Miscellaneous and Useless Information


Just in time for the end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month:

Secret Asian Man Secret Asian Man by Tak Toyoshima is a nationally syndicated comic strip (one of the few, if not only, by an Asian-American), that often deals with racial issues in the U.S. I first saw it in the Mercury News.

GeneYang-AmericanBornChinese-cover One book on my reading list is American Born Chinese [review], a highly regarded graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, which won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature. (So maybe I’m not in its primary target audience…) The author relates his experience growing up as an Asian-American through three different stories.

Fortune Cookie Chronicles Another book on my reading list is The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee. The author’s original purpose was to track down the origin of the fortune cookie, which is basically unknown in China, but the book broadens out into a general discussion of Chinese food in the U.S. Lee makes an amusing appearance on The Colbert Report to promote her book.

fortunecook-790146 There is also a film on the origin of the fortune cookie, The Killing of a Chinese Cookie by Derek Shimoda. It focuses more on the fortune cookie than on Chinese cuisine in general. I saw this movie at the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, and it’s thoroughly entertaining.

Asian-American comedians are hitting their stride, from 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors to the Kims of Comedy. I saw a bit by one of the “Kims”, Dr. Ken Jeong (who is also a real physician), about his previous girlfriend:

My last girlfriend: 5-foot-10 white woman. I’m a 5-4 Korean boy. Ok, we’re walking down the street, you’re not thinking, “What a cute couple.” You’re thinking, “Oh look, she’s got a tutor.”

Finally, Jeff Wong writes a column for SFGate covering Asians in pop culture, appropriate titled Asian Pop [archive]. In his latest column, he asks whether Asian-Americans in their thirties and older (e.g., me), obsessed with our depiction in movies, books, and TV, are fighting yesterday’s war. While traditional media are still important, teenagers and twenty-somethings are increasingly focused on other types of media, especially online. Have I become curmudgeonly already?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services introduced a new citizenship test, which takes effect in a year. To pass, you are asked ten questions randomly picked from a list of 100, and you must answer 6 correctly. USCIS has posted the questions (PDF). Some organization should do a survey to see what percentage of Americans would pass the test. Would you pass? (I think anyone running for office should be required to pass.)

Farley I was truly saddened when I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that Phil Frank died yesterday. Phil Frank drew the only local comic strip in the country, Farley, which was published in the Chronicle. Indeed he captured the spirit of the Bay Area through his cast of distinctive and wacky characters, and because it was a local strip, Mr. Frank was able to comment on current events in his strip within days. He will be sorely missed.

Today I attended a talk on “spiritual computing” by Dr. Craig Warren Smith, who works at the Human Interaction Development Laboratory at the University of Washington. Since spiritual computing isn’t well defined, much of his talk was devoted to examples, followed by a definition, which frankly I didn’t have enough time to absorb.

What I did get out of Dr. Smith’s talk is that spiritual and religious traditions have a lot to say about what is meaningful to people, that they have developed a lot of technology over thousands of years to further their spiritual goals (he called mass the “killer app” of Catholicism), and the computing field should tap into that knowledge as it designs its products. Unfortunately, we didn’t get into many specifics, although Dr. Smith did mention mindfulness, where a person becomes completely aware of his or her thoughts and actions at the present moment, which comes from Buddhism.

Overall, a thought-provoking and worthwhile talk.

Maine elected its first openly French-American congressman, Michael H. Michaud, in 2002.

Long-Scorned in Maine, French Has Renaissance • New York Times • June 4, 2006

I finally read an essay that Daniel e-mailed me over a year ago. Professor Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, has written about fan fiction as a medium through which ordinary people change their relationship to popular culture from being passive consumers to active participants in its creation. He uses fan films of Star Wars as the primary case study. The essay is long (it’s literally a book chapter) but a good read.

“With overall membership on the wane in Japan, union leaders were only too happy to welcome newcomers, no matter how unconventional the trade.”

And in the spirit of the season, here’s a link to one of the most incredible holiday light displays I’ve seen:

Wizards of Winter

So many people went to see it in person that the homeowner shut it down on December 6, after a car accident in the neighborhood.

More info
Videos of other people’s synchronized light shows

Here’s a video of some guys in Russia with some pretty amazing moves — don’t try this at home, kids! They’re doing a sport called Le Parkour, and there are a ton of videos on Google about it. BBC News and Wikipedia have good introductory articles. I’m not going to be trying this sport anytime soon…

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