minneapolis police officers get medals for botched raid

It seems that the Minneapolis Police Department is in the habit of giving out medals to officers for stupidity. You might remember the story about the Hmong family whose house got raided and shot up by a SWAT team last December.

Police apparently acted on some bad information from an informant and ended raiding the wrong house, expecting to find a violent gang member. Only this house was occupied by a family. With six children. And a concerned father wielding a shotgun.

35-year-old Vang Khang, believing the gunmen to be robbers, started shooting at the intruders. They fired back, unloading twenty-two bullets before Khang understood who the men were. When all was said and done, the city eventually apologized to the family for their error.

So this week, eight Minneapolis officers received medals in City Hall for their "valor" in the botched raid: Minneapolis police: A mistake, an apology and then medals. You've got to be kidding me. The officers were recognized for performing "bravely under gunfire and made smart decisions." That second part is what really kills me.

Meanwhile, one of Khang's kids apparently still has nightmares about the shooting and needs therapy. The family has since abandoned the house and can no longer afford to keep it. And these guys get medals. Something is seriously wrong in Minneapolis.

congress passes resolution honoring aapi civil war soldiers

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander soldiers who fought in the U.S. Civil War. Yes, you read that right. The Civil War. The resolution represents the culmination of a five-year battle by Rep. Mike Honda to help correct the historical record: Historic AAPI Civil War Resolution Passes in Congress. According to the press release I received:
Historians have recently uncovered evidence that hundreds of soldiers of AAPI heritage fought on both the Union and Confederate sides, continuing a long tradition of significant AAPI contributions to the history of the United States since the Colonial Era. H. Res. 415 posthumously honors Edward Day Cohota and Joseph L. Pierce, both of Chinese ancestry, as examples of this overlooked group of men.

"The history of America would be totally different without the contributions of Asian Americans. From hard labor building the transcontinental railroad linking our coasts, to the academic contributions ranging from philosophy to medicine, Asian Americans have been an integral part of making our country great," said Rep. Mike Honda. "I am pleased that heroes such as Pierce and Cohota will finally take the place they deserve in our nation's memory."

The resolution, co-sponsored by more than 50 legislators from both parties, focuses on the actions of Cohota and Pierce, the two most widely documented AAPI Civil War soldiers. Cohota's comrades gave testimony of the seven bullet holes in his coat during the battle of Drury Bluff. Pierce fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, volunteering for a dangerous assault on Bliss Farm, a bloody no-man's land between the Union and Confederate armies. Both men were Union soldiers.

Despite the sacrifice of hundreds of men such as Pierce and Cohota, the bigoted laws of the day denied them the right to naturalize as U.S. Citizens. Honda said this resolution was the least that could be done to honor their memory.

"As a teacher and an educator of more than 30 years, I believe our students should learn about these exploits in their history books; they should learn that from the start our country's history has been rich in diversity," Honda said. "Also it is very important for our community to see their ancestors' contribution acknowledged. I thank groups such as the Chinese American Citizens Alliance and all my colleagues in Congress who made possible this long overdue resolution."
According to the Library of Congress, H. Res. 415 "recognizes the contributions made during the Civil War by soldiers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent" and posthumously "honors the two most documented of those soldiers, Edward Day Cohota and Joseph L. Pierce, for their distinguished and dedicated service." I remember reading about Asian soldiers in the Civil War, though I must admit, I don't know a whole lot about their stories or contributions. Fascinating. Some more information about Cohota and Pierce here.

rolling stone cartoon gook-ifies mccain's opponents

Saw this on the AAA-Fund Blog... Check it out this ridiculously racist political cartoon from Rolling Stone. Offensive on so many levels. As much as I dislike John McCain, I don't think it's cool to make fun of his P.O.W. experience in Vietnam—that's despite his professed hatred for "the gooks."

But the cartoon goes even further to gook-ify the Obama, Bush and Clinton caricatures. I know it's trying to comment on the vilification of McCain's opponents, but was that really necessary? Thank you, Victor Juhasz. That's racist! You can send your comments to Rolling Stone at letters@rollingstone.com or (212) 484-1616.

michelle wie playing on pga tour

What is up with Michelle Wie? This week, the young golf phenom skipped a major to play on the PGA Tour, which had a lot of her fellow competitors scratching their heads: Wie skips a major, and some wonder why.

Wie, who is managed by her parents, was listed in qualifying for the Women's British Open at Sunningdale. But she pulled out and instead has a sponsor's exemption for the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open at Reno, Nevada. She has yet to win on the women's tour and has never made the cut on the PGA Tour.

It's been a rough professional start for her, but lately she seems to be returning to form (scorecard mishap aside). I'm sure she has a lot of people giving her advice and telling her what to do... isn't anyone telling her she should concentrate on getting back in the game and winning?


asian hip hop summit tour is coming to your town

Reminder to all you hip hop fans out there. The Asian Hip Hop Summit Tour 2008 kicks off this Friday, August 1st in Salt Lack City, Utah then makes stops in cities across the nation throughout the month of August. Even Bozeman, Montana. Featuring the emcee stylings of Dumbfounded, Chosen One, Lyraflip, Youthinasia and DJ Dstrukt. Yes, it's Asian American hip hop, and I think you're going to like it. For more information about the tour, go here. This website is a proud sponsor of the Asian Hip Hop Summit Tour.

bringing soybean power to afghanistan

This is a great Los Angeles Times story on Steven Kwon, who quit his job as a Nestle nutritionist and started a nonprofit, Nutrition & Education International, which gives thousands of farmers in Afghanistan a low-risk crop option: soybeans. Kwon has literally, singlehandedly introduced soybeans to Afghanistan: Pasadena retiree fights malnutrition in Afghanistan -- with soybeans.

The organization provides free soy seed, fertilizer and training to farmers and offers to buy the harvest. This takes away most of the farmers' risk, and most keep the soybeans as food for their families.

Over the last two years, 4,400 Afghan farmers in 15 provinces planted 80 tons of seed, resulting in a harvest of 2,000 tons. It's a lofty goal, but Kwon aims to eventually all but eliminate malnutrition in the country. Awesome. It's the power of the soybean.

barack obama, the first asian american president?

Yesterday in Washington, at a fundraiser sponsored by a coalition of Asian American political groups, Senator Barack Obama pronounced himself an "honorary AAPI": Obama, at Fundraiser, Pronounces Himself an 'Honorary AAPI'.

Okay, I don't know if I'd go that far (is there a place to apply for such status?) but I think you can make a case that he has some cred in this area. As Rep. Mike Honda noted when he introduced the Senator at the event, Obama's family includes Asian Americans and he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. "The son of an immigrant, raised among AAPI's in Hawaii, Barack Obama understands the struggles of immigrants searching for an identity in America," he said.

Obama's 20-minute speech dwelled heavily on immigration and Asian-American issues, as well as his own background. Born in Hawaii, raised for a time in Indonesia, Obama said his first college roommates were Pakistani and Indian. "Most importantly," he said, "I have a sister who is half Indonesian, who is married to a Chinese Canadian. I don't know what that makes my niece."

Indeed, just as Toni Morrison referred to Bill Clinton as "our first black president" in The New Yorker in 1998, in his latest "Asian Pop" column for SFGate, Jeff Yang makes a similar case for our possible first real black president, only this time asking Could Obama be the first Asian American president?

I've never been a big fan of the 'all-my-friends-are-Asian-thus-I-am-Asian-too' line of reasoning, but I am definitely encouraged at the prospect of a President who has some semblance of understanding of my perspective, and where I'm coming from as an Asian American. It certainly beats the hell out of a candidate that would openly refer to someone as "the gooks."

asianweek presents help: benefit concert for burma and sichuan

Just a reminder for folks in the Bay Area... This weekend, check out a cool event for a good cause. Over twenty community and professional organizations are partering up with AsianWeek to present help: Benefit Concert for Burma and Sichuan, Saturday, August 2 at Glas Kat Nightclub in San Francisco. Watch a promotional video for the event here.

The event will feature American Idol semifinalist Paul Kim, Burmese-American singer Natalise, and local band Mud, performing a rare acoustic set. All net proceeds from the concert will be donated to UMCOR to provide food, water, and temporary shelter in the most devastated areas of Burma and Sichuan.

Purchase your tickets here. After Friday at 11:59 p.m. PT, tickets will only be available at the door (CASH ONLY) for $40, so make things easier by purchasing in advance. For more info about the concert, go here.

whole lotta sketch comedy goin' on

Lots of sketch comedy happening in L.A. this week... 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors ("the world's most psychotic Asian American comedy troupe") presents the world premiere of "Just Like White People," an all new sketch comedy show that is "SAVAGELY FUNNY yet STRANGELY CIVILIZED." I have no idea what that means, but I like it. Come see:

* Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall's lesser known colleague, uh.. What-cha-ma-callit, who studied the crappy Asian ape, the orangutang, while Dian and Jane studied the more glamorous African apes.
* The "Ancient Chinese secret" ingredient to all that great Chinese food!
* Who saved the most Jews? Oskar Schindler, Chiune Sugihara or Feng Shan Ho? And who won the most Oscars?
*If Japanese are the "Germans of the East," and Koreans are the "Irish of the East," then WHAT THE HECK ARE CHINESE AND FILIPINOS?
*And MORE!
(Note: Suggested for mature audiences!
Written and performed by Junko Goda, Michael Chih Ming Hornbuckle, Kennedy Kabasares, Jully Lee, Greg Watanabe and Peter J. Wong. The show runs for a four week limited run, Thursday through Sunday, August 1-24 at The Complex (Ruby Theater) in Santa Monica. For more information, visit the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors website at 18mmw.com.

Meanwhile, Charles from the Asian American sketch comedy troupe OPM (Opening People's Minds) informs me that they'll be performing this weekend at the second annual benefit festival, Tia Chucha's Celebration of Community & Culture, along with a really awesome lineup headlined by Cheech Marin. Sunday, July 3 at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. Not only will they be the only sketch comedy group there, they're the only APA group with a multicultural cast and material—all in a predominantly Latino event. Pretty cool. To learn more about the event and OPM, visit the troupe's website here.

And finally, Project Newspeak's The Sketch Comedy Show presents its second annual show this Sunday, August 3 at the historic David Henry Hwant Theater in Little Tokyo. The comedy stage show is a combination of live acts and filmed shorts from a lively group of players. Special guests include comedian and Hollywood Laugh Factory regular, Danny Cho, and singer/songwriter Big Phony, along with guest performers Roger Fan, Dante Basco, Kaila Yu and Karin Anna Cheung. Sounds like a fun time. For more information, go here.


countdown to beijing...

This is really cool animated title sequence for BBC Sports' Olympics coverage, based on the classical Chinese novel, Journey to the West, and produced by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the guys behind the virtual band Gorillaz: BBC Sport's Olympics Monkey. You definitely won't see NBC doing anything remotely as cool as this...

That said, along similar lines, here's also a very interesting piece from the Washington Post on the West's fascination and love for all things China. Not the modern, bustling, contemporary nation China is trying to show the world, but the romantic, mysterious, exotic China of the past: We're Still in Love With The Romance of the Past.

yul kwon vs. the sharks

It's Shark Week! Everybody loves Shark Week. And Survivor: Cook Islands winner Yul Kwon is getting in on the action. Because he is a badass, dangerous dude. Tonight, he co-hosts the show How Not To Become Shark Bait on the Discovery Channel. Here's the description from the Discovery Channel website:
Premiering Tuesday, July 29, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Sharks may have a bad reputation, but you actually have a very slim chance of being attacked by one. A thrill-seeking team with a purpose -- escapologist Jonathan Goodwin, former lawyer turned Survivor: Cook Islands winner and adrenaline junkie Yul Kwon, marine biologist Jeremiah Sullivan and scientist Dr. Marty Jopson -- travel to the Bahamas to test shark attraction theories on lemon, tiger and Caribbean reef sharks, focusing on the sensory perception of sharks including colors, vibrations, smells and other attractors. In the process, viewers learn strategies for staying safe when in the water.
Yul is currently in Korea, and writes this in an email about the program: "I won't be able watch it until I get home next week, so please don't ruin the ending for me (if I get devoured, I'll be bummed)." Indeed, we'd all be bummed. The show airs tonight at 10:00pm ET/PT.

the worst little sweatshop in queens

At news conference last week in New York, state labor officials said they inspected one of the worst sweatshops they've visited in years: Apparel Factory Workers Were Cheated, State Says.

The factory, in Queens—which made women's apparel for Banana Republic, the Gap, Macy's, Urban Apparel and Victoria's Secret—apparently handed out instructions to its workers telling them to give false answers about working conditions when government inspectors visited.

The factory, Jin Shun, sometimes required its 100 employees to work seven days a week, sometimes for months in a row, and cheated its workers out of $5.3 million. The case made by the State Labor Department against Jin Shun is one of the biggest involving back pay that it has ever brought.

According to state officials, most employees, virtually all of them Chinese immigrants, were paid just $250 when they worked their typical 66-hour, six-day weeks, amounting to $3.79 an hour, far below the state's $7.15-an-hour minimum wage. They received more when they were required to work seven-day weeks.

Yes, my friends, that cute little Banana Republic sweater set you bought was made from the sweat of a 66-hour, $3.79/hour workweek.


harold and kumar will be back for a third movie

Harold and Kumar fans, you've got another reason to rejoice. Not only does the hit sequel Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay hit DVD shelves this week, Variety reports that the pot-smoking Korean/Indian American comedic duo will be back for a third installment. Yes. A H&K trilogy: 'Harold & Kumar' set for third puff.

Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg will return to write and direct the movie, and of course, John Cho and Kal Penn are expected to reprise their hit roles (the option was in their contracts). No details on the story. My only questions is, will NPH be back?

I suppose it was inevitable. The series thus far—particularly Guantanamo Bay—has been pretty successful, made with a relatively low budget, and earning a consideratible return at the box office. So it's no suprise they'd return to the well. Where will this next adventure take them? I like both Harold and Kumar movies, but did we really need a third one? No. But hey, why the hell not?

asian parents' worst nightmare

A lot of readers sent me this New York Times story last week: My Son, the Blogger: An M.D. Trades Medicine for Apple Rumors. It's a profile on blogger Arnold Kim, who runs the Apple-centric gossip/news site MacRumors.com. The blog started as a hobby eight years ago, but became so lucrative and successful—it now attracts more than 4.4 million visitors a month—he quit his day job practicing medicine and started blogging full time. How freaking cool is that? Sorry, Mom and Dad. I'm quitting the doctor thing to be a blogger! I love it.

geno espineli gets called to the big leagues

Last week, the San Francisco Giants called up Filipino American relief pitcher Geno Espineli from Triple-A to big leagues: Triple-A manager gives bad news and good news. The Giants purchased his contract and placed struggling reliever Keiichi Yabu on the disabled list with a sprained middle finger on his right hand.

Espineli has had a whirlwind couple of weeks, first pitching for the victorious Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game, then being named to the Olympic team before getting his first big-league call (he was drafted by the Giants in 2004). Now it's unclear whether he'll play in Beijing next month... but it's still pretty cool news.

philip kan gotanda's the wind cries mary in chicago

For theater fans in Chicago, check out Philip Kan Gotanda's The Wind Cries Mary, an Asian American adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. Set in San Francisco, with a backdrop of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement and the Women's Liberation movement, the play tackles Asian American political and civil rights themes of the late 1960s.

The play runs from August 1-24, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. It's directed by Ghuon 'Max' Chung, and features Patrick Doolin, Marssie Mencotti, Mia Park, Allen Hope Sermonia, Joe Yau and Helen Young. All performances are at City Lit Theater in Chicago. General admission is $18, students and seniors $15 and groups of 10 or more at $12.

The Wind Cries Mary is produced by A-Squared Theatre Workshop, the only workshop in Chicago dedicated to the Asian American experience. For more information about the play and its Chicago run, including ticket and venue info, go to A-Squared's Myspace profile here.

former l.a. city commissioner convicted of corruption

Last week in Los Angeles, a jury found former city commissioner Leland Wong guilty of public corruption: Leland Wong convicted on 14 felony corruption counts. Wong, an apppointee of former Mayor James K. Hahn, and a longtime member of the city's volunteer commissions overseeing city contracts, was found guilty on 14 felony counts, and not guilty of seven other corruption charges.

The most significant verdict involved the charge that Wong received $100,000 in bribes in a secret Hong Kong account from Ren-Gung Shyu, executive vice president of Taipei-based Evergreen Marine Corp. The payment was an enticement to get the giant Taiwanese shipping line more space at the Port of Los Angeles. In exchange, Wong exerted his influence as a member of the city's airport commission in order to benefit the firm.

Wong is a second-generation Chinese American raised in Los Angeles' Chinatown who rose to low-profile positions of power. Wong curried enough political favor with L.A. mayors Tom Bradley, Richard Riordan and James K. Hahn to serve for nearly 14 continuous years on the biggest city commissions. He now faces a potential sentence of more than 10 years. Busted.

big fat dvd giveaway winner

Thank you to everyone who entered last week's Big Fat DVD Giveaway contest. The response was really positive and overwhelming. A lot of you out there apparently like free stuff. To enter, you were asked to do a little research on The Director's Chair website and answer the following questions:

1. In addition to numerous independent Asian American films, veteran filmmaker Wayne Wang has directed several big-budget Hollywood movies. Name the one starring Jennifer Lopez. ANSWER: Maid in Manhattan.

2. In what city did director Ron Morales shoot his debut feature Santa Mesa? ANSWER: Manila.

3. In addition to directing the indie drama Never Forever, Gina Kim has taught as a visiting lecturer at what ivy-league university. Name the school. ANSWER: Harvard University.

We have a winner! Drawn at random from the correct entries. And the lucky name is... Daniel C. of San Jose, California. He wins DVD copies of Finishing the Game, Journey From the Fall, American Pastime, Colma: The Musical and Undoing, as well as a whole bunch of other DVDs I have laying around. Congratulations, Daniel. Enjoy. Everyone else, better luck next time.


2008 comic-con recap

Greetings! This weekend, I made the trek to San Diego to attend the one and only 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, where thousands upon thousands of fellow fanboys gathered to worship the forces of pop culture geekness. This was my first time at Comic-Con, and it was truly an overwhelming, eye-opening experience. This was madness. This was Comic-Con...

This is artist Adrian Tomine, the guy behind Optic Nerve, signing at the Drawn and Quarterly booth. He autographed my copy of Shortcomings. I think I might've suprised him when I took this picture.

This Eric Nakamura of Giant Robot fame. He's a true Comic-Con veteran, having done it for like twelve years or something. I ran into him pretty early on, and he gave me some advice: make sure you eat some lunch at Comic-Con, or you might forget and you'll be a mess by the end of the day. Words of wisdom.

Hey, it's actor Parry Shen, helping to promote the indie sci-fi action movie he's in, The Gene Generation. He's holding the tie-in comic book, The DNA Hacker Chronicles. Parry was also scoping out talent among the convention's many comic artists to recruit for his Asian American superhero anthology, Secret Identities, due out in Spring 2009.

I finally got to meet Gene Luen Yang, author of one of my favorite books, American Born Chinese, who turned out to be a really cool guy. He told me for his next project, he's teaming up with Derek Kirk Kim, author of Same Difference—another one of my favorite books. I can't wait!

This is artist Benton Jew, who does comic books and movie storyboards, among other things. I actually wasn't very familiar with his work, but I'd come across his blog a couple of times. I came across his table when I was perusing the artists' aisle, and his sign caught my eye. Couldn't forget a name like that.

Ryan Suda was holding down the Blacklava booth, giving convention-goers some Asian American t-shirt pride. I'm diggin' the new BARACK design. He told a good number of folks actually picked up the Nobody Loves an Angry Asian Man shirt. Go Comic-Con.

Here's cartoonist/actress Lela Lee, rockin' her Angry Little Asian Girl wares in the autograph room. Unlike Lou Ferrigno, she wasn't charging thirty bucks to take a photo of/with her. She's a really cool lady. Now I kind of regret not buying that lunchbox.

Got to meet comic book artist Bernard Chang, who is a fan and reader of this blog. We've corresponded over the years, and he's even sent me some of his work, so it was nice to finally meet in person. He hooked me up with a couple of issues of Wonder Woman, which he recently did the art for. Good stuff.

I managed to make it into the very popular Lost panel, along with about 6500 other conventioneers. This show has crazy fans. During the Q & A, the first question asked concerned the fates of Jin and Locke—will they be back? Without giving much away, producer Carlton Cuse said that Daniel Dae Kim would indeed be back next season. He didn't really elaborate, except to say that "Death is a relative term" on Lost. Indeed.

I also attended the Terminator Salvation panel, giving an early look at next summer's new Terminator movie. No, Arnold will not be back. But Christian Bale stars as John Connor, leader of the human resistance. Mainly, I wanted a glimpse of co-star Moon Bloodgood, who is just super-gorgeous. Unfortunately, from my seat waaaaaay in the back, this shot of the jumbotron was the best I could get.

Back on the convention floor, John Cho and Kal Penn were hanging around to promote the DVD release of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. A camera crew was interviewing them up on this tower thing, and every time they turned around to look down, the crowd went crazy. Lots of random fools yelling "Kumaaaar!" And yes, that's a unicorn.

Finally, I came across this very cool special edition Heroes action figure of Future Hiro from season one, complete with Kensei sword and Masi Oka facial hair. A Comic-Con exclusive. I wanted to buy it, but it was pretty late in the convention, my wallet was getting thin, and I couldn't bring myself to drop $30 on an action figure. So I exercised some restraint. But now I'm looking for it online, and the damn thing is going for fifty bucks! Rookie mistake. Excuse me now as I recover from the madness.


america's best dance crew season 2: week six

So long, Supreme Soul. All things considered, it sucked to see them in the bottom two, and they certainly didn't deserve to go home—especially with the killer performance that they gave this week. But the competition is whittling down and getting tough, and they were up against Super Cr3w, who aren't going anywhere just yet. If it were up to me, Boogie Bots are going home next. Once again, here are videos of my three favorite crews:

Super Cr3w. A good performance, though certainly not their best.

SoReal Cru. These kids are always a lot of fun to watch. But I'm a little tired of the "my-parents-don't-approve-of-my-dancing" package they seem to run every other week. I know they're trying to go for a good story, but after a while it just gets a little tired.

Fanny Pak. Unfortunately, one of their weaker performances. Seems like this challege was a hindrance to a lot of the crews' routines. Way too many props going on. Fanny Pak usually rocks with the props, but this time it didn't work too well in their favor. Here's hoping their back in form next time. In the end though, at this point in the competition, I'd honestly be happy with any of these three crews going all the way.


daniel dae kim will be back on lost "in some form"

The season four finale of Lost had a lot of people freaking out over the possible death of Jin. Is he really dead? Was that the end of his story? A death that happens offscreen isn't necessarily a true death, right? We can hold out with the hope that on Lost, nothing is ever as it seems. It's just that kind of show.

Indeed, there was a glimmer of hope at last week's Television Critics Association Press Tour, Lost producer Carlton Cuse droppped the hint that we will see more of Daniel Dae Kim in series "in some form." What does that mean? What the hell does that mean?! Cryptic, and true to the show. Perhaps we'll find out more this weekend at the big Lost panel at Comic-Con. Stay tuned.

oakland to pay $2 million in police groping settlement

Last week in Oakland, the City Council approved a deal to pay $2 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by sixteen Asian American women who said a former Oakland police officer, Richard Valerga, groped or sexually harassed them: Oakland will pay $2 million settlement in police groping suit.

We've actually been following this case for several years. This will be the second payment Oakland has made to settle claims involving Valerga, who resigned from the police department in 2005. Oakland paid a $190,000 settlement to two other women in 2006 to settle similar claims. Yeah, the sicko has a serious problem.

Valerga also faced criminal charges in 2005. He pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor civil rights violations. He was sentenced in 2006 to three years probation and six months in jail. This guy sexually targets Asian American women, abuses his authority as an officer of law... and that's all he got. A slap on the wrist. Ridiculous.

aaiff 2008 wrap-up

A quick wrap-up of last weekend's closing celebration at the Asian American International Film Festival... A the Closing Night Awards Ceremony, AAIFF announced the winners of its Festival Awards. Hosted by Ping Pong Playa co-writer/co-producer/star Jimmy Tsai, with awards presented by director Jessica Yu, actress Michelle Krusiec and actor Ken Leung, the event wrapped up the festival's successful 31st year. Here's the list of winners:

AAIFF08 Award Winners

Emerging Director Award in Narrative Feature
Dir. Jennifer Phang

Emerging Director Award in Documentary Feature
Dir. Ann Kaneko

AAIFF08 Audience Award~Narrative Feature
Dir. Amyn Kaderali

AAIFF08 Audience Award~Documentary Feature
Dir. Risa Morimoto

In addition, the The One to Watch Award, open to all films made by youth in the For Youth By Youth program was granted to Lou Nakasako for his film Batman Not Chinese. Nathan Kitada was named the winner of AAIFF's 8th Screenplay Competition for his screenplay Citizen Kim. For more information about these winning films, check out the festival website here. Also be sure to check out the special podcasts recorded last week at the festival panels. It's good stuff. See you next year!

the mandarin juicer is still alive and kicking

Gothamist reports on Alessi's Mandarin Citrus Juicer, that pesky kitchen item shaped like a stereotypical Asian caricature, right down to the slanty eyes: Pinkberry Mandarin Citrus Juicer Sparks Outrage. It's been recently spotted at various Pinkberry yogurt locations, where they display comparably "cute" household design items as decor and for sale.

Anger over the Mandarin Juicer prompted some folks to start the Drop the Juicer campaign, which actually appears to be successful. Gothamist notes that Pinkberry claims that the Juicer is now being removed from all Pinkberry stores. Of course, this doesn't mean the Mandarin Juicer will ever really go away.

Longtime readers will remember Alessi's Juicer actually first showed up on these pages about six or seven years ago. It sparked outrage back then too, and after some bad publicity, it seemed like they were being pulled from store shelves... only to pop up again recently at Pinkberry.

The Juicers are like cockroaches. The damn things don't ever seem to die. They just live on to inspire more stupid racist products like this one and this one.


asian stories opening in los angeles

For those of you in Southern California looking for something to do this weekend, check out Ron Oda and Kris Chin's Asian Stories, opening this Friday, July 25 for a one-week run at the ImaginAsian Center.

It's this fun, quirky indie feature that manages to get a lot of laughs out of a very simple production. Which is nice way of saying it looks like they had a low-ass budget, and it ain't bad for what it is. The movie was a surprise hit on the Asian American film festival circuit a couple of years back, and it's finally getting a brief theatrical release, followed by a DVD. Here's the story:
Asian Stories is an amazing feature length film that tells a story unlike any other. Jim is a young closefisted Chinese American living in LA who desperately finds himself with a stack of white flower themed disposable cameras, fleur-de-lis invitations, a number of champagne bottles, and a ten-thousand dollar engagement ring bill. The only thing missing is a bride. In financial debt and miserable for having his fiancé leave two weeks prior to Valentine's day, Jim tries to resurface his dignity and wash away his wretchedness by asking his best friend, a Japanese hitman whose passion for cooking fancy entrees extends far beyond his kitchen, to kill him just in time to miss the Hallmark holiday. With less than four days to live, Jim, while wearing his wedding tuxedo the entire time, treks to the mountains to find his fate, meet a pizza delivery boy with lucky charms, the funeral spot of his choice, and a girl.
I'll admit, when Asian Stories first started popping up at film festivals, I was a little apprehensive. I hadn't heard anything about it, and to be honest, the story didn't sound all that appealing. And of course, there's the title. Asian Stories is bad enough, but throughout the film's festival run it was called Asian Stories (Book 3). Even worse. It was a hard sell.

But I ended up checking it out, and had surprisingly a really great time. It's far from perfect, but it's a silly movie, with some really funny jokes and a likeable, engaging cast that includes James Kyson Lee (Heroes) and Kathy Uyen. It's a pretty good movie to watch with a big, enthusiastic crowd. Not so fun to watch in an empty theater. So check it out...

On Friday, stars James Kyson Lee, Kathy Uyen, Kirt Kishita, director Ron Oda, and other cast and crew members will attend opening night and will be on hand for a Q & A after the 7:15pm screening. For more information about the theatrical run, visit the ImaginAsian website here For more information about Asian Stories, including the trailer, go here.

mccain meeting with bobby jindal

Some more Vice Presidential buzz surrounding Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal... John McCain is apparently set to meet with Jindal this week during a trip to New Orleans, according to sources close to the campaign: McCain To Meet With Jindal.

While Jindal has continually expressed that he's not interested in the VP job, we seem to keep coming back to this. As much as the recently-elected governor wants to take care of business in his state, if the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee comes calling, you hear him out.

The meeting with Jindal suggests that McCain is deeply engaged in the process of picking a running-mate, and Jindal—widely touted as the future of the Republican party—is under serious consideration. Could this actually happen? Could we actually be looking at the possiblity of an Indian American nominee for Vice President of the United States?

Let's face it, if McCain picked Jindal it would have a huge impact, not only the race but for the re-branding of the GOP. Jindal would put a whole new face on a party that is widely seen by voters as controlled by old white men. I've recently gone from thinking "no way in hell" to "wow, this could actually happen." We will see.

beware the ninja assassin

Entertainment Weekly recently published a gallery of photos in anticipation of this weekend's San Diego Comic-Con, where studios will unveil photos, footage and other information from various geek-related genre movies. Among them: Ninja Assassin, directed by James McTeigue, produced by the Wachowski Brothers, and starring South Korea's pop superstar savior, Rain. That's him above, looking like he's had a very bad day. Here are some plot details:
Ninja Assassin will center on, "Raizo (Rain), one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them...and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge."
We know a few things about the movie so far. We know that it may or may not be the long-awaited big screen adaptation of the anime film Ninja Scroll. We know that veteran comics/screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski took a shot at draft of the script (and apparently wrote the damn thing in 53 hours). We know that Rick Yune was cast back in May as Rain's rival. We know that Sung Kang and Sho Kosugi are also in the movie.

We don't know, however, if it's going to be any good. The Wachowski Brothers, once considered the best thing to happen to Hollywood after films like Bound and The Matrix, have sort of floundered in recent years. Speed Racer flopped hard, and turned out to be a poor launching pad for what was supposed to be Rain's crossover party. Could Ninja Assassin be the Wachowski's last chance to redeem themselves? Will it be the big stateside splash that Rain has been waiting for? I don't know. But any movie featuring a bloody, barefoot guy holding two big-ass swords is worth taking a look at, in my book.

the myth of the model minority: asian americans facing racism

Just heard about this new book, The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism by Rosalind S. Chou and Joe R. Feagin. The book challenges the idea that most Asian Americans are relatively untouched by racism or focused on issues related to equity. Based on field interviews nationwide, the book describes the Asian American experience in schools, colleges, the workplace and public discourse.

Here's an interesting interview from Inside Higher Ed with co-author Rosalind S. Chou, who responded email questions about the book's findings about college students: The Myth of the Model Minority.

I know there's been a lot of attention and scrutiny on Asian American college students lately, in the media and elsewhere. I guess it's a hot topic right now. But to a lot of us, these issues are really nothing new. We know this is happening, and we're trying to do something about it.

For others—including many Asian Americans, believe it or not—this book is probably going to be eye-opening. Maybe even the title will come off as provocative. Surprise! Asians face racism too! Who knows? I haven't read it yet. The book will available on August 30. For more information, go here.

no regret in theaters friday

My man Jack informs me that No Regret, the groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed gay love story from South Korea, hits select theaters in New York and Los Angeles this Friday, July 25. Directed by controversial and openly gay filmmaker Leesong Hee-il, it's described as "a classic romance interwoven with the realistic depiction of class conflict and contemporary Korean gay life." Here's the official synopsis:
NO REGRET marks the first true gay film from Korea, centers on Sumin (Lee Young-Hoon), a poor 18 year-old orphan who seeks his fortune in the bright lights of Seoul. After losing a series of jobs, he is forced to work as a prostitute in a gay karaoke bar. A wealthy and powerful industrialist, Jaemin, (Lee Han) falls passionately in love with the boy and seduces him. Their relationship soon begins to interfere with Jaemin's pending nuptials and his promotion to a high-profile job at his father’s company. Vengeful after becoming ignored, Sumin sets off on a destructive course of action that brings the film to a powerful and emotional moment of truth. "No Regret" is as uplifting and bittersweet as it is compelling and surprising.
I haven't had the chance to check it out, but I'm told by several people who have seen it that it's quite good. Without a doubt, something very different coming out of South Korea. It opens at the Sunset 5 in West Hollywood and the Cinema Village in New York, with more cities to follow. To learn more about the film, visit the website here.

atf: asian task force and bookie screening at comic-con

This weekend, the center of the geek universe is in San Diego for Comic-Con 2008, the annual ultimate gathering of all things comic book/sci-fi/fantasy/ movie-related. There will be a lot going on, but for now I just wanted to inform you of a couple of film screenings happening tomorrow. Particularly, the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. There are actually quite a few films this year involving Asian American talent.

Good reader William Lu informs me that his short action flick ATF: Asian Task Force will be screening on Thursday, July 24, 1:15-2:05pm in Room 26AB at the Convention Center. If you're going to be at Comic-Con, William is actually offering a free limited edition "ATF" embroidered patches for those who attend the screening. You just have to utter the password "angryasian" to him after the screening. Ooh, secret.

Tran Quoc Bao's Bookie will also be playing in the same program. This has been one of my favorite shorts on this year's film festival circuit. I highly recommend checking it out, either Comic-Con or at a future festival screening.


new dragonball movie poster

This Japanese movie poster for the upcoming live-action Dragonball movie recently hit the web. Is it just me, or does this movie look absolutely ridiculous? Personally I prefer the poster that Disgrasian posted last month:

Kind of nails it on the head, don't ya think? With every little bit of art and information that comes about this movie, I get a worse feeling. Disaster is coming. You can just feel it. And it's not just the fact that Justin Chatwin is Goku. This is a story that's just not going to translate well to live-action. We've got another Speed Racer-sized flop in the making... and it's going to be baaaaad.

canada allows dying woman to apply for immigrant status

An update on the plight of Juana Tejada. She's a live-in caregiver from the Philippines who applied for landed immigrant status in Canada, having completed all the requirements, only discover during the application process that she had terminal cancer. Thus, the government denied her application due to the financial burden it would put on the health care system. Ridiculous!

Good news, though. Alex informs me that after rejecting her twice, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada has given in to public pressure and has finally allowed her and her husband the right to apply for landed immigrant status: Nanny battling terminal cancer gets reprieve. Perhaps now she and her family can focus their strength on more serious matters... like battling cancer.

'asian pride' street gang busted

Last week in Denver, a federal grand jury returned a 109-count indictment charging 27 members and associates of the "Asian Pride" street gang with conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of the drug ecstasy: 27 Members and Associates of Denver 'Asian Pride' Street Gang Indicted.

The arrests were the culmination of a two-and-a-half year investigation by Denver's Metro Gang Task Force into the Asian Pride gang, who are accused of distributing hundreds of thousands of ecstasy tablets in the Denver area.

Okay, first of all, who the hell calls themselves "Asian Pride"? Secondly, seriously, who calls themselves "Asian Pride"? What kind of gang name is that? I shake my head at that. At least they didn't call themselves AZN PrYd. Rest assured, Denver has rid itself of ecstasy. Just in time for the DNC next month. Sorry, it's not that kind of party.

stupid, stupid cubs fans

This is a funny cartoon commenting on idiot frat boy Cubs fans who wear stupid, offensive apparel to "honor" Japanese player Kosuke Fukudome. I'm sure White Sox fans got a kick out of this. (Thanks, Derfman.)

what's next for john woo

Well, John Woo's highly-anticipated Red Cliff, the most expensive Chinese-language film ever made, finally arrived in theaters in Asia, receiving generally positive reviews. After completing an undertaking like that, what do you do next?

Variety reports that Woo will direct the movie adaptation of the comic book Caliber, to be unveiled this week at San Diego Comic-Con. The story apparently sets the legend of King Arthur and his knights as 19th century gunslingers in the Pacific Northwest: John Woo fires off 'Caliber'. I imagine it will involve lots of guns.

However, Caliber won't be Woo's next film. He's stil busy editing part two of Red Cliff (the long-ass epic was split into two parts) for a January release in Asia, as well as a shorter, one-part international version to be released shortly thereafter.

For years, we've heard about a ton of projects that Woo has been attached to direct or produce—everything from Spy Hunter to He-Man—and none of them have really gone anywhere yet. His previously announced projects include 1949, a period romance set during the Chinese Revolution, and a remake of the 1969 French crime drama The Sicilian Clan.

But the project I'm most interested in seeing from John Woo is The Divide, the story of a Chinese laborer working on America's transcontinental railroads in the 19th century. I think John Woo needs to slim down his workload and get cracking on this project, either as director or producer... This is a story that has been neglected far too long, and needs to be told!

jeff chiba stearns' yellow sticky notes

Take a look at Jeff Chiba Stearns' animated experimental piece, Yellow Sticky Notes, one of favorite short films from this year's festival circuit. It's entertaining, moving, autobiographical glimpse into the scattered mind of a cartoonist. You have to admire the work that went into creating the piece (only a black ink pen and over 2300 yellow sticky notes!), as well as Stearns' honesty in reflecting on the events of his life. Take a look.

the hate crime killing of thien minh ly

The O.C. Weekly has a lengthy story on the brutal 1996 murder of Thien Minh Ly, and the troubled, hate-filled man who committed the vicious act: When Gunner Jay Lindberg Killed Thien Minh Ly, Was It Actually a Hate Crime?. Twelve years later, a key question about the murder is now the subject of debate. In coming weeks, the California Supreme Court will announce if Ly was really the victim of a hate crime. For the killer, Gunner Jay Lindberg—the first person Orange County sent to San Quentin State Prison's death row under California's hate-crime statute—the decision is a matter of life and death.
A quick-tempered box stocker at a Tustin Kmart with a penchant for picking fights with Asians, African-Americans and Latinos—anyone, really—Lindberg didn't graduate from high school and possessed few social skills but was artistically gifted. He'd converted both a white 2.5-pound Gourmet's Choice fruit container and a cardboard San Francisco 49ers checkers box into storage for his marijuana stash after redecorating them with swirling, hand-drawn psychedelic images of anger, death and Hitler. If pot soothed other people's minds, it only fueled Lindberg's fantasies of becoming, he wrote, "the king of all evil and distruction [sic]."

Lindberg, who also took methamphetamines, never lived up to his narcissistic imagination. During an eight-year crime spree beginning at age 12, he proved himself to be little more than a thug who preyed on the defenseless. His victims included a cop's 11-year-old son, whom he chased and shot in the throat with a BB gun; a day laborer, whom he attacked with a tree limb for the money in his pocket; a skateboarder, whom he repeatedly kicked in the stomach as he stole the board; the peers he angrily chased, firing a shotgun, over a perceived slight; an on-duty prison guard, whom he brutally ambushed; and an elderly woman, whom he pummeled during a home-invasion robbery for drug money.

But he committed his most heinous act on Ly. At 8 p.m. on Jan. 28, 1996, Lindberg took Domenic Michael Christopher, a Kmart co-worker, to his apartment after they finished a shift that consisted largely of watching the Super Bowl on television in the store's break room. According to his own writings, Lindberg hoped to mold the impressionable 17-year-old, who liked karate and hadn't been in trouble before, into his protégé. They smoked pot, talked about "robbery and shit like that" and left on foot—Lindberg carrying a butcher knife he'd stolen from his grandmother's kitchen, according to police files. They stopped for dinner at Jack in the Box, and then walked the streets searching for a victim. At one point, they encountered a group of teenagers standing in a front yard, attempted to start a fight, failed and moved on.

Minutes later, they found and trapped the unsuspecting Ly, whose last seven minutes of life were the stuff of horror flicks. Lindberg called him a "Jap," demanded his car keys, cursed him, punched him, stomped on his head, kicked his face, slashed his throat and stabbed him 22 times—in part, to celebrate a victory earlier that evening by what Lindberg hailed as "America's team," the Dallas Cowboys.

Among Ly's final words were "What the fuck?"
According to the article, Lindberg's days are now filled with "exercising, writing pen pals, creating art, playing chess, daydreaming about Nordic lore and writing satanic poems that mock Ly's death." I'm not an attorney, but I have a hard time seeing how this wasn't hate crime. The story makes note of the abundance of racist and pro-Nazi art and paraphernalia in Lindberg's possession, as well as the letter he wrote to his cousin detailing how he "killed a Jap"—the letter that ultimately led authorities to him. It goes on and on. This guy is crazy psycho racist.

But during supreme court oral arguments last month, Lindberg's defense argued that two special circumstances the jury found to be true—that the murder was committed during the commission of an attempted robbery and that Ly's race was a key factor in the crime—were, in fact, false, and the death penalty punishment must be overturned. Among his arguments, he told the justices that the evidence presented at trial "did not establish that Lindberg possessed a racial bias," did not prove that he hated Asians or "murdered Ly because of his race."

The article tries to delve into Lindberg's past and upbringing, trying to make sense of what could drive a young person to hold such hateful views and commit such a heinous act of violence. Again, I don't know the minutiae of the law, but it's pretty clear to me that this guy had a lot of hate in his heart, and wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. Thien Minh Ly was a tragic target of Lindberg's mindless, senseless hate.

In the end, none of this can be of much comfort to Ly's family. He was a smart, likeable guy with a bright future and career ahead of him. I remember first learning about this case in the late 1990s when I saw the film Letters to Thien. It was a sober reminder that hate crimes and racially-motivated violence can and still occur, in an instant and without reason.


what did you do today, stephen scott lee?

I recently got turned on to the music of Nashville-based singer/songwriter Steve Lee. So far, his claim to fame is an album of indie-pop kids songs, What Did You Do Today, Stephen Scott Lee?, and damn, it's great.

The album, which takes you through the day in the young life of kid Steve, is cool adventure of fun, catchy tunes. (I love "Grab A Balloon.") At times, it sounds a bit reminiscent of Wilco and Barenaked Ladies. He's a regular dude who happened to write a bunch of kids songs (to impress a girl, apparently). And it's good stuff. You can download it from iTunes or Amazon.com, or buy it directly from his MySpace.

His upcoming album is apparently titled Greatest Animal Hits, a continuation of the first record with a few adult-themed songs kicked in. He's actually got an autobiographical song about being Asian, entitled "Say Herro." Funny stuff. Can't wait to hear the rest. Here's an interview with Steve in KoreAm Journal from earlier this year: Steve Lee - Strummin' tunes for the kid at heart.

"filmmaking outside the box" seminar for producers

Calling all independent film producers in New York... Here's some information about a cool seminar for folks interested in learning some tips and strategies for producing, led by Karin Chien, veteran producer behind independent films like Robot Stories, The Motel and Undoing. Here are the details:

Instructor: Karin Chien

Ideal for novices, experienced producers, and anyone who's ever asked:

a) How do I choose the right projects?
b) What should this script really cost to make?
c) What is the best distribution offer for my film?
d) Should I just do it myself?

What does it mean to be an independent film producer today? This seminar examines the most important personal and professional decisions that every producer will face.

We'll address key processes of building relationships, achieving sustainability and making decisions, while discussing strategies for financing, distribution, closing deals, choosing projects, and determining budgets. You'll learn best practices and hear hard-won knowledge. The seminar will include an open Q+A session and conclude with a networking mixer.

Date: Saturday, July 26, 2008
Time: 10am - 6pm
Location: TBD in NYC

Price: $215 Regular Registration, $185 Early Registration by July 18 (For Angry Asian Man readers, Wednesday, July 23rd)

To Register contact: Karen Lin 323-610-2413, karen@zuzufilms.com
You read that correctly—Angry Asian Man readers get the early registration rate if you register by Wednesday, July 23. I'm told that the seminar was quite a hit when they ran it back in May. Here's your chance to get some really good producing advice from someone who's been there.

michael paul chan from the closer

The Washington Post has a transcript from a fan chat with actor Michael Paul Chan, who plays Lt. Mike Tao in TNT's drama The Closer. He's one of those Asian American actors who's been in the business for years, toiling away in all sorts of stereotypical Asian roles that Hollywood threw at him. Personally, I remember him best as Data's father in The Goonies. It's nice to see him finally playing a regular, likeable guy in The Closer. Anyway, read the chat transcript here.

seeking images for vincent chin documentary

The filmmakers behind Vincent Who?, a documentary examining the impact of the historic Vincent Chin murder case, are looking for images from the era to include in the film. The watershed case was a defining moment for the Asian American community, and they're looking for any kind of images/footage that demonstrate the diverse, national movement behind the case—fundraisers, rallies, meetings or anything from around the country would be great. Here are some details:

VINCENT WHO? (48 minutes) - In 1982, Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit by two white autoworkers at the height of anti-Japanese sentiments. For the first time, Asian Americans around the country galvanized to form a real community and movement. If you have any photos or images from this time period (1982-1987), we would appreciate speaking with you! Please contact us at curtischin@aol.com.

This documentary, inspired by a series of town halls organized by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress on the 25th anniversary of the case, features interviews with the key players at the time, as well as a whole new generation of activists. "Vincent Who?" asks how far Asian Americans have come since then and how far we have yet to go. Featured interviews include: Helen Zia (lead activist during the Chin trial), Renee Tajima Pena (director, "Who Killed Vincent Chin?"), Stewart Kwoh (Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center), Lisa Ling (journalist), Sumi Pendakur (Univ. of Southern California), Dale Minami (civic rights attorney), Doua Thor (Executive Director, Southeast Asian Resource Action Center) and a group of five diverse young APA activists whose lives were impacted by Vincent Chin.

Producer and co-director Curtis Chin (featured in the documentary) is an award-winning writer and producer who has worked for ABC, NBC, Disney Channel and more. As a community activist, he co-founded the Asian American Writers Workshop and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress. Co-director Tony Lam is a writer, producer, and director based in Los Angeles. A former Fulbright scholar, he currently produces "Our Role Models" on LA18, where he has interviewed over 100 outstanding leaders and talents in the Asian American community.

Presented by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress in association with Tony Lam Films and Q & A Pictures.
As I've said many times before, learning about this case was an important, defining moment in developing my own political awareness and identity as Asian American activist. Without a doubt, Christine Choy and Renee Tajima's Who Killed Vincent Chin? is a documentary that changed my life. Vincent Who? looks back at the case, its legacy and its relevance to today's civil rights climate. For more information about the film, visit the website here.

yao ming/lebron james coke commercial

It's China vs. America! Cowboys vs. dragons! Breakdancing grizzlies vs. kung fu-ing pandas! It's Yao Ming and LeBron coming together in the name of Coca-Cola.

michelle wie disqualified over unsigned scorecard

Over the weekend, in the midst of playing the best golf she's played all year, Michelle Wie was disqualified from the State Farm Classic after breaking one of the game's most simple, basic rules. she failed to sign her scorecard before leaving the scoring area: Wie disqualified over scorecard mishap.

After she'd finished her round on Friday, she left the tent just above the ninth green where players sign their scorecards. She was chased down by volunteers working in the tent, who pointed out that she hadn't signed. Wie returned to the tent and signed the card, but by then it was apparently too late. She had already walked outside the roped-off area around the tent.

Tour officials didn't learn about the mistake from volunteers until well after Wie had teed off Saturday morning, so they let her finish the round. Then they pulled her aside and informed her she was out.

It was a dumb move, for sure. And a stupid reason to be disqualified. But what's worse, it happened when it seemed like she was finally hitting stride and living up to her potential, after finishing Friday and Saturday in second place. She was the player to beat this week. That's gotta suck.

reminder: big fat dvd giveaway

Just wanted to remind you all that the Big Fat DVD Giveaway is still on. I'll be accepting entries until the end of today. One lucky reader will receive a huge DVD prize pack of recent Asian American film festival favorites: Justin Lin's Finishing the Game, Ham Tran's Journey From the Fall, Desmond Nakano's American Pastime, Chris Chan Lee's Undoing and Richard Wong's Colma: The Musical. Good stuff, right?

But that's not all. The prize pack will also include a huge, random assortment of (unopened) DVDs I've amassed over the last few years, which includes some Jackie Chan movies, Asian horror, anime, as well as some really scattered stuff. Basically, my DVD collection has grown too large and cluttered to handle, and I'm trying to get rid of my junk. It can all be yours!

To enter for your chance to win, you'll have to do a little research, and answer the following questions:
1. In addition to numerous independent Asian American films, veteran filmmaker Wayne Wang has directed several big-budget Hollywood movies. Name the one starring Jennifer Lopez.

2. In what city did director Ron Morales shoot his debut feature Santa Mesa?

3. In addition to directing the indie drama Never Forever, Gina Kim has taught as a visiting lecturer at what ivy-league university. Name the school.
You can dig for answers in the interviews on The Director's Chair website. Email me your answers, along with your name and mailing address, by the end of today—Monday, July 21. Be sure to include "BIG FAT DVD GIVEAWAY" clearly written in the subject line. I'll throw all the correct entries in a hat, then pick one lucky winner. There can only be one! Good luck.


aaiff closing night: ping pong playa

The 31st Annual Asian American International Film Festival comes to a close with its Closing Night presentation, Jessica Yu's Ping Pong Playa, and awards ceremony tonight at Asia Society in New York City.

The movie, starring Jimmy Tsai, Roger Fan, Smith Cho, Jim Lau and Elizabeth Sung, is a fun little indie sports comedy with a lot of heart. To learn more the movie, visit the official website here. For more information about the festival, go here.

kiyo matsumoto confirmed as next federal judge

Last week, the full United States Senate unanimously confirmed Kiyo Matsumoto to be the next federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, making her only the second woman of Asian decent ever confirmed to the federal bench: New judge appointed for Eastern District on NY.

Matsumoto currently serves as a Federal Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York, where she has managed a docket of over 300 cases for three years. Prior to her appointment as Federal Magistrate Judge, Ms. Matsumoto served the in U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York for over 20 years, as Chief and First Deputy Chief of the Civil Division.

In addition to being the second Asian American woman to serve as a federal district court judge, she's the third Asian American federal district court judge outside of California and Hawaii, and the eighth Asian American federal Senate-confirmed judge currently active out of approximately 850 nationwide.

randy newman's "korean parents"

I don't know what to make of this. Singer/songwriter Randy Newman, whose work has been no stranger to controversy, has a song on his latest album called "Korean Parents," which he is apparently pre-emptively apologizing for: Randy Newman salutes 'Korean Parents'. The song is supposed to be a portrait of race relations as played out in public education. Here are the lyrics:
Some Jewish kids still trying
Some white kids trying too
But millions of real American kids don’t have a clue
Right here on the lot
We got the answer
A product guaranteed to satisfy...

Korean parents for sale
You say you need a little discipline
Someone to whip you into shape
They’ll be strict but they’ll be fair

Look at the numbers
That’s all I ask
Who’s at the head of every class?
You really think they’re smarter than you are
They just work their asses off
Their parents make them do it...
It's funny that this song should pop up amidst all the discussion lately about heavy Asian American enrollment in competitive schools and colleges. I haven't heard the song, but the music apparently comes off as "stereotypically Asian," according to Newman.

Who comes off looking worse in this song? The lazy "American" parents who don't know how to discipline their kids? Or the strict Korean parents who whip their kids into shape? Either way, he makes one hell of a generalization... and it looks like he knows it. Thus, apologies in advance.


america's best dance crew season 2: week five

Extremely surprising turn of events on America's Best Dance Crew this week. After weeks of dominating the competition, both SuperCr3w and SoReal Cru found themselves in the bottom three of America's votes. What the hell happened? I don't know. And in an odd reversal, Fanny Pak deservedly ended up as one of the top vote-getters, after weeks scrapping and battling it out at the bottom.

In the end, it was Super Cr3w vs. A.S.I.I.D. I don't think there was much doubt that Super Cr3w would come out on top (I'm betting they'll make it all the way to the end). A.S.I.I.D.'s run has been energetic and inspirational—particularly because of the presence of crew member Joey, who is hearing impaired—and they've gained a lot of fans, but it was just their time to go.

By the way, did you see the members of Supreme Soul sporting Project Michelle shirts during their rehearsal? Check it out: Supreme Soul shows love for Project Michelle on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. Very cool.

This week they did a Janet Jackson challenge. Here are my three favorite crews:

Super Cr3w, "Black Cat"

SoReal Cru, "I Get Lonely"

Fanny Pak, "All Night (Don't Stop)"

still crazy about bruce

This weekend in Seattle, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Bruce Lee's death, the Bruce Lee Foundation is hosting a three-day celebration of seminars, an exhibit, screenings of Enter the Dragon, a graveside memorial and more, taking place at various venues in his adopted hometown: Bruce Lee 35th Anniversary Celebration.

Lee's wife, Linda Lee Caldwell; his daughter Shannon Lee; and Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), are scheduled to attend. The family will also unveil its proposal to build a $50 million Bruce Lee museum in Seattle. For more information, visit the Bruce Lee Foundation website. More here: SAM event one of many tributes to Bruce Lee.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee fans are marking the anniversary of his death with an exhibit featuring 800 items—movie posters, magazine covers, books, letters—all about the action star: Exhibit marks Bruce Lee's death. After all these years, people are still crazy about Bruce!

that asian thing screening at tribeca cinemas

I recently heard from Jonald Reyes, director of the indie documentary That Asian Thing. It's a film that explores the issue of "low Asian American influence" within mainstream America. Basically, it asks why are there so few Asian Americans in arts and entertainment. A question we ask frequently around here.

For the past few months, That Asian Thing as been part of an online film competition through the Independent Features Film Festival, where the top 21 films would participate in the festival and compete for viewer awards. Through a massive campaign of email, listserves and Facebook/MySpace hype, The film won entrance into the festival and will screen later this month, July 27, at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York. For tickets, go here.

I had the chance to take a look at the film, and to be honest, it's not very strong and needs some work. It's pretty rough. But it does raise some very interesting issues, and at the very least, it's a good conversation starter. Plus, it's obvious that Jonald has put a lot of his heart into this documentary. To learn more about That Asian Thing and the screening, go here.

samurai girl coming to abc family

We first heard about the Samurai Girl project sometime last year when it was reported that ABC Family had ordered the pilot for the series. I've been starting to see lots promos and commercials for it, advertised as an ABC Family "Original Event." It's scheduled to premiere over three nights, starting Friday, September 5. I'm assuming if it does well, it'll end up as a full-fledged series. There's a bunch of content on the Samurai Girl website here.

Based on a series of popular young adult novels, Samurai Girl stars Jamie Chung as a 19-year-old Japanese girl named Heaven who discovers that the wealthy businessman who adopted her as an infant is really the head of the Yakuza(!) and had her beloved brother brutally murdered. She breaks from her family and begins training to become a samurai, and with the help of a group of new American friends, sets out to take down her father's evil empire.

Just the kind of feel-good show I like to watch on the ABC Family channel.Of course, in order to learn these sacred, ancient ways of the samurai, dear Heaven must train under the wise tutelage of her sensei... a white dude. Well, I guess that makes sense. Somehow. Jack Yang, who might forever be known as the guy who kissed Lucy Liu on Cashmere Mafia, is in the pilot as Heaven's brother... but as we already know, the brother dies.

I've heard from several fans of books, who say the story is pretty good. While I hope for the best, I get the sinking feeling that this show is going to stink. Why does every other Asian-related Hollywood project involve secret samurais and ninjas and yakuza clans? Don't get me wrong—I love a good samurai/ninja/yakuza story like the next guy. But when you have ABC Family rockin' the samurai stuff, to me, that's a red flag. We shall see.

wise words from norm mineta

NPR's Tell Me More has a really wonderful interview with Norm Mineta, as part of its "Wisdom Watch" series: Norm Mineta on Pioneering Career, America's Future. It's about seventeen minutes long. I really recommend giving it a listen.

A trailblazing public servant, he was the first Asian American to serve in a presidential cabinet, and bears the distinction of being the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Transportation. He was also the first Asian American mayor of a major city, San Jose, where the airport is named after him.

In the interview, he talks about everything from his experience of being sent to an internment camp as a boy during World War II, to serving as Secretary of Transportation during 9/11 and its aftermath. He's had an amazing life and career. I'm with Michel Martin—this man needs to write a book! Not for his sake, but for ours.


nintendo announces grand theft auto: chinatown wars

This week at the annual E3 summit, Nintendo announced the latest edition of Rockstar's popular Grand Theft Auto game, titled GTA: Chinatown Wars, will be coming exclusively to the DS: Nintendo announces GTA: Chinatown Wars.

Not too many other details, except that it's a wholly original game, and it's set in the familiar locale of Liberty City. But with a name like Chinatown Wars, you can probably start imagining what the game's going to look like. In true GTA fashion, expect a game of gangsters, thugs and guns... Chinatown style.

Asian triads come to Nintendo. I'm guessing this could be really awesome or really awful. More here: GTA Chinatown Wars Release Window. The game is slated for release in North America and Europe this winter. Nothing yet on the official site except for the logo, above.

the guy behind uber.com

As part of its "How I Got Here" series, The Wall Street Journal has an interesting interview with Glenn Kaino, Co-Founder and President of Uber.com, a publishing Web site for visual artists, photographers, writers and musicians: Glenn Kaino, Co-founder, President, Uber.com. (Thanks, Dennis.)

Up until I read this interview, I'd never heard of Uber.com, so I took a look. In the crowded, competitive world of social networking sites, it looks like it has a unique foothold. I like it. By the way, check out Lisa Ling's website, powered by Uber.com.

the battle for yahoo

If you're like me, you've been following along with the ongoing saga of Jerry Yang, co-founder and chief executive of Yahoo!, and Carl Icahn, the activist investor who is trying to oust Mr. Yang and the Yahoo board so he can sell the company to Microsoft. It's been a long, drawn-out struggle over the fate of the company that Jerry helped build from the ground-up.

Here's a good, general round-up of the coverage surrounding Microsoft's bid for Yahoo: The Battle for Yahoo. And here's a story that closely follows Jerry Yang's take on the situation: From the Inside, Jerry Yang Looks Out for Yahoo.

the asian guy in the dark knight

With the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight opening in theaters on Friday, we're probably looking at one of the biggest box office weekends of the summer. I have seen the movie, and it's pretty freaking fantastic. If you liked Batman Begins, this one's going to blow you away. That said... the movie wouldn't quite be complete without a few Asian bad guys.

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read the rest of this post if you don't want to know anything about the movie. Nothing major, just a few words on the fate of a minor character.

Yes, continuing the tradition of Ken Watanabe as faux-Ra's Al Ghul in the first one, Batman fights some more Asian foes in The Dark Knight. The movie briefly takes some of the action to Hong Kong, with a plot thread involving Chin Han as Lau, a shady business/mob guy who controls Gotham's gangsters' money. Yay.

But no worries, you will see, as he ends up being no match for Batman. There's a good scene where the Caped Crusader breaks into a building and beats the crap out of a bunch of Asians thugs to get to Lau. That's always fun. (I don't think I'm giving anything away here—we all know the movie's villain is the freakin' Joker, not shady gangster Lau.) In the end, he just winds up as another weak-ass Hollywood Asian guy. Saw that coming.

Oh yeah. I should mention that Hong Kong actor Edison Chen also pops up in the movie for about 4.3 seconds. Blink and you'll miss him. I'm presuming this was filmed before his amateur porn stash scandal hit the news, and he went underground. Good times.

2008 dc apa film festival trailer contest

The 9th Annual DC APA Film Festival, coming back this September, has teamed up with Scion Motors again to bring you the 2008 DC APA Film Festival Trailer Contest. They're asking folks to create a thirty second trailer that captures the awesomeness and promotes the 2008 DC APA Film Festival.

You don't have to be a filmmaking professional, or even a film student to submit a trailer. All creative personalities are invited to participate. You just need a camera, some willing friends, and a halfway decent idea. Get it on tape and mail it in by August 20, 2008. The public will vote on the three top finalists.

This year, submissions will be judged by an expert jury panel featuring veteran filmmaker Grace Lee (The Grace Lee Project, American Zombie), producer Karin Chien (The Motel, Robot Stories), and up-and-coming filmmaker Tze Chun (Windowbreaker)—all of whose work have screen at previous DC APA Film Festivals.

The winning trailer will be featured in promotions leading up to the festival as well as during the festival itself. The grand prize winner will also be awarded a $600 cash prize, $200 to the first runner-up. For contest rules and details, go here.


aaiff centerpiece presentation: the speed of life

Tomorrow night, the Asian American International Film Festival screens its Centerpiece Presentation, the U.S. premiere of Ed Radtke's The Speed of Life. Thursday, July 17 at Asia Society in New York. I know next to nothing about this film. What's it about? Here's the short version:
The award-winning THE SPEED OF LIFE, directed by Ed Radtke, follows Sam, a 13-year-old boy, who escapes the streets of New York City by stealing video cameras from tourists. While his friends are content with simply pawning the stolen goods for spending money, Sam secretly keeps the tapes. He watches the footage, fascinated by far away places and seemingly happy lives. Wavering between fantasy and the harsh reality of life in Brooklyn, he soon discovers that cameras can fly-even if people cannot. Entirely shot in NYC, THE SPEED OF LIFE builds around the idea of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
Director Ed Radtke will be in attendance for a Q & A after the screening. Audience members are also invited to attend the M.A.T.H. Club's Centerpiece AfterParty at M1-5 Lounge. For more information about the film, go here.

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