Food Hunger in America

Food Hunger
In a twitter debate on whether North Korea is really worse than American (seriously), somebody kept throwing around the claim that 1 in 6 Americans is going hungry.

Here’s what that means. It means that in a subjective survey on feelings, one in six, or one in eight, depending on reporting (and even that number is questionable), sometimes can’t buy the food they would rather have because of budget issues. Not actual hunger, but having a couple episodes a year where they buy a different set of groceries than normal because of the budget.

I live in a country where I’ve seen people picking food out of the garbage on a regular basis. Having to eat hamburger instead of steak, or even ramen instead of meat, is not food hunger. It’s not disgraceful.

And obviously, we are not worse than North Korea or you wouldn’t be here saying so because you wouldn’t have access to the internet and you wouldn’t be allowed to leave the gulag if you got caught saying stuff like that. You’d be eating grass and being beaten on a daily basis.

Sheesh, people. Starved for Facts

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The Obama Portraits

The portraits are here:

I’ve read one story saying Michelle Obama chose the artists herself, several saying the Obama’s chose them together, and one or two saying he chose his, she chose hers. I don’t know which is right. But it seems clear they didn’t choose without knowing the styles of the artists they chose, and the results are likely representative of what they wanted. So it might be an interesting discussion to ask your scholars at home why they think they chose these specific black artists. They did want black artists specifically, but they could have chosen others, why these?

Here are four pieces by Amy Sherald, the artist who did Michelle Obama (the four include Michelle’s painting):

My thoughts on her choice. I like it, personally. I agree with much of the criticism that the face doesn’t really look much like her, but I feel like the coolness, the iconic yet everywoman aura is possibly what she was going for. It’s a portrait of a historical moment bigger than an indidividual woman. I could be wrong, that’s just what I think. You don’t have to share this with your kids, you want their own views, not mine. I’m just offering it as an example of one opinion. I do think Sherald’s work would have been better received had it not been unveiled side by side with the more colourful and familiar style of Wiley’s work. Again, just my opinion.

WEll, golly. AFter I wrote the above, I found this:
“I paint American people, and I tell American stories through the paintings I create,” Sherald said. “Once my paintings are complete, the models no longer live in the paintings as themselves. I see something bigger in them, something more symbolic, an archetype. I paint things I want to see. I paint as a way of looking for myself in the world.”

Here’s a short story with some information on Michelle’s dress in the portrait, and a couple chuckles about Obama trying to negotiate the number of gray hairs down (those are ‘preacher stories,’ okay? He didn’t really do that):,amp.html

Kehinde Wiley did the former President’s portrait.
Kehinde Wiley usually has botanical backgrounds in his work. IN this case, he chose “chrysanthemums referencing the official flower of Chicago, jasmine evoking his native Hawaii and African blue lilies in memory of his late father.”

You might see if you recognize any other flowers or the leaves. People are calling it ivy, but on a FB plant ID group I’m on, one of the most authoritative members said they are rose leaves. I don’t know if that’s what Wiley intended or not (maybe have a student write the artist with questions), but I think it’s kind of cool if it is, referencing the Rose Garden at the White House.

Wiley has done some previously controversial work, depicting black women holding decapitated heads of white women. That sounds… unpleasant. Maybe yes. But ther is a bit more to it than that- he does recreations, representations of older work by the masters. One of those paintings, which despite it’s grotesque subject matter I find incredibly well done and beautiful, is a recreation of an older rendition of the Apocrphyal story of Judith beheading the General Holofernes.

I’m curious about his idea behind changing the very masculine general to a woman.

As you know, I am no fan of Obama’s presidency. But this is a discussion about art, and I think it’s important to let these two pieces speak for themselves. POlitics is also part of the context, but that can be another discussion. Just try to look at these paintings distanced from the politics for a while and see what you think, especially if you’re going to look at these with your kids. Give them access to information and ideas. Let them reach their own conclusions.

You may hate them. That’s okay. Not everybody loves Caravaggio, Mondrian, Picasso, or Raphael, either.

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Media’s Asian coverage at the Olympics

Let me just say straight up that it’s an embarrassment. It’s cringe worthy. It’s ignorant. Here are some examples-

On twitter this was posted by a reporter and described as the Asians being ‘an unruly mob of counterparts. This is an interesting exercise in cross-cultural…. something. What do you see happening here?

Now possibly there’s a backstory that wasn’t clear here. But I don’t seen an unruly mob of Asians. I see belligerent American security over-reacting and acting like jerks and American press being entitled snobs. I see a typical Asian press, with polite bows and civility on the Asian side met with barking belligerence on the American side. In the comments to the post Americans double down, and one of them says something about how obviously back up means get back, reverse, and if people ignore clearly stated directions what can you do?

I really do not even know where to begin. IN which order do I take the obnoxious, tin earred, ill informed ignorance? That they are not in America, but on somebody else’s home ground as guests, and on that home-ground, English is not the norm? That ‘back up’ is not an obvious term to figure otu if you are not a native speaker, it’s one of those baffling ‘phrasal verbs’ that you just pick up by repeated exposure, not because it’s actually obvious. That the American bubble of personal space encompasses enough space to hold at least five Asians comfortably in their own bubble of personal space and this is a cultural difference that may be uncomfortable for American, but they are not in America? Which of these is most offensive and embarrassing? I don’t know.

That wasn’t even the worse, though. There was this:

NBC has had to apologize for announcing that “every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation.”

I want to know what on earth his basis was for saying that in the first place? What made him think he could speak authoritatively on what ‘every’ Korean would say, particarly when it turns out he’s saying something pretty much NO Korean would even think, let alone say? Where did he get this idea?

If I can pause to bask in proud parent complacency for a moment, 3 of my adult daughters who were watching this in real time commented on FB that they were just sure they heard him wrong because it was so dumb.

Note that the guy who said it is allegedly NBC’s “Asia correspondent.” He’s worked in China and did commentary for the Chinese games. He clearly knows worse than nothing about Korea. The problem is not just ignorance here. Thsi is important- the problem is that he thinks he knows things, and those things are not just the opposite of true, the things he thinks he knows and purports to teach the rest of us are actively wrong and extremely offensive to Koreans.

He’s been relieved of his duties with Olympic commentating. But the English Korean story where I read that notes significantly that while NBC apologized, he has not. As somebody who is purported to be knowledgable about *any* Asian culture knows, that’s a big deal. He has to know how offensive that is, even if he really was ignorant about Korean feelings about Japan. Although I still don’t understand filling in his ignorance with abjectly ignorant claims.

NBC is not exactly crowning itself with glory here-
” The U.S. television network NBC identified PyeongChang as being in North Korea in a subtitle during its broadcast of the Olympic opening ceremony. A capture of the footage went viral.

The subtitle stated, “Opening Ceremony Tonight” in a big font at the bottom of the screen, underneath which read, “PyeongChang, North Korea.” ”

The author notes: “The main broadcaster for U.S. Olympic coverage neither explained the obvious mistake nor apologized for it.”

That’s not even the worst of it. Our media is falling over themselves to propagate NOrth Korean propaganda and slaver at the feet of one of the most bloody, brutal regimes in human history.
CNN: Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics

CNN also just loves the North Korean cheerleaders without a thought for the reality that these women are probably not there by choice, are probably beaten if they don’t do well, and threatened by dire things likely to happen to any families they have back home if they don’t perform perfectly and stay in line. They can’t even speak to the media. This is the same media outraged and horrified by Trump asking for a military parade. I don’t care about the parade, either, but you cannot, really, you cannot express outrage at the latter while slobbering over the perky by force, uniformed slaves of a regime that runs gulags and shoots people trying to leave the country.

A WaPo columnist ordered Bethany Mandel to apologize for calling NOrth Korea the most brutal regime in human history. AS she pointed out, one might argue with her on the merits of the order of brutal regimes. Her reason for calling N.K. the worst has to do with the length of time its gulags full of political prisoners have stood, the number of gulags, and the percentage of deaths. One might argue that Pol Pot’s was less long lasting but more brutal- but calling for an *apology* is goose-stepping bootlicking.

Keep in mind the WaPo compares Kim Jo Yong to Ivanka Trump (they prefer Jo yong). Stacey Lennox explains what’s wrong with this picture:
“Guys, after coming out of the shadows following the death of her father this little bucket of joy has held two government jobs. She was Vice Director of the Worker’s Party Propaganda and Agitation Department. This department’s job is to ensure everyone appropriately idolizes Dear Leader. Now she is in the Organization and Guidance Department in charge of state security and the military. I would be absolutely shocked to learn she has ordered the deaths of various North Koreans (sarcasm) but by all means let’s compare her to Ivanka Trump because you hate the President.”

Read it all. You must.

Their anti-Trump hatred drives everything. It’s the only tool they have and it has rendered the into pliable, willing tools of murderous dictators.

More: Weekly standard on media’s celebrity treatment of the dictator’s sister and right hand woman in the propaganda department.

Brit Hume is right, it’s nauseating. It’s like going ga-ga over Nero’s musical talents.


If the media wants to say Trump is worse they can, but that’s why objectively, Trump is not worse. North Korea sent home a comatose American college kid they arrested, tortured, and put in a prison camp and beat him more- for stealing a poster. North Korea runs multigenerational prison camps, forces children to dig their own graves, inform on their parents, and eat grass to survive. If you think that Trump is worse than that, you have the moral compass of an orc. And yet, it seems,t hat’s exactly what we have in the media.

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Culture: Direct vs Subtle

I’ve talked about this one before, and will probably do so again because it is endlessly fascinating to me. ONe of the big differences between the west (especially the U.S.) and the east is the difference in attitudes tangled around in the web of tact vs being direct, being straight-forward vs ‘beating around the bush,’ being a shame based and thus face saving culture vs a ‘we do not shame people’ culture, etc. To westerners it really does often look like just dishonesty when they can’t get what they feel is a direct (that is, helpful) answer from easterners, and to eastern people, it looks like unspeakable rudeness when we basically refuse to take no for an answer.

It’s not actually that we refused to take no for an answer, it’s more that we didn’t understand that there was a ‘no,’ because to us, no means no, I don’t know means I don’t know.

Things that do not mean ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ to us: That will be difficult, it’s on aisle 4, yes, okay, maybe later, later, and not answering the question at all. Often these responses or similar ones are accompanied by facial expressions or gestures or body language that does enhance the meaning of ‘no,’or ‘I can’t help with that,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ But those facial expressions and gestures are generally missed by Westerners, because we’re not that subtle and we don’t really do hints. Our version of hints looks like being hit in the face with a boxing glove to easterners. Their version of hints doesn’t look like much of anything to us, because it slides right by us.

A few nights ago we had some dinner guests, and after dinner we played some silly parlour games, guessing games, the kind of games where there’s a trick, just one or two people know the trick and they have to figure it out. Our guests included one American lady around my age, she’s lived her a long time, and three young Asian males in their 20s, one Korean and 2 Filipinos.

One thing I noticed is that this crowd caught on to the ‘tells’ much more quickly than the groups of Americans we’ve played with typically do. That may not be a fair comparison since one of them is a third culture kid grown up, and having lived in and out of at least 3 different divergent cultures in his life, he’s always going to be more observant than is typical. And both the other two are really smart cookies who work with westerners so they have an edge, too, but still. WE ran through about half a dozen of these kinds of games in just a couple hours, and often when we play with a group of Americans there’s only time for one or two and we’re giving giving incredibly broad hints by the end so nobody feels left out. But maybe their unique situations had more to do with that.

However, there was one game where it turned out one of the Filipinos already knew it. IT’s the Johnny Oops game- it’s easier to show than explain, so here’s a youtube video:
Just start at around 30 seconds and watch about 10 or 15 seconds for the gist of it. Exactly how you do the fingers and the ‘Johnny Oops’ is irrelevant. It’s the arm crossing at the end that is the thing you have to notice.
At least, that’s the case in the American version.

In the Filipino version, you ever so slightly and quite naturally sort of brush the side of your nose with one finger at the end. It’s so subtle that my husband and I, even knowing exactly how the game works, were only about 75% sure that was the tell. The Filipino friend thought the arm-crossing was ridiculously obvious and overblown and nobody could fail to catch it.

He and I both share a love for and fascination with the little cultural differences that come up, so for us, this little revelation was as much fun as the games themselves.

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Mmmm, Burritoes

We had burritoes for dinner last night. I made them from my family’s traditional recipe, a tradition only about 45 years old, but they all have to start somewhere.

Living in Davao, finding the right Mexican food that fits the tastebuds of my Arizona, Sonora desert influenced and my husband’s southern California tastebuds is difficult.

I only recently discovered a grocery store that even carries refried beans, a key ingredient. I haven’t even seen pinto or kidney beans, canned or dried. I’m sure they are around here somewhere, but when I have to take a cab to go grocery shopping, my options are limited.

So, in order to make burritoes for dinner:
I call ahead to my Korean friend and Dong-Gap Minha’s Filipina household help, Rosaline, and order tortillas- she needs at least 24 hours notice, sometimes 72 hours. They cost about the same as in the states, but they are worth every penny.

I plan ahead and on Monday or Wednesday have my own helper pick up peppers and red onions from the palingke (open air market under a big roof, not that open air, very smelly and sometimes slippery) and possibly 2 kg of minced beef at the meat market. The peppers may or may not be spicy, I haven’t been able to make my wants clear on this.

Go to Gaisano, or G-mall, where I seldom go because they are glitzier and more expensive but they are my ownly source for refried beans and good salsa. There is a Philippine brand of salsa at another store I shop at more regularly but the spicy version is not at all spicy, it’s super sweet and gross to my palate. What we’ve decided to do is buy something like ten jars and cans each at a time because otherwise, it’s not worth it to go back just for the salsa and refried beans.

Buy cheese at the mall where I usually shop (all grocery stores are in malls). Its pretty expensive as cheese goes, but it’s just the two of us, so I splurge. Sometimes I buy sour cream. IT comes in a container the size of individual yogurts at home and costs around three or four dollars. I don’t always buy it. I also buy tomato sauce in foil pouches because metals are more expensive here, and there is an emphasis on lightweight containers. I could buy the meat and vegetables there, too, but they will cost a lot more.

Then, a couple days after the last of these supplies has been brought in, I get up at 6 a.m. to chop the vegetables and fry them with the meat, and maybe dice tomatoes and extra onions, and grate the cheese and put it back in the fridge. I do that this early because I prefer to do those things when it’s only 90 degrees in the house instead of 100. I exaggerate- it’s been in the mid-80s a lot lately. Then in the evening, I roll the burritoes and serve them tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and sometimes guacamole on the side, depending on the season.

You can see we are desperately hungry for famliar Mexican food. One does not simply have an urge to eat certain food and fix it by suppertime, unless it’s pretty basic. Even a lot of Filipino dishes require some advance planning. More likely, people go to the market and make plans for meals based on rice and what’s at the market for a good price.

It’s a bit inconvenient and we’d save time and money if we did without the burritoes. On the other hand, you never really understand just how valuable a taste from home is until you’ve been without it. No matter how much I love fresh shrimp, kinilaw, crispy kang kong, and green mango shakes, sometimes nothing but a cheese tortilla will do. And also, a good avocado costs about 60 cents or less right now because they are in season. So there’s that..=)

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