Today I got, as the kids say these days, a fresh new lid.
I’m ready for Saturday night. Go Pacquiao!
Last night I got to meet two of my favorite social media personalities, Phil Yu and Jenny Yang (as well as these good people). There was a screening of the Fresh Off the Boat season finale at the Japanese American National Museum, so Mrs. G. and I made the trip out from the Inland Empire. It was fun being part of the live studio audience for the Fresh Off the Show recap and review show hosted by Phil and Jenny. In keeping with the ’90s era of the show I wore my old Kobe No. 8 jersey for good luck, in hopes that ABC renews Fresh Off the Boat.
My wife and I always talk about how cool it is to not only have an Asian-American-themed show on network television, but also a fan show by and for Asian Americans. Phil and Jenny are the perfect hosts for the weekly review and discussion that followed each episode: they’re both intelligent, articulate, and funny. Last night’s wrap-up was more of the same, with a terrific panel discussion and free beer afterwards (unfortunately, the long trip home prevented us from partaking).
So, fingers crossed for another season of both shows. It just wouldn’t be right to end either after only one season. And I don’t want to wait another 20 years between Asian American comedies.
Today was one of those great random-type days. My wife had told me about the Riverside Tamale Festival earlier this year and we promptly forgot about it. This morning she noticed a reminder on her phone about the event. After a late breakfast, we drove out to Riverside and walked into the festivities at noon.
The festival was held at White Park and there was a terrific, low-key vibe throughout the area. There were a lot of families, all chowing down on tamales. I thought there might be more fusion/experimental tamales, but most were traditional (pork, chicken, chile and cheese, beef, along with some pineapple and strawberry dessert tamales). We were too full to try the cajun fusion tamale, but we loved the vegan sweet corn and poblano from Gourmet Tamales. Pictured above is the chipotle pork BBQ tamale from Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales, which lived up to its award-winning hype. The sweet masa in this tamale paired well with the pork.
We hung out for a few hours, enjoying the mariachi performances and all of our munchies. Since one can only do so many tamales on a warm day, we were grateful for the vendors offering pepinos (cucumbers served with chile and lemon) and raspados (snow cones with various ingredients; we shared a delicious coconut and tamarind mixture).
Afterwards, in keeping with today’s randomness theme, we stumbled upon the wonderful Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties. Located next to White Park, the center is a resource for education about civil rights and social liberty in the mid to late 20th century. In a nice bit of kismet, the center is also the home of the Mine Okubo collection: Okubo was the writer and illustrator of Citizen 13660, one of my favorite books from my college days. I had no idea she was a Riverside native and the entire second floor of the center was dedicated to her artwork, which was bequeathed to Riverside City College after her death in 2001.
As we explored the exhibition, I thought about the first time I’d read Citizen 13660. My memory is a little fuzzy now, but I think it was for an Asian American history class. What I do remember, though, is how cool I thought it was that a graphic novel was being used in a college course.
I kept my copy for many years until recently, when I gave it to my stepdaughter. I hope it moves her like it did me; it’s a remarkable work and a classic of Asian-American literature.
I had just posted how happy I was to see more and more Filipino Americans and Asian Americans in the news, when history was made: my beloved Los Angeles Lakers starting backcourt was Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin. Although these two will never be confused with Magic and Scott or Kobe and Fisher, it was A Moment due to the fact that they were the first Asian American starting backcourt in NBA history.
Lin is a Chinese American and well-known for Linsanity, the two weeks where he absolutely ruled New York and the sports world. It was the feel-good story of the year, not only for Asian Americans, but for sports geeks like myself.
Clarkson is a Filipino American who joined the Lakers this year and after stints in the Development League, made it to the big team.
Confession: I did not actually watch the game, something I could not have said just two years ago. Since the Lakers bungled the Dwight Howard signing, I’ve lost interest in my team, due to mismanagement (primarily in ownership; yes, that means Jim Buss) and a lack of talent. I support the team, obviously, but after watching a lifetime of games where the Lakers were contenders (if not for the title, then at least a solid playoff team), it’s tough to get excited about a team that has no shot of doing well in the postseason, let alone actually qualifying for it.
Still, the moment was not lost on me and it wasn’t lost on Lin, either. That’s his Instagram photo above, which he captioned with a note about the history he and Clarkson made. Here’s hoping they can somehow drag the Lakers back to respectability next year.
Coming of age during the 70s and 80s, I was aware of the news and happenings of the time, especially when it came to pop culture and sports. I remember the controversy of Three’s Company (a single man living with two single women *gasp*), the Lakers perpetually contending and winning NBA championships, and the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father (oops, spoiler alert). I know where I was when Reagan was shot (junior high), then later when the Challenger blew up (high school). I recall waking up one morning learning that John Lennon had been murdered.
What I don’t remember? Much of anything to do with Filipino Americans or Asian Americans. Sure, I remember when Marcos was overthrown and the rise of People Power (and the tale of Imelda’s shoes), but it was more in the context of world news, as in the Other news that wasn’t mainstream, or didn’t really matter. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough then, or maybe I wasn’t as aware as I thought. I would only learn the name Vincent Chin when I was in college during the 90s.
Today, though, it’s not uncommon to see my social media feeds filled with stories of Manny Pacquiao or Jeremy Lin or Russell Peters or any other Filipino or Asian. For middle-aged Filipino Americans like myself, to be able to debate whether or not a Filipino is the greatest prizefighter of this generation is akin to seeing the yellow, blue, red, and white of the Filipino flag planted in Mars. It was absolutely unfathomable then.
And yet, here we are today and Manny is about to take part of the biggest fight of this generation. Last night, a Chinese American led the Lakers in scoring. This weekend, during the NCAA tournament, the hero of the Maryland-Valparaiso game was an Indian American. During my workout this morning, I listened to a podcast interview with one of the funniest comedians on the planet, Russell Peters, as he talked about some of the racism he encountered as an Anglo-Indian raised in Canada.
I love the fact that George Takei has had a career resurgence so late in life and that his Facebook posts are the most re-shared among my friends. I love that Filipinos are frequently seen on the music-contest reality shows, from Jessica Sanchez to the Filharmonic. I love that one of the top sitcoms on ABC is centered around an Asian American family. I love that the name of the sitcom is Fresh Off the Boat, with all of the baggage that comes with such a loaded phrase.
Most of all, I love that for every Takei, Pacquiao, Peters, Lin, Fresh Off the Boat, and more, there will be even more Fil-Ams and Asian-Ams doing similar things in the future. I’m looking forward to those days, but will always look back to remember how far we’ve come.
1. I missed last week’s Fresh Off The Boat due to a previous commitment, but tonight my wife and I weren’t going to miss our favorite television family. It was another hilarious episode, with so many highlights: Eddie suffering the indignity of having his neighbor babysit him as he goes overboard on the sriracha, Jessica’s quotes from Caddyshack, Louis’ Coming-to-America-like McDowell’s move, Eddie’s dream sequence, the billboard, and “Buffalo Things.”
2. The only complaint I have so far about the show? The entire season isn’t on Netflix so I can binge-watch to my heart’s content.
3. There’s a Spotify playlist of the show and there’s plenty from the Golden Age of hip hop. Listen here for your dose of 90s music (Warning: some NSFW language).
4. I know I said three things, so consider this a bonus: A must-watch after each episode is Fresh Off The Show, hosted by Phil Yu and Jenny Wang. It’s a live recap of the show and it’s funny and informative. Check their twitter accounts on Tuesdays for the link to the live feed on youtube.
This made my night: getting two of my social media heroes to laugh at one of my tweets. My wife was impressed!
Jenny Yang is a brilliant comedian based in L.A. and Phil Yu is the genius behind Angry Asian Man. I’ve been following both for a while; their thoughts on Asian American culture are smart, funny, and a welcome sight on my Twitter feed.
Tonight, they hosted a live chat after the two new episodes of Fresh Off The Boat. It was fun listening to them re-hash the plots and going over favorite moments. Viewers were encouraged to tweet #FreshOffTheAir and at the end of the show, Jenny said my name (correctly, thank you!) and read my tweet. I’m glad my ’90s-era joke was met with such enthusiasm.
I’ll write more someday about how great it is to see so many Asian Americans in the media, from youtube to network television. For now, I’m going to re-watch my 5 seconds of Internet fame on my laptop while pretending to search for things to do on Valentine’s Day.
(If the video isn’t embedded below, click on the link and go to the 38:00 mark.)
ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat premiered last night and #FreshOffTheBoat trended on Twitter in Los Angeles and New York. From what I read, there was a lot of positive response, but I’m waiting to see how FOTB fares over the upcoming weeks. This was a huge moment for Asian Americans since there hasn’t been a show with an all-Asian-American cast since 1994, when Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl debuted on the same network. My fingers are crossed in hopes that the comedy sustains its opening-night momentum.
I’ve followed the FOTB story for a few months, as creator Eddie Huang (he wrote the autobiography that the show is based on) ripped ABC for watering down and de-politicizing the source material. It fascinated me that Huang would sabotage his own show before the pilot had even aired and I worried that studio executives were doing him like they did Cho two decades ago.
Thankfully, the first two episodes weren’t bad at all. The actor that plays the young Eddie is terrific and all of the other actors were solid. I’m eager to see how the characters develop and I hope that ABC gives FOTB enough time to find itself. It’s a real shame that it’s taken 20 years for a show about, and starring, Asian Americans to reappear on the airwaves, but it’d be an even bigger shame if it wasn’t given a chance. And while I’m not expecting mainstream America to make FOTB the next Seinfeld, I am expecting other Asian-American-based shows to appear sooner than 20 years from now. At the very least, I’ll settle for a Walking Dead spin-off featuring Glenn called “I’m Korean, Not Chinese.”
I took my family to the 34th Asian American Expo in Pomona, California, today. We arrived at the Fairplex around 11am and I was suddenly reminded why I haven’t been to the L.A. County Fair in 25+ years. I enjoy events like these, but the enormity of this trade show, with the amount of people and the high levels of volume, was some serious sensory overload.
Still, it was great to see so many Asian and Asian American businesses and organizations at the fairgrounds today (day one of the two-day event). I would’ve loved to have seen the Filipino American community represented here, though; Jolibee would’ve been a perfect addition to the festivities. There were also lots of cultural activities and we were able to take in a martial arts demonstration and a hula performance.
Like the thousands of our fellow AsianAmExpo attendees, our first stop was the food hall. There was booth after booth of food exhibitors and we sampled until we were full. From curry to sriracha, cookies to juices, there was something for everyone.
What made my day, though, was seeing Alex Goh make his Dragon Whiskers candy. That’s him pictured above, after taking a single strand of honey and water in cornstarch, and transforming it into thousands of whisker-like strands. He then wraps a mixture of peanuts and sesame in the whiskers, for a light, semi-sweet treat that’s unique and melt-in-your-mouth good. My family and I have had Goh’s candy before, but we’ve never seen him make them in person, so this was a real treat.
Even after noshing on ramen, barbecued squid, boba drinks, and my first ramenburger (pictured below; it was good, but didn’t live up to the hype) at the outdoor food festival, the Dragon Whiskers were the highlight. It’s not every day that you get to see how the magic happens.