8 Asians

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Tilda

Into The Badlands, Season 1, Episode 3: “White Stork Spreads Wings”
Original airdate November 29, 2015.

Synopsis

After the poppy drug baron Quinn launches a full out attack on the Widow. He succeeds in dethroning the Widow and taking over her oil-rich territory but does not succeed in killing her, hindered only by pain from the tumor in his brain. The Widow goes into hiding. In the meantime, Quinn’s son Ryder is recovering from his wounds from being attacked by the nomads, and the Veil is brought in by Quinn’s second wife, Jade, to save Ryder. Successfully doing so only pulls Veil further into Quinn’s crosshairs, as he now looks to her to heal the illness in his head.

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TAP-SF Presents: Careers in Taiwan Panel

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So I’m a bit behind on this blog post – back in July of this year, a friend of mine asked me to videotape her for a panel she was speaking at for the San Francisco chapter of Taiwanese American Professionals (TAP-SF) on “Careers in Taiwan.” I was more than happy to since I wanted to learn more for my own sake.

What surprised me was the value that being fluent in English in working in Taiwan. Personally, with the number of Taiwanese and Chinese students who have studied in the U.S. and return to Asia, I thought that the job market would very tough for Taiwanese and Chinese Americans in Taiwan. However, since Taiwan is an export oriented country and the U.S. is a major market, knowing English and knowledge of American culture are valuable assets. The difficulty of finding a job would be more finding a job you liked or was a great fit and that paid well.

Additionally, I thought that Tony Huang, Venture Partner at WI Harper Group, had some interesting insights as to the Taiwanese government’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship in Taiwan, given the stagnant wages and economy in Taiwan due to the economic pressures of being dependent on China as well as having a small domestic country. The government of Taiwan is apparently the largest investor in 500 Startups, helped 500 Startups open a Taipei office, and has opened a Silicon Valley startup incubator for Taiwanese startups to grow their presence in the U.S. :

“Operated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center provides financial, management and manufacturing assistance to the fledgling firms. It also pairs them with accelerators such as CoinX, Founders Space, Plug and Play Tech Center and Wearable World Labs, as well as venture capitalists like H&Q Asia Pacific, SVT Angels and WI Harper Group.

“TIEC represents the next step in the government’s international entrepreneurship development scheme,” MOST Minister Shyu Jyuo-min said. “The facility is a one-stop shop when it comes to breaking into the high-tech region in California, and also offers selected startups grants of up to US$20,000 in living expenses.”

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According to Shyu, the center follows recently established Taiwan Rapid Innovation Prototyping League for Entrepreneurs and is to be complemented by a US$300 million Taiwan Silicon Valley Fund channeling public-private sector resources into potential-laden projects.”

For personal reasons, I’m likely to stay in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s always nice to keep one’s options open to new opportunities in Taiwan and beyond.

 

I’m a big fan of NPR and Terry Gross and her Fresh Air program. Back in early November, I caught this 44:13 minute interview with Indian American comic Aziz Ansari and Taiwanese American co-creator and co-writer Alan Yang on their Asian American experience and their new recently released Netflix series, Master of None, which he co-created and co-writes with Alan Yang, as a show that has a nuanced approach to ethnicity and race.

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I had never heard of Yang, and I was never a fan of Parks and Recreation, but when I was listening to the interview, I could not help but relate – especially to Yang, all the things they were discussing, an example including:

Yang: There is a psychic gulf that exists between myself and my grandparents because they don’t really speak English and I don’t speak Chinese and that’s my own personal shame, because I did not learn ever. I only saw my paternal grandma a few times in my life, and that’s really crazy. All these white people visit their grandparents all the time, and I think there’s a bit in the show about Aziz talking to his grandparents — it’s the same thing with mine. If I’m talking on the phone with my grandma, she doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese, so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to say.”

I only knew a little Mandarin, and my grandparents only knew Taiwanese or Japanese – and I had only met my grandparents a few times in my life – when I had visited Taiwan or when my grandparents had visited the United States.

When you get a chance, I highly recommend you listening to this awesome interview. You can also download the MP3 here (60.8 MB).

Since listening to the interview, I’ve since binged watched ‘Master of None’ in a few settings and overall, really enjoyed the show overall. The show is definitely not an “Asian American” show in the sense that it is dealing with the “Asian American” issues, but more of Dev, the main character played by Ansari, still trying to figure out life in his thirties, from his personal to professional life. The fact that Dev is Indian is mostly just a part of his identity, and not all encompassing to the development of the show.

ALLEGIANCE_For_WEBSITEThe story of Japanese American internment comes to Broadway in this new emotional musical about the Kimura family, starring Lea Salonga, George Takei, and Telly Leung. The tale unfolds at Heart Mountain in Wyoming, following a family ripped from their home by war and a community confronting injustice, facing doubts about their loyalty and patriotism. After premiering at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, Allegiance opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre November 8.

The Short Version

Do I think it’s worth seeing? Yes. Allegiance tells an important story both in terms of American history and in creating sympathetic characters who make conflicting and conflicted choices. It has flaws, both historical and otherwise (more on that later). And I don’t see it being the next big thing to sweep Broadway off its feet (I’m thinking Hamilton here) and personally I’m not about to go rushing out to buy the soundtrack.

BUT, it is gripping and emotionally compelling (I’m in good company in confessing to tears by the end) and I am glad to have seen it, to be able to talk to other people about it. Not to mention, it’s a major moment for Asian Americans on Broadway, audiences are incredibly enthusiastic, Lea Salonga is amazing, and recent events readily prove this history’s continuing importance.

The Long Version, in which there are SPOILERS, pictures, musings on historical content, and Asian Americans in musical theater…

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The Widow

Into The Badlands, Season 1, Episode 2: “Fist Like A Bullet”
Original airdate November 22, 2015.

Synopsis

An attempt on the life of The Widow (Emily Beeckman) reveals struggles for power between the Barons. After escaping from Baron Quinn’s (Marton Csokas) fortress, the mysterious M.K. (Aramis Knight) finds himself in The Widow’s territory. He meets Tilda (Ally Ioannides), one of The Widow’s top warriors, and they become friends. The Widow suspects M.K. could be the one with mysterious abilities the she’d been seeking, so she orders Tilda to attack and draw blood from M.K. However, Tilda only pretends to attack M.K., and The Widow gives him to a nomad group she has been working with.

Meanwhile, Sunny (Daniel Wu) finds out his Baron Quinn is dying, and Quinn orders him to slaughter his personal doctor, who also happens to be the adoptive parents of Sunny’s pregnant lover Veil (Madeleine Mantock). Sunny refuses, and Quinn carries out the killings himself, and this tragedy convinces Sunny to finally decide to try to leave the Badlands with Veil. In a showdown between Sunny and some some nomad bandits who have stolen some of Quinn’s opium, M.K. saves Sunny by killing the nomad leader. Sunny decides to take M.K. as his apprentice to train him how to fight.


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Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 8: “Thanksgiving Culture Clash”
Original airdate November 20, 2015.

KEN JEONG, SUZY NAKAMURASymptoms: Molly’s tattoo of a Japanese kanji character upsets both parents, but where Allison is upset about the tattoo itself, Ken is bothered that it’s specifically a Japanese tattoo, launching a disagreement about Ken’s Korean-ness. Fearing that his kids aren’t in touch with their Korean heritage, Ken is determined to establish new Thanksgiving traditions, without Allison’s input, in order to express his cultural awareness. In the subplot, Julie invites other “Thanksgiving orphans,” including Damona, Clark, and Pat, to her place for a holiday party.

Diagnosis: When Ken accuses Allison of “Japanifying” their children and when Allison very calmly responds with, “You’re a lapsed Korean,” the show’s dialogue and acting reach levels of sharpness, cleverness, and humor that Dr. Ken hasn’t yet seen this season. Allison’s line is especially cutting, and it shows how language on a sitcom can be funny and deadly without being mean. Suzy Nakamura delivers it with the confidence of a ninja with a blade, sliding it home without being loud about it, because she knows exactly where it’s going. The studio audience laughs, but for once I would have agreed with a collective gasp or an “Ooooooooh.” The thoughtfulness of this scene all by itself makes this the best episode so far.

JONATHAN SLAVIN, TISHA CAMPBELL MARTIN, KATE SIMSESPrognosis: In the next scene, Ken explains to Clark how his father taught him about his culture and “how not to control my temper!” I love this line; I love that it plays on a stereotype that Korean Americans joke about all the time. Near the end of the episode, Ken and his father have a heart-to-heart where a funny joke about alcohol could really have been a home run, but the writers passed on this opportunity, much to my sadness. Still, although some of the mechanics of this episode (such as the weird interactions at the dinner table) don’t work very well, the addressing of an issue that mixed-Asian families in this country are keenly aware of, right alongside other issues of family, parenting, and rebellious teens bodes well for the remaining two-thirds of the season.

Other sneaky-brilliant lines include “You not true Korean until you hit bucket of golf ball with cigarette in mouth” (Ken’s father), “You teach the kids Japanese stuff with a rigid efficiency that i don’t know where you get” (Ken to Allison), and “Hey, you know how to cook bul go gi?” “I don’t even know what that is” (Ken and Molly). Okay, that last one’s not sneaky or especially brilliant, but it’s cute.

Rx: More of this please. The issue of Korean-ness vs. Japanese-ness doesn’t go away with one episode, and there’s still more terrific material in there about Allison’s being a third-gen Asian American and Ken’s being second-gen, and about younger generations in successful families inheriting privilege that their parents worked for, something Molly exhibits in nearly every episode. I’m not prescribing an issue of the week, necessarily, but great comedy makes you laugh until you cry, as Sid Caesar said. Here’s to continued real laughter that at least approaches greatness.

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In this week’s Post Show and Tell, Joz Wang interviews Krista Marie Yu and Suzy Nakamura about the Thanksgiving episode, right on the Dr. Ken set.


8A-2015-11-ManveerKomer-GMAWhile Asian American convenience store workers are parodied in portrayals like Apu in The Simpsons, Manveer Komer displayed tremendous bravery and in rescuing a kidnapped doctor in Philadelphia.  On his late night shift, Komer noticed odd behavior from a woman who kidnapper Nathaniel Rodriguez said was his girlfriend.   Komer physically put himself between her and the kidnapper and told her that he would help her.

The doctor had earlier been threatened with a weapon that Rodriquez claimed that he possessed.  He then forced her withdraw money from various ATMs.  After the woman was rescued by Komer, Rodriguez drove off in her car.  He was later tracked down because he had turned on her cell phone, which was used to track him.

The trope about Asian store owners and workers ignores the fact that working as a late night convenience store worker a dangerous and thankless job that gets special mention in police guides.  I think was he particularly brave because unlike Mayura Dissanayake, he didn’t seemed like someone trained in combat.

 

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Claremont McKenna College

“My daughter goes to some school called Claremont McKennia…”

My parents often chuckle as they reminisce about how embarrassing it was for them to tell people where I went to college, how uncomfortable our Asian family and friends felt when they wanted to praise me but had never heard of my college. In fact, my parents had refused to let me go there at first because they had never heard of it. It didn’t matter when I showed them rankings that placed CMC up at the top of many lists, and it wasn’t until one of their own peers, who happened to be a professor at Pomona College, told them “Your daughter wants to go to Claremont McKenna? That’s a really good school!” that they let me go.

When I started school at CMC, it didn’t take long for my parents to become full on advocates of not just CMC but the Claremont Colleges as a whole. They saw the sort of education and experience I was getting, and they loved it. They started to become Claremont “activists” in the Asian and Asian American communities, telling people how great the Claremonts are and why all of their children should strive to go there. In fact, my mom went around high-fiving people when my brother was accepted into Harvey Mudd College, and they about chewed their nails off as they waited for him to decide between UC Berkeley and Harvey Mudd College and breathed a sigh of relief when he ultimately picked HMC.

I loved my time at CMC so much, I’m obnoxious about it. People around me are literally tired and downright annoyed of my always talking about how awesome it was to go to school there, how much personal attention I got from professors, how much I learned, blah blah blah. So of course, when CMC started to hit national news with accusations of institutional racism, people who had to suffer through my stories about how awesome my college was were quick to share the news with me.

When I started to read all the articles on what happened and saw that although the accusations of institutional racism and marginalization of minorities were broad, many key and active people on all sides of the controversy had surnames like Varughese, Huang, Minami, and Tsai. Asian Americans were the CMC administration being attacked, they were the student activists accusing the school of institutional racism, they were the student activists chastising those activists of inappropriate behavior, they were student government, concerned parents, etc. etc. The amount of Asian Americans involved in this controversy sure upturns any stereotypes that Asians don’t like to rock the boat. These CMC community members of Asian descent were practically playing tug-of-war with the boat.

It’s also important to note that the student movement actually appears to be a 5-College movement, not just for CMC. If you’re not familiar with the Claremont Colleges, they’re basically five undergraduate liberal arts schools plus a separate graduate school that have been built right next to each other and work together as a community to share resources. If you’re a student at one school, you can seamlessly take classes at any of the other schools, including the graduate school.

CMC Student Body Letter


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Nov 15, 2015; Melbourne, Australia; Ben Nguyen (red gloves) reacts as he competes against Ryan Benoit (blue gloves) during UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 15, 2015; Melbourne, Australia; Ben Nguyen (red gloves) reacts as he competes against Ryan Benoit (blue gloves) during UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

While the Holly Holm – Ronda Rousey fight was the focus of most people watching UFC 193 in Melbourne, Asian American Ben “10” Nguyen’s win over Ryan Benoit in the prelims caught my eye.  Announcer Joe Rogan called Nguyen’s performance “perfect.”  That victory was reached through a long and global path that includes love and a tattoed bully!  Ben Nguyen, born in South Dakota to Vietnamese immigrant parents, met an Australian girl when he was training in Thailand.  He followed her to Australia and continued his MMA career there.  A year after the actual fight, the above video with Julian “Julz the Jackal” Rabaud went viral, and the publicity helped Nguyen secure a UFC contract.

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Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 8: “Huangsgiving”
Original airdate November 17, 2015.

fotb_S2E8 (1)Microsynopsis: Jessica’s mother announces that Thanksgiving dinner will be at the Huangs’ house this year, over the protestations of Jessica’s sister Connie. Louis and Jessica feel pressured to outdo Thanksgivings past with their special Huangsgiving, but Jessica believes Connie’s supposed marriage problems with Steve are a staged effort to steal the attention. Susan Park, C.S. Lee, and Rex Lee return as Connie, Steve, and Jessica’s college boyfriend Oscar.

Good: Jessica and Connie are an interesting combination, and the subtitles gag is as cute as it was in their first episode together. It’s also kind of cute to see the grandmas hanging out together. Evan and Emery are in charge of the table decorations and are about as adorable as you expect by now.

fotb_S2E8 (3)Bad: This episode is all over the place and very little of it is very interesting. Oscar’s a huge distraction, Eddie and his cousin are good for two jokes (one about changing musical tastes and one about sexy women on the Internet) but mostly just take up space, and I’m a big fan of Honey, but she and her husband show up for dinner just to serve the plot, and it’s boring. The main conflict, Jessica’s and Louis’s efforts to salvage a doomed feast, is just kind of a yawn.

FOB moment: Grandma hears the live game hens and brandishes a knife in anticipation of slaughtering them.

Soundtrack flashback: “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest (1992), the part where Busta Rhymes sings, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Probably the highlight of this episode for me.

Final grade, this episode: It’s like the writers don’t expect anyone to watch the Thanksgiving episode and don’t want us to miss anything good, because if you skipped this one, you certainly didn’t. It doesn’t suck, but it’s boring, which is almost as bad. C minus.

Michael K. Lee performs in Allegiance with Lea Salonga

Michael K. Lee performs in Allegiance with Lea Salonga

As a reader of 8Asians, you’re probably aware of the Broadway musical Allegiance, currently running at the Longacre Theatre in New York City. Featuring the talent of George Takei, Lea Salonga and Telly Leung, Allegiance opened on November 8th to positive critical acclaim. A show about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the musical is already making waves with original songs such as “Gaman,” “What Makes A Man” and Salonga’s uplifting and inspirational performance of “Higher.”

One part of Allegiance that captures an authentically American spirit of rebelliousness is the song “Paradise,” an energetic ensemble performance led by Michael K. Lee as the resolute draft resister Frankie Suzuki. A boisterous big band buster seething with saucy snark and swing, “Paradise” expresses the cynical sentiments of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee as they protested the government’s efforts to enlist them while their families remained incarcerated.

Thanks to The Fairy Princess, we had the chance to chat with Michael about his role in Allegiance:

I know the show has changed considerably since San Diego, with a few changes since previews began on October 6th. Can you share with us some of the changes?

The show has evolved a great deal since San Diego– You know, the show has evolved a great deal since first preview! Haha… all done with the express purpose of streamlining the story. On Broadway alone, we’ve added a new opening number, “Wishes on the Wind,” a new community/baseball scene, a new victory swing, and a new finale, “Still a Chance.” Seriously. And I’m not letting the cat out of the bag here, because I think anyone who was able to see our first shows and have been lucky enough to see it after opening have been privy to these changes. And they’re all so great.

Since the San Diego production, I think all of the characters have really been given dimension. Kei (Salonga) is stronger, Sammy (Telly Leung) more resolute with his convictions. My character Frankie has also been given more form, focus, and determination. Also, in San Diego– I didn’t sing my proposal to Kei!

Your character, Frankie Suzuki, was a rather rebellious character compared with Sammy. Knowing what you know about the incarceration, which side do you think you would have taken (Sammy, Frankie, maybe even Mike Masaoka)?

You want me to fight as an American? Then treat me as an American.

It’s a tough question. I was a social psychology major at Stanford, and one of the things I learned is that social circumstance dictates social behavior. If I were a young man in 1940s, wrongly imprisoned for my ethnicity, I think I would have done everything in my power to prove people wrong. I know when I was in high school, I did everything possible to fit in and be just like everyone else. My family was the only Asian family where I grew up in upstate New York. When the stakes are that high, I think the exuberance/naïveté of youth would have propelled me to fight and join the 442nd Regiment. But after graduating from college, studying Asian American history, knowing about the civil rights era now– in a post-Vietnam War era– I think I would have done what Frankie did: You want me to fight as an American? Then treat me as an American.

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Daniel Wu - Into the Badlands (2) - Photo Credit AMC

Into The Badlands, Season 1, Episode 1: “The Fort”
Original airdate November 15, 2015.

Synopsis

The most powerful warrior of the Badlands is Sunny, a Clipper fighter for the strongest Baron in the lands, Quinn. Sunny finds that a shipment of his Baron’s servant Cogs has been attacked, so he investigates and finds out that a band of Nomads had been hired by a competing Baron to capture a mysterious boy named M.K. Easily defeating the nomads, Sunny retrieves M.K., who is unwillingly inducted into the Baron Quinn’s Clipper army. Battle weary, Sunny finds out that his lover is with his child, a crime punishable by death. M.K. reveals to Sunny that he is in search of his mother and also that he is from a land beyond the Badlands, as evidenced by a mysterious pendant with the image of a city on it. Also, M.K. appears to have some kind of special fighting ability that activates when he is wounded and bleeding. Sunny helps M.K. escape from Baron Quinn’s fort.

The Good

There’s martial arts action in it. At least that’s good for me and anyone else who is into martial arts. Word of warning, though, it’s rather brutal martial arts action, though, which is kind of old school, but it takes that old school to another level. For example, instead of breaking a back, people are being folded in half. You have to expect that kind of brutality in the sort of post-apocalyptic feudal environment the story is set in. It’s definitely not for kids.

The martial arts is pretty legit and very throw-back to a lot of kung fu movies I grew up watching. There was a moment when Sunny (Wu) did a spinning dragon tail whip kick and I was all like “Aww yeah” because I’d been practicing that kick myself recently.

There was also a fight scene in rain. I love fight scenes in rain. Like in Wong Fei Hong and The Matrix. Heck, I even put one in my own martial arts novel. It’s classic kung fu movie.
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