While I was taking Number One Son to the emergency room, I felt like the worst parent in the world…
In what activities should we push our children? How hard? Why do we push them? These are all questions that came to mind after reading this article.
Ms. Liu wanted Chris to take violin lessons and two months ago started him on the Suzuki method, pioneered in Japan for young children. She thought it might be another opportunity to meet Asian-American children, but that has not happened. “The other Asian kids, they’re more advanced — I think they started younger,” she said.
In this spirit, she’s also started Chris on karate and tennis lessons. “I know it sounds ridiculous,” she said, “but golf, too — he starts tomorrow.”
One of the 8asians bloggers pointed out how some Asian American parents seem to push their kid’s activities as a way to earn bragging points. What ever happened to teaching music as a way to teach a love of culture and art? What happened to sports as a way to teach a love of physical activity and exercise? From my perspective, parents often have multiple motivations, some good and some bad. There are definitely some Asian-American parents who push force these activities as a way to brag about their children or to live vicariously through their children.
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Did you see the first Presidential debate where John McCain throws out a random statistic, while talking about the North Korean’s regime, he mentions how they are also 3 inches shorter than the average South Korean? A brief Youtube clip here (warning: clip also comes with editorial flourishes).
New York Times‘ Tara Parker-Pope also delves into the random statistic in her recent health blog entry, where the 2004 study published in Economics and Human Biology showed that North Koreans were 2 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts. (Fact check alert, Senator McCain!)
I’m surprised to see that there was actually a study done comparing the heights of the two populations, with an interesting and thought-provoking study result. And whenever my mom returns to Korea she is thrilled that people have grown taller, thereby making her less of a “tall freak” as a woman of 172 cm. I once rode the subway with the Yonsei basketball team, and needless to say, they were very tall. My sister used to say that Stanford (her school) guys were somewhat shorter than the average, which she claimed very unscientifically to “stress-related dwarfism”. Of course there will always be anomalies; when I read the article, it made me think why I was not as tall as both my parents, who were both born in South Korea. Being born in the U.S. and growing up on In-N-Out hamburgers and lots of great nutrition and exercise, I’m wondering why I’m not 5’8″ like my mother.
I think McCain’s statistic is thought-provoking, but definitely “needs more research”, and probably not scientifically supported enough to throw out in a Presidential debate (my humble opinion, of course). On a non-Asian note, if you want to read more about how Americans are shorter than Western Europeans, the New Yorker has a fascinating article about that as well. I guess a richer country = not always a taller population? Interesting theories, definitely!
This past Friday, I went to a Presidential Debate party (you watched the debate, right?) / fundraiser for David Chiu, who is running for San Francisco Supervisor, District 3. (District 3 consists of Chinatown, Nob Hill, North Beach and Telegraph Hill). Given my experience and blogs rants on pathetic involvement of Asian Americans in politics, I was pleasantly shocked and surprised to see a TON of Asian Americans at the debate party/fundraiser.
I guess I shouldn’t have been totally surprised, since David Chiu is an Asian American and over 30% of San Francisco is Asian American (but given the Democratic fundraiser in SF I had attended which I blogged about without many Asian Americans… ). But still, like I said, Asian Americans are SHAMEFULLY the least active of all demographic groups in the United States, despite our above average education and income backgrounds.
As I like to follow Asian Americans who are running for public office, I didn’t realize that David Chiu was running for San Francisco City Supervisor. I had recently blogged about the top 3 candidates running for San Francisco District 1 (Richmond District) are Asian American – which should be the case given that the Richmond is 50% Asian American.
As for David Chiu’s candidacy, from his “resume,” I hate to use the analogy or term, but he seems like a “model minority politician” – his qualifications are just ridiculously good:
“David and his siblings all attended Harvard University, where David received a degree in government from Harvard College, a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government… Chair of Lower Polk Neighbors and a founding member of the leadership team of the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association… former staff attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights … a former Assistant District Attorney with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office… founded Grassroots Enterprise, a leading online communications technology company… David currently sits on San Francisco’s Small Business Commission.”
I could go on-and-on. Read for yourself how qualified Chiu is. The only problem is that Chiu’s competitors are being supported by big business and he is being outspent by a crazy amount. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, District 3 is the hottest race in town. Chiu is endorsed by current District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin. So if you live in San Francisco, I implore you to consider David Chiu for District 3 Supervisor!
Earlier this week, I attended the opening of the Obama campaign office in San Jose. No, there isn’t really a chance that California is going to the Republicans. This office is for phone banking into swing states.
Now you probably know where I am going. San Jose is the 10th largest city in the nation (believe it or not, with almost 1 million residents – larger than San Francisco) and is approximately 30% Asian American. With a packed campaign office, was there 30% Asian American representation? Of course not.
There was plenty of diversity in the office, with white, Latinos, African Americans, and some Asian Americans – maybe a handful – that were there. Asian Americans will never get the support and interest in government if we’re not involved! Get active. Donate (for Obama hopefully). Don’t be a silent minority… as this recent local TV news story in the swing state of Nevada in Las Vegas discusses.
Saturday, October 11, 2008 – 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
750 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Join us to celebrate Asian American women in leadership, service and community.
Please note: Tickets are not refundable. Park across the street at Portsmouth Square garage on Kearny between Clay and Washington (entrance of left side of Kearny) or at the hotel.
Tickets available at: http://www.sawlbanquet08.eventbrite.com/
I am a fan of Saturday Night Live, especially with last week’s impression of Governor Sarah Palin by Tina Fey. However, this past Saturday, I was offended – perhaps you were too. James Franco was the host, and he is currently a student at Columbia University in New York City, apparently to get his Master’s in Writing. Franco’s roommate is supposedly a “Ken Wo”:
“I got a great roommate named Ken Wo. He’s a bio-chem major. He’s here tonight… (camera on “Ken Wo” – audience laughter) You know, we have our arguments… He prints out his homework when I’m trying to sleep and I threw away his bed so my publicist could have a desk…”
Like Franco would actually be living in a Columbia University dorm room? Later, Franco’s “RA (Residence Advisor)” Craig shows up during the opening monologue and says:
“Come on man. Until you moved into Livingston Hall, I was top dog. It was just me and a bunch of dorks like Ken Wo. (camera on Ken Wo – audience laughter) – My bad, KWo, my bad.”
Come on Saturday Night Live (and the U.S. media)! Give us Asian American men a break. We *are not* all geeks and nerds who are pre-Med or engineering, etc. I had just previously written about Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles, and now I see this? Am I overreacting? As Angry Asian Man would say, “That’s racist.” (Hmm.. I wonder if Angry Asian Man will ever link to 8Asians…). Take a look for yourself and you decide here. (update: video taken down…)
The short answer: No, but it won’t be for a lack of trying.
The long answer: Anyone who has a basic knowledge of J-Pop or K-Pop music knows who BoA is. If you don’t, here’s a brief synopsis: A 12 year old Korean girl auditions and gets drafted into the Korean music scene. She becomes huge in South Korean, then promptly goes to Japan and records a bunch of #1 Japanese records, making her the first Korean to do so. She promptly becomes a superstar all over Asia. Now BoA is 20 and there are dreams for her to make it big in the United States. Don’t they all, really? But this will be easier said than done, because — and let’s be brutally honest here, because I’m actually a really big fan of BoA since her Kimochi Wa Tsutamaru days — the girl can’t pronounce her Rs.
No, seriously. Take this song, performed by teen fashion dolls turned bad pop band Bratz, for example: I played this for a friend once and when BoA butchered the line “All the Girls” as “ARR DE GURRS,” I instantly lost what little credibility I had.
So now BoA is giving another go at it with her new single “Eat You Up,” and the big guns have been called: the song is produced by Bloodshy & Avant, who produced another song you may have heard of called “Toxic,” by Britney Spears. Her video producer is Diane Martel. And Flo Rida is rapping on one of the remixes.
If I was the agent of a pop star, those are the names I would want to be using, really. But at the end of the day, the great American music machine is more than that — it’s promotion, it’s going to radio stations, it’s going to TRL and having 15 year olds from New Jersey being able to love you through an accent and a lot of peace signs. And it’s a shame, because she has the image skills, she definitely has the dancing skills and watching an exhausted-looking BoA learning hip hop moves and auditioning dancers and dealing with Americans that speak 100-words-a-minute, she most definitely has the drive and the work ethic. And it’s for those reasons that I really want her to do well when her single comes out in digital format on October 7th.
But given the track record of Asian in the American music industry? I’m not holding my breath. At all. Here’s to vocoders and chest pops taking you to the top, girl. Vocoders and chest pops.
Update: The full song is available via a YouTube link here.
Did you know that this is a presidential election year? That Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama are running for president? If you’ve been tuned out to the election so far this year, here is a chance for you to learn more. The [San Francisco] South Bay First Thursdays, Asian Pacific Islander Justice Coalition, and Generation Engage are sponsoring a “Know Before You Go! Asian American Voter Education Night“:
United Way Building
1922 The Alameda, Room 107
San Jose CA 95126
“Donations support refreshments, room rental, misc costs, and fee waivers. Recommended donation for program and food: $10 – $20 No one will be turned away for lack of funds.” RSVP here.
“Why don’t you hang around those other Filipinos?” asked my Mom to my brother and sister.
“Because they are in gangs and like to smoke in the school bathrooms,” replied my brother.
The mother in this New York Times story wanted to expose her kids to other Asian American kids, but her husband has mixed feelings about that. The husband grew up in a blue collar mostly white town and felt that experience motivated him to excel in track and football to prove he was as good or better than other children. His main concern is that once his son realizes that he is different in some way from most of the other kids (their area is mostly white), the father hopes that his son won’t be ashamed of that. I can’t speak about that from direct experience, having grown up in where I did in California, but I can say that trying to force the issue, like my mother tried, is likely to be unproductive. I have to say, though, that when I went to college, some of the other West Coast and Hawaiian Asian-Americans and I thought that the East Coast Asian-Americans from mostly white neighborhoods were kind of strange – didn’t know how to “hang” in the same way as back home.
With my own kids, living where I do, exposure to other Asian-Americans is not an issue. In some ways, the opposite is a concern. They don’t go to school with Asian gang members, something my siblings and I had to deal with, although Number One Son mentioned to me today that so Asian gangster types were mocking his friend this morning. What ended up being hard for The Daughter to deal with was interacting with lots of white people in high school. The school is about 40% white and 40% Asian, which was a big change from her other previous schools (where Number One Son and Number Two Son currently go). I’m glad that she can experience a more diverse school. She can now say, “some of my best friends are white!” I have heard some Asian-American parents say that they don’t want their kids going to a 90% Asian-American school, and I can understand where they are coming from.
The Daughter was really shocked when she went to dances at majority white schools. They were really different to her. As I see it, the culture that most kids in Asian-American neighborhoods (at least here in the Bay Area) assimilate into is urban. More hip-hop than rock and roll. Even the style of dress can be different. I can recall the Daughter saying that this person dressed “Filipino” while that person dressed so “white.” I asked her to describe what makes a person dress “white” or “Filipino,” which she did. It was like that when I was younger – different ethnic groups would deliberately dress distinctly from one another. If some of this might seem strange to some of you, consider seeing the movie “The Debut”, which is based on life in my neighborhood. Aspects of associating with other Asian Americans are also dealt with in this movie.
I was originally going to title this post “Perez Hilton likes Underage Korean Girls.” BAM! How is that for yellow journalism?
But contrary to that headline, Perez Hilton, the hardest working person in gossip business, recently posted about “How The Koreans Do it”, the “Koreans” referencing the girl-group Wonder Girls and their newest video called “Nobody But You”. (Side note: the comment section of this particular Perez Hilton post has some interesting views, if you know what I mean…)
(The song starts around the 2:00 mark.)
In the far far away land that is Korea, the Wonder Girls are probably the most popular music act in the country. They were responsible for the “Tell Me Craze” in which they took the whole southern peninsula of Korea by storm. The whole country was doing the “Tell me Dance” — think of it as the Soulja Boy dance, except in Korea EVERYBODY was doing it: police officers, teachers, flight attendants, students, body builders, infants.
Now this is where I was going digress into the plethora of Korean artists that are trying to enter the American music market, including the recent announcement of BoA’s decision to adventure into the USA, and dissect and analyze each artists’ chances… but since no one in the United States care, including me, I wont do that. Instead, this post is just an excuse to post pics of Yoobin from the Wonder Girls. Who by the way is smoking hot.
I just really wanted to share this project that I worked on with my very good friend Dino Ignacio.
When it comes to independent films on Asian American identity, all I can say is that I’m very proud of this piece of work.
“Dad, what are they saying?” said Number One Son.
“Yeah, what are they talking about?” said Number Two Son.
My sons were referring to the animated conversation that was going on in Tagalog between, their Aunts, their Uncles, and the Wife at the dinner table. I tried to translate as fast as I could, but I didn’t catch everything.
I was reminded of this time when John forwarded a link to this article to the 8asians blogger mailing list. The Asian American couple (he of Korean descent and she of Chinese) sent their busy, highly scheduled three year old son to Chinese school even though neither of them spoke Chinese. The family lives in a mostly white area, and one of the goals of sending him there was to expose him to other Asian American kids. To their surprise, the vast majority of students were white. The son didn’t seem to take to the classes, and so the parents let him quit.
The article generated a lot of discussion on the 8asians list. Some bloggers objected to the claim in the article that Asian-American families concentrate 100% on assimilating their children. Others pointed out the folly overloading kids so young, while others pointed out that many Asian Americans parents seem to be intent on “earning points” by having their kids do many activities while ignoring the real purpose of those activities. Shouldn’t be sports be about learning sportsmanship, discipline, and appreciating and learning exercise? Shouldn’t music be about learning culture and appreciating the splendid works of the past? Shouldn’t learning languages be about learnin g different perspectives and cultures?
All great questions and comments. My own particular thoughts came in three areas: teaching the kids languages, exposing your kids to other Asian Americans, and loading and on how much to push on kids. I had a lot of thoughts on this, so I am dividing them into three parts. This first part is about teaching kids the languages of the ancestral homeland. I wish I had learned as Tagalog as a kid, but most Filipino immigrant parents at the time when I was a kid didn’t bother and generally didn’t seem to care. Most spoke English fairly well. I have heard that some Filipino parents during that time were told that if they didn’t talk speak only English to their kids that the kids would fall behind in school.
The colonial mentality of Filipinos and Philippine geography (lots of islands and different languages) does not help either. The Wife tells me that some richer families in the Philippines would speak only English to their kids, and that the kids would only learn Tagalog from their maids and nannies. Also, in some regions of the Philippines, I am told that the people would prefer to speak English rather than Tagalog. My mother only learned Tagalog in the US. In some places, like Hawaii and Guam, the common language of Filipinos is Ilocano. My brother’s Chinese wife was really shocked to learn that Filipinos generally don’t make an effort to pass on language skills of Filipinos languages. Where I live, there are Japanese language schools, Chinese language schools, and Vietnamese language schools, but no Filipino language schools. Ironically, my brother never learned Tagalog, but he learned Japanese and Mandarin, although that didn’t do him much good communicating with his father-in-law who only speaks Cantonese.
I ended up learning Tagalog on my own from some books. Having The Wife yell in Tagalog when she gets mad also helped! I generally can understand conversations and the action on TFC (The Filipino Channel), but I take a while to compose sentences when I have to talk. Filipinos, I find, are generally not particularly amused by my accented slow Tagalog, although they think that it is SO cute when a white guy like Travis Kraft speaks it. My kids ended up not learning Tagalog, something I regret. It would have helped the Daughter greatly in her Spanish language classes. For one, it would have helped her think mo re flexibly. The Daughter’s friend, who is fluent in Mandarin, also takes Spanish, and I remember her helping the Daughter with Spanish, saying “don’t try to make sentences the same way as in English.” My daughter, knowing only one language, had trouble thinking flexibly in different grammatical patterns. Also, Tagalog has many words from Spanish. If she had known Tagalog, she already would have had a substantial vocabulary.
In the article, there are non-Chinese parents who send their young kids to Chinese school. I have a friend who did this. My guess is that his motivation is give his child an advantage knowing what he, who worked as an expat in Asia for a long time, perceives as a dominant language of the future. So I think that the benefits of teaching the ancestral language are three potentially threefold: the ability to think in more flexible ways, picking up an economically useful skill, and the ability to better connect with other generations of family. Some stories, like the one that Number One Son and Number Two Son asked about, are just better told in Tagalog, and my hurried translations just don’t do them justice.