Asian-ish

The Story of Sessue Hayakawa Pt. 1

When I was in college back, quite literally before the last turn of the century, I wrote my college thesis on The Hidden Asian in Film.

Did you ever notice that there were no Asians in any of the original Star Wars trilogy?

But the Asian influences were everywhere:

  • The Emperor / The Emperor
  • The Shogun’s helmet / Darth Vader’s shogun helmet
  • Martial arts / Martial arts
  • The force / Qi
  • Yin-Yang / Dark-Light Side of the Force
  • Jedi knights / Shaolin warrior monks

In fact, the story of the original Star Wars “borrowed” heavily from the Japanese film Hidden Fortress but Lucas didn’t think any actual Japanese merited any screen time.

And that’s pretty much how films and television treated Asians for years – Asian-ish. Even characters like Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were Asian-like – caricatures played by Caucasian actors.

But there was this fella named Sessue Hayakawa, who is not the fella pictured above but was the first sex symbol of Hollywood – ever. He pre-dated Rudolph Valentino by several years.

And his story goes just a little bit in explaining why there’s always been an Asian influence in Hollywood and television but few actual Asians.

For that part of the story, I’m going to head over to my friend Jocelyn’s website: Speaking of China for part 2 of this entry.

Location: yesterday, with a pot of coffee
Mood: ready for the week
Music: My oh my oh my what a wonder, my oh my oh my what a wonder
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Zebras cannot be tamed because they live with lions

Environment isn’t everything, but it’s a lot

Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, ...
Zebras appear strikingly patterned to humans, but not to lions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a kid, I wondered why no one ever rode around on a zebra. After all, they’re just a type of horse, right?

Well, it turns out that they cannot be tamed. They’re just too ornery and wild. Which, of course, begs the question, Why are they so ornery and wild?

The reason is because they live where lions live. And, over thousands of years, they’ve adapted to dealing with them.

For example, when they kick, they don’t randomly kick like a horse with one leg, instead, they balance on their front legs, aim, and then kick – with both legs.

While I didn’t have the most pleasant childhood here in NYC, it wasn’t all bad. At this age, I think that, overall, it’s been a net positive that I grew up in this particular corner of the world.

It’s made me anti-fragile.

And people don’t really understand why I spend my free time swinging sticks at people or being smashed by sweaty dudes. Suppose I do it to keep me that way.

Zebras don’t look like much. But you can only kill them, capture them, or let them be; they can’t be controlled. They won’t be submitted.

You gotta respect that.

The Men Made of Stone

On a different note entirely, I dropped the price of The Men Made of Stone to $0.99 on Amazon for the rest of this week because I’m trying out a few things with them.

If you enjoy my writing here, give it a go!

Location: in rainy NYC
Mood: rainy
Music: didn’t even stopped to see that, that It was breaking me
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The people that make NYC miserable

Demolished a room and got hit by a car

Hit and try-to-run-but-cannot-run-driver
Had an interesting weekend.

Walking out of my gym in midtown, met a young guy who worked at a masonry shop a few doors down.

Yes, it’s odd that there’s a masonry in the middle of Manhattan but where we are, there’s still a lot of old NY there.

After a little chatting, mentioned that I was thinking of fixing up part of my apartment and exchanged info. Got a call later on that week that he was in the neighborhood. Within ninety minutes of that call, cabinets and appliance were ripped out and hauled away.

Sometimes, things  just move quickly.

Which is the opposite of what was happening on the street in front of my apartment on Saturday morning because of the garbage truck you see in the picture above.

This was enough to cause some jerk sit on his horn and wake up everyone in the hood.

When I came out to take a picture of him, he proceeded to bump me with his car.

Again: He hit me with his car even though he could not move because of the garbage truck in front of him.

I was unhurt – although it’s my ACL leg so it’s a little sore. Shoulda called the police but I had my usual bout of insomnia the night before and didn’t think it through.

Ended up calling the cops afterward, but by then, figured it wasn’t worth it. Interestingly, the cop that came was actually another student from my old gym and we chatted about my current wrasslin partner, whom everyone in NYC seems to know cause he’s such a nice guy.

The opposite of this guy here, who’s the type of self-important NYC douchebag that make life miserable for everyone else.

He drives a fine German automobile and wears a button-down shirt but was clearly raised by wolves.

Like I said, young broken people grow up to be old broken people.
Selfish New Yorker
And now, a new week. Let’s see what happens.

Location: back to wrasslin in just a bit
Mood: sore
Music: you know it don’t matter anyway. You can rely on the old man’s money
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We handle life as we do bad weather

Someday we’ll know

Sunset at sea

Her: I don’t think of you as 41…
Me: Thanks, that really…
Her: …mainly because you act so immature.

For my birthday last week, Paul and his fiancee took me and the wife out for sushi around the way; they recounted their first date with us, which I’d not heard before. The funny thing about first dates is that you never know if that first date will lead to something more or less in the future.

Speaking of the future, been thinking about it more and more these days as I (slowly) accept that I’m 41. I’m nine years away from 50. I’m solidly middle-aged. And, when I fill out forms, I’m in a totally new age bracket.

But, it’s better than the alternative.

This Austrian named Alfred Polgar once said, “Too often man handles life as he does the bad weather. He whiles away the time as he waits for it to stop.”

So I try make these moments worth something, if only to myself.

Suppose someday we’ll know if it was worth something to anyone else.

Location: the middle of my life
Mood: pensive
Music: bought a ticket to the end of the rainbow
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Dating advice from someone that doesn’t look like you?

Doing a Reddit AMA for The Men Made of Stone

Me: I never even thought of that.
Him: Well, why would you have?

After I put up that video on A Great First Date, something interesting happened: My sales essentially froze.

Now I first thought this was perhaps due to something I said or some way I came off, but my very talented marketing friend said simply, “I don’t think people expected you to be Chinese.”

It never occurred to me that might be an issue. But then I realized that all my popular dating posts had no mention of my ethnicity nor a picture of me; there was no reason for it.

JK Rowling was never actually called “JK” in her life. She made up that name because her publishers weren’t sure anyone would buy a book about a boy wizard from a woman.

That may have been a good move on their part. We’ll never know.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have written it under a pseudonym. But I suppose we’ll never know that either.

Being Asian has never been a problem or plus for me as an adult, it was just a fact of my life. No more or less.

Suppose time will tell how this all plays out.

On a related matter, I’m actually going to be doing an AMA on Reddit Books (/r/books) on the other book I wrote, called The Men Made of Stone, which is completely different from A Great First Date. It’s a full length novel on Asian gangs in NYC during the 1990s.

People that read that book first and then read the dating book are probably a bit surprised, and vice-versa.

In any case, I’ll tell you more about it as we get closer to the date – which is supposed to be March 27th at 5PM EST. So stop by and ask me anything!

And thanks to the guys at Flow Athletics for encouraging me to go do the AMA.

Location: yesterday, home, waiting for a sofa
Mood: chagrined
Music: no, I’ll never give up and I’ll never look back
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From the Archives: Thanksgiving 2013 and 2008

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow; the wife’s already left to see her family.

Her: What’d you have for dinner?
Me: The usual, chili and rum. Oh, and some pretzels.

One of these days, I’ll write something better for Thanksgiving than what I did in 2008. But I still think it’s one of my best, for whatever that’s worth. I read it myself every so often to remind myself for all there is to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving 2008
The world is ridiculously unfair, but if you can read this post, chances are high it’s ridiculously unfair in your favor.

Back on Monday.

Location: getting dressed for the gym
Mood: tired
Music: I like to reminisce about a time I’ve never had
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I’d rather have a king or emperor than a Weiner or a Palin

In praise of kings

Town Crier for William and Kate's baby

My brother went to London a little while back and it turned out to be during the Queen’s Jubilee celebration and he wrote the following: Celebrating 60 years of non-merit-based ultra-lavish living by hereditary entitlement.

Now, if you’ve ever met my brother, you know that he’s far smarter than me. But I think that there’s more to royalty than simply that.

When I was a kid, I remember reading once that Alexander Hamilton, and to a lesser degree, John Adams, argued for an American king. Hamilton envisioned that George Washington would be made king for life with the ability to veto all congressional bills.

For those of you that don’t know much about Hamilton beyond him being the dude on the $10 bill the guy that was killed by Burr, he’s a fascinating – rum-drinking – fella.

The current arguments now about states rights (Republican/Jefferson) versus federal rights (Democrat/Hamilton) were essentially started between him and Jefferson and continue to this day.

I’ve always believed as my brother has, which is that non-merit based leadership is wrong. But Hamilton was a brilliant man, so I wondered how he could have stumbled so much on this topic.

Now that I’m older, I see things differently.

You see, Hamilton was a founder of the Society of the Cincinnati, which honored Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus – a man who did not want to lead Rome, but did in one of its darkest hours, and then immediately abdicated after he had done what he needed to do.

Yes, there are centuries of stories about rulers that simply took from the population, but in modern times, are the people that have nothing but naked ambition any better?

Are Anthony Wiener or Sarah Palin any better to rule just because they have over-sized egos and ambition? Are they really any better than two exceptionally educated men that lost their mother in youth and put themselves in harms way like Princes William and Harry?

I’m not advocating a return to a monarchy. But if there’s one thing I know to be true – and that history has shown over and over again – it’s that power corrupts.

And some of the best leadership humanity ever had was had by people like Washington, Cincinnatus, and Gandi; people who never really wanted power in the first place but did it because it was their duty. What was the film The King’s Speech about if not about a man who did not want to lead but had to?

Baby Prince George VII will never lead in the pure sense of the word, but I hope that he “leads” as King George VI did, and as his grandmother Diana did, through service, grace, and a sense of duty.

In fact, King George VI’s wife, when asked why the family didn’t go to Canada during the Axis bombings said, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.”

I suppose what I’m really saying is that good souls come from all parts. By extension, good leaders.

A friend on Facebook once wrote scathingly of Alice Walton – who essentially gives away much of her fortune – purely because she was born a Walton, as if she had any control over that.

In other words, she detests Alice because of original sin; that she was even born.

I say we judge people on what they’ve done with the life they’re given not on the life their given.

To do otherwise makes about as much as sense as being super proud that one is right-handed.

Location: enjoying the weather finally
Mood: stuffed
Music: My life’s become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles
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Pathological Altrusim

When kindness hurts


Perhaps one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever come across in my life is the true story of the victim that almost escaped Jeffrey Dahmer.

It’s so disturbing, in fact, that I’m unable to summarize it here. If you want to know more about it, google him and “escaped victim.” I caution you to think twice before you do, though.

In any case, had another night of insomnia recently and thought about a report I read recently by Oakland University professor Barbara Oakley, who coined a new term for something I’ve seen myself repeatedly: Pathological Altruism.

Simply put, it’s when being kind is the worst thing one can be. The Dahmer story is an extreme example but it’s an almost daily occurrence – like soccer trophies for just showing up.

We think we’re doing something kind when in fact we’re doing the exact opposite.

The wife and I watched Jamie Oliver’s TED talk about nutrition over the weekend where a grossly overweight woman came to the realization that she was – literally – killing her own children with a diet of fast food and soda.

She and I also talked about a friend I cut because he ended up being that one drunk idiot at our wedding amongst other questionable actions. He’s also had a string of really bad relationships and I’ve tried to explain that the common denominator in it all is…him.

But he keeps doing what he does and keeps getting what he gets. And I can’t surround myself with people that have no interest in being better than they were yesterday.

More on that Wednesday.

Getting back to pathological altruism, a buddy in college once came back from spring break and told me this story:

He’d been speeding home when a cop pulled him over and wrote him a ticket. The cop said he was sorry he did it but my buddy was going 50 in a 35 zone and it was foggy, as it often is in upstate NY. Stepping back into the car, my buddy continued on his way, depressed and irritated. Suddenly, a deer jumped out in front of him and he slammed on the brakes.

He said that the ticket probably saved his life, and at the very least, saved the life of the deer and his car.

Best ticket I ever got, he said.

In any case, one thing I can summarize here is a joke that goes something like this:

A bird was flying south for the winter when he became tired and fell out of the sky, landing in snow. Almost freezing to death, a cow happened to defecate on him. As the warm dung revived him, the bird began to sing. A wolf, hearing this, immediately dug him out of the dung and devoured him.

There are three morals to this story:

  1. Not everyone who craps on you is your enemy.
  2. Not everyone who pulls you out of crap is your friend.
  3. If you’re buried in crap, it’s best to keep quiet.

 

Location: caught in rain immediately before a 90 min phone call
Mood: wet
Music: Don’t take to heart the words that he says
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Logan’s 40

Joy inevitably comes

The Grace Building in NYC

Like you, I was glued to the television watching the bombings in Boston.

The first thought that came to mind were words I can’t print here, but they rhymed with “mothers that drive trucks.”

My second was: The people that point and the people that run in. Around every tragedy, you will find the people that point and the people that run in.

The people that point are the ones that use a tragedy to push their own personal agendas: Religious, political, or simply, look at me because I will be different than all the others because I need to be noticed.

Regarding this pointing, on FB I had a two guys talk about all the people that die in Afghanistan and that it somehow means we shouldn’t mourn the people here. But that was pretty much the extent of it.

How many did you have? Make note of those people. Those are the ones that want, desperately, to be heard.

Regarding the people that run in, that was on full display that day as Patton Oswalt eloquently noted. It gives me some hope for our kind. I hope he’s right that that the people that run in outnumber the others. The ones that harm. The ones that point.

Today, I’m 40.

Had this whole long rant about being so old and creaky but instead, let me simply sum it up by saying this: I’m old and I’ve seen a lot more things than I’ve ever wanted to see.

The world is an ugly place. But it is made bearable by the good souls. The ones that bring us grace and mercy.

The fact that I’ve only had two really stomach turning posts on FB since this thing happened is a small indicator, I think, that I’ve managed to have more good souls than not in my corner of the world.

Years ago, wrote about Bernard Malamud who said that Life is a tragedy full of joy.

Having been on this planet for 40 short and long years, I’ve learned that tragedy inevitably comes, but the joy also comes.

And so I wait for the joy. Hope you do as well.

And like every year on (or close to) my birthday, I ask you to wish me a happy birthday, all of you bastards that read me and never say anything.

Here’s my stupid mug at almost 40. I would have taken one recently but I’ve been beat.

Logan Lo

Location: with family in my slice of the world
Mood: hopeful
Music: Don’t you keep me waiting for that day
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English is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu of Languages

There’s a reason why the English language has taken over the world


On the way back from the fight, was chatting with the younger coach about books. He’s a voracious reader, which I both admire and envy. I used to read a book a week for years but then life got in the way.

Told him that the French and English are like Judo and BJJ.

In 1634, Cardinal Richelieu – the bad guy from the Three Musketeers – created the Académie française to preserve the French Language.

Essentially, the French language didn’t take on any foreign words if at all possible. In 1994, the Toubon laws were passed to make it a civil wrong to use an English word when a French equivalent existed.

Meanwhile, the English language refused to create an academy to “preserve” the English language so that soon, we had many words that all mean kinda the same thing like:

  • Give
  • Bequeath
  • Devise

But each one is slightly different. Because of this, the English language has far more words than French. Far more.

How many words does the French language have? Less than 100,000 words, and 35,000 common words.

How many words does the English language have? It has 1,013,913 as of June 10, 2009 at 10:22AM GMT.

If you think of a word like a tool, each tool is made for a specific task. To bequeath something means, “To give something that you can hold, to someone else, after you die.”

It’s the difference between “Keylock” (traditional Judo) and “Kimura,” “Americana,” and “Straight armlock” (three BJJ terms for the one Judo term). BJJ takes whatever it’s offered; if it works, it stays, if it doesn’t, it goes away.

It’s a pure meritocracy.

History has repeatedly shown one thing: Those things, people, places, cultures, that accept change, survive. The things that are rigid and intolerant, fade away.

French was the language of the world until the end of WWI. Prior to that, Otto von Bismark was said to have been asked what was the most important modern historical event? He replied, “That the North Americans speak English.”

He knew where the world was headed.

Wrote once that there’s a vast difference between broken and bendy.

If you aspire to be anything in life, aspire to be bendy.

Mood: full
Music:Demain sera pour tous un lendemain qui ne peut pas mentir
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