Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cheney Equals Evil Genius

nuff said

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Castro Loves Obama

Nope, your eyes are not deceiving you; indeed, this propaganda piece was paid for by McCain. Implication is of course that: Castro hates the United States government; Castro likes Obama; therefore, Obama hates the United States government. So simple. I’m not so much disgusted with the paid advertisement as it’s predictable of McCain. What irks me is that some people will actually be fooled by such blatant tactics of falsification in order to incite fear. Hey, if Bush can get “elected” twice, anything can happen.

It’s amusing too that most Americans believe Fidel hates us because we stand for democracy and he’s a communist dictator. I’m no fan of any dictatorship, including our own, but Cuba can boast a literacy rate of 99.9% and universal healthcare. I dare say I don’t think Bush hates or understands us enough to even think about our welfare.

Most Americans cannot comprehend why Cuba doesn’t follow suit and go by way of a liberal economy. Instead, Cuba supposedly oppresses its people causing the mass emigration of refugees to our shores. And Cuban government anti-American rhetoric is rather bold for a former colony. Those who subscribe to the ideas above undoubtedly are not familiar with U.S. “gunboat diplomacy” and the need to aggressively influence governments globally.

I speak of the USS Maine incident where this un-welcomed naval ship appeared in a Spanish colonial Cuba with the pretext of safe guarding the lives of 8,000 U.S. citizens on the island. The following day, the USS Maine sunk in an explosion resulting in the deaths of 266 men (the majority of which were black servicemen and foreigners). Though four initial investigations from all sides came to inconclusive findings, lead by William Randolph Hearst, the U.S. media was already engaging in “yellow journalism” pointing to the Spanish as the culprits. Anti-Spanish sentiments grew resulting in the Spanish American War that lasted four months and ended with Spain ceding both Cuba and the Philippines to the U.S. in 1898.
Sunken USS Maine
Though Cuba was formally granted independence in 1902, the U.S. still retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs, supervise its finances and foreign relations, and lease Guantánamo Bay for U.S. bases. Independence never felt so good *cough cough*. With the rise of the Castro led revolution (or Marxist uprising as believed in some camps), Cuba received real independence (from all colonial masters) in 1959.

The resourced followers of the toppled Batista regime left or were chased out of Cuba and entered the United States. They have over the decades formed large ethnic communities and developed substantial political representation and clout, all with the anti-Castro/anti-Communism ideology. Some have likened these power holders to the mafia but that’s another story.

The U.S. did not take this defeat by Castro’s hand well and immediately began secret campaigns including the infamous “Bay of Pigs” and several aborted military missions during Kennedy’s administration. All in all, it’s reported that schemes and/or attempts by CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro stands at a staggering 638 times. No wonder there’s bad blood.

So, McCain’s clever campaigning relies on the ill-informed and undereducated population for success. More power to him, I’m sure he’ll get lots of takers.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Star Wars Celebration Japan

As I write this, Japan's 30-year anniversary of Star Wars is in full swing. For the uber geeks, you may ask, but Star Wars first showed in the U.S. in 1977. You would be right my little padawan. In fact, back in the day, it took a good year before movies arrived on other shores landing in countries like Japan. Star Wars has global appeal but the connection to Japan is special. After all, George Lucas cited the influence of Akira Kurosawa's 1958 film Kakushi toride no san akunin, or The Hidden Fortress, while creating Star Wars. Additionally, the adoption of Samurai rankings and costumes is undeniable.

I give a quick shout out to the biggest Star Wars fan I know, Han Park, who's at the convention hobnobing with some of the most influential artists and creators of the Star Wars series. He loves Star Wars so much he actually gave himself the name Han. Just kidding. that's his real name. What a koinkidink though, huh? Very jealous of the great time he's having and hoping I'll get a tee-shirt or two from the event when he returns. Han is pictured below with Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi (or possibly Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padawan Anakin Skywalker).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Diagnosis Du Jour

I read really REALLY slowly. Taking years to finish a fiction is not out of the question. I write 'b' when I mean 'd', 'p' when I mean 'q', and I cannot remember a phone number to save my life. I am certifiably dyslexic; that is I have a certificate that states I am dyslexic. Most everyone in my world knows this as it conveniently excuses my horrific spelling skills. But, I'm rethinking about sharing that information with people, why, because inevitably the individual will claim s/he is dyslexic as well. I don’t need sympathy. Actually, I fibbed, sympathy is nice; after all, I do have a learning disability. However, I don’t care for comments like, “Oh my god, me too me too. I take forever to read something. Oh, and I’m really bad in math.” Sorry, that does not qualify you as a dyslexic.

Believing one possesses some dyslexic symptoms is quite harmless really. What I find odd however is when people casually claim they or those they know have other types of serious clinical mental illness or disability. These armchair psychologists, as I like to call them, throw around words like paranoid, schizophrenia, pathological,…as if they know what it all means. But, just because you swear like a sailor does not mean you have turrets. Shit, I’d have a hardcore case of turrets if that were true. A breakup does not automatically result in depression. You may just be a moody @#$%^! and still not have bi-polarism. Thinking your girlfriend is cheating on you does not make you paranoid. And enjoying sex, a lot of it, does not warrant the sex maniac label. Still, armchair psychiatrists use clinical terminology as casually as asking about the weather. Where are they getting these terms in the first place?

Armchair psychiatrists are only guilty of mimicking their licensed counterparts. The official psychiatrists base their (often) bogus diagnoses on current theoretical findings that may or may not have been scientifically well proven over time. I say this because it’s clear to me theory, like fashion, is trendy. Consequently we have the diagnosis du jour. If you had issues in the late 1980s and early 1990s, you were depressed and needed the "happy pill", Prozac. If you showed skillful multitasking but was focused challenged in the 1990s it was because of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADD-ADHD (in children and adults). The 21st century also supplied a slew of diagnoses. Real biatches relied on the Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) to explain away their bad behavior. Those who felt their family life was a war zone could argue they had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Autism has become a slippery umbrella term to represent a gamut of issues afflicting child development but still has no clear meaning. The latest trend is if you have trust issues you could be experiencing Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), an outcome of never bonding with your caregiver at the earlier stages of development.

I don’t mean to belittle any of the diagnosis above. Some people have real mental and emotions conditions that should be addressed through therapy and/or medication. I do however have concerns when the myriad of fashionable clinical terms get doled out at the rate of condoms at a gay pride parade. Doing so could arguably: diminish the value of the diagnosis itself; undermine those with real afflictions; and put many in a state of panic for fear they have serious medical issues.

It’s generally agreed that stigma against mental illness and other disabilities have waned over the years. This is a good thing. However, when certain diagnoses gain in popularity because psychiatrists over diagnose, that’s not a good thing. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd venture to say the pharmaceutical industry has something to do with that. Trendy psychiatrists with big egos may be another reason.

This is but a cautionary message in hopes of preventing thinking individuals from mislabeling others and also ask one to stand up to misdiagnoses.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Journey Home - The Arnel Pineda Story

There exist some staples in expatriate communities worldwide: living beyond ones class, not knowing the native language, wife swapping, kids in international schools, and Filipino cover bands. It was in one of these expatriate communities that a youtube video of a Filipino cover band emerged, and Journey found their new lead singer, Arnel Pineda.

40-year-old Arnel Pineda who performed since he was 13, came from a modest family of tailors living in the Philippines. Arnel's mother passed away when he was a young child and thereafter he had to fend for himself living in utter poverty. Now considered a national hero, Arnel is living the dream of so many Filipinos at home and abroad; it is to be a star.

It seems that showmanship flows through Filipino veins. Be it in a career singing, dancing, acting,...they all want fame. Even incarcerated they will put together a crowd pleaser. I wished I knew the answer as to why. I can, however, speculate on the reasons for the cover band phenomena. Many may not know this, but English along with Tagalog are the national languages of the Philippines. How is this? Well, Spain ceded the Philippines to the U.S. as result of the Spanish-American war and the Philippines remained a protectorate of the U.S. from 1898 to 1946.

Through cultural hegemony, the U.S. subjected Filipinos to American style education. English quickly became the de facto national spoken language. Furthermore, the neo-imperial indoctrination created a colonial mindset where Filipinos looked towards the U.S. as the "mother country" and held its inhabitants in highest regard.

Filipinos that could not go to the “motherland” then created a semblance of the U.S. imagery on Filipino soil. This included embracing all things American and mimicking perceived American culture such as pop music. With this long history and connection with the States, Filipino musicians have had generations to perfect the U.S. musical sounds. Due to supply and demand, many cover bands were exported overseas and have appeared in expatriate communities like the one mentioned above.

So, in some ways it is erroneous to claim Arnel Pineda comes from another world to join the 1980s iconic American band, Journey. The U.S.-Philippines connection was forced long ago and Arnel is simply coming “home”.

Image above is of Arnel Pineda's former band, The Zoo.
Below is a CBS feature of Journey's comeback, highlighting the addition of Arnel Pineda.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Colonialists Defeat of Imperialists Day

I have not celebrated the U.S. Independence Day since fireworks were made illegal in California. Without the joy of lighting a firecracker that can blow out your eardrums or starting up a Whistle Pete that you have to run from or else your toes gets seared off, what is left to celebrate? What will we be celebrating anyway, the defeat of the English imperial military by the Colonialists of the new world? But, maybe I’m a minority in my thoughts.

Actually, in the immigrant community where I come from, we often celebrate the U.S. as the harbinger of freedom and democracy. It was after all the U.S. that helped us keep communism at bay until the eventual Fall of Sai Gon in 1975. I think grateful would be an accurate sentiment many feel for the opportunity to resettle in the U.S. To keep this image pure, we’ll just sweep under the table that the OSS (precursor to the CIA) were in Viet Nam during WWII and they along with the Viet Minh nationalists led by Ho Chi Minh (thought to also be nationalist but history has shown he was a communist trained and supported by both the PRC and USSR, and on his own possessed Indochinese imperial aspirations) fought Japanese occupation. But, when the war ended, the U.S. chose to return the power to and fund the military occupation by Viet Nam’s previous colonizers, the French, rather than allow Viet Nam its independence.

Vietnamese Americans love our boat-person-made-good stories too. Possibly one of the most notable is that of Viet Dinh. In 1978 as a 10-year-old boy Viet Dinh escaped by boat from Viet Nam with his family. They left everything and risked their lives for freedom elsewhere. Having resettled in the Orange County, Viet Dinh excelled as a student and eventually received his law degree from Harvard University. His stellar record continued as he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, taught at the Georgetown University Law Center, and served as the New Mexico Republican's special counsel for President Clinton's impeachment trial. The pinnacle of his career remains his service as the Assistant Attorney General of the United States from 2001 to 2003, under the Bush administration. In this position, he was attributed as being the chief architect of the Patriot Act (One). This piece of work is documented to violate only the First, Forth, Fifth, Sixth, Eight and Fourteen Amendments.

The ramifications of the U.S. “War on Terrorism” condoned by the Patriot Act has reached far and wide and turned on its own people, or should I say, Viet Dinh’s own people. In 2008, the U.S. and Vietnamese governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This means 8,000 Vietnamese nationals who arrived in the United States on or after July 12, 1995 (or before the U.S. and Viet Nam normalized diplomatic relations) are subject to repatriation back to Viet Nam. 7,300 of these have had prior criminal convictions. I’ve heard the older generation in my community say things like, "good riddance, they are the bad seeds anyway." What they don’t understand is many of these "criminals" have lived nearly all their lives in the U.S. They don’t know much about Viet Nam, a country they or their families most likely escaped from to find freedom – not unlike Dinh’s family. More over many have served their time, have spouses and children in the U.S. and now contribute positively to their communities.

The irony, of course, is that during Viet Dinh's rise to greatness, he took along with him his refugee story and it served him and proponents of a hawkish stance on the “War on Terrorism” well. Doesn’t it make sense and justify the doing away of civil liberties of suspected or perceived terrorists when a refugee is the author of the Patriot Act? So, now, thousands of his compatriots will be deported back to Viet Nam because they or their families did not realize their “permanent resident” status secures them from nothing.

So, on this day of celebration, I salute Viet Dinh and all those shortsighted opportunists who either choose to ignore history, have historical amnesia or are too dense to get at the truth. I bow to their lack of compassion for the nuanced circumstances of real lives. And I applaud their obvious affinity for irony.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bougie Pet Owner

When did I become a *bougie pet owner? During my childhood, we got our dogs free from neighbors who never thought to spay their mutts. Other dogs joined our family when they showed up in our backyard one day. Now, I own freagin’ “designer” dogs (that probably came from puppy mills and) that are essentially overpriced mutts. I love my puppies, I do, so because Bijou got the royal treatment during her spay, Loki enjoyed the same today. I even drove 1.5 hours to my old vet to ensure Loki got top care during her first and hopefully only surgery (okay, and it was cheaper too). Still, what’s wrong with the bargain basement prices the SPCA offer? Nothing, I say.

Bougie vets are good about squeezing every dime from my sorry-ass, guilt-ridden, wanna-be **AYUP self too. But I did resist. “Does Loki really need anesthesia?” I asked naively but maybe came across coldly. “Uh, yeah,” the vet answered with shock. But I didn't stop there; I bargained too. Hey, the world is my Saigon market and a fancy vet clinic is no different. Okay, maybe you can take the immigrant pet owner out of the ghetto, but you cannot take the ghetto out of this self-minted bougie pet owner.

It’s recovery time for Loki and I didn’t skim on the pain meds. I also bring water and food to her in bed. She has my constant attention. That kind of devotion I suppose is priceless. Here she is pictured drugged out of her mind.

*bougie : derived from bourgeoisie and can mean aspiring to be affluent or those already in the upper class. also used as an adjective to describe extravagance.
**Aspiring Youngish Urban Professional