Where I've Been

Yeah, I know, my sporadic posting is getting annoying, even to me. I just thought I'd give you guys a brief update on my life while I'm in the blogging mood. Class started in the last week of August, and on August 24th, I celebrated my 24th birthday with a busy day of classes and research. Over the summer, I started a research project that I hoped to complete by the beginning of the fall semester, but anyone who has performed any kind of research would've been able to tell me that research never goes as quickly as you plan.

At the start of the school year, I'm now balancing a full class schedule (including an ethics class, a statistics class, and an advanced class on cell signalling), as well as still trying to finish the research project that has me rotating between three different laboratories. I feel very displaced, without an office or desk to call my own and a lot more commitments than I had originally intended to have by this time. Subsequently, I find myself working 12-hour days and weekends, with each day packed with experiments and me running from lab to lab trying to stay on top of deadlines.

When I get home, I rarely have much mental capacity left to do much of anything, nor have I had a chance to stay on top of pop culture. I didn't hear about Bush's inane speeches of the past week until just this morning.

So thanks, everyone, for continuing to read this blog despite my chronic lack of posting. I hope things will slow down soon and I can get back to this, which has become one of few sources of fun I have to me.

Incidentally, one other thing I've been working on is serving on the recruitment committee for my program, where my goal for the year is to double applicant numbers and increase outreach to undergraduates of colour to encourage them to seek graduate-level training in sciences. To that end, after working all summer, I was able to work with other students and faculty to update my program's website! It took hundreds of man-hours but I'm proud that the site has been launched!

Now that the site's up, my time is a lot more free and I can get back to blogging.

Apl Song vs. London Bridge

About a month ago, the online Asian American community was desperately hawking the Black Eyed Peas, actively advocating for their song “Bebot” which was rapped entirely in Tagalog and stirring all kinds of Asian American pride. (I wanted to include the YouTube clip here, but unfortunately it's no longer up.) The Apl Song also features the narrative of Filipino Americans

And sure, heightened visibility for Asian/Asian American cultures is great, and I certainly love the Apl Song music video featuring 1920's era Filipino American dance halls. But there's a really good reason why the Black Eyed Peas don't deserve our support: London Bridge.

Any group whose lead singer has released a track telling men that they will “love me long time” should be chastised by the Asian American community, not praised. (Don't subject yourself to the whole song; it's awful. The lyric in question is within the first verse of the song — keep watching only if you want to see Fergie sexually molest one of those guys with the fuzzy hats who have to stand outside of Buckingham palace.)

We, Asian Americans, need to stop throwing our support at any celebrity who shows us attention. Are we really that desperate for pop culture love? That's like celebrating that awful, racist Helio commercial because it features “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” with an Asian twist.

Indoctrinators and Educators

It's a common theme amongst complaining Conservatives: liberals dominate higher education, liberals indoctrinate our youth with biased proselytizing. If Ann Coulter is to be believed, liberal university professors are the theologists of the liberal religion and we hate any science that doesn't support liberal causes.

And certainly, the statistics do support this perspective in part. Democrats are statistically and stereotypically higher educated and clustered in academia, but, contrary to the line spewed in Conservative pulp-trash like Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who are Screwing Up America, most of these liberals, though espousing democratic political leanings, are careful not to bias their students.

Several news stories have publicized liberal teachers who have been disciplined for infusing their political leanings into their teachings, and have used these instances to argue that vocal liberals should not be allowed to teach classes, or at the very least to support their diatribe against Democrats in higher education. However, I would argue that the problem here is not Democrats who teach, but teachers who can't distinguish between their political ideologies and their jobs.

Last week, in my ethics class, a professor was lecturing about technology transfer and intellectual property, but ended up trying to indoctrinate us in fiscally conservative, hyper-right-wing capitalism and anti-liberal hate-mongering. Amongst the tidbits that I learned include the choice quotes: “pursuit of money is our patriotic duty as Americans” and “Democrats are happy to let sick people suffer by letting medical technology stay on the vine”. From this professor, I also learned that the federal government protects its people from companies that form monopolies and prevent exorbitant prices resulting from patented technology, and that pursuit of further scientific research will not be hindered by increased prices due to having to pay royalties. The professor also chastised his (liberal) colleagues who refuse to prosecute patents, and poo-poo'd other ethical questions about patenting findings paid for by public money. And let us not forget when the professor went on to declare that “third world countries like Zimbabwe and Vietname” deserve their poverty because they (and they alone) try to control intellectual freedom by denying their populace pork.

I and the thirty other graduate students in this class were forced to sit through this lecture, the second one of the year, although many of us were offended by the content of the talk. Certainly, from this experience, I was all the more sympathetic to Conservative students who feel alienated by their liberal professors, but the problem was not in my professor's political ideologies (offensive though they might be) but in his soap-boxing. Not only was my professor trying to convert his forcibly captive audience into raging capitalists, but, in a class about graduate-level ethics encountered by those pursuing careers in scientific research, we didn't actually learn anything about ethics or how to patent our ideas.

Lecturers like the one I encountered and the ones Coulter and company complain about are not rare, but they certainly do not outnumber the truly good teachers out there who happen to have private political tendancies. And certainly, any professor or teacher is, in my opinion, welcome to introduce political ideology into a class that is explicitly about politics, sociology, or current events.

The talking heads should not be interested in typecasting their political opponents as indoctrinators — rather, as we continue to strive towards improving the level of education in this country, both the left and the right should be able to agree upon one thing: whether conservative or liberal, teachers shouldn't proselytize at the expense of good teaching.

Cerebrogenesis (9)

This is a super late edition of Cerebrogenesis, with some backed-up news articles I’ve been collecting over the last little while. Apologies for the parity of blog posts, I haven’t had much time to read.

  • Canada to arm border guards along U.S. border. Apparently, following in the footsteps of our paranoid neighbours to the south, Canada has decided that our border is just not safe enough. Turns out that we now feel that we also need to be arming guards, on the off-chance that a terrorist decides to cross from the U.S. into Canada. I’m not sure I like the message being sent here: sure border security is important, but I dislike the idea that Canada is becoming less friendly to border-crossing. One of Canada’s signatures is how we’re more friendly, more open, and more welcoming to visitors than the U.S. — and this, I see, is an “Americanizing” of our country’s culture.
  • A Brain of One’s Own, an article reviewing a book written that defends the sexual dimorphism of human brains. For my take on this, see my recent post: Sexual Dimorphism and Feminism
  • General Motors Drops ‘Survivor’ — apparently not in response to the “Racial Segregation” ploy, though the news dropped today that G.M. has decided they no longer want to be associated with the show. I don’t buy the fact that G.M. felt that it didn’t want to be sunk by the political incorrectness of the latest season — why else would G.M. announce the news now, as opposed to earlier in this season’s developmental process?
  • Latest ACT scores by race, by Asian-Nation. On a related note, in the last few days, the SAT board announced that the class of 2006 had experienced the greatest drop in scores since the 1970’s, and the AP article included a report of the drop in scores by gender and by race — except Asian. What’s that all about?

Shakira on the MTV Video Music Awards

I’m currently watching the MTV Video Music Awards as I type up my notes for the morning, and I just watched Shakira and Wyclef Jean perform “Hips Don’t Lie”. And would you believe that Shakira and her back-up dancers appropriated Asian Indian traditional dress and dancing?

I’m so tired of watching Asian cultures get appropriated by contemporary performers as a way of “snazzing up” the same ‘ol routine, as if a little dash of “the East” can give an overplayed song an exotic twist. How many pop culture singers and dancers have we seen over the past few years dressed in hanbok or chi-pao? Are we really surprised that this generation’s youth think there’s nothing wrong with appropriating Asian cultures? Those who establish “that which is cool” send the message that not only is there nothing wrong with appropriating Asian cultures, but that it’s in fact desirable.

But then again, why am I turning to the MTV Video Music Awards for discussions of identity politics? Sarah Silverman (known to Asian American activists for her defense of the epithet “chink” in her comedy) just did a homophobic segment lambasting recently outed Lance Bass. I feel my brain cells dying. This is my generation?