So this is the story of my one and only nude photoshoot.

No it’s not for a wedding. No it’s not pornography. It’s actually my final project for the art class that I was taking that has nothing to do with human form but everything to do with fluid mechanics. Weird. Right?

The class was supposed to be about the interface of science and art, and “the impact of your [scientific] work on society.” But we just wanted an art/photography class straight up. I got really tired of the math prof trying to make everything about half-assed science and ditched that part of the class assignment very early on and focused on experimenting with aesthetics and my own take on what it means to be *art*.

The final project came around Thanksgiving time, and all over my social networks was people talking about illegal immigrants refugees and the origin of Thanksgiving and the blood-stained American history. So I wanted something provocative, something shockingly beautiful and deeply disturbing… Cranberry sauce! I made an entire gallon of cranberry sauce and all was set to be poured onto me.

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My friends and I think that each one of these actually trigger very different emotional associations. The end result has deviated from the Thanksgiving theme that we started from, but in a good way. We achieved the collision of violence and sexuality, and of brutality and beauty. I am definitely very happy with the result – except that maybe I could have gone all-out and poured the entire thing over my head in the end and catch the most disturbing shot ever.

Oh and I was sitting on a sheet to keep the flooring from staining. Isn’t this pretty? *wink wink* 😉


The Edinburg Turmoil or Lack Thereof

IMG_6887I was studying abroad in England, and the program asked us to arrive 10 days before the semester (week 0, the week when students register for classes) started for international orientation and “to adjust to living in a foreign country.” Of course, that was not something that I was unfamiliar of. So naturally, I got bored of the culture shock lectures in the basement dungeon of the hotel and ditched the entire thing. It was the week before the Scottish referendum, and I thought to myself, hey, political turmoil! – and booked the flight to Edinburg for the next morning.

By the time the 1:30 am train story happened, I had just finished my three day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. This was the last week before the big referendum day, when people of Scotland voted on whether they wanted the nation to leave the United Kingdom to be a independent country, or would they rather keep things the way it was and stay in the union. Quite frankly I was hoping to see a frenzy, a battle: people demonstrating and yelling on the streets, signs everywhere, fliers and stickers and posters flying around in every corner of the city.

But it turned out that I couldn’t be more wrong. I arrived on September 16, 2014, referendum T-3 days. It felt like just another day in Edinburgh. I walked around the old town and the new town, the Scottish parliament, and the neighborhood of the guesthouse I stayed in, and all I saw was two or three shops and two or three houses that had “YES”s on the windows, and another one or two houses with “NO”s. There was a small stand for the YES SCOTLAND campaign on the street that I lived in, which was really not far from the heart of the city. And that was basically it.

From the small sample size that I had, the YES campaign was way more visible than the NOs. There were way more stickers on landmarks and statues with Yes – even a traffic cone with YES on it on the head of one of the statues. The NO banner in the above photo was the only NO that I saw on the street till the 17th, when the flag that said “Please Stay with Us” showed up on the Adam Smith statue. I wondered to myself whether it was true that the majority is often silent.

I talked briefly with the YES campaign people at the small stand, and asked for their reasonings. Among all things, I remembered them telling me that the UK parliament was not spending their tax money in a way that most benefits Scotland, but benefits England instead. And they were mad that they cancelled the free higher education because of money problems. If Scotland were to become an independent country, they can address these issues and bring back free education and focus more on developing Scotland as a nation. I personally thought that those were simply empty checks that the politicians made out to the public that could not be cashed, since they would mostly likely be faced with the similar set of challenges as the British government once they become their own government. It’s likely that they would make the same decisions that the UK parliament has been making on behalf of the country. But people seemed to be buying into it anyways.

The result was what I had hoped for – the Scottish people voted to stay in the UK. Apparently the turnout for the voting was a historic new high. In the beginning the polls showed that ~70% people wanted to leave the UK, making it a real possibility. That served as a wakeup call for the silent majority to show up and vote – not an overwhelming majority, but still a majority.

I had a late afternoon lunch at a pub on the 17th, after walking around the old town for the second time. The first time I attempted to see the castle it was REALLY foggy and I could barely see the road under my feet. I met an old Canadian couple at the pub, and the man told me that he’s been through two referendums in his life time, both of which decided that the province of Quebec would stay with the union. I couldn’t really tell whether he was sad or happy that that was the case.

The One with the 1:30 a.m. Train

Waiting for the train at 12:30 a.m. after my flight was delayed for 3 hours.

Number one golden rule of story telling (or what people told me anyways): never start your story from the beginning. In math this would be called the “1st fundamental theorem” of story telling. So I’m going to jump to the middle, where what I would call “adventure” reached its climax.

You know it’s a bad sign when you are on a train at 1:30 in the morning and are waken up by a late-middle-age man in a bright neon vest.

And also what happens when you are an American in England, or, in my case, a person who lived in California for two years and have just got to London, is you would think that you speak the same language as the local people, but there’s always going to be that wonderful moment when you realize you truly, really, and seriously don’t understand them.

I think the man repeated or rephrased the same sentence for four or five times before I finally caught it:

“This train terminates here!”

I would spare you the surprise and confusion and the subsequent swear words in several different language that passed through my mind in the next couple seconds. Yes so there I was, in the middle of. . . god knows where, at 1:30 in the morning. Fortunately enough, so far all British people I’ve met are nice and helpful people although they don’t quite smile at you.

“So where were you trying to go?”


“Manchester?!?!” Picture an old janitor with a very heavy London accent, holding his broom, yelling out this single word in the most British way possible, eyes all big and glaring at me with shock. But hell I had no idea how he got “Manchester” from that.

“No no no. Lei-ces-ter. Like the one starting with the L.”

“Oh Leicester!! Is it Leicester?”

You might be completely confused by now. Maybe you’re not, but I really was. Let me explain: apparently the British people don’t pronounce the “ce” in the middle of the word. The actual pronunciation sounds like “Leister.”

“Oh you lucky girl. Look that train right there is the last train!” He pointed to the train just coming into the platform directly next to the one I was on.

I won’t bore you with more details. Essentially I sprinted on the other train and got to my destination at 2:30 a.m.. On the second train I thought briefly about it and realized what must have happened is that I got on the train that arrived 2 minutes earlier than the one I was supposed to be on, which arrived and departed from the same platform.

Despite all the fun and craziness of getting lost in a strange country in the dead of the night, traveling on that after midnight train was not a part of my original plan. But that’s a different story.