The United Federation of Asian Perfect-ness

September 9, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I am a superhero.  I’ve always known there was something different about me but until recently I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I made this startling discovery after reading an article on Asian stereotypes and why, according to the author, all stereotypes, whether good or bad, are offensive.  I’m not sure I agree with his point considering how many of the stereotypes he mentioned were just so, gosh darn complimentary.

Let’s do a quick run through of the stereotypes in question:

Asians are smart!  Ok, yes…me.
Asians are born with PhD-level math skills!  Umm hmm…me again.
Asians are hard working!  Again…me.
Asians are humble!  Stop already!  You’re embarrassing me!

The evidence is in.  I am a superhero.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to have these traits?

But because I’m a superhero by virtue of my Asian-ness, that also means the other billion or so Asians in this world are my fellow superheroes.

In fact, with so many of us around, we have formed an alliance.  We’ve put together a kind of brainiac superhero organization dedicated to the pursuit of solving all mathematical equations with one slide rule tied behind our backs.  A crack squad of overachievers that can leap tall physics equations in a single bound, be faster than a speeding calculator, and more powerful than a supercomputer.

Look!  Up at the Pi!  It’s a bird.  It’s a plane!  It’s Superasian!!!

We’ve already taken this to the next level – conventions, tupperware parties, the whole nine yards (or 8.2296 meters, in case you were wondering).  We have an annual dinner and instead of a keynote speaker, we just pour out a box full of used vacuum cleaner parts, batteries, duct tape and other odds and ends on stage and see where our imagination leads us.

Last year I lost to Bonnie Yurimoto who won in the “Most Innovative” category, but I still say my hovercraft was way better.

All right, enough.  Let me just take a moment to forcefully unstick the tongue placed firmly against my cheek and state, obviously, that I am being facetious.

In point of fact, I am a living, breathing example of an Asian that dispels most Asian stereotypes.  I don’t really fit most the positive ones or the negative ones for that matter.

My math skills are beyond embarrassing.  I routinely go to the “15 items or less” counter at the supermarket with 17 or more items.  When I use a calculator, I do each calculation twice because I don’t trust my ability to type the right keys.  I boast to my wife that I got a B+ in Advanced Calculus in college but I neglect to mention that I didn’t understand it even when I was taking the class.  If I recall, my calculus finals used a multiple-choice format and I was on a hot streak that day (Let’s see…I chose answer “B” last time so this time I’ll go for a “D”…).

I do work hard but that has less to do with being Asian and more to do with having three kids, one dog, a big mortgage, and a steady craving for Krispy Kreme donuts.

As far as whether I match up with negative Asian stereotypes, let’s see. I’m six feet tall, have never owned a laundry, did not study to be an engineer, don’t know what a pocket protector looks like, and I was a running back on my high school football team.  And while my math skills have never taken me very far, I’ve always had a knack for writing.

None of that makes me super, but it suits me just fine.

Born Without a Funny Bone

September 6, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I’ve lost my sense of humor.

It was just here a minute ago.  I put it down for just a second while I was reaching for a snack, and then, suddenly – poof!  It’s gone.

This is a serious matter.  Writing a humor column without a sense of humor can be a problem.

So that I might find my humor, I’ve decided to backtrack everything I’ve done over the last few hours to see if that might help jog my memory.  Let’s see…what have I been doing the last few hours?

8:00 pm:  Decided to watch some television, maybe find a sitcom.  Then I thought I’d like a snack and found a nice, tasty bag of cheese puffs.  Nothing special on TV.

9:00 pm: Decided to give TV another chance, followed by a few more cheese puffs.  Yuck, another show with people eating bugs.  How disgusting.  Wow, these cheese puffs are great.

10:00 pm:  More TV.  More puffs.

Hmm…

Wait a minute!  Now I remember.

The truth is that I didn’t lose my sense of humor.  I’ve come to realize that I’ve never had a sense of humor.

I’m afraid it’s even more serious than that.  From what I can see, Asians in general don’t have a sense of humor.  We are not a funny group.

Now, you may ask, how did I come to this conclusion?  I’m glad you asked.

Flipping through the channels, I’m suddenly aware that there are very few Asians on television, and practically none on any situation comedies.  There’s no “Everybody Loves the Chins”, or “The Bernie Mah Show”.

In a recent report by the National Asian Pacific American legal Consortium, their study shows that Asians play 2.7 percent of regular characters, with virtually no Asian actors on situation comedies.  One network, CBS, had no Asian characters on any of their primetime shows.

Even on shows that owe much of their premise to Asian culture have little or no Asian representation on them.  The hottest show on television today, “American Idol”, which is essentially an extremely hyped up karaoke competition (which of course originated in Asia), has not had any major Asian singers in it’s history.  Unless, of course, you count William Hung, the famously off-key performer from a few years back (and please, let’s not count William Hung).

I have to believe that the studio heads of ABC, CBS, NBC & Fox have done their due diligence to search far and wide for a comedy that could find humor in the lives of Asian Americans and have come up empty handed.  They must have come to the same conclusion I have – Asians simply aren’t very funny.

Of course, as an Asian humor writer, this disturbing conclusion has put a serious crimp in my style.  I find myself frozen in self-doubt, uncertain that anything that I used to find funny is funny anymore.

For example:

When my uncle walks out of the bathroom with one end of a toilet paper roll stuck to his shoe and proceeds to walk down the hallway, out the front door, and halfway around the house while continuously unraveling the roll like a big long streamer – that’s not funny.

When any of my non-Asian friends asks me about what I might know about any given news story that happens to take place in Asia and my standard response always begins with “Well, my sources tell me…”  That’s not funny.

When my uncle and father become so absorbed in their conversation while walking in a park that they simultaneously fall into a bush of rhododendrons – that’s not funny.

When I once ask my six-year old son what he should do with all the food remaining on his plate when there were thousands of children in the world who were hungry and he replies, “Eat it real fast so they can’t come here and steal it?”  That’s not funny.

When my parents decide to plan ahead and purchase adjoining plots in a memorial park and my father asks the park director about getting a “group discount” – that’s not funny.

I suppose I’ll have to look into a new profession.  Maybe William Hung was on to something.  I can see it now…Asian-American Idol.

Ethnicity

September 4, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I was channel surfing the other day and decided to do my civic duty and watch one of the recent presidential debates that was on.  Besides, there weren’t any reruns of Seinfeld on so…

At one point during the debate, one of the candidates used an oft-used phrase, which I find puzzling and a little annoying.  The line comes up whenever diversity issues are addressed and usually sounds something like this:

As an American, it shouldn’t matter whether you are black, white, brown, red, yellow, or purple, everyone deserves an equal chance.

Now, I know which groups they are referring to and it doesn’t take too much insight to know that “yellow” represents Asians.

For me, that statement always begs the question: Who are these purple people and why are Asians always grouped next to them?

Have I been so isolated in my life that I have overlooked an entire population of people in need of protection?  Are Asians always grouped next to them because as an ethnic group, we are also often overlooked as a population?  Where are all the purple people in my neighborhood?  Am I losing my mind?

Then, quick as a flash, it comes to me.  I know who this group is.  It was right under my nose the whole time, and what’s more, this purple group is one of the most maligned segments in the country.  The worst part of it is, I have been one of the biggest offenders.

Of course I am referring to – Barney the dinosaur.  But the purple population includes not only Barney, but all of the robotically trained kids that surround him as well.

I must confess, like many others, I loathe Barney. I can’t explain it.  Perhaps it’s a visceral response to the whole Barney “package”.  You watch Barney, and you think that no being, human or animal, in this world or beyond, at any time since creation, could be so nauseatingly sweet without having to suffer through a terminal gag reflex.

Mercifully, we only have one Barney video, which I believe was given to my kids as a present (By the way, whoever gave it to us, mark my words – I am going to hunt you down). The highlight of the video is a song where Barney teaches kids to cover their mouth when they sneeze.  For good measure, they bring in some kids who used to appear with Barney years ago, and they sing and dance their hearts out – all in honor of the sneeze.  By the end of the video, I’m usually scratching my fingernails across a blackboard just trying to drown out the noise of the song.

Maybe it’s because everyone seems so enchanted by a song about oral hygiene.  Perhaps it’s because some of these older kids prancing around look like they’re pushing 40.

Well, it’s time for a change.  After all, who am I to judge?  It’s time for a fresh start.  After all, it shouldn’t matter whether you are black, white, brown, red, yellow or…