Of the many areas where Asian Americans affect American life, the last place I expected to see an influence is with jerky. Jerky has never been a favorite of mine (it’s okay), so I was surprised to read that Asian Americans are driving up the popularity of jerky and other meat snacks. In the Nielsen Homescan report that is the source of that article, Nielsen claims that meat snacks are now the biggest snack spend per trip when people go out and shop. I really should not have been surprised, for a number of reasons.
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8Asians is proud to be a community co-presenter of this film at the 2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF). As a reader of 8Asians, please enjoy a discount to this film using the code: 8AZN17
April 30 at 4:00 PM (CGV Cinemas 3)
Directed by Jiu-Liang Wang
International Competition / China / 2016 / 82 mins / Mandarin with English subtitles / Color / 16:9, D-Cinema / Los Angeles Premiere
Eleven year old Yi-Jie plays with her younger brothers in piles of used plastic materials, often made into wondrous simulacra of modern life. Sheets of confectionery wrapping become colorful wallpaper; old newspapers and grocery store leaflets take flight, either as a superhero cape or an English lesson. While her family lives and works alongside their employer in the ever-continuous task of sifting, processing, melting and reformatting the vestiges of the first world, Yi-Jie takes care of the household. Being put to task by her ne’er-do-well father, a Yi minority man who brought his family to a small industrial town that is thousands of miles away from home, Yi-Jie remains ever willful and perspicacious, stealing moments away to learn a new word or concept — or to observe the parallel lives of Kun, their family’s employer, while he aspires and works hard towards achieving a better life for his own peasant-rooted family.
Director Wang Jiu-liang spent years investigating the post-consumer waste industrial systems which link China to the rest of the world (and vice versa), beginning with his renowned photography work and documentary BEIJING BESIEGED BY WASTE (2011). His unique approach to the award-winning documentary PLASTIC CHINA, however, remains far from didactic or inflammatory. Closely following two families over six years, this work invites us to see the universal in the ultra-personal: we may witness difficult family conversations, take stock in the banality (and toxicity) of their work, decipher divisions along ethnic and social classes, and even rejoice at the miracle of life. Coming full circle, then, the film may even prepare us to answer the question: How are we personally connected to one girl’s dreams of going to school, and what are we doing about it?
— Chanel Kong
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, the latest novel from author Lisa See, is a story of mothers and daughters. Li-Yan is a member of an ethnic minority in the tea mountains of Yunnan, China, growing up in a time of immense change for the region. From a small child learning to harvest tea, we follow her journey into adulthood, her struggle with her culture’s traditions and what they mean when she gives birth to her own daughter, her marriage, its end, a circle back to tradition, and all the way through to a riveting conclusion.
Throughout, See takes us on an intimate journey exploring the complexities of Li-Yan’s relationship with her own mother, the village midwife and keeper of a small hidden grove of tea trees passed down from mother to daughter, mother to daughter. Then of Li-Yan’s forced abandonment of her own daughter and how it frames her adult life. And into the life of that daughter, Haley, adopted by American parents and growing up in California, who struggles with her identity. In addition to the threads that connect these women, the novel also offers a portrait and homage to the tea known as Pu’er.
In similar style to her other best-selling books like Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls, Lisa See’s latest is an enrapturing tale, as each generation of women in this family “comes of age” in a unique way, be they young women or village elders, generating complex and compelling character arcs. As circumstances change and China’s modernization reaches into the tea mountains, grandmother, mother, and daughter evolve, always finding solace in tea and the bonds of family.
Like a number of other Ivy League and other colleges, Princeton University has been sued by organizations charging that Princeton has been discriminating against Asians. Even Princeton’s own professors have pointed out discrepancies in test scores between white and Asian applicants in the past. While Princeton was cleared in the case, Students for Fair Admissions has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Princeton materials in the case. Princeton has filed suit to block the request, citing trade secret law.
While watching the NBA Playoffs, I saw this New York Life commercial starring retired NBA player Rick Barry (A Top-5 Free Throw Shooter of all time – with an underhand free throws):
“Rick Barry knows a thing or two about consistency from the free-throw line. Which is why for long term financial consistency, Rick goes with New York Life. Be good at life. To learn more, visit www.newyorklife.com/about/our-strength”
The “audience” of the commercial in the commercial is an Asian American couple that doesn’t speak at all:
I’m always happy to see Asian Americans being represented in all sorts of commercials, but I’d rather they have at least a speaking part! Kind of reminds me of a State Farm commercial I had blogged about.
#6 ranked UFC women’s Strawweight Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson had a lot of momentum going into UFC on Fox 24. She had previously defeated Page VanZant, and there was an online poll to see who she should fight after that. At UFC event, she went up against #4 ranked Rose “Thug” Namajunas. Namajunas caught her flush in the head with a kick in the second round and later submitted her with a rear naked choke.
In the first round, Waterson tried the same head and arm throw that worked against Paige VanZant, but Namajunas was cleared prepared for it, hooking Waterson’s leg and then taking her back. The second round kick to her head was very accurate and dropped her, and although Waterson seemed to recover, she was eventually choked out. If I was a fighter, I am not sure I would have brought my kid or my mom to watch my fights (see highlight video) – nice if you win, but not so nice if you lose. Namajunas is looking for a title shot after her excellent performance. Waterson reports that she is healthy despite some bumps and bruises, and that it’s time to get back to work.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 20: “The Masters”
Original airdate April 18, 2017.
Microsynopsis: When Jessica learns that Tiger Woods is half Asian, she muses that she and Earl Woods are similar in parenting style, and she’s sure she has what it takes to raise the next Tiger. Louis takes exception to Jessica’s claim that his parenting style is more reminiscent of Kultida, Tiger’s mom, and therefore less effective. To settle the issue, they agree each to coach one of the boys for two weeks, and the parent whose boy does better in a nine-hole golf game is the more effective parent. Emery (excluded from the bet because he’s good at everything) launches an awareness campaign to help everyone understand that Tiger is half Thai.
Good: The interactions between Emery and Reba (who still harbors a crush on Eddie, apparently) are unexpectedly nice. Good acting from both, so shout-out to Marlowe Peyton and Forrest Wheeler. Reba’s throwaway line, delivered with disgust, about the newsroom sharing space with the yearbook should ring familiar with anyone who served on either project in middle school. The editing during Louis’s extended conversation with Jessica about parenting styles is cute and playful. That’s Emy Coligado of Malcolm in the Middle and Crossing Jordan playing Kultida Woods and having a literal Tiger mom conversation with Jessica.
Bad: I understand that it’s mostly just setup for Emery’s delivering his info to a deserted school building, but the backpack fight plot element is weak and kind of dumb.
FOB moment: I live in Hawaii, which is kind of a Mecca for vacationing Asians who love golf, and Jessica’s parade of golf attire is accurate and funny from scene to scene.
Soundtrack flashback: “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check” by Busta Rhymes (1996, twice).
Final grade, this episode: It’s kind of a weird episode, but it’s very watchable and the boys are funny. B.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 19: “Driving Miss Jenny”
Original airdate April 11, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Louis is uncomfortable with how much independence Grandma is asserting now that she has her power chair. He gets a little protective and follows her around (when lying to her about the insurance not covering her chair doesn’t work). Jessica and Emery confront Emery’s overly sentimental attachment to mementos. Evan hires Eddie to help with Evan’s house-sitting business, cutting his older brother in for half the pay. Eddie then hires Dave to do his work, paying him half of what Eddie’s making.
Good: It’s nice to get the rare Grandma-centered episode. Emery’s confession that his adjustment to Orlando wasn’t as smooth as his family was led to believe is sweet, and Jessica’s response is sweet as well. I was pleased that Grandma’s mahjong friends are stereotypically old instead of stereotypically Chinese. And it’s nice to see Deidre, on whom I’m still kind of crushing.
Bad: Little gripe, but why does Evan give Deidre her orchid slant report in degrees from the horizontal? It seems to me it would be slightly more useful to receive this data in degrees from the vertical, so 18 degrees of slant instead of 72.
Slightly bigger gripe (but still little): Grandma is going to McD’s to collect plastic Dream Team cups. This episode is set in 1997 but those cups were available in 1992. I’m not calling this the anachronism I’ve been looking for (I’m hoping to nail the show for something in an episode that doesn’t yet exist), and it’s not completely inconceivable that Grandma’s got some kind of five-year-old hookup with the local McD’s, but it’s something of a distraction because the show makes reference to the cups twice.
FOB moment: The broken chopstick Emery is hanging onto is from the first Chinese food delivery the family ordered in Orlando: “Remember? You were so mad the Chinese restaurant sent a white delivery guy?”
Soundtrack flashback: “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” (1987). “Sittin’ on Chrome” by Masta Ace Incorporated (1995).
Final grade, this episode: Perfectly forgettable episode with pretty much no laughs aloud. C+.
Recently, a friend of mine IM’d me the news that Michelle Kwan and her husband Clay Pell are divorcing:
“It is with deep regret that I share that Michelle and my marriage is coming to an end,” Pell said in a statement obtained by the Providence Journal. “This is a sad and difficult turn of events for our family. I love Michelle, and wish her the very best as her life takes her in a new direction.”
Kwan and Pell got married back in January 2013, so I wonder what happened that made the couple decide to get a divorce, after only a little over 4 years of being married.
When I met Kwan back 2015, I never asked about her married life or husband, and was just mostly interested in how she became politically interested and involved, especially with the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
While watching the local evening news recently, I came across this new Panda Express commercial promoting their latest dish, Five Flavor Shrimp:
“Five quality ingredients. Five delicious flavors. Experience the moment when premium shrimp, green beans, red bell pepper and white onion come together in our five flavor sauce in our new TV spot”
I’m a big fan of shrimp, so that definitely caught my eye – especially since the dish looked simple enough for me to make at home. But what really caught my attention was the cute actress, Shavvon Lin, in the commercial as well as the catchy tune and story of the woman and her apartment neighbor missing each other – ultimately meeting at Panda Express in a light romantic comedic way.
In discovered the actress by reading some nasty comments in the YouTube comments – there’s some pretty nasty comments regarding the inter-racial nature of the commercial, especially some comments regarding Lin, and the typical rant of the pairing of an Asian Female and White Male (AF/WM). While that is the most common inter-racial TV commercial pairing, which I’ve blogged about and putting that issue aside, I really did like this commercial on its own storytelling terms.
And for some reason, maybe because I thought that since Panda Express corporate headquarters is based in Los Angeles, I thought the scenes were shot in LA (which wouldn’t surprise me), but the commercial reminded me of the movie, 500 Days of Summer, a movie and soundtrack I really loved.
Also from the YouTube comments, I also came across that the song was written and composed by Tiff Jimber and Matt Bobb. I Shazam’d the song with my phone, but nothing came up, so I assumed the song was composed and performed specifically for the commercial.
One last thought – the actor in the commercial sort of reminded me of Tobey Maguire in the first Spider-Man (2002) movie.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 18: “Time to Get Ill”
Original airdate April 4, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Jessica comes down with the flu, a phenomenon so foreign to the Huangs that Eddie can’t remember it ever happening before. After first refusing to believe she’s taken ill, Jessica relents and puts herself to bed. The Huang men take advantage of not being under Jessica’s constant gaze and order the pay-per-view Battle of the Swamp Creatures wrestling event.
Good: I love the setup, where Jessica sees what each of her boys is up to even when she’s not looking directly at them, or when they’re not even in the room. Eddie’s speech about seeing Jessica’s sickness as an opportunity is great. And the aftermath, when Jessica eases up on her family, feels right. The whole episode is plotted nicely so that the arc is satisfying and amusing. Honey’s martini bit kinda cracked me up. Oh, and Marvin speaks Mandarin. Funny surprise.
Bad: Shameless product placement with the beverage on Jessica’s tray and the bottle of medicine Eddie gives her. The resolution could have done without the “You’re always watching us!” “I get it” conversation near the end. The short bits right after, where the boys adjust to having their mother not being all up in their grill explains it fine.
FOB moment: Jessica uses white flower oil to treat everything. Yeah, I know I used this in season one, but it’s the best I’ve got.
Soundtrack flashback: I got nothing! Did I miss it?
Final grade, this episode: An entertaining, silly, funny, rewarding episode all the way through. These episodes can be about stupid things, can avoid the overt sappiness, and can still be good television. B+.
The Best We Could Do is a beautifully drawn and beautifully narrated memoir by Thi Bui. It is the story of her family and how she reckoned with their past, flight from Vietnam, family members lost and found again…and all the whirling emotions that always come with anything that has to do with family.
None other than Viet Thanh Nguyen graces the cover with the recommendation, “a book to break your heart and heal it.” And indeed, his statement captures the complexity that the author tackles head on. She begins with herself, with a preface that talks about the journey of the book, one that began more than 14 years ago. Bui opens the first chapter with her own labor, birthing, and a new appreciation for parenting. From there, she delves backwards into her family’s story, jumping around from their flight from Saigon in the 1970s to memories of her childhood, continually returning to her own experience of raising a child for the first time. Like many memoirs and graphic novels of this style, we are brought fully into the author’s own growing understanding. We too get the past in fragments, slivers of deeper meaning, hidden secrets, and untold stories about parents and children, immigrants and refugees. What do we carry with us, from generation to generation, that we see or don’t see?
With a simple color palate of blacks, whites, and reddish orange, Bui’s drawings bring her story to vivid life. I was riveted from the author’s preface to the thank yous at the end; the title bearing a profound resonance by the last page. An excellent addition to the field of illustrated memoirs, refugee stories, and reflections on parenting and family, The Best We Could Do is well worth the read.