A Better Way to Think of Being Mixed: As a Filter Problem, Not A Data Problem

Fundamentally, I have a filter problem.

I don’t have a data problem. I am part-Chinese and part-Western, and these two backgrounds simply make for a “feedstock-rich” environment.

If I can't see the cultural datastream that happenstance has afforded me, then I'm missing something.

Despite this many mixed people and non-mixed people don't see this datastream. They see all zeroes, no zeroes and ones.

They see mixed as a data problem. To them there simply ain't enough data. Consequently, according to them, there is no there there.

One reason for this is that people use the unit of all mixed people, from all potential prospective mixes worldwide as the relevant appropriate lens with which to think of what it means to be mixed. What happens here is that 1) the rate of mixing too furious to make sense in real time what is happening on a global level. 2) it is also impossible to make sense of what it means to be mixed on a local level.

Though there are some threads of continuity amongst random mixed people, the particulars do matter. That you are Jamaican-Cuban, and that someone else is Korean-Italian likely means that you share a tranche of “we are both mixed, and that's kinda cool” surely, but prima facie the historical contexts are different, the norms, economic disparities and social mores are different. You also look different, which has a way of micro-shaping how others perceive you, which micro-shapes how you might perceive yourself. You may have the same stories of “I was once excluded,” or “it was once awkward,” or “someone once said something.” These are interesting enough for chit-chat over a box of Pocky, or some atomized coffee-talk. But that is about it. On such a general level (i.e. discussing what I call "meta-mixedness"), indeed there truly is a data problem. The earth is just a big blob. One person's mixed is just the same as the other guys.' From that vantage point we are all the same, and there is no vision with these lenses to see grain and detail that might conflict with that presumption of global sameness. Since the universe is too large, everything has to be a critical study. There is no hope for a meaningful framework with any possible ongoing integrity.

Yet the fatal flaw of the mainstream view of being mixed is that it looks top-down.

I reason I wrote my book Beyond Eurasian and Hapa: Bridging a Chinese-Western Identity was to present the alternate view, the bottoms-up view.

When I think of my mixed story, or any other mixed story, I guess I take a different approach from the Critical Mixed Race Studies one, for example.

In other words I don't look up at "the system," or at "structures." I don't assume that being mixed is deterministic in any way. Being mixed doesn't make you more likely to be queer. It doesn't make you more likely to be anti-racist. It doesn't make you any smarter or any wiser. Being mixed does not predict your attitude toward "inclusion."

My approach to being mixed is to "go low." I don't mean in the Michelle Obama sense of being crass. I mean in the sense of going straight to the narrative details of the story. And when I get to the nub of these details, I will promise to take them particular detail by particular detail, unique snowflake as unique snowflake. The bottoms-up approach means eschewing the impulse to pre apply any lens or framework for analysis other than some basic dialectic, surrendering only to the idea that being mixed inherently involves contradictions, nothing else.

In my particular background, growing up in Hong Kong and partially in California, I had plenty of examples of mixed people being "shafted," for lack of a better word. But at the same time, there were nagging counter-examples, e.g. of Hong Kong Eurasians during colonial times doing the shafting themselves, as mezzanine middlemen and indefatigable interlocutors, sticking it to the locals in service of the Crown.

Strictly from an American point of view, half-Asian people seem to slot in with any other sundry mixed people, with others from oppressed nations, and so forth. But the details matter. The local contexts matter when it comes to talking about being mixed. I believe in honor, yes. I believe in duty, yes. But I also believe in opportunism and self-interest. And the notion that mixed people had identical interests in previous times is rose-colored/misinformed, and to think mixed people have common interests in this world today is, well, codswallop. Reconciling contradictions is the bread and butter of being mixed; to not factor self-interest and power into heuristics/gut predictions of how mixed people will and should confront the world misses something very significant. I believe that mixed people may be inclined to be "progressive" as much as they may be inclined to be "regressive." To me, the melange of historical context and opportunity and naked self-interest and pangs of wanting to do right and be honorable, all factor in. In my view this black box is more complex than it is for other, non-mixed people. We may not be able to always see it, but it is fed relentlessly by more and more data, it will be brimming with it, overflowing with one push and another pull. And by golly, we have a need to study this black box, make it more meaningful and consequential than ever before. And I suspect that the degree to which we succeed here is the degree to which we build build effective filters. This is all for naught, after all, if we fail to extract meaning.

I look at being mixed as gift. But that gift is like a starter kit of lego. There is no finished product there. It is gift as invitation, a prompt to learn to learn

I don't have difficulty discerning that mixed people are far from monolithic. I know they have a high variance in interests at stake. If all I do as a mixed person is open my eyes, I will see data everywhere. I am done looking down. I am done with the dogma of "top-down." What I have is a filter problem. I am mixed. What I need are better filters.



Twisted-ass, Gutter Headline

This is the twisted, morally indifferent world we live in. After all, who cares about rumpled up hos if someone may have unearthed the "Prison Diet." The editor's hook is that bubble lathering up in someone's head: "damn, I'd kill to lose weight!!!"

Working on my Next Book(s)

As it turns out, I have two books I'm working on right now.

I am in the filling notebooks stage with baffling, illegible crud stage hoping to turn up some leads, x 2 projects. 

One of the projects is developing a crude quantitative model for "bothness" and using it to compare two pairings of Chinese and Western concepts.

The other project is "The 13 Principles of Ouhua," which if my first book was about creating a starting point for conversation, and basically getting mired into some (as feedback suggests) not that interesting groundwork as to what is Chinese and what is Western, this one is all about advancing the puck up the ice. I reckon I could do this one in a much more fast-paced style, and though I am talking specifically to Chinese-Western mixed people, actually produce a book that might inadvertently have greater crossover appeal.

Let me know what you think!

Sunshine Coast Sunset

Tinbeerwah, QLD

Tinbeerwah, QLD

This is such a lovely part of the world. The Sunshine Coast reminds me of California, not of today, but a California, of a bygone era that I know from postcards and anecdotes.


It is a quaintness mixed with grandeur. In short, it is local and cosmopolitan, a rare duo worthy of emphasis and savoring.

Butcher's Block

There is a lovely cafe (and restaurant) in Wahroonga, New South Wales (just outside Sydney) named "The Butcher's Block."

They serve a very "Aussie" breakfast menu, and by that I mean hearty and meaty dishes, with a creamy bias, sized up to Texas portion sizes. As the name implies this is not a Vegan-friendly place by any means.

I do enjoy the setting and the coffee is de-lish and the high-protein brekkie every once in a while, though I realize more and more (if I'm not skipping breakfast) the Chinese breakfast of congee and deep-fried cruller is ultimately my go-to.

But that's not I want to make comments about today.

I want to take about what's in a name, in particular "The Butcher's Block."

This name strikes me as an utterly Western name. Yet why is that? Why is it utterly not Chinese, and such a good example of real cultural differences between Chinese and Western?

"The Butcher's Block" is a purely descriptive name. There is something attractive about it in a Western context due to its matter-of-factness, its total and willing abandonment of adornment. It is what it is. Take it or leave it. The context does not matter. This is a hyper-Western example: 100% description and nothing else is "Veritas," it is truth, brother.

But why is it in a hundred years you would never see a cafe in China named as such (at least one opened by Chinese people)? Why is there no Chinese 屠夫塊咖啡室 (literally, butcher's block)? Is it just the characters, which have graphic representations which foil this name? In this case the first character for "butcher" 屠 is composed of the modular parts "protagonist" and "corpse." A truly "nail on the head" ideogram, if I've ever seen one, Sweet Bloody Christ... Give me a bloody Acai bowl stat...

Nonetheless, I dunno if it is just that characters are too heavy, leading to "matter of fact" failures to conjure contextless images...

I reckon that Chinese are culturally attuned to using aspirational names. That is not to say that the names have to necessarily be grand, like sometimes you see "Peaceful Universe Dim Sum" or "Galaxy This" or "Ocean That." Xiaomi 小米 is maybe a little "humblebrag" but it isn't grand, "little rice" gets into some metaphorical space about bits and data though.

The core difference is Westerner's tend to compliment themselves when they "tell it like it is," whereas Chinese do not.


What Actually Happened in 2011 when Standard and Poor’s downgraded USA's credit rating from “AAA” to “AA+?

When S&P’s downgraded the U.S. the fallout should have been higher yields, in other words, all the bond investors in theory should have demanded that Uncle Sam pay more interest in exchange for a bet on the U.S. of A. That didn’t happen.

What happened was the opposite. Investors panicked when the U.S. downgrade occurred. Once the panic began, investors made the proverbial “flight to safety” which for now still happens to be U.S. treasuries.

Think about it. People lost confidence in the solvency of the U.S. A., they panicked and made some knee-jerk reactions, driving the price up (and the yield crashing down to about 2%) of the very thing they were worried was going to go down.

Read More

A Very Curious Seating Preference

Some people find this really strange. I can't stand the aisle seat.

I am happy with this seat, a "B" seat.

I am happy with this seat, a "B" seat.

In fact, I prefer the middle seat.


The middle seat.

And I've been wedged in there with some fat people. And I'm a little tubby now, but I've been fat myself.

Still, I prefer the middle seat to the aisle. Of course, the window is best.

But the middle protects me from passersby. The middle protects me from the cart.

If we are dealing with a row of three seats (A,B,C), the aisle seat also has to deal with double the number of requests to give way to those needing to go to the bathroom (A and B instead of just A).

Furthermore, if you want to use the "I like to get up whenever I want thus you like the window seat" argument; if you are a B seat all you have to do is wait until the C seat goes to the bathroom and you are home free, no unneeded social interaction, at all. This is unlike an A seat, where you have a high chance of only having to ask one person to yield to you, but a low probability of zero social interaction (i.e. two seats being concurrently unoccupied). The B seat does not know when this will occur, but it has a near certainty of some periods of zero required social interaction.

So, if you ask me, the middle seat is not all that bad.