Formerly Suspended Shock Jock JV Moves to Revision3

jvelvisIf you grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and you’re in your late 20’s to early 30’s, your familiar with Wild 94.9’s The Dog House, with the team of Elvis, JV and Hollywood. As to what happened with The Dog House after the 90’s, JV says it best on his MySpace page: “After The Dog House was fired in 2005, we went to New York. We were kicking ass there, but ran into an unfortunate incident that led to us being fired AGAIN!!”

What it doesn’t say: it was due to a prank call to a Chinese restaurant that involved anti-Asian remarks.

It would be easy blog post to write that JV is racist towards Asians; their prank calls — which were also done in the Bay Area — were always malicious, and the Chinese restaurant prank call which got them fired is absolutely unlistenable. But if The Dog House were ever that mean-spirited in the Bay Area — where a third of the young adult population is Asian and Pacific Islander — the shit would never fly and they wouldn’t have been reached the popularity they did in the 90’s. Someone in radio once told me that the primary demographic for Wild 94.9 was a Latina or Filipina in her early 20’s, and the morning team seemed to reflect that well; they once fired their traffic girl on-air after she said derogatory statements about Filipinos. Their radio producer while at 94.9 was a friend of theirs from high school, an Asian-American guy nicknamed Hollywood.

Reading the various comment threads it sounds like a there’s a discrepancy between San Francisco DogHouse fans of the late 90’s — Bay Area people who miss their crazy-ass radio show when they were in high school and now have kids of their own — and his New York fans, asking Elvis to become “a weatherman at a Chinese station, ‘crowdy wit a chance of eggroe.'” (Also: What the FUCK does that even MEAN?)

As to where original DogHouse team is now, it looks like they’ve gone their separate ways: Elvis “left the show, got some new head shots and started auditioning for commercials and stuff.” A quick Google search reveals that Hollywood looks like he’s  in the controversial world of… police dispatching. As to JV, he’s DJ’ing solo at Wild 94.9 as well as broadcasting a show on Revision3, the same company that produces DiggNation; what he’ll say or do will be anyones guess, but the interesting thing about the Internet is that if he pulls the things he did in New York, the entire Internet will be there to call him out on it. It’s the internet, after all.

And as for me? I stopped listening to Wild 94.9 years ago.

Two Performances: Epik High x FM Nationwide Tour and Kollaboration NY

Growing up I’ve always look for Asian American musicians and performers, simply because they were Asian American.  So I would look at people like David Tao, Jin, or others andwhen that wasn’t enough, I would try to find little local performers.

quickfmepikhighIt’s especially fun and rewarding for me to see these little grassroots movements and performances, like the Far*East Movement, Epik High, and Kollaboration, expand into something this big and wonderful. Two shows in May/June…

First, FM and Epik High along with Kero One, Myk are holding four shows across America – in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, over two weekends in May. Far*East Movement is out to promote their album Animal, and its subsequent single “Girls on the Dancefloor” which is on fire out here in Los Angeles, recently reaching the number 1 spot on Power 106’s Top 7 at 7 with DJ Felli Fel. Korean Hip Hop sensation Epik High is pushing their newly released album “Map the Soul”, a stellar celebration of independent and international hip hop.

Get your tickets for any of the four shows here.

Second, KollaborationNY was recently announced and they just released their rendition of Ne-Yo’s “Closer” which I absolutely LOVE!  I personally have never heard of any of the performers save Magnetic North, who did a video with WongFu for their song Drift Away a couple of years a back.  Still, that video has me both excited (for new and upcoming talent; especially G*LEE) and sad (in that I can’t attend).  The show is on June 27th at NYU Skirball Center and I fully anticipate it to grow in terms of performers and production before then.  If it is anything close to the Kollaboration held here in LA earlier this year, it will definitely be worth checking out.

Watch the “Closer” video:

The Evolution of Banh Mi

One of my fondest memories of coaching The Daughter’s volleyball team was at a long tournament where we had a potluck lunch of tasty Filipino and Vietnamese food (the team was mostly Asian).  Not just standard fare like lumpia but other stuff like ukoy, pate chaud, and bánh mì!  Some of the other teams at the tournament looked at us funny.  I figured that they were probably were either jealous, hungry, or both.

For those who don’t know, bánh mì is a Vietnamese sandwich.  It blends elements of French food, such as a baguette and pate, with different kinds of pork, sliced peppers, and vegetables.  I love bánh mì, especially how it is typically served on freshly baked bread.  I am definitely not the only fan – check out http://battleofthebanhmi.com/, a web site dedicated toward these wonderful sandwiches.

This article from the New York Times talks about how bánh mì has evolved in the US and incorporated popular local elements such as kielbasa in New York and  po boy baguettes in Louisiana.  A notable quote about some of the New York creations, in particular a phở flavored bánh mì:

“I could never get away with this in San Jose,” said Mr. Hua, referring to the city with a large Vietnamese-American community in Northern California, where he grew up. “New York has a history of being open to creative ideas.

This San Jose resident can’t agree.  Bánh mì is at its core a fusion, and there are what seems to be a growing number of fusion Vietnamese restaurants in San Jose and the Bay Area.

An underlying question to this discussion is  authenticity – how much can something Asian be changed and still be considered to be Asian?  What is a fascinating fusion and what is unrecognizable bastardization of the original?  For me, as long as a sandwich keeps the freshly baked bread and the Vietnamese vegetables and herbs, it is still bánh mì.

(Hat tip:  Tim ; photo credit: kennymatic)

Photo Zen: Lower East Side NYC, 1966

Lower East Side NYC, 1966

(Flickr photo credit: George Eastman House)

Interviewing Se7en: He Likes Them Countries That’s Hard to Get

Korea based popstar Se7en invited 8asian to his Manhattan crib for an interview on Friday. Very well known in both Korea and Japan, he is now ready to conquer the United States. Friday night, he held a concert at The Circle club in midtown which caters to a mostly Asian audience. Se7en is getting ready to release a full English album with well established guest stars such as Lil’Kim. 8asians met with him for some details, drinks and good times.

img_09071“I learned English by listening to slang,” Se7en announces over a lunch of upscale pizza and soda. “I learned the curse words first from the stage hands and then later on I learned what they meant.”

Everyone in the room erupts laughing. “Isn’t that the way it always is?” his hip publicist muses.

We dine on the 40th floor of the Viacom building in Times Square with glorious windows under which laid all of midtown. When asked why his camera sat pointed out the window all morning, Se7en’s personal friend replied that he was taping the view. The view is immediately forgotten however as Se7en magnificently sweeps into the room wearing his signature fedora, fresh from a visit to MTV.

When asked if he will do the interview first or have lunch, Se7en smiles, eyes the unopened pizza boxes, and after much prodding from his gang, finally decides that lunch will come before the interview. “Have a slice of pizza,” he offers me.

So here I am, having lunch with a man who had won nine Korean Grammys at an age when most kids were getting ready to graduate college. Only four years later, in 2007, he would overtake Japan selling out arenas and being honored at the Japanese MTV awards. Now, two years later, he is ready to conquer the United States.

He recently partnered with Lil’Kim in making his transition to the states. Their video “Girls” has already received substantial buzz in the hip-hop community. About Lil’Kim he says “she is very tough on the outside but sweet inside.”

A true showman, Se7en radiates the easy confidence and charm of a man who had been on the stage since the age of fifteen. As he eats, he casually makes chit chat with me. I chat back although I do my best not to stare. It is difficult as his hat and sunglasses highlight his strong handsome jawline. He speaks with animation. He asks me where I am from and I tell him Queens, then wondering if he was familiar with the five boroughs immediately correct myself, and say Shanghai.

“I know some Mandarin,” he confesses shyly. “Ni hao ma?”

“Wo hen hao,” I reply reflexively. I am very well.

He smiles. “I know that and ‘Wo ai nimen’!” I love you all. He waves to an imaginary audience with his free hand and then takes another bite of pizza.

“What would you say is better, your English or your Japanese?” his friend asks.

“I haven’t spoken my Japanese in years,” Se7en laughs and then remarks incredulously, “I had to learn it all in two weeks.”

When I later ask him about the trials and tribulations of learning the English language, he tells me that he practices up to 2-3 hours a day with a tutor. Then he thinks for a moment and nervously fiddles with a remote control as though he’s unsure of how to make the endeavor sound harder. Indeed, although his vocabulary is not yet broad, his pronunciation is flawless. Finally, he tells me that he also has a place in LA where he is currently living that has been a great help.

When I ask him what he thinks of New York, he tells me that he loves New York City and the nightlife here. His entire demeanor changes as the topic goes from language to leisure. He breaks down into helpless laughter when the New York night scene is mentioned. Apparently at some point during the prior night he had coerced his entourage into doing quite a few shots.

“I had to call him at nine this morning to make sure he woke up,” one of his friends adds.

“He just kept pouring and pouring. It’s all his fault,” another says.

So the question of whether Se7en is really a nightclub ringmaster as his music video advertises has been answered. He is as wild on his own time as during camera time. Although his full American album has not yet been titled or given a set release date, I find myself welcoming a true “bad boy” Asian superstar. Although Se7en had been set to debut in 2007, he tells me there was no delay. In 2007 they had intended to release a single but later decided to make it into a full album. Now, it appears his American audience has much more Se7en to look forward to than ever.

As I close up the interview, I wish him well and tell him I’ll see him later that night. He agrees and shakes my hand in a firm grip. I ask him if he’s nervous and he looks confused. I tell him that the invitation said that he was giving a concert that night.

“Maybe I’ll sing a song or two,” he says haphazardly, as though he gave out award-winning songs as easily as tic tacs. “But it’s mostly a party.”

Credits: Chang Yu for photos, Christine Miguel for research and background information.

On Stereotypes, Assimilation and a Manhattan Bar called Park

Recently I met some friends at a bar called Park, located in downtown Manhattan. Park is one of these trendy, well decorated bar/lounges that have sprung up all across NYC and cater mostly to a young professional/hipster crowd. Like other such places, Park contains its share of unusual artistic flourishes (a bamboo grove sits in the center of the space), overpriced drinks, and attractive people. It would be an utterly generic bar but for one thing: Park is an “Asian bar”.

By this I do not mean that Park serves Tsingtao, or that people go there to karaoke. As I have described, Park is like most other New York bars in its design and function. What makes Park different is that it caters to a mostly (but not exclusively) Asian clientele. This raises an obvious question of why Asian people choose to congregate there. I do not know the answer to this, but would like to hear other people’s thoughts. It also raises a subtle question (and this is what I am interested in exploring) of whether it is bad, in some social sense, for Asian people to congregate this way.

At first glance this question may seem ridiculous, even insulting. After all, people should be able to choose who they hang out with, and there’s nothing wrong (and many things right) about having an Asian American community. And at the end of the day there are many organizations still run primarily by and for white people (by which I don’t just mean WASPy country clubs; try going to a Foo Fighters concert), but no one is up in arms telling them to branch out more.

That said, I think there’s something to the notion of communal responsibility – I am a representative of the Asian American community, and my actions will impact perceptions not only of myself but also of my communal group. I also think there is some difference in communal responsibility between members of the dominant culture and various minority groups. One key difference between whites and all minority groups is that white people do not have to assimilate. Now technically we don’t have to assimilate either, and there’s nothing actually wrong with the idea of an Asian America that both exists within and outside of mainstream American culture.

Except, perhaps, for one thing: the Asian community seems to want it both ways. That is to say, Asians want the freedom to exclusively associate with other Asian people (and therefore not assimilate), but are also bothered by racism, glass ceilings, media stereotypes, and the like. Fair or not, these things go hand in hand. For example, I often hear complaints that Asians are portrayed in the media as geeky and uncool, and that as a result, other people stereotype and form preconceived notions of us in this light. But how quickly would those preconceived notions shatter if every time anyone walked into any bar the loudest, most fun guy who was the life of the party and had all the girls gravitating towards him was also Asian? It’s a shallow example, I know, but it gets at something important. People form their views based on what’s around them, and if what’s around them are lots of interesting and unique Asian people doing their thing, then inevitably Asians stop being viewed as a homogenized cultural blob with a set of stereotypical characteristics, and more as the individual people that we are. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening right now, not because there aren’t fun and charismatic Asian guys out there, but because they all go to Park.

Fixing the problems of racism and stereotyping requires engagement, not self segregation. This, to me, is what assimilation really means: not a way for us to adopt the broader culture and ‘act white’ (whatever that even means), but a way for the broader culture to connect to us and come to appreciate who we are as individuals. As far as I can tell, that’s the only way that perceptions begin to change, and if we as a community view that as being important then we need to put ourselves out there.

Quang Bao leaves the Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Quang Bao, executive director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, is leaving the organization. The Workshop is a national not-for-profit arts organization devoted to the creating, publishing, developing and disseminating of creative writing by Asian Americans. Members of the workshop include not only writers but also supporters of writers and the Asian American community.

Bao joined the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in 1999 as managing director, and became the executive director in 2000. Over the next eight years he became a familiar face to those who attended the readings, book parties, and panel discussions held at the Workshop’s Manhattan loft.

Those not living in the New York area could get a sense of his character through the letters he sent to the mailing list several times a year. These requests for donations came wrapped in anecdotes about writing, news about the workshop, and even bits of memoir. In addition they revealed Bao’s congenial personality.

In his most recent letter, Bao cited creative reasons for leaving the workshop. Bao himself is a writer, and felt that he needed to step down in order to create space to write. In a phone interview, Bao said, “I just felt that it was time. I don’t think people should stay at a small arts organization for years and years. It’s a chance for everything to be refreshed.”

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop is currently looking for new leadership. The new director, Bao said, should have strengths in fundraising, collaborative programs, and developing a new, specific and clear direction for the organization.