Recently, I interviewed my friend Dr. Ravi Chandra, who recently published his book, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks:
Facebuddha is a rich memoir of relationships, online and off, and an exploration of the psychology of social networks through a Buddhist lens.
In the brief interview, Dr. Chandra discusses his observations, thoughts and experiences regarding the use of social media. I also asked him about his thoughts on President Trump and his use of social media, primarily Twitter.
Specific to Dr. Chandra‘s professional background, he’s a San Francisco-based psychiatrist and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and blogs regularly for Psychology Today (The Pacific Heart).
Dr. Chandra also discusses his book and thoughts in front of the “thumbs up” sign at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California:
“On 10/31/17, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Castle Church door, psychiatrist Ravi Chandra “nailed” his new book about the psychology of social networks through a Buddhist lens to the door of our social media church at Facebook HQ, to protest what social media is doing to our minds and hearts, and calling for a return to relationship, community and compassion.”
You can learn more about the book also from the book trailer (which I noticed recently, is a thing now …)
If you’re interest in the book, you cab buy Facebuddha here:
Also available at your local independent bookstore.
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Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 7: “The Day After Thanksgiving”
Original airdate November 14, 2017.
Synopsis: Grandma: still taking an ESL course. Louis: invites the ESL teacher to Thanksgiving dinner. Jessica: agrees to host Thanksgiving dinner so she and Honey can use Grandma’s chair on Black Friday. Eddie and Emery: take Evan to his first R-rated movie (I Know What You Did Last Summer). Evan: gets spooked and takes a little trip to the dark side. Barney: is cut up during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade much to Evan’s horror.
Thumbs up: I love it when there are multiple scenes with just the three boys. Their acting and chemistry are really enjoyable, and this is Ian Chen’s best acting yet.
I’m going to avoid speaking very much about George Takei for a while, but I’ll say that it’s good to see him in another episode, in the way it was good to see Margaret Cho in those episodes of Dr. Ken and Sullivan & Son. There’s something of a debt to be acknowledged.
Honey’s drunken phone message is funny. And there’s some good arguing with Jessica and Louis. And Louis rocks a pretty nice aloha shirt (we do not call them Hawaiian shirts in Hawaii). I mean classy nice, the kind you’d see men wearing in downtown Honolulu instead of suits, ties, and jackets.
Thumbs down: The professor stuff is a bit over the top, which I know is intentional, but it’s so over the top I had difficulty watching it. I like the rationale behind the Jessica-Grandma stuff, but it feels abrupt and forced, although that might be worth it for the “I only keep an eye on my enemies” line, which made me laugh.
FOB moment: Grandma is still taking an ESL class.
Soundtrack flashback: “I Love You” by Barney (1988 ish?), sung by Evan.
Final grade, this episode: Eh. It’s aight. I looked it up and the Barney mishap actually happened on Thanksgiving 1997, the year in which this episode is set. Other balloons suffered similar or worse. B-minus.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani is a delightful graphic novel about a young girl looking for herself, navigating two worlds and two cultures. Priyanka is your average Indian American teenager until she finds a magic pashmina in her mother’s closet. Her mother won’t ask questions about the India she left behind or about Priyanka’s father, but the pashmina opens a new window.
The story follows Priyanka’s eventual journey to India and back again, all along insightfully considering questions about the choices we make, about family and growth, about when to hold on and when to let go. Priyanka is imperfect in the way all teenagers are, but I was charmed throughout by her audacity and spunk and her journey of self-discovery. Beautifully illustrated, Pashmina is a quick and enjoyable read.
Farmers Insurance’s line of commercials have had a few Asian Americans in their commercials which I have blogged about:
But they don’t seem to have many speaking lines – then again, I don’t think any of these Farmer Insurance commercials have people speaking much except for spokesman J.K. Simmons.
This commercial has an Asian American family camping in the woods in their RV:
“At Farmers, we’ve seen almost everything, so we know how to cover almost anything. Even a moose-induced motorhome mangling.”
I really wonder if any of these insurance incidents really happened? Personally, while growing up, I don’t recall any Asian American families camping in an RV. When I was a kid, my family did camp in a tent once or twice with a Taiwanese association group.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 6: “A League of Her Own”
Original airdate November 7, 2017.
Synopsis: Nicole comes out to Honey and Jessica, sort of by mistake, but Honey handles it admirably, as do the other patrons of the Denim Turtle where it happens. Jessica handles it well too, although she’s adorably mystified that lesbianism even exists. Now she’s stressed about telling her father. Louis is amped about the start of another Orlando Bar and Restaurant Softball League season, but the dude representing Kenny Rogers’s interest in Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch threatens to shut the team down if it doesn’t win a single game. When Jessica learns that Louis won’t let her manage the team, she assumes leadership of the Denim Turtle team, leading to one bad Marvin pun and one pretty good one.
Yes: The Nicole story has been interesting all season, and this plot is handled well throughout the episode, beginning with Nicole’s admission that she comes to the Denim Turtle to drink, and then when the entire bar comes to a halt when she says, “There’s something I have to tell you.”
Jessica is pleasantly sweet and naive. It’s a side of her personality I enjoy.
Nicole’s Saturn as a sanctuary for private talk with Eddie is a really good device in the tradition of the Peanuts gang’s brick wall, and I hope the show keeps going back to it. Nicole acknowledges the specialness of this place when she says they need “ground rules about what’s Saturn-worthy.”
Other lines I enjoyed: “I sent a letter to Jodie Foster but haven’t heard back from her,” “The tent you gave me is too small for my bass guitar and my witch stuff,” and “Congratulations on your win” followed with “Congratulations on your one.”
No: Eddie’s story is kind of dumb. The softball stuff over all is kind of dumb. And we need to find a way out of this Kenny Rogers stuff. The name of the restaurant has become funny now, but the characters and situation are idiotic. It’s like the proposed butler element to Jerry and George’s sitcom on Seinfeld.
FOB moment: Jessica doesn’t bring orange slices to the softball game. She brings Winner’s Pears.
Soundtrack flashback: “Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge (1994), twice. Doesn’t it make you wonder what the alternate jukebox song was? Any nominations?
Final grade, this episode: Not an especially funny episode, but I loved the Nicole-Honey stuff, the Nicole-Jessica stuff, the Nicole-Eddie stuff, and (for once) even the Nicole-Marvin stuff. It’s nice to see Nicole get a good episode mostly to herself. And Marvin’s good pun when he hugs Nicole while holding the ball is a nice way to end: “You’re out.” B+.
Over the last year director/writer/producer Quentin Lee and I have been working hard on a new company, CHOPSO, the first video streaming platform featuring English-language Asian content in the world.
As a filmmaker/writer and as a former Vice President at the Japanese American National Museum, I had the unique perspective of being on both sides of the art world. Looking back now, I can see that together they led me toward the path of creating CHOPSO.
One of my goals as a filmmaker and as a writer is to create content that features people that look like me. However, one of the things I learned quickly was that making movies about Asian Americans was not really a viable career option. In fact, my wife calls my Asian American moviemaking volunteering. The big problem of course is that the traditional distribution channels aren’t interested in content that features or is about Asian Americans and therefore it just doesn’t make financial sense to make them. Despite this bleak outlook, I have continued to produce and write Asian American movies.
At the same time I was making movies, I spent almost thirteen years at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). In my time there, I programmed screenings, film festivals, book readings, panels, family days, workshops, and exhibitions. The mission of JANM “is to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.” But I took this a step further and included a more pan-Asian Pacific Islander American view in my programming.
One of the memories that has stuck with me from my time at JANM was when we screened the first episode of Fresh Off the Boat. I was excited to see a long line of people show up to celebrate the premier with some of the creators and actors. As I spoke to one of the visitors standing in line, they asked me why Asian American haven’t made anything since the iconic movie Better Luck Tomorrow. This blew me away because Asian Americans had been making content between 2002 and 2015. Some of it—a lot of it—amazing. At first, I wondered if they just weren’t paying attention. But then as I spoke to more people I realized the problem was not that Asian Americans weren’t making content, it was just hard for people to see it because there was no one place to go. You had to either come to JANM on the weekends I was screening something (or places similar to JANM), go to the local Asian American film festival (assuming you were lucky enough to actually live in a city that hosted one), read about it on Angry Asian Man, or stream it on YouTube. If you looked away too long, there was a strong chance you’d never hear about it—let alone see it.
When Quentin Lee and I first started talking about CHOPSO, I knew from my past experiences as a content creator and as a programmer what was missing—a place where Asian filmmakers (who speak English) could show their work but also a place for those who are interested in seeing such content to actually be able to see it. Our goal for the company is to bring those two places together and hopefully inspire new filmmakers and audiences to tell the Asian diasporic story.
Please support CHOPSO and subscribe now. Tell a friend, or two, or three! Buy a gift for someone you know.
CHOPSO is the ultimate streaming destination for English-language Asian content worldwide. For $4.95/month or $49.95/year, customers can stream CHOPSO’s library anytime via the app (on iOS – App Store Link & Android devices – Play Store Link) or website worldwide (www.CHOPSO.com).
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 5: “Four Funerals and a Wedding”
Original airdate October 31, 2017.
Synopsis: Louis is determined to help Jessica and her father establish a closer relationship before it’s too late. Emery continues to deal with his bad luck. Evan amends his will.
Rad: There are some laugh-aloud throw-away lines here. I thought for a moment I was watching The Simpsons instead. The paper-thin B and C stories mean there’s really only an A story, which I insist makes for better character-driven television. And not only do we get nice Evan, but we get Emery and Eddie at their best too. The young actors are still finding their voices, but here is an episode that plays to their strengths, which lean in favor of sincerity and interesting relationships with each other.
Yay for a Deidre sighting.
Bummer: It’s a little weird that Jessica’s family assembles for all these funerals (and a wedding) but Connie and her weirdo husband aren’t there for any of it. I have to say I laughed at Eddie’s veiled masturbation joke but question its appropriateness for this show. Subversive is subversive, yes. But inappropriate is also inappropriate.
FOB moment: “Who is this again?” “It’s your mom’s great aunt’s second cousin, so very closely related.”
Soundtrack flashback: Another episode without a soundtrack flashback, as far as I could tell. This is a disappointing trend.
Final grade, this episode: This is the funniest episode all season so far, plus we get another dose of nice-guy Eddie, an awkward but sincere Emery, and strange but nice Evan. Add some funny Chinese stuff and some super cute extras at the family gatherings and you get a B+.
Over the weekend, the World Series broke my heart. First, being a Dodgers fan, the way they have lost have crushed the soul out of me… and then there was the whole Yuli Gurriel incident after hitting the home run off of Japanese/Iranian picture Yu Darvish.
In case you’ve been living in a cave, here is the image of what he did:
But just to keep it in context, he wasn’t the first to do it and won’t be the last. Here is a list of other people who did the same thing.
The Spanish Tennis Federation:
The Spanish Men’s basketball team:
Miley Cyrus and friends:
Brazilian tennis player:
Uruguayan soccer player:
Another baseball player:
A failed one, but the intent was there… Kate Gosselin:
Argentinian soccer team:
And there are others. Lots of others. In fact, so many I got tired of saving images off of Google and uploading them here. Let’s just be clear, these are not okay and not funny. And WE ARE OFFENDED.
Follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1
This commercial was uploaded by Chase last August 2016 (but now taken down on YouTube), but I only recently first saw it – and was questioning if what I was seeing was real! This commercial is about:
“Cyr Wheel performing artist Isaac Hou spins through multiple gigs and with barely any time in between. After yet another awe-inspiring performance, Isaac receives a check and using Chase’s QuickDeposit he is able to deposit the check right there on the spot while his wheel is still spinning. He rolls out to his next gig not letting something as quick as a check deposit disrupt his flow.”
I’ve never heard or seen Isaac Hou before. Chase does a nice profile and interview of him here:
“Hou grew up in New Jersey with a software engineer father and database manager mother and took time to travel the world by himself after high school. He came across hoop performing by accident and honed his skills on city streets across Europe and Asia. An appearance on “China’s Got Talent” earned him worldwide fame.”
According to this 2014 article, Hou is of Taiwanese decent and lives in Taipei. You can see an almost four minute YouTube video of him performing here:
Just amazing and mesmerizing!
With Halloween less than a month away, I knew what I wanted to write about this month: Racist Halloween costumes. Even though I don’t dress up and haven’t since I was a kid, I understand that Halloween is really important to a lot of people. There have been a lot of articles about racist Asian costumes already, including this evergreen one by my esteemed 8Asians editor Moye, Top 8 most offensive Asian Halloween costumes.
Of course, racist Halloween costumes are not just limited to dressing up like a slutty geisha or in yellowface. Every year people seem to make the bad… err racist… choice of dressing up like a Native American princess or in black face. Here is a good rule of thumb, if you’re going as a person from another race then you’re either close to the line or went over it. For some do’s and don’ts on Halloween costumes, here’s a great article on GQ.
that helps break it down. Some of my favorite rules they listed are:
- Don’t Change Your Skin Color to Any Shade Found in Humans
- Choose a Subject Identifiable by Name
But what if you’re a person of that race? Is it okay to dress up for Halloween as a member of your own group? In other words, as an Asian American, can I go as a geisha? Or a ninja? One part of me thinks it’s okay. Similar to the old adage that I can make fun of my own family but no one else can. But a bigger part of me thinks that it’s not a good idea. It would just reinforce stereotypes.
I imagine some of this debate has to do with what the costume is. I mean there is a big difference between going to a party as a geisha than as a ninja. Or is there? And also, if I’m going as a specific person, that’s probably okay, right? I mean, I could be Bruce Lee, Genghis Kahn, or some other Asian/Asian American.
I decided to ask my friends on Facebook what their thoughts were. Some of the answers surprised me and others were enlightening.
First, I was surprised that not everyone agreed with me about non-Asians dressing up as Asian.
- I do not find it ‘racist’ for anyone dress up as a geisha, ninja or whatever stereotypical ‘asian’ as long as your intention is to celebrate the spirit of Halloween.
- Mickey Rooney portraying Mr. Yunioshi was racist. But non-Japanese adults and children trying to dress up in Japanese clothing, or what’s imagined to be Japanese clothing, for Halloween, it’s not the same thing. The skimpy geisha costume is silly, frivolous, funny, tasteless, just like the Queen Nefertiti and other costumes in the same ad. But someone who actual sees a cultural or racial insult in these must have an inferiority complex deeper than the Grand Canyon. It’s Halloween, no need to take any of this seriously, nobody else in the world is doing so.
- Personally, I don’t really care if people dress up in outfits that are of other nationalities, probably because I’m old, and everything wasn’t so PC when I was growing up. I think if it’s in the spirit of being a “character” and not just “being Asian”, it should be okay. For instance, a samurai or ninja, I think is fine. I guess geisha is okay too. I think I went to a party once in kimono but with a gigantic Japanese doll bobble head on. As a little kid, I dressed up as Mary Poppins, who is white, so was I being racist?
- Once in a dating relationship with an African American woman, we both wanted someday to show up at a Halloween party dressed as Genghis Khan and Chaka Khan, but we couldn’t agree on who would be GK and who CK. Halloween is not supposed to be historical accuracy, where did anyone get that stupid idea? People want to dress up as ersatz Asians, I got no particular problem with that. I can tell between when someone is trying to be insulting from when someone is just having fun.
Some people schooled me that it was all about intention and really up to the viewer.
- It’s all about your intention, in my opinion. If someone is going to wear a mostly authentic Japanese kimono to showcase the beauty of the Japanese culture, then that is totally fine with me. I probably wouldn’t be ok with the “slutty” version of that though… which seems to be the direction most Halloween costumes go.
- I am guilty of wearing a kimono for Halloween in college before. I recently attended a party and a friend of a friend asked me if I was offended (bc I am half Japanese) that she was a geisha and wore a kimono-ish dress and hair up with chopsticks, I said no, but I know plenty of people who would be, it just depends on the person and how PC you are. I have also seen friends who dressed up as specific black rappers and used tanning stuff (like blackface) and that made me uncomfortable, but some black friends thought it was hysterical so it all depends on the people and the intent. As mentioned before by someone else, I think being a specific character or person is different than being an offensive race stereotype for Halloween.
Most people confirmed, it was about being someone specific from a race… as opposed to just being anyone from a race.
- I feel like that’s different. She’s dressing up as a specific individual/character. If someone just put on Chinese clothes and said they’re dressing up as a Chinese person for Halloween, that’s kind of offensive. If they dress up as Bruce Lee or Genghis Khan, I don’t mind, because they’re paying tribute to a person/character rather than generalizing a whole group of people.
But as far as is it okay for Asian Americans to dress up as Asian for Halloween, it seems most people didn’t have a problem with it:
- Every year I see a lot of adorable little Korean American girls wearing their hanbok and Chinese American girls wearing their qi pao that they presumably already had for new year’s — so at the elementary age it’s hard to fault ethnic pride and immigrant mom frugality (and a friend of my boy’s just carried around his big brother’s calculus book lol)
But there’s a warning. The same commentor added:
- Although when my kids were little, they always dressed as specific people– Chang e (the moon lady) and Michelle Kwan and mulan and Sun Wu Kong the monkey King– but no one but they ever knew that, and even when people asked they never knew the reference and would say instead “oh you’re dressed as a little Chinese girl”
So what did I learn? Asians can wear Asians costumes. Great. I’m going to try to get my six-year-old to dress up as a ninja because I think they are pretty cool. But just to be safe, I’ll tell him he’s Fujibayashi Nagato, one of the most famous ninjas of all time or just that he’s Rain from Ninja Assassin.
Follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 4: “It’s a Plastic Pumpkin, Louis Huang”
Original airdate October 24, 2017.
Synopsis: (deep breath) Louis, as always, is stoked about Halloween and he’s got Seinfeld-themed costumes planned for his whole family but the rest of the Huangs have other plans. He still has hope for Evan, who agrees to hang out with his dad and pass out candy, but then sneaks off to Deidre’s grown-ups party. Eddie and his fellow frosh friends have a plan to get invited to an older student’s party. Jessica and Emery hear a strange male voice coming from Grandma’s room and are determined to find out what’s going on.
Woooo: All the women are gorgeous in this episode. I’m sorry but it’s just true. Emery has a few excellent moments while dressed as Cosmo Kramer, demonstrating some physical comedy I didn’t see coming. Jessica’s dreamy little gesture on Stephen King’s book jacket is hilarious. I also really enjoyed the near-barrage of late-90s cultural references in the Halloween costumes, including references to Pokemon, The Craft, Pinky and the Brain, Netflix (established late August 1997!), and Daria.
Pttttth: I don’t have much to complain about. It’s not a great episode but it doesn’t have anything egregious.
FOB moment: Grandma calls her family out for speaking rapidly in English when they don’t want her to know what they’re talking about, and now she’s secretly taking ESL classes. From George Takei.
Soundtrack flashback: M.C. Hammer’s “Addams Groove” (1991) and a snippet of the Seinfeld theme music, hummed by Louis. There also might be something near the end, when Trent gets invited to the party but I can’t tell what it is. Can you?
Final grade, this episode: If Dr. Ken consistenly did one thing better than Fresh Off the Boat, it was repeatedly driving home the importance of letting kids be who they are, but in this episode, Louis and Evan have a confrontation about it that really works well, and the little twist where Louis is allowed also to be who he is is sweet. A nice episode for family viewing. B.
When Kimi and her family visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house for New Year’s mochitsuki, they discover the mochi-machine is broken. After initial fears that mochitsuki will be cancelled, Grandpa proposes an interesting, yet old-fashioned solution of making mochi the hand-pounded way.
Mochitsuki, or pounding rice to make mochi (rice cakes), is an important traditional event in preparation for the New Year in Japan. (Source)
Raising an Asian American kid takes some thought. I want him to be proud of who he is and where his ancestors come from. But in the Japanese American community, that can be a bit tougher than some other ethnicities. During World War II, Japanese Americans were made to choose between being Japanese and being American. Most chose to be American. And the “lesson” the community learned from the experience was to blend in—not to speak Japanese, not to live in Japanese communities, etc. In other words, to be as “American” as possible. Because of that, there has in the past—less now—been a shunning of all things seen as too Japanese in the community.
This is why books like Thank You Very Mochi are important for Japanese American families like mine. It connects our culture and American heritages. It allows us to teach and celebrate who we are and our experiences. And it puts people who look like us in the center of the story… as opposed to one of the faces in a crowd. The first time my five-year-old read the book, he told me, “they look like us.” (On a side note, this was an interesting comment since we’ve read children’s books before that featured Asian and Japanese Americans before).
In fact, my son was so proud of the book he wanted to bring it to his pre-school. It was during a unit where they were studying traditions. Even though, we as a family don’t have a mochitsuki tradition, he wanted to share it with his friends. His classmates enjoyed the story and even got to taste some yummy mochi from Fugetsudo. The part of the reading that warmed my heart the most though was when we got to the pages that had images from the Japanese American “camps” during World War II. Because my son and I ALWAYS talk about them, he kept wanting to tell his little friends about them too. However, since the kids were only four and five, I didn’t think it was appropriate topic for me to bring up; so I told my son that we shouldn’t discuss this then and there. (It should be noted that if you prefer not to talk about the “camps,” they are not mentioned explicitly. However, if you do, there are images that depict “camp” life and can lead to interesting conversations about them.)
I realized I wrote this entire review and haven’t mentioned what I thought of the actual contents. I love the writing and the pictures. And more importantly, my kid loves it too. Get a copy of it right away or as a Christmas present for the Asian/Japanese American kid in your life.
One last thing, I would like to shout out the folks who put out the book: Kizuna. They are a Japanese American non-profit who are trying to connect culture with the next generation. I think they are an organization worth knowing about. To find out more, go to their website here.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @ksakai1