I’m giving Franny Choi the post title because of her amazing poem responding to the latest in a long string of poems by white people that shouldn’t have been published. Calvin Trillin’s poem “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?” ran in the New Yorker last week. I’m not going to quote it, so you can go read it and come back if you like, but the gist is, too many different kinds of Chinese food (each representing a province, Szechuan, Hunan, Fukian), and oh, don’t you long for the days of simple chow mein.
Let’s ignore how Shanghai is not a province and Uighur is not only not a province, but a group of people, and focus on the fear-mongering that’s underlying what some may see as a nice, cheeky poem about Chinese food in the United States. With increased fears, the poet faces a threat. Gee, that sounds like the anti-Asian discourse that has been running under, well, a very sizable portion of American history and Western history too. Hordes of people descending on our American utopia of chow mein. Maybe when you say “they,” you really mean those foodie hipsters, but when I hear “they,” I hear the they implied in us and them. I hear they, the other. I hear they, the scary. I hear they, they don’t belong.
Oh, but Lily, don’t you see? It’s ironic!
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Last February 2015, comedian Conan O’Brien visited a Korean Spa in Koreantown in LA The Walking Dead actor Steve Yeun and that video of his visit was hilarious (and has gotten over 13 million YouTube views as of this writing).
Back this February (2016), Conan announced that he was going to visit Korea because a South Korean fan named Sunny Lee wrote Conan a letter because she was too busy watching clips of Conan instead of studying for the SATs and also sent a bunch of Korean snacks in the mail. Note – Conan isn’t aired in Korea, but apparently there are plenty of Conan fans vis-a-vis the Internet.
On Saturday, April 9th, Conan aired the special, titled Conan Korea, where: “Thanks to a box of snacks, Conan travels to Korea to learn the language, master Tae Kwon Do, and make some new friends, one of whom is an octopus.”
The episode was overall, fairly entertaining. I especially liked seeing the Steve Yeun segment – when Conan & Steve have a meal (where Steve barely has an idea of what they’re eating …) and also visit the North-South Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ). Also, Steve tells Conan that he’s getting married (and not to the actress who plays his girlfriend/wife on The Walking Dead).
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 20: “Dave’s Sex Talk”
Original airdate April 8, 2016.
Symptoms: Dave asks Ken a question about sex, prompting a need for “the sex talk,” but Ken wusses out, and the task falls unintentionally to Julie, who gets a few things wrong. Molly convinces Allison that Allison’s wardrobe is beginning to date her, leading to Molly’s picking some new clothes out for her mother. Clark is stressed out because he’s sure he’s about to be dumped.
Diagnosis: Strong performances by Suzy Nakamura, Kate Simses, and Jonathan Slavin lift this episode slightly above C-level, but the most interesting thing is the apparent on-again status of Damona and Pat’s relationship. The sex-talk story is mildly intriguing, but it’s the contrast between Dave and Julie that gives it a little bit of extra dimension. The Molly-Allison story is a good idea, and I like the effort to tie it to the Dave-Ken story, but it feels flat somehow, and I think it has something to do with Allison’s wardrobe being pretty nice until this episode.
Prognosis: I continue to be encouraged by more character development, but there’s still too much of an effort to include all the characers in the stories. This seems unnecessary and unwise.
Rx: I accused the show of staying in the lines a few weeks ago, but that was mostly aimed at the episode structures. It should get a few props for a few not-in-every-sitcom situations beyond the Asian-ness of its central characters. One homosexual couple and one interracial couple, both of whom kiss in the Welltopia office in a not-a-big-deal way, give the show a little more real-world cred even in the middle of some difficult-to-believe stories.
In this week’s Post Show and Tell, Joz Wang and her guest co-host discuss misconceptions about sex and the British calendar, and Albert Tsai offers another great Tsai-nopsis.
While watching a March Madness basketball game, I saw this Sprite commercial with Eddie Huang (for some reason Sprite isn’t making the commercial embeddable):
“Eddie Huang knows there’s no substitute for the classic lemon-lime. Keep it fresh at http://www.sprite.com. #ObeyYourThirst”
YouTube has said that this commercial was uploaded on Jan 27, 2016 (with over 5M views as of this writing), but this is the first I’ve seen of the commercial. You would think that they’d run this commercial during Fresh Off the Boat?
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 19: “Jessica Place”
Original airdate April 5, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Jessica gets into a homeowners’ association conflict with Deirdre when, hoping to make her life more like Melrose Place, she installs an above-ground pool for her family. Emery loses his temper when Eddie cheats at a breath-holding contest in the pool, leading Eddie to advise him not keep everything bottled up.
Good: This show gets stupid-stupid sometimes, but this Melrose tribute is kind of smart-stupid. Not only are the stylistic choices reminiscent of the 90s primetime soap (which I admit I never watched; I was a 90210 guy), but the writers use the device to develop Honey’s character as less secure in her relationship with Jessica than she’s appeared so far, and to humanize the previously cartoonish Deirdre, whose confession in the show’s final minutes gives her some understandable motivation for her meanness to Honey. It seems unlikely to expect Deirdre to become pleasant, and I don’t think we want her to, but it’s nice to give her a little bit of depth, which will make the acting better.
Bad: There are a few moments that don’t ring true. Honey not knowing the name of her step-daughter’s mother makes no sense at all. And while Emery’s first explosion is pretty good, the rest of his outbursts are not well acted. It also feels a little strange that Emery has this psycho side to him. We’ve already had some psycho-ness with Evan this season, and now we’ve got some from Emery. It’s not a good trend.
FOB moment: Jessica, addicted to Melrose Place, is so unfamiliar with American television that she doesn’t know about the summer hiatus.
Soundtrack flashback: Ah. I don’t know how accurate the Melrose Place theme music or soundtrack music is in this episode, but it’s close if it’s not the actual music. That’s all I’ve got.
Final grade, this episode: I said earlier this season that Forrest Wheeler is emerging as the best actor of the three Huang sons, but Hudson Yang in the past few episodes has really grown into his character’s skin. He’s been the better actor lately, and it’s nice to see. Constance Wu and Randall Park continue to be the strength of the show, pulling off some great comedic acting that I find unusual in primetime sitcoms nowadays. It’s a silly, fun episode. B.
Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties highlights the stories and voices of activists who spearheaded the Asian American movement of the 1960s. Complicated, multi-pronged, and geographically diverse, the movement marked a profound political and social shift for Asian America, indeed, its very existence as a concept. Written by Karen Ishizuka, herself a member of the movement if not in her own words a pioneer, Serve the People offers a full narrative. It ranges from differing reasons why individuals became politically aware and active to community programs, political organizing, and arts, and ends with reflections and perspectives on those who participated in the Asian American movement and what this history means for our future.
Drawing extensively from her own interviews, Ishizuka tries to provide an inside view of the movement and its participants. Personal stories are central, though historical context and broader commentary weave throughout as well. The end result is a bit of a hodgepodge. If perhaps disorganized, the content at its core remains compelling for any interested in political activism and the Asian American movement.
Back this March – Friday, March 18th to Sunday, March 20th, I had the good fortune of being able to attend the first ever Silicon Valley Comic Con. I’ve always wanted to go to Comic Con in San Diego, but it seems that year-after-year, tickets for the conference get harder and harder to get. I had only heard about the event a few weeks prior to the show – applied for a press pass online, and shortly afterwards, received confirmation for press credentials.
The idea of Silicon Valley Comic Con was first conceived by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak:
“Silicon Valley Comic Con will be a show unlike any other, as we bring together the best in technology and entertainment all under one gigantic roof,” Wozniak wrote on the convention’s official page. “There are lots of fans like me in San Francisco and the Valley, and I’m excited to finally have a Comic Con with our very own flavor. When I was growing up it was hard to be a geek. It definitely wasn’t cool back then, but I am happy that things have changed because now being a geek, or being different is cool. And Silicon Valley Comic Con celebrates being a geek!””
What got me really excited was the fact that there was going to be a “Back to the Future” (BTTF) panel with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson. BTTF is one of my all time favorite movies, so I was pretty excited to possibly attend.
I was able to attend all three days, but not all day – Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Overall, I had a great time – though I thought the convention hall was a bit crowded and the event could have been a bit more organized (the organizers were aiming for 30,000 attendees but announced after the conference that there were over 60,000 attendees over the three days), but hiccups were to be expected since this was the first ever Silicon Valley Comic Con. Overall, I had a blast and look forward to attending Silicon Valley Comic Con 2017!
Here’s my brief recap…
In this recent McDonald’s commercial, we have two Asian American actors being briefly highlighted as the fast food chain tries to promote it’s latest offering on a wider scale: flavored coffees. The actors in the commercial are Danny Cho (who did an awesome Kim Jong Il impression in this faux eHarmony commercial):
And actress Joy Regullano:
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 18: “Week in Review”
Original airdate March 29, 2016.
Microsynopsis: Eddie and Evan come home from school with lice, messing up the carefully planned week Jessica and Louis have outlined. Louis starts out as Mr. Full Partner, but when things get lousier, he leaves Jessica to shoulder the burden alone. The house must be deloused, which keeps Eddie home from school, forcing him to miss the faculty vs. students basketball game, with pizza and homework on the line.
Good: Emery’s hair toss in slow-mo after he says, “Wait; how come I don’t have lice? I mean, how do you not want to be up in this?” is funny. I like the Jessica-Honey scenes, and the scene with all three boys on the front lawn.
Bad: All the grown-ups in Eddie’s school are idiots. This continues to baffle me.
FOB moment: “We didn’t come to this country so our son could get lice!”
Soundtrack flashback: A terrific 72 seconds of “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” by Outkast (1994; with N-words edited out). “I Got 5 on It” by Luniz (1995, curiously including the lyrics “Grab your 40 let’s get keyed,” “Messing with that Indo weed,” and “Til the joint be burning my hand”).
Final grade, this episode: It’s a nice, pleasant episode without much character development. Not much to find fault with, but not especially memorable. B.
Alexander Chee’s long-awaited second novel, The Queen of the Night, is luscious and captivating and please read it. Perhaps I am biased, and I will tell you why in a minute, but this is the rare book I considered not finishing before publishing this review (fear not traditionalists, I did read the whole thing). Chee’s writing is lyrical and beautiful and poetic, without feeling obtuse. It alone makes this a worthwhile read. The central character and narrator, who has named herself Lilliet Berne, is ever compelling and as the layers of her character and life story unveiled, increasingly so.
Basic story. Set in the nineteenth century France, the novel follows Lilliet, an opera singer with a rare voice made for singing the most devastating roles. When she is offered the chance to premiere a role — every opera singer’s path to immortality — she discovers that it is based on hidden parts of her past, long kept secret. She takes readers on a journey through her transformations. Orphan, courtesan, mute, servant, lover, rival… Circling Lilliet is a cast of historical characters including Napoleon II and Verdi and intricate details delicately laid before us by Chee. At its center, love and loss.
I cannot understate how enthralling Chee’s narrative is, as you almost melt into his words and this story, so compellingly crafted and executed. I knew in the middle that this was a book worth reading, even if the ending disappointed, it wouldn’t matter. So I almost wrote this review then. Honestly, I’m not sure how different it would have been. I’m equally enamored having taken the whirlwind journey towards the end.
This is a video I believe every Asian American–heck, every American–should see. In it, the Honorable Ron Dellums from Oakland gave one of the most stirring speeches about the effects of the taking of Japanese Americans had on people outside of the Japanese American community. No matter how times I watch it, I tear up when I hear him describing his crying out when his best friend was taken away.
During this time of fear, hatred, and violence toward the Muslim, Arab, and Sikh American communities, it is important that we keep the unconstitutional incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II–including my family–in the forefront of our minds and not let it happen to anyone in our country ever again.
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“Making gravity his friend, Nam Seok Byun (also known as “Rocky”) has learned to balance a range of items, large and small, right on top of each other! This man from South Korea has been practicing for 9 years, understanding physics to determine the center of gravity of objects in order to make them balance perfectly.”
This commercial was uploaded back on October 15th, 2014, but I had only seen it recently. You can see his incredible balancing videos on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/balanceace/videos