Monday, September 17, 2012

For Janet Liang and for all our children, be one of #170in7

Twelve years ago this month, years before I had children, I registered to be a bone marrow donor at an Asian American community festival in Los Angeles. After seeing plea after plea over the years from young hapas in desperate need of a match, I knew that I had to sign up, because if I was ever in their shoes, I too would be dependent on the kindness of others like me. In the intervening years, I became the father of two amazing young multiracial, multiethnic Asian American girls (and we even banked our first-born's cord blood), those pleas from young Asian Americans and multiracial people have kept coming, and I continue to check my email for the message that some stranger who looks like me or my daughters needs my help. I keep checking because I know that one day, it could be me or my girls who need help. I took that small step 12 years ago—now, in Janet's memory, and for all our children, it's your turn.


Leukemia is a type of blood cancer and the most common cancer to affect children and young teens. Treatment to save a leukemia patient’s life often requires a bone marrow transplant from a “perfect match” donor – a donor whose blood matches a recipient’s blood for 10 separate genetic markers.
Unfortunately, Asian American and other non-White leukemia patients are much less likely to find a “perfect match” donor than White leukemia patients. This is because Asian Americans and other minorities are significantly underrepresented in Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry used to search for and match potential bone marrow donors with recipients.
Janet made it her mission to register Asian American bone marrow donors, and thanks in part to her efforts, at least 18 bone marrow matches were made to recipients nationwide. However, last week, Janet passed away without finding a perfect match for herself. Today, many other Asian American leukemia patients are still waiting to find their perfect match, like 2-year-old Jeremy who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. To celebrate Janet’s life and her legacy, we want to register 170 new potential bone marrow donors in Janet’s name in just 7 days.

Be one of the 170 in 7:

Registration is free for the donor, convenient and secure. Here’s how to be one of the 170 in 7:
  1. Click on the link: Fill out the forms to request a free, do-it-yourself cheek swab kit.
  2. Tweet about it using #170in7 to be counted!  Click the button to send a Tweet to your followers: If you don’t have a Twitter account, send an email to jenn [at] reappropriate [dot] co to be counted!
And that’s it! Less than ten minutes of your time can help you save a life!

Donor FAQ

In about one month, a cheek swab kit will be sent to you in the mail, along with instructions and a pre-paid return envelope. Follow the instructions to swab your cheeks and return the kit. If you are matched (only 1 in 540 registered donors are ever matched), you will then be contacted and asked if you would like to donate your bone marrow. Registering is not a commitment that you must donate; it is only to help match recipients with potential donors.
Most donors are never matched. But if you are matched and if you do choose to donate your bone marrow, that donation is likely to save a young person’s life.

Other Ways to Help Out: Donate to AADP and/or to the Liang family

Donor registration is free for the donor because AADP and other non-profit organizations cover the costs of donor registration through charitable donations. If you are unable to register as a bone marrow donor, please donate to AADP to help fund registration costs for other donors, or to the Liang family (PayPal account using as the recipient, or checks payable to “Janet Liang” sent to PO box 1526, Pleasanton CA 94566).

Other Ways to Help Out: Spread the Word

If you are already registered, please help spread the word about the 170 in 7 bone marrow cyberdrive through Twitter and Facebook. If you would like to join your site to this partnership or if you would like more information about the 170 in 7 bone marrow cyberdrive, please go here.


To add your site to the list, please go here.


About the Drive

170 in 7 will be running from September 17, 2012 to September 24, 2012. Our goal is to register 170 new potential bone marrow donors in 7 days in memory of Janet Liang.

To Partner

We would love to add more partners to this week-long bone marrow donor cyberdrive. To join, please contact Jenn for more information.

To Spread the Word

Please Tweet about the campaign using the hashtag #170in7. The following buttons and banners are available for use with this campaign: 150 px168px200 px500 px.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jackie Chan in the Eagle Dad's Shadow

When I think of Jackie Chan, I usually think of a Kung Fu fighting Harold Lloyd. Jackie's the bumbler, the well-intentioned but clumsy "nice guy" who's just happened to save the day. Off the screen (from the interviews I've seen and read and the out take footage at the end of his movies), Jackie seems to be just as nice and well-intentioned as the characters he's played.

Up until recently, I hadn't put much thought into how Jackie might be as a father. I guess I just assumed he would be Bob Ho from The Spy Next Door.As it turns out, he isn't. According to Channel News Asia, Jackie is donating his entire fortune to charity when he dies. His son, Jaycee, is not getting a dime. His rationale: "If he is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money."

But it's not this decision that has me wondering about Jackie: The Father (as opposed to Jackie: The Comedian, The Actor, The Kung Fu Star). It's his reaction when his son Jaycee called concerned about his rumored death. I acknowledge that Jaycee may be exaggerating a tad and that Jackie's reaction is not atypical for the older generation of Chinese parents. But still, I imagined Jackie being a little more "progressive" than that. According to Channel News Asia, Jaycee said, "My dad scolded me 'Do you wish I were dead?' That was when I knew it was all false."

I don't think I'll ever get tired of Russell Peters' "Beat Your Children" monologue.

It's brilliant! It's funny because as the child of Asian immigrants, I can totally relate (I laugh now but it was terrible at the time) AND as an Asian parent, I have already caught myself more times than I would like whipping the same criticisms my parents beat me with __ "An 80 is a good score, if that's the best you can do…", "The teacher wrote you are creative and imaginative. Imagine all you can achieve in this world if you stopped daydreaming and focused on acing those tests…" and so on. Chinese parents are masters of the art of the backhanded compliment.

Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, Wolf Dad, Xiao Baiyou, and Eagle Dad, He Liesheng, have been elected the 21st Century ambassadors of modern Chinese parenting by the news media-at-large. Happily, at each instance of this so called " traditional Asian parenting" there have been as large a chorus of Asian outcry as there have been American ones.

It's been half a year since Duo Duo's famous run around the park, dressed in only his underwear, on a cold and snowy winter's morning. His father, the Eagle Dad, had forced him into the cold and then posted his run on YouTube because he wanted "to show that if a child can accept this kind of extreme education when they are young, they can overcome any difficulties the future might hold." He says, "I did it because I want Duo Duo to be strong."

The video of little Duo Duo's wintry run might not have seen any controversy had there been a Golden Harvest or Shaw Brothers logo in front of it. Parents who spent their adolescent years in the 80s will remember a young Gordon Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin enduring a battery of imaginative (sometimes fantastical) but harsh training regiments on his path to become a "Shaolin Master Killer".

Chose any Jackie's early films and you will see the same ludicrously rough lessons. But while this form of training makes for great drama and fantastical action sequences, parents need to know that these movies are make believe and you cannot hope to apply the same tough love tactics they depict and expect to garner the same results in reality.

By Kung Fu movie standards, I am spoiling my children. But I like to think that they work as hard as they play. I also like to think that given the advantages I didn't have, they will be more successful than I have been and able to do more good. I don't believe I coddle my children. Instead I think in the amount of time I spend with them, I model positive problem solving strategies and social skills for them, while telling them they are the most cherished and important part of my life. I don't have to be the high paid executive or the biggest star as long as I ensure they can be.

In homage to the movie that inspired the title of this post, here's a trailer for Jackie Chan's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (It includes clips of Jackie's character learning and training in Kung Fu):

Originally posted at Cranial Gunk.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Vincent Chin, Danny Chen, and Coping with Betrayal

Originally Posted at

Last weekend marked the 30th Anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin. The week that lead up to it was filled with posts from across the blogosphere about Vincent and the legacy of how little Judge Kaufman valued the life of a Chinese American versus the lives of the two white men murdered who him. He said, "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail." And if he were alive today, I would ask him, "Was Vincent the kind man that deserved to be bludgeoned to death?"

Bao Phi's opinion piece in the Star Tribune has been one of my favorite references when thinking about Vincent. Another favorite reference is Curtis Chin's documentary, Vincent Who? Released several years before, Curtis' film addresses the legacy of Vincent Chin and Judge Kaufman's verdict.
(I think the opening of the trailer says it all.)

And of course, there is Christina Choy's Who Killed Vincent Chin? It was the first film I saw about the case and (as far as I know) for a very long time the only film made about the case.

I was in high school in '82, the year Vincent was murdered. Billy Idol and Duran Duran, I was dealing with my own issues at the time. But as much taunting and teasing as I got for the clothes I wore and the songs I listened to, race was rarely an issue. I grew up in racially, ethnically, religiously diverse Queens. It wasn't until I meet Curtis several years after college in the '90s that Vincent Chin became an "issue".
But even after meeting Curtis and others since and learning more about Vincent Chin, I don't know that I would have answered any differently if someone were to come up to me and ask me, if I've heard of Vincent Chin?

Judge Kaufman's betrayal of justice ignited a national Asian American movement that positively changed the way I saw myself but Vincent Chin is not part of my daily psyche. I imagine, if approached, I would try to identify someone I might know personally before I would identify someone from modern history.

As a father, it my duty to tell my children that there are people out there who will hate them simply because they "look" Chinese. But my children are young, so I am just as responsible for imparting to them the faith that overall people regardless of race or religion are good. Among my challenges in fatherhood is maintaining the balance between my children having a strong sense of what the "real world" is like with what the "real world" could be. I want them to believe in their neighbors, while at the same time cautious with how quickly they embrace them.

I didn't know Danny Chen but his death has had a lingering effect on me. Danny Chen, 19 years old, enlisted in the US Army (despite the protests of his parents), allegedly committed suicide after enduring months of humiliation and torture at the hands of his Brothers in Arms.

It definitely has something to do with how young he looks in the picture that the news uses whenever they speak about him. I know he's 18 or 19 in the photo but with a little more fat on his face, he could be the same age as my kids (maybe a little older but not much more). His growing up in Chinatown and his parents speaking the same dialect as mine only adds to the sadness I feel and the worry -- the worry that my kids might be the next victims…

As disappointing as it is to have to teach my children that inevitably they will have to endure racist comments, I'm confident I can manage it. But how do I teach my children about betrayal? What makes the Danny Chen case so much more upsetting -- and why it lingers -- is his tormentors were people he was supposed to be able to rely on -- his Brothers in Arms…

Have you ever been cheated on? Have you ever felt betrayed? How do you teach that? How do you teach your children to deal?

I dug around online but the closest I came to "professional" advice was this post at It details the stages of friendship but does not offer any advice on coping with betrayal or when "clubs" shift. The author does say the parent should be supportive of the child and if there are problems go to the child's teacher but there is no instruction on talking to your child about betrayal before it happens.

That's why I like Nikki's song so much. In addition to being musically good on its own, its lyrics are offer good advice on coping with betrayal.

And while the chorus is
The one you love might be the one to let you down every time.
That ain't right, no, that ain't right.
So just be sure you can survive without no one by your side.
'Cause in life, the strong survive.
I don't interpret it to mean "prepare yourself for a life of loneliness and antisocial behavior." I interpret it as a statement on resolve -- Be resolute and confident in who you are. Be yourself. Cultivate yourself. And Live.
They hurt you, they sliced at the threads of your life but what's tearing
you apart is holding on to being right.
Forgiving is hard, like breaking through prison bars but the healing
wont start til you let go of the scars.
Strong people forgive and get the pain out their system
Weak people relive and they keep playing the victim.
People always told us keep our enemies close, but I'd rather keep my
distance than be phoney to a foe.
Best wisdom to own is knowing when to let go, but that's something u
already know.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disney takes a corporate stand for kids' health

(Originally posted with changes at bigWOWO.)

Continuing the food discussion, I was so happy to see this: Disney to Restrict Junk-Food Ads. The article begins:
The Walt Disney Company, in an effort to address concerns about entertainment’s role in childhood obesity, plans to announce on Tuesday that all products advertised on its child-focused television channels, radio stations and Web sites must comply with a strict new set of nutritional standards.
In an era where corporations are throwing money to buy influence in ways that harm our children, it is so refreshing to see that a wealthy corporation, for once, is doing the right thing. And make no mistake, the fast food corporations and big businesses ARE targeting our children.
The big chains like McDonald's have been aggressively and specifically targeting children for decades. When Ray Kroc first started expanding the McDonald's chain, he would hop in a Cessna and fly around looking for prime real estate as close to schools as possible. Today they use satellite technology to locate the same type of properties. These companies are literally stalking our children. They've even found ways to get inside schools nd be part of the public school lunch menus. --from Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children by Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes, pp. xv-xvi
I've had my issues with Disney in the past, and I'll probably have some issues in the future, but this is a good thing. If you have time, take some time to send them a letter of appreciation. Maybe contact the CEO directly:
Robert A. Iger,  
President and CEO of the Walt Disney Company  
500 S. Buena Vista Street  
Burbank, CA 91521  

Again, I can't express how important it is for a big company like Disney to take a stand. They've partnered with Michelle Obama too. I listen to conservative radio sometimes, and I hear how the pundits attack Michelle Obama, accusing her of overstepping by trying to advocate healthy diets, saying that no one wants it. Well, guess what? Disney wants it! The article says:
Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chairman, said he felt strongly that “companies in a position to help with solutions to childhood obesity should do just that,” but added: “This is not altruistic. This is about smart business.”
Smart business or not, they ought to be commended for doing the right thing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

An Asian American Summer Book List for Kids

Though not a Rice Daddy, she is definitely a Rice Mommy. Mia Wenjen has compiled an impressive bibliography of Asian American literature for Young Adults on her site I asked her if she would provide us with some summer book recommendations.

In her own words: Mia Wenjen blogs obsessively on children's books and young adult literature at Pragmatic Mom and creative Asian Americans at JadeLuck Club when she's not chauffering around her three kids.

It was about twenty five years ago when Amy Tan published The Joy Luck Club and I remember how excited I was to finally be able to read a book that reflected my culture that I actually purchased the hard copy which was a splurge for me at the time. I was too young to realize as a child growing up that I felt marginalized watching the one hour of TV a day and never seeing an Asian face. It was as if looking Asian was something slightly embarrassing and certainly not an asset.

Asian American children's books did not exist at all so it's been very exciting for me, as a children's and YA book blogger at PragmaticMom, to watch it emerge and even, dare I say it, flourish? !To keep this genre alive and well, we all must read, read, read these books and others. It's wonderful to read books with my kids that reflect their experiences, whether that means they balance their cultural heritage easily or with a struggle like some of these characters in the books below.

I chose these books, most are published this year, because they truly tell an authentic and important story of being Asian American. Many of these authors have won prestigious awards as well for their work as well.

What are your favorite Asian American authors and books? Please share.

10. Vanished by Sheela Chari

Eleven-year-old Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument. Her particular instrument was a gift from her grandmother—intricately carved with a mysterious-looking dragon. When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, strange clues surface: a tea kettle ornamented with a familiar pointy-faced dragon, a threatening note, a connection to a famous dead musician, and even a legendary curse. The clues point all the way to India, where it seems that Neela’s instrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing. Even if Neela does track it down, will she be able to stop it from disappearing again?

Sheela Chari’s debut novel is a finely tuned story of coincidence and fate, trust and deceit, music and mystery.

Sheela Chari's first book is masterful mixing a multi-cultural experience of growing up Indian American in Boston with a well paced and difficult-to-put-down mystery. Her character, Neela, is named after her niece, and gives the reader a realistic and sensitive understanding of what it's like to grow up as a second generation Indian American with parents who also try to walk the fine line between embracing their culture and fitting in. [chapter book for ages 8 and up]

I have a book review plus our Skype author visit here.

9. The Year of Books by Andrea Cheng

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated.

When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world.

Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

Anna's strategy when her best friend trades up the social ladder leaving her friendless is to turn to books and family for company and solace. It works pretty well but there is a price to pay for social climbing and her friend feels like she may have made a mistake. Should she take her back? [easy chapter book for ages 8 and up]

8. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia

Aneel s grandparents have come to stay, all the way from India. Aneel loves the sweet smell of his grandmother s incense, and his grandfather, Dada-ji, tells the world s best stories. When he was a boy, adventurous, energetic Dada-ji had the power of a tiger. Hunh-ji! Yes, sir! He could shake mangoes off trees and wrangle wild cobras. And what gave him his power? Fluffy-puffy hot, hot roti, with a bit of tongue-burning mango pickle. Does Dada-ji still have the power? Aneel wants to find out but first he has to figure out how to whip up a batch of hot, hot roti Overflowing with family, food, and a tall stack of fun, Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji is sure to warm the heart and tickle the tummy. Hunh-ji! Yes, sir!

Superheroes need not be young or wear costumes. Sometimes even one's beloved grandfather can be a superhero too! And it turns out that eating hot, hot roti is grandfather's version of Popeye's spinach. The good news is that it also tastes good! [picture book, ages 2 and up]

7. Jojo Eats Dim Sum by James Kye

Jojo Eats Dim Sum is the first in a new and exciting series of children's books with the aim of introducing children to the joys of various Asian cuisines. The star of the book is Jojo, a young girl with a sense of adventure and a daring appetite. In stark contrast is her baby brother, Ollie, who prefers to eat pea soup at every meal. The story encourages children to be more open to foods that are unfamiliar, thereby opening doors to other cultures. In Jojo Eats Dim Sum, Jojo eats her way through some of the most popular dim sum dishes, culminating in chicken feet, which are unfamiliar to most Westerners or unappetizing to those who have encountered them. But Jojo loves chicken feet, as she loves most dim sum dishes. Each story in the Jojo Eats series leverages a fun narrative to carry the young reader through the culinary journey, which is interspersed with lessons on how to pronounce foods in the local language. Jojo Eats Dim Sum is an irresistible book that children will want to read over and over again. Each beautiful book is in the shape and size of a menu, adding to the charm of Jojo's culinary adventures.

Asian culture revolves so much around food and family to the point where the two are almost one and the same. We eat communally and this strengthens our bonds. In this charming picture book, Jo Jo, who isn't Asian American, enjoys the unusual delicacies found at Dim Sum. I think the message here is that Asian food is good (and nothing to be ashamed of even if it looks weird or smells funny) and kids with well developed palates like it too. [picture books, ages 2 and up]

6. Money Boy by Paul Yee

Ray Liu knows he should be happy. He lives in a big suburban house with all the latest electronic gadgets, and even finds plenty of time to indulge in his love of gaming. He needs the escape. It’s tough getting grades that will please his army veteran father, when speaking English is still a struggle. And he can’t quite connect with his gang at high school — immigrants like himself but who seem to have adjusted to North American life more easily. Then comes his father accesses Ray’s internet account, and discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites. Before Ray knows what has hit him, his belongings have been thrown on the front lawn, and he has been kicked out. Angry, defiant, Ray heads to downtown Toronto. In short order he is robbed, beaten up and seduced, and he learns the hard realities of life on the street. Could he really sell himself for sex? Lots of people use their bodies to make money — athletes, actors, models, pop singers. If no one gets hurt, why should anyone care?

A gritty Young Adult novel, Money Boy doesn't pull any punches about what it's like to grow up Asian in Canada when your father finds out that his son is gay. Sadly, this is someone's reality. [Young Adult, ages 15 and up]

5. Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

Clara Lee likes her best friends, her grandpa, kimchi, candy necklaces (her signature look!), and the idea of winning the Little Miss Apple Pie contest. 

Clara Lee doesn't like her mom's fish soup, bad dreams (but Grandpa says they mean good luck!), speaking in public, or when her little sister is being annoying. 

One day, after a bad dream, Clara Lee is thrilled to have a whole day of luck (Like!). But then, bad luck starts to follow (Dislike!). When will Clara Lee's luck change again? Will it change in time for the Little Miss Apple Pie contest?

That Clara Lee is Korean American and living in the mostly Caucasian mid-west is a subtle point in this story and that's the beauty of this easy chapter book for ages 6 and up.

4. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan

Marisa gets to help make dumplings this year to celebrate the New Year. But she worries if anyone will eat her funny-looking dumplings. Set in the Hawaiian islands, this story celebrates the joyful mix of food, customs, and languages from many cultures.

Perhaps it's because my kids are all mixed up being of mixed ancestry including Chinese, Japanese and Korean, but that is increasing becoming more and more common. Again, it's the food that connects everyone to each other and to their culture, even if it's a mixed-plate. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

3. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho is back, and this time he’s facing his biggest fear: The Great Outdoors.

Alvin Ho is back and his worst fear has come true: he has to go camping. What will he do exposed in the wilderness with bears and darkness and . . . pit toilets? Luckily, he’s got his night-vision goggles and water purifying tablets and super-duper heavy-duty flashlight to keep him safe. And he’s got his dad, too.

Lenore Look’s touching, drop-dead-funny chapter book about an Asian-American second grader—with illustrations by New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham—is perfect for beginning and reluctant readers alike, and has tons of boy appeal.

Lenore Look's book have wide appeal that break down barriers of race. Her Alvin Ho series is just plain humorous and if Alvin Ho is a quintessential geek, that's beside the point. [easy chapter book for ages 7 and up]

2. Ting and Ling: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin

Ling and Ting are twins. They have the same brown eyes. They have the same pink cheeks. They have the same happy smiles.

Ling and Ting are two adorable identical twins, and they stick together, whether they are making dumplings, getting their hair cut, or practicing magic tricks. But looks are deceiving--people can be very different, even if they look exactly the same.

This is a pitch perfect easy reader for kids who are just starting to read on their own. It has Asian references like making dumplings but Ting and Ling have wide appeal to any child of any ethnicity. I think of it as the heir to the Little Bear series. [easy reader for ages 4 and up]

1. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Shang

In this humorous and heartfelt debut about a split cultural identity, nothing goes according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu.

Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She's ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother's sister, is coming to visit for several months -- and is staying in Lucy's room. Lucy's vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.

Wendy Shang is the heir to Amy Tan in children's literature and The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is a spot on realistic portrait of what it's like to be third generation Asian American with all the pressures of high expectations but with the self identification of being just like everyone else. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Thanks Mia! I would also add both of Lisa Yee's Bobby books (Bobby The Brave , Bobby vs Girls ) and Lawrence Yep's Cockroach Cooties to the list.

Additional reading suggestions welcomed! Add them to the Comments below. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Asians in the movies.

 Link to the larger image: Link

116 of Hollywood’s greatest stars on one stage at one time to celebrate Paramount Studio’s 100th anniversary. It's interesting to see which stars were actually chosen. I guess in some respects you have to be happy to see at least three Asian faces in the group, from left to right: Tommy Chong, George Takei and John Cho. The interesting part to me is the under-representation of Asian females in the group (perhaps Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh were booked that day). Anyway, photographically speaking it quite a feat to have such a large group together and apparently not that much photo-shop trickery involved. For those of you photo geeks out there (like me) here's the set up info, the shot was taken by famous celebrity photographer Art Streiber:
The 40-foot stage, 116-person photo needed flattering, even light all the way across. This setup used no light stands, no C-stands and no medium or high rollers. Instead, Art’s crew of 10 assistants used 57 Profoto heads, and gridded 34 of those heads with Magnum P50 dishes as the key light. Because the stage was so wide, he couldn’t use a big side light. Instead, Art would have to light from above. He decided to mimic the “Broadway” style stage lighting, which is a fairly hard light source, up high above the audience. 63 frames on a Hasselblad H2 camera with the new Phase One IQ-160 back and a 150mm lens, provided by his digital tech, Eric Vlasic at With Technology. He shot the photo in three sections, and his retoucher, Angie Hayes at the Happy Pixel Project, seamed the images together in post. However, it’s important to note that all 116 people were on stage at one time. Nobody was stitched into the photo, nobody was added in post.
Thanks to FStoppers for the post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How the CDC can help you shop for next winter

Summer is around the corner, so the local sporting goods store is clearing out their children's winter gear at 50% off. One of the things the kids will need for next winter is some snow pants. But with kids growing so fast, it's hard to figure out what's going to fit them next winter. So even though we might be saving 50% on last season's gear, there's no guarantee that what we're buying will still fit by next winter.

Now thanks to these charts provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you can take some of the guesswork out of buying seasonal clothes ahead of time. And for a cheap RiceDaddy like me, that means I could buy the previous season's gear for half-off and still be sure that the gear will fit next year!

If you've ever looked through your kid's file at the pediatrician's office, you will notice that their height, weight and head circumference are all plotted on these same charts. Here's how it works:
  1. Find your child's height on the y-axis. In this example, the child is 42.5" (107.5cm) tall.
  2. Find your child's age on the x-axis. In this example, the child is 5 years, 4 months (metric equivalent unknown :).
  3. Find out where those coordinates meet, and find the closest percentile curve upon which your child's measurement lies. In this example, the child is on the 25th percentile (the line right below the heavy red line which represents the 50th percentile).
  4. Since the child in this example will be about six years old next winter, trace that age from the x-axis up to where it intersects with the percentile curve your child is on. On the 25th percentile in this case, it appears that the child will be about 44" (111.5cm) tall by this coming winter. That's a growth of about 1 1/2 inches.
Note that there are different charts to track length/height, weight, head circumference for boys, girls, birth to 36 months, and from 2 years to 20 years old. Be sure you are using the appropriate chart for your child.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

CD Giveaway! Mista Cookie Jar's Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution

In honor of today's release of the sophomore album by Los Angeles kindie rock family band (and Rice Daddies fave) Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips, we are happy to be giving away 5 autographed copies of the new CD to Rice Daddies readers.

If you're not familiar with the music of Mista Cookie Jar, a.k.a. C.J. Pizarro, he calls it "Urban-Island-Funky-Rock-N-Roll for the Inner Child." His first album, The Love Bubble, has been on repeat in our house for a long time, and it definitely makes children of all ages get up and dance.

Case in point: I just hit "play" on the video below for "Happy Place," off the new album, while writing this and my three-year-old daughter just ran over to the computer for the other room where she was playing with my iPhone.

CJ is one of the scant handful of Asian American kindie artists I've been able to find, and I'm so happy to be able to support him not only because he provides an Asian American face and voice for my kids but because, also, he's really good! It was honor to share the stage with him last November at Skylight Books in LA when he came out to perform at a reading for Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood.

Enjoy the "Happy Place" video then scroll down for how to enter to win your own signed copy of Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution:

To enter to win one of five signed copies of Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution by Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips, send an email with "Mista Cookie Jar" in the subject line to by this Friday, May 11, at midnight PDT. To purchase your own copy now on CD or download, go to cdbaby or iTunes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

An attack on stay-at-home moms, or a Republican hail-Mary?

Thank you, Rachel Maddow! I too was wondering why Ann Romney deserved an apology. I don't get why Democrats turned on Hilary Rosen or why they let the Repubs turn this into an issue.

Being the wife of a guy from a politics family worth hundreds of millions of dollars does not even come close to putting Ann Romney on the same level as women who work for survival--or even regular middle class women who don't have access to the wealth that pays for help. It's a "choice" for Ann Romney because she's filthy rich; not everyone has that "choice." It's insulting how Romney made this statement against working women by turning to his wife and then suddenly pretends Hilary Rosen was attacking stay-at-home moms. It shows how out of touch the Repubs are with real women.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

That's someone's child

I’m an avid road cyclist, and my riding buddies fit the stereotype: tough, quiet, spandexed. Before Eliot was born, I liked to soften these guys up by telling them how excited I was about my imminent fatherhood. I remember one of them—one of our team’s tougher, quieter, more spandexed members—telling me that after having his first child he could no longer watch Law & Order or CSI, or any of those procedurals whose drama revolves around the killed and the killing, or the dead and the dying.

“That’s someone’s child,” he said. “I just can’t handle it anymore.”

It’s a simple sentiment, perhaps, but the force of its generalization still moves me. Even if I felt then that it was somewhat overstated, it feels considerably less so now that I’ve made the transition from expectant father to father. At the very least, it’s become far more difficult to handle stories about children dying—and almost impossible to hear about them being killed.

There’s nothing I can say about Trayvon Martin, or his case, that hasn’t already been said. Ta-Nehisi Coates and his Atlantic Monthly colleagues have been our best guides to his story's twists and turns. Bruce Reyes-Chow at Hyphen’s blog has even tried to make sense of the overlap of Asian American privilege and what he calls “white” privilege that he sees lurking beneath the “lack of privilege” that marked Trayvon as a body to be targeted, pursued and shot down. Numerous others have attempted to see themselves through the lens of Trayvon’s death, and to mourn the persistence of racism.

But the voices that have affected me the most aren’t the angry ones, or the historical ones, or the legal or political ones, though each of these have played a crucial part in how I’ve come to understand Trayvon’s death. The most affecting voices have been the ones that see their own children in Trayvon, or even their own hypothetical children. I’m not in the habit of being moved by the emotional ploys of politicians, but I really did believe in the pain Obama was trying to convey when he said that if he had had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon.

Trayvon’s death hurts in many ways, not least of them historically, so of course the old divisions have been busy policing the authenticity of pain and identification. Black commentators have criticized white commentators’ claims that Trayvon reminds them of their own children, and confessionals of white guilt have flooded the airwaves and blogosphere. These discussions certainly have their place and I think we owe it to Trayvon to think through them as carefully as possible, in all their uncomfortable complexity. But the reason I’m writing this post is not to add to any of that.

The reason is because… well, it’s because I thought I'd ask us to pause for a moment and look at Trayvon's face. I think most of us have already done this, but there's something important in that pause. There's a feeling I get that I think most of you get as well, and I'd venture to say it's the powerful feeling of the general and specific coinciding. He belongs to us—and that matters tremendously.

Just look at him.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Being an "elitist," or just protecting your kids from processed food?

It has been a grueling last couple of weeks for me, as some concerned neighbors in my area have banded up together and tried to fight against developers seeking to build a Taco Bell in our community, right down the street from our elementary public schools. It's been grueling because while I'm fairly good at getting conversation going on a blog, it's an entirely different world when it comes to food. Life is complex. I think most of the people in the community are against Taco Bell for the same reasons: processed unhealthy food, increased traffic, late night carousing in a family neighborhood, and increased litter and petty crime.

The issue--and I will admit that I didn't know this was an issue beforehand--is that there's a huge gulf in our culture with respect to food, and it is very much related to money. I thought I was doing the right thing by telling people and linking to one restaurant's views on how Taco Bell threatens the local food businesses in our area, but that may not have been the best thing to do--I had never eaten at this restaurant and hadn't realized how expensive it was and how it could keep most people out! Obviously, not everyone, including me, can afford an $11 hamburger made with meat from grass-fed vegetarian cows. People think my perspective is elitist. Which is partly undeniable--even though I can't afford to eat at high class restaurants, I feel it's undeniable that restaurants that serve organic and responsible food are better for the health of the country than a chain that pops out processed meat in tacos that cost 99 cents. While I can't afford an $11 hamburger or a $17 pasta dish, I buy organic chickens and eggs, and I mostly buy organic vegetables--which cost a hell of a lot of money. We keep salt, sugar, and processed food to a minimum in my house. I could probably cut my grocery bill in half if I brought in more flavored cereals, chips, and ready-made TV dinners. But I don't it's good for my kids, which is very elitist. We've got a horrible epidemic of childhood obesity in this country, childhood allergies and genetic issues are out of control, and while I don't know if I would blame it on the food industry, it's one of the main variables that has changed during the 70's when I was born. I'm not against Taco Bell, per se, but it doesn't belong around kids. The food is bad for kids, and the traffic for the neighborhood is bad too.

So what is the solution? It seems like it's hard to be a good parent without being somewhat elitist.  There are just too many choices, and when you cut down the cheap choices and insist on food that is more expensive, you're being elitist because you're discriminating against people who don't want to pay a lot for food. There just is no way around this political minefield. You can't win them all, and you have to do what's best for your kids. Right now, corporate America and fast food corporations are declaring a war on our kids, and they're winning. Even a rich and famous guy like Jamie Oliver gets push back.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rice Reader: Ed Yau and Sage

Responding to a call for personal stories about school at my K2twelve blog, Ed Yau wrote me about the challenges he faced getting his son into a Pre-K in New York City. Sage, the app that resulted from his tackling the difficult process of placing his son in a public Pre-K program is the running for NYC Big Apps 3.0. Click Here to vote for it.

Guest Post: “Sage” by Edward Yau

It still blows my mind that my 3-yr old son is ready for Pre-K in the Fall, but the reality was even more stark when it came time to figure out how to actually get him into a school. I started this research process with nothing more than a few vague notions from friends and family. The fact was I knew absolutely nothing!

I hit a wall as soon as I started. The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) website is jammed pack with information and I didn't even know where to begin. Since I wasn't familiar with the terminology, it took me awhile to even figure out how to find the school I was 'zoned' for. After reading up on eligibility and following the recommendation that we visit at least several schools, I came up with a list of schools that are geographically convenient to our apartment. However, it was clear that we couldn't just tour every single one of them. So I painstakingly started downloading school progress reports and putting together spreadsheets in order to somehow narrow the list down. Once it was time to tour some schools, I found myself printing out the school information I had compiled before visiting, just to remind myself what I had thought and to come up with questions to ask.

I got tired of the cumbersome process and decided to use my geek powers to build a mobile website called Sage (See: I figured I couldn't be the only one suffering through this research process, so I designed and built Sage as a tool to help parents quickly find the schools that they are zoned for or close to. School performance data is neatly presented. Sage could be used by parents searching for schools as well as those looking to monitor their school.

Even though Sage helps you find a school's performance easily, it's important to remember that the letter grades given by the NYCDOE need to be taken with a grain of salt. The worst part is that these letter grades are highly political and no one seems to want to talk about them. I had to grill at least three educators before I could get a straight answer about what they mean. Statistics can be massaged until you get the answer you want and the NYCDOE includes many subjective factors when they come up with the letter grades. Whether or not it's fair, schools that improve year over year are given a lot of credit, which means their overall grade may not reflect how the students are actually doing. I found that the best thing to do is to compare the letter grades against the actual state test results, that way you can gain a little more insight on what's behind them.

Letter grades and test scores offer useful information about school, but there is no replacement for attending a tour and getting to know the people that run it. There is much more to a school than its test score.

More about Sage:

Sage ( Check out for a brief video and description. It’s been submitted into the 2012 NYC Big Apps competition, so please check it out and cast a vote starting on before March 9th! There are very few apps for parents on the competition, so it's important that the tech community knows that we have a voice. You can use it on your Android or iPhone device, but it will also work on Chrome and Safari on your desktop.

Here the resources that I found myself using the most:

NYC Department of Education: Obviously you’ve got to start at the source of it all!

Inside Schools: The best resource guide for schools. Provides reviews, parent comments and more. A must see.

School Book: By the New York Times. Another awesome resource for finding school information. Lots of stats, charts, graphs, articles etc. Another must see.

Demystifying Pre-K Enrollment in NYC: An insightful look into one mom’s experience getting her child into Pre-K.

I wrote up my search in bloody detail here:

Thursday, February 23, 2012


El (7, Chinese/Japanese American): I'm rooting for the Miami Heat.

Me: You're not rooting for Jeremy Lin?

El: Why would I?

Me: Well, he's Chinese American and you're Chinese American.

El: I don't like Chinese.


Monday, February 13, 2012

APDA: Asian Parental Displays of Affection

Am I the only one who thinks about the infamous battle between Kirk and Spock in “Amok time” (Star Trek Season Two Episode One) when it comes to Asians and public displays of affection?

It’s OK. You don’t have to admit to anything. I’m not trying to out anyone. Let me take the brunt of the ridicule and taunting. But at minimum admit that the rigid ritualistic act of dating in traditional Asian cultures is very… Vulcan.

Wandering Apricot has a funny post about it. (You might say, it’ll “bowl” you over – read her post, you’ll see what I mean.) And I’ve written about how the older generation of Asians aren’t a particularly touchy-feely crowd. I cited a 2009 BBC article called “No Kissing Please, We are Indians.”

There’s a lighthearted post on the Mom N-Stinks blog pondering why her children get “grossed out” every time “me and Adam hug and/or kiss.” The Nickelodeon Parents Connect blog says “the fact that your kids have begun to see your displays of affection as "gross" is probably all the more reason to keep it up.”

They go on to say appropriate relationship behavior is one of the life skills parents teach. Julie Hanahan at the Chicago Parent offers a glossary of romantic gestures parents might consciously model for their children. They include holding hands, hugging, kissing, and flirting.

I can safely say my parents never “gestured” (at least not in my presence – I mean they had me and my sister, so they had to have at some point.)

I can also safely say, I’m not going to win any awards for having healthy relationships.

But I’m hesitant to say that the two correlate. I just can’t with a clear conscience blame my bad relationships on the lack of “gesturing” between my parents.

Instead I’m going to copy and paste a chunk of text from a 2003 commentary by Jonathan Le:

Americans associate affection with compassion and openness. American affection happens instantaneously -- you hug your sister, she hugs you back, everybody is happy. Asians associate affection with keeping appearances and being loyal. Asian affection is more patient. It could take as long as a whole lifetime to manifest itself. It's more implied than shown outright…

These parents assume that because they have taken care of their children since birth, it should be obvious that they care about them, that they love them. And there isn't really any need for them to smother each other with hugs every day. Though, they tend to forget that, "not every day" does not mean "never again."

I think his closing lines say it all: "not every day" does not mean "never again."

He’s talking about displays of affection between his parents and him, but the conversation can be broadened to include “gestures” between husbands and wives, partners.

While he admits to being jealous of his American friends hanging on their parents like monkeys, I don’t think Jonathan is proclaiming the Kirk-style full on hug  superior to the Spock-style “Con, Good Job.”  I think he appreciates the uniqueness of the expressions and wonders every now and then what the fruit tastes like on the other side of the orchard.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Daytripper: Recommended Reading for Dads

If I were to put together a “Recommended Reading” list for dads, Fàbio Moon and Gabriel Bà’s Daytripper would definitely be on it.

It’s tough for me to talk about it without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it yet. I suck at being coy with the details – especially when it comes to a story like Daytripper -- where I’ve been so eager to tell to anyone who’ll listen about it.

So let me warn you now: POSSIBLE SPOILERS.

If you are the type that gets put off when an ending is prematurely revealed, STOP HERE. I’m more of a “process guy”. I’m more interested in how the story got to where ever it ends up than the ending itself (though in this case, it is the ending that makes sense of everything on the “trip”).
Daytripper is a surreal journey that might immediately be mistaken as one man’s life flashing before his eyes but after the second chapter it might be that the man being shown alternate lives so he can pass in peace. Providing an itinerary for the “trip”, each chapter is named after the man’s age as it relates to that part of the story.

The story begins with the grown (32 year old) son of a famous father waiting across the street from the auditorium where his father is to receive an award. He is in an empty bar killing some time before the start of the event. He starts out just wanting a pack of cigarettes, but the bar is empty and the bartender seems friendly (Conducive for “just one drink”).

The bar is named “Genaro”, so it is natural for, Bràs, the son of the famous father to ask the bartender: “So, are you Genaro?” The bartender responds: “That’s what most people think. But, Genaro, was my father’s name… He named it after himself. I just inherited the place.”
“You could have changed the name of the bar,” Bràs says.

The bartender, Genarinho, responds, “It would still be his bar and I would still be his son.”
Bràs: “We’re all somebody’s son, right?”

Genarinho: “Right. We just don't get to choose our family.”

Genarinho’s nephew enters the bar. This is where the introduction ends and story begins.
Bràs is a writer like his father. But unlike his father, no one recognizes him as a “cultural icon”. He writes obituaries, which either Jorge, Bràs’ best friend, or his girlfriend (I can’t remember) tell him is as equally important because of the sense of closure they offer to the surviving families of the deceased.

I wouldn’t say Bràs is jealous of his father (at least not in the poisonous way that drives soap opera plots). I would say Bràs wants to be a peer to his father. In the events leading up to the start of the story, you are told that Bràs’ father has forgotten his birthday and has forgotten to invite him to the ceremony being held in his honor. It is his mother, who urges him to go and it is Bràs who leads you to believe father has done this before and that Bràs does not interpret it as a personal slight but as a slightly painful part of his father’s personality. So of course he is going to the gala honoring his father, direct invite or not.

Among the many themes possible in Daytripper is the one of “action”. Bràs struggles with his inertness. The example that comes to mind is how, when you were a young child, you were told to stay where you were, if you were ever separated from your parent and lost.

Bràs is lost. He is not unhappy about his job as a obituary writer but he is uninspired by it. He wants more. Bràs is lost and doing what that lost child was told to do – staying right where he was when he realized he was lost and waiting for a parent to find him and set him back on his way.

His friends – Lemanja (goddess of the sea and protector of children)  – even his parents – all tell him to take action – to decide – and be on his way. But he has many reasons – both real and invented -- for hesitating. In the context of the story, you are never told whether the events that happen to him after the bar are real or imagined.

Another possible theme in the story directly addresses the relationship between father and son – legacy?

There is no doubt about the influence Bràs’ father has on his life, though it is not an intentional or direct influence. Bràs’ father is not depicted as being overbearing or domineering. It is more a condition of how Bràs empowers the image of his father in his life. I say “image” because his father probably has no clue about the weight of his actions on his son.

As a father of sons, it is the ending of Daytripper that makes it a must read for fathers. I wish I was smart enough to properly convey the sense of its profundity I felt when I read it. I can say though that it is a lost letter from his deceased father found within the pages of Bràs’ first book. And add that the way the letter was found and who found the letter is very symbolic of the relationship between fathers and sons.

As a father to son(s) and/or daughter(s), what books or movies would you recommend to new dads? In addition, to Daytripper, I think all Rice Daddies should watch Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid and I Not Stupid Too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sorry I couldn't resist, with all these videos circulating on the internet why not this one:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tiger Math

As a parent and a former elementary school teacher, I cringe every time a parent tells me his or her child’s teacher “can’t teach” or “doesn’t teach right” – And when that teacher is a math teacher I drop to the floor, curl up, and squeeze my eyes shut real tight -- I wrap my arms around myself and rock myself and tell myself that everything’s going to be alright –

You see, my mother -- my Tiger Mother – “taught” me math because my American elementary teacher didn’t do math “right.” 

The “right” way to learn math was to memorize the “rules” and complete page after page of timed workbook drills. If I failed, I stood in the corner of the dining room, faced the wall, and recited the times tables from zero to 12 until I was asked to stop (and not before). 

I spent hours quietly tracing the faint lines and mottled designs in the wood paneling on our dining room wall. Sometimes I’d imagine microscopic race cars speeding around and around the wavy tracks. Sometimes it would be a train – a steam engine – chugging along a dangerous mountain passage with its treacherous curves.

Now, mid way through my 40s, I still stumble on my times tables and I need a pad and pencil to write the numbers down -- so you see why I get a little twitchy whenever a parent tells me his or her child’s math teacher isn’t teaching math “right.”

BUT I’m an adult.

And as an adult, I’ve come to accept math as a necessary evil like heavy drinking at the end of a particularly hard day. I have a truce with math. It accepts that I will always stumble when it comes to doing even the simplest bit of arithmetic in my head and I accept that I will need to do simple bits of arithmetic in my head when I count out scoops of coffee or measure cups of rice to water or figure out the appropriate tip after dinner out.

As a parent and an educator -- a former elementary school teacher, now a curriculum developer – I want more from math for my children. I want them to LOVE math (not just tolerate it like I do). I want them to see as much value in the challenge of solving a particularly complex equation as they do getting to the next level on a videogame. I don’t need them to become mathematicians or engineers but I would like them to have the same enthusiasm for puzzles and disciplined approaches to solutions.

Currently,I am familiar with three classroom math curricula: TERC, Everyday Math, and Singapore Math. The former is well intentioned but often too repetitive and laborious. The latter is my favorite because it acknowledges the need for memorization, appeals to the visual learner, and incorporates Language Arts in its answers. The challenge to the latter is helping students like myself build rote memorization skills.

Unfortunately, I don’t think too highly of the middle. I want to believe it is well intended but where TERC does not provide enough direction, Everyday Math is overly prescriptive. Students spend a lot of time doing math but very little time thinking about it. Their so-called Journal is a repackaging of the traditional workbook instead of a place for students to write about math and construct a deeper understanding of it.

BUT as a result of its over-prescription, Everyday Math is able to offer a well organized site for parents that is correlated to the its classroom textbooks. This is an accessible and easy to use resource for parents wishing to work collaboratively with their children’s teacher to support math learning outside of the classroom. Neither TERC or Singapore Math provide this level of teacher-parent collaboration.

I like Singapore Math because,  based on the way it was presented to me several years ago at a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) conference, students are allowed to draw out a problem. They are literally able to draw pictures to represent the information given within a word problem. Also, a solution is not complete until they write out their answer in a full sentence (meaning the answer to a word problem is not just a digit like “4” but a written statement like “There were 4...”)

And while I like the drawing and solutions written out in a proper sentences, I am burdened by the painful truth that the success of Singapore Math relies on its expectation that students will memorize and quickly access core math facts like multiplication tables.

I draw a distinction here between the teaching multiplication tables and the automatic recall of them. Stumbling on the later does not mean failure of the former. Stumbling on recall might mean devoting attention to teaching and modeling methods of memorization instead of additional teaching of the content itself.

I am a fan of musical mnemonic strategies. Schoolhouse Rock taught me English and Math (as well as American History and Science) --

I should clarify – School taught me English and Math and American History and Science but it was Schoolhouse Rock that helped me remember what I was told. 

There are several “Tiger Endangering” mnemonic methods in addition to song. Another favorite is having students create their own flash cards or better yet they create their own matching games where the equation must be matched with the solution.

For example, making the set from index cards and markers, one card might have “4x4” on it and another “16.” With all the cards face down, the goal would be to match “4x4” to “16.” Students would play the same way they would play a store bought matching game with pictures. The exercise builds memory skills and creates associations between equations and solutions.

The Math Department at Kutztown University has posted some familiar math rhymes and anagrams to help students remember their math facts – Including the lyrics to the Schoolhouse Rock “Multiplication Rock” songs. The Mathematics Learning blog has a post on “math mnemonics” that includes an informative comment thread. And the Math Forum @Drexel provides a list of suggested mnemonic techniques from teachers around the world.

I am pleased to say that none of the materials I came across suggested standing in a corner for hours, repeating the times tables.


The YouTube clips at the top are from Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid Too. It and the movie that came before it, I Not Stupid, deeply impacted my parenting. Schoolhouse Rock’s My Hero, Zero seemed appropriate for a surviving victim of Tiger Math.

Originally, posted at