Mike Le pulls a Mae West (think: "When I'm good, I'm very, very good, but when I'm bad...I'm better") on behalf of Asian Americans in an article on his production K-town.
Le got his say on the debate surrounding the upcoming reality show when he wrote "No Time For Love, Dr. Jones! (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Produced a Reality Show)". Reacting to various criticisms from the media and the Korean-American community of the impression the show is expected to leave on the masses (that of a hard-drinking, hard-partying, hot young badass Asian crowd in LA), Le points out that what we consider good stereotypes (like the hard-working Asian, the smart Asian, with solid discipline and math grades off the charts) are only 'good' in a relative sense. What if being bad is better?
Maybe it's time to claim a little of the naughty, and say to hell with the consequences, even if they include uppity backlash and a new kind of pigeonholing. Time to claim a wider range of human behaviours for Koreans, and Asians in general, than media has traditionally accorded them. Critics duly note that the show depicts another extreme of lifestyles on the opposite end of the spectrum from the studious Asian, but would it be going too far to say that's the perfect antidote, in all of its 'train-wreck' glory?
Let the cast-members be themselves, sans, or in spite of, traditional 'Asian' ambitions. Let them rebel, act out, throw their weight around, party like it's going out of style, and most importantly ooze sex appeal. Let them use their sexuality to get ahead. Let them...Who am I kidding? No one 'lets' the Jersey Shore peeps, or anyone else on a reality show do anything. Ours is not to question why, ours is to stand aside and gape while they do what they want, and kick the crap out of a few moulds in the process. Here's to the unimpeded K-town libido. Word on the street is that the show is getting picked up in the new year. Go get 'em.Posted by Gayatri Bajpai | December 26, 2010 | Comments (0)
Every year I am always so surprised by how fast Christmas and the holiday season sneaks up on me. Life just takes a hold of me and before I know it, it is a week before Christmas and I have yet to even think about starting my gift shopping. Then that whole week is devoted to running around all over the place, battling people for parking spots, bracing the crowds in the malls, and waiting in line-ups for the cashier.
What I'm trying to get at is during this holiday season I hope we can all take a huge time-out and just enjoy. Yes, enjoy the pleasure of waking up and knowing that there are no errands to run, things to tick of your to-do list. Let's just all sit back and relax with a day filled with precious moments with loved ones.
On Monday, the Schema family had the opportunity to sit back and spend a stress-free evening at our annual Christmas potluck. Turkey was consumed, drinks were poured, and holiday cheer was spread. Thanks to everyone that came out! We (finally) managed to take a group shot - while everyone looked great, I of course, am never facing the camera. Sorry!
From the Schema family to yours, we hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a great holiday season!Posted by Jocelyn Gan | December 24, 2010 | Comments (0)
Tags: Jocelyn Gan
With Christmas around the corner, is there a comic book geek in your life that you need to get a present for? Do you need to find a way to spend all those Chapters gift cards? Schema's here to help with a list of graphic novel suggestions for whoever you're shopping for!
Secret Identities, edited by Jeff Yang, Perry Shen, Keith Chow and Jerry Ma
A great collaboration, Secret Identities is an anthology of Asian American comic book artists and writers responding to the lack of strong Asian characters in the medium. The topics of the shorts range from modern day Asian superheroes and WWII soldiers in the Pacific theatre, to immigrants building the railway and surviving in Chinatown. The overall book is well done and it's nice to see industry artists and writers of Asian descent come together for a project like this.
Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
Half-Japanese indie comic sweetheart Adrian Tomine has had some Asian cast members in his previous works (such as Optic Nerve or personal favourite Summer Blonde), it was only until Shortcomings that he decided to write a story with an almost entirely Asian cast. Following the story of Ben Tanaka as his relationship with his girlfriend begins to collapse; the characters are painfully human and are equally frustrating as they are relatable.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Originally released as a webcomic, Gene Yung's American Born Chinese was finally published in 2006 and won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award and garnered a nomination for the National Book Award, both in the young adult's literature genre. Following three concurrent stories about Jin Wang, the son of a Chinese immigrant family, this book makes a great gift for a younger sibling cousin.
Same Difference and Other Stories by Derek Kirk Kim
Another webcomic-turned print, Derek Krik Kim's Same Difference and Other Stories is a series of short stories that talk about life as a twenty-something Korean American in the '1.5' generation. Winning him an Eisner, the book is as touching as it is hilarious and Kim's work has only gotten better in his sophomore work Good as Lily.
Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
Hands down the best thing to happen to comics in 2010 is Jason Shiga's Meanwhile. Known for his unconventional narrative technique, Shiga knocks it out of the park with a branching path story that puts the reader in the role of Jimmy, who discovers a science laboratory. From there, you make decisions regarding whether he builds one of three devices. Think of it as a choose-your-own adventure comic book, but with elements of quantum physics, Schrödinger's cat, time travel, and over 3,000 story possibilities.
Do you know where things in your household come from? More importantly, should you?
In North America, China has been linked to the Fisher-Price toy scandal, where many toys were found containing a higher lead content than the permissible amount. Tom Xia, a Chinese-American director, explores this question in his new documentary Xmas Without China where he challenges his neighbours (The Joneses) to purge all materials from China from their household, and opt out of purchasing new products that are made in China. After finding out how exposed their children and family are to lead (their toys and dishes have been tested by a lead detector) they agree to the challenge.
Throughout the process, the Joneses and the audience learn just how intertwined and integral China's presence is in the United States, as the family struggles to spot products not made in China, and spend a fortune purchasing those things.
Though Xia states he's "proud of his heritage," the film also exposes the messiness of a 1.5-generation identity when he's asked about what he would do if a war were to break out between China and America "tomorrow" by the Joneses. In this way, the film is both a macro exploration of two economic superpowers, as well as a micro one of an immigrant's self-identification process.
But the film is still a work-in-progress; the producers are hoping to raise $15,000 to finish the final shoots (with Xia travelling back to China), as well as covering post-production costs. Donors will be eligible for perks such as a private screening of the documentary with the director, a DVD copy of the documentary, website and film credits among others. If you would like to support this Asian-American filmmaker in his journey, please go here to donate.Posted by Jocelyn Gan | December 22, 2010 | Comments (0)
Do you like the shape of your nose? Or do you think that it's too flat, too round or too wide? Feng shui experts claim to predict fortunes based on a person's nose shape. Some believe that nose shapes are linked to people's characters. As the nose is the central focus of a person's face, many people want their noses to be more attractive. People can choose to opt out of going under the knife by exploring non-surgical procedures.
Dr. Alexander Rivkin in California has created the 15 Minute Nose Job, also known as the Non-Surgical Nose Job, for people who want to improve the shape of their noses. Featured on the Today and The Tyra Banks shows, Dr. Rivkin alters a person's nose in 15-30 minutes without the after-effects of swelling or bruising. This procedure is particularly popular with Asian patients (both men and women) who want to lift their nose bridges. Recent statistics show that 20% of cosmetic surgery patients are of various ethnic groups.
The most important thing is I'm not trying to give these guys Barbie noses. I want to lift the bridge but not change the ethnicity. Lifting the bridge brings the nose more into symmetry with the rest of the face. It also takes focus away from the tip, making it look less rounded and ball-like. Also, having a bridge means glasses don't rest on the cheeks, but on the nose -- a surprisingly common concern. --Dr. Rivkin to Stylelist.com
In the past, cosmetic surgeons were known to give all patients similar nose shapes, many of which suit the aesthetic of western culture. Doctors became aware of this issue and now, they aim to retain and enhance a person's ethnicity in non-surgical procedures.
With the procedures costing upwards of $1000, Dr. Rivkin uses Radiesse, Restylane or Artefill, depending on whether the patient desires a temporary or permanent effect. By using these fillers, there is no need to test for any possible allergies. This type of non-surgical rhinoplasty may appeal to those who have physical disfigurements.
If you would like to find out more information about Dr. Alexander Rivkin and his practice, please visit westsidemedicalspa.com.
We all know what the month of December brings. 'Tis the season for giving. 'Tis the season for receiving. 'Tis also the season for unwrapping gifts, taking those gifts out of their packaging, and throwing that packaging in the garbage, never to be seen again. But what if there was a solution to all this holiday waste? What if that packaging had a use in and of itself? Yves Behar and his design agency fuseproject have come up with just that.
An innovator in the industrial design world, Behar has teamed up with an equally innovative designer of the fashion world, Issey Miyake, to create the VUE watch. While the watch is a beautiful, minimalist piece of jewelry, the novelty is in what surrounds it. In an industry where excessive, over-the-top package design is the norm, Behar has taken this convention and turned it on its head.
The VUE watch comes in the layers of a notepad (of recycled paper, of course). Unlike most watch boxes that put the timepiece on display, VUE comes hidden inside the notepad. If you're unsure of what to use the notepad for, the website suggests to "write a special note when gifting VUE, or just re-use the entire note-pad/cum packaging for your poetry or grocery list..."
While the notepad packaging may not be the most practical (I imagine you can't write a whole lot with a giant "T" cutout in the middle of your note), the idea is there. Packaging should become something useful, an added benefit to the product, instead of unwanted layers that are ripped off and thrown away. Think about this when you're out there battling the crowds this week, trying to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Remember: it's all in the packaging.
For more information, check out fuseproject.com.Posted by Kayo Homma-Komori | December 21, 2010 | Comments (0)
If you are one of Natalie Tran's 830,000 subscribers on YouTube, you are already familiar with her hilarious charm and self-deprecating humour. Now she is travelling all around the world as a video blogger for Lonely Planet.
Natalie has been posting videos for years. She lives in Australia and is of Vietnamese descent. Her videos find humour in everyday observations, such as her frustration at how people rip paper instead of using proper scissors or how everyone ignores the Terms and Conditions of a website.
Each of her video features "porno music slash comment time", which entails posting her favourite audience comments from her previous video while music (which sounds like the kind of music used in porno flicks) plays in the background.
After finishing university, Natalie decided that she wanted to stop sitting in front of the computer for a change and travel the world for four months. As a video blogger for Lonely Planet, Natalie has already travelled to the Maldives, Singapore, Dubai and Egypt.
Her videos about her travels are equally comedic and full of strange, random and awesome observations about her destinations. While in Singapore, Natalie observed that "Singapore is that neighbour who goes apeshit with Christmas decorations."
Check out her latest video on her frustration regarding people who don't finish their questions and sentences:Posted by Vinnie Yuen | December 29, 2010 | Comments (0)
Remember that kid in your grade 8 class that always did their school projects and homework in the most outlandish ways just to get the satisfaction of being able to gloat to everyone that theirs was the best? I had at least one in each class, and every time that happened I always had the urge to sneak into class at the end of day to either vandalize or destroy their project. Yes, I may have had a few anger problems during my teenage years.
Then there is this student, who may or may not be the class suck-up. Sure, he did go that 'extra' mile on his homework. Or he could have just taken the instructions in the most literal sense. I'll give him major kudos though—the calligraphy is pristine.Posted by Jocelyn Gan | December 16, 2010 | Comments (0)
World leaders are fascinating people. From Hitler, to Stalin, to Bush, I have always wondered what it would be like to dive into their minds and explore around. And it seems as if I'm not the only one -- expect maybe instead of exploring minds, this blogger is more interested in what Kim Jong-il is looking at.
So what is KJI looking at? Well, KJI looks at many things. He covers a very broad range of items that includes eggs, boats, pigs, vegetables, and random guys. KJI doesn't exclude, nor does he keep his gazing to specific things -- he is an all inclusive man!
Here are 2 of my many favorite KJI moments:
KJI + radish
KJI + kitchen cabinet
Jojo Zolina is a household name for Vancouverites and dancers. He's known for his voguing and waacking, as well as incorporating elements from the east (Bhangra, Thai), with African dances to create a one-of-a-kind performances with his House La Douche.
Zolina and Mary G Productions are collaborating with other dance companies for a dynamic dance show titled 604 Delite Showcase: Dance Company Edition to kick off the new year. Here is the overview of the other Vancouver dance companies that will take part in the event.
Founded in 1997 with just 9 dancers, Praise T.E.A.M. now boasts over 200 performers who unite under one goal: to "evangelize through performing arts." The group's dedication has taken them to many places including the Kiwanis Music Festival, University of Washington, and the Paralympics Olympics Opening Ceremony.
SOULdiers is a semi-professional dance company directed by Kim Sato and her production company, Project Soul Productions. Sato started SOULdiers after realizing that the historical roots of hip hop were often being forgotten. The group also aims to create a more positive public image of hip hop and counter the negative stereotype of hip hop in mainstream media. The 34 members of the group specialize in hip hop movement and its history -- funk styles with a focus on locking and popping.
Make Your Mark / Endangered Species
Make Your Mark and Endangered Species are dance companies sponsored by Harbour Dance Centre and is directred by Adam McKinnon. Make Your Mark focuses on hip hop styles -- the team has performed in various venues including a Coca Cola Commercial, and Street Dance 3D: The Movie.
Endangered Species is a female dance company, directed by choreographer Jenny Duffy. The group promises to deliver "sexy, provocative numbers" that are "fun and tasteful."
This show is presented by Harbour Dance Theatre and Vogue Theatre.
Sunday, January 16, 2011, 7-8:30 pm at Vogue Theatre (918 Granville Street, Vancouver)
Tickets are $20, on sale at Harbour Dance Centre, Vogue Theatre, and Urban Dance Company
I Am this Land is an effort to bring together people who have something to say about unity in diversity. It aims to drown out divisive forces with aspirations for a more 'positive and open-minded America'. Check out AngryAsianMan.com, iamthisland.org or Breakthrough.tv for more details.
It looks like the organization has the right idea: empowerment through creativity. (Build, don't destroy.) The idea is that participants will send in videos that use the phrase 'I am this land', all while giving their audience 'goosebumps', i.e. this has to be pretty uplifting stuff.
In the organization's own words:
From now until January 7th, 2011, we are calling on people to make a video on diversity using the phrase "I am this land," and enter to win a grand prize of $2,500 and more. In 2010, we watched all the things that happened in 2010: From anti-immigrant actions and racial profiling to bullying and homophobia; from fear mongering to the extreme, divisive rhetoric of the mid-term elections: it's time for a do over. We believe that in the new year many people are ready to live in a country that is open-minded and celebrates differences.Posted by Gayatri Bajpai | December 14, 2010 | Comments (0)
And for those that are unable to make a video, we still want your participation. Follow @breakthrough, with the hashtag #iamthisland and tell us who or what symbolizes diversity to you. All entries are entered to win a DJ Hero by Activision.
If you have any questions on I AM THIS LAND, please email Crissy Spivey at email@example.com.
Pega Design and Engineering have created foldable tea, where you can literally brew a cup of tea using the heavily sturdy cardboard tea pot and cup.
If you ever have access to hot water, but you are without a pot or cup, you'll find Dao Cha's portability extremely convenient.Just add water and you'll have a nice hot cup of tea!
There are many flavours: Jasmine Green Tea, Japanese Genmaicha, Sri Lanka Charm, Refreshing Earl and Mountain Haze.Posted by Angela Jung | December 12, 2010 | Comments (1)
Source: MTV Iggy
A new reality show on MTV called K-town is set to defy the traditional Asian stereotype of book nerd. But is it conforming to another kind of stereotype?
The show has been called the Asian version of "Jersey Shore" and is set in Los Angeles' Koreatown. The cast consists of ripped Asian men with bulging muscles and Asian women who are depicted as party animals.
Without a doubt, the show and its cast members shatter the stereotype that the Maclean's "Too Asian?" article discusses—the nerdy Asian student with glasses who doesn't know how to have fun.
But what about the alternative Asian stereotype? Young Asian men with spiked up hair and tight shirts, rolling around town in their Honda Preludes and Civics trying to scope out girls. Young Asian women in skimpy clothes who spend their lives at the club every single weekend, with aspirations that don't extend beyond getting a new Louis Vuitton purse and maybe one day becoming an import car show model. What about this stereotype?
K-town may not portray Asians as nerds, but it sure as heck doesn't portray Asians as smart, capable, and well-balanced individuals. In reality, the Asian population, like any other ethnicity, is full of diversity, ranging from party animal to book nerd.
Some of us know how to balance our lives between professional and academic achievement and going out with friends and having fun.
But that wouldn't make for a very good MTV "reality" show, would it?
Comcast Cable users with an interest in Asian American cinema will soon have an opportunity to view a monthly-curated selection of films made by a diverse palette of Asian American directors. Comcast has announced the launch of Cinema Asian America, a new On-Demand destination giving Comcast digital video customers access to a wide variety of Asian American films, ranging from prominent film festival headliners to more experimental fare, such as the breakdancing documentary Planet B-Boy which is featured in the picture above!
December marks the inaugural month of Cinema Asian America, which will begin a monthly series of films selected to represent the broad diversity of the Asian American experience. As such, this month features two main groupings of films, titled "The Life Quixotic" and "Must-See Docs," which feature films such as The Rebel, a blockbuster Vietnamese action film directed by Charlie Nguyen, and The Killing of the Chinese Cookie, a unique account of the history of the fortune cookie by Derek Shimoda.
The movies for Cinema Asian America are selected by none other than Chi-Hui Yang, a film programmer, lecturer, and writer who has been the Director and Programmer of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival for the past 10 years.
"I am thrilled to work with Comcast to help launch Cinema Asian America," said Chi-hui Yang. "There are so many incredible films made by Asian American filmmakers, and Comcast is bringing viewers around the country an opportunity to discover and access cinema that is dynamic, forward-looking and vital."Posted by Justin Ko | December 13, 2010 | Comments (0)
Reality TV star and winner, rock journalist, and hip hop artist. It seems almost impossible to play all of those roles in one short life, but MC Rocky Rivera has done it all.
Winner of the MTV reality show I'm from Rolling Stone in 2007, Rivera won a contributing editor spot at the respected music magazine. Since then, her writing has appeared in various outlets including Mass Appeal, Source, and XXL. But the institutionalized and conservative nature of many music magazines got in the way of her creativity, where she found herself frustrated by the music editors who were weary of turning off mainstream readers, and by the declining state of hip hop that had lost some of its subversive roots and power. So she took matters in to her own hands and got herself into a studio. After 2 years of songwriting, Rocky Rivera launched her self-titled debut album to rave reviews in February 2010.
In the hip hop world, women are often objectified and silenced in presence of dominant male emcees. But Rivera uses the form to convey her unique perspective and to demand the respect she deserves while criticizing the industry's misogynistic tendencies. This is most deftly demonstrated when she says "I'm a looker, good enough to eat, but I've never been a sucker" in her single "MRSHMLO". As a Filipina woman who grew up in San Francisco, Rivera's sound is decidedly West Coast, reflected also in her extensive list of West Coast collaborators including 6Fingers and Dexbeats. The themes of representing her own story of hardship, female self-assertion and empowerment are refreshing to see in a genre so often associated with sexism and materialism. As Rivera puts it, she is indeed "ready to lead the masses" with her fierce attitude.
Watch Rivera's video of "MRSHMLO" and her interview on Channel APA at channelapa.com.
Posted by Jocelyn Gan | December 10, 2010 | Comments (0)
Hatsune Miku has turquoise hair down to her ankles and sports a figure similar to magazine models. She is Japan's latest pop star and there is nothing human about her. The five foot two inch tall star sells out concerts in her native country and one of her songs has topped music charts. But she is no Christina Aguilera or Rihanna.
The comparison does not fail because her music is worse. It fails because Miku lacks a pulse, vital organs and a body. Miku is a hologram.
Crypton Future Media created the 3-D sensation. After purchasing her, customers can have her sing any song at their whim on their computer. But now, people are paying money to see this hologram perform live.
Watch a portion of a live performance in front of an enthusiastic crowd waving glow sticks in the air.
Could she be the start of a new trend in the music industry? Will the Aguilera's and Rihanna's be replaced with hologram artists who are never tired, sick or miss a show - unless, of course, there are technical difficulties?
Mouth-watering. Delicious. Flavourful. These are some words I would use to describe food. However, these same compliments also apply to Sung Yeon Ju's "Wearable Food" series. Sung is a recent South Korean art school graduate. Sketching and creating fashion design is challenging, but Sung takes the challenge one step further in her work with unconventional materials. The ingredients in her "Wearable Food" creations include: tomato, shrimp, fried egg, lotus root, eggplant, white radish, chicken, bread, banana, winter mushroom, spring onion, red cabbage, and even bubble gum.
Sung attempts to illustrate the dichotomy of food and fashion in her unique art. Despite its title, each item in the "Wearable Food" series cannot be worn, nor is it edible. Essentially, it does not fall under the categories of food or fashion. Quite simply the series of dresses are objects of art. In my opinion, I think it would be interesting if Sung photographs her dresses in different stages of decay. This will further emphasize the timelessness of art as compared to the nature of fashion and food which respectively fluctuates and decay.
Sung also hopes to encourage people to buy organic clothing and live sustainably through her "Wearable Dresses" exhibition. Although impossible, her painstaking attention to detail makes me crave her one-of-a-kind dresses to wear out on the town. Sung's work will be shown in the upcoming Korean Contemporary Art Group Exhibition in Los Angeles. For information and photos to feast your eyes with more art, please visit her at yeonju.me.
Mridu Sahai is reinventing the fashion statement. Her styles push boundaries, garner double-takes and linger in thoughts long after. They're the clothes that question the status quo and suggest a new normal.
Using materials like felt and jersey, Sahai's dresses are form-fitting, sleek and elegant - they're dresses you'd wear out on a Saturday night. They also happen to have architectural fittings like ventilation grates attached to them.
On her website, Sahai explains the ideas behind the collection, aptly titled "Fittings":
"My collection FITTINGS, celebrates OBJECTivity as it attempts to radically transform the context of objects like hooks, bolts and latches used in architecture, which have not been applied in a design milieu."
Sahai reinvents these objects' functionality and uses them in a design context "so that they are appreciated clearly for the statement they make." This statement includes a commentary on gender roles.
Architectural fittings such as hooks and clasps tend to function in a masculine domain. Generally, men are associated with these fixtures as they work with their hands in fields like carpentry and mechanics. By incorporating these structures into her designs, Sahai calls attention to the stark opposition but, in doing so, also merges the gender realms.
Interestingly, though the India-based artist has been trained as a fashion apparel designer. Specializing in leather design, she rejects the "designer" label.
"I will not call myself a fashion designer, as my work is adequately driven by architecture and product design."
Some might say Sahai's work is difficult to translate into real life. After all, it takes a certain kind of room to appreciate architecture-inspired fashion. And surely not everyone understands the gendered aspect of the fittings.
Luckily, the artist works in a field where there is a place for clothes that flatter and clothes that have more to say. And, after all, Sahai's collection is not about "fitting" into the mainstream: it's about using fashion to challenge what is accepted - and that is the best kind of standing out.Posted by Manori Ravindran | December 10, 2010 | Comments (0)
Gamers rejoice! Just in time for the holiday season comes Mark Leung: Revenge of the Bitch, a downloadable single-player RPG for PC.
Produced by designer Mark Leung (the creator of the web series College Saga), the game markets itself as a parody of the RPG genre chock-full of wacky pop culture references ranging from Garverfield (Garfield + Cyclops + Cloverfield) to a bank-themed dungeon based on the financial meltdown.
The demo is available free on the Uglysoft website and the game is by far one of the strangest I've ever played. The humour is crude but remains consistently entertaining and the barrage of Easter eggs will make you want to keep exploring the game's landscape. In an industry saturated with over marketed multi-million dollar games, it's nice to see that there's still some breathing room for independently financed games. Mark Leung and the Uglysoft team put a lot of love into this project and it shows.Posted by Jocelyn Gan | December 6, 2010 | Comments (0)
As the largest documentary film festival in North America, Hot Docs Festival in Toronto showcases thought-provoking and innovative documentary films every year. But if you've missed this year's festival or live far away from Toronto, you can still watch the one-of-a-kind documentaries in the comfort of your own home. All you need is internet access and a computer - because the festival films of past and present are all available for free viewing on the HotDocs Doc Library. There are films produced as far back as 1965, and as currently as 2010.
Here are some directors of interest for Schema readers, whose films are available at the HotDocs Doc Library:
This Korean-Canadian director has followed the lives of those who seldom receive attention from society (and some of whom avoid the attention for good reason). Her first documentary film, Scenes from the Corner Store (1997) depicts the lives and the inter-generational conflicts of a Korean-Canadian family running a corner store; it was nominated for a Gemini Award. Her subsequent films explore the theme of immigration and migration further by following the lives of illegal immigrants living in Toronto ( Hide & Seek, 2006) and Thai women doing sex work in Toronto in order to support their families back in Bangkok (Thai Girls, 1998).
What is "Chinese food"? Those of us in North America may feel confident in listing off the usual: chow mein noodles, egg rolls, Kung Pao chicken. But director Cheuk Kwan challenges those stereotypes by discovering the amazing variety of Chinese food (did you know that fish curry could be served in a Chinese restaurant? I didn't) in unexpected parts of the world including Africa and the Caribbean in Chinese Restaurants: On the Islands (2005). The hybridization of Chinese food as it mingles with Creole, Cuban and Indian cultures demonstrates the fluidity and diverse nature of the Chinese diaspora, each yielding unique flavours and traditions.
Parhami's films are all about how culture and culture-makers evolve as they migrate from east to west, and west to east. Jabaroot, 2003) portrays the journey of an Iranian-Canadian musician Kiya Tabassian from her hometown of Montreal to Iran, where she discovers both the rich musical history of Persia and the contemporary music scene in Iran. His later film, Faces (2007) is about the works of 10 Iranian artists (who now live in Canada) after the revolution.
Szeto's short films were part of the festival's Doc It! series, which showcases works of youth filmmakers. She captures the harsh reality of migrant workers (Dreams Beyond the Border, 2008) and Chinese orphans (The Children of Butuo ,1998)
Imagine traveling across an ocean just to have dinner with a bunch of strangers. That's exactly what an Australian fellow named James West did, thanks to Youtube.
For years, James West has accidentally received emails regarding Thanksgiving dinner preparations from the Tran family in Florida. Enticed by suggestions of a broccoli and cheese casserole and Frances's famous deviled eggs, West was determined to track down the family this year.
After a few emails, James West was officially invited to the Trans' Thanksgiving dinner. He packed some Australian gifts wrapped in The Australian newspaper and off he went to the airport!
The Tran family warmly accepted James West into their home and allowed him to film the whole experience. One family member compared him to a long-lost relative. They told jokes on camera and shared their reactions to West's emails. James West fit right in with the family. He even got to meet and interview the American James West whose emails he had been receiving.
None of this was done for profit or personal gain—it was purely based on West's desire (and stomach) to meet the Tran family and have Thanksgiving dinner with them.
This is an incredibly fun and heart-warming story in which strangers meet and treat each other with friendliness and hospitality. The Trans' are just an incredible family that makes us all wish we were there at their Thanksgiving dinner.
Check out the beginning of James West's adventure:Posted by Vinnie Yuen | December 8, 2010 | Comments (0)
On November 10, Macleans published an article called "Too Asian?" It has since been heavily edited, and renamed "The Enrollment Controversy". The original version is available at TooAsian.ca. In the original, authors Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Köhler allege that "many students" are whispering that some Canadian universities are becoming "too Asian."
Within a few days, the online article had over 500 comments, mostly from individuals who thought that the article was racist, or enforced racist stereotypes about both "Asians" and "whites."
TooAsian.ca was launched on November 23 as a response. Its motto is "'Too Asian' and Damn Proud of It!"
So far, many of the posts on the site are thoughtful, productive, and uncontroversial. They are mostly promoting events, Youtube videos, and individuals expressing their opinion about the Macleans article. However, there's one section that is deeply troubling. It's the "About" section, written by the TooAsian.ca staff.
As a first generation Korean-Canadian and graduate of McGill University —one of the universities identified as not "too Asian" by the Macleans article—I found many problems with Findlay and Köhler's piece. Many of my concerns are expressed by fellow McGill alumna Braden Goyette in her blog at The Nation.
On the other hand, I also do not support the polarizing rhetoric of "whites" versus "Asians" adopted by the TooAsian.ca staff. Their efforts to identify and challenge racist stereotyping against Asians in mainstream media are commendable, but if we really want to have a debate about racism in Canadian media, we need to stop calling white folk ignorant, and stop assuming that all Asians are "damn proud."
Let's face it: not all Asians are proud of their ethnicity. In fact, many Asians can be extremely racist toward their own and other ethnic communities.
Ironically, Findlay and Köhler point out that Asian students do not "form any sort of monolithic presence on Canadian campuses," and even provide examples of segregation between international students from China and domestic students of Chinese origin through anecdotal quotes. For example:
"The mainland China group tends to stick together," says Anthony Wong, 19, a Waterloo software engineering student. "We can talk to them," says Jonathan Ing, also 19 and in Waterloo's software engineering program, "but we don't mingle." Complains Waterloo student Simon Wang, a Chinese national who is frustrated by the segregation at Waterloo: "Why bother to come to Canada and pay five times as much to speak Chinese?"
The quotes above reveal some palpable tension on university campuses between students of Chinese origin at Waterloo. Findlay and Köhler then followed these quotes with further evidence of diverse "Asian" (read: Chinese) groups at the University of British Columbia.
However, instead of investigating international Chinese students' self-segregation and the tension it creates, Findlay and Köhler chose to present the actual presence of "Asian" students (reverting to using a catch-all term that doesn't distinguish between the domestic students they themselves quoted) as the major issue that university administrators have to address.
So what do I make of this mess?
For one thing, I think that everyone needs to be precise about what they mean when they say "Asian." On this count, both Macleans and the staff at TooAsian.ca fail.
Instead of rallying all Asians around a false flag of ethnic solidarity, I would prefer to see, read, and hear more voices about what being Asian in Canada actually means. Schema's series of stories called "But Where are you really from?" is an ongoing attempt to fill this void in public discussion.
If the goal of TooAsian.ca is to tell "ignorant white folk" what it really means to be Asian, then count me out. It is counter-productive to speak at a forum where the moderators implicitly accept the categorization imposed upon them by their oppressors.
Beth Hong is a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. She is a first-generation Canadian citizen born in Seoul, South Korea.Posted by Beth Hong | December 8, 2010 | Comments (0)
Technology allows visual artists endless possibilities for creating imagery that stimulate the senses.
Japan-born artist Kumi Yamashita uses a very basic technology: light.
The UK-trained Yamashita shapes wood, metal, and paper to cast interesting shadows on blank walls. In 2003's"City View", Yamashita used various blocks of wood to cast a shadow of a woman standing at a railing.
Yamashita's work has been showcased in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. At 48, she continues to create shadow art.
She also creates intricate portraits of faces from a single thread of string, which she weaves on a board of raised knobs. Check out this video of works from a 2008 installation:
Canada has yet to host an exhibit of Yamashita's work, but with the hype building (including a plug from one of Justin Timberlake's bloggers), that may soon change.Posted by Christina J. | December 1, 2010 | Comments (0)
Check out this New York Times article: www.nytimes.com. I am immediately tempted to make fun of the group of Hindu nationalist-types who are trying to 'take back' yoga. Yeah, I sort of get it why their feelings are hurt. A lot of people associate yoga with what they see as West Coast, New-Age, touchy-feeliness, while Hinduism, yoga's supposed birth-mother, is not credited every time someone does surya namaskar in an L.A. studio. But even the supposedly Hindu origins of yoga are debated by academics. Though some who practice it have a more educated view on the (probably) Hindu roots (benefits and meaning of yoga), popular practice has rendered it kind of a Lululemon accessory or another gym pass program. Many people in North America probably don't know yoga's history -while there are some that pay too much attention to its history.
Well, so what?
Someone marketed yoga to them in bite-sized pieces, and someone was smart enough to make a brand of it. This is evidently what bothers the Take Back Yoga activists most: the lost economic opportunity. Ironic, yes?
At least yoga is good for people, unlike McDonaldization or tobacco. I say let the brand thrive.
Having grown up in New Delhi (where I barely ever did yoga, much to my regret) and then having come to Vancouver for university, I started to realize how practices like yoga have been appropriated, commercialized, and (here) are associated with 'New Age types', or the health-obsessed 'yoga-moms'. In India, yoga's association with Hinduism is common-knowledge. So its reconstruction here was a bit surprising ... annoying at worst, when not self-aware.
But I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing to dissociate religion from its offspring. I can see how the 'bastardization' of the practice has a deeper impact on actually religious Hindu immigrants, and second-or third-generation Indo-Americans, whose identity might depend on the uniqueness of what has been passed down to them by previous generations. If they see that yoga equates with hippies and mysticism for a lot of Americans, then their religion—a stalwart of their (ethnic? religious?) 'special-ness'—is irrelevant to yoga's success as a brand. BUT yoga is considered great for spiritual well-being even by those who have no interest in Hinduism, and that should be a positive thing.
Basically, the Take Back Yoga 'activists' are like that insecure girl in a chick flick that put on a pretty dress and saw a copy cat get compliments for wearing the same outfit, but better. Marketers figured out how to sell yoga in a way that yogis would not, in contemporary North America. I think this is what really irks conservative Hindus, besides hurt feelings and religious righteousness. But they should get over it. For one thing, real yogis care not for marketing or fame.
Real priests are above the transitory nature of brands, money, and earthly identity-crises. I'm not sure I believe in souls, but I'm pretty sure spiritual capital is supposed to be the kind of wealth that increases exponentially the more you give it away.
If anything, the Take Back Yoga activists who call yoga a 'brand' are more dangerous to its 'soul', that they prize so highly, than the religion-neutral or non-Hindu practitioners who do not see it as one. These, too, are a-plenty. Their re-use of yoga, so to speak, is faithful to all the best parts of its spirit.Posted by Gayatri Bajpai | December 7, 2010 | Comments (0)
Green products, green practices, green lifestyles. Yes, "green" has been the buzzword of this millennium, but how seriously do we take the term? Do we simply consider the "green-ness" of the end product we are using, or do we consider all the processes that brought that product into our hot little hands?
Recently, riding a bike to work/school/play has been the trendy thing to do - a "green" transportation choice that reflects a "green" lifestyle (you see where I'm going with this). While it is wonderful to see more and more bikes on the roads, our efforts to carry out green lifestyle choices cannot begin and end with the decision to ride a bike to school instead of a car. We need to consider the processes that went into producing that metal-framed bike, many of which cause more damage to the environment.
Enter the Bamboocycle UH-02: a beautifully designed bicycle made almost entirely from bamboo. Crafted in Veracruz, Mexico, the Bamboocycle, a lightweight, stylish, city bike, reflects a holistic approach to the creation of the ubiquitous "green product". Bamboo is the material of choice for the frame of the bicycle because of the many benefits it brings to the environment. Not only is bamboo extremely strong, resistant and light, it also generates more oxygen than trees, and is low maintenance to grow, meaning it doesn't need pesticides or chemicals. It can also help in the quick recovery of overgrazed, depleted land. A miracle crop indeed.
To find more information on the Bamboocycle, check out bamboocycles.com
World-famous comedian Russell Peters, pride of Canada (and the Indians everywhere who will always claim ownership of successful members of the diaspora), talks about love, success, schoolyard bullying, and his new book Call Me Russell on CBC Radio's talk program Q (Read a review by Mohit Rajhans on MyBindi.com).
The funnyman's quips are smooth as butta. After getting the run-of-the-mill question about being the son of immigrants, he nonchalantly puts the same question to the interviewer.
On the other hand, his answers to questions about his childhood and racism are feeling and candid. It's hard to believe Russell was vulnerable as a child, even to the predictable racism he must have experienced, he seems so ... thick-skinned now. He makes no bones about taking pride in his success. He owns just a few too many cars for my stamp of complete approval, but I admire that Russell admits to taking joy in the wealth he's gained. There's no humming and hawing or beating around the bush to sound like he's above it. That's what you get from comedians, and why I tend to like them as a species: good ol' fashioned tell-it-like-it-is 'tude.
It's also nice to hear Russell talk seriously about race, which is usually the fodder of his comedy.
True to his kind, Russell is never caught off-guard. Perhaps he makes a special effort at letting us get closer to the inner Russell in his autobiography. I for one am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of it. As the man himself observes: he is the first person of Indian roots to make it as big as he has in comedy. In that sense, he's quite the self-made success story, having had no predecessors to idolize. It's empowering for a community that's stereotyped in North America as pretty darn nerdy, to have this cool-as-a-cucumber comedian get up on stage and take control by using those very stereotypes to make people laugh, and grabbing himself a large slice of rockstar-calibre fame.Posted by Gayatri Bajpai | December 2, 2010 | Comments (2)