Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas 2.5

Yay Mashable:
Christmas Wish List: 12 Things We Want Fixed on the Web
How freaked out was I when I Yelped something (where I'm registered my Gmail), and it almost appeared on Facebook (where I'm registered with my Yahoo)? Geez. I mean I know I clicked on the box that lets them gather info on me, but that was a little freaky....

... is in the Heart

Watched Searching for Asian America last night, mainly because I couldn't convince Mi Hermana and bro-in-law to watch it with me when I was in Michigan, and I really want to get to the other films in my Netflix queue. It features three profiles of Asian Americans: Gov. Gary Locke, two Filipino doctors in Oklahoma, and actress/artist Lela Lee. The documentary has three episodes, which I think were part of a larger PBS- and NAATV-affiliated airing.

The segment on Gov. Locke was great. In 2003 when he gave the Democratic response to Bush's State of the Union address, I was in Orlando for a conference. I have no shame in admitting that I skipped that evening's social activities (which included free wine, btw) to watch Gov. Locke deliver the address on TV. Like most public officials, he did some good things and some not-so-good things (including cutting some child care funds that partially paid my salary and got me laid off from my first "real" job out of college. But whatever. No bitterness... I got to meet him several times, before he axed my funding stream, and he was a nice, everyday, humble dude.) At any rate, it was a good episode. It was also fun to recognize other Washington State politicos in all the shots.

Episode 2 randomly featured two Filipino doctors who settled in Guymon, Oklahoma. They were best friends in med school, then moved to the States and drama happened. Aside from their experiences as the only people of color in the town, they had a falling out. The interviews with them focus more on the immigrant experience: one wants to stay in OK, the other wants to eventually go back to the Philippines. I don't quite know why these two guys were featured, exactly. To tie in current experiences to a historical perspective? To reinforce cultural ties to nations of origin? It was an interesting segment but ultimately a little out of place.

Angry Little Asian Girl's Lela Lee was the focus of the last "episode" in the documentary. I first started reading her ALAG comic strip when I was in college and was something of an Angry Little Half-Asian Girl. (I've mellowed. A lot. Really!) Back then, the strip was solely about the ALAG dealing with stereotypes of Asian Americans, and it was edgy because it directly countered the image of Asians as quiet, submissive, cute little people. Since then, Lee has branched out and added other characters -- the strip is now Angry Little Girls, of all backgrounds. In Searching for Asian America, some cultural commentators mention that the strip also became wildly popular with non-Asian women, because some of the same expectations of silence, submission, and cuteness are normal socialization modes for females in general. That one was a great segment, too.

One thing I did find weird was the emphasis on telling how each of the featured people met their spouses. I couldn't figure out if it was an attempt to humanize them all more or to ironically link them back to the stereotype of Asian family ties. At any rate, it was obviously part of the formula for the episodes: interview person, tell beginning of story, interview friends and family, then suddenly throw in how they met/dated/married their partner, then tell rest of story through interviews of everyone.

Good stuff for procrastinating!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Speaking of deconstruction...

Procrastinating once again, this time not wanting to prepare a presentation on Derrida and Foucault. Ack.

So I'm reading the "Issues" statements of certain presidential primary candidates, and comparing them.

One funny thing I'm noticing: under bolded headers, often on the same page, some campaigns haven't decided to go with the first or third-person narrative. It's a funny schizophrenic detail. Under "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" a candidate might write "I believe in the American Dream." But seven lines later, under "Health Care," is written "Smith believes everyone should have quality affordable care." Even on the more in-depth pages where all the headers are points about the same issue! I doubt it's intentional, but who knows? Disassociation with certain issues? Different staffers? No clear communication memo? Hmmm....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The legacy of Census2000

Either it's early-onset schizophrenia or cute baby nieces make me happy, but I've been smiling absurdly and silently narrating my activities ever since getting on the plane in Detroit: "Tia B is going to practice her presentation now. Auntie B could really use a pint of beer... I'm going to get on the bus, oh yes I am!" Etc, etc, etc.

Oy. There's a new addition to the voices in my head!

At any rate, Mi Hermana is already beginning to filter TV shows for her 2-month-old. (Sesame Street = good, very diverse, inclusive of all kinds of families, etc. My Bed Bugs, a local show on the local PBS channel = bad because only one character has eyes that aren't blue or green. Mi Hermana was particularly vehement about that last point... Note to self, make sure all future presents will not cause parental rant sessions...)

But we watched Shrek the Third for ourselves, though. It was terrible. I liked the first Shrek movie and tolerated the second, but the third was pretty bad! King Arthur, who is a fairy-tale high school geek, somehow inherits the kingdom of Far Far Awayland? And even Rupert Everett, reprising his role as the evil Prince Charming, couldn't get me to pay more attention to the film.

Of course, it was hilarious and ironic that in the film, Shrek and Fiona have kids, and there's a line where Shrek says all babies do is cry and poo (I think we all turned to stare at Harmony at that point...) But though it was highly relevant, it wasn't that great. I still like the original the best. Like The Matrix, the Shrek movies just keep getting worse.

Before I left the Wolverine State, however, I did guzzle quite a few glasses of wine and bottles of beer, accompanied by the new parents. (At one point I was even giving the baby her bottle while taking a swig from mine. Mi Hermana refused to take a picture, but allowed one of my near-empty steins to be photographed on a restaurant table with the sleeping baby in the background.)

We were drinking to the end of a family tradition, with the news that La Otra Hermana will not be following the Filipino tradition of the-mother's-maiden-name-as-child's-middle-name. Our surname is a hearty British one, and our other bro-in-law "doesn't like European names," and therefore doesn't want one as part of his kid's (though strangely is OK with his wife's....) Our nephew, due in late February, will have three long Samoan names, and we'll all have to learn the particular consonants of the South Pacific ("T" is not the same, for instance.) All of which in and of itself is cool, of course (Mi Hermana is, after all, a linguist), except for the fact that nobody on our Mom's side has ever not had the maternal surname as middle name. At least that we can trace. So La Madre is upset about this denial of her heritage's traditions. Mi Hermana and bro-in-law, los nuevos padres, on the other hand, are also disturbed that half the child's heritage isn't going to be reflected in the name.

Suffice to say, Nosotros Las Tres Hermanas, ourselves spanning the spectrum of what little mixed kids look like, have been yelling back and forth about "looking" multiracial, "ethnic" names, dominant cultural perceptions, internalized colonization and assimilation, the role of skin tone, and the rest of the gamut of identity politics. It is, of course, incredibly ironic that we're arguing about a Filipino tradition not being honored with a British name in a child who will be half Samoan New Zealander.

Meanwhile, I'll use any excuse to drink...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In the Ford Presidential Library

When the airline loses your luggage (and with it your 5 books of Thanksgiving homework) for almost two days, it's sometimes a good thing when your brother-in-law is getting his Ph.d in the field where you got your B.A., because to fill up your luggage-less time when not attending to the cutest niece in the world, he gives you his books to read.

Carried to the Wall was a interesting approach to the legacy of the Vietnam War. By examining first both American funerary traditions and the history of Western war memorials, the book then goes on to explore how the items left at the Vietnam War Memorial are part of changes in those histories, and how they help the living come to terms with both the death of soldier loved ones as well as a national narrative about the War itself. The things left at the Wall then become part of a living memorial, and the National Park Service dutifully documents and stores every item. The book, written by the bro-in-law's advisor or reader or something, was a little depressing in that it was about, well, death and the various ways the dead are remembered, especially ones from a war fought by an internally conflicted nation. But it was insightful. Hass also details the political drama behind the vision and design of the Wall, which of course also fit into the larger issues of personal and national memory.

And when the cutest niece in the world is being a miniature crab apple and fights her instinct to fall asleep, it turns out a playlist of Beatles songs and humming "Flower of Scotland" and "Scotland the Brave" works, and she zonks out. It gets old, though. Other times, though, she's awake and just wants to party.

So we watched Madagascar, which I admit I didn't view with any critical depth because I was alternating between cramming in my recently-delivered homework and walking the baby (as well as changing diapers for the first time ever). It seemed like it was basically a twist on the City Mouse and the Country Mouse tale: not all animals should imitate Free Willy, and anthropomorphic stories let children know everyone has a "place," however that is construed.

But a deserted Ann Arbor offers little aside from the Ford Presidential Library, so after a day of rest from turkey over-ingestion, Mi Hermana and I left the baby with my bro-in-law and headed out to do some outlet shopping. (The Fundraising Queen has a theory that discount shoe stores in non-urban areas have a better selection of city-appropriate shoes, and of course I immediately sent her a text message confirming the validity of her hypothesis, at least when applied to the wilds of Michigan. I 've been overdue for a replenished shoe collection for quite a while.)

Then we had fun shopping for baby clothes, both boys' and girls'. Because of course, aside from the bundle of harmony (wink wink) we left back in Ann Arbor to hit the retail gauntlet, there is another family bundle of joy (wink wink) due in late February. Tia B went a little, um, crazy buying baby shower gifts and the niece's Christmas presents. . . .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Grad school in a nutshell!

With um, two presentations, one short paper, one long paper, and one final left for the next two weeks... Thanks to the FG for posting The Procrastination Flow Chart!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"I can hear 'em callin' hogs... I can sniff the fragrant whiff..."

Last year, while stranded in St. Louis for several hours, I learned that the airport there has a wonderful used book store. Yesterday, while stranded in Philadelphia, I learned that the airport has an excellent wine bar. (The food was just OK, but the candlelit tables were also a welcome break from Hudson News and food court chaos.)

Also, airport art is brilliant after three glasses of wine! (Seriously, Philly had little shapes of birds and planes --but no Superman-- arranged in flocks that made up bigger birds and planes! I even stopped to examine the tiny figures. And put my nose up to the glass box...)

So I have no idea if it was the three glasses of wine or the book itself, but I was tearing up while reading parts of Joe Trippi's memoir of the Howard Dean campaign in '04. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything was really inspiring. Actually, I started reading it on the plane from Boston before getting stranded in Philly, so it wasn't just the wine and candlelight.

Of course, I may be a bit partial because while reading the descriptions of the 1200 audience members at Seattle's Town Hall in the spring of '03, the 15,000 in downtown Seattle that summer, the hundreds of thousands of repeated small-time contributors, and house party organizers, I kept thinking "Awww... I was there! That was me!" Trippi provides a riveting account of how the Dean campaign snowballed from a tiny backwoods Vermont office into the nation's first --and arguable only-- internet-supported presidential bid, the first in fact to utilize blogs. (The myth is that the campaign was only internet-based, but it wasn't.)

(Because I really know how to pick 'em in the primaries... I was a Bradley fan in '00, the only other presidential cycle where I've been eligible to vote. I think I've mentioned before, I love primaries. In the spirit of Thursday's approaching feast, the Dem primaries are like huge Thanksgiving family dinners where everyone has to negotiate who will host, who will carve the turkey, and who has to take the wine away from Uncles Sharpton and Kucinich...)

So perhaps it's appropos that, four years after I made my first political contribution to a candidate (I'd previously refused, donating only to ballot initiatives or the anti campaigns), I'm studying the influence of technology in mobilizing young voters. And guess what, there are still limited resources, almost no academic research in the area, and new applications are being poo-pooed by traditional politicos, who wonder how and why Stephen Colbert can be more popular than "real" Democrats. We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

At any rate, Trippi's book is great. Like any memoir, you read it with a grain of salt because who isn't biased when it comes to writing about themselves? But Trippi actually manages to get beyond the issue of how he was involved with the campaign -- he keeps calling for a paradigm shift in campaign strategizing, for a recognition that voters will actually respond to participatory democracy, for a realization that politics and technology are not mutually exclusive. And he keeps emphasizing the importance of young voters. In any description of the Dean campaign, Trippi repeatedly emphasizes it was decentralized and the vague online community "out there" were the ones coming up with ideas and innovations-- and he relates it to similar trends in the consumer market, like Google and Linux and some other instances where the bottom-up nature of computer culture had proven wildly successful.

I also got a second-hand campaign high while reading the pre-Dean autobiography parts. The guy worked on tons of campaigns.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm still allowed to skip one general in 10 years...

I finally finished the book I don't remember why I selected for my book review. The Good Citizen: How a Younger Generation is Reshaping American Politics is certainly timely --countdown to the caucuses and the primaries! Woot woot. Russell Dalton, the author, looks at different constructions of "citizenship" and what it means to be a "good" citizen. Through various charts and tables, he illustrates that older individuals do things like vote in large numbers, join the Elks or other civic organizations, and remain loyal to other social groups like churches, labor unions, and political parties. Younger adults, on the other hand, don't vote so much, but volunteer in large numbers, and express political interest in new and different ways.

But then Dalton takes forever to show that the difference between "duty-based" citizenship (what the old folk do) and "engaged" citizenship (what the young 'uns do) manifests itself in things like views on the role of government, tolerance attitudes, and beliefs about civil rights. Dalton also points to changes in education from World War II through the 21st century as key to understanding the shift from duty-based views to engaged citizenship. Seriously, though, it all took like forever. And the book is only about 200 pages. Or maybe that's just my engaged-citizenship ADHD age bias showing? Dalton draws on surveys and re-presents the findings in pretty easy-to-read formats. But I think he essentially said it all in the introduction and the first two chapters. The first two chapters are definitely worth reading, though, and the rest is worth skimming -- nobody else really presents a positive view of young adult political trends, it's always doom and gloom and how young people are ruining American democracy, and Dalton definitely takes the opposite stance.

And now, I must contemplate packing for my Thanksgiving trip to the state that caused so much trouble with its primary...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

LAPD does a 360

It only took how many Orwellian days?
LAPD ditches Muslim mapping plan (LA Times)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gotta stop wearing those fishnets

Unsure if I ever blogged the first incident (though I've certainly ranted about it enough), I was once mistaken for a prostitute three times in the same night while waiting for a bus. That was about two years ago. Based on that experience, I now know how men pick up prostitutes (they pull their cars up a little ways away, and wait, and keep looking at you through their rearview mirrors).

And it happened again! I was waiting for a bus, alone, fairly late, last night on my way home from karaoke, and the same thing happened. Except this time when I looked over at the car in shock to see if what I thought was happening was really happening, the guy raised his arms as if you say "Deal or no deal?" So I whipped out my cell phone and called a cab. I don't care that I was mistaken for a hooker (ironically I was wearing a big puffy ski jacket the first time, and a long wool coat the second), I'm a little more concerned about my safety.

And why are women alone at bus stops late at night assumed to be prostitutes anyway???? Arrrgggghh. Oh wait....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

As the writer's block kicks in for the political science paper due on Thursday

As the holidays approach, I'm beginning to miss all the prep and mapping for legislative session. And as I'm stuck merely studying political goings-on for at least the next year and a half, after six years of actually working on issues, I am TOTALLY JEALOUS of a friend who's a congressional fellow in DC right now...

I can carry my CSPAN and NCSL bags around to make me feel better, though...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Le, la, les, l'

While not writing papers yet again, I watched Eddie Izzard's Definite Article. I needed a laugh.

I liked it a lot better than Unrepeatable, maybe because the topics of his jokes were a little nerdier. In Definite Article he had bits dealing with Roman history (he mentioned Vercingetorix which, believe it or not, is my cousin's middle name), St. Paul's letters to the Corinthians, playing musical instruments, and learning languages. That was the fun part -- if you didn't know a little French and German, you didn't get any of that bit of the routine, which was hilarious. Half the time, his stream-of-consciousness routine seems so unplanned (and you can tell some parts are), but then he always gets back on track.

And the man casually used "lugubrious" in a sentence, not as a joke. Brilliant.

Also, I've noticed that of the few comedy shows on DVD I've been watching lately, many end with the comedian leaving the venue, getting into a car, and driving away. Is this some weird cultural reference I'm not getting? Where and how did this start? This could be yet another research question to prevent me from writing my end-of-term papers....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Because LAPD has such a good record in community relations...

WTF??? I'm speechless besides all the cursing that comes to mind!

LAPD defends Muslim mapping effort (LA Times)

What's that Martin Niemoller quote again?

Section 1158

While procrastinating and not writing any of my big papers due next week, I came across this BBC article on a game designed by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. It's intended to be a tool for teachers, a sort of 101 on what the UN

Didn't quite know what to expect (SuperMario? Wolfenstein?), so I went online and played it.

The entire game is clicking on items in different rooms: click on the items you want to throw in your knapsack when the soldiers knock on your door, click on the rights you sign away, click on the people you ask for help, click on the doors you open when you try to find your interpreter, etc, etc.

The characters are clearly supposed to be children or youngish people, as are the hurdles the player-as-refugee goes through (like school). Overall, I think it actually does a decent job of highlighting a hypothetical, from police storming into the hypothetical house, to being interrogated, to fleeing and nobody helping, to coming to a new country and having to navigate different aspects of everyday life. In the first third of the game, it also subtly explains what the UN might consider an indicator of refugee status qualification. (It does this during the "interrogation" section, where if the player doesn't give away rights and agree with the government, there are smacking sounds and blood drops appear... That was a little disturbing, though rooted in reality.)

I'm assuming the intended audience are, to be overly blunt, privileged American children who have never met an immigrant or a refugee. With that in mind, the "case studies" presented in the game are interesting, as are the choice of countries and particular situations to highlight. (The seven profiles in the second part of the game are all either from the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, or the subcontinent/South Asia --gee, any subtle religious undertones?-- and I'm positive that's not a representative sample of asylum-seekers in the U.S.) And the nonthreatening lighter skins tones of the game's characters probably make the stories a little more palatable for the parents of the intended audience. Of course, I'm cynical in my old age...

What was particularly cool was that the game didn't stop with the nighttime escape from the home country: it took the player through the confusing process of integrating into a new home in a different country. It made the player try to understand what it might be like to not understand a language, to be the recipient of mean comments, and to try and start a new life.

It's an interesting and fairly creative introduction to the idea of human rights, the UN, and refugees.

And yet another way to procrastinate. The papers will be written! Sigh...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

When you want the option that isn't listed

Thanks to the FG, who posted this on "the FB," I know that according to USA Today's "Candidate Match" game, Kucinich, Gravel, and Giuliani (tied with Richardson) are apparently most aligned with my answers to USA Today's questions on the war, health care, immigration, equal marriage rights, the environment, and experience.

(I knew Kucinich, I've know that for years. But I'll still never vote for him. He still really, really creeps me out, and I don't know exactly why, as I kept telling another friend on Facebook. Personal biases, perhaps.)

At any rate, unless I register to vote in the Massachusetts primary, I'll miss the Washington State caucus. Decisions, decisions...

For more procrastination, maybe I should retake the quiz! Ooooohhh! Or critique its internal validity, which would be an excellent way to avoid doing the survey reading for statistics class tonight.

My excuse lately is that if it's related to politics and somehow involves technology (very conveniently undefined), then it's not really procrastinating. It's, um, tangentially related to my research-gathering. Yep. That's right...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The forest for the trees

I had this weird feeling all today, thinking something wasn't quite right. For starters, I kept thinking it was Tuesday instead of Monday, and some nagging instinct kept telling me something was important about the first week of November. But I went to the presentation on PUBLIC POLICY summer fellowships, including several at the state LEGISLATURE; emailed my program director about alternative energy INITIATIVES in Ohio; wrote a few more sentences in my research outline on mobilizing young VOTERS; and then went to the department monthly happy hour ("the department" being Law, POLICY, and Society). And in between walking to all of those events, something wasn't quite right.

Turns out, it was 10 years of behavior ingrained in my mental calendar. It just now hit me -- I won't be voting this year, in either the Evergreen or the Bay State. And Massachusetts doesn't have same-day registration, so I can't rush out and remedy the situation in the wee hours tomorrow morning.

This is what happens when you're not involved with a campaign!!! Or the DMV had computer crashes the THREE times you try to switch your license and voter registration, so you finally give up and decide to vote back home, but then forget to have your absentee ballot sent across the country, and La Madre is in Michigan and can't forward it to you!!!


It's also slightly ironic, given that one of the books I chose to read for a class is The Good Citizen: How a Younger Generation is Changing Politics. I haven't finished reading it yet (was planning to finish it and the book review paper over Thanksgiving), but the first few chapters that I have read set up the author's views on "duty-based" constructions of citizenship (ie, voting, going to party meetings, etc) and "engaged" models of citizenship (ie, signing petitions, lobbying, protesting, boycotting, etc). The main idea of the book is that the under-35 bloc conceives of civic engagement in vastly different terms, without as much emphasis on the voting part as previous generations. The half of the book I haven't read yet apparently goes into the pros and cons of this trend.

Still. The first time in ten years I've missed a general! I skipped a few primaries back in college, and more than a few special elections.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

One extra hour!

Lady Grace and I tried to go to the Peabody Museum this morning, but got a lost, as I'm learning is fairly common in the Boston area. Which was fine, because it was a gorgeous sunny Sunday, so we ended up taking a really long walk around Cambridge. But with an antsy 2-year-old in tow, we decided to find a decent brunch place, and stumbled upon the lovely Upstairs on the Square. We didn't realize it was a reservation kind of place, but luckily the staff took a liking to Lillian, Lady G's toddler charge. She was cute and well-behaved, and despite it being very crowded with college students being wined and dined by visiting parents, we got seated immediately without reservations (we were thinking the cute and well-behaved part had something to do with it), and about four staffers kept coming up to say hi to her throughout our meal.

She did keep trying to grab my mimosa, though, thinking it was the OJ she usually has for breakfast. I managed to keep it away from her, and tried to give her some of my melon and prosciutto instead, but she wasn't a fan of either. And then we had to play the rearranging game, where I'd move the salt and pepper and sugar to the opposite end of whatever side of the table she would crawl towards.

And then it occurred to us halfway through brunch that we probably looked like a young couple out for Sunday brunch with our kid. (It explained some of the comments other patrons and the staff said to both of us.) Hilarious!

At any rate, I liked the decor at the restaurant. It was an interesting blend of classic, with fun colors and subtle animal prints. I like subtle animal prints...

And then I had to get back to the paper-writing. Sigh. It was a nice autumn morning of procrastination, though.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

This is where procrastination leads you

Courtesy of the Harry Potter Alliance:

Then again, it's kind of vaguely related to the paper I'm not writing, right? The internet? Mobilizing young people in new ways? Redefining political participation?

Back to "research" ...

Lessons learned the hard way no.s 1736 and 1737

#1736: Several mean-spirited people will drive through massive puddles just to splash you when you're walking home with your groceries in the rain. It's a cruel, cruel world.

#1737: Fava beans should be shelled before you put them into your salad and take a bite. So a recipe that supposedly takes 10 minutes really takes about 50, and your fingers get wrinkled from the emergency re-boiling and soaking session.

Who knew?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

These young 'uns...

While researching city initiatives on alternative energy sources and "green" technologies, I found out that the current mayor of Pittsburgh, the youngest in the country, is 27 (pro tem at 26 following the last mayor's death.)

I feel really, really old...