Archive for September, 2004

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Right now I’m sitting at the Trabant Chai Lounge on 45th and Brooklyn. I heart chai and free wi-fi so I thought I’d check it out. The scene: wide open spaces, chill music, and tall blue walls (win). However, although boasting the Chaiwalla brand, my iced chai sucks. I could make better (no, really). But in all it’s not so bad, while my drink may be powdery and warm, at least it was cheap. Besides, the atmosphere is pretty darn cool.

Yesterday Ryan and I went on a double date with Stephen and Wendy. A more detailed account with one hot image is located here. Good times! I’m wishing I took photos of my wedge designs, lol. This will do. Woo wee! Hm, everyone in here has an iBook. Interesting…

I finished reading my book What Kind of Nation: The Epic Struggle to Create a United States last night. It took me a while to finish but am glad I impulse bought it at the bookstore a few months back. So amazingly detailed, a real historical narrative. I have newfound admiration for Chief Justice John Marshall. Had to stop myself from nerding out and posting a tribute to Marshall’s decisions that helped shaped the federal judiciary today. Simple things like checks and balances, the authority of the Supreme Court on constitutionality, defining executive privelage taken as given but really given true foundation in the Marshall court. The book goes pretty in depth to each aspect of the court cases from setting up case context, describing every argument made in court, to excerpts of the opinions in personal correspondence written between key players. In particular, every analysis of Marshall’s written opinions of the court left me in awe at this man’s brilliance. It also showed a side of Thomas Jefferson I wasn’t used to seeing, particularly his extreme fervor for state’s rights to the point where he thought state governments had equal power as the federal government and the district courts had power to overrule the Supreme Court. Not to mention threats of judge impeachments and a proposed an amendment to limit Supreme Court Justice terms to six years. But this is also attributed to his huge mistrust of Marshall and his belief that the Judiciary was Federalist institution out there to threaten American democracy itself. Nevertheless TJ is still one of my favorite American history figures, although his ideas on the role of states’ power ultimately was used to justify leaving the union (see Civil War) and his beliefs in Supreme Court duties would have basically crippled the branch. Oh not to mention there was quite a bit about that shady Vice President Aaron Burr–crap wait, I thought I had resolved to not do this. Aar! US History rox. kthxbye.

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Double-headed spears and staffs lied resting in corners of the Seattle Hilton conference center as their owners filed in line to submit their money and score cards to register for the 2004 International Open Kung Fu Wushu Championship. The scene was busy, dozens of competitors were filing in, most wearing their school’s t-shirts making the kung fu hand greeting as they passed each other in the hall, bowing their heads as sifus and masters passed. I smiled as I watched young and old join the symbol of a moon and sun with their hands as they eagerly greeted each other. At my studio we only did this at the beginning and end of class and sparring matches. The gesture was familiar as a handshake but to see it done in public by all those who passed blew my mind.

I think that is what made the tournament so impressionable to me. Kung fu has always been my peculiarity. It’s been that thing I do on weekends that no one else really gets a glimpse into. In high school it seemed to be all I did; hours spent everyday at my poorly ventilated, heat-filled, concrete-floored studio by the waterfront running through drills to the sound of a drum and a Capoeira berimbau amidst the scent of incense, soaked in sweat. Now in college it’s just a weekly thing: Friday night open practice and a Saturday morning form class, a practice session, followed by an hour of sparring. It was something that I did. Kung Fu resided in 2169 Erlands Pt. between me, five of the senior students and my sifu. Kung Fu was in the movies I saw and in t-shirts sporting Shaolin monks. No one else really got it. Going to the first big international kung fu tournament to be hosted in the region seemed like an obvious way to spend the weekend. What I wasn’t anticipating: a complete culture shock from a sport that I previously thought to be something purely personal.

Saturday came and eliminations began. I wish you could just see a glimpse of it, of the bright colored traditional uniforms, the swift motion of broadswords and kwan daos, the shouts of the crowd, the loud speakers announcing, “TKO!” from the shan shou ring, of the competitors clustered by schools stretching and warming up, running through form segments, exchanging shouted encouragements and playful hits. The scene was a lot to take in. Above all the commotion my nerves were eating me alive. Began wishing I had registered to spar and rather than compete in forms. Ironically I have a better sense of confidence knowing someone will be coming at me with their firsts rather than when someone is sitting ready to judge the intricacies of, or lack thereof, my movements. I weaved in and out of rings to catch glimpses of how the other guys were fairing for nearly four hours waiting for my last division, heart sprinting while unsuccessfully trying control my breath with mind scrambling to remember qigong lessons.

“Women’s advanced northern long-weapon division, proceed to ring two!” came the announcement over the loudspeaker. My division was up and it had just been broken down between genders, contrary to the registration sheet. Like my first division from earlier that day, I was glad at smaller division, no wait, I was glad that my forms were to be judged against girls. At my studio I’m the only girl of my rank and it has been that way for years. Girls doing kung fu seemed something reserved for Crouching Tiger. In my mind, I naievly thought that I was an exception.

Standing in the ring I sized up my competitors. Honestly, my first thought was, shamefully, “Well, if anything I can beat the white girls to my left.” No, really. I saw these two tall girls, with their pony-tailed red and blonde hair and freckles and thought, “There’s no way these girls know kung fu.” My chief concern were the Asian girls next to me. I have never been so wrong. Each performed smoothly; their stances and movements took me completely off guard. I was pretty ashamed at my assumption. Another competitor was a small Chin Woo girl whose kung fu practically inspired me. I had never seen a girl doing kung fu be so impressive. And this was traditional kung fu, not the fluff of wushu I’m accustomed to seeing girls perform who demonstrate their acrobatic ability and flexibility through forms. No, this was hard-style. You know you’re out of your league when all you want to do while watching your competition is to videorecord them. The first place winner was a girl named Tammy Lee with a double-headed spear whose movements were imported straight from a well-done kung fu fight scene. Don’t think I’ve ever seen, regardless of gender, perform that form or wield that weapon so effortlessly but with power behind it. The last girl, a grand champion in her former divisions was likewise impressive, earlier I had made fun of her Chun Li-like outfit but was now being pwned before my very eyes.

I am still deciding if I am completely encouraged or discouraged by seeing such skill over the weekend by girls my age. It was the first tournament in which I didn’t receive a medal and I completely don’t regret that. (I do regret loosing grip on my staff during the first ten seconds of my weapon form though. “Hey Jamie, next tournament, how about you not throw your weapon at a judge before you receive your scores, eh?” my Sifu said smilingly to me.)

In the end what impressed me was my own divisions. I completely underestimated everyone, ironically, because they were women. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in over my head in the advanced divisions. And then realized that while I had thought of this as just another tournament, this was something bigger to everyone else there. Having flown from around the country and even internationally (many of my judges didn’t even speak English), the teams there fully demonstrated that they were the best. I just wish you could’ve seen them. This was no wire-worked camera kung fu with Zhang Ziyi flinging her straight sword at you. It was kung fu like I hadn’t seen before.

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Went to Bumbershoot yesterday and saw downpilot, Pixes and Built to Spill. The shows were pretty good and I was thankful to have a seat in the stands and not on the floor. Overall it was a pretty chill summer evening and I was just glad to have had the opportunity to sit and listen to music with old friends. It was the first time in over a year that me, Irene, and Val were together. It’s weird to think how much time the three of us used to spend with each other. It was good to see them. When Greg and I ran into them in line for wristbands I couldn’t stop smiling; it just blew my mind to see us all in the same place. Afterward Greg and I moseyed to Belltown and had a beer at Axis (where I always feel twelve years old and under-dressed, haha). Later that night, I took the bus home to see that Jules had begun moving in. Have never been so happy to see roommate’s stuff everywhere. =)

The rest of Labor Day weekend consisted of two days at the 2004 Kung Fu Open (more on this later), spending the day in Port Orchard/Silverdale with Ryan and my family, and then Bumbershoot on Monday. It’s been pretty busy few days. I

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Take your debit/credit card and make a donation to Red Cross here. Florida needs all the help it can get.

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Holy crap, this is the first time in nearly three months that my PC has been online. Whoa. It’s weird to be back on this. *Looks at iBook*

Goodnight.