The Case Against the Slants

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I was on Facebook and caught Simon Tam, the founder of the Asian dance rock band The Slants, posting about how their band was just denied a trademark because the US Trademark Office deemed the name of their band to be offensive (check out Simon’s previous guest blog about this issue here). I reposted Simon’s article and it sparked a spirited debate between Crane, my attorney friend, and Simon himself. Below is the exchange:

• Crane Stephen Landis: Because offensive is offensive even if it comes from someone in the group who would be offended.

• Crane Stephen Landis: The Washington DC “Redskins” is offensive even if it were owned by a Native American. That’s why the US Trademark Office revoked their trademark.

The Asian Dildo Terrorist

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I just read this hilarious article about an obviously Asian man having fun with a gigantic dildo on the New York subway last weekend on Animal and Death and Taxes.

According to Animal, “An older man of indeterminate ethnic origin [probably East Asian?] boarded the train at Atlantic Avenue; the man seemed ‘fucked up on some kind of drug,’ loose-limbed and sloppy. Some young men sitting next to him began making fun of him. One of the dudes took out his phone to snap a selfie with the older guy. At that point, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a massive dildo. The young guys and other people nearby ran away, laughing.”

TBT: ‘Telegraph’ & Berkeley in the ’90s

A boy, a street vendor’s child on Telegraph Ave.

A boy, a street vendor’s child on Telegraph Ave.

As I was recently doing research into a story set in Berkeley in the 90s, when I went to school, I dug up the very first thing I made, Telegraph, an 80 minute documentary that I shot on the VHS camera my roommate loaned me for a weekend. It was an assignment I shot in lieu of writing a paper to my Documentary Film class at Berkeley during my junior year…. which must have been 1990.

The film was modeled after Walter Ruttman’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City that I saw in that class. Instead of Berlin, I decided to do a similar exercise on the life of a day on the famed Berkeley street, Telegraph Ave. I was able to capture and interview many street and homeless personalities whom I’d bump into on Telegraph Ave. every day en route to school.

To Live and Eat in Los Angeles

The flavorful amuse bouche at Tangine, Beverly Hills.

The flavorful amuse bouche at Tangine, Beverly Hills.

I’ve been to many cities in the world from Hong Kong to Tokyo to Paris to Berlin to New York, but none have international cuisines more diverse, more authentic, and more affordable than Los Angeles. I’m conjecturing that it’s all due to this metropolis’ amazing diversity in population and affordability of space. Even an incredibly specialized ethnic cuisine can afford to open up a little shop that local residents will champion. From haut cuisine in Beverly Hills to a mom-and-pop shop in Koreatown, LA has nothing short of good eats.

My aunt took me out for her birthday at Beverly Hills’ Tagine, a Moroccan haut cuisine restaurant. “It used to be impossible to get hummus in the 80s,” reminisced my aunt over the six course tasting menu with wine pairings, “And now it’s everywhere with all different flavors.”

A Portrait of Filmmakers as Young Men

Chinese Opera Singer William Lau, Justin Lin, me and Steven Pranoto in Toronto for Shopping For Fang’s Canadian premiere at TIFF 1997

Chinese Opera Singer William Lau, Justin Lin, me and Steven Pranoto in Toronto for Shopping For Fang’s Canadian premiere at TIFF 1997

Fellow Offender Justin Lin’s post on Class of 97 brings back humble memories of our roots as UCLA film students and independent filmmakers. I remember driving up to San Francisco to promote Shopping for Fangs at Berkeley. We stayed overnight on the floor of a future producer’s dorm room and we didn’t sleep very well on the night that she invited us to screen our movie on campus.

So the next night, when we were offered another night on the floor of this humble student’s dorm room, we declined and said we were heading back to Los Angeles.

But our secret plan was to find a nice motel room where we could spend a night in and write. As we were heading out of Berkeley, we checked all the motels in the vicinity and they all turned out to be over $60 per night. I was sure that we could find a motel room in the $40 range in the Oakland area.

Throwback Thursday: My Favorite 90s Tunes

(Left to Right: Akemi Look, Kimberly Rose-Wolter, Michelle Krusiec and Karin Anna Cheung play four best friends in the 90s in The Unbidden)

(Left to Right: Akemi Look, Kimberly Rose-Wolter, Michelle Krusiec and Karin Anna Cheung play four best friends in the 90s in The Unbidden)

As I was researching 1990s music for my feature in post-production, The Unbidden, I started to recall my favorite 90s tracks that still sound contemporary and fabulous. Here are my top 10 in no order or preference:

1. Opus III’s “It’s a Fine Day” (1992)

Reinventing Asian American Cinema

(Not so much The Joy Luck Club from left to right: Amy Hill, Kimberly Rose-Wolter, Michelle Krusiec, Tamlyn Tomita, Julia Nickson, Akemi Look, Elizabeth Sung and Karin Anna Cheung)

(Not so much The Joy Luck Club from left to right: Amy Hill, Kimberly Rose-Wolter, Michelle Krusiec, Tamlyn Tomita, Julia Nickson, Akemi Look, Elizabeth Sung and Karin Anna Cheung)

If there is a cinematic genre called Asian American film, then every Asian American feature should be an invention until we find a formula that can do well and sustain the genre. If we don’t have a formula, every movie must be a new invention or a re-invention. That’s the real excitement about Asian American cinema; precisely because there is no formula for success every movie can essentially be experimental and innovative.

I keep thinking that the last feature I made would be my last Asian American feature, but then there are so many wonderful Asian American actors I want to work with and so many new ideas I want to try out.

Around the Horn: Single Parenting

Bev

I want to take the opportunity to say a big congrats to fellow Offender Beverly who’s going to be a single parent. I’m also planning to be a single dad through surrogacy next year… I meant I have already started the process and am planning to have the child next year. I’ve always wanted to have a child since I was a teenager, and it seems like these couple years feel the right time to do it. It’s now or never. What are your thoughts on single parenting? Were you raised by a single mom or dad? What advice, thoughts or blessings would you give us?

A Return to ’0506HK’

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My ex-boss Director Peter Chan ruminated with me about my own future in 0506HK

My ex-boss Director Peter Chan ruminated with me about my own future in 0506HK

After almost 10 years since I started making my first documentary feature 0506HK, I was brought back to my little known and seen film by a festival in Kochi, India, which is showcasing it in their “Make Belong” program as part of Kochi-Muzuris Biennale. Right after Ethan Mao between 2005 and 2006, I picked up a prosumer HD camcorder and decided to make a film about my own search for identity. I had just turned 35 and I was wondering if I should return to my birthplace—Hong Kong—to live and make films.

It’s Never Too Late to Say I Love You

WONDERLANDEarlier this year, I came across an essay written by Candice Chung titled “Why Chinese Parents Don’t Say I Love You” from a friend’s Facebook page. As a first generation Chinese immigrant from Hong Kong, even though I know there’s much truth in the essay, it’s never too late to say “I love you” to your Chinese parents and vice versa.

Joan Chen and BD Wong hug Booboo Stewart in White Frog

Joan Chen and BD Wong hug Booboo Stewart in White Frog

About a decade earlier, my mom started saying “I love you” to me after every phone conversation. I was already in my mid-thirties and I thought in the beginning that it definitely felt new and different. Perhaps because I was Asian and a guy, I was slightly awkward at PDA for most of my life. Not long after she started, she got me to say “I love you” back to her. In the back of my mind, I would wonder why I had to say it because it was obvious. Is saying “I love you” overstating a fact? Can’t you tell from my actions and behavior that I do love you?

An Open Letter to Sichuan Garden’s Ran Duan

AnOpenLettertoRanDuan

(Please see the details of the case of Ben Edelman vs. Ran Duan of Sichuan Garden in the following link)

Dear Mr. Duan,

I have reviewed the published correspondence between you and Mr. Edelman and have deemed Mr. Edelman to be in the right.

As a Chinese immigrant myself, apart from your restaurants not adhering to the provisions of State laws, I am appalled at the horrible customer service and experience that you and your institutions provided to a legitimate and paying customer, including ungrammatical English.

The Crossing

TheCrossing

Yesterday, John Woo’s latest epic, The Crossing, opened in China. They even opened the movie ahead of Hong Kong, so my film critic friend had to make a trip to the neighboring city of Shenzhen, one of the youngest cities in China rivaling Hong Kong in both its economic progress and bustling population, to watch the movie in the theater. Naturally I had to tag along.