A month ago I stepped into the odd world of Curiosities, a vintage store in Dallas, Texas. Speckled throughout the collection of taxidermy and early 1900’s medical supplies (DIY liver transplant, anyone?) were porcelain dolls. They hung out like mini bouncers ready to follow you around each corner. The collection of stuff was meticulously random, like a Jackson Pollock painting but instead of throwing paint on canvas, they dumped vintage photographs and porcelain knick-knacks. Here are some of the characters I found:
Category Archives: My Life
Before my permanent move to Texas I felt a duty festering deep in my soul to visit the city one last time. With my second-hand Fujifilm x100 and Polaroid Automatic Land Camera 360 in hand, I spent hours walking around releasing any fears of separation at the tail end of the shutter sound.
These are my shots from the X100 in their full form, void of any image compression *cough*Facebook*cough* and commentary.
In the past two months I’ve noticed a handful of people posting before-and-after photos of their AMAZING weight loss transformation. “Now you see fat? *VIOLA!* Now you don’t!” But being the hardcore skeptic that I am, I started to look into all these overnight skinnies and wondered, “what the hell are they doing to lose this weight?”
Apparently, there’s a homeopathic “product” being used called “Slenderiix” where all you need to do is plop a few drops of magic water on your tongue, follow a specific diet and POOF! You’ll go from Gary Busey to George Clooney in snap. Yet for some odd reason, all of the people who have lost weight from using this “product” seem to be losing it at an ALARMINGLY FAST rate. Now, I wasn’t born yesterday so I understand the ploy behind many of these bullshit products:
1. Create a product that does NOTHING to the user. No risks involved/no benefits
2. Say that in order for the product to work, you MUST FOLLOW A STRICT DIET, as if the diet will somehow team-up with the product to create a SUPER PRODUCT!
3. Restrict the calorie intake to concerning levels, bordering on malnutrition
4. Make exercising OPTIONAL
5. Stick finger up asses of customers
6. Make it rain.
But the more I tried to research “Slenderiix” (or the company that makes it, Ariix) the more I noticed how UNANIMOUSLY POSITIVE all the reviews were. There’s hardly a negative comment in existence. Now, I’ve been using the INTERNETZ for quite some time and from my experience, there is NOTHING in this world that is that loved and cherished on the internet. Hell, even the beloved Cat picture has its share of haters — so why does this “product” seem invincible from the gamma rays of the almighty trolls of the internet?
Then, a burst of light gleamed from a crack in the system and revealed the ugly truth:
This is another one of those bullshit multi-level marketing companies that sells to their customers while “recruiting” them to sell to their friends. Because of course, if you’re buying into a pile of bullshit you might as well pull your friends into the mess so you can all enjoy, right? Ignorance loves company and this Ariix crap is no different from the phony shit sold from USANA or scAMWAY.
Look, at the end of the day, we are all free to consume whatever Chinese medicine/homeopathic infused moon crystals we desire. If it makes you skinnier, great; If it gives you a full head of luscious hair, fantastic; If it makes you feel like your dick is growing 12 inches a month, hooray! However, I do think there’s a greater issue at hand that does need to be addressed and that is the deformed relationship between greed and insecurity.
You see, there’s nothing wrong with your pot belly and man boobs. If that’s who you are, then embrace it. If you want to change it, go for it. Go for a nice jog around the park, start lifting weights and quit sneaking into Carls Jr late at night to have a midnight rendezvous with a double western cheeseburger (which I admit to doing more than once.) But when companies like Ariix or USANA try to sell you unregulated products — most of which aren’t FDA approved or doctor approved — you have to ask yourself, “what am I getting myself into? What are the long term ramifications of taking this thing?” I mean honestly, most of these weight loss miracles are probably 99% water and 1% 7-UP so I don’t think you’ll be growing tentacle arms any time soon, but you should still wonder…
I guess my problem with these companies is that they’re selling you a product that claims to help you lose weight yet in reality, its the dieting and exercise that does the work — not the product. They’re not selling miracle drugs, they’re selling lies . Bold face lies. And although the alternative of eating well and working out simply cannot be bundled into an effective advertisement, I somehow find myself strangely in approval of these products. Maybe they work because they employ the same tactics that are used by parents everywhere to convince their children to eat more veggies: by hiding the peas and carrots inside the mashed potatoes and pizza, the kids THINK they’re getting something fantastic when in reality, the truth is burried underneath. And though we are old enough to do our research and figure out what is in these products that we’re buying, like that ignorant child we once were, we choose to believe that we’re eating magic mashed potatoes and gravy that our parents claim will make us run faster and jump higher. We choose to not question what we’re given because we want to believe that miracles do exist and that there is hope somewhere beneath our flabby stomach.
In this crushing economy where graduate students with Masters degrees on top of Masters degrees can’t get a job flipping burgers to save their broke ass, sometimes you need that boost in confidence. And you know what? Perhaps that is all Slenderiix does. It’s the confidence that if I take this miracle water, I’ll succeed in losing this weight and maybe, just maybe, I might look good enough to be hired for a job… or find a girlfriend… or feel like I love myself. Perhaps these are the things that we need most in times of uncertainty: a little bit of hope, a few cups of confidence and a gallon of disregard.
When you grow up like I did, staying up late into the AMs playing video games and watching music videos on
Youtube, you start to redefine what night time actually is. For some, like my mom and perhaps the rest of the sane
world, night time is somewhere around an hour after sunset and about 9pm. For me, night time settles in at about
There’s something about crossing into the AM that just changes things. The air smells different — like smoking
firewood from a nearby campfire — trees turn into ominous, black silhouettes and anyone you see jogging by
or taking a night stroll feels immediately dangerous and suspicious. But that’s just what the darkness does. So
naturally, exploring and adventuring around this time gets even more fun as the mundane things of everyday
suddenly turn obscure, waiting for you to uncover them.
Fascinated by bright lights at night, one night I drove over to the construction site where they are currently
building the new San Francisco 49ers football stadium in Santa Clara. Tripod mounted with my Polaroid
Automatic Land Camera 360, I stood outside the chain linked fence and scoped out possible shots. After two
or three, I saw a security guard emerge from a parked car. He looked at me. And I looked at him. We nodded
to each other, and he walked towards me.
Asking what I was up to, I showed him my camera. He seemed interested but to my great surprise, he didn’t seem
to care that I was up this late taking pictures, nor did he care that I was standing around in a raggedy shirt, short
shorts and a mismatching bath robe. After talking about my camera, we discussed for an hour about everything:
work, school, finding a job, and even football, despite the fact that I know very little about it.
I wanted to take a picture of him at the time but unfortunately, I only had color film which was ISO 100 so I knew
I had to return and see him again to have another midnight chat. So I did. I came back the following week, same day
and around the same time, and there he was again. His name is Raman and he’s a college student who works the
graveyard shift as a security guard while attending classes in the day time. He’s currently studying computer science.
These are some of our conversations:
Me: Do you have to stay up the entire time?
Raman: Yea, but you get used to it, ya know?
Me: Do you drink coffee or something or what? How do you stay up the whole time?
Raman: The first time, you do. I like drank hella red bulls n shit, but after you get used to it and it’s nothing. I just
watch movies and shows n shit while I’m waiting.
Me: Your boss is cool about it?
Raman: Yea, he knows wassup.
Me: Yea, I mean, it’s not like there’s a whole lot going on so it should be understandable.
Me: Do you eat anything while you’re here?
Raman: Nah, we don’t get a lunch.
Me: FORREALS?! Why not?
Raman: We have to be on the watch the whole time so we can’t leave. But we can bring food if we want. I just don’t
eat. I’m trying to bulk up though.
Me: Yea? Been working out?
Raman: Yea man, but it’s hard because I barely get any sleep, and you know how your muscles grow over night n
Me: Yea, yea, my girlfriend used to work at Vitamin Shoppe so she knew all about that stuff
(talking about his annoying ex-coworker)
Raman: Yea dude, he was a fuckin bitch.
Me: How so?
Raman: One time, I thought I was running late so I called my boss and was like “Yo, I’m on my way but I’ll be
there in like five minutes.” So I drive up and just as I’m about to park my car, my coworker is standing there with his
watch and complains to my boss about me being one minute late. I’m like, forreals?
Me: What did your boss do?
Raman: He had to give me a warning. It’s part of his job though, ya know?
Raman: Some of these construction workers make like, $80,000 a year.
Me: Damn! That’s hella crazy! But I mean, they’re doing incredibly physical work. And it’s also very dangerous
Raman: Yea, exactly. They be hanging on this wire thing hella high up in the air while they’re welding shit. I’m
like, awww, fuck that!
Me: haha! Yea man, its almost like, shit, if I can make that kind of money, why go to school?
Raman: I know, right? Make hella bank.
Raman: So what kinda camera is that?
Me: It’s an old Polaroid film camera from the 1960’s.
Raman: That’s sick yo. Does it take hella nice pictures or what?
Me: It does. The thing that I also like about film is that it’s more permanent. You really only get one shot to
get it right. So you cherish your photos more and they’re more meaningful and sentimental.
Raman: Yea, I remember in 2nd grade our teacher had one of those old polaroid cameras and she took a
picture of me, and I think I still have it somewhere in one of my binders or something, haha.
Raman: Yea man, that’s pretty sick
The friendship that Raman and I shared was an interesting one. He’s a sports guy, I’m an artsy nerd. He’s into
computer science while I do communication studies. In a sad way, in our every day life we probably would
never hang out together. But in this instance, we did. Like a stray cat finding a caged dog behind a chain link
fence, that grid of metal served as this physical and symbolic representation of our separate worlds. Worlds
that normally do not collide. Worlds where, had it been daylight, we might not even recognize each other. And by
the mysterious powers of the darkness of night, we shared an intimate yet comforting conversation for just those
Goodnight Raman, and good luck in all your endeavors.
You know those nights when the sky just feels pitch black? Like the uncertain darkness of an Mc Escher sky, you
wonder what is up there, hiding and spying on you.
I had on chunky basketball shorts, a paper-thin t-shirt and a fuzzy Star Wars themed bathrobe my girlfriend
got me for Christmas. I probably drove around for 2 full hours trying to find something worth photographing,
anything at all, really. I remembered a bridge and overpass that looked photogenic during the day so I wondered
how amazing it might look at night.
So there I was, feeling almost naked in my bathrobe with my Polaroid 360 on a tripod on the corner of the road
trying to get a shot. Then a white van pulled up to my left and in front of a house. I looked back and noticed an
older Chinese man who looked at me and without hesitation shouted out to me.
Chinese Man: HEY!
*my head turns to him*
Chinese Man: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
Me: I’m taking a picture
Chinese Man: OF WHAT?!
Me: The street
Chinese Man: FOR WHAT?
*I kept thinking he said “of what”*
Me: The street!
Chinese Man: FOR. WHAT?!
Me: Nothing. I’m a local photographer
Chinese Man: *in a very sarcastic tone* So… YOU’RE a local photographer taking a picture of THE STREET?
At this point I became fed up with his CSI interrogation of me and decided to bark back.
Me: YES! THAT’S WHAT I SAID!
He shut up, I turned back to my camera, took a shot and this is what I got.
I kinda like it. The blacks in this shot truly do capture the essence of the blackness of that night. As I walked back
to my car and drove away, I noticed the Chinese man peeking through a small crack in his front door, checking to
see if I were up to no good.
Do I really look that criminal? Perhaps I shouldn’t dress up like such a crazy person in a bathrobe at 1am and maybe
I won’t be so “suspicious” looking.
I‘ll say it now: working at a job that isn’t your career fucking sucks. I mean, how many of us actually work at a job
that we love? Aside from being the official taste tester for Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, there really isn’t a job in the
world that caters to every single need you have. As an aspiring artist working in retail, the monotony of selling
handbags and rubber flip-flops can bore the neurons out of your brain. So when Geraldine (aka, Gigi, aka G²) –
a 30-something, 5’2-ish, aspiring fashion designer – was hired at our location, we immediately bonded over our
shared longing for a future in art.
As Dr. Evil as it may seem, I’m somewhat of an emotional brick wall. I hardly cry, my heart skips a beat when
children are being yelled at by their parents in public, and I also give zero fucks when I lose a friend. Friends?
Whateves, yo! I’ll just find a new one on 4CHAN! But as today marks Gigi’s last day, a part of me (and all of us at
work) has seemed to dwindle down like a fire without a wick. Why, you ask? Well, when you work with a group of
all women, you get somewhat of a shitstorm when it comes to drama. She said, she said, and all of this bullcrap
gets thrown around like condiments in a food fight. At some point, everyone has been irritated by everyone –
but not Gigi.
Gigi was sort of the neutral party. She never started shit with anyone nor did she care to be involved. I respect
that. She was always an immensely chipper person and even though she was only in her early 30’s, she felt sort
of like our grandma – emotionally relaxed and always willing to share a great conversation. If we weren’t talking
about food and the types of food we wish we could be eating on our incoming lunch break, we discussed art,
fashion, gossip at work, and other random topics. But she was also real, with real problems and real concerns.
Interlaced beneath the cotton threads of her happy disposition were the linings of guy problems, struggles with
family issues, and the mystery of her future in the fashion biz. I mean she had some Maury Povich stuff goin on
and naturally, I found myself as her unofficial therapist – advising and guiding her on things such as “that man is
a LIAR!” or “MAN UP! Ask him out!” Conversely, she helped me learn to relax more at work. She taught me
how to turn my inner TiVo on and put things in slow motion. To stop, take my time, and let the job do itself.
She was excellent at it.
I won’t bore you any longer with my individual stories and inside jokes but I will say this: despite my brick wall
of a heart, I truly found myself saddened when she left our store. A good, moral, and real person had left our
family at work. The world just doesn’t make people like her anymore. People who seem to endure so much in
life yet they continue to thrive and smile through it all. Both of us may have bigger dreams and aspirations
beyond the tasks of folding clothes and ringing up needy customers, so perhaps, by chance, the art world will
harmonize and in the future, we will meet again at the corporate art department.
Till then, my good friend.
*This was a song that we all used to lip sync and dance to during work*
Night Time: for a child, this is when all the creepy crawlers and slimy monsters come out to play. But for any
adult in the San Jose/Santa Clara area, night time is when a different breed of monsters come out. Monsters
in mini skirts, tube tops, and douchey dress shirts that are unbuttoned low enough to see some pubes.
Welcome to Santana Row! Where trying hard and making a fool of yourself is abundant and plenty.
Here, I decided to take out the Fuji X10 for a spin. Honing my inner Daido Moriyama, I practiced my zone
focusing and quick shooting. Unlike the sniper like precision I’m used to at fashion shows and photoshoots,
this type of street photography calls for a different mentality. Whereas fashion shooting is about strolling
on by, picking shots carefully like a little girl picking only the ripest of blueberries, this style is more of an
impulsive reaction. You see it, you shoot it. No thinking, no autofocusing, and certainly no chimping.
Thirty minutes in and I’m already starting to realize something: the circus like show that I anticpated – the
bar fights, sidewalk barfing and random fondling of privates – was hardly visible to my 28mm eye. Where
was all the P.D.I (public display of idiocy)? It was then that I realized that although the streets were
congested with walking tube tops and faux hawks, they weren’t hanging out on the pavement, but in the bars
themselves – duh!
I spy an Asian guy.
Perhaps Santana Row isn’t that bad – at least on the pavement. I’m still not gonna eat their shit-tier food and dine
at their over-priced, over-hyped restaurants, but perhaps I can come back more often to photograph the
try-hards and people looking to be seen.
“OH SHIT, IT’S THE COPS!”
Places are much different from the outside looking in, and even more so if you aren’t even close enough to see
through the glass yourself. If you speculate and make assumptions before coming to a place, you could possibly
miss an opportunity. For you, maybe that opportunity is a chance to grind your sweaty balls all over some jail
bait’s freshly waxed leg, but for me, it’s an opportunity for a nicely pressed photo. For every tramp stamped
tramp at this joint, there is a group of Asian tourists, a family looking for grub, and a flock of socially oblivious
And me? Where do I fit in with all of the creepy crawlers and tube topped monsters? I’m a kid with a flashlight,
trying to see if there really are monsters under the bed.
I have always been baffled by people who hate their families. People
who openly discuss their hatred towards relatives, siblings and parents
were categorized (in my mind) as poor souls in need of a warm hug
while discreetly being handed a pamphlet on “How To Love Your
Family: Even If You Don’t.” In Asian culture, you sorta have to tuck
that underneath your crying pillow while you vacuum those angry
tears right back up your slanted eyes. So why, for the life of god,
Buddha, or spaghetti monster, do we grow apart from our family?
For most of us growing up, our family is a collection of personalities
that we carry with us. Our nagging mother, our neglectful father, the
teasing brother, and the distant sister. This all-day breakfast club of
humans, linked only through DNA and a rooftop, are forced to endure
each others bullshittery as you fight and clash your silly little lives
together.When you think about it, it’s quite an astounding miracle to
see so many families close together despite their crater-sized differences.
But what happens when we grow up?
As we get older, the lines become thinner, and the personalities replace
the titles. In other words, our annoying mother slowing becomes the
annoying woman, and the neglectful father transforms into the neglectful
asshole. We start to see them not as blood related family members, but as
people. Our minds start to separate the two and we start telling ourselves
“wow… I actually dislike this person for who they really are.” Before, you
had no choice. You lived with all of them your entire life but now that you
have a piece of independence, you can choose who surround yourself
with – not them.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t really happening to me – not really.
Yes, the lines are getting smaller and smaller each day, and the
personalities have resurfaced like a washed up corpse upon the beach, but
it’s not as bad as I depicted. However, I do feel a shift in my emotions.
Before, I always told myself that I could never move away from California,
let alone the bay area. But now? Now I see myself living freely and happily
in the bustle and haze of New York, or even in a cozy apartment in Japan
as I eat warm Ramen and drink hot tea with my lovely girlfriend (hopefully
fiancee by then.)
Maybe this is just a trait of age, or perhaps I’m becoming a bigger and
bigger asshole. Either way, the concrete pavement that I’m jogging over
is slowing starting to erode, and I’m in dire need of some change. Perhaps
I’ll take that trip to New York, or possibly (and more realistically) my
lovely San Francisco. Whether it happens now or it happens later, I feel
the inevitable steam rolling its way and I can hear that train a’ comin’.
The only thing left to do is cherish the time I have in this city, hug it out,
and open up that little pamphlet of mine.
There are two types of working people on this earth: the early-to-risers that zap to the beat of their alarm clock,
and the nocturnal zombies that horde through mazes of internet at night. I am, as with most of the men in my age
group who have access to Call of Duty and XBOX Live, the latter. I am the one who you see posting status
updates at 3:00 A.M in the morning while the foggy glaze over my eyeballs swirls and swirls. However, I’ve
been living a double life for the past month.
I recently sold my car some time ago and to make a very long story short, I am now on-call to help taxi my
oldest sister to work on weekday mornings at 7am. Let me get this straight: though some of you might
consider 7am the hour to be jettin’ out the front door, I see it as the hour to be flying through a mega mall
with a laser beam attached to my biceps while floating hamsters throw rainbow tacos at me. In other words,
I am passed out and lost in another cooky dream.
But not today my friends. Today, I slugged out of bed like a wounded Bubba Gump as I threw on a robe and
looked out the cold and dreary apartment complex.
Who the hell is up at this obscene hour? What tormented soul puts themselves through this crap? I understand
that some individuals must wake up at this time for their job, which I totally understand, but my confusion is
with people who choose to wake up early, as if the freshest and most fragrant part of human life must be picked
clean in the wee hours of 5 a.m.
I‘ve never been drunk thus I’ve never driven while inebriated, but I can imagine that driving while
half-awake is just the same. I loop in and out of consciousness as the swaying of my car rocks me like a baby.
Then there are those momentary dips of darkness where you crawl under a bridge and pop comes the light.
After I drop off my sister, I take a mental conquest to truly figure out: who gets up at this hour, and why? The
world is perfectly fine in about four more hours! Come back to bed, broski! Snuggle snuggle my little cholo! The
bed is cozy and here, we only sleep on the cool side of the pillow. So lay back, relax, and let the dreams of flying
and lasers begin!
Realistically speaking, I know that some individuals just prefer that time of day. The world can’t function without
these lose– caring and dedicated folks. I mean, who else is gonna pour that cup of coffee at the diner? Denny’s
hasbrowns don’t make themselves ya know! The world needs you early wakers, and they also need us wonderful
night owls. But on the question of “Who is up at this hour?” I found my answer driving up beside me – literally.
In comes Mr. Rich-Asian-Guy driving a $130,000 Black Audi R8.
Whatever… I don’t even like driving fast! :)
A few weeks ago as I was walking through the food court on my lunch break, a man from the “Japanese”
restaurant was handing out samples of Teriyaki chicken to people passing by. I picked up the piping chunk of
greasy meat and shoved it into my mouth. Just then, a peculiar thought crossed my mind: what would it be
like to work in a food service job? Better yet, what would it be like to work at the local food court?
I wonder what it’s like to be in that position. To work in a place where all you do is one thing, and one thing only:
serve a single type of food, over, and over, and over again. In my mind, the monotony of this type of labor must
kill your brain cells in a slow yet explosive rhythm. I mean come on! How many is too many burger flips before
your go ape shit on your customers whilst chucking frozen patties at their screaming faces.
“Quick! Somebody call the mall police! A crazed Asian man is tossing frozen patties of death at
the children! Paul Blart, where are you?!”
But maybe it isn’t that bad. Maybe for some, it starts to become so routine that you start doing your job out of
sheer reflex. Maybe the Subway Sandwich artists become so engulfed in the… erm… art?… of making sammiches
that they simply make it without even thinking (or looking?!) On goes auto-pilot mode and zip! Eight hours go
by and you’ve successfully dipped 436 corn dogs, all while curling up inside that corner of your brain where you
go to escape.
I‘m thankful that I have the job that I have, but in some respects… I’m starting to feel that sense of monotony. As
of now, my job is one that rewards me for my ability to sell an already manufactured idea. To me, that’s not good
enough. To me, I want a job where I will be paid to create my own ideas, and my own concepts. I want a job where
my position is of my own, and I am the specialist. I don’t want anyone to tell me how to do it, or why I’m doing it
in the first place. Call me ignorant, or egotistical, or immature, but in my mind and heart, I know how much I’m
worth. I know the capabilities of my brain and the impact that I want to create in this world. My potential is much
too large to fit inside a simple cash register. I cannot, and will not be quantified by numbers, or sales figures.
Call me crazy, but I am one of those lunatics who thinks he can change the world… and I will.