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 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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Nielsen Report: Asian Americans are a Huge and Attractive Media Market

After reading about HBO’s 2020 APA Visionaries contest winners, I was reminded of another annual Asian American media event, Nielsen’s annual report on Asian American consumers, 2020 edition.  Nielsen claims that Asian American content from performers who are also content makers such as as Ken Jeong, Ali Wong, and Awkwafina, has led to increased Asian American viewership, a potential $1.2 trillion market.   I like the idea that including Asian Americans into mainstream media roles and decision making is not just about diversity but good business sense also.

Through the years, Nielsen has pointed out increasing Asian American buying power .  We talked about one of their reports from 2012, and Asian American consumer market has almost doubled since then.  Nielsen’s report doesn’t mention the impact of the pandemic, though, which has affected Asian Americans economics employment disproportionately.

I didn’t see the report mention this, but what we really encourages me is that Asian American content like Always be my Maybe, The Half of It, and Awkwafina is Nora from Queens seems to be popular with not just an Asian Americans but with a wider audience.  That’s a positive sign for the long term inclusion of Asian Americans in entertainment.

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HBO APA Visionaries: 2020 Winners of Short Film Contest made available for Streaming

Every year, HBO sponsors a contest for Asian American short films and showcases the winners.  2020’s winners were recently made available for viewing on HBO Max after honoring them as part of the Virtual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The three winners include Fine China, Si, and Lonely Blue Night, and you can see the highlights of each in the trailers above.   You might recognize Ki Hong Lee from the Maze Runner movies as he appears in Si. I have only watched Tiffany So’s Fine China so far and really enjoyed it.  The picture featured below captures a scene from this short.

You need access to HBO Max to see these.  I am looking forward to watching the other two shorts, and will probably post reviews of all three in the coming weeks.


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Asian American Commercial Watch: The Perfect Meg

These days, seeing Asian Americans on commercials is not that unusual, but two things struck me about this commercial  from Dave and Busters.  First, the goofy fun from actress Donna Park really made me laugh.  Second, it’s interesting how a commercial that was so clearly made before the COVID-19 pandemic can be adapted for use.   I was surprised that they would air an ad like this.

I have many fond memories of parties and other events at Dave and Busters, so it saw that ad with somewhat mixed feelings.  I am happy that they are still in business, but I am not sure sure I would go inside to one of their arcades.  Most of the California branches are closed, but some are still open (tagged with a blue location marker).

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Congressional Representative Pramila Jayapal bill on South Asian Heart Disease Advances to Full House Vote

US Congressional Representative Pramila Jayapal’s bill H.R. 3131 on South Asian Heart Health has advanced to the point where it can be voted on by the full house.  The bipartisan bill, co-introduced with Republican Joe Wilson in 2019, would fund grants for research and awareness.  South Asian Heart disease is common – South Asians make up 25% of the world’s population but 50% of the world’s heart disease cases according to Japayal’s update on the bill.

Japayal’s district includes Seattle, which with its large technology workforce, has a large number of South Asians.  As I have pointed out before, technology work can be hazardous to Asian American health.  Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is first South Asian woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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