“The 2020 presidential campaign is like my afternoon poop – it’s not quite here yet, but I can already feel it.”@ronnychieng sits down with his number one choice for president after zero research, @AndrewYangVFA. pic.twitter.com/VqTVzeT7Xu
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) March 15, 2019
The first time I wrote about presidential candidate Andrew Yang was in September of last year, when I interview him last Summer 2018 regarding his run for President Of The United States (POTUS). A lot has happened since then, including a whole slew (about 15+) of Democrats have announced their run for president.
Last week, Yang made it on to The Daily Show in a news report by correspondent Ronny Chieng, who chatted with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang about his push for a universal basic income – which is pretty hilarious. In my book, if you’re running for office and make it on The Daily Show, you’re legit!
But more importantly, Yang has officially qualified for the Democratic National Committee’s 2019 debates for this June and July – as The Washington Post put its: “Andrew Yang is running for president. Haven’t heard of him? You will soon.”:
“Yang announced Monday that he surpassed 65,000 donors, the Democratic National Committee’s threshold for participants in the first two debates. A party official said the DNC won’t announce the slate of debaters until at least two weeks before the event.
The milestone capped an improbable month-long run. In that time, donations to his campaign flowed in from around the country, his rallies got more crowded and his Twitter following more than tripled, from 40,000 to more than 130,000 in 30 days, propelled by a rabid online fan base known as the Yang Gang.
He says it all started on the “Joe Rogan Experience.”
Yang appeared on Rogan’s podcast, which has more than 4 million subscribers on YouTube alone, in February to talk about his trademark policy proposal, “The Freedom Dividend,” his poll-tested name foruniversal basic income. After that, he said, his campaign took off.
“It seems like a lot of people started paying attention all at once,” Yang said in an interview with The Washington Post.
A Monmouth University poll in February put his support among Democratic voters at 1 percent, still a long way from the front of the pack but the same as Eric Holder and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Yang exulted in a tweet.
He thinks, as all politicians must, that the more people hear from him, the more they’ll support him. On Rogan’s show, Yang, who founded Venture for America, held court for nearly two hours, discussing the threat automation poses to working Americans. He explained that, as president, he would institute a value-added tax on tech companies to pay all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 $1,000 per month, a dramatic expansion of the social safety net that would guarantee tens of millions of Americans a $12,000 annual income.”
Yang has strategically reached out to as many social media influencers as well as reached out to many across the other isle, including those on Fox News – including Tucker Carlson (whom I’m not a fan of …) – who he impressed:
Most recently, this past week, Yang visited the San Francisco Bay Area again and had his largest rally yet in San Francisco – with an estimated crowd of over 3,000 people.
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYangVFA) March 16, 2019
Unfortunately, I work in San Jose, so the drive up to San Francisco probably would have taken over 1.5 to 2 hours given traffic these days. I did get to catch Yang speak at a smaller event in Saratoga, California.
I’m looking forward to seeing Yang increasingly seeing greater media exposure – I hope soon at a CNN townhall and other mainstream media outlets. If there’s a Southwest flight I can make to see Yang debate in June and July, I’m there (work schedule permitting). I think it is tremendously important to have Asian Americans involved in the political process at all levels of government, including running for president.
Full disclosure: I have donated to Yang’s campaign in the past and may in the future.
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We have written how some doctors would not believe that Asian American women could get breast cancer, but in the past few years, I know a number of Asian American women who were diagnosed with the disease. Previous studies of women in Asia show a lower occurrence of breast cancer outside of the United States and higher incidence in US born Asian Americans. In contrast, a recently released study of Asian American women in the San Francisco Bay Area suggests what I have seen anecdotally – immigrant Asian Americans are more likely to get breast cancer than native born Asian Americans.
Of the Asian American women that I know personally that have had breast cancer, all were immigrants and most were in the Bay Area. The Wife knows even more women who had breast cancer – all are Asian American immigrants too. Tim’s mother also died of breast cancer, The only Asian American woman who had breast cancer who was born in the US that I can think of is Ken Jeong’s wife. Is this some acculturation factor, like with South Asian Heart disease? The authors tried to control for that, looking at BMI and length of time in the US, but controlling those factors left the same result.
Then again, the majority of the Asian American women that The Wife and I know are immigrants in the Bay Area, so my anecdotal sample is biased. Similarly, the study’s authors mention that one possible shortcoming of the study is that it was limited to the Bay Area population. One risk factor for breast cancer is higher socioeconomic (measured by income and education) status – this is borne out in studies of populations all over the world and is seen in the rise of breast cancer in parts of Asia and with Asian American women in the Bay Area. Given the large numbers of affluent Asian immigrants in the Bay area and in certain cases, where the native born children of immigrants earn less than parents, this study might simply be showing the socioeconomic risk factor.
So what to take away from this study? Given the limits on sample size, the authors suggestion that further cross national studies be done to confirm the results and to narrow down the particular risk factors that generate this result. If the discrepancy is caused by mainly be income/education differentials, then some of the known breast cancer risk factors that come with affluence, such as a sedentary lifestyle, should be publicized in the affected communities and should be avoided. The authors suggest that from a public health perspective, doctors should recognize immigrant status as a breast cancer risk factor with Asian American women and increase screenings, which have been low in the past.
By Timmy Pham
The Lonesome Bodybuilder, by Yukiko Motoya, contains eleven stories wrapped in a dark fantasy. Drawn from a collection of stories originally in Japanese, the work was only last year translated to English by Asa Yoneda, and published by Soft Skull Press in November 2018. This collection is Motoya’s English-language debut.
At the heart of the stories is “An Exotic Marriage”, a new translation of “Irui konin tan” (previously translated as Tales of Marriage to a Different Sort), for which Motoya won the 154th Akutagawa Prize in 2016. The novella-length story centers on a troubled wife who has noticed her individualism slipping away both figuratively and literally as her marriage continues. The story builds itself around the realism of neighbors, an apartment dog park, and her husband’s obsessive media consumption, but, as with all the eleven stories, takes turns of dark whimsy, their faces begin to droop and metaphors of snakes devouring one another become more reality than figurative gestures.
The other stories of the collection are similarly haunting in a way that feels like Motoya has brought Grimm Brothers to the 21st century. In the story “Typhoon,” a child waits at a bus stop and learns about flying umbrellas from a raggedy man. The title story, “The Lonesome Bodybuilder,” is the quiet journey of a housewife who channels her quiet determination into a newfound hobby. “How to Burden the Girl” is especially odd, centering around a new neighbor with an anime appearance and Oedipean backstory that sounds like it was lifted from bloody video game. The stories are indeed dark, but demure in a way that is haunting. To call the stories feminist is an easy, but lazy label, as Motoya is able to offer a range of dark insights from capitalism and consumption in “Fitting Room” to women in corporate culture in “I Called You by Name.” Give The Lonesome Bodybuilder a read, as Motoya’s work will undoubtedly leave you confused and amused.
Timmy Pham lives in New York City and only recently trained himself to read on public transportation without getting a headache.
Toronto Raptors player Danny Green hosts a show called “Inside the Green Room,” and he recently had on Jeremy Lin, who moved last month to the Raptors from the Atlanta Hawks. Yahoo Sports Canada has posted some of the more interesting sections of that 1 hour session, such as the one above where Danny Green and Jeremy Lin talk about their experiences together on the D League (now called the G League), the NBA’s minor league. This made me respect Lin and other D League products like Green much much more, as they made little money and had not so great working conditions (as an example – practice getting delayed as a 7th grade volleyball team was still using the court) while they improved enough to make it to the NBA.
I also liked the “behind the scenes” type conversations about life in the NBA described in this segment – little tidbits about how different levels of players have to deal with practice jerseys, adjusting to a new team, and tricks that other players use to their advantage (e.g. Vince Carter chatting up players on the court to distract). Other interesting parts of the conversation include why Lin has a video production team and Youtube channel – he felt that if he didn’t get his own voice out, other voices which had stereotypical attitudes about Asian Americans would dominate. I particularly enjoyed him making fun of Cornell University, mocking it as a lower tier Ivy and comparing it to a younger sibling who is jealous of everything (sorry John!).
Here are some pointers to the more interesting parts published in smaller segments:
Silicon Valley resident Mahendra Agrawal exercised regularly, maintained a health weight, and followed a vegetarian diet. When he went to the hospital with shortness of breath, doctors found that the 63 year old had obstructed coronary arteries. His reaction:
“I’m a pretty active guy and I eat very healthy, my wife makes sure of that. It makes me wonder why this happened to me.”
Agrawal’s predicament is detailed in this New York Times article (also here if you ran out of free articles) that talks about another Asian American Medical Hazard – South Asian Heart Disease. It also describes one potential benefit of being Asian American – how adopting a blend of Asian and American practices can lead to better health than either alone.
On Valentine’s Day, Netflix released Ken Jeong’s first ever comedy special titled, ‘You Complete Me, Ho’ :
In his first-ever stand-up special, Ken Jeong pays tribute to his wife and shares stories about Hollywood and how “The Hangover” saved his life.
in honor of his wife, Tran Ho, who has been cancer free for over 10 years:
“It’s a play on my wife’s last name, which is Ho. It was actually her suggestion for that title,” he said. “Netflix wanted a catchier title than what I initially pitched, and Tran, my wife, thought ‘You Complete Me, Ho.’ We were both laughing hysterically and I pitched it to Netflix and they loved it. In many ways the act and the title were inspired by my wife. I look at is as almost like a one-man show touching upon my family and my wife with a bunch of dick jokes.”
In the special, Jeong talks about his marriage and his wife’s brush with breast cancer 10 years ago, while the camera cuts to her reactions in the audience. According to Jeong, the cutaways were the idea of “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu, who also helmed “You Complete Me, Ho.”
The comedy show was filmed at The Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena, Calif., where he got he first performed stand up for his wife.
Without any plans for Valentine’s Day evening, I had a chance to watch the special and was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a ton (there was some) of overlap material (from what I recall – I admit, I had a few required drinks) from when I saw Ken perform back in April of last year with a fellow Asian American Duke alum – where Ken also went to school where he called my friend and I out as “Duke dorks,” as we were seated near the front.
” … working on, and being recognized from, his role in three Hangover movies, as well as riffing about his ABC sitcom, Dr. Ken, and how he’d still be sad about its cancellation if he hadn’t hopped on a plane and shot his first scene for Crazy Rich Asians the following day. Jon M. Chu, who directed Crazy Rich Asians, also directed Jeong’s special.”
and how his wife inspired him, especially his difficult times when his wife was battling cancer around the time when The Hangover opportunity materialized and was filming. If your a Ken fan and have Netflix, I highly recommend the special.
In Ken’s media blitz to promote his Netflix comedy special, I caught this great 20+ minute GQ YouTube video, Ken Jeong Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters:
where he talks about his most iconic characters, including his roles in ‘Knocked Up,’ ‘The Office,’ ‘Role Models,’ ‘The Hangover’ trilogy, ‘Community,’ ‘Bob’s Burgers,’ ‘Dr. Ken,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ and his recent hit TV show ‘The Masked Singer’.
Asian Americans are in more and more TV commercials these days, but when I saw this Wells Fargo ad, it immediately caught my attention. Rather than the familiar white man Asian woman couple commonly portrayed in commercials, it has an Asian guy married to a non-Asian woman of color (either African American or Latina or both – hard to really tell here). There have been a few commercials with an Asian male in an interracial relationship like this one of Asian male and white female, but I personally don’t recall any commercials with this particular pairing. I also like the fact that the Asian American guy isn’t a nerd or martial artist and seems pretty outgoing and worldly.
While Wells Fargo has been in the news lately for a variety of problems and lapses in judgment, I would have to agree with the commercial that eating out a lot can really strain a budget. This ad was part of Wells Fargo’s rebranding efforts called This is Wells Fargo.
When she was 14, Diana Chao began experiencing severe pain in her eyes. The pressure buildup in her eyes was diagnosed as uveitis, an inflammatory eye disease that caused her to go temporarily blind. For the next four years, she repeatedly visited doctors to find the cause of her uveitis, which would recur every few months. When an ophthamologist mentioned that she had seen the same symptoms in patients with mental illness, it dawned on Chao, who had been experienced depression as a child and was also diagnosed with bi-polar disorder as teenager, that her mind might be affecting her body. This article from the Philadelphia Inquirer talks about Diana Chao and how somatic symptom disorder, a form of mental illness that manifests itself as bodily symptoms, is actually common in Asians and Asian Americans.
How does mental illness manifest physically in Asian Americans? The article mentions that how chest pain, headaches, and stomach problems with no known physical causes are common in Cambodian refugees, many of whom are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It also talks about a Filipina American who experienced daily stomach pains which an organic cause could not be found. This Filipina traced back the source of her problems to being sexually abused as a child. These kind of stories are very familiar to me. I have a relative who had persistent stomach pains for which no physical source could be found. Alleviating anxiety and depression were key to making her pain go away. One explanation for why somatic symptom disorder occurs in Asians and Asian Americans is that many Asian cultures stigmatize mental illness and tend to repress talk about feelings, causing mental problems and issues to manifest themselves in other ways.
As for Diana Chao, she attributes fewer episodes of uveitis to better mental health treatments. Her own story is remarkable. Despite suffering from uveitis symptoms and dealing with bi-polar disorder, she is a photographer who has placed work in prominent places and is currently a sophomore at Princeton University. She advocates for mental health treatment, giving a TedxTeen talk on the subject and founding a nonprofit called Letters to Strangers, which aims to destigmatize mental illness and to increase access to mental health care for people aged 13 through 24. I had previously written about Wendell Tang, who suffered from mental illness but did not receive treatment. Diana Chao shows that students with mental illness can thrive, even at intense Ivy league institutions, when they receive treatment.
Back in September 2018, I did a review of a movie Baby Steps on 8Asians. The movie was written, directed and starred Barney Cheng. I was still so intrigued with the movie, that I got in contact with Barney and asked him to do this 8Questions segment for 8Asians.
Before we get to the questions, a little bit about Barney from his wikipedia page
Barney Cheng is a Taiwanese-American actor, director, writer and producer. Cheng was born in Taipei, Taiwan. His family emigrated to the United States when he was 12 years old and he grew up in Brea, California. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Hokkien fluently.
and from his own official site:
Barney Cheng landed on the Hollywood map as an actor in 2002 with his acclaimed performance in Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending. The New York Times described Barney’s comedic timing as “surgically precise.” The Orange County Register raved that Barney “steals every scene he’s in.” Barney accompanied Woody Allen to promote the film and to open the 55th Cannes Film Festival.
On to the questions:
1. How did you get the idea for the movie Baby Steps?
I came across a story about a gay couple from Israel. They wanted to have a baby, but since it was illegal for gay couples to hire surrogates in Israel, they flew to the U.S. to work with an American egg donor. They flew to India to transfer the embryos to an Indian surrogate. Nine months later, they traveled across the globe to pick up their baby. I was intrigued by the couple’s emotional and physical journey, and I could see that as a movie. Then I thought, “What if it were my life? What if I had a partner, and we decided to have kids?” Baby Steps was conceived.
2. You wrote, directed and starred in Baby Steps, how similar are you to the main character Danny?
Very different. The movie is fictional. I’m single and don’t have kids. However, the film is inspired by the relationship between my mother and me. She definitely evolved throughout the years. The more than 20 years of her evolution — coming to terms with my coming out to full acceptance — was captured in the 90-minute film!
3. What advice would you give a gay Asian American who wants to be a parent?
To be visible, open and out. It’s important to be proud of who you are and be a role model for your child. Being in the closet conveys a message of shame, and that would be detrimental to the child’s development.
4. I read that you showed Baby Steps in mainland China. What was that like?
The State Department under the Obama Administration hosted U.S. embassy screenings of the film in six cities in China. At the screenings, the staff at the American consulates handed out study guides to highlight American culture and LGBT marriage equality. After the screenings, I was surprised to learn that many Chinese audiences didn’t think that the story was plausible. It seemed like a fairy tale to many Chinese audiences. Many of them just couldn’t imagine coming out to their parents and getting the kind of acceptance that Danny received. They also couldn’t imagine living openly as gay people and having children as gay parents.
5. Who are your role models and influences on your work?
I don’t have specific role models for my work, but as a storyteller, I always aim to be authentic, real and truthful.
6. Compared with Danny, how supportive have your parents been in your career, life, and movies?
I remember when we were filming Baby Steps in Taipei, my mother would make me breakfast each morning to make sure that I was well-prepared for the long, hectic day ahead. We would have early 5 o’clock calls, and my mom would get up at 3:00 a.m. to make me breakfast. She didn’t have to say anything, but I felt that she cared. Taiwanese parents rarely say explicitly “I love you” or “I care about you.” They show through actions.
The movie was released theatrically in Taiwan. When we were promoting for the release, it was very important to me to be an openly out filmmaker and actor. One of the important themes of Baby Steps is being open and authentic, and our promotion campaign had to be consistent with that vision. My mom joined me on a TV talk show to promote the film. My mother openly shared her struggles of coming to terms with having a gay son. She invited all of her friends to see the film in theater. And my mother enrolled friends and relatives to join her at marriage equality rallies in Taiwan. Through Baby Steps, she “came out.”
7. Do you have any new projects in the works you can tell us about?
I’m developing a TV series called “Curated Lies,” and it centers around an Asian-American family in a wine country. I’ve recently finished filming a transgender love and acceptance video for the Asian-American LGBTQ community. It’s called A Love Letter. Please check it out: https://youtu.be/
8. Where can someone watch “Baby Steps” now?
All digital platforms. We recommend Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/yawje8ry
EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: Aubrey placed second, earning Silver Medal at US Figure Skating Championships. On that strong performance, she received her first international assignment from Team USA, and competed at the 2019 Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf, Germany. Henry placed 7th overall at US Figure Skating Championships. He’s getting ready for the new season after taking some time off for an adventure to Shanghai, China.
By Helen Mendoza
Southern California teens Aubrey Ignacio (15) and Henry Privett-Mendoza (16) will compete next week at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, MI. They have a lot in common: a love of skating; big families, and they’re both US Figure Skating novice level competitors. Together, these two Filipino-American skaters are bringing island style and a champion’s grit and determination to the championships.
For Aubrey Ignacio, who was crowned the 2019 Pacific Coast Sectionals Novice Ladies’ Champion in November, this is her first trip to the US Championships. Aubrey fought through a back injury and faced tough competition to win gold in Utah. “I’m so proud and blessed to have watched Aubrey mature both as a person and a skater this season,” says proud mother Ophelia Ong. Prior to her championship performance in Utah, Aubrey earned a Silver Medal at the 2019 Southwest Pacific Regional Championships. In 2018, she was the Southwest Pacific Regional Intermediate Ladies’ Champion. Aubrey is coached by Amy Evidente and Wendy Olson. Her short program was choreographed by Cindy Stuart. Her long program, a medley of songs from the Broadway show, “On Your Feet: The Musical”, was choreographed by Jamie Isley.
Henry Privett-Mendoza also fought through injuries for much of the 2018-19 season. “It was tough being hurt,” said Henry. “I had to be really patient, keep working to get better, and trust that it would come together.” That patience and hard work paid off when Henry won the 2019 Southwest Pacific Coast Regional Championship in October and then followed up by placing 2nd at Pacific Coast Sectionals in November. For Henry, who picked up a US Championship medal in 2015, this is his 5th trip to nationals, qualifying at every level he’s competed. Henry is coached by Robert Taylor and Rudy Galindo. Galindo, a USFS Hall of Fame inductee, is also Henry’s choreographer.
Aubrey represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and Henry skates for the Figure Skating Club of Southern California. However, together at nationals, they are proud to be part of the great tradition of Southern California skating, and to represent their Mabuhay! heritage. The 2019 Geico US Figure Skating Championships Novice Ladies and Novice Men competitions will be held on January 21-22 at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, MI. The competition will be live-streamed through the USFSA Fanzone at https://usfigureskatingfanzone.com/.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Helen Mendoza is a film/video producer, writer, and photographer. She is a vocalist and a founding member of Vox Femina Los Angeles. She is also a mother of two and lives in Los Angeles with her wife.
Lawsuits against Harvard and well-known selective universities contending discrimination against Asian Americans have happened over the years, with the lawsuit sponsored by Edward Blum still in play and actively opposed by Harvard. In late 2018, another kind of lawsuit against Harvard was filed. The family of Luke Tang filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Harvard contending that the University was negligent in caring in for Luke, who committed suicide in 2015.
After a suicide attempt his freshman year, Luke Tang was hospitalized. While he was there, he signed a contract with Harvard saying he could return if he received mental health counseling. He was able to return for his sophomore year even though, the lawsuit alleges, Harvard personnel knew that he had not received the required mental health counseling.
Since his death, his parents have set up a foundation in his name to raise awareness of signs of depression and other mental health issues, especially as it affects Asian Americans. In addition, a short documentary called Looking for Luke was produced by the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds to educate and to destigmatize seeking help for mental health problems. In the trailer above, the fact that Luke committed suicide is hidden for a long time and only told to one of his friends six months after his death. My personal experience with the issue of mental health in Asian American families is that any problems are hushed up, considered a shame on the family that is not to be discussed openly, and likely not to be dealt with directly. In particular, this article on Filipino Americans and mental health really resonated with me and other family members. Our family, like many others in Silicon Valley, have known Asian American students who have committed suicide.
Harvard was required to respond to the lawsuit by January 9. I haven’t been able to find the actual lawsuit text or any response since then (if someone has link to any of those, please include it in the comments). At the same time, the Luke Tang foundation is granting scholarships to students who have overcome psychiatric problems and welcomes donations.
By Timmy Pham
There are many things to love about Rina Ayuyang’s Blame This on the Boogie, but one that stands out to me is her waxy, crayon depiction of skin tone. In her first autobiographical comic, Ayuyang captures snippets from her life growing up as one of few Filipino Americans in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the struggles of motherhood and postpartum depression in sunny California. Drawing from the vibrant colors of Hollywood musical cinema and flashy television, Ayuyang crafts a beautifully scrappy look into a unique and relatable (for me at least) Asian-American experience.
But back to the art for a second. Asian-American graphic novelists have been the rise, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang from 2006 was the first graphic novel by an Asian American I read and fell in love with. More recently, I was thrilled to read and witness the success of Thi Bui’s graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do. Both illustrators present clean story-lines with equally distinct coloring and lines. Blame This on the Boogie provides an entirely different approach. Ayuyang’s stories bleed into one another, with no clean panels to guide the reader, and her colors are pure and stacked. It is a strong and well-executed choice that echoes her love of dance and sport. As a darker-skinned Viet boy, I grew up avoiding the brown crayon, reserving it for trees and ground, but Ayuyang artful layerings of yellow, red, orange, and brown all help lend the full range of tone and dimensions to her depictions of herself, her family, and the racial diversity of an American experience. Cheers to that.
Content-wise, Blame This on the Boogie reflected back much of what I knew as the child of immigrants. Living room dance parties, a hungry acceptance of new American culture (yay football–though I grew up in Seattle and therefore am obligated to grimace at her love of the Steelers), and the fascination with American pop-culture that bleeds onto the internet (Ayuyang stans Kym Johnson and Hines Ward’s partnership in Dancing with the Stars) all reflect a familiar experience of a blended Asian-American world amid loud visiting titas. Give this graphic novel a pass through, the ballet sequence at the end (as is customary with Hollywood musicals) is a treat.
(Editor’s Note: Check out more of the gorgeous interiors over at Drawn & Quarterly)
Timmy Pham lives in New York City and only recently trained himself to read on public transportation without getting a headache.