The old “Five things you don’t know about me” meme is going around again, and I’ve been tagged by the China Blog Mafia’s representative in Taiwan Province. Normally I wouldn’t deign to post something like this, but hey, it’s a meme. I’m powerless to resist. Five things that you probably don’t know about me:
1. I’ve been blogging for a bit over six years now.
I’ve had a personal website in some form or another since like 1996, and started playing with Blogger in fall 2000, back when it was actually cool. Various changes of format, platform, design, and server later, I’m still here, though I’ve gone from multiple updates per day to updating once or twice a month. The old posts aren’t online, partly because the earliest versions of my blog were based on a home-rolled CMS and I don’t feel like converting over all of the old data, but mostly because they just weren’t very good.
2. If I hadn’t been such a fuck-up in high school, I might never have gotten so into Chinese.
I was always the kind of student that drove teachers crazy — smart, able to turn in good work when I wanted to, and arrogant enough to think that I could tune out and study what I wanted to without consequences. This had predictable results, and I was rejected from all of the universities that I applied to – at some of which, like UPenn and UChicago, I had done coursework and maintained a 4.0 GPA while in high school, not that I am bitter about not getting in or anything.
I was bitter about this for a while — particuarly when I saw high school classmates who were (for want of a better word) dumber than I was getting admitted to these same schools — but time has a way of providing perspective: around the same time I was receiving thin envelope after thin envelope from my schools of choice, I also got a thick envelope from Stanford, whose summer Chinese program at Beijing University I’d applied to and then basically forgotten about.
Not getting accepted to university meant that there was money for me to do this program, and so three days after I graduated high school, I was on a plane over to California, where my classmates and I did four weeks of intensive second-year Chinese in preparation for a five-week stint at Beida. After the program ended, I went back to Philadelphia, where a heroic high school guidance couselor had wrangled me a position in Temple University’s Honors program, and promptly set about finding ways to get back to China. I’d been taking night classes in Chinese for a couple of years (initially because I was bored in high school Spanish), but this was really the clincher, and if it hadn’t been for that, I might well have ended up doing something else entirely.
3. My first name isn’t really Brendan.
It’s Michael. Michael Brendan Barry O’Kane: Barry for my mother’s surname, Michael for my father’s brother who died in infancy, and Brendan, which they apparently decided that they liked more. I’ve never been called Michael, except by DMV staff and airport check-in attendants. A couple of years ago, I almost got into trouble at Philadelphia Airport when a check-in clerk saw that my ticket said “Brendan” and my passport said “Michael Brendan,” and then informed me that now that 9/11 had changed everything, she was going to have to charge me $150 for a change-of-name fee.
That wasn’t the trouble; the trouble was with what I said to her after that.
4. I can’t tie my shoes properly.
Seriously; it looks like I’m doing it with goddamned hooks or something. I’m just poorly coordinated all around. This despite having done 12 years of Shotokan karate, which I wasn’t very good at either.
5. I have my parents’ taste in music.
More or less. Fortunately my parents have really good taste in music. I grew up on Irish music, blues, The Who, Talking Heads, and all kinds of stuff, and although we’ve got our differences of opinion — I listen to speed metal when I’m pissed off or in need of a quick burst of productivity; my parents do not — it’s usually a pretty safe bet that if I like something, my folks will like it too, and vice versa. My mom just sent me the MP3 below of St. Swithin’s Day by Billy Bragg — I hadn’t heard the song in years, and had forgotten how good it was. (Apologies to Chinesepod, whose Flash sound player I’ve stolen.)
Now for the tagging:
1. John Pasden. He’s way too nice, so you just know there’s going to be some far-out shit about him that nobody knows.
2. David Lancashire. Canadian, so ditto.
3. Chris. I know you don’t have a blog yet, but post in the comments. Answers don’t have to be factual.
4. Joel. Ditto. (Unless you want to post on Danwei.)
5. My amazing, talented, totally foxy girlfriend. Is there anything I should know?
This is a meme. You can’t resist memes!