BTS Takes Over America & the World

I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t listened to one song or seen one of their music videos before BTS made their appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ on Saturday, April 13th, 2019 – the first ever for a K-pop band.

As CBS Sunday Morning described the sensation:

“One of the most popular Korean pop groups in the world is the boy band known as BTS (for “Beyond the Scene”) – the first Korean act to sell out a U.S. stadium; the first K-Pop group to present at the Grammy Awards; and the first Korean pop band to be featured on Time Magazine’s Most Influential List. Seth Doane interviews the group’s members – seven young men between the ages of 21 and 26 who consider themselves family, who’ve trained, composed music and grown up together, and who all live in the same house – and goes behind the scenes in a Seoul rehearsal studio.”

I have to say that I’m quite taken by their dance moves and kind of like their K-pop sound. Take a look at their performances from SNL:

and their second performance:

I really like the official music video of ‘Boy With Luv

BTS is taking the U.S. by storm, as well as the world, as they kick off their extended world tour in May in U.S, Brazil, England, France, and Japan.

Michelle Kwan Joins Biden Presidential Campaign Staff

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I'm thrilled that @joebiden announced that he’s running for President! I know that there is already a field of incredible democratic candidates and the 2020 election is so important we cannot lose sight of the big picture. Ultimately, I believe that the Vice President is the ideal candidate to unify our country with his experience, knowledge and track record of fighting for Americans. He has worked side by side with @barackobama to pass the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance to 20 million people and protected people with pre-existing conditions. He championed marriage equality and remains at the forefront of ensuring LGBTQ rights. He has tackled climate change and pollution to protect our environment. He has earned the respect of the international community and, through his leadership, he will strengthen our relationships with our allies and stand up to meet rising global challenges. Most importantly, VP Biden has a reputation for getting things done – from implementing the most comprehensive and progressive investments in our nation’s infrastructure and clean energy industries, to writing the Violence Against Women Act, to taking on the the NRA and winning (twice!). He’s the candidate that I’m proud to support because he will do what it takes to restore the soul of this nation, rebuild the backbone of the country, and unify America.

A post shared by Michelle Kwan (@michellewkwan) on

When former Vice President Joe Biden announced his bid to run for President in 2020, no one was too surprised since he’d been thinking about it for a while. And I wasn’t entirely too surprised that Michelle Kwan was joining his campaign, since she had alluded to potentially joining another presidential campaign (like she had with Hillary back for the 2016 campaign) during Q&A at a talk she was at recently at Yale.

Michelle made her announcement via Instagram, her preferred social media outlet:

“In an Instagram post, the world champion figure skater wrote that she was “thrilled that @joebiden announced that he’s running for President!” “I know that there is already a field of incredible democratic candidates and the 2020 election is so important we cannot lose sight of the big picture. Ultimately, I believe that the Vice President is the ideal candidate to unify our country with his experience, knowledge and track record of fighting for Americans,” Kwan wrote, citing Biden’s work with former President Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare.”

I like Biden and I wish he had run in 2016. Although Biden is currently leading and has been leading in the polls before he even announced, I don’t think he’ll have an easy time getting the nomination or even win it. He has the feeling of an establishment candidate (which he is) when the Democratic base is looking anti-establishment. But in the end, all Democrats want the same thing this time around in 2020 – to defeat President Donald Trump.

I thought that Michelle would have been supporting a female California candidate and Asian American, Senator Kamala Harris. Perhaps Michelle will join her campaign if Biden doesn’t win the nomination.  I’m sure Michelle got to know Biden when she worked at the State Department and that many of Hillary’s presidential staff campaign are working on the Biden campaign, since Hillary and Biden were good friends. In any case, I look forward to meeting Michelle again on the campaign trail for Biden!

Yale’s ‘The Chubb Fellowship’: Michelle Kwan, Figure Skater, Olympian, and Diplomat

As you all know, I am a fan of figure skater, Olympian and diplomat Michelle Kwan. The last time I saw her, it was for a fundraiser for Vivek Viswanathan, who last year was running for California State Treasurer.

A friend of mine who happens to be a Yale alum had posted the above video of Michelle speaking at Yale as the 2019 Chubb Fellow:

“Michelle Kwan, Chubb Fellow – Spring 2019 will be the honored guest of the Chubb Fellowship and Timothy Dwight College. Ms. Kwan will deliver the Chubb Fellowship Address to talk about her remarkable career as a figure skater as well as her public diplomacy experiences. Details at https://chubbfellowship.com”

Figure skater and Yale freshman Nathan Chan was in attendance – I imagine he helped in someone to get her as a speaker.

I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from the talk that I didn’t know, since I am quite familiar with Michelle’s history in skating (I did see her skate in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics) as well as in public service, but I was quite struck when someone in the audience asked in the first question, what was one of the characteristics that lead to her success, and she had mentioned her being ‘scrappy’ – and explained that being from an immigrant family from Hong Kong, she didn’t come from a well-to-do background, and her dad didn’t graduate from high school and her parents had nothing. So it was Michelle’s scrappiness that helped raise money for coaching, where she had to quit skating at times because lessons were expensive, ice time, as well as equipment and costumes, etc. Michelle was able to get grants as well as supporters, and had to borrow costumes (she even made it to Nationals before getting a coach).

I was struck by her comments since oftentimes, we do think that figure skaters have sponsors or come from well-to-do families, but often they do not – something that the film I, Tonya helped shed light on.

Someone also asked if Michelle was going to run for Senate one day, and she didn’t have any immediate plans to run for public office. But she did say she might help in a future presidential campaign, like she did with Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton as a surrogate outreach coordinator.

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.

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.

Asian American Family Sues Harvard, but not for what you might think

Lawsuits against Harvard and well-known selective universities contending discrimination against Asian Americans have happened over the years, with the lawsuit sponsored by Edward Blum still in play and actively opposed by Harvard.  In late 2018, another kind of lawsuit against Harvard was filed. The family of Luke Tang filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Harvard contending that the University was negligent in caring in for Luke, who committed suicide in 2015.

After a suicide attempt his freshman year, Luke Tang was hospitalized.  While he was there, he signed a contract with Harvard saying he could return if he received mental health counseling.  He was able to return for his sophomore year even though, the lawsuit alleges, Harvard personnel knew that he had not received the required mental health counseling.

Since his death, his parents have set up a foundation in his name to raise awareness of signs of depression and other mental health issues, especially as it affects Asian Americans.  In addition, a short documentary called Looking for Luke was produced by the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds to educate and to destigmatize seeking help for mental health problems.  In the trailer above, the fact that Luke committed suicide is hidden for a long time and only told to one of his friends six months after his death.   My personal experience with the issue of mental health in Asian American families is that any problems are hushed up, considered a shame on the family that is not to be discussed openly, and likely not to be dealt with directly.  In particular, this article on Filipino Americans and mental health really resonated with me and other family members.  Our family, like many others in Silicon Valley, have known Asian American students who have committed suicide.

Harvard was required to respond to the lawsuit by January 9.  I haven’t been able to find the actual lawsuit text or any response since then (if someone has link to any of those, please include it in the comments). At the same time, the Luke Tang foundation is granting scholarships to students who have overcome psychiatric problems and welcomes donations.

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.

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”

Film Review: ‘Searching’ (No Spoilers)

So as part of “Asian August,” I (you can read my review of “Crazy Rich Asians here”) got to see Searching as part of a #goldopen effort to promote the film, which opened this past weekend (but first debuted at Sundance) in a very limited release – nine theaters (and opens nationally Friday, August 31st) actually starring John Cho (#starringJohnCho). From the film’s website:

After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace is daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.

Continue reading “Film Review: ‘Searching’ (No Spoilers)”

At the 2018 ESPYs, Chloe Kim wins Best Female Athlete award

If you don’t know what the ESPYs are, it’s an annual sports awards show started and produced by ESPN (originally an abbreviation for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network).

This year, 2018 Gold Olympic snowboarding medalist Chloe Kim won the the Best Female Athlete award.   It’s just the latest achievement for Kim, which includes a hot selling cereal box and getting into Princeton.  If you don’t remember her performance in the Olympics, you can re-watch her final halfpipe run with back-to-back 1080s here.

What’s next for Kim?  It’s not clear if she will go to Princeton, although in clear Asian Dad style, her father would like her to go to college and study hard.

 

 

Sherry Chen, Falsely Accused, Wins Case but still has not been Restored to Her Job

Image courtesy of NBC News.

Back in 2015, I had watched on 60 Minutes and also read with dismay Chinese American Sherry Chen’s story:

“On Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, Sherry Chen drove, as usual, to her office at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, where she forecast flood threats along the Ohio River. She was a bit jet-lagged, having returned a few days earlier from a visit to China. But as she headed to her desk, she says, she had no reason to think it was anything other than an ordinary day. Then her boss summoned her.

Once inside his office, a back door opened and in walked six agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The agents accused Mrs. Chen, a hydrologist born in China and now a naturalized American citizen, of using a stolen password to download information about the nation’s dams and of lying about meeting with a high-ranking Chinese official.

Mrs. Chen, 59, an adoptive Midwesterner who had received awards for her government service, was now suspected of being a Chinese spy. She was arrested and led in handcuffs past her co-workers to a federal courthouse 40 miles away in Dayton, where she was told she faced 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

“Why,” Mr. Zeidenberg said he asked, “if she’s a spy, is she coming back from China and telling her colleagues that ‘I met this guy in China and this is what he wants to know’? Why is she telling the guy in China, ‘Here’s my boss’s phone number’? Why is she asking for a password over email? Why would you do that?”

Mr. Zeidenberg says the prosecutors listened. On March 10, the day after their meeting, they dismissed the charges.”

I actually got to meet Chen in Palo Alto where she was a guest for a talk on “A Seminar on Trade Secrets and Economic Espionage: Legal Risks in Advancing Technology between the U.S. and China.” Although I’m an American-born Taiwanese American, I have worked for two Chinese companies, so I am acutely aware of the possible discrimination against Asian Americans. In fact, I remember finding out that one of my Mom’s church friend’s siblings was Taiwanese American scientist and falsely accused spy Wen Ho Lee.

So it was with great pleasure that I had read about Chen getting back her old job that she had cherished so much:

“Yet the National Weather Service terminated her from employment doing the job she loved at its offices near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Determined to stand up and speak out, Sherry challenged the termination decision through the Merit Systems Protection Board, an administrative system meant to protect hard-working public employees such as her. On April 23, the decision was issued that ordered she be returned to her work on behalf of the public and be given backpay.

In the 118-page opinion, the judge also found:

Ms. Chen asserts that she is the “victim of a gross injustice.” After reviewing the evidence and testimony in this matter I believe Ms. Chen’s assertion is correct . . . It was, however, extremely evident by their demeanor, that both [decision-makers] were simply digging their heels in when it came time to support the decision they had made. . . . In short, [they] seemed more concerned about being right than doing the right thing. Based on the unyielding nature of their testimony, I would not have been surprised if they rejected that 2 + 2 = 4.”

The Commerce Department has planned to appeal the ruling, so she still does not have her job back.  Several Asian American organizations released this joint communique condemning the appeal.

There are legitimate cases to prosecute when it comes to Asian Americans and espionage for national or commercial means, but with the increasingly mostly economic rivalries between the United States and China, the U.S. must ensure that the proper due diligence is applied before more innocent Americans are wrongfully charged and terminated.