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toastykitten

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Jun. 24th, 2008 11:34 pm

hmm

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China's first leisure tour groups to U.S. welcomed in Los Angeles.

I wonder if this means my cousin in Guangzhou actually has a chance at visiting us soon.
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I am really excited because I picked up The Big Aiiieeeee! at the Brand Bookshop today. I almost got Snow by Orhan Pamuk, but I stopped in my tracks once I saw this anthology of Chinese and Japanese American literature.

I have a tortured relationship with Asian American literature, because most of it pisses me off too much. Yet it's an itch I can't stop scratching, to the point where I took a couple of Asian Am lit classes in college. Boy were those fun! Anyway, they always went back to the Frank Chin/Maxine Hong Kingston split, where Chin basically accuses Kingston and those like her (or at least as successful as her) of selling out, of being traitors to their own people. (For the record, as writers, I like Kingston, am mostly indifferent to Chin.) So this anthology is pretty legendary, but I've never seen it anywhere, until today.

I have barely started, but the intro is full of gold:

We begin another year angry! Another decade, and another Chinese American ventriloquizing the same old white Christian fantasy of little Chinese victims of "the original sin of being born to a brutish, sadomasochistic culture of cruelty and victimization" fleeing to America in search of freedom from everything Chinese and seeking white acceptance, and of being victimized by stupid white racists and then being reborn in acculturation and honorary whiteness.


It is an article of whilte liberal American faith today that Chinese men, at their best, are effeminate closet queens like Charlie Chan, and at their worst, are homosexual menaces like Fu Manchu. No wonder David Henry Hwang's derivative M. Butterfly won the Tony for best new play of 1988. The good Chinese man, at his best, is the fulfillment of white male homosexual fantasy, literally kissing white ass. Now Hwang and the stereotype are inextricably one.

More to come! 

ETA: This may take longer than expected. I tried to get through "Come All Ye Asian American Writers of the Real and of the Fake", and while certain parts were compelling, most of it feels like a relentless history lesson with no point and the other part feels like a diatribe against writers who are more successful than him. For all Chin's claims that David Henry Hwang, Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan are irresponsible writers who've been sucked in by white liberal Christian stereotyping, it's kind of hard for me to swallow that he thinks that all Chinese people live and are educated a certain way, and that he's the authority on authenticity.

I checked the publication dates, and looks like the copy I have was a reprint published in 1991. That makes me wonder two things: in all of the twenty or so years that had passed since the original publication, they couldn't find more than one woman who's "of the real"? (Well, maybe a few names are ambiguous so I'll have to double-check that.) And after twenty or so years, shouldn't Asian America encompass more than Chinese and Japanese Americans?
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TCM to Present RACE AND HOLLYWOOD: ASIAN IMAGES IN FILM for the month of June.

So far I've set the TiVo to record: Shanghai Express, Charlie Chan at the Circus, and Charlie Chan in Honolulu.

The last week is weak, though. Rush Hour 2? Joy Luck Club? Mr. Baseball? Isn't that a movie about Tom Selleck?
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We went to go see Jennifer 8. Lee at Vroman's in Pasadena talk about her new book, the Fortune Cookie Chronicles, which traces the lineage of various Chinese American food items such as fortune cookies and chop suey and General Tso's chicken. It was fascinating and very humorous discussion that brought up all sorts of huge, relevant issues - food, masculinity, racism, immigration, and of course, "what it means to be American". I think what she said was "if our standard of what it means to be American is 'as American as apple pie', then how often do Americans eat apple pie, and how often do they eat Chinese food?"

Her presentation was pretty organized, and we saw a bunch of different images and videos, from Chinese people in China trying fortune cookies for the first time, to the video of a sad little five year old girl in China explaining that she was born in America and was being raised in her village in China while her parents were working in America, and America was "at the airport, far away".


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Margaret Cho will have a reality show this summer called "The Cho Show". And yes, her mom will be in it.

I saw the original mention on Chelsea Lately, where she was a guest, and she talked about how she was proud of bringing the "first (All-American Girl) and second (The Cho Show) Asian American families" onscreen. All I could think was, wow, how sad is that? When All-American Girl was on I was still in junior high!

ETA: I can almost hear Mark going, "Well, at least you had a show."
Jul. 7th, 2007 09:37 am

weirdness

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Someone I knew in childhood entered the Miss Hong Kong Beauty Sponsor pageant. Scroll down to #11. She won a small award for "Perfect Intelligence". It's so weird! I knew her when she and her family first immigrated here, and we helped them out for a bit. Over the years we lost touch. I don't even know that we'd have anything in common to talk about anymore.

In doing my search for her, I also discovered blogs for AsianPopNews, and TVB.
May. 13th, 2007 09:27 am

links!

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Crunchy Roll - full length episodes of various Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese) TV shows. Some subtitled, some not. Works are streaming; I think you have to donate to download episodes. Also, you have to be a member to actually view. Hmm. DotSub - tool for subtitling stuff.

William Blake archive. Video short (warning: .mov file) based on Blake's The Tyger that is pretty neat. I linked to the .mov instead of the actual site because the way the site is set up pisses me off. I mean, really, did all the arty website designers just forget about the rule about keeping it simple? I know, I know, they don't want anyone to steal their work. Except they are offering shorts for download. *sigh*
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I watched My Life Disoriented a few days ago. I really, really wanted to like it. The entire cast was very cute, bonus points for including a goth Asian, and I loved the dad character. The sister dynamics were pretty well-done - between the mother and the aunt, and the protagonist and her sister (but we didn't see enough of it). What made it not work for me was that they made the protagonist dumb and without much of a personality. In the whole episode, she doesn't do anything except react to stuff happening to her. She didn't fit in in San Francisco because she wasn't "Asian enough?" Ok, that actually made me laugh.

I really liked Phil Young, who played the goth cousin. And I liked Karin Anna Cheung, who I haven't seen since Better Luck Tomorrow. (I didn't like her character in BLT, but I think it's because Justin Lin doesn't know how to write female characters.) She was reading Woman Warrior in one of the scenes, which is sooo Asian Am Lit 101.

The protagonist's name is "Kimberlee".

In her Bakersfield school, there are two other Asian guys who totally want to befriend her for no reason at all - Geeky Asian and Quiet Brooding Hot Asian. Guess who she crushes on? (Although I think Quiet Brooding Hot Asian may bald early.)

We are cooking right now a gigantic dinner for ourselves. We had previously invited people over, but due to their indecisiveness they did not arrive. Oh well, more for us! We are making 1. a beef short rib braise, 2. roasted red potatoes with some paprika, garlic, and shallots, 3. a salad with a lemony vinaigrette, 4. hummus (I made it myself this time and Mark approves!). So quite a spread. I love having a three day weekend. There should definitely be more of those. We are not doing anything special but just eating, watching some DVDs and quite possibly falling asleep in a food-induced coma on the couch.

Around Christmas, I bought some potato chips from Walgreen's that were oddly flavored - Pringles now sells Bruschetta-flavored and Thai Sweet Chili-flavored chips. The Bruschetta chips taste like pizza sauce and is quite yummy, if you like that kind of thing. The Thai Sweet Chili is very smoky, but it's not sweet, nor does it taste like chili. I didn't like it much, but Mark approves.

Happy New Year!
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But I'm not. I'll probably do that after dinner.

Work is going to be excruciatingly quiet next week, as most of the people in my department have taken off for vacation. Mark is in LA - next year we'll have to figure out a better holiday schedule. Both our families make big deals of the holidays, although Chinese New Year is a bigger deal. And then it's about the only time I see my nieces and nephews and hopefully undo a bit of the years of damage they have coming to them.

My sister tells me that she just saw Kaitlin's report card, and she's doing quite well - she's actually caught up with other kids her age. It turns out that she's pretty good at math. My sister got her a workbook so that she can work on learning about negative numbers. You know what's funny? Her English is getting so good she's starting to translate for me with my mom. I hardly even realized she was doing it, until she said to my mom, "What she's trying to say is that..." and I thought Oh my god is my Chinese that awful? Apparently it is.

I just got a letter from my adopted brother's daughter. It's a long story about how he was "adopted", and how the circumstances of his adoption created a lot of drama in my family - I'm not going to go into it. I guess technically she's my niece. Anyway, the name she chose for herself is Crystal. I spent some time with her in the village - she's about 18 and about to take the entrance exam for university. She was a bit shy at first, but Crystal talks. And talks. And talks. In fact, in the three or four days I spent with her, I don't think I said more than ten sentences. Her letter is short, though, and I wonder if she didn't have enough paper or something. She keeps telling me how beautiful I am, which is really unnerving. I think she's probably translating from her Chinese literally to English, which makes her sentences sound very odd. I'll probably write her after dinner. I'm going to have to get my parents to write the address, though.

Some stuff I've been thinking about:

Did you know that some teenagers make money by teaching people how to play Halo? Are you fucking kidding me? They also get paid $25 an hour, which is way too close to my actual salary for comfort. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Not that I'd be any good at this - I suck at video games.

Harold McGee lives close enough to me that he can drive to the Ranch 99 at Milpitas.

I found out that Six Apart's offices are only a couple of blocks up from my work. That is so odd. Current_TV is also in the building next to mine. I walk by sometimes and am so tempted to walk in - you can see the workers, dressed like skater boys watching their stuff. And all I can think is, Are they working or goofing off?

My China photos are slowly coming up. I'm so glad Flickr increased their bandwith limit. I'm up to Hangzhou right now, and will post up pictures of my parents' villages next. If you actually want to see my family, you'll have to add me as a contact first. There are also no pictures of me, unless you want to look at the New Orleans pictures.

Oh hey! New Asian-Am show, called My Life Disoriented. Did they make one of the Asians goth? Or is that just a white guy in heavy makeup? Time to add to the TiVo list.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, etc!
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There's a really cute Asian guy giving out free hugs at the Caltrain station. No, I didn't get one...sigh.
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Oct. 3rd, 2006 06:36 pm

empathy

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Mark and I have been discussing all the different prejudices - racism, sexism, etc, and agreed that the one factor that ties into people perpetrating horrendous acts, or even just saying stupid, heartless stuff without thinking about the consequences or the implications is the result of an inability to put oneself in another person's place. It's puzzling to us, that even people we know and love, and think are good people overall, are capable of such ugliness and selfishness.

My dad still refuses to go into Japanese restaurants and businesses. (He was separated from his biological family because of the Japanese. My dad was a kid during the war.) Many of my adult relatives bear the same grudge, and can be surprisingly vehement about their animosity towards the Japanese. What's funny is how many of their kids have gotten into anime, and are learning Japanese, watching, reading and totally absorbing Japanese pop culture.

Hmmm...

I have no idea where I'm going with this.
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Yes, I'm up too early.

The other day I was thinking about my like/dislike relationship with Asian American literature - in college, when I became an English major so that I could buy more books, I didn't realize that it meant I had to concentrate on dead writers from England. I didn't realize it would be more like a literary history of England, rather than a focus on writers who write in English. Once I realized this, I filled as many of my electives as I could with classes on American literature, Chinese literature in translation, and other stuff like that, where I could get away from dead white guys. Unfortunately I never got to take the Children's Lit class or the Science Fiction class, because they were only offered once a year and totally conflicted with my schedules.

The first non-dead-white-people's class I took was an upper-division Asian American Women Writers class, freshman year. Obviously, I was in over my head. Thank God for my wonderful ghetto education, where I had teachers who still cared - I think I may have even pulled off a B+ or A- in the class.

I'd actually read a lot of the works before, I think - I don't remember the exact syllabus, but we had to read Sui Sin Far, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan (not sure about her, but she pops up everywhere anyway). I read Maxine Hong Kingston in sixth grade, when I found my oldest sister's books from college - I guess she had taken a class in Asian American literature. She told me she didn't like the books because the writers kept trying to use Chinese words - for example, writing "kwei" instead of just saying "ghost" or "demon".

I had a lot of trouble with them using the Chinese words, too - but mostly because I couldn't figure out what the Chinese words actually were. Tan used Mandarin, and Kingston used a dialect I'd never heard of, so I could usually approximate but not quite figure out what the words were.

Among my sister's books, beside Kingston and Tan, was Frank Chin - that figure of controversy who attacked Kingston for "not being authentic" and condemned her for attacking Asian men or something. I thought both of those were stupid arguments, but other than that, his writing was decent. The more I read in the genre (I don't know if it's okay to call it that), though, the more I got frustrated with it. Every time a protagonist expressed a desire to "be white" or tried to tape her eyelids so they would have a fold, I'd want to throw it across the room.

I don't have to relate to Asian-American literature - that's not what it's for, and god knows Asian Americans who are successful creatively get enough shit from their own communities for not being authentic enough, for airing dirty laundry, for not focusing on a specific experience enough, for not speaking their own language enough, etc. But it got really tiring reading about people who were supposed to be like me be so totally consumed by whiteness - something that's just totally alien to me - the only times I didn't want to be Asian, I wanted to be a mixed kid, because I wanted the self-confidence of all the mixed kids I saw around me. And also because I thought it would be more interesting than just being Chinese.

Most of the time, though - I'm comfortable in my own skin - I like being Asian. I don't stand out, and in the Bay Area, it's not like I'm a novelty or something. That's not to say that Asians don't face discrimination, but it's not the same - there weren't enough white people in Oakland for us to idolize or glom onto or whatever. Sure, there was TV, but the majority of the stuff we watched were black sitcoms. (And by the way, Friends totally ripped off Living Single. Just saying.) The racial tensions we felt were mostly between Asians and blacks - junior high was the most hellish expression of that.

And the other thing that got me about all this Asian American literature? None of the protagonists had friends who weren't white. What the hell is up with that? You're telling me that your main character who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, doesn't have one single black, Latino, or Asian friend? I just found that hard to swallow.

Anyway, the books I didn't want to throw across the room include:

Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston - I love this book to death. I re-read it every couple of years. It's an autobiography, but at the same time so much fiction is woven in (Kingston had said before that the purpose was to confuse immigration authorities so they wouldn't come after her parents - even though I'm pretty sure she wrote this in middle age, it says a lot that we're all so paranoid about immigration) that it's actually a different kind of work altogether. I don't know how she does it, but the way she weaves in old Chinese myths with speculations about her female relatives and her own understanding of what it means to be Chinese is so seamless that I'm always in awe of how she does it. Her next novel, China Men, about the Chinese men in her life, is less successful. I'll have to re-read it, because I don't remember it that much, but it took me a long time the first time around to get into it.

Bone, Fae Myenne Ng - I can't be objective at all about this book, because this book perfectly captured so many aspects of my life - from the protagonist's mom working in the sewing shops of San Francisco Chinatown, for the consequences of having too many daughters, for the way the male figures are simultaneously well-meaning and constantly misunderstood, for having to work and not relating to richer relatives who lived outside the insular world of Chinatown. It got everything right, and I was saddened, but not surprised to read that Ng, who took ten years to write this book, was criticized because she didn't represent some people's experiences.

China Boy, Gus Lee - This is an autobiographical first novel about Kai Ting growing up in the San Francisco ghetto and learning the hard way to take care of himself. I liked it a lot because he actually interacts with people who aren't white, and even makes friends with some of them.

Donald Duk, Frank Chin - A story of growing up Chinese in San Francisco, like so many others. This is the book where I learned about how the Chinese built the railroads and how they got shafted for it. Eventually I grew to dislike a lot of Chin's opinions about what he thought Asian American "authenticity" encompassed, but I really liked this book.

Dogeaters, Jessica Hagedorn - The majority of my Asian American literature is dominated by Chinese-American literature, which is probably my own fault. I keep wanting to read stuff about people who are like me. Anyway, I don't know where my copy went, but this is a really well-written, complex, layered novel about the Philippines and growing up in the middle of all that craziness. I don't know enough about its history to comment on it or anything.

The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie - Ok, I don't know if this counts as Asian American literature, considering it's mostly set in India, but I'm putting it here because I loved it so much. More books should be like this.
Jul. 7th, 2006 07:42 pm

diversions

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This item on Boing Boing is freaking me out because I just got my own line on Sprint. Arrgh. Are there any cell phone/internet carriers that I can sign up for at a reasonable rate who are not stupid and won't give away my information to the NSA?

One of the things that annoyed me about the Superman was that the depiction of the media was so inconsistent. It really bugged me that instead of emailing her story to her boss, Lois printed out the report. (And it was double-spaced! Like a college paper!) It's like they couldn't decide whether it was 1956 or 2006.

While flipping channels one evening, I came across this oddity of a Disney TV movie called Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, featuring Asian American actress Brenda Song who is Thai and Hmong. (You thought Arabs were nonexistent in the media? Most people don't even know who the Hmong are.) As soon as the dialogue between the two parents came up ("I want us to be a Chinese-American family") I had to change the channel. But goddamnit, I got sucked back into the show - Song actually reminds me of one of my friends. When I flipped the channel back, the white girls were astonished at the Asian guy's makeover (Shin Koyamada, playing her cousin) and starting to drool over him. And then we cut to the Homecoming Warrior practicing her kung fu with some teachers at her school who seem to have been hypnotized into martial arts robots.

Actually, the fight scenes were decent, mostly because it looked like Song knew what she was doing. According to the IMDB profile, she's a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

I wonder how much Disney pays. If only they hired better writers...
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The Pursuit of Hapa-ness

"You constantly hear people using that defense -- 'I can't be racist, my wife is Korean!' Or take our own parents, for example. Just because they're in interracial relationships doesn't mean they're cool about us dating someone of any race. There's still this reality of a racial hierarchy -- the lighter you get in spectrum, the higher the perceived social status, and these things don't just go away through mixing."
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Gong Li to be in upcoming movies Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask and Miami Vice. Gong Li is in the current Memoirs of a Geisha, along with Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh.

Wayne Wang is the director of Queen Latifah's new movie Last Holiday. Wayne Wang was also director of Joy Luck Club and Maid in Manhattan.

Ang Lee is the director of Brokeback Mountain. Which I still haven't seen yet.
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I have a weakness for celebrity gossip, especially when it pertains to Asian people, so the whole Jenny Shimizu dishes about her relationship with Angelina Jolie is fascinating to me. Shimizu is a total trip; some interesting things she says includes "I've never kissed anyone with a bigger mouth than Angelina. It's like two waterbeds" and "Her and I have a relationship just like I have with my friends or my mother but it doesn't necessarily mean were having sex." Uh huh. In one of the articles it mentions that she hasn't spoken to Jolie in years, but in another she mentions that Jolie still booty-calls her to "fulfill her sexual needs."

Then I discovered that GiantRobot once interviewed her. GiantRobot gives the best interviews ever. In this interview, she talks about pooping in Madonna's bathroom, listening to Shaq poop and rap at the same time, and getting robbed by someone and her mother. It's only a partial interview, so if you want to read the rest, you're going to have to buy a back issue.

I'm sort of torn about seeing Memoirs of a Geisha. On the one hand, I haven't read the book yet, and I like to read the books before I see the movie adaptations, and on the other hand, I love Michelle Yeoh. Oh, and the stupid controversy over the casting. Even friggin Wikipedia wastes three paragraphs on it. Sometimes I wish there was a way for both the Chinese and the Japanese to grow the fuck up about these things, but I don't see it happening in my lifetime, unless they actually deal with the war honestly. (And no, I do not mean all Chinese and Japanese are like that. And I heard Memoirs is kind of a Westernized fantasy of what geishas are about, so that's more of the reason why I'm hesitant. But I can't judge until I actually read the book.)

At least they didn't cast Lucy Liu. :P

When I read somewhere that Bill Murray didn't like Lucy Liu and said she had no comic timing, I laughed. He's right. She doesn't.

Michelle Yeoh - I wish she would change her English name to the Cantonese pinyin - which would be "Yang" or "Young", because "Yeoh" sounds like "Yow!" or a cat screaming. I love her in everything she does, and also partly because she is crazy enough to do her own stunts even though she has no official training in martial arts. Oh, and her English is excellent, which gives her way more leeway in crossing over to America than for Jet Li or Jackie Chan.

Zhang Ziyi - When she first came out, I didn't think much of her. I thought she was kind of plain, and I was like, Zhang Yimou dumped Gong Li for her? But I think her willingness to do anything is probably why she's so good.

Did you know that Justin Lo is doing Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift? BLT alumni Jason Tobin and Sung Kang are going to be in it. Hey, Lil Bow Wow is, too. Dude, is he old enough to drive?
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How do you tackle an invasion of giant jellyfish? Try making sushi.

Nomura’s jellyfish, as it is known in English, is the biggest creature of its kind off Japan and for reasons that remain mysterious its numbers have surged in the past few months.

The problem has become so serious that fishery officials from Japan, China and South Korea are to meet this month for a “jellyfish summit” to discuss strategies for dealing with the invasion.

...

In the meantime locals are making the best of it — rather than just complaining about jellyfish they are eating them.


Hee!
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The 12 Girls Band is good Chinese New Year's music.

My sister burned me a few VCDs of their concerts, and I listened to it at work. I was really happy that no one sang, because if they sang, it would be friggin opera, which I can't stand in Chinese.

It reminded me of The Great Wall Youth Orchestra, a local group that "plays Chinese musical instruments and performs a variety of music". It is also most famous for Tyler Thompson, an African-American kid with an aptitude for Chinese operatic singing. I have two distant relatives in the group - they're the sweetest kids I ever baby-sat, and after watching one of their concerts, really talented, too.

In this one concert, one of the performances was a very famous scene in a Cantonese opera. (It's actually one of the few songs I like.) As I was watching, I was of two thoughts - "Oh my god, that's so cute!" and "Oh my god, that's so wrong!" You see, this scene that these two kids perform is this marriage ceremony in which the bride and groom commit suicide by drinking cyanide. The bride is a princess who's been forced against her will to marry someone else, so she's committing suicide as an act of rebellion, and to send a message to her subjects to keep fighting. I think.

Anyway, it was really, really cute seeing the kids all dressed up in the elaborate costumes and makeup, and I'm pretty sure they didn't know what they were singing about.

The KQED show about it was very entertaining. One of the kids interviewed cracked us up. She said something along the lines of "My dad had a flute in China, but then he had to chop it up for firewood." I bet her parents totally made that up. It's such a Chinese thing to say.
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You know how some white people bitch about affirmative action and how scholastic achievement should all be based on "merit"? Looks like they can't compete with Asians, so they run away to "less competitive" places. I have little sympathy for this person, who says "This may not sound good," she confides, "but their child may be the only Caucasian kid in the class." Cry me a fucking river.

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