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Three years ago, when Diana and I were kicking around book ideas, there was one that rose to the top for us, one we thought was pure gold. Its working title was: “How to Raise a Child Prodigy.” Although neither of us were prodigies–a fact that filled us both with regret–and neither of us were parents yet, we felt qualified to write the book anyway, because we were products of Hardass Asian Parenting, which was no different, in our minds, from Prodigy Parenting (see: the long, ever-expanding list of Asian prodigies). Plus, we imagined the book as a way to talk about what it’s like to be Asian American without getting heavy, a way to laugh at ourselves, something honest but still tongue-in-cheek. Of course there would be some non-Asians, aspirational parents in particular, who would buy the book for parenting tips and take it seriously…suckas!
Only we never wrote it. We started it as a blog, set to private, but didn’t get beyond a couple of entries. In hindsight, our lack of follow-through shines a light on two rather important details: 1) why we weren’t prodigies in the first place and 2) why we weren’t qualified at all to write the book. During that time, we did manage to bang out a long list of child-rearing ideas, ideas we’d been exposed to personally that we planned to explore in our little parenting guide. A selection of those ideas appears below, from a document dated March 2008:
Filed under: Amy Chua, Amy Chua Tiger Mother, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Books, Chinese Mothers, Chinese Parenting, Failed Prodigies, Hardass Asian Moms, Hardass Asian Mothers, Hardass Asian Parenting, Hardass Asian Parents, Memoirs, Mothers and Daughters, Parenting Books, Parents, Polarizing Figures, Prodigies, Tiger Mothers, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior Wall Street Journal
Happy 28th birthday today to pro boarder Jerry Hsu!
This dude is the reason that Diana rides an Enjoi skateboard (poorly; with near-catastrophic drop-in attempts under her belt). Known fondly as Asian Elvis, he is not only a skate prodigy but a pretty sweet photographer, and one of our heroes.
Here’s hoping he ends up passed out in a pile of his own birthday vomit tonight! It’s the only way to celebrate.
Jen and I not particularly well-versed in the goings-on of the International piano competition community (Sorry, Moms), so we hadn’t heard of the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition–a prestigious classical piano showdown that occurs every three years in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan–until we read about its newly-anounted champion today.
South Korea’s Cho Seung-jin took first prize in the 7th Annual competition, a two-week affair that culminated today, making him the first-ever Asian person to nab the top honor (All winners since the contest’s 1991 inception have been European) of the Asia-based tournament.
OH. He’s also 15.
So he’s the youngest-ever winner of the competition. And our Hardass Asian Parents’ wet dream.
Cho typically practices piano for three to four hours a day (six during heavy competition), and what we love about him is that he seems to be both a consummate professional and fun, dreamy, adorably innocent kid.
The Korea Times pulled this excerpt from the judges’ interpretation of his second-round performance, depicting the nuance and wisdom of a veteran:
Filed under: Cho Seung-Jin, Everybody Loves a Winner, Exceptional Young People, First Asian, Hamamatsu International Piano Competition, Hardass Asian Parents, Japan, Music, Musical Geniuses, Piano, Piano Lessons Are Required, Prodigies, Teen Wonders, Youngest-Ever
It’s always kind of amazing when a six-year old can do something extraordinary (besides touch their head while rubbing their tummy, draw stick people with actual hands instead of circles with lines popping out, or conquer every level of the Nintendo DS Lego Indiana Jones game during one single drive upstate). We love ourselves some prodigies.
So when reader Carlo tipped us off to Miko Andres, a 6-year old wunderkind from the Philippines that has already earned the honor of world’s youngest sharp shooter, we were intrigued.
First of all, guns scare me shitless, and always have. So do children (in a different way), because they’re cute, yet wiggly and so easy to drop and/or lose. The combination of the two–a gun and a kid–even in theory, was almost more than I could bear.
But here’s little Miko showcasing his talents:
Pretty bonkers, right? It’s definitely amazing, but I can’t stop freaking out throughout the entire video, thinking: What if he has some uncontrollable child fit in the middle of a trigger-pull? What if he drops that thing on the floor and shots some wild bullets into the sky? What if he gets angry at his parents when he turns thirteen and starts saying things like, ‘Mom, if you don’t make me dinner right now I swear to God I’m gonna bust a cap on your ass. And you know I can, so chop chop!’
That would be weird.
And okay, maybe not that likely.
And listen, if the parents are okay with it, I guess I should be cool, too.
From an interview with Telegraph:
“Safety is of the utmost importance,” [Miko's father] says, adding his son was having guidance and help from a range of shooting institutions to try and prevent accidents… “As a parent, I too am worried about the dangers of the sport. Accidents and injuries might happen in the course of the sport and that is always a concern.
Safety first! It’s always good to know that young sharp shooters’ parents have their priorities in order.
He added: “Here he is, the youngest practical shooter the world has ever known… Miko is very young but is determined to excel in the practical shooting sport.”
And as my parents always say: if you’re the best, first, or youngest person to do something, it really doesn’t matter how fucking safe you are! Keep up the good work!
Happy 57th birthday.
Diana and Jen
Is it wrong to have a crush on a 12 year-old kid? If so, we don’t want to be right.
We don’t know if Kevin Lin is going to grow up to be a burnout raver or the next Spielberg, but we’ll be keeping an eye on him. You can, too, here.
Why is some asshole young’un always stealing my gosh-darned thunder?
First it was that little tramp* that beat me to the punch on a landmark Jewsian Bat Mitzvah–complete with glorious photos and full NYT coverage.
Now, it’s some little brat* that’s trying to beat me out on my dream of making my mark as the second coming of Neil Peart.
Um, trying…rather, er, successfully.
*Not actually a tramp. Actually the most adorable little Jewess you ever did see.
*Not actually a brat. Actually a total freakin’ genius and my hero.
Michelle Wie turns 20 this weekend, which means she’ll be one year too old to be considered a provocative “teen athlete” with “lots of potential,” and one step further away from being a young prodigy. Not to be a buzzkill or anything–that’s just what our moms said to us when WE turned twenty. It sucked!
Hails from: Fujian, China
Occupation: Olympic beach volleyball player
Why She’s a Babe: Although we don’t count ourselves as beach volleyball fans, NBC has been shoving it down our throats, so if we have to watch it all day long, we’d prefer to look at Xue Chen. Like most women in her profession, the 19 year-old has a sick, sick body. She’s lean, muscular, over 6 feet tall, and has a perfect ass. We also love that she’s really tan in a society that generally prizes light skin (because it’s a class indicator), yet she’s still regarded as a beauty. In fact, Xue’s nickname is the “Ice Beauty,” which leads us to believe that she’s something of a bitch, and guess what? We are, too, and bitches gotta stick together.
Thanks in large part to our Hardass Parents, Asians looove a headstart. I was potty-trained and walking at 11 months and talking in complete sentences by age 2 (I also, apparently, had a serious boyfriend in preschool); I learned to add and subtract at 3 and picked up geometry and algebra around 8 or 9. I thought I was pretty hot shit in the child development-department until I met Diana, who learned to read at 2, started kindergarten at 3, graduated high school at 16, and had a real job by age 20. (Bitch!)
I was reminded of the value Asians place on precociousness when I read today that two female Chinese gymnasts may be too young to compete in the Olympics (the minimum age is 16). Chinese officials were quick to say that the gymnasts, He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan, are both 16, despite online records that list their age as 14. Even more curious is the fact that China’s government-run newspaper, the China Daily, ran a story in May heralding the arrival of “14-year-old newcomer” He Kexin, a gold medal favorite in the uneven bars.
But it was only after reading He’s Wikipedia page, which says that the eensy-beensy gymnast:
- Has already won two World Cup titles on the uneven bars this year
- Is “one of the few gymnasts in the world to score over 17.00 under the current Code of Points”
- Has one of the highest difficulty scores in the world in the uneven bars
…that I started to wonder. Given that most gymnasts are considered “old” at 18 and younger girls tend to compete better and do the most outrageous tricks because they have no sense of failure or mortality (Nadia Comaneci was 14 when she scored the first perfect 10 at the ’76 Games), I gotta think that THOSE GIRLS ARE SO TOTALLY NOT 16. At some point, the ambivalence creeps in, you don’t think you’re such hot shit anymore, and, of course, you want to get laid. Maybe that explains why I was better at geometry at 8 than I was at 14?
Huan Hsu’s dense dissection of his disaffection for International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Michael Chang in Slate magazine resulted in mixed reader reactions this week. Some found him a pathetic self-loather, others believed he was proudly daring to be different. Or maybe he was just a contrarian writing for Slate, trying to rack up page views by being “the one Asian guy on earth willing to hate Michael Chang.” Wooo fucking hoo!
We found his piece to be… sad.
Now, we don’t fault Hsu for loving Edberg and Sampras more than Chang, or for salting his own childhood tennis game to get people to stop comparing him to the champion of Prince. We’re even a bit fascinated by Hsu’s dwelling on Chang’s physicality, his preoccupasian with male body inferiority (especially because we can’t find a picture of the tough-guy writer anywhere online).
And while his accusasians that Chang–by virtue of being a studious, determined, straight-laced player, somehow perpetuated negative Asian stereotypes–confuses us, we are even more boggled by how determined Hsu is that those qualities are intrinsically bad. Outlasting a tennis opponent with endurance is bad. Getting a degree after retiring is bad. What else is bad, then, we wonder: Valedictorian caps? High-paying jobs? Gold medals? Nice cars? Rice?
All we know is that for someone with such a steel opposition against stereotypical values, he sure does a bang-up job of showing his Hardass Asian True Colors: Hsu spends the latter half of the piece insisting that although Chang was once a prodigious champion, he wasn’t really champion enough or for long enough. And he didn’t bang a hot enough woman at the end of it all to convince Hsu that he too could get some sweet, Anglo poonanie (we’re not so sure he will) one day.
Jeez. Our parents have challenged us on some similar points before (“You used to be a genius” more so than “You should be getting laid), but um, we think it may have actually sounded a bit nicer. A lot, actually.
Sungha Jung makes us weep with joy. Is there anyone out there as talented as this boy? He seems to be spiritually one with his axe. How in the world could he slip through the cracks? Look at the way he interprets U2. Now take some time to hear all the songs that he do!