This is Temple City

My hometown is Temple City, CA, a sunny place about 15 miles east of Downtown LA. Temple City is a small, sweet town in which the residents don't always know what to say to each other. Sometimes it's because they truly don't know what to say, and sometimes it's because not everyone speaks the other's languages. Temple City is 60% Asian, and many older Chinese residents only speak Mandarin.

This scene from New Girl basically is Temple City to me. It's the town acting itself out, if it could. With the silence and the laughter and the absurdity and the serendipity. It just is Temple City.

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Hapa Pop Show

As per usual, Brazil is beating the U.S. at its own cultural game. Hapa musician Curumin, a mixed Japanese Brazilian, gets the sound of (inter) American life right.

Curumin's music ranges from Samba Japa, which layers auto-tuned Japanese chants on modern beats, to the crunk, 90's club style Caixa Preta.

I don't know who the American equivalent of Curumin is. Who does pop like this? Where can we hear Chinese L.A., or Pilipino San Francisco, in fun young music? 

Let's get going. I want to hear it.  Cuz serious musicianship + playful mixing = la cosa nostra.


The Story of One Chinese Mother

Amy Chua has caused quite an uproar with her recent Wall Street Journal article 'Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.' The article has garnered some 6,767 comments, and Chua has received both praise and hate mail from non-Asian Americans and Asian Americans alike.

When I first read it, I thought, "Okay. Some of this is true. And some of this has been common knowledge since the 70's. the big deal?"

I think the big deal is this, though: her overarching point - that Chinese mothers are superior - is not true. The word superior, in the piece and the title itself, comes off as 'superlative'. Yes, there are better ways to parent than others, but there is not a best way.

Having grown up in an area of greater Los Angeles that is almost half Chinese, I was raised around girls like Chua's daughters. The ones that couldn't go to sleepovers, and studied piano only after Chinese school and SAT prep classes were finished with.

Chua's parenting techniques raise smart and successful adults. But those techniques can also raise adults who don't fare well when not being given directions. Ten years out of high school, the AP and the SAT crowd has 'grown up', but for a long while there, they hadn't. High-school meet-ups during college were meetings of twenty year olds who still acted like fifteen year olds, joking about sex (that they hadn't had yet) and complaining about homework.

So her subtle suggestion that American society would be magically transformed if every child had to play the violin sounds bogus to me. It also sounds classist; not everyone needs to have a B.A. in order to be a good person.

In the end, Chua's article taught a lot of people about a world they didn't know about. And that's good. But Chua's article @font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } is exaggerated to the point where it's almost untrue; and that all but negates the power of her argument.

She sold a hyperbole in order to get a book deal.  And since misunderstanding equals media squalor and media squalor equals web hits, both she and the WSJ are profiting. But it should be seen for what it is a - a hit. It's not an overarching statement about an ethnicity, it's one statement of one (superior-feeling) mother.

Color Me Mine

I found the Pax Americana in the mall.

And not just any mall, but my parents’ mall in the well-watered suburbs of greater Los Angeles. It is possibly the most democratic mall in all of the United States; nineteen-year olds with acrylic nails can buy twelve-dollar stretch jeans, and the affluent housewives of lower Pasadena can buy Nordstrom cardigans and plum-colored, high-comfort pumps.

In Macy’s, an elderly Chinese man is seated comfortably in the oversized armchairs. He has come to enjoy the air-conditioning, his retirement, and paint a while.

Smiling contentedly in the noon-day silence, he paints pictures of clothing mannequins using Chinese calligraphy pens.

It’s America as a mannequin and Macy’s as an art studio, but it is a peaceful one, nonetheless. Americana did not leave American print making when Norman Rockwell passed; this gentleman too is drawing America, as he sees it and as he sees fit.