If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve been a big fan of former figure skater and Olympian Michelle Kwan.
These days, Michelle is a Surrogate Outreach Coordinator for the Hillary [Clinton] for President campaign. Back in mid-October, Michelle happened to be in San Francisco for her first ever fundraiser for Clinton and I had a chance to chat with her informally for quite a bit.
When I first met Michelle, I told her I was a big fan of hers and got to see her perform in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics when she performed in the women’s figure skating finals – the short program. She was pleased to hear that, especially that I had seen her in the short program (where she came in first).
I asked how she got interested in public service and politics and asked if that was something she’d always been interested in while growing up? She said no, public service nor politics was something that was of any particular interest in her family while growing up. Her parents emigrated from Hong Kong and were working hard to live the American Dream (in the U.S., her father began work as a busboy, then got a job with the telephone company and bought a Chinese restaurant in Torrance, a suburb of LA).
Michelle had been skating literally almost her entire life, yet her skating career was winding down and she had to think what she was going to do for the rest of her life as she retired – something that a lot of professional athletes have to think hard about.
Her interest in public service happened by chance – and she felt that things happen for a reason. When Michelle was first invited to her first State dinner at The White House where then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, reached out to Kwan and eventually became in November 2006, a public diplomacy ambassador. And later, Michelle worked in the State Department when Clinton was Secretary of State.
Kwan spoke to the larger group of Hillary Clinton supporters and why she was supporting Clinton, what she was doing for the campaign and then answered some questions from the audience (including my favorite question: when was she running for public office?)
As a Surrogate Outreach Coordinator, Michelle spends her time coordinating Hillary Clinton’s – surrogates, such as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand,- for various events, and sometimes even filling in for them when there’s a conflict or someone can’t make it.
Michelle was interested in trying to get more Asian Americans involved in politics and to vote and recognized that many, like her parents while growing up are pretty busy trying to realize the American dream. However, she also understood that Asian Americans could be a presidential swing vote in places Maryland and Nevada.
As someone who has followed Michelle’s figure skating, as well as her public service and political career, it was a real honor and pleasure to meet her – and gratifying to find someone so accomplished who was so down-to-earth and humble. When I had posted my photo with Michelle on Facebook, a lot of people thought we made a good lucking couple – too bad she’s already married! One thing for sure is that Michelle has a lot of patience – everyone attending was a fan of hers as well as a Clinton supporter, and everybody wanted a photo with her. I guess that comes with the territory of being so well admired, liked and well known.
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A couple years ago, a friend showed me a Ronda Rousey fight promotion video for Strikeforce and introduced me to Gina Carano‘s movie Haywire. It made me wonder if there were any Asian American women in mixed martial arts, so I started looking, and the first one I found was Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson. Just her name wasn’t enough to cue me in on the fact that she was of Thai descent. I saw a note about her Thai heritage on her wikipedia article, so I started to read and watch everything I could find about her.
Waterson’s story is really compelling, especially because she’s an Asian American woman who has to fight both gender and race stereotypes. I’m sure she’d be set for life if she got a dollar for every time someone asked her, “You’re so pretty, why would you fight?” On top of that, she’s a mom with a toddler in tow at every fight. She breaks so many molds, it’s hard to count them.
Watching this video promoting this documentary called “Fight Mom” about her life brings tears to my eyes because her story is so heartfelt. I can’t wait until it’s finished.
Din Tai Fung recently announced that they will be opening their 3rd restaurant in the Greater Seattle area:
“The restaurant’s legendary lines remain robust at its Lincoln Square and University Village locations, and owner David Yang Wasielewski announced plans to open his largest Seattle-area Ding Tai Fung space inside downtown Seattle’s Pacific Place shopping center this summer.
“We are so thankful for the overwhelming support we’ve received since we opened our first store in Bellevue five years ago and are excited to be opening our third restaurant in the heart of the Emerald City,” he said in a prepared statement.”
I can’t believe it’s been five years since the Din Tai Fung in Bellevue has been open and there hasn’t been one opened yet in the Bay Area – but one will be opening soon …
Into The Badlands Season 1, Episode 5: “Snake Creeps Down”
Original airdate December 13, 2015.
Quinn’s son Ryder tries to find out more about the mysterious city beyond the Badlands that M.K. is from and seeks out his mother’s father for information. Quinn’s brain tumor gets worse, and since he’s lost his Cog workers, he has his warrior Clippers work the field to bring in the crop. M.K. and Sunny go out on an expedition to search for more about The Widow’s whereabouts, and one of her warriors Tilda comes to warn M.K. that The Widow suspects him to be the one with the mysterious powers she’s looking for. Tilda is captured, and The Widow comes to rescue her, but it’s M.K. who cuts himself to unleash the unknown power to save Tilda.
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 10: “The Master Scheduler”
Original airdate December 11, 2015.
Symptoms: Ken and Allison are excited about their upcoming vacation to Hawaii, but Ken has failed to request vacation time from Welltopia. In an effort to correct this oversight (and placate a furious Allison), Ken seeks to convince “the master scheduler” to give him the time off, despite the very short notice.
Diagnosis: I like episodes where the main plot and subplot are tied together, and this isn’t a bad story. Ken has already established himself as something of a scatterbrain when it comes to taking care of his familial responsibilities, so it’s no wonder that Allison has given him only one task in the planning of this vacation. Neither is it a surprise that she would be as angry as she is. The Welltopia characters are beginning to click, so while this is not a terrific episode, it feels like some strong character development, and some of it is really quite charming, especially lines by Julie. In fact, the trio of Damona, Julie, and Clark is turning into something genuinely sweet. You can throw very different people together in a high-stress workplace, and if they’re all as convincingly sweet as these three, they’re going to gel.
Prognosis: I also appreciate that we finally get a good story for Damona, who until how hasn’t had a plot line that revolves around her. Damona’s reason for not telling anyone her secret feels manipulative and thin, kind of an unearned shortcut to painting her as covertly nice. It makes all kinds of sense, just by the nature of the job, that she would be able to do it better if nobody knows. She’s already seen as direct, organized, and practical, which explains her secret just fine. The secretly nice thing is weak. Pat continues to be a cartoon character, but it surprises me that Julie and Clark are taking hold in a non-annoying way. Honestly, I can’t tell if the show’s getting better or if I’m just getting used to it. It’s something I need to think about.
Rx: Molly’s going to need some redirection; she’s emerging in the last few episodes as a spoiled whiner. It’s fine for her to be flawed, but nobody likes a whiner. Something is also going to have to be done about Pat. I’m convinced now that Dave Foley can act, but this character is dragging the show down, in a way I haven’t seen since Craig Ferguson’s role as Drew Carey’s boss.
Don’t forget to check out this week’s Post Show and Tell with Joz Wang. Joz interviews Suzy Nakamura and Albert Tsai about “The Master Scheduler” right on the Dr. Ken set.
As a public official openly endorsed interning Syrian refugees just like Japanese Americans and a musical about the internment has opened on Broadway, the Washington Post has recently put up a montage of photos from famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams. During World War II, he was too old to be drafted, but wanted to help the war effort and volunteered his photographic skills. While not known for focusing on human subjects, he was asked to document life at the Manzanar internment camp. His photos became part of a controversial book called Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans.
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Born in Hong Kong and graduate of the University of Michigan, Stephen Fung is a successful actor, director, and producer. He’s worked with Jackie Chan, Yuen Wo-ping (Matrix/Kill Bill), and Stephen Chow on a number of major cinematic successes in Asia and abroad. Fung is on of the executive producers of AMC’s new martial arts series Into The Badlands.
1. What is your favorite martial art?
I’m not really a practicing Martial Artist so I don’t have one, but in terms of looking good on screen, I would say Chinese Wushu.
2. Who is your favorite martial artist?
3. How did the Into The Badlands project come together?
It came together because AMC wanted to do a Martial Arts series, and one of our executive producers Stacey Sher lined us up for this project.
4. What is the best martial arts film of all time?
Impossible to choose one.
5. Who is your greatest inspiration?
In terms for directing action/drama, I would say John Woo because “A Better Tomorrow” is the film that made me want to be in the film business.
6. How do you think Into The Badlands will affect the stereotypes about Asians and martial arts?
I don’t see associating Martial Arts with Asians as anything negative. It’s like associating African American to the Blues or Basketball. It’s Cool! Everyone to an extent loves watching Kung Fu (look how well Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or The Matrix did world wide), and Daniel Wu is good looking, charismatic, and all American.
7. What advice would you give to aspiring producers?
8. What is your favorite Asian comfort food?
There is one particular Japanese brand of Potato Chips that I love.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 10: “The Real Santa”
Original airdate December 8, 2015.
Microsynopsis: In order to provide Evan with a better role model, Jessica embellishes Santa Claus’s persona, giving him multiple graduate degrees and a Chinese ethnicity. Emery stresses out over the perfect gift for Jessica while Eddie advises him just to “let it ride,” espousing his philosophy of things eventually working themselves out.
Good: Jessica’s miniature Christmas town is hilarious, and although her Santa characterization story gets a little crazy, it’s difficult not to smile at her sincere efforts to give her youngest son an inspiring model. And yeah, I’m a sucker for the sentimentality of the season, so Evan’s unironic embracing of everything his mother shares kind of hits me right here.
This is another episode where Emery is more Eddie’s younger brother than Evan’s older brother, and it’s just a really good dynamic. Emery knows his brother well enough not to take everything he says at face value, but there seems also to be a sincere fondness between siblings that gives Eddie some of his best light. Eddie is also helped by his special relationship with his grandmother, who’s really funny in this episode.
Bad: Jessica’s solution to the Santa problem is just sooooooooooooo ridiculous, the only thing that keeps it from ruining the episode is the sincerity of her speech when Evan confronts her.
FOB moment: Jessica prepares zongzi for Chinese Santa’s visit.
Soundtrack flashback: “Dear Mama” by 2Pac (1995).
Final grade, this episode: It takes a few weird steps over the line into absurdity, in a way that seems out of character even for this show, but “The Real Santa” is a funny episode, with laughs from unexpected places (the Pan-Cultural Seasonal Entity for one, and Honey’s reminiscing about her cranberry bog experience for another), and some nice interactions between Eddie and Emery, Louis and Jessica, and Jessica and Honey. The actors seem to have found most of their places in two dimensions, enabling them now to delve a bit more into the third. B.
“From epic waterfalls to the local eats of Reykjavik, photographer Pei Ketron (@PKetron) needed the right gear to make sure she could get every shot. See how Iceland looked through her lens and how the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express had her back every step of the way.”
When I first saw her name, I was wondering if she was Asian, since she looked Asian, but had a non-Asian sounding last name (though a very Asian sounding first name). Well, after a quick Google search, I found an interview with Ketron and learned more about her interesting background:
“On your website you say you were “born in Taiwan and raised on the Navajo Nation in Arizona as part of a biracial household.” Can you elaborate on that? How has this impacted who you are today?
When I was very young, my mother remarried, resulting in a blended Chinese/white family. We moved to the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona when I was just three years old. As a result, I grew up heavily influenced by three separate cultures: my native Chinese culture (most heavily felt during the summers I spent visiting extended family in Taiwan), the white American culture I was essentially raised in at home, and the Native American culture that permeated my schooling and socialization outside the home.”
I’m not a big Instagram user, so I can’t say that I knew that Ketron is an “Instagram Sensation” as the interviewer describes her as – with over 862k followers!
The Widow gathers her troops while the Baron tries to cure the tumor in his brain with Veil’s help. Sunny continues to train M.K., especially trying to explore how to control his strange power. The Widow attacks another baron Jacobee’s gold transport to set Quinn and Jacobee against each other. When the two barons meet up, however, they find that they were set up by the Widow. When Quinn returns to his fort, he finds all his servant cogs have been taken by the Widow. The Widow also reveals that Jacobee’s top clipper Zypher is working with her to take over her baron’s place. They makes a deal with Quinn’s son Ryder, who agrees to join their team to overthrow the old guard. Sunny meets with the River King to gain passage for him and Veil out of the Badlands, but the price for the passage is M.K.’s head.
Dr. Ken, Season 1, Episode 9: “Ken Cries Foul”
Original airdate December 4, 2015.
Symptoms: Dave asks his parents if he can quit the basketball team, since he finds the sport boring, and because he’s no good at it. Ken, an avid fan of the sport, encourages Dave to ride the season out; the team is in the playoff and only has one game left. Molly and her parents have differing opinions about what’s appropriate attire for a high-school student. Damona, out of vacation days, wants to go to Mexico with a friend, so she tries to bait Pat into saying something racially insensitive, making him feel bad enough to give her an extra day off.
Diagnosis: I laughed aloud several times, so the entertainment value is pretty strong, but I never felt engaged. Ken Jeong and Suzy Nakamura, as always, do the best acting, and focusing on that made the episode go down better, but watching it still felt like eating a can of cake frosting.
Prognosis: I love the idea of both the A and B plots being centered around Dave and Molly, something that strengthens Dr. Ken as a family show with a multitude of interesting characters, but this episode does little to develop Molly or Dave better than skin-deep in dealing with conflicts that deserve at least a slightly more thoughtful exploration. Of the three resolutions in the final act, Ken’s coming to grips with Dave’s other interests plays best, a bit of sentimentality that works, but the resolutions of the other plots are cursory, and really not that interesting. I honestly don’t know what to think about what any of this bodes for the future of this program.
Rx: The end credits roll over a montage of outtakes from Dr. Ken’s attempt to referee Dave’s basketball game, and I cannot put my finger on exactly what the difference is, but I wished the whole episode felt like that. It was fun, it felt good, and it was funny. You could feel Ken’s energy and excitement in a different way. I don’t know why, but all I could think was, “That’s the show I wish I was watching.”
When I saw this IBM TV commercial about Watson (“… a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.”), Annabelle reminded me of my niece – who is a few years younger, but fortunately never has had cancer:
“IBM Watson is helping doctors identify cancer treatments to outthink cancer, one patient at a time. Learn more at http://ibm.co/1LnZHX7“
In the commercial, Annabelle is about to turn seven, and says she can eat cake now – because last year, she couldn’t because she was sick with cancer. IBM Watson explains to Annabelle that it can help doctors identify cancer treatments.
If you know the history of IBM, “Think” is an early motto of the company coined by Thomas John Watson Sr. who served as the chairman and CEO of IBM from 1914 to 1956. So it’s quite interesting to see that IBM is playing with that motto with “Outthink.”