8 Asians

One Ticket to the Asian Ghetto, Please

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By Theresa Chiu

A particularly jaded producer once described making an Asian American movie to me as resigning yourself to the Asian ghetto. He cautioned that it was a waste of time and more work than it was worth.

Though I was skeptical of his assertion, I was a little nervous when, after quitting my corporate Hollywood gig to pursue writing full-time, the story that kept popping into my head was Love Arcadia, a tale of an Asian American boy and his bubble tea shop in East LA.

Knowing the challenge of turning this script into a movie, I tried, but I just couldn’t shake the story about a kid that was lost because he didn’t quite belong from my mind. Then I realized it was probably because, once upon a time, I was that kid.

I grew up in the Atlanta suburbs in the 90s. Though the area now boasts one of the U.S.’s fastest growing Asian populations, during those formative years, there weren’t that many of us around, so my childhood was peppered with slanty-eye, ching-chong-erific school rhymes and inquiries regarding my family’s interest in the neighborhood dogs. I was usually able to shrug off the comments, but the feeling of otherness stuck with me and made me question why I was such an oddity in my own hometown.

Turning on the TV only made things worse. I wanted to find someone that looked like me on screen, but the occurrences were rare, and the roles seemed to all fall between dragon lady and kung fu master, leaving much to be desired.

A few years later, I became active in my high school theatre department, emboldened with the mission to increase the presence of Asian Americans in the arts. Then came the auditions for Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

Shakespeare was (and still is) my literary idol. I was excited by the prospect of performing his glorious lines on stage– that is, until I came to a miserable conclusion. There were no Asians in Elizabethan England. Read: there was no room for me.

It wasn’t that the director of the play couldn’t see me in any roles; I couldn’t see myself. I had internalized what I had observed on TV. I had typecast myself. I decided there was no way I would ever get a part, so when audition time came, I couldn’t bring myself to open the door and give it a shot.

Images from media influence us although we might not readily admit it. Visual imprints are stored, and, for better or worse, we act accordingly. Had my bullies or I turned on the TV to find more diverse portrayals of Asian Americans, maybe my early life would have been different. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone.

Love Arcadia is the movie I wish existed when I was young. It’s a love letter to my youth and my chance to make things better, if not right.

Maybe I’m asking for a spot in the Asian ghetto, but I know it won’t exist forever. Chinatown used to be the only place in town to get fried rice, and now there’s a Chinese restaurant around every corner. People can change. The world can change. We can get there. But not without opening the door first. Won’t you join me?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Theresa Chiu is the writer/producer of Love Arcadia, an independent feature film currently in pre-production. A graduate of Duke University, Theresa worked at the Endeavor Talent Agency and CBS Television in Los Angeles before moving to San Francisco, where she currently runs the Educational Media Distribution Department at the Center for Asian American Media. Love Arcadia’s Kickstarter campaign ends at 5 PM PT on 1/1/14, so please visit http://bit.ly/lovearcadiafilm and consider pledging today.

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8$ is a series which occasionally highlights interesting crowdfunding projects. Every day, the 8Asians team is inundated by many worthy pitches. We are unable to highlight every one that comes our way, or even the ones we might individually support. The projects selected for 8$ are not endorsements by 8Asians. (To be considered for 8$, we highly suggest you not harass the writers or the editors of 8Asians.)

8A-2013-12-30-FredHo-PromoWHO: Director Steven De Castro and www.discoverfredho.org

WHAT: Indiegogo project: Jazz, Cancer, and Life: Fred Ho’s Last Year, A Feature Documentary

What would you do if you had only one year to live? Follow award-winning Asian American author and avante garde jazz composer Fred Ho on an unbelievable year as he fights cancer, leads orchestras, holds talks, leads protests, publishes books, and even produces his magnum opus: an elaborate, manga-inspired samurai opera on a New York stage.

WHEN: Deadline to contribute is Tuesday, December 31, 2013 (11:59pm PT).

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WHY:

Fred says that on the day he got his cancer diagnosis, “The old Fred Ho died. The next day, the new Fred Ho was born.” I lost both my mother and my father to cancer, and when I discovered Fred’s story I knew that this movie had to be made.

In this documentary, I follow award-winning Asian American jazz saxophonist and composer Fred Ho on an incredible year as he battles cancer, leads his orchestra, launches books, and mounts his magnum opus: a samurai jazz opera for the New York stage.

In 2013, we shot the movie. In 2014, we will screen the movie.

Your contributions have already allowed this film to be submitted to film festivals all over the world. Now we need your end-of-year contribution to take this film to wrap up post-production, present it to the Asian American Studies Conference in San Francisco, and book it into theaters

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Immigration Station. Click on image to expand (for all images for this post). Click twice for full size.

Back in November, I had a chance to take a tour of Angel Island and the Immigration Station there, located in the San Francisco Bay, reachable by a ferry ride. Back in 2009, 8Asians had blogged about the re-opening of Angel Island’s Immigration Station after a 3 year renovation.

Although I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1999, this was my first time ever to Angel Island, which is too bad – because the views of the surrounding Bay Area are amazing (where you can see the Bay Bridge, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge). I had a chance recently due to a guided tour arranged by an alumni organization I’m involved in.

2013-11-02 13.56.02View from Angel Island – click twice to expand to full-size

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8$ is a series which occasionally highlights interesting crowdfunding projects. Every day, the 8Asians team is inundated by many worthy pitches. We are unable to highlight every one that comes our way, or even the ones we might individually support. The projects selected for 8$ are not endorsements by 8Asians. (To be considered for 8$, we highly suggest you not harass the writers or the editors of 8Asians.)

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WHO: Annie Wang of Hyperspace Dance

WHAT: Kickstarter project: Hyperspace Dance Presents the Film ‘Echo’

Take “Echo”, a piece originally created for the stage, and re-imagine it as a dance film.

From Annie Wang:

My dance “Echo” presents the abstract dream-image of an echo splitting apart. An echo is an expression of being out-of-phase, not in sync, and the dance imagines the phases as they keep falling further and further away from each other until they reach the point where they are independent entities. Creating this dance was a meditation on the nature of connectivity, of influence – where do I speak for myself and where am I irrevocably tied to forces outside of myself?

I want to make this meditative experience available to everyone through the medium of film. It will be my very first dance film and I am so lucky to have a wonderful and experienced director on my team. I can’t wait to see what we find as we work together.

WHEN: Deadline to contribute is Tuesday, December 31, 2013 (5:30pm EST).

WHY:

The money for this project will go towards the dancers, the film director, the costume designer, the music, and the filming location and equipment. The completed work will be from 7-10 minutes long. Once the project is over we will be working on promoting the film, distributing it to festivals and entering it into competitions.

My team and I are so excited about creating a dance film that takes full advantage of both art forms. Please give today and allow us to share it with you!

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One of the favorite stops for pretty affordable afternoon tea in LA is the Chado Tea room. They have multiple tea rooms, but I personally enjoy the one downtown in the Japanese American National Museum the best because it has an outdoor garden.

The afternoon tea for about $18 is a nice, not TOO pricy a way to enjoy a classic tea experience, but getting the sandwiches and soups a la carte is great too. The scones are excellent, especially because they come hot out of the oven and with strawberries and magical whipped cream, but the cakes and cookies not so much.

The best thing about this place is the choice of teas is ENCYCLOPEDIC. I’m not even exaggerating. My recommendation is to look through the tea selection online and pick something before you go because the tea menu is literally a tea encyclopedia.

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8A-2013-12-27-GoldieBloxAd-ScreenshotBack in November, it took a few days after I saw this Internet video being posted by my technical or engineering educated female friends on Facebook before I got around to watching it – and I loved it. The video was produced by GoldieBlox:

“… a start-up toy company that sells games and books to encourage girls to become engineers. In the ad, three girls are bored watching princesses in pink on TV. So they grab a tool kit, goggles and hard hats and set to work building a machine that sends pink teacups and baby dolls flying through the house, using umbrellas, ladders and, of course, GoldieBlox toys. … The ad has become a hot topic of conversation on social media, generating discussion about a much broader issue: the dearth of women in the technology and engineering fields, where just a quarter of technical jobs are held by women. The ad premiered on YouTube and is not scheduled to appear on TV. (GoldieBlox is a finalist, though, for an Intuit contest to pay for a Super Bowl commercial.) The company has relied on the Internet for other parts of its business, too, raising its initial capital on Kickstarter and benefiting from promotions on Upworthy, a site that posts content with a social mission.”

One of the girls is an Asian American. As an uncle with two nieces, I’m excited to see such a “commercial.” However, the web video got pulled down. Apparently, the GoldieBlox song is a parody of The Beastie Boy’s song ‘Girls’ (I had no idea). GoldieBlox had argued that the parody was legal under ‘fair use’ but acquiesced after The Beastie Boys stated their reasoning:

“However, the letter continued, “your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.” It’s worth noting that the forbidding of advertising use was more than just a reversible decision on behalf of the band; it was actually part of the will of Adam Yauch (MCA), who died last year after a long bout with cancer. “In no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes,” the will states.”

Although from a legal standpoint, GoldieBlox probably had a chance defending itself on ‘fair use,’ in the court of public opinion to go against one  of The Beastie Boys’ wishes stated in his will, who had died of cancer, would not have been seen as kindly had that not been stated in his will. That’s too bad that a larger audience, especially girls, won’t be able to see the video, because I think the music video has a great message.

 

Being an Asian in New England

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8A-2013-12-26-MapOfNewEnglandA couple of months ago, I moved from Los Angeles to the northwestern part of Connecticut for my new job. I had never lived in a small town with about 95 percent Caucasians before. Honestly, I had more culture shock here than when I first came to Los Angeles from China.

However, I was mentally prepared to confront some racial and cultural ignorance before I came here. In L.A., a Caucasian friend of mine from Connecticut showed me how even the most educated people can be ignorant. This person has degrees from an Ivy League university and from USC, with a considerable amount of overseas experience and friends of all ethnicities. But he thought all my friends were Chinese and once he even said to my face that Chinese don’t brush teeth. When I tried to explain, he would give me a lecture on how culture dominates individuality and your character, beliefs, and values are subject to your culture. Well, whatever culture he thought I was in, not brushing teeth is definitely not part of it. The worst thing was this person didn’t even know he was so ignorant back then. (Much later on, he apologized.) So a good education doesn’t make anyone any wiser. Worse, it makes some think they know better.

Though I was prepared, it still caught me off guard when someone called me Oriental. I was filming a dancing class, the teacher, who is quite old, couldn’t pronounce my name. So she gave up and told her students, “It’s Oriental.” Then she looked at me, “Liu, right?”

Another incident was when I covered a story about when a local high school dropped out of a football game. I didn’t understand why it was important because I didn’t know football or any kind of sports. I would ask the same question if it dropped out of a basketball game, a volleyball game or a hockey game. Someone, also with an Ivy League degree, burst out laughing, saying “[She didn’t know football] because she is from China.” He was trying to help explain why I didn’t know football, but the reason he gave was just so wrong.

I don’t know football not because of where I am from, but because I am just not interested in football or any kind of sports. I don’t know anything about sports in China either. I can’t name one Chinese sports team. Instead, I can name a bunch of L.A. teams like Lakers and Kings. I don’t play any sports, watch any game or support any team. If I was into football, I would have picked it up when I was at USC. Well, it is not the first time people make assumption based on my “foreignness.”

There are good things, however, about being Asian in New England. A lot of New Englanders are quite reserved about their feelings, so they keep their curiosity and assumptions to themselves. No one here asks me what I think about One Child Policy or if I am good at ping pong, yet, I was bombarded by Midwesterners asking me those questions when I was in Chicago.

Covering in a small town finally allows me to be the journalist that I am. Nobody asks me to do China stories, talk to the Chinese community or asks about my “Asian view.” I can just dive in and report my ass off. I get to cover a lot of local stories, and showcase my multimedia abilities. I’m truly thankful for this opportunity to hone my journalism skills and be the journalist that I want to be. I’m sure it’s going to be a great adventure ahead.

Follow Shako Liu on Twitter @shako_liu.

photo credit: Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL via photopin cc

8A-2013-12-25-MerryChristmasOn behalf of everyone here at 8Asians.com, I’d like to wish you guys a very Merry Christmas, or whatever the heck you guys celebrate.

Oh, and another small footnote: 8Asians.com was humbly launched around Christmas 2006 by its founder Ernie Hsiung, who has been busy publishing his works on Medium as of late. Thanks to Ernie for creating 8Asians and for letting us all be part of the journey.

I would also like to publicly thank all the contributors who have helped out with 8Asians.com, past and present – in particular for our stalwarts John, Jeff, and Tim, as well as our ninja editors Tina and Akrypti. I’d also like to thank Bel and Moye for their continued friendship and support of 8Asians throughout the years.

Finally, I would like to thank you, the 8Asians.com reader, for making the site what it is today. Here’s to another year, whatever the heck it will bring.

PS – If this post sounds familiar, it’s because Ernie wrote it first in 2007.

photo credit: aussiegall via photopin cc

I Hate Disney’s ‘Mulan’

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While I was writing the post on Mortal Kombat Legacy’s possible bad Japanese, it reminded me of way back in my college years when Disney’s Mulan movie first came out. I was of course incredibly excited and thrilled by the prospect of Disney finally doing a Chinese legend based movie. Like many, I grew up on Disney films, so it was nice finally to be “represented”, so to speak, since out of all the Disney princesses, Mulan would be the one I could most easily identify with. She’s of Chinese descent and is a warrior princess. Definitely.

Sad to say, out of all the Disney movies, Mulan ranks pretty low in my book. I still remember clearly the moment I sat down in the movie theater at the age of 20 to watch it for the first time, filled from head to toe with dread about what I was going to see. I kept telling myself “It’s just a Disney movie. Just accept it as a Disney movie.” The problem was, it was a DISNEY MOVIE.

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8A-2013-12-23-KPIX-ChinatownScreenshotIf you’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area, you probably know that the economy is probably the strongest in the U.S. and the economy, at least in the tech sector, is booming. There is no greater example of that than in San Francisco, where IPO’s like Twitter are moving what has been traditionally considered Silicon Valley in the mid-peninsula to the city itself. And according to a recent census report, San Francisco is now more expensive than New York City. And that is obviously affecting Chinatown in San Francisco – the oldest and largest Chinatown in the United States. The local CBS affiliate does a story about how this is affecting Chinatown and its residents. Unfortunately a lot of long-term residents, especially the elderly, are being pushed out.

8$: L.A. Heat: Taste Changing Condiments

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8$ is a series which occasionally highlights interesting crowdfunding projects. Every day, the 8Asians team is inundated by many worthy pitches. We are unable to highlight every one that comes our way, or even the ones we might individually support. The projects selected for 8$ are not endorsements by 8Asians. (To be considered for 8$, we highly suggest you not harass the writers or the editors of 8Asians.)

8A-2013-12-22-LAHeat

WHO: Chinese American Museum

WHAT: Indiegogo project: L.A. Heat: Taste Changing Condiments
L.A. Heat is a exhibition that offers a curated selection of artwork inspired by Sriracha and/or Tapatío from established and emerging L.A. artists. Scheduled for March 13, 2014-July 13, 2014 at the Chinese American Museum

American cuisine can be used as an indicator of the changing demographics and tastes in the United States. LA Heat: Taste-Changing Condiments—Artworks that explore the impact of Sriracha and Tapatio in Los Angeles is a multidisciplinary exhibition, scheduled to open at the Chinese American Museum in March 2014 and run through July 2014. The exhibit will include a curated selection of artwork from established and emerging artists, excerpts of oral histories of artists, food writers, chefs, historians, and community on their experiences with food, and a series of public programs that explore the arts, food culture, foodways, and cultural identity. By exploring the use of culturally specific condiments that have become part of larger mainstream food culture, CAM hopes to increase awareness and broader acceptance of the different cultural influences on the American food palette.

Since the city’s founding, Los Angeles has been uniquely situated on the Pacific Rim becoming an experimental playground and incubator people from diverse cultural backgrounds to create new innovations including the culinary arts. Influenced by factors like globalization and transnational migration, these cultural intersections have inspired Los Angeles food culture and altered the national and international food palette with homegrown inventions such as mochi ice cream, Japanese-inspired California rolls, French dip sandwiches, fortune cookies, cheeseburgers, and the mass-production of tortilla chips.

Sriracha and Tapatio hot sauces are two examples of the recent homegrown all-American condiments that have dramatically impacted American cuisine. The rise in popularity of these condiments signifies an increase in Asian and Latino populations living in the US and especially in Los Angeles after the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965. In 1971, Mexican immigrant Jose-Luis Saavedra, Sr., started Tapatio Hot Sauce, a unique combination of red chili peppers, spices and a hint of garlic, in a warehouse in Maywood, California. David Tran, an immigrant from Vietnam of Chinese ancestry, started making Thai-inspired Sriracha sauce blended from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic in small shop in Los Angeles Chinatown in 1983. In large American cities everywhere, both Sriracha and Tapatio contend to rival Heinz Ketchup and French’s mustard as the all-American condiment for the Y-Generation, for these hot sauces have become interwoven into the American cultural fabric and thus becoming an ubiquitous condiment in American cuisine.

WHEN: Deadline to contribute is Friday, January 03, 2014 (11:59pm PT).

WHY:

“Hot sauce must be hot. If you don’t like it hot, use less.” –David Tran, creator of Sriracha Hot Sauce

Can you imagine pho without Sriracha? Can you imagine tacos without Tapatío? Now can you imagine breathing without air? That’s how we at the museum feel – that it’s impossible to live without these two sauces so we are creating an art exhibition to celebrate Tapatío and the much coveted rooster sauce.

Our upcoming exhibition L.A. Heat: Taste-Changing Condiments examines Los Angeles in a new way by exploring two hot sauces that are produced in Los Angeles. What is the significance that these two quintessential American condiments were developed and made in Los Angeles? What can it tell us about our city and our city’s role in America’s shifting culinary traditions? And what will happen when we assemble 25 Los Angeles based artists together to create work based off of red-hot, mouth burning condiments? Donate now to see what happens!

Your contributions will enable the museum to develop a catalog and exhibit works inspired by Sriracha and/or Tapatío in a variety of mediums from established as well as emerging artists based in Los Angeles.

The exhibit is scheduled to open in March 2014 and will run through July 2014. We are open to the public and our admission is free.

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The Huntington Library is known for its iconic Japanese tea room, but there’s actually no tea served in that tea room–it’s really just for show. However, there are two other ways in which you can enjoy tea at this lovely living museum.

First of all, there’s the Rose Garden Tea Room and Cafe where you can have a Sunday brunch buffet of tea sandwiches, scones, and teas. Their selection of teas here are not that great–there’s only like three. But the buffet items are pretty delicious, and the endless basket of little scones (including bacon flavored) is magical, and they let you take a bag home afterwards. It’s about $30 per person, so not cheap.
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