8 Asians

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee is a compelling memoir about the author’s reinvention after a life-changing stroke at the age of 33. Eloquently written, Lee guides readers through the trauma of her stroke while interweaving honest self-reflection during a period in which she was in many ways, not herself, through to her evolution as a writer and a newly defined sense of self.

It can happen with memoirs, that the events defining them are so out-of-the-ordinary (extra-ordinary if you will) that there’s an extra distance created between reader and writer. But Lee writes in a way that bridges this distance (a stroke at 33 is after all quite rare and unusual) to reflect on what made her who she was and how to adjust in the aftermath. It’s not a this happened then this happened then this happened kind of memoir, though those details are included, but rather a memoir that takes us on a journey through her thought process and her damaged and healing brain.

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember is about relationships and sense of self and belonging and expectations. It is not about suffering, but rather about growth. Lee is unflinchingly honest about the difficulties of her journey, moments where her behavior was unflattering, her recovery and her divorce, motherhood and postpartum depression. She allows us to see her flaws, but also her evolution, recovery, and reconfiguration of priorities that led to writing. And we can all be grateful for that.

 

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Five years after LINSANITY and six years plus since his start in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets’ Jeremy Lin returned to Oracle arena Saturday, February 25th – his second game after missing 8 weeks of play to recover from a hamstring injury. There were definitely cheers in the crowd when Lin’s name was called, as he had grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as had started his NBA career with the Warriors.

Lin only played 15 minutes scoring 16 points with the Nets eventually losing 95 to 112 to the Warriors. Having attended the game, the Nets did at one point actually lead the Warriors, but that didn’t last long. Given that the Warriors have one of the best record in the NBA going into the game (48-9) and the Nets literally the polar opposite (9-48), it’s no surprise the Warriors won.

In the post game locker room interview, Lin was asked about his physical recovery and he said he felt that he was 100% back, but he was probably at 85% of his peak play, since he just started getting back to playing.

For the Nets, there’s probably no chance of them making it to the playoffs – but hopefully they can make the second half of the season as a way to improve for next season. As Lin says in the locker room interview, the Nets is a young team and he has a lot of faith in his teammates.

Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 18: “Allison Finds a Lump”
Original airdate February 24, 2017.

I Can’t Seem to Face Up to the Facts

Allison finds a lump during a self-examination.  Ken and the Welltopia gang are super-supportive, but Allison has difficulty getting an appointment with a surgeon.  Dave has the lead in the school production of Peter Pan and is oblivious to his parents’ concerns, but Molly overhears her mother’s conversation on the phone.  Pat is especially affected by the Parks’ situation, and is determined not to let more time pass before trying things he’s always wanted to learn.

I’m Tense and Nervous and I Can’t Relax

I mostly try to avoid being overly critical of young actors, but Albert Tsai is pretty terrible in this.  He has a few strengths, which the show usually makes good use of, but perhaps because the acting from the rest of the cast this week is especially strong, it’s tough to ignore how poorly he’s directed.  He’s got some good lines, so I don’t think it’s the writing.

I Can’t Sleep ‘Cause My Bed’s on Fire

It isn’t the seriousness of the content itself that makes this such an effective episode, but the seriousness really highlights some of the smaller comedic moments.  Dr. Ken has been good about inserting these little moments throughout its run, yet they’re often drowned out by the wackiness.  The bit with the pineapple begins with Suzy Nakamura’s flair for deflating dialogue, then continues with Clark’s funny bit about not getting a pineapple.  The quick bit with Carl in the group hug is cute–I laughed aloud in a nice way.  Even the slightly less subtle hold music when Allison’s on the phone is pretty funny.  There’s stuff like that throughout the episode, and I can’t remember when I last laughed so many times at this show.

Don’t Touch Me; I’m a Real Live-Wire

You could see the Pat-Damona thing coming for the past few weeks, and it makes sense for it to happen now, but I enjoyed the tension and the air of wistful melancholy Pat brought to recent episodes.  I can’t predict where it goes from here; somehow I have some faith in the writers to handle it well, since it’s the best thing the show’s done since its premiere.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this develops.

Strong episode with (mostly!) really good acting and nice laughs.  4 labcoats out of 5.

One of the (few) benefits of having teenagers is getting a glimpse of what youth culture is like these days.  Given that I myself am decades removed from that time period, I like to compare what I see and hear from them to how it was when I was young.  Since my kids and I all grew up in communities full of Asian Americans (unlike John), I have some perspective on how Asian American youth culture has evolved.  I was amused to watch the above video by the Fung Brothers on the evolution of Asian American youth culture.  I found myself agreeing with some of their observations, while questioning others.

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The first six chapters of my new graphic novel “442” have been released for free on the comic reading app “Stela Unlimited”.

Written by Phinny Kiyomuraa and myself, and illustrated (in beautiful watercolor) by Robert Sato, “442” is based on one of World War II’s most compelling and important stories. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the U.S. Army’s Japanese American segregated fighting regiment. The 442nd would become the most decorated unit of the War, and the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in American history. Even with their families confined behind barbed wire in American concentration camps, these soldiers fought to rescue a Texas battalion lost behind enemy lines. A fictionalized account based on the actual events, “442” follows young Japanese Americans soldiers as they suffer prejudice, internment and terrible casualties in their battle to rescue the Lost Battalion.

“442” releases on a historic weekend. Sunday, February 19th, is known in the Japanese American community as the “Day of Remembrance” and marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which authorized the imprisonment of up to 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, around two thirds of whom were American citizens.

Here is a sample of some of Rob’s amazing artwork:

I sat down with my collaborators and asked them a few questions:

Phinny, how did you get involved in 442?

I’m a playwright and TV writer from Long Beach, CA. My dad and all of his side of the family were sent to the camps when he was two-years-old. I eventually ended up writing a TV pilot set in an Internment Camp, called, wait for it — INTERNMENT. Super creative title. But it’s a concept that I’m very excited about — mixing a personal love for early/mid 20th-century playwriting (Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter) with the not-all-that-often-discussed history of the camps. The pilot ended up getting a reading at the Japanese American National Museum which is where I met Koji. He and I talked about the 442, and, specifically the battle to save the Lost Battalion and decided to start working together, first on a movie of this story, and, later, on this graphic novel for Stēla.

Rob, what about you?

My grandfather was in the 442. He was drafted while imprisoned in the Jerome, Arkansas camp, and fought in Europe while his parents and 4 siblings remained incarcerated, putting his life on the line for a the country that had kicked his family out of their home, stripped them of what they had worked for over the course of their lives as well as all of their personal freedoms and their American citizenship. This story feels like it’s in my bones. I grew up with it shaping a major part of my world view. How could it not? I feel perhaps I’ve taken it for granted until recently that the overall history of the Japanese American experience was known and understood by the general culture.


And Rob, why was this project so important to you?

I took this job illustrating the comic in the hope that I could help in any small way to keep telling the important and complex story of Japanese American Internment, but had no idea at the start how urgently important this part of history would feel right now. Over the course of making it, I’ve been disturbed to find how many people who I know and meet who have either never heard of Internment, or have a dim, unformed idea of what it was, why it happened, and what it means. Adding to a general sense of alarm are several articles and opinions expressed in the media that have shown that there remains in our culture both a deep ignorance of Japanese American Internment, an outright denial of historical facts, and a dismissal of its lessons, painting it as irrelevant to current events. Or worse, cynical attempts to distort its history to justify current government policy.

My goal is always for my illustrations to be good, that they help tell a story as well as possible, but in this strange period where history and the lessons it can teach seem to be slipping away either through neglect or deliberate attack, I hope that our work on “442” can help to provide further context, discussion, and help keep alive the incredible story of what happened when my grandfather and up to 120,000 other human beings, in the name of national security, were swept up in the tide of war and racist hysteria. It’s a profoundly American epic.

Phinny, what about you? Why was this project important to you?

I think the goal, generally, is to get this amazing true story out into the American consciousness. As a TV writer and screenwriter, and formerly as an actor, of Asian American heritage, it’s hard not get a little annoyed at how few stories are told about the Asian American experience in this country. There are unbelievably gripping, funny, and sad stories aching to be told. This, we think, is one of them.

For more information about Rob’s grandfather, be sure to check out these amazing links:

To check out the first six chapters or to find out more about Stela go to:

iOS App

Android App

Stela.com

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 14: “The Gloves Are Off”
Original airdate February 21, 2017.

Microsynopsis:  Jessica unknowingly befriends Sarah (hellllooooo Heeaaatherrrrrrrr Lockleeeeeeear!), Marvin’s ex-wife and Nicole’s mom.  Honey is frustrated because Sarah hasn’t been doing her part in parenting Nicole responsibly.  Caught between friends, Jessica first attempts to bring Sarah and Honey together, but when that doesn’t work, she tries to get Sarah fired from her department store job, thinking she’s helping Honey out.  Emery is determined to prove that Grandma’s age qualifies her for an electric wheelchair, since Grandma doesn’t know how old she is.

Good:  I think there’s something wrong with me.  I watched this episode five times (this is how long it takes to put these reviews together most of the time), and while there are several laugh-aloud moments, I laughed hardest each time at this.

Emery:  I called the toll-free number and they said immobile seniors can qualify for a free Jazzy Powerchair, if they’re sixty-five or older.  And Grandma is…

Louis:  I don’t know.

Emery:  You don’t know?

Louis:  You don’t know!

Evan:  But she made you!

Louis: Do you know your mom’s age?

Emery: Thirty-one.

Evan:  Twenty-eight.

Eddie:  Forty-three.

Louis:  That’s the combination to the padlock on the shed.

You really had to be there.  It’s not nearly as funny read off a computer screen like this, although I just read it on the screen and laughed aloud again.

Bad:  Ugh.  Sarah calls Honey “hussy” and “whoreface,” and refers to Honey’s “slapping cakes” with Marvin.  Am I wrong about Fresh Off the Boat being a family show?

FOB moment:  Grandma says she doesn’t know the date or year of her birth because “when I was born, they didn’t keep good records.”

Soundtrack flashback:  Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” (1993), which is a very good song, but with Heather Locklear guest-starring, it would have been so, so, so much cooler to get one song each from Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Jack Wagner.  Darn it.

Final grade, this episode:  This is an interesting episode, because the A plot is really more about Honey and Sarah than about Honey and Jessica.  I can’t think of a time on this program when the central story wasn’t about one of the Huangs.  And the B plot is mostly all Grandma, and Grandma has the funniest lines.  I liked seeing Louis, Jessica, Eddie, Emery, and Evan all relegated for one week to supporting roles.  Also, I still think there’s something subversive going on with the language.  There’s mention of “secret mating habits of the whale shark” early in the episode, and later we get “hussy,” “whoreface,” “fake clankers,” and “slapping cakes.”  Someone break this down for me, please.  B+.

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s newest book, The Refugees, is a luminous collection of eight short stories that takes piercingly intimate looks at the lives of refugees, of those caught between worlds, of those caught in a moment. The Pulitzer Prize winning author’s recent books included The Sympathizer, a wry novel about a spy, and Nothing Ever Dies, an academic and philosophical look at historical memory, power, and the Vietnam War. The Refugees is nothing like these two. I should not say nothing. Nguyen’s prose is consistently eloquent and thoughtful, but The Refugees lacks the sarcasm and biting nature of The Sympathizer.

Instead, it takes an extremely intimate look at the lives being profiles, from an elderly woman whose husband suddenly begins calling her another name, or a ghostwriter who spends her days writing about other people’s tragedies dealing with memories of her own trauma.

There are what you might call normal people stories, stories about average folks struggling with the day to day of life. The focal character of each story is a refugee in their own right, but this is merely what binds the collection, rather than what defines their lives. In straightforward narrative prose, Nguyen examines crises large and small created by past and present around issues of family and identity, immigration and exile, loss and hope.

I finished each story knowing there were layers to be unearthed on a second read (where this is a book that could use some reflective intermissions between stories, I chose instead to down it in one fell swoop, so it’s going back on my to-read pile or as Nguyen recently artfully entitled it, my “leaning pile of guilt”). That’s always a winner in my book. And if you do not trust my recommendation, check out the review in the New York Times by Mia Alvar, author of In the Country.

Din Tai Fung Coming to San Diego in Fall 2017

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Looks like Din Tai Fung is in expansion mode again, with reports in late January that the restaurant chain will be expanding into San Diego:

“Joining previously announced newcomers, including big-time national burger outfit Shake Shack and Javier’s and The Winery from Orange County, is world-renowned dumpling house Din Tai Fung. Founded in Taiwan, with locations now spanning the globe, the crowd-drawing eatery is known for its delicate, soup-filled steamed dumplings.”

8Asians_DTF_San_Diego

Now the Westfield UTC mall is located at 4545 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122. According to news reports, the new restaurants will be opening this fall. However, given the delays in the Santa Clara, California restaurant’s opening, I would be very surprised to see if this restaurant actually opens as scheduled.

 

 

Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 17: “Pat’s Rash”
Original airdate February 17, 2017.

So let’s talk about you.

Pat has hives all over his face, and everyone in Welltopia is pretty sure they’re brought on by stress related to his relationship with Megan.  Dave has trouble finding common ground with his neighbor girlfriend and considers breaking up with her.  Allison and Clark try out a new yoga studio, neither one finding it a very pleasant experience.

Let’s do some word association.

I don’t have much to complain about this week.  I was kinda hoping things might work out with Dave and Megan, but it makes more sense for them not to, especially if this show has a future beyond the next few weeks.  Shows get bad when too many of their characters settle into good relationships (hello, The Big Bang Theory…).  Even Dave’s pretty awful girlfriend wasn’t as annoying as usual, and since the kids have broken up, it doesn’t bug me that we had to get more of her before getting done with her.

And how do you feel about your mother?

While I don’t have much to complain about, neither is there much to get too excited about.  If I may say this without being a creep, Krista Marie Yu is especially adorable this week, and more of the Clark-Allison dynamic is kind of fun, even if their story was pretty disposable.  You can see why they would get along well.

I think we’ve made good progress.  Same time next week?

This was a nice, cozy episode with a kind of week-in-the-life-of vibe that a show midway through its second season can execute without great stories as long as they’ve developed characters well, and Dr. Ken has.  I appreciated that the writers didn’t cram characters into stories they had no business in.  It’s okay that Damona and Molly have barely ten lines each.  3 vegan strombolis of 5.

Last year, actor & activist George Takei was in a Taco Bell Super Bowl commercial.

And in case you didn’t see the greatest Super Bowl comeback in NFL history, there were also commercials. And Takei appeared again in a Super Bowl commercial this year, but this time around, for Pizza Hut.

8Asians_AACW_Pizza_Hut_George_Takei

Takei uses his signature phrase, “Oh My” to great humor. I’m not sure if I saw any other Asian Americans in the other Super Bowl commercials. Personally, overall I thought the non-“political” commercials were fairly boring.

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 13: “Neighbors with Attitude”
Original airdate February 14, 2017.

Microsynopsis:  Jessica and Louis find an unwrapped, uneaten pastrami sandwich in their mailbox.  This causes Jessica some alarm, so she suggests the homeowners association form a neighborhood watch. This sounds great to Deirdre and the others, but the watch is formed without Jessica or her good ideas because Jessica is not a team player. Louis gives Jessica a crash course in being a good teammate or at least faking it. Eddie is determined to make the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance the occasion for his first kiss.  Trent agrees to be his wingman, in a theme continued from last year, when he helped Eddie get Janet Jackson tickets but then went along as the third wheel. Grandma tells Emery that all her money is hidden in the house and that he will never be able to find it.

Good:  I was a Boy Scout all through childhood and adolescence. I get where Trent is coming from in trying to keep himself closeted as a Sparrow Scout. The Eddie-Alison kiss is very well handled–in fact, the way it’s cut, I suspect the actors never actually make contact, and that’s how it should be done with young thespians. I continue to like the development of Deirdre as a real character in this third season.

The best thing about this episode is the way it loops around to the Where’s Waldo payoff at the mall. The visual, with all those red- and pink-clad Valentine’s Day shoppers is hilarious, and the set-up/payoff is Seinfeldian in its execution. There are even self-aware circles within that circle, with the Janet Jackson discussion, for example, and with Trent’s “flat management structure.” I’m impressed by how rewarding this is.

Bad:  I’m no prude, but there’s a difference between edgy and inappropriate, and Trent’s use of “sloppy seconds” pushes up against the line. I don’t like it.  Nor do I like Evan’s referring to his father having the “eggs” to do something, especially in direct address. Last week, he called Louis a “kiss-ass.” Unless the writers are setting Evan up to be spanked by season’s end, this isn’t a good trend.

FOB moment:  This may be more of a senior moment than an FOB moment, but Grandma doesn’t trust banks and keeps all her money hidden in the house.

Soundtrack flashback:  Couldn’t find one this week.  Did I miss it?  EDIT:  Janet Jackson’s Oscar-nominated “Again” (1993, when Eddie and Alison finally get their kiss).  Thanks to RosieTulips for catching that.

Final grade, this episode: I suspect the writers are doing something deliberate with the language, and it’s worth thinking about.  Jessica asks Eddie what N.W.A. stands for, and Eddie says he can’t tell her.  The N-word is always a tough call, and a family show should probably play it safe with that one.  But if ever there were a time when its use could be benign enough for family TV, it would be a moment like this.  Jessica is merely asking Eddie what the N stands for.  Simply telling her is not a use of the word.  It’s saying it without using it except as a word.  There’s a second layer of protection here too, because Eddie would be telling Jessica what the band has chosen to call itself and to be called by others.  That’s pretty safe.  But then Evan uses “eggs” to mean “balls,” and Trent uses “sloppy seconds” in a metaphorical, non-sexual way (although if he’s talking about Eddie himself as Trent’s sloppy seconds, and not the act of kissing, it’s rather rough language).  Are the writers saying something about the seemingly messed-up way we think about inappropriate and appropraite uses of language, as in the way radio stations bleep out certain words used in non-vulgar ways, but will leave entire verses intact even when they describe graphic concepts without the language?  The show has been subversive in other ways, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

Language aside, this episode is put together very, very well.  A-minus.

I had the honor again of attending Fred Korematsu Day Of Civil Liberties And The Constitution celebration in Oakland, California recently. I’ve attended I think almost every celebration since its inception in 2011.

8Asians_7th_Annual_Fred_Korematsu

For those who couldn’t attend but are still interested in learning more, please watch the above video.

Program:

  • 00:00:00 – 00:13:00 – PRE-SHOW – Emeryville Taiko
  • 00:13:00 – 00:17:00 – WELCOME – David Ono, Emcee
  • 00:17:00 – 00:21:00 – SPEECH CONTEST WINNER – Ethan Garcia, Fred T Korematsu Middle School
  • 00:22:00 – 00:32:00 – SAN FRANCISCO HIP HOP ARTIST – Equipto
  • 00:32:00 – 00:36:00 – FILM TRAILER, Konrad Aderer, Director “RESISTANCE ATTULE LAKE”
  • 00:36:00 – 00:47:00 – EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066: Hiroshi Kashiwagi, Legacy Voice
  • 00:47:00 – 00:53:00 – SPOKEN WORD: SOCIAL JUSTICE – Young Gifted & Black
  • 00:54:00 – 01:03:30 – “AMERICA NEEDS A RACIAL FACIAL” Short Film by: Jeff Adachi
  • 01:03:30 – 01:30:15 –  IN CONVERSATION : “MASS INCARCERATION ACCROSS  COMMUNITITES- WHAT’S NEXT”
  • Moderator: David Ono
  • Jeff Adachi, Public Defender of the City and County of San Francisco
  • Farhana Khera, Muslim Advocates
  • Timothy Long , Peer educator at San Quentin GED program
  • 01:30:15 – 01:32:20 – PSA Fred Koremat su Day
  • 01:32:20 – 01:55:31 – KOREMATSU INSTITUTE UPDATE – Karen Korematsu