September 25, 2008

Byron's new blog:

Hey All,

Just want to let my fans all know that I now have a new blog. You can find me at It was time that I had my own domain name. I may be transferring all this old stuff to the new blog as well. In the meantime, I'll still be checking in on this one, so feel free to drop me a message anytime.

September 22, 2008

The College Issue

There was an extraordinary issue of the Times Magazine this past weekend: The College Issue.

September 20, 2008

Teachers from India

There is an article about teachers from India in the Times today. These teachers from India are being hired by American schools because of the shortage of math and science teachers in the U.S. Needless to say, it's a culture shock.

In India, Ms. Tallur was revered. When she entered her classroom, 70 students would rise, stand by their desks, and greet her in unison. “In India a teacher is next to God,” she explained, noting the contrast in behavior.

Now after a year of teaching at Harding in an international program, Ms. Tallur has become used to less respect. She is no longer surprised by profanity in the hallways and students talking out of turn in the classroom.

There's a good quote over here:

“In India, most of the disciplining happens when children are younger,” she said. “It’s easy to bend the stem of a plant when it is young. Once the stem gets strong, it is much harder.”

There's a funny quote over here:

At Bassick High School, Satya Mohan, a physics teacher, said he was surprised the first time a student put his head down on his desk and said, “I am not in the mood to listen today.”

“I thought to myself, well he is being honest,” Dr. Mohan said.

It's good that this is taking place, both in terms of the intercultural exchange and the much needed instruction in math and science.

By the way, I think India must do well in terms of teaching language too. It's not unusual to see Indian authors on the shortlist for the Man Booker prize. They definitely take their education seriously in India.

The Ultra-Rich

Someone on one of my listserves sent me this. We never ever get tired of talking about the ultra-rich or ultra-powerful. But in our own defense, some of these people truly are fascinating. It's a funny cycle. I think if I had that much money, I'd put it into promoting my non-profit. But that non-profit mindset is probably why I don't have that much money in the first place.

September 19, 2008

The Honeymoon is Over

It looks like the excitement regarding Sarah Palin's nomination for VP is starting to wear off. I was hoping it would, and I'm glad that common sense is starting to settle in. Not only is she not cooperating with the inquiry into her "Troopergate" scandal, but people are also starting to question other parts of her history that might make her unfit for the VP slot, such as her spotty educational record and achievements, and the fact that she repeats herself over and over in all of her campaign speeches.

If the numbers on her fading appeal are an indication of the country's assessment of her, then I'm happy that people are finally waking up. We don't need a VP who is an average American. We don't need a VP who has average or below average academic credentials. We don't need a VP who repeats the same lines over and over again. We need a VP who will be able to lead, innovate, think on her feet, and show Americans what we're capable of. We need a VP who has the ability to become a great President should the need arise. We're not going to get that with Sarah Palin. I hope Americans are starting to see this.

September 17, 2008

Microsoft's New Ad Campaign

Microsoft is beginning a new ad campaign to fight back against Apple's Mac Guy/PC Guy ads. It's supposedly a hip, cool, rebuttal to the ads that Apple has been using to hammer PC's for the last couple of years. Apparently they're investing heavily in these ads:

Mr. Gates makes a cameo appearance in the new Microsoft spots, along with celebrities like the actress Eva Longoria, the author Deepak Chopra and the singer Pharrell Williams. (Mr. Seinfeld is gone, at least for now.)

But the stars are everyday PC users, from scientists and fashion designers to shark hunters and teachers, all of whom affirm, in fast-paced, upbeat vignettes, their pride in using the computers that run on Microsoft operating systems and software.

I used to be an "everyday PC user" too...until, of course, I tried a Mac. It's a world of difference. First of all, Macs are better at doing fun stuff like podcasts and video. Second, the bootup time is around 30 seconds rather than two minutes. Third, you don't have to worry as much about viruses (though in all fairness to Microsoft, this is because hackers target Windows more often.). Fourth, the graphics abilities of Leopard are superior to Windows. Fifth, MacOS doesn't crash all the time. Sixth, certain things just make more sense--i.e. log in as a non-admin but require an admin password for software installation.

I honestly would never have tried a Mac if a friend hadn't bought one on a whim. I still use a PC for work and for spreadsheets, but as for my personal use, now that I'm on OS, I don't think I'll ever go back.

Edit 9/18: Funny comment here.

I wonder what computers the Crispin Porter creatives use...any guesses?

JP, San Francisco, CA

September 16, 2008

Generations of Hope

There's a beautiful, touching story in the New York Times today about a community called "Generations of Hope." The story in short is that Generations of Hope, a nonprofit adoption agency, has created a small community of adoptive parents and children along with surrogate grandparents. There is a permanent community of adoptive families, and there are older people who live there and agree to volunteer with the community.

For the most part, it works. Before she came here 14 years ago, Ms. Bohm, a retired schoolteacher and widow who never had children, said she was “bored and lonely and feeling like maybe I should just hang it up.”

She saw a pamphlet about Generations of Hope in a shopping mall. She now believes her years here have been the happiest, and most important, of her life. “I feel like a cowgirl on wheels around these kids,” she said.

Part of the beauty of the program is that these kids need grandparents, and these grandparents need grandkids. The philosophy to make families permanent is also a good one:

At the heart of the program is the ethos that parenthood and grandparenthood are permanent.

“I know of two ways to raise children: you have them biologically or you adopt them,” said Dr. Eheart, a former researcher at the University of Illinois. “Foster care is an oxymoron.”

There of course is the racial aspect--most of the grandkids are black, and most of the grandparents are white. It's always a difficult pairing because there are issues that an older generation of white folk will not understand when it comes to young minorities. But there's a strong need for mentorship with both age groups, so I think Generations of Hope is doing a great thing.

September 14, 2008

Frank Chin Video

Zach posted up the youtube version of the Frank Chin event, which Thymos hosted in July. You can see it here. Zach not only filmed, edited, and converted/burned the video, but he also wrote the music himself. Can you believe that? If you're interested in more of Zach's work, you can check out his homepage here.

NY Times article on Wayne Wang

There is an article on Wayne Wang in the NY Times today. His upcoming movies look interesting, although I can't say that I've seen all that much of his work. I've been told by many that I should see "Chan is Missing."

Little Italy

There is an article on Little Italy in the Times today about how there are less than 1,000 Italians left in Little Italy.

“The problem with Italians is we don’t really stick together,” rued Mr. Scivetti, who immigrated from Italy a half-century ago as a teenager. He broke the labor laws on shape-up journeys each dawn from Little Italy to suburban odd jobs. “Like the Latinos now,” he noted.
I agree that the Chinese "stick together," but I also think that it's because there is such a large influx of Chinese immigration. Chinese people live in Chinatown, and they immigrate through Chinatown, but most don't stay there. Most residents of Chinatown are 1st or 1.5 gen'ers. If Italians had a similar number of immigrants today, Little Italy would probably still be Italian.

September 13, 2008

Dems vs Repubs

Here's a good article on the difference between Dems and Repubs. I should check out Durkheim.

Quote of the Day

For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on “American Idol.
--Bob Herbert, NY Times, 9/12/08
There are two great opinions on Governor Palin in the NY Times today. First, there is Bob Herbert's article "She's Not Ready," and then there is the editorial "Governor Palin's Worldview." Basically, they say the same thing that everyone else should be saying: Palin doesn't have the experience to be vice-president, and McCain is endangering the country by picking her.

September 12, 2008

Wax on, wax off

I'm watching the Karate Kid on AMC right now. What a great movie. I've heard that I'm not the only one who likes it--it's one of Chuck Liddell's favorite movies of all time. Part II was kind of goofy, Part III was just plain stupid, but Part What is especially amazing about the movie is that even though it's got "Karate" in the tile, there isn't all that much fighting; karate serves as a vehicle for self-actualization rather than a method of violence (this wasn't the case in the sequels). There are many ways to interpret this film. It can be a story of friendship, a story of mentorship, or a story of a boy becoming a man. I'm sure there are many more interpretations. It's amazing that a two hour movie can say so much.

I see it mostly as a generational film, a story where an old guy mentors a young guy, and the two teach each other about life. Daniel-san is a young boy who needs an older mentor to help him navigate through his bully problem, while Mr. Miyagi is a lonely old man who needs Daniel to bring him life. Daniel looks for the teacher, while Miyagi provides the guidance. Miyagi becomes the father figure that Daniel-san so badly needs. "Karate" is the vehicle and the discipline.

I learned something new on this viewing. Right after Miyagi cuts the deal with Johnny's karate teacher and they return home, Daniel-san asks if Miyagi thinks he can beat Johnny. Miyagi tells him that it doesn't matter, that if he fights well, everyone will have his respect and the problem will be over. I never thought about it before, but he's right. If Daniel had lost, it would make a crappy movie, but I highly doubt Johnny and the Cobra Kais would continue bullying a guy who showed up to fight at the tournament. There would simply be too much respect between them. It's a wonderful lesson if you think about it--people can all work together when there's a bond of mutual respect. And respect can come from mutual work and shared experiences.

By the way, I just looked up Ralph Macchio on Wikipedia, and according to his entry, he named his son "Daniel." That movie definitely changed his life!

Edit: Just watched Karate Kid II. Really lame, even though Tamlyn Tomita is in it.

Spies, Alger Hiss, and the Literati

Martin Tytell died today. According to his NY Times obit, he was the master of typewriters. His knowledge and familiarity with the machines was so great that he was hired by the US military to convert Siamese typewriters into American typewriters during the manufacturing shortages of WW II, he was hired by the lawyers of Alger Hiss to prove that typewriter print was reproducible on different machines , and he was a friend of American writers who hired him to keep their machines working.

Mr. Tytell was proud of the rarity of his expertise, and relished the eccentric nature of his business. “We don’t get normal people here,” he said of his shop. And he was aware that his connection to the typewriter bordered on love.

“I’m 83 years old and I just signed a 10-year lease on this office; I’m an optimist, obviously,” Mr. Tytell told the writer Ian Frazier in a 1997 article in The Atlantic Monthly, commenting on the likelihood that typewriters weren’t going to last in the world much longer. “I hope they do survive — manual typewriters are where my heart is. They’re what keep me alive.”
It's amazing how many doors the typewriter afforded to Mr. Tytell. The moral of the story: if you do one thing, do it well, and become the best in the world.

September 11, 2008


Saw these women on AAM. They're very good--to my ears, anyway. I hope they get far.

The only thing I didn't like was that they transformed a love song, a physical love song, into a Jesus song. Actually, it would even be incorrect to even call it a love song. It's technically a "yearning" song, since the lyrics imply that the players in the story are not yet lovers--"you'd be like heaven to touch, I wanna hold you so much." Physical contact or lust between men and women. Isn't that unholy? My opinion is that drastically altering the nature of a song is a form of theft, especially since in this case, it's clearly not the original intent of the songwriter and lyricist. It's legal--they're not performing for a public audience and not making money off their rendition (unless you count the offering plate)--but it still doesn't sit right with me.

When I was in church as a boy, they used to do the same thing. I used to wonder why religious groups transformed the lyrics of secular music into hymns. One preacher dude with a guitar once told me that all secular music was evil because it was Lucifer's means of taking our attention away from God, and that music was intended by our Savior to be His and His alone. That scared the crap out of me. For a long time, I was afraid of turning on the radio lest I get hit with a lightning bolt.

I can see why the churches take music like this--it helps them to expand their cultural reach and tell their story in a musical language that people already understand. At the same time, I "can't take my eyes" off the fact that it seems to me to be a form of theft, and it makes the integrity of the church even shakier than it already is.

Anyway, the point of this post wasn't to talk about the church but rather to point out another talented Asian American group. You can check them out over here.

September 10, 2008

Mary Dunn, Yoga Instructor, Dies

Saw this article today. Mary Dunn was a famous and influential instructor on Iyengar Yoga, especially on the West Coast. It's not too often that we celebrate those who form a bridge between people and help us to learn from the wisdom of other cultures.
“We tend to cubbyhole the different parts of human experience,” she said in an interview in The New York Times in 1995. “ ‘Is it physical? Is it mental? Is it emotional?’ But here was a man teaching that all these parts are connected.”
Rest in peace.

September 8, 2008

Passing on Ethnic Identity

Saw this article on AAM. I think these are the questions that people of my generation, the same generation as the people in the article, struggle with--how do you pass on ethnic identity to your kids? Children are our future, and parents are usually the ones who raise them, so these questions are among the most relevant to any activism we do.
This quote was very interesting:
As for heritage, Ms. Liu wants to make sure that Chris understands he’s
Asian-American. “One time a boy saw Christopher and said, ‘Look, a Chinese boy,”
recalled Ms. Liu. “Christopher says, ‘Where?’
A question which comes up less often, but which is probably even more important, is this: what is our ethnic identity as Asian Americans? Mainstream values sometimes color Asian American identity with the stereotyped, orientalist portrayals, but what is the culture?
My old approach would usually be to encourage modern people to inject their own personalities into creating the culture. I'd still recommend proactive action, but with some recent readings on initiations, which I'll hopefully expand upon at a later time, I'm starting to see that we need to take both a soft and a hard approach. Children are our future, and parents are usually the ones who raise them, so these questions are among the most relevant to any activism we do. I'll explain more at a later time.

Podcast on BetterAsianMan

I'm listening right now to the latest Better Asian Man podcast. In the podcast, William interviews "King4aDay" and "The Minority Militant." William and King were continuing a discussion from the 44s, while William and TMM were continuing a discussion from TMM's blog at Minority Militant.

I think it would have been better if William had let the other guys in the studio join the conversation right away. 3 on 1 or 2 on 1 isn't fair, of course, but I think it would've been more lively with at least one other voice. I also think it would've been better if TMM had prepared by bringing his notes, which he acknowledged he didn't have.

That being said, William still delivers. It's a fun podcast, and I think it's good for us to discuss this, regardless of whether or not people agree with PUA. William is taking some huge activist steps in creating his network and inviting people to make voice contact with him.

Anyway, it's a long podcast, and I'm not done yet, but I'd thought I'd just go ahead and post it.

September 7, 2008

Brave New World of Digital Intimacy

I don't have much to say about this NY Times article right now, other than it was a pretty insightful look at how online social networking continues to change the social network. I still don't get it. I have friends who log on to Facebook and MySpace every day, and I'm guessing that Twitter is an even more invasive form of online networking. I'm over 30, and as the article mentions, those of us who are over that age often just don't get it.

Politicians who can "relate"

There's a great article on the reception of Palin's speech here. Judith Warner hits it right on. I think Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof have addressed this issue as well. In America, it pays for a politician to "dumb it down" because people somehow feel that it's easier to relate to dumb people.

One of the worst poisons of the American political climate right now, the thing that time and again in recent years has led us to disaster, is the need people feel for leaders they can “relate” to. This need isn’t limited to women; it brought us after all, two terms of George W. Bush. And it isn’t new; Americans have always needed to feel that their leaders were, on some level, people like them.

But in the past, it was possible to fill that need through empathetic connection. Few Depression-era voters could “relate” to Franklin Roosevelt’s patrician background, notes historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “It was his ability to connect to them that made them feel they could connect to him,” she told me in a phone interview.

The age of television, Goodwin believes, has made the demand for connection more immediate and intense. But never before George W. Bush did it quite reach the beer-drinking level of familiarity. “Now it’s all about being able to see your life story in the candidate, rather than the candidate, with empathy, being able to relate to you.”

I still can't get over how W pulled it off. When all is said and done, people need a politician who can manage resources and lead people. Who cares if he or she would make a good PTA friend or drinking buddy? Most of us won't have the opportunity to attend soccer practice or drink beer with them anyway. The only way we're going to get rid of this trend is for us to make smart cool. We need to do more to start celebrating smart people in American society.

September 5, 2008

Asian Americans Find Religion Depressing

I just saw this while playing around with Google. The beauty of the web--it's an Asian American website, which links to Richard Dawkins's site, which links to the original article.

According to the article:
Previous research has shown that teens who are active in religious services are depressed less often because it provides these adolescents with social support and a sense of belonging.

But new research has found that this does not hold true for all adolescents, particularly for minorities and some females. The study found that white and African-American adolescents generally had fewer symptoms of depressive at high levels of religious participation. But for some Latino and Asian-American adolescents, attending church more often was actually affecting their mood in a negative way.

Asian-American adolescents who reported high levels of participation in their church had the highest number of depressive symptoms among teens of their race.
Further down, it says:
Among adolescents who never attended church, Asian-American adolescents reported 4 percent fewer symptoms of depression in the preceding week than did their African-American peers.

In comparison, Asian-American youth who attended church at least once a week reported 20 to 27 percent more symptoms of depression than their white and African-American peers who attended at the same level.
I don't doubt that this is the case. Though I'm not a fan of David Henry Hwang, I think he described Christianity among Asians best by saying something like, "Confucianism disguised as Christianity." I think most Asian Americans have a fear-based version of Christianity which destroys, rather than lifts up, the lives of participants. While I have good friends who are Christian, Christianity has also destroyed many Asian American lives. Most Asian American atheists I know are much happier than most Asian American Christians.

So rather than Asian American atheists inviting Christ to be one's personal Savior, I personally think we need more Asian American Christians to invite themselves to become free from Christ.

(Disclaimer: If Christianity suits you, just keep on doing what you're doing. But don't believe the myth that it represents salvation for everyone.)

September 4, 2008

Next Top Model

I don't know where America's Next Top Model finds their Asian women. First, they had April, the hapa girl who said she didn't consider herself Asian. Then they had Gina, the girl who bragged about how proud she was of her Korean American heritage and then bragged that she didn't date Asian men. In all cases, Tyra set the Asian women straight.

Now we have Sheena, a woman who is from Hawaii, now lives in Harlem, and speaks like this. People from Hawaii don't talk like this. People from Harlem don't talk like this. I understand that maybe she wants to be black, but it doesn't sound cool, it doesn't attractive, and it doesn't sound black.

A reporter from Slate once pointed out that Tyra tries to eradicate contestants' African American cultural idiosyncrasies, especially when it comes to regional African American speaking styles. In the past, Tyra has only done this with African American contestants. The question is whether she'll try to eradicate an African American speaking style with a woman who isn't African American but intentionally tries to speak as if she is.

September 3, 2008

Republican Convention

Just finished listening to the Repub Convention speech.

I have to say something about John McCain: his choice of Sara Palin as VP is pure genius on a political level. Palin's no Hillary, but Obama is going to have a hard fight ahead, much harder than the Hillary fight.

1. Biden: Palin effectively nullifies Joe Biden's ability to debate issues. Palin knows very little about international affairs (tonight it looked like she was saying the word "Iran" for the first time in her life), and when they debate, there is very little doubt in my mind that Biden will come off looking like a bully. The Repubs can easily pull the same rope-a-dope trick that Bush used against Gore in 2000--just keep repeating the phrase "fuzzy math," and eventually the smart or knowledgeable person will look like an arrogant and condescending know-it-all. In politics one never knows whether a ploy will work, but the odds are definitely in Palin's favor.

2. Hillary: they won't get most Hillary supporters to swing, but they'll definitely get some of them. Hillary supporters who say that McCain's choice of Palin is "patronizing" would not have voted for him anyway--those tend to be the ones who supported Hillary for her talents rather than the historical precedent--but those who are still angry at the DNC will definitely have an easier choice with the historic nature of bringing in the first female VP.

3. Conservatives: Palin is a staunch anti-choice, anti-environmentalist conservative which is helping him pick up supporters from the Religious Right. Already, "Dr." James Dobson has said that he'd vote for McCain. (I need to take this opportunity to repeat the essential question that Richard Dawkins asked about Dobson's group Focus on the Family--"Focus on whose family?")

4. Bristol Palin: The McCain camp says that they knew about Bristol's pregnancy beforehand, and I believe them. This is perhaps the most ingeniuous part of McCain's plan. Riding on the momentum from Jamie Lynn Spears's pregnancy, McCain is effectively using this supposedly negative distraction as a means of getting on the airwaves and making a mental impact on young people who deal with these issues. The fact that he's embracing Bristol's soon-to-be new family shows that he's sympathetic with young people, thereby appealing to some young liberals, and the 72 year old McCain is reaching out to a demographic that normally wouldn't pay attention to a guy so old. It's brilliant.

McCain would still be a lousy choice for President with 100 more years in Iraq, and Palin would be even worse as an inexperienced VP standing just one 72 year old heartbeat from the presidency. A Palin vs. Putin possibility should scare everyone. But I have to say--on a political level, his choice of Palin as VP was brilliant. We are all going to have to work hard to fight during this campaign.

Political Showboating

Saw this in the Times.

Now I'm not a fan of John McCain. I think there has to be something seriously wrong with any person who wants to stay in Iraq. He's shown a serious lack of judgment by picking a VP with barely two years of experience running a state with a population less than half that of the Portland metro area, and he's endangering the world by picking a trophy vice who has no experience in dealing with international issues, is an anti-environmentalist, and who brings the same hardline conservative Christian fundamentalist values that most of the nation is sick of.

That being said, he's playing this election like a fiddle. He's showing his maverick side by embracing the family of his VP, regardless of what people think about the pregnant daughter and her boyfriend, and he's effectively using it to reach out to the young and disaffected. It's almost as if he has used the momentum from Jamie Lynn Spears to bolster his campaign. And he's continuing to paint Obama and the Democrats as sexist for choosing Obama over Clinton.

I don't have much positive to say about his politics, but in terms of political maneuvering, it was an amazing move. He's milking the VP choice for all it's worth. Obama is going to have a tough fight ahead of him.

What if your bus comes late?

From KVAL:

By KATU Web Staff PORTLAND, Ore. - A bank robber used a peculiar getaway vehicle Tuesday morning: a TriMet bus.

After the man robbed the U.S. Bank branch at Southwest 6th Avenue and Southwest Washington Street about 10 a.m., he got on the bus, which headed toward northwest Portland, according to Beth Anne Steele, an FBI spokeswoman.

Police pulled over the bus at the intersection of Northwest 4th Avenue and Northwest Everett Street and took a man off it at gunpoint, she said. It was not clear how they tracked the man - and bus - down.

Investigators were trying to determine if the man is a suspect in other robberies. His name was not immediately released.

September 2, 2008

When Languages Collide

Just saw this post on 8 Asians, which says, "9/5 SF: Bay Area Korean Americans (BAKA) is hosting its 5th Annual Wine Tasting Event!"

I don't know if the Korean Americans know it, but "Baka" means "stupid" in Japanese. Did they choose the name not knowing? Or maybe it was done on purpose just to draw attention from the high numbers of Japanese Americans in the Bay area? If they chose the name intentionally, I can't help but think they could've chosen better, especially since most people wouldn't want to waste their time on an organization whose name means "dumb."

Don LaFontaine Dies

The famous voice that we all know from movie trailers has died today.

Article here.