I made a return trip to Chicago for my cousin's wedding. My own church wedding was fairly intimate with 75 people attending the ceremony and reception. And as a groom, the whole process is a blur. Now my cousin's wedding was a typical Filipino wedding (groom is filipino, bride filipina/brazillian) with 300+ people and a full schedule of events. In my role as the best man, I got a close up view of how these events can be so stressful and hectic for many of the principal participants and organizers.
With attendees coming from all over the country and the world, arrivals and accomodations could have been a logistical nightmare. My uncle and aunt handled much of the pickups and shuttled many of our relatives from O'hare to a nearby hotel for much of the first day. There were numerous flight delays and late baggage to complicate things. It proved fairly exhausting to fly in and throw ourselves immediately into the schedule of events - starting with a rehearsal & dinner located 2 hours away from our hotel. We were shuttled in a fleet of vans for the long commute which took us through downtown Chicago on Lake Shore Drive - past the southside into a town called Olympia Fields. Many of the guest quietly grumbled about the distance and one of my distant cousins asked me, "Why did they pick this church?" Well, as we learned later on, the bride was baptized at this particular church and she wanted to get married there. Can't bitch about that one - it is the bride's day after all.
The rehearsal went by smoothly. Its difficult to even articulate the large size of my extended family. I met second cousins and nieces and non-blood relatives that I've never met before. It was even more difficult to explain it all to my wife. I can't tell you how many times she asked me the identity of an unknown relative - to which I answered "I don't even know...must be a cousin of a cousin." I learned that I had nieces and nephews ranging from baby age to 28.
Filipinos are known to entertain - so the rehearsal dinner featured a video montage of photos set to music. Suprisingly there weren't any skits or songs but there were plenty of speeches and gift-giving. Mmm to get sentimental over some tasty pasta.
Diversity Inc. has this article listing 7 things never to say to Asian-American executives. NPR has a related segment on things you should never say to co-workers about race, religion and sex.
Personally, I've never had to deal with any of these phrases or questions in my career. More often, I'll notice an initial tip-toeing around minorities - a thoughtfully cautious approach to communication. Its a polite - and noticeably deliberate - recognition that we're all different.
More info here. Possibilities are endless for this strap-on Wii controller.
Philly fans are the most passionate and tortured fans in this country. More than any other city, Philly sports talk is self-absorbed - shunning national sports topics to vent frustrations on the local teams. Listen to 610WIP or now ESPN950 sports talk radio and you'll hear a repetitive discourse - callers and hosts verbalizing their pain of going 25 years without a championship. The Flyers recent elimination in the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals closed out the 100th combined season of pro sports without a title. SI has a great article chronicling the drought.
Tired of American Idol overkill and frightened by the prospect of having David Archuleta forced upon us all summer long? Check out Pinoy Idol. This vid showcases the first cut which has currently been cut down to the top 24.
My interest in Major League baseball has waned over the years - mainly because of the ruinous Angelos era of my hometown Orioles. Safe to say, baseball is firmly planted behind football and basketball in my mind.
The only time I really watch baseball on TV is during the playoffs...and during trips to Japan. Because of the 13 hr time difference, I always find it strange to wake up and watch a baseball game during breakfast. Of course, Japanese TV coverage and merchandising are dominated by the Red Sox (Dice-K), Yankees (Matsui), and the Mariners (Ichiro). While there are many other Japanese players on other MLB teams, these 3 superstars command all of the attention.
I find it intriguing to observe the different nuances within the Japanese game and their cultural interpretaion of "America's past time". Baseball has a long and rich tradition in Japan and their fandom is rabidly loyal. Greatest example can be found in the Hanshin Tiger fans' obsessively devoted cheering process. The Hanshin Tigers play the role of the Red Sox to Yomiuri Giants' role of the Yankees and their fans practice elaborate fight songs (and individual songs for each player) in the offseason and sing them line for line in unison nonstop during games with the support of thundersticks, handclapping and drums. The thundersticks are one of the props that have been imported by U.S. sports fans.
However baseball in Japan appears to be reaching a turning point. Ratings have been down and much of it has been explained by the migration of Japan's biggest stars to the U.S. Underneath it all, appears to be a structural problem in the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) league in efforts to deal with the MLB effect and a tighter economy. First of all, corporations own all of the teams and operate independently of each other - meaning none of these corporations cooperate with each other for the benefit of the league. No revenue sharing, centralized broadcasting and no concerted effort to market the league with proper advertising, licensing, merchandising...or even a decent website with live games, highlights and news. At times there appears to be more marketing of MLB than the NPB. This makes it even more difficult to keep Japanese stars who already aspire to prove themselves in America.
A lengthy ESPN article discusses these developments in light of the rise of new Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. Darvish has an interesting mixed background - half-Iranian and half-Japanese (his parents met in college in the U.S.). Some teams refused to draft him because of his mixed background. After landing with the Nippon Ham Fighters, Darvish has dominated the NPB, graced fashion magazine covers and enjoyed immense popularity.
Although Darvish doesn't become a free agent for 5 years, the Fighters will likely consider negotiating sooner with American teams for the top dollar (or yen). And it is inevitable that one of the American teams will spend the money (likely $75 million to begin talks) in an effort to grab the next Dice-K. Darvish has the superstar ability to elevate the popularity of baseball in Japan by himself. Being king of the hill in Japan with all the perks of popularity will do well to stroke his ego but can it turn away an ultra-lucrative contract from, say the Yankees and the chance to compete against the best? I say its only a matter of time before he's MLB-bound.
We're been running our own Netflix Japanese movie fest and our latest recommendation is Densha Otoko Train Man (2005). This movie is based on a supposedly true story of a 22 year old otaku who finds love after saving a woman from a drunkard on a train. The story originated on an immensely popular Japanese internet forum called 2channel and ultimately spawned a manga, novel, tv series and this movie.
After saving the woman and receiving a thank you gift, the otaku seeks advice from fellow posters on the internet forum. The movie cleverly goes back and forth between the main love story and the 2channelers' typing in advice to help him along. Their suggestions and reactions (complete with ASCII art) are often hilarious. The otaku goes through a predictable makeover, woos her with geeky charm, survives some setbacks and ultimately confesses his love for her. Once she reciprocated, a mass celebration of 2channel poster ensues with the story making a positive impact on their own lives.
The film is in some ways predictable but develops a charmingly innocent love story while celebrating otaku culture and commenting on the impact of web culture on people's lives.
Battle Royale (2001) sets a much darker tone in imagining a corrupt government plotting to control unruly youth in Japan by annually sending one 9th grade class to a remote island where they are all forced to fight till death. The lone survivor can re-enter society.
The opening scenes show kids misbehaving in class - quite different from the orderly Japanese school system ingrained in American minds - and leads to one kid stabbing a teacher (played by Beat Kitano) in the back. The following year, the class is gassed, kidnapped and dumped on a deserted island. Kitano is wonderful in his performance as the evil teacher in charge - infusing humor within his bitter anger. He sets the rules, threatens the kids into battle and announces daily fatalities with chuckling encouragement. You don't get too attached to many of the 40 kids in the class - but that's the point. There's no time to get attached and the rapid killings highlight how quickly many of the kids succumb to survivalist mode and play out the animalistic violence predicated by the game. There is a small select group of kids (including a character played by a young Chiaki Kuriyama) who enter a central focus by valiantly rebelling against the rules. Eventually, one young couple in love and a renegade hero desperately confront Kitano's character and look for a way out.
The movie is wildly entertaining but in light of the events of Columbine and Virginia Tech, I can see why this movie will never make it stateside.
Need inspirations on color? Turn the pages on ColorFlip
funny spoof. i don't even know how t-pain sounds without that voice synthesizer thing.
Cubecraft.com has cool paper toys featuring popular icons like Super Mario, Batman and Star Wars characters. Just download, print, cut and fold.
Street art comes to life. Check out this cool video.
very nice work from this barcelona based designer.
Lots of drama on the streets of Philly. 6 Philadelphia policemen were captured on videotape beating, kicking and punching 3 suspects in a drug-related shooting. Not suprisingly, this case of police brutality follows the killing of a police officer last week.
Its been about 10 years since my last visit, but it didn't take me long to reacquaint myself with the great city of Chicago. Unlike dense east coast cities, Chicago allows you to stretch your legs on its extra wide boulevards and open spaces. This urban sprawl is accentuated by a topography that tries its hardest to convince you that the world is actually flat. Perhaps the accommodating landscape promotes a more polite attitude which is more common in the Midwest and less common in the pressure-cooker atmosphere that boils the aggressions of many urban dwellers on the east coast.
And then there's the pizza. You can't go wrong with a slice at Lombardi's in Soho, NYC or Lorenzo's on South St., Philadelphia, but paper-thin slices leave you craving for more. A slice of deep-dish Chicago style pizza is a meal in itself. When my cousin said he was taking me to Lou Malnati's, I thought he was involved in a secret society. But he assured me that this was the best pizzeria on the northside. The interior of its Lincolnwood location is an homage to the history of Chicago sports. Walls are adorned with vintage jerseys and photographs of local sports legends. The combination platter of mozzarella sticks, fried cheddar cubes, and breaded zucchini & mushrooms is a fried delight. The size of the platter was suprisingly moderate and was easily polished off by three people. Perhaps its a rare nod to quality over quantity...or maybe they're helping you leave space for their hearty pizzas.
We ordered a medium sized sausage pizza with the works - an assortment of veggies including onions, green peppers, sliced tomatoes and olives. All the ingredients create a masterful symphony of flavors in your mouth. Extra hearty as advertised and deliciously deserving of its hype. Whereas I could easily knock out 5-6 slices of local pizza, I hit the wall at 2 slices at Lou Malnati's. For dessert, we all shared a chocolate chip pizza - a baked cookie prepared in a deep-dish pizza pan topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Insanely rich and dangerously sweet.
I took 3 slices to go and it was by far the heaviest take out box that I have ever carried in my life. No lie. It felt like a 50 pound dumbell.
The bachelor party I attended converged with the bachelorette party for a grand finale at rednofive - an intimately sized joint located on nightclub heavy Halsted St. just north of Chicago's downtown. This club was chosen for sentimental reasons as it hosted the first date for the bride and groom-to-be.
Thankfully it wasn't your typical strobelighted claustraphobic meatmarket type of club. Oldheads won't necessarily feel out of place at this establishment which featured a diverse crowd of mostly well dressed young professionals in dresses, blazers and dress shirts. Not too many thugs or kiddies (no sneakers allowed). The space was small but not overcrowded - dunno if its because rednofive is past its heyday (they recently closed the bottom level of the club) or because its loungy atmosphere attracts/selects a specific demographic. Either way, I enjoyed the laidback atmosphere which allowed for easy mingling and moving about the room.
rednofive was dimly lit in warm shades of, you guessed it - red. Chandeliers hung from the ceilings and ornately framed mirrors adorned the walls with velvety draped curtains substituting as restroom doors. Several couches are located near the entrance/exit to catch photo-ops and stumbling drunkards. The dancefloor contained some random dancing and half-stepping with a small stage for exhibitionists. The DJ was situated above and mixed mostly mainstream stuff - old school and current hiphop with a little reggae and dancehall. I think I even heard some reggaeton from Daddy Yankee. I was suprised that I didn't hear any Chi-town hiphop like Kanye, Common, Cool Kids or Kid Sister, but maybe that would be too predictable.
All in all, it was a nice atmosphere for drinking, chatting and people watching. I held down the nearby bar taking shots from the groomsmen and meeting distant cousins that I never knew. Isn't it crazy when your extended family is that big and gets even bigger with each wedding?
So I attended a bachelor party at Scores in Chicago and enjoyed the spectacle. There were several bachelor parties going on and its funny to see the mob mentality behind it. Groups of guys surrounding the bachelor's stage performance like a pack of dogs cheering the girls to increase his punishment and humiliation.
Strip clubs are not as much of a sexy experience as an interesting case study of human interaction and behavior. There's no denying that strippers have beautiful bodies (if you stick to the classy joints), but after a few minutes, even that effect is desensitized.
After a while you find yourself observing how the strippers work the money out of guys' pockets. Its equal parts visual as well as walking the walk. In many cases guys are happy enough to have a "hot" chick look at them. Simply walking past the bar will net a garter full of singles.
Talking the talk involves the most transparent form of flirting (no such thing as subtlety in this environment) with a dose of psychology. A stripping of the male psyche. A stripping of his wallet. She will eye an insecure type of guy and feign interest in his most inadequate interests to pump up his self-esteem. She'll approach an average joe type with a mundane account of her daily "girl next door" activities. Maybe she senses a sensitive guy and mention school loans and even kids for pity and awe. If she really wants to lock it down, she'll declare that she loves porn and sports. "Yo man, can you believe she's got that type of body with 2 kids?! And she loves watching football?!?"
As you can see, strip clubs are just like life - you can't believe anything you hear. But in the end, there's a sucka born every minute. Before you know it, the guy is head over heels littering her with 20's for a lapdance. Its pretty amusing. I'd like to think that most guys are aware of the role playing but you always come across a guy that falls for it. Those are the dudes that you pity. You'd have to ask a stripper to find out if this is empowering or whether its just a night's work in providing a needed service. Or both.
Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!
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