Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Tết - The Year of the Ox

Tomorrow we usher in the year of the ox (lunar calendar). That means your house must be spotless and your debt paid off. Make sure you pay respects to your ancestors with offerings. Remember to have a particular fortuitous individual be the first person to enter your house. Lastly, visit your families. Oh, and if you’re young and unmarried, remind your older relatives to give you those awesome red envelopes!

Monkey Lounge wishes everyone a new year filled with love and prosperity. Here’s to leaving a much troubled year (and decade) behind. The future will be rough for the U.S. and the world, but there is still hope.

For all my Viet hommies, chúc mừng năm mơí!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Creepy Music Deerhunter Style

If that cute, mysterious, but incredibly creepy boy you had a crush on in high school was made of music, he'd sound like Deerhunter. This five-piece group originated in Atlanta Georgia consists of gentlemen: Bradford Cox, Moses Archuleta, Josh Fauver, Whitney Petty, and Lockett Pundt. They came up with their third album, Microcastle, last year and it could arguably be considered one of the best LPs for 2008. Their sound is definitely creepy especially the album's titled song, "Microcastle." Some call their music "ambient punk" but since I'm old-school I find their sound better categorized in the "shoegazing" genre. Needless to say I like their morbid style and dig their tragic lyrics and eerie videos. Check out their deceivingly chippy tune, "Agoraphobia," below. It showcases nicely how melody and vocals can crisscross in a spectacular way.

The video to "Microcastle" scares me a little.

Monday, January 19, 2009

If Art Speaks, It Can Also Be Silenced

In this week of MLK’s birthday and the inauguration of our first biracial president, I naturally think of the Civil Rights movement, but I also recall the Free Speech movement that happened almost simultaneously. What we now take for granted such as freedom of speech and expression (though some will argue in recent years, these liberties were greatly compromised) were actually hard fought by young men and women just several decades ago. So, it was especially poignant that this past weekend, I chose to drive seven hours straight to catch an art exhibit of Vietnamese (American) works with the theme of diverse perspectives as expressed freely in art, "Art Speaks." This is provocative in the Vietnamese American community.

For those not yet already in the know, the best way to describe the political climate of the Vietnamese American community is one of a perpetual cold war where red bating persists and the need to suppress all things deemed communists still exists for a vocal few. They have successfully dominated the discourse of "Vietnamese American community" and those with dissenting voices live in fear to speak their minds. This weekend I entered what I call the capital for the Vietnamese in diaspora, "Little Saigon" in Orange County. There, “anti-communist” protests are the norm.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh My Frakin' Gods - BSG Premier

Spoiler alert for those who have not seen the first episode of Battle Star Galactica's final season.

What an amazing opener! True to form, writers leave you with a ton more questions than you had previous to the viewing. On thing I predicted that came true, however, is that everyone is a cylon. They can come from different tribes and different times, but they are machines, none the less. BSG revealed that all Earthlings were cylons but I think there were still some humans on earth who created cylons to be immortal. This works out well in case of a holocaust or whatever disaster comes along. I guess the problem is, because there are so many different groups of humans and cylons in their own evolutionary trajectory, they repeat "again and again" their wars, peace...

Though we did end up with more questions, the manner for which they appeared blew my mind away, literally. Well, not quite literally since it was Dualla who blew her own brains out, but anyway, crazy scary good. Or what did you think when Kara found her own body? Even the Number Two, who always stood by Kara, ditched her from fear of the discovery.

And finally, we learn who the final FINAL five is, Ellen! She was on my long-long list but I thought it had to be Gaeta or Kara (one not so obvious and one more obvious) for sure. In any case, Ellen did show up in Saul's mind a lot, very similar to how Number Six shows up in Baltar's imagination. But I ask: what of Roslin's re-occuring dream of the temple (same as Six's and Athena's) and Balta seeing "red dress" Number Six all the time? These two examples goes back to my theory that everyone are cylons at this point, only the differences in what they remember and where they are along the evolutionary chain varies.

I hated waiting for almost one full year, but I have to admit, BSG did not let me down. It deserves the self-promotional title of "best on TV." I am hooked, as if I ever left. Please let me know what you think is going on.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cyber-harassment and Monkey Lounge Conduct

It does not happen often, but sometimes I get cyber-harassed on I understand that once you put your stuff out there in public, chances are you’ll receive some kind of scrutiny. Some people will love your work, others think it’s so-so and some will even think your stuff is crap. That’s fair enough. However, when criticisms take on a personal nature, then cyber-harassment ensues.

Cyber-harassment is sometimes also called cyberstalking, and in the case of kids, it’s called cyberbullying. Cyberstalkers are often driven by revenge, hate, anger, jealousy, obsession and mental illness. They make false accusations in order to damage the reputation of their victims and try to turn other people against them. They attempt to gather personal information in order to make it public on the web. They stalk you from site to site to find ways to attack you. They will often bring in third parties to help them harass. Or they fake victimization claiming somehow they’ve been done wrong by the real victims. This kind of cyber-stalking is illegal under the

Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005.

No surprise the majority of the victims so far have been women and children. For the record, I welcome dialogue. I don’t expect my readers to agree with everything I write. If you’re interested in exchanging ideas and engaging those with diverse perspectives, I’m totally up for it. I will not, however, get into the habit of schooling those who leave comments. I expect you to have proper netiquette and educate yourself on the topics at hand. This is a site for mutual respect and exchange, not teaching anyone lessons.

That said, I have started dumping comments that fit into the category of cyber-harassment/stalking/bullying. I have also reported the cyber harassers to the proper Internet authorities including those who run this site. If you persist, I will take legal action. That is my right.

It is one thing for disgruntled students to leave immature, personal comments that have nothing to do with my posts, but it’s altogether creepy and despicable to pretend to be my friend and leave words of “advice" that are transparently harassment. That really takes it to another level of cyber-stalking and I will make sure the authorities seek you first.

Internet related laws will only improve as we evolve in this Internet age. Your days are numbered Mr./Ms. Cyber-terrorist. But, seriously, just keep things kosher. No need to escalate.;init:.jpg

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Live Greener

Just got back from a my bro's wedding in Maui. Congrats to the happy newlyweds, "Mel Squared". For the trip I traveled with my greenest friend, not Henry the Martian, but Tam the Greenie Bee. She composted before I knew what that meant and took infrequent showers before I could appreciate the joys of never showering (I kid, sort of). She recycles everything and almost never buys anything new. A real role model, if you will.

Well, even though I consider myself pretty damn environmentally conscious and live greenly, watching her work her magic was at once impressive and humbling. She uses soap until it's out, including taking it with us from hotel to hotel. She brought plastic bags from the mainland so when we were at the farmer's market, she whipped them out like a pro. She possibly would have composted too had she not feared the legality of digging in public spaces.

I feel a new wave of green energy to do even more than I have. So, below are a few basic ways to stay green.


1. Reuse plastic bags and/or have specific bags for grocery shopping.
2. Don’t flush every time you use the toilet. Call it a habit from living in drought ridden Cali.
3. Turn off all lights when not in use (same goes with the TV, heater and air conditioner).
4. Buy organic, local produce like at farmer’s markets.
5. Wear clothes with natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, hemp…
6. Do not buy new clothes but rather get creative by reworking your old ones, swap with friends, or buy used on ebay, swap meets, garage sales, second hand stores,…
7. Have plants in the home to filter the air and rid pollutants.
8. Separate trash for: compost, recycle and garbage.
9. Use cloth towels (can be made from old cotton shirts or worn out towels) instead of paper towels.
10. Donate or sell nearly all items you do not need, even batteries and large appliances. It can be tax deductible and profitable. Just look online for places that do it. or are places to start. Both places you can get and give stuff for free or buy/sell.
11. Print on both sides of papers.
12. Use mugs instead of paper cups at work.
13. Bring extra eating wear like lightweight plates, utensils and cups when eating out (you can cheat at fine dining establishments).
14. Carpool, walk, bike, motorcycle, public transportation, or plan errands wisely.
15. Bath only as needed, not daily, and wash hair once a week at most. Keep buckets in the shower to gather water for plants.

Like all things new and good for you, it can take time to build good habits. It's a conscious decision to change your lifestyle. Consider following the Compact method on a small scale at first. My class on fashion conducted a social experiment to confront consumerism and waste head-on by trying the Compact method for a few weeks. Our efforts are documented on our begreen101 blog.

Good luck and let me know how else we can be green. Or inform me of your progress. I am still working on the list myself.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Prosecute Bush When He Already Pardoned Himself

Bush's legacy is one of the severe eff ups. He violated the constitution and sidestepped international agreements. Boston Globe reporter, Charles Savage, documented that Bush had systematically disregarded more than 750 laws enacted by Congress since he took office.

For all the war crimes around torture Bush made sure he and his cronies get off scot-free. Filled with confusing legal-speak and buried deep inside the Military Commissions Act of 2006 legislation is a provision that pardoned Bush and all the members of his administration of any possible crimes connected with the torture and mistreatment of detainees dated all the way back to September 11, 2001.

Buzz is that Bush will try to pardon himself of any future war crimes convictions. But, law has it that a president cannot pardon himself or Nixon would not have needed Ford. However, Bush can pardon Cheney, then resign and have President Cheney pardon him back. I don't want to wait 30 years for all the secret papers to come out about the horrible crimes Bush and his cronies committed against the people. How is he able to walk around and call himself president still? I just don't get it?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year Killing on BART - Video Evidence Galore

I'm still quite shell-shocked writing this. In the early AM of New Years, police BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit - our version of the metro), shot a young black man, Oscar Grant, in the back while he was on the floor faced down and hand-cuffed from behind. The officers in attendance were all white except for one alleged Latino brother who roughed Grant up before a white officer, Johannes Mehserle, pulled the trigger.

Most disturbing of all is that multiple eye-witnesses said Grant complied with officers and at one point, out of desperation, pleaded repeatedly, "Please don't shoot, I have a four-year-old daughter." Officers took seven seconds to react after the shot and it's unclear what was the motivation. Some speculate Mehserle mistaken his gun for a taser. Though we still do not know if he carried a taser at all. Even had he used a taser, it would still have been an unprovoked act of violence.

Other eye-witnesses overheard the officers ordering their colleagues to remove the hand-cuffs when they thought media was arriving. This is Rodney King times ten (see pix to left). Already there has been three phone videos of the incident, one that was given to the local Oakland TV station, KTVU, one to the Grant family lawyer, and one confiscated by BART police. Coming back from a New Years celebration, most likely there exists many more cell phone and camera vids of the incident.

I'm shocked and disappointed in our so-called justice system. Watch the killer get off. Just watch. Point being, without the abundance of vid technology, this incident could have been covered up much easier. It would have been a case of we said/they said. Mehserle has not been detained and as of today, he's still not been interviewed. What eff up ness is that? Oaklanese are not taking this lying down and have organized protests to show their outrage.

Additionally, Grant's mother and his baby momma filed a $25-million wrongful death claim against BART. This reminds me of the crazy wrongful shooting of Cau Thi Bich, an un-armed, petite, young Vietnamese mother of two, who was shot by a white cop in her own kitchen with her young boys in the next room. The family got nearly 2 million in a "wrongful killing" case and forced the increased use of tasers instead of guns.

Word of caution, be very afraid if you're a black man in Oakland, or anywhere else for that matter. You might as well have a target tattooed to your head. So, tell me what you think.

Update January 13:
On January 11, 2009, Johannes Mehserle, was finally arrested and charged with murder in the killing of Oscar Grant. It would be the first time in California history where an officer on duty was charged with such a crime. A demonstration took place Wednesday afternoon January 12, 2009 and as with the first one, splinter groups went off and destroyed property in downtown Oakland. Riot police were present which probably helped saved many of the businesses in that area from being looted or vandalized, but not all were spared. 18 rioters were arrested verses the 105 at the previous riot.

I personally think our justice system is broken. Mehserle should have been detained from the second the shooting happened. His fellow officers just standing by to watch without restraining him was a huge mistake and they too should be liable for the killing. In fact, I am shocked to hear (though I know I shouldn't be) that before Mehserle no other officer on duty was charge with wrongful killings. Cops are NOT above the law. They are there to protect us and if they are a menace to society, they need to be removed from the force and charged with crimes they committed.

Predictably enough, the defense claims there's evidence to say it was a justified shooting. Oh, lord, what madness will they come up with now? Let this not be another Dan "twinky defense" White who shot both the first openly gay supervisor, Milk, and San Francisco Mayer, Moscone, but got barely two years of jail time. He was even allowed back to San Francisco once out. Just because one looks like what our society has constructed as "innocent, all American boy next door," it does not mean one's incapable of being a murderer. Same goes with young black men not all being criminals!

What do you think?

Update January 8:
January 7th, just a week after the slaying, a peaceful demonstration took place at the Fruitvale BART station (scene of crime). Shortly after, splinter groups of about 200 people moved onto downtown Oakland where some broke store windows, smashed cars and started small fire. 105 were arrested and 3 later prosecuted.

As for the killer, Mehserle. Immediately after shooting Grant he found council and pleaded the 5th. Also on January 7th he resigned from office. He still has not been detained. Ah, justice.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Best Immigrant X-mas Presents

Every year my best friend and I compete to see which one of us got the most immigrant x-mas present. We have pretty much tied over the years. For example, I won one year when my mom gave my brother and me matching purple "fanny packs" from Hilton Hotel. Another year my girlfriend won when her parents gave her a track suit with logos from the nearby casino.

This year my girlfriend won when her niece got a light up Easter bunny from her grandmother. You see, my friend's parents get only super sale items. So, last year they got their granddaughter a regular stuffed Easter bunny for x-mas. This year, they outdid themselves getting her a light up one.

My family must step up next year to compete with that.