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

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