Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 18: “Week in Review”
Original airdate March 29, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Eddie and Evan come home from school with lice, messing up the carefully planned week Jessica and Louis have outlined. Louis starts out as Mr. Full Partner, but when things get lousier, he leaves Jessica to shoulder the burden alone. The house must be deloused, which keeps Eddie home from school, forcing him to miss the faculty vs. students basketball game, with pizza and homework on the line.
Good: Emery’s hair toss in slow-mo after he says, “Wait; how come I don’t have lice? I mean, how do you not want to be up in this?” is funny. I like the Jessica-Honey scenes, and the scene with all three boys on the front lawn.
Bad: All the grown-ups in Eddie’s school are idiots. This continues to baffle me.
FOB moment: “We didn’t come to this country so our son could get lice!”
Soundtrack flashback: A terrific 72 seconds of “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” by Outkast (1994; with N-words edited out). “I Got 5 on It” by Luniz (1995, curiously including the lyrics “Grab your 40 let’s get keyed,” “Messing with that Indo weed,” and “Til the joint be burning my hand”).
Final grade, this episode: It’s a nice, pleasant episode without much character development. Not much to find fault with, but not especially memorable. B.
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Alexander Chee’s long-awaited second novel, The Queen of the Night, is luscious and captivating and please read it. Perhaps I am biased, and I will tell you why in a minute, but this is the rare book I considered not finishing before publishing this review (fear not traditionalists, I did read the whole thing). Chee’s writing is lyrical and beautiful and poetic, without feeling obtuse. It alone makes this a worthwhile read. The central character and narrator, who has named herself Lilliet Berne, is ever compelling and as the layers of her character and life story unveiled, increasingly so.
Basic story. Set in the nineteenth century France, the novel follows Lilliet, an opera singer with a rare voice made for singing the most devastating roles. When she is offered the chance to premiere a role — every opera singer’s path to immortality — she discovers that it is based on hidden parts of her past, long kept secret. She takes readers on a journey through her transformations. Orphan, courtesan, mute, servant, lover, rival… Circling Lilliet is a cast of historical characters including Napoleon II and Verdi and intricate details delicately laid before us by Chee. At its center, love and loss.
I cannot understate how enthralling Chee’s narrative is, as you almost melt into his words and this story, so compellingly crafted and executed. I knew in the middle that this was a book worth reading, even if the ending disappointed, it wouldn’t matter. So I almost wrote this review then. Honestly, I’m not sure how different it would have been. I’m equally enamored having taken the whirlwind journey towards the end.
This is a video I believe every Asian American–heck, every American–should see. In it, the Honorable Ron Dellums from Oakland gave one of the most stirring speeches about the effects of the taking of Japanese Americans had on people outside of the Japanese American community. No matter how times I watch it, I tear up when I hear him describing his crying out when his best friend was taken away.
During this time of fear, hatred, and violence toward the Muslim, Arab, and Sikh American communities, it is important that we keep the unconstitutional incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II–including my family–in the forefront of our minds and not let it happen to anyone in our country ever again.
Follow me at @ksakai1.
“Making gravity his friend, Nam Seok Byun (also known as “Rocky”) has learned to balance a range of items, large and small, right on top of each other! This man from South Korea has been practicing for 9 years, understanding physics to determine the center of gravity of objects in order to make them balance perfectly.”
This commercial was uploaded back on October 15th, 2014, but I had only seen it recently. You can see his incredible balancing videos on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/balanceace/videos
By Dr. Dawn Lee Tu
On Monday, March 21st, the field of Asian American Studies suffered a tremendous loss. Don Nakanishi, Professor Emeritus at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, passed away at the age of 66. Nakanishi was a beloved, respected and pioneering scholar in the field and spent over four decades combined teaching Asian American Studies, providing national leadership in developing and advancing the field of Asian American Studies and Ethnic Relations Scholarship, and serving as the Center Director.
A prolific writer, and influential scholar and teacher, Nakanishi’s faculty profile describes his body of work that includes over 100 articles, books, and reports on Asian Pacific American political and education research. The profile indicates, “He was the first to demonstrate that Asian Americans, despite their high group levels of education and income that are usually associated with active political participation, had very low levels of voter registration and voting.”
Nakanishi’s record of service includes being a former president of the Association of Asian American Studies, a co-founder and publisher of Amerasia Journal that has been publishing Asian American Studies scholarship since 1971, and a co-founder of AAPI Nexus: Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy, Practice, and Community Research. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Board of Directors that is credited for the issuing a national apology and issuing reparations for the 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Nakanishi served on numerous boards of directors including Poverty and Race Research Action Council, the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, and the Asian American Justice Center.
Nakanishi mentored countless undergraduate and graduate students, and as word spread about his passing, many took to social media to share their sadness for the passing of their mentor and colleague. Dr. Cheryl Matias, Assistant Professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado at Denver, reflected, “Don was a kind of mentor who said few words but felt fully embraced.” Dr. Oiyan Poon, Assistant Professor in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago, shared how he “masterfully mentored with a fierce heart for social justice and bridge building.”
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 17: “Doing it Right”
Original airdate March 22, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Jessica gets into an argument with the mother of Evan’s best friend, resulting in Evan’s being disinvited. With supreme effort, she forces herself to apologize, but Evan’s invitation is not reinstated, and Jessica learns that Evan is the real problem. Louis’s obsession of the week is the upcoming North Orlando Chili Cook-Off, for which he enlists Eddie as his apprentice. When Eddie gets frustrated by Louis’s unwillingness to consider his suggestions, he enters the cook-off on his own.
Good: Jessica flying off the handle is funny, but Jessica humbling herself as she apologizes is hilarious. This is a strong Jessica episode, and Evan gets a rare shot at central plot. The subplot is surprisingly cute, too. There’s something about Eddie’s tweener status that suits Hudson Yang well: his undisguised, sincere admiration for his father is sweet, and it gives the show a credibility that lots of family shows struggle to earn. Oh, and the episode’s teaser is stilly, stupid, and pretty funny. And oh yeah: this young actor who plays Trent is really growing on me. He’s not a bad actor.
Bad: Marvin’s downfall at the chili cook-off is lazy writing.
FOB moment: Jessica is displeased with Evan’s A+ on a test until she realizes it’s really an A++.
Soundtrack flashback: “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” by Whitney Houston (1995). “Race Against Time” by Public Enemy (1994) (heck yeah).
Final grade, this episode: It’s funny, and both plots are really sweet. B+.
By Dawn Lee Tu
Please see part 1 of my interview with Daniel Henney, of CBS’s Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, in which Henney discusses his connection with the character he plays, and shares his thoughts on opportunities for Asian American actors.
Now that you’ve had a chance to do both, do you prefer TV or film projects better? Why?
I like both, to be honest with you. When I have time, I like film but the problem is that (film) generally takes you away from your family and home for two to three months at a time. It’s hard. One of things I’ve liked about working on (CMBB) is that you get to shoot in Los Angeles. I get to sleep in my own bed every night, spend time with my friends, take my dog for a walk, and sometimes she gets to come to the set with me, which is great. When I’m on a movie, I’m sort of off the grid for a while which is tough sometimes. God forbid something happens to your family and it’s hard to get home. Sometimes it’s hard to communicate because it’s different time zones. Movies are fun and sometimes there is a romantic element to film, but TV is not a bad gig.
I’ve noticed you’ve been involved in small fashion projects such as your sunglasses line and your tote bag. Are those passion projects of yours? Will you be doing more of those kinds of projects?
I definitely hope so. It’s been something we’ve been playing around with, mostly in Asia. We’re trying to get some traction in China as well as Korea but it’s a delicate market over there. But once it picks up, once you get something that’s great, it generally does quite well. Living in Korea for years and years, I’ve had a lot of ideas come to my mind, (such as) help improve the Asian male fashion sense with denim or footwear. So as my career progresses hopefully I’ll be able to create a bigger platform, have more reach, and do more things.
Many of your fans are eagerly waiting for you to appear in more leading roles. Are you still interested in landing a leading role or are you more looking for interesting and challenging roles?
It’s more fun to do interesting, challenging. I don’t get a lot of those because I’m seen as more as a leading guy, especially in Asia. So even here in the States it’s been more of that lately, it’s been more of a leading guy kind of thing. I do gravitate towards trying things. I just had a role come in to me, I don’t know if I’m going to do it. It’s playing some sort of robot in a post-apocalyptic world. How cool would that be? I’m trying stuff like that out. So hopefully I get to do some of that stuff in the future, like I’m not complaining where I’m at, I’m very happy where I’m at right now.
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By Leeland Lee
The New York Times recently published a collection of photographs by Laura Morton depicting the “entrepreneurs, geniuses, idealists” who have flooded Silicon Valley in search of vast riches.
In image after image, we see millennial techies in situ, both at work and at play. But only some of these techies are drinking beer and smoking stogies and, well, enjoying life. Those would be the white techies. The Asian techies, most of them, just look utterly miserable.
Entitled “The Silicon Valley Hustle,” the photo montage is an interesting study of contrasts. The white techies, mostly young men, are dressed in plaid or light-colored shirts. They strike animated poses, they point, they laugh, they are the cynosure of attention.
Meanwhile, there’s a photo of their Asian counterparts, an undifferentiated mass competing in a recent hackathon. These techies stare intensely at their laptops and wear boring T-shirts. They’re surrounded by human detritus and penned in like farm animals. These little techies won’t be allowed to go home tonight.
Moving back to white person world, we see a young techie coding from the airy rooftop of his Sunset apartment. We see techies chasing after venture capital tail at an industry mixer. And of course, what would this photo collection be without an image of white techies posing in—what else?—the backyard of a fraternity.
Want to see something really depressing? Scroll down a little farther and you’ll see an Asian techie asleep at her computer. Her mouth is agape, she is burnt out from hours of non-stop coding. Do white techies sleep as well? Why yes they do, as evidenced by a photo of a young man resting comfortably on fake grass.
Apparently when white techies sleep, they even do so in a way that’s vaguely photogenic.
Looking through these photos, you might wonder: Certainly, Asian techies must have some fun—sometimes? After all, remember, Asians are also human! And if you look hard enough, finally you see her: A lone Asian woman at a dinner party. She is staring up at her white techie co-worker, who just made a hilariously bombastic remark.
And so there you have it, an insider’s view of how Silicon Valley really operates. As I scrolled through these photos, I couldn’t help but think about our Asian parents, and how they groomed us into becoming academic superstars. Have we forgotten that rote memorization and perfect SAT scores can only get you so far? Have we failed to grasp the value of exposing ourselves and our youngsters to varied and unpredictable social situations to foster valuable communication skills down the road?
As these photos remind us, even in Silicon Valley some of the most crucial moments in life occur serendipitously at its ragged edges, far from the classroom, cubicle or computer.
Photo credit: Original photos by Laura Morton; compiled as a montage by 8Asians from screenshots for this piece
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leeland Lee has written previously for 8Asians.com about two Asian Americans set up on a blind date
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 19: “Ken’s an Expert Witness”
Original airdate March 18, 2016.
Symptoms: When Ken is asked to testify in court as an expert witness, a grueling cross-examination leaves his confidence shaken and threatens his effectiveness as a diagnostician. At home, Ken and Allison refuse to buy Molly a very expensive gown for the spring formal, so Dave volunteers to sew one just like it. When he struggles with the task, Allison is touched by the gesture, so she works all night to make one for Dave to give Molly. And Juan Julio, Welltopia’s valet, invites Julie and Damona to see him perform a lip-sync concert in which he dresses as Prince singing a Beach Boys song. Julie senses sparks between her and Juan Julio.
Diagnosis: I’ve been wanting to write about this all season, but haven’t found a good place to put it, so I’ll do it now. Krista Marie Yu, who plays Molly, is a thoughtful actress who generally responds really well to the flow of dialogue (keep an eye on her when other characters are conversing and you’ll see what I mean), but where she really stands out is in the way she moves. Most of the time, it’s a very chipmunk-like motion from one posture to the next. She’ll be still one moment, and in the next, she’s in a different position almost too quickly for you to have noticed the transition. It’s a good choice for the character, who’s clearly inherited her father’s quickness of wit and sharpness of tongue. But when Molly asks her parents to buy her the gown, she wriggles into a spot on the couch between them in a way that asserts herself as the center of the conversation as well as the center of the frame. It’s a fluid, graceful, endearing movement that hightlights what’s been her greatest skill all season: a complete awareness of the space her body occupies and an understanding of how its movement is as critical to communicating her character as her delivery of lines.
I saw Kohl’s Oscar themed commercials during this year’s Oscars. One of the commercials had an Asian American Mom & daughter:
“On Sunday night, we got to see the other three ads that accompany that one, featuring other acceptance speeches in less sparkly contexts. … Lastly, a girl in a fort made of bedsheets invites her mother in to play “the duchess” for tea, triggering Penelope Cruz’s Best Supporting Actress speech for Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2009.”
To be honest, when I saw the ad (as well as the other Kohl ads), I really didn’t get what was going on in the commercial – especially with the woman speaking Spanish… I’m not sure how this really promotes Kohl’s … The YouTube description of the commercial says, “A tea party fit for a duchess in your honor? Time to thank the great kids in your life.”
Besides the CAAMFest 2016 panel discussion with the co-creater Alan Yang and cast member Kelvin Yu of Netflix’s ‘Master of None,’ I got to attend the panel discussion with CW’s ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ actors Filipino American Vincent Rodriguez III and Vella Lovell on Sunday, March 13th.
To be honest, I did not know much about ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – I had heard about the show when mentioned about how 2015 was the year of Asian American television, with ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and ‘Dr. Ken.’ All I knew was the show starred a white woman, so I was wondering why the show was being lumped in with other Asian American shows. But I started to pay a little bit more attention after reading ‘‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Star Rachel Bloom on Why TV Needs More Asian Bros’:
“I really think diversity is simultaneous with telling new stories because, I don’t know, “White People Hanging Out in a Coffee Shop” has been done. Diversity is just more artistically interesting to me because you’re in new territory and the whole purpose of making art, in my head, is to explore topics that haven’t been explored.
I have never seen a show that took place in Southern California and portrayed people the way it is in Southern California. The prom king in my high school was Chinese and the prom queen was Japanese. We just didn’t think about it. It was like, “Oh, yeah, George and Mika? They’re the prom king and queen.” It wasn’t until I realized that every other show is set in some nebulous town on the East Coast or Midwest where everyone is white and Protestant… How boring is that? And that’s not truth. That’s not my truth.”
“Rebecca Bunch is a single woman who still longs for her longtime soul mate Josh, who dumped her after their summer fling during summer camp in 2005. In 2015, after being inspired by a TV commercial for a butter spread, she restarts her pursuit of Josh after she spots him in New York City. When he tells her that he is moving to West Covina, California (“Just two hours from the beach, four hours in traffic”), Rebecca decides to move there too, hoping that it will give her a fresh start and bring her closer to Josh. She ditches her job in New York and moves there. “
So the big deal of course is that the character Rebecca has the hots for her ex-boyfriend, who happens to be an Asian American male / Filipino American (what a concept!). So I did get around to watching the first episode, but hadn’t actually finished watching it …. But I was still excited to attend the panel discussion.
Masashi Niwano, CAAMFest Festival & Exhibitions Director and emcee / interviewer (and former 8Asians blogger) Dino-Ray Ramos made some welcoming remarks, then a viewing of “Thanksgiving” episode then a discussion with Vincent & Vella facilitated by Dino, and ending with a Q&A session with the audience.
I’m glad I was able to watch the ‘Thanksgiving’ episode – because I was kind of blown away by it. In that episode, Rachel gets herself invited to Josh’s family’s Thanksgiving dinner (Josh is still dating dumb-but-HOT Latina Valencia) and we get to see a LARGE Filipino family get-together for Thanksgiving. And to be honest, I really, really related to the character of Greg who was taking care of his sick father – kind of a bit too real for me …
After the episode viewing of ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’ the panel discussion began with both Vincent & Vella describing what brought them to ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.’ Vincent has been acting since high school and has his up’s and down’s, from traveling shows to television over the past decade+. (Given how relatively young he looked, I was pretty surprised.) When he got the script for the casting, he was blown away that the character of Josh was pretty much like him. Vella, who is more of a recent college graduate of Julliard School and has a bachelor’s degree from New York University.
If you’ve got some time, I’d encourage you to watch the panel and audience Q&A.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 16: “Tight Two”
Original airdate March 15, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Louis injures his leg while attempting to entertain Jessica, putting him in a cast and wheelchair. This leaves it up to Jessica to oversee the new “Cattleman’s Ranch To Go” service at the restaurant while Louis stays home with the boys. Jessica finds herself at war with the staff, and the pressure Louis puts on himself to be the fun dad results in another long visit to the ER.
Good: There’s all kinds of good interaction between Jessica and Louis, and between the three brothers. Most of the jokes fall flat, but spending time with the characters like this is really enjoyable. An ongoing conversation between the brothers about who would eat whom if they all found themselves stuck on a deserted island is silly and charming. Jessica’s management of the restaurant staff is cute, and for once the staff’s stupidity is actually kind of pleasant, if only because of the annoyance it brings Jessica.
Bad: I’m willing to accept most of the ridiculous things Louis does to himself and to his family, but this is over the line. He’s not an idiot, and he knows where to draw the line when it comes to the boys. Letting them remove his cast is considerably beyond the line, and it’s not that funny.
FOB moment: Grandma watches a Chinese movie she once auditioned for.
Soundtrack flashback: I got nothing. There are snippets of country-western songs in the background of the restaurant scenes, but they’re impossible for me to identify.
Final grade, this episode: I love Jessica’s conversations with Louis, and it’s nice how both plots are connected, and not just incidentally. I hate most of the rest of this story. C-minus.