From the monthly archives:

October 2009

Every Halloween, we saw news reports and editorial comments on offensive costumes du jour.  What I call Halloween Costume Conundrum. HCC.

This year, the HCC award went to Illegal Alien:

illegal alien

It was such a brouhaha partly because, in my opinion, it was sold through Target’s website.  Target, the one mega store that does not seem to garner public ires, not yet.  In fact, Target has been the trendy, cheap chic, darling for just about every social spectrum in the U.S.  (It is amazing if you think about it.  Kudos to their PR and marketing teams.)  Protests against this costume started garnering support when immigrant activists cried foul, loudly.  Several news programs commented on the costume as “distasteful” and “disgusting”, or even racist.

Now, I am as overtly sensitive as the next person of color, and probably have one of the largest chips on my shoulder.  But my first reaction to this costume was:

That is clever!

You see: here the costume plays on the double meaning of “alien” and twists it around.  The costume does not indicate the race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation of the wearer.  It reminds us, or me at least, that there ARE illegal aliens from all over the world.  (And as hinted by this costume, beyond this world even…)  AND, the “alien” is holding a GREEN CARD, therefore technically, the being is NOT illegal.

Subversive, no?

Furthermore, it could also be saying: Underneath the appearances, we are all PEOPLE.  Our common enemy should be the sons-of-bitches in the galaxy far far away that are scheming to invade Earth and enslave our minds and bodies.  We are the world.  Indeed. Nicely done.

Why would people look at this and immediately label it as “racist”?  Doesn’t the automatic association of  “illegal aliens = Latinos” expose the person’s own prejudice?

Why would the immigrant activists make the quick assumptions that the illegal aliens in the Extraterrestrial form are meant to target the Latino community?  Although I agree that most people, whether they admit it or not, do make the equation readily, I wish the immigrant activists would have seized the opportunity to dis-stabilize the stereotype that has been haunting the Latino communities.

“Look at this costume.  ‘Illegal aliens’ may not be illegal after all.  And underneath that label / mask, that could be ANYBODY.”

NOW, the more progressive (and yes, the “annoying” ones, the “hyper sensitive” ones, the buzz killers, the trouble makers, etc.) bunch amongst of us wince at any costume that aims to convey a different race/ethnicity when it is donned.  I still feel conflicted towards how I should react:

What if the wearer is a person of color?  What if a Chinese person wants to dress up as a Geisha?  What if an African American person wants to dress up as a Native American warrior or a Native American Princess?  (Yes. I am channeling my puzzlement towards the Tyra Bank’s “Hapa disaster” on America’s Next Top Model…)

How about dressing up as  a Bavarian with a beer mug in hand?   Yodel-a-hee-hoo, Yodel-a-hee-hoo!  Is that offensive to a person of Bavarian descent?

I do have a semi-answer to the above: A person of Bavarian descent would most likely be treated just as a “regular” person.  White.  Un-marked.  Even if they do speak with an accented English, as long as they don’t speak, when they walk down the street, they are “Just like everybody else.”  Whereas a person of color will always carry the visible indicator with them.  We are marked.  There are always assumptions, unconsciously, made about us.

“So, you are Chinese.  You must like rice.”

Yes, I do.  But when I look at a white person, I don’t go,

“So, you are white.  You must like cheese.”   Or, if you are a hip white person, “Sushi“.

Because I overthink things, especially things that matters to nobody else, I was at a loss when I saw this, at a costume shop, right in the middle of the PC, Liberal center of the U.S. – Cambridge, MA:

Pig Tail anyone

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Popular Halloween costumes

Which one does not belong?

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I visited Sad Trombone just now. Yet again. I am Today’s Failure #8418.

My failure today, as a mother: I can’t sew worth a damn.

I am not talking about elaborate arts and crafts. I am talking about simple hemming.

I failed Home Ec in high school. Or, rather, I cheated otherwise I would have failed by begging my cousin to make the simple stitches on a sewing machine for a dish towel. Yup, a dish towel. A big X across the fabric that’s all the teacher asked for and I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t, and still can’t, sew straight lines on a sewing machine even if my life depended on it. I can’t do that by hand either, needless to say.

Truth be told: I always have this phobia against sewing machines. I am dastardly afraid that it would sew my fingers together with the fabric.  I’ve always had bad luck with adhesives.

Once when the church school asked the parent (Nah. Why cover for them?  They actually sent home a letter that said “Ask your mother”.  Catholic churches are not big on being politically correct I assume…)  to sew a simple line across the top of a piece of fabric for a dowel to pass through, I actually mailed it all the way to another state for my mother-in-law to sew and send back to me.

I file this under “Me failed at being a mother” together with my nightmarish experience at breastfeeding. (But that’s another post I would probably never get around to write. Perhaps after I finally seek out professional therapy will I ever be able to confront the demons).

Like 99% of the elementary schools around the country, my kids’ school has the annual Halloween Party and Halloween parade this Friday.  I will be leaving for a business trip this Wednesday and will be missing it.  Therefore I am frantically getting things ready, in my absence, for one of the most important days as far as my boys are concerned.

My 6-year-old will be Elvis this year.  He will be wearing this costume:

Elvis my gosh

OMG. This kid scares the heck out of me. Please ignore his grimace and pay attention to the flared bottoms of the pants.

It is a JUMP SUIT. You know what that means: The inseam fits snugly but the pant legs are WAY too long.  (Always!)

I have been thinking, what if he just walks on stilts on Halloween?  Then he could wear this costume without me having to hem the pant legs… Reality called so I just spent the last 2 hours hemming the pants, sewing by hand, ’cause I don’t have a sewing machine AND I don’t know how to use one anyway.  Sewing and crying, actually.  The whole time I was feeling inadequate, complete with a violin in the background playing the kind of self-pitying music that I am sure Cinderella listened to while she was making her step-sisters’ party dresses.  But Cinderella got the birds to help her out.  My fingers and my foot (don’t ask) were pricked by the needle several times, so soon I was thinking of Sleeping Beauty too.  (The tragedy side of it.  Not the getting kissed by the prince part…)

I am going to show you the proof that I really really cannot sew, so you will understand if I vow to myself that my kids will from now on only wear robes on Halloween.  Robes or something that I can use the glue gun on.  Or a staple gun.

I can't sew

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Happy Halloween! saying it now ’cause this Saturday I’ll be too busy eating, eh, giving out candy

October 26, 2009 a picture is worth a thousand words

. This post should file under: I am too lazy busy to write a proper post so I will just upload the really cute picture my 6-year-old made p.s. I know there are some of you that despise those who say “Halloween is my favorite holiday”, secretly condemning those as Heathens.  No apology given here. […]

5 comments

“Mid American” by Ed Paschke in 1969. Strangely resonating…

October 25, 2009 a picture is worth a thousand words

This painting was by Ed Paschke in 1969. 40 years ago. It is on exhibit at the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. For some unknown reason, I found it sad and strangely resonating when I saw it for the first time. And till this day, I am haunted by it. “The […]

5 comments

I shall dub thee… John Mc”Cane”

October 25, 2009 no manual for parenting

Warning: This post should be filed under “Things I find to be extremely amusing only because my kids said/did it and you probably wouldn’t give a rat’s ass which I am perfectly fine with but I still need to write this down so that I will remember this moment when I start losing the memory […]

2 comments

Twinkies got a bad rep ’cause we find the name irresistible

October 23, 2009 through the looking glass

In the American Pop culture conscious, there is this curious obsession with Twinkies.  One of the new exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is about Twinkies.  Putting our obsession with this oddity on view. For once, let’s scientifically study the myth that Twinkies will never die.  Observe and report.  (I will […]

10 comments

“My parents were awesome” – The antithesis of People of Walmart

October 21, 2009 this i believe

Ever since I was alerted of the existence of the website People of Walmart, I admit, I have been fascinated by the humanity found there.  The bizarre.  The weird.  The blunt un-self-consiousness.  The unrelenting in-your-face humaness.  As demonstrated not just in the people whose pictures have been stealthily taken and exhibited, but also in the amateur […]

8 comments

“I want to be your personal penguin”

October 20, 2009 random

Both of my boys grew up with Sandra Boynton’s books.  My oldest especially grew up on the fiber provided by chewing on the board books.  His favorite at that age?  Blue Hat, Green Hat. Ms. Boynton later started turning her delightful books into sing-along songs.  And soon famous people started joining in to compose music […]

4 comments

What we love: Toy Maker at Museum of Science and Industry

October 19, 2009 through the looking glass

Honestly the best $5 you can spend at a museum: watch your toy being made along the conveyor belt and have your name laser etched into the toy. HOW COOL IS THAT?! This beats all the crap toys your kids whine about at the gift shop everywhere you go… p.s. Those are my boys’ heads […]

4 comments