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Towleroad Guide to the Tube #463

IRAQ: NYC demonstration held to protest executions of gays in Iraq inspires threats of arrest from NYPD. Additional photos here.

OUCH: San Francisco Giants reliever Joe Martinez gets nailed by Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Mike Cameron's line drive in SF last night.

ASIAN NAMES: Texas Republican Rep. Betty Brown suggests that Asians might want to change their names so they're easier for Americans to pronounce.

DEBBIE PHELPS: Michael Phelps' mom defends her son against his recent "scandals". Good for mom.


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  1. Nic : But how dumb is THAT ?! Brad Davis was blonde?

    Posted by: JT | Apr 10, 2009 10:35:02 PM


  2. JT,

    blond is what a man may be, blonde is what a woman may be. but, are you trying to argue the point that brad or bradley is not an unusual name for a person of color?

    Posted by: nic | Apr 10, 2009 11:06:33 PM


  3. look, all i'm saying is that while our names do not define us, they are part and parcel of our identities. i would no more offend my dad or my mom by besmirching who they are if i changed my name to fit a square peg into a square hole. i could never do that to them, that makes no sense.

    Posted by: nic | Apr 10, 2009 11:42:47 PM


  4. @ NIC,

    I'm confused as to what you're getting at. I'm not a person of color. I'm basing my own experience on the difficulties I've had with my *full* name while abroad. I've lived in a bunch of foreign countries and have traveled a lot and people have struggled with my name, some places more than others. I'm in China with some frequency and rather than have the locals spend an hour trying to get my whole name right (the English "r" doesn't exist in Mandarin and usually comes out as an "l" so I'd be rendered "Blad"), I usually just give them my Chinese name.

    I think we're discussing two different things here. I have never changed my name; when I use a different name abroad, it's just to help me and help them. Again, you keep bringing up the "changing names" thing, but I don't see Rep. Brown advocating that. It seems that she's exploring the possibility of finding a standardized transliteration, adopting a Western name for official purposes (something the speaker mentions happens a lot in the Asian community) or whatever else. She doesn't appear to be talking about forcing name changes on anyone... only having a certain single name or spelling thereof just so that someone doesn't get denied his or her vote when they present their ID that has a hyphen missing. That to me not only seems reasonable, but necessary.

    @ FYT,

    I don't see her implying that Asians are not Americans. Where does she do that? And regarding the Polish names, people still mangle Zbigniew Brzezinski (I just had to look it up to get it right). If he were to prevent an ID that had one letter off (and that might not be a far stretch were he not famous), he'd be knocked off a voter roll. But he has one thing in favor that (most) Asians do not: his name is originally in the Roman script. So as much as people might mangle it, there *IS* a correct spelling. For someone from China coming here, there is *NO* official transliteration (rather many, and sometimes all of them leave something to be desired).

    Posted by: Brad | Apr 11, 2009 12:15:10 AM


  5. I am sure she has this problem with Spanish names as well since she doesn't speak Mexican. LOL

    Posted by: 2nd Class Citizen | Apr 11, 2009 2:26:59 AM


  6. @BRAD,

    if you are not a person of color, then you can't comment on this topic. you are banned. heehee.

    ok let's agree on terms. the texas gal said "transliteration" to the asian guy in a futile attempt to sound smart. the asian man entertained the thought, but went with it. i think that what they meant to say was "transcription". she may have had no ill will, and may have had the best intentions, but you know what they say about the road to hell....

    if, indeed, you have lived in bunches of foreign countries and changed your name bunches of times (i have no way to disprove it, so i'll take you at your word), then let's move on. it is the height of presumptuousness for a public official to suggest that other citizens get their language ducks in a row.

    furthermore, fuck you 2nd class citizen. i speak spanish, i speak spanglish, i speak mexican, i speak chileno, i speak argentino, i speak quatemalteco.

    therein lies the woman's problem, or. better, my problem with her. her fuzzy head can't accept more than one language at a time. once upon a time, in a linguistics class taught by a young chinese woman, in fact, i came to learn about the synaptic connections one develops as a child if he speaks more than one language, or if she learns a language and how to play the piano or violin or accordion. that is what impacts I.Q., the dumbing down of another persons ethnicity is counterproductive.

    Posted by: nic | Apr 11, 2009 8:37:26 AM


  7. God forbid we broaden our horizons and try to pronounce something other than hot dogs and mama an'em.

    Fuck that bitch.

    I take the time with all my foreign and immigrated and immigrating friends to learn their names and try to pronounce them correctly.


    We had a Cuban/American friend when we lived in Florida and he was so used to using the "Americanized" version of his name, he would introduce himself as "Richard". His name was Ricardo, and he told me he didn't like the way some people pronouced Ricardo, because they didn't roll the R. I pronounced it just as he wished. He was the SWEETEST man in the world.


    It just takes time to learn something different.

    Some people are crazy and selfish I guess they just can't be bothered.

    Posted by: Bobby | Apr 11, 2009 9:58:37 AM


  8. @ Brad, the 'well-travelled' sophisticate:

    She says at exactly 2:39

    "...If there were some means by which you can adopt a name just for identification purposes that was easier for Americans to deal with"

    Posted by: fuk yew tu | Apr 11, 2009 10:38:47 AM


  9. @ NIC,

    You or I have no evidence that the Texas Rep. said "transliteration" in order to sound smart, but rather meant "transcription." I think that's putting thoughts and words in her mouth when they are not just there. I think that's a big assumption to make. Just because she's a Republican from Texas (whom I will admit probably shares little in common politically or ideologically from me, or you), doesn't mean we can assume (at the very least from this clip) that she is against Asian names.

    @ NIC and Bobby,

    I don't really blame her for not being able to get several languages in her "fuzzy head." I love languages, I speak several fluently, can get around in a few others, and am learning a few more. They are my crossword puzzles. I also enjoy learning to mimic local accents so that I *can* trill my "R" in Spanish, or call a Spaniard by his name with a "th" sound or an Argentine with a "zh" sound. But that's me. Not everyone can do that (and I can't do it perfectly, though enough to the degree that others are at least happy that I expended the effort to approximate their name), just as I can't "get" classical music or say sports, whereas others have an ear or eye for those. I have met many non-native Spanish speakers who just can't trill their Rs after years of practice. and Chinese or Vietnamese can be very, very difficult with their tonal changes. Some people just can't say foreign names well without butchering them. That's not just an American phenomenon, but rather a global one.

    Again, though, correctly pronouncing someone's name doesn't seem to be the issue here. It's the spelling of one's name that Rep. Brown is discussing. So even if no one north of the Rio Grande can trill a Spanish "R" correctly, that doesn't matter. If Anglo-Americans are pronouncing Ricardo as "Rukahrdoh" instead of "Rrrrreecardo" that is immaterial for the discussion at hand, since either way, his voter ID or driver's license or passport will say "Ricardo."

    Someone named 李 (not sure if this character will appear here) from China might have big issues moving here. If he comes from the Mainland, he follows pinyin so he's "Li" but if he's from Taiwan he follows Wade-Giles, so he's "Lee." If his given name is 載之, he could follow the "official" pinyin transliteration of his name which would be "Zaizhi" (and forget the tones in that name that even the best intentioned Westerner might struggle with) but Americans looking at that would understandably say "Zay-zhee" when it should really be pronounced "Dsai - juh." So does what does he do if he follows the official Mainland transliteration even though that doesn't accurately convey the pronunciation of his name? What if, when registering here in the US to vote, a Taiwanese-American sees his name in Chinese characters and uses the Taiwanese system to transliterate writing "Tsai-Chih"? If he's from Macau, he likely transliterates a third different way.

    According to many states, Mr. 李載之 will not vote unless the English rendering of that name is standardized. I think that's the issue Rep. Brown is getting at.

    Posted by: Brad | Apr 11, 2009 10:49:03 AM


  10. @ FYT,

    @ Brad, the 'well-travelled' sophisticate:

    She says at exactly 2:39

    "...If there were some means by which you can adopt a name just for identification purposes that was easier for Americans to deal with"

    First off...be nice. I haven't taken a swipe at you.

    Second of all, in that quote, JUST FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES. No one is talking about forcing name changes within families, friends, or colleagues. See my post above.

    Posted by: Brad | Apr 11, 2009 10:54:42 AM


  11. @ Brad,

    That was a gentle nudge, not a swipe :)

    I am Asian and what offends me is not the "for identification purposes" bit but the "easier for Americans to deal with" crap. It's like having identified me as gay, someone asks if I can help them with their wardrobe or their hair or their makeup. There is underlying bigotry in both.

    Posted by: fuk yew tu | Apr 11, 2009 11:51:40 AM



  12. BRAD,
    you are sounding desperate now. if you are supporting the "for identification purposes", train of thought ... wtf? don't we use our SSNs and our driver's licenses to legitamize ourselves when we live in a country that should not demand that of us? what happenned to the promise of open arms to the huddled masses and to those yearning to breathe free? i still hope to live in a country where that may happen. but what the fuck do i know, i am a mejicano-americano. that makes me by degrees dumb, all i want to do is take see-ess-tass and drink teh-keel-us, and cuz all asians are smart, all africans are criminals, all jews are greedy, and all caucasians are racist. it doesn't matter, i suppose, that i can tell you about shakespeare and milton or cervantes or garcia de lorca or isabel allende, or hemingway, or tennessee williams or the defiant dyke, willa cather, or the sublime feminist, kate chopin. i can talk to you about greek mythology, i can talk to you about euripedes and sophocles. i can talk to you about neo-classism, i can talk to you about the rennaisance and its impact on western culture. all i ask is that you speak my name and spell it right. that is not hard to do.

    Posted by: nic | Apr 11, 2009 12:12:59 PM


  13. @ FYT,

    If you look at your quote by itself, "easier for Americans to deal with," it looks nasty. However, putting it into the context of the clip, she is clearly talking about voting issues. Perhaps she should have said, "so that government bureaucrats can correctly identify Asian-Americans who might have multiple spellings of their names," but given that she is speaking live, without notes, without a teleprompter, I'd be willing to assume that she might have used "deal with" and "Americans" poorly, but I don't think it was ill-intentioned. Is this woman a racist? She may very well be. But we certainly can't judge that from this clip.

    I understand that there's a stereotype of Asians with unpronounceable names (just as there is, as you point out, with gays and hair and wardrobes), but the "deal with" I think she's referring to is not a "I-can't-understand-the-Chinese-lady's-name-on-the-telephone" situation, but rather what to do when state law says names must be uniform yet a Chinese-American has a hyphen on his driver's license and not on his passport?

    @ NIC,

    Desperate? Geez...I'm having an online blog conversation. Why can't we have a normal debate without desperation? I don't have my claws out, I'm not foaming over the computer, nor am I even trying to "win you over" to my side. I'm having what I find to be a rather interesting conversation and I would hope you find my points at the very least thought provoking, not "desperate" as I certainly don't find your opinions to be desperate or "wrong" per se, even though we don't agree.

    Maybe we should use our SSNs in conjunction with our driver's license. Maybe Rep. Brown even discussed that after the clip went out. It would certainly be unorthodox as we generally use our names for everything (opening up credit cards, filling out job forms, presenting plane tickets and passport at the airport), but if that is an idea floated around to solve this issue of disenfranchisement of Asian-Americans due to discrepancies in the spelling of their names on official documentation, so let it be discussed by the political powers and citizen groups.

    I don't see what huddled masses and yearning free have to do with having names spelled correctly. You said you want people to speak your name and to spell it correctly. It sounds, then, like you and Rep. Brown are asking for the same thing. She just wants Mr. Zaizhi Li to have his name spelled correctly when transliterated so that the utility company, credit card company, passport agency, and DMV don't all think he's 4 different people and so that he isn't denied his vote when the voter rolls spelled his name wrong when his ID says something else.

    Posted by: Brad | Apr 11, 2009 12:34:45 PM


  14. @Brad - you are trying to reason with unreasonable people. They see everything in terms of race and religion and gender and find the need to divide everyone into groups.

    They are also constantly looking for something to be outraged about, whether there is truly an issue or not (as in this case).

    You are correct and they are wrong, but unable to admit or comprehend that fact.

    Posted by: paul c | Apr 11, 2009 1:03:10 PM


  15. Yes, good for Phelps' mom for defending him but her level of denial and acknowledgment about her sons behavior makes me embarrassed for her. I would have much more respect for her if she would just say he's a young adult in his early 20's and we all did crazy things at that age, some of which we later regretted.

    Posted by: Give me a break! | Apr 11, 2009 2:34:34 PM


  16. BRAD,

    no, neiether she nor i am on the same chapter, forget about whether we are asking for the same thing. you are on the losing side of a tug-o-war that has to end, eventually.... better darwin than disreali. i don't want to be on the side of the angels on this argument. if you want to fight me on an equal playing field, bring it, beatch. just, don't bring paul c along for the ride; he's dead weight. heehee. can i bring FYT? he's fun.

    Posted by: nic | Apr 11, 2009 3:41:03 PM


  17. NIC,

    What's an equal playing field? I've lived in Mexico (have you? Am I therefore more "mexicano" than you? You spelled it with a "j" which makes me think you have little contact with your homeland since no self-respecting Mexican spells "Mejico" with a "j"...they do that in Spain. I've seen real Mexicans (real as in those actually from Mexico) get mad at Spaniards for writing "mejicano" which you did above).

    When I applied for my residency in Mexico City, I had my name butchered by the Mexicans. When they saw my passport, they mistakenly thought my middle name was my first (father's) surname and my real surname was my second (mother's) surname. and they spelled my first name wrong.

    Did I fly into a rage? Did I accuse them of being anti-gringo racists (even though the term "gringo" is racist)? No. It wasn't a big deal to my emotional well-being. The biggest deal was the bureaucratic mess I needed to sort out since they got my name wrong, which is what Rep. Brown was talking about. And my name was transcribed and spelled incorrectly by Mexicans who use the same alphabet as we do. Imagine what it's like for an Asian whose names don't use the Roman alphabet.

    Posted by: Brad | Apr 11, 2009 5:36:36 PM


  18. She has now publicly apologized


    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/11/texas-rep-betty-brown-apo_n_185866.html

    She has t realized that what she said was not at least politically good/ right

    All who defended her now have pie on their face

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Apr 11, 2009 8:24:29 PM


  19. Jimmyboyo,

    She's been mobbed since her remark. Apologizing made sense for her.

    As I have been the "victim" of locals in foreign countries butchering my name, I have not been offended nor would have considered an apologize to be a "first step" as noted in that link.

    People need to get thicker skins. There are real things out there to get offended about.

    Posted by: Brad | Apr 11, 2009 9:49:05 PM


  20. I'll be really pissed if I have to start ordering General Bob's Chicken. Just sayin.

    Posted by: Beef and Fur | Apr 12, 2009 6:56:08 AM


  21. Why, why, WHY are there an increasing number of the LGBT living in Texas? That state has done nothing (aside from Ann Richards) but deliver the world spawns of Satan. Seriously, Texas is beyond a backwards state.

    Posted by: CJ | Apr 12, 2009 6:30:37 PM


  22. my grandmother changed her name to harriet from her japanese name to sound more american.

    so. um. stop fucking whitening shit.

    Posted by: ian | Apr 13, 2009 1:43:58 AM


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