Friday, February 27, 2009

Global funk connections: Maliq N D'Essentials

Now let me get this out of the way first up. I like most things about South East Asia. Asian pop music is not one of them. And with my Indonesian heritage, I wish I could say I like Indonesian music. But as a general rule, I find Indo pop to be overly cheesy and guilty of trying a little too hard.

Indonesian band Maliq N D’Essentials are not immune to a little cheese now and then, but they make up for it with a well-crafted brand of neo-soul and jazz-inflected funk. Lead singer Angga has a smooth croon and falsetto that recalls Maxwell, and the band knows the value of a phat trumpet blast, a finely tuned rhythm section, fender rhodes keyboard, and jazzy guitar.

They sing in both Indonesian and English (sometimes on the same song), which makes me wonder what audience they’re aiming for; their English lyrics are generally ok but occasionally slip into a bizarre Asian take on black American slang. But that’s a small quibble; Indonesian pop, for all its cheesiness, relies on strong melodies and Maliq’s songs are no exception.

“Heaven” below is off their second album and has lyrics from both languages in the same song. A little odd perhaps. More important though is the fonky-ass bass-playing and wah-wah effects, which show that this band know their way around a groove better than most Asian outfits.

“Terdiam” is taken from Maliq’s debut, an album which was quite unlike anything previously heard in Indonesia (a lot of young Indonesians refer to this music as "jazz", and although it is slightly jazzy, it shows how little they know about soul music). This song is on a slightly more commercial tip – it kinda reminds me of boy-band pop, but not in a bad way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sabrina Houssami

I was watching the public affairs program Q & A on ABC1 last night and came across the incredibly stunning Sabrina Houssami. I don't know how this slipped under my radar, but the 22 year-old liberal arts student represented Australia in 2006 Miss World competition, where she was 2nd runner up. Now normally I don't pay a great deal of attention to matters relating to Miss World contestants, but Houssami is perhaps more interesting than the average entrant. Born in Sydney to a Lebanese father and Indian mother, she is the first Muslim to represent Australia in that competition. She is also a member of Mensa, and her articulate take on the question of ethnic identity and the media stereotypes of Muslims displayed her impressive intellect - I think I need to rethink my assumptions about beauty queens.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, she's incredibly stunning.

Some Melbourne Engrish

Sighted at Pancake Dessert House, Shop 18, Mid-City Arcade, 200 Bourke St in the City. When they're not busy ensuring that your safe is being concerned, they also make some pretty good food.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Random comic genius: Uncle Sameer goes to Frankston

Salam Cafe is a light-hearted panel-style chat show hosted by young Muslims, which debuted on Melbourne's Channel 31 before moving up to the big time (very relatively speaking) on SBS. The cast are a mixed bag of stand-up comedians, community workers and academics, of backgrounds including Egyptian, Malay, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Oromo and Anglo-Australian. Since I know a couple of cast members, I have a soft spot for the show, although much of the time it tends to be not quite as funny as they think it is. The following sketch shows what the show is capable of though - funny, clever and politically astute, and a bit of ethnic humour thrown in for good measure.

If you ain't from Melbourne, Frankston is a fairly monocultural beachside suburb which is frequently perceived as a haven for bogans and lower-class types. Nazeem Hussain features as himself and his alter ego, Uncle Sam (Sameer).

Japanese entertainment - the dark side

Japanese popular culture in its many forms – be it anime, game shows, movies, music, cosplay and others – is well known for being weird and offbeat. Which is generally good thing. But there is good weird and bad weird.

Falling in the latter category are rape-simulation video games such as RapeLay and Battle Raper. Yes, the folks who brought you vending machines that dispense used schoolgirl underwear, hentai (porn anime), bukakke (ew!) and gokkan (ew ew ew!!!) have taken the concept to its logical conclusion - video games in which the object is to rape and molest women.

The game RapeLay has been in the news recently because while it is legally unavailable outside Japan, people in Australia have had access to it via illegal file-sharing websites.

Seriously, what kind of person gets into this stuff? And how is it legal at all, anywhere? I know this kind of stuff is never going to be completely stopped, but it beggars belief that Japan doesn’t ban this kind of stuff outright. Violent shoot-em-up video games are one thing – but rape games surely can not be justified as valid entertainment.

The thing trips me out the most is that in these games, all images of genitalia are pixellated out, since in Japan it is illegal to have them displayed in movies and games. So genitals themselves are the problem, rather than the heinous things being done with them.


Chris Brown & Rihanna – beating your girlfriend still ok, apparently

If, like me, you are old enough to remember those primitive times before the internet, it was not always easy to gauge the level of public stupidity in terms of people’s attitudes towards various issues. You could hear an occasional comment uttered in public, or read the letters page in your local tabloid newspaper (in my case, Melbourne’s Herald Sun). But that aside, it was difficult to judge just how sexist, racist, homophobic and generally backward people were. So you could mistakenly think that there were certain issues that people generally were sensible enough to agree upon; for example, that men shouldn’t hit women.

The internet, however, puts public stupidity on display for all to see. The anonymity of the medium means that people will say all kinds of thing that they might think twice about or be embarassed to say in public. Thus the wanton display of regressive attitudes that you can find in any comment thread on youtube, blogs, or news sites.

Case in point: the Chris Brown / Rihanna domestic violence case. No doubt you’ve probably heard something about the case, but here’s a brief rundown: R&B star Chris Brown allegedly beat and choked his girlfriend, fellow R&B singer Rihanna, which led to her being hospitalised. The rumour mill has been active on the net, with stories circulating that Rihanna gave him herpes, or that she had been cheating, or had physically attacked him first, and that these were what led to the incident.

Let me just say before I go on that despite writing a post on this, I am not particular interested in the details of celebrities private lives, and am not a fan of either “Ri Ri” or “Chris Breezy”. What does fascinate me however, are attitudes of people towards what happened.

Now if you are like me, this is all pretty straightforward. No matter what transpired between them, it’s not okay for a man to hit a woman. (I actually think its not okay for a man to hit a man either, but particularly a woman.) But I’ve been quite amazed at the number of comments all over the internet that partly or wholly blame Rihanna for what happened. And a huge number of them are from women. Note that the following comments are from comment threads on websites, and not representative of the website’s opinion.

At Girl Talk, Tiff says: “If she put his hands in him first, then she should expect the same reaction done back to her. A lot of females always wanna jump bad with a dude, get up all in their face, talk shit, hit em, act like they runnin shit, when in reality, that nigga coulda knocked your ads out a long time ago. You act like you bad, then you can get treated like it. If robyn smacked that boy in the face, or put her hands on him in any type of way before he out his hands on her, than she got what she deserved. It’s only so much a dude can take.”

At Hey Shae!, Lindsay says: "this is funny,i don’t understand why you went to the police and complain for your true love .
why??????????? he loves you why should you do such a thing,Rihanna you gave chris brown herpize so what that f**k you trying act innocent for. i am glad he beat you up your music is sh**t so thats good that he beat your ass up B**CH."

At Hip Hop Republican, anonymous says: "Rihanna got wat she deserved nomatta wat i still love chris brown and will always be his biggest fan. she was a diesease spreading girl and she should have told him before they had relations. I would have beat her til she was in a coma. I LOVE YOU CHRIS BROWN STAY FRESH"

To put this in perspective, on these sites the majority of threads were condemning Brown’s violent behaviour. But when around a third of comments on a range of sites justify it in some way, it’s kinda sickening.

But wait, I hear you say. Aren’t those who made the comments just stupid teenagers who don’t know jack about anything? Why do you treat them seriously?

Because the fact that even one person in the world thinks that a woman deserves to get beaten by her partner, that’s one too many. The fact that so many females think that disturbs the hell out of me. The fact that people would shamelessly justify relationship violence on a public forum is just f*#%ed up beyond belief.

Now since everyone is apparently so confused about this sh*t, I’m gonna break it down real simple for all the fellas out there.

Rule No. 1: Don’t hit your girl. Ever.

That’s about it, really.

But wait, I hear you say. What about if she’s hitting me?
Remember Rule 1. Which means you get the hell out of there. A woman hitting a man is just not the same as a man hitting a woman, whether you think that's fair or not.

But what if I can’t get away?

Self-defence is acceptable only as a last resort. Self-defence means you fend off the blows long enough to get the hell out of there. Self-defence doesn’t mean you beat and choke her until she loses consciousness.

What if she gave me herpes?

Well, maybe you should be more careful where you stick it. Dump her ass if you must, it doesn’t mean you can hit her. Because after you hit her, you still have herpes, asshole!

Oh, and ladies, you shouldn’t go trying to hit your man. That ain’t right at all. But if you do, that doesn’t mean he should hit you. If a man lays a hand on you in anger, dump his ass quick smart. Real men are better than that.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Here’s a rough transcript of a conversation I had yesterday with a friend of a friend. I believe she was Chinese or Vietnamese, in case you were wondering.

Me: “I’ve been looking for a housemate recently, so a few people have been coming round to check out the place. But the guy who came round this evening has just arrived from India, so he had trouble finding the place. He was an hour late.”

Her: “Don’t take him.”

Me: “Why not? He seems to be a nice guy.”

Her: “No, because he’s Indian. If I had a rental property I would never rent it out to Indians. I hear they are really messy, and they’ll just stink up the place.”

Me: “Really? See, my girlfriend is Indian, and she’s never stunk up my place.”

Her: “Oh… sorry.”

(Palpable awkwardness follows)

To the girl I was talking to, you seemed like a nice person, and I hope you learned the moral of this story: before sharing your potentially offensive opinions about a particular nationality with someone whom you barely know, think twice. You never know who they might be dating.

Oh, and to my lovely girlfriend: baby if you read this, you smell lovely.

Global funk connections: Pino D'Angio & Menelik/ No Se

Mention the term "Italo-disco" and discerning music heads will probably cringe and start to back away slowly. But every genre has its good points, and Pino D'Angio's "Que Idea" is a classic. It may have some ridiculously silly backing vocals and a whiff of cheese about it, but it's still great, partly for D'Angio's sleazy quasi-rap vocals, but mostly because of the almighty groove. Borrowing liberally from McFadden & Whitehead's wondrous "Ain't No Stopping Us Now", its bouncy bassline is a monster lick.
The video is also worth watching just for D'Angio's super-sleazy, cigarette-toting coolness.

Many of you will recognise the groove in sampled form, from Madison Avenue's big dance hit "Don't Call Me Baby". But for what is in my opinion a better use of the same riff, check this French hip-hop track by Menelik and No Se. I've got a soft spot for French rap, and the retro cartoon video "Quelle Aventure" adds to the infectiousness for me.

(If my eyes and ears don't mislead me, the other sample in there is Bob James' "Sign of the Times", while the cartoon second half of the video references the famous cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You".)

Interesting the journey a groove can take. An Italian disco hit which rips off an black American disco hit, which is then sampled by French rappers, then later by an Australian outfit, becoming a worldwide smash in the process.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Random comic genius: Hard Gay Ramen

Japanese TV throws up a variety of things weird, wacky and wonderful, and few individuals can embody all three like Hard Gay. If you are not yet familiar with comedian/professional wrestler/television personality Hard Gay (aka Razor Ramon Sumitani), your life has been somewhat poorer as a result.

Here Hard Gay helps out a struggling noodle shop in his own inimitable way.

To find out more, type "Hard Gay" into google, doing your best to avoid all the hardcore gay porn websites that appear, unless you're into that sort of thing of course.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Knobheads of the Week (International): PETA

Ok, so you are planning a campaign for the animal rights organisation you are a member of, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). You are angry at the consequences of the American Kennel Club's emphasis on pure-breeding a "master race" of dogs, which leads to dogs in animal shelters being neglected. Hmmm, what would be a good idea to get publicity for the campaign?

"Hey! Why don't we all stand around outside Madison Square Garden in KKK outfits, to play up the whole 'master race' angle?"

Wow, what a great idea. It's such an obvious connection to the issue. I can't think of any group of people who might be offended or consider this to be a sensitive issue.

Seriously guys. We all appreciate the good work you do for animals and all, but WTF were you thinking? I mean SERIOUSLY, WTF were you thinking?


Knobhead of the Week (Australia): Danny Nalliah

As mentioned previously, the state of Victoria has been afflicted with some of the worst ever bushfires over the last week or so. According to so-called “experts”, these devastating fires are caused by a combination of record hot and dry weather, arsonists, broken power lines and possibly lightning strikes. Well they’re wrong apparently. See, Pastor Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries in Melbourne, is a guy who REALLY knows the score.
According to Pastor Nalliah, the bushfires are a result of the State Government passing a bill which made it easier for women to obtain an abortion. (Previously, they could still get one easily enough, now its not technically illegal anymore.) He said that “these bushfires have come as a result of the incendiary abortion laws which decimate life in the womb.” The bill was passed several months ago. According to Nalliah’s website:

“In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God.
That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.”

So now you see. For the last few months, God has apparently been nurturing a grudge against the whole state. Meanwhile, most of Queensland has been affected by massive flooding. I wonder what they did to offend God. He’s a vindictive higher being that Nalliah believes in. I’m not sure if it’s the same higher being I believe in though.

I once had a dream that I was playing trumpet at a mega-concert at the Waverley Park football ground, alongside the band Fishbone, while former NBA star point guard Muggsy Bogues was also playing trumpet with me. I’ve never played trumpet, by the way. However, like most sane people, I’m quite aware that things that happen in dreams don’t necessarily come true. Mind you, I’m no prophet, unlike Nalliah claims to be. But he strikes me as the kind of guy whose dreams frequently include hellfire, so to claim that dream as some kind of prophecy is perhaps a bit rich.

Unsuprisingly, Nalliah’s statements describing the fires as God’s punishment have not gone over too well with Victorians who are still reeling from the impacts of this disaster. It’s not the first time the Sri Lankan-born Nalliah has annoyed people by opening his big mouth. He first came to public attention after delivering a speech that allegedly vilified Muslims. He then ran unsuccessfully for a Senate Seat with the Family First Party. In that campaign he released a leaflet which included the following passage:

"Spot Satan's strongholds in the areas you are living (brothels, gambling places, bottle shops, mosque, temples -- Freemasons/Buddhist/Hindu etc, witchcraft…
"If you are ready to pray against it, do so. If not, bring it to your church and ask your intercessors, through the pastor, to pull these strongholds down."

Nalliah has received criticism as well for his willingness to give an address to the far-right anti-Semitic group The League of Rights. He also had this to say about multiculturalism:

"Like a pressure cooker or bottle of soda water waiting to explode, the simmering racial war will reach its inevitable climax later, if not sooner... The multicultural melting pot has turned into a pressure cooker and it’s now a case of assimilate or implode Australia."

Nalliah apparently sees no irony in any of this, given that he only arrived as a Tamil immigrant to Australia in 1997.

Nalliah’s church does do a lot of work for charity and I’m sure that he is a well-meaning and decent man. But he’s still a knobhead.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ethiopian food at Cafe Lalibela

Right: Mesobs. Though used here for display only, this is the traditional communal table used in Ethiopian meals.

I was gonna post this over a year ago, but for whatever reason (laziness, forgetfulness, take your pick) I'm only doing it now. In any case, back whenever it was, I took a few of the gang (Frankie, Carissa, Sheree, Carpell) out to try some Ethiopian cuisine.

Footscray is the home of Melbourne's Ethiopian community, with 6 or 7 restaurants within several blocks of each other. Cafe Lalibela (91 Irving St) is seemingly the most established, and together with Fasil African Restaurant, located a few doors down and run by the owner's brother-in-law, they make the tastiest food of the lot.

I find Ethiopia's unique culture to be a particularly interesting one, and its food to be familiar yet distinct and exotic, one of the last great undiscovered cuisines. While many people's knowledge of the country extends to little more than the devastating famines that formerly wracked the country, Ethiopians have a rich culinary tradition. Spices, both hot and fragrant, are used more extensively than anywhere outside Asia. The influence of both Islamic cultures and the Coptic Church (which prescribes many days of vegetarian fasting) are noticeable on the cuisine.

Oh, and if not for the ancient Ethiopians, we would not have that marvellous concoction known as coffee. You can get coffee roasted on the spot and brewed in the traditional Ethiopian style here, but you need to order ahead as the process is fairly involved.

Right: Ethiopian beers - I admit I'm hardly someone who really appreciates or knows much about beer, but these seemed to agree with me.

If you've never eaten Ethiopian food, you need to know a few basic things. Firstly, its spicy, although not excessively so; mind you, apparently the food in Ethiopia is mouth-blastingly spicy.
Secondly, wash your hands, because there is no cutlery. You can get some if you insist, but that would just be silly. Use your hands to tear off a piece of injera (sourdough pancake) and use that to scoop up the food.
Thirdly, it is a truly communal dining experience, in that you all eat from the same large plate. So better to dine with friends with reasonable hygiene standards.

Aside from the spongy and slightly tangy injera, two main flavours define Ethiopian cuisine. One is berbere, a bright red blend of chili and between 10 and 15 other spices. The other is niter kebbeh, a type of ghee (clarified butter) with various herbs added in the clarifying process.
Probably the most popular dishes are Doro Wat, chicken and boiled egg in a red gravy thick with onions and berbere; and Tibs, stir fried beef or lamb pieces with green chili and niter kebbeh. Vegetarians are well-catered for, with a number of lentil and bean dishes, slow-cooked and richly flavoured.

Clockwise from top:
Doro wat (chicken and boiled egg stew with berbere); Shiro wat (chickpea powder with berbere); Kik alicha (yellow split peas); Mesir wat (brown lentils with berbere); Garden salad with green chilies; Mesir alicha (brown lentils); Derek tibs (beef with onions and green chilies); Ful (stewed broad beans) with ayib (yoghurt cheese).
All served on
injera (sourdough pancake).

One of the great pleasures of the meal is towards the end, polishing off the last of the injera, which has soaked up all the gravy and ghee from the mains.

You're unlikely to spend more than $15-20 per person here, but with its deliciously rich, spicy and carb-heavy food, you'll definitely leave feeling full and satisfied.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Don't drink in a pub - drink cow's urine instead!

In a region beset by Muslim fundamentalism, India’s radical Hindus are apparently eager to show that they can be just as nutty in their quest to keep India in the dark ages and rid it of allegedly corrupting foreign influences.

Cowpiss soda
One hardline conservative group the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been in trouble before for attacking mosques. Now they have turned their sights to another force they see as destructive to Indian culture – Western soft drinks. But since their previous campaigns to ban Coke and Pepsi have not been successful, the RSS are planning to out-compete the Western soda giants by launching their own soft drink – made of cow urine.

Yes, apparently some Hindus believe cow’s urine has medicinal properties and drink it at religious festivals. And I’m sure it tastes fantastic.

But most aspects of Hindu extremism are less amusing, particularly as they have tacit backing from the ruling conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In recent times there have been pogroms against Christians in the eastern state of Orissa and against Muslims in the western state of Gujarat, both states controlled by the BJP.

Harassment of women and couples
The obsessions du jour of Hindu crazies are the recent trends of women attending pubs, and the celebration of Valentines Day. In particular, these self-style moral police see young unmarried couples walking around together as some kind of threat to Indian traditions. One Hindu nationalist group in Chennai has threatened lovers found in public that they will be handed over to the police. Elsewhere, radicals have been forcing young couples to either get married, or tie on string bracelets which signify that they are brother and sister.

Many conservatives consider it un-Indian for women to frequent pubs (it’s okay for men, obviously), and there have been recent attacks on female students in pubs in the Southern college town of Mangalore, in another BJP-controlled state. The group responsible, the Sri Ram Sena (Lord Ram’s Army) did it ostensibly to protect Indian culture and prevent the women from going astray. “Our action was aimed at protecting women,” said group founder Pramod Mutalik. “In our culture, we respect and salute women and give them the status of mother.” How thoughtful of them.

Just as thoughtful as the mob of militants in the town of Ujjain who attacked an actual brother and sister walking together, since they mistook them for a romantic couple.

But in their own way, young and progressive Indians are fighting back. Secular vigilante squads have been formed and deployed to potential troublespots, to ensure that radicals do not harass women. It is a small but strong act of defiance against the Hindu nationalist juggernaut, and seemingly a much-needed one, particularly as many in the police force seem to collude with the radicals.

Gathering publicity around the world has been the group originating on Facebook called “Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women” (love the name), which has mocked the Sri Rim Sena by having its members send the SRS pairs of pink chaddis (underpants) in celebration of Valentines Day.

Reports suggest that the day came and went without major incident, largely due to police rounding up known nationalist troublemakers, Mutalik included, and jailing them as a preventative measure.

Its interesting to observe that despite the the deep enmity the Hindu radicals have for Muslims, there are so many similarities between them and Muslim hardliner moral police such as Afghanistan’s Taliban and Indonesia’s vigilante squad known as the Islamic Defenders Front. Not that they’d admit it, of course.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Global funk connections: Toshi Kubota

As a devotee of the funk with an interest in different cultures, I’m always keen to check out how those distinctively black-diaspora music styles that I love (soul, jazz, hip-hop, funk, reggae) are interpreted by the artists from different communities and parts of the world.

In the first in a series of posts I’m doing on funky music from around the globe, we check out Japanese soul artist Toshinobu Kubota, who has also released material under the names Toshi Kubota and more recently just Toshi. A big star in his native land, where his early music was more in the standard ballad-heavy J-Pop vein, Toshi later decamped to the US to search for that elusive English-language market. Now working in a more neo-soul style, he has collaborated with artists such as The Roots and J-Dilla.

Musically his songs compare well to his American neo-soul peers – think Musiq Souldchild and Eric Benet. Toshi is a good singer although his slightly accented vocal style occasionally jars with me. But a good song is a good song. Check out “Breaking Through” and The Roots’ mix of “Nothing But Your Love”, below.

Or for a taste of some vintage Japanese-language Toshi, check out “Groovin’” from way back in 1987. It’s a solid slab of 80s funk groove.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Indonesia's anti-porno laws get stupider and stupider

If you haven't heard, the Indonesian government has recently passed an extremely contentious anti-pornography bill, which bans not only pornography itself, but also whatever behaviours and practices they deem to be "pornographic actions". In other words, things like kissing in public, insufficiently covering one's body, and traditional art with erotic themes, all can be deemed to be pornographic.

Indonesia's population may be 90% Muslim, but its rich cultural heritage includes numerous traditions drawn from animist beliefs, Chinese culture, Buddhism and Hinduism as well as Islam. But the extremist minority are achieving some substantial victories in turning this unique culture into a poor facsimile of an Arab state.

Most Indonesians are sensible about this kind of thing, and are none too comfortable with the heavy hand of fundamentalist Islam intruding into their lives. Recently a council of Islamic scholars handed down a number of fatwas recommending that Indonesian Muslims not partake in such activities as yoga (it has Hindu origins and thus will corrupt one's faith), joining Rotary and Lions Clubs (they are run by Zionists, apparently), and smoking in public (for health reasons - actually, that's not a bad idea). Most Indonesians would care not a jot for these pronouncements. Particularly relating to smoking, which is the country's other major religion.

The latest tradition to fall victim to the anti-porno bill is the West Javanese dance known as jaipong. This traditional routine, performed by females, has not been banned, but dancers have been told they must refrain from wearing revealing clothing and making gyrating hip movements. Apparently these aspects of the performance make viewers uncomfortable and may inflame sexual desires in men. You can read more about that here.

If you are wondering what this apparently steamy and enticing dance is like, you can judge it for yourself below. But honestly, if you find that this dangerously stimulates forbidden passions within in you to the point that lawmakers need to get involved, you should seek medical help. Or go take a cold shower.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random comic genius: I want to be a doctor

Goodness Gracious Me is one of my all-time favourite comedies, particularly its in first season. It had a brilliant cast, and a knack for playing around with and often inverting the traditional stereotypes. They mercilessly took the piss out of the British Asian community, but always in a way that was both affectionate and socially aware. This sketch is not necessarily one of their best, but is still pretty fabulous.

Victoria is burning

This is a picture my friends and I took a couple of weeks ago, at a beautiful waterfall just outside the picturesque township of Marysville, just northeast of Melbourne.

This is what Marysville looks like today:

Victoria's bushfires have made news around the world, and appear to be the worst in Australian recorded history. The death toll is around 200 and counting, and entire towns, just like Marysville, have been virtually wiped off the map. I watched on the news and saw the town's main street, and a spot where I had been standing watching the Australia Day parade. Except now it looked like a bomb had hit it, a fire-blasted scene of rubble and devastation. Likewise, St Andrews, the hippified site of my favourite market, has also been horribly affected by the fire. I visited there barely a month ago.

Police report that at least some of the numerous fires burning in different parts of the state must have been deliberately lit. Broken power lines, lightning and discarded cigarettes are common possible causes. Either way, the landscape was like kindling after 2 weeks of frequent 40+ degrees celsius temperatures.

A number of my family and friends lived near to some of the affected areas, but fortunately the fire didn't reach them. Many however were not so lucky, and my heart goes out to all those affected by this disaster.

Amongst all the horror and despair, we have still seen how tragedy can bring out the best in people's nature, and the efforts of the volunteers in fighting fires and helping those in need can not be overstated. Likewise, people all round the country have opened their hearts and wallets to make donations to help those who have lost their houses and loved ones.

If you are keen to make a donation, you can find out more about it at

Insert your "Asian drivers" comment here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Guess who's Asian? (Part 2)

Of all the posts I've done, this one seems to garner the most traffic and interest. Yep, the post about famous people who have Asian blood. Apparently everyone wants to know who's Asian and who's not.

In particular, the most traffic I seem to get (there are websites that break down this data for you) is from people googling "is Pharrell Williams Asian?" I wish people came to my site for its biting humour and insightful social analysis and stunningly handsome picture of yours truly, but if all I'm good for is info about why Pharrell has chinky eyes, well I'll take that too. Admittedly, I'm damn curious myself.

On the subject of Pharrell, still nothing conclusive has come out of my extensive research (which consists of little more than googling "is Pharrell Williams Asian?") The most evidence of his supposed blasian-ness is some chick whose friend's cousin met his friend or something and he said he's part Korean. Someone else claims he's part Thai. One person who commented here gave the rock-solid evidence that he hangs out with designer Nigo and fellow Neptune Chad Hugo, who are both Asian. Wow, he has 2 Asian friends, he must be Asian. (By that logic, I must be Jamaican, Bangladeshi, gay, a woman, a Ba'Hai, an accountant and a doctor, among other things)

Another thing I learned from my previous post is that I need to put photos up of everyone I mention. Because 2 people commented that I forgot Tiger Woods. Tiger actually was the first blasian I mentioned, and I wrote 2 sentences about him, but I didnt include a photo (since everyone knows what Tiger looks like). So if there isn't a photo, apparently it didn't happen. So here's a picture of Tiger for all those of you out there who don't really like words but prefer pictures.

Oh, and in the earlier post I put up the wrong picture for Black Eyed Peas' Afro-Filipino rapper Apl de Ap, so here is a correct one:

Here are some readers' suggestions of Eurasians and Blasians that I forgot:

R&B hottie Kelis is another blasian - her dad is African-American and her moms is Chinese/Puerto Rican. This Caribbean connection is common with celebrity blasians, due to large Chinese and Indian populations in the islands.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, a former Superbowl MVP, was born in South Korea, with an African American father. He has used his profile to advocate for minorities and multiracial kids in the country of his birth - respect to him.

You might recognise actress and model Maggie Q (Q is for Quigley) from movies such as "Mission Impossible III", "Balls of Fury" and "Live Free or Die Hard." Born in Hawaii, she has a Vietnamese mother and a father of Irish, Polish and French ancestry.

While I drool over Maggie Q, my friend Sheree is busy drooling over Daniel Henney. The US-born Korean/British hunk has a high profile in Korea due to modelling and film work, but you can see him in the upcoming "X-Men Origins: Wolverine".

I feel kinda gay decribing someone as a hunk, by the way.

And of course, how could we forget Keanu? The actor is as mixed-up as you can get: Raised in Canada but born in Lebanon to a British mother and a Hawaiian dad of Chinese/Portuguese/Irish heritage.

Model, TV host and fashion label head Kimora Lee Simmons was born to a black American father and Korean/Japanese mother. Formerly married to hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, she is apparently now expecting a baby with Benin's most famous actor, Djimon Hounsou. Another flavour added to the melting pot.

I used to watch Dean Cain star as Superman in "Lois and Clark", back in the day, not noticing his Asian ancestry. But his paternal grandfather was Japanese, hence his original surname of Tanaka.

And finally we have Latin/pop star Enrique Iglesias. His father is the legendary Spanish pants-man and crooner Julio Iglesias, his mother a Filipino magazine editor.

Oh and regarding NZ rugby star Tana Umaga and his somewhat Asian looks (one comment agreed that he had Chinese in there somewhere, another comment basically implied I was racist for even suggesting it), the jury is still out. I used to teach a Samoan-Australian kid (now an Australian under-20 rugby star in his own right) who claimed that Umaga was his cousin, and that he indeed had some Japanese in his ancestry somewhere. Which may be so, but I'm not especially inclined to believe it - sounds a bit like the thing I wrote above about Pharrell allegedly being Korean. Plus, since Pacific Islanders are originally from South East Asia (albeit 2000 years ago), it shouldn't be too surprising if some have a slightly Asian look.

There are plenty more half-Asians and quarter-Asians out there, and I will definitely post more on this, so keep the suggestions coming. Note though, that I'm mostly including those who are not quite so obviously Asian and who may sneak under the radar, due to their non-Asian names or appearance. That's why no Devon Aoki or Russell Wong, for instance.

Keep mixing, y'all.

Want more on this topic? Try "Guess who's Asian?" part 3 and part 4.

Rihanna & Jacko sued by Cameroonian musician

If you’re gonna seek permission to sample a piece of music, get permission from the right person – that’s the lesson to be learned from news that Rihanna and Michael Jackson have both copped a lawsuit today.

The plaintiff is 75 year old Cameroonian singer and saxophonist, Manu Dibango. According the The Guardian, Rihanna’s massive hit “Please Don’t Stop the Music” allegedly borrows from Dibango’s 1972 song “Soul Makossa”. Now, in that sentence where it says “allegedly”, read “obviously”, because it is obvious. More specifically, it is Dibango’s chant of “mama ko, mama sa, mama mako sa” (or something like that), which appears towards the end of Rihanna’s track to give it a bit of exotic flavour.

Where does Michael Jackson come in? He had previously borrowed the chant in 1983 for his smash “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”. He changed the chant ever so slightly, but its source is obvious. Jackson admitted to this and settled with Dibango out of court. But more recently, when Rihanna also used the chant, she sought permission from Jackson’s people, and was granted it. Yet she did not seek clearance from Dibango. So now Dibango wants to get paid, and who could blame him. There’s a lot of coin to be made out of this, but more importantly, it’s the principle of the thing.

If you have never heard the original “Soul Makossa”, you can check it out below. It’s a monster afro-funk jam that crossed over into the American funk scene as well. (There’s even a Jamaican cover version bouncing around entitled “Reggae Makossa”.) You can hear the chant early in the song, just before Dibango busts out his killer saxophone riff. It’s the epitome of afro cool. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm Movin' On

Yes, my old web address is no more. I thought I should do this blog thing properly, and noting that all the cool kids with blogs have domain names that include the blog title, I thought I should do what all the cool kids are doing.

I wanted, but that belongs to someone who's never posted anything yet for some reason has held on to that domain for several years. So I had to settle for the hyphen method (, which is less pleasing, but hey, ya gotsta work with what ya gotsa work with I guess.

And although no-one will appreciate this but me and other ethnic nerds, the hyphen is actually kinda appropriate for a site dealing with the world of hyphenated people (Asian-Australians, African-Americans, Malaysian-Indians, etc etc).

Every move needs good movin' music (and plus without it this would be a pretty dull post), so with that in mind, enjoy Brass Construction's 1976 monster funk jam "Movin'".