Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | asian
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[caption id="attachment_4763" align="alignleft" width="520"] This bronze statue of Buddha, at 15 meters (almost 50 feet, or five stories) tall, is the largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world. It sits in one of the largest wooden structures in the world, Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan. I shot this photo during a 2011 trip.[/caption] An excellent, thoughtful and thought-provoking article on...

Since the fastest-growing population in the United States is mixed-race and we live in an increasingly global and multicultural world, it makes perfect sense that a restaurant like Boa on West 32nd would open, and serve a mashup of Mexican and various Asian cuisines. Erin and I got to sample some of Boa's cooking recently, when we were asked by Asian Avenue magazine to write up one of their 'Restaurant Peek" features on the eatery. We met photographer ace Brandon Iwamoto there and tasted the food and spoke with the owners on an afternoon interrupted by a tornado warning and a twister curling down from the sky in the neighborhood (it never touched down). Inside, the restaurant reflected none of the dark fury of the weather outside (except when the entire staff and all the customers ran out in the street to gape at the funnel cloud). The small, comfy eatery is located in the heart of the bustling, hip Highlands business district off 32nd and Lowell, and welcomes passersby who look puzzled at the combination of Asian and Latin foods. When they give it a try, say the co-owners and chefs, Julie Villafana and Braydon Wong, they like it.

The British film "Slumdog Millionaire," a rags-to-riches story about an orphaned child in Mumbai, India, has been nominated for ten Academy Awards. On the eve of its release today in India, the British independent film "Slumdog Millionaire" was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. It's already won four Golden Globes: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Score. The movie's up for all of those categories at the Oscars, and may well win some if not all of them, and then some. We saw the film just last weekend and I was stunned by its power and eloquence, and for me, its sheer entertainment value in spite of the grimness of the life it portrays. It deserves its kudos. If you haven't heard of it, it's the story of a two orphaned brothers from the slums of Bombay -- now Mumbai -- and their relationship as they survive their childhood and grow into their destinies. One, Jamal, played as an adult by the boyish Dev Patel, falls in love with an orphaned girl, Latika (luminously played as an adult by Freida Pinto). Poster for "Slumdog Millionaire"Jamal's devotion to Latika, even though they're repeatedly separated, sometimes for years, and his dedication to finding her again, is the film's narrative thread. But "Slumdog"'s visual leitmotif is the chaotic and tragic backdrop of modern Indian life. The story follows the characters from childhood through their teen years and into adulthood, in and out of the utter poverty that pervades the teeming slums. It's structured as a series of flashbacks with Jamal, who's been arrested for suspicion of cheating after winning 10 million rupees on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," explaining to a detective how he came to know all the answers he was asked on the show. His life experiences coincidentally gave him the knowledge and prepared him to reach the next day's final question, for a possible payoff of 20 million rupees. Almost immediately, viewers are taken on a breathless tour of the shantytown as a group of kids are chased by police, the camera moving as if the audience is one of the fleeing kids, looking for the next escape route. Then the view shifts to the cops' perspective, or others in the alleys, even a sleeping dog who's not the slightest bit fazed by all the commotion. The colors, the clatter and closed-in settings convey claustrophia ... and incredible excitement. The movie opens up visually and feels pastoral only when the brothers get out of town atop a train and live like hobos, then spend some time scamming tourists at the Taj Mahal, and in one striking scene where the grownup Jamal meets up with his brother Salim (played by Madhur Mittal), now a low-level gangster, in a skyscraper construction site high above where their shantytown had been located. Modern Mumbai's financial wealth has paved over the poverty and pushed the poor elsewhere.

I've never seen Denver's Asian American community rally so quickly around an issue like they have around the botched satire, "If it's war the Asians want... It's war they'll get", that ran on the website of The Campus Press, the University of Colorado's venue for budding journalists. 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.

Erin and I went out to eat tonight at Thai Basil, a very popular restaurant in southeast Denver. We had eaten there a couple of weeks ago with friends and enjoyed the food, so we decided to give it a shot on our own. The food was fine once again -- we had chicken coconut soup for starters, and Thai curry lime beef and sesame tofu for entrees. But during the meal, it occurred to us that aside from one woman at a nearby table, we were the only Asians dining in the packed room. The servers were mostly Asian, but on the way in this time, I noted that the owner and much of the staff is Chinese, not Thai. These observations maybe are unimportant if the food is great, but I started wondering about the importance of authenticity in ethnic cuisine. First of all, does it matter what ethnicity the staff, owners and even maybe the chefs are, if they can make great Thai food, or Chinese, or Japanese or Korean? Shouldn't the end quality of the food be the measure of a restaurant's quality? Yes. And... I've had various ethnic cuisines served up by people not of the ethnicity and had the food fail the taste test. Even years ago in New York City, when I was in college, I was so desperate for Mexican food that I went into a Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village, only to be served enchiladas with spaghetti sauce -- no lie -- poured over them. That's why that Pace Picante tagline works so well: "...from where? NEW YORK CITY?"

How sad that Andrew Young, a man I (and many others) have admired and thought of as a civil rights leader, reveals that deep-down inside he harbors racist feelings toward other minority communities. The former Mayor of Atlanta and U.S. representative to the U.N. is African American.