Monday, October 09, 2006

Stereotypes and Me

... Since I've broken my blog (damn you, Internal Server Error!) and am waiting for my host's technical support to swoop in and save the day, I'm going to take some time to address the challenge issued by RaceChangers in which we are invited to reflect on how we stereotype in our day-to-day lives.

Reflect by answering the following questions in writing:
  • Was there a time that you made a generalization and were proved wrong?
  • Do you find yourself subscribing to any stereotypes now?
  • If you do find yourself giving in to any stereotypes, why do you think you believe them to be true?
  • Can you point to any instances where the stereotype does not hold true?
Do I make generalizations? Damn skippy, I do. And I bet you do, too. Back in this Social Psychology class I took in undergraduate, even though I was a piss-poor student in this class, I was challenged to consider the basic processes of thinking and communicating that make up the complex art of thinking. Although humans boast one of the largest and most complex brains of animals on this planet, we are still inundated, day-in-and-day-out with lots of cacophonous stimuli, out of which we must filter some form of meaning. The visual stimuli, alone, that we receive are simply so vast that we couldn't spend all of our time pondering what we see until at least we identify the thing we're looking at based upon all possible criteria that might affect our decisions. This would be evolutionarily unsound -- as cavemen being chased by sabre-toothed tigers, natural selection selected out those silly creatures who needed to consider the information more closely before deciding that the tiger was a tiger. Instead, what we have come up with is a process of generalizations in which we take some of the most superficial information we can find, that seems to largely fit our perception of a meaning, and quickly judge our surroundings based on those criteria. For example, we need only glance at a car, note its four tires, general metallic appearance, windows, and general shape to identify it as a car and not, say, a train. We don't need to look under the hood to be sure that it's running on car-parts and not train-parts. No place is this more evident than in young kids, who have yet to create the generalizations upon which we rely. Their generalizations are instead faulty, and based upon their limited experiences. A toddler might see a dog for a first time and be taught that it is a dog. The toddler will codify the dog's fur, four legs, busy legs and ears and call it a dog. Now, face the toddler with a cat, and based upon the same generalization that allowed the toddler to recognize a dog, it will call the cat a dog, until we interject and correct the generalization to one that is more appropriate and precise. In adulthood, we depend upon our generalizations to survive the day, and to understand our environment in a timely and reasonable manner. When it comes to racial matters, we use generalizations to understand race: a person with dark skin is recognized as an African American, a person with slanted eyes and yellow-tinted skin is recognized as an Asian American. This is why I distrust anyone who claims to be colorblind: it is impossible to not see skin colour and to interpret it as such, unless you are some new, unique breed of human (in which case your brain needs to be studied in closer detail, since you seem to have achieved an evolutionary feat that generations of our species have not). That all being said, that doesn't excuse racial generalizations as acceptable, particularly when they are imprecise or hateful. I don't begrudge someone seeing me and judging me to be of Asian descent, but it is when my Asian descent participates in another generalization that renders me book-smarts-not-street-smarts, overly-sexualized, kung-fu fighter, green-tea drinker or some other stereotype when things go awry. The problems here are precision and consequences. Are most Asians yellow-tinted or brown-tinted with slanted eyes? If we're talking East Asian, predominantly yes. However, most Asians are not martial artists or sexual stereotypes, so the generalization is imprecise. Furthermore, we are not cavemen running from sabre-toothed tigers anymore. Though nature might demand that we continue to generalize, this does not justify the use of generalizations to unfairly marginalize or disenfranchise a group of people based on one's own stereotypes. We have simply created a more civilized society than that, one in which everybody is entitled to certain basic human dignities -- including individualism and humanity. It's not difficult to see how a stereotype easily robs a person of those basic tenets, rendering them faceless and mute. So, back to the original question: do I make generalizations? Absolutely. I've made race-based generalizations that include the assumption that people of a certain race will sympathize with race activism or be more likely to subscribe to one point of view over another. I've made gender-based generalizations that cause me to believe (wrongly) that women will inherently understand and agree with feminism. I've made age-based generalizations that cause me to be startled when entering a class in which I am seated next to a student older than 30. I've generalized that political conservatives are full of shit. Am I frequently wrong? Except for that very last one, you bet. (Just joking, you crazy right-wingers, just joking! You know I love you, too!) And, though I struggle not to let my generalizations become a full-blown stereotype than can affect the way I treat others, it's an inevitably uphill journey to constantly challenge my generalizations. However, it's also an ongoing struggle which I believe we all should embrace. The problem of racism and stereotyping is not aided by hiding one's head in the sand when confronted with thorny problems that call to question one's own morality; instead, racism and stereotyping should be treated as a reason to remain cognizant of race relations issues, and a chance to realize that we are all fully capable of being in the wrong, and there's no real right answer.


That's it -- I think I've had enough. Blogger has been impossible for me lately. I have been virtually unable to publish posts in a timely fashion, and comments haven't been appearing like they should. Blogger is having an impossible time connecting by ftp to my server, and at this point, I can barely publish any new content. I've been thinking for some time that I should migrate out of Blogger, and as of this morning, I've decided I might start the move. I've downloaded Wordpress and will be trying to work with it to launch as smoothly as possible. I will keep my Blogger archive pages online so that links to old posts will not lead to broken links, but, since I've never done this particular transition before, I'm hoping it won't go too badly. Wish me luck, and hopefully next time you guys visit this site, I'll finally be able to post content in a sane fashion.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


If you've found a little downtime this weekend, please check out RaceChangers, a new blog by Jen and Carmen over at which posts an "assignment" each week and encourages targeted discussion of race issues based on the "assignment". Assignment 1 was to read "Troublemakers", an article at the New Yorker about stereotyping and generalizations, that include racial profiling. Please take a gander at the article and post your comments over at RaceChangers.

The Departed

Hollywood hasn't got a creative bone left in its withering old body. Most big-grossing films these days are re-makes or film adaptations of stories that have achieved success in print media. If not comic book movies, than some of the most popular films of our times have been part of a burgeoning genre of Americanized reinterpretations of classic Hong Kong, Korean or Japanese movies. Although the most well-known of these films are J-Horrors like Ju-on (i.e. the Grudge) or Ringu (i.e. the Ring), today marked the opening of the Departed, which was Martin Scorcese's take on a fantastic Hong Kong gangster film from 2002 called Infernal Affairs, which starred Tony Leung and Andy Lau. It's frustrating to watch Hollywood appropriate Asian films to try and revive its flaccid box office numbers, as the process of modernization not only involves bigger budgets, but usually includes a dumbing down of the plot and a White-washing of the cast. In the Departed, the storyline of Infernal Affairs is moved from the gritty streets of Hong Kong to the city of Boston where the criminal enterprise being investigated are Irish gangsters rather than the Chinese mob. Other than a few scenes early in the film to establish racial tensions in mid-twentieth century Boston (setting the stage for Jack Nicholson's race-baiting rants), the entire cast of The Departed is White. In other words, in this film, lifted almost entirely from a classic Hong Kong movie, there is nary an Asian person in sight. Or at least, I could say that... except that Scorcese seems to love rubbing salt into an already gaping wound of cultural misappropriation. Although the vast majority of the film's two-hour-and-a-half running time featured an all-White cast of characters, there was a rather unimportant fifteen minute scene which did involve some Asian people. However, if this was a nod to the film's roots in Infernal Affairs, I don't want it. In this scene, Jack Nicholson's character meets with a group of Chinese mobsters who are working for the Chinese government -- all of them stereotypes. One of the Chinese characters is a terrified government lackey, emasculated in a room full of hardened criminals. The rest are crazed, machine-gun wielding triad members, either standing around glaring shiftily at Jack Nicholson's crew, or otherwise ranting and raving in Cantonese. (Note, that they are supposed to be working for the Chinese government.) But the insult comes not in these caricatures of Chinese characters. No, the insult comes with Jack Nicholson's dialogue, which blatantly invokes nearly every "amusing" anti-Asian joke one can bring to mind: from Chinese as spies, to Chinese as foreigners, to Chinese as un-American, to Chinese as emasculated, to Chinese dick-size jokes, to -- and I quote -- "No Tickee No Laundry". All in the span of five minutes. As quickly and as pointlessly as these Chinese mobsters arrived on the scene in this film, they vanish back into the night. And the only other Chinese guy we see in the movie is a Chinese food delivery guy who gets knifed by Matt Damon. This is how Hollywood treats the people who gave birth to the film upon which the Departed is based. This is how visible our community is in Hollywood. And they wonder why we don't go to theatres anymore: tonight, I spent $17 on a movie that basically spat in my face.

Friday, October 06, 2006

More Yellowface

Eddie Murphy is reprising his one-man-as-many-characters act in a new movie called Norbit, due in theatres in 2007. In it, Murphy plays a dorky, meek Black man adopted as a child by an old Asian man and, in adulthood, who is dominated by a fat black woman stereotype. The catch? Murphy plays Norbit, Norbit's girlfriend, and the Asian man who adopts him. As the Asian man, not only does Murphy wear yellow-tinted skin, but plays up the old Asian male stereotype, complete with poor Chinglish accent. (view trailer) So, I know Murphy playing a cast of characters is classic Eddie Murphy, but in this case, I'm not excited to see Murphy play two stereotypes (Asian male and overweight Black female) on-screen with the express purpose of mocking them both. I know it's been awhile since we saw sex icon, pleather-jumpsuit Murphy whom the girls were throwing their underwear at, but this is hardly to get your name back into the limelight. Let's save the yellowface for kitschy has-been cult favourites like David Carradine and Christopher Walken, please? (Hat-tip to Mac) Also in Yellowface favourites? David Carradine (the very definition of modern yellowface) has been seen on a commercial I've been meaning to blog about for sometime. In a commercial for, Carradine plays a Chinese monk who correlates enlightenment with the website, and does some stereotypical Chinese Buddhist monk trash while he's at it. God, there are some times I just want to climb up to the tallest building I can find and scream at the top of my lungs: THIS MAN IS NOT CHINESE!! Bad enough (Yellow? Get it?) is promoting such trashy, cliched interpretations of Chinese religion and heritage, but they couldn't even find a single, bonafide, Chinese person to show in their commercial as they did it.

Owning the Building and Still Wanting a Seat

It's a hard thing to realize as a minority in a White-dominated society: though I am saturated with White culture, White society, White history, and White people, and though I can probably guess-timate to a greater extent what Whiteness is all about compared to a White person trying to imagine the life of a person of colour, my best guess-timate is still just that -- a guess. Recently, I have been preoccupied with trying to understand how and why many Whites in America seem to have such an alien reaction to discussions of race relations, very much akin to a "White Man's Burden" narrative, that strikes me as wholly foreign. (I was particularly struck last night as I watched David Mamet's film adaptation of his play, Edmond.) As a woman of colour, race remains foremost on my mind. Every morning, I step out into a world in which I am perceived primarily as different, unique, and unusual. I cannot hide in a sea of faces, and believe that I am just like everyone else: even the slightest comment is enough to remind me that my skin colour and "almond eyes" are a factor. Even the most supposedly tolerant White people I work with cannot help but Otherize me; last month, I was subjected to several non sequitor remarks referencing my "Eastern" heritage in conversations that otherwise had nothing to do with anything Asian. Two weeks ago, I noted that I was one of a mere ~265 Asian Pacific Islander graduate students at my school last year (representing a fraction of a percent of total graduate students), a statistic which most graduate students wouldn't even bother to look up, let alone place any significance upon. It's hard to imagine myself in a position where I wouldn't feel racialized, or in which, when I step outside in the morning, I can rest assured that, if all else fails, I am just like everyone else: normal. So, I can only scratch my head when I observe what seems to be an increasingly popular sentiment amongst the White mainstream: a frustration with race relations and a backlash against racial identity. Just a couple hundred miles north of where I currently sit, an undergraduate student group at Arizona State University has gained national notoriety. Over 40 students at ASU have formed and claimed membership to the newly-founded Caucasian American Men's Club (CAMASU), which describes itself as a cultural club for Whites (CNN video). The choice of name is hardly incidental: though the group purports to celebrate Caucasian culture, the name specifically cites Caucasian men. We understand almost immediately that this is a club intended to re-invent the most privileged group in America -- White men -- as the underprivileged, based on cultural clubs that have been traditionally used to communicate minority viewpoints to White-centric college campuses. The group's founders state that they feel the existing of CAMASU is only fair in light of the existence of an African American Men's group on campus. One founder, Matt Jiezerski, cites Whites as an emerging minority group, saying:

I [as a Caucasian man] do feel like a minority and I do feel like Caucasian males in general, y'know, from all parts of Europe, from all nationalities are being underrepresented... so [after seeing a poster for the African American Men's group] I thought it would only be fair to have a Caucasian American group and to show it as, y'know, a legitimate organization and as, y'know, a group of people with a cultural history and a signficiant heritage and past.
The formation of this group is, to me, in the same vein as the formation of specific groups earlier in this country's history that was intended to exclude, explicitly or inexplicitly, the Other. Like White Southerners who grow up long past the era of the Civil War and yet still claim pride in the Confederate flag, it seems as if, more and more frequently, we are seeing White Americans who misread privilege and normalcy as oppression, and are drawn to these groups because they see something "special" in being different. Though the CAMASU advisor is quick to point out that the group doesn't advocate White supremacy or the exclusion of people of colour, one has to wonder what message is sent by a group of people, with membership in the racial mainstream, feeling the need to appropriate niche aspects of people of colour to further emphasize their own identity. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that CAMASU shouldn't exist. I simply don't understand why it needs to. I have to wonder why Whites seem to feel threatened by the existence of minority-oriented clubs and organizations in the first place. What was it about the African American Men's club that so bothered Jawierski that he felt the need to create CAMASU? Clubs like the African American Men's Club are also open to people of races, and focus on narratives largely excluded from the traditional American narrative. Back at Cornell, when I participated in events held by the Black Students United group (or created my own events for the Asian Pacific Americans for Action club I led), we discussed parts of history that are ignored by the White-centric classes taught in courses we could take for credit. For my group, we focused on the presence of Asian Americans during the Civil Rights era (for example, a radical Asian American group the worked closely with the Black Panther Party called I Wor Kuen that is rarely mentioned in today's history classes, even those focussing on Civil Rights) or the struggle of Asian American men in navigating Hollywood's sexual stereotyping of them as demasculinated and invisible). What, we have to ask, would CAMASU do for its events to highlight White heritage that is not already addressed in class? Beyond just CAMASU, I have heard ever more frequently this characterization of Whites as a minority group, underrepresented in a society with increasing minority presence. Though statistics don't support any possible underrepresentation of Whites in mainstream media or on campuses like ASU (as an aside, Survivor: Cook Islands singlehandedly increased representation of Asian American characters on television by a third), why are many Whites feeling marginalized by minorities? For that matter, why do some Whites still struggle with discussions of race politics? Many of the Whites I have the greatest problems with on a racial level, are those who most avidly claim to be non-racially biased. Although one might imagine the vocally intolerant, older generation of Whites who lived through Jim Crow to be the most difficult to interact with, I have come to find that it's frequently the White liberals, who claim to be open-minded and tolerant to diversity, who have the hardest time adjusting to discussions of race relations. I interact with many White people who blanche (no pun intended) at the mere mention of race, or who almost instinctively respond with the nigh-hysterical statement, "I'm not racist! I don't have a problem with race! It wouldn't matter to me if you were Black, White, Brown, or Yellow!" anytime I bring up my perspective as an Asian American woman. What's frustrating is that this fanatic adherence to superficial tolerance is almost as close-minded as the most fervent KKK member; so desperately are these Whites afraid of being labelled a racist that even suggesting an open discussion on race terrifies and frustrates them. Instead, clinging to a view of the world in which racism can be willed out of existence by merely chanting the mantra of "un-racism", these White liberals soon find my presence untenable and unwelcome. My identity as an Asian American woman becomes exhausting and I become the problem: always finding racism where they see none. I, as the person of colour, become the perpetrator of racism, by being "over-sensitive". I, as the person of colour, become the oppressor by making the White person feel uncomfortable in their privileged skin. I, as the person of colour, become the self-absorbed, because I experience racism when they do not. In the end, these "un-racists" prefer to return to their world of "tolerance", safe in feeling liberated from racism while never being challenged by the thoughts of a genuine person of colour. And so, CAMASU exists, to cater to this "new minority" of Whites, who see racism in the existence of race and who feel oppressed by America's history of oppression. Unfortunately, this seemingly inconsequential reaction to the Civil Rights Movement has a more sinister side: this interpretation of race relations as marginalizing Whites only serves to refocus discussions of race relations away from people of oppressed races. The unspoken consequence of the CAMASU club is, also, to parody the African American Men's Club that inspired the group's name. Rather than approach race relations in good faith, this "un-racist" mindset would reject complex discussions of race politics in favour of sweeping the discomfort of racism back under the rug. In a mere century, racial minorities have gone from being animalistic creatures undeserving of basic human rights (let alone Constitutional rights) to representing a sizable fraction of people in the country and at institutions of higher learning. Brought to this country under bondage, forced to work for the benefit of Whites, marginalized, misunderstood, misrepresented, and -- on occasion -- murdered for our differences, we have nonetheless forged ahead and created a round table where we can share mutual equality. That table might be rickety and creaky, it might sit in the back-room of a large restaurant, and we might still struggle with the number of chairs to seat at it, but, at least, it is ours. Whites own the rest of the building -- why do they want a seat at our table, too?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep. 4

Welcome to the fourth installment of me live-bloggin Survivor: Race Wars. Although the race-based tribes have since been liquidated, there is still a great deal of racial undercurrent to this particular season. Not only is Probst deliberately using racialized terminology (for example, "integration" instead of "merge", and referring to the new tribe structure as a "melting pot"), but because the tribes were initially divided along racial lines, the castaways have been made that much more aware of their racial identities, as have we, the viewer. Even despite the "integration", many online fans are still referring to the castaways as much by their race as their names. 7:03 Returning from Tribal Council, the Aitu tribe reflect on how things went down. Ozzy, in particular, seems crushed and has lost his motivation to continue playing the game. This seems to bode poorly for his continuing presence in the game, as it's certain that the White & Asian alliance (or Twinkie Alliance) on Aitu (consisting of Jonathan (Chicken Thief), "Love-at-first-sight" Candice, Yul (Super Asian Man, or S.A.M.) and Princess Becky) will endeavour to keep the Crunchy Kid Alliance (consisting of the hippies Cao Boi (aka Mr. Miyagi) and Flicka (aka Pony Girl)) in their pocket and chip away at the remaining members of Aitu, forming the now defunct Brownfolks Alliance. 7:08 An ongoing mystery is why Candice, of all people, was chosen by Raro to go to Exile Island. I have to say, I'm still stumped, as Raro had no way of knowing how crucial Candice was to the Twinkie Alliance. Meanwhile, over at Raro, Parvati expresses frustration that she and the other women were working so hard on the shelter while the men lay around and pretended to fix their boat by untying and retying the strings that held the oars in place. This is shaping up to be a strong male-oriented alliance that should threaten the security of the women on Raro. Parvati is really going to have turn on that 1-900 "sex kitten" thing she's resting on right now. The tribes go to the reward challenge where they compete for pillows and a hammock, and the opportunity to put someone on Exile Island. Aitu, in an impressive display of teamwork (and perhaps again challenging this characterization of Princess Becky as a princess, as she gamely accepted a face full of sand as part of running the obstacle course) win the reward and vote Adam to go to Exile Island. And of course, cementing the superhuman abilities of S.A.M., it seems that he singlehandedly solved the puzzle at the end of the challenge to score the win for his tribe. Is there anything this model minority can't do? 7:21 Aitu returns and celebrates their victory. As Chicken Thief and Ozzy catch fish (Ozzy describes himself as the "sole provider" of the tribe, and S.A.M. dubs Ozzy "Poseidon"), Flicka does this weird shoulder-shaking thing in her solo interview, making her sound like the world's. Biggest. Ditz. I mean, seriously, Flicka has got to be the demon child of Bob Marley and Anna Nicole Smith. In the meanwhile, Parvati schemes to "infiltrate" the male alliance by flirting with Nate. Again, there's some racial overtones involved here with the White girl immediately getting drawn to the light-skinned, somewhat effeminate Black man she finds at once super-masculine and malleable enough to control. Nate, who is apparently not exactly a braintrust, claims to "trust" Parvati and is incapable of seeing through her horribly anti-feminist strategy. I'm just offended by Parvati, and cannot wait until she gets voted out. 7:29 Back from commecial break and over in Aitu, some of the tribe members stumble across a booby's nest with a mother protecting a newborn chick. Cao Boi climbs the tree, knocks the nest out of the tree and the baby falls onto the ground, causing the Chicken Thief to nearly burst into tears (which was just kind of unnerving). Cao Boi blames his actions on "the child in him" -- I blame it on the fact that he's just plain creepy. 7:32 After the booby nest and baby is returned to Mommy Booby, the tribes go to the Immunity Challenge. The actual challenge involves four tribemates having to put together a stretcher, three swimming out to the water to rescue a tribemate shackled to a mast and returning the "victim" on the stretcher to the beach where the final three tribemates must build a fire to win Immunity. I just had to laugh to see the "set-up" shot with Candice and Parvati as the "victims". While, of course, the two "weak women" have to play damsel-in-distress, Parvati took to the role just a little too well. She just had to have her leg all sexily curled around the mast -- posed as the quintessential sex bunny needing a knight in shining armour. Meanwhile, "Poseidon" (we need a better nickname for this dude) made up a lot of time for Aitu, and after Mr. Miyagi uses his magic hands to dance wildly around the fire, twirling his kindling over his head like a helicopter, he actually manages to start a fire before Raro could even get a spark. Aitu wins immunity and poor Raro, sitting pretty at the beginning of this episode, will be forced to vote someone out. I'm thinking Stephanie is gone, just because it's hard to imagine a bunch of cavemen tossing out their token Sex Bunny. 7:42 At Raro, Pinoy Brad reveals that Cao Boi was the ex-Puka fire-tender. Stephanie, in a supreme feat of self-sacrifice declares herself the weakest link, pretty much inviting a removal from the tribe. However, at least one person was thinking: Rebecca points out that the women currently out-number the men and should maintain that majority. It's a sound plan, but the question is who the women will target. Unfortunately, there one hurdle that must be overcome in this potential coup: Anti-Feminist Sex Bunny Parvati who, in her teensy-weensy-string bikini basically says "oh, hell no, I ain't voting off my me-eeehhnnns; my feminine wiles won't work on you, women!!". In a desperate effort, the women then reach out to Pinoy Brad. And you could practically hear the hammer come down on this feeble coup like that "Cluhn-Cluh" sound on Law & Order. It will be a miracle of epic proportions if J.P. (the guy being targeted by the female alliance) is snuffed out instead of Stephanie. 7:51 Although my feminism demands that I root for the women somehow emerging victorious, I almost want Stephanie to be voted out, because she absolutely does not know how to play this game. Every time she opens her mouth, she somehow manages to shoot herself in the foot. Even at Tribal Council, she has to say she doesn't trust her tribemates; not one to butter up your potential allies, are you, Stephanie? 7:53 Echoing J.P.'s sentiment upon realizing that the women pulled it off, I have to say, "Wow". I am utterly impressed that the clumsy stumbling of the female alliance actually worked. This has to be one of the biggest upsets of the season thus far -- I was completely surprised that Un-Survivor Stephannie managed to outlast anyone at all, let alone the admittedly stronger and more likeable (at least if your a fellow lazing, belching, frat boy) J.P.. Wow. So, it turns out that not only did Sex Bunny Parvati actually discover her inner feminist, but Pinoy Brad not only joined the female alliance but pulled over Adam as well. I just want to point out however, that so far three original members of the Latino tribe and one member of the Black tribe have been eliminated. Why are the Brown tribemates dropping like proverbial flies in the milk? Next Week: Cao Boi bitches about the "princess-y" women while Raro gets an unwelcome visitation from the Aitu tribe.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cerebrogenesis (11)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep.3

This post will be the placeholder for my Survivor live-blogging tonight, which will occur at 7pm MT. Again, I encourage you to hang out on this blog during that hour and watch the show with me -- just refresh this page to watch the comments rolling in. I do have an announcement to make (and thus the placeholder): earlier this week, I smooshed my finger in the car-door, resulting in a nasty bruise on my left middle finger and a purple, throbbing nail. While this makes for a lovely accent when I'm flipping folks the bird, it makes my usual 100wpm touch-typing a difficult chore. This largely explains why I've been silent on this blog all week; I have lots to say but am unsure I want to approach typing it out for another couple of days. As such, I will attempt to live-blog the episode, but I may fall behind, over the course of the hour. My apologies in advance! 6:59 We're back and the episode re-cap is on. The Black tribe dance around their new fire, Jonathan, the Chicken Thief, thinks his tribe (the White tribe) is lazy as they spent another night in a coconut-milk-induced bender. The Latino tribe (Aitu) dedcides on a short-sighted move to oust Bizarre Billy who translates a half-hearted "cheer up" sentiment from White Candice into the love of his life. Meanwhile, Yul (aka S.A.M., Super Asian Man) deciphers the clues on Exile Island and scores the immunity idol, bringing new meaning to the phrase "model minority". 7:06 Following the opening credits and a brief commercial break, the Latino tribe returns to camp where they can't help but gossip about Bizarre Billy and his "love at first sight" thing. The tribe is skeptical -- understandably; after re-watching the episode several times and figuring out which exchange Bizarre Billy was talking about, it was downright "stalker"-ish. At the Asian American tribe, Cao Boi (whom I affectionately call Mr. Miyagi), rambles about the draft, the war, being Vietnamese and... okay, let's face it, I don't really understand what he was saying except it seemed somewhat anti-American and anti-American Dream. Either way, Pinoy Brad has the most screentime yet describing Miyagi as "not quite there" and probably never going to shut up. 7:10 At the challenge, Jeff Probst drops a bombshell -- the tribes drop their buffs and are about to "integrate". No, guys, not "merge", as is standard Survivor lingo; Probst uses the word "integrate" -- a loaded word in "race politics", reminiscent of Brown vs. Board of Education. It's pretty clear to me that the choice of wording was not accidental. Pinoy Brad, Chicken Thief, Parvati and Cecilia are randomly chosen as new tribe leaders. Note the two men and two women chosen -- the tribes must be divided by gender, and you cannot choose from your own tribe (meaning that this is true "integration" as by definition this demands equal representation from all four races). As they new tribes are chosen, I'm going to take a minute to say: I'm surprised that the "integration" is occuring so quickly -- and it's sort of anti-climatic to get all of us all riled up over race-based tribes that only lasted three episodes. If ever there was doubt that the race-based thing was just a ratings stunt, here is the proof: Burnett kept us pissed off just long enough to get us watching, then ditched the set-up before it could be intepreted as making a commentary about racial superiority. Back to what's going on: the four tribes choose eggs, which contain two different colours -- i.e., a blue tribe and a red tribe. The male tribe that chose the blue egg joins with the female tribe that chose the blue egg and vice versa, resulting in two "integrated" uber-tribes (which are now so large I'm going to be confused trying to re-learn the tribe membership for weeks). 7:19 Turns out the two tribes are now separated into Aitu and Raro. Am I reading too much into it to note that the two tribes who got to retain their names are the White Tribe and the "Hispanic" tribe? It's not like these two tribes had the best camps, so what's up with that? At Integrated Raro, the tribemates compare notes about the race-based stunt and several of the White tribemates are captured on film saying that they didn't care about race, and thought that it was better to get integrated. 7:22 After Miyagi and Flicka, the Pony Girl, bond as the two "outcast"-types on their tribe, Cecilia asks Candice if there really was a "love at first sight" connection with Bizarre Billy. Candice, in the episode's comedic highlight, looks like a terrified deer caught in the headlights and immediately explains the situation that we thankfully saw edited into last week's episode: it literally was a throw-away turn of phrase, that got completely misinterpreted. 7:23 Back at Raro, Parvati mentions that she's taken by all the "manly" men on her new tribe, and decides to target Nate for her feminine wiles. She's going to "work him", she says. Uh-huh. Talk about taking sexism three steps back; Survivor always has to include that one female contestant who thinks the best way to survive is to whore herself to the "strongest" male. 7:25 Becky, Candice, S.A.M., and Chicken Thief make an interracial alliance almost immediately. At this point, I'm pretty sure that Burnette and all those race-denialists who developed this show with an agenda are thrilled in how this "social experiment" seems to have proven that race is not strong enough to withstand forced "integration". Chicken Thief thinks he can pull Pony Girl in, but Pony Girl talks about "bad vibrations" in her last tribe and describes that she doesn't want to stay in the same alliance. Becky and S.A.M. discuss who they want to align with -- and S.A.M. confides in her that he found the immunity idol. Gotta wonder which head he's thinking with there? Don't get me wrong, Becky seems like a cool girl who won't betray S.A.M.'s trust, but then again, he's known her for, what, four days? I'm pretty sure that she being a cute girl has a lot to do with how he's acting right now. 7:31 Nate uses the fishing spear to catch an octopus. They come back to the tribe, and Parvati says, and I quote, "That's a lot of meat!" while looking Nate up and down. Ew! Ew! Ew! I just can't get around the Sambo/Missy Anne connotations. Why does Parvati sound like a 1-900 number? 7:33 At the immunity challenge, it's the "race with sandbags" challenge (or the challenge where Probst gets off having enough control to make fifteen people do the stupidest things he can imagine) where the tribes are instructed to run in a circle in knee-deep water weighted down with sandbags until one tribe is able to catch the other and tackle them. This is a classical Survivor challenge that is basically an endurance run, and which shows the inherent gender-bias of the challenges: invariably, the women drop out within three rotations and the men just turn in circles until one gets tired. Why the women drop out I have no idea since all the women were obviously strong enough to sit on the sidelines and cheer, but in this case, it seems to have not paid off, as Raro which kept the women in longer to distribute the weight evenly, quickly overtakes Aitu, the tribe that dropped their women out quickly. Message? Women can carry things and walk in circles too, ya big dumb oxen men. Don't underestimate us. Of interest, S.A.M., as the guy at the end of the rope in the Aitu tribe, actually turned and squatted like a feral jungle man, in hopes of fighting off Raro seconds before they were going to win. Uhm -- why? Although it kinda looked cool, it was really pointless. Before heading back to camp, the victorious Raro chooses Candice from the losing Aitu tribe to go to Exile Island. Therefore, my prediction is that Mr. Miyagi will be voted out at Tribal Council tonight. He offers nothing to the tribe, is too weak to be useful at challenges, and ... well... he makes Asian dog-eating jokes. He has just got to go -- being able to heal migraines with a touch of a calloused thumb only goes so far. 7:42 Back at the Aitu tribe, we see two alliances vying for control: one alliance is Chicken Thief, S.A.M. and Becky and the other is Ozzy, Cristina, Mr. Miyagi, Pony Girl and Cecilia. It is interesting to note that the Whites and Asians essentially came together, and the Latinos and the Black girl came together to form another alliance. Candice had been the other part of the White & Asian alliance, but now that she's in Exile Island, the W&A alliance is up shit-creek. The Brown and Outcasts alliance target Becky, and Pony Girl, in particular, breaks down her alliance with Chicken Thief because she gets "bad vibes" from Becky. So, I guess I have to eat my words, because the two castaways who are being targeted are Cecilia and Becky, and Miyagi and Pony Girl, as the two "outcasts" are actually the swing votes. Miyagi lives to make more Vietnamese jokes another day. (Incidentally, all of you guys googling "what do you call a Vietnamese who owns three dogs" and are pulling up these posts, looking for the punchline of that racist joke: shame! Shame!) Given this turn of events, I have to predict the early snuffing out of Becky. 7:49 Back at Tribal Council, Probst again asks the castmates about the division of tribes based on "ethnicity". Again, he asks a White guy, who gives the stock, White answer: race doesn't matter, and there was nothing wrong with this stunt. He really needs to ask someone, nay anyone, else that question before we start taking him seriously. 7:51 After some rather boring Q&A between Probst and Integrated Aitu, the tribemates vote. Miyagi makes a big show of "meditating" over his piece of paper before he writes a name down. Pony Girl, too, makes a show of "being conflicted" about her vote. I roll my eyes. Since it's pretty clear that Becky will be voted out, the question is whether S.A.M. is truly thinking with the wrong head and will use his immunity idol to save Becky. 7:54 Wow -- okay, again, I have to eat my words. It turns out that the Outcasts actually did switch back to the White & Asian alliance (making it truly White & Asian, since the only people left in the Brown alliance, now, are Brown people) and voted out Cecilia. It was probably a good move on the Outcasts' part, since they stand to wield more power by proving themselves to be a swing vote that needs to be lobbied by both sides. And the S.A.M./Becky sexual tension survives for another episode. Incidentally, I want to take this minute to ask -- did anyone else catch why people were drinking the Becky Haterade? She hasn't really been prominent enough for us to assess anything about her role in camp. Is she a princess? Or is she just too in-tight with S.A.M.? Well, at the end of the episode, my biggest question is whether all of us silly bloggers blogging about Survivor: Race Wars will lose interest after the end of the Jim Crow equivalent of reality television, or, if Burnett is giving us a Brief History of Race in America, will we stay tuned for what he comes up with to represent the Black Panther Party era? Next week: Parvati gets frustrated with having live with those same manly men she's been throwing herself at, and Mr. Miyagi kills a baby bird.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cerebrogenesis (10)

Haven't had time to read lately, but here are a couple of links for this (past several) week's installment of Cerebrogenesis.

  • Robot Woman -- various news sources reported last week that a group of scientists had created a robot modeled after a human woman, specifically a Chinese woman. It responds to nearly 1,000 vocal commands delivered in Mandarin and is programmed to enjoy wearing jewelry and beautiful evening gowns (this video shows her in a red "poofy" dress). Is it just me or is that eerily Stepford wife-ish? I mean, okay, a great leap forward in cutting-edge robotics, but leave it to a team of male scientists to build a female robot whose personality is a cliche of womanhood.
  • Women in the Sciences: the NY Times reports about a study focusing on the relatve dearth of women in science and engineering. In my opinion, the practice of tenureship, while good for intellectual freedom, can also foster an old boy's network that makes it more resistant to change than most social institutions. That being said, I saw a statistic yesterday that said that last year, I was 1 of 265 Asian American graduate students at my school -- making us a decimal point or two above 1% of the graduate population. The point? Higher education is consistently closed to most people claiming any kind of differing background.
  • Allen used "N-word" in College, a Salon article about Allen and his racist tendancies while he was in college. Salon interviewed several of Allen's old football teammates and three reported recollections of Allen as a racist, while the rest either didn't know him well enough or thought him "one of the boys". One teammate, Dr. Ken Shelton, has the most vivid memories of Allen as a racist, saying:
    "Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place'... [h]e used the N-word on a regular basis back then."
    Shelton also recounts a hunting trip he went on with Allen and other teammates in which Shelton claims Allen asked where the local Black families lived, then drove the group over and stuffed a dead deer head in the Black family's mailbox. Allen recently called himself the "champion of minorities" after disclosing his Jewish heritage; personally, I find it hard to believe that anyone who used to laud the Confederate Army and keep a noose in his office could ever have my best interests in mind.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Brad Pitt and Black Hair

A stunning reason why White parents are frequently incapable of dealing with the ramifications of adopting a non-White child: in this month's Esquire magazine, Brad Pitt says,

For white people who might be having a little trouble with black-person hair, Carol's Daughter is a fantastic hair product. We got it for Z. Now her hair has this beautiful luster. And it smells nice, too.
Right. Because Black hair is usually dull and smelly. Imagine what happens when Zahara starts asking why her Mommy and Daddy are a different colour than she is.

Friday, September 22, 2006

"Jap" Cars

Via I think politicians should be required to take racial sensitivity classes before they start campaigning. Seriously. Not to protect the minorities they will otherwise inevitably offend -- you can't get a racist cat to change its stripes, and while 'Macaca-gate' was pretty insulting, people of colour are more offended by the racist legislation than the racist language. No, politicians and related professionals should undergo racial sensitivity training because they seem to be too stupid along with their racism. A bare month after Macaca-gate, former Minnesota Representative Mike Osskopp, now acting as director of Representative John Kline's campaign in Minnesota was caught on camera yelling a racial slur to passing cars. As cars drove by, Osskopp shreiked to the drivers that they were driving "Jap" cars. (Click on this link to view the video, courtesy of Inside Minnesota Politics.) Idiot. There's a camera on you. The idiocy of racism is only compounded by the idiocy of racism with a camera on you. "Jap" is a racial slur that was frequently used during WWII to villainize Japanese troops (although it originated earlier than that, pretty much as soon as the Japanese landed in America). Not only was it used as a slur by troops fighting Japanese soldiers, but was used at home during the oppression and internment of Japanese American citizens and even against non-Japanese Asian Americans by those who couldn't tell the difference. "Jap" was later used by the killers of Vincent Chin, uttered moments before Chin was fatally beaten by Ron Ebens and Michael Nitz in 1982. Incidentally, this hate crime was fueled by the same anti-Japanese sentiment that resulted from foreign vs. domestic automabile manufacturers feuding that seems to have triggered the Osskopp Incident earlier this week. Also, Ebens and Nitz did not spend a single day in jail for their killing of Chin. Non-Asians still defend the usage of this racial slur, particularly in the automobile industry where there is still heavy competition between foreign and domestic car companies and fans of certain car manufactures have canonized the use of "Jap" to refer to foreign-made vehicles. Perhaps this was what Osskop was referring to -- but that doesn't negate the slur's historical usage. Before there were cars, in fact, there were racist White Americans uttering the word "Jap" as rationalization to disenfranchise, dehumanize, maim, and murder Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans who, at the time, were, because of their status as "Japs" afforded no legal rights of their own. "Jap" is a reminder of our community's historical treatment as animals (and indeed, the treatment was extended to all Asian Americans regardless of our ethnicity) and should not be tolerated in today's society. Osskop released a statement of apology yesterday, trying to pass the blame by claiming ignorance:

"I apologize if my words offended any Americans of Japanese descent, including my sister-in-law," Osskopp said. "I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and used a phrase commonly used in my youth, but which is now inappropriate and offensive."
Note the typical desperate response by a member of the mainstream when accused of racism. Osskopp first denies that the words themselves were racist, instead apologizing for the offense rather than the trigger. Secondly, Osskopp uses the "I didn't know it was racist defense" coupled with the "don't blame me, blame my parents defense", describes how he is now a better person for having been educated in how not to be racist (or at least how not to be racist in front of a camera), and we even learn the interesting yet completely irrelevant factoid that Osskopp has a Japanese American sister-in-law, which must acquit him of any racial wrongdoing, right? I mean, after all, he's got Asian in his family; he's got to be worldly! Thankfully, Kline has publicly condemned Osskopp's remarks, but I'm betting that's nothing more than lip service. After all, we're talking about the same region that sparked statewide backlash against Hmong immigrants a year ago when Chai Vang was convicted for the shooting deaths of six White (and probably inebriated) hunters after a language problem and inter-cultural tension escalated into a violent confrontation. Ultimately, Osskopp will get away with a proverbial slap-on-the-wrist and no one will remember this incident in a month (if they know about it now). It certainly is unlikely to hurt Kline's campaign, and it's hard to imagine the largely monochromatic population of Minnesota being up in arms to defend the Asian American community from rampant racial slurs in the same vein as "macaca". It only goes to show you how desperately we need to become involved in politics. In roughly a month, two racial slurs directed against our community have come to light, and yet we have very little recourse with which to make a lasting political consequence. This kind of behaviour from our nation's politicians will only continue so long as we continue to do nothing to stop it. Cross-Posted: APA for Progress

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep. 2

Welcome to the second installment of Jenn-subjects-herself-to-a-travesty-of-television, wherein I will be live-blogging the second episode of Survivor: Race Wars. If you happen to be in my timezone, feel free to turn on the show and keep refreshing this page to watch my comments come in. 7:01 The episode re-cap is on, reminding of what happened last week. Major themes? Some of the castaways are uncomfortable with the Race Wars theme, a girl named Flicka (who I am assuming, given that name, must be part-pony) let a chicken the White tribe stole from the Asians escape into the wilderness, and the Black tribe voted out Seku, their self-proclaimed leader who was, until that point, doing his best to "shatter" stereotypes by saturating us with the lazy Black man stereotype. I am now watching the opening credits for the first time, and am surprised that Burnett didn't take the blogosphere's lead in introducing the tribes as the blogosphere has taken to doing: by the associated race rather than with these silly names. "Puka Puka"? Is that supposed to be reminscent of vomit or Pokemon? As we wait for the commercials to go finish, I'm going to let you guys know that this time I actually have the CBS Survivor website open in another window. Hopefully, this will help in identifying the castmates this time, such that I can stop calling them "that Asian guy" and "that older Asian guy". 7:06 We return from commercial break to watch the Hiki tribe (that'd be the African American tribe -- incidentally, I got several search terms pulling up this site looking for the colour of the Hiki tribe: that would be yellow, guys) attempt to use their new flint to start a fire. They couldn't seem to get their fire started, despite having the flint -- suggesting that maybe they really needed to win that fire-starter kit from before. Nate (the lone man, albeit somewhat effiminate) tries for a long time to get the fire going, and finally gives up, only to have Rebecca try it for a few minutes and get it going (editor's note: it might have helped Nate to actually have some kindling under his flint as he tried to light it). It was a blow to sexism, apparently, that a woman -- a woman -- started the fire. Then the African American tribe -- which Rebecca described as under more pressure because they were the African American tribe -- danced around their fire. 7:10 Aitu (the Latino tribe) describes themselves as doing well -- and certainly they are probably among a minority (no pun intended) in actually being able to catch fish without needing the fishing line and hook. They say they caught nine fish and some clams for food. After Cristina explains how she is a cop who was shot earlier in her career, the Aitu tribe get together and build a chicken trap, catching one of the wild roosters running around the island. There seems to be a hint of tension between Ozzy and Cristina, although exactly what the concern is is unclear. 7:12 Puka, the Asian American tribe, outdoes the Aitu tribe's chicken trap in designing a smaller, more compact and efficient trap involving a box and a stick. Yul and Becky seem to be bonding over their "Korean-ness". Becky says that Yul is like her, "op-pah" (sp?) or older brother -- and I'm sure Probst was watching that piece of film and still raising an eyebrow over the existence of different Asian ethnicities at all. Probst must have been thinking, "They have their own different languages?!? This has got to make the social experiment even cooler! Maybe we can mate Yul and Becky and see what their little Korean children are like!!" 7:15 After Chicken Thief returns from exile, the Raro tribe is already falling to pieces, four days into the experience. They did get a fire going, but they apparently spent a second night partying rather than building a shelter. Perhaps they were thinking hot sweaty sorority-girl/frat-boy sex on the muddy jungle floor was going to keep them warm for 30 days. 7:19 Back at the Latino tribe, the tribe continues to impress by catching fish without the line. Billy, the rather husky guy on the tribe, regales us with his philosophy on camp etiquette, which can be summarized by the following: don't do shit and try to feed off your tribemates' work. Billy says that he feels inexperienced in catching fish and so doesn't want to do anything to help. Some of the women take Billy aside and tell him that they want him to fit in, and Billy responds that he's never felt part of the "Hispanic culture", and that "metal is his culture". That sounds an awful lot like self-denial; no matter what room Billy walks into, I'm sure his peers will see him first as brown before rocker. 7:22 Oh, shit, Mr. Miyagi is at it again. Cao Boi comes in with his "magical powers", as Jenny describes it, to cure her of her sunstroke. He actually massaged her temples to remove the migraine and then marks Jenny with the same mark as he marked the guy from last week. However, later that night, Mr. Miyagi starts making racist, anti-Asian jokes, including one that starts with "What do you call a Vietnamese who has three dogs?". He says "a joke is a joke, right?", but Yul and the rest immediately retaliate (and rightly so) arguing that such jokes only perpetuate stereotypes of Asians to those who don't know about insider politics. It's a valid point, but were I the Puka tribe, I would've just kicked Mr. Miyagi out of the shelter. You think making fun of Asians are "small"? See how small your balls get after you spend a night in the freezing cold. Them healing hands won't be much good then, will they? 7:28 Over at Raro, we see that the White folk actually were busy and built a cute little shelter in the lee of a rock, that looks something like a stable. Well, Flicka will feel right at home. Meanwhile, the castaways learn that this is some sort of bondage-inspired reward+immunity challenge. All I caught was an image of handcuffs and something about the entire team being as one. Orgy? I have a feeling the White team will have the edge; they have, after all, been practicing for five days. Meanwhile, over at Aitu, Billy, like an idiot, is acting more and more like a loner, wandering off as the rest of the tribe reads the treemail and strategizes. At the challenge, Chicken Thief (or one of his male cohorts -- shit, you know them frat boys all look alike) shoots a thrilled look to his tribemates, and I just had to wonder if some yucky slur shot through his head. He just looked a little too happy for that to have all been just a "we got an edge in the game" facial expression. 7:31 The challenge reward are a pile of tarps. Again, the details of this challenge are a little too complex to explain, all I know is it involves a Reading Rainbow portion wherein Probst reads us a bedtime story, followed by a leg-race through an obstacle course in which all four participating tribe-mates are tied together. Importantly, at the end of the race, the tribes must reassemble the Reading Rainbow book from memory. Of note is the fact that Billy of Aitu immediately volunteered himself to sit this challenge out, further indicating that he has some form of snuff-wish on this gameshow. The Asian American tribe takes a lead in the challenge and show some good team unity in crossing the rope bridge. I'm starting to be reminded of the model minority myth, 'cept I'm pretty sure it didn't include rope bridges. Fitting into this "we have photographic memories, but we're not stereotypes, dammit!" thing Puka has going for them, Puka initially is named the winner of this challenge. Raro, the White tribe, immediately become infuriated and protest loudly. "We won!" sputtered Candice (I think). So, of course, Probst sided with the White tribe and declared it a draw (the way it was edited, it certainly seems that when Probst yelled that they had to be on the mats, Puka made it on first). Yeah, 'cuz the Asians don't deserve to win, outright, twice in a row. That's racist! Aitu chooses to exile Yul following their loss at the challenge. I'm not too sure why. Maybe a hot, virile Asian American man was deemed too threatening. All I know is, Yul is certainly the poor woman's Daniel Dae Kim. If I weren't practically married, I'd swoon. 7:42 So, thus far -- the African American tribe and the Latino tribe both lost because they were too stupid and too physically weak (i.e. lazy). Stereotypes? Bashing? Not a chance. Yul wades over to Exile Island where he considers seeking the immunity idol. Incredibly, he manages to actually make sense of the two clues and finds the immunity idol. Let me just say: holy shit! Model minority jokes aside, that was an incredible feat considering the serious lack of clues he got. Yul is a frickin' superhero. He is a Super Survivor, in the mould of Tom from a couople seasons ago. He shall have to be henceforth named (S.A.M.) Super Asian Man. If Mr. Miyagi is the one-dimensional, "Chop-Chop" shame of Asian Americana, S.A.M. is our Stepford Husband. The question now is whether S.A.M. will tell his tribe. He shouldn't. He really shouldn't. But I bet he'll tell Becky. 'Cuz, y'know, they've got a Korean unity going on over there (not to mention sexual tension). 7:47 Alright, so the Latino tribe is flipping out trying to figure out who will get voted out next. Burnett is trying desperately to create some supense, but if Billy survives this Tribal Council, I will eat my keyboard. It comes to light that J.P., a sort of teutonic-looking frat-boy type, actually threw the challenge in order to try and have Billy eliminated. Moron -- Billy is a lazy bastard, but manpower is important this early on. Then Billy drops a very odd bombshell, suggesting that he has stalker/sociopathic tendancies. He tells Probst and his tribe that he "fell in love with Candice" (of the White tribe) and that they mouthed the words "I love you" to each other at the challenge. What. The. Hell?!? Considering that most castaways have to introduce themselves following the merge, suggesting that they don't get a chance to meet each other before hand, this is just truly bizarre. I'm not sure I follow the story, but it's certainly interesting that Bizarre Billy falls for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed White girl from the other tribe (who we saw earlier cozying up to one of the frat boys on her team). The ostracized man of colour starts chasing after the first woman he sees who fits the traditional Westernized beauty image? Typical. Bottom line: Bizarre Billy's story is creepy. Not cute. Not romantic -- creepy. 7:54 Well, Bizarre Billy gets voted out in a decidedly unsuspensful vote. Did he actually have a thing for Candice? Inquiring minds must know! Following Bizarre Billy's departure, Probst actually lectures the Latino tribe on work ethic (I would be offended if my offended threshold hadn't already been reached at the opening credits) and Bizarre Billy is ever-more characterized as "the lazy one". Some thoughts on this episode: first, it's clear that Burnett was well aware of the controversy that would surround Survivor: Race Wars. Burnett clearly edited the preview for this episode to up-play the racial tension that surrounded Mr. Miyagi and his Asian dog-eating jokes, but that segment was actually surprisingly low-key with no follow-up after the tribe tells Miyagi to shut up. Second, it's clear that the Asian American tribes are completely intent on not destroying stereotypes, but in fact perpetuating the model minority one, making them this season's early front-runner. And finally, will we be able to get through a single episode in which the African American tribe doesn't dance? Also noteworthy: Bizarre Billy perpetuates the Burnett agenda by arguing that he didn't belong in the Latino tribe (thereby suggesting that he actually is trying to surrender his identity as a Latino entirely) and would've fit in better in a "heavy metal" tribe. Oh, Billy, don't give Burnett any ideas. Next season, it'll be Top 40 vs. Hip Hop vs. Heavy Metal vs. Country vs. Trance musicians all stranded on a deserted island somewhere off the coast of Thailand, in which they will compete for challenge rewards including an electric guitar with no amplifier and a dual drum-set fire-kit stuffed full of live hamsters. Next week: The tribes octopus-wrassle, Parvati is a 'ho (will they finally deal with the fact that Parvati has an Asian Indian name but is on the White tribe?), and Miyagi tries to win coon-of-the-year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Free Yunjin Kim

I'm shocked that nothing has been done yet. This tragic violation of basic human dignity and justice demands that we devote our full attention to this, the most pressing of issues facing us today. This is more important than the Iraq War, more important than the November elections, more important than the impending premieres of the Fall 2006 TV season. We are the petitions? The T-shirts? Angry Asian Man decrying it all as racist? We need to send our message straight to the top decision-makers in Hollywood. We need to shout at the top of our lungs. Say it with me now: Free Yunjin Kim! Before there was a motley band of possibly-dead, possibly-guinea-pigs-in-a-top-secret-scientific-study misfits stranded on a mysterious island full of polar bears and coconuts following a devastating plane crash somewhere between Australia and L.A., Yunjin Kim was one of Korea's superstar actresses. She was a leading lady in the mould of Gong Li, Audrey Hepburn or a young Susan Sarandon. She was respectable, decent, and a talented actress. And then she decided to try to do the transition to America. All of a sudden, Yunjin Kim is being put on display like some sort of pet, wearing practically nothing, and all with that same vapid "fuck me" expression on her face. What happened? First, there was Arena magazine which boasts an image of Yunjin with a thumb in her crotch. Then came Stuff magazine (where they didn't even bother to clean poor Yunjin off, just leaving her all half-nekkid and muddy), which advertised itself as revealing images from the women of 'Lost', but was really just an excuse to showcase a six page spread of Yunjin pictures followed by some blurry photos captured by paparazzi of a few of the other female castmates at Awards shows. Stuff even included one image with Yunjin looking unconscious -- suggesting that Yunjin be sexualized in a "come rape me while I'm sleeping" kind of way. Hell, Yunjin's captors even trotted poor Yunjin out to take the cover photo for Golf for Women magazine. Golf for Women?!? That's not Michelle Wie! We don't all look alike!! It just goes to show you: it doesn't matter how great an actress you are, or how famous you are in another country. In America, if you want to be a famous actress of colour, the only way to do it is to be hypersexualized and dehumanized, to fulfill the racialized fantasies of the typical White male viewer. Take a look at Bai Ling, who was forced to give up her Chinese citizenship to make a pseudo-smart political drama about Chinese repression, and is now stuck playing the same Asian dominatrix in six or seven different Mel Gibson movies. Asian American women don't need to see the same hypersexualization of our female role models, over and over. Yunjin Kim is just as palatable being a smart, strong capable Asian American woman who doesn't need to strip silently for money. Please, Hollywood -- free Yunjin, before it's too late.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cosplay with Caution

With Halloween rolling around, I'm mentally steeling myself for the bombardment of nigh-racist masquerading that we'll see in the next few weeks. Every year, some Halloween company inevitably reinvents the wheel with yet another racist or Asiaphilic interpretation of the East and our people (this year, I've already seen a line of "geisha girl" dresses which, incidentally, are modelled after Chinese chi-pao). People of colour are no less culpable; last year, I went to a Halloween party at a local night club and saw no less than four BM/WF interracial couples with the Black man dressed in an orange jumpsuit and the White woman dressed as the cop. However, costuming occurs year-round at some other events, and as the summer wanes, we are coming to the end of a plethora of science-fiction/comic book conventions that took place around the country. One of the popular parts of these events are the fans who take great pains to create (or purchase through online vendors) replica costumes of their favourite characters. And while it seems like all fun and games to dress up as Rogue from the X-men or that White Mage from the Final Fantasy game (the special costume in the third act for the second cut-scene, not her generic costume -- get it right!), these costumes are not without its own level of racial fucked-up-edness. Upon returning from this year's GenCon, Yeloson reported seeing not one but several instances of racially White fans donning blackface to emulate the Drow race of dark elves from the Dungeons and Dragons world. He managed to snap a picture of one of them find a picture of one of them online: Upon seeing this image, I was reminded of the countless anime fans who lambasted me when I spoke out against Asiaphilia and the ninja/samurai fetish. By definition, these genres are worlds of fantasy, willingly divorced from reality, and as such, the fans of these genres seem to desperately protect the fantastical aspects of these worlds. And yet, it is impossible to consider images such as the one above outside of reality. Conventions like GenCon do not take place in alternate universes where racism does not exist, and in this case, one cannot help but find the burnt cork tint of the woman's skin reminiscent of historical blackface. Yes, the woman imaged above was emulating a fantastical race, but it was nonetheless the use of makeup to emulate a race of darker skinned, inherently evil, beings. In this case, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. And certainly not when the same woman is then seen cooperating with other convention attendees simulating a public lynching. Update (9/18/06): Thanks, again, to Yeloson who commented on this post and directed our attention to this fabulous post by Bryan Thomas written six years ago about Halloween and White privilege insisting that racialized costumes be celebrated during this holiday. At a party, Thomas encountered a group of three White people who donned Black makeup and leather/animal skins to emulate what was later described to him as a "head-hunter". One even wore a bone through her nose. I enjoyed in particular Thomas' recounting of the "head hunter"'s initial reaction to being challenged on his costume.

So his smile vanishes. He drops the innocent bit. He's been messing with me. Waiting for me to say something. "Look, I'm not stupid," he says. "I thought about this before I wore it out tonight. I don't see what the big deal is." Yeah the smile's gone, but the teeth are still there. Bared. Angry teeth.
The audacity -- the "head-hunter" was not repentent. He was not dismissive. He was angry. From the description, his subsequent use of a reference to Al Jolson, this man knew what he was doing. This was no accident, no coincidence of racial mockery, no pretense at ignorance. This man had chosen this Halloween 2000 to make a blatant mockery of another race, and to dare others to call him out. This was his cry of rebellion against political correctness, his personal statement that his Whiteness should grant him the privilege to offend whomever he felt like. With his statement that, "[l]ast year I went out for Halloween as a woman. Dressed as a woman! I didn't offend any women. You know who was the only woman who got offended? My wife! Cuz more guys were hitting on me than her...", he even suggests that the reason Thomas is upset is that his caricatured makeup is more authentically Black than Thomas' actual racial identity, just as the head-hunter was "more womanly" than his wife in the previous year. The parallels are obvious. Those in the racial majority are striking back against racial minorities. No longer just content to enjoy their privilege, they are actively pushing the boundaries, seeking to offend and get away with it, willfully refusing to consider the human story behind each bias-related incident. They can't (but more importantly, don't) imagine that every burnt cork applied to the skin, burns an emotional pain for people of colour. Why should they care? After all, we're ruining their fun.

From Fu Manchu to Ryan Choi

Loren Javier has done it again; Loren, who excells at exploring race relations in comic books as they specifically affect people of colour and Asian Americans in particular has written a wonderful article exploring the evolution of stereotypes in comics for his One Diverse Comic Book Nation column. I participated in an interview with Loren to discuss the historical stereotypes of Fu Manchu and others, but Loren did an excellent job placing those stereotypes into context, incorporating characters like Jimmy Woo and Shang-Chi into the chronology for understanding how we have changed over time. Here're the first two paragraphs:

When I was a child, I was constantly searching for images that represented me, but always had a difficult time finding them. The interesting thing is that people of Asian descent have been portrayed in cartoons and comics as long as the media has existed, but the earliest images were always that of the exotic. Jennifer Fang of Reappropriate and The Outsiders: Asians/Asian Americans in Comics gave me a bit of history of these images. She said, "If you take a look at the earliest Asians represented in American pop culture, you see a lot of exoticist depictions of Chinese and Japanese culture. Even back in the Silk Trade era, travelers to “the Orient” returned with exaggerated tales of hyper-feminized men wearing silk robes and overly-sexualized, masculinized, aggressive females who wore pants instead of skirts and dominated their submissive men. This was a time when the East was first being discovered, few had a chance to see it for themselves, and the imagination of Europe was focused on this 'New World' that was, by definition, the complete opposite of the West...This fascination could only continue to exist so long as Asians remained fundamentally different, and this difference was underscored with quickly popularized dichotomies: female was male in Asia, male was female, the West was courageous and the East was cowardly, the West was intelligent and the East was bumbling, the West was familiar and the East was foreign, the West was human and the East was animal, the West was heroic and the East was evil.
Continue reading at One Diverse Comic Book Nation

New Layout

Yeah, I probably should have been studying, but I needed a creativity break, and plus the one-column layout was getting unwieldy. So, I've re-designed Reappropriate with a two-column layout plus a really awesome header area that includes most of the relevant information for repeat visitors. A prize to whoever can identify the character in this image. My guess is only Ragnell will get it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chow Yun-Fat

A couple of Chow Yun-Fat tidbits. First, there's word that he and John Woo have teamed up to direct a snazzy-looking video game designed in the style of one of their old Hong Kong action films of the early to mid-1990's. The video game is entitled Stranglehold, and was previewed at the E3 conference earlier in the year. (The following video shows gameplay of the game, here is a link to the trailer) This game looks hot! The gameplay seems to be dynamic in how you can control the character, and the fact that you can interact so fully with the environment is incredible. The gamplay action looks like it's movie-quality, and John Woo's signature scenes (i.e. the doves) are given new life by being rendered in video game form. What I'm most happy about is that Chow Yun-Fat is rendered very well in this video game format -- because he and Woo are in charge, we don't see any emphasis of Chow Yun-Fat's Asian features in order to make him "look more like himself". We see more of that kind of thing with Western video game developers who don't seem to be able to include Asian characters without giving them tiny slanted eyes and yellow-tinted skin, so it's refreshing more Asians becoming involved in video games behind the scenes. However, the first image of Chow Yun-Fat as Sao-Feng in Pirates of the Carribean 3 was released earlier in the year, and I just now came across it. And, just, wow. It might be the tint of the picture, but it looks like Chow is wearing yellow make-up in addition to being costumed like a Fu Manchu knock-off. I am so not looking forward to Pirates 3.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep. 1

So, unfortunately, despite my best intentions, I got stuck in traffic and walked into the apartment at 7:09, just in time to catch the tail end of the Asians discussing the "Puka" tribe that they've been tossed in. Hopefully I haven't missed too much and anyone who is actually here trying to watch the show with me (if there are, in fact, any of you), I hope I didn't lose you. 7:09 Cao Boi (the 'ol Asian hippie archetype) is discussing why he feels apprehensive about being in an "all-Asian" tribe because he's "never fit in with Asians... because he doesn't fit into the stereotype". Cao Boi proceeds to describe typical Asians in terms of the model minority myth: studious, unassuming, eager-to-please. Here is the problem with the model minority myth in many aspects: it not only divides Asians by constantly establishing a "standard of Asianness" which uses external qualifiers to decide a person's own racial authenticity. Also, Cao Boi assumes that the myth is fact. 7:16 After the Black tribe ("Hiki", but let's get it straight, these names are more arbitrary than usual. They are, and will be to all fans, the "Black" tribe just as "Puka" will be the Asian tribe) discusses using this stunt to "represent" and... show that Black people can swim... we move on to the "Raro" tribe (the White tribe) where we immediately hear a typical White guy stance on race relations: "it's going to be a cool social experiment" (nice to know that Mark Burnett circulated the talking points to the ones who look like him), a White guy who still can't tell the difference between race and ethnicity (and doesn't care to find out, preferring to just use it interchangeably to refer to "Other") and a White guy saying that race doesn't matter to him, and it wouldn't matter "what kind of people" he was teamed up with. We also find out that the White people in the portion of the episode I missed stole a chicken from the Latinos (I think), as well as having one of their own. So, as in history, the White-folk start out with resources privilege by stealing from the brownfolk. And then they lose the chicken. 7:21 We return from commercial break to see the Black-folks dancing after they find the water source. After the danced when they found their flag. And then the Black women have "Black woman drama" and the Black guy is shown "being lazy" because he takes a nap on a bamboo sheet while the women busy themselves with trying to start a fire. Yeah, this show is really going to be challenging stereotypes. 7:24 More stereotypes -- the "sorority chick" immediately throws herself at one of the Neanderthal-ish frat boys "because it's cold out". 7:25 Further challenging stereotypes, Cao Boi, the Asian hippie, proceeds to go all Mr. Miyagi on one of the Asian boys who was suffering from a headache by diagnosing him with "bad wind" and "marking him" on his forehead. Cao Boi cites traditional Vietnamese mysticism. The younger generation of Asians dismiss the mysticism, but then the headache-sufferer (Yuka? God, I need to learn these names) claims that the headache remedy worked. Because all Asians in touch with "the Orient" have magic hands, and Asian American youths are all Americanized with massive disdain for their heritage. Thus far, it almost seems like Burnett and company are actually writing this show, with the sheer number of racial stereotypes and cliches we've seen, in only the last twenty minutes. 7:30 "Aitu" is the Latino tribe, which is apparently red, so apparently the chicken was stolen by the Whitefolk from the Asian Americans. Look how the Whitefolk screw the Asianfolk in the first fifteen minutes. That's racist! Alright, the challenge is presented -- it's basically a big puzzle race, which is probably too complicated for me to describe. They are competing for three flints, one for each of the non-losing tribes, and the winning tribe will also get a "fire-starter kit" (wait, isn't that just a box full of wood? ooooooh....) As the teams do the competition, I'm going to take a minute to say that these team colours don't make any sense: if they were going to make this the racist season, they might as well have just made the team colours Black, Brown, Yellow, and White. With the Asians being the "green" team makes me wonder if we should be calling them the Hapa tribe? Glancing up, the "stereotype-exploding", "representing" Black tribe gets off to a miserable start, incapable of putting together their boat (which needed to be assembled like a puzzle). Anyone who bought into the racist belief that Blackfolk aren't smart enough to solve a puzzle, this isn't helping matters. And, of course, further compounding the stereotypes, the Asians successfully solve all four puzzles in record time and win the thing. Yay flint and their box full of straw. The Latinos come in immediately after the Asians, and the White team come in third, leaving a teary-eyed Black team re-thinking their earlier comments about swimming. 7:39 This episode is like a bad parody of a horror movie: again, a Black person is the first person to get snuffed out. The "twist"? Before going to elimination, the Blackfolk get to decide who from the other teams gets to go to Exile Island. Immediately, the two men of the Black tribe decide that the chicken thief is going to Exile Island. Probst decides to get all social scientist on us and actually observe that the Black men made the choice of who got exiled, while the women stepped back and let the "mens" make the decision. But of course, Probst doesn't actually say anything about it -- what good is a social experiment if the experimenter is too stupid to make observations of potential cultural sexism? Was Probst perhaps worried of looking like a racist? 7:44 The Chicken Thief disdainly says in his voiceover that he stole "the Asian guy's" chicken and "the Black guy" screwed him. And we get that White entitlement thing, too, because the Chicken Thief actually talks about how he feels wronged for being "punished" for stealing from the minorities. You even get a hint of the "damn minorities, all uniting against the poor 'oppressed' Whitefolk" from him as he bemoans his fate spending a night or two from his tribe. 7:47 Immediately, the Black team returns to the island and divides along gender lines with the three Black women talking about voting out the larger of the two Black men (the "lazy one" who had fell out during the fire-starting incident. Apparently, his name is Seku, but I didn't catch the spelling). The two men reach out to Stephanie, the more ostracized of the women in hopes that she will ally with them, and in so doing, Seku makes a number of sexist remarks including suggesting that the women couldn't build a shelter without the men and that he would be the one to start a fire, and when he does, the women better "keep it going". 7:51 After Probt's usual teasing apart of team/interpersonal drama, Probst drops the question: "How are things different with tribes divided by ethnicity"? Incidentally, every time Probst talks about ethnicity and this season's stunt, he sounds more and more like the ugly, ignorant White guy who is offensively curious about racial minorities (in that way that's like when a White person wants to touch a Black person's hair to "see how it feels"). Not surprisingly, the Blackfolk laugh at him. Why? Because as uncool as Probst has seemed in past years, he sounds even dorkier trying to talk about race "without being politically incorrect". 7:53 As they vote, I just have to say that it would be stupid for the women to vote out Seku, but they'll do it. Early on, it's most important to have a physically strong tribe, because so many of the early challenges are unfortunately based on brute strength. But Stephanie won't see this -- and she might feel like she has good reason to vote out Seku because of his sexism. And, not surprisingly, Seku is gone. And the Blackfolks are unfortunately at a strength disadvantage because Burnett can never get past casting hyper-masculinized men with massive bulging muscles, as if Burnett is over-compensating for something in himself. As this episode winds down, my first impressions of this show is that it's a typical, tawdry Survivor season, completely mindless and distracting, this time with a healthy seasoning of racism and ignorance. It'll be fun seeing how long I can live-blog these episodes before my brain implodes. Hope my masochism is entertaining to you! Next episode: Cao Boi makes anti-Asian jokes, making him the most self-hating yet stereotypical Asian man on television, while a large Latino man is lazy.

Survivor Premiere Tonight

I have a habit of masochistically subjecting myself to shows that I know from inception will piss me off, and of course, this season of Survivor is no exception. It's my intention to live-blog tonight's premiere, and to use that as a determinant of whether or not to continue live-blogging for the rest of the season. Please tune in if you're also subjecting yourself to the same horrors: I will be live-blogging at 7pm PST or 10pm EDT. If you're in my timezone, you can keep the show on (7pm, CBS) and refresh this index page to watch as my comments roll in. For East Coasters, you get Survivor two hours earlier; it will be coming on at 8pm, CBS so you'll get to find out what happens long before we get to see the show. Before the show starts, consider these choice quotes by Jeff Probst (from this morning's AP article):

Later, when a number of players have been voted off, the thinned-out ranks will be consolidated and integrated. Then, Probst explained, the issue becomes whether to stay loyal to members of your own ethnic group, "because you've already made bonds based simply on skin color. "Or, more likely, will you look to make alliances with people who ... will help you to the end, so you can win?"
Yes, because an alliance in this season's tribe is different than all others we've seen previously because this time, contestants will make bonds based on race, and not because they've been pre-sorted into race-based tribes and don't have the option to make non-race-based alliances.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Blow to the "Gazelle-like"

Reuters is reporting that Madrid's fashion week, a premiere fashion show, has stirred controversy by launching a ban on "overly thin" models, citing the promotion of unhealthy body image as leading to eating disorders like anorexia and bullemia. Roughly a year and a half ago, I blogged about "Skinny White Bitches", referencing mainstream standards of beauty as being unhealthily skewed towards the unbelievably thin and racialized to marginalize people of colour. At the end of my rant I asked,

But then again, I look at Sarah Jessica Parker and Joss Stone, and I wonder why it is that the Gap and other clothing companies, which carry so much influence over young women's sense of beauty, can't promote more representative body types of all colours? Why can't traditionally white magazines like Cosmo and Sixteen feature beautiful, full-figured women of colour?
I responded to these questions by saying:
The bottom line is that, in the short term, that would translate into a loss of sales as the women already socialized into hating their own bodies would refuse to buy the magazines.
I'm glad to see that I was wrong. I was pleasantly shocked this morning when I read the headline -- could it really be? Was the same fashion industry that has for a generation lauded the "famine-druggie-chic" of Kate Moss once again promoting more healthy female forms that leave room for a woman to possess internal organs in their proper placement? By placing itself at the forefront of this socially responsible act, Madrid is sending the message that it's not just about money anymore, that industries must take responsibility for how their products can cause deleterious effects on society, even if those effects are intangible and hard to quantify. Of course, what's most fun about the article is not the ban on overly-thin models, but the modeling agencies' response to the restriction. Cathy Gould of New York's Elite modeling agency is quoted as coming to the defense of (get this) "gazelle-like" models:
"I think its outrageous, I understand they want to set this tone of healthy beautiful women, but what about discrimination against the model and what about the freedom of the designer[?]"
First of all, I think the word of the day must be "gazelle-like". Talk about a great euphemism for "starving". Imagine if the U.N. started sending humanitarian aid not to regions of famine, but to rescue people from "gazelle-like" conditions. Or that you couldn't buy clothing in S, M or L, but in "gazelle-like", "gazelle-ish", and "gazelle-not". And secondly, why should I care about discrimination against the model? If I were worried about discrimination against fashion models, I would speak out against the treatment of fashion models as walking clothes hangars, without brains, doomed to an existence of being seen and not heard. I would speak out against the inherent sexism of dressing women up and parading them around like dolls to be leered at by salivating men. I would speak out against an industry using women to tell other women how to think about themselves, other women, and the world around them. But talking about discrimination against skinny fashion models -- with the emphasis on skinny -- is like talking about discrimination against Whites because we want to remove White privilege. Talking about discrimination against skinny models is like saying that Aundrea, Aubrey, Dawn and Shannon of Danity Kane fame are losing out because D. Wood's bootylicious ass (far left in the picture below) is getting paid to be on the same CD case as they are (albeit clothed in more layers than the rest of their outfits combined to hide the "rolls" and pushed off to the side so that we can focus on the skinny White bitches who get to take center stage). Yes, after this restriction, it might be harder for a skinny fashion model to get a job, but only harder because now the playing field is being equalized as more "plus-sized" models (as in, plus compared to size 2) get the jobs that have been long denied to them because of discrimination they face in favour of the skinny models. And as a girl who wears size 8-10, I'm all the happier because of it. The fashion industry needs to realize that we (the "plus-sized" women) are beautiful and their consumer base. And maybe all this will actually lead to the second necessary step in the fashion industry: revolutions in clothing that can actually fit a normally-sized woman. How often has the average woman seen a beautiful outfit that they would love to wear, except that it only fits right when made in sizes 0-4? As a buxom curvaceous woman, it's virtually impossible to find a trendy outfit that not only fits my curves, but actually hangs properly when it does it. So many of the latest fashion trends have been made to fit those with "gazelle-like" figures: from Uggs to those poofy skirts, to the peasant tops -- all these cuts of clothing tend to make any but the most stick-figure thin look short and dumpy. Activists are frequently asked for pro-active solutions to social problems. For Asian Americans, for example, we often must address the question if Asian American screenwriters are doing enough to increase the quality and quantify of Asian American representation on the big screen. And when we say "no", we're usually cited as being impossible to please and asking too much. Well, here, Madrid has set a fine example of what can be done by leading members of a particular industry. The Madrid fashion week is a prestigious event and rather than shirk from what it feels are its moral obligations, Madrid threw care to the wind and took a bold stand -- one which the fashion industry is more-or-less forced to abide by. Madrid's stance has also made the world consider more closely the role that fashion models play in our standards of beauty and the connection between that and ever-increasing instances of eating disorders in the world's youth. Madrid has shown by its action that this is an international problem with an equally international (and, really, relatively simple) solution. All it took was one person (or in this case, one city) to take an unpopular stance. That being said, one down-side is that Madrid will be using BMI to make its determination of who can and cannot participate in the fashion week. Although it's better to use numbers than subjective characteristics, the BMI is a flawed index that is incapable of distinguishing between fat vs. muscle content of a person's body. Although it's hard to conceive of a more precise measurement that is as easy to take, that probably would have been preferred over supporting the BMI.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What Are You?

Yes, I'm just catching up on my email... Eric Stoller blogged recently about his girlfriend being confronted with the "what are you" question, and queried as to why many Whites feel the need to put people of colour into identifiable little boxes. To me, it's just a by-product of the Other-izing of minorities. For many Whites, who are, by definition, never face the racial degradation of Otherizing (or even conscious membership to a racial community) see nothing wrong with being curious about a "different person"'s background or appearance. For some, there is a fascination with being visibly different, for others, it is a belief that racism exists only as racial slurs and sodomizing broomsticks, and cannot be found within an "innocent question" posed by a curious and nonetheless open-minded White liberal. The truth is that people of colour loathe the "what are you" question because it's a reminder of the inequality we face inherent to our racial background. "What are you" suggests that we are not them, we are not normal, we are different. Though the White querient may believe the question is not harmful, they never consider how the very non sequitor nature of the question not only reminds us of our "Other"-izing but showcases the mindset of Whites who feel entitled to the knowledge. I'm frequently asked by Whites "what I am" -- and these questions are usually followed by comments about Chinese culture that supposedly connect them to my background. I haven't quite figured out how to respond to these kinds of questions, but I certainly know that I'm tired of being a "what" in the first place.

Where I've Been

Yeah, I know, my sporadic posting is getting annoying, even to me. I just thought I'd give you guys a brief update on my life while I'm in the blogging mood. Class started in the last week of August, and on August 24th, I celebrated my 24th birthday with a busy day of classes and research. Over the summer, I started a research project that I hoped to complete by the beginning of the fall semester, but anyone who has performed any kind of research would've been able to tell me that research never goes as quickly as you plan. At the start of the school year, I'm now balancing a full class schedule (including an ethics class, a statistics class, and an advanced class on cell signalling), as well as still trying to finish the research project that has me rotating between three different laboratories. I feel very displaced, without an office or desk to call my own and a lot more commitments than I had originally intended to have by this time. Subsequently, I find myself working 12-hour days and weekends, with each day packed with experiments and me running from lab to lab trying to stay on top of deadlines. When I get home, I rarely have much mental capacity left to do much of anything, nor have I had a chance to stay on top of pop culture. I didn't hear about Bush's inane speeches of the past week until just this morning. So thanks, everyone, for continuing to read this blog despite my chronic lack of posting. I hope things will slow down soon and I can get back to this, which has become one of few sources of fun I have to me. Incidentally, one other thing I've been working on is serving on the recruitment committee for my program, where my goal for the year is to double applicant numbers and increase outreach to undergraduates of colour to encourage them to seek graduate-level training in sciences. To that end, after working all summer, I was able to work with other students and faculty to update my program's website! It took hundreds of man-hours but I'm proud that the site has been launched! Now that the site's up, my time is a lot more free and I can get back to blogging.