The End of APA Heritage Month

Egads! It's the last day of Asian Heritage Month. Well, i rather resent that designation because to me, every month is Asian heritage month. Just like every day is My Day, a Woman's Day (take that, Peter Gabriel!). I mean, isn't ownership implied --when a white man tells us it's our month, it means the months are his to give, right? and it means the rest of of the months are white man's months. unless it's secretary's day, or collect flyswatters week, or bike to work day.

Yes, I get it. We have our special month so that documentaries will get aired on PBS and we have some special time to schedule AA arts festivals and such. And it's obviously necessary to get attention at some time of the year, so why not May?

Pretty Chinese Girl (Zhang Ziyi) on the Cover of Newsweek

newsweek cover ziyi.jpg

I have a confession to make. I know this will get me kicked out of the progressive-journalist club, but I actually sorta like Newsweek. (Nooooooo! Yes.) It's true. Once a year on my birthday I eat ribs, twice a year in an airport I'll read Cosmo, and once a week I get my free (thanks, KQED!) Newsweek. It's so readable, so mainstream.

J Huang Visits the Doctor. A Cautionary Tale

So I just got in from my doctor's appointment today. I'm totally healthy. In spite of that, I'll be taking 9 months of antibiotics, using steroid cream, (prescribed!) and getting a series of three shots. And wouldn't you know it, all of the above conditions are related to my Asian-ness.

Warning: this blog contains waaay too much information about my health. proceed at your own risk.

China vs. Japan: What's An Apology, Anyway?

Here's the story as I see it: Japan had a real imperialistic streak going and decided to conquer China. It invaded and did brutally nasty things to the population --well chronicled by Iris Chang in The Rape of Nanking. Japan lost but now, 50 years later, has become the world's second largest economy. It's trying to erase the ugliness of it's history by eliminating that chapter (literally) from its history books. It wants to be recognized as a world leader by its inclusion in the UN Security Council.

Geisha girls! Same-same but Different!

Memoirs of a Geisha, the film, wrapped shooting at the end of January. I know we should stop bitching and moaning about mainstream media --because it just gets old. But dammit, the COMPLETE LACK OF PROGRESS also gets old.

Maybe I'm the last one to hear (since i tire of mainstream Hollywood I ignore it as much as possible) but the all-star cast of Memoirs includes, get this, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li, and Zhang Ziyi.

Do What I Say, I Know Better Than You. And Other Roads to Utopia.

As you know, the Senate recently passed a budget that include provisions for drilling to start in the Alaskan National Wilderness Refuge (ANWR). Though the recent vote doesn't mean drilling will start --the budget still hasn't been approved by the House and the president --it is a significant step toward opening up this pristine habitat.

And who cast the swing votes? Among them, Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka from Hawaii. Democrats. With a vote of 51 to 49, their positions were crucial. Why did they turn their backs on their party and the pleas of environmentalists everywhere?

You Can Just Flush Your Penis Down the Toilet. Uncle.

Hey Everybody! Asian Americans now have their own Lorena Bobbitt! (read article 1, below)

Initially, my first read of the story immediately raised some questions:

How did they find the penis in the sewer? That takes some dedication from the municipal utilities workers. (And hey, how do they know they found the right one?)

And how is the appendage doing now that it's reattached? I mean, how healthy is that? not to mention, would it still be, you know, alive?

But then, upon further research (read article 2) I have even more questions.

What on earth is this woman thinking, having an affair with her uncle? Is she just plain old crazy?

And, is it really true that there have been Kim Trans before who've cut off their man's member?

Representin At the Oscars

It was a pretty good night for people of color at the Academy Awards. Chris Rock got to say the names of lots of black people who didn't even go on stage --Denzel, Oprah-- and Morgan Freeman and Jamie Foxx swept up the little statuettes.

Catalina Sandino Moreno was up for best actress for "Maria Full of Grace" --even though she spoke in Spanish for most of the film and Hollywood tends not to notice subtitled actors.

Plus, the beautiful song Al Otro Lado Del Rio, from Motorcycle Diaries, won. (Antonio Banderas' rendition was awful --listen to the real recording which is so gentle it breaks your heart.) Selma Hayek pointed out it was the first song in Spanish to be nominated, ever.

But my Asian faces, where were they?

The Squeaky Wheel

So if you haven't heard, the congress approved and GWBush signed off on the "tort reform" law that will make it very difficult to pursue large class action lawsuits. It all happened in a matter of days. (See what Greg Palast has to say about it.) Again, I mourn, as I mourned the election and the war and the torture...

The relentless waves of injustice that keep battering down us people who sympathize with the poor and the nonwhite and the noncorporate are starting to feel like a war to me. A war on my lesbian coworker, who I carpool with every week. A war on my sister, trying to educate her kids. A war on the air I breathe.

It's time to fight back.

Lawsuits Are Your Friend, Sometimes

The Bush administration frequently does things that make me so mad I can't see straight. The war, the environment, treatment of prisoners, the budget, for starters.

But there's something new that has me spitting nails. I don't know why it stands out to me from all of the other egregious behavior of the current admin. Maybe because it's such a visible example of taking power away from us common folk, we of 5-figure salaries, to whom pesky things like mortgages and insurance premiums and overtime make a big difference.

I'm talking about the current push to eliminate the class-action lawsuit.

Is Racism Funny?

I share an office here at work, and like all office-sharers, Jane (not her real name) and I share a lot of laughs. She reads out quotes from Martin of the Simpsons ("Miss Hoover, my worm went in my mouth so i ate it.") prints out the 2005 David Hasselhoff calendar, and plays an eclectic collection of music that alternatively soothes, grates, and entertains.

Recently she pulled out the Neil Diamond. I've alway thought of Neil Diamond as sappy music played by lonely women in their fifties, but I don't pay attention to such things. Now, listening to the lyrics, I've learned the Neil is a bigoted ass.

The New Iron Chef

Anybody catch "Iron Chef America" the other night? Not to be confused with the short-lived William Shatner Iron Chef USA, Iron Chef America aims to remake it right.

The iron chefs are Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck. The episode I watched, "Battle Spiny Lobster" pitted Mario Batali against Japan's longtime Iron Chef Japanese, Masaharu Morimoto.

Watching the show made me wonder, even in this day and age, if something as elemental as "delicious food" can be considered universal. Or, to put it simply, I think the deck was stacked against our Asian guy.

On Japanese Inscrutability

"Kosuke," I asked on my recent trip to Nagano, "I don't understand Japanese relationships. I speak Japanese, but I think there's a whole level of communication that I'm missing."

I'd been asking him about his girlfriend and hoping he could shed some light on the Japanese mating ritual. Recently I've been starting to doubt the veracity of Japanese dramas in their depiction of romance, which is my main source of info on the subject.

"If a Japanese person has something to say," Kosuke said, indicating it with a fist, "they'll never just say it. They'll give a lot of hints around it," he stamped his other fist in the air around the first. "That way they'll be understood without having to actually say it."

The U.S. Government Does the Wrong Thing, Yet Again

Ever since I read Papillon, the story of a French thief sent to an island prison, I've saved a particular kind of compassion for people sentenced to live behind bars. Particularly when so many stories are of continuing injustice, of the wrongly accused or the overly punished. Such is the story of David Wong.

Wave after Wave

I'm sitting cozily in my grandma's Tokyo apartment, eating very fat toast (it's a thing, here) and watching saucer-sized snowflakes falling. The snow is like a Californian's stereotype image of snow, thick and floaty and so impossibly large that if I were art-directing this scene, I'd have the crew ease up because it's unrealistic.

A couple thousand miles south of me though, things aren't so placid. If you own a TV or ears you know about the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that followed it. You might have heard that the epicenter was off the coast of Indonesia, and one of the hardest struck places was Aceh, a region close to my heart.

Oh So Cool

Lately, Sandra Oh is everywhere. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but her face popped out from Entertainment Weekly at me yesterday, a whole blurb devoted to her. A blurb! AND she's beating up a white dude with her purse in the trailer for Sideways, she was in that Under the Tuscan Sun film, and she's got a bumper crop of indie film releases coming up.

I'm actually a huge fan of lists (also tables and Venn diagrams)so here are my top seven reasons why Sandra Oh is cool.

Buying, the other way to vote

Okay, I admit it. I'm freaking out about Christmas presents. I just gave my roommate her birthday present, and her special day was back in June. So I know that if i don't put in a special effort, I'll be empty-handed at the Christmas tree. (Not to mention that I'll be in Tokyo for Christmas, and bearing no gifts in Japan is akin to blasphemy.)

Lately though, I've grown more and more resistant to buying mass-produced goods that were made by a corporation. Not only was some woman/child/brown person probably mistreated in its production, but it lacks soul and is probably chemically treated and bad for you.

So I'm compiling some gift ideas that are fun, functional, and benefit the artists, entrepeneurs, and activists in our global community.

Hyphen 101

My grandma is known to start conversations out the the blue with statements like, "He decided not to. Let's go eat." You may have just gotten off the plane and arrived in her Tokyo apartment, blowsy and crusty-eyed, and you sure as hell have no idea who "he" is, what he decided about, and what that has to do with eating.

The thing is that grandma, at 94, is still thinking three thoughts ahead and forgets that you can't keep up. Her internal logic is so clear to her that elucidating the rest of us is just a bore. Keep up, people! seems to be her attitude.

I've realized that Hyphen's kind of been like that, too. We figured that if we put a daikon on the magazine's cover, you'd understand that it was a "food" issue, not full of recipes and tips, but rather, examining the origins, socio-economic and political ramifications of the work involved in creating a bowl of soup. We didn't bother explaining it anywhere, just figured it was evident. What, you didn't pick up on all that?

But as previously mentioned in this blog, we want to be more accessible, and that requires taking a few steps back to show you the ground we're standing on. In that spirit, I am providing a Hyphen FAQ. Long overdue. Fellow hyphenators, please feel free to append or amend.


There's been a question that pops into my mind every six months or so, seemingly unanswerable: what will be the next pearl milk tea?

Boba, bubble tea, call it what you like, it's become a staple in the Asian malls of America --with relatively wide crossover appeal. It's all over East Asia (anyone know about South or Southeast Asia?) and making inroads into the red states (I've had it in Vegas). Plus, it's delicious.

So I'd like to propose a few contenders for the next Asian food craze. Feel free to borrow these ideas and make your first million!

Red and Blue make Purple

So it's been a week since the election, and (half) the nation is in mourning. My friends have described their crying fits, their anger, their wonder at how people can blithely continue on with their commuting and childcare and sitcoms when Frodo didn't make it --Bush got the ring and our hopes for a regime change have evaporated.

I've never heard ordinary citizens describe feelings of grief over an election before. When I heard that Kerry conceded, I felt that same sick feeling as when someone I love has died.

Of course, revolutions come only after such disappointments. Revolutions don't come just because of crushing oppression and maniacal tyranny, they come after hope is dangled out before the downtrodden masses and then is tauntingly jerked away.

What upsets me most about the election results (Besides the Bush "win") is that analysts and media want to say that this means there are "two Americas," that there is this great moral divide. I think there are a lot of things wrong with that analysis.

Passion! Betrayal! Ketchup! Electoral Fraud!

As I drove through San Francisco on my way to work this morning, I saw a line of voters that extended halfway down the block. Wow! I thought, people are really excited about this election. A few miles down, I passed another line of patient voters.

I got a little choked up. People are standing in line, reading their fat voter guides (SF residents have 30 propositions to vote on) and taking part in the wonderful horrible exercise of American democracy. (For a suprisingly stirring take, don't miss Eminem's video.)

This year, voting isn't a boring civic duty. It's a chance to take part in a great made-for-tv drama, with smut that can appeal to everyone. And that's what I think will get people to the polls.

Two Headlines, and a Third

When I sleep, my body actually melts and I cease to exist in this physical realm. I become a mist, floating between continents and dimensions.

Every morning when I wake up, it takes a sheer strength of will to reassemble the molecules that make up my bone structure, the little air sacks of my lungs and the synapses in my grey matter. That's why it takes me so long to wake up in the morning, and when I do, I tend to be disoriented.

But this morning, the news on NPR made all of my cells instantly snap into place. I thought I might be confused still, perhaps I misheard:

Ariel Sharon wants to pull all settlements out of the Gaza Strip.

Gavin Newsom threatened to walk the picket line of hotel workers.

Statute of Limitations

When I was in high school, a blonde sophomore in my English class said, "I don't have regrets. Because every mistake you make is a learning experience."

Even then, I found the statement smug and presumptuous.

Even then, I had piles of regrets.

I've been thinking about this again lately, after saying some extremely unkind things to my boyfriend. Things that surprised me on their way out of my mouth. We were arguing, I was bone-tired, and I felt a round satisfaction as I heard the words. Followed by that sick feeling in my stomach, knowing that I'd gone too far.

I apologized, he says he forgives me. But I'm all too aware that I've introduced a tension, like a blob of black in perfectly white paint, that will always color our relationship. A regret.

What's the shelf life of transgressions? Do our iniquities reflect our innate make-up, or can they be forgive and forgotten as temporary lapses in judgement by an otherwise decent human being?

The question seems like philosophical mumbo-jumbo, perhaps. But it's a real issue in the upcoming election. I'm not even talking about Bush's drug use and conversion, or whether Kerry bled enough for his medals.

I'm talking about attempted rape.

Mr. Lucas, Sigh, I Am Not a Carpet

So, has anybody seen the new, remastered Star Wars Trilogy on DVD? I admit, I'm a big nerd (an elegant, aloof big nerd, mind you) and the very first thing I watched after ripping the shrink wrap from my box set was "The Birth of the Lightsaber" mini-documentary. What can I say, I love special features.

So there I am, learning how they made the lightsaber hum, how the fighting developed over time, yadi yadi, when George Lucas blurted out, "Oriental sword fighting."