Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. She grew up in Texas, the eldest child of immigrants. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Shortly after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from Texas, I attended a meeting about starting a new Asian American magazine. In a San Francisco apartment, seven people sat around a kitchen table, eating pizzas we had made, and discussing what we wanted to see in a magazine for our community. That evening, I met Lisa Ko, who was also a recent Bay Area transplant, from New York. As time went on, the magazine project got a name (Hyphen), I became the editor in chief, and Ko signed on as the magazine’s first books editor.
Last week, I had the honor of going to the White House to pick up an award from Michelle Obama. No, it wasn't for Hyphen. (Though I'd love to be invited back for Hyphen -- hint, hint to any White House staffers reading this.) I was representing San Francisco WritersCorps, a program that places published writers in San Francisco communities to teach creative writing to youth.
Back in the day, when Hyphen was just starting, Angie Myung was a volunteer graphic designer who helped us create an early version of our website. Soon though, she moved to Los Angeles with her then-boyfriend (and now husband) Ted Vadakan and launched Poketo, a company that creates limited-edition, art-driven wallets, accessories, apparel and house wares.
Seven days of film festivaling at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Fest made me one happy but tired gal. Though the festival ended last week, I'm just now getting around to recovering and putting a few photos up here on the Hyphen blog. It's not just that there are lots of films to see. There's also so many people in town to catch up with, and events and get-togethers every night. I don't know how the staff at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) do it. They're such troopers.
Our annual fundraiser, Mr. Hyphen, is tomorrow night. Have
you gotten your tickets yet?
For those of you who have never been to a Mr. Hyphen
competition, how can I explain it to you? Well, it honors Asian American men
who are doing good work in the community, from empowering youth to making sure our voices are heard in the media. Each contestant represents a nonprofit org. The winner takes home $1,000 for his organization.
Readers will remember Joe from his illustration of competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi pelted with flying hot dogs in the Lazy Susan section of issue 13. Rob's work graced our pages in the same issue with his comic entitled "Animal Husbandry" -- a love story between a man and a dolphin-lady-thing.
The interview was conducted by David Choe, friend and grafitti artist. David's experience in a Japanese prison was written about in issue 4 of Hyphen. You can read his article here. David also curated Joe and Rob's show.
The issue is on newsstands now and the show runs until the end of this month.
-- by Erica Jones, Hyphen Creative Director
Just got tipped to an excellent new intervention critiquing the San Francisco Asian Art Museum's latest orientalist extravaganza, Lords of the Samurai. My anonymous source sent me the link to Lord, it's the Samurai!, a brilliant goof on this year's summer blockbuster which replicates the show's official website with a twist -- it offers a detailed, pointed, and well-researched deconstruction of the problematic exhibition. The faux-site points out the less-than-savory aspects of samurai culture that the Asian Art Museum conveniently glosses over, including the militarism, slavery, pederasty and misogyny inherent in the "code of the warrior."
I left Zine Fest without all the cash that had been in my wallet. So much for trying to save money in a down economy. There was too much stuff I wanted to buy.
In case you missed the footage of Euna Lee and Laura Ling arriving home this morning. Here are the women getting off the plane in Burbank, CA after spending 140 days in a North Korean prison.
Hell yes! Way to turn on the charm, Bill! North Korean media says leader Kim Jong-il has pardoned American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling and ordered their release after a visit from former US prez Bill Clinton. (Looks like Kim relished the chance to have a photo opp or two as KCNA, the official North Korean state media, also released various photos of Kim with a somber-looking Clinton.)
Mr. Kim granted "a special pardon," KCNA says. It's not clear when exactly Lee and Ling will be leaving, or if they're already on their way. We are so relieved to hear the news and can't wait to see them safely back in the States.
Dear Representative Betty Brown,
I know you've gotten a lot of flak over your suggestion that Asian Americans change their names to something "easier for Americans to deal with" in order to exercise their right to vote. You know what? I agree. I mean, shoot, names like Ko, Vu, Chang, Patel, Kim, Gupta, and Park are just hard to learn. And why should you spend a second of your life trying to learn something new? You're a busy woman, working hard at legislating and all. People should totally change for you!
Six years ago, we published the first issue of Hyphen. Inside our pages, we had stories about Jin Tha MC, Shahzia Sikander, and the Asian American movement. We put filmmakers Justin Lin and Jon Moritsugu in a room and recorded their conversation. It took us a year to publish that first issue -- from deciding what kind of magazine we wanted to make, to creating Hyphen the organization at the same time we were creating Hyphen the magazine. I still remember the boxes and boxes of magazines piled up and the excitement of seeing that first issue for the first time.
We threw a launch party in San Francisco. Would anyone come? Would people like the magazine? We were surprised when hundreds of people lined up outside the door and waited patiently to get inside the party. Wow. Asian America was hungry for a progressive, arty magazine after all. Most magazines fail within a year. But we beat the odds and survived that first year of publishing. Now, here we are six years later, still beating the odds -- thanks to our volunteer staff, our readers and our supporters.
It's our sixth birthday! That means it's time for a party. And you're invited.
It's only day 3 of SFIAAFF, with the festival really getting busy today with a free Festival Forum
in the Japantown Peace Plaza (free performances! free films!) and, of course, lots of films, but I feel
like I've been there for days already. I guess I have. Thursday was
opening night, featuring the Korean film My Dear Enemy. The
film, about exes spending a day together a year after they broke up, was slow and didn't really have a plot, but I kind of enjoyed that
about it. (Other people told me they fell asleep though.)
Photo by John Liau
- Oh, barf! This opinion piece in Forbes says Indian Americans are the new model minority. In a typical divide-and-conquer tactic, it then goes on to compare Indian immigrants with others to put down those other groups and suggest changes to immigration policy. "In sharp contrast to Indian Americans, most U.S. immigrants, especially
Mexican, are much less wealthy and educated than U.S. natives, even after many
years in the country. A new immigration policy that prioritizes skills over family reunification
could bring more successful immigrants to the U.S. By emphasizing education,
work experience and IQ in our immigration policy, immigrant groups from other
national backgrounds could join the list of model minorities." The piece was written by Jason Richwine, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
- Deepa Iyer of SAALT calls Richwine out on the tired and racist thinking of the model minority myth in this rebuttal on the Colorlines blog.
- First, happy birthday to our musician friend Goh Nakamura. And what is Goh doing for his birthday? Why, playing a show for you in San Francisco. Goh is playing not one, but two sets at Cafe Du Nord tonight, along with many of his musician friends from other local San Francisco bands. Plus, he's convinced Big Phony (Bobby Choy) to come up from Los Angeles and play in what will be his first Bay Area show. Should be a fun show. And if you haven't picked up Goh's latest album, Ulysses, you really should. For some insane reason, he's giving it away for free as a download on his site. (But you should support the guy and buy his music if you like it. Personally, I prefer having the actual CD with the pretty artwork.) Details about the show here.
Last week, two Hyphen writers, Angela Chung and Kai Ma, made the trek to DC for the inauguration. Back in L.A. from their adventures, Angela shares her inauguration diary.
January 16, Friday: Leave L.A., Stopover in Denver, Freeze in Philly
Four days after Obama's win we bought tickets for DC. The cheapest tickets were through Philadelphia, so we got on a Southwest Airlines flight with a stopover in Denver (where the DNC was held). Everyone who remained on the plane was also en route to the inauguration.
Among those going was Desmond Pringle, gospel singer and songwriter, who made a special song for Obama entitled "Hope is Born." After belting out the tune for us, he gave us the CD.
When we arrived in Philadelphia it was so cold (1 degree), that upon arriving at my aunt's place we placed our underwear and pajamas on the electric blanket to warm up before we changed.
I just called home to my parents, like I do most Sundays, to say hi and to assure my mother that I wasn't dead. (Fail to call mom regularly or return her phone calls right away and the lady thinks something terrible has happened to you.) But mom was too busy scrubbing the inside of the oven to talk to me on the phone.
Yep, it's that time of year. The Lunar New Year is tomorrow, which means Chinese people everywhere are scrubbing down their homes. I'm sure you know that cleaning the house is supposed to sweep away the bad luck of the preceding year and make it ready for good luck blah blah blah.
However, I bet you didn't know that you can clean it in style, or in ridiculous cuteness, with the help of your friendly neighborhood Asian dollar store. And by Asian dollar store, I mean the Japanese dollar store, because only Japanese people would think to create cleaning sponges so fricking cute. But I also mean the Chinese dollar store, because most of this stuff was made in China. So there you go, Asian dollar store. This was a pan-Asian effort.
Yes, you read that correctly. A portable mini toilet is this week's dollar store find. Why? Because DC is gearing up for what might be the biggest crowds it has seen, as an estimated 2 million people arrive for the Obama inauguration. That means lots of lines everywhere, especially for the bathroom. CNN reports there will be one toilet for every 300 people. Patience is key, my friend. But what if you really really need to go? Maybe you want to bring a portable mini toilet just in case. Just how mini could this mini toilet possibly be, you ask?
Sadly, it is a weak magnet, rendering this a good idea that failed in execution. Loaded up with soap, it kept sliding down the interior wall of my kitchen sink.
With an assortment of ceramics available, give a set of dishes or teacups. Or pick out a particularly nice dish to pair with some of that finely-milled French soap. (Nice soap not usually sold at the dollar store though, and will probably cost you more than the dish.) My personal favorites are the little dipping dishes pictured above with the flowers on them. They're doing double duty as chopstick holders as well. That's practically a two-for-one deal!
I'm not going to lie. I like stuff. I like getting it and I like giving it. As much as I can bravely plow through a mall during the holiday season ('tis the Hong Kong heritage in me), it's more pleasant to buy artist-made goods from the comfort and convenience of the Interwebs. Here're a few crafty, small-run, and indie media gifts.
You know you're not doing anything at work except shopping online for
gifts -- for yourself. So please take a moment to take the Hyphen reader survey. It will just take a couple minutes and it will help us learn more about you, our readers, and what you want from Hyphen. Help
us make Hyphen better by telling us what you like and don't like about both our print magazine and website. Complete the survey by December 18 and you'll be automatically entered to win goodies, including an iPod Shuffle, gift cards to Barnes & Noble, books, CDs and much more.
Click here to take the survey.
Target recently announced the next designer for its limited-edition line and it's Thakoon Panichgul, whom we wrote about in issue 13. As budget fashionistas already know, the Minneapolis-based mass retailer with the hypnotic TV ads has been wooing up-and-coming designers to create limited-edition women's collections for them under its GO International label. Target gets the coolness cachet, the designers get tons of publicity and marketing, and we get facsimiles of designer goods at much cheaper prices. Thakoon's collection drops on December 28th and let's just say that I've already marked it in my calendar.
I love fall. I love the crispness in the air, the clean smell of
it. I love the chill in the air. (I realize it is winter in most other places, but here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's still fall, or what passes as fall.) I love fall fashion:
the subdued yet rich color palette; jackets and coats, gloves, hats, round-toe pumps, and boots.
Ah yes, boots. Which brings us to this week's dollar store find.
Here on the Hyphen blog, we cover a lot of serious topics. Since our print magazine only comes out three times a year (Damn, paper is expensive!), the blog is where we ruminate on current events in between issues. We write about race, discrimination, stupid things that ignorant people say, studies about our communities, stereotypes and other heavy stuff. We also like our arts and entertainment, so we keep you up to speed on the going ons of the Asian folk on "Star Trek" and "America's Next Top Model." (Sheena, we will miss your sassy Hawaii-bred, Harlem-loving self.)
By Althea Chang, contributing writer
Asian American filmmakers, actors and film lovers broke in the brand new home of Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia this past weekend for the first annual Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, sponsored by HBO and others.
While it was especially enlightening and encouraging to hear
from actors and filmmakers alike that there's a growing need for Asian
American actors, especially men (even for roles outside the
stereotypes), the highlight of the festival for me was the documentary
"Planet B-Boy," from Korean American filmmaker Benson Lee.
Hey San Francisco Bay Area foodies, this Friday marks the start of the Asian Culinary Forum, taking place at the Ferry Building. This is the forum's first year. There are a few events you might expect at such a forum, such as these tasting classes: The Six Asian Flavors" and "Master Wine and Food Pairing." But there are also some sessions with titles like this: "The Politics and Practicalities of Rice" and "Meals, Meaning and Memory in Asian Diasporas," offerings that go deeper than just learning what tastes good together.
It seems like every couple of months, we post here about an indie magazine in trouble and in serious need of help. We just wrote about the KoreAm Campaign. A sharp drop in ad revenue has put this venerable Korean American mag (and its sister publication Audrey, a women's magazine) in a dire situation.
I was chatting to an Obama volunteer last night who seemed concerned that people were being won over by Sarah Palin. Really? People bought that lipstick-on-a-pitbull act? There seems to be a little panic in the air among Democrats, and that kind of pessimism is not surprising given that their hearts were smashed in 2000 and 2004. Sure, Palin is giving the GOP a lot of momentum, but at the same time, is she attracting any independents or Dems? I hope not.
Here's a few posts from the last week I found interesting:
sure that I have much commentary to add on Sarah Palin. There's plenty of it
already and I hate to add to the media circus surrounding her. If it's
attention the Republicans wanted to generate, they sure got it.
learn much about her from her speech last night. Except that she's good at
delivering zinging one-liners. Digs at
celebrity is fair game. But mocking community organizers? Nice. It's really
classy to mock people who make huge sacrifices in order to serve their
communities -- while selling yourself as a public "servant." I guess
a small-town mayor is more important than Dr. King and Susan B. Anthony.
I was looking at a photo essay about tattoos in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer over the weekend and came across a photo of a white man with an Asian woman that had this caption:
Josh Vogel, 27, right, with his friend, Josie Lin, 27, shows off his Geisha tattoo -- which they thought looked like Lin. "I wanted this tattoo because I like Asian women," Vogel explained. They were among the crowds at the Seventh Annual Seattle Tattoo Expo.
First of all: I don't think his friend Josie looks anything like the geisha tattoo, except that they both have dark hair. Second of all, ewwwwwwwww. Third of all, ewwwwwwwwww. It's bad enough the guy likes Asian women in that geisha-kind-of way, but he has to get a tattoo too?
Wait, on second thought, I think all guys with yellow fever should get geisha tattoos. Then there would be a clear physical indication for those ladies who don't like to be objectified by their race to stay far, far away. Countless awful first dates would be avoided.
I can't figure out how to directly link to the photo since it's in a pop-up window (sorry, not the most tech-savvy person here), but if you go to the paper's photo archive and click on "Seattle Tattoo Expo" (last item on the first row), and then go to photo # 13, you can see the photo for yourself.
Just some quick updates on a few people who have been in Hyphen.
Bay Area Now 5, a triennial exhibition of Bay Area art (and possibly the most important art show in San Francisco this year), is up now at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. One of the featured artists is Ala Ebtekar, whose work we showcased in issue 11. Ebtekar paints on top of
found prayer manuscripts in the style of Iranian miniatures, to explore
the crossings of spirituality and war.
This past Saturday was a historic day in Hyphen history. We moved into an office space. By office space, I mean a nice cubicle that our friends at CAA are letting us have in their building in San Francisco's Chinatown. (Thank you, thank you, thank you CAA!)
This may not seem like a big deal to you. But it's exciting to us. Hyphen, as some of you may or may not know, is a volunteer-run organization. We have big dreams of being able to sit down in the same room together to work on an issue of the magazine -- and get paid measly sums for it. But for now we get together at each other's houses, in coffee shops, and in the offices of other organizations kind enough to lend a helping hand (or an after-work-hours meeting space.)
I've got my boarding pass printed out. I'm about to go back to my apartment and pack. Yes, it's time.
Once a year I go to Houston for the Slant Film Festival, hosted by the Aurora Picture Show. The festival starts on Friday night with a program of narrative and experimental short films. Saturday evening there's a special performance by Toronto-based filmmaker and TV personality Nobu Adilman. I can't tell you what he's going to do exactly (it's a surprise), but as he's one of the hosts of the Food Network's Food Jammers, you can bet it's going to be fun and yummy. And Sunday afternoon, we close with a program of documentaries.
Bay Area, this one is for you. This weekend, I saw a one-woman show, Lydia's Funeral Video, at the Dark Room Theatre. I am no expert in theater, nor am I even a frequent patron. (I may go see shows a few times a year.) But even to my amateur theater self, I could tell that this show was a cut above the rest. It was dark and tragic, yet hilarious at the same time. And there are just 6 shows left, so if you're in the Bay Area, you should think about seeing it.
It's a busy day. And I'm hungry, so I'm just going to link to a few things I've been reading.
San Francisco songwriter Goh Nakamura is featured on the front page of YouTube right now with a music video for his song "Embarcadero Blues." The video was directed by Dino Ignacio (known by some for being the mastermind behind Bert is Evil).
As of this writing, there are more than 700 comments on it and they are all over the place. Lots of people are digging the song. But there are also some people trying to figure out Goh's ethnicity (Does Nakamura not clue you in?) or asking if the people who worked on the video (they are listed in the info bar on the side) were Latin American or Spanish (If you really want to know, they are Filipino American) or expressing surprise that the songwriter is an Asian dude.
So, an Asian American guy picks up a guitar and that instantly shatters stereotypes or blows people's minds? Well, good I guess, though I hope we can get to a point one day where it’s not oh-so-surprising that a songwriter has the name Nakamura and people can just concentrate on the music. (Full disclosure by the way: Goh is a friend and I’ve included Dino’s work in film festivals I’ve curated.) Anyways, check out the video. I really like it.
The costumes above are from an online store that even has categories for the ethnic flavoring of your choice, like “”Spanish/Mexican”. Alas, they are unable to help with my costume. There is no “White” category.
As the resident "America's Next Top Model" expert here at Hyphen, I was watching the CW last night and saw a commercial for "Aliens in America."
The show is about a socially-awkward teenage boy in Wisconsin trying to survive high school. To help improve her son's popularity, the mom decides to get an exchange student. But the exchange student turns out to be not who they expect: a Muslim teenager from a small village in Pakistan. Hilarity ensues.
Last night I was home eating dinner when I turned the TV on. It was the first time in a long time I had even touched the TV (I swear), and I was immediately assaulted by the booming voice of Dr. Phil in all his Texan swagger. The theme of this particular episode was Change My Face, Change My Race, so I decided to watch.
Well, it was Asian Time on Dr. Phil as 2 of the 3 segments featured Asian Americans. I’m sorry to report that most of them did not represent well.
Photo by Junzo Chino
I always thought we should have a column in Hyphen about the ways in which Asian culture gets misappropriated. In the cheesy tradition of Asian American student conferences, we could even use "asian" in the name of the column, as in "MisappropriAsian."
However, we already have a column called InterrogAsian. (See the home page for an example.) And upon further reflection, it seems a column on such a topic might just get too repetitive. No matter how many times you say "Yo, stop misappropriating my shit," Gwen Stefani probably isn't going to hear you.
Still, it could be amusing. Especially as a collection of photos. So here's one to start out with. If readers like it, we can make it a recurring blog item.
By the way, my friend who found this said that when he opened the package, a gong sounded.
That there above is the first published image of the forthcoming Best of Slant DVD. What is Slant you ask? Slant: Bold Asian American Images is a film festival I started 7 years ago in Houston. At the time, there wasn't much going on in terms of contemporary Asian American art in Houston. So I approached this microcinema, Aurora Picture Show about showcasing Asian American film.
I am a bit embarrassed to say I spent the entire weekend shopping. I didn't mean to. But I just moved, and there’s always stuff you need to buy when you move. Also, I am the daughter of one-time Hong Kongers. Also, I am from Houston, Texas. So basically, I’m programmed to shop. I can’t help it.
Saturday I took a friend out for birthday dim sum. Then we hit Daiso. Daiso is a magical place. It's a Japanese dollar store where most items (but not everything) is $1.50. It's huge: stationery, beauty products, home decor, gardening supplies, pet supplies, kitchen ware. They have shelving. And they have hooks to hang from that shelving. They have curtain rods, seat cushions, throw pillows, slippers galore and dishes. They even have spiky things to keep birds away and pumpkin-shaped dog beds. I regret I did not have my camera on me to bring you photos of the wonder that is Daiso.