Meeting HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ & CRA’s Jimmy O. Yang – One Funny Guy

Season 6 Trailer (Final Season) for ‘Silicon Valley’

When I saw that actor, standup comedian, and writer Jimmy O. Yang was going to be performing Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco, I wanted to see him perform. While waiting for a standby ticket to see the last show, I had heard a lot of positive comments from others on the show, and even one person stating he thought he was funnier than Ken Jeong, who I had also seen at Cobb’s.

I first became aware of Jimmy when he appeared on the hilarious HBO comedy Silicon Valley, which is in its final season.  The show is a hilarous parody of the industry (if you get this, then you know what I mean – I live and work in Silicon Valley, and I’ve worked with engineers like this).   To be honest, at the beginning and for a while, I wasn’t a great fan of Jimmy’s character of Jian-Yang but have come to appreciate the caricature. Even though he didn’t have a ton of screen time in Crazy Rich Asians, I *LOVED* Jimmy as Bernard Tai in the film – he definitely made the most of his time (as did well as his film castmate, Ronny Chieng).

I got a chance to meet Jimmy during an optional ‘meet and greet.’  I had to take a photo with him with my beloved ‘Pied Piper’ t-shirt, the fictional startup in ‘Silicon Valley’ where the protagonists work.

I had blogged about Jimmy also when he appeared on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,’ and mentioned that I hoped to meet him one day – mission accomplished! When I did meet him, I had mentioned that I was a big fan of ‘Silicon Valley’ and his role in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and told him that I even did a “Gold Open” buyout for the film for the San Francisco Bay Area chapters of the Asian America alumni associations of the Ivy League (as well as Duke), which I mentioned in my non-spolier review of the film.

As for his standup comedy routine, I have to say he’s pretty hilarious. I might even agree that he might be funnier than Ken Jeong’s act. Maybe Jimmy should consider jumping out of the trunk of a car naked, like Ken did in ‘The Hangover’ which catapulted Ken into fame. Seriously, Jimmy’s got talent and I hope more people can see him live or on TV. Jimmy, along with comedians like Ali Wong, Ken Jeong, and Asiv Mandi (who I also saw at Cobb’s), shows that Asian Americans can be other than your stereotypical Model Minority.

Jimmy’s recent show in Seattle was taped for an upcoming comedy special.  Wishing the best to Jimmy and I hope you can catch him live!

 

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Float: A Pixar Short Film Featuring Filipino American Characters Debuts November 12

After its short film Bao won an academy award for short films, Pixar is debuting another short featuring Asian Americans/Canadians.  Float, by Bobby Rubio, is about a father who discovers that his son is different.  In a first for Pixar films, the characters are Filipino American.  Writer/producer Rubio talks about his film in this article, which contains the above video.

Float is part of a series of films from Pixar’s Sparkshorts program, designed to find new storytellers from within Pixar’s ranks.  Float debuts on November 12, 2019, on Disney+, Disney’s new streaming channel.

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Remembering Asian and Pacific Islander Veterans: Maggie Gee, WWII WASP Pilot

Maggie Gee was a pioneering Asian American pilot, physicist, and political activist.  She was one of two Chinese American women in United State’s Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program during World War II.  One task she had as a pilot was towing a low  flying target for live ammunition shooting practice!  In the video shown above, she tells her story.  In 2009, Gee, along with all the other living WASP pilots, received the Congressional Medal of Honor.  A book about her, called Sky High:  The True Story of Maggie Gee, was written by Marissa Moss.

Gee died in 2013.  A campaign was started to rename Oakland International Airport after her with this petition.

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The End of an Era: ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ Not Returning After Season 6

With great sadness that I read that ‘Fresh Off The Boatis being canceled after its current sixth season:

“When Fresh Off the Boat first premiered in 2015, it was the first time I saw a family on-screen that not only looked like mine but shared similar sentiments and memories of trying to balance contrasting cultures and heritages. But after four years and six seasons, it was announced on Friday that Fresh Off the Boat would be canceled after its sixth season. Despite the news, the series will forever be a trailblazer that paved the path for talent and films that have become instrumental to the media representation of Asians.

Since airing, Fresh Off the Boat became the longest-running sitcom revolving around an Asian-American family in broadcast TV history, according to Vulture. Each week, viewers have tuned in to mainstream television to understand one family’s experience of emigrating from Taiwan to America and coming into their own as minorities. It addressed themes of immigration, the American Dream, and cultural assimilation through the lens of parental characters Jessica and Louis Huang and their three sons Eddie, Emery, and Evan Huang. Despite its groundbreaking run on ABC, the show’s ratings have declined in the past few years, per Zap2It, making its cancelation barely a surprise.”

‘Fresh Off The Boat’ was the first U.S. television show since Margaret Cho’s ‘All American Girl,’ which was over twenty years of absence highlighting an Asian American family.

I had the great opportunity to interview Hudson Yang, and his father, Jeff Yang, back in 2015. Most sitcoms are lucky to survive their first season, so in many ways, the show’s cancellation was inevitable. Personally, I was most impressed with the story arc of Eddie dating his white girlfriend without race ever becoming that big of an issue – something I wish I had seen while growing up in the 1980s.

The series is set to conclude in an hour-long series finale set for February 21st, 2020. I am wishing the best to all the cast & crew, and I would like to see the cast in future television, film or more broadly, entertainment careers – whatever path they choose to go from here. I’m hoping that we’ll continue to see Asian American faces and stories being told in the future – it was pretty amazing to see both ‘Fresh Off The Boat’ and ‘Dr. Ken’ on broadcast television at the same time!

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Asian American Commercial Watch: Andrew Yang’s ‘Not the First’ – Medicare for All

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has just released his first television ad that he is going to air.  It is about healthcare, highlighting the need for affordable healthcare for all.

Andrew and his wife, Evelyn, discuss the fact that they have a specials needs / autistic child and how expensive that can be from a healthcare standpoint and move to a Medicare for All system to support American families. I’m all for that!

I’m wondering where this ad will air – probably in lower cost media markets and early caucus/primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

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Has Filipino Food “Arrived?”

Over the years I have seen a number of articles saying that Filipino food has arrived.  Seeing so many for so long brings up some questions.  What does “arrived” mean?  For whom? Does that mean it has become as common or mainstream as Chinese or Thai food?  To me, “mainstream” would require me to see for myself the following three conditions:

  • Numbers of restaurants and/or food trucks with some reasonable amount of non-Filipino customers in significant numbers (greater than one third)
  • Filipino restaurants thriving for a significant amount of time (time scale is years)
  • Filipino restaurants making it in non-Filipino dominated areas (e.g. not in Daly City, Hercules, or Milpitas)

Some recent experiences has led me to make a conclusion about this question.

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Andrew Yang’s San Francisco Rally (Sun 10/27/19) Overview

Although I’ve interviewed and met Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang several times, I’ve never actually attended a rally of his. The previous time Andrew had a rally in San Francisco, I was out of town, or it was held on a weeknight and getting to San Francisco from San Jose on time would have been impossible.

I was finally able to attend one this past Sunday, and it was a blast! I was amazed and impressed with the number of Asian American supporters he had. I hate to say that it takes an Asian American candidate to get many Asian Americans politically involved, but I think that is partially true.

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Michelle Kwan Launches ‘AAPIs for Biden’ for President

I had the great pleasure to attend the official kick-off for ‘Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) for Biden’, held in Las Vegas this past Saturday. The last time I had attended a similar event was back in 2016, for an AAPIs for Hillary Clinton event in San Francisco, which was also hosted by Michelle Kwan. This is the first such effort that I am aware of for any presidential campaign this cycle.

You may wonder why Las Vegas was the chosen launch point for AAPIs. Nevada, where most of the population is based in the Las Vegas region, is an early Democratic primary/caucus state – which will February 22, 2020 (with Iowa being first, on February 3rd, then New Hampshire on February 11th).  AAPIs are the fastest growing minority not only in the United States, but also in Las Vegas and Nevada overall:

“According to the latest Census estimates, more than 220,000 Asian-Americans live here today — triple what the population was at the start of the millennium. Most Asian-Americans living in the county were born overseas, and thousands more immigrate to the Las Vegas Valley every year, many of whom are choosing to settle in the valley’s rapidly developing southwest quadrant.

The growth has heavily relied on an influx of Filipinos, who comprise more than half the county’s Asian-American population. Chinese-Americans make up a distant second with about 29,000 residents.”

According to AAPI Data, the AAPI community makes up 10% of the overall electorate in Nevada, with 61% living in the greater Las Vegas area.

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8Books Review: “Grass” by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

Grass is a breathtaking graphic novel about Korean comfort women by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim and translated by Janet Hong. I know, I had the same thought you just had, a graphic novel? About comfort women? Why?

But Gendry-Kim has told a heart wrenching story about Lee Ok-sun, whose life story includes being taken from her home in Korea, transported to China, and used as a sexual slave by Japanese soldiers during World War II. It’s hard stuff. Yet Gendry-Kim’s treatment of Lee Ok-sun is tender and touching. The pages following difficult content are covered in leaves and other natural scenes, or shrouded in heavy black brushstrokes–breathing room–for the story and for the reader.

We learn about Lee Ok-sun from girlhood, alongside jumps to the present, with the author meeting Granny Ok-sun and beginning to learn of her story. In the end, Lee Ok-sun is shaped by her experiences during war, by the trauma of war, but her story is one of resilience and forbearance. The graphics are expressive and moving, capturing the uncertainty, fear, and strength of the story, from the faceless soldiers who raped the women to tender moments between friends, Gendry-Kim captures it all. Beautifully paced and artful both literally in the drawings and figuratively in its storytelling, Grass is worth a read.

For more sneak peeks, visit Drawn & Quarterly’s website

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8mm Review: ‘Parasite’

Parasite, a Bong Joon Ho film, explores contemporary society and points directly at the inequalities we live in and through. Parasite is not the most appealing title to your average viewer, especially if you are not one to watch thriller-like films. But I will say this: while it left me at the edge of my seat, covering my face, it was undeniably enjoyable. I give this film a 10/10 for its musicality, unpredictability, and unique story-telling. There is nothing like it.

Words from the director: 

As a depiction of ordinary people who fall into an unavoidable commotion, this film is:

a comedy without clowns,
a tragedy without villains,
all leading to a violent tangle and a headlong plunge down the stairs.
You are all invited to this unstoppably fierce tragicomedy.

The film resists categorization and does not fit into any established genre, and this is precisely what makes this piece so original. In the words of Song Kang Ho, who plays Ki-Taek, “It is a melange of genres, and from an actor’s perspective, it required a lot of concentration to follow these genres to bring the character to life.” 

Throughout the film, you see the contrasts in our society perfectly laid out. Rich and poor. Gullible versus wary. You see the lavish lifestyle of the Park family: picture of aspirational wealth versus the Kim family, who lives in the basement of such a run-down community – everyone just trying to get by. Director Bong strategically places these two families side-by-side to show the dynamic between these two very different classes, which speaks to the idea that co-existence is challenging to achieve. 

It was pretty spectacular, the way this film pushes your emotions. One minute, you are laughing hysterically. Then moments later, you are holding your breath. The music set that precedent. It enhanced every single scene which set the pace of the film. For instance, the Kim family works together on one of their grandiose plans. The sounds used, combined with the classical music, strings the audience along until the plan is executed. The crescendo and decrescendo of the song orchestrate the Kim’s actions in a way that words cannot express; done so seamlessly. 

While this film is set in Korea, it is a story that will be understood and related to everywhere. Song on his character:

I respect the character, who is a Korean man in an ordinary setting. While he engages in strange acts, he is still very average. He is pressured to provide for the family. Once we reach the climax of the film, his integrity, and head of household duties are challenged, and he begins to crumble. 

He further explains that these are sentiments that make characters like Ki-Taek relatable to the average person. 

Just like the actors, you will find characteristics within the characters in the film that align with your own, causing you to be invested in them — rooting for them. And as humans, you want to root for one side. It is natural for us to do so. But this film forces you to understand all sides — leaving you neutral.

From the wavering emotion to the nuanced story arcs, this film will leave you wanting more. Parasite, released in theatres on October 11 and winner of the Palm D’or at the Cannes Festival, is a film of its kind and must be added to your list this October. 

 

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October is Filipino American History Month

October is Filipino American History Month (sure, it’s already almost halfway done, but some could argue that would be culturally appropriate). Filipino American History Month was made official by the US Congress in 2009.  This year, the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) encourages people to remember Pinay visionaries, such Victoria Manalo Draves (shown above), an Olympic diver who was the first woman to win gold medals for both the ten-meter platform and the three-meter springboard, the first American woman to win two gold medals in diving, and the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal.  One living visionary of whom we recently talked about is Nicole Ponseca, who has been bringing Filipino food to the American mainstream.

Some resources for Filipino American History Month:

 

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Steven Universe at 2019 L.A. Comic Con

As I made my way through the large crowd of cosplayers, exhibitors and artists alike at this year’s 2019 Los Angeles Comic Con, I saw on the main stage — DeeDee Magno Hall, voice of Pearl, Michaela Dietz, voice of Amethyst, Shelby Rabara, voice of Peridot, Jennifer Paz, voice of Lapis and Grace Rolek, voice of Connie. Talk about females taking over the universe! Better yet, the Crewniverse!

L.A. Comic Con celebrates its ninth and best-yet year with an expected 130,000 guests who include over 10,000 kids, which tops last year’s 106,000 guests.

A good chunk of those in attendance huddled near the main stage Saturday morning to listen in on the Steven Universe panel. Steven Universe, a Cartoon Network animated television series created by Rebecca Sugar, premiered in 2013 and Steven Universe: The Movie just premiered this September.

The murmur in the crowd was constant, and the second the cast spoke, cheering filled the space. The excitement throughout the group transpired on stage, and you can feel each of the character’s energy elevate as the crowd gets louder.

“It’s so beautifully inclusive. It’s been amazing for representation,” Michaela expressed to the fans. Shelby nods in agreement and says, “I second that Michaela, the representation, the inclusion. What other cartoon has ube?! (ube is purple yam that is commonly used in Filipino desserts) For the Filipinos out there! I think everyone can find themselves in the show, in a vast array of characters.”

The voice actors present were nothing short of spectacular. Even on stage, they bring on this light that they put forth in each of their characters. Deedee elaborates on how she’s able to perform the way she does.

“I really can’t take any credit. It’s really Rebecca and the Crewniverse. They write such wonderful words and beautiful music and draw beautiful backgrounds and characters. All of that is just there for me to dive into, you know. So I really rely on the material and the voice direction from Rebecca and her team. That’s really how I get to any of the places I do in the show.”

Once the panel concluded, Shelby announced that signings with the cast would continue, and immediately you hear the commotion and excitement from the crowd. The wave of people who tuned into the panel followed suit and lined up for autographs and pictures. It is evident that the Steven Universe fans have been long-time viewers — most of them dressed up as their favorite characters from the show. The best part — there is not one type of Steven Universe fan. The fan base consists of all ages, all genders, and all sorts of folks. Every one of them, a gem in their own way.

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