We Looked Like Giants

On Saturday, I attended the 2006 thesis exhibition of Stanford University's MFA program in documentary film and video, of which my father's cousin's daughter Kathy is a graduating student.

One film explored the plight of the bluefin tuna. Another was a portrait of a companion of Jorge Luis Borges.


Nepotistic as it may sound, I enjoyed Kathy's film the most. For one, it wasn't deathly boring.

Miss Chinatown U.S.A. followed a Seattle Seahawks cheerleader (Katie Au) as she prepared for and participated in this year's Miss Chinatown USA pageant.

Katie hoped the pageant would open doors to a career "as a dancer in Vegas or working in a bank."

Saturday night, my family, Kathy's family and a few of Kathy's (predominantly Stanford) friends ate dinner together.

Let me describe the half of the table occupied by Kathy's friends:

a PhD candidate in engineering
a PhD candidate in music
a PhD candidate in math
a PhD candidate in anthropology
a PhD candidate in teaching
a Harvard econ major soon to be Wharton graduate student

"Some company you keep," I told Kathy.

The anthropology PhD was a white dude who spoke fluent Chinese in several dialects. He spent a few minutes chatting with my parents in Mandarin about his ability to play multiple instruments while I headed to the Rite Aid across the street for some Levitra.

Kathy's friends reminded me a lot of my friends in high school. I've since lost touch with most of them, but I know that, for example, Nadia is currently a PhD candidate in computer science at Princeton.

Sometimes I wonder how I wound up in the circle I did.

The engineering PhD hailed from Calgary. I've only met two Calgarians in my life — Robbie and the PhD. Are they all charmingly jocular?

Kathy's sister received a fortune cookie that read: "Keep your eyes open."

On Sunday, I attended Kathy's commencement ceremony.

To my surprise, the commencement speaker was Craig Newmark, creator of Craigslist. Apparently, he hangs out with the creators of Wikipedia.

Each graduate wrote a little autobiography that was read as he or she received a diploma. Seemingly every blurb mentioned one or a combination of the following:

1. multiple extracurricular activities
2. moving to New York City
3. a job at Google

In fact, the number of Google references became comical, and this was the Department of Communication! Imagine Google's presence at the Department of Computer Science's commencement.

As the ceremony concluded, I overheard two spectators behind me discussing life at Amazon and Google, respectively.

"No regrets, Jon," I tried to convince myself. "No regrets…"

When she arrived, Kathy's mother gave me a wallet embossed with gold mermaids. Today, she gave me another present — an elephant picture frame.

I inserted a photo from 1999.