Dear Hello Kitty Fans,
I know you’re upset that Sanrio has recently surprised the world by saying that Hello Kitty is not a cat. But really, as a long-time Sanrio fan, I’m not sure why many of you are quite so irate about the whole thing. So she’s not a cat. So this probably also means that Keroppi’s not a frog and Pekkle’s not a duck. But none of these revelations should truly change who Hello Kitty is to all of us. As she turns 40, her importance to fans — or at least her importance to me — remains the same.
This “scandal” emerged as a result of a new Hello Kitty exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum this fall. The curator, Christine R. Yano, wrote in the exhibit text that Hello Kitty was a cat. Sanrio corrected her to firmly state that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Instead, they insist she is a little girl and a friend. In cartoons and on notebooks and airplanes, she walks and stands and sits like the millions of people who love her around the world. My personal reaction? *Shrug*
Her power to be an icon has not diminished; we are merely being asked to look beyond her obvious appearance to consider that behind that iconic face there is meant to be a personality. And that what we can imagine her to be–is anything. In a stroke of marketing genius, Sanrio created childhood (and adulthood) playtime utopia – a Kitty for all our feelings, all our costumes. A character that allows us to project onto her.
In response to the internet’s outrage, Sanrio released a statement to acknowledge that she is, indeed, “a personification of a cat,” because of course it would be inaccurate to say that Kitty and many of her friends bear no resemblance to any animals whatsoever. Perhaps you are now less upset over this seemingly “life-altering” revelation.
At the end of the day, does it really matter? To this Asian American girl, the statement that she is not a cat could never taint her special place in my heart. Growing up, I could consider Hello Kitty, Keroppi, Badtzmaru and the whole gang as special in a ways that other stuffed animals were never able to rival. So it neither ruins my childhood nor changes my perspective on it.
Yano, who has studied Hello Kitty extensively, explains Kitty’s particular importance to Asian Americans:
“When Hello Kitty arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1970s, it was a commodity mainly in Asian enclaves: Chinatowns, Japantowns, etc…In talking to Japanese Americans who grew up in the 1970s, they say, ‘That figure means so much to us because she was ours.’ It’s something they saw as an identity marker. This is why the exhibition is being held at the Japanese American National Museum. It’s about reconnecting her to this community. It gives the whole thing a certain poignancy and power.”
My cousin was born in the 1970s and I imagine she would say something similar about the Hello Kitty doll my mother gave her as a child (which she still has). She and I are both Chinese American, but Yano’s statement nevertheless rings true. I grew up after Hello Kitty was more popular — in an era when I could visit the Sanrio Store in the Mall of America. We now living in a time where I can fly a plane with Hello Kitty emblazoned on the side or buy a Kitty cheering for my favorite baseball team.
Both today and historically, Sanrio characters are icons for Asian Americans. Hello Kitty and others like her not only feel and felt like “ours” in moments of happiness, but also in the moments when the feeling of belonging was lacking. For the moments of my childhood when there was only one American Girl “look-alike” doll that even vaguely resembled me (in the pre-Ivy days), there was Hello Kitty to represent me. A younger version of myself used the world of Sanrio to express an Asian American identity before I was even fully conscious that I needed to. At one point, I had a hellokitty.com email address, and at another point, an email that used the name of a different Sanrio character. And still today, for the moments when I feel like an outsider, Hello Kitty continues to endure and her international presence is encouraging.
And so, Hello Kitty can personify a cat or she can personify a mermaid. Or she can personify Batzmaru, who has always seemed like a grumpy old man more than anything else. Hello Kitty likes apple pie. I like apple pie. Cat or no cat, that’s all that matters to me.
A Fellow Fan
Image courtesy Japanese American National Museum
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Season 3, Episode 8 (originally aired August 5): “Hank Goes Black”
Microsynopsis: Roy’s mom, who has a thirty-year history of fighting with Hank, is back in town, and as expected, the two shoot insults at each other non-stop in front of the bar patrons. But then Steve discovers them making out in the men’s room. Meanwhile, Owen and Ahmed compete for the attention of a patron who once sat next to Owen on a plane ride.
Good: Hank is surprisingly human and not just a stupid caricature, as when he admits to Steve that you can’t fight with someone for thirty years without some sparks flying. And when Roy finds his mom making out in the men’s room with Stan the plumber, Hank’s response is unusually believable. The clinking of beer mugs when Roy says Hank is his friend and he doesn’t want to see Hank get hurt is effective even though the moment isn’t truly earned. Also, the object of Owen’s and Ahmed’s interest is Christine Reitman, sister of Jason Reitman, one of my favorite directors, so that was neat.
Bad: The insults are horribly unclever, and the B-plot with Owen and Ahmed is just infantile. Also, no Susan.
Hapa moment: I’ve watched this one four times and haven’t found anything to call a hapa moment. Which is fine.
Overall: An unexpectedly successful episode centering on a character I usually think the show would be better without. Props to the writers, director, and actors for somehow making this work.
Final grade, this episode: B.
EDITORS NOTE: See Mitchell’s 8Asians review of ‘A Letter to Momo’
GKIDS presents A Letter to Momo, opening September 5, 2014 at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinemas in San Francisco, and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. It will be presented in two language versions with different showtimes: in English language voice cast, and in Japanese with English subtitles.
The second film by Hiroyuki Okiura (director of Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and animator on Ghost in the Shell and Akira) is a wonderfully expressive, beautifully hand-drawn tale that combines whimsy and kinetic humor with deeply felt emotion and drama. The last time teenager Momo saw her father before his sudden death they had a fight—and now all she has left to remember him by is an unfinished letter with only the words “Dear Momo.” Moving with her mother to a remote but beautiful island, Momo at first suspects their house is haunted. She soon discovers three goblin spirits living in the attic, mischievous creatures that only she can see who, constantly hungry, create mayhem as she tries desperately to keep them hidden. But these funny monsters have a serious side and may hold the key to helping Momo discover what her father had been trying to tell her. Seven years in the making, A Letter to Momo builds to a bravura finale—a frantic chase featuring thousands of squirming, morphing ghosts and spirits that is the best cinematic flight of supernatural fancy in many years.
If you’re in the Bay Area, why not catch it in the theatres?
Landmark Theatres Engagements begin Friday, September 5, 2014 at:
Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. (415) 267-4893
Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94704. (510) 644-2992
Ok, ok, you just want to know how to win the tickets? Read on!
As I began looking through my notes and pictures on the trip to Alishan, I realized that I couldn’t cover everything in just one post, so I’m going to share it as a sub-series (hence the part 20A–it will go up to F). It was just too much, and that’s really a reflection of how much there is to do on Alishan mountain. This place has got tea farms, cultural centers, old towns, historic sites, a million scenic spots, and all sorts of nature climbs and hikes. It would be a dream come true if I could spend a few months hidden up here, checking out a new attraction every day while spending nights writing back in a mountain cabin under the canopy of night forest and starlight. No way I would get bored.
As a teenager on the Taiwan Love Boat program, they took us on a tour of Taiwan, and one stop was at Chitou bamboo forest (Xitou Youth Activity Center), which is also up in the central mountains of Taiwan, and I was so enchanted by the place that I wrote it into my novel as the gateway through which the main character enters another world. There is seriously something magical about Taiwan’s mountain forests.
Current Los Angeles Lakers NBA player Jeremy Lin was in San Francisco with his Mom on Thursday, August 21st, to see himself honored and immortalized in wax at Madame Tussauds SF. From the press release I received from the museum:
“The creation of the figure was a very precise process that Jeremy was happily involved with. The Madame Tussauds studio artists take great pride in their works of art and strive to achieve complete accuracy with each figure. The studio team used photographs and captured over 200 exact measurements of Jeremy Lin’s body and face to replicate the NBA player. Details are abundant as every hair on the figure was carefully inserted by hand individually by a studio artist. In total, it took a team of more than 20 studio artists to complete the amazing figure in just over four months … “We are thrilled to have Jeremy Lin participate in the unveiling of his figure,” commented Adrea Gibbs, General Manager for Madame Tussauds San Francisco. Adrea further said, “Jeremy is an incredible athlete and encouraging role model for other young athletes, particularly in the bay area. We are so excited to share his figure with the public and no longer hold the best kept secret in San Francisco.”“
I’ve never been to a Madame Tussauds since it always seems like a very touristy thing to do, but I might have to make an exception the next time I’m in the area.
As if it weren’t awesome enough that we’re going to have a major showdown between Karate Hottie Michelle Waterson and Yasuko Tamada from Japan in Invicta 8, We were supposed to get another fight card featuring another run for the title between a major bout between two Asian American female MMA fighters, Jenny Liou Shriver and Katie Howard. Unfortunately, Howard was injured and had to pull out of the fight, but hopefully this fight is scheduled again for when the two of them are ready to rumble.
Shriver was a top hopeful for Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality TV show, season 20, and she made it as the first alternative despite competing against many other fighters who had much longer pro records. She fights out of Lewiston, Idaho with a pro record of 2 wins and 0 losses.
Howard fights out of Portland, Oregon with five pro fights under her belt, 3 wins, and 2 losses. I only just discovered Howard through this bout with Shriver, so I checked out the Youtube of one of Howard’s fights, and it looks like she may have a preference for ground game based on the outcome of that fight. Shriver, too, works from a BJJ foundation, but since she’s been winning with TKOs, it’s safe to assume she’s been working on her stand up game.
So will these two ladies be taking each other out with joint-ripping submissions on the ground or will the preference on both sides for ground game lead to a stand up battle? I’ll keeping tabs on whether or not the fight will be scheduled again later.
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was arrested after police say he broke into a woman’s home, took off all his clothes, and climbed into her bed while she was in it sleeping.
According to police reports, the incident happened [in July 2014] in Santa Ana, California.
The victim told investigators that she screamed when she awoke to find the man, identified as 29-year-old Jonathan Phan, in her bed. Phan fled through a window.
Officers were able to identify Phan because he left behind his pants, cell phone, and wallet, which contained a driver’s license.
29-year-old Phan faces burglary charges after the incident.
Season 3, Episode 7 (originally aired July 29): “Open Mic Night”
Microsynopsis: Steve is determined to get his bar mentioned in a local hipster magazine in order to gain more customers. He invites a writer from the publication to attend the bar’s open mic night, for which the bar’s regulars have signed up to perform uncomfortably bad acts.
Good: There’s plenty of Susan here. She wins an award at work, and armed with the confidence it brings, she mimics her mother’s accent and character in a way that leaves bar patrons in stitches.
Bad: The excitement generated in the bar for open mic night is simply ridiculous. The whole “let’s put on a show” vibe feels like a summer camp where nobody has any talent. You know that summer camp gag where one person wraps his arms around another from behind, while the person in front puts his arms in a pair of pants and the pair acts like one bizarre little puppet? They actually do that in this episode. And that’s only the second-creepiest, second-most infantile performance on open-mic night.
Hapa moment: Susan gives her mom a hint about what her open-mic act is going to be. In her best impression of Ok Cha, Susan says, “It’s a-not my fadda!”
Overall: This may be the worst episode in Sullivan & Son’s three-season run so far.
Final grade, this episode: D minus.
The average white American has one Asian friend (and probably more than a few Chinese character tattoos). [The Washington Post]
I’d like to point out that long before Cary Joji Fukunaga won an Emmy for directing “True Detective” and became the crush of everybody who watched the Emmys this week, he was my (fantasy) boyfriend. [Yahoo!]
Folks in India, where 100 million people lack access to clean drinking water, are eschewing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in favor of the Rice Bucket Challenge — simply give a bucket of rice to a person who is hungry. [NPR]
In August, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) had their annual convention, which was in Washington, D.C. this year. As part of that convention, the AAJA had organized a panel discussion titled ‘Race and the 2014 Midterm Elections.’
One of the panelists is Christine Chen, Executive Director of APIAVote, and someone I had first met back in 2012 at the Democratic National Convention. The panel discusses the ways Democrats and Republicans are “trying to appeal to different ethnic communities, immigration reform, and engaging in the election process.”
The big battle that politicos are watching is whether or not the Republicans can win enough seats in the Senate to take over and control both houses of Congress. Immigration is one specific topic that Asian Americans are particularly interested in, though Asian American voters are not necessarily swing voters in key battleground states where Senate seats are potentially up for grabs.
A Letter to Momo (Momo e no Tegami) (2011)
Japanese subtitled version: Karen Miyama, Yuka, Toshiyuki Nishida, Koichi Yamadera.
English dubbed version: Amanda Pace, Stephanie Sheh, Fred Tatasciore, Dana Snyder.
Directed and written by Hiroyuki Okiura.
Twelve-year-old Momo has recently moved with her mother Ikuko from a condo in Tokyo to a tiny, rural island in Japan, where Ikuko grew up and where both try to deal with the recent death of Momo’s father.
They are grieving, each in her own, private way. Ikuko busies herself with trying to find a new job, leaving Momo to spend her days doing homework and making friends with other children on the island. In private moments, Ikuko kneels at the household shrine, looking through photo albums. Momo’s alone-time is often spent staring at a piece of paper, blank except for the words, “Dear Momo,” the beginning of a letter written by her father’s hand shortly before his death at sea.
Momo doesn’t tell anyone, but her last words to her father were shouted in anger, a horrible expression of childish disappointment that she can never take back. As she tries somehow to manage the guilt, grief, loneliness, pain, and adjustment of this new life, mysterious things happen in her house and neighborhood. Small personal belongings disappear. Orchards are raided for their fruit before it is ready for harvest. Snacks disappear from the kitchen with only trash left in their place. Momo sees strange shapes and movements out of the corners of her eye as Ikuko leaves each morning, but nothing’s there when she turns her head to get a better look.
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is accepting applications for the Daniel K. Inouye Fellowship in Washington, D.C. The fellowship is based in the JACL D.C. office and includes the following programs:
Candidates must be U.S. citizens, graduating college seniors or students in graduate or professional programs, and a member of the JACL. Preference will be given to those who have demonstrated a commitment to Asian American issues, particularly those affecting the Japanese American community. Communication skills, especially in writing, are important.
Time Period & Stipend:
The term of the fellowship will be for a time period of one year and will begin as early as October 2014. A $2,250 monthly stipend will be provided. Air travel is provided by Southwest Airlines.
Interested applicants should submit a résumé, a sample of writing, and names and contact information for two (2) references to the Washington, D.C. office of the JACL at [email protected] with “Fellowship” in the subject line. Applications for the Inouye Fellowship can be found here.
The deadline to apply for the Daniel K. Inouye Fellowship is August 31, 2014 by 6:00 p.m. EST.
If you have any questions, please contact the D.C. office at 202-223-1240 or at [email protected]