Asian American Medical Hazard: South Asian Heart Disease

Silicon Valley resident Mahendra Agrawal exercised regularly, maintained a health weight, and followed a vegetarian diet.  When he went to the hospital with shortness of breath, doctors found that the 63 year old had obstructed coronary arteries.  His reaction:

“I’m a pretty active guy and I eat very healthy, my wife makes sure of that.  It makes me wonder why this happened to me.”

Agrawal’s predicament is detailed in this New York Times article (also here if you ran out of free articles) that talks about another Asian American Medical Hazard – South Asian Heart Disease.  It also describes one potential benefit of being Asian American – how adopting a blend of Asian and American practices can lead to better health than either alone.

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Asian American Commercial Watch: Men’s Wearhouse – BLACK by Vera Wang

According to Men’s Wearhouse’s YouTube channel, their commercial starring Vera Wang about her first collection of formal wear for me has been around (or at least hosted on YouTube) since March 2015 – but I just caught this it on TV recently.


The last time I think I blogged about Vera Wang was when I saw her promoting her LOVE collection at Zales. I still mostly think of Vera Wang as a fashion designer for wedding gowns, popularized – at least for me, through being mentioned in Sex in the City.


Asian American Commercial Watch: Snickers Crisper – “Internship”

I caught this Snickers commercial about their new candy they are launching called Crisper:

AACW_Snickers_Crisper“Crispy satisfaction is on the horizon with new SNICKERS® Crisper – a delicious combination of crisped rice and peanuts topped with a layer of caramel and coated in creamy SNICKERS® Brand milk chocolate.Boasting multiple textures, SNICKERS® Crisper delivers on its satisfaction pledge with the chew of caramel and the crunchy crispiness of rice and peanuts. Singles packs feature two pieces, each with 100 calories, allowing for a snack for now and another for later.”

What I like about this commercial is that it shows an Asian American college student boasting about his partying ways – kind of breaking with the “Model Minority” stereotype, though I have to say the glasses he is wearing are kind of geeky.

Not sure I totally get the premise of the commercial, but nevertheless I found it entertaining.

60 Minutes: Little Jazz Man – Joey Alexander 12 years old

In early January, I caught this 60 Minutes segment titled “Little Jazz Man,” about 12-year-old Indonesian American Joey Alexander:

joeyalexander“We’ve never seen anyone like the young boy we’re going to introduce you to tonight. His name is Joey Alexander, he’s 12 years old and he’s becoming a musical sensation. He’s not a pop star or classical music prodigy…he’s a jazz musician, a piano player. He has been nominated for two Grammy awards this year. But it’s not just his young age that makes him remarkable, it’s where he’s from: Bali, a small Indonesian island that’s hardly famous for jazz. Since he arrived in New York 18 months ago, Joey has been captivating fans and fellow musicians alike, and after you meet him…we think you’ll understand why. … Joey began expressing himself on stages across Indonesia. Videos of him playing went viral and made it to Wynton Marsalis, who’s managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. … That concert changed Joey’s life. His parents sold what they had in Indonesia and moved the family to New York. He started playing gigs, touring the country, winning fans and learning the rhythms of a very different world.”

I’m can’t say I’m a really big fan of jazz, but this story really warmed my heart as Joey Alexander seemed to play out of pure joy and bring out joy in others who truly do appreciate jazz.

I’d have to say that my favorite jazz tune is probably Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” which I became aware of in the early 1990s when Nissan’s Infiniti’s car brand first launched and that song was featured prominently in the background of those commercials.

The Fung Brothers: Americanized Chinese Food with Jeremy Lin

As you may know, Taiwanese American NBA basketball sensation Jeremy Lin joined the Charlotte [North Carolina] Hornets this season. If you’ve ever been to North Carolina, you know there aren’t a lot of Asians there, and even fewer Chinese restaurants.

The_Fung_Brothers_Jeremy_Lin_Americanized_Chinese_foodThe Fung Brothers made a special trip to Charlotte to visit Lin and to check out the Americanized Chinese food scene there. Lin mentions that his parents would be disappointed if he went for “fake Chinese food,” like that at Panda Express.

I’m not a big fan of Americanized Chinese food, especially now living in California, but I’ll have my share if I want something different or just have no other good choices.

Touring Iceland with Photographer Pei Ketron | American Express

I caught this American Express commercial featuring San Francisco-based photographer Pei Ketron:

“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!

Asian American Commercial Watch: Annabelle & IBM Watson on Life Experience

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:

8Asians_AACW_Annabelle_IBM Watson“IBM Watson is helping doctors identify cancer treatments to outthink cancer, one patient at a time. Learn more at

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.”


Claremont McKenna College, Asian American Activism, and College Diversity


Claremont McKenna College

“My daughter goes to some school called Claremont McKennia…”

My parents often chuckle as they reminisce about how embarrassing it was for them to tell people where I went to college, how uncomfortable our Asian family and friends felt when they wanted to praise me but had never heard of my college. In fact, my parents had refused to let me go there at first because they had never heard of it. It didn’t matter when I showed them rankings that placed CMC up at the top of many lists, and it wasn’t until one of their own peers, who happened to be a professor at Pomona College, told them “Your daughter wants to go to Claremont McKenna? That’s a really good school!” that they let me go.

When I started school at CMC, it didn’t take long for my parents to become full on advocates of not just CMC but the Claremont Colleges as a whole. They saw the sort of education and experience I was getting, and they loved it. They started to become Claremont “activists” in the Asian and Asian American communities, telling people how great the Claremonts are and why all of their children should strive to go there. In fact, my mom went around high-fiving people when my brother was accepted into Harvey Mudd College, and they about chewed their nails off as they waited for him to decide between UC Berkeley and Harvey Mudd College and breathed a sigh of relief when he ultimately picked HMC.

I loved my time at CMC so much, I’m obnoxious about it. People around me are literally tired and downright annoyed of my always talking about how awesome it was to go to school there, how much personal attention I got from professors, how much I learned, blah blah blah. So of course, when CMC started to hit national news with accusations of institutional racism, people who had to suffer through my stories about how awesome my college was were quick to share the news with me.

When I started to read all the articles on what happened and saw that although the accusations of institutional racism and marginalization of minorities were broad, many key and active people on all sides of the controversy had surnames like Varughese, Huang, Minami, and Tsai. Asian Americans were the CMC administration being attacked, they were the student activists accusing the school of institutional racism, they were the student activists chastising those activists of inappropriate behavior, they were student government, concerned parents, etc. etc. The amount of Asian Americans involved in this controversy sure upturns any stereotypes that Asians don’t like to rock the boat. These CMC community members of Asian descent were practically playing tug-of-war with the boat.

It’s also important to note that the student movement actually appears to be a 5-College movement, not just for CMC. If you’re not familiar with the Claremont Colleges, they’re basically five undergraduate liberal arts schools plus a separate graduate school that have been built right next to each other and work together as a community to share resources. If you’re a student at one school, you can seamlessly take classes at any of the other schools, including the graduate school.

CMC Student Body Letter

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Departing Mayor Lisa Wong – Love, politics, and a tale of two struggling cities

Having been born & raised in a suburb of Springfield, Massachusetts (about 90 miles West of Boston), I’m surprised that I did not come across hearing about Lisa Wong, but I had only started blogging in January 2007 and she was first elected in November 2007. I learned about Wong when a friend of mine posted on Facebook a Boston Globe article about her leaving Fitchburg, where she was mayor – to be with her husband, who is running for mayor of Holyoke, about 1.5 hour drive away:

Lisa_Wong_mayor“Lisa Wong is a rising political star, the turnaround artist in Fitchburg, the first Asian-American mayor in the Bay State [Massachusetts]. … Indeed, Wong will not seek a fifth term. … She had three degrees at age 20. … Wong, 36, was a high school valedictorian who went on to earn three degrees from Boston University, run an economic empowerment group for women, and win the historic mayoral election by the time she was 27. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she grew up in North Andover, one of three children in a quiet family. She came to Fitchburg around 2001 to lead the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority.”

Fitchburg is 3.6% Asian. I was just looking up the demographics of my hometown (not far from Holyoke), and although I was subconsciously aware that it was predominately white, I didn’t realize it was 95% white (according to the 2000 census). So I have to imagine it was even whiter when I grew up there in the 1980s. Massachusetts overall is 6% Asian.

In any case, I’m glad to have learned about Wong, though I vaguely recall an Asian American running for some elected office in Massachusetts who would have been a first for something, but not sure if was for a mayoral position.

Asian American Commercial Watch: Experian’s “Furniture Showroom” – Credit Swagger

While watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, I saw this recent Experian commercial (as part of a series of “credit swagger” ad campaign) starring Taiwanese American actress Camille Chen:

experian-credit-swagger-furniture-showroom-large-camille_chen“A woman stops into Sittingham’s Furniture and thanks to Experian, she knows her credit score is 812. She knows she qualifies for all the great deals and wants to know what else the salesman can offer her. She gets lower and lower into the chair to give subtle hints she wants the ottoman, not same day delivery. See what you can have with Experian.”

Your credit score, commonly known as FICO, and essentially determines how credit worthy you are and whether or not you are qualified for a loan, and can affect what interest rate you can get on a loan. By law, you can get a free credit report once a year from the three major credit agencies – here at

After Googling “experian commercial actress,” I discovered that I’ve seen Chen in other television commercials – I think my first recollection is her in a State Farm commercial, and maybe this Wendy’s commercial for their Berry Almond Chicken Salad – though she looks a bit different from the Experian and State Farm commercial.



Asian American Commercial Watch: Kelly Hu for Viagra

So I should have blogged about this Viagra commercial when it first came out this past April, but there wasn’t a higher quality version or official versions of the commercial on their website. Now I see this ad running more and more so I’m sticking with this one. Apparently Kelly Hu is the third actress in this series of women pitching Viagra. On the Viagra site, the first two women are white – so it’ll be interesting to see if Viagra continues these series of ads, if African American and Hispanic women will be used.


My first memory of coming across model and now actress Kelly Hu was right around after graduating from college in the early 90s and coming across an early Asian American lifestyle magazine called Transpacific:

“Transpacific, which is published every other month in Malibu, Calif., is believed to be the longest running. Originally called Asiam, it has been out for seven years; it differs from A. in that it includes articles on life styles and business trends in Asia, while A.’s focus is entirely American.”

On kind of a big tangent here in italics, Jeff Yang (yes, father of “Fresh Off The Boat’s” Hudson Yang) who was A. Magazine’s editor in chief and founder. And it must have been destiny, because the first time I met Jeff Yang, it was in 1995 at Harvard at an Intercollegiate Taiwanese American Students Association (ITASA) conference. Yang was on a panel discussion on “non-traditional” careers for Taiwanese Americans (i.e. not becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.), which included being a publisher for A. Magazine (the other panelist I recall, was talking about entrepreneurship). At that conference, I also recall Kristie Wang, then Program Director Center for Taiwan International Relations, give the speech, “How I Became a Taiwanese-American and why It Matters”which really made an impact on me. Showing you how small Taiwanese American world is, 20+ years later, I’d meet her (like Jeff Yang), in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Getting back to Kelly Hu and the Viagra commercial. From what I recall, Hu appeared a few times in some fashion photo shoots for that magazine – and those photo shoots were pretty hot.

When I first saw Hu in the Viagra commercial, I was like, ‘Is this who I think it is?’ I quickly Googled to see if that was Hu, and I was pleased to discover that I was right! In doing a quick background check, I was shocked to discover that Hu is now 47 years old. My biggest impressions of her from an acting standpoint were her roles in The Scorpion King as Cassandra and X2: X-Men United as Lady Deathstrike.

Based on Hu’s tweets (@KellyHu), she’s clearly happy to see herself in the Viagra commercial:


Hopefully Hu is getting paid a lot of residuals for the commercial.

In the past, I’ve also blogged about Hu’s political activism in regards to getting out the Asian American vote for elections, but not a lot of people know about her interest in Asian American civic engagement and support for Obama as well as they know Hu as an actress.

In another example of “connections” – as soon as I saw the Viagra commercial, I emailed the YouTube link to a friend and former work colleague of mine in LA – since she and her husband are friends with Hu, though my friend said she hasn’t seen Hu in years.

Fung Brothers: Things Asian Parents Do

asianI think a lot of Asian American kids watch this and are like “Yeah, my parents do a lot of those things”, but my mom watched this, cracked up, and said “I really do do that!” I feel like that’s another level of validation for the video.

I have to say, though, their mom in this video is ADORABLE.