8 Asians

LisaSeeHey readers! Just to let y’all know, Lisa See’s On Gold Mountain is on sale until June 14 for just $1.99 as a Kindle eBook. Best known for her novels, Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, China Dolls, among others, On Gold Mountain recounts See’s own family story, as she worked to unearth the life of her great-grandfather Fong See, his family, and travels between China and America — written in her characteristic engaging style.

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8A-2015-06-NYT-icon-modern-love-superJumboI’ve been digging the short “Modern Love” videos from the New York Times Style section.

This, called “Breaching the Seawall,” really resonated with me.

When Laurel Fantauzzo met a young woman and her bicycle in Manila, her relationship to the city was transformed.

So I should have blogged about this Viagra commercial when it first came out this past April, but there wasn’t a higher quality version or official versions of the commercial on their website. Now I see this ad running more and more so I’m sticking with this one. Apparently Kelly Hu is the third actress in this series of women pitching Viagra. On the Viagra site, the first two women are white – so it’ll be interesting to see if Viagra continues these series of ads, if African American and Hispanic women will be used.

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My first memory of coming across model and now actress Kelly Hu was right around after graduating from college in the early 90s and coming across an early Asian American lifestyle magazine called Transpacific:

“Transpacific, which is published every other month in Malibu, Calif., is believed to be the longest running. Originally called Asiam, it has been out for seven years; it differs from A. in that it includes articles on life styles and business trends in Asia, while A.’s focus is entirely American.”

On kind of a big tangent here in italics, Jeff Yang (yes, father of “Fresh Off The Boat’s” Hudson Yang) who was A. Magazine’s editor in chief and founder. And it must have been destiny, because the first time I met Jeff Yang, it was in 1995 at Harvard at an Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association (ITASA) conference. Yang was on a panel discussion on “non-traditional” careers for Taiwanese Americans (i.e. not becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.), which included being a publisher for A. Magazine (the other panelist I recall, was talking about entrepreneurship). At that conference, I also recall Kristie Wang, then Program Director Center for Taiwan International Relations, give the speech, “How I Became a Taiwanese-American and why It Matters”which really made an impact on me. Showing you how small Taiwanese American world is, 20+ years later, I’d meet her (like Jeff Yang), in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Getting back to Kelly Hu and the Viagra commercial. From what I recall, Hu appeared a few times in some fashion photo shoots for that magazine – and those photo shoots were pretty hot.

When I first saw Hu in the Viagra commercial, I was like, ‘Is this who I think it is?’ I quickly Googled to see if that was Hu, and I was pleased to discover that I was right! In doing a quick background check, I was shocked to discover that Hu is now 47 years old. My biggest impressions of her from an acting standpoint were her roles in The Scorpion King as Cassandra and X2: X-Men United as Lady Deathstrike.

Based on Hu’s tweets (@KellyHu), she’s clearly happy to see herself in the Viagra commercial:

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Hopefully Hu is getting paid a lot of residuals for the commercial.

In the past, I’ve also blogged about Hu’s political activism in regards to getting out the Asian American vote for elections, but not a lot of people know about her interest in Asian American civic engagement and support for Obama as well as they know Hu as an actress.

In another example of “connections” – as soon as I saw the Viagra commercial, I emailed the YouTube link to a friend and former work colleague of mine in LA – since she and her husband are friends with Hu, though my friend said she hasn’t seen Hu in years.

640px-Emma_Stone_by_Gage_SkidmoreBy now, you probably heard about the controversy over actress Emma Stone playing a quarter Chinese quarter Islander half White character named Allison Ng and the whitewashing of Hawaii in the movie Aloha.  But what would the movie looking like with a real quarter Chinese quarter Islander half White person playing the role?  Thanks to some cutting and pasting, this actual quarter Chinese quarter Islander half White person shows us how!

We have talked about how heavily Asian San Francisco was white washed in the show Ant Farm, and about how this was done in another movie set in Hawaii, The DescendantsAnterios Kokkinos actually lets us visualize if Allison Ng was played by a person that with same ethnicity of the role.  Check it out!

(photo credit:  Gage Skidmore by CC BY-SA 3.0)

Traveling Japan: Ramen Alley

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If you look up “ramen alley”, you’ll find that there are such alleys all over Japan. If you happen to be in Tokyo, one of such alleys is in the Tokyo Station itself. It has some ramen shops that features signature ramen from all around Japan. When we got there, we counted about 10 different ones.

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Despite the selection of delicious ramen, there are three reasons I had a bit of an underwhelming experience at this particular alley. Maybe my tales of ramen woe will help others have a more pleasant experience ramen tasting. Nevertheless, I think I would have better enjoyed my experience if I had time to try all the different shops. Also, it’s not like my ramen experience was bad. Don’t get me wrong, the ramen I had was good, but I was looking for a particular ramen taste.

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Caitlyn Jenner and the Power of Privilege

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8A-2015-06-02-caitlyn-jenner-bruce-jenner-july-2015-vfObserve the coming out of Caitlyn Jenner and you get a good study of the power of privilege. I don’t want to minimize the courage and bravery Jenner exhibits to tell her story and to live her life the way she wants. However, Caitlyn’s experience of coming out is tremendously influenced by the privilege of her wealth and her race. Caitlyn lives in one of the most progressive communities in the world. She has money that enables her to access the best doctors, therapists, and surgeons in the world. In general, she will never have to fear for her physical life merely because of her gender identity. It is very clear that she has put in a lot of effort to conform to a very stereotypical cisgender female physical presence and that investment is paying off for her.

Would we all be so accepting of her if she wasn’t so obviously beautiful and conforming to our expectations of what a female should look like? It is well established in the trans community that the more you conform to binary heteronormative expressions of gender the easier your transition will be.

I love that Jenner is telling her story so openly. I love that she is allowing her transition to be used as a gateway to start conversations, to educate people, and to address the ignorance of this world (and feed some of our social addiction to Kardashian-esque gossip.) She is an amazing woman. I just hope that people realize that her experience is so atypical of the myriad other transpeople who barely have the resources to pay for hormones.

Transgender individuals experience one of the highest rates of workplace discrimination. One study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 26% of trans people report losing a job due to bias, 50% were harassed on the job, 20% were evicted or denied housing, and 78% of trans students describe being harassed or assaulted. Only 19 states include gender identity or perceived gender identity in their state’s civil rights laws. Transgender people who come out report nearly double the rate of unemployment than the general population. Without work, you don’t have medical insurance and without medical insurance you can’t pay for the care that you so desperately need.

Trans Women of Color have an even higher rate of discrimination and risk of physical violence than the trans community at large. Seven trans women of color were violently assaulted and killed during the first three months of 2015. If Caitlyn Jenner’s story inspires you to learn more about the transgender community I hope you take the time to learn about the socioeconomic challenges within the community.

Cup Noodles Museum

Yokohama is a sort of an oceanside suburb neighborhood of the Tokyo area. I remember the first time I ever went there was because a friend of my mom’s wanted to take us to some restaurant out there, and I remember the area generally being nice and relaxing but not particularly remarkable or exciting to visit in general. For anyone in the know (which I was not until my friend dragged me here), though, Yokohama has a jewel of a travel experience in its Cup Noodles Museum, especially for anyone who loves instant ramen.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in to the museum, aside from the gift shop that I saved for last, was a very Steve Jobs Apple Store minimalist modern design. That and a giant cup noodle you can take pictures with.

I HAVE THE POWER!!!! #cupnoodles #nissin #ramen #cupnoodlesmuseum #instantramen #cupnoodle

A photo posted by Carlomus Prime (@carlomusprime) on

Not only can you see a room with wall-to-wall displays of every cup ramen package ever made and a museum that tells the story of Momofuku Ando’s Edisonian trial-and-error process to create the perfect instant noodles after living through the hunger of post-World War II Japan, you can make your own ramen noodles at the Chicken Ramen Factory, package your own personalized cup noodle bowl at the My CUPDNOODLES Factory, AND feast upon international noodles galore at the Noodles Bazaar. This museum is a one-of-a-kind experience that makes Yokohama a must for anyone visiting Japan.
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