Whenever I see an Asian on TV, either in a program or on a commercial, who’s the brunt of some comedic joke, my first reaction is to clench my stomach in anticipation of some personal embarrassment, as if the Asian on screen could easily be me.
But here’s a TV commercial that makes fun of an Asian guy, that manages to be funny and doesn’t bother me (although the first time I saw it I did clench up, expecting that slap in the face), and respectful of the Asian dude’s dancing ability — that is, until, he screws up.
The commercial, for Southwest Airlines, makes me chuckle every damned time, and I’ve seen the thing a lot. What makes me feel good about the video is that the African Americans in the scene start out skeptical of the Asian guy’s ability to impress the woman (that’s Ellen Cleghorne from SNL, isn’t it?, but then everyone in the club, includig the DJ, give the guy his props and start urging him on. That’s when he knocks over the turntables.. and the tagline for Southwest comes in: “Want to get away?” Continue reading →
I missed this NPR report a couple of weeks ago, about the impact of the character Long Duk Dong from the 1980s hit movie, “16 Candles.” I had heard a promo for the report while driving but got home before it came on.
I finally went back to check it out and it’s worth hearing.
The link to the report is at the top of the page; the text on the page is the report’s transcript. Be sure to check out the extra interview clip with Gedde Watanabe, the Japanese American actor who played “the Donger” — he doesn’t really have a clue, unfortunately. And check out the comic that’s included, “Donger and Me.” Continue reading →
Around the turn of the century (man, it’s still weird to use that phrase in 2008), I started reading about a bootlegged series of cassettes making the rounds, of Cambodian rock and soul recordings from before that country’s dark, post-Vietnam war years under despot Pol Pot. These recordings, I read, were all that were left, like audio archeology, of musicians who had absorbed Western pop and soul and rock during the 1960s and early ’70s, and both covered those songs enthusiastically in their own language, Khmer, and wrote original songs using those sonic elements as their foundation. These musicians had all been slaughtered in Pol Pot’s killing fields, the stories went, and these three-decades-old echoes were all that was left of that creative explosion.
I finally got a hold of some of these recordings (some are now available via legitimate avenues including Amazon.com, no doubt cleaned up and sounding much better than many of the tinny recordings I got). They were exciting, and fun to listen to, but spooky when you realized all the artists were killed within a few years of the recording sessions. Sometimes they were faithful recreations of familiar songs — until the lyrics came in. But whether they were covers or original, the playing and singing had an irrepressible and irresistible spark.
Those recordings were enough to inspire a pair of California brothers to pursue the sound and make their own fresh echoes of long -ago Cambodian pop in a unique group called Dengue Fever, which has over the years evolved from re-creating the sound of the old Cambodian scene to integrating those sounds in a fresh take on world pop. Continue reading →
There’s been a blizzard of emails flying around town from groups and individuals, outraged postings (including mine as well as Joe Nguyen’s commentary on AsiaXpress), and TV and print media news reports.
A collective of APA students who’ve organized a Facebook group called Colorado Asian American Organizations organized a meeting yesterday at Denver University, where about 40 people showed up. Erin attended, and also sent out notices to some of the local media, so there were TV crews from several stations on hand to cover the discussion. Attendees included not just students, but community activists, older APAs and also African Americans and Latinos. Continue reading →