Monday, February 13, 2006

Racism in Korea

S. Koreans Reclaim Biracial Football Champion as One of Them
Super Bowl star Hines Ward moved to the U.S. as a toddler. His fame is spurring people to reexamine old prejudices.By Barbara DemickTimes Staff WriterFebruary 13, 2006SEOUL — He is a most unlikely national hero, a man who has barely spent any time in South Korea, speaks little of the language and who under other circumstances might be looked down upon in this society.Ever since Hines Ward was named the most valuable player of the Super Bowl last week, the half-Korean Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver has been the toast of the town. People are talking about throwing parades in his honor. His name dominates the television and radio talk shows; his photo is splayed across the front pages of the newspapers.Especially popular are close-up shots of his muscular upper arm, tattooed with his name spelled in Korean.South Koreans' fascination with Hines is not simply a matter of pride, but of curiosity. The 29-year-old athlete is something of a novelty in that his mother is Korean, but his father was an African American GI. In ethnically homogenous South Korea, such mixed-race offspring are generally viewed with contempt. And because social status is based on being registered under the father's name, children raised by their mothers alone in effect are treated as nonpersons.Biracial men have been banned from the South Korean military, although the Defense Ministry announced Friday, in a move that some attributed to the Hines Ward phenomenon, that the policy is being changed."If he had grown up here instead of the United States, he would have had a hard time," said Park Mi Na, a 17-year-old mixed-race high school student. Park, who bears a strong resemblance to the African American father she hasn't seen since she was 2, said she has been taunted by children her entire life and stared at strangely by adults "as if I were an alien from outer space."Park speaks no English and doesn't know the difference between Washington, D.C. and the state of Washington. (Her father, she said, lives in one of the Washingtons.) But she hopes to study in the U.S., if only to be someplace where she doesn't draw attention.Ward's situation could have been much the same as Park's except that he has lived most of his life in the U.S.His parents met when his father was stationed in South Korea and his mother was working as a waitress in a nightclub. They moved to the U.S. when Ward was a toddler. After the couple divorced, a court awarded custody to his father because his mother spoke little English. But Ward ran away when he was 7 to live with his mother, Kim Young Hee, who managed to support herself and her child by working three jobs.In interviews with the media here, Kim said she did not move back to South Korea because of discrimination against herself and her child. When she visited in 1998 to attend her mother's funeral, she told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, people spat at her because she had been married to an African American.Even in the United States, Korean immigrants excluded her son from their gatherings because of his racial background. "After that, I told Hines never to hang out with Korean kids," Kim said.Ward's newfound celebrity has prompted some soul-searching in South Korea. "I nearly cried when I read the story of his mother in the paper," said Yun Nam Jung, a taxi driver. Ward should be welcomed with a parade through the center of Seoul, he said, adding: "He's a superb man. We're so proud of him."In fact, South Koreans might get their chance to celebrate Ward's success. The MVP has said he will visit in April, perhaps with his mother. Already, the country's two leading airlines are competing to fly them over and foot the bill for the trip. Among the many South Koreans who want to see him in Seoul are the administrators of Pearl S. Buck International, a foundation that provides support to biracial children. "He is an American basically, not a Korean. But the way that he overcame the hardships of his childhood could be an inspiration to our children too," said Lee Ji Young, a social worker at the Seoul office.There are an estimated 35,000 mixed-raced South Koreans, most of them half Caucasian, according to the Pearl Buck Foundation.Discrimination is far worse against those who have African American fathers, although several such people have achieved prominence as entertainers.Insooni, a well-known biracial singer, said that despite her success she made sure that her 12-year-old daughter was born in the U.S. and thus could get an American passport."I could bear any discrimination and taunting myself — but as a mother, I didn't want my child to have the same experience," said Insooni, who goes by one name.Many South Korean newspapers in recent days have run editorials calling for an end to discrimination. Among them, the JoongAng Ilbo opined that "pure hearts" are more important than "pure blood."The paper called on South Koreans to "open our minds … to raise the second and third Hines Wards in Korea."The Chosun Ilbo ran a cartoon of a construction worker musing, "I wonder what would have become of Hines if he stayed in Korea?" Underneath him a biracial worker is struggling to climb up a beam with bricks on his back.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Paris


Venus de Milo, in the Louvre. Not recommended to take small children when you go to the Louvre... lesson learned. BTW - Da Vinci Code is NOT a good book. The author wields a pen like a club... I can't remember the last time I suffered through a book that was less elegently written.

Ah... what can I say about Paris that hasn't already been said? Well... be aware that Parisians are a bit more free about their urinitation than you might think. Especially in subway stations. Yeesh.

Cathedral de Notre Dame is well worth the visit.

Budapest, Hungary


Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the river Danube. Easily my favorite place in Europe so far - beautiful people, places, and delicious, cheap food and drink. Awesome. Actually found a Korean restaurant there, too. I think the owners were as perplexed at my being there as I was at them. Anyway, I had kimchi ji-gae and duk-booki. Good Stuff.

Beautiful place - highly recommended... if you go, take swimsuit - the place has awesome hot baths.

Israel



Jerusalem, the Holy City. This is a view of the Wailing Wall and the golden dome housing the rock of Mohommed. Notice that two of the most holiest areas for Jew and Muslim are literally right next door to each other. A fascinating visit... however, you should know that the city has been razed and rebuilt since Jesus was crucified like a dozen times, so nothing you see in the city really equates to anything you read in the Bible (no matter what the tour guide says). Israel is a tiny country... and visiting there really drives that point home. From the peak of Masada, you can easily see all the Arab nations surrounding Israel... all of them who would love to see the Jews driven out - or just destroyed outright. Fascinating place.

Brugges, Belgium


Brugges is known as "Venice North" in Europe. It is a gorgeous city in Belgium that is interlaced with dozens of canals. You can take boat rides along the canals or take long walks along cobble-stoned streets through parks and gabled buildings. We loved it. We had mussels here, took a long boat ride through the canals, and found the best Pizza Hut in Europe.

Good Irish Drinking Quote

May those who love us, love us. And for those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts. But if He doesn't turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles....so we will know them by their limp.

Going Green

All my life, I've mocked tree-hugging granola eaters with hairy armpits who think that we are destroying the world. My backing has been science - we've been on earth about .00000001% of the lifetime of the planet. Foolhardy to think that in that short amount of time, we could make irrevocable effects on the planet. Besides, a minor volcano eruption releases more CFC's and CO2 into the atmosphere than the whole of global industry could in a decade.

BUT...

I think it is time to change my ways. I am willing to give up my cars and ride bikes from now on if America can give up on its reliance on fossil fuels from the Middle East. My reason? I am sick to death about hearing about the Arabs. I have nothing against the Arabs... I just don't want to ever hear or care about them again. If we take out the oil factor, the Arab nations will become like Africa or South America. When's the last time you heard or cared about death, destruction or bedlam in Paraguay or Zimbabwe? I'm sure it happens... but it's their problem. Why do I have to hear about it incessently in the news?

It's time... we need to give up on our reliance on fossil fuels. We need to pursue renewable energy and remove the sword that Arabs hold over us. It will be a glorious day when we are free of OPEC and oil. Let them murder each other. Let them destroy each other. Take out the oil equation... and none of us will care.

Someday...

Death for Cartoons

Muslim outrage at Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohommed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb? Muslims assaulting US military bases and Danish consulates in anger and outrage. Lives lost, property destroyed... endless news coverage.

I have a question...

Where is the Muslim outrage at Islamic extremists who murder innocents in the name of Mohommed? Where is the Muslim outrage at the unchecked thirst for thirst for the destruction of an entire people (Isreal)? Where is the Muslim outrage at Sunni v Shiite murder? Where is the Muslim outrage at the curtailing of religious and idealogical freedom in EVERY arab nation? Where is the Muslim outrage that in EVERY arab nation, wealth is concentrated in a single digit minority while everyone else lives in poverty? Where is the Muslim outrage at the abuse and outright slavery of third-country nationals who are imported in to arab nations to do the "common" labor?

I would accept any level of bedlam from the Isamic "street" to right any of the wrongs I've labeled above... but kill people and destroy property for a DAMN CARTOON?

Madness... madness

Monday, September 26, 2005

Stonewall Jackson

Mortally wounded at Chancellorville, Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson lost his left arm. General Robert E. Lee would remark that "he lost his left arm, and I have lost my right". Eight days after being wounded, Jackson developed pneumonia and died. His last words before dying: "Let us cross the river and rest beneath the shade of the trees".

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Price of Freedom

Last night, my squadron held a "hail and farewell", a little unit social event where we welcome newcomers and recognize those who are leaving. Since we recycle bodies about every 2 years, it's pretty common to have these about every 2-3 months or so. Normally a formality (and a somewhat boring one at that), last night was different.

One of the pilots leaving is going on to the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's jet demo team. Last night was POW/MIA day, a national day of recognition for American prisoners of war and missing in action. He talked a little about his dad, who was shot down over Vietnam and lost. Only two years ago were his remains found and laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He spoke eloquently, but briefly about growing up never knowing his father. Although his father was never in his life, his memory and his sacrifice was. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

Maybe it was just the German beer. Who knows, but the idea that a boy growing up never knowing his dad, yet following his footsteps in honorable service to his country just about brought me to tears. It is an amazing thing, this business of ours.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Six Things You Might Not Have Known About The Civil War

1) More casualties resulted from dysentary and diarhea than from combat. This was primarily from soldiers using the same stream/creek for sewage and drinking water.
2) Lincoln never wanted the war to be about emancipation. He was far more concerned about maintaining the union. Only when the war was deemed close to victory did he release the emancipation proclamation. Simply put, he thought that making slavery an issue during the war would dilute union support and jeapordize the effort against the confederacy.
3) The Civil War was fought in more than 10,000 different places, including as far west as New Mexico. Texas was part of the confederacy, although today, most people don't consider it part of the south.
4) The movie "Glory" with Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman was based on fact. In fact, the movie is apparently a pretty good portrayal of what actually happened. Many blacks fought for the union. Blacks fighting for the union were often killed by the south instead of taken prisoner, or taken back to the south as slaves.
5) The crater scene in the movie "Cold Mountain" is accurate - that actually happened. Union soldiers dug a trench underneath confederate lines and put a bunch of explosives in. When they blew it up, a huge crater was made in the confederate lines. However, the union soldiers waited over an hour before attacking, and when they did, they got trapped in the steep walls of the crater - going in, rather than around. They were slaughtered wholesale.
6) One of the great conundrums that have baffled historians considers the origins of the civil war. Both Washington and Jefferson were outspoken critics of slaver, but both kept many slaves. There are actually several instances of these strange contradiction amongst the founding fathers. There are many theories that abound, mine is that these men simply separated theory from practice - and I mean that in a negative way. I think that in theory, these men hated and detested the concept of slavery, but in practice, kept slaves in order to preserve their wealth and property. It is, however, one of the great American curiosities that the man who wrote that "all men are created equal" was a slave owner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

Using the law of averages, I am surprised that people are surpised at the disaster response at the local, state, and federal level. It never ceases to amaze me the level of competence that people expect from government agencies. You've got to realize that most of the people that fill civil servant work are the same people who frustrate you in most other levels of customer service work. I'm not saying that the bureacracy is filled with idiots - I am saying that one shouldn't expert anything near perfection from it because it is staffed with the same combination of exceptional, average, and below average folk you meet on a day-to-day basis.

The Law of Averages

Using a standard Bell curve, I have made the conclusion that of any five people you meet, two are average, two are below average, and only one is exceptional. I don't know if that is right. I guess my point is that most cases in life, you will encounter average to below average people. Once I accepted this notion as fact, I no longer got all bent out of shape when finding myself in situations where someone's incompetence hinders my aims.

Ken Burns Civil War

Just finished watching Ken Burns' Civil War documentary on DVD - in a word, amazing. It's on five disks and will take a week to watch, but it is fascinating. If you don't know much about the Civil War, this is the best place to start.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Saving for the Future

Friends and Family -

If you have not actively started saving, then please read. Currently, the government provides several options for you to invest money in the market and save for a variety of purposes, with tax incentives. If you are saving for retirement, you can start a Roth IRA and your earnings will be tax free. If you are saving for a child's college tuition, you can start a state-sponsored savings plan that also has tax shelter.

The bottom line for saving is this - the earlier you start, the more money you will have in the long run. I am nowhere near being an expert on the subject, but if you want to start saving (even a mere $50 a month can turn into something special) and want to know how to get going, throw me an email.

Retirement and college tuition - I can't think of any better reasons you'd need to start saving now.

Friday Night Lights

"Friday Night Lights" starring Billy Bob Thornton is a story about high school football in Odessa, Texas. It's your standard football movie with all the accompanying cliches documenting the high place the town's Premian Panthers play in the lives of the local people. So-so movie with one funny note - the film is based on a true story (so what?) set in 1988. I didn't know it was set in 1988 - based on what I know of present day west Texas (having lived there against my will for 2.5 years), the bad hair, dated clothes, and beat up cars looked pretty recent to me. I assumed it was a current day flick until the credits rolled. That's pretty much what the place looks like today.