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    Sexual Asian-ation

    Posted by Sean at 02:59, October 30th, 2005

    Via Gay News, I saw this DP article about an actor who spoke at Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. (I was a bit confused about that. I thought Asian Pacific American Heritage month was May and was wondering whether I was going to have to go all ethnicity-admiring and diversity-appreciating on Marc‘s ass for the second time this year. But I think last week was just a Penn event, so I can keep liking my Asian friends in the boring old individual way.)

    The actor, who apparently used to be on Law & Order, was faced with a problem: he is (1) a racial minority and (2) a faggot–but not (3) a woman, and therefore does not qualify for the PC Triple Crown. I thought he found an ingenious solution to this appalling deficiency:

    Wong conveyed the confusion of his childhood in San Francisco when he interrupted an anecdote about his struggles as a young Asian-American with, “Oh, I forgot to tell you that I was a homo,” eliciting peals of laughter from the audience.

    Encouraged by a “colorblind” drama teacher, Wong discovered a passion for the performing arts as a child.

    Later, Wong encountered Asian stereotypes in the acting world for the first time when he was cast as a Chinese stowaway in a play outside of school.

    “It was the most shocking thing that I have ever experienced in my life,” Wong said.

    Though Wong changed to a different role after speaking with the director, this experience was the beginning of his “racial anorexia.”

    Wong highlighted the intensity of this internal conflict when he said, “At least when you’re anorexic, you can starve yourself. What can you do when you have this face?”

    See? He was, like, anorexic, and what’s more princessy-feminist chick than having an eating disorder brought on by patriarchal pressure? All right, FINE, he was a metaphorical chick, but in this world of contingency and différance, we wouldn’t want to be reinforcing false binarisms between the literal and the figurative.

    I have to say that I’m not quite sure what the anorexia comparison is supposed to, you know, mean. He wanted to destroy his Asian self, I guess? There’s a potentially interesting question lingering in there about where typecasting shades off into stereotyping. No one bitches that Kristin Scott Thomas is, as much for her sky-goddess coloring and bone structure as for her actorly skill, frequently called upon to play uptight women of Northern European extraction with emotions simmering beneath the surface.

    I can see, in an instinctive sense, how casting Asians in boxed-in roles is somehow worse, but it’s hard to explicate. Surely one doesn’t have directors telling actors to Charlie Chan up their accents. There is definitely a tendency on the part of casting directors to figure that everyone with slanted eyes and dusky skin is interchangeable, which is how you end up with Vietnamese, Korean, and Taiwanese women all playing Chinese roles in The Joy Luck Club. But that doesn’t seem to be what Wong is talking about. And what, pray tell, is a “generic Asian waiter”? It’s not as if there were meaty, three-dimensional waiter roles available by the dozens for white actors. If troubled Korean gang members exist, I’m not sure why they shouldn’t be featured in teleplays, as long as their individual identities are fleshed out.

    Wong, as befits the occasion, doesn’t seem to have been much concerned with individual identity:

    After struggling with his race and sexual orientation during most of his life, Wong has gradually come have confidence in himself.

    “Ironically, the two things that I loathed about myself were the things that were rich about myself,” he said.

    Yes, we should all learn to derive our sense of the richness of our personal identities from the boxes we check on census forms. An inspiring example for today’s college youth, that is.


    Posted by Sean at 04:37, October 29th, 2005

    Not all of Prime Minister Koizumi’s gestures of respect for Japanese military dead are controversial. This morning he attended a memorial service for fallen SDF personnel:

    Addressing those assembled at a memorial service held at the Japan Defense Agency for Self-Defense Force personnel who have fallen in the line of duty, Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi stated, “This precious sacrifice by the spirits [of our soldiers] has not been made for nothing; we will continue to construct a system that allows us to complete the exalted mission [they undertook].”

    The memorial was for sixteen or so SDF trainees who were killed in training accidents; there have been no combat operations since the war, of course. Koizumi’s statement was pretty content free today–in political terms, I mean; there’s nothing weightless about honoring dead soldiers–but it’s always good to pay attention to these things because things that slip into set-piece speeches can sometimes give you a glimpse of what the administration is thinking. Where to take the SDF from here has been a big issue over the last few years. The US supports moves to make it more like a standing army, with the legal ability to participate in defense operations with allies. North Korea likes to test missiles over our heads. China’s economic growth has been accompanied by increased unrest and schizo behavior by the CCP. Japan wants permanent membership on the UN Security Council. And that doesn’t even factor in Japan’s place on the Islamofascist terror hit list, for the transgression of being a developed and free country.

    The current proposal by the LDP’s committee on constitutional revision is to change the SDF to the SDA: 自衛軍 (jieigun: self-defense army). You can never translate these things perfectly, but a 軍 is more menacing-sounding than a 隊. Koizumi appears not to have said much of anything about how his administration views the SDF’s “mission” this morning, but it’s clearly changing.

    Rice and Machimura confab

    Posted by Sean at 04:18, October 29th, 2005

    Condoleezza Rice has explicitly declared that the US supports Japan in its efforts to resolve the abductee issue:

    On the evening of 28 October (29 October JST), Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura met with US Secretary of State [Condoleezza] Rice at the Ministry of Interior Affairs. They agreed in their perception that there must be a review of US and Japan’s contributions to the United Nations, which combined exceed 40% [of total member contributions]. They also reaffirmed that they would present a united front in working toward the denuclearization of North Korea. Machimura indicated that, regarding the Japan-DPRK summit to be opened on 3 November, it is Japan’s plan to make the Japanese abductee issue its highest priority in discussion; Rice stated [that Japan had America’s] “support on all fronts.”

    Rice also restated that the US supports Japan’s bid for permanent membership on the UN Security Council, though the Bush administration has been known to advise the Koizumi cabinet to throttle back at times. There seems to have been no mention of the beef import ban.

    And the love profusion / You make me feel, you make me know

    Posted by Sean at 09:18, October 28th, 2005

    I guess I hadn’t been reading Ace long enough to know much about her coming out. She’s posted about it at Gay Orbit and at her place. (It’s the same post, but she may get different comments for each.)

    I was way luckier than I expected to be. I was brought up in an extremely conservative Sabbatarian Christian sect–you know, people who weren’t members of the church were collectively known as “the World,” and we had two-hour services every week. You took notes when you were considered old enough, which in most families was around twelve or so. Just about every week there was at least one mention of how vigilant everyone needed to be against Satanic influences on their children in which homosexual activism figured prominently.

    So when I settled in my mind that I was definitely, permanently gay, my options were very clear and very polarized. I figured my parents would tell me that they still loved me but that we weren’t going to be able to have any correspondence anymore. For about a month–not very long, I guess, though it seemed like an eternity–I flip-flopped over whether to tell them, but I come from a pretty out-with-it-already kind of family, so I decided to come out and just deal.

    I told them just after New Year’s in 1996. The next three days were notable for their lack of relaxed family fun, but when I went back to New York, it was with the understanding that they weren’t going to disown me and I wasn’t about to go all druggy and bathhousey. After that there were a few awkward moments–I’ve never in my life eaten very much at one sitting, but after I was out, there was a sudden danger that my not wanting a third slice of shoo-fly pie meant I had an eating disorder because, you know, Cherie Bank on Channel 10 did this report that said a lot of Men Like Me do. Over the next few years, I figured out the rules: I can mention a guy I’m dating or talk about my boyfriend, but gay issues in general are a no-go. I mention the word gay–nay, use the letters g, a, and y within any five consecutive words–and the subject is changed. Not pointedly, but resolutely.

    When I wanted to bring Atsushi home two years ago, everything was fine. I mean, it was so fine it was kind of spooky. They put us in separate rooms, of course, but they spent the whole time doing their mischievous/playful/intimately ribald thing, which they don’t do around people they want to distance themselves from.

    My mother even tried to challenge Atsushi to a drinking game, but he doesn’t drink. This was at the “Japanese” steakhouse in one of the malls near where I grew up, BTW. You know, run by a Korean family, with Chinese calligraphy all over the place and Polynesian drinks on the menu. The chefs joke and juggle knives. You can get chow mein noodles instead of rice. Atsushi found the whole thing a lot of fun but utterly bewildering, and the ‘rents never let him forget it. “This isn’t the Japanese you get in Japan, huh, Atsu?” Mom guffawed at one point. “Yeah, I bet you’re wishing you’d gone ahead and gotten a beer now!” Dad chimed in. Right about then I took a long drink of vodka and started to hope that maybe they could find it in their hearts to like him a little less. They let him go without too many more incidents, though. Since then, they always tell me to give their love to him when we talk or write back and forth, and they send him Christmas presents.

    Normally, I try to leave my parents off the blog because they aren’t here to give their version of events when it differs from my own. (Well, that and it’s not my place to tell their stories.) I’m only giving them walk-on parts now because I wonder whether things would have worked this way three or four years after I came out. It was never my intention to use my Japanese major to move to Japan; I came here and liked it and then fortuitously discovered that my grad school mentor and I were incompatible, but I would have been in New York for another five or six years if I’d stayed on track. It’s hard to say what would have happened in a reality that never came to pass. I’d been out for six years when I brought up the idea of bringing Atsushi home, so the fact that the gay thing wasn’t going anywhere was pretty apparent. Time was probably the biggest factor, along with a willingness to be persistent without being pushy.

    Miers withdrawal official

    Posted by Sean at 00:45, October 28th, 2005

    Harriet Miers has withdrawn from consideration for the Supreme Court; you’ll have heard that already. Right Side of the Rainbow has a good roundup of the reactions from conservatives and libertarians.

    Now I know you’re mine

    Posted by Sean at 03:37, October 27th, 2005

    Given Madonna’s dogmatic pronouncements about spirituality lately, it’s nice to see that she’s still capable of self-questioning on some issues of true import:

    When asked about her gay icon status, she admitted she “hopes” she is still the biggest gay icon of all time.

    However, she also reveals that she agrees with Kylie Minogue’s summary of the Australian superstar being the princess, and Madonna the queen.

    “That’s very good,” she says. “We like it that way.”

    The former Material Girl [ %#$@*! –SRK] also hit back at criticisms from Boy George that her Kabbalah religion is homophobic.

    “He’s just got a bee in his bonnet,” she says.

    Oy. I can just hear her delivering that last sentence in her phony not-quite-plummy-so-let’s-call-it-pruny “English” accent.

    The Kylie part is very sweet, though.

    As far as whether she’s still a gay icon goes, if my corner of Tokyo is any indication, that’s a question that needn’t even be asked. The other night, a few of us ran into a guy who hadn’t heard the single yet, and before we could stop ourselves, we all stared at him as if he’d just landed from Mars.

    Personally, my position is that, despite my uncritical devotion to Madonna, this album had better be good. Two years ago I paid money for an album with her posing as Che flippin’ Guevara on the cover, and the music did not compensate. Fool me twice, and all that.

    I do like “Hung Up,” though IIRC, Erasure had the bright idea of doing a tweaked cover of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” like, two decades ago. (They tweaked it by grafting a bit of “Money Money Money” onto the beginning. For all I know, they also grafted a bit of “I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do” onto the end; I’ve almost never been able to listen to an Erasure song all the way through.) Madonna usually isn’t the major trailblazer she seems to think she is, but she rarely leads off with concepts that are frankly tired. Then again, given her output over the last few years, we should be celebrating the fact that she’s seen fit to deliver a hook without burying it.

    (Via Gay News)

    The low expectations of soft bigotry

    Posted by Sean at 01:35, October 27th, 2005

    Cathy Young has posted a long and very, very good response to Maggie Gallagher’s guest-blog entries at the Volokh Conspiracy. Gallagher has also responded to Young. Something near the end of Gallagher’s post took me aback in a big, bad way:

    I too share your hope that we can have SSM and simultaneously figure out how to increase the likelihood that children in this country are born to and raised by their own married mom and dad.

    That first part came out of left field for me–I assume it means that Gallagher figures that SSM is inevitable, anyway, so she hopes we can make the best of the change. But she’s been saying for some time, unless I’ve read her incorrectly, that she thinks support for gay marriage has been slowly starting to wane lately. In that light, it doesn’t seem likely that she would be regarding it as an inevitable development. At the same time, while I’ve never read her as anti-gay, she can hardly mean that she’s looking forward to the advent of gay marriage. I don’t quite know what to make of that bit.

    Young is also right that Gallagher didn’t present her arguments very fluidly, but it’s hard not to sympathize with her. The crux of the pro-gay marriage argument, on the part of many of its supporters, can be delivered in a snappy sentence: “Conventional marriage isn’t always about pro-creation, and gays fall in love and want to provide for their families just like straights–what justification is there for not treating their relationships the same legally?”

    The crux of the argument against gay marriage is not as easy to put succinctly, involving as it does all the messy hormones and impulses and choices and things that are involved in taking a child through the two-decade transition into someone who’s healthy, self-reliant, and ready to assume a place in adult society. Half of the evidence involved is probably boring even to the research psychologists and demographers who generate it. But that doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate.

    Eric has also addressed–I hope I don’t sound self-infatuated linking this, since the post in question begins by citing me approvingly; I’m not really going to deal with that part–some of the issues raised during Gallagher’s guest-posting stint:

    I think this “if you disagree with me, you’re a bigot” meme has gotten really, really tired. The problem is, the more time people spend talking only with each other and not with people they disagree with, the more likely they are to be convinced that not only are they right, but that their opponents are more than wrong; they are evil, bigoted, and analogous to Nazis.

    The irony involved in reflexively dismissing people with opposing arguments as “bigots” would be delicious were it not for the fact that the practice has so coarsened public discussion of…well, just about everything. I sometimes think it should be banned, the way your ninth-grade English teacher banned the passive voice from your first few expository essays–not because it was incorrect in and of itself incorrect but because it was too easy to get lazy and overuse.

    She has a nice personality

    Posted by Sean at 07:07, October 26th, 2005

    Am I glad I’m not on Virginia Postrel’s bad side or what:

    As regular readers know, I’ve written an extraordinary amount about Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Early on, my primary purpose was reportorial–to use my locational advantage to provide information and context for people outside of Dallas. But the more I learned, the more appalled I became.

    For whatever reason, the president has picked a woman who not only has no constitutional or judicial experience but even in her business practice has demonstrated no interest in the law as anything other than a source of billable hours. At 60 years old, she appears never to have had a substantive conversation about law or policy with any friend. She comes from a closed and cronyish legal and business culture and appears to have gotten ahead through a combination of networking, nose-to-the-grindstone diligence, and willingness to do her law firm’s management, rather than legal, work.

    Oof! Bear in mind, Virginia has gone out of her way to be sympathetic toward Miers the person.

    She ends her post with a link to Americans for Better Justice and a set of links to her own previous posts about the nomination. Not being able to see as many homegrown news reports as Americans who live at home, I can’t assess whether Bush actually seems to be laying the groundwork for a withdrawal of the nomination. By all accounts, the proceedings so far are not doing his trusted friend any favors.

    Things seem to have died down a bit, but it’s a shame that so many people reflexively decided to see the debate over this nomination in Blue States vs. The Real America terms. Cultural insularity isn’t irrelevant here, but it’s not the central issue. The BOS-WASH and SAN-SAN population belts deserve to be informed, emphatically and often, that much of what’s important in America goes on outside them. Hell, I grew up in Allentown, PA, and I can assure you it may as well have been the moon for all many people in New York (1:45 away), Washington (2:30 away), or even Philadelphia (1:15 away) knew about what life was like there.

    However, the big-city power centers are still where most ambitious people go to seek the most viciously competitive environment in which they can test their ideas and competencies. In that sense, the arrogance of seeing yourself as a player in Big Decisions is a good thing. Miers is clearly a fantastic person–for goodness’s sake, if she weren’t, someone would have said so by now, given the way journalists have been beating the bushes for any opinions about her whatsoever–but there’s no evidence that she’s tested herself as a thinker or learned to adjust to working in a pressure cooker.


    Posted by Sean at 08:36, October 25th, 2005

    Don’t take this the wrong way, dear and valued readers, but I had to send my laptop back to Toshiba for repairs (CD-ROM drive was freaking–which I think is pretty ungrateful, considering the choice diet of Kylie singles and Hitchcock movies I feed it) and am kind of enjoying not having an Internet connection at home for the next week or so. Last night, the man from Nittsu came to take my Dynabook, and when he left, I felt truly alone in the apartment…in a good way. Of course, I was looking forward to Atsushi’s nightly phone call at 11:00, and I got a few cell calls and mails. But the temptation to check the websites of five newspapers to see whether they’d been updated since the last newscast on NHK was blessedly removed. No look at G-Mail when I got back from dinner or out of the bathtub, lest I miss some stray plaint from the office. Just a book or three and a glass of the plum wine Atsushi brought back for me the last time he came home. Anyway, I don’t think posting will be all that light over the next week, but it may be more randomly distributed.

    Oh, speaking of the Internet: is there something inherently snobby about not using it to meet people? In response to a direct appeal for information, I remarked the other night that I’ve never met a guy over the Internet and wouldn’t really know where to go if I wanted to do so, and the person I was talking to kind of flipped. He was really affronted, and I didn’t get it. I mean, okay, if pressed, I’d have to admit that I preferred the face-to-face-sparring method of flirtation even when I was more young and fun-loving. But I’d never imply that people who use web personals are pathetic, or what have you, for the very good reason that I don’t believe any such thing. You just can never tell with people.


    Posted by Sean at 08:16, October 25th, 2005

    I was going to comment directly at Riding Sun, but I started to run long and didn’t want to look like a blowhard. Well, also, my thoughts turned kind of gay (from where? you may well ask), and I didn’t want to hijack what was an essentially straight thread before it got started.

    The question is a perennial one:

    As I’ve noted before, foreign men who come to Japan often find themselves much more popular with the local ladies than they might have been in their native country.

    More than ethnic preferences, income levels, or any other factor, I suspect it’s Japanese women’s desire to “opt out” of their country’s smothering salaryman-wife straitjacket that keeps non-Japanese guys in demand.

    That’s part of it, but I don’t think it’s all of it, or else you wouldn’t see the same things in gay life. And do you ever! The things a perceptive commenter noted below the original post give a fuller picture, I think. Much of it can be boiled down to the fact that Japanese women can’t really read Western cultural signals. “Doesn’t that gorgeous, animated, articulate woman in the Escada suit and perfect makeup realize that the man she’s with is a complete loser?” Well, no, obviously she doesn’t. (cf. Rainbow Surfer Dude’s wonderfully deadpan item 2: “Less need to be ‘interesting’ since the language barrier pushes down the upper limit of conversational complexity.”)

    Also…this conversation comes up not infrequently with friends of mine. A little while ago, several of us foreigners–in a group that included Japanese guys who date foreigners exclusively–were talking about why our relationships with Japanese men had tended to be with those who did not usually date non-Japanese. One of the Japanese guys present asked rather astringently what was wrong with preferring foreign men.

    Obviously, nothing is, fundamentally. It’s just that many gaisen Japanese, especially those who only want to speak English with you all the time, like the idea of dating a man who’s always going to feel kind of baffled and clueless in Japan and need to be, you know, taken care of. I suspect, from the way I’ve seen many couples interact, that the same holds true for a fair number of foreigner-dating Japanese women–and I don’t think that contradicts what Gaijin Biker wrote about their not wanting to be sentenced to a life of nothing but household drudgery. You can expect your mate to pitch in around the house and still want to be the one who calls the shots and is always one step ahead in terms of planning your lives together.

    Added on 28 October: Thanks to Bilious Young Fogey for the link, though I must say that parenthetical makes me feel kind of square.