Intrepid Girl Reporter

Sunday, 3/13: smaller tragedies
March 13, 2011, 11:28 pm
Filed under: cultural theorizing, okay seriously America

(Crossposted to my other, sort of professional blog.)

It appears to have been a bad week for Asians, as a whole. Aside from the whole tsunami/hurricane business, which (rightfully) dominated the headlines, there was this event, much less spectacular:

After Deadly Bus Crash, Chinese Community Devastated (NYT)

Gambling is a long-established part of many Asian cultures, my own very prominently among them. (If you don’t believe me, I suggest you watch the first twenty minutes or so of Zhang Yimou’s brutal film To Live*, or peruse Wikipedia’s list of famous Vietnamese athletes. Bet you didn’t know poker was a sport.) It should surprise no one that the main customers for a bus that allows you to gamble all night long were elderly Asians who viewed this as a hobby. And, unfortunately, it’s that same population that is now paying the price.

I recognize that casinos are a business, that these are all adults who can make their own decisions, and that running these buses is ostensibly a market-based decision. But I still wonder how necessary, and wise, this procedure is. Bus drivers may not get enough sleep; visibility is reduced; one driver interviewed by the Times says he stays awake on “tea, soda, and…Parliaments.” What I am trying to say is: this is, empirically, a terrible idea, and not one that any responsible business – bus company or casino – should be enabling.

My grandmother was a compulsive gambler. Towards the end of her life, a series of health problems had weakened her cognitive capabilities and made it difficult for her to walk, even with a walker or cane. When I was in college, she had another stroke, and my father and his siblings went to clean out her apartment while she was in the hospital. They found piles of casino memorabilia – shot glasses, decks of cards – that hadn’t been there the last time she had let anyone clean her place. As it turned out, despite her complete inability to even shop for groceries without external assistance, the casino buses had come, without fail, straight to her apartment. Even though this woman could not walk, spoke a peculiar hybrid of French, Vietnamese, and English that was mostly incomprehensible to the outside world, and was visibly in no shape to make financial decisions, these businesses had actively enabled her to come and spend her money.

None of this is to argue that casinos and bus companies are inherently bad organizations, or, again, that adults aren’t free to do what they want. But it would be nice to see these types of organizations adhere to a certain ethical standard that – to my mind, at least – is clearly not on display here. Yes, the major casinos appear to have implemented responsible gambling and gambling awareness programs. But in an industry that actively promotes a highly dubious outcome, that continues to reward high rollers, such actions appear to be so much wallpaper.

Let me be clear: I am not blaming the victims of this crash. Many of them were immigrants who had worked very hard without much time for fun of any sort. Still, you don’t expect to be bright and bon vivant, Paul Simon sings, so far away from home. Who am I – or anyone else – to say that people who work much harder than I have ever had to shouldn’t have the chance to enjoy themselves? But preying on that impulse, in an irresponsible manner, shouldn’t earn anyone much of a reward.

*If you have a few extra hours and no desire to experience happiness for the rest of your day, go ahead and watch the whole thing. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Saturday, 5/29: the graduation of Little Broseph
May 29, 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: cultural theorizing, IGR Recommends, life progress, music

First of all, I am completely obsessed with this video, which I found thanks to the ever-knowledgeable Rachel.

It’s entirely possible that Janelle Monae might bring back saddle shoes single-handedly. Apparently she played the 9:30 Club this weekend, but unfortunately, I am not in DC right now, so I had to miss the Cindi Mayweather dance.

In reading about Monae, I also discovered Afrofuturism, which I had never heard of before but which is AWESOME. And I find Mark Dery’s explanation of it fairly compelling, inasmuch as I can comprehend it at this hour – it might be a bit late for cultural criticism, but the idea behind the movement makes sense (and could conceivably, with a bit of tweaking, be applied to other ethnic groups as well, should they move into the realm of science fiction). Also, fun fact: LeVar Burton’s real name is Levardis. Because that sounds like some kind of blood pressure medication, I’d probably go with LeVar too.

I’m home because Miguk Little Brother made it through high school – yes, the same high school that sells shirts that read “Topper Nation: Where Only the Strong Belong.” Which I maintain suggests, at the very least, eugenics. So I suppose I should be grateful that he made it through without being killed for weakness, or something. It wasn’t particularly emotional, probably because this is graduation #3 and we still have two college graduations, a graduate school graduation, and probably two more grad school graduations after that to get through. I guess after the first one the rite of passage doesn’t seem quite as shocking. La Sister gave him a sombrero, a whoopie cushion, and Groucho Marx glasses. I gave him a ramen spoon. I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s ready for the world.

Saturday, 11/14: the widening gyre
November 14, 2009, 12:27 pm
Filed under: cultural theorizing, poetry

A few thoughts and observations on the Internets and other forms of communication.

1. I came pretty late to the Twitter party, and I use it somewhat infrequently because (fortunately for my productivity) DCPS blocks pretty much every web site available. So I’m not exactly qualified to opine on its usefulness and popularity, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I saw a friend’s tweet today that re-tweeted a tweet (did I really just write that sentence?) from McSweeneys magazine, under the topic #bleakraplyrics. Obviously, most of these are hilarious (“Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge and I am REALLY afraid of heights”). Clicking on the hashtag, however, allows the viewer – as I’m sure most Twitter users already know – to see other people who have contributed to this fun little parlor game, some quite cleverly (“What’s my mother f#*king name? Sorry, but these psychoanalytic methods aren’t helping retrieve any of my memories”).

This is the true genius of Twitter: fostering collective brainstorming. The networks are loose enough that ideas travel fast; all you need to see is one person on your friends list contributing to a topic in order to learn about it, after which you can pass it on to everyone in your list, et al. The character limit constraint prevents any one person from dominating the conversation and makes it easy to sift through all the ideas. And simply by clicking on the topic, you have a centralized place to look at everyone’s contributions.

I googled twitter + collective + brainstorming and no one else appeared to have written on this, so I feel okay making such an obvious observation.


2. As any regular readers of Wikipedia will surely have noticed (ahem), fake facts abound, often slid in next to real facts so that a casual glance might not reveal them. Usually, it’s pretty easy to pick these out, given their nature.

When truth proves as strange as fiction, however, it’s more difficult. Earlier I was reading about REM and then about Michael Stipe, who, as most people should remember, came out of the closet to no one’s surprise a few years ago. As I read, I came across the following passage (emphasis mine):

Stipe described himself as a “queer artist” in Time Magazine in 2001 and revealed that he had been in a relationship with “an amazing man” for three years at that point.[10] Stipe was also featured on the cover of BUTT Magazine in 2003.

This presents a conundrum. “Butt Magazine” is exactly the sort of name that someone with a juvenile sense of humor towards gay people might make up. On the other hand, porn is weird, and there are no names that I would really posit as off-limits. I couldn’t google “Butt Magazine” at work for fairly obvious reasons, so I had to wait until I got home to solve this mystery.

I should have more faith in the power of Wiki.



3. I was an English major who studied Yeats in multiple classes with several professors who were brilliant at explicating meaning in an accessible manner. Nonetheless, I was never able to get my head around the image of “the center cannot hold.” Currently, I am reading Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, and in a single inadvertent sentence, he applied a similar metaphor that made that line abundantly clear to me. That’s right, I didn’t get Yeats until I read a book about rap. Go on and judge me.

Wednesday, 12/17: John Mayer, thy name is Phi Kappa Tau
December 17, 2008, 9:42 pm
Filed under: cultural theorizing

More quantification of what I’ve always known.