Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | sixties
168
archive,tag,tag-sixties,tag-168,qode-quick-links-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-title-hidden,qode-theme-ver-11.0,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.1.1,vc_responsive

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin were the top TV spies in the 1960s.Last year I received one of the coolest gifts ever -- a 41-DVD boxed set of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," the TV spy series that ran from 1964-'68. The set came in a package that looks like a secret agent's briefcase, and includes all 105 episodes of the program, plus a ton of extras such as documentaries and commentary by the show's stars, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. I'm still sifting through this pop-culture treasure chest, and having a blast. The series was my favorite TV show from my childhood -- I had a bunch of toys related to the show, and I read and collected books, gadgets, magazines -- anything to do with U.N.C.L.E. I've been struck by a few observations about the show, in light of 40 years of being a fan, and then suddenly being able to see every episode on DVD. First (and relevant to this blog), I'm surprised at how many Asian Americans were cast in the show as guest stars. There were some episodes set in Asia, like one that takes place in Japan, and that's kinda hokey since all the sets and scenes are actually shot in Hollywood. But in many episodes, the requisite woman who's an innocent bystander but gets dragged into the plot as a sidekick is Asian American, and I mean Asian American as in, no phony accents. They're Asian American actors cast in American roles, which is nice. Second, they had some big name guest stars. I just watched a goofy one from the third season (of the four, the third was the one where the show got silly, comedic and unbelievable) titled "The Hot Number" that featured Sonny and Cher. Cher was a snooty fashion model (not a stretch) and Sonny was a bumbling fashion designer. The episode also featured Sonny and Cher's music, which was a neat cross-marketing gimmick. Third, a lot of the episodes are slight to the point of being anemic. The story lines are sometimes clunky and the writing often forced. And little of the acting, even from Vaughn and McCallum, is Brandoesque. It's more like Shatneresque. But then, the artifice is actually part of the charm of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

Barack Obama's victory last night in the U.S. presidential election brought tears to my eyes not only because of the incredible historic nature of his mere candidacy, and the poignancy of his life story, and the righteousness of overcoming the odds and connecting with the majority of Americans to win the White House. The emotions welled up because of his ability to engage me throughout the campaign -- even though I was early on a supporter of Hillary Clinton -- at a personal level. It wasn't just the emails and text messages and the idealistic ubiquitousness of his campaign's eager, enthusiastic volunteers and supporters. The enthusiasm certainly was catching, however. It was simply the man, and his seeming thoughtfulness and determination. And his determined disregard for the most historic part of his grand run: his color. He didn't really disregard it. He simply refused to make it the focus of his identity. The only time he addressed it head-on was with his speech during the primaries about the nature of race in America. But last night, during his victory speech in downtown Chicago's Grant Park, he acknowledged that he understands the enormity of his accomplishment very well. He mentioned it right away, in a reference to his place in the racial narrative: "It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. "Its been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America." That last line struck a familiar note with me. It was a reference to a 1964 Sam Cooke song, one of the former gospel-singer-turned-pop-star's lesser hits. "A Change Is Gonna Come" was Cooke's own acknowledgement of his place in the race narrative, but it was one of his last singles, released after he was killed under mysterious circumstances. (A Los Angeles motel manager claimed she shot him in self-defense.) Cooke had written "Change," his only protest song as a follow-up to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." Dylan returned the favor after Cooke's death with "The Times They Are a-Changin'." The slow, measured ballad is not one of Cooke's well-known, bright, sugary love songs like "You Send Me" or "Cupid," where he mixed gospel style with pop sentiments. The powerful chorus of the song, which went on to become a familiar refrain to those in the civil rights movement, is, "It's been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come." Like Obama said last night, that change has come to America, at last.

I know some of my friends think of me as a gadget freak, but I only get crazed about a new toy every once in a while. iPods, for instance. Or digital cameras before that. Walkmans (Walkmen?) in the '80s. Here's my newest gadget recommendation: We recently bought two Flip video cameras and we're having a blast with them. I had checked out the Flip last year when they were first introduced -- Costco sold them for a few weeks and then stopped carrying them. Several months ago, our pal Bill Imada, founder of the IW Group media and advertising firm, held up a Flip after giving a presentation to the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, and told us we have to get one. At Denver's Cherry Blossom Festival in June, my brother Glenn Asakawa, a former photographer at The Denver Post now working for the University of Colorado, held up his Flip, and I was reminded that I wanted to get one.

As a card-carrying baby boomer (I guess officially, with my AARP membership!), I was 10 when most of 1968 happened. It was a pivotal year, no doubt -- though in my consciousness, '69 left a deeper impact. AARP magazine does a fine job of using the Web as a story-telling device to revisit the year. This online special section kicks...

Interesting exercise in nostalgia with irony: KCUV-FM in Denver is celebrating the official kickoff of summer by recreating the sound of Denver's FM radio from 1967, complete with news items, radio commercials from back then, and typical playlsists, all presented by the airstaff of progressive radio from the time, including guys like Bill Clarke (who's on Channel 7 now but...

Although a small label had unsuccessfully released some singles in 1963, most American rock and roll fans were introduced to a new band from England via Capitol Records’ 1964 album, “Meet the Beatles.” That album, and the subsequent visits by the mop-topped Liverpudlians to the U.S., sparked by appearances on TV including historic performances on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” re-set an entire generation’s emotional gyroscope. Beatlemania brought with it a different kind of music, pop that popped with surging harmonies and was driven by hard, clangy rhythms, shot through with the soul and R&B of rock’s roots but also energized with a new kind of electricity. The Beatles were the prototype for power pop, a genre that generations of bands, fans and rock critics have been seduced by ever since “Meet the Beatles.” The list of power-pop artists that have been critically heralded is long even though few have hit the charts and become rich and famous: the Byrds (as much power pop as folk-rock and later, country); Alex Chilton and Big Star, Marshall Crenshaw, Windbreakers, Bram Tchaikovsky, the Records, Flamin’ Groovies, Let’s Active, Bangles, Nick Lowe, Matthew Sweet, Rubinoos, the Shoes… the list goes on and on. One power pop band that actually has hit songs to its credit, the Smithereens, has gone full circle with its latest recording, “Meet the Smithereens.” It’s a song-by-song replica of “Meet the Beatles,” only done as the Smithereens.

James Brown died on Christmas day, a typically dramatic move for the 73-year-old, self-described “Godfather of Soul,” who was known for dramatic endings in concert. The news of his death caught me off guard, because I hadn’t heard much about the performer in years. Although Brown’s music career was in its sunset years, he was still touring and singing regularly. He was hospitalized with pneumonia just a couple days before, and died of heart failure not long after telling a friend he would perform in Times Square for New Year’s Eve. The man earned another of his many nicknames, “The hardest working man in show business,” to the very end.

Pitchfork has published a rambling list of the "200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s," beginning with the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" at 200 and ands with the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" at #1 (presumably -- the final 20 aren't numbered). It's an interesting list because it's in a British publication, and these songs were chosen (and reviewed very earnestly) by young rock critics, most if not all I bet who weren't even born when the '60s closed out with Altamont and a few months later, Kent State.