Strenuous Times and D:

The Asiatc

The Asiatc

“This is the face of the enemy!” were words shouted in the streets of Vancouver on the high noon of September 7, 1907. And as 10,000 whites marched down Powell Street that day, the immigrants of Chinatown hunkered down for the coming storm.

The Vancouver Riot of 1907 was the product of many years of underlying stigma that chaffed at the barrier of peace, a barrier pierced at the Vancouver City Hall that day. To understand the contents of the issue that exploded we must look back at the years leading up to the issue and the factors that contributed to the riot.

In 1858, the China-man arrived on mass at the ports of Victoria and in so, BC. Mostly laborers and coolies from down south like California they came with the wave of desperate miners and men that were swept up in the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Many of them were men separated from their families by an ocean and alone in a new world unsure of the path ahead, but they had a goal. To work hard and buy a new life for themselves and their family in BC.

For the time they were tolerated by the white majority as people who brought in gold, did their work, and required little to no interaction so as not to be overly annoying. The Yellow people of the day lived in seclusion from white society and tolerated at best to keep to themselves.  But this seclusion and silence will not be winning hearts and minds for the Asian image among the whites, and thus tensions began to simmer.

The second wave of the Asian invasion came on 1880 when the call was put out by the government to recruit the China-man in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Another 5000 confused faces arrived on the shore of BC, bringing with them their labor, dreams, and tension. The work was hard and conditions tough, and by the end of the project only 1500 of the original 5000 came out alive. But they had a bigger surprise waiting for them.

Courtesy of Justins Blog

Courtesy of Justin Yan

In 1881, when the time to be paid finally arrived those that remained lived to find the pay bare and meager in comparison to their dreams. And to top the cake with icing, in 1885 with the whites now in full concern of the mass of yellow faces in their province pushed through the Head Tax law that charges anybody immigrating from China. This means the meager pay saved up by those working on the CPR won’t be enough to start their dream of a new life.

Of course, this means that all the Asiatics now discharged from the construction of the CPR will be looking for work on mass and finally coming in direct confrontation with the population majority of the land, tipping the tension over the final edge.

The Asiatic Exclusion League is the child of the swelling tensions that reach back to 1858. The White people of the day, afraid for their jobs, livelihood, and future formed the group on August 12 of 1907 to “to keep Oriental immigrants out of British Columbia.” Just 1 month from it’s date of formation the cries about the face of enemies can be heard down Powell Street.

The Whites initially rallied at the city hall, calling up people from the streets to join the fight against the “Yellow take-over” and inciting the crowd to violence. For each person that joined the flood, one more crack was made on the wall of rationality that thus far held them back. Soon it reached a point where a reasonable man could take no more, and then did the crowd turn to violence.

Aftermath of bisieged Chinatown

Aftermath of besieged Chinatown

In one afternoon, they flooded in and then out of China town, destroying windows, and causing thousands of dollars (more than a hundred thousand of today’s dollars) of property damage and injuries. The Asians tried to protect their homes with sticks and fists, but the tide of White sentiment was just too strong to be extinguished on the street. It finally became apparent that the Yellow-man was not welcome in BC, and in the following years more strife and hardship through the expansion of the Head Tax and the Chinese Immigration Act. The AEL experienced a brief wave of new found support and publicity after their senseless plunder of China town but start losing member interest with the lack of violence and thankfully died out before passing their first anniversary.

To this day it surprises me the lack of knowledge about this event, the irony that became the riot of 1907 remains outside the boundaries of most Canadians, Caucasian or Oriental. It was the day when the “White Terror” was created to affront a fictional “Yellow Terror”.

An Empty Room for Rent

Mystery Man

Mystery Man

A picture can mean a thousand words, but the man in this picture means many thousands more. Who he is you ask, I cannot rightfully tell. Words cannot do justice to the character of this man, his idiosyncratic music and the dark mystery behind the eyes. However for your benefit, I’ll try my best to set his legacy to lit and flush out the portrait of the mystery man, Harry Nilsson.

He can be called many things, and rightfully so, but the foremost term to describe him is “songwriter”. Now you may think the, “songwriter… that’s still a huge term covering many things.” Your correct, but it’s a huge term for a larger than life man. Nilsson explores art for the joy of making art, unlike many modern songwriters today that puts lyrics to notes expressly for the money and the fame, he’s there for the joy of imagination not the green slips. So corresponding with his artistic credo, much of his work is high exploratory and far reaching in coverage. A light sorrow vocal piece like One would contrast definitively with something like You’re Breaking My Heart which contains lyrics like so f*** you. Basically yeah, before Nilsson psychologists have never seen the depths of mood swings and I’ve never heard the spark of imagination so clearly.

So bear with me as I fill this empty room, and reveal the Mystery Man.

Reality, Veils, and Contrast

A scant few lines into the trial of Kabuo Miyamoto, with Hooks zealously examining the witnesses with questions and Nels cross examining the same confused witnesses with confusion of his own, my mind floats off to the deeper recesses of the book leaving the eyes to scan words but left devoid of meaning without the contribution of the mind. As such the image of a solemn court room seated by a near hundred towns people, the lawyers with their cowed witnesses, and the single judge, listening with closed eyes in the center of the movie-frame shot of my imagination resting his lightly tilted head on a fist slowly fade into absolute black. Then I’m flying fast through the silent cedar forest, to an old hollow tree trunk where I find my protagonist, reminiscing at old memories locked in the wood.

In Snow Falling on Cedars David Gutterson inlays great contrast between the present past to great effect. The damp steamy court room with foggy windows and entrenched by the snow storm outside holds an air of concise precision and drab grey-brown that becomes suffused in the whole feeling of reading present day court room pages. Whether from the 4 word questions of the lawyers repeated thrice for good measure or judge Fielding’s need to explain—in a dictionary style—the legal technicals to the jury it sets a thin shallow veil the hides much of of the personal stories of the witnesses and the past that resides in the depths by masking it with a very different atmosphere. This is where the beauty of the narrative and the catalyst of setting in the story comes in.

Piercing this veil of grey leads the reader out of a shallow present reality and deep down a rabbit hole into the puzzle pieces that are the characters’ pasts. Past this threshold are the hollow cedar, Kabuo and Heine’s youth, Camp Manazar, and the war in the Pacific, the places where plot and setting give rise to the character development and slowly trickles the elaborating information that make up the core of the book. The court, the trial, and the witnesses were all crafted to leading the reader past the viel of reality and into the conflicting stories that weave the motives of the characters.

It’s a very beautiful, clever, and yet deeply interpretive setup/catalyst for the book. It will neither will it’s reader to a pre-determined path, nor will it awkwardly smudge in the details of the story. That is it’s true greatness, and ending on that thought, my mind flies out of the verdant green foilage and out to reality now so different.

A good rant for my woes, and a Guitar for the silence

—3 months has past since I—armed with a loaned guitar, some bad photo-copies, a picture book with guitar lessons, and some tidbits of inspirational hope—began the journey to master the guitar.

Topics for the in-depth aren’t hard to find, but good topics are. I had a lot of things in mind ranging from sky diving to architecture, but I knew it will be my last year with my class, my last in-depth. And those fun topics aren’t worth the effort if they mean nothing to what I am. Become yourself by being yourself and not falling to hubris or vanity. So I looked deep, and found a guitar in my mind.

That guitar came from my friends and the great people I’ve been exposed to over the past year. Everyday I would be sitting somewhere in the classroom—on a desk, on the counter, on the couch—and the sound of music would start flowing through the ambience, adding to the atmosphere of the place. If I look toward the direction of the sound I can find my friends, one playing the guitar with sheet music on a desk, encircled by singers. It was an admirable image, the guitar can be a fun instrument, played for the pleasure of music and nothing like what I had to do when I was under the boot of piano and Asian parents. Now every time i think of my friends, I picture them singing by the guitar,wearing a subtle smile in their eyes.

Aside from the above romanticized accounts of things I can’t say I haven’t tried to look at the practical benefits of learning such a popular instrument. I’ve had to learn other instruments before like piano and trumpet, but their novelty ends for me when I get faced with transport issues and spit valves. The guitar is a lot better to take places and a simple enough instrument that doesn’t require complicated tuning, or spit valves which are just gross. Not to mention large portion of modern music includes guitar, and this is reflected in the inventory of modern music stores too. I went to three local instrument stores and nearly half of the showroom were covered in guitars and guitar accessories. Suffice to say the guitar will become a popular mainstay in years to come and I can do well for myself if I can find the skill to play it.

Here I am now with a guitar, a book, and some inspirational friends, still in the maze of learning. But when I make it out—metaphorically only as learning should be perpetual—I’ll be coming out with music.

Island Ethos

…in which case they turned to their radios, checking in with various compatriots whom they invariably found to be checking in with them: hapless voices tuned to one another in the hope of some shred of knowledge. The most respected men, in accordance with the ethos that evolved on San Piedro, pursued no one and cultivated radio silence…

~Snow Falling on Cedars Pg 41~

If San Piedro were the world, and the mariners it’s rendition of men, then this passage must serve to embody the stoic honor in people of high regard. This passage though can be argued to be cryptic and subtle, seems to me as one of the most direct allusions to societal views and life. The seamless integration into the narrative, and then just as subtle outro embodies Snow Falling on Cedars’ literary style, able to delve in and out of  these side topics and stories of how characters came to be without disrupting the flow of the story. Although logically it is early for me to say for sure (I being only 1/4th of my way through the novel), I have a subtle conviction in my mind that these are the thing the author is trying to teach, and that there will be more of these passages as I continue in the book.

Although quite seemingly straight forward at first in that the message in the passage directly states the most respected men are the one who don’t beg or cheat, this passage does present a larger meaning to those with a bit of wit and chose the option to apply it.

The “hapless voices” that try many times to dupe each other out of information as to where the fishes are running have neither information to be duped out of nor the will to legitimately seek this information. This may as well mark them as the lazy bottom-feeders of today’s society that cons the welfare system and commit robberies just because the real work and effort done by honest people is just too much for them. I grant them no pity.

On the flip side, the most “respected men” can’t be counted on to be such mighty paragons either. They have through hard work, time, and honest effort acquired a unique  niche on the island that allows them to be successful. They are the pride of the fisherman and followers of the honest code that evolved on the island, they need not beg or worry about the day’s catch… and they keep their radio in disuse so as to keep things that way. It doesn’t mean they are spiteful in their noncooperation, rather they are the more experienced fishermen around, and understands that “He who knows how to speak, also knows when to speak.” And they know spoiling the bottom feeding folk with the answer to their qualms will not bring about their enlightenment. Just like how the rulers of Sparta knew Spartans won’t be strong under the burden of a wall, the respected men know that the poor saps won’t be changed for the better if they are spoiled with gifts.

Suspicion and Daunt

   When I had first found the slip of paper on my desk and instructed to list my first and second choices for a book to read in the upcoming novel study I had chosen Persepolis. It’s supposed to be a comic book about a girl’s account of the Iranian revolution, and to me that sounded like the Tintin comics I would hole up with in room when I was 8. A fair first choice for a novel study, but Persepolis wasn’t what I ended up with.

   A great misfortune for me indeed to be deprived of my childhood memories and first choice, but there simply weren’t enough people who had chosen Persepolis who could form a study group with me. I wasn’t disappointed in my peers as I had selected an alternate, but I was to find I wouldn’t be reading that book either.

    Girlfriend in a Coma, the lesser of the two best books I saw in my options, was in-stock, written by a Canadian, Douglas Coupland, and had a well manned discussion group. All seemed well until somebody mentioned the readers were all grade 9’s, next thing I knew, a memory floated by in my mind and yelled, “It’s a trap!” Thank you Admiral Ackbar, I came close to being ensnared by Nines; and so again I must walk away from another chosen novel.

   I had no solid third choice in mind, and of course Mr.J–having already established the groups–had no interest in switching them up; unless, he said, if I were to read Snow Falling on Cedars. The book was one of the more mysterious choices available to the class; it was specifically labeled a grade 11 to 12 book by my teacher. I had doubts about my literary capabilities, and I still don’t know if I should be reading this book as if it were forbidden text to me; but the other option didn’t look promising either. So I mustered the steel in my nerves and took the card I was dealt, determined to persevere.

Thus was how I came to be herded like cattle into my choice, with Ackbar auto-repeating, “It’s a trap!” on my mind.

Learning Center

   Your learning center is a display of your performance on the night of the notables. This will account for a large portion of a TALONS’ first term English grade as I have found out in my years as a novice here. It does well not to screw up or otherwise fail at this portion of your project. Thus in my senior year in this class I have taken a different tactic in approaching my learning center. This year I’ve luckily found a subject not too complex, opening much to free form flow rather than rigid channeling; I evaluated mistakes from my previous year, and corrected them; and finnally I got things done cheaply, without compromising effect. This year I did rather well I think.

My learning center which didn't take much time to assemble, and was quite cheap.
My learning center which didn’t take much time to assemble, and was quite cheap.

 3 Things to think about when planning your center

  • Pics Not Text

Nobody’s going to spend more that 3 mins at your station, make sure you accomplish what you want in that short time. Words read one by one but pictures go a thousand at a time. Most of the time the size of your wall of text is proportional to your grade; opt for more interesting things like pictures or video, along side your text.

  • Interactive Shorts

People need to move, they can’t just hang around at your station, they need to get to other stations as well. Thus are interactive element usually skipped over. If your want an interactive element to your learning center, try to keep is as short as possible taking into account meaningfulness too, it helps you and helps your peers too.

  • Affordable Effect

Some times learning centers can cost quite a bit of money to assemble, usually it comes out of your pocket. Find nice ways to save like borrowing, and reuse of elements in your learning center. Just as important is not to make your station look too flimsy. Be creative, and you’ll find your way out of quite a many dead ends.

   You can get advice on layout, design, style, and that stuff from your peers. The above 3 are just some ideas I had on these things from my previous years. I’m also quite sure there are some highly innovative others you can see for advice, just look at yourmates in class.


Flavours change, images last.

Flavours and taste may change through time; but don’t fret ,your face lasts in everyone’s mind. Though our narrator has grown and changed since his last Christmas, and has since adopted a new personality, he is still much the boy he talks about in his story. In the first paragraph he speaks about his voice that doesnt know it’s origin and the liberties he takes in describing himself. Our narrator then steps into his change of perception and speaks of the imperfect blend of now and then, which only seems to occur for him in the days leading up to Christmas. Christmas (and to a much lesser extent Halloween) are nice symbols portraying childhood and the time when adults get involved to an extend too, whether it be preparing presents or handing out candy. These 2 holidays are involve much kid activities like Trick o’ Treating or ripping open Christmas presents, but when we grow up these kid activities become more and more distant. A time of envy for the grown.  The character Niel portrays the role of an older sibling, and not yet an adult quite well, somebody who isn’t out of touch with his fellow siblings, or out of place with adults. We have witnessed him hug with the other children in the family, welcomed home with joy beyond that of welcoming a grandparent; and we have seen him chat with adults at the church. But what he says at the church defines the whole changing of the physical, but not of the memories that we burden. When asked of his father, his reply is only “Oh,” as if he were caught in a sad suprise, as all of us were when we renouced our childhood.


Unknown Rebel


   What do you see when you look upon this picture? Is it boring? Might it make you feel perplexed? Doesn’t it look unrelated to you? Why would you care to know more? You wouldn’t, until you knew what it spoke of; you couldn’t know unless you cared to know. That’s the case with a lot of these great moments in our time. They are overlooked when we don’t feel the inspiration and drive to reach past wall of personal effort; when we don’t know enough to care, and don’t care enough to know. But breaking through the barrier frees your mind to all these silent secrets, and opens your eyes to the wider world. So when you gaze upon the picture now, do you see? See what it can be?

   I’ve never cared little for politiks, they have fascinated me for quite a decade. Communism, Socialism, Parliamentarian, Democracy, Capitalism; quite large and toppling subjects, but to me they are inspiring. I see governments rise, I see them fall, saw changes in their scape, and watched them convulse. The rivers that ebb with blood, and tears of the fallen; they are the foundation of our nations, and they are fueled by politiks. It is at these moments of great sorrow, which makes me wish I were there instead of in front of a wall of text.

   Tankman is the everyman, he or she (who knows) is you, is me, represents the mob you see walking down a busy street, all of them a faceless stranger. Except he made a difference, took a stand upon the altar of revolution. But she did not merely show us the way to change, he brought us all there; with her.