Battlepanda: June 2009


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Racist Cola

Send in ten receipts for merchandise that will help you act like a racist douchbag

The latest Coca Cola ad campaign in Taiwan is just jaw-droppingly offensive. First, a garden-variety portrayal of Africans as simpletons who go "brrr" in a comically exaggerated manner when they crack into a coke.

You might think, well...OK, it's not really PC, so? For a market like Taiwan without much contact with Africans or much of an internal black population, is it really offensive? Let's face it, we all stereotype cultures/peoples distant from our own. Isn't it kind of unreasonable to import the kind of heightened awareness of race from the US and expect it to apply everywhere?

Then I saw this ad, which clearly and unambiguously crossed the line for me. It is of a local comedy celebrity called "Natto" (納豆), in blackface imitating one of the Africans in the ad. The ad campaign blog asked people to submit their own videos imitating the original ad in return for merchandise including a baseball cap with an afro on it.

This is not an isolated case of racist coke commercials around the world. Here's one from India, and one in Sweden.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, June 29, 2009

In which I feel sorry for Ross Douhat

Ross Douthat wrote what I consider the best response to the latest mini-spate of books and articles bemoaning the death of romance as people become too sensible. In case you have been living in a mayonnaise jar, some lady named Cristina Nehring wrote a book called "A Vindication of Love" calling modern love a "poor and shrunken thing," you know, since feminism and stuff. In a somewhat similar vein, Sandra Tsing-loh got a piece for the Atlantic out of her divorce that is dripping with contempt for "the companionate marriage" and "male kitchen bitches."

Douthat points out that the Nehring and Tsing-loh's narratives obnoxiously projected the neurosis particular to their social background and personal situations onto society in general. And to illustrate his point, he mentioned a few spectacular example of romantic abandon in the news.

Maybe this reversal could start with some creative matchmaking across lines of class and politics. The dutiful, somewhat-boring husbands from Sandra Tsing Loh’s Los Angeles, for instance, sound like ideal soulmates for Kate Gosselin, the soon-to-be-single mother of eight.

And as for Cristina Nehring, who can’t live without being “derailed by love, hospitalized by love, flung around five continents, shaken, overjoyed, inspired and unsettled by love” — well, maybe someone should introduce her to Mark Sanford.

Now why am I feeling sorry for Ross Douhat for writing a funny and smart article I agreed with? Because so many of the comments in response his column were full of hostility and attacks that were all but non-sequitors. Ross is a conservative. His column made fun of Tsing-loh and Nehring as members of the liberal elite. The knee-jerk reaction is to fight back, it seems.

39. Ross misses a fundamental truth on the way to his weekly bashing of the Liberal Elite.

40. Conservative contortionism has reached new heights.

46. Those poor 'post-feminist' husbands. Because once again, it's feminism's fault. Are we feminists also to blame for turmoil in Iran, the coup in Honduras and the economic crisis to boot?

Do you know who is really dissing you, you liberal elite readers of the NY Times? Not Douthat, Nehring and Tsing-loh. Perhaps we just fail to perceive how grievous and misquided the insults are because it's coming from someone we perceive to be culturally 'one of us.' Women, listen to what Nehring is essentially saying...feminism killed romance and therefore is bad for women because we live for luuuuurve. Men...not only did Tsing-loh dismiss you as "kitchen bitches" for doing too much to help around the house, she dissed Cooks Illustrated. Which we all know is the bible of any self-respecting kitchen bitch of any gender or marital status.

What they are saying is not just a distortion of reality, but a reactionary's wet dream. People like Nehring and Tsing-loh are slapping us in the face with anti-feminist claptrap and because they call themselves feminists and are published in the Atlantic and the NY Times, we shrug.

Whoever calls them on their bullshit, conservative or liberal, is alright by me.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

US Ex-pats for Healthcare Reform: Time to stand up and be counted

I have started a Facebook group called "US expats for Healthcare Reform".

Something struck me when reading through the comment section of Nicholas Kristof's recent column on healthcare reform -- so many of the comments were from American expats living in countries with Universal healthcare who were writing in with personal stories of how favorably "socialized medicine" compared to the healthcare they would have gotten/been able to afford back home. These are real people in different walks of life with first-hand experiences. They are eager to tell their stories, and I think their stories deserves to be heard widely by their fellow Americans who have not had the same frame of reference.

It looks like getting a decent healthcare system with universal coverage will continue to be a pitched battle for some time to come. And the most important arena for this battle is the court is the court of public opinion. I am enlisting all the expats or ex-expats or anyone who simply have experiences both US care and insurance and the care in a country with universal healthcare, like Sweden or Taiwan or Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea....the list goes on. Let's stand up and be counted, and get our stories together in one place that's accessible, and try to reach out to our fellow Americans.

If you have facebook, join the group and leave your story on the wall. If not, leave a comment at this post. Make sure you leave your name, the country where you got the care, some description of the kind of care you got and the cost and whether you were satisfied with it compared with the baseline of the coverage you got in the US. I have heard so many stories. Hell, I have a few of my own...but that's another post for another day.

US Expats for Healthcare Reform: because one day I might want to go back to my own country.


What is going on with healthcare reform?

Being in Taiwan and being distracted by other issues lately meant I've been out to lunch on US news and politics for a while. Thus when I started casually browsing the blogs for an leisurely early morning read I was shocked to see this item:

What’s the latest assessment from those closely monitoring health care reform? Prognosis negative.

“Health reform is, I think it fair to say, in danger right now,” wrote Ezra Klein this morning at the Washington Post.

“Attention fellow liberals who want health care reform,” wrote Jonathan Cohn yesterday at the New Republic. “You are in danger of losing the fight for universal health insurance. And it’s not only — or even primarily — because of the public plan.”

“Anyone else think the net result of health reform is going to be that insurance companies have even more political power?,” twittered Atrios this afternoon.

But...Barack Obama won! The Dems control both chambers of congress! Obama said healthcare reform is a priority and the polls show that the American people are behind him! We won! We won BIG, baby!

So how the...did we get to this place?!

The man once slated to head Barack Obama's health care system overhaul is now coming out against one of the chief components of that effort.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said on Wednesday that the Obama White House would likely have to scrap a federal public option for health insurance coverage if it wanted to get the votes needed to pass systematic change.

"We've come too far and gained too much momentum for our efforts to fail over disagreement on one single issue," the Senator and one-time HHS Secretary nominee said, according to ABC News.

Like Atrios said: "reform without a public option is actually likely to make things worse, pouring even more money into the corrupt insurance industry and giving them even more political power."

This is surreal. This is like taking a break with your team ahead by five runs only to find that they've blown their lead by the time you got back to the couch with the popcorn. Or coming home to find that everyone else in the household has been turned into zombies.


Labels: , ,

Friday, June 05, 2009

Taiwanese music videos of the damned

I've noticed a strange phenomenon in Taiwanese music a disturbingly high number of the videos for love ballads ends with the heroine dying in a number of heart-rending and inexplicable ways. Bloodless car-crashes and wasting diseases reminiscent of consumption are popular exit strategies. Sometimes, the boy dies. But that's much rarer. Anyhow, I've been itching to test out this sweet free subtitling software called Jubler. What could make more sense than to waste a couple of hours downloading Jubler, learning how to use it, and then subtitling one of the sickest examples of the "She Dies" genre of Taiwanese music videos in English and sharing it with the world?

Wait, I have to be up in three hours to travel to Yilan and paddle a dragonboat? *headdesk*

Oh, make sure the subtitles are on when you watch it in Youtube, of course.

Labels: , , ,