A Disney Filipino Christmas Ad is Making People Cry All Around the World

Disney Europe is probably the last organization that I’d expect to distribute a commercial that would become viral for Filipinos in the US and all over the world, but people ranging from The Wife to the head of the Filipino Affinity group at work shared their video with me.  Even Number One Son had seen it before I did.  When I looked into it, I found that the commercial has more behind it than just a shameless attempt to sell Disney merchandise.

Grandmother and granddaughter with Mickey Mouse dollThe commercial originated as part of a Disney UK fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish foundation.  A share of the money from sales of the vintage Mickey Mouse doll (you can see it on the right) goes to the foundation.  You might not think that there are many Filipinos in the UK, but my cousin worked there, and Filipinos make up a disproportionate number of the UK health workers that have died from COVID-19.  If it isn’t obvious to you, “Lola” written on the card in the commercial means Grandmother in Tagalog.  The star lantern is a traditional Filipino Christmas lantern called a Parol.

The UK singer Griff, who performs Love is a Compass, the featured song of the commercial, is an interesting part of this story.  Perhaps I am giving Disney too much credit for being clever about its choices, but Disney picked a singer who looks Filipino! She is actually Chinese and Jamaican.  You can see her perform the song in the video below.  Proceeds from downloads of the song also go to the UK Make-a-Wish foundation.

Continue reading

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25-year-old Alex Lee is California’s youngest, 1st Openly Bisexual State Legislator

While going through the local election results last week, I was surprised to learn of Alex Lee:

“History was made Tuesday in Santa Clara County where South Bay voters elected the youngest state legislator in eight decades. Democrat Alex Lee, 25, won the 25th District Assembly race and will also become California’s first openly bisexual state lawmaker.

“I have the distinction and responsibility to be a lot of firsts in California,” Lee said. “I’m the first openly bisexual state legislator in California, the youngest Asian-American state legislator and first Gen-Z state legislator. That is an immense responsibility to make sure that more young people and more progressives are elected after me to break and shatter those records.”

Lee grew up in Milpitas and San Jose, graduated from Milpitas High School and later, from UC Davis, where he studied communications and political science and served as student body president.

He interned for former Congressman Mike Honda, and later worked for State Senator Henry Stern, according to Lee’s campaign website.

He then went on to work for Assemblyman Evan Low, who, at the time of his election, was the youngest Asian American legislator in the Assembly.

I personally know Assemblyman Evan Low (though to be honest, I didn’t even know he was running for re-election – he won), so I am surprised I have not met Alex Lee.  If I have, I’ve long forgotten.

It’s really amazing what Lee has accomplished at such a young age! Congratulations to Lee, and I hope to meet him in the near future.


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Young Kim and Michelle Steel Join Marilyn Strickland as First Korean American Women Elected to US Congress

Young Kim

Young Kim and Michelle Steel

Young Kim and Michelle Steel will join Marilyn Strickland as the first Korean American women elected to the US Congress.  In that earlier post, we mentioned that Young Kim was in a tight race that had not yet been called.  Republican Kim beat out Democratic incumbent Gil Cisneros in a close race for California’s 39th congressional district. We also missed Michelle Steel, another Republican who also beat out a Democratic incumbent for California’s 48th congressional district.

Congratulations to Representative Kim and Representative Steel!

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Record Asian American Turnout in Early Analysis of 2020 Election

Source: TargetSmart

One of the reasons why I’ve been involved in politics and civically engaged since 2004 and why I blog about such issues since 2007 in the Asian American community is because since 2007 is because I saw a lack of involvement.

Traditionally, Asian Americans have had the least voting turnout of any demographic group. I don’t know if that is still the case in 2020, we’ll have to wait for the final electorate analysis. While following the national and local election results last week, I was delighted to read that Asian American turnout was fantastic. Early polling analysis on November 2nd (the day before the election) from polling firm TargetSmart on early voting (absentee, mail in ballots) stated:

But broadly, the biggest surges in turnout are coming from Asian American voters, who have exceeded their total 2016 vote in every single southern and sunbelt presidential battleground state already.

…Consider this data regarding the current early vote electorate as compared to the final overall 2016 electorate in presidential battleground states: … Asian American voters are at 1.8%, while they accounted for 1.2% of 2016’s total vote

The CEO of TargetSmart on November 6th had tweeted:

“While we’re waiting for “the official call”, I wanted to share some really impressive stats around AAPI participation in this election, because the numbers are truly remarkable.

First, in presidential battlegrounds, 19% more AAPI voters cast a ballot in the early vote than voted in entirety in the 2016 election. The only other group to see their early vote exceed their 2016 total turnout was Latino voters, albeit by a narrower margin.

Nationally, 5% more AAPI voters cast a ballot than voted in the entirety of the 2016 election.

In every single battleground state, AAPI voters saw a bigger percent increase in votes cast, relative to ’16, than any other group.

In Georgia, AAPI early voters exceeded their total 2016 turnout by 57%. 30,473 voted for the first time in their life, and 61,829 didn’t vote in 2016.”

These are really some amazing early numbers! I also saw these interesting TargetSmart numbers posted via Instagram by AAPI Progressive Action:

From the early exit polls:

“The NBC News Exit Poll of early and Election Day voters indicated that 63 percent of Asian American voters across the country voted for Biden. A minority of the group voted for Trump, at 31 percent. Janelle Wong, senior researcher at the data and policy nonprofit AAPI Data, said the results track with the behavior she has observed during the election cycle. … Data from the 2016 election cycle indicate that in 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton got 65 percent of Asian American votes, while Trump got 27 percent.”

Despite this data, I consider the gold standard for post-election analysis for a presidential campaign for Asian Americans is the National Asian American Survey.  That takes many months to publish, and I look forward to seeing the results, which I will share here.


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BIBIBOP Asian Grill giving US Veterans a free bowl on Veteran’s Day 2020

BIBIBOP Asian Grill joins a number of restaurants giving free meals and or discounts to US Veterans on November 11, which is US Veteran’s day.  Says Henry Yonky, BIBIBOP director of marketing, on the chain’s website:

This is a great opportunity for us to focus on the well-being of the men and women who focus on keeping us safe.

BIBIBOP Asian Grill, founded by Charley Shin, is an Korean food inspired restaurant chain with 43 locations across the country.  A military ID will get active duty military and veterans a free bowl.

I was hoping more Asian owned restaurants would do this for Veteran’s day.  I found that there were more offering discounts last year. I am not surprised that fewer do this year, as Asian American restaurants have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Asian American unemployment being disproportionately high.

For a more complete list of Veteran’s Day discounts, see this Military.com article.

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Marilyn Strickland and Possibly Young Kim: First Korean American Women Elected to Congress

Image courtesy of Strickland’s campaign website

History was made this election when Marilyn Strickland, the former mayor of Tacoma, Washington, won her race for the US House of Representatives in Washington’s 10th congressional district:

“… becoming the first Korean American woman elected to the US Congress in its 230-year history.  … Strickland added that she is proud to be the first African American elected to Congress from the Pacific Northwest, which includes Washington, Idaho and Oregon, as well as the first Korean American woman to serve in the US Congress.

Strickland, whose Korean name is Sun-ja, was born in Seoul in 1962 to an African American father, a World War II and Korean War veteran, and a Korean mother. The two met while her father was stationed in Korea after the war. Strickland and her family moved to Tacoma in 1967 after her father was dispatched to Fort Lewis. She graduated University of Washington and earned an MBA from Clark Atlanta University. “

Congratulations to Representative Elect Strickland!

Republican Young Kim is in a tight race with Democrat Gil Cisneros in Southern California’s 39th district.  As of Monday November 9, she was leading with 50.5% with 97% of the votes counted (according to AP).  The Orange County Registrar of Voters says it could be weeks before results are final.  Will share when I know more information.

The only other Korean American I am aware of who was in Congress (I could be wrong), is first term Congressman Andy Kim, who won his reelection bid in New Jersey’s 3rd congressional district:

“Rookie Democrat Rep. Andy Kim defeated former business executive David Richter to win a second term in Congress in the 3rd congressional district.

The Associated Press called the race for Kim at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday

Kim was one of four Democrats who won Republican held congressional districts in New Jersey during 2018′s blue wave, barely ousting Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur.”

Congratulations to Representative Kim as well!


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Kamala Harris Elected as the First Asian American US Vice President

Saturday morning, the press, after the latest batch of ballots were counted in Pennsylvania, called the presidential election for Joe Biden. By doing that, Americans made history by also electing the first woman and Asian American Vice President, Kamala Harris:

“Yet what also distinguished her was her personal biography: The daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, she was steeped in racial justice issues from her early years in Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., and wrote in her memoir of memories of the chants, shouts and “sea of legs moving about” at protests.

Allies say Ms. Harris is acutely aware of her place in history. She views her work as connected to both the civil rights leaders who came before her — the “ancestors,” as she calls them — and the generations she hopes to empower.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, a rising figure in the party’s left wing, said Ms. Harris’s ascent was a deep source of pride among South Asians, expanding the imaginations of how high they can climb in American public life. Ms. Jayapal has spoken proudly of her own connection to the new vice president, writing an op-ed article in The Los Angeles Times in August describing their intertwined family history in South India.”

Although I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have been civically active, I’ve never personally met Harris. I have seen her speak, most recently, over a year ago, at the California Democratic Party convention when it was held in San Francisco:

Congratulations to Vice President Elect Kamala Harris!


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Asian American Frozen Foods: Trader Joe’s Beef Pho Soup

I was at Trader Joe’s recently and came across this new frozen offering, Trader Joe’s ‘Beef Pho Soup.’ While I’m a big fan of pho and I hope it becomes as popular as ramen, it’s not something I can easily cook at home like instant ramen.  I was pleasantly surprised to see this at Trader Joe’s, so I had to buy and try this.

After poking some holes in the plastic film covering and microwaving, I got this well heated beef pho soup dish:

My impression was that it was better than I had expected it to be, but not exactly beef pho soup.  I did like it, but I think I would have to eat two or three of these to fill full. I forgot how much I paid for this, but I’m guessing around $5.  So was it worth it? Not sure…  It’s tasty enough, but don’t expect the pho you would get at your local Vietnamese restaurant.

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A Short Review: Si

While the short Si was a finalist for the 2020 HBO Visionaries contest, I had some skepticism about it.  What about microaggressions could make a substantial film? Director Thomas Kim, in the interview above (some *spoilers* in it – I suggest you watch Si first before watching the above clip), mentions how teasing starts innocently but eventually becomes a really dark.  Despite my skepticism, I  connected with the movie and felt the pain and conflicts of the main character.

Ki Hong Lee (you might know him from Maze Runner Movies or the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) does a great job as Si.  He has to portray someone trying to get along with his white teammates while slowly showing distress at the implications of those accommodations.  I wondered if he can portray a high school student given that he is actually in his 30s, but he convinced me.  I didn’t watch the clip from Thomas Kim before I saw the movie, it took me some time to figure out that “Si” is the name of the lead character.  It was also beneficial that I didn’t see the clip at the end, when revelations about his family make this film much more meaningful.

If had to complain about anything, it would be the title.  I initially thought of the Spanish word for yes, and as I mentioned, I initially missed that Si is the name of Ki Hong Lee’s character.  Despite that, I really recommend this short and could definitely see why it was a finalist.  Si is available for streaming on HBOMax.

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Asian Americans Commercial Watch: AAPIs For Biden Political Ads

With the presidential election around the corner, Americans are already voting in record numbers in early voting, either in mail-in/absentee or early voting.  So it’s no surprise there has been record spending on television political ads.  It’s also no surprise that Biden has been focused on Asian Americans, as I had attended a year ago in Las Vegas the official launch of ‘AAPIs for Biden’ for President hosted by Michelle Kwan. Earlier in October, the Biden campaign announced it was specifically targetting the Asian American community in its television advertising:

“The paid media campaign will kick off with a 0:60 television ad titled “Stand Together,” featuring an AAPI narrator underscoring the importance of returning to American values of kindness, compassion, empathy, community, tolerance, generosity, integrity and hope. The ad focuses on how Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can lead the country back to these values and build back better for the AAPI community. The paid campaign follows the historic Vice Presidential Debate, where Senator Kamala Harris, daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, became the first Asian American to compete on a general election debate stage.

The television spot will be followed by digital, radio and print ads targeting specific AAPI constituencies in-language in key battleground states. These targeted ads will highlight issues of importance to AAPI communities and describe Joe Biden’s commitment to ensure that every member of the AAPI community is treated with dignity—no matter their race or ethnicity—and has a fair shot at the American Dream.

The ads will air nationally on radio, digital and print platforms, as well as platforms in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The campaign’s paid media program is active in a total of 16 states — including the above states in addition to Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Ohio.”

What’s been interesting to see is that Biden for President has had at least two AAPI focused television ads , like the one above and more recently, the one below, with Democratic VP candidate (half-Jamaican, half-Indian American) Kamala Harris narrating:

I’ve also come across this catchy Public Service Announcement commercial focused on getting out the Asian American vote:

“A group called RUN, which gives voice to Asian American Pacific Islanders, the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S., today unveiled a gorgeously designed campaign that’s designed to motivate the AAPI community to vote in the 2020 election—and is also the first step in a larger rebranding effort for the AAPI experience.

The campaign is called #TheNew, an appellation that refers to the new generation of Asian American Pacific Islanders. It is this generation, RUN’s organizers believe, who will be able to harness the political and cultural power of a group that remains arguably the most underrepresented—in both media and politics—in America.”

I think it’s great the Biden and others are trying to get Asian Americans more civically engaged and increase voter participation (as Asian Americans have historically been the worst demographic at voting). I’d also love to see if there are any Trump focused political ads focused on the Asian American community.


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Casting calls, Monolids, and Plastic Surgery

paladino casting monolid

Paladino Casting recently apologized for the “no monolids” casting call shown here after being called out by Simu Liu on Twitter.   I think that Dino Ray Ramos put it best when he said that they were basically looking for Asians who don’t look Asians.  To me, this casting is appalling for many reasons, but the issue of monolids and beauty is problematic for many reasons.

It’s hard not to agree with with Simu Liu’s assessment on monolids, but that isn’t the only problem.

“Skin tone:  Clean, white, and pinky.”

Definitely proves Dino Ray’s point.  I also thought the following was odd:

Must no have allergies/food restrictions.

Can’t be a vegan or have Celiac’s disease?  No peanut allergies?  I can see some of this as valid.  The casting was done for Kinder Joy, which makes chocolate candy which could have nuts or dairy products, and the role could be involved with eating it, but it seems that it would be easy to work around this.  This casting call also made me glad that I work in Tech.  I am used to being in situations where specific talent is uncommon and companies sometimes must work hard to recruit and retain that talent, as opposed to the acting business where talent is common and companies can afford to be picky and to put in odd restrictions like this.

While it is easy to complain about this casting call, what is harder to deal with is the deep internal insecurity that Asians and Asian Americans have over monolidsBlepharoplasty, a procedure to eliminate the monolid, is the most common plastic surgery in South Korea, although not to look Western.  If Asians in Asia don’t like having monolids, it seems extra difficult for Asian Americans to not feel insecure about them.

Ironically, the sponsor of the commercial for which the casting call was made, Kinder Joy, is owned by Ferrero of Italy.  Ferrero-Rocher chocolates are popular with immigrants to the US, including Asian immigrants.

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A Short Review: Fine China

As she says in the interview above, Tiffany So, the director of the Fine China short that was a finalist for the 2020 HBO Visionaries contest, loves musicals.  I do too, and so Fine China was a pleasant surprise.  I first found some of the “traditional Asian” style music annoying and almost stereotypical (you can hear some in the video above), but as the story went along I realized that was deliberate musical choice.

So says she modeled her work after Chinese families, but the issues that confront this family are common with many families, not just Chinese or Asian ones.  As a parent, I am really glad that she didn’t descend into the “hates their parents” trope.  The way So shows the passage of time and its eventual healing touch is something to look forward to.

Overall, I recommend Fine China, especially if you like musicals. You can see more about the other 2020 winners on the HBO Visionary web siteFine China is available to stream on HBO Max.



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