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Super Bowl Sunday Hangover: Groupon’s Good Deeds

February 7th, 2011 | 2 comments | Posted by Jen

Guys, seriously, Groupon did a good thing, okay? Because after they aired that Super Bowl ad about Tibetans-being-oppressed-but-who-gives-a-shit-when-we-can-save-money (above), we’re actually talking about Tibet today. And when’s the last time anyone talked about Tibet? At a Bjork concert in 2008? Groupon’s made Tibet hip to talk about again! I mean, sure, talk is cheap, but so are things you buy with Groupons!

Also: Groupon actually aired that ad out of the goodness of their hearts, and are tying the ad to The Tibet Fund, where they’ll match your donations up to $100,000. (Never mind that, by comparison, their Super Bowl spots cost them $3 million.) That’s like giving a dime for every Tibetan who’s died in their political struggle with China over the last 60 years. 10 cents per human life, talk about bargains!

The other good deed Groupon performed? Relegating an ongoing political struggle for self-rule and religious freedom to a “noble cause” in line with whale and rainforest-saving. And we all know that “noble cause” is code for “bumper sticker cause” or “t-shirt cause,” which means we can all buy the bumper sticker or t-shirt for the cause–with a Groupon, I dare hope–and then stop thinking about the noble cause altogether. Oh hell, Continue reading Super Bowl Sunday Hangover: Groupon’s Good Deeds

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AMAZIANS OF THE WEEK! Tibetans The Fastest Evolved Humans EVAR

July 6th, 2010 | 1 comment | Posted by Jen

Okay, first the good news: Tibetans are superhuman!

Tibetan pilgrims–or hipsters?

About 3,000 years ago, when Tibetans split off from the Han Chinese, they developed a unique ability to survive in altitudes above 13,000 feet, where oxygen levels are 40% lower, a genetic change a recent study cites as the fastest ever observed in humans.

Now, for the bad: “For such a very strong change, a lot of people would have had to die simply due to the fact that they had the wrong version of a gene,” said Rasmus Nielsen, a professor of integrative biology at Berkeley who led the statistical analysis.

This may not come as a surprise to anyone nominally aware of Tibetan history, which has been marked by struggle and loss. On that note, today marks the 75th birthday of the Dalai Lama.

Happy birthday, Your Holiness!

[CNN: Tibetan DNA study reveals human evolution]

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Happy Year Of The Tiger! (Or Is It?)

February 15th, 2010 | 12 comments | Posted by Jen


It’s the Year of the Tiger, the motto of which is “I Win.” The sign is considered one of bravery, thought to scare away all of those things you’d read about in an Amy Tan novel, like fire, thieves, and ghosts. Also, the tiger is one sexy beast, way more appealing than 2009′s fat lumbering ox. Sounds pretty auspicious, right?

Maybe too auspicious to be true. Because while the Year of the Tiger may look awesome on the surface, it could wind up being, to quote the movie Clueless (RIP Brit Murphy), a full-on Monet–okay from far away, but close-up, a “big ol’ mess.” Here are reasons not to go rawr!:

Continue reading Happy Year Of The Tiger! (Or Is It?)

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BIRTHDAY CELEBRASIAN! The People’s Republic of China

October 1st, 2009 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

October 1, 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. For many Chinese around the world, this day is without a doubt a joyous occasion, as they celebrate how far the Mother Ship has come in the last 60 years, from a fragmented political state torn apart by colonialism and civil war in the years leading up to the PRC’s founding, to the mighty powerhouse it is today, boasting the world’s third largest and fastest-growing economy. It’s virtually impossible, in fact, to talk about China’s many achievements in the year 2009 without invoking the words “biggest” and “best.” (How about them Olympics last year?!)

Fireworks over Mao, Shandong Province, October 1, 2009 (Getty Images)

But forgive me if I don’t bust out the party–or should I say “Party” as in Communist Party?–noisemakers. Because 2009 also marks the 60th anniversary of my family’s forced exodus from China. Somewhere in Guangdong Province, in my father’s ancestral village, there’s a book with 20+ generations of Wangs recorded in it, and, for my particular branch of the family, it ends with my father and his siblings. So today doesn’t feel like a birthday so much as a death day, the end of my bloodline as it existed in one place and one place only, for centuries.

For other people who feel ambivalent about the PRC’s 60th birthday, like the Tibetan protesters gathered outside the Empire State Building Wednesday night who objected to it being lit up red and yellow, or the Chinese dissidents silenced in mental hospitals and jails, or the student leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests (which also had an anniversary this year, its 20th), their grievances against the PRC are much more immediate. Let’s not forget, the Chinese government still has a lousy human-rights record. Against its own people. You know, the People to whom the Republic of China allegedly belongs?

I’m not going to totally piss on the PRC’s birthday though. Because the thing is, if my family hadn’t ended up on the losing end of a civil war and been forced to flee so that the People’s Republic of China could come into being, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this. And even if I had still somehow found my way into this world but been born and raised in China like all of my ancestors, I know I couldn’t be writing this.


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Memphis Mayor Fist-Bumps The Dalai Lama And Prevents Not One But Two Epidemics

September 24th, 2009 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery fist-bumped the Dalai Lama Wednesday, when His Holiness was in town to accept an award at the National Civil Rights Museum. According to Lowery, the greeting was pre-approved, and though it was reported that the Dalai Lama had no problem with it, not everyone appreciated the gesture.

So much so that Lowery felt compelled to explain why he gave a pound to the Dalai Lama, over at CNN. Ever since a co-worker came down with the H1N1 virus a few weeks ago, Lowery wrote, hand sanitizer, sleeve-sneezing, and fist-bumping have been his thing.

Unwittingly, by preventing the spread of one epidemic, Lowery also dodged another:

The Prayer Hands Epidemic and a few of its sufferers: Johnny Depp, Wesley Snipes, and Jennifer Garner

And for that, Mayor Lowery, I salute you.

*punches it in*

[CNN: Why I fist-bumped the Dalai Lama]
[DISGRASIAN: What a (Racial) Drag: Buddhist Prayer Hands]
[How to Greet the Dalai Lama]

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Uihere Uiill the Uighurs Go?

June 1st, 2009 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

So, here’s the deal. There are these 17 Uighurs (or Uyghurs, pronounced “wee-grr”), right? They’re part of a Muslim minority group who come from the far-western province of Xinjiang, China. And they’ve been detained at Guantanamo for the last 6 years after getting rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the course of that time, it’s been determined that they aren’t enemy combatants–enemies of the U.S. or our allies–nor is there significant evidence demonstrating that they’re any kind of threat, nor do they have ties to al Qaeda. They have been cleared for release and are free to go. But if they return home to China, they’ll likely be tortured and persecuted. Like Tibetans, Uighurs have suffered plenty of human rights-abuses at the hands of the Chinese government but received far less attention for them, probably because they believe in a religion that scares people instead of one that, say, attracts a beautiful Hollywood following. While the 17 Uighurs have petitioned for asylum in the U.S., they’ve been denied twice, most recently by Obama.

Ever the dickish troll, Newt Gingrich has said that the Uighurs are not an “American problem,” despite the fact that they have been unlawfully detained by our government for the last 6 years. So whose problem are they? And uihere in the uiorld uiill the Uighurs go now?

[NY Times: Chinese Inmates at Guantánamo Pose a Dilemma]


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April 27th, 2009 | 0 comments | Posted by Diana

Name: Woeser

Age: 42

Occupation: Poet, Essayist, Blogger

Known for: quietly fighting the good fight. Woeser, who was profiled last weekend in the New York Times, is the daughter of a Tibetan mother and half-Han Chinese army general (schooled in Mandarin, she is one of the few Tibetan writers to speak in Chinese).

The Chinese government condemns her books, four of Woeser’s blogs have been blocked or hacked by authorities, and her family and friends have experienced detainment and questioning for disseminating her information–yet still she continues to blog. Her site, “Invisible Tibet,” has become a reliable source of Tibetan news for those who can scale The Great Firewall, and she recently published the book “Forbidden Memory” in Taiwan, which shares her father’s photos of the Cultural Revolution.

Despite the level of danger she faces on a daily basis, Woeser keeps on speaking, hoping enough people will eventually hear.

[NYT: A Tibetan Blogger, Always Under Close Watch, Struggles for Visibility]
[Invisible Tibet]

Thanks, Dave!

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Grass-Mud Hydrasian

March 13th, 2009 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

A day after the New York Times wrote a story about the grass-mud horse video that’s become a subversive protest of censorship and authoritarianism in China, the original video, which had garnered 1.4 million hits, was removed from YouTube. If you click on the url for the video, you get the standard YouTube removal message: “This video has been removed by the user.” Of course, since we’re talking about a video that fucks with the Chinese government, you can’t help but worry that “the user,” too, has been “removed,” in the way that the Tibetan Panchen Lama was removed and has not been seen nor heard from in the last 14 years since he was named successor to the Dalai Lama.

But the beauty of the internet is that it functions like a Hydra. If you cut off one of its heads, two will spring back in its place. As soon as the original grass-mud horse video was taken down, three more were uploaded right back onto YouTube. YouTube is owned by Google, which has been accused–along with Microsoft and Yahoo!–of aiding the Chinese government with online censorship, but how long can that last when The People keep finding new ways to be heard?


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Casting A Wide Yet Narrow Net

October 21st, 2008 | 0 comments | Posted by Diana

Intern Jasmine, always supporting my future big break on the big screen, just sent me a notice for a part in a movie!

Imagine my dismay when I realized that the audition call date had passed–because I AM between the ages of TWENTY AND SEVENTY (aren’t most of us?).

Sadly, though, I’m not fluent in Nepalese or Tibetan.

Well, I’m fluent. Just not fluent-fluent.


Thanks, Jasmine!

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Perez Hilton Hates Yellow People

July 24th, 2008 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

Ever wonder how an internet meme gets started? Or, for that matter, how it then spreads and metastasizes until it becomes accepted fact?

Over the last week, we’ve seen one particular meme develop about China: “China Hates Black People” (courtesy of Perez Hilton).

This idea didn’t, however, originate with Perez Hilton. It started last Friday with a story in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, “Authorities order bars not to serve black people,” which alleged that Chinese government authorities were secretly planning to ban blacks from bars during the Olympic games. Reporter Tom Miller based the story on the claim of one anonymous source:

“Uniformed Public Security Bureau officers came into the bar recently and told me not to serve black people or Mongolians,” said the co-owner of a western-style bar, who asked not to be named.

Then Miller quoted another unnamed source, a “black British national who lives in Beijing,” to further shore up the story:

“Chinese people are prejudiced, but I would have hoped that the government would set a better example as it debuts on the world stage.”

The story was then picked up by legitimate news sources like Reuters, The Globe and Mail, and The Age, and that was before it hit the blog-o-sphere. Four days later, around the same time that the Chinese government officially denied that such a ban existed, Perez Hilton posted the story, et voila…a meme is born. In the two days since and at the time of this writing, 649 comments have been made about Perez’s post, and many of them are loaded with xenophobia, racism, and hate, and not just for the Chinese:

Look. There are plenty of reasons to distrust the Chinese government and not believe a word it says. Free speech does not exist there, dissidents are routinely jailed and silenced, and the government doesn’t pretend to be a democracy. We’re all pretty familiar with its suppressive tactics. Just ask Tibet. As a first-generation Chinese-American, I was raised with a healthy dose of suspicion when it comes to China’s government, because it was the Communists, after all, who chased both sides of my family out of the country, tried to kill my great-grandfather, tossed my great-grandmother into a labor camp for the rest of her life, almost killed my father (the bomb that dropped next to him was, fortunately, a dud), took away my mother’s ancestral home, made one of my uncles a permanent invalid, and generally devastated the lives of everyone I’m related to. My experience teaching in China after I got out of college only confirmed my feelings that this was a country where you couldn’t talk freely and you had to toe the party line and the government had ultimate power.

But I find this story about China banning blacks from bars during the Olympics–and how little it’s been substantiated–very difficult to swallow. China has strong ties to Africa, some of them a bit too strong for my taste (just ask Sudan). Beijing is an international city filled with foreigners. Of course, you will find Chinese people who are prejudiced, racist, and xenophobic. Some of them are my relatives! (During my year-stint there, I met a lovely older teacher who told me he was “afraid of blacks” even though he had never actually met a black person. And where did he get this idea? American movies.)

Kudos to the Shanghaiist for following up the South China Morning Post‘s story with a considerable debunking and especially to Beijing Boyce (“A Somewhat Young China Hand on the Local Drinking Scene”), who did some actual reporting on this and hit many bars in Beijing after the story broke, painting a drastically different picture from the one in the Hong Kong paper.

Still, the Chinese are great at keeping secrets (just ask Calgon). So if this turns out to be true, you know that Diana and I will be first in line to shame the shit out of my mother ship. But, in the meantime, the idea that “China Hates Black People” is out there and, sadly, although it was intended as a commentary on racism, it’s only served to stir up more.

(To contact Perez Hilton, email


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SPORTS ILLUSTRASIAN: The Power of Prayer Hands

May 8th, 2008 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee expanded upon its protest guidelines (Rule 51.3 of the Olympic charter) governing athletes participating in the Summer Games. Rule 51.3 states:

“No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

The IOC’s addendum elaborated on what qualifies as a protest “demonstration” or “propaganda”:

“…all actions, reactions, attitudes or manifestations of any kind by a person or group of persons, including but not limited to their look, external appearance, clothing, gestures, and written or oral statements.”

In other words, chanting “Free Tibet!” or wearing the Dalai Lama’s Muppet-like mug on a t-shirt will not be permitted. There is, however, a way to circumvent Rule 51.3, if one were so inclined. It’s something that I couldn’t have imagined serving any purpose until now.

International symbol of vague spirituality? Yes.
Annoying Hollywood trend? Affirmative.
Political gesture? Not at first glance.

Who knew that Prayer Hands–pardon the pun–could come in so handy?


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Caught in the Middle Kingdom

April 18th, 2008 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

Leave this poor girl alone.

Thanks, Charles!

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