Archive for December, 2009
Harvard Crimson's basketball superstar, Jeremy Lin
The headline for the article in Time Magazine is “Harvard’s Hoops Star is Asian. Got a Problem With That?” Why, no. No, I don’t.
It’s been 64 years since the Crimson appeared in the NCAA tournament. But thanks to senior guard Jeremy Lin, that streak could end this year. Lin, who tops Harvard in points (18.1 per game), rebounds (5.3), assists (4.5) and steals (2.7), has led the team to a 9-3 record, its best start in a quarter century. Lin, a 6 ’3″ slasher whose speed, leaping ability, and passing skills would allow him to suit up for any team in the country, has saved his best performances for the toughest opponents: over his last four games against teams from the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference, two of the country’s most powerful basketball leagues, Lin is averaging 24.3 points and shooting nearly 65% from the field. “He’s as good an all-around guard as I’ve seen,” says Tony Shaver, the head coach of William & Mary, which in November lost a triple overtime game to Harvard, 87-85, after Lin hit a running three-pointer at the buzzer. “He’s a special player who seems to have a special passion for the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the NBA one day.”
A Harvard hoopster with pro-level talent? Yes, that’s one reason Lin is a novelty. But let’s face it: Lin’s ethnicity might be a bigger surprise. Less than 0.5% of men’s Division 1 basketball players are Asian-American. Sure, the occasional giant from China, like Yao Ming, has played in the NBA. But in the U.S., basketball stars are African-Americans first, Caucasians second, and Asians . . .somewhere far down the line. (One historical footnote: Wat Misaka, who is Japanese American, became the first non-white person to play in the NBA in 1947.)
But, while Lin scores one against the stereotype of nerdy (and short) Asian American men, it looks like we’re still not in that dream of a post-racial America (surprise, surprise).
Jeremy won a state championship as a senior in high school, but he received no Division I scholarship offers (Ivy League schools cannot give athletic scholarships). Yes, he was scrawny, but don’t doubt that a little racial profiling, intentionally or otherwise, contributed to his under-recruitment.
Some people still can’t look past his ethnicity. Everywhere he plays, Lin is the target of cruel taunts. “It’s everything you can imagine,” he says. “Racial slurs, racial jokes, all having to do with being Asian.” Even at the Ivy League gyms? “I’ve heard it at most of the Ivies, if not all of them,” he says. Lin is reluctant to mention the specific nature of such insults, but according to Harvard teammate Oliver McNally, another Ivy League player called him a c-word that rhymes with “ink” during a game last season. Just last week, during Harvard’s 86-70 loss to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., McNally says one spectator yelled “sweet and sour pork” from the stands.
“Sweet and sour pork”? Really?
So, last night, Arizona got creamed by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. But, as pissed as Arizona fans were at University of Nebraska players, yesterday, who finds themselves yelling food items at players? “Screw you, Nebraska!! Corn and beef, muthafuckas!!” as they exit the field? Really, has it all come down to this?
Okay, so maybe the racists are hampered by their general lack of knowledge of all things Asian. But tha doesn’t take away from the coolness of athelets like Lin, Manny Pacquiao, and Michelle Wie who rise to the top of their sports while simultaneously dismantling the stereotype of the Asian American as nothin’ but nerd.
2009 — what a crappy year for Asian Americans.
Every year, Jeff Yang contacts high-profile Asian American bloggers (and, inexplicably, me…) to act as muses for his popular (and often hilarious) end-of-the-year wrap-ups. This year was no different, and after compiling my email to him, I toyed with the idea of writing my own end-of-the-year “Best Of/Worst Of” list.
But then, Jeff published his — a far more exhaustive and witty piece than I could hope to come up with. What’s more, he had to put his to verse! I give up, dude, and I bow down to the master!
Here are some choice excerpts:
‘Tis the day before New Year’s, a date that reminds us
Of all that we saw in the year that’s behind us
So to give an assessment that just can’t be ducked
Two-thousand-and-nine? Well, mostly, it sucked
Recession, rescission, Iran and Iraq
Swine flu, banker bailouts, and plummeting stock
Ponzi fraud, acts of God, sky-high unemployment
Not a lot to look back on with too much enjoyment
In fact, all in all, we’d much rather forget
This horrific year; is it January yet?
Oh well, it’s our duty, so let’s start at the top
And review ’09′s “Best and Worst” in Asian Pop
“Galactica“‘s end put Grace Park fans in shock
(But “Stargate” has Ming-Na’s new lesbian doc)
John Cho lent “Flash Forward” his eyebrows and glare
While in “Star Trek” he sat in George Takei‘s old chair
Pixar’s “Up” made us all want to think, laugh and cry
While making a star out of Jordan Nagai
“Ong Bak 2” proved that Tony Jaa rules modern action
No one else so creatively puts guys in traction
But the far-from-good “Goods” chose to laugh at hate crime
Hey, at least Ken Jeong works almost all of the time
A half-dozen films in ’09, plus he’s featured
On the new hit “Community,” as a weird Spanish teacher
Whatever you might think of Reality
At least in those programs, an Asian can be
More or less normal, and still a scene-stealer
Okay, I’m not talking ’bout Tila Tequila…
Or the guy for whom Kate plus eight wasn’t enough.
Thanks a lot, Jon Gosselin! Asian dads had it tough
Before you gave tabloids a bailout by cheatin’
And choosing to act like an aging frat cretin
And how about Tiger, golf’s King Cablinasian?
By proving he too has tail-chasing persuasions
He traded his family and billions in green
For fore! play and strokes and, um, holes in 14
(To be fair, Asian mothers aren’t looking much better
What Balloon Mom put Falcon through really should get her
Not just jail time — three weeks in the pen plus probation –
But psych help and a permanent husband vacation.)
This is all just the tip of the iceberg of shame
That we saw in a year for the Lame Hall of Fame
A year in which Texas state Rep. Betty Brown
Made a modest suggestion for our proper nouns
“You Asians have monikers we can’t repeat
Why not change ‘em to something sweet, simple and neat?”
(The person she said this to, named “Ramey Ko”
Must have thought, “Even shorter? How low can you go?”)
A year in which immigrant kids in South Philly
Were battered — and told that their fears were quite silly
A year where teen idols chose to honor us Asians
By teaching the “slant-eye” to new generations
Still, we hate to close out the year toasting with whine
So here are a few things we loved in ’09
Gojira’s the World Series MVP now!
The world’s greatest boxer is Manny Pacquiao!
But, definitely, check out the full article to get a complete dose of Jeff Yang’s awesome.
Also, don’t forget to read the email quotes that went into the making of the article. I especially love how mine are like fourteen-sentences long — God, if that isn’t me, I don’t know what is!
So, a guy tried to light his penis on fire on an airplane last week, and now we’re having a debate over whether or not passengers should endure virtual strip searches while going through airport security.
Frankly, I’m really frustrated with this penchant for reactionary politics.
Yes, we live in an era of terrorism; average Americans are finally aware that decades of eschewing global diplomacy (a political position perpetuated by a long litany of presidents who perceived the international community as a wild, wild West to their John Wayne) has left the rest of the world with a sour taste for America and Americans. Enter the suicide bombers, and the wannabe suicide bombers, whose sole goal has become to destroy himself and as many other innocents he can in order to send a political message that America has screwed up. Terrorists have no common culture, religion, or skin colour; terrorists are the down-trodden and miserable who have turned insane and murderous.
Now, of course, it is the federal government’s responsibility to deter terrorists from taking the lives of citizens. And certainly, terrorism is the kind of tactic that does not — can not, will not — work as a means of political activism. It only serves to radicalize the terrorist, and to shut down lines of negotiation. A terrorist will never terrorize the hegemony into changing; a terrorist only seeks gratification in communicating — through the most destructive and amoral means possible — his own pain at his own sociopolitical stature. In many ways, terrorism is an extension of the age-old adage: misery loves company. If a terrorist truly sought political change, he would realize that terrorist acts only undermine any constructive efforts towards that goal.
This fact is no more apparent than in the story of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be bomber who tried to explode a Detroit-bound airbus on Christmas Day by igniting explosives sewn into the crotch of his underpants. Abdulmutallab is 23 years old — a mere child — who for reasons that have yet to be revealed to the public, was so frustrated and angry that he (allegedly) wanted to off himself and 290 other people in one mad, irrational, and ultimately immature act of fury and rage. His actions were insane, but he is only one in a long line of terrorists who, intoxicated by the emotional appeal of vengeance-begotten terrorism, have invented new ways to attempt to blow themselves (and those around them) up.
What frustrates me, however, is the reactionary approach America’s Homeland Security has taken towards deterring terrorists. Terrorists have stayed ahead of the federal government, primarily because the federal government keeps looking backwards in trying to stop terrorists. In the wake of 9/11, airport security was greatly increased, but little was done to secure harbours and sea ports, train stations or bus stations. When the shoe bomber attempted to ignite his own shoes on an airplane, new regulations required passengers to remove their shoes so they could be scanned by the X-ray machine. Would-be terrorists with liquid explosives ended the era of passengers being able to bring bottled water (or liquid medications or contact lens solution) onto flights. And now that the underwear bomber thought of shoving explosives down his underpants, the federal government is coming up with ways to scan passengers’ underwear in a convenient, hygenic, and “non-invasive” way.
The strategy that we will most likely see implemented in U.S. airports is the installation of full-body scanners which employ a couple of strategies to generate a digital image of a person without clothes, revealing any dense items hidden within a person’s clothing. One type of scanner, dubbed a “millimeter wave” scanner, creates a low resolution image using non-ionizing electromagnetic waves. Here’s some sample images released by the TSA:
Sample images from millimeter wave full-body scanner
Another scanner, called the “backscatter X-ray”, employs a low-intensity X-ray to generate an image of a body while stripping away layers of clothing. Here’s a sample image taken of a victim volunteer wearing a gun to demonstrate the scanner’s effectiveness at detecting hidden weapons:
Sample image from a "backscatter x-ray" scanner
Currently, the TSA is favouring the millimeter wave scanner because the low resolution, they feel, will minimize privacy concerns. Further, these scanners are being modified such that they will not save images, so that naked pictures of you (or your favourite celebrity) don’t end up on TMZ. In addition, these scanners are going to be set up such that the person holding the metal detector wand and waving you through the security checkpoint isn’t also looking at your naked form on their computer screen; instead, images will be transmitted to a different location in the airport where they will be reviewed by a security guard who sees the scans with the faces obscured.
However, both strategies share in common the ability to detect objects — weapons or otherwise — that a person has hidden on their person. And this, I think, is an invasion of personal privacy.
Contrary to how most folks are criticizing the implementation of this full-body scanning technology, this isn’t a puritannical fear of having others being able to see you naked. All of that hullaballoo basically amounts to “Oh my God! You can see me naked even if I don’t want you too!”. Yeah, you’re not that cute, mister — no one is dying to virtually strip you down to your skivvies to drool over you in your birthday suit.
The privacy concerns are completely about whether or not you, or I, or any other airline passenger has the right to privately carry a possession while travelling. Be it a piece of jewelry handed down from your great grandparents, a piece of medical equipment you don’t want your co-workers knowing you need, or a secret cell-phone you’re using to help conduct an adulterous affair – complete strangers (even ones who work for the TSA) should not have the ability to be aware of — and access to – items on your person you don’t want them (or anyone else) to know about. These full-body scanners are as invasive, and as unethical, as a virtual strip-search. And frankly, it’s not too far from a virtual cavity search, either.
Moreover, no amount of security will eliminate the threat of terrorism. Terrorists will be able to invent new ways to bypass these scanners, as they were able to bypass our ban on shoes and tiny bottles of shampoo on airplanes. To put it simply, a determined terrorist — particularly one who is willing to lose his life in the act of terror — will find a way.
Instead of trying to play an endless game of catch-up, why hasn’t the federal government revised its strategy on securing airports and other high-traffic areas? It shouldn’t be about constantly adding new (and admittedly, at least to the science geek in me, kinda cool) pieces of technology to the already long list of things to do at the security checkpoint — making the amount of time it takes to board a plane longer than most flights, themselves. Instead, how about screening passengers at check-in or flagging suspicious behaviour? How about actually disseminating no-fly lists to all relevant departments and keeping those lists up-to-date with information? Or better yet, how about altering our international policies so that folks are less pissed with us in general?
But, of course, that’s not going to happen, because it’s politically safer to close the security gap that allowed what has been done, than to scare the tax-paying public into paying for something with a story of what still could be done. Meanwhile, this whole fiasco is yet another reminder as to why I hate flying. I mean really, between:
- aforementioned security bullshit, and
- restrictions preventing me bringing most of my belongings as carry-on items, and
- charging me ($20 or more!) to check a piece of luggage, as well as charging me for food, entertainment and even blankets, and
- rude flight attendants, and
- grimy seats and floors that aren’t even cleaned between flights anymore, and
- overcrowded planes full of inconsiderate passengers and their screaming babies
… next time I travel, I’m taking the frickin’ train.
Hyphen Magazine posted its Notable Asian American Books of 2009.
I’m ashamed to say I’ve only read the illustrated one. Perhaps my New Year’s Resolution needs to be to read books for fun again.
As my boss loves to tell me, everything about me makes sense except for one: my love of boxing. I’m smart (highly educated, at least), passionate (no kidding?), level-headed (erhm, sure), and rational (now I’m blushing) — so how is it that I can delight in watching a sport where two guys strip to their skivvies and beat each other to a bloody pulp with giant, plastic oven mitts?
The answer is simple, really. It’s not that boxing is a violent sport (although it clearly can be), it’s that there’s more to boxing than the pummelling. Boxing is actually a thinking man’s sport, as strategic as chess but far more exciting. In boxing, each boxer is armed with nothing more than his (or her) fists and his wits, and he is charged with disarming his opponents defense’s. The boxer must stick to a pre-determined strategy that minimizes his opponent’s strengths while taking advantage of his opponent’s weaknesses (Stay out of reach? Move in tight to pin him down?) while adapting to minute-by-minute information (for example, determining that the right uppercut has connected most times, so altering the strategy to use that shot as much as possible). Moreover, the fight is more than street brawl; fights go for a pre-determined number of rounds and, in the event that neither boxer is knocked out, the winner is determined by the average score of three judges. These judges award points in each round based on how well each boxer does: this can include how many shots he has landed (vs. how many thrown), how active has he been (how many shots thrown vs. just standing there) and whether or not he looks winded. That means that on top of sticking to a strategy, a boxer must strategically increase activity or conserve energy to ensure that he wins on the score cards but still has the endurance to make it through the entire fight if he needs to.
And on top of having to do all that thinking, you’re getting punched repeatedly on the side of the head by a guy who can probably curl a Backstreet Boy with his biceps. Which means you have to have some serious presence-of-mind to maintain a coherent thought under boxing circumstances, let alone enough intellectual acuity to win a fight. Or let’s put it another way: as smart as I might be, I definitely couldn’t focus on my research if my lab-mates kept running up and hitting me in the jaw between aliquoting.
Another reason to love boxing? Well, it just so happens that this year’s current #1 pound-for-pound best professional boxer in the world (as judged by the sports premier magazine, Ring Magazine) is a Filipino boxer by the name of Manny Pacquiao (pictured above). In what other sport (short of something stereotypical like karate) can you see an Asian guy be unanimously praised to be the most testosterone-fueled, most athletically-built, most hardcore guy there is? Asian Men: 1, Emasculated Asian Man Stereotype: 0.
But, boxing also comes with it’s own kind of drama. Pacquiao, as it turns out, took Ring Magazine‘s pound-for-pound honour from one Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who is probably the best American boxer currently fighting. Mayweather is a flashy fighter, but beneath his over-abundance of personality, he’s amongst the fastest and most skilled boxers the sport has to offer. He boasts an undefeated record, and even wiped the floor with boxing favourite Oscar De La Hoya. Boxing fans and critics have long clamoured for a fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao, and recently they (we?) were gratified with word of a verbal agreement that the fighters would clash on March 13th, 2010.
With any scheduled fight, there comes an expected amount of hype. Fights generate more revenue when the fighters appear to be settling some sort of interpersonal gripe, and it’s not uncommon for boxers to jab verbally (via the press, who eats this stuff up) in the weeks leading up to a fight. This manufactured “beef” can range from one opponent calling the other weak or diminishing his recent victories… although, unlike in WWE, it’s usually not over a beautiful woman dressed in a blue and red sequinned cat-suit. But, in some cases, the pre-fight back-and-forth can cross a line that makes fans question whether there really are interpersonal issues involved, or if it’s all show business.
In the case of Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, the arguments stem from (what I would call) a rather racist charge against Pacquiao by the Mayweather camp. Basically, Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., accused Manny Pacquiao of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in order to achieve the level of athleticism that has allowed him to be the first boxer to earn seven championship titles in seven different weight classes (no easy feat because you essentially have to re-learn how to box, and chang eyour strategy, every time you change your weight).
The basis for this claim? Well, the Phillipines (apparently) make some of the best PEDs around, and Manny Pacquiao is Filipino.
As if the Phillipines are so swamped in PEDs that Pacquiao was walking down the streets of Manila one day, when he tripped and fell into a vat of human growth hormone.
Let’s be clear: that shit is racist. The accusations being lobbed against Pacquiao have nothing to do with any actual evidence that he’s taking steroids (except that he’s a buff Asian dude — ‘cuz like, what, Asian dudes can’t be buff?). Instead, it is equating the actions of criminals in the Phillipines with Manny Pacquiao’s morality and ethics. If Pacquiao were from Southern California, would Mayweather be accusing Pacquiao of having an addiction to frappucinos and surfer shorts? And by the same logic, my parents are from China, ergo my family must make our money manufacturing mercury-laden toys, right?
The really frustrating part of it all is that Pacquiao is willing to prove he’s not a druggie, but he’s not willing to jeopardize his performance to satisfy what he insists is a bogus charge. Mayweather’s camp has insisted that both fighters submit themselves to random blood and urine testing before and after the scheduled March 13th fight. Pacquiao agreed to random testing, but drew the line at random blood testing leading all the way up to the fight. He was concerned (and rightly so) that he could be woken up in the middle of the night a day or two before the scheduled fight in order to have blood drawn. Instead, Pacquiao wanted Mayweather to agree that testing be stopped a week before the fight to give both boxers a chance to rest and prepare for the big day.
And, that’s where we’re at. The biggest fight that boxing has ever seen — one that could generate obscene amounts of money — is being derailed over a racist accusation and a butt-load of drama.
Personally, I’m normally not one to spend money on HBO pay-per-view boxing (each fight costs something in the ballpark of $50 to watch!) but I would shell out for Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. Why? Mainly because I’m really not sure who would win that fight. Mayweather has a reach advantage (which he always uses to supreme advantage), lots of power behind his punches, an undefeated record, and lightning fast speed. Yet, Pacquiao is also an agile, active, and adaptible fighter who fights southpaw, which can often throw boxers in a conventional stance for a loop.
Which is my long, round-about way of saying that Mayweather and Pacquiao need to quit with the threats, the ultimatums, and the interpersonal drama. Stop with the posturing, and yes, even the racism — and take the fight to the ring, guys!