Documentary ‘Love Boat: Taiwan’ Now Available for Streaming – Rent or Buy!

As I had mentioned back in April 2019, the documentary Love Boat: Taiwan, was premiering at several film festival in May 2019 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Taipei. It is finally available via streaming online on Vimeo – either for rent ($5.99 / 72 streaming period) or purchase ($19.99 – Stream anytime, Download DRM-free SD, HD, and mobile files) here:

If you forgot what the “Love Boat” is about, here’s a quick synopsis:

LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN looks at the Overseas Compatriot Youth Study Tour to Taiwan, exploring the history and popularity of this well-known program, which is sponsored by the Taiwanese government and which takes place every summer in Taiwan. Despite its high-minded aspirations that include classes in Mandarin-language study, martial arts, and brush painting, the program’s popularity stems from another source: its reputation as an excellent place for college-aged Taiwanese Americans to hook up and find romance. Because of this, although it does not take on a ship, the program is more commonly known by its romantic nickname – the Taiwan Love Boat.

Since the 1960s the Love Boat has served three purposes: as a political tool for the Taiwanese government, as a place for young Taiwanese Americans to find romance, and as a means for Taiwanese American parents to insure the preservation of their bloodlines. Although officially described as a cultural program, the Love Boat is also a site for romance, friendship, and personal relationships that transcend national borders. By exploring the Love Boat’s significant relationships, LOVE BOAT: TAIWAN explores the way that the Love Boat gives its participants a taste of global politics on an intimate scale.

As a producer (one of many – I’m also in the documentary very, very briefly), I am happy to announce that the whole world can access this documentary via streaming and not just through the film festival circuit.

I had the joy of seeing the documentary myself at the San Francisco premiere at CAAMFest37 back in May of 2019 and participated in the Q&A after the screening. Please let anyone you know who had attended the Love Boat (or is interested about the program) about its availability for streaming!

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Randall Park’s Jimmy Woo from Wandavision pitched as star of new Marvel Series

Image credit: Stephen Ford

Randall Park’s Jimmy Woo from Disney’s Wandavision TV series has proven to be such an entertaining character that actor/director Stephen Ford has created a pitch to make Park the star of an X-File type show that investigates mysteries in the Marvel Cinematic University (MCU).  For those of you who might not know (I am sure that there are a few of you out there), Park plays FBI agent Jimmy Woo on the hit Disney+ series Wandavision.  The character first appeared in the Marvel movie, Ant Man and the Wasp.

As most of my family and I are already addicted to Wandavision, I would definitely watch Park’s dry humor in a new series, especially if he would continue to team up with Kat Dennings playing her Dr. Darcy Lewis character. For his part, Park would love to do another Marvel series.  He is particularly interested in doing a series based on the Agent of Atlas comics, which is a comic book series which includes a Jimmy Woo character.  The series originated in the 1940’s was later rebooted into an Asian and Asian American team.

You can see Randall Park on Wandavision via Disney’s Disney+ streaming service.

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Home Remodeler’s Discrimination Lawsuit Dismissed

Satish Ramachandran’s discrimination lawsuit against the city of Los Altos and other individuals has been mostly dismissed. Judge Beth Labson Freeman threw out most of the allegations in suit saying that most of them in the lawsuit had already been covered in previously dismissed federal lawsuit.  The U.S. District Judge writes “this is a neighbor dispute gone horribly wrong.”

The case was dismissed with prejudice, so Ramachandran cannot refile a suit based on those particular claims.  The one claim left on the lawsuit is a malicious prosecution charge.

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Apple’s 2021 Chinese New Year Short: Nian

Every year, Apple releases a short film for Chinese New Year that is shot on an iPhone.  I really liked 2020’s Daughter, and this is year’s short called Nian is less serious but quite charming.  Nian is directed by Lulu Wang, best known for directing The Farewell.  Apple usually includes a “making of” video regarding their New Year short, and this year is no exception.  If you choose to watch Nian, I suggest you stay for the credits, which has an amusing scene on the side.




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8Books Review: “We Could Be Heroes” by Mike Chen

Curling up with Mike Chen’s recent novel, We Could Be Heroes, turned out to be the perfect snow day activity. Regardless of whether you were also deluged in snow over the past couple days, reading We Could Be Heroes is a delight. Jamie Sorenson aka The Mind Robber and Zoe Wong aka The Throwing Star are arch rivals who meet in a memory-loss support groups. Jamie has the ability to read and erase other people’s memories. Zoe has super speed and super strength. Follow along as the two become unlikely friends in this page-turning adventure. They may be super-powered, but they’re human and flawed and they have trust issues, just like us — feelings simply yet poignantly captured in Chen’s prose. Throw in some mysterious blue lightning, a secret facility, villains who might be heroes, heroes who might be villains, some witty and not so witty (but nevertheless charming) banter, and voila, you’re sucked in.

I read this in one sitting. Ten months into a global pandemic, We Could Be Heroes is the kind of refreshing book we need. A little escape and a reminder that extraordinary comes in many forms.

I had the three of the four title words as sung in the end credits of Big Hero 6 running through my head when I was done (I don’t know), but you more appropriately should end up with the title’s actual inspiration* in your head instead. And couldn’t we all use a little more David Bowie in our lives?

*This is my umpteenth pitch to always read the Acknowledgements, they are always joyful and heartfelt in ways that will make you smile. And also you will learn things.

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Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation

October 23, 2020 would have been special effects engineer and TV host Grant Imahara‘s 50th birthday.  His mother and others used that day to announce the Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation.   The foundation’s mission is:

To inspire emerging talent and empower underserved youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math education

If you look at the moving video about Grant on the website, you will learn that this mission is one that he worked on actively, particularly as a mentor to a robotics team at Richmond High School.

The foundation is looking for donations to help with its cause, and for volunteers to further the work that Grant had started.




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How a Remodeling project led to a Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against a Silicon Valley City

Paint, Workspace, Remodel, Design, Creative, WorkYou might think that getting buying a home in an upscale Silicon Valley city like Los Altos, where the median home price is over $2 Million, means that you have “made it” as an American.  Satish Ramachandran feels differently.  His remodeling project, and more specifically, the difficulty of getting permits from the city and resistance from neighbors, has led him to file a Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that 14 Asian families were denied approvals by Los Altos while one white family was granted a permit for similar work.   Ramachandran also claims that a city employee told him to “go back to India” during a home inspection.   When the city put up notices on his house telling him to stop work on his project and he took down the notice to look at the notice, a city police officer charged him with a misdemeanor of a city code regarding removal of the notice.

You can see from information on the lawsuit that Ramachandran has not only sued the city of Los Altos but several city officials including police officers.  The city of Los Altos denies all claims.  While his misdemeanor has been dismissed, he has experienced a few setbacks in his lawsuit, but it continues on.

When I read this, I had feelings of both surprise and familiarity.  I was surprised because the city of Los Altos is estimated to be 31% Asian.  The judge in this case did not seem to believe his statistics given the demographic background of the city.  The familiarity comes from the experience of Asian Americans in Fremont, who encountered resistance in home building, as documented in the book “Trespassers?: Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia.”  Author Willow Lung talks about the resistance to “McMansions,” large homes which were proposed by Asian Americans and resisted by long term residents (a summary of this issue and the book in general can be read in this interview).

Another aspect of this case is the fact that developing housing in some of the wealthy enclaves of Silicon Valley can be notoriously difficult for anyone, as the article on Ramachandran’s case points out.  Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gotten plans for his Palo Alto home rejected.  Even if the city approves development plans, neighbors can block the plan, as this Indian American woman found out.

Even as a long time Silicon Valley resident, I don’t have any personal experience with this issue. I am comfortable in my ethnoburb, and I don’t have enough money to move to those wealthy enclaves.  There many factors in the Ramachandran case, and it will be interesting to see how the lawsuit turns out.  I plan to follow this case and report back here with any major developments.

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Vegan Filipino Food Vendor Plans to Expand

Reina Montenegro, former owner of vegan Filipino restaurant Nick’s on Grand, has struck out on her own as Chef Reina, packaging dishes such as a plant-based Kaldereta (Filipino pot roast) at a commissary kitchen in Daly City. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Vegan Filipino food?  When I first heard about vegan Filipino food almost 9 years ago, I was really skeptical.  But the restaurant  chain Nick’s thrived for a long time, and during this Pandemic, owner Reina Montenegro has rebranded the Nick’s restaurant line as Chef ReinaIn this interview with the Mercury News, she talks about how she became vegan, how she successfully adapted Filipino food, and how she plans to expand her brand.

Montenegro says that she became vegan for health reasons, and given the fatty meaty meals that many Filipinos eat and their generally poor health as a result, and I am not surprised. At home, we drastically changed what we eat when Number One Son and Number Two Son were training  for cross country in high school.  As a result, we do not eat much Filipino food.   Montenegro missed those unhealthy but tasty dishes and created meatless versions of such classics as Tocino.  I love Tocino, but definitely not a good thing to eat frequently.  A quick search yield a couple of sites dedicated toward Filipino vegan food, and PETA even has a an article on vegan Filipino recipes.

I have tried other Asian cuisines that do traditional dishes using simulations of meat, and I found myself preferring dishes that started out as vegetarian and building on the ingredients rather than trying to imitate something else.  I never got around to trying Nick’s, and I don’t know of any Filipino restaurants near me in the South Bay that serve vegan versions.  Looking forward to trying her new rebranded line and her retail products when they become more available or whenever the pandemic ends – which ever come first.



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In Praise of Spam: Prose, a Play, and a Poem

Spam, Eggs, and Rice. That was a familiar and comforting meal when I was a kid, and I still feel that way today. While Spam has been condemned as the epitomy of unhealthy processed food, I recently learned about an article, a play, and a poem singing its praises.  What has Spam done to earn such accolades?  In many ways, as Eric Kim writes here, eating Spam is part of an experience that for Asian Americans of many different ethnic backgrounds is fundamental to their identity.

While I knew about (and love) Spam Musubi, I didn’t know about how widespread the love of Spam is across Asian American and even Pacific Islander communities.  Kim talks about Korean communities use of it.  In the comments to his article (definitely worth checking out), Pacific Islanders talk about eating it.   I already knew that many Filipino Americans like myself love it, and what many Spam loving Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have in common is a history of interaction with American Military.   Not only do Asians Americans  and Pacific Islanders reminisce about Spam, but other people who have a common history of eating spam as a cheap food when they were struggling to get by.

Kim’s article mentions an Asian American play that uses Spam as a central theme, called Specially Processed American Me.   About Jaime Sunwoo’s play:

Specially Processed American Me by Jaime Sunwoo is a surreal autobiographical performance using SPAM, the canned meat, as a portal into her Asian American upbringing and her family’s experiences of the Korean War. It investigates SPAM’s legacy in the military, its significance in the Asia-Pacific, and its influence on Asian cuisine through music, shadowplay, and cooking. Oscillating wildly between absurd humor and sober tragedy, Specially Processed American Me is a thought-provoking exploration of one of America’s most misunderstood foods.

Sunwoo has hosted workshops associated with the play, where people talk about food and stories over a shared meal of Spam.  You can even submit a story about Spam on her website.

The comments of Kim’s article also have a pointer by a poem called Spam by Roberto Ascalon.  It starts with the following:

My father’s love

is a fried Spam sandwich.

I never have had a fried Spam sandwich, but as so many Asian American parents express their love through food rather and don’t say “I love you” explicitly, this opening line resonated for me.

Why does Spam seem to resonate so well with Asian Americans?  I think it is the shared experience among so many Asian Americans – a food that is well regarded by family and home culture but is embarrassing to reveal to outside mainstream Americans.  It is also the shared experience of a cheap affordable food from the days of being a struggling, immigrant family trying to make it in America.  To find out more, I suggest you check out Kim’s article as well as Roberto Ascalon’s poem and the website for Sunwoo’s play.  I would love to go to one of her workshops to eat and talk about Spam whenever plays and workshops can be held again in person.

(photo credit:  Open Food Facts under CC3)

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8mm Review: A Sugar and Spice Holiday

With nowhere to go on yet another night of the COVID-19 lockdown, The Wife and I settled in to watch the first Lifetime movie with Asian American leads.  As we rarely watch the Lifetime channel, I decided to keep my expectations low.  That was a good thing, as A Sugar & Spice Holiday is like a mooncake – some good points, some bad points, some will like it, and some will not.

Some positives:  It was good see to Asian American leads, and especially a love story with an Asian American couple.  There was even a couple with an Asian Male and a non-Asian female.  The Asian American family was not cultureless, and there were references to things that Asian Americans run into like the “where are you from” thing.  The story was sweet and was neatly wrapped up cleanly like a holiday present.

Some negatives:  I thought that Jacky Lai’s character was stereotypical in her drive and general overachievement.   I would have liked to see more of Tzi Ma, and a conceit about his accent was not well executed, in my opinion.  A brief storyline about Lillian Lim’s cooking goes unresolved. Finally, the story was neatly wrapped up cleanly like a holiday present, which made it very predictable.  I told The Wife what I thought would happen at the final contest, and I was exactly right.

I generally think of mooncakes as okay, and similarly, I think that this movie is okay.  This movie is definitely a sign of Asian American entering the mainstream, as it has some of the standard tropes of the other 88 Lifetime Christmas movies.  So if you like Lifetime movies (my smartwatch thought that I was asleep during the time that I watched the movie), you will probably like this movie.   It is currently available for free on Lifetime and you can also rent or buy it from Amazon Prime Video.

(picture courtesy of IMDB/Lifetime Channel)

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Asian American Commercial Watch: Gift Like You Mean It: Shiori

These days, there are a lot more Asian Americans on TV commercials, so it takes  more than having Asians American on a commercial to get me to want to share it.  This Holiday commercial for Etsy, produced by ad agency 72andSunny, struck me because it shows the experience that many Asian Americans have with getting their names mispronounced. Commenters on the video share how they had the same experience.  Despite the disadvantages of having a name that many Americans cannot pronounce, the girl and her family do not change her name to a Western name and instead celebrate it!  Thank you, 72andSunny and Etsy.

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8mm Review: Let It Snow

While the upcoming A Sugar and Spice Holiday movie features Asian Americans, another Christmas movie from last year has two Asian American actors, Anna Akana and Jacob Batalon, as significant characters.  Let It Snow was released in 2019.  I finally got around to seeing this movie and thought I would share my impressions.

photo credit: IMDB

Jacob Batalon plays, Keon, a teenager planning to throw a big party at his house when his parents are out for the holidays.  A snow storm prevents them from leaving, so he needs to find another place for his party, where he plans to feature his DJ skills.  Anna Akana plays Kerry, a love interest in this movie.  The movie shows these two Asian American characters as two regular teenagers in town.  I thought that having Keon be a DJ was a bit stereotypical, but that could be just because I know so many Filipino DJs.

It struck me when watching this movie that it seemed somewhat implausible that a small town in the middle of nowhere would be as diverse as shown.  Was that done as a nod to political correctness?  I think that the movie is aware that people might think of this, and it shows and makes fun of a hyper-diverse, politically correct Holiday pageant.

It may be because I am looking for some Christmas cheer right as my area is starting to lock down again, but I like the movie as a sweet, happy-ending rom-com.  I also liked how while the characters of Keon and Julie (played by Isabela Merced) are show as typical teenagers, they are not devoid of ethnicity, which is shown when they interact with their family. Keon is  definitely Filipino! Let It Snow is not deep or profound, but definitely enjoyable.  I do wish we saw more of Anna Akana’s Kerry.

Let it Snow is based on the novel Let It Snow:  Three Holiday Romances.  You can stream Let It Snow on Netflix.


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