Sunday, September 30, 2012

Korean Americans take "The Great Food Truck Race"

Korean American team, Seoul Sausage, wins this year's "The Great Food Truck Race." Cannot help thinking this victory brings back Korean pride after last year's Korilla BBQ team was unceremoniously booted off the show for supposedly cheating. How will the winners explain to their parents that running a food truck is a hip and economically smart move during the economic downturn. Not every Asian kid can be or wants to be a lawyer or doctor, you know. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Breastfeeding Professor and Mothering in the Workplace

The big news this week making its way across Internet avenues is about a professor that breastfed her child during her class lecture. Adrienne Pine (image left), the associate professor of Anthropology at Washington, D.C.'s American University, brought her baby to work and momentarily nursed her when she got hungry. This happened in front of 40 students and a Teaching Assistant. Pine had not intended to have her daughter in class that day but the baby had developed a fever and could not be left at day care. Unable to find alternative care for her child in such short notice and unwilling to cancel the first day of her 'Sex, Gender and Culture' class, she opted to bring her child to lecture instead of staying at home. As a result, there has been a firestorm of responses, both in support and outrage of Pine’s decision.

Having read the initial ‘rants’ about the controversy in Pine’s campus newspaper and her response to the attacks, I have to thank Pine for inadvertently and unwillingly becoming the subject of a much-needed discussion around mothering. Owning to wonderful colleagues and mothers, such as Teresa Williams and Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, they have informed and validated for me the importance of accommodations for mothers in the workplace as well as ways in which mothering serves as crucial framework for so many aspects of our lives.

My understanding of the issues as a professor, and my own experiences as a mother of two young children, brings me to the center of this debate. I will not focus on Pine’s specific situation, which, I actually empathize with as both a committed scholar and breastfeeding mother (image right). Bringing a child to class is not ideal under the current social climate, but she made the choice as best she could, given her situation as a professor and single mom. Ultimately for me, this issue is not or should not be a debate on whether it is socially or professionally acceptable to breastfeed a child in class or any other space. It is much more than that.

The issue at hand is that academia, like so many industries in our society, are still seen through, using bell hooks' terms, the lens of a heterosexual, white supremist, capitalist, patriarchy. That is, women are expected to operate biologically or otherwise, in accordance to the standards set above. There is no consideration for or understanding of the challenges that come in pregnancy, birth, and mothering. Because of this lack of education and total disregard and disrespect of mothers and children, we have our current condition. It is one where two weeks off to recuperate and care for a newborn is the norm. Most mothers face the choice of caring for a child long-term or returning to work prematurely. In doing so, the psychological and emotional toll brought on in terms of guilt and/or regret can be monumental. For those that try to balance both, many are confronted with unfriendly or hostile environments that does not support mothering and the work place. Mothers often feel isolated and fear scrutiny and subjects of target for dismissal, denial of tenure... Pine’s case is actually a nightmare for many working moms.

This, like so many concerns in our society, will not change overnight. Asking change rarely makes a difference. Demanding, mobilizing, organizing for change, coming together as a large population to expose the issues…may make a difference. So many critical of Pine’s actions come from a place with little understanding, experience, and no compassion for working mothers and mothering in general. I do not want to lose hope, but I do want to say, our society is far from recognizing the demands of mothering while sustaining a career for women. Without education, representation and advocacy, our lot will not be the last generation to experience gender oppression and discrimination in the U.S.

In solidarity with mothers worldwide -- above is a photo of me nursing my child in public. The blanket was to shield my child from the sun and not for "modesty."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"The Blind Chef" takes Masterchef Season 3 - Congrats Christine Ha

Congrats Christine Ha for winning Master Chef yesterday! Her final menu consisted of Thai papaya salad with crab and mixed vegetables, braised pork belly with rice, crispy kale and maitake mushrooms topped with a quail egg, and coconut lime sorbet with a ginger tuile. She took something my mom would have made on a special occasion and totally elevated it!

Hailing from Houston, Texas, Christine beat out a very talented 24-year-old, Josh Marks, to take the Master Chef third season prize. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a Vietnamese American and African American in the finale, and would have been happy if either won. Though I took offense to the racist and classist remark made by host Gordon Ramsey, “The dish has Vietnamese background…but we’re not in Vietnam, and we’re not home...You’re in the final of MasterChef." In a perfect world, Christine could have retorted with, "Kiss my yellow Vietnamese Masterchef ass and give me my prize asshole!" Aside from the title of Masterchef, Christine earned a quarter of  a million dollars and her own cook book.

Remarkably, Christine suffers from NMO, or Neuromyelitis Optica. Essentially her own immune system has been attacking her spinal cord and optic nerves. Because of this, she suffers from permanent vision loss and has been receiving chemo treatment since 2008 to slow down the progression of the disease. Ironically, her blindness has elevated her sense of taste, convincing the judges she had to most sophisticated and nuanced palate in the competition. 

Christine stood out from the thousands of home cooks nationwide to make the top 100 contestants for the face off to win the grand prize because producers of Masterchef discovered her blog, Oh, a top political think tank may discover monkeylounge yet and put us on television. Dare to dream! In any case, for Christina's blog, she used her culinary skills and expertise as a writer to good use. She is currently in Master's of Fine Arts in writing at the University of Houston, and intends to finish in spite of her overnight fame. Aside from goals such as opening up eateries, she also wants to write a memoir and fiction.

She certainly has a story to tell with her amazingly trying life. She said this during Masterchef, "My mother was a very good home cook, but I took it for granted. She passed away when I was 14 and left me no recipes. I've been trying to recreate her recipes ever since." If that does not tear out your heart, I do not what can. But, like many immigrants that are surrounded monumental events, she doesn't see herself as that unique and simply wants to overcome issues to make her dreams come true. Chef's hat off to you!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I am the President!

A smartass friend of mine wrote, "can't believe he stole the 'just for men' line, 'not only a member, but also the president'." Maybe my friend doesn't fully grasp why Obama's simple statement resonated with so many. 

Made during the his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination, it's a powerful line because Obama's presidency has been considered illegitimate by right wingers. He's Black, he has an international background ("birther" issue), he has a non Christian name (Muslim issue - which should be a non-issue since there's supposedly a separation of church and state), and did I mention he's Black. So, when Obama made his, "I'm the president" remark," it was to confront discrimination that is still allowed to exist in the U.S.

Just because there's a black president in the while house, it does not mean we're in a "post-racial America". It's a fantasy perpetuated by the liberal left as proof that we've arrived as a tolerant nation. It's also a tool used by the right to ignore present racial injustices in order to further discriminate people of color.

So, yes, Obama, you're the president. Now that you've fully been pressed to the ground by the boot of intolerance, maybe you too will finally abandon all ideas of a "post-racial America" and get up to fight the continuing battle for equality and justice for all. 

Democratic National Conference Kicks Bootie!

My family made me watch the Republican National Convention. I could not swallow any speech in its entirety. Did not get what the Republicans were all about when the show was done. Except, maybe, lies are part of the course. Relating to the American people in any meaningful way is an impossibility. And, the republicans exist on hyperboles instead of concrete plans to govern. With their lack of humanity and Democrats lack of conviction and courage, I all about gave up on the U.S.

But, then the Democratic National Convention arrived. My family made me watch this as well. I predicted a more exiting show because the Republicans may have Eastwood, but the Democrats had all the other celebrities. To my surprise, I only saw Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar fame), who temporarily gave up his acting career to serve for Obama as the Associate Director of White House Office of Public Engagement. The rest were folks that represented the American people: vets, moms, activists, just...people. 

There were many "wow" moments but the big WOW started with San Antonio Mayor, Julian Castro. Let's put aside that he comes with a hot identical twin, Joquin Castros, Congressional candidate. Julian shared with us his grandmother's story -- came from Mexico as an orphan but then taught herself how to read and write. Then his mother, graduated from college to become a civil rights activist as a single mother of two boys. The twins themselves, attended Stanford then Harvard -- with the help of Affirmative Action! Now, landing on center stage at the DNC. Does the American dream get any more vivid than that? Every sentence promoting education first moved me, but the one talking about his high school mates hit closest to home. "They had the same talent, the same brains, the same dreams as the folks we sat with at Stanford and Harvard. I realized the difference wasn't one of intelligence or drive. The difference was opportunity."

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Then Michelle Obama came on. She did for Obama what he could never do for himself. She spoke about his history to reveal his soul. As she said when discussing issues of fair pay for women, health care, college Pell Grants..."So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political – they’re personal." The great thing about Obama is, he is so complex, you'd need many more speeches to bring us to any kind of understanding of his diverse background. She gave us more than a good scratch of the surface, though. 

Then my boy, Bill, took the stage. Oh, man, he's bigger than life. He gave us a damn good economics lesson. My favorite line was, "People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets. What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic." I wish my high school math teachers were this easy to comprehend! Again, only Bill can engage the audience as well as he did in his typical longish speeches. Obama knew too the impact of Bill's speech when he prematurely took the stage to thank the former prez with a heartfelt embrace.

We have Obama's speech to look forward to! It's one thing to have competent and spirited supporters defend and speak on Obama's behalf. But there comes a point when Obama has to defend himself and go on an offensive. Dear Obama, the bases are full. There can only be one of two ways your speech ends, as a home run to the bleachers or one out of the ball park! Batter up!

Hillary Clinton 2016!