8 Asians

Earlier this month, the National Asian American Survey (NAAS) finally released their 2016 Post-Election analysis regarding the presidential election and had these interesting observations:

  • In 2016, Asian Americans posted their biggest gains ever in voting, with more than 1.1 million new voters. Between 2000 and 2012, the average increase in each presidential cycle was about 620,000 voters.
  • When compared to the 2012 AAPI Post-Election Study, Clinton did about as well as Obama did among Asian American voters and won every segment of the Asian American vote

What was most interesting to see was the variation of the polling results from the other polls:

Some of the differences in the polls was that

  • Unlike the National Exit Polls, which were conducted only in English and Spanish, the 2016 NAAS was conducted in the same languages, plus 11 Asian languages (Bangla, Cambodian, Cantonese, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Urdu)
  • Unlike the AALDEF exit poll of Asian Americans, which was conducted in high-density precincts with significant Asian American populations, the 2016 NAAS includes respondents from suburban areas as well as central cities.

What is also interesting is that the NAAS broke down the vote by ethnicity:

It doesn’t surprise me that Vietnamese Americans voted the most for Trump, given that they’ve been traditionally Republican – I think mostly due to the first generation’s strong anti-Communist leanings due to the Vietnam War, with South Vietnamese refugees fleeing Vietnam after the North Vietnamese won the civil war.

What is more interesting is party identification, by ethnicity, which shows a little more nuance:

As often observed, many Asian Americans are fairly politically independent or do not strongly identify themselves as “Strong” Democrats or Republicans, and thus are considered persuadables.

Given Trump’s reherotic during his presidential campaign, especially against immigrants, it’s no surprise that he lost the Asian American vote big time.

 

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I’m obsessed with all things aliens—and in the time of Trump, I should be clear, the ones from outer space not the non-citizens. I’ve gone to UFO conventions, watch every alien-themed documentary on Netflix, and listen to every paranormal podcast. Like Mulder on X-Files, “I want to believe.” So that’s why I was surprised when I read Nick Redfern’s new book, The Roswell UFO Conspiracy: Exposing A Shocking And Sinister Secret, that claims that maybe the aliens that crashed in Roswell were not actually aliens but humans from Japan.

I’ve heard of people thinking Asians might be aliens. I even wrote an 8Asians article about it a long long time ago,  Series of Web Pages Convinced Asians are Aliens from Outer Space. Most—okay, all—of the people who believe that are just kooks. THIS is completely different. This is Roswell! R-O-S-W-E-L-L! One of the first and arguably most important UFO cases in the ufology (real word). This is the Holy Grain of the UFO community.

Let’s take a moment to discuss Roswell. In early July 1947, on a small ranch in the remote town of Roswell, New Mexico, a farmer found unusual debris and small bodies. The next day, the Roswell newspaper declared that a flying saucer had been discovered.

But the local military reported that it was a crashed weather balloon. No one bought the story then and the legend only grew from there—especially in the 1970s when everyone and their mothers were talking about UFOs and aliens. If you want more information about the history of the Roswell case, I’d recommend visiting here.

If you were alive in the 1990s, then you might remember the alien autopsy video, which was supposedly taken in Roswell.

But what if there were no aliens in Roswell? What if there is a perfectly rational explanation? If we are to follow Occam’s razor (the simpler explanation is the better one), what’s simpler: that aliens came from outer space and crashed in Roswell or it was part of some top-secret military experiment? The latter, rather than the former, right?

So why do people think that the Roswell crash might be related to the Japanese? First, the descriptions of the witnesses. The bodies that were discovered on the ranch were described as being small and as having “Oriental” features. Some even argue that because the rancher had probably never seen a real Japanese (or Asian) person, he mistook a Japanese/Asian person for an alien from outer space.

If we are willing to suspend out disbelief and buy the fact that maybe the bodies found in the crash site were really Japanese, the question that begs to be asked is: how did they get to New Mexico in 1947? This is where the whole thing gets interesting. The hypothesis goes that the US government was testing high altitude Japanese balloons. Sound crazy? Not entirely. In World War II, the Japanese army did use weather balloons to attack the United States. They were known as Japan’s Fugo “balloon-bombs.”

Here’s a documentary about these balloons:

The hypothesis continues that the United States military secretly brought Japanese scientists over after the war to do biological, radioactive, and high-altitude decompression tests. There are rumors that they may have continued the infamous Unit 731 (a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation), which isn’t so crazy when you consider Operation Paperclip, where the government brought over a thousand plus Nazi scientists, engineers and technicians after the war. Believe it or not, one of the first places this hypothesis came out of was in Popular Mechanics.

From this point, there is a lot of conjecture about what exactly what was going on. In the interest of not going on and on (I know, too late), I’ll summarize.

1. The balloon was a “last-gasp” attempt to continue the war against the United States. That or the fugo bombs were stuck in the air and finally came down in 1947.

2. It was an experimental aircraft being “test-flown by the US military with Japanese crew on board.” The argument continues that there were two balloons: one filled with Japanese scientists and the other were filled with people recovered from the human experiments found at Unit 731. The reason that this has never come to light is because the government believed it was “better” for the average person to think a UFO crashed in Roswell than to know that German and Japanese war criminals were on their payroll.

There are, of course, a lot of problems with both of these. First, it seems highly unlikely that a good two years after the war, elements of the Japanese military were still trying to attack the United States or that it was stuck in some weather stream for two years before coming down. And as for the second theory, there is no real evidence of this. We know about Operation Paperclip with the Nazis, why wouldn’t we also know about the Japanese? Both did horrible things during World War II and were perpetrators of major war crimes. And as far as the crash victims being patients from the infamous Unit 731, most historians believe the people in the unit were murdered to prevent the world from discovering the atrocities the Japanese had committed.

Do I believe any of this? Maybe. I mean, it’s no crazier than aliens from outer space, right? What do you think?

Follow me at @ksakai1.

Recently, the State of California recognized the contributions of the Chinese railroad workers in helping to build the transcontinental railroad by declaring May 10th, ‘Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Day.’

Now there is an effort in Congress to honor the Chinese workers on a stamp:

“Federal lawmakers from New York and California reintroduced legislation Thursday calling on the Postal Service to issue a stamp that honors the Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroad nearly 150 years ago.

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Ed Royce (R-CA) brought their resolution to the House the same week a golden spike was driven in 1869 in Promontory, Utah, which marked the completion of the rail link that joined the east and west coasts.”

There have been past petitions for Asian American themed stamps, such as ones for Bruce Lee (which I don’t recall whether or not they got released) and for Chinese New Year, which have been released – at least this past year. I’m all for a stamp to honor any immigrant group for their contributions to the United States, and I don’t think honoring the Chinese railroad workers should be any different.

Apparently Congresswoman Meng has sponsored similar resolutions twice before, but they hadn’t been brought up for a vote. Hopefully this time around, at least a vote will be taken. In Meng’s press release, she states that the 12,000 Chinese railroad workers comprised more than 80 percent of the workforce and that nearly 1,200 of the workers died from the harsh winters and brutal working conditions.

First of all, I didn’t realize that the Chinese railroad workers comprised of 80 percent of the workforce! I think that was for the West-to-East portion of the transcontinental railroad built by the Central Pacific Railroad. But I am shocked to learn that 1,200 died – that 10% of the Chinese workforce. That’s pretty horrific and a fact that seems to have been a bit de-emphasized in the history books (then again, I’m sure many are unaware that up to 400,000 people died building the Great Wall of China)

I was watching an 2017 NBA Playoffs game when I saw this Jimmy John’s TV commercial. To be honest, I had never heard of Jimmy John’s before I saw this commercial – but their sandwiches, from what I could see – reminded me of Jersey Mike’s. Apparently, there are a few Jimmy John’s in San Francisco, but certainly not that pervasive (like Subway) and none in Silicon Valley.

Ran Wei is the actress in the commercial and her “character” kind of reminds me of Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant in the TV series Supergirl, as well as a little Ling Woo in Ally McBeal (who was played by Lucy Liu).

 

 

While John Wall is one of the fastest point guards in the NBA and is acknowledged for his athleticism, there is another point guard that is almost as fast whose athleticism isn’t as highly regarded.  In the above video that I learned about from this article, Jeremy Lin comments that when he came into the league, his speed numbers were almost as fast as John Wall’s.    John Wall was considered “athletic” but he was merely “deceptively athletic.”  He goes on to talk about Asian American masculinity and “yellow fever.”  While we have talked about Asian American masculinity before, these are not subjects Lin often talks about, and it’s interesting to hear it from a high profile Asian American male.

You may be wondering, is this real news that Lin is citing, about being called “deceptively athletic?”  I did find the actual media reference here, where former head coach and commentator Jeff Van Gundy calls him that during the Linsanity period.  In addition, while the Slam Online story starts the video when Jeremy Lin speaks, the first part of the whole video is some commentary by Kevin Kreider, who took the video and posted it.  Kreider is a personal trainer and former model.

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire is the debut novel from author Susan Tan about a spunky and spirited half-white, half-Chinese eight and half year old with grand visions for her future and astute insight into her past. Cilla is our narrator, and this is her memoir–her first step to reaching her destiny as Future Author Extraordinaire.

Now I know I’m not the target audience for Cilla Lee-Jenkins (ages 8-12 says her publisher’s website), but I did thoroughly enjoy this book. I laughed and cried along with Cilla, followed her high drama and quiet reflections on growing up, on growing up biracial, and on the potential responsibilities of big sisterhood. It’s just the right mix of Capitalized Indignation and Big Moments. Cilla’s voice is so strong throughout that you get the feeling of her talking.

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With the end of the 2016 – 2017 traditional broadcast network television season ending, it’s been an amazing season for Asian Americans – with two Asian American family show sitcoms into their second and third seasons with Dr. Ken and Fresh Off The Boat respectively. Unfortunately, Dr. Ken won’t be around in the fall for a third season.

However, I did want to highlight one aspect of the television season for both sitcoms that really stood out – the storylines of Molly & Jae on Dr. Ken and Alison & Eddie on Fresh Off The Boat. Having been born and raised in Western Massachusetts, I was only one of a handful of Asian Americans in my high school graduating class of 270+ students. The closest statistics I could find was that in 2000, my town was 3% Asian American (I grew up in the 1980s, so definitely less than 3%).

So when first seeing the episode (S02E12 – “Ken’s New Intern” – air date: January 6, 2017) where Molly and Jae express their feelings to each other and then kiss, that was a big deal to me. Now I can’t say that I’ve watched every single episode of every broadcast television series where there have been Asian American teenagers dating, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the first to show a realistic relationship between two Asian American teenagers:

I particularly like how Krista Marie Yu portrayed Molly as emotionally vulnerable and that the character Jae was not a stereotypical looking geeky Asian guy (or God forbid,  Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong)

Then, a little more than a month later on Fresh Off The Boat, there’s an episode and plot line about Eddie’s first kiss with Alison (S03E13 – “Neighbors with Attitude” – airdate: February 14, 2017), where Eddie and Alison eventually do kiss, despite some obstacles in Eddie’s plan during the episode:

After getting over a bit of nostalgia from the musical interlude of Janet Jackson’s “Again” briefly playing in the background, I realized that I probably watched the first ever interracial kiss by an Asian American middle schooler and his white girlfriend on broadcast television.

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I wasn’t too surprised to see the headline stating that NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin said he heard worse racist remarks in college when he played for Harvard (from 2006 to 2010) than now, when he plays in the NBA. But I was disheartened to read:

“The worst was at Cornell, when I was being called a c—k,” the Brooklyn Nets point guard said in an interview on his teammate’s podcast, “Outside Shot with Randy Foye.” “That’s when it happened. I don’t know … that game, I ended up playing terrible and getting a couple of charges and doing real out-of-character stuff. My teammate told my coaches [that] they were calling Jeremy a c—k the whole first half. I didn’t say anything, because when that stuff happens, I kind of just, I go and bottle up — where I go into turtle mode and don’t say anything and just internalize everything.”

Being a Cornell alum and graduating in the early 1990s, I can’t recall ever been called “chink” or any racist incidents against me. Even back then, I felt Cornell was fairly diverse and had around 15% Asian Americans or so. A quick Google search gave me Cornell’s Class of 2019’s demographics:

But college students can still be a bit immature, especially at sporting events and with their taunts, can be kind of classless. Hopefully this incident was more of a one-off rather than a trend. But on any large campus, you’re certainly going to have a few bad apples …

 

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 23: “This Isn’t Us”
Original airdate May  15, 2017.

Microsynopsis:  The Huangs move out of their rental, to the sadness of Honey, Marvin, and Eddie’s crew.  The boys agree to get matching tattoos to symbolize their brotherhood, but Eddie soon discovers that the bike ride from his new house to his old ‘hood is longer than it looks.  Louis is also taken aback by the distance he now commutes to the restaurant, and at first he doesn’t enjoy his new home because Jessica insists the family, now that it has spent all its savings, is “house poor,” which translates into never turning on the hot tub or the heated floors, and not making use of the house’s other amenities.  Emery points out to Evan that his new school blazer is made in China, and he’s been reading about the Kathie Lee Gifford sweatshop mess.  The younger Huang boys approach Evan’s headmaster (Dr. Johnny Feeeeeeeeeever!) who is not impressed by the stance they are taking.

Good:  I’m really liking the young man Emery is becoming.  He’s one of the more interesting characters on the show by virtue of being the least quirky, least troublesome member of the family.  He had a couple of psycho moments early in the season, but on the whole, he’s the Huang I’d most want to be friends with.  No wonder the ladies love him.  It’s also neat to see how Evan’s closeness to Jessica manifests itself in his feisty approach to this blazer problem.  He’s been a snotty, annoying little punk almost all year, but outside the confines of his family, he’s twice as shrewd as Eddie and maybe as subversive.  I’m not sure, but I think Eddie’s crew is still hanging out in Eddie’s old driveway.  Pretty cute.

Bad:  You’d think what’s essentially a two-parter could have gone a little bit deeper, but for some reason FOtB has avoided depth for the second half of the season.  It’s annoying.  The story has some potential, especially with the members of this family kind of spreading out in different directions, yet just as it’s getting intriguing, everyone is yanked back to where we started by the usual Jessica stuff.

FOB moment:  Grandma believes the new house is haunted, so she encircles her power chair with candles.

Soundtrack flashback:  “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” by Michael Bolton (1990).  Again.  Twice.

Final grade, this episode: I’ll save my thoughts abourt the third season for a lookback next week.  On its own, this is a weak way to go out and a disappointing conclusion for a season finale.   C.

The incarceration during World War II has left a scar on the Japanese American community. That’s not surprising, considering how traumatic being forced to leave your home and into a prison in the middle of a desert or swamp would be. But people are always surprised by how scarring it was. For many Japanese Americans, “camps” are still something that is talked about in homes and of course at community events, despite more than seventy-five years and many generations having passed.

As a fourth generation Japanese American myself, I admit it’s always at the forefront of my mind—especially now with all the rhetoric about immigrants and Muslim Americans. I constantly worry that we’re going to see “camps” once again in our country. Not with Japanese Americans but with another group of demonized Americans. In fact, that’s why I always tell my 5-year-old son that we as decendents of those who were imprisoned in these “camps” have a moral responsibility to speak out and make sure it never happens again to any other group.

That’s why books like The Little Exile by Jeanette S. Arakawa are so important. Based on the author’s life, the story follows a middle-school girl, Marie Mitsui, as she goes from a typical American girl to a prisoner in one of America’s concentration camps. Her story takes her from a family laundromat in San Francisco to a remote camp in the swamps of Arkansas to a crowded apartment building in Denver where they have to share a bathroom and kitchen and don’t have running water, and then finally back home again.

The novel is a must read for anyone interested in what it was like in the time after Pearl Harbor for Japanese Americans to what life was like in “camp” and then in the time after they were released. It gives us a peak into the racism and the hate Japanese Americans had to endure during those years—but also the small acts of kindness that they also experienced too. These kinds of stories are important. Not only because they remember the past and tell us the facts, but also because they are able to put a face and a name to what happened—a historical tragedy.

Having worked at the Japanese American National Museum for over ten years, I was exposed to countless books and films about the experience. But even I was surprised and entertained by a lot of the stories in the book. I was especially moved by how much the incarceration affected the family (the parents fought more) and by the compassion from some non-Japanese Americans (Marie’s former class sent her a radio with a card all the way from California to Arkansas or the guard/soldier “Arky” who treated Marie and her friend with kindness).

So put The Little Exile on your reading list and make sure to tell a friend about it. These are the kinds of stories that need to be told and maybe if enough people read it, we’ll avoid making the same mistake a second time.

Well, you win some and you lose some … On the same day, I learned that Fresh Off The Boat was renewed for it’s fourth season and Dr. Ken was canceled after it’s second season:

“While not a ratings breakout, the show [‘Fresh Off The Boat’] has held up reasonably well across its three seasons. The third season is averaging a 1.2 rating in adults 18-49 and 4 million viewers per episode.”

Dr. Ken also averaged a 0.9 on Fridays in its second season, making it among the tougher calls among bubble shows.”

I was kind of surprised that Dr. Ken got canceled. I mean, I have to admit – the first season was pretty bad. I watched Dr. Ken more out of obligation to support the Asian American community than anything else. But I thought second season dramatically improved (though I’m still no fan of the character Pat, nor the romance between Pat & Damona) from plots lines to the comedy. It’s too bad Dr. Ken couldn’t find an audience, but Friday evenings at 8:30 PM isn’t exactly setting up a show for success. I wish the cast & crew of Dr. Ken the best and look forward to another season of Fresh Off The Boat.

 

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theatre of color in the country and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work, is pleased to announce its 52nd Anniversary Season, The Company We Keep, which takes place from Fall 2017 through Summer 2018 and features co-productions with Rogue Artists EnsembleThe Robey Theatre CompanyJapanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC), and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, including two world premieres, an acclaimed revival, and the Los Angeles premiere of an award-winning Broadway musical.

“For our 52nd Anniversary Season, I thought a lot about the company we keep—the vital artistic and community partnerships that have supported and nurtured East West Players over the past 52 years. To that end, we are offering something no other theater company is doing: an entire season of co-productions. These extraordinary works reflect on and refract a wide range of Asian Pacific Islander experiences as seen through the lens of gender, race, and sexuality. We don’t shrink or hide. Instead, we stand taller, unafraid, and, most importantly, together. Welcome to The Company We Keep,” says EWP Artistic Director Snehal Desai.

EWP’s 52nd season commences with the world premiere of Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, a special event presented in association with Rogue Artists Ensemble—a collective of multi-disciplinary artists that creates Hyper-theater, an innovative hybrid of theater traditions, puppetry, mask work, dance, music, and modern technology—with support from Venturous Theatre Fund of The Tides Foundation, the Jim Henson Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Written by Lisa Dring, Rosie Narasaki, and Chelsea Sutton with Rogue Artists Ensemble, and directed by Rogue’s Artistic Director Sean T. Cawelti, Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin is a multi-sensory, site-specific experience refracting ancient Japanese ghost stories through a modern, multi-cultural lens, revealing the noise of our histories and the silences that haunt us. Performances run from October 5 – November 5, 2017 and will be staged at a secret Mid-City, six-story warehouse built in 1927, to be revealed after tickets have been purchased. More information at www.rogueartists.org.

EWP and The Robey Theatre Company—which explores, develops, and produces provocative plays written about the Global Black Experience—present the revival of Yohen, written by Philip Kan Gotanda, directed by The Robey’s Producing Artistic Director Ben Guillory, and starring Danny Glover, with support from the S. Mark Taper Foundation. In Japanese pottery, the term “yohen” refers to unpredictable changes that take place in the kiln. James and Sumi Washington are an interracial couple struggling to maintain their 37-year marriage after James retires from the US Army. The dramatic change in routine prompts questions about life, love, and aging, as the couple attempts to repair what’s broken and decide what is worth saving. Performances run from October 26 – November 19, 2017 at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center for the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. More information at www.eastwestplayers.org and www.robeytheatrecompany.com.

EWP and Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC)—one of the largest ethnic arts and cultural centers of its kind in the United States and a hub for Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture in Southern California—and by special arrangement with Sing Out, Louise! Productions and ATA, present the Los Angeles premiere of the Broadway musical Allegiance. With music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Marc Acito, Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione, Allegiance is inspired by the true childhood experiences of TV/film actor and social media icon George Takei (Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek”). Allegiance tells the story of the Kimura family, whose lives are upended when they and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans are forced to leave their homes following the events of Pearl Harbor. An uplifting testament to the power of the human spirit, Allegiance follows the Kimuras as they fight between duty and defiance, custom and change, family bonds and forbidden loves. Performances run from February 21 – April 1, 2018 at JACCC’s Aratani Theatre at 244 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. More information at www.eastwestplayers.org and JACCC.org.

EWP’s 52nd season closes with the world premiere of As We Babble On, presented in partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center and with support from the S. Mark Taper Foundation. Written by Nathan Ramos, winner of EWP’s “2042: See Change” playwriting contest, As We Babble On explores the pursuit of success, its costs, and conquering the Swedish BIGBOX. Benji, a first-generation Asian American, struggles in New York City to find his voice as his writing career stalls. As the professional paths of his best friend Sheila and his half-sister Laura begin to blossom, he begins to unravel. As We Babble On explores what lengths we are willing to go to realize our dreams, whether morality is tied to upward mobility, and whether boxed wine and soda is an appropriate sangria recipe after the age of 24. Performances run from May 31 – June 24, 2018 at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center for the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. More information at www.eastwestplayers.org and www.lalgbtcenter.org.

Single ticket sales will be announced at a later date. Season subscription options will be forthcoming in June 2017. For additional information about the 52nd season, please visit www.eastwestplayers.org or call (213) 625-7000. Dates, details, and ticket prices are subject to change.

As the nation’s premier Asian American theatre organization, East West Players produces artistic work and educational programs that foster dialogue exploring Asian Pacific Islander (API) experiences. Founded in 1965, at a time when APIs faced limited or no opportunities to see their experiences reflected outside of stereotypical and demeaning caricatures in the American landscape, EWP not only ensures that API stories are told, but works to increase access, inclusion, and representation in the economy.

For more information about East West Players, please visit www.eastwestplayers.org.