Back in March of this year, I had blogged about Seattle’s 3rd Din Tai Fung restaurant opening in downtown Seattle. Well, the 4th one is now open at Westfield Southcenter, as described here:
Din Tai Fung originated in Taiwan and has expanded its dumpling empire to 11 other countries including the United States. The company’s third location opened at Pacific Place last month, on level four of the shopping center. There are also restaurants in Bellevue and at University Village.
Din Tai Fung consistently draws long lines for its xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. Other popular menu items include pot stickers, wontons, fried rice, soups, and fried noodles.”
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Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 21: “Pie vs. Cake”
Original airdate May 2, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Evan learns that his school has a debate team, and the prospect of “extra homework” combined with impressing his mother are enough to get him excited about joining. When he emerges as (seemingly) a better arguer than Jessica, their relationship is tested, and Jessica goes through another identity crisis. Eddie and Emery stop talking to one another when an agreement to work together on a comic book contest turns contentious.
Good: A couple of little moments made me smile on repeat viewings. Louis’s physical discomfort when Jessica mentions that time he put on “all that water weight” is hilarious, and the kind of intimidating way Grandma moves her electric wheelchair around, especially when she lectures Eddie about making things right with Evan, is strangely expressive. The debate coach isn’t portrayed as a cartoonish idiot, the way teachers always are on this program, which makes me wonder if he isn’t instead a volunteer, rather than a member of the faculty. The silly comic book story in the tag is almost funny enough to make the so-so story worth it. It’s strong, but it can’t make up for the blah-ness of the story.
Bad: This is clearly one of those sorta rare sitcom episodes where the B plot will be remembered while the A plot fades away. The Jessica-Evan story is alternately a drag and kind of lame. The Eddie-Emery story really plays thoughtfully with their characters (Lazy Boy and Nice Man? Funny! And very cute).
FOB moment: It’s a bit of a reach, but Grandma’s “You need to make thing right with your brother. This won’t be the first or last time you need each other” speech reminds me of a lot of Asian films I can’t name specifically, and it’s a nice callback to the Louis-Gene feud from the end of last season and the beginning of this one.
Soundtrack flashback: “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel (1983, sung by Louis). “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston (1986, spoken by Jessica).
Final grade, this episode: That TV Guide Grandma is reading, with the Married…with Children cast on the cover, is from July 29, 1989. Grandma’s reading it eight years past its publication. Not unheard of, but strange. B-minus.
8Asians is proud to be a community co-presenter of this film at the 2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF). As a reader of 8Asians, please enjoy a discount to this film using the code: 8AZN17. Or the code CGVBP17 for $4 off General Admission tickets to all Buena Park screenings!
May 2, 2017 at 9:30 PM (Downtown Independent)
May 10, 2017 at 6:30 pm (CGV Buena Park)
King of Peking 京城之王
Directed by Sam Voutas
International Competition, LAAPFF Best of the Fest in OC / Australia, China, USA / 2017 / 88 mins / Mandarin with English subtitles / Color / 16:9, D-Cinema / West Coast Premiere
Sam Voutas and Producer Melanie Ansley in attendance!
“A heartwarming story about movie piracy,” just doesn’t gel well at a film festival where the theatrical experience is the enterprise’s bread and butter. Yet in the case of Sam Voutas’s sophomore directorial feature KING OF PEKING, this tagline fits the story to a tee. Set in late ‘90s China, KING OF PEKING evokes CINEMA PARADISO in its depiction of a country at the cusp of a socio-cultural explosion into a new century of economic prosperity.
Big Wong and Little Wong are a close-knit father-son duo. They travel around in a mobile cinema projecting Hollywood movies for local villagers. When Big Wong’s ex-wife demands he start paying child support, he realizes he may lose custody of his son. In order to raise enough money to stay together, Big Wong takes up a job as a janitor in an old Beijing movie theater. Happening upon an old DVD recorder at a pawnshop, he hatches a plan to raise money to pay for child support and retain custody of Little Wong. Setting up shop in the basement of the theater, Big Wong secretly records movies after hours and the result is the birth of a nascent bootleg DVD empire. At first, Little Wong has a good head for this business, which they name ‘King of Peking.’ But as business booms, Little Wong soon develops a crisis of conscience over the moral and ethical implications of this scheme. Big Wong sees his son’s torment and senses that he may be losing his trust.
Like his first film RED LIGHT REVOLUTON (Festival 2011), director Voutas’ stories capture working-class heroes trying to buck the system, infusing them with inherently Chinese nuances (thanks in part to his many years living and working in China, along with his producer and partner Melanie Ainsley). KING OF PEKING is an ode to cinema that eschews the sappy histrionics often associated with the magic and inspiration of the movies. This gritty take on a movie pirate’s desperate attempt to keep his son brims with inflections of Hollywood movie plots and characters that permeate into their everyday lives. It is an endearing love letter to cinema, but one populated by pedicab drivers, factory workers, fathers and sons.
— Anderson Le
Of the many areas where Asian Americans affect American life, the last place I expected to see an influence is with jerky. Jerky has never been a favorite of mine (it’s okay), so I was surprised to read that Asian Americans are driving up the popularity of jerky and other meat snacks. In the Nielsen Homescan report that is the source of that article, Nielsen claims that meat snacks are now the biggest snack spend per trip when people go out and shop. I really should not have been surprised, for a number of reasons.
8Asians is proud to be a community co-presenter of this film at the 2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF). As a reader of 8Asians, please enjoy a discount to this film using the code: 8AZN17
April 30 at 4:00 PM (CGV Cinemas 3)
Directed by Jiu-Liang Wang
International Competition / China / 2016 / 82 mins / Mandarin with English subtitles / Color / 16:9, D-Cinema / Los Angeles Premiere
Eleven year old Yi-Jie plays with her younger brothers in piles of used plastic materials, often made into wondrous simulacra of modern life. Sheets of confectionery wrapping become colorful wallpaper; old newspapers and grocery store leaflets take flight, either as a superhero cape or an English lesson. While her family lives and works alongside their employer in the ever-continuous task of sifting, processing, melting and reformatting the vestiges of the first world, Yi-Jie takes care of the household. Being put to task by her ne’er-do-well father, a Yi minority man who brought his family to a small industrial town that is thousands of miles away from home, Yi-Jie remains ever willful and perspicacious, stealing moments away to learn a new word or concept — or to observe the parallel lives of Kun, their family’s employer, while he aspires and works hard towards achieving a better life for his own peasant-rooted family.
Director Wang Jiu-liang spent years investigating the post-consumer waste industrial systems which link China to the rest of the world (and vice versa), beginning with his renowned photography work and documentary BEIJING BESIEGED BY WASTE (2011). His unique approach to the award-winning documentary PLASTIC CHINA, however, remains far from didactic or inflammatory. Closely following two families over six years, this work invites us to see the universal in the ultra-personal: we may witness difficult family conversations, take stock in the banality (and toxicity) of their work, decipher divisions along ethnic and social classes, and even rejoice at the miracle of life. Coming full circle, then, the film may even prepare us to answer the question: How are we personally connected to one girl’s dreams of going to school, and what are we doing about it?
— Chanel Kong
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, the latest novel from author Lisa See, is a story of mothers and daughters. Li-Yan is a member of an ethnic minority in the tea mountains of Yunnan, China, growing up in a time of immense change for the region. From a small child learning to harvest tea, we follow her journey into adulthood, her struggle with her culture’s traditions and what they mean when she gives birth to her own daughter, her marriage, its end, a circle back to tradition, and all the way through to a riveting conclusion.
Throughout, See takes us on an intimate journey exploring the complexities of Li-Yan’s relationship with her own mother, the village midwife and keeper of a small hidden grove of tea trees passed down from mother to daughter, mother to daughter. Then of Li-Yan’s forced abandonment of her own daughter and how it frames her adult life. And into the life of that daughter, Haley, adopted by American parents and growing up in California, who struggles with her identity. In addition to the threads that connect these women, the novel also offers a portrait and homage to the tea known as Pu’er.
In similar style to her other best-selling books like Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls, Lisa See’s latest is an enrapturing tale, as each generation of women in this family “comes of age” in a unique way, be they young women or village elders, generating complex and compelling character arcs. As circumstances change and China’s modernization reaches into the tea mountains, grandmother, mother, and daughter evolve, always finding solace in tea and the bonds of family.
Like a number of other Ivy League and other colleges, Princeton University has been sued by organizations charging that Princeton has been discriminating against Asians. Even Princeton’s own professors have pointed out discrepancies in test scores between white and Asian applicants in the past. While Princeton was cleared in the case, Students for Fair Admissions has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Princeton materials in the case. Princeton has filed suit to block the request, citing trade secret law.
While watching the NBA Playoffs, I saw this New York Life commercial starring retired NBA player Rick Barry (A Top-5 Free Throw Shooter of all time – with an underhand free throws):
“Rick Barry knows a thing or two about consistency from the free-throw line. Which is why for long term financial consistency, Rick goes with New York Life. Be good at life. To learn more, visit www.newyorklife.com/about/our-strength”
The “audience” of the commercial in the commercial is an Asian American couple that doesn’t speak at all:
I’m always happy to see Asian Americans being represented in all sorts of commercials, but I’d rather they have at least a speaking part! Kind of reminds me of a State Farm commercial I had blogged about.
#6 ranked UFC women’s Strawweight Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson had a lot of momentum going into UFC on Fox 24. She had previously defeated Page VanZant, and there was an online poll to see who she should fight after that. At UFC event, she went up against #4 ranked Rose “Thug” Namajunas. Namajunas caught her flush in the head with a kick in the second round and later submitted her with a rear naked choke.
In the first round, Waterson tried the same head and arm throw that worked against Paige VanZant, but Namajunas was cleared prepared for it, hooking Waterson’s leg and then taking her back. The second round kick to her head was very accurate and dropped her, and although Waterson seemed to recover, she was eventually choked out. If I was a fighter, I am not sure I would have brought my kid or my mom to watch my fights (see highlight video) – nice if you win, but not so nice if you lose. Namajunas is looking for a title shot after her excellent performance. Waterson reports that she is healthy despite some bumps and bruises, and that it’s time to get back to work.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 20: “The Masters”
Original airdate April 18, 2017.
Microsynopsis: When Jessica learns that Tiger Woods is half Asian, she muses that she and Earl Woods are similar in parenting style, and she’s sure she has what it takes to raise the next Tiger. Louis takes exception to Jessica’s claim that his parenting style is more reminiscent of Kultida, Tiger’s mom, and therefore less effective. To settle the issue, they agree each to coach one of the boys for two weeks, and the parent whose boy does better in a nine-hole golf game is the more effective parent. Emery (excluded from the bet because he’s good at everything) launches an awareness campaign to help everyone understand that Tiger is half Thai.
Good: The interactions between Emery and Reba (who still harbors a crush on Eddie, apparently) are unexpectedly nice. Good acting from both, so shout-out to Marlowe Peyton and Forrest Wheeler. Reba’s throwaway line, delivered with disgust, about the newsroom sharing space with the yearbook should ring familiar with anyone who served on either project in middle school. The editing during Louis’s extended conversation with Jessica about parenting styles is cute and playful. That’s Emy Coligado of Malcolm in the Middle and Crossing Jordan playing Kultida Woods and having a literal Tiger mom conversation with Jessica.
Bad: I understand that it’s mostly just setup for Emery’s delivering his info to a deserted school building, but the backpack fight plot element is weak and kind of dumb.
FOB moment: I live in Hawaii, which is kind of a Mecca for vacationing Asians who love golf, and Jessica’s parade of golf attire is accurate and funny from scene to scene.
Soundtrack flashback: “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check” by Busta Rhymes (1996, twice).
Final grade, this episode: It’s kind of a weird episode, but it’s very watchable and the boys are funny. B.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 19: “Driving Miss Jenny”
Original airdate April 11, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Louis is uncomfortable with how much independence Grandma is asserting now that she has her power chair. He gets a little protective and follows her around (when lying to her about the insurance not covering her chair doesn’t work). Jessica and Emery confront Emery’s overly sentimental attachment to mementos. Evan hires Eddie to help with Evan’s house-sitting business, cutting his older brother in for half the pay. Eddie then hires Dave to do his work, paying him half of what Eddie’s making.
Good: It’s nice to get the rare Grandma-centered episode. Emery’s confession that his adjustment to Orlando wasn’t as smooth as his family was led to believe is sweet, and Jessica’s response is sweet as well. I was pleased that Grandma’s mahjong friends are stereotypically old instead of stereotypically Chinese. And it’s nice to see Deidre, on whom I’m still kind of crushing.
Bad: Little gripe, but why does Evan give Deidre her orchid slant report in degrees from the horizontal? It seems to me it would be slightly more useful to receive this data in degrees from the vertical, so 18 degrees of slant instead of 72.
Slightly bigger gripe (but still little): Grandma is going to McD’s to collect plastic Dream Team cups. This episode is set in 1997 but those cups were available in 1992. I’m not calling this the anachronism I’ve been looking for (I’m hoping to nail the show for something in an episode that doesn’t yet exist), and it’s not completely inconceivable that Grandma’s got some kind of five-year-old hookup with the local McD’s, but it’s something of a distraction because the show makes reference to the cups twice.
FOB moment: The broken chopstick Emery is hanging onto is from the first Chinese food delivery the family ordered in Orlando: “Remember? You were so mad the Chinese restaurant sent a white delivery guy?”
Soundtrack flashback: “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” (1987). “Sittin’ on Chrome” by Masta Ace Incorporated (1995).
Final grade, this episode: Perfectly forgettable episode with pretty much no laughs aloud. C+.
Recently, a friend of mine IM’d me the news that Michelle Kwan and her husband Clay Pell are divorcing:
“It is with deep regret that I share that Michelle and my marriage is coming to an end,” Pell said in a statement obtained by the Providence Journal. “This is a sad and difficult turn of events for our family. I love Michelle, and wish her the very best as her life takes her in a new direction.”
Kwan and Pell got married back in January 2013, so I wonder what happened that made the couple decide to get a divorce, after only a little over 4 years of being married.
When I met Kwan back 2015, I never asked about her married life or husband, and was just mostly interested in how she became politically interested and involved, especially with the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.