July 21, 2008

Rountable with the Asian Playboy

After this blog post, I am officially taking a break from activism, blogging, and all things related for the next week and a half. I have been working overtime for the past month with three events, and everyone has to recharge from time to time. My time is now.

So the last Fallout Central Podcast took place on Sunday. You can download it here. It was a roundtable discussion with me, the Asian Playboy, and the four Fallout Central hosts, three of whom had taken the Pick Up (aka "How to Get Girlz") course (it sounded like Kwak said that Albert had taken it), and one of whom has a wife who supposedly greatly respects the Asian Playboy. For those who are new to this site, the Asian Playboy is kind of like an Asian "Hitch;" he teaches Asian men to pick up women. He gets mixed reviews when he comes to this site; guys like Rebel respect him, while guys like Xian knock him around, and gals like Box beat him up, slap him, and kick the shit out of him. But it's all good. Most of his detractors, from what I've seen, are not against what he does, but most of us don't see what he does as a form of empowerment. As I mention in the podcast, it's low brow.

William, the moderator and former producer of Fallout Central (which is now under new management), is now a certified "pick up" coach under Playboy and is running a new site called betterasianman.com which promotes the same stuff, but he was a fair moderator, and he let me say everything I wanted to say. Kwak and Albert, who had also taken the course, were also fair. You can listen to the podcast and hear just about all my thoughts on the subject.

The only thing I might elaborate upon is the "certain segment" of the population that I kept referring to. APB and I both agreed that his services are only geared towards a certain segment of the population--guys that have real problems with women. APB himself talked about a 40 year old unattractive Filipino guy who studied with him and was able to attract women for what seemed to be the very first time in his life. I can't imagine going through that metamorphosis at the age of 40; this guy has real problems. If you look at APB's site, you can see guys who are so proud of their ability to actually get sex that they post pictures and stories of the women they score with, with or without their consent. (Read some of "Johnny Wolf's" posts--I quote some of his disturbing writings in the podcast.). For some of these guys, APB has shown them the promised land of actually getting women, and he is a hero to them. Read his blog, and you'll see guys who define their entire self-worth by how many people they sleep with. (and yes, it's a numbers thing rather than a quality thing--the guys don't seem selective at all, although given their situation, maybe they shouldn't be.)

The only point I would have made is that philosophically it is unlikely that the certain segment of the population to whom APB caters will be able to create lasting change in society. I don't want to be judgmental, but if a person has trouble talking to women at the age of 40, it's unlikely that he will be able to create anything new. He has lived his entire life defensively, and it will take a small miracle to become the kind of person who can lead other people to greatness. From a social standpoint, this is why a focus on intellectual and artistic endeavors yields greater results than anything pick-up related.

In any case, I don't disagree with what APB does. Certain people obviously pay for the service, and if it makes them happy, so be it--he's providing something that they want, and for the most part, even though it's extremely tacky, it's probably clean. Just don't call it activism.

MD to Blogger


This article was one of today's most e-mailed on the NY Times website. It's about a doctor named Arnold Kim who quit medicine in order to work full time blogging about gossip and rumors about Apple, the computer company. The title of the article is My Son, the Blogger: An M.D. Trades Medicine for Apple Rumors. I thought this was a bit of a strange title, considering the article only mentions the Kim's father once. It seemed to imply some sort of hackneyed filial duties that Asian men have towards their parents, and it reminded me a bit of those old corny lines from the Karate Kid--"Miyagi, you have dis-honored me!" (Of course Sato wasn't Miyagi's dad, but the quote reverbed in my head.)

In any case, it was an interesting article about a hobby becoming a very lucrative career, and I especially found interesting the now often repeated fact that the internet allows people to easily find others who share their interests. There are enough people who love Mac products so much that they read a blog about Mac rumors. The internet is an awesome thing.

The article says,
Dr. Kim is not a millionaire blogger yet, and given the slumping online advertising market, he faces some hurdles as he expands the site. But he has reason to be optimistic.

Stepping away from medicine felt somewhat strange, he admits. Dr. Kim was bringing home a six-figure income as a doctor, but he recognized that blogging was becoming more lucrative. He says the site also yields a six-figure income for him.

Six figures as a blogger on Mac products. I must be writing about the wrong subject matter. I don't even make six figures as a blogger if you count the two numbers that come after the decimal point. (Skrips bought me dinner when I visited him in Seattle, so I can probably claim to have at least surpassed the decimal point, though that was friendship rather than pay...)

July 20, 2008

Mr. Inada

img_0498.jpgFor those who have been following Thymos's local Portland annual activist event, we concluded on Friday with an excellent event hosted by Oregon Poet Laureate Lawson Inada. Mr. Inada was one of the editors of Aiiieeeee! during the 1970's, and he was appointed a couple of years ago by Governor Ted Kulongoski as Oregon's Poet Laureate. He has a deep history in the Oregon Japanese American community and is a both a poet and an activist.

Our event was advertised as a "coffee time chat" about activism. Mr. Inada began by asking us to write down all the places we lived. He told us we could draw it as a map, or we could just list the places sequentially. He then went around the room and asked us to tell our story.

It was absolutely amazing. People I had known for a long time had life stories that I would never have imagined. As Mr. Inada later explained, the purpose of the exercise was to show everyone where each person "was coming from" and how each person's life eventually brought them to the Red and Black Cafe where the event was held. I was particularly struck by the stories of the older JACL members. Their families had all endured some form of hardship and displacement due to the internment. It was a common bond that tied them all together, and each member was able to a certain extent to share some story about coming from internment. (Though interestingly enough, no one spoke about it directly.)
Mr. Inada spent most of the rest of the chat talking about organizations, about recognizing common events and milestones, and about inter-organizational sharing. He knew all about our organizations, and he knew the key players who made things happen. He encouraged us to work together and to remember history.

One lesson I took from Lawson's chat was the idea of commonality. We all come from different perspectives, and yet somehow we can find common bonds where we overlap. Within the crowd, we had diverse people such as a Vietnamese refugee, a Cuban refugee, an immigrant from Afghanistan, and a Korean adoptee. Yet everyone was at the Red and Black to discuss activism and ways in which we could create a better society for all. Everyone was there to learn how we were similar, despite the fact that we came from all over the globe.

A big part of activism, I think, is learning to work with people who think differently. This particular event showcased a lot of that. Frank Chin has criticized the JACL, and yet they supported us financially to bring him up here. During the Frank Chin movie, one of the filmed interviewees criticized the JACL by saying the organization lacked courage, and an audience member yelled out, "Bullshit!" But it's all good, and we the feedback. Hardly anyone left during the movie, and everyone stayed around to ask questions and to engage one another on issues. We actually had a larger crowd for the Curtis Choy discussion than we had for the Vincent Chin panel last year. People will never always agree on everything--Dinesh D'Souza and Tim Wise both have strong viewpoints based on the same, mostly agreed-upon facts--but we all learn to coexist. D'Souza thinks affirmative action is racist, while Wise thinks the absence of affirmative action protects racism. They'll never agree on perspective, but they don't have to, as long as everyone is honest and forthcoming. (I've found that many disagreements take place because people just refuse to say what they really think.) People can still debate issues without getting personal, and they can still live in the same space.

The Frank Chin event, overall, was a great experience, one of the best of my life. It was worth every second and every effort we put into it. When we bring pioneers and give them the space and opportunity to teach us, we learn more than we could ever learn on our own. I highly recommend all Thymos and all the 44s to seek out our teachers and to listen.

July 18, 2008

Rice Chaser with a Badge

oakland.jpgAccording to SF Gate:
The city of Oakland is expected to pay $2 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by 16 Asian American women who said they were pulled over for no reason by a police officer who then groped or sexually harassed them.

I saw this news from 8A John, although I'm quoting a different article.

I remember reading about this Richard Valerga guy a while back, but apparently the issue was resolved only recently. A rice chaser with a badge. Not only is this action an abuse of power, not only does this kind of behavior erode public trust in the system, but it lacks all traces of creativity on the part of the rice chaser himself. I mean, come on. What ever happened to the old days when rice chasers would take Japanese classes and pretend to be interested in the culture? What ever happened to the days when rice chasers shed tears to show their sensitive sides while watching the Joy Luck Club? What ever happened to the days when rice chasers with ponytails would take Taekwondo classes and try to "help" women with their stretching? There are so many chasers in the world, and the fact they have to resort to this kind of uncreative behavior is a crime on top of a crime.

I think the public solution, long term of course, is to open the commentary. Fight the stereotypes by saying, "We know what a rice chaser is, we know what rice chasers do, and you may think you're pulling one over on us, but you're not." Then invite all your friends and get them involved.

On a more theoretical level, while I was googling this article, I came upon this wiki entry called Sex Crimes against Asian women in the United States. This wiki article documents quite a few chaser crimes, including the particularly unique Michael Lohman, the guy with the bottles. In the second subsection of the "Asian fetish theory" section, the article says,
Sex crimes targeting Asian American women are often attributed by some Asian American advocacy groups to the existence of an Asian fetish in the perpetrators of the crimes. Yin Ling Leung, organizational director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, claims that sex crimes targeting Asian American women are a form of hate crime and a distorted form of racist love:[2]

That "racist love" link leads to another wiki entry, which says,
The term was coined by Frank Chin and Jeffery Paul Chan in a 1972 article entitled "Racist Love." Chin and Chan differentiate between the terms racist hate and racist love. They distinguish between unacceptable stereotypes, such as Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril, which represent minorities who cannot be controlled by whites; and acceptable stereotypes, such as Charlie Chan and his Number One Son, which represent minorities who can be controlled by whites. Hence, acceptable stereotypes form the basis of racist love. When the perpetuation of such acceptable stereotypes reached a point as to be embodied and perpetuated by the race of people it represents, this race, as a social, creative, and cultural force, would have been successfully neutralized by white supremacy. Chin and Chan write:

White racism enforces white supremacy. White supremacy is a system of order and a way of perceiving reality. Its purpose is to keep whites on top and set them free. Colored minorities in white reality are stereotypes. Each racial stereotype comes in two models, the acceptable and the unacceptable. The hostile black stud has his acceptable counterpart in the form of Stepin Fetchit. For the savage, kill-crazy Geronimo, there is Tonto and the Hollywood version of Cochise. For the mad dog General Santa Ana there's the Cisco Kid and Pancho. For Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril, there is Charlie Chan and his Number One Son. The unacceptable model is unacceptable because he cannot be controlled by whites. The acceptable model is acceptable because he is tractable. There is racist hate and racist love.[1]

Frank Chin's influence is everywhere, and he is 100% correct about racist love. People who have racist love towards Asians and Asian Americans praise our so-called docility because it keeps us in our place. The stereotypes serve to neutralize our anger, our sense of frustration, and our efforts to organize and take action against trends that affect us.

It's interesting that Chin and Chan published this essay in 1972, more than 35 years ago. Why hasn't this thinking become a part of Asian American culture? It's relevant to everything we do and influences much of our self-conception, but it has not entered our culture in the same way "by all means necessary" or "I have a dream" has. Why hasn't this thinking--which is so obviously right--become more mainstream?

Wiki has the answer again, further down in the same article:
Authors Sau-ling Wong and Jeffrey J. Santa Ana criticize Chin for being misogynistic, homophobic, and for glorifying stereotypes of aggression:

Frank Chin, perhaps the best known of the androcentric cultural nationalist writers, relies on misogyny and homophobia in his attempt to delineate and construct a (hetero)normative Asian American manhood. In his critique of racist Hollywood caricatures of Asian men, for example, Chin glorifies stereotypes of aggression in black, Latino, and Native American men.[2]

Haha...never underestimate a Kingstonian. Or in this case, a pair of Kingstonians. "What? You're against racism? You see things in other cultures that you admire? You're a racist...and a homophobe!!!" I don't know if I've read this particular article by Wong and Santa Ana, but it's so asinine how people throw accusations of sexism and homophobia when they can't win an argument. I've been reading these Asian American papers for a long time, and I don't recall ever seeing any kind of actual documentation of racism or homophobia that these anti-Chin forces bring up, from anyone. All we ever see is the same old Kingstonian swiftboating and name-calling.

In any case, returning back to my original point, I think we need to open dialogue on this issue. We get enough practice on message boards, but we need to also start talking to our friends and family about it too. Build your vocabulary and do your research. The information is out there.

July 14, 2008

Mr. Chin and Mr. Choy


Frank Chin at the Hall Street Grill

Mr. Chin came to Portland, and he has left Portland. Mr. Choy has done the same. Portland will never be the same. Thymos will never be the same. An entire world of possibilities has opened for our organization and our city, and our knowledge of strategies for Asian American change virtually quadrupled overnight. All this, and the event isn't even over yet--Lawson Inada speaks next Friday at the Red and Black Cafe. Go here for more info.

A brief recap:

Mr. Choy

curtispresenting.jpgThe screening of "What's Wrong with Frank Chin?" attracted about forty people, which was smaller than our Vincent Chin event last year, but which was about the same size as the WWWFC screening in Seattle three years ago when the film first came out. We expected smaller numbers than Vincent Chin since we were talking about literature rather than hate crimes, but that we could equal Seattle was remarkable considering:

a) We have so few Asian people here, significantly less than Seattle in both numbers and percentages.
b) Frank Chin wasn't scheduled to be at the screening.
c) Three years have passed, and the film is no longer a new release.
d) We're located in a city where the JACL, an organization that Frank criticizes in the film, is by far the most powerful Asian American civil rights group in town. (Our local Portland JACL was actually a sponsor of this event and is probably the only JACL chapter ever to sponsor an event around Frank Chin. Mad props to them for valuing truth and people above politics.)

In addition, it was remarkable that we were able to get people to turn out for a movie about a man who is so different from the mainstream. Last year when we publicized Vincent Chin, we were in all the papers, all the Asian American websites (helped in large part by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress), and on all the airwaves. Everyone wanted to help us. We were riding a wave of popularity that we didn't deserve. This year, our event was listed in only one newspaper--the Asian Reporter--and only the Fighting 44s and Fallout Central publicized it. All the other major outlets either refused or didn't respond, and we fought for every bit of coverage we could get.

(Though I must admit that my time as a 44 prepared me well for this. I still don't know who else lists the 44s on their blogroll...)

The film was amazing as always, and for those who haven't yet seen it, check it out. You can order it from Curtis's website.

As for the event itself, the organizers had had much discussion about Frank Chin not being at the screening of his own film--Frank himself had said that he preferred not to be there--but in the end, Frank's keen foresight once again proved to be correct. Having a discussion with Curtis Choy alone allowed people to ask Curtis questions about his film, about life as an independent filmmaker, and about his relationship with Frank Chin. People asked very interesting questions about what went into the film and what didn't make the final cut. I won't go into his answers (you had to be there, and it's top secret), but it provided a very different perspective from the Seattle event, which was focused more on activism than the film itself. I actually liked our event a lot more, even though I must admit that it was fun watching Frank verbally pound the shit out of a Seattle heckler three years ago.

Mr. Chin

Frank Chin surpassed everyone's highest expectations in terms of his activism and knowledge. The guy knows everything. For those on the 44s who know me and who know my style of debating, you know that I'm proud of my knowledge of history, literature, and activism. My style of argumentation always refers back to facts and logic above emotion. I'm proud of that. This weekend, however, I got taken to school. Frank Chin posed questions about culture that I had never even thought of, let alone try to answer. Not only did I not know the answers to his questions, I hadn't even come up with the questions themselves! I know I wasn't the only one who felt this either. It's been two days since our guests left, and people are still talking about it.

In my last long 44s piece, I've mentioned the aura that surrounds some of these warrior activists from the 60's, but Frank's charisma was amazing. I have never ever seen an Asian American have the effect on people that Frank had. In addition to his scheduled program, we had a number of other engagements where he spoke with Portlanders. After just two minutes of talking to him, everyone in his presence began thinking about culture all the way back to the roots of their childhood. He knew all our childhood stories. He astounded everyone with his knowledge of the traditions and of history (you can see some of his work on his blog). It didn't matter if the people in his presence were male or female, Asian or non-Asian; everyone was spellbound. We all had to acknowledge the sifu/sensei in our presence.

I can't tell you everything he said--mostly because I'm still absorbing it myself--but the gist of his message was that we don't know the traditional stories from Asia. We know English stories like Jack and the Beanstalk. We know German stories like Rumpelstiltskin. We know Danish stories like the Ugly Duckling. But we don't know Chinese stories or Japanese stories or any other Asian stories, and therefore we don't know who we are or where we came from. American culture accepts stories from all over Europe and makes them a part of American culture, but the same acceptance does not take place for Asian stories. Instead of real stories, we get nothing but racist stories like the Five Chinese Brothers that have no basis in tradition or real culture.

I'll post more on this in the future--about where to find these stories, what they mean, etc. Right now, as I may have mentioned, I'm still absorbing it, and I'm trying to both learn what he showed us and to incorporate it with the (seemingly scant) knowledge that I already have. You'll be hearing more from me.


PS: This is just an aside that has little to do with the topic at hand, but you've all seen our internet message board debates where someone says, "Well, why don't you get off your butt and do something?" Or they'll say, "What have you done for Asian Americans?" Imagine being Frank Chin or Lawson Inada. You could respond to that rhetorical question by saying, "I created the Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans" or "I, with three of my friends, invented Asian American literature!" That's an accomplishment.

July 4, 2008

Japan Promoting Energy Frugal Ways

Green, of course, is in, and with the high energy and food prices, Americans and others around the globe are looking to find new ways to reduce greenhouse emissions and to conserve energy. Apparently Japan has been a leader in conservation ever since the oil shocks of the 1970's, and they are now set to become a leader in teaching the world to conserve.
Japan is by many measures the world’s most energy-frugal developed nation. After the energy crises of the 1970s, the country forced itself to conserve with government-mandated energy-efficiency targets and steep taxes on petroleum. Energy experts also credit a national consensus on the need to consume less.

It is also the only industrial country that sustained government investment in energy research even when energy became cheap again.

The last paragraph is ironic for those who have followed Thomas Friedman's columns. Friedman has been advocating a gasoline tax for years in order to finance investment in green technologies and to encourage Americans to conserve. But of course the Bush administration didn't have the foresight to heed his advice (though Bush said many times that we were "addicted to oil"), and now we're stuck with high prices without the benefit of the research tax.

I hope that Japan is successful in sharing their conservation culture with the world. One thing I noticed when living in Japan was that the Japanese do tend to have a more holistic view of society. When you thank someone for going out of their way, for example, Japanese people usually don't say "no problem" or "don't mention it," they usually say, "just do something good for someone else sometime." There's more respect for society and a greater appreciation for the symbiotic relationship between parts of society. Perhaps this mindset allowed the conservation meme to spread quickly in Japanese society.

In any case, America will have to adjust its culture to the new reality of global warming. Hopefully we can learn a thing or two from Japan, an island country which has managed to do very well without natural resources. From the experiences of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, it looks like the high energy prices are forcing us to reconsider the way we produce, and hopefully we'll take it to the next level by altering our culture to work in a way that is more beneficial to the planet and others who live on it.

July 3, 2008

Generations in Academia

There was a brilliant article in the Times today about how Baby Boomers are retiring from academia and causing a cultural shift. The article talks about the life experiences of the different generations and how their values are different based on those experiences. The comparison of Mr. Olneck and his socialist upbringing with Ms. Goldrick-Rab in the Reagan years put the two generations in perspective.

The younger teacher, Ms. Sara Goldrick-Rab, observes:
“Senior people evaluate us for tenure and the standards they use and what we think is important are different,” she said. They want to question values and norms; “we are more driven by data.”

She's 31, and I'm 32, and I can attest to the fact that that is definitely the way a lot of my generation thinks. In educational issues, I want to see the facts and the facts, and when I'm done, I want to see more facts. I like the ideological stuff as well, but everything has to be supported by (or at least not contradicted by) facts.

There was another interesting quote at the end by a moderate married to a conservative:
The notion that campuses are naturally radical or the birthplace of social movements, Ms. Kelly-Woessner said, was specific to the 1960s and ’70s. “I think the younger generation does look at it differently.”

I think she may be right, but in the whole life cycle of the typical person, a person's college years is the best time to actually do something. It's during those years that a person is most free from direct corporate involvement and social obligations (family, suburban life, etc.). Most college students don't have the life experience to create a philosophies solid enough to lead movements, but they have advantages in power and freedom. And so while the idea of social movements starting on campus may still have roots in the 60's and 70's, I wouldn't write off college activism just yet.

July 1, 2008

Fallout Central heading towards the final stretch

Fallout Central came out with another podcast episode this past weekend, and I was the featured interviewee. I used my time to promote our Thymos Frank Chin Event. As always, I wasn't as smooth as Albert and William, but I had fun. I hope my podcast episode encourages people to learn about Frank Chin and to get involved with Asian American activism. Almost all problems we discuss, along with the beginning solutions, is already out there. Most of us just don't know about it. Check out my interview--39 minutes of me talking about activism! (That's an exaggeration of course!)

Just a few things:

1. During the interview, I erroneously credited another friend for coming up with the literature event. It was actually my other friend Bao who came up with the idea. He also ran our fundraiser. Apologies to Bao.

2. Unless someone else takes over, next week's episode will be Fallout Central's last. Listen to the podcast to find out why. I was almost tearing up while listening to William describe how the podcast is coming to an end for him. I seriously believe they injected serious life into the AA internet world, perhaps more than any other group in recent years. With those awesome workshops and interviews, I can say that they personally changed my own views about how activism can be done. This will be a tremendous loss for the entire online AA community--their courage and energy has been nothing short of amazing. But those guys will be back in some form or another. Activism and fighting for what's right is an addiction, and it never goes away.

The site will still be there, and if anyone is interested in taking over, it sounds like it's up for grabs. But if you do contact them, please make sure you're good at speaking and interviewing. Judge yourselves well. I don't want to see any politically correct, wholesome, exciting-as-sawdust types taking over and ruining their rep.

3. After this event is over, I may post a few theories and experiences on the whole financial aspects of fundraising and activism. Activism needs to become more aware of the role of businesses and business leaders, and we seriously need to start supporting business leaders who are courageous enough to join the underdogs in our fight for truth. And if you're an Asian American who stands for truth and doesn't peddle orientalism, you ARE an underdog. In the meantime, if anyone else has any experiences with activism and finances, please post here.