Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bruce Lee Band

This is an old, old song, but my girl dug it out and played it for me tonight, so I figured I'd share:

From the Bruce Lee Band:

Don't Sit Next To Me Just Because I'm Asian

Growing up in high school, I thought I was a popular guy
but then I realized something new it made me want to cry inside
people are using me for my brain
they don't care about who I am
that's when I say

Don't sit next to me, Just because I'm Asian

So this guy he sits next to me, but he doesn't know I know what he's thinking
so I fill out my scantron and then I erase and the poor guy fails his final chance to graduate
and people all think we're smart, but I don't want to be your friend
if all you see me foris my intelligent brain and I say DON'T SIT NEXT TO ME JUST BECAUSE I'M ASIAN!

Lyrics © Bruce Lee Band

From: The Bruce Lee Band CD

Sin City

Last night, after Liz got home from work, we met up with a dear friend and walked around the neighborhood a bit. We were all in the "anything is fine" state-of-mind, which can be a problem in terms of actually walking into a place, but Liz finally saved the day by directing us into "El Mariachi". There were no guitar players there and the food was maa-maa (so-so).

As usually, I planned ahead poorly and had made some homemade pasta and ate it around 3:30, so I couldn't finish most of my meal, so I took it out. On the way back, someone sitting in a closed storefront asked me, "You aren't really going to eat that are you?" I thought of the piles of food I've cooked at home and handed her the package.

We then stopped at a Video Store and our friend wanted to see "Sin City". I was pleased--a lot of my students have recommended it, so I had been dying to see it. Liz being completely disinterested in pop culture (one of the many things I love about her) hadn't heard of it.

We picked up another friend on the way home, and settled down to watch the movie.

I guess I should've known that it was going to be one of those blood opera that Rodriguez and Taratino are known for (by the way, wouldn't Tarantino have been the best choice in the world to play Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings"? I mean they wouldn't have needed make-up or anything...

I can appreciate the artistic value of the completely unnatural, "Good guys kill hundreds of bad guys in different ways" genre. I mean I'm a Hong Kong cinema fan. Additionally, even though I don't think it's the best influence in the world, I trust my students to know the difference between fantasy macrabre and real life violence.

What I was more troubled by was the gender/racial/sexual orientation elements of the film.
I found the movie deeply troubling in the misogynist way all of the women were cast. At first I felt rage, and then when I saw the "Making of" portion of the DVD, I felt sad--here were these three brilliant, immature little boys who really weren't capable of conceiving the idea of a powerful woman whose power wasn't solely focused in her sexuality or ability to kill people based on a racial stereotype.

Well, Laura Woodhouse puts it much better than me. The women are "objects to be possessed". Peep her review of the film here.

I was curious why Woodhouse did not choose to address the ethnic/gender component of the film. After all, it was clear that the white male were the good guys who "earned" possession of the women, the few men of color were asexual, agencyless evil accessories and the women of color were most desirable women to be possessed.

It never ceases to amaze me that a director can have a brilliant, powerful woman like Rosario Dawson and choose to only utilize the fact that she looks great in PVC. I mean, they might as well use me--I can't act, but I sure look great in PVC...

I also have trouble understanding that people could still be entertained by a line like: "Lucille's my parole officer. She's a dyke, but God knows why. With that body of hers she could have any man she wants. " I know it's supposed to be cute, but the idea that Lesbians are interested in women because they can have any man they want and that a great body allows a woman to have any man they want are flat-Earther ideas. Sadly, flat-Earther ideas that a lot of people still put a lot of stock into.

I'm not even going to touch the fact that the only "yellow man" in the film was the "yellow bastard" who was a eunuch, pedophile murderer who smelled horrible and whined for his daddy all the time.

In the end, I was floored by the production of the movie. The transformation from the graphic novel to the film was seamless. The lighting and shooting was superb. And all it went for was an extremely popular, powerful vehicle to strength patriachal and racist dynamics in American society. I'm not scared that my students will watch "Sin City" and go kill a bunch of people--they are smarter than that. But I am scared that they will watch "Sin City" and replicate the very real racist, sexist and homophobic thinking in the film. I see it everyday. So many men still firmly believe that women's power is solely in their bodies and they are waiting for a tough man to "save" them from their helpless states. So many white men still believe that they are the heroes in the society who are allowed to consume women of color and that men of color are their asexual sidekicks. And they believe that LGBT people are just defective people who can't do sex the right (the misogynistic, ultra-hetero) way.

So in the end, is there really that much difference in the agenda of Kevin or the yellow bastard and Hartigan or for that matter Tarantino, Rodriguez and Frank Miller?

Sure, the latter group believes that you "treat women right" but their final goal is still to just consume the bodies they are entitled to.


Friday, August 26, 2005



Jin "The Emcee" got beat in a Freestyle Battle at Fight Klub Monday night. That's fine, you win some, you lose some. I thought Jin's first album was terribly disappointing, but he did record a very intelligent, powerful response to the "Tsunami Song", Hot 97 NYC's racist travesty mocking Asian Tsunami victims.

What was particularly interesting about Jin's loss this week to Serius Jones was how exactly he lost:

Jin began the battle with knockout lines like “He couldn’t milk the game for what it’s worth if he was playing with cows.” However, Jones humorous, but racially charged insults appeared to wear on the Asian rapper.

The crowd erupted after Jones spit, “You’ve been wack your whole career/ ain’t there two billion people in China, you can’t even go platinum over there.” In rhyme, Jin retorted that he would be “assassinated” if he struck back with bigoted raps about African Americans in the Fight Klub. Nevertheless, Jones stormed back with, “You ain’t a Ruff Ryder, you on the back like one of them broads/ DMX tried to kill him for trying to cook one of his dogs.”

I couldn't believe this when I read it. He used the "eat dog" dis and it killed? If the crowd was that wack, why didn't he just use "I'm rubber and you're glue!" The line wasn't just racist, it was old, tired, wack and racist. The only thing worse than biting other rappers rhymes in your freestyle is biting crackas racial slurs in your freestyle.

I mean seriously, the racist American mainstream can sit around and not do shit when our own communities have ignorant fucks like Jones and the crowd at the event parroting their racist drivel around for them. And it's not like it's a one way affair--David Chang, what the fuck was Ghettopoly?!

Some observers defended Jones saying, "thats the way it goes, hip hop is from black people and we can do what the fcuk we wanna wit it."

African Americans certainly made hip-hop and should show some pride in that. But Jones' words weren't hip-hop--they were rap. African Americans didn't make rap. White record execs tricked artists to become ventriloquist dummies and now we are stuck with rap. That's why there's no mainstream hip-hop empowering folks of color anymore, there's just rap--a gatt we use to shoot each other in the face.

I'm not mad that Jin lost. I'm sorry he cared so much about winning that he complained about not being able to use slurs himself. He should have just thrown the mike into that wack crowd and told them to pose on white man's racism on somebody else's time.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Learn Something From a Visionary

What follows is an account of our evening at Jason Scott Lee's house. But first, please read a little about Lee from this article.

Through a ridiculous series of events, on our honeymoon, Liz and I ended up crossing paths with actor Jason Scott Lee. You may remember him from his brilliant starring roles in "Map of the Human Heart", "Rapa Nui", "Jungle Book" and of course, "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story".

While staying on the Big Island, we made a day drive around the perimter to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, so we could hike the interior of the crater and peep the lava floes. On the way out, we had an hour to kill before our dinner reservation, so we stopped at the administrative office for the Volcano Art Center.

While chatting with the staff there, I noticed a flyer for a play "Burn This!" featuring Lee. I asked the staff, and they said that it was at his house, less than fifteen minutes away and there was going to be an opening performance that night.

According to the staff member, Lee bought property in Volcano Town where he practices ecologically sound farming, built his own theatre there, and has performances there. As we left the Art Center, we stopped at the local general store and picked up tickets for the night's showing.

I was so excited that I couldn't really focus on dinner, even though it was at a pretty expensive restaurant. I think Liz was pretty worried since we still had to drive back about four hours to the condo we were staying at and I alternated between gushing ecstatically about the upcoming performance and falling asleep on my place.

After we finished dinner, we went back to the general store and grabbed some rice candy just as it was closing. We napped in the parking lot for a half-hour or so and then headed out to Lee's house. We left the main road front town and traveled several miles over rolling roads as tropical fauna surrounded us. As we entered his driveway, there was a Torii (Japanese traditional gate) that we passed through. The parking lot was basically his front yard.

There was already a crowd gathering out front of the barred theatre doors. We made eye contact and smiled with some of the other patrons, who were predominantly of Asian or native Hawaiian descent. There were some folks speaking Chinese, and then a number of folks speaking in heavy Hawaiian accents. We explored the grounds a little, which had a rainwater hand-washing container, the theatre, a refreshment area, a bulletin board with newspaper clippings about the theatre, and were flanking by Lee's agricultural exploits. The bulletin board had a number of cute thank-you letters from kids who had come on a school trip to learn about Lee's farming techniques.

When I was just finishing reading one of the articles, the house manager emerged from the theatre ringing a little cowbell to signal the opening of the house. We were led around to a side entrance and into the theatre. The manager advised us, "Sit up there to the right--those are the best seats!"

The theatre was beautiful--all wood, hand-built. There were a number of beautiful wall hangings. Throughout the performance there was this unique feel--the sets effectively communicated the setting of "Burn This!"--a loft apartment in NYC, but the theatre felt alive with its life-force of this beautiful setting in Hawaii.

The play itself was an intense experience. It focused on the lives of three friends and the brother of their friend who just passed away. What was interesting was how Lee cast the love interest--himself as the brother, an Asian American actress as the other lead who leaves her rich WASP cokehead boyfriend for him. The fourth role was an African American actor playing the woman's gay roommate. I wasn't sure how to feel about his role--it was written a little too "gay comic relief" for my tastes, but the actor was so brilliant in the role--he came across more as "a witty person who happened to be gay" rather than "guy who is gay and therefore funny". He also was probably the most wise of the main characters and so he ended up being more human than stereotype.

Since we had followed the house manager's suggestion, when the actors would give their soliloquies, they were about six inches from our faces. I was engrossed in the production, but several times, I did catch myself thinking, "Jason Scott Lee is only six inches from me! I could totally just slap him affectionately right now!"

As the show wrapped up, we really wanted to stay and chat with the crowd and cast, but we were worried about driving along the desolate, unlit mountain roads, so we headed out.

There were few others on the route, but the beautiful moon and our spirited discussion of the play guided us safely home.

Looking back, I don't think it was the production itself that made me so moved by the evening. The more I learned about Lee--his refusal to be controlled and used by Hollywood, his commitment to a better society and environment, his desire to mentor kids and young actors, and his strategic approach to issues of race in the entertainment industry--the more gratitude I felt that we had been welcomed to his home and allowed to share in his amazing life.

I mean everyone and their momma has good motives right? But how many people actually sacrifice and change their lifestyle to be better people and create a better society

Another Summer of Growth

I had an incredible summer--took ten remarkable students to Japan, had a wedding them was beyond our wildest expectations with my remarkable life partner and learned a ton during our honeymoon to Hawaii.

I did a bunch of writing, so I'll try to begin updating the site more frequently again (ok, that's a lie, I've never updated too frequently).

Please check me out periodically and drop email when you get the chance. Peace.
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