8 Asians

By Ken

I am a Sex in the City kind of guy. And not because I’m gay—it’s a known fact that the New York gals were mouthpieces by proxy for the gay male writers. I liked the character relationships, the witty lines, and the hip vibe of the show but really for me, it was the sex.

My favorite and most memorable scene was the masturbation demonstration when Miranda got ‘splattered.’ I laugh just thinking about it. It’s one of those moments for me, like how I still remember Julie on Love Boat with green hair, still crack up thinking about the taxi scene in Foul Play, and still get teary eyed recalling “O Captain, My Captain” in Dead Poet’s Society.

I’ve always been a goody two shoes, and to a certain extent, that image is pretty accurate. I admire that people can be free in their lifestyle choices, but for myself, I’m fairly traditional. I’m a one-man guy, believe in fairy tale-esque romances, and seldom (if at all) have ventured into anything that would be deemed kinky.

That’s not to say that I haven’t wondered about varied methods of coital expression. I had the weirdest puberty, where a constant fantasy was being held captive with Richard Gere while our penises bound together. Compounding my bizarre sexual maturation was that any sort of sexual education came too late–I only discovered what masturbation was by watching National Lampoon’s Animal House. I thought that since chicken had breasts then so did I. From what I learned from Happy Days, necking was when you touched necks together. So I had my Chihuahuas lie on my neck and wrote in my diary that I necked for so and so minutes with my dog.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy Sex and the City. For educational purposes.

That’s also why I loved Quentin Lee’s The People I’ve Slept With starring Karin Anna Cheung and Archie Kao, and written by 8Asians contributor, Koji Steven Sakai. Seeing Caucasians go horizontal seems so standard compared to the vicarious quotient in seeing an Asian woman get funky between the sheets. I loved the film so much that I seized any opportunity I could to help promote the film. I organized and sponsored a reception for the film’s screening at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival with the Pleasure Chest to lend some adult novelties for the guests. The film seemed to have freed everyone’s inhibitions enough that at the reception, the mainly API audience turned quite raunchy. I have the photos to prove it!

Perhaps acting without metaphorical constraints is what really gets my rocks off. Seeing the characters in TPISW and the people at the reception behave in a way that’s beautifully a part of them and non-conforming to the stereotypes of APIs was liberating to me.

So if I ever do hit the male dead zone down under, I’ll have to satisfy myself with that notion. Though truthfully, in my brain there’s such a high perv quotient that should any physiological changes occur, immediate signals will be sent throughout my body acting as antibodies toward any hint of impotence.

Sex and the City 2 opened this weekend nationwide. The People I’ve Slept With plays at the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival and other venues across the country. See the film’s official website for upcoming dates.

Ken Choy is an actor, writer, community organizer, and producer of Breaking the Bow. He is gay, green, and gluten-free.

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We have written about how more Asian-Americans are joining the army, and this California Report audiocast talks in more detail about why: A down economy has more Asian-Americans joining for education benefits. More often than not, Asian-Americans are joining support positions that are not on the front lines, going for positions that will translate well into jobs in civilian life. Otto Lee, Sunnyvale City Councilman, was a logistical officer in Iraq, and The Wife’s nephew was there also serving as a dentist.  The report also says that the visibility of high profile Asian-Americans military personnel like Eric Shinseki, current Veteran Affairs Secretary, and Antonio Taguba, who wrote an Army report on Abu Ghraib abuses, may also be driving increased interest.

I asked my Dad what he was doing on Memorial Day, and he said that he was attending a Memorial Day commemoration for Veterans.   I wasn’t surprised, as he was a 20 year Navy Veteran.  One thing I’d like to do on Memorial Day is see Uncommon Courage:  Breakout at Chosin.  This documentary, debuting on the Smithsonian Channel on this Memorial Day, features Kurt Chew-Een Lee, the first Chinese-American commissioned as a US Marine.   Lee,  in addition to battling prejudice, led 500 Marines through hilly country in a blizzard to enable the breakout of 8,000 surrounded U.S. and U.N. troops.  While he won a Navy Cross for his efforts and saved the 8,000 troops from certain capture or death, the documentary says his greatest accomplishment may have been changing attitudes toward Asian-Americans.

Lee was put in the position of being a Chinese-American fighting against Chinese troops.  In the trailer, Lee acknowledges that soldiers had issues with his ethnicity, but in this Washington Post interview, Lee downplays this.  Lee accomplished his march in 30 degrees below zero weather, at night, and with a broken arm.  “He was ferocious,” says Lt. Joseph R. Owen who served alongside Lee.  “Certainly, I was never afraid,” Lee says. “Perhaps the Chinese are all fatalists. I never expected to survive the war. So I was adamant that my death be honorable, be spectacular.”

Lee enlisted to counter the stereotype of the “meek, obsequious, bland Asian.”  His one regret was telling his mother that he enlisted only on the day before he was to leave.  “She did not say anything when I told her. Not a single word. But I could tell by her face she was totally crushed.”

This documentary sounds fascinating, but I won’t be able to see this on Memorial Day as my cable company doesn’t carry the Smithsonian Channel.  If you do see it, let us know what you think.

By Amanda

On the similar topic of the relevance of “Asian-American,” there’s an interesting article at Diverse Education discussing the value of ethnic-specific courses versus pan-Asian American courses. With the increasing presence of students of Asian descent, universities have added more ethnic-specific courses to their curriculum, such as “Japanese American Personality” and “Cambodian American Culture and Community.” Asian students have responded enthusiastically, and are eager to explore their own roots and identity, but educators also say that there’s value in learning about the pan-Asian American experience. Dr. Gary Okihiro, a professor at Columbia University, says:

I certainly understand that individual students want and need to locate themselves… But sometimes their interests are limited to their perceived sense of self when, in fact, they already belong to multiple constituencies and have multiple identities. Our responsibility as teachers is to get them to see that.

Oftentimes in places like the Bay Area which have significant Asian-American populations, students tend to segregate themselves into ethnic subgroups: Chinese-American students only hanging other Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans only hanging out with other Korean-Americans, for example. However, by doing so, they also fail to see that there are common struggles and goals that all Asian ethnic groups experience. History professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dr. Chia Youyee Vang, shares this anecdote:

Most students in Vang’s “Hmong Americans” class don’t know how badly marginalized their forebears were as refugees, despite many of them aiding the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

“Many students ask, ‘Was this just a Hmong thing?’” Vang says. “That’s when I get into the Chinese Exclusion Act or the Japanese internment camps. Certainly, some issues are specific to an ethnicity, but there is a long legacy of discrimination against Asians in this country.”

So to answer Jeff’s question of whether the term “Asian-American” is still relevant: I think it is. Just as not all people of color are the same, certainly not all Asian-Americans are the same; and yet, all of us still need proper representation in the government, the media, and the definition of whatever it means to be “American.” Especially now with the Texas State Board of Education’s recent approval of a revised social studies curriculum that does not teach civil rights, Asian-Americans need to remember that our collective voices have not always been heard.

ABOUT AMANDA: Amanda Zhang was born in China and has spent most of her life in Boston, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington. She’s into traveling, pop culture, creative pursuits, social activism, and blogging. She currently attends Wellesley College and is in the Class of 2013.

I’m relatively obsessed with height. I’ve always dreamed of not just being an awesome basketball player, but also looking like I belong comfortably in the paint*. I even tried to play in 8th and 9th grade. I had the same coach both years, who I loved, but hated when I felt like he was constantly yelling at me and gesturing confusingly from the bench while I felt like a short, scrawny chicken running around with my head cut off. Either way, I clearly didn’t have much instinct for it, and the coach even yelled once, “THIS ISN’T VOLLEYBALL, GET THE BALL!!!” when I smacked it out of someone else’s hands. I’m still kind of traumatized by it. Though I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time, I now wished I could have seen at least one Asian American on either the boys or girls basketball teams.

So, of course, I’m in awe after coming across the story of Sim and Tanveer Bhullar, two Indian brothers who moved to a school “nearby” to play basketball. From the way they are coming along, the pair will picked up at the college level. By marital default (my husband bleeds black and gold – need I say more?) I have to hope that at least one of them (but definitely, both, especially since they want to play together) goes to Pitt, where they will be bigger than the famed Primanti Brothers sandwich. And with their growing athleticism, if basketball doesn’t work out, maybe they can try for the Pittsburgh Pirates, where the mascot is currently their best player. Though I’m not the biggest Pennsy fan, I love that they’re here in the same state, and would potentially make Pittsburgh that much more interesting.

Hopefully, this will make Jeremy Lin not feel so lonely as one of the few APAs in the sport and others aware that tall Asian Americans do exist, as Jeff wrote about in his experiences with his sons’ basketball team. Maybe someday I’ll have kids who will be inspired by these great trailblazers and be tall enough to play some legitimate ball (and not dump their milk at breakfast like I did and now regret), so I can live vicariously through them.

*I have to admit I had to verify some basketball lingo and sports statistics with my husband. He’s not so thrilled about my Pirates assessment, though he knows it’s very true.

With the release of Sex & The City 2 and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time this weekend, I am compelled to voice out my concerns over their portrayals of Middle Easterners or in the case of Prince of Persia, the lack of Middle Easterners playing Middle Eastern roles. But I am not here to talk about the issues of these two movies as blogger Jehanzeb Dar covers it with his excellent article on the Prince Of Persia movie, as well as the UK Telegraph’s article on the Sex & The City 2 controversy. It goes without saying that I refuse to pay $12 for either of these films, instances where my activist self takes priority over my film buff self (but if you do watch these films, tell me what you think and we will discuss on the comments below.)

Instead, I’m here to talk about two excellent films that I saw in the past two weeks that are testaments to the spirit that if Hollywood can’t portray us Asians accurately, then we must do it ourselves: Eyad Zahra’s feature film The Taqwacores and Parvez Sharma’s documentary A Jihad for Love.

Eyad Zahra’s The Taqwacores was one of the central pieces for the 2010 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and a film I’ve been anticipating for a long time as I was a huge fan of the 2007 documentary. The movie is an adaptation of Michael Muhammad Knight’s 2003 seminal novel of the same name; being one of the Online Reporters for the festival, I had the fortune of seeing this, as well as getting a chance to interview the director and several of the main cast members for this fantastic film.

But first, what is  the Taqwacore?

It is a punk Islam movement which has spread throughout the West Coast and has inspired many young Muslims to challenge their ideas of faith and ideology. The film explores the question of what it means to be Muslim, not only to the Muslim communities in America and worldwide, but to non-Muslims who mostly rely on the media to inform them what Islam is all about. At the heart of it all, the film explores what it means to be human and the courage it takes to express all that is ugly and undesirable within us. As this film releases in more cities, please be sure to check it out as it is a movie that should not be missed.

Yesterday, I was able to open my dusty Netflix sleeve and watch Parvez Sharma’s A Jihad for Love, a documentary  about the gay, lesbian, and transgender Muslims across the world. The film interviews several people like Muhsin Hendricks about their hardships and resolve to be proud of who they are. The idea of being homosexual and a Muslim together has been a difficult journey for all of the interviewees and it is something that all major religions struggle with in this day and age. While the debate over whether homosexuality is a choice or not can go on for eternity, the documentary paints a very clear light that in the end, these people that society puts an almost circus light on are just people like you and me who dream big dreams, seek to find love and happiness, and need to go to the bathroom every once in a while.

These are such examples of film that I would encourage you all to watch but if you are compelled to watch either Sex & the City 2 or Prince of Persia this weekend, I encourage you to keep a critical mind: even with summer flicks, it is our duty as human beings to be aware of what we are watching, just as much as we should be aware of what we are eating. When people tell me to loosen up or not to take things so seriously, it is their way of saying that we should all just not give a damn about anything. While we must appreciate the value of having fun and cutting loose, we are in a time where our actions and voices count more than ever — whether it’s over Arizona’s SB 1070, the BP oil spill or summer flicks with crass depictions of minorities, now is the perfect time to be heard.

My husband came back from a conference in Nashville — the Music City of the South — where he picked up a couple of CDs by Grace Kelly, a young Korean American musician. Although she is in college attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, she is only seventeen (she took her GED and started college when she was 16), and she has five albums out. That’s pretty freaking awesome. I love jazz, and I love seeing a young APA woman kicking ass at it.

As Asian American Heritage month draws to a close, I discovered a great article about the recent history of Asian Americans. It’s a history lesson provided by Jenn Fang on some of the recent discriminatory laws and events that have helped form the current landscape and views around Asians in America.

If you didn’t know it was legal to discriminate against Asians as recently as the late 1960s, you should catch up on these 10 Facts You May Not Know About Asian-American History. While the article covers many of the important reminders of how far we’ve come, it also leaves out one fact I like to recount to remind us how recently our freedoms and rights have come to Asians in America.

I’ve written elsewhere on 8Asians about how as late as 1968, it was legal to write in to CC&R’s, provisions to prevent Asians from buying homes in California and how the CC&R’s on my own home state that I’m not allowed to live in my house unless I’m a servant of the “Caucasian” owner.

Thanks Jenn for this great article and a great reminder of Asian American history.

(Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives)

Flowing City Coaster

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Taiwanese designer Liu Chenhsu has transformed the city of Taipei, Taiwan into this Flowing City Coaster ($12), where a drop of water can turn into a flood.

Condensation from the cup can slowly flood the city especially during hot summer seasons. the water will first fill up the river and slowly work its way into the narrower streets and alleys. enjoy the view from above as it also reminds us of the importance of water resource.

Our internal e-mail lists have us discussing all kinds of stuff: Asian American identity, representation in the media, the experiences of activism in an academia setting and its progression as we transition to the working, adult world. And sometimes, we talk about Bruce Reyes-Chow’s article of 10 Books to read for Asian Pacific American History Month from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jeff: Ten books for APA History Month. Sad to say, I haven’t read any of them.

Joz: You haven’t read any of them? We’re taking your Asian card away. 😛 Just kidding. I’ve read about half of them — some of them are a little newer which means I haven’t gotten around to them yet. They should have included Lac Su’s book, I Love Yous Are For White People.

Mihee: Midnight’s Children is phenomenal!

Koji: What? Other than Secret Identities (hehehe… especially the Meet Joe Story), this list is BS… hmmm… They forgot: No No Boy, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camp by Michi Weglyn (which basically proved that US’ claim that the incarceration of Japanese Americans was based on military necessity was totally and utter BS), Farewell To Manzanar, and more.

Moye: I’m surprised that No No Boy didn’t make that list either, especially since he mentions he was an AA studies major in college. But he does say this was his personal list for fun reading, not necessarily the go-to list. I’ve only read some of his picks but I’m just glad he didn’t put Amy Tan on there. And The Namesake is just solidly good writing. 🙂

Efren: Interesting choices. I’ve been totally out of the loop in terms of Asian Am lit (I used to teach it years ago!) so the only two that I’ve heard about in the list are Bulosan’s America Is In The Heart and InvAsian.

Although America Is In The Heart has been classified as an autobiography, most Filipino American studies folks consider it a novel since it’s agreed among most that the experiences written in the book are a conglomerate of experiences from his fellow [email protected] I remember reading a few bits from InvAsian and it is amazing. I also remember grumbling from Indian American lit crits that the Namesake is more pandering to white audiences and not really indicative of their experience too.

I just read the table of contents for Asian American Studies Now and part of me is feeling a little nostalgic since I’ve met about half the people mentioned in the reader — and that I’ve left all of that behind (I was totally being groomed by some of the people in the reader to become a prof in Asian Am) — and the geek in me is totally wanting to buy it and read it.

So, what say you — as APA Month winds down, what are some great books that aren’t on this list?

(Flickr photo credit: austinevan)

Spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai informed me the other day that HBO’s mini-documentary East of Main Street: Asians Aloud is available until the end of May on HBO On-Demand ( On-Demand>Movies or Documentaries>Asian Heritage>Asians Aloud ). Check out the trailer or for a limited time, watch it online.

The producers and directors tell fourteen stories with respect to exploring diverse aspects of the Asian Pacific Islander American diaspora. From religion to politics, from cultural identity to ethnic identity, the documentary explores the perspectives and lives of not only Asians who left their lives half a world away to come to the US, but also those who have always called America home.

Tokyo Railway City Map

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If you’ve ever been to Tokyo and have taken a ride on their subway systems, you’ve spent at least fifteen minutes in pure horror as you’ve stared at a subway map that you couldn’t make any sense of. Now you can cherish that memory forever with your own Tokyo Railway City Map ($14.50)! Your friends can be all, “That’s a sweet map of the galaxy!” And then you’d be all, “nope. Tokyo.”