Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Monday, November 29, 2010

Toys for Little Boys

Trying to buy a doll or human figure for Keohi for Xmas.

Got some action figures. Avoided all with machine guns and robot types.

Settled on a series from ELC called The Bad Guys. Long process...

I saw pirates--two sets, not bad. First set, white guys in pirate outfits with swords. Then I thought, maybe there should be other non-white guys. And what about girls?
So I saw another set with green and blue faces. Almost went for these. Again all guys. No girls.

Then rethought again--maybe no weapons. But I need people of color figures. Saw black construction worker. But he's all muscle bound and then is wearing no shirt with overalls. He looked a little too weird, though all in good camp fun. Kind of like the YMCA Village People singers. So changed mind again...I'm not into giving Keohi muscle bound figures. This is an abnormal male image. Kind of like giving Barbie body figures to young girls. Eating disorders and steroids in teen years...trying to avoid those...

Then saw some knight figures. Two white guys. Two guys in masks. Knights. Four total. He likes knights. Hmmmmm. But the weapons seem bigger. Maybe I'll get those in the UK. Not sold on them now.

What to do? All of his figures, he doesn't have too many, but even so, are white guys now, except for one small black fireman. Hard to buy any other ethnicity in HK. The black fireman came from the US. There are one billion Chinese people and we're in ASia but there are NO ASIAN ACTION or DOLL FIGURES. Male or female. Just blond ones or European/Anglo looking ones. How messed up is that? Hello Racial Neuroses. Hello Poor Self Image. Hello Plastic Surgery.

So I settle on the bad guys series. Four monster types. One skull, one white guy in a weird mask, the other two are monsters. One green. One brown. Of course they have weapons. No guns. What does this mean, this white guy with a weapon? Better than a black guy with a weapon? The white guy is more violent? The white guy has agency? Well, four monsters. He will like them.

I think of brawling English people in the pub on Hollywood Road. Yeah, some UK people are tribal and violent, for sure...even in nice pubs. Yes, I was a naive American before I lived here the first time. That was the first time I've witnessed grown men in suits punching each other. Stephen yawned. Bartender threw them out and gave us a beer. I was taken aback. In retrospect, I probably watched too many BBC TV costume dramas from the 18th century, read too much Brit lit, and was brainwashed by flouncy sleeves and good manners. Of course, Stephen is hardly Darcy/Heathcliff/Name Your English Male Lit not sure how I kept this image in my mind for so long! But there you go...I digress...

So the compromise is that Santa Mom will give violent toys as long as there is some kind of cultural diversity. We all have our limits. No guns.

...Where Are You Cabbage Patch Doll?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California on my mind...

by Joni Mitchell

Sitting in a park in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn't want to stay here
It's too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

California I'm coming home
I'm going to see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I'm coming home

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you California

Oh California I'm coming home
Oh make me feel good rock 'n' roll band
I'm your biggest fan
California I'm coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you're walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues
So I bought me a ticket
I caught a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue
They said "How long can you hang around?"
I said a week maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I'm going home to California

California I'm coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California I'm coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you're walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
More about the war
And the bloody changes
Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am?
Will you?

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Very true. My colleagues at a previous educational institution found that every year the assigned pages for nightly homework decreased--students couldn't handle focused reading. Concentration levels were not as high. More reasons why I will never buy my son a video game. Period.

Yeah, I'm a party pooper, but I've actually even been warned by several parents not to buy them, and I will heed the warning.

My own history of video game playing is as follows:

1974 PONG. We bought this at SEARS in Iowa City. We also got a game of PONG sent to us by our cousins. There were two levels--slow and fast. Endlessly fun...for about a month.

1975. Handheld football game device. American football. Not soccer. My sister had this. We played this on the airplane. Again, a few basic patterns. Quite thrilling for a few airplane rides to Hawaii from Iowa and then long road trips. Entertained for about two months? Maybe? It wasn't my game though. This probably made it more exciting.

1980s...gets fuzzy here. I think there was Pac Man and maybe Lady Pac Man? And then there was some star sort of asteroid game. I remember trying Pac Man in a dark and smoky bar. Maybe once or twice. And playing the star asteroid explosion game in another bar. Again, maybe once or twice. Vague memories. Hard to say if it was the game or alcohol. Either way, this pretty much ended my video game playing. Almost

1993...okay played some video games with a boyfriend in an arcade in Marina Del Rey, California waiting for a movie. I think they were those games from the 80s.

2000...well, wouldn't you know it, but I too work for an Internet company during the boom. Still, I don't play video games. But I hear about them a great deal.

2003...someone has told me that now video games are quite advanced and offer chances to play with many people--you can adapt and become characters, pretend you're in another world. This sounds to me a bit like Dungeons and Dragons. I knew kids who played this game in the 1970s. The same boys who played lots of chess. I played chess, but never played this game. This new style of video game also sounds like one is entering the world of fiction. I decide I'd rather read about it or write it. So again, don't play games. But I actually see a few game parlors in Hong Kong and in Seoul, mostly populated by rather pallid unattractive sorts of zoned out human beings. I remain disinterested. I realize I have now entered the realm of being completely out of touch and uncool. I don't care. up with an old friend. He tells me he has a video game company that employs 80 people. I think I am supposed to be impressed. I tell him I've never played a video game...not really since Pong. Have not spoken since.'s the reading...

New York Times

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — On the eve of a pivotal academic year in Vishal Singh’s life, he faces a stark choice on his bedroom desk: book or computer?

By all rights, Vishal, a bright 17-year-old, should already have finished the book, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” his summer reading assignment. But he has managed 43 pages in two months.

He typically favors Facebook, YouTube and making digital videos. That is the case this August afternoon. Bypassing Vonnegut, he clicks over to YouTube, meaning that tomorrow he will enter his senior year of high school hoping to see an improvement in his grades, but without having completed his only summer homework.

On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.”

Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

“Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”

But even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.

It is a tension on vivid display at Vishal’s school, Woodside High School, on a sprawling campus set against the forested hills of Silicon Valley. Here, as elsewhere, it is not uncommon for students to send hundreds of text messages a day or spend hours playing video games, and virtually everyone is on Facebook.

The principal, David Reilly, 37, a former musician who says he sympathizes when young people feel disenfranchised, is determined to engage these 21st-century students. He has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center.

He pushed first period back an hour, to 9 a.m., because students were showing up bleary-eyed, at least in part because they were up late on their computers. Unchecked use of digital devices, he says, can create a culture in which students are addicted to the virtual world and lost in it.

“I am trying to take back their attention from their BlackBerrys and video games,” he says. “To a degree, I’m using technology to do it.”

The same tension surfaces in Vishal, whose ability to be distracted by computers is rivaled by his proficiency with them. At the beginning of his junior year, he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software.

He acts as his family’s tech-support expert, helping his father, Satendra, a lab manager, retrieve lost documents on the computer, and his mother, Indra, a security manager at the San Francisco airport, build her own Web site.

But he also plays video games 10 hours a week. He regularly sends Facebook status updates at 2 a.m., even on school nights, and has such a reputation for distributing links to videos that his best friend calls him a “YouTube bully.”

Several teachers call Vishal one of their brightest students, and they wonder why things are not adding up. Last semester, his grade point average was 2.3 after a D-plus in English and an F in Algebra II. He got an A in film critique.

“He’s a kid caught between two worlds,” said Mr. Reilly — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.

Vishal, like his mother, says he lacks the self-control to favor schoolwork over the computer. She sat him down a few weeks before school started and told him that, while she respected his passion for film and his technical skills, he had to use them productively.

“This is the year,” she says she told him. “This is your senior year and you can’t afford not to focus.”

It was not always this way. As a child, Vishal had a tendency to procrastinate, but nothing like this. Something changed him.

Growing Up With Gadgets

When he was 3, Vishal moved with his parents and older brother to their current home, a three-bedroom house in the working-class section of Redwood City, a suburb in Silicon Valley that is more diverse than some of its elite neighbors.

Thin and quiet with a shy smile, Vishal passed the admissions test for a prestigious public elementary and middle school. Until sixth grade, he focused on homework, regularly going to the house of a good friend to study with him.

But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

“I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”

Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families. Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University who led some of the research, said that when adults were not supervising computer use, children “are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around.”

Research also shows that students often juggle homework and entertainment. The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either “most” (31 percent) or “some” (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework.

At Woodside, as elsewhere, students’ use of technology is not uniform. Mr. Reilly, the principal, says their choices tend to reflect their personalities. Social butterflies tend to be heavy texters and Facebook users. Students who are less social might escape into games, while drifters or those prone to procrastination, like Vishal, might surf the Web or watch videos.

The technology has created on campuses a new set of social types — not the thespian and the jock but the texter and gamer, Facebook addict and YouTube potato.

“The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly says.

For some, the amplification is intense. Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

Most of the exchanges are little more than quick greetings, but they can get more in-depth, like “if someone tells you about a drama going on with someone,” Allison said. “I can text one person while talking on the phone to someone else.”

But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B’s on her recent progress report.

“I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ”

Some shyer students do not socialize through technology — they recede into it. Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school.

Escaping into games can also salve teenagers’ age-old desire for some control in their chaotic lives. “It’s a way for me to separate myself,” Ramon says. “If there’s an argument between my mom and one of my brothers, I’ll just go to my room and start playing video games and escape.”

With powerful new cellphones, the interactive experience can go everywhere. Between classes at Woodside or at lunch, when use of personal devices is permitted, students gather in clusters, sometimes chatting face to face, sometimes half-involved in a conversation while texting someone across the teeming quad. Others sit alone, watching a video, listening to music or updating Facebook.

Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option.

Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit.

“If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world,” said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day.

Sean’s favorite medium is video games; he plays for four hours after school and twice that on weekends. He was playing more but found his habit pulling his grade point average below 3.2, the point at which he felt comfortable. He says he sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice. Still, he says, video games are not responsible for his lack of focus, asserting that in another era he would have been distracted by TV or something else.

“Video games don’t make the hole; they fill it,” says Sean, sitting at a picnic table in the quad, where he is surrounded by a multimillion-dollar view: on the nearby hills are the evergreens that tower above the affluent neighborhoods populated by Internet tycoons. Sean, a senior, concedes that video games take a physical toll: “I haven’t done exercise since my sophomore year. But that doesn’t seem like a big deal. I still look the same.”

Sam Crocker, Vishal’s closest friend, who has straight A’s but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet’s distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books.

“I know I can read a book, but then I’m up and checking Facebook,” he says, adding: “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything. It’s the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway.”

He concludes: “My attention span is getting worse.”

The Lure of Distraction

Some neuroscientists have been studying people like Sam and Vishal. They have begun to understand what happens to the brains of young people who are constantly online and in touch.

In an experiment at the German Sport University in Cologne in 2007, boys from 12 to 14 spent an hour each night playing video games after they finished homework.

On alternate nights, the boys spent an hour watching an exciting movie, like “Harry Potter” or “Star Trek,” rather than playing video games. That allowed the researchers to compare the effect of video games and TV.

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

Markus Dworak, a researcher who led the study and is now a neuroscientist at Harvard, said it was not clear whether the boys’ learning suffered because sleep was disrupted or, as he speculates, also because the intensity of the game experience overrode the brain’s recording of the vocabulary.

“When you look at vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after that, your brain has to decide which information to store,” he said. “Your brain might favor the emotionally stimulating information over the vocabulary.”

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory.

In that vein, recent imaging studies of people have found that major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime. These brain studies suggest to researchers that periods of rest are critical in allowing the brain to synthesize information, make connections between ideas and even develop the sense of self.

Researchers say these studies have particular implications for young people, whose brains have more trouble focusing and setting priorities.

“Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” said Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School. “But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.”

“The headline is: bring back boredom,” added Dr. Rich, who last month gave a speech to the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled, “Finding Huck Finn: Reclaiming Childhood from the River of Electronic Screens.”

Dr. Rich said in an interview that he was not suggesting young people should toss out their devices, but rather that they embrace a more balanced approach to what he said were powerful tools necessary to compete and succeed in modern life.

The heavy use of devices also worries Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is known for research showing that children are not as harmed by TV viewing as some researchers have suggested.

Multitasking using ubiquitous, interactive and highly stimulating computers and phones, Professor Anderson says, appears to have a more powerful effect than TV.

Like Dr. Rich, he says he believes that young, developing brains are becoming habituated to distraction and to switching tasks, not to focus.

“If you’ve grown up processing multiple media, that’s exactly the mode you’re going to fall into when put in that environment — you develop a need for that stimulation,” he said.

Vishal can attest to that.

“I’m doing Facebook, YouTube, having a conversation or two with a friend, listening to music at the same time. I’m doing a million things at once, like a lot of people my age,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can’t.”

“If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically,” he says. But thanks to the Internet, he says, he has discovered and pursued his passion: filmmaking. Without the Internet, “I also wouldn’t know what I want to do with my life.”

Clicking Toward a Future

The woman sits in a cemetery at dusk, sobbing. Behind her, silhouetted and translucent, a man kneels, then fades away, a ghost.

This captivating image appears on Vishal’s computer screen. On this Thursday afternoon in late September, he is engrossed in scenes he shot the previous weekend for a music video he is making with his cousin.

The video is based on a song performed by the band Guns N’ Roses about a woman whose boyfriend dies. He wants it to be part of the package of work he submits to colleges that emphasize film study, along with a documentary he is making about home-schooled students.

Now comes the editing. Vishal taught himself to use sophisticated editing software in part by watching tutorials on YouTube. He does not leave his chair for more than two hours, sipping Pepsi, his face often inches from the screen, as he perfects the clip from the cemetery. The image of the crying woman was shot separately from the image of the kneeling man, and he is trying to fuse them.

“I’m spending two hours to get a few seconds just right,” he says.

He occasionally sends a text message or checks Facebook, but he is focused in a way he rarely is when doing homework. He says the chief difference is that filmmaking feels applicable to his chosen future, and he hopes colleges, like the University of Southern California or the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, will be so impressed by his portfolio that they will overlook his school performance.

“This is going to compensate for the grades,” he says. On this day, his homework includes a worksheet for Latin, some reading for English class and an economics essay, but they can wait.

For Vishal, there’s another clear difference between filmmaking and homework: interactivity. As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback.

“I click and something happens,” he says, explaining that, by comparison, reading a book or doing homework is less exciting. “I guess it goes back to the immediate gratification thing.”

The $2,000 computer Vishal is using is state of the art and only a week old. It represents a concession by his parents. They allowed him to buy it, despite their continuing concerns about his technology habits, because they wanted to support his filmmaking dream. “If we put roadblocks in his way, he’s just going to get depressed,” his mother says. Besides, she adds, “he’s been making an effort to do his homework.”

At this point in the semester, it seems she is right. The first schoolwide progress reports come out in late September, and Vishal has mostly A’s and B’s. He says he has been able to make headway by applying himself, but also by cutting back his workload. Unlike last year, he is not taking advanced placement classes, and he has chosen to retake Algebra II not in the classroom but in an online class that lets him work at his own pace.

His shift to easier classes might not please college admissions officers, according to Woodside’s college adviser, Zorina Matavulj. She says they want seniors to intensify their efforts. As it is, she says, even if Vishal improves his performance significantly, someone with his grades faces long odds in applying to the kinds of colleges he aspires to.

Still, Vishal’s passion for film reinforces for Mr. Reilly, the principal, that the way to reach these students is on their own terms.

Hands-On Technology

Big Macintosh monitors sit on every desk, and a man with hip glasses and an easygoing style stands at the front of the class. He is Geoff Diesel, 40, a favorite teacher here at Woodside who has taught English and film. Now he teaches one of Mr. Reilly’s new classes, audio production. He has a rapt audience of more than 20 students as he shows a video of the band Nirvana mixing their music, then holds up a music keyboard.

“Who knows how to use Pro Tools? We’ve got it. It’s the program used by the best music studios in the world,” he says.

In the back of the room, Mr. Reilly watches, thrilled. He introduced the audio course last year and enough students signed up to fill four classes. (He could barely pull together one class when he introduced Mandarin, even though he had secured iPads to help teach the language.)

“Some of these students are our most at-risk kids,” he says. He means that they are more likely to tune out school, skip class or not do their homework, and that they may not get healthful meals at home. They may also do their most enthusiastic writing not for class but in text messages and on Facebook. “They’re here, they’re in class, they’re listening.”

Despite Woodside High’s affluent setting, about 40 percent of its 1,800 students come from low-income families and receive a reduced-cost or free lunch. The school is 56 percent Latino, 38 percent white and 5 percent African-American, and it sends 93 percent of its students to four-year or community colleges.

Mr. Reilly says that the audio class provides solid vocational training and can get students interested in other subjects.

“Today mixing music, tomorrow sound waves and physics,” he says. And he thinks the key is that they love not just the music but getting their hands on the technology. “We’re meeting them on their turf.”

It does not mean he sees technology as a panacea. “I’ll always take one great teacher in a cave over a dozen Smart Boards,” he says, referring to the high-tech teaching displays used in many schools.

Teachers at Woodside commonly blame technology for students’ struggles to concentrate, but they are divided over whether embracing computers is the right solution.

“It’s a catastrophe,” said Alan Eaton, a charismatic Latin teacher. He says that technology has led to a “balkanization of their focus and duration of stamina,” and that schools make the problem worse when they adopt the technology.

“When rock ’n’ roll came about, we didn’t start using it in classrooms like we’re doing with technology,” he says. He personally feels the sting, since his advanced classes have one-third as many students as they had a decade ago.

Vishal remains a Latin student, one whom Mr. Eaton describes as particularly bright. But the teacher wonders if technology might be the reason Vishal seems to lose interest in academics the minute he leaves class.

Mr. Diesel, by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates — in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. “It’s in their DNA to look at screens,” he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: “Frankenstein is in the room and I don’t want him to tear me apart. If I’m not using technology, I lose them completely.”

Mr. Diesel had Vishal as a student in cinema class and describes him as a “breath of fresh air” with a gift for filmmaking. Mr. Diesel says he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system.

But Mr. Diesel adds: “If Vishal’s going to be an independent filmmaker, he’s got to read Vonnegut. If you’re going to write scripts, you’ve got to read.”

Back to Reading Aloud

Vishal sits near the back of English IV. Marcia Blondel, a veteran teacher, asks the students to open the book they are studying, “The Things They Carried,” which is about the Vietnam War.

“Who wants to read starting in the middle of Page 137?” she asks. One student begins to read aloud, and the rest follow along.

To Ms. Blondel, the exercise in group reading represents a regression in American education and an indictment of technology. The reason she has to do it, she says, is that students now lack the attention span to read the assignments on their own.

“How can you have a discussion in class?” she complains, arguing that she has seen a considerable change in recent years. In some classes she can count on little more than one-third of the students to read a 30-page homework assignment.

She adds: “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations.”

As the group-reading effort winds down, she says gently: “I hope this will motivate you to read on your own.”

It is a reminder of the choices that have followed the students through the semester: computer or homework? Immediate gratification or investing in the future?

Mr. Reilly hopes that the two can meet — that computers can be combined with education to better engage students and can give them technical skills without compromising deep analytical thought.

But in Vishal’s case, computers and schoolwork seem more and more to be mutually exclusive. Ms. Blondel says that Vishal, after a decent start to the school year, has fallen into bad habits. In October, he turned in weeks late, for example, a short essay based on the first few chapters of “The Things They Carried.” His grade at that point, she says, tracks around a D.

For his part, Vishal says he is investing himself more in his filmmaking, accelerating work with his cousin on their music video project. But he is also using Facebook late at night and surfing for videos on YouTube. The evidence of the shift comes in a string of Facebook updates.

Saturday, 11:55 p.m.: “Editing, editing, editing”

Sunday, 3:55 p.m.: “8+ hours of shooting, 8+ hours of editing. All for just a three-minute scene. Mind = Dead.”

Sunday, 11:00 p.m.: “Fun day, finally got to spend a day relaxing... now about that homework...”

Malia Wollan contributed reporting.

R.I.P. Uncle Pat--

Stephen's great uncle Pat died on Thursday. I met him myself, very briefly only twice--the same time that Keohi did. Uncle Pat made a great impression on Keohi, lying in his bed, in the old people's home, watching the TV. When we came back to Mui Wo, Keohi lay on the bed, pulled the covers up to his chin and said "I'm Uncle Pat." I thought of how this once tall great man now existed in the mind of a young child, and how this man too was once a boy like my own.

R.I.P. Uncle Pat...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sun Lung Wai Updates

OK, the banana tree in front of our kitchen window is ours. Surveyors came. Property staked. Lines drawn. Yes, we're in the village and no, we ain't movin' in the near future.

So the old lady will just have to deal...ahhh village life...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gender Equity and Girls

This is a good site for people who care about girls, and it is also a good site for those who care about boys.

I strongly believe that parents are the ones who should take responsibility for creating open minded and tolerant men. And that parents of boys should also be aware of the challenges that face young girls today.

It's also weird for me as a parent of a boy. If he's surrounded by a generation of girls who are trained and manipulated by the media and society into sexist roles, what does that mean for his future in terms of partners and potential happiness?

What a nightmare, to grow up as a boy who has been educated to go beyond traditional gender roles and face a generation of girls who have been inculcated with stereotypical ideals, whose parents have not bothered to teach them progressive thinking!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gender and Children

I love this post and wish that there were more people as tolerant and open as this parent.

My Biracial Little Boy with a Christopher Robin Haircut

The Lowdown--ethnicity and gender of participants added for more demographic fun...

A Bad Weekend in Mui Wo (end result: Mom (moi) with an acid churning stomach ache--the kind I used to get in Iowa as a kid after being tormented at the bus stop by the local bully--of the ulcer variety)

Saturday AM

Stephen with Keohi. Some asks if he is a girl. Stephen, says no. (Filipino female)

Saturday PM at Birthday Party

One compliment on Keohi's haircut (from Japanese female and parent)

One question on whether or not he is a boy, in front of him. (from Filipino female)

Sunday PM

Keohi went to beach wearing his fake Crocs (pale pink) with Stephen. Stephen relays someone asked if he was a boy or a girl (Filipino female)

I pick him up at Caffe Paradiso where we have lunch ensemble...Stephen splits. Keohi and I round the corner to the curry shop.

Is that a girl or a boy? (half Chinese half Australian primary school student female)

A boy. (me)

He looks like a girl. (young female)

That's because he is very cute, right (me. The dad is getting embarrassed, maybe, as I am getting annoyed)

Why is he wearing pink? (sibling of young female--older boy, age 10?)

Because Keohi and his daddy both like pink. It's his favorite color. (me, straining to smile, yes, I know what the gender stereotypes are in your household and this is not making me happy that they are now being imposed on my son)

See you around! (cheerful voice, Dad of two kids who wants to close the conversation)

Two minutes later...get to the HSBC teller. Waiting in line with bike, Keohi on bike. Balding, overweight Anglo origin North American with bandana in 50s cuts in front of me. There is only one other person in front of him. No one in back of me. He does not look at me when he does this. Very brazen. After all, I'm the only person waiting! There is no ferry to take! What's this about?

Were you waiting in line? Because I am waiting in line here. (me, in loud American accented voice.)

Wait he is freaked out. An ASIAN FEMALE with an AMERICAN ACCENT. One who doesn't like the fact that he is attempting to BULLY ME OUT OF MY PLACE IN THE LINE! Wait, this is like North America, where you can't and would never do that, thinks the guy. I'm used to Asia where I can bully my way around because I am an old European extraction male and used to having my way around here! SHOCKER. SHOCKER.

Go ahead. You can cut in front of me although I was waiting here in line. But I suppose you were waiting here? (Me, wryly, but firm voice)

Yes, I was waiting here for 3 minutes. I just went around the corner to see if that ATM worked (Bandana Man, he can barely meet my eyes. He is embarrassed. CAUGHT YA!)

Well, gee, I guess you lost your place in line, then. But go ahead. (Me, staring. Strained smile. I can't believe this. Then again, I was once refused service here in HK in s restaurant with my mother (after being seated in the back of the restaurant. This is after we watched 10 white people being seated before us although they were in back of us in the line. My mother's response was, this would never happen in the US, they had the Civil Rights movement.)

Oh, it's not working. All yours. (ATM down, Bandana Man scurries off)

Thanks. (Me)

Bandana Man runs away from the woman with the Asian face with the terrifyingly scary North American accent who does not enjoy being pushed around.

Later, from the playground, I see. Bandana Man with much younger Asian wife (I think Filipino?) and baby.

Why am I not surprised? Because, this is Asia. And in Asia, you see socioeconomics, race, and gender working in ways that are rather unfathomable on one logical level, but then if you consider sociology and economics, are rather logical. Pattern to a lesser level repeating itself in the West.

To continue with our day...

Keohi and I then head to the playground.

There is a grandma type on the playground, British, big, gray, grim faced with severe features with two small blonde children bearing more than a marked resemblance to Dr. Seuss characters on the playground, in the area of 18 months to 2.5 years. Accompanying them is Filipino female helper. Keohi is the only other kid on the playground. I'm on the bench, spacing out...

I see Keohi up on the slide, and grandma saying to him, in a very firm loud voice. "OH NO, yes, well you get down there." He has gone up the slide and the other two children are behind him. Her voice is not friendly. It's rather dictatorial. I don't move, however, just observe. Alert, as I have come to be. He comes down the slide and heads to what resembles a teeter totter or see saw set.. There are four chairs where the kids can bounce up and down and each chair has an opposite partner chair on its diagonal.

He runs to one and the two Seuss children toddle over, with Grim Granny and helper. Keohi hops on one of the seats. Grim Granny starts YELLING AT MY CHILD. She is accusing him of pushing her Suess progeny off the seat. I am PISSED OFF. This did not happen at all but this is how she sees him:

a) Asian
b) non-English speaking
c) non-English speaking Asian mom in background

This is how then she sees herself

a) defending Seuss progeny in wild unknown yellow populated playground
b) defender of manners, morality and other unknowns of the declining British Empire

But Grim Granny does not know the following:

a) Biracial boy is English speaking
b) He is 3 years old
c) His Asian American mom from the Newest and Ugliest Empire yet, is PISSED OFF and WILL DEFEND HER CHILD
d) His British dad, should he be around, would probably make her life as well as every other person she is related to or even knows, miserable for a long long time

ASian American mom rushes forward. "What is the problem?" she asks in a terse voice. Her mouth is set. Her frown is obvious.

Grim Granny: "Why he is PUSHING the children."

AA Mom: "No he wasn't. I saw the entire thing. He was not pushing anyone! (she is making this UP! A LYING COLONIAL! Shocker, shocker....) He simply got on the seat. He is 3 years old."

Grim Granny (shocked, getting uncomfortable, but she is a Grim Granny, so she will hold her ground): "He was pushing."

AA Mom: "He was not pushing AT ALL. I SAW THE WHOLE THING. HE GOT ON THE SEAT. He is 3 years old. And he's playing. And he did not do anything to the other kids. And I think perhaps, you should think about being more INSTRUCTIONAL in the future and EDUCATIONAL in your manner, rather than SIMPLY REPRIMANDING. We are at this playground ALL OF THE TIME (AA Mom asserting her roaming domain protecting feeding and playing grounds of her child) and MAYBE YOU should think about how you address children. Be INSTRUCTIONAL. But he wasn't doing ANYTHING."

AA Mom stands her ground. Grim Granny nods, acknowledges what I say, a little. My non-accented English! My assertive tone! Grim Granny cannot take it! I'm an Uppity Asian. She cannot meet my eye. I know EXACTLY what she was doing and SO DOES SHE! INCREDIBLE!

She goes to other part of playground with Seuss progeny and helper. For good measure, I look over send bad vibes, meet helper's eye, yes, they will stay on the other side.

Keohi plays...

Now I know there are those out there who will say Oh, but that's ANY playground and ANY parent experience, and this is not ethnicity at all. But the vestiges of colonialism are very strong in HK. And Keohi's hair has now grown darker--and he looks like a hapa kid. And any minority (here, white folks) may feel at odds in a society where they physically do not resemble others, and this is compounded by them not having the local language skills. I know this from being a minority in the US. So I understand how the local whites may feel isolated and insecure. BUT this is also because they are used to a large level of white privilege (see Peggy Mcintosh, Unpacking the Backpack of White Privilege if you need some race theory reading) and are now thrust in a situation where it doesn't exist as it does---but the colonial twist is this--they have money here, a lot, often, compared to locals, so things aren't all that bad. Economic power buys acceptance, dominance, and clout. And HK only handed over in 1997 back to China.

But to get back to the "this is any mom on a playground" it's not. Because if you do question it, what you are then questioning is one's ability to discern and feel racial discrimination, thereby leaving the burden of proof on the one that IS the one who feels discriminated against. And any person of color will tell you, that subtle nuances of racial politics are forgiven and disguised under the politesse of manners and "cultural difference" (though Grim Granny's yelling was in no way subtle).

But I call it like I call it.

And I will honestly say, that the majority, if not all of the people of color I know, if not all the Americans I know, would believe this scenario as being a prime example of ethnocentric ideas, colonialism, race, and's all alive and well and happening even in lil ole Mui Wo.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November 2010 Election

Post Election Doldrums...

I voted absentee in the most recent election. From here I see that Americans need to have a little faith and hold fast. No presidency is perfect and there is a tremendous difference between leaders who are elected and those who spring from the grassroots and lead and work outside of the system. It takes all kinds to move a nation. And our country was left in shambles after 8 years of bad governance.

I'm not keen on all the decisions that have been made by Obama, (I experience FULL public health care here, and none of that insurance stuff here in HK and it is GREAT) but I'm pragmatic enough to realize that massive changes cannot be instituted immediately. And as one Brit once told me--"Americans are impatient, they expect things immediately to happen." It's all tied up in Our Way of Life--capitalism and consumerism--faster is better, fast food versus the slo-food movement...and so it goes.

As for the Tea Party types--they were and are always out there. We know about them. They're everywhere and yes, rather awful to think that so many Americans think that people will ascend in their undies to heaven and all of that...but they are not the majority...almost, but not quite. The thing is for those who don't subscribe to such nonsense to think logically about governance and the needs of the American people. The alternative is the Tea Party people.

That said, I know it's hell being around narrow minded thinkers. I am glad I am away right now, and for now, expat life is okay. Here I just deal with narrow minded expats -- Western and Asian -- actually, (have only met one expat from Africa), and the big ole Communist Party. Nearby are lovely places like North Korea and party city states like Singapore and impoverished and corrupt countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Thoughts on the U.S....

These days I feel a great sense of admiration overall, for what I think of as a more inclusive or pluralistic way of viewing ethnicity which I think is distinctly American. This is after 2.5 years here and meeting very few Americans since I've been here. For better or for worse, any individual can become an American, and in doing so, claim a place in its fabric, no matter the person's ethnicity. This does not guarantee better opportunities or treatment for everyone, but there is a general sense that one has the right to seize such a right and demand fairness when becoming an American, if one chooses to do so. (And there are plenty of reasons to become an American and plenty of reasons not to). It is ultimately a nation built yes, on genocide, slavery, but it acknowledges this past more readily than many other nations. American foreign policy is often terrible, let's face it, we're an Empire, but Americans know this is true: you can hop off the plane or the boat, and maybe not in your lifetime, but definitely your kid's lifetime, you will be an American. To some you will always be an outsider, especially, it must be said, if you're of yellow extraction--you're always told, hey, go back... ( HAWAII? It's part of the US! That's what I say, at least...)but there are many resources and ways of navigating this vast country that will allow you to enter and claim a spot that do not occur as frequently in other nations.

Try being a non-Chinese Asian, specifically from Southeast Asia in Hong Kong. Bad scene...really bad scene...but insular thinking is not exclusive to Asian countries as believe me, there are plenty of narrow minded folks from everywhere. True, there may be the question of whether Americans of different background embrace those who are NOT American, (usually, if you're not in the American party, you're not that have to BECOME an American to talk about this stuff) but at least we can talk about it in our own context. And on some basic level, we try to deal with it. We argue about race, but at least we actually have a conversation about it. We have leaders from the past and present of non-white European origin who are revered and held up as examples for all Americans. There are many Western countries who simply don't even have this. (Some may just not get the population in numbers, but for others, it just won't happen.) In the U.S. there are so many people from different backgrounds that you are simply obliged to function on some basic level, in some civil manner with someone who may not come from your background. And most people recognize, that hey, it is an we get along from different backgrounds, how we educate our youth in terms of this, how we function as a yes, we must discuss this. Deal. This is the U.S....we're divided, we're together, we're here and there, but we have no choice but to face it.

There are requirements in place now, at the U.C. university system that recognize that educational institutions have an obligation to educate individuals to cope and thrive in a diverse society. Such classes are completely unheard of in any other education system in the world, and hey, I must say, there are a lot of people out there wandering around who need them like you wouldn't believe. We have Tea Party types, but we also are capable of being governed by people of color and view them as Americans, as equals, NOT as stray people from an old Empire. (Uhmm....guess cause we're a current one?:)) We are a nation of extremes, for sure, but there are some important and utterly crucial ways we're not so bad...really...:)

So, to that I will add this great site

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mui Wo Emergency and Health Care

About three weeks ago Keohi had an accident and this event added even more to my overwhelming support for public health care. If only people in the U.S. had access to this type of system. Quality of life would be much better. With good healthcare I could maybe even afford to live back in the U.S. and not live in fear of bankruptcy due to pre-existing health conditions, and the general cost of health care.

So, I was doing the usual of chasing Keohi around to brush his teeth. This happens twice a day. If you count him running away when I am holding a hairbrush and running away when he sees a washcloth or a new change of clothes, this happens about five times a day in our household. Grooming is to be avoided at any cost, if you're 3 1/2, or maybe, if you're just Keohi. If I want him to be remotely clean, it usually involves me literally running up the stairs after him, or at least around the dining room table a few times.

So this time he saw his beloved astronaut toothbrush (better used on the floor as a toy, rather than as a dreaded toothbrush) and ran up the stairs and ran into his dark room and slammed the door. But he's scared of the dark. So he opened the door too fast and yanked it over his toe, which then ripped off the top half of his toenail. Blood everywhere, crying, exacerbated by Stephen seeing the blood and yelling "SHIT" and in a minute, we are off to the Mui Wo Health Clinic.

We had just bought our new three wheel trike--this is Mui Wo's answer to the SUV, so the three of us went. (Mom, ensconced in the guest room, heard none of the hysteria and was shocked upon our return) The three wheel bike has a canopy and seats two in back. It's great for groceries plus kids. It's basically a cyclo. I grab Keohi's passport, a cloth diaper to soak up the blood, and we're off. Stephen hops in the front and I hold Keohi on the back and it's a mad dash down the hill to the health care clinic.

We buzz the buzzer and they let us in immediately. Doctor on duty, we've seen him before for a bout of flu. Keohi is immediately tended to by the doctor. One nurse assistant. Clean up and bandage. Pronto. No lines. No waiting. I chat and another nurse takes down some basic info (they have Keohi on file now and look at the passport, but in an emergency, this is never required) They tell us if we want an x-ray we'll have to do that at the Queen Mary Hospital the next day. Mui Wo doesn't have X ray facilities. It's small, but does the job for basics. I ask if I should pay the basic consultation fee, which is something like $5USD for other types of visits.

They look at me in shock.

This is an emergency. People don't pay for an emergency visit. How strange that I should even ask. But the doctor remembered me before--the American mom and my previous confusion before of not paying for medicine. He gently reminded me that in HK, you don't have to pay for meds, it's part of the consultation fee--$5USD.

They tell us to come back to get the dressing changed--but I'll have to pay for that, something like $2USD.

We exit. Another young boy is coming in with his mother. He fell from his bike so has fairly large open scrapes on his arm. They let him in. Big night in Mui Wo. No gunshots, but falls from bikes and doors over toenails.

Stephen cycles us all to get ice cream from the store and we head back. He ends up throwing out his back because the seat is screwed down so low and is stuck that way, because I had ridden it. We resolve to fix our emergency vehicle SUV so that the seat can be easily raised and lowered in case of future emergencies ($3USD to fix our seat... bike repair bills by the way, are much cheaper than getting an oil change for your car. Another plus about HK life.)

In the U.S. that medical emergency would have taken hours and probably would have cost me hundreds of dollars. We would all have been exhausted and drained and probably would have been belittled by the medical care establishment. A doctor did not need to see Keohi for that, a good nurse practitioner might have been okay, but a doctor was there who was nice, as were the other staff, and did a good job. In the U.S. we would have been in the waiting room and after three hours, I would have probably started getting mad at someone. Parking would have cost us $20USD--no place to even RIDE your bike, should you be inclined to be bike friendly, never mind park it. We would have been there for hours and would have had to start scrounging around for a place to eat. The next AM we would have been wrecks at work. But no, a good community medical clinic, a public health clinic can make life a lot better and here in Mui Wo is proof that it does.

And Keohi did not have HK identification, but a U.S. passport. If someone showed up with a Chinese passport, or any other passport, without an ability to speak the native language of the U.S.--English, what kind of service would the patient have received in an American hospital?

There are many aspects of life that I miss living overseas, but I do not miss the U.S. healthcare system. Would I want to get treated for certain types of diseases or illnesses in Hong Kong? Not sure--depending on your illness, there may be better treatment in the U.S., but it depends on what your health situation is.

But basic emergency stuff? For the price and service?

Hong Kong beats the U.S. hands down. Easy, fast, efficient, cheap, and good. All reachable in a 4 minute bike ride...props to the Mui Wo Health Clinic.