8 Asians

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 14: “A Man to Share the Night With”
Original airdate January 30, 2018.

Synopsis:  Louis sees Eddie shaving for what he believes is the first time.  Overjoyed that his eldest son is now a man, he extends Eddie’s bedtime, long enough so he can watch the first part of The Late Show with David Letterman on school nights.  Eddie, puffed up by his new manhood, takes Louis’s declaration to mean he can decide for himself what he can do with that extra time, opting instead to spend it roaming around the neighborhood at night with his friend Barefoot Dave, who of course has no bedtime since his single-parent mom works graveyard shifts.  Jessica, heartbroken that Michelle Kwan has taken silver (and not gold) at the ’98 Winter Olympics, lies to Emery and Evan, telling them that Kwan has won.  The boys, upon learning the truth, develop a conspiracy theory involving a Kwan imposter, which Jessica tries to convince Nancy Kerrigan to confirm.

BDP:  Ooh, a reemergence of Bad Guy Eddie was overdue, and he brings it.  What I like about the resolution is that Nice Guy Eddie executes his own turnaround not through the intervention of his parents, but on his own, when confronted with a possible very bad choice.  He later credits his decision to his father.  There’s some good stuff here for families.

Eddie’s self-correction combines with Evan and Emery’s sneaky resilience, not revealed until the last scene, to give us a structure we haven’t seen in this series.  Jessica thinks she’s contructing a lie in order to protect her children, but we find that rather than be taken in by it, they use the lie to create their own lie so they may protect Jessica.  Sweet!  Did Richie and Joanie Cunningham ever turn the tables and dispense good parenting messages to Marion and Howard?  I don’t think so!

I really like angry dad Louis in this scene.  We don’t get enough of that in this show, and I understand because there needs to be room for Jessica, but like Eddie, I was happy he could be counted on when we needed him.

Some lines I liked:

“Take a lid.”  (Louis to Eddie)

“Can I have our razor back?”  (Grandma to Eddie)

“Told you.  You come for Lipinski, you best be ready.”  (Honey)

“Louis, you can stay up and watch that old man and his piano gremlin, but I’m going to bed.”  (Jessica, about David Letterman)

ICP:  Honey can do whatever she wants with her hair, but that Lipinski cut did not do it for me!  Also, Marvin continues to be too weird even for this show.  I was into the Olympics story, as nit-witty as it was, right up until the Nancy Kerrigan cameo, which just doesn’t work.  Or maybe, like the Huangs, I was rooting for Michelle.

FOB moment:  Like you, I was there in ’98.  I remember what it was like, that weird American pride combined with Asian American pride, and the amazing deflated feeling when Kwan lost, when we were all so sure she had it sewn up.  People where I worked put up signs in their workspaces, saying “We still love you Michelle!” as if she might somehow see or feel the sentiment halfway across the Pacific.

Soundtrack flashback:  I didn’t hear anything!  Did you?

Final grade, this episode: The Eddie story is pretty good, but the Jessica story, while expressing some feelings I think many of us had, felt out of place.  Even the weird hugging Emery and Evan do when they learn that Kwan has won gold seems like it belongs in another show. B-minus.

 

 

 

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8Books: “Not Your Villain” by CB Lee

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Not Your Villain is the page turning sequel to CB Lee’s delightful Not Your SidekickVillain picks up probably midstream with Sidekick, eventually merging plot lines. It follows shapeshifter Bells Broussard, best friends with Sidekick‘s Jess Tran, on his official, but secret, journey to becoming a HERO! But along the way, he and his friends realize that things may not be as they seem. Unearthing a massive cover-up turns Bells into the country’s most wanted villain…

A heartwarming bunch of friends, a fast-paced plot, this is the kind of book you open to page 1 and come up for air only when you’ve reached the end. And then Google when the third book in the trilogy is coming out. Bells (who is trans) and his other best friend Emma are charming additions to the Sidekick world. Are the heroes really heroes? Are the villains really villains? Do parents really know what’s best? Not Your Villain is packed with adventure, plot twists, and races towards its semi-cliff-hanging ending. But it’s clear this is the second book in a series, there’s a good deal of set-up, a lot of explanation…all waiting for Not Your Backup to come up.

By Dawn Lee Tu

Exclusive for 8Asians readers, check out Episode 6 of Kat Loves LA here before it gets released on 1/28!

Star, writer, and producer of Kat Loves LA, on not denying your Asian American identity, making that big leap into acting, and her love of rom-coms…

Paget Kagy (pronounced KAY-gee) is no stranger to talking about representations of Asian Americans in Hollywood. Kagy describes her parents as strong Asian American figures in her life who “always spoke about Asian American representation in the media and they were very well-educated in that way.” Her father, a successful lawyer, published Transpacific Magazine, one of the first Asian American magazines in the U.S., in the late 1980s which had a lasting impact on Kagy. He often spoke about “how there were never any Asian American role models in the media who weren’t stereotyped.” As a result, when Kagy took that leap into acting, she knew that she would create content and write roles with Asian American leads.

When Kagy began to write her web series Kat Loves LA (KLLA), currently available on YouTube, she was set on challenging Hollywood’s notions of being able to cast Asian Americans as leads in a mainstream and universally appealing and entertaining way.

I chatted with Kagy about the impact her parents had on her decision to go into acting, a very traumatic audition for The Lion King, and whether or not Kat finds love by the end of Season 1.

How did you grow up? What were some formative experiences?
I was born in LA and I grew up here to two Korean parents and they moved here when they were really young so they’re extremely acculturated. My dad went to law school at UC Berkeley and my mom’s very well-educated. I’ve always strongly identified as Korean but when I was growing up, I was one of maybe three other Asian Americans in my class which was predominantly Caucasian. So I remember having a confusing relationship with being Asian because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me who was setting the standard of beauty or popularity in the school I went to or in the media.

I do remember how kids can be cruel … kids would say, “go back to China” or they would pull back the corners of their eyes. I just thought that was the way the world unfairly saw Asians. I would always fight back but it was tough feeling like you’re an outsider just because of the way you look. I used to remember feeling like I wasn’t pretty or attractive. I didn’t set any kinds of standards of beauty or anything and it just made fitting in a little bit harder. I wasn’t a loner; I had friends but it was just kind of like a struggle that I internalized to a certain extent.

I guess it didn’t help that I was also kind of weird as a kid.

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I think the last time I wrote about Shark Tank was when 3 Korean American women were trying to raise money for their dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel, where one sister (I think the one that went to Stanford for her MBA?) turned down a theoretical offer of $30 million from Mark Cuban.

Well, I was watching the premier episode of Season 9 of Shark Tank (originally airing on Sunday, October 1st, 2017), and saw Korean American and fellow Duke alum Yunha Kim (not to be confused with *the* Yuna Kim) – who I actually met briefly a year or two ago at a Duke alumni event in San Francisco – trying to raise money for her company and namesake meditation app, Simple Habit.

The reason why this particular pitch became somewhat controversial was that Mark Cuban had called Yunha a “gold digger”:

“The $12 million valuation she was putting on Simple Habit was, for Shark Tank, probably one of the highest ever. She felt it was worth it, though, because she already had a built-in user base and other investors. Kim knows she has a hit on her hand, especially given the popularity of apps like Calm and Headspace.
For Mark Cuban, that’s where it all fell apart. Kim was having trouble explaining why she needed to get a shark involved with her business when she already had plans to get other celebrities and influencers involved. There’s also the matter of her prior rounds of investments and the fact that she’s coming from Silicon Valley, a place the investors on Shark Tank are notoriously wary of. (“The Valley takes over,” Cuban groaned when Kim started her pitch.) They usually feel like the entrepreneurs are pitching into the publicity void, since they’re already set for money.
Cuban felt that Kim had the cash, and she was working on securing the celebrity endorsements, so why was she taking up the time of hungrier entrepreneurs who didn’t have a proven track record of turning products and ideas into proven businesses? “You’re a gold digger,” he told Kim. She looked absolutely shocked.”

Personally, I was a bit disappointed in Mark Cuban using that term. I understand Cuban’s concern about other entrepreneurs using Shark Tank as he termed it, a “growth hack” to get the publicity and growth resulting for appearing on Shark Tank without really needing to attract investment capital. Cuban could have more artfully said that Kim was using Shark Tank as a publicity vehicle or was seeking the limelight.

In her defense, guest “shark” Richard Branson called out Cuban on his remark, and Cuban later was backpedaling to explain himself. But it was a bit too late for Branson as he threw a cup of water on Cuban (and vice versa).

As I had commented on one of Yunha’s posts on Facebook (we’re “friends”):

“I just watched the episode tonight on my DVR. You did a great job. Cuban’s remark was sexist and inappropriate. Even if your goal was for publicity, gold digger would be the wrong term to use professionally, especially to a woman. I’m a fan of Cuban on Shark Tank as well as his strong endorsement of Hillary Clinton last year, but his comment disappointed me.”

Personally, given the years I’ve watched Shark Tank, I don’t think Cuban is sexist, but I do think calling Yunha a gold digger was definitely not appropriate.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve become a fan of the Golden State Warriors when the Warriors first signed on Jeremy Lin back in 2010. And since then, the Warriors have gotten better and better (although Lin has been long gone), including winning the 2017 NBA championship last year. So when I get the opportunity to attend a game on behalf of 8Asians.com, I do!

Back on Monday, December 11th, the Warriors held their annual Asian Heritage Night celebration game against the Portland Trail Blazers, with the Crystal Children’s Choir performing the national anthem and San Jose Taiko providing the half-time entertainment.

To be honest, I had never heard of the Crystal Children’s Choir prior to attending the game:

“Crystal Children’s Choir was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1994. Since then, it has grown into an organization of over one thousand members. Choir members rehearse every week with their respective ages and skill levels in four Bay Area cities – Cupertino, Fremont, Foster City, and San Jose. … We aspire to be cultural ambassadors of children’s choral music, especially in the field of Chinese folk songs and newly commissioned works. Through a unique musical and life-enhancing education offering to its choristers, Crystal Children’s Choir hopes to nurture teamwork, love of music, and excellence in choral singing among younger generations.”

As far as taiko drumming, I’ve definitely seen that before and have heard of San Jose Taiko:

Since 1973, San Jose Taiko has captivated global audiences and critics alike with the powerful sounds of the taiko.

Inspired by traditional Japanese drumming, company performers express the beauty of the human spirit through the voice of the taiko, creating a vibrant, contemporary art form as they strive to connect people through cultural understanding, creative expression, and rhythmic heartbeat.

San Jose Taiko was founded by young Asian Americans searching for an outlet to convey their experiences as third generation Japanese Americans, or Sansei. Looking to Japan for inspiration, they were drawn to the empowering sounds of the taiko – the Japanese drum – an instrument that embodies the spiritual essence and heartbeat of Japan.

As for the game itself, the Golden State Warriors are an exceedingly good team, so I never really had any doubt that the Warriors would win the game against Portland, which they did – even though star players such as Stephen Curry and Draymond Green didn’t play due to injuries.

Although this commercial was uploaded to Tostitos’ YouTube channel over 7 months ago, I only recently caught this TV commercial, which stars actress Alli Chung.

I like how this commercial kind of mocks those who tend to be a bit too active on social media, although to be honest, this could include me.

 

In a recent NBC News/GenForward Survey poll at the end of September, 78% of Asian American Millennials disapprove of Trump’s job performance. That is not a surprise given that 64% of Millennials overall disapprove of Trump’s performance.

Additionally, the poll found 68% of Asian American Millennials said that the Democratic Party “Cares About People Like You.” That is not terribly surprising either given that in 2012, 71% of Asian Americans voters casted their ballot for President Obama (77% according to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)) and 79% for for Clinton in 2016).

 

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 13 : “The Car Wash”
Original airdate January 16, 2018.

Synopsis:  Jessica’s deeply involved with edits on her novel, A Case of a Knife to the Brain, and Louis worries that he and his wife are growing apart because of it.  Taking Marvin’s advice, Louis plans several surprises in order to keep the spark alive, but Jessica is not very receptive.  Evan gets bumped up to seventh-grade English, where he and his classmate Emery compete to be their teacher’s favorite (it’s Tig Notaro!).  It’s clear that the teacher doesn’t favor either of them, so they raise their teacher’s-pet game, asking Eddie for advice, since he seems to have had a great relationship with her.

Dope:  Eddie and Jessica are each really good in this, as our Nice-Guy Eddie streak continues, and Jessica’s slow, simmering irritation by Louis is fun to read on her face.  I usually like Emery and Evan better when they’re working together, but this is a cute story, playing really well into their characters, and the Eddie twist is funny.  The sprinkler gag at the end of the teaser is stupid but I laughed out loud, and the disapproving looks by the Poe, Dickinson, and Shakespeare posters are kind of hilarious.

Lines I liked:

“Taking on classic literature, family style.”  (Evan)

“I don’t care enough about this to watch it conclude.  I’m gonna see Spice World again.” (Eddie)

“You got flowers on my keyboard!” (Jessica)

“If you’d seen Spice World, you’d realize that life is about trying to find a way to make genuine connections with people.”  (Eddie)

“Aah!  My Keroppi!” (Evan)

“We all heard what Jessica said.  That voice carries!”  (Corporal Bryson)

“Goodbye Yale.  Hello Georgia Tech.”  (Evan)

Wack:  Marvin’s getting to be a pain, and Louis’s over-the-top behavior is wearing thin.  I can’t stand the way the principal and the detention teacher treat “Stripes,” the student they pretty much bully.

FOB moment:
“It’s hard to believe that the Michelin Man is made up of a bunch of these.”

“I never really thought about that, but yeah.  Why is he white, though?  Shouldn’t he be black?”

“Let’s not get into that whole thing.  We’re having a nice time.”

Soundtrack flashback:  “The Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh (1986).  This was sort of the musician’s introduction to the mainstream, but if you listened to FM rock radio in the early Eighties, you might have heard his “Don’t Pay the Ferryman,” which is a real rocker and sounds like a completely different artist.

Final grade, this episode: Despite Louis’s lunacy, this is an enjoyable episode, the rare pretty-good episode with no Eddie story.  Eddie makes the most of his appearances, though! B.

 

 

 

NYC Theater Review: ‘Panorama’ at La MaMa

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Maura Nguyen Donohue in Panorama. Photo by Theo Cote

Panorama is a world premiere play from Italian duo Motus showing at La MaMa (66 East 4th Street) as part of The Public’s Under the Radar Festival until January 21.

Though the description for the show is a bit dense–“proposing a post-nationalistic identity for all the populations of the world, focusing on the concept of fluid identity and nomad identity”–the play itself is actually an intimate look at the lives of the artists who make up La MaMa’s Great Jones Repertory Company.

Sure it plays out in unique ways with shifting identities and the help of some expertly executed projections, life-feeds, and other technological boosts. But in the end, it’s about people. An inordinately human play about belonging and not belonging, about morals and identity, about taking a stand, about becoming an artist, about moving, about the emotional toll of today’s political climate.

Perry Yung in Panorama. Photo by Theo Cote

The play is based on interviews done with the actors, a refreshingly diverse group. Maura Nguyen Donahue, for example, who reveals in the course of the play that she added Nguyen so people would know she was Vietnamese, only to find out that her family’s surname was actually Tran (her mom purchased papers). There’s a wonderful camaraderie between the actors that bleeds through even beyond the lines.

There are some odd moments, some jarring notes, some nudity (this is after all, experimental theater, what do you expect), some delightful one-liners, and a whole boatload of honesty.

Panorama is playing at La MaMa, The Downstairs at 66 East 4th St. until January 21, 2018. Tickets $25 for adults and $20 for students/seniors. Run time: 80 minutes.

“A guru once told me that the problem with the West is they don’t squat.” – Rosie Spinks

One of 8Asians’ most popular articles continues to be Koji Sakai’s article on the “Asian” Squat

We recently got a comment from one of our readers on how the Asian Squat seems to be a way to help with a particular health problem but that the reader could not readily achieve the position.  Shortly after that, I saw this piece by Rosie Spinks about how the “Asian Squat” can be good for people’s health, but sadly, is going away with certain people in Asia.

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I was at Costco the other day, and noticed this new frozen meal – Ajinomoto’s Tokyo Style Shoyu Chicken Ramen Bowls. I’m always looking for something I can bring to work, since I had mentioned, the company cafeteria kind of sucks. So the fact that this packing has six dishes for $12.99, that definitely caught my eye.

Although, as usual, the dish alone probably wouldn’t be that filling for lunch. I’ll probably have to bring something else, like a salad. In any case, you really can’t too much about how the dish is going to taste after taking it out of the box:

But once you remove the plastic, fill the plastic container with water until a certain line, and microwave for about four minutes, this is what you get:

I was pleasantly surprised – the dish tasted pretty decent. On the packaging, the instructions suggest:

“Add some soy sauce, black pepper, or a soft boiled egg to customize your ramen!”

And I am sure that will make the ramen dish taste better, but I’m not going to bring soy sauce, etc. to work with me. Again, the meal size was okay – but I’d definitely still be hungry in a few hours if I only had this for lunch.

By Dawn Lee Tu

PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS – SEASON 1 – EPISODE 106 – “Safe and Sound” (photo: Elizabeth Sisson © 2017 Sony Pictures Television)

Alice Lee has been in the game for a decade and there’s a good chance you’ve seen her before.

Her impressive body of work includes Broadway (award-winning Spring Awakeningand Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark) and off-Broadway (Heathers the Musical), indy film (Jack, Jules, Esther and Me), television (Switched at Birth, Son of Zorn, The Mindy Project, Two Broke Girls), to reality-music talent show Rising Star. She finds time to cover songs and release original music on her YouTube channel. Lee is also the fresh-faced Asian customer service agent in the Discover Card commercialthat always sparks a fresh round of “Spot the Asian,” my favorite game to play while watching TV.

She can be seen in Safe and Sound, premiering January 12th on Amazon Prime Video. Safe and Soundis an part of Philip K. Dick’s anthology Electric Dreams, a sci-fi anthology series of ten epic, ambitious and moving standalone episodes, each set in a different and unique world – some which lie in the far reaches of the universe and time and others which are much, much closer to home. While the stories may be worlds apart, central to each is the poignant and warm exploration of the importance and significance of humanity.

Each episode is inspired by one of Philip K. Dick’s renowned short stories and has been adapted by leading British and American writers including Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander),Michael Dinner (Justified), Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), Matthew Graham (Doctor Who), David Farr (The Night Manager), Dee Rees (Mudbound) and Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim) among others.

Lee and I talked over the phone about her latest breakout role, balancing her love for singing and acting, and how she cultivates her creative energies.

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