Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Nom Nom Truck Hits L.A.

In Culture, Features, NEWSPRINT on August 27, 2009 at 3:38 am

Do you like vietnamese sandwiches? Does the combination of meat and cilantro atop crispy French bread make your taste buds salivate? Well, you’re in luck because the Nom Nom truck has recently launched in L.A.! Move over Kogi BBQ, because you’ve got competition!

From their web-site:

Nom Nom truck is a mobile food truck that will serve “Banh Mi”, or Vietnamese Sandwiches, and other Vietnamese-inspired dishes to West Los Angeles and the greater Los Angeles area.  We plan to launch our truck some time this August, so keep your eye out for us!  To follow our progress on preparing for our August launch, please keep coming to our Web site, www.nomnomtruck.com for updates, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Mmm, banh mi...

Mmm, banh mi...

The nom nom logo

The nom nom logo

For more information (you know you want some): visit their website

Follow them on Twitter

-posted by Shirley Mak


“ANIME!” High Art – Pop Culture Visual Tour

In A&E on August 27, 2009 at 3:28 am

This past weekend I went with a couple of friends to visit the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to see their exhibition on Japanese comics and animation.

According to their description: “This electrifying traveling exhibition explores the history, aesthetics and production of Japanese animation from its earliest beginnings up through the cinematic successes and popular heroes of the late 1970s serials, and on to the current computer and video game manifestations of this cultural phenomenon. “ANIME!” illustrates the fascination of anime and its dramatic and often breathtaking, visual language. On view are rare collectors’ items and artwork that has seldom been seen outside of Japan.”

And here, for your viewing pleasure, some pictures:

One of Miyazaki's original sketches of Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind

One of Miyazaki's original sketches of Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind

A cell from Princess Mononoke, one of my favorite films by Miyazaki. This is Prince Ashitaka.

A cell from Princess Mononoke, one of my favorite films by Miyazaki. This is Prince Ashitaka.

Some Princess Mononoke figurines that probably cost an arm and a leg.

Some Princess Mononoke figurines that probably cost an arm and a leg.

Astro-Boy! All the way from the '60s.

Astro-Boy! All the way from the '60s.

Don't tell Disney, but they hold the real keys to the magic kingdom.

Don't tell Disney, but they hold the real keys to the magic kingdom.

A cell from the beloved My Neighbor Totoro.

A cell from the beloved My Neighbor Totoro.

Who doesn't love the cat bus?

Who doesn't love the cat bus?

Diane with her favorite anime, Ranma 1/2.

Diane with her favorite anime, Ranma 1/2.

Original sketch of Ichigo from Bleach.

Original sketch of Ichigo from Bleach.

Welcome to my childhood.

Welcome to my childhood.

Neighborhood Story, prequel to Paradise Kiss

Neighborhood Story, prequel to Paradise Kiss

No anime exhibit is complete without a display of hentai, apparently.

No anime exhibit is complete without a hentai display apparently. Lily and Diane are more than happy to pose next to the sign.

Use your imagination.

Use your imagination.

Finito. Aren't they cute?

Finito. Aren't they cute?

-posted by Shirley Mak

Miyazaki Interview at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley

In A&E on August 27, 2009 at 2:00 am

So I got to see Miyazaki do a rare in-person interview with Roland Kelts last month in Berkeley. I didn’t have the best of seats, but it was still a memorable experience nonetheless. I gotta say, I don’t know of any Japanese animator (or animator, period, other than maybe John Lasseter) who is as revered in the U.S. as Miyazaki is. The audience was hanging onto his every word.

A good part of the interview was devoted to Ponyo, his newest movie. Having seen it twice, I’d say go watch it, but it’s definitely more geared towards kids than most of his films are. I’m more into the dark and heavy stuff, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as other people did, but it’s still got that definitive Miyazaki spark.

Roland Kelts interviewing Hayao Miyazaki at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley. Photo by ghibliworld.com

Roland Kelts interviewing Hayao Miyazaki at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley. Photo by ghibliworld.com

Here are little bits and pieces of the on-stage conversation:

Kelts: Some of you might be a fan of what we in America call, in very broad terms – “anime,” or animation that comes from Japan. As many of you know, most anime films are based on manga series, or graphic novel series. And yet Miyazaki-san has more or less abandoned that approach and carved his own way by developing his own ideas and feature films. I’m wondering, what led to that?

Miyazaki: I think we can just enjoy manga by reading manga as they are. Of course if you animate it, you can perhaps add some features to the manga, but I think if you can avoid making animation through manga, it would be better.

Manga and film, or animation, have very different concepts of time and space, and unless you’re very aware of that, then the animation becomes very boring and uninteresting. In animation, we are very intent on showing that we have drawn this; that time and space flow as we have drawn the frames.

In the U.S., animation films tend to be storyboarded, and storyboards tend to be done by a group of artists. But I know that you do your own storyboards yourself. Do you think there’s an advantage to having a single artistic vision dominate a storyboard?

In Japan, it’s customary to have the director draw the storyboards. Occasionally there’s several people working on it – someone perhaps draws the storyboard and someone else films – but that’s not the usual method. In fact, there’s almost a condition to become a director, to be able to draw a storyboard. So if a person can’t draw a storyboard, then he might be thought of unnecessary to the production. (pause) That’s one way to think about it. (audience laughs)

I know you do a lot of thinking about a story to come up with the original idea for a new film. And I wonder, how do you know when you have the first illustration that you can develop into an entire feature length animation? What is it that tells you that you’ve got something and are ready to proceed?

Of course, depending on the film, it’s different. But it’s only when I’ve tried something that I realize I can’t go on this path anymore; that I can’t push this idea anymore. Then I have to abandon it and find something else that I think will work. It might be kind of a loser’s way of thinking about it, but I tell my staff that they have to really struggle and do something that’s kind of useless and impossible first and then maybe they’ll find something.

We want our characters to end up being happy in the film, but we can’t have that happen in an un-persuasive way. We have to satisfy the audience’s wishes and make them really believe that the characters have really done something to make themselves happy. So whether it’s through effort or by accident, we have to find the best ending – or the best ending might find us in some sort of mysterious way.

Has that process become any easier for you over the decades of work or has it become more difficult?

Each time I do a film I feel like I’ve just been able to get through it and I hope that people don’t find the weaknesses that show that I’ve just managed to get through it. (audience laughs) After a film is made, I don’t want to see it again. I try to forget about it as soon as possible.

With each Miyazaki film that’s come out, we’ve been told that this might be the last.

I told my wife when I was doing my second film – Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – that I don’t want to go through this kind of pain anymore. So since I say this every time, for every film, it has become less persuasive over the years. I’ve been trying not to say this, at home at least.

Regarding this new crop of up and coming animators that you’re training at Ghibli now – in my experience, having recently written about the anime industry in Japan, one of the challenges that the industry faces today is finding and keeping young talent.

Actually, from the beginning of television and animation, it’s been very difficult to have enough animators to satisfy. Nowadays, we’re kind of avoiding the problem by sending out work to China and Korea, but the problem hasn’t been solved, nor have conditions improved. In our company, we are determined to keep drawing with pencils and rowing a bark among many high-speed boats. We promote the hypothesis, which has no basis at all, that we can actually keep going like this. At least we want to assure people’s wages and a place to work.

Can you explain for audience members who are perhaps accustomed to CGI or computer-generated animation what the virtues are of rowing your lonely boat amongst the speed boats? Why?

Since it involves a lot of drudgework to draw by human hand, we thought it might be simpler to have a computer draw or use computer graphics, so we hired a young person to do the computer drawing. But we realized that we could draw faster by hand than by the computer so I make it a matter of thinking that we should be more casual about drawing animation. I think we’re freer when we’re able to draw by hand – when the character is feeling very downtrodden, we can draw him very small. When the character is feeling very confident, we can draw his head bigger and make it show the feelings that he has. It’s difficult for computers to give this kind of feeling.

That’s all the transcribing I was able to do. For a full transcription by someone much more experienced, visit here

-posted by Shirley Mak

Preview: Interview with spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai

In A&E, Features, PacTies News on August 27, 2009 at 12:20 am

Last month, Pacific Ties had the opportunity to attend the 2009 Campus Progress National Conference in Washington D.C. In addition to listening to awesome speakers like Bill Clinton, Van Jones and Nancy Pelosi, we also got to experience an amazing performance given by Chinese-Taiwanese spoken-word artist, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai.

Who is Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai? She’s only one of the best Asian-American spoken word artists on the East Coast! Here’s a short bio for those of you who don’t know:

Photo by Berman Fenelus

Photo by Berman Fenelus

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai is a Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based, Chinese Taiwanese American spoken word artist who has performed her poetry at over 350 venues worldwide including three seasons on “Russell Simmons Presents HBO Def Poetry.” Winner of a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Urban Artist Initiative Award, she was listed as one of Idealist in NYC’s Top 40 New Yorkers Who Make Positive Social Change in 2008 and AngryAsianMan.com’s “30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30” in 2009. She has shared stages with Mos Def, KRS-One, Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Amiri Baraka, and many more.

Pacific Ties recently had the honor of interviewing Kelly, who gave her thoughts and insights on her beginnings as a spoken word artist, what inspires her to speak out in the Asian-American community today, her take on Asian-Americans in the media, advice for up-and-coming artists such as herself, and much more.

Here’s a short preview of the interview, which will be featured in Pacific Ties’ Fall 2009 Issue. Make sure to check it out both online and in print!

Photo by Katie Piper

Photo by Katie Piper

Pacific Ties (PT): How did you first get into spoken word poetry?

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai: I’ve always been into writing and performing ever since I was a little kid. I even found these stories I’d written in third or fourth grade at my parents’ house that were all about these little girls who wanted to become writers.

When I was in high school, I had a cool English teacher who was and still is really involved with the national grand poetry slam. The original poetry slam was a competition where you’d get six poets who would compete during the course of the evening; there would be five judges and then all the poets get scored from 0 – 10 (0 being like the worst thing you’ve ever heard and 10 being the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard). These competitions actually started in Chicago with Marc Kelly Smith who started running competitions in all these bars. My teacher would bring my friends and me there to see these poetry slams and I got into poetry slam very early on.

PT: What do you want audiences to get out of your poetry, particularly Asian-American audiences?

Kelly: I think in terms of Asian-Americans, it’s just way past due for us to speak out. Our community is so diverse – linguistically, culturally,  and in terms of our history and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our community is so diverse, and we need as many of our voices out there as possible. I hope that by articulating these things, by unpacking what’s going on in my every day life, it helps other people articulate what’s going on in their own lives. That’s definitely a big thing that I hope audiences get from my work. Another thing that I hope audiences get is just a pure emotional experience – whether it’s thinking about a place, person, or event in history.

How do you feel the performing arts and creating social change are connected, particularly in the Asian American community? Do you feel that there is a direct connection between spoken word and politics?

Kelly: I think there is naturally, inherently a connection. In any kind of art-making, you’re making a statement and you’re making the choice to speak out. Now whether or not artists decide to be conscious about the statement they’re making, I think is a different question… I think all art is inherently political, but I think what determines a political artist from a non-political artist, so to speak, is whether or not they’re conscious of that.

In the Asian-American community, it’s really interesting that at this point in time (and I think this will be rapidly changing over a couple of decades), if we don’t create artistic expression – if we don’t have the outlets and the venues that we build ourselves – we won’t have them in mainstream media. We definitely have a lot more than we did when I was a kid, but we’re still at the point where if we don’t make it, we don’t necessarily have it. In that way,  artistic representation and politics are connected in a lot of ways.

PT: Do you have any advice for young people looking to break into the same field as you?

Kelly: I think something unfortunate that I see right now is that I think a lot of people get really focused on the business side of arts and entertainment much too early… Sometimes I talk to different emerging artists and they’ll be worried about not fitting in, about not doing the current style, and trying to get an agent and this and that. And I’m like hold on a second; you haven’t even talked to me about your actual artwork yet. You’re talking about all this other stuff but what about the writing? Do you care about it? And it’s not even so much “Screw you if you don’t care about it” but “Do you care about it and is it doing something for you?” Is it giving you all that you can get from it? Because I believe that writing is one of the most liberatory things you can do in your life; as is expressing yourself. So let’s not forget that.

PT: What are your future plans? Any upcoming shows?

Kelly: I’m working on a bunch of stuff right now. I’m working on stuff for my tours in 2009-2010. I’m also working on a short film version of my poem “Real Women I Know,” which is going to have a huge, huge viral component. And I’m also working on my show, which is called “The Grieving Room” and deals with the different issues of grief and the difficulties of letting go, as well as the difficulties of not letting go and about how it’s important to honor your experiences and move on. I’m always working on a bunch of different projects, but those are the big ones.

Interested in spoken word poetry? Make sure to check out one of Kelly’s upcoming shows. If it’s anything like what we heard in D.C., it’s bound to be a blast:

Upcoming shows

August 30 – NYC-TV Ch. 25

September 140 Bellingham, WA

For more information, check out Kelly’s website: www.yellowgurl.com

-posted by Shirley Mak

Campus Progress, D.C. trip, staff editorials

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2009 at 7:26 am

I am sitting here with Al-Talib Editor in Chief Sayeda, listening to journalism jargon. Along with the other newsmagazine editors, we’re all in Washington D.C.  for a weekend conference hosted by Campus Progress.

As a first-time visitor of D.C., I have found this city to be pedestrian-friendly, overly humid and interesting. So many to do, and so little time. Sayeda and I were planning to visit Union Station today at 7 a.m. so we can go to New York in the evening. Little did we know (then) about the feasibility of our trip. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Perhaps we can squeeze both into our itinerary.

One suggestion from a lecturer named John (a.k.a “Raging Bull”) suggested writing staff editorials, which I plan to incorporate this year. He offered a formulaic process of writing staff editorals. Here are my notes:
1. Within first 2 sentences, state the problem and state your thesis. (What is the problem? What is your stance?)
2. Support that thesis. (Why do you want it done?)
3. Addressing the opposing side. (What is a compelling counter argument?)
4. Resolution. (Why does this matter?)


Webb negotiates, releases imprisoned American in Burma

In NEWSPRINT on August 17, 2009 at 11:06 pm
Webb and Gen. Than Shwe discussed on Saturday despite the general's renown reclusion (LA Times)

Webb and Gen. Than Shwe discussed on Saturday despite the general's renown reclusion (LA Times)

On Saturday, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb won the release of an American prison inmate in Myanmar after talking with reclusive leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

After swimming across a lake to Suu Kyi’s villa in May, Missouri resident John Yettaw, 53, was arrested in May. Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, including four years of hard labor.

Webb visited Yangon after a military court ruled that Suu Kyi was guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest by housing the uninvited American. Yettaw returned to the United States on a military plane.

Webb is a Vietnam veteran and former secretary of the Navy; he currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee. While some view Webb as leading negotiations and political reforms with Burmese military junta, others are skeptic as to the hidden cost of Yettaw’s freedom.

I.C.E. removes quota, continues agency expansion

In Politics on August 17, 2009 at 10:47 pm

The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the end of quotas for undocumented immigrants who ignored deportation orders in attempt to make more changes to the program. John Morton, who took over as head of the federal agency in May, plans to target unlawful immigrants.

In 2003, the agency organized teams to arrest and deport immigrants with criminal records and outstanding deportation orders. During these sweeps—commonly coined “ICE raids”—armed agents showed up at homes, workplaces and apartment buildings to arrest tens of thousands of immigrants.

According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, 73 percent of the nearly 97,000 people arrested between 2003 and early 2008 did not have criminal records. In 2006, as the report shows, the agency removed its requirement of two-thirds of those arrested be criminals.

During that same year, says that report, the teams were expected to increase annual arrests from 125 to 1,000. The expansion of the agency has been evident in the 104 fugitive operation teams (the program started with eight). The immigration agency also received $226 million for the program this year, an increase from $9 million in 2003.

Morton essentially approved targets, but found quotas to be futile. He moreover said that he would continue enforcing the law against immigrants who have fought their cases and lost.

Demonstration at Cal, debate over war criminal status

In NEWSPRINT, Politics on August 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm
Associated Press; woman demonstrating against Yoo in lecture hall of Berkeley's law school

Associated Press; woman demonstrating against Yoo in lecture hall of Berkeley's law school

Four anti-war demonstrators were arrested today at the University of California, Berkeley after calling to fire John Yoo, a law professor who co-wrote legal memos that some claimed to have justified the torture of suspected terrorists. 
On the first day of class at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, people protested against Yoo, saying he should be dismissed and prosecuted as a war criminal during his attorney tenure with Bush administration. From 2001 to 2003, Yoo created legal theories for waterboarding and other interrogation strategies.

Demonstrators staged a mock-arrest of Yoo: some were dressed in black hoods and orange prison suits resembling the photos of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prisoners. In 2006, reports of detainee abuse shut the prison. However, Yoo ignored the demonstrators and waited for university police to remove them before he began the day’s lesson.

Yoo has defended the controversial techniques, claiming that they were are necessary to protect the nation from terrorism. Nevertheless, he has been critiqued for these memos; the Berkeley City Council passed a measure calling for federal government to prosecute Yoo for war crimes.

12 arrested, connected to Garden Grove brothel

In Politics on August 13, 2009 at 10:54 am

Last friday, police arrested 23-year-old Westminster man who is connected to a brothel in garden Grove. Eleven Vietnamese women are suspected of prostitution were arrested at the business location; according to Westminster police Lt. Derek Marsh, they are being treated as victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The  brothel is located in a chiropractor’s office that offers massage services on the side. Police are still investigating whether the chiropractor is connected to the suspected brothel operation. Police are surprised that the brothel is relatively public, being next door to a dentist and supermarket.

Last year, the Westminster Police Department and Salvation Army was granted $1.2 million in federal funds to combat human trafficking in Orange County, particularly in the Asian American communities around Little Saigon. The task force is working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate these cases. 

Formerly, victims of prostitution were arrested, charged with demeanor, and released into the community. However, the role of the task force has recently been to rehabilitate the victims.

Shepard Fairey’s political artwork of Burmese leader

In A&E, Politics on August 9, 2009 at 12:34 am

Picture 9An artistic feat, indeed.

Renown artist Shepard Fairey (famous for his Obama election “HOPE” posters and “Obey Giant”) released a poster of Burmese prime minister-elect and democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Nobel peace prize winner Suu Kyi remains under house arrest by the military junta; however, she is receiving wide international support of her freedom, human rights, and democracy in Burma.

Copies are available for distribution via download: http://obeygiant.com/ (not intended for sales merchandise or for-profit materials)