Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blah Blah Massacre War Crimes Genocide Blah

Hamas forces blew up a house belonging to radical Salafi cleric who had called for the creation of an Islamic emirate in Gaza, part of a network of organizations in Gaza, many affiliated with al-Qaeda, which believe Hamas is too moderate. The detonation occurred after clashes erupted between his and Hamas militants. Between the ensuing gunfight and the detonation, 21 were killed and 121 injured, mostly civilians.*
In a televised statement, Hamas ministry spokesman Taher Nunu called al-Maqdessi's group "outlaws" and said they have been "terrorizing the country and attacking civilians."

"We hold the group and its leader fully responsible for what is happening in Gaza and we offer our condolences to everyone who was killed during the clashes," Nunu said. "No one is above the law and we urge everyone who is a member of this group to surrender himself to the authorities or they will be accountable for all of their actions."

Of course, I too extend my condolences to the civilians caught up in this strife. But part of me wonders if, even a little bit, this experience gives Hamas an inkling that urban warfare operations against entrenched terrorist outfits are really difficult and lend themselves to civilian casualties, even if you don't want them to. Of course, we have no idea how Hamas conducted this operations and what safeguards, if any, it took to safeguard civilian lives. As I wrote in the immediate aftermath of Cast Lead, few people possess the factual information necessary to make a considered and accurate judgment on who is "at fault" for civilian deaths in any given armed clash, which counsels humility and forbearance of judgment. That holds true here, too.

Another part of me, however, just wants to shout WAR CRIMES TARGETING CIVILIANS MASS MURDER MASSACRE GENOCIDE SAVAGES BLOOD-SOAKED ILLEGITIMATE REGIME. But that's a part of me that I try to repress as much as possible.

* Actually I have no idea, but that accusation is typically leveled and accepted with little to no evidence whatsoever, so hey, why not. (Obviously, that statement and this footnote offered in the same spirit as the final paragraph of the post).

UPDATE: Latest reports say six of the 24 killed were unarmed civilians, with 125 injured (no word on their affiliation).

The Interim

Following up on the exciting exploits of my move-in, Comcast and I had a "I'm not fired; I quit!" moment yesterday, as I canceled the deal just about the same time they informed me they couldn't hook my house up after all. It wasn't a total loss, though: They did keep me out of a competitors hands for a full week while I waited for an installation that was later revealed to be impossible (so not a total loss for them. For me ... yeah, it kind of was).

Meanwhile, my intuition about AT&T was correct too, as they say they can't connect us to the internet until August 25th. They have to mail us the modem (the guy coming to install the line can't touch it, for it is holy), and apparently they have to route it through Kazakhstan for quality assurance purpose. Good Lord, why is the internet controlled by morons? So for the time being, I'm still on the weak, intermittent but at least somewhat steady (so long as I stay in the living room -- it doesn't pick up at all in my bedroom), patriots signal.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Radio Free Hyde Park

It's me again, still blogging from the "liberated" signal of the neighbors (it's even called "patriots". How fabulous). Why, you ask? Wasn't Comcast scheduled to come today and hook me up to the grid? Surely, there is no way Comcast would let me down like this, right?

Ahaha. Puny mortal that I am, I did not comprehend the powers I was dealing with here. You see, Comcast technicians are divided into two orders. The first, who you've probably met, are the installers -- the guys who bring your cable box and/or modem, screw a few things into a wall, attach a few wires, and voila! Now you have television. Those guys have now come to my townhouse twice, and were on time and unfailingly polite both times. Unfortunately, they couldn't actually install my cable or internet, because my house doesn't signal that it's connected to the Comcast network. Which brings us to the other half of the Comcast Cult.

The second order, is apparently a shadowy, paranormal sect called "line technicians", who are responsible for actually hooking up houses to the Comcast grid at the source box level. These ghost-like beings are apparently so powerful that Comcast technical support and installation cannot summon them, or indeed, even contact them. As best I can tell, the Comcast process is to intuit a request in their general direction and then pray. There were traces in the system that they were supposed to come today between 1 and 5 (itself incorrect -- they were supposed to come between 10 and 1), but needless to say they never did. And the hapless mortals manning dispatch told me no, there was no way to reach them and ask sweetly if they ever planned on doing the work they were paid for. Line technicians are powerful and capricious beasts.

Now, here's where things get fun (it wasn't already?). Twice now, the installers have come only to find that no, my house still isn't on the grid because the line techs haven't arrived. The lady I talked to on the phone scheduled another installer date for tomorrow between 1 and 5. But of course, this is as useless as the other two installation dates if the line techs continue to hide in fairy-land. So, I asked, how do we know if the line techs will have arrived by then? She promised she'll call me in the morning (earlier today I received a promise I'd get a call back in 15 minutes which never happened -- the odds that they can manage to remember something over the course of a whole 18 hours requires the sort of heart-warming, inspirational turnabout in competency that one normally only finds in a Disney movie). Will they arrive in the morning? She doesn't know. Will they arrive sometime tomorrow, preferably before the installer so he isn't made redundant (again)? She doesn't know. Hell, they may even come tonight, she told me -- but she has no way of knowing.

This whole proceeding has been a farce from start to finish. Moving always involves hassles -- I know this. My desk arrived (two days late, natch) from Sears today, and we clearly have different interpretations of "easy assembly". But I've never come to face to face with such persistent rank incompetence and byzantine bureaucratic nonsense as I have over the past week with Comcast. It is crazy that I am now on my fourth appointment to get a simple cable and internet installation, even more ridiculous that they don't actually know if the appointment is solid or not, and simply unfathomable that they can't figure out how to contact a division of their own corporation to find out.

If I wasn't convinced that I'd go through the same nonsense with AT&T, I'd have bolted by now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Latest

Where we last left off, I was moving in to my townhouse on Monday. It was going to be great -- everything was scheduled to arrive on Monday, we'd put in one huge day, get everything set up, and be ready to go (with maybe some mopping up to do over the rest of the week).

It didn't go smooth. Why doesn't it ever go smooth?

The box spring for my mattress didn't fit up the stairs -- they're bringing a split tomorrow. Contrary to corporate assurances, my house isn't hooked up to the Comcast grid -- they're doing that tomorrow. The desk which was scheduled to be delivered Monday only made it to the local deliverers Monday, so it won't get here until (you guessed it) tomorrow (and then I have to assemble it!). And in the midst of all this, my laptop computer decided 9 months was a nice long lifespan, and kicked it. The Dell technicians are coming to attempt CPR ... tomorrow.

So right now I'm on my girlfriend's laptop, using a signal we "liberated" from the neighbors to get internet, and I'm basically trapped in this house for the rest of the week continuing with set up. I had to email my bosses and tell them I basically can't do any work this week, which I am not happy about (they were all very understanding, thankfully).

As I told Jill, trying to move the same week that you begin a huge stretch of important job interviews is the karmic equivalent of dangling a rare steak in front of Doberman, so I guess I can't really blame the fates. But even still. Grr.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Targeting the Sick

The Israeli Air Force bombed smuggling tunnels in Gaza, in response to militant attacks on Palestinian medical patients crossing into treatment for Israel. That's right -- Palestinian radicals fired on their own civilians as they were seeking medical treatment.


Moving Day

Tomorrow, I move into my new townhouse (still in Hyde Park, but the other side of town). Excitement city (but probably no updates for you).

The Evolution of Female East Asian Stereotypes

Like most other races, East Asians have suffered under a vibrant and ignoble history of racial stereotyping and imagery in the Western mind. For East Asian women, the primary two archetypes are the submissive, docile "China doll", and the hypersexual, deceitful "dragon lady." Asian men are similarly cast as either deceptive and untrustworthy, or personality-less "grinders".

Yet the public image of East Asians in America has been growing consistently more positive. Continued academic success, and a potential incorporation into Whiteness have both contributed to this dynamic. As White society has, uneasily, grown to grudgingly acknowledge East Asian "game", the old stereotypes no longer fit the new social understandings. And I think there has been an evolution in the stereotypes of East Asian women to match this (interestingly, I haven't observed a similar shift in stereotypes of East Asian men).

While I am by no means suggesting that the old stereotypes are gone, when I think of popular stereotypes of East Asian women today, two more spring immediately to mind. The first is the bookish, whip-smart student. The second is the martial arts expert who can kick the ass of everyone in the room. One can see the roots of the older forms in both of these -- the student-type tends to be quiet and deferential, like the China doll; the martial artist is powerful and sexual like the Dragon Lady. Nonetheless, I submit that both of the "new" stereotypes are socially coded as positive.* The student is the type of woman that you're supposed to marry one day. The martial artist is the hip, bad-ass action star.

Moreover, the stereotype-shift has seemingly tracked internal cleavages within the East Asian community. Though often cast as monolithic by the West, there is a huge difference -- culturally, socially, economically -- between, say, American Chinese communities versus American Hmong or Vietnamese communities. There is, to some degree, a hierarchy here, with the Japanese and Chinese occupying the elite niches, followed by Koreans, South East Asians, and finally residents of the island states. I was talking to a friend whose family hails from Vietnam, for example, and she told me that her parents would consider it beneath her to marry someone from the Philippines, and that she was sure a Chinese family would think the same about her. This hierarchy tracks American socio-economic status pretty closely. And when I see those pop-up ads advertising docile Asian brides, they tend not to say they'll be from China or Korea -- they're saying Thailand or the Philippines.

Again, I'm not saying that a Chinese-American woman doesn't have to deal with the "old" stereotypes anymore. But I do think we're observing a very interesting social shift that is deeply tied to a broader realignment in America's racial dynamics. The whole point behind White supremacy is that it is the supreme group. When White society "absorbs" another racial or ethnic grouping, it simultaneously recodes it from inferior and less-than, to admirable and superior. My (admittedly anecdotal) observation is that we are seeing very similar behavior here, which makes me wonder whether in 50 years we'll be seeing books titled "How the Asians became White."

* We can say even "beneficial" stereotyping never actually is, but I do think there is a qualitative difference between being part of a group stereotyped as cool, useful, or inspiring, versus feared, mocked, or loathed.