Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Good Name 甄

Oh my god....this is the COOOOOLEST thing ever.

(This is a shrine to the progenitor of my family name, Gin Sun Hall.)

Do you know...that another way to spell my last name in English is ....


From now on, I am no longer drinking pomartinis or beer. Just gin. Only Gin & Tonics for moi! It's my ancestral duty!



I feel as if I'm the scion of a wealthy liquor making family....the Coors, Busches, Millers of the world...and me!

(or the by-product and FAS ridden child of an extreeeemely alcoholic family)

But seriously, I find this is pretty wild. Apparently, there are SO FEW Chinese people in the world with my last name, there is an organization that brings us together.

Basically...I'M AN EXTREMELY RARE AND ENDANGERED Chinese person. Us Gins are like the freakin' snow leapords and (haha) Giant Pandas of Chinese people! Unlike the rest of the Chinese people, I guess Gins have been following the one -child rule and flying SOLO for dynasties and dynasties... so my singlehood isn't my fault. I can blame my non-existent personal life on the fact that it has been predestined and ingrained by the fate of my inherited DNA. (phew!)

Oh wait- further online sleuthing has revealed that some jerk emperor wanted to kill off my ancestors. Sigh, sadly 'twas the practice of the time. In ancient China, should you cross the wrong person, not only were you killed, but that same honor was extended throught your entire family. From the eldest white haired Gin to the days old baby Gin, all would be slaughtered because you got fresh with one of the Emperor's 500 plus concubines. Sheesh! So a lot of us changed our last names....but the BRAVE ONES didn't!

Wooohoooo! I'm the descendant of Asian people who historically don't take crap and kick ass! Yeah! Uh...or are extremely illogical, stubborn, lazy and easily massacred...hmm.....

So yea, we could also be the Dodo birds of the Chinese people. (yay?)

There's even a GIN WORLD CONFERENCE that's held every year. And a SHRINE to my family name in San Francisco!

Gin Sun Hall Benevolent Association
747 Clay Street
San Francisco, California 94108
(415) 982-4865

Gin/Yan Family Association
612 1/2 West College Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
(213) 617-1968

Fieeeeeeeld Trip!

lol- Helen

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Haute to the Bitter End

(Note: this post describes an event that occurred about a year ago. Enough time has passed for me to look at this photo and laugh without any sadness and gain a new perspective about that day.)

I came across this else? um, urn shopping. We were in Taipei and in the process of selecting one for my awesome, amazing, beautiful grandmother who passed away last year.

At the time, my family and I had been operating as husks of people. Our tears, life and soul juices had been sucked away by grief and the stress of settling her affairs. We couldn't even remember when we'd felt anything but sorrow and tiredness. The shop owner was properly somber and solicitous as he showed us his inventory which was housed behind glass cabinets and lit by flourescent lights.

I turned my head, and saw it sitting on a podium outside of the glass.

"Is that...that....what I THINK it is?!?!!?"

Everyone in the room turned to look, and then I heard a


then a


followed by a


and finally....laughter.

My mother turned to the owner of the urn shop and breathlessly asked,"Is it real?"

The owner dropped his act and spoke to her like a normal human being.

In a casual tone he replied,"Oh of course not. Louis Vuitton definately doesn't manufacture urns. This one was a custom job, we handle those too....and sometimes... we get some odd requests."

I took out my digital camera and the owner nodded his head, granting me permission.

I snapped a photo. "WOW!!!...How odd?" I asked.

He beamed. I'd taken his bait.

"We've also done Hello Kitty."

I know it might seem initially cruel or disrespectful to laugh at something like this. But in life one of the things that had really gotten on my grandmother's grits was materialism. She herself was a wealthy enough woman, but had felt that luxury brands were pointless...and the people who loved them were misled fools who paid good money to act as walking billboards . Simply put, had she been in the room with us, she would have gasped and said,"真的嗎?!這是真的嗎?!開完笑!" ("HONESTLY?! IS THIS FOR REAL? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!??!" )

And because of her influence, her children and grandchildren all felt the same...and could finally share in a laugh over something that would have sent my grandmother into bouts of laughter for daaaaaaaays.

In the end, we went with a simple yet elegant pale rose jade. She would have loved it.

( Those Hello Kitty urns were made for adults...had it been for children it would have been less funny and more logical. Well, at least to us.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Here Comes the Bride All Dressed in...OMG.

My friend is getting married in Hong Kong, and she's upset because her dad is forcing her and her fiancee to pose in super cheesy forced wedding photos.

"He wants us to do this fake Dr. Zhivago shit like we're in Russia!"

Frankly, I think Emily shouldn't be complaining. And Josh should be kissing the ground and thanking Lord, Heaven and Earth that he's not facing what poor Horlick here is going through....


Hey bridesmaids! Don't feel left out! You too can join in the fun by donning one of these sassy numbers!

(frankly, if I had to be bridesmaid at a Hello Kitty Wedding, I'd just be thankful she wouldn't insist I wear the damn thing AS Hello Kitty.)

On the flip side though...Emily and Josh should know that they can also have a kickass awesome World Of Warcraft wedding. Ellen was kind enough to send me the link and provide me with the wedding photos:

Pretty cute huh? Now these aren't so bad. Compared with the schlocky wedding photos of most Asian wedding album studios, you can kinda see that the couple is really having actual fun with these photos...and they seem mutually INTO W.O.W....

Ok...waaaaay into W.O.W. What the hell is up with THIS picture??!?!?!! Why is the groom an Albino Monkey?!

(ps- I hear there's a rumor for a super hot Wong Kar Wei "In the Mood for Love" inspired wedding album that will compliment the cheese-tastic Russian Cossack version. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Taiwanese Females = Universal Healthcare!

I was on the FAQ section of Taiwan's National Health Insurance Website researching if I was still eligible for their National Health Insurance when I came across this question:

Q6: Are foreigners who marry Taiwanese females eligible for the NHI program?

Foreigners with Taiwanese wives and holding Residence Certificates may
enroll in the NHI as indicated below...

AHEM. Does that mean in order to qualify for universal healthcare foreign women would have to marry a Taiwanese woman as well?

AS IF all foreigners were men marrying Taiwanese women. What? Taiwanese husbands don't qualify you for healthcare?

Is this Taiwan's blatant attempt to promote lesbianism among its foreign women populace? (HAWT!)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Muji Apple

I thought I was over Asia...OVER-OVER-OVER IT! (or as Xienshen would say "OVES IT".)

But then I dropped freakin' 85 bucks at UNIQLO, the H&M of Japan now cozily situated on Broadway. Damn you, Japan for your impeccable if slightly clinical sense of design. And double damn you for pollinating our American shores with your stores. (I rhyme!)Now it gets fever pitch people. Cuz you know WHO ELSE is coming?!



As usual, Gothamist tells me everything I need to know, specifically about the GIGANTIC NEW MUJI STORE taking up 5,000 sq ft in the NY Times building between 40th and 41st on 8th Avenue.

For those of you who have no idea why I'm so ga-ga over potentially overpriced stationary items you can get at the MOMA Design store, let me share my experience at the MUJI while I was in Taiwan:

More exotic than a Twinkie, hell more flavorful, and grosses out schoolchildren- $1.60 US.

Meet the family...

In case you couldn't guess, MUJI was also ground zero for all the "hip n' artsy" folks at Taipei, aka "Japan-o-phile Wannabes". Do I exclude myself from this bunch? Given the alternative in I don't. Here they are flocking the stationary section. MUJI sells an amazing notebook with pre-made storyboard blocks for your own geek comic book/film making aspirations.

All the labels for their beauty products were either in Japanese or Chinese gibberish. Considering my Chinese reading skills consist mainly of food and business terms, it was hard to decipher "combination-oily" or "undereye lift mask" I mainly stayed away from buying their beauty products. It'll be a relief to find out what all this stuff is really for when it hits the States.

I don't know why...but these handkerchiefs just give me such a thrill.

As do the abundance of slipper choices! (Gawd, I'm so freakin' Asian...)

It all comes down to apparel.

Why do I love MUJI so? Just look at this display. The logo is microscopic. It's not even on the packaging. But through smart marketing, strong design, and unwavering self-identity they're able to scream out "THIS IS ME" without telling, but just showing you.

Is it any wonder I ran to MUJI while living in
neon-lit-status-conscious-Louis-Vuitton-totin' Taipei? No logo and minimalism was a refreshing oasis.

I think NYC can definately benefit from a MUJI oasis in Herald Square. ;-)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Not in Asia Anymore

I just sent this photo to a friend so he could see the current climate of pop culture I've landed myself into by coming home. Bald Britney on ATTACK!!!!

Hmmmm...being back for over two weeks now is a bit weird. I feel like a time traveler or Rip Van Winkle. It doesn't feel like I've been gone for over two years, and not much looks different...yet as I walk around the city, talk to my friends, and look at what's around I feel an undefinable difference.

The best way to describe it is..kinda like walking into your room, and getting the feeling like someone's been in there and moved your stuff around while you weren't looking. But you can't pinpoint what.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Helen is Drawing

So I'm not technically Hiding in Asia any more, since my butt is back in New Jersey now.
I'll still update this blog, because I have a backlog of insanity I encountered in Asia yet to be revealed.

In the meantime, I am fighting artistic and mental rot- by drawing, doing art, freelancing on projects etc... if you are curious as to what I'm up to these days, you can go to my new blog, Helen is Drawing.

Oh yeah, and yell at me if I don't update this blog often, cuz it means I'm watching Oprah and waking up past noon and NOT drawing. ;-)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Escape From Taiwan-Part Deux took 4 months and 4 attempts since I got this from my friend Michael ....but HOT DAMN FINALLY it's happening!!!!!! (about 4 hours and 55 minutes from now, but really, whose counting?)

What follows "Escape from Taiwan" and "Hiding in Asia"?
- "Bored in New Jersey?"
- "Confused in My 20's?"
- "Watching TV in My Living Room?"

Oh lordy, I hope not. ;-)

Monday, February 19, 2007

"If you believe it, there will be, but if you don't, there will not."

There are many ghosts in Chinese culture. Ghosts have been believed and worshipped by Chinese for a few thousand years. Even Confucius said, "Respecting ghosts and gods, but away from them."

Many people believe ghosts, yet many don't. Chinese people often say, "If you believe it, there will be, but if you don't, there will not." Here is a story about this saying.

Zhuxi was a famous scholar in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). He believed there were no ghosts in the world, so he decided to write an essay "No Ghost." It was said he was a great sage so even ghosts were afraid of him. If he said no ghosts, ghosts could no longer exist. When ghosts knew he was writing the essay, they gathered together to discuss this and decided to send the smartest ghost to entreat him abandon the writing.

So one night, the smartest ghost appeared at Zhuxi's desk and kowtowed towards Zhuxi repeatedly.

The ghost told Zhuxi to abandon the writing to save them. Zhuxi laughed and said:
    "You, the ghosts have been worshipped in the human world for so long. Isn't the time for you go away all together."

    "We also have good and bad ghosts..."

    "Well, I heard you can do anything. Can you move me to the outside?"
    "Certainly, Sir."
Zhuxi was moved to the outside instantly without even noticing it. Zhuxi was astonished by the ability of ghosts, but was unwilling to say it. Then he asked again,
    "You can move my body. Can you move my heart?"

    "That is impossible to do, Sir.But we can move things or a person's body so that it proves we exist. We exist in illusion. If you believe it, there will be, but if you don't, there will not.
    Can you say something like that in your essay, Sir?"
Zhuxi felt the words did have some merits so he promised the ghost he would do that. The ghost left happily. Therefore, Zhuxi wrote the words, under the title of the no ghost essay, "If you believe it, there will be, but if you don't, there will not."

from this link

More on Zhu Xi , I dig his principles. Go Mencius!

3 Days To Relaunch!

In three days, I will stage my 4th attempt to bust out of this island cage and get HOME. Wish me luck?

Not to say this is an entirely joyful escape attempt. I'm not traipsing out of here all la dee dah without wishing....

-my grandma was still around.
-my mom wasn't living by herself.
-I wasn't leaving some GREAT friends behind.
-I knew WHEN I can see these friends again.

'ya dig? Shite- saying goodbye can be hard and it isn't something I find easier and easier as I get older like some people claim. But I s'pose it's a necessary evil if I plan on having the most awesome life EVER. And sadly, for that to happen, I think I gotta:
-get home
-and relaunch.

Speaking of having the most awesome life EVER...I'm not quite as sure about how to go about that. All I know is that it needs to not be me coming back all "Blast-From-The-Past-2004" and re-picking up the same routine because it's comfortable or safe. I just hope I don't pansy out though when I get over my jetlag and reassess my sitch-oo-ation. (yea, say it like THAT!)

Oh yea, and if ya think that ditching your friends, family, and a cushy job to move halfway across the world with gaping, looming, boundless, and vast uncertainty waiting for you is easier the second time?, but at least you know you're not afraid to do it. And will probably do it until you don't need to anymore. :)

ps- oh, and to dispel any concerns- asides from these thoughts I'm fuckin' ECSTATIC about coming home. :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Ahma

I will miss many things about my Ah-ma. The cute way she shuffled, how hysterically she could laugh without stopping, her voice getting higher and higher, her selflessness, her disdain for vanity, and how much she much she cared for my happiness…all those things.

But the thing I will probably miss most is the sound of her voice, and with it all the things she had to say. My Ah-ma was a most opinionated lady, and she showed no hesitation expressing her ideas and opinions. She was spunky, sassy and strong.

She may have been the smallest in our family, but her presence dwarfed all others when you were in a room with her. Next to my tall, quiet and patient grandfather, Ah-ma commanded the center of all attention, and because of that she was the center of our family. Growing up, my association with my Ah-ma has always been hearing conversations about family, politics, culture, and gossip, with Ah-ma’s voice rising above everyone else’s. Her passion was always the most alive in our group.

I am lucky to have had such a strong and passionate woman for an Ah-ma. Her influence is apparent by looking at all the women in our family. My mother and my aunt are certainly strong and intelligent women who take after their mother. As the eldest in my generation, I follow their example too, and I only hope to have children one day who are just as alive as my Ah-ma was.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hong Kong: The Soundtrack

The one day Emily and I leave the camera at home and give ourselves a break from filming the documentary, we encounter the liveliest and most musical day in Hong Kong so far.

We had my tiny point and shoot though at least.

Causeway Bay had an outdoor "Racial Harmoney Day" series of performances, one of them featuring these amazing guys. Anyone up for taking a Bollywood dance class with me?
Look at those moves!!!!!

I caught these guys in the spur of the moment, wish I'd filmed them longer. (and given them casholah)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Japanese Store in Hong Kong Sells Slippers

I innocently ventured into the Japanese Home Centre shop only to have all my senses ASSAULTED by this commercial playing as part of a display for household slippers.

Got to remember to break out those moves next time I raid the dance floor.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

360 Degrees in Kowloon

Yay, there's a video feature on my new camera. I'll try to do more of these as I jump around this world. I'll try to mix up different kinds of locations as I go.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My chum , Emily Ting and I are shooting a documentary in Hong Kong,Frankfurt and London. It's going to kickass.

See us kickass. Go to

Might not blog here as often as I'd like. It's busy being Emily's camera bitch, personal assistant and kept woman. Heeee!