The Stories of our Elders: Lola’s Sacrifices and Life Lessons

photo credit: Kenneth Tan

With our Asian American elders under attack, we should remember that one way to honor them is to preserve their stories. One really convenient and great way to do that is through StoryCorps, which provides apps to record their stories and a mechanism to share them online.  Some of the more interesting stories are shared on NPR.  I really liked one that the aired on NPR late last year called “Lola’s Work: What a Grandmother Taught Her Family About Love.”

“Lola” in Tagalog translates to “Grandmother” in English.  Kenneth Tan and his mother Olivia talk about his grandmother Crescenciana Tan- the sacrifices that she made and the lessons that she taught.  I found the her lesson on the different between a life’s work and a job to be particularly meaningful.  I also loved seeing the old pictures of the Lola when she was younger and full of life.  So many times we just think of our elders as just old and forget that they have had all kinds of experiences and adventures.

On occasion, StoryCorps will add animation to a story that they share.  This one called “No More Questions” was recorded just a few weeks before the elder in the story died.  I also recommend this animated version of a man’s memories of his son.

StoryCorps has a number of ways you can interview people and record their stories.  They have a mobile tour where they travel between cities offering appointments for recording stories.  They also provide an app and even a video conferencing option.  I recorded my father’s story on a mobile touring site and used the app to record my mother.   Note that recording stories doesn’t mean that NPR will necessarily air it.  Also, while NPR plays short segments of a few minutes, what you record can actually be much longer. The sessions with my parents were about an hour, but in some ways it doesn’t seem long enough and I am thinking about recording more.


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TurboVax creator Huge Ma honored by New York officials and Andrew Yang

TurboVax is a web site and twitter feed that helps New Yorkers simply and easily find and register for COVID-19 vaccinations.  New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang and Congressman Ritchie Torres honored TurboVax’s creator, Huge Ma, for his work to make it easy for thousands of New Yorkers to get COVID-19 vaccinations.  Before TurboVax, people looking for a vaccination would need to monitor three government websites and periodically refresh them to find an available appointment. Ma experienced this himself trying to get an appointment for his mother. For $50 and two weekends of coding, he created the site, built on top of Google Docs (a really clever hack, in my opinion).

In addition, Ma is using his platform to educate people about anti-Asian hate and providing links to organizations raising money to support Asian Americans.  Ma was previously honored by NY1 as New Yorker of the week.

When he isn’t guiding people to potentially life-saving vaccination appointments and fighting against hate, Ma is a software engineer at AirBnB.  He recently got his first vaccine a few days ago, more than a month after starting the TurboVax service.

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“Leave the Door Open” with Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak nears the Top of Charts

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak have formed the group Silk Sonic, and their release of Leave the Door Open is nearing the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart (I put a snippet of the charts below for the week of April 3, 2021 below).  Interestingly enough, another artist of Asian descent, Olivia Rodrigo, is currently right behind them with her former number 1 hit Drivers LicenseBTS is number 26 with Dynamite, and H.E.R. is further down the list at 58 with Damage.  I doubt there ever was a time when four acts with people of Asian descent were on the Hot 100 chart!

The Wife loves Leave the Door Open and plays it a lot. Looking forward to the rest of Silk Sonic’s upcoming album, An Evening with Silk Sonic.


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8Books Review: Simplicity at Home by Yumiko Sekine

Simplicity at Home: Japanese Rituals, Recipes, and Arrangements for Thoughtful Living is a wonderfully calming experience. Written by Yumiko Sekine, founder of Fog Linen Work, with gorgeous photos from Nao Shimizu, this is a guide to making a simple and thoughtful home, as well as a glimpse into how the author actually puts her ideas into practice in her own space.

Flipping through this book is quite soothing, everything is thoughtfully arranged, shelves are well-balanced, clothing drawers immaculately organized–yet there are still eclectic collections of bowls, pops of personality, so it’s not sterile or empty feeling as sometimes impeccably designed things can feel. Sekine walks visitors through the seasons, including advice and tips here and there, pulling from her own lifestyle and design sensibilities. There are also instructions and recipes scattered throughout. Some I feel are as simple as they look — a somen recipe for example, is one I might actually try, as are the bath salts. The two pages on how to carve your own wooden spoons, on the other hand, I’m quite dubious about. Definitely more aspirational than practical.

And I should say, to be clear, that I personally am a lover of stuff. I unsuccessfully tried to Marie Kondo my closet, and though I may briefly strive to follow Yumiko Sekine’s “bring one book in, let one book go” suggestion, it will be only short lived. Still, the writing is inviting and informative, and a reminder to be thoughtful, even about the little things. And need I say, one last time, it’s very peaceful to look at–even for someone who knows their home will never, ever, look anything like this.


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Asian American Frozen Foods: Tonkatsu Miso Ramen

I was at Costco recently and came across Pulmuone Foods USA’s Tonkatsu Miso Ramen. It looked appealing to me for two servings for a cost of $11.99. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a single bowl of ramen at a restaurant starts around that much, so this looked like a cost effective at home alternative.

Before moving to California, I don’t think I ever had real fresh ramen noodles in my life. I only had the instant ramen noodles, which really doesn’t do justice to the fresh kind. The noodles in the Pumuone package are “fresh” and not instant.  I’m really happy to say that these ramen noodles (the whole package) are the best ramen noodles I’ve “made” at home.

Let’s take a look at what’s in the package and how the ramen looks at various stages of preparation.  After that I will give my final take on these noodles.

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PBS Documentary ‘Asian Americans’ & More Available for Online Streaming (free)

With the rise of hate crimes against AAPIs due to the COVID-19 pandemic (exacerbated by the previous president’s “China virus” and “Kung Flu” rhetoric) and the recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, Jada Leng, PBS’s Business Strategy Director, Content and General Audience Programming, penned a recent article, “Violence Against Asian Americans,” writing:

“Congress held the first hearing on Asian American violence in decades on March 18 and when I heard Daniel Dae Kim testify and describe an experience he had with a pollster who told him Asian Americans were considered statistically insignificant, I was reminded of the five-part miniseries he narrated for PBS: Asian Americans.

I opened the PBS app and started to stream. I felt like my family was talking to me and trading stories about their experiences. I was comforted, we are significant. It was the hug I needed.

If you, too, are hurting, needing comfort or are curious to learn, more videos similar to Asian Americans are available for streaming below or on the PBS Video app. Additionally, resources to learn how to fight violence against Asian Americans are available.”

Asian Americans first aired in May 2020, and PBS has made the groundbreaking series available again online for streaming for free.  Here are links to each of the five episodes:

In addition, they have included these Asian American stories:

I hope that more Americans of all backgrounds will take advantage of this opportunity to learn how Asian Americans are Americans too.

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Grieving Asian Widow Receives “Go back to your country” Letter

Photo courtesy of the Seal Beach Police Department

After burying her husband Byong, Yong Choi received the letter that we have included in this post.  Byong and Yong Choi created successful businesses, raised four daughters, and then moved to the retirement community of Leisure World in Seal Beach, California.  While hateful acts against Asian Americans have been ramping up, this particular act, while not a physical attack, seems particularly cruel.

Since Joz first posted about this yesterday on the 8Asians Facebook page, there have been a few updates.  The Seal Beach police are actively involved and are looking to use fingerprints and DNA to track down the sender.   Leisure World has condemned the letter and says that they will expel the sender from their community if the author of the letter is found.

Seal Beach Police ask that anyone with information about the author of the letter contact Detective Jon Ainley at 562-799-4100, ext. 1113 or email [email protected].

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Pixar Makes “Float” and “Wind” Shorts Available to All during surge in Anti-Asian Hate

Pixar has made two Asian American themed shorts, Float and Wind, available on YouTube and free to all.  In statement on each of the shorts, Pixar explains why they did this:

Pixar Animation Studios and the SparkShorts filmmakers of {FLOAT|WIND} are in solidarity with the Asian and Asian American communities against Anti-Asian hate in all its forms. We are proud of the onscreen representation in this short and have decided to make it widely available, in celebration of what stories that feature Asian characters can do to promote inclusion everywhere.

Both shorts were previously only available on the Disney+ streaming service.

(h/t:  The Wife and TM)

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Steven Yeun Makes Oscars History as First-ever Asian American Lead Actor Nominee

It’s 2021, and it’s about damn time that an Asian American has been nominated for an Oscar for lead actor:

“Steven Yeun made history Monday morning with his Oscar nomination for his performance as Jacob, a Korean father who moves his family to a rural Arkansas farm during the 1980s, in Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari.”

Yeun becomes the first Asian American to be nominated in the lead actor category. Despite “Parasite’s” historic wins last year, the Oscars, like much of Hollywood, has an abysmal record when it comes to recognizing Asian and Asian American talent.

Best known for his tenure as Glenn in the long-running “The Walking Dead” as well as his acclaimed performance in 2018’s “Burning,” Yeun has spoken about his personal connection to “Minari” and the early pressure he felt around the role in a story rarely told in American movies.

“We’re still navigating a business and a career and an art form that doesn’t really have a lot of Asian Americans in it,” Yeun previously told The Times. “That’s changing. But it also leaves us with no real road map. So then every step feels new. Every step feels like frontier. I found pride for that lately.

Youn, a veteran Korean actress, also scored her first Oscar nomination Monday morning, for actress in a supporting role. She portrayed the foul-mouthed, wrestling-loving grandmother in “Minari” and is the first Korean performer to be nominated in any acting category.

Youn, a household name in South Korea, made her American film debut in “Minari.” It was reading and feeling the authenticity in Chung’s script that persuaded her to board the project.”

I mean, when you think about it, its kind of amazing that no other Asian American has ever been nominated for best actor before. I mean, we aren’t even talking about winning an Oscar for best actor, but just being nominated. We’ve come a long way from Long Duk Dong.

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NBA G League Dealing Internally with Player who called Jeremy Lin “Coronavirus”

The NBA has identified the player who Jeremy Lin said called him “coronavirus” during G-League play.  Lin, who went back to the NBA’s development league in order work  his way back into the NBA after playing for the Beijing Ducks, did not mention that individual’s name.  According to The Athletics’ Shams Charania, the League is handling the matter internally, and Jeremy Lin has met with the player to discuss the impact, which that player now understands.

It’s very compassionate of Lin to not reveal the players name – not sure I could do the same.   He summarizes his reasoning as follows:

I know this will disappoint some of you but I’m not naming or shaming anyone.  What good does it do in this situation for someone to be torn down?  It doesn’t make my community safer or solve any of our long-term problems with racism.

Lin has been very visible in highlighting the current assaults on Asian Americans.

The G League season is now done, with the Santa Cruz Warriors getting eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.  It’s not certain whether Jeremy Lin will get back to the NBA, as he mentions in this interview.  Whether he gets there or not, I think he has a lot to be proud of.

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8 Questions with Joses Wong, creator of the game Angry See Lai

In this post, we talk with Joses Wong, creator of the board game Angry See Lai. You don’t see Asian-oriented board games every day, so we took this opportunity to ask him 8 questions. At the end of the interview, you can see a special treat he has provided for our readers.

Can you give us a quick summary of the Angry See Lai game and what you consider its best aspects?

Angry See Lai (Asian moms) is an Asian-themed, easy to play, fun party game for 4-8 players! Work together with your family to lie, gossip, and tattle in order to shame others and gain honor by impressing the See Lais (Asian moms).

The best aspect of the game is its’ interactivity. In order to win, players need to work together with their secret teammate to gain the upper hand. As a result, players often doubt each other, lie about certain cards, and make poor choices. this can result in mass mayhem and confusion. The players often end up in uncontrollable laughter!

Would you tell us about yourselves?

Of course! My name is Joses, and my wife’s name is Susana. I was born in Halifax, moved to Hong Kong when I was 9, attended an American school there, and then returned to Canada for University. Susana was born in Toronto and pretty much lived there all her life. I was the one in charge of the theme and game design, while my wife took the lead in designing the beautiful art! We met at our local church and got married in July 2017!

What inspired you to create this game?

Great question! Although both Susanna and I had different experiences growing up, we both oftentimes had difficulty relating and understanding our parents’ culture, resulting in difficult relationships at times. “Why don’t they use the dishwasher? Why do I bring smelly food to lunch? Why is my couch wrapped in plastic wrap?” These questions often plagued us and would make us feel inferior to our peers.

After growing up, we began to understand a lot more where our parents were coming from, and we began to take pride in being their children. We wanted to create a card game that would normalize these discussions in a playful and endearing way.

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Asian American Youth Poet Laureates winning Recognitions

While Amanda Gorman has become well known for being the first US National Youth Poet Laureate and speaking at the Joe Biden presidential inauguration, cities all over the US also have Youth Poet Laureate programs, with many Asian Americans as winners and finalists in the national competition. New York City’s Youth poet laureate for 2021 is Serena Yang, who is a finalist in 2021 along with Sacramento’s Alexandra Huynh.  Other notable Asian American youth poets are 2020’s US Poet Laureate Meera Dasgupta (the first Asian American to achieve that title) and Oakland’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate Grace Nakadegawa-Lee, who published a book of poetry, A Heart full of Hallways, early in 2020.

The 2021 National Youth Poet Laureate will be chosen from the finalists pictured above and announced online in May 2021.
(photo credit:  Screen shot from taken on February 28, 2021)

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