Recently, Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, a sociocultural anthropologist in the UCLA Department of Asian American Studies, answered a few fun, random questions for the Zócalo Public Square website before appearing on a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussing “What Does the Japanese American Experience Tell Us About the Proposed Muslim Registry?” In this green-room Q&A, Hirabayashi, the George and Sakaye Aratani Chair in Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community, discloses his lifelong admiration for Jimi Hendrix and funky “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius.
What are you reading these days?
I’ve been working on parts of a handbook on auto ethnography. It’s pretty obscure — a bit of a door-stopper. It’s very thick.
What I really like to do is watch snippets on YouTube, basically R&B acts from the ‘60s, my high school years. Watching “Soul Train” is really where my tastes are oriented, more than pleasure reading.
Did you have any nicknames as a kid?
My family called me “Smile” because apparently I smiled a lot as a child.
What’s your favorite use of public space in Los Angeles?
I like the museums — the Geffen Contemporary. It’s a major city for art galleries.
What year — past or future — would you time-travel to?
I enjoyed the ‘60s. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area when it was a cultural ferment. I went to a lot of musical acts: Jimi Hendrix live, Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, Janis Joplin.
What would you do if you had one more hour in the day?
We just came from visiting our grandkids, who are 9 and 12. I’d spend more time with them. They’re not quite tweens, so they still listen to Grandpa.
How much is too much to pay for a good cup of coffee?
I’m a cheapskate in that sense. I grew up in a house with a percolator and Folgers. I get whatever’s on sale at Ralphs.