Sunday, January 24, 2016

Zunar Shows Pen is Stronger than Sword: Continues Drawing Despite Prospect of 43 Years Imprisonment for "Sedition"

To listen to our Subversity Online 48-minute interview with Zunar, click here.

Back cover of Zunar's recent book, Sapuman: Man of Steal.

Zunar during our interview
Irvine -- Political Cartoonist Zunar, whose pointed drawings target corruption and injustice in Malaysia, faces a combined 43 years' imprisonment in a trial for seditious tweets slated to begin later this week in Kuala Lumpur.  The tweets lampooned the decision to jail opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges.

Zunar was in Irvine as guest speaker on a UCI Law School panel of cartoonists at the Free Expression conference that lasted from this past Friday through Sunday at UC Irvine and USC.  The timing was not coincidental.  It was, after all, a year after fellow political cartoonists were gunned down in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine.  In fact, Zunar became the first Muslim to condemn the attack, and as he explained in our Subversity Online interview Saturday evening 23 January 2016, even though he disagreed with what they drew regarding Muslims.   Appearing by video hookup at the conference was also a healthy, youthful and intelligent Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower,  from exile in Russia.

In a Washington Post op ed titled "The Malaysian government has no sense of humor - and that's dangerous," earlier this month, Zunar's words detailing government harrassment are chilling, in wake of of the PRC's apparent extraordinary rendition of five Hong Kong booksellersIn that op ed, he made these points:
  • My office has been raided multiple times since 2009, and authorities have confiscated thousands of my cartoon books. In 2010, five of my books — including “1 Funny Malaysia” — were banned by the home affairs minister, who declared the contents “detrimental to public order.” Later that year I was detained by police and locked up for two days after the publication of “Cartoon-O-Phobia.” To say the least, the Malaysian government has no sense of humor.
  • In late 2014, my webmaster was called in for questioning, and three of my assistants were arrested for selling my books. I was also brought in for questioning by the police, and the company that processes orders for my website was forced to disclose my customer list. In January, the police raided my office and then opened two investigations in February under the Sedition Act. That’s when they really threw the book at me.
  • The government hasn’t just targeted me and my associates; it also has cracked down on the entire ecosystem of free expression. Three companies that printed my books were raided and warned not to print my books in the future or their licenses would be revoked. Likewise, bookstores that carried my book were raided and their licenses were threatened. As a result, no one dares print or sell my books.  
For the Hong Kong booksellers, by the PRC apparently abducting the five booksellers, the publishing house and its associated bookstore and web site, Causeway Bay Books, have effectively been shut down.

 As for Zunar, luckily around the world activists have rallied to his defense, including the Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei (left), as Amnesty International asked netizens to Write for Rights to demand the charges against Zunar be dropped immediately.

While U.S. libraries in academia and outside, such as the Library of Congress, collect some of his 18 political cartoon books, Zunar believes no libraries in Malaysia dare acquire his cartoons.  His book titles are especially inventive:  The latest takes off on Superman, with a pointed jab at his country's prime minister as "man of steal".   Meanwhile the London-based Sarawak Report suggests that the target of Zunar's pen may be negotiating a way out even with his millions.  So is Zunar's pen actually stronger than a sword in regime change?

In our interview, Zunar appeared incredibly composed and even jovial, for someone facing potential decades-long imprisonment.  He was philosophical as well, saying he was optimistic about regime change from dictatorship to democracy in the future, if not in his lifetime.  He indicated he started cartooning at age 12 but it was later during a career as medical technician that he found his true calling in political cartooning. His other target beyond the corruption and injustice?  It's capitalism.  For that is what is keeping the people poor in his country.

Zunar also believes the deportation of Hong Kong teen activist Joshua Wong from Penang last May is because, after Arab Spring, the authorities in Malaysia do not want any trouble from young people in the country.  While Zunar's books are banned from stores in Malaysia, he continues to proliferate his art online through social media, which is, as he told me, alternative media.  His Facebook fan club has over 100,000 "likes".  So he's extremely popular in Malaysia despite what the state tries to do to silence him.

Subversity Show Online interviews Zunar

Cover of Zunar's recent book published in January 2015

Monday, January 18, 2016

Justin Chin in Hawaii: A Remembrance

The feet of warriors form the colors of the rainbow.[1]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My old and good friend, Justin Chin, died in San Francisco just before Christmas.  I just found out via a post on Facebook.  Here are a couple of obituaries:

I first met Justin at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in the late 80s when he was a journalism student there and a reporter for the campus newspaper, Ka Leo o Hawai‘i.  He lived in the student dorm on the lower campus, the one with the painting of the tidal wave flooding Honolulu.  He frequented the gay beach at Waikīkī, where he made many friends and interviewed many people for the paper.  His great love was poetry, and he wrote searingly beautiful and frightening poetry.  He is surely the best gay poet I know of, but he did not write for the squeamish for faint-hearted.  Of his several amazing books and collections of poetry, my favorite is Bite Hard (1997).  I have quoted it in my own writings.

With several other friends, he became part of an informal writers’ group that met at our homes once a week to read each other’s writing and offer help and criticism.  Justin’s presence and influence on our work were palpable.  My short story, Trade, emerged from that group.  It contains much of Justin, both within the story itself as well as in his deep influence on the writing:

Robert J. Morris (1991) “Trade,” Tribe: An American Gay Journal 1(4): 51-63 (short story).

He moved to San Francisco to pursue performance or “slam” poetry, at which he excelled.  Over the years, he returned to Honolulu several times, sometimes to visit friends, and sometimes on his way to or from visiting family in Malaysia and Singapore.  On those visits, we usually met at the Spaghetti Hale near Ena Road for dinner and conversations about writing.  We could talk for hours.

            Justin was a good guy.  I knew him as very kind and gentle and funny, retiring and soft-spoken in person, yet with a fierce intellect and curiosity that came out when he performed—a good ally to have in the culture wars.  He was 46, much too early to leave us.  But we have his books, and you can find him reading his poetry on You Tube.  He was an eloquent witness to our lives and struggles.  My thoughts go with him in the words of another favorite slam poet (William Shakespeare, Hamlet):

“Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ”

Retired Professor, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law

[1] Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986), p. 26; my translation.

[2] Reproduction of petroglyph of two males in close proximity from a site in Moanalua Valley, O‘ahu, in Elspeth P. Sterling and Catherine C. Summers, Sites of O‘ahu (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1978), p. 338.  The Hawaiian text is from Hawaiian Dictionary, op. cit., p. 338.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Remembering Performance Artist and Poet Justin Chin

 Irvine -  Over the holiday break came sad news of the passing 24 December 2015 of a powerful gay Asian voice, that of the performance artist and poet Justin Chin.  Born in Malaysia, he grew up in Singapore and subsequently emigrated to the United States.

Justin Chin

In 1999, I interviewed him perhaps when he was already a rising and powerful alternative voice, by phone from San Francisco where he was ultimately based after a detour in Hawaii.  His interview delves into controversial issues (he first had sex when he was 12), Bill Clinton's sexual liaisons and impeachment, oral sex, Asian identity and small press publishing.  The original interview was webcast in January 1999 on KUCI's Subversity Show, in RealAudio (remember that format?).  I've converted it to mp3 and uploaded it to the KUCI server.

Listen and remember him! I shall miss his biting and raw literary voice.  -  Daniel C. Tsang.
To listen to the KUCI Subversity Online reformatted podcast of my 1999 interview with Justin,  click on:

See also:
Lambda Literary remembrance.
Obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle by its book editor.
KQED report on his passing.
SF Weekly earlier account.
Poetry Foundation profile.

The original press release announcing his then-forthcoming show appearance is as follows:

Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 23:44:35 -0800 (PST)

Peformance artist/Author on Subversity webcast

Irvine -- Subversity, a KUCI public affairs radio program, this Tuesday features an interview with gay Asian Justin Chin, the author of "Mongrel," a new book of "essays, diatribes and pranks" from St. Martin's Press. The show airs from 5-6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, 1999, on KUCI, 88.9 FM in Orange County, and is also Webcast live at The topic: "Performance artist as writer." Chin is also a performance artist with a long list of achievements. His earlier work was Bite Hard (Manic D Press), a finalist in the Firecracker Alternative Book awards and the Lambda Literary Awards. His writings have also appeared in Queer 13 (Rob Weisbach Books), Best American Gay Fiction 3 (Little, Brown), Flesh And The Word 4 (Plume), and Men On Men 5: New Gay Writing (Plume), among others.
His solo performances, described as "the raw stuff of serious risk taking," (San Francisco Bay Times), include "And Judas Boogied Until His Slippers Wept," "Go, or, The Approximate Infinite Universe of Mrs. Robert Lomax," "Born," "These Nervous Days," "Holy Spook," and "Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms." He has performed his work nationally, including at Highways and East-West Players in L.A; P.S. 122 and Dixon Place in N.Y.; Josie's, Center for the Arts, Intersection for the Arts, the LAB, the Asian Art Musuem, and the SF Art Institute in San Francisco; the Cleveland Performance Art Festival, and the New York International Fringe Festival.
Along with Dan Schott, he wrote and co-directed Downloads, an experimental video documentary that was screened at film festivals in New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, London, and Amsterdam. Other collaborations include Cockfight, a performance work with L.A. performance artist Hung Nguyen.
Chin received fellowships and grants from the California Arts Council, the Djerassi Artist Residency, PEN American Center, and PEN Center USA West, and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art. In 1996, he was awarded a "Goldie" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian in their annual awards honouring local artists. Chin was on the 1995 and 1996 San Francisco National Poetry Slam teams.
Chin will be interviewed by show host Daniel C. Tsang. Listeners can call (949) 824-5824 to chat with Chin during the show, or send us comments or questions via e-mail to

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Terror in Little Saigon": An Interview with AC Thompson

Irvine - For daring to dig up old unsolved murders of Vietnamese American journalists in America, ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson has been under the glare of public scrutiny.

Skype interview image capture
 Yesterday, he delved in depth into his reasons for reporting about a shadowy group that many believe may be behind the murders and explained why he wrote the story the way he did, both in a Frontline documentary and in print.  For links to the ensuing controversy, see the previous Subversities blog entry.

The key revelation from our lengthy interview with us via Skype is that Yen Do (now deceased), the respected long-time publisher of the premiere Vietnamese American news daily, Nguoi Viet, published for decades from the heart of Little Saigon in Westminster, California,  was one of those journalists the shadowy group wanted to assassinate.

Thompson said the microphones were off when the person interviewed disclosed to him and his colleagues on the reporting project that this person, whom he named on the interview, had tried to dissuade members of this shadowy group not to kill Yen, saying he was a good guy. Yen was never murdered and died of natural causes in 2006. That person has since denied he made the statement.

In response to a question whether the attacks on Vietnamese American journalists at the time constituted "terrorism", given our having just experienced past Friday's terror attacks in Paris, Thompson explained that when people are targeted for political reasons and injured or killed, that is terrorism.

In fact, he noted, some journalists were targeted even for revealing that the head of the shadowy group was dead.  The group denied the leader's death for years.  Thompson said he was thought to have committed suicide in Laos. 

For an audio of the interview, go to his link: Interview.

---  Daniel C. Tsang, host of Subversity Online

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Domestic Terrorism in America

Irvine = As expected, the wagons are circling among some in Vietnamese American enclaves after PBS Frontline and ProPublica came out with its documentary and article on "Terror in Little Saigon." The article also appeared in OC Weekly.

I was happy to be quoted in the Vietnamese edition of the BBC defending the broadcast and its accompanying article. Here's what I told the BBC Vietnamese edition (the online text is in Vietnamese):

 " 'Terror in Little Saigon' is an important documentary plus reportage (in print as well). For too long a consipiracy of silence has enveloped the Vietnamese diaspora about these crimes and the report not only indicts the local authorities for not investigating the murders and threats but also reaches up to the level of the US Government in its embrace of the leader of the National Front, and looking away while the Front mounted its guerrilla operations from Thailand and Laos. I hope this sparks renewed interest in renewing the investigation into the multiple violations of federal law, not to speak criminal law with the K9 involvement in assassinating people that would have welcomed reconciliation with Vietnam."

 Having written briefly about the National United Front myself for the OC Weekly and knowing that the deaths of journalists were largely ignored by the mainstream media, I welcomed this move by a PBS and ProPublica, as well as OC Weekly, in publicizing "dead cases" from the not so distant past.

My earlier pieces included a profile of an activist who ironically served on the then-existing advisory board of the UCI Libraries' Southeast Asian Archive.  I also wrote another piece about the same individual (an adult) who was leading a so-called Youth Movement for Vietnam during the Little Saigon HiTek protests.

Writers and journalists were among the targets of the protesters.  The protesters, I wrote, "say they want to forge an "information front" against critical media accounts of the mob outside Tran's video store in demonstrations that lasted for 53 days earlier this year. They target several reporters in the battle, including Los Angeles Times op-ed writer Le Ly Hayslip (whose biographies became Oliver Stone's Heaven and Earth), Times columnist Patt Morrison, the OC Weekly's Nick Schou and me. We four are named in a front-page manifesto in the March 12 [1999] edition of the Westminster-based Viet Bao Kinh Te (Vietnam Economic Daily News)."

Let's not forget that decades earlier, in 1986, the Asia Resource Center in Washington D.C.  issued an 8-page "casebook" by journalist Steve Grossman detailing those attacked and/or killed by what it described as "Vietnamese death squads in America".  It was the first of a few brave attempts to draw attention to the phenomenon.

But back to the reaction to Frontline.  It is unfortunate that some in the communities affected don't want light to shine on the acts of intimidation and violence inflicted several decades ago; in fact, those defenders of keeping the past hidden have resorted not to petitioning law authorities to renew their investigations but rather to start investigating the journalist who dared to dig up court and FBI files to expose the past. While much of the backlash to the media coverage has been written of course in Vietnamese, there are some sources that offer information in English.

The OC Weekly last week published two stories on the reaction (mostly outrage) in Little Saigon (story  one and two), and this week published the ProPublica's response point by point to criticism of its documentary and article. As the same article by OC Weekly's Charles Lam notes, another documentary film director, Tony Nguyen, has again been red-baited for daring to help as consulting producer on the Frontline piece.  The director has pleaded for a "chance for truth in Little Saigon" in a piece published yesterday on DiaCRITICS.   For more on Tony's "Enforcing the Silence," see my interview with him linked here.

And online the reaction is also covered in English, although Our Little Saigon is apparently a site linked to the successor group of the Front, so read it for what it's worth. There is even an online petition calling for PBS to investigate the Frontline broadcast, that has garnered under 2,000 signatures as of this writing. And even a local politician has jumped into the fray: California state senator Janet Nguyen, invoking the model minority stereotype of successful immigrants to attack ProPublica in her letter.

The Voice of OC has also covered the reaction in Little Saigon more dispassionately. And a French scholar. François Guillemot has written two pieces (this and later another) in French on his Vietnam history web site, giving a historical perspective with links to more resources and feedback.

I just hope the authorities will resurrect their investigation and not be scared off by the right-wing and other defensive reactions. For two decades or more, the domestic terrorism victims deserve better.
[Revised 18 November 2015: Added: A petition asking the FBI to resurrect its investigation is now online.]
-- Daniel C. Tsang.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

OC Weekly's 20th Anniversary: My Reflections

This week, the iconoclastic OC Weekly celebrates its 20th anniversary!  I was there almost at the beginning, one year or so later, in 1996, penning my first founding editor Will Swaim-commissioned piece, after he noticed the strange obit about Japanese internment camp-denier Lillian Baker in the Los Angeles Times.  

I've already reposted last July that earliest piece in Subversities but here is again an image of that first freelance article I wrote for the paper.

My original article appeared in OC Weekly 29 November-5 December 1996, pages 9-10

In all, from 1996 to 2003, even before the weekly began reducing freelance contributions, I wrote dozens of articles, some under the column "Civil Unliberties," a takeoff of Calvin Trillin's column elsewhere.  Using that name I covered police abuse in the county, especially in Little Saigon, where I was the weekly's first beat reporter, covering the regular eruptions of anti-communist fervor.

Here's a "wordle" of titles of my reportage in OC Weekly from 1999-2003 (plus the title "Real Lillian Baker" thrown in from 1996):

The OC Weekly web site only displays online my articles since 1999 so the earlier years are missing from that site.

The wordle above higlights the fact that Little Saigon was the focus of most of my articles since 1999. But I also covered police abuse, Asian "gangs" and queer uprisings, especially on high school campuses in OC Weekly.

On my KUC Subversity Show I actually interviewed Will Swaim on June 20 1995 just as the weekly was starting. (That interview was recorded on analog tape and not yet digitized.)  Will, whom I just ran into on campus outside Langson Library last week, was a return guest on Subversity in June 4, 2007, with Orange Coast Voice editor John Earl and CSUF Communications Prof. Jeff Brody, who also discussed OC Weekly on the show.

Will, who  was then-editor of The District (Long Beach) appears in the audio clip (around the 10 minute mark) when he debates later OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano's "Ask a Mexican" column with John and Jeff.  Said Will he was "not an Excel spread sheet kind of guy" and it "wasn't fun" anymore, explaining why he left the OC Weekly. Gustavo is also pilloried by John and defended by Will for Gustavo's coverage of  UC "recovered memory" Prof. Beth Loftus.  Also discussed in this 2007 interview is OC Weekly's coverage of ethnic issues and criminal justice with Will and John discussing whether or not Scott was too reliant on prosecutors' handouts (at the time).  (I'm glad Scott would later go after the incumbents in the OC Sheriff's position.)  I also had been told by a Managing Editor at the time that Scott was the "gatekeeper" of Little Saigon coverage, which was also discussed on the Subversity interview. 

On the current "Oral History of OC Weekly," for which writer Joel Beers interviewed me by phone a few months ago for some 20 minutes, here's what got extracted from the interview and was published this week in OC Weekly:

"Daniel C. Tsang, contributor, 1996-2003: I think at the time [1996], I was the only reporter who was a person of color. At first, they wanted me to write a horoscope column--because I was Asian, I guess. And I thought that that was crazy. And then they wanted me to write a gay-nightlife kind of column, and I wasn't interested. I am a gay, Asian-American activist and wasn't interested in fluff. But finally, they let me pick my own topics, like my column, "Civil Unliberties", which covered civil-rights violations in the county."

Truth be told, it was Will (if memory serves me) that asked if I wanted to do an astrology column, and then a gossip column a la Michael Musto in the Village Voice.  (Although I was active in the gay community I was not a club frequenter, except to pick up gay print media there.) Both Will and Gustavo have columns on OC Weekly in this week's edition, in addition, of course, to being quoted throughout the oral history.

I am glad there are more people of color there now who do good reportage at the OC Weekly. -  Daniel C. Tsang 


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Co-Founder Benny Tai on Hong Kong's Occupy Central

To listen to the audio of his talk as podcast on KUCI Subversity Online, click here.

Hong Kong's Occupy Central co-founder came to University of California, Irvine last Spring Quarter to speak before a graduate political science seminar taught by Prof. Dorothy Solinger.

Benny Tai at UCI seminar.  Photos © Daniel C. Tsang 2015
In his 28 April 2015 talk, Hong Kong University Law School Prof. Benny Tai explained the birth of Occupy Central and what happened when the student activists took over and turned it into the Umbrella Movement or Revolution, occupying streets in Hong Kong for weeks.

He said he had been a student activist in his university days and thought the Occupy Central actions would end after a brief period.  Instead the students led the way.

He also indicated Occupy Central was not copying the anti-capitalist stance of Occupy Movements elsewhere.

Asked if he had received funds from the U.S. for Occupy Central he said No.

After dinner another department on campus treated a small group of academics to Peking Duck dinner at Capital Seafood in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree retail mall.

There he was asked how he identified himself.  His response:  Hong Konger first, then Chinese.
Polls (notably those conducted at HKU by Dr. Robert Chung Ting-Yiu),  indicate that a majority in Hong Kong have been identifying as Hong Kongers (香港人) rather than Chinese, similar to the situation in Taiwan where the majority identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.

Subversity Show host with Prof. Tai at dinner. 

Prof. Tai is still waiting to hear what his university will do over his acceptance of protests-related donations, which he turned over to HKU.  The then-dean of the Law School, Johannes Chan, who was supportive of the protests, is now on hold to become a top administrator at the University, after those who were Beijing-allied tried to block the move and criticized Prof. Tai as well.  HKU students recently took over a HKU Council meeting; the University administration is currently considering whether to bring charges against the student protesters.

For current news on the political situation in Hong Kong, click here:  Cantonese In-Media Hong Kong site | English site of the Real Hong Kong News.

-- Daniel C. Tsang.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Exquisite Portrayal of Queer Sexual Awakening

To hear our interview with the two directors, click here [link fixed now].

Irvine - Brazil is often portrayed in film for its flamboyant, colorful and musical extravagance. Taking a decidedly different stance are queer directors (a couple) Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, who have written and directed this exquisite portrayal of teen sexual awakening in "Seashore."

Tomaz (Mauricio Barcellos) & Martin (Mateus Almada) explore each other in "Seashore"

Just on DVD and on VOD from Wolfe Video, the film starts off slow as the high schoolers Tomaz and Martin visit a relative's home. The slow pace is deliberate, as I found out in my interview last Friday (31 July 2015 via Skype) with the two directors, because they wanted to portray the reality of how a gay teen approaches the topic of coming out and reaching out to a best friend, and the friend's reaction.

The directors made this cognizant that Brazil has a negative human rights record regarding discrimination against homosexuals and wanting to offer hope for those contemplating reaching out to others.

"Seashore" had its world premiere at the 65th Berlinale earlier this year. It's not their first film - they also directed a lyrical short, "Ballet Dialogue" - about a young guy and an older man - so that, the directors told me, audiences don't forget the pioneers who led the way for the current generation.

Um Diálogo de Ballet - Trailer from avantefilmes on Vimeo.

-- Daniel C. Tsang, co-host, KUCI Subversity Online.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Vatican Publishing House Releases Eddie Yeghiayan's Comprehensive Armenian Genocide Bibliography

As if more evidence were needed of the Pope's commitment to honor the memory of Armenians massacred in the genocide by Turks -- Pope Francis recently spoke of the genocide as the world prepared to commemorate that historical mass killing - - the Libreria Editrice Vaticana released last month (8 April 2015) in book form former UC Irvine critical theory and philosophy bibliographer Eddie Yeghiayan's massive, The Armenian Genocide: A Bibliography compiled by Eddie Yeghiayan.

Already online as a searchable database via the web site of the Glendale-based Center for Armenian Remembrance, the bibliography by my retired friend and colleague is now made available in print by
the Vatican Publishing House, making it easier for researchers and collectors who want to flip though its 1126 pages and delve into its annotated contents.

In Italian, the press describes the bibliography as follows:

Il lavoro di ricerca, compilato da Eddy Yeghiayan, racchiude in un solo volume i numerosi studi effettuati sul genocidio armeno. Il volume è suddiviso in otto capitoli così composti: volumi e saggi ordinati per autore per il primo capitolo; una rassegna cronologica di tutti gli articoli usciti dal 1833 al 2011 nel secondo; lo spoglio degli articoli comparsi nei principali giornali e magazine nel terzo; fiction, poesia, dramma e musica nel quarto; tesi di laurea e di ricerca nel quinto; audio e visual media nel sesto; risorse d’archivio nel settimo; siti internet e risorse elettroniche all’interno dell’ottavo. Il volume, uscito in occasione del centenario del genocidio armeno, offre la possibilità di una profonda riflessione sul dramma del martirio che ha colpito il popolo armeno. Il volume, proprio per il suo essere composito e dettagliato, risulta essere un valido strumento di ricerca per tutti coloro che intendono accostarsi all’olocausto armeno e compiere uno studio approfondito sull’argomento.
Eddie Yeghiayan, Mls, è dottore di ricerca in filosofia ed insegna presso la University of California Irvine
Eddie Yeghiayan.  Photography © May 2015 by Daniel C. Tsang

Eddie's other bibliographies and his contributions to another field of study, critical theory, were also recently acknowledged at an event on campus during the opening night of a UC Irvine libraries exhibit.

Although long retired from UC Irvine Libraries, Eddie Yeghiayan appears in a short video clip from Derrida directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman - as a audivisual sidebar to the current Langson Library lobby exhibit "Through Discerning Eyes: Origins and Impact of Critical Theory at UCI."  While he is speaking in English, the subtitles are in Spanish!

Eddie Yeghiayan in clip from Derrida
I regret he is not otherwise mentioned in the formal exhibit, although he is the librarian who founded the Critical Theory Collection in the UC Irvine Libraries' Special Collections and Archives and for many years compiled the detailed Wellek Lecture bibliographies on critical theorists.  This omission was rectified during the Q&A that evening.

During the exhibits opening event 9 April 2015, in the Q&A session after the opening talk by UCI Humanities Dean Georges Van Den Abbeele, I related the anecdote of the New York Times calling Eddie up to ask if the newspaper could use a low-resolution photo of Judith Butler that Eddie had taken and posted online next to his bibliography on Butler.  Eddie - the unasuming and generous soul he was - offered to give it to the paper for free. To laughter, I said he could have asked for $1,000.   "He didn't want any money," I added. The photo was subsequently published in the 27 February 1999 edition of the NY Times, p. B11 to acccompany a story on "Attacks on Scholars Include a Barbed Contest With 'Prizes' " by Dinitia Smith that began on page B9.   This past Sunday Eddie recalled the New York Times had offered him $100 which he declined.  The photo is missing from the online version but Eddie is credited.

UCI Chancellor's Prof. (in Comparative Literature) Gabriele Schwab then spoke up thanking Eddie for his "most amazing bibliographies." UCI Humanities Dean Van Den Abbeele from the podium then said he "knew that" and had "consulted" Eddie's Lyotard bibliography "many, many times" and that "it is an amazing piece of work."  He later told me that while French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard had given him (the Dean) some pamphlets of his (Lyotard's) writings, Eddie's bibliography listed every one of them. 

At a time when library administrators at many places are urging librarians to collaborate with faculty more, Eddie stands as an exemplary example of the benefits of producing scholarly work that brings recognition to bibliographers and other librarians.  

You can listen to the audio of the Dean's talk.  The audio is at times barely audible for speakers from the audience.  See also photos of the opening night.

-- Daniel C. Tsang

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jack Peltason effectively saved my job

The Peltasons 23 January 2015 at UCI University Club. 
Photo copyright © Daniel C. Tsang 2015
Irvine -  It was my first battle with the University of California, Irvine, administration.  I had come up for academic review a few years after arriving in 1986 at UC Irvine as a bibliographer for political science and economics as well as as social science data librarian.
The powers that be in the Libraries had decided no, I wasn't going to get a positive review.  I realized that if I didn't appeal, it would make it easier the next round for them to get rid of me, since I had not then yet achieved "career status" - roughly the equivalent of "tenure".

So with the help of my union, University Council-AFT, and its smart executive director, Gary Adest, I went through the appeals process.

At that time,  I felt it was fortunate that the decision for whether or not to grant a step increase rested outside the Libraries, so that another set of eyes would review the file.    Unfortunately, the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the time, Tien Chang-Lin, whom I thought I knew well through the Asian Faculty and Staff Association, agreed with the library administration and turned me down for a step increase and raise. 

Fortunately one could appeal further, if there were "irregularities" in the way the review was conducted.   (Whether or not a step up and raise were given is considered "academic judgement" - not subject to an appeal.)   I definitely thought so; an outside hearing committee and a secret ad hoc board (this apparently) sided with me - and ultimately Jack Peltason - who was UC Irvine Chancellor at the time - and a political science professor I had helped occasionally - on 9 November 1989 overturned his deputy, Dr. Tien (who would later head UC Berkeley).  Since I had already gone through in the meantime another review successfully, Dr. Tien subsequently advanced me to Librarian IV "without further review".

By his 1989 action Jack no doubt effectively saved my job.  Jack Peltason, who would later head the the entire UC system, passed away Saturday.

It is thus perhaps ironic for a union and political activist like myself to give credit to the big boss or 大老板 .  Without what "Jack" decided in my case, I would likely not still be here, now 29 years after I started at UCI.

Years later, another Vice Chancellor expressed surprised I was still here, given the University's deep pockets to fight off any challengers from employees.  I guess I was persistent, had great union support, and allies in high places, not least the then-Ombudsman, Ron Wilson as well as Gene Awakuni, then-head of the Counseling Center at UC Irvine, who would offer diversity training in the libraries subsequently.  He later became a top-level university administrator at CalPoly, Hawaii and Columbia.

For more background, see my 1992 Amerasia Journal vol. 18 no. 1 essay:  A Look Back: David vs. Goliath at UC Irvine [licensed to UCI users]

In what was arguably his last public appearance, Jack Peltason showed up at a 23 January 2015 memorial service at the University Club for David Easton, another eminent UCI political scientist.  Although Jack did not address the gathering, he communicated spiritedly though an iPad with his admirers gathered around after the event.  Above is my photograph of this gentle man who fought for affirmative action with his devoted wife Suzanne.  May he rest in peace. - Daniel C. Tsang.