Hey! It's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Owen Lei.
Who are you?
First, can I just say that this is the broadest Q&A ever? Considering my ADHD-esque brain, I'm pretty sure this is a recipe for disaster. I warn you all now, many Bothans will die before you get to the end of this.
On that note, hello, my name is Owen Lei.
What are you?
To be honest, still not sure. When I was younger, I once categorized myself a "closet iconoclast." Like, someone who attempted to defy stereotypes yet still managed to awkwardly... well... not. For example, growing up as a middle-class second-generation Chinese American, one stereotype was that when you're young you learn to play piano and violin. Not me. I played piano... and trumpet. True rebel.
I am a child of immigrants who has lived in metropolitan America, suburban America, small-town America, quasi-rural America and (for a hot second) abroad. I've gone a mile deep into a copper mine and experienced 500mph barrel rolls with military stunt jets. I've covered mass shootings and witnessed wildfires up close, but also once interviewed the delightful octogenarian owner of the world's largest nutcracker museum in Leavenworth, Washington. Somehow I'd like to think this all helps me embody the American mosaic, but I'm not naive enough to believe I can ever single-handedly understand the joys and tragedies of any or every citizen. What really make us Ameri--
Oh God, Phil. You just had to ask me to be a part of this Angry Reader segment right when all I can think of is the sad, divisive state of our union.
Anyway, what was the question? Oh right. I'm also a lucky husband, son and brother. I'm a Wildcat (Go U, NU!). I'm a Christian -- hopefully a compassionate one, so I strive daily to be. Finally, the reason I've been able to do the things above is because I'm a former broadcast journalist. But now I'm no longer bound by word counts and script durations and live reporting. That's a really scary thing. Seriously, these days I write about ten times more than I should, and 80 percent of what I say on Facebook consists of ridiculous puns and frivolous portmanteaus like "Laboradorable," "Anacondalanche," "Meteorangutan" and, most recently, "PokeCupid," which could either be a Pokemon Go dating app or one of the 57 new Hawaiian tuna joints in the San Gabriel Valley.
My wife literally just said to me: "You talk too much... Lucky husband, indeed." She's right, though. If love is patient, she is Diana Ross and Lionel Richie meets Captain Stubing.
Where are you?
All over the place, clearly.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Southern California, and wound up back here in LA after years in Illinois (Go U, NU!), Montana, Nebraska and Washington (state, that is... but also briefly in D.C. for grad school where a then-Vermont Congressman named Bernie Sanders offered to write me a letter of recommendation at the end of the quarter. As a budding journalist, I thought it was my ethical duty to remain impartial and not accept such a thing from my interview subject. For what it's worth, mid-30s me just retroactively slapped budding journalist me like that Batman-Robin comic meme.)
I guess the "No really, where are you from?" answer is that my parents are Chinese/Taiwanese and that your English is very good, too!
What do you do?
I'd like to think I have one of the most inspiring jobs in the world. I work on the media relations team at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. That means most days I get to meet kids and families who, amidst overwhelming circumstances, showcase the best parts of humanity -- courage, perseverance, generosity, self-sacrifice and the ability to find hope amidst the often hopeless. I know that sounds grandiose, and I fully understand that life isn't always so rosy, especially in a hospital. But when you've met smiling children who've beaten up on cancer; healthy babies whose hearts are essentially re-wired from within; fathers who've donated kidneys to their sons; and so many families who've selflessly dedicated their lives to helping others in the same boat (not to mention the incredibly talented people treating and curing and befriending these patients), you realize that superheroes do live among us. I'm just lucky enough to be the one trying to get their stories out there for you all to see.
Oh, and yes, I did get to meet Mark Hamill last December too (see above). So that was a perk. As you can see from my expression, I clearly handled it with supercool chillax.
(By the way, Dr. Ken Jeong, if by chance you ever see this, I just want to say one thing -- "Haaaaaam, guuuuurl.")
What are you all about?
I'm going to be totally serious for just this one question.
What is important for me is the ability to share respect, context and perspective with others, even in the midst of disagreement. Or -- as odd as this may sound coming from someone who is Christian -- I'm all about the philosophy of the Middle Way, the Buddhist notion that true virtue lies not in extremes but on that broad path in between the pendulum swings. I truly believe the more we know about others, about ourselves, about our society and about the universe, the more we can empathize. And the more we would cooperate. And the less we will alienate. I mean, how can I "love thy neighbor" unless I bother to understand my neighbor first? Otherwise, it's far too easy to dismiss a divergent viewpoint and the person claiming it as preposterous, illogical and unworthy. Maybe it's because I work so often with kids, whose energy and optimism have this terrible way of inspiring you, but I am ever more convicted of the notion that even today there is more we share in common than tears us apart.
Of course, this train of soapbox-ness stems partly from the whole crazy 2016 election season as well as the unacceptable "new normal" of senseless violence, where there seems to be a lot of yelling without a lot of listening, a lot of finger-pointing without a lot of mea culpa. It drives me batty when I see people unwilling to acknowledge the slights felt by others, because my hope is for a less tumultuous, more tolerant, less divisive, more harmonious, more repentant, more forgiving America. And we can't do that unless we're first willing to work together.
And with that, I will dismount my high horse.
What makes you angry?
When you decide to order all-you-can-eat hot pot and they bring the dishes out so slowly (or not at all) that you're full before you can get your money's worth. I'm talking to you, Little Sheep Pasadena.
Also, intolerance. But we've already talked about that.