May 31, 2008

Isolated Tribe Spotted in Brazil

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond is one of the most popular books among the readers of this blog, so I thought you might enjoy this story of an "uncontacted tribe" in Brazil. According to the article, more than half the world's uncontacted tribes live in Brazil or Peru, and the governments are trying to insure the survival of these tribes by protecting their land.

This description of what we see in the pictures is also interesting.

May 30, 2008

Ultimate Fighting and the Military / Elite XC

Asian American issues, politics, social issues, and...Ultimate Fighting. Well, most of these guys study martial arts, and martial arts come from Asia. Jaehwan is armed to the teeth with excuses to talk about fighting! In my own defense though, I know that kimtae, Rebel, Lopan, Catty, and others who are also big fans.

The NY Times had an article today on MMA and the military. Apparently MMA is influencing military culture. American soldiers are beginning to participate in MMA competitions, and the Army is beginning to promote and hold tournaments. The American military is using MMA to draw in their demographic, 18-30 year old males, and they are emphasizing the warrior aspect of fighting as a motivator for their troops. It's a good article. Check it out.

I do think sports like MMA build character. I wonder if it's good for kids. If parents were teaching their kids boxing or karate, one would think it a good thing. These seem relatively civilized. MMA? Even though most MMA fighters are extremely respectful and humble, the jury is still out on that one. Maybe it's my own cultural bias.

In other news, Elite XC is taking place tomorrow night at 9 pm Eastern and Pacific Time on CBS. It'll be the first time that a major MMA event takes place on American prime time. Kimbo Slice is fighting. I'm ambivalent about this competition. While I think UFC needs some competition given the meager payouts to their fighters, it looks like Elite XC is taking the cheap route by showcasing a backyard brawler like Kimbo. It would be nice to see another fight league which is somewhat comparable in quality to the UFC. Pride was such a competition, but they had poor management, and the UFC eventually bought them. Strikeforce is also a good competitor, but I wonder if they have the promotional skills that the UFC has. We'll see.

May 28, 2008

Too Male, Too White

I saw this feature on the NY Times website today. In his blog post, Nicholas Kristof raises the issue of Op-Ed pages being the domain of old white men, and indeed, the NY Times is guilty of this; I don't think they have anyone but Dowd (white female) and Herbert (black male) representing. I like Kristof's piece, but quite honestly, I find it somewhat disingenuous. When I and other Asian Americans wrote him before complaining about his treatment of Asian American culture, he blew us off, implying that he somehow knew what was best for us.

I agree that it's important to get a diversity of ideas on the Op-Ed pages. Guys like Friedman, Krugman, and (my favorite) Brooks wield great power over public opinion with what they do in that space. What I find funny, however, is that when major newspapers do diversify their Op-Ed section, they often staff it with minority guys who give the typical responses that one would expect from a black guy, or a Hispanic guy, or an Asian....no, I guess I've never seen an Asian Op-Ed person.

Take Bob Herbert, for example. He is a black columnist who only talks about race, and when he does talk about race, his viewpoint is always typical. He doesn't practice the hypothetical gymnastics that Friedman uses, nor does he deliver the caustic one-liners like Maureen Dowd, nor does he get ultra-creative like David Brooks. Herbert only talks about race, and he only does so with observations that society believes a black man is supposed to have. Ruben Navarette from CNN is exactly the same--these Op-Ed commentators white-wash their non-white views.

Does this help us? I guess it does to a certain extent since there are obviously black guys who think like Herbert or Hispanics who think like Navarette. Some diversity is better than none.

However, there are also some extremely creative minorities out there who could do better. Cornel West, for example, has been very creative when dealing with race, as have people like Claude and Shelby Steele. Francis Fukuyama, despite the fact that he is probably wrong, wrote an absolutely brilliant political masterpiece with "The End of History." Amy Chua (and I know she may not be a favorite here) wrote what I thought was a very intelligent piece on markets in East Asia. Intelligent and creative minorities are out there.

Now I realize that the Times can't hire Fukuyama to write their Op-Eds since Fukuyama has bigger intellectual mountains to conquer, but there has to be someone who possesses a combination of Fukuyama's depth with mainstream wittiness. And minorities don't always have to write about minority issues. If the mainstream media is serious about diversifying its ranks, it needs to look harder not only to find minorities willing to take the job, but to find minorities who exemplify the wit and range of its white writers. These people are out there.

May 27, 2008

Generations

ni01_nihaolaikan-rainydayle.jpgI saw this post from the fine people of 8Asians today. In the post, Efren links this article by Jeff Yang (founder of A Magazine) in today's SF Gate.

Let's skip the identity questions for now. As I've mentioned before, I think identity as a form of activism is a complete waste of time (in the words of Frank Chin, it's "bullshit"), and I think we already have identities that we just need to become more comfortable with. I was actually more interested in Yang's words about technology.

I think most of us Asian American bloggers are in our late 20's or early 30's, and perhaps Yang is correct in saying that some of us might be out of touch with the way younger people are communicating today. Many of us are not on Facebook or MySpace, and I can speak for myself personally when I say I feel a bit out of the loop. I saw this other scary article (scary for me, anyway) about how social networks are changing the way people talk to one another. Obviously Youtube is changing the way celebrities are created, and obviously the blogosphere is allowing non-mainstream voices a greater audience. If the internet didn't exist, we could very easily still only have Kingstonian Long Duk Dong types of portrayals and thinking, and that should scare everyone. So Yang is definitely correct when he talks about tranformative technologies.

However, I think it would be premature and wrong to say, as Efren and Yang seem to imply, that Gen X is somehow outdated. The theory/history is problematic on three counts. First, there has hardly ever been any major political or movement led and sustained only by very young men and women. People in their teens usually look for guidance from their older peers, the same way people like me read Frank Chin, David Mura, and Hegel (who isn't Asian but has some really cool ideas about government and history) or speak to real life leaders in our community in order to learn from their experience. Experience counts for a lot.

Second, Yang says that social media is more about "inclusion" than "effort." While he's correct on that count, social media doesn't imply social movement. Social movements are about both inclusion and effort. Within a social movement, effort is the more important of the two because that is where people create new ideas.

Third, let's not discount the importance of reading. I've stressed this many, many times on this blog and to everyone I know in real life, but there is no substitute for the book as a form of communication. Whether we're talking audiobooks or regular books, we're still talking about the single greatest medium for communicating deeper ideas. To that end, the "dialogue" that Yang discusses as being a part of social media isn't going to save us. What will save us are big ideas and the ability to absorb big ideas, and these ideas take place in books. I just finished reading an 800 page book on Lincoln, and I can assure you that I now know more about how he operated than I could've ever learned in a movie or on a MySpace page. Any movement within Asian American media will require the production of book-length works.

I also think it's premature for Yang to say that he now understands the mindset of these young Asian American kids because they are reacting differently to "Ni Hao Kai-Lan" and "Jackie Chan Adventures" and "American Dragon: Jake Long." Remember, we're talking about kids! I'm sure many of us also thought we had it figured out when we were that age. For many of us, it wasn't until later in life that we looked at the world, learned about politics, met different people, and figured out that there was something in the world that needed some serious fixing. While these young Asian American kids may be satisfied with the status quo right now, there is no guarantee that that satisfaction will last once they get experience and knowledge that only comes with age. In fact, barring some kind of drastic social upheaval, it's unlikely that they it will.

I've always thought that we need to engage the younger people of the world, and to that end, some people from Gen X probably have to learn the new technologies. On the other hand, the rise of a new generation does not in any way imply the obsolescence of a current young generation. We're all part of the same culture, and there's no reason at all that we should stop fighting for what we know is right.

By the way, I just did a Google search on Frank Chin. It looks like Aiiieeeee! was published in 1974, which would mean that Frank Chin was 34 at the time. Imagine what would happen if he interviewed younger Asian Americans at the time and determined that his way of thinking was out-of-date and irrelevant. Asian American lit would never have been born.

Everyone plays a role within our culture and society, whether we're young, in our late 20's/early 30's, or older. Part of creating a strong social movement, I believe, is recognizing that people perfect certain skills at certain points in life. It's just a matter of making use of these skills and enabling others to make use of their skills.

(Kai Lan image from here.)

May 25, 2008

The Personal and Political

Thanks to Box who sent this article. I had seen it a few days before, but I had pushed it aside because I was working on other stuff.

The article is the front page story of the New York Times Magazine this week. It's an autobiographical story written by a former blogger at Gawker.com. Gawker is one of those huge gossip blogs, where they have paid professional bloggers around the clock who drop in and comment on events and celebrity gossip around the world and in the big cities. The Times Magazine story is about how this young woman blogged about her personal life and made herself into a celebrity, and how her world came crashing down because of the public scrutiny, which inhibited the woman's own attempts to find her own authenticity.

I often wonder how blogging can hurt a person's reputation. Even in our forum, we see how seemingly trivial points of conversation can suddenly balloon into something that destroys a person's online reputation, and some of these online events could become disastrous had they been public events with people using their real names. As a blogger, this story resonated with me because one always has to somehow keep one's life and reputation safe. I know how hard some of us try to protect our reputations with secrecy, and I think it's usually a good move. Once you put something online, it's there forever. It never goes away.

As someone who blogs on an Asian American political and intellectual blog, an idea came to me while reading this, especially in light of D's article on narcissism and Jade's article on feminism. On the 44's, because we have such a strong focus on logic and rational thought, we're shielded from a lot of the other problems that other Asian American activists have. Because we're rational, there's no need for us to share all that much detailed info about our personal lives. Rationality is the key, and it should (in theory) be readily understandable to anyone who follows the logic. But most activists don't follow this code.

Take, for example, the typical Asian American feminist. Now I don't want to stereotype, but from my own experiences, almost every conversation with a self-avowed non-44's Asian American feminist uses eventually ends up with a discussion of IR, followed by a defense of why she is dating or married to a white guy (and no, I've never met a self-avowed non-44 Asian American feminist married to or dating an Asian guy. Yuri Kochiyama was married to Bill Kochiyama, but she didn't adopt AA feminism until years later when the AA feminists asked her to.). These conversations usually end up with, "I'm an Asian American feminist, my body is mine, my boyfriend is white, and I'll do whatever I want. You don't own me...footbinder!"

What usually follows is nothing short of bedlam. The angry MM-types jump in and start making sexist personal comments against the AA feminist, which most of us would deem unacceptable and rude. This brings more Asian American feminists (with their white husbands) into the fold, and they usually react by making racist comments about Asian men, even though it was only a small number of militants who were participating in the personal attacks. The Asian feminists with their white boyfriends grab the higher terrain by virtue of their post-colonialist privilege, and the militant Asian men fight back. Pretty soon, no one is listening to anyone. Upon even just a little bit of thought, a neutral third party could see that this whole debacle would not have started had the first feminist not used her personal life as a political crutch.

Contrast that to our method over here. Every so often someone will share some personal info, but hardly ever does anyone use their personal life as a political attack tool. In other words, there's never any, "I'm married to a white guy, and you'd better not criticize me, or else I'll call you 'sexist.' In fact, I've faced so much prejudice from my IR that you'd better recognize me because we're taking over."

Everything here is relatively detached. We don't question people's choices, nor do we advertise our own choices in order to make a political point criticizing someone else.

This is the way discussion should be. This way, we're only talking about ideas. I would think this would (relatively, anyway) protect us from the personal scrutiny which the Times author describes.

B.J. Penn knocks out Sean Sherk!

Last night, B.J. Penn defended his UFC Lightweight title against Sean Sherk. Through three rounds, Penn outboxed Sherk, using his reach/height advantage and pinpoint accuracy to continuously deliver jabs to Sherk's face. The fight never went to the ground. Penn drew blood from Sherk from the very first round, and both men continued to eschew grappling in favor of a straight boxing match. At the very end of round 3, Penn hit Sherk with a series of punches that threw him backward against the cage. When Sherk tried to duck another Penn punch, Penn rushed in with a flying knee to the head, followed by a barrage of punches once Sherk went down. Though he was saved by the bell, the referee declared Sherk unable to continue when he didn't get up.

I was betting that B.J. would win, but I never thought he would win with a knockout. During Sherk's last fight with Franca, Sherk was hit with four or five hard knee shots to the head, and he kept moving forward, eventually winning the Franca fight by decision. So the fact that B.J. won by knockout was even more impressive. If you have a chance to see B.J.'s performance, do. It was definitely one of the better fights I've seen. The best thing was that both fighters wanted to fight. B.J. never backed up, and neither did Sherk. They just kept going at it until one of them fell.

In other fights last night, Vanderlei Silva knocked out Keith Jardine in less than a minute, but that should have been expected, since Jardine never came close to Silva's level of skill.
Lyoto Machida out-boxed Tito Ortiz in what was promoted as Tito's last UFC fight, and he kept his perfect record. Machida basically avoided Tito's attacks and aimed punches and kicks into the gaps that Tito was leaving in his attack plan. He was moving backwards the whole time. Chuck Lidell fights the same way. Some say it was a good technical fight; I say it was boring.

(For those who care, Penn is half Korean, and Machida is half Japanese. That's my excuse for posting this here. Oh, and Catty, we had some technical difficulties, so we had to watch it on the internet. Believe it or not, the quality was very good. So even people without TV's can satisfy their need to see blood.)

(Picture above from the Washington Post.)

May 22, 2008

Tragedy for Steven Curtis Chapman



You all know that I'm always debating with fellow 44's skrips and xian over religion. Though I dislike the idea of organized religion immensely and feel that it hurts society more than it helps, it doesn't stop me from empathizing with the human trials that people of religious organizations go through. Though we disagree on many things, we're still all human.

Angryasianman had this story about Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman. His 5 year old daughter, his youngest of three daughters adopted from China, was killed by one of his teenaged sons who was driving an SUV and didn't see her. I'm sure it must be heartbreaking for the whole family, especially the son. According to the article, Chapman was persuaded by his biological daughter to adopt from China, and he and his wife had founded an organization to financially assist families trying to adopt.

When I was in high school, I actually went with a Christian friend to see Chapman perform. He was a talented performer who clearly had passion for his music, his audience, and his family. My heart goes out to them.

If you want to help the family, there is information on his website here. There's a video of their little girl on their blog over here, and you can also comment on their blog with condolences.

Pin the tail on the Asian male: Asian American Feminism Part 3

bibimbap.jpg

Jenn from Reappropriate posted an article about an Asian American male criminal (forwarded to her from her Asian American feminist friend Carmen at Racialicious), and then she went on a rant about how this ONE criminal's behavior is a symptom of Asian American malehood. Check out the the original post here regarding this article, followed by the discussion here. You can see from the discussion that the blog post is so out of line that even Jenn's strong supporters like "Ramona" have their doubts about whether the assertions and stereotypes are fair.

The story is this: some crazy Asian guy had a girlfriend who left him for a black man. He was crazy and angry, and he started writing threatening letters to black men married to white women, including (half-black) Derek Jeter and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He posed as an angry white woman, sending threats to black men for two decades. Finally he was caught.

This guy Tuason (who is of Filipino descent) is clearly mentally deranged, but according to Jenn:

Perhaps most damning about this story, however, is how some Asian American men might find in Tuason a kind of twisted martyr to the emasculated Asian American male struggle. Tuason is no hero: he is little more than an overgrown Kenneth Eng, hateful and bitter because life has handed him lemons. Tuason’s actions are not noble, they seem foolish, like the ranting of a child. Clearly, not all (or even most) Asian American men act like Tuason (or Eng). But some (including some readers of this blog) seem to follow his line of thinking (albeit far less extreme) [Jae's comment: How does she presume to know his "line of thinking?" All he said was that he was angry his girlfriend left him for a black man.]. I modestly suggest that perhaps Asian American men should consider how their own rantings on Asian American male sexuality might be perceived; in this case, Tuason does nothing to win the argument that he is more masculine, or more virile, than his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. [Cuz obviously he's Asian and is just like the rest of those Chinamen who can't get any! And who said he was trying to be "more virile?"]


The “masculine” thing for Tuason to do would have been to move on past the rejection of his former girlfriend, live a successful life, and prove to himself and the world that he is as masculine as he needs to be. The “masculine” thing to do would have been to redefine what masculine is, and in so doing, love the embodiment of masculine that Tuason could be. But Tuason could not overthrow the mainstream paradigm of American masculinity that disadvantages him and men like him [Whooaaa...again, presumption on the part of the blogger. How does she know what he's thinking? And since when is it about Tuason's race? Since we played the Kingstonian game of pin-the-tail-on-the-Asian-male!]. Instead, he wrote angry anonymous letters by email to men he did not know, threatening to prove his own virility by castrating the men who had threatened it. The look in Tuason’s eyes are like that of a child, defeated and thus embittered, petty, infantile and foolish.


Call me old fashioned, but I think Asian American men are better than that. So, stop acting like you’re not.



Whhhooooaaa. So basically she blames us for what this ONE guy did. Or she links him to us as if we have some kind of cultural foible that makes us do this kind of thing. True to the traditional Kingstonian paradigm, we're guilty before the trial even began, despite the fact that we weren't even at the scene of the crime! You can see why even her supporters are a bit uncomfortable supporting her on these obviously biased statements. Even though this guy has nothing to do with me or any of you, somehow we're responsible for him. It would be like hearing of the D.C. Sniper and saying, "Oh look, what that black man did! Why can't you black men behave!" But of course people don't say that, because unlike black men, we Asian men lack media and cultural power. Jenn recognizes individuality in black men or white men, but somehow we Asian men are all part of the same faceless Mongol horde where we're all guilty of something. It's the method of Kingstonian Asian American feminism: Pin the tail on the Asian male. If you gotta blame someone, blame someone who can't fight back. Pin it on the Asian guy.


Let me quote Xian from the discussion:




Why are white crazies treated as individuals, and minority crazies are used to tar-and-feather their identity group? Why do we have to watch the news and respond to any negative actions committed by a non-white person with "Oh shit, tomorrow's going to be challenging!" while a white male would never face the same?



I don't blame Jenn. Everyone attacks the Asian man. It's like a sport for these Kingstonian feminists, and she has acknowledged that she comes from that school of thought. But I do think we have to realize: Kingstonian feminism is not a good thing.


This is why I originally said that Asian American feminism needed to be eliminated. As maogirl and nightshade said, it's just a movement to make it socially acceptable for Asian women to fuck non-Asian men--which I guess is a fine and noble goal according to some people's values, but it's a piss poor version of feminism, and it's an insult to real feminists. Xian and Catty debated with me, and I then modified my position in Part II to say that a good Asian American feminism might be possible, but it would have to differentiate itself from Kingstonian feminism. Now I'm going to refine my position once again--I think we NEED Asian American feminism, AND I think it NEEDS to take aim at eliminating Kingstonian feminism. This game of Pin-the-tail-on-the-Asian-male has got to stop. Otherwise, how else will Asian American women empower themselves? How else can we ever come together as a community? (and yes, I realize that that's not necessarily the goal of all the players)


Quite simply, there is no room for two feminisms with one based on un-truth, and the other based on truth. You can't have this double standard where one "feminism" has the chief aim at pinning the tail on the Asian male for every crime under the sun, while another is seeking truth for Asian women. They just won't work together. Historically, Kingstonians have been too busy attacking Asian men to even devote time to their own empowerment goals. These two feminisms can't live under the same roof. One will eventually kill the other, and the one based on truth will overcome the one based on stereotypes. So why waste our time? Let's just get rid of the lies and stereotypes NOW.


I just want to point out a few more things. In the discussion, Jenn wrote:




To jaehwan and xian,


*rolls eyes*

Whatev. My post clearly denotes that I am talking about how I have more respect for the Asian American identity -- as a whole -- than Tuason's actions done in the name of the emasculation stereotype. That last line is all about how Tuason is an embarassment to his community.

But James is right. I'm not writing for you. It took a hiatus to realize that your brand of sanctimonious, blind sexism will never change and I need to stop caring about it.

It's almost ludicrous how a post like this, that's about sexism and racism that comes from an extreme form of fundamentalism that has victimized me and my relationship, still can't generate a reasoned discussion regarding how you -- jaehwan and xian -- might be helping to feed a sexist and racist beast.

1. I'm not "embarrassed" by Tuason. He's not me. The only thing we share is race, and unless I come from a race of gods (or unless I'm a white guy in an Amy Tan novel), there will always be bad people within my race. Most Asian men don't act like Tuason. In fact, it's the first time I've heard of an Asian man doing this.


2. Xian? A sexist? I don't have to comment on this--you've all seen his writings on compassion and empathy. I challenge anyone to find anything on that he wrote that is sexist. Calling Xian a "sexist" is like calling Gandhi a violent thug.


3. Tuason, though I disapprove of what he did, didn't demonstrate sexism either. How is it sexist to write harassing letters to black men? Unless Clarence Thomas and Derek Jeter are actually women in reverse-drag AND Tuason was aware of this fact AND he harassed them based on their female gender, there was no sexism. How could there be sexism if there were no women involved, either in person or in speech (other than "she left me")? I don't defend what Tuason did, but someone has to point out the irrational charges of sexism. Oh, that's right--Tuason is one of those Asian guys. Guilty when charged! Sexist Asian pig!!! I guess that would incriminate me too...


Anyway, I'm now convinced that we need a new Asian American feminism. But this time it has to be different. Let's channel those local activists and create a BIG movement. Let's empower ourselves together.

May 20, 2008

The Fighting 44's on Frank Chin's Blog


This may be my shortest blog post ever. The Fighting 44's has now been mentioned on the blog of Frank Chin, the great Asian American civil rights fighter of the 20th century and the man whose writings have probably been the greatest influence on my own personal thinking regarding race. Frank doesn't mention any of the other big Asian American sites, just the 44's and Thymos, because the 44's is the top Asian American blog/message board on the internet, and Thymos is the top Asian American activist group.

To learn more about this great freedom fighter/literary warrior, go here.

To see the man in action, come to Portland on July 11th and 12th. We're bringing him here. If you're feeling generous and want to contribute to this excellent event, go to my site here.

May 18, 2008

Dale Minami wins Citation Award




According to AsianWeek, UC Berkeley School of Law just gave civil rights leader Dale Minami the Citation Award, which is one of their highest honors.

Check this out:
Previous Citation Award recipients include: U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren; California Supreme Court Justices Allen Broussard, Cruz Reynoso, Roger Traynor, and Matthew Tobriner; and U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.

“Dale Minami brought the first employment discrimination class action on behalf of Asian Americans; the first lawsuit to stop the police from making mass arrests of young men in Chinatown because they might be gang members; the first tenure cases representing Asian American professors; and engineered the strategy leading to the appointment of the first Asian American judge in Alameda County, Ken Kawaichi,” said Minami’s law firm partner, Donald K. Tamaki, who introduced Minami at the event.

Tamaki and Minami worked together on Korematsu v. United States, a lawsuit that overturned a 40-year-old conviction for refusal to obey exclusion orders aimed at Japanese Americans during World War II, and originally upheld by the U.S Supreme Court in landmark decisions.

Korematsu v. United States was a landmark decision. To the best of my knowledge, it was the first time that the Supreme Court legitimized the decisions of those Japanese Americans during WWII who practiced civil disobedience in response to a terrible and illegal seizure and detainment based on race alone.

Minami also deserves props for his work in his bold stand on recognizing good vs. bad role models for Asian Americans. He was one of the notable leaders who wrote to the Director of the National Park Service to set the story straight on JACL leader Mike Masaoka, who urged Japanese Americans to comply with the government. Minami set the record straight. See here, where a letter he co-authored says,
Research findings and evidence have been presented to the National Park Service, proving that Masaoka and the organization he represented, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), did not defend and firmly uphold the community’s civil and constitutional rights. On the contrary, he and the organization he represented not only espoused going along with infringements upon these rights, but they also suggested discriminatory policies.

The hardest part of activism is taking stances against other people, whether they are dead or alive. Thank goodness we have fearless people like Dale Minami who are willing to stand for truth. Congrats to him on yet another victory.

May 17, 2008

First White Valedictorian at Morehouse College


I must admit that I was a bit ambivalent when I saw this headline and read this article. Part of the reason for black universities was to raise the status and education of black people, and for a white person to go in there and become valedictorian seemed to be an insult, even if he's the best performer out there.

On the other hand, there really is no reason to segregate based on race since schools like Morehouse are predominantly black. Black people can still go there and feel as if they aren't the minority, and they can focus on building up their culture through an educational institution that puts their needs first. Plus, trends don't go on forever; after 140 black valedictorians who preceded Packwood, one would expect that a non-black valedictorian would eventually emerge.

So after pondering the situation, I can't see any reasons not to celebrate this guy's achievement. It's clear from the article that he's a bright guy and quite popular with the other students. Plus, there was a quote that 44's might find funny:
"One guy came up to me and told me -- he didn't like the fact that I was here," recalls Packwood. "He absolutely didn't like the fact that I dated black women."

"So I heard him out, and said, 'I appreciate your opinion but don't agree with what you have to say,'...and now we've become, not necessarily close, but very cool," Packwood says.

About Packwood's detractors, he says:
Even though he received the support of school administrators, Packwood's scholastic success did not come without some controversy. When word got out that he might become the next valedictorian, some of his classmates - even friends - were admittedly chafed.

"They approached me and said, 'Yeah, I have a problem with you being valedictorian. I know you've earned it and even though I know you on a personal level - I like you a lot - but it disturbs me that out of roughly 3,000 black men - there's not one that's done as well as or better than you academically,' " says Packwood.

I don't think people should be disturbed though. He's just 1 out of 140, and from the description about Packwood and his popularity at the university, it's clear that he's genuine. Plus, it's just grades. It's not as if he's claiming to be anything other than what he really is.

May 16, 2008

Orientalism in the media

Thanks to John from 8 Asians for blogging about this story. I have a slightly different take on the article.

We've all read this kind of nonsense before, plus we've all seen this kind of thing before. An Asian woman marries a white guy, has a half Asian child, then goes around China, making her voice really loud, and speaking down to the natives. I used to read this stuff in A Magazine, and now we read it in the NYTimes and Asiance. I've seen it during my travels to Asia. Seriously, if you're in Asia and you hear a female voice start complaining loudly, turn around, and most likely you'll see one of these Toy-Langston/Hong-Kingston types, raising her voice and using her white man's status as a crutch. No one ever mentions the internalized racism behind the though processes of these nouveau orientalists, nor does anyone ever mention how they use the mainstream media to spread their views. Nor does anyone ever mention how much they look down on Asian people.

Here's my favorite quote from the author, Ms. Vivian Toy:
By then, it had become clear why my children were attracting so much attention. They look Chinese, but not exactly. They look Western, but not quite. What they really look like is what they are: a blend of me, a Chinese-American, and my husband, a blond 6-footer of English and Irish descent.

This, to me, basically confirmed that I was reading the words of a real live white-chaser. Why does she mention her blond husband's height? The answer should be obvious--she needs to draw a difference between the short, tiny heathen Chinee' and her tall white husband. If we were reading the words of anyone other than an Asian person, we wouldn't hear mention of the height unless it were relevant to the discussion on a non-racial level (i.e. "my tall husband who loves basketball but married a shrimpy little midget").

It's getting ridiculous. A good number of the younger Asian men I know (including some on this board) are much taller than the average American, yet these Toy Langstonist Kingstonians just love to ignore them. Not that height should make a difference in one's value as a human being--but why is it that people feel free to denigrate Asian people based on physical stereotypes?

Toy's internalized racism comes out a paragraph later:
The gawkers reminded me of my own painful experiences of being different: grade school classmates who would pull their eyes into squints and launch into a mocking sing-song; a college adviser who suggested I switch my major to biology since Chinese are better suited for the sciences; colleagues who have mistaken me for some other Asian-American woman.

Translation: "But I'm not like all those other Asian American women! I'm different! I married a white man!"
I didn’t have the benefit of experts to consult while I was in China, but I felt it was important to tell my children and their cousins, who are also mixed race, to expect more staring and touching. Some Chinese had never seen anyone who was multiracial and they were simply curious, I told them. I suggested that they should stare back and make a silly face at anyone who made them feel uncomfortable — an idea that made them laugh. They tried it a couple of times, too. A few Chinese on the receiving end made their own funny faces in return; a few others turned tail and left us alone.

Well, Ms. Toy, that's a real great way of encouraging multi-racial understanding. It's a real great way to raise your kids. Toy's hypocrisy comes out once again. Despite whatever fancy New York Times words she uses, she's not trying to encourage any kind of understanding whatsoever--she's just trying to get attention for her and her children. I don't know why people like her do this kind of nonsense.

We Asian Americans need to talk about this phenomenon because quite honestly, it's a form of racism that affects us much more than any of the other common topics that come up on common Asian American boards and discussions. It seems so innocuous, but only because anti-Asian racism is so common. Imagine if Toy were a black woman writing about how her multiracial son was a combination of her, a black woman, and a cultured and non-thuggish white man in order to draw a contrast. The Times would be fielding complaints left and right. Yet somehow, it's culturally acceptable to denigrate Asians.

I think Cathy Bao Bean, another militant Kingstonian, demonstrated best the thinking that goes behind these new orientalists. From her own website:
In 1959, when I was a Junior in Teaneck High School, I learned about Hybrid Vigor in Biology class. The idea was that when two different strains of corn were crossed, the result was greater than was normal for either parent type. In 1974, when I was a new mother in the maternity ward, I wondered if the same principle couldn't be deliberately applied to cultures - in our case, the Chinese and American.
• Physically we had the makings for such an experiment. Our newly born son was half Asian, half Caucasian.
• Intellectually, I formulated his prospects from the wealth of his dual heritage, translating his ancestors' stories into a future neither side could have imagined, yet both had anticipated to some degree.
• Practically, I worried just how much difference it would make that he wasn't an ear of corn.”

There's some serious manifest-destiny kind of thinking going on here.

I think we need to complain about this phenomenon, and I think we need to complain loudly. There's no reason for us to continuing taking these "benevolent" racial attacks parading as searches for self-identity.

May 13, 2008

Rule of the First


Just saw this article in the Washington Post about racial incidents that the Obama campaign is facing as they move around the country. As the article mentions, Obama himself is shielded from this, but his supporters, even those who are white, are getting some pretty bad treatment from people who don't want to see a black president. In addition to the vandalism and racial remarks from people, people, including ethnic officials, are launching ethnic and (completely baseless) religious insults:
In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him.

"No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."

Obama's campaign workers have grown wearily accustomed to the lies about the candidate's supposed radical Muslim ties and lack of patriotism. But they are sometimes astonished when public officials such as Ball or others representing the campaign of their opponent traffic in these falsehoods.

Someone once wrote that the first person of a specific minority to enter a new field always needs to be above the fray. Jackie Robinson, for example, had to endure people spitting on him and making death threats, while Rosa Parks had to remain a model citizen in the midst of the hoopla surrounding the bus boycott. I think Obama is finding himself in the same situation. So for you 44's who operate on a higher level of knowledge, I'll share this small bit of awareness regarding the Obama campaign. For everyone else, let's keep it under wraps so that the country can focus on the issues.

Earthquake in China


I'm sure many of you have already seen this. There was an earthquake in China a couple days ago that has killed upward of 12,000 people. It comes on the heels of the cyclone in Myanmar. They say it's China's worst natural disaster in three decades.
The quake, which was estimated preliminarily to have had a magnitude of 7.9, ravaged a mountainous region outside Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, just after lunchtime Monday, destroying 80 percent of structures in some of the towns and small cities near its epicenter, Chinese officials said. Its tremors were felt as far away as Vietnam and set off another, smaller quake in the outskirts of Beijing, 900 miles away.

Many of the casualties came from a school that collapsed. It's very sad.

May 12, 2008

Post-American World

Thanks to evil_FUX for posting this excellent article. Discuss here or in the forum. It's good to finally hear some good news or positive outlooks coming out of the media. God knows that we need some encouragement after 7 years of Bush and a tanking economy. Zakaria is right. We can all thrive. Billions of people leaving poverty is a good thing.

My favorite part of the article is the pro-American part:
More broadly, this is America's great—and potentially insurmountable—strength. It remains the most open, flexible society in the world, able to absorb other people, cultures, ideas, goods, and services. The country thrives on the hunger and energy of poor immigrants. Faced with the new technologies of foreign companies, or growing markets overseas, it adapts and adjusts. When you compare this dynamism with the closed and hierarchical nations that were once superpowers, you sense that the United States is different and may not fall into the trap of becoming rich, and fat, and lazy.

Though the system has its faults, Zakaria is right on about the openness. One of the hard issues that the U.S. faces less than other countries is the problem that Zakaria mentions--other societies are not as open. I know someone who lives in Thailand, for example, and he has told me stories of people pissing off the government officials or rich people and then just disappearing. When it happens, people don't ask questions. They pretend it never happened. People don't feel free to ask questions.

This lack of openness exists even in other fully industrialized countries. Look at the problems with the Japanese educational system. I have Japanese friends who were surprised to learn about Japan's war crimes only after they traveled to Australia. Because few people question the system in Japan, few people change the system. Moral and political questions will hopefully become more open in the future--as some mentioned in the "few children" post, openness to new ideas and people can save some of these countries (though, in some cases, not right away)--but for right now, it's the American advantage.

For Asian Americans involved with culture--as we are--this should also be an advantage. We can question colonialism and racism. We can question why things are the way they are. We don't have to take the world as it is. The capitalist systems and those who run it may balk at allowing our viewpoints in the mainstream media, but we have the freedom to share them. We can publish these views on the internet, and we can talk about our ideas with our friends and family. This is privilege. In this case, I think we should take advantage of it.

(Disclaimer: When I say that our viewpoints are not in the mainstream media, I only describe the system today. We're right, and if we organize efficiently, I don't think they can keep us out forever.)

May 11, 2008

Portland Asia Fest


Yesterday, AsiaFest took place at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. I had the opportunity to run the booth for the Oregon Commission on Asian Affairs, which is the official government liaison between the Asian American community in Oregon and the governor's office. It was fun. I spoke to the people about our upcoming Frank Chin event, and I was able to see many people in the community whom I haven't seen in a while. They had a number of really cute performances by little kids.

It's really important to get out there and meet people. For me, it humanizes the whole advocacy/activism thing. You can't really know a person's problems or issues until you've conversed with them in person. My demographic--young people with or without families--was not very well represented, but it was a lot of fun working the floor.

I think I also learned a thing or two about promotion. The booths with the brightest and friendliest displays or games got the most action. The only reason people came to my booth was that I was located next to the unmanned Spirit Mountain Casino display, and old ladies kept approaching me to find out when the bus left from Chinatown. Next year I may not be so lucky with my location--they may put me next to Falun Gong (who was also there) or Asian Americans for Hillary (if she's still running after the new president is already in office)--so it's best to be proactive with the promotion.

Hmong Hip Hop


They had an interesting video feature in the New York Times today. It's about Hmong Hip Hop and how a certain artist named Tou Saiko Lee uses it to talk about his heritage. I've never really taken much of an interest in hip-hop and spoken word, but it's pretty cool how Tou is using this to bring his Hmong community together; the after-school sessions where he teaches hip-hop looked pretty wild. Also, check out the part of the video where he raps with his grandmother (4:12). It's a nice sounding fusion.

Along with this video feature, the New York Times also had an article on General Vang Pao, who is mentioned in the video. I haven't been following the Vang Pao story, but it seems that things got messed up once again because of America's involvement in SE Asia.

May 8, 2008

Byron's view: Race over for Hillary

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I'm going to be proactive and call it: I think the race is over for Hillary Clinton. She lost North Carolina by a huge margin, and she won Indiana by only a razor thin margin, enabling Obama to increase his lead in the pledged delegate count. George McGovern called for her to quit yesterday, and Al Sharpton called for the same today. I heard on the radio that superdelegates are refusing to meet with her and Bill, while they are eagerly meeting with Obama. Obama picks up new superdelegates every day. Hillary loaned her own campaign another $6 million for a lump sum loan total of $11 million out of her own pocket. She's seriously strapped for cash.

It's done. Over. Jaehwan is calling it right now--Obama is the Democratic nominee of 2008. There is no way the math works out; she's going down. The negative campaigning was exactly what the country did not want, and we are letting her know through our votes and our declining contributions to her campaign. Obama is starting to act like the new nominee by challenging McCain, and I think it's a good move on his part.

I think Hillary will be a phenomenal Senator, perhaps even rising to majority leader. She has demonstrated an amazing eye for detail as demonstrated by her command of policy, a tremendous ability to debate, and an unmatched ability to fight and elbow her way to the top no matter how dirty it gets. And I say this in a good way--even though the country doesn't want negative campaigning, her political abilities will probably enable her to get things done in the Senate that no one else has been able to do.

On talk radio today, one announcer's theory is that Hillary is just staying in the race in order to keep things exciting and to prove that she's not a quitter. He pointed out that her speech on Tuesday night, following her loss in NC, was uncharacteristically clean, and for the first time, she didn't attack Obama. The radio host's theory is that she has already come to accept that she won't be the nominee. One TV announcer said that having Hillary in the race until the end may actually be good for us, since it will get more people to the polls, even if it's only the nomination process. I sure hope so.

Let's just hope that she spares us the Florida and Michigan arguments. Hillary, it's time to move on. You're an extraordinary person, and you're going to turn the Senate around. We just happen to already have our nominee for President.

Oh, and both candidates are in my home state of Oregon right now. Just because it's over for her, this doesn't absolve us Oregonians, Kentuckians, or West Virginians of our democratic duty--mail/drop off those ballots and vote!

May 7, 2008

Telling the People

Interesting article by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

He writes about politicians being straight with the people. It's tangentially related to my last post. For a long time now, Friedman has been talking about raising the gas tax in order to encourage more investment in green energy technologies, and his theory is that the current energy crisis is a result of our failure to act when we should have. He must be absolutely fuming at Hillary's suggestion of a gas tax "holiday." All of us should be fuming.

One interesting quote I found was here:
We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents’ generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: “You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.”

"Asian values?" I know he meant it as a compliment, but in his parents' generation, Inouye was denied the Medal of Honor because he wasn't white enough. Anyway...I know what he's trying to say.

Appealing to the Common Man

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I saw this interesting article in the Washington Post about how presidential candidates since the days of William Henry Harrison have tried to make themselves seem like the common man. It's especially interesting for me since I'm reading a book on Abraham Lincoln, our original "log cabin" president.

The article says:
Identifying with the common man has been a requisite in presidential elections for almost two centuries. But the stakes are especially high in a race largely defined by an economic crisis, and campaign experts say the candidates have gone especially far in their appeals.

In the past six weeks, Clinton hammered down a shot of Crown Royal whiskey -- not necessarily the first choice of the workingman -- and chased it with a beer. Obama visited a Pennsylvania sports bar and sampled a Yuengling after making sure it wasn't "some designer beer." Clinton told stories about learning to shoot behind the cottage her grandfather built. Obama went bowling.

The article also says:
Presidential candidates have strived relentlessly downward in social class ever since the 1840s, when William Henry Harrison created what historians now call the "common-man myth." While most of his peers campaigned from their estates, Harrison traveled the country and spoke under a banner depicting a log cabin and a bottle of hard cider. He won the presidency by a landslide, and his campaign model became the new standard.

With few exemptions since, American voters have picked presidents who mimic the public's most ordinary habits -- men who regularly mention drinking, or NASCAR, or old-fashioned farm work. Ronald Reagan liked to be photographed chopping wood. George H.W. Bush spoke longingly about pork rinds. Bill Clinton stopped at McDonald's while on the campaign trial, even when it required a side trip. And George W. Bush is a champion brush-clearer.

It's really sad that politicians feel as if they have to "take it down" in order to appeal to voters. Why can't people be themselves? After all, we're electing a person who is supposed to understand the issues on a deeper level beyond common understanding. Our national story is one of triumph over adversity, and in order to triumph over adversity, we have to either have it or create it. Maybe that's why they have to act like they're everyday people. It's strange to see Hillary, a former First Lady, trying to fool people by slamming the economists who are rightly criticizing her wacky gas tax "holiday" plan as nothing more than a cheap gimmick to appeal to the working class. In some cases, the candidates have to "dumb it down" for votes. Kristof wrote about this a couple of months ago. I think it's the American way.

I think this "common-man myth" has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that it allows real common people to see themselves in their leaders. The disadvantage--and I might argue that this outweighs the advantage--is that it creates a sense of phoniness and prevents our leaders from dropping their pretensions in order to really see the problems that people face.

(Image of Homer Simpson from here.)

May 6, 2008

21: Yuchun Lee, Another Part of the Real Story

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Just saw this article on BBC. He too has darker hair than Jim Sturgess.

Also see Xian's post.

Land of the Few Children



The Washington Post today has yet another article about how the population of Japan is declining. They cover this ongoing story well. A few years ago, they had another article about how schools in rural Japan were closing because there weren't enough kids to fill them.

The numbers are frightening:
Japan, now the world's second-largest economy, will lose 70 percent of its workforce by 2050 and economic growth will slow to zero, according to a report this year by the nonprofit Japan Center for Economic Research.

Population shrinkage began three years ago and is gathering pace. Within 50 years, the population, now 127 million, will fall by a third, the government projects. Within a century, two-thirds of the population will be gone.

The Japanese population is actually shrinking. Without a new crop of young people, not only will there not be enough hands to get the work done on a large scale, but there will also be less innovation. There will also be fewer new ideas moving around. The country will also be held back by the need for workers to care for the elderly.

It's also sad for the elderly:
Rural Japan, thus far, has borne the brunt of the slide. In depopulated small towns, stores are closing, governments are desperate for tax revenue and there are chronic shortages of doctors and nurses. The government is subsidizing the development of robots as caregivers for the old.

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I get old, the last thing I'd want is to have a robot taking care of me.

There's also a huge toll on the kids who are going to grow up without many classmates. As a parent, I can't overstate the benefits that children get from socializing with friends. Kids learn cooperation and creativity by playing with others. From the earlier Post article:
With no other children their age, the two girls and boy in the second grade have learned to make do. Tatsuya Wakamatsu, 8, a quiet boy in a black sweatshirt, says he persuades the girls to play baseball with him at recess and after school. In return, he grudgingly agrees to jump rope with them. "There aren't so many kids for us to play with in the neighborhood and sometimes the older kids tease us, so the three of us always play together," he said.

The earlier article also alluded to several reasons why Japan is depopulating, including women no longer wanting "traditional" lives, lack of immigration, and people moving to the big cities where people usually have fewer children. I can't comment on the "traditional" reference--the Washington Post has published some pretty outlandish orientalist portrayals of "traditional" Japan in the past--and I think the "immigration" question is complex for a country like Japan which has a unique cultural approach to foreigners, but I wonder if Japan is doing anything about the economic reasons behind the decline. As a parent who knows many other parents, I can state from experience that many families limit the number of children they have for economic reasons. The U.S. has no universal healthcare, big companies usually are not child friendly, and experts estimate that by the time my son hits 18, private universities will cost around $300k a year. These are factors that even the upper middle class will have trouble dealing with.

It's a sad state of affairs for children these days. The Japanese government needs to take some decisive action in stopping this rapid decline before it's too late.

May 5, 2008

Transmission

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These days, a good number of academics are treating social issues with a biological eye. From Richard Dawkins's identification of ideas as memes to Malcolm Gladwell's categorization of instrumental people into Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople, it seems that the biological analogy is quite popular.

The New York Times this weekend had an article in the Sunday magazine about using the biological approach to stop inner city violence. For Asian American activists, maybe there are lessons to be taken from Slutkin's efforts and how ideas and habits spread.
As CeaseFire evolved, Slutkin says he started to realize how much it was drawing on his experiences fighting TB and AIDS. “Early intervention in TB is actually treatment of the most infectious people,” Slutkin told me recently. “They’re the ones who are infecting others. So treatment of the most infectious spreaders is the most effective strategy known and now accepted in the world.” And, he continued, you want to go after them with individuals who themselves were once either infectious spreaders or at high risk for the illness. In the case of violence, you use those who were once hard-core, once the most belligerent, once the most uncontrollable, once the angriest. They are the most convincing messengers. It’s why, for instance, Slutkin and his colleagues asked sex workers in Uganda and other nations to spread the word to other sex workers about safer sexual behavior. Then, Slutkin said, you train them, as you would paraprofessionals, as he and Gove did when they trained birth attendants to spot cholera in Somalia.

May 4, 2008

Ignoring the experts for cheap political points

From CNN.

“I’m not going to put my lot in with economists,” Clinton told George Stephanopolous on ABC’s ‘This Week’ after he asked her to name a single economist supporting her plan.

May 3, 2008

Would be Hitler Assassin Dies

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I thought some of you might find this story interesting. Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, who is believed to be the last remaining member of an inner circle of Nazis who tried to assassinate Hitler, has died. For those who remember their history books, he was part of the crew that tried to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb attempt which failed only because someone moved the briefcase near the opposite leg of the huge table where they were all meeting. Tom Cruise is currently working on a movie in which he plays von Boeselager.

It's a fascinating story, and for those who have the time, I urge you to read about it. One thing that I found interesting in this article was this:
Von Boeselager told FAZ that in the years immediately after the war, he spoke with his wife, Rosa, about his role in the resistance but said little else.

"There was nobody one could talk with about it," he said. "They were all dead, and with others it would just have been bragging."

There was also the fact that immediately after World War II, the July 20 plotters were widely viewed as traitors, a label the Nazis gave them that stuck for years.

"For a long time, it was not believable to normal Germans that the government was criminal," he recalled. "And as soon as one thought they had pushed that out of the way, then people just didn't want to know."

May 2, 2008

Japanese Rice



I saw this interesting article in the Washington Post on Japanese rice. A few years back, I remember reading Francis Fukuyama, who argued that Japanese capitalism was different from American capitalism because nationalism played a much larger role in certain parts of the country's spending habits. According to Fukuyama, the Japanese didn't mind spending twice the price for Japanese rice because it was part of the national character. The Washington Post agrees:
As in much of Asia, rice is much more than a food to the Japanese and it is not really intended for export. It is a traditional symbol of plenty and a cultural touchstone.

It's an interesting phenomenon: Japanese rice is sitting unsold in warehouses while people around the world are starving and rioting, and yet the Japanese farmers are also in financial straights. The price of Japanese rice, along with the cost of production, is so high that even if they slashed prices drastically, it's unlikely that they would be able to sell their rice to the rest of the world that needs it.

Americans have the opposite problem in terms of culture. We love the idea of American products, but most American people won't take a more expensive American brand over a foreign brand unless there is a noticeable difference in quality. It's only been in the last couple of years that "buy local" and "buy [more expensive] organic" has caught on in the U.S. Most of the time we just go for whatever is cheapest, which explains why we remain a net-import country, and which may also explain why America has fallen behind in the whole movement to stem global warming and reduce carbon emissions.

Both systems have problems. On the one hand, you have the American system that McDonalidizes the entire cultural landscape and (some argue) sustains poverty in the developing world. On the other, you have a farming system that protects small farmers but keeps them small and inefficient and prevents them from growing affordable food for a world that could use it.

Comments?

Largest animal eye


''This is the largest eye ever recorded in history and studied,'' said Swedish
Professor Eric Warrant of the University of Lund, who specializes in vision in
invertebrates. ''It has a huge lens the size of an orange and captures an awful
lot of light in the dark depths in which it hunts.''


That's a pretty big eye.