Sunday, June 29, 2008

Facebook, And It's All Your Fault

Once upon a time people wrote letters. Then they wrote e-mail. And now they quip via social networks. Which means my mailbox was not as full as it once was, a situation I found most grievous. So now I'm on Facebook, and my lovelies are saying ha-ha-ha I knew you'd do it sooner or later; or ha-ha-ha I can't believe you're on Facebook; or shoot, now you're on Facebook; or—my favorite—what the hell are you doing on Facebook? All I can say is if you people ever wrote e-mail, I wouldn't be on Facebook. I am so, so, so mad at you.

*turns on heel and goes to...Facebook*

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let Us Now Contrast...

...George W. Bush's knowledge of Filipino-Americans and Barack Obama's knowledge of Filipino-Americans. Shall we?

President George W. Bush in conversation with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, June 24, 2008:

Madam President, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to the Oval Office. We have just had a very constructive dialogue. First, I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that -- in which there's a lot of Philippine-Americans. They love America and they love their heritage. And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House. (Laughter.)

Senator Barack Obama in a statement on Philippine Independence Day, June 12, 2008:

On this anniversary, we also must recognize the enormous contributions of generations of Filipino immigrants to building a more vibrant United States of America. Indeed, more than 60 years after World War II, Filipino-Americans continue to serve brilliantly and bravely as members of our fighting forces. I grew up in Hawaii, where Filipinos have had an enormous positive impact on the culture and economy. As dedicated military and civil servants, lawyers and bankers, artists, engineers and entrepreneurs, agricultural and industrial laborers, healthcare providers and customer service workers, caretakers for our elderly and youth, Filipino Americans—4 million strong—have enriched our country, embodied our nation's highest ideals, and reflected the very best that the Philippines has to offer.

I don't know about anyone else, but I cannot wait for November.

[thank you to my remarkably brilliant and handsome cousin Luj for the heads-up]

The Accidental Vacation or How I Survived My Encounter With the Barking Loft Dog

It took me a day to realize it, but this—this week, I mean—is my own personal summer vacation. The kids are at camp from 9:00 to 3:00, and because it's too soon to be in go-go-go mode for the annual school auction, I'm left to my own Nesting Ground devices. Such freedom is usually the death knell for any kind of productivity on my part. The more time I have available for myself, the less I seem to accomplish. But I think I may have grown out of that phase.

Yesterday I did my Ryder Park workout, even throwing in an extra run up and down the stairs that are cut into the hillside. Despite the power lines (they've worked them into the architecture; it's kind of impressive, really), it's a pretty spot:

Afterwards, I headed to the loft for some writing time. I was the only one there for more than an hour, and then the Australian guy arrived (he works downstairs) and promptly got into an argument with his computer. He was yelling normal things like, "Oh, come on," and "Go to hell!" and "Hurry up, would you?" but with an Australian accent. Totally amusing. Anyways, I'm writing what amounts to a fairytale, I think, and here's a paragraph:

Instead, the girl’s mother turned to the hearth, for which her husband was sincerely grateful. He loved nothing more than a hot stew served by his wife, who stood behind him as he ate, perspiration falling like tears down her cheeks. During the day she checked and double-checked to insure the house stores were well-stocked. Nothing rankled her more than sending a kitchen maid to the market at the last moment for allspice or a handful of figs.

Today, after doing some auction stuff (we may not be in go-go-go mode, but we ARE in go mode...), and stopping by to help my parents set up their computer, I found myself once again at the loft.

The door was locked (indicating people were at lunch), and because I am often quite unlucky, the Loft Dog was drowsing right at the entrance. When he heard me try the door, he looked up and growled. I stared deeply into his Loft Dog eyes. "It's me," I said through the glass. He didn't care; he growled some more. "Well, I'm going to open the door," I said. I did just that, and as soon as my key clicked he started barking like I'd stolen his ribeye or something. "Okay, okay, okay," I said. I fought the urge to run which, if you know me, was something of a miracle. "I'm going upstairs," I said over his barking. He walked in front of me as if trying to keep me from his owner's desk. "Don't come, okay? Don't come up here." I walked calmly so as not to entice him into RUNNING AFTER ME AND MAULING ME AND BASICALLY EFFING UP MY PERSONAL SUMMER VACATION.

You will have guessed by now that since I am blogging rather than sitting in the emergency room, the Loft Dog did not follow me. And so I spent two blissful hours tapping away on the keyboard writing stuff that wasn't very good. Which is really sort of the point at this...point.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Clement St. On a Friday Night

The spousal unit is floating somewhere along the American River, which is how I found myself completely forlorn and dateless last night. Childhood friend K took pity on me, and we arranged to meet for dinner at Q. The sublime, yet eerie lack of traffic on 19th Ave and along Park Presidio was a sign of good things to come. Not only that, there were so few souls on the normally packed Clement St. that we walked right into the restaurant at 7:00 and sat down, no wait, no elbowing for access to the seating guru, no nothing.

At "Q," they have macaroni and cheese with a tater tot topping.

They have fried catfish, too.

And fried chicken. With gravy.

Sadly, it was too balmy to partake in such delights. Instead, we ordered roasted vegetables, goat cheese with roasted garlic and peppers (accompanied by focaccia for slathering!), and some CRAZY crunchy potato croquettes that were all silky-good inside.

After dinner and pleasant conversation, I checked my phone and saw that I had ignored six phone calls from the kids. They have just memorized my number and delight in calling me every ten minutes for no reason whatsoever. I foresee a "the boy who cried wolf" moment sometime in the future. I called back and Lea picked up. She said, "Mama! Hello! I want to hug you, but you are not here, so I will give you a hug right now [hugging sound]!" And then she hung up. I didn't say a single word. I sat back down with K just as my phone rang again. Pop quiz: did I answer it?

Next, we crossed the street and took a quick stroll through Park Life, which is a combo shop/gallery. I took a few minutes to check out the gallery exhibit, which currently showcases work by Matthew Palladino. I was lured in by the sweet, sort of folk-art look, but as I moved closer I saw the pieces were actually, um, menacing (particularly the one titled, "Stay Out of the Rose Garden: Body Pile"). The contrast is sticking with me, I have to say.

Total aside: another thing that is sticking with me is the film Little Children (adapted from the novel by Tom Perrotta, which I haven't read). Holey hummus, have you seen this? If not, put it in your queue right now.

Let's see. We all know about my decades long love affair with Green Apple Books, do we not? K used to live in the Richmond, too, and though my passion is perhaps greater, she too shares fond Friday night memories of the place. It's normally wall-to-wall book lovers, but in keeping with the general lack of humanity on the street last night, it was nice and empty. We happily browsed, and then exited with new books in hand.

We had time for one more stop at an old haunt, the perenially funky Blue Danube Coffee House (so funky they have no website to link to!). On our way, we ran into a long-haired, chain-smoking Pinoy drummer/photographer high school classmate of K's (the two of them were a year behind me). Brief, funny conversation ensued in which the following topics were covered:

* bubble drinks (K likened the tapioca to eating a single, gigantic Gummi Bear)
* cheeseburgers
* whether or not I am Pinay (sigh)
* types of geeks: food geeks, book geeks, photography geeks, etc.

Onward to Blue Danube, where we ordered Italian sodas (lemon for me, red currant for K) and sat facing out the wide open picture window, people watching and

And this, my friends, is what a perfect girl's night out is made of.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nail Biting

On this, the seventh day of summer vacation, my two big girls have been invited to Marine World by another family. They were up early this morning working on a bevy of gifts for their friend and her mother, including multiple thank you cards, a letter from Lea wishing everyone a good time, and a square of burlap that V embroidered with their friend's name. This is a most generous invitation, and R & V are over the proverbial moon.

I, on the other hand, am having a silent nervous breakdown. Instead of focusing on what a good time they will undoubtedly have, I can think of nothing but what a horrible world we live in and how evil lurks around every corner and nobody is safe anywhere and terrible things happen on a daily basis to people who haven't done a thing to deserve it and... God, it's gonna be a long day here at Nesting Ground Headquarters.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Am I Blue?

No, but my new sandals are. I've never had blue shoes before, and they make me happy:

And it's Saturday, which also makes me happy. Also on the happy tip:

* The spousal unit planting my herbs and tomatoes.
* Kix cereal.
* Late Friday dinner: crab salad with butter lettuce & grapefruit at Kingfish.
* Victorian mystery in the form of The Meaning of Night: A Confession.
* Dinner in the city tonight: 6 adults, 8 children, 1 family-friendly restaurant.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Um, "Your Whiteness Is Showing"

Okay, I didn't want to say anything, but I have been so utterly confused by the (hopefully) small but rather loud contingent of female Democrats who claim "gender solidarity" when insisting they will cast their vote for McCain in November. Really? It's gender solidarity to vote against choice? And gender equity? To vote in favor of erecting 60 military bases in Iraq? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Very confusing.

I'm grateful that Andrew Sullivan linked to an open letter from Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Priveleged Son, who takes these women to task in what seems to me a logical and forthright way. For example, if it's truly all about gender solidarity, why not vote for the Green Party nominee? She's a woman, after all, and as progressive as can be. Or why not make the decision to stand with your brown and black sisters who will overwhelmingly vote for Obama? Anyways, here's the letter in its entirety:

An Open Letter to Certain White Women Who Are Threatening to Withhold Support from Obama in November

Your Whiteness is Showing


This is an open letter to those white women who, despite their proclamations of progressivism, and supposedly because of their commitment to feminism, are threatening to withhold support from Barack Obama in November. You know who you are.

I know that it's probably a bad time for this. Your disappointment at the electoral defeat of Senator Hillary Clinton is fresh, the sting is new, and the anger that animates many of you--who rightly point out that the media was often sexist in its treatment of the Senator--is raw, pure and justified.

That said, and despite the awkward timing, I need to ask you a few questions, and I hope you will take them in the spirit of solidarity with which they are genuinely intended. But before the questions, a statement if you don't mind, or indeed, even if (as I suspect), you will mind it quite a bit.

First, for those of you threatening to actually vote for John McCain and to oppose Senator Obama, or to stay home in November and thereby increase the likelihood of McCain winning and Obama losing (despite the fact that the latter's policy platform is virtually identical to Clinton's while the former's clearly is not), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and increase the odds of his winning (despite the fact that he once called his wife the c-word in public and is a staunch opponent of reproductive freedom and gender equity initiatives, such as comparable worth legislation), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and help ensure Barack Obama's defeat, as a way to protest what you call Obama's sexism (examples of which you seem to have difficulty coming up with), all the while claiming to be standing up for women...

Your whiteness is showing.

When I say your whiteness is showing this is what I mean: You claim that your opposition to Obama is an act of gender solidarity, in that women (and their male allies) need to stand up for women in the face of the sexist mistreatment of Clinton by the press. On this latter point--the one about the importance of standing up to the media for its often venal misogyny--you couldn't be more correct. As the father of two young girls who will have to contend with the poison of patriarchy all their lives, or at least until such time as that system of oppression is eradicated, I will be the first to join the boycott of, or demonstration on, whatever media outlet you choose to make that point. But on the first part of the above equation--the part where you insist voting against Obama is about gender solidarity--you are, for lack of a better way to put it, completely full of crap. And what's worse is that at some level I suspect you know it. Voting against Senator Obama is not about gender solidarity. It is an act of white racial bonding, and it is grotesque.

If it were gender solidarity you sought, you would by definition join with your black and brown sisters come November, and do what you know good and well they are going to do, in overwhelming numbers, which is vote for Barack Obama. But no. You are threatening to vote not like other women--you know, the ones who aren't white like you and most of your friends--but rather, like white men! Needless to say it is high irony, bordering on the outright farcical, to believe that electorally bonding with white men, so as to elect McCain, is a rational strategy for promoting feminism and challenging patriarchy. You are not thinking and acting as women, but as white people. So here's the first question: What the hell is that about?

And you wonder why women of color have, for so long, thought (by and large) that white so-called feminists were phony as hell? Sister please...

Your threats are not about standing up for women. They are only about standing up for the feelings of white women, and more to the point, the aspirations of one white woman. So don't kid yourself. If you wanted to make a statement about the importance of supporting a woman, you wouldn't need to vote for John McCain, or stay home, thereby producing the same likely result--a defeat for Obama. You could always have said you were going to go out and vote for Cynthia McKinney. After all, she is a woman, running with the Green Party, and she's progressive, and she's a feminist. But that isn't your threat is it? No. You're not threatening to vote for the woman, or even the feminist woman. Rather, you are threatening to vote for the white man, and to reject not only the black man who you feel stole Clinton's birthright, but even the black woman in the race. And I wonder why? Could it be...?

See, I told you your whiteness was showing.

And now for a third question, and this is the biggie, so please take your time with it: How is it that you have managed to hold your nose all these years, just like a lot of us on the left, and vote for Democrats who we knew were horribly inadequate--Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis, right on down the uninspiring line--and yet, apparently can't bring yourself to vote for Barack Obama? A man who, for all of his shortcomings (and there are several, as with all candidates put up by either of the two major corporate parties) is surely more progressive than any of those just mentioned. And how are we to understand that refusal--this sudden line in the proverbial sand--other than as a racist slap at a black man? You will vote for white men year after year after year--and are threatening to vote for another one just to make a point--but can't bring yourself to vote for a black man, whose political views come much closer to your own, in all likelihood, than do the views of any of the white men you've supported before. How, other than as an act of racism, or perhaps as evidence of political insanity, is one to interpret such a thing?

See, black folks would have sucked it up, like they've had to do forever, and voted for Clinton had it come down to that. Indeed, they were on board the Hillary train early on, convinced that Obama had no chance to win and hoping for change, any change, from the reactionary agenda that has been so prevalent for so long in this culture. They would have supported the white woman--hell, for many black folks, before Obama showed his mettle they were downright excited to do so--but you won't support the black man. And yet you have the audacity to insist that it is you who are the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party, and the one before whom Party leaders should bow down, and whose feet must be kissed?

Your whiteness is showing.

Look, I couldn't care less about the Party personally. I left the Democrats twenty years ago when they told me that my activism in the Central America solidarity and South African anti-apartheid movements made me a security risk, and that I wouldn't be able to get clearance to be in some parade with Governor Dukakis. Yeah, seriously. But for you to act as though you are the indispensible voters, the most important, the ones whose views should be pandered to, whose every whim should be the basis for Party policy, is not only absurd, it is also racist in that it, a) ignores and treats as irrelevant the much more loyal constituency of black folks, without whom no Democrat would have won anything in the past twenty years (and indeed the racial gap favoring the Democrats among blacks is about six times larger than the gender gap favoring them among white women, relative to white men); and b) demonstrates the mentality of entitlement and superiority that has been long ingrained in us as white folks--so that we believe we have the right to dictate the terms of political engagement, and to determine the outcome, and to get our way, simply because for so long we have done just that.

But that day is done, whether you like it or not, and you are now left with two, and only two choices, so consider them carefully: the first is to stand now in solidarity with your black brothers and sisters and welcome the new day, and help to push it in a truly progressive and feminist and antiracist direction, while the second is to team up with white men to try and block the new day from dawning. Feel free to choose the latter. But if you do, please don't insult your own intelligence, or ours, by insisting that you've done so as a radical political act.

Tim Wise is the author of: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (Soft Skull Press, 2005), and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White (Routledge: 2005). He can be reached at:

Monday, June 09, 2008

Weekend Reading Featuring, But Not Limited To, Unexpected Filipinos

Unexpected references to Filipinos popped up so often during my weekend reading that I'm beginning to think the universe was sending me a not-so-coded message. Maybe it was giving its blessing on our Spring '09 travel plans (still under construction). Regardless, I feel obliged to list said references. Witness:

1) In the opening paragraph of a recent Vanity Fair article (excerpted from The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke) about Robert Kennedy:

Two months after John F. Kennedy's assassination, Robert Kennedy traveled to Asia on an itinerary that had originally been planned for J.F.K. During the trip, he visited a girls' school in the Philippines where the students sang a song they had composed to honor his brother. As he drove away with CBS cameraman Walter Dombrow, he clenched his hands so tightly that they turned white, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He shook his head, signaling that Dombrow should remain silent. Finally he said in a choked voice. "They would have loved my brother." Dombrow put his arm around him and said, "Bob, you're going to have to carry on for him." Kennedy stared straight ahead for half a minute before turning to Dombrow and nodding. It was then, Dombrow said, that he knew Bobby would run for president...

This left me with many questions including but not limited to: For the love of God and his host of heavenly angels, which school in which town?! What were the song lyrics? Did Mr. Dombrow film the event, or was he just a travel companion? What, if any, impact did this visit have on the students of the school? Can one of the girls' school participants please step forward and relive every history-making moment so that my curiosity will be sated and if not, why not?

2) In a recent Esquire first-person sidebar account of Mike Sager's interview with the 82-year-old Gore Vidal:

...he has to be led around by his godson, a beautiful French boy with a long, frizzy ponytail. (He also has a Filipino houseboy in a white coat—who looks to be about sixty-five himself).

This left me with many questions including but not limited to: For the love of God and his host of heavenly angels, why would this Mike Sager person refer to a sixty-five-year-old man as a "houseboy?" Oh, right. Because the sixty-five year-old man is Filipino and can therefore be infantilized on a whim. What an ass. Where was I?

3) In a recent Zoetrope story, "Choice," written by Ha Jin:

I enjoyed spending time with the Mins in their comforting home. My own small studio apartment was lonely. I'd sit there by myself, reading or working at my thesis, wondering what sort of life this was. If I fell ill tomorrow, what would happen to me? If I died, where would I be buried? Unless my parents came to claim my body, I might be cremated and my ashes discarded God-knows-where. I had once known a young Filipino who was killed in a traffic accident. He'd signed the back of his driver's license, agreeing to be an organ donor; so his body was shipped to a hospital to harvest the organs and tissues and then burned, his ashes mailed to his parents in Mindanao. But that's just what I heard. I still don't know with certainty what happened to it.

This left me with many questions including but not limited to: For the love of God, etc. etc., why this detail, Ha Jin? Could this really be a statement about the invisibility of Filipinos in America, or is it completely random? Ah, but random-os-ity is not allowed in short stories! Short stories contain deliberate detail piled upon deliberate detail until a meaningful and shimmering whole is constructed! So again I ask, what's with the dead Filipino?

4) In a recent Washington Post article, "Looking to the Future, Feminism Has to Focus," by Linda Hirshman:

After the Center for New Words's diverse and inclusive "Women, Action and the Media" conference this past April, the blogosphere erupted with charges and countercharges. Bloggers like "Sudy," a self-described "Filipina of mesmerizing volcanic eruptions," declared some of the conference's female subjects to be synthetic: "I . . . don't believe that simply putting a womyn's face where a man's face once was is going to solve our problems . . . by Real Womyn I am talking about womyn of color, incarcerated womyn, migrant womyn, womyn at the border, womyn gripped in violence, rape, and war."

This left me with many questions including etc. etc.: Why would Sudy, who sounds formidable indeed, describe herself as a "Filipina of mesmerizing volcanic eruptions," when the description could be interpreted in such a way that Sudy may be thought to suffer from severe gastrointestinal issues? Or maybe I'm the only (ridiculous) person capable of said misinterpretation. This would not surprise me, not in the least.

Friday, June 06, 2008

"Dancing In Interesting Ways"

The girls have three days left of school, and so they are compiling a list of "Summer Fun." So far the list includes 12 line items penned by Vida. Apparently, our days will be spent "making mini cherry pies," "having a picnic," and "getting involved with the library's 'Catch the Reading Bug' program."

Vida would also like to dedicate some time to "dancing in interesting ways." At least that's what she said as she was making notes in her sketchbook. I don't know if that goal has made the official list; I hope the fact that I almost passed out laughing didn't dissuade her. Either way, I'll make sure to have the video camera primed and ready to go.

My personal list includes a lot of writing. I feel I've lost my way, somehow, but I've decided to be patient with my literary ineptitude (I will embrace it like a pet! I will water it like a plant! I will dance with it in interesting ways!) because, come on, sooner or later things HAVE to start making sense again. Right now I spend a lot of time at the keyboard second-guessing myself, starting and stopping, staring and frowning. Delete, delete, delete...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Yes They Did.

(photo: Chip Somedevilla/Getty)

My nose is running, my throat is sore, my eyes are red, and all I want to do is crawl into bed. But I am so, so happy. And it is in this state of happiness that I raise my 30 ml. dose of NyQuil. Here's to you, Barack and Michelle.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Post That Happens When You Forget To Pay The Bills

A few minutes ago, I was falling asleep. Then I hopped out of bed because—holy krakatoa!—it's June 1st, and I have been so swamped with this thing and that thing and all that stuff over there that I failed to pay a single bill. Not that there would be any difference at all between paying them tonight and paying them in the morning, of course. But still, here I am. And while I dutifully logged on for my little banking session, I was suddenly ravenous. In case you didn't know, the only cure for such ravenous-ity is a bowl of LIFE cereal sans milk. Which is what I had. But now I'm not sleepy at all. you watch The Tudors? I do. And the whole time I watch, I wish it were Rome. But it's not; it's The Tudors. I'm sort of in awe of the way Jonathan Rhys Meyers (as King Henry VIII) deftly walks the line between ridiculous and sublime. He's constantly screaming and making crazy eyes and generally chewing up the scenery. Anyways, for two seasons now I've been eagerly awaiting the downfall and decapitation of the smug Anne Boleyn, but tonight when it happened, I felt a twinge of regret. Maybe it's because she was such a lovely decapitate-ee, what with her pearls and scarlet cape and elegant frock and quivering lower lip.

In the final scene, something is being ceremoniously carried to Henry's table, and I thought it would be Anne's beautiful head, but instead it was a stuffed swan. He tore off a wing—here I thought "Oh! Maybe Anne's head is under there!"—and handed it to one of his 45,000 servants, but it wasn't Anne's head. It was some sort of meat pie, which he then began to shovel into his mouth with his hands while gravy ran down his chin. See? Sublime AND ridiculous.

Okay, I'm sleepy again. Thanks for staying up with me.