Tuesday, December 30, 2003

College Bowl Season


As a UCLA alum, of course I'm rooting for my team in the little known Silicon Valley Bowl against Fresno State. I just hope it doesn't turn into a dismal night as the Bruins have shown little offensive punch and the defense can get worn down being out on the field so long.

Tonight, is the Holiday Bowl with WSU vs. Texas. It would sure be great if the Pac10 can smoke them Longhorns.

Other big games of interest to me are the Fiesta with KSU taking on OSU. I'll be rooting for KSU to poke the Big10 in the eye with a win there.

In the Sugar Bowl, I have to go with the underdog LSU to maul the Oklahoma Sooners. That team was thinking itself the team of the ages and well they deserved to get beat up against KSU and they deserve another one for their sin of pride and arrogance.

And finally, the tough one is the Rose Bowl. As a UCLA alum it is hard to root for USC. However, as an observer of sports and a reasonable objective one, USC should be able to defeat UM. However, if UM is able to control the clock with a running game it will get very exciting. Also, if the UM defense is able to knockdown the USC QB and make him run for his life then they will have a good shot at winning. The problem all year was that USC QB could stand tall behind the O-line and had all the time in the world to look for his big and fast receivers so they just blew everybody out. If the game goes that way UM will just be another speed bump in the USC bandwagon.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Beagle may be lost


The news from the Beagle Mars project doesn't look good. A third attempt to contact the lander has failed and hope is fading. There will be some more attempts. Except:

There are 13 further scheduled transmissions before the probe goes into emergency auto-transmit mode. The next chance to detect it was set for 2 a.m. EST on Saturday.
...............
But Mars is a formidable foe with a track record of wrecking pioneering space missions. Of the previous 11 probes dropped on to the planet's surface, only three have survived and it is estimated that around two in every three Russian and U.S. missions to Mars have been whole or partial failures.

Mission scientists say Beagle 2 might have been blown off course by dust clouds and storms which sweep the surface of Mars. Alternatively, its antennae might be pointing in the wrong direction for the rocket to pick up its signal.

The worst-case scenario is that it disintegrated on landing or burned up as it hurtled toward the planet's surface.

The war on terror


With the orange alert here in the USA and various terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv (the unfortunately all too common feature of Israeli life), Iraqi ambushes and attempts on the life of Pakistan's president Mushareef my ears are always alert to the latest news.

Here is some good news as the Turkish government was able to catch some of the Al Qaeda operating in Istanbul.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A Tale of Two Basketball Programs


I attended UCLA as an undergraduate during some lean times for the basketball program. I have to say it didn't get as bad as it did last year. I attended UC Irvine for graduate school and the team more or less did nothing. The biggest news would be upsetting UNLV but that was it. I think one year the team lost 20 games.

Well, this year's Bruins aren't expected to do much. Getting to the NCAA would exceed expectations. An NIT bid is possible and probably would be accepted by the team if offered. The high water mark so far was the win over Michigan State on the day the court was dedicated to Nell and John Wooden. The other was the good effort against Kentucky. Victories over Vermont, Riverside and LMU were not very impressive but they got the W which is something they didn't do much of last year. UCLA plays 18 Pac10 games and if they can finish 10-8 in conference, people will be hailing Howland as a genius.

The Anteaters got in some good games in pre-season. Mid-major programs stuggle to get good teams to play them in the pre-conference schedule. They got to play Pac10 teams (Stanford and California) which is a good test for the Eaters even though they lost those two games. They got two nice wins against Princeton and Pepperdine which are notible teams that aren't in a power conference (Pac10, SEC, Big10, Big12, Big East, ACC). Utah State and UCSB are the strong teams in the Big West Conference. A 12-6 record in the Big West would be realistic for the Zots.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

American Experience: The Chinese Story


Today was the grand opening of the Chinese-American Museum of Los Angeles. It was a long time in the making and it is great to see it finally happen.

I went to college in an era when ethnic studies was just beginning. My biochemistry major didn't allow for many general education classes. Alas, Asian studies was not on my list of classes I took.

I think there is a place for understanding one's cultural background. Like most people, it is a mix of good and bad and I have to blend it all with my life of being born in the USA yet visibly being an ethnic minority. It has only been in the last decade or so that I learned that Chinese were not well treated by America in the past. However, today, by-in-large, Chinese in America have made incredible progress and we find ourselves with a place in the American family and in positions of power and prestige.

There will continue to be a place for lobby groups with an ethnic flavor because groups that are small in number can be overlooked by the majority. However, what irks me is when those groups appeal to fear and overstate the problems. I personally don't like to assume racism at the outset. Perhaps some would believe me naive to think this way. However, as a matter of personal practice, I just don't like the idea of assuming racism when there isn't any. I don't get that kind of thinking. Why expend energy expecting the worst in people?

There was a time for Chinese when assuming the worst was the safest course of action. But I live NOW, TODAY, HERE. Does that mindset fit the reality I live in?

Aside from assuming racism exists when there might not be any, the other thing that burns me up is when there are attacks from within one's ethnic group. When I hear some in the black community say that Colin Powell and Condi Rice are traitors to their race, I think, have you lost your mind? Where does that kind of muddle-headed thinking come from?

The Asian community isn't nearly as vocal but there is the whispered slur of Twinkie and Banana.

In my mind, as Dennis Prager likes to quote Viktor Frankl, "There are only two types of people, the decent and the indecent."

I'll finish off this post by going to today's LA Times where there was an essay by a Chinese American. I appreciated the writer's honesty. He pointed out where there were problems with how Chinese were treated. But he also pointed out the progress. Excerpts:
In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred my grandfather and tens of thousands of Chinese from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens and kept others out altogether. Its preamble says, "The coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities." A poster of that era depicted a Chinese man eating a rat, with the slogan, "They must go."

The law, which was amended or modified every 10 years, later included Asians from other nations. On Dec. 17, 1943, at President Roosevelt's urging, Congress partly repealed the law but still limited the number of Chinese who could immigrate to this country to 105 a year. It wasn't until 1965 that this nation finally put immigration from both Asia and Europe on an equal footing.

Growing up in New Orleans during World War II, I had a less ambivalent view of the U.S. than my grandfather. I was proud of my dad because he worked for Higgins Industries and helped to design and to build the landing craft that delivered Allied troops on the beaches at Normandy on D-day and the Pacific islands.
...........
It's astounding how few Americans -- even in high places -- know about this ugly chapter in our history. I asked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recently if he would support an effort to win posthumous U.S. citizenship for Chinese and other Asian Americans who fought in the Civil War.

"Anyone who has served this country with valor should be recognized," McCain said. Then he asked why it had taken so long to apply for citizenship for these veterans. When I told him about the exclusion laws, the senator seemed stunned.

I told him one of his constituents, Sharon O'Connor of Tucson, was the great-granddaughter of one of those Civil War veterans. Edward Day Cohota, also known as Sing Loo of Shanghai, China, was in the Civil War. He served a total of 30 years and tried unsuccessfully until his death in 1935 to become a U.S. citizen.
.............
The Chinese have contributed much to this country, but the laws prevented them from doing more. Many of the history textbooks have little or no information about the challenges these people faced or tell of their accomplishments.

The Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles, which opens today, will help illuminate some of this history and illustrate how Chinese Americans helped to build a better nation. I'm confident that if Grandfather Chu Lin were alive today he would say, "Much more needs to be done, but America has changed for the better. I'm happy that I brought my family here."

Taking the last line and adjusting it for myself, "I'm happy that my ancestors brought our family here."

Monday, December 15, 2003

Sullivan's comment today


Lots of news and comment out there about the Hussein capture. Here is one that had some perspective. Excerpts:

It is not for us to understand fully what these people were put through. At a moment like this, when we can see fully and clearly the evil that existed for so long - evil that we in the past did our part to maintain - it is important simply to recall the dead and their loved ones. Think of every moment when some poor soul believed he was about to die, every moment spent in hellish prisons, every person tortured beyond imagining, every child dumped in a mass grave, every person of faith treated as an enemy of the state. To watch the perpetrator of this extraordinary evil brought low - into a rat-hole in the ground - is a privilege. It happens rarely. It is a moment when some kind of cosmic justice breaks through the clouds, and all the petty wrangling and mistakes and political jockeying fall away in the face of liberation from inescapable fear and terror and brutality. It was a day of joy. Nothing remains to be said right now. Joy.

Indeed.

Hopefully, there will be more days down the road that will mark the return of normalcy to the Iraqi people. This is probably the third moment. The first was the night the air attacks began. The second was the day the big Hussein statue in Baghdad was brought down. This would be the third moment.

I suppose another moment will be the public trial of Hussein by the Iraqi people and probable execution. Another will be when an Iraqi elected government takes office. And finally, when normalcy is truly there: the time when Iraqi won't be news and people go to Iraq as tourists and a proud people can show off their nation to the rest of the world.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

News flash: Hussein Captured!


Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2003 05:25:06 -0500
From: CNN Breaking News
To: TEXTBREAKINGNEWS@CNNIMAIL12.CNN.COM
Reply-to: newseditor@MAIL.CNN.COM
Subject: CNN Breaking News
-- U.S. forces capture a number of wanted Iraqis in Tikrit, possibly including former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials say. Identities still being confirmed.
========
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2003 07:15:06 -0500
From: CNN Breaking News
To: TEXTBREAKINGNEWS@CNNIMAIL12.CNN.COM
Reply-to: newseditor@MAIL.CNN.COM
Subject: CNN Breaking News
-- U.S. officials confirm former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein captured. ========

Read about it here.

Now, that is what I call wonderful news and a good step forward for the future and freedom of the Iraqi people.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Frum: Gore endorses Dean to revive Gore chances in 2008


An interesting take from NRO's Frum can be seen here. Excerpt:

It’s already easy to predict the Democratic party’s after-action reports on 2004: “We got pushed way too far to the extremes, especially on national security issues, by a candidate who lacked national experience and was foisted on us by a bunch of white college kids who didn’t know anything and didn’t care anything about the economic problems of our voting base.”

Sometime after November 2004, a candidate who hails from the border South, served in Vietnam, appeals to black voters, accumulated a long record on national security issues, held the country’s second-highest office, was associated with the longest economic expansion in the country’s history, and proved himself a popular vote-getter in three national elections will begin to look good to his fellow-Democrats, never mind the Florida recount.

So Gore needs to speed his party toward the cataclysm – and if he can win new friends on the party’s left and look like a good sport while greasing the skids, all the better.

It’s very striking that the party’s two frontrunners for 2008, Gore and Hillary Clinton, are both borrowing pages from the old Richard Nixon playbook. Hillary is reinventing herself just as the “new Nixon” did in 1968; Gore meanwhile is following exactly the same plan for 2004 that Nixon adopted in 1964, when he made sympathetic noises toward Goldwater while complacently watching his successor lead his party to the worst debacle in its post-Depression history.

I could never be a politician and think that many steps ahead so I got to give him credit even if I didn't vote for him in 2000 nor would I in 2008.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Big Media Likes Bad News From Iraq?


Did you know there were anti-terrorism rallies in Iraq? If it were not for the blogosphere, the story would not be told. Instapundit wonders why big print media is not covering the story?

Instapundit rounds it up here and here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Language: culture and reality


One of the nice things about having friends who are in the performing arts is that I get to be exposed to events I would ordinarily not hear about.

The other day I had the chance to see Brian Friel's "Translations" at the Crossley Terrace Theatre.

In the world of drama, there are only a finite number of story devices and each movie, play, novel or whatever have some variant on familiar concepts. Indeed, Translations has a love triangle where two of the characters are hopelessly star crossed, tensions within a family, in this case, a father and his two sons, and the struggle of the old versus the new.

In this play, these threads were woven in the small fictional Irish town of Ballybeg at the beginning of England's take over of Ireland. The event that sets the play in motion was the arrival of the British military whose job was to rename everything in English for maps. Thus, language became the fault line for the story arc of the three threads which tied together form an exploration of the significance of language to culture and how it affects reality and progress.

The theatre for some reason was rather warm that night which made things a bit uncomfortable. The play was a little slow starting up in establishing the characters and the premise but not excessively so. The story has moments of deep emotion and other parts that were quite funny. The set design was simple but effective as were the costumes. The actors were on top of their game and portrayed the characters with sympathy and authenticity. In all, I would give the production 2.5 stars out of 4 and a thumbs up.

The first production of this play took place in 1980 in Friel's native Ireland where it would resonate considerably because it would not only have the emotional content of the story which is somewhat universal but also the historical context of the personal experience of the audience and its collective memory.

I do not know the history of England's take over of Ireland and to what extent it was resented. The perspective in this story was England imposing its English on the natives. My Chinese ancestors had ties to America as immigrant laborers but my generation was the first to be born here in the USA. Thus, our introduction to English was voluntary and desired as it was for one of the characters of Translations.

As an American born Chinese, I would reflect the views of someone one or two generations after the setting of Translations. Thus, my relationship to the tensions discussed in Translations would be more looking wistfully at a lost past while the characters (most of them) in the play look forward fearful of the life they will lose.

It raised questions for me about how interlinked language is with culture and identity. I found myself thinking about the incredible choice immigrants make in leaving their language and culture for something unknown and alien. I felt the tension between keeping the best of the old and wanting the best of the new. It was true then and it is true today. A work of non-fiction that illustrates that tension is The Lexus and the Olive Tree. NY Times writer Thomas Friedman used The Lexus to symbolize the aspirations for economic progress and the Olive Tree as a metaphor for traditions that define identity.

Am I making sense here?

For Southern California readers, the show runs until December 14, 2003.
For more information contact:
Actors Co-op
323-462-8460
http://www.ActorsCo-op.org

Monday, December 08, 2003

Fly paper strategy working?


Instapundit cites Citizen Smash - Indepundit who cites MSNBC/Newsweek about how Al-Qaeda is shifting resources to Iraq.

Excerpts:

Osama bin Laden’s men officially broke some bad news to emissaries from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the elusive leader of Afghanistan’s ousted fundamentalist regime. Their message: Al Qaeda would be diverting a large number of fighters from the anti-U.S. insurgency in Afghanistan to Iraq. Al Qaeda also planned to reduce by half its $3 million monthly contribution to Afghan jihadi outfits.
       
All this was on the orders of bin Laden himself, the sources said. Why? Because the terror chieftain and his top lieutenants see a great opportunity for killing Americans and their allies in Iraq and neighboring countries such as Turkey, according to Taliban sources who complain that their own movement will suffer.

Indepundit goes on to comment:

Iraq is a far better place for the Coalition to fight al Qaeda than Afghanistan. We have tremendous military strength in country; the terrain is favorable for modern mechanized warfare; a substantial portion of the population is friendly to us and hostile to terrorists; and our on-the-ground intelligence capabilities are growing stronger every day.

We'll fight al Qaeda anywhere on Earth, but if they want to come to Iraq it will only make our job that much easier. Certainly, we'd rather face the enemy in Mesopotamia than Manhattan.

Looks like that "Fly-Paper Strategy" wasn't such a bad idea, after all.

Bush put it undelicately awhile back by saying, "Bring 'em on." But if the above mentioned items are all true then all the more we need to hold firm in Iraq.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Picture of the day


Baghdad at night...











February 1, 2003
April 11, 2003
October 1, 2003

Images from http://www.cpa-iraq.org/essential_services/electricity.html
Hat tip to David Frum

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Pay any price, bear any burden: Hosea 3:1-5


Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." (2) So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. (3) Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you." (4) For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. (5) Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.

Its been a little while since I've written on this semi-regular thread of taking a tour of an obscure but amazing book from the Hebrew Scriptures. If you are curious about what went on before in this story, check the archives for Sept 25 and 29, Oct 5, 8 and 17, and Nov 11. To briefly recap, Hosea was told by God to marry Gomer. Gomer was unfaithful and strayed away. There was amazing poetic descriptions of the betrayal and desire for restoration.

Here in Chapter Three, God instructed Hosea to take back the woman who betrayed him and this text again explicitly makes the analogy that what Hosea and Gomer were experiencing is what God was experiencing with the nation of Israel.

"I bought her." Whoa?! This woman who wandered off from Hosea had to be bought back? It would appear in her waywardness from chapters one and two, she wound up a slave and Hosea had to pay to get her back. And God is telling him not only buy her back but to love her. Hosea paid the price of 15 shekels and 1.5 homers of barely. Shekels were silver coins of the day and each was about one month's wages (denarius another ancient unit of wages was I believe one day's wages) and a homer of barely was some number of bushels. Thus, the payment was not a trivial amount.

Hosea, after freeing her, asked Gomer to be faithful in verse 3. The price was paid with no assurance she would turn from her ways. We do not see any further narrative in the rest of the story indicating how Gomer responded. Chapters 4 to 14 switch exclusively to Hosea's poetic sermons to the people.

Verse 4 forecasts the fall of the nation when the Babylonians take over in 586 BC. Verse 5 was fulfilled when Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the walls and temple in 538 BC. In Christian theology, there is a debate as to whether this verse will be fulfilled again in a larger sense at some point in the future in a restored and powerful nation of Israel. I'm not a theologian but I'm told those who hold a "dispensational" view say Israel will regain a high standing. Those who hold a "covenant" theology position would view fulfillment through the church as the New Israel. I suspect the arguments on both sides are not slam dunks and clear cut which is why a diversity of opinion exists.

What can we agree upon however is this: God wants us to be free from slavery. In this individual narrative, God wanted Gomer to be free and told Hosea to buy her back and love her.

In the Christian world view, freedom is what Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Sunday is about. Christmas, the time when Jesus is born and enters this world to begin the liberation. Good Friday when Jesus died on the Cross to pay the price for sin, selfishness and all that binds us in sorrow and sadness. Easter Sunday when Jesus resurrects as a demonstration of power and proof of victory.

John Kennedy, in his inaugural speech of 1961, said of America, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foes, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

God has done exactly that and far more. God did it when the Jewish people were liberated from slavery in Egypt. God did it through the work of the prophets of Hebrew Scripture. God has done it in Christ and the Cross.

Is God doing it today?

Do we participate in this liberation?

First, we can be recipients of this liberation: thank God almighty, free at last!

Second, we can help set other captives free.

Hosea did in his relationship with Gomer. One man freeing one woman. Most of us won't have to do likewise to that extent. Yet, in our lives, we all have people who are part of our lives. In what way will we be instruments of God for their liberty? What price am I willing to pay? What burden will I bear?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Townhall Meetup


Is the internet really going to change the way politics is done? A lot of political commentary takes place on the internet and in blogs bypassing the traditional print media. All serious campaigns have web pages to post events, provide talking points and, of course, get donations.

Tonight, I'll be going to a meetup for those of us in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. It will be interesting to meet other Townhall.com readers. I'll blog back later.

UPDATE: Just got back from the meetup. There were four of us at the Louise restaurant on Los Feliz and Hillhurst. Imagine: a writer, an artist, an engineer and a medical researcher meeting for dinner because we all happen to visit Townhall.com?

We shared stories about how we came to hold conservative political views, our opinions on the death penalty, the war in Iraq and our hopes that the Arnold will be able to turn California around. We didn't agree on everything but we agreed on a lot of things in particular our respect for President Bush and for Dennis Prager.

We also talked about life. Two in our group shared their stories of raising kids and the wonder of it all in how things turn out in ways you least expect. And with the thanksgiving just past, we all felt a sense of gratitude for being citizens of America. No, we don't blindly believe our country can do no wrong but clearly we are blessed to live in a nation where people care about what is good and right and we have the liberty to pursue our potential.