Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Tonight is a particular honor for me because – let’s face it – my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack; his father -- my grandfather -- was a cook, a domestic servant. But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place – America – that stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.

While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty; he joined Patton’s army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west, in search of opportunity. And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter.

A common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or “blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential. {more}

for audio listening.

by now, many of you have heardof barack obama, not to mention his heritage.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

moneky see, monkey do

Culture is Skin Deep
Tattoos with Asian writing is a fashion must-have, but does it symbolize cultural insensitivity?
By LYNDA LIN, Pacific Citizen Assistant Editor

Some people describe the act of plunging a needle into flesh to create a permanent tattoo as nothing short of being a divine experience. The joining of man, art and culture in one sharp point hearkens to traditional tribal tattooing rituals of the past, but the only difference is that these days, rituals are being replaced with convenience. People can now walk into nearly any tattoo shop and pick out a cultural identity of their choice and spell it out on their skin, all within 30 minutes or less.

The popularity of Asian-influenced tattoos in the mainstream is undeniable — dragons and swords have been a fashion staple for years, but a new wave of interest in tattoos with Asian writing, characters or words have created a veritable alphabet soup out of ink and flesh.
Some of the more common tattoos involve words of empowerment spelled out in Chinese characters that mean “strength” or in Japanese kanji like current Denver Nugget’s star Marcus Camby’s proclamation of “to strive” on his right arm.

“The use of kanji has always been popular since the 1980s because there’s always a desire for something different. It’s the allure of exoticism,” said San Jose-based tattoo artist Horitaka.
But like Asian-influenced clothing, tattoos with Asian characters are saturating pop culture and becoming the latest fad for cultural consumption. Vending machines dispense temporary tattoos with Chinese writing for children and neighborhood walk-in tattoo shops carry a large selection of Asian characters.

The most popular form of tattoos with Asian writing is something Horitaka calls a strictly American tendency — tattooing one’s own name onto the body.
A small kanji character that translates to “Haru” sits on Amy Wakayama’s right hipbone. In the summer of 1998, when “tattoos were the rage,” Wakayama summoned her language skills learned from past Japanese classes and chose the character because it represented her middle name “Harue” and her father’s name “Haruo.”

But for others, getting a self-referential tattoo is a very personal attempt to reclaim their diminishing heritages.
Ken Arata, 25, is planning to get his family name tattooed down his spine in kanji to show that his Japanese heritage is the backbone of his existence even though he does not speak the language.

Megan Carriero, 20, is South Korean but she was adopted at a young age by a European American couple in Connecticut who kept reminding her of her Korean name, which means “Silky Girl.” The tattoo on her lower back is the Korean characters for “Silky Girl,” which she researched by rifling through her adoption papers and then showed to the tattoo artist to have etched into her skin.

“Not that I want to combine both my lives, because I am who I am. I am American, but from Asian descent. It’s just my way of giving tribute, in a way, and remembering that I am originally from Asia,” said Carriero.

Because of her own experience, Carriero said that she finds the current popularity of tattoos with Asian characters silly for people to get unless they have a real connection with the culture.
But Nicole Conley defends her decision to get the Chinese words for “Year of the Ram” and “Year of the Rooster” tattooed on the front of each shoulder next to her collarbone. Even though she is not Asian, she has a love for the culture. And her tattoos are not just fashion accessories, but are symbols of a special bond between herself and her husband who has matching tattoos.
Still, Conley said that when Asian Americans see her tattoos, they give her a “quick quiz” and seem pleased as long as she knows the true meaning of the characters.

In his 13 years of experience as a tattoo artist in Los Angeles, Kirk Alley estimated that one out of every 20 customers goes to a walk-in tattoo shop to get a tattoo with Asian characters, and from that percentile most of those are Caucasians and African Americans. He attributes this popularity to a “monkey see, monkey do” attitude.

However, the popularity of these tattoos has created another problem — nonsensical writing and unintentionally funny denotations.
“The Chinese-Japanese written language is very complex. Unless the tattoo artist speaks and writes the language, it’s impossible to translate correctly,” said Alley. “One wrong brush stroke and it says something completely different.”

Stories about tattoo artists wreaking revenge on nasty customers by inking derogatory phrases like “slut” and “ugly” float from one tattoo shop to another like urban legends, but Horitaka has seen a lot of really messed up kanji that declare gibberish.
Whether for cultural or fashionable reasons, he has advice for the burgeoning group of young people scrambling to get their ethnic phrase inked in their skin: do your research.

“People come [into the tattoo shop] and say, ‘I got this off the internet,’” said Horitaka. “Well, the internet is a toilet bowl. Others come in and say, ‘We were at a Chinese restaurant and someone helped us translate this.’ Well, did you tip well?”  from

early this month, i got another tattoo on my back. it is a kanji inscription with the title 'freedom of love.' considering my current blissful & sometimes neurotic state, its timely & now i can say, it feels great!  which comes to my next point. that shit hurt! man, it hurt like hell. right down my spinal cord, four teeny weeny inscriptions that made me holler like a child. the poor guy at the tattoo parlour was kinda scared. there i was, clenching my hand onto the backside of the chair thingy bitting into two paper towels, my eyes bulging out of their sockets wondering what the fuck i'm i doing.
& now, im thinking hehehehe.. i still have space towards my sacred chakra. more space..more ideas..

i'm not new to piercing. i have a thing with & about needles, holes and ink.  i think of it as my ritualistic ceremony. just like last summer, this is an marker to another jucture in my life. few days, before coming to the states, i had several piecerings on my ears and a third one on my nose. the nose is significant because of the celebration of the trinity: body/mind/spirit. also, it looks cute with three teeny weeny studs. i had pierced my bellybutton twice and twice had gotten 'lost' in some activity or another.  i also did my yoni, which now, its purely aesthetic than anything else.

i like tattoos alot because i find it as a bridge between mortality (the flesh) and the expression of human-ness (art). i feel like im naming myself into whatever it is i bring into my space. may it be in music, art or human interaction. i also think its a labour of love, seating and watching an idea take form.

Monday, July 26, 2004

i read this from abortionclinicdays . this is an article written by Barbara Ehrenreich posted on the newyork times. the date it was published, i have no idea. 

July 22, 2004
Owning Up to Abortion
Abortion is legal - it's just not supposed to be mentioned or acknowledged as an acceptable option. An article in The Times on Sunday, "Television's Most Persistent Taboo," reported that a Viacom-owned channel is refusing to run the episodes of a soap opera in which the teenage heroine chooses to abort. Even "Six Feet Under," which is fearless in its treatment of sexual diversity, burdens abortion with terrible guilt. Where are those "liberal media" when you need them?

You can blame a lot of folks, from media bigwigs to bishops, if we lose our reproductive rights, but it's the women who shrink from acknowledging their own abortions who really irk me. Increasingly, for example, the possibility of abortion is built right into the process of prenatal care. Testing for fetal defects can now detect over 450 conditions, many potentially fatal or debilitating. Doctors may advise the screening tests, insurance companies often pay for them, and many couples (no hard numbers exist) are deciding to abort their imperfect fetuses.

The trouble is, not all of the women who are exercising their right to choose in these cases are willing to admit that that's what they are doing. Kate Hoffman, for example, who aborted a fetus with Down syndrome, was quoted in The Times on June 20 as saying: "I don't look at it as though I had an abortion, even though that is technically what it is. There's a difference. I wanted this baby."

Or go to the Web site for A Heartbreaking Choice, a group that provides support for women whose fetuses are deemed defective, and you find "Mom" complaining of having to have her abortion in an ordinary abortion clinic: "I resented the fact that I had to be there with all these girls that did not want their babies."

Kate and Mom: You've been through a hellish experience, but unless I'm missing something, you didn't want your babies either. A baby, yes, but not the particular baby you happened to be carrying.

The prejudice is widespread that a termination for medical reasons is somehow on a higher moral plane than a run-of-the-mill abortion. In a 1999 survey of Floridians, for example, 82 percent supported legal abortion in the case of birth defects, compared with about 40 percent in situations where the woman simply could not afford to raise another child.

But what makes it morally more congenial to kill a particular "defective" fetus than to kill whatever fetus happens to come along, on an equal opportunity basis? Medically informed "terminations" are already catching heat from disability rights groups, and, indeed, some of the conditions for which people are currently choosing abortion, like deafness or dwarfism, seem a little sketchy to me. I'll still defend the right to choose abortion in these cases, even if it isn't the choice I'd make for myself.

It would be unfair, though, to pick on the women who are in denial about aborting "defective" fetuses. At least 30 million American women have had abortions since the procedure was legalized, mostly for the kind of reasons that anti-abortion people dismiss as "convenience" - a number that amounts to about 40 percent of American women. Yet in a 2003 survey conducted by a pro-choice group, only 30 percent of women were unambivalently pro-choice, suggesting that there may be an appalling number of women who are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves.

Honesty begins at home, so I should acknowledge that I had two abortions during my all-too-fertile years. You can call me a bad woman, but not a bad mother. I was a dollar-a-word freelancer and my husband a warehouse worker, so it was all we could do to support the existing children at a grubby lower-middle-class level. And when it comes to my children - the actual extrauterine ones, that is - I was, and remain, a lioness.

Choice can be easy, as it was in my case, or truly agonizing. But assuming the fetal position is not an appropriate response. Sartre called this "bad faith," meaning something worse than duplicity: a fundamental denial of freedom and the responsibility that it entails. Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights. The freedoms that we exercise but do not acknowledge are easily taken away.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

women's world

blacklock has written extensively on the situation in sudan and the atrocities done to women. there has been talk that blair is planning on intervening in the name of oil. 

It will be interesting to see how successful British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in forging  a "coalition of the willing" to alleviate the suffering in Sudan, Africa's largest country, with 2.5 million square kilometres (about a quarter the size of the United States) and some 30 million people (about the same as Canada). The Guardian newspaper has reported that Blair is drawing up plans for military intervention to allow aid to reach homeless refugees and protect them from government-supported militias. Blair hasn't used the term "coalition of the willing," but it's not a bad idea. It certainly has more  justification than the "coalition of the willing" sought by Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush in the invasion of Iraq. This time, Canada must be one of the willing, because we have substantial involvement in Sudan's oil sector, which has contributed to much of the horror in this cruel, God-forsaken part of the world. Consider the use of government- sanctioned rape to humiliate, terrorize and control black Africans in the Darfur region at the western edge of Sudan.

i'm not holding my breathe regarding intervention of the west. history keeps repeating itself. remember rwanda, bosnia, liberia,  democratic republic of congo, haiti...

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Tree Ambassador


Wangari Maathai is a name well-established in the world of environmental advocacy. She started in Kenya in 1977 when she began planting tree seedlings one by one, a trend that caught on en masse to form what would become the internationally recognized Green Belt Movement (GBM), which has earned, and still earns, her many awards, including the Goldman Environmental Prize and entry into UNEP’s Global 500 Hall of Fame.

Despite facing intense clashes with the government throughout the years, including being jailed for her work and her outspoken voice for the environment, democracy, and the rights of women and the poor, the GBM has struggled and survived. In 1986 it was expanded to the Pan African Green Belt Network, and to date has seen more than 30 million trees planted—on farms, schools, forests and other public lands, bringing life to often desertified areas. The concept was first introduced during Wangari’s involvement with the National Council of Women of Kenya, who adopted and supported her efforts to develop a grassroots organization focused on mobilizing women to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life. <more>

thanks angel

Sunday, July 18, 2004

                         single black women addicted to retail 
                                     - kayne west. college dropout

yes,it's about time i stepped out & quenched my thirst. this love business is HARD. not that i mind, but aii why lie. i have probbed and pushed and cried and bitched and done not very nice things, and thereafter profusely apologized to myself and most importantly, to the zawadi (gift) & prescence of love. m and i were talking about how we desire our partners to feel passionate about us. the stuff music is derived from. i mean there is one thing, someone profusely declaring their un-dying love and affection & another to come home to a drawn out bath of candles, rose petals and sade. it's at romantic relationships that my neurosis show the most.
you know what i'm saying!
so i've been taking these long out conversations with myself in regards to what i want et al. hence, partly the quote from kayne west..SHOPPING. It's like tumrararum.. violins please.  why didnt i know that shopping can be sooo wonder shopping has this instant gratification esp. when you get sexy cute heels and this is coming from someone who until recently detested anything girlie girly. which goes to show you, one  can never be absolutely too certain about themselves.
each sunday for the last three months has been dressy sunday, like going to church only this time i am heading to the plantation. it began with african dresses, without the wraps and gradually progressed to cute dresses with high heels. i now have pink high heels..who would have thought. i certainly didn't see this coming..hehehe
anyways. so i was thinking about my current fascination (read obsession) with anything girlie girly & i remembered that about this time last year, i was equally obsessed with mens' ties and shirts. strange eh..
so, i thought about it alittle bit more and was reminded of an article i read on the shedding of one's identity by wearing other gender clothes was seen as a way of taking in the characteristics of that gender & giving whatever gender you are in a rest. i was like sweet..i was like mmh, interesting. let me explore this a little bit more. last year, i felt the need to be tough. in control. un-yielding. ma·chis·mo. Function: nounEtymology: Spanish, from macho1 : a strong sense of masculine pride : an exaggerated masculinity.
dare i say, i bought a shirt, got a cool tie from neman marcus and straddled my stuff to work on several instances. i felt very much at home, like one of the guys with breasts and child bearing hips. talk about transformation.. so is this how guys feel wearing ties and no creased popeye with the this too much information (hehehe)
all this got me round away to start thinking of ritual and the lack of ceremonies and celebrations to bridge one from one level to another. & how i feel like in my twisted way im enacted my own celebration and ceremonies along the way. i feel as is with this blog, a way of re-membering myself.
i have felt that love is a way of the ritual.

thanks to majeeda, i found out im a resident of some kick ass depth!

I am Challenger Deep!
Which Extremity of the World Are You?
From the towering colossi at Rum and Monkey.