From guest blogger Alex Nishikawa.
Though I am far from being a native in this city, I still notice the gradual decay of culture. I've bore witness to it as I've been a "hella" nor cal-er since day one. And I wonder, why does such a thing irk me so? Is it the "back in the day" nostalgia that's starting to creep in? The cliched fuzzy haze of old age memory...I don't know. I wonder, like Del Shannon, as I wander about the Richmond and my ever so hallowed Clement Street, echoes and shadows of what it once was are becoming more the norm rather than the rarity. All that's left are vestiges...I wonder, as I wander about the Sunset, and notice that the sounds of Cantonese being uttered are slowly being drowned out by valley girl english desperately trying to veil itself as hip. Trying hard, but trying to look like they're not trying too hard.
"Absorbing attention is a must. You don't want to be overlooked. Yeah, but you don't want to be looked over too much."
I've long since given up hope for the salvation of the Mission. Though the prospect of urban renewal from within is appealing, I doubt it will ever happen. I won't even begin to discuss what the 3rd Street light rail extension is already doing to the China Basin/Dogpatch/HP area. This city is on the way to becoming an oversized gated community.
On a Saturday evening, early spring, I take a stroll on Irving and I notice the sad homogeneity of the bulk of the populace. I try to write it off and place the blame on the fact my MUNI stop is precariously close to one of the culture killers; Starbucks. That's probably the case. But from time to time I see folks who actually look like they belong here; folks who look like they're from here. This city. Not the ubiquitous plastic UCSF students who seem to uncontrollably ooze out of every orifice this side of the city has to offer up. I suppose Irving west of 19th Ave is still legit. It still serves as a refuge since the fragrance alone seems to repel a lot of the would be gentrifiers. A melange of decaying matter both plant and animal that oddly comforts me. Yet is so alien and foreign, so exotic, that outsiders never allow themselves to become insiders.
Still I sit upon my stoop with a coke and a bag of chips to watch the great Coronet Theatre fall for the sake of another parking lot or a multi-plex. Long gone is the Alexandria. And the Four Star is in peril.
What saddens me is that so many people seem to be utterly content with what is happening. Either they ignore it, or welcome it. I suppose there's not too much of a difference. The sources of the rich cultural fabric that make this city so strong, so vibrant, and so appealing, turn a blind eye to every mom and pop that falls. Whenever a lease is lost, and quickly gobbled up by a conglomerate which can afford to dump product onto the market. In their rush to continue their upward mobility, the sources of diversity don't care to see what's happening...
What's got me gurpin so? Perhaps I'm part of the very problem I loathe so much. Maybe that's what is really irking me.
"From the inside up, and the upside down, who qualifies to try to judge me now?"
One of California's most powerful Republican House members, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, is clashing with the Bush administration, which opposes his proposal to authorize $38 million in federal funds to preserve the camps where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. The National Park Service says they have nothing against the idea, but that it's just going to cost too much money. Click here for the full story in today's SF Chronicle
Fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang, whom we talked to in issue 4, has been named the new director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the most pretigious creative writing program in the country. Awesome. Not only is she the first Asian American, but she's also the first woman to lead the workshop in its 70-year history. Associated Press story here.
Sorry about all the action alerts (especially when it's not on my blog day) but there's a spate of scary legislation being voted on right now. I just received an action alert about the bankruptcy bill currently before congress. It's being voted on tomorrow (Wednesday) so call your representative tonight and leave a message. Below I've pasted what moveon.org says to do, and below that I've pasted a NYTimes article on the bill.
Today the Senate is expected to vote to limit debate on a bill that toughens the existing bankruptcy law, probably ensuring the bill's passage. A solid bloc of Republican senators, assisted by some Democrats, has already voted down a series of amendments that would either have closed loopholes for the rich or provided protection for some poor and middle-class families.
The bankruptcy bill was written by and for credit card companies, and the industry's political muscle is the reason it seems unstoppable. But the bill also fits into the broader context of what Jacob Hacker, a political scientist at Yale, calls ''risk privatization'': a steady erosion of the protection the government provides against personal misfortune, even as ordinary families face ever-growing economic insecurity.
The bill would make it much harder for families in distress to write off their debts and make a fresh start. Instead, many debtors would find themselves on an endless treadmill of payments.
The credit card companies say this is needed because people have been abusing the bankruptcy law, borrowing irresponsibly and walking away from debts. The facts say otherwise.
A vast majority of personal bankruptcies in the United States are the result of severe misfortune. One recent study found that more than half of bankruptcies are the result of medical emergencies. The rest are overwhelmingly the result either of job loss or of divorce.
To the extent that there is significant abuse of the system, it's concentrated among the wealthy -- including corporate executives found guilty of misleading investors -- who can exploit loopholes in the law to protect their wealth, no matter how ill-gotten.
One increasingly popular loophole is the creation of an ''asset protection trust,'' which is worth doing only for the wealthy. Senator Charles Schumer introduced an amendment that would have limited the exemption on such trusts, but apparently it's O.K. to game the system if you're rich: 54 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted against the Schumer amendment.
Other amendments were aimed at protecting families and individuals who have clearly been forced into bankruptcy by events, or who would face extreme hardship in repaying debts. Ted Kennedy introduced an exemption for cases of medical bankruptcy. Russ Feingold introduced an amendment protecting the homes of the elderly. Dick Durbin asked for protection for armed services members and veterans. All were rejected.
None of this should come as a surprise: it's all part of the pattern.
As Mr. Hacker and others have documented, over the past three decades the lives of ordinary Americans have become steadily less secure, and their chances of plunging from the middle class into acute poverty ever larger. Job stability has declined; spells of unemployment, when they happen, last longer; fewer workers receive health insurance from their employers; fewer workers have guaranteed pensions.
Some of these changes are the result of a changing economy. But the underlying economic trends have been reinforced by an ideologically driven effort to strip away the protections the government used to provide. For example, long-term unemployment has become much more common, but unemployment benefits expire sooner. Health insurance coverage is declining, but new initiatives like health savings accounts (introduced in the 2003 Medicare bill), rather than discouraging that trend, further undermine the incentives of employers to provide coverage.
Above all, of course, at a time when ever-fewer workers can count on pensions from their employers, the current administration wants to phase out Social Security.
The bankruptcy bill fits right into this picture. When everything else goes wrong, Americans can still get a measure of relief by filing for bankruptcy -- and rising insecurity means that they are forced to do this more often than in the past. But Congress is now poised to make the bankruptcy law harsher, too.
Warren Buffett recently made headlines by saying America is more likely to turn into a ''sharecroppers' society'' than an ''ownership society.'' But I think the right term is a ''debt peonage'' society -- after the system, prevalent in the post-Civil War South, in which debtors were forced to work for their creditors. The bankruptcy bill won't get us back to those bad old days all by itself, but it's a significant step in that direction.
And any senator who votes for the bill should be ashamed.
Here's the story as I see it: Japan had a real imperialistic streak going and decided to conquer China. It invaded and did brutally nasty things to the population --well chronicled by Iris Chang in The Rape of Nanking. Japan lost but now, 50 years later, has become the world's second largest economy. It's trying to erase the ugliness of it's history by eliminating that chapter (literally) from its history books. It wants to be recognized as a world leader by its inclusion in the UN Security Council.
I've been watching Grey's Anatomy, a new hospital drama about surgical interns. Sandra Oh has a prominent role as Cristina Yang, an uber-competitve tough cookie who looks out for herself and doesn't seem to have much interest in the human aspects of being a doctor -- she's in it for the amazing science of it. Nothing seems to make her more excited than the thought of scrubbing in and cutting some people up.
A white male Princeton grad student has confessed to cutting locks of hair from nine Asian American female students without their knowledge, as well as pouring his urine and semen into the drinks of Asian female students on more than 50 occassions. Real smooth.
Memoirs of a Geisha, the film, wrapped shooting at the end of January. I know we should stop bitching and moaning about mainstream media --because it just gets old. But dammit, the COMPLETE LACK OF PROGRESS also gets old.
Maybe I'm the last one to hear (since i tire of mainstream Hollywood I ignore it as much as possible) but the all-star cast of Memoirs includes, get this, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li, and Zhang Ziyi.
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