Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Holy Crap

This Equality thing is like a meme. How much further will this go? I'd like to hear back from more people, whether or not you have a blog.

Equality in Atlantis

Recently a friend of mine started two separate conversations with me and another friend of ours about equality. On my end, the conversation began with the question, "can we ever be equal? and if not why then do we strive for equality?"

First of all, my first impulse, as a person trained by the institution-of-higher-learning-that-I-went-to, is to unpack the terminology. Who are "we" and what are we talking about when we talk about "equality"? And how do we define equality? Anyway, I wrote back about political power in relation to racial minorities. And as it turns out, what my friend meant was in terms of gender equality.

Meanwhile Wendao Jinxin, thinking along similar lines, posted his thoughts on his blog. I'm curious what you, all 9 readers who visit multiple times, think of this.

My conversations with both people are worthwhile. For the moment, I'll follow my original line of thinking, which was about racial equality and what that would look like, if we could attain it?

First of all, who are "we"? I'll take this as all underrepresented, underprivileged people, poor people, women, queer people, racial minorities of all kinds. Anyone who doesn't consider themselves to be equal right now, and lives in fear, to some extent, of repercussions that might result from who they are.

Equal to what? Defining it as The Man, would be too easy and too simplistic. I'll define it as those people, who can live without fear of oppression due to who or what they are. This definition is still problematic, but I'll let it stand for right now.

And finally, what is equality? Equality, at least in terms of social justice-y types, has become a signifier for equal rights and equal opportunity. When did equal rights for all citizens become an right, and a signal of an enlightened state? Certainly America did not begin as a society based on equal rights for all. I'm vaguely aware of the debate about man's natural rights, and the inherent rights of all human beings. Those of my 9 readers who are better versed in the Western canon than I, please feel free to enlighten me.

Equal rights and opportunity for everyone? What does this mean and what would this look like? To me it's almost inconceivable. Please show me a society which was truly equal. Even states which have been founded with the intent to create an equal society have failed to live up to their ideals.

So if it is impossible, or perhaps it's better to say improbable, why should we work for an equal society? In my opinion, the idea of creating an equal society is a bit like the idea of travelling to Atlantis (I am totally stealing from W. H. Auden's poem "Atlantis" and from Brooks Hansen Perlman's Ordeal). Although as Wendao Jinxin says, the old timers make the realistic decisions that actually help people, many activists initially became interested in social justice of some sort because of this idea of the equal society. The fact that Atlantis doesn't exist doesn't make make its presence any less powerful in our minds.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Webb Part 2

Perhaps I wasn't being clear. Hopefully some time and some sleep have made my thoughts slightly more coherent, and concise.

I don't disagree with his concern for the poor and that aspect of his populism. However, if he's going to draw from that legacy, white populism and Jacksonian populism have some pretty nasty roots. Jackson became popular among white Americans through his slaughter of Native Americans.

My point is that white populism has consistently functioned by appealing to a white populace while oppressing or advocating for the oppression of people of color.

Webb clearly drew on this legacy in his speech and draws on this legacy in order to craft his political identity. However, he also raised some issues which reference the other xenophobic legacy of this identity in the speech. Through the indirect reference to American jobs being sent overseas. This makes me wary of Webb as someone whose outward appearance can easily be identified with the theft of jobs.

Webb seems like a fairly smart man, he knew what he was doing I'm sure. It's a successful way to be a politician. However it doesn't mean I have to get behind him.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Navel gazing

Somewhere along the line, I started being able to read Song dynasty poetry (well with the help of extensive footnotes and the dictionary). I'm not sure how that happened. To me, to some extent, this signaled to me that I've almost accomplished what I set out to do when I moved here. My real goal is to read Honglou meng, but that's another story.

However, as much as I've enjoyed my time here, I'm definitely feeling like it's time to come home. In fact, I kind of wish I was leaving a little sooner. However, being here a bit longer, I'll improve my Chinese a bit more. I'm just starting to feel more and more like it's time to move on.

Looking back on it, it's sort of difficult for me to say whether my time here has been well spent. It kind of is what it is at this point. There's no point in evaluating it. That said, I've certainly learned a lot here. Even if it wasn't what I thought it would be.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

曉出淨慈寺送林子方 - 楊萬里

接天蓮葉無窮碧 ,

SOTU Democratic Response

Thanks to my mother, I sometimes read political blogs. However, recently I've been feeling like I've just been reading the opinions of many white upper middle class guys. And reading the largely positive responses to Jim Webb's State of the Union Response and how great it was, this feeling has only become stronger.

When Webb was elected, he was dubbed a populist or a "people powered candidate." My far left politics nonwithstanding, I'm somewhat wary of white populists. According to my understanding of American history, many populists and labor organizers have historically mobilized working class whites against those swarthier than they. The questions of race and exclusion have played a large part in the history of organized labor. And anti-immigrant sentiment has always flared when jobs are scarce. Asian American history is an excellent example of this.

Looking at Webb's response to GWB's State of the Union address, there were a couple things that sort of bothered me. One of course was the mention of the "good American jobs" that were going overseas. It marks Webb to me as a populist to some extent. He positions himself in support of the working classes and the have nots. However, the flipside of the good American job line is that it has been frequently used in anti-immigration rhetoric and still is. I found its presence in Webb's speech rather disturbing. There was nothing overt about it, but to me it felt like a line was being drawn in the sand.

Furthermore, the presidents he referenced in his speech, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Eisenhower, were all war hero presidents. Given the circumstances surrounding the State of the Union address it's really not all that surprising. I find it sort of interesting to note, however, that many of these presidents became war heroes by imposing American imperialism upon those swarthier than they. Webb even identifies as a "Jacksonian Democrat." As I recall, Old Hickory, who was a populist president, spent a large part of his career murdering Native Americans. Populism has often widened divisions between white people and people of color rather than it's united them.

For all that he's married to an Asian American lady and has a half Asian kid. And for all that he won his election based on the racial remarks made by George Allen to his South Asian staffer. For all that I still prefer him to George Allen. (I would probably prefer Pauly Shore to George Allen.) Webb isn't a populist for Americans who look like me.

Oh yeah, Webb's Vietnamese American wife account of how "her husband often teases her about the escape. "He says that if [U.S. troops] hadn't rescued me, I'd be snaggletoothed and selling pencils on the streets of Saigon," she said. "It wouldn't be too far from the truth. If I'd stayed behind in Vietnam, I wouldn't be where I am today."
doesn't really make me want to jump on the bandwagon either.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Xanga Generation Part 2

You know I'm almost positive that no one reads these rants of mine. But whatever. I do think the existence of Xanga and rice rockets signify the existence of an emerging Asian American identity. And possibly with that some sort of uniquely Asian American culture?

I'm not even really sure what I think about this, however, I think that our identity is becoming less and less that age old story of being the only Asian kid for miles and miles around and having that warp a sense of self. You know, obsessing about the black hair and narrow eyes. Wanting to be blonde. Although in all fairness, I know people like that too. Instead, we've started identifying ourselves against other Asians. And there are tons more Asian Americans hanging with other Asians, not in a self conscious way, but rather like the characters in Derek Kirk Kim's "Same Difference."

This is proved of course, by my scientific theft of something off a group on The Facebook. The group itself is titled "I Ain't No Ghetto Asian." and the description reads,

"For the Asians whose cell phones aren't rigged with those crazy ass lights, whose cars aren't riced out, whose hair isn't reminiscent of eye-stabbing weapons, and who d0n'T tYPe lYke ThIs."

As dubious as my source is, something that can be seen in the creation of this group is the effort of some Asians to distance themselves from the so-called "Ghetto Asian" which they obviously feel is somewhat overpoweringly prevalent or why bother making a facebook group to proclaim your non-identity?

I don't know if I'm necessarily saying that this trend will be something huge. I guess I'll say I think it's something that might become something. I won't be any clearer than that.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

And now for something completely different

I found this on littleyellowdifferent. It's a list of bands which promote "the gay," and therefore should be avoided. There's nothing I can say that will make this site any better than it is. Just go look.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Xanga Generation

In which I will ramble along about some ideas that I've been ruminating about, citing things of dubious academic content, and which are largely anecdotal in nature.

It's often been a complaint among Asian Americans that our community is a difficult one to organize, because, uh, we don't really have a culture. However, I've read a couple articles in the last year that correspond to my general feeling that this is slowly changing. To be fair both of these guys are about 10 years older than me, and are therefore out of this cultural movement, if we can really even call it that.
"APA: So you're pretty positive that there will be an Asian American audience that will be identifiable within the next generation or so?

SK: I think it's happening now. I'm very positive. I was in New York and I realized [there are] these 13 to 16 year old girls and boys. It's the Fast and the Furious demographic: they want something that's quick – a popcorn movie, a summer action flick. But they see a character that speaks English, and they can identify with him, because he’s American. It just happens [that he’s] this Korean American guy in Tokyo. They like that. They want to see their faces without the kung fu, without the accent, without the emasculation, without and the asexual characterization; and you realize with these girls, they want their idol – they want their Johnny Depp. And you know they're going to go to college, they’re going to be educated, and they’re going to be the ones who are buying the tickets. Because it's not about being Korean American or Chinese or Vietnamese or Japanese. It's just Americans that happen to be Asian. I think it's changing. I felt that. "

From Asia Pacific Arts' interview with Sung Kang

"I think the Asian American community right now is in the midst of defining itself. For a while I think we were all trying to be white. Then there was a period of time when we were trying to be black. And now we're finally coming up with something that's truly our own."

At Bishop O'Dowd, where he's in his ninth year of teaching, Yang says, "I see the difference in my students and how I was. They're much more aware of Asian culture. And they're much more proud. They wear their skin with a comfort that I didn't have."

From The San Francisco Chronicle's interview with Gene Yang

Both of these comments sort of stuck with me, as putting into words, this feeling. One time, my sister and I were hanging out in the University District, and we walked past this car. Then we both sort of paused, and said at the same time, "That's an Asian car." How did we know? Well it was a souped up navy blue Acura with tinted windows and giant shiny rims. But more importantly, why were we able to both define it so definitively as an Asian car? Clearly we were picking up on cues, which we weren't even really aware of ourselves. Although memory has definitely colored how I view the experience, the certainty I had at that moment hasn't really gone away. It was an Asian car.

To me, the ability to identify something as Asian meant something. The accusation that is often leveled at our community, which I subscribe to in some part, is that we are indistinguishable from white people, in the things that count, consumer habits, political preferences etc., and are therefore ignored politically, while also being allowed into the white man's club.

However, at the same time, a lot of these canonical Asian American narratives of growing up as the only Asian kid in a sea of whiteness, I've never really related to. As much as it's become the dominant myth, and I'm sure there are lots of Asian Americans who have had those experiences, it's not mine. I grew up in areas with a healthy Asian American population. I've always had Asian American friends, and while there are definitely times when I felt estranged and still feel estranged from the Asian American community, it's always been there.

I also do feel like, younger Asian Americans are coming together, rather unconsciously. For example, Xanga. I mean really, how did the Xanga become the Asian American Live Journal? Does anyone really know how that happened? And yet it did. And it functions (functioned? I'm old and therefore out of touch with today's youth) as a community of sorts. An annoying community sometimes, but at the same time, a largely Asian American community nonetheless.

You know, if I keep writing this, it will become ridiculously long and Justin will kill me for clogging up his inbox when he's writing a thesis. I'll continue these "thoughts" (i.e. ravings) in another post.

Well ok

My sister's DNA test tells us that she is 88% Asian and 12% Native American. I'm generally conflicted about my ethnic identity. Now I'm just confused. If she was alive, Ba-chan might have some explaining to do right about now.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


So while ordering coffee in a Starbucks, I got stuck with this female barista, who, in my opinion was attempting to show off her English. Needless to say, I'm not really all that impressed by the use of English anymore. And also her English name was Feeling, not that this has anything to do with anything, but Feeling, for Christ sakes. And sort of told me, rather than asked me if I wanted a tall. At which point, being kind of grumpy (and let's be honest here, kind of an asshole) I was rather visibly annoyed and specified, in Chinese, that I wanted a small.

She then didn't ask me if I was taking it out, or drinking there. I was waiting for my Chinese teacher, so I was drinking it there. She was visibly rather annoyed, and I was visibly rather annoyed. The end.

However, being Japanese, and therefore already guilty in the womb, I now feel like I was an asshole, or even worse, an AMERICAN asshole. Oh horror of horrors. Or am I just succumbing to the Taiwanese sentiment that people who speak English ostentatiously are just trying to show that they're better than everyone else?

Monday, January 22, 2007


我的繁體字讓你很煩惱嗎? 還是你朋友用的簡體字你完全看不懂?去看看這個網站吧。只要你copy and paste然後你copied and pasted字就會變成你喜歡種的體字。

Random Observation

I may have to gain back some of the weight that I lost, or just like, work out more or something. Some of my third and fourth graders can totally push me around (literally!) And don't even mention Josh, the fifth grader who's small and built like a barrel.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Assorted things

The greatest thing since sliced bread: dumplings with corn in the filling. I kid you not. I've eaten them for dinner and now breakfast, consecutively.

On an unrelated note, I think I've now listened to the Blue Scholars for the past 2 weeks at all times excepting times when sleeping, showering, or teaching class. In fact, I very well may have irritated some people at school for listening to my mp3 player constantly while prepping classes. Could this be love? On the other hand, I just listened to DJ Shadow's new album. So maybe it's not.

The people next door are fighting again. This would be more bearable if the mom didn't have such a screechy annoying voice.

The wildlife

was generally not all that photogenic. This being the one exception. Other than that, the only animals I saw were some fiddler crabs and what looked like lung fish, you know, those fish that can breathe the air and can live in shallow mud.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Don't know why

but I was kind of obsessed by the power lines.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why is it that...

everywhere I live, the people who live upstairs do something that sounds like they're building tables. Is there some sort of logical explanation for this or am I just kind of crazy? What the hell are they doing up there?

I need some caffeine.

I haven't had any caffeine

and therefore cannot think of a clever title.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Little Asia on a Hill 2: The Return

Don't worry, it's not another long soap box post, but I read Oliver Wang's analysis of the article. It's a lot more literate and better written than mine. You should check it out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pretty Pretty Pictures

I believe the last time I wrote a long long rant, I promised on my day off I would go somewhere and take pretty pictures. Enjoy it while you can, suckas, I don't know when the weather, or the picture taking light will be this good for a long time.

Just so's you know, this is Danshui.

Also as per the request of various people with an unhealthy interest in sweater vests, I probably took more pictures of myself in this batch than I have in the last year and a half. If you want them you'll have to e-mail me.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Little Asia on the Hill

So here's my two cents on Little Asia on the Hill, that article that's been making the rounds. Whatever, I've got the day off, I've got time. I have to give the writer credit, he is a kind of crafty, and steps around making an egregious error that someone can then call him out for. He covers the history of racism against Asian Americans and the recent lawsuit by Jian Li, charging that universities discriminate against Asian Americans by holding them to higher admissions standards. He even mentions something about model minority myth, quoting from Daniel Golden's book, "'Asian-Americans are the odd group out, lacking racial preferences enjoyed by other minorities and the advantages of wealth and lineage mostly accrued by upper-class whites. Asians are typecast in college admissions offices as quasi-robots programmed by their parents to ace math and science.'"

All very well and good. However, sandwiched in between these examples, Egan will wave the yellow peril flag a ton. For example, the accompanying photographs consistently portray, as my sister astutely pointed out, the people in the picture are all East Asian Americans, and all seem to be fairly clean cut and honestly rather nerdy looking. Seriously though, shouldn't we have at least had one spiky haired dude just for representation's sake?

Characterizing Berkeley "overwhelmingly Asian" he goes on to paint this picture of the campus.

And at least on this morning, there is very little speech of any kind inside the Free Speech Cafe; almost without exception, students are face-planted in their laptops, silently downloading class notes, music, messages. It could be the library but for the line for lattes. On mornings like this, the public university beneath the towering campanile seems like a small, industrious city of über-students in flops.

So wait a minute, from the little table that the NY Times provides, Asian Americans are 46% at Berkeley 43% at Davis, 56% at Irvine and 43% at UCLA. So hold up, if there was a college campus was 46% or 56% white, would this college be described as "overwhelmingly white"? Overrepresentation of Asian Americans in proportion to their numbers in the populations aside, 56% of one ethnic group does not merit the charge of "overwhelming." And then tying it to a studious campus, and connecting it to the apparent lack of political activism on campus just seems sort of low.

The big stumbling block that Egan encounters is his inability to comprehend, as is the case with many journalists, that Asian Americans are a diverse group, with many different origins and economic backgrounds. He does pay some lip service to it. "A little more than half of Asian freshmen at Berkeley are Chinese, the largest group, followed by Koreans, East-Indian/Pakistani, Filipino and Japanese." So where are the Vietnamese Americans? If Egan did his research he should know that Vietnamese Americans are a fairly significant portion of the population of California. Poorer Asian Americans are hurt just as much by the absence of affirmative action as poor whites, poor African Americans and poor everyone else. Not that Egan sees this,

IF Berkeley is now a pure meritocracy, what does that say about the future of great American universities in the post-affirmative action age? Are we headed toward a day when all elite colleges will look something like Berkeley: relatively wealthy whites (about 60 percent of white freshmen’s families make $100,000 or more) and a large Asian plurality and everyone else underrepresented? Is that the inevitable result of color-blind admissions?

Why are white people the only ones who get the benefit of class analysis? Everyone else just kind of gets lumped together regardless of economic background. Perhaps this is the future of great American universities, minorities are not allowed to have an economic background. Then Egan definitely goes the yellow peril route with this little gem

One study at the institute looked at Asian-American students in lab courses, and found they did better solving problems alone and without conversations with other students.

What the HELL does this have to do with affirmative action? I mean, I thought the article was about affirmative action. What does this one study on Asian American study habits have to with anything? However, it does have a lot to do with conflating all Asian Americans and reinforcing the robot-like model minority stereotype which Golden condemns in the quote on the first page. Awesome.

One final kick in the teeth
But Berkeley is freighted with the baggage of stereotypes — that it is boring socially, full of science nerds, a hard place to make friends.

Honestly is this really true? I've never heard that about Berkeley.

Well if you've made it to the end you deserve some sort of prize. I'll go out and take some pretty pretty pictures today to make it up to you.


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The joys of applying to grad school (in which there is freaking out)

As I think I've mentioned here before, I've been applying to graduate school. I've honestly been trying not to thinking about it, since the mere thought is enough to make me feel paralyzed with fear. However, after hanging out with some people studying Chinese at Taida, it's been on my mind quite a bit. In sending in the last bit of paperwork, I discovered 4 typos in the writing sample I've sent to other schools. Needless to say I spent the next hour freaking out. I swear to god I'm just going to assume I won't get in this year and apply next year. Anything other than that will be some sort of awesome uncalled for miracle.

On a totally unrelated note, I am for the moment completely in love with the Blue Scholars.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Why is it

that when a high school in which whites are the minority does well there must be some "reason" when for high schools where whites have always been the majority, doing well attracts no notice?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A dead butterfly

For more pictures of my obsession with photographing dead animals please see here
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I've been running around like a madman. Most advisable while also having ongoing asthma problems. Anyway, I went to the hospital for my health check. Every so often, a nice lady will take pity on me because I seem so freakin' clueless. That happened at the hospital, she even called me on my cell phone to tell me I left my passport at the hospital. It was really one of those, How have I even lived this long? moments.

In other assorted news, there are few things I hate doing more than shopping for clothes, and there are fewer items of clothing that I hate buying more than I hate buying pants. I bought two pairs of pants. I may even have to buy a few more, so I don't wear them into the ground like I usually do with my clothes. I also bought a sweater vest. I'm not sure exactly what this says about me.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

In which I make observations about various things

So today I had an asthma attack and went to the doctor. I have to add that it is scary to have to fight for breath and it's also kind of scary when it's your own body preventing you from breathing. It also really wears you out. I'm tired. I also emerged from the doctor's office and even bigger fan of the Taiwanese medical system. I paid 150 NT to see the doctor, this is $4.55 US dollars. For the two inhalers the doctor prescribed me I paid 140 NT, a whopping $4.25 US. All told it cost me less than 9 dollars to see a doctor and get a prescription. And it also only took about 25 minutes. In the States, I'm lucky if I pay less than 99 dollars to see a doctor. Now hopefully these two inhalers do their thing. Universal healthcare is awesome.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm getting kind of disturbed by presidential funerals. I mean, I guess I'm still too young to remember most other presidents dying, but did they really get this royal funerals, with their body being paraded around the country? It just seems like the president is becoming more and more like a king.

Also I don't really know much about Gerald Ford, but it seems like a lot of the articles I've been reading valorize his loyalty to Nixon. I mean, is everyone forgetting, this is Nixon, you know the guy who broke a lot of laws and stuff? Incredibly anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist blah blah blah. I mean, if Ford says this type of guy was his best friend, and they were on the same page, what does this mean exactly? Loyalty is great and all, but just cause the guy died doesn't mean we should forget the other dead presidents he associated himself with.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The end of the world

There were these pigeons flying around in front of the light. Unfortunately my viewfinder wasn't being cooperative. So I just sort of randomly pointed and clicked. It worked out fairly well for just doing that, sometimes that's just how these things go.

Honestly, I didn't intend for it to look quite so bombastic, but there it is.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Years Day

I climbed this hill. Since I had another Monday off and the weather was nice, I decided to be kind of irresponsible and go hiking. It was a really weird trip. On the way there, I ran into doubles of this guy I knew in high school and this guy that I know here. 真嚇我一條.Plus I also ran into a couple teachers from my former school who didn't recognize me. Either my hair does have a great influence over my appearance or all Asians really do look alike. Seeing all these people made the day sort of weird, and I was already feeling kind of weird as it was. I'm kind of glad New Year's Day is over.

My mother often says that the stuff you do on New Year's Day will be rather common throughout the year. If this is true, I guess I'll be seeing a lot of doppelgangers, old coworkers, and I'll climb a lot of stairs in 2007.

Since I was by myself, I could go as far as I wanted, so I walked to the top of 茶壺山.Everything's in black and white, clearly I miss my old SLR camera.

Flat Daddies

Apparently some government official's bright idea was to make a bunch of life size cutouts of soldiers in Iraq so they can stand in for the real soldiers. It occurs to me that you could do something really sick with imprinting, like taking a picture of a duck and then convincing a baby that it's her father. I'm sick, sick I tell you.

Mostly though, it just seems a little creepy.