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Archive for July, 2009

Obama 2008

According to the “birther” people, he was born in Kenya. They allege that as Obama was born outside of the US, he is not a “natural born citizen” eligible for the presidency. They also contend that Obama’s birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii is a fake.

Although these claims have been debunked, the doubters still believe that Obama is an illegal president. These claims made their rounds again last week, and received a lot of play and discussion in the media. It was partly brought about by the video clip of  a town hall meeting held by Representative Mike Castle, a Delaware Republican.

A woman held up her own birth certificate in a clear plastic bag and shouted that Obama was born in Kenya. When Castle responded that Obama “is a citizen of the United States”, he was booed by the audience. I find the clip quite amusing, listening to the woman’s conviction. At one point, she shouted: “I want my country back!” One might ask, from what, lady? ( Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V1nmn2zRMc )

Some politicians seem to be agreeing with, or are listening to, the birthers. Ten Republican members of Congress co-sponsored a bill that would require presidential candidates to provide a copy of their birth certificate.

What I find puzzling is that I’m sure the birthers and the Congressmen are aware that the US government has its own intensive process of vetting presidential candidates. The Secret Service, FBI, the legal department and all the authorities have the means to search, verify and analysis every document and every lead, anywhere in the world. And, remember, Obama was a presidential candidate when the Republicans were in power. So, I’m sure they would not leave anything unchecked.

I suppose, as many people say, the birthers have chosen to believe that Obama is an illegal president, and no evidence will change their minds. And this is happening in one of the most advanced, high-tech countries in the world, in the 21st century. Strange, but true.

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Unfinished projects, plans not put in motion yet. July, the real half-way mark of the year, often makes us look back at these things. We may feel some guilt.

This is one of my favorite summer photos, taken at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, California

This is one of my favorite summer photos, taken at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, California.

But then nature is good to us: because July is such a lovely month, we tend not to dwell on our procrastination and shortcomings. Waking up to blue skies and the chirping of birds, it’s easier to feel optimistic and be kind to ourselves.

July is also the National Ice Cream Month. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July as the National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. This year, July 19 is the day to celebrate this treat that we never outgrow.

The  International Ice Cream Association lists vanilla, chocolate and butter pecan as America’s top favorite ice cream flavors. My favorite is mint chocolate chip.  I like mint in my toothpaste, my chocolates,  tea and cocoa…so you can see why it’s my choice.

If you want a fancy ice cream creation, I think you can’t go wrong with bombe alaska or baked alaska.  I remember the first occasion when my parents let me order it at a restaurant.  Since then, I’ve always associate this dessert with celebrations.

Baked alaska is  a clever mix of ice cream placed on pieces of cake, and covered with gcreammeringue. The dish is then baked for a short time in the oven. Somehow, the meringue acts as an insulator, and the ice cream does not melt. The alaska is immediately served, and you get both the browned meringue and the cool ice cream in one heavenly spoon.

Exotic, fancy, or just a simple scoop – ice cream warms the heart while it cools you down.

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Michael Jackson’s music united the world.

Like so many others, I grew up with Michael’s songs. Several songs hold deeper meaning and significance.

  • In my teenage years, I went through a time that caused confusion and anxiety. The bestmjsong Ben was a big help. Everyday, after I finished my homework, I would sit in the porch and listen to the song. Somehow, it made me a little calmer and a little braver.
  • Man in the Mirror reflects Michael’s social consciousness and his belief that each of us can do our part to make the world a better place. The video is stirring in its collage of different historical events and social  issues including poverty, racism, freedom and hope. The song was in tandem with my growing philosophy and consciousness that man and our civilization should always strive for high ideals.
  • Even before the concepts of inclusiveness, diversity  and multiculturalism were jacwidely used, Michael was championing these concepts through his  music, namely in the video and lyrics of Black or White. And again, when I saw the video for the first time, it was contemporaneous with my own vision and philosophy of life. The beauty and power of its message remains vital each time I view the video.
  • In 1989, a gunman shot and wounded students in an elementary school in Stockton, California. The children were mostly refugees from South East Asia. Three weeks later, Michael made a surprise trip to visit the children in Stockton. At that time, he was at the height of his popularity. I saw a news clip of his visit to the hospital. He arrived  in his usual shy, unassuming way, and you could see the room lit up with excitement. I believe he was the only celebrity, or at least the first one, to visit the children. I felt that was very nice of him, and it made a lasting impression.

Musical genius, idealist, humanitarian…that’s how his fans will always remember Michael Jackson, the global king of pop.

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Katherine Jackson, mother of the late king of pop Michael Jackson, and Ai-tsao, the protagonist in the Taiwanese film Artemisia may be from worlds apart. And yet they are not so dissimilar.

Last week, I watched the film Artemisia on Link TV. (Watch it online at http://www.linktv.org). It is the first fictional film by young Taiwanese director Chiang Hsiu-chiung. The story centers around motherhood and changing values among different generations.

Ai-tsao is a woman who is trapped in the middle of her family dynamics. On the one hand, she has to handle her aged mother who has stereotyped and difficult attitudes towards people, especially those who are different from her. And on the other hand, she has to deal with the sexuality and life choices of her young adult children which are very alien to her.

Artemisia

The film "Artemisia" highlights the hidden strength of motherhood.

Taiwanese opera star and actress Pan Li Li is superb in the role of Ai-tsao. She creates a sympathetic, subtle character without resorting to histrionics. On the whole, Artemisia is a also a movie that is not glossed up. It is an unhurried film with a realistic feel and is quite a pleasure to watch.

In an interview screened after the movie, Chiang explains why she chose the title “Artemisia”. She explains that artemisia is a medicinal herb common to Taiwan, and in Latin, the word also has a maternal meaning. “The herb is very much like most traditional mothers in Taiwan. Ordinary yet very potent,” she says.

This description reminded me of Katherine Jackson, Many close to the family says that she was a rock in Michael Jackson’s life. If you followed the alleged molestation trial against Michael in 2005, you would see her arriving every day. On some days, she walked slowly, probably due to some problems with her leg. But there she was: this quiet, stoic woman, to offer support to her son.

Michael’s famous lawyer at the trial, Mesereau, talked about this in a report in the Los Angeles Times on June 30: “She would tell him that the truth would prevail, that God would help him. She just kept him strong,” defense lawyer Thomas A. Mesereau Jr. recalled. “She never missed a single day of testimony, and it was a five-month trial.”

In the wake of the tragic passing of her son, she had quietly stepped in again and took care of her grandchildren and her son’s estate. A Superior Court judge appointed her special administrator of her son’s estate, and also granted her temporary custody of Michael’s three children.

There is a scene towards the end of the film where Ai-tsao displays this kind of quiet, primal courage. And as a character in the film describes it: she’s like a wolf with a samurai sword.

Katherine Jackson was the rock in Michael Jackson's life. Pic shows her at the 2005 trail with son Jermaine.

Katherine Jackson was the rock in Michael Jackson's life. Pic shows her at the 2005 trial with son Jermaine.

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