Thursday, November 26, 2009

Guess the ethnicity, part 2 - Spot the Eurasian!

Ok, see how you do with this. The last Can you guess their ethnicity post I did was a bit tricky, so I'm making it easier for you this time.

Have a look at the 11 pictures below. Some of them are Eurasian, having one Caucasian parent. Some of them are "pure" Asian (whatever you take that to mean). And 2 of them are complete red herrings, who are not Asian at all. (Just to keep things interesting.) Remember though that Asia is a big continent with a wide range of people - not everyone is going to look Chinese.

Shouldn't be too hard, especially considering they are all famous people (at least in their own part of the world). I'll provide the answers in the comments section.












How'd you do?

Check the comments section for the correct answers.

Related posts:

Yes, Eurasians are hot - just ask science

Guess who's Asian? (part 1)

Dutch-Indonesian footballers

Miley Cyrus "chinky-eye" lawsuit dismissed.

Remember this?

That's teen star Miley Cyrus and her entourage photographed at a party making the "chinky-eye" gesture.

If you remember this case, you'll also remember that there was a bit of an uproar over what is generally considered a racist gesture. One woman, Lucie J Kim, was so outraged that she launched a $4 billion class action against Cyrus, on behalf of every Asian person in LA, for "emotional distress".

Unsurprisingly, the judge dismissed the lawsuit this week. And a good thing too. It would have been better for everyone if Lucie Kim had found something better to do with her life.

It's not that the gesture is inoffensive. For many Asians growing up in the West it represents bullying and belittlement. But let's be reasonable.

No one apart from those in the photo knows the context of why they are making that gesture. Clearly it is not meant to signify hostility to the sole Asian guy in the photo. It seems to be some joke within that small group of people. I know myself that within my fairly mixed circle of friends, we have the occasional in-joke about each others' ethnicities which is completely acceptable in that context. I have no idea what Cyrus and crew were getting at with that pose, but I'm not going to assume that she is some horrible racist because of it. It's certainly not offensive enough to be worth $4 billion.

In the journey Asian people have for respect in the West, frivolous lawsuits like this don't do us any favours. Neither do some of the completely over the top reactions as seen around the Asian-American blogosphere, which attack the Asian guy in the picture as some sort of self-hating race traitor. We should condemn racism where it exists, sure. And sure, let's point out that Miley's gesture has an unpleasant history. But ridiculous stunts that present Asians to non-Asians as over-sensitive crybabies do nothing to engender respect at all. I believe in picking your battles, and there are plenty of other things we should be more worried about.

See also:
Putting a racist slant on things - the "Chinky-eye" Hall of Shame

Knobhead of the week - Amr Zaki

In an age where footballers are routinely condemned for being solely motivated by money, perhaps we should be glad that Amr Zaki puts principles first.

If only his principles weren't so odious, that is.

Zaki is the Egyptian striker who wowed English crowds with his penchant for finding the net early last season. While on loan at Wigan, he led the Premier League in scoring for the first couple of months before tailing off in form. But there were signs that Zaki might have been a bit of a c**k - he went AWOL after international duty 4 times during the season, leading to then-coach Steve Bruce to label him the worst professional he had ever worked with.

But repeatedly being late is forgivable and perhaps it was worth given him the benefit of the doubt. What Zaki has done this week is different, and confirmed that yes, he was a massive twunt all along. There was talk of Portsmouth seeking to bring him back for another stint in the English league, but Zaki quashed this speculation, giving the following reason, on his official website:

"After Portsmouth signed an Israeli player and also hired an Israeli football director a possible move was ruled out. On top of that, no way could I play at Portsmouth with an Algerian within in their ranks."

Those Israelis would be defender Tal Ben Haim and Director of Football Avram Grant, and the Algerian player is Nadir Belhaj. The tense relationship of Arab nations and Israel is well-known, but there is also bad blood between the Egyptian and Algerian football teams, as seen in their violent World Cup qualifier last week.

Mind you, the two men that own Portsmouth Football Club are Ali Al-Faraj and Sulaiman Al-Fahim, Saudi and Emirati respectively, who hired Avram Grant and clearly recognise that nationality is secondary to the ability to do a job well in football.

If Zaki chooses not to play for a club because of his odious racist views, that's entirely up to him. But to publicise those views on his website confirms him as a class-A douchebag. In a part of the world crying out for peace, someone like Zaki, a hero of the Egyptian national team and role model for many young people, had a chance to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Clearly he chose the former.

What religion best suits you?

This is pretty cool. Offensive, too, but only if you lack a sense of humour. Seen at Holy Taco.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For all you students out there...

Since we are around that time of year when y'all young folks are either doing exams or waiting for your results - this one's for you. It's the classic "Typical Asian Parents" sketch from Goodness Gracious Me. And all you out there of the Asian persuasion (whether brown or yellow) know how true this is.

Global funk connections: Soulvibe

Before reading any further, take a listen to this laid-back groove.

Sounds like something out of the US or UK, recalling the sound of Touch of Jazz label from Philly (responsible for acts like Musiq Soulchild).

Actually, it's straight out of Jakarta, not traditionally a place known for appreciating soul music, let alone creating it. But in recent years a number of Indonesian artists have appeared on the scene working in the R&B/neo-soul/acid jazz medium. Like their peers (Maliq N D'Essentials, Glenn Fredly), Soulvibe sing in both English and Indonesian, but judging by the above track I Want You Back, can replicate the US neo-soul ballad better than any other Indonesian artist.

Here's another example - No More. Here in rehearsal mode, but I actually like it better than their album version.

Of course, most of their work is in the Indonesian language, and includes plenty of uptempo acid-jazzy cuts such as this one, Masih.

For more Indonesian funk and soul:

Global funk connections: Maliq N D'Essentials

Maliq N D'Essentials - "Dia"

Lloyd Popp - awesome Indonesian talk-box guy

The Daily Show - "Is Blackface Ever OK?"

Among the most-read posts I've written on this blog were the ones relating to blackface - about the infamous Hey Hey It's Saturday incident, and the reaction to it, and also about whether such racially-based humour can ever be acceptable.

You can check those here:

Racial humour - is it ever okay?

An Aboriginal perspective on blackface

Message from a black man on black face

Controversy over blackface Jackson 5 skit

Anyway, it turns out that those good folks from The Daily Show have been pondering the same thing. This is from last week, and like all the best of their stuff, it's both funny and totally on-point. Featuring "Senior Black Correspondent" Larry Wilmore, who like all the Daily Show crew has a wonderful sense of timing and dry wit.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Is Blackface Ever OK?
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Monday, November 23, 2009

A non-racist attack filled with racial abuse?

I blogged about this story a few days ago (here), at which point it had not been reported in the Australian media despite being all over the Indian news. Well the Aussie media have finally picked up on it; but this report makes an interesting read:

Victorian police have confirmed they are investigating another attack on an Indian student in Melbourne's northern suburbs last weekend.

The victim says the assault was accompanied by a torrent of racial abuse.

The Indian media have again seized on the incident and are asking why police have not laid any charges. Postgraduate student Rodney Raj says he went outside on Saturday night when he heard his dog barking. He says two women and a man, who he says were neighbours, then attacked him and his wife.
He declined an interview with ABC News but described the attack to Indian media. "One woman started bashing me with a chair on the left side and the other started bashing me with an iron post on the right. I took about three or four blows before I went to the ground," he said.

Darebin city councillor Tim Laurence says there was racial abuse. "And even more, there was a justification for the level of violence, that I can do this to you because you are Indians and you can't do anything about it," he said.

Police were called and statements were taken. A Victoria Police spokeswoman says the officer who took the complaint has taken time off, but that is not the reason there have been no charges laid. She says the investigation is continuing.

Despite the alleged racist abuse, police say there is no evidence the alleged attack was racially motivated. They say they cannot elaborate because of privacy issues.

Ok, now I obviously don't know what happened here - perhaps it is more complicated than we are being told so far. But let's have a look at one sentence again:

"Despite the alleged racist abuse, police say there is no evidence the alleged attack was racially motivated."

You can look at that in a number of ways.

* "Alleged" - meaning the Indian couple made it up, OR
* the police are in denial and can't even see racism when it's staring them in the face, OR
* the police are so desperate to convince us that racist violence is not a problem that they are pretending it doesn't happen, OR
* the motivation was completely unrelated to racism, but the attackers threw in a few racist epithets just for good measure.

The last point is worth pondering. It is possible that many attacks that are described as racist fall into that category. I don't wish to pretend that racist attacks don't exist - many of the attacks on Indians clearly were. But "racially motivated" and "involving racist abuse" are two different things. The kind of person who is going to brutally bash someone, for whatever reason, is probably the kind of person with a foul mouth, who will use various kinds of verbal abuse during a confrontation.

So let's say someone bashes an Indian, because of some dispute or simply because they want to feel tough by picking on someone. And in the course of it they racially abuse the Indian. Is this a racist attack? Um, maybe. I guess it's an attack by a racist. Is it a racially motivated attack? Um, perhaps not. The motivation is different, the racism only incidental.

I mention this because I don't think that we should regard the bashings of Indians simply as a reflection of a deeply racist anti-Indian culture in Australia. That is a little too simplistic. As I've stated before on this blog, the culture of young adults, particularly young men, is as violent and anti-social as it has ever been in this country. The fear of difference is strong, as is the desire for pack approval through aggression. In many cases, Indians are simply a convenient target.

All of which may or may not be relevant to the case of Rodney Raj and his wife. Whether or not the attack was racist in motivation, it's still an attack, and a very serious one. Anyone who enters someone's property and strikes them with a chair and an iron post is an evil ignorant f***. I hope they meet with some particularly rigorous justice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More ridiculous, racist and ignorant anti-Obama stuff

Isn't it great how the election of a black president has signified the end of racism in the US?

Oh, hang on...

Ok, ok, we get it... he's not "a real American" like the rest of y'all.

See the Right in America have a constant complaint that any time they criticise Obama, the Left find some way to accuse them of racism. This complaint would carry much more weight if there weren't so many folks on the Right producing such obviously racist nonsense as the above sign.

And then you may recall there was this guy:

Or this picture being sent around, by a legislative aid for a state senator no less:

See what they did there? Wah, so clever!

Or of course these guys.

Of course BO found himself copping more criticism last week for this:

Now, I dunno if it's just because I am a fairly worldly person with an Asian background and a fairly comfortable sense of my own masculinity, but I don't bat an eyelid when I see this. Yet to some US commentators, this shows everything that is wrong with Obama. Imagine bowing to Japanese royalty, in Japan. Japanese don't bow, do they...?

You'll remember he received the same criticism from bowing to Saudi King Abdullah, which I wrote about here. Only in that instance it was worse because it gave the mouth-breathers a chance to rehash their Obama-is-a-jihadist-puppet theories.

Check this from an article by Wesley Pruden, a former editor of the Washington Times:

"Now we know why Mr. Obama stunned everyone with an earlier similar bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, only the bow to the Japanese emperor was far more flamboyant, a sign of a really deep sense of inferiority... This is not the way an American president impresses evildoers that he's strong, tough and decisive, that America is not to be trifled with."

Does Pruden really, seriously, think that Obama is demonstrating his feelings of inferiority by bowing? It amazes me that so many on the Right think that showing deference to another person is a sign of weakness. Ever wonder why most of the world regards Americans as arrogant?

Think about it this way. If you go to the house of an Asian person, you are generally expected to take your shoes off. You don't have to, and if you are unaware and don't think to do so, no one will really think badly of you. But if you flatly refuse to do respect the rules of someone else's house and culture, well... you will be thought of as a bit of a prick.

Pruden's argument basically goes that "bowing is not in our culture, and our culture is better than anyone elses, so there's no need to do it." He gives an example of the arrogant attitude displayed by General McArthur towards Emperor Hirohito post WW2 as being some kind of benchmark for the attitude American leaders should display towards the rest of the world.

He goes on:

"It's no fault of the president that he has no natural instinct or blood impulse for what the America of "the 57 states" is about. He was sired by a Kenyan father, born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World and reared by grandparents in Hawaii, a paradise far from the American mainstream."

And we are right back at racism again. There's only one way of being a "true American" and it sure as hell doesn't involve mixing with foreigners. In fact, it's a "blood impulse" - only a white person can truly feel what it is to be an American.

In case you are interested, most Japanese people seemed to think it was appropriate and respectful - see here.

See also:

When is an American not an American?

Race in the race to the White House

Stephen Colbert on "Neutral Man"; and Obama the "racist"

"How to draw Asian women". Really?

Hat tip to Disgrasian for this. It's funny for all the wrong reasons.

Watch this eHow video of self-described "cartoonist and artist extraordinaire" Bill Connolly, as he shows you how to draw a picture of an Asian woman. Apparently...

Of course, it begs the question: has Bill Connolly ever actually seen an Asian woman?

I love how many times he uses the word "beautiful" to describe her, it gets to the point of being just a little creepy.

How Australians love Bangladeshi conjoined twins, hate Tamil refugees, and bash Indians

There have been 2 stories that have dominated Australian news reports in the last week or so, and one that flew under the radar. But together they demonstrate a complex picture of how Australians relate to South Asian people.

First, the one you probably didn't hear about. It got absolutely no coverage in any Australian media, yet was all over the Indian media. From the Hindustani Times:

An Indian couple living in a Melbourne suburb on Wednesday claimed that a group of three people, including two women, beat them up with an iron rod and a steel chair in an apparent racist attack. Rodney Raj and his wife Rathna said they were attacked on November 14 in their home in Bundoora, 19 km northeast from the Melbourne central business district.

Describing the ordeal to an Indian television channel, Rodney said at around 10.30 pm, he heard his dog barking and opened the door to find two girls and a boy on his porch. He told them to go away.

But after some time, he heard a sound in his garage and went there to see that a chair has been put atop his car and they were "scanning my letter-box". When he asked them what was happening, the man "started running towards me and grabbed me. I grabbed him back," Rodney said.

"One of the women grabbed the chair, the other woman had an iron post. One woman started bashing me with the chair and the other woman started bashing me with the iron post. I took 3-4 blows before I fell to the ground. The guy sat on me and started punching me. He landed about 6-7 blows on my face and kept saying he would kill me," Rodney said. When his wife rushed in, the girls "started teasing her and tried to get her clothes off," he claimed. He went to protect her and took more blows, he said.

Whether this was a racist attack or not is hard to glean, but given the nature of recent "curry-bashing" attacks in Melbourne it would not be surprising. I'm not sure why no local media saw fit to report the story.

It is incidents like this which have led many overseas to accuse Australia to be a racist nation, and particularly towards Indians and the like. A supposition that would be reinforced by the general reaction to the boatload of Sri Lankan Tamils who have been intercepted in Indonesia while trying to make their way to Australia to claim asylum.

Here are a few comments on an article relating to the issue. These comments, while not representative of every Australian by any means, seem to capture the general zeitgeist.

Ken of Melbourne Posted at 9:28 AM November 09, 2009
Australian people are law binding, peace loving. These tamils are potential terrorists. Send them back to where they come from use force if necessary.

(Love Ken's definition of "peace loving" there - using force to send asylum seekers back to a country where their lives may be in danger. Although not in as much danger as Australians, according to the following comment:)

Janice Williams Posted at 12:06 PM November 07, 2009
We do not want any more people from foreign countries in australia, we do not have the infrastructure, water, or work, and we are over populated now, imagine what it will be like in l0 years, no more refugees or foreiners into australia, our life is in danger.

Tibor Jeno Posted at 10:02 AM November 07, 2009
My family including me came to Australia as refugees after WW2 but legally and most of these people coming on boats are not true refugees but economic ones at best. If this mob will not get off the Oceanic Viking then disembark them by force and stop letting them dictate terms to us or else throw them over the side to swim for shore where the Indonesians can round them up. Stop treating them with kid gloves. Then publicise worldwide how they were handled and maybe it will act as a deterrent to others.After all they are only queue jumpers.

Now, I'm not going to argue for whether or not we should give these Tamils asylum here or not - I don't know all the facts. Neither do most people commenting on these articles either, of course. I do know a few things though:

* The Sri Lankan government may claim that the asylum seekers are not genuine and that there is nothing to be afraid of in Sri Lanka; but then, they would, wouldn't they?

* Despite the claims of many Sinhalese people, Sri Lanka is not a safe place for Tamils - at least not everywhere in the country. Despite Government attempts to prevent media access to the camps in which so many displaced Tamils live, reports continue to emerge of persecution, murder, rape and discrimination.

* Arguments that we should just leave Indonesia to deal with the asylum seeker problem are also stupid. Indonesia is a crowded country with 10 times Australia's population, and is far, far poorer. The main reason asylum seekers are in Indonesia in the first place is because they are heading for Australia. And recent reports that Indonesian police fired upon a boatload of refugees, injuring 2 Afghanis, because they refused to pay a bribe, is a clear example of why that country cannot deal with the refugee issue on its own.

* Claims that the Tamils cannot be genuine refugees because some of them have money, or have spent large amounts to buy their passage, are irrelevant. White farmers in Zimbabwe are probably the richest group in that country, yet undeniably face violent persecution.

Were the refugees white Zimbabwean farmers of course, there would be none of the xenophobia currently being whipped up about the Tamils.

But if you are convinced by those two stories of the irrevocably racist nature of Australian people, you'd best check the other big story in Australian news this week. It concerns two conjoined twins from an orphanage in Bangladesh, Krishna and Trishna, who would surely have died if not for the miracle operation performed by surgeons in Melbourne. $250,000 was donated by an unknown philanthropist for the operation.

Anyone watching TV or listening to the radio in the last week could not have missed this story - there were updates every news break. Clearly it touched the heart of a nation, and we have embraced these children as if they were our own.

So I wonder what this says about us as a nation. Does the warmth felt towards the twins show that we are not a racist people? Does the hostility towards asylum seekers, or the bashings of Indians, show that we are? Neither, clearly.

If only those Tamils were as cute as Krishna and Trishna.

See also: Are Australians really racist towards Indians?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kumail Nanjiani on Letterman

Caught Pakistani-born comic Kumail Nanjiani the other night on The Late Show With David Letterman. While it didn't knock my socks off in the way that say, Joe Wong did, it was pretty good and he has a likeable presence. Interestingly, he didn't really ply his ethnicity for jokes, in contrast to what most desi and Muslim comics seem to do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Black Covers of White Songs - "Light My Fire"

I'm always interested in how music is reinterpreted across different cultures. Even within one country, the USA, it is usually easy to identify black artists from white artists. And while a dominant historical trend has been the white appropriation of black music, there have been plenty of cases of black artists covering white songs. Check out some of the best examples here.

In this case, let's look at that classic of 60s rock, Light My Fire by the Doors. The original is in itself an interesting song, with its psychedelic organ wig-out and Brazilian-inflected rhythm. It's been covered by a number of black artists, and it's interesting to hear it reinterpreted with the flavours of Southern soul, gospel, reggae, jazz and funk.

Al Green has recorded his fair share of covers - rock, pop and country songs all being transformed into smooth, steamy Memphis grooves. If there is one thing The Reverend is good at doing, it is making something sound like an Al Green song - he has a niche and he nails it every time.

Jackie Wilson's version is a favourite of sample-loving crate-diggers - the tight backing track, played by Young-Holt Unlimited, turns up in De La Soul's classic "A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturdays". Aside from that, Wilson's vocals are as exuberant as always.

Much like Al Green, Shirley Bassey has a distinctive and unmistakable style, and it'll be no suprise to you that this has all the drama of a James Bond theme. The highlight is around 20 seconds in when the massive horn section announces itself.

The Rhetta Hughes version recaptures the psychedelic impulse of the original, but with shimmering vibraphone rather than Ray Manzarek's swirling organ.I don't know anything about Ms Hughes but this is cool.

Massive Attack's live cover is not all that special to be honest. I do think its got some cool sound effects percolating in there, and it samples the Jackie Wilson / Young-Holt version. Vocals are by Jamaican reggae legend Horace Andy.

Stevie Wonder's 1969 rendition is pretty cool, with the addition of funky drumming and orchestral elements. How he changes up the feel of the vocals is a great example of why Wonder is arguably the most influential singer in pop music.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jo Koy in Melbourne

LA-based comedian Jo Koy is in Australia this week and I was extremely fortunate to catch his sold-out show at Crown in Melbourne. (Shout out to my man Mike Chen for hooking that up.) I knew little of Koy prior to the show aside from a couple of Youtube clips, but was blown away - one of the best comedy gigs I've ever been to.

If you've never heard of the guy, here's a clip from a few years back to give you an idea.

While much of his material covered extremely well-worn topics - sex, masturbation, drunkenness, farting - it still seemed fresh and funny. It helps of course to have Jo's energetic style, knack for improvisation and likeable stage persona.

But the highlight for me was the material about his family life, which combined pathos and humour in a way reminiscent of Richard Pryor at his best. There is nothing new about gags based around how nutty parents can be, or the challenges of raising a child, but Jo managed to avoid cliche and be sentimental without being cheesy (a liberal sprinkling of dick jokes helps, of course). The material about being raised by his single Filipino mother, with all its accompanying cultural idiosyncracies, was brilliant. There was a realness about his fond anecdotes about his upbringing that made it more than just hilarious; unsurprisingly it went down a treat with an audience that was at least 60% Pinoys.

After the gig, a few people stayed on to chill out at Golden Monkey (Mike's bar), with the early 90s hiphop soundtrack provided by yours truly. Another treat was to come the following night, as Mike and I caught up with Jo again for coffee in Cafe L'Incontro. (I was feeling very much like Turtle from Entourage at this point.) This was preceded by what was meant to be a few drinks at the Comic's Lounge, which turned into an impromptu set that closed the night's comedy. The punters, who had been there for 3 hours watching a selection of mostly underwhelming local comedians, were given an unexpected highlight as Jo brought the house down. Interesting contrasts at play there; between the more Aussie crowd at Comic's Lounge and the mostly Filipino crowd at Crown, and the gulf in class between the local strugglers and an international-class comic.

Jo is a nice guy as well as a funny mofo... will definitely make the effort to check him out on his next visit.

I look like freakin' Mini-Me in this photo.

"If I Was Like You" - thought-provoking short film on race relations

From first-time film-maker Wesley Du comes this multi-layered and challenging short film entitled If I Was Like You. It recently premiered at the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival - apparently no other festival would touch it due to its controversial nature. Fortunately for you and I, it has been uploaded to Youtube for public consumption.

The film centres around Asian-American single father Daniel, living with his son Billy in predominantly black neighbourhood in South-Central Los Angeles. When Billy is killed following an altercation with African-American thugs, Daniel's rage spills over after the police cannot seem to help and his black neighbours apparently saw nothing. To bring attention to his son's murder, Daniel erects a racially-provocative sign out the front of his house, which has some serious ramifications.

It's a gripping look at the nature of attitudes to race and racism, and what is revealed in the human character in times of sorrow or anger. There are interesting angles everywhere worthy of discussion, in the interactions between white, black and Asian.

Watch the 13-minute film here in 2 parts.

(Spoiler alert!)
There is plenty left unsaid in the film, which allows events to be read in a number of different ways. There is implicit criticism of how both Daniel and some of his black neighbours see the issue of race. The young black men's violently passionate reaction to the word "nigger" is contrasted with what Daniel sees as ambivalence about the murder of his son. It is not clear whether or not race had anything to do with the son's death, but Daniel feels like it is - he immediately sees events in terms of race, rather than individuals. The line “Man, if he was black, he would have been shot!” is a brilliant touch - implying that his Asianness can be a blessing and a curse. It may well have made his son a victim, but it may also have prevented Daniel from being shot himself.

Great short film that made me think a lot.

What did you think?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Black chicks singing in Mandarin - why not? This is cool.

Another of those odd cross-cultural phenomena that youtube keeps churning out. Two African-American girls living in Germany, who just happen to be obsessed with Chinese songs. Only one of them has studied Mandarin, and then only for a year, but apparently their pronunciation is pretty spot-on. (I wouldn't know.)

Internet age, I thank you.

Also check out:

Nigerian dudes sing Bollywood

Tajik Jimmy. This guy is freakin' amazing.

Daichi, amazing Japanese beatbox kid

Lloyd Popp - awesome Indonesian talk-box guy

Asians and their love of spitting

"While many Western cultures consider phlegm to be an unpleasant substance, to be hidden shamefully in a handkerchief, Asians regard phlegm’s rightful place as being on the ground, preferrably where someone will step in it.

Asians who have grown up in the West do not always adopt this charming habit, presumably aware that non-Asians consider it quite unsavory. Yet the steady stream of fresh-off-the-boat immigrants and exchange students from the motherland ensure that Western sidewalks, roads and other walking surfaces do not miss out on the Asian loogie treatment."

...that is from a piece I wrote which is being featured at the Stuff Asian People Like website. You can read the whole post here.

When is an American not an American?

The question of what it actually means to be an American is quite relevant this week.

Following the massacre of fellow soldiers at Fort Hood by army psychiatrist Malik Nadal Hasan, the US Muslim community will clearly find itself under scrutiny. The extent to which Hasan's faith played a role in his murderous actions is yet to be fully understood, but up until recently he would have been considered a model citizen - American-born, opting to get a good education and carve out a successful career serving in the military. Take Islam out of the picture and Hasan would seem to fit the profile of various non-Muslim average joes who flaked out due to various pressures and figured killing people was the solution. Unlike previous perpetrators of shooting massacres, public opinion is making this one all about Islam.

Over at the right-wing site, the comments section is afire with thoughts of retribution against their fellow Americans. When they are not finding ways to somehow blame the shooting on Barack Obama, readers are expressing sentiments like this:

curmudgeon: "the media has somehow not been able to notice that the perpetrators are "peaceful" muslims. i have only one question.......why have we not already deported all muslims?"

and this:

enrique: "We should strike a decisive blow against those who are actively attempting against our way of life and security. We are dealing with fanatics who won't stop at nothing to harm us. I say let's expedite their meeting with their 72 virgins! Let's go in the offense rather than at the defense. Lets kill some muslims. There is no harm. They are going to their virgins. What a great day for them when we will help them achieve their dreams!!! As a matter of fact why don't we run a nationwide campaign allowing them to be killed, by us, and we will call it martirdome. Who said that America ws not the land of opportunity!"

It is because of nutjobs like Enrique above that President Obama urged people not to jump to conclusions while the shooting is being investigated. Of course, the Townhall crowd are pillorying him for that as well.

So clearly, a Muslim American is not really an American in the eyes of many; the many who cannot make any distinction between violent extremists and the average Muslim citizens who go about their daily business much like any other American.

I came across this video over at the Stuff White People Do blog. Its more than a year old, but is worth watching - an ABC news segment observing the reactions of people when confronted by a blatant piece of racist discrimination against a Muslim woman. In a staged scene, she is refused service at a bakery, due to her not dressing like "an American". What blew my mind was that despite how almost unbelievably ridiculous the racism displayed was, some onlookers agreed wholeheartedly with it. I think these sort of hidden-camera set-up stunts are always to be regarded with a bit of scepticism, but it's fascinating nonetheless. The reactions of the various onlookers are at turns disgraceful and inspiring.

Another event made news this week. Thankfully it is a much nicer news story, but the reaction to it is very revealing. Sports Illustrated reports on Mebrahtom ("Meb") Keflezighi, the winner of the New York Marathon. Due largely to the dominance of runners from East Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia and similar countries) he is the first American to win the race since 1982.

But for some, Keflezighi does not really count as an American. Born in Eritrea, he arrived in the US at age 12. Despite his East African birthplace, all his training and competition has been under the US system. But that has not meant acceptance as a truly "American" runner.

CNBC sports writer Darren Rovell wrote a heavily criticised article claiming that Meb's victory is little for Americans to get excited about.

"Given our disappointing results, embracing Keflezighi is understandable. But Keflezighi's country of origin is Eritrea, a small country in Africa. He is an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country. Nothing against Keflezighi, but he's like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league. The positive sign was that some American-born runners did extremely well in yesterday's men's race. If any of them stand on the top step of the podium in Central Park one day, that's when I'll break out my red, white and blue."

Rovell had the good grace to write a follow-up article admitting he had not realised how long Meb has lived in America, and taking back some of what he had written. But his initial article is only one of a number that have questioned how American this immigrant really is. It is funny to contrast this to Australia's eagerness to claim any famous person with even a hint of Australian-ness (Mel Gibson, the Bee-Gees, etc).

Bear in mind that Mebrahtom Keflezighi is not a Muslim but a Christian. As he won the event he pointed to the "USA" singlet he had on, and knelt down to kiss the ground of the country he calls home. His family story is the sort of inspiring tale that Americans should be proud of, involving a harrowing flight from war-torn Eritrea, then forging success through hard work and education (his numerous siblings have graduated with degrees in medicine, law, economics and more).

But there's just no pleasing people. In an age when many still believe their own President is not an American, it's no suprise really.

Related posts:

"Send them all back" - even if they are Australian

Obama bows to Saudi king - clearly he must be weak or a Muslim extremist

Is the anti-Obama movement motivated by racism?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Awesome Asian Ads: Indonesia

This first one is another of the "Axe Effect" commercials which are all thematically similar. It's funnier if you understand Indonesian. The excessively hot girl, taking a lollipop, asks, "Do you have chicken flavour?" and then "If you have it, give me a call, ya?"

And then there are those ads that defy rational explanation, but are worth watching nonetheless...

Check out some other Indonesian commercials here.

Awesome Thai ads here, here and here.

Awesome Malaysian ads here and here.

Awesome Indian ads here.

Awesome Korean ads here and here.

Why it's good to have ugly friends

I came across this article recently in the Daily Mail. Apparently, research shows that standing next to folks who are less attractive has the effect of making you seem more attractive by comparison. I guess you probably knew that already, but someone has done a study which proves it.

No wonder so many people want to be my friend - I make them look good.

But is this really true? Because you could also argue that having unattractive people around you may actually have the opposite effect. Given that a lot of people, consciously or not, associate physical attractiveness with coolness, will having some uglies around you make you seem less cool?

Think about it this way. Just say I hung around with, for argument's sake, George Clooney. I think it's fair to say that if I'm standing next to Clooney, no one is gonna look over and say "Wow, that guy standing next to George Clooney is hot!" Mere mortals are going to pale into insignificance in such a situation, thus confirming the theory that its better to have unattractive rather than attractive friends.

BUT... could there be a counter-effect, in that once the initial dazzle of Clooney wears off, that people start thinking, "Wow, that guy is hanging out with George Clooney... he must be really cool." Thus, by hanging out with the uber-attractive guy, does it increase my chances of getting some cast-offs and sloppy seconds?

Then there is always the "Hugh Hefner Effect". Be seen with lots of beautiful people of the opposite sex, and people will start to assume there is some kind of attractive mystique about you, even if you are uglier than a bucket of arseholes.

Hmmmm... in any case, I'm making sure that my address book is stocked with a good balance of hotties and fuglies. You never know when you might need one.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to measure Moral Outrage in Australia

Pictured: Racist former politician Pauline (Dancin') Hanson is resurrected as a public figure by Channel 7; a performance on Hey Hey It's Saturday that was degrading to black people; Harry Connick Jr expressing his displeasure at the blackface skit. Guess which of these most offended Australian sensibilities?

Australians are a laid-back people who don't take things, including themselves, too seriously.

This is, at least, what we tell ourselves. And by and large it is true. Yet it is interesting to follow the zeitgeist on certain issues and see how we are overly sensitive about some things that perhaps don't matter, yet insensitive about other things that perhaps do.

So I've come up with the Moral Outrage Scale to chart just how we seem to feel about some of the big and not-so-big emotive issues of recent times...

A disproportionate number of Indian people in Australia are targeted for robbery and unprovoked bashings.

Indian people here and in India have the nerve to protest about being targeted for robbery and unprovoked bashings.

John Safran does a few schoolboyish stunts on a program which, while undeniably silly, is basically eulogising cross-cultural love and understanding.

Pauline Hanson, promoter of cross-cultural hatred, is promoted as a contestant on "Celebrity Dancing With the Stars".

A group of contestants dance around in blackface on "Hey Hey It's Saturday", an act generally considered inappropriate and offensive to black people.

Harry Connick Jr points out diplomatically to the audience that in America blackface is considered very offensive and inappropriate.

Australian soldiers participate in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, in which many civilians are killed.

Civilians from war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan turn up in boats on Australian shores and have the nerve to seek refuge from possibly being killed.


UPDATE: It seems that purely by coincidence, Fairfax columnist Marieke Hardy wrote a column this week that covers very similar territory. Worth reading - check it here.

Vietnamese grandpa repeatedly kicks cop in the nuts

Violence is never okay. Especially when it is against an officer of the law - it's an attack on authority itself. Violence is wrong, people, and it's not funny.

Except when the perpetrator is a 78-year-old man who for some strange reason thought he would beat the crap out of a police officer with some crazy kung fu stylee, focusing specifically on the poor cop's family jewels.

In which case, you gotta admit that's kinda funny.

In Orange County, California, Mong Kim Tran was driving home when he was pulled over by a police officer whose radar had detected the Vietnamese-American senior citizen doing 52mph in a 35mph zone. The officer advised Mr Tran that he would be receiving a speeding fine, to which he replied: "I don't believe you - I'm from Vietnam."

That's the best excuse ever. Strangely enough, it wasn't good enough to make the officer change his mind, so Tran started screaming and assumed a fighting stance. He punched the officer twice in the body, then kicked him in the groin. The officer managed to take Tran to the ground and handcuff him, with the aid of some bystanders. Tran then sat on the kerb as other officers arrived, along with paramedics to check his condition. He then got to his feet and managed to kick the officer in the groin again before being subdued a second time. Wow, this is one pensioner with some serious cojones of his own. Even in chains he never gives up fighting.

Of course, that is what the police say. Tran's family claim that he is a gentle man with no history of kicking the balls of authority figures, and who spends most of his time in church. According to them, the police misunderstood him because of his limited English, and they demand to know why they would beat up on an old man.

I don't know which version of the story is true, but I prefer to believe the police report, because it makes Mong Kim Tran sound like the kind of badass that 50 Cent and Jay-Z only wish they were.

Full story here.

More like this:

This guy is my new hero - China's elderly traffic enforcer

Asians accused of being bad drivers - by a senior citizen

Interesting Asian restaurant names

WTF? Weird Vietnamese version of the song "Birthday Sex"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chinese-made "fake hymens" being marketed to the Middle East

Interesting story in Britain's Guardian this week about the growing demand for fake hymens in the Middle East, which writer Mohamed Al Rahhal just had to buy. They are manufactured in China and can be bought in Egypt via mail order. The phenomenon has lawmakers in a stir, arguing that it will promote female promiscuity.

To a Western mindset this is a whacky idea for a product, but in many societies, there are few things more important than ensuring the "honour" of an unmarried woman. And when she becomes a bride, in some cultures it is customary to check the bedsheets for blood after the marriage is consummated. For a woman who wishes to marry but is no longer a virgin, a fake hymen can protect against the perception of dishonour. And dishonour can sometimes be a matter of life and death - many so-called "honour killings" are related to a girl being seen to be sexually promiscuous.

How ridiculous is it that such a product exists? I mean, I'm glad that it does, but the whole philosophy towards women and sexuality that necessitates it is just messed up. Where is the insistence on males proving their virginity? Why does no one care whether men sleep around before marriage, yet demand that a woman remain pure? It is quite amazing the number of young men I have observed, in cultures from Asia, Europe and Africa, who see no hypocrisy in them being proudly sexually active, yet demanding a virgin bride.

The abhorrent practice of female circumcision (or female genital mutilation), practiced primarily in Africa but also Southern Asia, is tied to this philosophy. Its ultimate aim, at least in its extreme forms, is to prevent a woman from enjoying sex, thus dissuading her from having sex before marriage.

I'd like to think that in the West our attitudes are a little more advanced in this respect. But how much, really? Consider that a sexually active man is lionised as a "playa", "stud" or "ladies man", whereas the female equivalent seems to be "slut" or "whore". Of course, should a woman not wish to be sexually active, she is derided as "frigid". Many guys seem to be on an eternal quest for sex, but once they acquire it, do they respect the woman who granted them such a treasure? If only.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bogans are funny

Laughing at bogans is a guilty pleasure of mine. It's terribly classist of me to do so, but I just can't help it. Try it; it'll make you feel better about yourself.

Read this story from the Northern Territory News, and see how many things just scream out "bogan alert!"

A WOMAN accused of performing a sexual act on a man when he crashed in Darwin's rural area is outraged at the allegation and says it is "absolutely wrong". Allyson White said the mark left by her seat belt across her chest was proof the claims of "amorous activities" with the driver were not true.

"I was not ****ing his **** -- and it's pretty obvious that wasn't the case ... you only have to look at the mark on my chest," she said. "Clearly I had my seat belt on, so it's impossible I'd be leaning over ****ing his ***** unless he is hung like a donkey or I've got a ******* rubber neck.

"If it was true I'd just cop it sweet and think 'how embarrassing, I got caught ****ing someone's ****'. But it is not true and that's what is p***ing me off. It didn't happen like that at all -- he was just going too fast."

Police told in Thursday's Northern Territory News how they believe a driver crashed his car while involved in "amorous activities" with his female passenger. They said the 33-year-old man was distracted by the woman and veered off the road, smashing his single cab Hilux ute into a concrete drain on Pioneer Rd in Humpty Doo. But Ms White said that wasn't true.

"It may have looked bad when police first arrived as my 'girls' were hanging out all over the place. I also had a $5 note wedged between my boobs so they probably just assumed I was a sex worker or something ... but $5 is a bit cheap for a **** job."

Ms White, 34, said she had been at the Howard Springs Tavern celebrating a friend's birthday when they decided to go back to another friend's place in Humpty Doo. She said they stopped at Humpty Doo Tavern where she usually works to invite other friends, including the unnamed driver, along to the bash.

He did not know how to get to the house so she jumped in his car to give directions. He was charged with drink-driving after blowing .147, driving without due care and driving without a licence.

Seriously, the journalists must have had a field day with this one. There even get to use the phrase "blown out of proportion" in one of the captions. In any case, Ms White sounds like a fun person to have a conversation with.

So how many bogan alerts did you count? Here are a few telltale signs:

* Her name is Allyson. That's a bogan way of spelling Alison.
* Beer bottle on the table and ciggie in hand.
* She's 34 but looks at least 45, presumably from a life full of drinking beer and smoking ciggies.
* Copious swearing.
* A pub played a key role in the story.
* The driver was speeding and intoxicated.

Some of those factors are not especially bogan in isolation, but put them together and it is pure boganicity.

By the way, there is seriously something in the water in the Northern Territory that means people aren't controlling their urges.

For instance, check out this story about a couple caught bonking in a stolen 4WD at a service station. Or this story about another couple bonking in the back of a police van after being arrested. Or this story of a guy who filmed himself masturbating while speeding at 150km/h in his cannabis-laden car.

I guess sometimes you just really have to have it.

Want more bogan-ness? Try here:

Remember Trent from Punchy?

Drunken racist bogan knobhead of the week

Clare the Kings Cross bogan

Random comic genius: Uncle Sameer goes to Frankston