Saturday, February 06, 2010

Chicago Department of Public Health destroys Homegrown Food

What happened?
Monica Eng covers the story of a small business whose Valentine's Day business was been destroyed by the Department of Public Health.

The story's horrible from all angles:
1. The food was locally grown.
2. It was destroyed despite the owner begging it to be donated.
3. The city is demanding that each business in the space pay $600 to apply for a separate permit, but then destroying all of the businesses' supplies whether they are compliant or not.
4. The city is setting a separate standard for large businesses over small.
5. The city is destroying food in the middle of a depression and claims of insufficient resources for public health.

Who was hurt?
Beyond the general damage to our community, you can learn more about Flora Lazar here. She sounds like someone who is living out of love--quitting big time positions to follow a passion. Passion, not money should make the world go 'round. On the one hand, she is the little guy being tromped by the bureaucracy--we must support her. On the other hand, if she didn't have some background of privilege, would we even have heard about this story? How many people is the city abusing in this fashion?

What can you do?

1. The new health commissioner is Dr. Bechara Choucair. The city website hasn't even changed to have the proper contact information.

No disrespect to Dr. Choucair--he's only been in office for a little over a month, but this looks like another department that does not run efficiently to serve the needs of the people of Chicago. That's no surprise--Daley's corruption hits every area of governance.
Here's the listed general contact info if you want to act on this issue:

General Information,
Address: 333 S. State St.
Rm. 200
Chicago, IL 60604
Telephone: (312) 747-9884
Facsimile: (312) 747-9765
TTY: (312) 747-2374

2. Demand reform in the City of Chicago's governance. This city is current run by a priority list that puts the people of the city last behind every single patronage interest in the city. Let's change that.

Monday, September 07, 2009

President Obama's Speech Features Julian Student

I'm so proud of Shantell who was highlighted in the notes for tomorrow's Presidential Address to the children of America. She is even more amazing than she'll sound in the speech. I'm very excited that our wonderful, world changing students are being highlighted for their prodigious lives rather than the usual focus on the violence and loss in our communities.

Here's the text of the speech from

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event

Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

09.01.24 Jet Alumni Association Shinnenkai

On January 31st, Julian's Japan Club traveled downtown to volunteer for the second year in a row at JETAA's annual New Year's party. A great time was had by all, and even some work got done.

The kids participated in a chopsticks contest, shodo calligraphy art, gyotaku (Fish painting), kimono/yukata dress up, and Wii bowling. Students also helped sell raffle tickets and won a few prizes!

We ate tonkatsu, o-sushi, and other Japanese cuisine from a local Japanese-Hawaii restaurant.

It was great to see the Kelly and Julian kids working together and I think it was a good experience for the JETs to meet kids from our part of the city.

Much thanks to JetAA and especially Emi for reaching out to us!

Catching up

In a situation of a great writer quoting another, Oliver Wang profiles himself on Angry Asian Man by referencing James Baldwin. "I want to be an honest man and a good writer."

I'm relatively successful at being an honest man, and horrible ineffective as a writer. I'm too impatient, too manic and generally too immature to sit down and document everything that I ought to.

But my little experience in the area tells me two things:
1) Write from your weaknesses--I have a horrible weakness for attention and projecting as "the woman who does everything more beautifully than you do" so I think I'll get back in the game by documenting my schedule a bit.
2) Much more importantly, I believe that we are fighting the most critical battle in the history of public school education, so I hope that if I coldly document my weeks, I might slip in some of the joy and beautiful detail of these actions.

I'll probably fail as usual and be gone for a dozen weeks or more again, but I'm going to try, and even if it's just a couple things here or there, it's better than nothing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Drive Teacher Award Ceremony

I got featured in this awards ceremony last month. It was pretty cool--a good chance to highlight some of the things the kids are working on. I get kind of weirded out by all the glitz--why do chairs need to be wrapped?

I'm sitting on this Teacher Leadership Advisory Council with Arne Duncan now. Not sure if it's going to be fluff or real action, but I hope it can affect some sort of student, teacher and community empowerment.

Can't get the thing to load. I'll link it for now. It's in episode 7, last part of the new season. If anyone knows what's wrong with the embedding, give me a hand. Peace.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

This is why I'm hot

Today we had "extended division"=shortened classes due to another random standardized test for the Freshman and Sophomores. The actual tests will be held on Monday and Tuesday, and the lunch period classes will be cut to 30mins a piece while the other classes will be cut entirely.

I imagine most of the kids not testing won't come at all.

On extended division days, all classes are cut from 41 minutes from 46 minutes. Students usually have 4 minutes for passing time and extended division days are no different. The extra time is put into the "division period" which is basically what most folks know as "homeroom". In fact, officially, last year, they rebranded "division" as "homeroom", but none of the other vocabulary using "division" got changed. So you get "extended division" days where you sit in "homeroom".

The extended division days are relatively frequent and they are used to allow for paperwork to be done, and assemblies and the like. However, we aren't usually told ahead of time, so sometimes you find out that it's an extended division day when you are in the middle of your first lesson and suddenly the bell rings and everyone runs out of the classroom while you are in the midst of saying, "We only have about 5 more minutes left, so make sure you get the home---*ring* oh crap!"

Then you have no idea what you are supposed to be doing during the time, so the kids all rush in and say, "Do we have extended division today?" and you say, "It looks like it!" and they say, "Why?" and you say, "Well, that is the critical question!" and they say, "Do you know the answer?" and you say, "No."

Some teachers have told me that you never say you don't know because then the kids will think you are weak. That's not my experience. The kids aren't stupid. If you get stern or change the subject, they don't think you are strong, they think you are a liar.

I'm not a liar. So I just tell them that things are broken and I'll tell them everything I do know.

This sounds doom and gloom, but it's definitely not. I love my division, I mean homeroom, like nothing else in the world, and you really must hear about them.

My homeroom is a "demo" division as in "demoted". It's basically treated like a quarantine cell for people who are about to no longer be with us. Most divisions or homerooms or whatever have a number like "913" where "9" stands for the year the class is going to graduate. For example, "2009". However, if you are in a demo division, your number gets pushed back, so instead of "913" you will be "050" in the whole wrong year, and with a number in the middle of the rank like "050", "060" or "040".

So when anyone sees my kids' schedules, they say, "Oh! You are in a demo division! Demo! You slow or something?"

My students are Senior age, and they are in there for different reasons. A bunch failed a ton of classes their freshman year. Another handful transferred in and they've been waiting for like 2 years to get their credits to transfer. Others didn't do service learning hours, or they were entered wrong. A couple are actually Juniors, but the computer system put them in the wrong division, so they have mixed feelings--they still get mocked for being in a demo division, but they are hoping they can graduate early.

In most demo divisions the average GPA is approximately 0.8. The vast majority of students in such divisions never see the stage as they drop out.

I don't like the name "demo division", so I call it a "second chance division". In some cases, it's a "third chance division", but regardless, I really love my time with them.

On most days, I have them for just 12 minutes, and then they run off to their next class, or at least I hope. In those twelve minutes, I am scrambling to prep for other classes, but we manage to chat a bit and mostly troubleshoot.

I'm a little too lax on them, but I think it's actually helped them stay in school. For a kid who's thinking of dropping out, I don't see how arbitrary authoritarianism is going to help the situation. So they know that they need to publicly follow school regulations, but I try not to dress them down if they need to use a piece of contraband to call the doctor's or sit on a desk instead of in it or pull out their hat for a minute.

When they come in reeking of weed, I ask them if they know what they smell like, and how they plan to keep it from messing up their days if they run into security or messing up their teetering grades.

Mostly, I just commiserate when they get mistreated over something stupid like the fact that they are Seniors with a Junior division number, or told that since they aren't going to graduate anyway, they don't get choice of which classes, even though they really need flexibility in their schedules the most since many are taking regular school, night school, Saturday school, and Summer school to get caught up.

I tease them, "For how much you don't like school, you sure are here a lot..."

I ask them daily, "So are you going to make it?" "Of course!"

So I ask them, "I know you are. So what's your plan? You need to get up that grade in Math! Talk to you teacher!"

But I live for these extended division days. Some kids bring homework--as I encourage--but many don't. I used to bring in movies. I try to bring in something thought provoking and entertaining. Lately, though, they go into crazy debate mode. They choose the topics, and I let them go; interjecting once in awhile. One week it's sexual orientation, the next drugs, sometimes sports, housing policy, crossdressing, school rules, sexual protection, and on-and-on. Yesterday was politics. They really don't seem to like Palin. Today was, "Who is the greatest rapper alive?"

They'll get up in each others' faces, but then moderate for each other as well. They'll quiet everyone so their opponent can explain, "Gucchi repeats himself too much and just makes up words! That's not flow, that's just garbage!"

It reminds me how they pass the time brilliantly when they aren't sitting in a structured class teaching them about something they aren't particularly interested in.

When I want to interject, half a dozen kids wave their arms and say, "Hold up, Barrett wants to say something!" and I explain how mainstream rap is too competitive, and collaboration is what's really powerful. Jay-Z battles Nas, but Jay-Z never gets big in the first place without Nas. Some pick it up and others try to tear it to shreds. One asks me, "How do you know this stuff if you don't have a TV?"

They begin to critique the songs they bumped last year and the year before, "Mims, that was weak! Why did we ever like that?"

One of them, AM, was an expert on Chicago Housing Policy--brilliant. But it mostly just jaded him to school in general. Why should he try to learn from a system trying to push him off the face of Chicago. We talked and I tried to get him to stay, but he ended up dropping out and getting him GED.

When grade reports come out, I go over them with them, and we talk plans. "You are failing Ms. C's class?! How do you even do that?!" "Yeah, I don't make it on time..." "Go talk to her! You need that class!"

And they do make it. Of the thirty I had their Sophomore year, most have transferred or dropped out, but some have been transferred in. I now have a core of 15. Most "second chance" divisions graduate about 10%. I expect to be able to read at least 10 names in June and see at least another couple walk in the Summer after the Summer term.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Something I needed to tell you

"A" was a troubled young man. He was charming and attractive, and basically a good kid. He would do fine when I sat down with him and talked things out, but could not function in a class of 40. He was angry, and it would often come out in seemingly ridiculous behavior. Once he wiped dogshit all over the inside of the classroom because he was struggling with an issue outside of school and wanted to hurt others.

On Friday night, it is still unclear what happened, but what I understand is that an argument erupted into physicalities--as often happens in our environment. It was broken up and A headed home--about a block away. The young man he had fought with was waiting for him. A was shot straight on in the chest. He was rushed to a hospital that my wife has often worked at, where he died on the table. He was not a good student and tried his best to grow into a good man, but he was 17 years old. He never really got a chance to grow into one.

When the shooter is found, he will be crucified, but it won't really solve anything.

The school is full of good, smart, attractive young men and women, who have had the worst indignities visited upon them. Some grow into amazing leaders in the face of adversity, many grow hard and bitter and sociopathic, and most just do what they need to survive and get through and end up somewhere in between; a reasonably large number die before they see their twentieth birthday.

On Monday, or some rapidly approaching other day after another good youth dies, the Mayor will go on the TV again and remind everyone how much he cares and give the police some bigger guns and vilify students for gang involvements and tell everyone he will lock up the evil shooter and throw away the key.

And then the next day or the day after another gunshot will sound, and another good young person will be dead.

When people feel powerless, they seize power. The rich play games and toy with others, the middle class buy stuff and the poor, well they grab anything they can have the tiniest semblance of control over.

Or any of us can devote our lives to service and improve the world and help others in a kind of power that does not melt.

However, as I walk into school tomorrow, students will sit in classes, 40 of which have no regular instructor, many of which are core subjects with over 40 students enrolled in them, and no funding for the very extra curricular programs which teach students to turn to community improvement instead of violence to feel meaningful and powerful. And they will grieve and try to come up with a thoughtful response. In some they will be berated by their instructor or sub for not "paying attention" or "sitting quietly". If they are lucky, they'll be able to see a counselor.

Can you imagine just sitting in a classroom, told that you are ignorant and need to take your education more seriously, and not having anyone in that room to qualified and interested in educating you? It's enough to drive any person insane.

Of course, that's not every classroom, and there are a good number of teachers--many smarter and stronger than me--who try to make up for that, or what I do--try to grow the tools so that the students can voice than injustice and demand change.

We have told the district again and again that the students need a loving, consistent, competent adult in every classroom from day one. Instead they point to a dearth of funds, pour millions into their pet schools, and sit on their $500 million surplus.

When your (and I don't mean you personally) kid grows up and makes a mistake that swindles ten thousand people out of their retirements or homes, he'll give a simple "my bad", we'll pay our taxes to save his ass, and he'll parachute into a beautiful pile of millions he made off of his incompetences and improprieties.

When my kid makes a mild mistake or no mistake at all, he'll won't see another sunrise.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I see none of the three.

But I don't say this without hope. Everyday is a beautiful struggle, and while today is far stormier than most, it has meaning and tomorrow I will be ready, and I will be a healing drizzle misting over the scorched earth that my students miraculously burst forth from, and grow along their prodigious paths.

In the end, many will inexplicably make it, and I hold hope that they will forgive you and I for the sins we have visited upon them.

Peacing out the TV

Liz and I finally got rid of our TV. My old folks took the one that lived on our landing for a year and a half to their new place, and we moved Grandpa's ghost television to replace it.

Grandpa's ghost television is one of the many artifacts that I ended up with after he passed early in 07. It automatically turns itself on or off frequently. It was kind of comforting to interact with all of its quirkiness on a daily basis--it reminded me of my grandpa.

I got home last month and a whole bunch of nice furniture had appeared in the living room. I guess Liz ended up buying some stuff. I threw the old Target entertainment furniture to the curb. Usually I feel like crap throwing out anything, but this was more something that should never have been bought in the first place. At this point, the wooden backing was coming off and was too flimsy to reattach. The nails kept jabbing me while we dragged it outside.

After we set up the new furniture, we weighed the TV. It was too heavy to sit on the new furniture. So we put it on the landing and set up the stereo. We went out to look for a new TV.

After an hour or so, we realized we didn't really want to drop $600 on something that would make our quality of life worse. So we just headed back home and left the mini-compo (stereo) in the center of the new entertainment system.

For the first week, everyday when I got home, I would sit on the couch for a few minutes and stare at the stereo. I think I've gotten used to it. We still get together and watch the news on one of our computers every other day or so.

I think it's working out. I'm no less busy, but I'm going to try to blog again. It's been about three weeks now, and I've been getting more work done.

I'm still thinking about snaking an extension cord out to the landing--not to watch TV, but so Grandpa's ghost TV can turn itself on and off.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Names we must never forget:

This is a short off-the-cuff piece reflecting on the Ng INS murder:

This is a crime drama. Like CSI: Miami or those dozens of other piece of shit shows we watch on TV. It’s the story of a hardened criminal who never saw trial, but was probably guilty of his crime, wanting to love and raise his two sons. Wanting to live with his wife. The system, our system does not suffer criminals or family values gladly.

Names We Must Never Forget

Emmett Till. Anne Frank. Wong Shee.
Born in the wrong place. Born the wrong color.

Hui Liu Ng age 17, bright-eyed the New York Skyline.
Jason Ng. Studied. Graduated. Worked. Married. Loved. Fathered.

We must remember our promises:
We welcome those who come and follow our laws,
Respect the legal process.
Our mistake. Your court summon was sent to the wrong address.

We must remember this date:
July 19, 2007
Five years of agonizing waiting from their wedding day
Finally honored by the green card interview.
Dragged from the room.
When will I see my kids again?

We must remember these concentrations:
Wyatt; The House of Corrections, Greenfield, Mass.; St. Albans’ Franklin County Jail

St. Albans, I cannot sleep.
Unrelenting pain in my back
My skin itching and burning
Where is the doctor, the nurse?

Wyatt, I am alone
Choking on solitary darkness and pain
The only diversion is head count—greater pain
Brother, send help.

“I was really heartbroken when I first saw him”
“After two weeks of suffering with unbearable back pain
And unable to get any sleep, he was so weak and looked terrible”
From 6”, 200 to a shrunken jaundiced octogenarian.

The overseers won’t believe me.
“They tell me, ‘Stop faking’”
If only I could.

Other inmates—the last vestige of humanity.
Help me to the toilet.
Bring me food.
Call home for me.
Can’t see my lawyer.
Can’t walk to get painkillers—too much pain.
They won’t give me a wheelchair.
“Stop faking”

Warden tells my lawyer:
We would like to resolve this case in the best manner:
If we lose, released to the streets.
No doctor. No wheelchair. Sign the papers.
Does warden not have a family?

I tried. Worked. Dreamed.
Gave every drop to be the best American father, husband, worker, citizen.
“Can no longer withstand the suffering within this facility”
“No release as long as he has appeals remaining”

July 30
Can’t move.
Crushing my wrists and ankles in shackles
Dragged from bed.
Two-hours of hellish pain to Hartford
INS bullies me “Drop all your appeals or else!”
Or else what?
“For this desperately sick man this was torture.”

Left with my pain until a federal judge orders medical treatment.
Cancer in the liver,
Fractured my spine.
Calling my sister from the hospital:
“I don’t have much time to live”

No family visits allowed for three days.
Final passage, but only with Social Security Numbers in hand.
My sons
Three-years old
One-year old
My sister
My wife
My guard
Watching my unscrupulous action of dying on a gurney.

“Brother, do not worry, don’t be afraid,”
No more pain, no more torture
“They are not going to send you back to that facility again.
Brother, you are free now”

August 6, 2008
Hui Liu Ng.
Jason Ng.
Brother, tell me.
Why is this the only freedom they offer us?

They killed him. They killed him. We killed him.
Francisco Castaneda, Boubacar Bah, Wong Shee. Jason Ng. 300,000 more in ISN concentration camps. How long will we kill all of them?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wall Street Journal disbands after linking itself to fundamentalist Muslims

If only it were the case..

Obama's top Muslim liaison resigned after pressure from a variety of sources after it was confirmed that as Muslim liaison, he was talking to Muslims--including one affiliated with the Dow Jones, WSJ's parent organization--who according to an obscure internet site were "fundamentalists"
. (Link is to a Trib Article)

That crazy website is here.

I'd like to also add that Sean Hannity is fundamentalist space alien. I said it, and I'm on the internet. I hope the Wall Street Journal continues to be a pillar of McCarthyist thought and goes after him as well.

Update: A kind anonymous blogger has corrected a detail in the comments. Please click through.

Sincere thanks!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Facets Post

Here are the films Liz and I have seen lately:
Eastern Promises
Thank You for Smoking
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Mountain Patrol
Wedding Crashers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Saturday, November 03, 2007

New Orleans Day 2

I sit at a small table at the St. Charles Guest House on the edge of the Garden District as the sun rises on my third day in New Orleans.

Today we will work again in the Lower Ninth Ward, the most affected area of a city devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Here's a video of the Lower Ninth.

Yesterday morning after eating breakfast, the group of us staying at the St. Charles Guest House, were picked up by the Japanese Consulate driver, and brought to the house of Emily, the coordinator of this trip.

There we met the volunteer coordinator for Lean on Me, the non-profit we are working with. Her name was the same of the storm, Katrina. Prior to the Hurricane, she ran a non-profit that aided the homeless in California. When Katrina struck, her husband said that since dealing with the homeless was what they knew how to do, it was time for them to expand their operations. Now Katrina jets back and forth between Sacramento and New Orleans to oversee operations.

With her we traveled to the Ninth. During the trip, Emily remembered that we needed ice and called from the other car to request that we stop. Katrina said to tell her that we would definitely stop, but to follow her cause she knew a place we could stop later.

She explained that because different areas of the city had been affected to greater or lesser extents, it was vital to spend money in areas of the greatest need.

(to be continued)

Friday, November 02, 2007

New Orleans

お早うございます!今朝ニューオーラーンズからBlogします。長くて忙しい週の間に飛行機に乗ってJETAAのボランティア研修に参加させてくれます。昨日の四時ごろ着いて空港で他のJETAA人に会いました。アジア系アメリカ人がかなり多いです。皆が着いたら、空港からSt. Charles旅館へ日本国総領事館人に連れてくれました。




Sunday, October 07, 2007

Florida city ponders banning China

This Florida mayor thought it'd be a clever idea to ban all products from China. As Angry Asian Man points out, he's restricting it to goods $49 and up. Normally, I'd be like this is completely unfounded and racist and blah blah blah, but I don't know. This could be a big thing.

After all, it'd be kind of funny to see a xenophobic Florida revert back to pre-tool civilization for a little while and not have to feel guilty about delighting in it.

We might not know it, but we need them more than they need us...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

U.S. Contractor Kidnaps Workers to Bulid Embassy

A U.S. contracted company told Filipino workers that they could have jobs at hotels in Dubai. They soon found themselves on a plane to Iraq, and didn't find out the switch until the captain announced their destination...

Another triumph for private contracting. I guess folks are right about it keeping labor costs down.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I still haven't seen Borat, and I'm not really sure I want to. I respect Sasha Cohen's satirical skills more than her skating, but I've never been too big on laughing at others' expense.

So what if you absolutely loved the film and hyped it to your friends? What if you were at least partly to blame for every Kazakhstanian in the country having to listen to the same ignorant "clever" questions endlessly everyday? Hate telemarketers? What if the telemarketers insulted your place of birth everytime they called?

For your penance, try reading this article:
Student from Kazakhstan dispels 'Borat' myths
and definitely go see "Nomad", which is now out in theatres and features a mixed cast of Kazaks and others including one of the greatest actors in American cinematic history, Jason Scott Lee.

As many of you know, Lee quit acting to become a subsistance farmer in Volcano, Hawaii. He recently closed his home theatre (not a home theater, but an actual public playhouse on his property!!) in order to fully pursue his environmental projects.

To learn more about Lee's projects, check out his farm's homepage:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Once the Asians Departed, the film won best picture

Inferior Remake Wins Best Picture with White Actors

From what I hear, since my time on Earth is limited and I would rather be kicked in the head by the undead corpse of Barbaro than spend my time watching the Oscars, "The Departed" aka "White Infernal Affairs with White Racist Actors" won Best Picture.

At the Oscars, the film was described as "based on a Japanese film". That's right, they borrowed the greatest cop thriller in human history, produced in the world's capital for amazing cop thrillers, and couldn't even fucking figure out which country it came from? They took the world's greatest cop thriller but had to refilm it because the American public wouldn't appreciate the color of the incredible actors' skin? Moreover, they replaced one of the finest acting performances in the history of cinema with an actor who has a history of racist violence against people of color, including those of Asian descent.


He harassed a group of African American school kids with racist epithets, and when he was 16, again using racist language, he attacked a middle-aged Vietnamese man and left the man blind in one eye. Wahlberg was arrested for attempted murder, plead guilty to assault, and spent 45 days in jail.

And though the right thing to do would be to try to find the man and make amends, Wahlberg says, he admits he hasn't done so — but says he's no longer burdened by guilt.

And why the fuck would he be burdened by guilt? I mean the guy he attacked for being Asian probably has grown a new eye by now, right? Or maybe he's actually Forest Whitaker, one of the few people with a more successful acting character than Marky Mark Asian-Basher" Wahlberg.

But more than invective for Wahlberg, I want to point the figure at the media community we've created again. What does it say about us that they believe we would be more likely to go see an inferior film starring someone who beat someone within an inch of their life out of racial hatred than a superior film featuring something much worse: Some "slanty-eyed gooks" (Wahlberg's own words)?

I say we do find Emmett Till's killers and bring them to justice by nominating them for an Academy Award. Maybe they can star in the remake of "Raisin in the Sun".

What's wrong with "Gay=Asian"?

Epic Asian American community blogger/news service Angry Asian Man (AAM) links another racist incident at an Ivy League school here: Graffiti Found in Blair Hall.

The messages (one of which is captured in the accompanying photograph) "Dry Dorms=Gay" and "Dry Dorms are for Asians", were written as attacks on alcohol-free dorms at the institution.

Often when an incident of this variety occurs, the reactions are polar: "What is this racist/bigoted crap?" and "What's the big deal?"

The perspective gap that exists between the two responses is in many ways the very problem--it's less the actual incident and more the fact that many people, some with considerable power in society equate certain ethnic backgrounds or sexual orientations with a negative connotation. That's something that should be upsetting not only to members of those groups, but anyone who believes in the marketplace of ideas that is supposed to dictate our social discourse. When people are seen with a negative connotation before we even approach their individual character, it points to difficulties in our ability to create a merit-based society.

That's not to say that such speech should be censored. If those sentiments exist--whether they be with intentional malice or not--they ought to be voiced, as only with thoughtful discourse will our society and its understanding of these issues deepen.

But the strange dynamic of this era sees "anti-PC" people attempt to destroy this dynamic while masquerading as crusaders for free-speech. While everyone should have the right to voice their opinions--no matter how racist or bigoted--why do many "anti-PC" folks believe that they should be allowed to both speak their own ideas and be free from any critique or response from those who disagree? In a true marketplace of ideas, there is no place for speech protected from criticism. Why, of any speech, would people choose to spend their energy attempting to deny speech rights to those who wish defend themselves from what they see as bigoted ideas?

But there is another issue involved with the Princeton incident which is also similar to the 2004 Details Magazine "Gay or Asian" incident. There is a clear equation of "Gayness" and "Asianness". Many apologists responded by saying, "What's wrong with that? Do you hate gay people or Asian people?" AAM addresses this well:

The graffiti, written on a whiteboard and a wall in blue dry-erase marker, read "Dry Dorms = Gay" and "Dry dorms are for Asians." That's racist! And you know why? It equates Asians with inherently being undesirable losers. Because it definitely doesn't intend to mean "Dry dorms are for cool people."

He is discussing what is wrong with the equation of not drinking with being Asian, but the same principle applies. Words do not have some universal meaning, no matter what self-absorbed fools who wack-off to Webster's might insist. This is no-brainer. In the same way some might call their best friend an "Asshole" but probably wouldn't call a stranger walking down the street with a sledgehammer the same, context and intent matters.

Being upset has nothing to do with hating Asians or homosexuals. It has everything to do with being angered by hatred directed at either group. Members of Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY) explain here: Details Says "Gay or Asian". We Say Gay AND Asian.

At GAPIMNY, we were outraged by Details Magazine's "Gay or Asian?" feature. In it, writer Whitney McNally revived a history of stereotypical images of LGBT API peoples and thinly veiled racism, homophobia, and classism as humor.

So why does the "anti-PC movement" exist? Why would well-meaning people want to attack minority groups' opportunity to speak against bigoted speech?

My guess is "history". Historically, majority power groups have enjoyed the ability to denigrate others with impunity. Naturally, it would be a culture shock to wake up one morning and find that this cowardly way of artificially boosting one's lacking self-esteem is no longer received positively by large section of society. Think empathetically for a moment: You are unsatisfied with yourself for a moment, so you attack a minority group in a way that has always in the past gotten a laugh and little bit of positive attention, and suddenly you find yourself being attacked instead.

I can understand why it's so upsetting and disorienting for aversive racists, sexists and homophobes. Their world is truly falling to pieces. That's not to say we ought to humor them--their destructive values must be tested in the marketplace of ideas and ultimately they will fail the test.

But we have the ability to show empathy, even when we do not receive it. Let's demonstrate that ability.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chicago Politics

Daley won :(
I had another marathon day on Tuesday--a full five-class day plus two and a half hours of night school teaching. So I decided to vote before school when the polls opened at six. I never received a polling place notification card, and a lot of the locations have changed lately in Chicago, so I was a little worried. I ended up finding my place through the Channel 5 NBC webpage, and as luck would have it, it was the same place as last time.

When I got to the polling place, it was nearly empty, so the judges were just sitting around munching on some of the food. I went up to vote and was offered a paper ballot. It had a different system from the normal ballot, so one of the judges demonstrated how to vote to me.

"Here--if you want to vote for Mayor Daley, just connect this arrow here..."

Really, I'm not kidding. It reminded me of when I voted at the Champaign County Clerk's Office for the 2004 election and was told, "To vote for the President, punch here".

So I voted for Brown, Morfin (who was opposing Daley's crony, Solis) and some random person for the other office, and went on my way to work.

I got through the day and was supposed to meet before night school with my Japanese Club, but there was an emergency faculty meeting. One of our colleagues had been killed in her home. It was crushing--she was an incredible teacher and later, as the kids found out, everyone was pretty distraught. I didn't really know her, but I could feel the pain in the community.

Today I worked through until ten as I had after-school tutoring in the North suburbs. When I got home, my voter notification card had just arrived in the mail today.

I don't know. These are weird topics to tie together, but I'm just kind of writing to purge right now. I hope someone gets something out of it.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

No Surprises

This AP article describes a study which investigated the role of skin tone in earnings of recent immigrants. Researchers controlled for educational background, skills, race or nationality and other factors.

I have no doubt some who absolutely love prejudice or at least are too scared to consider the possibility that it is still an integral part of our social institutions will dismiss this information by saying, "I knew some guy once, who was blacker than the ace of spades who made a lot of money!"

You are free to your own beliefs, but I would encourage people to ask themselves, "Which is a more compelling argument? One I agree with that is anecdotal or just something I made of, or one that is based on a research study that people invested considerable time into making it accurate and significant?"

Anyway, I'm going to go eat some breakfast that my skin tone privilege helped purchase. Peace out.
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