Category Archives: New York City

Are Asians black?

There is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race. But by the statute in question, a Chinaman can ride in the same passenger coach with white citizens of the United States, while citizens of the black race [cannot]….” – Justice Harlan, 1896, in his famous Plessy v. Ferguson dissent, in which he rejects racial segregation in the Jim Crow south.

I attended this thing hosted by MOCA and AAWW almost three weeks ago, where I basically sat through 20 minutes of Wesley Yang’s very public very pathetic self-flagellation under the pretext of marginalization in America of Asianness, seething with the kind of anger only possible when you’re dealing with, on the one hand, secondary shame on someone else’s behalf, and on the other, a kind of derivative embarrassment caused by another due to the unfortunate association that he’s prescribed by way of his own inferiority complex and existential crisis.

In short, fuck Wesley Yang for being the unfortunate representative that we’ve been assigned, against our will. It is a shame that burns so deep that, after 3 weeks, having remembered not much else about the panel, I managed to encapsulate my rage in the long-winded, poorly constructed run on sentence above.

This is all to say, memory is vague and I can only now recap it in a very general way that doesn’t come anywhere close to the intense recap session post-panel, at Great NY Noodletown.

I grew up in China, and all I knew about America was from movies and sitcoms (Growing Pains dubbed with Chinese represented, as far as I was concerned, a life I was to lead once I cross over that ocean and go to America.). 美国人(American) meant white people with different color eyes and hair than my brown and black. I had the idea that I was going to a place that would vaguely resemble (in reality) a Scandinavian country. When I moved here in 5th grade, I started at an elementary school with all black, Latino, and Asian kids. The Hasidic Jews in the neighborhood startled me (as did the fact that squirrels and pigeons just roamed the streets; as my mother would say, in China, these animals would all be dead, and their existence represents the goodness and humanity of America).  I didn’t see any white people until much later. I also didn’t realize the spectrum of ethnicity that exist in the US until I got here.

When we talk about race or racial identity in the US, non-black “minority” groups are a secondary mention or a non-issue, much like how my conception of the US did not include non-whites. Mainstream rhetoric just doesn’t make room for it, so discussions happen in the fringes. I understand the need to fit our narrative in accepted rhetoric like this, and that “are Asians black” is kind of a provocative thought that might make people go hmm, but ultimately, that hmm is followed by confusion. The answer is emphatically, no. However our stories might have converged (both groups have faced discrimination, there have some exchanges between cultural groups), references to those rare occurrences, even in sum, do not amount to a common story. True, we’re both subjects of a racial hierarchy constructed by a white society, but drawing a comparison based on that sad nugget of commonality reduces both groups to nothing more than victims.

I had a lot more to say, especially about the many, many fallacies of Wesley Yang’s pathetic little monologue constructed based on arbitrary statistics that can be construed many different ways, as statistics often can be made to do, but I don’t have the energy to revisit his spiel.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy the program. I appreciate that we’re trying to have a dialogue, especially not just amongst ourselves as Asians but in a wider demographic, but I just think the focus could have been different and, maybe more narrow. Because a survey panel of such varied perspectives need at least like, a day, to be comprehensive.

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foodies

“I’m not a foodie, I just like what I like,” she says. “Yes, I know, it’s just like hipsters saying, ‘I’m not a hipster.’ ” (The cliché cracks her up.) “But it’s like when my boss says, ‘Oh, you’re such a foodie.’ I’m like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don’t want to be lumped in with Yelp.” – Young Foodie Culture via @Davidchang

I’m not taking offense because of the narrow exception of myself and a handful of Yelp friends whose reviews are merited not only for their candor but also for the writing itself. I have a problem with people who so emphatically dismiss (or worship)a group of people without exception or clear basis. While I’m not a cheerleader for team Yelp, I can’t deny the undeniable place the site has established for itself regardless of the deteriorating quality of its reviewers (o, it can be personal). This influx of “foodies” seem to take that aversion to new heights, effectively establishing a hierarchy of a sort of authenticity (oh, exploring new foods is a personal hobby, it’s a part of my identity. It’s inherent in my being; I didn’t need an external incentive like a forum of expression.) Well, having your rhetoric memorialized in a publication like New York Magazine closes every inch of that gap – the magazine’s perspective and identity being informed by what everyone else is saying. Plus, the obvious fact here is that your reference to Yelp in that context renders your whole shit reactionary and derivative – as if not being a Yelper is supposed to validate and legitimize you, as if the restaurant owner who replied to my review with: nyt gave us 2 stars, is supposed to render my review invalid. To you I say: who you? Seriously, like who are you to tell me that you know better just because you’re not on Yelp? The problem isn’t “Yelp”, sure it provides a medium for people who delight in an imaginary audience (hi!), but really, you’re both drawn by the same force and your self-branding as a non-foodie food lover who likes what you like follows the same rhetoric. It’s the same whether you use your hands or a toy; you’re still just getting yourself off.

Food is a basic and subjective concept the quality of which anyone can discern (some might choose to be more or less discriminating). That sort of faux denial laced of a self-congratulatory tone (oh, I’m a hipster without the shackles of a label). Spending your money on pickled lambs tongue, because it’s a new frontier and soon to be item du jour is not “liking what you like”, and you, Diane Chang, are a sucker. This is not about the ridiculousness of your chosen lifestyle from my point of view (I mean spending a quarter of an income that’s described as modest is pretty bad finances, but I probably spend more on worse things like dresses I never wear), I could care less about how you spend your money. Buying into a marketed commercial movement all the while coloring yourself as an exceptional instance is delusional, as if a label is your problem.

can’t sell me bullshit; we know the prices

So I’m not sure what I was expecting when I queued up for the J. Crew sample sale today – what the hell was I doing at a J. Crew sample sale period? [need for sweaters, lured by the promise of cashmere for cheap] But let me tell you, the scene was wholly unsavory. Racks of nubbing cashmere sweaters. Inventory so picked over that I thought I was digging through Salvation Army. No hyperbole. Shoes tied with rubber bands. Even with discounts being only modest, shoppers were walking away with garbage bags worth of said items. Two things that are evident at a sample sale: you can get away with a lot if you slap a “sample sale” at the end; merchandising is money.

All of a sudden bargain shopping is the new thing. But it’s not as smart as people like to make it seem since there is an inevitable sample sale google effect. I am not exempt from the occasional shopper’s fervor caused by a blind zeal for particular brands. Oh, a pair of Herchicovitch pants two sizes too large that looks more awkward than hot, a clunky and utterly unremarkable bag purchase on account of it being Chloe and a bunch of utterly regrettable purchases come to mind. But my god, I love laughing at women snatching up nubby sweaters when you can get better and newer versions for the same price.

I have no direction here, stop whereever you want.

I’ve finally settled back into the routine, though I chose to abstain from shenanigans this weekend, which came as a surprise to even myself. During my last week in China, I had a major emo moment with Janelle [via bbm thankgod] re: my experiment with running away from humanity [ok, don’t take it literally, I’m not making a subversive comment on Chinese and Korean people and their exclusion from humanity.]. Yet after a handful of the requisite “I’ve missed you so and tell me all about your trips” mini reunions, I am looking for a break again. So I took the night off to write and watch “Up in the Air” for the 3rd time in as many months [yes, really]. The movie touches me in so many places; I don’t even know where to start.

I’ve been feeling uneasy all week, for a number of reasons, not all of which can be divulged here. But the mixture of jetlag and lingering cold is doing nothing for my insomniac tendencies. Tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning makes me more neurotic than usual.

The thing is, I’m not sure what I need right now. I guess it’s just a weird time in life? I just paid my deposit for a seat at L-School, which means this blog may soon turn into a giant snoozefest. I had all these grand epiphanies when I was away – a combination of being on my own a lot and having too much time to think and being in a new place always makes me all introspective about where I am and shit [figuratively and literally]. Whenever I visit a city, I get all curious about history on a much more significant way than I would ever think about New York. I don’t ever think about the fact that I am in New York, like how I think about my place in this other city

So, maybe a brief recap?

Escapism

HYPOTHERMIA

I am all for a little suffering with beauty but it’s only in the insulated world of “fashion” that the above looks could be deemed as suitable for the cold – that is, New York cold. This tagline and accompanying photos are symptomatic of the industry’s general perception of fall/winter – a dash of fur signals winter. As if something that merely evokes the theoretical concept of winter and its cold weather also translates into sufficient shield against it.

I mean, really, where are you going, Kate Moss?

photo credit: whowhatwear

What am I doing wrong with my life?

Last night, between writing a draft of my 25 page final paper for China Intellectual Property and browsing Cyber Monday deals, I uncovered this piece of gem on Daily Intel: Yale is offering a seminar class on night life in NYC.

A SEMINAR.

I took my fair share of culture studies, namely just the freshman intro to rhetoric, the syllabus for which was built around relevant pop culture and media, you know, so as to appeal to the sleepy freshman brains who are in class at 8:30am in Binghamton where the sun don’t shine. And, yeah, I did write papers discussing the reciprocal/symbiotic influences between Hip Hop music and fashion, analyzing the seemingly divergent female narratives on the deterioration of a relationship in a Kelly Price R&B jam and a Eve rap hit. But this was in my first semester of college, I was 18 and I never thought for a second that this would be permissible topic of study as a thesis to a 4 year program that is supposed to be the build up of my 21 years on this earth. I assumed dedicating 4 years of education would add a new facet to my life, and that I should at least acquire new knowledge. College, in short, was not supposed to be an extension of my life before or out of college, because if that were a legitimate topic of study, then why would I even need to be in college? Even after composing a thesis on the cultural nuances I witnessed between living in Shanghai, New York and Paris, I always assumed that this intellectual curiosity is a natural by-product of, oh say, living a life. It was not until much later, after having worked for a year, did I realize that there are people out there who take on pop culture and lifestyles as a course of study and then as a overarching theme to a CAREER. People are making a living out of simply synthesizing fragments of everyday life through verbal articulation.

My ninjas, that is bullshit.

I get it. There are implications upon implications in every trend ever in society. But the implication of this particular phenomenon seems to be: this is a generation of people who is so existential so 24/7 that they find enough relevance in these trivialities to not only dissect but to create a whole discourse out of as if such extrapolations can have even a de minimis worth to the society beyond themselves. Not only that, but that the few who are “elevated” as studied in these issues, means that there is a whole generation of people who are interested but are capable of even less.

I am all about reading the casual blog post on fringe social issues that come thru in the movies, ads, or songs on some inadvertent philosopher business, but a seminar class? What do you suppose is the pre-requisite for the class? What are the accompanying texts? Perspectives on the gaze? Feminist response to the male gaze?

A quick google search of the instructor turned up his catalog of works on the Thought Catalog, after which I read a few more random posts on the site, which are desultory, if anything. These are published. When Charlie sent me a NYT post by Edith Zimmerman 2 weeks ago, she was critical of the casual style and generally lax standard of writing. I lamented that it is a new norm, that this is apt as blogs are increasingly legitimized as a medium of expression.

But these jawns are making me weep. I never considered pursuing writing, because I hold the discipline with esteem, and didn’t think that I had the requisite skills. Apparently, those skills? Not such a requisite! These writings make a mockery out of the craft by simply existing beyond a private realm. I mean, I just CANNOT.

A “reknowned” American artist currently has an exhibit at a not obscure New York gallery featuring exactly the type of tacky appropriation everyone imagines when they think of “counterfeiting”. Yet, he’s getting press, because 1) people did not “know” what they were knocking off 2) the word “counterfeit” was never mentioned. The two justifications clearly counteract each other as: no reason to think what they were doing was wrong if they had no idea they were knocking off something.

This comes a week after NYPD arrested a man who sold designer goods in papier mache for “copyright infringement”.

Isn’t it convenient? This could turn into a thesis on the cultural bias of copyright, non?

First things first, I eat your brain

I love me some Nicki Minaj, but there is absolutely nothing like building up to be let down.

So, there I was, sitting in Civ Pro and on my phone like the studious Asian that I am, when suddenly, a blinking red light alerted me to a new facebook message from a guy I hadn’t heard from since I was in diapers (high school). Subject: Bestbuy tickets. Ugh, great, more spam. Only to discover, he was transfering some tickets that turned out to be less valuable than he made them out to be. Either way, I was grateful, because my Thursday night had promises of seeing The Roots and the black Dolly Parton (please, next reinvention can’t come soon enough, Nicki). Juxtaposition for the win.

So there I am, after a week of stringent legal academia, in an old purple Prada bustier and a hot pink skirt rolled up to a hem that’s somewhere between indecency and age-appropriate, which is to say, almost slutty if I weren’t such a classy bitch by default, when out walks Nicki Minaj with her frankenstein hair and my gym clothes.

What the fuck.

She had $5 for costume and the best she could do with it was body glitter.

I kid you not, this broad performed in a cropped black hoodie and sweatpants that are only appropriate for a Sunday at home with rollers in her hair. Girl, what kind of blatanat disrespect are you projecting to fans who are supposed to look to you for inspiration and as a role model?

Also, Black Thought is puffy as a mofucka and The Roots played “You got me” which got me more putty than silly. I’m still a G though, respect.

Carrie Bradshaw, at least, had the benefit of existing in circumstances that were unreal and being redeemed by a wardrobe that is even more fantastical. Her inane attempts at conclusive generalizations on dating had the distance of being theoretical. Then I read this, or, two pages of it anyway, because my god, girlfriend spent 2 pages just trying to justify her existence. I can’t even, this invites all kinds of mockery. Is this really supposed to be symptomatic of “New York women”? The best man she’s dated was her high school boyfriend, that is more telling than anything else she has to say.

Ladies don’t know me said, “I heard he’s vain”

Well, guess what mami, I heard the same:

I’m on refinery29 today; this is the obligatory vain blogger post.