Elaine Low

An Interview with Designer Estrella Tadeo


photo courtesy of Estrella Tadeo

The menswear designer talks to us about her line, working at a co-op, and what a well-dressed Mr. Hyphen would wear.

To the male college graduates still shuffling to work in cargo shorts and polo shirts: Estrella Tadeo feels for you.

a huge gap from skater boy to professional," says Tadeo. "When [skater
boy] grows up, he can't afford the YSL, but still wants to look cool."

menswear designer and co-founder of The Mission Statement, a co-op
boutique, laments the lack of options available for guys. While she
loves designing for both men and women, she sees a higher need for more
menswear options, since women typically have more to choose from in a
department store. For guys, there aren't too many different looks to
work with between Frat Boy and Wall Street.

"You don't
necessarily want to look stuffy but you want to look polished and hip,"
she says. "Especially with younger men becoming professionals at a
younger age, there's a middle market there."

Geisha Ad Banned by UK


If I'm interpreting this ad correctly, Bisazza's tiles will:

1) Make you want to find and abduct a geisha to match your pretty new tiles.
2) Tie up said geisha and throw her on the floor.
3) Expose her thigh in a violently sexualized way.
and 4) Take a photo to show how awesome your new tiles look.

Seriously, what is wrong with creative director/advertising firm behind this ad? According to the BBC, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK banned the magazine ad for its implications for sexual violence, following half a dozen consumer complaints.

Last week Jezebel posted a vintage ad for Jade East aftershave from the '50s or '60s, featuring an exoticized Asian girl and the attractive tagline, "If she doesn't give it to you, get it yourself!" Apparently, not much has changed since then. 

Jay Chou as Kato in 'The Green Hornet' (What? No Asian American Actors Left?)


So it's official: C-pop mega star Jay Chou is slated to play Kato in the new adaptation of The Green Hornet, because America has apparently run out of Asian American actors.

Seth Rogen will star in this Hornet,  directed by Michel Gondry, no doubt putting a new comedic spin on the 1960s TV iteration (the 2010 film is written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, of Superbad and Pineapple Express fame). Taking on the role that propelled Bruce Lee into mainstream consciousness, Chou has nimble shoes to fill. His "chemistry" with Rogen supposedly shone through during auditions, but it's not difficult to wonder if his appeal to the international market shone through more.

Listen, I like Jay Chou as much as the next Chinese American girl who came of age around the millennium; I will defend his emo hair and his slurred sing-songy rap 'til the end. But I refuse to believe that this casting choice is the result of finding the best man for the job. While he seems to have refined his martial arts skills over the years -- he acknowledges that he is no Bruce Lee and will bring his own "interpretation" to Kato -- his English proficiency is still a big question mark, given the sparse smattering of evidence. In this TV commercial, he utters a heavily-accented "Try it" at the end. Maybe he's gotten a tutor since then, but is someone with a limited grip on the language really going to be able to hold his own in verbal sparring matches with Seth Rogen?

Judy Chu: First Chinese American Congresswoman


Winning an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote in Tuesday's special election in California, political veteran Judy Chu is the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress.

Chu's political career is extensive, having served three terms as mayor of Monterey Park and five years in the California State Assembly. Since 2006, Chu has served on the California State Board of Equalization, the country's only elected tax commission.

She is stepping into the House seat formerly held by Hilda Solis, now U.S. Secretary of Labor. Chu will represent the 32nd District, which covers much of East Los Angeles. More about Chu and the election can be read in today's LA Times story or at her official website.

Photo from judychu.net

Masi Oka's 'The Defenders' Given Green Light By DreamWorks

masioka_nbc.jpgGamers, rejoice! Masi Oka is taking gaming mainstream. The Heroes star, a gamer himself, has come up with a movie project, The Defenders, which was just given the go-ahead by DreamWorks. The story follows a group of gamer teens who must surface from their online avatars to save the world, which is basically the daydream of many a MMORPG player. (That's massively multiplayer online role-playing games, for those of you not in the know.)

"You can be whoever you want to be," Oka said about gaming to the The Hollywood Reporter. " The question came to
me: What if you had to live up to the person you created in the virtual world?"

The project was picked up by DreamWorks after Oka pitched it to Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). Gary Whitta, a fellow World of Warcraft gamer and screenwriter of 2010 Denzel Washington action thriller Book of Eli, is attached to write the script.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Sandra Otaka, Illinois Judge, Dead at 57

The Honorable Sandra Otaka, the first Asian American appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court, and a longtime advocate for the community, passed away on June 6 of natural causes. The third-generation Japanese American helped draft the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance, and served as the Vice-Chairperson for the Cook County Commission on Human Rights.

Edible Finds: The Kogi Knockoff

calbibbq.pngIt was only a matter of time. The Kogi KBBQ taco truck, Southern California's latest food fad, has found itself some flattering attention from other budding restaurateurs -- and imitation, as we all know, is the sincerest form of flattery.

On an evening stroll through Westwood a few Fridays ago, I discerned from afar a familiar white taco truck with its signature flaming orange and red sign, and NO LINE.

"The Kogi truck!" my boyfriend exclaimed, and went running down the street after it. The Kogi truck? With no line? But how? Did they plan an un-Twittered stop by UCLA, or were we just lucky enough to beat the two hour rush for a few delicious kalbi tacos? Impossible.

Well, not impossible, if the Kogi truck is in fact the Calbi truck, which looks remarkably -- and probably not coincidentally -- similar to the original. Calbi BBQ, which started its two taco trucks rolling on April 30, features a logo that bears not only a similar color scheme, but a similar flame icon and cursive font as Kogi BBQ (for a side-by-side comparison, check out Eating L.A.'s blog).

Edible Finds: Kogi KBBQ Taco Truck


After hearing so much about L.A.'s latest food fad, the elusive Kogi KBBQ taco truck, I decided to hunt down some mobile kalbi and see what all the hype was about. Taco trucks, I've seen, KBBQ restaurants, I've seen. But a taco truck that sells kimchi quesadillas and spicy pork burritos that even caught the eye of the New York Times? This was worth investigating.

I checked their website yesterday evening, only to find out that Verde, one of Kogi's two mobile KBBQ machines, was over at Santa Monica College. That's only a handful of miles away from me! I could bike over there in 20 minutes and catch them before they left. And, according to their blog, there was no line. Sweet.

But wait! In some serendipitous aligning of the food gods, they were going to be even closer in a matter of hours, with a planned pit stop at UCLA before calling it a night. Forget cooking dinner, I was gonna go get me some KBBQ! So after checking their Twitter for updates, like some sort of desperate kalbi addict, I decided to head over around 7:45 pm. Verde was scheduled to be there at 7:30 pm, but I figured, hey, how many other people could be on Kalbi Watch like I am? The answer is: many.

Kollaboration 9: Los Angeles


Here's a bit of a late wrap-up from Kollaboration 9 in LA over the weekend. Performers from across the spectrum took the stage to compete against each other in the nearly packed Shrine Auditorium, including hip hop violinist Paul Dateh, girl group Jazmin (pictured at left) and YouTube phenom David Choi. (Dancer Kenichi Ebina took home first place.)

It being my first Kollaboration, I wasn't sure how big the show was supposed to be, but I was definitely impressed by the range of talent on display (America's Best Dance Crew contestants and crowd favorites Fanny Pak and Kaba Modern were guest performers) and the fact that the 501(c)3 managed to reel in Korean pop star BoA to finish off the show.

At any rate, below are a few photos from the show, for those of you who missed out.

Is Suing Miley Cyrus for $4 Billion Really Going to Solve Anything?

By now you've probably all heard about the photo of Miley Cyrus pulling a "goofy face," as she called it, better known to the rest of us as chinky eyes. The community reacted with all sorts of outrage, with the OCA issuing a statement that asserts the photo "legitimize[s]
the taunting and mocking of people of Asian descent

But a week ago, one woman went so far as to sue the Disney pop star for $4 billion. Southern California native Lucie J. Kim is taking Cyrus to court on behalf of the million or so Asian Americans in the Los Angeles area, according to a MSNBC report.

Granted, Cyrus' non-apology apology
was pretty lame ("I was simply making a goofy face. When did that
become newsworthy? It
seems someone is trying to make something out of nothing to me."),
claiming the gesture was taken "out of context." And you'd think
someone who influences a huge number of teens and pre-teens would be
encouraged (at very least by Disney, her employer) to respond with a
little more sensitivity, but is suing the pop princess for
approximately $4,000 a head going to make much impact?

National Asian American Theater Company Presents First Non-Asian Play with All Asian American Cast

Here's one for all the Hyphen readers in New York City. The National Asian American Theater Company presents Leah's Train, a play about "three generations of women from a Jewish family," according to a blurb in the New York Times arts section. It's the first time the theater group, which has been around since 1989, will perform a non-Asian play with an all Asian American cast. Sounds interesting. I wonder how the nuances of Jewish culture will play out with this cast; I have a hard time imagining a non-Asian American group communicating the subtleties and struggles of an Asian American piece, but I suppose that's the challenge of being a good actor. Check it out if you're in town.

Leah's Train co-stars Jennifer Ikeda, who was recently seen on Broadway in Top Girls with Marisa Tomei and Martha Plimpton. The play runs between February 6 through 28 at at TBG Theater at 312 West 36th St in New York.

Inauguration Week Linkfest

3213963117_dafc3faa1f.jpgToo many events and stories to round up on this historic day -- below
is a short list of all things political (and tangentially political):

(Photo taken in San Francisco, where folks replaced Bush Street signs with Obama ones. Photo courtesy of 0x000org. Some rights reserved.)

  • Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was confirmed today as the head of the Department of Veteran Affairs under the new administration, vowing to better care for wounded, homeless and unemployed veterans. Shinseki, the highest-ranking Asian American in military history, famously predicted in 2003 that a post-war Iraq would require more troops than the Bush administration had anticipated. (Despite being dismissed at the time, he was inevitably proven right.)
  • Along with Gen. Shinseki, five other Obama cabinet members were sworn in today, including Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu.

Trailer For X-Men Prequel Features South Korean Actor Daniel Henney


For all the other X-Men nerds out there... The trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released yesterday, co-starring actor and heartthrob Daniel Henney, who plays David North aka Agent Zero. More widely known (and swooned over) for his work in South Korean films and soaps, Henney, an American expatriate in South Korea, is making the transition to Western cinema with this adamantium-charged X-Men prequel starring Hugh Jackman.

But really. Hugh Jackman, Daniel Henney, Wolverine. Any comic book-reading, men-loving, red-blooded Asian American girl should need no further nudge to see this film. X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens in theaters May 1, 2009.

This blog entry is graciously sponsored by Toyota Matrix. Check out their website dedicated to the best in Asian American film.

Toyota Matrix

Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Steven Chu Is Obama's New Energy Secretary

StevenChu.jpgQuick news, quick links:

Nobel Prize winner and UC Berkeley professor Dr. Steven Chu has been named Obama's new energy secretary. Following the Wen Ho Lee scandal, in which the Taiwanese American scientist was falsely indicted for stealing nuclear secrets for the Chinese -- a manhunt pursued by then-Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson -- some might say this appointment somehow seems redemptive and fitting.

Chu shared the Nobel in physics with three other scientists in 1997 and has been director of the Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004. For more on him, read this New York Times profile.

In other news, the new FOX show Secret Millionaire will feature San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal tomorrow night. On the show, the Indian American "300 Million Dollar Man" and other self-made men (and women) set aside their suits and SUVs and venture to working-class neighborhoods -- working for minimum wage and living in tiny rentals -- to see how the other 99 percent lives. After that, they give away money. A reality show, yes, but a heartwarming holiday reality show. Might be worth checking out.

General Eric Shinseki to Head Veteran Affairs

Eric_Shinseki_official_portrait.jpgIn a move that signifies a marked break from the outgoing administration, President-Elect Obama has tapped General Eric K. Shinseki to head the Department of Veteran Affairs. Gen. Shinseki openly criticized the Bush Administration's postwar strategy in Iraq, publicly clashing with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over how many US troops would be needed to occupy the country. In the years following the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent "surge," it has been generally accepted that Gen Shinseki was right, though he allowed himself to fade out of public view and retired from the Army. Shinseki is the first Asian American four-star general. For more read the full New York Times story.

Burying the 'Gook:' The McCain Slur that Evaded the Mainstream Media and the New Book that is Digging it Up

When rumor spread back in June that Michelle
Obama had once uttered "whitey" in a rant captured on tape, the
mainstream media and blogosphere alike went wild with speculation.
Assured that this would be a blow to Sen. Barack Obama's presidential
campaign, many waited with bated breath for evidence of the racial slur
to surface. Today, with less than two weeks to Election Day, the
incriminating tape has yet to surface, though whispers of the unfounded
gossip still manage to make the rounds on cable news cycles.

Yet Sen. Obama's opponent, Sen. John McCain, who in 2000 once said, "I hate the gooks.
I will hate them as long as I live" (to a reporter on his campaign bus,
no less), hasn't received half the scrutiny for an out-and-out racial
slur that he uttered on the record. Though he eventually apologized for the anti-Asian remark, it appears to have had little negative effect on his campaign and is all but forgotten now.

But as Huffington Post writer Raymond Leon Roker notes
in his Oct. 20 column, the next president of the United States would
have to engage in dialogue with a dozen Asian countries. Under a McCain
presidency, open-minded interaction may prove difficult if, as the
original San Francisco Chronicle story quotes McCain as saying, "gook
is the kindest appellation [he] can give." So why hasn't the slur been
better documented by the press? Read the full story here.


My Mom Is A Fob is the new Postcards From Yo Momma. Launched by Teresa Wu and Serena Wu (UCSD and UC-Berkeley juniors, respectively) over the weekend, the blog shares cute, interesting, and sometimes poignant (but mostly unintentionally hilarious) emails from our first generation mothers. To share your own, email mymomisafob [at] gmail.com.mymomisafob.png

Here's a sample conversation:

Asian American Advocacy Groups Help New Citizens Vote

Due to "heightened interest in the community," new Asian American
citizens are being sought out to register, according to the LA Times.
Full story here.
Props to groups like the Asian Pacific American Legal Center for
distributing voter guides in different Asian languages. Hopefully
mainstream groups will catch on: Asian American voters can make an
impact too.

Jimmy Tsai at the San Diego Asian Film Festival

DSC04513.JPGRoadtripped over the weekend to the annual San Diego Asian Film
Festival, a jampacked event that boasts a slate of both Asian
and Asian American features, animated shorts, documentaries and short
films. I managed to catch a few words with Jimmy Tsai, co-writer, co-producer
and star of this year's highlighted feature, "Ping Pong Playa," a comedy about a glib b-ball-playing slacker who suddenly has to defend his brother's (Roger Fan) table tennis championship after a wrist-breaking car crash.

When asked how similar his views are to his character's, the often aggressive advocate of Asian American identity Christopher "C-Dub" Wang, Jimmy replies laughingly, "C-Dub's definitely a little more militant than I am, but you know, he's just informed on his issues, and he uses his ethnicity as both a shield and a bludgeon." The character, a hypercompetitive could've-been-but-never-was basketball star who peaked in grade school, laments the lack of Asian Americans in the NBA and is quick to give his opinion on Asian American women who date white men.

Only Asian American On 'ANTM 11' Looks Like A Lot Of Fun

I'll admit, just like Sylvie, watching "America's Next Top Model" is one of my guilty pleasures. Terrible but true. At any rate, the only Asian American on this cycle of ANTM looks like a helluva lot of fun.

Although I can't quite tell what she means when she says she's "not your typical Asian American girl" (in response to another model asking her what it's like to be the only "Oriental" on the show), she does look like a pretty kickass alpha female, who proclaims somewhere around 0:15 that she's "dynamic" and "magnifying," whatever that means. In any case, fingers crossed that she represents well. Here's hoping Sheena makes it far and shows those judges that Asian American women can be both assertive and beautiful in our own right.

At very least, she probably won't be another Gina Choe and have some sort of
meltdown/identity crisis on national television.

Newsflash: Reporter Discovers West Still Romanticizes East

So I read this story in the Washington Post yesterday about the continuing trend -- and something of which most Asian Americans are at least tacitly aware -- of Westerners still liking their Chinese stories ancient and mystical, with a dash of opium, despite all the modernization China has undergone in recent decades.

Armani Ad Campaign Hires First Asian Model

According to New York Magazine's fashion blog, Japanese model Takeshi Kaneshiro will be the first Asian model to appear in Emporio Armani's fall ad campaign. The half-Chinese, half-Japanese model joins the ranks of soccer superstar David Beckham in strutting his stuff in his skivvies on a billboard. I know, it'd be more heartening if it was an Asian American model, but let's hope this step toward diversification is one that'll open doors to more leading men who happen to be Asian American. 

New Asian American Cartoon Premieres on Nicktoons Tonight

threedelivery.jpgDescribed by the New York Times review as "somewhere between 'Flower Drum Song' and 'Scooby-Doo,'" "Three Delivery" promises to deliver. Apparently, the storylines and characters are set in Chinatown, San Francisco, featuring two boys and one girl who were orphaned and now work at a Chinese delivery (bear with me), but their Asian background almost seems incidental.

The kids speak with American accents and aren't pigeonholed into the usual "cute Asian," "nerdy Asian," "thug Asian" stereotypes. They surprisingly seem portrayed as -- well, normal Asian American kids growing up in the Bay Area (who happen to fight evil). And according to the NYT reviewer, all the show's writers don't seem to be Asian American. Huh.

Just caught a teaser clip or two on YouTube, and it doesn't look too bad. Sure, it employs all that exotic, ancient Chinese kung-fu mystical magic potionry hoo-ha, but hey, the main characters' names are Sue, Tobey and Sid. I'll give it a chance. Baby steps, baby steps.

"Three Delivery" will air regularly on Nicktoons, Fridays at 7:30p.m. EST.

Asian American Activist and Writer Helen Zia gets Married

Spotted this on the New York Times homepage a few minutes ago. A story on same-sex marriage, and who was that familiar face in the story's accompanying photo? Why, Helen Zia! Full story here at the New York Times. She and wife Lia Shigemura aren't featured in the article, but I thought it was refreshing to see Asian Americans on the front page of the NYT.

Indian American Comedian to Co-Star in "The Office" Spinoff

Just read this report from the New York Observer, which says Indian American MTV writer Aziz Ansari has been cast in the new spinoff of NBC's "The Office." Ansari is currently an executive producer, writer and performer on the MTV show, "Human Giant," and has made cameos in shows like "Flight of the Concords." According to Variety, the "Office" spinoff may borrow minimally from the current cast, instead introducing characters on "The Office" before moving them on to the new show.

The spinoff's writing team will also include Alan Yang, "South Park" comedic writer, according to the Observer. You can read more on Aziz Ansari in this Gelf Magazine feature story.

Not Just An Ethnic Writer

The New York Times Sunday Book Review takes a look at Nam Le's "The Boat" this week, a collection of stories that isn't solely about that first trip to America. Frankly, I find it refreshing. Asian American literature, and ethnic literature as a whole, shouldn't just be about the Great Immigration Story (a genre which, in my opinion, often pigeonholes us as being perpetual foreigners). It should be about all aspects of life, and all things creative.

As one of Le's characters says in the opening story, "You could totally exploit the Vietnamese thing. But instead, you choose to write about lesbian vampires and Colombian assassins and Hiroshima orphans -- and New York painters with hemorrhoids." Ditto.

To read the full NYTimes review, click here.

Campaign Director

Eric Byler combines political activism, filmmaking in his new documentary and his support for Obama.

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN attending the Los Angeles premiere of his latest film, Tre, and its opening a week later in Chicago, filmmaker Eric Byler managed to fit in hours of poll watching and Super Tuesday campaigning for Barack Obama.

Byler's been scuttling from city to city to promote his new film and his politics, two passions that might not seem to have much in common, but stand for something that the 36-year-old filmmaker-turned-activist strongly believes in: fair representation.

Jhumpa Lahiri as Subtle as Her Writing

Thumbnail image for Jhumpa Lahiri.jpg

The gallery was packed, and even though I made sure to get to the Swedish American Museum half an hour early, I had trouble finding a seat. Man, I was excited to see Jhumpa Lahiri read from her new book, "Unaccustomed Earth." I'd never attended a reading before, and didn't quite know what to expect.

The day it was available I had rushed over to the indie bookstore near my office and preened the shelf for the nicest looking copy there, gushing to the bookseller about how excited I was that they were hosting a reading the next week. She seemed less than ecstatic, giving me a polite smile as she rang up the sage hardcover.

Still, I was concerned about the other
Lahiri fans who would be in attendance. Would they, too, be wearing
shirts with Lahiri's face printed on the front? Would a neon or black
posterboard stand out better? Should I be the one who coordinated the
synchronized "We love Lahiri!" shouts from the audience?