Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Friday, November 30, 2012

Profile of Stephen Aldred

Profile of Stephen Aldred

Adam and Eve versus The Cavemen The Smith’s: Part 2

Adam and Eve versus The Cavemen
The Smith’s: Part 2

On Saturday morning in the 1970s, there was a TV kids game show, wherein teams competed answering basic textbook questions. The announcer would rattle off what was the capitol city of Utah, and the contestants would run under flashing lights that decorated a big doorway. The answer would either light up if correct, or a buzzer would sound if wrong.

The Smith’s recreated this kids TV game show in their basement. It was pretty exciting. The neighborhood gathered to play while Janie Smith read off the cue cards. We competed in teams, but there was only one member at a time who ran to the answers, unlike the real TV show.  Everyone played. To their credit, the Smith’s did a great job. They put up huge oaktag white answer boards, and laid down black plastic garbage bags that served as a runway for us. Questions similar to the TV game show were read by Janie and everyone ran to the right (or wrong) answer boards. The only issue was that it took so much time to make these large answer boards and come up with the answers, that after playing only a few times, everyone knew most of the questions. Still, it really didn’t stop the fun. And it got complicated.

Janie stood in the corner and read out: “Who were the first people on earth? Run to answer card number one if you think it was Adam and Eve. Run to answer card number two for cavemen. Run to answer number three if you think it was Abraham Lincoln (or maybe some astronaut, I can’t honestly remember). By the age of nine, I had already been through a religious quest, including a brief semi-conversion to Mormonism that my mother halted (thanks for saving me, Mom) and was unusually contemplative when it came to religious issues. But I knew my cavemen story. While the rest of the neighborhood ran to the Adam and Eve sign, card number one, I ran and sat under card number two for the cavemen.

Oh the outrage that ensued! On everyone’s part. Mostly it was me against the Smith clan and the entire neighborhood that day. A few other kids from various families also yelled I was wrong, but I held my ground.

“It is impossible for everyone on earth to be related to Adam and Eve!” I said.

“No it’s not,” said Jane.

“The cavemen were first!” I argued. “Adam and Eve is a Bible story!”

This went back and forth for some time. I was only a point behind as I recall, so not getting the cavemen point actually cost me the game. But I refused to capitulate. I had science on my side. Did these people really think that Adam and Eve were the only two people on earth? Didn’t they watch any of those TV shows? What about school and those science books on early human beings in animal skins?

Even with the entire neighborhood arguing against me (my sister wandered off by this point, at five she wasn’t that involved) I refused to listen. Jane proceeded to march upstairs to confirm with her mother that Adam and Eve preceded the caveman. To Mrs. Smith’s credit, she was diplomatic and told Jane that everyone believed different things…going against Mrs. Smith of course, was her refusal to acknowledge human evolution. But never mind that. This was Iowa, 1972.

Jane was rather flummoxed, but didn’t want to risk losing a game participant. So she told me: “Okay, so it can be both. BUT in this game Adam and Eve is the right answer. When you are playing, you have to say Adam and Eve or you won’t get the point. C’mon. Let’s keep playing.”

Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what happened other than being mad at what Jane said the new rules had to be. I think I continued to argue.

I recall that due to the ruckus and a bit of boredom with the entire argument, the game ended. People scattered. Some headed outside to play kickball. Everyone knew all the answers by now. These days I might call Jane’s behavior coercion or ignorance, but at the time I simply wanted to continue to be accepted and have fun at the Smith’s. The TV game was up for a few more weeks, but I didn’t play it again.

What do I remember? 

The words Adam and Eve scrawled in black block letters against the white board, the feel of a tight woven carpet and plastic on my bare feet, the basement’s wood paneling, and the sight of dark green bushes at the window. Bill Smith throwing a red rubber ball against the wall and saying he was sick of playing. Katie Smith sharing a piece of strawberry sour taffy with me. Robert Edwards telling everyone that it didn’t matter if it was Adam and Eve or the cavemen, though it really was Adam and Eve and everyone knew that, Stephanie, but who cares, let’s play some kickball.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Memories. Iowa. 1972. The Smith Family.

The Smith’s. Iowa. 1972.

The Smith’s were the type of family that one might call All-American, of mixed European heritage, though they claimed primarily German extraction from some relative of yore, who ambled over to the fields of Iowa a century back.

For years they stood to me as a testament of a type of American, correction, a type of white American family, by which I compared my own family (Korean/Korean American). Unbeknownst to the Smith’s, we were engaged in a complex relationship that was easily dismissed as a general neighborly disjointedness. It’s origins however, I see now in my adulthood, were far more complex and built on a general ethnocentric attitude that made an indelible impression on me.

At the time, I had no vocabulary for the Smith’s behavior or outlook. Instead, I spent a great deal of time wondering why my family was so different and so strange, and why, oh why, did we not resemble these American car dealership owners who boasted minibikes and motorcycles, and a garage of cars. I envied their big screen color TV, their meals of bland boiled potatoes and vegetables, their vacations houseboating down the Mississippi River, and yes, their membership to an Elks Club. (I believe I even asked my father to join; pretty sure in the 1970s there were no non-white members). Their house had no books, but had lots of board games. Their lawn mower tractor never broke down. Their lawn was always properly mowed. They were PTA attending, godfearing, football lovin’ hearty souls.

In stark contrast was my own family. I went to exactly one football game ever in my lfie with my father. The Hawkeyes lost. My father spoke with a Korean accent and our house featured a combination of Western cooking alongside traditional Korean fare. My father had no toolbox, just a PhD in biophysics and a medical degree. Our dog never learned to fetch a stick. My mother grew a Hawaiian orchid in the middle of an Iowa winter on our coffee table. Our lawn was riddled with weeds. We had black and white TV until it finally exploded decades past its warranty. Mom forbid us to ride minibikes and would bang a bronze gong to call us in for supper. We all played classical instruments. Vacation was to Hawaii or Korea. It would be fair to say that my parents’ idea of hell would be to hang out on a houseboat. Opera would blast from our house and my father wore bow ties. Like most university faculty families we had cars of the more ordinary variety—both well-worn.

But it was the Smith’s (and some other neighborhood people) who inculcated a rather orthodox view of what was acceptable in terms of behavior. From the start it was clear in their minds, no doubt, that we weren’t going to tow the line. For starters, well, Dad was from Korea. He may have been a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and have two advanced degrees, but gosh darn it, he wasn’t American. Translation: he wasn’t white.
He ate with those sticks every night. He wasn’t busy in his tool shed sawing on a piece of wood on the weekend. When he BBQ’d, goodness, it didn’t look like anything the Smith’s BBQ’d. The long and short of it was, that we weren’t going to fit in, because the Smith’s had defined fitting in as suiting their behavior patterns and culture. The Smith’s would give us small subtle hints about how to do things. They suggested tractor brands, I believe. But mostly, they watched with a great deal of disdain as my family navigated this small Midwestern town. My family came to ignore the Smith’s. There was a mutual politeness based on my friendship with the Smith’s kids (more on the tyranny of their Christian fundamentalism later--), but they were convinced of their superiority due to their ownership of a car dealership (no comment) and my parents frankly, had little interest in cars. Dad was a lab rat and a classical music lover. Mom liked travel and books.

The blowout came fairly early on: our dog was going crazy, as the Smith’s ever the All American family, were having their teen party blowout with lots of firecrackers going at all hours. The Smith’s place was known as a teen haven. Their teens were cool. Pregnant at 16, but who cares? They were American Elks, damnit. Upstanding. Anyway, Dad mentioned on the phone that our dog was going crazy, could they quiet down the firecrackers? This was when Mr. Smith reared his ugly white American head.
He marched over to his house, towering over our family and yelled. He yelled that our dog popped their ball (true) and pooed in their yard (also true, but not always). He yelled that he could do whatever he damn well pleased. He might have also yelled that we were yellow people he could not stand living in his neighborhood and that he taught his kids to be racist toward us, as they should be as how did we even end up in his neighborhood, but that was not the focus of his yelling. He was yelling because we were everything he didn’t understand. He was yelling to exercise his white American dominance, because even if my family had been in the US longer than his (in Hawaii) he was white, and he ate potatoes, and damn it, he knew how this country worked. He built a doghouse! He pruned hedges! My dad meanwhile, was trying out a pogo stick on the sidewalk and voting for McGovern. Mr. Smith was yelling because we were different. He was yelling because he felt like it. He was yelling because this is what white people can do when they are mad at people who don’t look white, and a lot of times, the non-white people take it. The Smiths of the world yell or look down upon them or belittle them, instead of examining their own behavior because they are never wrong. They were here first! They can exclude, they can dominate, they can decide.  Smith was yelling because we had moved into the neighborhood and we weren’t behaving to code. My family all sat in silence. He yelled more. My dad tried to calm Mr. Smith down. But nothing makes a white man more angry than a non-white man trying to tell him to calm down, especially when the yellow man is shorter than he is (never mind smarter).

I will never forget this. I will never forget or forgive Mr. Smith. I will never forget his attempts to humiliate my father and our family, his blatant racism based on his perceived superiority due to his whiteness. His beloved status based on the ownership of a car dealership (went broke, folks). His self-righteous sense of superiority based on such things as eating of potatoes instead of rice and his blatant failure to understand immigration, history, and diversity. My encounters good and bad with the Smith family, shaped a lot of my perceptions about how insidious and far reaching aspects of white privilege extend, and to what degree they can in not-so-subtle ways, inflect social damage on those who suffer under its tentacles, and those it claims to protect. I am fairly certain that Smiths of the junior variety have not ventured far from the mindset of the senior Smiths—narrow minds make narrow minds.

There are Smiths everywhere. And, in all fairness, there are Smith’s of all persuasions and ethnicities. One who is subjected to Smith behavior and the Smith value system, should one survive, becomes extraordinarily tough, in surprising ways.

So hey you Smithies out there, yeah, you’re in Mui Wo too…Think before you cross me or my family. Unlike my father, who understood the feeling, but might have been at a loss with the nuance of the language, I have superb English language skills (native speaker)---written and spoken. Unlike my mother, I never shy from conflict. Do not impose, please, your Smith ideals upon us. We are perfectly fine, in our bi-continental, bi-racial household and appreciate your withholding of judgment and your curbing of your white privilege in our direction, thank you very much. No, we don’t do everything the way you do, but we have our way. And it suits us just fine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pondering Post Turkey Day

Thanksgiving was good. A big potluck. Americans plus one Australian and one English family and oh--two Indonesian families. We still have leftovers...we actually have not really hosted anything in a few years. Too busy. Maybe we'll start again...

Obama sign down. Xmas tree up. 

Keohi says to me: "I'm to love with X. And I don't know, but she's to love with me, but she doesn't know."
I say: "In love"
He says: "Yes, in love."

We're wearing the sumo ponytail everyday. Some frustration on his part--people do not understand his hairstyle. He is a sumo! I said, oh, well, you have to tell them. He is still waiting for it to grow long enough to stick in a little topknot on top of his head.

I have to give Keohi credit for doing his own thing, no matter what anyone says. It's good practice now, such small steps. When it comes time to take a stance over a serious matter, it will be such things as this that pave the way for remaining firm in one's convictions, no matter public opinion.

Pondering the following:

Intellectual migrants
Symbols of myth and stories
Feminism through writing
How some people never get beyond the social dynamics of public high school...lemme tell you, you really see this in a small village.
Global warming

Heading into a wet wet winter....

Monday, November 19, 2012


I asked Keohi what he knew about Thanksgiving.
"Thanksgiving is when people all boil a chicken," he said.
I said, "They roast a turkey."
"What's a turkey?"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Post Election 2012

OK, I have no choice--I must state this truth: if Obama wasn't elected an entirely different tone in the U.S. would have also greatly affected world politics. I know that most citizens from other countries wanted Obama to win. The U.S. often sets the economic, political and social attitudes for the rest of the world--like it or not. I'm not being a wildly egotistical American saying this--these are facts. The US is an international power and has the world's largest standing military. What it does with its military power affects people around the globe.

In other words, if Romney won, there might be some different challenges the world would have to face. So, you people who think oh yes, it's not a big deal that Obama won, after all, it doesn't affect me--you are dead wrong. We should all be RELIEVED that Romney did not win. We'd probably be looking at the U.S. entering another war...

So stop being so parochial and yes, so nationalistic. The leaders of all countries affect all of us. We're in this together here on earth. It's about recognizing leadership and electing people who ALL OF US hope will stand for tolerance, fairness, equality and humanity.

I know that there has been some terrible outcry against Obama since his win. Racial hatred. Bigotry. True ugliness. But these people have to come around and will. Obama is the face of the United States too--a man raised and influenced by many cultures around the world. A good choice for the U.S...

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I FEEL GREAT TODAY. This election has completely consumed me--I didn't realize to what degree.

I'm wearing my 08 Obama shirt. Cycling with my Obama sticker on my bike. I feel rejuvenated. I'm ready to forge ahead. I have a little faith now that things can happen to improve society, that people are out there. People like myself need to know that there are those who can represent our beliefs, elected officials who are willing to fight the good fight.

When I saw the debates this fall, I found myself staring at the TV thinking this: "C'mon, you have to do it for us. We are counting on you. DO NOT LOSE. DO NOT GIVE IN. WE NEED YOU."

When the American people stand up for the right ideas, as difficult as it is to coalesce and unify a nation so big and diverse, it can change the way the world thinks. Citizenship in this type of country is a responsibility and sometimes a burden. But you always have to stand up for greater ideals, no matter what anyone says.

About a year ago I found myself in an argument with a woman (now in remote Tasmania I believe) who started on an anti-immgrant, anti-developing country rant. (She was trying to tell me that people from Afghanistan should not be allowed into the US even if the US bombed the hell out of their country) Now, what has astounded me is that so many people assume that simply because I do not speak English with an Asian accent, I am going to join in with their hegemonic oppressive racist rants. Go figure. Anyway, as she is rattling on about how she resents immigrants, problems they bring, etc... I finally had to tell her this:

"Listen, there happen to be a lot of people who disagree with you about what it takes to make a nation work. There are many who believe that a diverse nation is a better one, that there are problems, but that this is simply part of what it means to have a better society in the end. There are people who think and know that part of the wealth gained by Western countries has been at the expense of and due to the exploitation of more poor countries. We must pay the price on some level. It is our responsibility and we have to give refuge and shelter to people who COME from places that OUR COUNTRY has leveled, flattened or ruthlessly exploited. And many nations arise due to genocide and slavery. No one has more rights than any other person in this sense. A diverse country makes for a better country. And you know what? It's not just a few people like myself who believe it. It's an entire country who thinks this. Yeah, about 300 million people who believe in this ideal. And they are called AMERICANS."

She didn't really talk to me after that. And frankly, it's not entirely true...there are many Americans who don't believe the above. But enough do. And those who do, who believe in a diverse and better society, who believe that a nation should embrace all kinds of people elected Barack Obama.

Today I felt proud to be an American.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


 If anyone who reads this blog votes for Mitt Romney, please do not discuss this with me.You are  one of the following:

a) Delusional about your own economic and social status
b) Lack compassion about healthcare issues
c) Have no understanding of civil rights issues
d) Do not understand the basics of US foreign policy


Monday, November 5, 2012

Do Not Burn Trash

For crying out loud--will you pyros stop burning trash? We live in a place with a high level of air pollution. Those ladies in the straw hats and wellies and blue cotton outfits will take your trash and properly dispose of it. Just put it near the bins.

I cut and pasted this FYI:

I have been burning my leaves for years. Is this legal? What types of air pollutants are emitted from burning leaves?
The burning of leaves has been prohibited statewide since 1995. (Note, this is Delaware) The purpose of the prohibition is to lower your exposure to toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. The burning of leaves produces a considerable amount of airborne particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and at least seven known carcinogens. One of the most notorious carcinogens is benz[a]pyrene, a polyaromatic hydrocarbon. Benz[a]pyrene is believed to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke. It is also formed when leaves are burned. Like the secondhand smoke from cigarettes, benz[a]pyrene from leaf burning endangers us all.
What is particulate matter, and why is it a health concern?
The visible smoke from leaf burning is composed of tiny particles that contain toxic pollutants. If inhaled, these microscopic particles can reach deep into the lungs and remain there for months or even years. Breathing particulate matter increases the chances of respiratory infection, and causes other problems such as coughing, wheezing, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Particulate matter can also trigger asthma attacks in some people.
What is carbon monoxide, and what are its health effects?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which prevents oxygen from being absorbed by the blood and lungs. Carbon monoxide can be especially dangerous for young children with immature lungs, the elderly, and people with chronic heart conditions or lung diseases.

Mom and Mui Wo

Mom left Mui Wo late last week. As usual, mom is on-the-go. This meant I was riding the three wheel bike and carting her around so any extra food eaten was burned off by my position as her personal chauffeur.

Highlights of Mom's visit include Mom cracking open a beer at Ace's birthday party and then saying: "Oh perfect! Cold beer! That guy Paul Ryan is really scary. He likes Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand! Who believes this way of thinking once you are past the age of 19! That is ridiculous! Well, the people who vote for Romney are the ones who need Obama's policies and they are going to get what they are asking for's the TV GENERATION. They expect EVERYTHING to be solved in 4 years!"

What I like about my mother, not love about my mother, is that she has always voted in a way that I can respect. We've had conflicts in the past, but not about voting. I feel lucky in this way. She's definitely more conservative than I am about politics, but we can vote on the same ticket and there is some solace in this as I know that many people do not vote the same way as their parents vote...until they get to their parents age.

Then there's the usual hunt-for-socks-for-church shopping trip. She takes lots of new socks, underwear or T-shirts back to her church to give to the homeless kids. I have to give mom's church some credit. Every month or so, they sponsor a homeless family who lives at the church for some days while everyone helps them back to work, and getting a life back after living in a homeless shelter. Her church is moderate if not progressive--a place that is hard to find in the American South.

Mom read River of Smoke by Ghosh and the memoir Gweilo by Booth when she was here. She used up a box of tissues. This is another image I have of my mom--a great big book and a great big box of tissue for allergies. (Here, it was pollution)

Keohi said: "I want Grandma to live with us."

A good visit...