Sunday, December 31, 2017

First Asian American judge picked for 5th Circuit Court riles critics


CONSERVATIVE JURIST James Ho has been confirmed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, reports the Dallas News.

Ho's confirmation gives Donald Trump the most circuit picks confirmed in the first year in office compared to other presidents.

Judge James Ho
According to the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Ho has received the President’s Award from NAPABA, the Award for Outstanding Contributions to Asian Pacific American Leadership from the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, the Justice David Wellington Chew Award from the Asian Pacific Interest Section of the State Bar of Texas, the Community Leader Award from the Dallas Asian American Bar Association, the Award for Outstanding Contributions in Law from the Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce, and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the SMU Asian Pacific American Law Students Association.

“James Ho is nationally recognized for his legal acumen and we congratulate him on his historic confirmation,” said Pankit J. Doshi, president of the NAPABA. ” It is fitting that he continues to break barriers on behalf of the community as the first Asian Pacific American to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.”

He is the first Asian Pacific American Ho to serve on the Fifth Circuit and the sixth active Asian Pacific American federal appellate judge.

He has, however, been criticized for his stances on voting rights, affirmative action and LGBTQ rights.

“Mr. Ho’s fierce opposition to equal opportunity and affirmative action led him to become one of the nation’s foremost critics of the appointment of Bill Lann Lee to serve as acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in the late 1990s,” wrote the Leadership Conference on Civil and Hum­­­­an Rights in a letter opposing the nomination.

“Mr. Ho wrote that President Clinton’s “nominee to head the civil rights division – whose job would be to enforce all civil rights law – was loyal to the cause of racial preferences. That agenda cost Mr. Lee Senate confirmation, but Mr. Clinton appointed him anyway.” Mr. Ho also made the alarming proposal that – as a result of Mr. Lee’s appointment – the Senate should retaliate by defunding the Civil Rights Division and refusing to confirm all other nominees.”

The People for American Way also opposed the nomination writing “Ho is hostile toward the idea that the American people, through their elected representatives, can impose limits on money in politics, a problem that threatens the foundation of our democracy. His solution to the enormous influence wielded by a small percentage of Americans is not to curtail their ability to buy elections, but to enhance it. He has written that our nation should abandon efforts to limit money in politics and instead, “abolish all restrictions on campaign finance.” His “cure” is to let the disease run rampant.”

Trump ties DACA to border wall

Some portions of the U.S./Mexico border already have a wall as shown above. No one has proposed a wall to stop Canadians from illegally entering the country.

AS WE EXPECTED all along, Donald Trump's expressed sympathy for the Dreamers was nothing but a ploy to find some way to pay for his border wall in his proposed budget.

Trump made it clear that any budget package include funding for a border wall and immigration reform. In exchange Democrats might get legislation that would protect the Dreamers.

Friday, (Dec. 29) he laid his cards on the table. "The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc," he said in a tweet. "We must protect our Country at all cost!"

DACA participants, who are immigrants brought to the U.S. as children by their undocumented parents, received protection from deportation under the law until the program was ended by Trump earlier this year. He told the GOP-dominated Congress to come up with legislation by the March in 2018 that would protect the so-called Dreamers from deportation.

About 13,000 of the almost 800,000 DACA participants are from Asia, mostly from South Korea, the Philippines, India and Pakistan.

DACA has been reduced to a bargaining chip to build a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Having failed to get Mexico to pay for the wall, Congress must find funding for the what could be over $20 billion.

Democrats, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, swore that no budget would be passed without legislation supporting the DACA participants.

"After weeks of public pressure led by undocumented youth, a handful of Senators and Members of Congress pledged their support for a swift passage of the DREAM Act by the end of the year," read a statement from Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

"For those who were not moved by the hundreds of undocumented activists and their allies mobilizing around the country, you have turned your back to these communities and left them at risk of deportation."

On the list of demands for immigration reform include: limiting family-based green cards to spouses and the minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and creating a point-based system.

The White House also said it wants to boost fees at border crossings, make it easier to deport gang members and unaccompanied children, and overhaul the asylum system. And it wants new measures to crack down on "sanctuary cities," which don't share information with federal immigration authorities, among other proposals.

Congress averted a government shutdown this month by passing an emergency funding measure to get the government through January, when negotiations will pick up as Congress returns to Washington.

With Trump's cards on the table, it's the Democrats' turn to call, fold or raise the ante. Schumer and Pelosi will meet with White House Chief of Staff Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus "are committed to finding a permanent legislative fix to enshrine DACA protections immediately. Our caucus stands in solidarity with AAPI Dreamers and demands that Congress pass a clean Dream Act before the end of the year." said Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA, CAPAC chair.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Star Wars' Kelly Marie Tran faces down Earth's racist trolls

This poster of Finn, Rey and Rose, characters from The Last Jedi, must upset the white racist mysogynists.
IN THE TOXICITY of today's racial environment, it is not surprising that some folks could not handle having an Asian/American as a key protagonist in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

In the box-office hit of the newest chapter in the Star Wars saga, Kelly Marie Tran plays Rose Tico, a lowly mechanic who - thrust into the heat of battle between The Resistance and the Galactic Empire - does extraordinary deeds to emerge as the hero.

Tran is also the first Asian cast in a major role in the universe created by Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Apparently, fans of the series have no problem accepting Wookies, Ewoks, Hutts and any number of other sentient aliens, but casting an Asian into a speaking role is a little too much for them.

Much of the negative reaction comes from the human subspecies known as racists, aka white supremacists, aka alt.right, or the followers of the KKK or Nazis.

"Last week, they emerged from hiding to throw a virtual tantrum: first, on fan-made encyclopedia Fandom, trolls swarmed the entry for Tran's character Rose Tico, filling it with racist slurs and changing her character’s name to 'Ching Chong Wing Tong' and calling the character a 'dumbass b*tch.' Clever," notes Salon.

The Star Wars fan site Fandom responded by taking down the tweets and issuing this statement: 

“FANDOM has a zero tolerance policy for vandalism, inclusive of racism and harassment,” the company told Newsweek. “The wiki admins take this very seriously and took the steps to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, including escalation to our team, and subsequent lockdown. This lockdown will remain for the foreseeable future and we will be closely monitoring activity on this wiki.”

Tran, well aware of the historic inroad of Rose Tico, not only in the Star Wars galaxy, far, far away but in the galaxy of Hollywood, handled the racist trolling with grace on her Instagram account:

This isn't the first time racists have attempted to take down the Star Wars saga. When The Force Awakens was in production and it was revealed that John Boyega would have a major role, so-called fans tried to launch the #BoycottStarWarsVII. The fact the boycott was unsuccessful speaks about how narrow the racist point of view represented the saga's fandom.

When asked by the Detroit Free Press about Rose Tico's role in the context of today's world, Tran answered:
"I hear that a lot. ... I think that’s why I get so emotional – because I know how impossible this is. It’s not just because it’s hard to be an actor, which it is when you’re first starting, especially if your parents are from a different world and you didn’t grow up in the entertainment industry. It just seems so far away. It seems truly, completely impossible. Whenever I talk about this I think, “Man, I wish I didn’t have to talk about this” — that in 2017 there were a plethora of different types of people writing and producing and directing and creating, and that we didn’t have to address this. But the fact is, it is 2017 and we have to talk about it, because we’re just not there yet.

"Because I’m an Asian American, and every role I was auditioning for before was sort of this same side character … . To have someone like Rian write something that was so full and rich, and a complete human – I’ve never had that before. I don’t know that many people of color have that often."
Tran, who admits to not being a Star Wars fan before she landed her groundbreaking role, must know by now -- The Force is with her.

TGIF Feature: 'It's a joke' exclaims Darren Criss about his Speedo photo


Apparently, a lot of people couldn't get past the picture of Darren Criss in a Speedo and missed the caption underneath.

The Filipino/American triple-threat entertainer broke the internet back when he shared a photo of himself during the filming of the upcoming American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace earlier this year. He was wearing absolutely nothing and just a Speedo held in front of himself to stay modest.

Now, the 30-year-old actor feels he needs to explain the joke behind the photo because, darn it(!), people didn't read the caption
, which “no one read.” It was, “So what’s more red? My sunburn, my speedo, or YOUR FACE??? #ACSVersace.”
Darren Criss: I look kind of ridiculous'

Darren opened up during his visit with The Ladygang podcast.

“I was wearing this ridiculous red speedo thing and thank god it was for the show because pictures had come out, the paparazzi had caught us. We’re shooting a scene on the beach and it’s Miami. It’s fair game, we’re out in the open so there are photos of me in a scene with Max Greenfield and I’m in this red Speedo and I look kind of ridiculous. 

"We’re all kind of giggling about this on set, like, ‘Oh my god, this is getting picked up.’ And I kind of wanted to take it back for myself,” Darren said.

“At the end of that day, I was completely sunburned and was essentially the same color as the Speedo and so I’m looking at myself in the mirror thinking this is too funny. So after those photos went out, I was like, ‘I have a better photo.’ So that was that,” Darren added.

In American Crime Story, Criss portrays serial killer Andrew Cunanan, a Filipino who was among the FBI's Most Wanted list before he committed suicide. The role is perhaps the biggest undertaking for the actor, who is usually associated with lighter fare that shows off his musical skills such as his breakout role in the Fox Network's musical drama, Glee.

The American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace miniseries will air Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 10 PM EST on FX.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Filipina American named 'World's Most Beautiful Face"


FILIPINO/AMERICAN model/actress Liza Soberanto has been named the world’s most beautiful face by a group of British critics, reports Phil Star

The annual list is put together by the Independent Critics.

The 19 year old began her modeling career at age 12. She has appeared in numerous films, but is best known for her appearances on the Filipino Television Network, ABS CBN, according to the website Married Biography. The site says Soberanto is single and dating Enrique Gil, a Filipino actor.

She was born in the heart of Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, California. 
Soberanto is Filipino, German and Scottish, but has been raised in the Philippines since her parents separated at age 10. 

“Aesthetic perfection is only one of the criteria,” for those on the list, according to the Independent Critics website. “Grace, elegance, originality, daring, passion, class, poise, joy, promise, hope … they are all embodied in a beautiful face.”

The annual list began in 1990. Joining Soberano Iin this year's top 20 are other Asian actresses, singers and models including Kennie Kim, Lisa Monabon, Ju Jingyi, Naana and Tzuuyu, 


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

9th circuit court gives strong argument against Trump's newest travel ban

From left: Judges William Canby, Michelle T. Ferdinand and Richard R. Clifton of the 9th Circuit Court of appeals issued the latest judicial opinions of Donald Trump's travel ban.
THE NINTH U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday, (Dec. 22) that the third attempt of Donald Trump to legalize his travel ban violates federal law.

However, the three-judge panel wrote that the ban's "indefinite entry suspensions constitute nationality discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas." By focusing on "nationality," the judges added a new argument against Trumps's executive order described in the lower courts as a Muslim ban.

Apparently, to override the appearance of a Muslim-ban, last September, Trump's lawyers added North Korea and Venezuela to the list of targeted countries that also include Iran, Chad, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

The San Francisco-based court's strong critique of Trump's executive also said that Trump may have exceeded his authority.

However, the decision rendered just before the Christmas weekend will have no immediate effect because of a temporary ruling the U.S. Supreme Court issued earlier this month allowing the government to fully implement the ban as it appeals a pair of injunctions issued against the policy.

“Discrimination has no place in our immigration system, and the Ninth Circuit’s decision today reminds us of this,” said
Gadeir Abbas, Senior Litigation Attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  “This decision is just the latest example of a federal court taking bold action against the Trump administration’s bigotry and lawlessness.”
The decision by the three judges was on a case brought by the state of Hawaii that was presided over by federal Judge Derrick Watson, a Hawaiian/American, and argued by the  state's Attorney General, Doug Chin.

The other appeal comes against an October ruling in Maryland's 4th District Court issued by Judge Theodore D. Chuang. In that case the ACLU's  arguments strongly depended on the apparent religious restriction based on Trump's comments during and after his 2016 campaign. 

Both cases are expected to land in the laps of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.

The Ninth's panel ruled that Trump's ban does not adequately explain why people from certain countries are a danger: "The Proclamation makes no finding that nationality alone renders entry of this broad class of individuals a heightened security risk or that current screening processes are inadequate."

The panel also appeared to be deeply disturbed by the claims that the government lawyers had made in defending the latest order that the executive order overrides any court's decision, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The Executive," the panel remarked, "cannot without assent of Congress supplant its statutory scheme [for immigration] with one stroke of a presidential pen."

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017 - the year Asian America woke

No to Hate, No to Racism, No to Sexism, No to Xenophobia


JUST AS ROSE TICO, the Asian/American character in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, stepped out of the background as a nameless mechanic and into the fray to become a hero of the Resistance, 2017 saw AAPI step into the spotlight playing crucial roles in fighting for the rights of all Americans.

One of best things Donald Trump did was to show how bad things can be for people of color, immigrants,  the LGBTQ community, the disenfranchised and women. His mocking antics, is soft-pedaling of white supremacists and his out and out racism inspired people out of their comfort zones to get involved in fighting back.

The new Movement had been gaining momentum in 2016 but it wasn't until this past year that it became evident that the quiet, subservient, silent stereotype of Asian/Americans officially dead. Through the Internet, the community learned that they were not lone voices in the night, but instead, together, they became a mighty roar.

The AAPI community hasn't seen this level of public involvement since the 1960s abd 1970s. From the silver screen to TV; from the courtrooms to the streets; from the halls of Congress to Silicon Valley boardrooms; Asian/Americans loudly and without hesitation took matters into their own hands.


Trump and his policies inspired AAPI individuals  who a year ago were just ordinary people --  housewives, doctors, real estate agents, students -- who chucked aside their comfort level as bystanders simply watching the country they love run into the ground --  to throw their hats into the ring by running for office.

Kathy Tran and Kelly Fowlert, both Democrats and political novices, ran for the Virginia state legislature, broke through that glass ceiling to become the first AAPI women to win seats in the state's lawmaking body.

Manka Dhingra, a former senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, won a special election for the state senate seat in Washington.

The women were joined by Vin Gopal, who unseated the GOP incumbent to win a senate seat in New Jersey's legislature.

All four of the new legislators were inspired to run for office by the election of Donald Trumpin 2016 and the kind of future their daughters might face. "I ran because I couldn't stand on the sidelines," said Tran.

The Republican's lost one of their rising stars when Hawaiian Rep. Beth Fukumoto, who took part in the Women's March the day after Donald Trump took office, left the GOP to become a Democrat.  "For me, I think the Democratic Party of Hawaii allows enough diversity of opinion that the values and ideas that I’ve always held can find a home there," said Fukumoto.

At the hyper-local level, AAPI citizens leaped into the fray, some say, for the soul of our country.

Yuba City, Calif. home to a large Sikh community, made history by becoming the first U.S. city to elect the first Sikh/American woman for mayor. Preet Didbal, Hoboken, NJ scored another first when Sikh/American Ravi Bhalia was elected mayor. The first Filipina/American took over as mayor in Daly City, Calif. Manka Dhingra was the first Indian/American state senator in Washington. Gabriel Quinto was not only the first Filipino/American to become mayor in El Cerrito, Calif. but also the first openly gay person to hold that post.

All across the country, a younger generation of new faces ran for school boards and city councils  creating a pipeline of energetic, locally connected Democratic officials gaining political experience for higher office.


In the courts, AAPI legal professionals played central roles in slowing or thwarting the Trump tornado.

Two Asian/American judges - Derrick Watson in Hawaii and Theodore Chuang in Baltimore - presided over the arguments fighting against Donald Trump's executive orders to restrict immigration of Muslims.  Twice they thwarted Donald Trump executive orders to restrict immigration from countries that were predominantly Muslim.

In the Hawaii case, Attorney General Doug Chin led the argument against the ban. In Baltimore, the Ahilan Arulanantham, a Sri Lankan, argued on behalf of the ACLU.

Jirayut Latthivongskorn, a Thai/American medical student at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Trump's action calling for the end of DACA.

The Slants
In a precedent-setting decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the side of The Slants, an Asian American party band from Portland, Oregon, won its years-long quest to trademark their name. Ironically, the Slants victory allowed other entities, such as the NFL football team in Washington, continue to use its racist mascot.

Long-established civil rights organizations such as the Japanese American Citizen's League (JACL) and the Organization of Chinese Associations (OCA) joined their voices with newer more activist-oriented groups like the Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the National Forum for Asian Pacific American Women and others to protest Trump's attempts to restrict immigration, thwart justice and equality, obstruct voting by people of color and do away with the Affordable Care Act.

They joined other civil rights activists in the marches against the Trump administration policies. You saw them in the Women's March, March for Science, March for Truth, March for Workers,the People's Climate March and of course - the the Day Without Immigrants rally.

AAPI people joined the thousands who protested at the airports when Trump announced his first Muslim ban. Lawyers fro agencies such as the ACLU and Asian Americans Advancing Justice provided legal assistance.

Vocal Asian/Americans are on both sides of the affirmative action debate concerning the Ivy League universities. Depending on your point of view, Asian Americans are being "used" as a wedge against Latinos and Blacks, or they are fighting for equal treatment in admissions.


By not being afraid to speak out, four women of Asian descent have joined the #MeToo movement exposing the sexual misbehavior of powerful men in entertainment and politics.

  • Ambra Battlina Gutierrez  a Filipina/Italian model was the subject of an expose in the New Yorker telling the story how Harvey Weinstein allegedly tried to use his power and influence to seduce or coerce her into an act of sexual misconduct.
  • Natassia Malthe, a Malaysian/Norwegian/American actress also told her horrific story of how the Hollywood power broker allegedly raped her.
  • Leeann Tweeden's accused Al Franken if forcibly kissing her and groping her breasts while the Filipina/American deejay was asleep, Her allegations led to the resignation and shaming of the former U.S. Senator.
  • Actress Olivia Munn alleged that Brent Ratner, director for Rush Hour of sexual misconduct and wrote a powerful essay for Entertainment Weekly.
All the interviewees raised their hands when asked by host Megyn Kelley if they had experienced sexual harrassment while doing business in Silicon Valley.
AAPI women were also in the forefront complaining about the sexist and mysoginistic culture of Silicon Valley, picking up a campaign that was launched by venture capitalist Ellen Pao the previous year who complained about sexual harrasment at a top VC firm. Thous she lost her suit, her story opened the doors for other women to come forth with their stories.

Front page stories in newspapers and magaizines and interviews on nationally viewed shows such as Megyn Kelly Today emphasized the hurdles and men's humiliating behavior towards AAPI women trying to get funding for their startups.

USA Today's front page story wrote:
"Though Asian women hold fewer of those jobs than Asian men, they're employed in far greater numbers than other women of color, leading some to assume they do not face the same levels of discrimination as African Americans and Latinas... Yet research from Joan C. Williams, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, shows that Asian women report experiencing as much bias, and sometimes more, than other women do... And Asian women are the demographic group that is the least represented in the executive suite relative to their percentage in the workforce, according to a study of major San Francisco Bay Area tech companies by the nonprofit Ascend Foundation."
Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders joined with other Americans in the Women's March of last January, walking as individuals such as actress Constance Wu or as groups, such as the National Asian American Women's Forum, the Filipino/American activists of GABRIELA-USA and AAAJ, pouring out of the college campuses, suburbs and Chinatowns to express their opposition to the incoming administration.


AAPI labor leaders demonstrated at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's office in Washington that led to their arrests.

In December, in support of the Dreamers and to remind the administration that Congress still had not introduce any legislation to protect the DACA recipients, Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional APA Caucus got arrested at a rally.

All of the AAPI Senators and representatives didn't hold back in their criticism of some of the policies of the Trump administration, on the subject of immigration, tax reform, equity and especially on the apparent tendency of the administration to give white nationalists a pass. When the white nationalists, KKK and Nazis collaborated with each other in Charlottesville, Trump had to be prompted to condemn their views and violence. However, his condemnation seemed hollow when the next day he also blamed some of those protesting the white supremacists.

Cable news networks discovered that Asian/Americans have views on the issues of the day. Rep. Ted Lieu and Senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono became frequent guests of the cable news networks. Other Asian/Americans began making appearances -- Congressional staffers, policy wonks and journalists -- not so much as people of color but as knowledgeable experts in civil rights, finance, media and politics.

Sen. Kamala Harris spoke at the Women's March in Washington D.C.
Sen. Harris, whose mother is from India and father from the Carribean, gained more attention than others as she is continually being mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 2020. The former Attorney General for California insists that she is not seeking the office. But her outspoken criticism of Trump policies has made her a favorite among the numerous news shows.


When NFL players took a knee, the few Asian/American players and the two team owners of Asian descent spoke out in support for the players' right to express their belief of the racial inequities that are playing out in our country.

The predominantly AAPI cast of Broadway's Miss Saigon took a knee onstage to demonstrate their suuport for the professional football players.

Jessica Sanchez, an American Idol first-runnerup, knelt after singing the national anthem during a Raiders game but TV cameras chose not to show her act of defiance but the 70,000 fans at the Oakland Coliseum cheered on the Filipina/American.

But it was in the realm of pop culture - movies, television, avertising, print media - that we are beginning to see the benefits of standing up and speaking out.

The 16th Annual Unforgettable Gala, celebrating Asian/American trailblazers in the entertainment industry became a rally for equal rights. The #OscarsSoWhite movement morphed into new ralllying cries of #Yellowface and #Whitewashing for the AAPI community.

“Let’s not simply fight for inclusion, let’s set our bar higher,” said Daniel Dae Kim, who left Hawaii Five-0 in the Spring because of the pay disparity with his white co-stars. “If you’re a leader, you never have to beg for a place at the table because you’re hosting the dinner.” 

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park left 'Hawaii Five-0'
Likewise, his Hawaii Five-0 costar Grace Park, who also departed from the successful TV series, said, “It’s beyond race, gender, religion, age or class; it’s about humans flourishing. That is what we should be going after.”

Kim has ventured into producing his own shows. The success of one such show, The Good Doctor, has given him the cache to have a hand in the casting of new shows that he is producing. You can bet that AAPI leads will be forthcoming.

The outstanding commercial success of the animated Polynesian-themed Moana and Kumail Nanjiani's interracial  surprise hit, The Big Sick, the critically acclaimed  John Cho vehicle Columbus and the acceptance of TV series such Fresh Off  the 
Boat, Quantico, Master of None, Into the Badlands and Disney's deceptively progressive Andi Mack, have proven that shows with Asian leads or themes can cross over into the mainstream. Decision-makers in Hollywood appear to have come to the realization that Asians can play roles besides the best friend, the sidekick or the loyal servant.

As more AAPI actors and writers become producers we're seeing more projects being proposed with Asian/American leads. Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Alan Yang (Master of None) and Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0) all have projects in development with  - or, at the very least - open to casting outside of the white, straight male mold that has dominated American TV's programming thus far.

Casting agencies have no excuses anymore. They can't say there isn't enough AAPI talent in the business. They can no longer say white audiences won't be able to relate to an Asian/American cast.

“One of the primary reasons I became a producer is because I wanted to create the world that I wanted to see on TV,” Kim said, who is an executive producer on the series along with “House” creator David Shore. “So often as actors, we’re subject to the roles that we’re offered or auditioning for, but one role in one show is a small piece of a larger puzzle. It’s satisfying to me to be able to create worlds from the ground up. I can tell the stories I want to tell, I can populate them with the kind of people I would like to be telling them, and thematically it’s nice to be able to choose those stories. It’s also nice to be a job creator.”

The entertainment business is changing, but maybe it's also being pulled into the 21st century by the industries around it that make up our popular culture and shape perspectives: the hidden persuaders of advertising, fashion, marketing, merchandising, toy makers, comic books, mainstream media and social media, all of which are already strides ahead of the movies and television.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the commercials shown during the Super Bowl with themes of diversity and benefits of immigration. That's advertising doing its best, its subtle massaging of the minds of football fans.

Rose Tico may be a fictional character portrayed by Kelly Marie Tran in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but her positive impact on the minds of millions of young fans will be huge in the real world. Millions will see an Asian woman in a great adventure, saving the universe, not standing by and watching a white hero; and, more importantly, not playing to the stereotypes of Asian women.

Perhaps the best thing about 2017 is that it sets the stage for a even more momentous  2018, with eight TV projects in various stages of development featuring Asian leads, a couple of Bruce Lee movies in the works, Oceans 8 will be released soon, starring Mindy Kaling and Awkafina alongside a half-dozen top-level movie stars and everybody is anxiously waiting for the August release of Crazy Rich Asians, which will feature that rarest of rarities for a Hollywood production -- an all Asian cast.

Hopefully 2017 is a harbinger of things to come. If Asian America is truly "woke," perhaps we can put to rest, burn it, stomp on it, bury it, erase it for once and for all -- that demeaning monicker of the "silent minority."


First Vietnamese/American elected to Masschusetts senate

Dean Tran


THE FIRST Vietnamese/American was sworn in as a Massachusetts state senator on Wednesday after winning a special election held on Dec. 5. 

Tran will replace Jennifer Flanagan, who resigned after being appointed to the Cannabis Control Commission.

The 42-year-old Republican occupies the Worcester-Middlesex seat after defeating his closest competitor, Democrat Susan A. Chalifoux Zephir by 675 votes, according to Worcester Telegram.

Prior to his election, Tran served as city councilor for Fitchburg since 2005 and was the first minority to hold elected office in the city, Sentinel & Enterprise reports. He has resigned from that position and intends to resign from his job as senior manager at a software development company in order to serve as senator.

Tran will become the seventh Republican in the 40-member state senate, the highest number since 1999.

He joins a growing list of Asian/Americans elected to the Massachusetts State Legislature. In 2016, it was publicly announced that the State House had created its first Asian American caucus.

“We are the first Chinese, the first Japanese, the first female, and the first and only Cambodian elected to a state or federal position in the United States,” according to an op-ed written by Tackey Chan, one of the caucus’ five members.

After fleeing Vietnam where Tran was born, his family spent two years in a refugee camp in Thailand while waiting for their application for green cards to be approved. In 1980, Dean and his family were sponsored by a Catholic priest in Clinton, Massachusetts where he called his first real home. In 1986, his family relocated to Fitchburg, Massachusetts where he graduated from Fitchburg High School. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Brandeis University.

“My father saved every single penny and put the family on a wooden boat,” he told the Worchester Telegram. “I watched a documentary. We were called ‘boat people’ and drifted on the ocean for 12 days. I still remember the smell – a mixture of salt water and fuel from the old engine on the wooden boat. I can still smell that. We were very lucky. A lot of people died from dehydration drinking salt water.”

Because of hispersonal experience, on immigration, he departs from the GOP line. Tran believes the immigration policies proposed by the Trump-Pence administration are a “little harsh” and believes the federal government should provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“In certain circumstances, good people who contribute to society, there should always be a way for them to become citizens,” he said. “There needs to be a path for these people like there was a path for us. We received green cards and took a naturalization class. There should be a path whether they are undocumented or not.”

(Views From the Edge contributed to this report.)

Monday, December 25, 2017

After meeting Rose Tico, where does Star Wars go from here?

Rose Tico is played by actress Kelly Marie Tran.

I FINALLY got to see the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi. I was not disappointed. I love a good swashbuckler adventure story where the delineation between good and evil are clearly defined.

This is not a review. There are plenty of those lying around the Internet, just Google The Last Jedi. However, this is a warning, if you haven't seen it yet, STOP HERE. SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Last Jedi introduces Rose Tico, the first Asian hero featured in an impactful lead role in the space saga. The role of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is a pivotal part of the plot. She's not a red shirt. She is not just someone in the background lending a thin air of diversity to a film product.

No. Rose is important and will likely continue to be critical to the storyline into, at least,  Episode 9, the final chapter in what was originally envisioned by creator George Lucas to be a nine-movie story.

That doesn't mean the end of the story in a "galaxy far, far away." Disney is already developing another trilogy that takes place in the same galaxy but not necessarily part of this story line.

The story of The Last Jedi's Rose Tico (and her sister Paige) is the culmination of what began as an innocent question from an Asian/American fan at Comic Con 2015.

During a Q&A for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a couple of young Asian/Americans asked producer J.J. Abrams if there would be any Asians in the upcoming blockbuster. He responded with a joke, "Go Asians! If I had my way, the cast would be all Asians," (nervous laughter from the audience). What he said sounds a bit patronizing. But he continued: 

“I think you’ll be happy to see when you see this film, there are Asians in this film…. We wanted the movie to look the way the world looks. And I think it is important that people see themselves represented in film. I think it is not a small thing. So I completely understand and think your question is hugely important. And it was a big consideration.”

He was referring to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, where three Asian characters were introduced as members of the 5-person crew of the space ship Rogue One. Maybe he had already had an inkling of what could be done in The Last Jedi since these projects are years in the making. In the casting call for Rose Tico, she is described as "any race."
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I'm almost sure the question asked by the fans is something that stuck in the back of Abrams' mind as he helped guide the storylines of the final Lucas-inspired trilogy.

The characters introduced in 'Rogue One' as portrayed by, from left,  Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen and Rez Ahmed could star in their own Star Wars movies to come.
Who knows, maybe the all-Asian cast is a still a possibility for some creative screenplay writer. Here's a couple of storylines that might be developed:

How did Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) from Rogue One become such good friends? Their closeness and care to each other conveyed in silent, knowing looks at each other, hint at a relationship deeper than just being Butch Cassidy-and-Sundance Kid buddies? What planet are they from? In the Star Wars universe, there must be a planet inhabited Asians?

It would be fitting if one of upcoming episodes of the Star Wars depict a planet of an Asian-like civilization and people since the very first Star Wars was inspired by the samurai classic, The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, according to George Lucas.

Many of the trappings of the Jedi Knights - The Force, the sword fighting with two hands, the use of the staff (or Bo), fighting with a blade or stick in both hands, all the martial arts moves - are inspired by the Asian martial arts, particularly kendo and eskrima.

In the ending of The Last Jedi, one of the fathiers (the racing creatures) stable boys is telling the legend of Luke Skywalker when the kids' story session is broken up by a supervisor. The stable boy breaks off and "wills" a broom to move into his hands showing that he has the power of The Force. The last thing we see before the credits is the stable boy turning the broom into a light saber. Is Rose capable of harnessing The Force?

And who is Rose? Where did she come from? In Rose's back story, she and her sister were brought up in the pleasure world of Canto Bight as "slaves." I found it interesting when Rose enters the stable, all the fathiers arose to look at the newcomer, as if they could  sense a connection with the seemingly normal mechanic. Does taking care of the fathiers require the use of The Force? Will a new army of Jedi Knights arise from the stables of Canto Bight? 

In a galaxy where anything can happen, Asians can have a presence without the stereotypes we've come to know on this planet.