ASIAN OUTLOOK volume XXIV, issue 4
Volume XXIV, Issue 4
from the cover 23 | From Hong Kong | By Michael Lee 24 | From South Korea | By Danny Lee 24 | Brief Interview | By Jeff Hwang 25 | From Vietnam | By Roxy Dinh 26 | Reprint: Being International | By Fiz Ramdhani
features 4 | ECAASU | By Kayla Natrella 6 | The State of Burma | By Aimee Mun 8 | Asianâ€™s Are Obsessed With Dangerous Beauty | By Tiffany Choi 10 | Steve Job, Meet Your Maker | By Mark Lim 14 | Asian Social Networks | By Nicele Arana
editorial 16 | Radical Islamic Hearings | By Kayla Natrella 18 | Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong | By Ricky Sosulski 19 | Arrest of Illegal Immigrants in Chinatown | By Meng Meng Zhu 20 | Flushing English Signs | By Calvin Prashad 22 | Examining the Ethnic Self | By Diane Wong
entertainment & sports 28 | Tactics Ogre Review | By Ritesh Kadam 32 | Jeremy Lin Update | By Johnny Thach
conscience 34 | Daphne Lee 36 | Michael Chung 37 | Ivan Yeung
letter from the editor...
ASIAN OUTLOOK EXECUTIVE BOARD SPRING 2011
“This [the Black Student Union] is one of those shitty welfare groups where we are somewhat forced to pay for their shit because the standard is such.”
he above statement needs some context. In order for student groups to receive their fair share of funding, they must prepare a presentation for the Student Association’s Financial Council (FINCO). Bear in mind, of course, that the budget comes from the Student Activity fee, which every BU undergraduate pays each semester. In their deliberations, explicitly noted in their minutes, FINCO expresses their derision at the BSU budget proposal, dismissing it with the notion that “if they want new programs, they’ve got to work for it.” Combining arrogance with a strange sense of entitlement, FINCO takes the power entrusted by them by the students and abuses it. Somewhere, in the grand scheme of things, the money entrusted to them was no longer the student’s money, but their money. That makes them qualified to sit in a closed meeting and dictate budgets based on their own personal biases. Such are the walls that the SA built around them. Such is the hubris that in their official minutes, they felt safe in slandering a cultural group and by extension an entire community, by playing into tired stereotypes about the African-American community. If not for the efforts of NYPRIG, such a remark may have gone unnoticed in the 70-plus-page minutes. I will not even go into how a student group asking for a slight budget increase and “welfare” is by any means equivalent. The idiocy of that statement, dear readers, should be obvious. While I read the literary gem that is in the FINCO minutes, I remember feeling, above all, an utter lack of surprise that such a remark had been made behind closed doors. Roughly, one month from now will mark the two-year anniversary of Asian Outlook’s protest against the Student Administration regarding the cavalier use of racial slurs against minorities and cultural groups. In one such case, one member of the SA—who remains on that body to this day—told an Asian-American member of the SA to go “eat a fucking dog” during a verbal altercation. We protested the system that allowed individuals to feel that they could make such remarks with impunity. Our protest did not have roots in petty student politics, but the awareness that injecting a racial slur into a personal argument denigrates an entire community. Yet after the protests, I somehow knew that individuals in the SA have not learned a single lesson. They would continue, as they always have, engaging in verbal masturbation while finding new ways to play politics with each other. We as students deserve a basic level of respect from our student representatives. We do not deserve to be denigrated based on the goals of our organizations or our cultural identities. We do not deserve stereotyping by entitled fools lacking an understanding of our groups. The member of FINCO who made this comment is above all a coward, believing that anonymity and a closed-door meeting could protect him or her from backlash. This individual would not dare call the BSU a “welfare” group in a public setting, so what is it about SA meetings that enable and encourage casual racism? I call for FINCO to identify and relieve this member of his or her duties and condemn that statement. Failing that, if FINCO wants to protect their own, as is so common when a member of the SA misbehaves, then we the students have a responsibility to force every single of member of FINCO from their positions. Comments such as the ones directed at BSU show a lack of judgment and ability to impartially delegate the students’ money to their organizations. Repeatedly, the Student Administration has embarrassed Binghamton and its student body. I have genuine reservations about granting this body greater independence through a new constitution. It appears now more than ever that even greater scrutiny and accountability is needed in the SA, a refrain we echoed only two years ago. We the cultural groups have been ignored, misrepresented and exploited for political gains by individuals that not only fail to understand us, but also fail to make an effort to understand us. We’ve had our only representative on the executive board, the Vice President of Multicultural Affairs imperiled twice in the past three years. We spoke in favor of the position, received promises to keep it in the new constitution, only to have representatives motion to remove it after we left. How much longer can we be expected to work within the framework that the SA presents us with? Calvin Prashad Edited by Jeff Hwang
editors-in-chief Jeff Hwang Calvin Prashad copy editors Alyssa Alimurung Johnny Thach Diane Wong Jonathan Yee layout editors Lillian Lai Simon Wong secretary Kayla Natrella business manager Ivan Yeung publicity managers Paul Yi Eve Zhang And congratulations to the newly elected Fall 2010 - Spring 2011 e-board!
EDITORIAL POLICY Asian Outlook is the art, literary and news magazine of the Asian Student Union of SUNY’s Binghamton University. Originally conceived and created to challenge, redefine, re-imagine and revolutionize images and perceptions associated with Asians and Asian-Americans, Asian Outlook also serves to protect the voice of those in the minority, whether by ethnicity, gender, and/or political orientation. All matter contained within these beautiful pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board. Asian Outlook reserves the right to edit submissions and publish work as deemed appropriate. Prospective contributors are encouraged to discuss their work with the editors prior to submissions. Articles may be submitted as an e-mail attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org. All artistic and literary pieces may be submitted to email@example.com.
CONTACT POLICY Uninvited contact with writers and contributors is forbidden under punishment of pain. Please direct all questions, comments and complaints to ao.editor@ gmail.com.
interested in contributing? E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org Or come to our weekly meetings held in the Asian Student Union office (UUW-329) every Thursday at 8:00 p.m.
ECAASU 2011: A Quick Recap By Kayla Natrella
The theme of this year’s East Coast Asian-American Student Union conference, held at UMass Amherst, was “Bridging the past and present by revitalizing Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) political movement to demonstrate equality for all; actions across color lines and sharing knowledge to promote a collective community.” Beginning on the afternoon of Feb. 18 and ending the following evening, the weekend was packed with speakers, entertainers and workshop leaders who were especially successful in empowering the audience and encouraging Asian-American pride.
he opening ceremonies began with two of the three key note speakers, Kent Wong and Lai Wa Wu, both of whom were supposed to talk about the DREAM Act and protecting workers rights within the APIA community. Kent Wong’s speech was smooth and effective in informing the attendees about the issues and inspiring action and everyone expected Lai Wa Wu’s to follow suit, but that is not what happened. Although she started by addressing the DREAM Act, she suddenly transitioned into a heated, impassioned speech that denounced the ECAASU leaders and organizers for allowing military and corporate sponsors. Her charged rhetoric was met with cheers and applause, but after reflection, many ECAASU attendees questioned the propriety of her deviation from the scheduled program. While some believed the points she made were ones that needed to be raised, others believed that, as a guest speaker, insulting her hosts was poor etiquette. The atmosphere was slightly awkward after Lai Wa Wu left the stage, but Paul PK Kim, the MC and comedian—also the co-founder of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK)—took the microphone back and lightened the mood. After some uplifting jokes, he spoke about how happy he is that his son will grow up in a world where Asians are commonly on television and not just as single-dimension or asexual caricatures. Glowing with Asian-American pride he told the crowd that Asians define cool and Asian is something to be proud of. The entertainers that followed were inspirational and “cool” role models that confirmed PK’s assertion that Asian-American is something deserving of pride. The impressive performers further instilled Asian-American pride and helped to abate the feelings of inferiority and isolation as members of a minority group that the Kent Wong referred to in his keynote speech. Singer Sam Kang
verbalized this sentiment by explaining that he was “creating music that can uplift our community—the Asian-American community.” With lyrics such as “Never be a slave to the white man’s eyes” and “It’s about time to start loving yourself,” Kang’s song, “So Beautiful,” served to encourage Asian-American women to break away from “white American” beauty standards and be comfortable in their own skin. Breaking away from stereotypes was another common sentiment among the ECAASU performers. Minjee, a cellist, came onto the stage wearing a professional white blouse and played a sober, classical-sounding piece, accompanied by a pianist. After a short while, she suddenly ripped off her blouse to reveal a “sexier” black lacy top, symbolic of Asian-Americans breaking out of stereotypical roles as quiet and docile. She showed the duality of human nature and asserted that Asian-Americans are no exception, just like any other group of people, Asian-Americans are multi-dimensional and not a model minority. When Beau Sia took the stage and recited his spoken word or slam poetry, he also rejected common stereotypes and expressed his objection to being stereotyped. In one poem, he said he is “Tired of being stereotyped, tired of being told ‘they [Asian-Americans] do this, they do that.’” He also spoke about the common identity crisis that Asian-Americans experience in a poem called “Chasing Bruce Lee.” During the closing ceremony, Brownstar—also spoken word poets—reiterated this in a less serious poem. The crisis is one that most Asian-Americans can relate to, thus the introduction of acronyms, such as ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). Often first generation Asian-Americans feel caught between the world and culture of their parents and the American culture that they are growing up in and have a difficult time finding a middle ground; some feel like they are never Asian enough for their parents, but never American enough for society.
After some uplifting jokes, he [Paul PK Kim] spoke about how happy he is that his son will grow up in a world where Asians are commonly on TV and not just as single dimension or asexual caricatures. The evening closed with Dumbfoundead and DJ Zo, from K-town, LA, who also protested Asian stereotypes rapping, “They got these Asian stereotypes, what’s with that? My dick’s big, I drive good and I suck at math.” The words of the performers protested stereotypes less than the actual performances which spoke for themselves. In a workshop the next morning, Phil Yu, creator and writer of the Angry Asian Man blog, explained that for many, media are windows to the world. Many people learn what Asian-Americans are all about through media, television shows and movies—especially in areas with smaller Asian-American populations. Today, AsianAmericans have much more representation than they have in the past. He referred to the various television shows, including Lost, and the various YouTube stars, such as KevJumba, as well as main stream performers, like Far East Movement. Phil Yu also talked about K-Town, the Korean version of Jersey Shore; in response to one girl’s disapproval of the image that this show will give Asians, he contended that “We [Asian-Americans] should exist in all avenues of popular culture.” Despite the progress being made by AsianAmericans in the media, Phil Yu said, “I feel like I’ve never reached a place in life where I’m like, ‘Yes! We made it!’” arguing that progress is a gradual incline that has to be maintained and worked on.
Asian Outlook at ECAASU 2011 In the closing ceremonies, the military indirectly defended itself from Lai Wa Wu’s comments. One navy officer emphasized the value of community service, diversity and tolerance in naval service and a U.S. coast guard, Captain Lou, portrayed the coast guard as a humanitarian, rescue organization, countering Wu’s presentation of all military organizations as violent and oppressive. Still, after the military representatives spoke, the last keynote speaker, Vijay Prashad, took the microphone and supported Lai Wa Wu by saying, “U.S. military spending is obscene” and “It’s awkward to be at an event funded by the military.” As his speech was less sensational and more eloquent, it was received better by some ECAASU attendees. After Professor Prashad’s speech, the rest of the night was much lighter and more enthusiastic. In an inspirational show of collaboration, all the performers from both nights spontaneously took the stage and improved together. The result was, as PK put it, “Amazing and interesting… amazing… and weird,” but the vibe in the room was excited and people were standing up, screaming spontaneously, dancing, waving arms or just sitting on the edge of their seats wondering what would happen next. One of Paul PK Kim’s closing jokes really hit a chord. He joked about how, as the only Asian-American in his school, the other kids used to ask him, “Can I blindfold you with floss?” or “Do you eat rice every day?” but he said he can’t be too offended because if there was a white kid in a Korean school, the Korean kids would ask, “Can I blindfold you with coins” or “Do you eat bread every day?” The point was that all people are the same and racism is not something that only exists in America or among the white American majority. Tolerance is something that everyone can learn and anger is not always the best solution. Overall the two days spent in UMass Amherst were well worth the $60 registration fee and travel expenses. Aside from the knowledge we gained from the workshops, speakers and entertainers, we were also able to form closer bonds and network with students from other schools. Hopefully next year we can extend out of Asian Outlook and organize an even bigger group to attend ECAASU 2012 at Duke University.
Picture Source http://www.angryasianman.com/images/angry/beausia_asiansinthelibrary. jpg http://iamkoream.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Poster4.jpg
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
the State of burma By Aimee Mun
Nov. 13 is just an ordinary day for most people. For some, it is the celebration of a relative’s birthday, a couple’s anniversary, a day for mourning. But for one nation’s people, Nov. 13 is a day that signals hope; that, perhaps, now that The Lady walks free, so will the rest of them.
ung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest symbolizes a renewed vigor in the fight for Burma’s freedom. It holds immense significance to those who carry a picture of The Lady around in their pockets, voicing silent optimisms through deafening whispers that one day their nation will walk free. But what if Suu Kyi’s release is just that—a symbol? Her party faces turmoil from within and the new faction split from the party creates a disrupting vexation for the country’s hope. Her time free is limited, even she is aware of that. Now sanctions from the West are being questioned. It’s been several months since The Lady’s release, but how this event represents the future of a democratic Burma is still in question. Despite the hope that Suu Kyi may bring, her National League for Democracy (NLD) party faces problems dealing with its endless arguments over policy issues and aging leaders. The National Democratic Force’s (NDF) split from Suu Kyi’s NLD was the result of such inner turmoil. The two parties also disagreed with boycotting the November 2010 elections, when the NDF chose to split off and contest in the election. How the party dealt with bringing change to the country was not the only topic that the two parties disagreed on. The exact position of The Lady herself— what she is to represent—was another topic that the splitoff faction could not agree on. “Of course, we are very much happy to hear about [Suu Kyi’s] release,” says Khin Maung Swe, a leader of the NDF. “But I don’t think she should take a formal political position in the NLD. She should be a sort of statesman, a democratic icon for Myanmar who brings all sides together for national reconciliation.”
Photo from: e-news
“I want to do as much as I can while I’m free,” she says. “I don’t want to tire myself out, but we never know how much time we have.” No matter, this split does not faze Suu Kyi, who is aware of the common goal both parties are fighting for. “We are all fighting for democracy,” she says. “Our goals are the same.” Suu Kyi knows her time is limited. The only reason why the military junta freed her from house arrest was out of the confidence, stronger than ever, that her influence could be controlled. They are under the impression that their authority cannot be challenged. Should they feel threatened, the military junta will use any trump excuse to send her back to prison, or worse. According to the military junta’s warnings, Suu Kyi and her party could meet “tragic ends” should they continue their support for economic and political sanctions. The military junta went as far as requesting the party to apologize for acting on what was in the “interests of the nation.” In the meantime, Suu Kyi will do whatever she can to progress her country’s democratic freedom. “I want to do as much as I can while I’m free,” she says. “I don’t want to tire myself out, but we never know how much time we have.” That means even changing opinions on long-established issues. Sanctions on Burma are one of the few ways nations can pressure the military junta. There were formidable talks from the West about strengthening sanctions on Burma, but since Suu Kyi’s release, these discussions have died down. Quite possibly it has to do with Suu Kyi’s release, or even her renewed views on sanctions. Even though Suu Kyi at first supported them against the regime, the sanctions’
negative effects on ordinary Burmese citizens are beginning to change this. “I am ready to reconsider my support of sanctions if it’s for the benefit of all of us,” she said. “I’m not afraid to consider change.” This new position will further lengthen the debate in Washington, where politicians are acknowledging that these sanctions have not been working. Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest is more symbolic than anything tangible. It’s been a few months and although hope is abundant in the Southeastern corner of the world, future change is still in question. Many are supporting the democratic victory in Burma, but progress has still yet to be made. Political action within Burma must be taken cautiously and carefully; any misguided step could put the one hope for Burma back into prison. So the world waits, eyes fixed—watching, waiting.
Sources: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2039939-1,00. html#ixzz1HHvFZa4E http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/asia/21myanmar.html?_ r=1&scp=2&sq=aung%20san%20suu%20kyi&st=cse http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2031990-2,00. html#ixzz1HI2Siiyl
Photo from: PBS
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
Asians Obsessed are
with Dangerous Beauty
By Tiffany Choi
Saeko Kimura was a shy, quiet university student. No one quite noticed her until she discovered her secret weapon: a strip of glue applied right above her eyelids. Her eyes became brighter, wider and rounder. Men started to notice her. Saeko became more confident and outgoing. She landed a part-time job as a hostess in an upscale bar. Her pay was determined on beauty. Yet, Saeko’s life was not perfect. She lived in fear of discovery, rushing to the bathroom to reapply the eyelid glue many times a day. One day, she decided to undergo plastic surgery.
aeko’s story is not unique. Asians undergo plastic surgery— breast implants, double eyelids, and nose jobs—to appease others and themselves. Beauty should be subjective, but it is apparent that it is not. Do the ends ultimately justify the means? After all, what is someone’s threshold of suffering for beauty? Why is Asia obsessed with beauty? Asian students love to receive presents, like any other students around the world. But these Asians after middle school receive their most loved present—plastic surgery to transition into high school. It is common for female Korean students to be offered plastic surgery for their graduation present. Many Asians at a younger and younger age are going under the knife, but the reasoning is much more than low self-esteem. Up to 80 percent of Beijing’s plastic surgery clients are high school seniors and college students looking to improve their appearance in search for jobs. That statistic is projected to hit 90 percent in the following years. These students believe that a better appearance will increase their chances of getting hired in this bleak economic recession. Female students in China have resorted to a weight loss tactic—eating roundworm eggs—for job interviews. Swallowing worm eggs is highly dangerous and definitely not recommended. These eggs hatch in one’s stomach and those who take them do not have to diet or exercise. The idea behind eating worms to lose weight is that the worms will help eat people’s
food, reducing the number of calories ingested. These parasites are dangerous because they can control the body and take nutrients from the food. With job shortages across the nation, female students feel pressured to look thin to stand a chance in landing a job. Asians have always suffered for beauty. Foot binding began in the late Tang dynasty and lasted for a thousand years. These women had to turn their feet into “3-inch golden lotuses.” Bound feet were a status symbol and the only way for women to marry into rich families. Some people estimate that as many as 2 billion women broke their feet trying to attain this physical perfection. These tiny feet sealed some women’s lives. Most of the women were forced to perform hard labor in the 1950s. The work was punishing and unbearable for those who had tiny feet. Their families suffered from food shortages because they were not able to walk up mountains to pick vegetables and fruit. Circle lenses, cosmetic contact lenses with a black ring, are a modern suffering for beauty. These lenses give the illusion of the big eyes from Japanese anime characters. They have been popular in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and recently the United States. Ophthalmologists and optometrists warn people against the use of these non-FDA regulated contact lenses. Circle lenses, unlike other contact lenses, cover both the iris and the conjunctiva, the white of the eye. With improper use of circle lenses, the risks include scratches to the cornea, infection, decreased vision
Swallowing worm eggs is highly dangerous and definitely not recommended. These eggs hatch in one’s stomach and those who take them do not have to diet or exercise.
Beauty should not be dangerous. But, this so-called Asian “ideal beauty” standard is highly volatile. Be careful. and decreased oxygen to the eye, which can lead to blindness. Pale skin is highly sought after and widely marketed in Asia with several skin whitening creams on the shelves. Doctors are reporting risky consequences for this trend. Pale skin causes osteoporosis, calcium deficiency and other problems. Some women use these whitening creams in large amounts. Black market products have powerful bleaching agents. Some whitening creams have acids that remove skin to reveal new skin underneath. Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration has warned people of 70 whitening creams and the Indonesian government have banned more than 50 of them. Asian women are constantly told that if they get any darker, no one would want to marry them. Lighter skin in the Asian culture is considered a sign of affluence. Nose clips are marketed as some magical nose shaper, usually for Asian women. The idea is to apply the nose clip on your nose and let it squeeze your nose into perfection. The nose clip is a way to supposedly reshape a part of your body in a painful way. Pain, pain, and pain is a common trend I see in Asian beauty. The “natural beauty” ideal seems to have disappeared. Asians have grown unhappy with their natural looks. The ideal Asian girl has double eyelids, a perfect heart-shaped face, small and high-pointed nose, thin lips, pure white skin, long eyelashes and silky light hair. In Ann Shin’s documentary, Western Eyes, the protagonists strive
for western features that they resort to cosmetic surgery in search for acceptance. She captures the true essence of the pain these two Canadian women feel. They believe that cosmetic surgery is the ticket to assimilation in their predominantly white neighborhood. Shin layers the film with interviews with references to models and other icons of beauty. Asia is simply too obsessed with beauty. The women have become less confident in their own skin that they resort to these dangerous means to hurt themselves. It is not worth it. I confess I used to be one of those girls obsessed with Asian beauty, too, but I never had the opportunities to buy circle lenses or whitening creams. I never realized how much the Asian media affected me. After all, I had my own reasons for liking each Asian trend. I considered big eyes gorgeous because you could see more of the “glistening” eyes. Lighter hair exemplified your personality and light brown hair, in particular, showed that you are more bubbly and outgoing. Pale skin showed that you protected your skin from the sun with sunscreen. I was naïve. I thought I had my reasons for everything, but I ignored the serious consequences of these obsessions. Picture Source: http://texyt.com/files/Image/cleopatra_nose_clip_close.jpg
CoCo Nose Clip, used to reshape your nose into perfection
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
After years of news leaks on sicknesses and suicides at Apple factories, a new generation of workers are fighting back, and being heard.
pple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility wherever our products are made. We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes.” This statement is proudly displayed on the website of the electronics design icon, Fortune magazine’s most admired company for the fourth year running. Its success conjured record revenue and profits in the first quarter of 2011, and sales of the new iPad 2 and Verizon iPhone will surely continue to amaze. Unfortunately, this company has been matched by its workers’ agony. No, not the Apple store ‘geniuses,’ but the invisible army of young women and men who hand-assemble the coveted
products in China. Their struggles—and unprecedented resistance—in the last year prove that the above lip service can only be realized if courageous workers, persistent reporters and the consumer conscience demand it to be so. The latest development is a partial victory belonging to 137 current and former factory workers at Wintek, an Apple supplier which makes the iPhone touchscreen. On Feb. 15, 2011, over two years after the media first brought the story to light, Apple finally admitted in its Supplier Responsibility Progress Report 2011 that the illegal chemical cleaning agent n-hexane was used in 2008. N-hexane, which was substituted for alcohol-based products in order to cut costs, caused serious health problems that required the workers to be hospitalized at Wintek’s expense. According to the report, Apple only became aware of the issue in
2010, and is monitoring everyone affected until their full recovery. Furthermore, Apple claims that most of them have returned to working. Insiders are telling a different story. First of all, Apple claims to regularly monitor its factories, and sources believe that Apple’s visiting staff at the factory was aware of the problem from the beginning. Even if they had not known, Wintek workers and labor rights groups began protesting directly to them over this and other issues since 2009. More disturbingly, the poisoned workers, worried about debilitating muscle pain and paralysis from nerve damage, present a very different view of Apple’s “socially responsible” response. Already, it is reported that 100 of the 137 affected employees were forced out of work with little compensation and no future obligation from the factory entirely contrary to the
Maker By Mark Lim
But the increasing unrest didn’t stop with Apple. The world should take notice. Meet the brave new face of the Chinese sweatshop. Report’s assurances. None of the poisoned workers ever heard from Apple, despite even translating and sending a letter to Steve Jobs. As one explained, “It’s not that we want to work here. We want to fight for our legal rights.” Worst of all, employees with chronic symptoms say that they have been turned away from hospitals since “doctors won’t treat them without assurance that their employer will pay the bills.” Instead of stepping up its involvement in the face of bad press, Apple continues to dodge the enforcement of its ethics standards. This is not the only recent incident which got the company in hot water. In June 2010, The New York Times headline, “After Suicides, Scrutiny of China’s Grim Factories,” summarized what had by then become a full-blown scandal actually worthy of a response from Jobs himself. It is centered on the enormous, half-million strong, walled
factory-town complex that is “Foxconn City” in Shenzhen, China. If Apple is the crown jewel of the electronics world, this is its
“It’s not that we want to work here. We want to fight for our legal rights.” fortress. To comply with Apple’s legendary secrecy requirements, outsiders, including family, are hardly ever allowed in. Workers
are “warned not to talk to strangers, especially journalists;” metal detectors ensure no one brings cameras or cell phones onto the factory floor. Foxconn, “the single largest private employer in mainland China,” was largely an unknown name to Americans until some of its workers began to feel that they had had enough. Starting in January, the militarily-run complex was rocked by a spate of worker suicides, all jumpers under 25 years old. According to the factory’s records, over 20 suicides were prevented, but 11 were dead by June. To some, 11 suicides seem unavoidable. Steve Jobs argued as much, saying “Foxconn’s suicide rate is well below the China average.” But when reporters came swarming, the world gained a peek inside their favorite goods’ birthplace. That place, it turns out, wasn’t much different from a sweatshop. China’s tabloids have dubbed Foxconn
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
2,000 factory workers strike on June 7, 2010 at KOK Machinery rubber factory in Jiangsu Province City the “suicide express.” Exhibit A is Ma Xiangqian, a 19-year-old worker and one of millions of rural Chinese determined to bring his family out of poverty. He started working in November, fusing plastic and metal in 11-hour shifts, 28 nights a month, while fumes and dust caused hand and eye damage against which he received no protective equipment. His sister, who also worked there, said, “We were not allowed to talk during work. We weren’t even allowed to look around. Our superiors used a stop watch to time us. We were fined for any mistakes we made.” Enduring constant cursing from his manager, he was demoted to scrubbing toilets. In the early hours of Jan. 23, he was found dead on the ground outside his dorm. On Ma’s corpse were wounds and bruises unrelated to his fall; security guards have been known to beat misbehaving workers. But physical assault or not, Ma’s sister insists that instead of treating him with dignity and respect, “the factory was always abusing my brother.” His case brings up an important point: is Apple responsible for any of this? It’s true, neither the factory nor the government can claim innocence, since they too fail to enforce humane standards for work. Furthermore, Apple is only the most wellknown of several corporations, such as Dell and HP, who use the factory. But consider this: in January, “a consortium of 36 environmental groups in China published a report ranking more than 39 multinational technology companies on how they handled inquiries about environmental and
occupational health hazards in their supply chains. Apple ranked dead last.” Yes, it is known for a culture of secrecy. But when it comes to upholding its self-proclaimed responsibilities, this evasive behavior, over information as basic as a list of its products’ factories, raises serious questions about its real commitment to worker well-being. The report called, “The Other Side of Apple,” contradicts the company’s
“The root of abuse is the knowledge on the part of both governments and companies that, no matter how workers are treated or what they are paid, investment will continue to pour in and goods to pour out.” declaration of open cooperation to end inhumane working conditions. Besides keeping the outside world from knowing the facts behind its products’ creation, Apple is also keeping its promises from its workers as well. Unsurprisingly, most factory workers have no idea what Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct is. But if they did, they would find it laughable that the document guarantees that “workers will not be harassed, that
working hours will be in compliance with local law, and that overtime work should be on voluntary basis.” In truth, harassment is a daily occurrence and workers are required to sign an illegal “Voluntary Overtime Pledge.” Workers believe that they deserve better treatment. As one says, “we come to look for jobs, but the attitude of the [orientation training] instructors makes us feel as if we come to beg for their mercy.” A survey of employees reveals that workers’ most frequent desire was for a more “civil” management. Dehumanized by isolation from the outside world and subject to “military-style drills, verbal abuse by superiors and ‘self-criticisms’ they were forced to read aloud,” four attempted suicide in March. A 17-year-old girl, Tian Yu, survived. Her father, blaming the “militarystyle management,” urged Foxconn to change its treatment of workers. Instead, Foxconn was draped in suicide nets around buildings, while an anti-suicide rally was organized over the summer. Managers even forced many to sign “no suicide” contracts at least until the ploy was revealed. The only way that this brutal management style can be upheld is by the constant inflow of new workers. One-third of Foxconn must be replaced every year (18). Therefore, the factory relies on exploiting the millions of hopeful rural migrants. But you wouldn’t know that by listening to Steve Jobs. In one publicized e-mail exchange last June, he bragged, “We do more [for social responsibility] than any other company on
the planet.” And at the height of the suicides last spring, he praised Foxconn, saying, “You go in this place and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools.” But with wages well below the “living wage” even with overtime most workers don’t have the time, money or energy to indulge them. According to one experienced worker, “Now I don’t even bother get a newspaper, I go directly back to dorm and sleep.” Many workers chose to do more than sleep in 2010. They protested, loudly. An unheard-of wave of strikes rippled through China, starting with a successful strike from a Honda factory where they boldly demanded their own labor union. Factory managers, in a break from 30 years of repression, are beginning to notice that workers are more demanding than ever and can no longer be ignored. Even Foxconn promised to increase wages by 30 percent after receiving heat from the press apparently, they noticed fewer workers willing to subject themselves to the “Foxconn City” experience. Most of the dissatisfied protesters represent a new generation better educated and more demanding than their parents. More and more are following the path of one worker, who said, “I’m going home, back to my home
province. I’ve had enough of this. There’s a saying here you can have the boss’s money, but he’ll take your life. It’s just not worth it anymore.” Even with large wage increases throughout China, an expert admits, “There’s no doubt about it. They don’t want to work in the factory.” Encouraging this new attitude, reporters throughout China have covered the labor unrest with greater freedom and attention than ever before. Make no mistake: 2010 was a turning point and maybe even the birth of a new labor movement. Wages are rising fast, and American businesses are already contemplating the end of the “Made in China” era as laborers begin to choose self-employment and white-collar jobs over the assembly line. It’s no coincidence that every local government in China has been forced to raise the minimum wage twice in the last two years. So, to return to the point: there is something wrong when even a company that essentially sells “cool” for hundreds or thousands of dollars a piece would rather hide the ugliness behind its products than make a change. With the attention of the American and Chinese media, companies like Apple are being forced to face the awakening of “labor consciousness” in
China. As the activist group China Labor Watch said, “The root of abuse is the knowledge on the part of both governments and companies that, no matter how workers are treated or what they are paid, investment will continue to pour in and goods to pour out.” This quote was from first time newspapers exposed iPod factories a full five years ago. In 2010, neither the government nor corporations could ignore the rising voices of workers. Factories across China aren’t noisy with just the sounds of machines anymore. Sources: http://www.bjreview.com.cn/nation/txt/201103/06/content_339130.htm http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/ technology/23apple.html?_r=1&ref=laborissues http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/business/ global/07suicide.html?pagewanted=1&_r=4 http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2010/11/thomaslee-foxconn/?pid=430&viewall=true http://sacom.hk/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/ report-on-foxconn-workers-as-machines_ sacom3.pdf http://www.business-humanrights.org/media/ documents/it_report_phase_iv-the_other_side_ of_apple-final.pdf http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/ commentary/cultofmac/2006/06/71138?current Page=2
Workers in a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen attended a rally to increase morale after a spate of suicides
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
Global vs. Asian Online Social Media Networks (SMS)
By Nicele Arana
Google, Facebook and YouTube are well-known names to Americans, but they are neither the only internet services available in Asia, nor the most popular. Besides from offering Asian languages, sites like Facebook do not cater specifically to the Asian market. Chinese, Japanese and South Korean internet companies are able to maximize their profits by providing services specifically tailored to users in their own country.
n China, Baidu is the most frequently used Chinese search The social media site (SMS) situation is different in other Asian engine—according to Alexa rankings, Baidu is currently countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where Friendster and number six in the world. Tencent QQ is the most widely used Multiply are still widely used as compared to in Western countries. internet service portal with various platforms According to comScore, Facebook is the most widely including Qzone, QQ instant messenger, QQ mail, used social networking site in Indonesia, the and SOSO search engine. Currently, there are 300 Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and million active QQ accounts in China. Vietnam, whereas it is still Mixi in Japan, Cyworld In South Korea, Naver is the most popular Web in South Korea, Wretch in Taiwan and Orkut in portal that offers a multimedia search engine, India. blog service, email service and more. SK Telecom, Although the growing popularity of Facebook which owns Nate, another frequently used web in Asian countries is evident, there are still portal, also owns Cyworld, the most popular major cultural differences that result in obvious online community in South Korea. Established distinctions between Asian SMS, especially in in 1999, Cyworld uses a popular “Minihompy” China, Japan and South Korea, and the rest of service, short for mini homepage, which is their the world. When comparing a typical Facebook personalized blog service. Cyworld attempted to profile with a typical Qzone or Cyworld personal enter the U.S. and European markets in 2006 but homepage, it is clear that Asians put more value quickly shut down by 2010. Despite its failure in customization and online gaming. QQ, Cyworld in reaching the global market, it is still the top and Mixi are so much more profitable in their Tencent’s QQ mascot online community in South Korea, with close countries because they have taken advantage of to 25 million active accounts. Cyworld also retains its popularity these interests by using digital goods as a means of personalization, among Korean celebrities and socialites known as “uhlzzangs”. Only and by offering a much wider variety of games. recently did Korean pop stars begin to branch out and open Twitter Source: accounts in order to reach more international fans. Cyworld is also http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_vs_asia_top_social_ facing some competition with Facebook’s open platform, but Cyworld networks.php has stronger privacy rules, as it requires identity verification prior http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/4/Social_ Networking_Across_Asia-Pacific_Markets to registration. In Japan, popular names include Yahoo! Japan, Mixi, Rakuten and http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2011/01/123_80332.html Nicovideo. Yahoo! Japan is created specifically for Japanese users and is http://socialmedia.kuinteractive.com/2010/11/cultural-differences-cyworldmore popular than Google Japan, according to Alexa traffic rankings. vs-facebook/ http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/techfile/136863-cyworld-has-aMixi is the top social-networking site in Japan with 14 million different-take-.html accounts. Nico Nico Douga, also known as Nicovideo or Niconico, is the http://asiancorrespondent.com/42929/indonesia-and-its-social-networkmost popular video-sharing website, especially among the anime addiction-in-the-media-spotlight/ fan-base in Japan.
Hearings on Radical Islam and the
Legacy of Japanese Internment By Kayla Natrella
How does the legacy of wartime Japanese-American internment relate to the contemporary anti-Muslim hysteria?
he internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is a black mark on America’s wartime history. Decades later, we now know that not a single Japanese-American committed an act of treason against the United States and many fought with distinction in Europe. Today, as America is at “war” with Islamic extremists and many leaders call for greater scrutiny on Muslim-Americans, Japanese-Americans make up many of the various critics voicing concern over Congressman Peter King’s “radicalization” hearings. Since the 9/11 attacks, the Japanese-American community has shown continued and unwavering support for Muslim-Americans. With internment still in their minds, these recent hearings hit too close to home. In an op-ed published in The San Francisco Chronicle, Rep. Michael M. Honda, who spent a few of his childhood years in an internment camp, condemns Peter King’s hearings as “something similarly sinister.” Honda also accuses King of intending to “cast suspicion upon all Muslim-Americans and to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia.” Although most agree that homegrown terrorism is a problem that needs to be addressed, by calling these discussions “hearings” or an “investigation,” King is implying that all Muslim-Americans are guilty by association and reinforcing the ostracism of this group from mainstream American society. Just as the government ostracized Japanese Americans in 1942, segregating them from society out of fear that few among them may have been spies for the Japanese government, King would have all MuslimAmericans condemned as guilty until proven otherwise to be safe. Republican Representative from Long Island and Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Peter T. King recently held House hearings on radical Islam to assess “the extent of the radicalization” of American Muslims. Critics of the hearings have accused King of scapegoating and targeting an entire religious community and have even contested his credibility as the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee based on his past support for the IRA. Those defending Peter King argue that he has a right and obligation to look into the problem of homegrown terrorism. However, if King’s sole agenda is to work with the Muslim-American community to come up with solutions to this problem, then he could hold discussions with leaders of the Muslim-American community or organize a panel of religious and community leaders to assess and analyze the issue, subsequently developing an appropriate course of action. Instead, Peter King justifies his hearings by arguing that leaders of the American Muslim community have repeatedly failed to cooperate with authorities and law enforcement officials. Nonetheless, there were no leaders of large Muslim organizations or national law enforcement officials among his witnesses to validate his assertion. In his op-ed, Mike Honda refutes King’s claims that the Muslim-American population has not cooperated with law officials, referencing Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who “[asserted], unequivocally, that cooperation with the [Muslim-American] community is active and aggressive.” Honda also points out that King’s assertions have been refuted by U.S. counter terrorism experts and top law enforcement officials. Peter King’s witness choices for the hearings were even controversial. Two of the six witnesses were the father and uncle of
young boys recruited into a radical Islamic group who related their stories. Like charged King’s rhetoric, this seems like a manipulative attempt to play on the emotions of those in attendance. Although touching, the stories that these two witnesses offered could not have offered any constructive advice or intelligence into finding the solution to radicalization. Another was a Muslim man who expressed his belief that Muslim leaders need to speak out more aggressively against radicalization and be less defensive, which seemed more like an answer to King’s criticism, rather than valuable testimony. Of the last three, two were congressmen and the third, Sheriff Lee Baca, who the Democrats called as a witness.
“America is a country that promotes individualism and in such a society there is no room for people like Peter King who would hold an entire community responsible for the individual acts of few.” Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress and one of the two congressmen called as witnesses, supported Peter King in his right to investigate radicalization, but argued that “to say we’re going to investigate a religious minority, and a particular one, I think it is the wrong course of action to take.” Despite his and King’s difference of opinion, Ellison participated in the hearings to offer an alternative view. Amidst the emotional accounts of sons who were brainwashed and recruited by radical Muslim terrorist groups, Ellison presented an emotional story of his own. Ellison presented the true story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a 23-year old Muslim-American paramedic and New York City police cadet, who, as Ellison said, “gave his life for other Americans” during the 9/11 tragedy. He reminded the audience that Hamdani was only one of many Muslim-Americans who died during the attacks or died rescuing victims of the attacks, yet even he was briefly under suspicion of terrorism just because he was a Muslim-American. Ellison’s story was particularly appropriate and poignant because Hamdani was just one of many typical American boys and despite his ultimate sacrifice for his fellow Americans, some slandered his name with unfounded suspicions. Similarly, King’s hearings cast unfounded suspicion on an entire community of American people and isolate Muslim-Americans from the greater American society. America is country that promotes individualism and in such a society there is no room for people like Peter King who would hold an entire community responsible for the individual acts of few. The suspicion and distrust that he cultivates is detrimental to the goal of a pluralistic society, as it perpetuates xenophobia and the view of Muslim-Americans as foreigners or demi-Americans. In the end, the hearings lacked substance, as much of the conversation focused on the propriety and justifiability of the hearings, rather than radicalization.
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
LINGLONG TINGTONG Idiocy, misunderstanding and what we all can learn from it By Ricky Sosulski
hing chong ling long ting tong. The words, or sounds, that set off a nation. These words were uttered in a video posted by Alexandra Wallace, a political science major at UCLA, in a rant about Asians on the UCLA campus. Wallace complains about a varying array of topics that further highlight cultural differences between the East and the West in addition to the great need for cultural understanding that still exist to this day and her density. The cultural misunderstanding began when Wallace began talking about the visible presence of Asian families on the campus and helping out in the apartment complexes, which led her to insist that “[Asians] don’t teach their kids to fend for themselves.” This grave misunderstanding of a key cultural difference between the East and the West is clearly seen as ignorance to the fact that Asian societies highly value the family while the western societies value individuality. This misunderstanding is mirrored in Beau Sia’s persona poem of Wallace when he pleads, “I don’t understand their language, their culture, the way they hold family sacred and shared. . .” This is only the first instance of misunderstanding—it goes on. Next, Wallace brings up the suggestion to use “American” manners while in America—with “no talking on the phone in the library” being her main case. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the level of manners present in America has severely dropped, especially in the case of the American youth with the increasing improvements in technology. You would be hard-pressed to find a college student who has not used his or her phone while in the library, no less not texting. We youths are so entrenched in technology that our interpersonal skills—which includes our manners—have significantly decreased, making Wallace’s argument a weak and dimwitted one. Just when one thinks that her obtuseness and insensitivity could not get any worse, she brought up the tsunami in Japan topic in much bad taste, leaving viewers dumbfounded at the end of the video. The reaction to her video has spurred many spoofs and video blogs in response, including one by DavidSoComedy and a special mention in Ryan Higa’s “Off The Pill - Rebecca Black (Friday)” along with some not so great feedback. According to The Daily Bruin, UCLA’s own publication, in the article “Violent, sexist responses to YouTube video indicate widespread insensitivity,” stated that “comments on the video have been extreme, with some using sexist
obscenities, while still others actually ask for her to be raped and killed.” Though I think Wallace is quite unintelligent for posting such a video, I do not believe that it is offensive enough to warrant death threats—I see it as just an expression of her stupidity. To echo Wallace, since we do live in America we have the freedom of speech and the right to our own opinions, no matter how vacuous it may be. With that being said, was the extent of the backlash—the rape and death threats—that Wallace received fair and just? If we have the freedom to say what we want under the circumstance that it does not endanger anyone, how is it right for people to threaten Wallace’s life? The answer is simply that it is not right. She did not endanger anyone with her words so we should not endanger her with ours. Adding to this is an article from The Wrap, titled “Alexandra Wallace to Withdraw from UCLA over Asian Rant.” It states that she did issue an apology and will be withdrawing from the university. This also strikes up questions of fairness in my mind—was it fair for those who commented to trigger her withdrawal from UCLA? Her reputation would be damaged regardless, harming her future career, whatever it may be, as a result for her words. So why should she also have her prospective degree also taken away from her? The entire ruckus caused by her video is good for one thing: it points out the ever present need for understanding on both sides of the racial divide in American society. From Wallace’s video we can learn to differentiate between what opinions and attitudes are no good and those that are acceptable; and that threatening someone is not the right reaction to an opinion that one does not like. Good can come from the wreck that this video made. We just have to be willing to work on what is wrong to ensure its attainment.
Sources: http://www.dailybruin.com/index.php/article/2011/03/violent_sexist_responses_to_youtube_video_indicate_widespread_insensitivity http://www.thewrap.com/media/article/uclas-youtube-ranter-andbikini-model-wannabe-alexandra-wallace-considered-postingmore-abou?page=0,1
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Team Crackdown in New York’s Chinatown By Meng Meng Zhu The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) charged 26 business owners in Chinatown for their role in the operation of a smuggling ring and the employment of illegal aliens. How does the event fit in Obama’s agenda of immigration reform?
alk down the streets of Chinatown, NYC and you will notice that the demographics of this area are not like that of most of the United States. Most of the residents in Chinatown are Asian immigrants. It is no surprise that not all of them are in the United States legally. The immigration and Customs Enforcement seemed to have noticed the same thing. ICE’s investigation into the employment of illegal immigrants in Chinatown began in Feb. 2010. In Oct. 2010, ICE charged 26 business owners involved in a large illegal worker’s ring in Chinatown. The event serves as a testament to President Obama’s promise that he will strengthen immigration enforcement, punish employers of illegal immigrants and deter illegal immigration of people who seek to live in the United States illegally. James Hayes Jr. , U.S. ICE Special Agent in Charge for New York is clearly satisfied with the results. He announced that the recent arrest is the largest investigation of employers of illegal immigrants in New York City. Hayes explained, “The targets of this investigation are business owners and smugglers who allegedly sought to enrich themselves by depriving their employees of basic human rights and freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution,” he said. Hayes also released a statement commenting, “As this investigation reinforces, criminal worksite enforcement investigations of egregious employers remain a priority of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in New York City and throughout the country.” The employers arrested in the
investigation are charged with aiding the smuggling of illegal immigrants, participating in money laundering and providing employment services and lounging to illegal immigrants. According to FOX News, they can face sentences ranging from three to 20 years if indicted. The illegal immigrants, who work in restaurants and other establishments, were not among those arrested. Now with court proceedings underway, the bigger question is whether the arrests will help with the problem of illegal immigration. The arrest of the business owners might deter some smugglers from participating in the smuggling rings and force business owners to think twice before employing illegal aliens but what will the illegal immigrants that are already in the United States do? Now, I do believe in punishment for people that aide the smuggling of illegal immigrants into this country. They are breaking the law. However, some of the people arrested seem to be simply helping immigrants obtain a job and survive. Isn’t it better that illegal immigrants work in restaurants than be forced to linger in the alleyways selling drugs? In addition, the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S. seems to be unstoppable. Aliens and their families are willing to endure the hardships of living in the shadows in the U.S. and pay an estimated $75,000 to immigrate to the States. Even though the United States has a stagnant economy, illegal immigration is clearly still an attractive alternative to life in Asia. It is clear that the U.S. must work with and aid other nations in improving
their socioeconomic conditions along with enforcing immigration policy here in the United States. President Obama gave a speech at American University on July 1, 2010 clarifying his stance on immigration. He declared, “[Being American] is a matter of faith. It’s to a matter of fidelity to shared values that we all hold so dear. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes us strong. Anybody can help us write the next great chapter in our history.” Keeping in mind that vision held by President Obama and by the many immigrants in the United States, I wince as I hear about the increasing enforcement of immigration policy. Though I understand that the United States wants to signal that it is now serious about enforcing its immigration policy in contrast to how it was in the past decades, the lack of alternative options for illegal immigrants already in the country makes the current policy seem draconian. For the law abiding illegal immigrants who are in the States already, we can only hope that Congress passes immigration reform soon so that they can make a legal living and contribute to U.S. society. Sources: h t t p : / / w w w. b a r a c k o b a m a . c o m / i s s u e s / immigrationreform/index.php h ttp : / /w w w. f ox n ew s . c o m /u s /2 0 1 0 /1 0 /0 7/ f e d s - a r r e s t- n ew -yo r k- b u s i n e s s - ow n e r s unauthorized-worker-ring/ http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=usunemp loyment&met=unemployment_rate&tdim=true &dl=en&hl=en&q=unemployment+rates http://kevinwrites.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83452d 71369e20120a5608489970c-800wi
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
Should Asian-American Businesses Be Forced To Have English Dominant Signs? By Calvin Prashad
For the average, non-Chinese outsider walking through downtown Flushing, Queens, the sights, smells and sounds are intimidating. Few people view this neighborhood wvith a sense of adventure or an opportunity to learn and experience new cultures. Instead, they see a crush of foreigners, a monolithic, unwelcoming presence that is overtly hostile to outsiders. People with this mindset, that Flushing’s transformation into a majority Chinese and Korean ethnic neighborhood has turned it into a “foreign” land, are unwilling to accept newcomers to Flushing in any form.
populist movement to force ethnic merchants to display English signage for their businesses ties directly into this notion of Asians as “perpetual foreigners” that must be forced to assimilate, rather than allowing a natural harmony between “traditional” and American culture to coalesce. At the forefront of the English signage movement is an “advisory” board with delusions of changing every sign in Flushing until English is the predominant language. A vast majority of businesses on Main Street and the intersecting avenues already have some English on the signs, if not a majority of the signs. Compounded with that, Asianowned businesses do not constitute a clear majority of businesses on Main Street. With the supermarkets and herb shops, there are also fast food chains, banks and other establishments, such as Duane Reade drugstores that are present in every other neighborhood in New York City. With so many other ethnic neighborhoods in the city, why then is there such intense scrutiny on Flushing businesses? The intense hostility that Asian residents deal with in Flushing is rooted in a collection of older residents that long for a time when Flushing was a lily-white suburb, albeit in a major economic slump. Asians, by virtue of being “different” could never fit into this vision. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Asian businesses revitalized the neighborhood only to have their political representative - former City Councilwoman Julia Harrison, insult them as “rude merchants” and “criminal smugglers”. The election of John C. Liu to the City Council changed the political dynamic of Flushing and placed it firmly in the hands of the Asian-American residents. Predictably, residents ratcheted up the rhetoric claiming that they were “losing their neighborhood” and that the election of an Asian-American representative was part of a progression that would see them forced
“For several months we have had meetings regarding the use of English in the stores and on their signs. We have gotten nowhere. All we hear are what seems to be one excuse after another. Enough... It seems that the stores will not voluntarily install the English signs inside or outside the stores. Why won’t you either strengthen the already existing law or rewrite a new law either in the City Council or the State Legislature, and do this in our lifetime[?]” - Mary Ann Boroz, Flushing resident from Flushing. Even as recent as 2009, one of Flushing’s district leaders remarked that Flushing could have an “Asian” candidate or a “qualified” candidate. Granted, there are definite problems that coincide with Flushing’s population boom. As Queen’s northernmost transit hub, vehicle traffic is almost perpetual and parking is a nightmare. The sewer and drainage systems, put in place decades ago can no longer endure the crush of humanity that relies on it, so flooding during heavy rainfall is endemic. The prevalence of apartment buildings over single-family homes contributes to the strain on infrastructure. Combined with the construction of several shopping complexes and supermarkets, overly critical residents echo the popular refrain of “overcrowding” to justify their opposition to new residents in the area. Lastly, there is a growing rift between Korean and Chinese merchants as the development of Korean businesses lags significantly behind booming Chinese businesses. The construction of a Flushing Commons, a new, massive development on the site of a municipal parking lot threatens to imperil Korean establishments by eliminating vital parking for potential customers. Most Chinese businesses will not have this problem as they lie within easy access of mass transit. Nonetheless, the uneasy coexistence of these businesses only provides incentives to appeal to a broad base of customers. At its root, the reason why “English-only” and “English-dominant” movements are so particular to Chinese-American neighborhoods is abject jealousy over the successes of the businesses. While some residents may have similar sentiments about New York’s Hispanic, Indian, Russian and Hasidic neighborhoods, this movement is by far
the most organized and determined. Beyond all else, the advisory board that recommends such sweeping changes do not take into account the costs for business owners to replace their signs. Not only the tremendous monetary costs, but also pragmatically speaking, the primary clientele of these businesses that have nonEnglish dominant signs are Chinese and Korean speakers. In forcing a change to the language they conduct business in, residents are attempting to make a political statement rather than acting out of a concern for the community. The casual observer will notice that at any given supermarket on Main Street, serves people of all races and ethnic groups with almost every single item labeled in English. Ethnic enterprise is the hallmark of a strong community. Trying to stifle businesses with useless legislation and harassment shows a lack of vision and genuine concern for the community. Sources Ravich, Vladic. “Flushing Drama Trumps Dem Choices.” Queens Tribune. Queens, May 29, 2009. Santos, Fernanda. “A Queens Development Raises Ethnic Tensions.” The New York Times. Queens, New York, July 14, 2010. Sheets, Connor Adams. Flushing board wants bilingual store signs now. March 24, 2011. http://www.yournabe.com/articles/2011/03/28/flushing_ times/news/ft_english_signs_folo_20110324.txt.
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
Examining the Ethnic Self Through Personal Narratives By Diane Wong
While reading the passages from Ben Xu’s article describing the four mothers in The Joy Luck Club and their survival mentalities, it is almost as if Xu is describing my own mother.
mbedded in my mind is the age-old Chinese saying: chi ku, which means enduring hardship or a literal translation of “eating bitter.” Ever since I was a little girl, in order to get me to do something without complaint, my mother would tell me to “just do it, Chi Ku now, and benefit in the future.” As a child I heard these words often, but their meaning never quite sunk in. As I have grown older, I’ve come to realize the importance of the term Chi Ku, and its relevance to my mother’s life philosophy. Namely, her belief is one should work hard and tolerate whatever agony comes their way in order to gain what they hope to achieve for themselves and those they care about. My mother has taught me that without hardship and bitterness, there can be no happiness and rewards in life. As I have grown older, I’ve noticed that this mentality is expressed by not just my own mother, but many other first generation Chinese immigrant parents in America who see life as a constant test of survival. Ben Xu’s article “Memory and the Ethnic Self: Reading Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club” addresses this phenomenon and terms it as the “survival mentality.” My mother is a first generation immigrant to America from Shanghai, China. My mother came to America because of the Cultural Revolution that was affecting the lives of my family back in Shanghai. During the Cultural Revolution, there was a policy that each family had to send a child to the countryside to work. My grandmother chose to send my mother, rather than my uncle, as a result of the Chinese tradition in which boys were valued more than girls. So at 18, my mother was sent to the countryside to work on the rice paddies. She told me many stories about the three years that she spent there, but one story stuck with me in particular. It was a Sunday morning and I was with my mother shopping in Pathmark for supplies we needed for a barbecue. I remember running straight to the candy isle to pick up some chocolate bars. After I presented the chocolate bars to my mother, I saw her
disapproving eyes and could instantly tell that she was unhappy with what I had just done. She didn’t speak a single word to me the entire car ride home and I recall staring numbly outside of my window, not knowing what I did wrong. Once we arrived at home, my mother sat me down and told me the story of when she had her first chocolate bar. It was on her 20th birthday and since she was still in the countryside at that time, her father had traveled miles to hand deliver a chocolate bar. She told me that she felt bad for eating the chocolate bar right away, so instead she hid it under her bed for a special occasion. However, a couple days later, the chocolate bar disappeared and she was clouded with feelings of bitterness. From this one story, she branched out to many other stories from her memory that revealed to me all of the struggles that she had to endure in China, such as witnessing my grandfather commit suicide, watching my grandmother get humiliated by the Red Guards, surviving three years in the countryside as a barefoot doctor and countless other tragic stories that do not have their place in this essay. The conversation that my mother had with me ended with her telling me that she came to America hoping to provide my brother and I with a life completely different from the one she had in Shanghai. Although she had accomplished that much, she regretted having raised my brother and I with so much American character; we didn’t know how to chi ku and, as a result, we didn’t have the same survival traits that she did. As Xu mentions in his article, the stories that my mother tells me along with those stories that the mothers in The Joy Luck Club tell their own daughters, come from memory. These memories come in the form of stories and narratives and help the mothers maintain their fragile identities in an alien culture. These memories however, do not represent a perfect replication of the events which they purport to describe, rather they represent meaningful happenings. The value that the mothers assign to certain memories of past
events is awakened in memory by a functioning mentality—their survival mentality. This survival mentality becomes a symbol of nationality and ethnicity for the mothers in The Joy Luck Club, as well as my own mother after coming to America (Xu, 9). Their memories act as a “socializing, ego forming expression of anxieties, hopes and survival instinct”(Xu, 6). Similar to the mothers in The Joy Luck Club, my mother places value on memories that have provided her with hope, inspiration and survival instinct. My mother values the memories of her life in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution over other memories after coming to America because they act as a psychic defense and lessons for her everyday life. My mother constantly emphasizes the importance to chi ku, because chi ku has been prescribed as a main trait for survival for my mother. When I think back on the conversation that I had with my mother, it is apparent that she tells me her stories in order to prepare me for the many challenges that I will face in my own lifetime. The more I
importance of my mother’s stories when I was younger. I felt that she would tell me these stories as an excuse to make me do what she wanted. For example, if I did not finish eating the rice in my bowl, my mother would remind me of when she had worked dawn until dusk on the rice paddies picking rice with her bare hands; if I refused to see my grandfather for a particular reason, my mother reminded me of how she grew up without a grandfather. My mother won in all of these battles and I always ended up feeling bitter or regretful for her ever telling me her stories in the first place. Xu brings up this exact dilemma when describing the mother-daughter relationship between Lindo and her daughter, Waverly and Suyuan and her daughter, Jing-mei. Lindo makes Waverly learn chess at a young age to acquire the knowledge of “luck” and “tricks,” but Waverly finds it hard to understand her mother’s survivalist mentality and instead accuses her mother of using her to show off to others and taking all the credit (Xu,10). Suyuan teaches Jing-mei to be competitive so
“. . .I saw her disapproving eyes and could instantly tell that she was unhappy with what I had just done. She didn’t speak a single word to me the entire car ride home and I recall staring numbly outside of my window, not knowing what I did wrong.” reflect on her narratives, the more I realize the truth in her words. Xu focuses on the mother-daughter relationship in The Joy Luck Club. He observes that the relationship is not based on material service, like it is in many American families, but rather the role of the mother is to prepare the daughter for extreme life situations, to give the daughter psychic protection and to provide her with the mental strength she will need to survive on her own. The Chinese mother does not do this out of benefiting oneself, but because she herself was a co-victim who has managed to survive struggles in her own life. Just like my own mother, the mothers in The Joy Luck Club feel that their daughters do not have the same sense of self and the strong survival mentality that they have and they are afraid that their daughters will not be able to hold themselves together. In order to help their daughters become more like them and to help them develop a sense of self, the mothers tell their daughters the stories of their own struggles. In doing so, the mothers hope that these stories can help their daughters to develop the traits they see as necessary for survival. In The Joy Luck Club, for instance, Ying-ying was taught at a young age that girls should conduct themselves with passivity and obedience. As a result, Ying-ying loses her sense of self and her voice by being meek and passive. She decides to tell her daughter Lena about her past identity struggle because she realizes that Lena has the same passivity that she had once suffered from. By telling the story, Ying-ying hopes that she can help Lena develop her own voice and her own sense of self. Similar to Ying-ying, my own mother tells me stories about her previous struggles in life, so that I can grow a stronger sense of self by listening to them. Admittedly, I refused to acknowledge the
at a young age, Jing-mei is sent to learn how to play the piano. Jingmei confuses her mother’s persistence as her mother’s inability to be satisfied. Xu observes that ultimately once the daughters experience their own dilemmas in life, they come to realize the true value and reason behind the way their mothers pushed them from a young age. It is only after the change from resistance to acquiescence occurs that the daughters experience growth, maturity and learn to identify with their own as well as their mother’s experiences. This selfrealization occurs only after the daughters learn to identify with their mothers and only after they learn to understand the rich and diverse meanings of their mothers’ stories instead of labeling them as irrelevant events of the past. Similar to the daughters in The Joy Luck Club, after living through my own struggles in life, I have come to appreciate my mother’s stories. Rather than dismissing my mother’s narratives, I have translated them in a way that allows me to identify with her, in a way that allows me to see her stories with inspiration. In the process of doing so, I have adapted a stronger sense of self by learning the necessary traits for survival, such as the art of chi ku. Work Cited: Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Putnam’s, 1989. Print. Xu, Ben. “Memory and the Ethnic Self: Reading Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.” MELUS 19.1 (Spring 1994): 3-18.
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
from an international perspective
By Michael Lee My name is Michael Lee, I was born in Hong Kong and grew up there. I have been to the states on multiple occasions, but they were all family trips when I was a lot younger. As I did not know much about the states, choosing a college was rather difficult. I ended up going to Binghamton because it was near New York, where my grandmother lived. I didn’t really know what to expect when I first got to campus. I prayed that I would room with another Asian or at least be surrounded by them in my dormitory so I can easily find some common ground. My roommate ended up being Hispanic, and my dormitory was filled with Whites. I was disappointed at first, but when I really got to know them, I can say that my premature judgment about them was definitely wrong. Looking back, I can say I was fortunate not to be surrounded with other Asians. I stepped out of my comfort zone and got to know them. I observed how my friends interacted with each other and I can say that it isn’t that different from how I hang out with my friends back in Hong Kong. We all love to joke around, a lot of the times they would make fun of my accent or how I would say something incorrectly, but I know they never intend to offend me. One thing that fascinates me is the fact that when I meet new people of different ethnicities, the first few phrases that we teach other about our own language are either curse words or colloquial phrases. What I didn’t expect was the straightforwardness of the people here. If something was wrong, it was all right to speak your mind, something I was never really used to. I was also surprised with how diverse this school is. I expected a campus that was dominated by White students or Asian students. I’m glad I got the opportunity to come to this school as it gave me the chance to widen my horizons and also expand my comfort zone.
: s r o t u b i r t n o c r u lo l a o t u o thank y ee
lL e a h c i M
e e L y n n Da u Mimi Y h n i D y x Ro Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
By Danny Lee
“I believe that the professors have a passion to teach students.”
Mimi Yu, freshman Compiled by Jeff Hwang AO: How much did your parents influence you to study in another country? Or was it completely your decision? Mimi: Well, my parents were definitely a major influence in making sure that I receive the best education and, ultimately, they believed that studying in different countries would expand my knowledge. Nevertheless, my parents have always taught me to be adventurous and explore the environment around me. AO: What do you find most interesting studying in the United States? Mimi: The diverse courses that are offered at BU; I’m gaining new knowledge about everything everyday! I had no idea what was anthropology until I came to the United States. And the opportunity to learn Spanish and Italian! And most importantly, meeting new people; making new friends have been what I love the most about coming here because people here are so different because everybody isn’t from everywhere! I find that most interesting.
When I first arrived in America from Korea, I went to a public high school in Colorado. I had a great experience attending the high school and that convinced me to continue my education in America. I later moved to Pennsylvania and went to a private high school. When I was in my junior year, I had to think about colleges. At that time, I thought about UCLA, UC Berkeley, William and Mary, Penn State, Cornell, etc. However, when I became a senior, I had a chance to visit a college around where I used to live: Penn State. Since I was accepted earlier as a biology major, I decided to sit in on a biology class. I realized that the lecture hall was really huge and I could not even hear what the professor was saying. I was not only accepted into Penn State but I also got into several other universities, such as Purdue, Indiana University, Michigan State University and University of Washington in Seattle. I decided not to go to such huge universities because I saw how big one lecture hall was at Penn. State. As I looked through my college list once more, I saw Binghamton University. Binghamton University is not as big as Penn State, Purdue, Michigan State, etc. and was a lot cheaper than the other universities. As a result, I decided to go to Binghamton University. Since I came to Binghamton University in the Fall 2010 semester, I like it here so far because most of the students are nice. There are also some really good professors. Most students are friendly and some classes are really funny, because I believe that the professors have a passion to teach students. I already made a lot of friends and got to know some of the professors. I feel that my choice was a great decision. At least, I do not regret that I came here so far. I am studying abroad, because I am an international student. By coming to America, it has helped me experience different cultures and learn many languages. It will help my future when finding a job as well. If I keep working hard, I believe that my future will be bright.
AO: Do you ever wonder how different your life would be if you stayed in your home country? If so, how? Mimi: Wow, absolutely! Life would have been immensely different. In fact, I can’t imagine what it would be like, to be honest. But I would assume that I wouldn’t be so blessed to study in different countries or speak French fluently; and ultimately, going to college in the United States. AO: Is there anything that surprised you in this country? Or was everything all expected? Mimi: Yeah. . . the tax here is super high, particularly in New York! AO: Any other comments? Mimi: Coming to Binghamton University has definitely changed my perspective of the United States! I feel lucky to be here and I believe life would be more fun and exciting from now!
“Asian parents believe that sacrificing anything in their life to brighten the future of their children is worthwhile, especially investing in a quality education.”
annual consecutive By Roxy Dinh
To every corner I go, every class I attend or at every dining hall I eat, I can easily find international students. According to Binghamton University’s official website, out of 12,000 undergrads, there is one international student in every 10 Binghamton students. Interestingly, they come from 100 different countries around the world. What has made this public university of upstate New York so popular in recent years? I am an international student who has been in the states for only six months. The American land of possibilities is a totally novel destination for me since I have no relatives here at all. Therefore, a lot of my American friends were totally surprised about my decision to travel thousands of miles to Binghamton for college by myself. Nevertheless, I am not the only one who made such decision. My friends from high school in Vietnam are currently all over the states. What makes people, like me, willing to leave my family for a long time and sit on the plane for more than 18 hours back and forth every summer? Many Asian countries have existed under the impact of Confucianism for a very long while. Under this religious influence, Asian parents believe that sacrificing anything in their lives to brighten the future of their children is worthwhile, especially investing in a quality education. Consequently, depending on the financial allowance, parents always try to afford the best possible educational environment for their kids to guarantee a higher probability of their success. As a result, with its pronounced reputation, the American educational system has always been one of the most popular choices for Asian parents. Furthermore, during the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of international schools formed in Asian nations such as China, Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, etc. For instance, there are currently more than 10 different international schools in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Particularly, the important feature about Vietnam’s international school system is that once you attend, you are no longer eligible to apply for any ordinary Vietnamese college. In other words, your next option is either studying abroad or attending one of the very limited international universities available in Vietnam. Hence, these restricted options have shifted the tradition of going to college at home to acquiring a Bachelor’s degree in English-speaking nations, like America. But why BU? A lot of international students, like myself, did not even have a chance to see the campus in person before we actually came here for orientation. However, BU has invested intensively in the Office of International Students and Scholar Services, especially in marketing strategies targeting international high school pupils and their parents to further diversify BU’s demographic. For instance, I first heard about BU when I met Nicholas Forcier, senior assistant director of admissions and international students recruiter, at two
annual university fairs in Ho Chi Minh City. He did not only cordially introduce BU through various posters, brochures and statistics, but also politely asked for my contact details to inform me of additional information in the future. Subsequently, this “public ivy” frequently sent me various appealing e-mails promoting its superior rankings and awards, Binghamton students’ blogs, YouTube videos and plenty of photos about its students’ amazing life at school. BU’s premium and informative, but simple and friendly marketing tactics absolutely attract its target audience effectively since it appears as the most credible and accessible source of information to international students. In addition, BU’s list of rankings must say something about its quality to every parent when they consider BU and other similar choices like other SUNY campuses. BU’s current U.S. News national university ranking is 86th. The only thing I remember from economics class is that every time you make a choice, consider your opportunity cost! Colleges cost a ton of money, especially those top-ranking schools on the College Board or those Ivy League members. As a matter of fact, international students, like me, pay about $27,000 a year to go to BU. Sound a lot to you? It is actually an extremely inexpensive price for a lot of us. My best friend currently studies pre-med at Fordham University, another very reputable institution in New York. It ranks 56th on U.S. News’ national university list. Obviously everyone would prefer to choose a school in New York City that ranks 56th over a school in the middle-of-no-where that ranks 86th right? But are you willing to pay $56,000 a year? Money is always a vital factor in decisionmaking. My parents have to feed three daughters with their modest income generated from their small family business. Given the current economic downturn, BU definitely needs more international students to make more money. Similarly, foreign parents have been struggling to earn income, so they choose BU as an affordable, but qualified option. Therefore, BU is not a bad choice at all for families with average income, like us. I’m currently living in a five-person suite where each one of us can speak a different language. Isn’t it cool? After six months of being here, I have aggregated knowledge about so many different cultural aspects that I have never known before. Even though having too many international students has its downsides too, I believe BU’s admission board is wise enough to filter the best candidates out of tons of applications in order to diversify BU’s community in a positive way. More and more international students attend BU every year. I’m excited to see more Vietnamese students to come next semester. But for now, I’m even more excited for my Boston trip tomorrow to visit my Vietnamese friends at Northeastern. Surprised? Be proud that America is the land of hope for not only Americans, but also any ambitious youngsters in the world!
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
Reprinted from Asian Outlook Fall 2010 Volume XXIV, Issue 2
By Fiz Ramdhani
For some, studying abroad is a journey of self-discovery and an escape from a familiar place. But, living in a different country can pose some difficulties. How hard is it to make the transition? Academic and social hardships are only the beginning of this long, enduring adventure.
xclusive,boring,nerd,overachiever,unassimilated. Theseare some of the characteristics associated with international students. Of course, there are some good qualities too, but apparently even those do not make internationals “normal” enough to be in American company. You may or may not agree with the statements above and you may think you know better. But unfortunately, you have no idea. Naturally, my account cannot represent each and every international student’s experience in the world. But at least my experience of being an international student ever since I finished 11th grade back home in Indonesia can give you a glimpse of the ups and downs of being an “international.” I always wanted to study abroad, and for many reasons. First of all, I knew that first and second world countries offered generally a better education and certainly had a better school system. Second, coming from a diverse background, I always showed interest in multiculturalism and learning different customs, norms and values . I always wanted to expand my horizon and meet people that looked differently than I did and that held different worldviews. Thus, they could provide me with information and ideas that I didn’t know before. Last but not least, I wanted to find a place where I belonged. Being of mixed heritage in Indonesia is no easy task. You may wonder why since some of you may already know that Indonesia is a very diverse country consisting of hundreds of ethnicities and languages. Regardless, just as racism is a rampant issue in a diverse society such as the United States, it is just as bad in Indonesia, especially for people of Chinese descent. Most Chinese-Indonesians, specifically those that are not mixed with native Indonesian heritage, are treated as second-class citizens. In theory, they have the same rights as native Indonesians or what we call “pribumi,” but in practice, one can only dream about it. Studying abroad was a vessel for me, not to runaway , but to understand the world a little better, to find out whether there is a more accepting society out there – a society that can understand my personal views, ideas and norms. Studying abroad was meant to become my sanctuary; at least for a couple of years until I finally found myself, until I had a clearer
grasp of who I wanted to become or what I wanted to do with myself and with the world . I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t know that it is going to be as tough as this. Getting through all the paperwork, which included, but not limited to, trips to the embassies and immigration offices and being asked a whole bunch of what I thought were rhetorical questions -- as if my intention was to invade a nation -- was only a drop of an entire ocean of tiring things that I had to go through. In other words, paperwork was nothing compared to the actual experiences awaited at my destination – experiences that are still happening as of now. Many international students struggle with their classes on a dayto-day basis because of the differences in language, curriculum and workload. Luckily for me, I don’t necessarily find myself ‘struggling’ with my classes. However, I dare not say that classes and grades are not problems for me. Though I have never been kicked off the dean’s list since I stepped foot in the United States, there were times where I strongly believed I would fail a class. It is one of the most terrible feelings in the world. Why? Because there is a realistic, material consequence for failing a class. It usually means retaking the class for another semester which could potentially result in delayed graduation. While it may not be a problem for those internationals that have all the money and time in the world, it would be big problem for me and other international students. Delayed graduation would result in an extended stay, and in a country with a relatively high cost of living such as the United States, some of us simply could not afford to pay more than we had originally planned. Another reason has to do with one’s self-consciousness. Getting a relatively bad grade and/or failing a class raises the “what if” question. Often in my head I think to myself if had I taken the class in my own language and in my own country, I would’ve aced it. I feel like it is not a fair game and no matter how I play, I will lose. Self-consciousness does not only occur in a classroom environment. More often, it occurs in a social environment. You may or may not realize, but the term “fresh-off-the-boat” is simply not acceptable. Personally, I would say I do not care. However, this
A picture of Fiz, second from the left does not mean that we can ignore the issue entirely. The problem is that the term does not only make the differences between the locals and internationals more obvious, it also makes the internationals feel inferior. As international students, we already realize that we are different. We do not need the majority, in which case, the locals, to keep reminding us that we are different. Being called certain terms awakens our double-consciousness, a term coined by W.E.B. Du Bois in “The Souls of Black Folk .” As Du Bois implied, doubleconsciousness refers to the sense of seeing oneself through the eyes of others. When labeled “fresh-of-the-boat” we, internationals, start to question our greatness, self-pride, and confidence. Nobody wants to feel inferior and for some of us that are simply too proud or too afraid to possibly be looked down upon, exclusivity is the answer. There is, of course, no need to generalize. As if academic difficulties and self-consciousness were not enough, an international student’s emotional well being can also be impacted. Just like all college students, internationals also face friendship and/or relationship issues. Often for us, however, the issues we face are governed by our circumstances. In general, college is a venue to explore life, including its people. It is a great way to get to know different people at a given period of time. I,
personally, found some interesting people at this university that I ended up being friends with, people that I can talk to and share my views on just about anything, people that I dare say I would have the least chances of finding in my home country. There also could have been someone that I would like to have a relationship with, to casually see where the it would go. But, it is simply not feasible. My condition as an international student always reminds me to put my guard up, not to be too attached to anyone because of the fact that I will leave them sooner or later. Yes, we can always Facebook each other. But, for how long? It is only realistic to say that friendship and/or relationship requires physical contacts. One can only try as hard, but even trying takes two. My experiences as an international student are only small representations of what other international students might go through. Their experiences might be worse or better than mine. Regardless, we all share at least one of these purposes: to explore other cultures, values or norms in order to understand ourselves and the world, make our family proud or our lives better, and possibly change the lives of others we touch when we come back to our motherlands. And for all these reasons… we endure.
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
By Ritesh Kadam Released in 1995, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was a fantastic strategy role-playing game. In this groundbreaking game, you played as Denam Pavel, a young member of a rag-tag resistance group, who had survived a village raid that left him orphaned. You soon took command of an army and started a revolution against your oppressors. It’s just too bad that most people know it as simply the 16-bit predecessor to the popular Final Fantasy Tactics for the Playstation.
longside Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series, Tactics Ogre defines many of the conventions of the strategy role-playing game genre. In particular, Tactics Ogre was part of the tactical RPG sub-genre. It concentrated on smaller, turn-based gameplay as opposed to the large, battalion scale battles that define the strategy role playing game genre. Describing the original Tactics Ogre is like describing the basics of the Tactical Role Playing Game genre. In this Dungeons and Dragons inspired game, players take control of an army from an isometric point of view. The player and computer AI take turns as they move units and defeat the opposing the force. Battles are bookended with story sequences and army management. Tactics Ogre, in particular, was well-known for its deep, albeit punishing gameplay and deep, morally ambiguous plot. Unfortunately, the game’s release history was just as storied and complex as the game’s plotline. Tactics Ogre was originally released in 1995 for the Super Famicom, the Super Nintendo’s Japanese counterpart. Earlier that year, Ogre Battle, another installment in the franchise, entered American stores. Tactics Ogre was a significantly different style of strategy role-playing game than grander scale Ogre Battle. Unlike Ogre Battle,
it did not get localized for non-Japanese audiences. In 1996, Tactics Ogre was ported to the short-lived Sega Saturn with voiceacting. Once again, the game didn’t make it to North American and European audiences. It wasn’t until a Playstation 1 port in 1997 that the game finally made it to American shores. However, a limited shipment, a poor if serviceable translation, no major updates, and several technical issues prevented the game from becoming more than a cult hit. Worse of all, it released in the shadow of Final Fantasy Tactics and was seen as a mere copycat. 15 years since its original release, Tactics Ogre has returned on the Playstation Portable to prove why it’s one of the greatest SRPGs ever made. Best of all, the game is a full remake with gameplay improvements and a new translation rather than a mere updated port. The many members of the original development team had reunited after 15 years alongside Square Enix to remake the game into the definitive TRPG for veterans and newcomers alike. While the original’s gameplay has aged very well, both minor refinements and complete overhauls of Tactics Ogre’s various gameplay mechanics work in tandem to polish the game to a mirror shine. It’s not simply one the best written, fully-featured SRPGs, this remake of Tactics Ogre is simply one of the best games ever made.
The high fantasy-themed story takes place in Valerian Isles, a valuable center of trade that has become rife with ethnic conflict. Beset with constant war, it took a man named Dorgalua Oberyth, to unite the races of Valeria. Known as the DynastKing, Dorgalua united the warring clans of island into one nation. He encouraged racial tolerance and even intermarriage in order to further unite the fractured island. However, his death under mysterious circumstances led to renewed conflict in Valeria. The elitist Bakrum class declared themselves as rulers of Valeria. Brantyn Morne, the self declared regent of Bakrum-Valeria, enlisted the aid of the Holy Lodissian Empire, a foreign yet imperialistic superpower, to enforce his claim to the Valerian throne. Lodiss’s Champion and envoy, the Dark Knight Lancelot Tartaros, helped Brantyn secure the North. The South and West were divided by the majority Galganstanti ethnic group and the Walister minority group. Tartaros, under the command of his superiors, held the Bakrum from rapidly expanding any further with the exception of a mysterious, brutal village raid deep within Walister territory by the Dark Knights. Unable to defeat the Barkrum, the Galgastani began to focus their efforts on exterminating the Walister. As a survivor of the village attacked by the Dark Knights, the player takes part in
the remnants of the Walister resistance. As the teenage survivor of the village massacre, Denam Pavel, the player must command an army and change the course of Valeria’s history. Don’t get fooled into thinking the story has been spoiled. This political intrigue takes place in a video before the game actually begins. It’s only a small taste of the shocking betrayals, shifting alliances, and brutal warfare that the player will soon see. For all its complexity and drama, the Valerian conflict is presented as a small piece of a larger war between two empires. More importantly, don’t let words and terminology, like “Dynast-King” and “Holy Lodissian Empire,” confuse you. The game’s story is not at all dissimilar to wars fought in real life. One can see similarities that devastation the United States-Soviet Union proxy wars caused in many ethnically divided regions, such as the Middle East and the Balkans. While the aesthetics of the game seem light-hearted, the actual content of the story is violent and morally ambiguous. Conveniently, an in-game encyclopedia, known as the Warren Report, allows players to replay Cutscenes and review character profiles and story progression. Best of all, the player is an active participant in deciding the course of the story. Many games offer the illusion of choice through a black and white decision that has no substantial impact on the plot. In Tactics Ogre, the decisions the player makes as Denam has a significant effect on the storyline. The game has a branching plotline with characters, events, and equipment specific to each plotline. A single character may become a trusted ally on one route and a bitter enemy in another. Better yet, these decisions are often morally ambiguous with no clear cut good or evil decision. These decisions are based ideology or factionalism as opposed to the simple “are you Mother Theresa or video game Hitler” decisions that plague many role-playing games. The remake has brought several improvements to the already stellar story. Although the original translation was useable, it was laden with poor grammar and gratuitous profanity. The language itself was straight forward that did not take advantage of the game’s high fantasy setting. The new translation is done by Kajiya Productions, the same localization company that translated other politically charged Square Enix games, such as Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, with great creative license. The translations of those games, coincidently developed by the same people behind Tactics Ogre, are so wellwritten that they are said to be even superior to the Japanese original. Kajiya Productions is right at home with Tactics Ogre’s rich, politically driven narrative and titanic backstory. There is a night and day difference
between the Playstation 1 translation and Kajiya’s new translation. The dialogue in the original translation largely existed to move the plot along. In the new translation, the dialogue gives more insight into the characters and game’s politics while still accomplishing the task of moving the mammoth storyline forward. It is very
For all its complexity and drama, the Valerian conflict is presented as a small piece of a larger war between two empires. similar to style that of fantasy writer George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in this regard. The language and diction used does its part in getting the player immersed into the game’s world. The translation is not without its problems. There are times when the script gets self-indulgent with its terms when plain language would do. There is also one significant mistranslation that can prevent you from recruiting a new character. The remake introduces new characters and new dialogue for existing characters. For example, new character Ravness, a biracial Walister-Galgastani valkyrie knight, introduces a new dramatic element to the plot and a sword arm to the player’s army. Father Penance, an exorcist from the original, has new depth due to new dialogue written for him during battles. New dialogue in the remake has gone a long way in giving some characters an active role in the story. In fact, all of the game’s characters can make an impression on you, especially the villains. They all of have their own portrait, personality, and motive that can make exchanges of dialogue a tense, memorable experience. Even one-off enemy leaders have a significant back-story thanks to the Warren report. The remake has also fine-tuned the original’s excellent gameplay. At its core, Tactics Ogre hasn’t changed much from its original release. The player still moves around on the overworld map, battles on an isometric map, and manages the army in-between battles. On the battlefield, the player must command a team of up to twelve, two more than the original’s limit, against the enemy forces. The player has choice to either kill all enemies for extra loot and experience or immediately end the battle by killing the enemy leader. Killing the enemy leaders causes the remaining enemy force to flee the battle. This option is preferable if
you want to quickly avoid or avoid staining relations with members of other factions. Each individual unit is part of an ethnic group and has an individual loyalty statistic. Wanton killing of their fellow countrymen lowers their loyalty enough that they will desert your army. Conversely, the game immediately ends if Denam dies, which adds another tactical layer to the game. A disappointing carryover from the original is the limited variety of mission objectives. Missions usually involving killing all enemies, killing the leader, or protecting a computer controlled character… while killing all enemies. There aren’t any missions that involve, say, defense against increasingly powerful waves of enemies until reinforcements arrive. Fortunately, creative enemy placement and strong level design keep encounter fresh. One mission may have you begin at a height disadvantage and multiple ways to reach the top? Do you have a pair of units take the arrow fire while the rest flank the enemy or make use of flying units to bypass the terrain? Another mission may have a powerful, melee enemy leader and several healers. Does the player go the knockout punch against the leader or stay out of range of the leader and pick off the healers one by one? This is to say that Tactics Ogre throws curveballs at the player and encourages new, intuitive tactics. For the most part, it avoids the common SRPG pitfall of simply giving the player stronger and stronger attacks against tougher and tougher foes. The same praise can’t be given to the game’s friendly AI. While the enemy may retreat one turn from enemy forces and
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
Final Fantasy Tactics then charge right back into enemy attack range the following turn. While it’s possible to continue most missions after losing the friendly AI character, it’s never fun to lose a potential recruit due to chance. One of the remake’s major changes is the overhaul of the leveling system. In the original, each unit was assigned a class and leveled up after they gained enough experience. Their stat increases depended on the class they leveled up in at the time. A Wizard would gain a significant bonus to his magic stat and a Ninja would gain more agility points than any other class. Masochistic players would painstakingly level up in certain classes in order to gain a substantial edge in the game. A nearuniversally hated training mode, now removed, would be used to grind lower leveled units up to par with the rest of the troops. The remake introduces a new leveling system similar to SEGA’s Valkyria Chronicles. After each battle, each surviving unit gains experience towards their class. Instead of leveling individual units, the player levels up individual classes. This
improves the class’s stats and abilities. A player can have one unit change into a new class and have it immediately be combat ready. This change goes a long way in reducing the tedious micromanagement that affected the original. Players can still customize their army at a unit level through assigning specific skills and abilities. Unfortunately, newly acquired classes begin at level one and have to leveled up be par with the rest of the army. Thankfully, lowlevel classes level up quickly enough after a few battles to minimize this grace period. There have been major changes to the classes themselves. For one thing, classes are no longer segregated by gender. Any human character has access to all classes. Better yet, all classes remain useful through the entire game. In the original, you would eventually upgrade a Berserker into a Terror Knight once the former class became obsolete. In this remake, the basic classes are useful throughout the game’s battles. This change adds more flexibility and depth to army composition before each battle. The remake has also rebalanced classes in order to make
them all viable. In particular, beast and demi-human units have become a viable option in the remake through new abilities. You can have an army made up of nearly a half a dozen Octopi and Fairies and still do well. Nonetheless, some jack-of-all-trades classes, such as the Valkyrie/Rune-fencer, will find less use in a game that encourages an assortment of highly specialized troops. A new feature to the game is a crafting system to make create and upgrades weapons and equipment. However, its readily available crafting ingredients and luck based crafting methods make this feature a bizarre addition to a game bent on streamlining. Nonetheless, these changes have done much to prevent the tedium and punishing difficulty that made the original less accessible. This isn’t the only change made to ease in new players. Tactics Ogre’s most dramatic change is the inclusion of the Chariot system. This system allows players to rewind up to a sizeable 50 turns in battle. If you make a major tactical blunder, you can rewind well before the mistake ever happened. It’s a
“Many games offer the illusion of choice through a black and white decision that has no substantial impact on the plot. In Tactics Ogre, the decisions the player makes [as Denam] has a significant effect on the storyline.” 32
way for players to learn the consequences of their actions without feeling punished for merely playing or experimenting. An in-game achievement system encourages particularly proud players or seasoned veterans to minimize their use of this system or avoid it altogether. In essence, this system is similar to the Super Guide mode in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. While new players are given a crutch to ease them into a game, there are incentives in place that encourage mastery of the game. In addition, the death system in the game has been revamped. In the original, units would simply die be gone forever once they ran out of hit points. Revival magic was not available until half way through the game. A death of a unit meant the loss of a valuable unit and your hours of investment in it. Now, units simply become knocked out after losing all their hit points. They will die in three turns unless they are revived or the battle ends before the limit. A revamped item system allows a variety of units to revive knocked out units with revival items. While purists will bemoan the de-fanged difficulty, these changes all work together over together to dissuade extremely cautious play in the battlefield and tedious micromanagement outside of it. An even more daring use of the Chariot system is the WORLD system. This system essentially allows the player to travel through time and enter different branching paths. At certain pivotal decisions, the player is allowed to return to that point and experience. This is essentially the New Game+ feature in many games that is taken to the next level. The player can easily revisit
battles and alternate paths without starting an entirely new save file. Some restrictions on character usage do apply when hopping across branching paths. Enemies are leveled up and re-equipped in order to make them a challenge. While it looks the same as the original at a glance, there have been many changes the game’s visuals and audio. The game is now in 3D with redone visuals and a rotatable camera. This helps highlight height advantages and prevent terrain from obscuring units. In addition, the player can flatten the map and play the game as if it was on a chessboard. Additional interface changes, such as an outline of an arrow’s trajectory, help streamline the experience. While character portraits are redone, the original’s bright, cheery visuals, especially character sprites, are largely unchanged. These cartoonish visuals create odd scenarios; incidents of genocide are performed by brightly clothed Lego men. It is unfortunate new visuals weren’t made to match the tone of the grim story. Audio, on the other hand, is near perfect in this remake. The re-mastered and remixed soundtrack does an excellent in matching the game’s drama. It provides an excellent emotional anchor for the player through a varied selection of songs and recurring leitmotifs. There isn’t any voice-acting except for short narrations between the game’s acts. These excellent narrations, voiced by Simon Templeman and Kate Higgins, make the absence of full voice-overs even more disappointing. Unlike the PSP port of Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre does not suffer from slowdown or other technical issues.
Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, there are no robust multiplayer options aside from fighting an AI control duplicate of another player’s party. Disappointingly, there aren’t any full on cooperative or competitive modes available. These are just minor blemishes on this remake’s massive improvements on the original. Many SRPGs often let their subsystems and complex mechanics get in the way of core gameplay. This has barred prospective players from getting into the genre. The remake succeeds where imitators of the original Tactics Ogre has failed. It knows that newcomers and veterans alike want great strategy and finely-tuned gameplay. Strategy fans should get this game if they haven’t already. Updated gameplay and a new translation make it a must buy for those few that enjoyed the original. Assuming they have a PSP, newcomers that are interested in a great, non-linear story and deep gameplay are invited to try the game. Tactics Ogre’s adjustable difficulty let’s novices ease into this style of game. It’s really that good.
Picture Sources http://www.gamesonsmash.com/wp-content/ gallery/boo/tactics-ogre-black-background.jpg h t t p : / /c d n 1 . g a m e p r o . c o m / b o x / 1 0 6 3 box_165483-hd.jpg AI is competent with a few
hiccups, friendly AI is downright suicidal. This was a problem in the original and continues to be one in the remake. They
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
“An Inspiration to Everybody” By Johnny Thach
As March Madness rolls around again, one story that made last year’s event spectacular was Harvard’s standout phenom, Jeremy Lin. Although in his senior year he led Harvard to their best season in history, they were still unable to advance to the Big Dance after losing to Princeton in a heartbreaking fashion.
in became the first Ivy League player to record 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals. As a senior, he averaged 16.4 points, 4.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. He finished his college career as Harvard’s all-time leader in games played, with 115, and fifth in points with 1,483 points. Last summer, Lin declared for the 2010 NBA Draft. Even though he was undrafted, in the end he found a place on the roster of the Dallas Mavericks for the Summer League. He made it. There, he stood out as a fan-favorite in a “Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed” showdown between him and John Wall, the top draft pick in the draft, slashing through defenders and attacking the rim, forcing Wall to miss shots with stellar defense and hitting crucial 3-point shots. Although not a first-round draft pick, his potential was clear. What had impressed the crowd and the commentators the most was his undying drive to surpass all expectations and stand out in front of thousands of people. Literally overnight, his life was changed with all of the attention that he received after the game. NBC Sports said of his potential: “What Lin does have is the toughness, determination, and savvy that have made him one of the most fun players to watch in summer league, and there’s always a chance an NBA team will want somebody with Lin’s attitude and approach to the game on their bench.” On July 21, the Golden State Warriors signed him as a free agent. Lin, who wasn’t able to pick up his diploma until March 10, became not only the only Ivy
Jeremy Lin being guarded by Galvin Edwards of University of Connecticut on Dec. 6 , 2009
League graduate in his family, but also the only NBA player to hold a Harvard degree—in economics—and the first Asian-American since 1947 to play in the NBA. Where only 20 percent of the players hold a college or higher education degree, Lin sets an historic example—that it’s possible to have the smarts, to excel in academics and also be athletic. Most importantly, he demonstrates that he is more than a basketball player. That education is just as important as sports. Basketball players should pursue a college education, rather than focus only on playing basketball in the NBA. What is interesting about Jeremy Lin is his story. Essentially, he represents the modern day Rocky Balboa, but as an average basketball player with the heart of a champion. How did he become the face of the Asian-American community in a sport lacking Asian-American representation? His journey started when he was born into a TaiwaneseAmerican family that emigrated from Taiwan in the 1970s. Like most Asian parents, his family emphasized education and stressed that school should always come first. He also had a very strong Christian upbringing. Finish homework and then you can play basketball as much as you want was the discipline that earned Lin his high academic achievement. Now a computer engineer, his father, Gie-Ming Lin, used to be a basketball fanatic. Unfortunately, he didn’t discover the sport until he was an adult. By then, he was unable to pursue the dream of playing in the NBA. Still, he studied videotapes of his favorite NBA stars and basketball greats, such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He passed the ball to his son, believing that his son would learn to understand the game as well. As a result, most of Lin’s early childhood was spent at the local YMCA in Palo Alto, California, with his father teaching him about the fundamentals about basketball. After awhile, his parents entered him into a kids’ league. However, Lin wasn’t initially interested in basketball. “He stood at half-court sucking his thumb for the entirety of about half his games that season,” says Jeremy’s older brother Josh. Soon after, his mother pestered him about why he wouldn’t play basketball. Shopped attending his games. Lin responded by stating, “I’m going to play, I’m going to score.” Since then, everyday after he finished his homework, his father would take him to the YMCA to play pick-up games. Lin eventually joined basketball teams from different leagues and his mother would “spend her entire afternoon driving him from practice to practice to practice.” When asked whether his parents had ever discouraged him from doing what he likes, he responded by saying that they encouraged him a lot. In return, he tries to be who his parents inspired him to be.“I just try to be an inspiration to everybody,” Lin said. Lin is an inspiration to the Asian-American community. He breaks through “stereotypes” by showing that he’s not only smart, but also athletic. That Asian-Americans can and will eventually make it to the NBA. To people in the stands, he draws attention with his flashy moves to the rim and sharp defensive prowess. He’s discriminated against, for being from an Ivy League institution. Harvard remains to be one of them, as it’s not known for being a good school for basketball. While Ivy Leagues don’t give out scholarships—which deters most athletes from attending—Lin still chose Harvard and stood out as a prolific scorer and one of the most versatile guards in the nation. Sadly, he’s another victim of racism and most recently
became a target of racial slurs from fans, such as “chink” and “sweet and sour pork.” What stands out the most is his personality. He’s soft-spoken, humble and respectful. While he holds on his back Harvard and the Asian-American community, he acknowledges that he is different from others, coming from a different cultural background and story. Regardless, he believes that it has been a “blessing” to be part of the experience. When asked about being the first Asian-American basketball player and how he felt about representing the entire Asian-American community, he responded by saying that it was “an honor and a privilege” to have the opportunity. He also acknowledges that there are “a lot of people are supporting him and he is thankful for that.” And even though he doesn’t get all of the minutes and comes off the bench, he’s patient and understands that he’ll one day have the chance to shine. When his coach was interviewed about Jeremy Lin, he described how he “plays hard, competes hard, and has a good heart with all of the guys [teammates].” He added, “He comes to the gym when nobody is around and works on his game.” Lin also isn’t afraid of letting his fans get to know him for who he is, uploading videos about his favorite meal after a game and about his opinions about Manny Pacquiao. “He plays with good energy on the floor. He’s aggressive. He plays hard. He’s not afraid of the competition,” Derek Fisher, a point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers said. “He just has to keep working hard and remain confident in himself. … He’s here for a reason.” When asked about why there aren’t more Asian-Americans in the NBA, Lin said that there were multiple reasons, but he believes that there’s a lot more coming in the next few years. Lin is a source of empowerment for Asian-Americans, especially for those that aspire to play basketball in the NBA. For many, he represents hope, for others to work hard and pursue their own dreams and break through stereotypes. Although he was recently sent back down to the D-League, in 16 games with the Reno Bighorns, he has averaged 17.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, two steals in an average of 32 minutes. In addition, he shot over 51 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line. With hard work and dedication, he’ll continue to improve and rise above all expectations. What else waits for him?
“I just try to be an inspiration to everybody,” -Jeremy Lin
Source: http://amfix.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/10/jeremy-lin-goes-from-harvard-tothe-nba/ http://www.examiner.com/golden-state-warriors-in-oakland/jeremy-lingoing-back-to-the-nba-d-league http://bayarea.sbnation.com/2010/7/19/1577106/jeremy-lin-as-the-nextderek-fisher http://www.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/nba/warriors/2010-11-01-jeremy-lin_N.htm http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?columnist=oneil_ dana&id=4730385 http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2010/07/28/jeremy-lin-st-taiwaneseamerican-signed-nba-team-hopes-overcome-harvard/ http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/07/15/jeremy-lin-a-fanfavorite-in-vegas/ Picture Source: http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/tyl3ry14/jeremy_lin.jpg
Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
“Skull Head” by Daphne Lee
The Ageless Tree By Michael Chung
An ancient tree stands alone on top of the hill For three millennia the land had changed but it kept still Its fruits nurtured generations of footed animals and migrating birds Even humanity once looked to its produce to move forwards When the sun became overbearing many sought shelter When the rain storms came they held on even tighter It was a sanctuary where many paths have crossed For it provided a home even for those who were lost The four seasons came and went Until wondering travelers arrived with good intent But as they observed the tree, greed blinded their mind Such a valuable specimen is nearly impossible to find The travelers fought passionately to claim ownership of the ancient tree As they fought, a violent thunder storm approached ominously They ran and hid under the tree for protection The bright thunder struck all over and took away their vision When they awoke, they were shielded underneath the tree A hundred lightning strikes fell but the tree held on firmly The travelers realized the folly of their bickering Deeply humbled, the strangers parted without further quarreling The ancient treeâ€™s generosity seemed endless Its presence on the hill ageless As the sun rose in the horizon, the ancient tree stood tall in the distance Unshaken and unmoved in its message and brilliance
My Slightest Revenge By Ivan Yeung Fallen head over heals Unable to recognize that flaw Strung like a puppet Where she moved I moved. Hearing through the winds She would only cause me pain I stopped to listen Only to ignore and continue. By December’s light snow fall She officially decided Holding him tightly As I stood watching. Feeling my heart Slowly peeling into two I prayed for their misfortune Prayed that they fall even harder. Now I sit Allowing the misery to swallow me As I plan for My sweetest revenge. Soon they will feel That there is nothing honest about the world That tears represent pain and Smiles represent nothing. As the snow trickles down from the night sky Tears will trickle down As they see a new me And know that they are responsible for every bit of it. With a smirk on my face Equipped with words I will attack them mentally Straying away from any physical attacks. Slowly my pain will be their pain My happiness will be their pain My revenge is imminent And so will her regret. Vol. XXIV, Issue 4
Published on Apr 17, 2011
Asian Outlook Magazine's second Spring 2011 publication. Asian Outlook is the literary, creative and news magazine of the Asian Student Unio...