations of the same old self.

Happiness is obviously the ability to embrace your own life history and to iterate it consciously, to seize upon your own particular habits and tendencies and enjoy them. But that’s a tougher project than it can at first seem to be. In particular, it’s tough to let go of the naive optimism that change is possible or even just around the corner.

Love. I feel as though I want to say something about love here, but really I’d better not. As usual. As always. The one thing I really wish I could blog about forever is my love life, but of course that is the one thing you can never be open about with anyone, least of all the people that actually compose it over the course of your life.

Some people manage to accomplish this, I’ve heard, but these people are clearly not me.

Looking into someone else’s eyes is a way of testing them to see if they will admit to being as human as you are. If they look away, they’re too ashamed to make the stipulation.

Okay, you’re right, this is entirely culturally determined. But damn it, what isn’t?

Anyway, I’ll readily admit that it often makes me tremendously nervous to look into someone else’s eyes. Of course, the other half of the time it makes me want to love them. I suppose it’s a dangerous practice, the meeting of eyes; it’s a kind of metaphysical ungrounding, a transcendentalism that cannot be understood, overcome, or contextualized.

In the gaze, all disparate things are unified through acknowledgment and mutual consciousness. They say that when you look into someone’s eyes, you see their soul, but I don’t know if that’s exactly right. It sometimes seems to me that when you look into someone’s eyes, you see something more essential than mere soul. You see—you see their humanity, their basic, innocent need as a sentient being to be acknowledged, in order for their subjectivity to be called (or recalled, as must continuously happen) into existence.

It is as though by looking into someone else’s eyes you can help them to exist, and they in turn can help you to do the same. In the exchange of glances we grant each other life itself.

While I’m sitting here working on today  §

Tomorrow:

– Get some paper research done
– Put together applications for teaching fellowships, etc.
– Try to actually get some mental relaxation in

The question is, what do I enjoy here in NYC as “relaxation activity?” In other places (say, west coast, Salt Lake City) I enjoy nature. I go into the hills or to the lakeside or seaside and lose myself in the sounds of water and wind and seagulls and the general scent of life (not human life, but non-human life).

In Chicago, I enjoyed… God knows. I guess I was so busy there, and the program was so rapid, that I didn’t really have a chance to figure out what I enjoyed. I saw a couple of shows. I spent a lot of time in bars and drinking exotic liquors.

Now in New York, there is little nature to speak of. Yes, there’s Central Park and Morningside Park and Riverside Park and Sakura Park and Washington Square Park and so on and so on, but that’s not nature. Not in the “I can go and sit for hours” way. Anyway, those places in NYC are also crowded. As in elbow-to-elbow. Not a good place to go and try to center yourself.

And I haven’t found any good bars yet in New York City. There’s really nothing like The Pub on the University of Chicago campus. It wasn’t even a full bar. But I suspect that I will never find (on the face of the Earth) another such perfect combination of academic/study space (wireless access, dark but with a lamp for each table, dozens of booths, one block from a massive, prestigious university library), variety of beers (literally hundreds), good, cheap food (from gourmet italian to wings and beer-battered onion rings, all cheap), and hours (opening in mid-afternoon every day and staying that way until well after midnight).

But I digress. The point I’m making is that here so far I seem to do one of two things with “relaxation time:” (1) I sit around in my tiny I-House room or in the I-House common area and read political news and blogs on the Internet, or (2) I go to peoples houses and eat/drink/chat. Both are great in their own way, but a person has to have interests in their life.

Photography is great and I love it only I’m out of hard drive space and my backup/long-term storage media are too slow to store the 6GB of data that comes like a torrent out of my camera every time I fill it up. It wasn’t a problem to take half a day to transfer images in Salt Lake City, but here, with school and work and so on, it’s just not on.

Reading is nice too, only I haven’t a good space in which to do it. I love the New School but the Social Research building just leaves something to be desired in terms of study/reading space. It isn’t conducive. The I-House room is nice, but when I’m there I tend to fall asleep. That leaves the subway or the street. Obviously I have to find better spaces if I’m going to stay here for half a decade and get a Ph.D., because I will have to be able to read.

But I digress again. The question is, what do I enjoy? Nature, photography, reading, politics. That’s more or less it, I think. Film, sure, okay, but there’s only so much you can do with it. There are only so many times you can see all the films of your favorite directors, and there are only so many films made every year. And I only enjoy watching films that other people make. I don’t enjoy writing or reading about film, nor do I want to make any of my own.

Physical activity? I suppose, but that always had more to do with the fact that I would do it outdoors. Cycling is nice, but I don’t think it would be as nice in NYC. I cycled mostly for the trees and fresh, mountain air on the U/U campus. There is no campus to speak of here.

Writing is nice, too, but you can’t force that. You can’t say, “Today I have some free time to relax, and so I am going to sit down and write some nice poems, or maybe a nice short story, and it will be great.” Those things have to strike you; inspiration isn’t something that you can enable on demand, for hours at a time.

What does that leave me, exactly? Maybe it’s time for new hobbies. But I don’t know what.

Sometimes I think that someday I would like to teach at the University of Chicago. But that’s only when I might as well be smoking crack.

Saturday morning  §

Today:

1. Prepare for a bit of a presentation on Monday
2. Edit some documents for work
3. Write some articles for other-work
4. Try to be okay with my personal life, which is a mess
5. Try to be okay with my financial life, which is a mess
6. Have some coffee at some point

Self-fulfilling prophecy is one of the saddest things people do to themselves.

I don’t understand myself and my personal life. I’m often lonely, but when around people (even people I care about), I’m often incredibly tense and just want to be alone again. It’s not a conscious thing, it’s at a level far below that. It’s like I’m only comfortable alone, even if I’m unhappy. When I’m not alone I might at times be tremendously happy, but never comfortable.

If I could fine some way to reconcile these differences, life would rule.

I am so far behind in everything… sleep, reading, school, work, art, writing, life, relationships, blah, blah. I’m just months and months behind the curve, if not more. At this point I will never catch up. For years it was my personal project to ensure that I never had so many responsibilities or plans that I would actually be exposed to this kind of problem, but apparently those days are over and I have “grown up” into the western adult rat race and exhaustion theatre.

Blah, blah, blah, I hate this entry. I needed to make it, though, I’m feeling a bit isolated. Not because people aren’t talking to me or taking an interest (they are) but because, as happens to everyone now and then, I feel as though there aren’t very many people who understand me in any kind of deep way right now—and no, for anyone who was tempted to think it, it’s not because I’m not socializing or sharing right now. I am. A lot, in fact. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel isolated.

language, category, phenomenology  §

In the ideal, of course, poetry can not be translated. That is to say that the “ultimate poem” in a given language, should such a thing be found to exist, would utterly confound native speakers that attempted to translate it into non-native languages and non-native speakers that attempted to read it.

This is of course due to the linguistic foundation of ontology—the fact that what things are for any person and certainly also what any given word represents are the products of long-term cultural practice and praxis. Ideal poetry is untranslatable in the same way that subjectivity is untranslatable, since ideal poetry is the successful iteration of a deeply held collective subjectivity.

The reason that I bring this up is because it presents a vexing problem when your friends are a) creative enough to appreciate mutual wordplay, yet b) from different cultures and linguistic traditions from your own. You can share your mediocre work and enjoy some measure of satisfaction together in so doing, but all of your best work—on the part of every party—loses all value in this context.

And yet, of course, these are the works that are most valuable to their authors—and that their authors most want to share.

Yes, yes, it’s all old hat, “obvious,” says everyone, but my comment is that it’s also fucking sad. It’s my own editorial about the problem. It exaggerates loneliness and separation in what should be a unifying experience (the enterprise of engaging together in a shared practice).

It’s early. 3.10. I have work tomorrow. I have to go now.

  §

As the saying goes… Here goes nothin’.

Some minor commentary  §

about the I-House NYC kitchen/restaurant on the C floor. It is, as they claim, very convenient to have dining available in-building. I do wish, however, that it was a little more reliable. The hours are clearly stated in the residents’ handbook for breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, yet I can’t count how many times I have turned up near the margin (within a half an hour of the start or end of any of these) to find… no food, even though they appear to be open.

It’s annoying to have to stand around waiting until 20-30 minutes after open for them to have food ready, and it’s annoying to race back across town to try to catch them before close only to find out that there’s “nothing left” and all they can sell you is a coke.

I know that they’re trying to run a business… but at the same time, it was mandatory that we buy into this system as residents, so if they’re holding part of our food budget, it would be nice if we could have some food.