Sunday, April 29, 2007

On Being Black and a Woman, Whichever is Worse

I'm a bit distracted. I won't say why, but let's say I'm not happy about it.

In my distraction, I ran across a link to these videos done by spokenlife on YouTube.

It's in two parts, and it's named On Being Black and a Woman, Whichever is Worse. She's commenting on the Imus scandal and its fallout. The fact is we all know that what Imus said rap and hip-hop artists have been saying and getting rich off of the same horrible comments for awhile.

It's interesting because, as I've written before, I was blessed with loving, great and hyper-protective parents. It was frustrating at times as a kid, but I realized pretty early in the game that they were protecting me for the right reasons.

I like how she ends it. If you've read my blog at all, you know how frustrated I've been with being judged by stereotypes. Even one or two people I thought close to me have done it. It's frustrating not being seen. It's frustrating having to go through the same tired conversations where a person expresses shock and awe that I have something close to a brain and have managed to use it. It's frustrating when people can't recognize that being able to take care of myself doesn't mean I don't need help (that black female Superwoman thing is a big, big burden and problem.) It's frustrating when just about every other race of women can express a range of feelings and emotions, but the range I'm expected to express is much smaller.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that. Listen to what she had to say. I particularly like the last few minutes of the video.

She's also got a few video replies. I haven't watched them and I probably won't, but just click over and there are other people contributing either positively or negatively to this conversation.

Part one:

Part two:

Oh Nunya from Queer Thinker referenced a blog of hers in the comments, but didn't link it, so here it is: Reflections On Race & Gender


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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scatterbrained Calendaring: Yeah!

I'm overzealous this term due to sheer paranoia that because my work and school schedules when put together are so intense that something will go horribly wrong, and I'll flunk out my last term. I also really am just busy because I'm at work four days a week. The one day I have class I have to rush from the two morning courses I teach to then attend class in the afternoon and evening. I also spend pretty much all of the weekend reading, writing or studying.

However, I chose it, and, while my schedule was lighter, I did do it last term. I think the fact that it's my final term turns up the paranoia level for me. The logical side of my brain has gone through it step-by-step and is secure that short of the apocalypse all will be fine. However, it's the emotional or the survival mode side is motivating me. That paranoia has lead me to a pretty funny mistake I made regarding this week's schedule.

This week the college I work for has midterms and no classes. However, my program also has no classes but also no midterms because of a special workshop. For some reason I thought my second midterm was today. I realized last night as I was taking the subway home from my office that the midterm is NEXT week! Yeah!

Of course, I had my professor confirm it, just in case somehow I was wrong because I did have it calendared on two consecutive weeks.

I crack myself up. This is good because I've already done most of the studying I need. Most importantly, mentally, even though I must shift gears and dive into work on my thesis today, I feel like I have a bit of a mini-vacation!

Okay, time for me to see if there is any edible food in my fridge. The bad side of being so busy also means I usually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on the go.


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Rise and Shine Challenge

Oh man...why did I agree to do this?

Over at the Citizen of the Month, Neil got a request to take a picture of himself right after he woke up: Come Saturday Morning. This came from Jessica at the Daugther of Opinion blog's Rise and Shine challenge. The problem is she looks great in the morning: Jessica's Rise and Shine picture

I, on the other hand, tend to sleep with my face in the pillow. I don't know why I find that the best sleeping posture. What it means is when I wake up my face is completely puffy and askew because you can't sleep completely face first, so I end up sleeping with one half to three quarters of my face on the pillow. I also go to sleep with a scarf on my head which is never there in the morning, so why do I bother?

Anyway, I took my rise and shine photo as soon as I woke up this morning with my camera phone. Okay, yesterday morning as it's almost 1am here.

It came out really dark because it was early and still somewhat dark outside. The auto adjust on my photo software lightened it up a bit.

Anyway, it is:

Yes, you can totally see the askew face first sleeper face there. I'm just glad my other pictures show I can scrub up somewhat nicely.Okay, now I need some good topics to blog to push this blog off the page.


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Monday, April 23, 2007

Oh Boy! The United Nations Will Help Me!

Update: Monday, April 30th at 9:45am

I'm sorry, this is just another funny one. This is a different twist:

I'm rich, my family is evil, so will you, dear stranger, take my buckets of money and do some good with it?
Um, they have to realize that since I went to law school my first thought is "hire an attorney, dummy!"

Here is the new one. It's just funny because he's rich but he's one big idiot.
Dear Friend,

My name is William Stevenson a British merchant formally based in Dubai.I have been diagnosed with Esophageal cancer It has defied all forms of medical treatment, and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts. I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I never really cared for anyone (not even myself) but my business.

Though I am very rich, I was never generous, I was always hostile to people and only focused on my business as that was the only thing I cared for. But now I regret all this as I now know that there is more to life than just wanting to have or make all the money in the world. I believe when God gives me a second chance to come to this world I would live my life a different way from how I have lived it.

Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this myself anymore. I once asked members of my family to close one of my accounts and distribute the money which I have there to charity organization they refused and kept the money to themselves. Hence, I do not trust them anymore, as they seem not to be contented with what I have left for them.before I became ill. Presently, I am still having a deposit with a bank that is yet to be disposed of. I Beg You In The name of God to Help Me Take The Money To Any Orphanage Home Close To You. I Believe That You Would Offer This Service For Humanity Sake. If You Can Help Me. Get Back To Me.

May The Good Lord Bless You And Your Family

I Await Your Response.

If you want William's email, let me know and I'll pass it on.


It's midterm exam season for colleges and universities in Korea right now. That means I'm on both sides. I'm taking exams and I'm also proctoring and grading exams.

The thing is my job has a shuttle bus to pick people up from a subway station in Seoul and it get us to the college in about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic. What I didn't know was that the schedule changed for midterm week. So there I was with another student just frustrated that we somehow didn't get that memo. Well, there was no memo, that's why I didn't know.

Anyway, with the extra time that being late bought me I checked my email when I got to my office.

Boy, oh, boy! It looks like instead of worrying about world problems and development the United Nations and the World Bank have decided to help me get an inheritance!

This is great! I won't have to worry about how to pay for grad school now!

Our Ref: WB/NF/UN/XX027

We have actually been authorized by the newly appointed UN
secretary general, and the governing body of the UNITED NATIONS
monetary unit, to investigate the unnecessary delay of your inheritance
fund, recommended and approved in your favour.

During the course of our investigation, we discovered with dismay that
your payment has been unnecessarily Delayed by corrupt officials of the
Bank who are Trying to divert your money into their private accounts,
to forestall this, security for your funds Was organized in the form of
your personal Identification number (PIN) ATM CARD this will enable
only you have direct Control over this fund, we have also agreed with
the Presidency that we will handle this payment ourselves to avoid the
hopeless situation created by the Officials of the bank. We obtained
an irrevocable payment guarantee on your Payment from the presidency we
are happy to inform you that based on our recommendation/instructions;
your Entire Inheritances fund has been credited in your favour through
ATM card. You are therefore adviced you send your contact to REV ROGER
HEDGES International Audit unit, United Nations Liaison Office London to collect your original payment
slip with your ATM card.

They will issue you an ATM card that you can use to withdraw money in
any ATM machine any part of the world, but the maximum is fifteen
thousand dollars per a day.

therefore if you like to receive your funds through this means kindly
let us know by contacting the card payment center and also send the
following information as stated below.

5. Home Equity {YES OR NO}.


We expect your urgent response to this email to enable
us monitor this payment effectively.. CONGRATULATIONS. CAPT. JAMES C. WILLIAMS

What a huge load of bull crap. I guess all of those lawyers who specialize in wills and trusts clearly need to be displaced. I'm sure that Ban Ki-Moon and Paul Wolfowitz have decided that their organizations should be concerned with wills and trusts. I mean what better task than to help citizens of developed nations get or recover big chunks of money set aside in foreign banks? Actually, Mr. Wolfowitz is wrapped up in his own money scandal right now, so I doubt he's concerned with helping me recover money.

I'm just glad I'm not gullible enough to fall for this stuff. It's just sad that some people are.

So watch out folks. Now they're asking for personal information AND they want to know if you own your home. I sense escrow loans scams now too.


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Media Fear Tactics by Gavin de Becker

After pouting a bit with fans over his girlfriend, John Mayer seems to be back: Media Fear Tactics by Gavin de Becker

This post is dead on and timely. The fact is that broadcast news really isn't news as much as it's overwrought sensationalism that the general public pays too much attention to.

I'll cut and paste the blog here because Gavin de Becker says it better than I can.

Media Fear Tactics

It would be interesting if the standards of Truth in Advertising were applied to television news as they sometimes are to television commercials. In that unlikely situation, TV news writers would be required to use phrases and words that convey accurate information – as opposed to the phrases and words they use today.

I want to help you break the code of alarming newspeak so that you can more easily find the valuable information that may (or may not) be part of a story.

Given the disturbing reasons we've all been watching so much TV news, it would be understandable to overlook the sheer ridiculousness that is inherent in some of the sensationalism. Occasionally, the way TV news is delivered can be downright funny, and indeed, the ability to laugh at something indicates that we are beginning to gain perspective on it. Accordingly, some of what follows is funny, and I have a very clear purpose in offering it: I want to help change your experience of television news, help you actually watch it differently. I want to provide some tools you can use to ensure that when you watch TV news, only actual information gets through.

Though not offered as a comprehensive glossary, here are some examples of words and phrases I think you’ll quickly recognize:

As in “Next Up: Possible links between Saddam Hussein and tooth decay…”

The word “possible” doesn’t really have the specificity one hopes for in journalism, given that it is completely accurate when applied to anything anyone can possibly imagine. “A possible outbreak of…” means there has been no outbreak. “A possible connection between memory loss and the air you breathe…” means there in no confirmed connection.

“Officials are worried about possible attacks against…” means there have been no such attacks.

Anytime you hear the word possible, it’s probably not happening right now.

“Next up: Possible links between convicted murderer Charles Manson and yesterday’s traffic jams in the downtown area.”

Are these two things linked? Absolutely, if you loosen your criteria enough, everything is linked by its presence on the same planet at the same moment in time – but only a very few links are instructive or meaningful.

Links are a great news trick, because you can tie a remote, unconfirmed, or even unimportant story to something that’s really pushing buttons. “Next up: Possible links to Bin Laden” is all you have to say to get attention these days.

Almost always when you hear the word link, there is no confirmed link.


“...our Nation’s water supplies…”
“...our Nation’s roadways…”
“...our Nation’s shipping ports…”

They use this trick to imply some large scale to a story. “A new threat to our nation’s water supplies” won’t be a threat to our nation’s anything. Our nation is enormous. Nothing, not even nuclear bombs, poses a threat to all of any system in our society at the same time. When they say “our nation’s” anything, they are usually trying to give grand significance to something that doesn’t have grand significance. We might not perk up as much if they said, “A new threat to Klopp County’s water supply…” The incident in which old Doc Ames truck leaked oil into the reservoir just isn’t gonna scare up enough ratings. But it could: “Next up, a new threat to our nation’s water supply. An alarming incident that experts say could happen anywhere!”

“Shocking new details when we come back.” Well, first of all, the details are not likely to be new, and if so critical, why are we waiting till after the commercial, and anyway, what does shocking mean at this point? Unless the news anchor reaches through the screen and pulls my hair, I don’t imagine he could shock me. They’ve ruined another word for themselves.


“Auditors cite loopholes in security at our nation's libraries.”

That’s right, anytime you have an audit or an inspection, you’re going to find something. Auditors are people who’ve been hired to write reports identifying deficiencies. Have you ever heard of a one-line audit report? “The auditors didn’t a find one damn thing that could possibly be improved.” Did you ever hear of an inspector who said: ‘We’ve wasted six months on this inspection, because the place is bloomin’ perfect. Whoever’s running this show sure thought of everything.”

The implication projected in a story about a security loophole is that someone will come crashing through the loophole – but that is not necessarily so. They tell you (and the terrorists) about the loophole because it is frightening, not because it’s enlightening.

“In a carefully worded statement, the President said…” Is this as distinct from those statements that world leaders just have the kids throw together? “Carefully worded” is often used to imply that something is being hidden.

“Officials consider the threat to be serious.” Is that to distinguish this threat from the threats they laugh about over lunch? Taking something seriously does not mean the risk is great or imminent. It just means officials are doing what anyone would do.

“Officials here are taking no chances when it comes to school safety.” Sort of. More likely, they’re taking no chances that reporters will broadcast a report accusing them of taking chances.

Implies that something is imminent, and worthy of being closely monitored. “Closely monitoring” is like “Officials are on the lookout for…” Both phrases suggest that something bad is surely coming, as if officials are standing outside looking around with binoculars.


“NASA reports that a large piece of space junk -PERHAPS as big as a freighter– COULD enter the Earth’s atmosphere sometime tonight over North America. Experts warn that it is could potentially slam into the earth.”

What are we to do with this report? Move a little to the left or right? They don’t say, of course, that every night, thousands of pieces of space junk enter the Earth’s atmosphere and completely burn up before ever hitting the ground, or that no person on Earth has ever been struck and killed by a piece of space junk. Or that if something’s as big as a freighter before entry, it might end up as small as a grain of sand – but it could potentially hit your house, I suppose.

15%, 20%, 25%…
“15% of Americans are at risk of being seriously injured in car accidents on our nation’s highways this year.” Whenever you see a percentage cited, reverse it and think about the other share in the equation. For example, from the story above you can conclude that 85% of Americans are not at risk of being seriously injured in car accidents this year. Sort of good news, all things considered. Also, phrases such “a sizeable percentage,” or “an alarming percentage” can be applied to just about any percentage. Get the actual number, and then you decide if it’s sizeable or alarming to you.

“Experts warn that as many as 25,000 people in America may be carrying the deadly gene…” or “As many as twenty states may be susceptible to radiation leakage disasters.”

“As many as” means somewhere between zero and the number given.

A phrase used when they don’t really have the story yet.

“But one former employee at the doomed refinery reveals shocking new information…”

What does he reveal? That they fired him because he was too ethical, or because they didn’t want to hear the truth? Or that he knew all along? Anyway, he wasn’t there the night of the fire, so is he the best source of information? Truth in advertising would require the reporter to say: “We interviewed one man who hasn’t been to the refinery in three months – his opinion, next.”

As certain words and phrases become symbolic or evocative from one type of story, they’ll use them in another. In the days after 9/11 I saw a TV news report about a tropical storm making “a direct hit” on a tiny coastal community, as if the hurricane were aiming. (And the word tiny is used because it implies vulnerability. Storms that make direct hits on tiny places are frightening bullies.) A story about a flight that experienced extreme turbulence is headlined “Terror in the Sky.”

As in the popular “deadly virus;” this word is used to imply that everyone who gets the virus perishes, when the truth is that very few people die from the virus. If a really serious virus ends up being fatal for 20 percent of the people who contract it, then truth in advertising would require language such as: “Next up, a local man is stricken with a highly survivable virus.”

It’s quite a bit shy of deadly when someone tests negative for anthrax, yet in the weeks after 9/11, even a negative test for a “deadly” virus was presented as a frightening thing.

To put this into perspective, flu-related disorders killed 5000 times as many people as anthrax in 2001. Is anthrax still scary? Yes, and all the more so because of the implication that it was everywhere (colored maps showing the places in the U.S. where anthrax was found or suspected). It wasn’t everywhere. Reports were everywhere. And the same report repeated seventy-five times is still the same report. But you wouldn’t know that by the excited delivery: “New details emerge in that anthrax case.” Details maybe, but not new – far more likely when you watch TV news, they’ll be the same “new” details for the tenth time that day.

A storm is described as deadly: “We’ll have new information on that deadly hurricane that’s heading up the coast.” A hurricane qualifies for the word “deadly” when someone, somewhere on the hurricane’s round-the-hemisphere journey dies as a result of the storm. That does not mean the hurricane tries to kill all people it encounters, but that’s the implication – that something dangerous is coming. You’ll note that the people who die are usually in a situation far different than yours: They are on a small fishing boat at night off the coast of Peru, and you’re at home 1200 feet above sea level.

Usually means they didn’t get a news crew there in time. Or they didn’t warn you about it yet, which actually is interesting, since there’s only two or three possible awful outcomes involving human beings and they haven’t warned us about yet.

As in “Disturbing questions have been raised about the safety of our nation’s…” Yes, the questions are disturbing. They’re disturbing everyone. Please stop raising them.


Yes, reports and experts do seem to warn, fear, and worry a lot.


They sure do.

Global conclusions drawn from man-on-the-street interviews represent literally nothing. You can edit a story into “New Yorkers feel terrified,” or “New Yorkers are ready to move on” – and it all depends upon which of the five interviews you cut into the piece broadcast.

Here are two quotes brought back by one NBC News crew:

“I think if you change your life, they’re winning,” says Captain Frank Carver. “So the more we continue our daily routine, better off we all are.”

At Pat’s Country Bakery nearby, Joann Charters concedes she’s still apprehensive. “It’s a really scary feeling with kids in school. You don’t know what’s gonna happen,” says Charters.”

To accurately summarize these quotes you’d have to say: “Some people feel one way and some other people feel another way. Back to you, Tricia.”

Joann Charters citing that it’s scary because “you don’t know what’s going to happen” is right on. That’s why it’s scary: because you don’t know what’s going to happen – not because you do know, not because danger is advancing toward you, but because it is not.

TV news stories like this are filler, background, static, irrelevant. You don’t need a reporter and a video crew to bring you man-in-the-street opinions. There are men on your street you can get opinions from. Or you could just talk to your friends and family.

Any list of warning signs implies great risk. I recall a rash of reports about car-jacking in Los Angeles, and this list of warning signs:

Armed stranger approaches car;
Taps on closed window;
Looks around suspiciously.

And then they offered the checklist of precautions, given by an “expert on car-jacking.” (Is there a college course on that?) The checklist:

Keep doors locked;
Don’t let strangers into your car;
Drive away.

This is tantamount to:


Warning Signs:
Purse feels extra heavy;
Strange noises coming from purse.

“Officials admit that the incident could have developed into a full-fledged riot…” In this context, admit means that when a reporter asked, “If police had never reached the scene, and if a hundred other factors had fallen into place in an extraordinarily unlikely way, couldn’t this have developed into a full-scale riot?” Yes, it could have – an admission.

It may seem you are getting expert advice on the news, but that’s far from so. The moment you edit what an expert says, it’s just words you might as well put in the blender. Would you let a TV news crew mediate your doctor’s advice? Imagine being challenged by a difficult illness and your doctor’s compassionate and complete 30-minute presentation was edited down to 23 seconds.

That’s what the local news brings you: expert opinion edited, mediated, and minimized by non-experts who ask questions designed to elicit the most alarming responses. “Yes, yes, Dr. Stevens, but if it did happen, it would be terrible wouldn’t it?

When the news media assign a nickname to a wanted criminal (e.g., The Night-stalker, The Hillside Strangler) or to a disease (Legionaire’s or Flesh-Eating Diseases), it is indicative of a hoped-for series of reports. When it’s a type of crime (Follow-home Robberies), a trend is not far behind.


Next comes “Officials are concerned,” and soon enough –as with Road Rage, you’ve got hearings before the House Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and somebody (in this case, committee staff member Jeff Nelligan) calling the issue, “A national disaster.” Presumably, Mr. Nelligan would tone that down a bit today – all of us having found a new meaning for the words “national disaster.”

An NBC News story quotes a member of a university task force on weapons of mass destruction: “We’ve been talking about this for years and people in general have not been interested.” Is there some surprise there – that someone on a task force about weapons would be talking about weapons? The intended implication of these stories is that if someone had just listened, this could all have been prevented. How could discussions at some college task force have been used to prevent anthrax scares? If we had listened, what would be different? This is like an earthquake happening and earthquake experts saying, “We warned you.” Yes, you did; you said there’d be an earthquake sometime. If only we’d listened.

These are stories where TV news people cannot lose. They ask hospitals or public health officials or the utility company or the fire department if they can handle a disaster of X magnitude. If the response is yes, they just keep upping the disaster magnitude until the response is no.

Here’s an example from NBC News: “A survey of 30 hospitals in four states and Washington, D.C., found them ill-equipped to handle a widespread biological disaster.” A guaranteed fear-inducer, pokes right at our insecurity. First off, just asking the question implies that a “widespread disaster” is coming, and it’s even better if the survey was part of a “new study,” because that implies that the question itself is well founded.

Either way, the basic premise of the story is true: If hospitals currently able to handle 500 patients an hour get 5000 patients in some terrible hour, they will be unprepared. The standard of care will drop. Is there something surprising about that? Do TV news writers think Americans assume there is some extra team of 200 doctors and an extra 5000 fully-equipped hospital beds waiting in their community somewhere just out of sight?

Indeed, hospitals are unprepared for that which they have never had to be prepared. Being able to deal with what predictably comes down the pike and putting your resources where they are most likely to be needed is good planning. An emergency room would have to trade some daily-used resource to be ready for mass casualties that don’t appear to be coming. Yes, as the world changes and events change, so does preparation – but expecting hospitals to be fully prepared, for example, to treat thousands of inhalation anthrax casualties when there’s been a few lethal cases in 30 years would constitute bad planning.

One can make an “unprepared” story about anything; America’s police are unprepared for a “widespread crime disaster;” our supermarkets are unprepared for a “widespread food shortage.” It all depends upon how you define the word widespread. Put a microphone in some official’s face and ask if he’s adequately prepared for an attack on the harbor by Godzilla, and you’ve got an unreadiness story.

“Being stuck in the elevator for six days is an experience Betty Hamilton will never forget.” This is used as a measure of how serious an incident it was, but did anyone imagine she was going to forget it? “I think I was stuck in an elevator for six days, but I can’t quite remember.”

Pay attention to the very last line in news reports. They are rarely summaries, but rather are designed to keep the story open for more reports. Most often, the closing line takes a last bite at the fear apple, one final effort to add uncertainty and worry. “Many here are left wondering if it will ever be safe.” “Fear continues its tight grip on this tiny community.” “Whether more will die remains to be seen.” In the world of TV news, frightening stories never end. We never hear the words “And that’s that.”

Let’s put a few of these newsroom strategies together into a story and see how it looks. As the basis for our mock TV news report, I’ll draw on something that actually happened to my assistant. Earlier this year, her wrist was injured when a dog bit her.

“NEXT UP: DOGBITES! THE BONE-CRUSHING POWER OF DOGS. Experts warn that even friendly dogs can bite, sometimes without provocation. And they’re everywhere. A new Government study estimates as many as 300 dogs per square mile, with the numbers climbing each year. How many backyards in your neighborhood are hiding a deadly menace? We’ll tell you what experts say – when we come back.

A shocking bite from the dog everyone described as “a little angel” leaves one area woman nursing her wounds. Dog-jaw experts say that even a small dog can produce as much as 500 pounds of biting force, and given the rate at which dogs breed, it’s just a matter of time before more people are placed at risk. A former employee with the Department of Health says hospitals are unprepared for a major increase in dogbites, and officials are closely monitoring this situation that could pose a deadly threat to our nation’s neighborhoods. Disturbing questions have been raised about loopholes in the licensing system, and observers point out that dogs who bite can receive licenses and be released into neighborhoods.

It’s no surprise that many local residents are living in fear: “You never know when somebody is walking their dog right behind you. We’re scared.” Officials say links between the recent dogbite and one that occurred in the tiny town of Ames, Iowa have not been confirmed, but either way, it’s a nightmare few will ever forget. And one that many fear will not be over in the morning.”

Coming to understand these popular phrases and strategies, and being able to see around them has made me appreciate those news reports that are direct, clear, and informative. Since many news people use these tricks, those who do not stand out as all the more special and valuable.

If you watch TV news, you’re probably going to spot lots of sensationalizing tactics I’ve missed, and maybe even start a list of your own. If finding them becomes an occasionally enjoyable part of your news-viewing experience, that in itself will be great news.

Gavin de Becker


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Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Virginia Tech Victims

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Update: August 2, 2007 @ 6:37pm

This is a nice gesture.

A Concert for Virginia Tech will take place on Septemeber 6th.

The performers so far are: Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Phil Vassar, and Nas

Here is a link to the information website at Virgina Tech.

I'm sure the VT community already knows about it, but it's something people should hear about because it's good news.

I like delivering good news.


Okay, enough on Cho Seung-hui and his madness, and, honestly, enough on the sorrowful Koreans.

Yes, that's a tone of anger you're getting.

There has been too little focus on the victims. I'll admit that I didn't pay much attention to them either, but this is the first day where I've actually been able to give more than a quick glance at the information.

Not enough has been focused on those 32 people who lost their lives.

So, at least for now, I'm going as far to change the set up of my blog so that they get the page all to themselves.

Reading of names

April 20: The names of the victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech are read during an interfaith prayer service.

We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness ... We are the Hokies ...

-- Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor, poet, activist - April 17, 2007 (click the link for a transcript of Professor Giovanni's convocation address)

  • To the students (they're victims too): To the Students of Virginia Tech
  • ABC 7 News (metro Washington, DC area): Student Government Asks Reporters to Leave by Monday
  • Virginia Tech: In Memoriam
  • Virginia Tech: April 16th Memorial Website - Update: They're no longer accepting condolence messages on the memorial website page:
    We no longer are accepting new entries to the website, in order to allow our communications team to redirect its energies toward the university's recovery from this tragedy. As an alternative website for posting your message, we suggest the Guest Book on

    We sincerely thank the nearly 35,000 individuals and families who have so eloquently expressed the sorrow, hope, strength, and resilience of our community.
  • Virginia Tech: Memorial Fund (you can make a donation in memory of those who lost their lives on Monday, April 16, 2007)
  • NYTimes: The Victims
  • MSNBC: Profiles of victims in Virginia Tech massacre
  • WashingtonPost: The Victims

  •

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    Collective Korean Sorrow and Guilt Over the Virginia Tech Massacre

    Korean folk singer of “Fucking USA!” - Photo and caption from Legacy of President Roh: Anti-Americanism at

    Update, Tuesday, April 24 @ 1:20pm

    Here is another article from Time that I read today about the shame his family here in Korea feels. It's too bad. They didn't pull the trigger: A Family's Shame in Korea.

    With the outpouring of condolences and the candlelight vigils, it would be nice to see Koreans give Cho's family, who are also victims of this tragic massacre, a similar level of nurturing care.


    Update, Saturday, April 21 @ 7:15am:

    Of course, the debate about sorrow and guilt or maybe more like wounded pride and attempts to erradicate the shame and assumed bad PR that the shooter was Korean rages on.

    There is an active blog about it on the Metropolitician's blog and a great comment that was left by Susan. She takes no prisoners:

    And I'm pissed off with all of these Korean people apologizing for Cho's actions. What exactly are you sorry about? That he killed thirty-two people? Or are you really sorry that he brought SHAME upon our good name? Those are two different things. And words without actions are meaningless. The candlelight vigils, the trusts in the name of the injured, the tears, the mea culpas, blah blah blah . . . worthless.
    Click over and read it.

    It's Saturday, April 21 here. A friend told me yesterday that they're planning a candlelight march here in Seoul at 7pm today. While I acknowledge it will be a nice gesture, I also told her it was blantant fakery in light of the virilent anti-Americanism that Koreans expressed just five years ago. It's also a great chance at photo-ops and coverage by the international media. Come on people, we know what this is about.

    Basically, it's bullshit. This is very much about saving face and making every attempt to show that Koreans aren't monsters.

    Look, we know this. I'm completely dumbfounded that Koreans really thought that Americans would turn en masse on them. However, I know I shouldn't be because that's exactly what Koreans did in 2002 (as referenced below). Believe it or not, but Americans with all of our faults, do understand that Cho, while clearly disturbed, made a choice.

    We realize it wasn't Koreans that sat around and drew straws. However, maybe what's behind this is that there IS a huge dislike and maybe even hate still. It's just that Cho pulled the trigger and brought it all to the surface. That's sent Koreans scrambling to try to cover it up rather than acknowledge it.

    Just a theory...but, I think, for many it might be truth.


    One, I should be studying for another midterm but don't want to. Read: ExpatJane is procrastinating, big time.

    Two, I thought these articles from Time and the Christian Science Monitor are timely due to Cho Seung-hui and the massacre at Virginia Tech.

    Three, I think these do a good job of explaining the collective sorrow and guilt that people here in South Korea are feeling and why.

    They also highlight what I've seen, first hand, which is the virulent anti-Americanism that I've seen while living here which is the inverse of the collective sorrow and guilt that's being felt now.

    Time: South Korea's Collective Guilt

    While Americans were grieving and trying to a make sense of Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech, on the other side of the Pacific, South Koreans were shaking their heads in disbelief that one of their own could unleash the worst massacre in U.S history.

    Most Koreans don't regard Cho Seung-Hui as a "typical Korean" since he spent the bulk of his life immersed in American culture. Still, a collective sense of regret and guilt was palpable today due to the strong tendency of Koreans to perceive the tragedy in terms of Korean nationalism, in which the group trumps the individual. "It's a notion of collective responsibility," says Mike Breen, the author of The Koreans. When a Korean does something wonderful, the country rejoices, but when one of its own goes off the rails, like Cho Seung-Hui, there's a collective sense of shame and burden. So much so that South Korea's Ambassador to the U.S., Lee Tae Shik, pledged to fast for 32 days to show his sorrow today. "I can smell a collective sense of guilt," says Lim Jie-Hyun, a history professor at Hangyang University in Seoul. "There is confusion [in Korea] between individual responsibility and national responsibility."

    In a country where untold numbers of citizens seem eager to travel, work and live in the United States, many Koreans were dumbfounded when they discovered this morning that the "Asian" campus killer was in fact a 23-year-old South Korean citizen. "I was shocked," says Hong, Sung Pyo, 65, a textile executive in Seoul. "We don't expect Koreans to shoot people, so we feel very ashamed and also worried." Most important, he adds, "we don't want Americans to think all Koreans are this way."

    Nor did President Roh Moo Hyun, who sent at least three messages of condolence to the U.S. and gathered aides for an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning, once it became widely known on the peninsula that the shooter was a South Korean student who moved with his struggling parents to the U.S when he was eight years old. Roh reportedly called for the meeting to discuss measures to cope with any possible fallout from the massacre — inadvertently stoking fears that Koreans living and studying abroad could be in for a rough ride. "Koreans still remember the riots in L.A., so we are worried about some revenge against Koreans," says Kim Hye Jin, 29, a web designer in Seoul, referring to Korean-owned businesses that were looted during the 1992 violence. "We are really worried about the image of our country."

    Some Koreans even raised the prospect Cho's rampage could possibly inflict damage on U.S-Korea relations, including the recently signed tentative free trade agreement between the two countries.

    This kind of nationalistic response can have an opposite effect as well — when the roles are reversed. In 2002, when two U.S soldiers accidentally ran over two schoolgirls with a tank north of Seoul, anti-American sentiment was widespread in Korea. Some restaurants even hung signboards reading "No Americans" rather than "No Soldiers Allowed." For weeks, thousands of Koreans staged protests against American soldiers, while some Korean media even suggested that the girl's deaths could have been deliberate.
    The Chirstian Science Monitor: In South Korea, a collective sorrow over Virginia shooting

    As news spread that America's worst killing spree was perpetrated by a South Korean who has lived in the US since 1992, reactions among South Koreans have ranged from profound personal shame to a fear of reprisal.

    "Because Koreans are also very emotional, Koreans tend to behave more sensitively together than others," says Paik Jin-Hyun, a professor at Seoul National University. "So, one tends not to see the event isolated to an individual but as an ethnic identity."

    Koreans are perhaps unique in their sense of a singular national identity, molded through a long history of invasion and occupation, says Yook Dong-In, editor of social issues at The Korea Economic Daily. The heightened sense of having one "blood" or ethnic race has led to a hypersensitivity about foreign perceptions, many experts say.

    The collective sense of sorrow and penitance about the killings was reflected in comments by South Korea's ambassador to the United States, Lee Tae Sik, who suggested that Koreans in the US fast for 32 days ? one day for each victim.

    Many people noted appreciatively the lack of anti-Korean feelings among Americans. YTN, a South Korean news channel, interviewed a Korean student who has been studying at Virginia Tech on a foreign student visa since 2005. "My Caucasian friend was shocked at first to learn that it was a Korean," said Ha Dong-Woo. "But he instead wanted to protect and take care of us."

    Several of the people interviewed added that had an American student living in South Korea killed 32 people, American expatriates would face serious reprisals. To describe such an eventuality, many interviewees used the word nallinada, which can be loosely translated to mean upheaval, disaster, or chaos.

    "Anti-Americanism would have become extreme," says Mr. Yook, citing the groundswell of anti-American activism during negotiations for the recently signed free trade agreement between the US and South Korea. The country also saw a protracted uproar after American soldiers hit and killed two young girls while driving a convoy in June 2002. The direct fallout from that accident lasted several months, says Yook, and hard feelings persist today.

    One woman, who was interviewed in Seoul on Wednesday, said she is married to a Korean diplomat. Korea's foreign ministry, she said, held late-night meetings to discuss how to protect Korean-Americans from possible reprisals. She was certain that, had an American attacked Koreans, the reprisals would have been swift.

    "People will throw rocks at them and tell them 'Yankees go home,' " said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous because her husband is a government official. "People will go even crazier here if exactly the same incident at Virginia Tech happened here but committed by an American."
    I've been here for awhile and I was here in 2002 when those two soliders ran over and killed those two middle-school girls by accident. I was really shocked by the incident too. However, I was more shocked by the reactions of South Koreans. I was angered and hurt by the out of control nationalism that I saw. I still have people who try to bring it up as a point against the US. However, I point out things that probably influenced the course of events in the first place like the fact that Korean children are often seen crossing the road into oncoming traffic after they've lifted their arm to signal the vehicle(s) to stop. My theory is that happens here and is a successful way to stop a car because there is a collectivism here that you don't have in the States. You do expect your neighbor to watch your back, as they say. Now, as a foreigner, when I first saw that it shocked me. That might not have happened in the case of the 2002 accident, but you do see people walking with no fear in front of and near moving vehicles all the time.

    Also, during that same period the 2002 World Cup hosted by South Korea and Japan was on. I specifically remember that North Korea fired on a South Korean vessel at sea and killed quite a few South Korean sailors.

    A violent skirmish between the Koreas navies on the Yellow Sea leaves at least four South Korean sailors dead and at least 19 others injured. An estimated 13 North Korean sailors are killed when the South returns fire. (from Timeline: Tensions on the Korean Peninsula at
    Where were the spirited protests over North Korea? That was most definitely intentional, but I saw nothing more than a murmur of sorrow from the public over those four dead sailors.

    That's still something I've yet to get over. This is particularly true when you know that the huge amount of progress both in development and economics just would not have been possible if South Korea's security wasn't intact. Probably the most significant reason for that security, whether Koreans or anyone else wants to admit it or not, is because the US military has been stationed here since the end of the Korean War.

    I can understand feelings of anti-Americanism at times, but it's often one-sided and very hypocritical here in the Land of the Morning Calm. In Is the Korean Media Race Baiting the Virginia Tech Tragedy? at the ROKdrop blog he tackles this hypocrisy head on
    Sorry this [the US] is not Korea where a traffic accident led to assaults on Americans and foreigners on the streets, anti-US hate signs on doors and windows, as well as stabbings and kidnapping of US soldiers with the added addition of being paraded around on national television with no Koreans ever being held accountable for these crimes. When this happens to Koreans in America then we can start talking about racism in the US, but all this talk now just sounds like the media is actually hoping there is a backlash against Koreans so they can turn the subject on racism in America instead of on the shooter.
    I hate to say that the undisclosed diplomat's wife is correct. If it had been an American who went beserk and intentionally killed South Koreans at one of their universities, Koreans would be in a collective uproar.

    Anti-American demonstrators held a rally ... in front of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division in Uijongbu, north of Seoul. The protesters' signs read, in part, "Oppose USA. - Photo and caption from Growing anti-Americanismfesters in South Korea at the

    FYI Link - An interesting analysis of the 2002 protests: Solidarity in South Korean Civil Movement against the U.S. Forces


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    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Virginia Tech Shooter Identified

    Virginia Tech students Lindsey Williamson, left, of Culpepper, Va., and Katrina Broas of Middletown, NY embrace as they reflect on the shootings. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

    Update - Monday, April 30 @ 3:44am

    This is an interesting headline that instead of going back to bed got me to stop: Did 'Dateline' Push Cho Too Far?.

    In that article Phil Mushnick points out that NBC's Dateline ran a show on Robert Hyde and that somehow that's what put Cho over the edge. Cho very well might have tuned in to that broadcast and it firmed his resolve. There is some connection to NBC because he did mail his manifesto to them the rather than the other news networks and agencies out there. Maybe he did see it and realized if Dateline did a show on Robert Hyde that NBC would definitely air his video. Who knows?

    However, this line runs the risk of shifting the responsibility away from the shooter. Cho bought the first gun weeks before the incident. Then he complied with the required waiting period and then purchased a second gun. We might not ever know exactly what combination of events pushed Cho or what finalized his decision to take so many lives, but he was arming himself and working out for this way before that showed aired.

    If he did see the show it probably only firmed up his resolve and helped him decide where to send that package rather than pushed him to do what he did.

    Update - Saturday, April 21 @ 6:03pm

    It's study break time here in the library, so that means find a computer and surf the Internet until I feel guilty.

    I found this article at the Economist: In the university of death

    This article discusses how the pro-gun stance of Virginia very well might have a lot to do with how easy it was for the shooter to arm himself.

    I can't say. I don't know enough about Virginia politics, but it's worth a read.

    Here is an article from the New York Times which says that according to US federal law Cho shouldn't have been able to purchase firearms because he was declared a danger to himself: U.S. Rules Made Killer Ineligible to Purchase Gun

    Mr. Cho’s ability to buy two guns despite his history has brought new attention to the adequacy of background checks that scrutinize potential gun buyers. And since federal gun laws depend on states for enforcement, the failure of Virginia to flag Mr. Cho highlights the often incomplete information provided by states to federal authorities.


    Update - Friday, April 20 @3:35pm

    Backlash much?
    NBC News in the hot seat

    April 19: Bitter backlash against NBC News and the media for running materials from the Virginia Tech gunman. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough asks MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford, commentator John Ridley, and the Center for Media and Public Affairs' Matthew Felling if the media made the right decision.

    Update - Thursday, April 19 @ 7:10am

    Cho sent a multimedia manifesto to NBC news: featured here on MSNBC. They received it, copied the materials and then forwarded it to the FBI. Based on the postmark, he sent it between the first and second shootings. They've already showed a picture of him outfitted and holding guns on CNN International.

    This is some crazy stuff.
    Cho's manifesto

    April 18: NBC's Pete Williams talks with Brian Williams about the disturbing content of the manifesto that Cho Seung-Hui sent to NBC.

    I'm sure people are curious about how the news is being viewed here in Korea. I was on my way home on the bus last evening and for the entire bus ride there was a news radio special discussing the shootings. This broadcast was on from the time I got on the bus at City Hall and was still going at the time I got off. My trip takes about 10 to 15 minutes, so that's a long radio broadcast.

    On a personal level, I've had Koreans express to me that they're shocked over what happened. Of course, because Cho Seung-hui is Korean there is collective shame too. I was at school yesterday, and I had a few Koreans tell me how sorry they were. Even the lady who sells me fruit came out of her shop to express her sorrow over this incident. It's definitely touched people here.

    Also, there is a fear of backlash over this. The AngryAsianMan is discussing it here: the shooter was korean-american and here and now...the backlash? I think it's something we need to think about because everyone is reeling from this horrible massacre.

    BTW, Kenneth Eng is back too.

    More later. It's time for me to get ready for work.

    CNN: Massacre At Virginia Tech The Question Mark in Harper Hall
    The Smoking Gun: Virginia Killer's Violent Writings


    Update - April 18, 2007 @ 3:50pm

    The articles and analysis of what happened are coming in a steady trickle. I've got one hour until my midterm, so I'll just update this with two articles from the
    The first covers what the Virginia Tech community thought about him and touches on his demeanor and writing. Honestly, it's just opinions with tied together with the handful of facts we have on Cho. The second gives some info on the people who lost their lives in this morbid tragedy.

    I'll weigh in later.

    I'm sure that by now everyone has heard about the tragic mass shootings that occured at Virginia Tech. I'm smack in the middle of midterm exams right now, but this newest piece of news got me blogging.

    The shooter has been identified as Seung-hui Cho (in Korea Cho, Seung hui)*. He had US residency, but had South Korean citizenship. According to the report, he left a "disturbing note" and had the receipt for the firearms he used in his backpack.

    At this point that's about all there is to this development in the story. However, I wanted to blog it. Now I've got to study at bit more.

    I'll update this later as more news is released.

    News Links:

    ABCNews: Shooter Identified as Cho Seung-hui
    NYTimes: Virginia Gunman Identified as a Student
    CNN: Police: Virginia Tech shooter an English major, 23
    The Blotter: First Gun Bought March 13; No 'Spur of the Moment' Crime

    Korea Blogs:
    The Marmot's Hole: Virginia Tech shooter a Korean student: report
    Metropolitician: Shooter is South Korean
    Of course, the Korea-specific blogs are all posting on this right now. So instead of linking them all, here is a link to the Korea Blog Aggregator (it's on my sidebar too, for future reference.)

    By the way, if you're one of those folks harassing Wanye Chiang, stop it. It's a horrible tragedy but he's not to blame.

    *In Korea, your family name or surname comes first and then your given name or first name. So, by Western tradition, his first name is Seung-hui and his last name is Cho.


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    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Vote for "A Girl Like Me" - CosmoGirl Film Contest

    Update: A Wee Bit of a Scandal

    AfroBella: How Odd
    Radar Online: Black Blogger's Beef With CosmoGirl Contest

    I'm in the library, but just read the posts. I've commented on AfroBella, so I think that covers my perspective on this. Now I have to get back to the books.

    Update: The Voting Is Over

    I got into work today ready to cast a few more votes from my office and other computers I'd find along the way. However, it seems that some people weren't playing fair, so the voting has been suspended.

    We have determined that the online voting has been corrupted as a result of one or more instances of tampering with the voting process by users. As a result, none of the online votes will be counted, and we will submit all three of the semi-finalists to our panel of experts for final judging and selection of a winner.

    The winner will be featured in the August 2007 issue of CosmoGIRL!
    What sucks, of course, is the time that people spent voting and urging others to vote. Now that effort is a loss. Anyway, now it's in the hands of a "panel of experts" and it's not clear when the winner will be announced.

    Something appeared to be fishy when on Monday A Girl Like Me's votes increased at a steady pace but votes for the others spiked and jumped over 2000 votes in that same amount of time. I captured some screen shots and mailed them to CosmoGirl.

    Now I'm hearing all sorts of stuff. I mean the winner will be featured in the August 2007 issue, but when will the suspense be over? Too bad someone or some people ruined the fun for all of us.

    Update: The voting ends on April 13th at 12noon EST.

    I checked maybe 10 minutes ago and she was just over 400 votes from first place!

    I HAD to update this blog and hope that folks check it and vote.

    Please vote! Bug your friends and get them to vote too! If she gets a big surge, she can take it.

    Thanks so much!
    Original posted: April 7, 2007 at 12:56am, KST

    I blogged about the A Girl Like Me short documentary a few months ago.

    I just heard that she'll win a $10,000 scholarship if she wins the CosmoGirl Film Contest.

    Try to vote daily until it's over. I'm so organized I'll calendar it so I won't forget ;-)

    So check out the video via my post here: My A Girl Like Me blog post, August 7, 2006

    Then go and help Kiri Davis out and give her your vote here: VOTE HERE FOR A GIRL LIKE ME



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    Sunday, April 8, 2007

    Tadao Ando - 安藤忠雄

    I took it easy today and didn't start studying until the evening. I figured it was Easter, so I could give myself a few hours of rest and relaxation.

    The one thing I love when I travel to Japan is the modern buildings and the architecture. So imagine my pleasure when I watched Talk Asia on CNN today. This week they featured the Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. He's amazing. His buildings are amazing as is his perspective on architecture.

    I particularly liked his vision for design that is more earth friendly, yet practical. I hope Japan gets the 2016 Olympic bid simply because Ando would be the architect in charge. I think the resulting spaces he and others would create will be amazing.

    Anyway, here are some links about him and his work.


    Tadao Ando - Probably the best site I found on Ando's work by Sanghyun Lee. It's written in Korean, but the pictures are wonderful.
    Tadao Ando - nice pictures of his work with some nice music
    archInForm - Tado Ando - A pretty comprehensive web page on Mr. Ando with tons of links
    Tadao Ando Space


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    Monday, April 2, 2007

    FTA Protests? 어디?

    Okay, I should be sleeping. It's almost midnight and I have to go to work tomorrow.

    However, I was on my way home from school and I usually transfer at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts at Gwanhwamun here in Seoul. I knew the FTA negotiations were wrapping up but when I checked around lunch there was nothing new.

    Now any coverage I've seen about the FTA negotiations have highlighted all the protests. Now that's fine, but the problem is I live near where the negotiations took place. I saw a swarm of police everywhere. I didn't see any rabid protesters. I know they were around town. They just weren't at the Seoul Grand Hyatt.

    I did see a protest on the way home. However, by that time an agreement had been worked out. It still needs to be approved by the legislatures of both countries, but it's done.

    Anyway, here is the picture of a very small protest at Sejong Center around 9:45pm, April 2nd.

    April 6, 2007 - 8:50pm

    Just an update a few days later. I was on my way home again on a Friday night at the same bus stop. The FTA protesters are still there, but the group was maybe a quarter of the size it was on Monday evening. However, the fun part was that only in Korea do you have a protest where you'll see three young men performing a choreographed dance routine to pop music.

    I have to say living here makes me smile quite a bit.

    A week later - nothin', nada, zlich.


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    The God Debate

    I heard about this while studying for Quantitative Analysis, so maybe it's God's way of saying "take a study break, kid."

    I come from a very Christian family. At least, Christian in that they all claim to be Christians.

    I, however, took a more circuitous route to religion. I was a philosophy major in university. I remember peppering Marilyn McCord Adams, who was a professor at UCLA at the time, with questions about religion. I didn't believe at the time, but I had and still have immense respect for her as she was one in the first ordained female priests in the Episcopalian Church. I would also engage my mother in lengthy debates about religion and Christianity as she believed too. I think it's why I'm truly confused when people can't debate and be civil no matter what the topic.

    Anyway, I stayed away from being an atheist as I reasoned that it was a bullheaded position. I just didn't know. I was fine with admitting that I didn't know.

    Here in Korea there are A LOT of Christians. They coexist with Buddhists. Both are about 26% of the population and everyone seems to be fairly happy. There are some stories of conflict, but they're fairly rare. Korean Christians are cut from a very conservative cloth, so it makes the discussion of God and belief something that just doesn't happen much here. I have had the discussion with other foreigners but not with Koreans.

    So, maybe this is a good way to get the discussion going. Newsweek has a feature where Sam Harris and Rick Warren discuss: The God Debate. I truly believe that you have to question your belief before you can really claim to believe. Then again, maybe that was just my particular route.

    Just so you know, I've stepped back from agnosticism, and I attend church regularly these days.

    The debate is about ten pages long and if you've had this debate before on a deep level, it might be a bit dull, but it's interesting.



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