Smartwatch Heart Rate Monitoring for Darker Skin

As a smartwatch user who uses one to track health and fitness statistics, I have wondered how accurate it is, especially since my skin tone is on the darker side (see picture).  We have written about how pulse oximeters have been shown to be less accurate on people of color, but what about heart rate monitoring using smartwatches?  Are there similar issues?

I found this systematic review of studies looking at smartwatch heart rate data accuracy vs skin tone. Out of 10 studies found, four reported a significant reduction in accuracy for those with darker skin. Four studies noted no effect, and two had mixed results. The review states that that preliminary evidence is inconclusive. The lead author of the study, Dr. Daniel Koerber, says in an interview:

Ongoing research and development of these devices should emphasize the inclusion of populations of all skin tones so that the developed algorithms can best accommodate for variations in innate skin light absorption.

I wondered why some studies would show an effect from skin tone while others did not. The systematic review pointed out that the studies were not blind and had small sample sizes while using different devices. I think the using different devices makes a large difference.  I looked up how my Garmin smartwatch that I use is affected for skin tone issue.  Garmin says that their watches compensate for dark skin by using more light. Darker skinned people may see slightly more power being used.

My takeaway from looking at this question is that smartwatch heart rate monitoring can be accurate for dark skin. Buyers for smartwatches who want to use this feature should look up for themselves whether or not the smart watch that they want for heart rate monitoring compensates for their skin tone.

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CAAMFest 2023: Review – Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story

I was supposed to review Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story (trailer here) during or around CAAMFest 2023, but I let the screener link expire and the screening during CAAMFest was on Mother’s Day. I finally reached out to the filmakers and was able to watch the documentary. When I first saw the list of films that were going to be screened at CAAMFest and saw this one listed, I knew I had to watch it.

I was a “friend” of Corky Lee, at least on Facebook but had never met him nor did I really know much about Lee (except that he appeared to be a photographer based on all of his postings) until I watched the documentary Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story:

“Born in Queens, Corky Lee, for a half-century, had been documenting New York  City’s Asian American community.   

His photos show the little-known struggle of Asians in America,  including civil rights protests, racist immigration legislation, and  violence towards Sikhs and Muslims of Asian descent since 9/11. “

Having blogged for 8Asians since January 2007, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the Asian American community (Corky & I have 77 mutual friends on Facebook) and learn about our history. I knew that Lee was a photographer and that was about it. After the watching the documentary, I could really relate to him, as his ethos was – that if an event wasn’t photographed, it really didn’t happen.

I also try to live by that ethos, except that I would add that if also wasn’t recorded on video, it didn’t happen. In many ways, my efforts to document events on 8Asians is the very same as Corky’s – if I’m not going to do it, who is? That’s why I’ve tried to document Asian American events or people that don’t get as much coverage that I am interested in, in particular around politics, and think I have one of the deepest coverage and focus on Asian Americans for certain events, like at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 & 2016, Fred Korematsu Day in California, the City of San Jose apology to Chinese Americans, Celebration & Commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Wong Kim Ark Day [3/28/1898] in San Francisco, etc.

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125th Anniversary of Wong Kim Ark Day [3/28/1898] – Celebration & Commemoration

Another blog post I am woefully late on (but did post the video on YouTube shortly afterwards). I had attended the 125th anniversary back on March 25th commemorating and celebrating the landmark Supreme Court decision of U.S. vs. Wong Kim Ark:

“Wong Kim Ark, who was born in San Francisco in 1873, had been denied re-entry to the United States after a trip abroad, under a law restricting Chinese immigration and prohibiting immigrants from China from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. He challenged the government’s refusal to recognize his citizenship, and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, holding that the citizenship language in the Fourteenth Amendment encompassed the circumstances of his birth and could not be limited in its effect by an act of Congress.”

I had first learned of Wong Kim Ark maybe 5 years ago while reading a review of a documentary about birthright citizenship. I had just assumed that this was because of the Fourteenth Amendment. In reality, it was re-affirmed and codified into law because of this case.

This celebration and commemoration occured in Chinatown in San Francisco and rightfully so. I had sent out my YouTube video of the commemoration to all of my Asian American and political friends, especially those in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with a lawyer I knew, along with this Washington Post article about the 125th anniversary:

“U.S. government officials considered citizenship claims by native-born children of Chinese immigrants to be an end run around the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the racist federal law that barred most Chinese immigrants from entering the United States. Wong became the government’s “test case” — chosen with the goal of defeating birthright citizenship for the children of “undesirable” immigrants.

Wong relied on the Citizenship Clause to defend his right to remain in the United States. Wong was born in San Francisco around 1870, the son of Chinese immigrants who were barred by federal law from naturalizing based on their race. He lived in the United States most of his life, working as a cook and a laborer. Wong knew he was an American at birth.

But when Wong tried to return home after a visit to China in August of 1895, his government barred him from entering, denying his citizenship despite conceding his birth in the United States.

But the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause was written in race-neutral terms. Conrad was forced to argue against citizenship for the children of all noncitizen parents on the ground they were not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, as that Clause requires. This breathtaking claim would have stripped citizenship from hundreds of thousands of people born in the United States to immigrant parents.

It was also wrong. As members of the Reconstruction Congress explained in 1866, the narrow exception to birthright citizenship applied only to the children of diplomats and those born into Native American tribes, who were under the “jurisdiction” of a separate sovereign and did not need to comply with all U.S. laws. In contrast, immigrants and their children living in the United States were and are required to follow all federal and state laws or face criminal and civil penalties and so are fully “subject” to the nation’s “jurisdiction.”

After deliberating for over a year, on March 28, 1898, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s argument and held that the native-born children of immigrants are citizens at birth. Wong’s victory was a surprise coming from a court that two years earlier had upheld “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson, and that frequently ruled against a group it referred to as the “obnoxious Chinese.””

I was surprised that my SF Bay Area political friends were not aware of the Wong Kim Ark case. It made me think of SF City Attorney David Chiu’s remarks at the event that a Hollywood film should be made about him. I was especially surprised that some lawyer friends didn’t know because I thought this would be taught in law school.

In any case, I was especially moved to see that some direct descendants of Wong Kim Ark were in attendance – literally living history. One of the joys over the years while I’ve been blogging for 8Asians is to educate myself and share about all the historic and interesting events and Asian Americans I’ve come to learn about, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, where some of the first Asian Americans became deeply rooted in the United States.

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Andrew Yang & Moving Forward Together with the Common Sense Party – San Francisco (4/21/23)

Speakers in the video above – in order of appearance: (click on “Watch on YouTube” for entire timestamped video segments in the video description)

  • Sara Lashanlo, Northern California Volunteer Coordinator, Common Sense Party
  • Andrew Yang, Co-Chair, Forward Party
  • Tom Campbell, Chair, Common Sense Party
  • Quentin Kopp, co-founder of Common Sense Party, former San Francisco Board of Supervisor, California State Senator, California (San Mateo) Superior Court judge
  • Lindsey Williams Drath, Forward Party
  • CEO Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair, Forward Party

I am woefully late in this blog post that I have been working on since April (though I did publish the video shortly after the event), but back on Friday, April 21st in San Francisco, Andrew Yang, co-chair of the Forward Party joined with co-chair former Governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman, to promote the Common Sense Party in California. When I first saw the news that Yang & Whitman were visiting both San Francisco and Los Angeles regarding this, I was a little confused.

The political press didn’t report much on the alliance of the two parties, and I didn’t see the press release back in January (‘Common Sense Party and Forward Party Join Forces in California’):

“In a move to empower independent-minded California voters, the Common Sense Party and Forward Party of California are combining efforts to change politics in the Golden State for the better. Using the ‘Common Sense Party’ name, this new political coalition is the future for independent-minded and solutions-oriented politics in California. This joint effort reflects a commitment to unleashing the political power of state and local leaders to better represent our diverse communities through common sense problem solving in government. … Under California law, new parties must register approximately 73k voters to be officially recognized as a political party in the state. Forward Party members in California will now register for the Common Sense Party, joining the already nearly 30k registered Common Sense Party voters. Volunteers across the state will be able to work together at the grassroots level, leading through our shared values of cooperation and problem solving.”

I was able to attend this event in San Francisco to learn more about this coalition and also meet and interview both Yang and Whitman. You can watch the whole event in the video above and my interview below.

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US Memorial Day: Remembering Henry Chin of the Lost Battalion

Monument to the Lost Battalion

During this time when Asian Americans continue to be questioned for their loyalty and are still considered perpetual foreigners, it is worthwhile on US Memorial Day to note Asian Americans who fought and died for their country.  One such Asian American is Henry Chin, who was part of the famous Lost Battalion of World War 1. The story of the Lost Battalion became one of the most noted war time stories in the United States during that time, spawning news paper accounts and even a movie in 1919. Henry Chin is also portrayed in the 2001 movie The Lost Battalion.

The Lost Battalion, led by Major Charles Whittlesey, was a group of soldiers from the US Army 77th Infantry Division who fought to capture an objective and were then surrounded by German forces.  While taking enormous losses (> 72% casualty rate), they survived running low on food, water, and ammunition, German counter-attacks, and artillery barrages from US forces. Their resistance provided a distraction to German forces that contributed to an Allied breakthrough. Whittlesey and others received the Medal of Honor. Another famous Asian American WWI war hero, Lau Sing Kee, served in this division, although I can find no evidence that he was in the Lost Battalion incident.

More than 100 years after the Lost Battalion, it is hard to express just how much they captured the imagination of the US public at the time. The story gathered a lot of press at the time, particularly from famed newspaperman and short story writer Damon Runyon. A movie was created in 1919 that reenacted the story. Almost everyone in the United States knew the story. In the novel The Great Gatsby, Gatsby refers to war experiences that echoes the Lost Battalion. A number of books were published over the past 100 years about the Lost Battalion. The monument shown above was erected in 2008.

Getting back to Henry Chin, I couldn’t find a picture of him. As I mentioned, he is portrayed in the 2001 The Lost Battalion movie, but he isn’t on screen very long. The movie emphasizes that the 77th was mostly composed of New Yorkers, many of who were recent immigrants and whose loyalty was questioned but still were willing to fight for the their new country (it seems that some things do not change 100 years later). I thought it was fairly good (it has a 79% Rotten Tomatoes score) and would recommend it.

The Lost Battalion can be streamed or purchased on Amazon Prime. For a thorough overview on the Lost Battalion, this is a excellent talk. Our other US Memorial Day stories can be found here.


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A Short Review: Auntie

There comes a time in your life when a metaphorical slap in the face tells you that you are no longer the young hip person you may have thought that you once were.  In Fawzia Mirza‘s short film Auntie (IMDB entry here), lawyer Hena, played wonderfully by Vanita Kalra, goes to a meeting for South Asian lawyers and gets that slap for herself. I found this short to be very funny and particularly germane to people of my age.

Auntie movie poster

photo credit: Fawzia Mirza

As you may know, in many AAPI cultures, older people are addressed as “Uncle” or “Auntie” as a form of respect.  This is common in Hawaii, also. While I have had nieces and nephews who call me “Uncle” for quite some time, it is completely different when you get called out in public by people you don’t know. Auntie reminded me of one such moment. I went to watch a Warriors game at the Chase Center with Number Two Son and The Daughter’s boyfriend. After the game as we were waiting in line to get the escalator down and out, I hear behind me a woman say, “Uncle, can you take our picture?” I heard it but was unsure until Number Two Son said, “they are talking to you!” Turns out the Asians behind me thought I was now “Uncle” material. Number Two Son and The Daughter’s boyfriend thought it was hilarious (and yes, I did take their picture). Auntie, with its use of technology and interactions between different generations really made me think of my “Uncle” moment.

In addition to how it deals with generations, I really like Auntie‘s Asian American cultural elements.  Not my particular Asian American cultural group but with enough universality to make me identify with it. I particularly enjoyed the music which I had never heard before (Firestarter and Hot Mango Chutney Sauce).

As you can tell, I really enjoyed Auntie and recommend it. Even if you don’t, well, it’s a short!

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CAAMFest 2023: Review ‘Starring Jerry as Himself’

At CAAMFest, some friends of mine were interested in seeing Starring Jerry as Himself:

“Wait wait. How did we go from funny 80s immigrant family home videos to horror film infrasound playing behind an ominous phone call from Shanghai Police? How does sweet Gong Gong Jerry, a Taiwanese retired elder living in Orlando, become a suspect in a sophisticated international money laundering scheme? I mean, there has to be some kind of mistake! FREE JERRY! Overheard, “We need to investigate you or else we will have to charge you as a criminal.” Things from there get even more WILD, leaving us asking out loud, is this a documentary film pretending to be a narrative film? Are our minds racing and pupils dilated the whole time? Yes, yes they are. So, Jerry is the Florida version of Jason Bourne and Ke Huy Quan, and the whole time you will be rooting for him – his secret agent vibes, dad love language, and currents of candid loneliness. We’re totally not crying, it’s just raining on our faces. Also, have you checked-in with your parents today? (Hint: you better!)”

After seeing the trailer, I thought it was interesting enough that I’d go see it as well with them. I enjoyed the film, but from the trailer, it’s not exactly what you think it is and is done so in a way by the filmmakers on purpose. The director himself, before the film started, said the film was ‘weird.’

Starring Jerry as Himself’ (SJAH) is like a re-enactment of a real story done in a documentary style (“docufiction”), and I didn’t find it weird.

When Jerry, his son, and the director, walked on stage for the post screening panel, there was a standing ovation in support of Jerry’s ordeal.

The post screening panel helped provide a lot more context and answers. If you watch the video, it will kind of spoil the surprise of the film. That’s one reason why my review of the film is a bit generic.

One of the takeaways is certainly to try to have deeper conversations with you parents, especially as adult children and try to understand your immigrant parents before they leave you forever. Don’t let a crisis be the impetus to grow closer to your family, though sadly, that is often the case for many families.

After getting out of the theater, I was able to ask the director quickly when the film was being released widely, either streaming or in theater, and he said as he was running off elsewhere that they were still looking for distribution.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. I’m not sure the pacing (the movie didn’t drag – the film is only 75 minutes) and style would necessarily appeal to a mainstream audiences. There is an audience out there for it, especially once you understand the conclusion of actual events at the end, it has a very important message.

The film originally debuted at the Slamdance 2023 film festival (which runs concurrently in Park City during the Sundance film festival), and has been playing at other film festivals since then and has thus far received 3 out of 3 “fresh” reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

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CAAMFest and Disney+ preview American Born Chinese

Perhaps one of the most anticipated young adult Asian American media releases this year is Disney+’s upcoming streaming series American Born Chinese,   The series, set to release on May 24 on Disney+, is based on Gene Luen Yang’s award winning graphic novel of the same name. The series (and the book) follows the life of Jin Wang (played by Ben Wang – “Chang Can Dunk”), a Chinese American teenager navigating the angst of being a teenager interlaced with both overt and subtle racism at his high school.  Throw into the mix the son of the Monkey King (Wei-Chen Sun), the Monkey King, Pigsy and Guanyin, and you’ve almost got the equivalent of an Asian American Marvel Universe, with plenty of action packed Kung-fu scenes included.

The series expands and differs from the original graphic novel in interesting and sometimes touching ways. The setting moves from the 1980-90’s to present day, and adds a lot more color around the home family dynamics Jin Wang has to deal with in addition to his troubles at school, and highlights the troubles his parents, Simon and Christine Wang (played by Chin HanMortal Kombat and Yeo Yann YannWet Season) face navigating America as immigrants. Asian Americans who grew up in the U.S. will recognize many of the microaggressions, challenges, and dilemmas facing Jin Wang.  Gene Luen Yang captures many of the quintessential experiences, one of the many reasons Yang’s graphic novel has had so much acclaim and success.

The series stars an Asian/Asian American cast, including many of the key stars of Everything Everywhere All at Once  (winner of seven Oscars at the 2023 Academy Awards including best actress for Michelle YeohGuanyin and best supporting actor for Ke Huy QuanFreddy Wong). Add to that Emmy® Award-winning executive producer Kelvin Yu (“Bob’s Burgers,” “Central Park”), Lucy Liu directing an episode, and other Asian/Asian American actors, including Daniel Wu (“Reminiscence”), Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), and former Taekwondo champion Jimmy Liu  (“Just Add Magic”).

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CAAMFest 2023: Opening Night with ‘Joy Ride’ & Gala

For the first time since the pandemic, CAAMFest (Center for Asian American Media Festival) 2023 went full-tilt for the in-person attendee in San Francisco with the opening night film Joy Ride:

“From the producers of Neighbors and the co-screenwriter of Crazy Rich Asians, JOY RIDE stars Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Oscar® nominee Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu. The hilarious and unapologetically explicit story of identity and self-discovery centers on four unlikely friends who embark on a once-in-a-lifetime international adventure. When Audrey’s (Ashley Park) business trip to Asia goes sideways, she enlists the aid of Lolo (Sherry Cola), her irreverent, childhood best friend who also happens to be a hot mess, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), her college friend turned Chinese soap star, and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s eccentric cousin. Their no-holds-barred, epic experience becomes a journey of bonding, friendship, belonging, and wild debauchery that reveals the universal truth of what it means to know and love who you are.”

After seeing the “red band” (R-rated movie trailer) online of  Joy Ride and seeing the reviews of the film (100% “Fresh” with 13/13 reviews) after its world premiere at South by Southwest earlier this year, I *KNEW* I had to see this film and attend CAAMFest opening night when CAAM announced that ‘Joy Ride’ was going to kickoff the festival.

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Fanny: The Best Rock and Roll Band you Probably Never heard of

“They were just colossal and wonderful, and nobody’s ever mentioned them. They’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time.” – David Bowie in Rolling Stone

Fanny Movie PosterMy cousin told me about a ground breaking influential all female rock and roll band with Asian Americans that was largely forgotten.  I had never heard of Fanny before, and when I heard them perform Ain’t that Peculiar, a cover of Marvin Gaye’s hit,  I was stunned at what excellent musicians they were. So were some musicians analyzing this recording more than 50 years after it was made.  Key members of Fanny were sisters Jean and June Millington, who moved from the Philippines in 1961. The documentary Fanny: The Right to Rock (trailer above) tells their and other members of Fanny’s story, and it will be aired and streamed on PBS on May 22 and at CAAMFest 2023 on May 19. Best of all, Fanny will play for free the next day at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco on May 20, 2023, from 1:00-3:00 PM after some local artists open for them.

You might ask why you should bother watching the documentary and in particular, how Fanny was influential. we should recognize them as pioneers and their sacrifices.  There is a saying that “pioneers take the arrows,settlers take the land.” In the trailer, Bowie guitarist Earl Slick puts that in a succinct and NSFW way (around 1:58).  They were the first female rock band to release an album on a major label and paved the way for other female groups like The Runaways and The Bangles, who have cited them as key influences. Other groups today like the Linda Lindas have benefited from the path they created, and the Linda Lindas even introduced Fanny at Outfest 2021Fanny managed to put out five albums while struggling against racism and homophobia and a sexist music industry who wouldn’t take them seriously as musicians.  Finally, they put out some great music! I’m looking forward to seeing the documentary.

Fanny’s official website is here at


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C100 & Columbia University: The State of Chinese Americans

Recently, the Committee of 100 and Columbia University published a report on “The State of Chinese Americans”:

“New York, NY (April 27, 2023) Columbia University’s School of Social Work, one of the world’s leading research universities, and Committee of 100, a non-profit membership organization of prominent Chinese Americans, today announced the results from a year-long research project and survey that looked at the health, economic, and sociopolitical conditions of today’s Chinese American population.

The first and largest project of its kind, the “State of Chinese Americans” survey gathered information from nearly 6,500 participants from across the U.S., compiling data related to demographics, politics, cultural identity, health, economic security, and social engagement.”

I remember reading last October when the survey was going out and became interested to learn about the findings. Given how large the survey seemed to be in terms of its reach, I am impressed with the sample size of 6,500 respondents.

You can read the press release for the key highlight findings, including these 3 major categories:

1. Racism against Chinese Americans continues. 

  • Nearly 3 out of 4 (74%) Chinese Americans having experienced racial discrimination in the past 12 months;
  • 55% worrying about their safety relating to hate crimes or harassment;
  • 9% having been physically intimidated/assaulted and 7% having had property vandalized/damaged;
  • Nearly half of the survey respondents (46%) reported being treated with less respect than other people at least a few times in the past 12 months;
  • 1 in 5 reported that people made a racial slur, called them a name, or harassed them in person or online at least a few times in the past 12 months

I’m not surprised by these above survey results given the rise of Asian hate crimes.

2.The overwhelming majority of Chinese American citizens vote.
3.Chinese Americans are not homogenous. 

The  slides/data below (all slides courtesy of the Committee of 100 and Columbia University) intrigued me the most:

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American Born Chinese Trailer Reveals Differences from the Graphic Novel

After I heard about the upcoming Disney+ series American Born Chinese, I purchased and read the graphic novel by Gene Yuen. Now that the trailer has been released, I did notice some noticeable differences.  While some people really don’t like the change in story line compared to the book, which I can totally understand, I don’t think that I will mind given the cast and director and because it is pretty clear that it will be different.

I will know for sure where I mind when the series debuts on May 24.

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