Olympic Figure Skating Time Machine

John Curry, 1976 Olympics, Innsbruck


As my best friend Jessica says, at a time when all eyes are on Sochi and everyone is talking about Yulia Lipnitskaya, Yuzuru Hanyu and Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, I am probably one of very few people watching old figure skating videos.

When I tire of the overly technical nature of the sport today, I watch John Curry, whom legendary commentator Dick Button called the “most elegant skater” he had ever seen. “Don Quijote,” his long program at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck is full of beautiful positioning on the ice, graceful spins and exacting edges. It is breathtaking–though Curry said that he and his coaches toned down the elegance and made the elements much more obvious so that the judges would not detract from his technical merit score.

I love all the moments when the network commentator tries to say something or engage Dick Button, and Button just cuts him off because he is just so enthralled by Curry’s skating. Without a doubt, John Curry’s 1976 performance is, as Dick Button says, “One of the finest moments of skating I have ever seen.”

And when I start watching figure skating videos, I have to watch at least one four videos of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. Their 1988 Long Program at the Olympic games in Clagary is flawless, unless you count, as commentator Peggy Fleming does, her positioning in one of the death spirals; there are also a few seconds when they are not synchronized perfectly on their spins. Beyond the quality of their classical balletic style, there is so much joy on Gordeeva’s face as she skates, especially at the end when she knows that they have won gold.

Another reason I love this video is of course the commentators: 1968 Olympic Champion Peggy Fleming–who won gold just 8 years after the whole US figure skating team died in a plane crash–and of course Dick Button, 1948 and 1952 Olympic Champion, who was also the first to do many spins and jumps.

Here are Gordeeva and Grinkov in 1994, returning to amateur competition under “Brian’s Law,” the one-time opportunity allowing professionals to compete as amateurs. This time, they return as a married couple with a young daughter. Sergei makes two bobbles, but they win gold anyways. Some say their Russian teammates Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dmitriev should have won instead–they made no mistakes–but this sport is so subjective. I am too biased in favor of Gordeeva and Grinkov, so I go with legendary coach John Nicks and say that they won fairly.

And if for some reason I want to make myself very sad, I will watch a video special on Sergei’s tragic heart attack and death in 1995. He was 28, she was 23.

Lately, all of my conversations with Jessica, my best friend, circle back to figure skating–the corruption of judging, the artistic shortcomings of so many of the top skaters, and Patrick Chan failing to deliver. It is tiring and more than enough of a reason to take refuge in John Curry’s elegant lines, Peggy Fleming’s delayed single axel, the edge and speed coming out of Robin Cousin’s double axel and Dick Button’s commentary.

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Eat my pear and dinner too


Come on, can’t I just have a bite? (CC Image: marcusrg at Flickr)

After my sister and I saw the Japanese movie I Wish, which is about two brothers separated by divorce, we said to one another, “I wonder if Joseph ever wonders what it would be like to have a brother. We have one of each, but he only has sisters.”

When we put the question to him, he said without pausing, “No, I don’t think about that. I think about what it would be like to be an only child.”

And then he looked at me pointedly.

I am “the worst person ever,” according to Joseph, at least when it comes to food. Ever since he was little, I’ve had a habit of asking “for a bite,” or “a taste” of whatever he eats. This is especially true when he painstakingly puts a dish together. When I eat crab, I eat the meat as I crack it out of its shell. In contrast, Joseph takes all the meat out of the crab, and then mixes it with rice, ginger, and scallions. It looks so delectable, I can’t resist.

“Can I have some?”


“Just a bite?”


“But it looks so good!”

“Which is why I made it.” 

I didn’t realize the psychological damage I was inflicting on Joseph until college, when I was an intern at a Communications company in Seattle. That summer,  my roommate and I had a generous per diem stipend from our college that we would save up and use to splurge on food. We feasted on Oaxacan, French, and New Amerian cuisines. We went to cupcake happy hours, and to the local bakery for ginger scones.

One workday, we decided to wake up extra early to try out an European-Japanese fusion bakery. The bakery was up a steep hill; I was out of breadth by the time we reached the top. (I was out of shape, so I decided to clog my arteries as well.) The hike was worth it. I ate a scrumptous green tea and red bean muffin for breakfast, and picked up some cookies to eat later at work.

At 2:30, I fixed myself a cup of tea, and pulled out my cookies. At that exact moment my boss walks by and asks, “What do you have there? Can I try some?” I really wanted to say, “I walked up a hill and woke up early for these cookies, so no.” Instead, I grimaced and said, “sure.”

Sharing Chocolate

(CC Image: Oakley Originals at Flickr)

It was a “come to Jesus,” “Paul on the road to Damascus” kind of moment. I said to Joseph that night, “I finally know what it’s like.”

And I wish we could just the end story there, but just the other week, I ate a slice of a pear that Joseph had cut up. I assumed it was up for grabs.

He was livid.

“You are the worst person EVER. You didn’t even ask. I literally haven’t eaten all day. That that was my dinner! You said you learned your lesson, but you haven’t!”

Ashamed, I apologized and promised I wouldn’t do it again. But then I thought, who has just a pear for dinner?

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Okay, so things were kind of bad….

These last 6 months have been rough, but I am so grateful to be alive, and for my parents, siblings, family, and friends.

I had planned to publish this very long essay as my first post in several months, but screw it, I just want to post SOMETHING. Like this turkey I drew for my sister’s Thanksgiving.

turkeyUsually Joyce reserves chalkboard duty to herself, but she let me do it this year because as she said, “It’ll have a naive childish quality if Christine does it.”

I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you very much.

Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading!

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Things Are Not As Bad As They Seem In My Head

trees Oberlin

The arboretum in Oberlin.

Things Are Not As Bad As They Seem In My Head–My Rallying Cry these days.

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First Hour of the Day: Morning Pages at 750words.com

Badges at 750words.com

Earn badges at 750words.com!

I am the ultimate morning person. The only way I could be more in love with mornings is if I were actually a senior citizen and not just someone who got up at 6 am, drank hot water, and ate oatmeal for breakfast.

To non-morning people, I am unbearably awake and perky in the morning. When I shared a room with my sister, I’d try to talk to her, but she’d shush me and say moodily, “Tone it down, it’s too early.”

Now that I have my own room, by 7 am, I am bopping my head to electropop. Before listening to music and blogging, I am up by 6 am meditating, then writing my stream-of-consciousness thoughts over at 750words.com.

The website is designed to be an online version of a writing exercise called Morning Pages. The original exercise called for writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. The website translates three pages into 750 words, and tracks your word count. Once you’ve written at least 750 words, you are awarded a point.

Keep on writing and you earn badges, the theme of which is birds. On your first day you get an egg badge, then if you write for 3 days straight, you get a turkey badge, 5 days straight a penguin, and on your 10th day, you are finally awarded the gift of flight in the form of a flamingo badge.

I just got my flamingo badge, but I should also have a Rooster badge by now since I write all my posts between 6 and 9 am. Unfortunately, I just discovered now how to correct my time zone. No matter, I will write to you all proudly when I do earn one.

Describing the badges to my best friend Jessica, she pauses, then says, “I’m having a flashback to you in high school talking about Harvest Moon.”

Ah yes, Harvest Moon, the classic video game in which you are a farmer. I often did wax on about the conveniences of a leveled up sickle and a larger hen house.

Screenshot from Harvest Moon

This player is going to have to make sure his chickens don’t get eaten alive outside.

But back to 750words.com, the idea of the exercise is to clear your head and get your thoughts flowing for the rest of the day.

As evidenced by this first blog post in a long time, the method may have something to it.

Do you write over at 750words.com or some other online writing tool?

As always, thanks for reading and have a beautiful day!


P.S. As always, do leave me comments and questions if you have any. This means you, Dad. ❤

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Friday Night: Yoga Dance and Prosecco Punch

Peep Show Episode: Dance Class

Mark gets sucked into a hippie dance class with Sophie, and is decidedly, not happy.

Friday night at the Farber-Lai Household looks a little like this: Kate is tucked away in her room going over chemistry flashcards with her best friend–he’s in his last year of medical school; she’s just embarked on her premed adventure. Joyce and I interrupt them only to give them glasses of punch made with prosecco, pomegranate juice, and lemon and orange slices. In the kitchen, we have a yoga mat rolled out. I warm up, while Joyce gives me verbal and hands-on adjustments–“I’m really into them lately, and you can tell me if they work for you or not,” she says.

I had wanted to show her something new I am practicing–jumping back into chatarranga–but the conversations turns to, of course, our idea of what yoga is–“It’s all about body awareness,” she says. “Yes, absolutely,” I second, and tell her about some of the self-adjustments that I have been doing in my practice–lifting up my hips in chair pose, and ribs in warrior two.

When Joyce plays her new yoga playlist for me, form breaks down altogether, as the music really lends itself to modern dance moves and extensions. “Oh god. We are really those kind of hippie-dippie yoga people, aren’t we?” she says.

Well, yes, but the following song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs also really does lend itself to heart-opening, and back-bending poses like locus, don’t you think?

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I Write This For You

And boys, in case you didn’t know it, this song, all of this, this song is for you. This brings me to the greatest influence of my life, my amazing mother, Evelyn. Mom, I know you’re inside those blue eyes somewhere and that there are so many things that you won’t understand tonight.”

“But this is the only important one to take in: I love you, I love you, I love you. And I hope that if I say this three times, it will magically and perfectly enter into your soul, fill you with grace and the joy of knowing that you did good in this life.

-Jodie Foster, in her Golden Globes acceptance speech for lifetime achievement. Watch the full speech, and read the full transcript here.

More than an announcement of retirement or a coming out publicly speech, Jodie Foster’s speech at the Golden Globes a couple of weeks back was an expression of love–to her fellow actors, directors, stage-hands, ex-lover and co-parent Cydney Bernard, and her children.

Like love, the speech wasn’t completely coherent, but if you went with it, how could your heart not beak a little when she says to her mom, “You’re a great mom. Please take that with you when you’re finally OK to go”?

I bring up Jodie Foster’s speech, because it’s been a while since I last posted anything to this blog, which has generated all sorts of emotions, most of them not so positive–guilt, sadness, anger at myself. “I want to write, why can’t I write?”


Sign of the Times: I got this photo from my dad’s facebook.

But all of those emotions pale in comparison to love. My dad is a regular reader of my blog. And he not only reads each post, but he leaves a comment! When I was in Los Angeles for Christmas, my mom said to me, “How come I am not on your e-mail list about things that you have published on Africa.com?” I said to her, “Well, I figure that dad will share my e-mail with you, and dad actually comments on each post on my blog! He is what every website and blogger wants. The engaged reader.”

But is my dad going to stop being interested in my life if I stop blogging–or if I’m really bad about calling back? No! The other day, after a long work day of trying to drive up reader engagement, clicks, and comments in my newly minted position as assistant editor at Africa.com, my dad texted me, which is already adorable in itself. My mom is an IT person. My dad is a pastor. But in his attempts to do things the “modern way,” he has started texting the youth at church instead of calling or e-mailing. “This week’s hymns: #4, 15, 376,” etc.

I think they appreciate it.

I certainly do. A parent’s unconditional love: what money, and all the SEO juice in the world can’t buy you.

Thanks for reading, /c

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Pulling Espresso Shots and Other Updates On Life

You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
You may ask yourself, where is that large automobile?
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife

Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”


Last Monday, I found myself on the eleventh floor of a building in Manhattan learning how to pull espresso shots and steam milk. Along the way, I had to sip and taste espresso–lots and lots of espresso. What is the difference between espresso brewed 10 seconds in versus 30 seconds in? How do  you get that shiny gleam on top of your milk? What is the proper pouring technique to get that oh-so-beautiful latte art?

I was wired. Usually, I brew myself one cup of green tea in the morning, flush those leaves two or three more times, then change over to herbal.

But about two weeks before, I had begun my job at the city bakery, so here I was learning how to make espresso.

Life could be much worse, no?

In other work-related news, my piece on African players in the NBA was published today on Africa.com.

On the home front, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving–filled with cousins, friends, good food, and pisco punch. My cousin Irene dropped by with her beau of seven years, and turns out that he is Colombian-American, and is a huge fan of Mana. He’s even dragged Irene to one of their concerts at the Garden. The only other Asian person in the crowd? Sitting right next to her!

The Friday after, I got to see aunts, uncles, and my grandmother at dinner. I took a turn sitting at the “grown-ups” table to practice speaking Cantonese and to get tips on poaching and steaming fresh chicken. P.S., Dad, third uncle says he learned how to cook chicken from the best chef in all of Macau. I need to get that story sometime!

Thanks for reading!


Posted in Basketball, blogging, Languages!, life, New York, random things that make me happy | 1 Comment

A Quick Soup Usually Reserved For Camping

This is my dad cooking, when he is camping.

The closest thing I have as reference for cooking on the fly with shortcuts is my dad cooking at a camp site, or in hotel rooms for road trips. Otherwise, at home when my siblings and I came home from school, our grandmother cooked us a full meal with rice. If there was a spot of sauce on the plate, she wiped it clean. For dinner, my dad cooked three or four courses of vegetables, seafood, and meat. There was always a soup.

Even when we go camping, there must be soup. But some things have to give. My dad takes cans of soup, then adds to them. For example, to a can of chicken noodle soup, he will add ginger, and a vegetable. Once we got lucky on a camping trip, and spotted a man who had just finished fishing, and was filleting his fish; he was about to throw out the heads of the fish when my dad asked if he could take them. We had a delicious fish soup that night under the stars.

While my dad only cooks at this level when camping, I do this kind of soup when I’m sick, or when I feel lazy but still want something cooked and filling. Today, I was definitely feeling the latter for lunch, so I bought myself a can of minestrone soup, and added fennel seed, ginger root, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and lentils.

What do you cook on the fly when you are feeling lazy?

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Post-Sandy Yoga: Channeling Love and Gratitude

At the beginning of yoga class last night, one of my teacher said, “In the aftermath of Sandy-Frankenstein I am thankful that those closest to me and I have not been too negatively impacted.” That statement kind of struck me as selfish, at first. “So many others are suffering,” I thought.

But then he continued, “We can channel this gratitude, breathe into it, and then release it back into the world.” That clicked for me.

In a practice of metta meditation, with each breadth, I brought to mind a different person for whom I am grateful. In seated position, I began with myself, and thanked myself for coming to yoga, and my body for biking to work that day. I breathed out this energy, and then inhaling, thought of my brother, who is always there for me. I slowly went through my family and friends.

When we moved to breathing with simple arm gestures, I thought of those around me, and thanked them for practicing alongside me. Just the day before, I had been harboring negative thoughts, and judgments of my fellow yoga practitioners. But in my meditation yesterday, I felt those judgments go, and I felt genuinely happy to be surrounded by so many people also practicing yoga.

As we moved into tadasana, mountain pose, I called to mind those I find most difficult in my life. “They need your love the most,” reminded my teacher. I breathed into those people. And I had a realization: even though I cannot always be with those people, because I find them difficult, I can think of them in a positive light.

Forget the “21 types of jerks you meet during a hurricane.” Be grateful for them.

If you live in New York and want to practice yoga, but can’t because your usual studio is closed, Hosh is open, and it operates on a $5-$15 sliding scale to boot!


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