Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What I ate today in Vancouver: Terimayo, Okonomi and Oroshi Japadogs—yes, all three. Je n'ai pas de regrets

Forget the Winter Olympics. The real reason to come to Vancouver, BC is to purchase your streetside ticket to Asian fusion Wiener Wonderland in the form of a Japadog, which sounds like an offensive term for a Shiba Inu but is actually Noriki Tamura's portmanteau word for "Japanese hot dog," and probably trademarked. Because that's what the adman-turned-sidewalk vendor sells, from his cart on the corner of Burrard and Smithe, right here in the Jewel of the North, where I'm vacationing with the family. I had the all-beef Terimayo (teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and shredded dried seaweed, plus a hint of wasabi), the Orishi (bratwurst with grated daikon, scallions and sweet soy) and the piled-high Okonimi (a frankfurter version of the classic Kansai-area treat, okonomiyaki: Kurobuta pork sausage, mayo, fried cabbage, bonito flakes, and okonomiyaki sauce). All insanely delicious. 

However, word has it that soon I may not have to drag the kids out to the Van if we want to consume buns of bodacious, bonito-flake laden bliss: Japadog is apparently coming to New York. I sense a deathmatch brewing between New York's own Korean kings of schwing, New York Hot Dog and Coffee (home of the Bulgogi Hot Dog!) and this tasty new intruder—it's Apolo Anton Ohno all over again. Can't we (of East Asia) just all get along?

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coming soon to this space...the full transcript of my interview with Keni Styles, porn's only straight Asian male superstar

Still working on cleaning it up, but here's a placeholder; I'll post the transcript when my latest Asian Pop column is up. This week, I explore race, porn, and the politics of penis size, and talk to Keni and the always hilarious Roger Fan, of "Better Luck Tomorrow" and "Finishing the Game" fame, who got his start starring in and cowriting/coproducing Gene Rhee's awesome pseudo-documentary "The Quest for Length." Which is about penises. I guess I'll have to write about boobies next. 

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Joe Biden—in all your candor, you found the magic words for this moment in history, and I love ya for it! (Also, this cartoon :) )

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How to make "Twilight" work for guys, too: Just...add...ZOMBIES. Seriously, tell me you wouldn't watch this, dudes [pic]

Like any other red-blooded Y-chromosome-bearing male-type person, I find the Twilight series to be a gut-wrenchingly awful piece of teen-hormone-drenched dreck. This doesn't mean it's totally unsalvageable. All you need is an epilogue after Breaking Dawn, the "final" book in the series (Stephanie Meyer has claimed it's the last of the line, but anyone who knows publishing or Hollywood knows that a bestselling series, like a vampire, can never truly be put to rest). Hell, even Meyer's incomprehensibly huge fan base agrees that Dawn was shite

The epilogue would involve...zombies. Yes. The real walking dead. And the undead horde would eat Edward's pasty face, and Jacob's hairy butt, and daintily gorge on some Bella for dessert. So, a happy ending!

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

From the unfortunate headline dept. I suspect it's at least figuratively true, tho

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My latest San Francisco Chronicle column: What color is my avatar? On race, stereotypes and videogames

This week's Asian Pop looks at a topic inspired by the reawakening of my love for the awesomest fighting-game franchise of all time, Street Fighter II (and its dozens of digital descendants). With my son having chosen tae kwon do as an afterschool activity (and subsequently, engaging in "practice" at home, wreaking havoc on furniture, his baby brother and the dog), I introduced him to the game hoping to discourage indoor sparring in our somewhat cramped apartment

That, in turn, led me to consider the lack of diversity in the world of videogames — which, despite their rising influence in popular culture still largely fail to incorporate nonwhite protagonists (and, for that matter, non-male). Although Asians are moderately well represented, that's primarily due to the fact that Japan is such a key source of gaming innovation; Asian Americans are almost completely absent from the videogame landscape. (This, by the way, is the subject of a panel, "Social Justice and Videogames," at SXSW on March 16, organized by Latoya Peterson of Racialicious and featuring always awesome videogame vet N'gai Croal and game designer and feminist blogger Naomi Clark. Here's the piece, in which I spoke with Latoya, N'gai, Game Informer editor Matt Kato, and my friend and Secret Identities co-editor Parry Shen (who lends his voice to the upcoming Hong Kong-based thrillride of a game, True Crime, coming from Activision in October). Game on. Check it out!

This year, my wife and I gave our big-boy-first-grader son Hudson the right to pick his own afterschool activities, and, not surprisingly, he chose the one most likely to result in domestic mayhem: Tae kwon do. 
In a more disciplined soul, martial arts might be a means to achieve focus and inner calm; for Hudson, it's mostly been a new way to menace the dog....

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TEXAS BOARD OF ED: Has Tom Ratliff defeated ultra-right creationist Don McLeroy?

[Breaking news. The Texas Tribune is reporting McLeroy has lost.] 

So, moderate Republican Tom Ratliff holds a narrow lead over incumbent ultra-right creationist Don McLeroy in the critically important Texas State Board of Education race! Non-crazy Republicans have coalesced with Democrats to support Ratliff's candidacy over McLeroy, one of the staunchest drivers of the Texas SBoE's massive politicization and shift away from rational, objective educational standards

Why should anyone from outside of Texas care? Here's the deal: Texas has overwhelming, outsized influence over textbook publishing. Which means standards set by Texas's SBoE reshape content and editorial slant for the entire nation—because publishers don't print one set of textbooks for Texas and another for the rest of the world

McLeroy has been hyperaggressive in pushing "Intelligent Design" theory and has repeatedly stated to the press that the Earth is just a few thousand years old. 

In 2009, he said this about his stance on public-school history textbook evaluation: "We are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles: The way I evaluate history textbooks is first I see how they cover Christianity and Israel. Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes.” 

Awesome—that's just what I want my public-schooled kids to learn! 

Why don't we just rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance while we're at it?: "We pledge allegiance to the Ron, and the fundamentalist, tax-cutting principles for which He stands...." (Note to Republicans who went ballistic over spurious charges of President Obama "indoctrinating" schoolkids with a televised speech on the importance of education—I do not hear your outrage. And the mocking of Obama as "The One" is laughable given the degree to which the Right fetishizes Reagan; it's like they want to expand the Holy Trinity to a QuartetFather, Son, Holy Spirit, and The Gipper.)

Finally, let's not forget this McLeroy winner: "What good does it do to put a Chinese story in an English book?" he said. "So you really don't want Chinese books with a bunch of crazy Chinese words in them."

Well, if we want to understand and be competitive with the biggest, fastest growing nation on Earth—which holds the majority of America's foreign debt—maybe we do? Because, you know, China is learning English at a staggering rate. The biggest English-speaking population on Earth is currently in India

The second biggest is in China. (And China's catching up—by some counts, it may even already be in first place.)

The U.S., meanwhile, is third. 

And our ability to speak, read and write our native tongue is getting worse, as the misspelled, grammatically erratic signs at Tea Party rallies and in online comments demonstrate. 

You can thank politicians like Don McLeroy for that, too. 

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

MORE ON MY "ROGER EBERT MOMENT" WITH MARGARET CHO—Her POV on the incident, from her book

The full story is here. But holy crap, here's an addendum....

I forgot that Margaret wrote a book version of I'M THE ONE THAT I WANT

Well, just now, reminded by a friend, I just did a "Look Inside!" search through the book at Amazon using the keyword "critic." 

If you do that and go to page 129-130, you'll read the incident from her perspective...which is virtually word for word the same as how I described it. Only this time, from her point of view...and she twists the knife a little, too. (I've attached a screengrab of the relevant 

Ahh....sorry Margaret. I'd love to think a decade or so of time passed means it's all water under the bridge. 

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My Roger Ebert-Will Lietch-esque Story; or, Margaret Cho and me

A couple of people have posted this story by "Deadspin" editor Will Leitch in feeds I follow or sent it to me directly, including N'Gai Croal and Nelson Wang. It's worth a read—moving and wistful, and heartfelt, I think.

The funny thing is, I have a story that's similar in ways, regarding Margaret Cho. I was TV critic for the Village Voice at the time, having just been entrusted with that role by Jeff Salamon, one of the editors whom I credit most in shaping my writerly voice (the others being Andy Hsiao, who's probably the most important individual in my journalistic career, a role model and great friend, and Lisa Kennedy, a tough, smart editor who simply pushed me to be better at every turn). 

In addition to writing for the Voice, I was also working—unpaid, like everyone at the time—on A. Magazine, the Asian American periodical I, Bill Yao, Amy Chu and Sandi Kim had founded after graduating from college. To keep the magazine afloat, we'd throw fundraising events; one of them was a showcase for a comedian who was a fast-rising star in standup, but hadn't yet taken the step to "household name" status—Margaret Cho

After wowing the crowd with her set, an ecstatic Margaret made the first public announcement that she'd been given the opportunity every standup hopes against hope for, the chance to star in her own prime-time TV show...a sitcom to be called All-American Girl. 

Well, all of us were as happy as she was. This was a tremendous, staggering breakthrough for the whole Asian American community—one small step for Cho, one giant leap for Asiankind, that sort of thing. It could, we thought, only be good for Our People.

A few months later, the first buzz started to emerge about the show—troubling whispers that the show was just...not very good. And with every trickle of early rumor, my heart sank further. And that's when I received the assignment I'd secretly been dreading. I was asked to review All-American Girl in my capacity as TV critic for the Voice

I tried to gently dodge the bullet, suggesting that I might be in a compromised position—knowing Margaret personally, and considering her a friend. And my editor pushed me, suggesting that professionalism as a critic demands that you rise above the personal, to judge things on their merits. Afterall, criticism is a landscape of the subjective, in which everyone by definition has preferences and passions and entanglements. 

I think when you're young, and you're challenged by people you deeply respect to say SOMETHING, to find your voice, to slide hard, you can end up going too far. I wanted to prove I could be objectively critical, even ruthless; I ended up writing a scathing, witty—or what I thought was witty—piece that mercilessly ripped the show apart as a star vehicle whose miscasting and bad decisionmaking started with the star and radiated outwards. Because, even setting aside the concerns some in the community had of how Asians were being depicted, the show took everything that made Margaret funny, and stripped it of its brilliant, serrated edge. It was Family Ties, if the show focused on Tina Yothers rather than Michael J. Fox.

The next day, Margaret called me, and said she'd heard my review was in the paper. She asked me to fax it to her. Which I did, with a cover letter that tried to soften it, contextualize it. 

She never called me back.

From then on, I heard that Margaret told people that she felt like the lack of support from her community was heartbreaking, but the betrayal by people she "knew and respected" was sickening—and that more than anything, she blamed those people for the network's yanking away support for the show. Shortly thereafter, the show was canceled. Margaret went into a personal spiral toward self-destruction, and there hasn't been a sitcom written around an Asian American star ever since. 

It was over half a decade before we talked again, Margaret had gone through rehab, and come out of it with a revised set of priorities and a fresh handle on her career. She had a brand new one-woman show out, I'm the One That I Want, and I organized a big group to go see it when it came to New York. The centerpiece of the show was a grueling recap of her horrendous experience with All-American Girl, in front of the cameras and behind the scenes. And when she got to the part when she talked about being stabbed in the back by a certain TV critic of her acquaintance—no names named—I sank down in my seat...swallowing hard.

Margaret's gone on to a fascinating career, as a blogger and a performance artist and a burlesque diva and a reality TV star, among many other things. She's found her calling, her zone, and every interaction we've had since then has been terrific. But reading Lietch's piece reminded me: As journalists, and especially for those of us who are cultural critics, we have a responsibility to more than just the story on the page, and certainly to more than our own careers. Ripples as they spread can build into tsunamis. We can inspire and provide hope, and we can hurt and destroy

Professionalism, as much as anything else, means knowing our limits, and taking responsibility for the fact that words have power, and wielding them has consequences.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

From the WTF? User Reviews Dept.—Coleman FishPen: "After I bought mine we were taken to court by the IRS..."

I stumbled across a deal on the Coleman FishPen — it's a fish and a pen! No it's not. It's a fishing rod that's the size of a pen — at an online bargain site, and even though I'm not much of a fisherman, for $6.99 it seemed like it might be worth springing for a couple for the kids. Scanning through the user reviews on the page revealed your typical set of grammatically challenged, excessively hyperbolic reviews that seem to have been written by Borat — like:

[Five Stars] 
I would recommend this to anyone that has been on a trip and could not take their full tackle with them. It full-fills the need for "I wish I had a fishing pole with me" 


[Five Stars]
This is a fun little item to have ready if the urge to fish overwhelms you


[Five Stars]
This is a beautiful gift. You must have it for fun.


[One Star]
Buying Coleman Fishpen was cheating.Thought it was good, but nothing was working . I wasted my money for this. Even not able to return my item, because , for new piece again i have to bare shipping which is the cost of new Coleman FishPen. So i kept my Coleman FishPen in trash . i haven't used not even one day. 


[One Star]
The absolute worst $8.99 I have ever spent in my life. If I was coleman I would be ashamed to print my logo on a garbage product like this wanna be fishing pole. I am usually loyal to coleman on everything from tents to aluminum water bottles, but I will never purchase another item that coleman endorces. Besides the reel being junk and not functioning right the rod snapped in half the first cast due to a little resistance from grass on my lawn(I just cut my grass 2 days ago). Whatever you do, DO NOT buy this product unless you like giving your money away. Coleman, stick to camping not fishing.
[NOTE: Why are you trying to catch fish on your lawn?]


[Five Stars]
Heck of a lot of fun. I use it in the house to play with the cat
[NOTE: When cat fishing, anything under 12" from nose to tip of tail is undersized and should be thrown back]

Then I came across this:

[Five Stars]
This was awesome. We took it to the lake and caught two 15 lb bass using spinner bait. My wife said she is going to order one after we get the house sold because after I bought mine we were taken to court by the IRS because we havent paid our taxes. So were probably selling the boat and will have some extra mone freed up to get us another coleman FishPen. Wish we could have been on the lake more often, than we would never had seen that letter in the mail about having our house taken from us. Which is fine because uncle Bill might let us have the spare bed room. Did I just write all this? Im sorry, this pole was fantastic and I would let walmart have a shot at selling these puppies. I worked for Walmart in the 80's when real men were allowed to strut their stuff. Now im just working as a plummmer back home. Work will pick up as will this pen if i could get me some bait to head to the lake with. I love this pen.  

Seriously, that's got to be a trollpost, right? Still, nicely played, Mr. Faux Coleman FishPen Tax Resister Troll...nicely played. 

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