8 Asians

Ever since I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and tried a Din Tai Fung (DTF), I’ve wanted one in the Bay Area. Din Tai Fung opened today – Tuesday, May 10th at 11:00 AM PST – and I was there to catch the grand opening.

DTF1

For a while, the only Din Tai Fung in the United States was in Los Angeles – Arcadia, California to be exact. The that location expanded with another restaurant adjacent to it. Then, to my great surprise and disappointment, Din Tai Fung expanded to Seattle – of all places – and is expanding now to having almost four in the region. And of course, expanding in Los Angeles and Southern California.

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Din Tai Fung first announced their first Bay Area location would be at the Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara (next to San Jose), California around last September 2015. Since then, I’ve been periodically contacting the restaurant as to their opening.

DTF3

I was thinking of dropping by Valley Fair Mall at around 10:00 AM this morning when the mall technically opens, but realized that I should go into work, especially since I had been out two days last week for personal/family reasons. I had read that the restaurant was going to be opening at 11:00 AM, so figured I’d go to work a little early and leave around 10:30 AM to check out the opening, since the mall was less than 10 miles away via highway and local roads. But if I had really wanted to be first in line, I would have had to have gotten there really early, according to the San Jose Mercury News:

“It might sound crazy, but it’s not to people like Taylor Arnicar and Shirley Song. The Sunnyvale couple has been to 10 Din Tai Fung locations around the world, including Beijing, Hong Kong, Seattle and Los Angeles and were excited that the restaurant was opening so close to home. They were so excited that they arrived at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and were the first in line. “We were the only ones here for a while,” Arnicar said, “so we could have gotten a couple of hours more sleep.”

They weren’t alone for too long. As chefs — looking like bunny-suited tech workers in a clean room — were hard at work handmaking dumplings, the line continued to grow. About 30 minutes before the 11 a.m. opening, it had ballooned to about 400 people, all waiting for a taste of Din Tai Fung’s famous xiao long bao dumpling, or XLB, as fans know it.

The restaurant, though, can seat only 120 people at a time. So anyone toward the back was practically guaranteed a wait of a couple of hours. It got so busy that the restaurant closed off the line so it could restock supplies. Insiders say you can expect this kind of lines for the next few weeks at least, if not months.”

I wasn’t too sure who else was going to wait in line and didn’t necessarily want to eat alone. I did see on Facebook someone I know and his wife were planning on getting there early, and did see him chatting and standing next to a friend of mine – which surprised me (they had just met). And later, I did bump into my brother’s friend and her friend as well.

DTF4

There was definitely a long line an hour afterwards – I dropped by after I ate lunch elsewhere, where you can take a look at this 360 video that I took around noon:

I think I will try to get to the Din Tai Fung on a Saturday or Sunday early morning when the mall opens so I can get in without waiting – or waiting too long. I can’t wait! It’s been a long time coming, but I am glad there is FINALLY a Din Tai Fung in the Bay Area – and I wonder how quickly and how many more restaurants they plan on opening, since I am sure this one will make a boatload of money.

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Asians in Colorado by William Wei unearths a local and regional history of Chinese and Japanese in the Centennial State. Wei positions the unique aspects of the state’s history within the broader national story. It is the stories of little known individuals, from Chinese Americans involved in local court cases to Japanese farmers, to their far and few between white allies that add something new to our knowledge of Asian American history. As Wei makes clear in the introduction, he intends this to be an American story. It too seeks to address the fundamental question, what makes an American? This is a familiar angle for those well-versed in Asian American history, but by looking at Colorado as an embodiment of the development of the American West, it transports us out of the coasts and into the center.

Among other things, my book shows that Asian Coloradans did not lack true grit. On the contrary, they displays a dogged perseverance and refused to be discouraged by setbacks.

Overall, there is much to praise in terms of highlighting local history, for which there is never enough space in larger survey books.

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Amanda Harvie is a cute, 23-year-old bartender looking for love.  Her mom (and best friend) Larissa thinks she knows best what kind guy Amanda will gravitate toward, but professional matchmaker and dating expert Carmelia Ray thinks she has the expertise to find Amanda a likelier match.  After a short interview with Amanda, Carmelia looks through her computer for the right guy, while Larissa visits a nearby improvisational theater class to interview prospects.  Each potential Cupid coaches her candidate for a first date, which we get to watch.

Mom vs Matchmaker-logo JPEGWe get a bowling alley, a bar (made of ice, apparently), a mannequin, and a bunch of hidden cameras as each training session and first date unfolds.  To every participant’s credit, despite the forced nature of the entire exercise from premise to execution, everyone seems to make a sincere attempt at making things work, with no trace of irony, which would destroy a show like this.  Any irony needs to be brought by the viewer, and I at first didn’t have any problem looking at the show through a non-ironic prism.

Amanda is cute, Larissa is cute, Carmelia is cute, and each of the dates is cute.  It’s nearly a cuteness overload, but I’m not complaining because that’s good enough a reason for me to watch.  I should admit that I’m a really, really slow dater, and almost none of the advice given by anyone in this show would work for me, and if I were to take it very seriously, I’m not sure I’d make it through a whole episode without the cute likeability of everyone on screen.  With no personal connection or investment, what’s left for me is to be entertained, and (mostly) I am.

Carmelia RayThe show is fun to watch in the first half.  The edits are playful, with quick shots of subjects against seamless white backgrounds.  It’s a good-looking, well-produced program.  My only technical complaints come in the second half, where the voiceover (which is fine in the intro) gets needlessly intrusive, and there are a few too many exterior shots through a fisheye lens.

Reactions by Larissa and Carmelia in the hidden rooms feel scripted, and motivated more by wanting good soundbites than expressing anything meaningful.  If there’s a weakness here, it’s this: everyone seems to be too fully aware of the camera in the real-life segments of the program.  This is okay from Carmelia, who serves as a kind of ringmaster, but some illusion of spontaneity would go a long way toward establishing some kind of humor or tension.  Think of how real the hidden camera segments felt in a show like Supernanny, and you see what I mean.  The kids in that program could only be themselves, and since the parents could only respond to behaviors, a feeling of realness permeated everything, increasing the viewer’s engagement.

Still, even as I write this, I’m aware of taking the program too seriously.  My first, just-enjoy-it viewing (I try to save my critical eye for the second viewing) was entertaining.  I found myself picking one of the candidates, semi-seriously involved in the final reveal, and that’s a good sign.  Mom vs. Matchmaker is definitely worth a few looks, and I’ll be back.

The first episode aired on Myx TV May 3 and is viewable at the website.  New episodes air Tuesdays at 8:00 Eastern and show up online the following day at myxtv.com.

May is officially Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In celebration of the month, PBS will be premiering five Asian American documentaries during the month of May, presented by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). The documentaries are:

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The films are supported or co-produced by CAAM, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. My favorite CAAM produced documentary is Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority – that film really inspired me and quite liked Mr. Cao Goes to Washington and the related A Village Called Versailles.

I really like documentaries, and if I won the lottery, I’d probably spend a good portion of my time being a documentary filmmaker – probably making films of Asian Americans in public office or running for public office.

 

 

Ukulele Wipe Out by Honoka & Azita

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8A-2016-04-28-UkuleleWipeoutOf a number of musical instruments/styles in the United States one can say that are truly Asian American – instruments and/or genres whose structure and playing style are heavily influenced by Americans of Asian descent – probably the most well-known is the ukulele.  We have talked about Jake Shimabukuro, who has pushed the limits of the ukulele.  Honoka Katayama and Azita Ganjali, 2013 MVP winners of the Ukulele International Challenge, push the bounds of ukulele even farther, doing this bluesy rendition of the classic surf song Wipe Out.  Honoka and Azita having been playing ukulele since they were 8 and 4, respectively.

It’s amazing how international the ukulele has become.  Contests for the ukulele challenge come from all over the world, and Honoka and Azita have played at the third annual Czech Ukulele Festival, in a place you might think wouldn’t be very interested in ukulele music.

As for the other Asian American influenced instruments and styles, I’d say that they are slack-key guitar and the turntable.  Disagree?  Did I miss another?  Let me know in the comments.
(h/t:  Greg)

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 21: “Rent Day”
Original airdate May 3, 2016.

fotb_s02e21 (1)Microsynopsis: The spec house jointly owned by Jessica, Honey, and Grandma is finally ready for sale, but Jessica gets the idea that renting it will give them, over the long haul, a better return on their investment. When the tenants she carefully selects turn out to be deadbeats, she is forced to deal with them on her own, rather than admit to Grandma and Honey that she was wrong.

Eddie wants a new digital watch, but Louis doesn’t think he’s ready for it, so he entrusts his eldest son with his own Casio watch, which Eddie must take good care of for a week in order to prove he can handle the responsibility. When the watch goes missing, Eddie and Louis each secretly enlist the investigative services of Emery and Evan.

Good: This is another episode where Jessica’s values work against her, setting her up to solve her own problems and then to confess her vunlerability to someone, in this case Honey. There are a few good laugh-aloud lines, among them Evan’s “Possible irony,” mumbled to himself as he scribbles in his notepad (it’s not nearly as funny taken out of context and without the actor’s delivery), and Jessica’s “I don’t want your warm, home-made butt eggs!” Continue Reading »

breathMy schedule rarely allows me to read entire books, but after I read about Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, a New York Times bestseller, I decided that I would actually buy and read it. While Kalanithi didn’t focus his book on Asian Americans, much of his book is interesting from an Asian American standpoint. I strongly recommend it.

Spoilers ahead (although most people who plan to read the book already know what happens in the end), so if you don’t want to know the details, please don’t continue!

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If you read 8Asians.com, you’ve probably already come across a Jeremy Lin fan video highlighting the injustices against opponents flagrantly fouling him titled, Jeremy Lin: Too Flagrant Not to Call and his opponents not getting called a foul. I’ve watched the video, and it’s not pretty.

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I was surprised that THE New York Times covered the issue and even more surprised by who put the video together:

“Hsiu-Chen Kuei waited until her husband and three sons had gone to bed one night recently before surreptitiously beginning work on an ambitious personal project.

As they slept, Kuei, 48, a stay-at-home mother from San Jose, Calif., hunkered down at her computer and began poring over highlight videos featuring Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin, her favorite N.B.A. player. She fumbled around on Final Cut Pro, a video-editing program, splicing together the specific clips she had sought. She did this for six straight nights, three hours each night.

On April 5, Kuei uploaded her finished product, a six-and-a-half-minute video, to YouTube. She called it “Jeremy Lin: Too Flagrant Not to Call.”Piecing together clips of Lin over the years getting whacked in the face, clotheslined, bleeding, tumbling to the floor — all without ever drawing a flagrant foul — Kuei tried to convey that Lin, an American-born son of immigrants from Taiwan, was the victim of excessive physicality from opponents and insufficient protection from the league and its referees.

To Kuei’s surprise, the video soon attracted close to a million views, capturing the attention of basketball fans around the world and the eye of the league — even if no one quite knew who was behind it.”

The NBA did respond to a fan email regarding the video. Basically, the NBA said that:

Flagrant Foul given the full circumstances, angles and comparables from past games. Referees do make mistakes, which means they miss calls that should have been made. When that occurs, we collect the data and provide referees with feedback to ensure improvement.”

I read the New York Times article online, so I was even more surprised to see the Jeremy Lin article made it to the print edition’s FRONT PAGE! (at least of the National Edition). A friend of mine (h/t to Vitus), sent me this photo of his print edition of the Times, where the article headline is Fan’s Video Calls Foul on How N.B.A. Treats Asian-American:

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I can’t say I watch enough Jeremy Lin these days to make a judgement on the officiating, since I mostly follow my local and awesome team, the Golden State Warriors. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was unconscious bias against Lin on not calling fouls against his opponents. Too bad the Warriors traded Lin a long time ago – would be great if he returned.