Friday, July 29, 2011

Religious Fundamentalism, Radicalism and Terrorism

Last Friday, 32-year old Anders Behring Breivik orchestrated one of the most heinous atrocities in Europe since World War II in coordinated attacks on both a government building in Oslo and a youth summer camp, killing 76 people. In the investigation since the attacks, Breivik has allegedly confessed that he was motivated in his hatred of multiculturalism, convinced that his actions were necessary in the face of what he believed was the "colonization" by Muslims. For a country largely known for its peace and serenity, Breivik's actions has shaken the core of of a people who have largely been free from large-scale attacks foreign or domestic.

When news of the attacks first emerged and Breivik was apprehended, the media was quick to label Breivik as "a Christian fundamentalist". As a person of the Christian faith, I was initially both shocked and dumbfounded at Breivik's reprehensible and illogical doctrinal logic that led him to massacre 76 people. When it later came to light that the "Christian fundamentalist" label was way off base, I found myself more than a little irked at the media's ineptitude and irresponsibility.

The truth of the matter is the Breivik is no more of a Christian fundamentalist than, let's say, Saddam Hussein was an Islamic fundamentalist. The evidence for both is that their motives were secular and political, not religious or faith-driven. There's nothing that speaks to Breivik's devout Christian faith or how he was motivated from his diligent Bible study. There's no evidence that he was an active parishioner in his local church and played guitar on the praise band while serving as a deacon, caring for the elderly members of the congregation, and in the course of a Bible study, decided that God wanted him to kill 76 of his own countrymen. I suspect that for the media, it was just easier to slap the "Christian fundamentalist" label on Breivik to provide a sense of balance after too many media outlets initially theorized that "Islamic fundamentalists" were behind the attacks.

And let's be clear that not all religious fundamentalists are terrorists, either. If we define a fundamentalist a strict adherence to a belief or doctrine, can we agree that people are entitled to have these until they start bombing buildings or hijacking planes? The terrorists who are indeed religious radicals are those who believe and adhere strongly in their faith or doctrine where that faith or doctrine is the key driving force - not a peripheral justification - behind violent acts.

For the the 9/11 terrorists, referring to Westerners as "Crusader infidels" while flying a plane into a skyscraper alone doesn't make one a radical Islamic terrorist. A life lived in devotion to Sharia law while attending a mosque which has cultivated a belief that it would please Allah to kill those who did not share a believe in Allah and His prophet, Mohammed - and ultimately carries out those beliefs in the killing of others... that's an Islamic terrorist.

I find that the distinction is important. I get that people like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris would like everyone to believe that religion is the root of all evil, and their ilk wrings their hands when meaty tid-bits like this can give proof to their cause. Are there religious radicals that commit terrorism? Absolutely. But let's not make false stereotypes and generalizations which are both lazy, incorrect and more ultimately more polarizing. Not every atrocity committed by a Middle-Easterner who happens to be Muslim is an act of an "Islamic terrorist" and not every atrocity committed by a Gentile Caucasian is a "Christian terrorist".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Excessive Celebration

The world of sports has seen some bizarre instances of excessive celebrations gone awry. After a breakthrough All-Star 2009 season, Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendry Morales hit a game-winning walk-off grand slam in the first half of the 2010 baseball season. He jumped on home plate after rounding the bases and was mobbed by his teammates. In the joyous scrum, he somehow suffered a season ending leg fracture which didn't just end his season in 2010, but subsequent complications caused him to miss the 2011 season, as well. Naturally the question of whether the celebration was worth it given that it's been a contributing factor in the non-contending status of the Angels ever since.

More recently, golfer Thomas Levet decided to celebrate his French Open victory by jumping into the lake. Unfortunately, the broken shin that he suffered during his spontaneous plunge ended up costing him a chance to ride the momentum of his win into contending at the far more important and prestigious British Open.

Naturally, it would be lame to forbid any celebration. It's good and proper to spike the football every now and then, and if there's no joy that can be expressed when you reach the summit, it significantly takes away from the fun of climbing the mountain. On the other hand, there's a bit of intelligence that needs to be wielded when decided to let your emotions go, and self-inflicting injury or putting yourself in harms way seems to cross that line.

I can't but help think of this as a little bit of a life lesson as well. The other issue with excessive celebration is that it tends of over-inflate our own sense of accomplishment, and we tend not to balance our own little victories with the realization that (depending on what you believe), we owe a great deal of credit to God's grace, luck, good fortune or happenstance. I recall reading an article in Sports Illustrated featuring then all-world and superstar relief pitcher John Rocker. Referring to Rocker, older and wiser teammate Mike Remlinger had this to say:
"The thing is, baseball is a game of humility. You can be on top one minute, as low as possible the next. When you're young, you don't realize it. But sooner or later you learn—we all do. Be humble."
And so it is with life. Things can change awfully fast at work, in life, within a family and in our everyday relationships. It's a good reminder to beware of excessive celebration and boasting in our temporary success and comfort, because at the end of the day, that's all that the good time are promised to be - temporary. Enjoy in and cherish it, but don't get cocky.

Going back to the sports examples, there are some Phillies fans that believe in the theory that ever since a kneeling Brad Lidge got buried in a celebratory heap after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, he's never been healthy or quite the same. Of course, may of those same Phillies fans would submit that if your team wins the World Series, anything short of causing permanently causing paralysis is a worthy celebration.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sports and Tragedy

As a Yankees fan, I'll always remember the amazing run that the Yankees made after 9/11 in their quest to win their fourth consecutive world championship. The team fought back after falling into a 0-2 hole against the Oakland A's, with the defining moment being Derek Jeter's backhanded flip of an wayward throw to nab Jeremy Giambi at the home plate, preserving a slim lead in Game 3. After dispatching the historically good Seattle Mariners in the ALCS, they won two classic games in the World Series at the last at home, before losing the Series in a heartbreaking Game 7 when steroid-addled Luis Gonzales (no, I'm not bitter or anything) poked a broken-bat single over a drawn-in infield in an unlikely comeback against Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history.

It was a great run, and much of what made it memorable was the backdrop of 9/11 and how the team's run really energized much of the city - must of this captured in the documentary "Nine Innings From Ground Zero". Then mayor Rudolph Giuliani was constantly in attendance in Yankee Stadium during the playoff run (I'm still convinced, by the way, that his lame "I'm rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series because they're in the American League" quip in 2007 nuked his Presidential ambitions. Well, maybe not) and President Bush threw out the first pitch in Game 3. The cities emotions were still raw and hearts were still healing despite the unspeakable tragedy and loss that many were feeling, but baseball somehow provided a distraction that the city could rally behind.

It's amazing, though, how cynical many people were during that run and after it. On more than one occasion, a wayward blogger or columnist would bash the very notion that the Yankees playoff run was in anyway a balm for the city. Others would criticize fans "without a horse in the race" for pulling for the city which experienced recent tragedy so close to home. The cynics sniffed, "Ridiculous, if you lost your brother when the towers went down, is the fact that the Yankees won the World Series going to mean anything to you?" Others would blast the notion as somehow equating the importance of sports to the magnitude of the tragedy the city experienced.

These sentiments completely miss the point. Of course no sporting event can replace a love one. But the reality is nothing can. Does the logic then follow then any attempt to find anything that brings happiness - however temporary - is worthless and invalid because nothing can truly reverse the loss? By that logic, people wouldn't provide gift baskets and care packages to grieving families who lose a family member - why? Food, flowers and other thoughtful items aren't going to bring daddy back. It's an idiotic notion.

So when Japan's women team won the World Cup in a thrilling championship game against the United States, the point was proved again that sports can be transcendent and lift the spirit of peoples and even nations. A theme repeated frequently during their improbable run was how this team reflected the "can do" spirit of the country and a undying commitment to persevere despite difficult circumstances. That seems appropriate for a team representing a country which suffered a tsunami this year which left more than 20,000 dead or missing and will need to endure the consequences of a nuclear meltdown of own of its reactors.

Love them or hate them, there's something about sports that can touch the soul of a community of people. What we saw this past weekend was certainly a positive example of how national pride can, at least for a period of time, bring well needed joy and relief to a country which has been short on good news.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Someone Can Be Wrong Even When They’re Right

I’d like to believe that when it really comes down to it, my 6-year old son Daniel and my 3-year old daughter Sophia really love each other. Of course, they don’t always act in a way which demonstrates this reality. As I observed some of their squabbles this past weekend, I couldn’t help but notice a common theme in their conflict.

One afternoon, we were driving home from the pool and they got into a fierce argument in the backseat about that always controversial topic: Princesses. Here’s a summary (at least the part that I overheard):

Daniel: Daddy, Sophia said that princesses have magic powers. Sophia is wrong!

Sophia: (clearly upset) Yes they do! They have magic wands and they do have magic powers!

Daniel: Those aren’t real, that’s only on television. Real princesses don’t have magic powers, right daddy?

Sophia: (really upset) You’re wrong, and I’m right. They do have powers!

Daniel: No they don’t, Sophia. Ask anyone. Ask Ah-Gong (my father and their grandfather). He’s a scientist and he’ll tell you they don’t have magic powers.

Sophia: (now on the verge of tears) Yes they do!

Daniel: Ask anyone. Everyone will tell you that you’re wrong, even the President would tell you you’re wrong!

Sophia: (pretty much crying now) I’m right and everyone else is wrong!

Later on that evening while we had guests over, Daniel, Sophia and some other kids their age were playing Chutes and Ladders together, and this is what transpired:

Sophia: (walking up to me and my wife crying) Daniel said I’m bad and I’m not allowed to play!

Daniel: Sophia’s playing the wrong way! She didn’t follow the rules so she’s not allowed to play!

Now in both of these situations, Daniel is technically right. I hope I don’t break anyone’s bubble out there, but when Kate Middleton became Princess Kate, she didn’t acquire the ability to fly and she wasn’t given her a wand to enable her to transform vegetables into mechanical objects. In that same vein, I don’t doubt for a second that Sophia didn’t play the game exactly by the rules. Maybe she moved her piece backwards or maybe she spun the wheel multiple times.

But in a larger sense, Daniel’s wrong. He’s wrong because of his inability to extend basic grace and love to his sister even as he points out her mistakes. Now in fairness, Daniel’s six years old and that discipline is going to get better and adults are lousy at this, too (more on this later), but I think it’s fair to say that his relationship with Sophia is at a stage where he simply finds her annoying and if he catches her in a mistake, he’s going in for the kill.

Extending grace to Sophia is hard for Daniel right now. I can appreciate that during this season of life, she’s largely a nuisance who touches or breaks his stuff. It’s easy for him to lord his newfound and developing ‘intelligence’ over her. He won’t (or can’t) gently correct her or give a more nuanced response which won’t antagonize or devastate her. For goodness gracious, he was so intent on piling on the poor girl around her misguided view on princesses that he dragged President Obama into the argument. Lighten up, dude.

In the same way, Daniel could have handled the board game situation better. I’ve seen how Daniel treats our toddler, Carissa, and I don’t think he wouldn’t have been as harsh with her. He would’ve laughed it off, found a way to get her involved in the game or at least given her something else to distract her.

Of course, there are glimpses of Daniel’s behavior in all of us, right? There are situations where we’re not satisfied with having a point of view that we believe is right, we need to annihilate the other person and twist the knife. There are people who rub us the wrong way who we feel a need to get the last word in. At some point, the thing that becomes most important is that the other person acknowledges that we’re right, and the relationship itself becomes secondary. But to use Christian lingo, this is where the nuanced marriage between “truth” and “grace” need to intersect. Or to borrow a construct from the apostle Paul, if we have truth but do not have love or grace, what worth is it?

And we sit back and justify our actions and our attitude because “we’re right”. But maybe in the larger sense, we’re not.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Breaking Ethnic Walls, One at a Time

During the long Independence Day break, we decided to do a family day trip to Sandy Hook, a public beach which met the criteria of not being too far away (only an hour away by car) and having a reasonably nice and clean beach and surf. Recognizing that 4th of July weekend was traditionally a busy time for the beach, and expecting high 80 degree weather and parking lots which would close quickly, we heading out early enough to get there at around 10 or so.

When we got to the beach, there were probably twenty or so other families that had already started their day. Most were mostly sunbathing, but a handful were adventurous enough to wade in the water, and there were also a few who tried their hand at some oceanside fishing, with seemingly little success.

We settled down between two families and became a little slice of diversity, a family with young girls who we later found out were from Montreal to our right, and a Hispanic family to our left. The Hispanic family to our left consisted of three young children, a middle aged women and man - both with tattoos, and an older woman.

As is the case with most beach excursions, most of the families kept to themselves, and the children in each family played only with siblings within the family. I don't get the sense that there was any distrust or dislike of others, but rather a typical northeastern American "live and leave others alone" sort of mentality. People, the conventional thinking went, were hear to enjoy family time, not to socialize or make new friends.

At some point though, my kids were playing with the other kids. Carissa, our 14-month old toddler, wasn't shy about walking over to the Canadian visitors and playing with their toddler and gratefully eating their offer of barbecue potato chips. About an hour into their time on the shore, I encouraged Daniel and Sophia to play and share with sand toys with the Hispanic kids, who apparently forgot to pack those.

Interestingly, the adults in the Hispanic family, with all good intentions, firmly scolded their kids to stop touching the sand toys that Daniel and Sophia had lent to them - until I assured them that it was totally fine and that my kids were more than happy to share. And for the next hour and a half or so, the kids played together building sand structures and looking for sand crabs and really enjoying each others' company. And for me, I have to admit having a good feeling that in a small way, a bridge was being built from a race and class perspective.

It sort of reminds me of what my buddy, the Urban Christian, wrote in a recent blog post around the rigidity of class in America:
I would submit to you that not only is class alive and well in America, but it is as rigid as it is real. If you disagree, ask yourself whether you would feel uncomfortably out of place if you tried something different. Depending on where you’re coming from, riding the bus or going to the opera or sending your kids to a certain school will seem so out of character that you can’t even fathom subjecting yourself and your family to it. We make the lamest excuses to keep from doing this – it’s inconvenient, I can’t afford it, my child won’t do well there – but I think fundamentally it is about the unstated but very real barriers that we place upon ourselves to go no higher or lower than what we understand our class boundaries to be.
Of course, I'm neither suggesting that I'm a civil rights hero for encouraging my kids to play and share with kids of another ethnic group, nor would I be so offensive and arrogant as to imply all that I'm so righteous for "slumming" my family to a public beach as opposed to going to Nantucket, the Hamptons or the Cape. Clearly what I did wasn't a big deal.

But what I do hope is that little things like these done all over the world by different people would keep moving the needle just a little bit so that maybe the next time the Hispanic adults from this family interact with an Asians, their past positive experience with our family will be an enduring positive influencer. Or maybe as 8-year old Romolo (a really affable and outgoing kid, by the way) grows up, he'll think more positively about Asians than the would have otherwise. Or maybe it helps neutralize the (sad, but real possibility of the) negative future experience that he has of an Asian storekeeper who constantly follows him around. Of course, I hope that though positive interactions, my children will also develop similarly "positive prejudices" of those of other races.

Or maybe it's just as good for the kids to never get jaded or conscious around the concepts of race and class. For all my musings, I bet Daniel and Sophia saw the experience for what it truly was - they played with a couple of kids, period.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Catch An Adulterer... I'm Chris Hansen

A couple of years ago, a put up a post about Chris Hansen, the famous "gotcha" guy from Dateline: NBC's "To Catch a Predator" series, which ultimately spawned a couple of spin-offs such as "To Catch an Identity Thief", "To Catch a Con Man" and "To Catch a Jaywalker" (okay I made up the last one). The general premise of these Chris Hansen-led episodes is to set up a perpetrator and then rush in with him and a camera crew to catch the perp in the act. Then for 5-10 minutes, Hansen would smugly interview the ensnared perp on camera while the guy squirmed uncomfortably.

As I made it clear in my post from a few years back, I'm not a fan of criminals and believe that pedophiles as the scum of the earth, but I always found Chris Hansen a bit smug and self-righteous in these segments, and wondered if he'd always embrace the concept of videotaped vigilante justice if he was on the other side of the camera. I wrote in that post:
Maybe it's the reality that as grave as these crimes are, Hansen seems to believe strongly that they are worthy of national public humiliation beyond criminal persecution, with him being the face of justice. He has become the face of righteous indignity, and I wonder should he ever make a terrible mistake to do something scandalous (e.g. cheat on his wife) or commit a crime, would he still feel that his trial and shame should be held in full view of television viewers all over the world? Can Chris Hansen cast the first stone?
It's not even a hypothetical anymore, as Chris Hansen was caught on tape having a romantic dinner with a former intern named Kristyn Caddell, with some reports alleging that Hansen has been carrying on a four month affair with the now 30-year old Florida television reporter. I find no joy in "calling this" two years earlier nor do I wring my hands in glee a person who took great pleasure in publicly humiliating others who were enough trouble as it was gets a taste of his own medicine. It's a sad situation for him, his wife and his two children.

Now let's be clear - are we claiming a moral equivalency between adultery and pedophilia? Not really - but I think we can say that it takes some moral gumption to be the righteous face of judgment in a hidden camera news magazine. If you're going to take a role like that - and revel in it as Chris Hansen seemed to do - you'd better be really careful around how you live your life in the public eye.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Real Diversity: Disagreeing But Not Being Disagreeable writer Jemele Hill recently wrote two insightful articles - the first being a balanced account of New York Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree's controversial public stand against gay marriage, which has recently been sanctioned by law in New York state. The second article that she penned was essentially an account of the hate/fan mail that she received on account of the first article, with most of the detractors blasting her for having the audacity for not portraying David Tyree as an ignorant and uneducated bigot who has been brainwashed by an superstition-fueled religion based on an archaic book comparable to Grimm's Fairy Tales - which is how most of the other "mainstream media" portrayed Tyree.

Nope, Hill had the audacity to portray Tyree as a thoughtful man of religious conviction. Tyree does not 'hate' homosexuals and does not disagree with civil unions, or extending the same rights to gay couples that married, heterosexual couples receive. But David Tyree's moral convictions - largely, if not exclusively based on his religious convictions - dictate that marriage is a sacred institution reserved for a man and a woman.

But to some, Hill's balanced (or sympathetic) depiction of Tyree was an outrage, and some blasted for the audacity of publishing Hill's article in the first place as if Hill was sympathizing with Mein Kampf. Silence her! That sort of sentiment, of course, is yet another example of how the 'respect for diversity' movement has often tripped over itself in its hypocrisy.

Hill did well in recalling the words of an ESPN colleague:
The passionate responses to the Tyree column reminded me of an honest and thoughtful blog written by NBA analyst Chris Broussard, a devout Christian, after former NBA player John Amaechi disclosed in 2007 he is gay. Broussard wrote he believes the NBA is ready for a gay player, but he also powerfully laid out that while he's against homosexuality that doesn't preclude him from being friends with columnist LZ Granderson, who is openly gay (and a dear friend of mine, too).

Broussard wrote: "LZ and I know where each other stand and we respect each other's right to believe as he does. I know he's gay, and he knows I believe that's a sin. I know he thinks I get my moral standards from an outdated, mistranslated book, and he knows I believe he needs to change his lifestyle. Still, we can laugh together, and play ball together.

That's real diversity. Disagreeing but not being disagreeable."
And this is where I hope both sides on this discussion can move to. If Christians with such convictions can adopt the gracious perspective of Broussard, and those who believe as LZ Granderson do can treat Christians with respect without marginalizing them as 'ignorant bigots', we'll all be better for it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Don't Step On The Sea Urchin

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were blessed with the opportunity to go on some company-related leisure travel. We were both grateful for the company-sponsored respite given the personal and professional busyness of the past year, and while we love our kids, we looked forward to taking a step back and spending some one-of-one time in a sort of extended date night.

We were sent to Nevis, and while I knew vaguely about Nevis and it Carribean location, my most indelible memory of Nevis was of a prominent port in Sid Meier's Pirates!, the iconic video game and predecessor of the more famous Sid Meier's Civilization. Back in my freshman year of college, my roommate would hop on my Mac Classic and it seemed that Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat were always common ports of call which our band of pirates would either befriend of raid mercilessly. In the game, the English town of Nevis is depicted "as a prosperous place, brimming with wealth and plentiful food", which I guess is sort of the way it is now, if you're willing to isolate the description to just to the resort.

These trips, having now been to a couple, are clearly a blessing and I count myself fortunate to be have had the opportunity to be selected and go. In some ways, however, echo to a small degree a senior colleague of mine who has also been fortunate enough to attend many of these when he notes that these trips are not fully vacations. When I asked him how his company-awarded trip to the Cove Atlantis in Bahamas went, he answered me along the lines of, "It was okay, I guess. You know, this really isn't vacation to me. Vacation is when you're with your kids and you take a week off and it's just you're family and you're doing whatever you want. There's a handful of cocktail receptions that are mandatory, and I feel like I have to be 'on' since you're surrounded by colleagues."

There's some truth to this. In any sort of work-related function, no matter how luxurious - whether it's a company dinner where you're spouse is invited or a full blown junket - there's a looming shadow of I-really-hope-I-(or-my-wife)-doesn't-say-or-do-anything-that-rubs-the-CEO-or-other-colleagues-the-wrong-way which ranges from needing to be reasonably sociable and gregarious even if you're dead tired and rather just stay in your room and have room service, to making a point to remember fellow award winners and spouse and partner names, to feeling restricted from walking au naturel around the resort. Okay, scratch the last one.

But let's be fair, it's certainly not work. Being "forced" to drink cocktails at an open bar overlooking the Caribbean and mingle with nice and interesting people is hardly too much to ask. Nor could anyone complain about sitting in an awards dinner being fed filet mignon and lobster tail where you and everyone else gets recognized and paraded up to take a photograph holding a plaque with a Senior Leader while the other award winners and spouses applaud. Bottom line was I considered this a God-provided gift, and we were very grateful.

As guests, we had the option of one "activity" for each of the three full days we were going to be there, and we ended up choosing the spa (in deference to my wife's exhaustion being a stay-at-home mom for three young kids), the Source rainforest hike and a kayaking and snorkeling outing, which is where I ended up not just landing in the resort nurse's office, but being a mini-celebrity amongst my fellow award winners.

You see, I failed to realize that when snorkeling, you are highly discouraged from venturing too close to rocks along the shore, and you should absolutely not try to scale them. I did, and stepped squarely on top of a sea urchin with my right food. The sea urchin, while apparently pretty (I didn't see it, I just felt its spines piercing my foot) didn't take too kindly to being stepped on, and I paid the price with ten or so spines breaking into my skin, leaving my foot swollen with ten white circles with the remnants of blackened spines embedded in my flesh. Efforts to remove the spines were unsuccessful, and the determination was made that they were superficial enough to leave them in and let the human body do its thing.

It hurt like heck and I was walking with a limp for the remainder of my vacation. On the plus side, I didn't die of infection, and at least for a while I'll get to carry a piece (or pieces) of my trip with me in my foot. How's that for a souvenir?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Breaking the Wrong Stereotypes

It's funny that when the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals at home to the Boston Bruins, a couple of stereotypes were shattered. The first was when our seemingly nice and mild-mannered Canadian neighbors up north - the cultural breathren of John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Doug and Bob McKenzie and Michael J. Fox - decided to torch and destroy their own city in a riot. Okay, Detroit and Chicago are places where you'd expect sports-related riots to occur, but Vancouver? For a culture and a city which prizes itself in being super friendly and welcoming, overturning cars and smashing windows doesn't seem to fit in its ski-lodge and maple syrup culture.

The second stereotype that was smashed was that of the law-abiding and mild-mannered Asian high school kid Jason Li, who was expelled from Hugh McRoberts secondary school after photos on Facebook surfaced which depicted him holding up a hockey stick in front of a smashed up Bank of Montreal window sounding his barbaric yawp. This has also let to hilarious Photoshop alterations of the aforementioned photo, including a prospective new cover for EA Sports NHL 2012. As for me, I couldn't help but see a vague resemblance to Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho. I think it's the eyebrows.

My wife and I recently watched "Better Luck Tomorrow", a movie that's been out for a while, but one that we never got around to watching. I had an inkling of the plot, having a friend who went to the school where the Stuart Tay murder occurred, which inspired the screenplay. The tagline of the movie of "Never underestimate an overachiever" offers a nod to the plot of four Asian kids who are smart and high-performing high-schoolers (not surprising) who also operate a crime operation in their spare time (much more surprising). The movie's pretty good, and part of the intrigue is that these kids break the stereotype. Yes, they're high grade-scoring kids who pad their resumes with extra-curriculars, but they break the mold in that they tote pistols, take drugs and sell stolen property while committing the occasional assault or murder. Hey, I'm not condoning it - I'm just saying it's stereotype-breaking.

Such is the case with Jason Li. The scrawny Asian kid - not at all mold-breaking. The scrawny kid screaming with a wild look in his eyes threateningly wielding a hockey stick after trashing a bank - take that, those Asian-American Whiz Kids that graced the cover of Time Magazine. There's nothing honorable or redemptive about hooliganism, but this whole nonsense might make someone think twice about talking trash about my sports teams... or not inviting me to the next sports riot.