Hand holding a reusable bag from Foodland. The bag features an illustration of Spam musubi.

September 2017 in Photos

Hand holding the book

Hand holding a red box of crackers. Box has text that says

Hand holding a square-shaped mini mooncake.

This month: photos of my hand holding things. 1) Now the proud owner of a Foodland Spam musubi grocery bag, a gift from friends. I’ve been coveting one of these bags for years. 2) The title of this book by Rebecca Solnit, completely changed by barcode placement. 3) A box of crackers at the Asian grocery. This guy seems like a worthy leader. I’d follow him. 4) I love mooncake season.

Southern Fried Asian

I’m the guest this week on Southern Fried Asian, a podcast about Asian Americans from the South. I talk to host Keith Chow about Houston, hurricanes, and how to get your queso through TSA security. He’s also the founder of pop culture website The Nerds of Color. Even though I work in radio sometimes, hearing my own voice is still weird.

Listen to the episode here.

Three men of various racial backgrounds push a boat with a woman and two children sitting in it through knee-high water in the streets of Houston.

Houston, A Love Letter

It’s hard to watch your hometown destroyed from afar. I wrote a love letter to Houston in Vogue about the things I love about this city that shaped me, and the ability of ordinary people to rise up to care for one another.

Photo: Getty Images

The lobby of the Hotel Alexandra, which features mid-century modern furniture. Sofas and arm chairs surround a round wood coffee table with a potted snake plant.

August 2017 in Photos

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August photos are from a visit to Copenhagen, my first time there. I hope to return.  1) The lobby of the Hotel Alexandra, where I stayed. This hotel collects mid-century modern furniture by Danish designers and it was relaxing to come back every day to a space that was thoughtfully decorated and furnished with such beautiful pieces.  2) The chair exhibit at Designmuseum Danmark. Each chair sits in a cube in the wall, where it’s presented as if framed for viewing.   3) Walking up the spiral of the Rundetaarn, built as an astronomical observatory in the 17th century.  4) Sensory overload at the Rosenborg Castle, built in 1606. I don’t think I could ever live in a space with so much going on.

A scene from the film Gook showing the backs of two people watching smoke in the distance. A quote from Peter Travers of Rolling Stone says, "Spellbinding. A beautiful film."

Gook Opens Nationwide Aug 25

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Justin Chon’s Gook opens nationwide this weekend. Haven’t heard the buzz about this film? Review here and here and great interviews with the director here and here. I’ll be moderating the Q&A at the Saturday night screening in Berkeley. Come out and support! Here are the other cities it’s playing in:

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Iceland's Fjaorarglijufur canyon, an exceptionally green canyon. A stream runs through the bottom of it.

July 2017 in Photos

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In July, I fulfilled a dream to visit Iceland. Every day was an unbelievable adventure and I’d see something I had never seen before. To see Iceland means to take to the road – there is one road that goes all the way around the island called the Ring Road. The landscape changes as you drive, from lush greens to dusty biomorphic shapes that reminded me of an endless Yayoi Kusama exhibit (upon closer inspection it was lichen growing everywhere) to dusty desert landscapes to waterfalls carving their way down mountains to glaciers appearing as a sudden patch of white in the distance. I was in a constant state of amazement at the primal geological wonder that is Iceland. It’s pretty much impossible to take a bad photo there.

1) The massive Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon which runs 100 meters deep and 2 kilometers long.  2) I could not believe the size of Gulfoss. For size reference, look at the left hand side of this photo for the people. And rainbows! They’re not big deal there.  3) Dettifoss, possibly the most powerful waterfall in Europe. And you can walk right up to it as you can with many sights in Iceland.  4) Walking on a glacier tongue, feeling how small we are on this Earth. Our guide told us that the glacier has shrunk in the past 20 years though.  5) Jökulsárlón, where glacier pieces that break off get marooned in this calm lagoon.

A hand holding a felted Watchamacalit bar, the text is painted on it with puffy paint. From the 8 till late exhibit by Lucy Sparrow.

June 2017 in Photos

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1) I’m now the proud owner of a Lucy Sparrow piece from her “8 ’till Late” installation in New York. She recreated a bodega out of felt and all the goods were for sale. It was fun and whimsical. It closed nine days early because people bought up all the art. I’m glad I got to see it. As the grandchild of grocery store owners, I loved it. I especially loved that she had Whatchamacallits on offer because those seemed rare to me — it wasn’t just any old place that carried them — and I ate a lot of them at my grandparents’ store.  2) Rainbow cupcakes! These were for a kid’s birthday party, but they’re also appropriate for Pride. 3) I love the bright hues of bougainvillea. These were in San Francisco.  4) The interior of Pels Pies in Brooklyn. Good pies and charming interior with a pressed tin ceiling and plants galore in the window. Oh, and the wallpaper!  5) The cozy Kelly Writers House on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

A green compost bin overflowing with flower stems in Chinatown, San Francisco. It is next to a red brick wall.
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May 2017 in Photos

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1) Compost bin for a flower shop in San Francisco Chinatown.  2) Perks of working from home: treating myself to Humphry Slocombe’s vietnamese iced coffee ice cream on a warm day.  3) Parts of a McFish, after some time in the fridge. (Yes, I put a Filet-O-Fish in the fridge because it was two for $6 and one was already $5 and I couldn’t eat two.)  6) Lunch at Tay Ho, Oakland Chinatown. Garlic noodles with chicken skewers and an appetizer plate. I love that appetizer plate — all sorts of goodness.

A sign says "vacancy motel" next to a road.

April 2017 in Photos

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These photos were taken in early April when I took a road trip to Manzanar National Historic Site, the former internment camp, to write this essay for NPR. 1) Vacancy sign in Cartago, CA along U.S. Route 395. I had to drive the southern route from the San Francisco Bay Area because the northern route was impassable due to a storm. This added 2 hours to the drive. (Total drive time: about 8 hours).  2) Recreation of a guard tower at Manzanar. There had been eight.  3) The remains of what was once a garden at Manzanar. Residents built gardens to make the camp seem a little more normal.  4) Offerings by the Manzanar cemetery and monument.  5) The post office in Independence, CA, the closest inhabited area to Manzanar, about six miles north.

The image for "To swim is to endure," which is a painting of a female swimmer's back.

To Swim is to Endure: On Living with Chronic Pain

I have a personal essay on Catapult about my relationship to swimming and how it helps me get through chronic headaches and writer’s block. This essay has been many months in the making. Though part of me is wary of putting something so personal out in the world, I’m thrilled to be in Catapult. If you don’t know it, be sure to spend some time on there. The site is full of great writing.

art by Ellen Orseck / image via brad, flickr