Friday, June 30, 2017

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park leave 'Hawaii Five-0'

Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim have left the popular television series Hawaii Five-0,


CBS announced today (June 30) that Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, two of the four mainstays on Hawaii Five-0 wont be returning next season. Their characters Chin Ho Kelly and Komo Kalakaua respetively, will be written off the the show. Their absence will be explained iat the start of next season, the series' eighth.

CBS didn't state the reason why two of the original stars of the series left the show, but Variety said it was a salary dispute.

Sources told Variety that Park and Kim had been seeking pay equality with stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were unable to reach satisfactory deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series. Kim and Park were believed to be making 10-15% less than O'Loughlin and Caan.

Reasonable enough. The four primary actors were an ensemble. True, the writers gave more lines and airtime to the white actors, (that's the problem with having a writing team made up primarily of whites) but that didn't overshadow the key roles played by Kim and Park.

What made Hawaii Five-0 different from the dozens of cop-and-robber shows on television was not the banter between its two white detectives, it was its locale and the people of Hawaii, which included Chin Ho Kelly and Komo Kalakaua, who allowed the series a glimpse into the real Hawaii, their families, friends and ethnic traditions. The two characters broke through the stereotypes often depicted by writers who haven't been exposed to Asian Americans. Kelly was sexy and sympathetic, tender and tough. Kalakaua was beautiful but also clever and an equal in smarts and physicality to any of the male characters.

So what made it so easy for the producers and CBS to say goodbye to two key characters who helped establish the show's popularity among viewers an advertisers? The elephant in the room, of course, is that Kim and Park are Korean; O'Loughlin and Caan are white.

So all the blah-blah from producer Peter Lenkoy and CBS announcing the two Asian/Americans' departure really rings hollow: "They will always be ohana to us ..." said Lenkoy. A CBS spokesman went so far as to say "Mahalo and a hui hou..." as if the Hawaiian references would make their greed read as a sincere expression of thanks. Instead, it translates as patronizing.

Even though actor departures are nothing new to television, the loss of Kim and Park has an added layer of significance given the criticism aimed at CBS in recent years for the network's dismal record of putting diversity in starring roles across its prime-time lineup.

When Hawaii Five-0 returned to TV in 2010, it was one of the very few shows with 3-dimensional Asian/American characters. 

Kim's and Park's departure will leave a void and if the producers are smart, they'll fill those roles with two other actors who are Asian/American  or Pacific Islanders. Being newcomers to an established show, they will most likely less expensive (and probably less demanding). They better be Asian American or Pacific Islander because any show set in Hawaii should reflect the real population of the islands, the majority of whom are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

Needless to say, fans of the show went crazy and many of them thought the statements issued by CBS and the show's producers were insufficient.

TGIF FEATURE: The 'Hamilton' Challenge goes viral: 'Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)'

THERE'S A LINE in the hit musical Hamilton that never fails to bring the house down: "Immigrants, we get the job done."

Although the lyrics were written before Donald Trump's election, a video has been produced to reflect the current debate over immigration. 

The new video of "Immigrants, we get the job done" was released Wednesday  (June 28) by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in time for America's birthday, July 4th, as we reflect on what makes this country great. It portrays refugees and immigrants from around the world in camps, garment sweatshops, fruit-picking fields and crowded trains. It is accompanied by a new song, set to rap lyrics, about their struggles, setbacks and contributions to society.

This election cycle has brought xenophobia and vilification of immigrants back to the forefront of US politics. This is a musical counterweight," Miranda wrote in a commentary on the music community website

Riz Ahmed, the British/Pakistani actor that starred The Night Of, is featured in one of the segments as Riz MC, along with rappers K'naan, Residente andSnow Tha Product, appear in the video to rap their verses as immigrants from various backgrounds work, struggle, and ultimately come together. 

"The music vid + track I always wished existed," Ahmed tweeted. "Beyond proud to be part of it."

The video, which was directed by Tomás Whitmore, is part of a social media campaign -- #Ham4All -- asking participants to sing a song from Hamilton and to make a donation to the Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition,  and -- not unlike the viral Ice Bucket Challenge -- then challenge two friends to do the same, The coalition, made up of legal agencies, immigrants and civil rights groups, provides legal representation and advocacy for “immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who come to us in search of the American Dream.”   

Entrants have a chance to win tickets to see Hamilton in Los Angeles. Famous contributors so far include Steph and Ayesha Curry, who challenged Olivia Munn and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Others who have taken part include Gina Rodriquez, Ben Stiller, Shonda Rhimes, and the cast and crew of The Beguiled.

Lin-Manuel Miranda joins Ayesha and Steph Curry in the video challenge of Immigrants (We Get The Job Done).

House passes two anti-immigrant bills

WHILE ALL EYES are focused on the Russia probe and Trumpcare, the U.S. House of Representatives approved two anti-immigrant bills with serious consequences for immigrant communities in the U.S., and would both undermine public safety and tear families apart. 

“These bills are riddled with constitutional violations that completely disregard the civil and human rights of immigrants.," said Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns for the ACLU. "Despite claims to the contrary, Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act will make our communities less safe by undermining the trust that law enforcement builds with its communities — citizen and immigrant alike. The true intent of these bills is to empower Trump’s deportation force and anti-immigrant agenda."

The bills are:
  • H.R. 3003 allows the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to withhold crucial law enforcement and terrorism funding from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that limit how their police can work with federal immigration agencies.
  • H.R. 3004 expands criminal sentences for undocumented immigrants who reenter, or attempt to reenter, the U.S. It also expands the population of people who would be subject to criminal prosecution for such crimes, including individuals who seek to apply for asylum and surrender themselves at the border, as well as individuals with no criminal history.  
"Their first bill, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, effectively declares war on American cities, law enforcement, and immigrant communities by making deporting immigrants more of a priority than protecting communities," said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., chair of the Congresional Asian Pacific American Caucus. 

"There is abundant evidence that sanctuary and community trust policies make communities safer," agreed Asian American Advancing Justice, a coalition of five civil rights organizations. "As Arizona and Texas have shown us, forcing local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws increases racial profiling and distrust of law enforcement by communities of color."

“The second bill, Kate’s Law, is even worse," continued the AAAJ statement. "This is politically-driven legislation intended to create a fear of immigrants, even though repeated studies have shown immigrants commit fewer crimes. It goes so far that it criminalizes immigrants trying to rejoin their families or refugees fleeing violence. This is shameful."

Approximately 40 percent of all immigrants come to the U.S. from Asia, and 1.6 million of those immigrants are undocumented. Anti-immigrant policies create a climate of fear for all immigrants, regardless of status.

"Criminalizing victims of human trafficking, asylum seekers, good Samaritans, and victims of violence under the guise of safety is unacceptable," said Rep. Pramila Jayapa, D-Wash. "I reject these fear-mongering bills, and I will continue to fight to welcome the ‘huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,’ even as my Republican colleagues attempt to slam the door in their faces.”

Anti-immigrant rhetoric has been a key part of Donald Trump and his campaign and administration. His push for the a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and his executive orders limiting travel from six Muslim-dominated countries is part of creating an environment of fear to motivate his followers to support a dictator-like president.

A Pew Charitable Trust survey shows that as many as 66 percent of registered voters who supported Trump consider immigration a “very big problem,” while only 17 percent of Hillary Clinton’s supporters said the same. Seventy-nine percent of Trump supporters embrace the proposal to build a wall “along the entire U.S. border with Mexico.” Moreover, 59 percent of Trump supporters actively associate “unauthorized immigrants with serious criminal behavior.”

In Trump, his supporters find a line of talk and thinking that supports their own xenophobia and fear of the "other."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

South Korean is the newest SF Giants hero

Mark Kim, left, translates for Jae-gyun Hwang, center, as the South Korean ball players was interviewed after his American debut with the San Francisco Giants.

THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS season has not had a lot to cheer about in this disappointing season. For help to put some pop in its lackluster offense, they turned to South Korea.

This winter they signed third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang , a perennial all-star with the Lotte Giants in the South Korean professional baseball league.

Wednesday (June 28) he started at third base at AT&T Park becoming the first South Korean to play for the San Francisco franchise. 
For Hwang, it was a dream come true. His first hit in the big leagues was a no-doubt home run that proved to be the winning run over the Colorado Rockies.

“I’ve given up a lot back home, whether that’s money, being away from family, my career, everything, just to be here,” Hwang told the media through Korean interpreter Mark Kim. “The only reason I did that was because I wanted to realize my childhood dream of playing a game in the big leagues. This opportunity came almost unexpectedly and so suddenly. I’m really hoping to carry this excitement over to the field and capitalize on this opportunity.”

Following a strong Spring Training – where he batted .333 with five home runs to earn the Barney Nugent Award for the most impressive first-timer in camp – Hwang carried his success into Triple-A Sacramento where he hit seven homers and acquainted himself with the American strike zone, which is lower and sometimes wider than he he's used to in 10 years as a Korean professional.

After the game, Hwang's teammates gave him a beer shower, something he's never experienced. He's also added a spark to the team, something that's been missing this year. “They were so excited for him and happy for him,” said Giant's manager Bruce Bochy. “They all know what he’s been through. He’s given up baseball in Korea to play here and he reaches his dream and hits a homer. It’s a special moment. These are moments you love.”

Pride: Meet Jake Zyrus, formerly Charice

Jake Zyrus

IT'S FITTING that during Pride Week celebrations around the world, the singer formerly known as Charice Pepengco announced a name change to Jake Zyrus.
In his first posting under his new monicker, Zyrus wrote: "From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the love and respect. I love you back and I'm sending peace to everyone," the singer wrote in the caption.

Zyrus, shot to international fame after Oprah Winfrey took him under her wing. Then introduced as Charice, the Filipina singer was noted for her powerful voice comparing her prowess to diva Celine Dion. Winfrey brought the two together and Celine Dion invited the Filipina to sing a duet with her at Madison Square Garden. The video of that performance went viral.

In 2013, the singer came out as a lesbian. The following year, she revealed to Winfrey, "Basically, my soul is like male," he said. "But I'm not going to go through that stage where I change everything."

He cut of his long hair and changed his appearance completely. The transformation didn't hurt his career.

Her newfound fame led to a recording contract and a singing career. The diminutive singer starred in several episodes of the TV hit Glee in 2014 as Sunshine Corazon, a rival singer to star Lea Michele.

His fans remain loyal to the singer.

Chinese parents object to racial data collection by schools

Assemblymembers Mike Eng (at podium) and Warren Furutani (5th from right) with some supporters of AB1088.

TWO CHINESE/AMERICAN mothers objected to the question to list the ethnicity of their child as they enrolled them into kindergarten.

According to California statutes, any agency compiling demographic data must include the sub-groups of Chines, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Samoan and nine other options instead of clustering them into one broad group of Asian.

Parent Sylvia Tian of Pleasanton, Calif., a suburb of Oakland, said her sons are American; they were born in the United States, according to the East Bay Times. So why does it matter on a registration form what subgroup of Asian they are?

Tian and Lucy Ye have gathered together a small group of parents who object to the classifications. They have been attending school board meetings carrying signs that read “No Asian sub-grouping to our children!” or “United! Not Divided!”

The data collection requirement comes from AB1088 that was passed in 2011. The bill states that a general “Asian” or “Pacific Islander” category is too broad because the groups have vast social, educational, health and economic differences.

“Given the diversity of languages and cultures, separating data for additional Asian and additional Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander ethnic groups and making the data publicly accessible are critical for enhancing our state’s understanding of the needs and experiences of these different communities,” the bill states.

The bill was passed because members of the Asian/American community, specifically those groups who are so small in number they get lost under the Asian/American umbrella. The Hmong or Samoans, for example, have drastically lower scores than students from the Chinese, Japanese or Indian students. Their attendance and suspension records are different too.

If lumped together, the results would give the impression that Asian/Americans perform well in school, hence the model minority myth. The results of smaller groups would be buried under the results of the larger communities. The collection of ethnic-specific data helps the school districts or any other agency, to direct their studies towards these groups.

Assembly Bill 1088 was introduced by former Assemblymember Mike Eng, who worked closely with Chinese for Affirmative Action, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality (AACRE) to sponsor the bill and mobilize year-long community support for passage. Over 1,200 individuals and 100 organizations representing the broader California community signed petitions and submitted letters, urging passage of the bill.

The six years of data collection since 2011 has not shown any inherent bias or reverse discrimination as a result of the AB1088 requirements. If anything, the data has helped improve services to these communities.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sen. Mazie Hirono speaks out against healthcare bill then undergoes surgery; vote delayed

In a meeting at the White House, it was probably no coincidence that Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, both of whom expressed reservations about Trumpcare, were seated on either side of Donald Trump.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, D-Hawaii, had successful surgery on Tuesday to remove a rib lesion, the latest operation in her ongoing battle with stage-four kidney cancer.
The day before she underwent surgery, she spoke in the Senate chamber against the Trumpcare proposal being pitched by Senate leader Mitch McConnell as a replacement for Obamacare.

Anyone who has looked at the Republican Senate Healthcare plan knows that this is not a healthcare bill - it is a tax cut bill for the wealthiest Americans, said Hirono. “Trumpcare would be a disaster for the American people … healthcare is a right for everyone … we must fight against this mean, ugly bill.”

RELATED: Asian American senators blast GOP health plan
The bill would leave 22 million more Americans uninsured in 2026 than under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, said the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday. In addition, it would take a large portion of the Medicaid funding and give it to wealthy individuals and corporations.

As Hirono stated, the wealthy will benefit the most from the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The top one percent of households (who will be making $875,000 or more) are in line for an average tax cut of more than $45,000, raising their after-tax incomes by 2 percent. And those in the top 0.1 percent (who will be making $5 million or more) would receive an average tax cut of nearly $250,000, boosting their after-tax incomes by 2.5 percent.

Hirono's surgery went well, according to her staff. The Hawaii senator said that if need be, she would leave her sick bed and return to the Senate to vote against the bill.

Fortunately, she won't have to rush back because today (June 27). Senate leaders postponed the vote targeted before the July 4th break which starts Friday for a week. More senators expressed concern after the CBO report was released. The GOP would need 50 votes for a tie and supposedly Vice President Pence would vote to break the tie. 

Trumpcare losing support among Republicans

Three GOP votes would have to switch in order to defeat the bill. At last count, there are up to 12 Republican senators who said they could not support the bill as it is currently written.

At least four radical right senators said they would not vote for bill because it didn't go far enough to dismantle the ACA. Those four would join the so-called moderate Republicans who don't support the bill because of its proposed cuts to Medicaid and Planned Parenthood. 

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., the first moderate senator to oppose the legislation, has vowed to withhold support for the bill because of its cuts to Medicaid. “It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes,” Heller said Friday. “They have a lot of work to do.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Monday she will vote no on a procedural motion to advance the bill in its current form. She strongly objects to the defunding of Planne Parenthood and said the Medicaid cuts would harm her state, 1 of 5 Maine residents depend on Medicaid.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Monday she doesn’t “have enough information” to vote in favor of the legislation, but has not yet firmly said she opposes it. “This is big stuff, and so making sure that we get it right is something that I have said is an imperative,” she said. She also objected to the Planned Parenthood cuts. 

The delay in the vote can give McConnell time to pressure those senators to change their vote. Some right-wing PACs said they would target those Republican senators opposed to the bill. McConnell reportedly also has $200M slush fund to dispense to change some mnds.

It will also give the Democrats, who are strongly against the GOP's Better Reconciliation Act and criticized the secret meetings that excluded their input and crafted the bill, time to reassure those Republicans on the fence or who have already cited their objections to the bill to stay strong and vote their conscience. GOP senators will be under tremendous pressure to go vote along party lines instead of voting what's good for the country.
Guide to protesting Trumpcare

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in an opinion piece for the Lenny Letter blog outlined a guide to opposing the Senate BCRA and urged people to make their voices heard, "because this is not a drill," she said.

It was ordinary people writing and calling their representatives that prevented the House version from coming to a vote and they can do it again, said the Indian/American senator.
"This week, we have a chance to defeat it again. And every one of us needs to speak up and speak out.
"If your senator opposes the bill, thank them and ask them to continue doing everything possible to stop it. Reach out to friends in states with senators who are still on the fence. Maybe even have some tough conversations with friends or family members who oppose the bill about the actions they should take to make sure it gets defeated
"If your senator supports the bill or is undecided, explain how this bill will impact you or your loved ones. Tell your story. Tell them that if they vote for people to lose their health care, they should — and will — lose their jobs.
"Be persistent, be passionate, and be persuasive."

White House breaks tradition of hosting iftar dinner during Ramadan

President Obama hosted iftar dinners in the East Room of the White House.
FOR the first time in 20 years and three administrations, Ramadan was not observed in the White House.

Ramadan, Islam's holy days which began May 24 concluded Saturday (June 24) without any mention coming from the Donald Trump White House.

There really was no way Trump could come out of the situation looking good. If he held a ceremony observing Islam's holy days, he would have been accused of being a hypocrite because of his anti-Muslim statements and Muslim travel bans. 

On the other hand, not observing Ramadan, by not hosting an iftar dinner during Ramadan, he would be insulting the world's second largest religion once again. 

Trump chose the latter option. At least, Trump was being consistent.

The Clinton administration resurrected the iftar dinner and reception as then-First Lady Hillary Clinton welcomed the Muslim celebrants to the White House. President George W. Bush continued the tradition, including one right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. President Obama hosted ceremonies and dinners every year of his presidency.

“From President Bush’s perspective, it was important post-9/11 for the administration and to show the White House and the US is inclusive of all people and religions, especially after such a traumatic event.," James Norton, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under Bush, told the Guardian. "We were not at war with Islam itself but with terrorist organizations."

Although most people in the U.S., may associate Islam with countries in the Middle East or North Africa, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Pew Research Center analysis. In fact, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million combined) than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region (317 million).

The country with the largest number (about 209 million) is Indonesia, where 87.2% of the population identifies as Muslim, followed by India with 176 million Muslims.

Trump did nothing to improve his relationships with Muslims when he signed two executive orders restricting travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. Although two lower courts ruled the orders unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that part of the travel ban could be implemented this summer. The High Court agree to issue a ruling on the legality of the Muslim ban during its next term which begins in October.

“It is disappointing because (the iftar dinner has) been a good tradition," 
Talib Shareef, imam of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, told Newsweek magazine. "To stop it doesn’t send a good message. You get the chance to go golfing and all this other kind of stuff. How come you don’t have time for a population of your society that needs some assistance? The message that it sends is that we’re not that important.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

Court: Travel ban legality still up in the air; in the meantime, some restrictions will be allowed

The Supreme Court Monday breathed some life into Donald Trumps Muslim ban.

THE SUPREME COURT agreed Monday morning (June 26) to review Donald Trump's controversial executive order restricting travelers and refugees from entering the U.S. 

The court then allowed a watered down Trump's Muslim ban to go into effect by opening the door to the majority of travelers from the six targeted Muslim countries - family members, students, foreign employees, lecturers and business travelers. That includes refugees who are usually sponsored by a church or other human rights organization.

“Almost anyone coming to the U.S. who has a visa or who has been in the refugee program has some kind of tie to a U.S. person,” said Becca Heller, executive director of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

It is far from the "victory" claimed by a White House desperate for a "win" after being stymied by the courts and a Congress immobilized by infighting.  Two federal courts ruled that the Muslim ban was unconstitutional and questioned Trump's authority to order travel restrictions had ordered stays on Trump's executive orders.

"Most of the people who stood to be affected by the ban will still be allowed to come in," said Omar Jadwat of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "So you know, I think it's significant that the court decided to take - to allow only this limited portion of the ban to move forward at this time. And of course, you know, the ultimate question about whether any of this is lawful or constitutional at remains to be decided. And all the court so far that have looked at it have - you know, there's kind of an overwhelming consensus among the courts that this cannot withstand that sort of scrutiny."

The Supreme Court voted unanimously to hear arguments for and against the travel ban during their next term which begins the first Monday of October. Historically, the court issues decisions in the spring. By then, the 90-120 day "pause" that the executive order asked for will be over and the court might just say the question is moot.

Despite the ACLU's assurances, that didn't stop travel ban opponents from expressing their concern.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court ignores the anti-Muslim bigotry that is at the heart of the travel ban executive orders and will inevitably embolden Islamophobes in the administration to expand efforts to target the Muslim community with unconstitutional and counterproductive policies," said a statement from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). "It also ignores the almost-unanimous rejection of the Muslim ban by lower courts due to its religious intolerance and racial animus."

"The administration’s Muslim ban foments disturbing trends of anti-Muslim sentiments within the U.S. and abroad," agreed the Asian Americans Advancing Justice. "The Supreme Court should not have allowed any part of the Muslim ban to move forward while this executive order is under review.

"The Muslim ban restrains travel and freedom of movement for the communities affected without a rational basis. Any attempt to limit travel based on religion or country of origin is an egregious attack on the Constitution," says the AAAJ.

"From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II to the Muslim ban today, xenophobia has fanned the flames of fear and hatred, driving immigration policy in irrational ways."

Although disappointed that the court allowed part of the ban to be implemented, Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congruessional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said the real important decision will be inte court's next term. 

"The circuit courts, relying on President Trump’s own tweets, public statements during the campaign and the transition, and his conversations with his advisors, have established that the President acted in order to ban followers of the Muslim faith from entering our country," said Chu. "The decision today does not address these facts, but I am confident that when the Court reviews the merits of the challenge against the Muslim ban it will find that it violates both the spirit and the letter of our Constitution.”

The court's decision on the partial implementation won't be implemented until Thursday when demonstrations might occur at the airports as they did when the first travel ban was announced. 

"Reinstating any part of this ban could create chaos in the nation’s airports and tear families apart,” Margaret Huang, Amnesty International’s executive director, said in a statement.

"The religious intolerance and racial discrimination that the administration continues to unabashedly display in its rhetoric and policy is not only disgusting but is a direct attack on our nation’s core values,” said Johanna Puno Hester, APALA National President and Assistant Executive Director of the United Domestic Workers, AFSCME Local 3930, 

The ruling negated any thought that Justice Neil Gorsuch, might moderate his views once he took his seat on the Supreme Court. He joined the right wing cohort of justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who thought the entire ban should be put into effect.

“With Gorsuch rounding out the Supreme Court, these rulings will have a tremendous, far-reaching impact on millions of people both nationwide and abroad,” said Alvina Yeh, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.  “That’s why our fight for immigrant and refugee communities continues despite whatever decision the Supreme Court rules in the fall. Our fight goes beyond holding elected officials accountable; it extends to protecting the very people in our families, friends, and communities from hate and discrimination.”

JUNE 26: 20 years since Hawaiian legend Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole

TODAY is the 20th anniversary of the death of Hawaiian singer Israel 'IZ' Kamakawiwo'ole.

The sweet-signing crooner was popular throughout the world but in Hawaii, he was a legend. The State of Hawai’i came together and honored IZ when he died in 1997. The Hawaiʻi State Flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole’s funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be accorded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997.

His most famous performance was his hit of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," was a simple song - just IZ and a ukelele - that had an emotional wallop. The video accompaniyng this post includes scenes from his funeral.

In May 2002, producer John Wells selected IZ’s music for the top-rated television show ER. Wells placed it in the season finale that was viewed by 50 million people. Following the exposure of his music in “ER,” IZ was featured in People Magazine and Parade Magazine.

Again, more exposure brought more loyal and passionate fans. The result – even further exposure when the music was used in the hit film 50 First Dates starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The music served to highlight the final emotional scene, drawing raves from viewers.

Bruddah Iz died of respiratory failure at the age of 39. His spirit lives on in Hawaii's  mountains, beaches, waters and forests. When the gentle trade winds dance through the palms, you can still hear his singing. 

Bruno Mars dances up a storm before winning Best Male $&B Artist at BET Awards

Bruno Mars kicked off the BET Awards show

BRUNO MARS was named the Best Male R&B Artist of the year at the 2017 BET Awards last night (June 25.)

The Filipino/American singer opened up the show with a rousing performance of his song “Perm” with his band, The Hooligans, there to back him up, never missing a step in the choreography. There's nothing like a Bruno Mars number to start a party!

It's the first time the singer won a BET award despite being nominated eight times previously and I'm willing to bet, the first Asian/American to win a BET award in that category.

All told, the 31-year old Hawaii-born performer was nominated for five awards – Album of the Year for 24K Magic, Video of the Year for “24K Magic,” Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award for “24K Magic,” Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, and Video Director of the Year for “That’s What I Like.

Except for the male R&B category, Mars was up against Beyonce and her album "Lemonade."

Watch his energetic performance here. Bet you can't stay seated.

Rapper and hip-hop artist Changmo made history as the first South Korean artist to be nominate for a BET Award. He was nominated in the Best International Viewers Choice category, which was won by Stormzy.

Iranian/African/American Yara Shahidi, who stars in the sitcom Blackish, won the Best Young Artist Award.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

It's a wrap for 'Crazy Rich Asians', the movie

The remaining cast members of Crazy Rich Asians gather for the last day of shooting in Singapore

FRIDAY (June 23) was the last day of filming in Singapore for the movie adaptation of Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians. 

Director John M. Chu created a congenial environment for bonding for the cast members so the end of Singapore shooting was bittersweet - more like the last day of high school. A great experience, new friendships made and being part of something historic coming to and end.

It is the first Hollywood motion picture with an all-Asian cast since the Joy Luck Club 25 years ago.

Comedian Ronny Chieng of The Daily Show summed it up in a social media posting:

From their social media postings, you can tell the cast members from around the world were having a good time in Singapore. Judging by some of the gorgeous photos of the production, this movie will be an ode to Singapore, much like Woody Allen did films centered around Paris, New York City and San Francisco.

In many of the scenes of Crazy Rich Asians, Singapore will be a star.

Kris Aquino and lead actress Constance Wu.
Several of the supporting actors were sworn to secrecy to not reveal what roles they would be portraying. Such is the case with Ken Jeong and Manila's "Queen of All Media" Kris Aquino, the latter rumored to be playing a member of Burmese royalty.

As author Kevin Kwan said, part of the fun is guessing who will be playing certain characters. Jeong could be one of the patriaarchs of one of the super wealthy Singaporean families or he could be the role of "Eddie," one of the innumerable cousins trying to live up to family standards. The frantic character could make use of Jeong's physical comedic skills.

Anyone who's read the novel knows that the cast of characters is huge including numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins and the clusters of friends.

The worldwide search for actors proved dating for director Chu, who opened up casting calls on the internet, hoping to find the perfect actors for each role. The search netted Henry Golding, a Singaporean TV personality who has never appeared in a motion picture before being cast as Nick Young, the male lead in the novel and movie.
RELATED: How would you cast Crazy Rich Asians?
Actors, many of whom had to be able to speak with the Singaporean accent, a bit British, came from as far away as London (Gemma Chan), Australia (Ronny Chieng, Chris Pang, Remy Hill) and the United States (Constance Wu, Nico Santos, Jimmy O. Yang, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Awkwafina).

The cast went out to dinner together and had a thing about Karaoke. They apparently had pretty much had a good time, according to their social media feeds and Singapore's gossip columnists.

What happens on the last day of filming and you host of people who are definitely not camera-shy? You end up with this photo.

What actors do when a camera is pointed their way.
The cast, as you can tell from the Instagram and Twitter photos, is one of the most attractive-looking casts ever - no matter what ethnicity.

The scene now moves to Hollywood for editing, scoring and marketing. No date has been announced for its premiere.

By the time filming ended, stars Constance Wu was back in the U.S.  preparing for the fourth season of Fresh Off the Boat and Michelle Yeoh was filming the CBS product, Star Trek: Discovery. that will debut this fall.

Kevin Kwan is making the rounds promoting the concluding novel of the Rich Asians trilogy, Rich People's Problems that was published last month. Will there be a second movie in the franchise based on the middle novel, China Rich Girlfriend.? Stay tuned.


World's religious leaders ask us to "Make Friends"

WHEN I was a newspaper editor, I'd often field calls and get letters complaining about how the media seems to focus only on the bad news.

Back then, being a bit defensive, I'd explain that the "news" - as defined by the media of the day - consisted of stories that were out of the ordinary.

Stories about the kids who made the honor roll or firemen saving a kitten stuck in a tree would get reported but they didn't merit front page or prominent headlines. The so-called "good news" was the normal state of affairs so they didn't merit the attention given to the unordinary or extraordinary. Dog-bites-man is not a story, I'd explain, but man-bites-dog is considered "news."

With so much of today's news seems tilted towards the outrageously stupid things coming out of Washington, like disguising a tax break for the ultra rich as health care reform or trying to direct the former FBI director's testimony by lying about tape recordings, or simply ignore the facts about climate change in favor of making a buck, or having Russian President Putin pick the U.S. president, it appears that "good news" or heartwarming news is now "out-of-the-ordinary."

Many Views From the Edge readers will have heard by now of the appeal by some of the world’s most prominent religious leaders, calling for making friends across religions. Elijah, together with the Havas Lemz advertising agency and, were the driving forces in creating this landmark appeal.

Members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, along with other prominent religious leaders, issued a call to get to know one another, and to cultivate friendship across religions.

Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbis David Lau and Jonathan Sacks, Sri Sri Ravi Sankar, Amma and many other prominent religious leaders affirm that friendship is the antidote to hatred, fear and violence.

The appeal trailer was released on Twitter as a joint video message, using technology to translate the common purpose and common vision of the religious leaders to a visual of unity.

The appeal was launched June 14 at a press conference in London. The presentation included sociological analysis of attitudes and values of different religious groups across the world, their expectations and how friendship ranks on their scale of values.

The background to the release of the appeal trailer was a presentation of common attitudes of fear and ignorance, balanced by the recognition of common hopes and aspirations, as studied by Martijn Lampert of the Amsterdam based values research company, Motivaction.

Elijah director, Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, introduced the project highlighting its theological significance. Values that had previously been preached only to the in-group (friendship) are now being extended by major faith leaders beyond the narrow circle of the faithful. This is not only an important moment of social collaboration. It is a moment of religious teaching, that is carried out jointly by leaders in a collaborative moment of teaching and advancing the spiritual vision of the traditions. 

Differently put: By signing on this appeal, these leaders are affirming a particular way of practicing their religion, as distinct from other ways that religions are often associated with.

No matter what your religious or spiritual inclinations may be, (or, even if you are an agnostic or atheist), it's a simple message more people should hear.