The New Yorker Documentary: ‘Inside Andrew Yang’s Doomed Run for Mayor ‘

Back in January 2021, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced his candidacy for mayor of New York. Yang had garnered a lot of media attention during his run, especially on his signature platform issue of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Thus, at his mayoral launch, Yang was considered the front runner due to his high name recognition.

The New Yorker recently debuted their mini-documetary (34 minutes) online, The Andrew Yang Show:

“The Andrew Yang Show,” a new documentary directed by Sara Joe Wolansky and Gareth Smit, goes behind the scenes to witness how Yang’s outlook and temperament changed as he experienced the highs and lows of political fame.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I did not and could not easily follow too closely the mayoral campaign. I was excited about the possibility of an Asian American becoming mayor of the largest city in the United States thoughYang, although initally a front runner in the race, garnered fourth place, and he quickly conceded that he would not make it through the Demcratic Party primary.

The mini-documentary itself is fairly interesting to me as I didn’t see a lot of media coverage of the race. I did feel that it doesn’t go into the details or provide enough analysis in my opinion as to why Yang had such a poor showing at the polls.

Eventual mayoral winner and former police captain  Eric Adams had a deep history in New York City as well as capitalized on New Yorker’s increasing concerns about the rise of crime in New York:

The turning point in the race came with the Times Square shooting of May, 2021, when three bystanders were injured after someone opened fire, following a dispute, on a busy street. “It was at that point where the conversation really shifted toward public safety,” Elizabeth Kim, of Gothamist and WNYC, says. The focus was now on Eric Adams, a former N.Y.P.D. captain, who had campaigned on public safety. Yang tried to pivot to the crime issue and went on the offensive against Adams. He even campaigned with Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, ostensibly to promote ranked-choice voting. But their partnership was not enough to stop Adams, who won the Democratic primary and eventually beat the Republican candidate, Curtis Sliwa, in the general election.

I suspect that Yang didn’t do well since voters were looking for someone with any experience in local or political office. Yang did speak out during all the hate crimes being commited against Asian Americans and supporting the #StopAsianHate movement, but that alone wasn’t enough to garner more support. Yang was still primairly known for his presidential signature policy issue, UBI, but tailored for New York City.

Additionally, Yang admitted (which was confirmed by voting records) that he had never voted in  the New York mayoral races. To me, that would be an issue. I have voted in every single election I’ve ever had the opportunity to after college (during college, I wasn’t too sure if I was eligble to vote in the state of New York or in Massachusetts). Personally, I think in a democracy, if you don’t vote, you might as well move to an authoritarian country. In a democracy, freedom and rights come with responsibilities, including voting.

I also think that being mayor is actually a harder day-to-day job than being president (aside from having to deal with any military/national security decisions or national disasters). As mayor, you are directly accountable to the citizenry you represent. The mini-documentary did show some of Yang’s self-inflicted wounds, where Yang could have been more prepared and better versed in the local issues concerning New Yorkers.

In the final round of ranked choice voting in the primary (the first time New York City ever implemented the system, I believe) before Yang got eliminated, he got 14.8% of the vote:

I don’t know much about Kathryn Garcia or Maya Wiley, but from briefly reading their Wikipedia entries, it looks like they definitely both had more experience rooted in New York City government and Democratic politics (in a VERY Democratic city).

If you’re interested in learning more about Yang’s run for mayor, you should definitely give this mini-documentary a look.

 

 

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‘Try Harder’ Documentary – Theatrical Release (and limited ticket giveway) this Weekend in NY, LA & SF Bay Area

The last Debbie Lum documentary I saw was back in 2013 at CAAMFest, ‘Single Asian Female,’ exploring the desirability of Single Asian Females (SAFs), in particular by non-Asian men and following a San Francisco Bay Area white man, Steven, who winds up going to China to find a wife. I enjoyed the documentary despite finding the Steven a bit odd to say the least … Well, now Lum’s new documentary ‘Try Harder’, a look at San Francisco’s Lowell High School, is making its theatrical release after making it through the film festival circuit, where it won the following honors:

  • WINNER – 2021 Doc Edge Film Festival
  • Official Selection – 2021 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • Official Selection – 2021 AFI DOCS
  • Opening Night – 2021 CAAMFest
  • Official Selection – 2021 DOC NYC

The film summary:

“San Francisco’s Lowell High, one of the best public schools in the country, draws high achievers–nearly 70% Asian Americans–from across the city into a fiercely competitive universe. The camera follows seniors through the hallways and into classrooms as the pressure intensifies to impress admissions officers at elite universities with their report cards, test scores, and overall awesomeness. The students proudly own their identity as nerds and tell their stories with candor and humor despite the stress. Will they achieve their dreams? What happens if they fail?”

I saw the documentary at an early virtual screening event and enjoyed it – not a surprise given that it is 96% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes (with 28 reviews as of this writing).

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Pixar’s ‘Turning Red’ Official Trailer

Earlier in September, we blogged about a new Pixar Asian-led animated film ‘Turning Red’ was coming out in March 2022. The official first trailer has been released recently:

“Disney and Pixar’s “Turning Red” introduces Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming (voice of Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS), she “poofs” into a giant red panda! Directed by Academy Award® winner Domee Shi (Pixar short “Bao”) and produced by Lindsey Collins “Turning Red releases on March 11, 2022.”

There was a teaser trailer released earlier, but the above is the first official one. This trailer provides a lot more context and information as to what the film is about. I’m excited to see the film, especially to see how my nieces might react to the film.

 

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Chinese American WWII Veterans to be Honored with the Congressional Gold Medal

Chinese American WWII Veterans have been honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in a series of ceremonies across the countryThe Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition project pushed for recognition of Chinese American Veterans like Hazel Ying Lee, who died in service of the country yet did not receive a military funeral.  40% of Chinese Americans who served in WWII were not allowed US citizenship by the Chinese Exclusion act.

A bipartisan bill introduced in 2018 and signed by then President Trump made this happen. The last set of Chinese American WWII veterans will be honored in February of 2022 in Hawaii. Information on the regional ceremonies available on the regional ceremony listing.

 

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Simu Liu Guest Hosts ‘Saturday Night Live’

If you hadn’t heard, Simu Liu was guest host on ‘Saturday Night Live’ this past Saturday. Liu overall did a great job and was in a number of skits.

The funniest skit I thought was the ‘Simu & Bowen’ skit where they are both congratulating each other on being the first Asians in various categories.

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Golden State Warriors Honor AAPI ‘Stop Asian Hate’ Leaders During Asian Heritage Night

I’ve been to the NBA Golden State Warrior’s new arena, the Chase Center, twice since the Fall of 2019 when it first opened. But Sunday, November 21st, was my first time for 8Asians, to cover ‘Asian Heritage Night‘, which was sponsored (or “presented”) by Cache Creek. I was most interested in the two being honored for their work on ‘Stop AAPI Hate’ – Cynthia Choi and Russell Jeung.

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8mm Review (Non-Spoiler): Jimmy O. Yang Stars in Christmas RomCom ‘Love Hard’

I heard about Love Hard a few months ago, and I thought that it was interesting that Yang was going to be in a romantic comedy, surprisingly starring against a white female lead. Yang is best known for his work in HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ series playing Jian-Yang (which I eventually got to like), as well as his minor but entertaining role in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ as obnoxious Bernard, and for his Amazon Prime Video comedy special.

I like Yang and met him in person after his standup show in San Francisco back in 2019. I say ‘surprisingly’ that Yang is starring against a white female lead because as we know in popular media, we rarely see an Asian Male with a White Female (AM/WF).

The plot of Love Hard‘ is not too particularly unique:

A romantic comedy about the lies we tell for love. An unlucky-in-love LA girl Natalie (Nina Dobrev) falls for a rugged East Coast guy Tag (Darren Barnet) on a dating app and decides to surprise him for the holidays—only to discover that she’s been catfished by his childhood friend Josh (Jimmy O. Yang).

Like most romantic comedies, Love Hard is fairly predictable. I’m sure you can guess how the film ends. Still, it’s a funny Christmas holiday romantic comedy. I was pleasantly surprised to see both James Saito and Harry Shum Jr. play Josh’s father and brother respectively  (though Shum’s character is a bit exaggerated). Both of their characters’ wives are non-Asian.

As of this writing, on Rotten Tomatoes it scores a 56% (based on 18 reviews) and an audience score of 96% (with over 1,000+ reviews). More surprising is that it was the #1 film on Netflix the week it came out.    It’s no When Harry Met Sally, which is my all time favorite romantic comedy, but if you’re into light romantic comedies without a lot of expectations, I recommend Love Hard.

 Love Hard is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

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8mm Film Review (Non-Spoiler): ‘Eternals’

I enjoyed watched Eternals last week and  and finally got around to writing this review.  Eternals is currently the lowest rated Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) rated film (by critics) on Rotten Tomatoes  (at 47% of this writing) which I think is a disservice to the film! I saw the film on Thursday evening of opening weekend, and the verified audience rating, was 80% – with over 5,000 ‘verified’ reviews). Having recently caught up on watching Marvel’s Black Widow (I thought the film kind of sucked), I would have to say that I enjoyed it way more than Black Widow, but not as much as I enjoyed Shang-Chi.

The scope and scale of Eternals is kind of unprecedented. First of all, you have 10 super heroes over a history of 7,000 years as well as some other backstories about the universe. The back-and-forth between the past and present can get disorienting at times. Because of the scale and scope, there is a lot of exposition, but that would be the case of any origin film.  With Eternals, this is multiplied because of the time scale and number of characters. As to be expected from a Chloe Zhao film, the cinematography and overall design was fantastic. It’s a  visually beautiful film. Marvel definitely did not spare any expense on the quality of visual effects as well (except for the mid-credit scene).

The official summary of Eternals is:

Marvel Studios’ Eternals features an exciting new team of Super Heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, an unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against mankind’s most ancient enemy, the Deviants.

I can understand the criticism, since at some points of the film, there are definitely pacing issues. The film is long, and it has to be long given the scope and scale. Some of the reviews I’ve watched say that the film would have been better as a Disney+ Marvel series, but I don’t think the economics would work out as a series. Many critics complain about not having a lot of action – which I can understand, but the film is really setting up the next stage of the MCU. Tonally, Eternals is not like your typical MCU film – very different – definitely more serious and somber in nature. There are definitely elements of humor sprinkled here and there, but much more sublte.

The acting is great. Gemma Chan plays a major role as Sersi, a bigger role than I thought she would have. Not all of the Eternals get equal time treatment and there are definitely a few surprises that caught me off guard. The I know a lot of haters were slamming Eternals as somehow politically correct and “woke” because it had a diverse cast of superheroes. That’s sad. The Eternals’ mission was to watch over humans as they developed over time, so it totally makes total sense to have a diverse group of superheroes. Some have been review bombing the film because they think Marvel is being “politically correct.” Eternals had its first sex scene, but it was really brief. I mean, no big deal, I think you see way more on broadcast tv, and there was a same sex kiss scene, which was brief, and again, no big deal.

As far as the mid-credit and end-credit scenes, I am an MCU fan, but I do not know everything about the universe beyond the comic books I read as a kid (Spider-man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Galactica, Secret Wars, etc.), so after the film when I got home, I checked out the Internet to learn more about what exactly I watched.

If you like Marvel films and if you like Chloe Zhao films, you should definitely see this film.

 

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8Books Review: The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu

How can you say no to a story set in a donut shop? You can’t. You shouldn’t. Julie Tieu’s debut novel The Donut Shop is a delightful story about finding your way, about family and love and all that good stuff.

Jasmine Tran is out of luck — she’s got no job, no boyfriend, and she’s back at home working at her parent’s donut shop. It’s not the glamorous post-college life she envisioned for herself. Then an old college crush strolls back into her life. The high school boyfriend makes an appearance. And amidst all the romance you also get the story of a daughter, trying to figure out how to be helpful to her parents, to help the shop survive a brutal rent hike, to deal with the constant comparisons to her “perfect” brother, and most troubling and confounding to Jasmine, how not to disappoint them.

This is a fun read, with all the awkwardness and heart, laughter and tears, you want in a coming of age story. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a donut or two before you dive in. You’ll be hungry and / or desperately craving one by the time you’re even partway through this fun adventure.

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NYC Theater Review: Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord

Kristina Wong. Photo by Tom Fowler

“Please, no plays about the pandemic.” I remember as early on as April of 2020 theatre-twitter was begging playwrights and creators to take heed – we did not and do not want to see art about the pandemic; especially while we are still living in the pandemic.

Kristina Wong’s Sweatshop Overlord may be the one exception.

Intimately staged at New York Theatre Workshop, Wong immediately invites the audience in to join her on the ups and downs of her unique pandemic experience lording over sewing aunties to provide masks and aid where more formalized institutions failed. Wong shares her deeply personal reflections on the existential crisis she was thrown into as a theatre artist when theatre ceased to exist, which is brilliantly cut together with the pandemic milestones we all, unfortunately, lived through. Both the low-lows and the occasional highs made me laugh out loud at how much trauma we have collectively experienced and I cheered along with the rest of the audience at the moments of perseverance and bravery Wong recollects. A reminder that a well crafted play is at once highly personal and deeply universal.

With the energy of a performer who once feared they would never be on stage again, and with the mastery of a storytelling professional, we are in good hands with Wong and the direction of Chaw Yew.

There are several clever costuming moments courtesy of Linda Cho, and Junghyun Georgia Lee’s set provides the perfect playground for Wong. Amith Chandrashaker’s lighting design does a great job of assisting in the tonal shifts of the show, which could otherwise be a little jarring, and Mikhail Fiksel’s sound design enhances Wong’s overlord powers in a believable and comedic way. Projection design by Caite Hevner delivers the real heart-beat of the show, showcasing the sentimental moments of the Auntie Sewing Squad, as well as the already-historic imagery of pandemic photo-journalism. Shout out to the NYTW crew as well who nail some comedic assists and remind us it takes a village, or in this case a squad, to pull off a one-woman show.

Overall Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord, is a reminder of what we, the vaccinated audience in New York, may have the privilege to forget once and a while – that this pandemic is not over. So don’t miss your chance to celebrate the return of live theatre. Treat yourself, and whoever helped get you through 2020, to a night out with Kristina Wong. You’ve earned it.

Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord is playing at the New York Theatre Workshop until November 21, 2021. Run time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and more information, visit https://www.nytw.org/show/kristina-wong-sweatshop-overlord/

Laura Lee is a sometimes-actor, sometimes-writer, all-the-time-mixed-race-Asian-American living in New York City.

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Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan Dies After Struck by Car While Walking Dog

Earlier this week, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan died after being struck by car while walking her dog. That only goes to show how random life can be and how we should treasure our time on the earth as you never know what might happen next.

I didn’t know Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan at all, but she was a historic Asian American political figure – someone who made strides in California politics long before I moved here in the late 1990s:

“Chan’s career in politics spanned 30 years. She was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors first in 1994 and then again in 2010.

In between, she served in the California State Assembly, including as majority leader.

But beyond her political accomplishments, Chan is also seen by many in the state as a leader for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

Breaking glass ceilings and addressing issues that matter most to the group, says Bill Wong, the political director for California Assembly Democrats.”

In fact, Chan made history:

“She served as Assembly Majority Whip from 2001 to 2002 and from 2002 to 2004 as [California State]  Assembly Majority Leader, the first woman and the first Asian American to hold the position.”

Chan inspired many. I have seen quite a few of those I know politically who have posted about Chan’s tragic passing on social media. My thoughts are with Chan’s family and friends.

 

 

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Taiwanese American Michelle Wu Elected Mayor of Boston – Makes History!

Taiwanese American Michelle Wu makes history as she is elected mayor of Boston – the first elected female mayor of Boston ever (current Mayor Kim Janey was appointed after Boston mayor Marty Walsh became Secretary of Labor in the Biden administration) – and I have to believe, the first Taiwanese American ever to be elected as mayor of a major U.S. city.

I’m in awe what Michelle has accomplished at age 36 given the personal challenges she’s had to overcome:

“Ms. Wu was born shortly after her parents immigrated from Taiwan, intent on setting the next generation up for success.

Han Wu, a chemical engineer, had been offered a spot as a graduate student at Illinois Institute of Technology. But he and his wife, Yu-Min, barely spoke English, and so, from the age of 4 or 5, their oldest daughter, known in Mandarin as Wu Mi, served as their interpreter, helping them navigate bureaucracy and fill out forms.

At her suburban Chicago high school, she was Michelle. She stacked up A.P. classes, joined the math team and color guard, and earned perfect scores on the SAT and ACT exams. As co-valedictorian, she wowed the audience at graduation with a piano solo from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Politics, however, was off the table; their parents, raised by parents who fled famine and civil war in China, viewed it as a corrupt, high-risk vocation. They wanted Michelle to go into medicine, along a “pipeline of tests and degrees to a stable, happy life,” she said. When she left for Harvard — something her parents had hoped for her whole life — Ms. Wu was not sure whether she was a Republican or a Democrat.

It was while she was at Harvard that her family came unraveled.

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