Tuesday, September 30, 2014

October is Filipino American History Month

A NONDESCRIPT BOULDER on the beach facing Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California has a brass plaque embedded onto the flat face of the rock.

Filipino-American history began on this spit of sand 427 years ago. On October 18, 1587, Filipino crew members of the Manila Galleon Nuestra SeƱora de Esperanza were part of the landing party on what was to become part of the United States. That was 33 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and 20 years before the founding of Jamestown in the colony of Virginia. 

The plaque reads:

Historic Site

During the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade era from 1565 to 1815 Spanish galleons crossed the pacific between the Philippines and Mexico. On October 18, 1587, the Manila Galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza commanded by Pedro de Unamuno entered Morro Bay near here. A landing party was sent to shore which included Luzon Indios, marking the first landing of Filipinos in the continental United States. The landing party took official possession of the area for Spain by putting up a cross made of branches. The group was attacked by native Indians two days later, and one of the Filipinos was killed. Unamuno and his crew gave up further exploration of this part of the coast.

Historical Landmark Declared by the

Filipino American National Historical Society
California Central Coast Chapter
Dedicated October 21, 1995 

Ironically, when the monument was dedicated, part of the ceremonies included a Native American ceremony performed by Choi Slo, who is part Chumash Indian and part Filipino. His birth name was George Pagaling. The Filipino-American journey had come full circle.

The theme for this year, as chosen by the Filipino American National Historical Society, is tulay, bridging two countries and generations.

The San Francisco Bay Area is marking Filipino-American History month with a full slate of activities starting with a full day of presentations and performances of music, dances, songs and martial arts at the Asian Art Museum on Oct. 5.

The SF Pinoy Jazz Festival, Oct. 10-12 at the Manilatown Heritage Center has an impressive lineup. The center is located at the site of the famous International Hotel on Kearney Street, San Francisco, where many manongs (or, elderly) spent their retirement years before being forcibly evicted.

For a fresh, funny (and probably irreverent) "counter culture" interpretation of what has become a rite of passage for Filipino-American college students, you might be interested in the Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN}. Performed by Bindlestiff Studios on Oct. 2-4 in San Francisco.

There's more. From New York City to San Diego, Washington DC to San Francisco and Hawaii, a lot of local events are scheduled to mark the month's significance. Check out your local media to find an event near you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Epic underwater photoshoot - The secret to success

OTHER-WORLDLY, mythical, sensual, heavenly, hauntingly beautiful. Those are adjectives applied to the work of Canadian Asian photographer Benjamin Von Wong.

Benjamin Von Wong
Wong calls himself a visual engineer. He's a unique type of photographer because of the  unusual environments he places his subjects. The results, as you can see, are fantastic.

What got my attention was his series of striking underwater shots which he photographed in the waters near Bali, Indonesia. Some of the shots are reminiscent of the long flowing robes of the subjects in the paintings of Renaissance masters. Really amazing and beautiful. 

In the video below, he explains how he set up the shots with divers, oxygen tanks and underwater cameras.

For more of the work of this Montreal-based artist, go to his website.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall TV season is "revolutionary" for Asian Americans

Will the American public be able to relate to this Asian-American family in "Fresh Off the Boat?"
LOT OF BUZZ has been given to "FOB: Fresh Off the Boat," a situation comedy TV show, because fit features an Asian-American family as its lead characters. There's a lot riding on the show: If its successful, great! But if it fails, it will be a long, long time before any television network takes a chance on a show focusing on Asians again.

The last time a network aired a show with Asian leads was the ill-fated Margaret Cho series "All-American Girl." That was 20 years ago.

Still, here's hoping that FOB is funny enough, that it's humor and situations are universal enough to appeal beyond the Asian-American community. A premier date has yet to be announced but it could be early 2015.

2014-2015 could very well be a watershed year for minorities on television. There will be more African Americans and Latinos too. In other words, TV producers have discovered the new America. Besides the big three networks, the other independent networks will feature Asian and other minority actors in roles that could help break down the stereotypes that television has forced down our throats.

As much as I'm pulling for FOB, the one show that I hope is a whopping success is "Selfie," a take-off on the Pygmalion story: how a mentor transforms a young woman into a more complete, less self-absorbed and interesting human being.  

John Cho takes on the Henry Higgins role as a marketing guru. He is best known for his role as the young Dr. Sulu in the new Star Trek movies and whose career really blasted off playing half of the Harold & Kumar stoner franchise.

If the Eliza Doolittle/Henry Higgins story plays out as it did in "My Fair Lady," then Cho and his co-star, played by Scottish actress Karen Gillan, eventually end up in a romantic relationship. That -- my friends -- would be truly historic. 
"Walking Dead's" Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohen,
 love lives on in the zombie apocalypse.

Romantic roles for Asian males are extremely rare and if -- and I emphasize "if" -- the relationship develops, he would be the first Asian male lead actor to kiss a non-Asian woman on American television.

In an interview in "The Star," Cho said: "Asians narratively in shows are insignificant. They're the cop, the waitress, or whatever it is. You see them in the background. So to be in this position ... is a bit of a landmark ... revolutionary." 

I don't mean to take anything away from the end-of-the-world relationship of Steven Yeun whose character Glenn is involved with Maggie, played by Lauren Cohen, in the "Walking Dead." The difference is but their "Walking Dead" characters are supporting roles in the ensemble drama, whereas Cho and Gillan are the the "stars." Besides, its not like there's a whole lot of choice for Maggie. Glenn is the only guy near her own age whose not a zombie. However, their devotion to each other is inspiring in the zombie apocalypse. (Get your keyboards ready social networkers because there are rumors flying about that the Glenn character - the last Asian American in the world - won't survive this season.) 

As mentioned before on this blog, American popular media has portrayed Asian males as emasculated, uninteresting, unattractive, comedic characters. In the few roles where Asian males are strong characters, they never get the girl in the end. Think about it: Jet Li, Jackie Chan and even the magnificent Bruce Lee -- all who had plenty of macho charisma -- failed to get even a sisterly peck on the cheek from the heroine.
Mindy Kaling has a hit with
"The Mindy Project"

I can't tell you how heavy that neutered caricature weighs on the psyche of Asian males.

"The Mindy Project," starring Mindy Kaling is back for a third season. Even though the show is known in some circles as "How To Date White Guys," it is enjoying critical and popular praise. It's funny, has good writing and has an appealing cast.

The beautiful Maggie Q's series "Nikita" ended last season. The good news is that she is back with a new series called "Stalkers." She plays a kick-ass detective seeking out - you guessed it -- stalkers.

Kal Penn, John Cho's partner in crime in Henry & Kumar, etc, also won a part in a series called "Battle Creek," where he is featured one of a cadre of detectives. Detectives are big this year, apparently.

"Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is returning for a second season, which is good news for, Ming Na-Wen and Chloe Bennett. They save the world.

Reggie Lee, who plays Sgt. Wu in "Grimm" was born in the Philippines and was responsible for having a Filipino storyline in one of their episodes last year. He helps save the world.

It's no surprise that the show with the most 
Asians is "Hawaii 5-0." With Asians, Pacific Islanders and Hapas (mixed race) comprising 70 percent of Hawaii's population, it would be a major blunder, not to mention "unconscionable," if Asians were not heavily represented in 5-0's cast. Thankfully, the producers agreed. That's why we have costars Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Masi Oki and Mark Descascos and recurring roles for Teila Tuli, Ian Anthony Dale, Brian Yang and Dennis Chun, not to mention a host of extras every week along with the the sugar cane fields, palm trees and beaches of Hawaii. That's a winning formula. They are detectives AND they save the world. 

And just for fun, check out "Amazing Race" which has two - count them - two Asian couples on the reality show. It is not unusual for reality shows like "Amazing Race" "Survivor" or the singing competitions to have an obligatory Asian but it is unusual to have two - count them - two entries to cheer for.

This is not a complete list, but you should be getting the picture. This is a comparatively good year for diversity on television.

Dino-Ray Ramos, who writes a TV blog, does a pretty good job listing all the Fall shows featuring Asians and Pacific Islanders. Those shows include "Glee," which may be in its last season, "The Good Wife," "Parks & Recreation," and "Beauty and the Beast."

We shouldn't be complacent and think that with more Asian representation on TV, diversity on television is no longer a problem. The number of minorities on television is so dismal - Asians being the most under-represented - is so abysmally tiny, that any increase of our presence on TV can be seen as an improvement (like this year). That doesn't mean we should sit back and relax. There is plenty of room for improvement. With the departure of Sandra Oh from "Grey's Anatomy," it means the Seattle hospital no longer has any Asian medical staff. How real is that? In fact, any hospital-based show without Asians should be a target of our social network wrath.

Hopefully, the network honchos who green light projects are getting the picture, too. More  diversity means more viewership. Advertisers like lots of viewers. It's a business, you know.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rhyme and reason of climate change

THE UNITED NATIONS' CLIMATE TALKS are still going on in New York City but the stories out of the conference are being buried by U.S. media -- even after the Sunday march that drew over 400,000 people from all over the world to the city's streets.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and her daughter.
On Tuesday, Marshall Islands' Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner performed her poem in front of the 126 leaders assembled in New York. Her powerful poem was addressed to her 7-month-old daughter who makes an appearance at the end.
The Pacific islands will be among the first countries to be affected by our melting polar ice caps, some islands will disappear entirely. 
Climate change is blamed for the extreme weather events like Typhoon Haiyan that decimated  the central Philippines, the drought affecting the entire western United States, northern Africa, polar vortexes and a rash of more intense hurricanes.
President Obama spoke before the assembly and outlined the U.S. plan to reduce global warming. His main problem are those political leaders who will listen to one scientist who pooh-poohs the climate change theory and ignores the other 99% of scientists who attest to mankind's role in global warming.
Words can be powerful. Some in the audience were said to be moved to tears. Listen up.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Adobo and lumpia in the White House

Christeta Comerford shares a laugh with First Lady Michele Obama in the White House kitchen.

FILIPINO CUISINE has always had a tough time breaking into America's food consciousness like the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. For unknown reasons, the food of the Philippines has not caught on despite praise from food critics and foodies who have tried it. It is not for lack of trying and it is not because Filipino chef's aren't any good. For anyone who watches the food scene closely, there can be no doubt that Filipinos can just plain-out cook.

My father-in-law, Francisco Arias, was a chef on board various vessels during his 20-year stint with the U.S. Navy. His Filipino friends were Navy cooks also, including my wife's godfather, Anatalio Santiago, who had a stint cooking for President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace, both of whom loved Asian food.

On the TV show Top Chef, Filipinos and Filipinas have been among the finalists more than a half-dozen times, including season 8 winner Paul Qui.

 Christeta Comerford as a young child, front right.
Perhaps the most famous Filipino/ American chef is Christeta Comerford, who has been in charge of feeding the First Family and all the visiting foreign dignitaries visiting the White House. She has been the White House chef through three administrations.

CNN dedicated a major portion of its air time last Tuesday, Sept. 22, on "Leading Women" to Comerford. Lots of stories have been written about Comerford and her heritage. She even won the Iron Chef competition when teamed with Bobby Flay. 

As White House executive chef, she's pretty tight-lipped about the First Family's, particularly the President's, favorite dishes. In other interviews, however, she said adobo and lumpia are among the Obama favorites.

President Obama, who was born and raised in Hawaii where he most certainly was exposed to Asian cuisines - minus a few years in Indonesia - has sometimes been hailed as the first Asian/Amereican president because of his close personal and family ties with Asian/Americans and his openness towards developing closer political and economic ties to the Pacific Rim countries. 

Here's a portion of the article from the CNN website about her youth in Manila where she grew up with her 10 brothers and sisters.

Growing up as one of 11 children in Manila, Comerford remembers "everything pretty much revolved around the kitchen and kitchen table. There was always the smell of food, always the sound of food.
"As a third grader we were asked to start wrapping our first spring rolls."
The daughter of a school principal father and dressmaker mother ("she made my wedding gown"), she remembers visiting her grandparents' farm where everything from fresh meat to vegetables was sourced from the backyard.
For the entire article and the TV interview, click here.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Washington football team totally punked


The professional football team in Washington D.C. and the NFL got totally punked Sunday when during their televised football game  a commercial aired that was promoting the season premiere of the irreverent "South Park." The topic of the commercial made fun of the rationalizations that the team owner, Dan Snyder, has been using to continue using the racist mascot that demeans the First Americans. 

To pour more salt on the wound, the Washington team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The promo ran only in the Washington market so the rest of the country didn't get to see the commercial. For everybody else, enjoy the video.

I don't know if it was a deliberate slight or just a coincidence of bad timing, but it couldn't  have happened to a better football franchise. You won't get any sympathy from this corner.

More media abandoning the racist mascot. Read this article from the Columbia Journalism Review.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Miss America reflecting America?

Nina Devuluri
WELL, I'M A LITTLE LATE on this bit of news, but a new Miss America was chosen last week: Kira Kazantsev of New York.

Sorry, I don't normally watch that contest. I haven't watched it since I used watch with my parents when I was in grade school. It was a good bonding experience with my parents but little did I know then, the values and standards it perpetuated.

I only mention this because the contest also marked the end of the reign of Miss America 2013, Nina Devuluri, also from New York. When Miss Devuluri was picked, she became the first Miss America of Asian Indian descent. Her selection sparked a lot of hate Tweets from racists.

The media outlets were so excited over her selection that some of them headlined their stories, "First Asian American picked as Miss America" - major faux pas.

Angela Perez Baraquio
Actually, the first Asian American Miss America was a Filipina-American P.E. teacher from Hawaii. Angela Perez Baraquio was chosen in 2001 to be the standard-bearer of American beauty.

When Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America, won the contest in 1984, there was a lot of hatred directed at her too but not the intensity faced by Kira. That was before Twitter and Facebook.

Unfortunately, the Internet's social media platforms have provided a means for all the bigots to instantly air their prejudices and display their ignorance.

Critics of the contest have called the pageants for Miss America and Miss USA as demeaning to women, but that's a topic of another posting. To the credit of the organizers of Miss America, they've allowed the image of America's women to represent womanhood  in all its diversity. 

Small steps, I know, but together with more diversity in print and TV commercials and more minorities in the fall TV schedule, they all have an impact on the countless young people of our country whose concept of what and who is beautiful no longer is limited to European descendants and now expands to include people of color.

Hopefully, we're moving towards a day when when a minority wins a pageant it no longer makes headlines as a "first." Eliminating the hate and ignorance, though, will take a bit more longer.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jeremy Lin startles visitors at Madame Tussaud's San Francisco

EVER VISIT a wax museum and pose with the wax celebrities? It's kind of a cheesy activity but it is kind of fun, too. I did the touristy thing in a recent New York visit.

LA Laker Jeremy Lin, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, had a little fun with visitors to Madame Tussaud's at San Francisco's Fishermen's Wharf in the video above.

Even Lin, who isn't embarrassed being called a "jock," has had his difficulty overcoming
Linsanity was born in New York.

the stereotype of Asian men. When asked why he didn't get a college basketball scholarship after leading his Palo Alto High School team to a state championship, Lin responded, "Well, the obvious thing in my mind is that I was Asian American which, you know, is a whole different issue, but ... I think that was a barrier."

He had good enough grades to be accepted at Harvard where he joined the team as a walk-on. He was first drafted by his hometown Golden State Warriors then traded to the New York Knicks where he warmed the bench.

An injury to the starting guard forced the coach to put in Lin and the rest is history: "Linsanity" was born.

Despite his box office attraction and the positive media that he generated, Jeremy was traded by the Knicks to the Houston Rockets the following season. As a Rocket, he blasted off at first but his playing time fizzled and soon found himself the odd man out - as a super sub, the sixth man. 

During the off season this year, he was traded again to the Los Angeles Lakers where he was warmly welcomed by SoCal's Asian Americans. Expect to see a  lot more Asian faces at the Staples Arena during the Lakers games' broadcasts this coming NBA season.

Take a look at Jeremy Lin's interview aired on "60 Minutes." 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gen. Antonio Taguba: The forgotten victim of 9/11

Major General Antonio Taguba was forced to retire.
SEPTEMBER 11 is a date that forever changed America. 

For Major General Antonio Taguba it was the beginning of the end of his military career.

Taguba was the second highest ranking Filipino American soldier and would still be in the Army if not given an impossible mission. 

In 2004, he was assigned to investigate the alleged use of torture in the military prison known as Abu Ghraib where prisoners of war were detained by the U.S. military and grilled for any information that might be useful in the Iraq War.

His report confirmed that some members of the military were using torture on their prisoners. When asked by high-ranking administration officials and his military superiors if there was torture or was it just a case of abuse, Taguba recalled in an excellent New Yorker article, "I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator  shoving things up his rectum, and said, 'That's not abuse. That's torture.' There was quiet."

The Bush administration didn't like what Taguba found. They didn't like that Taguba was being hailed by the media as a hero. When he walked into a meeting with these same officials, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mockingly declared, "Here ... comes ... the ... famous General Taguba ... of the Taguba Report."

Shortlly after his 2004 meeting with Rumsfeld, Taguba told writer Seymour Hirsch an incident as he rode in chauffeured sedan with Gen. John Abiszid, then the head of Central Command. Abiszid told Taguba, "You and your report will be investigated."

"I''d been in the Army 32 years by then," Taguba told Hirsch. "and it was the first time I felt I was in the Mafia."

It became clear to Taguba that his days in his beloved Army were numbered. In 2006, he was told - without any explanation - to retire the following year after 34 years of service.

The Taguba Report and the incriminating photos angered the Arab world. They embarrassed the U.S. military and the White House and ticked off his superiors. Through it all, Taguba remained steadfast in his conclusions:

"From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service," Taguba said. "We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values."

In 2008, Taguba wrote, "There is no longer any doubt that the (Bush) administration committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account."

To date, no one in the Bush administration has been cited for their involvement, knowledge or encouragement of the use of torture when interrogating prisoners. 

October is Filipino American History Month. President Obama should give Taguba the Presidential Medal of Freedom for upholding the values of the U.S. military, for his service to his country and for his honesty.

Thank Heaven For Little Girls and Vanessa Hudgens"

Vanessa Hudgens heading for Broadway.

VANESSA HUDGENS is the latest Filipina to play a role of a Parisian woman. Earlier, Lea Salonga played the waif Eponine in one of the world's most popular and artistically successful musical, Les Miserables.

Hudgens was picked to play the title role in the musical version of Gigi based on the Leslie Caron/Maurice Chevalier movie original. The movie featured the songs "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" and "I Remember It Well."

OK, maybe two Filipina actresses portraying French characters don't make a trend, but its an interesting factoid to impress your friends at a cocktail party. 

In a telephone interview with Washington Post writer Peter Marks, Vanessa said she was overjoyed at landing the role, although she had concerns whether "I could really look like I could be a Parisian in the 1900s. I don't think they had many Filipinos there then."

I haven't followed her career closely but I have to give the 25-year-old actress props for her shoutout to her Filipino roots.

Born in Salinas (where a Filipino community is established and where the 1934 lettuce strike occurred demonstrating the power of ethnic labor unions) her mother is a Filipina and her father is of Native American and Irish descent. 

She's a product of the Disney talent factory that also produced Brittney Spears, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus. The role that made Vanessa a household name is playing Gabriella Montez in the High School Musical movie trilogy opposite teen heart throb Zak Efron.

Well ... what REALLY made her a household name and shattered the Disney mold was when she became one of the first victims of sexting before anyone dreamed up the term "sexting." She shot some revealing selfies and sent them to her then-boyfriend Efron. Somehow those photos found their way into the public eye, as those things inevitably do. Tsk, tsk.

This is not the first time "Gigi" was remade into a Broadway musical but the 1973 attempt fell flat before it hit the bright lights. With Hudgen's star-power, she might be the spark to  light up the marquee.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Child prodigy kicked out of school

TRUANCY IS A HUGE PROBLEM. I get that. I do a lot of work with organizations that steer children away from becoming society's problems. Kids who skip out on school are most likely to get in mischief. But more important, they also miss out on their ticket to improve themselves. As they become adults, they find it difficult to get jobs and a disproportionate number of them wind up in our justice system.

School systems and communities throughout the country are struggling for ways to reduce truancy and keep children in school.

Avery Gagliano missed more than 10 days of school - 10 unexcused absences. The 13-year-old was labeled a truant and not allowed to return to her public school in Washington D.C.  The reason she missed 10 days was because she participated in music competitions in Munich, Germany and in Hartford, Conn. where she won the Grand Prix prize. Before leaving, her parents talked with the school district and submitted lesson plans so she would not miss her schoolwork.

Piano prodigy Avery Gagliano also plays violin
Avery is a child prodigy. Watch and listen to her perform in the video taken when she was only ten. How can someone that young have such passion? She was chosen by the Lang Lang Foundation to be a music ambassador and perform throughout the world.

When they returned home, instead of congratulations, the school district informed the family that they had been assigned a truancy officer to Avery.  

Oh, despite missing days of school, she has maintained a straight A's average.

After a summer of school district emails that sent mixed messages: Some said "forget about it;" others threatened the family with fines and the courts. Avery's mother formally pulled her daughter out of school and is now home-schooling her child.

The Washington Post reported on Avery's situation a few days ago and the school district immediately backtracked saying that they never thought of her as a truant and that Avery is more than welcome to return to the classroom.

The district's statement rebutted the original story by columnist Petula Dvorak. In a followup column, Dvorak said, "the school system 'did not make a referral to a truancy officer, Child and Family Services Agency nor any  government agency for intervention' and the 'family was never at risk for truancy prosecution.'" 

Avery's mother, Ying Lam, stands by her version of the story and has the emails and letters to back her up. If the Post hadn't printed the story, the district never would have issued a statement.

The Gagliano's used to believe in the public school system and kept their children in public school even though their talents would probably be better nurtured in a private school. 

Unfortunately, the D.C. school district - which could use all the good news it could get -  lost one of their star pupils.

Rules are rules and truancy is a major problem but so is a bureaucracy so caught up in bullying individuals that they can't immediately recognize the need to view students as individuals instead of being a statistic. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cheering on Kei Nishikori

KEi NISHIKORI, rising tennis star.

PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER Kei Nishikori is the latest Asian male to defy the American stereotype of Asian men.He is the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final since Michael Chang in 1989. Even though Nishikori is ranked 10th in the world, he is a virtual unknown to America.

We're about to get to know him now though. The 24-year-old Nishikori stunned No. 1 Novak Djokovic to advance to the finals of the U.S. Open. He plays Marin Cilic today (Sept. 8) for the championship. He's a slight favorite. Tennis analysts will be talking about him, his back story and how he rose in the tennis world. At least they should. I hope they treat him the way the treat all the star players when they hit center court.

We'll cheer for him - yes, because he's Asian, and because he is one of us, he is me. His victory is a victory for every Asian man who has been tortured by the demeaning, weak, second-fiddle, neutered, invisible image that has been perpetuated by the dominant society. 

The Asian male's asexual stereotype is the exact opposite of the exotication (I made up that word) of Asian women in which they become objects of male fantasies.  

The Asian men's stereotype continues to exist despite so much evidence to the contrary starting with Lapu Lapu's attack on Magellan's crew which resulted in the Spanish explorer's death, warriors of Asian legends all the way to the 442nd Regiment of World War II, martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, basketball player Jeremy Lin and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.

Few things tick me off more than someone saying that Asian men are not attractive, or a woman saying she is not drawn to Asian men because they don't fit the anglo, sharp nose, high cheekbone, jaw jutting picture of a white male model -- the reigning standard for attractiveness and sexuality according to our pop culture world.

The negative stereotype haunts every Asian male who wants to break the mold and be more than the businessman, the doctor or lawyer, the computer or math wizard, the technical nerd, or the Asian men who gets passed over for promotion because he is not "management material." 

There is nothing wrong with being doctors, lawyers and computer nerds, etc. They are all respectable professions, but there are artists, poets, actors, comedians, dancers, athletes, politicians and pop singers, too. A little balance when describing us would be nice.

In the meantime, I'll be rooting for  Nishikori ... and Steven Yuen (Glenn in the Walking Dead); and Daniel Dae Kim of "Hawaii 5-0;"and Jeremy Lin (even though he plays for the Lakers); and the host of players of Asian descent making an impact in Major League Baseball; and Prince, Bruno Mars, Apl.de.ap and Enrigue Yglesias. All of them - because in their own specialized field and with the brilliant spotlight where they have excelled - chip away at the pervasive, negative, weak stereotype of Asian men.

Tennis, anyone?
UPDATE: Cilic wins in three sets, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Ironically, Nishikori will still probably get more money out of this match than Cilic due to the promotional contracts he has in Japan where he is viewed as a hero. Nishikori had the crowd with him as they chanted "Ni-shi-ko-ri!" but that wasn't enough to overcome Cilic who was playing the best tennis of his life. Ace after ace and perfect placement of his backhand and forehand smashes proved to be too much for our guy. Still ... (sigh!)

Friday, September 5, 2014

What would you do with $25,000?

GIVEN CARTE BLANCHE to spend $25,000 to promote the motion picture "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,"  instead, Casey Neistat decided to spend it helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Almost at the drop of the hat, he went to the Philippines and began handing out food and supplies. 

$25,000 sounds like a lot. But the need was so great that the money and supplies Neistat brought was just a drop in the bucket. But don't tell that to the hundreds of families that received the food and supplies. When it was all gone, he went back to the U.S. One person's act of kindness.

Its almost been a year since the largest storm ever recorded passed through the central Philippines and people are still recovering from the 2013 disaster that killed thousands and made millions homeless, and sent the region deeper into poverty. Mother Nature doesn't seem to give the Philippines a break.

Last May a BBC crew went back to see what progress had been made in rebuilding the area. Click here to see their report.

Unfortunately for Casey, the movie "Mitty" didn't do that well at the box office. It came and went from the local theaters so fast, that might say a lot about it's artistic value, but lack of promotion surely didn't help. 

 20th Century Fox is probably not too happy with what he did, but all I can say is, "thank you, Casey" on behalf of  the people of Tacloban City, which bore the brunt of the storm. You have your priorities straight. In your honor, I'm going to download "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" on Netflix. 

Ten months after the typhoon, its back to school for these children

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are Filipinos the happiest Asians?

WHEW! I've been on a tear lately - really heavy topics ... and I haven't even done anything on Ferguson yet. I figure its about time for a breather.

Its a light-hearted discussion about what makes Filipinos Filipinos. Are Filipinos really the happiest Asians? It's fun to "claim" so-and-so celebrities as Filipinos. Yes, I'm guilty of doing that. Some of the minor things they say are inaccurate but I can let it slide because they raise a question we all face sometimes in our lives.

I'm still a first generation immigrant even though I've lived in the U.S. 65 years. My wife's family has been here for four and five generations. My own family is starting its second and third generations. Like the immigrant groups before us, with each generation, we grow more distant from the Philippines: The names of relatives are forgotten, stories about relatives become myths, family histories blurred, recipes lost, and our Filipinoness become less and less evident.

The family members are proud to be Americans and are as American as we can be in our attitudes, values, the way we walk and talk, behave, and think. And like all Americans, we mingle. Boy, do we mingle. We come in all shades of brown and beige. There are blacks, blondes, and a whole range of eye-shapes. Our accents are Californian, New Yawkese, Chi-ka-goan and Hawaiian.

Many of the younger relatives may not even have asked themselves the question and I'm afraid some may even not count Filipino as among their racial lineage. 

I'd like to hear from the rest of the family or from you readers: What do you call yourself? Is it important to you that you have Filipino blood in you? How do you keep your ties to your roots? What box do you check off when the Census asks your race? Or, is the topic even important to you?

The video is from the up-and-coming Fung Brothers from their work on YouTube videos and the cartoonist is the Manila-born Corky Trinidad, who worked for years at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. He was the first Asian editorial cartoonist to be syndicated.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Part 2: Nixon - The Traitor

 Anti-war demonstrators march to Golden Gate Park from  San Francisco's City Hall in 1967. 

THAT IS a pretty harsh headline: "Nixon - The Traitor."

For years, it was rumored that Nixon was behind the failure of President Johnson to negotiate a peace treaty with North Vietnam in 1968. The audiotapes of President Lyndon Johnson White House conversations revealed that Johnson accused Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign of treason for undermining the peace negotiations to end the war in Vietnam.

It wasn’t until earlier this summer that those rumors were confirmed by conservative columnist George Will.
If you're not a policy wonk, most likely you haven't heard of this sordid episode of American history. It's a story of greed, blind ambition, a coverup and winning at all costs. It may also be the beginning of the America's downfall.
In 1968, America was stuck in an Asian land war in which we had no business being in. It was the result of the Cold War wherein the U.S. saw a communist under every rock and would do anything to stop the spread of communism, which Americans thought was our country's greatest threat.
That fear meant that we would support fascist dictators who oppressed their people, fostered rampant corruption for personal gain as long as the despots declared that they opposed communism.
While a lot has been written about the banana republics of central and South America, the same dynamic was happening in Asia.
For fear of the communist Huks, the U.S. supported Ferdinand Marcos for decades, even if it mean that "democracy's showcase in Asia" was really a showcase for strongman politics and how wrong American policy had become.
A similar policy had already taken root in Vietnam. A series of ineffective rulers supported first by the colonial French and then by the anti-communist Americans, made Vietnam a perfect breeding ground for the type of dictatorship that America supported throughout the world. "He may be a dictator, but he's OUR dictator," was the ruling mantra among America's military and political strategists.
Mired in Vietnam for just over a decade, it became evident that a clear-cut military victory would be too costly, if not impossible. It was a virtual stalemate.
By 1968, fearing the divisions that wracked America over our involvement in Vietnam would grow even more deeper, President Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. He also began serious negotiations to broker a peace between South and North Vietnam, led by the brilliant Ho Chi Minh. (By the way, Ho Chi Minh initially sought America's help and even pattered his constitution after the American constitution. For some reason, America chose his counterpart in South Vietnam over the popular leader of the north.)
With Johnson not running, Vice President Hubert Humphrey took up the Democrat's banner to run against the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, who was President Eisenhower's vice president and lost to President Kennedy in 1960. The contest was a close one with Nixon holding on to a narrow lead in the polls.
In the fall of 1968, peace negotiations were making progress. As an act of good faith, Johnson stopped the bombing of North Vietnam in October. Peace - it seemed - was right around the corner. If peace was brokered before the November election, it could tilt the election towards the Democrat, Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey, as one of his campaign promises, announced in October that if he was elected president, he would stop the bombing, which won him the support of growing and influential peace movement. The polls signaled a virtual toss-up. 
Catching wind of the pending peace treaty, Nixon’s campaign team sent Anna Chennault, a Chinese-American in Nixon’s inner circle, to South Vietnam with a message from “her boss.” She told the South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu to hold out because Nixon – when he was elected president – promised a sweeter deal.
South Vietnam pulled out of the negotiations and the treaty went unsigned. Humphrey never got the bump he would have received from a peace treaty. Nixon squeaked by Humphrey and was elected President. In 1973, under Nixon a peace treaty was finally brokered. 
To say Johnson was "pissed" would be an understatement. Intelligence agencies' surveillance had revealed the plan to undermine the peace talks. Johnson called Senate leader Everett Dirkson to see if he could intervene. "This is treason," said Johnson. "I know," said Dirkson.
Under the 1797 Logan Act, no private citizen can interfere with negotiations with a foreign country. It is difficult to think that Chennault did anything – especially something as significant as sabotaging the peace talks -- without Nixon’s knowledge. He saw the memo outlining Channault's trip to Vietnam and he had written on top of it, "Top Secret."

Not surprisingly, Nixon, called by Johnson, denied any knowledge of the betrayal. 

Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford advised in a conference call a day before the Nov. 5 election: “Some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a certain individual [Nixon] elected. ... It could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country’s interests.”
The next day, Nixon won by the narrowest of margins: 100,000 votes. In January, 1973, Nixon eventually brokered a peace treaty with the same terms that Johnson had on the table in 1968.
Imagine if a peace treaty was signed in 1968. The war would have ended four years earlier, saving the lives of 22,000 American soldiers  and untold Vietnamese who died during those four additional years. 

Nixon might never have won the 1968 election, Watergate would never have happened, he never would have been reelected and a U.S. president never would have been impeached and forced to leave office in disgrace in 1974.
Because of Watergate, we Americans have lost our idealism and faith in our government; the trust and optimism we used to have has been replaced by cynicism and a distaste of anything, any idea, any proposal coming from government. The act of treason changed the course of our country's history. Our country has been on a downward spiral ever since.

Why does it matter now? Johnson and Nixon are both dead. What's done is done. 

The other rumor that may some day be proven to be true is that Ronald Reagan's campaign - staffed by people with the same win-at-any-cost values as Nixon's people - acted to delay the 1978 hostage negotiations with Iran to practically assure his victory over President Carter. 

History has a way of repeating itself if we don't learn from our mistakes. History needs to be rewritten, even if the truth is unflattering. People exist today who have the same twisted principles as Nixon, (and perhaps Reagan's staff). They would do anything to preserve their status and privileges under the guise of a faux patriotism, even if it means destroying our way of life. Win-at-any-cost is not a principle we live by. Its unAmerican. Its treason.