This year’s Asian American Film Festival was bittersweet for me, knowing that Loni Ding’s funeral was happening smackdab in the middle of it. CAAM has a nice post here about her.

I was a student of Loni’s in her video documentary class at Cal in the late 80s. I can’t begin to tell all the things she taught us, so I’ll stick with one that has made the most impact upon me (or at least, what I am most aware of, because when you have a great teacher, some stuff gets absorbed into your molecules so thoroughly that you forget where it came from).

At 20 I had a decent idea of how to listen to my friends, but Loni taught me how to listen to strangers: she gave me a key to the world. You have to listen with complete open acceptance & patience, in order to draw out someone’s true story. It’s not that different from listening to friends, actually; it comes close to what you might call unconditional love. Loni taught about listening as an active practice of asking for, waiting for, recognizing & capturing exactly what each person can best give: their own truth. She taught me the difference between truth & dogma, that human reality is always more compelling & important than preconceived political agenda; that it doesn’t work to want people to say what you want them to say. You have to want them to say what they want to say.

I leaned on her teaching so hard when I was in the South for the Chinese Restaurant Project. I’m sorry I never told her how much she had helped me. Here is my humble tribute to her, a short sound piece I made from a visit with Van Tran, proprietor of a gas station/Chinese takeout counter in Flora, Mississippi. (It’s better on headphones, if you have em handy. The clicky sounds are my Holga.)

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Reasons why I don’t really mind spending Turkey Day as a guest of non-foodies:

1. No overeating.
2. No exhaustion from crazy cooking marathon, or the least dot of pressure to show up with the perfect side dish.
3. More appreciation for the fact that I eat like a fucking empress the other 364 days of the year.
4. Mashed potatoes are always good!
5. Budget-friendly! No extravagant ingredients, not even wine.
6. More time to build gingerbread houses with silly tots who end up eating half of the candy… I guess I’m not much of a disciplinarian, heh.

For some reason I was still really tired the next day, & after a hot bath crashed out for a FOUR HOUR NAP, the likes of which I haven’t seen since, I dunno, my college days? (Those big naps when you have the flu—or a doped-up broken pelvis—don’t count the same way.) It was kinda stunning really. Who knows how much longer I might have slept if my dear spousette hadn’t woken me up to drink some water. After that I was afraid I might be up all night, but no, I nailed it with another 7 hours! How decadent is that? I felt transformed! My skin even looked better. Now if only I could figure out how to make that happen on a regular basis, like maybe quarterly would be good.

Other leisurely 4-day-weekend activities included cleaning out the fridge, going out for brunch (blueberry pancakes!), loafing around the kitchen with the Sunday paper, swimming, & an overdue hair trim, how satisfying!

The only misstep I made was trying to watch Manufactured Landscapes, which follows photographer Edward Burtynsky as he documents some of the environmental horrors of China. I was awestruck by the opening pan, which tracks continuously, inexorably, through a ginormous factory for over 8 minutes. Unfortunately I only lasted another 7 minutes after that, not because there was anything wrong with the documentary, but because watching the factory workers doing their insanely repetitive jobs actually made my hands hurt! Truly these folks have jobs from hell. I totally get why you would want to run far away from that & fry eggrolls in Wyoming instead. Someday when I have a little more fortitude—or more emotional distance from my Bad Hand Ordeal—I’ll have to watch the rest of this thing.

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The healing pelvis likes to sit around & watch movies. Lots of em. Recently rented The Story of the Weeping Camel & loved it, but you know what I just can’t get over? When the baby camel is born, it comes out with its humps all flat & folded over, like Tab A & Tab B. This is one of those obvious things that you just never think about (unless you regularly hang out with camels), I mean, of course they’re folded over, otherwise ouch for the mom camel, right? My brain just has not been able to let go of this insanely cute factoid ever since I saw the movie. It’s like camel origami. I even found some baby camel photos if you wanna see what I mean, but you should really see the movie, which, to tell the truth, has a whole lot more going for it than just the folded-over humps.

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People, it’s film festival time, & you must see Air Guitar Nation. This film doesn’t just rock, it shreds.

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Kinda hungover from a surfeit of films this week, but everything I saw was good. The SF International Asian American Film Festival always gives me the warm fuzzies, & it just seems to keep getting better year after year. I don’t know how they do it. The festival folks put together such a smorgasbord of great stuff & manage to suffuse the entire proceedings with a friendly, earnest enthusiasm that is blessedly free of posturing, hype, attitude & bullshit. Hats off once again to Chi-hui & crew, y’all rock.

Some highlights of what I saw: Eve & the Firehorse totally nailed 1970s Chinese Canadian girlhood (well… if I may extrapolate from my own 1970s Chinese American girlhood). I really hope they get some USA distribution going on because I want to see it again & bring everyone I know!

Micha Peled’s China Blue left me totally exhausted after watching young garment workers in China toil over mountains of jeans, logging 17-hour workdays for pathetic wages.

I always love good shorts, & this year the paperclip-obsessed Stationery won my heart.

After all that & more, I think I can’t see any more films for a little while. I’ll be reading cookbooks instead, starting with the French Laundry cookbook I checked out from the library. Talk about food porn!