John Chiang’s New ElectAAPI.org PAC Aims to Boost Political Fortunes of Asian American Candidates

Image courtesy of ElectAAPI.org

A lot of people, including myself, were wondering what former California State Treasurer (as well as former State Controller and Board of Equalization) John Chiang was going to do after his failed bid to run for Governor of California.

Well, we no longer have to wonder – back in mid-March, Chiang announced:

“In an email to supporters Thursday, Chiang said he’s launching a political action committee aimed at electing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country, with a particular focus on congressional seats.

“We want to build a more inclusive America. For too long, Asian Americans have not had the political infrastructure like so many other communities to be as successful in the political arena,” Chiang said in an interview.

The PAC, ElectAAPI.org, hopes to amass a seven-figure war chest for the 2020 cycle and plans to give directly to federal candidates as well as use independent expenditures to influence races. The group also wants to help mobilize Asian American voters, the fastest growing racial group in the electorate.

Citing what it called “growing racism, xenophobia and intolerance being perpetuated by the GOP,” the PAC’s website said it will support only Democratic candidates.”

I’m a little surprised by Chiang’s move, but glad he didn’t sell out to become a corporate lobbyist, that is for sure.

The first candidate ElectAAPI is supporting Congressman Andy Kim, from New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District. (Kim is the first Democratic member of Congress of Korean descent, and the second overall).

Best of luck to Chiang in starting this PAC and I look forward to catching up with him soon to learn more, maybe at the upcoming 2019 California Democratic Party Convention at the end of May.

Love Boat: Taiwan Documentary Premieres in LA, SF, and Taipei in May 2019!

As I had blogged before, I had attended the “infamous” ‘Love Boat’ back in the summer of 1993 after graduating from college. I think every Taiwanese American has heard of the ‘Love Boat,’ so I am so happy that finally a documentary about the program is finally being release (disclosure: I am a producer, interviewee and provided archival video footage for the documentary).

Love Boat: Taiwan will be premiering in Los Angeles, San Francisco and then Taipei in May 2019:

“San Francisco, CA – April 13th, 2019 Filmmaker Valerie Soe announced today the premiere screenings of LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN at two of North America’s most prestigious Asian American film festivals. Saturday, May 4th at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and Friday, May 17th at CAAMfest (Center for Asian American Media) in San Francisco. It will also screen in competition in late May as the Closing Night film for the Urban Nomad film festival in Taipei, Taiwan’s premier indie film festival.”

The Love Boat has a rich history and many famous alumni have passed through the program over the years including US Congresswoman Judy Chu, buzzfeed’s Justin Tan, and singer Wang Lee Hom. Although it started out in 1967 as a small cultural program, over the years the Love Boat eventually became harder to gain entry into than many colleges. There was no marketing budget and the Love Boat’s popularity stemmed from its word-of-mouth reputation. LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN explores the ways that the government of Taiwan used this unique “soft power” program to promote Taiwan around the world which permanently affected the lives of many Asian Americans.

You can purchase tickets at the links above. There will also be afterparties.

You can check out the film’s website for more updates – http://www.loveboat-taiwan.com/ or join the facebook page  to learn more.

Kim’s Convenience is HILARIOUS – Available on Netflix

I had heard of the Canadian television comedy Kim’s Convenience a few years ago when it debuted, but never got around to watching it, even when it became available on Netflix last year in the U.S. But after remembering a friend mentioning how great the show was, I got around to binge watching Seasons 1 &2 on Netflix and catch-up to Season 3 through other means … I have to say, the 30 minute (less without commercials) show is pretty hilarious!!!

Kim’s Convenience is:

“… a Canadian television sitcom that premiered on CBC Television in October 2016. The series centres on the Korean Canadian Kim family who run a convenience store in the Moss Park neighbourhood of Toronto: parents “Appa” (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and “Omma” (Jean Yoon) – Korean for “dad” and “mom” – along with their daughter Janet (Andrea Bang) and estranged son Jung (Simu Liu). Additional characters include Jung’s friend and co-worker Kimchee (Andrew Phung) and his manager Shannon (Nicole Power). The series is based on Ins Choi’s 2011 play of the same name.

The first season was filmed from June to August 2016 at Showline Studios in Toronto. It is produced by Thunderbird Films in conjunction with Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company, with Lee and Yoon reprising their roles from the play. Scripts were created by Choi and Kevin White, who had previously written for Corner Gas.

The second season premiered on September 26, 2017. The show has been renewed for two more seasons.

In July 2018, the series became available to audiences outside of Canada when it debuted internationally on Netflix.”

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee who plays Mr. Kim is a pure comic acting genius if you ask me, as well as the rest of the cast is top notch. Actress Andrea Bang is terrific and kind of reminds me a little of Korean American San Francisco former City Supervisor and former SF mayoral candidate Jane Kim, especially in her mannerisms and fierceness (or at least her character).

Simu Liu plays a handsome and charming, if not so bright, Jung (which is kind of nice to see the anti-Model Minority). Andrew Phung is also terrifically funny & upbeat Jung’s roommate and sidekick. And I do like the fact that Nicole Power’s Shannon has a crush on Jung.

To be honest, I think it’s a lot funnier, more edgy than ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and ‘Dr. Ken’, though I did like both those shows and could certainly relate to certain episodes a lot.

For those looking to catch Kim’s Convenience in its 3rd season, it’s coming to Netflix as soon as the regular season ends in Canada – on April 3rd, 2019 (at least for the U.S., U.K. and Australia).

Andrew Yang for President 2020 – CNN Townhall Meeting – Sun April 14th, 8 PM EST

In my last blog post about presidential candidate Andrew Yang, I mentioned he had made it on The Daily Show as well as made the Democratic Party Presidential debates. Well now, Yang has his own CNN Townhall this coming Sunday, April 14th, at 8PM EST:

” We just received the news – I am getting a CNN Town Hall on Sunday, April 14th at 8pm EST!  This is an enormous opportunity for me and the campaign.  Most Americans are just getting to know the various candidates.  Together we can make the case to the American people for a new economy that works for people.  More info to come about how we will rally the Yang Gang around our national moment. “

It’ll be interesting to see if Yang can get the CNN Townhall bump that Democratic presidential Pete Buttigieg candidate did after his townhall – raising $600K in 24 hours after his townhall and a rise in his poll numbers:

” Buttigieg’s standing lands him at fifth and tied with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Buttigieg is ahead of both Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, who are each at 2%. In other words, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is polling in the same area as a number of candidates who are regarded as having a legitimate chance of winning the Democratic nomination.”

I’m hoping Yang can go the distance to help raise the profile of Asian Americans and be a role model for political activism. As I’ve often complained, Asian Americans are not nearly as politically engaged as we should be.

Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Makes the DNC Debates as well as The Daily Show

The first time I wrote about presidential candidate Andrew Yang was in September of last year, when I interview him last Summer 2018 regarding his run for President Of The United States (POTUS). A lot has happened since then, including a whole slew (about 15+) of Democrats have announced their run for president.

Last week, Yang made it on to The Daily Show in a news report by correspondent Ronny Chieng, who chatted with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang about his push for a universal basic income – which is pretty hilarious. In my book, if you’re running for office and make it on The Daily Show, you’re legit!

But more importantly, Yang has officially qualified for the Democratic National Committee’s 2019 debates for this June and July – as The Washington Post put its: “Andrew Yang is running for president. Haven’t heard of him? You will soon.”:

Yang announced Monday that he surpassed 65,000 donors, the Democratic National Committee’s threshold for participants in the first two debates. A party official said the DNC won’t announce the slate of debaters until at least two weeks before the event.

The milestone capped an improbable month-long run. In that time, donations to his campaign flowed in from around the country, his rallies got more crowded and his Twitter following more than tripled, from 40,000 to more than 130,000 in 30 days, propelled by a rabid online fan base known as the Yang Gang.

He says it all started on the “Joe Rogan Experience.”

Yang appeared on Rogan’s podcast, which has more than 4 million subscribers on YouTube alone, in February to talk about his trademark policy proposal, “The Freedom Dividend,” his poll-tested name foruniversal basic income. After that, he said, his campaign took off.

“It seems like a lot of people started paying attention all at once,” Yang said in an interview with The Washington Post.

….

Monmouth University poll in February put his support among Democratic voters at 1 percent, still a long way from the front of the pack but the same as Eric Holder and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Yang exulted in a tweet.

He thinks, as all politicians must, that the more people hear from him, the more they’ll support him. On Rogan’s show, Yang, who founded Venture for America, held court for nearly two hours, discussing the threat automation poses to working Americans. He explained that, as president, he would institute a value-added tax on tech companies to pay all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 $1,000 per month, a dramatic expansion of the social safety net that would guarantee tens of millions of Americans a $12,000 annual income.”

Yang has strategically reached out to as many social media influencers as well as reached out to many across the other isle, including those on Fox News – including Tucker Carlson (whom I’m not a fan of …) – who he impressed:

Most recently, this past week, Yang visited the San Francisco Bay Area again and had his largest rally yet in San Francisco – with an estimated crowd of over 3,000 people.

Unfortunately, I work in San Jose, so the drive up to San Francisco probably would have taken over 1.5 to 2 hours given traffic these days. I did get to catch Yang speak at a smaller event in Saratoga, California.

I’m looking forward to seeing Yang increasingly seeing greater media exposure – I hope soon at a CNN townhall and other mainstream media outlets. If there’s a Southwest flight I can make to see Yang debate in June and July, I’m there (work schedule permitting). I think it is tremendously important to have Asian Americans involved in the political process at all levels of government, including running for president.

Full disclosure: I have donated to Yang’s campaign in the past and may in the future.

Ken Jeong’s Netflix Comedy Special: ‘You Complete Me, Ho’ Now Streaming

On Valentine’s Day, Netflix released Ken Jeong’s first ever comedy special titled, ‘You Complete Me, Ho’ :

In his first-ever stand-up special, Ken Jeong pays tribute to his wife and shares stories about Hollywood and how “The Hangover” saved his life.

in honor of his wife, Tran Ho, who has been cancer free for over 10 years:

“It’s a play on my wife’s last name, which is Ho. It was actually her suggestion for that title,” he said. “Netflix wanted a catchier title than what I initially pitched, and Tran, my wife, thought ‘You Complete Me, Ho.’ We were both laughing hysterically and I pitched it to Netflix and they loved it. In many ways the act and the title were inspired by my wife. I look at is as almost like a one-man show touching upon my family and my wife with a bunch of dick jokes.”

In the special, Jeong talks about his marriage and his wife’s brush with breast cancer 10 years ago, while the camera cuts to her reactions in the audience. According to Jeong, the cutaways were the idea of “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu, who also helmed “You Complete Me, Ho.”

The comedy show was filmed at The Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena, Calif., where he got he first performed stand up for his wife.

Without any plans for Valentine’s Day evening, I had a chance to watch the special and was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a ton (there was some) of overlap material (from what I recall – I admit, I had a few required drinks) from when I saw Ken perform back in April of last year with a fellow Asian American Duke alum – where Ken also went to school where he called my friend and I out as “Duke dorks,” as we were seated near the front.

The comedy special is about

” … working on, and being recognized from, his role in three Hangover movies, as well as riffing about his ABC sitcom, Dr. Ken, and how he’d still be sad about its cancellation if he hadn’t hopped on a plane and shot his first scene for Crazy Rich Asians the following day. Jon M. Chu, who directed Crazy Rich Asians, also directed Jeong’s special.”

and how his wife inspired him, especially his difficult times when his wife was battling cancer around the time when The Hangover opportunity materialized and was filming. If your a Ken fan and have Netflix, I highly recommend the special.

In Ken’s media blitz to promote his Netflix comedy special, I caught this great 20+ minute GQ YouTube video, Ken Jeong Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters:

where he talks about his most iconic characters, including his roles in ‘Knocked Up,’ ‘The Office,’ ‘Role Models,’ ‘The Hangover’ trilogy, ‘Community,’ ‘Bob’s Burgers,’ ‘Dr. Ken,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’  and his recent hit TV show ‘The Masked Singer’.

WBUR: Shirley Wang: ‘My Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley’

Image courtesy of Shirley Wang, vis-a-vis WBUR.

If you haven’t listened (download the MP3 here) to or read this story, ‘My Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley,’ you must – it’s such a heart warming story and made me cry, about a friendship between two people from completely two different worlds – NBA basketball star Charles Barkley and Chinese American Ph.D. immigrant Lin Wang (told by his daughter Shirley Wang) who randomly met at a hotel when both were traveling for work and became close friends:

“”I was on a business trip,” my dad said, “and stayed in one of the hotels and was walking in the lobby, and I saw Charles Barkley.”

“I was in Sacramento speaking at a charity event,” Barkley said.

“So, I just went to say hi and take a picture with him,” my dad said.

“I was just sitting at the bar,” Barkley said. “And me and your dad were the only two people in there. And we just sit down and started talking.”

“He’s a super nice guy,” my dad said.

“And, before we know it, we looked at each other, like, ‘Yo, man, I’m hungry. Let’s go to dinner,’ ” Barkley said. “It turned into a two-hour dinner. And then we actually went back to the bar and just sit there and talked for another couple of hours. And the rest is history.”

My dad and Barkley saw each other again in the bar the next night. And the night after that. At the end of the third night:

“Certainly, I told him I had a good time talking with him, hanging out with him,” my dad said. “He said the same thing to me, and he left the phone number. He said, ‘Whenever you’re in Atlanta, New York City or Phoenix, check out with me. If I’m in town, we’ll hang out and have a good time.’ “”

The story goes on to cover how their friendship grew, how Wang attended Barkley’s mother’s funeral and later, how Barkley attended Wang’s funeral.

What was interesting to hear from Barkley was that he didn’t have that many friends that he he’d want to spend time with:

“Your dad is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Barkley said. “I’m not just saying that — I mean, think about it: It’s fun to be with your friends, you know? ‘Cause, I don’t have that many friends that I want to be around, to be honest with you. I mean, you know a lot of people. But when you go spend time with your friends, it’s a whole different animal.”

“It gives me great memories and great joy to know that I was a friend of his,” Barkley said. “Just hearing about him at the funeral — what he had accomplished and what he was trying to help other people accomplish, just made me even — I wished he bragged more about himself.””

I imagine being famous, it must be pretty difficult to be true friends with someone, always concerned about alternative motives, etc.

Charles Barkley’s Eulogy at Lin Wang’s Funeral

It’s an incredibly heartwarming human story, and could see many of the attributes of Lin Wang in my father’s immigrant story and life.

Ellen DeGeneres Surprises McDonald’s Pranksters Pushing For Asian American Inclusion

This a great story on a prank when two Asian American men noticed that Asian Americans weren’t being profiled in some of McDonald’s restaurant’s posters:

“Earlier this month, Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toldeo became viral superstars because of a mock poster they created and hung on the wall of a McDonald’s restaurant in Pearland, Texas. It featured themselves in an apparent advertisement for the fast food chain.

The image was so convincing that it had reportedly gone unnoticed by the eatery’s employees for 51 days before Maravilla tweeted about it Sept. 2. As of Monday, it had been liked more than 1 million times.”

Inspired by ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ for representation, Jevh and Christian were motivated to have themselves represented.

In mid September, day time talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in hosted Jevh and Christian and surprised them:

“She also revealed that the pair will be highlighted in a forthcoming McDonald’s ad campaign, and handed them each a check for $25,000 as “payment” for their commitment to diversity.”

Imagine making onto to national TV and getting a surprise $25k for a prank! I’m looking forward to seeing this at a local McDonald’s hopefully.

Asian American Commercial Watch: Discover’s ‘”Freak Out: Spread the News”

This spot is called “Freak Out: Spread the News,” starring actress Stephanie Hsu.

Discover Card has had Asian Americans in their commercials before. In fact, it looks like they have revisited the character from a previous Discover card ad about an office holiday party.

In this one,

A woman learns, from another Asian American woman in customer service:

that she gets cash back matched by Discover Card on the amount she earns herself.

Nicki Sun’s Interview of Katherine Ho – “Yellow” in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

I admit it, I’m been kind of obsessed with the film ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ since seeing it in a pre-screening in August: I’ve been following tweets on #CrazyRichAsians, reviews on YouTube (and I’m amazed at how many people do reviews on YouTube), and have religiously followed the box office numbers daily.

And I really like the soundtrack, as I mention in my review of the film – so much that I bought the MP3 album off of Amazon and have been listening to the album constantly. My favorite song from the film is the cover of ‘Yellow’ by Katherine Ho.

When I looked for more information about Katherine Ho, Wikipedia said she was on season 10 of The Voice and was a 19-year-old sophomore at USC, but she didn’t seem to be very active on her social media channels (YouTube | Instagram | Twitter). So I was really excited to read more about her in The Los Angeles Times:

After chemistry class on a recent weekday, sophomore Katherine Ho sat at an outdoor table in USC Village, and shared the chain of events that made the pre-med student’s rendition of Coldplay’s “Yellow” appear during the climactic scene in the box-office topping movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” … A first-generation Chinese American from Woodland Hills, the 19-year-old is a lifelong singer who has performed on the NBC singing competition show “The Voice.” She is also minoring in songwriting at USC. … Despite the fact that she was starting her second semester as a freshman — and was already overwhelmed with studies — late one night, she got her dad on the phone to perfect the Mandarin lyrics for “Yellow,” working line by line through meanings and inflections.

But I was even more excited to see Katherine Ho being interviewed by Nicki Sun on YouTube (as embedded above). I don’t think I had heard of Sun before, but I think I came across her during my #CrazyRichAsians Twitter search and followed her when she tweeted a link to her interview.

In her 27-minute interview, Sun asks Ho more about her background and how she got to do the cover for “Yellow,” and then she details and translates the Mandarin lyrics of the song. Ho also discusses growing up Chinese American, going to Chinese school and speaking Chinese to her parents and mixing it up with English (like me; my listening is better than my speaking,  but Ho’s Chinese is way better than mine). Ho is pre-med by choice (not being forced by her parents) and minoring in song writing.

As I tweeted to Sun, it’s instances like this that makes me wish I lived in Los Angeles, to get the opportunity to interview artists like Ho!

Mini-Review: ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ (No Spoilers)

So, the Netflix teenage romance film ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ (TATBILB), based on a novel of the same name by Korean American author Jenny Han, debuted on Friday, August 17th, the same opening weekend as ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ “Asian August” has been a busy month, and I’ve written reviews for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Searching.” Now finally, I will discuss this film.

To be honest, I had never heard of the book, author or film until I started looking on Twitter about Asian Americans being excited about both ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘TATBILB.’ Then I read this opinion piece in the New York Times the day the film came out on Netflix, by author Jenny Han, titled, “An Asian-American Teen Idol Onscreen, Finally,” in which the writer says,

When I sold my first middle-grade novel in 2005, it wasn’t that common to put an author photo on the back flap, but 24-year-old Korean-American me insisted. I wanted Asian girls to see my face. And more than that, I wanted them to see what is possible.

My young-adult novel, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” is about a girl who writes secret love letters to boys when she wants to get over them. They’re for her eyes only — except one day, they all get sent out. Even before the book came out in 2014, there was interest in making a movie. But the interest died as soon as I made it clear the lead had to be Asian-American. One producer said to me, as long as the actress captures the spirit of the character, age and race don’t matter. I said, well, her spirit is Asian-American. That was the end of that.

I loved this and wanted to watch the film. I think with the success of ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ hopefully the practice of whitewashing / racebending, which has been common in Hollywood productions in the past, might be fading away.

The Netflix description of the movie says, “When her secret love letters somehow get mailed to each of her five crushes, Lara Jean finds her quiet high school existence turned upside down.”

I enjoyed this teen romance film, but felt it was fairly predictable. What I enjoyed most was the very strong performance by lead actress Lana Condor, who is excellent playing Lara Jean.

The biggest criticism I’ve read, and I agree a little, is that none of Lara Jean’s crushes are Asian American, though one is an African American. The film takes place in the Portland, Oregon region, where the Asian American population is approximately 7 percent (Oregon overall is almost 4 percent).

When I grew up in western Massachusetts, there were very few Asian Americans in my high school and I didn’t have crushes on any of the Asian American girls, just some white ones. Given limited choices, that’s the reality.

IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen interviewed who said, “I understand the frustration and I share that frustration of wanting to see more Asian American men in media. For this, all I can say is this is the story that I wrote.”

Nguyen continues:

Han’s novel doesn’t spell out the race of each of the characters, but some of the descriptions (i.e. blond hair) and the names read as typically white: Josh Sanderson, Peter Kavinsky, John Ambrose McClaren, Kenny Donati, and Lucas Krapf. Furthermore, in the movie, four of the five boys are portrayed by white actors, while Lucas Krapf is renamed Lucas James and portrayed by black actor Trezzo Mahoro.

Maybe Han didn’t want to push her luck, given that she held steadfast on making sure that the girl was going to be an Asian American girl. But it’s still a little disappointing.

Other than that, I’d say the film is an enjoyable teen romance that most teenage girls would love. The film has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (with a total of 43 reviews).

The 8Asians Interview: Andrew Yang for President – 2020

Andrew Yang’s headline speech at the 2018 Iowa Wing Ding: “The opposite of a Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”

This past spring, a Facebook friend posted a meet-and-greet event for Andrew Yang, a Taiwanese American running for president (yes, president of the United States) in 2020. I emphasize 2020, since I was kind of surprised someone would be running so early (Obama didn’t start running until February 2007 – almost two years before November 2008).

Unfortunately, I had a conflict and didn’t get a chance until July for another meet-and-greet, where I met Yang and scheduled a face-to-face, in-person interview.

I don’t think I had ever heard of Yang until that meet-and-greet post on Facebook, or if I had, I might have dismissed him, since I usually keep up on Asian American politicians – especially if they run for president.

Prior to interviewing Yang, I did some research and found an interesting New York Times article profiling him, interestingly titled “His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming.”  Continue reading “The 8Asians Interview: Andrew Yang for President – 2020”