8 Asians

I’ve never been on a cruise before (unless you count “The Love Boat” 🙂 ), nor has my mother (she’s been wanting to go on one for a while.) Well, it looks like a lot of Asians haven’t gone either. From the Wall Street Journal article, “Cruise Operators Target Asian Travelers, Pitching Short Trips From Local Ports,” it sounds like there is a huge opportunity for cruise companies in Asia:

“Although Asia accounted for less than 5% of the global cruise market last year, the number of Asians taking cruises annually will swell to 1.5 million by 2010, up 40% from 2005, according to a forecast by Ocean Shipping Consultants Ltd. That’s faster growth than the 30% rise expected over the period in the more mature North American market, which had about 9.3 million cruise passengers in 2005…Teddy Tsang, a 48-year-old publishing plant manager in Hong Kong, took a four-day cruise on the Rhapsody in February with his wife and daughter after seeing “a lot of newspaper ads” in local Chinese-language papers touting the company’s cruises and hearing recommendations from friends. His only previous cruise on a gambling ship had left him unimpressed. “I went a few times to the casino, but I didn’t want to spend the whole day gambling,” he says. But after the latest cruise, which cost around $385 per person, he enthused about a dinner of herb-crusted cod with saffron-champagne sauce and the staff’s swift delivery of extra towels to his cabin.”

One of my mother’s friend’s family has gone on quite a few cruises. I wonder – how common is it for Asian Americans to go on cruises? To be honest, I really don’t know that many people who have gone on cruises. If you’ve gone on a cruise – where did you go? And did you have fun? I’m always seeing those Royal Caribbean tv commercials and have always wondered if people have as much fun as the commercials make out cruises to be (of course, you never see an Asian Americans in those commercials…that’s an untapped market – especially for all those Asians and Asian Americans who like to gamble. :-).

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May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The White House said it, so it must be true, right?

Please join the artists, cast and crew of the United States of Asian America Festival 2008 for the 11th Annual Gala Opening event. Partake in local food and drinks while sampling some of the festival art and performances offered by Bay Area Asian Pacific Islander artists and organizations.

VENUE: SomArts Cultural Center 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA

Thursday, May 1, 5 – 8:30 pm
For info: (415) 864-4126 or [email protected]

Guo-Qiang and Murakami in New York


If you are in the New York area, there are two modern art shows not to be missed. Cai Guo-Qiang’s retrospective I Want to Believe is at the Guggenheim through May 28, and Takashi Murakami’s © Murakami is at the Brooklyn Museum through July 13.

At Guo-Qiang’s show, there are tigers with arrows in them and a canal that you can row through on a boat. Guo-Qiang works with explosives, and there is a video of some “Projects for Extraterrestrials” that he created in Japan, France, and the Netherlands. Watching it on a little television, you can’t help but wish you were there. The postcard attraction is the installation of cars hanging in the center space, in the eye of the spiral that is the New York Guggenheim.

Takashi Murakami is a pop artist who draws from anime and manga. The best part of the show for me was the experience of being in a large room whose walls were covered with his trademark smiling daisies, and another one with eyeballs. If I were a billionaire I would have a room or two like that installed in my mansion. I would also have him install some shiny mushroom stools that I could actually sit on. This art show made me happy.

Korean Air targets you by your surname


I thought it was a one time deal. Seriously. The first time I totally overlooked it.

But two barrages of snail mail junk is absolutely annoying. Korean Air has been pumping their US marketing up in the six months. Just take a look at one of the television commercials that’s playing here in the South. The Color of Perfection:

Now it might just be me, but the beginning of that commercial really doesn’t seem to tie well into the flight attendants in the end besides trying to make a color coordination. Somehow, I just don’t find flying as a “sexy” type of thing nor would I would associate a commercial with almost a designer cologne feel with an airline. Albeit an interesting spin on things I suppose. But I digress.

So about this snail mail spam. Why do I call it spam? It’s a direct mailing list based on your last name. I’m not exactly sure how they determine someone’s last name actually determines their ethnicity since both Chinese and Koreans use the last name Lee, and there are other names out there but it is what it is.

Before someone questions why I’m going off on this? I can’t speak Korean. I don’t read Korean. Heck, I’m not even Korean. And if there’s any sort of marketing that I happen to personally despise, it’s ones that target me based purely based on my last name. I mean, think about it. If my last name was “Lopez”, I seriously would hope that no one would send me mail that was entirely in Spanish unless there was some actual accounting that could show that I actually could read the language.

Photo Credit: (Drewski2112)

I most recently wrote about about Governor ‘Bobby’ Jindal of Louisiana in March in, “McCain’s Surprise: VP ‘Bobby’ Jindal ?” Well, Jindal was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno this past Monday night, no doubt to answer the speculations that he may be McCain’s running mate. This is the first time I’ve ever seen him speak – and I have never seen an Indian American with a Southern / Louisiana accent before!

From what I had read and blogged about him (Indian-American Congressman Elected Louisiana’s Governor, In a Southern State, Immigrants’ Son Takes Over, Indian-American to be leading Louisana Governor candidate), he seemed to be quite a bright person, but in his interview with Leno, he also comes across as a regular guy, and I can definitely see how he won over voters.

Wow, I beat out angry asian man out for news on Asian American entertainment… no doubt he will have this info posted soon…So I just found out from my friend who is usually in the know for concerts, etc. in San Francisco that tomorrow is officially Margaret Cho Day:

Join Margaret Cho and friends at San Francisco City Hall, as Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaims Wednesday, April 30th 2008, Margaret Cho Day! The live event will be taped for use in Margaret’s new show, “The Cho Show,” which will air on Vh1 this summer. The proclamation is open to the public, welcoming family, friends and fans of all ages. All attendees will be required to sign a release allowing the use of their image on television. Below please find important information regarding location and time for Margaret’s big day:”

When: Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Please arrive promptly at 4:00pm

Where: San Francisco City Hall
The South Light Court
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett PL.
San Francisco, CA 94102

You can download the official flyer here (.pdf). I’m not sure if I can make it to downtown San Francisco tomorrow, but I imagine there will be a sizable crowd to support this Bay Area native. And my source tells me that Cho will make a special surprise guest performance at a San Francisco comedy club Wednesday night as well…

Thank Allah It’s Jumma


One of the nice things about starting a new job is that you actually meet new people, and one of my co-workers, Hasan Minhaj, just happens to be an actor and stand-up comedian in his spare time. His site includes “Thank Allah It’s Jumma,” a thirteen minute short film “about a Muslim growing up in America and the hilarious challenges he faces” which debuted at the 2006 ISNA Islamic Film Festival. And while I usually raise an eyebrow when people use the word hilarious to describe their own work, it really IS funny, thereby avoiding any possible awkward face-to-face time.

And yes, I totally had to look up what Jumma was on Wikipedia. What? I grew up Presbyterian.

ABCD’s: American-Born Confused Desis


I am an avid fan of National Public Radio (NPR) – and this morning, I heard the story of “Young Indians Abroad Return to Help Better Country” as part of the series on “Climate Connections: Profiles.” The story discusses the growing trend of young Indians who grew up in Britain, Australia and America are now going to the new wild west – India, hanging out with Indian friends, and having conversations about climate change and the environment. Indian-Americans are known as “ABCD’s” – “American-Born Confused Desis”:

“In this broadcast on Morning Edition we talk to a bunch of American-born Indians and their local friends who discuss what it’s like to come “home” and what it’s like to be invaded by Americans who want to rediscover their “Indian-ness”. The locals have a nickname for these Americans —they call them “ABCDs.” That’s an acronym for American-Born Confused Desis. Desi is slang for an Indian guy or gal, and the term basically means kids from America who return a little mixed-up about who they are. “The conversation, as you’ll hear, explores all kinds of issues: the advantages of an American accent in India, the value (and limits) of Western experience in attacking pollution and poverty, the importance (or not) of movies and popular culture in creating social change, and why Indian woman (some of them) like beef-eating men.”

NPR interviews a local Indian man, who says he doesn’t like ABCD’s, since with their Western education and non-Indian accents, are highly sought out for better jobs, status, etc… as well as the fact that ABCD men can get local Indian women easier – as he had read in Maxim India (supposedly because ABCD’s eat more meat and are bigger, etc..) – which made the NPR reporter laugh.

To be honest, the Indian man’s complaints kind of reminded me of the perennial debate of Asian women dating white men. :-). After the laugh, the Indian does say that these ABCD’s do provide different and “amazing” perspectives and insights that are helpful. Anyways, I was amused by the ABCD acronym. As a Taiwanese-American, I’ve heard the term ABC – American Born Chinese quite often. I did know one person at college who referred to himself as a CBA – Chinese Born American, to emphasize the Chinese part of him, even though he was born in America. Finally, someone in my dorm referred herself as an ABCDEF – American Born, Culturally Deprived, Egyptian Female. I thought that was clever and got a big kick out of that.

Eleven Warner Bros. cartoons that have been under lock and key for the past four decades due to their highly racist and stereotypical content recently surfaced on YouTube and now everyone is in a tizzy over what to do with them.

The “classic” videos include such gag/anger inducing titles such as ‘Tokio Jokio’ and ‘Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs’ and several were created (not surprisingly) as war propaganda during WWII. Many, including the NAACP, are calling for the videos to be returned to the vault while YouTube/Google are less inclined to pull the videos unless Warner Bros comes forward to claim copyright infringement.

A representative for Warner wrote in an e-mail message that “Warner Brothers has rights to the titles” in question and that “we vigorously protect all our copyrights. We do not make distinctions based on content.”

The cartoons, known as the “Censored 11,” have been unavailable to the public for 40 years. Postings no longer appear if YouTube is searched for “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs,” a parody of “Snow White” and the most famous of the cartoons. But a search for “Coal Black” does find the cartoon.

Considering the viral nature of media these days, even if YouTube were to pull ever version of the offending cartoons it’s unlikely that they’ll truly disappear…so the argument is pretty much moot. But here’s the real interesting question that I pose to all you readers…and the real issue that I believe is at the heart of this controversy. How should we (as a collective society) deal with our racial history and all the artifacts that come along with it? Do we bury the offending materials and pretend they never existed or do we inject the materials into the ongoing public dialogue about race and racism in America? Personally, I’m for an honest examination of race in this country – even if that means making these videos publicly available.

Obviously Warner Bros. wants nothing more than these videos to disappear. But beyond that, what good is yielded from ignoring the existance of these cartoons? They were apart of our country’s history and a telling clue to how horrifyingly racist this country once was and, some might argue, still is. Critics will argue that these cartoons, when taken out of context and viewed without proper guidance, may serve as fooder for and exploited by racial supremisists and other seperatist groups.

What do you think?

The other night, as I was waiting to meet up with a friend of mine for a drink at the Tied House in downtown Mountain View, I dropped by Books, Inc. and was browsing the magazine section when I came across the latest issue of The New Yorker, and came across this intriguing article titled, “Letters from China: Crazy English – The national scramble to learn a new language before the Olympics.” The article profiles a motivational English teacher Li Yang, and China’s efforts to teach the Beijing Olympic volunteers English in anticipation of foreigners attending the games. Yi has become the Anthony Robbins of teaching English in China:

“He is China’s Elvis of English, perhaps the world’s only language teacher known to bring students to tears of excitement. He has built an empire out of his country’s deepening devotion to a language it once derided as the tongue of barbarians and capitalists. His philosophy, captured by one of his many slogans, is flamboyantly patriotic: “Conquer English to Make China Stronger!”… China has been in the grip of “English fever,” as the phenomenon is known in Chinese, for more than a decade. A vast national appetite has elevated English to something more than a language: it is not simply a tool but a defining measure of life’s potential…English has become an ideology, a force strong enough to remake your résumé, attract a spouse, or catapult you out of a village. Linguists estimate the number of Chinese now studying or speaking English at between two hundred million and three hundred and fifty million, a figure that’s on the order of the population of the United States. English private schools, study gadgets, and high-priced tutors vie for pieces of that market. The largest English school system, New Oriental, is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.”

I remember when I was in Beijing last summer, I met a local Chinese woman who was interested in practicing her English with me. Additionally, walking around a Beijing mall, bookstore or in the subway, I certainly saw advertisements for English language schools and books on learning English.

It doesn’t surprise me that with the growth of the Chinese economy and China’s stature and influence internationally, along with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that the popularity and importance of English as a foreign language is growing. For better or worse (especially for Americans), English is truly the international language of communications. However, French, along with English, are the two official languages of the Olympics – as the modern day Olympics was established through the efforts of a Frenchmen.

While catching up on the ABC series “Lost,” earlier this year, I remember an episode where Yunjin Kim‘s character, Sun, is being introduced to a prospective “boyfriend/husband” , Jae Lee, and her mother is being defferential that Sun only went to “Seoul National University” and not “Harvard,” where Jae Lee went. Well, apparently according to this recent New York Times article, “Elite Korean Schools, Forging Ivy League Skills,” going to an “elite” university in the United States is increasingly becoming more popular:

“South Korea is not the only country sending more students to the United States, but it seems to be a special case. Some 103,000 Korean students study at American schools of all levels, more than from any other country, according to American government statistics. In higher education, only India and China, with populations more than 20 times that of South Korea’s, send more students. “Preparing to get to the best American universities has become something of a national obsession in Korea,” said Alexander Vershbow, the American ambassador to South Korea. Korean applications to Harvard alone have tripled, to 213 this spring, up from 66 in 2003, said William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions. Harvard has 37 Korean undergraduates, more than from any foreign country except Canada and Britain. Harvard, Yale and Princeton have a total of 103 Korean undergraduates; 34 graduated from Daewon or Minjok.”

Daewon and Minjok are the two private schools in Korea, and their students, that are profiled in the Times article. The schools themselves are very hard to get into, so those high school students are an elite group in themselves. The article continues to describe the heavy workload and intensity that these students bear as they pursue their (and their parents’) dreams of attending a top notch university in the U.S.

It’s this kind of thinking that I think only re-enforces the negative aspects of the “model minority” stereotype. I wonder though – is there anything inherent in Asian culture that emphasizes education over other cultures? I was having dinner with an older out-of-town white executive friend of mine who described to me his astonishment that the CEO of his company, and Indian immigrant, was going over his son’s classes that he might be taking next year as a freshman in high school. My friend said that when his kids were going to high school, it wasn’t until maybe his son’s junior year that he knew what an Advanced Placement (AP) course was. What do you think – do you think Asians over-emphasize education. Americans under-emphasize, or a little of both?

Compensation for Filipino Veterans


Filipino Veterans at the White House
Filipino Veterans have been neglected for nearly 60 years since World War II. And the US Senate finally passes a bill boosting veteran benefits, including those for Filipino Veterans.

Supporters of the controversial provision said it would overturn a 60-year-old law and give 18,000 Filipino veterans of World War II who live abroad a roughly US$300-a-month pension.

Sadly, it’s a bit too late for the majority of Filipino Veterans who have passed on.

I was five when I learned of my grandfather’s story during World War II. A local San Francisco Bay Area news reporter, Wendy Tokuda, came to interview my grandfather about his experience. It was during this television interview that I learned of my grandfather’s bravery. My grandfather enlisted when he was 18 to fight against the Japanese in World War II. He was a cook in the Navy, because at that time most minorities were given these types of jobs. But it wasn’t the job that became so interesting for the news reporter. It was what the Navy asked my grandfather to do. In 1945, they ordered him and a number of other soldiers to stand on the bow of their ship and look at the water. They were told to look at the ocean along the horizon. A few minutes later, a bright light flashed and a mushroom cloud formed. The navy conducted tests on my grandfather to study the affects of nuclear blasts and radiation on their soldiers.

I understood why my grandfather wore thick glass-bottled lenses. I understood why he had trouble seeing his later years in life. But I never understood why he was still so proud to have served in the Navy, after what the military and government had done. To his last dying day he was proud to be a Filipino Veteran. He looked upon his duty with honor, without remorse or regret.

The bill’s passing is honorable, and it’s welcomed. But for most it’s a bit too late. But even if it came many years after, I’m sure if my grandfather was here today, he would still stand and salute and would have been ever so proud to have served.