Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beyond 4 Walls

Before I was a parent I used to joke: "That's how Chinese people show love." I made that joke every time my friend complained about how critical her mother was of her. We were in our 20s then. It is curious just how much impact "mother" has on a person. I am just over 40 and my mother still knows which buttons to press to upset me.

I also used to joke the difference between a Chinese parent and other parents is when a Chinese parent sees their toddler run and then fall, her first words are: "Aiiyah! Are you kidding me? Two-years old and you still don't know how to run?" or "See I told you not to run! I told you you would fall!" A non-Chinese parent would run over to her fallen toddler and coo, "Are you OK baby? It's OK at least you tried."

It was OK for me to want to be an astronaut when I grew up. It was OK for me to be a baseball player, a rock-n-roll star, a cowboy, a Kung Fu hero like Hung Hei-Gun. It was OK for me to dream about traveling to far off places, invent amazing machines, rescue damsels and whole worlds. My potential seemed limitless. And then I grew up.

And when I grew up what seemed limitless had become very narrow and very specific and frankly very boring. I was made aware of my maturity in the last years of middle school. My maturity was my sentence in high school. Where I once could be anybody or do anything I imagined, my choices now had been limited to a very specific criteria and bound together by a dingy band of what I was told was pragmaticism.

It wasn't until I was in college and away from home for the first time that I would unbind myself. With my regained freedom I forsook my math and business classes for poetry and film making courses. I exploded cognitively and socially. At times, it seemed I would never get myself together again. But I did eventually.

Now a parent having gone through what I went through I understand my own parents' binds as being well intentioned but ill advised. As a parent I understand it is my responsibility to give my children the strategies they need to deal with disappointment and the chores of living in the "real world." However, as a parent I also understand I have a responsibility to inspire my children to do great things.

Talking the neighbors, friends, and family, I know that the times ahead will be tough. On the morning news, it seems the great motivator is not "things will get better" but "be thankful you've got what you got." A historical precedent has been overshadowed by old societal ills.

While I need to provide my children with the skills to tend to the practical realities of life, in lieu of current events as a parent now more than ever my children need to dream. They need to know that they may live in a time of great improbability but not the dead ends of impossibility. In looking towards the New Year, my one resolution as a father is to give my kids the skills and strategies they need to fulfill the dreams that expand beyond the four walls of their bedroom.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holiday Eats!

photo: Latkes? oh yes, latkes, in the Thisislarry household.

Pony Princess has been going on about latkes and Hanukkah for the last several weeks. At the bookstore the other day, they had dreidels at the front counter, and both kids had to have one. Finally, on the first night of Hanukkah, Pony Princess managed to turn the end of a playdate with one of her buddies into an invitation from said buddy to Hanukkah dinner, and she returned with not only a story about she got to help choose the menorah, but a fistful of chocolate coins!

I could take it no more.

Finally, I had reach out to fellow RD Daddy in a Strange Land and the NY Times: Must. Have. Latkes. Fortunately, Mark Bittman's recipes seemed easy enough to follow, and my bar was pretty low, being that the last time I had something labelled "latkes" they were frozen triangular hash brown patties from Fedco.

DIASL's dear wife La Dra had this sage advice to add: it's all in the technique--be sure to squeeze out all the liquid from your grated potatoes and onions. and for those now about to whip out the taters and shredder, I used Bittman's recipe #1.

I don't know how authentic they were, these latkes, but they were gooood.

Monday, December 15, 2008

3 is the New 12

Wifey and I were commenting the other night how age 3 is such a fun year. He’s running around, playing elaborate games with his cars, reciting books, singing songs (Aquabats, above) eating well, fully potty trained and saying ridiculously cute and profane things. Currently, his favorite retort to any question usually includes “poo-poo” and “shi-shi” (a.k.a. #’s 2 and 1, respectively). I’ve become a regular straight man in a dirty, juvenile comedy duo.

Me: What would you like for breakfast?
A: “Poo-poo!”
Me: What color is that jacket?
A: “Shi-Shi orange!!”
(cue peals of laughter)

I walk into these answers frequently. But when I enjoy a bowl of natto and rice, and ask what it smells like, he is locked and loaded with a correct answer.

I’m not overlooking the other stuff — the penchant to want to do everything himself, the shyness, the flip-floppery on sharing and brushing teeth — it can be a struggle. But overall, it’s all good and for all those people who said, “Wait until they turn 3-4, they’re a lot of fun” you’re absolutely right. When he refused to get out of the car until the song playing on the radio (the B-52’s “Butterbean”) finished, I was so proud I almost shed a tear.

Excuse me, but I got to prepare a Poo-Poo smoothie…


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Pumpkin Come Home

I was a little too young for the Lassie movies. I was more the generation of Run Joe Run on Saturday mornings. While Pumpkin was not accused of a crime, he loves to play and he did run away. Despite his age, he still has a lot of puppy in him. All you need is a bouncy ball or a squeaky toy to lure him away from his designated spot. He's not a stupid dog. He's a smart dog with a weakness (and don't you dare say otherwise).

Pumpkin went missing over the Thanksgiving holiday. As soon as we realized he was gone, we sought him feverishly. We emailed (through HomeAgain) and faxed (through a friend) local veterinarians, pet shops, and shelters. We covered the neighborhood where he was lost with over 200 flyers.

This is not the first time he has run away. This is the third. With each time it is more and more devastating. With each time, hindsight punishes us for our carelessness and negligence. Each time, we don hair shirts cut from the knowledge that the situation was avoidable with just a few simple precautions. Simple precautions which for no other reason than sloth are not observed. So instead we jump every time the phone rings, hoping some good Samaritan has found Pumpkin and is eager to see us reunited.

We fall among those in the Harris Interactive Poll who consider their pets as members of their family - something unheard of to our own respective families. They wanted us to put our pets down when our eldest was born. My wife and I empathize with Lauren Slater. My wife calls Pumpkin her "baby." It was uncomfortable for me at first, but being an animal lover also, my adjustment was quick. People's strong negative reactions to Lauren's article surprised us. I reread her article thinking I had missed something. I couldn't find anything. It seemed like a sweet reminiscence brought about by the passing of a cherished pet.

The developmental benefits to children of pet ownership are well documented. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry provides a pithy list of these benefits. But Pumpkin is more to us than that. Pumpkin is a living record of my wife's and my bond. He entered our lives just slightly larger than her hand. He has grown as my wife's and my union has grown. From a puppy who was too little to jump up on the bed in our Brooklyn apartment to a peculiarly playful dog in our Manhattan apartment, Pumpkin has been witness and consul to our celebrations and our observances. To deny him his place in our family would simply be negligent.

There are many appropriations of the phrase: "Society is measured by how it treats its weakest members." The phrase has been attributed to a broad menu of historical figures, humanitarians and social dignitaries. In a Quoteland forum I found this one: "you can judge a nation by how it treats its animals." It had been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

I would like to add my own: "A family's bonds are judged by how it treats its pets." I believe it is the care and feeding of the most overlooked "members" of our family that best reveals how we relate and value to each other. We need to get better.

P8150270Happily, a good Samaritan did find Pumpkin. He has been returned to us and our family is whole again.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Lost Weekend

Drove up to the in-laws the day after Thanksgiving. Ate both mandu soup and radish soup (pictured above). Watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall with in-laws present (awwwkward!). Took the kids to the huge playground in Redding. But the highlight had to have been SLAPPING DOWN A 7-TILE, 70-POINT BINGO ON THE LAST PLAY TO BEAT MY FATHER-IN-LAW IN SCRABBLE.

God that felt good.

Carry on,


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, BigWoWo.com.

I just wanted to reciprocate by mentioning www.bigwowo.com, 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!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Challenge Update: 1 new proposal added

It's been quite some time since we added some new proposals to the RiceDaddies Empowerment in Diversity Challenge. Since that time, all of our educational proposals have either been fully funded, or have expired.
To keep the momentum going, we've added one new proposal to the challenge (more to come!):
Launched in June 2007, the RiceDaddies Empowerment in Diversity Challenge aims to mitigate the marginalizing effects of diversity-negligent pop culture and media by funding innovative educational programs that do the following:
  • Promote positive images of ourselves for our children
  • Promote positive images of ourselves for other people and their children
  • Develop skills in our children that empower them to be leaders in the world in which we live
  • Promote pride in one's culture instead of shame
  • Promote self-respect and appreciation for others like ourselves
  • Develop our children's ability to use their imaginations in an empowering way
  • Encourage our children to be who they truly are

Critical Media Literacy: Reading Ethnicity in the Media
- Los Angeles, California - Grades 9-12 - Poverty Data Unavailable -

"Critical Media Literacy challenges students to critically examine and read messages that the media plays for them everyday. In order to do this, we will be examining many issues through movies, television, music videos, music, and magazines. We will read what the media says about different Ethnic groups and issues that affect them."

Dumb Dad

There's a time when you know your child is smarter than you.

We were at Target today, and Noodle and I were passing through the isles looking at coffee makers. I have a French press, but sometimes, I just want an automatic coffeemaker that will wake me up in the morning with the smell of fresh brew. It's cheaper in the long run than buying Kundin' or Barstucks [sic] coffee.

There's the gorgeous Mr. Coffee (and what does this do Captain? It makes coffee Lord Helmet!) automated Lamborghini red machine that's staring back at me. It does everything you could want, except grind and dispose of the beans itself in a eco-friendly way.

I'm staring at it, justifying in my head how wonderful it would be to have said machine on my counter-top taking.

As I'm beginning to reach for it, Noodle says, "Let me see how much it costs!"

"$44.99! That's expensive, Daddy!"

"Is it?" I ponder.

"Yes," she replies, now beginning to list off the prices of other coffee makers. "$24.99! $59.99! We don't need one of these? Do you?"

"No," I give in. "I guess you're right."

Later, we were shopping for throw pillows at Dock 2 Imports [sic] because they were having a clearance upon clearance sale. Yeah, I'm a sucker for decorating items that are marked 75% off. They had pillows for $6 that had been retailed for almost $30 just a few months ago. I picked out some great looking accent pillows for the Bauhaus utilitarian couch in my living room. I had previously bought a new rug and it had been on the floor since the move.

"Do you like these pillows?" I ask.

"Yes," Noodle says. "They're pretty!"

"I'm thinking blue because there are blue accents in the rug."

"There is?" Noodle looks bewildered. "Where?"

"In the TV room area, by the couch. Isn't there blue in the rug?"

"No," she says.

"Yes," I say, grabbing two blue pillows of different patterns. "It's blue accents with those neat squares."

"I don't think so, Daddy." Noodle now has the "my-daddy-is-color-blind" look on her face, her nose squished into her face like she smells a daddy toot.

We make our purchases and head home. We drop the bags in the living room area, get Noodle ready for bed, read some books, snuggle a bit, and fall asleep.

I wake up an hour later to clean up downstairs. I open the bag of pillows. I cut off their tags. I turn on the lights in the TV area, and sure enough the rug is brown and green.

I go to the kitchen and realize, I probably don't have enough counter space for a coffee maker.

Since when do our children become our guides? Or are we Virgil and they Dante, on a journey to a point where they shall eventually embark a ship and say, "I need to take it from here. You were good enough to this point, but clearly, I'm in the lead."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Will Power

Easily the most unpleasant chore for me as a parent has been writing my will. It should have been easy enough as a single 20something - even 30something! Having no worldly possessions or "legacies" to speak of should have made them easy to address via a "last will and testament." They were not. Even the most fatalistic for one reason or another skip this portion of the exercise.

Attorney and author, Liza W. Hanks summarizes two surveys done on why most people do not have a will in her blog, Everyday Estate Planning. Based on her reading of the surveys, the top three reasons people do not draw up wills are:

  • People don't like to think about dying.
  • People don't know how to get started or who to talk to about an estate plan.
  • People think that they don't have enough assets to need one.

While the legal "nuances" regarding wills vary from state to state, the unwavering fact that without a will the state determines the dissemination of your assets should be enough of a wake up call to run right out and have one drawn. Having the state determine what to do with your worldly belongings means there is a greater potential that things won't end up where you feel they belong. In fact, having the state determine what to do when you're dead could also mean costly legal fees for your family as they wade through lawyers and courts to access what you want to leave them.

It is even scarier to think that if both you and your partner die, the state will determine care for your children and swallow up everything you intended to leave to them, regurgitating your intentions in often haphazard and thoughtless ways. The state does not know you or your family. You are simply a name and a number (sometimes not even the former). It is ludicrous to think that it will take care of them when you die.

What's even scarier than that is family fighting over your assets. The Huffington Post published an interesting article by Jordan Atin on "sibling divorce." Money, as far as I can remember, was the only thing my father and mother argued about. While they divorced over non-material differences, the conversation still returns to money whenever the name of one is mentioned in the presence of the other. They'll both say that the other "took everything."

I swore that I would never argue over money with my wife but recently we had a blow out regarding that very same subject. While a more complex argument than the one my mother and father would have, money was still a key component in the argument. I hate the idea that one day my children will risk unraveling the family my wife and I have created because of money. "It's not fair," Jordan writes, "echo(es) over and over in every estate litigator's office."

And it only makes sense since it echoes through our apartment right now. "It's not fair, he always gets to play with it." "It's not fair, he always gets to go first." It's not fair, he always [INSERT ACTION HERE]."

Some have told me and I have read that drawing up a will is the simplest legal procedure I will undertake (though I don't remember who or where). It is not. Once I was scared enough, I embarked on drawing up my will. However, before I could do that my wife and I had to agree on a lawyer. We chose not to do a will online because most online wills do not account for state estate laws. So at first, we wanted to use a family member or a friend but then discovered that if the relationship were considered too intimate, it would be easy to contest the will. We settled on someone who had a proven legal track record with a friend.

My wife and I are not rich people. The Rockefellers and the Trumps do not have our number on speed dial. It is because of this that I need to know when I go that my wife and children have immediate access to money and that it is working as hard as it can for them. It was easy enough for us to agree that a trust be created for our children. It was even easy for us to determine a trustee, someone who would manage the money in the trust.

It has been hard deciding on guardianship. It is easier to cope with one of us dying (either my wife or me) than both of us passing because it is assumed that the survivor would raise our children in the same manner and with the same values we do now. Our extended family does not always share our social sensibilities and views. We have specific social values we wish impart to our children. Unfortunately, these social values are not all held by our families. We decided on a family friend. We are still trying to figure out how we break it to our families.

Our families love our children but we are anticipating in their traditionally Asian way that they will have a hard time accepting our turning to someone outside of them as guardians of our children. I imagine many families Asian and non-Asian would have the same issues regarding guardianship. My wife and I thought of our own families first but realized that our friend was most aligned with our beliefs and hopes for our children.

There is a lot of information out there (some of it conflicting). The Baby Center provides a good general introduction to wills and the considerations parents should address.


[Originally posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Goal Oriented

I went to see Weezer the other night. I fell off the Weezer train after Pinkerton but when a coworker dropped a couple tix on me, I couldn't refuse. The show was pretty good; they've embraced the whole arena rock aesthetic and have fun with it. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo seemed to enjoy his time on stage. I saw the band years ago when he was something of a recluse. He didn't acknowledge the audience and looked perpetually peeved. Now he's donning costumes, jumping on a trampoline, and grinning widely. Whatever meds he's on; they're working.

The show reminded me that Cuomo recorded a personal video about his love for soccer. It touches on how soccer was a link to his father (his parents divorced when he was 4). It made me think about what legacy we leave our kids. Cuomo scored points for me with this video, it almost made me reconcile that he's a raging Asiaphile.


P.S. You can hear my nasally drone on the California Report on Friday, October 17, doing a "Perspective" about appropriate songs for funerals. It's on the afternoon/evening one. Tune into your local public radio station or hit the links.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I Hate School

I hated school as a teenager and maybe even before that. The institutionalization of my intellect. The fascist policing of my imagination. The "marginalization" of my individuality. The co-opting of my identity.

I cringe when I read writers like Victor Davis Hanson denounce public education. In his article, "Back to School Blues," he condemns the current public education system because his cashier has difficulty counting out his change and another has problems explaining a warranty. I cringe because I am afraid when Victor speaks about the quality "liberal education" his grandfather received, he is talking about a segregated classroom of Whites only. Consider the years his grandfather was in high school and the years before that.

I cringe because in Victor Hanson's day and in his grandfather's day very clear and always very detrimental distinctions were drawn between race, class, and culture. I cringe because while I disagree with Victor, I cannot totally agree with Dennis. I agree data can be easily twisted and manipulated to perpetuate a negative stereotype of public education. I disagree with the use of test scores as a valid way of judging schools and students successes.

In his post, "Philosophy of Education," Greg Cruey provides an interesting pondering of the role or meaning of school in society. I think he touched upon an important but often ignored issues when he wrote that

The purposes of education are multiple and interwoven. Those purposes change with age, environment, and the peculiarities of individual students so that even within a specific classroom the primary purpose of schooling for this child may be one thing and the primary purpose for that child may be yet another.  

I like the idea of education being an "organic entity" that can "change with age" and evolve to meet the needs of the 21st Century. I like the idea because it is the core principle of teaching - process. Teaching is a process. Tests are products that should help assess and discipline the process but they should never be considered the goal of the learning process.

Greg writes another post where he considers his students' "understanding" of the subjects he teaches. He ponders their futures and the result of an overemphasis on "work" skills.

When I reacted to the Bridging Differences discussion on mandatory schooling, I came across a post written by Eduwonkette that paraphrased historian David Labaree’s vision of schools:

  1. to prepare children for their place in the economy
  2. to achieve democratic equality
  3. to nurture social mobility

Inspired by Greg's train of thought, where are the students in this vision? Specifically where do the students who are "daydreamers" fit in this hierarchical vision? As someone who didn't "apply" himself or "daydreamed" in class, where do I fit - did I fit into the vision? More importantly, where will my children fit into the vision? I already recognize that faraway look my eldest gets sometimes and my youngest cannot sit still. In those aspects they have inherited my problematic DNA.

Or is the estrangement of school from any personal relevance simply a fact of life? As school becomes more about creating "people products" (slavish skilled drones who will perform their assigned tasks without question), instead of "people processes" (engaged workers who find fulfillment in the pursuit of creative solutions to problematic situations).

There is a long history of student disdain for school. Look at pop culture and the music we've grown up with. Wikipedia has an article listing songs involving school. Some just mention school. Others denounce it.

How many songs do you remember spouting the evils of school?


[Originally posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk]

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Click J-Pop singers, Yuimino, for more 2008 NYAF pictures.

I geeked out last weekend and took the boys to the 2008 New York Anime Festival at the Javits Center. The challenge of conventions like this is determining the "age appropriateness" of its events. By "age appropriateness," I  don't mean the form enhancing costumes that some of the women (and some of the men) don or the gore of the others. My reasoning is much more basic. "Age appropriate" to me is which stories send the right message (though the gore factor and "conditions of intimacy" are also a consideration).

I am one of those parents who bought his eldest Legos and not the Duplos when he was three when the box explicitly said six because I saw him genuinely interested in manipulating the little pieces to create cars, spaceships, robots, and eventually like houses. He gravitated towards the smaller Legos and ignored the Duplos, which lacked the variety of shapes and sizes of the former. As my wife and I do with all his play materials, rules were explained and a rationale given. We monitored him until we were comfortable that he was aware enough to know not to stick the pieces where they didn't belong.

When he was two, he was introduced to old episodes of Spider-man and His Amazing Friends on the Disney Channel. Until then it was primarily "educational programming" on PBS. I put "educational programming" in quotes because like "age appropriateness" it is another parental/educator's term that sounds important but bears no real meaning. They are "paper tiger" phrases that so-called experts spout to demonstrate their "expertness." However, the terms are not superfluous. They do serve as conversation markers, topics that can seed important parental decisions.

Our kids are not allowed Power Rangers or Pokemon. However, our ban hasn't stopped either Power Rangers or Pokemon from entering our lives. Their classmates are fans. My wife and my ban on those and similar shows is purely personal. We don't find them "meaningful" or "appropriate" so we don't let our boys watch them. In our definition of "age appropriate," Power Rangers and Pokemon are best expressed as apertifs. Nice pre-dinner treats that they are much too young for.

While will let our kids watch Naruto, Bleach, and Code Geass, they are not interested. In most cases, they watch because I'm watching. They like most Hayao Miyazaki movies though. Our eldest says his favorite is "the bloody movie." That's how he refers to Princess Mononoke. Our youngest likes Pom Poko or in youngest speak, "the racoon movie." My wife and I find these shows "meaningful" because the dialogue works in conjunction with the action. The moral message is also a little more complex.

An ongoing theme that my eldest is working out is the notion that sometimes "good people" make "bad choices"or do "bad things" thinking they are doing "good things." An inner glow surged through me recently when my eldest and I were talking about a child in his class who sort of bullies him. I asked him why he didn't tell the teacher and he said he didn't want to do it because he's seen this bully "be nice" and didn't want to get him into trouble. He said, "I think he is a good person that doesn't know how other kids feel so he does things that hurts their feelings." I told him he must tell the bully to stop and, if it does not work, he must tell the teacher.

In Power Rangers and Pokemon the dialogue seems disposable. It is only a vehicle to get to the fights. In a Miyazaki movie or an episode of Naruto, the dialogue works in conjunction with the action to give a fight sequence "symbolic resonance." I don't know what else to call it and totally admit it is purely subjective on our part.


[Simultaneously posted on Blog for Cranial Gunk.]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flowers in the window

Click photo and play song while reading post.

Every parent feels their child is special. And it is true. Our children are better than the above-average children of Lake Wobegon.

There's the seed of life in each child that was given to us, that was given to them, and that (with luck and hope) will be given to our grandchildren.

It is with no surprise then, that when we feel our child has been treated unfairly, without care, or with a tougher hand than needed, we are outraged, frustrated, and vigilant.

For those who have been following on my blog, Noodle has had a rough transition to the new school year.

Week 6, and minor improvements have been made, with some behavior modification at home, and hopefully at school. I got a rewards chart for Noodle to fill out, and to see her progress in a visual way, about how good she has been behaving not only at school, but also at home. I believe it has helped, and she is happier in the afternoon, peppier (if that is a word) in the morning, and no longer on RED during school.

But, do you know who makes the worst parents of school-age students? Teachers.

Yes, teachers, who think they know it all, come into their parent/teacher (or would it be teacher/teacher) conferences with their bag of educational lingo in tow, and their child psychology notes tucked beneath their arms. During these stand offs, the two generals fling empty jargon at each other while the other deflects it with theoretical education prattle.

I am one of those parents. I've seen the studies, done the research, know my spiel.

And so, I write notes. I write notes that tell the teacher it is unfair to isolate my gifted child from the other children because she is talking excessively or fidgeting too much. I say it with the kindness of ten thousand acolytes. But, what I mean is that my child is bored with your slow-paced teaching style and wants something else to do.

I write suggestions on moving my gifted child to the front of the class near the teacher, hinting that it will help my child focus (as other teachers have done, and had her become classroom helper since she always finished first). But, the teacher responds that my child needs to be alone at times to focus on her work.

So yes, the Noodle and I forge on, practicing at home, brushing up on her skills. Showing off her prowess to write neatly, think clearly, do addition and subtraction, and even brush her teeth.

As a teacher and a father, I've sometimes been too angry at a child. Mine, and others. But, I've always kept in mind that these are young people who are forming ideas about what life is all about, and I've never isolated a child by their self in order to keep my own cool. Sure, I've asked a teenager to leave the room before, but not for days.

I truly believe setting a classroom environment where one child is set apart can create low self-esteem, feelings of depression, and an unwillingness to learn. It also ostracizes the child from the other children who are potentially their friends, and this in turn can create that much dreaded clique formation. Plus, child are vicious and can make fun of each other in cruel ways.

So am I overreacting when I feel that this teacher may be treating my child differently? I'm sure there are other children in that class who act up. Yet, when I visited I only saw one desk aside, and that was Noodle's. It made my heart drop, my anger swell, and my "bad-teacher-radar" go off. Sure, tough teachers are needed. I'm a tough teacher. But patient and understanding teachers are important.

I've seen studies that suggest children of minorities, especially Asians because of their stereotype of high-performance, are treated differently in schools. For example, if children who don't meet the teacher's preconceived notion of what that child should do, the teacher is often harder on that child.

I do wonder if any of you have faced that type of high expectation frustration?

Either way, the note was sent in, and the teacher wrote back that she will be more sensitive to the needs of Noodle. I hope so. Otherwise, she's an aphid on my flower, and I shall send swarms of ladybugs to destroy her aphid colony.

You know, there are times when you water too much? And you just hope that the flower won't drown.

Of course, there is a new fear on the horizon. Seems the Noodle told her mommy, "I'm allergic to toes."

Tough actin' Tinactin!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Philippines is a Nation full of Uncle Toms

While we were in the Philippines earlier this month, we were told to keep our 20 month old daughter out of the pool until after the wedding in which she'd serve as a flower girl.
I asked, "Why?"
"Soo dat she weel not git too dark!"
"What the hell is wrong with being dark?"
Then my ignorant mother chimed in, "Oh, don't worry, she'll be able to recover in the fall and winter."
How dare they impose such backward, third-world thinking on our young daughter!?! What kind of impact does this have on a whole nation, when its population of brown people are bombarded with such self-loathing messages from cradle to grave?
Every time I go to the Philippines, I am blown away by Filipinos' shame at their brownness, as evidenced by the vast expanse of whitening products at Mercury Drug and Watsons. And it's no longer enough just to be white, now Ponds has a new product that promises a "pinkish white glow". These companies are making a killing off of our people's self-loathing.
This is going to seem harsh, but it needs to be said: the Philippines will continue to be a filthy, backwards third world country with little to take pride in unless our people stop being ashamed of what we are: BROWN. Aspiring for whiteness consumes economic and emotional resources that would be much better focused on improving health, sanitation, infrastructure, fighting the abuse/trafficking of women, improving science and math education, OFWs and the social impact on their children, etc.

Until we stop being a bunch of Uncle Toms, we will lack the cultural self-esteem necessary to elevate our people to greatness. Speaking of which, check out this other photo: a chicken and ribs joint in Iloilo City, Philippines... For a bunch of people who don't want to be "itim" (black) , we seem to like soul food staples quite a bit.
It's worth noting that some of those whitening products contain mercury and/or lead. I'm not sure of the effects of mercury poisoning, but I do know that lead poisoning can lead to serious mental impairment. I guess that would explain why many Filipinos lack the mental capacity to vote for anyone other than their favorite actors and pop singers. And we thought American politics was entertaining!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Since Nine-Eleven

Simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.

It rained heavily the night before the Tuesday the planes hit the World Trade Center towers. My wife and I got into a huge argument. I don't remember exactly what we argued about. Only that we had argued about it before and that the absurdity of the argument was that it didn't have anything directly to do with either her or me. Despite this, we argued passionately about it.

The next morning was cool and sunny. We decided that arguing about absurd topics that had no direct impact on our lives was just plain absurd and very draining. We decided to leave the house together and take the train downtown. I was on my way to work and she was on her way to Borders in the Trade Center. She was going to spend the morning reading and we were going to meet for lunch.

We were running late and felt the ground shake outside the subway station on Delancey. There was a loud Boom! We thought something had happened on the bridge. We were near the Williamsburg. Then someone pointed at one of the towers of the World Trade. We saw smoke. At the time we were told it was a Cesna. Aaliyah had died the summer before. We walked on.

We turned around on the edge of Chinatown. By the court house where Chinatown becomes City Hall and the Financial District. By the time we walked back home, the first Tower fell. We watched the second Tower fall on TV. My wife cried. I was in denial. It was just the drama of smoke from the fire clouding up the television camera.

I don't remember the Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. I remember the pillar of smoke rising from the site where the World Trade stood. And I remember the wind brought it up through the Lower Eastside. My wife and I shut the windows but could not escape the smell. Burning tar mixed with the uneasy sweetness I remember from a field trip to a crematorium that I took in high school. The name of the class was "Death and Dying."

That Saturday, my wife told me she was pregnant. We had spoke about children but actually having one seemed so far away. We took a week to sit on the situation, to decide what we were going to do. The following 9/11, I took the day off. It was windy and overcast. My wife and I wandered around town the entire day, pushing our eldest in his stroller. We sat at the Chelsea Market and had coffee before turning back for home.

Last year I attended a workshop at the New York Historical Society called Objects & Memory. It got me thinking about "artifacts" and the memorabilia we keep close to us and the souvenirs that don't mean as much.

Since 9/11/2001, I haven't given the day much thought. Disgusted by the bickering over the memorial, the xenophobia, and the unpunished attacks on friends in the Muslim community. It was life as usual September 11, 2003. It wasn't until last year that I was reminded of the significance of the event. I told myself that I would not let all the negative things about the aftermath of 9/11 dissuade me from memorializing all the positive things that day took away and celebrating the positive things that have occurred since.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

From Ma to You*

*Simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.

Forty-something years old and my mother still knows which buttons to push to upset me.

At best, I tolerate my parents. My relationships with each has its own conditions. I say this not because I do not love and respect my parents.

I love and respect my parents very much. Especially now, being a parent myself, I appreciate the sacrifices they made to present me with the choices I had in my high school and college years (those formative years when I acknowledged an identity separate from my parents).

I say this because it is true. It is more my mother than my father. My father is pretty much a benign presence in my life. We have little to say to each other and speak only occasionally and sometimes dispense with direct communication entirely; preferring instead to use my sister as a conduit.

My mother on the other hand is aggressive and controlling. While I am sure she has the best intentions, those intentions regardless how sweet are soured by the force with which she drives them down my throat. And it is not enough that you nod in agreement but you must be in complete agreement in method as well as manner. I joke that my mother and I can't spend more than two hours in the same room before we start arguing.

And still I tell my children they are lucky to have three sets of living grandparents (my parents are divorced and both remarried).

I agree with Dr. Ensor (as quoted by Allison Stacy) when she says grandparents provide grandchildren with "love, a sense of their roots and the wisdom of a senior's life experience — all of which can contribute to a happier, healthier life." I am one of those the author points out who asks, "I wish I'd asked my grandparents about that before they died."

However, all the positives that grandparents bring to the lives of my nuclear family (mommy, babies, and me) come at an emotional cost. My mother and I disagree over a number of life and parenting topics. My father and I disagree also but he is not as an aggressive a personality as my mother. My mother is the one that really makes me pay in Tylenol and antacids.

We disagree on a number of life and parenting issues. I insist she is playing favorites with my children. She insists she isn't. She insists I am denying my children a good education by not moving into the suburbs. I insist that the city diverse in culture is a perfect place to raise children. I insist her germ phobia is detrimental to my children and self destructive for her. She insists that she is not germ phobic and that I am dirty and careless with the health and welfare of my children. And so on.

Perhaps it really is as simple as a generation gap. Perhaps we are too much alike and I am too much like my father in all the wrong ways. Perhaps this conflict is inevitable like children rebelling and hating school. Regardless of what the causes are, prolonged interactions with my mother make both her and me miserable.

Dr. Spock (Yes, the Dr. Spock of 40's child development fame), provides a whole section on grandparent-parent-child relationships on his company's web site. Just skimming the advice given, you can correctly conclude that it is not disrespectful to say, No, to your children's grandparents - In fact you have a duty to! And it is important to set boundaries from the beginning.

Just as an interesting Did you know? I found this article by Paul W. Schenk, Psy.D. on how to "Teach Your Parents to Stop Nagging." Though intended for teenagers, I find much of the advice still applicable in my relationship with my parents despite the decades that have passed.

And wonder how well I will fill my mother's role in the lives of my children and their children? Will I be a hoped for poor replacement? Or will I fill the role completely much to the chagrin of my children?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Get a Rice Baby for that new Rice Daddy

photo from yosimiya.com

Here's a thoughtful gift for that new rice daddy in your life.

From a second-hand description someone forwarded me, maybe from trendwatching, (the original site's in Japanese):

"Yosimiya is selling bags of rice printed with a newborn's photo, name and date of birth. The bags are shaped to resemble a swaddled baby. But the key feature is that the bags contain the baby's exact weight in rice. Holding the bag will therefore feel like holding the baby. Bags of rice with baby's photos printed on them aren't new in Japan, by Yosimiya is the first to make them to order, creating bags that match the baby's size and weight."


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

LPGA - Language Police

Okay, I haven't been to the blog for a while, but I'm shocked not to see any comment on the LPGA's (women's professional golf tour) looming decision to enforce an "English proficiency test" for all tour members. Players that can't pass the test will be "suspended" from the tour! This conjures up ethnic studies images of S.I. Hayakawa and the English Only movement. My favorite line is when the LPGA commissioner claims she is shocked by the negative reaction, saying, " We thought this was pro-international." Who needs globalization when you can have hegemony? Arguments are made that it would help with American sponsors (ever think of getting some Korean sponsors?)

Many commentators note that international players have dominated the tour of late, winning 19 of the last 24 tournaments, particularly Asian players, especially from South Korea that boasts 45 players on tour. As an educator of English Language Learners, I'm fascinated by what this test will look like. Is it simply oral? Is there a written or reading portion? Will they have different versions so players won't just cheat or learn the answers like DMV test? What qualifies for proficiency? Will the vocabulary section be confined simply to golf nomenclature or encompass all sports cliches: "I was seeing the ball well today," "It's anyone's tournament." Or will it be to the level of including must-have Tiger-like idioms like, "I've been waiting for some putts to drop and for the ball to see the hole" or "the course was a monster today, made players make some difficult choices on the risk-reward scale, luckily I was able work my high fade right to left on the tough 17th dogleg?"

Monday, September 01, 2008

Asian American Males Fantasy

Okay, this is an article in which I can't believe the research. Stephen A. cites industry research states that only whites, to the tune of 93% of fantasy sports followers or ("general managers" as we like to be referred), participate in fantasy football, baseball, and that ilk which extends all the way to NASCAR and Ultimate Fighting.

The article pegs Asians at 1.1% What?? Okay, the 2006 census puts us at 4.9% of the population but the number is still too low. Every Asian American male (except Jason) I know participates in fantasy sports (especially fantasy football which is all I have time for because baseball and basketball should be more realistically thought of as second full-time jobs since they require more daily maintenance than a 17-year old.)

The intersection of free time at computers with high speed internet, copious statistical analysis, and virtually participation in sports are all calling cards for Asian American males. We have got to be as statistically overrepresented as we are in higher education. What's next, we don't gamble or play video games? Ask what the real guy (Asian not Jim Sturgess) from the "21" movie about MIT students cheating in gambling is actually doing now. That's right writing software for fantasy football. That's what I'm talking about!

Todd Palin - Alpha Male Rice Daddy?

Okay the dude, actually he likes to be referred to as "first dude," which does sound better than "first gentleman" of Alaska and husband of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate. He is 1/4 Yu'pik Eskimo, that qualifies him to be "rice" enough. If he really is doing all that they say he is doing, he is a Daddy God.

First, they have 5 children. I have a hard time just fathoming that having my hands full with one and possibly two to be. From 19 to 4 months, his last when his wife was governor at age 44. Their youngest, Trig (they all have kind of cool names, one is "Track"), has Down's Syndrome. I can't imagine the challenge that must be with four kids already, although two are pretty much grown. Although with the 17 year old announcing she is pregnant, she is grown enough to provide Todd with a grandchild as well. He still has at least a 14 year old and 7 year old at home along with the 4 month old with Downs.

He is three-time champion of the Tesoro Iron Dog Snowmobile race which is the Iditorod course and then further to Anchorage. He trains at night and in the mornings when kids are asleep (do 4 mo year olds sleep through the night?) Unlike every other governor first "dude," he is blue collar. He works two jobs in fact. One at BP oil company and then summers as a commercial salmon fisher, making about $40 K for each job. He tried not to work at BP because of conflict of interest allegations that his wife was negotiating with BP. According to wikipedia, he went back to BP because his family "needed the money" but not as a supervisor but a processor, (I guess his wife makes somewhere around "$120 K" for being governor [according to stateline in 2007] but I'm not sure if this was before or after she voted to reduce her salary.)

His wife still breast pumps at night and acknowledges she doesn't sleep much, but I guess either does he if he is training and taking care of 5 kids. His wife famously returned to work 3 days after giving birth to Trig. With all the new responsibilities of running for vice-president along with governing the largest state in the union, I'm guessing more of the parenting load must be falling on Todd, this along with mentoring his daughter who is going through pregnancy and having her first child. He must have day care or grandparent help, but am I the only working parent curious how they can possibly manage all this or what their daily schedule must look like just logistically? Move over Duggars and Jon and Kate plus 8, you've got nothing on the Palins.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Halloween costumes for the happily assimilated

Forget martial arts uniforms and geisha princess dresses this year— celebrate your kid's biculturalism the Pottery Barn Kids way! Heh.

The stylist on this costume's photo shoot had to have been an Asian American with a snarky sense of humor, right? Please tell me that was the case, b/c otherwise... Oy.

Now, what I wanna know is, where are my extremely expensive giant coconut, apple, and, of course, chocolate-and-creme sandwich cookie costumes to go with this one? [I kid, I kid!]

Yes, Halloween costume season is upon us (two months out from a holiday, that's when shopping starts, right?), and for conscientious anti-sexist, anti-racist parents, things can only go downhill from here. Happy Halloween!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sleep tight

update: Princess pony at the first day of 1st grade!

Shhh, it's the last night of summer and the kids are in bed.

Princess Pony is asleep, her thumb in her mouth. Tomorrow she’ll be in first grade. She’s out like a light, always calm in the face of new adventures. It helps that she knows her new teacher from when her big brother was in that class.

Rabbit Dragon is still awake, rolling around in my bed. He’s nervous about his new third grade class. “Daddy,” he realizes, snuggled in my blankets, “in cursive I know all the lower case letters but not the upper case ones!” I tell him not to worry; he’s got a whole year of third grade ahead of him.

Mrs. Thisislarry is in the Philippines this week on business, and she’s the one with the good to-do lists. I’m more of a ‘visualize what you’ll be wearing today’ kind of guy lately, so I’ve got to think a bit: backpacks? Check. Sweatshirts? Hmmmm. Lunch? I’ll make it tomorrow. Thank goodness the kids are older and more resilient. If I forget to pack the right Quaker Oats bar I’ll get a dirty look tomorrow, but no meltdowns.

It’s the last night of summer. Forget what the calendar says, tomorrow the kids are back in school, and that means summer is over.

Goodbye daily drop-offs and pickups at day-camps with funny names like Galileo and Jefunira. Hello drops-offs and pick-ups at good ol’ Palo Verde.

Goodbye homemade lunches of baloney, fruit and shelf-stable chocolate milk. Hello homemade lunches of baloney, fruit, and shelf-stable chocolate milk. Plus a snack.

Goodbye bad influences from unfamiliar older kids at Y camp. Hello bad influences from renowned troublemakers at after-school kids’ club.

Goodbye teeth-gnashing about “did I pick the right camps for the kids this summer? Who are these counselors?” Hello teeth-gnashing about “how’s the third grade class looking this year? Who’s this teacher?”

Tomorrow, we’re up early, got to make sure Princess and Dragon are full of waffles and milk before we all walk to the big day, see parents I’ve not seen since June, trade quick vacation stories and remark about how much the kids have grown, and don’t the kinders look smaller every year.

But for now, it’s just me awake in the house, for the last few hours of the last night of summer. Daddy duties done for another day.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Daddy Moments"

*simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.

I have a condition I call "Daddy Moments."

Daddy Moments are instances when due to stress, exhaustion, or temporary lapses in cognitive fluidity, I channel the collective psyche of all dads real and fictional throughout the ages. In my brief years as a father I have already channeled the likes of Mike Brady, Cliff Huxtable, and Charles Ingalls. In my darker moments: Archie Bunker, George Jefferson, and Bernie Mac.

And, Yes, ashamedly, sometimes Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin.

A Daddy Moment can also be brought about through a real life situation that unsettlingly mirrors something suited to a sitcom. For example my earliest memories of TV are not of the programs that were shown but of my dad's ass bouncing and swaying in front of the screen as he fiddled with the knobs and rabbit ears searching for that better picture. Or driving around some indistinguishable parking lot looking for the "spot," the one that was closest to the store but inevitably was even further away from the first available spot. I had a "Daddy Moment" of this kind recently.

My children are learning to swim. Excitement over this summer's Olympics helped fuel their desire to learn. They have already had several lessons. Since the start of the lessons, my wife has taken the boys to the Y so they can get some additional practice in the water. Last week, I joined them.

It's been ages since I've been in a pool - over a quarter of a century! In fact, the last time was when my mother took me to swimming lessons when I was in middle school. Just like my not having driven a car since I was 16, the opportunity or the need never arose. If it did, there was another more pressing reason not to swim or be near a pool.

It must have been some automatic response on the part of my brain, a deep-seated -perhaps primal - instinctual tactic for survival, protecting me all these years, telling me not to appear in public sans chemise.

I am not going to say my body has been ravaged by time. Any random observer would immediately note the contradiction. Let's say instead, I was an empty vessel who is now filled quite generously with time. The wiry arms and 28 inch waist have melted into wings and a muffin top.

And of course, I go shirtless on six-pack and Bowflex night at the pool.

There I was with my wife (drooling) and kids. Pieces of me swishing and sloshing and I hadn't even gotten into the water yet. Just as I would have guffawed a little over a decade ago, if you would have told me that I would be married with children today, I would not have put much thought into advice to watch what I eat or to getting more physical activity. But here I am. Desperately fighting the battle of the bulge.

In my search for a "Why?," I came across an article in the NY Times Health section from 2004 that suggested fathers as well as mothers gain weight after the birth of a child. And it added that the more children there were the greater the potential for obesity. While there are biological reasons given for women gaining weight. Fathers suffered weight gain as a result of psychology, life style, or culture. There was no explanation given.

I don't know that one is needed. In the case of fathers (at least this one), it is enough to know that the gain is not biology but a symptom of psychology or lifestyle. Which means it can be corrected (optimistically, reversed) with much less effort than a biologic-based gain.

So here I am not only watching what I eat but when and how much. I'm taking the stairs instead of the escalator. I'm eating less sugars and (gasp) rice as I try to decrease the carbs. This and more with the intention of living up to the image of these buff Hollywood dads.

Then again I found this list on alive & amplified. She lists the qualities of a "Hot Dad." Maybe I should pay more attention to what comes out of my mouth than what I ingest. Maybe I should spend more time running around with my kids at the playground instead of letting my wife take them out by herself. Maybe if I watch what I say and do I'll end up on my family's Hot Dad list.