Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | pop culture
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Takashi Murakami It was a surreal moment, when I looked up at the TV this morning and saw Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieria nattering on about Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, and how cute his artwork is. The camera switched to the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade  (yeah, it was on -- what's it to ya?) and there was Murakami, bundled up in a fluffy costume that he must have created, designed to look like some indeterminate animal/plant hybrid species. He was bopping up and down and grinning like a mad-man, loving every moment of his nationwide exposure. I did a double take, because Murakami's pop art can be very cute, but he also makes art that is very sexual and fetishistic. He makes life-sized figures of manga-like characters in sexual poses. And, he's created striking, powerful paintings and sculptures that depict the atomic bomb mushroom cloud -- it's a recurring motif in his work.

First of all, I can now see that there's some comedic logic to casting Seth Rogan as the Green Hornet (and his alter-ego Britt Reid), and that he may be able to pull off a superhero vibe after all. Second, I can hardly wait to see the movie to enjoy Jay Chou as Kato, and the fact that he's really the superhero of the story, building the "Black Beauty" limo and kicking serious butt with his martial arts skills. Oh yeah, he's the valet/chauffeur, all right... but so much more. It'll be interesting to see if the movie explores Kato's ethnicity.

Hyphen magazine: Asian America UnabridgedWe've scheduled one more visualizAsian call before the end of the year, with publisher Lisa Lee and editor-in-chief Harry Mok of Hyphen magazine! If you're not familiar with Hyphen, it's the 7-and-a-half-year-old magazine that offers, as it says on the cover, "Asian America Unabridged." It's not only a fine, high-quality publication featuring strong writing and editing and graphics, it's one of the few national print media outlets that covers Asian American issues and pop culture, and it follows in the footsteps of many now-gone magazines, starting with the late, great A magazine and including such titles as TransPacific and East-West. Other mags currently being produced include KoreAm and Giant Robot, whose editor, Eric Nakamura, we spoke to earlier this year. Our conversation with Lisa and Harry about Hyphen will be at 7 pm PT (10 pm ET) on Wednesday, December 8. Register here if you're new to visualizAsian (if you've registered before you'll receive an email with the phone and webcast information; you don't need to register again). Like many magazines for Asian Americans, Hyphen is struggling financially, but the quality of its stories is never in question. We'll speak with Lee and Mok about the successes and challenges of creating Hyphen. They both have a lot to say about why they're committed to Hyphen. Here are their bios:

Martha Stewart needs some etiquette lessons in how to speak to Asian Americans.A reader named Robin, who is Japanese American and born in Iowa and bakes apple pies, sent me this email: "I was wincing yesterday when Martha Stewart asked an asian american woman in the audience (Sumi somethingorother, who baked an apple pie for Martha's contest) "Where are you from?" and the woman said with no accent "Oh I'm from here...New York City.". Martha continued with the (stereo)typical line of questioning something like 'where are you really from because if you are from Asia it's unusual to make an apple pie'. I don't have it verbatim but it was painful. Just another "What ARE you?" type of conversation. I really don't think Martha is a bigot but as she is the standard bearer of suburban white women I think it was totally disappointing for her to go down that path as if it were totally fine to question someone with Asian features about where they really come from." She sent a link to Martha Stewart's page for the pie show, but there isn't a video of the entire program, at least not yet. It looks like they only upload excerpts instead of entire shows, but I'll keep an eye out for YouTube postings of this segment. UPDATED: Today, Robin commented below on this blog post with a clarification: "The video is up, check at the 2:00 minute mark: http://www.marthastewart.com/article/meet-the-pie-bakers "Verbatim it's : 'Where do you come from?' (answer Here NYC) 'Oh you do, oh, okay, because if you came from Asia this would not a typical pie, right?' (answer 'right...right...' you can kind of hear the 'what the heck!?' in her tone) "So it's not as blatant as it struck me the first time but still the question and that type of follow up would be seen as really bizarre if she asked it of someone with a German name." It may not be as obnoxious as it could have been (I agree with Robin that Martha's probably not a racist), but it still betrayed Stewart's expectation that the audience member with an Asian face was a foreigner. She even sounded disappointed when the woman said she's from New York, because Stewart wanted so badly to make her point about Asians not baking pies.