My Thoughts on the Sewol Tragedy

I can't believe it's May already. The school year seemed to have flown by. This blog has become like a neglected puppy, once the apple of my eye, and now metaphorically tugging on my shirt begging to be walked. I want to write, I do. My dream would be to be in a room by myself and have 24 hours of uninterrupted silence, with unlimited carby snacks and soda, (without the caloric repercussions) and my mac on my lap, and just be able to write. But alas I can't put two sentences together without a million things begging my attention. 

So there's that and there's the overall gloominess of April.  The whole Sewol Ferry disaster was just devastating. Every time I read a new article or watched another video, as a parent, my heart broke for these families whose children were victims of a completely avoidable accident. I would recommend reading about the chronological order of events that took place here. When I think my tear ducts have run dry, with each video of wailing families, I'm back sobbing like a baby. Another thing that bothers me is everyone jumping on the whole "Confucian" branding and blaming of Korean culture for the accident.  As if they think "of course this disaster happened because Korean's are brainless robots that don't know better than to obey orders and sink with the ship." Let's remember how it was a student that first called 119. Let's remember that many students risked their lives to make sure their peers were safe first. Let's remember there were many ferry workers that risked their lives to save others. I like how Kai Ma put it in this article. All this culture blaming, inadvertently blames the victims of the crime. I'm not saying that Korean culture is completely guiltless in this tragedy, but lets look at the practical, structural, administrative flaws and then look at ways Korea can prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again, instead of assigning a blanket of blame to "Confucianism."  Many of these media outlets have a skin-deep understanding of Confucianism, and know it as "subordinates are to listen to authorities" and nothing more, so it must be really easy brainstorming about it around the water cooler of these media outlets.

I would love for of the media to come up with articles that shed light on a more nuanced understanding of Confucianism and exactly how it affects Korean culture and what Confucianism actually is and is not. This blog put it better than I ever could here. This tragedy was an alarm for many of us. As a Korean American I've become so proud over the years to see Korea, boom and blossom the way it has. Hearing the countless stories of from my parents, of the war torn ravaged country they remember from their childhood, to seeing the economic powerhouse it has become today, made my chest fill with pride. Even though I was born here in the States and I've only visited the Motherland once in 1997, knowing that it is the country of my parents and my ancestors, I couldn't help but feel a vague attachment to it. In recent years, another source of pride was the entertainment industry of Korea. I think many of us were blinded by the bright lights of K-Pop, K-Drama, and wealth, and failed to see the cracks in the country's veneer. When I read how lax the safety measures were on the Sewol, how abominably dangerous they made that ferry for travel, and the overall sinful negligence of the top crew members, just as I felt a subtle sense of pride for Korea's achievements, I feel an overarching sense of shame for what happened on the rugged Dadohae sea. I don't have roots in Korea, I've never lived there, but inexplicably, I feel connected to it's well being.

As a parent I can't imagine the grief and the agony these families are going through. The fact that this was a completely preventable tragedy makes it unbearable. As parents, we are able to empathize. We are able to feel to a gut wrenching degree for the victims families. These kids were in the prime of their youth with all the love of their families and their high expectations embracing them. So alas, my small plea, on my small blog, in an infinitely large webosphere, let's change the conversation to what can be done, how we can help, and remember the heroes of this tragedy, that the future hope of a nation can be seen in the bravery that a few crew members and students showed on that fatal day. Let's respect their memories and put steps into place that ensure that a tragedy so preventable never occurs again.

An Asian American's Thoughts on #CancelColbert and Suey Park's Hashtag War

I knew something was up when my Twitter and Facebook news feed blew up a couple days ago regarding a tweet from @colbertreport. The account sent out this tweet:

As an Asian American, I had thoughts on the subject and so did many of my Asian American friends and my "liked" Facebook pages. Some siding for or against Suey Park's #CancelColbert hashtag. I have respect for Suey Park in that she she's willing to say things that others aren't. It's like they always say "It's the squeaky door that gets greased." and Suey's squeaky tweets have done much to raise awareness on issues that would otherwise not be on the forefront of anyone's mind.

With that said, in the scheme of picking choosing your battles, in many ways I thought this was a dumb battle. For one, the tweet was taken out of context, Steven Colbert was taking a jab at Dan Synder's staunch stance on his franchise's name, The Washington Redskins.  Steven Colbert's personality mockingly says that he will create an organization called "The Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." He was making a mockery of Dan Synder's racist franchise name, by making his own racist name. Also, to call for the cancellation of the entire show is a bit extreme. Is it worth it to cancel the show and jeopardize people's jobs and livelihood for a joke, that didn't intend to be racist to begin with? So with the context of it all...  yea let's pick and choose our battles.

Then I read all the articles on the subject saying to "calm down" and I watched Steven Colbert's sketch on the whole thing for a second time, in light of the articles and comments.  I came across countless comments saying things like, "Asians can't play the race card, they need to get back to the back of the line!" and "Asians can't drive, or take a joke." and lastly, "Asians, go for a walk, take a drive, actually never mind the last one." .... and the list goes on. I'm not saying that the show should be cancelled and I don't think we need to draw hard and fast lines in the sand to have an opinion. If anything, I felt little about the actual tweet and the actual bit that Colbert did, but I felt much about how the battle played out.

For one, many of these articles saying to "calm down" and "learn to take a joke" were not written by Asian Americans. Most of them have no personal link to a phrase like "ching chong ding dong," they are people that have never had to be subjected to being called a "chink" or had the stereo type of a squinty-eyed-obtuse-ignorant Asian caricature that Colbert portrays in the bit, imposed upon them. Then there was Deadspin's article titled, Gooks Don't Get Redskins Joke. Great. Was that suppose to be a "satirical" play on the whole situation? For the sake of controversy and shock value must we use a war-time derogatory term used to dehumanize Asians? Yea, let's remember how these names started before we hastily throw them into the webosphere and allow them to come up on a cursory Google search. Also, in the bit Colbert does, he plays his Ching Chong Ding Dong character and says that he's a Chinaman. "Chinaman" was a term used commonly in the 19th century for all people who came to America of Chinese decent. They had no Western names so they were given the blanket John or Jake Chinaman, as a pseudonym. Mary Paik Lee the famed Korean American writer, wrote about how kids taunted her in 1906 by singing this ditty :

Ching Chong, Chinaman,
Sitting on a wall.
Along came a white man,
And chopped his tail off. (1)

Colbert playing his Ching Chong Ding Dong Character.

Colbert playing his Ching Chong Ding Dong Character.

The term was used commonly at the time, but the derogatory way people felt about the Chinese made plain in the ugly caricatures they painted of them in on paper, (i.e press, songs, literature, plays) and eventually on TV, has made the term "Chinaman" a time capsule for those sentiments... very much like other racial slurs of our day.

Watching the actual clip of Stephen Colbert's Ching Chong Ding Dong character made me think, why did he pick Asian's to jab at Synder? Is it because he knows doing it to another minority group would cause more of a stir? Let's say the joke had "The (pick ethnic slur of another prominent minority group in the U.S.) foundation of (ethnic slur) or Whatever." I think, even thought it wasn't intending to offend whichever minority, those slurs, names, stereotypes mean something. It stirs up the sea floor of all the dregs, for people that were actually subjected to those names.

That is why I think Suey had to go extreme. Does she actually want to the show to be canceled? Or did she have to go that far to have people think there needs to be some reaction and some stir in the Asian American community for throwing around those words, without thought or regard for the history behind them, and the history of those who suffered under them. We need to be mindful that people have been affected by those words, as individuals and as a race. Reading the many articles out there, many are making it into a "liberals vs conservatives" thing. Where conservatives are saying liberals are getting their "just desserts" in the #cancelcolbert hashtag. But that is not the issue here, the issue is how those words and stereotypes affect the Asian American community. I think the battle was more revealing than anything else, in showing how much our work is cut out for us, as Asian Americans, in painting the picture on what the world looks like for us, in having people understand who we are, and what we've been through. Let this be a cautionary tale, for what it's worth, that behind every racial stereotype or slur, there lies a deeper meaning to those it offends. That those words carry weight in it of itself, regardless of the intention behind which they are thrown. That throwing them around, will cause people to throw back, and the Asian American community is no exception.

(1) Paik Lee, Mary (1990). Sucheng Chan, ed. Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 16–17.

10 Confessions of a Desensitized Mother

I was thinking about it  and I realize with the first child you do everything by the book. Joey, till he was almost two, was practically confined to the 200 SF of space that was our living room. We had a huge baby fence that protected (caged) him from all the non baby friendly things. Dopple and Dreft was always just an arms reach away, lest bacteria touch our precious son's hand. Now that we have Kaitlyn we've certainly loosened up the reigns, but her insatiable desire to get into everything and destroy our house, has made me become very desensitized...numb, as a matter of fact. When I see my daughter drawing on the table with a crayon, if it was Joey at that age, like a bolt of lightening I would grab the utensil of destruction. If I saw him drawing on the wall I would want to pull out my hair. Now? I look over... it's just crayon, I can wipe it off later, it aint that bad... it's not say permanent marker all over the floor, which is something she has actually done. When I see my daughter grab my face lotion from my dresser, it aint that bad.. could be my wallet and every one of my credit cards spread across the far corners of my home, (which has happened on several occasions). I could be searching under the sofa for my Costco club card, so face lotion?? Wutever..over time you just get desensitized to it all.

So here are some of my confessions as to how I reacted to some of the things she did this past week:

1) When I saw her draw on the wall I thought "It must be Mural Wednesday!" unless it's Thursday.. in that case it's Mural Thursday.

2) I let her walk around with something on her head that I normally use to hold their bath supplies...

Peek a Boo!

2) When she drew on the new desk furniture, I thought "Thank goodness it's not marker".


3) When she opens the diaper bag, I'm just glad it's not my purse...

4) When she gathered our recyclables and put them on the coffee table I thought "At least it wasn't the trash."

5) When she gathered more stuff from around the house to add to her collection, I took a quick look and was glad there were no credit cards in that little blue basket.


6) The oven is a mirror, who needs toys? (FYI it wasn't on)


7) When she used my work notebook to draw. I was glad it wasn't the floor.

8) When she threw her mac and cheese on the floor, I was glad I skimped out on the cheese.


9) I let her watch Frozen's Let It Go (from youtube) over and over again to keep her from destroying the house.

10) We brought them to McDonald's, past their bedtime, to have some ice cream and get this girl out of the house. Food is the only distraction for this girl.

Interview With Artist Wesley Woo of 11th Avenue Records

One thing I like to do on Daechoong Mama, is interview and highlight other Asian Americans out there doing something worth reading about. Wesley Woo is an award winning Chinese American singer and song writer from San Fransisco. His first record album is scheduled to be released on April 4th. His record label reached out to me asking if I would be willing to do an interview. At first I wasn't sure, but they sent me a few links to his music and I really enjoyed listening to it. There was a depth and a sincerity to his songs that had me hooked. His music is a mix between blues, motown and with a touch of country and pop. Some songs had a delightful element of surprise, where I would think it would sound a certain way through the whole song, only to transform, and it's a journey I greatly enjoyed and appreciated the whole way through. It's hard to speak generally of his music because each track was unique and each one offered a different experience.

Here are links to some of his sites:

Have a listen here:

I got a chance to interview him. I greatly enjoyed speaking to him. He was really down to earth and easy to talk to. I also felt like I could relate a lot as a blogger when he spoke about music and song writing. I walked away feeling like I learned something. Which is always good =)

Here is a transcript of the interview:

Tell us about your upbringing and how your parents played a role. Did they foster your love of music?

Not quite, I did go to a magnet music school called Marin School of the Arts, I sort of got in there on a fluke and my parents were supportive at least through high school. After high school it wasn't up to them anymore.

Me: How did they feel about you pursuing it full time?

They were mostly indifferent (laughs).

Me: Oh!

I live  on my own and they don't pay for my bills (chuckles), as long as that's the case then they're okay.

Me: They weren't like "You have to be a doctor or lawyer etc."

They did encourage me to explore some of those things. They wanted me to go to business school when I was at UC Berkeley. I started out there as an architecture major and I don't know, it just didn't really fit for me. It wasn't something that I could imagine myself doing for long periods of time. Everything just sort of fell into being a music major at UC Berkeley. Nothing else really seemed to make sense for me. It kinda happened by accident. I wasn't planning it. 

Me: Tell us about the journey in pursuing music from college till now. How did the events fall into place?

When I graduated from college I had been playing jazz and classical guitar a lot. We started a couple projects, mostly jazz guitar stuff. It was called Jazz and Stuff.

It happened, then it didn't. Then I started playing in a cover band and that project started to fall apart and our vocalist took off after awhile. I couldn't really sing covers because I just wasn't a good enough vocalist. So I ended up writing my own songs because that was the only way I was able to sing, was to sing my own songs (laughs).

I probably starting writing songs maybe 4-5 years ago. After that I don't know, I play a lot of gigs. A lot of bad gigs.

Me: Tell us about your worst one.

There were a lot of worst ones. (We both laugh) The worst one was this one in Oakland were literally zero people came.

Me: Aww

We went on at midnight. It was really rough. (Laughing) I remember thinking "What the heck are we doing?? I have a college degree! Why am I here? The interesting thing is., even though I hit rock bottom, it still didn't make sense to do anything but music. I have a need to do this. Even at the lowest point, I was encouraging myself, that I need to do this.

Me: Right, and I think that's when you know you are doing what you are suppose to.

I pretty much ask myself that question basically everyday. I need to do this for my own survival as a person.

Me: So that moment was how many years ago?

That was 2011. I played a lot of really crappy gigs. I found out which ones are good and useful and productive for me as a musician. 

Me: Where did you find these gigs?

At first I trolled Craigslist for awhile, but I saw that wasn't working. You connect with a certain kind of musician on Craigslist  and it wasn't the kind of musician I was looking for. Especially in San Francisco there's a lot of garage rock bands on Craigslist. Which is not really my thing. After awhile I realized I need to connect with more of a song writing community and went out of my way to look for it., like open mics and other musicians that had a similar performance style as me. Then I started to get better gigs. That's actually how I met the people that started 11th Avenue Records. We actually co founded that record label together with a couple friends of mine. Now we have this thing that no one really knows what to do with, but we are sort of feeling it out. Its one of those things where you start all over again and say "Let's do it wrong enough times till we figure how to do it correctly." (Laughs)

Me: Right, sometimes that's the best way to learn. So that's how you ended up with 11th Avenue records?

Yea, and I'm really excited for the record label. We haven't done anything yet, my record is actually is the first record to be release for 11th Avenue Records.

Me: Tell us about your creative process in writing a song.

Yea, its never just one thing. My goal as a song writer is to write the most honest song as possible, whatever that sounds like, it's going to sound like that. I think I did a good a pretty good job on this record. What this record ended up being is, me writing the most honest songs I could possibly write, and doing that on a huge volume. I think I wrote maybe 40-50 songs worth of material for this record and I ended up picking 9 songs that made sense for a record. Once you've written those 40-50 songs you have to pick which ones can go in the record. For example you need 3 songs under 3 and 1/2 minutes for radio edits, we need a couple ballads and a song on piano etc. The record is not a complete representation of who I am as a song writer, it's just a representation of what I want to show people, the 9-10 best songs I am most proud to show people.

Me: So the song on the website Stay, can you tell us about that song in particular?

It probably took about two solid years to write that song. It took a very long time for it to get out. I came up with this guitar idea. It was really cool and interesting, which is the guitar riff in the beginning. I had tried to write a song for it, for at least a year and nothing came out. I just thought this riff is not useful, it's rhythmically unstable. But for whatever reason, every I sat down to write a song that riff kept coming back. I think back then, every time I picked up that riff, I was not quite ready as a song writer to write that song yet. I would try and write half a verse, maybe a hook to a chorus. There are one or two songs on that record that are based on that song because I had tried to write Stay. I had given up on it. Then one day I had taken some days off work and I had no plans to go anywhere and made no plans to travel so I sat down and said "Where am I gonna go? I have no commitments I can't just sit here." So I got in the car and I started driving and I got 20 miles outside of Sacramento and I realized that, there's really no where I want to go. The only place I really want to be is back at home with my girlfriend at that time. So I stopped and pulled over at a Subway, and I sat down and basically wrote the first verse to the song. It was a really interesting inspiration for that song because I had tried so long to write that song and it never came and all at once everything came out.

Me: It's kinda like the song chose you. (laugh)

The interesting thing was that I thought the song was done and I brought it to an open mic and it fell flat on it's face. No one cared about the song and then I sat down after that and I was like what else can I do? And then that's when I wrote the intro, originally the first 8 seconds of that song was a guitar intro, so that's when I wrote the intro. Then everything started falling into place after that.

Me: So people started connecting with the song more after that?

Yea. That is probably one of the most genuinely inspired songs I've ever written. The scary part about that is, I have no idea how that happened. I can't replicate it.

That's what's so fun about song writing. No matter how good you get at it, there's still no guarantee that you will continue to be good at it. (Laughs) You are only as good as the last song you wrote because after that who knows?

Me: So true. I'm relating to you as a blogger (laughing).

I actually won 2 song writing awards for that song. I won the West Coast Songwriters competition and I won an Oaktown Musical Competition. Yea I'm very grateful that song manifested itself when it did.

Me: Tell us about some of your highest moments thus far.

The CD release for one. I was telling my friend this is my most significant accomplishment thus far ever because when you think about "What are my biggest achievements in life? I graduated from college.. and that's it (laughs).

Me: Well that's the case for many people.

Besides college, the biggest achievement, I've had so far, is this record. The fact that now that I have to share it with people is kinda terrifying. This is the most honest thing I've ever done and now I have to share it to see if you like it (laughing). Its scary.

Me: I'm not int he music industry obviously, what is the process in having your record released?

That whole process is new to me. I spent the last two years recording this record, which is a long time to be recording a record. Up against 1 month before finishing the record, we booked the venue for the CD release show for April 4th, at the Lost Church. We had to book it 5 months in advance. It's the only way to get that venue. It's probably not the smartest thing to book your CD release show, before you actually finish the record (laughs). Everyone knows in San Fransisco that the venue you have to get for your CD release show is the Lost Church. It's the most beautiful venue.  It's very small and intimate, maybe seats 60 and 10 for standing room, for where I am as a musician that is a lot of seats to fill. So we finished the record and booked the show and now we are promoting it like crazy to get the show packed.

Listen to the rest of the interview on the sound cloud link below:

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Techy Kids: My Son and Angry Birds....

The other day my son was playing the game Angry Birds (i'm sure you've heard of it) on our Roku. He loves to hand me the remote to "teach" me to play. Now I'm no stranger to Angry Birds. I used to play (before I had two kids) the original game on my IPhone and played till I got 3 stars on almost every level. He was playing Star Wars Angry Bird and he handed me the remote telling me to play. My husband found my son's enthusiasm amusing so he started to record it on his phone.The board looked easy enough. So I proceeded to fling the bird at the giant pig but to no avail. Meanwhile he's trying to tell me how to do it and I don't listen to him at all. I tell him to try and to my shock, in one attempt he kills the pig with 1 bird.

Watch the video below:

Some Thoughts

Kids and electronics now a days huh? My son, when he was 1 and 1/2 years old, started playing with our iPad. By the time he was 2, he knew how to peruse through apps, open and close them effortlessly, he knew whether he was on the web vs an app etc. I remember watching him in amazement. His fluent ability to control a Playstation, Roku, aniPad, an iPhone, seems inherent. You'd think he was on the iPhone in the womb! I know its not just him, but almost all kids I see now a days are the same way.

It's as if our generation's endeavor to make technology intuitive, has given "birth" to another generation, where technology has become instinct. As more late-Gen Xers/ and Millenials start having kids, we as parents are trying to find a middle ground, or a set way as to how to deal with it. For us, electronics was limited and technology had to be learned. We got our first desktop computer in 1995. We had to learn how to use it and discover how it worked. Now a days that is not the case. Never before has electronics/ technology been so ubiquitous in our daily lives, never before has it been so accessible, and easy to use. When my husband and I are out with our kids, many times the only thing that will get my son to stand still for more than a second is the IPhone. We look at each other and wonder "how did parents do it before iPhones and iPads, and Androids etc?"

I've read countless websites on "how much is too much?"  My son's visceral love for all things TV definitely needs to be curbed and supervised, my daughter, on the other hand could care less about the TV for now (sometimes I wish she liked it more to distract her from destroying our house). Sometimes I feel as if my son is recompense for what I put my mother through. To say my brother and I loved TV would be the understatement of the 80s. We LIVED for TV. My brother didn't speak Korean much but one thing he did know how to say was,

"TV 보고 싶어!" (I want to watch TV!)

My mom would get so sick of it, and cut the cable for years at a time but... lets just say absence only made the heart grow fonder...

I can't say I feel good about how addicted he is and how much he watches. First and foremost I think the question I need to ask is "Am I having him watch this for him or for me?" Often times TV and games is a much needed respite for me to get things done and get a break from him wanting 110% of my attention at all times. In those cases, I want him to be entertained enough to keep him out of my way. Then there are times when I make a point to show him something he can learn from, something that allows me to engage with him. I need to be intentional to do more of the latter. That's one of the reasons I agreed to join the Netflix Stream Team. They send me educational theme based recommendations for kids. We watch the show with our kids, engage in dialogue about it and see how the experience was like for them. So all in all I need to try to curb is daily electronics, but when he does watch it try to participate in it.

Since we are trying to figure out our techy kids together, any thoughts or suggestions? What is your experience?