Film Festival Dispatch: Sights, Sounds & Tastes of Hong Kong

Working for film festivals does take a toll sometimes, but then again, I get to travel to cool places. In March alone, I headed out to SXSW in Austin, SFIAAFF in the Bay Area, Saigon and Hong Kong for the annual Filmart and the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF). Run by friend and mentor, Roger Garcia, the HKIFF and Filmart (the film market arm of the organization) has been on a roll with strong film programming, celebrity-studded events, capped with the Asian Film Awards, honoring the best in Asian cinema.

Soup Goddess

I want to marry this woman. Running a rickety little soup cart behind a small hotel along a steamy and smelly river in the middle of Saigon, the “Lunch Lady” is by far, one of the jewels of street food cuisine. I’ve been looking for her for a long time, especially after I watched the Vietnam episode of NO RESERVATIONS with Anthony Bourdain visited Nguyen Thi Thanh a.k.a. The Lunch Lady, who makes the best soup noodles in the city. Her specialties are the hu tieu, bun bo hue, and of course, pho. Only open from 11am – 2pm everyday, office workers, backpack tourists and traveling foodies congregate around the rickety cart, sit on little plastic seats and slurp up soup nirvana.

Romance, Lo’mance…Old School Chinese Style

It’s a mystery how my brother and I were conceived as my old school Chinese mom and dad rarely expressed any affection with one another.  And yet, with no real displays of romance between my parents, my mother still felt that she was an authority on love and courtship.  But that should not be surprising as with all old school Chinese mothers – especially mine, it’s a given that they will be dogmatic about all important matters from finding your life partner to the optimum way of folding your underwear.

Double Happiness: Hardcore Chinese Motherpedia Part 1

Thanks to Technorati.com for digging up this photo of an OSCM

Since posting my holiday blog on “How to Survive the Holidays Chinese Style”, I received some requests from non-Chinese readers for a primer on what to do if your loved one has a hardcore Chinese mom and/or dad.  I’m glad to help out but, should warn you that deconstructing Chinese parents isn’t completely straightforward – there are there are quite a few varieties of hardcore Chinese parents (HCCP) who share primarily the same traits but have different concerns.  These differences relate to issues of immigration (straight off the boat 1st generation vs. well assimilated 4th generation), class (working vs. upper class), and level of education (village grade schools vs. Ivy League).  Like training dogs, knowing the breed will determine your response when the HCCP inadvertently invokes our blog and screams “You offend me, you offend (our) family!”

Double Happiness: Why Amy Chua is The Panda Express of Chinese Moms

Recently, Yale Law Professor, Amy Chua has been whipping the blogosphere into a frenzy with her newly released book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ and provocative promo piece – the WSJ article ‘Why Chinese Moms Are Superior’.  (An exception to the rule – my fellow bloggers Anderson and Phil have simply gotten hot and bothered by her MILF-y appeal and tough love modus operandi.)  In a nutshell, she proudly divulges the details of her strict disciplinary approach and suggests that this style of parenting is not only typically associated with Chinese parents but also, produces winning results as evidenced by her two musician prodigy daughters.  Her article has hit a nerve as she’s been accused of perpetuating and exploiting racial stereotypes, condoning child abuse, and being reductive and elitist in her definition of success.  And with all the fervor particularly around her severe parenting methods, you’d think she has everyone convinced that she’s one badass Chinese mom.  (Cue 70s exploitation film music).

Double Happiness: How to Survive the Holidays Chinese American Style

We all love our families, but spending over 24 hours with them in close proximity during a time when joy and good vibes are mandatory can be a mental hazard.  Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to adapt-

1. Submit to the dress code: My brother used to make fun of me when I’d come home dressed up like a flight attendant – pants or skirt suit, sensible heels, pearls and a silk scarf for a touch of color.  Looking like my mother’s “mini me” was an easy way to preempt any clothing critiques.

Double Happiness: Don’t Mess With Mom

To commemorate this Mother’s Day, here are my top reasons on why old-school Asian moms are so badass…

1.  They are masters at dropping guilt bombs.

2. They’ve got a bottomless tool kit to cover any emergency – from stashes of cold hard cash to ear pickers to kleenex, they are ready for anything at all times.

3. Their hair is permed and shellacked like bullet-proof helmet.

4. They have psychic powers that can anticipate the first whiff of disobedience.

5. Their chopsticks are not just for eating but double as weapons to smack fingers into submission.

6. They have a stone cold stare that could send Medusa packing.

Double Happiness: Mutton Love Conquers All

My future mother-in-law getting her close up

Being that today is the day for announcements – well, I thought the day would never happen but I’m engaged.  My significant other Ned, hails from the grassy hills of New Zealand and we met when he was on tour with his movie ‘Black Sheep’ at the Toronto Film Festival.  We didn’t hit it off right away – I thought he seemed a bit gamey and he thought I was a bit of a cold fish.   And while I actually love all forms of mutton and could eat it everyday, I never really considered dating one.  Yes, some of you may consider me a speciest and I’m prepared to deal with the onslaught of criticisms.  Like fellow offender Sung who has posted about how dating preferences and family don’t mix, I too have a mother who had a lot to say about my dating habits and certainly sheep were at the bottom of the food chain in her mind.  She told me to stay away from the sheep and derided them as ‘cursed Mongolians’.  However, she made an exception for dragons, phoenixes, and fu dogs because they were considered good luck.

Double Happiness: Old Wives Tales

Growing up, my immigrant family – particularly my mother and grandmother subscribed to certain beliefs and superstitions regarding maintaining one’s health, increasing brain power, and warding off sickness.  Here’s my shortlist of their prescriptions, remedies, and warnings that I have rarely subscribed to and often defied.

1. Don’t leave your hair wet or else you’ll get a headache.  I’ve often defied this rule as I prefer the au natural air-dried look and lack the patience and talent to craft a perfect blow dried and hair sprayed homage to Flock of Seagulls ala new wave offender Anderson.

2. Black sesame seed darkens your hair.  I’d like to see Jim Jarmusch try that one.

3. Walnuts make you smarter.  It’s because those nuts look like brains.  But it doesn’t apply if your brain is in fact the size of a walnut.  So what happens when you eat geoduck?  Fellow offender, Roger - are you willing to put that one to the test?

Double Happiness: Cleaning Chinese Style

My mother and grandmother both live by the mantra “cleanliness is next to godliness” and in response, I had no choice but to become an OCD pack rat.  In anticipation of the rituals of Spring cleaning (I need to start early), here’s a list of some of their anal retentive ways:

1.  They save all those plastic shopping bags and fold them into origami triangles so that they can be compacted.  No jack in the box surprises of plastic baggies flying out of overstuffed drawers.

2. They swab down the mouthpieces of phones with alcohol to kill off any germs.  A necessary procedure for households where yelling on the phone is akin to using your normal speaking voice.

Michael Jackson Reincarnated as Chinese Toddler

YouTube dancing sensation Yiming Wang, who we’ve blogged about, was invited and flown over by Ellen DeGeneres to appear on her show. We find out the kid is only 4-years old and does a mean Jacko impersonation! Here’s the clip, where the crowd goes wild: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld1VhXCpiiI[/youtube] Now I can go to the very obvious snarky remark about Michael Jackson’s dream come true in embodying a child or the late Man-Child is now just “Child” (I kind of did that with the title of this blog), but you have to admit that this was a cool tribute to the late icon, crotch grab and all!

Double Happiness: A is for Asian and…Angst

Along with a love for food, angst tops the chart of the Asian compulsions. Here are some sources of our angst…

A is for straight As. That letter has been ingrained into our minds since we were first able to read.  Anything less than an ‘A’ was akin to sacrilege.

N is for No.  Whether you’re the girl seeking permission to leave the watch of the warden…I mean, your parents, or the boy asking that cheerleader to the prom, the anticipation and utterance of the word ‘No’ creates more turmoil in the gut than a daily dose of kimchi.