Jaehwan and betterasianman.com'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.