I kind of like these Progresso Soup commercials with their childhood nostalgic use of empty soup cans used as play phone toys. In this particular commercial, a Progresso Soup customer ‘calls’ a Progressive Soup chef about how much she likes the soup, loves her sister (but hates her hideous bridesmaid dress).
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“How Much Do You Love Me?” by Paul Mark Tag is the kind of novel I usually hate.
Here’s the Amazon.com synopsis:
It’s December 1941, and the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Politicians fuel anti-Japanese hysteria and campaign to segregate Japanese Americans. During this period of hate and racial frenzy, Keiko and James, a Japanese American and a Caucasian, fall in love and marry. Before long, James goes off to war and Keiko to an internment camp.
Sixty years later, Keiko has a stroke and lies near death, while James suffers from Alzheimer’s. Coincidentally, a chance incident makes their daughter, Kazuko, born in the camps, suspect a family secret. Fighting the clock before her mother’s death, she races to unravel the mystery. What she uncovers represents nothing short of the epitome of human love and self-sacrifice. But beyond Kazuko’s dramatic discovery, only the reader knows that this is only half the story.
When I read that synopsis and saw that it was a love story about a Japanese American girl and a Caucasian guy – I immediately thought “Snow Falling on Cedars.” I unconsciously rolled my eyes and shook my head. Why do all the fictional stories about the Japanese American internment camps involve a love story between a white guy and Japanese American woman?
I figured that I didn’t even have to read the book. I could just bash it based on premise alone.
You may have seen this video released during the holidays where YouTube Prankster Josh Paler Lin gives $100 to a homeless man and follows him to see what he will do with money. The homeless man named “Thomas” goes to a liquor store, but instead of buying of alcohol which Lin and a lot of other people would expect, he gets food which he distributes to other homeless people in a local park. Lin apologizes to Thomas about his stereotyping, and the video goes viral. Is this a truly touching moment, a life lesson about making assumptions, or is it as some point out, a hoax and staged money making scheme? What does this say, if anything, about Asian Americans and YouTube?
It should be mentioned that the sentiments expressed in the video are not at all bad. Homeless people are people, and not just mindless alcoholics or junkies as many assume. Stereotyping is wrong, and the video makes that clear. These sentiments, perhaps including guilt over how people have felt about the homeless, have pushed the views on the video into past 32 million.
That being said, even the noblest of ideas lose power when people sense that they are made under false pretenses. Those saying the video is staged point out logical inconsistencies, like why Thomas would pass up a closer and cheaper market and go to a more expensive and farther away liquor store to buy food. One witness is claiming that he saw Lin drive Thomas to the liquor store and another says that he was in the liquor store prior to Thomas arriving. A man has surfaced saying that he is the brother of “Thomas” says that “Thomas” is really named Kevin and is actually owed an inheritance.
Why would Lin do this?
It figures that playwright David Henry Hwang would be so multitalented. He was reminiscing to a friend about a college punk rock band he played in, and she found the single online. In his words, “The internet is amazing and frightening.”
According to Ryan Richardson of BreakMyFace:
John Vomit & The Leatherscabs was yet another “joke band” who — perhaps by pure accident — created some classic punk tunes. The “band” was formed at Stanford University and led by a regular of the Stanford humor magazine, Chaparral. The man who would come to be called Mr. Vomit felt “punk rock” offered fertile ground for lampooning and an easy outlet for wise cracks. With no more than one practice under their belt, John Vomit & The Leatherscabs’ first and possibly last gig was an opening act for a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on campus. The band lovingly supplied the crowd with tomatoes and bananas before the show and so the audience pelted the unpracticed members as they cranked through the first number.
DHH himself confirms that his punk name in that band was indeed “Maggot Wong” and that in true punk spirit,” he doesn’t even own a copy of the record.
According to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI), President Obama’s guest list for this week’s State of the Union address included 23 people, who had the privilege of sitting alongside First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Among the 23 guests were Kathy Pham and Dr. Pranav Shetty.
Kathy Pham is a computer scientist, and has used technology throughout her career to tackle pressing challenges. From Google to IBM to Harris Healthcare Solutions, she’s designed health care interoperability software, studied disease trends with data analytics, and built data warehouses for hospital. Now, she’s a part of the U.S. Digital Service, where her technology background unites with her passion for public service.
Dr. Pranav Shetty is the Global Emergency Health Coordinator for the International Medical Corps, a critical partner in the American-led fight against Ebola in West Africa. His experience in public health emergencies is invaluable, having responded to crises in Haiti, Libya, South Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, and the Philippines.
A music project called St. Lenox had their album and song “Just Friends” featured on NPR’s Songs We Love last week:
It’s hard to believe that Andy Choi, the gigantic voice behind St. Lenox, was an award-winning teenage violinist. That was back in the mid-’90s, a time the New York songwriter romanticizes to charming effect throughout his debut album, Ten Songs About Memory And Hope.
“Just Friends” is a soaring song that poignantly chronicles all the irreparable differences that added up to a pair of broken hearts. Choi spends the song trying to make sense of what went wrong: “You never could be on time and / I never was much of a lover and / I never could stand to lose an argument at a party.” But Choi isn’t navel-gazing here: He belts out his regrets with uncanny melisma, like John Darnielle channeling Tony Clifton. As odd as it sounds, it’s a genuinely affecting affect.
The comparison to John Darnielle, the creative force behind The Mountain Goats, resulted in a public praise by Darnielle himself— calling St. Lenox “a lyricist of the highest order.”
got the @StLenox album. he is a lyricist of the highest order in my opinion. incredibly moving and honest songs which I recommend!
— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) January 13, 2015
Get ready to cringe.
The New York Post recently set up two random Brooklynites on a blind date in their “This Week’s Couple” segment.
Asian Americans Chris, 30, and Vickie, 27, met up for dinner at Café Serai in the Rubin Museum of Art, then provided post-game commentary for the New York tabloid.
Needless to say, the date was not a match made in heaven. These things rarely are. But this encounter was particularly bad, providing a glimpse into the sad state of affairs for Millennials, Asian Americans, or worse, Millennial Asian Americans on the dating scene.
In her account of their meeting, Vickie doesn’t pull any punches, immediately identifying that vulnerability familiar to so many Asian men: “My first thought when I saw Chris was that he’s not my type. I’m into tall guys, and Chris is about my height.”
Insert dagger, twist.
#OscarsSoWhite that the statue counts as a Person Of Color.
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) January 15, 2015
Because we live in the Internet age, by today, the Oscar nominations are almost old news. But since the Oscars themselves are still weeks away, I want to shout out this poignant and hilarious Twitter hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, which calls out the fact that these are the whitest Oscars in SEVENTEEN YEARS in terms of the major cateogries. Most notably Selma‘s Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo were snubbed for best director and best actor, respectively.
Comedian Hari Kondabolu jumped in on the conversation early on with his ever-biting wit. And people continue to add their own 140 characters to the conversation. Recently, the Academy’s (first black) president Cheryl Boone Isaacs responded to the criticism by saying it only inspired her to push harder for the academy to be inclusive. But there’s a long way to go in the entertainment industry in both movies and television.
Reading through some of the critiques of the hashtag (as frivolous, stupid, un-meritocratic etc.) the one that caught my eye most was that in all the issues facing people of color today, this is perhaps not the “worst” or “most concerning.” And yes, that is true. But when I think about some of the comments coming out of Fresh Off the Boat‘s press panel and Eddie Huang’s comments on Hollywood’s take on his family story, the issues in the entertainment industry reverberate back and reflect bigger concerns in real ways. That’s why we keep harping on this point. Maybe we need new questions or new approaches, but for now, we’ve got hashtags and snark.
It’s January 2015 already and we’re well into the NFL playoffs, but I had just caught this Buffalo Wild Wings’s commercial that apparently has been hosted on YouTube since the beginning of the latest season – August 2014, where two buddies are watching the end of a football game in regulation time.
I know parents knew nothing about and were not fans of any professional sports, so I was happy to see an NFL ad like the NFL’s Ticket Exchange ad, and now, this TV. In general, I find most of Buffalo Wild Wings’s commercials to be pretty entertaining, including ESPN’s SportCenter ones, including this latest one by the awesome Golden State Warrior Steph Curry.
Those who know me know I’m a sci-fi/fantasy geek. When I was younger, I used to only read the classics. I think it was partly because I felt as though I should read those and wanted to look smart when I understood a reference that no one else got. But as I’ve gotten older, I don’t really care about any of that anymore. I pretty much read every zombie and vampire book I can get my hands on. Let’s put it this way, I read the entire Twilight series. Nuff said. (I’m on Team Jacob, if you wanted to know.)
The one part of the sci-fi/fantasy world I could never get into were books about time travelers. The thing is, I had always assumed that I had read many of the classic time traveling books—such as Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. But when I Googled the “Top Time Traveling Books” I found that I had actually read very few of them. (If you’re interested, here is a top ten list put together by the Huffington Post.)
When I thought about it, I realized the biggest reason I have hard time getting into time traveling books is because I could never see myself in them. I mean, let’s be real for a moment. If I—a Japanese American—went to any other period in American history before let’s say… 1985, I would probably not have a very good time. In fact, if I went to the wrong time and in the wrong part of the country, I would probably end up dead.
It occurred to me that time traveling is pretty much only for those who are white, male, and heterosexual. Anyone else—everyone else—would have an incredibly hard time traveling to any other period in our history. This is not to say authors have not acknowledged the challenges. Stephen King’s 11/22/63 has a few passages where the narrator acknowledges the challenges he would have if he were African American. It is to Stephen’s credit that he even recognized and made it a point in the novel. The other book is called Spell or High Water: Magic 2.0 by Scott Meyer. It’s the second book of a series. Basically, it is about computer nerds who figure out a glitch in the system that allows them to travel to the past. Scott writes that women can’t really travel back in time to any period that is really all that great. So instead, they created Atlantis for themselves. (It should be noted that he does have an African American and Asian America in ancient England, but they are not the main characters.) And of course there was Octavia Butler’s Kindred, about an African American woman going back to the South pre-Civil War. But that’s about it.
The lack of diversity in the time traveling world is why I teamed up with New New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky and friend Heidi Durrow to put together an anthology, Time Traveling is Not for Everyone, that explores the other side of time traveling.
And that’s where you come in.
Over the years, there have been many stories about Filipino food becoming the entering the American mainstream. Efren wrote this one in 2007, and I wrote one in 2012 as people like chef and TV host Andrew Zimmern were proclaiming Filipino food as the “next big thing.” In 2015, it still hasn’t taken off in the American mainstream as predicted. In an article that a friend shared with me, Filipino restaurant owner Nicole Ponseca says that one reason is shame.
Reading Yong Chen’s new book Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America is an education. In some ways, it seems more like an encyclopedia or a peak into the brain of a man who has read and retained an almost overwhelming number of books. Chen’s books is filled to the brim with details about the history of Chinese American food. Beginning with a brief history of the culinary realm in China, the books delves into the rise and development of Chinese restaurants, Chinese cookbooks, and the Chinese American population generally. He places credit for the proliferation of Chinese restaurants in the US not in Chinese foods’ innate tastiness, but rather to both Chinese immigrant entrepreneurship and trends within our nation’s development. Sound complicated?
It is, a little bit. Chen’s book is not for someone looking for a nice airplane read about chop suey and egg foo young. Rather, this is a complex addition to the history of Chinese food in the United States. Chen hopes to answer the question: Why did Chinese food become so popular in America?
But in answering it, the book does not confine itself only to the history of Chinese restaurants, and also looks at this question from a national and global perspective — from the emergence of Chinese restaurants just as a developing middle class was looking for cheap options for eating out, to the first cookbooks to emerge in dynastic China. For anyone who wants to understand in depth where Chinese food fits into the large arc of American history, this one is a winner.