Kung fu, architecture, digital minimalism, Vietnamese American reality TV, Japanese woodworkers, music

I took a month off any kind of work as I didn’t take time off all year. I didn’t plan to do anything. Aside from oversleeping and feeling like shit, I mostly did cultural catch-up in classic Vanna binge fashion:

  1. Kung fu movies I listened to a Dave Chang Show podcast about The Last Dragon, a full-blown 80s Black kung fu movie made in homage to Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. It is unexpectedly comical and subversive. One comment I read afterward about the movie points out how the main character, Leroy Green (aka Bruce Leeroy), is a trained martial artist who doesn’t know how to act while one of his antagonists is a trained actor who doesn’t know martial arts. The other antagonist is an obnoxious, exploitive, wannabe entertainment mogul of a short, balding, gap-toothed white dude. The movie was half produced by Barry Gordy, Motown record label founder. The Last Dragon made me laugh the hardest I’ve laughed all year.

    In my fascination, I followed up with Kung Fu Hustle and Ip Man. Seeing Donnie Yen reminded me of another movie he starred in that I watched a fair bit as a child, The Iron Monkey. For some reason, one of the most memorable scenes for me is this one:

    Ip Man introduced me to wing chu, a defensive and relaxed-looking fighting style. That was the first time I really wished I had learned a martial art.

    Part of Ip Man 2 depicts cultural differences in fighting between East and West. One is about earning respect through merit and skill, admitting defeat. The other is about conquering, being the best, justifying brutal violence. Ip Man is asked to give a speech after winning a fight against a psychotic American boxer and says that it is not about who is better but about maintaining the diginity of both sides. I was surprised at the moral messages in a kung fu film, but that’s what half of kung fu is, the philosophy and cultural grounding of it.

  2. Building houses in the Sims & exploring architecture I used to draw floor plans for houses in the Sims during free period in high school and considered doing architecture until I job shadowed a firm for two days. Every now and then I get a hankering to play the Sims, mainly to build houses. I watched an episode of Grand Designs that featured the Vega Cottage, a beautifully simple Norwegian cabin. Its base is carefully carved around the rock it is on top of, and special construction cranes were used to minimize changing the immediate landscape. I was inspired to learn how it was laid out, and the Sims is an accessible tool for doing that.

    Vega Cottage, © Kolman Boye Architects / Lindman Photography

    I ended up learning about archdaily.com and dezeen.com’s architecture section, which show the floor plans and elevations, and obsessively and restlessly (why do I have to be like this) researched a bunch of houses to study and build.

    A house that resonated with me is the Steel Craft House designed by Zecc Architecten in Utrecht, The Netherlands:

    © Zecc Architecten / Stijnstijl Fotografie

    © Zecc Architecten / Stijnstijl Fotografie

    As described by the architects,

    • The windows in the new façade all have their own character, anticipating the function that is housed behind them but jointly forms an abstract composition… The ‘bay window’, shaped as a cantilevering enclosed surface at the location of the bathroom, provides for privacy. A small air gap was made at the top.

      Behind the hard, occasionally somewhat closed steel façade hides a soft and light residence. The interior is formed by a sculptural piece of ‘furniture’ in oak over three building layers. Extra daylight enters via a patio and several skylights. For instance, the dormer was equipped with a light dome, and in the bathroom, the light enters via a small air gap in the ‘bay window’ of the front façade.

    © Zecc Architecten

    The house captures much of my design approach and personality.

  3. Should I become a librarian or archivist? No. This nice dude helped me figure that out: Stacks & Facts

  4. Digital minimalism & the Light Phone 2 I was weaning off of Instagram around November, only logging on to see what my brothers were up to. It was sort of pointless having one at this point / I had a hard time controlling my time on it anytime I opened the app. Once my break started, I deactivated and hid the app on my phone. Now it’s completely uninstalled from my phone and I can’t check on my computer without logging on. Similar story with Facebook, which I was only using for shift trades and updates for work. Before these apps, I would watch concerts on YouTube while drawing and crafting. Focused lengths of time vs. the constant fragmenting of my mind. I never really got used to social media. They’re drugs that I didn’t intend to get addicted to. Creating for Instagram as opposed to sharing things to Instagram I’ve already made is a whole thing. Like I’ve said, do I want to design for squares that maybe get looked at for 5 seconds? Nah brah.

    As someone who is already shy, Instagram sort of exacerbates that in a way. It helps to a degree with connecting to people, but not much deeper. It’s a crutch. I don’t know if abandoning it will push me to reach out to people more. It feels a little culturally odd to contact outside of social media with acquaintances. Oh well. I’ve always struggled with friendships that start online anyway. But physical proximity isn’t necessarily the answer either. So what’s to blame is my own ineptude really.


    I can’t remember exactly how I found out about the Light Phone, but it was somewhat surreal to come across it as a real object that people are using and not a purely hypothetical design. As my brother put it, it’s such a late capitalist product. It’s magnetically appealing, as an object and an ethos. I’m fascinated that this exists and has survived into a second model.

    1 Entreprenuership is one of my greatest weaknesses. Sure I can think of the new, but building it?

    The Light Phone is an e-ink phone with intentionally limited features, designed for people avoiding privacy breaching smartphones or the app-addicting nature of them. It was designed by Joe Hollier, artist-designer-photographer-what-have-you, and Kaiwei Tang, product designer with prior experience in the phone industry. They met and concepted the idea in a Google Experiential Lab, which Joe entered with high skepticism toward big tech. Despite his supposed caution with tech business, he’s still gone through with the startup and getting investors and venture capitalists on board. Business is still a mystery to me, as is entrepreneurship¹.

    Some of the YouTube reviewers of the phone are… interesting — not your average folk as anti-big-tech people can be. They worship the phone for improving their life and enthusiastically hate smartphones. Commentors slam the phone, calling it ridiculous for its price and limited features. It’s polarizing.

    It launched with only calling, texting, and alarm abilities. Now it also supports music, podcasts, and soon directions, perhaps car sharing, and an SDK so people can accessibly make their own features and tools. The main turnoffs are slow and hard-to-correct texting (being improved) and its $300 pricetag (originally it was $350).

    I’m interested in getting it to see how the limitations change my behavior and partly for having it as a future artifact. The upcoming SDK is intriguing too, but I don’t know if I would truly commit to building my own tools. Financially and practically, not the smartest purchase for me, so I’ve held off and modified my Android to be less stimulating (which by average standards, was already pretty sparse.) Now it looks like this thanks to Before Launcher, dark mode, grayscale, low level blue light filter, and Attribute, the only decent monospace font available on the Galaxy store, which is monopolized by Monotype:

    left swipe (stimuli free notification for non-urgent apps) / home screen / right swipe with more apps hidden in the “+” and “–” folders

    I really like how my phone looks now, yet the changes have dampered how much I’m drawn to it (I love color!)

    Other font options for maximizing disdain toward your phone
  5. Viet in media I found a new podcast called They Call Me Bruce and they had a pod on a new reality show called House of Ho which focuses on a wealthy first generation Vietnamese American Catholic family in Houston.

    I’m not one for reality TV, but holy shit, I kind of get why people watch the Kardashians and whatnot. I don’t know if they’re relatable to white people, too, but the things that the Ho family are struggling through are in fact relatable, looking past the private jet to go shopping and other frivolties. And as one of the podcasters argued, pop culture is often the first step toward cultural immersion and visibility. It should also be clear, hopefully, to people that a super wealthy immigrant family in Texas doesn’t represent all Vietnamese people.

    The issues shown in House of Ho: ex-lawyer mother of three going through a divorce who is financially dependent on her parents, learning what it means to act for one’s happiness; immature first-born alcholic son expected to take over the family business who relies on others to do the work for him, protected from his poor decisions in classic, unacknowledged and in denial swept-under-the-rug fashion, expresses love through expensive materialism, vies for the approval of his parents, but eventually makes a small breakthrough upon learning that really, he will never be good enough for his dad; youngest son who keeps his distance from the family and who isn’t afraid to speak up and tell it like it is, doesn’t give in to his parents desires, to their dismay, obviously; wife of the first-born son struggling to manage and change her husband and herself to fit the expectations of her in-laws, comes from a hardworking and traditional Oklahoman household that was in the restaurant business, has a doctorate in pharmacy and works full-time from home, opinionated, respectful and compliant to elders but still stands up for self; problematic yet lovingly free spirited alcholic party aunt; manipulative father who uses money and withheld support and affection as power; standby mother who takes it because it’s the best she can get.

    It’s a lot. As Vietnamese people can be. Now that I think about it, a lot of Vietnamese people are not chill.

    ² Linh Truong, Dustin Vuong, bestdressed

    In any case, I have found some hardworking and impressive Asian American YouTubers² my age or younger that are on the platform to take advantage of the economic opportunity through a creative means, largely for the sake of paying for college, relating to peers through sharing transparent life and financial advice, talking about taboo subjects, and sharing anxieties. They are willing to for-go a certain amount of privacy, which is perhaps influenced through them coming up with social media, and they intentionally approach brand deals, saying straight up that it’s easy money. They have greater aspirations beyond YouTube. YouTube is a fun and lucrative tool, not something forever. It’s a way for these creators to gain independence and leverage. It’s inspiring, but also worrying. They are completely aware and willing to brand their identity, which can be hard to manage, and compromise with algorithms. If they didn’t have these financial pressures, would they still put themselves out there?

    Aside from their relatability, entertaining mannerisms, and inspiring self-determination, they actually make you think. They aren’t merely selling a lifestyle or clutter of objects. It’s really cool to watch these people grow as well.

  6. Japanese craftsdudes
    House frame constructed with no hardware and only hand-chiseled joints. Features a beautifully coordinated team. I teared up watching this???
  7. Music
    + Opus III — It’s a Fine Day (1983) A classic rave song that I learned through my brother
    + Haruomi Hosono — Sports Men (1982) Influential Japanese pop musician who started in 1969 (read: synths)
    + Fela Kuti — Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense (1980) Nigerian musician and political activist

  8. I will be starting Type West in February and I was unsure about it (read: scared) transitioning to I am anxious transitioning into excited transitioning into chill confidence. I over-elaborated my application and sent it in as late as possible, which makes me feel stupid but really means I care and am afraid of rejection. I really don’t fit in with where I am currently and am anxious to move in another direction, so I’m trying to plan where I’ll be in the latter half of the year or next year. New York, maybe.