Todd Inoue


Spot the Asian American in that band!

It’s the musical version of the Calgon commercial; an Asian face appears on stage or in a music video, rocking out among the non-Asians. Whether its Phil Chen flowing in silk outfits in Rod Stewart’s “Passion” or James Iha submitting to Billy Corgan’s stone fist, here are some of the most famous token Asians in rock. —Todd Inoue








Shinoda's Song

Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda sounds off on his family's internment and the responsibilities of fame.

Photographer Matt Reamer

Mike Shinoda is in one of the world’s biggest bands, Linkin Park, which has sold 36 million records. Shinoda has a lot of cheddar, but instead of installing
princess-cut fronts on his teeth, he formed a side project, Fort Minor, which allows him to explore more deeply his hip-hop and electronic influences and address topics outside the Linkin Park realm. The album The Rising Tied was executive produced by Jay-Z and released in late 2005.

The Wisdom of a Fool

Like the rice pot and black hair, “Bizarre Love Triangle” is one of Asian America's unifying threads.

Writer Todd Inoue
Artist Eric Devlin
Photo Daisuke Takeoka

Of the certainties in life, there are few guaranteed. Death and taxes regularly appear one-two at the top. If you're blessed with Asian genes, tack on a few more: lactose intolerance, flat ass and alcohol-induced red face. And, at some point, you'll be forced to dance in a circle to New Order's “Bizarre Love Triangle.”

Eat More Fish

After a recent IM with a Hyphen staffer, she blew my mind when she revealed "she only eats to get full, not for pleasure." To me, this is like drinking bad beer. How can you NOT care about what you put in your body? Besides the whole "temple = body" thing, there is just too much good things out there.

I cook out of necessity but mostly because I like to eat well. I get busy, too, and rely on bad food choices sometimes. But to make a regular habit, or not think about eating well, that would bum me out. So before she opened up a Hot Pocket, I hit her with this recipe, which comes out pretty good. I've made it a couple times now.

Rebel Girl:

The daughter of a Tamil freedom fighter, M.I.A. is here to save us all.

M.I.A.—the British Sri Lankan MC—is the hot word on the lips of music critics and hipsters in search of something unique. Not to be confused with R&B tart Mya, M.I.A. blew up in late 2004 with one single “Galang,” but—got damn!—what a single. It’s a roller coaster of broken beat, ragga, bhangra, electronic buzzes and whistles. M.I.A.’s sing-song cadence is part chitter chatter, part feminine mystique with a “yah-yah heyyy” chant at the end that signals an uprising.

Asians in Reno

Last weekend I bailed on blog duties to hang out in Reno with some buddies. Not a lot Asians there and I had a couple of eye-opening incidents.

1) In a ski lift line, a white guy 15 feet away nods at me and asks, “Are you Keanu Reeves?” I was flabbergasted. Who? “Keanu Reeves, from the Matrix.” I go, “Totally, dude.” Woah!

Mixtape Seduction 101

Some of the most prolific romancing ever was completed via tape deck. Real Romeos woo extensively by mixtape. The social history—recently saluted in the Broadway play Avenue Q—has evolved as CD burners replace the cumbersome cassette deck, reducing the time-consuming recording task to a fraction depending on hard drive and download speed. The psychology behind choosing the right songs, however, hasn’t changed. It’s only gotten harder as online stores slice record digging into quickly downloadable and digestible ribbons.
For Valentine’s Day, here are some tips for creating the illest mixtape/CD for the lover in your life.

M.I.A. - So Necessary

I spoke with the awesome British/Sri Lankan emcee M.I.A. today. She was in good spirits though a little disoriented by the amount of attention being placed on her. The rapper had a sold out show last night in L.A. that had all kinds of press and label peoples out.

I asked if she had anything to say to Asian America, she said:

“I just want to say I’m really impressed by the turnout at the gig yesterday. There were loads of Asian Americans there. I haven’t met the community and it opened the world up for me today. I really want to access it. I want to get in touch.”

Her album drops on Feb. 22 on XL Recordings. "Galang" and "Fire Fire" are available on iTunes.

This is How it Feels

Got some new karaoke CDs in the mail. I have a pretty decent Pioneer setup that runs CD-G’s and DVDs. We don’t mess with the DVD’s—CD-G is the way to go. More selection, better sound and no wack videos.

I go in spurts when supplementing my collection (now 50+ deep, cripes!). I’ll get on an R&B jag, or think I’d really like to try that New Radicals song. Lately I’ve been trying to boost my ‘80s collection and I found a disc that had Joe Jackson (“Look Sharp,” “Steppin’ Out”), The Clash (“Train in Vain,” “London Calling”), Thompson Twins, Oingo Boingo, and, the key acquisition: ABC’s “The Look of Love.” How did it go? Let’s just say my throat is wrecked. One of the funnest parts about singing “The Look of Love” is when it heads into the spoken word part: “My friends they tell me, Marlin (sic) maybe someday you’ll find true love. I saaaay maybe. There must be a solution to the one thing, the one thing…” And it ends with a Tom Jones-like pelvic thrust. “LOOK! OF! LOVE!” Crazy.

Your Breath Is Hot

For lunch today, I had some leftover shrimp alfredo and for a special treat, I walked down to the red-sauce Italian restaurant and bought an order of garlic bread. I say “special treat” because I’m the type that bleeds garlic fumes after eating just the slightest bit. Now this restaurant is notorious for giving too much and they don’t skimp. So I binged hard, plowing through the order, mopping up the last drips of creamy parmesan sauce. Now I’m resting in a nice comatose state, garlic fumes seeping out of my pores and into my coworker’s airspace.

Outfit Check

How much do you really know about us Hyphen peeps through bloggery? Not much. So let’s get acquainted. A good team building exercise is to say your name and give the story behind what you’re wearing. I’m Todd. This is what I actually threw on and it reveals something (bad) about male journalists’ couture. From the ground up:

Tikki Tikki Tembizzle

I’m actually finished Christmas shopping one whole week before the big day. OK, there’s a couple more to get but they’re cornered and I’m stalking them with my big game BastardCard. Just some scattered nieces and nephews (and wifey, yikes!) and that’s it. I survived the malls and lived to tell about it.

The number of nieces and nephews to buy gifts for grew exponentially this year. Suddenly we have to put on the perspective of a one-year-old. Will they find our picks joyful or just another drool absorber?
We had so much trouble finding appropriate toys that this year we gave up and settled on books.

Egg Raid on Hyphen

I had to comment on this phenomenon heralding kimchi, rice and spam (KRaS) as Hyphen's official sustenance source. Can I specify adding fried egg to the equation? That’s the way I’ve been eating it since I knew how to cook for myself so when I first heard other staffers talking KRaS and omitting egg, I gave them a sideways look. It’s like only knowing meatloaf without onions and breadcrumbs. You GOTTA have egg or its incomplete. It ain’t wrong—I fish out the egg yolk in kimchi chigae and B. thinks I’m weird—but KRaS without egg sure ain’t right.

It used to be a morning meal, usually Sundays when there was some two-day old leftover rice in the pot, but it’s upgraded to dinner on those nights when real cooking is out of the question. KRaS&E is total peasant food but it does the job. Some protein (egg), some starch (rice), veggie (kimchi) and sodium (Spam). I’ll arrange it in a bowl, all decorative-like. Huge mound of steamed rice, slabs of fried Spam flared out around the bowl to resemble petals, and an over easy egg (or two) jiggling on top, like the capitulum of a springtime daisy, kimchi riding shotgun.

Buy High, Sell Higher

The Hyphen editorial retreat is this weekend at my house. Aside from family and a few friends, it's the first public showing of our place since we moved in last August. Since summer we've been busy removing wallpaper, ugly wood paneling, acoustic ceiling, repainting the ceiling and walls, installing mirrored closet doors, vinyl windows, baseboards. We also got rid of the original '70s era master bathroom and had a guy come in and install sweet tile, a custom vanity, brand new fixtures and canned lights. We got a lot of help from my folks (who live down the street) as well as some good contractors. We're finally at a place where we can go, phew! Let's have some people over!

Housing seems like a pie in the sky thing in the overpriced Yay but my wife and I did it. We bought in 1999 when the market was just as crazy and her income was the only income we could claim (I was freelancing and we don’t make much). We scraped up enough down payment, found a loan company crazy enough to lend us money, and got into a 3bd/2ba for 312K, bidding over by a good chunk. I remember calling our realtor guy from the gym the day he presented the bid and learning we got the house. I walked into the living room and exclaimed "We're outta here!" and Betty and I jumped around in exhiliration. Then reality hit: Oh shit. Now what? Our $800 rent was going to triple to a $2400 mortgage. Yikes!

J-Town Beatdown

Last night I moderated a panel on San Jose Japantown for South Bay First Thursdays, a networking organization that brings together Asian American professionals and townsfolk to discuss different topics on the, you guessed it, the first Thursday of the month. About 27 people came out to hear a conversation about the future of Japantown. We touched on topics of identity, demographic shifts, history, gentrification, arts and culture and nightlife. During the intro, I used the word "sleepy" to describe J-town and the reference was brought up again and again. San Jose's Japantown isn't like Little Tokyo in LA or SF's Japantown. It's a homey place (not sleepy!) with a feeling of community unlike the others. No chain stores except one Blockbuster; J-Town is a Starbucks-free zone and proud of it.

One of the panelists, Roy Hirabayashi, the managing director of San Jose Taiko, has been in J-Town for over 30 years. He made a good point that if redevelopment came in and overhauled the place, basically turning it into an exoticized version of Japantown, it would be a disaster. I can’t picture tour buses parked on Jackson, with out of towners hovering over the locals getting soy blocks from San Jose Tofu. The other J-Towns attract Japanese nationals, another panelist said, SJ's is just a neighborhood with a deep-rooted community, which makes it distinct. Panelist Jeff Ota, from the senior center Fuji Towers, said his father liked Japantown because he could stand on the corner of Fifth and Jackson and see the whole neighborhood.

Half Japanese Girls, Unite


Some good books came in the mail this week. One is Rivers’ Edge, a tell-all book about the rise of Weezer and the machinations of its musical genius/social misfit of a lead singer, Rivers Cuomo. Rumors of Rivers’ erratic Brian Wilson-like behavior have circulated for years and the book confirms some goodies and denies (or chooses to ignore) the more outrageous ones.

But I give author John D. Luerssen credit for putting out there what many people thought for years: that Cuomo harbors a raging Asian fetish.

Down Under

Vinyl killer-cum-graphic novelist Kid Koala on robots, Wurlitzers, and B-I-N-G-O.

KID KOALA is the patron saint of bedroom DJ’s — not the ones cramping their fingers perfecting a four-finger click, but the ones who find inspiration from lesser-known sources: talking parakeet records, music for plants, instructional hair cutting and spoken word joints. In 1996, he recorded an amazing calling card, Scratchcratchratchatch, a 30-minute tumble through 154 separate vinyl sources. The tape showed Koala’s sense of humor and skill for conveying movement (he cut up a Run-DMC sample into a four-beat waltz).