Cerebrogenesis (11)

Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep.3

This post will be the placeholder for my Survivor live-blogging tonight, which will occur at 7pm MT. Again, I encourage you to hang out on this blog during that hour and watch the show with me — just refresh this page to watch the comments rolling in.

I do have an announcement to make (and thus the placeholder): earlier this week, I smooshed my finger in the car-door, resulting in a nasty bruise on my left middle finger and a purple, throbbing nail. While this makes for a lovely accent when I'm flipping folks the bird, it makes my usual 100wpm touch-typing a difficult chore. This largely explains why I've been silent on this blog all week; I have lots to say but am unsure I want to approach typing it out for another couple of days.

As such, I will attempt to live-blog the episode, but I may fall behind, over the course of the hour. My apologies in advance!

We're back and the episode re-cap is on. The Black tribe dance around their new fire, Jonathan, the Chicken Thief, thinks his tribe (the White tribe) is lazy as they spent another night in a coconut-milk-induced bender. The Latino tribe (Aitu) dedcides on a short-sighted move to oust Bizarre Billy who translates a half-hearted “cheer up” sentiment from White Candice into the love of his life. Meanwhile, Yul (aka S.A.M., Super Asian Man) deciphers the clues on Exile Island and scores the immunity idol, bringing new meaning to the phrase “model minority”.

Following the opening credits and a brief commercial break, the Latino tribe returns to camp where they can't help but gossip about Bizarre Billy and his “love at first sight” thing. The tribe is skeptical — understandably; after re-watching the episode several times and figuring out which exchange Bizarre Billy was talking about, it was downright “stalker”-ish.

At the Asian American tribe, Cao Boi (whom I affectionately call Mr. Miyagi), rambles about the draft, the war, being Vietnamese and… okay, let's face it, I don't really understand what he was saying except it seemed somewhat anti-American and anti-American Dream. Either way, Pinoy Brad has the most screentime yet describing Miyagi as “not quite there” and probably never going to shut up.

At the challenge, Jeff Probst drops a bombshell — the tribes drop their buffs and are about to “integrate”. No, guys, not “merge”, as is standard Survivor lingo; Probst uses the word “integrate” — a loaded word in “race politics”, reminiscent of Brown vs. Board of Education. It's pretty clear to me that the choice of wording was not accidental.

Pinoy Brad, Chicken Thief, Parvati and Cecilia are randomly chosen as new tribe leaders. Note the two men and two women chosen — the tribes must be divided by gender, and you cannot choose from your own tribe (meaning that this is true “integration” as by definition this demands equal representation from all four races). As they new tribes are chosen, I'm going to take a minute to say: I'm surprised that the “integration” is occuring so quickly — and it's sort of anti-climatic to get all of us all riled up over race-based tribes that only lasted three episodes. If ever there was doubt that the race-based thing was just a ratings stunt, here is the proof: Burnett kept us pissed off just long enough to get us watching, then ditched the set-up before it could be intepreted as making a commentary about racial superiority.

Back to what's going on: the four tribes choose eggs, which contain two different colours — i.e., a blue tribe and a red tribe. The male tribe that chose the blue egg joins with the female tribe that chose the blue egg and vice versa, resulting in two “integrated” uber-tribes (which are now so large I'm going to be confused trying to re-learn the tribe membership for weeks).

Turns out the two tribes are now separated into Aitu and Raro. Am I reading too much into it to note that the two tribes who got to retain their names are the White Tribe and the “Hispanic” tribe? It's not like these two tribes had the best camps, so what's up with that?

At Integrated Raro, the tribemates compare notes about the race-based stunt and several of the White tribemates are captured on film saying that they didn't care about race, and thought that it was better to get integrated.

After Miyagi and Flicka, the Pony Girl, bond as the two “outcast”-types on their tribe, Cecilia asks Candice if there really was a “love at first sight” connection with Bizarre Billy. Candice, in the episode's comedic highlight, looks like a terrified deer caught in the headlights and immediately explains the situation that we thankfully saw edited into last week's episode: it literally was a throw-away turn of phrase, that got completely misinterpreted.

Back at Raro, Parvati mentions that she's taken by all the “manly” men on her new tribe, and decides to target Nate for her feminine wiles. She's going to “work him”, she says. Uh-huh. Talk about taking sexism three steps back; Survivor always has to include that one female contestant who thinks the best way to survive is to whore herself to the “strongest” male.

Becky, Candice, S.A.M., and Chicken Thief make an interracial alliance almost immediately. At this point, I'm pretty sure that Burnette and all those race-denialists who developed this show with an agenda are thrilled in how this “social experiment” seems to have proven that race is not strong enough to withstand forced “integration”. Chicken Thief thinks he can pull Pony Girl in, but Pony Girl talks about “bad vibrations” in her last tribe and describes that she doesn't want to stay in the same alliance.

Becky and S.A.M. discuss who they want to align with — and S.A.M. confides in her that he found the immunity idol. Gotta wonder which head he's thinking with there? Don't get me wrong, Becky seems like a cool girl who won't betray S.A.M.'s trust, but then again, he's known her for, what, four days? I'm pretty sure that she being a cute girl has a lot to do with how he's acting right now.

Nate uses the fishing spear to catch an octopus. They come back to the tribe, and Parvati says, and I quote, “That's a lot of meat!” while looking Nate up and down. Ew! Ew! Ew! I just can't get around the Sambo/Missy Anne connotations. Why does Parvati sound like a 1-900 number?

At the immunity challenge, it's the “race with sandbags” challenge (or the challenge where Probst gets off having enough control to make fifteen people do the stupidest things he can imagine) where the tribes are instructed to run in a circle in knee-deep water weighted down with sandbags until one tribe is able to catch the other and tackle them. This is a classical Survivor challenge that is basically an endurance run, and which shows the inherent gender-bias of the challenges: invariably, the women drop out within three rotations and the men just turn in circles until one gets tired. Why the women drop out I have no idea since all the women were obviously strong enough to sit on the sidelines and cheer, but in this case, it seems to have not paid off, as Raro which kept the women in longer to distribute the weight evenly, quickly overtakes Aitu, the tribe that dropped their women out quickly. Message? Women can carry things and walk in circles too, ya big dumb oxen men. Don't underestimate us.

Of interest, S.A.M., as the guy at the end of the rope in the Aitu tribe, actually turned and squatted like a feral jungle man, in hopes of fighting off Raro seconds before they were going to win. Uhm — why? Although it kinda looked cool, it was really pointless.

Before heading back to camp, the victorious Raro chooses Candice from the losing Aitu tribe to go to Exile Island.

Therefore, my prediction is that Mr. Miyagi will be voted out at Tribal Council tonight. He offers nothing to the tribe, is too weak to be useful at challenges, and … well… he makes Asian dog-eating jokes. He has just got to go — being able to heal migraines with a touch of a calloused thumb only goes so far.

Back at the Aitu tribe, we see two alliances vying for control: one alliance is Chicken Thief, S.A.M. and Becky and the other is Ozzy, Cristina, Mr. Miyagi, Pony Girl and Cecilia. It is interesting to note that the Whites and Asians essentially came together, and the Latinos and the Black girl came together to form another alliance. Candice had been the other part of the White & Asian alliance, but now that she's in Exile Island, the W&A alliance is up shit-creek. The Brown and Outcasts alliance target Becky, and Pony Girl, in particular, breaks down her alliance with Chicken Thief because she gets “bad vibes” from Becky.

So, I guess I have to eat my words, because the two castaways who are being targeted are Cecilia and Becky, and Miyagi and Pony Girl, as the two “outcasts” are actually the swing votes. Miyagi lives to make more Vietnamese jokes another day. (Incidentally, all of you guys googling “what do you call a Vietnamese who owns three dogs” and are pulling up these posts, looking for the punchline of that racist joke: shame! Shame!)

Given this turn of events, I have to predict the early snuffing out of Becky.

Back at Tribal Council, Probst again asks the castmates about the division of tribes based on “ethnicity”. Again, he asks a White guy, who gives the stock, White answer: race doesn't matter, and there was nothing wrong with this stunt. He really needs to ask someone, nay anyone, else that question before we start taking him seriously.

After some rather boring Q&A between Probst and Integrated Aitu, the tribemates vote. Miyagi makes a big show of “meditating” over his piece of paper before he writes a name down. Pony Girl, too, makes a show of “being conflicted” about her vote. I roll my eyes.

Since it's pretty clear that Becky will be voted out, the question is whether S.A.M. is truly thinking with the wrong head and will use his immunity idol to save Becky.

Wow — okay, again, I have to eat my words. It turns out that the Outcasts actually did switch back to the White & Asian alliance (making it truly White & Asian, since the only people left in the Brown alliance, now, are Brown people) and voted out Cecilia. It was probably a good move on the Outcasts' part, since they stand to wield more power by proving themselves to be a swing vote that needs to be lobbied by both sides.

And the S.A.M./Becky sexual tension survives for another episode. Incidentally, I want to take this minute to ask — did anyone else catch why people were drinking the Becky Haterade? She hasn't really been prominent enough for us to assess anything about her role in camp. Is she a princess? Or is she just too in-tight with S.A.M.?

Well, at the end of the episode, my biggest question is whether all of us silly bloggers blogging about Survivor: Race Wars will lose interest after the end of the Jim Crow equivalent of reality television, or, if Burnett is giving us a Brief History of Race in America, will we stay tuned for what he comes up with to represent the Black Panther Party era?

Next week: Parvati gets frustrated with having live with those same manly men she's been throwing herself at, and Mr. Miyagi kills a baby bird.

Cerebrogenesis (10)

Haven't had time to read lately, but here are a couple of links for this (past several) week's installment of Cerebrogenesis.

  • Robot Woman — various news sources reported last week that a group of scientists had created a robot modeled after a human woman, specifically a Chinese woman. It responds to nearly 1,000 vocal commands delivered in Mandarin and is programmed to enjoy wearing jewelry and beautiful evening gowns (this video shows her in a red “poofy” dress). Is it just me or is that eerily Stepford wife-ish? I mean, okay, a great leap forward in cutting-edge robotics, but leave it to a team of male scientists to build a female robot whose personality is a cliche of womanhood.
  • Women in the Sciences: the NY Times reports about a study focusing on the relatve dearth of women in science and engineering. In my opinion, the practice of tenureship, while good for intellectual freedom, can also foster an old boy's network that makes it more resistant to change than most social institutions. That being said, I saw a statistic yesterday that said that last year, I was 1 of 265 Asian American graduate students at my school — making us a decimal point or two above 1% of the graduate population. The point? Higher education is consistently closed to most people claiming any kind of differing background.
  • Allen used “N-word” in College, a Salon article about Allen and his racist tendancies while he was in college. Salon interviewed several of Allen's old football teammates and three reported recollections of Allen as a racist, while the rest either didn't know him well enough or thought him “one of the boys”. One teammate, Dr. Ken Shelton, has the most vivid memories of Allen as a racist, saying:

    “Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place'… [h]e used the N-word on a regular basis back then.”

    Shelton also recounts a hunting trip he went on with Allen and other teammates in which Shelton claims Allen asked where the local Black families lived, then drove the group over and stuffed a dead deer head in the Black family's mailbox.

    Allen recently called himself the “champion of minorities” after disclosing his Jewish heritage; personally, I find it hard to believe that anyone who used to laud the Confederate Army and keep a noose in his office could ever have my best interests in mind.

Brad Pitt and Black Hair

A stunning reason why White parents are frequently incapable of dealing with the ramifications of adopting a non-White child: in this month's Esquire magazine, Brad Pitt says,

For white people who might be having a little trouble with black-person hair, Carol's Daughter is a fantastic hair product. We got it for Z. Now her hair has this beautiful luster. And it smells nice, too.

Right. Because Black hair is usually dull and smelly.

Imagine what happens when Zahara starts asking why her Mommy and Daddy are a different colour than she is.

"Jap" Cars

Via Pandagon.net

I think politicians should be required to take racial sensitivity classes before they start campaigning. Seriously. Not to protect the minorities they will otherwise inevitably offend — you can't get a racist cat to change its stripes, and while 'Macaca-gate' was pretty insulting, people of colour are more offended by the racist legislation than the racist language. No, politicians and related professionals should undergo racial sensitivity training because they seem to be too stupid along with their racism.

A bare month after Macaca-gate, former Minnesota Representative Mike Osskopp, now acting as director of Representative John Kline's campaign in Minnesota was caught on camera yelling a racial slur to passing cars. As cars drove by, Osskopp shreiked to the drivers that they were driving “Jap” cars. (Click on this link to view the video, courtesy of Inside Minnesota Politics.)

Idiot. There's a camera on you. The idiocy of racism is only compounded by the idiocy of racism with a camera on you.

“Jap” is a racial slur that was frequently used during WWII to villainize Japanese troops (although it originated earlier than that, pretty much as soon as the Japanese landed in America). Not only was it used as a slur by troops fighting Japanese soldiers, but was used at home during the oppression and internment of Japanese American citizens and even against non-Japanese Asian Americans by those who couldn't tell the difference.

“Jap” was later used by the killers of Vincent Chin, uttered moments before Chin was fatally beaten by Ron Ebens and Michael Nitz in 1982. Incidentally, this hate crime was fueled by the same anti-Japanese sentiment that resulted from foreign vs. domestic automabile manufacturers feuding that seems to have triggered the Osskopp Incident earlier this week. Also, Ebens and Nitz did not spend a single day in jail for their killing of Chin.

Non-Asians still defend the usage of this racial slur, particularly in the automobile industry where there is still heavy competition between foreign and domestic car companies and fans of certain car manufactures have canonized the use of “Jap” to refer to foreign-made vehicles. Perhaps this was what Osskop was referring to — but that doesn't negate the slur's historical usage. Before there were cars, in fact, there were racist White Americans uttering the word “Jap” as rationalization to disenfranchise, dehumanize, maim, and murder Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans who, at the time, were, because of their status as “Japs” afforded no legal rights of their own. “Jap” is a reminder of our community's historical treatment as animals (and indeed, the treatment was extended to all Asian Americans regardless of our ethnicity) and should not be tolerated in today's society.

Osskop released a statement of apology yesterday, trying to pass the blame by claiming ignorance:

“I apologize if my words offended any Americans of Japanese descent, including my sister-in-law,” Osskopp said. “I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and used a phrase commonly used in my youth, but which is now inappropriate and offensive.”

Note the typical desperate response by a member of the mainstream when accused of racism. Osskopp first denies that the words themselves were racist, instead apologizing for the offense rather than the trigger. Secondly, Osskopp uses the “I didn't know it was racist defense” coupled with the “don't blame me, blame my parents defense”, describes how he is now a better person for having been educated in how not to be racist (or at least how not to be racist in front of a camera), and we even learn the interesting yet completely irrelevant factoid that Osskopp has a Japanese American sister-in-law, which must acquit him of any racial wrongdoing, right? I mean, after all, he's got Asian in his family; he's got to be worldly!

Thankfully, Kline has publicly condemned Osskopp's remarks, but I'm betting that's nothing more than lip service. After all, we're talking about the same region that sparked statewide backlash against Hmong immigrants a year ago when Chai Vang was convicted for the shooting deaths of six White (and probably inebriated) hunters after a language problem and inter-cultural tension escalated into a violent confrontation.

Ultimately, Osskopp will get away with a proverbial slap-on-the-wrist and no one will remember this incident in a month (if they know about it now). It certainly is unlikely to hurt Kline's campaign, and it's hard to imagine the largely monochromatic population of Minnesota being up in arms to defend the Asian American community from rampant racial slurs in the same vein as “macaca”.

It only goes to show you how desperately we need to become involved in politics. In roughly a month, two racial slurs directed against our community have come to light, and yet we have very little recourse with which to make a lasting political consequence.

This kind of behaviour from our nation's politicians will only continue so long as we continue to do nothing to stop it.

Cross-Posted: APA for Progress