ICYMI: Crazy, Political Asians & California State Democratic Party Convention

Back at the end of May and first weekend of June, the California State Democratic Party held its annual convention in San Francisco, and I had the great pleasure to have attend the 2019 California State Democratic Party convention as well as an Asian American hosted and themed party, ‘Crazy, Political Asians.’ The last time I had attended the California State Democratic Party convention was back in 2016 when it was held locally in San Jose.

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CAAMFest37: Joy Luck Club Anniversary Screening – Q&A

https://caamfest.com/2019/movies/joy-luck-club/

It was my great honor and pleasure to attend this year’s CAAMFest37’s
25th anniversary year screening (the film actually came out in September 1993) of The Joy Luck Club, with many of the actors present:

“Come join us as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of THE JOY LUCK CLUB, one of the most decorated Asian American films in cinematic history. Written by Amy Tan and directed by Wayne Wang, THE JOY LUCK CLUB paved the way for decades of Asian American films including last year’s summer hit, CRAZY RICH ASIANS. This free, indoor screening in the heart of Chinatown will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience with many special guests and talent in attendance. “


There was a Q&A session prior to the screening of the film, given that the film screening started after 8PM. In attendance were:
Executive Producer Janet Yang, actresses Lisa Lu (most recently know for her role in Crazy Rich Asians as Shang Su Yi, Nick’s grandmother and the matriarch of the family)

actress Tamlyn Tomita:

actress Rosalind Chao:

as well as actress Kieu Chinh:

Actor Michael Paul Chan and casting director Heidi Levitt are included in the group picture above.

I think one of the more interesting questions was why The Joy Luck Club didn’t spark an explosion of Asian American media – it looked more like an anomaly rather than a movement.

The rise of China, the explosion of technology – especially the Internet, and the growing Asian American population in the United States, has contributed to larger interest around Asian and Asian American stories and help lead to the recent success of blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians.

If you were too young to have seen the film or don’t quite remember the film, here is the trailer:

CAAMFest37: Love Boat: Taiwan – Q&A after SF Premiere

It was my great honor to attend the San Francisco premiere of the documentary Love Boat: Taiwan at CAAMFest37:

“Fearless, inventive and outspoken are a few words to describe CAAMFest37 Spotlight Honoree Valerie Soe. From the 80’s to now, Soe’s films and video installations have been a benchmark for Asian American feminist activism and experimental storytelling. CAAM will proudly showcase Soe’s newest documentary, LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN; a feature-length documentary, looks into of one of the longest running summer programs in the world.

LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN revisits the program’s participants and explores the history and popularity of this well-known program, sponsored by the Taiwanese government, which takes place every summer in Taiwan.”

Ever since writing my blog post about my experience on the Love Boat in the summer of 1993, I had always hoped a documentary would be made about this iconic program. So I’m glad that as a producer, an interviewee (very brief interview …) and archival video footage provider of the trip, I was able to experience the San Francisco premiere of the film to a a sold out theater and see the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction to the documentary.

Afterwards, there was Q&A with the Producer/Director Valerie Soe, as well as interviewee Kristina Wong, and others involved in the film, including yours truly.

The film has one more film festival in Taiwan to “premiere” in May, then plans for distribution are still up in the air, but Soe will probably be making the film festival and college tour of the film in the near future before hopefully wider distribution plans.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, here’s you chance to see what the documentary is all about:

I’ll be sure to blog about the documentary’s wider release – hopefully online – in the future.

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.

Bay Area Asian American Immigrant Women more likely to get Breast Cancer

We have written how some doctors would not believe that Asian American women could get breast cancer, but in the past few years, I know a number of Asian American women who were diagnosed with the disease.   Previous studies of women in Asia show a lower occurrence of breast cancer outside of the United States and higher incidence in US born Asian Americans.  In contrast, a recently released study of Asian American women in the San Francisco Bay Area suggests what I have seen anecdotally – immigrant Asian Americans are more likely to get breast cancer than native born Asian Americans.

Of the Asian American women that I know personally that have had breast cancer, all were immigrants and most were in the Bay Area.  The Wife knows even more women who had breast cancer – all are Asian American immigrants too.  Tim’s mother also died of breast cancer,  The only Asian American woman who had breast cancer who was born in the US that I can think of is Ken Jeong’s wife. Is this some acculturation factor, like with South Asian Heart disease?  The authors tried to control for that, looking at BMI and length of time in the US, but controlling those factors left the same result.

Then again, the majority of the Asian American women that The Wife and I know are immigrants in the Bay Area, so my anecdotal sample is biased.  Similarly, the study’s authors mention that one possible shortcoming of the study is that it was limited to the Bay Area population.  One risk factor for breast cancer is higher socioeconomic (measured by income and education) status – this is borne out in studies of populations all over the world and is seen in the rise of breast cancer in parts of Asia and with Asian American women in the Bay Area.   Given the large numbers of affluent Asian immigrants in the Bay area and in certain cases, where the native born children of immigrants earn less than parents, this study might simply be showing the socioeconomic risk factor.

So what to take away from this study?   Given the limits on sample size, the authors suggestion that further cross national studies be done to confirm the results and to narrow down the particular risk factors that generate this result.  If the discrepancy is caused by mainly be income/education differentials, then some of the known breast cancer risk factors that come with affluence, such as a sedentary lifestyle, should be publicized in the affected communities and should be avoided.  The authors suggest that from a public health perspective, doctors should recognize immigrant status as a breast cancer risk factor with Asian American women and increase screenings, which have been low in the past.

(h/t:  John)

Two Filipino-American skaters will represent Southern California at the 2019 US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit

EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: Aubrey placed second, earning Silver Medal at US Figure Skating Championships. On that strong performance, she received her first international assignment from Team USA, and competed at the 2019 Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf, Germany. Henry placed 7th overall at US Figure Skating Championships. He’s getting ready for the new season after taking some time off for an adventure to Shanghai, China.

By Helen Mendoza

Southern California teens Aubrey Ignacio (15) and Henry Privett-Mendoza (16) will compete next week at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, MI.  They have a lot in common: a love of skating; big families, and they’re both US Figure Skating novice level competitors. Together, these two Filipino-American skaters are bringing island style and a champion’s grit and determination to the championships.

For Aubrey Ignacio, who was crowned the 2019 Pacific Coast Sectionals Novice Ladies’ Champion in November, this is her first trip to the US Championships.  Aubrey fought through a back injury and faced tough competition to win gold in Utah. “I’m so proud and blessed to have watched Aubrey mature both as a person and a skater this season,” says proud mother Ophelia Ong. Prior to her championship performance in Utah,  Aubrey earned a Silver Medal at the 2019 Southwest Pacific Regional Championships.  In 2018, she was the Southwest Pacific Regional Intermediate Ladies’ Champion.  Aubrey is coached by Amy Evidente and Wendy Olson. Her short program was choreographed by Cindy Stuart. Her long program, a medley of songs from the Broadway show, “On Your Feet: The Musical”, was choreographed by Jamie Isley.

Henry Privett-Mendoza also fought through injuries for much of the 2018-19 season.  “It was tough being hurt,” said Henry. “I had to be really patient, keep working to get better, and trust that it would come together.” That patience and hard work paid off when Henry won the 2019 Southwest Pacific Coast Regional Championship in October and then followed up by placing 2nd at Pacific Coast Sectionals in November.  For Henry, who picked up a US Championship medal in 2015, this is his 5th trip to nationals, qualifying at every level he’s competed. Henry is coached by Robert Taylor and Rudy Galindo. Galindo, a USFS Hall of Fame inductee, is also Henry’s choreographer.

Aubrey represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and Henry skates for the Figure Skating Club of Southern California.  However, together at nationals, they are proud to be part of the great tradition of Southern California skating, and to represent their Mabuhay! heritage. The 2019 Geico US Figure Skating Championships Novice Ladies and Novice Men competitions will be held on January 21-22 at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  The competition will be live-streamed through the USFSA Fanzone at https://usfigureskatingfanzone.com/.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Helen Mendoza is a film/video producer, writer, and photographer. She is a vocalist and a founding member of Vox Femina Los Angeles. She is also a mother of two and lives in Los Angeles with her wife.

NYC Theater Review: “The Chinese Lady” by Lloyd Suh

Lloyd Suh’s new play, The Chinese Lady, takes us on a journey with the first Chinese woman to set foot in the United States. Her name was Afong Moy. She arrived in 1835 at the age of 14 and was put on display as “The Chinese Lady.” The cost of admission? 25 cents for adults, 10 cents for children. Co-produced by Ma-Yi Theater Company and the Barrington Stage Company, the cast of two–Shannon Tyo and Daniel Isaac–takes the audience on a journey through Afong’s life.

Afong (played by Shannon Tyo), we are told, comes from a well-off family, the youngest of seven, and has bound feet–making her a curiosity to New York audiences. Her family sold her into two years of service with American merchants. We are quickly introduced to Atung (played by Daniel K. Isaac), her translator, who we are told speaks both Chinese and English. Most of the speaking stays with Afong, with occasional interjections from Atung that bring warmth and comedy and humanity to these largely forgotten historic figures.

We follow Afong as she ages, but remains on display, even meeting President Jackson. Her optimism begins to waver, her clothes changes, and still she thinks about relations between the U.S. and China, between her and her audience. Towards the end, the play rapidly casts its audience through Chinese American immigration history via Afong–1882 Exclusion Act, the Geary Act, and on–before jumping to the present. This is an important lineage, but I felt this contemporary jump overly much and a bit didactic.

Still, Suh’s play seeks to dive into and through our constant conversations about identity and cross-cultural understanding and belonging and otherness, all the while weaving in our collective past. And that makes it worthwhile.

The Chinese Lady is playing at Theatre Row (410 W. 42nd Street) through Sunday, November 18. Cost: $30-$42.25. Tickets are available by calling 212-239-6200; or online at: www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/The-Chinese-Lady/ or through TodayTix at https://www.todaytix.com/x/nyc/shows/12360-the-chinese-lady#noscroll

Photo by Eloy Garcia

Wong Fu Productions First Season of Yappie (Young Asian Professional)

I first learned about Wong Fu’s ‘Yappie’ scripted web series on this NBC Asian America article about Wong Fu Productions & Yappie:

“With more than 3 million subscribers on YouTube now, and 500 million-plus views, Wong Fu Productions — created by college friends Wang, Wesley Chan, and Ted Fu — has ambitious credits to their name that includes multiple web series (including a YouTube Red series starring “Glee” alum Harry Shum, Jr.), music videos, and two feature-length films (their most recent one hit Netflix in 2016).”

Wong Fu became a viral YouTube sensation back in 2006 with their first original waaaay back in 2006 with ‘Yellow Fever.’ I think my favorite Wong Fu video though has to be the VERY well produced and HILARIOUS (at least to me) ‘Asian Bachelorette.’

Yappie is self described as:

“”Yappie” is a single-camera comedy that explores the social and racial issues related to the contemporary Asian American experience from the perspective of Andrew and his bubble of friends who are all “yappies”[a slang word to describe a “young Asian professional who acts like a yuppie.”].

Asian Americans are an often overlooked minority in the US for a variety of reasons, and we’re creating a show to examine and share these causes and their effects on an entire generation.”

I watched all five episodes as the episodes were released and really enjoyed the series. I think Yappie does try to explore, often in a humorous way, the typical arguments around the whole Asian American dating dynamics and inter-racial issues around that have been around since the beginnings of the Internet (if you remember USENET news and soc.culture.asian.american, then you know what I am talking about …)

Also, the first season does dig into the awkward social stratus of where Asian Americans are found among our multi-cultural society within the United States. We’re definitely not treated like whites, but not like African Americans, Hispanics or Native Americans.

As someone who is way more politically involved than my fellow Asian Americans, I feel as though Yappie also exposes how apathetic Asian Americans can be in living in their own bubble – especially as portrayed in Yappie, which takes place in LA / Southern California. I think Asian Americans have a different kind of experience elsewhere in the U.S., especially in states with not a lot of Asians or other minorities.

Below, after the break, are all five episodes of the first season of Yappie.

Continue reading “Wong Fu Productions First Season of Yappie (Young Asian Professional)”

CAAMFEST36: Opening Night Film & Gala Red Carpet Premiere of ‘An American Story: Norman Mineta’

One of the things I have really enjoyed after having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999 has been attending the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, which is now known as CAAMFest, now its 36th year.

This year’s opening night premiere was a documentary – AN AMERICAN STORY: NORMAN MINETA – about groundbreaking elected official and civil servant, Japanese American Norman Mineta – the first Asian American elected to San Jose, California City Council, first Asian American elected to be mayor of San Jose (first Asian American mayor of any major city in the continental United States), first Asian American Congressman elected in the continental United States, first Asian American to serve as a cabinet member to serve a President (AND also both in a Democratic and Republican administration). AND first Asian American to have an airport named after him (Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport).

Prior to the documentary’s premiere, Claudine Cheng and Willie Brown presented Norman Mineta with the APA Heritage Award for Lifetime Impact:

After watching the documentary, I realized that although I had kind of known about many of Mineta’s accomplishments, seeing his story told in its totality was amazing. (This slightly differed from my experience watching a documentary about Patsy Mink, another amazing Asian American, but someone I knew nothing about until a CAAMFEST screening). Mineta is a truly ground-and-glass-ceiling-breaking Asian American that all Americans should learn about.

The San Francisco Chronicle described the documentary and Mineta as:

“His life in politics, skillfully captured by director Dianne Fukami, stands in stark contrast to the current White House occupant. As a 10-term U.S. representative from Silicon Valley, Mineta kept his ego in check while passing seminal legislation, notably a bill granting reparations to Japanese Americans like his family who were incarcerated during World War II. His motto was “If you don’t care who gets the credit, you can do many things.””

After the screening, there was a Q&A session with Norman Mineta and the filmmakers:

There’s an effort to build upon documentary and develop educational material around Norman Mineta’s story, known as The Mineta Legacy Project. This reminds me of what Fred T. Korematsu Institute is doing since its inception. And after the Q&A, there was the annual gala party, held again at San Francisco Asian Art Museum, where I had the great honor to meet and get a photo with Mineta himself:

The gala is always a festive scene at a great venue:

CAAMFEST 2018 – May 10-24, San Francisco & Oakland

CAAMFEST 36

One of the things that I appreciate about the San Francisco Bay Area after I moved here is the rich cultural activities in the area, and that includes the annual Asian American film festival known as CAAMFEST (known prior to 2013 as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) – quite a mouthful). The festival is organized by the Center of Asian American Media (CAAM), which is based in San Francisco.

This year kicks off with the premiere of a documentary about Norman Mineta:

““An American Story: Norman Mineta and His Legacy” will have its world premiere Thursday night in San Francisco.

The film about the former San Jose mayor, Congressman and cabinet secretary to two U.S. presidents is the opening night film of the Center for Asian American Media film festival, known as CAAMFest. Mineta, 86, also will be honored by the city of San Francisco on opening night as part of the 40th anniversary festivities for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Mineta’s story really is a classic American tale of success, with the tragic irony that begins it: As an 11-year-old, he was interned with his family at Heart Mountain, Wyo., during World War II. (Even that story has a cinematic twist: Mineta met fellow Boy Scout and future Sen. Alan Simpson there.) In 1971, he became the first Asian-American elected mayor of a major U.S. city and served two decades in Congress, starting in 1975. He was appointed U.S. Secretary of Commerce by President Clinton in 2000 and served as Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush in 2001.”

I live near San Jose, and I’m often reminded about Mineta when I fly out of Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is named after him. And I’m a big fan of documentaries and recall seeing Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority at CAAMFest back in 2009 and being blown away about learning her story and surprised that I hadn’t known about her beforehand.

A big change from previous years is that the film festival is now being held in May, to coincide with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, instead of being held in February or March like it has in the past.

There are a quite a number of films to screened again this year. However, the San Francisco Chronicle has recommended the top 10 films to see this year, including (in alphabetical order):

Also, since 2013, the CAAMFEST organizers have expanded the nature of the festival beyond films to incorporate food and music programs and over time, increasingly more to convey cultural experience through the world’s most innovative Asian and Asian American artists.

This year’s festival theme – “Culture, In Every Sense”- is emphasized throughout the program with expanded music and food sections, a virtual reality project that is also produced by CAAM, and a special closing night performance by Bay Area native, Brenda Wong Aoki.

There’s even a Disoriented Comedy Show, where I’m looking forward seeing comedian Jenny Yang perform and finally meet her in person (I mostly know her for her funny videos posted on Facebook and elsewhere)!

Be sure to check out the CAAMFEST36 festival website as well as online program guide to learn about all the films and events going on.

Din Tai Fung Opens at Westfield Mall in Orange County, CA

The last time I went to a Din Tai Fung opening, it was also at a Westfield Mall – specifically the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose/Santa Clara, California. Well now, another one has opened in Orange County:

“There has been a great deal of anticipation, but Din Tai Fung, the dumpling and noodle chain that is known for its delicious food and four hour waits for a table in Orange County, has finally opened its doors at Westfield, Century City.

The restaurant officially opened on March 23 and now locals will be able to partake of their famous xiao long bao (soup dumplings), which are made fresh on the premises every day.”

A lot of people say that Din Tai Fung is overrated. I don’t care! It’s one of the few Taiwanese brands I think Americans recognize in the U.S. – or at least in California!

The Fred Yamamoto Scholarship Fund

A friend of mine, Steven Lee, who is a Palo Alto resident and involved in city government is helping to raise a scholarship fund in memory of Fred Yamamoto and provided a prepared statement:

“As a 3rd generation Chinese-American and a Palo Alto Human Relations Commissioner, I was strongly in favor of the committee’s recommendation to name a school after Fred Yamamoto, and was disappointed by both the opposition raised by certain members of my Chinese-American community as well as the decision by the school board not to name a school after Fred Yamamoto. We have to move forward, however, and I am committing myself to be part of the larger and continued discussion, which this incident exposed, that we disparately need in this community, to listen certainly, to educate and correct unconscious biases or historical prejudices when necessary, and to ultimately take action when needed to keep Palo Alto a truly safe, welcoming and inclusive community, where no one is unfairly judged by their name, ethnicity or their other identities, even when such action may be deemed “controversial” or “divisive” by those who oppose such action.”

Back in March, there was some opposition to renaming a Palo Alto middle school in his name:

“Backlash to a proposed name for a Palo Alto middle school has provoked surprise and confusion among Japanese-American residents who don’t see the connection between Fred Yamamoto, the Palo Altan who was held in Japanese internment camps and later died in combat, and Isoroku Yamamoto, the reviled marshal admiral who ordered the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Tamie Yusa-Ogawa, a Mountain View native who now lives in the Los Angeles area, called the protest “racism, plain and simple.”

“Yamamoto is an extremely common name. I understand why these people don’t want a school named after Isoroku Yamamoto, but Fred Yamamoto shouldn’t lose out just because he has the same last name,” Yusa-Ogawa, a Los Altos High School graduate, told the Post.

Several dozen parents and residents, including many from Chinese communities, spoke out against renaming Jordan or Terman middle school after Fred Yamamoto at a meeting of the school district’s Recommending School Names Committee on Monday.”

When I had heard about this, I was completely dumbfounded, but not totally surprised. I know some first generation Chinese Americans that harbor anti-Japanese feelings due to World War II. However, first and foremost, Fred Yamamoto was born-and-raised in the United States and is an American of Japanese decent – and died in combat for our country. As far as I’m concerned, Yamamoto is an American hero.

I think a lot of Asians in Asia and Asian Americans still confuse or conflate race with nationality. Fred Yamamoto was not related at all to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. I’m sure most Americans don’t even know who Admiral Yamamoto is! My Japanese and Japanese American friends noted that Yamamoto is a very common Japanese last name.

To remember Fred Yamamoto, there’s an effort to establish a scholarship fund in his name:

“At the close of the 2017/18 School Year, we will use the donations to award and recognize a student (or students) who have demonstrated civic leadership, inclusion and service reminiscent of Fred’s spirit. (Depending on the sum raised, we might be able to keep the Scholarship active for more than one year.)

We believe this is an effort many in the community can come together to join: those who supported Fred’s nomination and those who opposed it.  For anyone who was inspired by Fred Yamamoto’s service and sacrifice and wants to work to keep his memory alive: Thank You!”

Please consider donating here:
https://www.gofundme.com/fred-m-yamamoto-scholarship-fund