Jul 29, 2007

Been sort of silent on the brown side for a while.  I don't know why I thought summer would provide a little calmer and easier time to write, but it ain't the case.  Still, no complaints as I've spent less time in front of the computer and more time living a little.  Back to the damn grind soon enough.  I think I've been a little too focused on trying to write long, thoughtful pieces though (review last few months and hear the wind blow, my friends).  So I may end that wish, knowing that I don't have enough time to do it.  

There's a lot of stuff happening: in my life, mostly good.  In this country, mostly bad.  But there are some rays of hope in the otherwise gloomy landscape.  I just can't believe we still have about 15 months to go until this stupid election.  Somewhere along the line, we'll lose Gravel, my fave Dem to watch during the many "debates" we've already suffered through.  Then what?  I can relish Dodd getting red in the face as he tries to outdo people who are better funded (Hilabama) or just plain cooler (DK from OH)?  Ugh.  I think I'll pay more attention to baseball instead.  At least there, we all know that things are getting ridiculous (although I completely didn't know that Bonds was at 754 HR already and the Mets were on top of their division).

Uh.  And Gonzales bullied Ashcroft?  Damn.  I would have been scared of Ashcroft, even in that bed.  Afraid he'd get up and start singing or something.  Can't promise more to come, but let's see.

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Jul 27, 2007

Postal blues.

I've been noticing some crazy changes at the local post offices. Not only have the rates changed quite dramatically (always look *beyond* that 2cent hike), but they've totally stripped other services. I usually have the stamps I need, or at least know what I have to do to get my mail to the right rate, but I can't do it without a scale. So I have to stand in an ever-emulating-molasses line just to make sure I have enough postage on something when I'm carrying the additional ounce stamp on me. When I said "you know, you should really have a scale out like other post offices" I was told that there were "severe cut-backs" and that was a fringe item. Okaaaaay. So you'd rather have more people taking up "real postal workers" time with something so inane as "I want to make sure this is the right postage" than just putting out a damn scale?

One other peeve with all of this - the international rate for a letter par avion (there's no more post by ship, by the way, so you're stuck with this). Anyway, so it's $.90 for the first ounce, and $1.80 for the next ounce. Can you imagine? So I could spend $2.70 for a two ounce letter, or I could split it into two one-ounce pieces and send it for $1.80 total instead? What the hell are they thinking??

The postal service must go. Bring back the damn pony express. That shit was faster when they were competing anyway. At this point, sending a letter is getting to be a luxury. How odd is that?

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Jul 22, 2007

blogging behind a closed door.

A while ago, I started thinking about so-called net-anonymity.

On one hand, it's a good thing, giving you the option and ability to more "openly" explore facets of your writing or life, without the angst of who's reading and how can this be misconstrued. Ultimately, with a million blogs out there to read, you have to be secure that because your friends don't know it's you, someone out there will actually care to tune in. How the heck will they even find you? While I've taken the "journalling" angle a little too often lately, this site has felt like a good way to work out some of my demons, to get to a point where I can work on more original writing in a different space, which I've begun doing piece by piece (ha. pun.).

And I guess that's one of the down sides (to be brown on?) - the egoist in me still believes in ownership over words and ideas, and I'm still unwilling to release it without attribution.

More downsides... wholesale fabrication, lack of accountability, and the seedy temptation to use the written word for evil rather than your own egotistic ends are all pieces of that puzzle. Part of why I'm writing about community less and less here is because: a) what I want to contribute doesn't feel like blog material generally, b) I don't want to do it under a nome de plume, anyway. It's not the same to engage behind this wall, and c) it's really, really easy to start taking pot-shots at people and groups from behind this shade. That's a problem, especially if you really believe in openness of dialogue and building shit rather than tearing it down.

I still have a lot of thinking to do on this - but it may be that I still ask some of these questions about the national and local groups that make questionable moves, as I learn about them. If we can open up a critical dialogue in some way, so be it.

But it's just so hard to fight that temptation to point out the idiocy. I'll work on it.

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Jul 10, 2007

Virginia is Not for Haters!

Today, I got forwarded this info on a shirt that some folks in the DC area have out together in response to the craziness coming out of Virginia. Order one or more today - all proceeds are going to be donated to organizations and coalitions working for change and immigrant rights in the area.

This came as a reaction to the latest in a string of rabidly anti-immigrant proposals is a county-wide measure that the Prince Willams' County Board of Supervisors is considering, which would mandate local police enforcement of immigration laws. If you haven't been up on this issue, local police should enforce local laws. When they conflate their core mission with general law enforcement for federal issues, especially this one, what results can be broken down in a few major problem areas:

1) Immigrant Communities Will Distrust the Police even more. Once immigrant communities - whether documented or not - start seeing that the police are turning in their neighbors, they aren't going to tell the police about other crimes, or useful information needed to keep the peace. This is bad, especially when community policing seems to be at such a sharp decline and the widening gap leads to abuse and

2) Profiling and Selective Enforcement. You're trying to tell me that local police, who are totally untrained on this stuff, will be really good at identifying undocumented folks from within a crowd of many documented immigrants? Please. This proposal always stinks of rampant selective enforcement based on national origin, race, religion, and ethnicity. I mean, will all the Eastern Europeans who are undocumented get the same twice over that a Mexican or Chinese person who's a legal permanent resident will get?

Anyway, so get your shirt, make your statement, then call anyone you know in Virginia and tell them to call and give the anti-immigrant crowd hell.

Sidenote: Isn't it ironic that many Southerners who are involved in anti-immigrant groups are part of something called the Minutemen - alluding to a wholly Yankee endeavor? Whatever, though. The North was full of racism before and after the Civil War, so it's all good.

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Jul 4, 2007

Consumer Notes: Hindi Bindi Club?!

Had a chance, for the first time in a long time, to get some quick chores done at the local shopping center.  While I hate to admit it, there's a Target in that center, and I ended up stopping by. Two quick observations:

1) Has anyone else noticed how fancy, "hip," and competitive gum companies have gotten?  The sugarfree wars are on, and I just saw a new Wrigley "label" called Flare, which I picked up.  The package is a slick black, with red/flame highlights, and it's more intricate than most of the other gum packs I've seen (like Orbit, Stride, etc).  You go through the whole thing, and once you finally open it up, ends up that it's the old traditional sticks of gum, a la Juicy Fruit.  Damn.  And it's all sugarfree too.  It's just too obvious that they're soft-marketing this to smokers, to replicate the cool of a pack of cigarettes.  I was just confused.

2) More shocking, passing by the books, I came across a title that I had to double-take before seeing that I'd read it correctly the first time: The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan. The description harkens back to the "tradition of the Joy Luck Club." The website goes on to say:

For decades, they've gathered together, dressed in saris and sweater sets, to share recipes, arguments, and laughter. They are the Hindi-Bindi Club, a nickname given by their American daughters to the mothers who left India to start life anew. Daughters, now grown, and facing struggles of their own. 
Yeah, it's that bad.  

You'd think she'd have topped off this heinous sundae with a food-metaphor-cherry, but I guess the twin ugliness of a reference to a tired book from the Asian American canon and a trite sing-songy pairing in the title does the trick.  Of course, apparently, this thing is a "novel with recipes." Perfect - not only does it offer the uninitiated and mildly "curious-about-those-weird-immigrants" the ability to peer into this book (focused on the middle class experience, of course) and walk away thinking "I understand them now," but it also gives them recipes to explore the people and their culture through the food! It's Like Water for Chocolate without the troublesome and complicated magical realism (i.e. literary ambition). Pradhan probably doesn't have that particular issue in the packaging (in all senses of the word) of her story.

Haven't read it, but I expect the worst.  I can't believe Bantam is publishing this kind of crap.  No wonder the experimental writers, and most poets, are so bitter.  Hell, this thing was on the shelf, in a prominent place, in Target.  That's massive distribution.  

And though I haven't read it yet, it's likely crap.  Shoot me now.

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Jul 3, 2007

The Difference between NetSAP and NASABA

Before I took the law school path, I used to think that of all the second generation organizations out there in desi land, NetSAP was the worst of the bunch. With events that were thinly veiled meat markets, 3-minute conversations that died when you said the word "non-profit," and the infiltration of more suits at Basement Bhangra than a sale at Nordstroms, I guess I had just cause. And I definitely dreaded going to anything where "NetSAP people" would be.

In that vein, the current -- and seemingly perennial -- flurry of vocal disgust/opposition to NASABA in the days before their annual conference has quickly and permanently displaced NetSAP from its reviled position as the most privileged and clueless organization in the community.

However, with all due (lack of) respect, while some may want to just lump together organizations as two sides of the same socially unconscious coin (I'll call it NetSABA to save space), I have a special place I've reserved for the lawyer group. Still, I thought it would be instructive to highlight a few small points where they are clearly different. So humbly, I present to you:

Five Ways to Tell the Difference Between NetSAP and NASABA

5. Over time, NetSAP events have actually become less of a meat market.

4. NetSAP actually does community service as a group.

3. NetSAP's chapters don't think the national board has gone off the deep end.

2. NetSAP leadership seems to understand what it means to be a professional organization, and leaves the policy work to people who aren't blinded by personal agendas or biases.

1. NASABA has an elephant in its logo. (Realize that was for NASALSA, i.e. NASABA's Farm Team)

With NetSAP, it was a stereotype of the membership and the events/activities that drove some of the antagonism. There weren't really specific personalities or even particular issues with the leadership. But with NASABA - it's all about specific personalities and their ability to turn personal worldviews and career ambition (such as entry-level prosecutors and big firm people) into the full-on persona of the organization.

While their events leave little more than a bad taste in your mouth if you have any public interest leaning (not because there aren't people with strong public interest or pro bono commitments in the membership, but because the leadership seems clueless about any of it). Also, the leadership has taken a highly questionable aggressive pro-prosecutor/DEA stance on something like Operation Meth Merchant - a program that so clearly stinks of selective enforcement and racial profiling that even my Mom gets that it's wrong.

The leadership should poll the members and other South Asian attorneys to see how on point their cockeyed stance has been, and how it resonates with their own membership. Hell, they should add a question about whether they really matter at all. Meanwhile, until they do something about their madness, here's the petition telling them they don't represent them. Sign it, and pass it on.

And then keep focusing on work that actually matters.

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Jul 1, 2007

Red Doors: Thumbs Down.

Have been in a whirlwind of other activity lately, so haven't been able to be present here, but hell, it's summer and I'm not making excuses, just living life. Enjoyed Gravel in the Dem "Debate" at Howard. I really think he was awesome, because he made Kucinich look like a regular ol' liberal. So his little quixotic campaign is offering the most interesting element to the long and overwrought primary marathon. Gosh, I can't wait for this to be over. I can't imagine that I'll be out of school and working (hopefully) by the time election day finally rolls around. Unreal that we're still 16 months away.

Anyway, I saw Red Doors by Georgia Lee recently - one of those films on the "must see someday" list that I finally got around to. I want to be supportive, but I have to give this one 2 of 5 stars. And one of those is because as an APA film it gets an automatic star. It just didn't do it for me at all. I found the storytelling to be too ambitious with not enough going on, if that makes any sense. I didn't believe in the family or in any of the individual characters, and it wasn't a small enough movie or plot for me to just sit in for the ride. So that was a problem, because I got to the point when I just didn't care about what was happening anymore. I know that it's not fair to compare a new artist with one who is established, but thinking about something from Wayne Wang like Dim Sum or Chan is Missing or Ang Lee's Wedding Banquet or Pushing Hands, and you really see masters at work. It's a totally different thing from what I was witnessing with this film. I felt like it was flat. And I really like Asian American films (do I have to sit here and talk about the merits of Shopping for Fangs, Disoriented, or even... well I won't go as far as American Desi because of Alaudin's role in it, but still... I'm pretty soft on these films). Even though I think that Mike Kang had promoted the film as one to see because it's a filmmaker that he knows, he's being too kind on this one. Watch Better Luck Tomorrow again, and even though you'll cringe at some of it, hell, the story still drew you in. Okay, I'm panning this film, but it was formulaic, and for a 2005 film, we should be beyond the formula. Eat a Bowl of Tea wasn't even formulaic, and we had stuff like Joy Luck already. Give us a sliver of life, but make it vibrant.

Georgia Lee's first short was included in the DVD package ("Educated"), and it was actually more interesting than the feature. It had some interesting concepts, angles, techniques (like I'm an expert). But the feature didn't do it for me, and I wish her well. The scenes with Julie, the middle sister, made me really want to see Saving Face, Alice Wu's clever, sweet, well-acted film that I just thought the world of. Better luck... next time.

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