Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Racist Tsunami Song

I heard about this and was just absolutely disgusted.

"On January 21st, 2005, an offensive song/skit containing openly derogatory and racist overtones reached millions of listeners in New York City when it was broadcast on Hot 97's "Miss Jones in the Morning" radio show. While the radio show has a history of recording and playing such spoofs on a regular basis, the infamous "Tsunami Song" mocks not only the victims of the unfortunate recent natural disaster in Southeast Asia, but also all members of the Asian race in general with the racial slurs "chink" and "Chinamen."

Choice lyrics included:
  • "All at once you could hear the screaming chinks and no one was safe from the wave there were africans drowning, little chinamen swept away you could hear god laughing, swim you bitches swim"
  • - "So now you're screwed, it's the Tsunami, you better run or kiss your ass away, go find your mommy, I just saw her float by, a tree went through her head, and now the children will be sold to child slavery..."

Just prior to the broadcasting of this inflammatory and extremely distasteful audio, the airwaves erupted into hostility when the popular morning show's hosts argued about playing the "Tsunami Song." The on-air quarrel started when Miss Info openly voiced that she had no involvement with either the production or publication of the song, as she personally found the views expressed in the song offensive. The show's other two co-hosts Miss Jones and Todd Lynn then launched into an abusive tirade against Miss Info for her lack of co-operation. At one point, Todd Lynn stated that he was going to start shooting Asians while Miss Jones told Info she's only complaining because "you feel superior, probably because you're Asian."

You can hear the audio for yourself at: http://www.thesilent1.com/longer_hot97_tsunami.mp3

Though they're unexcusable, racist comments I can tolerate. Callous and cruel remarks about the hundreds of thousands of deaths, I can't. There really are some sick people out there, especially if they can find humor out of the tsunami tragedy. You can read more about this incident and sign the online petition here: http://www.petitiononline.com/endhate/petition.html

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So, Where From?

I found this site through Mike's a couple of weeks ago, and it really got me thinking. When I was a kid living in the States, I always thought I was Thai to the bone. After all, I went to Thai temple on Sundays, ate Thai food for dinner everyday, had a plethora of mysterious, still-to-be-met relatives living in Thailand, and spent many an hour trying to decipher my parents' "secret tongue" – Thai – the language they'd use whenever they didn't want me to understand whatever it was they were talking about over the top of my head.

So imagine my utter confusion when we first came to Thailand on vacation when I was 8, and I overheard my relatives and parents speaking – what – Chinese? "Since when do you speak Chinese?!" I would ask – demand – of them. "Since we were born," my mom would say. "Your dad and I always spoke Chinese with Ah-mah and Ah-gong when we were growing up. We only spoke Thai at school. In fact, Ah-mah and Ah-gong is Chinese for grandmother and grandfather. I thought you knew that!"

Obviously not. This was all too much for my young baffled self to digest. Too confusing, really. So not only did I have to accustom myself to Thai language and customs, but suddenly I also had to learn about this long-lost, hidden culture, too?

"So what am I, like, one-sixteenth Chinese?" I would ask, thinking that I probably had some lone obscure Chinese ancestor somewhere up the family tree. "No," my confused cousins would say, probably thinking I was the most culturally-ignorant Asian-American to ever walk the face of the earth. "You’re 100% Chinese." Whaaat? So what the heck was I doing at Thai temple every Sunday? Why did we eat Rad-Na and Kao Pad Krapow instead of Egg rolls or Chow Mein for dinner? What the heck was the clan doing over here in Thailand instead of China, then?

I quickly learned that, like the hundreds of thousands of other Teochiu Chinese currently living here in Thailand, both my maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated here to Thailand from China during the early 1900's to escape political and economic strife. Upon moving here, they easily adapted to the local culture, but still retained many of the customs and traditions of their motherland. Though my dad's side of the family eventually abandoned their Chinese last name (Lee) for a more Thai-sounding (and muuuch lengthier, though still considerably much shorter compared to that of my fellow Thai counterparts, heh) one, they still made sure my dad knew everything about Chinese culture and taught him how to speak, read and write both Teochiu and Mandarin (though he's since forgotten how to speak, read or write Mandarin, and can only speak Teochiu now). Similarly, my mom's first language was Teochiu, and she only learned Thai when she began going to school at the age of 5. In fact, my mom would sometimes serve as a "translator" for my grandparents, who, while fluent in Thai, couldn't properly pronounce many Thai words (my grandmother would always pronounce the Thai word for license - ta-bian - as "sa-mian" :P).

While the Teochiu language has pretty much been lost with my and my cousins' generation (only two of them can speak it fluently, and the rest of us are lucky if we can just get by with a simple rudimentary monosyllabic conversation), we know the culture and traditions by heart. One of the biggest family events of the year is Cheng Meng, the ancient Teochiu tradition when we all meet up to pay respect to our ancestors who have since passed away. (And I swear it isn't as twisted or morbid as it sounds; us meeting up and having family reunions/parties at our dead ancestors' graves, wearing party hats as we lay out roasted duck and sweet fruits for them.) So though my cousins and I may not be the greatest Teochiu conversationalists in the world, we're definitely very aware of our heritage. We have our parents and relatives to thank for that; for seamlessly integrating both Thai and Chinese culture into our lives. In return, we'll make sure these two cultures aren't lost with our generation. Regardless of one's nationality, we owe it to our ancestors to keep the culture and traditions alive and flourishing for many more generations to come.

Over my teenage years, I gradually changed from being a culturally-confused person to being someone much more culturally aware of who I am as a person. Does that make sense? Today, my idea of culture and traditions is a colorful mish-mash of Thai and Chinese. My thoughts and opinions are still very much Western-influenced, but I also understand and highly respect the thought and logic of Asian ideas. For example, Western folk (and my younger more angsty teenage self) might scoff at the seriously solemn conversations my aunties have over Chinese horoscopes and fortune-telling, but I can honestly tell you that there have been more than one occasion where their so-called predictions have come true. ;)

As I was growing up, one of the questions I always dreaded answering was, "Where are you from?" This always made me twiddle my thumbs as I'd rack my brain for an answer, trying to weigh out the question as carefully as I could. If I said I was Thai, then would that be like thumbing my nose at my long, far-reaching Chinese heritage? But then again, if I said I was Chinese, how could I blatantly deny the palpable cultural Thainess that flowed through my veins? I may be 100% ethnically Chinese, but I'm still very much culturally Thai. And even if I could settle with one answer (or sometimes both, even – "I'm Thai-Chinese."), this would always spawn another question: "But how come you can speak English?" Once I'd explain that I was born in the States, this would further confuse people and they'd inquire with furrowed brows, "So you're American, too?", upon which I would say, "Oh yeah, that, too."

But now, I consider myself more of a global citizen. I guess I can attribute this to having spent my formative years being educated at an international school. With a school full of kids hailing from all corners of the world, it was almost impossible to not find someone who'd never lived in a particular country before (yes, even the Czech Republic and Mauritius, of which I never even knew existed until I met Jenny Yu King Hing). It was fun hearing other kids tell me about their childhood days spent in Egypt, followed later by a few years in France, and later Hungary. Everyone had a different and unique background, and looking back now, I realize that it was a great eye-opening experience for me to learn about all these different cultures at such a young age.

At the end of the day, each and every culture of the world is equally special and beautiful in its own way. Be proud of yours, but also respect and cherish those of the rest of the world. At the risk of sounding like that sappy Heal the World song by Michael Jackson, if we could all do that, the world would be a much happier place, don't you think?


A few weeks ago Gug and I met up with Paddy, Kirk and Peter for dinner at Cabbages and Condoms. At the end of dinner, I had a sudden realization that I'm pretty much a certified Xangan Whore. I mean, you can tell things are getting pretty pathetic when you refer to everyone by their Xangan user names. Sheesh.

LYNN: Your sister's Fone, right? Foneeey?
KIRK: Yeah.
LYNN: She's hilarious! Her blog entries always crack me up.

Later, after ordering some fried fish with lemon grass essence, Gug started talking about lemon grass aromatherapy oils.
KIRK: My girlfriend and I just bought some lemon grass aromatherapy oils from Suan Lum Night Bazaar a couple of days ago.
LYNN: Moo Noi Jai Dee?

During dinner, we started talking about the various Thai communities in Chicago, the East Coast, and of course, the very large one out in California.
LYNN: The Thai community over in Chicago seems so much more close-knit than the one out in California.
KIRK: Yeah, I think it's because they're more spread out in California. Do you know Lisa and Peter Mani?
LYNN: Oh, you mean Hybrid_Girl?

Talk about sad. Someone really needs to spend less time on Xanga.

Anyways, I finally upheld my promise to Paddy! After last year's Cabbages & Condoms fiasco, we finally got a chance to eat there, exactly one year later. Food was awesome, though it was kinda weird how there were more farangs there than Thais, heh. Anyways, though we were mighty tempted, we did not take the condoms that were laid out at the front of the restaurant after dinner (and if you're wondering what the heck condoms are doing laid out at the front of the restaurant, please read this). For those of you who have been to C&C in the past, though, could you please explain to me why the condoms are separated into "Democratic Free" and "Republican Free" piles? Gug and I were completely stumped, and even after much speculation, just couldn't figure that one out.

Paddy, Peter, Kirk, Gug, me

Sigh, I'm sure y'all are already very well acquainted with my Crap Camera.
Then again, perhaps the blurriness could be attributed to the woman with the Parkinsonian tremors who took the pic for us.

Currently Playing: Ode to My Family By The Cranberries

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Monday, January 10, 2005

"It's Horrible Beyond Belief."

Fellow Bangkokian blogger, Paul, went down south during the New Year to help out with the tsunami relief effort. Please take the time to read his report here. What he saw and experienced is just beyond belief. It takes a special kind of person to do what you did, Paul. My hat's off to you.

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Antenna Fever and Scandalous Monkeys

On January 2nd, a group of friends and I decided to rent a van and driver and head on out to Lopburi. That morning I met up with everyone else at Miracle Grand Hotel at 6:45 a.m. OK, 7 a.m., really. Whatever. 15 minutes is hardly late, right? Well, alright, so maybe I was a little late, but blame it on the traffic light I was stuck at for 10 minutes. Or you could blame it on my cousins who'd slept over at my house the night before, and who made me stay up till 3 a.m., watching that annoyingly addictive and overtly sentimental Korean soap opera drama, Autumn in My Heart. I know, I know, with a name like Autumn in My Heart, I should've known better and steered clear of it, but with two hot Korean stars and a sob-worthy ending (she died! She died! Why did they let her die? Why, oh why???), how could I say no?

On my way to the hotel that morning, I had a nearly fatal encounter with a monk. I was about to turn a street corner when he popped up from behind a humungous sign. I swear, those stupid election campaign signs are so ridiculously huge. Me with my bleary eyes and 3 hours of sleep, didn't see him lurking behind it and had a slightly delayed reaction and nearly ran him over. I waied in apology, and he gave a serene little smile in return, nodded, and continued on his way. Gee, run over a monk - talk about a great way to kick-start the new year!

I don't know how or where Gug and Caro got the rented van from,
but it had Denla Kindergarten printed on the side.
Maybe they knew beforehand about the group
of zany, immature kids that were going to be renting it for the day?

Stopped by a gas station to store up on rations.

Check out that rising sun and those very sleepy faces!
No one should ever have to wake up this early.
It should be, like, illegal or something.

And away we go!
You can see Ton over on the right, holding what he personally calls
"the best drink in the whole world."
As a green tea lover who's tried every last brand of green tea
that's to be found in Thailand, I couldn't agree more!

After about two hours, we were finally in Lopburi.

Can you spot the chipmunks?

There were some, uh, eager monkeys out front, ready to greet us.
"Dude, what's with the monkey nudity?
People bring their kids here!"

Gug and I decided to censor the monkey's private bits...
...because, you know, this is a G-rated site.
(Wouldn't want some kid to stumble across this and have his eyeballs fall out.)

Censoring the male monkey, however,

proved to be a slightly more arduous task.

So Gug and I had to call the other girls on over

to help cover him up, the poor thing.

The fields were gorgeous!

Dotted with little specks of yellow for as far as the eye could see.

Sunflowers are such friendly flowers.

So yellow and, uh, sunny.

Ton was especially smitten with the sunflowers.

He found one that was to his liking,
nd they even struck up a little conversation.

He tried to woo her with a few
of the many pick-up lines he had stored up his sleeve...

And gee, who would've thought, but it worked!
Aw golly, I think it's love!

Ton, you mean bastard!
Apparently he was a little too rough with the poor thing.

Gug, Siri, Caro, me, Jup
Me and my lovely flowers.

Back: Kang, Siri, me, Caro, P'Geng, Matt
Front: Ton, Gug, Jup
The coolest, funnest people to take a road trip with.

Caro, me, Ton
It was coooold!
I had a jacket on, but still I was freezing.
The winds were awfully blustery that day, and since Lopburi's a little north of Bangkok, the temperature managed to dip into the 60's.
Of course, Caro and Ton, who were visiting from London and NYC respectively, thought the weather was a lovely change to the frigid winters back home.

I guess my arse is just a little too sunshine-spoiled?

No, your eyes are not deceiving you.
What you see atop Gug's head most certainly is a...

Radio antenna.
Um, just. Don't. Ask.

It's a bird, it's a plane... it's Gug and her antenna!
There were some kites on sale, so we thought we'd give it a go.
It's a good thing there wasn't any lightening that day.
Can you imagine how big of a target Gug would have been,
what with both her antenna and kite?
(Maybe she was absent the day we learned about Ben Franklin
and his kite adventures back in middle school.)

Siri and Ton prepared the kite for lift-off.

But it kept nose-diving back to the ground.
"Fly, dammit. Fly!"

Ms. Kite Expert decided to give it a try.
Whilst kite-flying, we accidentally trampled on a couple sunflowers.
If any of you guys swing by Lopburi and notice that the flowers are
rather scarce this season, you'll know why.

And off it went!

Gug and I fooled around with the elephant statue.
(Get your mind outta the gutter!)

Matt and Jup fooled around with the elephant, too.
We all took about a hundred photos with the elephant statue.
You'd think we'd never seen an elephant before or something.
We later had to tearfully pry ourselves away from it because a super long line of kids had begun to form behind us, and they were beginning to give us the evil eye for hogging the elephant for so long.

So the elephant statue was fake...
...but evidently the big pile of elephant poop laying nearby wasn't.
This could only mean...

...that a real elephant was nearby!
You can't quite see it here, but the elephant was crying.
I'm not talking moist eyes here; he was actually weeping
and tears were streaming out of his eyes.
Made us wonder if its owner had mistreated or abused him in the past.

Me, Caro, Gug, Jup, Siri
JUP: "What's this basket for, anyways?"
MATT: "They light bonfires in it at night and use it
to burn all the people who've trampled on the sunflowers!"
Ooops, so guilty, guilty, guilty.

Yummy grapes for sale!
They were deliciously sweet and devoid of any sour aftertaste.

What can I say?
Antenna fever's contagious, especially when they're sunflower antennaes.

Ton and his seed... sunflower seeds, that is.
TON: "Anyone want some of my seed?"
What, no takers?

After browsing the souvenir stalls and taking a quick bathroom stop,
we hopped back into the van and continued on our way.

We passed a vineyard and decided to stop by
and take a quick look around.

The last time I saw a vineyard was last year...
...when we drove through the lush fields of Burgundy on our way to Dijon.
These vineyards weren't as large as the ones I saw in France,
but they were just as picturesque.

I'd never seen hanging vines before.
They provided a nice respite from the sun.

Back: Kang, Gug, me, Siri, Ton
Front: Caro

We took a closer look at the grapes.

And upon further inspection,
noticed that some of them were a tad bit shriveled.

Raisins, anyone?
"This reminds me of that poem..."
LYNN: "You mean that poem by Langston Hughes?
The one about the dried up raisin and festering sore?"
(The fact that we can actually remember this
from 10th grade lit class is so, so sad.)

Monsoon Valley Wine -
we decided to try some, since wine tasting was available.

"WTF? You call this crap wine?!"
BLECHH - it tasted thoroughly disgusting!
You could've poured me a glassful of alcohol antiseptic,
and it would've tasted exactly the same.
I don't know, maybe it was just the one bottle that was bad,
but honestly, it tasted revolting.

Shot of grape juice, anyone?
Their grape juice, however, was divine!

Caro & me...
...enjoying the pretty view of the hills and vineyard fields
behind the visitor center.

Is this a sweet pic or what?
Jup spotted some pretty flowers on the side of the road.
According to her, 6-petalled flowers are hard to find.

Afterwards, we stopped by Chokchai Farm for some STEAK.
"Mmmm...!" said Lynn the Predacious Carnivore.
We so wanted to ride the ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles),
but unfortunately you had to book beforehand.
Maybe next time!

Chokchai Steakhouse was jam-packed with people.
Talk about damn good business.
Luckily we only had to wait in line for about 30 minutes.

Unfortunately there weren't any large tables available,
so we got split up into two groups.

If Siri and I look kinda beat...
it's because we were soo full from our steak lunch, heh.
Afterwards, we tried some of their famous ice-cream from Umm!.. Milk.
Telling from the abundant slurping I heard in the van later on,
I think everyone else will agree with me when I say that it was tres delicieux.

After lunch, we hopped back into the van again
and continued on our way.
We'd originally intended to see the royal summer palace at Bang Pa-In,
but traffic was a killer, so we changed our plans.

We ended up at Bang Sai Royal Arts and Crafts Center instead,
a project under the royal patronage of HM Queen Sirikit.
She initiated this project 10 years ago
to preserve and promote traditional Thai handicrafts.

The place is set up to look like
a very quaint and picturesque traditional Thai village.

The village was filled with traditional Thai houses
from the various regions of Thailand.

This particular house was a replica of
a typical house from the South of Thailand.

Reading up on the history and description of traditional Thai houses.

What is it with Gug and knives?
I didn't want to accidentally get stabbed again,
so I quickly skittered out of the kitchen to safety.

Ton, in his natural habitat.

I took a peek out the 2nd floor window
and spotted an odd red object with flailing arms...

Sans antenna this time around, though.

Not only does this boy attract coquette-ish sunflowers,
but slithering snakes, too!

Climbing the stairs of the
replica house from the Isan region of Thailand.

Princess Siriratana and her, um, chariot-lugging buffalo?

"Down with you, you worthless good-for-nothings!"
Gug the Conquerer came along and overthrew Princess Siriratana,
thus demoting us to buffalos.

Aw, so purdy.
Unfortunately, this picture spawned another one
of Gug's marvelously great ideas...

Talk about the lamest of all lame-ass pics.
OK, it's official.
I think we've finally hit an all-time fobby low with this one.

We got separated from the group momentarily
because Ton was too busy enthralling us with a ghost story.

If you want to hear the (true!) tale, ask him,
but let's just say I'm gonna be avoiding taxis for a while now!

We later spotted the rest of the group
on the other side of the pond, feeding some fish.

Such a picturesque sunset!
We spent the end of the day fervently searching for the van.

But got distracted along the way and took some more photos.
How could we miss out on such a great photo-op moment?

Of course, we got a little lost along the way.
TON: "Don't say lost. We're not lost."
LYNN: "OK, misdirected. We're misdirected."

Luckily, a really nice guy pitied us lost misdirected souls
and offered to give us a lift in his pick-up truck!

We were all so giddy to ride at the back.
I swear, we're such fun-deprived kids.

A perfect sunset to end one heck of
a fun, scandalous monkey-filled day.


On a side note, today is Children's Day here in Thailand. When I was younger, I used to think Children's Day was such a cool concept; how Thai kids got a whole day all to themselves, much like mother's or father's day. When we lived in the States, my dad used to tell me all the time that Thais really respect and cherish children, but I never quite understood what he truly meant until we moved here. Like the Thai saying goes - "Children are the future of the nation" - if you raise your children with a firm and loving hand, then they will hopefully turn out to be strong and compassionate invidiuals in the future.

But despite the great amount of respect that Thai adults in general have for children, there still is a large handful of kids who are dealt a much crueler fate in life. This morning, while I was waiting at the traffic light at the Din Dang intersection, I saw two kids trying to sell flower garlands and newspapers to passing cars. The sad thing was that I recognized the two kids' older sister, who must be around my age now. Since moving back here 10 years ago, I remember how I'd always see her weaving through the string of cars, selling flower garlands at that same intersection every single time I drove by. Ten years later - and ten years older - and she's still selling flower garlands. While I understand that some poor families really need any extra cash they can get, kids shouldn't have to work for a living like that any day, regardless of whether it's Children's day or not.

Meanwhile, Children's Day is being downplayed a bit this year in light of the thousands of children who were affected by the tsunamis. Again, as a friendly reminder, if you haven't donated already, please do.

Currently Playing: London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do) By Heather Nova. We will just overlook the fact that this song is on the nauseating Dawson's Creek soundtrack. And we will also overlook the fact that I was once obsessed with said soundtrack and overemotional teenage television drama back in 10th grade. Oh, so embarrassing!

Currently Reading: Milkrun By Sarah Mlynowski

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