Monday, July 31, 2006

The Things I Can Do With My Tongue

Sex and food colliding again at Rice Daddies? No, sorry.

Last nite at dinner, Mrs Thisislarry and I were discussing Phoenix Claws -I love them, she is disgusted by the concept- and I remembered a non-asian colleage and I having a similar conversation when I was in Shanghai a couple weeks back. He was amazed that someone could stick a portion of chicken foot into their mouth, and voila, out would pop the clean bones!

My father of course had this down, and as a child, I remembered being amazed by his prowess. Chicken feet, dim sum spareribs, fish with tiny bones: the food would go in his mouth, and out would pop the bones! Over the years, I think I have learned to master some of these tongue eating skills (as opposed to tongue-eating skills, which is another subject altogther, or maybe this other subject). I have become pretty adept at the phoenix claws, and now I see my son beginning the same journey: starting with a few nibbles, and looking up in awe at his daddy (made up that last part).

So, what eating skills have you been passed down, dear reader? And how is the next generation of phoenix claw eaters doing?

photo: from inju at flickr

Our Bundle of Goofiness, er I Mean Joy (Video)

For those of you who saw my previous video posting of my wife and I lipsyncing to the Backstreet Boys, you would probably agree that we can be pretty goofy. It's not always fun and games as we can get into some pretty heated arguments and screaming matches. But we do try to inject our lives with as much love and goofiness whenever possible. That goofiness of course, extends to our baby boy as well. Now, we do get our fair share of melt-downs and tantrums. He was actually very colicky for a while which even prompted me to write a four-part blog (Karma and the Colicky Baby) as a therapeutic measure of sorts. But when he's having fun and being goofy, he definitely does his papa proud. So we made another music video spoof last month, this time starring Baby Aidan and his sidekick Newbie Dad. It's to the song "Pump It" by the Black Eyed Peas. As a sidenote, one of the members of the group is also Filipino/African-American and occasionally raps in Tagalog. So let me present to you "Pump It! – Baby Aidan Remix"

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

NewbieDad’s APA Parenting Meme

Since I'm pretty new to this party, I'm adding my thoughts to this meme.

1. I am:
Mostly Filipino, some Texan, with just a dash of Spanish and German.

2. My kid is:
Add the above, mix well with a California gal whose parents are from Kentucky, and sprinkle a wee bit luck o’ the Irish. Bake for 9 months, add 40+ hours of labor and you get Aidan Miller Orias or O’Rias on St. Patty’s Day.

3. I first realized I was APA when:
Someone called me a “wetback” when I was a little kid and I had to ask about it.

4. I am often confused for:
Mexican and sometimes Native American.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
Big family get togethers with lots and lots of laughter, love and most importantly great food.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
Keeping things from each other.

7. My child's first word in English was:

8. My child's first non-English word was:
Ai-eeee! But screamed with a very heavy American accent.

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Ano – What in Tagalog. But also used to signify “huh?” and “WTF!”

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
Looking forward to teaching my son to not only respect, embrace and celebrate his multi-cultural heritage, but that of others.

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
Is my son going to be too Asian for his White friends and too White for his Asian friends?

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
We can laugh at ourselves, even though the cultural jokes may not be very PC.
“You might be a Filipino redneck if…”
“Top 10 Reasons why there will never be a Filipino-American US President…”

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
The silence can sometimes be deafening.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
Being able to participate in so many different cultural traditions and celebrations beyond my own.

Just in case there was any doubt...

It's funny. Despite my Asian exterior, I've always been an All-American kind of guy. I love baseball, apple pie, hot dogs and Chevrolet. Having been born in NYC, I've spent the majority of my life straddling the line between the country of my birth and the heritage of my culture. I've put kimchi on my hamburgers. I've mixed sake with my Budweiser. And, to the chagrin of all my Asian friends, I sing classic rock songs when we go out for karaoke.

But just in case there was any doubt about my progressive path towards assimilation, I think yesterday pretty much confirmed for me that you can never truly escape your past.

As I sat on my couch watching the Mets game, eating some dried octopus and drinking a glass of scotch, I realized that not only was I wearing a Korean soccer jersey and flip flops but also that my breath totally reeked of kimchi and I smelled like a Korean taxi cab driver. Furthermore, I found myself yelling at the television while cutting my toenails at the same time.

Holy crap, I'm turning into my father!!!

Quick, somebody stop me before I start speaking in monosyllabic grunts, cutting my own hair, and blowing snot rockets onto the ground!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Want a New Job--But About to Give Birth? Better Watch Your Step in Bakersfield

So I open the paper this morning here in my beloved town, the city my babygirl will always proudly be able to proclaim as her birthplace [do I even need to put "sarcasm alert" here?], and what do I find?

New hires stir debate over leave policy:
Two new teachers in the Rosedale Union School District will be on maternity leave before they step into the classroom.

That makes no sense, said a couple of district board members who unsuccessfully tried to stop the hires Monday.

The board of trustees got a recommendation in early July to hire two women who had also asked to immediately go on maternity leave and voted against it 2-2. Then an attorney said that could open the district up to a discrimination suit and so on Monday, the board called a special meeting and approved the hires 3-2.

Other highlights:

"I'm not against pregnant women." That's the board president who didn't want to hire them. [And speaking as a former teacher in a small district, what's up with school-site faculty-level hiring decisions having to be approved by the freakin' board of trustees? Micromanagement, anyone?]

"The preference is always to have the primary teacher (in the classroom), but teachers aren't a certain class of citizens that aren't allowed certain inalienable rights, such as to get pregnant." That's the superindentent.

As this is California's own little Red State theme park amidst the fields of blue, this couldn't go by without comment by the paper's resident conservative columnist, Marylee Shrider:

It's a simple yes-or-no question for all future teacher candidates: Can you fulfill all contractual obligations, including commencement of work through the entire employment period, without any qualification or reservation?

In other words, can you show up for work?

It's a good question. No discrimination, just common sense.

Okay, as a teacher and a parent, I understand the whole "longterm subs=disruption" thing, but it's a little [okay, a lot] disingenous to say that this isn't about discriminating against pregnant women if you're saying that you didn't want to hire them, and wouldn't have if you hadn't been pushed, because they were pregnant and needed to take maternity leave. I mean, do we need to sic Rebel Dad and his trained squad of FMLA defenders on these people, or what?

So, what do you think?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Inter-Asian Wuv

we like same...but different!

My friends E and L got married yesterday in a lovely ceremony, in a church overlooking the Bay Area. Even though it was so hot the whole neighbohood experienced a blackout right before dinner (oops), the vibe was quite lovely nonetheless.

E is Korean, second gen. L is half nisei/half sansei. The ceremony was reflective of the cultural merging: the first ceremony was Japanese Buddhist. Then we had a 30 minute break. Then we came back for the second ceremony which was Korean. I was chasing El-Boogie around at the time so I didn't catch all of it but there were something involving chestnuts, dates and how many children they would have. And then another bit where E carried L on his back around the stage (it was supposed to be his mother but they remixed it). I'd like to joke dinner was kimchee and natto but actually, it was pork loin or salmon.

It dawned on me that I can't remember the last time I've been to a wedding involving two people of the same ethnicities and more so, most of the Asian couples I know are inter-Asian. There's mine of course (Chinese/Japanese), E & L (Korean/Japanese), my ex and her fiancee (Chinese/Japanese), my wife's ex and his wife (Filipino/South Asian), my friend S and her boyfriend S (Chinese/Japanese), our very own Soccer Dad and his wife (Japanese/Hapa(Korean)), and the list goes on. Just a random observation: is it me or are Japanese the dating/marriage equivalent of O-type blood? In the cases of intra-Asian couples I know, one of the partners is usually Japanese. Are they just that damn likable? Or do they just not like one another?

Actually, there's some data to support both claims. Japanese are actually the most likely to marry another Asian but least likely to marry another Japanese. Shout out to my JA friends: what gives? (Note: this stat is only amongst those Asian Americans raised in the U.S. and does not include stats for 1st gen immigration Asians).

What's also interesting, according to that study, is that white men are most likely to marry Japanese women and least likely to marry Vietnamese. White women are most likely to marry Japanese men and least likely to marry South Asian. For black men, it'd be South Asian (most) and Koreans (least) whereas for black women, it'd be Filipino (most) and Chinese (least). Draw what conclusions ye may.

My personal conclusion? There's gonna be a lot of really cute inter-Asian babies in the next generation. Not that I'm biased about my own *cough cough* of course.

--Poppa Large

“Desperate” Couple Find "Exotic" Video From China, Make Own Version To "Spice" Up Their Marriage :)

Warning: Tongue-in-Cheek Alert. When my wife Anna was seven months pregnant things weren’t so hot. We were home one Friday night and we were “desperate”. She eventually came across an “exotic” video from China on the Internet. To “spice” things up, she wanted us to make our own version of the video. At first I was a bit nervous and didn’t want to do it. I mean, what would happen if our video got out in public? But she was persistent and I finally gave in to the urge. So we recorded not only our “wild gyrations” and “cries of passion”, but also poignantly captured one of our most “intimate moments” forever on tape.

Of course, our worst nightmare happened and the video made it’s way on to the Internet last Fall. We thought things were behind us, but the “scandal” continued when NBC Dateline showed a small portion of the clip on national TV last month. We didn’t know about it until several friends from around the country contacted us to offer their “sympathies” after seeing the segment. You may have even seen it yourself. But just in case you haven’t, I want to make sure you hear it from me first. I want to be open and honest with people. I want you to know what you’re all getting into by having me as a contributing blogger on this site. So I’ve included the video here in it’s entirety for you to judge on your own. You can also read about all the “sordid” details in my personal blog entry entitled “Pregnancy Hormones – A Cautionary Tale”. Let this be both an example and a warning to any and all who are willing to tempt fate with a camcorder, broadband Internet access and a YouTube account. This video is for “mature” audiences only. End Tongue-in-Cheek Alert.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Penguin and the Asian Iron Chef

Although our baby might have thought of him as just another sweaty Asian guy (who looks remarkably like one of my groomsmen who, incidentally, just told me he will be on the next "Amazing Race" as one of the Asian brothers, ) we were able to sneak a shot with the only true Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto, last week at a promotion at the mall in San Diego.

I'm not usually one to celebrity jock-sniff but as an Asian American, you've got to side with Morimoto. My first exposure to OG-Iron Chef (battle cooking) came from my college roommate Chuck who would tape them. In case you're not the Food Network whore, that my roommate and daddyinastrangeland made me, let me fill you in. On the original Japanese versions, Morimoto was the second or third Japanese specialist and he lived in frickin New York, how bad ass is that? He wore this silver, steel looking lunchlady chef hat and repeatedly served all comers with his extraordinary creativity and use of exotic ingredients (squid ink, etc.)

Of course, Food Network appropriated the whole darn thing for an "American version" down to the overly involved commentators, semi-celebrity/critic judges, and worst of all, the "chairman" so sad you have to laugh in the original but a compendium of Asian stereotypes in the American version (does kung-fu, is eccentric yet polite and is somehow "related" to the original Japanese chairman even though he looks pilipino.) Morimoto, now cooks at a restaurant bearing his name in Philadelphia, is the only returnee from the original series and the only Asian representative. On "Iron Chef America," Morimoto regularly takes it on the chin because the "judges" can't appreciate his Japanese, more experimental taste sensibilities and his record went from like 61-4 (Japanese) to like 66-8 (total).

Furthermore, he had to team with Bobby Flay, the arrogant jackass chef (almost entirely created by Food Network) who got his ass handed to him by Morimoto in a rare road Iron Chef in Flay's hometown of New York. In the quintessential "Ugly American" move, after finishing cooking, Flay hops onto his cutting board on top of the counter like its WWF to try to drum up support for his dishes which disgusts Morimoto who has a reverance for decorum. But Flay complained in the media, and demanded a rematch because supposedly, his equipment malfunctioned.

The accomodating Japanese producers granted him a rematch in Japan and even flies out the 10-year old caucasian boy who came to the original NY show dressed with silver chef hat to cheer Morimoto. So the second time, Flay who must have seen how disgusted Morimoto was the first time. This time, chucks the cutting board to the floor and again stands on the counter. Needless to say, even though Morimoto gets more praise from the judges, he loses battle lobster.

Because your plight mirrors that of so many Asian Americans, penguin and I are proud to salute you.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Tastes of Summer

As I've mentioned before, one of the first times that I realized that I was "different" from my peers was when I showed up to kindergarten with a tupperware box filled with kim bop and all the other kids had these weird things called "sandwiches." Clearly, I'm not the only one who experienced this type of cultural shock. In fact, just the other day, my friend CityMama posted about being teased for coming to school with nori furikake or musubi.

Like CityMama, our family is filled with some serious foodies. Living in NYC, we literally eat a different type of ethnic food every single night. One night will be Italian, the next Ethiopian, the night after that, Greek. The cycle never ends. However, when my wife and I are feeling sick or just need some good old-fashioned comfort food, we always go for Korean food. Nothing else ever really tastes like home.

Growing up, my memories are filled with summer barbecues cooking kalbi on the Weber grill, eating chap jae before running out to a tennis match, or packing up some kim bop for a picnic in Central Park. However, if there's ONE single food that really brings back a flood of summer memories for me, it's naeng myun. When it's hot in NYC and the temperature is hovering in triple digits, there's nothing I want more than a bowl of naeng myun.

However, as common as Korean food is becoming, it's unusual to see non-Asians eating naeng myun. That's why I was pleasantly surprised to see this article in the NY Times yesterday about the origins and history of naeng myun. And, of course, as soon as I read it, I took off for lunch to go and grab a bowl at my favorite naeng myun restaurant.

How about you? What Asian foods remind you of summer?

Asian Guys Dating CL Women Who Drive Nice Cars

Huh? What’s with the cryptic title you may ask? Who’s this Newbie Dad person, how did he get on this blog and WTF does this have to do with raising Rice Babies?!? Well, since you're probably wondering, I'll start with a bit of an introduction and some background. My name is Michael (and I’ve got a nickel) and I’m Filipino-American. My wife Anna is Caucasian. We’ve been married for just over 3 years and have a 6 1/2 month-old baby boy named Aidan.( I first came across this site last week and knew I had to somehow get involved. The stories and subject matter really spoke to me. But before I start posting about my experiences as a dad, I would like to start with a little something about my dating experiences as a single Asian-American male living in SF.

Before Anna and I met, I was dating pretty actively. A lot of people lament about how tough the dating scene is in SF. Well, try being a short Asian guy. Speaking of stereotypes, a lot of Caucasian women didn’t want to date you because you were Asian, a lot of Asian women didn’t want to date you because you weren’t White, and the women who didn’t care if you were Asian or not didn’t want to date you because you were too short. Now remember, I’m stereotypically speaking and painting with a very broad brush. But a lot of times that’s how it truly felt. Of course, it eventually worked out for me, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

Now, about the title of this post. It was the Summer of 2002 and Anna and I had been dating for about a year-and-a-half. An online flame war had just broken out on the Missed Connections section of Craig’s List, also respectively known as MC and CL for short. Basically, there were a bunch of people posting misconceptions not only about Asian men, but on a whole slew of different topics. The posts ran the gamut from: different online dating sites (CL rules/sucks), women who drive nice cars (they’re stuck up), various religious beliefs (no, my way is right), the best bus line to meet people (the N Judah), short guys (can’t get a date), Interracial dating (doesn’t work), the different SF neighborhoods (Mission=Indie Hipster, Marina=Yuppie Snob), etc. It was a free for all with some of the most racist, hateful, clueless and hurtful postings I had ever read. In a strange and surreal sort of way, I became the nexus of the seemingly unrelated topics as they all became directly relevant to my life at the time.

At first, I prepared my own angry and hateful response to all the madness. But I soon realized that it would only add fuel to the fire and my response would simply get lost in all the clutter. So I tried to think of a way to defuse the situation, or at least inject a bit of humor and perspective that would make people think twice about the myths and misconceptions of all these subjects. The title practically wrote itself as it tied together multiple topics in a goofy and attention grabbing way. I also decided to use a poem to tell the tale about my own personal trials, tribulations, and of course eventual triumph in the SF dating scene. It didn’t stop the flame war, but it at least gave people something else to discuss even for a short while. The post even made “Best of Craigslist”. The formatting of the post is all screwed up on the CL site, so I’m reposting it here. Hope you enjoy it.

Asian Guys Dating CL Women Who Drive Nice Cars
Once upon a time when I was a single man
I devised a solution and came up with a plan

I prayed every day to Jesus, Allah and Buddha
Please make me an MC while I ride the N Judah

That didn't work so I checked other sites online
To find my true love and make someone mine

AOL was promising at first then it got really bad
When "You've Got Mail" meant another porn ad

Yahoo wasn't much better I soon came to realize
With lots of gay men replying in female disguise was definitely much better I can report
But alas for most women I was 6 inches too short

So I finally made a return like a prodigal son
Back to Craig's List where my search had begun

I dated them all Latin, Asian, White, and Black
From the Mission and Marina and all the way back

I also dated Indies and Yuppies and had lots of fun
But it was in CL Classes where I finally met the one

We met in a class while getting healthy and fit
Ah yes love happens when you least expect it

It doesn't matter that I'm Asian or that she's White
For both of us it was love and lust at first sight

Now I don't mean to boast and I don't mean to brag
But my girlfriend kicks ass and she drives a nice Jag

So for anyone left that's tired of the anger here today
Remember Love Conquers All in this City By The Bay

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

In college I majored in Mass Communications, which meant we spent a lot of time watching and analyzing movies and T.V. shows. I also went to college at a public school in California which these days means seemingly, if not actually, 50% of the students are Asian. Being a media major, I realize that all the Asian American females were aspiring Connie Chungs (pre-Maury). Which left the remaining Asian Am males to bitching about their identity on screen. So finally, something my major has prepared me for.

I came up with a model of mainstream ethnic attractiveness perception that I loosely called the "inverted pyramid." At the pinnacle of popular culture fetishization is the African American male and the Asian American female. Inversely, the Asian American male and African American female are bottom feeders trowling for scraps, when it comes to "fish" in the sea. Everybody else in the middle. (Eva Long. and J. Alba make a nice, really nice, argument for the rise of the latina but not for the Asian male.) Yes, there are problems, sometimes creepy, disgusting problems, with fetishization, (I would never let my sister or daughter date any of the guys in the locker room I was in), but as an Asian guy growing up, I would have preferred to be fetishized than not. [I have to say, if you look up "feeble Asian male sexuality representation" in the dictionary, the worst has to be Jet Li's "hug" of Aaliyah in "Romeo Must Die" (but he was twice her age.)]

Years removed from college, and while I agree we start off disadvanted, let me play Carson and say some Asian dudes need to stop whining and take hard look in the mirror. First, its hard to date someone when you never ask anyone. No matter how smooth you do it, playing video games is never hot. Ease up. The ride don't matter if you can't get her in the car. Do research into hair product. Workout. Spend money on clothes that flatter. Separate your e-life from your real life. Hang around a diverse set of people. There are times not to be brutally honest.

When I was in Washington D.C. and OCA (the Organization of Chinese Americans) was the largest and most active Asian American "civil rights" outfit going, I swear that 75% of their job was send a finger-wagging press release whenever APAs bore the brunt of a media joke. The Skyy Vodka campaign, the Maxim "Gay or Asian" bit, or every time Mancow or some other morning shock jock did some stupid bad accent sketch on their show. These mainfestations are a. not funny or original, b. in poor taste, c. somewhat offensive, d. a civil rights issue (not so sure.) Even if they are really offensive to some and follow a historic pattern of degrading Asian Americans, the response didn't seem the most effective and seemed to come off more as nagging or being uptight (an Asian stereotype.) I think its better combated by creating one's own original representations that challenge the stereotypes (because there is also some truth in them.) Dat Phan, the winner of the first Last Comic Standing, comes to mind.

A lot of my life is about overcompensating to not be defined but what an Asian American (male) is suppose to be from career to refusing to play tennis. As a father now, I'm maybe overconfident that my son won't fit any stereotype. As much I will teach him to be assertive, take risks, and speed up to merge, I still want him to be financially-conservative, respect his elders, and overachieve in school. He'll have the right hair product once Eva Longoria's has a daughter.

East West Playas

This story, came forwarded from a friend who just put "???" in the subject line. It appears in a Torrance newspaper.
    Torrance business courts success by opening doors

    Enter Torrance Cabinet Center and you could leave with a date with your future husband or wife. That's if you're a white man or Asian woman.


    Founder and owner Angelina Pakalapati matches white men with Asian women who want to settle down with that special someone.


    East West Singles earned about $35,000 in revenue in 2005. Torrance Cabinet Center collected $700,000 that year with a profit margin of 30 percent, about twice that of the dating service.

    Pakalapati, who now throws several soirees a year to connect future couples, once stayed away from parties because of her traditional upbringing. That changed after she married her second husband in 1997. Many single friends called her, complaining "You're happy, we're not."

    So she introduced them to her husband's single friends by throwing a party for about 40 people who were mostly white men and Asian immigrant women."
There's more but what's funny is that this story is couched not so much as a "modern dating" topic but rather, it's a profile of a small business and entrepreneur. There's a long section talking about how Pakalapati is also into cabinetry work.

But hey, where's the dating service that pairs Asian men with non-Asian women? Not that I'm, uh, asking for personal reasons or anything.

--Poppa Large

Guess We're Worth Selling To Now?

Momblogger and RL friend Superha just gave me this Skechers ad that she came across in the latest issue of Lucky, the women's shopping magazine. Interesting, huh? Of course, this being Rice Daddies, I gotta ask: if "nothing compares to family," where big poppa at?

'Cause I think I saw him on T.V. today in an ad for Glade Wisp, that little room fragrance thing that spits out scented mist automatically. [Yeah, yeah, so it was during DOOL—it's what mama brought me up on, after all, and babygirl was taking a nap.] Apparently, this ad's been running for at least several months now, and features an Asian American family (mom, dad, two daughters, a son and a dog) spending various moments of the day in mom and dad's bedroom (where the Glad Wisp is, presumably, working its magic). It starts and ends with dad asleep under the covers and mom getting out of/into bed, and includes a nice bit of dad reading to the two youngest on the bed.

Are we like somebody's target demographic now, or what? Asian American families? Imagine that....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Speaking of Images of Asian Men...

So I was gonna put up the post I wrote for our little "cavalcade of AsAm masculinity" today, but then I followed Angry Asian Man's link to this article of questionable newsworthiness from the venerable New York Times. Apparently, either I don't watch enough t.v. or I'm getting too old for some of this crap, 'cause I was unaware that there existed a show called "Pants-Off Dance-Off." And not only that, but the reigning champion of cable music channel Fuse's populist strip-o-thon is none other than "Masta Wong, an Adonis in an Adidas jacket who strips to the bouncy rhythms of Britpop."

Uh, yeah. O-kaaay... So 33-year-old Howard Wong won enough viewer votes to win on three episodes this past spring and emerge "Pants-Off Dance-Off" champion. Tops off a c.v. that includes med-school drop-out, IT guy, yoga dude, and porn cameraman pretty well, huh? As quoted by the New York frickin' Times, Wong “... had done the naturist thing and I’d been working out, so I was feeling pretty confident about myself by now.”

So, dear readers, does this mark a turning point in the pop-culture image of the (un)sexy Asian American man? First, Daniel Dae Kim on People's sexy list and now...this?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Duty Calls

My wife was listening to Story Corp's "This I Believe" on NPR this morning and told me about this testimonial from a 13 year old Chinese girl in New Jersey. Suffice to say, it strikes quite a nerve since I - and I think many of us here - know a lil something about a sense of filial piety and duty. Here's what worth noting:
    "All my pride, love, self-esteem -- they merge into duty. There have been times I wanted to throw away everything, but duty and obligation were always there to haunt me and to keep me strong. I would think: My parents and grandparents brought me up, my country gave me shelter, my teachers spent so much time building my foundations just to have me throw it all away? No, I can't do that! I must repay all that they have done. "I must," "I should," "I have to," all those little phrases govern my life and the lives of many of my classmates. We struggle on because duty reminds us that the awaiting success is not just for us. It's for our families, our heritage and our country.

    I used to want to be a gardener. I liked working outdoors and the gritty feel of dirt was much more tangible than a bunch of flimsy words strung together. But I can never grow up to be a gardener. Everything I have done so far points to the direction of becoming a lawyer. That's a job my family wholeheartedly supports.

    There is no other choice for someone who's been brought up by such a strict system, someone who has ambition. Here in America, there is almost a pressure to follow your dreams. I don't want any more dreams -- dreams are illusions. And it's too late for me to work toward another future, to let the foundations I have built go to ruins."
May I just note again - she's THIRTEEN which both gives me some hope (she's very young to be making these kind of pronouncements) and despair that even at her age then, she thinks the future has foreclosed on her dreams and instead, all that lies ahead is obligation. One can only hope that by the time she's 30, she's not still stuck in this mentality. (I figure, give her a few years, a boy/girlfriend, some alcohol/weed and a larger social circle and we'll check back). Otherwise, I see somehow who's going to grow up to be crazy bitter and depressed, not to mention, not self-realized.
--Poppa Large

Masculinity and the Asian American Dad

[Last month, Rice Daddies reader Ponch alerted us to a column by an Asian American journalist about that perennial favorite topic-to-gripe-about, media representation of Asian American men and the pop-cultural construction of Asian American masculinity. According to writer Tom Huang, the stoners of "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" point the way to a diversification of the image of the Asian American man, in both fictional works and non-fiction journalism (his primary concern). Well, I don't know about that—the problematics of trading one set of stereotypes for another is somebody else's dissertation waiting to happen—but here at Rice Daddies, we've decided to take the opportunity to riff on this topic. We'll be posting our own individual takes on this complex issue for a few days, and we hope you'll find something to think about, agree with, disagree with, whatever [just write a comment either way!]... And without furthur ado, here's the first... --d.i.s.l.]

Thomas T. Huang from the Dallas Morning News wrote a column for Poynter Online called Visions of Harold and Kumar, A Plea for Better Coverage of the Asian Man. He praises the movie for its portryal of Asian men as goofballs, and decries the media bias in portraying Asian male stereotypes, versus a short list of examples culled from his movie memories.

I would add The Lover and Better Luck Tomorrow to Thomas's Netflix list, they might help him feel less disenfranchised.

Tonight I'm sitting in a hotel room in Shanghai, finishing this piece which I started last week, and was going to finish before this trip. This is my first ever visit to the homeland, and after a total of four hours on the ground, the the thing that strikes me is its immediate familiarity. It feels like I just drove over to a different part of town, instead of just having flown halfway around the world.

One other thing catches my attention about masculinity in Shanghai. But first, this is what I was going to say, about masculinity:

Mascuilinity. I see it growing in my son, the Rabbit Dragon, as his limbs lengthen and fill out, turning him from the cuddly toddler of years ago into a tree-trunk-strong burst of first-grader energy. I hear it in his war cries as he plays karate or superhero or soldier. I feel it in his not liking to lose in checkers, or running up the score as we play baseball, or learning to swim to the bottom of the pool, or getting up off the training wheels (but, Dad, let's not take them off yet).

It is the last night of our family vacation, and the two of us are talking in bed, in my parents' house, in the room where I grew up:

"Dad, how did you meet everyone in college?"

"Well, remember your first day of kindergarten, when you didnt know anyone? And you had to meet everyone for the first time? Well, it was kind of like that. I guess I just had to go talk to them." Rabbit Dragon is a shy kid, painfully so at times. Meeting new kids can be hard for him.

"Did you wear a name tag? Did you have to get up in front of everyone and give a speech, like," he gets up off the bed and stands up, as if addressing a crowd, "Hi my name is _____, and I'm six years old... um, I'm from California.... In chinese I'm a rabbit, and in english I'm a dragon, so my parents call me a rabbit dragon.'" He comes back and lies down.

"Wow, have you done that speech before?" I give him a hug. That was quite a big speech for a shy Rabbit.

"Yeah, in the playground, when nobody was around." "Dad, do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus? Antonio believes in Jesus, but Jakob doesn't. He says his family believes in a diffrent Jesus. Harimi is a fourth grader and he told me that there was a war between the good Russians and the bad Russians, and that the bad Russians killed Jesus."

"Oh. I think your fourth grader friend may have gotten his story mixed up. Do you the story about the blind men and the elephants?" He doesn't, so I tell him. "God is like that elephant. People have all different kinds of stories about God, but we're like the blind men, we dont really know what god is."

Suddenly, Rabbit Dragon is very sleepy. He curls up, and his thumb goes into his mouth. "Hey, you tired?" I ask. He nods, and is soon asleep.

Even asleep his form bulges with muscles and knotty joints. His butt looks manly. He is comfortable still bringing stuffed animals on vacation, but is already good at scrunching his eyebrows and saying, "Dad, you don't know ANYthing."

I think of his masculinity as solidly American, as channeled through suburban California. If he is a product of Spiderman comics, Arthur on PBS, and Pixar, he is also influenced by the melting pots of his public school kindergarten, our neighborhood, and us, his 2nd generation chinese-american parents.

As a family, our Chinese-ness, is something we deliberately casual about. It's just part of what we know and who we are. I dont want Rabbit Dragon to think that being Chinese allows you to filter the world in some special way -into things which belong and don't belong in your world, just because you're Chinese.

So that's what I was going to say. But now, I'm sitting here in Shanghai, feeling a strange familiarity with the scent of the city, with the body lanuguage of the local folks around me at dinner, the strangeness -but not really- of most everyone within sight being Chinese. The one thing I see which tweaks my perception of masculinity just a little are the busboys: young chinese men, just being who they are. Not movie stars, but just regular teen boys. Our kids get to see a lot of Asian-American parent types, but somehow our little slice of the world is missing those teen role models. Maybe it's time to buy a Rain album.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Rice Daddy in Shanghai

photo: courtyard off the main street, Shanghai

Dateline Shanghai

I am in Shanghai this week, my first trip ever to the motherland. It's a mix of the slightly unfamiliar, and the oddly very familiar. Listening to the locals speak in the Shanghai accent of my mother's family, smelling (and tasting!) the street foods, brings back good memories, this in a place I've never set foot in before.

Being a Chinese-American dad in Shanghai is similarly joyous yet strange. When I talk to my local colleages here, mostly younger men than me, married and thinking about starting a family, the question of kids comes up -or more to the point, the question of kid. China has a policy of one child per family in these urban areas. I could not imagine knowing that my first kid would be my only kid, especially that we were not the one to make that decision. From afar, I've admired China's boldness in controlling its booming population this way, but to meet my peers here is to put a human face to a policy theory.

The best part of being a Chinese-American dad new to Shanghai has to be seeing so many beautiful chinese kids. So many bright beautiful faces, that look something like my own kids. Even though we live in the diversity of the Silicon Valley, I never before have seen so many asian cutie pies in one place. I want to reach out and pinch every cheek. I want to tell each parent, in my craptastic chinese, "At house, I have daughter, much like this one." [see, this is my translation of what my chinese must sound like]

The worst part of being a Chinese-American dad new to Shanghai is that all the homeless street kids are chinese, too. To see a boy who looks exactly like my son, asleep on the concrete steps of a pedestrian bridge, to see his empty begging bowl, and to know that I am powerless against this, this breaks my heart.

Soccer Dad: One Year In

Just a note to say Happy First Birthday to miggity Mace Marvelous. Last night, Wifey and I were remembering the moments leading up to Maceo entering the world and were shaking our heads. It was chaos because he was 2 weeks early and the dial-a-nurse misdiagnosed her labor as "dehydration pains." In short: we did active labor at our home, broke water then sped to the hospital in record time and she delivered in less than an hour (no epidurl).

Wifey asked, "What do you remember when you first saw him?" All I remember is repeating some combination of "Oh my God! AAAAA!!! He's here! Maceo, you're finally here!" Thank you, son, for giving us a year we'll always cherish. You're here. Finally.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006


1. I am:
Chinese and Native Formosan (not Taiwanese)

2. My kids are:
Chinese/Formosan, Pilipino

3. I first realized I was APA when:
Seeing my German-American hippie stepdad in a doorway and thinking he was Viking.

4. People think my name is:
The fruit drink of the astronauts

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
Being open minded enough to let my son choose his own direction even when it is not something as financial-assured as engineering.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
Not getting along with in-laws and big messy confrontations around the holidays.

7. My child's first word in English was:
Not yet. But sounds like yeah and hai!

8. My child's first non-English word was:
Peking opera which is what his voice sounds like.

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Lau-Wai (drool in Tagalog)

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
Knowing my baby is way cuter than the middle-aged looking things on the baby magazines.

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
Making my son get extra blood drawn because he "looks jaundiced" when he's really just yellow.

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
Having a wonderful extended family that gives without asking.

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
Coming up with ways to justify spontaneous trips to the race track or Indian Casino.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
Defining myself as a person of color, I benefit from the struggles and of other people of color and have an obligation to give back and stand in kind, even when those needs outweigh many "APA issues."

Quick RiceDaddies Plug: "The Motel"

Friday night, my wife and I went to see "The Motel," Mike Kang's film about an Asian-American boy who lives and works in a dingy motel operated by his mother. The film touchingly captures the despair of puberty and early adolescence.

Though the film features a mostly Asian-American cast, it's really a universal coming of age story that anyone can relate to. In fact, I've sent several non-Asian friends to see it and they enjoyed it immensely. However, I think those of you who are of Asian descent will really empathize with the film's main charater. How often did many of us feel "different" when growing up? How frequently did we feel a certain "otherness" that may have alienated us from our peers and made puberty all the more difficult at times? Looking at the various people who replied to the APA Parenting Meme, it seems that this was more often the norm rather than the exception.

Anyway, if you have the opportunity to see "The Motel," please do so and be sure to get the word out. The film has yet to be picked up for wide theatrical release so its early success at the box office is necessary to ensure major distribution. As most of you know, the market for Asian-American films is limited and we need to support our brothers and sisters in the industry. However, it truly is a great film and deserves the right to stand on its own merits.

And ladies, if you need more of a reason to see the film, just know that it stars current heart throb Sung Kang (who can also be seen later this year in my buddy Chris Lee's film, "Undoing," which I'll be plugging at a later date.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My Son as Superhero

Like any good superhero mythology, Squirt is a mutant making up for deficiencies in say, being able to sleep through the night, potty gracefully, sit up, crawl or roll over, by his acute mastery of particular powers. At close to four months, he's actually gone from the turtle face to a better characterization as Penguin.

Not the cute cuddly monotone flightless bird that seems well suited to mobiles but Penguin as in Batman, or more accurately as Jon Stewart doing Dick Cheney as Penguin on the Daily Show. WAAH is his favorite sound - the grunt of constipation whether he is or not. He also goes Mariah Carey on the pitch meter with his shrieks that is also humorous but brings up the worry that he will need to be Mike Tyson to compensate if that is his real voice.

At three months, he is not without other superpowers. He's made the discovery that his hands are connected to his body and they can GRAB: Grab his stroller cover to push it back for more light, grab stuffed animals half his size, grab his legs(but not yet his feet), grab at his milk both in bottle or in breast, grab rings, grab and make nasty red scratches on his porceline face.

He's also the drumstick maker. With the gift of grab comes the gift of slobber. Everything he touchs is chocolate covered ice cream cone filled with milk and his name on it. I guess he could just be affectionate and French.

He's a shape shifter going from skinny looking to Buddha and back again within 24 hours. His skin is chameleon-like in its change from pimply red roughness to Noxema girl perfect.

Most of all, he is the master disguiser of emotions. Finally, he is able to be awake without crying which makes him immensely more enjoyable to be around. All of the sudden, he has a personality or more accurately, multiple personalities. To smile (and occassionally giggle) when he sees me or when I play with him. Or not. To be the terrorist of attention or worse yet the blankness where you wonder what's on his mind and if the real him will ever come back. Which does, thankfully.

He also had the ability to make his increasingly long hair stand straight up and out at the same time. But I don't count it as a superpower because every Asian male has it, and remarkable small percentages learn how to control it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Meme-ing Around the APA-Parent-Blogosphere

So, it's been two weeks since Eliaday and I launched our "APA Parenting Meme" into the blogosphere. We always intended it to be just a starting point for sharing, discussion, and more writing, to get people thinking and talking about how the intersection of race, culture, family and parenting plays out in our individual lives. It's been exciting to see the varied responses to our questions, to discover both the commonalities and the differences, and to watch dialogues start up.

One interesting conversation point was about terminology. Though we tried to spell out the meme's inclusivity in our introduction, our use of the term "Asian Pacific American" and the acronym "APA" confused some readers. I guess our ivory-tower backgrounds in Asian American and ethnic studies made us assume that everyone would understand that, but again, I guess that was one of the points of the meme—to discover the ways in which we have both common and divergent backgrounds and experiences. So, to make a long story short, we chose APA for its inclusivity, a term that includes in its panethnic umbrella Americans of (East, South, and Southeast) Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent. [For more on this, check out the Wikipedia entry for "Asian American" and this terminology style guide compiled by queer Pinoy activist/non-profit P.R. expert/comic book geek extraordinaire Loren Javier.]

We've gotten participation by first-generation immigrants and the great-grandchildren of immigrants, multiethnic and multiracial people (and parents of multiethnic and multiracial people) and people whose by-blood and by-marriage family members all share a common ethnic heritage, people who were adopted into non-Asian families and people who married into Asian families. We come from different parts of the country (from Hawaii to New England and everywhere in between), with different experiences growing up, good and bad, that inform the kind of parents we try to be now.

But even with all that diversity, there are commonalities. We value strong family bonds and sharing good food. We want to pass on to our kids the "good" things about our cultural and familial heritages and leave behind the "bad," though we don't always know how to do that. We worry about our kids having to deal with the kind of stereotyping and racism we may have gone through growing up, but we also want to leave them a legacy of standing up for themselves and for what they believe in. Oh, and the most common non-English language used in our homes? You guessed it: Spanish!

Interestingly enough, one common theme was people not being sure if the meme was for them. Lots of answers along the lines of "Well, I don't know if this is the typical/expected answer but..." or "This probably isn't what they meant/were looking for but...." And it wasn't only transracially adopted folks raised by white parents or hapas with quarter-Asian kids feeling out-of-place, either—lots of people raised by two parents of the same ethnic background wondered how they fit into this larger "APA" umbrella, or what it meant to them, or how, if at all, their ethnic background impacted their parenting.

And while, at least part of the time, our Asian Americanness doesn't always come to the fore in our lives or in our parenting, and while we know that there's more to being _______________ [fill in the blank: whatever you put down for #1 and #2] than just food and traditions on the one hand and battling racism on the other, we do, somehow, belong to a community together. That community is ever redefining itself, and that's just fine with us.

On a more serious note, though, this meme has made a lot of people think about why someone would even put these questions together like this. What do being APA and being a parent have to do with each other? For some, not a lot. For others, more than they thought. Some of us hardly ever talk about race, ethnicity or culture on our own blogs, while others of us make it a preoccupation. And though we take pains not to define ourselves solely in opposition to racism, thinking about our kids and their future experiences, we may come to the painful realization that yeah, sometimes this stuff still matters, sometimes too much. One respondant's tagging for this meme coincided with a painful experience for her daughter that was probably more painful for her as a parent, and she wrote about it by way of introducing her answers; if you read only one of the meme responses listed at the bottom of this post, I hope it will be this one.

At the bottom of this post, you will find a list of all the responses to this meme that I could find. To all of you who have participated, thank you. To all who have read, commented, or just found something to think about, thank you. We hope, again, that these questions may lead to more dialogue and more writing. If you've posted your answers to the meme (or are going to) and I didn't list them, please provide a link in the comments here. If you want to participate but don't have a blog, feel free to post your answers in the comments. And for those of you who've been tagged but haven't yet posted, you know who you are! [Yeah, Ji-in, didn't you know that I wrote in that whole "you can participate even if you aren't a parent yet" thing for you? ;) ]

Oh, and by the way, just for good measure, I tag Motherhood Uncensored, Superha, Sprogmamma, Liminal Musings, American Family, Papa2hapa, l.h., aqdoc, and of course, all my boyz, the Rice Daddies, InstantYang, F-Bomb, iDaddy, Mr. Maestro, and Papa Law. You're "it"!

City Mama
daddy in a strange land
Daddy Zen
Enoch Choi
Harlow's Monkey
Lissy Jo
Lumpyhead's Mom
Mama Nabi
Mother of Two
Poppa Large
Soccer Dad
Weigook Saram

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Psst, designer rice daddies

Hey, a tip from a fellow dad: if you are a SF bay area daddy / mommy into design, online retailer Design Public is holding an online sample sale, including goodies from Dwellbaby, Zid Zid Kids, and even some Bugaboo accessories. the supersecret password? sweetfreedom, but you didn't hear it from me.

The catch? You have to pick up the goods from their SF location, sorry Metrodad.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Jackson Harvard Stanford Lee

For those into 1) baby names and 2) cool internet design/functionality, check out the Name Voyager which creates instant graphical representations of popular baby names over the last 120 years.

--Poppa Large

Monday, July 03, 2006

Even more yummy APA meme goodness

1. I am:
I am sitting in the living room where I grew up, the last visit to my parents house before they move to their retirement dream home. They are immigrants from China by way of Taiwan.

2. My kids are:
The Rabbit Dragon and the Pony Princess. They are beautiful. They've got dimples from their mom's family, eyes from my side. My son looks like me when I was a boy, my daughter looks like her mom and auntie

3. I first realized I was APA when:
At the first racial slur that I realized was meant for me. Then, when I couldnt trace my family tree back to the Mayflower. Then, in Saturday chinese school when the ABCs (american born chinese) gave sh*t to those (like me) who thought they were americans first. Then, when I was bummed by the fact that I would automatically know the hair and eye color of my kids.

4. People think my name is:
Lawrence. People also think I should have a middle name.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
The food: My dad's homestyle cooking, the kind that doesn't come with recipies. My grandma's eggrolls, lost already in the mists of time. Phoneix Claws.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
Living in an APA bubble: My mom has been in LA for 30 years and still only knows the chinese places.

7. My child's first word in English was:
Dont remember, I'll have to ask my wife

8. My child's first non-English word was:
[fingertips together] baby sign language for 'more'

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Aie-YAH! Aie-YAH, put some pants on! Aie-YAH, that's enough arm farting!

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
Having a cultural heritage to pass on

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
Having a cultural heritage that I'm doing a sh*t job of passing on.

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
It's no more weird than anyone else's family situation

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
Lots of aunties with lots of advice.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
These days, it's about being proud of my immigrant heritage, of my parents who had the balls to change countries. And trying to learn from them as they age. But, it hasnt always been an positive relationship between me and my asian-ness.

Soccer Dad: I never heard of "meme" before this day

1. I am:
A yonsei Japanese American defensive midfielder but lately I’ve been playing forward.

2. My kid is:
Noisy. Cuter than yours. Half Japanese-1/4 Korean-1/4 Irish. There's a joke there somewhere.

3. I first realized I was APA when:
None of my non-Asian friends served rice with dinner and would act like rice was a big deal when they came over my house to eat.

4. People think my name is:
All through high school, every teacher with half a brain asked if I was related to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D - Hawaii). Mine’s spelled I-N-O-U-E you dolts! But in Hawaii, someone asked if I was related to Enson Inoue, the ruthless MMA ass kicker from the islands. That was refreshing. “Yeah, that’s my cuz, so you don’t want to eff with me.”

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
Respect for elders, appreciation for sports and being unfailingly on time.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
Stoicism and apolitical stances (I was the first in my family to vote)

7. My child's first word in English was:
A toss-up between “ball” and “papa”

8. My child's first non-English word was:
Not there yet, but it might be “agua,” or hopefully, "more natto and kimchi please."

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
“Unko” and “Shi-Shi” referring to BM and urine, respectively. Even the dog knows. Cosign on Zen’s family use of “pau.”

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
The uniqueness of being an Asian parent with an Asian kid, instead of Angelina Jolie getting all the props.

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
The universal complaint about lack of sleep.

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
Aunties, aunties, aunties!

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
An assumption that your kid is on some fast track to education greatness. Maybe that's a good thing, but you know what I mean.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
The ability to wild out to New Order's “Bizarre Love Triangle” whenever it comes on, even if its for the 900th time. Rooting for the Asian person in reality shows, Olympics and professional sports.

Rice Mamas: La Dra. on a Breakthrough in Women's Health

We've often thought it'd be cool if our partners-in-crime wanted to speak for themselves here on Rice Daddies. Well, today, we have our first post by a Rice Mama—my lovely and talented wife, la dra. (That's "la doctora, " not "la druh," people, Spanish for "the doctor," which she is.)

I would do anything to protect my daughter’s health and safety. The news that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which advises the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recommended the routine giving of the new Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine to girls as young as age 9 gives parents of daughters one less thing to worry about: cervical cancer.

Here, in our lifetime, is a vaccine preventable cancer! Nothing else like this has ever happened before. The second leading cancer-killer of women worldwide could be like diptheria—what’s that? exactly—in a few generations. In our children’s generation!

But I feel like I am the only one excited about this. [Full disclosure: I'm a board-certified family physician working in a non-profit community health clinic]. If you read the newspapers, the spin is about the “controversy” of giving children a vaccine for an STD. Hello? This STD causes cancer! Who would knowingly deny their child protection from cancer? Where is the controversy? [See this story for a slightly different take on it.]

I have to believe parents will support this vaccine. I believe insurers will reimburse for this vaccine. But the vulnerable population of uninsured children has its fate cradled in the hands of policymakers who, I hope, would make the same decision to protect these millions of children that they would to protect their own. I fear, however, that these children will get lost amidst the rhetoric and the politics, and that “abstinence only” will be their only protection against cervical cancer (while their better-insured peers grow up vaccinated). "Abstinence only" rhetoric won't protect against HPV contraction during rape, and HPV doesn't discriminate between sexual contact and sexual intercourse or between unmarried teenagers and women who waited until marriage. If you're worried that giving your daughter a vaccine at age 12 will automatically send all your teaching out the window, then either you're selling yourself short or you have other things to worry about.

People talk angrily and fearfully about things like promiscuity and abstinence or morality and government interference, but at the bottom, this is about one thing, and one thing only: protecting our daughters from a horrible, and now preventable, disease. Looked at that way, I don’t think anyone could really be against getting this vaccine. So let’s rejoice together! A day has come that we thought might never come in our lifetimes.