One Year Anniversary

Ah, yeah, that. It’s been a year. Times flies!! (Happy One Yr, FC) In honor of the anniversary and noting my sporadic posting of late, here’s a long-ish post.

Happy Moon Festival. A friend of mine once said that the moon cakes we Chinese folks eat are the equivalent of the western culture’s ubiquitous holiday fruitcakes. I’m inclined to agree (although, moon cakes are just that much better, in terms of good old fashioned lard goodness).

Upstate NY district attorney declined to press charges on a restaurant customer who refused to pay the 18% tip because he felt that he had poor service. Basically, the restaurant has to say it’s a surcharge (and therefore required) rather than gratuity (which, by definition, is discretionary) to get the money their staff relies on as income.

On the one hand, it’s harsh publicity – it takes guts for a restauranteur to want to press criminal charges a cheap customer (plus, once the news gets out that you did that, who would want to go to your restaurant unless you make awesome cheesecake or something worth risking the wrong calculation of the tip and going to jail or paying fines for it?). And, once Cheap Customer is made an example, I suppose it makes people put the money out for tips. Personally, I think we’re better off making it a surcharge (it’ll make it easier to calculate and then neither the restaurantuers nor the customers will shaft the labor force, at least, not by not paying up).

One should never say that the Asian American voters are a monolithic voting group – this NY Times article by John M. Broder illustrates how one Vietnamese California community differ on the issues:

Little Saigon straddles the cities of Westminster and Garden Grove, between them the home of 70,000 Vietnamese-Americans. An estimated 200,000 ethnic Vietnamese live in Orange County, the largest concentration outside Vietnam. Little Saigon is their social and commercial hub, a thriving center that sprang up in an area once covered by strawberry fields and derelict warehouses.

One can drive for a dozen blocks along Bolsa and Westminster Avenues and not see a single storefront sign in English. The shops are full of Vietnamese foods and toys and videos and clothing. Vietnamese music blares from open shops, and the fast-food cafes emit the sweet and spicy aromas of Vietnamese cooking, redolent of lemon grass and simmered pork and nut-dough pastries.

Conversation tends to focus on commerce and the capitalist paradise these refugees from Communism have found here. But it is not difficult to coax opinions about the presidential campaign from those who have stopped for a cup of French iced coffee or a plate of sticky rice.[….]

[Mr. Chau] said he approved of the war in Iraq and hoped only that the United States would stay to finish the job of wiping out the insurgents.

“They’re doing the same thing to the Americans in Iraq that the Communists did in Vietnam,” Mr. Chau said. “They should stay there until it’s better. The United States should have stayed longer in Vietnam.”

Orange County tends to be safe country for Republicans, although by smaller margins than in the past because of changing demographics. The Vietnamese-American population, like the Cuban exile community in Miami, is fiercely anti-Communist and predominantly, though not unanimously, Republican[…. ]

Mr. Kerry’s outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War won him few friends here… Others claim Mr. Kerry was duped into believing that the Vietcong were peace-loving rice farmers.

“I think a lot of people here are affected by what Mr. Kerry did after he returned from the war,” said Toan Do, editor of Nguoi Viet Daily News, the largest Vietnamese-language daily newspaper in the country. “There is a certain resentment about his antiwar activities because the Vietnamese feel they are victims of the Communist invasion, and the Americans didn’t see it that way, especially the protesters.”

Still, Mr. Do said, most Vietnamese in the United States would rather not relive that era, even as politicians try to keep it alive with the Swift Boat advertisements and the flap over Mr. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard.

“The Vietnamese are not really interested in this discussion,” Mr. Do said. “They want to look forward and not look back into the past.”

There are Kerry supporters among Vietnamese-Americans, those who see him as a brave patriot and vastly preferable to Mr. Bush.

“John Kerry is a hero to me,” said Thuy Reed, 52, who married an American contractor and fled Vietnam in January 1975, three months before the fall of Saigon. She is a writer and founder of New Viet Women, a support group for Vietnamese women in the United States.

“By acting and behaving the way John Kerry did, it shows a person like me that he has faith in the American way, to come back here and say what he said,” Ms. Reed said. “Where I came from, they would take me away if I did anything like that. So when I heard about Jane Fonda or when John Kerry came home, it showed me what America was.”

She said she intended to vote for Mr. Kerry, in part because he was among the leaders in Congress who pushed for restoration of diplomatic relations with Vietnam, which came in 1995. She also fears that the United States is embarked on a dangerous course in Iraq and believes Mr. Kerry will change it.

Politics just isn’t simple, I’d say.

Mixed feelings about the MoMa’s reopening in Manhattan with a $20 admission fee. Quite an expense. On the one hand, you’d think that this would be a disincentive to go there with MoMa making us dig deeper into our pockets; on the other hand, even the Daily News today pointed out that there are ways around the $20 – MoMa’s still has discount or free nights and maybe it’s worth the $20 anyway (they do need to pay the renovations and they have major masterpieces). Eh; things aren’t getting cheaper in this city either way.

And, last but not least, “Have you eaten yet?: The Chinese Restaurant in America” – an exhibit of one man’s collection of the Chinese restaurant menus. NY Times has an interesting article on it, and NYC’s Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) is hosting the exhibit until June 2005. MoCA’s newsletter directed me to the equally fascinating Associated Press article about the exhibt. I guess I can’t look at those ubiquitous menus the same way anymore.

Enjoy what’s left of the weekend.

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