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Showing posts from June, 2009

Oriental Scent, Occidental Sense

So, I was at the Body Shop and I saw a couple of scents I'd never seen before: Moroccon Rose and Japanese Lily.

What with all this talk about Orientalism and being a Person of Colour and whatnot, I just realized how American-centric (occasionally, Euro-centric, but mostly Western-centric) thought patterns appear to be in the corners of the interwebz that I peer in. Ideas of how feminism is outdated because most societies "in the West" aren't patriarchal anymore (cue the ORLY owl), discussions on how Obama is representative of a post-racial world, even the black/white dichotomy that dominates conversations of race - these are very American-centric issues.

And I thought... would I ever see a scent called "American"... "Begonia"? For example. I mean, I've heard "English garden" before, but that's kind of an aesthetic, not really a scent. Why the romanticizing of these countries? These brands will be exported to the rest of the world, …

Body Issues: Fatty Fat Fat Edition

When I got home to Malaysia last December, the first thing Mum said was, "oh my God you're so fat now."

(Which might help explain my better relationship with my dad.)

The last time she'd seen me, I was rather svelte, a size 4 from Suzy Shier.

When I got home, I was a size 10.

There are reasons for this. When she last saw me, I was coming down from a high where I was walking to my university, dancing during rehearsals, and ... not eating that much for the amount of activity I was doing. I was very active: I frequently missed the bus and had to walk to university; I modeled, I... got out a lot for someone who doesn't like getting out a lot.

Before I last went home though? I was not getting out much. I was hosting NaNoWriMo (I'm the Halifax ML). I was starting a new full-time job. In between, I was stage-managing and acting in a play. It meant a lot of pizza nights, and a lot of meals at the food court downstairs.

The weight thing was inevitable. (However, the job thi…

Seven Deadly Sins Remix: Greed Edition

What's wrong with having more than one needs?

No, really.

Or even, wanting more than what is given?

Wanting our fair share is pretty natural, especially in our current world where we place so much status on having, and having recognition, having authourity, having representation is so fraught with debates - who deserves the spotlight? Who deserves the credit?

Really, the only justification I can think of to cite greed (the desire for more) as an ill is because if you're a person in power and you have a people who want as much as you have, then you have to share what you have.

(Because obviously wealth, power, and awesome shiny stuff is finite, like love and rights, so if you've got some, you've got to hoard it the best you can, or else, if someone else gets a bit, you will inevitably feel some kickback.)

I mean, crap, there's a lot in the world to share. Right? And... what we don't have enough of, we just build more. We can do that, last I checked. It just takes a bi…

Review: Tariq Ali's Islam Quintet

I just finished A Sultan in Palermo last week. Which means I am totally up to date on all of Tariq Ali's excellent Islam Quintet books.

I read the Book of Saladin when I was home in Malaysia, partly because I was bored, partly because it was right there on my brother's table, and partly because I'd seen a Malay translation. I was deeply impressed by the Book of Saladin, and I jumped at the first chance I had to buy the rest of the books. What can I say? Outside the Lines was having a massive sale since they were moving.

The first thing I noted about the stories? How real Tariq Ali made the characters. Each of them had a story. Each of them had a past, and most of them have futures (except for the majority of the unfortunate characters in Shadow of a Pomegranate Tree), which do not necessarily require some dramatic out-of-this-world revelation... it's all part of life for them. Men and women, all of them have good sides to them, and all have bad sides, and sometimes one o…

Star Trekking In Search of Scifi/Fantasy Divides

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were discussing steampunk and the steampunk movement in Japan, and he said, "most Japanese steampunk movies are just regular movies in a steampunk setting anyway." He pointed out that Star Wars is a science-fantasy, a fantasy set in space, and said, all scifi are just regular stories with added science, even Star Trek.

My first instinct was to argue but it did make me think.

There are just some stories which can't be told in another genre. I could be wrong in this, but, to state a few examples:

Howl's Moving Castle is predicated on Howl's living between two worlds - our Earth (where he has a nephew who has a computer) and the fantasy world, where he spends most of his time. There's a weird spell going on with a John Donne poem. In the movie, his curse is inextricably tied to Calcifer's. Neither of these stories would have worked realistically in a science fiction story, not without a huge stretch of imagination.

Kant's Categorical Imperative

So, I used to hate Kant.
Somewhere in my Intro to Philosophy textbook, is scribbled "Kant is a cunt" (those days I didn't know what 'cunt' meant, only that it's a bad word. Well, it still is for me, but bad in a good way) and "KANT U SUCK" and "YOU IDIOT!" and various other sputtered criticisms of his text.

I have my textbook in front of me now, reading my reactions to some of his words:

"... when a wretched man, strong in soul and more angered at his fate than faint-hearted or cast down, longs for death and still preserves his life without loving it- not fron inclination or fear but from duty; then indeed his maxim has a moral content."

I thought it was bullshit then, and it's still bullshit now. A choice to live or die is not in itself a question of morality - it's a question of personal liberty. Certainly, if a person's choice to die affects others deeply, causing grief and mourning, the action takes on a certain light…

Quintessentially Chinese: Money, Money, Money Edition

We Asians, particularly those of smokey-yellow skin, are apparently businesspeople to the core. This is our stereotype. My friend Tariq Kamal wrote, "the Chinese vote for whoever is good for business." Many Malaysian-Chinese families I know are apolitical, unruffled by the prospect of moving to other shores if it means a better life. It would explain the scores of Chinese I meet here who come for the paper degree in order to secure good jobs for their future.

The stereotype implies that there is no artistry in the Chinese, no passion, only a focus on wealth management. Our racist stereotype for Singaporeans (predominantly Chinese) is that they're materialistic, kiasu (always wanting to one-up another, snobby). In the Malay Dilemma, good Dr. Mahathir used evolutionary psych (and we know we're in trouble when a politician uses evo psych but this made sense to me) to point out the difference between the Chinese and Malay work ethics: the Chinese had to work hard in order…

R.I.P. David Eddings

David Eddings died a few weeks ago.

This was hard on me. June 6. His wife had died a couple of years earlier. He was 77. They wrote amazing stories together (and I was pleased when he acknowledged her role in his writing). David & Leigh Eddings, the books would say. A power couple.

So when he died, I took it kind of hard.

It is hard to quantify just how much the Eddingses have affected my life and informed my writing. Especially when I consider that I've only read the iconic Belgariad, the Mallorean, Belgarath the Sorcerer, Polgara the Sorceress (and I got it backward, I started with Lady Polgara's story, then Belgarath's, before reading the rest in the proper fashion) and the Redemption of Althalus.

Was he a formula writer? Oh yes.

Were his characters sometimes silly caricatures? Oh yes.

Did he use some of the most awful cliches ever? Hell yeah.

But he did all of that on purpose, and I love him for it. He just wanted to write a good story, that would entertain generations to…

Steampunking: Wildean Dreams

While participants of the steampunk subculture generally call themselves steampunks, I find myself calling myself a "steampunker".

I have a saying which goes, "It is not enough to do, one must be. It is not enough to be, one must become."

This was drawn from an Oscar Wilde quote from the second The Critic as Artist dialogue in which he expounds a kind of blend between critical theory and philosophy:

"... the contemplative life, the life that has for its aim not doing but being, and not being merely, but becoming - that is what the critical spirit can give us."

By the critical spirit, he meant the ability to judge something by various standards, rather than accept something at face value. He was writing about art, obviously, aesthetic art. But I took it to heart, and applied it to more than just art - I applied it to that great Work In Progress that is the Self. To always improve one's self, to always become something, preferrably something better that one…

Happy Father's Day

Generally, most of us identify with a parent of the same sex. Or so the narrative is supposed to go.

Anyways, this post is about my father. Or rather, my relationship with my father. It has always generally been good, except for that period from early adolescence until college where I expected more freedom than I generally got. Sometimes, he's a fucking grouch, but that's to be expected.

My father taught me how to cook and sweep the floor (yes, there is a specific way of doing so in order to maximise cleaning efficiency). He taught me how to be a responsible person and I can't remember the number of times he's close to bopped my head for not paying attention to my surroundings, the things that need to be done around the house, and my general chores. He took me out to volunteer at various society meets.

Even during our most trying years, my dad and I maintained some positive activities. We went to Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra performances together. They were spaced out…

The Broad Brushstroke

"Don't paint us all with the same brush."
"You're over-generalizing. We're not all like that."
"Don't judge the individual for what the group does."
"Well, I make sure not to do X so this doesn't apply to me and I resent your implication that it does."

You've seen this sentiment before, right? Right? It doesn't matter what it's about - when feminists are talking about men's participation within patriarchal systems. When PoC are talking about white collusion in oppressive institutions. When LGBTQ folks point out that het folks often practise het privilege in ignorance.

Certainly, there's a problem with over-generalization. It's not very nuanced. It's not very forgiving of people who belong to the one group that's being criticized.

But hell's bells, ya'll - why do you need the disclaimer of "this doesn't apply to all people within the group"? What possible benefit could you get fr…

A Quote, and Anger Revisited

In light of my post on Anger, I wish to quote Renee of Womanist Musings:
In a post awhile ago I used the term “dumb” to refer to those that did not acknowledge their homophobia. When a commenter rightfully pointed out that my language was ableist, my initial reaction was to become angry. I do believe I remarked to the unhusband, “geesh no one can even speak anymore.” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I realized that I had engaged in an act of privilege. The instant you feel anger, that is a cue that an issue needs to be examined. Anger does not result in a vacuum; in instances like this it is often the manifestation of a desire to maintain a privilege. In that moment I knew that I had been ableist and I felt regret. This, I believe, is the usefulness of controlling these emotions and being able to think about them rationally. If one gets angry, it's a great and useful opportunity to step back and ask, "why does this create such a visceral reaction in me? What …

Turning Away From Religion: The Fig Tree

Okay, that fucking fig tree thing.

Why is that even a story in the Bible?

No, seriously, what fucking point does it prove? Don't piss Jesus off or he will smite your ass into barrenness on the off-day that you just so happen to not have what he wants when he's feeling peckish?

I think Jesus was a nifty man and all evidence that proves his existance also proves that he was worthy of following.

But, the guys who edited the Bible and all - why would they pick this story? It makes no sense. It's fanciful. Jesus was being a careless asshole.

Anybody?

Lateisha Green

I am aware of Lateisha Green.

I know she is a transgender WoC. To be specific, she is a black WoC, which identifies her difference from Angie Zapata - Lateisha Green is - was, though it makes me weep to correct myself - darker-skinned.

But unlike the Zapata case, the media hasn't been following this case.

The trial of Dwight Delee has been moved to mid-July, when it was originally slated for June 11.

However, still not a peep from the media on the case. Not even close to the amount of coverage for Angie Zapata, which, in itself, was still not enough. And now there is even less attention.

This is not right.

I don't really have much else to say, except that I am aware of Lateisha Green, that she existed, that she died, and that the public at large seems not to notice. I am trying to keep an eye out on newbits on her.

Lateisha Green deserves all the recognition she can get, not because she was black, not because she was transgender, not because she was killed, but because she is part of…

Seven Deadly Sins Remix: Anger Edition

So it takes quite a bit to actually get me really pissed off. Like, rage-inducing sort of pissed off. I don't think I was like this when I was younger and I can't remember the last time I went into a blind rage.

But there have been times when I do get impatient, and angry, and mad, and someone has always been there to tell me, "don't get mad, let it go, this isn't worth your energy."

Since then, I've picked my battles wisely, and Wrath, like the other deadly sins, has helped me.

It is anger which drives me to seek solutions and better ways of progressing. It is anger which demands that I do not settle for a world which is less-than, that I do not settle for anything less than I ask. It is the anger in me which I will credit the incredible lack of bullshit in my life, because anger lends me the strength to simpy cut that shit out.

There are plenty of reasons why wrath is a vice - with it, people get violent, taking out their frustrations on others. Wrath at a …

Malaysiana: Pet Peeve #1 Edition

One of the sentiments I see very often in discussions of race with Malaysians is this: race isn't important. Talking about our racial problems will not help the situation. We are a multi-racial society and should thus learn how to learn multi-racially.

Part of this thought comes from my friend's post on Malay vs. Chinese counter-oppressions. In it, another very smart LiveJournaler pointed out that the article was simplistic, that "we should be talking about something else, or else not just about this."

Part of this thought comes from the Farish Noor interview in the original article, wherein Farish Noor says,
"I want to see a Malaysia that is luas, that is limitless in its abundance, wealth and potential. Not a Malaysia where ethnic communities plant their flags, saying "This is my patch, that patch is yours." It would be a Malaysia where one can walk freely and with confidence in the knowledge that this is our shared land and we are all the richer becaus…

Language Disconnect: Dialect Woes Edition

This is in response to bossymarmalade's submission to the 2nd Asian Women Blog Carnival.

She wrote this in particular:
For a long time, when we talked about Indian things, I would call them by my words and she, who can speak Hindi and Gujarati, would "correct" me. "Oh, you mean ____!"

"I guess so," I'd say, embarrassed by my country bookie mangling of proper Hindi.This totally reminds me of my own language woes whenever I try, at home. In particular, last Christmas, when I was in the same car with an aunt.

I'd pointed out to her, "if you look there's eu tchar kwai."

She gave me a long puzzled look, and then exclaimed, "eu tcha' kwei!"

YES, the slight vowel differences matter! Because "yau tchar kwai" is Cantonese, and "eu tcha' kwei" is Hokkien, and because I'm familiar (somewhat) with both, I inadvertantly mixed the two together.

It's gotten to the point where I've started giving ESL st…

Cultural Appropriation / I Write: A Quick List of Goals Edition

I found this on Ambling Along the Aqueduct a few weeks back, when first exploring the idea of cultural appropriation, since I could find no real primers on the topic. It's a list of goals that an informed writer should have when undertaking the task of writing a culture that's, well, different from theirs:

Within western fiction written by whites, there is always the problem of writing about other cultures. I don't mean writing about people not of one's own race, although that sort of diversity poses its own problems.

I mean, writing about other people's cultures and not falling into the many, many traps that await the unwary writer. These problems are especially acute in science fiction and fantasy, where most writers trade in describing places distant in time and space. Some of the goals of the informed writer should include:
Not sucking
Not including incorrect information
Not reducing incredibly complex cultural formations to bite-sized, simplified versions that have…

"Quintessentially Chinese": Hubris Edition

In ciderpress' submission to the Asian Women Blog Carnival, she wrote:
There are so many white people who feel like it's their natural right to take whatever they want and make it "theirs" and take out of the soul of it and steal away the cool, exotic shape without any understanding or love, decide who belong is their us-group and shut others out, while a significant proportion of 2nd/3rd/4th gen Asians living in the west want to deny any part of them that isn't "Western/American/British"... ie, specifically coded white. (The amount of cultural cringe that many of us feel when we see FOBs/1st gen -- are we so alienated from parts of our own identity that we feel embarrassed by something different and yet so much the same?)I highlight the bit what I was planning on responding to. I was going to write a few lines at her post, just to let her know that my answer was "yes".

... But then I had to explain myself that I felt this, even in Malaysia, una…

Asian Women Blog Carnival #3: Call for Submissions

The [completely optional] theme for the 3rd Asian Women Blog Carnival is:

Intersections between Culture and Sexism

For many of us, "white feminism" tends to be our introduction towards recognizing sexism, racism, and other kinds of -isms that are relevant to our lives. But because we come from varying cultures, what others may call sexism, we call a cultural trait (the hijab is a prime example). Occasionally, we may have encountered sexism in our own cultures, but we never thought about it that way until after coming into contact with other cultures.


Here are some questions you may want to tackle for this carnival:

- How does sexism manifest in your cultural context?

- Do you find resistance from peers towards naming an incident sexist due to cultural factors?

- What do you think of the notion some non-Asian feminists have that imply you might be too immersed in your own culture to recognize sexism?

- From your own cultural perspective, do you think sometimes, North American mainst…

Steampunking: Politics Edition, A Response to Dru Pagliasotti

I read Ms. Pagliasotti's essay a while back, upon the recommendation of Ay-Leen the Peacemaker, and meant to make a response sooner, but decided to hold off until I had more to respond to. And I have, which I found in the innocuous description of LJ community steamfashion (which, in itself, is a fabulous community for inspiration when putting together a steampunk wardrobe). The last large paragraph within the profile is as follows:

The "punk" in steampunk is a reference to cyberpunk, because when steampunk first formed it was comprised essentially of cyberpunk (that is, dystopian high tech sci-fi) stories set during the Victorian period. The word punk is a very old English term that originally meant a prostitute, but which by the 20th century had evolved into a term meaning an outsider, a street person, or a ruffian (it's fairly clear why the punk rock subculture used this word to describe itself). There is clearly no link between the people of a steampunk setting and…

Free Speech: Transphobia Edition [TRIGGER WARNING]

This is what happens when you give the right to free speech to hateful people:

Talk show: KRXQ, Sacramento, Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning

Williams and States took turns referring to gender dysphoric children as "idiots" and "freaks," who were just out "for attention" and had "a mental disorder that just needs to somehow be gotten out of them," either by verbal abuse on the part of the parents, or even shock therapy.

"Allowing transgenders to exist, pretty soon it becomes normal to fall in love with the animals."

States bragged that if his own son were to ever dare put on a pair of high heels, States would beat his son with one of his own shoes. He urged parents whose own little boys expressed a desire to wear a dress to verbally abuse and degrade them as a viable response.

"Because you know what? Boys don't wear high heel shoes. And in my house, they definitely don't wear high heels. I'm going to go, 'You know wh…

Seven Deadly Sins Remix: Sloth Edition

So I'm sometime pretty fucking lazy.

Part of it is just that, I'm just really fucking lazy. Part of it is I have trouble disciplining myself. Another part of it is occasionally I get a shot of depression and holy crap does it make shit hard to do.

But I grew up in Malaysia, where even if the grocery store is just like, a fifteen minute walk, we need to take the car to make it a five minute drive. *raises eyebrow* Where the work days are... pretty much twelve-hour days (my brother, now in the rat race, leave the house at 7am and is rarely home before 9pm). Where if you're enjoying yourself, you become the target of envy and ribbing, as opposed to someone taking a good deserved break. Where if you're not an old person, or a young person, your ass better be working or you'll run the risk of being called a shiftless lazy bum.

I grew up with this shit. I grew up expecting life to be a flurry of activity day-in-day-out and people are supposed to fall in love with someone we…

Racism: Malaysia Vs. Indonesia

I said something racist the other day. I sat at a table of white people and two PoC (one Middle-Eastern, one Asian) and the subject of David Carradine's death came up. Somehow the newsbit read out had him hanging himself in Indonesia.

I said, "Indonesia? Anybody would hang themselves in Indonesia. Sorry, I'm just being racist."

Everybody laughed*. My Asian friend pointedly reminded me, "There's only two of us here who can say that."

And when I said I was being racist, by God I meant I was being racist. We Malaysians can be a fucking racist lot. Just ask Tiara. We're racist towards Bangladeshis who come to our shores looking for work. We're racist towards Filipino/as working as our maids. We're racist towards Indonesians who are our current source for cheap-ass labour.

My mother hires Indonesian maids to help her out at her shop. Cripes does she ever have a shitty attitude towards them sometimes - as if they should be beholden towards her for giv…

Pro-Choice: Common Ground Edition

I don't like the idea of abortion. Honestly, who does, anyway. I'm staunchly pro-choice on the matter. Could be that part of it is my upbringing - I'm privileged enough that if I'd gotten pregnant when younger, my mother would probably have found some doctor to perform an abortion, hush hush.

I had a... disagreement with a friend the other day on the matter. She's fine with it being legal. She's not fine with it being "paid out of taxpayer pockets" (as is the case here in fine old Nova Scotia, apparently). Her position sort of boils down to "if you have sex and get pregnant, pay for it. If you have sex and can't pay for an abortion, don't have sex."

Technically pro-choice. Principles-wise? Not much. It doesn't allow for choices. It basically shuts down sex as a privilege, not a natural need.

I once had a discussion with a pro-life friend about it. She seriously believes that abortion is murder. Which is fine, if there's somethin…

Seven Deadly Sins Remix: Envy Edition

I remember the last time I was jealous, it was because I felt inferior and I was scared of losing what I had.

But from what I've seen, envy's different. The last time I was envious, I simply didn't have what it was I coveted from the other person, and I decided to work my ass off to get it.

I think that's the qualitative difference between jealousy and envy. Jealousy's destructive, because it gnaws inside and tells us we're worth less. Envy is the desire for more, to want more, to have more, to be more.

Channelled positively, I think envy could be a great driving force for change. When we see others having something special we want for ourselves, we'll work harder to have it. Certainly, envy has been in the past channelled negatively to more destructive ends, but as I said, these are tools which can push us towards good, so long as we are aware of what we're doing. (To be honest, most anything we do should be accompanied with a good dose of self-awareness.…

China Censors History

There is something to be said about the Chinese government's hypocrisy, demanding some sort of recognition from the Japanese for war crimes committed during WW II (Japan does not acknowledge the Rape of Nanking, for example) while at the same time pointedly censoring any discussion of key points in its own history.

The Wired.com reports that Chinese authourities have "instituted censoring measures to block access to several internet sites and services in anticipation of Thursday’s 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest and massacre."

Twitter, LJ, MSN Spaces, Flickr, Hotmail - all manner of internet spaces wherein the Chinese could communicate, are anticipated to be blocked in a shameful silencing of the people. In a space of two billion people, where it's conceivable that only a slender minority actually have access to the World Wide Web, the Chinese people are being denied the chance to speak about an incident that shook so many people to the core back in 19…

Sex and Disablism

amandaw of three rivers fog has put out a call for submissions of stories by disabled people about sex. Contributions are preferrably anonymous to encourage more contributions, although video and audio contributions are welcome. She writes:
'I am working on a post about ableism in “liberated” sexual culture (including feminism, but not limited to it). And I really think there is no better way to illustrate this than with real words, real experience.

Do you have, or have you had, a disability (or, if you do not identify as disabled, do you have a condition which results in some sort of mental or physical impairment)? If so: Tell me about your experience in the bedroom.
'
Spread the word.


Cross-posted to the Redux Edition

Seven Deadly Sins Remix: Pride Edition

"Only the nobility have ancestors. Most people only have grandparents!" - Pridefly, Ash Girl by Timberlake Wertenbaker.
"Pride comes before a fall", sez the old adage. It's better to be low-born and humble, than high-born and proud.

It's about half right. If you're considered low-born and humble for it, chances are you don't have anything to be proud of in your whacked world where class difference between the commoner and nobility class actually makes a difference - we tried that and the French Revolution happened.

Unless in excess, I see no reason for pride to be a deadly sin. I can see how it can be used as a deadly form of social control, though. If you want to keep a person down, tell them they have nothing to be proud of. That they shouldn't see their accomplishments as worth much. This can effectively prevent a person from asserting themselves, because part of what fuels our self-assurance in this world is our pride and joy tha comes from ach…