Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Old Navy does not carry blank T-shirts. I went to exchange some clothes today, and what I really wanted (for lack of anything else to want) were some solid colored T-shirts: plain, no logo, no branding, no nothing. But no, Old Navy is fixed on promoting its brand. Which brought up the question, where do you go shopping for clothes if you don't want to be corporate, besides the Salvation Army store? There are probably small clothing shops that would do, I'm thinking of places in downtown Fullerton.

Regarding the Charlie Chan's Revenge conversation, I think they themselves made the point that I was trying to say. Celebrate your heritage, and you won't need to complain about discrimination.

On a different note, Krispy Kreme custard-filled donuts fall short of the standard set by Winchell's custard-fills.

Friday, December 27, 2002

This is a little note to let Charlie Chan's Revenge know that I enjoy reading their weblog and that I'm still thinking about the Angry Asian thing, and I'll try to post something semi-intelligent soon. Also, I watched a small TV show on a local channel tonight called Y-source (no webpage?) that featured Bobby Lee, a comedian of Korean heritage. Reminded me of an NPR discussion a few weeks ago where they interviewed comics about race issues, because they are less afraid and more able to approach the subject. Anyway, funny guy, good show. Just another reason why I need a TiVO.

This winter vacation, my brother is down from Berkeley. He is an afictionado of the internet and general programming for the Mac, immersed in the liberal web culture, besides being influenced by the Bay Area thing. My parents, on the other hand, are former missionaries, conservatives of European stock and getting settled into their old age. The contrast between their views and my brother's opinions have made for some heated discussions. Thankfully, I'm an experienced mediator so they haven't turned into RL flame-fests quite yet. If I sound hedgy and try to think things out on paper, now you know why.

I think I figured out what is bothering me about today's CCR post:

I think we need to give [Buddhism and other eastern religions] the respect they deserve. This should not be a eurocentric world.

On the surface these two statements appear similar. But I propose that the second is overly general and misleading. I agree that Buddhism and her geographical counterparts are not treated seriously by many Americans, and that they should be given respect for their good qualities. However, should a person of European descent not live in a eurocentric world? Is that asking them to lose their culture? Part of what makes Amerca great is the abundance of different cultures that co-exists, individually unique. What the author likely meant is that the media should not be so eurocentric. This begs the question, who is responsible for media? Does the media have a responsibility to its audience beyond the people who contribute to it? And how are the Asian Americans involved in the media working to represent their cultures in the industry?

If I were going to try to write an "Angry Euro Rant", it would revolve around the rest of the world seeing white USA as some sort of blank, default culture, devoid of substance, that needs to be filled in with something like a universal aggregate of all the other cultures. This idea is, in fact, demeaning to other cultures in that, by supposing that the USA has the default culture, we maintain that the other cultures are cute anomalies to be preserved in museums. It's also demeaning to European American culture, because it assumes that anybody can become white by singing Christmas carols or making apple pie, but Asian Americans (especially those dudes who post rants about white guys who date Asian) often cannot accept a white person interested in their own culture, be it through the more friendly female-folk.

OK, so much thinking may have lead me to figure out why the Angry Asian Thing bothers me. European American culture (by which I mean "white American culture", which has a worse connotation) has a certain bravura that tends to push out other cultures; hence white casts on prime-time TV shows, and other things that Angry Asians tend to point out. I would argue that this bravura is not unique to European American culture; it exists in all people, most often taking the form of cultural pride, a commendable quality that serves to preserve a culture and give individuals a sense of identity. However at times this pride is corrupted and is detrimental to a pluro-cultural (is that a word?) society. As a believer in positive reinforcement and the Puritan work ethic, I believe that proper way of dealing with the lack of minority representation and related problems is not to whine and complain. Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but it also gives people a headache. Rather, the solution lies in creating positive images of other cultures and educating the ignorant about these positive images. As American citizens, Asian-Americans need to participate in the media, and civic and economic spheres, not as meek model minorities, but as proud and hard-working representatives of their respective cultures.

Two notes:

  • Note that this opinion, as stated above, is informed by a bias towards positive reinforcement and personal responsibility. I was brought up to dislike whiners, and that the greatness of the USA was built on hard work and the sweat of everyman's brow. Supporters of the welfare state and the "humans are stupid" philosophy, as well as sworn pessimists, will undoubtedly disagree.
  • I'm surprised at how often the theme of education comes up in my discussion of issues lately. Call me a utopian, but I believe that dispelling ignorance is a major part of reaching a harmonious state, and most of the problems in the world today (and yesterday!) come from false understanding and/or lack of understanding that could be avoided through education. I applaud other cultures for their high appreciation of educators, and I wish that American culture would adopt this value.

A few new photos from Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2002

I just don't get the whole Angry Asian Thing. In fact, most of the time I don't think anger solves anything, unless it motivates one's self to action. Would it be double irony if a white guy bought this shirt?

Trying to find advice on the web for the BOHS Alumni night I participated in, I ran across Robert Enright's opinion of Caltech. It's the piece of writing that most closely approximates my feelings about the four years I spent there, so I quote it here:

Not too long ago, I graduated from Caltech. While I was there I was bitterly unhappy and largely resentful about having chosen to go there in the first place. However, now that it's over, I've begun to see the bigger picture and have developed a slightly more balanced view on my years there. To be honest, practically every day of my life there just plain sucked and I was nearly always on the edge of despair. But every once in a while I'd have a very fun, special, or memorable moment that I will now treasure forever. Nevertheless, my life is presently a bit unsatisfying and it seems clear that my experience at Caltech is mostly to blame.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I'm hot this week, I got one substitute teaching job on Monday and I've got another tomorrow morning. Tutoring on Tuesdays and Wednesdays has helped me to meet some of the teachers, and now they know I can teach the stuff. Not only teach, I've also learned a little of this newfangled "integrated" math. I took my camera to tutoring tonight and chickened out on photographing people again. Suck it up, Micah!

This afternoon I registered for two classes at Fullerton College next semester: Econ 101 (microeconomics) and Econ 102 (macroeconomics). Georgetown is requiring me to do both of these before I enroll. Not that I've even been accepted yet.

Arianna Huffington had an editorial in the LA Times this morning about how mad she gets at the improper use of apostrophes, as in "three G.I.'s walked into a bar." Puh-leaze Arianna, talk about overkill. We know that people make this mistake all of the time, but is it worth an editorial article?

Watched an episode of Ai Qing Bai Pi Shu today at noon; it's a romantic comedy Taiwanese soap, very modelled on Japanese drama (for those not famliar with Japanese drama, it's nothing like American soaps). If I had a TIVO, I would record all of those shows and watch them. Better than sitting around all day, waiting for tutoring in the evenings. I found an up-to-date page with all the dramas showing in SoCal listed on it, Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean. Pretty cool.

Posted a long reply on Julie's livejournal on what I did yesterday, and related thoughts.

Monday, December 16, 2002

The drama scene goes down at the KIKU TV message board, where Triple Lei and I (msittig) have a coolness thread going for all of the Los Angeles drama fans. All two of us.

Busy Marquees make me laugh.

I'm reading a Teach Yourself Korean book on my breaks at work. Halfway through the second lesson, I've got the impression that it's similar to Japanese and without as many particles. I don't have anybody to speak with currently, so I'm going on my own sense of what the pronunciation is like. Oh, my own sense and a healthy dose of Korean dramas.

Work today was very busy, we had two people at the registers at all times and three people for a large part of the day. I even had Jackie, normally a cafe worker, come and work her first shift ever with me at the info desk. Thankfully, I was able to spend some time shelving and got most of the web programming books in the computer section in order. I brought the Secret Santa gift I was supposed to buy to work today, I can't say what it is or who it's for because it's a secret.

Nine days till Christmas, many gifts left to buy.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

I did my part, have you?

Our local public radio station is KPCC 89.3, Southern California Public Radio.

Thanks to my generosity, KPCC was able to end its pledge drive a day early this week. Now I can stop feeling guilty when I listen to Talk of the City, and Tavis Smiley's weeknight show. You too can make a pledge.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

New photos. You know what makes Ziboy's photo log interesting? Part of it is that the photos are very cosmopolitan Beijing. But the essential attraction is that (nearly?) every picture has a person in it. I need to screw up my courage and learn to take pictures of people. A quote I read once by a famous photographer was "take pictures first, ask permission later." So I imagine the process is something like:

  1. Smile.
  2. Take picture.
  3. Say hi.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

I can't believe I did three years of high school in Brea without speaking a word of Spanish. Since I've been home from China, I've:

  • ...sat in a barber-chair for 30 minutes chatting with a rather attractive Mexican hairdresser. She kept me talking the whole time, said she loved my Spain accent.
  • ...been hired to tutor ESL kids on Mondays and Wednesdays at Laurel School.
  • ...met a graphic design artist from Guadalajara, Mexico, at Tower Records and discussed what *real* Spanish music is (Mecano, Alejandra Guzman, Cristian, Hombres G), as opposed to that ranchera music, which is the Mexican equivalent of country. And you know what I think of country.

I hope my order for Perez-Reverte's El Maestro de Esgrima shows up at Borders soon, so I can get back into the habit of learning Spanish. At least folks around here are more forgiving about forgotten words, and I can use the English if I really have to.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Watching TV tonight, I finally decided to figure out what country's peoples were the target audience for the show Tanin, a Middle-Eastern music video program that runs late nights on KSCI channel 18. A quick Google search leads to Delighted's weblog, a very thoughtful weblog full of stories of her childhood in... Iran! Also, she shared some pictures of her elementary school in Iran, which I think are worth mentioning.

Also, I saved an article called Tribal Workers by Thomas Barlow of the Financial Times, which describes the situation of today's angsty, over-worked and over-optioned young professionals:

Today's generation of high-earning professionals maintain that their personal fulfilment comes from their jobs and the hours they work. They should grow up, says Thomas Barlow.

Sometimes I feel the same way, confused about the millions of options available to me. Not that I claim to be a polymath of any sort, like those European kids you meet on your world travels who can speak fifteen languages fluently, have black belts in karate, hold advanced degrees in several subjects and worked as investment bankers for the last few years before deciding to take five months off to travel the world. Grrrrr. But I am confused the the death of paths I have to choose from. Maybe, like the article concludes, I need to learn that "living is as much about closing possibilities as it is about creating them."

Thursday, December 05, 2002

I went to my first day of tutoring the ESL kids at Laurel School and had a good time. They are a fun bunch, and made me break out my trusty, very rusty Spanish. The girls started arguing about soccer teams; it's the first time in a while I've heard people squabbling over soccer allegiances -- very cool. The students are all(?) originally from Mexico, ranging from 1 month to about 2 years in the United States. So there is a range of Spanish skills. So far I only tutored in physics and math but I may get to start on ESL level English too.

I'm making a mid-year resolution to start excercising more. I might even go sign up for the gym, just so that I'll excercise to make it worth the money spent. My bank account is acquiring a little pot belly from being well fed, I think I can justify the expense. I've been riding my bike, but I want a more well-rounded work-out. If I want to strip off my shirt to impress the chick when I appear on Elimidate, I will need some toned abs. yeah.

I've beed adding photos recently to the photo weblog.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Slept in, worked replacing shingles on the roof so dad could put up Christmas lights, went to church, had pancakes for dinner, watched the new Japanese drama on Sunday nights, Gokusen. See photos of working on the roof on the photo page.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Remember that drama theme song Hello, Everybody! by day after tomorrow that I was ranting and raving about? Well Definite Asia finally came through. I've downloaded it and uploaded it for your listening pleasure, because it's so darn catchy.

day after tomorrow - Hello, Everybody! (5.4 MB - removed, e-mail me to request it)

Oh, and I'm sad because the Kiku TV forums are down right now.

Shirley and I went out to lunch at Millie's with Kartik, Julie, Eric, who were all back from college for Thanksgiving weekend. Funny, I don't think any of them are Christian so I don't know why they came back for a long weekend. In any case, it was a pleasure to hang out with them. We discussed newspapers; who else reads the newspaper around here? Nobody. My parents cut their subscription to weekends-only, which means no Thursday calendar section. The Thursday section has a big list of weekend events, which I liked to read and dream of doing stuff. Also, they were very encouraging about my applying to grad school. Come to think of it, pretty much everybody I have talked to has been very positive.

I wish I was more self-effacing.