Saturday, November 29, 2008

Free Hugs Campaign - Importance of the Human Touch

A long LONG time ago, in reaction to me not being into hugs or public displays of affection in general, a dear friend of mine said this, "People cannot live without the human touch." I thought long and hard about that one and came to the obvious conclusion, "yeah, that's true." I imagined a really lonely person; don't know why or how she got there, but she feels isolated. The days and years pass and she lacks the comforts of another person's (or even animal's for that matter) touch. In essence, most of us can relate to this person and the feelings of loneliness. It's a sad state of affairs but what can we do about it?

Then comes along the Free Hugs Campaign to answer this quandary. This movement all started in Australia 2004 with one man who goes by the pseudonym "Juan Mann" (cute coinkidink, huh?). While dealing with issues of sadness during a trying time, Mann returned from overseas. He longed to be back in someone's waiting arms but found no one there upon his arrival. With this earnest desire and equipped with only a large cardboard having the words, "free hugs" handwritten on it, Mann proceeded to offer, well, free hugs. Mann's act was even documented on film and clips were used in the music video "All the Same" from the band Sick Puppies (see below)? His popularity grew so great he also appeared in Oprah.

Juan Mann in Sydney

Now an international phenomenon, these random acts of kindness is a testament to the human soul. It's so widespread that even in places like South Korea where PDAs is seen as immodest, especially by the older generation, you will see the Free Hugs Campaign in full swing (see video clip below).

Jinwoo Shin in Seoul

Who doesn't want a hug? Dammit, I can use one right now going through this writing hell. So go out and hug a stranger. Make sure you can run real fast in case they become irate. When could you have most used a hug and why? Please share your thoughts.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank You for Saving the Savages

My siblings and I ritualistically see each other on Thanksgiving (save this one because I'm tied up writing). We travel anywhere and everywhere to meet up: Atlanta, NYC, San Diego, Davis, Oakland...All our gatherings have been memorable in their own special way. But, one I'll never forget because it began and ended when my eldest brother-in-law said grace.

"God, bless our family and this fine meal, and thank you for bringing the Pilgrims to save the savages." Whooh, Nelly. I nearly keeled over in my chair. Needless to say he and I got into it in a big way. I accused his cherished Pilgrims of being opportunists that would have died without Natives helping them out, and all the natives got in return was disease. I topped it off with how incredibly filthy the Europeans were and how shocked they were to learn Natives bathed regularly. So, take that.

Well, what our family learned from that dinner was to not talk politics or the crazy Berkeley sister will go nuts with her left wing politics. Oh, I don't know, am I that bad? Just because I do not glorify the white "saviors" but rather bare truth to the situation, I think I should not be feared but rather loved and appreciated. So, on this day, I'm thankful that my family still loves me even though I hardly ever walk away from an argument.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Who Knew Pol Pot Could Sing

Ok, it is actually Paul Potts, but close enough.

Former mobile phone store manager, who spent his own savings studying opera in Italy, surprised all of England with his awe inspiring rendition of "Nessun Dorma" at the audition for the first season of "Britain's Got Talent". I always get choked up watching his performance and hearing the story of how he took solace in music when he was bullied as a boy. Never judge a book by its cover, huh?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Pig Speaks - Foreigners Singing in Asian Languages

What is the novelty of someone with European or African ancestry having the ability to speak or sing in an Asian language? Even when tensions exist between Asians and foreigners, there is always curiosity when a foreigner speaks the Asian language well. Thus the saying, "the pig speaks," used in Japan. There are many possible theories as to how a westerner comes to learn the Asian language and why this is so appealing for many Asians. I'll offer a few thoughts here.

I think there exists residuals of the "colonized mind" where, through years of colonization and general occupation by those in the West, the "native" subject see themselves and their culture as substandard compared to the West. Hence, when a foreigner speaks in an Asian language, it is made more significant than need be. The positive attention given by "natives" to such spectacles reveals their feelings of pride and gratitude that those in the "higher culture" would willingly choose to partake in the ways of their "lesser culture."

This I have witnessed with a singer named, Dalena. Overseas Vietnamese could not get enough of the image of a blond woman singing in their native toungue. Dalena is not mixed race nor married to a Vietnamese man which was rumored to explain her interest in Vietnamese. The real reason is that Dalena has the skill to imitate foreign languages to perfection. She can sing fluently in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese, French, Spanish and Hebrew. However, she is most known for her Vietnamese singing for which she has found resounding success within the Vietnamese Diaspora music industry of the 90s (see video below).

Dalena and Henry Truc

Other times it is because of heritage connection that stays in tact for generations that explains the "pig speaks" phenomenon. It could be that your grandmother who is full Japanese taught you archaic Japanese songs that only grannies know. Nevertheless, this unique experience exposed you to the Asian language at an early age. This is precisely the case with Jerome Charles White, Jr, better known by his stage name, Jero. Jero is 3/4 African American and 1/4 Japanese, but it is this smaller fraction that he's found affinity with. While in her care, Jero's Japanese grandmother taught him how to sing Enka, a genre of ballads from the 1940s that reflected the sorrows of post war reconstruction. Dressed in typical 20-something, trendy hip hop clothes consisting of baggie tees, jeans and baseball caps, Jero can belt out some truly moving Enka songs (as a Japanese friend relayed to me). Recently his debuted song shot up to #4 on the Japanese music charts; the first for an Enka song in years. Jero is serious about a future in the music career and now lives and performs in Japan. You can see a CNN documentary of him below.

Jero on CNN
Sometimes it is because certain institutional apparatus is in place that allows one to learn an Asian language to near fluency. As I have said many times, if you see a white boy speaking some relatively obscure foreign language, you can almost be certain he's a government employee such as CIA (see image to right), foreign service officer, or military interrogator. Or he is a Mormon missionary. All of the above have centers for intense foreign language training. The training is in the interest of the Westerners even if there is appearance of humanitarian work.

A good example is Muk (Octopus), a band made of four white Mormon boys who sing in Khmi (Cambodian language). In the tradition of mandatory missionary service, the Church of Later Day Saints assigned Trevor Wright, A. Todd Smith, Jordan Augustine and Joseph Peterson to two years in Cambodia. Their experience there left a huge mark and they returned to the country to make a documentary and even start a rock bank. Equipped with fluency in Khmi, a base, guitar, drums and trumpet, these men are now a music sensation. What started out as a joke when they commented one of their traveling photos could be a music cd cover (see left), snowballed into a pseudo-music career that has included national television appearances and tours. Sample of their singing is below.


I wrote about the past and current trends that involve Asians singing in English. But, who is to say that in the future Asian countries such and Hong Kong, Japan and Korea with their cantopop, J-pop, and K-pop respectively, won’t dominate the international pop music market. If so, then we may see Westerners singing in Asian languages having more mainstay value versus short-lived novelty appeal. Stephen Colbert ("neo-con" satirist of The Colbert Report) did a parody of a Rain (Korean pop sensation) K-pop video, with all the typical images such as; flipping a hoody, background dancers, running to where we don’t know, and screaming in anguish. Though it is a comedy skit, it speaks to the growing popularity of Asian pop music in American pop culture.

"Singing in Korean" by Colbert

HipKorea - ColbertSegment
Uploaded by nofactzone. - Check out other Film & TV videos.

What do make of all this? Please comment. Thank you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Going to the Dogs - Ustream.TV

Maybe it takes a couple of West Point graduates with their minds on surveillance, and exposure to one too many reality shows, to come up with Ustream.TV. John Ham and Brad Hunstable debuted their live-cam feed start-up in March of 2007. Initially it received a steady rise in users for video conferencing and general communicating purposes, but interest grew during the recent presidential elections when folks could stream their questions to presidential hopefuls live.

But more than the Obama speeches, Ustream.TV has been getting attention due to a Bay Area litter of Shiba Inu pups (of the ancient Japanese dog family), three girls and three boys. The owners, who wish to remain anonymous, set the cam up a just last month, October 8th, and fans in the millions have flocked to virtually see these adorable pups eat, play, poop and mostly sleep. Adventures include running away from the vacuum. Makes me want to start my own "reality show". It will consist of me typing and typing and typing, then picking my nose, then typing some more.

Shiba Inu Puppy Cam (when the cam is off to let the puppies rest, the slide show appears)
Online video chat by Ustream

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No Money Honey - US Car Industries Left to Die?

The Future Versus the Past. On the top we have
Shai Agassi's electric car. To the bottom is GM's limousine Hummer.

Looks like the car industry is not getting a $25 billion US government bailout despite marathon pleas from CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. As much as I don't like the idea of unemployed workers, seems to me US car companies have been wasteful and producing substandard cars for decades now. Sure low tariffs on foreign cars didn't help, but bad management/planning by the major companies have everything to do with it. Their shortsightedness will make us all suffer in the long run.

Anything can be cured if you inject new blood and seriously restructure. There are many ways to approach this but right off the bat, CEOs just need to sacrifice like the rest of us. They do not get to keep their lifestyles, perks and bonuses when many hardworking Americans are without homes. We need younger people with innovation and vision to buy up the dying car companies and re-invent them if US ever wants a shot at making that industry lucrative. I'm thinking maybe someone like Shai Agassi, with his ideas on producing affordable electric cars and making money from energy development to fuel the cars, could represent the future of the auto industry (see illustration above). Thoughts?

Made correction to the bail out price tag.

Matrix Runs on Windows

As a self-anointed Mac evangelist, devout Apple user, and Matrix fanatic, I found this parody pretty damn funny. I just want to know, has anyone here switched to a Mac from PC then returned to PC exclusively?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Uber Geek Alert - Youtube Gathering in San Francisco this Saturday!

If you're a true blue geek, you'd know this, but for those wanna-bees and posers, here's a heads up. San Francisco is hosting a HUGE youtube gathering on November 22, 2008 5-8pm. If I can crank out two more book chapters before then, I'm so there! I'd go just to see Kevjumba. Been meaning to review youtube shows for mymonkeylounge but that will have to wait. Check out event promo video below.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Big Eyes and Manga

Have you ever noticed how all Japanese manga (Japanese comic books) characters have large eyes? Well, one theory is that the influx of U.S. cultural productions during occupation from 1945 to 1952 greatly influenced the Japanese consumer.

Japan was a defeated nation and its people accepted this defeat with dignity. They paid great respect for the victors, to the point of even mimicking western culture. So, when manga artists of this period developed their characters, they drew huge eyes to represent westerners. One of the earliest creations was Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka. And the tradition has carried to this day, affecting even other art forms like anime (Japanese animation).

Given the obvious appeal of manga with its 481 billion yen market in Japan and a $175–200 million in the U.S., it makes sense that these comics would influence young minds. Manga has moved from the comic book pages to the real world. I am speaking of a huge phenomenon called the "shippuden look" (I'm guessing referring to the immensely popular Naruto: Shippuden manga/anime series) . This involves transforming oneself to look like a comic book characters (like cosplay but not). The most important aspect of this look requires recreating the ginormous eyes. There is even a market for contact lenses with artificial color and enlarged irises. Below is a tutorial video for achieving these exaggerated western eyes.

Honestly, I don't even know where to begin to explain the phenomenon. Should I take the psychological, historical or artistic slant to begin theorizing. No time, must finish writing this book that is kicking my ass. So, you, yeah, I'm talking to YOU, tell me what you make of all this? Thanks for helping out.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Model Minority - The Black Man

Thanks to Obama, Asian Americans can now pass the "model minority" baton off to African Americans. The newly elected president has given Black folks and particularly Black men what over 400 years had not been able to, that is a 180 degree turn in racial stereotypes. Now, black men everywhere will have to step up, because as Obama has shown to the world, Blacks can do anything. No, they are expected to be the very best at everything.

Now Blacks can be the cause of whispers about unfair high grading curves in science/math classes. Universities will no longer consider Blacks for special admissions because they, like everyone else, will forget centuries of injustices against Blacks for the new (less than one month old) memory that a Black man is leader of the most powerful nation in the world (read: declining empire). Blacks will be seen as soft-spoken, obedient and always taking the high road. If you were raised in part by a single mom and your grandparents, you'd better become president.

Black children and young adults will dream of entering the arts, entertainment or sports industries but will be harshly chastised by their parents and pushed towards legal, medical, or science careers instead. Black intelligence level will be inversely related to their penis size, because since we now accept all Blacks are naturally brilliant, they must have small pee pees. Urkel-like characters will proliferate. And Blacks will marry-out at record numbers leading to speculations that they are either sell-outs or are very close to the white culture and therefore seen as "token whites". So, exciting!

Eventually maybe Asian Americans can adopt the stereotypes left over from the Blacks -- violent, criminal, oversexed, gangstah, rapper, pimp, lazy, dumb, and underachieving minority. So, if Asian Americans do anything remotely decent, that's the exception. If they perform above average expectations, they will be called "bananas" and "whities" by their inferior Asian American brethren. People can start talking about the end of coolie images if an Asian American decides to run for president and wins! Something to look forward to.

Maybe over time Blacks can pass the "model minority" baton to Latinos, then whites and so on. It will get to the point where stereotypes run rampant to the point of having no bite or meaning. That would be an interesting time indeed.

Superman Obama illustration by Alex Ross

Saturday, November 15, 2008

End of the World - December 21, 2012?

Hey, folks, do you believe, as the Mayan calendar claims, the end of the world as we know it will take place on December 21, 2010? Supposedly we are to evolve into higher beings very rapidly. Others believe the long-hidden comet planet, Nibiru, will crash into earth causing the destruction of the planet. Futurama and X-Files creators have both added end-of-the-world plots with the same dates. Soon we are to have the motion picture "2012".

I'm not much a conspiracy theorist but I tend to get nervous when theories are tied to alien explanations. It's like god, you cannot really prove the existence so it appears ominous, leaving one completely helpless. Getting my house earthquake proof seems kind of silly if we are all going to die or develop oversized brains and giant eyes anyway. What are your thoughts?

Check out the "2012" movie trailer below.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Star Wars - A Cappella Tribute to John Williams

Ever wonder about film scores? Well, most likely some of your favorites were works of the legendary composer, John Williams. He has created music for over one hundred films including the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter series as well as The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Home, JFK, The Witches of Eastwick, E.T. (the Extra-Terrestrial), Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Memoirs of a Geisha and Jaws. Williams has been awarded five Oscars, twenty Grammys, four Golden Globes, four Emmys and numerous gold and platinum records. The man is prolific. See below a tribute to his work.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trekkers - It is Coming

Hey, fellow Trekkers! As a huge fan of the original Star Trek TV series, I am happy to report that the new Star Trek motion picture will chronicle the early lives of the Enterprise crew. Coming out this May 8, 2009 and directed by J.J. Abrams ("Mission: Impossible III," "Lost" and "Alias"), the plot of this prequel involves time traveling and fighting bad-ass looking Romulans.

Some interesting casting choices include John Cho ("Harold and Kumar") as Sulu and Zachary Quinto ("Heroes") as Spock. Cho has reported he wants to make Sulu very masculine. Dare to dream, dare to dream. That means I expect Sulu to have a fight scene and make out with a girl in normal universe, not an "alternative universe". You will also see Winona Ryder playing Spock's mom, meow!

I have some expectations of the new film, because even though "Enterprise" the TV series was a real snore, it did clarify a few things. An example, for most watchers of the original series who lived outside of the U.S., Spock was considered the main character and Kirk his bumbling side-kick. So, when "Enterprise" explained that "first contact" (when a civilization has warp technology, a Federation member initiates a meeting between the two governments) was with the Vulcans and therefore they have a special paternalistic relationship with humans, it made a lot of sense. Essentially, Spock was placed on the Enterprise to help humans in their first endeavors to explore outer space. Another clarification of "Enterprise" was the role of chief communications officer, like Uhura. Apparently she was not a glorified switch operator but actually translating alien languages. I hope the new movie will have complicated character development which inherently means taking the spotlight away from Captain Kirk.

Check out the first Star Trek XI trailer below, and see the latest one here. See you at the movies!'

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No on Prop-8 National Rallies

Seems the people are not accepting the November 4th passing of California prop-8's anti-gay marriage law. As doing away with rights messes with the constitution, chances it may be overturned again in the courts. We'll at least see gay marriage on the ballots again if it does not. Across the nation other states also passed similar laws or voted to uphold old ones.
As alluded to in my earlier posting on prop-8, the Mormon church gave large sums of money to make sure it passes. The Pacific Islander family demonstrating for the proposition on my street corner was no anomaly. It seems the wildly successful missionary work of the Mormons had infiltrated that community so many not only came out to protest nearly daily, they also, as some have reported, donated large sums of their own savings to help pass prop-8.

Since its passing, people have demonstrated throughout California and across the nation against prop-8. We recognize that California was used as a testing ground to pass similar discriminatory policies nationwide. Florida, Arizona, Arkansas also passed or upheld anti-gay marriage laws but Connecticut becomes the second state (Massachusetts is the other) to allow it.

If you want to help voice your opposition of prop-8, check here
for details of where rallies are this weekend. The large one will be in San Francisco, but I'll be at the Oakland one.
Oakland's event was a big hit. I hope this momentum of outrage will help achieve civil rights for the LGBT communities. I was out with my sign showing Oaklanese support for Marriage Rights. The other side of my sign read, "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." It's my firm belief we all should have a crack at happiness (as long as it does not harm ourselves or others).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

PMS is No Effing Joke

Dear friends, if you ever dated a woman, you may have experienced that thing, you know, when she's possessed by a crazy, insecure, demanding, whiny, critical demon. Let's call this frightening thing, PMS. Yep, it's hellish and I won't even pussyfoot around the issue. I run for the hills when PMS arrives. Just trying to save the villagers from certain carnage.

Well, all is not lost - not lost for the possessed and not lost for those who love them. We now can predict when the demon reappears (actually we always could, but it's made easier) by tracking its pattern on Here you will be forewarned and therefore can take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. This site also prints scary stories about PMS written by the demons themselves or those who lived to tell the tale.

We may never be able to exorcise or slay the demon, but at least we know when to hide.

Picasso "Weeping Woman"

Mirror's Edge - Gamer's Delight

Hey, PlayStation3 and Xbox360 geeks! There's a new first-person action video game coming out November 2008, Mirror's Edge. Set in an mirror-like Orwellian totalitarian state where society is heavily monitored, a group of "runners" living on the edge of the city serve as low tech messengers. They traverse the city scape using their sharp parkour skills and you as the player will be right there with them. Faith, the main character (pictured here) was made an orphan when her parents protested against the oppressive ruling regime, and is now on a mission to free her sister from this same corrupt governing system. Sounds very exciting! Check out Faith's coded arm tattoo, freagin' cool!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shutterbug Showdown

One of my oldest and dearest friend, Han, and I have an on-going competition to determine who is the better photographer. We’ve known each other since high school and pretty much have been driving each other nuts since then. One of the many things we like to do together is travel. We’ve pretty much scoured Asia, Europe and even Australia together. Just last month, we both ended up in Japan during a business trip for me and while he was visiting his very cute Japanese girlfriend.

On the streets of Shibuya we got into another one of our epic stand-offs about photography. Lately (as in years now) Han has been quite the nag about how I should take pictures for him. “Your pictures are boring. Have better composition. What happened to you? You really suck now. Give me that camera! Do it like this. Are you paying attention!?” That’s pretty much the script whenever he sees a camera in my hand.

This is all rather ironic since I was the one that introduced him to the art of documenting history via the camera. I am the one that got him addicted, no, more than that, obsessed with taking pictures of every single damn thing in sight.

Actually, I know where it all began too. It was in Ankor Wat (Cambodia). I insisted he stand by a magnificent stone window. He was not in the mood and resisted (see expression of pissed off-ness to the right). Basically I ordered him to pose for me and would not take no for an answer. Then I directed him to take a similar shot for me. Instead of saying thank you for making him look like a model with my shot and reciprocating in kind, he said, “You need to date a photographer so you can leave me alone,” and walked off. Nice friend, huh? But, when he finally saw the image, he was converted. That picture (shown here) remains a classic and the impetus for his obnoxious camera-happy attitude now.

So, back to Shibuya where Han was once again belligerent about me taking the perfect pix of him. He claims I no longer possess such powers and that, “the student has surpassed the master.” Well, just because I am calmer these days does not mean I lack the ability to create interesting images. So, here’s the deal, this is going to be a minor SHUTTERBUG SHOWDOWN. I will post a few of the better images directed by us. The ones he directed will have his name next to it, Han. Mine will have, Master Monkey Ninja (MMN).

Please vote and comment on pictures if you can. Let me know why you chose one photographer over the other.

Image #1: Han & I in Harajuku (photographer: random stranger, director: MMN)
Image #2: Me at Edinburgh Castle garden grounds (photographer: Han, director: Han)
Image #3: Me in Shibuya (photographer: Han, director: Han)
Image #4: Han at Ankor Wat (photographer: MMN: director: MMN)
Image #5: Han in Tokyo Metro ((photographer: MMN: director: MMN)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Star Wars Geeks Rejoice - Fanboys is Coming

Co-produced by Kevin Spacey and directed by Kyle Newman, after two years of delayed releases and endless snafus, "Fanboys" is for sure, for sure coming to a theater near you on February 6, 2009. The movie is set in 1998 with a group of hardcore Star Wars fans who, upon learning their friend has cancer, devised a scheme to break into Skywalker Ranch to apprehend an early print of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Oh, if only they knew how crappy it would be. Hey, nothing beats the original trilogy.

Reasons for the delays included: fans insisting the movie keep the original cancer plot when they found out studios wanted to take it out; additional funding to shoot more scenes and funky scheduling for re-shoots. The great news was Lucas gave the thumbs up and even uncharacteristically offered the Skywalker Ranch, props, sound effects... for the film.

According to its producers, it's a real tribute to the Star Wars fans out there. Lucky geeks.