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?"

"Yup."

"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

Heroes


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

Rebuttal

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 www.angryasianman.com 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

Restored!

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

What???

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.