A Day In the Life
(Continued from above)
Hey, you're still with me. Why? I told you not to read any further. I guess if you can't take a hint, you're welcome to read further.
Note that I'm cheating here and not actually writing most of this on the actual dates. Some of this is coming from my emails and other records, and my recollections. Because my memory is a bit impaired from the lack of good sleep and rest, some of this may actually be a little fictitious. I probably wouldn't be able to tell you which parts though. My apologies in advance to any of you that I may malign in this piece. Have fun reading.
Monday April 9th
Sophie and I visited United States Congressman Tom Lantos' San Mateo office. I was prepared for this visit and came with a letter. We met one of his aids and she told us she was a reader of this newsletter. Hi Christine, hope you're not reading this. Nothing bad about your boss, I just hope you have better things to do with your time.
Christine's office is pretty interesting. They have a waiting area with lots of useful informational leaflets. Sophie and I snatch up a bunch of pocket copies of the US Constitutions. Sorry Christine for taking so many.
One sad note, there appears to be a bulletproof window between the main office and the waiting room. Sad because I guess this is definitely needed with all the questionable people in our society.
Sophie and I go down to the lobby, where we talk to the desk personnel about having them hang one of our flyers. He tells us to see a manger on one of the top floors. Wow, the view is good from up there. If you live in the low lands of San Mateo, you may think the place seems like a bland landscape compared to the beautiful scenic views in San Francisco where I grew up.
The manger tells us about state Senator Leland Yee's office being in the building - we go and visit. We came unprepared so I promise to send the aids a letter by email. These people in this office all seem pretty young. Some of them I guess may have been little kids when Senator Yee began his political career as a San Francisco school board member. At least that's where I think he got his start in politics. The reason why I remember this is that my old boss ran against Leland Yee and lost the last school board seat to him. Maybe my memory of this is incorrect - I'll have to check my facts with my friends on this one.
Sophie and I go to the Central Park Recreation center to get some more measurement of the facility. The prior Friday, my car got stuck in the parking lot at Central Park because of a bad alternator and dead battery. I had gone to the Central Park Rec. center on Friday and it was already closed. When I got back to my car, I couldn't start it and had also accidentally left my cell phone back in San Francisco. Anyway, I did more walking that weekend than normal.
Back to Monday, Sophie and I get back to the AACP office where we have our APA Heritage Celebration Committee meeting. Lots and lots to discuss - performers, marketing, exhibitors, raffles, sponsors, I can send you the agenda if you're really interested or you can just come to our next meeting.
My agenda is starting to look like a long laundry list. Putting on a show always seemed way easier in those old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies. I think we tend to make things more complex than they really need to be. We tend to sweat over needless details that few people will ever really care about and loose our focus on what is really important in life.
Hmm, this seems to remind me of that article I wrote awhile back about the real fears in life and how we're afraid of the wrong things such as terrorism when we're more likely to be done in by smoking, fat, and cars. I better get off of this subject before my friend Gary starts to think - "there he goes again."
Okay, lets get back to Monday April 9th or actually early on April 10th. Ah, looking at my old email, here's the one I sent with the mistake. I address Senator Yee as Lee. Ugh, this is almost as bad as all the people calling me by my many name variations - Chang, Chun, Chung, Chen, Chin, people saying Leonard with the "o" being pronounced or people spelling it with out the "o." At least I'm use to this, and I forgive you all, but I wonder how often Senator Yee gets called Lee? Is this as bad as people thinking that all Asians look alike? Hey, maybe this is one of those needless worrying issues. I guess the lesson to be learned from this is don't write anything important at 4am in the morning. Maybe I should knock off writing this soon, it's getting close to that magical hour where I start missplling things and peple's nams.
The next few days I'm inundated with late arriving ads for our program. Not only am I the coordinator, I'm also the person doing layout for most of our printed materials on our event. Wow, I didn't think we'd get this many ads. I originally planned on a short and simple 12-page booklet. Now we're up to 16 and most of the contents are ads.
Oh, here's an example of stressing the details, rather than just stretching or shrinking the ads given to me to conform to the sizes that they paid for, I've been tweaking some of the ads to not distort the contents too much. Changing the aspect ratio on people's faces is a definite no no in my book. One person gave me a whole page ad and asked if I could get it to work in various half page sizes (wider than high and taller than wide). I sent him my half page versions and he decided to go with the whole page. I wasn't trying to convince him to go with the whole page pricier size, but I guess it worked out for us.
This is the week when Don Imus got fired for saying those things about the Rutgers Women's basketball team. I'm sure I didn't hear all the editorial on this, but here's by two cents. Did anyone ever stop to say that it was not just wrong for him to say those things, but that it was also wrong for him to think those thoughts too? Hey, I don't think we should have thought police. People have a right to think what they want, but all the chastising of Imus and the Asian Week writer that wrote those awful things about other races may just push racist thoughts underground. I'm paraphrasing something my cousin said to me, but here's essentially a point that he made to me - "people shouldn't say those things, but you know they're thinking it." Hidden racism can in some ways be just as bad as the overt kind. At least when someone says these things, you know where they're coming from.
I'm not saying that people should go around saying everything that they really think. I do believe that politeness and politically correct speech has a proper place in society. But so too does openness have a time and place. If Imus didn't say what he said, but still though those thoughts, would he and everyone have lost a valuable opportunity to learn why this type of thinking was wrong?
So the lesson here is not just that saying racist and sexist things about a group of people you don't know is wrong, it's that any prejudging and lumping of people into negative categories should be avoided at all cost. When you hear someone say a stereotypic or prejudicial remark, feel free to politely let them know that you think they should keep an open mind and that people should be judge by their individual nature and not necessarily by any group identity. I'll save the rest of this for some future editorial. I've always wanted to write about people's tendencies towards wanting to classify everything. Needless to say, most people and things don't fall neatly into categories.
Writing lots of email to businesses and organizations placing ads in our program. Some have asked for ads without sending me their ads. In some case, I may have accidentally deleted their emailed ads. I think I probably sort through over 400 email each day.
I make several mistakes regarding the identities of these businesses. Some of our records show one name and the ad sent to me says a different name.
I hear a late night TV news teaser about a famous author passing away - I catch a glimpse of his picture and immediately guess that it is Kurt Vonnegut. I see one article on the net
that says, "A column on book clubs cannot let the passing of Kurt Vonnegut go unnoticed." Okay, I guess I shouldn't either.
I read his books Cat's Cradle and The Sirens of Titian many years ago. I can't remember the stories that well, but I know I enjoyed them. Some conservatives have been critical of his statements and writings, but I've always admired him and his works. How could anyone that wrote the following epitaph for himself be that bad? "The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music." You can add great authors, such as Vonnegut, to the list of proof for god.
April 12th and 13th
I finally hear from Dan at Leland Yee's office. He says that they'll be sending me a letter for our program booklet soon. Sophie tells me she sent a note to Yee's office apologizing for my gaffe. Thanks Sophie.
I send Melodie, one of our event's committee members, a confirmation email about her revised ad for the program. Knowing that she's a therapist, I bend her ear about one of my ideas for an article on famed psychologist Philip Zimbardo's latest book "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil." I have this idea about true heroism and Zimbardo's book has a section on heroism to counterbalance the rest of his book, which analyzes anti-heroic acts. She seemed to like this idea, so stay tuned for this future article.
Martin, one of our committee members from the OCA and the person in charge of the performances at our event, sends me an email with a list of possible recorded music he'd like to play between performances. Martin and I have had this conversation before. Frankly, I'm not sure if we really have that much time between performances to have recorded music playing. I'm not sure why he seems so concerned about it, could this be another one of those cases of sweating the details. Anyway he send me this list that I don't care too much for. In our past conversation we discussed possibly featuring Asian Pacific American (APA) musical artist in honor of APA Heritage Month. This time he sends me a list that includes Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, and Celine Dion. Celine Dion? Is she even American? I take this email a little more seriously when I see Celine Dion on the list and begin my search for some Asian Pacific American musical artist.
I spend much more time on this than I really had planned. APA pop musicians of the 60s and 70s is another one of those areas that I had wanted to write about. I even wrote Larry Ramos of the 60s pop group The Association an email once asking if I could do an interview with him. Never got a reply though - probably thought I was some nutty fan. If any of you know how to reach him, let him know that I'm not a nut (at least I don't think so :) and that I'd still like to do the interview.
Anyway, here's my list of some APA pop musicians -
Norah Jones, Anoushka Shankar (Ravi Shankar's other daughter), Larry Ching (Big Band era singer), Don Ho (more on him later), Larry Ramos (The Association), Charlie Chin (famed folk musician from the 60s and 70s that even played with the Buffalo Springfield; he's one of our performs for our event), James Iha (The Smashing Pumpkins), and Sean Lennon. If you have some other suggestions, pass them along. I'm sure there are lots.
AACP has its once a month board meeting. There's more discussion of our APA Heritage Celebration (APAHC). Some of the talk is about whether the other organizations are doing their share in recruiting enough volunteers for the APAHC. Early on in the planning of the APAHC it was decided that the sponsoring organization would control different aspects of the celebration. Things get a little heated over whether we should cross over to help out some of the other organizations' shortages in manpower. In the end the issue seems dropped and we agreed to do whatever we can to help out at the APAHC, rather than fight over the proverbial "whose turn is it to take out the garbage squabble."
During our board's lunch, I get in a discussion with Peter, one of our young volunteers, about bringing back the draft. I am of the opinion that bringing back the draft is not such a crazy idea. Part of the problem of our current war is that most American are not directly feeling any of the burdens and consequences of our government's actions. Perhaps if we were all personally connected to someone that could go off to war, we would think much more seriously about all future uses of our military. Philip Chin, another one of the AACP newsletter editors, chimes in that one way or another the war may come to an end a lot sooner with a draft. Paraphrasing his explanation, "either we win militarily through overwhelming forces or we pull out from overwhelming protests by people unwilling to sacrifice their own blood." I add that perhaps the most politically feasible approach to ever getting a draft reinstated would be to have the draft automatically started after one year of involvement in any military conflict. This would hopefully act as a disincentive to any future poorly conceived blunt uses of military force. Anyway, my apologies to all of you of a draftible age - it's easy for me to advocate a draft because I'm no longer of a draftible age (they probably wouldn't call on me until North America gets invaded).
I'm on the Internet and I see that singer Don Ho has died. My favorite song of his wasn't "Tiny Bubbles" but was "I'll Remember You." Interesting story was that I once borrowed a compilation CD from Ben Fong-Torres, the famed former editor of Rolling Stone Magazine, and "I'll Remember You" was one of the songs on the CD. It appears that Ben likes the song too. Sorry Ben for not ever giving you back your CD - hey, he said I could keep it. Anyway, Don we'll remember you.
I wake up and hear the news on the radio of the shooting at Virginia Tech. Later I hear witness accounts of the shooter possibly being an Asian. Still later that night I hear some people speculating that he was Chinese. Oh no, was this going to have a negative impact on the Chinese American community? The next day, I hear the shooter was Korean, I subconsciously feel relieved. When I hear some non-Korean APA friends telling me similar stories of their relief at the news, I start to wonder if this is that classic case of the fan and his sports team - when the team wins, it's "WE won" and when the team loses, it's "THEY lost."
When some mentally disturbed person does something really crazy like this, we all run away from him as far as possible - "he's not like me." When some APA does something really fantastic we congratulate them and cheer them on saying, "That person is one of us. See we can do it." The sad point is that APAs are like any other American in regards to their potential to do really awful things. The good news is that we have the same potential to do really great things too.
An interesting note, statistics found at nationmaster.com, show that the number of murders per capita in South Korea is 1 murder for every 50,933 people. While in the United States it's 1 murder for every 23,363. It appears that environmental factors may be a bigger determinant to murders than genetics. This probably fits with psychologist Philip Zimbardo's metaphor of the barrow causing some apples to go bad.
Upon hearing the news of the shooting, I think of the Beatles song A Day in the Life which begins, "I read the news today oh boy." So that how I came up with the title for this piece.
For the rest of us, life goes on. Make the best of it.
April 26 Epilogue
I finally receive the Leland Yee letter. Thank you Senator Yee and assistant Dan. I hope you're not reading this.
I showed Sophie this article and I didn't get too good of a response. I think she was hoping for more wonderful details about our celebration to get you all to come. There are lots and lots of details and missing days that I didn't get to write about in this piece. The point of this article wasn't really to highlight our event. I'll leave that for my editor's message or another article.
After Sophie's response, I thought about not using the piece for this month as she had suggested or possibly going with an abbreviated email version. But hey, why sweat the details? I'm not going to fuss over this any longer. You're not reading this anyway, right?