August 31, 2008

Activism Podcast / Upcoming Teleconference


Y'all probably heard (or at least saw) our Olympics podcast that we recorded in Portland. It was a fun podcast because we had the opportunity to take a big event like the Olympics and bring an Asian American perspective to it. It was a great opportunity to take a large athletic celebration with which everyone was familiar and to tie it in with our ideas on race, culture, and society. I particularly liked the podcast because it was humanizing; it took something concrete and straight-forward like the Olympics, and it used the event as a springboard for deeper discussions.

The purpose of our Portland meeting, as many of you know, was activism, and so most of our time was spent conducting workshops and setting a future course for collaboration and group efforts towards Asian American empowerment. In addition to the Olympics podcasts (among others...wait and see!), we also recorded an activist summary at the end of our event. This was our last recording. It was a great podcast because not only had we learned by that time to maximize the power of my brand new MacBook Pro (the built-in mic works better than the $20 mic I use for Skype--go Stevie Jobs!), but by that time, we also had had the opportunity to refine and expand our thinking during our awesome workshops. It was great because we had a number of Portland's best Asian American activists in the room for those workshops, along with the excellent teaching and organizing experiences that nskripchun and Xian brought and the raw intellectual power of THX1138.

For the podcast itself, it was me, Xian, Skrips, and THX1138, along with a bit from Mrs. Skrips and Bao. The podcast is 27 minutes and 20 seconds long. In the podcast, we talk about our experiences with activism: Xian's experience with his school kids, Skrips's work with the Wing Luke Museum, and my work with Thymos. We leave some last thoughts on activism, and then we talk about going forward into the future.

You can listen to the podcast here:
or download it here.

I wanted to post this because as the conversation mentions around 11 minutes, the internet is a great tool for sharing, meeting, and collaborating, but when it comes time to actually fighting for change or relating to one another, there's no substitute for real time communication. A lot of times when we debate or fight over the internet, we get caught up over language, intentionally or not. It's fun, of course, but as Xian says, it can become a waste of time, especially when we all want change.

So in order to take the next step, I'm proposing that we do a teleconference. It doesn't have to be recorded. Let's just take the next step and put people in voice contact with one another. At the very least, it's a risk-free way of seeing if there might be another angle to approach the problems that we all face. If Jenn Fang can go on a podcast with a group of PUAs and find some sort of commonality, I don't see why the men and women of the 44s can't do the same. We need change, and the worst problem would be for us to be sitting here discussing the same exact issues in the same exact way five years from now. If you're willing to try voice contact as a means of seeing "where we come from" in the words of Lawson Inada, let me know and we'll try to set it up. (We might try "Intermediate member" and above to begin with, but we'll make obvious exceptions for previous or currently active people on the blog, such as THX, SoulSnax, minorTruths, MelaninManson, Jen, etc.) I've got my teleconference number set up, so let me know if you're interested.

Also, let me know what you think of the podcast. I think it's personally my favorite podcast to date.

(Picture from here.)

August 29, 2008

We Make History Either Way

Mr. McCain chose Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, as his VP today. In doing so, he decided to not only go outside the beltway but to go outside the traditional pool of white men. So either way, history will be made--we'll either have the first African American president, or we'll have the first female vice president.

Depending on your outlook, this move was either bold or crazy:
In a surprise move, Senator John McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate on Friday, shaking up the political world at a time when his campaign has been trying to attract women, especially disaffected supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, McCain officials confirmed.
I doubt many Hillary supporters will jump over to the other side since Palin and Hillary are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but McCain's choice will shake things up in the party which some describe as a party for old white men. He's definitely on the political war path. Either that, or he's desperately seeking some edge against the rising tide of Obama.

By the way, make no mistake about what Palin stands for:
She opposes abortion rights, which could help pacify social conservatives in a party whose members were wary as rumors swirled that Mr. McCain might pick a running mate who supports those rights. But she differs with Mr. McCain on a controversial environmental issue that centers on her home state: she supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Mr. McCain’s opposition to drilling — even after he changed positions and began advocating for off-shore oil drilling — has upset many Republicans.
She's against a woman's right to choose, and she's not exactly in line with the rest of the country when it comes to solving our environmental crisis. She's also also a lifelong member of the NRA, and from what I've read so far, she's a conservative fundamentalist Christian. I'm curious as to how the pundits and public will react to McCain's choice. As I said above, it's either bold or crazy. We live in interesting times.

August 28, 2008

Female PUA

With all the discussion of Asian Male Pickup Artists, I thought it was funny that posted an article about female flirting. It's a three step guide for women to make themselves more attractive. What really caught my eye though...was the picture. I won't repost it here, but it's funny to think that someone sifted through stock photos and somehow, for some reason, came up with a photo of an Asian woman flirting with a bunch of non-Asian guys. Coincidence or not? Maybe we need a critical mass of BetterAsianmen!

So Flirtation 101:
Step 1: Identify a specific person with whom you really, truly want to have sex
Step 2: Lust for the other person's subjective experience
Step 3: Get a life

Numbers 2 and 3 are probably the same whether we're discussing men or women, but I'd submit that number 1 probably won't work for most men to whom sites like cater. The problem with many desperate men--and most PUAs will admit to desperation--is that they become too fixated on specific women and can't let go. It can be dangerous for men and women, but it's particularly destructive when men have this level of desperation. Desperate men need to learn to ease up, to become more comfortable with women, not to become more specific. Too many desperate men are already too specific.

I'm guessing that the writer would probably admit the assymetry in gender behaviors and expectations as well. Men and women are different--equal but different. It just is.

August 26, 2008

Vitamin D deficiency in minority children

I saw this sad story in the Times today about breastfeeding and minority children. It talks about Vitamin D deficiency in breastfed children. For those who haven't been through it, if you are breastfeeding, it's important to supplement your infant's diet with Vitamin D, which can be purchased over the counter in liquid form. Babies who don't get enough Vitamin D can have problems with rickets. The article says:

The patients are more likely to be African-American and dark-skinned, and more likely to have been exclusively breast-fed for an extended period of time, without vitamin supplementation. Rates are often higher when there is less sunlight.

In a study conducted by Dr. Gordon of vitamin D levels in 365 mostly African-American and Latino infants and toddlers, 40 percent had low levels and 12 percent were deficient. Although there is a debate about what levels are considered deficient, one toddler in the study was found to have rickets, 13 children showed evidence of bone loss and 3 had bone changes consistent with rickets.
It's sad because this is a problem that can be resolved through greater education in minority neighborhoods. Most people would never know about the need to supplement--I certainly wouldn't have known if our pediatrician had forgotten to tell us--and it's so easily preventable. We need to think about ways to share knowledge and to disseminate it to those in need, especially for those communities which historically haven't had access to such information.

August 25, 2008

Woman beats fiance

I feel like blogging about something short and funny. From the Washington Post:

Woman accused of beating fiance at prenup party

The Associated Press
Friday, August 15, 2008; 4:12 PM

POULSBO, Wash. -- A Poulsbo
woman was jailed after being accused of beating up her fiance at their
prenuptial party. Kitsap County sheriff's deputies said the woman's 12-year-old
son told her he saw her fiance kissing one of her women friends early Thursday

Deputies said the woman, 31, gave her friends the boot, told
her fiance to leave, too, and then started hitting him in the face.

he left the house, they say, she tackled him football-style, punched him some
more, threw his watch into the bushes and broke his glasses.

to a 911 call from her son, deputies arrested the woman for investigation of
fourth-degree assault.

Sheriff's Lt. Kathy Collings said the woman was
released from jail later Thursday.

There's no word on whether the
marriage took place.

© 2008 The Associated Press

That last sentence answers what would've been my next question.

August 23, 2008

WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) gives Cuban lifetime ban

I saw this blog which covered the story of Angel Matos, a taekwondo Olympian, who kicked a ref in anger after he was disqualified for taking too long to recover during an injury timeout. The WTF barred him for life. His coach Leudis Gonzales made no apologies for the kick and even claimed that the match was fixed. He too was barred for life. I mean, WTF?

I don't remember the previous Olympics well enough, but it seems to me that this Olympics has seen some pretty atrocious behavior. We first had the Swedish wrestler who protested what he thought was a bad decision by taking off his medal during the awards ceremony. Now we have Angel Matos, who didn't just peacefully protest but instead became violent. In the case of Matos, I think they should stick him in prison. Attacking a ref is not only poor sportsmanship; it's assault. He could have killed someone with that kick. I think they should not only punish Matos and his coach, but they should also punish the team as well by penalizing them in the next Olympics. Maybe this would encourage some better behavior from these sore losers.

(Not to make light of the situation, but I'm wondering how the photographer was possibly quick enough to catch the picture above when Matos had his leg fully extended like that. Photo skills like that are truly Olympian...)

August 22, 2008

China Projected to be Tops in Gold

According to the NY Times, China is expected to top the gold medal count by the time the Olympics close on Sunday. According to the article,
The Chinese have reasserted their dominance in traditional strengths, sweeping
the first seven diving events, winning eight of the nine gold medals available
to them in weight
and winning three of the four badminton
titles. Above all, they collected a record-tying nine gold medals in gymnastics:
seven from their men’s team and two from their women’s team, a total that could
be revised downward if it is proved that the women’s team included underage
They've also broken into new sports:
...they have broken ground by winning Olympic gold medals for the first time in archery, rowing, sailing
and trampoline, a subset of gymnastics. China also won its first Olympic medals
in beach volleyball and field
, with its women’s team taking the silver after losing to the
Netherlands in Friday night’s hockey final. “There are always surprises, but I
think people have stepped up, and they have tracked better than we thought,”
Roush said.
This, of course, is a breakthrough for China in terms of nationalism, but it's a breakthrough as well for Asian Americans in terms of racial issues. The stereotypes of Chinese, and more specifically Asians, is one of athletic incompetence, and this performance helps contradict stereotypes. It would be nice to see some great performances in speed and explosive sports, such as sprinting and basketball, but this is definitely a start. And even though Liu Xiang has been sidelined, his status and respect as one of the world's best hurdlers is unassailable.
Globalism will eventually be a great thing. I've noticed some animosity between mainland Chinese and their American born cousins, but with advances in achievement and culture, I strongly believe that we can bridge that ocean. The most important thing, as reflected in the name of my group Thymos, is recognition. We need to make noise and be heard, whether it's with our voices, our athletic performance, or any other kind of loud and audacious achievement.

August 21, 2008

Asian Male-ism II: 44s Venus and 44s Mars

If PUA is just a set of social skills to make yourself better able to relate to others, they would teach you to relate to women as people, not targets.


...our end goal should be to capture the mainstream coverage and to change the zeitgeist.


No one on the 44s, as far as I know, embraces all PUA, but PUA has pushed our discussions in a good direction. It's helping us to see issues that cover not only the PUA/IR related issues, but other issues that are tangentially related to gender as well. It's a good thing that these PUAs have influenced our conversations because we're seeing things that we didn't see before. This blog entry will be about differences in the views of men and women that have become apparent in the course of our PUA conversations, as well as in other past conversations. Through understanding these differences, how they occur, and why they occur, I hope we can understand each other better.

I quoted Tokyolovestory and myself above. Tokyo's quote is from a response on part 1 of Asian Male-ism, while my words come from my Kingston piece. Notice the words we use. Tokyo asks us to "relate," while I use the word "capture." She uses a term in which people feel and understand other people. She decries the use of the concept of women as "targets." Meanwhile, I use the term "capture" which one would be more likely to use with war. In war, one "captures" a "target." I also use the word "change" and "zeitgeist" together, a concept that goes beyond human individuals and aims for large scale movement. In other words, Tokyo uses words and thoughts which one might characterize as typically feminine, while I use words and thoughts which one might characterize as typically masculine.

Such is the difference I see with our recent dialogue on the issue of PUA and sexism. Most men think like men, and most women think like women. Men expect that women think like men, and women expect that men think like women, which is why we sometimes why our words are fall on deaf ears with the opposite gender. Our education is so based on "gender free" politics and the eradication of gender differences that we often don't see how our behaviors usually conform with gender. We assume that men can easily act like women and that women can easily act like men. We don't see the world the same way as those from the other gender. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. This is why time and time again on the 44s, we see fights break out along gender lines.

Take my Kingston article for example. When I see an Asian American studies method that harms us, it's a cause for war. My typical male mind sees things that ought to be moved, resources that ought to be reallocated, and garbage that ought to be tossed out. I see structures that prevent Asian Americans from advancing. I don't care to hear excuses about why it's okay to say untrue things about Chinese culture; I care about results. Maxine Hong Kingston's personal feelings and the feelings of the militants who support her become irrelevant because I see the people whose lives have been destroyed by the culture. I see the pain that a pathological culture has created--an out of control female suicide rate and men needing to turn to PUA because the educational system is against them--and my male mind tells me I need to fix that culture.

When Tokyo sees the PUA discussions, she probably wonders where the compassion is. She sees men who can't see women as people. She sees the absence of compassionate relationships, the absence of love, and the perpetuation of a culture where men see women as bodies without regard of their personalities. She sees a loveless town where men rate women by their physical appearance, where men treat relationships as an economic science. She sees an Asian America where the men treat the attraction of women as a game, and where flirting becomes a contest of oneupmanship. Why can't men learn to listen to women rather than judging them on superficial values? After all, isn't that where our best relationships take place? It's an ugly picture.

In this case, everyone is right, but we're right according to our genders. Years ago on the plains of Africa, men participated in the hunt and in war. Whether we were killing for food or killing to keep the bad guys away (and bad was relative), men were task focused. Evolution-wise, it didn't help men to be compassionate with our prey; we simply had to make sure that everyone stood in the right place at the right time and executed our actions with decisiveness and coordination. This is why today in politics, when you see something bad take place, men usually focus on fixing the problem regardless of personal feelings. When Alberto Gonzales messed up by firing attorneys for political reasons, most political men called for his ouster. They didn't care about what he brought to the table, they just saw that he was a problem and needed to be removed. Compassion be damned.

Women, on the other hand, were gatherers and leaders of families. Their responsibilities involved abilities that taught them to discern good from bad, not only with potential suitors who would have the resources to protect them and create stability, but they also had to manage relationships among women in the tribe. They needed to develop the ability to understand small children, humans who were unable to express themselves with words. Therefore, they developed relational skills that men didn't need. This is why leaders like Princess Diana and Mother Teresa are lionized; they had amazing abilities to understand people, abilities that most people don't have. This is why more woman are compassionate. This is why PUA hasn't caught on with women.

Of course this doesn't extend to all individuals--Bill Clinton was known for his listening abilities, and Meg Whitman is known for her executional abilities. But over large populations of men and women, the evolutionary trends still exist. People write books like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," "The Wonder of Boys," and "Women and Leadership" because we tend to be different.

In terms of the charge of PUAs viewing women as targets, it's 100% true. PUAs do view women as targets, and they view women as "conquests"--which is an interesting term, if you think about the topic of discussion and the role of war in male history. PUAs don't try to build relationships, nor do they try to teach sensitivity. Instead, they focus on going in for the kill, a typically male way of fixing a typical Asian American male problem. Like most typically male ways of thinking, the PUA approach is results-based; you either attract a woman or you don't. You either win or you lose.

While I haven't endorsed PUA, I will say that their approach oftentimes mimics the way most men think and the way society expects and encourages men to think. Like it or not, most men are expected to approach women, and not vice versa. Most men need to deal with the possibility and probability of rejection, and most men have to be emotionally prepared to be told no. For men who rarely get out of the house, this rejection can be devastating. The antidote to this devastation is a kind of objectification, a kind of saying, "She's just ONE woman who turned you down, now you just have to ask ONE more." Women become like numbers for two reasons. First, PUAs "enumerate" them in order to protect themselves from rejection. Second, PUAs "enumerate" them because physical appearance is often the first criteria that men use when evaluating women, much the same way women use social standing to evaluate men.

From what I've seen, PUA creates a brotherhood that helps men not only to develop the courage to take action, but also to develop the resiliency to fall and get back up. It also teaches men to go after women who meet the enumerated criteria. It's very much a return to the old, more traditionally male ways of thinking. There is little subtlety involved.

Now some might say that times have changed. Men don't have to kill animals anymore, nor do women spend their time in tribes of women, gathering berries and caring for kids. Sensitive guys are popular these days, as are results-oriented women. That is true. Shouldn't we focus on eliminating gender roles? Shouldn't men be more sensitive?

I would say yes, but at the same time, I think it's unrealistic to expect that the majority of men will be able to fight biology which has come from years of evolution. It's also unrealistic to expect most women to do the asking and to face whatever public and private humiliation that may arise from rejection. Men more often than not select women for looks, while women go for power and social standing. It's just the way it is.

I was speaking with a co-worker, a self-described feminist in my office, who spoke about her son. My co-worker is a single mother who is raising a high school son. Statewide, she's one of the leading salespeople in our industry, a mega multi-million dollar producer, and she is an open supporter of liberal causes. At the same time, she thinks there are differences between the genders. During one conversation, she said that she felt education had flipped to become pro-female. "Boys learn better in motion," she said. "There have been studies that show young boys learn better when they're throwing things around. And yet we ask them to sit still during every part of class, which benefits girls more than boys. This is why there are so many male dropouts these days. We ought to make things more equitable."

I agree with her. Boys and girls are biologically different (irrefutable), and our biology causes us to act and live differently (refutable depending on context). It would be great if boys could learn the same way as girls, but in most cases, they can't.

I won't ask people to adopt my way of thinking, but I will ask people to consider that there is some truth in the idea that men and women are different. I think we can ask the opposite gender to see where we're coming from. We're no longer living in the age of hunting wild beasts or women living among other women in tribes, so things have clearly changed. Yet if the evolutionary record holds any water, it would be hard to expect all women to live the male perspective or vice versa. Most of us are hard wired differently.

Since this is a blog post about Asian male-ism, let me close with a quote about males, and let me address PUA once more. Thinking about the PUAs themselves whom we've met, whom we've heard on William's podcasts, who inhabit the 108's that I endorsed, this quote takes on a special significance:
To try to teach boys to "rise above instant gratification, "become more like girls," "be more sensitive," "not like sports as much," and so on without first teaching them personally fruitful and socially acceptable ways to do all those things is to shoot ourselves in the foot. Boys don't believe adults who don't understand boys."

Michael Gurian, "The Wonder of Boys," ISBN 0-87477-887-5, p. 12

Stay tuned for my next piece, tentatively called "The Recurring Frat Boy."

(Special thanks to Val, Jen, TokyoLoveStory, evil_FUX, Akrypti from 8A, The Stealth MC, and my anonymous coworker for helping me think through some of these issues.)

(Picture from here. The plot description of the movie makes no sense.)

August 20, 2008

Basketball Activism

This article came in from my NY Times alert. It's about a middle-aged Chinese American couple who started a basketball program for Chinese American girls and boys in Manhattan. It talks about the challenges they face, which are mostly cultural. RebelAzn talks about Asian Americans and sports on this site, and I agree with him--we need to promote sports, especially given the cultural stigma against sports in many Chinese American/Asian American families. The writer breaks it down by generation and socio-economic standing, which is probably accurate:
One view, particularly common among first-generation, working-class Chinese-Americans, maintains that sports are an unnecessary impediment to academic and professional achievement, according to interviews with Chinese-American athletes, students, educators and community leaders in New York.

An opposite view, typically held by more educated parents or those who have become more assimilated into American culture because they have been in the United States at least one generation, promotes sports as an integral part of a child’s maturation.

I've noticed this to be true as well. The article continues:
Pressure to excel academically can be particularly intense for those, like Ms. Law’s family, who arrived in the United States toward the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. While some members of other ethnic groups have embraced sports as a way out of poverty, Asian-Americans, for the most part, have not, said Peter Kwong, a professor of Asian-American studies and urban affairs and planning at Hunter College.

“Using physical strength to make a living is not respected; it’s a Confucian ideal,” he said. “You’re wasting your mind. Using your hands is just not a career.”

I agree with this too. Most Chinese American people I know admire Yao Ming, but they don't aspire to be Yao Ming.

On a side note, this Peter Kwong dude is getting quoted all over the Times these days. He was quoted in my last blog post too. We should get him to mention us--"Using your hands is just not a career, but it's great if you're typing entries on the Fighting 44s!"

There are some more interesting passages in the article, including this one:
“Many times we have to convince the parents,” Ms. Law said. She talks to them about not only the importance of fitness but also the educational and social value of sports, how basketball can teach teamwork, focus and commitment and give a child a sense of belonging. “I say, ‘I’m a parent of two children. We’ve been doing this for many years.’ ”

Indeed, according to educators, coaches, students and athletes in Chinatown and elsewhere, this is a common conversation in the Chinese-American community.

“For many Chinese, they don’t see sports as part of youth development,” said Howard K. Chin, president of Chinese American Student Exposure, a nonprofit group that provides sports programs, volunteering opportunities and career counseling to young people in Chinatown. He spoke on a recent evening at Columbus Park amid a crowd of about 100 people who had gathered to watch a Chinese-American basketball tournament.

I pretty much agree with everything stated in the article. As for the park that they mention, if it's the same one I'm thinking of, I used to pass by it quite often, and even though it was in the heart of Chinatown, the Chinese people mostly used it for tai chi; it was mostly non-Asians who used it for basketball.

Asian Americans need more sports in our culture, and when I read about people like the Laws, it's heartwarming. They fund these clubs with their own money, and they put the sweat equity into making sure it works. This is true activism.

August 19, 2008

Asian Americans Moving into Certain NYC Areas

I don't know which Asian American site found this article first, AAM or 88's. It's about certain New York neighborhoods where Asian Americans are beginning to move and to become a disproportionate part of the population. The story has several profiles of Asian American 1.5 gens who grew up in Asian areas like Chinatown and are now moving out and gravitating towards the same high-end neighborhoods. (I'm guessing they're 1.5 since the brokerages are targeting the foreign language media--though not all 1.5'ers speak their mother tongue.)

Peter Kwong makes an interesting observation:
Historically, American-born Asians have been encouraged to move out of the ethnic enclaves where they grew up, said Peter Kwong, a professor of Asian-American studies at Hunter College. But they have tended to move to suburban communities on Long Island and in New Jersey, where they can find good schools, enough ethnic markets to cater to their needs and, when the time comes, enough space to accommodate aging parents, he said.

“Until now, buying a home tended to be very family oriented,” he added, “and living in a nice building with a lot of amenities was not as stressed.” So the fact that young Asian-Americans are now buying in condo high-rises that come with fitness centers, spas and swimming pools is a shift, “and in some ways becoming more mainstream.”

Given the discussions that have taken place recently, I couldn't help but think about young PUAs doing the PUA thing in those fitness centers, spas, and swimming pools. "Hey...hey...hey...I live right upstairs! Just ask the doorman to dial 888!"

No, seriously, I think this is a good thing. One of the problems with Asian America is that individuals tend to be very diffuse, which means that we have a community which doesn't have much face-to-face social capital, which means that we're often not much of a community at all. With suburban areas, it often doesn't matter who your neighbors are, since in many suburban neighborhoods, people tend to stay inside their homes. This new urban migration could be a good thing. From these new developments, perhaps the concentration of Asian Americans will give rise to new ideas, new social institutions, and new experiences.

By the way, do we have any 44s who live in any of these areas?

August 18, 2008

Liu Xiang drops out

Picture from his official site.

From BBC:
It's hard to overstate how important Liu Xiang has been to this Olympic Games. In some ways, China has built its entire Olympics around Liu Xiang - and the hope that he would defend the Olympic title he won in Athens. You can barely go more than a few metres in Beijing without seeing a poster of Liu - advertising a selection of ice creams, soft drinks, credit cars, sports shoes, and fast cars. Those adverts may now have to be speedily re-done.

Why was Liu Xiang so important? He was the first Asian man ever to win a gold medal in an Olympic track event (in Athens 2004). "His achievement made us feel that we could achieve anything ourselves as well," said one woman. So, Liu Xiang's expected gold medal in Beijing was about Chinese national confidence - it was about China feeling that it could do anything that any other country could do.

I don't know what kind of effect this will have on the collective psyche of the Chinese athletes. I guess it's a good thing that it happened closer to the end of the Olympics rather than the beginning, but I can only imagine how this must be affecting everyone else, especially the other Chinese athletes who have been inspired by Liu Xiang. As the BBC reporter says, the Olympics in some ways was built around Liu. I'm an American citizen, but I admit being sad over this because as a male of Chinese descent, it was great to see Liu smashing those stereotypes about what Asian people can and can't accomplish, especially in running, which is probably as basic a sport as any.

Some people are bashing him on the BBC site, but hey, injuries happen to the best of us. Oh well.

August 17, 2008

"Dooces" are wild


Welcome to the first blog post from my brand new MacBook Pro. Man, I should've read my own blog post about computers seriously rock! They're faster, better with graphics, better with video, easier to configure, more stable, more secure, and they look a lot cooler. I can't believe I was on the PC bandwagon for so long. I can't believe I didn't start

Anyway, there was another interesting article in the New York Times about another blogger going full time. Heather Armstrong runs, where she blogs about being a mother. According to the article, she has 850,000 readers, and according to her site, she has been blogging since February of 2001. J.C. Penney, Crate & Barrel, and Walgreens all pay top dollar to advertise their brands on her site, and she has been so successful that both she and her husband have been able to quit their full-time jobs.

I looked around her site, and though it's well written, irreverent, and personal, I can't believe that there are 850,000 readers. 850k? I think that's half the population of's insane! But again, we're probably seeing a niche which is underserved--how often do people get that close and personal about motherhood, a subject in which people have traditionally needed lots of support?

When are we going to make tons of money on AA issues? Anyone? We blog all the time, we have lots of interesting things to say, and we don't yet have 850,000 viewers.

Incidentally, I just did a google search and found another article that mentions
Heather B. Armstrong of Salt Lake City credits her blog,, with saving her sanity, if not her life. When it began in February 2001, Dooce was a collection of anecdotes about Ms. Armstrong's single life in Los Angeles, with provocative entries like "The Proper Way to Hate a Job" and "Dear Cranky Old Bitch Who Cut in Front of Me at Canter's Deli." After someone sent an unsigned, untraceable e-mail message about Ms. Armstrong's blog to her company's board in 2002, she was promptly dismissed, and "Dooced" entered as a term for "Losing your job for something you wrote in your online blog, journal, Web site, etc."
She blogs often, and so do we. She contributed to the Urban Dictionary, and so did we. So why is she raking in the dough while we all remain hobbyists? As Cuba Gooding Jr. said in Jerry Maguire, "Show me the money!"

August 14, 2008

Asian Male-ism I: PUA and Female Objectification

I've been getting flamed recently. It's nothing new, of course, I get flamed all the time, but this time is perhaps a bit different because the issue happens to be one which we likely won't solve entirely over the web, plus it happens to be flaming by people whom I actually like. In this case, my flaming is over what some regard as my endorsement of Pick Up Artists on my first PUA podcast here, my second podcast here, and my endorsement of a site that one poster described as a "sausage fest." I'm getting flamed because of sexism on some of these sites (though I've never posted on any of these sites), and also because I didn't condemn some sexist language (which I didn't notice) used on the 44s. One member said that I was promoting "sexism" to prop up Asian men. Another called out my "ignorance." I've been called other things as well. Though I don't intend to get people angry, I know that it sometimes happens.

For the record, I don't endorse PUA. I consider Pick Up Specialists Kwak and William to be friends, but I've neither supported nor condemned what they do. I think the both of them are great guys, and I welcome the opportunity to keep in touch with them as they grow as activists and people, but I'm not a PUA, nor have I ever sent any business their way, at least not intentionally. However, I do post about these PUAs, and I do post about sites where some PUAs hang out because I believe they are doing something that has elements of potential. They may not be doing everything right, but there is potential, and they've helped some people achieve what many of us take for granted. The idea of teaching Asian men confidence is a good thing, and these PUAs are on the ground doing it, even if there are problems in their approach. With the exception of Kingstonism (and I'm sure most of you have followed that debate), I've rarely flat out condemned anything. I've never condemned Falling For Grace, even though I think we need variety outside of the "regular" AF/WM themes. I've never condemned ModelMinority, although I think some of the guys on that site are crazy. I've never condemned 8 Asians, even though they hate debate, which I love. I even promote the politically smart, even though I usually hate Jenn's and James's ideas about Asian men. I'm relatively liberal when it comes to OPM (Other Peoples' Movements), and so I always try to see the positive in every endeavor that Asian Americans take upon themselves. Unless I see something blatantly unethical, I usually don't issue any blanket condemnations.

I acknowledge that many PUAs objectify women, and I've voiced my opposition to such objectification. My whole "roundtable" with APB was about how I thought a "high brow" approach would nullify the need for a "low brow" approach. I still believe this is the case, but given our lack of funding, our current lack of a network, and the entrenchment of those academics who promote the status quo, right now it's just a pipe dream. I think it was William who said, "That all sounds high and mighty, but what can we do now? The answer, for some of these men, is to learn how to approach women. It's low brow, tacky, goofy, aimed at an unusually crazy group of men, and ultimately not entirely fulfilling, but it's something. It teaches men to be open with women, even if they're total assholes. At least it's honest. A lot of these guys happen to be complete assholes to begin with; the PUA just makes it come out. Of course, having a movement that would turn assholes into gold would be nice too, but that kind of thinking usually takes place among people who are more established and past the basics of just learning how to approach women. Think about it--if you find a man who is afraid to approach women and has had few conversations with women, how can anyone expect him to be smooth, considerate, or respectful? If a man has no contact with women over his whole life, I'd say that you should expect him to be an asshole.

Now we could bypass PUA with education. Deep education renders tacky PUA obsolete. However, without that network in place combined with the intellectual capital to say something of substance and supported by financial funding, change cannot take place now. Right now, the "high brow" people need to create that network, build on that intellectual capital, and better learn how to finance and make the system work. We can talk to people and educate people in the meantime with those we touch personally. It's a long process. In the meantime, we shouldn't outright condemn people who are trying to work at a lower level because, well, they're at a lower level. Oppose sexism, and oppose their sexism, but don't oppose the idea of men learning to approach women because it doesn't turn men into sexist assholes; it just brings sexist assholes into the open. It also brings nice guys like Kwak and Albert into the open. People don't see this, but there are some positive lives being changed here, including women. How would Kwak's girlfriend ever have met Kwak unless he had been taught to "approach?" PUA ultimately is based on openness even if there is no badly needed moral component. It's not activism, but people are having basic needs met. Think of it as a temporary fix for men who are stunted in emotional growth. It's not our highest or best goal, but it serves some people as a temporary fix, and it does make positive changes, even if it empowers jerks.

For those who dislike the PUA approach, the solution is to continue building education. We do this by educating, sharing (online), and talking (real time--I still don't think there's a substitute for real time communication.). Build the networks. Learn the system. Get practice doing work. Obviously we can accomplish much more, but we need to work at it.

More about this later. Hopefully I can speak a bit about the male issues vs. female issues from a male perspective in the next installment. In the meantime, share your thoughts.

August 13, 2008

Spanish Basketball Team in Racist Pose


Thanks to T-Tocs who first posted this in our forum. There's already a huge discussion taking place about the story. The Spanish basketball team was photographed doing the slant eye pose that so many of us know from grade school, and they're not apologizing for it. To make things worse, as minorTruths points out in the forum, there is a Chinese sponsor who is exonerating them by saying it's not offensive.

I've already blogged somewhat about the topic of European racism. I don't know what else can change a culture other than an internal movement. Love or hate the U.S., we're still ahead of much of the rest of the world when it comes to understanding race relations.

MinorTruths referenced an excellent article here, which makes good points about the double standard that Americans face and also makes some good points about how the money spins and who works for whom.
So far, there’s nothing out of the league office. Rest assured, unless there’s an outcry over that photo, the NBA will wish this story away. Maybe the league will even issue a mild rebuke. It won’t be enough. Maybe this doesn’t rise to a suspension, but there should be significant fines and a bold condemnation. There needs to be a message delivered to NBA players everywhere: When you earn your money with us, you are always on the clock. Kidd, Kobe and LeBron understand it. It’s time the rest of the league does, too.

As some suggest he’ll do, Stern can’t dismiss this as the business of a federation team. These are NBA players returning to NBA cities this year. Never mind the host country and millions of fans here, but consider the Asian-American season ticket holders in cosmopolitan cities such as Toronto and Los Angeles. One of the reasons the New Jersey Nets traded for Yi Jianlian was to market him to a large Asian-American base in Metropolitan New York.

If anyone is feeling activist, send a letter to the NBA. Send one to the New York Times. Just keep on sending letters until someone gets the message.

Edit: Contact the NBA here. You can also use the link to contact the Raptors and the Lakers to let them know what you think about their "representatives" Gasol and Calderon.

August 12, 2008

Heard but not seen


The Real Singer

I just saw this story on Olympic Girl Seen But Not Heard.

Apparently, the cute little girl who was "singing" during the Olympic ceremony wasn't really singing. She was lip-synching because the girl with the nice voice wasn't cute enough.

Games organizers confirm that Lin Miaoke, who performed "Ode to the Motherland" as China's flag was paraded Friday into Beijing's National Stadium, was not singing at all.

Lin was lip-syncing to the sound of another girl, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, who was heard but not seen, apparently because she was deemed not cute enough.

As you can see from my title post, I reversed the wording of the title article. I'm more concerned about the girl who didn't get to be on camera because her image supposedly wasn't up to par. Sure, the stand-in girl probably does have greater beauty according to common accepted standards:


The cute "singer"

But they're both cute. And if it's the original girl's voice, they should give the original girl credit by letting her perform on stage. I can't believe anyone would deny a young child the chance to be in the spotlight, especially when it's her voice coming over the loudspeakers. What kind of lesson does this teach our kids? It's not right.

And in terms of the media, hasn't anyone learned anything from Milli Vanilli?

August 11, 2008

108 Spirits: New Kid on the Block

I was poking around the web today, and William's blog linked to a new site: 108 Spirits. It's focused solely on Asian American men, but of all the other "competitor" sites I've seen, it's very similar to ours. Like reappropriate, it's hard-hitting, well-written, and progressive, and so far, the discussions lack the nauseating wholesomeness that we sometimes see on other sites. It's like a young 44s or young reappropriate for men. In fact, the dialog reminds me a lot of the early days of the 44s with Seoulbrother's Palchisan Realm and the discussions about old Chinese epics like the Three Kingdoms. I think it's great that people are digging deep into our cultural history in order to find wisdom that so many of us either don't know or have forgotten.

The vision/explanation of the name is cool too:
108 Spirits is a reference to the 36 Heavenly Spirits and 72 Earthly Fiends that originated from Chinese mythology and later on influenced various Asian works of literature. Among those is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature: "Shui Hu", aka "Water Margin", "Outlaws of the Marsh" or "All Men Are Brothers", in which the 108 Spirits reincarnated as the 108 Outlaws.

The 108 Outlaws of the Marsh are a band of very talented men who refuse to be governed by established rules & practices and rebel against authorities. Their stories represent and celebrate masculine Asian men of various types: leader, scholar, warrior, businessman, outlaw, musician, doctor, etc. - united by the spirit of the Brotherhood to help each other and those in needs.

That is the goal of this website: the development, representation and celebration of Asian masculinity.

I found these paragraphs particularly interesting after our Frank Chin event where Frank spoke about stories. Frank actually started telling "Water Margin" when we were having dim sum, but then the ha cheung came and I totally spaced. For those who follow my 44s blog, I'm particularly interested in traditional stories because there is some true wisdom there. It's great to see a group of young guys starting inquiries into this area.

So here are some things from their site to check out:

The Asian Male Identity

How did you discover your passion?

Some of the usernames look familiar :) , but it's great seeing good dialogue on the web outside of our own. My approach to activism and knowledge has always been the same--if people have the talent and inclination to do good things, we need to support them, and we need to help them reach their goals. From what I've seen, all the 44s admins and blackbelts support that goal too. So to the 108's, welcome to the blogosphere! Let's do great things together!

August 10, 2008

Finally...Olympic Coverage for the Less Popular Sports

yawara.jpgI started in judo fifteen years ago during my freshman year of college (I know this reveals my age). Back in the day, I competed often, and when the 96 Olympics came, I was excited to follow the athletes whom my sensei had talked up. Unfortunately those were long before the days when NBC had tons of different channels and feeds, and so I was stuck checking the results in the NY Post. My sensei told me that judo was a huge sport in Europe and Asia, and that the US was one of the few countries where most people had no idea what judo was. We bitched and complained about television coverage, and we wondered why they didn't diversify their offerings to show the less popular sports. We asked how judo could ever be popular if they never showed it.

In 2000, four years later, I was working the night shift at an internet company, and while I was able to get more instantaneous results, I was still unable to watch. I checked out the athlete bios, and I compared the written descriptions of the wins and losses of the star atheletes that I knew. Even though I still couldn't see what was going on, it was still exciting. In 2004, it was the same thing, though I had lost track of who was who.

Now, in 2008, people in the U.S. can finally watch judo. It's all online here. NBC has expanded its coverage to the online world, and so even if their networks don't carry these less popular sports, aficionados can still tune in on the website. According to the NY Times (and according to my own memory), this is the first time they are doing this. It's absolutely amazing. The internet has enabled niche specialists to finally follow their interests.

There's only one problem. Now that I'm old and grey and have been out of judo for so long, I have no idea who the players are! The only name I know is the legendary Ryoko Tani, formerly Ryoko Tamura, who unfortunately failed in her attempt today to become the first woman judoka with three gold medals. According to the Daily Yomiuri, it was a bit of a strange bad call. These happen all the time in judo, so I'm not surprised--as you can see from the article, after one woman won, the judges awarded the match to her opponent, and then they reneged and gave it back to the real winner. Haha...I remember watching one match during my college years where the same thing happened, only they didn't reverse the messed up call. I told the guy, "You won," and he said, "Well, those are the breaks." Great attitude, but such breaks only take place in the world of competitive judo!

(I'm not ragging on judo refs. I've tried being a ref, and it's probably the hardest sport in the world to referee because of the quick decisions that each ref needs to make.)

In the sport of judo today, Romania's Alina Dumitru won the gold for the Women's 48 kg, and South Korea's Minho Choi won the gold for the Men's 60 kg, and you can see it all on the NBC website.

August 8, 2008

Tales from Korea

Inspired by Frank Chin's visit to Portland, I've been looking up traditional Asian stories for the past couple weeks. I found an excellent collection of traditional Korean stories here. Check it out--there are four podcasts altogether, all downloadable, and all totally free. The storyteller is a white woman from Seattle, but she's talented, and they sound genuine. The Korean people in these traditional stories are all strong characters with real motivations, free from all the baggage that comes from Asian American culture. Check it out!

(Picture from here.)

August 7, 2008

Comcast drops ImaginAsian TV

Following in the path of AZN, it looks like another one bites the dust. I never had access to Imaginasian (and I don't get to watch much TV anyway), but from looking at the website, I'm not really surprised that it went down. It looks like their programming focused either on:

a) Foreign films/dramas


b) Original productions that are really, really, really saccharine and wholesome

I think it was a noble effort, and I'm glad businesses like ImaginAsian are taking risks by trying to showcase people of Asian descent. But from my experiences in working with the Asian American community, most Asian Americans will only watch stories of people in other countries who speak different languages for so long, even if the people are really beautiful. Eventually we hunger for an organic media that addressed our issues. And even though the sweet, happy, and wholesome approach seems like the friendlier, let's-all-get-along way of doing things, Asian Americans eventually get tired of that too. Compared with our real life experiences, it's lame.

I think IA Media's President Adam Ware makes a good but maybe half-correct point:

Ware said statistics show that the primary language of an overwhelming majority of Asians in America is not their native language but English.

“Stations like KTSF do a disservice to the Asian American market as they niche Asian communities and then pitch programming in their languages - to me that’s horribly uninspired,” said Ware. “I am a firm believer that there is room for an English Asian pop culture channel.”

I think there is room for an English Asian channel, but I just don't think the wholesome approach works. Pop culture itself may have to wait. Think about hip hop; it's technically pop culture, but there are deeper stories that lie beneath the surface. I think Asian Americans want to put more resources into deeper issues because we're tired of not controlling our own media, and we're tired of fake wholesomeness.

(Picture from USA Today)

Racist Love

I just wanted to mention that Frank Chin reposted his essay "Racist Love" on his website. 44 Black Belt Skrips posted it here in the forums. I just wanted to put it on the blog section of our site as well since some of you don't visit the forums (and vice versa--some of you probably don't visit the blog). We touched upon this essay recently on another blog post.

Racist Love

©1972 By Frank Chin & Jeffery Paul Chan

In: Seeing Through Shuck
New York: Ballantine Books, 1972

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.

If the system works, the stereotypes assigned to the various races are accepted by the races themselves as reality, as fact, and racist love reigns. The minority's reaction to racist policy is acceptance and apparent satisfaction. Order is kept, the world turns without a peep from any nonwhite. One measure of the success of white racism is the silence of that race and the amount of white energy necessary to maintain or increase that silence. Likewise, the failure of white racism can be measured by the amount and kind of noise of resistance generated by the race. The truth is that all of the country's attention has been drawn to white racism's failures. Everything that has been done by whites in politics, government, and education in response to the failure of white racism, while supposedly anti-racist, can be seen as efforts to correct the flaws, redesign the instruments, and make racism work. The object is to shut up the noise. Do it fast. Do it cheap. White racism has failed with the blacks, the chicanos, the American Indians. Night riders, soldier boys on horseback, fat sheriffs, and all them goons and clowns of racism did destroy a lot of bodies, mess up some minds, and leave among these minorities a legacy of suffering that continues to this day. But they did not stamp out the consciousness of a people, destroy their cultural integrity and literacy sensibility, and produce races of people that would work to enforce white supremacy without having to be supervised or watchdogged by whites.

In terms of the utter lack of cultural distinction in America, the destruction of an organic sense of identity, the complete psychological and cultural subjugation of a race of people, the people of Chinese and Japanese ancestry stand out as white racism's only success. This is not to say that Asian-Americans are worse off than the other colored minorities. American policy has failed in Vietnam, yet no one would say that the Vietnamese are better off than the people of Puerto Rico, where American policy has succeeded. The secret of that success lies in the construction of the modern stereotype and the development of new policies of white racism.

The general function of any racial stereotype is to establish and preserve order between different elements of society, maintain the continuity and growth of Western civilization, and enforce white supremacy with a minimum of effort, attention, and expense. The ideal racial stereotype is a low maintenance engine of white supremacy whose efficiency increases with age, as it became "authenticated" and "historically verified."

The stereotype operates as a model of behavior. It conditions the mass society's perceptions and expectations. Society is conditioned to accept the given minority only within the bounds of the stereotype. The subject minority is conditioned to reciprocate by becoming the stereotype, live it, talk it, embrace it, measure group and individual worth in its terms, and believe it.

The stereotype operates most efficiently and economically when the vehicle of the stereotype, the medium of its perpetuation, and the subject race to be controlled are all one. When the operation of the stereotype has reached this point, where the subject race itself embodies and perpetuates the white supremacist vision of reality, indifference to the subject race sets in among mass society. The successful operation of the stereotype results in the neutralization of the subject race as a social, creative, and cultural force. The race poses no threat to white supremacy. It is now a guardian of white supremacy, dependent on it and grateful to it.

For the subject to operate efficiently as an instrument of white supremacy, he is conditioned to accept and live in a state of euphemized self-contempt. This self-contempt itself is nothing more than the subject's acceptance of white standards of objectivity, beauty, behavior, and achievement as being morally absolute, and his acknowledgment of the fact that, because he is not white, he can never fully measure up to white standards.

The stereotype, within the minority group itself, then, is enforced by individual and collective self-contempt. Given: that the acceptable stereotype is the minority version of whiteness and being acceptable to whites creates no friction between the races, and given: fear of white hostility and the white threat to the survival of the subject minority, it follows that embracing the acceptable stereotype is an expedient tactic of survival, as selling out and accepting humiliation almost always are. The humiliation, this gesture of self-contempt and self-destruction, in terms of the stereotype is euphemized as being successful assimilation, adaption, and acculturation.

If the source of this self-contempt is obviously generated from outside the minority, interracial hostility will inevitably result, as history has shown us in the cases of the blacks, Indians, and chicanos. The best self-contempt to condition into the minority has its sources seemingly within the minority group itself. The vehicles of this illusion are education and the publishing establishment. Only five American-born Chinese have published what can be called serious attempts at literature: Pardee Lowe has a one-book career with Father and Glorious Descendants (1943), an autobiography; Jade Snow Wong, another one- book career with the most famous Chinese-American work, Fifth Chinese Daughter(1950), an autobiography; Diana Chang, the only serious Chinese-America writer to publish more than one book-length creative work to date, has written and published four novels and is a well-known poet; Virginia Lee has one novel, The House Tai Ming Built in 1963; and Betty Lee Sung, author of the semiautobiographical Mountain of Gold (1967). Of these five, four--Pardee Lowe, Jade Snow Wong, Virginia Lee, and Betty Lee Sung -- confirm the popular stereotypes of Chinese-Americans, find Chinese-America repulsive, and don't identify with it.

The construction of the stereotype began long before Jade Snow Wong, Pardee Lowe, Virginia Lee, and Betty Lee Sung were born within it and educated to fulfill it. It began with a basic difference between it and the stereotypes of the other races. The white stereotype of the Asian is unique in that it is the only racial stereotype completely devoid of manhood. Our nobility is that of an efficient housewife. At our worst we are contemptible because we are womanly, effeminate, devoid of all the traditionally masculine qualities of originality, daring, physical courage, creativity. We're neither straight talkin' or straight shootin'. The mere fact that four of the five American-born Chinese-American writers are women reinforces this aspect of the stereotype.

The sources of Chinese-American self-contempt are white Christianity, the sojourner's state of humiliation, overt white racism, and legislative racism. Each served to exclude the Chinese-American from the realm of manliness and American culture. The Chinese were the target of the largest missionary campaign ever mounted in the history of mankind. It's now in its fifth century. The American missionary movement is now in its second century. In 1871, the Reverend John L. Nevius wrote:

The Chinese as a race are, as compared with the European nations, of a phlegmatic and impassive temperament, and physically less active and energetic. Children are not fond of athletic and vigorous sports, but prefer marbles, kite-flying, and some quiet games of gall, spinning tops, etc. Men take an easy stroll for recreation, but never a rapid walk for exercise, and are seldom in a hurry or excited. They are characteristically timid and docile... While the Chinese are deficient in active courage and daring, they are not passive in resistance. They are comparatively apathetic as regards to pain and death, and have great powers of physical endurance as well as great persistency and obstinacy. On an average a Chinese tailor will work on his bench or a literary man over books with his pen, more hours a day than our race can.

The Chinese in the parlance of the Bible, were raw material for the "flock," pathological sheep for the shepherd. The adjectives applied to the Chinese ring with scriptural imagery. We are meek, timid, passive, docile, industrious. We have the patience of Job. We are humble. A race without sinful manhood, born to mortify our flesh. Religion has been used to subjugate the blacks, chicanos, and Indians along with guns and whips. The difference between these groups and the Chinese was that the Christians, taking Chinese hospitality for timidity and docility, weren't afraid of us as they were of other races. They loved us, protected us. Love conquered.

It's well-known that the cloying overwhelming love of a protective, coddling mother produces an emotionally stunted, dependant child. This is the Christian love, the bigoted love that has imprisoned the Chinese-American sensibility; whereas overt and prolonged expressions of hatred had the effect of liberating black, red, chicano, and to some degree, Japanese-American sensibilities.

The hatred of whites freed them to return hate with hate and develop their own brigand languages, cultures, and sensibilities, all of which have at their roots an assumed arrogance in the face of white standards, and defiant mockery of the white institutions, including white religion. One of the products of these cultures born of overt racist hatred was a word in the language for white man, a name loaded with hate. A white man knows where he stands when a chicano called him "gringo," or a black man called him "honky," "Mr. Charlie," "ofay," "whitey," or an Indian calls him "paleface." Whites aren't aware of the names Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans have for them. And it's not a little embarrassing for an Asian-American to be asked by a curious white what we might call him behind his back.

The first Chinese were sojourners to America. They arrived in a state of humiliation as indentured servants, coolie laborers to California to perform the labor of slaves, which were outlawed in this free state. They never intended to settle here. The whites encouraged them with overt white racism and legislative racism to leave as soon as they could. The first Chinese so loathed this country that they regularly burned all their letters and records of their stay, journals and diaries, and tossed the ashes into the sea in the hope that at least much of themselves would make it back to China. As a consequence of their total self-contempt, Chinese- America has no literary legacy. Of the Chinese who stayed not one complete account of one Chinese man's life in California, in diary, in journal, or in the form of correspondence, survives. Nor is there any oral history. All that survives from those old men is the humiliation of being foreign.

If life here was something to be erased from memory, death here was the ultimate humiliation. They were contemptible in life on American soil. Life they could endure. But death, no. So the practice of returning the bones to China for burial in hospitable ground, an eloquent and final expression of their loathing of America released after death, which the whites regarded as quaint and heathenish.

Legislative racism, the only form that openly survives, was invented to cope with the Chinese specifically and the first applied against them with success. Legislative racism culminated in the passage of The Chinese Exclusion Act by the U.S. Congress, giving the Chinese the distinction of being the only race to be legislated against by name.

The racist policy applied against the blacks defined them as nonhumans, as property without legal status. This resulted in political schisms among the white majority and contributed to a costly war, thus failing as an instrument of white supremacy. It also failed to control the blacks and condition them into white supremacist self-control. The policy of extermination and incarceration applied against the American Indian was another costly failure.

For the Chinese, they invented an instrument of racist policy that was a work of pure genius, in that it was not an overtly hostile expression of anti-Chinese sentiment, yet still reinforced the stereotype and generated self-contempt and humiliation among generations of Chinese and Chinese-Americans, who, after having been conditioned into internalizing the white supremacist Gospel of Christian missionaries, looked on themselves as failures, instead of victims of racism. This wondrous instrument was the law. They gave the Chinese legal status, access to the protection under the law as "aliens ineligible for citizenship." We were separate but equal under the supposedly blind impartiality of the law. Legally we were masters of our own destiny, limited only by our intelligence and talent.

The game was rigged. The Chinese were forced into Chinatown and out of American culture and society by laws supposedly designed to protect fish, secure safety against fire, and protect public health. One law stated that only "aliens ineligible for citizenship" of the laboring class would be admitted into the country. A fancy way of saying only men, no women. this law was designed to control the Chinese population. It discouraged Chinese from staying by denying them access to their women, underscored the state of their (supposedly voluntary) humiliation in America, and guaranteed that even should all the Chinese stay they would not reproduce. And eventually they would die out.

This law worked. At the turn of the century the ratio of men to women was 27 to 1. Then a little after the turn of the century the Chinese population took a sudden decline. White historians like to say that suddenly a lot of us went home to China. We didn't, but our bones did, six months after we died here. This law was doubly successful in that it contributed to the myth of Chinese-American juvenile decency and thus added to the effeminization of the racial stereotype. According to this myth, the reason juvenile delinquency stayed so low in Chinatown until the last twenty years was that maintenance of the strong Chinese family. Nothing less than Confucianist Chinese culture was making law-abiding citizens of us. The reason there was no juvenile delinquency in Chinatown has less to do with Confucian mumbo jumbo than with the law against the birth of Chinese kids. There were no juveniles to be delinquent.

What holds all this self-contempt together and makes it work is "The Concept of the Dual Personality." The so-called "blending of East and West" divides the Chinese-American into two incompatible segments: (1) the foreigner whose status is dependent on his ability to be accepted by the white natives; and (2) the handicapped native who is taught that identification with his foreignness is the only way to "justify" his difference in skin color. The argument goes, "If you ain't got Chinese culture, baby, all you got's the color of your skin," as if to say skin color were not a culture force in this country.

The privileged foreigner is the assimilable alien. The assimilable alien is posed as an exemplary minority against the bad example of the blacks. Thus the privileged foreigner is trained to respond to the black not the white majority as the single most potent threat to his status. The handicapped native is neither black nor white in a black and white world. In his native American culture he has no recognized style of manhood, in a society where a manly style is prerequisite to respectability and notice. His pride is derived from the degree of his acceptance by the race of his choice at being consciously one thing and not the other. Black, white, chicano, or a museum of Chinese culture. In his use of language, voice inflection, accent, walk, manner of dress, and combing his hair, the handicapped native steeps himself in self- contempt for being "quick to learn... and imitative." At worst, he's a counterfeit begging currency. At best he's an "Americanized Chinese," someone who's been given a treatment to make him less foreign.

August 5, 2008

Paris Hilton for President

From a fellow blogger on the Fighting 44s.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Martin Bashir's comments about "Asian babes"

martin-bashir-extra_786142f.jpgI saw this on AAM. It's about Martin Bashir's comments at the Asian American Journalists Association's annual banquet. It says:
The London-born presenter, who moved to the US four years ago, said: "I'm happy to be in the midst of so many Asian babes. In fact, I'm happy that the podium covers me from the waist down."

Bashir, 45, also managed to embarrass fellow presenter Juju Chang by saying a speech should be "like a dress on a beautiful woman - long enough to cover the important parts and short enough to keep your interest - like my colleague Juju's."

I'm out of rice chaser jokes, but I will say is that I saw this story on the relatively fringe website Angry Asian Man, and the story somehow missed the prominent areas of the NY Times, CNN, and BBC. You would think that in a room full of professionals who make their living by being taken seriously for their minds rather than their bodies that there would be a bit of an outcry over this. I'm wondering where all the Asian American journalists were that day.

I know that there are politics that your average journalist doesn't control, and perhaps to a certain degree, this isn't anything nearly as serious as say, the beating death of Vincent Chin, but one would think that there would be a bit more outcry at such a statement made at the annual banquet of the largest Asian American journalist organization in the country.

August 4, 2008

Multilingual Society

There were two interesting stories about multilingualism today. First, there was a story here about high school officials in New Orleans moving to enact an English-only rule for valedictory speeches after two Vietnamese co-valedictorians said a few words in Vietnamese (seen on Angry Asian Man). Second, there was a story in the NY Times about Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Spanish tutor.

The notion of a multi-lingual America, in my opinion, is a complex one. Being the most diverse nation on earth, most immigrants to this country come from a background in which English is not the dominant language, and as a country that seeks to welcome immigrants ("Give me your tired, your poor"), it's only right that we honor the diversity of the people who make up our nation. At the same time, there needs to be some sort of legal structure that enables us to work together with a common language. I remember reading a couple years ago about an alleged rapist who was an immigrant and who spoke a unique dialect of an African language which only had something like 5,000 speakers, almost all of whom lived in one tiny village in Africa. The law required the courts to provide a translator, and since they couldn't find one, they had to set the guy free. My view is that pure English-only legislation hinders our growth as people, while downgrading the importance of a common language hurts our ability to remain a country of cooperation and common sense. We need to have a structure and culture that honors and learns from our people and our heritages while preventing us from becoming a bunch of people who can't build the tower of Babel because we can't communicate.

My thoughts on the two stories are this: I think it's ridiculous what the New Orleans school district is doing. The students said a few words in Vietnamese, and they translated their own words into English so that everyone could understand. I would hope that the audience would want to hear about the students, their heritage, and their history, and I would hope they would prefer the full version, including the language in which they were raised, rather than some whitewashed version to please the xenophobes. It would be different, perhaps, if the entire speech was in Vietnamese, but since everything was translated into English, the standard common language, I don't see why there should be a problem.

I also think it's great that Mayor Bloomberg is studying Spanish. So many of his constituents come from a Spanish-speaking background, and it's good to know that the mayor of New York cares. There is a bit of unfairness in this. Bloomberg has a big advantage over poor politicians since he can afford to work for a dollar a year and to hire whatever tutors he needs. A less wealthy politician would not have access to the same resources. That being said, it's still great that he's making an effort to educate himself in a language that many New Yorkers use on a daily basis.

Multilingualism in America is a controversial subject that people will continue to debate in the near and far future. Feel free to debate the topic here or in the forum.

August 2, 2008

Jaehwan’s NYC Trip/New Podcast

Jaehwan and's William

I had an excellent trip in NYC over the past couple of weeks. Not only did I spend time with family and take some time to look for traditional Chinese storybooks in Chinatown, but I also had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Fallout Central William and 44/FOC Kwak. It was good to meet both in person after working with them for so long. For those who are curious, these two guys definitely do know how to attract women. They were second only to my two year old son (who, for whatever reason, always gets beautiful women to squeal and approach him).
Kwak76 and Jaehwan

We had some good discussions about PUA (Pick Up Artists) and Asian American activism, and it was cool to meet guys who were on the ground doing stuff, even though I might not agree entirely with what they do or what it represents. I did find (and I already knew) that there were many areas in which our philosophies do overlap, and it was fun discussing our similarities.

While I was in the former Fallout Central studio, which is now the Better Asian Man studio, William and I decided to put together a quick podcast. You can download it here, and you can see it on William's blog here. In the podcast, we continue the discussion about PUA, and we also talk a bit about that Esther Ku clip that people have been discussing on all the Asian message boards. I spoke a bit more also about how I believe that literature can save the world (or at least our part of the world).

Even though I was stumbling on my words after sweating through the sauna-like temperatures of the New York summer, this was probably my favorite podcast to date. Not only did the 'cast give us both ample opportunity to share our philosophies about life and Asian American activism, but it also showcased some true emotional issues. I think you'll all appreciate William's personal approach to his craft. If you listen to the podcast, he draws emotion when he talks about the psychological toll on Asian men that comes from Esther Ku's punchlines. He knows this damage first hand through the testimonies of his own clientele. Both of us are relatively immune these days from this kind of psychological damage--him because of his bootcamp, and me because I've heard that stuff so many times--but there is no doubt that such jokes and statements continue to wreak havoc on younger Asian American men.

By the way, I've been talking to some local people about the concept of teaching Asian men skills with women. People hate the "kiss-and-tell" approach (I put "kiss" in quotes because kissing isn't what the APB disciples brag about), but the idea of teaching male confidence has some strong supporters. So maybe William and even APB are on to something.

From an activist standpoint, PUA is still low brow, and oftentimes it's self-serving for a lot of their acolytes. Selfish people, many of whom take these classes, can't effect change because they only think about themselves and can't see the needs of the larger society. But at the same time, it's relatively easy to promote, and people understand it better than literature--after all, not everyone wants to read, but everyone wants to hook up. I was thinking about this today. I still believe that the literature approach would cure a lot of societal ills, including damage from the Esther Ku style attacks, but at the same time, it may not be practical and it may often be too difficult to get things done at that literature level. Literary people are not known for their debating or organization skills or ability to take criticism, and more often than not, those debates simply fall flat. (Think of the Lois Ann Yamanaka debate where the board of the AAAS resigned over an award; something similar happened to Frank Chin before that). Usually most of the bare-knuckle brawling that takes place in the arts comes from jock-ish agents, publishers, salespeople, and the like. It's that whole jocks vs. nerds thing that Brooks discusses in my favorite NY Times article; jocks are practical and thick-skinned warriors but don't always see the big picture, while nerds are sensitive types who can see the big picture but can't always lead or translate it into practical action. The institutions of literature may simply be too nerd-centric to accommodate change without huge expenditures of time, money, and effort.

So maybe some sort of action at the level of pure attraction and interaction may make sense. People can focus on boosting confidence levels as a means of empowerment. As in all forms of activism, I think there needs to be some sort of moral code, but perhaps forming the moral code is an area where "high brow" and "low brow" can work together.

August 1, 2008

Bob Malaythong and the Commercial

I'm back after a brief hiatus. It was an interesting break. I will probably have a feature/opinion article coming up soon.

I was reading the New York Times yesterday (paper edition since I was actually IN New York), and I saw this article on Bob Malaythong, an upcoming Olympian in the sport of badminton. It's an interesting immigrant story, and it sounds like he has come a far way. Becoming an Olympian in any sport is a hard, competitive process, and he should be proud.

One thing that really disturbed me, however, was the following text from the beginning of the article. It says:
Ortiz would be David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox slugger. He teamed with Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher to play badminton against Malaythong and his partner, Howard Bach, in a national commercial for Vitamin Water.

The commercial ends with Ortiz spiking the shuttlecock deep into Malaythong’s leg.

You can see the commercial here:

I understand that badminton is an underfunded sport, but for the life of me, I can't understand why the American Olympic committee would let two of their upcoming competitors agree to be in a commercial in which they get trounced by two "American" (read: white or black) guys who don't even play the sport. You would think that someone would stop them. From the story, Bob Malaythong clearly needs whatever money he earned from the TV spot, but I would think that any self-respecting badminton or Olympic organization would ask him not to do it. Or maybe pressure Vitamin Water to rewrite the script. I'm sure they could've arranged something that would earn Bob money and save these poor Vitamin Water people from embarassing themselves with their racial nonsense.