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Sunday, October 28, 2007


A few weeks ago I was walking north on Donlands Avenue when I was struck by a strong sense of childhood nostalgia. Lured by the prospect of having something to think about while plodding monotonously along a mundane city street, I ventured to discover the origins of this passing feeling. I began my search by disassembling my surroundings into small, discreet components (such as sounds, colours, temperature, and people) which I then cross-referenced with my bank of childhood memories. One by one, I went through the list of possibilities, but all of them, save for the unremarkable ones like the time of night, the sound of cars, and the colour of the leaves, would have been foreign to my 1980s child counterpart. Dejected, I was ready to abandon the entire exercise, when I looked down the street and realized that all the light coming through the windows of the apartments lining the avenue was bright, fluorescent, and white. At first it was almost jarring. I am accustomed to seeing cold harsh fluorescent lighting in soulless offices, warehouses, and perhaps the odd American Apparel store, but I was shocked that anyone would accept such terrible lighting in their homes. And yet, here on a street populated mostly be new immigrant families, fluorescent lighting was not only accepted, but embraced by every family. It then dawned on me that these long fluorescent tubes, though cold and unwelcoming, cost much less to operate than their warmer but more power-hungry counterparts, the incandescent bulb. For this reason, they are as favored by both budget conscious new immigrants in 2007 as they had been by cash-strapped Shanghainese families in 1987. I grew up under the constant buzzing of the fluorescent tube. I learned my multiplication tables, watched Chinese-dubbed Transformers, and played with my mom and dad under the glow of this white light. It was little wonder that of all the tiny details in a scene from 2007, it was the white light from a common fluorescent tube that managed to transport me back to my childhood.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


"I do like to teach people," he said. "And I've taught so many kinds of people, you don't even know. The proudest teaching I ever had was I taught a pimp in New York. His name was Comfort, as in 'comfortable.' I was going down the street to my friend's house. I had my board with me. He said, 'You know anything about that game?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You have time to show me?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Step into my office,' which was a pink, long Cadillac. I got in. It had a bar in the car and everything. I started thinking, 'Now how in the world am I gonna show this pimp how to play the game of chess?' So he asked me, 'What do the queen do?' I said, 'The queen do all the work.' He said, ' Ohhhh, now what do the king do?' I said, 'The king don't do nothing.' His eyes lit up when he heard that. He said, 'Man, I like this game already.'"

From The Days and Knights of Tom Murphy, a Washington Post story about a Chess Hustler