Monday, May 31, 2010

Wu Are You

Heavenly Kings is one of my favorite movies. It's sort of Spinal Tap but from the HK Boy Band Pop perspective. Daniel Wu interviews well in this CNN clip. I'm not going to say he makes any revelations but its oddly comforting to know we have shared frustrations and challenges.

Now, look at this clip. I used it in a post I wrote reacting to Arizona's law banning ethnic studies classes. It's from the 70s. It's sort of "awakening" to hear the same sort of comments regarding Asian Americans in the mainstream (both in the US and in Asia) spaced almost two scores - almost 40 years! - apart.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Happy Americana Meal

[Cross posted at Cranial Gunk.]

Andy Warhol from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol:

The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s

The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonald’s

The most beautiful thing is Florence is McDonald’s

Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet.

In 1990, Moscow became beautiful.

Beijing (formerly Peking) didn’t become beautiful until 2007.

America is “The Beautiful.”

When I was young,I knew I had done well when my parents would tell me we were going to McDonald’s. Together we would drive deeper into Queens for Big Macs, cheese burgers, vanilla shakes, and a mountain of crispy French Fries.

Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Chevrolet – it was all a part of becoming more American. And while I desperately wanted to assimilate more in my youth, I understood even then that a visit to the Golden Arches was not a visit made without thought or purpose. It was not something we did everyday.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t scream and cry for McDonald’s whenever the opportunity presented itself. However, my parents were firm. They said, No!

What disturbs me most about the outcry to retire Ronald McDonald and to remove the toys from the McDonald’s Happy Meals is that the arguments to do so seem less about healthy eating and more about parents not wanting to say, “No” to their children. From what I read, the proponents of the forced retirement and ban justify their stance by clinging to the belief that it is too tough to get their children to “eat healthy.”

Damien Hoffman at the Wall Street Cheat Sheet writes:

As the father of a 9 1/2-month-old, I prefer to have a level playing field when taking the time to teach my children how to eat healthy. If Ronald is giving toys with his meals, I have to work that much harder to get my children to eat what is best for their self-interest (which is also best for our economy and society). Personally, I am sick of having to compete with the lowest common denominator when it comes to creating a healthy environment for my family.

I agree. It is tough to get children to eat healthy. As our careers seep more and more into our personal lives and through cell phone and net book our offices become viral, the time traditionally reserved for healthy meals is diminished. Greater effort and planning needs to be done to insure a healthy diet for us as well as our children.

However, just because it is tough doesn’t mean we don’t attempt it. The problem is not Ronald and his Happy Meal toys but busy parents not wanting to spend the time to cope with the consequences of saying: No!

I am my children’s parent, not their friend. Damien is right in asserting: “Children don’t have a mature sense of social reality.” I would add that a lot of adults don’t either (and I don’t mean that in a passive aggressive pot shot way). Reality is a social construct. Individuals who have not had the benefit of developing in a diverse community logically lack the array of tools with which to construct their social reality. This is where we as a society work together to inform and guide. 

Parenting is very inconvenient. Parenting is very tough. These are social realities. Expecting a “healthy” fast food meal is not socially realistic. Fast food is about convenience. It is filler until something substantial can be had.

The Happy Meal toy is a symbol of American innovation. The Happy Meal was created as a way to promote McDonald’s as a family restaurant specifically servicing small children -

The very first Happy Meal in 1979 in Kansas City was the Circus Wagon Happy Meal and McDonaldland Fun-To-Go in St. Louis. It cost one dollar and contained either a McDoodler stencil, a puzzle book, a McWrist wallet, an ID bracelet or McDonaldland character erasers. The Circus Wagon Happy Meal consisted of a hamburger or cheeseburger, twelve-ounce soft drink, a small order of french fries, and a "McDonaldland Cookie Sampler", a small portion of cookies.

The Happy Meal is that little slice of Americana my parents risked their livelihoods on. They traded their familiar worlds for one they had only seen in the movies. They worked hard for their baseball and apple pie. However, this doesn’t mean we had either everyday. They knew a healthy diet could contain some pie but was not entirely pie. A healthy diet is balanced. And when I screamed for pie, they knew enough to say: No! (and mean it)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Not Ready For Prime Time

Mace Marvelous turns 5 this summer. Wifey and I spent the past couple of months checking out potential kindergartens. We live in California and the woeful budget is slowly chipping away at what's left of the public schools. Even in lovely, coveted Cupertino where I work, the town literally held a city-wide bakesale to stave off furloughs and layoffs. The prediction was that even in Cupertino where test scores are traditionally off the charts (Chinese and Desis represent), kinder class sizes could rise to a 30-1 ratio.

We've decided to go private and it's been quite an education. We saw immaculate classrooms and desks all in a row with amazing artwork. We saw sterile education facilities churning out uniformed geniuses (almost all South Asian). We met an amazing kindergarten teacher who was eager to take our son under her wing. Some of the private schools were so academic there was no P.E. classes. Others made our area public school look dowdy and antiquated as the mismatched sweats the kinder teacher was wearing when we visited.

Mace shadowed at two separate kindergartens months apart and on different spectrums of philosophies. He spent the day in class and pulled out and tested on basic pre-K curriculum. Both came back with the same verdict: Junior K. Painting in broad strokes, one cited fine motor skills and the other cited maturity and language.

We want our son to be fulfilled in class and confident but I'd be lying if I said we weren't disappointed. We all have egos and every parent wants to believe their child is brilliant. We're coming to terms with the placement and signing him up for Junior K program. I know he's totally gonna dig it.

Have you experienced the same situation or been in it as a kindergarten-aged child and put in Junior K? How say you?