Asian American Culture, Politics, Issues. Politipop, humor and observations. Road Stories from tour dates of Amerasian legends Slanty Eyed Mama. The comedy of Asian American Comedy Star Kate Rigg. Interacting with different Asian American groups from colleges and community organizations, as well as people involved in feminist/multicultural/socio-political/ and groups interested in fostering understanding between diverse communities in America and beyond.

Friday, June 05, 2015


The Aloha Brouhaha

A lot of casting Asians to play Asian roles controversy has come up in the last year. When I saw the poster for Aloha and saw blonde hair blue eyed movie stars standing in front of the Hawaiian landscape pleading with their eyes for us to all give a shit about their romantic mishaps and misunderstandings I rolled my eyes and thought about how another opportunity to put beautiful brown people got eaten up by the machine. Then people started freaking about how a character in there played by Emma Stone (blonde/blue) is actually called Allison Ng is part chinese and reps Hawaiian culture. They bitched about it so much that Cameron Crowe said whoops my bad then pointed to all the native Hawaiians he gave jobs by shooting there. It reminds me of british colonials saying how grateful the Indians were that they had jobs being their servants. It also reminded me of people in turn of the century france and En saying where is MY all American and they are not wrong.  But Hollywood is a business. They look at numbers As I said on facebook:
gland putting on chinesey looking dresses and decorating with enamels and that beginning the orientalist craze. The brouhaha about casting is also about just generally feeling unseen. If I describe the cast of Aloha as typically “all American” the Asian americans who have been paying taxes and buying movie tickets and getting fat off fast food just like everyone else are

“Just as banks are a business. a bank doesn't care if you achieve your life's dream to own a house with a white picket fence. They care about fees bonuses and their personal portfolios. Hollywood does not care about your dream to be represented or have your story told. They care about selling tickets and the way they do that is by making you "aspire" to something (something more beautiful than your humdrum life somemething more noble, rich, etc.) Once in a while by accident an artist peeps through with a story that "matters" but mostly its a cash proposition. Emma stone did not audition for the role of Allison Ng. It's a lead. It was an offer and the conversation was like "who can we get on this list who will sell tickets." And by the way the foreign sale, the sale of the american dream to all the ticket buyers overseas is an Abercrombie and Fitch type play-- the utopian white unattainable romantic white america. You think my relatives in indonesia care if the cast of the movie looks like them? Nope they WANT to see white people because they have been taught for decades that THAT is beautiful and desirable. so listen all ye outraged artists and activists. You want to see more roles for asians? You want Hollywood to expand its terribly narrow view of what is beautiful START COMING TO SEE MY SHOWS. START GOING TO SEE ASIAN PLAYS IN GENERAL. BUY TICKETS TO MOVIES STARRING ASIANS. GO SEE GEORGE TAKEI ON BROADWAY. HIT LIKE ON MY SLANTY EYED MAMA FACEBOOK PAGE. HIT LIKE ON ANY ASIAN ARTISTS PAGE. VOTE FOR THE ASIAN CONTESTANTS ON THE VOICE. STAND THE FUCK UP AND VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS. this is America. Money talks bullshit walks. Get involved by supporting writers who write asian stories. DO IT

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Monday, April 07, 2014

The NAKED WHITE GUY feminist on campus controversy at Wellesley College

So Wellesley College is a women's college, (except for the M born F who are now straddling the gender divide and creating space for themselves there) Hilary Rodham Clinton went there and Madeline Albright and Nora Ephron and lots of rad people went there. And it's a private college. These are all important context for the story of the naked white guy sleepwalking in tighty whities on the side of the road on the way to the Pendelton building where we played a concert the other night. Tony Matelli who created the piece, was surprised by the stir it caused. Tears, girls protesting, angry letters the whole I'M OFFENDED as a core identifier amongst the emotional throngs of undergrads who told me their reactions were "frightened, triggered, offended, angry" and a host of other negatory feelings of infringement.

Here is what I asked the girls, "Would your reaction be different if it were a sculpture of a white woman sleepwalking in panties" (they didnt need to answer that one, I could predict similar reactions of outrage and rancor, "What if it were a black man, would it be a perceived as a racist sculpture? What if it were an asian woman? a small child? A St. Bernard? all in various stages of undress?" "What if a Christian group saw this thing would they react differently? What if a group of muslims saw it or black activists or old Harry Potter fans?"

This is where the act of art occurs on something like this. In the reaction. In the perceptions and the point of view of the audience. I don't even think the artist knew what he had created. Because honestly it's a dude sleepwalking. In underpants. It's a kind of blank canvas if you remove your own politics or feelings, or herstory, or ideological stance. It's a dude. Walking. He isnt even naked.  His nudity is implied, his sameness his state of vulnerability, asleep undressed, implied.  A world of reactions dresses him up alternately as racist, homophobe, rapist, colonizer.

I did point out that since it is a private college, technically the girls deserved an open discussion forum, a chance to react since their tuition in part pays for the campus projects. But if this had been a city street outside a gallery, the same brouhaha would likely erupt, with different argument points. It is good they protested and belly ached. That's their right as the audience.

I hope, despite all the feelings of "offended" (a mighty uncreative place from which to work btw and silencing and shut down) nonetheless i hope they enjoyed it, this beautiful intersection of artist and audience showcasing the way we really all paint our own canvases, we really co create each piece of art as the audience. A magnificent dialogue and opportunity for self examination.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Asian America: What's Our Brand?

Today I was on a very interesting panel at the first ever National Asian American Summit on Media images, stereotypes and  represent-asian held at the center for democracy/Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. We were the final panel, on new directions for Asian America, what's next and what's up in the arts and popular culture. My wheelhouse so to speak. And I was asked one question in particular that distills a lot of the cultural thinking we are all doing about the actual A/Pi identity in the media and in the personal realm and in terms of the community activist and otherwise. What is the Brand of Asian America and what does it mean? Is it a good one or a bad one.

I spent the last decade as a freelance brand consultant for various corporations and institutions. I also worked at a great company called Siegel and Gale which is one of Omnicom's finest branding firms in New York City for some pretty major clients. When asked why I, juilliard trained actor, stand up comedian and playwright and entertainment producer would spend so much time in the branding world my answer is simple-- I like the art side of business and the business side of art. Branding is really the art side of business. When you are building a brand you are considering what message you want out in the marketplace, what audience you are targeting and all about that audience, and the messages about your brand that already exist.

For Asian Americans this is a very complex question-- what is the brand of Asian America. At countless college summits and Asian heritage months and symposia where I have been the keynote speaker we address this question under a multitude of titles and nuanced perspectives: What is Asian America? Is there an Asian American community? What are its attributes? What is the direction of community building in Asian America? What makes you an Asian American? (that last one is literally a branding question.) 

There is no easy answer.  And here’s why. Asian America is still a term that really umbrellas a diaspora of distinct cultures under one title. Chinese Americans and Thai Americans and Japanese Americans etc are all bicultural in their inherent connection to the cultural mores of their Asian motherlands in juxtaposition with their lives as Americans. We Asian americans actually have a tri cultural experience: Our American-ness, our culturally/family specific ethnic mores and histories, AND our Asian American-ness. This last element of the triptych is the most difficult to define. And it is made more complex by the continual influx of immigrants in waves, and different waves from different countries at different times to boot. A 4th generation Japanese American is going to have a very different relationship to the words Asian American than a 2nd generation Cambodian. Fact. And as new people show up and become americans it’s a groundhog’s day of laying down the roots of “what is Asian America?” because the answer changes every time someone new gets here and has their experience added to the pile.

Part of brand is how we are perceived. Like I said when building or re-imagining a brand you look at what the marketplace already thinks of it—how it is perceived, what stereotypes exist, what expectations exist. So that is where Asian America, unfortunately has the strongest brand identity. In the often unflattering eyes of the media which is where stereotypes become such a hot topic of discourse. Which is why everyone is freaking out. Especially American born AP/I’s who cant relate AT ALL to the pidgin speaking noodle sucking nerd boy dragon lady sex kitten king fu master math genius wily suspicious clown like lampooned characters we see still very much alive and well in popular culture.
Obviously that is not at all our total brand package. We do have Jeremy Lins we do have Kate Riggs we do have John Chos we do have Lisa Lings. But they are still pretty few and far between.

So here’s what I said to the group today. This is America. Money talks bullshit walks. We have a duty as Asian Americans who are raising consciousness and fighting for the kids in college and high schools around the nation still paralyzed between the pressure of being Asian and the pressure to be cool, slash assimilate slash separate themselves from words like chink and geek and whatever else subtly or not so subtly makes them outsiders in their own nation. We have a duty to support the few voices that are breaking through. With cash money. That means you buy not one but two tickets the next time a movie like Better Luck Tomorrow comes out. That means you go see that play or listen to that record and pay for a download or buy a ticket to see an Asian Comedy tour. You vote with your dollars.
What are you voting for? The self esteem of millions of Americans just like you. Why is self esteem and all this academic chit chat about representation in the media important?
Because every single time without exception that I tour a college and do some oral history interviews with Asian students, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I hear a suicide attempt story. Yes that is right. A suicide story. Inspired by the thankless, voiceless, relentless experience of feeling unwelcome every where you turn. By your Asian family who want you to act more Asian. And by your non Asian colleagues who deep down don’t get it and treat you like a foreigner, or just want you to assimilate much harder than you can.

We need an Asian American brand and we need it now. So thanks Jeremy Lin and thanks Lisa Ling. But also thanks everyone who is attending summits and being brave and living with grace and joy and looking for connections to both Asians and all the other Americans. And to those who are artists and media makers who are trying to execute direct change along the chain of information we consume. Keep talking keep thinking. Our brand is under construction. But for right now at this point in history i borrow from my own motherland for our Brand tagline: Unity In Diversity.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Asian America! Still feeling LIN-sane

I am still wearing my Jeremy Lin jersey (actually I have two NBA Knicks Lin Jerseys and one tshirt) all over town with the insane pride that against all odds Jeremy Lin just stuck at what he does and kept doing it and doing it and kicked so much butt last season on the Knicks. (somewhere his asian mom is saying "why didn't you kick TWO butts?") You gotta wear the colors when someone from an under-represented demographic proves all the stereotypes and the predjudices and the exlusionary politics wrong. In case you need a lexicon:
Asian men suffer in this country from, amongst other things, the perception that they are:
Not athletic
Un sexy
Sort of gay
Un cool
Easily dismissed
Second bananas.
Hardly the stuff that American role models are made of. So when a guy like Jeremy Lin kicks butt in an Arena So unused to seeing Asian Americans prevailing, and surrounded by his sterotypically higher status race-as-athletes, it is a moment to hang on to. Tiger Woods is part of that too and I am so glad he calls himself Cablinasian no matter what anyone else says. And that scandal, well once in a while, seeing an Asian man as a skirt chasing Lothario who makes the girls swoon, that aint such a bad thing for the rest of the guys out there. Self esteem = the ability to get up in the morning, try, strive for your dreams. We are crippled without it. So Jeremy Lin, I am wearing your Jersey to remind everyone that WE ROCK.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Asian American directors make white people movies for Sundance

Well what can I tell ya. I went to Sundance with a movie I was in.My first time at the festival and it was delicious and gorgeous. After a year trapped in a cubicle (ok 6 months but it feels like ten fucking years) I was gratified to be in an artistic environment where new thoughts are encouraged, independent spirit applauded, badasses given a voice and people open to sharing ideas and their work. Everyone was very vulnerable and very confident at the same time which is how art really flourishes.

I made sure to see two features by A/PI director/writers. I feel like we are at a time where every ticket sale counts, every bit of support we can offer matters. There was also a short by a Korean director about two gay dudes going to a "Dol" (first birthday partner) that was shot in LA and made me happy at the SAG brunch to see the cast milling around proudly repping. But I digress. So these two films, feature length, to some degree supported, fund raised for, entered in the competition and showcasing young A/PI artists lacked something really significant, 2 things actually. Asian actors and Asian American stories.

I was shocked in the talk back periods to hear that both scripts were based on the auteur's actual families. Can you imagine a black director setting his film in whitey white whiteville, based on his own family. Can you imagine a Latino American writing a story about making it in America but using a lens of an Ohio farm fed whitebread family to do it? I was so very sad. And mad. Not at the film makers. I get it. We all want hollywood to look at us and say "You belong. Your voice is interesting and relateable and you are a good director" etc. I also get that Asian America is still very very culturally no man's land, with a diaspora of distinct national identities (Chinese American, Filipino American) etc riding out in front of our shared identity as Asian Americans. That is because generation to generation, culture to culture we all have different stories about how we got here, and our experiences in America lack the kind of cohesion, history or shared mores that African Americans and to some degree Latin Americans can share in unify around. However. Whether or not you are from Hawaii, or a daughter of a Japanese immigrant, or a FIlipino living in Queens NY, you are an American. And your stories matter. To all of us.

I guess we are looking for some common cultural experience to express asian-american-ness. I personally am reacting to the self effacement and refusal to take a distinct place at the American table that many Asian americans eschew in order to fit in, feel accepted, be heard. The part of me that was outraged quickly turned into inspired. We have to write stories, fearlessly. We have to give asian actors a chance to be expressive. We have to represent whatever part of Asian America is true to us. Nobody else will. We belong here. You dont have to write me a movie about a white guy searching for his identity through alternative rock music to show me that you are an american. You don't have to align yourself with the majority to be heard. There are kids all over america WAITING for movies and stories and plays and music that speaks to them. Trust me. I have been to colleges all over this great nation, and I have heard the pain of feeling unseen and I have participated in the talk backs enough to know that now is the time. NOW.

I am encouraging all Asian American writers and directors to get courageous. Look at the messages you have internalized both from the "man" and from your own parents that tell you that American succes=white. I cant tell you how many times my mom said "Why cant you be more like Gwyneth Paltrow" to me while I was studying at Juilliard. And I know we all feel it, because unless we are telling the story of some chinese fishing village or three generations of asian women weaving their family tree into a silk fan, nobody wants to listen. Make them listen. Be brave. We are all behind you.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Asian American Controversy: UCLA Racist Library Girl vs. Colorado U War On Asians.

Monday, March 28, 2011

UCLA Girl's Asian BFF- "Asians in the Library"/ Kate Rigg's epiphany!..

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Asian Comedy Star Kate Rigg update

I dunno about star. Well maybe a little. It is getting pretty exciting out there on the University Touring and club scene. Dr Phil even told me "IF last year was hard for you, then I want to be YOU." I remember when Dr. Ken was moonlighting at Laugh Factory with his guitar and singing crazy asian tunes. He is in the movies now, bigtime, usually some kind of naked involved. I think I will stick to my stints on Law and Order, Dr Phil and the indie films to go "legit". Our gig at Harvard was hilarious. I had to change the lyrics to medical school from "all you geeks can go to hell" to "I"ll wear that lab coat in hell". I think it is permanent. Although I still maintain there is no reason for Asians to be in Wisconsin. Crab Rangoon notwithstanding. (these are all inside jokes. you need to see the act to de-code.)

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Asian Students TELL IT at the mixed race conference De Paul University

At De Paul University in Chicago today, for the mixed heritage conference, the 1st annual. They expected 50 people and 400 turned up for this event. They said that my comedy was a perfect way to end a weekend that was rife with crying, identity crises and talking about the VERY REAL issues that are STILL hitting kids hard 37 years after the Woman Warrior was written, namely, that parents who immigrated have a very specific idea of the kind of life they want their kids to have (for which they sacrificed home and a sense of familiarity) which, of course, throws their young adult kids into an identity crises because the american landscape and multiculural cities expect and dictate something very different in terms of a sense of personal freedom, success and control. Slanty Eyed Mama did a more activist set than usual (representing the conference) and we spoke to mixed race issues.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Asian American Comedian: why my non-race shows are actually more important

the rudeness episode and the liars episode i did on dr phil were actually MORE important than even that race one. It is important for asian americans to just be able to participate and see themselves in "regular" american situations not just by asian for asian about asian stuff. Which is important from an educational and historical point of view for sure, but the work is also to make Asians welcome and particularly asian AMERICANS be acknowledged and recognized as americans-- tax paying pop culture buying proctor and gamble supporting voting americans. The "other" thing is the hidden bias. Foreigners in our own country NO. That is why I am VERY VERY proud to have been part of Dr. Phil's shows this year. Plus his books are GREAT. GREAT GREAT.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Asian American comedian Kate Rigg on Dr. Phil's panel debating race issues

yeah for those of you who didn't see the Dr. Phil episode on hidden bias I am gonna try to clip and post here.  CLICK HERE TO WATCH the discussion on Asian Americans on Dr. Phil...In the meantime the major theme of discussion was if it is hidden is it racist and how hidden are our biases. My fave quote by me is that "hidden bias is the hallmark of racism against asian americans in this country" It is hidden in the model minority myth, in the aversion to integration on both asian and non asian sides in the inter asian racism and in the self hatred of asian elders bringing up their kids to either be "white" and despertely seek assimilation OR to be only asian and thereby cause an incredible cross cultural despair that manifests in suicidial young adults who are welcome in neither culture. We had a rousing conversation about dog eating with michigan or minnesota ladies who perhaps had seen hmong people eating a dog OR jsut got hysterical at a barbque, and we talked to amy joe the line producer from Texas who sounds like a Bush but looks like a Lee. not general.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Asian Comedian Kate Rigg on Dr. Phil for good re-present-asian

I'm down on the left next to Paul Mooney.
Well I didn't exactly start a rice riot, but definitely landed a few zingers on Dr. Phil today and more importantly, felt like i was able to articulate some of the more salient points about the hidden bias against asian americans in this country which, among other things is manifest in the idea that we are all foreigners in our own country. I say OUR because we participate in pop, watch tv, are influenced by media, pay taxes, go to school, vote, consume and reble just like everyone else but for some reason, and I blame the media for this mostly, my very dysfunctional chosen family of taste makers and producers and performers, for some reason, we are all visitors and thus not accorded the same respect and welcome. And we are all chinese. This is me with all my Dr. Phil Swag after the show. Free is my favorite flavor.

I have said this in my lectures at universities and in my act, but the MOST hurtful thing about this is not the sad whining boo hooo I can't sell a rap record, boooo hoooo why don't white people think i am sexy and give me an acting job (get over it all actors have suckass lives no matter the color and we all fight to be liked) naw. Our angst at being relegated to the pidgin speaking manicure giving delivery boy math nerd dragon lady suzie wong submissive gang member karate kickin opium smokin ching chongs is not academic and not a lame exercise in wanting to sit with the popular kids at the lunch table. It is a cultural handicap to an ENTIRE DIASPORA of people when the culture in which they throw their dollars and votes and faith a. treats them belligerently as clownish chinks and b. refuses to acknowledge or affirm its asian american heros and c. cock blocks the creation of asian american heros by continuing to push the stereotypes in our collective consciousness (the media) whilst refusing to LET US be seen as successful hot cool creative AMERICANS.

Since my work with chink-o-rama (which i am considering re-mounting) this is the message. I'm not bitching about the stereotypes as much as I am lambasting EVERYONE for ignoring and shutting out the American Asians from feeling like they are welcome participants in their own culture. WHY? Because half of the students I interview at Universities around the country have suicide stories about CULTURAL CONFUSION. what the fuck is that??? how can an idea from books and sociology courses be causing kids to want to kill themselves. Honey if you have nothing to look forward to, eg. if you are deprived of images of success that look like you, and moreover are taunted with images of lampooned losers as your future in this country while rebelling against your parents/ancestors clinging to "old ways" there is nothing to fucking live for. I HOPE that all yall bad ass funky american asians are out there fighting alongside me for the best reward. To be cool. To be successful. To be heard. I loved going on Dr. Phil. i havent' reported from the fronts in a long time but I am out here every day trying to represent. And tell dirty jokes. But that's another story.


Friday, March 13, 2009

interview with asian american comedian, Racialicious dialogue on race in comedy

hey click on this link to see a pretty good dialogue on the use of the word chink in comedy and some people criticizing me for my politicomedy while others celebrate. DIG IT!


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Asian American Spoken word stars Slanty Eyed Mama do Birth of a nASIAN at the Smithsonian in 2008

This was Slanty Eyed Mama's second year at the Smithsonian Institute's Meyer auditorium performing funky urban Amerasian pop to a sold out crowd who then lined up outside on the sidewalk where we May or May not have been selling t-shirts and cd's outside of the back of a red chevy rented from JFK airport for the trip. I'm just saying. We did the play Birth of a nASIAN written by me, the extremely talented playwright and my colleague from Juilliard (who that I work with isn't really) and with music by me and Lyris Hung.

So we performed a very bare bones but full length version of the play which you can see a clip from here which is the China Latina character talking about the bullshit of ticking the "other" box on her unemployment forms...this was actually taped at the comedy central theater where we did a redux version of the show last fall for about 35 minutes.

Out crowd at Smithsonian was really enthused we got the standing o and at the end of the show before we performed Rice Rice baby I shouted out some of my favorite Asian American heroes (see last blog for relevance)

Soon I will blog some of the most common questions asked in q and a, but this was a very prestigious and super fun gig and I hope we keep going back...


A/PI Heritage month means awards

At the last minute, I was asked to present a new poem at the Los Angeles KCET Local Heros Awards which the Union Bank of California has created for Asian Americans. NOW WE'RE TALKING.

On tour one of the questions I always ask young asian americans is: Who are your asian American Heros? Do you have a/pi role models. And after an uncomfortable silence someone blurts out "Bruce Lee" and then maybe a "Jackie Chan" and then there is some relief. And someone might say My mom. Which is nice. But is avoiding the question a little bit. The lack of role models for A/PI Americans is more than an academic debate. It is more than a college class on race and representation or minorities in the media or some essay on how multiculturalism is affected by the 2nd 3rd and 4th waves of Asian immigration. It is more than an article for a culture paper, it is more than a grant proposal. It is one of the main reasons that we lost AZN TV before it even started. It is why I am confronted over and over with suicide stories from interviewees who consistently cite cultural alienation as their source of despair: Traditional asian values from home which they cannot relate to (dont date outside the race, dont assimilate, dont do as the white kids do, racism etc) clashing with their image at school (nerd geek, oriental, foreginer) which is perpetuated by the lack of Asians in American pop culture and the stereotypes that persist in our popular media.

Of COURSE we are making progress. But we are far from there my friends. Here is the poem I read at the KCET ceremony. I encourage you to all look up the award winners and nominate some in your own communities so we can get this shit started and take our place as American Asians who not only pay with our taxes and our consumer dollars for the media we consume, but who learn to participate by encouraging our leaders in sciences and arts and business to inspire future generations of Americasians. George Takei didn't make it to the awards, but he is a beacon of activism and hope and served as the anchor for this poem.

(Where we are going, and where we have been.
Our heroes voices resonate within:
The heart of every A/PI Desi Hapa
East Meets West meets
Accidental Occidental Oriental Americasian.
The heroes Speak the text
For Generasian-Next.)

Atmospheric Sound Waves from Takei 7307
As interpreted by the honorees
At KCET’s 5th Annual Local Hero of the Year Awards.
In a new translation by kate rigg

Beau Sia

See Beau, beautiful poet
Deftly def with words with rhymes
Sign of the times
Like a beacon of hope,
Speaking loud speaking strong
In a sea of black and white
All his mighty Amerasian might
The light
Sounds of a young man speaking
A young man teaching
A voice so clear it woke up the DEF
Beau Sia said
And we might.
Coz he did.

Tony Yip

Fast and Fearless
Steering us to takea ride inside
The mechanics of
Of possibility
How to make wheels turn
How to push the form
And from within
Tony Yip said what If I flipped
This door this frame this idea
This passion that ties us all to our
Ride. Our Pride.
Tony Yip Said
And we could.
Because he did.

Curtis chin

Knew Vincent chin
Knew that from within
The writers and the artists and the
Filmmakers and the poets
And the voters and the singers
And the thinkers and the painters
And the Keepers of History
And the speakers of our story,
Would lead us out of the parking lot
And into the future.
At the workshop at the committee
In the lens of a documentary.
He gave us places he gave us names
He gives us pictures, He built the frames
Curtis Chin
And we can
Because he named it.

Bill Seki

Holding the law inside
The pride of a fight
That tore us apart
Tore the American heart
Out of so many who tried
To believe in a country
That had lost its faith in them.
And with 100 battalions by his side
And his diplomas and his degrees
The sansei reaches one hand to the Nisei
One hand to the Issei and holds fast
Says we will not forget the past
We will speak it all
Till it has all been spoke
Bill Seki
And we will
Because he showed us.

Hemlata Momaya

Or you might call her Aunty
If you are one of tomorrows children
Who needed someone’s love today
She refuses to say
“Less desirable too hard to place
Abandoned, unwanted, the wrong color
The wrong face”
And the strength of the world
Found in the heart of a child
Found its channel its potential
Its butterfly
In Aunty Hemlata
Who did not forget
That we are all caterpillars
And we have angels wings
Through her teaching through her
Agency, through her so many things
Hemlata Momaya said
And we are
Because we can be.

George Takei

Has an asteroid named after him
7307 Takei.
It is between mars
Planet of Passion
And Jupiter
Planet of Luck.
It is 5 miles in diameter
And it is approved and recognized by the
International Astronomical Union.
If you can see it in your mind’s eye
(named after actor activist
writer historian role model speaker
leader survivor politician partner)
may lead you all the way home.
And if you listen for the cosmic universal sound
The echoes of 7307 Takei
Crossing the universe
You might hear it seem to say
From your Asian American Heros
To tomorrow’s heroes, today :

And we might
And we can
And we will
And we are.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The real AZN excellence awards in Austin: Don't Mess with Texas Asians!

I had the enormous pleasure of hosting the TAACC Star of Asia Awards and New Year Gala this year and presenting the Star of Asia Awards for Entertainment and Science. The Star ones went to to Broadway Producer PUN BANDHU who is a gorgeous as he is smart (look out all ye emasculating stereotypes of A/A males, Pun is gonna slick back his hair, keep making Tony Award winning plays and knock you OUT). The other recipient was CHLOE DAO, creator of Lot 8 boutique in Houston, and winner of Project runway season 2 and member of a giant family of girls 7 sisters were in attendance, all wearing Dao dresses and looking like a beautiful cluster of silky birds on stage as she received her glass trophy and made her speech. She said the most memorable thing of the night which was that she thought "Asian parents should support their children's dreams. Especially parents who emigrated here because they were seeking a better life. My parents , my mother always supported my desire to be an artist and a clothing designer. She believed in me and encouraged me to draw and think big. Dream big. She helped me sew dresses on the kitchen table, and she encouraged all of her daughters to find happiness in America with no one rigid idea of what that meant, or one career foisted upon me. And look what happens when you support you Asian American kids' dreams. They become Stars of Asia." There were also awards for science ( apparently Asians are good at Science, who knew?) and some high school kids got awards too.

This people, is the real Asian Excellence Awards. No token istic Awards given to Tia Carrere because she is famous, no Awards given to Quentin Tarantino for liking Asian stuff (ironically presented by an idol of his Jonny To who was part of a comedic back and forth stare off with Quentin witht he subtext--Am I Asian?-- No I am though--But why aren't I giving YOU the award--I dunno maybe because the Uncle Wonging producers think you are more famous and so will get more sponsor money--) no bizarre speeches by white celebs like Rhea Perlman about Lucy Liu (instead of a perhaps more appropriate offering by an up and coming A/PI celebutot about how inspiring Miss Liu has been for instance DUH).

Texas had it going on. Honoring achievements in Asian American Culture, giving scolarships to promising high school students, lauding our thinkers in the sciences instead of asking them to do our math homework for us. TAACC RULZ. Also there was a rice cooker and a set of violin lessons on the silent auction. SO much to be proud of.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

White People Hate Asians at University of Colorado

Have you guys seen THIS CRAZY RACIST SHIT? Click on that link to see an article From the paper at the University of Colorado Boulder a one of a kind racist diatribe that was published then defended by the school's lawyers.Link

If you were to substitute the word Negro or Black or Hispanic and accord the appropriate stereotypes in there (replace rice cooker with Watermelon seeder/hairnet replace math homework references with Balling/Stealing Hubcaps) I think you would find that the lawyers who say OH NO it's NOT HATE SPEECH would be fired on the spot and the student who wrote this suspended and the editor FIRED. Why is there no justice for us? Why do we have to take this shit sitting down and be like oh, well it's NOT THE SAME as when IMUS calls people Nappy headed hoes. Uh, wake up it's worse. It calls for actual violence, organized violence against "the Asians" and by the way who are these "Asians" I am assuming this is the writers way of saying "chinks" in a more polite way--eg. lumping all the people with slanty eyed into one assumed "Asian" identity the way "chink" chineseifies all asian people in a more old school racist way. I hope those few activists in Colorado go apeshit. I am going apeshit in LA because we can now add this to the list of unpunished ills like the Adam Carolla racist rant of 06, the Rosie Ching Chong incident on the View and the age old Shaquille O nEal Yao Ming hazing on National TV.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

AZN shuts its sad lame doors

I can't believe we never even had a chance. The article from December 2005 in the SF Gate called "Asian Pop/AZN R.I.P" sent a shudder through the hearts of Asian American Artists who only a few months before had thrilled to the announcement that comcast was launching a special network JUST FOR Asian Americans with original programming as well as feeds from around the world. I like, many other A.D.D. multimedia multicultural AZN artists came up with 300 good ideas for programming, cheap cool ones at that. And I interviewed hundreds of college and high school students while on tour with Slanty Eyed Mama about what kinds of things they would like to see on an AZN network. Here is an excerpt from the SF Gate article in case you don't want to read the whole thing. Bottom line my friends. Money talks and bullshit walks. I am so mad mad mad because the shut down of AZN sends the wrong message to the media. It says that there is no audience for cool A/PI programming which is BULLSHIT!! There is no audience for whack old school K-dramas sandwiched between endless repeats of the same Yao Ming documentary and one off stand up comedy shows half assed shot in a basement with no decent graphics package and no publicity. We got sold out for a half billion dollars in the pockets of the real power players who put this deal together and whose name you will not find in this article or anywhere on line. We had our asses handed to us by shit brains who wanted us to fail and who laid off the entire staff, cancelled production and pulled budgets out, waiting for 2008 so they could say "Well, gee whiz we tried! I guess there is no audiences for this kind of station." Lemme in that board room! Next time round we're gonna do it right.

FROM THE SF GATE 2005 portender of doom:
Variety shows and news from Hong Kong. Japanese animation. Soap operas from Korea. Bollywood movies. Valuable content, but nothing groundbreaking -- and nothing targeted specifically at Asian Americans. With senior managers dedicated to development and acquisitions gone, some staff members wonder what will happen once the channel runs out its string. As one employee put it, "They don't want to be seen as killing it, so they're going to let it die on the vine."

Business is business, of course, even for companies that proudly tout their commitment to diversity and community service. And hidden behind the hype and glory of AZN's launch were some financial intricacies that suggest the channel is ultimately as valuable to Comcast dead as alive, if not more so. This is because the deal that landed the channel in Comcast's lap was actually part of an intricate fiscal tango in which Comcast received $545 million in tax-free cash, called a "cash-rich split-off."

Because of certain arcane IRS regulations, at least 5 percent of the assets transferred in a cash-rich split-off have to be in the form of a business "engaged in the active conduct of a trade or commerce" -- in this case, International Channel. This business also has to continue operating for a certain period of time after transfer, the rule of thumb being one year.

After that, the parent company is free to liquidate it if it so wishes, thereby absorbing the subsidiary's assets -- which, in this case, include a half-billion dollars in tax-free cash. By that standard, one should note that on July 28, 2005, the anniversary of the transaction, the statutory incentive for AZN's existence essentially went away.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When Wiggers go Wrong

I aint hatin on eminem or danny hoch or anyone else who has made part of their career by "talkin' black" or "talkin hip hop". I know Paul Mooney would have something to say to me about this and I realize that it pretty much is a matter of case by case scenarios. I don't necessarily think that eminem makes the world dismissive of black artists although his meteoric rise to popularity in a medium created out of social unrest and racial pride-slash-rebellion did certainly highlight and chafe the wound of racism in the entertainment industry and the audience. However. As a mixed race artist I am certainly never going to support nationalistic or ethno centric proprietal rights to language and arts in our society. I dont think that once art, especially popular art is put out there, that you can segregate the audience or the artist by claiming THIS IS OURS ONLY. Otherwise I would be banished to the margins as an actor of playing an Indonesian Australian ONLY and I would be banished in language to say eh? after anything and pronounce house like hoose as homage to my canadian nationality and what the hell is that. Art transforms society. Hip Hop transformed society and we are all a part of hip hop either as fans, detractors, indifferent bystanders, artists etc. I think that applies to all pop culture. We are given democratic access to it and as artists, we are influenced or not by what is happening in art around us. Having said that, now to the matter at hand. I saw this play. It was called Clay. It was produced by a big ass theater out here with all hoopla and publicity that theaters can muster. It was lauded in the program by the artistic director as important and vital theater. It was a one person show with many monologues set to tracks with a hip hoppy type of beat, and written in ryhmes. And the lil white dude that was in the play had created a very very loose story about a jewish kid in brooklyn whose parents get divorced and he ends up banging his dad's new wife when he is 13 and resenting his business boring white guy dad and writing lots and lots of angry ryhmes about it along with his mentor, a disfigured black rapper called Brother john who decides his life mission is to take this emotionally fragile lil white boy and teach him the glory of beatboxing and freestyle to express his teen angst. Lame story, unfortunately lame ryhmes, so so beats, good enough beat boxing, so so characters. An artist definitely needs room to find his or her voice no doubt. An artist is allowed to emotionally relate to a language of protest and social unrest in an attempt to express big feelings. I dont even care if the kid cuts an album. But. When the big honcho white guys in charge start lauding a lame ass dramaturgy, ryhmes that are monotonous and lyrically challenged ("on and on till the break of dawn"..."when I say hip hip you say MUSIC!") I and tells me it is vital and important theater...in other words when the construction of a play sucks and the only "interesting" thing about it is that a white guy is talking black-- so in essence i am being told that blackface=an important theatrical moment, I WIG OUT. There are so many vital writers unheard, so many artists of color trying to express feelings of being left out and unseen, so many white kids writing emotionally challenging and complext plays that ARENT being heard that this kind of fearful programming by untrained ears (well it SOUNDS kinda like hip hop so I guess it's good) is insulting and hurtful and another nail in the coffin of the emerging artist driven in by the hammer of a liberal white kid who thinks cross cultural understanding means puttin on a hoodie and saying hey my struggles are just like yours! As a human being, his searing post divorce confusion and feelings of abandonment are valid and cannot be quantified. But as theater, the history of hip hop, good dramatic writing, language and form as cultural rebellion, and social context must not and cannot be ignored in a kind of backward affirmative action that actually upholds white privilege.

Get individual Slanty Tracks

Get our songs one by one here. In 2007 we recorded CRAZY and NAUGHTY SCHOOL GIRL which have some pretty rad lyrics.-- preview on myspae but you can download em here

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ways that asian america impacts, consumes and creates culture

For my latest projects "Urban Tao" and "Americasiana" I have been interviewing kids in every single city Slanty Eyed Mama visits on tour and so far that is 11 major cities and growing. This in addition to the hours of feedback sessions on both my concerts comedy shows etc went into the following which was designed to tell the people who make decisions about how we are portrayed in the media, as well as those who make decisions about how to market to different demographics, a thing or two. Do I speak for all asian americans? NO. Are we underrepresented and NEED people to be asking these questions to asian americans of all walks of life. YES. Am I afraid of you bloggers who know better than me? NO. Not because I think I am right, but because I think the blatant disregrard for asian americans in making decisions about American culture especially popular culture is an insult and WE NEED TO get the issues on the table. Another issue this is making me think about is that because we are so tragically underrepresented, stuff like this sometimes can start a shitstorm that has nothing to do with either the validity of the statements or the services snapdragon can offer. Because AAA (angry asian americans) are absolutely starved for anyone listening to us as a group and will take any opening as an opportunity to soapbox and rant which unfortunately simultaneously is the spirit we are wanting to tap AND a HUGE turnoff to the people who NEED to start considering Asian Americans in their marketing and media decisions. Nothing scares a white person afraid of being called racist than a person screaming racist. So guess what. No asians on TV in commercials in fashion etc. The screaming emotional political activist who cant see the forest for the trees gets everyone all riled up and we all get ignored. So,
I dont give two shits if everyone agrees with me or not. I dont care if you want to shitbomb my house for doing a show about stereotypes called "chink-o-rama" or one about the development of identity called "Birth of a NASIAN". I care that you speak, I speak and that the people who are so invested in ignoring Asian Americans, let me repeat that Asian AMERICANS start to listen. So go ahead and respond but know that I embrace you, your opinions and also stand behind my research and my 10 years on the road talking to everyone about how they feel and what they want to see....I have already had some arguments. Bring it on. let's get real and start listening to each other and respecting the ever growing sense of what it is to be Asian American. Shout out to Maxine Hong Kingston who called me her sister and makes me proud to continue the dialogues.

25 ways Asian America Will Impact, Consume and Create Culture for the Year 2007

-More hybrids of american culture and martial arts in design and media: Jackie Chan shopping an entertainment show now, movies like kung fu hustle
-The rise of HAPA culture -- a term coined in Hawaii to designate mixed race asians (release of feature Americanese in 2007, rise of hapa groups, and tour of the hapa project around at museums nationally)
-Proliferation of Asian American spoken word poets on the underground scene
-Asian American graduates of film schools accelarating
-Asian American rap and hip hop gaining steadily with features currently being written for VIBE and URB
-Notorious for being label whores, the brand appeal expanding from luxury clothes to luxury branded household items, car accessories etc
-Branded Gym fashion
-Branded gourmet foods as status symbols
-Rebel Youth reacting and rejecting older generations' pressure to pursue careers in medicine, law, finance.
-Blasian families
-More shitcanning of celebrities who make fun of Asian Americans in the media (in the last two years Rosie O Donnell, Shaquille O Neal, Adam Carolla)
-Black/Asian collaborations in film/music/media
-American Idol 7
-Baby Phat
-Graffiti art and skate board art
-Hawaii is coming back as the hippest state in America and best place to be
-Asian American comedians (margaret Cho, Kate Rigg, Dat Phan, Amy Anderson, Chinaman, Henry Lee, Steve Byrne, Jokoy etc etc etc)
-Korean culture infiltrating steadily from on line community building to restaurants to fashion, Korea is the new Japan-Harajuku
-Ebb and flow of relationship between "Asian" and "South Asian" continually redefining itself.
-UK Asians (mostly from India/Pakistan) in hip hop/trip hop
-Bollywood stars as sex symbols
-Pan asian extending now from restaurant menus to design palettes
-Cambodian activism
-Adoptee culture just now beginning as the first wave graduates college
-Asian kids in crisis centers dealing with more and more and more street culture/drug issues and being overloaded in major urban areas
-resurgence of the asian gang, this time outside of chinatown
-Asian American short story and poetry
-Immigrant stories
-Air Guitar Nation
-Iron Chef

15 things you shouldnt say to your asian friend

1. Are you chinese?
1.a) Are you chinese or japanese? (presented as a choice)
2. Do you do martial arts?
3. What medical school do you go to?
4.Do you speak chinese?
5. "What are they saying?" (at an Asian movie, at a nail salon at a restaurant)
6. How do you see through those eyes?
7. Are you friends with (insert name of famous asian person)
8. Oriental. Just dont ever say it about a person ever.
9. Ching chong ching chong ching chong see note on celebrities in media above
10. Where are you from? (the answer is usually something like Westchester, or Boston. With middle finger alit)
11. What are you? (especially to HAPAS see note on hapas above)
12. Anything with the phrase you people or your people in it.
13. Can you help me with my math homework?
14. Coz, asians are like, smart right?
15. Slit slant slope chink jap nip gook horrie yellow face chinaman.

15 Things Asian American Youth want from you

1. Hybrid hip hop, asian style and design
2. Street cred
3. Tricked out cars (West coast especially)
4. personalized electronics
5. Faster blingier gadgets to show off with
6. Heroes. Role Models. Props given to asian american sports and art stars (The Black Widow poker champ, The golf star, The American idol contestants, the finalists in America's Got Talent, the Asian Americans in major rock bands like Linkin Park and Black Eyed Peas) who get overlooked in publicity campaigns and editorial.
7. Less nerd images on TV and more punked out skater graffiti Dj images which reflect their energy.
8. Hot asian guys front and center.
9. Badass asian chicks front and center.
10. Pocket sized luxury items (Dior purse is a generation ahead, Versace homefurnishings ditto.)
11. MORE: Dolce, Missoni, Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Moschino, Betsy Johnson, Comme Des Garcons, Monique Lhuillier, Westwood, Jimmy Choo, Cole Hahn.
LESS: Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Christian Dior (except sunglasses).
ALWAYS ENDURING: Hilfiger, Armani, Versace Polo.
12. Roles like () on Heroes
13. Bubble Tea and cool japanese soft drinks
14. Hot sauce
15. Anime with american story lines.

10 things you don't know about asian americans

1. We call white people "white people" the same way african americans do
2. We love love love hip hop
3. We also love easy listening adult contemporary and are a little closeted about that
4. There is a very very high rate of attempted suicide in asian american youth especially girls often attributed to bi-cultural issues
5. Martin Luther King is one of our heroes
6. We would go without food for the right designer item
7. The men are as status hungry as the women and this translates into fashion, grooming, automotive and electronic luxury lust
8. DJ culture on the west coast is dominated by Asian Americans
9. Skate culture is also very asian american
10. Poker culture and all forms of gambling extremely asian american
11. Most Asian Americans HATE William Hung not personally but because of what it did to them in the workplace/classroom etc

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Maxine Hong Kingston calls me "sister"

So between me and about 40 other people in a room in NYU's Kimmel Center, a day passed of discussions and panels on "The Woman Warrior at 30" which was the A/PI institute's tribute to Maxine Hong Kingston's groundbreaking book of 1976. And I was asked to come and speak as a writer and asian american thinker on how far (or not) we have come since the book posited a contemporary heroine shadowing the ancestral glory of Fa-Mulan. A friend gave me the book way back whennnn, and like all the other orientally things my friends sometimes seem compelled to present to me (fans, hello kitty trinkets, expensive and useless reproductions of shadow puppets, books on China etc) I relegated it to the "white people who are trying to connect with my ethnicity" pile of things to re-gift. I always smirk a little when some non asian friend decides it is a good idea to get me some kind of Yellow like me, I'm Ok you're ok, gift that: a) I have no use for (knick knacks mostly infuriate me--if it is made of porcelain or has no other function but to look pretty on a shelf fuckin dont buy it for me) or b) No one would think to buy me in a million years EXCEPT for the fact that i am asian american (witness my collection of buddhas using cellphone fridge magnets, hello kitty miniature beer can holders and panties that say stuff like everyone likes an asian girl. although i kinda liked that last thing.)
Anyhow, Woman Warrior was similarly presented to me by a pseudo friend who had no knowledge of me nor had bothered to ask beyond recognizing the dark skin and slanty eyes, so his "I thought you might like this" was greeted with the same look I give to people when we are at a movie in japanese with subtitles and I am asked to translate. From the japanese. My mistake.
Upon receiving the summons to speak at NYU I pulled that buried paperback out of my bookcase and began the literary journey back to through time with Ms. Kingston, back through her life on my way to better understanding my own, that is. It is a dense book. I have been reading screenplays and tabloids and business rags for the last 12 months and had to slow down bessy, to get into the book. I had to reread entire passages to unfurl tangled webs of poetry and emotion and personal history and confession. It literally took me 3 weeks to finish this book, me, someone who can scan a page in 30 seconds and quote from it. I read slowly, arduously and ultimately felt rich, and nourished at the end of said book.
Then I pretty much had one day to to formulate an intelligible presentation alongside major academics and writers who were also on these panels. People who have written books and don't spend their days yelling "eat the taco!" to bikini clad girls on rooftops in hollywood. (Which I enjoy immensely but is hardly relevant here.) I decided to go back into the archival material from the urban tao/americasiana projects I have been doing-- interviews on tape with 81 or so asian americans I conducted last year and ongoing. I wanted to pull out themes that resonated with Woman Warrior-- generational conflict, the problems of biculturalism, the lack of viable role models in Asian American culture, stereotypes and exoticisation of americans who happen to be asian, and the intersection of ancestral history with the desire to be successful in new ways in this new world.
My speech, apparently was pretty great. I read from my interview with the aptly named Hope who spent her entire high school career pretending to be puerto rican in an all white town. the next generation of assimilation had her choosing a 'cool" ethnicity as opposed to whitewashing herself. I read from Sonyk's call to arms through her air guitar victory in 2004 when she swept the international air guitar championships in finland in a naughty school girl skirt and hello kitty bloomers. I talked about the shocking number of girls I interviewed who had suicide stories centered around the experience of being pressured by asian parents to be GOOD, study like maniacs, stay out of 'white' life, stay away from other races, stay away from dating, fun, art, etc vs. the pressure at school to just fit in and be cool. I remember during these interviews thinking holy frickin geez why do all my sisters hve suicide stories?? what the hell? do i have one? ( My story friends is not one of ubercrisis and a suicide attempt but more of a constant dulling of the senses through distraction and snacking and despair but that is for another day.)
I realized that Maxine had written all this conflict and all this experience 30 years ago and it was reflected in the lives of girls searching for their voice, searching for their matrilineage, searching for a culture that included their fruit of their whole existence not just the sections consumed by various takers in their lives. I spent a good part of the day thanking Maxine HK out loud, and silently as I listened to all the other speakers talking about the doors she opened and continues to open in her work, now with veterans of war veterans of peace and her writing projects.
I bought two copies of Woman Warrior for her to sign-- one for me and one for someone I havent met yet but who I will know when I meet her.
And in mine she wrote just one word. Sister. To this only child it meant everything.