Boy am I late with this review. Jennifer Zhang’s new EP Escape Emotion was released August 29 last year, and I’m finally getting to it now.
It isn’t for lack of enthusiasm. I am still stoked to be sharing this music with you on the seven-month anniversary of its dropping. Zhang’s press release says, “Jennifer Zhang performs each track with a breathless, kittenish sensuality. She is established on the web as a popular content creator and pop media/gaming personality. This EP is her second, following her debut James tha dj Presents Jennifer Zhang VS.”
Dreamy, poppy, and breathy
Zhang calls this an “EDM/pop” collection, a pretty broad categorization that splits the EP between its first two tracks and its last three. I hear dream pop more than anything else in these first two songs. Staccato keyboard rhythms with ethereal, super-pleasing melodies complement Zhang’s breathy voice really well, making it better suited for chilling with a martini than getting sweaty on the dance floor, and here is my one major complaint with this record.
Electronic drumbeats seem determined to turn two nice dream-poppy songs into dance tracks, and they feel like slightly lazy DJ mixes. The beats are bland and uninteresting except in a few moments where they’re stripped back and give the keys and vocals the room they deserve. Once track 3, “Knell,” gets going, the beats make the song better, not quite in the spacy way of the best tracks from that third album by The xx, but pretty reminiscent of them.
The star is Zhang’s vocals. There are moments where Zhang unnecessarily moans into her notes like singers of much less talent (a device that sometimes sounds great but on which too many vocalists rely because they can’t hit the notes directly), and while I’m not a fan of the intentional quivering delivery on “Still Feel,” her voice is pleasing and not an imitation of anyone I can think of. The songs at times make me think of Owl City, The xx, the Japanese dream pop your favorite Lyft driver always plays, and Sade, but the vocals don’t remind me of anyone. I kind of want to hear her sing some 80s hair metal.
The best track is “Collide,” with sweet, layered vocals and the EP’s best lyrics, including the strangely hypnotic “the weird kinetic / so magnetic / we can lay it down / poetic that we can’t connect / when will we come around?” It also has the best vocal moment, when Zhang’s own BGVs stretch out the “colliiiiiiiide, colliiiiiiiiiide” behind her already established rapid delivery of the one-word chorus.
The song I’m least excited about is track 4, and I will admit that late-night slow-jams are not my thing. You know those nights when you’re the last to leave the party, and for whatever reason decide to walk the two miles home, and it seems like it’s the one evening everyone else in town shut it down early? “Drowning” is a great song for that walk’s playlist. Otherwise, it’s the one I’m most likely to skip.
Best song: “Collide”
2nd best song: “Escape Emotion”
Most singable: “Collide”
Song to make you text your ex (don’t do it!): “Still Feel”
Extra credit: Check out Zhang’s books, published under Jennfer Chang
Produced by Diana “AutoReiv” Cha and Drew “Kid Original” Krassowski
Written by Jennifer Zhang, Diana “AutoReiv” Cha, Drew “Kid Original” Krassowski, and Glenn Suravech “Mosaic”
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I don’t regularly watch The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, but I saw that one of my favorite Representative Ted Lieu was on the show recently:
“Congressman Ted Lieu makes the case for revoking Jared Kushner’s national security clearance and pushes a bill to rein in the president’s nuclear first-strike capabilities.”
Ever since Trump became President, Lieu is most known for being a hilarious Twitter troll to Trump’s tweets:
“Through his Twitter account, the Congressman has catapulted to a cultish delightfully nerdy social media stardom. Post-election, Lieu has made multiple appearances on cable television, including MSNBC and Real Time with Bill Maher.
If you’re a politics junkie who likes to follow Congresspeople on Twitter — or even if you aren’t, even if just really, really hate Donald Trump — you’ve probably liked a Lieu tweet without realizing it.
Lieu gives the platform credit for lending him access to voters he wouldn’t normally be able to reach.
“Consider that 20 years ago, a person who wanted to have a discussion with their member of Congress would have to call their office. Now people tweet at me,” Lieu said. “I can engage in multiple different conversations with people on Twitter — it’s actually a more intimate way of contacting someone.”
He’s got the fourth highest Twitter following in the House of Representatives, just under California social media powerhouses including Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, and Nancy Pelosi.”
I follow Lieu on Twitter, and if you want to, you can too here: https://twitter.com/tedlieu
The Repatriation of Henry Chin, written by Issac Ho and read by Anthony Lee on audiobook, is about a future where the United States has been in an escalating trade war with China which eventually leads to the roundup of all Chinese Americans into “internment” camps—a la, the Japanese Americans during World War II.
This book is a powerful reminder of what could happen to us—as Americans—when we let our fears get the best of us. It’s scary to imagine an assembly center in this day and age at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Or just the idea that you can even lock up an entire group of people for no other crime than being the “wrong” race or ethnicity.
In the book, we follow Henry Chin, who was an ex-military guy turned pharmacist. He’s been trying to live low and raise a hapa daughter after a traumatic war experience in Panama. However, when they start rounding up Chinese Americans, he refuses to comply. He takes his daughter and together they make a run for Canada through the Angeles Crest mountains—with the help of Henry’s army buddy.
My one problem with the story—and don’t get me wrong, this should not deter anyone from reading it—was how Japanese Americans were depicted. There was one part early on when the narrator states that Japanese Americans were wearing Japanese flags to make sure everyone knew they weren’t Chinese. I have a hard time imagining Japanese Americans doing this on many levels. First, we would never wear Japanese flags. And second, we would never sit idly by and allow the government to lock up a whole group of people again.
The concentration camps during World War II scarred the Japanese American community. We still talk about what happened today. It is not hyperbole to write that if a group of Japanese Americans get together, the word “camp” will come up—multiple times. Personally, I’ve dedicated much of my working life to teaching other people about it. We—as a community—have made it a point to make sure it never happens again to anyone ever. After 9/11, Japanese Americans were one of the first groups to come to the defense of Muslim/Arab Americans. So, the idea that Japanese Americans would sit by and do nothing is crazy.
Regardless, The Repatriation of Henry Chin is an important reading for all Americans. I tell people all the time: Today they might be coming after someone else. But if you don’t fight for their rights, tomorrow they could be coming after you. So go out and get this book on Audible or anywhere else audiobooks are sold.
Please note that I received this title for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1.
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!
If you own a high-end Android smartphone, it most likely has a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Recently, Qualcomm announced their latest and greatest, the Snapdragon 845, and highlights some of the benefits in their corporate video (okay, so not really a broadcasted television commercial):
“Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845 processor is about to transform flagship mobile devices. New architectures will deliver immersive AR and artificial intelligence. VR meetings and 360-degree video over LTE will revolutionize collaboration, while voice interaction means personal assistance will always be on the ready. UHD premium capture will make colors pop like never before, not to mention beyond-all-day battery life will let you work, share, and explore as long as you want. See what other standout features are coming.”
The corporate video shows an Asian American woman utilizing her Snapdragon powered devices throughout the day, including video chatting with her husband in a VR meeting (which I don’t think is going to be mainstream in the near future …)
One of the many impressive aspects of the Black Panther movie is its costume design. The look of the Dora Milaje, the elite Wakanda guard, is particularly striking.
That said, I was surprised to found out from The Wife about this article about Anthony Francisco, a developmental illustrator for Marvel Comics, where he says that apart from the obvious influence from different African cultures, that there are Asian influences in the Dora Milaje costumes. In this Buzzfeed article, Francisco details influences as disparate as Filipino tribesman and Japanese Samurai.
Francisco grew up in the Philippines, where the Igorot people of Ifugao are well known for their UNESCO heritage rice terraces. Some of their traditional garb influenced his design. In addition, the table runner from Francisco’s Aunt’s house became part of General Okoye’s uniform. Other Asian influences include Samurai style boots.
You can see these and other influences on costume design in the Buzzfeed article.
For a better look at Francisco’s work (which includes Baby Groot), check out his Instagram.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 19: “King in the North”
Original airdate March 20, 2018.
Synopsis: Honey needs time away from home to relax and get ready for the baby, so Jessica tricks her into going north to Maine (instead of south to the Keys) in pursuit of a book jacket blurb from Stephen King for A Case of a Knife to the Brain. Louis orders a new sign for Louis Huang’s Cattleman’s Ranch (disappointing me and surely countless others by not naming it Louis Huang’s Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch). Grandma plans to move out, so Emery wants her room, leaving Evan alone in the room they once shared. Eddie and Nicole rebel against the school dance’s policy requiring boys to wear pants and girls to wear skirts.
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped: The several silly Stephen King references are cute, but I have a feeling I missed a whole bunch. I’m waiving my usual distaste for cameos this week because the rule doesn’t apply when it’s a Kristi Yamaguchi cameo. I enjoy this show when it’s subversive on multiple levels. In this case, I think it’s just the one obvious level, and that’s okay too. Can’t put my finger on it, but Randall Park’s acting is especially good in this. And the “Somewhere Out There” gag is cute and funny!
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps: The Jessica-Honey story is too long and only interesting because you spend the whole time looking for Misery references. I Googled the name of the diner (Downy’s Diner) and hospital (Penobscot Memorial Hospital) thinking they might be King references, but alas. I think some kind of spoof on King horror stories might have been more interesting. Unless this story is a spoof and it just flew over my head, in which case I apologize.
FOB moment: “I know what it’s like to be treated differently because you’re not the same as everyone else. It sucks! But if we don’t take a stand, then we are the same as everyone else.”
Soundtrack flashback: “Every Heartbeat” by Amy Grant (1991, a song I love). “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail (1987, sung by Evan, Emery, and Louis). “ATLiens” by Outkast (1996).
Final grade, this episode: This feels good for a season finale (what? with the nineteenth episode?) and it works for a series finale if FOtB isn’t renewed for next season. Here’s hoping we get at least one more season out of Eddie and the Huangs. B.
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 for California Treasurer 2018 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:
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:
I recently had a chance to meet Dr. Mai Khanh Tran while she was visiting in downtown San Jose. She’s one of many running for an open seat in the 39th Congressional District of California, after Republican incumbent Ed Royce announced, like many Congressional Republicans in “purple” districts, that he was retiring from Congress. But Republican Young Kim is the anointed successor by Royce (having worked for him previously), a Korean American business woman who previously had served a term in the California State Assembly.
I had made a small donation to Tran’s campaign because I was looking to support and flip a Republican Congressional District so that the Democrats can win the House in November 2018 and she was an Asian American woman doctor! This was prior to Taiwanese American Jay Chen entering the race, who had previously ran against Ed Royce back in 2012 – who I supported and also had a chance to interview at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. After Royce had announced he was retiring, Chen announced he was running for the seat. I had heard that he promised not to enter the race, but Royce’s retirement of course changes the dynamics of the whole race and makes the race a jungle primary in June 2018.
I’m glad I don’t live in California’s 39th Congressional District, because I’m not sure who would vote for – Tran or Chen. Tran made a good case for her vote: she’s the only immigrant refugee female Asian American doctor running for office in that district. She also employees 90 people in her medical practice so has practical small business experience.
But I guess I wouldn’t have to make a choice, because in a surprise move, Chen decided for the “greater good” to withdraw from the Congressional race, since it was already a crowded Democratic field:
“Potential candidate Jay Chen said that he won’t file to run in CA-39, the seat held by retiring Republican Ed Royce and one of Democrats’ best pickup opportunities if they can avoid splitting the vote in the top-two primary in June.
“As of now 9 Democratic candidates and 7 Republican candidates have filed for a primary in which Republican turnout may remain higher than Democratic turnout,” Chen said in a statement. “The probability of two Republicans advancing in November, and Democrats squandering a historic opportunity, is real.”
“The greatest contribution I can make right now is to help consolidate the field, by stepping away from it. We cannot afford to let this seat slip away, and we must all put the greater good over personal ambition,” he added.
The DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] praised the move in a statement. “
I was kind of shocked when I heard the news, since Chen had gotten a lot of endorsements, but in a recent polling I came across:
didn’t look great for him. Maybe since Chen was the last to enter the race, that many didn’t know he was running yet?
Ed Royce and the Republican Party specifically chose to get behind Young Kim because she’s an Asian American female Republican – someone that the district could get behind. Demographically, the district is:
There are also two self-funders (including one lottery winner!). So there could be a lot of split votes with a lot of Democrats running and Republicans running – though I think there will be consolidation behind Young Kim as the race gets closer.
So even though Royce won re-election in November 2016, the district voted for Hillary Clinton Clinton beat Donald Trump 51% to 43%. This is one of the key Congressional Districts that the Democrats have targeted to win.
Tran has quite the compelling life story:
It was 1975, and I couldn’t thank him because I didn’t speak a word of English. Several months earlier, my dad had dropped my three siblings and me off at an orphanage in Saigon just before the city fell. None of us knew if we’d ever see each other again. I didn’t know it then, but my father’s selfless act of love gave his children a shot at freedom and a better life.
Balancing work and school was difficult, but with the support of my family and community I was able to get the grades to be admitted to Harvard. There I cleaned bathrooms as a janitor, working my way through school with the help of Pell Grants and scholarships. Next came the Dartmouth-Brown joint Medical School program, financed again with the help of scholarships, student loans, and federal grants. I finished my residency in Pediatrics at UCLA, and settled in Orange County, where I have been caring for the children of working families for the past twenty five years.
I’m also a two-time breast cancer survivor, and was blessed to become a mother in my forties. Thankfully, I had reliable health insurance that I could afford, or neither would have been possible.”
After reading and meeting Tran, I feel like I could be doing more with my life! Tran has been living the American dream and contributing to our great country.
If you didn’t know already, there are already a record number of women running for office.
If elected in November 2018, Tran would be the first female doctor ever elected to Congress (I’m told there was one who represented the U.S. Virgin Islands – but that Representative doesn’t have a vote for the U.S. territory).
Best of luck to Tran in the primary, and in the general election if she makes it through the primary!
Back in January, I was able to meet up with Korean American Dave Min,
Min was raised in the Palo Alto area and we have a mutual friend who introduced us to each other. Min is currently a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. From his campaign website:
“A first-generation Korean-American, Dave worked as an enforcement attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission, as an economic and financial policy advisor to Senator Chuck Schumer, and as an economic policy director at the Center for American Progress. Dave grew up in California, and Dave and his wife Jane settled in Irvine where they both teach at the UC Irvine School of Law while raising their three children.”
I had a chance to chat with Min at a local Starbucks for almost 17 minutes to ask him about running against Republican incumbent Representative Mimi Walters along with a field of Democratic candidates (including another UC Irvine professor!)
From a demographics standpoint, the 45th Congressional District (CD-45) is fairly diverse and highly educated:
More importantly, Orange County in 2016 49.8 percent voted for Hillary Clinton compared to 44.9 for Trump when Walters got re-elected. Although Orange County has traditionally been fairly conservative (certain for California), given how unpopular Trump is in California, there’s a good chance for Min or another Democrat to defeat Walters.
Best of luck to Min – it’ll be interesting to see if he can make it past the open “jungle” primary with so many running for the seat.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 18: “Measure Twice, Cut Once”
Original airdate March 13, 2018.
Synopsis: Louis has second thoughts about buying Kenny Rogers’s half of Kenny Rogers’s Michael Bolton’s Cattleman’s Ranch. This frustrates Jessica, who’s sure it’s a good deal. Jessica accuses Louis of always overthinking decisions in his life, and she flies her psychic to Orlando from D.C. to spur Louis into action.
Evan gives up Live with Regis and Kathie Lee for Lent. His behavior annoys his brothers, so Eddie and Emery try to trick him into breaking his Lent commitment.
I been in the game for ten years making rap tunes: This episode is a good example of how well Constance Wu and Randall Park work together. They make little moments super believable even in the middle of a plot where Louis is literally a turtle and Jessica is literally a white infant.
I also like that Evan’s faith isn’t just something used once for the sake of an interesting plot a year ago. I often hear people claim that boys his age are incapable of having a serious faith, especially in non-religious families, but this just isn’t true, and the writers respect Evan’s adherence even while Emery and Eddie make fun of it. Yes, Evan is being silly in his earnestness, and older brothers will tease mercilessly about such things, but there’s a way to tell this story while respecting all parties, which this episode does.
That turtle sequence is absurd but pretty dang funny.
Lines I liked:
Jessica: You have to act first and apologize later, like I learned to do.
Louis: You never apologize.
Eddie: I can’t wait to be reincarnated. I know who I’m coming back as. The RZA.
Jessica: Pee or get off the toilet.
Ever since honeys was wearing Sassoon: What was up with the lobster subplot? It feels like something thrown in just to give Matthew Chestnut something to do.
FOB moment: This is a bit of a reach, but Grandma’s explanation of yin and yang is interesting. It seems unlikely that both Louis and Jessica would have come this far in their lives without already knowing this stuff, so that’s kind of unbelievable, but Grandma’s explanation is one of the best I’ve seen in pop culture.
Soundtrack flashback: I watched this three times and didn’t pick up anything, which is a disappointment in an episode where the RZA does a cameo. Geez.
Final grade, this episode: It feels like kind of a throwaway episode, but I laughed aloud at least five times on my first viewing (zero laugh-alouds on the next two), so it certainly doesn’t stink. C+.
Ok that was for the SEO. Now let’s begin this not-really review. Why not really? Because
1. I’m mostly stealing from the pages in this book with roman numerals
2. I’m not going to tell you hardly anything about the book or whether you’ll like it or not. I’m just going to tell you to read it.
Foreword. Viet Thanh Nguyen:
The existence of Go Home! testifies to the power of language as a home open to all, albeit one that we must often fight for. Against the racist demand that we go back to where we came from, we say that we are already at home, not just in the United States, but in English.
Reading this collection, I visited all of these writers’ home and experienced their homelessness filtered through their stories and poems. All of their works were gifts to me, and I thought about how homes can be gifts too.
Editor’s Note. Rowan Hisayo Buchanan:
But this one book can’t contain all the vital voices. After you close the last page behind you, please open many more. Consider this book a doorway. The world presents ever-increasing ways in which we can be homed and unhomed. You may not see your own definition of home in theses pages, but we hope you find resonances and use them as a starting point for your own writing and thinking.
There. That’s the argument.
Read Alexander Chee and Karissa Chen. Read Mia Alvar and Chaya Babu. Read Marilyn Chin and Muna Gurung. Read the acknowledgements (always read the acknowledgements).
Go home, whatever, whoever, however, wherever that might be, and take this book with you.