Harry Mok

Editor in chief

Editor in Chief Harry Mok wrote about growing up on a Chinese vegetable farm for the second issue of Hyphen and has been a volunteer editor since 2004. As a board member of the San Francisco and New York chapters of the Asian American Journalists Association, Harry has recruited and organized events for student members. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a graduate student instructor in the Asian American Studies Department. Harry currently works as an editor and writer in the communications department of the University of California Office of the President. He’s spent most of his career as an editor and writer for media outlets such as the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Newsday and the Associated Press.

Mississippi Masala all over TV

I don't want to turn this into a medical TV show blog, but has anyone else noticed that three female Asian American TV characters on hospital shows and have all been romantically involved with African Americans? Not that there's anything wrong with Asian Americans and African Americans dating, but it just seems odd that these characters end up in similar relationships.

New album from artist formerly known as Jin

Chinese American rapper The Emcee, who used to go by the name Jin, is releasing his new album independently on Oct. 25.

He talked about how his race affected how his first album was marketed and why he's going independent now in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News (registration required).

Full disclosure: I work for Knight Ridder Digital, which produces mercurynews.com

Playing the Field

SAM magazine debuts in black lace and Saran Wrap.

The big-block “SAM” jumped at me from the bookstore's magazine rack. The alluring Asian woman on the cover also caught my eye. At first I thought “SAM” stood for “Single Asian Male,” but I looked closer, and the subtitle said, “Successful Alpha Male.”

Finally, there's a magazine for me (other than Hyphen, of course).

SAM is kind of like Maxim or FHM, only all the models are Asian and the photo spreads are tackier. With the demise of Yolk, it fills the void for a general interest men's magazine featuring Asian women.

Asian American feared dead in London bombings

A former Bronx, N.Y., resident who left the country after 9/11 may be among the casualties of the London terrorist bombings.

Mike Matsushita, left the United States for either Australia, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, or Vietnam, according to the New York Daily News. In any event, he had moved to London recently and either moved to the United States as a kid from Vietnam or was born in the Bronx, depending on which story you believe.

Our thoughts are with Matsushita's family and the rest of the victims' families of this horrific event.

Reporters Held in Contempt in Wen Ho Lee Suit

A federal appeals court upheld civil contempt findings against reporters whose confidential sources pointed to scientist Wen Ho Lee as a possible spy.

I'm a little torn here bacause as a journalist I believe reporters shouldn't be compelled to reveal sources. However, Lee was totally screwed over by the government and the media that cow-towed to whatever the government said about Lee without really checking it out, as journalists are supposed to do.

Helen Zia's book,My Country Versus Me, paints a sympathetic picture of Lee and how he came to be the most dangerous spy suspect ever, until all espionage charges were dropped against him.

A Convenient Spy: Wen Ho Lee and the Politics of Nuclear Espionage, I haven't read, but from the descriptions, it is not as sympathetic to Lee's cause.

Maybe we'll never know what really happened and where those missing data tapes are. Maybe Lee was a spy. In any event, the whole case showed how easily Asian Americans are stereotyped and how racial profiling can proliferate in the media.

<i>Making Tracks</i> breaks ground

Got a chance to see Making Tracks, the Asian American rock musical, at the San Jose Repertory Theatre this past weekend before it ended its run.

I was impressed with the scope of the story and delighted to see an accurate portrayal of Asian American history that really tugged at your heartstrings. Anyone whose family has come from someplace else to the gilded shores of America can identify with this story.

Making Tracks is a groundbreaking work of Asian American theater and the anti-Miss Saigon, though its narrative maybe too much for those who haven't taken an Asian American studies class. Some reviewers have noted this. About half the audience I saw the play with was non-Asian and maybe many of the Asians Americans have never heard any of the history, but most of them took part in the standing ovation at the end. I think there was enough in the story for the uninitiated to understand the history, and the great performances and music also pulled in the audience.

The story covers six generations of a family and encompasses the major events in Chinese and Japanese American history -- from the Gold Rush and building the railroad, to picture brides, World War II and the Japanese internment, to the struggles of Asian Americans to find themselves in today's American society.

One quibble is that other Asian groups are left out (there are some minor references to Filipinos, and most of the actors are Filipino), though the themes resonate across ethnic and racial lines.

Another minor quibble is that in a couple of the songs, the Mandarin pronunciation for "America" (mei guo) is sung by the characters even though they're supposed to be Gold Rush-era Cantonese immigrants. This reminds me of the Fruit Chan movie Dumplings, set in Hong Kong, where Bai Ling's character speaks Mandarin and everybody else is speaking Cantonese. What's with the dissing of Cantonese?

But I digress. Making Tracks was worth seeing and hopefully there will be a national tour, as the producers want.

Coco Lee Takes Another Crack at U.S. Market


Chinese pop singer Coco Lee is releasing a new English-language album on March 25 in hopes of making it big in the United States. From the looks of the album's cover, she's trying the "show lots of skin" Britney-Spears-Christina-Aguilera model for success.

Lee is actually Asian American, having grown up in San Francisco, but she made a name for herself in Hong Kong and Taiwan, where she's a big star.

I last caught a glimpse of Lee in the documentary, "The Year of the Yao," shown at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (try saying that three times fast). Lee was shown singing the national anthem before one of NBA star Yao Ming's games, one of the many hokey "Chinese" or "Asian American" days that seem to happen in basketball arenas when Yao is a visiting player.

I'm not a fan of Lee's music genre, but it'd be nice to see her do well.

California Asian Americans Donate Heavily to Tsunami Relief

According to a poll of Asian American Californians commissioned by New California Media, 70 percent of those who responded made a contribution to the Southeast Asia tsunami relief effort; 64 percent donated money.

Only 33 percent of adults in the general population contributed to the relief effort, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

I know here in the Bay Area there have been many fund-raising events held by Asian American organizations, so everyone who gave should be commended.

Asian Girls Are Easy

If you're in the Bay Area, be sure to go see the Asian American Theater Company's production of "Under the Rainbow" by Philip Kan Gotanda.

"Under the Rainbow" takes on sex, race, relationships and Hollywood – my favorite subjects and topics Gotanda touches on in many of his plays. I saw the play last night and was not disappointed.

The production is two one-act plays. Part one is titled, "Natalie Wood Is Dead" and features a mother and daughter duo of struggling actors trying to make it in Hollywood. There's some raw emotion as the pair confront each other over the struggles and sacrifices they each make as an actor, parent and child. Diane Emiko Takei (Gotanda's wife) plays Yoko, the mother. Pearl Wong of the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors plays the daughter, Natalie Hayashi.

More interesting was part two, "White Manifesto." It's a 50-minute monologue by a WMWA, white male with attitude, who says everything that many of us think, but most of us don't talk about when it comes to the taboo subject of white men dating Asian women.

Danny Wolohan gives a great performance as Richard Saugus, who explains to us why Asian girls are easy for an average white guy like him. The dialogue skewers and expounds on almost every stereotype, excuse, explanation and complaint you can think of when pondering the white male/Asian female phenomenon.

Saugus gives us a "chartered member's" insight into getting Asian girls that he's gleaned from "pillow talk." He also provides a rundown of the sexual differences between women of various Asian ethnic groups. It's all done to wonderful dramatic and comedic effect.

These are old and tired issues that Gotanda raises, but they don't go away if we just stop talking about them. I'm glad there are artists like Gotanda out there still.

USC coach Chow snubbed

USC assistant football coach Norm Chow was passed over for the head coach job at Stanford, a snub for a guy that has groomed a string of star quarterbacks, including Matt Leinart, this year's Heisman Trophy winner.

If there was an industry where Asian Americans are truly invisible, than it's big-time sports, such as college football. Hawaii-native Chow has an incredible coaching record as an offensive guru at Brigham Young University, North Carolina State and USC, which has been the No. 1-ranked college team in the country most of the past two years. Some of the quarterbacks Chow has tutored who have gone on to the NFL include Carson Palmer, Steve Young, Jim McMahon, and most likely, Leinart in the near future.

Chow would seem to be in line for any head coaching job out there, but it hasn't worked out that way. Having not been a head coach before may be hurting his chances, but if there was ever an "old boy's club," it would be big-time college sports, given the paltry number of black coaches.

Plenty of other assistant coaches without head coaching experience have been hired as the top guy, so let's hope Chow gets his opportunity soon.