Tag Archive for asians

Orientals, Westerners, Asians and Occidentals

If there was a college course on generation classification, I definitely never took it. I took very few college courses, actually, far fewer than you fancy-schmancy “graduates.” And while my life has, by the letter of the law, spanned several decades, not one person I’ve met has ever spent any time with me to help me understand how the whole generation system works. What the hell is a generation? Everybody’s born at different times, so how does anyone get classified properly? How many years does a generation span? Is it like a decade? Is it 20 years? I’m not a baby-boomer, so I’m far too young for Generation X and I know that I’m too old for Generation Y. I think I once heard someone describe my generation as Generation Why Bother. Cute, but it doesn’t help me understand exactly where I fit in this nebulous system. So, since nobody’s helping out, I’ll just describe myself as a happy member of Generation After-School Specials.


I have fond memories of the final sliver of the 1970s and even fonder memories well into the 1980s as my mind was enriched and developed. It was a proud generation full of valuable television programs, often shown after school was over, but before the evening news. The programs explained very convincingly that we needn’t any longer refer to someone as “darkies” or “fags” or “retarded,” you could simply refer to that person as Ron or Lindsey or Paul because, holy shit, he or she was a real person! Really? Yes really!


Still, because I was influenced by polarized mid-afternoon socio-political propaganda, and as I am a de facto member of the After-School Special Generation, I have been conditioned to get a little nervous when I hear someone use the word Oriental. My mom used it recently in a conversation we’d had. I got nervous. I slipped in the idea that “we don’t say Oriental anymore.” She had a reasonable counter-argument and at that point it didn’t seem to matter to me anymore. And, as I am prone to lose interest in the topic at hand to parse another bit of datum, I started thinking about Orientals and my stream of consciousness took me to the opposite of Oriental, which is Occidental. Occidental means, essentially, that something is Western, i.e., from the western hemisphere. Oriental means Eastern. People refer to Americans as Westerners. People refer to things Asian as being Eastern. So why is Oriental bad when Westerner is okay? Do people practice Oriental medicine if it means the same thing as Eastern medicine? If I started a company called Western Petroleum would I get sued by Occidental Petroleum? If I dated an American of Asian descent, would she be an Occidental-Oriental? A Western-Easterner? Some of these adjectives just don’t carry over, I guess.


It all beats the shit out of me, and that’s why I’m just a lowly humor blogger pointlessly flagellating amidst an illuminated crowd of intellectuals. Maybe you can help me out with your vast knowledge because I still get fucking nervous when I hear “Oriental.”



[c] 2009 Russ of America

In Memorium: The Mr Lees

Through the latter 90s, I lived on a rough street with a much rougher convenience store. The local baseheads, tweakers, scofflaws, gangbangers, their girlfriends, mistresses and their maybe-someday-to-be wives, and even the children of these citizens would address the charming convenience store proprietor as Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee was cordial, spoke predictably spotty English, a few words of Spanish, and he ate the most disgustingly pungent foods. I remember steaming tentacle poking out of a bowl full of rice on more than one occasion as I purchased a flagon or two of malt liquor. And lo those delicious plastic zipper bags full of hot, sweaty fish, waiting to course down his eager gullet, that crazy Mr. Lee. For a while I’d subscribed to the belief that his name was actually Mr. Lee, until I’d gotten the hint after years of viewing reports from local Los Angeles news stations on the deaths of Korean liquor store clerks who were very nice to the neighborhood, worked long hours, who “gave credit to families who couldn’t pay,” that the victim was inevitably called Mr Lee. Now, while it is true that there are a few very common Korean names (Park, Kim, Lee, Kwak, Cho and their derivatives) I subsequently concluded from my personal, anecdotal research that any time you’re Asian in a rough neighborhood, regardless of whether, in actuality, your name is Kim, Pak, Lee, Wong, Miyagi, Hopscotch or Buttermilk, your name will always be Mr. Lee.


So here’s a toast to all the Mr. Lees of America: Bless you for eternity for selling alcohol to anybody with $3.



[c] 2009 Russ of America

Novelty Snacks From Asian Markets

There is no greater faith than that of a man who trusts the packaged fish snacks of another culture.


My dad is a multi-cultural sportsman. That is, he loves to experiment in the sandboxes of other nationalities as a sport. He enjoys their movies, listens to their music, lights their incense, drinks their teas and partakes of their foodstuffs. It’s a loving sentimentality that I’m fundamentally interested in.


I inherited this trait from him, so it’s not uncommon for me to wander optimistically through the snack and dehydrated meats aisle of the local Asian grocery store, 99 Ranch Market, as though I don’t know any better, which I absolutely do. I totally know better than to blindly grab at imported Asian snacks. I don’t mean that in an ethnically insensitive way — I’ve always appreciated the integrity and style of my Asian friends, I just mean that due to lack of exposure over the years, I’m not very likely to palate many of their best fishy tidbits. But still I’ll poke through their grocery racks and look at all the goods and it’s not unusual for me to throw a few bags of weird stuff into my basket. I love the breath decimating Boy Bawang and some interesting peanut confections called Nagaraya that my Bebeboo has brought to my attention, but I’d say that 85% of the time, I’m completely disappointed and appalled by my selections. Pickled radish, Chinese beef jerky, dried pollock fish snack? What the living fuck am I thinking?


The snacks are often pretty funky tasting, laced with salt and MSG, potentially full of fat, cholesterol, lead, melamine, arsenic, mercury, human papilloma viruses and influenza. As an example of this, I was in LA’s Chinatown on Tuesday February 24th, dicking around in the Folksy Medicine section of a popular two-story red-colored Chinese supermarket on Broadway. There were NUMEROUS folksy remedies that were clearly (cough cough) labeled as dangerous, of course on the very bottom of the package with a irritating 2-inch sticker that was folded in half upon itself and could “just accidentally fall off” because it was adhered to the box by a 1/16″ sliver. This sticker, as difficult as it was to read, identified many products to contain, According to the State of California (flip the sticker over) cancer-causing poisons. The Sea Horse Genital Tonic Pills depicted here from my camera phone are exactly such a delicious cancer-causing medicine. Oh, I forgot to mention, The Sea Horse Genital Tonic listed as its first ingredient inexplicably contains LAND HORSE testicle bits. A savory thought, I know, considering the duplicitous ocean theme, but that’s wacky Asian snacks for you — uh, I mean folksy medicines. I will admit that most of the boxes I saw had the ubiquitous statements of not being endorsed by the FDA, etc. Though I don’t read Chinese and couldn’t tell you if the translations were honest to the English illiterate.


As you know, I have a morbid fear of shady Chinese restaurants. It is almost impossible to get me into a Chinese restaurant unless it has either “Panda” or “Express” in its name. I’m not sure exactly why that is, except that I went to a few of ’em here and there when I was a kid and they always kind of creeped me out. Roasted ducks hanging by the necks, dirty fish and lobster tanks crammed with someone’s meal-to-be. And of course television played a role; undercover consumer advocates would sometimes catch evil chefs doing horrible things in the kitchen, like smoking and dropping ashes into the bok choy. It’s obviously an irrational fear as there are thousands of very high quality Chinese restaurants out there in the world, but it’s a phobia of mine. So even I am at a loss for why I’ve been experimenting with shady Asian snack delicacies. I guess I genuinely like to be disappointed in life while spending money here and there on things that almost make me puke. Blecch! Who doesn’t?! But now perhaps it’s time to hang up my scholar’s cap and reach for the Doritos when I’m peckish. Or some Boy Bawang.



[c] 2009 Russ of America