Category Archives: blog

An Asian American in Newtown, the President’s “Gettysburgian” address, and more on the changing gun control debate

I was hoping not to see it, but in this era of diversity, how could we not expect an Asian American name on the roster of the dead children at Newtown.

Madeleine Hsu, 6 was among the 20 gunned down on Friday.

She was described as “very upbeat and kind” and the “girl who wore flowery dresses” in a Wall Street Journal account. But there was no photo and little else, as the family told an AP reporter they wouldn’t be speaking to the media.

As the facts come in, here’s one thing that stuck out for me after a weekend of news discussion shows.

Except for these mammoth events where lunacy and guns cross paths and innocents get in the way, we are a safe, safe society.

According to latest crime stats, there is no reason to feel you need a gun to be safe.

That is unless you have an issue, about paranoia, criminality, or something else. But America is much safer than everyone thinks.

Only with the addition of guns, does the safety level decrease and the danger level rise.

Another interesting tidbit: On at least two of the Sunday network news chat shows members of Congress who have a pro-gun viewpoint were invited to come on the programs.

There were no takers.

No one had the courage to stand up for their “gun lobby” convictions in the face of 20 children dead.

That’s telling, and how I know we’ve reached a turning point in the debate over gun safety.

It’s the power of the Newtown 20.

The night-capper, of course, was President Obama’s speech on Sunday night.

It was just the right kind of speech. Moving and emotional without being overly so, spiritual without being too religious, although the president did read from scripture (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) and even invoked Jesus’ name at the end.

But he was more in the role of president as national comforter. He was Parent-in-Chief, describing what it’s like to be a daddy. He showed us the real value of the young lives lost. They are all part of us.

The idea of the nation as a family, came to mind. And when he mentioned “love,” I thought the president knocked it out of the park.

But it seemed to give him a bit of courage to say the bold political words that he had yet to say as forcefully in his administration.

When it comes to gun violence he’d visited so many other scenes in his four years, but last night he said it as plainly as he could: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

He spoke of the “obligation to try.”

And then he laid out the policy path:

“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

“Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

It was already a great speech.

But was it” Gettysburgian,” as one writer suggests?

If we are caught in a modern civil war over guns, it’s an appropriate comparison. We have to come together on this issue, once and for all. The tragedy of 20 innocent children senselessly massacred goes beyond the fatalities of war. We aren’t on the battlefield, we are on Main Street U.S.A.

And then came one last invocation of the religious.

Said the president:  “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

And then he read the childrens’ names one by one, including Madeleine Hsu’s.

(See my original post on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog).

Pacquiao-Marquez V? Count on it.

After the Pacquiao Bradley debacle, I stayed true to my word. Not another pay-per-view dollar from me. Pacquiao Marquez IV to me seemed like Manny’s “Groundhog Day.” Haven’t we been through that before?

But indeed, there was a new scene we didn’t expect.

Manny Pacquiao lying face down on the canvas.

It’s an image we rarely saw–until Saturday.

He stayed down a long time.

But within minutes our champion was back up, on his feet. Just like the Frank Sinatra song, “That’s Life.”

In one of the post-fight interviews in the ring, almost immediately after (the one I saw was with ESPN) Pacquiao was asked the simple question: Was he ready for another?

Pacquiao didn’t flinch. “Why not,” said the Filipino champion. “My job is to fight.”

And with those words, I think I finally saw the truth.

I don’t think he was punch-drunk. Mind you, I was one of those who for the last three Pacquiao fights have suggested that Manny retire with his brains intact.  What can I say, I’m an ardent fan of boxing, but I value a man’s brains.

I also recognized the charismatic power of Pacquiao and saw him four years ago as someone who could rally the Philippines and maybe even spark the country with a massive dose of the pride that comes from being a world champion.

Isn’t that a bigger challenge than fisting a boastful Floyd Mayweather into submission?

Beyond the ring, there’s real life. Manny Pacquiao could be the leader of the Philippines.

That idea first came to me when I noticed the power of Manny’s charisma rising at the same time another politician was acting like an international rock star—Barack Obama.

Based on charisma and appeal, I even called him the Philippines’ Obama.

That may have been my dream. And maybe it was Manny’s too, for a brief second, as he did run and win a congressional seat in his Philippine district.

But I don’t think it’s Manny’s dream after his fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez.

Pacquiao-Marquez IV has totally changed my view.

Manny Pacquiao is not the savior of Philippine politics. He is not the statesman, the diplomat, the political leader. He’s not the future of Philippine politics or governance.

He’s a fighter. He’s a guy who works in  satin underwear with his name on it.

And hearing him talk from the weigh-in to the post-fight interviews has made me see that all too clearly.

It’s like the knockout blow from Juan Manuel Marquez knocked fans like me to their senses.

I also think it knocked a little reality into Pacquiao’s life.

Pac-man’s passion, his life, and his future is in the ring. Not in the Philippine legislature. Not in Malacanang.

It’s not in movies, nor music, either.

Pacquiao said it himself, repeatedly, even after the most vicious punishment any human could take in a sanctioned athletic event.

“I’m a fighter,” he told ESPN repeatedly. “It’s my job. I’m willing to fight.”

What did we expect after that fight? A cowering Manny? No way.

“I never expected that punch,” Manny said about the right-hand smash from Marquez that Manny walked into squarely in the 6th round. “He got me (with) a good one.”

And then the question came again. Do you want another fight, a rematch?

“Why not?” he answered.

The questioner came back, “Do you want it?”

“Of course,” Manny said. And then he repeated himself, “I’m a fighter. My job is to fight.”

It would have been nice had Manny broken into a bit of diplomatic rhetoric.  A line about “what a great champion Marquez is…” would have worked there, too. Marquez, in his post-fight interview talked about celebrating the victory for Mexicans around the world. Maybe Manny could have responded with a message to all the global Filipinos out there, that despite the defeat, they should all keep their chins up. Surely, there should have been some kind of message to those Filipinos ravaged by the recent typhoon in Mindinao. Now that was a knockout blow.

At the weigh-in, even HBO’s Larry Merchant threw Pacquiao  a softball on the typhoon to give Manny a chance to enlarge his scope beyond boxing.

Manny showed his concern, but it just wasn’t that  rhetorical flourish akin to a jab-straight-hook combo. That’s not who Manny is. But he can do wonders in the ring.

Even after the knockout blow, in his interview Manny knew his business. His true calling.

And you could sense he wanted another round.

Reports indicate that the brutal blow from Marquez may have given Pacquiao a concussion.

But when you are a boxer, concussions are as natural as blood, sweat and spittle. Those punches aren’t love taps to the head.

It’s all part of the world in which Manny belongs and is paid well for being part of. Where else is he going to get a $26 million dollar pay day just for showing up to work. That’s dollars, not pesos. His pay-per-view share, undoubtedly in the millions, is all extra. (You can watch it free this Saturday on HBO).

So I will give up my crusade insisting that Manny quit to save his brains and take on the mantle of being the Philippines’ rock star political leader.

Manny’s role goes beyond politics. He’s above all that. People go from movies and TV to politics all the time. But boxing champions are different.

They are our mythical warriors, cultural heroes. Manny doesn’t need Malacanang. He’s already head datu to Filipinos everywhere. That’s enough burden for one man. He doesn’t need the pettiness of politics. Pacquiao leads from the ring. And when he’s done, he’ll take his role as national folk hero, buddy, and humanitarian. National spirit lifter.

He doesn’t have to be Joseph Estrada.

But why rush things.

Manny turns just 34 on Dec. 17th. He’ll have a good birthday. And I’m sure an even better Christmas.

And, besides, you heard him indicate, he’s not done.

He’s a fighter. So maybe for a change we’ll really see him train like his life depended on it. And dedicate himself to showing the world that the champion can get back up and answer the bell again.

That’s what Pacquiao-Marquez IV has spawned.

Forget Mayweather. Forget the others. The franchise is set and so is the need—for Pacquiao-Marquez V.

SCOTUS and Prop.8 ; Imagining a post-racial, post-same sex marriage debate world: the movie, “In the Family”; and Manny Pacquiao’s “Groundhog Day”

If you’re not sure what the Supreme Court is doing about gay marriage from all the different news reports,  then you need a time line.

Like the proverbial egg  passing through the snake, the issue is going through the process: In 2008, California narrowly passed a state amendment that banned same-sex marriage, but then a Federal court declared the ban unconstitutional. That ruling was subsequently upheld by an appeals court. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court simply said it would review the lower court’s decision.

Asian American same-sex marriage advocates saw it as a hopeful sign. API Equality-Northern California released this statement: “By granting a review now of the lower federal court’s ruling which held Proposition 8, California’s statewide constitutional ban on same sex marriage, to be unconstitutional, we hope that the U.S. Supreme will not uphold Proposition 8, but instead seek to affirm the lower federal courts’  ruling on this issue,” said Heidi Li, a California family law attorney and Steering Committee member of Asian Pacific Islander Equality – Northern California.

So the end is in sight of this snaky process. Maybe. We hope.

THE POST-RACIAL, POST-SAME SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE MOVIE, “IN THE FAMILY”

Those of you who remember me from my TV days in San Francisco, know that one of the things I did was act as resident film critic for the NBC affiliate (I was the one with the flower in the lapel, in between the convicted pedophile and the gal with the hat fetish).

I saw a lot of films in the ‘70s and 80s. Since then, I’ve been a lot more selective. But around the holidays, I always get the urge to see films (besides “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” for the umpteenth time) because this is truly the season when we are all prodded to the cinema right through Christmas.

But do you really want to flinch at another loud, crash’em up, blow’em up, spectacle in 1,2,3,or 4-D in the 8,14, or 16-plex?

I just saw the new Bond film and already find myself in need of a break. Slow food movement? I’m ready for the slow film movement.

Here’s my answer: “In the Family,” an independent film by Patrick Wang that some are calling a “masterpiece.” That may be a bit grand, but it is a fine antidote to the crashingly commercial. It opens this weekend, Dec. 7 at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Camera Cinema in San Jose, and it’s definitely worth a look.

The film is a quiet tour-de-force. It’s absolutely one of the first post-racial, post-gay, post-hang-up movies I’ve seen ever. Hang up? That is to say it doesn’t get hung up on the obvious and because of that goes deeper. When do you recall seeing a film starring an Asian male, who is gay, in a conflict with his white family, over custody over a Caucasian child? And never once is there a mention of being Asian, or gay? Fish-out-of-water is a Hollywood convention and always played to the hilt. But here, the oddity of a Chinese American gay father in the South? Well, the movie just presumes it’s totally natural, like “Oh sure, there’s a gay interracial marriage and they’re raising a kid, and when the white father dies, the straight sister comes in to take the child.”

Oh, yeah. Like, you’ve seen these movies on Lifetime in your lifetime.

So are you ready for that?  In this movie, there’s nothing prurient or tawdry. When in a movie about gays is a kiss ever just a kiss? It is here. When is a movie with an Asian male in it just an excuse to show off some marital arts moves? All the time. But this movie is kung-fu free.

There’s also interesting things going on cinematically here. It’s an indy film so realism is a given, but this film shows off by disdaining the quick edit and letting the camera see and the actors act.  It seems like one long take after another. It is a long take. But by letting the camera go, the audience gets to see something amazing in the performance of the actors. They’re creating and letting us in on it. Cutaways? Sometimes. Mostly the camera is still and not moving, set on a wide shot and turned on. The viewer is allowed to see it all unfold as if watching a play (indeed Wang directed live theatre). Wang, an MIT grad naturally, shoots the movie in New York (Yonkers) but sets it in the South, (Martin,TN). And it’s totally believable.

So let’s review: here’s an Asian guy talking like a redneck, kissing his white husband, and raising a little white boy who calls him Daddy. With no karate chopping?

Yes, yes, yes and yes.

It doesn’t always work. In fact, you might feel like a fly in the wall who wants to move in for a closeup. Or land on someone’s nose instead of a backside.

But on the whole the movie works because it gets beyond the political rhetoric of race and gender, and marriage, and just looks at the human situation. There are even scenes that humanize the lawyers, which I actually found to be among the film’s best segments.

By the end, Patrick Wang playing Joey Williams makes perfect sense. It’s an Asian American story in a world where we simply exist. And may even be coincidentally gay, as if that matters. It’s the film after the culture clash. But even after some form of acceptance, there’s still conflict. And that’s where the movie reaches its peak.

Seeing the film reminded me of my days in Texas and Missouri where I spent the early days of my career. People thought I was Mexican and not Filipino. And then they were really confused when they heard my unaccented English and saw that I was dating their daughter.

If you want to imagine a post-racial future free of any race or gender B.S., or want to see a “Gaysian” portrayed in something other than the effeminate gal pal in chick flicks (those are the parts that used to go to Bronson Pinchot), then “In the Family” is a welcome sight.

Opening Dec.7 at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Camera Cinema in San Jose.

 

“GROUNDHOG DAY” FOR MANNY PACQUIAO?

After losing the debacle known as the Timothy Bradley fight which was so unfair even I felt cheated, Manny Pacquiao has run out of options. The best he can do is repeat himself. And the guy is human, not a machine.

The Mayweather fight is the only thing left, and that’s not happening. So what’s a Filipino super-star pugilist to do? In keeping with this posts’ movie theme, call Marquez-Pacuiao 4, “Groundhog Day.”

Manny answers the bell and it’s Marquez. Again.

No.4.(Four, by the way, rhymes with “whore” if you haven’t noticed). And what are we doing by going to the well another time except for money? I mean, I guess Pac-man shouldn’t dignify Bradley’s “championship” by fighting for the crown that was stolen from him.

So what’s left? Marquez? Again?

If it’s all rigged anyway, let me watch it all a week later  when it’s free.  So, to pre-empt your question, I’m not watching the fight this week.

 I’ll be watching my “24” DVDs all weekend long when I’m not going to Christmas cookie parties.

Pacquiao has been a great champion, but he’s got other things on his mind. And now boxing is his J-O-B.

He’s 2-0-1 against Marquez, who some say beat Pacquiao in at least one of the previous fights. I saw them all. It was close. But Pacquiao deserved the edge. Now, I’m not sure. Both are older and Marquez may get the better of Manny finally. But so what?

Part of me says, who cares about championships and belts, let’s just see a good fight. Marquez and Pacquiao fits the bill. But the other part of me hates to see Manny expose himself to more of boxing’s brutality.

He’s got a future outside of the ring—if he can leave with his brains intact.

 

That Asian American man run over by the New York subway train

The story out of New York about the death of a Korean American run over by a subway train is made more depressing when you realize how many people there were within 100 feet who didn’t bother to lift a finger to help.

If you haven’t heard about how Ki Suk Han died, you can read about it on my post at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund website blog.

I’m still struck by the coincidence of Mr. Han’s death and the Fiscal Cliff debate, AKA the debate over just how uncaring government should be.

We are being prepared  for a world with no safety net, where the government will not respond. And no one else will either.

In Mr. Han’s case,  we saw what is happening on a personal level when in an emergency there’s a lack of response.

You can hang on by your fingernails, as  Mr. Han did, for as long as you can.

A photograph taken by a freelancer, showing Mr. Han hanging on for his life,  is a depiction of our evolving national tragedy where nobody cares about anyone but themselves.

People saw Mr. Han  and looked away. A hero never arrived. But for once, public transit was on time.