Saturday, January 17, 2009

I've Been a Good American All Along (choo-choo)

So Barack Obama is taking a train to the Inauguration, retracing the route that Abraham Lincoln took when he went on his way to the presidency and the history books. Some may call this a publicity stunt, but inaugurations should always capture headlines and draw attention, so this train ride is far more than appropriate.

As a Chicagoan from the Land of Lincoln and Obama, may I just say this: I've ridden the trains for nine years now, and if anyone back then told me that I was doing the patriotic thing, I would have looked at you with a cocked eyebrow and a narrow eye. If you asked for change, I might have given you some (okay, maybe not). As crummy and as slow as the CTA's trains are, and as convoluted and inconvenient as the construction process has been (to say the least), it's good to know that someone high up is probably going to repopularize the value of a good ol-fashioned train ride. On top of that, now it's the American thing to do; riding the train (thereby keeping not only operators but also maintenance crews and other staffers employed) and being green are suddenly patriotic.

To think, roughly eight years ago, patriotism meant shopping by orders of the President. My, how times have changed! Now if only patriotism cost less than $2.25 per ride...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Crimes of a Generation, Paid by the Next
Almost forty years ago, the US Armed Forces used Agent Orange to devastate the forests of Vietnam so that the opposition wouldn't have cover or sanctuary to maintain their guerilla style tactics. Normally, not only does that mean that soldiers would have no place to run, but a short a while later, that also meant that farmers and peasants had no means of income, as entire crops would be destroyed.

However, and more menacingly so, the rate of birth defects rose significantly since the spread of dioxin-filled Agent Orange, and each generation inherits the defects from the past. And what are the odds that those born of birth defects did not come from families of soldiers, but from civilians instead? Click the jump to see the video report.

The policy of the US government is that the nation isn't responsible for these crimes, as they were cleared in 1975. However, in the face of science and the human condition, that defense doesn't hold up, and the US has agreed to lend aid to the devastated regions (and really, to do the crime is one thing, to deny it in the face of evidence is a shady thing to do all around).

Even forgetting the politics that lead to the failed invasion of Vietnam, the fact remains that there are people whose sole crime was being born of a certain family line and caught in the crossfire between two powers that were never concerned with them. They need whatever help they can get, so I post this up:

The mission of the Vietnam Friendship Village Project is to cultivate reconciliation and heal the wounds of the Vietnam War by uniting veterans and caring citizens through international cooperation in the building and support of the Village of Friendship, a living symbol of peace.

No Man is An Island, but They Made Their Own
In honor of the great Ricardo Montalban of Star Trek, Fantasy Island, and Spy Kids fame, who recently passed away: arguably the smoothest car commercial ever made. We in the 21st Century have our commercials of BMWs, Mercedes, Infinitis, and Audis, with their orchestras and ground breaking special effects, but none reach the class, comfort, and luxury of this commercial right here, courtesy of the great Montalban:

I'm just surprised that no car company had tried to retain him. Perhaps Congress forbade Montalban from joining any car manufacturer as a spokesman for fear of monopolizing the auto industry.

And here is a video in honor of Patrick McGoohan, who also recently passed away. He starred in The Prisoner, one of the quintessential 1960s Brit shows, and downright just weird and freaky (which makes it so delicious in the first place), playing the clever but perhaps doomed Number 6, trapped on a mysteriously surreal island and was perhaps the precursor to Lost:

How many times have we all wanted to say things like he does, speaking out for the cause of individuality, free-will, and non-conformity in the face of mindlessly and endlessly bureaucratic monoliths like the DMV, college registration, and credit card companies?

Ultimately, what applies to McGoohan's iconic counterculture character of Number 6 can also apply to Ricardo Montalban: neither of them strictly conformed to a prevalent trend, but instead took one and made it their own, bringng memorable strength, style, and (dare I say) poise to new heights. They didn't make the pack, they lead it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shirtless Obama Sets Dangerous Example For Future WASPy Presidents

We’ve all seen the photos of Obama walking out of the gym with his shirt off. The President has a better physique than most community organizers half his age. He’s more physically active than most presidents before him and I get the feeling that manliest-of-presidents Teddy Roosevelt would love to spar with him. After viewing the photo above, the NRA should have no fear of Obama, as they would clearly see that Obama has two tickets to the gun show.

Despite packing all that heat, and despite all the hope and change the nation has in Obama (and why is it that only the politically right refer to Obama as the “Messiah?”), it’s time for him to reign in his influence and pull back from the extravaganza. He’s already pushing well-established boundaries for the good of the nation. Obama is the hero for the small popular and the huge electoral majority of the nation, and he’s well aware that he leads by example; you just can’t be that eloquent and educated without knowing the impact you can have on people. As we all know, through great persuasion and with full knowledge of his audience, the great William Jefferson Clinton taught an entire generation that the definition of sex is highly subjective. Any man can have a chance with a much younger lady as long as he's smooth and quick with the words. Among other reasons, that's why he's called Slick Willy.

(Clinton jokes never get old.)

He'll Pump Them Up

This time, Obama’s pushed things too far and too progressively. Sure, he’s shown that he has both political and physical muscle, but if history and statistics show anything, it’s that our elected leaders tend to be, and to put this lightly, saggy-old-wrinkly. And if they’re not booby-obese-pasty, then it’s usually booby-obese-pasty. God forbid, sometimes we occasionally have a mix of the two groups, which would then make them wrinkly-old-saggy-booby-obese-pasty, or SOWBOP for short. Since Benjamin Franklin, SOWBOPs as a group have been a respected and time-honored American institution, and every political generation, from the First Continental Congress to the election of Howard Taft to the reelections of blubbery John Murtha and continuous-victim-of-gravity Mitch McConnell has had large numbers of such.

A Body-ferred is a Body-nied

Now, if you’re thinking that perhaps this is a shallow, ageist look at the presidency, you would not be wrong. However, there is mostly no need to look at things from a physical perspective because presidents tend to be educated, well-intentioned, hard-working individuals of civic and civil service. SOWBOPs sometimes pull off incredible feats of political maneuvering and dealing or tackle issues of extreme complication to exercise their power. Basically, the more of a SOWBOP you are, the more effective at the job you are (for better or for worse), exercising the affluent demur and privilege that excessive lobbying, self-indulgence, and gorging can afford.

Ultimately the evidence that SOWBOPs prove that in exchange for physical fitness (and a functional heart and/or sober mind), one is very competent and masterful in the area of politics. The social expectation is that if you’re not pretty, you’re smart, and vice-versa. It’s a tenet that’s not always followed, that once in a great while someone comes along who is both smart AND pretty, as is the case of porn legend/MENSA scholar Asia Carrera and Nobel Peace Prize winner-turned-1970s heartthrob Henry Kissinger.

Don't tell me that you wouldn't tap them.

But no, Mister President-Elect, way to ruin it for future presidents, should they be in the molds of our Lyndon Johnsons or Ronald Reagans or Bill Clintons or Grover Clevelands, or again, our Teddy Roosevelts. Presidents who weren’t pleasing to the eye but were relatively good at their jobs (Opinions may differ, but you have to be somewhat good to win an election) exchanged looks for intelligence, and we the American people accepted that. If the next president, be it Democrat or Republican, ends up looking like this:
(His secret bunker's not just for hiding.)

…and decides to flaunt it because of his predecessor Obama, we have Obama to blame. If Obama’s policies work and improve the nation, making great strides to enhance the future of America, we expect future elected leaders to rightfully follow that example. If our leaders follow the wrong examples that Obama sets forth, we could end up damaging the nation, perhaps irrevocably so.

Rest Between Reps

Now, one of the legendary things about the presidency is that it accelerates the aging process. Two-term presidents look as if they’ve aged sixteen years rather than eight. I wish nothing but the best of luck to Obama, but if he turns from physically fit to SOWBOPs, it would be the most extraordinary change indeed, and all the more reason to enforce the classic decree set forth by our forefathers of the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” policy, a variation of the classic “No Head, No Rule” decision set forth by King Louis XVI.

Look at that smug, bodiless bastard.

In our forefathers’ wisdom, the reasoning is really quite threefold:

1). SOWBOPs would be discouraged from taking off their shirts, thus saving this nation another collective heart attack in a post-Obama world.

2) There would be much more pressure on, well, everyone to focus on policy and government rather than petty gossip.

3) The bar wouldn’t be set so high for a combination of physical and mental abilities for future aspiring politicians who wish to attain and maintain SOWBOP status as the apex of their professional careers. After all, if you’re cut and in your physical prime, then you're automatically disqualified from such status.

Obama's made giant leaps to fulfill the wish that a public official not be judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. For all the news about his Cabinet picks and his policy planning and his meetings, there's been much public focus on his body than his mind. The content of his character was news a year ago, but now the cut of his skin (and what a cut) threatens the pasty, thick status quo that was already lost last November.

Friday, January 2, 2009

You Make My Heart Feel Super Happy

And a Happy New Year! I hope everyone's had some good times these past few days and that your resolutions have lasted at least till Day 2. Today itself brings a series of firsts here:

-first post of 2009
-first non-poetry post
-first pop culture post
-first time I've encountered this show, specifically Ni Hao, Kai-Lin:,_Kai-Lan

First off, how wonderful it is to have a kids' show like this gem. In a world of entertainment that's all too condescending towards variety, having different people of different colors only to fit a quota and not making them into full-fledged characters, we have a cartoon about a Mandarin Chinese girl teaching the Nick Jr. audience elements of Chinese culture and how learning multiculturalism through friends benefits everyone.

Best of all, unlike some other Asian-born properties (as opposed to Asian American), this show doesn't go out of its way to hit the cutesy factor, as all the character and background designs are very much intentionally connected to the cultural lessons, tying the visual with the educational.

Now, I know you're asking, "Ryan, why are you reviewing a show aimed at toddlers and kindergarteners?" I have two answers for you: 1. Shut up and 2. I was channel surfing when the image of an animated yellow-skinned 6 year old girl popped up on the screen. Intrigued, I kept the channel on, half-expecting bad accents, stereotypical music and fortune-cookie mysticism. Imagine my surprise when Mandarin was littered here and there amongst the English dialogue, how colorful everything was, and how Kai-Lan herself embraced her origins. I remember back in grade school how I would downplay my own upbringings, how I would refuse to say anything in Tagalog because I felt it set me apart from a group I wanted to belong to (and much later would I realize that I shot myself in the foot once I forgot those words. Apparently being a polyglot is a very good skill both professionally and socially). I wouldn't call my titos "Tito" in front of my friends, but rather instead call them uncle, and I would very much downplay the fact that I was the only Asian in my grade school class (after the 6th grade, that is).

If there was a show like Ni Hao, Kai-Lin back in my youth, or even a Filipino-American version of this show, created and developed by Fil-Ams, I'm pretty sure I'd totally nose-dive into the experience. It wouldn't just be empowering to see someone like me at the age of 6 with his own TV show (though that's no mere feat), but there's also the comfort in knowing that there are tons of kids out there from all backgrounds who would watch and love the show, learning and embracing the show's multicultural lessons and shaping youth into little cultural explorers, like Dora but on a yellow-scale. Then again, back when I was six, the market for Asian-American entertainment was pretty darn hostile. That's all the more reason to have Ni Hao, Kai-Lin.

Come to think of it, for all my friends who are quickly becoming newlyweds and/or new parents, I would happily recommend this show. Now if they can put in a Yo Gabba Gabba-esque soundtrack...