8 Asians

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CAPE New Writers Fellowship is dedicated to discovering and nurturing Asian American and Pacific Islander voices and talents. Each accepted writer will participate in an intensive 11-session program consisting of seminars, workshops, and writing labs taught by top industry writers, producers, agents and executives to empower them with the tools they need to succeed as a professional writer in film and television. Each writer or writing team receives a cash stipend.

15th Annual CAPE New Writers Fellowship is now officially open for submissions!

Attention writers! Do you have material, but need some guidance on how to successfully pitch your project? CAPE New Writers Fellowship is the perfect program for you.

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The_Search_for_General_TsoI first met former New York Times writer Jennifer 8. Lee I believe at a San Francisco Harvard alumni event with a friend when she was promoting her book, The Fortune Cookie Chroniclesa history of Chinese food in America and had blogged about her hilarious appearance on The Colbert Report. Lee is a producer for the documentary, The Search for General Tso, which will be going into limited theatrical release on January 2nd, 2015 and available through Video On Demand (VOD), though there isn’t any details that I can find regarding the specifics via VOD.

You can catch a synopsis of Lee in her July 2008 TED talk titled The hunt for General Tso.

 

the_interview_movie_posterUnless you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard of the events of the past month or so, alleged North Korean hackers hacked Sony’s computer networks – threatening to do more damage beyond releasing leaked emails and copies of unreleased hack, unless Sony blocked the release of comedy The Interview about an assassination plot of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, to be released on Christmas day. “North Korean” hackers then hinted that there would be terrorist attacks at movie theaters in the U.S. The major theater chains, concerned about violence and any related liability, decided not to release The Interview. Obama chimed in his thoughts at an end-of-the-year press conference, and a few days later Sony capitulated, saying that Sony would make the film available online (via Google Play & YouTube, and other outlets on Dec. 24th, the day before the theatrical release) as well as independent theaters willing to make the film available.

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Holiday Wish: Asian Women’s Home Expansion

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“He hit me a lot. He hit me if the dinner was late. He hit me if I didn’t polish the shoes the right way.”

Kathy, who arrived from India in 2010, left an abusive marriage with nothing but the clothes on her back and clothes and food for her baby.  She found safety at the Asian Women’s Home, a project of Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), a community based organization in Santa Clara County that focuses on Asian American health and well being.  Asian Women’s Home is looking for funds to expand its facilities, as part of the Mercury News Wish Book Program which told Kathy’s story.

The Asian Women’s Home is one of the few (out of nine in the US) shelters that focuses on female Asian and Pacific Islander domestic violence victims.  Staff members speak sixteen Asian and non-Asian languages.  The small four bedroom house in San Jose (the exact location is kept secret for safety reasons) has the capacity for 12 beds, and over the past 20 years, it has sheltered about 2,000 women and children fleeing from abuse.

Through Asian Women’s Home, Kathy has escaped abuse and learned to speak English, and she is currently getting job training.  You can help Kathy and Asian Women’s Home by donating through the Wishbook or donating directly to AACI.

Gifts That Look Like Me

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I know recently there’s been a backlash against the whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon. If you aren’t a parent, then you might not know what I’m talking about. Elf on the Shelf is a book that comes with an elf. The story goes that the elf watches the children during the day and then at night returns to the North Pole to tell Santa if the kids have been naughty or nice. The fun part (and some mommies and daddies with way too much time on their hands have gone crazy with this) is that the parents are supposed to move it every night so that in the morning the kids know he (or she, there are female elfs too) have reported to Santa and returned. (Mine came back last night and got stuck in the ceiling fan.) I’m not going to get into the criticism about the Elf on the shelf, but let me just say that I agree with this Huffington Post writer.

The reason I bring up Elf on a Shelf though is because when my wife was shopping for it, we were saddened to find out that they didn’t come in Asian. They had an African American elf, a Latino elf, and of course a blond hair/blued eye elf. We considered buying the Latino elf, since it was closer to my son’s skin color than the white one, but the book (and I presume the DVD that accompanies the book) was in Spanish.

My son will be fine that our elf, Monkey (part of the fun is that the kids are supposed to pick a name for their elf… my little one named ours “Monkey,” don’t ask), doesn’t look like him—but it got me thinking, what toys out there are available for Asian American kids that kinda look like them? I’m not going to get into the question of whether they are useful/important in the development of a healthy Asian American child’s identity, but it was quite a sad to see how few there actually were.

First, I want to say that ignored all the ones in “traditional dress” like this one:
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In the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live, the show does quite a funny parody of a politically correct television commercial for an “Asian American Doll” – mocking many past mistakes of namely, the makers of Barbie, Mattel, for perpetuating a wide variety of bad stereotypes (including most recently this controversy: Mattel Pulls Sexist Barbie Book “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” Off Amazon).

Asian_American_Doll_SNL_2015_12_20One thing I would like to criticize though is that when a girl asks in the commercial, “Where does Asian American Doll” come from?” Instead of the Mom replying, “She comes from Asia,” I would have much preferred to have the Mom say, “Asian American Doll” was born in America or from Springfield, USA. Though statistically, the Mom is probably right (given the fact due to the last 15+ years of immigration, more than a majority of Asian Americans were born overseas).

Asian_American_I_Can_Be_President_BarbieAnd to be honest – to me, the Asian American Doll does not look all that Asian at all. And why does Asian American Doll has blue eyes? (of course, she could be wearing colored contact lenses, but most likely not). I guess SNL found the closest Asian Barbie that they could? Though doing a quick search on Amazon.com, I was pleasantly surprised to come cross a Barbie – I Can Be President Asian Doll! And if you know your U.S. constitution, you have to be born in the U.S. to become president 🙂

But overall, I thought this was a hilarious parody, poking fun at some of the past wrongs regarding Barbie stereotypes as well as the somewhat over political correctness creeping into something like making an “ethnic” doll.

Others, like Joz, didn’t find it as hilarious. “I didn’t find the sketch offensive, but I also didn’t find it funny,” she was quoted as saying to NBC News/Asian American, “Once it got going, I could see all the jokes and stereotypes before they came. Why so predictable, SNL? I guess it’s too much to ask for SNL to do anything more nuanced.”

What do you think?

EverythingI’ve been putting off writing this review for weeks, but this book is special and you should seriously think about reading it. Celeste Ng’s debut book, Everything I Never Told You is a stirring novel about a family unraveling.

Ng begins her novel in the present day with a family on the brink of finding out that their teenage daughter, Lydia, is dead. The Lee Family: Lydia, her mother, father, and two siblings. Their lives circled around Lydia, their unconscious center of gravity.

The story of this interracial family plays with chronology, ricocheting between moments in each parent’s childhood, Lydia and her sibling’s childhood, the parents’ relationship, the near present, and the realities of life after they all learned that Lydia had drowned.

How had it begun? Like everything: with mothers and fathers. Because of Lydia’s mother and father, because of her mother’s and father’s mothers and fathers…Because more than anything her mother had wanted to stand out; because more than anything, her father had wanted to blend in. Because those things had been impossible.

Ng’s narrative voice is straightforward and honest. There is very little verbal fluff. Complexity is instead added through unpacking the layers of each characters, the unsaid things that frame how each family member thinks of themselves, and in turn, those around them. From the obvious big decisions to the subtle and subconscious, Ng focuses on how each of these people has, in a way, been built from their lives. Tying together a past that heavily influences the present and the entire trajectory of their lives.

There are moments where these kinds of heavily intertwined plot lines that flow across time feel contrived and the characters fitting into a common mold, but in the main, Ng’s presentation of family relations, of generational gaps, parental pressures, and sibling dynamics rings resonant. I certainly don’t believe that this is a book for Asian Americans in a limiting sense, but I know that as an Asian American, certain pieces of this story felt particularly true and not often found in novels. A subtle integration of iconic stories — in this brief sentence, about the paper son system that Chinese immigrants used after being first excluded in 1882 — woven into broader questions about belonging.

He had never felt he belonged here, even though he’d been born on American soil, even though he had never set foot anywhere else. His father had come to California under a false name…

To her sentences capturing the insipidness of treatment of otherness and reactions to how society reacts to you that are not exclusive to any one individual’s or group’s experience:

“What’s wrong with your eyes?” It wasn’t until he heard the horror in the teacher’s voice–“Shirley Byron!”–that he realized he was supposed to be embarrassed; the next time it happened, he had learned his lesson and turned red right away.

In an interview, Ng notes that her own suburban childhood influenced the story line but that it is certainly not autobiographic. She used the feeling of “negotiating between two cultures” into her characters’ actions. These are forces that clearly shape the family’s emotions and decisions, drawing readers in as they grapple with Lydia’s death and what led up to it, each pursuing their own theories and in turn revealing themselves to be complicated, problematic, and also sympathetic.

And if my recommendation is not enough, Everything I Never Told You is featured in the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2014 and Amazon’s Best Books So Far list for 2014.

Check out more from 8Books–8Asians’ almost book club.

I saw this article posted via Facebook on a tech blog called Boy Genius Report and felt compelled to watch the McDonald’s YouTube video, Our food. Your questions. What are McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets made of?

From this Forbes article, McDonald’s is doing this social media effort for the following reasons:

McDonalds_Grant_Imahara“In an effort to convince a skeptical public that McDonald’s sells “real” food, they recently launched “Our Food. Your Questions,” an initiative in which McDonald asks people to submit any and all questions it has about its food. The answers to these questions are then provided online, often supported by videos featuring Grant Imahara (formerly of the show MythBusters) as an unbiased third party seeking to push the truth forward and dispel many of those old myths. … Much like Domino’s did a few years back and JCPenney has done more recently, McDonald’s is realizing people aren’t lovin’ its food like they did in its hey-day. This campaign represents both a big risk and potentially a big return for a business that continues to miss expectations. In late October, McDonald’s reported a loss of market share and its fourth straight quarter of negative same-store sales in its U.S. operations. Analysts are now predicting that 2014 will be the first year of negative global same-store sales since 2002.”

I actually like McDonald’s McNuggets and would eat them even if they are unhealthy … To be honest, I wasn’t too sure who the Asian American host of this video was, and had to Google the name Grant Imahara, and had discovered that he is best known for being a host (or former host) of the popular Mythbusters television program.

In general, I think most Americans, including myself, would not want to eat what we eat if we actually knew how everything was made! 🙂

 

#asians4blacklives and #blacklivesmatter

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Asian Americans joined efforts to shut down the Oakland Police Department today. Rallying around the hashtag #asians4blacklives, the organizers issued this statement:

We stand on the doorstep of the Oakland Police Department today as a group of Asians putting our bodies on the line in response to a national call to shut down institutions that perpetrate the war on Black people.  It is unacceptable that every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the police, security or vigilantes.

As Asians, we recognize the ways in which we’ve been used historically to prop up the anti-Black racism that allows this violence to occur. We are an extremely diverse community. Some of us have been targeted, profiled, and killed by U.S. government institutions.  Many of us came to the U.S. as a result of the devastation and displacement caused by the US military and its “partners” in Asia, only to find a country uses police to devastate and displace black communities.  However, we also recognize the relative privilege that many of us carry as Asians living in the US.

Many of our Asian brothers and sisters around the country have made powerful statements in support of ending the war on Black people and shown up to protests.  We hope that Asian communities will join us in reflecting on and continuing to practice an intentional Black-Asian solidarity, as we work toward the vision offered by organizers in Ferguson:

“We are striving for a world where we deal with harm in our communities through healing, love, and kinship. This means an end to state sponsored violence, including the excessive use of force by law enforcement. We are committed to an America that comes to terms with the trauma of its painful history and finds true reconciliation for it. Mass incarceration and the over criminalization of black and brown people must forever end, leaving in its place a culture that embraces our histories and stories. This means an end to racial bias and white supremacy in all its forms.

Because so many other writers, versed in these histories, these stories, have spoken and written about this topic eloquently and intelligently (usefully compiled by seedingchange), I am choosing not to write a lengthy piece on this at this time, but just to leave you with some links and a space for reflection and discussion. All make for important reading. This matters. To Asian Americans. To Americans.

This is a movement, not just a moment. A time to look critically at our systems and institutions. And a chance to return to some of the questions, solidarities, coalitions, conversations, and problems of the Civil Rights Movement, Asian American Movement, Black Power, and beyond–histories and stories from centuries ago, decades ago, to as close as days ago. These issues are difficult to grapple with on a personal, local, national level, but deserve our attention. The model minority myth grew directly out of racism directed at blacks. That’s a legacy I didn’t know about for a long time battling the stereotype, but it’s one of many pieces that have been part of my own education. For so many reasons, #blacklivesmatter is our issue too.

Whether or not you agree with the actions of the #asians4blacklives group outside of Oakland PD, this zeitgeist we’re in is a call to think further and farther on questions about race and justice and American society.

8A-2014-11-SpiritlessTake 15 minutes to check out this short film dealing with a British-born Chinese teenager struggling with his sexuality.

Says Kenneth Gawne of Dragonreel Films:

We feel Asians are grossly under represented in main stream media, especially in the UK but also in the US.

Sexuality is a very personal and significant issue for many teenagers and something we feel might not be as talked about in the Asian community.

For that reason we hope this film might give some people struggling with these issues something to relate to.

J-Drama Review: Gokusen

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YankumiAfter watching all the Great Teacher Onizuka episodes plus the movies and specials, a friend of mine informed me that there was a girl version of GTO called Gokusen. I was happy to have another series to watch, as I wanted to continue immerse myself in more conversation and contextualized Japanese while I work through the audio Japanese language course. Plus, it’s another “teacher” based drama, so I felt I would enjoy it, too.

Gokusen’s main character is a young lady, nicknamed by her students as Yankumi, who specializes in working with delinquent high school boys. At first, she seems like a naive new teacher who is going to be crucified by a class of the worst and most troublesome students at school, class 3-D, which means they are in their third and last year of high school and are the lowest performing students in school–in other words, lost causes. The teenage boys intimidate her, ignore her authority, and threaten to beat her up, and at the end of the day, they think they’ve scared her into leaving like they have every teacher before her. What the guys don’t know is that this unassuming little woman is actually the daughter and primary heir of a major yakuza clan. Not only is she unfazed by their tough guy acts, which looks like child’s play compared to what she’s dealt with as a yakuza, but she is also a devastatingly effectively fighter. So, she basically deals out tough love for all her students by never giving up on them and beating the living daylights out of anyone who lays a finger on them.
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As a filmmaker and as a blogger here on 8Asians, I get hit up to write about everyone and their mother’s webseries. While I’ve seen a lot of good ones (don’t worry, yours was great!), I mostly see a lot of really bad webseries. That’s why when my friend, Tom Huang, sent me an email about his newest project, Unusual Targets, I didn’t have very high hopes for it. However, because I love Tom’s films and writing (see bio at the end of the article) I gave it a shot.

To my surprise, I enjoyed it. Not just enjoyed it, I REALLY enjoyed it. I loved that he chose to have an Asian American lead in a supernatural hitman series. Rarely do I see the Asian American community a part of supernatural world (minus a few famous examples, like Steven Yeun from Walking Dead). But even more rarely do I see Asian American leads in such projects. And then there’s the pure technical aspect of it: It looks beautiful. It doesn’t look like your typical low-budget webseries that we’re all pretty much accustomed to now.

I sat down with Tom and asked him a few questions about his new project:

1. What’s Unusual Targets about?

Unusual Targets follows the story of Lee Ling, a guy trying to get into the family business that’s been going on for centuries since his father came to America from China. It turns out that business is being a hitman for hires a hitman specializing in supernatural beings, like vampires and werewolves. After his father was killed on the job when Lee was young, Lee is now trying to learn on-the-job.

2. Why did you cast an Asian American as the lead? Is it important for you as a filmmaker to cast Asian Americans in roles in your projects?

I always try to involve Asian Americans and/or a diverse cast in everything I write it’s part of the reason I got into the writing business, since I started realizing there wouldn’t be any good parts for Asian Americans unless Asian Americans started writing the roles themselves. I actually don’t feel comfortable writing something that’s an all-Asian American cast, as I prefer to have a story reflects the most interesting aspects of living in America today, that being a world where people of all different looks and cultures are mashed together to create interesting tales and characters. Sometimes this is harder to force this when I’m a writer-for-hire, and I’m okay with that but when I do my own, personal projects such as Unusual Targets, then I really try to mix it up.

As for the lead character, Lee, I was looking to create someone whose family background involved a culture rich in legends of monsters and magic, and the Chinese culture was just perfect. Really, there are a quite a number of diverse cultures that could work as well, but my own familiarity with Chinese lore made it easier to decide on that for Lee’s background.

3. Is there a connection between supernatural elements and Asian culture?

Oh absolutely Asians across the board are probably one of the most superstitious cultures out there with their beliefs in the power of numbers and all sorts of folklore. The Chinese in particular are full of stories of the supernatural, from the famous Monkey King tales to dragons to the ghosts of ancestors, it’s all great stuff. Sometimes the stories I’ve heard from my parents and relatives are a little strange in their structure and the lessons that’s supposed to come from it, but it’s all interesting and rich in history.

4. Any advice to Asian Americans who want to get into entertainment?

Pretty much just do it. Sure, there are still barriers to getting stories about Asian Americans out there, and casting Asians will always be tough in America, but I don’t know another time that there so many Asian Americans involved in the entertainment industry now, from executives to writers to directors to producers to actors to agents. It’s a tough industry to outright succeed at, but at this point, I think Asian Ams have just a good shot to make it as anyone else. To me, it’s all about putting the work in, really do the things that will make you the best writer or producer or actor or whatever, and your talent should speak for itself. Much of Asian culture is about working hard to succeed, and the same applies here, I believe I can point too many of my friends and peers as examples. But you have to put the work in.

5. How can people see Unusual Targets?

The easiest way is to simply go to www.unusualtargets.com, where you can click to episodes on our YouTube channel, as well as info on the show. We premiere on Tuesday, December 9th, and have an eight-episode season, so be sure to check it out!

If you like it, please do subscribe to our YouTube channel, we’d love to keep you involved!

Who is Tom Huang?
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Tom Huang has written for network television as well as being a multi-award-winning indie filmmaker. His first feature project, “freshmen“, an independent feature which he produced, wrote, and directed, follows the lives of four college freshmen in their first quarter of school. It was a film festival hit, winning the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the Final Draft Original Screenplay Award at the Rhode Island International Film Fest, as well as earning a nomination for best independent feature at the Media Awards.

Afterwards, Tom started his television writing career, his last job writing for the critically lauded ABC sitcom “Sons & Daughters.” He has also written for the sitcoms “Still Standing” on CBS, and “The Mullets” on UPN. Tom¹s latest indie feature film, “Why Am I Doing This?”, has won Best Picture honors at the Houston Comedy Film Festival and the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Best Independent Feature Film at the Chinese American Film Festival, and the Cinequest Film Festival’s Director’s New Vision Award.