Thursday, February 08, 2007

INSTANT YANG V.39: WEIRD WEATHER; THE BEST OF 2006; YUL-TIDE CHEER; GIVING--AND GIVING BACK

So it's around 55 degrees here in balmy New York, while my pals in Colorado are under about 12 feet of snow. The PacNorWest has been hit with blackouts due to hurricane-force winds knocking down power lines, and this after a month of record, deluge-like precipitation. I call shenanigans on anyone who's still doggedly rejecting the fact that normal weather patterns have shifted, and disastrously so. Even the most churlish global warming denialists have long since moved their bets from the "it ain't happening" line to "it's not our fault" (blame volcanoes, solar flares, wild animal flatulence, or, in a pinch, Hilary Clinton).

But that's an aside, albeit a scary one. This week's installment of IY--and this week's SFGate column--are about the good things that happened in 2006, from an Asian and Asian American perspective. And there were good things aplenty. (Bad and ugly things, too, but that's the subject of my next column. Don't go anywhere, Rosie.)

Here's the link:

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ASIAN POP: Holiday Cheers
By Jeff Yang, Special to SF Gate

Thursday, December 21, 2006
In the first installment of his annual two-part year in review, Jeff
Yang looks at some reasons why 2006 was worth celebrating and catches
up with some of the brightest lights on the Asian Pop landscape --
including San Mateo's own Survivor superhero, Yul Kwon.

---

From the exceptional individuals who wowed us to the independent thinkers and doers that empowered us to the community-minded heroes who inspired us, 2006 was filled with people worth celebrating. But in a year full of terrific interviews and awesome encounters, I have to say that the discussion I was fortunate enough to have with hero-of-the-moment Yul stood out--not just because of his articulateness and sincere honesty, which anyone watching the show probably would have picked up, but because he has a genuine and palpable passion for using his new fame to give back to the Asian American community.

How often have we seen Asian American performers, artists, and athletes give no more than a nominal nod to the community which gave them life? We're pretty used to hearing that line, "I'm an Asian American and a ________, but I don't consider myself an Asian American ________...I'm just a ________ who happens to be Asian American." And we understand it, and accept it, because you gots to put food on the table, and no one wants to be typecast. (Even I, Asian Dude On Demand For Life, occasionally think about, you know, other stuff. But it's just a minor flirtation! Totally meaningless I'm a-comin' home, sweetheart!)

Still, it says something that someone who's drawn the laserlike attention of 16 million individuals across the nation, and probably tens of millions more via post-show publicity, is not only willing to own and embrace his Asian American identity, but has vowed to turn the power of his platform toward advancing Asian American goals and interests.

That's not shocking when we hear about it from Latino or black personalities--it's actually more common than not for high-profile peeps from those communities to squarely own their heritage and their roots, and to dedicate some large percentage of their time and money toward publicly sticking a hand out to those behind them. The key word here being publicly. Because while many Asian American celebs do their part to participate in the community down low, few of them put it out on the front line, telling the world about how much they care and where they stand. Few of them make that part of themselves the core of who they are to the rest of the world--because, you know, it ties you down. Cuts you off. Pushes you into a box.

But how are we going to blow the lid off that box unless people get inside and push back?

So Yul's forthright and frank embrace of community causes is meaningful. Symbolically, but also directly. I think he's going to be going places. Far places. You heard it hear first.

Oh, and for what it's worth: Yul's not alone. He says that part of what bonded him with his Puka Puka teammates Brad and Becky is their common interest in the community, and in raising the profile of Asian America. Becky, for one, is founding an organization providing legal assistance to battered women, particularly immigrant battered women. Yul has already told her, like the good oppa he is, that he's ready to lend his skills and voice to the cause as well.

Not a bad holiday message, all 'round. Let's each of us figure out some ways to take action, to do something, big or small, to own a stake in the community that we belong to. Little things, like volunteering or charitable donations, mean a lot. Even providing our artists, our organizations, our institutions, with verbal and moral support--that's meaningful too. (And here's a pitch for filmmaker Eric Byler's Asian American TV pilot project on PBS, "My Life Disoriented"--it needs your support to go beyond pilot and into a full-on series! Check out the show's site for samples and deets: www.mylifedisoriented.com...Tamlyn Tomita, Karin Anna Cheung, Dennis Dun, and Di Quon, yay!)

So if you're looking for a gift to give, think about a donation in your loved one's name to a worthy cause. If you need to buy something, think about something created by one of our community's artists or entrepreneurs. A DVD from Alice Wu or Georgia Lee or Mike Kang or Greg Pak, a t-shirt from Blacklava, a copy of Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, a season ticket to East West Players all good.

And that's it for this week. Happy holidays, and all best for the rest of the year--we'll be back, same Yang-time, same Yang-channel, in 2007!

Yours,

Jeff

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