Saturday, September 15, 2012

From Fu Manchu to Gangnam Style!

Something crazy is brewing out there, and it's called "Gangnam Style" written by South Korean pop star Psy.  ("Gangnam" means "Korean.")  The song is sung/rapped entirely in Korean, and yet it has hit #1 on the iTunes charts this week, above Taylor Swift's "Never Ever Getting Back Together."  Psy's music video has had over 120 million hits on youtube, he's been on air with Ryan Seacrest, and he was most recently on Ellen DeGeneres' show teaching Britney Spears how to dance gangam-style!

When my girls saw Psy's performance on the Today Show on NBC, they were cheering and immediately started dancing to the infectious beat.  My 2 younger brothers got special seats for the taping of the show, so they were part of the NY city crowd that went wild, singing and dancing along with Psy.  I watched in disbelief.  My brain was trying to process the fact that Psy is a celebrity.  And he's Korean.  And he's rapping in Korean.  And Al Roker is dancing to Korean rap music.

What my girls don't realize is how much American pop culture has changed in its portrayal of Asians.  When I was growing up, we had no cool Asian rappers or dancers.  We had white guy Mickey Rooney playing I.Y. Yunioshi with his gross buck teeth, greasy black hair, and a massively heavy accent.  And remember Sixteen Candles and the hot mess of Long Duk Dong's pitiful character saying, "What's-a happenin, hot stuff?"  Later Jackie Chan entered the picture and sealed into the psyche of our culture that all Asian men are martial arts experts.  At least it bumped up the image a notch from before, but it was still a caricature of sorts.

Now we have Psy, a regular Joe from South Korea (whose real name is Jason Park), dancing in a colorful suit, bow-tie, cheesy sunglasses, and the crowd loves him.  His music video shows him dancing with older Korean men and women on a bus, with other younger guys in slick suits, and obviously with "yuh-jahs" (girls).  He is making a crossover in generations, as well as in culture.  Korean culture is more mainstream and popular than it has ever been in the US, and it's the real deal- no white actors, no random karate-chop moves, no one-sided figures.  Thanks to Psy and Gangnam-Style, I might even dare say now it's almost cool to be Asian- gasp!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Power of Friendship

In the last week, I have been struck by the sweetness of friendship.  I lost a friend, but in my grief, I was inundated by old and new friends with sincere concern over my well being in the form of hugs, messages, texts, and prayers.  I heard from people I hadn't spoken with in years due to miles and busy schedules, I reconnected with old college friends who were able to pick up right where we left off 15 years ago, and I felt so much love from everyone who reached out to me with the simplest of gestures, people who never even knew Gloria, but felt my pain in losing her.  No one can really explain the power of friendship, but I can testify that when you have a friend, you have a beautiful gift that transcends the temporal and tastes the eternal.  I think that's why I cried so much during Gloria's memorial services and felt such a strange mixture of sadness and joy; it was so hard to say good-bye, but it was inspiring to see the magnitude of her friendships in this life.  Losing her made me realize that my friendships are worth the investment of time, even when it feels like I don't have enough.  I told one of my old Northwestern friends that hanging out again was like opening a gift that had been on the shelf for 15 years; what took me so long to unwrap it and enjoy it?

My old church while I was in college, Evanston Bible Fellowship, had a 25-year Anniversary celebration this past weekend.  Todd and I were unable to attend, (sadly missing it by only a few days of being in Chicago for Gloria's memorial), but we got to hear from other friends how amazing it was to see each other after decades of being apart in different states and in different stages of life.  These are the people that we did life with during college and our first few years of marriage; our relationship and spiritual growth was greatly impacted by Pastor Martin McCorkle and his leadership at EBF.  We truly would not be the people we are today without his sermons, his friendship, and his shepherding of this church.  All past and present EBF-ers were able to get together this weekend to reminisce, worship, laugh, cry, and enjoy each other's company again.  Knowing many of them, I have no doubt it was a great party!  One friend who attended shared a quote that resonates with me so much right now:

"In friendship. . . we think we have chosen our peers.  In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another. . . the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart.  But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances.  A secret master of ceremonies has been at work.  Christ, who said to the disciples, "You have not chosen me but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another."  The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out.  It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others."
-- C.S. Lewis

I love the idea that God chooses the people He wants us to know in this lifetime, and I am eternally grateful for His choices for me in all the different stages of my life!