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Your Culture Shanghaied

May 29, 2013 Leave a comment

Your Culture Shanghaied

Chrome countertops and dark corners, vinyl booths and neon highlights. Chinese delegation across the the Japanese and everyone just keep cool for a minute—Jimmy Carter’s at the bar ordering tequila shots and pitchers of High Life.

Once the yellow ribbon had been tied and the Chevy is in the Levy someone’s going to do Elvis. Everyone’s going to do Elvis. After last call drunk Asian men will be falling over each other in a tangle of laughter and tears and a half-remembered conspiracy involving escorts. No more Diaoyu. No more Senkaku. The islands are now the premiere free port Chinese restaurant and karaoke resort. Let the Taiwanese run the place if it’ll shut them up.

No more Chinese, no more Japanese. The Ambassador embodies the technicolor dreamcoat promise of our melting pot society; your culture Shanghaied and bled dry. While eating at a steakhouse in the backwaters of Kansai I stared at lassos on the walls and sizzling platters of beef at every table. It wasn’t insulting. Every salaryman staring at John Wayne on TV paid a deeply confused reverence to a mythology of the west.

Here in The States we don’t believe in the Pioneer corporation or MSG. We ravish them for cheap pleasure and cannibalize our own idealized past by rigging black lights over a crumbling malt-shop aesthetic and soaking everything in Jägermeister and yesterday’s vomit. John was holding up an entire race of people on his shoulders and my two-bits of Japanese heritage proved more authentic than the ripoff salt and pepper calamari churning in our guts. On stage a white girl bust out Biggie while her friends raised the roof. The staff was a uniform shade of pasty and if there were any Chinese in the kitchen they had been warned about showing their faces. Everyone is welcome, I’m sure, if they’ve got five bucks for the cover. Or if they’re underaged. Teenyboppers get stuck in a segregated juvenile detention center where the lights are brighter and you don’t have to wait for tomorrow’s hangover to feel ashamed. Read more…

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Pinche Gringo

March 20, 2009 1 comment

Pinche Gringo

There was a rule, once upon a time. I wouldn’t wear a band’s shirt if I didn’t like the band, and while that sounds like a pretty trivial thing I took it seriously. If you didn’t really like the band but wore their shirt because it looked cool you may as well be wearing a Nike swoosh. You’re representing something you believe in when you shell out the bucks and raise the banner, and that responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Over the years I stopped obsessing about the kindergarten politics of my pseudo-punk upbringing. An old co-worker of mine was unloading t-shirts given to him by bands and he handed me one for a group I never cared about. My instincts kicked in and I almost refused, but then my manners wrestled reaction to the ground and I graciously accepted the offering. The shirt was used to clean up some kitchen messes but I cleaned it and began to wear it whenever it came up in the rotation.

One day, standing outside of work, a stranger walked up to me and complimented me on the t-shirt. Immediately I was tongue-tied and embarrassed, but nodded enthusiastically when he told me how his old band had played with them and how great they were back in the day. What was I supposed to say? Oh, I kinda think they suck, so I guess your old band kinda sucked too. Read more…

Cow Water

February 13, 2009 Leave a comment

How do you respond to the cultural and commercial hegemony perpetrated by multi-national cola corporations? You decide to produce a new beverage brewed from cow urine and market it as a religious-clense, at least if you’re the leader of the nationalist Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Read more…