“Practical” Asian Careers and Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience and upcoming Shang-Chi Marvel Film)

Simu Liu (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Simu Liu, of Canadian TV series Kim’s Convenience, is poised to become massively visible as the star of the upcoming Marvel movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the the Ten Rings.   But the road to getting to that point was neither straight nor easy.  In an article in MacClean’s, he talks about how he was constantly fighting with parents who pushed him into a “practical” career  of accounting before he got into acting.  I found his note an interesting companion to this article which talks about how Asian students at Duke seem to be concentrated in “practical” majors.

I have read discussions about why Asian American/Canadian children rarely seem to challenge their parents direction into “practical” careers, and it’s refreshing to me to hear about one that did resist.   As a youth, Liu spoke dismissively of his parents and even ran away from home.  While he did go into a practical career, he eventually found his way into something he loves – acting.  At this point, he understands his parents’ motivation and is in a better place with them.  He wrote the article as a way of saying what many Asian American/Canadian parents often don’t say out loud – I love you.

Carrie Wang’s Duke Chronicle article has a lot of things that I agree with.  A lot of Asian American students are forced into practical majors and don’t follow their intellectual pursuits – that is truly a shame.  But I don’t think it is a bad thing to also have a “practical major” AND follow their intellectual or artistic passions.  There are plenty of artists that have difficult making a living doing just their art.  There are plenty of non-artists that have difficulty making a living.  When she mentions that more Asian Americans should be journalists, I can’t help but think about Aja Dang getting a masters in Broadcast journalism which helped her pile up some $200K of debt.

I found her claims about “who you know” being more important than “what you know” particularly irritating.  It can be true, especially in fields (acting comes to mind) where there are many more people wanting the positions that are available.  Networking without a doubt is important.  But if you have ever been in a position working with or for someone who got their job from you know without them being particularly competent, you might not appreciate that sentiment.  While Wang complains about lack of diversity in media, much of that is from exactly what she is extols as a model – people hiring only those who they know and not looking at a broader pool of talent.

From a parent’s perspective who has and is putting children through college,  I absolutely understand the desire to have them major in something practical.  I think that something many parents, especially Asian American parents, forget is that most people eventually do something other than their major.  Courtney Milan went from getting a masters in physical chemistry to clerking for the US Supreme Court and law school professor to romance novel writer. Another factor to remember is that things like internships and co-ops can be more important than the school name and major for landing jobs.  The Daughter’s major wasn’t the most immediately lucrative (Communications), but the five internships that she did during college did make finding a job much easier.  Number One Son and Number Two Son both have done co-ops, which are a key part of their college experience.  Some of their peers who majored in “practical” majors are still not employed after graduating, most likely because they didn’t get work experience during college.

As for Simu Liu, his “non-practical” career looks bright.  Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first Marvel movie with an Asian lead, is expected to be released on February 21, 201.  Awkwafina is also going to be in the movie.  Simu’s letter is part of a MacClean’s series called I Love You, where people take the time to say I love you to some one before it is too late.

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‘Harvard Please Let Me In’ – A Music Video by Ethan Kim

I saw a Facebook friend of mine post this video from YouTube about North Carolina high school student Ethan Kim, who had applied early to Harvard, but got deferred. So he decided to put together a rap music video asking ‘Harvard Please Let Me In.’

I have to say that Ethan can rap!  The video editing is pretty impressive as well. Ethan definitely doesn’t come across as your stereotypical “Model Minority” Asian American.

I do wonder though how the Harvard admissions office would take into consideration this viral video (over 25k views as of this writing).   How viral this has to go in order for someone in Harvard admissions to actually come across this video?  If Ethan does get accepted into Harvard, are more high school students going to do more music videos?

Applying and getting into a “top” college these days is pretty insane, with admissions rate of 4% to 10%. I’m not sure if I could have gotten into Cornell anymore if I applied today. Back in my day, the admissions rate was like 25% – now, around 10%! Good luck Ethan – I’m pretty sure you’ll be successful anywhere you wind up!

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Andrew Yang Suspends Presidential Run: Thoughts On His Historic Run

Shortly after the closing of the New Hampshire primary polls, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced (to my surprise) the suspension of his campaign. His stated reason:

“Before the Iowa caucus last week, Yang and his aides had held out hope that his poll numbers would translate into more votes than they actually did. When they didn’t, and when the votes didn’t seem to be there in New Hampshire either, they decided it was time to leave the race, as he planned to do in a speech tonight. …

Yang’s centered his campaign on what he called “humanity”—the idea that politics should recognize the “intrinsic value” of people, and not just their economic value. In an interview last night, he framed his decision to quit the race in these same terms.

“I don’t want to take people’s money and time and support if I genuinely don’t think that we can contend and win …””

I appreciate Andrew’s honesty, as I think if he was running for his own ego, he would continue to raise more money and stay in longer. I was hoping he would last at least until Super Tuesday (March 3rd). Personally, when I saw the final poll results, I was kind of shocked:

I could not believe that Andrew came in dead last, behind Tom Steyer (maybe he spent big on TV advertising in New Hampshire – which I’m sure he did) and Tulsi Gabbard (who was not in the last two debates, but also campaigning a lot in New Hampshire instead of Iowa). I was also surprised that Amy Klobuchar had beat out neighboring Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren. This goes to show how often we can be absorbed in our own Facebook, Twitter and YouTube bubble and not realize the bigger picture of how the campaign was going. I recall the polling prior to the primary had Andrew higher than the final result. I have also read that there were a lot of undecideds, and the debate the Friday before the Tuesday primary – Andrew did not have a great performance (and as usual, the least amount of time to speak) – helped a lot of undecideds decide on their candidate.

Continue reading

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8Books Review: “Dear Girls” by Ali Wong

Ali Wong’s Dear Girls will make you laugh, cry, and will also make you hungry. But overall you will be happier, and it seems like maybe in 2020, we’re going to want some more happy.

I had every honest and heartfelt intention of telling you to get this book for your friends and families for Christmas. But obviously I missed the boat. And then I thought, a Lunar New Year present. But I missed that boat too. So now I will tell you that you should just go get a copy for yourself.

Not for the hilarious list of how to tell a good Asian restaurant from a bad Asian restaurant which made the internet rounds when Dear Girls first came out — you don’t need that. But for Wong’s complete candor about every aspect of her life, from her childhood to “Tips on Giving Birth” to the adventures that led to the disclaimer “Dear Girls, you are prohibited from reading this book until you are twenty-one years old.” If you don’t already know, the eponymous girls are Wong’s two daughters and the book is meant as a letter to them. Especially sweet is the note Wong’s husband wrote as the epilogue.

It’s enormously fun to read, and if you can hear Ali Wong’s voice in your head while you read it from having watched her stand-up specials multiple times, well, all the more fun.

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Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ cleans up at the Oscars; watch it now on 4K Ultra HD Digital, Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand

Parasite made history last night as the first Korean film to receive an Oscar®, but clinching four top Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Film is the pinnacle of a spectacular awards season for a film which has racked up more than 100 award nominations to date.

(Back in October, Decerry reviewed this movie and gave it a 10/10, so don’t say we didn’t tell you to catch this one early.)

A volatile, symbiotic relationship between the uber-wealthy and the have-nots comes into full display in Parasite, which arrived on 4K Ultra HD Digital as well as Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand in January from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and NEON. Fans can now delve deep into the mind of filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, and the symbolism behind the film with an exclusive Q&A bonus feature with the acclaimed director.

PARASITE is now available on Blu-rayTM, DVD and Digital.

  • Blu-rayTM unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
  • Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.
  • MOVIES ANYWHERE is the digital app that simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-rayTM and DVD disc packages from participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere. MOVIES ANYWHERE is only available in the United States. For more information, visit https://moviesanywhere.com.

In Parasite, meet the Park family, the picture of aspirational wealth and the Kim family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide “indispensable” luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims’ newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.

Now you really have no excuse to have not seen it.

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UC Berkeley Tang Center: Xenophobia a “Common” and “Normal” reaction to the Coronavirus

In an incident full of irony on multiple levels, UC Berkeley’s University Health Services Tang Center, named after donor and Hong Kong businessman Jack Tang, posted the above note on social media for Cal students, many of whom are Asian descent.   Xenophobia is a common and normal reaction to the Coronavirus situation?  After criticism like the tweet below from an Berkeley alum,  the Health Center apologized, deleted the xenophobia bullet, and put the updated version here.

The question remains:  is xenophobia a common and normal reaction along with guilt about it?  There are reports of Asian Americans being attacked because of coronavirus concerns among other incidents.  I’d say that given US history and current, xenophobia from virus news is not uncommon but shouldn’t be normal and definitely not right.  The part I wonder about is whether people feeling xenophobic because of the virus actually feel guilty.

On a side note, there are reports of Chinatown businesses losing a lot of business.  It’s hard to pin that down to xenophobia as the Asian locals might be staying away.  I had dinner last week at my favorite Malaysian restaurant in Milpitas, and the usually crowded restaurant was almost empty.  The waiter blamed it on coronavirus fears, particularly from the large Chinese population of Milpitas.  Milpitas Square, a large Asian mall also in Milpitas, had plenty of parking spaces at lunch last week, something that usually doesn’t happen on a weekday.

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NYC Theater Review: Border People

Border People is a journalistic one-man theater piece by Dan Hoyle that dwells on the broad theme of “borders.” It’s now being performed at A.R.T. / New York Theatres in New York City. Based on in-depth conversations and interviews at places in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, Hoyle enacts first one person, then another person, in a string of edited interview snippets from people whose live have been shaped by one kind of a border or another–from those who have literally tried to cross the border, to those who lives are more metaphorically on a border.

The lines are poignant, ricocheting from comedic to dramatic in a beat, and the stories are compelling, heart-breaking, and human. From a high school kid talking about prom in Buffalo and his life growing up in Afghanistan, to a pagan farmer living in southern Arizona who talks to his goats. A black guy from the Bronx on why he wears sweater vests and Jordans to convey so much history and baggage that goes unsaid. A Saudi-born Palestinian, who having fled Saudi Arabia for the U.S., is now leaving for Canada. There’s a lot of heart in how Hoyle brings the emotions of the experience to the fore.

That being said, it’s hard to get over the fact that Hoyle is white. That he’s a white guy acting as mostly non-white people for a predominantly white audience. It’s something overtly acknowledged throughout the work, with Hoyle incorporating self-referential snippets from his interviewees. And it certainly feels like Hoyle’s process of “the journalism of hanging out” is sincere and thorough. He’s invested, as the conversation reprinted in the program says, “in trying to see the world through the eyes of folks there, of listening deeply.” He goes on, “I always get permission from the people I meet. I ask questions but I try to let go of any agenda I might have and let the people I’m hanging out with be in charge.”

As a result, there are real truths at the heart of Border People. But still. And yet.

Border People is written and performed by Dan Hoyle and directed by Nicole A. Watson. It is playing at A.R.T. / New York Theatres until February 22. Tickets are $30 for general admission and $40 for reserved seating. Discounts are available for students, seniors, union members and groups. Visit https://theworkingtheater.org/ to learn more or purchase tickets.

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Asian American Commercial Watch: Samsung’s ‘Galaxy Note10: Mission Statement from Kevin Lin’

I first met fellow Taiwanese American entrepreneur Kevin Lin over a decade ago when he was first working on Justin.tv before that company pivoted to become the very successful Twitch (which was acquired by Amazon for $970 million in cash.) I met him again over a decade later I think at a Taiwanese American conference where I was shocked that he remembered me.  I had forgotten that we had met until he reminded when we had met in the past! Then again, the Taiwanese American community is extremely small.

Kevin now stars in a Samsung commercial about the Samsung Galaxy10 Note as well as himself:

“Kevin Lin never thought he could impact anybody. Now, co-founder of Twitch and Gold House, he’s one of the biggest connectors in the world. He talked about the importance of giving back to young entrepreneurs and how the #GalaxyNote10 helps him connect, manage his busy schedule, and also have a little bit of fun.”

I had not heard of anything before about Gold House, but taking a look at it’s website:

“Gold House is a nonprofit collective of diverse leaders dedicated to forging stronger relationships that empower Asians to have more authentic, more successful, and healthier lives to, in turn, advance all of society.”

It looks like the organization also honors every May for AAPI Heritage Month a list of 100 (“A100”) the most impactful Asians and Asian American & Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in culture – which sounds like kind of a more modern twist and broader inclusion of the ‘Committee of 100’ (which always sounded like an evil James Bond-esque organization like Spectre)

I haven’t bumped into Kevin in a few years and wonder what else he’s up to these days. Hope to catch up with him soon …

 

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Apple’s 2020 Chinese New Year Short: Daughter

In the last few years, Apple has been sponsoring Chinese New Year themed shorts that are shot entirely from an iPhone.  Ad Age points out that 2020’s movie features director Theodore Melfi (“Hidden Figures,” “St. Vincent“) and Chinese actress Zhou Xun.

Apple is not the only American company to make Chinese New Year oriented films/commercials.  John posted about this one from Nike.  I personally like the Apple one better, as the family issues portrayed resonate better to me.  If you liked Daughter, you might want to check Apple Chinese New Year Short from 2019. as well as this video about the making of Daughter.

(h/t: VL)

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Netflix “The Healing Powers of Dude” Actress Sophie Kim

Recently, the Netflix TV series ‘The Healing Powers of Dude” premiered:

“Meet Noah, he’s an 11-year-old with social anxiety disorder starting middle school. School can be tough, but with the help of his emotional support dog, Dude, plus his friends and family, maybe it can be less scary. The Healing Powers of Dude arrives January 13 on Netflix.”

One of Noah’s friends is Amara, played by Sophie Kim. I happen to be friends and former colleagues  with Sophie Kim’s mom. When I saw Sophie Kim’s mom post about her daughter about this, I knew I had to write about this TV series and her role in it:

“Ninety-five percent of characters with disabilities are played by actors without those disabilities. Amara, however, is played by Sophie Kim, an eleven-year-old with muscular dystrophy who has used a wheelchair since she was four years old. The production team committed early on to finding a young actress who uses a wheelchair, holding a nationwide search to find Sophie, and then adapting the role to her real-life experiences. “Representation is very important to us, as well as to Netflix,” said Spates and Littenberg-Weisberg. “We understand the power of seeing yourself represented in media and that the more you see it, the more it can become commonplace… [Casting Sophie] was one of the best decisions we made making this show. There was never a moment where Sophie didn’t show up to set ready to slay her scene. Nothing about her disability ever hindered production in any way.””

As noted above, one rarely see actual actors with disabilities playing a disabled person in TV or film, let alone an Asian American disabled person. The only TV series I can recall prominently highlighting a disabled person in a regular role is “Walt Jr. / Flynn” in ‘Breaking Bad’ (where the character has cerebral palsy, the actor had a milder case of the same condition).

Netflix does a short video segment with Sophie:

Sophie has an amazing singing voice and comes across eloquently, much wiser than her age suggests. I hope that Sophie is able to continue acting in future roles if that’s what she wants to do.  She’s only 11!

 

 

 

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Asian American Commercial Watch: Nike’s Lunar New Year Ad – ‘The Great Chase’

When I first saw this Nike ad for the Chinese New Year in China, I loved it. It brought back many memories of my father fighting over a bill with others at a Chinese restaurant. As noted in this article:

“The ad, which was released just before the Year of The Rat kicks off on Saturday, features the Chinese custom of giving out money-filled red envelopes, which are typically distributed by family elders. While it’s respectful for kids to initially decline the packet, the young girl in the spot takes it to the extreme when her equally-stubborn aunt attempts to give her the New Year’s gift.  …   The result is a cat-and-mouse chase on foot, spanning years, across rooftops and alongside rivers.

Chinese viewers found the ad particularly amusing because of the uncomfortably aggressive, yet also hilarious politeness and humility displayed between the pair. While the “polite fight,” in the spot involves the New Year’s tradition, the contentious back-and-forth is well-known to be prompted by the check at the end of a meal out.”


If you’ve grown up in an Asian household, the practice of fighting over a bill in a group setting or being excessively polite when treated or invited or providing gifts, is quite common, at least from what I’ve seen among Chinese and Taiwanese families.

 

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Fire Likely Destroys Museum of Chinese in America Collection

Last Thursday, a fire at 70 Mulberry Street in New York City’s Chinatown likely destroyed  85,000+ objects that comprise the collection of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). The main museum is at 215 Centre Street, but 70 Mulberry housed the museum’s painstakingly accumulated archives and collections.

The fire is out, but the building remains structurally unsound and what might be left of the archives is inaccessible and assuredly drenched in water. In addition to MOCA’s collection, the building housed a number of other community organizations, including the H.T. Chen Dance Company, Chinatown Manpower Project, Chinatown Senior Center, and United East Athletes Association.

For me personally, it’s the likely destruction of MOCA’s collection that has hit hardest. When MOCA began, it was the only repository of Chinese American history on the East Coast. Staff members and volunteers literally roamed the streets of Chinatown salvaging materials from dumpsters, closing storefronts, and elderly residents. It’s an irreplaceable collection that’s been built up over decades by and for the community. I and countless others have spent hours in their archives, looking at unique materials including treasured family objects, and working with their staff to research and uncover stories from our past.

I have no words but to ask, if you can, to consider donating to MOCA’s recovery fund either on Go Fund Me https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/mocafirerecovery or directly on their website https://www.mocanyc.org/

MOCA continues to post updates on its social media pages: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

Update: This excellent article from Hua Hsu, “What We Lost in the Museum of Chinese in America Fire,” New Yorker which offers additional perspective on the value of the collection and some background on the turmoil MOCA as an institution has been mired in of late.

(photo credit:  Jim Henderson under CC: 3.0)

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