Ruam Mit 17

Current infatuations

1) Anderson Cooper – he’s the ‘kinda cute’ it guy for me right now. (This space has been previously occupied by Benecio del Toro, Anthony Bourdain, Phil Keoghan, Junichiro Koizumi, and Gabriel Garcia Bernal.)

2) Arale – the real star of the Dr. Slump. Wide-eyed, naïve, funny girl who doesn’t know her own super-strength. She’s so cute! So is Peasuke.

3) Night-time TV: the Simpsons and South Park between 10P M to 11 PM on UPN. Then Cartoon Network with “Family Guy.” I have to remember to watch “Boondocks” on Sundays at 11 PM, but I don’t like the look: the Japanese/Korean style makes the characters look less edgy than on the comic strip.

Coincidence

A) This week, BBC Asia-Pacific news website has for their ‘In Pictures’ feature: a little slide-show of photos of Khiva. The funny thing is almost all those shots are the same as shots we took when we were in Khiva. Just imagine: Joe’s photos could have been on the BBC (they ain’t no National Geographic!)

B) Rusell Peters – Canadian-Indian comedian: my cousin Tim sent me the DVD clip of his show, and then he got written up in the Mercury in advance of his show at the Warfield

C) What Would Your Mother Say: half-hour radio program on KZSU on Thursday. The most enlightening discussion on college–age sex (in a really PG-rated educational way) I caught randomly while driving last October. It also got written up in the Mercury recently.

Commentary
I) There’s been discussion of Japan changing the order of imperial succession to allow women to ascend the throne. And how the Crown Princess has been under so much pressure she had to retire from public view for a while; first because they didn’t have kids, and then because she gave birth to a girl. Her royal brother- and sister-in-law have two girls. Nobody ever mentions that a child’s sex is determined by the sperm, not the egg. Why don’t the men ever get the ‘blame’?

The Japanese Royal Family is an odd establishment, as royal families go. They’re probably run by very uptight Imperial Household Agency officials, who are uber conservative and restrictive. I mean, these princesses still have to appear in public with gloves, hats and pearls: a fashion that last was up-to-date in the 1950s, a trend that has not aged well. This wholesale aping of the British Royal Family seems a little at odds from the country that gave us innovations like the Walkman and Dance Dance revolution. Even the Thai royal family gave up on ladies-who-lunch suits and launched a revival of traditional Thai fabrics in the 1970’s and 80’s by wearing outfits Thai mudmee silk of both Thai and Western designs. The rest of the country followed suit, spurring a sense of pride in Thai culture.

II) My favourite things about working in downtown San Carlos: (a) Speederia Pizza: straightforward slices of thin crust with simple combinations (unlike the chains which overwhelm their pies with so much they become congested with confusion). (b) Plantation Café: solidly excellent and unpretentious coffee purveyed by a Korean husband and wife team who really care about the coffee, not some couldn’t-careless attitude-laden barrista. (I honestly don’t know how people can drink the swill at Starbucks.) (c) San Carlos Public Library is also a gem, almost too browser-friendly! (d) The excellent view from my desk: Caltrain pulling in and out of the station. Traffic on El Camino Real. Small planes taking off and landing at San Carlos airport. Larger jets in the distance headed for SFO. The waters of the Bay and the hills of East Bay. I think it’s all really good feng-shui too: my grandmother would have killed to be buried in a spot like this (inside family joke).

III) Reporting without context/background. News articles report facts: but lack explanation of the overiding circumstances, which in effect puts blinders on the readers.
For instance, in the business section, they’ll have an item on massive layoffs at say, HP. Six months, there’ll be an article on HP, saying that profits/revenues have risen due to cost-cutting, but they never mention/remind the reader that in increase in profits was achieved in large part by pink-slipping employees six months earlier: eliminating paychecks from ordinary folks who are raising families, putting food on the table, and providing shelter. But this benefits shareholder-investors whose dividends increase, a few of whom are retirees who depend on these funds to pay for necessary chronic medication . . .

In social/political incidents, there’s a similar lack of accounting. There’s been a lot of violence in Southern Thailand: some Muslims are bombing trains, and commiting other terrorist acts against schools, police stations and Buddhist temples, but there’s never any discussion in the news as to why they are engaging in this kind of destructive behavior: discrimination? lingering historical conflict? etc. After all, no group goes around killing and wrecking just for the heck of it: they must have a collective emotional motivation for it. Understand that and we may all be better equipped to solve this problem.

Likewise, the recent ‘racial’ riots in France that were mostly carried out by North African (non-white) immigrants that made the news: all it did was to show scenes of ‘aliens’ setting fires and vandalizing, which just simply made them look bad and even more villainous. But why did they erupt? Again, it couldn’t have been simply for the heck of it? France hadn’t lost an World-Cup qualifying soccer match against England or Morocco! I had to dig hard on the Internet to find discussion of why they were frustrated, how disenfranchised they were in general (being poor, and under-educated, unemployment, chasms of cultural differences). This seemed to be exacerbated by an attitude of insensitivity within mainstream French society/government policy. They banned students from wearing any religious symbols, showing no respect, by not giving them a choice in the matter?

Maybe this kind of discussion in a news article may be construed as editorializing, and stepping over the line from ‘strict’ journalism. Yet for the reader-on-the-street, this kind of distorted/limited supply of information is as dangerous as censorship. From soundbites, we jump to conclusions that these people are plain nuts, and vilify them. That’s unfair and uncompassionate.

Violence is never justified, but it’s more effective to tackle it first with understanding, rather than escalating violence to fight violence, as seems to be happening with the Israel vs. the rest of the Middle-East Muslim neighbours for 60 years with no end in sight. My understanding of this issue is admittedly shallow; still it’s always puzzled me why the Judaic-Islamic grudge is so intractable: Jews and Muslims have so much in common, like not eating pork, observing halal/kosher, burying their dead instead of cremating. Probably share a few prophets too. They observe Sunday as a ‘week-day (I think, Muslims have Friday prayers at mosques, hence so many jama masjids. Orthodox Jews are not allowed to do ‘work on Sabbath Saturday.) Maybe they should join forces and channel their energies in commerce. With their traits of persistence and salesmanship, they could sell gravesites to Hindus, persuade Christians to give up pork, and convince Buddhists to come on pilgrimages to visit the footprint Buddha left at the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem when he took a wrong turn at Lumpini.

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