Claire Light

Women's History Month Profile: Vineeta Rastogi

(Photo via.)

This is one of a series of profiles of outstanding Asian American women Hyphen is presenting for Women's History Month. In honor of the passing of this landmark healthcare reform bill, the last three profiles will address healthcare issues.

It doesn't always take a long life to accomplish great things. I was 27 before I even felt I knew who I was, or what I wanted to do with my life. But Vineeta Rastogi's life ended at 27, leaving a lasting impact on the world.

Women's History Month Profile: Mai Neng Moua

(Photo via.)

Well, March is a busy, busy month and I've gotten off track with my Women's History Profiles. But now I'm back, and back to a new America: one with a reformed healthcare landscape. So in honor of "Obamacare," my last three profiles of outstanding Asian American Women will address health issues.

Mai Neng Moua is in many ways typical of the type of Asian American overachiever we like to notice (and to be) here at Hyphen: literary, community-oriented, a magazine founder, an anthology editor; a Gen X, 1.5 generation immigrant from a war-torn country, busy empowering her own generation, and reaching back to bridge the gap with her elders.

But end-stage kidney disease almost put an end to that trajectory before she finished college.

Women's History Month Profile: Victoria Manalo Draves

Having just survived a winter Olympics season pre-empting our favorite sit-coms, perhaps we're particularly aware of the Asian female domination of figure skating in recent years. But the US has been fielding Asian American women Olympians in less obvious sports for far longer than we'd credit.

Hyphen Lynks: The Happy New Lunar Valentine's Year Day Edition

What's that I'm hearing? Is it fireworks or firecrackers? What's my motivation today: scare away ghosts or invite double happiness? Dang. I don't know whether to sweep my house or have sex. Gung Hay Be Mine!

Today you really don't have any excuse, because even if you're one of those pseudo-independently-thinking-hipster-bots who parrots "Valentine's Day is a fake holiday invented to sell stuff!" every year, there's still a major ethnic holiday for you to prove your multiculti cred on by celebrating it accurately. And the color of both Holidays is red!

So put on your hearts 'n' cupids boxers or that lacy red bra, and meet me on the corner of Waverley and Lonely St. We're off to the lion dance of looooove!

Help For Haiti

haiti.jpgHi Everyone! Just a quick note to help you all find ways to send help to Haiti. recommends these four organizations:

The US State Department is also raising funds for the Red Cross with a text messaging line. Text "haiti" to 90999 to donate $10.

please give generously. Right now they're estimating that thousands of
people have been killed, and that millions will be affected.

ETA: More on Wyclef Jean's foundation Yele Haiti and why you shouldn't give money to them. One reason is that money given to smaller orgs often can't clear for several days, whereas larger orgs are able to receive those funds more quickly. Another note: text messaged donations don't get paid out until you pay your phone bill, so you might be better off giving online.

ETA: has removed Yele Haiti from its list of recommended orgs for Haitian relief.

Asian Infants Go Viral

Why are the viral infant musical prodigies on YouTube always Asian? Here's the latest:

Which was posted in response to this:

Which is less fun because the kid looks like he's having no fun at all. There's also this one I posted recently:

This kid's got a whole oeuvre, that favors the Beatles in fact. Just check out his YouTube channel.

I'm having visions of stern Asian parents hanging their six-month-old infants' queues from a hook in the ceiling to keep them from falling asleep while they practice "Stairway to Heaven." But it's probably not abuse, per se. Because it's not that there are no non-Asian baby musical prodigies, it's just that the Asian ones are the most popular. Now why do you suppose that is? Can it be because having an Asian infant play pop music doubles the poodle walking on its hind legs effect? Is the child funnier or more incredible because he's Asian?

What do you think?

ETA: from comments, a tiny hip hop dancer.

Hyphen Lynks: I'm Yours Edition

Before we get to da Holiday Lynkage, let me just remind you that a Hyphen subscription is a terrific stocking stuffer for that feisty Asian American or Asian Canadian -- or for that creepy Asian fetishist -- in your life.

For $18, four issues of Hyphen are yours. But this week, the little Asian kid above is yours for free. Know what else is yours for free? The knowledge that:

I Made the World's Longest California Roll!

Thumbnail image for caliroll4.jpg
Yes, all by myself, suckas! Well, mostly by myself, with a little bit of help from several hundred Cal students. And, as you can see above, I ATE it all myself too! ... with similar help.

What am I talking about? Well, Sunday at noon, on the UC Berkeley campus, I and several hundred of my closest little friends broke the Guinness World Record (not yet official) by rolling the world's longest California roll. That's right, it was 330 feet long, 30 feet longer than the previous world's record, set by those slackers in Hawaii!

Why did we do this?

Awesome Theater: 'Sunday Will Come'

ErikaChongShuch_SeanSanJose_Table2_Credit Pak Han 10-14-2009 8-00-24 PM 1467x2200.jpgIt's one of the great tragedies of art that the best innovations are impossible to describe.

Now, I'm not sure that the unfortunately titled The Future Project: Sunday Will Come will revolutionize live stage performance as we know it, fix the health care crisis, and make you love your mother more. But it is a terrific piece ... and I am having trouble describing it.

Let's try this: ever feel like you're living in a fish bowl?

Balloon Boy Possibly A Hoax

Yeah, we're glad when an atypical Asian American family gets some press and breaks some stereotypes. But I'm pretty sure this is a family I don't want to claim. You might not feel so much sympathy for Balloon Boy when you see him in this video. (Video N exactly SFW, owing to three little boys swearing like sailors while promoting outrageous exaggerations of machismo.)

R.I.P. Gina Hotta -- Updated


Photo courtesy of Derek Chung

I'm sad to report that journalist, writer, and community leader Gina Hotta died last night of a heart attack.

Gina was perhaps best known as the executive producer of Apex Express, the API show that's been hosted on Berkeley-based radio station KPFA since 2001. Since KQED's Pacific Time shut down a few years back, she had been the voice of Asian America. She produced a number of documentaries and more recently branched out from print journalism into creative nonfiction and fiction writing, appearing in KSW's APAture festival reading in  2006.

In recent years we've lost many community leaders of the Baby Boomer generation: Sachiko Nakamura, Chiori Santiago, Bill Sorro, Al Robles, Ronald Takaki, and many more. The Movement leaders are passing, Asian America. Let's remember to honor our elders before they leave us.

And let's also remember that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US. If you feel so moved, you might make a donation to WomenHeart. And be sure to read and pass on this information about how symptoms of heart disease may be different for women, and what the risk factors are.

Here's a much more expressive tribute from Digitron (Adriel Luis) of ILL-Literacy.

ETA: from Momo's comment below:

APEX EXPRESS will honor Gina tonight (Thursday)
KPFA 94.1 FM
A public memorial will be held in late October. Details TBA.

For more information and to post memories and condolences go to:

ETA: from Michael Yoshida's comment below:

A public celebration of the life of Gina Hotta will be held on
Sunday, October 25 from 5-7pm, with a reception following. We will
gather at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 9th street 2nd floor,
in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza.

If you are interested in sharing your memories or music, please contact us by Friday, October 16.

You can contribute photos or other small items to the Community Altar, or an appetizer for the reception.

We also encourage you to bring a cranes to add to our 1,000 cranes installation in honor of Gina’s legacy.

Contact: Apex [at]
510-848-6767 x 464

Action Alert: Call Your Congressperson About the Public Option!

Just an action alert here: please call your Congresspeople today and tell them that you support the public option for health insurance reform. (Dial 202-224-3121 and tell the operator your zip code to get a list of your representatives in both houses -- or just tell the operator which representative you wish to be connected with. Be sure to leave a message, if you don't get an actual person. Your message should include the fact -- if true -- that you will vote at the mid-term elections based on your representatives' performance on this issue.)

Obama is making a speech tomorrow that could be in support of the unacceptable "trigger" option, which postpones public health insurance. You can contact the White House as well, but it's far more important to keep the pressure on the legislature to hold firm on the public option.

Hyphen Lynks;) The Durnk Poasting Editon

Duuuuude. Have you ever posted on your blog drunk?

Me, I haven't. I never durnk posting. Durnk pot. Durnk post. Dru ... what?

Awwwww! My kitty is so cute! Lookatim! So cute! All curled up there so cute and fluffy. Aw! Ow! Hey that hurt! That hurt ...

Anyway, where was I? Was I? Wait, no be quiet. I'm poasting on my blog. The blog. Not my blog. The blog that we all posts on. Noooooo, not yoooouuu. Just Asian Americans. Nooo, not aaallll of us. Just some of us.

Hyphen Lynks: The Extremely Boring vs. Totally Untrue News Edition

You know how during the election everyone was complaining that Americans were getting their news from Jon Stewart? Well, there's a reason for that: news is boring! Extremely! It's much more fun to hear shit that ain't true!

Real news doesn't do the interesting things that overprivileged people from Hollywood do inside their heads except for Paris Hilton who is as boring as the news and over too, and also Paula Abdul. No, I take that back, Paula Abdul is better than fiction because she's craaaaaazzzaaaay, and so is Gwenyth Paltrow. No, I take that back. Goop is crazy but not in an interesting way. And Bai Ling is annoying. And Asian.

Anyway, let's make some movies, is what I'm sayin'. For today's lynks, we're gonna compare the real news with some totally made up shit and you can decide which one you prefer. Then you can go here to vote on it, and the voter who best predicts how everyone else votes will win a huge-ass prize. Not really.


Hey, Asian in an Ad! (What Does it Mean?)


Okay, I just wanna take the temperature quickly here.

I was just watching The Daily Show on, and when it ended this advertisement (screengrabbed above) showed up. It's an ad for some antidepressive drug (which I won't link to), but the interesting thing is that the ad features an Asian man. An Asian man looking depressed.

Hyphen Lynks: The Whiny Sotomayor Edition

Last week it was MJ, Sarah the scarer, and Appalachian Trails (to you). This week it's Sonia On Trial. And while I'm not really interested in the soup creme sport, or whatever it is, I AM glad that the story is being handled pretty much exactly the same way Michael Jackson's legacy has been handled: with a hysterical media circus intent on broadcasting incendiariness for incendiariness' sake. The news would be sooo boring otherwise.

But good news is around the bend, folks! Since growing up poor and hauling herself into the Ivy League by her bootstraps doesn't shield Sotomayor from the barbs of the Grand Old Bootstrap-Demanding Party (or GOBDP ... shut up,) that just proves that we've really entered the Age of Obama, i.e. the post-racial era! This is the age in which pundits and polticians grew up with those whiny whiny minorities whining all the time about Their Oppression even though they get to be president now whine. So the pundits and politicians aren't buying the whininess anymore, no sir. They are whineron-clad. They'll serve no whine before its time. They shall cast no pearls before whine. To err is human, but to forgive de whine ain't gonna happen. Feel me?

And for Sotomayor to say that she'll bring a fresh, new perspective to the soup ream abort is just whining. We don't want a fresh, new perspective. We want the stale, old perspective. Right? Am I right?

Hyphen Lynks: Brutal Regime (Watch Out!) Edition

Uh ... was anyone actually suggesting that Obama invade Iran? I mean, other than crazy mans on da streets?

Because (m)O('bettah)bama is the very opposite of a brutal regime dictator tyrant evil axis thingie. (m)O('bettah)bama is good. It is Ahmadinejad who is brutal 'n' evil. And Kim Il thingie. And, like, Angela Merkel, and Johnson & Johnson. And Metallica.

Actually, if you look around, the Brutal Regimes are everywhere. Everywhere. Wow. It's frightening.

#IranElection Follow Along

For news and conflict junkies, and those of you who are just wondering what the hell's going on with the post-election protests in Iran, the BBC offers this round up of places to go on the web to follow along.

Exhiliratingly, and exhaustingly, Ahmadinejad's government is playing "whack-a-mole" with the various applications protestors are using, and finding it particularly difficult to tamp down Twitter. To follow along on Twitter, check out "#iranelection" or follow "mousavi1388" (Mousavi's official feed) or this Mousavi supporter feed "StopAhmadi."

The National Iranian American Council is liveblogging translations of tweets and posts in Farsi.

Feel free to post updates, particularly on Iranian American responses, in comments.

Study Says Ethnic Profiling Doesn't Help


Missed this one a couple weeks ago:

A new study from the European Union shows that ethnic profiling in police stops doesn't help catch terrorists.

The study, titled "Addressing Ethnic Profiling by Police: A Report
on the Strategies for Effective Police Stop and Search Project," is the
result of 18 months of research on police stops in Spain, Bulgaria and

In that study, the Justice Initiative worked with police
to collect data on ethnicity and criminality, comparing the ethnicity
of people stopped by police to those actually found to have committed a
crime or offense. "In every pilot site, police were profiling people
based on ethnicity or national origin," the study reports. "Minorities
were more likely to be stopped, often more likely to be searched, but,
almost without exception, were no more likely to be found to be
offending than the majority group."

... At pilot sites in Hungary, for example, police
were three times as likely to stop Roma as ethnic Hungarians, "yet the
rate at which each group is detected in the commission of an offense is
almost identical." In some areas, the data showed ethnic minorities
were even less likely to be offenders than the local majority.

I've always been opposed to racial and ethnic profiling on moral and ethical grounds. But this study seems to argue that racial and ethnic profiling should be opposed on efficacy grounds. I have to say, I think the two are inextricably linked. Racism is an extreme example of poor judgment and unsound thinking. Assuming that people of a particular race or ethnicity will all have exactly the same outlook, goals, and prejudices is ignorant and stupid. It's not the kind of thinking that holds up in real life, and it's not the kind of thinking that illuminates human nature in a way that will become useful in social life, working life, or the study of criminal psychology.

So, ethnic profiling doesn't work? Duh. If I continued to insist that babies DID come from cabbage patches, because my parents told me so, would somebody have to do a study of the natural cycle of cabbage to help me design a policy to raise the US birthrate? But now we're getting dangerously close to other immoral and ineffective policy myths.

We've seen the extreme of ethnic profiling in Japanese internment. And we all know that's bad (except for M!ch3ll% M@lk!n, who shall be eternally disemvowelled for her sins), not least because it was ineffective: not a single Japanese American was ever shown to have spied for the Japanese. But just because police harrassment is less extreme, doesn't mean it's any more right ... or any more effective. So score a win for soft science ... let's hope.

R.I.P. Al Robles

I just got the news via email. Manong Al died today. I didn't even know he was sick.

Al Robles was a community activist and poet, long involved in the I-Hotel community and Kearny Street Workshop, and subsequently in the eviction protest and rebuilding of the I-Hotel through the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. He published a classic collection of poetry, Rappin' with 10,000 Carabaos in the Dark in 1996. He knew everyone in the community, and always had a kind word for you, even if he hadn't seen you for a while. See the Manilatown is in the Heart trailer above for some images.

I'm just shocked and saddened right now. Updates later.

ETA: Please save Sunday, May 17th from 12 - 5 pm for Manong Al's memorial. It will be at SomArts. I'll have another post with all the information as soon as it's nailed down. In the meantime, I'm helping recruit volunteers for the event, so if you'd like to take a shift, please contact me at "claire" at the domain of "hyphenmagazine" with a dot "com."


The Joy Luck Hub Blog Carnival: Asian American Immigrant Stories!

It's May, peoples! It's Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! This year is also the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Amy Tan's classic Asian American immigrant novel, The Joy Luck Club.

We have a love/hate relationship with that book. Love because it was our first foray into the mainstream of American fiction, a moment of broad self-acknowledgment many Asian Americans remember with fondness. Hate for many reasons: because it focused on women to the detriment of men (for a perspective, see Alvin's comments here); because it proposed an immigrant arc similar to that of Europeans, glossing over the continuing issues Asian immigrants have in this country; because it was so successful it coerced a generation of Asian American novelists to Joy Luck their way into a writing career.

So, to express our ambivalent Happy Birthday, here's a bouquet of tiny immigration tales. These are 300-word, true stories, from real Asian Americans, that complicate and argue with the story The Joy Luck Club tells. The complete awesomeness, vitality, and real diversity of these stories is exactly what my problem with the Joy Lucking of Asian American writing is about. We always knew these stories were out there; I just didn't know we could get so many great ones in such a short time.

(My only caveat is that we didn't get enough stories from men. Imagine how much broader the range would be if we had! Maybe next year ...)