While watching the local evening news recently, I came across this new Panda Express commercial promoting their latest dish, Five Flavor Shrimp:
“Five quality ingredients. Five delicious flavors. Experience the moment when premium shrimp, green beans, red bell pepper and white onion come together in our five flavor sauce in our new TV spot”
I’m a big fan of shrimp, so that definitely caught my eye – especially since the dish looked simple enough for me to make at home. But what really caught my attention was the cute actress, Shavvon Lin, in the commercial as well as the catchy tune and story of the woman and her apartment neighbor missing each other – ultimately meeting at Panda Express in a light romantic comedic way.
In discovered the actress by reading some nasty comments in the YouTube comments – there’s some pretty nasty comments regarding the inter-racial nature of the commercial, especially some comments regarding Lin, and the typical rant of the pairing of an Asian Female and White Male (AF/WM). While that is the most common inter-racial TV commercial pairing, which I’ve blogged about and putting that issue aside, I really did like this commercial on its own storytelling terms.
And for some reason, maybe because I thought that since Panda Express corporate headquarters is based in Los Angeles, I thought the scenes were shot in LA (which wouldn’t surprise me), but the commercial reminded me of the movie, 500 Days of Summer, a movie and soundtrack I really loved.
Also from the YouTube comments, I also came across that the song was written and composed by Tiff Jimber and Matt Bobb. I Shazam’d the song with my phone, but nothing came up, so I assumed the song was composed and performed specifically for the commercial.
One last thought – the actor in the commercial sort of reminded me of Tobey Maguire in the first Spider-Man (2002) movie.
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Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 18: “Time to Get Ill”
Original airdate April 4, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Jessica comes down with the flu, a phenomenon so foreign to the Huangs that Eddie can’t remember it ever happening before. After first refusing to believe she’s taken ill, Jessica relents and puts herself to bed. The Huang men take advantage of not being under Jessica’s constant gaze and order the pay-per-view Battle of the Swamp Creatures wrestling event.
Good: I love the setup, where Jessica sees what each of her boys is up to even when she’s not looking directly at them, or when they’re not even in the room. Eddie’s speech about seeing Jessica’s sickness as an opportunity is great. And the aftermath, when Jessica eases up on her family, feels right. The whole episode is plotted nicely so that the arc is satisfying and amusing. Honey’s martini bit kinda cracked me up. Oh, and Marvin speaks Mandarin. Funny surprise.
Bad: Shameless product placement with the beverage on Jessica’s tray and the bottle of medicine Eddie gives her. The resolution could have done without the “You’re always watching us!” “I get it” conversation near the end. The short bits right after, where the boys adjust to having their mother not being all up in their grill explains it fine.
FOB moment: Jessica uses white flower oil to treat everything. Yeah, I know I used this in season one, but it’s the best I’ve got.
Soundtrack flashback: I got nothing! Did I miss it?
Final grade, this episode: An entertaining, silly, funny, rewarding episode all the way through. These episodes can be about stupid things, can avoid the overt sappiness, and can still be good television. B+.
The Best We Could Do is a beautifully drawn and beautifully narrated memoir by Thi Bui. It is the story of her family and how she reckoned with their past, flight from Vietnam, family members lost and found again…and all the whirling emotions that always come with anything that has to do with family.
None other than Viet Thanh Nguyen graces the cover with the recommendation, “a book to break your heart and heal it.” And indeed, his statement captures the complexity that the author tackles head on. She begins with herself, with a preface that talks about the journey of the book, one that began more than 14 years ago. Bui opens the first chapter with her own labor, birthing, and a new appreciation for parenting. From there, she delves backwards into her family’s story, jumping around from their flight from Saigon in the 1970s to memories of her childhood, continually returning to her own experience of raising a child for the first time. Like many memoirs and graphic novels of this style, we are brought fully into the author’s own growing understanding. We too get the past in fragments, slivers of deeper meaning, hidden secrets, and untold stories about parents and children, immigrants and refugees. What do we carry with us, from generation to generation, that we see or don’t see?
With a simple color palate of blacks, whites, and reddish orange, Bui’s drawings bring her story to vivid life. I was riveted from the author’s preface to the thank yous at the end; the title bearing a profound resonance by the last page. An excellent addition to the field of illustrated memoirs, refugee stories, and reflections on parenting and family, The Best We Could Do is well worth the read.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 22: “Ken’s Big Audition” (season finale)
Original airdate March 31, 2017.
Friday I’m in Love
Ken auditions for a one-episode part in a television show, an opportunity he’s always yearned for. He bombs his chance, but then he’s offered a regular role, which would require him to leave his position at Welltopia.
Molly gets her acceptance letter from Stanford, and Allison’s not quite as ready for the news as one might expect. Damona and Pat seem to be in a good place in their relationship, but Pat’s ex-wife (in the form of Nia Vardalos) shows up with an interest in giving things a second try.
Boys Don’t Cry
The second half of the episode slides into most of what I find disappointing in Dr.Ken. Secondary plots get resolved with no real development, usually with a heartfelt monologue ending with a hug. Ken Jeong takes a good idea and then drives it off a cliff while wearing a clown nose. Someone does a cameo (this time it’s Seth Rogen) contributing nothing to the story. The studio audience laughs too hard at something not that funny or cheers for characters as if they’re real-life people.
Just Like Heaven
On the other hand, the first half of this movie is kind of an amazing surprise. Every moment leading up to Ken’s audition is really funny in all of Ken Jeong’s best ways. His gift for physical humor had me laughing aloud in a way I haven’t all season. The dialogue-less moment where he takes the phone call from the casting director and tries to shoo his family out of the kitchen is really well done, and his scenes in the examination room, first with Clark and then with Clark and Damona are just about perfect. It’s unusual in a half-hour sitcom for the blocking to be funny, but it is in these scenes.
Once again, it’s the Pat-Damona stuff that gives the show its credibility. Yeah, I can’t figure it out either, but it works.
I’m normally not a fan of meta-dialogue in a fictional series, but there are a few deliberate moments here that I found amusing, as when D. K. talks about TV characters with accents, or when the TV guy says something about the network wanting more diversity. It’s pretty cute here.
Let’s Go to Bed
And that’s it for season two. We end on a cliffhanger very similar to the cliffhanger ending the first season, only the vibe for a possible next season feels a lot less questionable. I would have set the odds at about 50-50 a year ago, but I’d go 2-1 in favor of a renewal for next season. This finale is an apt way to put this show to bed for the hiatus: at its best, it’s unusually laugh-aloud funny; at its worst, it’s difficult to watch. 3 audition scripts out of 5.
Jeff Truesdell of People moderated a panel featuring Billy Manes with Watermark, Erik Sandoval with CBS Orlando, Emilie Arnold from the Orange County Regional History Center, and Meredith Talusan.
Talusan, who was covering the shooting for BuzzFeed, points out that there were many articles written by white gay men covered the news in a way that framed Pulse as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community.
The coverage of the events was immediate for many news outlets, but Talusan was wanted to look at the story from a different angle. She points out how there was a lack of featured coverage of the tragedy by minority voices.
“For me, there was a gap between people directly experiencing an event and those experiencing it metaphorically,” says Talusan.
Her gripping piece, “This Is How Queer People In Orlando Are Mourning After The Pulse Shooting” provided a different point of view of what the public was seeing from major news outlets. The piece gave a candid and intimate look at the memorial for Edward Sotomayor Jr., one of the victims of the shooting.
The article not only takes a deeper dive into the tragedy, but unpacks the news with a perspective that was underrepresented in the mainstream media.
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Indonesians in workplaces, schools, and social opportunities is pervasive and will limit their ability to fully contribute to the Indonesian economy. A new study shows that the cost of discrimination to the Indonesian economy could range from nearly 900 million to 12 billion US dollars.
In LGBT Exclusion in Indonesia and Its Economic Effects, researchers M.V. Lee Badgett, Amira Hasenbush, and Winston Ekaprasetia Luhur examine the evidence that discrimination occurs against LGBT people, and the study shows how that treatment can hold back economic growth in Indonesia.
Key findings from the report include:
M.V. Lee Badgett, an economist who has conducted similar studies in other parts of the world, notes, “To reach their full economic potential, LGBT people need to develop their human capital, or their abilities, skills, and knowledge. This report shows that LGBT Indonesians are often held back from reaching that point, which prevents them from contributing fully to the economy.”
Badgett compares the Indonesian economy to that of India where similar research has been completed. “The data in Indonesia is somewhat limited,” Badgett said. “If we draw on research from India, we would estimate that the loss resulting from LGBT exclusion in Indonesia would be from 0.1 percent to 1.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), or $862 million to $12 billion.” The report shows that public attitudes in Indonesia are far less accepting of homosexuality than attitudes in India, so this estimate of Indonesia’s estimated financial loss is considered conservative.
The findings of LGBT Exclusion in Indonesia and Its Economic Effects rely on an extensive review of peer-reviewed literature as well as documentation from governments, intergovernmental organizations, and non-government organizations.
The Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.
In a recent episode of Fresh Off The Boat, Evan goes over to a white friend’s home for a family lunch, and is shocked to learn that the real use of a dishwasher is not to be used as a drying rack, but to actually wash dishes!
When I posted this video clip on Facebook, this really resonated with a lot of my Asian American friends – since most of us could relate – some of the comments I received:
While growing up, our family never used the dishwasher – it was considered wasteful. Additionally, as Jessica in Fresh Off the Boat, I think considered being lazy using a machine to wash dishes. But what is really more efficient – a dishwasher or hand washing dishes? According to this analysis:
“These numbers indicate that it’s possible to be more efficient when hand-washing, but it’s pretty tough. Can you successfully wash and rinse a soiled dinner plate in just over a cup of water? If you can keep the water use low, equal to an efficient machine, you’ll require less energy, but doing an entire load of dishes in 4 gallons of water is roughly equivalent to doing them all in the same amount of water you use in 96 seconds of showering (using a showerhead that emits 2.5 gallons per minute).
So, as long as you don’t often run your dishwasher when it’s only half full of dirty dishes, or unless you are very miserly with your water use (or have an old, inefficient dishwasher), the automatic dishwasher is likely to be more efficient. That is to say, it’s possible to use less water and energy by hand washing your dishes, but it’s not easy. Of course, if you do it just right, it might just be a wash.”
As an adult, I definitely use the dishwasher whenever I can – usually saving up enough dishes for the dishwasher to be full. It’s just easier and saves time.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 21: “Clark’s Big Surprise”
Original airdate March 24, 2017.
He’s a smooth operator
Clark and Connor have invited all their friends to their vegan barbecue, intending to surprise everyone with a surprise wedding. Somehow finding something better to do than go to a vegan barbecue, all the Welltopia people (plus the rest of the Park family) have other plans. But then Ken finds out what’s going on, and in convincing Damona, and Pat to change their plans, he gives them the impression that the event is really a renewal of vows by Ken and Allison. Of course, Damona then lets the renewal thing slip so Allison will change her family’s plans, and now Allison is super excited.
I’m going to put it right up front that I really, really dislike sitcom wedding episodes. In fact, I’m not big on weddings IRL either lately. It hasn’t always been this way. There was a time when weddings always made me cry, but that was half my life ago, and I’ve seen too many things I can’t unsee. I guard against cynicism (which I hate) by keeping wedding things at armslength, and by not getting caught up in other people’s romances, no matter how romantic I think they are. This definitely affects my ability to review this episode well.
I groaned. Multiple times at just far too much syrupiness. There’s just a lot. Of cuteness. Bleah.
But then I watched the episode four times (my minimum before writing a review is three), and while I didn’t groan fewer times with subsequent viewings, I found more things to appreciate.
Jonathan Slavin’s acting is excellent, as it has been all season.
The structure of this episode is really strong. Ken finds himself the center of things by circumstance, not by forcing himself into the middle. At least three times. Because of this show’s consistent and pretty-good character development over two seasons, it’s one of the truest plot elements here. And I’m not yet tired of saying that Ken Jeong’s best acting emerges when the other characters are the stars.
Damona’s and Pat’s profession of love at the end of the episode is blessedly understated and underplayed. Nicely done.
“Growing up as a gay kid, I never thought this moment would be possible. And here we are.”
This episode could really have done without the guest appearance by Train. And I like Train. But then it still has its moments. And I hate wedding episodes. So, you know. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse. I’m giving it a half-point bump to compensate for my unreasonable biases. 3 ice cream dishes in the sink out of 5.
The Brooklyn Nets recently launched a Chinese language version of their website – http://www.nba.com/nets/cn – which is not a big surprise given that the NBA’s only Taiwanese American player, Jeremy Lin, plays for the Nets, as reported recently:
“The site appears to mirror the Nets English language web offerings. Also, it’s expected to include features and a community calendar directed at the 200,000 Chinese and Chinese-Americans in Brooklyn —and 850,000 in the New York metropolitan area. The Nets’ HSS Training Center is located across the BQE from Sunset Park, which is becoming Brooklyn’s Chinatown.
The Nets hired a digital content producer early in the season to oversee both the website and its Weibo account, a social media site that combines aspects of Facebook and Twitter.
With Jeremy Lin returning from injury, the site is likely to get a lot of traffic.
This is the second time the Nets have had a Chinese language website. When Yi Jianlian was with the Nets, the team set one up. Once Yi was traded, the site came down.”
To be honest, it’s surprising that the site just launched. The site should have been localized ideally at the beginning of the season …
I don’t know how good Lin’s Chinese reading and writing is, but I bet it’s better than mine …
Min Jin Lee’s second novel Pachinko follows several generations of a Korean family living under Japanese colonialism. In the 1930s in a small town in colonial Korea, a young woman named Sunja is abandoned by her wealthy lover, but saved by a young minister who marries her and takes her to Japan. If there can be said to be a central character it is Sunja, though Lee weaves such an intricate tale as to make it hard to pick from the many family members–her two sons, Noa and Mozasu, her sister-in-law Kyunghee, her grandson, Solomon (the opening pages begin briefly with Sunja’s grandparents, to give you a sense of scope).
The book comes in at a weighty 485 pages, but I found myself compelled to enter further and further. Delicately drawing out a story about love, loss, identity, and otherness, Lee draws a picture of the travails of being other in a colonial nation, the limitations and possibilities. As their fortunes rise and fall, rise and fall, we seamlessly move through time, exploring a breadth of human nature and resilience.
So while not a page-turner of the traditional sort, it is nonetheless enthralling, elegantly revealing layer after layer of possibilities with enormous empathy for this family. And Lee provides a window into a little-discussed population–the Koreans living in Japan in the twentieth-century–that is at once unfamiliar and familiar (see also, this recent New York Times opinion piece on the value of books). Pachinko is well-worth the journey.
Much has been made about Asian American success, with articles pointing to average and median Asian American income being greater than whites, Asian cultural advantages, and incorrect exaggerations about the percentage of Asian American CEOs in Silicon Valley. Much less is made of that fact that Asian Americans have a wider (and widening) gap between rich and poor than whites. I am came across three stories that when taken together strongly reflect the gap that exists between Asian American rich and poor. The first is the piece above on Asian American day laborers in New York. The second covers a guest lecture by the author of a book called “The Other One Percent: Indians in America” that discusses how Indian Americans are a population unlike any including those in in India, produced by a self-selection process largely responsible for Indian American success. The third is about the flooding in San Jose that financially devastated many Vietnamese Americans living in the heart of a very wealthy Silicon Valley.
For those who may not be familiar with what a day laborer is, day laborers are workers who gather in areas looking for work for the day. Employers drive by and work out jobs just for the day. I often see day laborers near the Home Depot I drive by going to work. The ones I see here in Silicon Valley are Hispanic, and I have never seen an Asian American day laborer there. I was surprised to hear about Asian American day laborers in New York, but then again, after writing about Asian Americans riding a bus for hours a day to make their rent, I really should not have been.
There are a number of very prominent Indian American CEOs such as Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet (Google’s holding company), and Satya Nadella of Microsoft. Devesh Kapur, an author of The Other One Percent: Indians in America, talked about the self-selection process that made this possible in a lecture at Columbia University. He argued the Indian Americans never went through “the ghetto phase” as other did Asian immigrant groups, as many went through a selection process of being trained professionals, fluent in English, and leaving voluntarily. While that is true for many Indian immigrants, it’s worth mentioning that the early 20th century saw a wave of Indian immigrants that worked in farming or on the railroads that formed communities in the agricultural Yuba City or the Mexican-Punjabi ones mentioned here. Still, despite that history and the fact that there are many Indian immigrants working not so lucrative jobs running newsstands and taxi drivers, there are enough prosperous Indian Americans to move aggregate statistics and the perception of wealth to make them targets of crime.
I was one the East Coast when the flooding in San Jose in February occurred. Looking at a map of the flooded areas, it struck me that the water was really close to the Little Saigon area. As this story points out, many in the local Vietnamese community were badly impacted, especially since there was no warning that Coyote Creek was rising dangerously. Of the 400 families that were still displaced as of March 7, 80% were Vietnamese. Billionaire Kieu Hoang saw the flooding and donated $5 million to flood relief. “This is the time you have to payback,” he is quoted as saying.
We have written about the subject of impoverished Asian subgroups, and others have analyzed the data on Asian American incomes. Aggregate statistics like median and average, when applied to incomes, can hide income disparity. The last two stories, taken together, hit home for me as a San Jose resident in illustrating a massive income divide. The displaced Vietnamese families are going to have a challenging time finding affordable housing in Silicon Valley, where wealthy Asian Americans, many from India, own some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. It’s telling that Asian American billionaire made a massive donation for relief. I don’t know whether the income gap between rich and poor Asian Americans will continue to widen, but these stories show that there are rich Asians Americans and poor Asian Americans, and that the gulf between is very wide.
Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 20: “Ken and the CEO”
Original airdate March 17, 2017.
I told the truth and it saved one girl’s life
The Welltopia CEO is in town to deliver his state of the company address, and to receive a physical examination from Ken. Pat has applied for a promotion and asks Ken to put in a good word, but Ken learns that Pat’s probably going to be fired because of a recent dip in numbers.
Pat and Damona are keeping their rekindled relationship a secret. Clark suspects something’s up and tries to drag Allison into his investigation.
Jae tells Molly he’s a finalist for an art fellowship in Rhode Island, which would mean leaving in a couple of weeks and canceling the plans they’ve made for the summer.
And then a blind man screamed
I really don’t like Jae. I don’t even like having to deal with him in what looks like it could be a goodbye episode for him. Molly needs to get away from him. And when D. K. tells her that you can’t control what happens in life but you can control how you respond to it, Molly acts like she’s never heard this in her life despite being an exceptionally resilient young woman. This results in a sudden resolution to her story absent any real emotional payoff, which isn’t fair because Krista Marie Yu really does the emotion stuff well up to this point in the episode.
Rhys Darby plays the CEO and he’s okay, but he sounds and looks too much like Pat. It’s a weird invasion of the set by an actor who doesn’t fit in. The writers also made him far too big a part of this episode. He’s really a poorly imagined character.
One sister saw me go under the knife
On the other hand, because the CEO scenes are dominated by Darby, Ken is relegated to a second banana role, and Ken Jeong just about always nails that. He’s really the best part of this episode.
Molly is adorable in this, and D. K. is actually decent too.
The blocking is especially nicely done this week. I really like the way the opening scene moves, with Ken talking about fliriting his way out of a traffic ticket. Later, Clark tells Allison she’s “off the case,” and exits. Allison follows, exiting stage right just as the CEO enters stage left. It feels like a stage play.
The resolution is formulaic, but I appreciate the way Pat’s friends come to his defense with evidence from past episodes of the show. It’s good cred and it gives me some faith for the future of this show, if it gets picked up for season three.
I’m glad it was a dream.
The acting’s good. The writing’s so-so. Damona is sweet. Ken is funny. Clark is Clark. 3 and a half chicken wings out of 5.