Thursday, April 27, 2006


There are certain benefits to being a cultural critic, and one of them is getting paid to watch, listen to, and eat stuff. This week's column falls into the "eat stuff" category:

ASIAN POP: Dessert Storm

By Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate

Sago and mango a-go-go, oh my! Ever since the bubble-tea bubble popped a few years ago, fanatical dessertistas have been looking for the next big Asian sweet-treat phenomenon. In this week's Asian Pop, Jeff Yang looks at why Asian dessert fads have been few and far between--and considers some contenders for the boba crown.

Fun column to research, as you might guess! SF-based readers, I urge you to check out Creations in Richmond District--you won't be disappointed; NYC peeps, try the dan tat at Egg Custard King--it'll make you happy. And all you lucky residents of New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Boston, and soon enough, San Francisco...check out the Bearded One, posthaste. (I still maintain that they should have called the chain "Puff Daddy." Guess they didn't want Sean Combs to bring the legal pain...)


And now, I wanted to just say a few words about Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard sophomore who went from celebrated teen author to pariah seemingly overnight. Not that plenty of words haven't been said about her already. But most of them haven't been particularly nice, and even the nice ones (Rachel Pine's "Is Kaavya Viswanathan an Innocent Bystander?" from comes to mind) aren't particularly empathetic.

Empathy? For someone clearly caught red-handed as a plagiarist? Well, yeah. A little. Read between the lines:

"Ms. Viswanathan began writing the novel while still at the Bergen County Academy at Hackensack. She’s the only child of her Indian-born parents, Viswanathan Rajaraman, a neurosurgeon, and Mary Sundaram, a gynecologist.

'Everybody in my family, including my parents, won science prizes,' Ms. Viswanathan said. 'I was the one with the writing gene--and I've no idea where that came from. My parents are still in a state of shock. When I've gone home on some weekends, they look at me working at my computer and surely wonder, 'Who is that strange person?''"

(That's from the New York Sun--pre-Megan McCafferty revelations. Via the esteemed folks at Sepia Mutiny, because the Sun only gives it up for subscribers.)

And then there's the fact that her parents hired a "college preparation consultant" named Katherine Cohen to help Kaavya with her application essays--at the cost of some $15,000 for TWO FRICKIN' YEARS of private counseling.

Viswanathan claims that her parents "never pressured her" and that she adores them. I think she's lying about the former and telling the truth about the latter. Which is probably the reason she's lying about the former: She's taking this whole thing on her own. Doesn't want the blame to land on anyone else, least of all her beloved parents. I'd feel the same way.

But high expectations cause pressure in their own right, and Kaavya's parents--both physicians, science prize winners, who saw their little girl embrace scribbling over scalpels..."Kaavya, what kind of a career is writing? After we've sacrificed so much for you, prepared you so well, raised you in such a good environment...?"

If you're an Asian American, you can finish that conversation on your own.

I'm not excusing plagiarism. I'm not saying I fully believe Viswanathan's claim to have inadvertently channeled her writerly idol McCafferty, either. I do think that somewhere, consciously or unconsciously, Kaavya saw the opportunity to finally impress her parents, to prove to them that she could be a success without having to wear a white coat and stethoscope...and as the stakes got higher, and her parents smiles grew brighter, and the demands got harsher, she slipped and fell.

Consciously or unconsciously.

Anyway, people have been coming out of the woodwork now and piling on, and it's going to suck for her for a long time. Myself, I kind of hope this doesn't end her career before it should even have started. I hope she learns a lesson, but that the lesson isn't "I never should have tried." I hope she can make amends somehow, and pick up the pieces, and lower people's expectations to something reasonable for a sophomore at college and first-time novelist. We'll see.


On a lighter note, for all you game boys and game girls out there... BREAKING NEWS! Nintendo just announced the official branding for their next-gen gaming platform, which has been going by the snazzy codename "Revolution" since its original announcement. The spankin' new name they’ve chosen:


Pronounced "wee." Or "oui," for Francophones.

Now the question everyone seems to be asking is: Wyy?

Given that Intel recently unveiled "Viiv" as the name for their hot new Media Center platform, maybe the double-i thing is tech's new brandwagon. It does sort of one-up the whole iThing naming paradigm (double the "i"...double the diigiital grooviiness!). So is "ii" the next biig thiing?

Or is this actually a sign that Nintendo is secretly planning to pull an Apple and make the Big Switch from IBM's PowerPC chips? Maybe Nintendo's even in the midst of pulling of a shocking merger! Prep yourselves, guys, because the tech world could be on the verge of getting rocked by a new, bunny-suited plumber-pimping giant: Niinteldo!

Or not!

Friday, April 14, 2006


So the Rolling Stones played their first-ever concert in China. Big deal. Chinese audience members were reportedly less impressed by the Stones' electric showmanship than by the fact that they could, like, walk unassisted. More indie-minded music fans were tuning into another set of remarkably well-preserved rockers: The incredible, incomparable sisters Yamano, who've formed the creative core of the band known as Shonen Knife for the past 25 years. This week's column is all about the Knife:


It's hard to believe that a quarter-century has passed since the Yamano sisters formed the pioneering Japanese alt-rock trio Shonen Knife. But the band that made believers out of Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore turns 25 this year -- riding a wave of early-album reissues, and with their all-new indie disc GENKI SHOCK hitting boutiques this week.

Yep, that's right--this week, Knife released GENKI SHOCK, its first U.S. album since 2003's brilliant but overlooked HEAVY SONGS. It's pure, classic Knife--13 eclectic, whimsical, addictive tracks about things like email spam, cats, broccoli, and getting rid of pesky spiders. There's also a must-listen cut, "The Queen of Darkness," in which Naoko channels her inner goth-metal chick, to hilarious effect (don't worry, she's not taking it seriously either).

The Knife will be touring to support GENKI SHOCK later this year. Until then, this CD's a must-buy--get it for a loved one for Shonen Knife Day, which the initiated will know is July 12. (Why 7/12? Because 7-1-2, in Japanese, is nana-ichi-futatsu -- e.g., na-i-fu, or "knife.") More about the Knife at the Shonen Knife Nexus.

Shonen Knife's been around for a long time, but though they flirted with mainstream success back in the Nineties, they never quite broke through. That prompted me to think about a very different Japanese music act, which disbanded in 1981--the very year that Knife first formed. I'm talking about the Pink, kids--Pink Lady, the first Japanese pop group to try to break into the U.S. mainstream since Kyu Sakamoto (of "Sukiyaki" fame) back in the early Sixties.

Pretty, charming, and not entirely untalented, the pair of girls who made up Pink Lady--Mie and Kei--were colossal star in Japan before their abortive attempt to cross over. Their lone Billboard hit, a disco number called "Kiss in the Dark," is mostly forgotten; what Americans usually remember, sadly, is the duo'incredibly misguided TV variety show, PINK LADY AND JEFF. The show was so stupid, racist, and embarassing that it lasted just six episodes--taking down NBC chief Fred Silverman, who'd envisioned the midseason replacement as a kind of cross-cultural DONNY AND MARIE, with it. It also led to the dissolution of Pink Lady, who lost traction in Japan while they were trying to crack the U.S. market.

2006 is Pink Lady's 30th Anniversary, and there's a huge, nostalgic Pink Revival going on over in Japan--they're even releasing a massive Platinum Box set featuring 22 DVDs and CDs of Pink Lady's performances and music. For an awesome overview of Pink Lady's short but magnificent career, check out Jeffrey Branch's shrine to the duo, Pink Lady America. You'll be amazed.

Now some quick announcements:

--Artist Scott Tsuchitani--you may know him from his scathingly funny guerrilla parodies of the billboard ads for Asian Art Museum's summer exhibition, "Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile," me a line about a new exhibit he's in, called THE MAN BOX AND BEYOND: AN EXHIBIT ABOUT MASCULINITY AND MALE IDENTITY, at Mission District gallery The LAB (; 2948 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, 415.864.8855). Curated by Allegra Fortunati, it features Scott and 14 other artists exploring the nature of manhood, "oftentimes through humor and pathos...[revealing] memories of their experiences of pain, humiliation, abuse, lack of love, acceptance, and powerlessness." Sounds fascinating, and it runs through May 6.

--Girls think out of the box at the 8th Annual FUNNY GIRLZ showcase, Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 8pm (the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco; box office 415-392-4400; info 415-522-3737; Lisa Geduldig's celebration of women's comedy features a "hysterical and diverse line-up of internationally, nationally and locally known funny female comedians"--including this year's headliner, British Pakistani Muslim comic SHAZIA MIRZA ( She's sharp, hilarious, and pisses off all the right people--worth the $22.50 ticket all by herself. But you get so much more, and besides, part of the proceeds goes to fund a comedy class for inner city girls.

--Finally, a tip of the hat to Chicago Trib reporter Monica Eng, who with Delroy Alexander and David Jackson wrote a mesmerizing investigative report about how the Reverend Sun Myung Moon effectively controls a vast and growing segment of the U.S. seafood industry--including one of the biggest distributors of sushi-fresh fish, True World Group, whose "fleets of boats...[and] dozens of distribution most of the nation's estimated 9,000 sushi restaurants." sushi, support the Unification Church, pretty much. Moon saw fish as an opportunity early on, apparently. In 1980, he gave a speech called "The Way of Tuna," in which he was quoted as saying: "I have the entire system worked out, starting with boat building....After we build the boats, we catch the fish and process them for the market, and then have a distribution network. This is not just on the drawing board; I have already done it...[I will be] King of the Ocean!" Check out the piece here.

Note that Moon's business empire also includes a complimentary asset, the creepy conservative fishwrap known as THE WASHINGTON TIMES.

For a while, Rev. Moon was overshadowed by other scary religious figures like Pat Robertson and Tom Cruise; he's seemingly reemerged bigger than ever. So has his family: This past March, the WB's ghastly reality prog SURVIVAL OF THE RICHEST featured one of the Rev's daughters, “Kat” Moon. The estimated net worth of her family, according to the show? $989 million.

Guess a little fish goes a long way.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Sorry for the one-day delay in getting Instant Yang off the blocks. Access to my server was temporarily interrupted due to my being a jackass. The problem has been fixed (the computer problem, not the me-being-a-jackass problem—that, I have to live with, unfortunately).

I had a great time penning this week’s column, which looks at Kip Fulbeck’s new book PART ASIAN, 100% HAPA, and the issues that are invoked by mixed-race identity:

The Pursuit of Hapa-ness

A growing percentage of the Asian American population can trace their lineage to two or more races. In his new book, "Part Asian, 100% Hapa," artist and author Kip Fulbeck explores multiracial Asian America through hundreds of hapa quotes and portraits. What does hapa identity mean for the future of Asian America?

Why'd I have a great time? Because Kip is smart, funny, and has put together a book that's both pleasurable and provocative--a celebration of hapa identity that should also make non-mixed individuals think twice before glibly asking their multiracial friends to explain the secret genetic recipe behind their Oh So Exotic Hybrid Features. That's not to say that the question "What are you?" will always provoke annoyance--some multiracial individuals are happy to answer that question, if asked respectfully.

But if you're Asian, think of how the question "Where are you from--no, where are you REALLY from?" makes you feel. Yeah. It's kind of like that. People want to be treated as people, not cultural experiences or interesting ethnographic samples. I could invoke Immanuel Kant here, but instead I think I'll invoke the far more interesting duo behind Mixed Media Watch and the addictive podcast Addicted to Race--Jen Chau and Carmen Van Kerckhove: "Ultimately, by forcing you to explain your identity, that whole 'what are you?' phenomenon essentially forces you to defend it. It pushes into questions of loyalty--'what are you, really?'--and authenticity--'you're not really [black, Asian, white]', which mixed people have to deal with all the time."

I dig it.

Plenty of other stuff going on this week--which I'll go through in express fashion:

--Performance artist JUDE NARITA, whose COMING INTO PASSION: Song for a Sansei was one of the most insightful and powerful portraits of Asian womanhood I've ever seen on stage or screen, wrote me to say she has a new show out (directed by her daughter, Darling!). It's called WALK THE MOUNTAIN, and it explores the long shadow of the Vietnam War. After an acclaimed run in L.A., it's now in New York, through April 9:

written and performed by JUDE NARITA
directed by DARLING NARITA

Walk The Mountain powerfully affirms the humanity and spirit of the Vietnamese and Cambodian people while examining the lingering effects of the war in Vietnam, and its legacy of misinformation that exists in the United States. In war, the enemy is purposely kept faceless. In Walk The Mountain we meet some of the "faceless enemy". Among them are a doctor working in the jungle hospitals, a freedom fighter imprisoned in a tiger cage, a mother searching for her sons, and an immigrant in America who dreams of flying. Narita takes you into their lives--their joys and sorrows, their courage, and their dreams for the future.

TUE - SAT 8:15; SUNDAY 3:15


TICKETS $30 (59E59 MEMBERS $21, $15 STUDENT RUSH; SENIORS $20 with code SENR (ID required at box office); GROUP DISCOUNTS AVAILABLE; 5% of all ticket sales donated to The Smile Train (

For more info please go to

--Also, Cyndi Greening alerted me to the fact that her podcast interview with director Julia Kwan and producer Erik Paulsson of the heart-sweet Chinese Canadian reverie EVE AND THE FIRE HORSE is up at Cynematik; it's worth listening to, and the film is definitely worth watching. I caught it via screener while at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival last week...

--And on that note, the SFIAAFF this year was bigger, better, and brighter than ever--so big, in fact, that my time at the fest was like an amuse bouche, compared to the movable movie feast the good folks at the Center for Asian American Media assembled. Besides EVE, I saw AMERICANESE on the big screen with a big audience, and enjoyed it even more thoroughly the second time around...nuances and details I'd missed in my initial viewing emerged with startling vividness. Kudos to Eric Byler and his awesome cast; note, however, that I left the screening awash with guilt for finding Joan Chen, like, incredibly hot. I mean, she *is*. But it still feels somehow wrong, in a "Stacy's Mom" kind of way. Other primo peeps: Saw Hou Hsiao-hsien's latest luminous yet, er, glacial feature, CAFÉ LUMIERE; the guy sitting next to me was out like a light snoring within minutes of the screening's start. It was the guy sitting next to me. Yeah....and Jeff Adachi's years-in-the-making doc on representations of Asian men in Hollywood, THE SLANTED SCREEN; it's the yang to SLAYING THE DRAGON's yin, crisp, insightful, and mesmerizing--flush with terrific quotes from a cross-section of Asian America's finest male actors. Even more impressively, CfAAM rolled out three of them live (Jason Scott Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, and Chris Tashima) for a discussion on the issues, mediated by UC-Davis prof Darrell Hamamoto. My only thought: Damn, I wish George Takei were interviewed for the doc!

--But that's not to say that there aren't other ways of getting your George Takei fix: George's partner Brad emailed me to share the news that he's going to be going on a nationwide speaking tour on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign called "Equality Trek," to promote dialogue on GLBT issues. Here are the dates:

April 10th – University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
April 11th – Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
April 17th – University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN
April 18th – University of Wisconsin, Madison, Madison, WI
Two additional dates in Phoenix and Denver will be announced shortly.

Plus, you may have caught George on WILL & GRACE the other day--woo hoo! Love that show, and it'll be missed, but at least it got some George on before its finale.

--Another cool thang: I asked with a "pretty please," and hapadad Jason Sperber (whose rockin' blog "Daddy in a Strange Land" can be read here) extended me an invite to join the rotating roundel of Asian pops who make the daddyblog "Rice Daddies" such required reading. That I fully intend to do, when my son isn't throwing oatmeal at my laptop. Everyone's a critic.

--And, with April Fool's Day approaching, I collaborated with some of my colleagues from my day job at Iconoculture to create a little test of trend knowledge, titled TREND OR FAUX?, which as of 5 pm today Eastern time should be visible on our website at Think you can tell real trends, fads, and phenomena from fake ones? Check it out for yourself.

--Last but not least, a couple of updates to the blogroll:

--Gen Kanai's weblog a smart look at tech and culture from a transplanted New Yorker in Tokyo

--Mixed Media Watch blogging mixed-race representation in Hollywood and on Madison Ave., from the keen creators of the podcast Addicted to Race


It’s been a big week on the Instant Ranch, with both my wife and I turning 38 three days apart, then welcoming the newest member of our family, my sister’s lovely new daughter Sienna Kauh. Props to Sienna, who’s going to have to be a rough-and-tumble gal, growing up in a sea of male cousins, and to her proud parents Chris and Austin!

Adding another year to a swift-rising stack always puts one in a contemplative mood. This week’s column catches up with Eric Byler, whose impressive debut CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES explored a tangled tango of sexual longing and frustration among a quartet of young Asian American twentysomethings. Byler’s sophomore outing, AMERICANese, refracts Shawn Wong’s groundbreaking Asian American novel AMERICAN KNEES through the prism of his unique sensibility. One of the questions it explores is the nature of manhood, and how this nature is shaped by race and age--a subject I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently myself

Hot on the heels of its award-winning premiere at Austin's South by Southwest Festival, Eric Byler's latest exploration of tainted love, "Americanese," is tonight's opening film at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Jeff Yang talked with Byler about some of his favorite topics -- love, sex, masculinity and the plight of the Asian American male

As it turns out, manhood and its representation is the theme of one of the special programming tracks at this year's San Francisco International Asian American Film Fest--brought to you by the great folks at the Center for Asian American Media. The fest begins tonight with AMERICANese, but the cinematic buffet creaks with other fab offerings as well. More on the fest and a schedule of programs here.

Meanwhile, last ish, I promised the institution of the first-ever Instant Yang blogroll; there's a rundown of what I'm looking at now in the sidebar to the right. A caveat: this roster is currently composed of blogs penned or significantly contributed to by Asians and Asian Americans, both in the U.S. and abroad. This is chiefly for reasons of space, but also because I don't think I've seen a list like this elsewhere. More suggestions always welcome...


139 dead and 823 injured. That's the global toll so far as a result of the publication of a dozen cartoons depicting (and in some cases, disparaging) the prophet Muhammad in Denmark's oldest and largest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. All of a sudden, that old saw--laugh, and the whole world laughs with you--has never seemed less true.

The cartoons are pretty readily available online (many of the more rabid right-wing rabble-rousers--paging Michelle Malkin!--are posting them in a childish nose-thumbing campaign aimed at radical Islamists. (Have these guys forgotten that they're the ones who were up in arms a few months ago about the 'War on Christmas'???)

I don't want to say that rioting and arson are ever acceptable reactions to parodic provocation. As Riyadh-based "Arab chick" Farah writes on her very funny (and feminist!) blog, "Death-threats do not exactly do Islam's 'image' any real good. My good people of the Muslim world, do we have to keep reminding the rest of the planet that we live in the year 2006 B.C?...I agree with the lot who said an incident like this one should have been used to prove just how tolerant Islam is. Which translates into: please do not have a cow."

Then again, even progressive, pro-free-speech Muslim voices like Farah note that the right-leaning Jyllands-Posten has a long history of publishing inflammatory, anti-immigrant commentary, and that it's hard to defend the cliche and pointless alignment of a revered holy figure with hateful stereotypes as a productive means of exercising the rights of a democratic press.

Anyway, all this led me to explore in this week's column the nature of humor and culture--why gaps in The Funny exist between cultures, and why one man's joke is another man's jihad:

There's a universal slang among stand-up comics for when a joke has the audience rolling in the aisles: "Man, that joke killed." It's a phrase that recently got smacked with the irony stick...

The coolest thing about doing this column is getting the chance to talk to some of the brightest Asian American talents in standup comedy. Anyone who still thinks Asians don't have a sense of humor should think again--these guys had me ROTFLMAO, as my 12-year-old cousins might say. Here's a lineup of the comics I spoke with:

--ROSIE TRAN: One of L.A.'s hottest young comics, she describes her decision to get into standup as being something similar to Elle Woods in LEGALLY BLONDE: "It seems like she just woke up one day and decided to go to Harvard Law School!" But Tran's no dilettante: At the tender age of 22, she's been on the circuit for five years already. Watch this girl. Carefully. Never know what she's going to do next. Website:

--KEVIN SHEA: His laid-back delivery tees up some devastatingly funny shit. Shea on being a Korean adoptee: "My parents adopted a whole bunch of us. They got us in twos. It was like they were collecting Star Wars figurines. Which kind of sucks for my brother, because they kept him in the box. They had to...he came with the helmet and the backpack--he was limited edition....I could never talk back to my dad, because he always said, 'Watch your mouth boy, I still have the receipt.'" His site is under construction (where's the little digging dude, dude?), but you can check out some of his PREMIUM BLEND gig here.

--TINA KIM: She's got to be one of the hardest working comedians in the biz: Not only does she roll her own one-woman shows, four-walls-style, she promotes them herself...and sells out the house. A comic juggernaut. Seattleites can catch her March 10 and 11 at 9 pm at Christoff's Gallery (6004 12th Ave. South, 206.767-0280). You can buy tickets at her website:

--STEVE BYRNE: Sharp, polished, funny as hell, and on the cusp of something huge. Steve's got his first COMEDY CENTRAL PRESENTS special happening this Friday (March 3 at 9 pm); not only that, but MTV's doc series TRUE LIFE followed him around making preparations for the show (and getting drunk off his ass afterwards)--check your local listings for details. Steve and Kevin are half of the Original Kims of Comedy, along with MAD TV's Bobby Lee and physician/funnyman Dr. Ken. Check out their concert DVD, out April 25, 2006! Website:

--REX NAVARRETE: What can brown do for you? I'm totally down with Rex's unapologetically Pinoy take on standup, and think he's one of the smartest and most consistently hilarious dudes on the circuit. He doesn't do "Maritess vs. the Superfriends" anymore (my personal fave) but you can (and should) still catch it in the Flash cartoon version. His new DVD, BADASS MADAPAKA, is just out now...and if you're lucky enough to be in New York, he's headlining at the Laugh Lounge on March 7 and 9, 8:30 pm (151 Essex St, 212-614-2500). Website:

I also caught up with Jami Gong, proprietor of the pioneering TAKE-OUT COMEDY showcase ( serving Singapore and Hong Kong, four tours yearly!--and Piyush Dinker Pandya, filmmaker (AMERICAN DESI) and the impresario behind the GURUS OF COMEDY Tour. Jami says he's organizing the first-ever Hong Kong International Comedy Fest for later this year, more on that as it develops, and Piyush is just about to announce the 15 tourdates for this year's Gurus tour--including Caroline's Comedy Club here in New York. Watch his site for details...

Last but not least, Steve Byrne also hooked me up with his side-splitting bud AHMED AHMED, who's Egyptian American, Muslim, and a featured player in Vince Vaugn's WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW, as well as his own AXIS OF EVIL Comedy Tour with Iranian American comic Maz Jobrani and half-Palestinian Aron Kader. Ahmed points out that all they need is a North Korean to complete the set, so head's up, guys, opportunity's knocking...

In other comedy-related news, I just wanted to note that ALL-AMERICAN GIRL, Margaret Cho's pioneering yet critically savaged sitcom series, has finally hit DVD. I'm one of the critics who knocked it--something that, shall we say, strained relations between me and Margaret for a long time after the show was canceled, although she was cool enough to reach out and connect when she went through her rehab and reinvention period. I think she's funnier than ever (and she's also become a hardcore, must-read progressive

I was hoping to hit her up for a profile when her much-anticipated new series reached the air, but sadly, it looks like it's currently in development hell. The interesting thing is that it would have had Margaret playing her mom--hopefully, without filters or censors, because I'm not havin' any Margaret Cho show that can't say the word ASS MASTER.

For nostalgia lovers, an Amazon link to AAG: The DVD.

Also, I got an email from comics Foo Nguyen and Mary Sohn (members of Chicago's all-powerful Asian American laugh machine Stir Friday Night) reminding Chicago-based peeps that their new sketch comedy duet ARRANGED MARRIAGE is walking down the aisle this Saturday, March 4 at Second City's cabaret space, Donny's Skybox, at 10:30 pm and running every Saturday through March 25. Catch it if you can--sounds like it one-ups TONY ‘N' TINA'S WEDDING in the connubial comedy category.

Finally--I'm thinking of adding a blogroll here, so if you have an Asian American or Asian-related blog you'd like me to take a look at and consider adding, shoot me an email at


Hi all,

And here we go again with another installment of Instant Yang, which seems to have hit a fever pitch recently; if the hits to your inbox have seemed rather more frequent than once every two weeks, chock it up to coincidence and a burst of time-sensitive column ideas.

This week, in honor of Valentine's Day, Asian Pop explores Asian depictions of romance:

Late-starters in the field, Asians take romantic love to a new level

My editor tells me that as of this col we're now back on a biweekly schedule, so rest assured that your inbox will be Yang-free for a fortnight...

Meanwhile, my inbox has had a surplus of Yangs--responding a little late to the party for last week's column on names and namesakes (which is here, if you missed it: BY ANY OTHER NAME). Jeff Yang, the student at Iolani School in Hawaii, expressed interest in talking to me through one of his teachers. Unfortunately, my deadline and the five-hour time difference prevented us from ever making a Yang to Yang connection, but I hope he enjoys the rest of his senior year.

I also got an email from Jeff S. Yang (husband of Natalie and father of Lucas), who, as it turns out, I'd corresponded with many years ago, because he'd mistakenly been getting mail intended for me. He's a proud Jeff Yang ("I am very happy with my name. My name has been with me my whole life. And I will never change it"), who works in New York as CTO of a company called ValetNoir. Interestingly, not only do we share the same last name, but so do our wives--my wife Heather noticed that his wife Natalie's maiden name in Chinese is the same as hers, even though she anglicizes it as "Yan" while Heather's family went with "Ying." (The proper Mandarin pronunciation would be "Yin"--yeah, Yin & Yang times two.)

Meanwhile, Jeff Yang the Bay Area guidance counselor contacted me after the column ran to tell me that his wife's name also happens to be Natalie. Pretty freaky, right? If there are any other Jeff Yangs hiding out there in the woodwork with wives named Natalie or Yin or some combination thereof, reveal yourselves: It is time for us clones to rise and crush our oppressors.

Now for some quick updates outside of the JeffYangiverse:

--If you haven't seen it yet, give a read--it's a jaw-droppingly hilarious blog about the misuse of Chinese characters in design, graphics, but especially in tattoos. Why people don't get a Chinese-literate friend to prep them before they permanently scrawl something inane or incomprehensible on their butt meat is truly a mystery to me. But hey, it's not like Asians aren't guilty, too, as Hanzi Smatter's gaijin counterpart amply points out.

--I was hoping to wait until she posted her podcast with Julia Kwan, whose sweetly nostalgic EVE AND THE FIRE HORSE won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, but rather than wait another two weeks, let me point you in the direction of Cyndi Greening's Cynematik blog (, which is partly about indie film, and partly about, you know, stuff, but which hosts an extensive collection of her video and audio podcasts from Sundance and other festivals. Check it out.

--Also worth checking out: a new book called NEW ASIAN CUISINE, developed by Wendy Chan and Grace Niwa--I had the pleasure of working with Wendy for nearly three years, and have known Grace for, well, let's just say a long time; as Savory Productions, they've gathered together an eyecatching collection of Asian celebrity chefs offering over 100 of their favorite nouveau Asian food and bev recipes. The book's hot off the presses now--visit for more info. (Meanwhile, on the topic of food, I'd also like to escort you to your table at The Girl Who Ate Everything, a knockout foodblog penned by my, uh, second cousin? First cousin once removed? Anyway, her name's Robyn, and I've been enjoying her ongoing quest for "superior deliciousness.")

--Gil Cheah in Singapore sent me some incredible pics of Eva Air's "Hello Kitty" themed Taipei-to-Beijing flight, which I've posted to a special page here, just out of sheer awe; I feel I have no choice but to fly on this pLinklane sometime in the very near future. My assumption is that EVA Air explains what they were thinking on this page, though you kinda have to be able to read Chinese or Japanese to tell.

--Lastly, a pitch for Flushing Town Hall's MAIN STREET: Next Generation Asian American Arts festival, which focuses this year on humor. Check out Asian American performance trio SLANT, a special cabaret-style performance by Jami Gong's TAKE OUT COMEDY gang, and a mini-film-showcase and panel discussion moderated by yours truly:

The Color of Funny: Screen Comedy, Asian American Style
Sunday, Feb. 26th beginning at 2 PM

Screenings: SAVING FACE (Alice Wu); AMERICAN DESI (Piyush Dinker
Pandya); THE MOTEL (Mike Kang)

Panel (8 p.m.–9:30 p.m.)

Author Jeff Yang (Eastern Standard Time; Once Upon a Time in China)
moderates a panel discussion on humor, culture, and the generation
gap, as seen in Asian American cinema, with AMERICAN DESI's Piyush Dinker Pandya (impresario behind THE GURUS OF COMEDY standup tour), and stars Jade Wong of SAVING FACE and Hoon Lee of THE MOTEL (cofounder of the comedy troupe Mr. Miyagi's Theatre Company and the hit off-off-Broadway show SIDES: THE FEAR IS REAL).

Tickets: $15/$12 members/$10 students/$8 student members


I've been doing Asian Pop now for about a year now, and in that time I've written a few columns that have unexpectedly touched a nerve, unleashing a welcome torrent of reader mail. (Which is always welcome--even the posts that criticize, dismiss, or correct. It’s better than suffering through "Is this mike on?" syndrome, anyway.) This week's column looks like it may hit a feedback record, and understandably so, given its subject: The nature of names.

In her hilarious and insightful documentary THE GRACE LEE PROJECT, filmmaker Lee went on a quest to connect with some of the tens of thousands of other women who share her moniker—prompting Jeff Yang to muse on the nature of naming and identity, and to seek out some of his namesakes as well

People of all backgrounds have now emailed me to talk about how they got their names, how they’ve been confused with people with similar names, and how their namesakes have gotten them in and out of trouble…dozens, within the first day of the column’s posting.

"I have a very unsual last name (Lozar, rhymes with 'crozier') and a fairly uncommon first name (Paula), so I figured that the odds of running into someone else with the same name were about a zillion to one," wrote one reader. "A few years ago I discovered that there IS another Paula Lozar somewhere in the Midwest…they pronounce their name [like] 'Tsar,' but it’s still pretty spooky."

Meanwhile, Peri Drucker wrote in to say she does have a "unique name (at least according to Zabasearch)" but is "a little jealous of anyone who has such an easy way to find a connection to someone else!"

Maybe she wouldn't be envious if she'd heard another reader's story as "one of at least 18 David Lims in the Bay Area alone, last time I checked. The most infamous 'David Lim' I never met was some gentleman who opened credit accounts like you or I drink water." It took an unlisted number to stop the three-times-a-week calls from angry creditors who thought he was Bad David.

My favorite anecdote so far, however, is also one that I personally empathize with. "Growing up Chinese American in San Francisco had its perks and not so perky moments…I have an uncommon and I guess unusual Chinese surname: Man. That wasn't a sigh of displeasure, but my last name….And my first name? Karen…[and] I have an older sister named Karena and a younger sister named Katrina--don't know what my folks were thinking. I experienced my share of taunts and jokes for kids at school (hey Man, what's up Man, Karen Wo-Man, or the emphasized Karen MAN)…as I got older I've been asked if I'm part German (Thomas Mann) and was once mistakenly identified as Irish Catholic by a coworker in another office during a conference call." Man! And I mean that in the "Oh, wow!" sense, Karen.

I'm sure many, many more name stories will come my way, or at least I hope they do, and I’ll gladly share the best of them with y'all. I also kinda hope the Secret Sharer meme goes viral--those of you who’ve encountered and corresponded with your namesakes, let me know how it went. And of course, if you're in the Bay Area, try to check out THE GRACE LEE PROJECT on February 11 at 7:40pm at the Coppola Theater at San Francisco State University, as a part of this year's San Francisco Korean American Film Festival. You'll be glad you did. Plus, if you have any Grace Lees in your life, have them add their data to the Statistically Average Grace Lee!

Elsewhere in the entertainment world, full props to Sandra Oh, for adding a SAG Best Actress Award to her Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress (Emmy in 2006, we bet), and to Daniel Dae Kim, Yujin Kim, and Naveen Andrews of Lost for doing the same. If this bumper harvest of awards doesn't get more producers thinking Asians can represent on the teevee, I don't know what will. Meanwhile, Ang Lee is continuing his own juggernaut conquest of the awards landscape. He'll get his best director Oscar this year, mark my words. More importantly, though, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN has clearly taken that cultural quantum leap into iconography--becoming fodder for editorial cartoonists, talk-show monologues, and satirical remixes of all kinds.

My favorite find in that category: A growing series of Brokeback Mash-Ups, in which the hidden gayness in popular movies is revealed through creative re-edits of their trailers. (Or the not-so-hidden gayness, in the case of BROKEBACK SQUADRON, a mash-up of TOP GUN.) The best of the lot so far is BROKEBACK TO THE FUTURE, which blends trailers from all three BACK TO THE FUTURE flicks to expose a more...intimate side of Doc Brown and Marty's relationship. Given that potential for accidental incest is one of the running jokes in BttF, this might actually make the movie more family friendly, not less…



BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN's soaring mountain landscape, eye-friendly cast, repeatable cue-lines (“I shore do wish I could find a way to quit you”), and instantly recognizable swelling orchestral theme have allowed it to escape the confines of genre to invde the mainstream of popular consciousness. It’s the gay Star Wars.

Then again...maybe Star Wars is the gay Star Wars?:


I want to sign off with one last memento mori—brought to my attention by the always-alert David L. Kim: Last December 29 saw the passing away of Colonel Young Oak Kim, a true hero in every sense of the word, at the age of 86 from complications related to cancer.

Born in Los Angeles to immigrant Korean parents, he was one of the few non-Japanese American members of the fighting 100th Infantry Battalion, and fought for our nation with a fervor and bravery that led to his being decorated with over 20 medals, including a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, three Purple Hearts, a French Legion of Honor and Italian Military Valor Cross

After World War II, he lent his courage and passion to the fight for recognition of his comrades at arms, as well as their civilian families who were unjustly incarcerated during the war--it was due to his advocacy that the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles was made possible. He also helped to found the Go For Broke Educational Foundation, which preserves the legacy of Japanese American WWII vets, the Korean American Museum, and more recently, was one of the founding fathers of the Committee for the Centennial of Korean Immigration to the United States, helping to make the celebration of Korean America’s 100th birthday possible.

A solemn salute for a great man.

That's it for this week. See you in two--when, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’ll be looking at love and romance, Asian-style…

INSTANT YANG v.14: Dog In, Chicken Out Edition; And Speaking of Dogs: AIBO, R.I.P.

It's Lunar New Year time again! Upside: Dragon dances and explosions and banquet spreads that would choke an army. Downside: Stressful extended family gatherings; shelling out "red envelope" cash to ungrateful little beggars; indigestion. I'm not yet cranky enough for the downsides to outweigh the upsides, so here's a hearty "gong xi fa cai" for all of you as the Year of the Dog approaches.

Speaking of upsides and downsides, this week's SFGate column is a look back at the past year's best, brightest, worst, and weirdest--ending with a bowed head for some of the luminaries who passed from us in 2005:

Chickening Out
As the Year of the Rooster crosses the road into history, we take a look back at Asian Pop highlights and lowlights of the past 12 months and offer up a prognosis of the year to come.

Congressional leader Rep. Bob Matsui; civil rights icon Fred Korematsu; Esther Wong, the "Godmother of Punk"; funnyman Pat Morita; activist, attorney, and balladeer Chris Iijima--just a few of the individuals whom we lost last year, but whose achievements and legacy will stretch on, forwards through the generations. (A sharp-eyed reader noted that I'd missed one more key figure in the fight for Japanese American redress--Tsuyako "Sox" Kitashima, the godmother of San Francisco's Japantown, and a vocal spokesperson for the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations. She passed away on December 29, of an apparent heart attack, at the age of 89.) I'm sure there were many others whom I overlooked, but I'd like to offer a moment of respectful silence for all of them now:


...And before I sign off, one last sad hat-tip--this one to Sony's robo-pet AIBO, which the beleaguered consumer electronics giant end-of-lifed this week (along with his humanoid counterpart QRIO) due to "insufficient sales volume."

There's gotta be some bad karma involved in killing a canine just as the Year of the Dog commences, but whatever. Although this is a setback for those of us who've always dreamed of having a cool robotic buddy, the revolution ain't over by a long shot: Crazy droid concepts continue to beep and whirr their way out of Asian cybernetics labs like nobody's business, whether there's a business case for them or not.

That's it for this week--see you in a few. And remember to toe the line on those modern Lunar New Year traditions...

LUNAR NEW YEAR 2.0: After 47 centuries, isn't it time for some updates?

INSTANT YANG v.13: A Brand New Year; Trippin'; A Brand New Gig

Happy New Year, all--piping hot and fresh from the oven, 2006 has arrived, and with it, a month-and-a-half-long interlude of whimsically clean-cut behavior. Daily exercise. Fiber loading. Quitting sundry vices. Spending time with in-laws. Statistics show that February 15 is the standard expiration date for the goody-two-shoes routine, so don't toss the fat pants just yet--what January dieting taketh away, February bingeing usually gives back in spades.

Not that I'm saying New Year's vows are an entirely lost cause--in fact, this week's column offers up a handy guide to keeping some of the most common resolutions the Asian Pop way. Lose weight! Be a better parent! Save money! Kick a disgusting habit! It's all here, kids--neatly illustrated with examples yanked from 2005's Asian Pop headlines:

Looking back at 2005's headlines, Jeff Yang suggests handy Asian Pop solutions for four of your most common New Year's resolutions

As you might guess, this week's col is also a stealthy part one to our annual Asian Pop Year in Review--with our Best and Worst installment scheduled next. There's still time to pimp your favorite ride, if you've got one--your picks for notably bad/good/weird movies, music, software, books, events, people, gadgets, and phenomena are all welcome, though I can't promise I'll do more than peep 'em; the larder's already pretty full with goodies, as well as, uh, lard...

On the home front: Thanks to all of you who wished me well after that rather personal post last time out, describing my painful and somewhat disgusting bout with oral surgery. I'm glad to say that I've pretty much recovered (except for what you might call a minor drinking problem--part of the fun has been relearning how to swallow liquids without accidentally dribbling from my nostrils).

I'm also breathing at night, which means I'm no longer dependent on massive doses of caffeine to stay awake during the day. Plus, the snoring thing? Gone. Of course, this factors in my having lost about 17 pounds after two weeks of dinner-through-a-straw--seven of which I've since regained, as I've spent the past week and a half on a rest and recuperation jaunt split between the Caribbean (St. Maarten/St. Martin) and Spain (Barcelona/Madrid).

A few words on the Antillean island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. It's the smallest island in the world to be partitioned between two different nations, the Netherlands and France respectivel; the difference between the two sides is palpable. For one thing, the French side is really quite Frenchy. You hear and read French everywhere, because a reasonable percentage of the population--both permanent and transient--is actually from France. By contrast, Dutch people are far and few between on the Dutch side. Dutch St. Maarten is less concerned with presenting tourists with a seamless cultural environment than gently but firmly parting them from their money. Which means that the French side is all cafes au lait, baguettes, and nude beaches, while the Dutch side is all souvenir stands, casinos, and timeshare hucksters.

Topless sunbathers and slot junkies aside, the island is a remarkably fun and relaxing place for a family vacation--with a surfeit of lovely beaches and a reasonably large number of kid-friendly activities. Our two-year-old son Hudson has discovered the verb "to need," so all we've been getting recently is sentences beginning with "I need." We satisfied Hudson's need for fish by taking a reef ride on a semi-submersible. We quelled his need for monkeys by visiting St. Maarten Park, a tatty but simpatico zoo with free-ranging peacocks, more lizards and snakes and parrots than you can shake a stick at, and, yes, plenty of monkeys.

After a week of Franco-Dutch fun in the sun, we returned to New York to drop Hudson off at home in time for the start of his next semester of preschool (with Heather's mom doing childcare duty); the following day, we left for Barcelona, where we spent a terrific three days exploring the city's Modernist architecture (Gaudi rules) and eating several pigs' worth of Serrano ham. I'm writing this now from Madrid--the disapproving older brother of fun-loving Barca--where we've just returned from an evening of not enough flamenco and too much sangria.

Just so you don't think I'm doing the verbal equivalent of boring the hell out of you with holiday slides, I'll just note that our travels have provided us with an interesting illustration of the way that the rest of the world sees Asians. There's a standard triptych of archetypes, and we were exposed to all three:

In St. Maarten and elsewhere in the Caribbean, Asians are the mercantile class, retailers and restaurateurs. Every corner grocery we passed had a Chinese name and proprietor. Every souvenir stand and department store was owned and run by South Asians. And scattered liberally across the island were dozens of curry houses and chop suey takeaways, making Asian fare oddly more plentiful than the creole cuisine the island counts as its own.

In Barcelona, adventuring beyond demarked tourist routes, we satisfied our curiosity by strolling briskly through the "Barri Chino"--the city's queasy underbelly, so named not because of a preponderance of Chinese residents (the neighborhood is largely Arab and South Asian), but because a visiting American writer back in the 1920s associated the area's random thuggery and flagrant, wall to wall prostitution with Chinatown back home.

And in Madrid, heading out for an evening of tapas and flamenco, we found ourselves accidentally whirled into the gravitational field of a huge group of Japanese tourists, who clapped dutifully in unison at the performance, then left en masse during intermission--emptying the theater, to the dismay of the dancers and proprietor.

The common thread in these three archetypes is crime. Barcelona's Barri Chino is a reminder of how Asian communities are associated in the Western imagination with vice and decadence, particularly of the sexual variety. Cross the boundary into Chinatown, and the rule of law evaporates. "It's Chinatown," Jake Gittes is told, in Roman Polanski's movie of the same name--explaining the film's lurid sexual denouement. A (doomed) Chinese cop says much the same thing to Mickey Rourke's character in Michael Cimino's Year of the Dragon: "This isn't New York! This isn't even America, It's Chinatown!" Somehow, this casual criminality is associated not with rampant poverty or anti-immigrant prejudice (which, in the case of the U.S., led to policies that barred Chinese men from bringing their wives over, encouraging the rise of prostitution in those communities). Instead, it's suggested that it's endemic and instinctive--part of the enigmatic, exotic quality of the Asian personality.

Of course, Asians aren't just seen as the perpetrators of crime--we're also perceived as its easiest victims. In St. Maarten, burly rent-a-cops glower in front of even the smallest Asian-owned establishments, attesting to the frequency with which they're burglarized--because, as one Maartenite said candidly, the thieves "go where the money is." That's also the theory that has led the popular travel guide Frommer's to warn Madrid-bound readers that "Asian Americans seem to be particularly at risk...of muggings and violent attacks."

Throughout the world, Asian tourists are seen as naive and wealthy, low-hanging fruit for scammers and snatch-and-grab artists. The travel guide's warning has sharpened my wife's suspicion of even the friendliest strangers; she wears her purse underneath her jacket, compulsively pats herself down to make sure she hasn't been pickpocketed. At first, I laughed it off--until we were accosted by three young women, claiming in broken English to be "Italian tourists" looking for help with directions. As two of them spread out a map to distract us, the third stood quietly behind us. Heather muttered to me in Chinese that something was wrong, and we pulled away from them over their protests. A block away, Heather discovered that the zipper on her purse had been surreptitiously pulled open.

Nothing was missing, thanks to Heather's Spidey-sense. But now we're both wearing our bags inside our jackets.

One last bit of news: When we get back from Europe, I'll be heading out almost immediately to Minneapolis, to meet for the first time the colleagues at my new job--working as a consumer strategist for a company called Iconoculture. They're a pioneering firm in the now-burgeoning trendspotting industry, with an extensive field force of experts dedicated to identifying and analyzing emerging changes in the consumer landscape. I've joined Iconoculture to serve as a set of eyes and ears on the Asian American market, and tune in to new fads and phenomena crossing over from Asia's vibrant cultural cornucopia.

Thankfully, they've agreed to let me continue writing my col on the Gate, so I'll be able to continue to blather at you on a biweekly basis, with your permission...

INSTANT YANG v.12: Cutting My Throat; Ang Lee Goes for Brokeback; Geisha Goes to Japan

Here's wishing you a very happy holiday of your choice as we approach the tail end of 2005...

I'm not in a particularly festive mood just yet myself, given that I've been dealing with a literal pain in the neck: Since last ish, I finally gave in to pressure from physicians and family alike to undergo mouth and throat surgery, to relieve a staggeringly bad (and increasingly worse) case of sleep apnea.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, sleep apnea is when your body rather unproductively stops breathing as you head off into deep slumber. If you're lucky, this makes you reflexively wake up enough to start breathing again--only to repeat the same process again and again throughout the night. The not so lucky don't wake up at all. Two weeks ago, on December 5, the Philadelphia Eagles retired all-time-great defensive end Reggie White's number 92, in a ceremony aired on Monday Night Football. White died last year from complications related to sleep apnea; an estimated 14 percent of all pro football linemen also share his condition, as do 4 percent of Americans in general.

Though I'm hardly built like a lineman, I do come from high-risk genes--my dad to this day suffers from apnea, and has to use a complicated pressure device to control his breathing while he sleeps. I put off dealing with it until my wife started throwing me out of bed with near-daily regularity (a side effect of apnea is snoring measurable on a Richter scale), and a sleep disorder study revealed that my blood-oxygen content was dropping as low as 65 percent during the night. To put this in perspective, if you're in a hospital and your blood-ox saturation goes down to 85 percent, they intubate you...

Anyway, I took the plunge, and essentially had everything soft and loose in the back of my mouth surgically whacked--my tonsils, soft palate, even that dangly thing called the uvula. Now when I look into a mirror, I see a kiddie-cartoon mouth--an evenly curved arc of pink fading into the darkness of my throat.

The pain, while not the worst I've felt in my life, is doggedly persistent. All sorts of things I took for granted, like talking, swallowing, laughing, even breathing deeply, now provoke acute, flinch-inducing ouches. On the other hand, as far as sleep is concerned--once a little (okay, a lot of) Vicodin gets me over the wall--it's a totally new experience. I no longer need a bucket-sized mug of coffee to get me ignited in the morning. Plus, the snoring is gone, like a switch has been flipped. And as a side effect of not being able to eat anything but minute quantities of Jell-O and yogurt, I suspect I'll probably lose a couple of pounds, too. It's all good, at least until the Vicky wears off.

On to the content: I promised you more Ang Lee goodness last time out, and here it is--this weeks' SFGate column is a a profile of the man himself:

Ang Lee has built a brilliant career out of depicting characters with secret identities and closeted passions. So what lies beneath the surface of Hollywood's quietest genius?

I first met Ang back in my days at Asian CineVision, interviewing him for the Village Voice right around when his first feature, PUSHING HANDS, was hitting the festival circuit. I thought he was brilliant, but possibly faced an uphill battle due to his sheer niceness and humility. And now, here he is, 15 years later, and he's assembled the kind of career that most filmmakers don't even dare to dream about--one marked by incredible diversity of subject and genre, and studded with critical and commercial success.

I said last time out, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN may well be the apex of Lee's canon to date--possibly even the one that gives him a much-belated best director Oscar. Meanwhile, as Focus Films' James Schamus said during our interview, "The budget on this was so low that if your mom comes to see it, we'll make money." Jury's still out on whether Mom will check this one out--she's never approved of cowboys--but BROKEBACK still rode into the B.O. top ten this weekend, racking up $3.5 million from the take at just 69 theaters. No other film playing in fewer than 100 theaters has broken into the top ten over the past four years.

Meanwhile, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, the film that's been repeatedly and implausibly paired up with BROKEBACK, because of a similar rollout schedule, and the fact that Ang directed two of the film's divas in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, broke at number 14 on the b.o. charts, making $2.3 million in 52 theaters; it's set to spread out to 1400 on Friday.

I think it's going to tank when it goes wide--most respectable critics have rolled their eyes at the film's kitschy excess, and even fans of the already heavily lathered-up book are finding Marshall's buffet of exotic bombast a bit heavy on the wasabi.

Interestingly, Sony "yeah, we're a Japanese company, go figure" Pictures Entertainment has put a unique marketing spin on the movie for its domestic release--pitching it as a tool to better understand the West's delusional fun-park image of Japanese culture and tradition! It opened at number 4, and is expected to gross something like $21 million in the land whose heritage it apes. Brilliant! They could release it as part of a "Goofy American Visions of Japan" boxed set, along with THE LAST SAMURAI and LOST IN TRANSLATION.

Anyway, the Vicodin blur is getting thin, so it's time to sign off and medicate. Until next time, Merry Chrismukzaawali, and to all a good night...

INSTANT YANG v.11: AZN, R.I.P.; Hello MTV Chi; Holiday Movies a Go Go; Support Your Local Asian American Superhero

...And we're back! Holiday schedules and turkey-induced comas all around led to a brief IY-less interlude, which I hope has cleansed your palate, like an icy sherbet, for this week's news-packed edition.

First of all, the bombshell: the much-heralded 24-hour Asian American cable net, AZN TV, has undergone what Comcast is calling a "restructuring." That's a gentle euphemism for saying that 70 percent of its staff, including all of its senior programming, promotions, acquisitions, and marketing execs (and all senior Asian American managers!) are being laid off, and the channel's ambitious plans to create an unprecedented volume of original programming by, for, and about Asian Americans are no more. Instead, what you see now is what you'll get--newsfeeds, films, soaps, and cartoons from China, Korea, and Japan--at least as long as the company decides to keep the channel alive. Comcast claims that the restructuring was the only way to keep the channel alive at all, but insiders believe the company wants what's left of AZN (now being run by about 15 or so staffers, mostly junior) to "die on the vine." There's much more in this week's exclusive look behind the scenes of the fall of AZN, in my column on

A 24-hour channel featuring unique original programming for Asian Americans, backed by the biggest and most powerful entity in the cable business? It seemed too good to be true. And apparently it was.

But even as AZN fades gently into history, its peers seem to be partying on. The day after AZN's massive layoffs, MTV announced the launch of its second MTV World channel, the Chinese American-oriented MTV Chi ( MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA star (and universal hottie) Zhang Ziyi spoke charmingly halting words of welcome, followed by the channel's historic first video--fittingly, "Learn Chinese," by the rapper-formerly-known-as-Jin.

Scrappy indie ImaginAsian continues to prove early cynics wrong, too, with word that their early distribution challenges may soon be a thing of the past. CEO Mike Hong targets 50 to 70 million homes within three years. Oh, and they'll be unveiling another five ImaginAsian Theaters across the country, joining the one on New York's Upper East Side. Uh, wow.

Of course, it wouldn't be the holidays without popcorn and bloated Hollywood box office behemoths, would it? Here's my quick take on some of the films in multiplexes now (the ones with Asian flava, anyway):

--HARRY POTTER AND THE WHATEVER IT IS THIS TIME: Saw this one as the back end of a double bill. With my wife, who hasn't actually read any of the books, and could have cared less about the previous flicks. She found it totally incomprehensible, and even I had a hard time following, though I've managed to keep up with the little bugger's increasingly voluminous adventures. (Short of cutting each book into two back-to-back films, I don't know what they're going to do with the next few. As it is, this movie must set a record for the highest page-to-screen-minute ratio ever--entire backstories of the book are gone, characters and important magical devices get at best nominal introduction ("Hi, I'm Solumetrica Spandex, Ministress of Magical Masochism, and welcome to my plot point. CONDENSUS INCOMPREHENSIBILIS!"). This, by the way, is the volume where all the boys get their very own Asian girls to date. Not that there's anything wrong with that--but it'd be nice if the second-banana Patil Twins or Harry's crushmuffin Cho Chang had more to do than stand around being, you know, Asian love interests.

--MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA: Thud. That's the sound of a narrative toppling over under the weight of its own exotic melodrama. The book, which I will candidly say I did not read, was accused by the real-life woman who inspired it of being an exercise in exploitative orientalism. The movie, directed by CHICAGO helmer Rob Marshall, has the added burden of putting all that ornate hoopla on screen. What starts out as being, at least, eye candy, ends up quickly going to inadvertent camp. If only Marshall had embraced the movie's inherent kitsch and made a musical! As I note in this week's PopMail, you can imagine the production numbers: "All That Enka," "When You're Good to Mama-san"...yeah baby!)

--BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN: I'll go on the record as saying that this is quite probably the best movie that Ang Lee has ever done, and one of the most honest-feeling love stories of any type I've seen. Luscious cinematography, a starkly luminous script from Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx--plus letter-perfect casting from top to bottom, if you'll excuse the pun. Aussie-turned-Brooklynite Heath Ledger is eye-opening as a cowboy trapped in a closet as big as all outdoors, and Jake Gyllenhaal matches up marvelously as his rodeo romeo. Lee should get more than just an nod for this one--it's time enough he walked home with a statuette, don't you think? My guess: nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Heath, Best Supporting Actress (Ledger's new missus Michelle Wiliams), Best Cinematography, and oh yeah, Best Picture. Should win at least three, and I won't guess which, if there's no money riding on it.

--THE GRACE LEE PROJECT: Grace Lee's clever/hilarious doc was picked up by Women Make Movies after a triumphant run at the fests, and it's making it slow rounds in major cities, beginning here in New York at the Film Forum (209 W. Houston St., December 14-27). Gothamites: Here's your chance to see the film that's becoming an underground phenomenon--and bring the Grace of your choice along! (You can see trailers and read more at Grace's own site,

And now, a pitch for peace, justice, and the Asian American way: If you love comics, or even if you don't love them but love the idea of Asians getting their hero on, head to a local comic shop and pick up Marvel's "Amazing Fantasy" No. 15, which features a brand-new story by director-slash-comic-book-auteur Greg Pak. Pak's entry in the graphical jam session is titled "Mastermind Excello" and features as its protagonist a teenage Asian American supergenius named Amadeus Cho. Plus, manga-style art from Takeshi Miyazawa. How can you resist? (A word to the wise: Even if you're too cheap to spring the four bucks, visit the Web site and drop a vote on Pak for free -- the winner of the online poll gets a full miniseries for his character. Hey, it's the holidays.)

Finally, I need your feedback. In January, I'll be doing another roundup of the year's best, worst and weirdest in Asian Pop...your thoughts, suggestions, or snarky comments are welcome, so pile it on and send it in.

INSTANT YANG v.10: George Takei comes out and speaks out; twisted sex and robot violence; SAVING FACE on DVD; and a whiff of politics

A brief reintroduction to those of you getting this for the first time: The email you're reading is an installment of a biweekly mailblog intended to share nuggets of important, helpful, or just plain unusual news that's somehow relevant to Asians or those interested in Asian ideas, culture, technology, and entertainment. If you're reading this, you either opted in through my column, "Asian Pop"; are someone whom I want to stay in touch with; or perhaps simply wandered too close--I recently synched my email inbox with this application, so some of you are acquaintances and friends of friends, as well as Nigerian 419 spammers and V1aGr4 pitchmen. Regardless of how you ended up here, welcome aboard--and remember, if you find this annoying, you can unsubscribe instantly by clicking the link at the bottom of this message.

But if you stick around, every two weeks, you'll get a freshly baked basket of newslets chock full of Asiany goodness. And if you have something to share with the other 1600+ people on this list, well, if you're a member of this list, your info goes to the head of the class. (Events, job listings, and media alerts with some kind of Asian content only, please--I'm not gonna rent out your apartment or sell your old George Foreman grill.)

On to the content. This week's Asian Pop column is something special. Well, I'd like to think all of them are special, but this one's a bit special-er: George Takei, whom many of you probably know as Mr. Sulu from Star Trek, took time out from his busy schedule to talk to me at length about the reasons behind his decision to publicly embrace his identity as a gay man:

As Lt. Hikaru Sulu on the beloved original Star Trek series, George Takei ventured beyond the farthest reaches of our galaxy, landed on alien planets and explored improbable parallel dimensions. Today, he has fans in the millions and is arguably Asian America's most famous living icon. Yet, as those closest to him know, one aspect of his life has long been hidden behind a cloaking device: his sexual orientation. Which makes it all the more bold that recently, at the age of 68, he made the decision to go where few Asian American celebrities have gone before, informing the world of his 18-year relationship with manager and life partner Brad Altman.

George is more than just one of Asian America's most visible celebrities; he's also a genuine leader in our community, a sincere, funny, and remarkably humble guy, and yeah, he acts a little too; currently, he's getting raves for his turn as the conflicted psychiatrist Martin Dysart in East West Players' adaptation of Peter Shaffer's EQUUS. It's playing now through December 4, so if you're in L.A., go see it, and if you aren't, consider dipping into those frequent flier miles.

San Francisco is experiencing its share of on-stage psychosexual fireworks as well this Friday and Saturday, as the Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts presents the last weekend of its One4All Asian American Theatre Festival--featuring Christopher Chen's MISHIMA SPEAKS TO BEAUTY, about the novelist/samurai/would-be rebel's last hours, and Viet Nguyen's IN THE DARK, a thriller about two lesbians, madness, and murder....check it out here, or call 415.554.0402 for reservations.

Meanwhile, those looking for lesbians in a somewhat less lethal mode would do well to check out Alice Wu's delicious screwball-romantic comedy SAVING FACE, now out from Sony Classics on DVD--complete with embarrassing featurettes that Alice doesn't want you to see! Go. Buy. Enjoy.

Screws are also set to come loose in SF's Fort Mason Festival Pavilion this weekend, when the rude mechanicals of the ComBots Robot Fighting League hit the Bay Area...hopefully not literally. The ROBOT FIGHTING LEAGUE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP features over 200 machines getting neolithic on one another for a $10,000 top prize. If you dig hot bot on bot action, these might be the droids you're looking for. And under six get in free!

November 12-13, 2005, 12am - 10pm
Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, San Francisco, CA
Cost: $20/adult, $15/kids 17-7, six and under free

And now, a turn to the political. The failed policies and endemic corruption of the GOP was soundly slapped down this year, with the Dems winning the statehouses in New Jersey and Virginia, terminating Arnold's special election slate of propositions in Cali, and winning countless smaller races across the country. One that I'd like to draw your attention to in particular is the successful bid by Democratic challenger JUN CHOI--excuse me, Mayor Jun Choi!--to win the top executive position of Edison, New Jersey. Keep an eye on this guy: Jun's a good man, and a rising star in both his party and his community.

Also fitting that description: SUBODH CHANDRA, who's running for Attorney General of the state of Ohio in 2006. The former federal prosecutor is promising to take a new broom to the creepy, festering pit of cronyism and scandal that is the Buckeye State, where worker's comp funds are invested in (now missing) coin collections, with Republican blessings. Check him out at, and consider giving him your support.

Lastly, if you're honest, hard-working, brilliant, committed to civic service, you, too may have a place in government. CHUNG SETO, former exec director of the New York State Democratic Committee, is looking for Asian Americans interested in public-sector positions in city, state, or national government in order to build a standing pool of candidates for potential hires and appointments. Feeling up to the challenge? Email your resume with a cover that details your interests to; you can also email her at that address with any questions.

And that's it for this installment. I'd like to sign off with a solemn moment for those who've fought our country's battles on this Veteran's Day weekend. Soldiers deserve our deepest respect. Seems to me the best way we can show our respect is to not risk their lives in misguided conflicts, founded on lies. Not that I'm naming names or anything. I'm just sayin'.

Instant Yang v.9: Why Asians rule poker; eating dogs redux; the Cantoboyz; support the SKA Foundation

Back again, with more biweekly info-nuggets for your approval.

As you may remember (or not) from the last episode of this splog, I was headed to Vegas for some, uh, research on the fast and loose world of high-stakes poker. Well, the funds I'd set aside for first-person research vaporized within 15 minutes of my arrival in Sin City, so I'm afraid I can't offer a thrilling account of my adventures as a gamblin' man. I can, however, attest to the splendor of the Wynn Hotel & Casino buffet, which I partook of twice. The roast lamb is particularly excellent.

On the other hand, I did get to take in quite a bit of local color--not to mention soak up some reflected glory from the high rollers who were in town to play in the Bellagio Festa al Lago poker tournament.

This week's SFGate col looks at the startling dominance of Asian players on the pro poker circuit--something which might not be surprising to anyone who's visited the so-called "Asian Rooms" of any big casino, but which has been surprisingly underreported by mainstream media. Put it this way: Poker and women's golf are the two games that we *own*.

by Jeff Yang, special to SF Gate
If you're a poker buff, you know that some of the biggest names on the money tour are Asians--like legendary two-time World Series of Poker champ Johnny Chan and refugee-turned-rounder Scotty "The Prince" Nguyen. Meanwhile, a new generation of Asian American card sharks are beginning to deal themselves into the game. Jeff Yang checks in with some of the reigning Asian kings and queens of the pro poker circuit.

Now, I don't want to minimize the problem of gambling in Asian communities--fortunes have been lost, and families have been broken by gaming addictions. But poker has become such an incredible, all-encompassing phenomenon--as a sport, not just a leisure pursuit--that there's something to be said for the fact that we have a stake in the action. So to speak.

I might add that it was a real kick speaking to Johnny Chan and Scotty Nguyen, two of the reigning heroes of the game--and real, true characters. Those passionate about poker should also definitely check out Joe Sebok's writings on the subject; he's not just a serious, up-and-coming player, but an avid blogger and essayist, a Berkeley grad, and the survivor of five or so dot-com implosions. You'll probably learn more about the poker life by browsing his stuff for an hour than reading two or three books.

Lastly, Liz Lieu rocks. She's not just a rising star, she's also an unusually sweet person, given her ability to crush you like a bug at the tables. She says she'll be playing in the Foxwoods tournament in a few weeks, so East Coasties might want to go up and cheer her on...

And now, some responses to the last column on dogs in Asia: Noted film critic and all around sage David Chute pointed out a few Chinese movies that explicitly depict dog-eating:

"I notice that in older Chinese movies, like some of Li Han-hsiang's, eating dog stew is used as a male bonding ritual and as a sign of salt of the earth lack of pretension, proof positive that the person has not lost touch with his peasant roots. I also recall that in an HK gangster films a few years back there was a scene set in an underground dog meat restaurant: the experience begins when the still squirming puppy is brought to the table for the diner's approval...Isn't there also a dog meat gag in the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in China 2?"

And also, as David points out, a lengthy dog-eating scene in Jet Li's classic debut, SHAOLIN TEMPLE. It's odd--those scenes had skipped my memory, or perhaps I've unconsciously blocked them out...

On the "Next Big Viral Email Craze" front, catch this set of dubiously talented (but certainly hilarious) lipsyncers on videosharing site

A pair of Chinese guys wearing Yao Ming jerseys (they look like college kids in a dorm room) lip-synch strenuously to hits like the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way"

Not sure what I think yet--is this the next William Hung or is the joke on America for having such cheesy, generic pop music? More viral lipsyncing, only in reverse: A friend pointed me to, which allows you to record your version of cheesy, generic pop hits and get a virtual avatar to sing it for you. Pretty fun--though I'm not sure what it has to do with Yogurt Burst Cheerios.

And finally, a serious and important note.

Those of you who know Curtis Chin know that he's a great guy, a talented writer, and an important leader and pioneer in the Asian American community. Among other things, he founded the Asian American Writers Workshop, and has been instrumental in organizing Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (and remains a director-at-large of that important political outreach group).

He was also my roommate years back when he lived in New York, and my coworker for a time at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, as well as a founding editor of aMagazine: Inside Asian America.

Last week, he experienced a sudden personal tragedy. His parents were in a car accident that seriously injured his mother Shui Kuen and killed his father Allen.

Curtis' family, who were among the first Asians in Michigan, opened Chung's Restaurant in 1940, and their family business served as the center of the Chinese American community there for many years--even being included in a small part of the documentary "Who Killed Vincent Chin?." Curtis' father was picking up supplies with his wife to start a typical day at the restaurant when the accident occurred.

In memorial of their father, the Chin family, working with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, a national nonprofit based in San Francisco, has established the Shui Kuen and Allen Chin Foundation to offer a $1,000 scholarship each year to an Asian American college freshman whose family comes from the food service industry.

Here's a quote from Curtis: "We felt this was not only part of our own identity, but also a statement about the Asian American community....My father always stressed three things: education, hard work and good food."

I urge you to make a tax-deductible donation to the fund or suggest other ways that you might help. Donations, which should be made out to AAPIP/The Shui Kuen and Allen Chin Foundation, can be sent c/o Curtis Chin at 215 S. Santa Fe Ave., #3, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

You can also e-mail Curtis at

Instant Yang v.8: Dogs--Pets or Meat; driving on Diwali; last chance to bid

Hi all,

Back again, just seven days after last week's special alert issue of this newsletter thing (which I recently referred to as a "splog"--the bastard child of spam and a blog)...I wanted to reiterate that I appreciate your continued willingness to read this stuff, and promise to make intra-biweekly editions a rare thing, for those of you overwhelmed by sundry inbox invasions. Really.

Anyway...this week explores the evolving status of dogs in Asia--and yes, it "goes there":

Tired of jokes about how Asians are more likely to have a hound on the table than under it, proud pooch-owner Jeff Yang explores the state of canine companionship in Asia, to find a continent that's increasingly going to the dogs.

Meanwhile, the Hindu New Year, Diwali, is approaching fast--and this year, the holiday has brought a spate of controversy to the Big Apple. Few things are as precious to the inhabitants of New York as parking spaces, which is why the ultimate designation of a Real New York Holiday is the suspension of the city's despotic alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations. These rules force Gothamites to haul their cars to the other side of the road on certain days of the week, to make way for Zamboni-like cleaning machines that spray garbage off the street, and onto the sidewalk where it belongs.

Except, of course, on "Real New York Holidays," of which there are about 40. All federal off-days, of course. Every prominent Jewish holy day, including Shemini Atzereth and Simchat Torah. The first two days of Idul Fitr during the month of Ramadan. Most major Catholic sacred dates, from Ash Wednesday to the Immaculate Conception. And Lunar New Year (which the city oddly calls "Asian Lunar New Year").

Yet despite the presence of some 250,000 Asian Indians in the city, the vast majority of them Hindu, Mayor Bloomberg and his Sanitation Department are adamantly opposed to adding Hinduism's holiest day to the calendar (the third day of Diwali, known as Lakshmi Puja, which falls this year on November 1). Yeah, on some level it's symbolic, but symbols are important--and how can you deny the city's fastest-growing Asian community one day of parking for its own? More info and upudates here.

And finally, I sign off with a note that the Asian American Writers Workshop's charity fundraising auction is scheduled to end October 14, which means you have just hours to get your bid in for prizes ranging from cream puffs with author/academic Edmund White to a comlete $12,000 library of Asian American fiction and nonfiction books. More info and bidding instructions here.

See you in two weeks--am headed to Las Vegas this weekend for a little first-person research for an upcoming column on the dark goddess that is No-Limit Texas Hold'em, and its rising young Asian American stars...

Instant Yang v7.5: Asian American Writers Workshop--Do Good, Get Goodies; D.C. APA Film Fest; NAPALC's name change

Just wanted to drop you a quick between-the-weeks line to alert you to a couple of cool things I've been alerted to since my call for Interesting Stuff went out last ish. First up is an ongoing online fundraising auction being held by the Asian American Writers Workshop, one of the nation's most important Asian American literary institutions (I'm proud to say I was a member of their inaugural workshop session back in 1991, and even prouder to see that they're still going strong, nearly 15 years later).

Anyway, the auction is a little weird--you have to email them or phone in your closed bid and they'll allow just the three highest bidders to make a final, "top this" bid at the end--but they've got some of the more interesting and unusual items I've seen at one of these things available.

Let's just say that between the drinks with a rock-slash-porn star, the week vacation in a Barcelona penthouse, the short story critique by writer Rick Moody, and the complete Asian American library ($12,000 worth of absolutely new fiction and nonfiction books), many if not most of may find something worth bidding on. It runs through October 14--check it out here...

The Asian American Writers Workshop's
September 15 - October 14, 2005
An eclectic cyber benefit auction - items from $100 - $12,000

What does my bid support?
In summer 2006, the Workshop will be organizing “Where I’m Calling From: Youth At Home,” a creative writing and solo performance workshop for Asian American, African American, Caucasian and Latino youths between ages 13-19. Your bid dollar supports artists fees, youth stipends, writing workshops and a public performance.

Also, the 6th Annual DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival has kicked off in Washington, DC, presenting over 80 films, spanning the full range of feature films, documentaries, short programs, and music programs. Mike Kang's goofy/brilliant paean to adolescence, THE MOTEL, was last night's opening night program; highlights that you can, uh, still actually go see include the hit Hong Kong adaptation of the even bigger hit Japanese manga INITIAL D (the car comic that invented drifting); Bertha Pan's urban romance FACE (Bertha and actress Kristy Wu will be attending); and Filipino indie thriller CAVITE, whose ripped-from-the-headlines plot closes out the festival. If you're in the Beltway region, check it out. More info here:

DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival

And lastly, a bit of Asian American history-in-the-making for you: At their annual American Courage Awards last night, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium adopted a brand new name, to better fit this critical organization's expanding mission and purpose. They're now the ASIAN AMERICAN JUSTICE CENTER--and you can find out more and why here.

AAJC advocates for social justice, advances the cause of equal representation and treatment for Asian Americans, and helps to raise awareness of the critical issues facing our community at all levels of the socioeconomic scale. Among many other things, they perform the annual inventory of Asian American representation on primetime TV. Check their website out, and congratulate them on their new name!

Instant Yang v.7: The Asians of Reality TV; APIA Katrina RELIEF benefit; the National Budget Simulator!

Update time again, and a number of you who are reading this are probably getting this for the first time. That’s in an effort to filter the tide of inbound emails I’ve been getting, I’m trying to consolidate my contact lists. What that means is that I’ve set it up so that email to from people who are receiving this newsletter is being tagged so that I know it’s coming from this list. I intend to prioritize those emails when going through stuff for possible inclusion here, in the “POPMail” section of the column, and, of course, in the column itself.

What does this mean? It means that if you’re on this list, you’re welcome--no, URGED--to send me info about what you’re doing, and things you’ve seen, heard, experienced, or, I suppose, tasted or smelled, if you feel that they’re worthy of bringing to the attention of a larger group of potential readers. There are currently well over a thousand individuals on this list, and more are always welcome--so please also feel free to pass the subscribe link on to anyone you think might benefit or enjoy. I’ve also just added the public email addresses of some entities that I think are doing interesting or relevant things to this list, hoping that you’ll also share what you’re doing with me as well. Remember, if you want to unsubscribe at any time, the link is at the bottom of this email, and you won’t get this again (unless you resubscribe, of course).

Just as a reminder, the SFGate column focuses on Asian and Asian American popular culture, from my slightly self-absorbed perspective; there’s definitely room for more diversity of subject matter. I’d love to hear more about South and Southeast Asian, women’s, hapa, queer, Asian diasporic issues, or issues relating to Asians outside of New York, and particularly, between the coasts.

If you simply have feedback, an opinion, or an alert that you’d like to pass on, it’ll probably land in either the occasionally appended POPMail part of the column, or posted to this list. Of course, I can’t get to everything, so sorry if I miss stuff! Note: This isn’t a calendar listing or; only occasional events will be highlighted, and I won’t help you sell your used car or buy a house. (Choice jobs or casting calls are more likely to be passed along, however; hard to imagine people complaining about getting those in their inbox.)

Back to regularly scheduled programming: This week’s Asian Pop column looks at Asian Americans on reality TV—catching up with Diane Mizota (now an “angel” on NBC’s THREE WISHES), and Carrie Ann Inaba (one of the judges on ABC’s summer breakout hit DANCING WITH THE STARS), as well as Survivor survivor Shii-Ann Huang. It’s obvious that reality TV is opening the door for more Asian faces on primetime…the question is, does this reflect real progress, or just a passing fancy?


Asian Americans have struggled to break into prime time since the dawn of television. Now, in the age of reality television, opportunity finally seems to be knocking. Or is it?

Constant readers may note my recent obsession with SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?, the other big toe-tapping tournament on TV. Well, the elimination of insano stunt-break king Ryan Conferido a few weeks back blunted the show's appeal for me a little bit, but the last remaining Asian American contestant, Melody Lacayanga, has been simply bangin', and is in the Final Four heading into next week's finals. Will she pull one out for the team, or will she be overwhelmed by grinning dance machine Nick Lazzerini? (I don't think Ashle "Jan Brady" Dawson or the overmatched Jamile McGee really have a chance here, but we shall see.)

Event stuff: If you're in New York and free tonight, head to RELIEF, an APIA benefit for Hurricane Katrina survivors, being coordinated by lovely 'n' talented spoken word diva Emily Chang (formerly of I WAS BORN WITH TWO TONGUES and now Mango Tribe). Show starts at 7:30 at the ImaginAsian Theater, 239 E. 59th St. (b/w 2nd & 3rd Ave.); admission is $7 to $30, based on what you can do. Highlights include: DJs Kuttin Kandi and Rekha, spoken word standouts Regie Cabico and Ishle Park (as well as Chang herself), and singer songwriter Kevin So.

There's a flyer here.

For more information on relief organizations.

For more about the situation facing immigrants down South.

Also, for those who are curious,'s Asian American Village posted my complete commentary on the Katrina aftermath.

Finally, to follow on that political vein, I wanted to point people to an interesting website, the National Budget Simulation.

The NBS allows you to try balancing the budget yourself--by adjusting line-items for both expenses and taxation, according to your personal priorities. Ever wondered what our deficit would look like if you killed off environmental regulatory bodies, cut back on support for disaster relief, launched a few expensive wars, and gave huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy? Whoops, guess we already know what THAT looks like...

The simulation offers some extremely educational insights on where your money is actually going, and what we can do to address the massive and growing federal budget gap. Here's a hint: If you want to balance the budget without effectively destroying the government, tax cuts for everyone but the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers have got to go. By rolling back the 2001/2003 tax cuts and eliminating tax loopholes for corporations, I managed to get us to a $6 billion surplus--while actually increasing spending on our troops and investing in education, and preserving just about everything else (a few areas did get 10 percent cuts, which I'm going to say reflects "elimination of government waste and inefficiency," like every other pol does)...

Check it out, and let me know what you ended up with, and why--I'm curious to see your results.