I’m writing a longer piece about Jeremy Lin’s media sensation and its implications, but wanted to post a few of my notes on what I call the Linsanity:
As a Taiwanese American, a basketball fan since the glory days of the Portland Trailblazers, and a Harvard graduate, I would be remise not to have heard of Jeremy Lin. Through friends and occasional reports, I followed his career off and on before it became the media sensation that became the Linsanity this past February.
Like many others, I am excited at his recent NBA success. Having spent my share of time in gyms and playground pick-up games trying to play point guard, I have also been amused by the superficial similarities—including the deficiencies—of his play and my attempts at the same. It remains to be seen if he can maintain his high level of play through this season and beyond, but Lin has already demonstrated that he is more than capable and belongs on the court.
At the same time, I was also disturbed by aspects of the Linsanity, including Asian American commentary, and what it expressed about race and its contours within public discourse. Sports is an enormous and significant segment of our popular culture, but in relating its history, race apparently still requires a particular note of authenticity.
Continue reading “racial authenticity and the Linsanity”
This week’s New Yorker has a review of a new book, The Language Wars, by Henry Hitchings. In the book, Hitchens traces disputes over the proper use of the English language over the last century, dividing its participants between prescriptivists, who argue for maintaining language’s rules governing writing and speech and descriptivists, who argue that language’s fluidity allows only description of its changing practices. He aligns himself with the latter while the reviewer, Joan Acocella, takes a more agonistic position, pointing to the strengths and weaknesses of the various warring sides and observing that “nowadays, everyone is moving to the center.” While the book and review usefully discuss an interesting historical subject, the language war they present was more properly a culture war. Its skirmishes and battles concerned, not with language, but its civilizing effect.
Continue reading “language wars”
Yet more on Aladdin:
Authenticity, however, has always been complicated where Aladdin is concerned. The stories of the Thousand and One Nights derive from Persian, Indian, Arabic, Turkish, and Egyptian folk tale and literary traditions that span several historical periods and were passed on orally for centuries within Islamic society and culture before being recorded. Extant Arabic manuscripts fall into two main manuscript traditions, the one Syrian, the other Egyptian, which differ in which tales they include and in what order. The various manuscripts share a common core of stories, which include an Arabic cycle involving the 9th century caliph Harun al-Rashid and others from his era, including vizier Ja’far and Abu Nuwas, and another group involving 13th and 14th century figures from medieval Cairo. They also share a narrative framework for the collection, the story, from 7th century Persia, of Shahrazad (or, as she is better known, Scheherezade), the new bride who begins, without concluding a new story for her husband, King Shahriyar, each night to avoid execution the next morning, eventually, after a thousand nights, winning his pardon and her life.
Continue reading “Aladdin and authenticity”
Continuing last week’s post about Aladdin:
The Disney film made Aladdin Arabic (and an accused thief instead of a ne’er-do-well tailor’s son) and renamed the princess of his affections Jasmine—from the original’s Badroulbadour (Bedrulbudour, Bedr-el-Budur, Badr al-Budur). Perhaps more significantly, its villain was not the African magician/sorcerer of the literary versions. Instead, following the 1940 adaptation of Thief of Bagdad, the Disney film’s villain was the evil and conniving court advisor, Grand Vizier Jafar (Jaffar in the 1940 film, played by Veidt, its star). The name and title derives from a figure who appears in several of the Thousand and One Nights tales and is loosely based on an actual 9th century historical figure, Ja’far al-Barmaki, vizier to the caliph of Baghdad. Another 9th century historical figure, the poet Abu Nuwas, who appears as a court jester figure in the Nights, provided the name for the thief in the 1940 film—which had divided the 1924 film’s title character into two: a prince, Ahmad, and a thief, Abu—and Aladdin’s sidekick monkey in the Disney film.
Continue reading “Disney’s Aladdin“
In Astounding Days, his autobiographical reminiscence of a youth reading science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke recalled that English fans learned that Woolworth’s was the best place to find the pulp magazines where the stories they wanted to read. “According to legend, all these ‘Yank pulps’ invaded the United Kingdom as ballast in returning cargo ships. Presumably it was worth disposing of unsold issues in this way, rather than recycling the paper.” Colorfully entertaining, Clarke’s recollection also illustrated the incidental—and often unseen and unconsidered—consequences of distribution for publishing’s sales and circulation.
Continue reading “circulation, sales, and distribution”
I have not purchased nor do I intend to read Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The book excerpts, interviews with the author, and a piece from one of her daughters I’ve read as well as television interviews I’ve watched have convinced me that there’s really no reason to buy it, read it, nor engage the issues she attempts to raise. To do so would validate the stereotypes and caricatures she presents as authentic culture and concerns, continue their presence in public attention, and benefit Chua’s celebrity and fortunes–from directly from sales of her book and indirectly from the fees she garners from the publicity and promotion.
Continue reading “lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!”
Funny how the small and simple things in life can mean a lot more when you take a closer look at them. Growing up, my mother sometimes served us warm rice porridge with yams or sweet potatoes for breakfast, usually on weekends when we spent more time eating breakfast together. The dish bridged different cultures for our immigrant family. It was part of the “traditional” cuisine and culture my parents brought to the U.S. from Asia, but because it was sweet, unlike most other “traditional” breakfast dishes, it resembled the sweet cereal we learned from television and the experiences of our native-born friends that American kids were supposed to eat. It was the closest thing we had to an Asian oatmeal or cream-of-wheat, and it was in a way, our own cultural comfort food.
Continue reading “rice porridge with yam”
The image I use in the banner for this site is a digital composite that tries to express some of the Planet Mongo Project’s (TPMP) themes, sentiments, and contradictions.
Continue reading “this planet rising”