The Economy: Blame China


Illustration by Pavel Constantin


Scapegoating China: it’s nothing new. From swine flu to SARS to world takeover, some folks (i.e. politicians gunning for a 2010 seat) like to point the finger overseas to the Yellow Peril (and often include Mexico and India), as described in this New York Times article on Sunday.

And it’s not just crazy people like Christine  “I’m not a witch! I am YOU” O’Donnell — who has claimed that China has a “carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America,” — it’s also moderate Democrats like Senator Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

From the NYT article: Evan B. Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, said that “China has sort of become a straw-man villain in this election”, which is being compared to the anger toward Japan in the 1980s over car manufacturing and Mexico in the 1990s over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The kind of anger that led two auto workers — looking for some Japanese to pummel — to beat Chinese American Vincent Chin to death in Detroit in 1982.

Over the past week, almost 30 campaign ads have been released that accuse their opponents of being sympathetic to China and causing American citizens to suffer. These ads also contain stereotypical images, complete with gong clangs and dragons, like this one for Ohio Democratic Congressman Zack Space:

Or Spike Maynard’s heavy usage of China’s flag and some ching-chongy music:

The dangerous impact  of these campaign tactics is that some people have a hard time distinguishing between a country and it’s diaspora, between a demonized Chinese government and folks of Chinese descent in America. And frustrated by the lack of jobs and bombarded with racially-tinged imagery that is legitimized by the Glenn Becks of the world (new Media Matters report on how right-wing media provokes violence here) and other public figures —  some of these people may be more likely to call someone a chink, a spic, or even swing a bat (Staten Island, anyone?).

Yes, the economy is in the shitter, and outsourcing jobs needs to be examined as a contributing problem (although the article points out that most of the jobs China has added in manufacturing through foreign investment had come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, not from the United States). But do we critique and reform the companies and trade policies that incentive overseas outsourcing via tax breaks, or do we just accept campaign messages that demonize China wholesale?

It seems politicians always need to target something or someone as a punching bag to drum up votes. Whether it’s Mosques in New York, immigrants in general, gays (i.e by NY gubernatorial candidate Repube Carl Paladino), or in this case — an entire country. It’s tired, it’s irresponsible, and it’s contemptible, and has real life consequences that can ultimately manifest as hate crimes. When will we stop blaming other people and hold our own government and corporations accountable for this massive shitpile they’ve gotten us into?

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The Philippine’s Deadliest Croon

Bad karaoke can feel like an assault on your senses, but who knew that it can actually lead to assault in the first degree?

This NY Times article reports that so many fights and even homicides have occurred in the Philippines over Sinatra’s beloved karaoke songs (one ditty in particular: “My Way”), that it merits its own crime category: ” My Way Killings”.

Croon at your own risk

Photo by Jes Aenar for the NYT

The story attributes this phenomena to several possibilities:  “a natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo” (this passes for journalism?!), to the lyrics of the song itself, to Filipinos’ “lower tolerance for bad singing” and violations of karaoke etiquette.

And karaoke-induced violence is not limited to the Philippines — there are recorded cases in Malaysia, Thailand, and Seattle, where a woman criticized and then punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” (I swear it wasn’t me, I only throw dem ‘bows if someone effs up “Baby Got Back”).

Now I know ya’ll Pilipinas/os take your karaoke very seriously, and I’m sure there’s endless riffs that can be made about magic mics and your Tito’s BBQ last summer etc. etc., which I’ll leave for the comments section. But what’s even more interesting is the way in which they’ve effectively and creatively dealt with the tension — with gay men as karaoke buffers — using humor and neutrality to diffuse potential scuffles. Maybe karaoke joints could also take a pointer on musical harmony from those MJ prison dancers

Proposition 8 and Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill’s Bay Area Connection ~ UPDATE

If this wasn't a brief sojourn between marches and speeches at an anti-gay conference in Uganda, I would have thought it was a double date with a 5th wheel...

From the SF Chronicle and NY Times: the link between anti-gay American evangelicals (two in NorCal) and a bill in Uganda that would make homosexuality punishable by death. Did I ever tell you how much I love them hate-filled evangelical bible thumpers? If this bill passes, will you be executed if you hold a person’s hand in public? Or do you need actual proof from the bedroom? HATE!!!

In other news, the SF Chronicle is reporting that the upcoming lawsuit to challenge Prop 8 will be broadcast (after its over) on YouTube’s United States District Court for the Northern District of California’s official page. Awesome, cause the hateful folks who will be testifying have to deal with the repercussions of their actions (ie, anti-gay artists makin’ money paintin’ drag queens won’t be testifying).

UPDATE: Justices Block Same-Sex Marriage Trial on YouTube.

Yipsters: The New Wave of Gentrification

As a trained urban planner from some very very far left schools, I am taught two major lessons: gentrification with displacement is bad but investments in infrastructure and development in poor neighborhoods is good. So I am fully aware that the very places I love to hang out are the very places that are getting gentrified (sometimes with displacement and sometimes without). We’re talking The Mission in SF, Silverlake in LA, Temescal in Oakland and wherever there’s an art show in Brooklyn. So as I’m sitting there at some new bar filled with skinny jean fitted, thick black glass wearing, Catcher in the Rye poking out of the back pocket perpetual grad students, I am fully aware that the bar just opened up where a vacuum shop once thrived 40 years earlier. And that the taco truck outside, Ritmo Latino store next door, or Chinese herbalist across the street may not survive the onslaught of graphic designers, children’s book writers, and post-docs that will soon overtake said neighborhood. So it troubles me greatly (while I’m sipping on my lychee martini, Miller High Life, or Kettle One Grayhound).

Highland Park: The York Pub (where AzN once dropped $230 for a round of 18 Jager Bombs) vs. Elsa's Bakey (I think Elsa is standing with her arms crossed, cut off by the photo)

Highland Park in LA: The York Pub (where AzN once dropped $230 for a round of 18 Jager Bombs) vs. Elsa's Bakey (I think Elsa is standing with her arms crossed, cut off by the photo, see arrow)

So the point of this blog post is really an apology to the folks that were living in these neighborhoods before urban planners paved the way for these yipsters (hipster yuppies). Yipsters are folks that have the money and youth of a yuppie, but the aesthetics and tastes of a hipster. So they might roll around with a Maclaren baby stroller, but they’re also willing to step into a Mexican bakery for some steaming fresh pigs in a blanket.

While the profession looks down on outright gentrification with displacement (can someone say China Basin or Japantown?), urban planners laud the yipster takeover. The kind that occurs when a really cool bike shop (like Manifesto near MacArthur in Oakland) or a damn good bakery (Bakesale Betty in Temescal Oakland) opens up in a really really bad neighborhood. There is no redevelopment investment or even a Starbucks. A few daring few yipsters (maybe they’re really damn smart people that made a lot of money on some business and wanted to follow their lifelong dream of opening up a hip comic book shop *COUGH* Secret Headquarters in Sunset Junction *COUGH*) decide to put a good business in an area with not much else.

I’m not sure if this phenomenon is an entirely good thing or an inherently bad thing, but I know eventually the neighborhood will turn, and the turn will be towards gentrification. Whether or not that leads to displacement is another thing (or if the residents that stay enjoy the economic benefits). But one thing is certain, urban planning folks love it cause yipsters not only spend a shitload of money on old timey bikes and fair trade coffee and furniture with tons of Umlauts, they also like the ethnic spots that were always there. And if you want proof, check out a little rag called the New York Times or a no-name nobody named Bill Fulton (planning God) writing about the next yipster neighborhood in LA: Highland Park. Fulton actually uses the term HIPSTER in all its academic glory. The End is near.

Echo Park. Check. Silverlake. Check. Highland Park? Hmmmm...

Echo Park. Check. Silverlake. Check. Highland Park? TBD.

Thu Tran: Hipsterist Foodie in Brooklyn

This is for Sherdizzle who thinks I ain’t into Vietnamese girls cause I’m one of those self-hating Vietnamese chaps. Not true! I hate Tila Tequila, but I’m digging Thu Tran, who just hit the bigtime with a mention in the NY Times Television section for her show Food Party , soon to be leaping from the internets ( to IFC

Cooking up sumpthin just before the Prom

Cooking up sumpthin just before the Prom

So what exactly is the show about? It looks like a crazy, shroomed out Pee Wee’s Playhouse, with puppets themed around food. Here’s the show according to the Times: “Ms. Tran can be seen enjoying a romantic dinner with a mustachioed French baguette that smokes cigarettes and wears sunglasses; cooking with kitchenware delivered to her by toy helicopters; and breaking into song as she picks doughnuts from a doughnut tree.” Here’s the first episode or check it out on IFC, Tuesdays at 11:15 pm: 

For more info on Thu Tran, peep the NY Times article to find info on her background (Vietnamese immigrant family from Cleveland/Cleveland Institute of Art graduate), who’s she dating (fellow alumnus Dan Baxter, founder of Kreepy Doll Factory), and the maturation of her hipster-ness (Brooklyn resident, from Williamsburg —> Bedford-Stuyvesant —> Greenpoint).

Thanks to the Arex for hooking this up.

Get the Fuck Out of Chinatown, Bloodsuckers

So when I found out about this my heart just sank. Apparently there’s some new uber pretentious bar called Apotheke (German for apothecary) opening today in Chinatown for fashion week- and not just anywhere in Chinatown, but fuckin’ DOYERS STREET, in the former Gold Flower Restaurant.
How in the hell did owners and restauranteurs Albert Trummer and Heather Tierney finangle this location? I’m guessing rising rents, displacement, and the “progress” of gentrification. How long until hipster boutiques, cafés, and condos start dominating the hood?  

Even before opening, this “already hot cocktail bar” got apple-polishing press from the New York Times and Thrillist.

Doyers is one of the quieter streets in Chinatown, home to family associations, barber shops, Malysian restaurants, hang out spots for locals,  and a small post office where elders line up early to send packages overseas.
Doyers is also one of the most culturally and historically significant streets in Chinatown- known as the bloody angle for gang wars, it also houses Nom Wah Tea Parlor – opened in 1920- “Chinatown’s first dim sum parlor”, Ting’s Chinese gift shop (open since 1957), and an old Chinese opera house and artist’s residence.


Apotheke’s owners obviously have no regard for Doyers indigenous residents or history, but seem more interested in exploiting it for their own profit and popularity on the NYC bar scene. With a serving of dumplings. Can’t they just stay where they belong in Midtown? 


And of course, these muthafuckers are reviving tired Chinatown stereotypes to attract their upscale and hipster clientele- marketing it as a former opium den (and selling opium and absinthe cocktails) with a dark, mysterious dungeon-like quality. Not all that different from sensationalist tours back in the day that paraded outsiders through Chinatown to gawk at its exotic and depraved conditions.  


I’m sure having a super trendy bar and accompanying loud obnoxious drunks will really improve the quality of life for Doyers street elders, who, unlike the owners and clientele, are extremely limited in where they can live, shop, and “be entertained”. 


White people. Always seeking “adventure” on other people’s turf and the thrill of “slumming it”, with no consideration of who they’re intruding on. Overprivileged, spoiled, culture vultures. 


I hope this place gets overrun by rats and loogie-hawking old timers. I think I may have found a new dumping ground for my garbage. Who’s with me?