Hip-hop artist Jason Chu’s spoken-word tribute to Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Powerful stuff: Hip-hop artist Jason Chu has posted “A Thousand Names,” a spoken-word tribute to Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month that’s worth seeing more than once to absorb the flow of poetry and the meaning of his words. He nails the story of family dynamics, immigrant hopes and dreams and generational passage of culture and identity.
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Domino’s Pizza Japanese app features Vocaloid singer Hatsune Miku

Pretty cool: Domino’s Pizza goes all in on mobile tech wizardry — at least for its Japanese market — with a new app featuring Hatsune Miku, a Vocaloid, synthetic/anime J-pop persona that’s entirely digital. According to a new video that has Domino’s Japan CEO Scott Oelkers introducing the app, Domino’s staff came up with songs for the app, and the Vocaloid software program generated the singing by the animated star Miku. Pretty cool…. wonder if Domino’s will be able to come up with an English-language US version, and if young Americans would order their pizza from a singing app?

Pop culture including J-pop builds bridges between Japan and the US

I’m a fan of anime and manga, although I don’t actually follow the zillions of comics or animated series and movies, because they’re instrumental in building bridges between Japan and the United States. I’ve spoken with eager young Caucasian anime fans in full cosplay (dressed in costumes playing the part of their favorite anime characters) who said they’re taking Japanese classes, and are planning on Japanese Studies in college, because they love anime so much.

That’s some powerful tug on the hearts and minds of our country’s future leaders.

And anime and manga are just the most visible signs of pop culture’s powerful effects, thanks to the many festivals and conventions across the US, and the popularity of anime programming on cable TV. Just take a look at video games, movies, and music, and Japan’s influence on America goes way beyond instant ramen and sushi happy hours. (Ramen shops are exploding in cities everywhere, but that’s another post….)

Curiously, though, J-pop, or Japanese pop music, hasn’t made too much of a dent in the American charts over the years.

Just last year, if you have kids you may have caught a catchy bit of bubblegum rock called “Sugar Rush” from the soundtrack of the Disney animated feature “Wreck-It Ralph” (notice how if it’s an American film we call it “animated feature” and if it’s Japanese we call it ”anime?”). The song plays over the end of the film, which will be released on DVD and Blue-Ray, etc. on March 5. You can see the super-sweet adorable video of the group singing it on YouTube above.
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PSY performs on American Music Awards, and racist haters come out on Twitter

PSY, the Korean pop sensation whose viral hit video, “Gangnam Style,” has been viewed alomst 800 million times on YouTube (that’s the official video, never mind the countless other users’ uploads and all the spoofs and tributes), closed out the American Music Awards on Nov. 18. In a savvy, surprising and ultimately, ironic, collaboration, the 35-year-old PSY (real name: Park Jae-sang) was joined for a mashup of his hit with MC Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” (above) and brought the house down, with celebs and fans (Hammer too) mimicking his horsey-cowboy dance moves.

Within minutes, blowback flew out over Twitter. Most of the messages were gut reactions to the irony of a song sung mostly in Korean being featured on the “American” Music Awards. Here’s one example: “Seriously psy is closing the show?? It’s called the AMERICAN music awards not the Korean..” and “I’m pretty sure this is called the American Music Awards #gobacktoAsia.” (Okay, the “gobacktoAsia” hashtag is pretty offensive — I’ve had that yelled at me in the past.)

The fact that the tweeters didn’t catch the awesomeness of the irony and only expressed their xenophobia and ignorance was disappointing but not surprising.

Some of the tweets, though, were flatout racist, like “Why is chink PSY at the American music awards he doesn’t make American music what is going on” and “are you kidding this chink is on the AMA’s? #sad #keywordAMERICAN.” You can see a sampling of offensive tweets at the Public Shaming Tumblr blog.
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