Thursday, December 28, 2006

"First comes love, then comes marriage..."

Via Angry Asian Man comes news of a new "Asian American Wedding Blog Community started by the bride half of Hyphen Magazine's charity speed-dating's most successful match.

She writes, "Anyway, I'd love to somehow create a community for Asian American brides and grooms - both those who are planning their weddings and those who have already gone through their nuptuals - to share our experiences with each other." Interracial and same-sex couples are also welcome, she notes.

I assume that most of us fall into the "already gone through their nuptials" category [though hey, I could be wrong, and who am I to discriminate based on received stereotypes of traditional family structures? heh...], so why don't we go on over and share the wisdom of our experience? Heh. That means, of course, remind them (warn them?) of what comes after the wedding. You all know how the old rhyme ends....

Friday, December 22, 2006

New TV Series Puts Rice Daddy and His Kids Centerframe

For the first time since Margaret Cho's ill-fated All American Girl, there's an Asian American TV series in potential play: My Life Disoriented. Here's the breakdown:
    "Life gets turned upside down for Kimberlee and Aimee Fung when their father decides to leave his well-paying corporate executive job in San Francisco and move the family to Bakersfield, CA. Moving in with grandparents and helping out with the family business, a massage parlor called “Touch of the Orient,” add to the remodeling of their lives. If the social pressure of starting at a new high school in the middle of the school year weren’t enough, Kimberlee and Aimee are among only a handful of Asian American kids at North High. They soon realize that every choice they make—from where to sit at lunch to what clubs to join—will determine where and if they fit in."
Some of our fave talents are involved including director Eric Byler (Charlotte Sometimes) and actor Dennis Dun (where has he been the last, you know, 15 years?) and PBS is going to give the ep its first run in the next week or so (it will be on in L.A. and S.F. on 12/26).

We haven't seen anything from this but youtube clips are here and here. We're probably just a little older than the target demographic (from the sound of it, this show sounds like My So-Called Life meets, um, uh, uh, well - this is the point, there IS no comparison with in the Asian American media world. Maybe if they're lucky enough to get picked up, Yul Kwon can guest.

--Poppa Large

The "S" word

Psst. Hey, so um, are you guys doing the Santa thing?

Yeah I know, its kind of hokey, and kind of traditional, and yeah, I know Santa is a big bearded white guy. But, dude, being Asian-American means being able to cherry-pick the best from the Buffet of Multiculturalism, and a fat man handing out presents sounds pretty upside to me.

The thing is, Rabbit Dragon, my first grader, he kind of suspects. You know, that it's me and Mrs Thisislarry. It's like we have to lie to him, you know just a little bit, just to keep it up one more time, like a jewel thief doing his last heist so he can retire.

No worries, I've got it figured out though: when the gig is up, we'll say something sweet about how "we're ALL Santa's helpers" and the music will swell and the credits will roll. And We. Will. Be. Heroes.

But, shit, you're right, I forgot about Princess Pony, she's still in preschool. So, yeah, that means I've got to recruit Rabbit Dragon into the deception for a couple of years, until we can make the sequel, and HE (played by Yul, of course) can be the one that says to his sister, [zoom to close up] "But sis, we're ALL Santa's helpers."

So, I guess we're already in it, in too deep to get out now. Last year the big S wrote the kids a thank you note. It didn't really make an impression, not like the extra set of presents did. Its almost like...

Hey, wait, you think they KNOW? You think we're being played? Dude, I didn't even think of it that way, but wow, you know, I don't know, I don't know. You think they KNOW?

Oh man, too late now, I have to run. Have to get something to put in those socks up by the anachronistic fire pit sticking out the side of my house. Wish me luck, Princess Pony is home from school today and I don't think I can Oh shit she's coming in right now I have to

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Can We Talk About Anything Other Than Race?

Ancient Asian Secrets: The secret world of a secret race. A Primer for Some Places in America.

10. Are all Asians the same? The single most horrible story about absolute utter indefensible ignorance that I have ever heard takes place in an undergraduate sociology class at UC Berkeley for god sake. This is hearsay, since it was recounted to me by my wife. During a discussion section for a sociology course at UC Freaking Berkeley, a student asked the following question:

“How do Asian parents know what their kids are when they’re born?”

Ok try to think about that question. What could she possibly be asking? I’ll repeat the question.

“How do Asian parents know what their kids are when they’re born?”

Ok let’s probe. Ummm what the hell are you asking?

“I mean, how do the parents know if their kid comes out Japanese or Chinese?”

You have got to be pulling my leg. Are you serious? Are you actually wondering if a Chinese Mom and a Chinese Dad have a baby, what RACE ETHNICITY the child will be? Do you not understand Race? Ethnicity? Genetics? Do you think it’s random? Are we a magical people? How the hell did you get into Berkeley?!

Ok now wait a second. Somewhere, in America, somewhere, there is somebody reading this that is saying….”I can’t wait to hear the answer”

The answer is…You have to let the Doctor tell you.

9. Why are Asians so smart? Asians are not smart. Asians get good grades. Big difference. How do they get such good grades? That’s like asking someone how come their kids are so good at not robbing stores.

“Hey Jim, you know I really got to compliment you on your kids. Man I’ve known them since they were still in diapers. Tell me a secret. How did you raise them to not rob liquor stores? I really got to know your secret. Is it genetic?”

If you think it is as important for your child to get an A as it is to not rob a liquor store…believe me they’re gonna get A’s. In my house getting a B is like robbing a liquor store. No I’m not kidding. Getting a B is throwing your future away. Think about that. Will you let your kid throw their future away? Of course not. The simple formula works. Get good grades, go to college, get good grades, go to grad school, get good grades, get paid 6 figures, THEN do whatever the hell you want and thank me later. A man can give up everything and pursue his dream at the age of 30. There’s plenty of life to live at the age of 30. Get your MD, OD, DO, PharmD, JD, MBA, PHD or any combination of the above and then be a bad ass and throw it all away to join the circus…it’s a better story that way. Until then shut up and study. (I had really crappy grades by the way, like 3.9999999999999999999999999997 <--------- Ouch! Damn PE)

8. Hmmm I think I ran out of stereotypes. Someone throw me a stereotype. No not driving. Don’t bring up driving. The Japanese invented Drifting so don’t bring up driving. Car culture in Southern California is driven by minorities, Asians, Latinos, African Americans. These kids can drive. Why their parents can’t…hell I don’t know. But it’s NOT genetic. Nor cultural. In fact have you ever driven in Seoul? It’s like driving in Rome…those guys are freaking nuts. You need serious driving skill to keep up in these cities.

7. Karate. Yes it’s true all Asians know karate. Except for the ones that know Kung-Fu. Or Hapkido. Or Jeet Kun What. Or Aikido. Or Ryukyo Kempo. Or SF2Turbo Fighting Edition.

6. Take off your shoes. Would you lick the bottom of your shoe? Why not? What? Because what? Because it’s dirty? Damn right it’s dirty. Take your damn shoes off.

5. Asian Men aren’t sexy. How the hell would I know?

4. Asian women are HOT. YES!

3. Asian women are subservient. Um look at my shirt. You know why it looks like crap? Because I ironed it myself. Any other questions?

2. Asians get red when they drink. You know it’s really funny how people associate getting red with getting drunk. “Man DUDE you are SOOOOooooo RED! Are you OK????” Hell yeah I’m red. I get red instantly. Alcohol dehydrogenase and it’s mutant variant being unable to bind with cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and all that crap. But I am not drunk. I used to keep a running count in college about how many comments I would get in one night. The average was in the 20’s, the highs were in the 60’s. Even fellow Asians. Duuuuude you are so Red! And why does everyone call me dude? I mean seriously, I know I’m from California right, but I get called Dude more than the average Californian in California. Just look at the comments I get here in RiceDaddies. Dude this and Dude that. Whatsupwiththat? It is absolutely true that a lot of Asians get red. This is not a myth. It just doesn’t bother me. Like most Koreans, I got over it by the end of grade school.

1. Asian men make good dads. That’s right ladies. Asian men make great dads! Hahahahaha MY ASS! I work too hard. And I’m narcissistic. Here I am on a Dad forum just posting random crap as usual. Where the hell is the parenting content in this post? I’m so gonna be the first dad kicked off the island. Son I love you! I love you son! Study hard boy!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yul Kwon Wins Survivor: What it Means for the Asian-American Male

When I first heard that the CBS show "Survivor" was playing the race card and dividing teams among ethnic lines, I have to admit that I was more than a little intrigued. I'd never watched "Survivor" before and although I viewed the first episode with a little trepidation, I was disappointed to see the producers abandon the race aspect of the show fairly quickly. So much for controversy.

But, by that time, it was too late. I was completely hooked.

Why? Because early on, I thought that Yul Kwon was one of the best representations of the modern Asian-American male that I had seen in a long time. Even though he went to Stanford and Yale (I'm a Berkeley/Georgetown guy), how could anyone NOT be impressed by Yul? The guy is the ultimate Ubermensch---a rare combination of brain and brawns that would be hard to find in ANYWHERE! I can't begin to express how proud I am that he totally kicked ass!

Growing up, my Asian-American friends and I always lamented the fact that the mainstream portrayal of Asian males as either being martial artists or completely emasculated. C'mon. Think about it. Before Daniel Dae Kim was cast in the role of "Lost," when was the last time you EVER saw an Asian male being portrayed as a sex symbol in mainstream media?

As Ethan Lee, creator of a buzzed-about new Web comic called "Single Asian Female" said in my fellow Rice Daddy Jeff Yang's SF Gate article, "Asian men are still stereotyped as geeky, sexless losers, including by some Asian American women. I remember that even in my Asian American Studies classes, there were two or three Asian women who bragged how they only date white men. I distinctly remember one of them saying, 'I'm afraid an Asian man might beat me,' and another saying, 'Well, I've always been attracted to the Abercrombie and Fitch model type."

How fucking sad it that?

Look, it's always unfair to cast someone as the savior of any cause. As Yul himself said, "I want to set the record straight. I don't think I was necessarily the best person to represent the (Asian-American) community, but I had this golden opportunity in my lap. I just wanted to break stereotypes. When I was growing up, I didn't see many that looked like myself that could be a role model."

Now, don't get me wrong. In the grand scheme of things, I don't think that Yul winning "Survivor" is necessarily going to break the emasculating stereotypes of the typical Asian-American all at once. It's going to happen in waves and spurts. Whether it's guys like Ichiro, Jet Li, Yao Ming, Daniel Dae Kim, or Yul, I think we (as Asian-American men) have to bust through the stereotypes one door at a fucking time.

As an Asian-American father, it's important to me that my daughter see strong Asian-American role models. Why? Because her Asian background is an important part of who she is and it's something that I want her to be proud of over the course of her entire lifetime. In the long run, I don't care if she ends up marrying a white, yellow, brown, black or purple guy. However, in some way, I think I'll have failed her if she somehow perceives Asian-American men to be somehow less than masculine.

But how about you, my friends? Do you see any significance in Yul winning "Survivor?" How do you feel about it? Do you believe his victory is a step in breaking old-fashioned stereotypes of Asian-American men? Or is this just a random blip that will have no great effect on the perception of Asian men in mass media?

An inquiring mind wants to know!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Asian vs. Oriental

So, I work in this clinic in the middle of some small isolated mountain town, which is totally different from the O.C. where I grew up. Everyone is pretty much white, and definitely has a different attitude towards life. I am getting Vicodin requests left and right, but am trying to do my best to fight it off!!! I am used to the high paced ambitious lifestyle that L.A. breeds, and working in this mellow largely retirement environment has definitely been eye opening.

Anyways, I saw this patient today in his 60's who seemed somewhat intelligent, who made the comment about "You Orientals are such nice people". Coming from UCLA, I initially had a gut reaction of wanting to come down on him and tell him that its Asian, not Oriental. However, I immediately calmed down and held back from saying anything. Was that wrong? I knew he did not mean to be insulting, but he was just plain ignorant. He was actually trying to make a complement.

It later then made me think about my future child and I started to wonder how I should teach him to react if anyone makes a racist remark to or around him. Should I teach him some Hapkido that I have trained in and tell him to kick the guys butt(I have a few grappling moves under my sleeve), or should I teach him to be peaceful and just turn the other cheek? Does the context in which it happens make a difference? This elderly guy was not trying to be mean or insulting. How sensitive should we be about words, or should we try to hear the words in the context of who said them? Tough questions and I guess only time will tell, but I dread the first day when my future son comes home angry or crying because some kids made fun of him for being Asian at school. I can only hope we raise him in an area where there is much racial diversity and that won't happen, but does that place really exist? That's why we are heading back to Orange County where he can join a Korean gang!!! Haha, just kidding. That would be terrible, unless it was the Happy Honors Club gang. I rolled with that crew in high school. We terrorized the academic decathalon, baby!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Duel for the Names

So my one of my best friends played an evil trick on me this past weekend. This guy was my roommate throughout college, and like women who match their menses when they live together, our social lives often matched. We call ourselves "Bad Boys" since he is like the cool guy Will Smith, and I am like the goofy Martin Laurence character. We would have girlfriends at the same time, and would break up with our girlfriends around the same time. Anyways, like the past, he and his wife got pregnant about 2 weeks before we did and are also having a boy. One thing that we forgot to do was to claim names from the beginning. I never thought it was a big deal if we had decided to call our kids the same name, but my wife obviously thought different. I don't want to say the name for the sake of anonymity, but we will call it M. We have been calling our baby M for some time, but I never told my friend about it, because it just never crossed my mind(typical guy, right?). However, when the wives talked recently, they discussed their options for names and found out they were considering M for their baby too. We had been telling family about the name, and my wife had been telling her friends. Fortunately, at the time, my friend and his wife were also considering another name and were leaning towards that other name.

Then my friend calls me up this past weekend, and tells me they decided to call their baby M also, and their baby was going to be born first. I initially thought that was cool we would have kids with the same names, but when I told my wife, oohh yeah, not pretty!!! She was floored that my friend would take the name after we had essentially called it, and that our kids could not have the same name(avoid competition, etc). (Its not that names can be owned and my friend had a right to call his baby the same name if they wanted to). After she stopped stomping around the house with hair on fire(it was not that bad), we started to think of different names again. Of course we had to go to Borders and check out the name book again and go over name after name after name again. In the meantime, we stopped calling the baby M, and termed the baby Jelly Bean until we could find another name.

Anyways, my friend calls me back the following day and tells me he was just kidding, and that he wanted to get a reaction out of my wife and I. I sort of figured this actually since he has played jokes like this in the past, but my wife was giving him the fist!!! She is Christian so she won't give the finger!!! :) She had to smile though later about it. Anyways, we are back to calling the baby M and now this joke got us to start thinking of other names, but we will probably stick with M. My friend and I now have claimed the names for our future children so this would not happen again. Who would have thought claiming names could be such a big deal. I am psyched though that our kids will hopefully be best friends like their dads in the future.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Top Ten L.A. Korean-American Christmas Traditions/Mash-Ups/Memories When You’re Growing Up Henri

10. “Aren’t you too old for Christmas?”
Growing up, my mother had this constant sneaking suspicion that I was conning her into celebrating Christmas even though I was older than 10. Since most American cultural events had to be filtered by me to my parents, I was the cultural gatekeeper. My mother could not stop comparing Christmas with Halloween and insisted that it was a children’s holiday.

9. “Merry Christmas, here’s some cash”
In my family you get cash. Period. For everything. Happy birthday cash, Merry Christmas Cash, Look its raining Cash, Haha that was a funny joke you just told here’s some cash, You got a B+? NOEFFINGCASH. Oh and then there were the SATs which was more of an over/under thing. Over 1400 you get a car. Under 1400 you get to take the SAT again. Hahaha good times…good times. I took the SAT 10 times. I Drive a Ferrari Helicopter.

8. “Plastic Tree is same”
Oh I love that phrase. Makes me know it’s Christmas.

7. “More Golf Balls”
The only thing my father ever wanted for Christmas was more golf balls. And so we made him happy by buying him more Golf Balls. Every Christmas photo he is holding Golf Balls. This year I am buying him 300 boxes of Golf Balls. One day he’ll break. One day damnit.

6. “It’s called Egg Nog”
Dairy + Eggs + Sugar + Sugar + Sugar = Not-A-Happy-Korean-Parent

5. “Santa Who?”
I had to tell my parents about Santa. They called bullshit on that in like 3 seconds.

4. “No”
Can we go see real snow? Damn. Korea is cold. My parent love L.A. for many reasons. Number one reason: No F-ing Snow.

3. “So do you need a Birthday present too?”
Yeah, I was born right after Christmas. Same old argument year after year. The net value of two presents always exceeds the value of one present of equal total value. You have to factor in the pleasure of unwrapping the cash twice rather than once.

2. “Chivas! Chivas! Chivas!”
Oh those beautiful silver boxes stacked high to the ceiling! We would build forts out of them like igloos. Chivas Regal owes the Los Angeles Korean Community an annual parade.

1. “Turkey + Kochujang”
No description necessary.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

To a fellow father

For me personally, in tough times, the last things I want to hear are the opinions of others. I don’t want the condolences of those who cannot grasp the situation that I am in; I don’t care for the support offered by those who have not shared a similar burden. I’ll appreciate the effort but in the end it’s just the family that really understands. I cannot help those who are suffering today, I cannot really help anyone. But I can sit here and cry, and add a bit of sorrow for a man I did not know out towards the universe. I can try to honor a father’s memory and praise his courage. I can find some relief in the thought that everything he was fighting for in the end he has achieved. His family is safe, his children are out of harms way. In moments of tragedy we often overcome by emotion, we hold our family tighter; we call out to the ones we love. We tell one another we love them. And we go another day. And as time passes, tragedy’s wake softens. Communities forget, people move on. I don’t want to move on. I want to remember the courage of this man. I want to carry it in my heart. I want people to think of his memory and speak his name when they talk about strength, courage, and the love of a father. I want to bear the memory of the strength it took for a man to save his family, and hopefully years from now, when the headline pass and people move on, I want to still be moved to tears by the strength and honor of this man. I hope we all can carry forward in our hearts the memory of James Kim.

Sorry to do this...

...not to bum people out but this story breaks my heart:

"Lost dad found dead in wilderness."

This LA Times story, though not updated with news of Kim's death, provides more background on what happened.

The Kims own the boutique DOE, which I used to peek in on since it's in the Lower Haight, down the street from other stores I'd frequent. I never met James, I may have met his wife at one point but regardless, I cannot begin to imagine how incredibly terrible all of this was for the entire family.

--Poppa Large

Get Ur Write On

I've always been one of those "I want to be a writer but I don't feel like I can call myself one yet" kind of people. I'd read things like Ray Bradbury's admonition to write every single day and go, yeah, not gonna happen. But then, after The Pumpkin came, I discovered blogging, and I've been writing more, and more frequently, than ever before. I've always written about things that were integral parts of my identity—race, education, social justice—and when I became a father, that experience became my new, most important subject. Finding an online community of people writing about their own experiences with these topics has only deepened my writing experience.

For my rice dads and moms out there who, like me, want to take it to the next level, get some deeper feedback and instruction, fellow hapa parentblogger and professional writer and writing instructor Susan Ito of Reading Writing Living is set to teach "Parent Lit: An Online Writing Workshop" starting in January. The 10-person class is filling fast, but Susan (also the fiction co-editor at Literary Mama) is definitely interested in getting some more dads enrolled (besides me, that is). So check out the course info at the link embedded above [and while you're at it, if you're not already familiar with her blog, do take a look around—it's an awesome account of, as her blog subtitle puts it, one woman "trying to do it all: working writing reading momming spousing daughtering living"].

Monday, December 04, 2006

When Is Cheap Too Cheap?

Okay, I'm embarrassed to be posting this, because it brings up an aspect of Asianness that could be labeled stereotypical. Let's call appreciation of value. A love of thrift. An instinct for budgetry. Or, if we want to be honest, let's call it "cheapness" and be done with it.

Some of this can be ascribed to good old fashioned immigrant values. But some of it seems kind of culturally embedded, and I'm not sure why. We just dig bargains, even when they come at the expense of other members of our community.

I bring this up because tonight, my wife brought back dinner from Chinatown—authentic, stick-to-your ribs homestyle cuisine, not the brown-sauce saturated gobbets of meat-and-veg that passes for Chinese at your local takeout. This is not the issue: Chinatown's two stops away by train and it's on my wife's driving commute back home, so we eat Chinese, and eat it well, at least once a week.

What blew my mind (and almost the bite of food I was chewing) was when my wife told me the price of the meal. Each dish, comprising an entree, a vegetable item, rice, and a soup, cost. Three. Frickin'. Dollars.

I've had five dollar lunch specials before, and even managed to find $3.95 noodle soup meals before, but I have never eaten a full, filling meal anywhere that cost that little.

This was the culinary equivalent of the Fung Wah Bus. For those of you not on the Eastern Seaboard, these are buslines that run the Atlantic Coast route, taking you from Boston Chinatown to New York Chinatown or New York to DC Chinatown for $20 each way.

Fung Wah is the cheapest way to get up and down the East Coast if you don't mind sitting next to, and occasionally being sat on by, crazy people on drugs. Not to mention terrified college students and not-at-all-intimidated Chinese grannies.

Fung Wah owes its ridiculously low prices to drivers with limited knowledge of interstate traffic law and no respect for life and limb. The Chinese newspapers regularly print stories about these buses flipping, somersaulting, or catapulting into low-earth orbit, causing, as Sir Topham Hatt might say, "Confusion and delay." (And death. And dismemberment.)

I rode, or should I say, flew one of these buses a few years ago and am not willing to again now that I have a son. Here's my bottom line: I appreciate cheap. But Fung Wah is too cheap. It is dangerous, and it is exploitative—the Evel Knievel drivers are probably getting paid in tabs of meth, or something, but certainly not anything resembling a living wage, not to mention the combat pay they ought to be receiving.

And a three dollar dinner also seems to me to be too cheap. I mean, some corners have got to be cut to make that happen, right? Either that, or the owner of the restaurant is ripping himself and his family off, in a way that probably shouldn't be encouraged (though the argument could be made that he's only trying to make a living, and not supporting him isn't going to do his family any good either).

What do you guys think? Do you have any examples of products, services, or experiences that have creeped you out because they fell beneath the "too cheap" baseline? Or maybe you feel there ain't such a thing?

How do you celebrate the, um, holidays?

We put up our Christmas lights this weekend—well, we tried to put them up, but seeing as how four of five strings of icicle lights, which worked when I tested them individually, decided not to work when I had already gotten them up on the frakkin' house, I guess I've gotta run to Target on my lunch break tomorrow. Here in Bakersfield, of course, the first weekend of December is already late—Christmas-happy residents tend to follow the big-box retailers' decorating lead and get stuff up by Thanksgiving eve, if not before. Notice, however, that I'm saying "Christmas." Here in Bakersfield, California's own red-state-within-a-blue-state, we don't take nicely to all that p.c. secularizing "holiday" talk. And the fact that, you know, there are other holidays, like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid, Diwali, the winter solstice, Secular Capitalist Shopping Days, whatever? Well, that kind of talk just ain't kosher. Heh.

[You wanna check out the kind of stuff I gotta "monitor" on my company's community blogs? Check this one out as an example.}

Anyway, in my household, with our toddlergirl old enough to enjoy ripping paper off of presents this year and my Filipina Catholic better half covering the religious part of our daughter's education [though my dear wife keeps cracking up watching me read The Pumpkin's current fave bedtime story request, a Christian kiddie prayerbook that she calls "Dear God, Amen"], I do my part to mix it up, pun intended, by reppin' secular ethnic (half-)Jewishness with brisket and latkes sometime in December. Not sure how to incorporate sansei grandma's Buddhism yet—though, of course, the brisket recipe is hers.

So, dear readers, how do you and yours celebrate the...winter holidays in all their myriad and hybrid incarnations?