I was born in the
I remember, too, being teased for not knowing the difference in pronouns – there’s no such thing in Chinese, right? – and I recall my classmates in the affluent upper-middle class neighborhood where I went to school, commenting that I looked like a Jap and why didn’t I go back to where I came from. First grade or so, it’s hard to look at that sort of thing philosophically. I don’t suggest that things were worse where I came from; in fact, I suggest that things were better. This is long about 1979.
When first reports started coming in about the shooting at VTech last week, one of the early reports on MSNBC proclaimed that the shooter was a Chinese national. Later, when it was revealed that the guy was South Korean, nobody bothered to make a correction. It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
I stuttered – and badly – all through my early childhood. It led to a lot of time alone, unable to communicate, watching movies and television and reading the bookshelf of collector’s editions that my parents bought at some garage sale at some point somewhere along the line. In sixth grade, as part of commencement at my elementary school, a story that I’d written about my time in school was chosen to be read, by me, in front of the entire student body. My grandfather flew in from
The next day – hour – week – I stopped stuttering. I make a good portion of my living speaking now; I make the rest of it writing.
I think I stuttered because I had anxiety about my ability to communicate. I think that I didn’t end up a lot like Cho first, obviously, because I’m not insane – but also because I was able to make friends through soccer until I could make them through my ability to communicate. It’s tempting to say that everything happens for a reason because if you’re not dead, then it’s possible to justify everything. I want to paraphrase something from Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, that every living being on this planet is a badass evolutionary killing machine.
Without forgiving a thing that Cho did, let me say that I was heavily in the therebutforthe camp for a while and it was sobering. Stephen King wrote something for the EW website about this mess – the suggestion buried in there seems to be that Cho happened because Cho didn’t have any talent.
I think that’s, all irony aside, really fucking fascinating. I think that it’s dead on.
David Halberstam died today. He was a helluva journalist and a damned graceful writer. His The Best and the Brightest is essential and mad-influential. His books on baseball ain’t bad, either. This is what he said last year at a conference about government criticism of journalists covering
"The crueler the war gets, the crueler the attacks get on anybody who doesn't salute or play the game, and then one day, the people who are doing the attacking look around, and they've used up their credibility."
At the risk of too much solipsism, I substitute “war” for “film industry” and I think back on the reams of hate mail our review of Episode II generated at the time. Sometimes it’s better to be right than popular. The sad thing about film criticism in the United States is that in just a couple of decades of pinheads trying to make it as democratic a medium as film itself, it’s just about destroyed any chance there might be for actual film critics to make a living anymore. If any chucklehead with the ability to turn a cheerfully smug phrase can get a position at a major daily, why bother with the ones that make people angry? More, why hire your own when you can download wire? There are already only something like a dozen papers left in the United States that have homegrown book reviews – give it time and there’ll be five working film “critics” left making a traditional living in all of this great land of ours.
I can feel that stutter starting up again.