8 Asians

Chien T’an Campus – Taipei, Taiwan.

When I first started blogging on 8Asians, I was wondering when I would have a chance to blog about The Love Boat. If you are already asking what does the TV show, then you don’t know what I am talking about! Almost every Taiwanese-American I know has heard or gone on this program (which goes to show how small and connected the Taiwanese-American community is in the United States). Well, in this past week’s New York Times (5/25/08), the newspaper reports on “Matchmaking, the Ultimate Government Service:”

“Next month, Justin Mei, 20, will be on his way to the Love Boat. That’s the nickname for a monthlong cultural tour of Taiwan sponsored and partly subsidized by the Taiwanese government. The program — officially called the Expatriate Youth Summer Formosa Study Tour to Taiwan — has nothing to do with boats and it isn’t supposed to be about love. It is designed to expose young people with Taiwanese roots like Mr. Mei to the motherland through courses in Mandarin, sightseeing and traditional arts. “I want to reconnect with my heritage,” said Mr. Mei, who was born in Dallas and attends the University of Texas there. “I’ve been disconnected.” But the trip has long had a reputation for flirtations, flings and wedding proposals. Hence the nickname. “

The article also goes on to discuss the Israeli government-sponsored Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program that “sends young American Jews on 10-day trips to Israel,” with very much the idea of romance as part of the program.

Well, having attended in the summer of 1993 at the Chien T’an campus after graduating college, I can tell you first hand that Justin Mei is giving the politically correct answer for his parents! But in all honestly, I do think most do attend to make the most of their summer learning, having fun and making new friends (not necessarily new girlfriends or boyfriends, let alone future husbands and wives).

The Love Boat, or the Overseas Chinese Youth Language Training and Study Tour to the Republic of China) as it was known when I went, was a six week program in Taiwan, with the first 4 weeks in Taipei (if you were in the Chien T’an campus, and not Ocean Campus) and 2 weeks traveling throughout the island of Taiwan by bus. I believe the program is open to all Chinese and Taiwanese Americans and Canadians. The Taiwanese government doesn’t really advertise the program since demand is generally higher than the spots available, but basically you get an application via the Taiwanese “consulates” in the U.S. and Canada. Often times, Taiwanese and Chinese parents apply for their kids without their kids knowing.

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I saw this disturbing and shocking story on ABC7 News this evening on Dr. Tony Shui, “Doctor accused of molesting patients.” This story is made for Disgrasian (“You’re a disgrace. To the Race.”):

“A Dublin doctor was arraigned on charges he drugged men, secretly took pics and then molested them. The fugitive doctor had been on the run for almost two years. This was a high-profile shocking case in the quiet town of Dublin. No one knew where he was until Shiu made a critical mistake, which lead American authorities to Taiwan. Tony Shiu was arrested in Taipei, Taiwan. He had been living here under the alias Tony Jiang. Chinese news reports say he was teaching English at a school and lived an uneventful quiet life… “

Shiu even made it as a story on “America’s Most Wanted.”

Can you imagine your doctor violating your trust while you are sedated??? What I find odd is that after police had found over 450 digital images at his home, Shiu wasn’t immediately detained (maybe he was?, made bail, then fled). I guess if you are an Asian American accused of a crime and want to flee, there’s no better place to hide than Asia. But you still need a passport to flee. I’m not trying to figure out how to flee the country if you’re a fugitive, but I am just a little concerned how easily an accused criminal could escape the authorities so easily.

This story also made me recall a blog posting I read recently read (though written in 2005 ) “Why E.R. Will Never Have an Asian Male Doctor” and made me thought if this would be the only time I’d “see” an Asian American male doctor on television, one arrested for abusing his patients? Are there any male doctors on Grey’s Anatomy? (I don’t watch the show, but I am guessing not). Hopefully this incident with Shiu won’t stigmatize Asian American doctors (at least in the Bay Area) as creepy malfeasants.

In this year’s presidential race, we’ve seen American politicians soliciting the youth vote through channels including myspace, MTV, SNL and the like. Now, it seems like China’s catching on.

A short while ago, Premier Wen Jiabao’s profile page mysteriously appeared on Facebook. By yesterday, Premier Wen emerged as one of FB’s Top Ten Politicians, beating out the Terminator and Bush Junior. Wen is the only Asian politician in the top 30.

Nobody really knows who set up the FB page for Wen, but whatever the case, it’s still pretty cool. I became a supporter. Will you?

For those of you wondering who’s #1, it’s overwhelmingly Obama.

Ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan dancing with long-time partner Damian Smith

“I think right now is about time I want to give something back to China,” said Tan, a Shanghai native, who became a principal dancer with the Ballet in 1997 at age 21.

One of my favorite ballerinas, Yuan Yuan Tan from San Francisco Ballet, has announced she will be a guest principal dancer with the Hong Kong Ballet this summer to perform in some modern pieces with the company. This gives her a chance to dance with Chinese trained dancers, as well as dancing a new modern choreography, showing audiences there something new.

I’ve written about her before on 8Asians, and Tan is truly considered a star of San Francisco Ballet. She has previously stated she would love go back to China and start a ballet school there sometime in the far future, and she has never been a guest artist with a company in China, so this is a big “first” for her to go back to her roots.

In the future, I would love to see Tan dance with the National Ballet of China sometime, with Tan’s talent combined with the wonderful ballet company, I think it would make for an amazing dance experience…I saw the National Ballet’s beautiful production of Raise the Red Lantern in NYC several years ago, directed by the movie director Zhang Zimou…it was truly a perfect combination of modern breath-taking theatrics, traditional Chinese music/Beijing opera, and beautiful ballet.

But for now, I’m happy to live in a city where she is dancing usually…so I’m fine with her staying here for now!

The Music Prodigy Market in China

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A common stereotype is that Asian Americans play an instrument, often either a violin or piano, or both, and that we’re music prodigies . Well, after reading the Wall Street Journal opinion piece (5/29/08), “The Prodigy Market in China,” I think this stereotype is here to stay for quite a while:

“Thirty-two years after the end of its Cultural Revolution, China is buzzing with once-forbidden Western classical music activity, building world-class concert halls and expanding its conservatory facilities. According to Chinese music-industry executives, more than 40 million youngsters are currently studying the piano or violin. “The joke in some cities,” says pianist Gary Graffman, former president of the elite Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia, “is that if you see a kid on the street who is not carrying a violin case, it’s because he or she is studying the piano…China’s booming economy and one-child policy have created a rising middle class with a passion for education. “Parents have become intensely focused on their child,” suggests Mr. Polisi. “The areas they work on are the sciences, math and music; the musical experience is seen as an important element in the child’s intellectual and social upbringing.””

40 million kids in China studying the piano or violin alone – that’s more than 10% of the current U.S. population. Because of the large talent pool in China, many music schools in Europe and the United States are recruiting China’s best talent and offering scholarships to study abroad. Apparently, American conservatories are more appealing due to their noted philosophy of expressive freedom relative to European schools and certainly the Chinese schools.

I first took up the trumpet for a year in elementary school, but after a trip to Taiwan, my parents bought me a violin which I played through my junior year in high school. However, I would say that I definitely was not a child prodigy – far from it. For the most part, I enjoyed playing the violin and being involved in orchestra. But many Asian Americans are not, and this story reminded me of a blog posting which I quite enjoyed, “Chinese parents need to stop forcing their kids to play the piano/violin.” I don’t know if it is just Chinese or Asian parents in general, but I think they sometimes pay too much attention and focus too much on making their kids do what they want, despite whether or not it is something they enjoy or are any good at (above and beyond the normal levels of nurturing a child).

Back to my original point – as more Chinese come to study and perform in the United States, there will be the continued perception that Chinese, an Asians / Asian-Americans in general, are good at music, along with math & science. One point I did find interesting and sort of agreed with, was what a Julliard’s Yoheved Kaplinsky, head of the piano faculty at Juilliard and artistic director of its Pre-College division, expressed in the article: ”

“.. because of the subtleties required in reading calligraphy, Asian children develop visual acuity to discern details in musical scores at an early age. Those who speak so-called “tonal languages” like Mandarin Chinese, where fluctuations in vocal pitch help determine meaning, may also benefit from this form of ear training.”

I really do think that the tonal nature of the Chinese language does train the ear to be more attuned to music and pitch. Though this definitely does not apply to me – I must be tone deaf since my brother often complains that I can’t hold a tune. And I had emailed out a Google Video link for an alumni holiday party singing the alma mater – and a friend of mine asked who that awful guy singing was :-). Actually, replaying the video, I don’t think we sound all that great as a group either…

Korean Music Festival @ The Hollywood Bowl

While Canada was having a nice Victoria Day long weekend, I was down in LA at the Korean Music Festival held at the Hollywood Bowl. I originally had not intended to go, but then all the signs were telling me that I should … so I bit the bullet and went. And as expensive as it was, it was worth every penny. It was also my first time getting drunk at a concert.

I even saw DBSK and Yoona from SNSD in the hotel lobby – course, I was only there to see one person – regular listeners can take a wild guess – everyone else will just have to listen to the podcast.

For questions, comments, suggestions or requests please leave a comment over at Popcast88.com or email me at christine [at] popcast88.com.

Again, if you like what you hear and would like to support to podcast, I ask that you show your support by purchasing the music you hear through the links provided on the site.
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Here’s a list of frequently challenged books in 1990-2000 by authors of color. Names of the writers whose books have been banned in the past decade: Isabel Allende, Rudolfo Anaya, Maya Angelou, Mark Mathabane, Toni Morrison, Walter D. Myers, Luis Rodriquez, Alice Walker, and Richard Wright. Here’s the Top 100 list of books banned or challenged in general. This provides a nutshell summary of book banning in the West. In 2007, Walker’s The Color Purple, Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and even my personal favorite, Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower were all challenged as inappropriate reading material for high school students.

The Asian Diaspora has been firmly rooted in the West for centuries. And yet not a single APA writer appears on any of the aformentioned listings of banned books. No one is going to ban Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, David Henry Hwang, Gish Jen, Chang-rae Lee, or the new arrival Min Jin Lee. If put to the task, I’d figure Alexander Chee, Frank Chin, and Evelyn Lau might be banned, but they haven’t been. Why? Because few people outside the APA readership community has even heard of these writers.

If political change is what you’re after, the first thing you need to get done is have a book written by an APA writer be banned in schools. Until we’ve been banned by high schoools across middle America, we haven’t really made our mark yet in American letters.

We’ve been called the “model minority blog,” not to be confused with the Forum at ModelMinority.com, a different beast. As a result of our “news reel”-esque format and emphasis on current events and pop culture over critical race theory (though we’ve tackled that, too), we’re seen as passive, even disloyal to the so-called APA socio-political cause.

Our bloggers keep getting head-bumped by affiliates of other APA sites, such as the Fighting 44s and the aforementioned MM. The head bumping come in the form of dissenting, arguably truculent comments to postings on our site, igniting flame wars we’d rather not feed. Then when we stamp out the little fireballs of “You whoriental white-loving submissive [insert your favorite profanities here],” we get accused of censoring opinions we disagree with. No, we don’t do that. Trust me if we did that, there wouldn’t be 50-some-odd comments to a thread containing the keyword “bi-racial.” We just censor opinions that if posted, would put our website in the NC-17 ratings.

The accusation of “model minority blog” implies that people think we as a whole group turn a blind eye to racial marginalization, to its unsettling, enduring legacy, its passive-aggressive manifestations in modern society, and its application to Gen-X and Gen-Y APAs. Wrong. We cried foul to the Mister Wong controversy when a German social bookmarking website tried to export their slanty-eyed Chinaman logo into the U.S. along with the ever catchy slogan “ping pong, King Kong, Mister Wong.” Our objections resonated loud enough to catch the attention of Germany’s Newsweek, which cited one individual APA blogger’s opinion as the voice of Asian America. Talk about feeling “uh…no, that wasn’t what I meant…” In any regard, the efforts prompted by our site caused Mister Wong to change its logo. 8A, the model minority? Between “INCREDIBLY FUCKING ANGRY” Asian and “model minority” Asian, I would NOT have picked “model minority” Asian to describe our dear Ernie there.

We handled flack from incensed white people for some of the content on our blog with a nod and tacit understanding, but what we don’t make heads or tails of at all is the flack we get from other APAs. I’d like to see open dialogue between our bloggers and those at MM, Fighting 44s, and any other APA-interest websites out there.

Heck, I call for a cyber-conference involving representative members from all interested APA-interest blogsites and discussion forums to address head-on an agenda listing of issues we’d all like to once and for all hash out in real-time and make public the transcript to that cyber-conference. It’d be a phenomenal resource to offer on the world wide web and might better help us understand each other and work toward a semblance of Asian unity. So, MM, Fighting 44s, any others: what say you?

In many nations in the world, it is the dreaded university entrance exam that is the sole determinant of whether or not you get into a university or not – not your high school grades, extracurricular activities or achievement scores – just an exam. You think that pressure can get to you? Well, apparently it does to many Indians, as reported in this disturbing AFP article, “India exam pressure leads to wave of student suicides:”

“…In 2006, the most recent year for which official figures are available, some 5,857 students — or 16 a day — killed themselves due to exam stress. Police say thousands more suicides go unreported because parents want to keep the cause of death a secret. Competition to get into higher education in the country of more than 1.1 billion people is fierce with stratospheric averages needed to obtain the few places available in India’s “Ivy League” colleges. For instance, the cut-off average mark to pursue an undergraduate economics degree at Delhi University’s top commerce college last year was 97.8 percent. “Unsurprisingly only a small fraction of the 500,000 school leavers each year will make it,” said Sunil Sethi, columnist for financial daily Business Standard. India has just a couple of dozen top-notch “branded” colleges, seven Indian institutes of technology and six of management. Together they take only 16,000 undergraduates each year.”

5,857 suicides due to exam stress! (I really wonder if this is really an official category!). I looked up in Wikipedia, and in 2004 there were a total of 4,599 suicides between the ages 10 to 24 (of course, India’s population is almost 3.6x as large as the U.S.’s) for all reasons. (As you may know, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, Asian-American women ages 15-24 have the highest suicide rate of women in any race or ethnic group in that age group.)

Certainly, when getting into a university may be the only path out of poverty and you have only one shot, the stress has to be tremendous. But obviously this is not necessarily the healthiest environment to promote academic achievement…

Asian American 2.0?

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In SFGate today, Jeff Yang talks about the clashing ideas of Asian American identity among generations, namely my generation (people born in the 70s) and older, and those who are in their teens and 20s. He brings up issues that have dominated, and continue to dominate dialogue among Asian Americans of my generation (and apparently, of a very small portion of the generation younger than me): our foreignness–or that we’re seen as the perpetual foreigner/outsider (because of our accents and mainstream American society’s apparent inability to really see Asians as Americans); and Asian women as sex objects (without any agency on their own, of course, to want to be sex objects).

To that end, Asian Americans of my generation (GOD, I hate saying that term!) especially those of us who are academics or otherwise involved in popular culture appear to be stuck. Yang also talks about how mainstream American perceptions of Asians has changed, slowly–being integrated into mainstream shows; and how we’ve started to complicate our own perceptions of how we, as Asians, belong in America as both Americans and Asian Americans. But at the same time, Yang also talks about how we’re missing out on other Asian voices, who are reaching teenage and 20-something Asian Americans in ways that “we” never thought of, especially on YouTube, such as HappySlip, and nigahiga.

For me, that’s one of the things that was really frustrating about being in Asian American studies, and looking at the media. I got sick of people looking at both mainstream American society and Asian American identity as these monolithic things, identities and subjects that can’t or won’t change. While people are ranting on and on about the topics that I’ve just mentioned, it’s great to see people taking the dialogue of what it means to be Asian in American society to different places, especially to see how Asian American identity is evolving, and to frankly see how mainstream American culture is evolving with it to integrate Asians as part of the American landscape. It’s nice to see that we’re not just obsessed over constantly looking at Asian women as sex objects lacking agency, somehow needing an Asian man to see the error of her ways (roll eyes), or that we will always be “exotic” or “not belonging”. If anything, it’s showing how the ability of people to be able to access new forms of media and to provide new voices into the dialogue of Asian American identity that we couldn’t see or hear before–and to finally develop some new ways to see Asian America.

And frankly, it’s nice to see other Asian Americans who aren’t neurotic or hung up about their identities.

So I’m a little bit behind on this, but because there isn’t really many blogs talking about this, it’s worth a mention: “The Disciple,” a Chinese reality show produced by Jackie Chan where the winner, skilled in both acting and martial arts, will be the lead in a film scripted by Chan. Other finalists will become members of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team. Kinda like that horrible NBC reality show from a couple of years back, Next Action Star, except that Jackie Chan’s movie might be, you know, watchable.

What makes this especially appropriate for a blog like 8Asians is the fact that five of the sixteen finalists aren’t from China, including Xin Wuku, a Cambodian-Chinese martial artist who is now an American Gladiator and Philip Sahagun, the token non-ethnic Chinese finalist. There’s a lot of guowai — what we call ABC‘s — on the show as well, such as UCR Hip-Hop dancer Aoni Ma and Julie Tu, which wins my award for “best use of Chinglish on a Chinese Reality Show.” (Hey, I’d do the same.)

Why all this screen time and outreach to all these Americans, anyway? Maybe Jackie Chan and the producers of The Disciple are eager for their winner to be an international superstar, the same way that a lot of Asian popstars grew up in North America to become superstars overseas. That or they’re just making fun of our bastardized American accents. (Also, to whoever revives the AZN network: BRING THIS SHOW TO THE UNITED STATES. This show could totally be a cult hit here.)

New Chinese aphrodisiac: real estate

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My friend Lisa Chow is a free lance reporter currently based out of Beijing, and just had her first broadcast piece, distributed by American Public Media, “New Chinese aphrodisiac: real estate:

“You know what’s going to work with members of the opposite sex. Charm…wit…intelligence. Good looks never hurt. A promising career’s always helpful. Roll all those together and you can pretty much gurarantee a busy weekend for twenty and thirty-somethings on the dating scene here in the United States. In big cities in China, though, that’s not gonna cut it. Lisa Chow reports from Beijing a broad real estate portfolio is a pretty potent aphrodisiac.”

No wonder why there has been a housing bubble in China the past few years :-). My friend’s parents bought a penthouse suite in the Pu Dong section of Shanghai back in 2002, and that was definitely a great financial investment.