Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | asian american
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I guess the upside is that some non-Asians have now learned (we hope) that saying "ching-chong, ching-chong" as a way of mocking Asian languages is offensive to Asian Americans. The downside is that many non-Asians are probably still left thinking that all Asian languages sound alike (they don't). And, Rosie O'Donnell probably skated from any further repercussions from this stupid gaffe by giving her on-camera "non-apology apology." It's just another typical example of someone brushing off responsibility by putting the blame of being offensive on the people who were offended ("I'm sorry you/they were offended"). I wish she'd just said, which she almost did when she admitted she didn't know about Asian Americans growing up hearing "ching-chong" as a racist taunt, that she was sorry she said it, period. Anyway, here's the video, care of YouTube:

Asians traditionally don't speak up about injustices -- it's the "don't bring attention to yourself," "don't complain, it'll cause trouble" syndrome. But more and more, Asian Americans are different. So when Rosie O'Donnell mocked the sound of the Chinese language a week ago on "The View," the Asian American Journalists Association's New York chapter e-mail list began a spirited conversation, with most members outraged and demanding an apology and some cautioning that O'Donnell hadn't gone on a racist "rant" like Michael Richards, and that it was a poor attempt at humor. I wasn't laughing. Like many Asian Americans, I was familiar with that "ching-chong, ching-chong" sound, from when I was taunted by European-American kids telling me to go back where I came from. That sound makes my gut clench as much as a punch. (Click here for the video on YouTube.)

I grew up being apprehensive every December 7. I'm Japanese American, and was born long after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, but for a long time I felt an inescapable sense of responsibility for the attack. My early years were spent in a military environment -- my dad was in the U.S. Army. But I still felt... guilty every December when people started mentioning "Pearl Harbor Day" and when I started to hear comments and sometimes jokes about those "sneaky Japs. " Being Japanese American means feeling an ambivalence because for many Japanese Americans, 120,000 of them, December 7, 1941 wasn't just the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and drew the United States into World War II. Japanese Americans were just as outraged at the attack as everyone else in the U.S. -- Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii and a WWII veteran and medal of honor recipient, tells the story of being a young man in Honolulu that day, and shaking his fists at the Japanese planes and screaming, "damn Japs!" There's another side to this story.

I caught a cool video story today on NYT.com, about a Double Dutch competition held in Harlem. (You may have to do a search for it once you get to the NYT video page). Interestingly, the competitive African American tradition, which counts the number of times you can jump rope in two minutes and then add on layers of amazing acrobatic...

The Washington Post recently reported that the government of Japan is going to start checking out Japanese restaurants all over the world and handing out seals of approvals for those deemed to be serving “authentic” Japanese cuisine. This rather extreme step (it sounds like something the snooty French would do) is the result of a recent visit by the country's Minister of Agriculture, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who went to a Japanese restaurant in Colorado and saw that the menu also featured Korean barbecued beef.

muckeyrooney-mryunioshiAudrey Hepburn, one of the great, classic actresses of Hollywood of the '50s and '60s, may have died in 1993, but she's alive and well in American pop culture. Her name, and the 1961 film with which her face is most associated, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago, and coincidentally, a TV series' plot later that week involved three women dressed as Hepburn's character from "Tiffany's," Holly Golightly, robbing a bank with her trademark sunglasses hiding their identity. This week, The Gap began airing a pretty cool TV commercial that takes a Hepburn dance sequence from her 1957 musical co-starring Fred Astaire, "Funny Face," and sets her moves to AC-DC's "Back in Black." The commercial is pushing the retailer's new line of skinny black pants. Hepburn's character, a Greenwich Village beatnik who becomes a Paris model, is wearing hip skinny black pants in the dance scene.

Iva_Toguri_mug_shotIva Toguri D'Aquino died Sept. 26, 2006 at age 90, in Chicago. You might not know her, or remember her today, but she was a victim of circumstance who was once one of the most hated women in the United States. You might not know her, but you might know her nickname: Tokyo Rose.

jakeshimabukuro.jpgThink “ukulele” and you’ll invariably get a quaintly exotic image in your head (and the wrong pronunciation – it’s “oo-koo-leh-leh,” not “you-koo-leh-leh”): warm sun, swaying grass skirts, coconut bras, colorful cocktails with umbrellas, and palm trees and a beach in the background.

It’s true, the ukulele is a stringed instrument that was born in Hawai’i (albeit it has its actual origins in a Portuguese instrument that was brought to the islands by 19th century sailors) and given its name, which means “jumping flea” in Hawai’ian. And it’s also true that the ukulele, which basically looks and acts like a miniaturized, four-string guitar, has helped spread Hawai’ian music and culture for a century, since Hawaiian music first caught the fancy of mainlanders during a 1915 exposition in San Francisco.

But the cute little uke isn’t just a tool for strumming up tourism to Honolulu.