8 Asians

New Year’s Eve with Kōhaku

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As a kid, most of my New Year’s Eve memories involved having dinner (hot pot) at my grandparents home with the extended family and close friends. After dinner, the adults would drink tea (or sake) and sit around the table while talking. In the background, the TV would be blaring TV from NHK Japan: Kōhaku Uta Gassen or the Red White Song Battle (or Song Contest or Song Festival).

My family is from Taiwan, but due to the history of Japanese colonization there, my grandparents and parents learned to speak (and read/write) Japanese. So my personal New Year’s memories are a mix of Taiwanese and Japanese… with the Japanese coming from Kōhaku.

According to Wikipedia:

Kōhaku Uta Gassen, more commonly known as simply Kōhaku, is an annual music show on the New Year’s Eve produced by Japanese public broadcaster NHK and broadcast on both television and radio, nationally and internationally by NHK’s networks and some overseas (mainly cable) broadcasters which bought the program. The show ends shortly before midnight (when NHK switches to a frenzy of “Happy New Year” greetings from around the nation).

Literally “Red and White Song Battle,” the program divides the most popular music artists of the year into competing teams of red and white. The “red” team or akagumi is composed of all female artists (or groups with female vocals), while the “white” team or shirogumi is all male (or groups with male vocals). The honor of performing on Kōhaku is strictly by invitation, so only the most successful J-Pop artists and enka singers can perform. In addition to the actual music performances, the costumes, hair-styles, makeup, dancing, and lighting are also important. Even today, a performance on Kōhaku is said to be a big highlight in a singer’s career because of the show’s large reach.

While I don’t keep up with J-pop or really anything Japanese for most of the year, I always like to turn on the TV and have some Red White Song battling on to make it feel like New Year’s Eve with my family. And on the final night of 2007, I am happy to be staying in J-Town in SF with Kōhaku on the TV while waiting to meet some good friends from 8Asians for dinner.

May you ring in the New Year happily and safely!

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8Asians.com’s Top 8 Posts of 2007

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2007 was a big year for 8Asians.com – and when we say a “big” year, we actually mean our very first year as a website. As the year is about to end, we figured it would be fun to take a look at the year behind us and list the most popular posts of this year. To do this, we calculated some statistics: Permalink views, Homepage Views, Comments, Pingbacks and Trackbacks. What you find to be the most popular posts of the year may surprise you. Or maybe not.
Continue Reading »

Sanrio, makers of Hello Kitty, announced recently that it was going to start making products targeted for young men.

Rather than coming up with something witty to say about this, I’ll simply copy and paste a recent IM conversation I had with fellow 8Asian.com blogger, Brian.

Ernie: OMG
Brian: finally! validation!
Brian: i can break out my wardrobe with dignity
Ernie: how the fuck would you tailor guys clothes with hello kitty?
Ernie: unless she’s got guns a blazin
Ernie: or smoking a joint
Ernie: in her non-existant mouth

Which leads me to the following question: Guys, what would it take for you to buy something – anything – that has Hello Kitty on it? I would say a Hi Capacity .45 pistol, but it looks like it’s already been done.

POP 88 #16 – FAVS of 2007!

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POP 88 - Favs of 2007Happy New Year Everyone!

Since this is the last show of the year, I thought I would share with you my personal favorites of 2007. All have been released this year and no, it’s not all Chae Yeon. I’m actually surprised at my list of top 10, (in no particular order) for this year.

You can also listen to me mull about trying to find a good ramen place in downtown Toronto, my favorite film and album of this year as well as trying to figure out what my New Year’s resolution is going to be. I’d also like to know what your favorite songs released in 2007 were and also your New Year’s resolution – I’m still trying to figure mine out.

Leave a comment over at Popcast88.com or send an email to christine [at] popcast88.com.

Again! Happy New Year to Everyone and see you all in 2008! Continue Reading »

The Strong, Bold Women of Shanghai

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Shanghainese Women

Subtitle: And the Weak, Timid Men of Shanghai?

It’s one of those anecdotes you hear. “If you’re a guy in Shanghai, you’ll get hit on by scores of Shanghainese girls.” Take this particular anecdote from a friend:

So I think I got propositioned the other day. We were walking down the street… Sandy and Lilly were walking ahead of me, when suddenly, this semi-attractive lady came up to me, smiled, and said something in Mandarin. Confused, I stopped and tried to figure out what she wanted. Then she looked over at Sandy (who was standing there fist on hips… doing the “whut? whut?”), and the lady says “wifey?” in broken English. I said yes and before I can blink, she’s halfway down the block. Damn. Why didn’t I pay more attention in Mandarin class? Well, whatever she wanted, it didn’t involve one having a wife.

That’s funny, I thought. So I did some nosing around and discovered more to this phenomenon.
Continue Reading »

Help Kina Grannis get to the Super Bowl

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Kina Grannis is a beautiful half Japanese musician/songwriter based out of Austin, Texas. I only just heard of her today and I’m already madly in love with her voice. A little late to the game, hopefully the last umph move to get 8A readers to listen to her songs and perhaps help her win the Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl contest where the winner will get a contract with Interscope Records, and have a sixty second music video aired during the Super Bowl.The song above is actually a cover of I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie but it’s actually my current favorite rendition of it. This round of voting ends on 12/31/2007, and if she makes the final round, then that begins 1/7/2008 where three artists will compete for the final stage. She also has a site covering the two weeks that the voting has been going on for this contest at Two Weeks for Kina.

If the amazing sounds of her voice win you over like they did myself, definitely head over to her site or iTunes and grab the couple of albums that have been produced. You won’t regret it.

So I’m flipping through ReadyMade magazine when I come across a full page ad that simply has a giant “友!” in a bright yellow font and a website address – hoteltomo.com. Well, that’s interesting, I think to myself. And from the main description of the website, interesting is definitely a way to describe it:

Welcome to the Best Western Hotel Tomo, newly renovated and inspired by Japanese pop-culture. From the wall of televisions in our lobby to anime murals and glow-in-the-dark desk blotters in each guest room, this is a San Francisco experience like no other.

That’s right folks, it’s like that canceled FOX television show Banzai!, but the hotel version, so says the marketing anyway. I have mixed feelings about this boutique hotel situated in San Francisco’s Japantown: “This is NOTHING like an Anime hotel,” I said upon first going to the website. “Shouldn’t everyone be dressed up as maids? Why do the rooms use unfinished wood furniture? Where is the tentacle porn?”

Once I realized I sounded like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons and realized it was just an J-Pop inspired hotel, I started to lighten up a little. I’m all for aesthetically pleasing hotels that don’t remind me of The Shining, and Hotel Tomo’s interiors sure look pretty, with murals done by Japanese artist PCP. And, what? There’s a gaming suite with a Wii, a PS3 and a six-foot LCD project screen? Don’t think they have PS3’s at the Francis Drake.

I wouldn’t half mind staying the night there, honestly, but as I’m only going off a website and Flickr photos, I might need to swing by and walk around provided that I don’t get mugged traveling through the Fillmore. (Note to anyone from the hotel reading this: If anyone wants to give us a comp night, we will be more than happy to give you a full-length, totally biased review.)

(Photo credit: YKita on Flickr)

The Wall Street Journal reports in their Law Blog, “The Chungs: Poster Children For Lawsuit Abuse” and gives an update on the Chungs & Custom Cleaners in Washington, D.C. (8Asians.com had also posted back in May in “Cleaners are taken to the cleaners“):

U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s new Web site. I Am Lawsuit Abuse is a new “public awareness” campaign featuring individuals who have been victimized by lawsuit abuse, and the Chungs are the campaign’s poster children. The owners of Custom Cleaners in Washington D.C. were sued — unsuccessfully — by former judge Roy Pearson — a 2007 Law Blog Lawyer Of the Year nominee — over a lost pair of pants. He claimed $54 million in damages. Click here to watch the Chung video, complete with funereal background music. “At first, we were very happy. The children were doing well and we were settling into our lives here,” says Mrs. Chung, who breaks down midway through the clip.”

http://www.iamlawsuitabuse.org/content/img/f43254/spotlight_chungs.jpg

The United States definitely has to be one of, if not the most litigious societies in the world. Although there are many legitimate lawsuits, it’s cases like the Chung’s which make you wonder – WTF?

Benazir Bhutto assassinated

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From CNN:

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday after addressing a large gathering of her supporters.

Bhutto died of a gunshot wound to the neck, the Pakistani Interior Ministry said. The attacker then blew himself up. The bomb attack killed at least 22 others, doctors said.

Video of the scene just moments before the explosion showed Bhutto stepping into a heavily guarded vehicle to leave the rally.

John Moore, a photographer for Getty Images, said Bhutto was standing through the sunroof of her vehicle, waving to supporters, when two shots rang out.

Bhutto fell back into the vehicle, and almost immediately a bomb blast rocked the scene, sending twisting metal and shrapnel into the crowd, he added.

Police sources told CNN the bomber, who was riding a motorcycle, blew himself up near Bhutto’s vehicle.

Bhutto was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital — less than two miles from the bombing scene — where doctors pronounced her dead.

Her body was removed from the hospital — carried above a crowd of supporters — late Thursday night, about six hours after the assassination.

Chaos erupted at the hospital when former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived to pay his respects to Bhutto less than three hours after her death. [full story]

I personally feel a lot of shock and sorrow to hear of this. Regardless of how I felt about Bhutto’s politics, I deeply respect a woman who had the strength and courage to fight for democracy for the people and the country she loved.

Kartika Review is a new literary journal for Asian American creative writing. They publish fiction, poetry, essay, art, and author interviews.

Of interest in the first issue:

An interview with Gene Luen Yang delivers the inside scoop on the author and his graphic novel American Born Chinese.

Burying Bones,” a poem by Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai laments the strains of adapting to cultures.

Kim Hoang Nguyen’s “Final Bouquet,” is a chick lit story with some witty phrases.

Kartika plans to sponsor readings, panel discussions, writing contests, and other creative activities for the Asian American community in both New York City and the Bay Area. Check out this great new magazine!

Here’s a story that is currently unfolding in Illinois where a woman has disappeared while on her way to perform a religious ritual. Is there anyone out there who can anyone shed some light on this ritual?

Here’s to a positive outcome…

Police divers searched the Des Plaines River on Wednesday for a missing woman who had planned to place a damaged statue of a Hindu deity in the water when she disappeared Monday.

Anu Solanki disappeared on her way to perform a religious ritual in the icy Des Plaines River in Illinois.

The statue of the deity Ganesh, revered as the god of good fortune and wisdom, was broken in the mail when it arrived in a package sent by relatives, said Anu Solanki’s husband, Dignesh.

A religious leader told them it should be wrapped in a red cloth and placed in a lake or a river to prevent bad luck, Solanki said Wednesday morning during a cell phone interview as he watched the divers searching the river.

Authorities fear 24-year-old Anu Solanki may have slipped underwater while placing the statue in the river. Divers were searching the river Wednesday near where her car was found in a forest preserve in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling. [fulll story]

A friend of mine forwarded me this article in The Washington Post (12/25/07), “Heirs of China’s New Elites Schooled in Ancient Values“:

“CIXI, China — In a borrowed classroom of the provincial Communist Party School, a newly busy philosophy professor addressed 15 well-groomed adult students. His message: Try to have a soul. “In China, if you are only rich, people will not respect you. You also need good manners, an outgoinghttp://www.allaboutchinatown.com/tour_info/photo_gal/chinese_school_small.jpg personality and good morals,” said Zhang Yinghang of Zhejiang University, a professor increasingly in demand on the lecture circuit. “This is what rich children in China lack.” It was opening day of Jiaye Changqing, or “Family Enterprise Lasts Forever,” a week-long course for the sons and daughters of rich entrepreneurs — especially those sons and daughters who are about to inherit the family business. While the course included standard lessons on management strategy, it was also intended to instill traditional Chinese values in a younger generation schooled in Western, capitalist ways. In other words, there’s more to life than making money.”

In one of the most ironic quotes ever by a Communist leader, Deng Xiaoping declared once “To get rich is glorious.” It looks like the Chinese have taken that declaration with a vengeance.

When I was talking with two of my business school friends in China over the summer, (where they were born and raised but also lived and worked in the U.S. prior to business school, prior to returning to China to work), they both complained about how corrosive Chinese society had become with its ultra-capitalism and competitiveness, leading to more lying, cheating, unethical behavior, etc… anything to get ahead mentality to get rich. So it was with great interest to read about this Family Enterprise Lasts Forever” course – it sound like something like what Robert Frank of The Wall Street Journal has written about in his “The Wealth Report” column.

My (Asian American) friend also commented in his email, “I wonder if they have a Silicon Valley campus?” He often makes comments being frustrated with how soul-less Silicon Valley is, everyone’s quest for Internet & IPO riches, and focus on material wealth, especially amongst Asian-Americans.

I’d have to agree, there’s definitely more to life than making money. But I think as more of my peers, as well as the Googler’s, Facebooker’s, etc. (i.e. anyone under 30 living in Silicon Valley) get older, get married, have kids, their priorities will change (money, not for money’s sake, but to provide for their family).