Sunday, November 30, 2008

On being a Rice Daddy in Cambodia

photo: Stuart Isett for The New York Time

Happy thanksgiving RDs! Hope you all made it thru Black Friday with your credit ratings intact.

Here's a story from the NYT that will make you want to hug your kids a little tighter this morning, the lazy Sunday finale to a 4-day weekend of American history in action.

KK is certainly no angel. Because of a legal technicality, this rice daddy & gang banger ended up being deported to Cambodia, his ancestral home. He's managed to make something good of the situation, and teaches disadvantaged kids the fine art of the Krump.

In an ironic twist, his dancers have been invited to perform here in the US, but as a deportee, KK can't go with them:
“I can’t go,” he said over the thump of the boom box, as his boys jumped and bounced around him like tiny springs. “I can understand that they deported me here. I’d like to go visit — only visit, because I live here now. I have a brand new life.”
The full story is via the NYT. Now go get some hugs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We Built This City

As a child, I was given boxes of Lincoln Logs, Robotix, Erector Set, and LEGOs. I had so many objects that I could create a scene. I once built an army of robotic moving Godzillas to smash metal construction cranes that had been set forth to complete 18th century log cabin restoration. I built cities, wars, worlds (with a little help from rock n' roll - name the band).

However, it was my massive LEGO collection that I prized. My brother and I both had sets, and we'd often combine them, unbeknownst to him, in order to fabricate Civil War battles with GI Joe action figures who always seemed to pick on midget green army men. The green army men always lost - considering their distinct disadvantage of immovable arms and plastic fixed feet, their troop deployment was sorely predictable - yet never seemed to mind the carnage ensued on their behalf. The scope of these battles were not held within the bounds of my room, as often the secret flank maneuvers trespassed into the hallways and down the stairs. I probably left holes in my poor mother's feet.

And if she'd had the right type of holes, I'd most likely stick her on a LEGO platform to rule over a fleet of starships I built to resemble Robotech forces. I could get carried away for hours.

Of course, I didn't start off big. I began modest, the American Dream of Manifest Destiny before me, plying my skills building objects that had no names. I began with small platforms, walls, and towers. I began without a basic architectural understanding of strength, and eventually figured out that if you overlapped the pieces, they'd stick together. From that simple discovery, entire projects unfolded before me.

L'Arc de Triomphe, la Tour Eiffel, the Parthenon, Brunelleschi's Dome, Tacoma Narrows Bridge - these had nothing on the skill and grace with which I crafted my intellectual comprehension of statics, dynamics, and applied physics.

During Christmas time, my family would take a trip to the Toys R Us store in Santa Rosa, only a good 30 minutes away. I'd dodge swollen faced boys with bulging eyes gripping onto the leg hairs of squat men with bellies that'd make Santa jealous, begging for the newest Transformer or Star Wars figure. I had enough allowance money for these things, and thus, objects I could procure for myself were in essence, worthless.

My feet would guide me past the Huffy bicycles hung on rafters over my head, past basketball nets tied and filled with rubber balls precariously teetering on the edge of orange rims and waiting for victims to pass beneath, and past the girl isle which always caught my eye because it remained virtually the same from the time I was 4 to today.

There, somewhere between the aisle for Hotwheels and Matchbox, and the aisle for GI Joes and Star Wars, was the LEGO aisle. An entire aisle of choking hazards that should've had Bruno the club bouncer holding the red velvet rope while asking for ID.

"You look kind of small, boy," says Bruno. He holds up a blue LEGO piece to my nostril. "You won't shove this up there will you?"

Packages and packages smiled back at me, covered with photographs of toys you could build from the tiny wrapped joy. But, my thoughts were already elsewhere, looking at what I could unite with the home-front in order to build a fuller tableau of my mind's eye.

Even today, as I pull my LEGOs from the attic of my youth, I imagine what other amplitude to achieve. But, I put away this grandeur for the sake of my daughter.

I watch as she builds towers, walls, small platforms. I watch as she struggles to understand laws of physics, dynamics, statics. I chuckle to myself as she desires to show me "wall of color."

Yet, she is already more gifted than I at color coordination and layering. Despite her lack of spatial awareness - no, Noodle, that piece won't fit there exactly - she can build.

I want to stop her and tell her she's doing it wrong. I want to say, "this is how you build with LEGOs." I've tried to get her to picture what she wants before she just stacks. But, she's six. I can only give her guidance.

I'm the teacher, who in the classroom asks the questions until the students find the answer to the original question they posited to me. I'm the one who insists they discover things on their own. Work through their thoughts until it comes to a logical and viable position. Self-discovery.

I've caught myself saying, "but you need to build things, not just stack them."

I think back to if my mother was there to help me, and she wasn't. I think back to if my father was there, but he wasn't. They were busy with their lives, to no fault of their own. I can only recall a moment where my brother showed me how placing pieces from different sets together could stretch the horizon.

And, so I'll build with her, let her watch me build, and let her try and figure it out for herself. When you leave a child to her own imagination, things more beautiful than objects appear ~




Noodle's First Spaceships


Noodle's First "Platform"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sexy Dad Syndrome

There's a growing epidemic spreading faster through America than a California wildfire in the middle of July.


What I find fascinating about this most recent discovery, is that men are being praised for basically doing their job. We hold up Hollywood icons as perfect dads because they haven't abandoned their children, they help out at home, they dress their kids in cute outfits, they wipe butts, snots, and other body fluids, and they do so while wearing a good pair of designer jeans.

I don't mind having Hollywood dad's getting their picture taken with their uber cute kids. But, having them praised for doing what we RD's do without the pay or perks of free baby bjorn carriers and organic cotton butt towels, irks me a tad.

Besides, where are the good looking Asian Dad's in those Hollywood reports? Perhaps we're not virile enough to actually have kids. Or, we're too modest to prance around. Well to hell with that. I say the RD's post their most gratuitous SDS photo of them wiping snot or snuggling their little kimchi to say, yeah...we've been infected, too.

I mean, these photos just make me sick (not really).

Thanksgiving food for thought...

In "honor" of this week's holiday, check out this LA Times article about parents in Claremont, a college town east of Los Angeles, up in arms against each other over their kindergartners' "traditional" Pilgrims-n-Indians dress-up celebration:

Claremont parents clash over kindergarten Thanksgiving costumes

Go read it, come back here, and tell us what you think!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sonny Boy

When I look at my boys, I see great things. I see everything I couldn't achieve because of circumstance or simply a lack of imagination. I see dreams and aspirations that shame my own lack of ambition.

On a Saturday night in November, seven Long Island teenagers hunted down and murdered an Ecuadorian immigrant, 38-year old, Marcello Lucero. According to Newsday, with the exception of one awaiting sentencing on another fatal shooting, the teens were "normal" high school students attending Patchogue-Medford High School. There were no Marilyn Manson CDs their parents could blame their behavior on. In fact, as far as I know,only one of teens arrested is cited as having behavioral issues. Shea was "withdrawn" after the death of his mother.

Now, Hispanics Across America is considering suing the parents of the seven students, stating: "Parents that teach their children hate are just as responsible as the kids who commit the crimes."

I agree with the statement that parents are responsible for teaching their children social values. Those that teach hate should be held accountable when their children follow through on their teachings. However, I am not the child my parents wanted. A relatively quiet but happy child, their teachings guided me until something clicked in my head and I chose to act on my own conclusions and beliefs about the world.

While I agree with the statement of parental responsibility. I am uncertain as to when it becomes inapplicable. At some point, the child becomes a "young adult," acting on conclusions he or she has drawn based on their interpretation of the pieces of information he or she has gathered. I am my parents' child but I am above that my own person.

My parents and I have the stereotypical relationship of their being more conservative about most social and political issues and my being liberal. If I were to accept Hispanics Across America's considerations, how many of my beliefs are my parents fault? (and by the same virtue, how many to their credit?)

According to the Library Index, "For many decades, civil liability laws held parents at least partly responsible for damages caused by their children... Several states have enacted laws making parents criminally responsible for their children's crimes." But the question remains, when did I stop being my parents' son? Did I ever?

An opinion piece from 2007 by Zou Hanru in the China Daily suggests parents serve their child's sentence alongside the convicted child. He references the 1993 murder of a two-year old by two 10-year old boys. He bemoans the fact that the murderous boys only received eight year sentences. He was reacting to the rise in juvenile crime in Hong Kong and Europe.

In Hong Kong the "age of criminal responsibility" is 10. In Taiwan and mainland China, 14. According to UNICEF, it is 15 in the US. I question whether capacity to hate (and I mean hate to the point of acting on the impulse to do someone harm) can be so easily assigned to an age range?

I question because in education assigning a grade based on age does not always guarantee a child's capacity to perform on the assigned grade level. Prior preparation is not the only cause of this. Sometimes the cause is an inability to springboard from concrete forms of thought to abstract ones. Cognitive development varies based on stimulus.

This is not to suggest parents do not impact their children's emotional and social development. In 2005, the Center for Disease Control initiated their "Legacy for Children" series of studies. Their driving question was: "do children in the parenting intervention groups achieve better developmental outcomes than do the children in the comparison groups?"

The question here is not whether or not parents have an impact on the developmental outcomes of their children. The question is when does the child sift through his or her parents' truths and determine his or her own set of truths?

Also, there is the question of environment. Long Island Suffolk County Executive, Steve Levy, has gained notoriety as a champion of anti-immigrant legislation and propaganda. According to Newsday, Levy said if the hunt and murder of Marcello Lucero had happened in Nassau County, "it would be a one-day story. You wouldn’t have all of the side stories trying to link motive to county policy."

Should Levy be jailed alongside the seven murderers and their parents? His public anti-immigrant stances certainly played a role in this tragedy. There is truth in the punk jeer, "A product of your society!"

Parents should be responsible for providing their children with guidelines and strategies for coping with a sometimes disappointing world. Parents should be accountable when their children take their beliefs to violent ends. But parents should not be held solely responsible. Not when you have respected social figures subtly inciting violence and reinforcing the hate.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NYC November 6th: Write to Our Culture

Did you know that some of the most acclaimed writers in English literature were Filipinos... from the Philippines? Ever hear of writers Carlos Bulosan or Nick Joaquin? Did you know that Jose Garcia Villa, the "Pope of Greenwich Village" was a Filipino poet who traveled in the same literary circles as Gore Vidal and Tenessee Williams?
You've never heard of these writers? Didn't have the privilege of reading them while growing up? Perhaps it's because your local library didn't carry their work. That's where READ Philippines comes in.
Since the READ Philippines campaign was launched in November 2002, the Philippine Consulate has worked closely with the Filipino-American community to donate over 500 books, videos and CD- ROMS to school and public libraries in the tri-state area where many Filipinos study or reside. CORE, Inc. has continued this success by creating more READ Philippines collections around the tri-state area.
Tomorrow, the 5th Annual Write to Our Culture Performance Showcase Fundraiser will take place at Retreat NYC at 7PM. Write to Our Culture focuses on the talents of Filipino American artists donating their time and talent to support the READ Philippines program. In the fundraiser’s fifth year, we are proud to present another diverse selection of acoustic music, hip hop, spoken word, fiction, opera and art.
This year's performances include Jason Castillo, Rod Rodriguez & Michael Churton of Churton, Deep Foundation, Alice Dugan, Erin Entrada, Jay Legaspi, and Rina Saporsantos. Visual art by animator and painter Gerry Garcia. Hosted by comedian George Gonzalez.
All proceeds will go to the READ Philippines Program.

CORE's 5th Annual Write to Our Culture Performance Showcase Fundraiser
Date: Thursday, November 6, 2008
Time: 7:00 – 10:00pm
Location: Retreat Lounge
Address: 37 W 17th St New York, NY 10011
Cross Streets: Between 5th and 6th Avenues
Suggested Donation: $10
21 and over


I still remember election night 1992, my first presidential election. I was 18 years old and a first-year in college, away from home for the first time. Ronald Reagan was the first president I and my classmates could remember, and we had spent almost all of our childhoods under Republican administrations. Now, finally, we were ready and able to voice our opinions, to make a change, to usher in a new era—to vote. I remember walking the halls of my dorm until late at night, the lights on in every room, televisions tuned to the news in every lounge and common room, large groups of 18-year-olds bursting with energy and excitement glued to the incoming results. I can still remember running from room to room, giddy with the feeling that not only were things going to change, but that we had made them change, listening to groups of my classmates singing choruses of “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” loudly and off-key from every lounge in the dorm.

Sixteen years later, on another election day, I am feeling all the emotions that that 18-year-old me felt, only more so. Sixteen years ago, I was just a kid, only just beginning to realize what it meant to be politically active and responsible, to be a citizen. Then, we thought in vague generalities about “the future” and “changing the world.” We were in college—that’s what we were supposed to do. Today, those phrases are so much more concrete. When I say “the future,” I am speaking my daughters’ names. When I talk of “changing the world,” I am planning out the legacy I leave them.

I remember, during college, coming across a copy of an obscure, recent memoir by a biracial lawyer in the library during one of my “multiracial studies” research jaunts, looking for stuff about people like me. When, a few years later, a classmate emailed other alums of color asking for support for a Harvard Law alum running for office, I recognized the name, and took note. When that same man took to the stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and gave voice to the unspoken hopes and desires lodged in my heart, I held my breath and dried my tears and thought, this man is going to do something. Change is coming.

When he first threw his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination, I like many I knew, was hopeful, but still thought, no, not yet, he’s not ready, but he will be. But with every speech, and every new vision of the future, I became more convinced. It was time. If not not, when?

When I sent in my absentee ballot last week with my vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States of America, I voted not only for myself, but for all those on whose shoulders I’ve stood on, and for all those who’ve struggled and journeyed with me, and, most especially, for my daughters, and for theirs, and for all who will come after. I voted as a multiracial American yearning for a future that looks like me. I voted as a fighter for social justice who has to believe that ideas like “hope” and “change” have the power to move mountains. I voted as a father who wants his children to grow up in a world where it’s a given that they can do whatever they put their minds to, and where it’s doubly a given that to fight for what’s right is what it means to be not just an American but a human being. I’ve seen the saying all over the internet recently, and I believe it, I feel it inside: “Rosa sat so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Barack could run; Barack ran so our children could fly.” This is the promise, this is the legacy.

On Halloween, my first-born daughter’s birthday, we came home to find that the “No on Proposition 8” sign in our front yard had been taken down, torn in half, stuffed in a tree, and replaced with a neighbor’s stolen “Yes on 8” sign. This is the world we live in, where fear and disagreement lead to hate and human dignity is given short shrift. That is not the world I want to raise my children in. I have no illusions that, by electing Barack Obama president, the world will magically change overnight. But change is going to come. It’s already begun.

And when our second daughter is born not long after Inauguration Day, she will carry a reminder of this always, in her name. Her middle name will remind us of what we all need, and of what we all can give to each other.


[Hat-tip to Raymond Roker for the video from Vote for Our Future which is at the top of this post.]

[Crossposted from daddy in a strange land.]

Monday, November 03, 2008

It's not "underage Chinese Olympic gymnast," but...

...when you're daughter's birthday is Halloween, she gets to be whatever she wants. Even if it is "Hello Kitty Princess." Yes, Hello Kitty and princess, all in one.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Big Wowo

Over the summer, I had the privilege of meeting Byron (Jaehwan from the Fighting44s) on several podcasts in which I participated. Interestingly, he didn't know I was SoulSnax from RiceDaddies until recently, when he gave us a big shout out on his new website,

I just wanted to reciprocate by mentioning, his new activist blog in which he wants to focus more on creating practical change in society. Jaehwan is a prolific writer, both on the 44s, and on BigWOWO. Everything he writes has substance -- no verbal diarrhea from this guy. I don't know how he does it, as I can barely keep up on RiceDaddies myself! 

Speaking of which, Jaewhan is a fellow Rice Daddy, as he is the father of a two year old boy...and the website is named after his son's favorite toy. He and his wife are also expecting a baby girl. Congratulations, Jaehwan!