Sunday, November 28, 2010

HBD (Human Biodiversity) and "Race Realism"

If, like me, you read a lot of stuff on the web and are interested in the nature of race, racism and ethnicity, you will more than likely come across the HBD crowd. HBD stands for "Human Biodiversity", which sounds like a nice thing, no?

But it's not so nice; rather, it is an online community of people who are obsessed with race, and the idea of races being better and worse than others. It's also known as "Race Realism"; the two things are not quite the same, but they are often used interchangeably.

The basic idea is that race is far more than a social construct. Not only is it very real, but the differences between each race affect not just appearance, but behaviour and intelligence as well. Now, most reasonable people would probably agree that genetics and ancestry have some bearing on how a person's life turns out, but for HBDers, they are everything.

A lot of HBD discussion revolves around IQ, and fittingly the holy books of HBD include Richard Lynn's IQ and the Wealth of Nations, and The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The assumptions are as follows:

  • IQ tests can accurately measure something as complex as human intelligence.
  • IQ is strongly hereditary and is barely affected by environment or education.
  • Northern Europeans and East Asians are on average more intelligent than other races.
  • They are smarter than Africans because their ancestors evolved thusly to deal with the cold climates they faced after leaving Africa.
  • The average IQ scores of countries are the major factor in how rich, successful and stable they are.

It's an interesting contrast with Left-Liberal thinking, which tends to focus on social contexts for why certain people or populations perform better than others. For example, the social factors that go along with being the member of a disadvantaged class or living in poverty might have a negative influence on someone's academic ability, and thus their IQ score. But for HBDers, it is usually the other way around; if someone is disadvantaged or poor, it is probably BECAUSE their IQ is low.

Likewise, the more technologically advanced civilisations of Europe and East Asia are seen as reflections of the high IQ of the inhabitants. Of course, one problem with this is that civilisations rise and fall. Despite the relatively high IQ of Northern Europe (98-102), that region was quite backward until less than a 1000 years ago, when they began to absorb some of the cultural innovations of the Mediterranean and Middle East. By contrast, the countries who invented so many of the things Northern Europe benefited from, perform more poorly in average IQ; Greece averages 92, Egypt 83, Iran 84 and Iraq 87. Israel, full of apparently intelligent Jews, averages only 94.

The best alternative to this kind of thinking that I have read is found in Jared Diamond's seminal book Guns, Germs and Steel, which I shall endeavour to post on at some point. While it's by no means a perfect book, Diamond outlines convincingly how different populations were largely subject to what was available in terms of influences and their environment. For example, Australian Aborigines never developed agriculture not because they were stupid, but because the plants and animals around them were not suited to such a lifestyle. The Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs, by contrast, had a rich ecosystem of plants to domesticate, and developed their own systems of writing and astronomy. Yet they never invented the wheel, because they had no draught animals to attach it to. Likewise, certain innovations that developed in the Middle East could diffuse into Europe or Asia quite easily, but never made it into say, Australia or the Americas, due to geographical barriers.

Not every HBDer is necessarily a racist - some don't really dwell on the racial stuff that much - but most seem to be, to some extent. HBD blogs seem to devote an enormous amount of time to discussing the primitive nature of black people. And while most are white, there are a few Asian HBD bloggers as well. Thus the use of the term NAM, which means "non-Asian minority", to denote those brownish racial groups who apparently don't stack up intellectually. Asian HBDers are interesting; it's hard to escape the conclusion that deep down, they really, really want to be white.

There also seems to be a lot of links between HBD and the PUA (pick-up artist) scene, which I don't really get. My guess is that the PUAs favour a sexist and biologically determinist view of women, which gels well with HBD's determinist outlook on the hierarchies of society.

Reading HBD blogs, I can't help but get a sense of the bloggers' and commenters' self-absorption and entitlement at finally having a science-based theory that backs up their racist instincts. So where antagonism towards, say, blacks or Hispanics, is normally seen as an unsavoury characteristic, HBD gives an intellectual basis for such sentiment. It is merely the "natural order of things" that some people are on top and others are on the bottom, and thus it is a natural match with those tendencies that exist within conservatism.

What is the goal of HBDers? Generally speaking, they are against multiculturalism and immigration from the Third World, since they believe that such people are intrinsically incapable of integrating and performing in a Western context. They are generally against affirmative action, since that is based on the assumption that disadvantaged minorities are disadvantaged due to lack of opportunity, rather than lack of ability.

For all the criticisms that can be directed at Left-Liberalism, one of it's core ideas - that disadvantaged groups are worthy of respect and support - is a pretty admirable one, rooted in compassionate principles. By contrast, HBD in many ways is an intellectual justification for being an compassionless asshole.

Some blog posts that exemplify the HBD/race realist mentality:

Racial reality and the New Orleans nightmare by Steve Sailer

The racial tallies are in at Planet Grok's blog.

Would blacks survive in Finland? at Guy White's blog.

And some countering points of view:

Half Sigma: Spreading the truth through lies at Abagond's blog, if you want an idea of the tactics of some of this crowd.

Asian Racism and the "Asian of Reason" at Big WoWo's blog.

You might also like my post, Race, IQ and Penis Size.

Another reason to love Vince Masuka

Dexter? Awesome, awesome show. And one of its most awesome features is Vince Masuka, played by C.S. Lee. Watch this clip once, then watch it again with the sound off, just for good measure.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Race and dating: "What is it with you and Indian chicks?"

I've been reading a few posts around the blogosphere about racial preferences in partner selection, and so I figured I'd contribute my own experiences.

More than once, someone has asked me a variation on the question, "What is it with you and Indian chicks?"

On the face of it, it's a fair question to ask. My current partner of almost 3 years is Indian (to be more specific, she is Malaysian-born of mixed Ceylonese Tamil and Indian Tamil heritage). My only other serious long-term relationship (3 years) was also with someone of Indian heritage (Punjabi, in that case). My only other relationship in which the "L" word was exchanged? She was Sri Lankan. My very first girlfriend? Pakistani.

In between those, here are the ethnicities of the women I have dated in my adult life ("dated" as in, not just "went on a date with", but having gone a little further, yet not got serious):

Sri Lankan/Italian
Sri Lankan

(Sorry if I left anyone out.)

That list doesn't include the handful of people I've kissed at parties or clubs but didn't continue any further with.

I hope this doesn't come across as some attempt to brag about my "conquests" (and in any case, if it were I don't think would be a long enough list to be impressive). I'm just showing that those who surmise that my dating preferences extend primarily to South Asians would certainly be excused for thinking so. But it doesn't actually tell the whole story.

Because dating is only partly about who you choose. The other side, equally important, is who chooses you.

Now I don't think I'm anyone's idea of a playa. When it comes to getting what guys tend to think of as a "result", I guess I do OK, but I've also had my fair share of rejections, and things that petered out into nothing.

You'll notice, for example, that my above list does not include any white women. I've actually kissed a couple, and fancied a few. But how many of them actually wanted to go out with me?

Likewise, no-one of African descent on that list. Now, while there isn't a huge amount of black people in my part of the world (Australia), I actually know quite a few. So does this mean that I'm not interested in black women? Quite the contrary. I could tell you about 3 or 4 that I've been particularly interested in, but they didn't reciprocate.

There are a few South East Asians on my list - as you'd probably expect with my Indonesian background, I have dated a couple of Indonesians - but no East Asians. Which is interesting to me, because almost half the people I hang out with are Chinese. I'm pretty savvy with Chinese culture, and I find plenty of Chinese women to be attractive. Yet I've never gone beyond one or two dates with any of them. It's not that I haven't tried.

Yes, I do tend to go for a certain type. Most people do to some extent, I guess.

For me, there is something about women from South and East Asia that makes my head turn most often. I don't know if I can explain why in any quantitative fashion, they just look good to me. Not all of them, of course.

Women from Africa, the Middle East or Latin America also appeal to me, although not quite as much as Asians. White/European women a little less so, although I've certainly been smitten with one or two in the past. Interestingly, women who are a mix of white with something else, are extremely appealing to me, perhaps even more so than the unmixed "something else".

This doesn't mean I think that certain racial types are better or more beautiful than others. It's just my preference. I would date someone of any race, if I found them sufficiently attractive. It just happens to be that certain things appeal to me, both physical and personality-wise, and they tend to be found in certain groups more than others.

But ultimately this only matters so much, because when it comes to who I get into relationships with, I don't get to have it all my own way. I can fancy whoever I like, but they have to fancy me back, or it's not going to get far. And I've been trying to sell my product to a wide variety of consumers, but for whatever reason it seems to primarily appeal to a South Asian demographic.

If it were solely up to me, the above list of who I've dated would look a helluva lot more diverse. It would include Jessica Alba, for starters. But clearly, it's not just up to me.

Pokemon is gangsta

I find this dude strangely fascinating.
(Language warning. Not safe for work, and not safe for the easily offended.)

If you liked that, and I certainly don't assume that you did, you might like this too. Is this the same guy? His fascination is that classic arcade game, Street Fighter.
(This is even less safe for work.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Commonly mispronounced foods

Perhaps I am too pedantic by nature, but as linguistically-aware foodie, I hear people mispronounce certain words over and over again, and it kinda irks me.
Some of them are quite understandable, particularly when they are recent introductions into English from other languages. With some, however, people should really know better.
The aim here is not to be pretentious. No one is gonna think worse of you if you don't do the distinctively French throat-gargling "r" in "ratatouille". Likewise, the proper emphasis on syllables is not really so important; even though I admit a little bit of me dies each time I hear "nasi goreng" pronounced like nassie (rhymes with the dog Lassie) go-RENG.
I imagine there will be some disagreements with me here, or others you wish to add to the list. Let the debate begin!

WHAT IS IT? A root spice often seen in powdered form, adds yellow colour to many Asian cuisines.
WRONG: tue-meric
CORRECT: Exactly how it looks. You don't pronounce "turd" as "tude", so why ignore the "r" in "turmeric?

WHAT IS IT? A spice used extensively in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, in both sweet and savoury foods.
WRONG: car-da-mon
CORRECT: Exactly how it looks. That's an "m" at the end, people! The mispronunciation can almost get a pass because the English word is based on the ancient Greek word kardamon, which ends with an "n".

WHAT IS IT? An Italian cream cheese
WRONG: mar-sca-pone, ma-scar-pone, mar-sca-pony
CORRECT: ma-scar-po-nay

WHAT IS IT? A liqueur named after the island in the Dutch Antilles which grows the particular variety of orange which the drink is based on.
WRONG: kyu-ra-kay-o, ku-ra-kay-o, ku-ra-kao
CORRECT: The island's name is Portuguese in origin. The exact pronunciation is hard to completely approximate in English, is between ku-ra-sow and ku-ra-so. The standard English pronunciation seems to be kyu-ra-so, which I don't think is authentically correct, but I guess it is good enough!

WHAT IS IT? A Spanish rice dish coloured with saffron and usually featuring seafood and vegetables.
WRONG: pie-ella
CORRECT: pie-EY-a. Double L in Spanish signifies a "y" sound.

WHAT IS IT? Either a Spanish omelette, or a Mexican flat bread.
WRONG: tor-tilla
CORRECT: tor-TEE-ya. See "paella" above.

WHAT IS IT? Italian toasted crusty bread with topping, typically diced tomatoes and basil.
WRONG: broo-shetta
CORRECT: broo-sketta. It's an easy mistake to make, but "ch" in Italian always signifies a hard "k" sound.

WHAT IS IT?Turkish bread. Often filled with cheese, spinach, or meat.
WRONG: pie-d (as in, rhyming with ride)
CORRECT: pee-day.


WHAT IS IT? Vietnamese noodle soup, usually of beef or chicken, served with bean sprouts and herbs.
WRONG: foe, poe
CORRECT: Allegedly derives from the French word pot-au-feu, and is pronounced accordingly. An approximate pronunciation is like the English word "fur" (no "r" sound though). If you want to be really correct or pretentious, try to nail the falling tone of the proper Vietnamese term.

WHAT IS IT? One of the world's hottest chilies, named after Havana in Cuba (though it is not actually from there)
WRONG: haba-nyero.
CORRECT: Exactly as it sounds - haba-nero. The "a" is pronounced like in the word "car". If you want to be extra authentically Spanish you can even drop the h from the start.
It is commonly mis-pronounced as if there is a tilda over the n; possibly this is due to confusion with...

WHAT IS IT? A Mexican chili named for the city of Xalapa.
WRONG: jala-pee-no, hala-pee-no
CORRECT: ha-la-pen-yo. The "a" is pronounced like in the word "car". But to say it more like a Mexican, start it with a throat-clearing "kh", and the second last syllable is more like the English word "pain" than "pen".

WHAT IS IT? Spanish spicy sausage
WRONG: cho-ritzo
CORRECT: cho-REE-zo. A lot of people seem to pronounce this as if it is an Italian word, but Spanish say it with a soft "z", no "t". Note that the Portuguese sausage chouriço is pronounced more like sho-ree-su.

worchestershire sauce
WHAT IS IT? A condiment named after a region of England.
WRONG: The way it looks like it would be pronounced (Wor-cest-er-shire)
CORRECT: wooss-ter-sheer. Weird, I know. Those English people should learn to talk proper English.

WHAT IS IT? Italian pasta/dumpling usually made from potatoes.
WRONG: nokki, nochi
CORRECT: nyok-ki

WHAT IS IT? A millet-like grain originally from the Andes.
WRONG: ki-noah, kwi-noah

WHAT IS IT? A summer vegetable stew from the south of France
WRONG: rat-a-too-lee
CORRECT: rat-a-too-ee

WHAT IS IT? A Greek version of a kebab
WRONG: jai-row
CORRECT: yee-row

These are not incorrect, just acceptable variations which you may often come across:

VARIANTS: koo-min, kyoo-min, or come-in. The "i" is often pronounced as a schwa (as in, the "e" in "oven").
While my dictionary tells me that the latter is the most correct, I prefer kyoo-min. Because the sound of "cummin' in the food" is not all that pleasant, if you know what I mean.

filet, fillet
VARIANTS: as it looks, or FEE-lay
It is a French-derived word, so fee-lay is more correct, but fill-et is a perfectly acceptable English pronunciation. Anyway, I can't help but think that walking into McDonalds and asking for a fee-lay o fish just seems pretentious.
By the way, a fee-lay has nothing to do with prostitution, in case you were wondering.

STANDARD ENGLISH: exactly how it looks
This is weird. In England, dropping the "h" is a sign of lower-class speech, and as far as I know, Americans do not drop the "h" when pronouncing any other standard English words. Of course, the word presumably derives from the French "herbes", in which the "h" is silent. So the American could even be more correct, in a way.

The former is consistent with the Italian pronunciation, while it is possible that the American word was influenced by the Spanish pronunciation.

AMERICAN ENGLISH: bay-zil, or bay-sil.
Americans are weird.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Philippines tourism campaign takes an unfortunate porny twist

The Philippines says it pulled its latest online tourism campaign after critics panned the rebrand and warned that unwary surfers could easily end up at a porn site instead.

The site,, was taken down on Tuesday, just a day after it was launched by the tourism department to much fanfare, said Evelyn Macayayong, interim head of the ministry's tourist information office.
The campaign featured a candy-coloured logo including the slogan, a coconut tree, an endangered primate called a tarsier, the sun and waves.
Critics panned the decision to use the local spelling of the country's name, warning that a similar site, with a spelling only two letters different, was pornographic.
Some called for the country's eight-year-old tourism slogan, "Wow Philippines", to be brought back.
Posts on networking sites about the "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" (Philippines What a Beauty) website described it as "bland," and "lacking punch".
In response, Macayayong referred AFP to Tourism Minister Alberto Lim's speech at Monday's launch.
"It is a radical departure from what our neighbours are doing, and to the faint of heart, a bit risky," Lim had said, defending the rebranding as a result of market research conducted by an unnamed major advertising firm.

Now I'm not in the marketing industry, but I would assume that one of the most important tenets in marketing is to know your audience. So I get that in Tagalog, the name for the Philippines is "Pilipinas"; however, to the non-Filipino, it recalls the word "Filipinas", meaning Filipino women. So I think it's understandable that the vast majority of people who see a website called, are going to suspect that it is, if not a porn site, at least one devoted to the Philippines' many beautiful women, rather than the beauty of the country itself.
Now I'm a curious fellow, so in the interests of research, I searched on (the website no longer exists) and then changed the p to an f and awaited the result.
Good heavens. Now I'm a red-blooded male and I don't consider myself a prude but the site I ended up on  was a little too much for my senses. And it didn't even seem to feature any Filipinas! It would certainly have painted the Philippines as an interesting place for all those potential visitors who inadvertently spelled the original website's address wrong. But I'm guessing the Tourism Department don't want the world thinking the Philippines is the place you go to see Latin chicks getting gangbanged.

So I'm glad they pulled it, and I'm sure they'll learn for next time. These are the things you need to consider when operating in the internet age. So if you are setting up a website for your business that sells big black clocks, I hope you learn from this too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


If you've ever had the pleasure of listening to football highlights from the non-English-speaking world, you'll be familiar with the extremely entertaining ways the commentators have of proclaiming the scoring of a goal.

This one's from Italy, a remarkable goal from Roma's Stefano Okaka leading to a frenzied outpouring from the announcer which sounds like an excited puppy.

This one from Spain demonstrates the correct pronunciation of "goal" as practiced by announcers all over the Spanish speaking world - aiming to stretch the one word out for as many syllables as possible. There are a lot of goals in this game, so you'll see it's not just a once off.

And finally, an Arabic commentator who sounds like he's weeping with joy at the quality of this goal.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Someone gave this kid too much red cordial

I'm lamenting my wasted youth right about now. This kid, Angelo Baligad, who goes by the name "Lil Demon" is 8 years old. Make sure you watch til the end. My brain exploded.

The little fella is from Hawaii, of Filipino background. What is it with Pinoys and breakdancing? Add it to the list of things they are awesome at (which already includes karaoke, cooking pork, and being nurses).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Obama in Indonesia

Barack Obama visited Indonesia this week, returning for the first time to the country where he spent several years of his early childhood. He spent only 23 hours on the ground, but clearly made a positive impression in a nation in which he is very popular.

He gave an address at the University of Indonesia, in which he talked of his childhood in Jakarta, praised Indonesia's burgeoning democracy and affirmed the commonalities between the two countries. You can watch some of it below; the full 30 minute speech is easy enough to find if you want it.

He got a reception worthy of a rockstar, with rapturous applause particularly with his reminiscences of a young life in the Jakarta suburb of Menteng, buying satay and bakso (meatball soup) from street vendors. And his few phrases in Bahasa Indonesia went down a treat as well. His pronunciation is not perfect but it's pretty good. Check out the 2:35 mark - while speaking of his stepfather Lolo Soetoro, he actually rolls the R perfectly as an Indonesian would (a lot of non-Indonesians struggle with this).

It is this ability to connect with non-Western cultures that makes him extremely popular around the world, yet conversely it inspires only suspicion for a significant portion of American voters back home. That an American President can pronounce foreign names properly and attempt reach out to Muslim countries which could potentially be US enemies should be a great asset; yet it only provides further ammunition for those who insist on believing Obama to be a Muslim socialist Manchurian candidate.

Of course the President's trip was not all smiles and pats on the back.

Approximately 20,000 people, primarily from fundamentalist groups such as Hizbut Tahrir, gathered to protest Obama's presence in Indonesia, decrying the USA's unquestioning support of Israel and accusing him of oppressing Muslims.
For those Americans who think that Obama is hell-bent on introducing sharia law into the US, take note. Indonesia's Islamists obviously didn't get the "he's a Muslim" memo.

There was some other controversy as well, this time related to a handshake. Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring is known for his stringent Muslim beliefs, and has previously expressed his belief that men and women should not have any physical contact unless they are married or related. Tifatul was seen enthusiastically shaking the hand of Michelle Obama, but then later tweeted that he didn't want to; her hand was extended towards him and he reluctantly shook it to be polite. What a sacrifice for him to make!

You'd think Tifatul would have learned to stay off Twitter after the controversy that followed his extremely poor joke about gays and AIDS. But no. His tweet was picked up by international media and caused a minor stir. This is a little embarassing for Indonesia; most Indonesians have no problem at all with handshaking between the sexes, and thus would not wish to see themselves associated with narrow minds such as the Information Minister. But it also was no doubt met with glee from the anti-Obama brigade in the US who are keen to point out a diplomatic faux pas from a member of the first family. Of course, no blame can objectively be levelled at either of the Obamas. Sembiring was one of a number of people standing in line, and all the others happily shook hands with Michelle Obama. How was she to know that one among that group is an ultra-conservative who thinks a handshake is somehow sinful?

Sembiring, I think, does actually know that whatever one's beliefs, sometimes you have to compromise on them for the sake of politeness. This is something that most people understand instinctively, whatever their religion. But rather than admit this, he attempted to portray himself as remaining spiritually pure and thus implied that Michelle Obama virtually forced her sinful handshake upon him.

Malaysian-Indonesian blogger Unspun, who has a pretty good handle on these things, puts it rather nicely.

Well, what do you expect? As that sage of the human condition, Forrest Gump, would have put it: “Stupid is as stupid does.” When you put a Fool in the greeting lineup for a state guest the Fool will always act the Fool. The question that needs to be asked is what tomfoolery has prevented the President from firing Tif the Fool long ago, so that he would not grow up to be a national embarrassment as he has today.

In one fell stroke, he’s stolen the thunder from Obama and SBY, at least for the Twitterati of Indonesia.

The Colbert Report had an amusing take on it as well.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michelle Obama's Embarrassing Handshake
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

The US public pays almost no attention to Indonesia as it is, and when they do it's for this? Some people like Tifatul Sembiring need to realise that they represent more than just their own petty little agendas.

Japanese TV weirdness of the week

This is some kind of test involving former boxer Yoko Gushiken to see if his uber-friendly dog will recognise him while he wears a disguise. For some reason, the disguise is as a Lil Jon-esque rapper.  Why? You tell me.

yo yo facepalm yo
Uploaded by marlowalls. - More video blogs and vloggers.

(Hat tip: Japan Probe)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aasif Mandvi in "Todays Special"

Dunno 'bout you, but I'm very much looking forward to the upcoming release of Today's Special, a romantic comedy written by and starring Aasif Mandvi. You might recognise the likeable Mandvi from his spots on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as well as his recent turn in The Last Airbender. He plays Samir, a sous chef at an upscale restaurant who finds himself taking over his parents' ailing Indian eatery.
The voiceover in this trailer is so cheesy that it almost turned me off the film, but all the reviews I have read so far have been extremely positive.

I like the look of the cast; apart from Mandvi, veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah is a legend of Indian cinema (you may recall him from the excellent Monsoon Wedding). Samir's mother is played by Madhur Jaffrey, who is surely perfect for the role; as well as being an award-winning actress, she is a cookbook author of great renown. The star seems to be the food though, and I love a good food movie.

And in the current political climate, rife with generalisations about Islam (all Muslims = terrorists), it's nice to see a film about Americans Muslims in which they seem to be portrayed as people who just happen to be Muslim.

This time, it's a Islamist WOMAN who condones marital rape

In the UK, TV broadcaster Islam Channel has caught some heat this week for various comments that justified domestic violence. Most notably, one by a female host that seemed to think it's ok for a husband to force himself on his wife.
From The Guardian:

In a programme first broadcast in April last year, Ofcom ruled that the Islam Channel host Nazreen Nawaz condoned marital rape when she said: "And really the idea that a woman cannot refuse her husband's relations this is not strange to a Muslim because it is part of maintaining that strong marriage. But it shouldn't be such a big problem where the man feels he has to force himself upon the woman."

The channel also broke the broadcasting code by encouraging violence against women, in a Q&A session on marital violence, and for labelling women who wore perfume "prostitutes".
The broadcaster, which was fined £30,000 by Ofcom in 2007 for a series of breaches, also broke impartiality regulations for broadcasting one-sided coverage of international affairs and the Middle East conflict.
Now, I'm not against Muslims, but I am strongly anti-extremist and anti-f*cking-idiot. And Nazreen Nawaz falls firmly into both categories. Despite being a clearly intelligent person - she's very articulate and is a qualified dentist - she constantly supports a outdated and misogynist view of the role of women. She's also previously suggested that women should not be in charge of Islamic countries. Nawaz is the UK's female representative of Hizb Ut-Tahrir, a group that has previously been banned in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey, because they consider it too extremist.
Now I'm down with multiculturalism, but as far as I'm concerned women's rights are more important than anyone's right to perpetuate or promote practices that oppress women.

And this brings me back to the issue of the burqa, which some countries are trying to ban. While I appreciate that this is a very complicated issue, I have previously expressed my sympathy for the moves to ban it. Because while banning a woman's right to wear a burqa is an oppressive act, the burqa itself is oppressive. Much is said about the burqa being a woman's choice, yet Nawaz is an example of how indoctrination to extremist versions of any religion can make women incapable of making sane choices in their own best interest. When a woman can proudly say on television that wives must not refuse their husband's advances, and that marital rape does not really exist, this is evidence that she lacks the real-life perspective to make a rational decision on this matter. A choice to accept oppression - be it a burqa or a husband's unwanted sexual advances - is not really a choice at all.

"The Red House" ad - furniture that both black and white people can enjoy

This is now officially my favourite thing ever.

It's a real commercial, for a real place and featuring the actual staff, but it is created by comedians Rhett and Link. They are the two guys standing outside singing.

More awesome furniture ads here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Rich Whitey" fails to get elected governor

My favourite story to come out of the recent US Congressional Elections. Not so nice for the dude in question though.

HAS there ever been a more fabulous printing error in the history of the world? In the US elections this week, a fellow by the name of Rich Whitney was a candidate for governor in Illinois. Unfortunately, as reported on the, because of a typo on the ballot papers he appeared in 23 districts in Chicago (including 14 mostly African American and Hispanic districts) as . . . Rich Whitey. The problem was exacerbated because he rather looked the part. He was not happy. And, seeing as you ask, no, he didn't win, either.

Global humans

Came across these pictures over at Razib's Gene Expression blog which I thought were pretty interesting. They are different interpretations of what the "global human" might look like, generated by making a composite of "average" faces from the different basic human phenotypes. It is a way of imagining what a typical human of the future might look like, assuming that as a species we keep intermingling at the expected rate.

Part of the appeal of such images is in interpreting which racial elements you can identify in each, and also in wondering if they look like existing peoples from around the world.
The first one, which I think comes from this Dutch website, struck me as a little odd simply because it seems to lack any of the traits you'd associate with a black African. The face looks very stereotypically Caucasian with some East Asian elements.
If I saw that fellow on the street, I probably guess him to be Eurasian, as in having one European parent and one East Asian parent. But I can also imagine him to be from somewhere in the region where Eastern Europe blends into the Middle East or Central Asia. Perhaps of Turkic ancestry.

The second face? It's closer to how I imagine the global human to look. He's much less European-looking than the first, but I guess it's important to remember that there are many features each geographical race shares with each other; the dominant skin and hair colour doesn't change much from Europe to East Asia, and Africans share many features with people from South and South East Asia.
If I saw this guy on the street, I'd probably guess him to be Filipino, or a mestizo from Latin America, but neither of those is a really convincing option. Take out the eyes, which are very typical of East Asians, and he looks like a lot of African-Americans I've seen (who obviously have significant input of European genes). He reminds me a little of tennis player James Blake.

There are many countries in the world where two or more distinct phenotypes meet, creating an average individual who looks quite mixed. This can be due to relatively recent migrations, in which case the original phenotypes are still commonly visible. And example would be Brazil, which has plenty of what you might consider "pure" populations of white Europeans, Japanese, Africans and indigenous Americans, yet the average individual is a mix of two or more of those groups. Alternatively some countries clearly sport a mixed population, but that mix is more ancient and almost universal throughout the population, albeit to various degrees. Examples would be Egypt, Uzbekistan, India or Indonesia. And then there are other countries which combine these historically blended populations with new migrant groups.

So while today we can only imagine what the global human is going to look like in the centuries to come, these above countries, particularly Brazil, are pointers to what our future population might look like.

I'd be interested to hear your take on what these images conjure up for you. Where would you expect these faces to come from?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Images of Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Yogyakarta, located in central Java, is a small city of around 400,000 people, known both for its bustling street life and its place as a heartland of traditional Javanese culture. It maintains a balance between the old and the new; cars, buses and motorcycles compete with the more laid-back pace of pedal-powered becaks.

 Above: Eating lesehan-style (on mats by the roadside) is one of the signature experiences of Jln Malioboro, the street that Yogya seems to revolve around. The food is good but not necessarily the best Yogya has to offer - you need to sniff around a bit further for that - but it is a must for those who enjoy observing the energetic hustle and bustle of street life.
Above: Yogya is famed for its ayam goreng (marinated fried chicken), and part of the appeal surely is due to the use of kampung (village) chickens rather than factory-farmed ones. Hopefully this fellow's handsome demeanor will save him from the deep-frier.
Above: Naga statue at the Kraton (Sultan's palace)
Below: The bird market in the south of the city, which bears the rather odd title of PASTY (an acronym for Pasar Satwa & Tanaman Hias Yogyakarta)

Left, right and below: Tamansari (Water Castle), designed in the 17th Century by a Portuguese architect overlaid by traditional Javanese motifs.

Above right and left: A craftsman painstakingly creates a wayang kulit hand puppet, made from the hide of water buffalo.
Below: Wayang kulit in action, depicting the great Hindu epics of yesteryear.

All these photos courtesy of Aveena, who also has a photo blog here.

Related posts:

Gudeg, the ugly but beautiful culinary specialty of Yogyakarta

Chinese donuts on a Yogya roadside - the best breakfast ever

"Cat-poo coffee"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Asian-Americans are everwhere

Dunno if you noticed, but last week saw some pretty significant achievements by prominent Asian-Americans.

In the recent congressional elections, Nikki Haley became the first female governor of South Carolina, and the second Indian-American governor (after Louisiana's incumbent Bobby Jindal). Haley is her married name - she was born Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa to Punjabi parents and later became a Methodist. I wish I could get more excited about Haley, but unfortunately she's a Sarah Palin-esque Republican and therefore she must be evil. Still, it's quite an achievement for a desi, and a desi woman at that, to get elected in a state that has previously only ever elected white males to that office. She even ran into some racial controversy from within her own party, with Senator Jake Knotts making the infamous comment "We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor's mansion."

Haley is not the only person of desi heritage to get into Congress this week; Michigan Democrat Hansen Clarke (pictured above right) was also elected, the first Bangladeshi-American to attain that office. Clarke's father was born in Bangladesh (though technically was part of Pakistan at the time) and his mother is African-American. He was originally a Muslim but converted to Christianity; seemingly a prerequisite for someone of South Asian heritage to get elected in this current political climate.

Meanwhile an Asian-American group has been at the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart (although as of this weekend they have dropped down to number 2). Far East Movement's track Like A G6 actually succeeded another song by an Asian-American at the top spot - Just The Way You Are by Filipino/Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Bruno Mars.
Personally I'm not all that keen on either song, but I'm too old and grumpy now to be into whatever the kids are listening to these days anyway. Mars though does get serious points from me for his previous number 1 hit Nothin' on You (alongside B.O.B.) and for co-writing Cee-Lo's excellent track F*** You.

And we also saw the first NBA points for rookie point guard Jeremy Lin. Lin may or may not have a glittering career ahead of him, but he has won the adulation of millions for continually overcoming the underdog status attached to being an Asian basketballer (Lin is born in the California to Taiwanese parents).
While the NBA has seen a number of overseas players from China such as superstar Yao Ming, Lin is the first American of Chinese descent to play in the league. He is also only the 3rd Asian-American to appear in the NBA, after Wataru Misaka in 1947, and half-white and half-Japanese Rex Walters in the 1990s. A star in high school, he was not offered any athletic scholarships and ended up at Harvard instead. He led the Ivy League team to break numerous records and graduated with a degree in economics, yet was still not drafted by any NBA team. He did receive a later offer from the Golden State Warriors, and in the below game he only played 11 minutes, but finished with a very creditable 2 points, 4 steals and 3 assists.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

George Takei destroys anti-gay douchebaggery

I was going to comment about this guy, but the great George Takei (of Star Trek and Heroes fame, in case you didn't know) said it better than I could ever say.

George Takei is awesome.

(Hat tip: Tseen at The Banana Lounge)

"The back of the bus"? FOX News suddenly becomes all racially sensitive.

If you want to know why Barack Obama and his Democrats copped a pasting in these Congressional elections, you can look at a number of factors, but primarily, it's all about the success the right-wing media have had at portraying him in a negative light at every chance they get. Got to hand it to FOX News and Rush Limbaugh and the like: they do what they do well, even if it is morally wrong, evil and poisonous for America and the world.

If you want to see a perfect example of this, look no further...

Yes, that was FOX attempting to take the moral high ground on a racial issue. Oh hang on, do Republicans count as a race, now?

More likely, the implication they are trying to get you to see is that Obama is black, and "real Americans" (read: Republican voters) are white, and therefore blacks are in charge now and whites are now second-class citizens.

Of course, Obama was not talking about a bus, he was talking about a car. And the metaphor is about the Republicans being like reckless teenagers who don't deserve the keys to the car. Right-wing attempts to paint it as a racial remark are frankly pathetic; except of course, they will be effective. The reason media and politicians try to stoke fears and divisions so often is because it almost always results in success.

Do FOX's talking heads REALLY believe Obama's comment was racial? Either they are severely paranoid and deluded, or they are a bunch of ultra-cynical, scheming pieces of sh!t.

My money's on both those things, actually.

The Daily Show had a pretty good take on it as you'd expect.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2010 - Republicans Can Go to the Back of the Car
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The most awesome Thai names

Thai people have a wonderful culture with much to be proud of. They also have (at least to an English speaker with a puerile sense of humour) the funniest language in all of Asia. In spoken form, it doesn't actually sound all that funny, but when Thai names and words are transcribed into Roman script, it's hard not to crack a smile. I mean, who hasn't read the menu at a Thai restaurant and shared a giggle at dishes such as gang dang and phat prik?

And of course there are place names such as Bang Sue, Baan Sukchoke, Dong Rak and Ban Pornpis. If you don't find those things even a teeny bit funny, you are way too mature for this blog post.

Bear in mind that because Thais have their own alphabet, there is no standard way of spelling Thai words and names in Roman script, so you will have many variations - pad thai can also be written as phat thai, for example.

Of course, a lot of the humour to be derived from Thai names comes from how you think they would or could be pronounced, rather than how they actually sound in real life. Thus names like Pachrapa or Chumphorn can be funny when you read them but not especially so when you hear them said by a Thai.

Other names, like Poonlarp, might require a little bit of cultural and/or pop cultural knowledge to get why they are funny - larp (or laap, or larb) is a kind of salad made from ground meat, so larp made from poon is an interesting concept.

Certain sounds that frequently turn up in Thai names are innately amusing, at least to my infantile mind. One is "-sak", which corresponds nicely to the English word "sack" meaning both a bag to carry things in, and a scrotum. Thus you have names like Choosak, Damrongsak, and my personal favourite of all Thai names, Terdsak. All of which can conjure up some nice mental images.

The other one of course, is "-porn", which is sometimes written as the less amusing "-pon". Which gives rise to names like Jesdaporn and Pornthip. Sometimes there is a convergence of rude-sounding words such as Pornsak. The best of all, however, is undoubtedly Supaporn. You really can't get better than that.

Of course, plenty of Thai names are just awesome without being naughty-sounding. There's something about the name of (politician) Somkid Jatusripitak which I just love. While names like Lada Engchawadechasilp (a former Miss World contestant) or Kejmanee Pichaironnarongsongkram (actress and singer)are admirable just for being so damned difficult to pronounce without considerable practice.

But lest you think I'm singling out Thai names, you can find examples of this sort of thing in pretty much every language and country. India, for example, has wonderful names like Jayant Bhatt, Deepa Dikshit, and Priti Kanthi. And it should be pointed out that while Thai names can seem funny to the English speaker, English names can be just as funny to Thais, depending on how they are pronounced (Thai is a tonal language, so there can be various ways of pronouncing a word). For example, according to this article at least, the name "Jim" sounds a lot like Thai slang for "vagina", while "Johnson" sounds like the term for "small penis".

Got some more names to share? I'd love to hear them.

Above: Terdsak Jandaeng. I dare you to tell him why his name is funny.

See also: Interesting Asian restaurant names