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.]