Modern Love: When a Dating Dare Leads to Months of Soul Searching

 Since the beginning of time (or at least me being on the Internet since in the Fall of 1989), I’ve seen the topic of Asian American women having a preference for white men being a subject of consternation. And certainly more so since I’ve been blogging for 8Asians and been on Facebook.

So it was quite a pleasant surprise to read this piece by San Francisco-based venture capitalist Andrew Lee in The New York Times about an experience he had during a first date:

I smiled, expecting something from one of the countless jokes we had shared that day. Instead, she said, “You’re the first Asian guy I’ve ever gone on a date with. I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

After talking nonstop all day, I was at a loss for words. Because here’s the kicker: Sarah is Asian-American. Her parents immigrated from Taiwan. Mine came from mainland China.

“If things don’t work out,” she said, “would it hurt your confidence?”

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” I said. “I’ve got enough confidence for both of us. When my friends ask what happened, I’ll say, ‘She had everything going for her, but sometimes things get between people.’” I smiled. “‘Like racism.’”

She gave a halfhearted laugh. “I’m sorry. It’s not that I don’t like Asian things. I love all Asian food, even stinky tofu. It’s just that I’ve never really been attracted to Asian men. I think it’s because there weren’t a lot of Asians in my small Texas town. All the Asian men I knew were either my friends’ dads or like nerdy brothers to me.”

I swear, I laughed out loud when I had read “Like racism.” The whole piece suscintly and at times, poignantly describes the issue that many Asian American men face dating in the U.S.

I had a close Asian American friend that experienced something like what Andrew had described, when an Asian American woman said that dating Asian men reminded her of her father and brother.

The piece is written beautifully and has some twists and a somewhat unexpected ending. I loved the piece, but there are a lot of haters out there too that hated it … and hated Andrew and/or Sarah.

Living in the Bay Area, I noticed on Facebook that we have 52 mutual friends, so I’m hoping to meet him one day and possibly interview him on his piece.

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.

Continue reading “ICYMI: Crazy, Political Asians & California State Democratic Party Convention”

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)

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.

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

John Chiang Remains a Top Contender in Race for California State Governor

California state treasurer John Chiang was in the San Jose area supporting California assemblymember Evan Low on Sunday, March 18th, and I had a chance to catch up with him after the belated Lunar New Year fundraising dinner. The last time I saw John was when he was in town being endorsed by Evan last November.

The more recent exciting news about the race for California governor was at the California Democratic state convention, where no Democrat gained the party endorsement (the threshold is 60%) and John came in second.  According to KTLA’s CNN wire:

“The endorsement battle proved competitive in the governor’s race at at Saturday’s California Democratic party convention, where John Chiang and Gavin Newsom were locked in a close race for the party’s nod.

“After the votes were tallied, no consensus was reached for a gubernatorial candidate. Newsom received the highest percentage of votes with 39 percent, followed by Chiang with 30 percent, Delaine Eastin with 20 percent, and Villaraigosa with 9 percent.”

When I heard that news, I was happy to hear how well John did at the convention. Just a few days before, a recent poll (Thur 3/15/2018) by the Newsom campaign revealed:

“In the survey of 1,000 likely voters done by nationally recognized pollster David Binder, Newsom corrals 26 percent of the vote; Cox, 16 percent; Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang, 13 percent; former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 12 percent, Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, 10 percent; Democratic former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, 7 percent; and former Hillary Clinton adviser Amanda Renteria, 4 percent. The survey found 12 percent of respondents were undecided.”

With less than 80 days left until the June 5th primary, there’s still some ground for John to pick up.

John discussed how the cost of housing was an issue in California (where 20% of residents live in poverty), how his stance differed from his opponents’, and how he was the first state-wide official in the United States to take on the corrupt practices of Wells Fargo.

I wish the best of luck to John with the rest of the campaign!

Michelle Kwan Endorses Vivek Viswanathan for California State Treasurer

Michelle Kwan and Vivek Viswanathan

Here with Michelle W. Kwan reminiscing about our time on the 2016 campaign trail with Hillary Clinton. Thanks so much for your support, Michelle! Check out our campaign at www.vivekforca.com #VivekforTreasurer #RunwithVivek

Posted by Vivek Viswanathan on Saturday, March 3, 2018

Video & Image courtesy of Vivek Viswanathan for State Treasurer 2018 – https://www.vivekforca.com/

Back in early March, I was on Facebook and I saw a fundraising event titled Happy Hour: Michelle Kwan & Vivek Viswanathan in San Francisco, and I was like, what?!?

I had briefly seen Michelle back in January for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the security line for the press/VIP entrance but didn’t get a chance to chat with her since I wanted to make the press conference for the announcement of the U.S. Olympic men’s figure skating team. The first and only time I had met Michelle was back in the Fall of 2015 for a fundraiser for Asian Americans for Hillary in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton didn’t become president …

Who is this Vivek Viswanathan candidate and what is he running for was what I first thought? He’s running for California State Treasurer, to replace outgoing Treasurer John Chiang (who is running for Governor of California.) Well, since Michelle was going to the event – I had to go and learn more about Vivek!

At the Happy Hour, Vivek’s remarks were brief, but I was able to stay for dinner and hear more in-depth from not only Vivek, but also:

https://youtu.be/gxzzQ8buvoY

I also had a chance to first chat with Vivek’s Aunt & Uncle, who live near San Jose, as well as his Mom & Dad as well as his brother (who were all in town for the event visiting from New York). At the Happy Hour and also during the dinner reception, I did get to learn that Vivek is a really smart guy, having gone to Harvard for undegrad, and getting his JD/MBA at Stanford.

He’s also been a Special Advisor, Office of Governor Jerry Brown and also a Policy Advisor to Hillary Clinton on her presidential campaign. Michelle Kwan, Ann O’Leary and Dan Schwerin knew Vivek from working on the Hillary Clinton campaign together at the campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York and that’s how they all got to know Vivik and to endorse him.

All of this at the age of 30. He’s also doing something unique to get the word out about his race for California State Treasurer – running 500 miles from Sacramento to San Diego over a period of around two months to reach out to Californians and learn & listen.

After the long evening, I did get a chance to do a brief interview with Vivek:

I really admire Vivek putting himself out there and running for office, but it will be a big challenge for him running against a very established Democrat that is very well known and liked among the Democratic establishment even if the general Californian public doesn’t know her that well (a lot of people don’t even know who John Chiang is!)

There is also apparently a Republican in the race for State Treasurer according to Ballotpedia, but given there are no elected Republicans holding state wise offices, I’m pretty sure that his chances are close to zero of being elected, but he might have a chance to make it from the open primary to the general election in November.

The only poll that matters is election day. Stranger things have happened, as we all know, Donald Trump was elected president … And first time candidate Stephanie Murphy made history by beating a 24 year incumbent to become the first Vietnamese American woman elected to Congress.

Oh, and I also did get a chance to meet Michelle and chat with her at both the happy hour and dinner reception:

The above photo got me over 100+ likes on Facebook 🙂 and plenty of comments …

Best of luck to Vivek is his run for California State Treasurer! You can follow Vivek at:

Website: www.vivekforca.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/vivekforca

Twitter: @vivekforca | Instagram: www.instagram.com/vivekforca

8th Annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties & the Constitution – with Daniel Ellsberg

Every year since the kickoff year in 2011, I’ve tried to make the annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties & the Constitution in the Bay Area.

This year, I was particularly interested since after watching the movie The Post (about The Washington Post and its reporting of the Pentagon Papers, which was leaked by Daniel Ellsberg), the keynote speaker this year was was Daniel Ellsberg, who apparently lives in Northern California.

Ellsberg did not disappoint! Ellsberg’s keynote was I thought, very thought provoking, discussing that the Trump America we know today existed before Trump was elected. Ellsberg also thought that if there was another “9/11” event that there would be indeed Muslim concentration and deportation camps. Ellsberg said the events of Charlottesville with the white supremacist and Trump and Trump’s administrations’ racist attitudes and that a very large fraction of America is actually represented by Trump. Some may want just jobs, and not all are racists, homophobes, misogynists, etc… it is not 1% There are a lot of contradictions in American, like the first 11 out of 15 presidents of the United States owned slaves, 8 of them while they were president.

The whole program in the video includes:

  • Welcome – Jane Katsuyama, Emcee
  • Greeting – Office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, 13th District of California
  • Speech Contest Winner – Sarah Khan, Fred T. Korematsu Middle School
  • Statement: Sanctuary State – Office of CA Assembly Rob Bonta, CA 18th Assembly District
  • Guest Speaker – Reyna Grande
  • Lion Dance – Leung’s White Crane and Dragon Group
  • Film Clip: And Then They Came For Us – Abby Ginzberg, Director
  • Fred Korematsu Speaks Up – Laura Atkins & Stan Yogi, Authors
  • 50:451:21:50 – Keynote Speaker – Daniel Ellsberg
  • Call to Action – Adena Ishii
  • Public Service Announcement (PSA) – Fred Korematsu Day
  • Tribute to Mayor Edwin M. Lee, Korematsu Institute Update – Karen Korematsu