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27 posts from May 2008

May 30, 2008

Bush/McCain Identical Cousins

Fun!

On the other hand, though, I'd like to see this sort of mocking ad have a wee bit more substance. Maybe they'll make it into a campaign.

Please, though, no pointless silliness or fluff!

This, on the other hand, all Republican-voters must play: The Bush-McCain Challenge.

May 29, 2008

Rachel Moss' SASS Friends' IP Addresses

I said I wasn't going to post about this anymore, but cretins are starting to shit in my comments. So I'm going to post any SASS cretins' IP addresses in this post, with ongoing updates. If anyone has any bright ideas about what to do with the IP addresses, please post about it and link to my post and I'll find it. I'm closing comments for obvious reasons.

75.31.117.182
81.169.167.206

probably a SASS commenter:
219.90.248.179

possibly a SASS commenter:
75.142.61.74

probably directed to my site via encyclopedia dramatica:
72.130.16.97

More On Rachel Moss and Her Legion of Losers

I was admiring badgerbag and moondancerdrake for their ability to laugh at/brush off the idiocy at SASS (the place where people reposted Rachel Moss' disgusting fatphobic WisCon report and then outdid her in racism, fat-hating, ablism and all around misogyny.)

But, as I knew would happen, those mama's boys picked up on my post from yesterday and went looking for pictures of me on the internet. When they called me "halfchink" and said that "tall women should die" and posted an actually pretty attractive picture of me on their forum, I have to say, all I could do was laugh. Is that the best they got? Seriously? Like Cyrano, I could insult myself ten times better than they can, and ten times over, without repeating. Plus, how much of my blog did they have to read to figure out I'm a "halfchink?" Hint: a lot more than I would ever read of theirs.

Some dumbshit actually reposted MOST of my post but, not at all surprisingly, left out the stuff about why so many physically ill and abused women are fat. Wonder why that is. Also, that loser had to rearrange my post to try to make it look bad, and failing. What said loser doesn't realize is that the kind of idiots who inhabit SASS really can't edit anything I write because I exist in a completely different idiom ... most of the world does. Oh, also they raised my hit count by posting my "catblogging" archive, all three posts of it. Wow. I don't have to do anything to disarm these guys; they're arm-free already.

I'm still inclined to be angry on behalf of my friends, who don't need to hear this shit anymore, but seriously? What these losers don't seem to get is that we've ALL HEARD IT BEFORE AND WE'VE ALL STOPPED LISTENING TO IT. Which is why my wonderful friends are able to shake it off with a laugh or a shrug and move on. I wouldn't have posted in public about my own "issues" if anyone still had the power to make me feel badly about them. This has actually been instructive to me: hearing that bullshit about me specifically didn't hurt at all, although two days ago I would have suspected that it would have still hurt a little bit.

No one's all that furious about what these cowards are saying about THEM. We're all furious about what they're saying about our FRIENDS. So, my friends and allies, no need to be furious on my behalf. And I'm even going to stop being furious on badgerbag, moondancerdrake, and tempest's behalf. It's not worth my fury because these losers aren't really hurting them.

This is the last time I'm going to post about this idiocy. It's fangless, ultimately, and I have better things to think about.

May 28, 2008

Rachel Moss and the Legions of Hiding Assholes

Those of you who haven't yet heard ...

there's an internet brouhaha going on over a girl -- word used advisedly -- named Rachel Moss, who went to WisCon and posted a con report on Something Awful with pictures of mostly fat and transgendered participants, taken without permission, making fun of these people for their non-normativity. She apologized, then took her apology back. She took her post down, but someone else put it back up without her permission and a dogpile of cretins jumped in to finish the work. By the time they were done, they pulled WisCon photos off of Flickr to add to the mess, making fatphobic, transphobic, ablist, racist, and generally misogynist comments about a wide variety of individuals, many of whom are my friends, and all of whom are at least nominally my allies, by virtue of being WisCon attendees who treat others with the modicum of respect required for this Con. There's a link to a mirror of the original post at Angry Black Woman, who is also calling for people to post about this and make sure Rachel Moss' name is well connected to this on the internet.

I don't care about Rachel Moss -- the culprit here -- and I'm happy to see her banned from WisCon, but I'd be just as happy to see her show up again and get snubbed and hissed as she deserves. I doubt very much she'll even try to come back. Apparently she's on the public (blogging) record as having an eating disorder of her own--bulimia--which makes this attack both more understandable and more disgusting. I'd ask that no one who comes through this post attack Rachel Moss for her eating disorder--that's her problem--but rather for her unacceptable behavior regarding WisCon.

I have the advantage of having been an extremely close friend for 18 years of a woman who suffers from Cushing's Disease, a disease that affects women disproportionately, and that actually makes women fat. I got to see her develop from a physically healthy and average-sized petite 20-year-old into an obese woman in her late twenties, without any "normal" reasons for the change. I got to watch her fight misogynist doctors and careless HMOs for over a decade before she could get someone to diagnose her with the often fatal disease she already knew she had. I got to see total strangers casually call her "lardass" and suchlike on the street, dropping bombs on her when they weren't even in a bad mood (I get the bombs usually when the bombers are in a bad mood), simply because that's what you do with a fat woman.

 

And we're talking about a woman whose obesity was very definitely not "her fault."

But then I've also gotten to see in close friends the effects of early abuse and early eating disorders pushed upon them by family members (I tend to think pushing eating disorders on a child is abuse, but the abuse I'm talking about was often from someone else, and far more serious and devastating than even eating disorders). If these people "made themselves" obese by overeating, what person who knew the kind of childhood they had, the kind of families they have, could possibly blame them or say that their eating was their own fault?

And who the fuck are these people to take it upon themselves to decide that someone deserves to be openly hated -- and to hate themselves -- for a body that they did not choose? Thinking about it makes me want to cry in a way that thinking about all the bullshit that actually touches my own life --- the racism, the stupidity about multiraciality, the neverending aggression I get from men for being tall, and all the put-downs I've had from misogynists --- does not make me want to cry.

My feminism, my antiracism, my refusal to allow total strangers to get me to agree that my tall woman's body is abnormal, all of these empower me. But watching fat people get smacked down makes me want to cry because while most of me is an ally, a small part of me still tugs me towards the smack-down crew, and how can we fight this when I'm also the enemy?

There's still a little voice in my head that agrees with such awful people as Rachel Moss when they say awful things about fat people. I've come close many times to stomping that little voice out, but it's a tough one. It's the same voice that tells me I'm fat, but it's okay as long as other people are fatter. I know a lot of you out there know that voice, even if you won't admit it.

Rachel Moss knows that voice, only she has completely failed--if she ever tried--to stomp it out. She's let that voice take over, and it's a monster's voice. That's what she's turned into for the time being: a monster, who's projected her hatred of her own body onto the bodies of others, to get some relief. Who can really doubt that that's what's happening with women who hate on fat women?

And who can doubt that that's what's happening with women who hate on disabled people? I read the blog of a friend every day who posts about how much pain she's experienced that day and whether or not--and for how long--she was able to stand before having to resort to her wheelchair. Her blog strikes me dumb because nothing I experience puts me in such physical pain and I can't even properly imagine it. And some ... god I don't have bad words enough to express it, let me resort to other languages ... some turtle's egg, some drecksau posted a picture of her in her wheelchair and called her a "cripple" and someone else hoped she'd get cancer and undergo chemo so she could cosplay Charles Xavier.

I'm actually crying with rage as I write this. I don't think I can dig deeper into the comments on that post to find the extraneous shit. So far they've turned a picture of a (black) friend of mine into an icon with the tag "100% N*gger" on it, hoped that a Muslim woman's head gets chopped off, and ... I'm not continuing with this filth. Who are these people? And will someone who knows how to do this please let the rest of us know how to get them kicked off the social networking services they're using so we don't have to hear about their shit anymore?

But all you need to know about shame and cowardice is that every one of those losers posting in comments is hiding behind a username and icon, and every single one of the women they are making fun of is out in the open on the internet.

I'm closing comments on this post because I'm just passing the word on.

PoC Are "Scary"

Why does rivals.com list only players of color on its ten scariest players in college football list? Hint: it's not 'cause only PoC play on college football teams.

Here's their definition of "scary":

Some hit with teeth-rattling impact. Some swoop down on quarterbacks like buzzards on road kill. Others have so much big-play ability that quarterbacks only throw in their direction as a last resort – that is, if they throw that way at all.

Putting together a list of college football's scariest defensive players isn't easy because scary has different definitions. Some may be physically imposing. Some are just athletically intimidating.

Scary doesn't necessarily translate to best, either, because all coaches want players that are efficient and consistent.

Still, there are players who can wreck a play, wreck a running back and make a quarterback a nervous wreck. Here's the list.

In other words, they're all African American--half of them wearing dreds or braids--except for number one:

Rey Maualuga, USC, LB: The 6-3, 250-pound Maualuga is physically imposing – and just plain looks mean. His play measures up to his stature. A two-time All-Pac-10 selection, Maualuga is a punishing hitter who led the Trojans in tackles last season despite being limited at times by a painful hip pointer. He posted 10.5 tackles for losses and six sacks while accumulating 79 tackles last season. This season will mark his third as USC's starting middle linebacker.

Looks mean? You be the judge:

MaualugareyReymaualuga250_0108_2

Item: brown skin

Item: nonwhite features

Item: is of Samoan descent, which is scary

Item: large size (because no other football players are large or aggressive)

Item: tribal tattoos

Item: "ethnic" looking hair

Conclusion: "scary"

There it is again, folks, a stereotype bound up in a pretend compliment. Because in the realm of football it's a good (ish) thing to be "scary," it's okay to call anyone scary, even if the only people you're calling scary are scary because of their race.

And remember Scary Spice? The black Spice Girl? The one who, according to wikipedia, "was given the nickname 'Scary Spice' by the British media because of her outrageous, 'in-your-face' attitude, 'loud' Leeds accent, throaty laugh, manner of dress (which often consisted of leopard-print outfits), and her voluminously curly hair"? As if Posh weren't ten times as scary. (Although, I gotta admit, fucking Eddie Murphy qualifies you as scary.)

Hmmm ... I smell a pattern.

 

All Hail the Mighty Zuky

Racism is like a hellish mosaic whose imagery and meaning can only be seen from a certain distance and with a certain developed ability to discern the patterns at multiple levels of abstraction.

Reading Update

Back from WisCon with much to say and little time to say it in.

Finished reads:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Jane Jacobs, which I will review over at atlas(t).

Terrier: The Legend of Beka Cooper #1 Tamora Pierce.

This was as satisfying as all the other Pierce books I've read (I've ignored the two Circle of Magic series so far, but will probably give in soon), but more so because it's a mystery! This is the first of a series, which I hope will be more than a four-book series, and has the potential to be, since it's a mystery! The character reminds me of Kel from "Protector of the Small," which is my favorite Pierce series so far, in that she is quiet and stubborn. She's a little too perfect so far, like all of Pierce's heroines, but there's hope for her yet. Plus, it's a mystery!

Cons: the only second world poc in this one was a baddie: the mage who poisons people. All the white hats are white except for a black police sergeant who has a reputation for punishing her charges for the way her people have been treated by working them hard in training. Unfortunately, she bears out her reputation and there's no more discussion of it. She's Louis Gosset Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman.

Also, I kept channeling Terry Pratchett's Night Watch series. Although Pratchett's work is piss-take and Pierce's serious, her city of Corus criminal underworld and cop's world is SOOOO much like Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork that I swear I kept expecting Captain Carrot or Nobby to come running around the corner. She's gonna have to work on that. The FEEL of this world is just too much like the feel of Ankh-Morpork.

But humongous kudos to Pierce for finally addressing the working class and working poor. She's sort of done so before in the characters of the Circle of Magic series, which I have mostly avoided thus far (I can't deal with four protagonists in a single series) but they are people taken from all walks of life and thrust into a privileged position, whereas the Dogs (police) in this new series occupy the exact position that a Renaissance city guard force would have occupied back then. They are very clearly from the servant class and are not going to rise above that.

This is partly what makes the book so reminiscent of Pratchett: his Night Watch books fairly reek of class conflict; it's one of the engines that drive his stories. Pierce's (thus far) focus on the privileged classes and the ascension of lower-class people to privilege, vs. Pratchett's ongoing focus on class conflict, is a direct result of their nationalities; Pierce is American and Pratchett is English. Part of the genius of Pratchett is that he takes the weird medieval obsessions of fantasy and mines them for the real human conflicts that would have existed in such worlds if their  authors had been more thoughtful. Pierce's popularity comes from a less sharp, but similar tactic: turning the gender relations of European feudalism on their ears. It seems she's learning from Pratchett, and her world of Tortall is already the richer for it.

Now, if we could just work on that race thing ...

May 23, 2008

At Wiscon

Hey all!

Those of you at Wiscon who want to meet up should:

  1. Come to Opening Ceremonies at 7:30 tonight (Friday) for a Carl Brandon Society-led hootenanny.
  2. Come to the Carl Brandon Party tonight (Friday) after 9 PM in room 623, which we're sharing with the Speculative Literature Foundation. New and renewing members will get a special cocktail!
  3. Come to the Carl Brandon Society update panel tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 AM in Conference Room 5 to find out what's going on with the awards, the scholarship, our wiki, and other cool things we're doing.
  4. Come to my reading with Doselle Young and Alaya Dawn Johnson tomorrow (Saturday) at 4 pm at Fair Trade Coffee at 418 State Street.
  5. Come to the Carl Brandon Society panel "Some of Us Are Brave: Identity Intersections in an Election Year" on Sunday at 4 PM in Conference Room 5.

Plus, I'll just be around, dude!

May 19, 2008

Cat Vacuuming

   

I took this video of me vacuuming Charlie a few years ago and had it up on my mac.com site. But I've killed the mac.com site and accompanying email address, and realized that it was high time I joined the twenty-first century. So here 'tis on YouTube. Yay!

May 15, 2008

Yay!

Stuartjohn

Imagine my immense pleasure, upon hearing the good news and going to the internet, at finding on the front page of the New York Times this lovely picture of my friends Stuart and John whose marriage four years ago in San Francisco was rendered null and void, and who were plaintiffs in the test case upon which this decision was made.

Here they are in a video, with horror writer Jewelle Gomez and her partner.

Stuart, a Chinese/white hapa like me, has been very much on the record about the irony of his own family history: anti-miscegenation laws were part of the national dialogue when his parents got married, and now the Cali Supreme has used its 1948 ruling overturning Cal's anti-miscegenation law to make Stuart's marriage possible.

Congratulations to the plaintiffs ... and to all of us!

May 14, 2008

More Jay Smooth


Jay Smooth demonstrates good sportsmanship.

I think I should just give in and rename this blog "TheaccesstojaysmoothchannelLight."

Stuff Non-white People Don't Like

A lot of people sent me links to Stuff White People Like when it first hit the wind, and, not having anything productive to say and not wanting to be a killjoy, I just plain didn't say anything about it.

But it made me uncomfortable.

I was too busy to tease out why, but Double Consciousness has done the job for me here.

The problem with StuffWhitePeoleLike.com (or SWPL) is that there is actually nothing that offensive (all though some white people have thought it that) or thought provoking within the site. The reason for this is obvious, as whites are the majority in the country that have never experienced racial discrimination, institutionalized or socially. Because of this a site such as SWPL, which purports to "make fun of" white culture, can become profitable and can garner a large book deal from a major publisher.

Whiteness is essentially an invisible and often overlooked (in mainstream culture) factor within the United States and because of this most whites are blind to their own privilege as it is never talked about all that much.

In fact, even when people of color want to bring up certain offensive characteristics of white culture, such as naming mascots after Native Americans, and try to show them how offensive certain aspects are; white people can actually shrug all of that aside and laugh it off. After all, white folks are the dominant ones in society and have all of the advantages that have been built up over hundreds of years of racial preference toward whites; so when a group of Native American students name their intermural basketball team "The Fightin' Whites" in order to point out the stupidity of naming a team "The Fighin' Reds" white people find it funny and laugh it off because it is not a real threat to whiteness.

In other words, if you're already on top, and all the media already talks about your strengths and foibles, a site that DIRECTLY addresses your strengths and foibles by racializing them is just more ego-stroke. Also, this site really addresses white, upper-middle class people.

I'm pretty sure if there was a Stuff Asians Like site for upper-middle class Asians, created by an Asian American, or the same for African Americans, or Latinos,  nobody would have a problem with it. And the fact that there isn't such a site is telling.

May 13, 2008

Obama Gets ...

... reverse Shakespeare's-sistered.

I'm glad someone went to all this trouble because, even though I was seeing the trees and knew the forest was there, I wasn't quite seeing the full forest.

The main point for me here is that, although Hillary has talked a great deal about civil rights for people of color (admittedly, in an increasingly awkward way), Obama really doesn't talk about equal rights for women. And Obama doesn't get name-called the way Hillary does, even by Republicans, much less by other Democrats and Dem-voters.

This doesn't mean I'm not going to vote for Obama if he gets the nomination, but let's get real, people. Rightness does not live in Obama's campaign HQ anymore than it does in Hillary's.

via Racialicious.

Register Your Bone Marrow!

Hey all, somebody else needs a bone marrow transplant.

Actually, a LOT of people need bone marrow transplants. Bone marrow is much harder to match than blood, and it's much likelier that someone will find a match with a donor from their own racial or ethnic group.

But people of color don't register as bone marrow donors in the same proportions as whites. So people of color with leukemia tend to get screwed. Mixed race people especially tend to get screwed.

I'd do it, but my diabetes prevents me from donating just about anything. So instead, I'm passing on the word, hoping that some of you will step up and do it for me.

If you're a person of color, you can get a free testing kit. Click here to register, no matter what color you are!

May 12, 2008

Awesome


Via Angry Asian Man.

May 11, 2008

Quickie

I just read Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm, a YA comic about an 18-year-old girl who somehow brings her 6 y/o, 29 y/o and 70 y/o selves into her 18 y/o present on her birthday.

Pretty darn good, although I was hoping for Kim's art as well as his writing and I think the art was by Hamm.

May 09, 2008

More Affirmative Inaction Damage

As I go through this 21st Century, post-Ward Connerly world, I stumble now and then upon statistics--from all walks of life--that amplify for me not just the potential for disaster, but the actual manifestation of disaster that is the legacy of anti-affirmative-action.

The latest example is from an article on baseball's Barry Bonds, and the Oakland black journalist and editor Chauncey Bailey, who was shot last year for what he was writing (in BeyondChron.org, a Bay Area alternative news source). The article makes it clear that affirmative action provided two moribund Bay Area papers not just with a talented, diverse staff, but also with their first taste of journalistic excellence. Since then, far fewer journalists of color have been developed or supported:

Before Maynard took control of the Tribune, it was a second rate paper owned by the right-wing Knowland family that did not have any Blacks in the Tribune newsroom. Maynard increased the number of journalists of color at the Tribune to the point where Blacks, Latins and Asians made up the majority of the newsroom staff. During Maynard’s 13 year tenure as editor and publisher, the Tribune won every major award in Journalism, including the Pulitzer for the paper’s coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Although Bailey was hired at the Tribune a year after Maynard sold the paper, Bailey was part of Maynard’s legacy and vision to recruit and train Black journalists. A similar effort by the Knight-Ridder chain to increase the number of non-white journalists at the chain’s flagship Mercury-News transformed the Merc from a sleepy small-town paper to one of the best newspapers in the United States.

Bailey, an Oakland native, was part of a corps of Black journalists hired by mainstream media outlets in the early 1970s from programs to recruit minority journalists at Columbia University and UC Berkeley. Efforts by anti-affirmative critics like Ward Connerly have resulted in the demise of most of the 1970s programs created to recruit Black journalists. Most of the Black journalists hired from these affirmative action programs are nearing retirement age or are being forced out of the newsroom because of media consolidation, while many other African Americans with great writing and broadcasting skills have opted to work in non-journalism related fields.

Latest surveys of the nation’s newspapers and broadcast newsrooms indicate that today fewer than five percent of the nation’s journalists are African American; many newspapers and broadcast outlets have no African Americans in their newsrooms. The Chronicle has gone from having nearly 30 African American reporters, columnists, editors and other editorial staff right after the Examiner-Chronicle staff merger in 1999 to less than five today.

Michael Stipe, Natalie Merchant, and Billy Bragg

Found this on YouTube and reconnected with my inner teenager. Squee! Michael Stipe and Billy Bragg on the same stage! Singing John Prine! And what is Natalie Merchant wearing on her head? That's so her, no? Ah, the eighties. We'll never get 'em back, will we?

May 07, 2008

My Wiscon Sked

Is as follows:

Carl Brandon Society Update
Join the Carl Brandon Society Steering Committee for some brainstorming, some celebration of people of color in SF, and an update including information on the Awards and the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship. The gang will mostly be there: Nisi Shawl, Victor Raymond, Candra Gill, Bryan Thao Worra, 'n' moi!
Saturday, 10:00-11:15 A.M.
Conference 5

Red Beans and Rice
A reading, starring Alaya Dawn Johnson, Doselle Young, Bryan Thao Worra, 'n' moi!
Saturday, 4:00-5:15 P.M.
Fair Trade

May 06, 2008

One More Word On Hillary

With regard to Hillary's experience in the White House: We've simply never had a presidential candidate with her kind of experience before. There has never been a real presidential candidate before who was the spouse of a president. So we have no idea what kind of experience Hillary can claim, or how this experience will translate into her own presidency.

That's where this whole confusion about whether or not she gets credit and/or blame for Bill's presidency comes from. We know she was active in his presidency. We know she had a level and kind of access to him, personally as well as politically, that no other politician in US history has ever had to a president before. We know that, at times, her role in his presidency was one of a presidential appointee. We also know that, technically, if she opposed him on anything, she would not only be easily overridden, but would also be personally constrained to keep her mouth shut about it in public.

So we simply cannot evaluate her first ladyship--as a political experience--adequately. This is for obvious, personal reasons: even a president must have his private life respected. But it sets up a situation in which Hillary can claim credit for the good things and refuse blame for the bad, and no one can credibly gainsay her, because no one really knows.

Which is why so many men Obama supporters are saying unacceptable things about how her experience ain't shit, or how she has to take the blame for NAFTA, or how Bill gets credit for anything good she does. Because, although we require women in our society to get their access to power through the men in their families, when women turn that access to power into real power, we don't understand how that works.

Unambiguous power is power accessed directly. This is why we talk about "privilege" when we talk about racially clueless white women. You never hear WOC, even during this last bout of absurd racial cluelessness, ranting on about white women's "power." Because we understand "power" as something that is accessed directly, and any feminist knows that even the most privileged white woman has a limited and compromised access to direct power. "Privilege," on the other hand, is something that can be conferred, or accessed indirectly, through familial or marital relationships, or simply through racial or socioeconomic group membership.

Ambiguously accessed power makes us profoundly uncomfortable, for various reasons. One of them is that ambiguously accessed power renders the line of accountability also ambiguous. That's very dangerous. And we're seeing this played out right now in Hillary's candidacy. She's IS trying to take credit for Bill's successes and avoid blame for his mistakes, and she'll--mostly--be able to get away with it because we just don't know.

On the other hand, what Hillary is actually trying to do here is parlay ambiguously accessed power (through her husband) into real, direct power. Once she is president--or even the party's nominee--she cannot fob off responsibility on Bill, no matter how direct a hand he takes in her campaign, or her administration.

Other countries have allowed women to do this: to take ambiguously accessed power and turn it into real power. But the United States has never allowed it. So far. I've made the argument before that this is the only way a liberal woman can achieve highest office, and I still believe that. And for that reason alone, I regret that this is also the election where race will be tested, because it makes it difficult for us to watch the election where gender roles will be tested and see a "clean" result for either one. And I, for one, am fascinated to see if the most powerful nation on Earth will allow a woman into real power.

Starship & Haiku

51nq3cjherl_sl500_aa240_ What do you get when a burned-out, English-educated, Thai composer, who sometimes resides in the United States, and has read too much Mishima, starts to write science fiction?

Well, damn. You get something bizarre and almost beautiful. I say "almost" because S.P. Somtow tried to structure his 1981 novel Starship and Haiku like haiku--or at least, to make the experience of reading it recall the experience of reading haiku in macro. But it's a novel, which is sort of the anti-haiku form. So neither form--haiku, novel--quite succeeds, and neither quite fails, either. And there's a large admixture of pulpy prose in here, making the proceedings occasionally awkward.

The story: In the third decade of the 21st century, after a devastating nuclear war has left the Earth utterly moribund, politically-neutral Japan is the only country on Earth not left as a post-apocalyptic landscape. Two aging rivals--Ishida and Takahashi--form the powerful arms of a triumvirate that has taken over Japan. The faithless Ishida is the Minister of Survival and the superficial Takahashi is the Minister of Ending, charged with assisting the people to achieve perfect suicides to expiate humanity's crime of destroying the Earth.

Ishida has a secret project. Before the millenial war, the Russians (the book was written around 1980, remember) had completed a starship and left it orbiting the Earth. Ishida has a team of mostly western scientists building a rocket that will take a group of colonists to the Russian generational ship, which they will then aim at Tau Ceti, a four-thousand-year journey. The broader point is to ensure the survival of the human race in the face of its extinction through a devastating virus and debilitating mutations. The more specific point is to ensure the survival of Ishida's own daughter, Ryoko.

Knowing that Ryoko is particularly Japanese (I know, just go with it for a minute) and likely to wish for a beautiful death, Ishida sends her on a trip to Hawai'i to view the devastation firsthand. While there, she meets Josh Nakamura, a Japanese American man, and his younger brother Didi, a "strange" or mutant. Didi's mutation keeps him physically childlike and enables him to read minds and perform a certain amount of telekinesis. He keeps this secret from Josh, for some reason, and Josh thinks Didi is a cretin. Didi is all about joy and beauty and Josh doesn't get the whole Japanese thing.

There's a bit of back and forth and stuff happens. Upshot is that Ryoko develops a relationship with a whale, who (here comes the really bizarre part) reveals to the ministers that (mild spoiler) whales are the parents of the Japanese, a human sub-species that is human-shaped and whale-minded. That's where the Japanese obsession with beauty and death comes from (I know, bear with me a moment.) The whale also outs Ishida's anti-suicide starship plan. This revelation causes the rivals Ishida and Takahashi to kick into high gear. Takahashi becomes a deathgod, hounding people into suicide to expiate their patricidal sin (killing whales) and Ishida sends Ryoko off to make the starship thing happen. And so on.

Like I said, bizarre. On the one hand, there's this insanely reductive view of the Japanese as monolithically suicide-crazy and beauty-obsessed. On the other, there's a fairly nuanced (for 1981) understanding of a Japanese American identity in the person of Josh Nakamura, who may look like he's sprung from whales, but holds no truck with killing yourself after seeing the perfect teabowl or some such shit.

(There's a bit of business about how Josh and Didi get to Japan through trading their dead grandmother's antique teabowl for passage to a Japanese ship's captain who seriously considers immediate suicide since he is unlikely to see anything that beautiful again. The captain tempers his disgust for Josh's inability to see the bowl's beauty with the reflection that Josh was not raised Japanese, so it's not his fault. I have no idea if this was intentionally or unintentionally comic.)

But you can also read this as a secondary world novel, in which the "Japanese" are not our Japanese, but rather what Japanese would be if they were descended from whales. Yeah. Because of all the interesting things about this book, the most interesting is that it's the first SF novel--or maybe even the first novel, period--that I've read that instinctively understands two things about Asian America: its pan-Asian ethic, and its cultural Japan-centeredness.

The pan-Asian ethic is implied rather than stated. The only character whose identity isn't reduced to utter silliness is the proto-JA Josh. While reading Josh's character, you can't help but be aware that the author is Thai, but of a privileged enough background to have been educated abroad and to consider himself among the international creative community. Maybe it's just me, but his presentation of Josh's JAness feels proprietary: the presentation of a hybrid identity that's shared by the author by virtue of being Asian--any Asian--and transnational.

The 80's Asian American Japan-centerness was partly external and partly internal. Japan in the early 80's was on the ascendant, economically speaking. SF was fascinated with it as the supposed culture of the future (see Blade Runner and Neuromancer), and mainstream America was both fascinated by its exotic cultural--and business--virtues (see Gung Ho and Die Hard), and angered by its smooth victory over Detroit (see Vincent Chin). So Asian Americans in the 80's were forced to deal with mainstream America's perceptions of Japan, both "positive" and negative.

On the other hand, the 80's was when the redress movement for WWII Japanese American internment really heated up. (Reparations were finally awarded in 1988.) The Asian American Movement of the 1970's, which created the notion of a pan-ethnic Asian American identity, put a lot of its energy towards redress, and as a result, many Asian Americans who are not of Japanese ancestry feel a strong identification with Japanese Americans.

So it's fascinating that this book was written during all this ferment--and written at a time when American-raised Asian Americans were struggling to find an idiom to tell their stories in. Somtow doesn't explicate this particular Japanocentric, pan-ethnic Asian American sensibility so much as embody it in the book. He might not even have been entirely aware of it.

On another track, the book is a lovely experiment that recalls for me--of all things--Ernest Hogan's High Aztech. They were written about ten years apart and share almost nothing, except--and this is important--length, and hybridity. Both are not so successful as novels, both better read as impressionistic essays on 21st Century cities, technology, and human understanding.

I loved this book, which is unusual for me. I don't often love books this close to failure. But this one has done things I never thought to do with writing: taken the Mishima-style core of beauty and suicide that I've also felt and tried to write about, and made a piece out of it that I would never have thought to make. (My solution to Mishima was to write an ugly autobiographical story about a girl who reads too much Mishima ... but the less said about that the better.)

May 05, 2008

I Heart Jay Smooth

I have such an insane crush on Jay Smooth, you have no idea. I don't know which I like more: the way his lips move, or what comes out of them. Can I have both?

Mishima and Bodybuilding

You're welcome.

May 04, 2008

YouTube/Asia Society API Heritage Month Project

Awesome.

The Asia Society and YouTube have gotten together to post a series of videos from Asian Americans for API Heritage Month. They've started by posting vids about "What does being Asian American mean to me?" from luminaries like Sandra Oh, Kal Penn, and Yul Kwon, but it's open to any ol' slob ... like me. And I might just do it if  I can figure out how.

Clicky here to submit a vid or just watch the other ones.

May 02, 2008

A Note

I just realized that, as I've been reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities for a month now, it's been a month since I read a novel.

And I haven't missed it.

Something's wrong here.

What I'm Reading for API Heritage Month

Okay, having posted the CBS API Heritage Month list, what am I gonna read for it?

Well, I've already read:

  • Ted Chiang STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS
  • Haruki Murakami HARDBOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD

Yes, it's sad. That's all I've read.

I'm going to read:

  • Sesshu Foster ATOMIK AZTEX: I've actually read about half of this book but got distracted and didn't finish. So I'm going to start over and finish it.
  • Cathy Park Hong DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION: I've got it, I've started it, and I'm going to finish it.
  • Bryan Thao Worra ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EYE: I've got it, I've started it, and I'm going to finish it. By the way, go order this book! Bryan is a member of the CBS Steering committee and decorated the envelope he sent this to me in with a personal poem. Cool.

May 01, 2008

Carl Brandon Society API Heritage Month Book List

Hi Everybody!

It's not only MayDay, the day when everybody in the world except capitalist ol' USA celebrates labor, but it's also the start of the American ASIAN PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH.

Yes, it's time once again to celebrate the Asian and Pacific Islander AMERICANS in your life. Don't hesitate also to celebrate the Asian and Pacific Islander whatever else's in your life as well, though.

The Carl Brandon Society
, per our new Heritage Month book program, has come up with a list of recommended speculative fiction books by writers of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. (These writers are not all American.)

The idea is for you to copy this list and put it on your blog, email it to your friends, take it to your local bookstore and ask them to post it or make a display of these books, etc. We also want you to READ SOME OF THESE BOOKS THIS MONTH! They're terrific!

If you do end up reading one or more of these books, or have another API-heritage SF writer to discuss, please consider participating in the Carl Brandon Society's API Heritage Month blog carnival. A carnival is basically a "magazine" of blog posts on a particular topic. You just post something on the topic on your own blog, and then submit your post to the carnival by clicking the link and then clicking on the orange "submit your blog article" button.

Okay, without further ado,

The CARL BRANDON SOCIETY recommends the following books of speculative fiction for
ASIAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH:

  • Ted Chiang STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS

A collection of stories from one of American speculative fiction's most precise and beautiful writers.

  • Sesshu Foster ATOMIK AZTEX

An Aztec prince or a Los Angeles meatpacker? The protagonist travels back and forth between two alternative realities, never sure which is real.

  • Hiromi Goto HOPEFUL MONSTERS

Wonderful stories by the author of The Kappa Child.

  • Cathy Park Hong DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION

The story of a Korean uprising told in pidgin poetry.

  • Kazuo Ishiguro NEVER LET ME GO

In a dystopian England, three children discover that they are clones produced to provide organs to the sick.

  • Amirthi Mohanraj (illustrated by Kat Beyer) THE POET'S JOURNEY

A young poet sets out into the wide world on a journey to find poetry; with the help of a few magical creatures, she finds more than she ever expected.

  • Haruki Murakami HARDBOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD

Mad experiments with the unleashed potential of the dreaming brain.

  • Vandana Singh OF LOVE AND OTHER MONSTERS

The main character wakes up from a fire and doesn't know who he is, but can sense and manipulate the minds of others. He is not alone in this ability. Singh takes us on a metamind ride.

  • Shaun Tan THE ARRIVAL

A wordless graphic novel about immigration and displacement.

  • Bryan Thao Worra ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EYE

Speculative poems that take us from the secret wars of the CIA in Laos to the secret edges of the human soul and the universe.

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