Thursday, March 31, 2011

Indian film stars vs regular Indians

In a recent discussion in the comments section of this blog, it was mentioned that "... Indian actors and actresses don't look like Indians... they might as well be another race."
It was also pointed out that while a Tamil like Kema Rajandran might have some difficulties finding modelling work in Australia, it wouldn't necessarily be easy in India either, given that country's overwhelming preference for light skin.

Coincidentally, this story ran in the UK's Daily Mail this week as well:
'You never see dark-skinned girls in TV ads': India's top models on how the country's fashion industry STILL champions fair skin

Two top Indian models have spoken out against what they believe is racism against darker-skinned women in the country's fashion industry.
Dipannita Sharma and Carol Gracias say they are losing out on top jobs because an increasing amount of Indian designers are casting lighter-skinned models.
Ms Sharma said that the whole country was so 'obsessed' with fair skin, that a shift in attitude would take years.
The 35-year-old, who is also a television star, told The Telegraph: 'It's not just the fashion industry, India per se is obsessed with white skin. We will take another hundred years to completely get over it.'
She continued: 'The industry doesn't openly agree that preferring foreign models over Indian models just for the skin tone is racism. It has some kind of fairness obsession. One could have understood, if it was about getting supermodels of international fame or to work in India but that's not happening, it's just they want fairer skin on the Indian ramps.'
Ms Gracias echoed her fellow model in an interview with the Hindustan Times. She revealed that she makes just $1,000 per runway show compared to top international models like Kate Moss and Adriana Lima, who can command between $20,000 and $150,000.
She explained: 'The major reason for this wide gap is that Indian models are not valued so much when it comes to commercial projects. You never see a dark-skinned girl on TV ads and that's where the lucrative work is. Everyone uses fair-skinned girls, people use skin-lighteners like Fair and Lovely. I don't - maybe I would have been fair and lovely by now.'
Pranab Awasti, of Delhi's Glitz Modelling agency, attributed the controversial issue to the country's 200-year history under British colonial rule. He told the Hindustan Times: 'Indians in general have that inferiority complex, we have had a hangover about fair skin, since the British left India. The idea of fairness is an Indian concept and it needs to change. It is an inherent thing in Indians to see white as beautiful and black as ugly... we have this concept in our minds that only fair-skinned people can be models.'
Others argue in an industry that worships size-zero, skin colour is not an issue and most local models are simply too curvy to make the cut.
Runway choreographer Tanya Lefebvre said: 'The girls are not tall enough and have varying body shapes.'
Skin lightening controversy is not new for the Indian fashion industry. Editors of Elle India were accused digitally lightening the skin colour of Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for the magazine's December 2010 issue, reigniting the decades-long debate.
Ok, so for context, here are photos of Sharma and Gracias. Given your knowledge of what Indians look like, would you class them as "dark", as Indians go?

Because in the Indian context, they are considered dark. Too dark.

A couple of points about the article. I disagree that the obsession with fair skin is related to British colonialism to any great degree. Preference for "lightness" does not equate to preference for "whiteness". It's far older than British rule and has its basis in the caste system. The conquerors of India have historically come from the north (Indo-Europeans, Muslim Moghuls), and the darker tones of the Southern Indians have acquired a negative association, enshrined by caste. It is probably overlain with an element of the same colour prejudice that occurs in East Asia, which is related to social class and occupation (dark skin = tan from working out in the sun = being a commoner).

Realistically, the likes of Sharma, Gracias and Rajandran are not really dark, when one considers the diversity of phenotypes across India. They are probably in the middle of the skin tone range. The ideal look for Indian celebrities is at the pale end of the spectrum. Male actors can to some extent get away with a degree of swarthiness that females can't. Still, in a country with significant prejudices against its Muslim minority and hatred towards its Muslim neighbour Pakistan, some of the biggest male stars of Bollywood are Muslims (Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan), and I wonder how much that is related to their "Aryan"-ness.

I thought it'd be a nice experiment to compare Indian actresses with regular Indians. To show the contrast most clearly, I've focused on Tamils, who are from South India (and Sri Lanka) and are one of the darker-skinned ethnic groups in India. Yet if you looked at Tamil actresses, you might think differently. These images are from

By contrast, these are the first 15 images I found from googling "Tamil people". This is obviously not any kind of rigorous scientific study, but the contrast is obvious.
But these swarthy average Tamils need not fear. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is here to help.

Those ads made me want to vomit. I prefer this one (a spoof of the second ad):

I've written more about this issue in this earlier post:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Konichiwa, bitches"

To my American friends: I know that y'all are good people. You are a pretty cool country, in general. I know that most of you guys are decent and upstanding folk with good values.

But if you're ever wondering why some people around the world consider you to be a nation of obnoxious dicks, this video is as good a starting point as any.

Seriously, somebody choke that guy with an oversized twinkie.
Props to the US and Argentinian players and the vast majority of the American crowd at that game, who know how not to be complete assholes.

See also:
What douchebags on social media think about Japan's earthquake 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Hannibal Buress and Moshe Kasher

(I'm the guy who appears to made of pure energy)
I had one of those random evenings that turns out completely and randomly different than I first thought it would be. At 4:45pm I was seated at my computer and thinking how I was going to cook some Korean food and chill in the crib the rest of the night... then somehow at 6:30pm I was lining up outside Soft Belly to watch some random comics I wasn't that familiar with, simply because it was only $12 and since I'm a tightass it seemed like too good a deal to refuse. And 4 hours later it was over and it was quite amazing, and included me getting pulled up on stage at one point by Adam Hills in the name of audience participation (pictured right).

 We were treated to short sets by host Karl Chandler (good and occasionally brilliant), Adam Hills (justifying why he's probably Australia's favourite comic right now), Charlie Pickering (hit-and-miss on this occasion but still interesting), Lawrence Leung (underwhelming, his TV shows are far better than his standup), Canadian Deanne Smith (good without being amazing), and a lengthy set from headliner Brendon Burns (edgy, offensive, poignant and hilarious). Impressing me most were two US comics who I'd previously never heard of, Moshe Kasher and Hannibal Buress, who offered 15-minute tasters of their upcoming acts at the Comedy Festival.

Buress, who has worked as a writer on both SNL and 30 Rock, in particular has shot straight onto the shortlist of my favourite comedians.

Check out their acts and more at the 25th Melbourne International Comedy Festival, from 30th March until 24th April.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Australian soldiers in Facebook racism scandal

I wonder when people with offensive opinions are going to figure out that posting shit on social media brings more trouble than its worth.

There's been a furore this week when it was revealed that a number of Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan had posted racial slurs about the locals on Facebook. According to various reports, there were references to "smelly locals", "ragheads", "dune coons" and "sand niggaz".

A few things. Firstly, it is completely unsurprising that this type of thinking goes on, and no one should delude themselves into thinking that Australian soldiers are much worse than any other country's soldiers in this respect. Military culture is macho and aggressive, some would say out of necessity, and they also are exposed to some of the worst aspects of the Afghani people. They are in highly stressful situations and need to vent.

But unsurprising or not, it's the sort of attitude and behaviour that the armed forces desperately needs to stamp out. And it's nothing to do with such airy-fairy notions as "political correctness" or racial slurs just not being nice. It's extremely practical, because this is one instance that illustrates how potentially harmful racism can be, rather than just some unfashionable thoughts.

Firstly, the troops are not just trying to wipe out an enemy. They are trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghani people, and creating situations that turn civilians into potential adversaries is severely detrimental to the cause. As Air Marshall Angus Houston, head of the Armed Forces, stated recently: "The problem is that it will be used against Australian soldier and against the Afghan government," he said. "This sort of disrespectful behaviour will endanger the lives of others."

But not only that. Racism, where it is allowed to flourish, leads to greater dehumanisation of the Aghani people. The more they are dehumanised by soldiers, the greater likelihood that atrocities will be committed. Atrocities are a sad inevitability of any war, to some extent. But it's much harder to commit atrocities when you recognise the common humanity in the people whose territory you are occupying. And it's a lot easier to commit atrocities against people you see merely as a bunch of smelly ragheads, dune coons and sand niggaz.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Akira" to be remade with white people

Did any of you ever find it weird that Arnold Schwarzenegger, with his unmistakably thick Austrian accent, used to play characters with such Anglo names as Harry Tasker, Douglas Quaid, Ben Richards and The Terminator?

If you answered yes, then how will you feel about watching a movie filled with white guys with such distinctively Japanese names as Akira, Tetsuo and Kaneda?

If your first thought is "Hmmm, that sounds kinda f*cked up", then welcome to the club.

How white will Akira be? This white.

But that's precisely what's likely to happen as Warner Brothers prepare to make their live-action version of the landmark 1988 Japanese anime Akira, about teenage bikers with psionic powers in futuristic Neo-Tokyo. For the two lead roles, the script has been sent to the sort of actors you'd expect to play people with Japanese names: Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix.

Obviously someone at Warner Brothers watched Akira and loved it, except for the fact that it's just too, well, Japanese.

Now preferably, they would have just left it well alone to begin with. But obviously Hollywood simply can't resist taking every awesome foreign film ever made and making their own lifeless facsimile to appeal to the kind of audience who won't watch the original because it's in another language and it doesn't have any actors they've ever heard of. And if it becomes a success then audiences will exclaim, "Oh, The Departed was so awesome! Scorsese, what a genius!"

This version of Akira is apparently going to be set in Neo-Manhattan rather than Neo-Tokyo, yet they are keeping the Japanese names. You'd think then, that it would be a perfect opportunity to use some Asian-American talent. Or even Asian-Asian talent (ie. Korean star Rain). Wrong.

Of course, the obvious defence of Hollywood is this: "Where are the Asian male leads who could carry these roles? There are simply none with the profile of Pattinson and so on."

Which makes sense... except that it begs the question: "Why not?"

If there are no Asian-American male actors famous enough to carry this movie, it's because Hollywood has not given them the chance. Was Pattinson a star before Twilight? No. And the other names on the list, with the exceptions of Phoenix and Timberlake, are hardly household names anyway.

But as you probably well know, it's just Hollywood doing as Hollywood does, continuing a tradition that includes 21, The Last Airbender, and Dragonball Z.

(Hat tip: Racebending, via BigWOWO)

UPDATE (27th March):
Thai-American playwright and performer Prince Gomolvilas has this video up that captures this issue quite brilliantly. Check it:

Friday, March 25, 2011

RIP Loleatta Holloway (1946 - 2011)

This week we lost another of the great voices of soul music, disco diva Loleatta Holloway, who died on 21 March at the age of 64. Beginning as a gospel singer in the 60s, Holloway had a career as a soul artist that never really got going until 1980, when she struck gold with the epic disco track Love Sensation. Disco as a genre has frequently (and often rightly) criticised for being vacuous, but Love Sensation in no way fits that description. Its elaborate arrangement is filled with enough hooks to fill several songs; which explains why so many artists have sampled it in songs that sound nothing like each other. (Personally I could listen and dance to the section between 0:45 and 1:03 on loop all day.) And of course at its centre is Holloway's massive and unmistakable vocal performance.
Many of you won't have heard this song, which I consider to be the single greatest disco tune of all, but you'll probably recognise bits of it from Black Box's 1989 UK #1 hit Ride on Time, which sampled Holloway's vocal extensively. (The Italo-house outfit were subsequently sued by Holloway and writer Dan Hartman for royalties.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Paris Hilton will make out with you if she can't tell you're black

Neil Strauss (he of The Game fame) has a new book out entitled Everyone Loves You When You're Dead, which draws from his many interviews as a pop culture reporter. One anecdote that's making the rounds at the moment involves an 18 year-old Paris Hilton, who at the time had not made that sex tape and thus was not really famous. In this excerpt at LAWeekly, she shares her enlightened views on race:

HILTON: I went out with that guy last night.

STRAUSS: Which guy?

HILTON (points to an actor in Saving Private Ryan): We were making out, but then we went somewhere where it was bright and I saw he was black and made an excuse and left. I can’t stand black guys. I would never touch one. It’s gross. (pauses) Does that guy look black to you?

STRAUSS: How black does a guy have to be?

HILTON: One percent is enough for me.

And Paris seemed like such a person of integrity and substance too. I know she was only 18, but that's dumb even for an 18 year-old. The "black" guy is apparently Vin Diesel, who wasn't famous then either.

Of course it's possible that Strauss is bullshitting and she never said any such thing. But the thing is, anyone who's ever observed anything she's been in should not be surprised at such inanities.
I'm not sure which is more interesting, the news that Paris is a firm believer in the one-drop rule, or that she hung out with Vin Diesel long enough to find him attractive and make out with him, yet in that time somehow failed to notice that he was a bit ethnic.

So for all you ambiguous black-ish guys harbouring desires of getting a little some-some with Paris Hilton, it's simple: hang out in the shadows and avoid using ebonics.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whatever this kid is on, I want some

Normally I avoid these types of videos. But sometimes you rightly have to make an exception.

One day our friend here will probably grow up to become a boring conformist adult. But for now, he's a legend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The whiteness of the Australian modelling industry

Thanks to reader George for the heads up on this story.

Modelling agency denies racism claims
An Indian-Australian model told by a national modelling agency that her work chances were "limited" because she was not Caucasian, is speaking out against the company in a bid to stop the discrimination continuing.
After living and working as a model in the United Kingdom for two years, Kema Rajandran emailed a short biography and photos to Chadwick Model Agency in Perth on Monday, and was "truly disheartened" at the response she received a short time later.
"We think you are very photogenic and would be suitable for our Casting Division," the email from the academy coordinator read.
"Please note however that as you are of non-caucasian heritage that your work opportunities in Perth would be extrremely [sic] limited."
Ms Rajandran said given the "extremely multicultural society of Australia", she was shocked at the response, and hoped that by her speaking out about it, the practice of culling models based solely on their appearance would change.
Chadwick's Perth manager Tanya Muia said she was "gob-smacked" that the agency could be labelled as racially discriminating against Ms Rajandran, and that they were simply relaying her chances of finding work in a tight Perth modelling market.
"This is just ridiculous. I don't see that this is race related," Ms Muia said. "If we don't feel that she's going to secure work in the Perth market... then we tell [her] about it. We have the liberty to give an honest opinion."
Ms Muia said Chadwick, along with other modelling agencies, provided models based on industry demand and that as such had no control over the "looks" chosen for various campaigns.
"We are not discriminating in any way. We represent every culture out there," she said. "There is a bigger picture here other than just that one line, and yes, we will be changing it. But we have worded it (the standard email response) that way for 10 years. We've never had a complaint."
Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson said while she could not comment specifically on Ms Rajandran's case, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee either at the workplace or in the recruitment process, based on their race. She said there are some exemptions in the case of artistic performance, however did not believe that modelling agencies would fit into this category.
Ms Rajandran said she was extremely disappointed to learn that her Indian appearance would hinder her employment opportunity, especially given the extensive work on offer in the UK to models of "all ethnicities and cultures".
She said she had previously expressed her thoughts on Australia's predominantly Caucasian-based image, and until she saw this email, thought she might have been exaggerating it in her mind.
"This is not right, and I want to bring it to the attention of Australians," she said. "I'm sure they are going to try and justify it... but it is not an acceptable comment."

Ok, a few thoughts here. It seems like Chadwick Modelling Agency aren't really the problem; I wonder if this is a case of "shoot the messenger". If they rejected her solely for that reason and without even giving her a go, then obviously they are just perpetuating the cycle - it's all very well to say that the demand is not there for non-white models, but if the agencies don't give them a chance to even be in contention then there's no chance for things to change. But from my understanding, they actually offered to take her on board their casting division, but felt it necessary to advise her that there weren't many prospects for her. Apparently, the email they sent her was a standard format they had been using for 10 years for clients like these. (Which is sad in itself.)

It must be pointed out for context that Perth is not an especially large city; it's population is around 1.6 million, compared to Sydney (4.5 million) and Melbourne (4 million). Thus it's a smaller market for models and there's obviously going to be less work around. In addition, the ethnic mix of Perth is less diverse than either of those two cities, and that has an effect on how accepting the public is of non-white standards of beauty. Yet Perth also has a substantial Aboriginal community, and is one of the few cities in which a non-white person (Sri Lankan-born and extremely fine Karina Carvalho) is the lead anchor on prime-time news on a major channel (ABC).

Some would argue that there is a lot of political correctness at play here. In other words, it's all about the bottom line, and when it comes to non-white models, the market has spoken. Companies do not want their products represented by the likes of Kema Rajandran, so why should anyone try to force them otherwise? The public, who buy the products, identify more with the traditional Western ideals of good looks, and casting non-white models might cost the company money.

First up, this begs the question: do consumers really respond better to models who fit a Western European ideal of beauty?

Let's assume that to at least some degree, consumers have a greater tendency to identify with celebrities and models who look somewhat like them, or at least look like something they could aspire to. Within a country that is about 90% white, that means white models will clearly receive preference, as currently occurs. Yet check out some ad campaigns for major international brands that feature in Australian television and print media, and it's certainly not all white faces. Beyonce Knowles, Halle Berry, Eva Longoria, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez and Aishwarya Rai are common sights in that realm. Yes, they are famous, but clearly their colour is not a significant obstacle to their images being used as a selling point. Which suggests that if the model is attractive enough, she's good enough.

Although you might wonder if the likes of Knowles and Rai had just been aspiring models from Perth rather than global superstars, how successful they would have been. I wonder if it is significant that two of Australia's most successful models who happen to have non-white ancestry - Samoan/Anglo Megan Gale and Portuguese/Chinese Jessica Gomes - were little known in Australia until they found success overseas.

How much does the modelling and fashion industry reflect the general public's ideas of beauty, and how much does it shape them? As a parallel, I would argue that the relative dominance of gay men in the fashion industry has played a factor in promoting female models with a more androgynous look than you might expect if it was more in line with how heterosexual men see women. So in that sense I would say that it is not necessarily reflecting public tastes. Yet it certainly shapes public tastes; our expectations of what women's bodies should look like are seemingly more unrealistic than they were several generations ago. Models considered unusually "curvy", like the aforementioned Jessica Gomes for example, still tend to be thinner than the average woman.

Likewise, if the various industries that use models start to use a more diverse range of them, it will undoubtedly have some degree of influence on the public's notions of beauty. So to say that the industry merely reflects the public's taste is erroneous, since it both reflects and feeds it simultaneously.

Given that Rajandran was obviously able to find work without much problem in England, where the South Asian population is considerably larger than in Australia, one might argue that it simply comes down to the size of the market, and a non-white model is best off promoting herself in a location where there are more non-whites. But is that really where we are at? Do we really only want to look at one kind of beauty?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What douchebags on social media think about Japan's earthquake

Warning: these images may make you want to punch someone.

These are courtesy of the Ignorant and Online and KarmaJapan websites which highlight some of the most horrible ignorant comments on social media about the devastation in Japan. And there's plenty, plenty more where these came from. Proof that for all the good that Twitter and Facebook do (stimulating people-power-led revolutions in the Middle-Eastern dictatorships, etc), primarily it's still just a medium for people to prove what utter c**ts they are.

...actually, I think that would be the Chinese fur industries you are referring to. But it's all the same, right?
Yeah! USA! USA!


This shit would be understandable if Pearl Harbor occurred like, 2 weeks ago or something. It was 70 YEARS AGO! Since these social media users clearly weren't around back then, you have to wonder where this manufactured ugly patriotism is coming from.

Death toll from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: approximately 300,000. Fuck you Blake Osborn.


I like dolphins and whales as much as the next guy, but seriously? And it's amazing how many people suddenly believe in Karma when they want to heap shit on people. The Buddha would be so proud.

There are simply no words.

Indeed. Oh wait...

Fun with chavs

UCLA library is overrun by hordes of Asians

Ok, here is the tip of the week, from Eurasian in life-coach mode:

You know those thoughts that pass through your mind once in a while that are kinda racist, or to put them another way, "not the most politically correct"? Here's what you do - think them to yourself, or even write them down on paper and then throw away the paper. At least then you are getting that stuff off your chest and you can move on. Because if you actually express those thoughts out in public, you might end up having lots of people hating you and getting an urge to hold you down and take a steaming dump on your face.

Whatever you do, DON'T film the rant and upload it to Youtube.

Oh, you did already? What, you thought no one would watch it? Didn't think it would go viral to the point where within days there would be dozens of other vlogs of people whining about what a bitch you are or making fun of you? What world do you live in?

Come on down, Alexandra Wallace!

Nice timing too, just hours after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

Honestly, this video is full of PURE GOLD. Here are my favourite bits:
* The obligatory disclaimer; every good racially offensive rant needs one. Most people go with "I'm not racist, but..."
Alexandra instead starts with: "So we know that I'm not the most politically correct person so don't take this offensively. I don't mean it toward any of my friends, I mean it toward random people that I don't even know in the library. So you guys are not the problem."
I'm sure Alexandra's Asian (soon to be ex-) friends will feel really honoured that they are special and not like those other hordes of Asians.
* "The problem is these hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year, which is fine. But if you're going to come to UCLA use American manners."
Got that? OUR school.
This is perhaps the biggest horde of Asians a white person has seen since the Mongol empire invaded Eastern Europe. Looting and pillaging and doing Economics homework.
* "So, it used to really bug me, but it doesn't really bother me anymore..."
 (...which is why I'm gonna start ranting about it, because I like ranting about things don't bother me.)
* "...the fact that all the Asian people that live in all the apartments around me — their moms and their brothers and their sisters and their grandmas and their grandpas and their cousins and everybody that they know that they’ve brought along from Asia with them – comes here on the weekends to do their laundry, buy their groceries and cook their food for the week. It’s seriously, without fail. You will always see old Asian people running around this apartment complex every weekend."
 Jeepers, watch out, the horde is coming, and they're cooking and cleaning!

Seriously, think about it... students whose family members play an active role in their lives? Has the world gone completely mad?!?
* "I’ll be in like deep into my studying, into my political science theories and arguments and all that stuff, getting it all down, like typing away furiously, blah blah, blah, and then all of a sudden when I’m about to like reach an epiphany…"
 Am I the only person who thinks that sentence is code for something sexual? Ladies, don't you hate it when you are trying to fap in the library and you can't concentrate because of all the Asians?
* "Over here from somewhere, “Ooooh Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong, Ooohhhhh.”

 Any Cantonese speakers who can translate this for me, feel free. Her accent sounds like it needs work.
* "So being the polite, nice American girl that my momma raised me to be..."
Momma must be so proud.
* "And then it’s the same thing five minutes later. But it’s somebody else, you know — I swear they’re going through their whole families, just checking on everybody from the tsunami thing."
 Tsunami... oh, so they are Japanese? But I didn't realise the Japanese language sounded like “Ooooh Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong, Ooohhhhh.” That sounds a bit more like Chinese... oh, I get it now. Japanese, Chinese, Korean... all the same, aren't they?

There's plenty of responses to this on Youtube, but I can tell without even watching them that they'll mostly be a waste of your time. This one, however, is how to respond in style.

I just think that guy is awesome, even with whatever that thing he's growing under his chin is. Dude, I salute you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pursuing a better, smarter kind of immigrant?

Had an interesting discussion last week via the comments of this post with Razib Khan, who blogs prolifically at Gene Expression and elsewhere. It pertains to whether certain groups of immigrants (and Muslims in particular) are more problematic than others, and whether some kind of policy should be enacted to take this into account. I've included the comments below, after which I'll post some of my own thoughts. I've edited my own comments for length here.

(For the record, Razib is a Bangladeshi-American scientist. I assume he was raised as a Muslim but is now a passionate atheist. He's also considerably to the Right of me politically.)

Razib: whatever the details, i do think people need to be more cognizant of differences between various immigrant groups. muslims in particular, all things equal, are very problematic. specifically, i suspect a lot of the issues are pronounced in muslims from nations where they are a majority, and the culture mores as such that non-muslims are marginalized and "put in their place." muslims who are from india, often ismaili, are much more assimilated into british society than those from pakistan. some of this is due to human capital differentials (ismailis are often secondary migrants from east africa who had a history of being business people), but some of it is surely to the fact that ismailis in india have had to learn to fit in as one group among many, while muslims from pakistan come from a society where non-muslims are being cleansed and subject to de facto "jim crow" practices (because they are "dirty" kufars, with many christians and hindus being "low caste" to boot).

Eurasian Sensation: I do actually agree that Islam presents a challenge to multiculturalism in a way that [other, non-religion-specific] immigrant groups do not, since in its stricter interpretations it is incompatible with sharing a society with "kufar". However I also think that people who are Muslim have made valuable contributions to the fabric of my country. So having Muslim immigrants is not really the problem per se; it's how they are managed in their new home.
Razib: muslim immigrants from pakistan, unless appropriately sifted, *are* a problem. "moderates" in pakistan are not moderates like you and i would find congenial. moderates from turkey are less problematic. because of the influence and prestige of anti-pluralist muslim subcultures in the core of the arab world islam as a whole has a problem. if senegal was the model there wouldn't be a problem, but due to its marginality it's a deviation, not the expectation.

both racialists and multiculturalists elide these critical distinctions, because they make their positions easier to defend. after wall, who wants to defend a "crazy racist position" or the "crazy anti-white leftist position."

Eurasian Sensation: Your phrase "unless appropriately sifted" intrigues me. I'm opposed to racially discriminatory immigration policy, yet at the same time I want us to be more discerning in who we let in. How you do propose this sifting is done?

Razib: well, if you don't want to be culturally biased, filter on intelligence. real educational qualifications. the reality is that a lot of the most radical islamists are upwardly mobile, but their radicalism is in part a function of their lack of appropriate economic reward in societies where patronage and nepotism of entrenched elites keeps them from getting their just desserts

the main issue with education isn't that it makes people more liberal as such. *but*, if you are a professional it is almost impossible not to be socially integrated, and therefore see the "kufar" as a fellow human being (i.e., if they're your patients, clients, etc.).
that's why the working class pakistani proletariat in britain is terrifying. they live in their own subculture, and interact lot with "back home." and the amount of coddling they get from the british liberal mainstream is shocking. e.g., their persistent cousin marriage practices result in a genuine burden on the NIH way out of proportion to their numbers because of recessive diseases.

p.s on the last part about coddling. i went through britain last spring, and the working class pakistanis who adhere to conservative muslim values have their own place in that nation. it's accepted, tolerated, and encouraged. but they're nearly as sociopathological as the drunken british lower classes (in a different way). the white lower classes are not given the "space" that the pakistani working classes are, and that's because the latter are viewed as a "different culture," with "their own ways."

I don't really have any good solutions here but I'll throw out a few ideas. I'm speaking from an Australian perspective but the same roughly applies to other Western nations.

Immigration brings changes to any region or state, and like any phenomenon there will be both positive effects (added richness and dynamism to the culture, broadening of perspectives and opportunities, etc), and negative effects (environmental strain, ethnic tension, etc). There is no way to ensure that immigration has no negative aspects to it whatsoever. However, it would be negligent not to consider how migration and cultural integration policies could be improved to ensure that negative aspects can be minimised.
The general Left-Liberal position on immigration and diversity is this: that all races and cultures are basically equal. Given the right opportunities, anyone from any cultural background has the potential to succeed in a Western country.

It's an admirable perspective on things, based on a fairly optimistic view of human nature. But is it realistic? Obviously those on the Right would say no. The conservative point of view has long been that those of nationalities very different to the dominant ethnicity (in this case, Anglo-Saxon) are unlikely to be able to sufficiently integrate, and thus their immigration should be restricted.

The elephant in the room that the Left don't want to talk about and the Right often do is that some immigrant groups just don't perform as well as others on key indicators, and some seem far less likely to successfully integrate into the wider community than others. Some are over-represented in crime statistics.

In the Australian context, if we use crime rate as a key indicator, then a number of ethnicities have significantly higher rates of arrest and imprisonment than the locally-born. It's interesting to note that each of those ethnicities has it's own set of circumstances that impacts on crime rate, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to view it in terms of "race". For example, Vietnamese have a higher than average crime rate, yet the Chinese rate is considerably lower than average. The crime rate is high amongst Somalis and Sudanese, two communities based predominantly on refugees fleeing civil war; yet those Africans who migrated here under other schemes (Kenyans, Zimbabweans, Ghanaians, etc) tend to perform far better. This is primarily because they are more likely to be educated and professional, which echoes Razib's point about the educated being better equipped to integrate. Bear in mind as well that those who settle as refugees are more likely to have experienced trauma and have a broken family structure, and because of their poverty are more likely to live in areas in which the crime rate is already high.

Is the solution then simply to take only business migrants and reduce our refugee intake? I am certain that plenty would agree, but it's not an option in my book. Australia has a sometimes shaky record on asylum seekers, but few in politics would seriously look to make significant reductions to our humanitarian intake.

Here's one idea posited by commenter John Comnenus on the blog of Andrew Bolt, who is Australia's best-known conservative columnist. I have real problems with the implications of this, but it's an example of the sort of ideas that are out there:

In my opinion we should accept no migrants from countries that has a serious criminal incidence of more than 50% above the Australian level. The cost to the public in terms of victim costs, policing, justice and jailing means these groups fail the cost benefit test. Given that it is almost impossible to determine who will be a criminal we should have a blanket ban. Countries in this category are coloured dark red in the graph.

Immigrants ethnicity where the rate of serious criminality is more than 25% above the Australian born level should be subject to more detailed and thorough background checking. Countries in this group are coloured pink.
Countries in the gray zone i.e. within 10% of Australian norm should also have more detailed screening.
Australia’s immigration program should be heavily weighted to the countries in the green category, where the rate of criminality is less than half the Australian born rate. Over time such a policy will decrease crime rates, impact on fewer victims, cost less and leave a more positive view of immigration generally. It would make sure that immigration is being run in the national interest not the immigrants’ interest. The diversity in the green countries (China, India, UK) demonstrates unequivocally that this approach is NOT racist, it is colour blind without being behaviour blind.
Whether you like this plan or not is probably linked to your level of optimism about human nature and the prospects of those populations "levelling out" in terms of their crime rate, and immigration policy seems to assume that after some initial teething problems, crime issues within some of those key groups will normalise over time. If you're curious, the countries that Comnenus would exclude according to his plan are Tonga, Samoa, Romania, Sudan, Vietnam and Lebanon. Certainly those communities have produced more than their share of criminals, but they've also produced two Young Australians of the Year (Tan Le and Khoa Do), a former Premier of Victoria (Steve Bracks) and arguably Australia's greatest ever soccer player (Tim Cahill), to name just a few. Obviously, a few famous standouts are not representative of a whole community, but neither should an ethnic group be judged on the actions of its worst elements. And while crime is a serious issue, it doesn't define an entire community. Vietnamese-Australians, for example, have undergone a rapid transformation from a people mostly confined to blue-collar work in the 70s, to a highly-educated group strongly represented in professional fields. It tells you something about Comnenus and Bolt that their impression of Vietnamese-Australians seems to be predominantly as criminals.

Personally, I can't abide the idea of barring people from immigrating because of their race or where they came from. Most people would rightly regard that as racist. Of course, it's not an uncommon phenomenon, and it is really only Western democracies that believe it morally wrong to discriminate based on race. Japan, for example, has no problem doing so. While the introduction of such a policy would no doubt gain significant popular support in Australia, it would be so problematic and divisive that we are unlikely to see any such thing in the near future.

If we were to enforce a more rigid approach to immigration and settlement, it would have to be a non-racist one. Now, while I tend to despise the inevitable cries of "Send 'em back where they came from" anytime someone ethnic commits a crime, deportation does need to be a potential tool for deterring criminals. In some cases it would probably be the best option. Obviously taking up citizenship means that they becomine solely Australia's problem and exempt from deportation, but I'd even propose a "probationary" citizenship period of say, 3 years, in which it can be revoked in the event of serious crime or multiple minor crimes.

So what of the idea, suggested by Razib, of filtering on intelligence? It's an intriguing idea. At what IQ does one draw the line? 100? 90? Let's assume for a moment that this was practical; it still opens up a can of worms about how to measure intelligence, whether it is possible to make intelligence tests that are free of cultural bias, and whether someone with a high IQ must necessarily be a better contributor to society than someone with a low IQ.

It's fair to say that the majority of people involved in anti-social and criminal activities would be located in the low-to-average intelligence range. But it's also worthwhile mentioning that my discussion with Razib above focused largely on Muslims, and moderate vs fundamentalist. How does that equate with intelligence? As one of Razib's own posts details, there is a strong correlation between IQ and religiosity; the less intelligent are more likely to believe in the Bible (or presumably the Qur'an as the case may be) as the literal word of God, and to have a religiously conservative worldview. Higher IQ people tend more towards atheism, agnosticism and religious moderation, as well as liberal and moderate political views. But it should also be apparent that religion often negates rationality. I know numerous highly intelligent doctors who are Creationists. And the hardline Islamic lunar Right likewise seems to have a large number of articulate and intelligent people.

So would IQ-screening filter out all the dangerous nuts and extremists? Of course not. But extremism nonetheless requires a fairly ignorant base to work out of. If you accept that there is a correlation between IQ and social class, and between social class and the likelihood of being a criminal, then there is definitely an argument for testing immigrants for intelligence. In theory, anyway.

I don't ever see it being a reality. It might be feasible to apply such a test to economic migrants, but it's highly problematic to make someone fleeing torture, persecution and ethnic cleansing sit an IQ test in order to be granted safe haven. Likewise, is discriminating against the less intelligent (or more pertinently, those who don't perform well on IQ tests) really that much better than discriminating against someone because of their race? There are plenty of working-class folks who would bomb out on an IQ test, yet run their own businesses, employ many other people, and contribute greatly to society.

So beyond some minor tweaking of immigration controls we have now, there may be little else that may be done to guarantee we are letting in the right kind of migrant, at least without contravening some of our basic principles of fairness and equality. Thus it becomes essential that the right kinds of social policies are enacted to encourage an integrated society.

Is multiculturalism the problem? That largely depends on your interpretation of what that term means. "Culture" encompasses a whole list of things both good and bad, and it is possible to have a society made up of many ethnicities, yet firmly reject some of the practices that they may bring with them. Examples are polygamy, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, which occur in a wide variety of cultures worldwide; these are all outlawed in Australia, yet they are still tacitly accepted by some communities and thus persist covertly. As important as it is to respect and accommodate everyone's cultural perspectives, this can only go so far, and some things must be unequivocally rejected. (And in many cases, are rejected; for example, the consumption of dogs, cats and parts of endangered animals is all part of Chinese culture, but that is unlikely to be considered acceptable in the West, ever.)

I'll return to the topic of Islam. As I stated earlier, I agree with Razib that Muslim immigrants present a greater challenge to the fabric of society than other immigrant groups. Yet it is essential to distinguish between moderate and hardline here. The great majority of Muslims in the West are moderate and fit in without any major problems. Moderate Muslims realise that certain aspects of their religion are incompatible with modern life and can be conveniently ignored (in the same way that mainstream Christians don't adhere to the bit in the Bible where it says anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death). But of course, in any religious population there are hardliners, and Muslim hardliners tend to be a whole lot more worrying than Buddhist hardliners or Christian hardliners. Even without taking into account the potential threat of violence, Islam in its stricter interpretations makes it virtually impossible to integrate into a Western society, since it mandates separation from non-Muslims. A sensible government policy creates conditions in which the hardliners are marginalised to the point of insignificance; poor government policy allows hardline ideas to flourish and infect the moderate religious population.

Razib rightly points out that the UK stacks up poorly in this respect, whereas Australia, the US and Canada  seem to have done somewhat better. Surveys seem to indicate that young British Muslims are actually more conservative than their parents' generation, and more conservative than their counterparts in the other Anglophone countries. For example, one indicator of extreme views is whether a person believes that apostates (those who abandon Islam) should be punished by death. According to this Pew Research Centre study, 84% of Egyptian Muslims and 76% of Pakistani Muslims agree with this, whereas in Turkey, Lebanon and Indonesia this was the view of only 5%, 6% and 30% respectively. Yet amongst British Muslims aged 16-24, according to this article, 36% believe in the death penalty for apostasy. 13% of young British Muslims expressed support for Al-Qaeda, compared to only 5% in Turkey. (I'm not saying I put total faith in these surveys - the figure for Indonesia seems high to me - but that's what we have to work with.) In other words, despite their proximity to Western liberal values which emphasise freedom and tolerance for diversity, Britain is breeding a generation of young Muslims that is more extreme than numerous countries which are almost entirely Muslim. It is telling that Umar Abdulmutallab (aka the Underwear Bomber) acquired his extremist mentality not in his native Nigeria, but while studying at University College in London.

If Turkey (99% Muslim) can apparently be so much more progressive and secular than Britain's Islamic community, then it shows that the presence of Muslims does not mean extremism; it is the culture of that society that allows extremism to flourish. I'm not going to proclaim Turkey as any kind of champion of human rights and tolerance, but it has steadfastly maintained a moderate interpretation of Islam which has little room for extremism. So how has Britain managed to nurture a Muslim community where extreme beliefs are allowed to fester?

To an extent it is because Westen countries draw their Muslim migrants from some places with far more medieval attitudes than Turkey. But largely it is because multiculturalism is often too tolerant of intolerance - or at least a certain kind of intolerance. The age of political correctness has rightly turned white people's xenophobia into a taboo, yet it has too often given non-whites (or non-Christians) a free pass. Western governments' tolerance has allowed some mosques to import imams from overseas to preach violent and intolerant versions of Islam, and often thrown in the funding to do it with, all in the name of diversity. In Britain, crazed Islamist activist Anjem Choudry is allowed to publicly endorse terrorism and violence while picking up a social security cheque from the same government he so despises.

I'm firmly in support of a society in which all ethnic groups and religions can intermingle. But that only works if those various groups are prepared to play along. Expecting white Australians to embrace and accept cultural diversity is hollow if migrant groups are patronisingly viewed as exempt from having to be tolerant. Multiculturalism as fine with me only so long as it doesn't forget this.

Friday, March 11, 2011

LOL of the week - Guile Theme on Maury

Apropos of nothing, some things just fill my life with joy for no good reason. I watched this clip 8 times straight the other day. I agree that probably means there's something wrong with me, but if you don't find this at least a little bit funny, that means there's probably something wrong with you.

Dude's got moves.

"Guile Theme goes with everything" is one of those lesser-light internet memes, involving various movie and TV scenes being set to the Guile Theme from the classic arcade game Street Fighter II, which I spent hundreds of dollars trying in vain to clock back in the early 90s. (Guile was the blonde American GI character who shot sonic booms at people.) There's quite a few of these clips, but this Maury Povitch segment is the only one that reaches any real heights of awesomeness. The famous Guile quote from the game, "Go home and be a family man" is particularly appropriate here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eating seasonally and ethnically

People who are serious about their food often talk about the concept of seasonal eating. In other words, having a diet that revolves around what is in season at the time. The benefits of this are that you are theoretically getting your fruits and vegetables when they are at their freshest, cheapest, tastiest and most nutritious. By default you are more likely to be eating local produce as well, as out-of-season produce is brought in from greater distances involving greater fuel consumption. Thus it is a more environmentally sustainable way to live.

The other appeal of eating seasonally is a bit more intangible, and some would even say "wanky". It involves the appreciation of the cycles of nature, and a sense of celebration when foods come newly into season. The nature of the modern food industry means we have lost our sense of attunement with nature in our diets.

Now, all this appeals to me in theory, put I've never held it in much esteem, simply because I'm passionate about what I eat, and sometimes I just have to have certain things. If it's the middle of winter and I just have to have a salad involving fresh tomatoes, then I'm going to have fresh tomatoes. Losing my kinship with the cycles of Mother Nature doesn't really matter at that point. Likewise, the implied condemnation from seasonal-eating advocates of those who consume things produced in distant lands always struck me as a bit xenophobic. I'm Asian, dammit, and I love Asian food, and I need my tropical fruits, cardamom pods, Indonesian sweet soya sauce and fresh knobs of ginger. Without them I would be a pale imitation of the real me, but no one seems to be growing those things within thousands of miles of my temperate location.

However, I've been eating seasonally for quite a few months now, and it's not even on purpose.

The key has been growing my own vegetables. Since buying my own place I've developed an interest in this, but it has gradually turned into a full-blown obsession. Yes, I'm aware that such a pastime is not especially edgy or cool, but for some reason I like listening to gangsta rap while gardening, which I figure makes me pretty badass.

So Summer has just finished, and I still enjoyed substantial crops of tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, capsicum, strawberries, zucchini and green beans, while I'm experimenting somewhat successfully with okra, bitter gourd and sweet potato. Likewise, in the Spring I grew so many broad beans and ate so many of them that I ended up having to freeze a couple of bags lest I risk never wanting to eat broad beans again.

Having such plentiful vegetables means that you have to make the most of it. It's effectively free, after all (the monetary outlay having come much earlier) and there is undoubtedly a feeling of smug satisfaction knowing that you can create your own food. Since I don't have any kids yet, agricultural pursuits will have to fill that nurturing void in my life, being another way of raising something from my own seed, if you will.

As an avid foodie I am capable of cooking things from a wide variety of cuisines, but seasonality means that certain cuisines take precedence at different times of the year. There are certain things you can only grow in Summer and early Autumn - tomatoes, cucurbits (cucumber, zucchini and the like), basil - so I draw from culinary traditions that make the most out of them. So that means the Mediterranean diet goes into overload. Greek, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, Provencal. Mexican too. Since I grow Thai basil and the lemon basil (kemangi) which we use in Indonesia, those cuisines get a good look-in as well.

But in Winter there aren't so many options. It's great for various green leafy things - spinach, edible chrysanthemum, snowpea leaf tips, various brassicas (the cabbage family) of both the European and Asian varieties. Which means that I start cooking Chinese and Korean food a bit more often. But in general there is less bounty, so it's a time in which I am forced to rely less on fresh pickings and more on the staples of the cupboard, such as dried peas and lentils, and tinned tomatoes. Thus the focus also shifts to Indian and Middle-Eastern stews and curries. The cooler months are also the bumper season for citrus; this combined with the profusion of leafy greens means that the Greek staple horta (cooked greens with lemon and olive oil).

Obviously there are themes developing here but I don't stick to them religiously by any means... I buy plenty of things out of season because I want to eat them. But it's more about making the most of what's available. You'll notice that I tend slightly towards Southern European foods in Summer and Asian foods in Winter. That is largely because Western food has a fairly simple approach to spices, and puts more emphasis on the taste of the vegetables themselves. Therefore you need to have good, fresh produce, and Summer is the prime time for this. Asian foods have a more complex approach to seasoning, which means that it is less imperative for the absolute best quality ingredients.

Of course, one of the perks of living in the modern world is that I can enjoy food that has been flown in from another continent to meet my particular needs. Whatever the ecological drawbacks of this, it at least means I don't have to just eat cabbage all winter. But now that I've learned to co-exist a little more with the seasons, there's certainly a certain intangible benefit to be gained, even if it's only a sense of smug self-satisfaction.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Teachers... who needs 'em?

Wanna know why The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is more than just a comedy show? Wanna know why it has become the true conscience of America, and why no other piece of television seems to so succinctly point out the insidious hypocrisy of the American Right? Then you'd better watch these clips, which come at a time when teachers' unions in Wisconsin are under threat from the State Government.

Disclaimer: I've worked within the school system for several years in various capacities, and if all goes to plan will graduate in a couple of years with my degree in Education. Yes, I'm going to be a teacher, but it's hardly because of the amazing monetary rewards on offer. It's because our children, YOUR children, are precious commodities worth far more than the salary of a hedge fund manager, and I believe there is no greater gift I can offer than to help guide and educate them for their journey in this world so that one day they too may make the world a better place.

Plus I would get to wear one of those tweed jackets with the leather patches on the elbows, which I always thought were pretty swanky.

To finish, some slam poetry by Taylor Mali, who happens to be a teacher. Yeah I know, some of you are thinking poetry is all a big wank, but suspend your lack of faith for a moment. This is the shiznit right here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Quiz Time! (Asian Diasporas)

Ok, the quiz for this week revolves around the various Asian communities and people who have spread round the globe. Obviously you could just look this stuff up on Google or Wikipedia, but where would be the fun in that? Have a guess and let me know how you did.

1. Outside of Japan, which country has the largest number of ethnic Japanese?

2. Which South American countries were these Asian men the Presidents of?
(a) Alberto Fujimori
(b) Arthur Chung
(c) Ramsewak Shankar

3. In 1972, Rohan Kanhai became the first person of East Indian descent to captain which prestigious sporting side?

4. Which person of Indian ancestry held the Number 1 ranking in World Golf for 32 weeks?

5. Which ethnic group, of whom many have migrated to the USA as refugees, were known by the French as Montagnards ("Mountain People")?

6. Which "Indian" dish is regarded as Britain's favourite restaurant dish and was reportedly invented in either London or Glasgow?

7. Regularly rated as one of the greatest rock singers of all time, which ethnic Parsi (Indian-Zoroastrian) was born in Zanzibar and went to school in Bombay before moving to London?

8. Of the nearly 2 million Malaysians of Indian origin, 90% of them belong to which ethnic group?

9. Aside from China and Taiwan, which 3 Asian countries have the largest Chinese communities?

10. These men are the last 3 Presidents of which country?

I'll leave the answers in the comments section, perhaps combined with a little relevant trivia.

Also check the previous quiz about variations of European names.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An Asian-American and Asian-Australian connection

Sydney vlogger Natalie Tran (of Community Channel) caught up with Philip Wang of Wong Fu Productions this week for this chat. I have limited appetite for vlogs - something about the format of it just seems to annoy me - but Tran is pretty likeable. It strikes me that with close to a million subscribers on Youtube (number 1 in Australia and the 28th most subscribed person of all time), she is possibly the best-known Asian-Australian in the world. Can't fault that.

Btw, Tran is not the only Vietnamese-Australian notching up major hits on the 'tube. Melbourne's John Luc, aka mychonny, has the 2nd most subscribed channel in Australia (and the 4th most, oddly enough).

Friday, March 4, 2011

From around the interwebs...

Here is some stuff that happened.

Race row erupts as Bonds Baby Search turns nasty
THE search for the ultimate cute baby has descended into nastiness after mothers angry at a voting glitch started to launch cruel and racist attacks on other people's children.
The taunts transformed the Bonds Baby Search - all chubby cheeks and cuteness overload - into sheer ugliness as angry mothers took to the company's Facebook site.
Pippa Taylor was floored when someone posted a comment on a picture of her Eurasian daughter Lilli, saying "Bonds Australia not Asia".
Classy. And bear in mind that wasn't even a "full" Asian baby.

Iran says London 2012 logo racist: report

Iran has protested against the already controversial logo for the 2012 Olympic Games, saying the emblem is racist and spells the word 'Zion,' the ILNA news agency reported on Monday.

Iran's national Olympic committee have written to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) making an official complaint about the logo and are threatening to boycott the Games.
The jagged, multi-coloured emblem, which reportedly cost £400,000 (nearly $650,000), features four bold numerals representing 2012, with the signature Olympic Rings emblazoned within the digit zero.
But Mohammad Aliabadi, head of the national Olympic committee in the Islamic republic, said the logo was undermining the event and accused the British organisers of indulging in "racism," ILNA reported.
"Unfortunately, we all are witnessing that the upcoming Olympics ... faces a serious challenge, definitely spawned out of some people's racist spirit," Aliabadi said in a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge. "The use of the word Zion by the designer of the Olympics logo ... in the emblem of the Olympics Games 2012 is a very revolting act," he added, warning that if Rogge did not act, the logo would "affect the participation of several countries, especially Iran, which insists on following principles and values".
Zion is a biblical that often refers to the city Jerusalem.
Sure, the emblem does look like "Zion", but only provided you read it in a zig-zag fashion and rotate several of the characters. In other words, it doesn't look like "Zion". Even if it did, how that is "racist" is beyond me. Seriously, don't Iran's government ever take a break from being douchebags?

Pakistan has abdicated its responsibilities
Pakistan has lost another brave heart. Two months after the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, my father, was assassinated for speaking out against Pakistan's cruel blasphemy laws, Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead by unknown assailants. Bhatti was one of Pakistan's progressives.

Under his guidance, the government introduced affirmative action for minorities – 5% of all federal employment – and designated 11 August a holiday to celebrate minorities. He banned the sale of properties belonging to minorities while law enforcement authorities took action against them. He launched a national campaign to promote inter-faith harmony through seminars, awareness groups and workshops and was initiating comparative religion classes into schools and universities.
Bhatti introduced a prayer room for non-Muslims in the prison system, and started a 24-hour crisis hotline to report acts of violence against minorities. He began a campaign to protect religious artefacts and sites that belong to minorities. This is the man we have lost.
Taseer and Bhatti's murders are a grim warning to those who dare to speak out against injustices.

Malawi row over whether new law bans farting
Two of Malawi's most senior judicial officials are arguing over whether a new bill includes a provision that outlaws breaking wind in public. Justice Minister George Chaponda says the new bill would criminalise flatulence to promote "public decency".
"Just go to the toilet when you feel like farting," he told local radio. However, he was directly contradicted by Solicitor General Anthony Kamanga, who says the reference to "fouling the air" means pollution.
"How any reasonable or sensible person can construe the provision to criminalising farting in public is beyond me," he said, adding that the prohibition contained in the new law has been in place since 1929.
The enforcement of this law would be the most intriguing. I wonder if "silent but deadly" would receive the same punishment as "loud and proud".
Speaking 2 languages may delay getting Alzheimer's

Being bilingual does nothing to prevent Alzheimer's disease from striking. But once the disease does begin its silent attack, those years of robust executive control provide a buffer so that symptoms don't become apparent as quickly, Bialystok said.

"They've been able to cope with the disease," she said. Her work supports an earlier study from other researchers that also found a protective effect.
What is it about being bilingual that enhances that all-important executive control system?
Both languages are essentially turned on all the time, but the brain learns to inhibit the one you don't need, said psychology professor Teresa Bajo of the University of Granada in Spain. That's pretty constant activity.
That's not the only area. University of British Columbia psychologist Janet Werker studies infants exposed to two languages from birth to see why they don't confuse the two, and says bilingual babies learn very early to pay attention better.
I knew all those hours studying Klingon would pay off.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chinese inventiveness on "Q.I."

Having acquired a taste for Stephen Fry's British "quiz show" QI recently, I happened to come across some discussion about China and its inventions.
I have no idea if anything here is true, but it's interesting...

In another China-themed bit, Fry also credits the Chinese for inventing the toilet, toilet paper, chess, acupuncture, fireworks, abacus, decimal system, drilling for oil, fishing reel, flamethrower, helicopter, horse collar, iron plough, lacquer, mechanical clock, hot air balloon, negative numbers, parachute, printmaking, leaf maps, rudder, seismograph, stirrup, suspension bridge, umbrella, water bomb and whisky.
Yet surprisingly not the rickshaw, Chop suey and the fortune cookie - these were all invented in the United States.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The bloke from the anti-Asian party and his Asian wife

I wonder if this guy has ever uttered the phrase, "I'm not racist - my wife is Asian." If so, he wouldn't be the first.

The director of One Nation in Queensland has an Asian wife.
It shouldn't be a curiosity, and wouldn't be, but this is the party whose founder made her first contribution to federal politics by warning that Australia was in danger of being "swamped by Asians".
Just months after Pauline Hanson's 1996 speech, Sansanee Nelson, the wife of One Nation's now-Queensland director Ian Nelson, left Thailand for a new life in Australia.
The couple hasn't had an easy road, and it's becoming a lot harder as Mr Nelson tries to breathe new life into the dormant party.
It's not the word "Asian" in the first sentence that's provocative - it's the words "One Nation".
One Nation Queensland was deregistered in November 2009, as its membership had fallen below the 500 required.
It's preparing to re-launch before the next state election, meaning Queenslanders will be seeing more of Mr Nelson before March 2012.
And if Sansanee, or their daughter Patti, join him on the hustings, voters could be forgiven if they do a double take.
As an aircraft mechanic, Nelson has lived around the world, including in Thailand, where he met his second wife. Like most new Australians, it took Sansanee time to find work because of her limited English.
But she persevered, with the encouragement of her husband, and now works in a restaurant while presiding over the family's neat home and garden north of Brisbane. Despite witnessing his wife's difficult adjustment to a new culture and country, Nelson has no sympathy at all for the most recent targets of multiculturalism's critics. For him, the woman he affectionately calls "little one" is not like the other new Australians, particularly Muslims, at the heart of the current national debate.
"It's the ones that don't [assimilate] and live in their little enclaves that's unacceptable in this country," he said.
"We've got some wonderful people who are coming into this country. They talk like Australians and they have the barbecues and they assimilate right into Australia. The ones who scare me are the Muslims, they terrify me."
His fear seems to stem from a difficult relationship with two Lebanese-Australian apprentices, and the Cronulla riots.
"They are a race that don't assimilate, they treat Australian women like dirt ... how many were gang raped?" he said of the 2005 violence.
But in contrast to his fixed views on Muslim Australians, Nelson is uncertain whether he and Sansanee have personally experienced discrimination. He's even a bit muddled on whether he was offended by Hanson's revulsion of Asians, which surely cast a shadow over Sansanee's first days in Australia.
"I cringed just a little," he says, before adding: "But we sort of have been since then".
People have stopped him in the street and called him a "dirty old man" in reference to what they perceive is the couple's age difference (although Sansanee is 50 years old).
Mr Nelson says the party is fine with his relationship - its president is married to a Filipino woman - and he doesn't consider whether racism played a part in Sansanee's early employment problems.
"Nobody would ever admit that was the problem," he said.
They say love is blind.
As One Nation attempts its comeback in Queensland, Mr Nelson's blinkers, and those of voters, will be tested again.
 Full story here.
Now, it's not my place to suggest that Ian Nelson's relationship with his wife Sansanee is anything but loving and genuine. But some questions just have to be asked...

* So, does the party who first came to prominence with Pauline Hanson's line "Australia is being swamped by Asians" all of a sudden think Asians are OK?
Perhaps now they've realised that compared to the fear they have of Muslims, Asians aren't really all that threatening anymore.

* Would Nelson be mocked as a "dirty old man" if he had a 50 year-old white wife? Almost certainly not. So why the double standard? Well, it has to be said... the combination of older white man and younger South East Asian woman is one that always raises an eyebrow or two. It just has strong colonialist overtones, and too often seems to feature a imbalance of power in the relationship. It's that stereotype of the ageing white guy who prefers the "submissive" Asian woman who "understands her place" better than white women, and "knows how to treat a man properly".
I'm not going to suggest that is true of Ian Nelson. Being the product of a WM/AW relationship myself, I'm wary of the stereotypes that sometimes attach to these pairings. But sometimes you still can't help but wonder. That the party's president has a Filipino wife is perhaps telling as well.

 * Given that Sansanee had problems finding work and speaking English, she sounds exactly like the kind of immigrant One Nation rails against. Thus, I can't help but think she is recognised as having properly assimilated because she is an attractive Asian woman who married a white man. Which is fine... but it just makes me wonder... would the party be quite so accepting of a Somali migrant named Abdul with poor English and little success in finding work, but who married a white Australian woman?
* Now I know that most couples have their own nauseating pet names for each other. I get that. But was it just me, or did you feel like vomiting upon reading this phrase?
For him, the woman he affectionately calls "little one" is not like the other new Australians

* This is apparently what it means to be Australian:
"They talk like Australians and they have the barbecues and they assimilate right into Australia."

So fire up that barbie, Abdul, start saying "faaak" a lot, and hope for the best.