December 23, 2006

Bible Thumpin' in Congress

The latest bit of news on the religious front is here. Representative-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota, whose ancestors first immigrated to America in 1742, converted to Islam in college and wants to be sworn in over the Koran rather than the Bible. Republican Congressman Virgil Goode from Virginia has opposed Ellison's swearing in on the Koran, and he wrote a letter in response to Ellison's request that allegedly warns people of increased immigration by Muslims and people not of European descent. See here:

Goode, who represents Virginia's 5th Congressional District, said he is receiving more positive comments from constituents than negative.

"One lady told me she thinks I'm doing the right thing on this," he told Fox News. "I wish more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded."

Goode also told Fox News he wants to limit legal immigration and do away with "diversity visas," which he said let in people "not from European countries" and "some terrorist states."

In his letter, Goode wrote that strict immigration polices are necessary "to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America."

"The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," he wrote.

I'm not exactly sure how Goode is correlating Ellison's religious beliefs with immigration. After all, Ellison can trace his ancestry in this country far back before this country even existed. And why does he draw a distinction between those who are "not from European countries" and those who are? If he follows the news, he knows that there is far more religious strife in European countries than there is in the U.S., so one would expect that he would want to include European countries in his blacklist.

Oh yeah, I forgot, "European" is polite-speak for "white."

Now don't get me wrong--I'm not a supporter of Islam. I think fundamentalist Islam is just as bad as fundamentalist Christianity--though with the Christian fundie attacks on stem cell research, a women's right to choose, gay rights, and the teaching of evolution, I still have to admit that the evils of fundamentalist Christianity are much more harmful to progress in the United States. I don't think Islam is a good religion; I have yet to see any fundamentalist religion that I would characterize as being good. At the same time, I strongly believe that Ellison has a right to his own beliefs. Keith Ellison is an elected official who was chosen by his constituents, and for that reason, he should be allowed to use whatever religious text he wants. Even if he wanted to swear on the Satanic Bibile, if people elected him, he should have that right. It's part of a living in a democracy that values religious freedom.

There is a good Op-Ed piece from the New York Times here. The last sentence says it all. While all these Bible Thumping Fundies and conservative talk show hosts keep saying that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that we're opposing the Founding Framers of the Constitution by allowing the other religions, these fundies and conservatives can't provide an answer to the the most important question--if the United States is supposed to be a Christian country, why didn't the Founding Framers institutionalize it? They came from Britain, a country in which religion was institutionalized, so if they wanted so badly to create a new Christian nation, why didn't they just make it a part of their law? In fact, not only did they not make it part of their law, but the very first amendment in the Constitution that they created prevents the governmental institutionalization of religion.

The hypocrisy by the far right and the Christian fundamentalists is appalling. I'm not a supporter of Islam, but in this case, I'm very happy that Keith Ellison is standing up for his right to publicly proclaim his religion.

December 20, 2006

Survivor update

Hey, it looks like the picture for my previous entry below changed.

So the final votes have been revealed. I was pretty wrong. Nate and Rebecca voted for Ozzy, while Candice and Sundra voted for Yul. All my other guesses were correct.

Incidentally, I'm surprised that so many people believe Ozzy should have won. I saw a lot of comments on the CBS messageboard saying that Ozzy deserved to win because no one ever dominated the physical challenges like he did. While I agree with this, I just don't see how the physical aspect is nearly as cool or exciting as the organizational aspect. I guess this is an example of "to each his own."

Yul has a good interview on the final (12/19) Survivor: Live. You can find it here. (I wanted to post the link directly but can't seem to do it, so you may have to look around.) What I found interesting is that he mentions specifically that he is now close with Candice and Jonathan. It's funny because Candice and Jonathan are two of the smartest people who were in the game, and if you watch their "final vote" interviews (also on Innertube on the link above), they voted for Yul mostly based on their respect for his strategy. Yul actually mentions Candice and Jonathan over Ozzy. It looks like this is a case of people being attracted to those of similar values. It's good to hear that these Survivor contestants have made what could be lifelong friendships.

December 17, 2006

Yul Wins Survivor!!!

Tonight was hands down the BEST day in history for Asian Americans in television. Hands down, no exceptions, nothing even came close. Management consultant Yul Kwon managed to get all four members of his Aitu tribe into the final Survivor four, and by a one vote margin, he managed a win over his tribemate Ozzy Lusth.

There really is no point in me telling what happened--since you can learn everything by going to the Survivor website--but here is a brief synopsis. First, as planned, they voted off Adam to bring the Aitu members into the Final Four. Ozzy and Yul decided to force a tie break between Sundra and Becky, but Yul was still willing to give Becky his immunity idol. Becky, showing her competitive spirit, declined. In declining, she was forced to go head to head with Sundra in a fire-building contest. They were both very bad at making fire, but when Sundra ran out of matches, Becky took her time and eventually won. This left Becky, Yul, and Ozzy as the final three who had to compete for votes from the jury.

I still don't know who voted for who. They revealed that Jonathan voted for Yul and Parvati voted for Ozzy. During the finale show, Adam said that he voted for Yul as part of a deal. Cool. So who did everyone else vote for? Maybe they'll reveal tomorrow on the Early Show? Personally, after the tribal council, I thought Yul made such a great case for himself that I didn't think there was any way he could lose. But then the votes were so close! He won by ONE VOTE. That, to me, is insane, given the fact that he played the game more openly, more honestly, and more strategically than anyone in the history of the game. But he won! I'd be curious to find out who voted for him. My guess is this:

Voted for Yul: Jonathan (admires strategy), Adam (made a deal), Nate (hates Ozzy), Brad (part of original tribe), Rebecca (admires leadership and brains)

Voted for Ozzy: Parvati (likes Ozzy, doesn't like Yul), Sundra (likes Ozzy a little bit better), Candice (doesn't like Yul), Jenny (prefers people with whiter complexions and Caucasian features)

I hope we find out the final vote results.

Other than the actual win, the best part of the show for me was when Yul told the jury (to Rebecca, I think) that he wanted to win because he wanted to represent Asian American men. He said that watching TV, people like him were always represented as stereotypes, and that he wanted to change this.

Go brother. Congrats on your million dollars. You deserve it.

December 12, 2006

Rosie O'Donnell

David sent these links this morning:

Asian Leaders Angered by Rosie O'Donnell's 'Ching Chong' Comments,2933,235842,00.html

Forget the Ni Hao Ma's, It's John Liu Vs. Rosie O'Donnell

Pol's 'View' of Rosie: She offends


You can see the clip here.

I'm not sure why anyone would think that it isn't offensive. I don't get usually don't get bent out of shape with incidents like this--mostly because I've heard it all before--but it really is pretty amazing that this is still happening is this day and age. It's especially shocking that it comes for Rosie O'Donnell, who is supposedly liberal and open-minded. Props to Councilman Liu again for protesting. Even if you don't change someone's views, it's good to make those views heard.

Rosie has responded with a typical dismissive you-yellow-people-have-to-just-get-over-it response, but you can write to Barbara Walters over here: The homepage for "the View" also lets you contact the other hosts.

December 2, 2006

The Godfather

It looks like Yul is now the number one target in the game for the old Raro tribe. Using his original strategy with the immunity idol, he swayed Jonathan to his side with the threat of his immunity idol. In this past week's episode, he allowed the anger between Jonathan and the rest of the Raro tribe to continue to fester. The Aitu tribe was so tight that it really didn't matter who won the immunity challenge. In the end, the Aitu tribe decided who would go home, and they decided on Candice.

Adam has called Yul the "ringleader." Parvati has called him the "puppetmaster." Next week's episode looks pretty funny too--in the preview of next week's episode, Yul says something funny like, "I feel like the Godfather, like I'm trying to arrange a hit on someone."

Incidentally, Adam, Parvati, and Candice have all vowed not to vote for Yul if he makes it to the final two. Personally, I don't think it matters--people tend to have a short memory when it comes to grudges in this game. I think they'd respect him for the game he plays.

November 28, 2006

Miss Saigon

I once had a friend named Karen from the Japanese international schools who told me that she had seen Miss Saigon in Japan. At the time, the entire Asian American arts community was up in arms over the fact that the Eurasian pimp was being played by a white guy (as opposed to an Asian guy or Eurasian guy.). I was speaking to my friend about the big controversy, and then it suddenly dawned on me.

"Did you see it in Japanese or English?"

"Japanese," she said.

"Did they have the same controversy over which races got to play which parts?"

"No," she said. "All the characters are played by Japanese."

"Even the white characters?"


"How do you tell them apart?"

"It takes practice," she said.

I didn't think about Miss Saigon in Japan again for another fifteen years, but today, while researching something on Youtube, I accidentally stumbled upon footage of Japanese Miss Saigon. Karen wasn't kidding; all the players ARE Japanese. That is just bizarre. I'm so used to things being color-coded: In American movies or plays with Asian themes, white guys are good, Asian guys are bad, and Asian women are prostitutes with hearts of gold. How do the Japanese tell their characters apart?

Imagine what would happen if the Japanese made Rambo into a musical. Instead of having a single white guy wiping out an entire horde of Asian male baddies, they'd have a single Asian guy wiping them out. Rambo would be dodging in and out, blending with the locals--he'd have so much natural camoflage that it would be hard to even catch sight of the guy. The audience would be just trying to figure out who was who.

Youtube is amazing. Not only can you see what Miss Saigon looks like in Japan, you can also see other national versions of the same story. The Koreans, for example, follow the Japanese convention of having an all-Korean cast playing all characters. In this clip, for example, both the Vietnamese girl and the white girl are Korean, and both have the surname Kim. European countries with racially homogenous populations also follow the convention. The Dutch, Finnish, and Israeli Miss Saigons all feature white people dyeing their hair black. Racially heterogeneous places like the U.S. and Germany tend to hire Asians to play Asians and whites to play whites.

Curiously, I couldn't find the original French version or the Vietnamese version (though I imagine that the Vietnamese wouldn't be so keen on making their own version...).

November 23, 2006

Survivor: Yul Engineers Plan; Nate goes home!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

My goodness. Yul is brilliant. So the tribes merged into one with five members of Raro and four members of Aitu. Everyone in America (including me, I admit) probably thought that Yul was stupid for telling his Aitu tribemates about his hidden immunity idol, but Wonderboy managed to use it strategically and get Nate voted out. It was $#@ amazing. Who would've thought? Even as I was watching the show, it took me a while to figure out where he was going with his plan. Sure enough, it worked--the Aitu tribe voted out Nate, thereby creating an even game with four vs. four from the original tribes.

The logic of Yul's strategy makes sense now. Let everyone on your original Aitu tribe know that you have the immunity idol. The small Aitu tribe cannot guarantee delivery of a majority of votes, but if they all vote for the same person, it can guarantee the delivery of the second highest number of votes. If all Raro (5 votes) votes for an Aitu member and all Aitu votes for a Raro member (4 votes), Yul simply gives him immunity idol to the outcast member of Aitu, and the person with the second number of votes--a Raro member--goes home. Yul takes this strategy and approaches the least connected person on the Raro tribe, Jonathan, to see if he can get that person to vote with Aitu. This way they make use of the power of the hidden immunity idol without actually using it.

Yul's strategy was brilliant. I don't think that I would've thought of it in a million years.

As it turns out, Ozzy won immunity, but it made no difference. Aitu basically had their pick of who was going home. Jonathan did in fact switch to vote with Aitu, and he told Yul that Nate was the best person to vote off. The end tally was four votes for Yul and five votes for Nate, and because Nate didn't have the immunity idol, he went home.

I actually thought that they should've sent Adam home since Adam has a strong bond with Candice. But it was satisfying to see Nate go. After all his fronting and boasting about how he was going to eliminate the minorities, it seemed that Nate got his minority ass booted.

Incidentally, it was funny how Raro decided to vote for Yul. They kept saying stuff like, "That guy's too smart," and "I don't want that homey thinking." So basically, they attacked Yul because he was too smart.

In another dialogue on intelligence, Jonathan kept asking his tribe, "What if Yul has the immunity idol?" (Jonathan had already been let in on the secret.) His tribemates kept saying, "No, he doesn't have it." Jonathan then went to the hidden interview camera and complained about how dumb his tribemates were. Funny stuff.

Next week should be interesting.

November 20, 2006


The number one show on TV has some pretty good Asian representation. Masi Oka plays the character of "Hiro," a Japanese office worker who one day discovers that he has the ability to bend time, jump backwards and forwards into the future and the past, and teleport.

What makes the representation so good is that Hiro is a three dimensional character who is trying to find his place in the world. Unlike stereotypical Asian male characters (Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and any Asian male character created by people like Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, and David Henry Hwang), Hiro believes in a higher purpose and he seeks to find it. He is open to what life has to show him, and he tries to use his powers to help others.

Props to NBC for airing this excellent show!

November 17, 2006

The Confessions of OJ Simpson

OJ Simpson is writing a book called, "If I Did It," a book that supposedly is just a hypothetical theory of how he could have killed his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. There was an article in the New York Times today in which his publisher, Judith Regan (pictured above in an interview with Simpson), says that she believes this book is a confession. Ms. Regan is getting a lot of flack from the publicity surrounding the book by people accusing her of capitalizing on Mr. Simpson's crime. To complicate matters, her company paid a large sum for the rights to Mr. Simpson's story which Mr. Simpson is transferring to his children in order to avoid paying the $33.5 million dollars plus interest he owes from his wrongful death suit.

I'm looking forward to the publication of this book. O.J. Simpson is perhaps the most famous killer of the 20th century. Though he was acquitted, everybody knows he did it. He killed his wife and her friend, he led police on a three hour chase on national TV, and he escaped prosecution when Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark, perhaps the two most incompetent prosecutors in the history of American law, lost through their failure to assemble a good jury and to capitalize on obvious pieces of evidence (the glove, the blood in the car, etc.)

I support Judith Regan. I think that this is a historical confession that needs to be published. Even though he has already been acquitted, it would be dangerous for OJ to confess. If he were to go on TV and say that he did it, some redneck would probably kill him; plus it would destroy the lives of his kids (whose lives have probably already been affected by the fact that their dad killed their mom.) It would be a tragedy for this crime to remain an unsolved mystery, and so even though Simpson is beyond prosecution (and according to the article, he is also beyond any civil penalties as he has found a clever way to avoid paying the Browns and the Goldmans the money he owes them after his civil trial), I think it would be better for everyone if he told us how he did it.

OJ is safe with his $400,000 a year football pension and his Florida house (which the Browns and Goldmans can't touch), and he most likely will live to a ripe old age knowing that he literally got away with murder. But our law is our law, and we need to respect and abide by the decision that the court handed us. Even then, the world wants to know how OJ did it, and so I think it's a good thing that he has decided to share his story.

Edit: 11/20: It looks like Rupert Murdoch just cancelled both the TV show and the book deal.

November 16, 2006

Survivor: Stupid is as stupid does

Well, it was another BIG triumph for the Ozzy-Yul team ("Aitu Tribe").

First they won the reward challenge when the White team (the "Raro Tribe") got their directions mixed up and couldn't dig up their puzzle pieces fast enough. The reward challenge wasn't even close. The Aitu Tribe basically had their puzzle solved before the Raro Tribe even had their puzzle pieces. The Aitu Tribe won the ability to send someone to Exile Island (they sent Candice again!), and then they won a cool vacation at one of the other islands where they were treated to a Cook Island style Luau.

In the immunity challenge, the two tribes had to swim to collect puzzle pieces. The Aitu Tribe won the immunity challenge when they outswam the Raro Tribe. This one was close at one point when Becky faltered a bit, but then Sundra pulled ahead once again. The Aitu Tribe solved the puzzle just after the Raro Tribe got their puzzle pieces out of the bag. At the end of the challenge, Jeff gave the losing tribe a glass bottle with instructions not to open it until the end of the vote.

The first part of Tribal Council was pretty obvious. In keeping with the original strategy of voting out the minorities, the White Tribe quickly got rid of the black woman. There was a secret revelation in that glass bottle however. When Parvati opened it, it said that they had just voted out one member, and now they would have to vote out another. Everyone was stunned, especially since the surprise eliminated their ability to strategize amongst one another. Fortunately for the White Tribe, Adam had discussed plans to kick out the Filipina Jenny with Candice and Parvati. Jonathan probably just guessed that that was their position, and he voted correctly. So they wound up axing Jenny.

At the closing credits, Jenny talked about how "pissed off" she was at the final vote. During the show, she had said that she was in a strong alliance with Adam, and she spoke with authority that they were going to kick Candice out. I can't see how she could possibly believe this. Of course we see a different picture from the comfort of our living rooms when we watch this show, but it boggles my mind how gullible these minorities are. Here are the facts:

1. Candice pulled a mutiny on her tribe because she wanted to be with Adam and Parvati. She said so in front of the whole tribe.
2. Candice has a romantic thing going on with Adam.
3. Jonathan pulled a mutiny on his tribe because he too wanted to be with the White tribe.
4. Jonathan is outworking everyone by catching fish and climbing for coconuts.
5. The White tribe just axed Brad, who was one of the stronger physical and mental players.

So...why would Jenny think she was safe? In addition to this evidence, it also doesn't look like Jenny really tried to create any alliances.

I'm wondering if Nate, the black guy, is going to wise up. It was really annoying last week when he kept jumping around and bragging about how he was going to vote out all the other minorities. It would be quite unbelievable for him to be unable to see how he is acting like a tool. Jonathan is still a wild card--they show him losing his temper next week--but as the lone member who was not part of the original White tribe, Nate has to know that he's a prime candidate for eviction.

November 14, 2006


A friend who does a lot of work with affirmative action said that he felt Jian Li's lawsuit was frivolous, and that because of his rejection from three Ivies, he probably didn't have much else going for him in the admissions process.

I actually agree with his assessment that Jian Li should not have been admitted if he were monodimensional. We also agree that race was not the only factor in his admission. BUT--and I think we all agree on this--race was a factor. The question is: should it be a factor? If he were a black guy or a Latino guy who sat in his room doing math problems all day, would it boost his chance of admission ? It probably would. Why should a rich black immigrant who happens to be a math geek get preference over a poor Chinese immigrant of the same profile?

The evidence for racism is mostly in that Wall Street Journal article where the author cites the almost universal law that Asian enrollment goes up when race preferences are abolished. There's a whole other list of evidence here. Note that they were not abolishing admissions based on other factors like student leadership; they're just eliminating race, and the Asian American percentage went up dramatically, which means that we can assume that many of the Asian Americans facing this racist rejection are in fact well rounded individuals who are more than just number crunchers. The author of the article, Daniel Golden, supports this in his book in which he says that Asians are the "new Jews" who face open discrimination.

There's good interview with Golden here, where he flat out accuses college admissions as racist against Asian Americans. He describes talking to an admission officer who stereotypes Jian Li as a "textureless math grind," and he says that her words came from stereotypes of Asian Americans.

Interviewer:"You're describing a rank form of racism."
Golden: "That's what I think it is."

Keep in mind that Golden isn't any old word hack--he's a Harvard-educated winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

My point is that it is clear that Asian Americans, including first generation immigrants and poor people, face the greatest obstacles when applying for college in a system which gives preferences to all other races. At the very least, it makes sense for us to examine the system and to see whether or not it is, as affirmative action supporters argue, not a perfect system but the best one in existence.

Jesus Dolls

In the news, when it rains, it pours. Just saw this CNN report about a company that wants to donate Jesus dolls through a nonprofit to poor kids. The dolls talk and recite Bible verses. Toys for Tots, the charity, fortunately had the courage to reject these "gifts."

I just don't see how these fundies are unable to see this stunt for what it is--arrogant and totally inappropriate. Kids should just be kids; they shouldn't have religion forced down their throats. Kids who play with dolls are not old enough to make solid decisions about what they believe. It's downright sick that these fundies are using their money to force a religion on kids who are too poor to even afford toys.

How would they like it if we gave Hindu Vishnu dolls to poor Christian children?

God's Foreign Policy

If you need proof of Elton John's assertion that religion (and again, we're talking about fundamentalist religion) turns people into "hateful lemmings," look no further than an article in today's New York Times, where evangelicals are going out of their way to create war in the Middle East. People like Ariel Sharon, who live in Israel and who are familiar with the politics of the area, are opting of more peaceful solutions, while people like Dobson and Robertson are pushing for more war and violence.

I really find it ironic that James Dobson, one of the most Christian Right's most fervent supporters of homophobia and cultural racism, can compare anyone to Hitler. He, of course, is right about Ahmadinejad, but the message is coming from the wrong source--we wouldn't support David Duke if he said that Hitler was a jerk, and we shouldn't support a hate-mongering religious demagague like James Dobson who claims any kind of moral superiority over anyone either.

November 13, 2006

More discrimination

I saw this and this on today. It appears that a young Chinese American student named Jian Li is suing Princeton over discriminatory admission practices. The young man is a student at Yale who had a perfect score on his SAT and some really high scores on his SAT II. He is claiming that Princeton discriminated against Asian Americans.

Okay, this is going to make me unpopular with some people...but it's about $#*& time someone sued the colleges over this!!! Go Jian Li! This clear and blatant racism against Asian Americans has gone on for far too long. A lot of times, as mentioned in one of the articles, Asian last names and first languages tip off the admissions officers, who, in most cases, admit an anti-Asian bias. If these colleges are going to turn the education system into an animal farm where "some animals are more equal than others," they might as well require that people list their ethnicity. They might as well require a blood sample so they can do a mitochondrial and Y-chromosome analysis to determine continent of origin (It will tell them if the applicant truly has African roots or whether he's lying). They might as well require Jews, who have even higher average IQs than Asians and should by the logic of affirmative action supporters also be targeted by these racist policies, to disclose their Jewishness under penalty of perjury and prison time.

This really gets under my skin. This young man Jian Li is an immigrant. He has most likely had to face pains with assimilation and discrimination. And now they raise the bar for higher education based on race?

A common pro-affirmative action argument goes like this: "C'mon, you're overexaggerating. If Chang or Li want to go to college and get rejected by Princeton or Harvard for racial reasons, they can always go to another school. There are lots of REALLY GREAT community colleges and technical schools out there." Ironically, this is the same "separate but equal" argument that was used to justify school segregation in Brown vs. Board of Ed.

Separate is not equal, and the fact that race plays such a strong role in college admissions is indefensible. This country was founded on ideals of equality, and any racist policy which excludes or discriminates against people based on race should be outlawed.

Elton John

Elton John says he would ban religion because it discriminates against gays. He says, "It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate." I think he's talking about orthodox/fundamentalist versions of the three major monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam); it would be hard to make the same argument against Jainism, Buddhism, or Zen. I don't know much about orthodox Judaism, but if he's talking about fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, he's right.

I don't know if I agree that religion should be banned--I think there should be freedom of religion.
But he's right about the hate--most hatred and intolerance comes from the fundamentalist versions of the three monotheistic religions.

November 10, 2006

Official Survivor Blog

Incidentally, they have an official blog for Survivor over here. The bloggers are former players.

There's some pretty hilarious commentary, and all the offical bloggers (most of whom are white) seem to notice that the White Tribe is the tightest tribe and is aiming to pick off the minorities one by one. I'm wondering why Nate and Jenny are so dense. Nate especially seems to think he's made it into the Clubhouse!

Everyone agrees that the last episode was awesome. If you haven't seen it, you can watch it for free here.

Survivor: The Race War is Back On!!!

So the big news on Survivor (sorry, I needed a break after all the excitement from the elections) was that Jeff gave the contestants an opportunity to leave their tribe and go to the other tribe. Candace had been talking to Jonathan, the other white member on her tribe, about getting back together with Parvati and Adam, the two white members of the other tribe. Right before the Reward Challenge, Jeff told the contestants that they had ten seconds to decide whether or not they wanted to leave their tribe and join the other tribe. During the last final seconds, Candace stepped forward. Jonathan quickly followed.

You could see the look of shock on Yul's and Ozzy's faces. They were stunned. Jeff asked them how they felt. Yul said something like, "I'm shocked. I thought we had a tight team here."

It was really a crazy move by Candace and Jonathan. I won't say it was dumb--because it may actually help them win through their solidarity with their old teammates (The White Tribe)--but it was risky. After all, the two strongest physical and mental competitors in the game are Ozzy and Yul, and it would be risky for anyone NOT to be on their team. No one can outhunt or outswim Ozzy who knows the land better than anyone. No one can outsmart or overpower Yul. (I hope these aren't stereotypes, but it's clear that Ozzy is the the fastest and Yul is the smartest.)

Anyway, as I predicted right off the bat, Ozzy and Yul's team beat the pants off the other team in the next two consecutive challenges. It wasn't even close. The team of four people beat the team of eight, twice in a row, by a longshot. After the first challenge, Ozzy shouted, "Mutineers are the first to die!" Their reward was a continental breakfast with letters and pictures of their loved ones. All team members mentioned that they had never felt such solidarity.

In the second challenge, Yul and Ozzy's team actually fell behind at the beginning. The challenge was to drop these big iron balls into targets at the bottom of the ocean. Yul and Ozzy's team kept missing when they tried to coordinate the drop as a team. Then Yul just grabbed the ball ("Gimme the ball!!!"), aimed it, and dropped it himself. He hit two targets in a row all by himself, and the team then rushed to shore to solve a puzzle. The other team didn't even get to the puzzle stage.

At Tribal Council, the original White Tribe showed solidarity by getting rid of Brad, the other young Asian guy. He didn't even see it coming. It remains to be seen, but I think the black guy got played too; I think Adam will turn on him eventually because Jonathan has been (and continues to be) really good at seizing the leadership initiative. The black guy is kind of like an island by himself; he is still in the game because Adam allows him to stay in the game.

(Incidentally, some would take offense that I refer to the white guy as "Adam" while referring to the black guy as "the black guy." Some might say that I'm individualizing the white guy and categorizing the black guy. But the reason I know the white guy's name is that the other members of the tribe talk to him, talk about him, and put him in a general framework of where he fits in the tribe. Nobody talks about the black guy, and the only time we see the black guy is when he's giving interviews with the hidden camera and talking about how he's going to wipe out the other minorities. So I have no idea what his name is.)

I don't know if the White Tribe's domination is a racial thing, maybe it's just a social thing. The white people in this game happen to be more social than the minority members. Maybe their superior social skills are coincidence, or maybe it's symptomatic of the white privilege described by Robert Jensen. One could argue, for example, that the White Tribe has an advantage because guys like the heavy metal Hispanic guy (I forgot his name because he got eliminated so early) pine over the white girl Candace. I don't know. They seem to be better at forging alliances, and they seem to be better at outsmarting and outmaneuvering the minority men and women. None of them are outstanding competitors in the competitions, but they've only lost one member since the beginning. It's all about the social power.

This is turning out to be a great social experiment, so I'm going to do another 180. First, I thought this was the best thing on TV. Then, I thought it was a useless gimmick after they merged the tribes. Now, I think it's the best thing on TV again.

November 9, 2006


There isn't much for me to say about the elections that hasn't already been said. I was up for half the night, waiting to see how things would turn out. Because I live on the West Coast, the verdict for the House came in pretty early--the Dems won back control of the house by a wide margin.

This, to me, was the highlight of the election--with control of the House, Nancy Pelosi will be the new Speaker of the House, the most powerful position in the legislature. I like Nancy Pelosi so far because she is outspoken, she is against the war, and she will stand up to Bush.

With Webb winning Virginia, the Dems also won back the Senate with 49 Senators plus two independents (including Lieberman) who will caucus with the Democrats. This is also a turning point, since it will be much easier for the Dems to create legislation and to keep W in check.

W seemed a bit humbled by the outcome yesterday--which is good. Contrary to popular belief, our President isn't stupid, per se, but he is intellectually lazy and arrogant, and he is a religious fanatic who thinks that God is always on his side. The fact that his party no longer controls either of the two chambers means that he will have to start working with people and listening to other viewpoints outside of his cabinet (other than God, of course, who supposedly told him to invade Iraq). This could be a turning point for him both as a President and as a person.

I think the next couple of years will be interesting. Finally, the people of the United States have put the government back under their control and have restored democracy. Let's hope the momentum continues.

November 3, 2006

And the walls came tumbling down

I first heard about Ted Hagggard when I saw the story about Jesus Camp. Haggard was featured in the film but somehow did not like the portrayal of the evangelists, so he bought some expensive Google ads to discredit the film. Since he runs a 14,000 member operation, he was able to afford those ads and slander those who would question the morality of religious fundamentalism. After all, as any fundie would tell you, it's wrong to question clergymen.

And now this happened. Haggard is a homophobic hate-monger who spreads the Gospel of fundamentalist hate and intolerance, and it turns out that he (at least) contacted a male prostitute. At first, he denied everything, but as things are coming to light, he's admitting more and more (and the time of this entry, he admitted to buying meth and paying for a "massage."). This isn't good for him. There is something terribly wrong about a homophobe who hides his preference by secretly hiring male prostitutes.

I love the fact that James Dobson, that sick fundamentalist demagogue who calls his organization "Focus on the Family" (I love how Richard Dawkins asks, "Whose family?"), is defending Haggard publicly. I fell bad for Haggard's family, but at the same time I can't help but think that it's a good thing that the media is drawing attention to these hateful and evil organizations that are poisoning America. Perhaps it will encourage more people to stand up and create new lives and escape the domination of the religious right.

November 1, 2006


For a second, following this debacle, I was actually impressed that John Kerry was defiant in the face of Bush's theatrical verbal attacks. Quite clearly Kerry's comment was just a misstatement that was intended to criticize the president, not the troops. Immediately after the initial Republican attacks, Kerry was defiant and unapologetic, and for a short period of time, Americans could be proud of him.

And then Kerry had to apologize. Uhh...what? Why does a decorated war veteran, who simply misspoke while criticizing a corrupt and incompetent regime that (mis)led us into an unjustified war with another sovereign nation, have to apologize to anyone? There were some Democrats who were quick to disassociate themselves from Kerry (which explains why Bill Clinton has been the only Democratic presidential contender for 30 years), but why on earth would Kerry apologize? Even worse, he apologized just a week before elections. This proves two things:

1. Hard as it may be to swallow, America may have picked the more competent man in 2004.
2. Kerry is a liability to both himself and other Democrats.

I just can't believe that the Repubs are getting away with this nonsense. Kerry makes a simple slip of the tongue, and the Repubs are making it seem as if Kerry had some sort of real problem with the troops. What is worse is that most of these wimpy Democrats are sitting by idly while the man who lied about weapons of mass destruction is continuing his slanderous attacks.

There still remains a week before the elections. With Bush affirming his faith in Rumsfeld and Cheney, two other unpopular people, it still remains possible that the Democrats will win regardless of how incompetent the Democratic politicians are.

October 15, 2006

Jesus Camp


ABC coverage

ABC coverage 2

When I saw this, I thought to myself, "Oh, Jesus!"

I think this is illegal. First, being a church and encouraging kids to worship a picture of President Bush is illegal because they are using a church entity--which doesn't pay taxes--to act as a Political Action Committee--which should. This is a clear abuse of the tax penal code. The IRS should crack down on them.

Second, this is child abuse. Telling a child that all non-Christians are going to hell (especially when there is not a shred of evidence to the existence of hell, heaven, God, or Satan) is a sick, depraved fear tactic that doesn't belong around kids. Kids are innocent, and they have the right to live in a world that allows them to learn to think freely and to be raised in an environment that empowers them.

The third clip would have been funny were it not so sick and evil. That old preacher lady says, "Had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death!" because, of course, warlocks are evil. Incidentally, even thought that second male "evangelist" is supposedly the moderate one, I think he's a sick puppy too.

These evangelicals are misguided people who are committing a crime. In this case, I truly believe that the government should step in and stop the abuse. Unfortunately, our Theocrat in the White House has his faith based initiatives which support this garbage.

I'm hoping everyone votes in November to lay down the infrastructure so we can stop this sick abuse.

October 11, 2006

North Korean Nuke Test

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said President Bush has told the North Koreans that "there is no intention to invade or attack them. So they have that guarantee. ... I don't know what more they want."

Why did President Bush invade Iraq? He said that they had weapons of mass destruction.

Did they claim to have weapons of mass destruction? No.

After invading Iraq, did we find weapons of mass destruction? No.

Does North Korea claim to have weapons of mass destruction? Yes.

Do they in actuality have weapons of mass destruction? Yes.

Are we going to invade them? No.

Why not? I think it has something to do with oil, but who knows? It could also have something to do with the fact that we have so many troops tied up in Iraq. Like everything in this administration, it's top secret, and the president expects us all just to trust him. This presidency is just one big game after another...

October 10, 2006

"Intelligent Design"


Richard Thompson, leader of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, said intelligent design should have a home in science classes. The center describes its mission as defending the religious freedom of Christians.

"It would make students more knowledgeable about science and more interested in science," he said in a phone interview. "Evolution is a theory. It's not a fact."

Riddle me this--why is it that one meets people who are intelligent enough to lead a large non-profit, intelligent enough to score well on tests and graduate from big universities, but when something religious comes into play, these same people will throw all intellectual brainwork out the window and will just attribute everything to "intelligent design?"

I think the article sums up "intelligent design" well:

Intelligent design's proponents hold that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms.

It's amazing how these zealots put "intelligent design" on the same scientific footing as evolution. Evolution was created by observing how strong animals survive while weak animals die. It uses nature as an inductive proof of how modern animals came to be. Darwin came up with evolution through his scientific study of animals. Evolution makes scientific sense. It is as theoretically sound as the structure of the atom.

"Intelligent Design" is pseudo-science. It's almost defeatist in its outlook on life, i.e. "Organisms are too complex, and we can't be bothered to figure out how things came about, therefore we must attribute everything to a 'higher being'." I could just as easily use that argument for all science. "Aspirin cures my headache because a 'higher being' is causing the aspirin to make it go away." "Justin Gatlin runs fast because a 'higher being' is propelling him." Where does it end?

The ironic thing is that these same conservative people are constantly lamenting about how America is falling behind in education, particularly in the sciences. They complain about science education, and then they want our children to study a theory that basically says that God created everything because the world is too complex to explain?

I'm reading a good book by Richard Dawkins called "The God Delusion." In the book, he writes a lot about such zealots. It's especially poignant since Dawkins is one of the world's pre-eminent evolutionists. Check it out.

October 6, 2006

The key to American politics


"In 2004, white evangelical or born-again Christians made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted Republican, according to exit polls."

Biblical Fear Factor

Can these fundamentalists really be serious? These people have no shame. Saw this article in the New York Times today, and it looks like they're claiming oppression once again. We only control the American Presidency! Our children are using their brains, and we don't like it! Blind faith! Blind faith! We're so oppressed! Boo hoo hoo!

Going to a fundamentalist Sunday School when I was growing up, I was taught that Christians were an oppressed group. Never mind that most of the congregation drove BMW's or Mercedes, never mind that a good number of these people were high level executives at Fortune 500 companies, never mind that some of these people were high level government officials--Christians, according to the chuch doctrine, were oppressed, and the we were "called" to be "soldiers in God's army." We were supposed to put religion above everything--including family--and we were taught that our chief purpose in life was to evangelize because Satan was lurking right around the corner and waiting to catch us when our guard was down.

When I was old enough, I realized that I had never heard of a Christian facing any kind of oppression. I had heard of blacks being beaten for being black, Asians being beaten for being Asian, and even whites being beaten for being white, but I had never heard of anyone being beaten for being Christian. Moreover, ALL U.S. Presidents were (or claimed to be) Christian, most politicians were Christian, and a HUGE number of business leaders were Christian.

I just don't understand why these fundamentalists have to rely on these sick scare tactics to indoctrinate their people. Fundamentalist Christians currently control the U.S. Our children can't study science because of the fundamentalist war on evolution. Ill people are suffering because of their war on stem cells. We have to fight to keep their Ten Commandments and other religious symbols out of our government buildings. A politician can't get two steps without claiming to have a belief in God, and yet they are oppressed? If their children are leaving (which they aren't), who can blame them? Who would voluntarily want to be part of an extremist religion of fear and guilt?

Kids are kids. They shouldn't be subjected to the scare tactics of these sick zealots who believe it is their God-given right to control the minds of young ones. The evolutionist Richard Dawkins is correct in saying that it's unfortunate that there isn't an atheist lobby to counter the fundamentalist Christian lobby.

Can we really afford another generation of kids who are scared to think for themselves?

September 29, 2006


No more segregation on Survivor. They got integrated. It's kind of stupid; all the tarps that the two winning tribes from the last challenge were evenly distributed, and they all joined to become two tribes. During that competition, Jeff Probst baited them by saying that the stakes were high since they could make good use out of the tarps over the next 30 days. It turns out that that reward was only good for a few days--not 30.

The Hispanic tribe must feel especially cheated; they lost on purpose in order to evict a weak player and make their tribe stronger, and then their tribe was dissolved without even having another competition.

It seems like such a waste after they put so much time and effort into promoting this race gimmick...

September 22, 2006

Asians win again, Yul finds immunity idol!

The Survivor challenge keeps getting better and better! This time, the Asians were the first to complete the challenge, but due to a just-missed technicality where they failed to step back onto their mat, they tied with the White Team. They split the reward (tarps to protect them from rain), and they won immunity. The Black tribe came in third, so they didn't win the reward, but they did win immunity.

The Hispanic Tribe purposefully lost the challenge in order to lose immunity and to rid themselves of their least popular member, a heavy metal lover named Billy who wasn't pulling his weight in his tribal duties. The Hispanic Tribe succeeded in losing both the challenge and the unpopular member. It actually looked as if Billy was going to overturn the vote by forming an alliance with the two Hispanic women. But then he blew it by declaring his love for a woman from the White Tribe right before the vote. Crazy. That would be like OJ declaring his love for white women just before that jury of black women was about to vote.

There were two big developments for the Asian tribe.

First, it looks like Yul and Becky, the two Korean members of the Asian Tribe, are starting to form an alliance. They specifically mentioned that they were both Korean, and that they therefore wanted to stay together. Koreans are tight! Becky then referred to Yul as her "Oppa," her older brother. For those looking to see action, I hate to disappoint, but it looks like it's mostly platonic.

Second, because the Hispanic Tribe lost, they were able to "exile" one of the contestants, and so they picked Yul. Yul went to exile island, and in an amazing use of brainpower, he found the immunity idol which guarantees him protection from tribal council! Put an Asian braniac on an island by himself, give him a clue, and look what happens!

Anyway, this show is turning out to be pretty exciting. Diversity is great! Woo hoo!!!

September 19, 2006

Coup D'Etat

There was a Coup D'Etat in Thailand today. I read this article here. The last sentence reads:

The coup caused little stir in Bangkok's popular tourist districts, where foreigners packed beer bars and cabarets just a few miles from where the tanks were posted, AP reported.

It made me laugh to think that there are tanks rolling through the streets, the prime minister is stranded in New York, and yet the article seems to imply that all is well since the sex tourists of Thailand are alive and well.

Here's an article on the positive reaction of the Thai people.

In retrospect, I think it was only a matter of time before Thaksin got ousted. Thaksin is a billionaire in a country whose main tourist attraction is prostitution. The people are dirt poor, while their leader is a billionaire. Thaksin has more money than Bush, more money than Cheney, and yet his country is poor enough that people are willing to degrade themselves by selling their children to foreign pedophiles. In the U.S., people complain about growing inequality, but the difference in economic standing between our average citizen and our head of state is much less than the difference between the average Thai citizen and the Thai head of state. It was only a matter of time before the Thai people demanded a leader who truly represented them.

Time will tell whether this will be a good thing, but I think it's clear that the old system wasn't working very well.

September 14, 2006

Survivor: Asians win first challenge!

So the first episode of Survivor aired tonight. For those who were fortunate enough to tune in, it was great. Lots of high tension competition, lots of funny conversations, and lots of people thinking about race and culture. It was by far the most diverse show EVER on American TV, so props to CBS, Survivor, and Mark Burnett.

The first "challenge" was to assemble a boat, use the boat to get fire (from a burning torch placed about a fifty yards out in the sea), paddle back to shore, solve a puzzle, and then to climb on top of a platform and light a second torch on fire. The Asian team were in second place due to difficulties in assembling their boat, but they caught up by the time they had to solve the puzzle. They solved the puzzle very quickly, ran up the platform, and won. Woo hoo! (and I hope my non-Asian viewers don't fault me for cheering the ONLY positive representation of Asian Americans on American TV that I've ever seen...)

To be a little critical, there were a few things that I thought the producers could have changed. For example, they showed the Hispanic Tribe, the White Tribe, and the Black Tribe using their survival skills to build shelter, get coconuts out of trees, preserve body warmth, etc., but when they brought the cameras to the Asian island, they just showed the old Asian guy using some sort of holistic healing tactic to help cure a headache. What is the aversion to showing Asian Americans doing physical and mental labor? The producers covered up the Asian team's physical labor in much the same fashion that the history books covered up the Chinese labor in building the railroads...!

That guy Cao Boi is pretty pretty weird. Of course they had to have the "oriental medicine man." None of the other players are that old, and none of the other players talk in weird metaphysical language. American TV just can't portray Asians without inviting Mr. Miyagi!

And WTF about the Asian women never speaking? You see black women speaking to other people, white women speaking to other people, and Latina women speaking to other people, but the Asian women get all silent and demure when it comes to expressing opinions. I don't think I saw a single word spoken by an Asian woman to either the Asian guys or the other Asian woman. Why not? Could it be that it's Madame Butterfly style where the Asian women are incapable of having opinions until the White man liberates them? Maybe they'll have to launch a Maxine Hong Kingston style betrayal to take out the Asian men so that they can merge with the men of the white tribe.

I'm just kidding on all of this. There were--and there will be--tons of opportunities for some pretty funny jokes. It's what makes it all worthwhile. I'm not a big TV fan, but I thought the show was excellent, and I'm looking forward to the next episode.

September 10, 2006

The New Bible Thumpers

The cover story of Time Magazine is here.

It's a new evolution of an old trend--the trend where people get rich off of Christianity. In the old days, it was the televangelists and the leaders of megachurches who fleeced their followers into tithing and filling up the offering jars. Now this worship of money is becoming part of their official church doctrine because "God never intended for you to be poor."

I don't know if this is particular to Christianity or to fundamentalism, but the Christian fundamentalist religious right never seems to run out of creative tricks and loopholes to absolve their members of personal responsibility to become better people. I've seen this both in their actual members and in their sermons--if they want to murder people (e.g. George W. Bush in Iraq), they'll justify it. If they want to cheat on their wives, they'll justify it. If they want to elevate money as one of their higher goals, they'll justify it. After all, this is the one religion in the world where a person can be cleansed of his sins just by asking God for forgiveness. You can lynch a man from the back of your pickup, but if you pray for forgiveness from the Almighty before you die, you're going to heaven. People like Malcolm X, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, and Gandhi, however, are going to Hell because they're a bunch of pagans.

From my own personal experience, most Christian fundies eventually develop an attitude of no-responsibility. After all, if God won't punish his worshippers for murder, cheating, or idolizing money, why should his worshippers get bent out of shape over it?

I've seen this fundamentalist hypocrisy all over the far Christian right. They can and will justify ANYTHING. When George W. Bush sends soldiers into Iraq as part of his "crusade," he says that God is behind him. When the Spanish had their crusades hundreds of years ago, they justified their actions with the same argument.

I'm not against Christianity. I have many friends who are serious Christians. But there is a big difference between simply being a Christian and being a fundamentalist. To be simply Christian is a lifestyle. It means that you believe that Christ died for your sins, and that you live your life according to Christ's message. It means that you're an individual who is part of the community and who happens to believe in Christ. A fundamentalist, on the other hand, sees himself as a soldier for Christ. The fundamentalist believes that we are constantly at war, that our war is over values, and that every nonbeliever is going straight down into the pits of Hell because he doesn't think as other fundamentalists do.

This new focus on money is just one part of the isolationist outlook of fundamentalist Christianity. In this new doctrine, God wants you to enrich yourself. He doesn't want you to help others, nor does he care very much about other spiritual aspects, but he wants you to be rich. Again, it's the "soldier" mentality at work. These legions of new fundies are at war, trying to enrich themselves financially while ignoring both: a) their communities, and b) their own spiritual quest.

It's a real shame that people in the richest nation in the world continue to adhere to a fundamentalist religion that denies them human compassion and that teaches them to fight the world around them. Religions should be creating a world where people work together, where they have empathy for other human beings, and where they see generosity as a life goal. This self-aggrandizing behavior of the Christian fundamentalists does nothing to help its members, nor does it make our world a better place. As Rick Warren says in the article, "You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth."

September 8, 2006

That's One Big Nurse

This is a pretty entertaining story. I'm sure it's not so funny for either the victim or the nurse, but there's a bit of justice that comes with the idea that this woman defended her home successfully.

I wonder about the concept of vengeance. Of course this nurse didn't kill the man out of vengeance, but we readers, on the other hand, like the story because we feel that he got what he deserved. We get our vengeance passively through the resulting circumstance of the nurse fighting back.

Buddhist texts (I think especially in the Pali Cannon) have lots of stories about people paying for their crimes in strange ways. The whole idea of reincarnation is one in which vengeance plays a role--a person who is cold and unfeeling in this life will find vengeance from nature when he is reborn as a cold and unfeeling snake or lizard. Vengeance is not supposed to be good, but it seems to be part of human nature. I wonder if this thirst for vengeance ever goes away. I don't know what I feel about this. Part of me says that vengeance is bad because it fuels hatred, which can create a neverending cycle of tit-for-tat violence and retribution. Another part of me says that it is simply human nature, and that justice cannot exist with some form of vengeance.

Comments appreciated.

September 1, 2006

Holding Ourselves Back

I haven't posted anything on Buddhism yet, so here is my first "Buddhist" post:

"He abused me, attacked me,
Defeated me, robbed me!"
For those carrying on like this,
Hatred does not end.


Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hate alone does it end.
This is ancient truth.

The above verses come from the Dhammapada, as translated by Gil Fronsdal. This verse has significance for me this week because of this. Evidently, the Asian American Writer's Workshop is giving a "Lifetime Achievement Award" to Maxine Hong Kingston. They're holding a big party in celebration of a woman who throughout her career has painted a picture of Asian men with vicious lies, stereotypes, and slander. This woman has become rich off the suffering of our people through her various character attacks and racist propaganda against Asian American men. And yet they're giving her an award.

This is a travesty. It would be like the NAACP giving a "Lifetime Achievement Award" to David Duke.

My Buddhist perspective is that the above verse from the Dhammapada means that one should not become paralyzed with hatred. When one becomes paralyzed with hatred--even against a person like Maxine Hong Kingston who has spent her entire life perpetuating racism against innocent people--one fails to progress. I imagine that it's permissible in Buddhism to hate the crime, but one should never become so attached to the hatred that one becomes blind.

This is my interpretation anyway.

August 24, 2006

Survivor Divided by Race

Thanks, Yi, for sending this article. I think this is the most exciting news I've seen in a really long time.

So the big news is that the next Survivor is going to be divided along the lines of race. I'm not kidding. There's going to be a "White tribe," a "Black tribe," a "Hispanic tribe," and an "Asian tribe." The three four tribes are going to compete in regular Survivor-style competitions.

Rush Limbaugh has a radio clip here . I'm not a Rush Limbaugh fan, but I thought this clip was really funny. In the clip, he jokes that the black tribe will lose if there is swimming involved, that the Asian tribe will outsmart the rest but lack "native understanding of the land," and that the white tribe will bring "vials of diseases" and will "oppress" the other tribes if CBS allows cheating.

It's clear that Rush is joking (why would he joke about black athleticism?)--but there are some very real comedic possibilities here, especially when it comes to Asians. If the stereotypes come out, it's the Asians--not the whites, blacks, and Hispanics--who could be having problems. For example:
  • Will the Asian male members get domestically violent against the Asian female members? Will the Asian female members go running to the White tribe and accuse the Asian men of sexism? What if the White tribe sets up a printing press to distribute Kingstonian propaganda against the men of the Asian tribe?
  • What if the female members of the Asian tribe become infatuated with the male members of the White tribe and are unable to compete against their objects of their undying love? (Hey, this is a real possibility if you consider this.) What if the Asian women get Madame-Butterfly-suicidal after spending time away from the men of the White tribe?
  • What if the Asian men fight amongst themselves over who is smarter, better looking, or makes the most money, and are therefore unable to come together as a team? What if one of them acts like the "good Hop-Sing David Henry Hwang oriental" and winds up betraying his team for a whiter, I mean higher, cause? What if they decline to rock the boat--by losing?
All joking aside, I think this is going to be GREAT. What is lost in all the controversy is the fact that this will be the FIRST TIME in American television history (outside of "All American Girl" and other embarassing moments) that we have a group of Asian Americans together in one show. If anything, it will be great for diversity, and it is almost guaranteed to shake up the status quo.

August 22, 2006

Councilman John Liu

Good article on Councilman John Liu from Flushing, New York. I've seen this guy speak, and he's pretty articulate. It's really great how he has used his City Council position as a pulpit for national Asian American issues.

August 19, 2006

The Quite Farang

I read this opinion article this morning in the NY Times.

The article is spot-on correct. This has always been one of the main mysteries of life to me. Why is it that whenever Western (read: European or American white) men associate with Asians, it almost always seems to have something to do with some sort of sexually deviant behavior or expectation? And equally mysterious is this: why do Asian people encourage it? It's no mistake that a very significant part of the Thai GDP comes from accommodating the johns who come looking for Thai prostitutes. After the Gary Glitter incident, local radio host Bob Rivers called Thailand "the most permissive country in the world."

Last year, Sheridan Prasso wrote a book called "The Asian Mystique" that discusses the trend of Western-Asian sex across Asia. A few years back, Karen Kelsky wrote a book called "Women on the Verge" that discusses the trend as specific to Japan. To their credit, they both attribute to the problem of complicity between both white people and Asian people.

Most Asian American writers have always seemed to view Western-Asian relationships as a colonial type of relationships, where Westerners are the aggressors and Asians are the victims. In my opinion, this kind of mentality is self-defeating because it eliminates any kind of responsibility on the part of Asian people. It disempowers us because it says that the fault is entirely that of white people, and that we're just a powerless, emotionless people who suffer from the sins of others.

Such cannot be the case. It isn't too often that one hears of poor black people or poor white people selling their daughters and sons into sexual slavery. You don't often hear of African, Russian, or poor European governments trying to build an industry out of the sex trade. The dignity of such countries is such that they would rather remain poor than debase their women and children by selling them into the sex trade. They would rather remain poor than debase their men by eoncouraging them to become pimps and hustlers.

Communism and censorship and violent history aside, one good thing I can say about the Chinese government is that they have actively pushed for Asian people to be treated with respect. They are trying to create industry where Asian people can distinguish themselves by their human capital, not their sexual capital. Such is not the case of all Chinese people obviously--there are many Chinese people who still try to base our image on sex (some of them are Chinese American writers in this country who write garbage like "M. Butterfly") . But the push towards greater recognition does exist in the Chinese government, and it would be great if it existed in larger measure here in the U.S.

I think we'll all be happy when we can get beyond the old tired images. But to get beyond these images, we need to first change our internal actions. This includes the actions of Asians in Asia, Asians in America, and Western people. When we try to see people as people and treat people as people, the world will become a more equal place.

August 18, 2006

Update on Racial Slurs

Update on the post immediately below:

My friend D--who happens to be a kung-fu expert--has convinced me that racial slurs are not the same as physical attacks. His reasoning is that they are psychological attacks more than anything. If the violence never actually begins, one usually walks away with nothing more than anger and stress.

Racial slurs do indicate intent for physical harm though, and I think, given the context of their historical use, that they are indeed physical threats. With a racial slur, the speaker indicates the intent to cause imminent physical harm. Calling someone a "chink" in my opinion is akin to saying "I'm going to beat the @#$ out of you." In my opinion, if one fears the threat, one has the right to physical self-defense. Of course one wouldn't be justified in getting physical against an 80 year old woman who shouts a racial slur (unless of course, she had a gun...I think that would be more comedic than anything else), but in my opinion, an angry young man (or men) who uses such a slur has indicated an immediate threat to cause physical harm.

And in such cases, I believe it is morally justified (and maybe morally imperative) for a person to defend himself.

August 14, 2006

Fighting Against Hate Crimes

Saw news of a hate crime on this morning. According to the news story posted, TWO white guys beat up on FOUR Asian guys. When I first saw the blog post, the first idea that crossed my mind was this: how the hell do you lose a fight when you outnumber your attackers two to one? Even if those were two REALLY REALLY big white guys and four REALLY REALLY small Chinese guys, how do you lose when you have twice the number of fighters?

I found another news story--a more detailed story-- about the same incident on the web. It explains the story a bit better. You can see footage of the victims here. Incidentally, there was a witness--and it's a white guy. So the two thugs will most likely do some time. (As a side note which isn't really related to this post, I found it funny that one of the racists who didn't like "gooks" was from Flushing--one of the "other" NYC Chinatowns. Poor guy. It's kind of like being David Duke and living in Harlem...)

The story is this: apparently, the two white guys rammed into the back of the car of the four Chinese guys. They were shouting racial slurs while doing this, and so the four Chinese guys tried to get away. When they thought they had eluded their pursuers, they pulled over to the side. One of the Chinese guys got out of the car, and the two white guys surprised him by punching him. One of the other Chinese guys got out of the car to help his friend, and they beat him too. So it wasn't really two against four; it was more like two against one in Round One, then it was two against one again in Round Two. The two other Asian men in the car declined to participate (According to the New York Times, the two men were calling on their cellphones. Exactly why it takes two men to place a call is beyond comprehension. I'm actually not sure what is more sickening--the racist attack or the cowardice displayed by these two men watching their good friends getting beaten by two unarmed guys.). Round Three was with the police--the belligerent ones lost that round.

What most likely happened was that the Chinese guys were surprised by the force and speed of the attack, and so they were unable to mobilize effectively. After getting hit with the first surprise punch (or punches), the first Asian guy was effectively taken out of the fight. The second Asian guy may have just been a poor fighter (The Club is a terrible weapon to use, especially for a small guy. While it can inflict damage when you hit someone with it, the design is so unwieldy and slow that it's hard to actually land a blow. He probably would have been better off just using his fists.). The other two Asian guys just stayed in the car with their cell phones and therefore never posed a threat.

Fighting is a scary thing, and one never behaves exactly as one would like to behave in a fight. It's like the karate teachers always say--"It's different on the street." Some fighters freeze up when they fight under pressure, and many are unable to perform as they do in a controlled environment. I've been there, and I can attest to the fact that it is scary when one assails you with racial slurs and then uses his fists on you. I don't think that the Asian guys did anything wrong. Yet at the same time, I think they could have handled themselves better. They could have mounted a much better defense, especially given their situation.

There is a Korean American man on the fighting44s website who argues effectively that racial slurs in and of themselves are a form of racial violence. In other words, throwing a racial slur is akin to throwing a punch; it's an act of violence. Racial slurs are so normally accompanied by physical violence that their usage connotes bodily harm and threats, and therefore it is a form of physical violence.

I would agree 100%. I think the violence happened way before the two guys hit their car. I think it occurred way before they punched the first Asian guy, way before they smashed the skull of the second with the Club. I think the violence occurred the minute the word "chink" or "gook" was uttered. Especially in this day and age, no one ever says "chink," "gook," "nigger," "fag," or any other derogatory term without the intent of causing physical harm. The slur itself is an attack. Once the four guys were assaulted (and they were assaulted) by the slur, they should have called the police right away. And if they wanted to leave the car, they should have left the car together.

Now assuming the Asian guys all left the car together, the moment the racist guys came out of their car, one of the four Asian guys should have thrown the first punch. After all, two guys shout racial slurs, ram your car, and then charge at you? Even if you were to throw and land the first punch, it would still be self-defense, not an act of aggression.

Violence is wrong. Racism is wrong. I'm a Buddhist and believe strongly in nonviolence. But you have to play it smart; there's no heroism in being a passive, voiceless victim. When an angry racist man addresses you by shouting a racial slur, he has committed an act of violence against you, and you need to run from him or fight him. The slur has signalled his intent to kill or maim you, and if you value your life, it behooves you to protect yourself. Don't wait for him to hit you. Hit him first. Break his nose. Stick your thumbs in his eyes. The situation demands it. You aren't spreading any good karma by letting him fracture your skull. Your passive acceptance of his behavior teaches him that violence and racism are good and that you approve of the way he treats people who look like you. Beat him to the punch, hit him first and hit hard, and you are demonstrating to him a greater morality. You are teaching him--and people like him--that racism is wrong. You're also saving money by avoiding the hospital (or saving your parents' money by avoiding the morgue.).

August 13, 2006

The World in Which I Live

Thanks for visiting my blog. This is my first post.

Saw this article in the New York Times today.

I think it's really great how the world is becoming greener and that these ideas are taking root in New York. It looks like for the time being, only the more affluent city dwellers will be able to make the most of green living, but as the price of technology drops (as it usually does), I expect that green values will play an increasingly larger role in the lives of all people.

I was at a Portland City Club meeting last year, and I heard the statistic that even though many think of pollution when they think of New York, New York actually produces less pollution per citizen than any other major American city. The person who quoted this statistic said that New York is able to achieve this feat mostly through its highly efficient subway system.

In Portland, we have a public transportation system called the Max. It's a great system--cleaner and and more on-schedule than the New York subway, but it only has three lines, which means that it isn't directly accessible to much of the Portland area. As it was explained to me by a city planner, Portland simply doesn't have the population density to get the same kind of public transportation efficiency that New York has. So because of our low density, we produce more pollution per citizen. But without the high density, we also lose the problems that come with overcrowding. So it's a tradeoff.

I'm personally looking forward to the day when I can drive from one place to another without releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. With more and more people actively living with greener values, I hope our people and government will encourage more research in this area.