8 Asians

Over the weekend, the World Series broke my heart. First, being a Dodgers fan, the way they have lost have crushed the soul out of me… and then there was the whole Yuli Gurriel incident after hitting the home run off of Japanese/Iranian picture Yu Darvish.

In case you’ve been living in a cave, here is the image of what he did:

But just to keep it in context, he wasn’t the first to do it and won’t be the last. Here is a list of other people who did the same thing.

The Spanish Tennis Federation:

The Spanish Men’s basketball team:

Miley Cyrus and friends:

Joe Jonas:

Brazilian tennis player:

Uruguayan soccer player:

Another baseball player:

A failed one, but the intent was there… Kate Gosselin:

Argentinian soccer team:

And there are others. Lots of others. In fact, so many I got tired of saving images off of Google and uploading them here. Let’s just be clear, these are not okay and not funny. And WE ARE OFFENDED.

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This commercial was uploaded by Chase last August 2016 (but now taken down on YouTube), but I only recently first saw it – and was questioning if what I was seeing was real! This commercial is about:

“Cyr Wheel performing artist Isaac Hou spins through multiple gigs and with barely any time in between. After yet another awe-inspiring performance, Isaac receives a check and using Chase’s QuickDeposit he is able to deposit the check right there on the spot while his wheel is still spinning. He rolls out to his next gig not letting something as quick as a check deposit disrupt his flow.”

I’ve never heard or seen Isaac Hou before. Chase does a nice profile and interview of him here:

“Hou grew up in New Jersey with a software engineer father and database manager mother and took time to travel the world by himself after high school. He came across hoop performing by accident and honed his skills on city streets across Europe and Asia. An appearance on “China’s Got Talent” earned him worldwide fame.”

According to this 2014 article, Hou is of Taiwanese decent and lives in Taipei. You can see an almost four minute YouTube video of him performing here:

Just amazing and mesmerizing!

With Halloween less than a month away, I knew what I wanted to write about this month: Racist Halloween costumes. Even though I don’t dress up and haven’t since I was a kid, I understand that Halloween is really important to a lot of people. There have been a lot of articles about racist Asian costumes already, including this evergreen one by my esteemed 8Asians editor Moye, Top 8 most offensive Asian Halloween costumes.

Of course, racist Halloween costumes are not just limited to dressing up like a slutty geisha or in yellowface. Every year people seem to make the bad… err racist… choice of dressing up like a Native American princess or in black face. Here is a good rule of thumb, if you’re going as a person from another race then you’re either close to the line or went over it. For some do’s and don’ts on Halloween costumes, here’s a great article on GQ.

that helps break it down.  Some of my favorite rules they listed are:

  • Don’t Change Your Skin Color to Any Shade Found in Humans
  • Choose a Subject Identifiable by Name

But what if you’re a person of that race? Is it okay to dress up for Halloween as a member of your own group? In other words, as an Asian American, can I go as a geisha? Or a ninja? One part of me thinks it’s okay. Similar to the old adage that I can make fun of my own family but no one else can. But a bigger part of me thinks that it’s not a good idea. It would just reinforce stereotypes.

I imagine some of this debate has to do with what the costume is. I mean there is a big difference between going to a party as a geisha than as a ninja. Or is there? And also, if I’m going as a specific person, that’s probably okay, right? I mean, I could be Bruce Lee, Genghis Kahn, or some other Asian/Asian American.

I decided to ask my friends on Facebook what their thoughts were. Some of the answers surprised me and others were enlightening.

First, I was surprised that not everyone agreed with me about non-Asians dressing up as Asian.

  • I do not find it ‘racist’ for anyone dress up as a geisha, ninja or whatever stereotypical ‘asian’ as long as your intention is to celebrate the spirit of Halloween.
  • Mickey Rooney portraying Mr. Yunioshi was racist. But non-Japanese adults and children trying to dress up in Japanese clothing, or what’s imagined to be Japanese clothing, for Halloween, it’s not the same thing. The skimpy geisha costume is silly, frivolous, funny, tasteless, just like the Queen Nefertiti and other costumes in the same ad. But someone who actual sees a cultural or racial insult in these must have an inferiority complex deeper than the Grand Canyon. It’s Halloween, no need to take any of this seriously, nobody else in the world is doing so.
  • Personally, I don’t really care if people dress up in outfits that are of other nationalities, probably because I’m old, and everything wasn’t so PC when I was growing up. I think if it’s in the spirit of being a “character” and not just “being Asian”, it should be okay. For instance, a samurai or ninja, I think is fine. I guess geisha is okay too. I think I went to a party once in kimono but with a gigantic Japanese doll bobble head on. As a little kid, I dressed up as Mary Poppins, who is white, so was I being racist?
  • Once in a dating relationship with an African American woman, we both wanted someday to show up at a Halloween party dressed as Genghis Khan and Chaka Khan, but we couldn’t agree on who would be GK and who CK. Halloween is not supposed to be historical accuracy, where did anyone get that stupid idea? People want to dress up as ersatz Asians, I got no particular problem with that. I can tell between when someone is trying to be insulting from when someone is just having fun.

Some people schooled me that it was all about intention and really up to the viewer.

  • It’s all about your intention, in my opinion. If someone is going to wear a mostly authentic Japanese kimono to showcase the beauty of the Japanese culture, then that is totally fine with me. I probably wouldn’t be ok with the “slutty” version of that though… which seems to be the direction most Halloween costumes go.
  • I am guilty of wearing a kimono for Halloween in college before. I recently attended a party and a friend of a friend asked me if I was offended (bc I am half Japanese) that she was a geisha and wore a kimono-ish dress and hair up with chopsticks, I said no, but I know plenty of people who would be, it just depends on the person and how PC you are. I have also seen friends who dressed up as specific black rappers and used tanning stuff (like blackface) and that made me uncomfortable, but some black friends thought it was hysterical so it all depends on the people and the intent. As mentioned before by someone else, I think being a specific character or person is different than being an offensive race stereotype for Halloween.

Most people confirmed, it was about being someone specific from a race… as opposed to just being anyone from a race.

  • I feel like that’s different. She’s dressing up as a specific individual/character. If someone just put on Chinese clothes and said they’re dressing up as a Chinese person for Halloween, that’s kind of offensive. If they dress up as Bruce Lee or Genghis Khan, I don’t mind, because they’re paying tribute to a person/character rather than generalizing a whole group of people.

But as far as is it okay for Asian Americans to dress up as Asian for Halloween, it seems most people didn’t have a problem with it:

  • Every year I see a lot of adorable little Korean American girls wearing their hanbok and Chinese American girls wearing their qi pao that they presumably already had for new year’s — so at the elementary age it’s hard to fault ethnic pride and immigrant mom frugality (and a friend of my boy’s just carried around his big brother’s calculus book lol)

But there’s a warning. The same commentor added:

  • Although when my kids were little, they always dressed as specific people– Chang e (the moon lady) and Michelle Kwan and mulan and Sun Wu Kong the monkey King– but no one but they ever knew that, and even when people asked they never knew the reference and would say instead “oh you’re dressed as a little Chinese girl”

So what did I learn? Asians can wear Asians costumes. Great. I’m going to try to get my six-year-old to dress up as a ninja because I think they are pretty cool. But just to be safe, I’ll tell him he’s Fujibayashi Nagato, one of the most famous ninjas of all time or just that he’s Rain from Ninja Assassin.

Follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 4: “It’s a Plastic Pumpkin, Louis Huang”
Original airdate October 24, 2017.

Synopsis:  (deep breath) Louis, as always, is stoked about Halloween and he’s got Seinfeld-themed costumes planned for his whole family but the rest of the Huangs have other plans. He still has hope for Evan, who agrees to hang out with his dad and pass out candy, but then sneaks off to Deidre’s grown-ups party.  Eddie and his fellow frosh friends have a plan to get invited to an older student’s party.  Jessica and Emery hear a strange male voice coming from Grandma’s room and are determined to find out what’s going on.

Woooo:  All the women are gorgeous in this episode.  I’m sorry but it’s just true.  Emery has a few excellent moments while dressed as Cosmo Kramer, demonstrating some physical comedy I didn’t see coming.  Jessica’s dreamy little gesture on Stephen King’s book jacket is hilarious.  I also really enjoyed the near-barrage of late-90s cultural references in the Halloween costumes, including references to Pokemon, The CraftPinky and the Brain, Netflix (established late August 1997!), and Daria.

Pttttth:  I don’t have much to complain about.  It’s not a great episode but it doesn’t have anything egregious.

FOB moment:  Grandma calls her family out for speaking rapidly in English when they don’t want her to know what they’re talking about, and now she’s secretly taking ESL classes.  From George Takei.

Soundtrack flashback:  M.C. Hammer’s “Addams Groove” (1991) and a snippet of the Seinfeld theme music, hummed by Louis.  There also might be something near the end, when Trent gets invited to the party but I can’t tell what it is.  Can you?

Final grade, this episode:  If Dr. Ken consistenly did one thing better than Fresh Off the Boat, it was repeatedly driving home the importance of letting kids be who they are, but in this episode, Louis and Evan have a confrontation about it that really works well, and the little twist where Louis is allowed also to be who he is is sweet. A nice episode for family viewing.  B.

What’s the book about?

When Kimi and her family visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house for New Year’s mochitsuki, they discover the mochi-machine is broken. After initial fears that mochitsuki will be cancelled, Grandpa proposes an interesting, yet old-fashioned solution of making mochi the hand-pounded way.

What exactly is mochitsuki?

Mochitsuki, or pounding rice to make mochi (rice cakes), is an important traditional event in preparation for the New Year in Japan. (Source)

My Thoughts…

Raising an Asian American kid takes some thought. I want him to be proud of who he is and where his ancestors come from. But in the Japanese American community, that can be a bit tougher than some other ethnicities. During World War II, Japanese Americans were made to choose between being Japanese and being American. Most chose to be American. And the “lesson” the community learned from the experience was to blend in—not to speak Japanese, not to live in Japanese communities, etc. In other words, to be as “American” as possible. Because of that, there has in the past—less now—been a shunning of all things seen as too Japanese in the community.

This is why books like Thank You Very Mochi are important for Japanese American families like mine. It connects our culture and American heritages. It allows us to teach and celebrate who we are and our experiences. And it puts people who look like us in the center of the story… as opposed to one of the faces in a crowd. The first time my five-year-old read the book, he told  me, “they look like us.” (On a side note, this was an interesting comment since we’ve read children’s books before that featured Asian and Japanese Americans before).

In fact, my son was so proud of the book he wanted to bring it to his pre-school. It was during a unit where they were studying traditions. Even though, we as a family don’t have a mochitsuki tradition, he wanted to share it with his friends. His classmates enjoyed the story and even got to taste some yummy mochi from Fugetsudo. The part of the reading that warmed my heart the most though was when we got to the pages that had images from the Japanese American “camps” during World War II. Because my son and I ALWAYS talk about them, he kept wanting to tell his little friends about them too. However, since the kids were only four and five, I didn’t think it was appropriate topic for me to bring up; so I told my son that we shouldn’t discuss this then and there. (It should be noted that if you prefer not to talk about the “camps,” they are not mentioned explicitly. However,  if you do,  there are images that depict “camp” life and can lead to interesting conversations about them.)

I realized I wrote this entire review and haven’t mentioned what I thought of the actual contents. I love the writing and the pictures. And more importantly, my kid loves it too. Get a copy of it right away or as a Christmas present for the Asian/Japanese American kid in your life. 

One last thing, I would like to shout out the folks who put out the book: Kizuna. They are a Japanese American non-profit who are trying to connect culture with the next generation. I think they are an organization worth knowing about. To find out more, go to their website here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @ksakai1

More than half of all American “personal appearance workers” (including manicurists and pedicurist) are Asian American, while more than a fourth of all casino workers are Asian American.  A little more than a fifth of all computer and mathematical area workers are Asian American.   While some of these facts are surprising and others are not, all are revealed in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on jobs and ethnicity for 2016, also summarized nicely in this article from Bloomberg.    Above, I show some of what I consider highlights of the data, shown against the percentage of Asian Americans in the work force (6.1%) as a way provide some context.

As I mentioned, some of the stats are not surprising.  There are a lot of Asian Americans in the manicure/pedicure salon business, as we have talked about in the past.  No one should be surprised by the large amount of Asian Americans in STEM professions.  Some of the other stats are more unusual.  Indian Americans have concentrated, for various reasons, in managing hotels and motels and driving taxicabs.  Many Asians and Asian Americans like to gamble, so casinos and many of the local card rooms in our area hire Asians Americans to provide services.  A significant number of Asians have moved to the Las Vegas area to work in the casinos and find cheaper housing – enough to support two 99 Ranch markets.

The Bloomberg article has interesting numbers on other ethnic groups.  Almost 40% of all barbers are African American.  Almost two thirds of dry wall installers are Hispanic.  One thing not highlighted in the Bloomberg article is the opposite – what jobs ethnic groups don’t do.  I looked at the BLS data, and there are practically zero Asian American loggers!  Not surprising.

One take away from this data is that along with great cultural differences, Asian Americans have also have large differences in the jobs and the income that Asian Americans families take in.  Being a nail salon worker averages $26,220 a year compared to a medical scientist averaging $80,530.  Note that there are more than twice as many nail salon type workers than medical scientists.  It would be interesting to see how different categories of Asian Americans fare in the different categories, but that data doesn’t seem to be available.

I was at Costco recently and saw this refrigerated dish: Teriyaki Stir-fry Udon. Since I’m always on the look out for lunch to bring to work (since my company’s cafeteria sucks …), I bought this 4 pack package to try out.

Each dish comes with:

and recommends your stir fry or microwave. For this post, I stir fried the vegetable toppings along with the udon noodles for 3 minutes with high heat:

then added in the teriyaki seasoning and stir on low-heat for about a minute to get this:

Overall, not bad. But I don’t think one serving alone is going to make me full, so be sure to eat something else if you don’t want to be hungry.

When I saw this BEHR / The Home Depot paint commercial, I had to rewind it a few times on my DVR – because I wasn’t too sure what I was seeing. I saw two boys who looked fairly Asian:

and a young girl who could be possibly half-Asian or white, a white mom and possibly an Asian American man.

In reading the YouTube comments in the commercials, others had noted this normal Asian Male / White Female (AM/WF) couple. I think this is the first commercial where I’ve seen an Asian American man and a white woman with their mixed race kids (along with the family dog) – and it’s just another normal American family painting their house together.

I think I had kind of the same reaction when I wrote this blog post:

Sonoma County Tourism Features Interracial Couple

Kudos to BEHR and The Home Depot on breaking some new ground.

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 3: “Kids”
Original airdate October 17, 2017.

Synopsis:  Jessica and Louis discover (to their amazement) that Eddie is responsible enough to be left alone in the house, and since he’s the last one to reach this level of maturity, they are now out of Kids Prison. They break out the nice furniture and make plans to go out for more than a hurried dinner. However, Honey and Marvin are part of their vision for a fun life, and Marvin is having his vasectomy reversed, which means they’ll be in Kids Prison for the long foreseeable future.  Jessica and Louis can’t have this, so they launch a passive-aggressive intervention.

Eddie learns that Alison and Evan have continued their friendship even now that he and Alison have broken up.  It’s awkward for Alison to be around, so the ex-sweethearts agree to tell Evan together that she won’t be hanging around anymore.

Emery is still having bad luck, but Grandma has a few ideas for making him feel better about it.

Rad:  There are some pretty cute themes here. I laughed (all three times I watched) when Jessica and Louis marveled that the last of their kids has grown up — and they mean Eddie.  Eddie and Alison’s who-gets-the-kid problem is also cute, and it brings out (for a while) Good Evan.  And Grandma’s half-evil, half-graceful plan to work with Emery is genuinely sweet.  The way Emery’s face lights up when he realizes his bad luck can be put to nefarious use for his grandmother’s benefit really works.

Bogus:  Acting by the young stars is pretty rough, especially in the Eddie-Alison scenes.  They’re learning, so of course I don’t offer this with any kind of malice or lack of understanding.  I think it’s fair to make note of, though, so I am.  Also we start off with Good Evan but we get Prick Evan by the end of the episode and it really doesn’t work.

The A plot is getting tiresome. Jessica has big ideas. Something threatens to foil them. Jessica does something uncool. Jessica feels bad and apologizes. Play the closing credits.  I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

I was going to say that it would have been nice for this Chinese couple to have made more of an effort to say “karaoke” the way my friends and I say it, but shoot. I don’t think I’ve ever said a Chinese word correctly in my life, so fair’s fair.

FOB moment:  The best I got is the continuation of Emery’s bad-luck-year.

Soundtrack flashback:  Karaoke snippets of Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” (1989), Elton John and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (1976), Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” (1992), Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (1967) and Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown” (1980).  None of them is very good.

Final grade, this episode: It has its moments but it’s just not very engaging or interesting, although the resolution of the Eddie-Alison story is nicely done.  Eddie’s a good kid and you can see why he and Alison were a good match.   B-minus.

8Books Review: The Discovery of Ramen

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Instant ramen noodles have been one of my comfort foods since I was a kid.  I wrote about how I even ate them raw as a kid in a previous 8Asians post, and how I’m still searching for the elusive and probably relegated to history “Sun Lih Men” brand of instant ramen noodles.  When I was asked to review a new kid’s book, The Discovery of Ramen, I jumped on the chance, even though my daughter is probably a little too old (she’s twelve now) for the picture book format of this title.  The new book is from the same publisher and one of the authors and illustrators of the Chinese New Year kids books, Tales from the Chinese Zodiac including the most recent one, The Year of the Rooster, that I reviewed back in January of 2017.

While the book appeared to target a child younger than my daughter, I asked her if she’d be interested in reading it.  When she saw the title, she said yes, as ramen noodles are also her favorite (she takes after her dad in that respect!).  She sat and read the book completely engrossed in the contents.  After she finished I asked her what she thought of the book, and she agreed with my initial assessment that the title was better suited for a younger child (ages 2 to 10), but she did thoroughly enjoy reading about the history of ramen, and how it came to be a staple for many Japanese restaurants.

If ramen figures highly among your child’s favorite  foods, this will be a great addition to your reading library.  The new book will release on November 14, 2017.

Footnote: Unfortunately I never found a source for the elusive “Sun Lih Men”, but I know I’m not the only one looking.  It appears the factory that manufactured these instant noodles burned down, and none of the other brands seem to satisfy the taste buds of those who had the original “Sun Lih Men”.

I saw this article by Durham, North Carolina’s The Hearld Sun posted on Facebook recently and was outraged by what I had read, and immediately made a small contribution to Hongbin Gu’s campaign for city council in Chapel Hill:

“She’s not US born,” [member of the Orange County Local Facebook group, Douglas] Roberts wrote. “What’s happened to us?”

Roberts, when asked in a comment whether Gu living in the U.S. for 22 years was enough for her to be considered American, said, “born in the USA works, born a North Carolinian is better.”

Gu, 49, responded to the social media criticism by posting her immigration story.

She was born during the Cultural Revolution in China, she said, and her parents were sent to labor camps when she was barely a month old.

Gu remembers seeing photos of tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square that brutally put down student protests in Beijing in June 1989. Gu said she was a student in Shanghai at the time and participated in similar marches and protests as part of the nationwide pro-democracy movement led by students.

“I think my experience, especially coming from an authoritarian state, makes me appreciate even more this democratic system we have over here,” Gu said.

Gu came to Chapel Hill two decades ago with just $50 in her pocket, and now has a family and researches autism as a faculty member in the psychiatry department at the UNC School of Medicine. Gu has a Ph.D in mathematical psychology.

“As an immigrant, I actually appreciate more about how valuable our system is, what it really means, and what kind of sacrifices people have made to actually make this system happen in this country,” Gu said.

Candidates for municipal office do not have to be born in the United States. They do need to be U.S. citizens, at least 21 years old, registered to vote, live in the municipality and not be a convicted felon, according to the Orange County Board of Elections.

Gu became a U.S. citizen in 2015, she said.

I thought Gu’s response was brilliant. I myself was the son of Taiwanese immigrant parents and I know my father came with almost nothing to the U.S. when he came for graduate school (in fact, he didn’t have enough money to fly all the way to Atlanta – he had to take the bus cross country from LA to Atlanta).

Except for Native Americans, it boggles my mind that some Americans refuse to recognize that the United States is a country of immigrants, and built by immigrants. The U.S. is a country that is built on ideas, not based on race. If Gu happened to have been a European immigrant, I wonder if she would have received this kind of criticism? I doubt it. In the age of Trump, I’m not surprised, but am disgusted, by this kind of criticism (I mean, after all, Melania, violated immigration law).

 

 

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 2: “The First Day”
Original airdate October 10, 2017.

Synopsis: (deep breath) It’s the first day of school for the Huang boys. Eddie gets a little insecure when he sees the jocks flirting with Alison, so he tries out for the football team without his mom’s permission. Emery is excited to finally have middle school to himself, now that Eddie’s in high school, but the charmed life he has lived seems to have turned: the girls don’t respond to him, and he spills a droplet of milk on his school pants — right on the pleat! Evan has a little surprise for Emery too. Louis has some trouble with a Kenny Rogers representative, now that Michael Bolton has sold his interest in Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch (now Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch). I sorta can’t believe I just typed that sentence.

Yay: Evan and Jessica don’t really have their own stories here, and that’s completely okay! There’s still too much going on, but maybe the writers are coming around to one of my biggest complaints about this show: they try to cram too much story into each episode. There’s a teeny bit of further development of the secret Nicole shared with Eddie in episode one; I like that the writers don’t feel the need to push it way up front. I’ll be pleased if it takes its time.

I was worried last season that Hudson Yang as Eddie had hit a dead end as an actor, but he seems to be growing into his skin. He’s still a little cardboard at times, but he has his moments, especially with his timing in dialogue with his mom. That’s probably a reflection on Constance Woo as an actor too. Isabella Alexander as Alison continues to be the best of the regular young actors.

In case you’ve lost track of the timeline, it’s the fall of 1997. The Huangs move to Orlando in the spring of 1995 (as it still says in the opening music), so season two begins in the fall that same year, season three begins in the fall of 1996, and here we are in 1997, as confirmed by Grandma’s declaration that it’s the year of the ox in the Chinese zodiac. It’s good that they give us enough to keep this straight.

Eddie’s cafeteria scene with his estranged friends is really well edited. Not quite an O Captain My Captain moment, but you know, at least a distant cousin.

Boo: This Cattleman’s Ranch arc is getting ridiculous. The acting by Forrest Wheeler (as Emery) and Ian Chen (as Evan) is both awkward and charming at the same time. I’m not sure what I’m reading here, especially after Wheeler’s very good season last year, but I suspect they’ll find their groove.

FOB moment: Grandma tells Emery that everyone has bad luck during his or her zodiac year. Emery is smart: why doesn’t he ask her why it doesn’t seem like everyone else in his grade is also having a bad luck year?

Soundtrack flashback: I didn’t hear anything. Did you? Seems like they missed the chance to flash us back to almost anything great when Nicole is driving Eddie to school.

Final grade, this episode: Kind of a boring episode, but I do like the way what seems to be the A plot resolves fairly early while we get resolution on the antagonistic friends, which seemed to be a C plot at best. Nicely done. The Dolly Parton jokes are bizarre and funny, but this Kenny Rogers story has to go. B-minus.