Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | asian american
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The character of Russell in the movie "Up" is Asian American!From Channel APA: This one snuck up on me, but the new Disney-Pixar animated feature, "Up," stars an Asian American character, voiced by an Asian American kid. The part of Russell, the young scout who gloms onto the grumpy old man Carl just as the two take off on a crazy adventure, is read by Jordan Nagai, a Japanese American young man who was 7 when the movie was made. How cool is that? But wait, there's more: The Russell character itself was modeled on an Asian American animator at Pixar, Peter Sohn.

Yul Kwon is the first Asian American to win one of the seasons of "Survivor." He won the "Cook Islands" season in 2006.The second interview lined up for visualizAsian.com's AAPI Empowerment Series is with Korean American attorney-turned-TV celebrity Yul Kwon. The interview will be held Tuesday, June 9 at 6 pm PDT (9 pm EDT). Erin and I were fortunate to see Yul speak during last year's Democratic National Convention in Denver, and more recently during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month at an event in Denver. He's a great role model because of his accomplishments, and because he's on a mission to dispel myths and stereotypes about Asian American Pacific Islanders, and to urge AAPIs to enter the political process. Kwon has a diverse background in law, politics, technology, business, and media -- except for his exceptional "Survivor" victory, he's almost a model for the "model minority" myth!

"Lumina" is an online-only series, an independently-filmed thriller written and produced by Asian American Jennifer Thym in Hong Kong. You've gotta love the Internet. I was contacted some weeks back by Jennifer Thym, the Asian American writer and director of "Lumina," a new online-only thriller serial debuting this summer. The movie project features an Asian American lead as well as Asian Canadian actors, and the whole thing is filmed in Hong Kong, where Thym has lived for the past two years. The trailer certainly is cool and mysterious and makes me want to see the series kick off (I subscribed to the email alerts from YouTube whenever a new installment is posted): Here's what she says about the project on her Rock Ginger blog:

Musical interlude: I saw on Facebook that Kinna Grannis had posted a video of herself with David Choi, sittin' on a couch and humming and strumming the pop standard, "What a Wonderful World." It's a very sweet version, and the two harmonize beautifully together. I blogged about Grannis a few months ago when I stumbled across her version of "Sukiyaki."...

Clint Eastwood in a scene from his new movie, "Gran Torino." Clint Eastwood, who looked at one of the most famous battles of World War II through the eyes of doomed Japanese soldiers in the 2006 film, "Letters from Iwo Jima," is now lookng at Asian Americans and racism in an upcoming movie, "Gran Torino." Eastwood plays a racist Korean War veteran and retired Ford factory employee, Walt Kowalski, who's been beaten down by life. The only two steadfast things in his life are his 1972 Gran Torino, an artifact from the glory days of Ford muscle, and his M-1 rifle, an artifact from the glory days of American muscle. Everything else around him is going to hell: his wife has recently died, he's estranged from his grown kids, and to his dismay, his rundown neighborhood is becoming over-run by Asians. The incoming foreigners are Hmong, not Korean. Eastwood's character gets to know the Hmong family that moves in next door after their 16-year-old son tries to steal his Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation. Predictably, Eastwood at first hates them but then grows close, and protects them against the gang. The movie's trailer shows some typical interactions between a cranky white man and black neighborhood punks and scary-looking Asian gang members. Knowing Eastwood, I bet the plot is more complicated than the predictable scenes in the trailer, though. This is the first time a Hollywood movie has taken a deep dive into the Hmong community, so it's an opportunity to teach Americans about their history and culture, and of the AAPI culture of second generation Hmong Americans. Besides Eastwood, the movie stars a group of first-time actors, most if not all Hmong (no hiring of non-ethnically accurate actors just for the right "talent" or "star power" a la "Memoirs of a Geisha"), and the casting was featured in a series of interviews in a Hmong news site, Suab Hmong Radio:

Retired Army General Eric Shinseki was named by Obama to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs Back on Veterans Day I posted an article about how Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been heroes for generations in the U.S. military, and ended the article with a note about retired Four-Star Gen. Eric Shinseki, former Army Chief of Staff and the highest-ranked AAPI in the military. Today, NBC released an excerpt of an interview with Barack Obama to air on tomorrow's "Meet the Press" program, during which the President-elect tells Tom Brokaw that he's naming Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The timing of the announcement isn't coincidental. Tomorrow is Sunday, December 7, the 67th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Shinseki is Japanese American, and he was born in Hawai'i on November, 28, 1942. He and Barack Obama both have childhood roots in Hawai'i. Shinseki is a Vietnam veteran, who lost part of a foot from stepping on a land mine. He was named Army Chief of Staff in 1999 and retired in 2003... many thought, under duress from the Bush administration for his views which contradicted the official one on the war against Iraq. On February 25, 2003, a few months before the end of his appointment and the start of his retirement, Shinseki testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he thought an occupying force of several hundred thousand men would be needed to stabilize postwar Iraq. His analysis was bluntly dismissed by the Bush administration. Here's part of a transcript of the proceedings:

Meiko, a one-quarter Japanese American, or "quapa," from Georgia by way of Los Angeles, is at the vanguard of the new folk music. At least, that's the category where you'll find her on iTunes. She strums and picks an acoustic guitar, so she fits the folksinger/troubadour image. But her music isn't based on the traditional "folk" music of the 1960s folk boom. Meiko's the latest in a long line of singer-songwriters who came out of that earlier folk boom. Starting with the likes of Bob Dylan, and peers and disciples from Tom Rush and Eric Andersen to Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, singer-songwriters have skirted the edges of the rock-pop mainstream, playing their own music instead of traditional songs, with acoustic instruments as their foundation. Their subject matter is mostly introspective and personal (hence, anti-pop by design) but when it clicks commercially, singer-songwriter music, like alternative rock, can hit the sweet spot and rise up the pop charts. It's a style of music that in recent years has become quieter and quieter, almost a whisper instead of the declamatory protest music of, say, early Phil Ochs, or Peter, Paul and Mary, in the '60s, or the folk and country-rock of the '70s. The new folk music can be mopey (then again, weren't Jackson Browne's songs mopey too?). And, it's become a signature style of television soundtracks. Although many shows now, from "Bones" to the "CSI" franchise, feature this type of music, I think of "Gray's Anatomy" first and foremost when I hear the new folk. The genre fits perfectly with the introspective spoken narration that closes each episode of "Gray's." "Boys with Girlfriends," one of the best songs from Meiko's first full-length recording, "Meiko," was featured on "Gray's Anatomy on November 20. Once you know the song, you'll chuckle at how perfect it is for the romantic tensions that are at the heart of the series: "I know better not to be friends with boys with girlfriends," Meiko sings. Boys With Girlfriends - Music Video
Meiko has a handful of equally terrific songs, the kind that get in your head and bounce around like a superball, keeping you humming for days. She's perfected the new folk sound, a dreamy, world-weary singing style that's colored with just a hint of a husky rasp. But it's her way of fitting words and phrases into cadences that stretch and contract to conform to her lilting sense of melody that stay with you.

From Los Angeles-based Asian American comedy/improv troupe 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, via Angry Asian Man, here's a totally politically incorrect skit about race and immigration, but with the tables turned and European Americans as the FOBs ("fresh off the boat," for you non-AAPIs). It's a Thanksgiving satire that gave me a chuckle, despite its disgusting, inexcusable use of "whiteface," "redface"...