Why is Flirting a Man’s Job?

February 15 brings a sigh of relief:) For singles of all genders, Valentine’s Day can be a cause for anxiety. 

Source: Times of India

Since I have borderline Asperger’s symptoms and tend to miss indirect and non-verbal cues, the pressure I feel to flirt in February can jitter my nerves. I have a feeling that many other men feel the same.

Source: Reddit. 

Why is it that, in the era of #metoo, straight guys are expected to pursue girls and not the other way around? 

Evolutionary psychologists would argue that it is “natural” for a woman to choose the partner because she’ll end up having to carry his baby for nine months.  

And yet, being the smart apes we are, our personality and “character” traits likely have as much to do with social conditioning as with evolutionary hard-wiring. 

Source: Imgflip Meme Generator

Indeed, a study conducted ten years ago found that when women were given the initiative to approach men as part of a speed dating experiment, they were as assertive as men who were told to approach women.

I can’t speak for the experience of women, so I won’t attempt any answers. The speed dating experiment article noted that the large size of women’s accessories makes it harder for women to be mobile at speed dating events. I wonder what role slut-shaming (by stigmatizing female sexual expression) and women’s safety concerns (e.g. the risk of being a victim of assault/ harassment) play?

Regardless, I think there are some major problems (based on my experience talking with other guys about the subject) with the expectation that men should initiate relationships.

It makes flirting and courting stressful for guys like myself, who fall on the spectrum or have other issues that impede social interaction. Male mental health is an often overlooked subject: The role flirting plays in this should be taken seriously.

I also feel that it reinforces some toxic male behaviors.

Source: FairyGodBoss

The belief that men’s “success” in dating depends on how strongly they pursue a partner can lead men to coerce women into sex.

The pressure for men to be witty and interesting when flirting encourages patronizing displays of expertise (i.e. “man-splaining”). 

In a recent study of sexuality in young men, Psychologist Peggy Orenstein expressed shock at finding that  “It was still all about stoicism, sexual conquest, dominance, aggression…. athleticism, (and) wealth.” All of these characteristics are–to one degree or another–seen as enhancing men’s ability to “win over” attractive women. 

Readers, do you agree with my perspective?

What has your experience with flirting as a cis/trans guy/girl been like?

Leave a comment below!

De-Regulation or Land Reform?

The Rent is too damn high in LA! Median Rent last year for a one-bedroom apartment last year clocked in at $1,369 a month or $16,428 a year!

For low-income Angelenos (annual income with minimum wage is about $24,000), the situation is dire. High rents are pushing many out of their homes and onto the streets or out of the region altogether.

Many planners have long argued that the problem is one of bad policy. LA has high rents because it doesn’t permit too much new housing, causing housing production in the city to lag far behind the growth in housing demand.

And yet, two recent bills by the California State Senate that would have loosened zoning regulations for housing development around transit lines (where new housing would have the least impact on traffic and the most benefit for poor people), were opposed by many pro-tenant and pro-equity groups, a factor contributing to their failure.

SB 50 Up-Zoning. Source: Embarcadero Institute.

Curbed LA’s Alissa Walker explained why:

Westwood Boulevard is the address of several major LA destinations, including UCLA’s campus of 45,000 students and 42,000 employees, less than one mile to the north. Four blocks away is a dead mall leased by Google, which is busily turning it into a 600,000-square-foot office complex. But here, where Westwood crosses the tracks of a rail system that carries more than 300,000 people a day, it’s zoned for single-family homes. In fact, in the surrounding neighborhood, many of the 1940s-era houses, valued at an average of $1.4 million, according to Redfin, are being demolished so people in the majority-white, majority-homeowner neighborhood can build even bigger single-family homes.

In July 2018, LA’s City Council approved the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan, which would have allowed construction of taller, multifamily residential buildings along major streets within a half-mile of five E Line stations, including this one. Estimates showed that between 4,400 and 6,000 new housing units could be added across the entire plan area by 2035. But in October 2018, a group that often litigates over density-related issues sued the city for the plan, arguing that more housing would lead to increased traffic. Over a year later, not a single unit has been built.

It’s quite a different scene when you exit the train in my neighborhood, which is across town via the B Line (formerly the Red Line). On busy six-lane Vermont Avenue, a street lined with six-story buildings houses some of the highest percentages of transit-dependent riders in the city. Across the street from the station is a shuttered car dealership where a developer has proposed a large mixed-use apartment building. Several other new mid-rise apartment buildings have gone up within a few blocks of the station, including a supportive housing project for formerly homeless residents, with a second one proposed nearby.

Single-family homes get torn down here, too, but not usually by homeowners. It’s more often by developers who bought the homes with cash. Sometimes they replace them with rental apartments. But more and more, those developers are building condos that are more expensive to buy than the home they demolished. 

In other words, LA’s zoning system operates as a form of Social Apartheid. It empowers wealthy white homeowners to metaphorically wall off their communities from any type of affordable housing (driving up costs across the city as a whole).

Simultaneously, it funnels new market-rate, multi-family development into low-income neighborhoods of color, raising property values and displacing long-time residents.

Urban Planners need to tackle this power structure in order to build more affordable housing where it is needed.

Westwood: A Commercial Center surrounded by forest estates…

Fighting a power apparatus that supports elite landowners requires a more radical policy approach, one that redistributes development rather than de-regulating it.

Land use policies should at least attempt to equalize housing development, so that affluent neighborhoods densify at a comparable rate to low-income neighborhoods with similar levels of job density and transit access.

The state of California’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) provides one potential policy model. The RHNA imposes housing-development targets for cities and regions across the state (the state sets the targets for regions, and regional planning organizations then determine the target for cities). These targets vary according to the region or city’s perceived need for affordable housing (although many question the targets’ effectiveness).

A proposed Maryland law, the (not-so-modestly titled) Modest Home Choices Act of 2020 offers another example. The law up-zones single-family neighborhoods across the state (to accommodate duplexes and other forms of multi-family housing), so long as they’re located either in “high opportunity” census tracts (tracts with twice the regional median income) or in jobs-rich, transit-accessible census tracts with median income equal to or greater than the regional median-income.

Regardless of the policy, shifting multi-family housing development towards affluent neighborhoods will spare low-income neighborhoods the burden of housing market variability. Densification will also create more affordable housing options in affluent neighborhoods. Opening up these neighborhoods’ housing markets to low-income renters will undo the legacy of decades of race- and class-based “redlining”.


Class-conscious land use policy may sound like something from outer space.

But it is really just a new iteration of one of the oldest welfare policies, land reform.

Mural Depicting Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas’ 1937 Land Reform Legislation

From Tsarist Russia to post-revolutionary Mexico to Post-World War II Japan, policies that redistribute the landholdings of a privileged elite to the masses have played an important role in (partial) democratization and economic development.

Rather than expropriating the property of the wealthy, 21st-century “zoning” land reform will re-appropriate vacant parcels in wealthy neighborhoods, transitioning these parcels towards uses that accommodate a more diverse mix of people and uses.

In an age of Plutocracy and Climate Change, the “new” land reform will reduce inequity and encourage sustainability. By reversing decades of segregation, it will politically empower the poor.

More importantly, in the current (left- and right-) populist moment, the mantra of “land reform” will galvanize the masses.

By winning support from a broad coalition (e.g. renters, progressive activists, construction workers, developers), “land reform” policies are more likely to become law than the milquetoast “zoning changes” proposed by the SB 50 crowd.

Power to the People.

The Problem with Marriage Story

One of the front runners in tonight’s academy awards is Marriage Story. Having watched Marriage Story on the weekend of its Netflix release, I feel the award is justified but at the same time, reveals a lot of what is wrong with the culture of Hollywood movie-making. 

Marriage Story. Source: Netflix.

I was raised by divorced parents, so Marriage Story resonates with me strongly. I appreciate the films emotional realism (the nuanced expressions of the characters making their outbursts all the more vivid and powerful), its moral ambiguity (the story never being that simple) and deft portrayal of the intricate emotional web of romance. By the end of the movie, my face was wet with tears. 

And yet, something about the characters’ lives is just a bit too good to be real. The repeated jaunts from coast to coast. Nicole’s (Johanssen’s Character’s) career as a Hollywood B-list actress, with a scandalous reputation. Nicole and Charlie’s effortless coasting through the most gilded hillside and beachfront neighborhoods of Los Angeles, as if money is never an actual issue. 

“In LA, there is space,” everyone tells Charlie. On what planet are these living? LA has one of the lowest homeownership rates in the country. 

The root of the issue with Marriage Story is a little thing called representation.

Its not just about race (as popularly perceived) but about class and geography. By confining its gaze to a privileged creative perspective, Marriage Story, like many other Hollywood movies loses its power and its appeal.

The Racist Hysteria over Chinese “Wet” Markets

Update (April 13, 2020): Since I wrote this article back in January, COVID-19 has spread to every corner of the globe. It has killed more than 100,000 people and sickened millions, while tanking the global economy. While most of the public’s attention has shifted away from the virus’s origin story, many of the dynamics I highlight in my article still hold true:

  1. We still don’t have definitive proof that the virus originated in the Huanan Seafood “Wet” Market. It most likely came from bats, but exactly how and when it spread to humans is still unclear.
  2. The belief that the pandemic started due to the butchering or consumption of “exotic” animals at a Wet Market, fuels anti-asian hate crimes.
  3. China is permanently banning the illegal wildlife trade (much of which occurs outside of a typical wet market). However, eliminating wet markets themselves would upend traditional food ways (providing the primary means of selling food for rural residents). In regards to the wildlife ban, there could be issues with compensating farmers and effectively enforcing the ban. Without either of these, the law foster the proliferation of more dangerous underground activity.
  4. It is also true that Chinese Medicine corporations and the Chinese Forestry Department provide institutional support for the wildlife trade. Thus the breeding and trading of wildlife exceeds the issue of wet markets and consumption of certain species.
  5. The trading and breeding of multiple species of wildlife does carry grave public health risks, which I don’t intend to downplay here.
  6. Anthony Bourdain appreciated the energy and dynamism of wet markets. I wish he were still around to educate the public.

The coronavirus outbreak is exposing America’s deep-rooted underbelly of anti-Asian racism. From teasing on the playground to stigmatization at the shopping mall, (many) Americans’ reaction to the outbreak reveals the extent to which they conceive of Chinese, like myself, as a monolith-devoid of individual humanity. 

Perhaps the most disgraceful instance of racial hysterics has been the media’s portrayal of China’s live-animal (or “wet”) markets as an incubator of disease.

In China, a “wet market” denotes an ad hoc market where fresh meat and produce, rather than “dry” packaged goods, are sold. Because of the Chinese preference for freshly-slaughtered meat, animals are often displayed alive and butchered upon purchase.

Chickens for sale at a market in Xining, China. Source: Flickr (Labeled for reuse).

Think of them like a cross between a farmer’s market and a petting zoo.

The coronavirus outbreak may have originated in the Huanan Seafood Market, a wet market in Wuhan. Since the outbreak, the American mass media have ominously portrayed these markets as alien and unsanitary.

A New York Times Article depicts China’s “Omnivorous Markets” (as if their customers were animal rather than human!) as purveyors of “unusual fare, including live snakes, turtles and cicadas, guinea pigs, bamboo rats…” The article notes that many blame the markets’ “culinary adventurism” for the epidemic.

Bloomberg News’ Headline demonizes wet markets as a “Breeding Ground” for viruses. The body text of the article highlights the fact that “shoppers mingle in narrow spaces with everything from live poultry to snakes” in the markets as “a key reason” for their culpability in spreading disease.

The New York Post‘s Paula Froelich does not even mince words in her writing. These “filthy markets” boast a “fetid stench,” she writes (based on experiences in unnamed third-world locations), akin to “the sweet and nauseating smell of death.”

Sensational headline, “exotic” imagery

The supposedly unsavory character of the wet markets leads Froelich to assert what the other authors imply: that the wet markets are a public health risk and should, therefore, be shut down for good. 

Although this argument sounds logical on the surface, the lurid portrayal on which it relies draws on racially-motivated stereotypes about Chinese cuisine. 

During the 19th-century, Chinese immigrants to America (who began arriving in the country during the California Gold Rush) encountered vicious discrimination from the country’s White majority. One area in which prejudice manifested was food

This 19th-century poster shows Uncle Sam as a “Magic Washer”, sanitizing America by kicking out the “Dirty Chinaman”

White citizens decried the Chinatowns of western cities as “nuisances” because of the perceived “stench” emanating from their kitchens. White politicians regarded Chinese “coolies” as inferior based on their preference for rice over beef. And white newspapers obsessed over Chinese consumption of “unusual” animals like rats. 

Although times have changed and sushi, larb and dim sum can now command Michelin stars, questions Asian-Americans receive about eating “dog” and stigmas around the smell of kimchi show that the “othering” of Asian food (and people) is very real. Sub-consciously or not, the media’s portrayal of live animal markets as an incubator for pandemics plays into this.

Moreover, the media’s blame of wet markets for the Coronavirus epidemic grossly oversimplifies the story. It is true that the Coronavirus likely originated in bats and, therefore, infected humans via an animal carrier. However, scientists have not affirmatively established the Huanan market as the site of the disease’s transmission. A study in the esteemed Lancet medical journal found that thirteen of the 41 initial Coronavirus cases were not linked to the market.

____________________________________

Suppose, however, that China’s wet markets do transmit the disease? Should we accept the media’s premise that the Chinese government should shut down the markets? 

To me, it seems cynical at best to promote a crackdown on mom-and-pop enterprises by an authoritarian regime not hesitant to employ brutality. Many of the wild animal sales in “wet markets” sustain small farmers who would otherwise be decimated by big agribusiness. 

Furthermore, a ban on wet markets or the sale of wild animals in China may prove ineffective. When the Chinese government banned the sale of certain wildlife following the SARS epidemic in 2002, trade in the outlawed specimens migrated to the black market. Unregulated and invisible to health authorities, black market operations are less likely to follow healthy or sustainable practices.

Finally, suppose a ban on “wet” markets is effective. The Chinese have switched from shopping for freshly-slaughtered (domesticated and wild) animals at a local “wet” market to buying packaged meats, from the standard cow-pig-chicken trifecta of domesticated animals, at Walmart or Costco. 

Industrial Poultry Slaughterhouse in Florida (Source: Wikimedia)

In this future scenario, meat has to be trucked for a longer distance or flown in, greatly increasing the greenhouse gas emissions from food transport. Likewise, the industrial farms and slaughterhouses involved in meat production release far more carbon emissions than the family farms that once supplied wet markets. Increased consumption of beef in China requires expanding pastureland for grazing and feed growing, destroying forest habitats across the globe. 

Overall, the transition from wet market to packaged meat consumption in China could result in a far less sustainable environmental outcome, compared to the status quo.

Indeed, the contribution of industrial meat processing to Climate Change has become a favored marketing device of vegan and vegetarian advocates these days.

So, rather than castigate wet markets, why not accept them as the dynamic enterprises they are, while promoting sanitation measures at the markets that can tame the risk of outbreaks. 

And rather than gag at the Chinese consumption of fresh, wild animals-we should admire the Chinese willingness to consume animals that require less resource-intensive agriculture.

Dave’s Hot Chicken

Dave’s is part of LA’s hot chicken crowd. Although the lines are not as infamous as those at Howlin’ Rays (where the dinner crowd queues at noon) the hour-long waits are still a source of frustration and gossip. By a stroke of luck, I ended up around the block from Daves during some down time (mid-day on a Monday), with barely a line in sight.

And so my lunch at Dave’s came to be….

First thing I notice: they got some awesomely weird decor. The mural of lips and sleek white shades on the back and side walls lend an east side “hipster” look, while the rubber chicken painting screams “we ain’t taking any of this seriously!” I don’t know the rubber chicken’s name but he/she/they have to be one of the most endearing (and on a certain level, deep-that chicken’s face reminds me of a certain Paul Klee portrait) restaurant icons I have encountered in this country.

But what is a chicken mascot without some…., mouthwatering chicken?!?

Served hot off the fryer, Dave’s chicken “tenders” (as they’re diminuitively named) have an amazing taste and texture. The crisp and oily breading, which is coated in a peppery spice mix (watch your hands!), gives way to juicy, tender chicken meat. The spice mix’s robust flavor permeates to the center of the chicken

On an episode from Dave Chang’s Netflix show Ugly Delicious, one of the featured chefs remarked “every culture figured out that if you dredge the bird in flour and deep fry it that it was probably going to be good.”

Well Dave (no pun intended:)), you’ve got the perfect example here.

The crinkle-cut fries (serving more generous than the photo suggests), which are seasoned with a simplified version of the chicken spice mix, are also wonderful. Just remember to apply the side orange sauce to the fries rather than to the chicken (the sauce masks the chicken’s flavor).

And I know you’re going to ask about the white bread and pickle slices. How does that work? Well…

Rip off a chunk of the white bread, wrap it around a piece of chicken (pressing down so the spice mix seeps into the bread), top with a pickle and bite in! Repeat!


As an urban planner, conscious of the role restaurants play in neighborhood character and affordability, a word must be said about gentrification. Dave’s is located in a gentrifying-area of East Hollywood. Its foodie credentials and trendy vibe would seem to make it a weapon of the hipster invasion. However, at least when I visited, the diners were predominantly black and Latino, with very few stereotypical yuppies/hipsters.

Maybe I was visiting at the “wrong” time (The hipsters come for dinner?)?

Or maybe it’s the pricing. The combo plate prices offer a pretty good value for a restaurant of Dave’s caliber: $10.99 for the two large tenders and fries (my order) and $11.99 to replace the bare tenders with “slider” sandwiches. Dave’s reasonable price point may inadvertently make it more inclusive than its foodster kin.

Of course, a new fast-food joint in a low-income community might help perpetuate health inequities. Over the past four decades, misguided government policies have over-saturated low-income communities with fast foods, with grave public health implications. Even though Dave’s dishes probably use fresher ingredients than your typical McDonalds, they probably have as many, if not more, calories.

Readers. Have any of you been to Dave’s? What’s your favorite dish on the menu? What do you think of its role in the community?

A New Kind of Blog

What exactly is “blogging” these days?

Once upon a time, a blog was an online personal journal, with minimal formatting and detailed writing on niche subjects. In the past decade, with the rise of social media, blogging has become more capitalistic, with a focus on obtaining mass appeal (and revenue) through posting popular content. My search for popular blogs in 2019 reveals a slew of sites that boast top-notch web design but primarily serve to teach a practical skill or offer cliched self-help advice.

Solopreneuer Hour, example of a “new wave” self-help blog

While the former type of blog lacks widespread readership, the latter type of blog has superficial content. Very few blogs manage to say something interesting in a way that is accessible to a large audience. 

Enter Entrepot. A site devoted to sharing my thoughts, ideas, and experiences with the world. A site intended for self-expression, yes, but also for education and dialogue. 

I will offer insightful perspectives on topics ranging from transportation to film.

I will write well-researched content in words that are easy to follow.

I will encourage discussions by asking questions more often than I provide answers.

By challenging so-called “conventional wisdom,” I will provoke the imagination.

Me reading

My aspirations come from a very personal place. I have always enjoyed sharing knowledge with others. Being on the Asperger’s Spectrum, I possess a rich repertoire of thoughts but find the process of landing traditional academic careers too stressful and rigid (My two year planning master’s degree was intense enough). Blogging allows me to pursue my passion in the most rewarding way possible. 

Content-wise, I will post two pieces at the end of each week.

One will be a short review or diary piece, documenting or reacting to a particular movie or experience I encountered during the week.

The second will be a more in-depth “thought” piece about a conceptual topic that interests me.

Topics that I expect to cover include Cities/Planning, Culture, Transportation Geography and Personal Relationships. However, I don’t want this blog to be defined by any particular subject, and I will write on different themes as I see fit. 

Overall, Entrepot embodies a new type of digital environment, one that is deep, open, informed, curious, down-to-earth and often funny:)

I am excited to begin posting and even more excited to receive responses.