September 29, 2006

Boring

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.