8$ is a series which occasionally highlights interesting crowdfunding projects. Every day, the 8Asians team is inundated by many worthy pitches. We are unable to highlight every one that comes our way, or even the ones we might individually support. The projects selected for 8$ are not endorsements by 8Asians. (To be considered for 8$, we highly suggest you not harass the writers or the editors of 8Asians.)
WHO: Starry Kitchen, formerly an illegal/underground restaurant out of the back of out of the apartment of Nguyen Tran and his wife, executive chef/Kitchen Ninja Thi Tran. Later a downtown Los Angeles lunch spot. Now a pop-up in Chinatown seeking a permanent home.
WHAT: Kickstarter project: Starry Kitchen – #SaveOurBalls ..and our Restaurant!
From Nguyen Tran:
As I’m sure many of you can relate to, after the financial collapse of ’08 everyone was scrambling: losing jobs, money, houses, you name it, and we were no different. My wife had been laid off from her job in the Advertising industry, I was working as an independent producer/film sales agent in Hollywood scrambling to make a buck and both of us looking for a new way to survive. That’s when my (super talented) wife started cooking (A LOT) and posting her exotic creations onto to Facebook. All of our friends were super impressed by her talent and were begging for us to open a restaurant, and that is what we did… with a non-so-traditional beginning.
In May of 2009 my wife/partner/best friend/executive chef/Kitchen Ninja and I started an Illegal+Underground restaurant out of the back of our apartment that we called… STARRY KITCHEN! This “thing” that we started took off WAY, WAY faster than we had anticipated eventually making our apartment the #1 Asian Fusion restaurant listing in ALL of Los Angeles (our apartment!?!)
We MIGHT have gotten too big with people, Yelpers and eventually the press finding out about our story leading to us finally being found and shut down by the health department… even though I didn’t care and ran it for another 3 months “black ops”-style behind-closed-doors now while we were coincidentally already in the process of finally moving into a real+permitted “brick+mortar” spot.
February of 2010 marked the LEGITIMATE launch of Starry Kitchen in a legit restaurant space that we took over from friends, which was only a lunch spot, and that eventually went viral for us to crowds and businesses we couldn’t even dreamt of. Only problem, we didn’t know how to really run a restaurant correctly, and neither did the people we took over the space from which led to just as many mistakes as our successes. We had to learn on our own at a VERY fast rate.
WHEN: Deadline to contribute is Sunday, February 1, 2015 (3:05pm PT).
WHY: This is “The Go BIG, or GO HOME MOMENT!”
After 5.5 years, some of those personal mistakes eventually led to having to sell our space, becoming a pop-up, moving two more times, fending for ourselves to keeping our employees and customers with us, finally landing in Chinatown as part of this amazing revitalization that’s happening as we speak AND keeping Starry Kitchen ALIVE!
What success we HAVE had has all come from us NOT playing by the rules. Whenever we play by “the rules” we’ve always failed, but every time we break them and make our own rules: us, our staff and ultimately our customers ALL win. Not everyone will understand that, and that’s OK because we’re happy to help lead EVERYONE to greener and tastier (Asian) pastures on this journey for all that support us and not alike.
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This Starbucks “Meet Me” video was filmed at the Kahala Mall in Honolulu, Hawaii and features Filipina American Sherylynn’s Starbucks story. The description: “Without knowing anyone, Sherylynn went to a deaf meet up at Starbucks, where she found a new community that changed her life.”
This isn’t exactly a “commercial” (but yeah, let’s face it, it IS) — it’s part of a “brand campaign” according to AdAge:
For the global campaign, called “Meet me at Starbucks,” the coffee giant isn’t focusing on products like it normally does in its ads. Rather, it’s focusing on the brand by chronicling a day in the life of Starbucks through a mini-documentary, shot in 59 different stores in 28 countries, using 39 local filmmakers, 10 local photographers and one director coordinating it all at 72andSunny, the agency responsible for the work. Each part of the ambitious project was shot in the same 24-hour period, producing 220 hours of footage, and features various subjects — from a hearing-impaired group meeting, to a group of women discussing scrapbooking, to elderly couples to teenage friends — going about their business at Starbucks.
I’m working on a screenplay and one of the films my co-writer asked me to watch was Flower Drum Song. As my writing partner noted, it is “perhaps the only mainstream musical with all Asian American characters.” The sad thing is that he was right. The closet thing I could think of was the King & I. And that play wasn’t all Asian American.
So over the holidays I watched the 1961 Universal –International film starring James Shigeta, Nancy Kwan, Jack Soo, and others. Although I’ve seen it before (a long long time ago), it was nice to see again. Truth be told, lots of it made me cringe. Some of the jokes—okay, lots of the jokes, the stereotypes, the bad accents, made me want to hit my head against the wall… but what got me was that such a film got made in the first place—and in the 1960s. I doubt that anyone would/could make such a movie now. The closest thing that I could think of was Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. I hope I’m wrong about this.
In honor of the movie, I thought I’d share with you eight (since we’re 8Asians and all) fun facts, trivia, and observations about the Flower Drum Song.
The Search for General Tso (2014)
Written and directed by Ian Cheney
There is a very small Chinese hole-in-the-wall in my neighborhood where, if you’re there at the right time, you can often see a small group of middle-aged Chinese laborers sitting down to dine. They don’t look at a menu, and as far as I can tell, they don’t even order. They greet whoever is serving, and in a few minutes their meal is brought out, usually in plain bowls. Whatever they’re eating doesn’t look like what I’m eating; it doesn’t resemble anything I’ve ever seen off a Chinese menu. But the men make it look more delicious than what I’m having, and they confirm for me what I suspected for a long time before I first saw them: that there is a real Chinese menu I never get to see, and as much as I love my lemon chicken and my beef choi sum, that menu is a lot better.
The Search for General Tso is a documentary that reminds me of my alternate menu theory, beginning with the premise that this wildly popular dish is just about everywhere in America, but nobody seems to know where it came from or who General Tso is.
Like most really good documentaries, The Search for General Tso is about more than its title suggests. Tracking the background of the general and his ubiquitous namesake gives us a quick, delicious lesson in the Chinese diaspora in the United States. The question about who the general was leads to a seemingly endless series of others. How did a dish named after him find its way to the United States? Why does Chinese cuisine in America not look like anything people in China actually eat? Why do there seem to be Chinese restaurants in every town in America, even those whose only residents of Chinese ancestry are those who run the restaurants?
When I saw the the adult white male asking for a sick day, one imagines he’s in an office setting asking his boss for a sick day, the same when we see the adult Asian American female asking for a day off from her daughter. Although I’m not a parent, I’m sure all parents know that you never have a sick day when you have to take care of your kids (even when you are sick).
CAPE New Writers Fellowship is dedicated to discovering and nurturing Asian American and Pacific Islander voices and talents. Each accepted writer will participate in an intensive 11-session program consisting of seminars, workshops, and writing labs taught by top industry writers, producers, agents and executives to empower them with the tools they need to succeed as a professional writer in film and television. Each writer or writing team receives a cash stipend.
15th Annual CAPE New Writers Fellowship is now officially open for submissions!
Attention writers! Do you have material, but need some guidance on how to successfully pitch your project? CAPE New Writers Fellowship is the perfect program for you.
I first met former New York Times writer Jennifer 8. Lee I believe at a San Francisco Harvard alumni event with a friend when she was promoting her book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, a history of Chinese food in America and had blogged about her hilarious appearance on The Colbert Report. Lee is a producer for the documentary, The Search for General Tso, which will be going into limited theatrical release on January 2nd, 2015 and available through Video On Demand (VOD), though there isn’t any details that I can find regarding the specifics via VOD.
You can catch a synopsis of Lee in her July 2008 TED talk titled The hunt for General Tso.
Unless you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard of the events of the past month or so, alleged North Korean hackers hacked Sony’s computer networks – threatening to do more damage beyond releasing leaked emails and copies of unreleased hack, unless Sony blocked the release of comedy The Interview about an assassination plot of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, to be released on Christmas day. “North Korean” hackers then hinted that there would be terrorist attacks at movie theaters in the U.S. The major theater chains, concerned about violence and any related liability, decided not to release The Interview. Obama chimed in his thoughts at an end-of-the-year press conference, and a few days later Sony capitulated, saying that Sony would make the film available online (via Google Play & YouTube, and other outlets on Dec. 24th, the day before the theatrical release) as well as independent theaters willing to make the film available.
“He hit me a lot. He hit me if the dinner was late. He hit me if I didn’t polish the shoes the right way.”
Kathy, who arrived from India in 2010, left an abusive marriage with nothing but the clothes on her back and clothes and food for her baby. She found safety at the Asian Women’s Home, a project of Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), a community based organization in Santa Clara County that focuses on Asian American health and well being. Asian Women’s Home is looking for funds to expand its facilities, as part of the Mercury News Wish Book Program which told Kathy’s story.
The Asian Women’s Home is one of the few (out of nine in the US) shelters that focuses on female Asian and Pacific Islander domestic violence victims. Staff members speak sixteen Asian and non-Asian languages. The small four bedroom house in San Jose (the exact location is kept secret for safety reasons) has the capacity for 12 beds, and over the past 20 years, it has sheltered about 2,000 women and children fleeing from abuse.
Through Asian Women’s Home, Kathy has escaped abuse and learned to speak English, and she is currently getting job training. You can help Kathy and Asian Women’s Home by donating through the Wishbook or donating directly to AACI.
I know recently there’s been a backlash against the whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon. If you aren’t a parent, then you might not know what I’m talking about. Elf on the Shelf is a book that comes with an elf. The story goes that the elf watches the children during the day and then at night returns to the North Pole to tell Santa if the kids have been naughty or nice. The fun part (and some mommies and daddies with way too much time on their hands have gone crazy with this) is that the parents are supposed to move it every night so that in the morning the kids know he (or she, there are female elfs too) have reported to Santa and returned. (Mine came back last night and got stuck in the ceiling fan.) I’m not going to get into the criticism about the Elf on the shelf, but let me just say that I agree with this Huffington Post writer.
The reason I bring up Elf on a Shelf though is because when my wife was shopping for it, we were saddened to find out that they didn’t come in Asian. They had an African American elf, a Latino elf, and of course a blond hair/blued eye elf. We considered buying the Latino elf, since it was closer to my son’s skin color than the white one, but the book (and I presume the DVD that accompanies the book) was in Spanish.
My son will be fine that our elf, Monkey (part of the fun is that the kids are supposed to pick a name for their elf… my little one named ours “Monkey,” don’t ask), doesn’t look like him—but it got me thinking, what toys out there are available for Asian American kids that kinda look like them? I’m not going to get into the question of whether they are useful/important in the development of a healthy Asian American child’s identity, but it was quite a sad to see how few there actually were.
First, I want to say that ignored all the ones in “traditional dress” like this one:
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In the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live, the show does quite a funny parody of a politically correct television commercial for an “Asian American Doll” – mocking many past mistakes of namely, the makers of Barbie, Mattel, for perpetuating a wide variety of bad stereotypes (including most recently this controversy: Mattel Pulls Sexist Barbie Book “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” Off Amazon).
One thing I would like to criticize though is that when a girl asks in the commercial, “Where does Asian American Doll” come from?” Instead of the Mom replying, “She comes from Asia,” I would have much preferred to have the Mom say, “Asian American Doll” was born in America or from Springfield, USA. Though statistically, the Mom is probably right (given the fact due to the last 15+ years of immigration, more than a majority of Asian Americans were born overseas).
And to be honest – to me, the Asian American Doll does not look all that Asian at all. And why does Asian American Doll has blue eyes? (of course, she could be wearing colored contact lenses, but most likely not). I guess SNL found the closest Asian Barbie that they could? Though doing a quick search on Amazon.com, I was pleasantly surprised to come cross a Barbie – I Can Be President Asian Doll! And if you know your U.S. constitution, you have to be born in the U.S. to become president
But overall, I thought this was a hilarious parody, poking fun at some of the past wrongs regarding Barbie stereotypes as well as the somewhat over political correctness creeping into something like making an “ethnic” doll.
Others, like Joz, didn’t find it as hilarious. “I didn’t find the sketch offensive, but I also didn’t find it funny,” she was quoted as saying to NBC News/Asian American, “Once it got going, I could see all the jokes and stereotypes before they came. Why so predictable, SNL? I guess it’s too much to ask for SNL to do anything more nuanced.”
What do you think?
I’ve been putting off writing this review for weeks, but this book is special and you should seriously think about reading it. Celeste Ng’s debut book, Everything I Never Told You is a stirring novel about a family unraveling.
Ng begins her novel in the present day with a family on the brink of finding out that their teenage daughter, Lydia, is dead. The Lee Family: Lydia, her mother, father, and two siblings. Their lives circled around Lydia, their unconscious center of gravity.
The story of this interracial family plays with chronology, ricocheting between moments in each parent’s childhood, Lydia and her sibling’s childhood, the parents’ relationship, the near present, and the realities of life after they all learned that Lydia had drowned.
How had it begun? Like everything: with mothers and fathers. Because of Lydia’s mother and father, because of her mother’s and father’s mothers and fathers…Because more than anything her mother had wanted to stand out; because more than anything, her father had wanted to blend in. Because those things had been impossible.
Ng’s narrative voice is straightforward and honest. There is very little verbal fluff. Complexity is instead added through unpacking the layers of each characters, the unsaid things that frame how each family member thinks of themselves, and in turn, those around them. From the obvious big decisions to the subtle and subconscious, Ng focuses on how each of these people has, in a way, been built from their lives. Tying together a past that heavily influences the present and the entire trajectory of their lives.
There are moments where these kinds of heavily intertwined plot lines that flow across time feel contrived and the characters fitting into a common mold, but in the main, Ng’s presentation of family relations, of generational gaps, parental pressures, and sibling dynamics rings resonant. I certainly don’t believe that this is a book for Asian Americans in a limiting sense, but I know that as an Asian American, certain pieces of this story felt particularly true and not often found in novels. A subtle integration of iconic stories — in this brief sentence, about the paper son system that Chinese immigrants used after being first excluded in 1882 — woven into broader questions about belonging.
He had never felt he belonged here, even though he’d been born on American soil, even though he had never set foot anywhere else. His father had come to California under a false name…
To her sentences capturing the insipidness of treatment of otherness and reactions to how society reacts to you that are not exclusive to any one individual’s or group’s experience:
“What’s wrong with your eyes?” It wasn’t until he heard the horror in the teacher’s voice–“Shirley Byron!”–that he realized he was supposed to be embarrassed; the next time it happened, he had learned his lesson and turned red right away.
In an interview, Ng notes that her own suburban childhood influenced the story line but that it is certainly not autobiographic. She used the feeling of “negotiating between two cultures” into her characters’ actions. These are forces that clearly shape the family’s emotions and decisions, drawing readers in as they grapple with Lydia’s death and what led up to it, each pursuing their own theories and in turn revealing themselves to be complicated, problematic, and also sympathetic.
Check out more from 8Books–8Asians’ almost book club.