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.

Monday, 8/24: DC is for lovers, or: I would like to clarify a few things
August 24, 2010, 12:47 am
Filed under: actual transcripts, causes, okay seriously America

First of all: I thought about posting the link upon which I’m about to expound on my Tumblr, but i’ve decided to focus that account on serving as a scrapbook of sorts of things I like and wish to share. I’m in the process (ha ha) of constructing a website that will serve as my portfolio site and also feature the Tumblr, and I’m trying to figure out how to integrate blogging in there, as I’ve become quite attached to this blog, and I’m not sure how to integrate anonymity into a personal website. Not that this is really and truly anonymous, of course, but it still doesn’t technically have my name attached unless you really look, and identifying what is discussed on this website would take a good deal of legwork.

Second of all:

Tea Partiers’ Warning-Filled Guide to DC

I have no doubt that this is going to be burning up the DC blogosphere w/r/t its casual dismissal of the city’s incredible culture and diversity, and I also have no doubt that most of that criticism is going to be a bit homogeneous. I, however, have some very specific criticisms of this list and of its analysis, which I will now proceed to share with you.

  1. They left off a TON of good restaurants. This has a lot to do with the fact that they pretty much wholesale dismiss DC’s immigrant communities, which is where all the good cheap food is. As such, it’s not a good guide, regardless of one’s ideology. Tea Partiers, you like to save money. Go get a banh mi at Eden Center for $3. Bonus: it’s in Virginia, where I hear the handgun laws are more relaxed. (Yeah, I know this list has an Indian buffet and some sort of Middle Eastern bistro, but quite frankly, those are not the city’s strongest cuisines.) (Side note: CVS over the Georgetown Safeway? Are you on crack?*)
  2. “As a rule, African immigrants do not like for you to assume they are African Americans and especially do not like for you to guess they are from a neighboring country (e.g. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) with whom they may have political or military tensions. It’s rare to meet anyone who gets really offended, but you can still be aware of the issue.” Oh, Bruce Majors, you mean so well. Yes, geopolitical cognizance is important for a lot of reasons, one of which is not offending people. I cannot think of a conversation, however, in which such an immigrant could become aware of your thinking that they’re African American without some other, very serious, repercussions. “So, I see that you’re black”? “I really admire what your people have done with the city”? “Just so you know, I took Emancipation Day off too”? The only place this country-of-origin issue *might* come up is a) in a discussion about food or b) if the other person starts a sentence with the phrase “Where I come from…” Any other discussion where you find yourself stuck on this issue was probably on the wrong track to begin with.
  3. “Do not take the Green or Yellow line…” if: you hate pupusas; you don’t want to go to Target; you want to miss out on the city’s best chicken and waffles or some really remarkable cakes. (Those cakes were featured on the Today Show, son.)
  4. Look, I understand what he’s saying about crime. But a) his neighborhood statistics are surely outdated, and b), well, he’s exaggerating. If you do not know me in person, I stand an imposing five feet two inches tall, although my self-image is that of a seven-foot-tall point guard. I am half Asian, half white, and I look more like a Powerpuff Girl than any kind of reasonable adult. I have also worked in two of the neighborhoods this map expressly tells you to avoid – Columbia Heights, which is on the Green and Yellow line, and Trinidad/H Street, which doesn’t even really have a nearby metro. Between my job in youth development and my ex-boyfriend’s house, I’ve covered pretty much the entirety of Columbia Heights (which is almost all hipsters now anyway) and Mount Pleasant on foot. In the year and a half I lived in the city, I never – never, never, never, never, NEVER – had any sort of issue with crime. Because I was not an idiot. I stayed in well-lit areas, I traveled with others, I carried pepper spray, I stayed on the phone if I was alone so that someone would know where I was at all times. Many of the people who lived in those neighborhoods had been there for generations, especially in Trinidad, and I remembered when I was there that I was on someone else’s home turf. I was respectful, if not engaging, if anyone hollered at me on the street. I didn’t look scared, and I didn’t look disgusted, and no one gave me any shit. I’m not saying that if you do get mugged, it’s your fault, because that would be stupid; DC is a city, crime happens, and you shouldn’t be alone in the dark somewhere where you don’t know the terrain anyway. But what I’m also saying is that you’re going to miss a lot of the city if you stay in the proscribed areas described in this so-called “guide,” and you shouldn’t feel scared going to other parts of the District if you’re with others, you know where you are and where you’re going, and you’re not wearing your grandmother’s $15,000 diamond choker. Don’t be stupid, people.
  5. As has been discussed on this blog so many times before, I have difficulty with traditional political labels. I do know, however, a lot of very intelligent people who proudly identify as conservative or libertarian and who would have a real problem with this characterization of the city. Unfortunately, because the MSM (yes, I went there) and especially the blogosphere tend to skew very liberal, this is publicized as just another example of the Tea Party being a haven for idiots and bigots and not an ideological sparring partner. What I’m trying to say is: I’M IN YR PARTY, MAKIN U LOOK BAD.

And counterpoint, problems I have with the coverage of this issue, or I am not done with everyone yet:

  1. See #5. Dear Media, Please try to remember that not all conservatives are this loathsome. Some of them do just want a less intrusive government. Whether that is efficient is another matter, of course, but it’s separate from these morons. I know you won’t listen, but I can hope, right? Sincerely, More Or Less A Centrist.
  2. The map that’s being circulated showing the demarcated area isn’t accurate. If it was, the blue area would be a lot larger, as the current map doesn’t include Woodley Park, Van Ness, Tenleytown, Chevy Chase, or my old ‘hood, Cleveland Park, which, God bless it, might be the whitest neighborhood of all. Of course, the sentiment is correct: the guide largely (okay, entirely) focuses on the Caucasian-dominated areas of a mostly black city. But it’s hyperbole, and it makes an otherwise mostly legitimate critique look bad.

I cannot get that everloving map to zoom in any more, so zoom yourself or click on the link for a clearer delineation of where this guy actually says you can go.

Good Lord, as my grandmother used to say. I didn’t think I’d get so worked up about this issue, but here it is an hour later and I now know how to make shapes on Google Maps. I suppose I’ve gotten pretty attached to this city, even if I don’t want to live there right now. (For reasons that have nothing to do with the District, and everything to do with me.) Best Beloveds, in a world full of people, only some want to fly. Isn’t that crazy?**

*One of my father’s favorite expressions.

**Five points for the reference.