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toastykitten

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My new job gives me lots of time to listen to podcasts, so I listened to the Chapo Trap House episode on the critique of Coates' book. (For what it's worth, I'd only vaguely heard of this podcast before, and only started reading up on them today. They appear to have some beef with Sady Doyle? Sarah Jeong? I dunno.)

Anyway, the critique makes the following points:

1. Coates uses the word "bodies" too much and it's dehumanizing.
2. Coates focuses too much on reparations, which doesn't do anything for most black people, and is also an easy out for white people to handwring and not do anything about the actual problems of racism.
3. Not enough class critique.
4. Basically it's overly pessimistic and he doesn't value the Civil Rights movement enough.

I think I'm going to have to re-read the book, since I don't really remember getting those impressions. I do agree on the overuse of "bodies", though - that was a bit much.

I'm not comfortable with Stephens "it all comes down to class" viewpoint.
Jul. 25th, 2009 10:25 am

thought

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If being called a racist is the worst thing in the world to you, you don't have enough problems, and I'd be happy to make some for you.
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Hell, I am actually considering subscribing to The Atlantic because of him. Look at the stuff he says:

If you told me that 100 percent of the Boule, the Links and Jack and Jill look down on lower-class black folks, indeed, believe that they deserve to be where they are, I'd argue. But I'm a man who still laughs at "Niggers vs. Black people. And Jack And Jill can spot my ghetto-ass a mile away. I'd argue, but not because I took offense.

When you're not on the business end of an -ism, it's always easy to underestimate the malice of its employers. When you're a part of that class of employers, it becomes even easier.
You know what this is. I've written repeatedly about how racism can be a problem in a society with seemingly no racists, how racism--out of all the isms--became the province of cannibals, ogres, people existing one rung above the rapist, and child molester. Some of this is our fault--dramatizing the depravity of Southern racists was a brilliant political strategy. But the unexpected upshot is that whites who know they'd never sic a dog on a kid for the crime of crossing a street, can sit at home and say "Well if that's racism, I know I'm not that." It'd be as if our thoughts of sexism revolved strictly around honor-killings and rape. Perhaps they do.


Black people who go out into the wider world don't have the luxury of thinking about racists strictly as societal outcasts, any more than women have the luxury of thinking about sexists strictly as rapists. The society is changing, no question. The world is a less racist place. But this is coming from a start of being an intensely, intrinsically racist place.


(Bolding mine.)

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I am really excited because I picked up The Big Aiiieeeee! at the Brand Bookshop today. I almost got Snow by Orhan Pamuk, but I stopped in my tracks once I saw this anthology of Chinese and Japanese American literature.

I have a tortured relationship with Asian American literature, because most of it pisses me off too much. Yet it's an itch I can't stop scratching, to the point where I took a couple of Asian Am lit classes in college. Boy were those fun! Anyway, they always went back to the Frank Chin/Maxine Hong Kingston split, where Chin basically accuses Kingston and those like her (or at least as successful as her) of selling out, of being traitors to their own people. (For the record, as writers, I like Kingston, am mostly indifferent to Chin.) So this anthology is pretty legendary, but I've never seen it anywhere, until today.

I have barely started, but the intro is full of gold:

We begin another year angry! Another decade, and another Chinese American ventriloquizing the same old white Christian fantasy of little Chinese victims of "the original sin of being born to a brutish, sadomasochistic culture of cruelty and victimization" fleeing to America in search of freedom from everything Chinese and seeking white acceptance, and of being victimized by stupid white racists and then being reborn in acculturation and honorary whiteness.


It is an article of whilte liberal American faith today that Chinese men, at their best, are effeminate closet queens like Charlie Chan, and at their worst, are homosexual menaces like Fu Manchu. No wonder David Henry Hwang's derivative M. Butterfly won the Tony for best new play of 1988. The good Chinese man, at his best, is the fulfillment of white male homosexual fantasy, literally kissing white ass. Now Hwang and the stereotype are inextricably one.

More to come! 

ETA: This may take longer than expected. I tried to get through "Come All Ye Asian American Writers of the Real and of the Fake", and while certain parts were compelling, most of it feels like a relentless history lesson with no point and the other part feels like a diatribe against writers who are more successful than him. For all Chin's claims that David Henry Hwang, Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan are irresponsible writers who've been sucked in by white liberal Christian stereotyping, it's kind of hard for me to swallow that he thinks that all Chinese people live and are educated a certain way, and that he's the authority on authenticity.

I checked the publication dates, and looks like the copy I have was a reprint published in 1991. That makes me wonder two things: in all of the twenty or so years that had passed since the original publication, they couldn't find more than one woman who's "of the real"? (Well, maybe a few names are ambiguous so I'll have to double-check that.) And after twenty or so years, shouldn't Asian America encompass more than Chinese and Japanese Americans?
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TCM to Present RACE AND HOLLYWOOD: ASIAN IMAGES IN FILM for the month of June.

So far I've set the TiVo to record: Shanghai Express, Charlie Chan at the Circus, and Charlie Chan in Honolulu.

The last week is weak, though. Rush Hour 2? Joy Luck Club? Mr. Baseball? Isn't that a movie about Tom Selleck?
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  • In response to the scandal of the Shanxi brick-kiln slaves, lawyer and activist Wu Ge (吴革) has submitted a proposed amendment to the Criminal Law defining and criminalizing slavery.
  • A recipe for okonomiyaki, courtesy of the Chronicle Books blog. Chronicle Books is one of my favorite publishers - whoever does the design for their books (many people, I imagine) are geniuses. It also helps that many of their books look really interesting and informative. I love okonomiyaki, and I wish there were a Japanese restaurant close by that served it. It looks like it's probably really easy to make.
  • Jackie Chan set to appear in drama set in Japan - a drama on the lives of Chinese immigrants in Japan's Shinjuku district. Uh, no comment for now.
  • Thank you, Jeff Yang: A Taste of Racism in the Chinese Food Scare - Nevertheless, China has been portrayed as a nation blind to hygiene and blissfully unconcerned about recent reports of food contamination. That's troubling, because it reinforces the notion that befouled food is the consequence of a foul culture. Chef and gustatory adventurer Anthony Bourdain may have said it best in a 2006 Salon interview in which he noted that there's "something kind of racist" about culinary xenophobia: "Fear of dirt is often indistinguishable from the fear of unnamed dirty people." Link from Serious Eats.
  • I cut my hand on my dad's butcher knife today. When I moved out, my parents gave me that knife. It is a dangerous thing - it's really heavy, and it's been dinged over the years, so much so that there isn't a straight line anywhere. You know how in Chinatown you go into the little shops with the ducks hanging in the windows? And there's the guy behind the counter chopping your roast pork and roast duck into pieces with simple, beautiful whomps? That's my knife. I hardly ever use the knife, but I took it out to slice some turnips the other day. My chef's knife just wasn't cutting it. It wasn't exactly going through things like butter, but I pounded the hell out of that thing. I'm telling you, my knife will cut through just about anything. I almost feel like a real cook with it.
  • Currently reading: Connie Willis' science fiction novel Doomsday Book - it is surprisingly engaging. I'm almost done with it, and I'm pleasantly surprised. I wasn't really expecting anything except a diversion, but it's got time travel into the Middle Ages and a spunky heroine. (I'm not a fan of the word "spunky", but I'm not sure what else works.) One thing I did notice - people spend a lot of time trying to get hold of people via the phone, and for the longest time, I was like, dude, does the future not have cell phones and the Internet? I flipped to the copyright page, and discovered it was published in the early nineties. So that explains it!
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I am in a writing mood right now, plus I don't have to go to work today.

Reading:

Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Fifth Book of Peace" - Half fiction, half memoir, this is about Kingston's struggle to find a way out of war and to bring peace to everyone. The book is divided into four sections - Fire, Water, Paper, Earth. Fire is about the Oakland hills fire that destroyed her home right after her father's funeral. Water is a fictionalized account of her time in Hawaii using a character from one of her previous books, Wittman Ah Sing, during the Vietnam war. Wittman is a war resister who evades the draft by flying to Hawaii with his white wife and their mixed-race son, where they meet all sorts of people and encounter the idea of "Sanctuary". I forget where Paper and Earth split off, but these chapters are about the years after the Oakland fire, where Kingston gathers a group of war veterans, mostly from Vietnam, but from Korea and WWII, too to start a writing workshop, so they can write their way out of their pain. I admit, I disliked the Water chapter the most for somewhat irrational reasons. The entire book is well-written; it's just that I prefer reading about Kingston's actual experiences as opposed to her fiction, which seems to me to be thinly veiled autobiography anyway. She mentions that she started the writing workshop for veterans as partly as a way to help her brothers cope with the trauma of war, but they don't come. (It makes me wonder how her brothers felt, fighting in the Vietnam war.) This book was published in 2004, but the workshop had been going on since the original Iraq war. Overall the book is good, but you have to have patience with the way the narrative jumps all over the place, and also when Kingston seems to drop in weird non-sequiturs and then never addresses them again. The workshop's writing has turned into the new book Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace. Excerpts can be read at Bill Moyers Journal website.

I still think from what I've read so far of her writing, that Woman Warrior was her best work. Interestingly, in this book she clarifies what actually happened with her parents when they immigrated here. She felt safe finally telling their stories for real now that they were dead and can't be deported.

Watching:

Top Chef 4 Star All Stars: Top Chef is one of those Project Runway spin-offs that was actually successful. This episode was a one-off before the start of Season 3, and pitted Season 1 against Season 2. It was so funny that the arrogant pricks from each season ended up being the team captains and basically went head-to-head against each other. I do have to say, I liked Stephen a lot more this time around.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: There's been some discussion online-the powers-that-be at HBO decided to center the story on a part-white Sioux doctor who marries a white woman, neither of whom actually appear in the work this was based on because "Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project," Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year. I didn't really read all this stuff going in, but dude, this guy thinks only white people watch HBO? And that white people care only about watching other white people? Talk about low expectations.

I should preface this by saying that I know literally nothing about the Sioux or most Native Americans and their stories. Anyway, although I liked the actor who played Charles Eastman, because he reminded me of a young Chow-Yun-Fat, I thought his story fell kind of flat. There was decent acting in those scenes, but if his entire purpose was to connect the viewer with the rest of the Sioux who were forced from their land, it didn't really work. The story overall was very affecting, and really depressing. I didn't think the film itself, as a stand-alone product was that bad, and it made me want to find out more about the Sioux. Obviously, though, I know nothing about what actually happened or I would be more pissed off, probably. I would argue, though that we didn't get to see enough of the Sioux, and saw too much of the American government.

Pam Noles' post about Bury My Heart.

Statement by Hanay Geiogamah, Professor of Theater, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Director, UCLA American Indian Studies Center - he had some serious issues with it.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the book.

John Tucker Must Die - Teen movie fluff. It was enjoyable and not deep at all, even though we are informed that the main character likes Elvis Costello and Dave Eggers. Introduced me to the stereotype of "vegan is code for slut". When did that happen?
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Too sleepy to post anything more than the following:

Optimus Prime v. Bonecrusher

Activate interview with Jenni Gainsborough, Washington director of Penal Reform International

on hip-hop, hoes and bitch-ass-niggas - a post on "Hip-Hop and Homophobia: Exploring Masculinity, Bisexuality and the DL." by blackademic Larry D. Lyons II.

Not a lot of love in the Haight - LA Times article about how hippie homeowners wish those damn kids would get off their lawn even though those hippies probably did the same thing 30 years ago.

WANT: Dim sum cell phone charms! Too cute.

Edited to add: Why is it "hoes"? Shouldn't it be "hos"? Someone confirm the spelling rule on this one.
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We went and saw the first game of the Bay Area Derby Girls this season. I had a co-worker who was on the Richmond Wrecking Belles team, and we showed up to cheer her on. (Unfortunately I don't think she was actually in the game because she was sick.) We won, and kicked ass! Roller derby is a brutal sport; Mark told me that one of the girls' legs was entirely purple afterwards. It was a lot of fun, even though we were sitting on a hard dry ice rink for about two hours straight, and we were stuck behind some guy who smelled like he hadn't bathed in years.
Among other things:

  • Bridge to Terabithia, the movie, is very good. It is nothing like the trailer at all. It starts out a little bit cheesy, but in the end it will wrench your heart.
  • Asianweek. Dude, what an insane person. And I'm so depressingly not surprised that the article actually got published.
  • I seem to have writer's block. I can't seem to commit to any train of thought for very long, not even a short email. Maybe I'll find it easier once work settles down a bit.
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Bamboozled is about Dave Chappelle.
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  1. This week was Secret Santa week! My Secret Santa gave me a little Christmas fir (obviously she doesn't know I will kill it in three weeks, if that), a Starbucks gift card (dude what is up with Starbucks at my company? everyone said they got one), my cubicle got decorated, and a really nice-smelling candle. I had no idea who it was, and the person it turned out to be was someone I had never suspected.
  2.  We also did a "white elephant" thing. For those of you who don't know about office holiday games like these, it's one of those things where everyone brings a small gift under $20. People take turns either opening a gift or stealing another gift from someone else who's already opened one. Each gift can only be stolen three times. After the third steal, the person gets to keep the gift. So a couple of the gifts were really desirable - like a bottle of wine, a Hello Kitty coffeemaker, a champagne flute, and others were not. Like my Serenity DVD! The person who opened it looked as if she had opened a can of worms - that's how unhappy she was with it. Ultimately she gave it up to someone who actually watches Firefly, and got herself a banjo Christmas CD instead. Weirdo.
  3. I had the most expensive meal of my life this week. Mark and I and a few other friends tried a tasting menu at the Ritz-Carlton. It was excellent, although I will be feeling guilty for the next six months for spending so much money.  One of the reasons we ate there was because the head chef beat  Japanese Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai. At least that's one of my rationales. It started out with several dishes of seafood (which were all really fresh and contained some things I would normally never eat, like sea urchin), foie gras (divine but I thought the foie gras I had at Bistro Elan was much better), duck breast (fantastic), veal (eh, kind of dry), and finished off with some desserts (delicious). 
  4. So I've been semi-following the whole Rosie O'Donnell thing.  At first I didn't really care, but then I hear she gave a half-assed apology in which she says she's sorry she's offended some people but she'll probably do another joke like that next week? Uh, first of all, "ching chong" ain't a joke. It's something five year olds use to taunt the new kid in class. And second of all, it's dumb and cliched at best. And third, unfunny. Like not just it's-offensive-and-racist-unfunny, as in it's just not funny. Not that I ever thought she was funny in the first place.
  5. Rachael Ray's influence expands. Next year the Oxford American dictionary will feature the word, or rather, abbreviation EVOO.
  6. I'm not linking anything today because I'm sick and don't feel like it.
  7. Has anyone read any reviews of Jimmy Carter's new book that doesn't attack him for being too sympathetic to Palestinians?

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On my last night in Kansas City, I decided to walk around the Plaza and shop with a few of the women from the conference. One of the women really wanted to go inside the Williams-Sonoma, so we went inside.

I started browsing around the cookbooks, when a salesperson came up to me. "Do you need help with anything?" I said, "No, thank you, I'm just browsing." I started to go back to browsing, but then she decided to say to me, in a really slow voice, "Okay. I will leave you alone then." I thought she was strange but didn't think much of it.

Later, as we were about to leave, this salesperson came up to me again. "Are you looking for something to bring home from America?"

Now I just stared at her. After a brief pause, I replied, "Uh, I was born here."

Flustered, she replied, "Oh, I hope I haven't offended you. You have, just such an esteemed air about you..." And she goes on, I can't remember the exact words, but I remember her saying that something about me made me seem really, really Japanese.

I didn't bother talking to her anymore and just walked out.

I am so, so fucking happy to be home in the Bay Area.
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Still sick. Really pissed off, since I'd been so careful, and because I have to fly out tomorrow. There's something going around the office and I think I got it. Anyway, a new resolution: don't ever touch the bathroom handles with your bare hands. There are way too many people who don't wash, who don't use soap, and who knows where their hands have been. I think I might start buying some antibacterial gel for the office, too, given that flu season is about to start.

This discussion of why there aren't many black chefs is interesting. A fun game is counting the number of times people say in various ways "racism doesn't exist in this industry!" Also fun is the number of times that people note the increasing number of actual Latino cooks who toil for years but never get to be head chefs or anything like that and attribute that result to anything but race. Because, you know, that would be racist.

'The Last King of Scotland' renews debate about racial point of view - article about why so many movies about Africa have to involve white men as major characters. I was sort of wondering the same thing while watching the trailers for several of these movies - does every movie about Africa need to be distilled from the point of view of a white man? I think the last time there was a movie about Africa with a black lead was Hotel Rwanda.

Just thinking out loud - is this a sort of "reverse affirmative action" rule for white actors? Is there a requirement on the majority of movies about minorities that there must be a token white character? Barbershop, for example, had the white guy who "acted black", Bamboozled had that same guy, etc. I'm sure there are more.
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Oct. 3rd, 2006 06:36 pm

empathy

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Mark and I have been discussing all the different prejudices - racism, sexism, etc, and agreed that the one factor that ties into people perpetrating horrendous acts, or even just saying stupid, heartless stuff without thinking about the consequences or the implications is the result of an inability to put oneself in another person's place. It's puzzling to us, that even people we know and love, and think are good people overall, are capable of such ugliness and selfishness.

My dad still refuses to go into Japanese restaurants and businesses. (He was separated from his biological family because of the Japanese. My dad was a kid during the war.) Many of my adult relatives bear the same grudge, and can be surprisingly vehement about their animosity towards the Japanese. What's funny is how many of their kids have gotten into anime, and are learning Japanese, watching, reading and totally absorbing Japanese pop culture.

Hmmm...

I have no idea where I'm going with this.
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Jul. 27th, 2006 10:27 pm

weather

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Ok, roasting vegetables in the oven at 400 degrees on a 90 degree day for 2 hours wasn't such a hot idea. (Well, actually, it was. Just not in the way I like.) The ratatouille still came out really good.

I've been reading like crazy. I finished all the Angel Sanctuary books the library had. Now I'm stuck - at a very crucial moment in the plot. But I would have said that if I had ended at Book 2, 3, or 4, too.

Finished a Miss Manners book. I don't know what it is about Judith Martin, but I really like the way she handles stupid letters from people about politeness and etiquette. And, I'm just addicted to advice columns. I wonder what it is about them. Perhaps it's the certainty that I am not one of the letter writers or one of the letter writers' subjects. I was just befuddled, reading the letter from the cranky gentleman who bitched about people calling him the next day to thank him for the party the night before.

Finished Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke. I really liked it, for the most part. Kind of a depressing end for humanity, though. They don't get to see the stars, explore new horizons, invent new things.

Clarke is also really naive about race. Granted, he wrote the book in the 1950s, but I did a double-take when he called the n-word "convenient". Since when the hell has that word ever been convenient? Black is convenient, and is one syllable. I could even see Negro being a convenient word. But that?

The thing I liked most about it, though, was that the writing was clear and concise. There's no rambling on for several pages about the minute details of a philosophy, or an page-long aside about airplanes that has nothing to do with the plot whatsoever.

Another amusing detail - there's someone in the book who says, "Can you believe the average person watches three hours of television everyday?" Hee. Obviously Clarke underestimated our greed for entertainment.

Finished Bait and Switch. Too sleepy to look up her name. I'm still not sure what I think of it, other than noting that she got totally scammed. And it brought up bad memories of that gap between graduation and my first job. If you can call it that - it was a year-long temp position.
Jul. 22nd, 2006 08:03 am

a warning

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People who make cracks about Asian drivers to me WILL GET HIT.

For what it's worth, most of the time, people who do stupid things with their cars in front of me, like cutting me off right as I'm exiting the freeway forcing me to slam on my brakes and pray that there isn't another car behind me, are white guys on cell phones.
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