Am I a bigot? (The case of June Chu and other examples of outrageous PC bullshit)


It’s totally outrageous PC bullshit that June Chu, a dean at Yale University, has been put on leave because her Yelp reviews offended some hypersensitive liberals. Besides the fact that I identify very strongly with Chu, whose remarks, style and background, could have been my own, there are strong reasons why we need to nip overweening political correctness in the bud. First, political correctness which flies in the face of common sense reinforces the conservatives’ perception that the divide between right and left is absolutely unbridgeable, and that liberals have generally lost touch with reality – not to speak of the concerns of the ordinary, middle class American. Increased divisiveness and polarization are the last things we need in the United States (or indeed, Europe) right now. Next, ostracization and censure of university staff (or students) for failing to tiptoe around the shibboleths of political correctness is a politicization of the campus which, in theory, is no different than hiring professors or admitting students on the basis of their substantive political beliefs. Whereas ardent bible-thumpers or neo-Marxists might consider such tests (and missions) appropriate in an institution of higher learning, the overwhelming, vast majority of students and teachers in elite universities would place freedom of expression and debate over and above any specific body of belief or political persuasion. Finally, and this is probably my biggest axe to grind, because it’s personal, I take issue with the credentials of today’s righteous PC firebrands. Having attended both Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, I know that many of these provocateurs are pampered white kids who’ve never experienced any form of racism, prejudice or discrimination – let alone harassment. It’s galling to me that they are taking on the mantle of minority oppression without the foggiest notion of what it actually feels like. Trust me, it’s something that the June Chus of this world and I know only too well. And THAT is why it’s utterly absurd to brand June Chu a hater or bigot, explaining the title of my vlog. You can find screencaps of Chu’s reviews here — and judge for yourself. As for the coverage of the incident itself, you can definitely Google that on your own. I have emailed my video to Chu and all her dean-colleagues. Their contact info is on this page.
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Daily Mind-ful 12 May 2017 (The Red House)

LUCKY me: The director of the Britten Pears Foundation gives me a personal tour of The Red House, Benjamin Britten‘s home, which he shared with his partner, Peter Pears, until his death in 1976; the Red House gives visitors unwonted access and intimate proximity to Britten and Pears’ life because not only has the house been conserved in exactly the condition in which it was left, without having guard rails or glass exhibit cases installed to separate members of the public from Britten and Pears’ possessions. But all of the couple’s personal possessions, such as their clothes, accessories, board games and gew gaws, have been left in the house, as if they had just gone out for a walk. The lack of physical barriers between the public and its objects of curiosity and wonderment made for an intimate and affecting viewing experience which made me think about the nature of museum-going in general. The interposition of barriers in and of itself creates an instant atmosphere of awe and reverence which may or may not be justified by the quality/design/provenance of the objects actually being protected. Yet we experience this knee-jerk reaction because of how we have grown up thinking of museums. Therefore, we tend to give instant credit and respect to the objects behind the guard rails (when, in some cases, they might be utter crap, actually). What else impressed and even astonished me was the museum’s exhibition, Queer Talk, a historical exposition and celebration of the 50th anniversary of homosexuality’s decriminalization in Britain. You have to remember that the museum is located in rural Suffolk (Aldeburgh), an area where mostly conservative, older people voted for Brexit, making this exhibition, with its open message of liberal, progressive tolerance, discomfiting by definition. Hats off to the Director though!
It takes guts, leadership and vision to take The Red House in such a direction and proves that she is a torchbearer of the Britten’s unconventional lifestyle and career; I drove over to Snape Maltings after The Red House to meet with Roger Wright, the director of the entire Snape Maltings complex, which, these days, encompasses Aldeburgh Music, the Aldeburgh Festival and the retail complex formerly owned by the Gooderhams, a Suffolk family. I was treated to a personal tour of the whole shebang, which was a privilege and treat.
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Daily Mind-ful 9 May 2017 (Eco-fashion)

I’m going into London to introduce Christina Dean, the founder of Redress, one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-moving eco-fashion non-profits, to Isabel Encinias, the co-founder of Tejen Collection, an environmentally conscious fine jewelry brand with impeccable design credentials; incredible gold- and silver-plated roses spotted in the window of Sharps Pixley’s St. James showroom. Sharps Pixley is primarily a bullion dealer but makes some interesting peripheral products (like these flowers) to animate its windows, literally, and core offering of bullion. I’ve always been intrigued by their retail storefront on St. James and whether/how it has impacted their business; I meet art consultant, Olga Ovenden of A Consultancy at Franco’s before heading off for lunch at Chutney Mary with Isabel and Christina; Christina has JUST moved from Hong Kong to England full-time, so we enjoy a jubilant reunion moment before entering the restaurant. It’s one of those,
“Holy shit, I can’t believe we both live in the UK (in the middle of nowhere)!” moments; lunch is a combination of life-story-telling, entrepreneurial-pain-point-unburdening and brain storming between all three of us. The upshot is making new friends, cementing old friendships and me offering to make videos about their respective brands, Tejen and Redress’ new eco-fashion brand launching in September, BYT Life. Christina asks if I can make a video before the first week of June and my response, “No f^&*()ing way, are you crazy?” But I promise delivery before the September launch of BYT Life. In the meantime,
consider voting for BYT Life in the Chivas Venture competition here; I meet up with one of my oldest, best friends, John-Paul, after lunch, and he can’t stop stop raving about his recent trip to Iran. It was so incredible and visually bountiful that he posted SIX HUNDRED photos on Facebook about his trip. Considering that John-Paul is an incredible, successful fashion photographer who has visited more than a hundred countries and shoots all over the world, I take this sort of effusive recommendation seriously and make him promise to visit me at home so he can convince John that we MUST go to Iran — SOON. (We missed Burma and Cuba, so I’m determined not to miss the boat on this one.) Esfahan is THE most impressive and beautiful apparently; I learn that Uber is available, even in the middle of the countryside (Eureka!).
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Daily Mind-ful 20 April 2017 (Facebook)

Still learning to use the video camera before pushing off to Derby for FORMAT 2017; British traffic sucks; Wind farm; Derby is cute and historic; the founder of FORMAT, Louise, not only established the art and film center, QUAD, in Derby. But the UK’s biggest photography festival, FORMAT; clearly, I’ve been slacking and doing nothing these last ten years; when we met in Hong Kong, I had no idea about the magnitude of what she’s built; I assume Derby is safe because there’s no one on the street at night (????); I can’t believe Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s development agenda is so vacuous. Based on the intentions he stated during the recent F8 developer conference, his top technological and commercial priorities boil down to adding idiotic fripperies borrowed from Snapchat and Pokemon Go. The fact that a platform as powerful as Facebook needs to borrow and copy rather than pioneering its own ground-breaking initiatives based on its founder’s deepest ethical and entrepreneurial convictions is disturbing and disappointing enough. But it’s even worse that his top priorities are so devoid of social, political, environmental, cultural value; for example, he should really be implementing innovative, badly needed functionality which automatically identifies and eliminates fake news and enables greater participation in the political process rather than spending tens of millions developing three dimensional smiley face stickers; imagine other multi-billion dollar companies like Unilever, Lockheed Martin or General Electric pursuing similarly mindless agendas: it would be entirely unacceptable to shareholders and the general public. That’s the problem with a thirty-something year old developer (computer science engineer) without any sociopolitical consciousness let alone conscience wielding enormous power. It’s just as worrying to think that this is the sort of person spearheading crucial technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Zuckerberg needs a conscience internship with Bill Gates!; it pissed me off so badly, I taped a full vlog post on the topic.
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Zuckerberg needs to grow up and get a conscience


Facebook announced its principal areas of focus and R&D during this week’s F8 conference. Call me naive. But I’m disappointed (that’s a very mild way to put it) that Mark Zuckerberg is just another tech entrepreneur mindlessly chasing numbers instead of exerting some moral leadership. He needs to grow up and get a conscience – URGENTLY. [I taped this vlog on the spur of the moment explaining the terrible lighting and my weirdly recumbent posture. Notwithstanding the aesthetics, I’m glad I did it.]
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Daily Mind-ful 10 April 2017

Daily vlog diary: Erin Janus’ indictment of the dairy industry is a social media tour de force highlighting the power of video but it is too ideologically biased to take seriously. It’s my belief that animals should be subordinated to humans. Therefore, I can’t take arguments (like Janus’) against industrial food production predicated on the anthropomorphization of animals seriously; the power of Janus’ messaging style partially explains the effectiveness of Trump’s messaging; Bravo: EasyJet has almost eliminated the use of human agents at check-in; hipster design tropes have percolated into mainstream culture; airport retail is a great example of why shopping today sucks; immigration at Schipol took as long as the entire flight; many Amsterdam taxis are Teslas; we arrive at our Airbnb but there’s no one waiting for us; catastrophe averted – but not before John suggested returning immediately to England; pretty postcards from Amsterdam; last but not least: I was impressed to hear that McDonald’s is now asking job applicants to submit Snapchat footage along with their resumes.
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