8 Asians

The ABC and FOB Divide



When was the first time you became aware of a distinction between Asians born and raised in the States and Asians who are recent immigrants from Asia? Or, per the terminology I learned, when did you first realize you were either an ABC or a FOB?

Where I grew up, there weren’t enough Asians to make distinctions between Asians. We were all in it together, so even when we may have noted differences, we did not have the mindset or vocabulary to separate ourselves into different categories. Then in high school, my parents sent me to a Chinese language summer camp, at which time I first heard the term FOB, or fresh off the boat. Kids– Chinese American kids– were using the term in a derogatory way to refer to the camp counselors who spoke broken English. I later learned that these counselors were graduate students from China and Taiwan.

The kids would taunt the counselors with, “Go back to China!” I remembered thinking, I’ve heard that sputtered at me before, from white kids when my only tie with China was hearsay. It seemed doubly derisive for ABCs who have experienced bigotry firsthand to now be inflicting it upon fellow brethren.

The ABC | FOB divide dates back beyond my generation. My father, who I guess would be one of the FOBs, immigrated to the U.S. for school and recounted to me the bitter distinctions Asians made for themselves between those born here and those immigrating here in their young adulthood. It happened then. It happened when I was in school. And you would think that at some point, one single issue would become so trite that it would be retired from old age, but no. It turns out that it persists to be an issue today.

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The_Association_1968It’s hard to imagine that an Asian American more than 40 years ago performed in  four Billboard top 10 hits, including two #1 songs and one #2, but Larry Ramos of the folk/soft rock group The Association, actually achieved that.  Ramos was a co-lead vocalist on Windy, which topped the charts four 4 weeks.   He was also a co-lead on Never My Love, which was the second most played song on radio in Television in the 20th century.  In this interview with Rafu Shimpo, he talks about his experiences, such as how he always had to carry a ukele with him when traveling in the US South during the 60s.

The Kauai born Ramos started out early in the entertainment business.  At the age of 7, he was cast in the movie Pagan Love Song, although his scenes didn’t make it into the final release. He played the Crown Prince in the touring group of the musical The King and I after auditioning in front of Rogers and Hammerstein.  After spending some time in the group the New Christy Minstrals, he joined The Association.

Why did he have to carry a ukulele when touring in the South?  He explains:

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Where are the Asian Tarot Readers?



People of color, especially Asians, form associations around their race for every topic– blogging, voting, golfing, farming, realtors, lawyers, doctors, chess players, musicians, journalists, kidney donors, Republicans, Democrats, pole dancing, basketball, you name it, there is probably a group of Asians who have formed an association. Yet there are no Asian American tarot associations, no gatherings of Diasporic Asians who are interested in tarot. Why not?

Let’s back-peddle a bit. What is tarot? Tarot is a deck of 78 cards that started off as a game, much like poker, played by the European elite. It later became adopted by various occult and esoteric secret societies in France and England for use in divination. Some still associate the tarot as a fortunetelling tool of the gypsies. In modern applications, the predictive and fortunetelling aspects of tarot have been removed from the cards for uses in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Its popular use, however, is still fortunetelling.

Asians like their fortunetelling, don’t they? So I went searching for Asian tarot readers and tarot enthusiasts.

I spoke with Deedra Wong, a professional tarot reader in California and proprietor of Tarot Perspectives, who estimated that only 30% of her clients were Asian and as for Asian tarot readers, Wong said, “I’m not sure if I have ever met one in my life to be honest!”

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Being gay and Asian means hiding a part of yourself from many in your life, and this is especially true in Asian countries compared with those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the United States or Canada. Times have changed, and it’s probably easier now in the United States than it’s ever been before to be both gay and Asian (the way to be a truly bad Asian). But in countries like China, coming out as gay or lesbian can mean estrangement from your family and friends, along with ridicule, and worse.

A new article in the Atlantic discusses a new twist to what Chinese gay men and lesbian women have been doing for years to side step the scrutiny of a gay lifestyle. It’s never been unusual for gay men to marry a straight woman or lesbian women to marry a straight man, who aren’t aware of their partner’s sexual preference, just to keep up the façade of heterosexuality. With the Internet revolution, Chinese gay men and lesbian women are finding it easier to have an alternative marriage, where both partners know the other’s sexual preference. Gay men now seek out lesbian women in what’s now described as xinghun, or “cooperative marriage”, where both parties are aware of the other’s status, and are marrying purely as a cover to hide existing same-sex relationships.

These xinghun relationships may even result in the required children that are expected in mainstream Chinese society. An explanation from the Atlantic on why xinghun has become so popular in China:

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Screenshot courtesy of Colorlines

Screenshot courtesy of Colorlines

On April 16, 2013, fraternity Lambda Theta Delta (LTD), UC Irvine’s first and largest Asian American interest fraternity, posted a video which showed one of the members appearing in blackface (around the 0:55 mark).

Julianne Hing of Colorlines says, “the video includes four Asian-American men dancing to Justin Timberlake’s Suit and Tie to promote the spring induction of the fraternity’s new recruits. One man in blackface plays the part of Jay-Z. It is the very definition of bad taste. I watched as much of it as I could stomach and cringed during the worst of it.”

A week later, LTD posted an apology on their Facebook page:

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Sriracha Production Heating Up


srirachaJohnny has talked about things that are uniquely Asian American, and one thing that comes to my mind in that category is Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Chili sauce.  Sriracha was created by David Tran as a version of a hot sauce from Si Racha Thailand, and the green topped bottle with a rooster on it has become familiar to Asian Americans and many non Asian Americans.  It has become so popular that there is now a Sriracha flavored potato chip that you can vote on to become a regular Lays potato chip product, and the LA Times reports that Huy Fong Foods is expanding into a new $40 million headquarters and production facility that could triple its output of the sauce.

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Miss Korea 2013: One Dream, One Face


Photo: via Reddit

When I first saw the candidates of Miss Korea 2013, I had no idea they were beauty pageant contestants and just remarked how even I, as an Asian female had trouble telling them apart. The beauty pageant held in Daegu City marketed with the slogan, “One Dream, One Face” had netizens worried judging would be too difficult due to their striking similarities. Clearly many of them had work done and since it IS the norm in Asia to have your face reworked like a Mrs. PotatoHead, so be it.

We all kind of know this already, so I’m unsure if looking at this from an outsiders point of view is just more expository noise on the internet in an attempt to make us feel that our values are better than theirs. I mean, I get it. I ascribe to the, “Love what your mama gave you” battle cry. And some feel having work done denotes a certain shallow, materialistic judgment on that person’s priorities and values.

But as one of our contributors Tina Tsai who alerted 8A to the article said:

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Growing up in Manila in the late 90s and going to international school (long before MP3 file-sharing became the norm), I had an opportunity to hear a wide variety of music most people stateside had never heard of from around the world, a statement that indie music hipster snobs often flaunt to annoy others. Whether it was my Scandinavian friends introducing me to The Shermans and Eggstone, or discovering the Manila underground thanks to news from the now-defunct radio station NU107 and its legion of music lovers who rebelled through rock, it was a great place to grow up for art.

There were many times I would be rocking out late at night to some of the American classics and currents that ruled the airwaves, and songs would catch my attention before completely surprising me to find that they were local Philippine bands. They had a sound that continued that high-energy octane that you could hear in early 90s grunge in some, or that natural progression from the sounds people are going nostalgic over and bringing in the retro fad of the lost time that people who reminisce want to return to, and people who are new are enthralled by. And most of the time, they sang in English, too, a result of being an American possession for many years before independence.

Whenever I want to imagine what music today would sound like instead of that horrible decade where the pop rock of the 2000s was nails on a chalkboard due to high-pitched vocals versus the gruff and rugged laments of the early 90s, I hop on a plane to Manila and check out some of my old haunts and discover new ones. Every time, I am always happy to find new groups and new venues where the spirit of rock and roll’s rebellion lives on with people who go out of love for the music and to support one another, instead of just downloading a song and bragging about what new band increases one’s indie credibility on Twitter or Facebook.

Recently during a jaunt to Manila, I dropped by a location around Katipunan, near the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila campuses. It was there that I found out that the sound I miss that everyone wishes never died out when the 2000s came was still there–in Philippine rock. Amongst the bands I encountered and befriended, one of them gave me a run-down on some of the interesting characteristics of being a rock band in the Philippines. This is from Your Imaginary Friends. It would be a shame to deprive the world of some talented artists because of geography, so check out the album version and jeepney session of their single, “Your Silence is the Villain” embedded in the videos above before hearing some words from AhmaDylan.

1) How long has the band been around?

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If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I *love* Din Tai Fung. I just came across the Los Angeles Times’ article on a new branch of Din Tai Fung that will be opening up soon:

XLB“Popular Taiwanese dumpling chain Din Tai Fung is growing increasingly upscale, with plans to open its fourth U.S. location at swanky Glendale shopping center the Americana at Brand. In September, the eatery will bring its foodie favorite soup dumplings to Brand Boulevard, along with menu items such as pot stickers, noodles and truffle dumplings. Din Tai Fung, which has about 80 locations in Asia, operates two shops in Arcadia and one in Seattle. Owner Frank Yang said the Glendale launch comes as Arcadia becomes “very packed.” … The company is looking to open in more retail centers across the U.S. -– but only at higher-end locations. No strip malls, he said. The Americana stop – featuring a “modern, zen interior” – will be roughly 6,900 square feet and seat 160 people, Yang said. He hopes that diners there will be more diverse. “In Arcadia, 60% of customers are Asian,” he said. “We’re trying to bring our food to the mainstream. Hopefully more Americans will come.””

There are two Din Tai Fung’s in Arcadia, California and one in Bellevue, Washington. I’ve been dying for one to open in the San Francisco Bay Area. From my various sources, I know that the Din Tai Fung owners are extremely picky about opening new branches to ensure quality.

A friend of mine reminded me of a sore topic, where Frank Yang states “60% of his customers are Asian … Hopefully more Americans will come.” I’m sure Yang meant 60% of his customers are of Asian descent and probably a good majority of them in the greater Arcadia area are American citizens by birth or through naturalization. I am sure for my of us who have foreign-born parents, many older Asians refer to themselves as Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, etc… and the general non-Asian population as “American.” This is a self-perpetual foreigner syndrome. Being an American has nothing and should not have anything to do with race (unlike most countries). America is a land of immigrants. We may have our roots and certainly should not forget out heritage, but we are also Americans.


6,297 Chinese Restaurants with David Chan


David Chan hated Chinese food as a kid. He’s third generation Chinese American, and his parents refrained from sending him to Chinese school while cooking “American” food at home to help Chan fit in more into mainstream American culture in a Los Angeles city that barely had half a percent of its population APIA when Chan was a kid in the 50s. He still can’t use chopsticks. But there’s probably no one on the planet that knows Chinese restaurants like Chan does. Featured in the LA Times, this now 64 year old lawyer and accountant holds the record of having eaten at 6,297 Chinese restaurants and counting. The above video is about a restaurant that ranked 6th in Chan’s top ten Chinese restaurant picks, Din Tai Fung. All of the restaurants on his top list are in California, and 7 out of 10 are in the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). Being an Angelino, maybe he’s biased, but hey, if he is, he’s biased in the right direction in my book. I’ve tried most of the places on his list, and yeah, pretty much awesome sauce.

If you would guess the first Asian or Asian American music act to make the Billboard Hot 100, you might think of Jay Sean, Bruno Mars, or the Far East Movement, but the earliest I know about is The Rocky Fellers, whose hit Killer Joe reached 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963.  The Rocky Fellers were made up of four brothers, Tony, Junior, Eddie, and Albert Maligmat, and their father, Doroteo.  I learned about the Rocky Fellers from Kris Aquino while watching a game show on The Filipino Channel (probably the only thing I will ever learn from Kris Aquino).

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Photo Credit: Sim Chi Yin for NPR.

Today I realized that five years ago, my mother-in-law valued me at $10,000.00.

Louisa Lim’s piece on NPR, For Chinese Women, Marriage Depends On Right Bride Price, sheds light on that seemingly arbitrary check I received before my wedding day.

Can’t really fault the Chinese. It’s evolutionary survival in its purest form. Today it isn’t about finding the biggest, strongest man who can hunt lions for you. It’s about finding the richest man who can buy you apartments in Shanghai and Louis Vuitton bags. Lim’s piece provides a great portrayal of a Chinese wedding. The groom and groomsmen are expected to “bribe” their way in to pick up the bride before heading off to the ceremony. Red envelopes flutter between hands before the bride will emerge and allow the groom to escort her to his parents, who will then adorn her forearms with as much gold as they can afford. Too little gold and the groom’s family loses face for being poor. The bride better leave that place with gorilla arms anchored down by the weight of gaudy bling.

I did not partake in any of that and had the most simple of wedding ceremonies at city hall, but a few days before our big day, I received a check from my mother-in-law made out to my family’s name and me for $10,000.00. Personally I thought that was a ridiculously large amount of money to give to someone as a wedding present and refused it. I handed the check to the hubby and said here, do something about that. I don’t want it. That was the end of that. I never thought about it again.

Until today when I read Lim’s piece and it all made sense why I got the check in the first place. I was being bought.

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