I've seen a lot of people get upset over this film recently, and say the filmmakers exploited children and made child pornography. It all started when Netflix released a piece of promo for the film that showed the young stars of the film in provocative dance positions. At first, knowing nothing of the film, I thought it was a bad poster for a tasteless cheerleading movie. So, I mostly ignored the whole thing, because I thought, I'm not watching a movie that exploits children. Isn't that what "Dance Moms" is? (I don't know, I've never seen it) Then someone shared an article that was titled "We Watched Netflix's 'Cuties' So You Don't Have To" and they were asking their friends and followers to sign a petition to have it removed from Netflix. That's when I decided I needed to watch it, because I'm not letting anyone make judgments for me.
What I mean by "new cultural discovery" is that it is new to me. A few weeks ago, in one of the mommy Facebook groups I'm in, I saw a post by one mama about shaving baby's head. According to the post and/or comments in the post, it was a Mexican cultural thing. I didn't think much more on it, until the other morning when my dad jokingly talked about shaving our baby's head and I immediately asked if that's a Chinese thing, too. He said, yes, Chinese people shave babies' heads, but he didn't recall why, so I decided to do some investigating! By the way, when I say baby, I mean months old, maybe even days old babies.
I finally watched Black is King on Disney+ and it has got to be one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen. Following my recent post on screen time for my kid, I decided to turn the screen on. But, when I turn the screen on, I want to surround my son with art and inspiration. Black is King is everything glorious and large you'd expect from Beyonce, but more than a 90 minute Beyonce music video (which is basically what this film is, and every minute is worth it), this is a celebration of culture, history, and the beautiful and powerful tomorrow that still lies ahead. SPOILER ALERT: There's a lot I love about this and don't want to spoil too much, but I think one of my favorite things in this piece of art is seeing Beyonce and Kelly Rowland's friendship and sisterhood still growing strong.
Watching this has further inspired me to dig deeper into my ancestral history, because I'd like to see Chinese and Asian cultures celebrated and empowered this way. I've been thinking a lot about how one big misconception of Asian culture is that we are a submissive culture, especially the women. It's time to tell the truth, to show the world the truth. There's not much else to say on this, because you need to witness and experience it for yourself. So, go watch it. And then re-watch it. We all need more of this kind of magic to rain down on us.
Last month, Don Lemon spoke with Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University. When asked why he thought while others countries are trending down in COVID-19 cases, we are doing the opposite and trending up, Dr. Schaffner made a very interesting cultural point, that I’m not sure I ever expected an American to admit to, especially a white American. Dr. Schaffner feels our individualistic culture plays a factor in why we can’t seem to contain the virus. He makes an interesting point, especially when you think about all the people arguing that wearing a mask goes against their individual freedom. We aren't the only country with "anti-maskers," but we appear to be the only country with a lack of leadership that has lead to turning a global pandemic into a partisan issue, and it has raised some questions about the importance we place on individualism. And is individualism really a factor in our failing fight against COVID-19?
In my family, everyone speaks at least three languages, so I grew up in a house full of languages. Beyond my home, growing up in a multicultural part of Los Angeles, I was also constantly surrounded by different languages. This exposure to different languages has been a major influence in my life and as I grew older and studied more languages it was like opening up a special kaleidoscope window into the world that I wish everyone could look through. Now that I have my own child, it is all the more important to me to raise my son knowing and appreciating different languages. While I think most of us are aware of the general benefits of knowing at least a second language, I wanted to dive into this, as well as add my personal experience and perspective on being a polyglot.
I grew up in a family where my parents called each other's parents "mom" and "dad." Well, "mama" and "baba" in Chinese. For me, that was the norm and what I expected to do should I ever get married. And I like that, because to me, it suggests a closeness and warmth in the relationships. When I got engaged, I asked Chris if it would be weird for me to call his parents "mom" and "dad" or some version of it. It feels weird to me to call them the same thing I call my parents--it's just so personal. But I wanted to build a closeness with them, especially as I felt it must be hard for them to have their son permanently move an ocean and a country away. So, it was helpful we could go British with the terms, since Chris' father is British. But I was surprised by Chris' response. He said, "It's old-fashioned, but I think they'd like it." Old-fashioned? Up until then, I thought everyone did it. Then just a few weeks ago, I learned something interesting about Chinese culture that I didn't know before, and I decided to survey my friends to see how everyone addresses their in-laws.
Nowadays, many people commonly associate pole dancing with strip clubs, but I wonder how many people know the true history of pole dancing. After I saw how perturbed some people were over Shakira and J.Lo's Super Bowl Halftime Show, I thought it worthwhile to share a few historical and cultural insights about this form of dance and sport.
My favorite time of day is tea time, which is really all the time for me. Tea makes everything better and it brings people together. When you think about any culture where tea is prevalent, it's a symbol of hospitality. Guests are welcomed with tea, and everyone sits around enjoying the company and little treats to go with the tea and banter. You can't be angry when you're drinking tea. Like the monks who used to meditate with tea (and still do), tea brings us peace. Plus, you don't want to accidentally spill all that hot liquid peace on yourself or anyone else for that matter. Can you imagine being angry over tea and chucking your tea cup at someone? No, save your anger for your cocktails. But where does the afternoon tea tradition come from?
When I first learned my son would be born in the year of the rat I was disappointed. A rat? That sounds so dirty and unappealing. Then people started telling me good traits about the rat, and I tried to look at the positives. And when my mom kept call the rat Mickey Mouse, my parents told me that "rat" is a bad translation, because in Chinese they actually say mouse. So if you're wondering what it means to be born in the Year of the Mouse, here's what I've learned!
I had the honor and privilege of being invited to a special tea ceremony at Hsi Lai Temple, a Chinese Buddhist temple located in the greater Los Angeles area, ahead of their annual interfaith prayer for world peace. As the interfaith representative of my church, I was already planning on attending the prayer, which is open to the public; but when Fr. Alexei Smith, the head of interfaith relationships for the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese, invited myself and my friend and colleague to the private tea ceremony, all he had to say was "tea" and I was there.