Monday, March 19, 2007


So I think I now have more of an idea as to what type of audience I'm typing to and attempt to provoke. Looking back, I don't think I wrote enough to satisfy my own thirst for new news or new perspectives. Being my own toughest critic, I wish that I had more time to think things through or used my time to be more concise or entertaining.

On the eve of presenting this blog to other people (for an official first time), I'm excited and afraid at the same time. For the most part, I think I've achieved the goals I laid out before I started this journey to re-vamp my blog. If anything, I think I forgot to comment on books or short stories I've read (but that doesn't mean I haven't read any, haha!)

My generation is constantly being called Generation Y. Why? After reading various youth articles, some people in my age group even refer to our entire cohort as Generation Y. Some call us the MTV Generation. I think that's even worse (although I do love me some MTV) for several reasons: 1) we will be known for sitting on our asses in front of a television set, 2-10) we will be subjugated by images of super sweet sixteens, dating shows, short skirts, hook-ups, sadistic comedy, and token documentaries of unique lives especially if one has a disability, a lifestyle that strays away from the norm or, if we're lucky, the rare do-good type.

I think that it's safe to say the I am a part of a blogging era. I like to think that blogs are an extra nonphysical space that allows my peers and I to see our names and thoughts in permanent print; a place away from diaries and journals and a step up from repressed words and beyond other peoples' expectations of our capabilities. I like that... acting, doing and simply being beyond other peoples' expectations.

We need to define ourselves. I've been in numberous situations where my age group (18-24) was still referred to as "kids." My response to that is... I don't think "kids" would be so invested in dictating our futures or spawn such interest in current events, the problems of our world or the pedagogy of our education.

So, like I said, we need a re-evaluation.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hungry for Something Hawaiian.

Let's try something new....

You wake up on a hot summer day. You get up, brush your teeth, shower (if you haven't already), throw on that shirt with the hibiscuses and palm trees all over it that you've been eyeing all winter, step outside in your new Rainbow flip-flops and feel the breeze. 'It feels like paradise,' you think to yourself. Since it is summer and all, you wake up early at noon and head over to your friend's luau-themed barbeque. You're chillin in your new overpriced board shorts from Roxy or Quiksilver, whichever gendered clothing brand with which you identify. You wish you could go surfing like you were in Hawaii, but you can't because .... well, you live in the city. So you fulfill your craving for Hawaii with the food served at the barbeque - some L&Ls Hawaiian Barbeque and pizza with Hawaiian toppings (pineapple pieces & ham) along with a soda that comes with a cute, tiny umbrella that you swear only exists to keep you from actually consuming the beverage. But hey, it looks cute, right? Then, the entertainment comes out. Your friends graciously hired a halau (hula school) to come and perform for the guests. The hula dancers - clad in their coconut bras, kukui shells, flowers behind their ears and green leafy leis tied around their hips and neck - look just like the rest of the girls at the party. But you know these girls are especially particular because they're browner than everyone else. Even their hips, shadowed by their sarongs, say so. At the end of this 30-minute cultural presentation, one of the dancers (that you swear looks like a real life Lilo from Lilo & Stitch) picks out one of your homeboys during the audience participation part of their performance. Attempting to teach the basics of Tahitian/Polynesian dancing, you see your homeboy actually agressively pressing himself up against this dancer. It's funny though, because he's known to be the clown, so you don't say anything. The dancers leave, and the rest of the party people start to tone down, by playing with hula hoops, watching The Disney Channel's Johnny Tsunami and drinking coconut juice. After an overdose on 'Hawaiian culture,' you're tired of the girls' crimped hair, mellow music and head home because everybody jumped into the pool and you weren't ready because you didn't have your bathing suit on. I guess you didn't get that memo, because everyone just assumed that it was part of the luau theme. You make it home with enough time to go and hang up the colorful, plastic leis you've collected throughout the day and place them with the dried flower leis and money leis from your high school graduation before your favorite new reality t.v. show, Maui Fever, comes on. What a day.

I'm obviously a reality t.v. show junkie and admit that reality t.v. is my biggest guilty pleasure. The MTV show, Maui Fever, is an unfair, digressive, bad, sickening representation of Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture. In the words of spoken word poet Bao Phi, "What up with all these damn movies about white people in Hawaii? Can't the indigenous islanders get some love?" That about sums it up.

But I can't leave readers hanging ten (hah, okay, that was a really bad pun!) like that.

Everyday interactions and the governmentality (government technologies) that instill certain values in everyday people. Yes. This is what I really want to talk about. Or, more about the everyday commercialization of 'Hawaiian goods' and culture.

Hawaii is more than a vacation spot known for its beaches, beautiful people, luaus, surfers or clear blue waters. All that is just an image. But the power of image is so crucial and substantial that we seldom look at exactly what it is that we are looking at. Here's a crash course of the facts that play into our perception of Hawaiian tourism:

Hawaii was colonized. Along with the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and Cuba, Hawaii was colonized as a result of American imperialism and industrialization. When white settlers moved to Hawaii, they explored the land and dominated agrarian industries. Settlers also brought with them their Western ways and began to Westernize indigenous Hawaiians. Disease, European culture, views of the New World came along with settlement. The ways of the settlers, foreign to the Hawaiians, became institutionalized and therefore normalized. Hawaiians lost aspects of their culture, religion, government, and land in the early 19th/20th centuries. Haoles (foreigners) took over trade, established plantations (where Native Hawaiians became slaves) and inevitbaly claimed Hawaii as a part of the U.S. sphere of influence. Thus, the birth of capitalism on the Hawaiian Islands took place.

"Capitalism, in other words, relies on and encourages inequality and greed. Unlike the capitalist society driven by profit, Hawaiian culture places deeper value on land, history, and nature. Originally, Hawaiian society shared communal land, property, and wealth. If one person was poor, the entire community was poor. Hawaiians do not support capitalism, and therefore, do not like tourism. This creates a discourse that reflects and stresses these values. The result is two distinct discourses that have different perspectives on issues and establishments like tourism...Hawaiian culture existed long before tourism and has been exploited by tourism in the form of advertisements and items such as postcards. Along with the violence, endangered environment, and poverty, this exploitation is what the tourist industry does not want to show." (source)

For the show’s MTV cast of seven 20-somethings, it seems like either booze or hookups will do the trick. Mix the two and you’ve got a sure-shot remedy for MTV ratings during the off season from another of its reality series “Laguna Beach” with a hot copycat show that focuses on beauty and sex in paradise.

That’s the premise behind the premiere of “Maui Fever”: attractive young adults turning up the heat in an already warm climate.

The show aired Wednesday, and some Maui residents are wondering how to rid the island of “Fever” altogether.

“I couldn’t even stomach the first few minutes,” said Darcy Orosco, a Kihei mom who noted she was most bothered by the episode’s sexual content. “I thought I would give it a chance. I thought it would portray our island in a beautiful way. It’s just horrible for Maui – it’s embarrassing.” (full article)

Perhaps it'd be best to think twice about the content that pervades our t.v. sets and our minds.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Stop The Killings!!

Right now, there's a movement going on in the Philippines (and even the U.S.) to further investigate the 830+ political killings that may be traced back to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). However, some sources say that the killings lead back to the communist New People's Army.

In an attempt to remain (I hate this word:) objective, I wanted to take a look at the political killings from the Philippine government's perspective. Although the 830+ count began when President Arroyo entered office, the information I look at begins with Malacañang Palace's (the official residence of Philippine President) decision to welcome the United Nations committtee into the Philippines.

The UN sent a 4-man crew to fly to Mindanao to investigate the political killings. This crew was sent to Mindanao (the Southernmost region of the Philippines), a mountainous region known to activists and community organizers as a sanctuary for those who were a part of organizations run underground during times of political upheaval (i.e. The Marcos Dictatorship). The 4-person envoy will investigate the plight of the people trapped between the government and various rebel groups. This paraphrased information is provided by a Filipino American newspaper - the seemingly conservative-liberal spectrum here absolutely misinterprets activist groups to 'rebel groups.' Flying to Mindanao does not uncover the reasons as to why these individuals must hide in the mountains in the first place; Philippine history is repeating itself.

The main man behind the UN investigations, is a V.I.P. named Philip Alston. Aside from serving as a mediator between these activists, the Philippines government, the UN and the rest of the world at large, he is also a Professor of Law and New York University.

President Arroyo has condemned these political killings and is working towards bringing the murderers to justice. In addition, GMA is aware of the lack of evidence, family cooperation of the victims and the involvement of militant groups. By 'militant groups', I assume that this is GMA hinting at the New People's Army as the culprits of the political killings. Strange how this rhetoric is asserted to work both ways. In terms of family cooperation, GMA implies that the families of the victims were in on their deaths or that they became victims because of their own mistakes.

It's definitely important to tkae in the patterns, trends and policies in context of the killings. In an investigation like the 830+ killings. Alston attempted to remain subjective. After 9 days in the Philippines, he found that the military was in "almost total denial" about the wave of political murders in the country. The argument of considering context deflects the amount of people that have been killed, almost making light(er) of the situation. Considering context also attempts to see the killings on a case-by-case basis, rather than as a collective pattern.

The Philippine government is also inviting more foreign groups for assistance. Other governments do not agree with the Philippine government and find it difficult to side with them. The international community's passivity is questionable. What are the repercussions of knowing something and not speaking up or not knowing anything and still stepping away?

The Melo Commission was sanctioned by GMA (as a part of Executive Order 157) to create and give a report on the political killings. Retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo released a report but the results have yet to be revealed to the public. Whatever the 'results' may be, the Philippines government will be acting on the Commission (UN Commission + the Melo Commission)'s recommendations. Also, after reading an article of Malacañang Palace welcoming the UN members, I read another article on the Philippine goverment finding the UN Commission unfair and inaccurate. What's going on here?!

In addition, elections in the Philippines are a major part of current events and I found it interesting that one of GMA's legal counsels was openly supporting General Jovito Palparan as an elective candidate. Gen. Palparan is al,so accused of being responsible for carrying some of the killings. If the latter holds true, this can be interpreted as the government endorsing the extrajudicial killings.

Despite politics, locations, power structures, language, media coverage or what have you, I BELIEVE THAT A LIFE IS A LIFE. No one should ever have the authority to take it away because beliefs clash and pose "threats."

Tell your friends about it. Stop the killings and keep dialogue going. So much for objectivity.
...and hella other Pin@y blogs on blogspot.


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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

yellow poetry.

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai's poetry is definitely growing on me. Maybe it'll grow and inspire you, too. =)
to be a martyr
by kelly zen-yie tsai

you must believe
in something
so unmistakably

that the flesh
falls away from
the skeleton

bones crumble
into air

all you are
left with
is spirit
pure spirit

you let go
of resurrections
rebirths, mad-
dash escapes

you accept

the blinding
of the light

you are
truly committed

and for
the newspapers
that paint you
as a madwoman

and all the
who could not

how heartless
and cruel this
foreign woman
was (and isn?t it
always a foreign

how she didn?t
love the child
she held in
her arms

carried in
her belly 9
months before

how she would
just as soon
blow the child to bits
as guide her nipple
into its mouth

how she filled
the baby bottle
with lotion
fit for explosion

and they and the
plane would have
gone down in
charred flames

the mystery
wafting over
the atlantic

of how this
woman could
have ever loved
this child

to kill in the
name of jihad

but i say
it was not
quite that

it?s never anything
so impersonal

no, i say
it was right there

under her shirt
along the breast

tucked into
her baby?s mouth

as clean as
the milk that
leaked from
her chest

as natural
as the baby?s
skull against her

as close as this
made her do it



this life
this way
was not worth living
for all
Here's some more of Kelly:

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fuck You, Forever 21.

The OriGinal Fashionistas.

Please compare the image above to the images below:
Shopping at Forever 21 the other day brought about a great sense of nostalgia for me. I've seen these clothes somewhere, I thought. I feel like I have these clothes, too. After shopping around, I realized that these clothes are all too familiar. So familiar, indeed, that my own mother, aunties and cousins in the Philippines have clothes that look like these. Let me emphasize what I am implying with more proof:

The image on the left is a model showing off classic Filipina dress in comparison to more contemporary dresses. To the right, the 3 tops are taken straight from and are interestingly similar, almost replicated, from Filipin@ fashion. Last summer, I was disgusted with the Japanese-influenced geisha-like clothing line that Forever 21 displayed. This spring, I am outraged with the similarities and stylistic influences pulled from Filipin@ fashion and culture.

Why the outrage, right? Fashion always draws from other cultural styles. And it's a great thing that Filipino dress is gaining recognition in this world. Yeah, it's commercialized, but at least us Filipinos can buy our native dress. And other people will like these clothes and buy them and wear them, too. At least that means more respect, right? This is the type of discourse I've come across when I attempt to get other Pin@ys to see the my frustration with this type of cultural exploitation. Maybe that's too harsh of a term, but I definitely see it that way. Ninotchka Rosca writes about this "at-least" attitude that Filipinos tend to have, but "at-least is a cop-out." Frankly, I don't understand. As a Pinay, why is an aspect of my culture (colonized or not) being presented and modernized in America and passed off as the way in which a female should dress for this season? Pretty soon this stuff's gunna end up on the clearance rack. Attemping to explain this while being triggered is extremely difficult. That's it, though. This is good for this season. I wouldn't be surprised if the relationship between the U.S. and Philippines tightened up in current events over the next few months.

Teenagers (Americans & Filipinas, specifically) will be wearing these clothes even though they don't know that they are actually wearing a part of themselves! Pinays & allies - you are wearing your own commercialized, commodified, deculturalized fashion statements! Americans - you are wearing the result of U.S. colonization, sexual violence, slavery, cheapened labor, dehumanization and imperialism. Whose culture is lost and whose is kept? Are these clothes representative of Filipinas even though we come from a HIStory of U.S. colonization? Or do these clothes rightfully belong those who inhabit our "imperial center"?

I also can't help but think of these clothes a possessive investment in whiteness. Many females in the America covet a beach tan but still maintain their whiteness, not as a skin color but as a claim to resources or power, whereas many Filipinas already possess this darker tan but will never truly be identified as white. Who is investing in whiteness when these clothes are purchased? These clothes, given their obvious Filipina influences, will become normalized and sold as an American product, made in China. Speaking of China, how is it that a country that was once coveted for its expensive porcelain, opium and other crops is now a pawn in America's game of world domination globalization and world-wide capitalism as a source of cheap labor?

What is it, exactly, about Asian cultures that draw a curious kind of attention?


Friday, March 02, 2007

It's Fabulosity.

Kimora Lee Simmons identifies as a Model, Entrepeneur and a Mother (in that order).

With this particular entry, I'm choosing to analyze the image of Kimora Lee Simmons in relation to the construction of gender and what it means to be a woman of Asian descent in mainstream media and Hip Hop. It's a lot to take on, but I want to provide more emphasis on looking at and listening to everything critically. I choose Kimora for several different reasons. In my opinion, she's an attention-grabber for (arguably) the wrong reasons.

After watching her ultra-hyped appearance, which was really a 2-minute stint on E! News (I don't know why I watch this crap), I was able to pull more from what she said than what she actually said. She repeatedly used the word/adjective/new transitive verb 'fabulosity' (also the name of her brand new cosmetics line) when describing the glamour of her new products, her life and her soon-to-be Barbie doll. Yes, a Barbie doll. She also stated that Barbie was her idol and that she was working with Mattel on the construction of Barbie Kimora.

In-ter-es-ting. As the daughter of an African American father and a Japanese mother, Kimora is from St. Louis and began modeling at age 13. "Kimora Lee Simmons is the American Dream....Kimora is the only multiethnic woman to have a successful fashion empire..." (taken from Her description as a multiethnic woman is key, because it seems as though her multiethnic identity is responsible for her success. This raises many questions, an opening of a 'can of worms', if you will: What is the American Dream? Who defines or is it self-proclaimed? Is being the only multiethnic mainstream fashion designer considered a true success? How is Kimora an example of the American Dream? To what can we attribute Kimora's success?

This conundrum arises from the two aforementioned statements taken from Mrs. Simmons' biography on her website. Kimora and the Baby Phat 'empire' was built on the foundation of gender roles and perpetuates concepts of how a grown woman should look, live and think. Kimora is an attractive figure of the American Dream in that her images reflect how a multiethnic woman is able to become economically stable and successful within the confines of the dominant white female fashion model industry. Also, her life's work is in addition to how an American woman should look, live and think. As if being multiethnic is a hurdle to get over in order to become American. As if an avenue to create a space for a more inclusive business and industry hasn't been explored yet or at all. Her constructed image does not recognize the disadvantages of ethnic/multiethnic entrepeneurship that become invisible when she is proclaimed to be the American Dream. Her image prolongs the disappearance of the vulnerability and hardships in attaining the Dream. Not all womyn look like the models she once was, not all womyn are looking to sex-ify themselves or find a date or please someone else other than themselves. Her work reinforces what those who are "all Hip Hop and all fasion" should look like.

Because of her marriage to proclaimed Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons, her work is seemingly predicated on their relationship. Known as "The First Lady of Hip Hop," this title allows her to segue into the Hip Hop/hip pop consumer masses. Her knowledge and experience of the fashion industry is what unfortunately only allows her credibility. Her journey towards entrepeneurship began when she was chosen to head Baby Phat, a feminine clothing line that branched out from Phat Farm (created by Russell Simmons). This is also where her career becomes intertwined with her marriage because the birth of her company came from her husband's. Her clothes depict a standard body size (the same goes for every other clothing designer, I realize this), fit for a female-identified individual seeking to fit into urban youth culture who are willing to pay a little bit more than the ever-too-trendy Urban Outfitters.

It's come to my attention that too many people are spending waaaaaay too much money to emulate a style of a culture that was born from a place of struggle, poverty, the need for change, urbanism, immigrant influx and expression, among other things. And that those who once lived in or come from areas like The Bronx, are upping the ante on what it means to be a participant of the modern-day Hip Hop movement that Russell Simmons is proclaimed to have started.

I tie her initial identification as a model, entrepeneur and mother to personal priorities such as appearance/looks, money and family. This resume-like identity reflects the order in which she held each occupation but also completely isolates the factors of class, gender and race and the milestones that they actually are in the context of American society today. She was selected by elite designers to be model in their shows because of her "exotic" Asian, almond-shaped eye look and she is portrayed as a proud woman of Hip Hop - all of which are occupations that produce financial prosperity and the image we see as Kimora Lee Simmons.

So what would Kimora's Barbie doll look like? Because I probably wouldn't recognize the damn doll if her husband's doll didn't come with it.


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