Halmoni Justice

“Today, the House will send a message to the government of Japan that it should deliver an official, unequivocal, unambiguous apology for the indignity the comfort women suffered”

-Rep. Mike Honda, Congressman


I posted this on a message board on Facebook, but thought it might be interesting to share here. The post was in response to the question  posed “What exactly is a
positive portrayal of Asian American in media?”

As a
filmmaker, I have struggled with this idea often. And I have gotten
criticism from certain people for exactly the reasons you are stating
— the idea of a “positive” portrayals.

To me, the most positive
portrayal is one that is a fully realized character with three
dimensions, complex emotions, and with that usually comes a certain
amount of imperfection. To be honest, I think it can be almost as
dangerous to make portraits of perfect people as it is to make the
Mickey Rooney Breakfast At Tiffanys caricature (or more recently Rob
Schneider in Chuck and Larry). In both cases (the negative stereotype
and the overly positive portrayal), those types of characters are
inherently lies — there are no such people and I believe an audience
knows that. On top of that in the case of a perfect person, the
audience is going to be bored by that type of character because a
perfect person has no drama in their lives.

One of the things I
had not really thought about before making The Motel was the fact that
most people go to the movies for escapism. Unfortunately, films like
mine are not escapist cinema. I enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star
Wars as much as anyone else, but I also believe there is another kind
of cinema that exists with completely different intentions. That other
cinema exists to prod and provoke and instigate thought, not avoid it.

I was trying to do with my film was to examine and portray a variation
on our own collective experiences. I think this can be an unnerving
experience for some people who are not used to walking into a movie
theater and being challenged by the story — people that are used to
going to the movies to just have a visceral onslaught of eye candy a la
Transformers . WIth the kind of movie I made, sometimes that means I
force the audience to look at parts of characters that aren’t always
pretty (and sometimes even painful). This can be especially hard for
people who are not used to seeing people that look like themselves on
the screen. My hope is that by looking at life through the filter of a
story, the audience may be able to relate the events of the story to
their own lives and maybe understand and even laugh about some of those
not so pleasant moments in their own lives.

Within our Asian
American community, I think it was this notion that a film like Better
Luck Tomorrow tapped into — the young Asian American (predominately
male) audience wanting to live out a fantasy as high school bad-asses.
I am not criticizing Justin Lin’s film, but rather just pointing out
why that film seemed to reach the tipping point whereas films like
Charlotte Sometimes, Robot Stories, Red Doors and my own The Motel
didn’t reach the mainstream or get the same kind of groundswell support
from the Asian American community. I could actually feel that kind of
expectation from audiences when they went to see my film. Don’t get me
wrong, I got a lot of love from the Asian American community. But at
almost every screening, I could feel the desire by the audiences to
want my film to be another call to arms. I knew that people wanted to
jump up and cheer and rally troops for this growing Asian American film
movement. But if any of you have seen my film, you’d know that any
impetus to do anything besides sit in the dark for a few minutes and
digest the emotional sucker punch my film lays at the end would seem
really odd. It is not the kind of film you get troops to rally for.

of the criticisms that would show up at Q&A’s every now and then
was that people were upset that the character of Ernest Chin was fat.
It was those exact pressures and ideas that I was trying to address in
the movie. It baffled me when they were coming up as a criticism of the
film itself. In those cases, I actually felt a little sad because that
meant my film hadn’t accomplished what I set out to do. It meant that
people were still putting a value judgement on the character of Ernest
Chin because of how he looked. In the movie, Ernest Chin is berated
often for his very existence. He is that awkward kid going through
puberty. He’s not the most athletic kid. Showing that was not there as
a source for cheap laughs or to make fun of him, but rather to
empathize with him. Whether or not any of us actually looked like
Ernest Chin during adolescence, I am pretty sure we all felt like he
did in some form or another — too skinny, too pimply, too geeky, too
dumb, etc. But when that critique would come up “Why does Ernest have
to be fat?” I would feel like I had failed on some level.

realized that there was this sector that seemed to only want to show
what they believed to be “positive” images of Asians on screen.
Healthy, well-adjusted, romantic, confident, badass, etc. If Ernest
Chin had been a physically fit kid that got all the girls, the movie
simply would not have worked dramatically. Yes, perhaps that would have
been on the surface a “positive” image, but who’s going to watch a
story about a kid who is having no trouble going through puberty?
Beyond wish-fulfillment fantasy, what would the point of that story be?

believe that the most important aspect of my job as a filmmaker was to
make the characters (all of them) as human as possible. I think if the
audience watches the movie and simply writes off the characters because
what they perceive on first glance, they would miss the point of the
film. If they have no empathy for the people that inhabit the world of
The Motel, then either I failed or they expected another kind of movie
(which goes back to escapist cinema) or both. If they can’t see the
love that lays just beneath the surface of the “dragon lady” outer
surface of the mother character or the wounded heart and of the
self-destructive Korean American drunkard character, then I failed as a

But if an audience can walk into the movie with an
open mind towards what kind of movie this is, then I think they should
be able to appreciate the amazingly nuanced performances of all the
actors involved. When have we ever seen a character like Ernest Chin, a
chubby awkward Chinese kid who has a sexuality and desire and a full
range of emotions from happiness to rage?

I truly believe that
in political terms, if the audience can walk away from the film and
recognize the character of Ernest as a whole person then I have
accomplished my goal. How can any of them still look at any awkward
Chinese kid the same? They have to accept all of their humanity. And
once they’ve gotten there, how much easier is it to see all people for
who they truly are? To me, that is truly positive.

9 Safety Tips UPDATED (Still Not A Joke)

So after I posted this list of helpful safety tips, my brother gave me a link to Snopes.com that debunked the list. Not that there isn’t practical information in the list, but the way it is presented is whack. So I thought I would re-post with the Snopes advice and breakdown of the list:

While the list is often titled “Safety Tips for Women” or similar, its advice is intended for members of both sexes, as is the advice offered in this article.

We have encountered versions of this list since 2001, when it began as a summary of the teachings of Pat Malone,a personal safety expert and former bodyguard who instructs on defensive and survival tactics. The much-longer original (which isdisplayed on a number of web sites) appears to have been penned by someone who attended one of Mr. Malone’s seminars and so might not accurately reflect what had been presented in that class. The advice provided should therefore not be viewed as “the teachings of a self-defense expert” but as “the teachings of a self-defense expert, as remembered by someone else.”

Pat Malone’s seminars are described as “self-protection from predators,without self-defense or weapons” and “not self-defense classes.” On his web site, he offers for sale a video entitled “Taking Control,” which he represents as “A self-protection training program using common sense as a weapon.”

Over the intervening years, the e-mailed list of crime avoidance tips has been edited by various anonymous folks whose cyberhands it has passed through, being severely pared down from its original form and added to in a number of places. It has thus become even less reliable in terms of the quality of advice being offered than it was in 2001, and even then it would have had to have been regarded as suspect. By 2005 it included this intro:

We can now add to the list of victims the retired 77 yr. old TCU professor from Ft Worth whose body was found last week in Oklahoma — and the 11 yr. old in Sarasota, FL.

Laura Lee Crane is the 77 year old Texas Christian University professor described in the e-mail’s intro. She was abducted from the parking lot of a grocery store in Fort Worth, Texas, on 30 January 2004, and her body was found on a service road off Interstate 35near Davis, Oklahoma, a few days later. She died of asphyxiation after her face, from her eyebrows to below her chin, was covered with layers of duct tape by her abductors. In November 2005, Edward Lee Busby was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death. His accomplice, Kathleen “Kitty” Latimer, is in custody awaiting trial on a capital murder charge.

Carlie Brucia is the 11-year-old described in the e-mail’s intro. She was abducted on 1 February2004 in Sarasota, Florida, while walking home from a friend’s house,her kidnapping caught on tape by the surveillance camera of the carwash whose parking lot she was traversing when taken. After her body was found in some brush on a church property five days later,investigators determined she had been sexually assaulted and then strangled to death. Her killer, Joseph Smith, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death in December 2005.

Regarding the nine tips the e-mailed list has currently devolved to:

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!

This is poor advice in that it recommends a course of action far more likely to result in the victim’s being physically harmed than do other potential counters such as running away and screaming for help.Engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an attacker should be an option of last resort unless you are very well trained in self-defense.

While the elbow is one of your body parts that can be used effectively in a fight, it is not the strongest — that honor goes to the humble knee.

2. Learned this from a tourist guide in New Orleans. If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you….chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you,and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHERDIRECTION!

This ploy would likely work if the assailant’s objective were robbery, but if he were intent upon kidnapping, rape, murder, or simple assault, throwing your handbag away would do nothing other than rid you of an item you could have used as a weapon.

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you, but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

The odds of being confined in the trunk of a car are slim to begin with, and they lessen when the extra requirement of the victim’s being placed in there with hands and feet unbound is added. Very few vehicles have tail lights that are accessible from the trunk, so even if one’s legs were free, there would be nothing to kick out to wave at others through.

A better plan would be to look for the glow-in-the-dark trunk release tab incorporated into some newer vehicles. Also, the back seats of many recent models fold down to accommodate the transport of larger items, so go deep into the trunk and push on the rear of the back seats to see if they open. If pushing fails, feel about on this area for knobs or levers that serve to latch the folding seat backs in place and work them.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc.,and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON’T DOTHIS!) The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR, LOCKTHE DOORS AND LEAVE.

A good habit to get into is immediately locking your car’s doors as soon as you are in your vehicle. Train yourself so that it becomes one smooth motion that you don’t even have to think about — yourrump’s landing on the seat should trigger your hand to reach out and hit the lock button. The tips list’s assessment of the behavior of women who have just entered their cars is unfortunately accurate: most women we’ve observed do indeed settle their purses on the passenger seats, sling briefcases, jackets, and packages into the back seat area,get out their car keys, rummage about in their handbags for various items (e.g., lipstick, cell phone, address book) which they might or might not use right then, put their keys in the ignition, fasten their seat belts and only then get around to locking their doors.During that interval they are indeed vulnerable to someone’s getting into the car with them or pulling open the driver’s side door.

Driving away immediately rather than taking a moment to make out this year’s Christmas card list is advice worthy of following in any parking garage (because the structure prevents others not in your immediate area from seeing what might be happening at your car) and in any open air parking lot that is somewhat deserted rather than teeming with other folks coming and going.

a. If someone is in the car with a gun to your head DO NOT DRIVE OFF,repeat: DO NOT DRIVE OFF! Instead gun the engine and speed into anything, wrecking the car. Your Air Bag will save you. If the person is in the back seat they will get the worst of it. As soon as the car crashes bail out and run. It is better than having them find your body in a remote location.

If the assailant has gotten into the passenger seat, the passenger’s side air bag (which is a standard feature in many newer model cars) will also protect him from the crash. Another plan would be to drive him to a police station rather than to where he orders you togo, reminding him that if he shoots you, the car will veer out of control and hit something, which will injure or kill him too.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage

A.) Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor, and in the back seat.

Another good habit to adopt is taking a moment before going to your car to look about and see who else is around. Pause for a few seconds to judge your surroundings rather than unthinkingly heading for your vehicle with your eyes down and your mind occupied with other matters. Once your arrive at your vehicle, but before entering it, do give its back seat a quick glance to ensure no one is hiding there.

B.) I f you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

Most serial killers do not grab women from parking lots and thrust them into vans; they hunt for potential victims according to their personal killing rituals, with each murderer following his own personal script. Some drive about looking for lone hitchhikers. Others seek out solitary travelers who have paused in their journeys to use the facilities at rest areas along the interstate highways. Others go after late night gas station and convenience store clerks who are working alone and unprotected. Yet others troll areas known to be frequented by streetwalkers, presenting themselves as customers interested in buying the prostitutes’ services. Others break into houses they have minutes or hours earlier seen their desired victims enter. Some place ads in newspapers, luring their victims to them with promises of great bargains on desired items or offers of employment.Yet others frequent lonely spots that have personal meaning to them,preying upon whoever attempts to traverse these areas. Each serial killer has his own method of acquiring victims, and it is unique unto him.

C.) Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out.

The proffered advice makes the assumption that every man sitting in a car parked next to yours is a wouldbe attacker. Rather than assume every fellow who finished shopping before his wife did is an abductor lying in wait and scurry back to the mall to get a guard or police officer to see you safely past this menace,continue toward your vehicle as you normally would, but stay alert to the perception of sudden movement from the direction of the suspect parked car or the sound of that car’s door opening.

If while unlocking the driver’s side door of your own car you hear behind your turned back the door open on the vehicle you’re parked beside, kick backwards into that other door and scream, then launch yourself into your own car, lock its doors, and drive off. Almost certainly, rather than escaping an attacker who was making a grab for you, you will be giving some poor innocent fellow the shock of his life, but that will have to be the price he pays for opening his door when you were trying to get into yours, which is in itself a suspicious activity.

Yet the question is mostly academic because someone trolling for a victim is highly unlikely to be doing so via waiting patiently within his own vehicle for whoever was parked beside him to return. He could be left twiddling his thumbs for hours only to discover his intended target comes back accompanied by three friends she met up with inside.Even if the gal returns alone, there’s no guarantee she won’t do so during one of those moments when the lot is awash with other people getting in and out of their cars and thus at a time when no attacker would dare make a move for risk of being interfered with.

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot. This is especially true at NIGHT!)

Stairwells are far less trafficked than other public areas of buildings, which does make them more risky places to traverse. When taking the stairs alone, stay alert to the presence of others rather than allowing yourself to become lost in your thoughts and so losing focus on your surroundings. When at all uncertain about the behavior of someone else in the stairwell, exit onto the nearest floor. Never use a stairwell unaccompanied where the doors lock behind you, there by preventing you from exiting anywhere other than the ground-flooregress.

Elevators also pose risk, but since they are better trafficked and more public, the possibility of being harmed while using one is much reduced. Even so, don’t get into an elevator car unaccompanied if at all uncertain of the car’s occupants — if something strikes you as not quite right, wait for the next car.

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN, Preferably in a zig-zag pattern!

We don’t know the origin of the “will only hit you 4 in100 times”claim — it’s not a statistic we’re familiar with. Lack of familiarity aside, common sense would tell us to mistrust the statement that a gun-wielding bad guy hits what he’s aiming at only once out of 25 times.

If you do choose to run in such situations, up your chances of getting away unharmed by first misdirecting your assailant before making your dash for safety. “Hey, what’s that over there?!?!?” might buy you that extra split second that makes all the difference, as might throwing your purse or briefcase at the head of the guy holding the gun, because his instinctive response would be to duck or flinch. If you run, do indeed zig-zag because you will be harder for him to line up in his sights than if you race off in a straight trajectory.

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP. It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking,well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked “for help”into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

While Ted Bundy did trick some of his victims into going with him by appearing injured and in need of assistance (e.g., arm in a sling and attempting to hoist a canoe onto the roof of his car), he picked up others while they were hitchhiking, and others he attacked in their homes while they were sleeping — therewas no “ALWAYS” about his methodology. Bundy is regarded by those who study criminals as a highly unusual serial killer because he was intelligent, charming, had well-honed people skills, and varied his mode of securing victims. It is therefore a mistake to assess the threat posed by those who murder random victims for the thrill of it by using Ted Bundy as a yardstick.

However, it is not a mistake to keep in mind people aren’t always what they appear to be and that someone who looks disabled or encumbered might well be entirely able-bodied. Stay alert when you are around strangers, always allowing for the possibility of being the target of deception rather than letting yourself be lulled into a false sense of security by the other party’s apparent limitations.

9. Another Safety Point: Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her “Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.”

A more lengthy debunking of the “crying baby” lure can be found on our page devoted to that hoax, but in a nutshell: no serial killer used that ruse, and the story about helpful policemen who instructed the woman who heard such cries to stay inside and not open her door is fiction.The “audio tape of a baby’s cries used by a murderer to draw women from their homes” fabrication was born of the anxiety surrounding the hunt for the Baton Rouge serial killer in 2002. That case was profiled on America’s Most Wanted in September 2002 and again in January 2003, but neither airing made any mention of the purported “crying baby” theory.

While we’ve hopefully assisted readers in making sense of which of the nine tips contain good advice that should be followed and which should be regarded as codswallop, our efforts to sort them out aside, we would still hate to see this list circulated any further because of the overall tenor of its recommendations, which is to make like Wonder Woman or Captain America when confronted by someone intent upon doing you harm. As stated earlier, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an attacker should be an option of last resortunless you are very well trained in self-defense. Rather, here are two options that should be exercised first: If attacked or threatened, run,and if you can’t run, scream. (Even if no one comes to your assistance,your attacker may very well turn tail and get out of there, figuring the noise you’re making is attracting attention to him and that others will now remember his face.)

A far better counter is to avoid becoming the victim of random violent crime in the first place, which these next tips will help with:

Avoid potentially dangerous places. The more isolated and devoid of other people a location is, the more potentially dangerous it is.Hence, stairwells are more perilous than elevators, underground parking garages more risky a proposition than open air parking lots. As a general rule of thumb, anywhere other people aren’t is a good place for you not to be either.

One mistake folks do make time and again is letting their sense of familiarity with a place lull them into a presumption of security. More simply, though you may know the parking lot at the local grocery store like the back of your hand and have never experienced any problems there, you should still regard it as a potentially dangerous location if your plan is to park there at midnight on a Sunday while you reprogram the buttons on your car’s radio. A location that can be perfectly innocuous during the day when there are all sorts of other people around is not necessarily just as safe in the dead of night when the place is empty.

Stay aware of your surroundings. Get into the habit of noticing not only the details of your physical surroundings (such as where exits are located) but who else is there with you. Maintain focus on the here and now instead of letting it drift to where and what you will be doing ten minutes from now. If trying to do two things at once, strive to stay alert to what is going on around you. Rather than wander towards your car with your head down while you’re yakking on your cell phone,take a break from the conversation to look about. The same goes forgetting into an elevator — look at the other people in the car before getting in yourself.

Also, as stated in “Assaulted Tale“(our debunking of a widely-circulated list about what rapists supposedly look for), not only is it important to see trouble coming before it gets to you and avoid it, but an alert stance can help discourage a wouldbe attacker. Those looking to prey upon others — whether their aim is robbery, rape, or mayhem — generallychoose as victims those who appear preoccupied or tentative in preference to those who exude a sense of purpose. Or, as I was told long ago, “Always look like you know exactly where you’re going and move like you’re expected to be there at exactly a certain time.”Mooning about aimlessly can make you a statistic.

Do not get into vehicles with strangers or allow them into yours.A murderer is not going to approach you by saying, “Hi, I’m interested in killing you; please get into my car.” Rather, it’s going to be,”Please, miss — can you help me? My little boy has been in an accident and I have to get to the hospital but I can’t find the place. No, don’t give me directions because I’ll just get turned around; come with me —I’ll pay for a cab to get you back here afterwards.” Or, “I’m the new minister in town. My car broke down a few miles back, so I walked hereto call the tow truck. Can you give me a lift back to my car? My wife is there, and I don’t like leaving her out there all alone for any longer than I have to, her being pregnant and all.”

Also, be wary of helping strangers when you are unaccompanied.Don’t help them load packages into vans or trot over to them like a good little Girl Scout when summoned to give directions by someone you don’t know. Save your helpful impulses for when you have other people with you, but when on your own keep walking even as you call, “Nope,sorry, can’t” back over your shoulder.

Do not let strangers into your home. If someone appears at your door saying his car quit running and he needs to call a tow truck, offer through the closed doorto make the call for him. If he says his wife is ill and asks if he can have a glass of water for her, offer, once again through the closed door, to call 911 for him. If someone dressed in work clothes says he’s been sent by the building superintendent, your home owners association,the electric company, the city, or anything else, leave him standing outside until you’ve called that entity and ascertained that it has sent that person and does indeed vouch for him.

The world is not awash with rapists, murderers, thieves, and kidnappers, but a bit of common sense routinely applied can help you avoid meeting up with any of the handful that are actually out there.Rather than fret about how to properly throw an elbow, or whether you should run from someone holding a gun on you, or how to crash a car into a barrier so as to incapacitate an attacker but leave yourself unharmed, learn these three tips by heart: Keep away from deserted places, stay alert to what is going on around you, and when something feels the slightest bit wrong, get out of there. While there’s nothing of Lynda Carter or Steven Seagal in those three tips, they will serve to keep you out of a pine box far better than all the more flashy “saw it on the Lifetime Movie of the Week” moves put together.

Prison Break

This is totally bizarre, beautiful and amazing at the same time. Check out this video of inmates at the Philippines’ Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center reenacting Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. They are so dead on. I have no idea if this is considered punishment or if these prisoners are in jail for being stuck in the 80’s. Either way, I love it.

Okay, after I learned that this is forced exercise, I have mixed feelings about it. For some reason though, I can’t imagine this not being fun to do for the prisoners… but that could just be me being very naive. This prison warden is definitely out there.