8 Asians

Earlier this summer, it was rumored that Taiwanese American Maria Ho and her teammate Tiffany Michelle were going to be contestants on this season of The Amazing Race when a fan spotted her at LAX. This past Sunday, the rumor was confirmed as the premiere episode of the show aired. As professional poker players, Maria and Tiffany wanted to try to hide their true identities as successful professional poker players, so Maria and Tiffany told others that they worked as counselors for a non-profit counseling troubled youths. Well, that rouse didn’t last too long when the two asked someone in line for help at the airport in Tokyo, and that person recognized their true identities and another team overheard who they really were. I had my doubts from the very beginning that the two were going to be able to keep up the cover for the entire competition.

The first and second destinations happened to be in Asia – Japan and Vietnam. In Tokyo, contestants had to get to a television station where they participated in a made up Japanese game show in a made up game called  “sushi roulette,” where contestants had to wait to eat a wasabi bomb roll within two minutes to get the next clue. The bomb had a TON of wasabi and I can’t even imagine eating all that wasabi mixed in with all that rice. After getting the clue, the teams had to lead a pack of twenty Japanese tourists through Shibuya crossing and to a shrine near the crossing. Having been to Tokyo four times, I always love seeing familiar places whenever I watch The Amazing Race and always wonder if I would have an edge if I were ever on the show and in cities or locations I’ve previously been in.

In Tokyo, Maria and Tiffany came in last at the first check-in point at the shrine, especially since they lost a few of the Japanese tourists. They were not eliminated at the check-in, but had to incur a two hour delayed start in the next race of the leg and also had to do an extra roadblock task before getting back to the rest of the tasks and competition.

In Vietnam, the teams had to get to a bus and take a two hour bus ride to the Mekong Delta region. From there, they had to take a water taxi to a fruit farm and fill the base of the tree with mud. That task looked not only dirty, but extremely tiring. From there, they needed to get back to where they took the boats, and then get to a field where one teammate had to guide a flock of ducks through a course using big sticks with orange colored flags at the end.

Maria and Tiffany seemed somewhat dysfunctional working together and perhaps started off a bit arrogant thinking that that could play mind tricks with the other teams, but I think by the time they made it to Vietnam and were able to settle down and complete in a very easy roadblock task, in my opinion: making a pho soup dish, finish the other tasks and were able survive elimination.

Last season, I was definitely rooting for the Asian American brother & sister team of Victor and Tammy Jih from the very start; I really liked their sibling dynamic, and hey, I think Tammy is totally hot. I’m not sure which team I am rooting for, but Maria definitely could come across as a disgrasian

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Earlier this year, a New Jersey dad fought to get his son back from Brazil from his ex-wife’s family. Now, a similarly heart-breaking scenario is playing out–this time, in Japan.

Christopher Savoie is sitting in jail right now because he went to Japan to reclaim his two children. Their mother, Noriko–a Japanese native–previously had this court-approved agreement with Christopher: She would take the children on vacation to Japan during summers, and bring them back to Franklin, Tennessee, in time for school. This August, Noriko kept them in Japan. Since she had violated the agreement, a judge awarded Christopher full custody of the children. A warrant went out for Noriko’s arrest.

Unfortunately for Christopher, Japan is not part of the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction, which finds a way to bring kids home across international borders. Instead, Japanese family law follows the tradition of sole custody divorces–that is, when a couple splits up, the children usually stay with one parent while the other leaves their lives permanently.

Knowing he might never see his kids again, Christopher flew out to Japan, grabbed his kids, and tried to bring them to the U.S. consulate. That’s where he was arrested by the Japanese police. Christopher now faces the charge of abducting minors, which carries a jail sentence of up to five years.

Can we get Bill Clinton over there to fix this?

Ever since Debbie Lee made a, uhm, less than stellar attempt at becoming The Next Food Network Star, there’s been a noticeable lack of Asian Americans from the South talking about food.

Enter Natalie and Margaret Keng, a mother and daughter team from Smyrna, Georgia who describe themselves as two Chinese Southern Belles that instruct a course on Asian Fusion History at nearby Emory University in Atlanta. Here you can watch them go into a supermarket and explain oriental snacks, like Haw Flakes and the oh-so-mysterious Pineapple Cake.

Okay, so I jest a little bit. While the “Ni hao, y’all” at the end of the video made me bury my face in my hands a little bit, you gotta realize this video wasn’t made for us — I can only assume the video and class is made for a roomful of Scarlet O’Haras, middle-aged women that would faint at the sight of chicken feet not on a plantation served on a dinner plate. And personally, this Yankee is intrigued by the thought of Fried Rice-a-Roni or five-space rutabaga. I’ll try anything once, y’all.

(Hat tip: Stan, who is my favorite Chinese Southern Belle. Total in-joke, sorry.)

China is marking its 60th anniversary of the current communist government and 8Asians covered the celebration in a previous blog post. In a move that has received criticism, the Empire State Building is joining the celebration by lighting up in the colors of China (yellow and red). While it’s perfectly fine for the Chinese to celebrate their own communism, critics (from the Falun Gong to the pro Tibet movement) have found it less than desirable for the Empire State Building to join in this celebration.

In an ironic twist, China has asked its own citizens not to show up at their celebration in Tiananmen Square, only allowing 30,000 invited guests to the celebration. “Police suggest that Beijing residents try not to go out on 1 October to avoid complications. The public is recommended to watch the celebrations live on TV,” reported the official English language newspaper China Daily today.

RashomonI try not to take for granted the vast number of cool events that happen in Los Angeles. I know that a screening of an almost 60 year-old Japanese movie doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that you can only find in L.A., but it is! The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences is presenting a stunning new restoration of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Rashomon, taken from a 35mm print created in 1962 from the original camera negative.

The truth of the matter is that because the heart of the film industry is here in Los Angeles, so is the heart of film restoration efforts. Film restoration is extremely tedious and costly, and many of our film treasures are being lost at a rapid rate. Because are we lucky enough to be in a city where much of the restoration is done, occasionally beautifully restored films are publicly screened here!

In this case, we’ll get to see the groundbreaking Kurosawa masterpiece Rashomon, starring Toshiro Mifune in the role that catapulted him to stardom. The film depicts the rape of a woman and the apparent murder of her husband through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses, including the rapist and the dead man (through a medium). The stories are mutually contradictory, leaving the viewer to determine which, if any, is the truth. Rashomon has become synonymous with the unknowability of truth, and spawned the term the “Rashomon Effect.” regarding the subjectivity of perception on recollection.

Regarding this particular restoration:

While the [35mm print from 1962] print itself was in good physical condition, the source material from which it was made was extremely battered. Due to the extensive printing and handling it had received over its lifetime, many shots were already starting to shrink and warp, and there were numerous scratches, dust, and dirt in the damaged negative. Scanned at 4k resolution, that 47-year-old print has been meticulously cleaned both digitally and by hand, complete with a new, seamless soundtrack. This essential restoration has been made possible by the Academy Film Archive, the National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kadokawa Pictures, Inc., with funding provided by Kadokawa Cultural Promotion Foundation and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation.

Rashomon opens Friday, October 2, 2009 at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, showing through Thursday, October 8 for an exclusive one-week engagement. Showtimes: Fri-Sun at 12:00, 2:30, 5:00, 7:30 & 10:00; Mon-Thu at 5:00, 7:30 & 10:00. Landmark’s Nuart Theatre is at 11272 Santa Monica Boulevard, just west of the 405 Freeway, in West Los Angeles. Program information: 310-281-8223; www.landmarktheatres.com

TLC has recently announced that they’re refashioning the series Jon & Kate Plus 8, reducing half-Korean dad Jon Gosselin to a minor role in the series after their recent divorce.

You know, when it’s the year 2019 and we’re watching an old white lady with her six Asian looking teenagers on the twelfth season of Kate Plus 8, and our currently non-existent children look up to us to ask, “Daddy, why do those kids look Asian,” we’ll be able to look them in the eye and explain to them that a long time ago, there was a time when their daddy was still on the show; before he started wearing Ed Hardy and became a complete douchebag. Or not.

Should We Let Giant Pandas Go Extinct?


Should we let pandas go extinct?Over at Sina and Chinasmack, people are reacting to the remarks from English naturalist, nature photographer, BBC television presenter and author Chris Packham when he said that humans should not spend vast amounts of money to protect giant pandas, but rather let them naturally die off.

In fact, he says, “I would eat the last panda if I could have all the money we have spent on panda conservation put back on the table for me to do more sensible things with.”

Packham’s reasoning:

An ex-carnivore bamboo muncher unfortunately ends up in the most populated place on earth. Its food predictably all dies with disastrous regularity and its digestive system is poorly adapted to its diet. It’s slow to reproduce, tastes good, but in a blind strike of evolutionary luck it is plump, cute and cuddly. That is from an anthropological point of view. So given only the latter in the formative days of conservation the pioneers choose it as a symbol and begin to investigate its conservation. Panda porn, or the lack of it, made us all giggle in the sixties and seventies and gradually the fat pied ones became greater than the sum of the sense in keeping them alive. But having spent so much it’s very difficult to stop. We are now spending millions and millions of dollars on a loser which lives in a country being stormed by the whole worlds greedy despite its horrible politics. It’s Catch 22 for Pandas and we’re caught by the credit cards despite our very own desperate credit crisis. So I say stop, save our relatively paltry funds for cases where we can make a real difference, because that’s our job. [full story]

About the giant panda, Packham says, “It’s got everything going against it. Furthermore, it’s gone down an evolutionary bottleneck where we could just let it go.” And of course, tons of money gets spent on “charismatic animals” which are virtually unsavable, while other species — like insects and rodents — or entire habitats are left to die.

He’s got a lot of good points — if people weren’t spending so much money to save them, these fuzzy animals would probably have already gone extinct on its own. And, he is even in alignment with the WWF on a lot of the points… except for the “letting pandas go extinct” part, of course. Then again, the case for saving the panda could be used as a vehicle to save panda habitats — bamboo forests — which are also facing destruction. What do you think?

As for me, I’m just looking for an excuse to write about pandas so I can link back to this post and awesome image about a PANDA ATTACK!!!

* I didn’t know how to categorize this post, so I put it in “Food & Drink” since Packham talked about eating pandas. To quote Moye: why you bite me?? ;_;

(Flickr photo credit, with apologies: fujikinoko)

alg_yassky_liuTonight, after I get off work, I will be casting my vote for New York City comptroller in the runoff election between city councilmen John C. Liu and David Yassky. As previously blogged about here on 8Asians, Liu received the most votes in the primary election two weeks ago, but not enough to reach the 40% needed to avoid a runoff.

Those of you living in the New York have probably seen the negative ad campaign waged by David Yassky (who, by the way, has the endorsement of The New York Times). In that ad, he brands Liu a liar:

“That’s the problem with comptroller candidate John Liu. He says he returned contributions from people who got city contracts. Not true. Liu’s commercial claims he found fraud in the MTA. Also not true. And get this: He claims he worked in a sweatshop, but it never happened. His father was actually a top bank manager.”

As several 8Asians pointed out in the internal listserv, it is entirely possible that Liu did work at a sweatshop, but his mother may have denied it in front of the media to “save face.” After all, many immigrant parents come to America to provide a better life for their children. How would it look then, if their own children worked in a sweatshop?

Yassky’s spokesman said Liu is not playing fair either. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews. Yassky, who is Jewish, took the day off from campaigning to observe the holiday. But Liu, who is not Jewish, went out campaigning. In his defense, Liu’s spokeswoman said they had already consulted with Jews about campaign etiquette, and that out of respect for the day, Liu’s team did not knock on doors in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods.

I don’t know about other New Yorkers, but at this point, I’m just ready for this election to be over. No matter the outcome, I’ll be glad to not hear any more negative campaigning for a while.

Is Kimchi Still Kimchi Without the Smell?


kimchiAs far back as I can remember, kimchi (김치) has had a role in my daily diet. Our family ate it with every meal and perhaps it was this constant presence that made me unaware of the aroma that came with the dish. It wasn’t until I was in college, when kimchi didn’t have such a big role in my diet, that I began to notice the unavoidably pungent scent that accompanies the dish.

There really is no good way to escape the smell. Even if you’re not consuming it, the scent will overpower you (unless you’re used to it, of course). As much as I enjoy the staple in Korean cuisine, I have to admit that the smell can be quite overwhelming. Now there is someone who promises the taste without the pungent scent. Kim Soon-ja of South Korea has created a freeze-dried kimchi that is absent of the odor that many may find offensive.

I admit that kimchi has a strong scent, but as a person who has a love-love relationship with food, I have come to appreciate the total experience of whatever I am consuming. And for better or worse, scent is a great big part of the whole food-ing experience. The same goes for my enjoyment of kimchi each time I consume it – the scent is part of the whole package. Maybe for some, the lack of scent will open them up to trying it, taking it to more places and so on. But I’d much rather have the kimchi as is, with the pungent scent and all.

Writing about kimchi has me feigning it now. Better go visit the mother so I can get a new batch of home-made goodness!

(Flickr photo credit: Nagyman, used under Creative Commons license)

A loyal reader pointed us to this latest Sony commercial. In an ever-increasing field of HDTV manufacturers, Sony has been making the case that it’s worth buying their brand and claims, “You can’t fake Sony quality. It makes watching sports in HD better.”

Justin Timberlake chimes that the more sports you watch on a Sony, the better you get at sports (while playing a mean Forrest Gump-like match of table tennis with quarterback Payton Manning). A claim like this is actually somewhat plausible — especially watching individual sports like golf or tennis.

However, Manning then claims that watching HD on a Sony has also improved his Chinese in Chinese. Now unless Manning is watching a lot of Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, I have a hard time believing that a product from a Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer such as Sony will improve my Chinese. And Timberlake’s Chinese is just God awful – is he even trying? His feeble attempt at Chinese is almost as bad as Rosie O’Donnell’s (okay, maybe not that bad).

Chinese can be a difficult language to learn, especially given its tonal nature as well as learning Chinese characters. I have to imagine that had Manning and Timberlake claimed that watching a Sony would improve their linguistic abilities with another Indo-European language besides English, the commercial just wouldn’t be as funny.

I have to admit, I thought the commercial was funny. And Timberlake can be quite the comedian. But I have to wonder, are we going to see more Chinese and Chinese families being the comedic twist in commercials, television and movies as China and Chinese language grows in global prominence and popularity? If watching HDTV can improve my Chinese, I should be completely fluent by now!  Personally, my favorite Sony Bravia TV ad was an ad of bouncing balls in San Francisco that was ironically only aired in Western Europe.

h/t: David

The second annual ID Film Festival, dedicated to contemporary digital films that explore and celebrate identity within the diverse Asian/Pacific Islander community, will present an international and local lineup of films this coming week/end, October 1-3 at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.

The festival will premiere several Hong Kong films, in addition to showcasing Asian American films from the “Class of 1997”: Michael Aki and Eric Nakamura’s Sunsets, Rea Tajiri’s Strawberry Fields, Chris Chan Lee’s Yellow, Quentin Lee and Justin Lin’s Shopping For Fangs — all groundbreaking works in Asian American cinema.

But what excites me is the really special round table taking place on closing night (Saturday, October 3, 2009) with Michael Aki, Chris Chan Lee, Quentin Lee, Justin Lin, Eric Nakamura and Rea Tajiri at 9:30PM after the free 8PM screening of Shopping For Fangs. The round table will be moderated by Giant Robot’s Martin Wong. (The round table is sponsored by Giant Robot and You Offend Me You Offend My Family.) And if that weren’t enough, there’s a free afterparty with sake provided by Sho Chiku Bai.

But don’t wait ’til closing night to check things out! There’s a bunch of other cool stuff during the film festival, so take a look at their entire schedule online and find out how to order tickets in advance.

In 1999, Buford Furrow shot and killed Filipino-American Postman Joseph Ileto and went on a rampage at a Jewish Community Center, wounding three children, a 16 year-old camp counselor, and an adult staff member.   Furrow recently expressed remorse over his deeds and renounced his racist former views.   Families of the Jewish Community Center victims and the family of Joseph Ileto expressed skepticism and at best had mixed views on Furrow’s declaration.  Furrow was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1999.