8 Asians

When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the first annual events I attended was the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF). Yes, that is quite a mouthful, so maybe that is why the San Francisco-based Center for Asian American Media – CAAM  (which used to be known by the archaic National Asian American Telecommunications Association) re-branded the traditionally February / March film festival as CAAMFest. CAAM also throws a terrific party to kickoff the film festival usually at the Asian Art Museum. CAAMFest runs from Thursday, March 14th to Sunday, March 24th.

I’m not sure when or what movie I first saw at the film festival, but I clearly remember seeing two fantastic films at the film festival in my early days of attending: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well as Bend It Like Beckham in 2003, where director Gurinder Chadha had actually met her future husband at the film festival something like ten years prior. At the time, I had no idea who David Beckham was nor what it meant to “bend it like Beckham” (which is to kick and  ‘bend’ a soccer ball into the opponent’s goal). That was also my first memory of the lovely and talented actress Keira Knightley.

Another film I’ve seen at the film festival that I recall is the interesting documentary about Yao Ming’s first year in the NBA, Year of the Yao. And last year, I saw the terrific CAAM-supported documentary, Mr. Cao Goes To Washington.

This year’s showcase film kicking off the film festival will be LINSANITY, a documentary about NBA basketball player, Houston Rockets’ Jeremy Lin.

LINSANITY premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, which Jeremy Lin attended during the later part of the Q&A session, where it has garnered a lot of glowing reviews. I can’t wait to see the documentary and a whole lot of other films. If you have any interest in independent films, definitely check out CAAMFest!

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Lack of knowledge about cancer screening is contributing to a rising rate of cancer in Korean Americans, their leading cause of death.  Kyeung Mi Oh, a professor at George Mason University School of Nursing, conducted a study that finds that this cause surpasses any other cause like fatalistic beliefs or lack of health insurance.  Colorectal Cancer Screening Knowledge, Beliefs and Practices of Korean Americans, done with Professor Gary Kreps, chair of Mason’s Department of Communication and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication, tries to avoid some of the methodological mistakes made when studying Asian American communities.

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It’s been a while since I’ve followed The Amazing Race, but recently CBS pemiered the latest edition of the popular reality TV show. The Amazing Race has always done a great job of having Asian Americans as part of the competition, with some notable winners like Victor and Tammy Jih, along with the first all-female winning team co-anchored by Kat Chang, as well as father-and-daughter team Ron & Christina, amongst many others. In this season’s Race, Pamela Chien and Winnie Sung of Los Angeles are best friends competing for the $1 million prize and to be called winners of The Amazing Race. As I’ve blogged before, if I were to participate in one reality TV show, this would be it. The first episode takes the competitors to the stunningly beautiful Bora Bora.


Limiting a citizen’s ability to criticize his own country is limiting his ability to love that country. With many of China’s richest packing their bags (and their bank accounts) and leaving for the United States, there are few people that seem to love China and its citizens more than the artist and activist Ai Wei Wei.

After designing the Bird’s Nest for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he vehemently opposed the Olympics, calling it a propaganda event instead of the people’s Olympics it should have been. When the Sichuan earthquake hit and countless children died in shabby government constructed schools that collapsed on their heads, he set off on a mission to count and record the names of those that had perished, collecting a grand total of 5,385 names of dead children, all killed in the massive earthquake. He did this because the government would not release numbers of those killed.

PBS’s Independent Lens is showcasing Alison Klayman’s documentary of Ai Wei Wei. It’s a must see for anyone who believes in the right every person has to freedom.

Simon_TamBy Simon Tam

A few years ago, I filed a trademark application for my band, The Slants. The US Trademark Office rejected it, claiming it was disparaging towards Asians. I was baffled: I’m Asian. At first, we fought it by collecting testimonies and letters of support from Asian American organizations; having several independent surveys done (they showed the majority of Asian Americans supported us), getting linguistics studies, and so on. Over the years, we have sent over 2,500 pages of evidence.

However, the Trademark Office defended their decision. They used internet sources such as urbandictionary.com, Asian joke websites, and several dictionaries from the early 1940’s.

So, we started digging deeper. Rather than focusing on their accusation of offensive behavior, we started questioning why they accused us to begin with. Afterall, “slant” can mean any number of things and the racial connotation obscure anyway. Why was did they have problems with my application but no the dozens of others who were approved? We got the answer back and it was disturbing. The issue had nothing to do with how we used the name, the decision was made based on my race.

Obviously, I believe that re-appropriation can be a powerful tool for creating social change. Sometimes, things like irony, satire, or humor are more effective in getting at difficult truths or concepts like white privilege, orientalism, and the exoticization of culture.

However, let’s push all the arguments about re-appropriation or intentions aside and focus on the real issue: people should not be denied rights because of their race.

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The last National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) San Francisco event I had attended was the Gateway to Leadership regional conference last Fall. Last week, in celebration of the Lunar New Year, NAAAP-SF – in collaboration with Kollaboration SF, organized a fashion show along with some Asian American musical performances (along with a lion dance) held and sponsored by Macy’s near Union Square.


Click to expand photo.

If you haven’t heard of Kollaboration, Kollaboration is “an annual event and movement produced by young Asian and Pacific Islander (API) professionals and students to promote a strong API presence in entertainment and media.”

The event was well attended, with clearly over 100+ guests with plenty of wine and water to go around, although I could have grabbed more hors d’oeuvres. The event started off with a lion dance, the some few welcoming words, then a performance by Hip Hop violinist Corey Crywolffs, then the fashion show, some closing remarks and a performance by acoustic duo Charito Soriano and FunkCH3N


When a short film says that it is partially inspired by Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me” music video, it may not seem like a good sign, but that should not stop you from watching Fireflies.  This is another advocacy piece from the Jubilee Project, which also did The Last Pick.  I won’t say what they advocating – finding that out is part of what makes Fireflies enjoyable.   More information on how you can help is on the video’s YouTube page.  The music in this video was done by New Heights, who recently appeared at the Verizon Lunar New Year’s celebration in San Francisco.

(h/t:  Rick and Madley)

LAPD handout photo of Elisa LamThe body of missing Canadian tourist, Elisa Lam of Vancouver, British Columbia, was found in the water tank of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Lam had traveled to California by herself on January 27, en route to Santa Cruz, and was last seen by workers at the hotel on January 31.

Although Lam was scheduled to check out of the hotel on February 1, she had disappeared, despite being in daily contact with her family up until this point. By February 6, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had released details about the suspicious disappearance of Lam and on February 7, a press conference was held about the case.

A week later, on February 14, the LAPD released a disturbing surveillance video of the 21 year old University of British Columbia (UBC) student darting in and out of the hotel’s elevators.

Earlier this week, on February 19, guests at the Cecil Hotel complained about low water pressure and a worker checking the hotel’s water tanks and discovered Lam’s body. Guests staying at the hotel had likely been bathing, brushing their teeth and drinking water from a tank in which Lam’s body had been likely decomposing for more than two weeks.

Photo courtesy: LAPD

Houston Rockets’ Jeremy Lin last Tuesday returned to the Oracle Arena as part of Asian Heritage Night, but this time as a Houston Rocket instead of as a Golden State Warrior. And like his debut into the NBA regular season play in November 2010 as part of Asian Heritage Night, Lin had a post-game Q&A for his fans, which last about 10 minutes. Of course, this time around, Lin is a LOT more well known, as a little over a year ago, LINSANITY occurred, as others had noted a few weeks ago:

In the game, the Rockets defeated the Golden State Warriors 116-to-107, with Lin playing a total of 29 minutes, scoring 14 points with 2 rebounds. Here are some highlights.This was Lin’s return to the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California since LINSANITY occurred.


Lin answered questions for almost ten minutes by Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald about how Lin felt about LINSANITY and the onslaught of media and him and his family losing their privacy, elevating his game from his first season to now, how he stays grounded, his favorite NBA player, how he wound up with the Houston Rockets, life in Houston, what he loves about the San Francisco Bay Area, his favorite Asian food, advice to his fellow Taiwanese Americans, what he’d be doing if he weren’t in the NBA, etc.. After the Q&A was over, there were a whole slew of fans who wanted more, but he walked across the court to meet some other group of folks, first briefly chatting with his former Warriors colleague and head office staff.

Overall, I had a terrific time. Beyond the game and Lin’s Q&A session, there were a lot of things going on before the game, during the game in terms of performances, half-time dragon and lion dance, time-out performances and even a marriage proposal on the big screen and certainly everyone who came and stayed to see Jeremy Lin speak during his Q&A was glad to see him back in the San Francisco Bay Area, despite the fact that he no longer plays for the Warriors.

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George Aratani, a survivor of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and later successful businessman and philanthropist who founded Mikasa and Kenwood, passed away Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at the age of 95.

His legacy in philanthropy through The Aratani Foundation has supported many Japanese American organizations, but especially in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. One literally cannot walk a block in Little Tokyo without passing by a space endowed by George and Sakaye Aratani: Japanese American Cultural and Community Center’s Aratani Japan America Theatre; the Japanese American National Museum’s George and Sakaye Central Hall; and the Union Center for the Arts’s Aratani Courtyard.

From The Nisei Week Foundation Facebook page:

The Nisei Week Foundation mourns the passing of George Aratani who passed away peacefully today [Tuesday, February 19, 2013].

Aratani successfully launched post-World War II international trade enterprises. His first was Mikasa, a tableware company which was doing $400 million in annual sales when it was sold in 2000.

Influenced by his late father and motivated by the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, Aratani and his wife Sakaye have donated a sizable amount of their wealth to Japanese American organizations and causes.

For More Information:
Hirahara, Naomi. An American Son: The Story of George Aratani, Founder of Mikasa and Kenwood. Los Angeles, CA: Japanese American National Museum, 2001.

Photo credit: CalPoly Pomona, The George and Sakaye Aratani Japanese Garden

71st Anniversary of Executive Order 9066


ft5q2nb3t5_00012Today, February 19, marks the 71st anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which is responsible for sending approximately 120,000 Japaneses Americans to remote camps throughout the United States — two-thirds of whom were American citizens.

To commemorate this infamous event, I wanted to post the text from the actual executive order for people to read and reflect:

Executive Order No. 9066

The President

Executive Order

Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104);

Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designations of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamations in respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.

I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area hereinabove authorized to be designated, including the use of Federal troops and other Federal Agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.

I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.

This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority heretofore granted under Executive Order No. 8972, dated December 12, 1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with respect to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas hereunder.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The White House,

February 19, 1942.

What’s interesting to me is that the word “Japanese” does not appear anywhere in the executive order — however, everyone reading this would have known that this was meant for Japanese/Japanese Americans living along the West Coast of the United States. Also, reading this order again gives me chills because I could see this order (or rather an order like it)  being issued again in times of war or after a series of national attacks on our soil. That’s why it is important every year on February 19 to remember Executive Order 9066 to prevent it from happening again to anyone.

Image courtesy of Taylor, Sandra C. Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1993 1993. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft5q2nb3t5/

Transcription of Executive Order 9066 is from storymatters.gmu.edu


I’ve watched on-and-off The Travel Channel’s show, The Layover with Anthony Bourdain, after reading a review of the television series in the New York Times when the show first premiered in the Fall of 2011. Recently, I saw my fellow Taiwanese American friends and acquaintances posted the YouTube-hosted episode on Taipei on Facebook (with no commercials) and watched the episode immediately.

The episode made me *so* hungry and made me long for beef noodle soup and Xiao Long Bao. I knew that even before watching the episode, any Western television show on food in Taiwan would have to mention Din Tai Fung, which is profiled starting around minute 35:25. Bourdain is also quite entertaining and I learned a few things about Taiwan and Taipei that I didn’t know. As my friend Roger put it:

“OMG. Great Taiwanese food overview – I’ve eaten most of the things he talks about (but not in those specific places except for Din Tai Fung)… but then I haven’t lived there since I was 8… I saw this while eating dinner and now I’m still hungry. Plus Anthony Bourdain is somehow foul-mouthed and composed at the same time… it’s ridiculously entertaining.”

The premise of the show is that Bourdain flies into and out of a city for 48 hours and tries a lot of different foods in different neighborhoods with locals who help show him around the city. I particularly like it when Bourdain visits cities I’ve been to before or places I want to visit.