Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Furiouser and furiouser

There's no way I could enlighten anyone on the disasterous elections in Ukraine better than Sue has. After poisonings, mass protesting, Supreme Court interventions and whatnot, one can only look with amazement and utter an immortal Omarism: "Damn, that shit is fucked up."

Racism Redux

NPR follows up in Fremont, California on the school district with an immigrant majority and the white population looking in. The focus shifts away from the parents and towards the kids in the high schools. The students talk about dealing with intense pressure and racism. I found the testimonials by the mixed minority kids (or "hybrids") to be the ones that I related to the most. Although 100% Chinese, I've never easily integrated into an Asian group. My feeling constantly stuck inbetween cultures is echoed in some of the statements given in the article.

Despite all of the issues that these students face, it's refreshing to hear how well most of them are coping. There's a lightheartedness and optimism in their tone. They seem to shrug off the pressure in an automatic confidence that they'll overcome whatever they face. Ah, to be young and enthusiastic again; not jaded and cynical like I am now.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Who's crying out for segregated facilities now, biatch?

NPR reports that a school district in California is experiencing an interesting case of racism. Rich and educated immigrants have populated a community and are looking to segregate their children from white kids who are supposedly underperforming, bringing down test grades and thus reducing the quality of the education. Strangely, the school district in dispute is already among the top performing districts in the country. Leave it to Asian parents to fanatically obsess over their kids' education. Then again, aren't schools already segregating within themselves? Honors classes, AP courses and magnet schools are designed to allow the "smart and gifted kids" to take more intensive lessons, so is making an entire seperate school district for smart kids so outrageous?

I'm not trying to validate this effort but I also hate using the Racism card as the end-all reasoning behind everything. That's not to say that I don't think Asians aren't out of their minds. I know firsthand how much Asians push their kids and how racist they really are. And California is practically overrun with Asians. I have cousins who go to schools that are 90% Asian and are baffled that my friends aren't all Chinese or Korean. They're also prime examples of how being in a homogonized society can create very close minded viewpoints. Despite the parents' good intentions, this article further illustrates how discrimination hurts everyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

America doesn't not think that things aren't not how they think they shouldn't not be.

The NY Times addresses the state of the nation with a profusion of statistics and percentages that conclusively finds that some people think one thing about this and other people might think another thing about that.

Friday, November 19, 2004


The New York MOMA finally opens its doors in a brand new facility within the heart of Manhattan. I was lucky enough to experience New York City twice this year but was pretty disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to see this new structure. Instead I had to settle for the makeshift home in Queens. I'm glad I went but it was still underwhelming. Fortunately I got to see the traveling exhibit in Houston (on the last day) so I'm not completely broken up about it.

I want to go back to New York simply to go see this new place. I missed the Met and the Guggenheim and I'm thinking that I need a museum oriented trip. Actually, I'll make up any excuse to go back up there. I was completely caught off guard as to how much I was swept away by the energy, diversity and excitement of the Big Apple. It's like a grown up's DisneyWorld, with hobos and druggies instead of Mickey and Donald, a subway instead of Space Mountain, and a bombardment of petty commercialism instead of a bombardment of petty commercialism with a mouse silhouette. A wonderful world indeed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Return of the Nerd

I just reread my last two posts which revolved around cartoon movies and comic books. Highly cultured. Just wait for further posts on indepth analysis of Star Wars, handy graphing calculator functions and why Kirk is better than Picard. I don't blame anyone who has the urge to kick sand in my face, stuff me in a locker or give me a wedgie.


Peter Sanderson has some interesting insights in his continuing column, Comics in Context, about the new Pixar movie, The Incredibles and its continuation of super heroes as modern metaphors towards humanity and society. Gone are the clear cut roles of superhumans doing good deeds. They now deal with everyday problems, midlife crises and discrimination. In this latest example, a super hero is sued by a rescued man trying to commit suicide. No longer are bystanders ecstatic and grateful. Instead, they're grumbling and resentful.

Pixar is not the first to take a stab at the deconstruction of a hero. Alan Moore's The Watchmen is a seminal piece dealing with retired heroes and how they cope. Stan Lee's Marvel evolved the view of superheroes in the sixties by giving them everyday problems. His Spiderman was an outcast and a geek who resented having such responsibility with powers. The Hulk was a reinvention of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in that a man was a imprisoned by an out of control persona.

Perhaps the most powerful cultural allegory created by Stan Lee is the X-Men. Being born with powers, making them different, was reflection of racism and discrimination. The mutants risk their lives for a society that hates and fears them. They constantly struggle with what they do and why they do it. One of their greatest enemies is a group of robots called the Sentinals, created by the regular humans to catch and kill mutants. Their arch nemesis, Magneto, is fueled by hatred towards humans born out of his experience in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, perhaps the most extreme example of racial hatred. Ironically, Stan Lee had no grand scheme when he created the X-men. He was simply looking for a way to sidestep the growing difficulty in explaining how super heroes gained their powers. Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four were immersed in gamma rays; it was an easy excuse to just say that some of the costumed fighters were born with super abilities.

Like the Lee and his X-men, Pixar may have not forseen the cultural implications created in its characters. Maybe they were just looking for an entertaining story. They end up bringing to light the struggles that people have today. Whether working crappy jobs they hate or hiding who they are for fear of difference, we are shown how these characters are unhappy and strained and supressed. Sanderson writes that it's similar to artists not using their natural abilities.

The dilemma is not always external. Some of them are very personal. Batman is constantly on the edge of falling into darkness. He has no superpowers but dons an alterego do deal with his deep psychological problems. Superman, the iconic blueprint of what a hero is has lamented that he needs Clark Kent and that he'd go crazy if he had to be Superman all the time. Spiderman has always fought with the burden of being a hero and has multiple times cast away his costume. But there is always something that draws him back, a responsibility. Not even the villians are cookie cutter anymore. Magneto straddles the line of good and evil. He is even friends with the X-men's founder. The show, Smallville added a wrinkle to the Superman/Lex Luthor relationship by making them best friends before they grow up to be bitter enemies.

Many shrug off comics as a childish pasttime, but people are starting to take notice that there is tremendous potential in the writing and the characters. These adventurers are used to reflect ourselves, albiet in a more romantic, exciting way. Under the capes and tights, the message is for acceptance of yourself and others around you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Cloy Story

Leave it to a floundering megamillion corporation to destroy any sense of quality in one of its most beloved products. As CNN reports, Disney is in the initial stages of production to begin a second sequel to its hit, Toy Story. The first fully computer animated full length film was conceived and created by Pixar, with Disney more or less distributing it. As Pixar has grown, both in stature and financially, they've tried to break off from Disney's hold. Now with only one film left to give Disney under their agreement, Pixar will be on its own, leaving Disney with a gaping void. As per contract, Disney has complete ownership of whatever Pixar has created. Like leeches, they're going to now suck out all of the vitality and sacredness of whatever they can.

When Toy Story 2 was announced, I was very skeptical. None of Disney's sequels have been anywhere near up to par with the originals. Not only that, even the theatrical released animations were starting to show serious degradation of quality and originality. Fortunately, Pixar's utter commitment to a solid story and further advancement in animation led to a great continuation of the story.

Who knows, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised again. Maybe Disney will pull off some of that magic that it's been sorely lacking in the past decade. Then again, given the company's reputation of exploitation, money mongering and lack of self-respect, I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Um... this can't be a good thing.

Looks like the (second) honeymoon is over. Powell and three other Secretaries of Bush resigned in ONE DAY! That just gives me so much more confidence in our president. What does that say when your top officials start jumping ship so soon after reelection? It makes me wonder if they were all hoping that Bush would lose the election so they wouldn't have to actively step down. We all know that anti-Bush people are probably waving their arms crying "See?!" but I wonder what John Q. Bushlover thinks of all this. Most likely they won't even bat an eyelid at it. Sadly, I'm realizing that a lot of the people out there are all too willing to fanatically believe in their President. Where's all the conspiracy-theory, X-files devoted, I-hate-the-government paranoia that made the mid nineties such a joy?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

In the iPod

(yeah i have every song and CD loaded onto the iPod but this is what's in my current playlist)

12 Rounds - Where Fools Go
The Beatles - Dig a Pony
Beck - Deadweight
Ben Kweller - Falling
Cuttin' the Grass - Dooley/Stir It Up
The Fiery Furnaces - Don't Dance Her Down
Gomez - Touchin' Up/Free to Run
Gotan Project - Whatever Lola Wants
Herbie Hancock - Cantaloupe Island
Ivy - I've Got a Feeling
The Keys - Love Your Sons and Daughters
Mellowdrone - Beautiful Day
Method Man and Redman - Da Rockwilder
Modest Mouse - Gravity Rides Everything
Nirvana - Pennyroyal Tea (Unplugged version)
North Mississippi Allstars - Drinkin Muddy Water
Phantom Planet - Wishing Well
Rufus Wainwright - Last Cup of Coffee
The Stills - Lola Stars and Stripes
Van Morrison - Into the Mystic
Wyclef Jean - Gone Til November
Zero 7 - Warm Sound

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


The New Republic talks about the deterioration of Hong Kong's democratic process by the controlling Chinese. I had my fears as to the fate of the island when the British prepared to hand it back over to China in '97. Many shared those fears which is why my family made the trip to Hong Kong in 1996 and why many fled from it, fearing chaos and stripping of rights. But the transition seemed to go rather smoothly with China proclaiming that it would operate under the idea of "one country, two systems". The territory is such a massive cash cow that it looked like China was content to let things stay the way they were in order to leech off of the financial gain.

Now, slowly but surely, the Chinese government is eroding away the existing democracy while eyeing Taiwan in the distance. I've never been a proponent of the U.S.'s role as the world's watchdog; in fact, I wish we would take on a less involved policy similar to the early 1900s. But the fact is that the U.S. and its leaders have shown a desire to spread "democracy and freedom". That makes their reluctance to step in to this situation rather curious. The situation is not nearly as dire or violent as Iraq, where we're entrenched deep in a conflict to place a foothold for democratic control. Hong Kong seems like a much more winnable agenda.

So what are the real motivations behind this inaction? Fear of stirring things up with China, the world's last real Communist power? Over-extending the already strained resources of our military? It's clear that the government wants very badly to establish some sort of democratic seat in the Middle East and the less advertised oil implications are obvious. But Hong Kong is a behemonth as far as importing and exporting. It's not like this is some insignificant country we have no stake in.

Iraq is a situation that we are in and the reality is that we're in too deep to easily break away from to concentrate on other things. Still, the Hong Kong issue seems like a situation that can still be resolved in a swift, peaceful manner. If the democracy in the territory is dissolved, then Taiwan may not be far behind. Then the U.S. will face a much larger and more dangerous predicament.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Moral Victory?

Bush wins the reelection with many of the exit polls citing that a majority of America agrees with the moral values of the current president. There's a lot of post-electoral depression going on and it's understandable. How can we have such polarity throughout this nation? The fact that I'm not in the majority makes me feel completely out of synch with the rest of the country. How do we, the minority, face the reality of another four years?

Still, it was a 51/49 split, which is damn close. There's a relief to know that although deeply divided, there is a large number of people out there who do seem to be thinking progressively and not clinging to seemingly outdated values. I don't feel the need to apologize to other countries, as other people do. I heard the issues. I formed my opinions. I cast my vote. I didn't get my way, but neither did 49% of the country. What does the rest of the world see when they look at us? Before they make a blanket condemnation of us all I hope that they realize the turmoil within. Whatever the perception is, we can no longer hide under the excuse that Bush was a fluke and did not win the majority. Voter turnout was the highest in years, but Bush still won the popular vote. I voted for what I thought was the lesser of two evils. But maybe the rest of the country thought that would be Bush. Which is worse, a leader who leads badly or a leader who can't lead?

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to fix the issues we face. But there were no guarantees that Kerry would have been our savior. Most of the voters who chose Kerry admitted to picking him because they were more anti-Bush than pro-Kerry. Bush claimed to be a uniter not a divider. We need him to live up to that claim more than ever, but there are deep-seated reservations that he can't or won't.

The Republicans have a stronger hold on Congress, which is a bit scary. In Texas, there are already actions being taken to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. Looks like the values of America are already being imposed on us, whether we agree on them or not.

NOTE: What message was the suicide at the world trade center supposed to convey? Protesting violence with a violent death? It's this counter-productive extremism that pisses me off. I hate even spending time acknowledging this. I don't pity that you died. I pity that you didn't live your life.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Move Bush, get out th' way! (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the GOP)

Today is the day of days. Or so we think. Another few days for provisional votes to roll in and who knows how long after that we're going to be mired in legal battles. Ugly, ugly.

I've noticed that my interest in the election took a significant drop after placing my vote over a week ago. One would think that I'd just gotten worn out by the intense campaigning or tired of the monotony of all the political spin or fed up with the nasty smearing dished out by each candidate. But I think the reality is that I really ony felt invested in one thing: me.

It's like at your graduation when your family cheers at you walking across that stage and then getting up to leave immediately after. To hell with all the other people. Sure it's a big day for others too and they deserve their second in the center but come on, it's like a four hour ceremony! Everyone's crammed into those tiny seats while wearing itchy, uncomfortable church clothes. So in the midst of all the people with the common interest, you still manage to shake your head and think "I'm a selfish, selfish person."

But hey, I did my part, America. I leave the rest to the capable hands of others.