Cataract Falls

Living in the city, the proximity to shopping and dinning often obscured our sights. It is easy to forget how close we are to mountains and trees. After much usual thanksgiving activity such as pigging in and out, shopping, and movies, we went for a hike under the blue blue winter sky, bathed in crystal clear November sunlight.

Driving across Golden Gate Bridge, advancing into the mountains, surrounded by greening hills dotted with oak trees, and eventually entering into the shady redwood forest, we were having a lovely time long before we arrived at the trail head.

I came across the description of Cataract Falls trail on-line, and was attracted to its many waterfalls along the way. It was also a short hike, 2.6 miles round trip, with a steep ascend within the first half mile, going from elevation of 680 ft to 1100 ft.

Based on past experience, the proximity to a stream or waterfalls often enhanced a hike exponentially. All these varied little waterfalls packed into such a short hike was even more breath-taking. Naturally, there was a price to pay. The endless wooden steps delivered us to ever higher and steeper ground. When we entered the forest, we could feel the winter chill snaked in our open collars like knives. Before long, we were sweating and panting. All coldness was forgotten until our descent.

Dense forest and thriving ferns greeted us along the way, boulders, large and small, were coated with a thick layer of moss. The profusely green scene resembles a carefully arranged Japanese Garden gone wild. There was surprise at almost every turn of the trail, either a new waterfall, or a dashing creek came to a sudden stop amidst rocky pool. Joyful energy mingled with serene oasis in this small hidden corner of Mountain Tamalpais. The sound of the creek followed us everywhere, occasionally we could even hear a bird or two chirping. The smell of California bay and fresh scent of the rushing stream filled our nostrils with delight.

Knowing this is a popular hiking trail in Marin county, we weren¡¯t too surprised to run into a few other hikers, including family groups with small children or elderly. We were reminded once again that the Bay Area was filled with outdoor enthusiasts, old or young. What a wonderful way of life. How lucky we are!

The returning trip was much easier, except our knees hurt from the continued steep descend.

The recent storms have instilled new energy into the forest, the slopes along the narrow trail was laced with young ferns newly broke ground. Watching their tender green leaves among the dark green forest, my heart was filled with hope and happiness, winter in the Bay Area always symbolizes a new beginning for the wild. I thought of the ending of the movie Kinsey, where Kinsey said, ¡°Some tribal legends claimed that trees are imperfect humans. They were rooted to one place as their punishment. But, ¡±He placed his wife¡¯s hand on the thousand years old redwood, and his on top of hers, ¡°I¡¯ve never seen a discontent tree. Look at this, how happy it is.¡±

Cataract Falls, from Bay Area Hiker site.

Antony Lane’s Review: “Alexander The Great”

Classic! WAR-TORN
– Oliver Stone¡¯s ¡°Alexander.¡±

It seems highly improbable that a film in which very close friends wage war in matching leather miniskirts will find favor in the White House screening room. On the other hand, what a war! Stone, who was in President Bush¡¯s class at Yale, uses ¡°Alexander¡± to offer a strident argument in favor of unilateral aggression against foreign powers, on the ground that¡ªguess what¡ªit¡¯s good for ¡¯em. The battle of Gaugamela, in 331 B.C., in which a quarter of a million men, under King Darius III, were put to rout by Alexander with a force of less than fifty thousand, was, in essence, the launch of Operation Persian Freedom.

Fall Color Comes to Napa

I was expecting a desolate Napa valley in winter. Instead, I was treated to a feast of fall color: dark red, golden brown, and all kinds of shades in between. Not to mention the gorgeous sunlight with a quality of a light fruity white wine, airy, high, and bright. I was drunk before I even started wine tasting!
Chandon_calalilyV_Sattui_Pumpkin_CartV_Sattui_Oak_Barrels Coppola_ivyJeanOlive_Trees

More Photos of Napa from this weekend…

Movies and Photos

We finally joined Netflix. As a result, all evenings in recent memory are devoted to dvd watching. Want to spend a few words on a few movies.

A City of God(2003)
Gangsters in the ghetto of Rio, Brazil. The color was de-saturated but still rich with warmth. The language of cinematography was the most impressive. The way of the lenses was used to narrate the story. We saw people¡¯s idea expanding with wide angle shots on the soccer field, we saw one gangster¡¯s attempt to escape the inescapable as the camera moving across the ghetto languidly from the air, etc.. The innovative ways of cinematography reminds me of Before Night Falls.

Monster (2003)
¡°Violence is a one-way ticket.¡± I thought to myself as the movie ends.

The movie was all about Charlize Theron, her acting was truly Oscar-worth. The story, somehow, was still too detached. The director wants to inform viewers of certain sides of the ¡°Monster¡± the mainstream media didn¡¯t bother to investigate. But the story didn¡¯t connect. Viewers remained an outsider throughout, examining the life of Aileen as if examining exotic specie in a zoo.

One curious aspect of the movie was the slowly degradation of Aileen¡¯s attitude toward violence. At the very beginning, she CHOOSES her victims. Often she would spare her ¡°John¡±¡¯s life when she deemed him not a bad guy. That was the ¡°honeymoon¡± period of her violent life. She was in control, finally. But soon, the control of her conscience started to slip out of her hands. The violence itself started dominating her. ¡°A violence means can never produce a peaceful end.¡± Someone once said, I guess he was right.

Frida (2002)
I¡¯ve seen Frida in the theatre. Loved it so much that I put it on my netflix queue again, and also because Mi has never seen it. I, myself, watched the film one more time with the director¡¯s commentary on. It was fascinating to see all the subtle connections the director had intended, such as the two incidents when Diego opened a door into Frida¡¯s home; the prominent role of the four poster bed played in Frida¡¯s life; the prophecy of Diego¡¯s fall told by the skyscraper-climbing King-koon in Frida¡¯s imagination; and all the famous paintings of Frida recreated into three dimensional scenes in the movie¡­

Shortly after watching Frida in the theatre, I read a Chinese female journalist (she was known as the most famous celebrity reporter in China then)¡¯s article on Frida. I remember myself being furious with the journalist¡¯s point of view. She basically said Frida proved the vulnerability of female sex, who had always to remain secondary to the male specie. ¡°How could someone mis-read the movie to such a degree?!¡± I remember writing to Gui, ¡°I so want to spank the author to wake up!¡± But then I did have some lingering doubt, could it be that I didn¡¯t catch the undertone of the movie? Maybe I only saw the strong Frida and missed her weakness? Watching it again proved that lingering of doubt false. Frida did has her vulnerability, but her vitality, her strength and her boldness were still the prominent of her life. She was every bit a equal, if not a superior, to her husband.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)
I¡¯ve been boycotting this movie due to its conservative supports. But Mi was curious because he had heard how exquisite the production was and how refined the imageries were. So I watched it with him. I¡¯m glad I did, because now I can laugh at it with confidence. The movie was more empty than I had expected. Very similar to Dubya¡¯s campaign platform, the movie is rich in grandeur gestures, but significantly lacking in substance. Not much thinking has been put into the philosophy and history of Christ¡¯ death, all it had was plenty of polished imageries stolen from plenty of religious paintings and sculptures from Renaissance. [Sneer].

Taxi Driver
I¡¯ve heard so much about this cult classic, now I finally watched it. But I find myself having nothing to say about it. It is an interesting movie. Not very Hollywood. Which means it didn¡¯t try to insult viewers intelligence by explaining every detail to death. But I don¡¯t find it THAT amazing, either. It did remind me of the recent movie Collateral, though. Maybe because both were centered in a taxi cab. Under comparison, I like Collateral better because it has more warmth.

On a separate note, i’ve just cleaned up and put up some photos:
Cappadocia Section of Turkey Trip.
Paris and Mars moved in San Francisco!
Halloween on Castro, 2004

Fantastic Planet (a.k.a. LA PLANETE SAUVAGE)

It was a Saturday night after the election. News channels still depressed me. I channel surfed. It was after mid-night. I was getting sleepy. Just when I was ready to turn off the TV, I caught glimpse of a animation film. The surrealistic landscape attracted me. For the first minute or two, I thought maybe it was that short animation film made by Dali and never made it to the theater. As I watched the story unfold, the fantastic imagination of the film glued me to the TV set. I loved the fluid drawings, the strange plot, and the interesting character development. By then, I was convinced it couldn’t be by Dali because the story was too well developed and too coherent. 🙂

I fought very hard with the drowsiness and kept myself awake to watch the film till its finishing, which happened around 2am. Another amazing fact was the film was shown uninterrupted by commercial or infomercial. It was almost unheard of for late night TV program.

It is a science fiction story. On a planet where humans were kept as pets by a species that looked like blue giants. One such pet tapped into the knowledge device his master, a teenager female giant, was using to learn. This pet human’s name is Terr. As a specie, humans (called Oms) were constantly threatened by elimination because the blue giants (called Traags) considered Oms pests, like how we humans think of ants, I guess.

Terr eventually broke free from his master and because of his knowledge of Traggs culture and his ability to read and write in Traags language, Terr became the leader of the Oms (Knowledge is power! Yeah!). He led them into a revolution, fought for Oms right of survival. During an escape trip, they discovered the secret of Traags’ survival mechanism. Eventually Traags and Oms came to the negotiation table and managed to settle for a peace treaty.

There were many scenes and ideas that fascinated me. A few examples included: 1)The way Traags learn using a special headphone-like device; 2)The crystal grew on the planet after a rain, and how they could be shattered by the sound of a whistle. 3) the vicious warm like creature the Traags children tied onto Oms to fight each other like in gladiator games of the ancient Rome. 4) the headless stone giants merge with Traags consciousness prior to copulation. Etc. etc. etc.

When the movie was completed, I found out it was made by a Czech studio in Prague and it was broadcasted by a local education channel that serves only the Bay Area. The next day, I found out the name of the film and its origin. The Fantastic Planet was directed by Rene Laloux, written by Roland Topor and Laloux, based on a novel by Stefan Wul. It was Gran Prix winner at Cannes in 1973.

A couple of reviews and introduction on line:
Animated sci-fi cult favorite ‘Fantastic Planet’ returns

To Let Out the Steam…

Anger is an emotion, now I know. Violence is a fantasy, now I know.

Someone said ¡°Comedians are going to be so happy cuz they will be having another four years of prime materials to make fun of.¡±
For example:
Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair, physical fight – m4m, at work, we all agreed that our one and only Republican co-worker should answer the ad.
The Onion | Nation’s Poor Win Election For Nation’s Rich:

“The Republican party¡ªthe party of industrial mega-capitalists, corporate financiers, power brokers, and the moneyed elite¡ªwould like to thank the undereducated rural poor, the struggling blue-collar workers in Middle America, and the God-fearing underpriviledged minorities who voted George W. Bush back into office,” Karl Rove, senior advisor to Bush, told reporters at a press conference Monday. “You have selflessly sacrificed your well-being and voted against your own economic interest. For this, we humbly thank you.”

Added Rove: “You have acted beyond the call of duty¡ªor, for that matter, good sense.”

a triumphant Bush said. “We have an understanding, them and us. They help us stay rich, and in return, we help them stay poor. See? No matter what naysayers may think, the system works.”

But this morning when I heard on the news that Dubya has appointed Gonzelas to replace Ashcroft, I was furious. What the fuck! We are going to start torturing our own dissents now that Abu Ghraib has been forgotten? How fast did Germany turn into a police state? How long it will take all the comedians to turn silent?

Laugh while you still can, who knows what¡¯s in store for tomorrow?

Fuck the South

But, on a brighter note, this Election result maps seems to say there is still hope, yet…

The Perfect Christmas Present

Today¡¯s Freshair was rerun of interviews with Warner Brother¡¯s Cartoon people, in time for the newly released The Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set. As I was listening to the story of the birth of various famous cartoon characters: Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, I had my first light-hearted laugh since election night.

It felt good. To be able to laugh again. Then I had an idea.

What if someone made a stuffed Monkey, named it ¡°Dubya¡±?

Imagine the market for it. 56 million that vote against him would buy it. Majority of the 59 million of dumb a__ didn¡¯t know any better would probably buy it. The rest of the world would, too!

Gui thought of a advertisement slogan already, ¡°Give it to your dogs¡­.¡± I myself would buy half a dozen for Nappy and Anita. Ah, imagine the satisfaction to watch its instant destruction under Nappy¡¯s jaw. 🙂

Since so many people are deeply depressed, this stuff monkey would be a perfect stress-release toy. Don¡¯t you think?

Anyone knows any Toy-makers? If we hurry, it can reach the market in time for Christmas!

Jingle Bells, Jingle bells¡­

The Red Zone (zt)

From today’s New York Times:

The Red Zone

Published: November 4, 2004


With the Democratic Party splattered at his feet in little blue puddles, John Kerry told the crushed crowd at Faneuil Hall in Boston about his concession call to President Bush.

“We had a good conversation,” the senator said. “And we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing.”

Democrat: Heal thyself.

W. doesn’t see division as a danger. He sees it as a wingman.

The president got re-elected by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule. He doesn’t want to heal rifts; he wants to bring any riffraff who disagree to heel.

W. ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq – drawing a devoted flock of evangelicals, or “values voters,” as they call themselves, to the polls by opposing abortion, suffocating stem cell research and supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

Mr. Bush, whose administration drummed up fake evidence to trick us into war with Iraq, sticking our troops in an immoral position with no exit strategy, won on “moral issues.”

Continue reading


After 9/11, it is the saddest day I¡¯ve experienced. The cycle of emotion whirl wind was very similar. It started with disbelief, denial, anger, sadness, and cynicism. It seemed to me that 51% of the American voters might as well be coming from Mars.

I don¡¯t understand how people could vote for an administration after the past four years of devastation. Didn¡¯t people see that they were the ones to be exploited, and they had the most to lose from the very administration that they were electing? How could people be so blind? Just because of religious fever? If so, how is it different from suicide bombers following the order of bin Ladin? Why is one form of fundamentalism better than the other?

If majority of humanity is so easily fooled and so thoughtless, what is the merit of democracy? If in a mature democratic society with healthy juridical system such as the US, the majority could make such a stupid choice; what is the hope for the Middle East? For Afghanistan?

Time to study Nietzsche, maybe?

This is the End

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand
In a…desperate land

Lost in a Roman…wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah

This is the end

THE DOORS lyrics – “The End”

My Republican Co-worker

It is no secret that the demographic of the bay area is very “blue” (versus “red”*). Every voter in my office is a democrat, or an independent if being a democrat is too conservative for some, except one. This one person happens to be a very smart architect that I respect. He was also the one hired me five years ago. So I’ve been very puzzled by his stubborn republican heart.

The first time when he revealed his true color I was so shocked that I refused to acknowledged the fact that he actually voted for the Gropenator. “You must be joking!” I was dumbfounded. But he seemed rather nonchalant. “I trust a business man, a successful one at that, a lot more than any politician!” he claimed.

As the election draws near, people at work start talking politics more and more often. Last Friday, the only Republican and a couple of us Democrats had a frank talk. For the first time, I didn’t cut him short on his reasoning and heard him out. Surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with him in a lot of areas.

His main concern with Democarte’s platform is that too good a social service would send the wrong message to the people, which is that they don’t have to be responsible for their actions. If one made the wrong choice or one didn’t work hard, then one must be responsible for that decision and take full responsibility for oneself, instead of expecting the society (read, successful people) to take care of him/her.

It echoed a program I heard on the radio one morning, when one of the third party candidates was advocating an almost socialist style healthcare program, one listener said to her, “Look at Denmark, they have one of the best healthcare/social system in the world, yet, their unemployment is the highest in the developed world. How do you prevent a society from becoming stagnate once you provide the incentive for people not to work hard, not to thrive to be the best?” The candidate didn’t have any concrete answer to that question, of course. But it did catch my attention.

Being an immigrant from Asia, most of my co-workers(me included) grew up in a culture that stresses on almost absolute self-reliance. But I also see the fact that a society is judged by how it is treating its weakest member. As immigrants without much means, we tend to think that if we could start from zero and make something out our lives, why can’t the native, who has no language barrier or culture barrier? Another side of the coin that tend to be overlooked is the fact that the new immigrants from Asian tend to have the richest asset in terms of strong family support and a solid value system. Some are not born so lucky.

But where do you draw the line? Do people tend to give up easily if the society has promised to take care of them regardless? Do successful people tend to stop trying to be over-achievers if majority of their income go to support the failures?

Another point of view that my Republican co-worker made me see was to apply the eventual equilibrium of a market-economy to social issues. He tended to believe that society will take care of itself the best when there is least amount of government intervention, it is similar to how the economy taking care of itself. It is part of nature, and nature often has a better solution to problems than arrogant humans do. He found Democrat’s social platform too intrusive.

I can see his perspective, but I also pointed out to him that the Republican seemed more intrusive in the social issues to me, because of their position on abortion right, gay marriage, and stem-cell research. He agreed with me on that, pointing out to me that his position was “conservative in economic issues, and liberal in social issues.” So in the end, he is a moderate.

One last surprise was that he thought Democrats tend to have this attitude of “holier than though,” while I thought Republicans are “arrogant”.

Our discussion ended in mutual understanding that neither of us is likely to change our mind about both parties. But I feel good to learn his perspective. They were food for thought.

Just now, I saw him in the hallway and asked whether he had watched “Bowling for Columbine.” He laughed, shaking his head decisively, “Of course not! I don’t like Moore.” I made a weak attempt, “It is good. Why not see it before dismiss it?” “No way! I don’t like that guy, period.”

I nodded an “Okay.” I completely understand him, because I can’t change mind about the election for exactly the same reason, I don’t like that guy, period.

On a similar note.
We are less than 24 hours away from the election day of 2004, everyone is so wrapped up in bin Ladin’s video, and 300 tons of missing explosive has been forgotten. I suddenly remembered the controversy surrounding Sinclair’s Documentary. It has caused such an outcry a few weeks ago. What had come of it now?

I found this on Reuter: Sinclair’s Kerry Documentary Does So-So in Ratings.

The best part? Sinclair’s stock took a beating on the stock market. I think my co-worker is right. Society is built on a “trade” relationship. When idealism isn’t enough to convince people, stock market usually is.