Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Desert Island

We've all played that game.  "If you were trapped on a desert island with one _______, who/what would it be?"

What a no brainer.  My person would definitely have to be TINA FEY!  

This former SNL head writer turned TV star turned movie star can be my "baby mama" any day.  She's revolutionary; an amazing writer, a funny, quirky gal a combination of girl next door mixed with sexy MILF.  She can make guys fall in love with her but won't get the girls jealous because she is just too darned irresistible.  She also seems to have the midas touch, turning every project she makes into blockbuster and ratings gold.

I started watching Fey's show, "30 Rock" two weeks ago and I'm already caught up on Every. Single. Episode. (That's 34 20-minute episodes in case you were counting).  This show is so well-written, well-cast, and original that it was hard to remember a time long, long ago when it was predicted that it wouldn't be able to hold its own against a similarly-plotted Aaron Sorkin powerhouse called "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip." Now, no one remembers that other show and Tina Fey's winning awards left and right for her nuanced yet brilliant portrayal of Liz Lemon, the head writer of a fictional SNL-type sketch show on NBC. (sound familiar?)

Naysayers would argue that Fey is not really acting the part of Liz Lemon but that she actually is Liz Lemon but who cares if that's the case?  I say she's just wise for knowing what sells and tapping in on that.

So we know that Fey is great at television but what about the big screen?  People often forget that she conceived "Mean Girls," a chick flick that was actually smart as well as hilarious.  It also brought us Rachel McAdams, the term fetch, and the next surburbian cultural icon flick since "Clueless."

And I got to watch "Baby Mama" last night.  I was wary because Fey's good at playing herself but her act could get old and how much fun could a film about two thirty-something women trying to have a baby together be?  But boy, was I wrong.  Yes, Fey's acting was a bit one-toned but the writing, the movie's theme, the twist at the end and AMY POEHLER (a close second on who I would choose to be stranded on a desert island with) made this comedy the best one I've seen in a long time.

Fey is breaking down barriers left and right and people are finally paying attention.  On second thought, maybe I wouldn't want to be stranded on a desert island with her.  I need her to continue dominating Hollywood so that I can get my weekly fix of "30 Rock."  I love Lemon!

By the by, this has nothing to do with travels but if you think about it, you would have to travel to get to a desert island. So all makes sense with the world again!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Budget Travel Tips

After turning my credit cards and debit cards upside down, inside out, and shaking out every last cent in them to pay for my summer travel study fees to Switzerland and EAP fees for Hong Kong, I am extra money-conscious these days.  

I know this year is going to be mighty expensive but I also know it will be unforgettable.  I can always find ways to make money back but time? That's precious.  Memories? That's priceless.  Justin Jones shares my pain and has some great tips on how to budget while browsing the globe.  I have cut and pasted some of his advice found in his article in the "Young Money" magazine (you know, that free one you can pick up around the corners of campus buildings)

1) Freeloading is Free
Hostels are a great way to travel on the cheap and meet some cool people, but it's even better to travel on the free. Talk to locals and try to make friends with them. If you're especially charming, you can sometimes get friendly locals to open their homes and their lives to you.  A better (and probably safer) strategy is to use a website like or
JJ says: I don't know how comfortable I would feel about this one, especially with all the creepy people out there. But if you're traveling with tough male (or female) companions, you may want to check it out.

2) Bootleg a Tour Guide
Every major touristy locale, from the Coliseum in Rome to the Old City in Jerusalem, will have tour guides in almost every language.  Hand around until a guide speaking English comes by and slip into the group for a free guided tour!
JJ says: This one is definitely worth trying. Especially when you're tired and/or lost.  

3) Dinner Roll Reprise
When you go out to dinner, steal the dinner rolls and stash them into your pack for breakfast or for a snack on the go.  Making your own food is probably the best way to save money on the road-just don't forget to sample the local cuisine at least once!
JJ says: When I travel, I think I will definitely attempt to do this for at least half my meals.  My wallet and my stomach wouldn't be able to handle eating out everyday!

4) Night Train to Scrimpville
You should consider sleeping on the night train to save some time and money.  Or get a sleeper for just a couple bucks extra.  In addition to your ticket, you'll get a bed, and often a light breakfast in the morning.  You won't save much money with this tip, but you'll save a day of travel, which can sometimes be more valuable.
JJ says: For someone who can sleep pretty much anywhere, anytime, especially on moving vehicles, I will definitely take this tip to task.  Just be careful with your possessions!

5) Card Carrying Miser
Get an international student discount card before you leave, there are a few options to choose from, including ISE and ISIC.  These are useful for visiting museums and historical sites.  It's also worth saying you're a student, even if you aren't.
JJ says: Yea, I went to a museum in Taiwan, didn't have my card and had to pay 2x as much. Ouch!

6) Water is Free
Obvious but often overlooked. Bring a water bottle-always.  Take advantage of sinks and public fountains with free, potable water. Just remember to check if the water is actually drinkable...
JJ says: In Europe, it may just be better for me to drink their alcohol all the time. I hear it's cheaper and safer.  I mean, I don't really want to but if I must...then I guess I must...

7) Avoid Tourist Traps
This doesn't always work-if you're in Paris, you'll have to see the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, but in many cases, there are more interesting, more local things to do that will save you some serious cash.  If you see all the tourists heading in one direction, try going the other way-counter-tourism.  You never know what you'll discover, but it will probably be cheaper and interesting.
JJ says:  I'm all for being down with tourist traps!  Try having a general plan of all you want to see/do and once you've accomplished them, go counter-tourist!

Any other budget travel tips?  Share!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Venus Cafe

Unfortunately, most other colleges around the world do not have the luxury of chowing down in UCLA's scrumptious, extravagant dining halls.  So, even though UC Berkeley may not have the fortune of experiencing a delicious Sunday brunch in De Neve or Reiber, they can settle by getting their butts down to Venus Restaurant, located at the heart of Downtown Berkeley.  

With an intimate cafe-style atmosphere and artsy pictures hanging from the cozy brick walls, Venus is perfect for those hoping to spend hours catching up with old friends or just grabbing a quick, inexpensive bite to eat.

JlO and I made this our last food stop in Norcal.  Bleary-eyed and barely awake, I ordered the chicken sausage scramble with roasted potatoes and a cheery carrot bran muffin on the side

and JlO made the healthier but not necessarily heartier selection of a vegetarian omelet accompanied by beautifully tossed greens 

Both were delightful farewell gifts from our beloved Northern California.   After a fill up of some strong (ok, not really) coffee, we hit the road, Jack!  But we'll be back...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jason Mraz Concert

After spending a lovely day in one of the coolest cities (literally, it was freezing) ever, the countdown to the concert began.  After arriving at the venue, (the beautiful antiquated Fillmore Auditorium) we found to our dismay that even though we had arrived early-two hours early- it wasn't good enough.  It seems early bird Mraz fans had already been braving the Northern California cold long before we had even arrived to the city.  The line stretched down not one, not two, but THREE blocks of the neighborhood before rounding the corner of a Taco Bell.  

Parked outside the streets were also three or four  of these eco-friendly tour buses.  Mraz' tour with friends is part of a promotion to spread some eco-lovin' ideas to the world.  

All sorts of concert-goers appeared.  It seems Mraz' appeal crosses ages, races and sexes. Young or old, punk or folk, gay or straight, everyone loves Mr. A-Z.

So with two hours on our hands, we practiced our expressions.  Here I am suffering from the cold while warm and bundled jlO smiles cozily.

Shocked because...what is this? Jason? with a ring in his hand?  Bent down on one knee? proposing to me??!  Yes, I do! I do!
What is this??!! The concert is cancelled??!!!!!!! DOn't EVEn!!!

In the midst of our goofiness, Mrazzzzzz himself came out with a ukulele and started serenading the audience!! He was literally an inch away from me!!!  Him and another artist, Bushwalla was all freestylin' and flowin' and when this other person waiting in line started making up these lyrics, they totally went along with it and created a stupendous tune!

The concert itself was also spectacular.  Since the place was standing room only, it was up to us and our sharp elbows to poke and prod our ways to the front. We had a pretty good view the entire night.  

Whether he was just jamming away on his guitar or partying it up with his opening acts and band-mates or signaling for a  jazz trio to pop out of the balcony, Jason Mraz live in concert was most definitely a worthy show. 

When In Rome...

I just saw the Judd Apatow comedy, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" yesterday.  Written by and starring Jason Segal, this film was, in many ways, a fairly standard Apatow vehicle.  This means plenty of raucous jokes, sexual innuendoes (and outuendoes), objectified females and good ol' frat boy bonding.  That still doesn't mean it wasn't sweet, endearing, clever and memorable at times.  It was-but it also made you walk out feeling a little nauseous like, "I laughed a lot because it really was a funny movie but I don't feel so good about it."

Anyway, one scene really stood out to me from the film.  
No, it wasn't (*SPOILER ALERT!)
the part where Segal shows his privates a lot-and I mean ALOT.  No, it wasn't that memorable scene near the end with all the singing monster puppets. It was this one tiny clip which showed an asian couple taking pictures at their breakfast table.  The husband was snapping away while the wife posed with her forks mid-air as if about to dig into her eggs and ham.  Something kind of like this...

except dorkier cause, you know, my roommates are totally way cool.

Asians seriously have this stereotype of taking pictures of everything they see.  I notice it everywhere I go.  I see the Japanese tourists asking me to take a picture of them near Royce. I've been one of those tourists, always having to rush up to my friends because I've been left behind, snapping a shot of a cool-looking leaf (what? it was cool.)

And I know other people notice it.  Once, at a concert, a couple friends and I got caught up taking pictures of a REALLY awesome looking light (what? it was cool) and my friend Hayoung, overheard a man behind us exclaim, "Dude, what are they taking pictures of? They're just perpetuating the stereotype of Asians."  Ok. I don't even think he put it that eloquently but..WHAT??!!  

Yes, we are Asian. Yes, we do have cameras but so do pretty much 50% of the world out there. Digital cameras are being sold like candy and with an increase in standard of living, more and more people can afford to take a vacation every now and then.  Are we Asian for wanting to preserve those memories of our happy times with photos?  I was angry at that boy only because he was stereotyping Asians but as an Asian who fits that stereotype, I can't argue against it.  But you know what, that's ok. Because for every comment like that that someone makes, I get 50 more fun photos that I can look back on and cherish until I'm 50.  

In our defense, we were in San Francisco's Chinatown and Japantown. We had to fully "perpetuate our Asian stereotypes." We just had to.

Maybe this was going a little overboard.  You creepy creepster!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Farmer's Market

After a six hour ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco, my road trip comrade Jennifer Lo (jlO) and I headed towards the shores, expecting to land at the Fisherman's Wharf. Imagine our surprise when we come out of the parking structure to find ourselves, yes, by the beach...

but also by the local farmer's market.  Luckily, Spring is the perfect season to appreciate the bountiful harvest provided for us by dear ol' Mother Earth.  

As if all the scrumptious eatery weren't enough to satisfy our senses, Embacadero Street was also surrounded by lovely sights...

and sounds...
to thrill.  Thank You for all the beauty in the world! (Including jlO. =))

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Tale

Janice and JlO's journey to the Jason Mraz jubilant jam began early Saturday morning. Oh boy, was it early.  Especially for Janice, whose body seemed to have picked the worst day to suffer some jet lag and woke her up at 2 in the morning, never able to go back to sleep again afterwards.

The road was windy and long and the trip was one filled with mellow music (surprisingly, not too much Mraz. You'd think we'd want to prep ourselves) and lovely scenery.  It even contained some surprise stops to frolic in the fields and take a closer look at the majestic Californian windmills.

But alas, frequent distractions like this made the journey even lengthier so it was to our heroines' relieves when the light at the end of the tunnel welcomed them with open arms. 

San Francisco was fun and Jason Mraz was spectacular but all good journeys have a final destination. In this case, it was the front of Reiber Vista.  To rate Janice and jlO's journey success? Why...two (four) thumbs up of course!

Date With Mraz

"You and I Both" know that Jason Mraz is my absolute favorite singer EVER.  "I'll Do Anything" to see him in concert. (In fact, I already have once, I'm just a "Geek in the Pink" like that.)  I would sell "1000 Things" or lose "Sleep All Day" just to indulge in this "Common Pleasure" of watching my favorite songster perform. 

And that's basically what we did.  jlO and I drove all the way up from LA to San Fran in the course of a day to watch the "Music, Magic and Make Peace"  tour put on by Jason and friends. We lost sleep, lost a lot of money in our wallets, lost some feeling in our feet but found ourselves enjoying one of the best weekends ever.  It was "Strange" driving on San Fran soil but there was "No Stopping Us" and "No Doubling Back." I just wanted to tell Jason..."I'm Yours."  I never got to 'cause I'm just "Shy That Way" but I did get to catch an awesome performance that will stay with me for days to come.

BTW: I was most definitely trying to do some "Wordplay." 

Friday, April 4, 2008

Music is my Boyfriend

When traveling, there's a lot of free time on the plane or train.  I myself always tend to pack a carry-on full of goodies to keep me preoccupied through the ride (or flight).  There's always a couple of magazines, my journal, my homework, some books, food, laptop, (it's a large carry-on) and most importantly, my lovely ipOd! (his name is Solaris) 

With people taking their ipods or mp3 players with them anywhere they travel, it's important to keep said gadget clean and safe.  This is where sheer whimsy comes in.  My crafty good friend Helen has gone all entrepreneurial and have created some beautiful cases for which to put your valuable techs into.  You can custom order a one-of-a kind protector on her etsy shop.  Be sure to check it out!  Here are just a small sampling of her gorgeous creations.

Despite all the great things one can do on the plane or train or car, there is nothing that beats just plain ol' knocking out.  

At least I am able to go to sleep knowing my belongings are safely stored in their customized sheer whimsy bags!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Walk in the Park

Beautiful Khaosiung was perfect for a day at the local art park.  The park is the perfect place to make a poem. (A shoddy one but it rhymes!)

Beautiful traditional Chinese music trickling in the air...

just bell art ringing in your ear

I love my family anywhere!