Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hold the Heineken

Last August, I got really pissed after seeing a Heineken commercial and fired off this e-mail to their directors of sales and marketing.

I am very disappointed with Heineken. Recently, I saw a Heineken commercial that, whether intentionally or not, casts Asian Americans and African Americans in an unfavorable light.

The commercial features two Asian-American "gangster wannabes" at a convenience store preparing to purchase large bottles of malt liquor. The obvious premise was that: (1) Asian Americans are clueless when it comes to gangster style, hence their "wannabe" status; (2) gangster wannabes copy what real gangsters do; (3) real gangsters are often African Americans; (4) African Americans, particularly those who are gangsters, enjoy malt liquor; therefore, (5) Asian-American gangster wannabes want to drink malt liquor.

As the commercial continues, a "hip," "new-school" African American enters the convenience store and grabs a six-pack of Heineken. Upon observing that shrewd purchasing decision, the wannabes set aside their bottles of malt liquor and grab a six-pack of Heineken as well.

I am an Asian American, and I am not fond of Asian-American gangster wannabes. However, I am even less fond of corporations that trade on ethnic stereotypes in crass attempts to promote their products. And if I see that commercial again, I may soon cease to be fond of drinking Heineken. One would hope that a company that encourages responsible drinking would engage in responsible advertising.

This is the "we care" and "we didn't mean no disrespect" response I got several days later.

Dear Mr. Fang,

Thank you for contacting us to express your concerns about our recent Heineken brand television ad. We hope you understand that this commercial was meant in no way to be offensive. The commercial was intended to demonstrate Heineken's long-standing support of the urban culture and music and to connote it's global transcendence. Moreover, we hoped to honor the favorable influence urban culture has had on so many and more importantly, to celebrate the bridging of gaps between seemingly divergent cultures. Heineken takes its commitment to respecting the diversity of our consumers very seriously. We wanted you to be aware that the spot is no longer airing and we have decided to discontinue running the ad effective August 21. We truly appreciate your contacting us with your concerns and we hope that you will continue to support and enjoy Heineken in the future.

Thank you for your interest in Heineken USA.

Mercedes T. Bangari
Corporate Affairs
Heineken USA

Monday, April 10, 2006

When the Wolves Come Marching in

Just got back from the Wolf Parade show at Webster Hall. When they got started, I was a bit disappointed. They played a new, non-album track that I didn't find all-too-endearing. Their live sound seemed a bit thin -- not nearly as textured as it is on the album. But once they got warmed up and launched into the staples, it turned out to be a very enjoyable show. "Shine a Light," "We Built a New World," "Fancy Claps" and all the other fast stuff were definitely the highlights of the show.

I had no idea that they have two lead singers who split time fairly evenly, sometimes even switching in and out during a song. On the album, it all sounds like the same guy. Strange, but entertaining.

I'm a bit worried that their next album may not measure up to Apologies to Queen Mary. There's not one song on the current album that I find unappealing. But the new songs they played, which had a tendency to drone, all left a bit to be desired. We'll see, I guess.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Judas as Facilitator

Just read an interesting article in The New York Times about the discovery and translation of The Gospel of Judas. It seems that, rather than being a traitor, Judas may have carried out Jesus's wishes and facilitated God's plan for the crucifixion.

Do you suppose Judas Priest now needs a new name?

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Going Back to Cali

Woohoo! The last of the crew has finally come to his senses and committed to a return engagement. Coachella, here we come (again)!

There's something quite special about Coachella. Attending the festival last year was a life-altering experience.

I've always been rather obsessive about music, at least since the day in seventh grade when I discovered New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." Before that, I listened to whatever was played on the radio, along with my sister's crappy Columbia House selections, which included the likes of Air Supply, Kenny Rogers and Bon Jovi. (Yeah, New Order rescued me just in time.)

I can't explain it, really. There was just something about "Bizarre Love Triangle" that sang to me. From there, the natural progression led me to Depeche Mode, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and so forth. I quickly amassed quite the stack of CD's and 12" singles. (What your mom and dad call "vinyl.")

But something happened after I got out of law school and moved to New York. Perhaps law school killed my imagination. Who knows. In any event, I fell out of the loop. I used to buy at least a couple of CD's a month -- at least. And I'd scour the web and record shops relentlessly for that obscure new sound. After I got to New York and started working, I fell into a void and just lost touch.

Then I went to Coachella, and all was well again. It was as if I underwent a musical rebirth. I felt reconnected with the me of old.

Can't wait to go back.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Where Are My People?

On Saturday, as I was walking to Chinatown to grab lunch, I came upon a mass demonstration at Foley Square concerning the immigration reform legislation currently under debate in Congress. The majority of the protesters were Hispanic.

As I strolled closer towards Chinatown -- a bastion of immigrants, legal or otherwise -- I couldn't help but wonder: Where are my people? We have just as significant a stake in the debate as other more demonstrative immigrant groups, yet we were, for the most part, ostensibly absent from the demonstration.

All that reminded me of the night I attended the biennial meeting of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance back when I was a junior in high school. I was seated at a table with a man named J.D. Hong (J.D. as in Jefferson Davis), who had grown up in segregation-era Mississippi with a brother named Sherman (Sherman as in General Sherman). J.D. explained that Asian Americans were considered colored folk, and they, too, could not drink from white water fountains, go to white schools or ride at the front of buses. Seemed logical enough. I mean, did I really need him to explain to me that yellow isn't white? Yet, the thought had never crossed my mind. I never even imagined that there were Asian Americans in segregation-era Mississippi, let alone the consequences of their existence. Why? Because I didn't hear anything about that during history class. And I certainly hadn't heard anyone speak of it based upon first-hand knowledge.

Why do we so rarely feel compelled to speak up?

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Let's Make It a Group Effort

So ... I'm walking across the West Side Highway, coming upon a construction site where a new highrise condo is sprouting. I glance to my right, and there's a group of five or so men standing about, each facing a wall. It took a second or two for me to figure things out, but I eventually realized that they were all peeing! What the hell? It's not as if I've never witnessed public urination. But my sense is that it's typically a one-man sport. The sight of synchronized public urination is definitely a first for me. And it was in broad daylight, no less! Ah, the joy of living in NYC.

I See You

Bands that I've seen live. (Those worth mentioning, at least.)

120 Days
Acid House Kings
Ambulance LTD
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Anything Box
The Arcade Fire
Au Revoir Simone
Band of Horses
Bloc Party
Blonde Redhead
Book of Love
British Sea Power
Broken Social Scene
Built to Spill
Camera Obscura
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Cocteau Twins
The Cribs
Crystal Castles
The Cure
Cut Copy
Cut Off Your Hands
Departure Lounge
Depeche Mode
The Drums
Echo & the Bunnymen
Emm Gryner
Fleet Foxes
Franz Ferdinand
Gemma Hayes
Ghostland Observatory
The Go! Team
Grizzly Bear
Imogen Heap
Kate Nash
The Killers
LCD Soundsystem
The Legends
Leona Naess
Lonely, Dear
Los Campesinos!
The Little Ones
Lykke Li
M. Ward
Maria Taylor
Melpo Mene
Mercury Rev
Modest Mouse
My Bloody Valentine
My Morning Jacket
The National
New Order
New Pornographers
Nine Inch Nails
Nitzer Ebb
Oh No! Oh My!
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Paul McCartney
Pet Shop Boys
Peter Bjorn & John
The Radio Dept.
The Raveonettes
Rilo Kiley
Robin Guthrie
The Rosebuds
Saint Etienne
School of Seven Bells
Sebastien Tellier
The Secret Machines
She & Him
She Wants Revenge
Shout Out Louds
Silversun Pickups
Snow Patrol
Tahiti 80
The Teenagers
Tegan and Sara
Thurston Moore
The Ting Tings
TV on the Radio
Violet Indiana
We Are Scientists
White Lies
Wolf Parade
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yo La Tengo

Wish the list were more extensive and less devoid of some of my all-time favorites.

In the Beginning

Well, I've finally gotten around to creating a blog. I don't intend for this to be a venue through which I spill my guts to the world, although it may end up that way sometimes. I really intend for this to be a dialogue with myself. Something to get me writing again. A place at which to store my thoughts.

I used to have an electronic journal ... way back when. But it was rather simplistic, yet cumbersome to deal with. I tried to find a more up-to-date version, but then I realized that it's perhaps more efficient to start a blog. I mean, I've always got a web browser open, so the inertia that needs to be overcome to jot something down in a blog is a bit less than that required to load up a program. (Yeah, there's always the paper and pencil method, but who has paper these days? Besides, that's a pain in the ass to store.)

So ... here I am. And here it is -- a diary in the form of a blog.

BTW -- The title is a reference to Camus's spin on Descartes's de cogito -- I think, therefore, I am. For Camus and other existentialists, what's important isn't how we got here. What's important is that we're here. I originally wanted to title this blog So Here We Are, which also happens to be one of my favorite Bloc Party songs. Figures that it was taken.