I saw an email and Facebook posting from Asian and Pacific Islander Vote (APIAVote) about a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) video that was announced as ‘A message from the Cast of Fresh Off the Boat’:
“We just wanted to remind everyone to get out and vote on November 8th.”
Make voting a family affair—go out to eat afterwards! (Maybe at an affordable family steakhouse)
If only Cattleman’s Ranch were real.
But Randall Park makes a good point—make a day out of voting! Voting impacts not just you, but your family too—and our collective futures.
So make it a family tradition. This Election Day, bring your kids, your parents, your friends—whoever is your family—with you to the polls to cast a vote. Starting this tradition ensures that our voices—and votes—can impact not just this election, but for elections to come.
Let’s #PowerUp the vote this year.
Make sure you’re ready to vote this year—have you made your plan to vote yet? Learn more here.
Be sure to share this video and continue the conversation online—and with your friends—with the hashtag #PowerUp. Be sure to tag @APIAVote and @RocktheVote when you do!
Have questions or need help voting?
Call 1-888-API-VOTE (1-888-274-8683).
One of the reasons I became so interested in politics is that lack of involvement and interest in politics by other Asian Americans, especially in California. Unfortunately, Asian Americans are one of the least likely groups to vote. If you’re a naturalized citizen, especially if you didn’t have the right to vote in your previous country, you should exercise your right AND responsibility to vote! Otherwise, why bother becoming a U.S. citizen?
I’m a big fan of APIAVote when I first learned about them at the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC), and also attended their 2016 DNC Briefing & Kickoff Reception. I really hope this PSA is broadcast and I hope to catch it on air!
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Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 6: “Ken Learns Korean”
Original airdate November 4, 2016.
Ken needs the assistance of a translator when he examines a Korean-speaking patient. When he is also teased by D.K. and D.K.’s friends for not speaking Korean, he agrees to go with Dave to his Saturday Korean language class. Clark is elected by the nurses’ union to negotiate the new contract with Welltopia’s board. Molly, in preparation for her next shot at the SAT, practices her vocabulary in an ongoing showdown against Allison.
Wow. Everything and everyone are so over the top in this episode that Pat, as much himself as ever, seems normal here. The dialogue is heavy-handed. The acting is exaggerated. The sentiment is overblown. And I’ve never belonged to a union, so maybe I just don’t know what the protocols are, but Ken and Allison are employees of the HMO, and they are Clark’s friends; wouldn’t they have more to say to Clark than “We really don’t want you to strike?”
The culture-themed episodes of Dr. Ken have consistently been my favorite, which I swear isn’t because I have a predilection for topic episodes. I do prefer shows that attempt to say or do something different from what others have done, and since Dr. Ken is treading new ground just by existing, there’s a lot of unwalked territory just waiting to be explored.
“Ken Learns Korean” touches a lot of great ideas that ring true: the language thing, of course, but also older first-gen men playing cards, the expectation that Allison will play hostess, the alien-to-most environment of Dave’s weekend language classes, the consistent and constant stress of prepping for the SAT, the unique quality of Korean television, and (for just a little, deeply true moment) the daily disconnect when first-gen parents don’t quite understand all the words their later-gen progeny use at the table. Despite all its noisy obnoxiousness, this is in some ways one of the truest episodes of the show’s run so far.
At the very end of the negotiation scene, which is kind of a clown show, Pat steers the moment to its closure with his usual weirdness, but on his way out the door, he turns, looks Clark closely in the eye, and says in a friendly, comparitively downtempo, I-got-the-better-of-you way, “Hey, this was fun,” adding a gentle shoulder-slap. It’s the best acting in the episode, the rare moment where Dave Foley quarterbacks a whole scene with Tom-Brady-like dexterity. Props to Jonathan Slavin for the assist. Slavin can fill a room, but here he plays smaller while his character tries to play bigger, allowing Foley to work toward that great payoff line. Super impressive.
If good intentions and good ideas were all that mattered, this might be one for the academy’s consideration. However, it tries to use a chainsaw to carve something intricate. It’s doable, but this one just doesn’t pull it off. Two and a half prescription pads out of five.
Rarely does the topic of Asian Americans and the U.S. presidential elections come up, but this is not a normal election. Specifically, Republican candidate Donald Trump is not your normal candidate. The Times did a nice article outlining the growing political trends of Asian Americans to lean Democratic and that Trump is helping that trend:
“Republicans’ difficulties with Asian-Americans are similar to those the party has faced with most minority groups. A sense that the party is hostile to immigrants and minorities has driven more Asian-American voters into the Democratic Party lately, political scientists and community leaders said. And if Republicans do not make more of an effort, those voting shifts could harden, just as Hispanics’ voting patterns have.
“What we see now are some early indications that people who either leaned toward the Democratic Party or did not identify with either party are now starting to identify as Democrats,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside. “This is still a group that is making up its mind,” he added, “but it should be concerning to the Republican Party that you’re starting to see this crystallization.””
“In Nevada and Virginia, two states where polls show the presidential race is down to single digits, the Asian-American population sits at 8.5% and 6.5% respectively—higher than the national average of 5.6%—and is climbing. That works out to hundreds of thousands of voters in states where the contest will be decided by thin margins and may help determine the next president.
On the national level, Hillary Clinton’s campaign employs a director of Asian-American and Pacific Islander outreach, who oversees field programs concentrated in Virginia and Pennsylvania, to which they are bussing Asian volunteers from nearby New York and New Jersey. The campaign has a separate staffer specifically directing such efforts in Nevada.”
This past September, Trump’s campaign did finally announce their Asian Pacific American Advisory Council:
“Donald J. Trump is pleased to announce his Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee. The women and men on the committee are elected, appointed and grassroots leaders who will engage Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) on relevant issues to these important and vibrant communities. Governors Eddie Calvo and Ralph Torres of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) respectively, will serve as the Council’s Co-Chairs.”
“The meeting follows a survey released in early October that showed Trumptrailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 41 points among registered Asian-American voters. The meeting was also a day before the third and final presidential debate, also to be held in Las Vegas.”
The complete set of slides can be found here. What I find interesting is that foreign born Asian Americans tended to like Clinton more than native-born Asian Americans, and the opposite view for Trump – which is much more unfavorably by native-born Asian Americans than foreign born Asian Americans. Given Trump’s anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric, you would think foreign born Asian Americans would find Trump more unfavorable.
Then again, I have heard that there has also apparently been a relatively strong Chinese American grassroots group of supporters (usually foreign born Asian Americans):
“Like Zeng, an immigrant from China who lives in San Diego, many of Trump’s Chinese American supporters are relatively recent arrivals from mainland China with strong nationalistic leanings, a certain reverence for wealth and a firm belief that U.S. immigration laws should be followed.
Many say they have been politicized by recent battles over affirmative action on college campuses, where some Chinese Americans fear their numbers are being held down by efforts to advance other ethnic and racial groups. That issue, along with a recent controversy over the police shooting of an unarmed man by a Chinese American police officer in New York, has opened fissures in the Chinese American community between older, more progressive generations and newer, more conservative arrivals.”
I’ve been told have a few popular U.S.-based WeChat groups to discuss their support. Overall though, the data clearly shows that Asian Americans have been leaning strongly Democratic, and I will be surprised if Hillary Clinton doesn’t do better than Obama’s 71% of the Asian American vote.
In fact, Clinton has been a very strong supporter for Asian Americans and back on January 7th of this year, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton launched her AAPI outreach efforts in San Gabriel:
and had hired back in August 2015 an AAPI Outreach Director. And in that speech, Clinton reminded the audience that her husband, President Bill Clinton, was the first to start the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, back in 1999.
Even back in May (which seems like a lifetime ago), a survey was done, and Trump was overwhelmingly seen as unfavorable by Asian Americans:
“Only 19 percent of Asian Americans hold a favorable view of the presumptive Republican nominee, according to a survey of more than 1,000 registered Asian Americans conducted by three Asian-American NGOs, while 61 percent view him unfavorably.
That’s nearly the opposite of Hillary Clinton, who is viewed favorably by 62 percent of Asian Americans — one of the fastest-growing minority populations in the country — and unfavorably by 26 percent.”
So it’s no surprise that The Republican Party is concerned as to what Trump is doing to the their brand, and more importantly, how Asian Americans are voting – especially in key swing states of Nevada and Virginia. But at the time of this writing, Virginia looks to be a clear win for Clinton and Nevada is still borderline, but leaning Blue. I anticipate that Clinton will surpass Obama’s 71% of the Asian American electorate.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 4: “Citizen Jessica”
Original airdate November 1, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Cattleman’s Ranch is serving as a polling place for the 1996 general election. Jessica and Louis take opposing sides on a proposition to build a wall keeping illegal immigrants out of Florida, while Emery and Evan support opposing candidates in the Clinton-Dole presidential election. In a move to get wall protestors removed from the premises, Jessica discovers that she is herself an illegal immigrant. Eddie can’t be bothered with trivialities like presidential elections: he is too consumed with the recent murder of Tupac Shakur, while tensions with his friends over who killed him threaten their relationships.
Good: I love the concept of using the elections of twenty years ago to make a statement about the elections today, and I love the table-turning on Jessica as she discovers she’s officially in the country illegally. There’s a really funny argument at the lunch table with Eddie and his friends, and it’s funny how Grandma has an opinion about who killed Tupac.
Bad: It’s really difficult to be genuinely funny when you spend so much time preaching, and this is a very preachy episode. Louis preaches to Jessica about the importance of voting, and later he preaches to her about Hector’s difficult situation. Grandma preaches to Eddie about keeping his friendships intact. Evan preaches to Louis about the electoral college. Emery even kind of preaches to a customer about the futility of voting for a third-party candidate. And I get that Jessica is super competitive, but calling the INS on Louis’s cook is way over the line, even for her. Ugh.
FOB moment: “I’m a legal immigrant. I did it the right way. I went through the immigration process; I waited my turn. I didn’t jump the line. This is just about fairness.” — Jessica, unaware that she’s actually in the country illegally.
Soundtrack flashback: “Toss it Up” by Tupac (1996).
Final grade, this episode: This is an uncharacteristically unfunny episode, a clever idea that doesn’t work because it smacks us over the head with its messages. C-minus.
The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany’s Gift of Hope is a beautiful children’s picture book about a young Cambodian girl forced to leave her country who finds strength in traditional dance steps. The illustrations are well-done and in a style that matches the spirit of the book’s title character Sophany. Though not written by a Cambodian, it is based on the true story of a friend of the author.
As to be expected, the book only lightly touches on the cause of Sophany’s flight from her country — “The Khmer Rouge are bad” — while focusing more on the struggle to find one self and the reclaiming of culture and identity in her new home in America.
Beginning with Sophany learning dance in Cambodia before leaving the country as a child, the book ends on a lovely note of Sophany teaching other girls traditional Cambodian dance. It quickly covers her growth from child to adult, to then highlight the kind of inter-generational care she shows in establishing a Cambodian community in the United States.
The Cambodian Dancer was recently awarded the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Silver Medal for Non-Fiction Picture Book.
Back in April, I had blogged that Ro Khanna was running again (he first ran in 2014) against Congressman Mike Honda for California’s 17th Congressional District. Since then, I haven’t really been following that election except to see whether or not they both won and made it through the primary (since California has an open primary – the two top vote-getters make it to the general election – so it’s a Democrat vs. Democrat in November).
I was taken aback when I saw Honda’s attack ad against Khanna – probably a first where an Asian American Democrat is attacking another Asian American Democrat – only in California! Personally, I’m not sure how effective that attack ad is since Khanna is not exactly a household name and he isn’t a well know Silicon Valley tech mogul with ties to Wall Street, lobbyists or “extreme Republicans,” like a Peter Thiel. I think a label like “Wall $treet Ro” is kind of ridiculous, as the license plate on the limo in the commercial. Most people in Silicon Valley don’t have close ties to Wall Street, but do for tech.
However, Khanna has accepted donations from Peter Thiel, whom I find an awful, horrible person, as I think most of Silicon Valley does after Thiel openly supported Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention and spoke there. If Honda’s campaign was smart, they’d be all over Thiel’s support instead of this attack ad. Personally, I’d have a hard time voting for anybody who doesn’t repudiate Thiel – everything I’ve read about him makes me sick.
What kind of cracked me up is that the actor who is playing Khanna in the attack ad kind of reminded me of actor Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle fame, currently on Designated Survivor).
I kind of have to agree, to a degree, this editorial in the local paper titled Mike Honda’s new ad diminishes him:
“On the merits of the issues, the ad is all wrong: Khanna wants to protect Social Security, scrapping the tax cap currently in place. He has written a book about American manufacturing and wants to create jobs in the United States as part of a plan to bring back money that companies hold abroad. He wants to close some of the more obvious tax loopholes for the rich. In a word, he is a progressive Democrat.
The Honda ad is really objectionable because it aims at a whole strata of people, suggesting that successful Indian-Americans are arrogant characters who want to do Wall Street’s bidding by outsourcing American jobs. Arrogance knows no race: And Honda should understand that.”
I didn’t necessarily see the attack ad as suggesting that Indian Americans are arrogant – just possibly Khanna.
What impressed a LOT recently was that former President Jimmy Carter had endorsed Khanna:
“Both candidates in the tight race to represent the 17th Congressional District announced key endorsements Monday, with Sen. Barbara Boxer backing incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Honda and former President Jimmy Carter supporting challenger Ro Khanna. … Meanwhile, Carter called Fremont attorney Khanna one of “the next generation of leaders for our country.” He met Khanna at the Carter Center 20 years ago and was impressed with the young intern’s “passion for human rights and economics” and cited Khanna’s efforts since then, including his stint with the Commerce Department under the Obama Administration and his publication of a book on American economics.”
When I saw that endorsement, I was like – wow. I think a lot of Americans admire President Carter as our best ex-President with his post-Presidential humanitarian efforts. This kind of makes up for Khanna accepting a donation from Thiel.
Personally, I am not really for either candidate since I can’t vote for either of them – I don’t live in that Congressional district. As I have blogged before, I was kind of disappointed with Honda’s debate performance against Khanna in 2014. I have attended Honda fundraisers in the past, but more because I wanted to meet actor and activist George Takei and former Ambassador to China and Governor Gary Locke.
If I had to make a prediction, I think Khanna will prevail this time around. Honda is an eight-term incumbent. With age discrimination being rampant in Silicon Valley, I hate to say this, but I think Honda has not kept up with his tech savvy constituents and issues in Silicon Valley as he should be (as opposed to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, in neighboring 14th Congressional District – which I consider the heart of Silicon Valley – where Google and Facebook are headquartered, and similar in age as Honda). Honda has been a civic and civil rights leader for decades, but I think Khanna is probably someone more appropriate for that Congressional District.
While many white liberals declare themselves strong advocates of diversity, in her essay “Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb,” Anjali Enjeti says that for many of them, that advocacy ends when a certain percentage of those diverse people live by them. We have written about Asian ethnoburbs and about white flight from them, but what really surprised me is that the ethnoburb that she talks about wasn’t in Cupertino, Irvine, or the San Gabriel Valley but is in the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia. While I think that Enjeti misses a number of points, she makes many pointedly accurate observations about white fragility and the limits of racial progress in the United States.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 3: “Louisween”
Original airdate October 25, 2016.
Microsynopsis: It’s Louis’s favorite holiday, Halloween, and he’s as enthusiastic about it as ever, but Jessica refuses to participate even a little, choosing instead to work on her horror novel, A Case of a Knife to the Brain. Louis takes her non-excitement as a challenge to scare her. Eddie and his friends cancel trick-or-treating plans to attend the first party Nicole throws as a high-schooler. When the party is a dud, Eddie’s friends bail, but Eddie sticks with his former crush. Evan says he’s tired of being Emery’s sidekick in their coordinated Halloween costumes every year, so the brothers agree that Evan will choose this year’s costumes.
Good: It was nice to see Honey and Nicole again, plus some peripheral characters from episodes past, such as Reba (the girl who has a crush on Eddie) and Shelly (played by Arden Belle) from last year’s Halloween episode. Jessica has some good lines, and the costumes are fun–especially Honey as Elvira, and all of Eddie’s crew, four of whom have basketball-themed costumes.
Bad: This is another one of the Louis-gets-carried-away episodes, and it’s mostly not very interesting or funny. The stories resolve themselves in unnecessarily sappy ways, and the let’s-see-if-we-can-scare-Jessica sequences are kind of dumb.
FOB moment: This is another episode without a real FOB moment, and it’s totally okay. It’s good that the Huangs are having episodes where they could be any American TV family.
Soundtrack flashback: This is more like it. “Who Will Save Your Soul” by Jewel (1995). “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Doggy Dogg (1994), unbleeped during the “smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice” part.
Final grade, this episode: The only thing saving the last few minutes is the further development of Eddie’s friendship with Nicole, which is turning into a special relationship that belongs pretty much only to Eddie. Nicole has no real relationship with anyone else within the framework of this show, and we mostly see her only in the context of Eddie’s life. This is the kind of richness that turns a good show into a great show, if the show can endure while continuing to develop it over the long haul, and although the critic in me probably would have found it a bit much, the fan in me misses Eddie’s season one voiceover, which could have been great in this spot. B.
Last week I wrote an article about my involvement with the new feature film, The Big Bachi, and why I thought it was important and worthwhile project.
I thought it’d be great opportunity to speak to some of the principals behind the production. So I asked Derek Shimoda (the director), Mark Tasaka (the writer), Oliver Ike (the Producer), and Naomi Hirahara (the original writer of the book) four questions.
(Derek) I was immediately drawn to Mas even before reading the book because I was familiar with him. My mother read the Mas Arai series and relayed that the character shared the same experiences as my father in real life – atomic bomb survivor and gardener. I think this connection will be more invaluable than any research I could do.
(Mark) As an Asian American who is a fan of film noir, literary detectives, and the mystery genre, I was immediately drawn to Naomi’s first Mas Arai book, “The Summer of the Big Bachi” because of the elevator pitch of the character: he was a Hiroshima-bomb-survivor turned gardener turned amateur detective. That description alone made me aware that Mas Arai would be a very different kind of detective. Besides, the only Asian detective character I was aware of was Charlie Chan, and it’s hard to stomach the “yellowfacing” of those old movies. Naomi’s books and her creation of Mas gave me a character who was a welcomed change of what I was accustomed to.
(Oliver) He reminded me a lot about my own father who is also a Japanese gardener.
(Naomi) Not applicable. I created him. 🙂 Inspired by my dad, but I encountered a lot of men like him during my childhood and also during my tenure at The Rafu Shimpo. These men have been invisible and underestimated. In the movie Chinatown, the Asian gardener didn’t have a name. I’ve given him one here.
(Derek) Financing is the biggest obstacle, for obvious reasons. The most important challenge is maintaining the essence of Naomi Hirahara’s book so as to not disappoint fans of the story too terribly. With Naomi’s approval and input, we have takes some liberties on the story but we are being careful how we proceed.
(Mark) The biggest challenge of bringing “The Big Bachi” to the screen is the funding. Trying to find “mainstream” funding for a film that is set in the 1960s featuring a predominantly Asian cast that is critical of both the actions of America and Japan during the WWII is a tough sell. But that’s what so great about “The Big Bachi.” It addresses these serious issues and wraps an entertaining mystery film exterior around them. Audiences – not just Japanese-American audiences – will learn something while hopefully being entertained at the same time. It’s a highly digestible history lesson disguised as a film noir or perhaps, vice versa, depending our what part of the film you respond to the most.
(Oliver) On the surface, I think some people might see it simply as an “Asian” film and people not of that ethnicity will automatically tune out. The problem is that since Asians in cinema are so rare, whenever a film features a majority Asian cast, it will automatically be labeled an Asian film. This film can be a huge step in the direction of normalizing Asians on screen.
(Naomi) There’s really not much of precedent for something like this. A film adaptation of a mystery series written by an Asian American? And the development team is comprised of mostly Japanese Americans. How do we get people — even our own community members — to invest in this? Documentaries are more known commodities among the older generation. Younger folks seem to supporting more relationship-driven feature films. Some of my mystery writing colleagues are getting substantial film and TV deals. But an independent effort like this featuring a mostly all-Asian cast? It’s a challenge.
(Derek) “The Big Bachi” is extremely important to me because it represents more than a group of Asian Americans telling their own story; it represents a community who accepts that mainstream Hollywood just isn’t interested their voices. I’m hoping that “The Big Bach” is an example of Asian Americans not willing to let that detour us.
(Mark) I can say that the “The Big Bachi” is important to me because I believe that it’s a step in the right direction of correcting the wrong of having Asians in largely stereotypical roles on the big screen. Or I can say that it’s important because there’s been a lot of white-washing of Asian stories for many decades in American film and it’ll mean a great deal to a lot of Asian Americans to have a film that doesn’t take the easy way out in terms of casting or its POV. I can say that it’s very rare to have an all-Asian American film production (the director, producers, the writer, and the author of the book all being Asian American). I can say all these things and they’ll be 100% true. But probably the easiest thing to say is that “The Big Bachi” has a chance to be a hard-hitting and engrossing film noir starring an atomic bomb-surviving gardener who is trying to solve a huge mystery while keeping everyone’s lawn immaculate. That alone should get people in seats.
(Oliver) The film is important to me because it is a unique story about people we don’t often see on screen. The time period depicted in the film is a soon forgotten time in Southern California history that has yet to be told in this way. Also, from the author being Asian American to the entire filmmaking crew being Asian Americans, I think this is a film that the community can really rally behind and be proud of.
(Naomi) There’s such a paucity of full-length feature films starring Japanese Americans and their stories. Remove all the camp and identity related ones, and there hasn’t been a lot since the pioneering “Hito Hata: Raise the Banner” in 1980. This is not okay. I love “Crimson Dragon” but that still had a slight outsider’s look into the exotic Little Tokyo. “The Big Bachi” has an interesting neo-noir plot that moves the story. The neo-noir genre allows for flawed and imperfect characters, not model minorities or one-dimensional heroes and victims. I feel that we need the reclaim the missing years since the end of World War II. It’s not like we miraculously reappeared in the 21st century. Stuff happened in between, namely many of our elders worked outside on people’s lawns or inside cleaning people’s homes. In spite of being engaged in this kind of labor, they weren’t simple or simplistic. Life is complicated and the past has a way of leaving its mark.
(Derek) During our first team meeting with Naomi, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that three of our fathers were or still are gardeners, the trade of Mas Arai. As such, one of our Kickstarter campaign rewards is gardening by a team of genuine Japanese gardeners – an almost extinct breed.
(Mark) I learned that this is very, very, very difficult. Adapting the book into a script was incredibly challenging. And right now, trying to raise funds for the film is extremely tough. And I’m sure pre-production, production, and post-production will be shaving years off the lives of everyone involved due to the stress and pressure. All of it is hard. But I guess it’s supposed to be hard because then it wouldn’t feel so damn rewarding.
(Oliver) I’ve received the unique privilege of learning more about my own community and history as a Japanese American. I have met many people like my own father and heard more about their unique pasts and challenges.
(Naomi) It’s been fun to watch the evolution of one of my stories in script form. There’s been some substantial changes — the time period, for one. But I really have enjoyed seeing how things need to be altered for a more visual medium. I didn’t expect this, as I’ve heard stories from other novelists with horror stories about their adaptation experiences. It’s been great to give input to the screenwriter, Mark Tasaka, as well as the director, Derek Shimoda. They both have been really open and I think that we have the same goal — to tell the most compelling story about an American-born atomic bomb survivor who is haunted by his Hiroshima past.
DIRECTOR DEREK SHIMODA produced the feature film, In My Life, as well as the acclaimed documentary, Secret Asian Man, an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival. He wrote, produced and directed the film, Autonomous Soul, winner of a Visionary Award at the Pan African Film Festival. Over the past several years, Derek has worked on non-fiction series for several cable networks including, The History Channel, The Travel Channel and A&E. His debut feature-length documentary, The Killing of the Chinese Cookie, was a Best Documentary winner at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. His most recent project, June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza, is a feature documentary about Tatsuya Shindo, a high-ranking Japanese ex-mobster-turned-preacher.
SCREENWRITER MARK TASAKA graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a Critical Studies degree. During his time at the school, Mark met his frequent collaborator Derek Shimoda and they’ve been working together ever since. Mark has worked on a variety of documentaries, films, and television shows since graduating. A veteran of the television industry for over a decade, Mark is currently working as a supervising producer on a hit reality show.
PRODUCER OLIVER IKE is an experienced film industry veteran with over seven years of experience in distribution, sales, programming and production. Ike served as Associate Producer on the feature film, EMOTICON and has released numerous award-winning films as a distributor including: In the Family, Seoul Searching, Man From Reno, Patang and many more. Ike currently runs the independent film distribution company, First Pond Entertainment.
AUTHOR NAOMI HIRAHARA is a novelist and social historian based in Los Angeles. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo newspaper, Naomi has written nonfiction books, including a biography on businessman and philanthropist George Aratani, the history of Japanese American gardeners, and the lost Japanese American community on Terminal Island. In addition to her successful Mas Arai book series, she has written, 1001 Cranes (2008), Murder on Bamboo Lane (2014) and Grave on Grand Avenue (2015). She received her bachelor’s degree in international relations from Stanford University and spent a year at the Inter-University Center for Advanced Japanese Studies in Tokyo.
Follow me at @ksakai1.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 5: “D.K.’s Korean Ghost Story”
Original airdate October 21, 2016.
Open up and say aaaah.
Allison is heartbroken because Dave seems to be in a rush to grow up. No longer his mother’s little boy, he eschews trick-or-treating on Halloween, and he insists he’s too old to be frightened by spooky stories anymore. D.K. tells Dave and Ken a scary Korean ghost story, which Ken chickens out on before its conclusion. Molly has thirty minutes to find something to wear to a costume party.
Here goes his funny bone.
There are several chuckles near the beginning, but most of this episode is really unfunny. Dave gets a meaty plot for the first time this season, and although he has a strong start, his exaggerated, cartoonish fear at the end doesn’t play to Albert Tsai’s strengths. There was a way here for D.K.’s silly story to put some believable Dave-specific fear into him, the kind that his mother could have been a real comfort for, and it could still have been kid-safe and fun. Dave could have been unaffected by the intended spookiness but found something fearsome in some other level, thereby keeping the story from veering off into wacky land while developing Dave’s character and strengthening his relationships with Allison and D.K. What he does instead is horribly unconvincing, which then makes Allison’s response unconvincing.
Doctor, doctor, is this love I’m feeling?
I admit I like the old plot device of having the characters in the show perform the in-show narrated story. It may be old, but it’s not yet tired.
The beginning of the story-in-the-story, with Allison playing the Korean mom and Ken playing the young boy, is the episode’s best moment. D.K. has his strongest episode this season, and if his contribution to the show is to inject some old-culture Koreanness like this once in a while, his being added to the main cast could work after all. And darn it if I also didn’t like Pat’s extremely weird, pathetic loserness in both the main story and the ghost story. No idea why.
Every week, I resist commenting on the actors’ physical appearances because Joz doesn’t like it and because it’s just tricky terrain with landmines everywhere, but can I be forgiven for saying that Suzy Nakamura looks great in her witch costume? Because wow.
Not very funny doesn’t always mean bad. And this isn’t bad. 2.5 thermometers out of 5.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook recently this TV commercial that he saw air during prime time on network television by Seamless:
“Ah, New York City. The people, the culture, the food. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Until it does. Get all your favorite New York food delivered anywhere in the city.”
(and food delivery service like GrubHub) and asked for opinions. I responded, “A bit stereotypical to say the least.” with the added unwritten thought of the commercial being somewhat racist. Afterwards, he added in his thoughtful commentary on the matter:
“The scene is the building of a skyscraper or the Empire State Building era, in the 1930’s. Poor Irish and, probably Italian, immigrants.
The delivery was for Thai food but I’ll use the parallel of Chinese food since that was the dominant type of Asian food in NYC in the 1930’s.
While Chinese restaurants existed in the 1930’s, the concept of Chinese food delivery did not exist. Moreover, that was the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act which lasted nearly 60 years and wasn’t repealed until 1943.
If the producers wanted to contrast the convenience of a food delivery service like Seamless and difficult to reach places, they could have simply use a neutral pizza delivery guy since Italian and Irish food was much more common those days. No respectable non-Asian hard hat Giovanni ate Asian food back then.
And so, there was no need for producers/ad to cast aspersions on Asians.”
Maybe the folks at Seamless thought their commercial needed some “diversity,” but the execution was kind of ridiculous. Taking a look at Seamless’s other TV commercial from a year ago was a lot more entertaining and relateable, as who doesn’t like free leftover food at the office?
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 2: “Breaking Chains”
Original airdate October 18, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Emery’s excitement about beginning middle school is dampened when Eddie gives him a binder in which he’s kept track of all the lies he’s told the school about his culture, lies such as a daily nap time and a superstition against locker numbers beginning with 4. Eddie expects Emery to back him up on these fake traditions, but it’s keeping Emery from doing the things he’s looking forward to. Evan deals with riding the bus to school alone for the first time. Louis hires a housekeeper to help Jessica, but Jessica is insulted by the gesture, saying “I would love some help. Getting the knife. Out of my back.”
Good: There is so much here to love, but the best moments are Emery’s confrontation with Eddie (and subsequent coming to terms), Evan’s lecturing Eddie about letting Emery be Emery, and Louis’s fight with Jessica, during which we get to see him raise his voice in frustration: “It’s a GIFT!” I also love the brief (agonizing) scene at the locker, when Emery’s new locker buddy immediately becomes his locker stranger, and she turns around and becomes the girfriend of the guy with the locker on the other side. Eddie’s lies hit him right where he lives!
It was also nice to see former Not Ready for Primetime Player Melanie Hutsell as the housekeeper.
Bad: I still have issues with how stupid all the grownups at Eddie’s school are, but there’s at least a pretty good reason this time for this presentation. Eddie’s speech during his argument with Emery has me reconsidering the stupid grownups as a meaningful device.
FOB moment: “They’re ignorant about who we are, and where we come from. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of that? They see me coming down the hall — they’re nervous. I’m keeping them on their toes, blazing trails, breaking chains. Then they see you coming, in your gi, with your violin and your camera, and we’re back to where we started!”
Soundtrack flashback: “I Wish” by Skee-Lo (1995). “Zombie” by the Cranberries (1994). “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton (1996). Possible timeline issue: “Un-Break My Heart” was on the Secrets album, which was released in June of 1996. The “Un-Break My Heart” single was released in November, but this is the first week of school. It’s possible Jessica is listening to a CD in the car, but if she’s listening to the radio, it’s unlikely this song would be playing. I know; it’s a reach.
Final grade, this episode: Turning Eddie’s laziness into racial subversion is kind of genius. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in prime time. And I’ve always been fond of the episodes where each of the boys gets individual screen time with his two brothers. Jessica’s dialed up to 9 through most of the episode, and Louis is right with her for one scene, yet the brothers pretty much own this one. Excellent performances by all the principal actors. A-minus.