Thursday, September 30, 2010

HOLY COW. Prez Obama to appoint Pete Rouse to replace Rahm—first *Asian American* White House Chief of Staff!

The White House announced that Special Advisor to the President Pete Rouse, a consummate behind-the-scenes player who joined then-Senator Barack Obama as his senatorial Chief of Staff in 2004, will replace tough-talking, hard-charging Rahm Emmanuel when the latter leaves to run for Mayor of Chicago this week. Rouse is the son of Irving Rouse and Mary Mikami, nisei daughter of immigrants George and Mine Mikami

While Rouse has not emphasized his Asian American roots during his political career, neither has he denied them — and given that his mother grew up speaking only Japanese, and his maternal grandparents were interned during the War, he certainly has critical narratives of the Asian American experience deeply embedded in his personal history

Of course, you could say the same about his boss: I've written before (rather controversially) that Barack Obama, might well be considered the first Asian American president for similar reasons — Asian American narratives are wound into throughout his life story. More evidence for Obama's quasi-Asian American (Quasian?) identity: His clear comfort with and respect for Asian Americans as colleagues and key, for instance, Pete Rouse

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The things you miss when you're in China. Mike + Tina = STRONG ASIAN FUSION

Wow. So, I'd hoped to write in the 'Gate about the premiere of Glee along with HI-Five but ran out of space, since my editor limits my column to a measly 2000 or so words (aheh). The rationale was the much-anticipated appearance of Fil-Pop idolette Charice on the show — though based on the direction the premiere took, it looks like her role is going to be at most "recurring," sadly. 

But something much bigger dropped in the season opener — a plot twist that, though played mostly for laughs, could quite possibly be a historic one for the representation of Asians on primetime TV. Yep, I'm talking about the sudden and totally unexpected Mike x Tina relationship — otherwise known as Chang Squared, or MiTi, or Mina, or whatever convention the relentless 'shipper brigades on the web use to convey cutesy coupledom, wishful or otherwise, among fictional characters

I know some people may have found some aspects of the blossoming of their love offensive (they met at Asian Camp, where they were teaching technologically advanced Asian children how to appreciate the arts!), but have we ever — ever — ever seen an actual pairing of Asian Americans as a romantic couple on a sitcom in the past? I'm not referring to one-shots or old marrieds here, but young, ongoing characters in a primetime comedy, meeting cute and being lovey-dovey

As with most advances in recent television diversity, I think it all began with Lost — in this case, Jin and Sun; old marrieds, yes, but very much a romantic couple. Heroes then had James Kyson Lee's Ando and Eriko Tamura's Kimiko.

But those were both dramas. Sitcoms, for better and for worse, are still America's teevee standard, setting the bar for normal; for instance, I'd argue that the turning of the tide toward acceptance of LGBTs in middle America was ultimately the portrayal of gay characters in a funny and favorable light in Will and Grace

So now: Mike and Tina. Asian and Other Asian. Will it last? Will they get some real screen time? We can only hope. At the least, the pairing has made for some deftly hilarious jokes about, with and yes, at the expense of Asian stereotypes, in a way that I think manages to humanize the Asian American condition. I'll 'ship to that. 

(And I had to LOL to: "The Asian community is very tight")

Hmm, maybe there's a column in this after all...

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thoughts on the one-man/one-woman show genre — and my take on Michelle Krusiec's MADE IN TAIWAN and Natalie Kim's YO GIRL!

I have to admit — I'm not a fan of the one-man/woman show genre; they tend to feel self-indulgent and solipsistic, and I guess that's part of their charm to connoisseurs. 

But I'll make a set of exceptions to this rule: If a performer has the level of confidence and self-awareness required to command the stage without turning it into a pathos-drenched therapy couch; a story that would simply be worth telling in any form, from literary nonfiction to cocktail conversation; and the talent to inhabit multiple personas seamlessly and persuasively — well, what you end up watching isn't a one-person show, but a kind of magic trick

What I'm saying is that I know it's a high standard, but for me, I'm not interested in seeing a show of this type that doesn't make me saying "Wow!" on the way out. 

Fortunately, the 1M/1W shows I've seen have mostly fit that category. As a member of the dot-com walking wounded, I greatly enjoyed Mike Daisey's 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @

I was blown away by Yisrael Campbell's Circumcise Me, about his multistage conversion from atheist goy to observant Jew and finally to full Orthodoxy. (But I also admit to being something of a Judeophile, fascinated in the religion, its cultural traditions and its long and deep history.)

But I generally found the late Spaulding Gray's stuff to be insufferable, have never been a fan of Eric Bogosian, and even feel John Leguizamo's shtick is hit and miss at best.

That said, I was riveted by my friend Natalie Kim's 1WS, which I saw in an early incarnation, running back to back with a fellow actress's monologue under the joint bill Yo Hot Mamas!. Her deftly performed narrative explored her identity as a Korean adoptee, and how that identity was shaped by her relationships with her three moms — her adoptive mom, her stepmom (after her parents divorced and remarried), and her birth mom — and it was hilarious, gripping and heartfelt. 

It was also the first half of a bill without intermissions, which meant I had no choice but to sit through her colleague's piece about female sexuality at midlife — which I found stultifying in all of the worst ways one-person theater can be stultifying. On the one hand, the companion piece made Natalie's piece shine even brighter by contrast. On the other, it was a deadweight way to end the evening, and I desperately considered trying to escape during the second monologue — even though bolting would have meant physically crossing the actual performance space. Thankfully, Natalie has retooled and expanded her piece, renaming it Yo Girl! and ditching the anchor of her former stage partner. Her show just returned from a celebrated run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and with any luck the new remix will get a fresh production here Stateside sometime soon — it deserves to be seen, a lot

In fact, if she does feel the need to do her show in repertory, there'd be no better fit than to hook up with Michelle Krusiec, whose 1WS Made in Taiwan I saw last night at the Lucille Lortel Theater in the West Village. Michelle, also an adoptee, similarly tasks herself with exploring the mom-daughter nexus, though she has somewhat fewer moms than Natalie. Just one, in fact — but the mom in question is as vivid a character as I've seen embodied on stage in recent memory. 

Krusiec's chameleonic slippage between her own persona and that of her adoptive mother, not to mention her much-abused Polish adoptive father and her mother's gargoylesque friends, is a jaw-dropping act of transformation; the show does have its overwrought moments, but they don't dominate what is otherwise an emotionally balanced, brilliantly written and wonderfully performed 85 minutes of theater. My only quibble: The title of the play is almost a non-sequitur: The show addresses Krusiec's birth (and abandonment, and adoption) in Taiwan in its first few minutes, then never mentions it again. The rest of the 80 minutes of the play take place in and around Krusiec's suburban hometown in Virginia, and focus on the exquisite disaster of her relationship with her mom — a story that's in turns touching, tragic, hilarious and horrific. One wonders why Krusiec didn't give her work a name that better reflects its core themes and tensions; this is a show that anyone who's been a mother or a daughter, or had a mother or daughter, should see, whether you're Taiwanese or not.

Made in Taiwan has three days worth of encore performances left; buy tickets here, though they're likely to go fast. And as for Yo Girl!, well, watch this space.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

SPECULATION: Why Apple's new "iTunes Social Network" Ping is the REAL "monster under the bed" of yesterday's Music Event

So, I finally and belatedly watched the Apple Music Stevenote. Here's my topline: New iPods; new AppleTV. Stream is the new sync. Rent is the new buy. Also, anyone who thinks the App Store isn't coming to AppleTV in a soft refresh is just being all crazy (once they solve for screen size/controls, that is—my bet: an add-on AppleTV TouchRemote, $59; or just use your iPod Touch/Nano or iPhone with a free downloadable app.)

And then there's Ping. And Ping...could be big.

In fact, I think Ping really might be the monster under the bed of this keynote. Everyone keeps talking about this as some kind of iTunes-limitedcanned-socnet-in-an-app,” but they forget that there are very clear signals that Apple’s moving iTunes to the cloud and web sometime in the not so distant future. 

Which means that Ping might well end up being a lot more than Apple’s saying it is. 

Imagine, if you will, Ping going from just a “social network about music” to being a “social network about ________” (fill in the blanks with music, TV, film, appsanything that Apple currently pushes through iTunes). That’s an obvious next step.

Now imagine Apple builds a cloudy iOS, in response to Google’s Chrome OS — but rather than being an OS that hosts a browser, it would be the *browser hosting the OS*. (Presumably this would be Safari only.)

iCloudOS would run iOS apps INSIDE the browser. Which would also allow for the rumored convergence of MacOS and iOS—iOS runs inside the browser of MacOS, no funky confusion with switching or bootloading or virtualization or whatnot.

Meanwhile, iCloudOS would also by definition run iOS apps inside Ping....creating a totally new way of distributing apps: The Social Network IS the iTunes Store

Say I like something, I pimp it to my friends, they demo it in their browser, they buy it with a click, they can play it both in-browser and on all of their iOS devices — iPod Touch, iPhone, AppleTV, etc. And obviously, Apple's social gaming network GameCenter and Ping would then converge as well, allowing you to track ranks, broadcast your achievements or matchmake games across Ping — with players who are playing in-browser or on any iOS device.


Maybe it's crazy. 

But it could be the future. You read it here first.

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