random musings

Asian American Film Festival in Chicago

Greetings from Chicago

Tim Hugh, one man bandleader of the Chicago Asian American Film Festival

This is Tim Hugh and his dog Helga in his kitchen in Chicago. Tim has run the only Asian American Indie Film Fest (i.e. no “imports”) for 12 of the 17 years that it’s been in existence. In this picture, he’s a one man bandleader- running it solo, something I can relate to as a solo musician. I’m in town to promote my film “Daylight Savings” which premiered at SXSW this year, and will be the opening night film this year. Joining me at the screening will be Michael Aki who plays my cousin in the film. I met Mike at this very festival in 2010 when he was showing his films Sunsets that he directed with Eric Nakamura, and his Film Noir tribute “Strangers”

I asked Tim a bunch of questions:

Goh: Why is this festival important?

Tim: It’s one of the only festivals that shows only Asian American films; produced, directed and/or about the Asian American experience. In the midwest more so than the coastal states, you’re constantly asked that stupid question “Where are you from?”… so it’s important to help define what being Asian and American is.

I’m a fourth generation Chinese American. In the midwest, it’s usually under the assumption that you’re just “Asian”… and not “Asian American.” When I see Causasian people I don’t ask them “are you from Poland? are you European?” I just see them for who they are, not what they look like.

Goh: How did you get involved in the festival?

Tim: I was just a fan of the band Seam, and Sooyoung Park, Ben Kim and Billy Shin started the festival in 1995 after they released the Ear of the Dragon CD, which was the first Asian American Rock Compliation. I’d always go and watch everything I could. I’d never seen films like this before; Asian American characters that spoke like me; the actors weren’t forced to speak with a bad accent. I could relate to these images and characters that I was seeing at this festival.

I became obsessed and would watch everything I could, whether it be a feature, documentary, or shorts program. I just wanted to see as much as I could, because I knew I’d never get a chance to see these movies again. Plus, being able to meet the directors and hear them speak about their films was one of the coolest things for me. I remember hanging out with Justin Lin, back when he was just a shorts director.

They noticed me being there year after year, and began to recognize me. Eventually, they would ask me to do little things like hand out program booklets, take tickets, watch the table, and take pictures during the Q&A’s. Basically, I became a volunteer. I remember standing there back in the day giving out Giant Robot magazines!

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China Boy & Susie Cotton

Uh oh....

Over the years I’ve collected lots of different things. One theme that runs across a lot of my vintage collections is blatant “Oriental” racist images.  I’m always fascinated by the fact that these images used to be totally acceptable as home decor, and when I found these items in thrift stores, antique malls and flea markets I snatched them up. This imagery shaped the future of Asians in America for generations to come. It made the stereotypes that began with the first wave of Asian immigrants in the 1800s acceptable in mainstream culture all the way until… well, even now I suppose. My skin still crawls every time I see Yellow Face cosplay at conventions. This stuff just doesn’t ever seem to go away…

This pattern set from the late 1940s is a double whammy with China Boy’s friends Susie Cotton and Sammy Bean.

Pretty nuts. I wonder how many of these sold, and how many women made these dolls for their children?

 



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The 1980s and the Murakami Phenomenon

The English publication of Haruki Murakami’s novel, 1Q84, is  beyond the horizon and the literary world is abuzz with excitement. As the name suggests, it takes place during 1984, a curious contemporary setting given that this was the same decade where Murakami’s career took flight. As many economic historians know, it’s also a period where Japan’s economic wealth was at its height before their economic bubble burst  and a recession stretched past the turn of the millennium. Writers and historians stress the monetary decadence of the 1980s, but there was more than just productional consumption at play. A closer look into the country’s “consumption of knowledge” reveals a lesser known account of Japan’s “intellectual” trends of the time and where Murakami fit into the picture.

Murakami wrote a collection with Shigesato Itoi titled Yume de Aimashou (Let’s Meet in a Dream) in 1981. Gamers are quick to recognize Itoi as the director of the Earthbound (Mother 2) video game. However, Itoi was renowned for neither work during his prime. It’s his position  as a copywriter that made Itoi a national celebrity–a Japanese Don Draper if you will–in the 1980s.  Itoi’s unlikely ascent to superstardom offers a greater insight towards Japanese commercial life during this decade and further aids us in understanding Murakami’s popularity–or what some have deemed the “Murakami Phenomenon.”

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A Blurb on Jobs’s International Legacy

The world is in mourning. The passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs is truly a tragedy on a personal level; yet, I can’t help but reflect what his life’s work represented on the international stage. “Innovative” is the recurrent description attached to Jobs by various news networks. However, if he were known for just that trait alone, then he wouldn’t have superseded America’s creative reputation. America is the land where technical innovators are born. Whether it’s Henry Ford, Thomas Eddison, or even Bill Gates, that’s what America is known for. It’s what made companies like Apple the envy of nations across the globe and continued to persist after the current Great Recession.

In a Giant Robot interview with Shuji Iwai, the dirctor remarked over Japan’s economic and creative slump. He idly commented how few products turn the world the way Apple does. Even executives and employees of Sony boldly strove to compete with Apple’s products during Jobs’s renewed tenure. CEO of Chinese computer company Lenovo, Yang Yuanqing, voiced similar sentiments at the news of Jobs’s demise

Creations aside, Jobs’s most recent achievement was a simple one. He preened and maintained America’s stature as innovators of tomorrow. Whether or not this belief of American exceptional is a myth or reality doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that people both abroad is what counts. Steve Jobs has died, but one can only hope that he didn’t take this perception to the grave.



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Montreal, Chapter 2: Mutant Raccoons of Mount Royal.

Cray Cray Raccoon Whisperer AKA "RAY BZ"

Cray Cray Raccoon Whisperer AKA "RAY BZ"

Homeboy is Cray Cray.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” you might ask…  I’m not quite sure- but he and his family were feeding the raccoons.

After a long first day of getting into Montreal, my hosts Li Li and Jeff took me up to Mount Royal to check out the view.  We drove up, saw the beautiful lights of the city- but it was upstaged by the most random scene…  a family- two parents and a little girl, about 7 or 8? feeding a horde of Freakishly Large  Raccoons.  I was fearing that something really bad was about to happen, but fortunately it- never escalated… even when the mom was kicking some of the bigger raccoons out of the way so the babies could eat.

If you watch the video- you’ll see there’s like 30+ of ‘em swarming/begging for food like dogs.  Strangely, they were really gentle and seemed almost domesticated…very at ease around humans.  Maybe because they’re Canadian?  All the American Raccoons I’ve encountered are mean and aggressive.

[youtube]NVmKmLDTo60[/youtube]



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Montreal, Chapter 1: Poutine on the Ritz

I went to Montreal for the first time last weekend for a screening of Surrogate Valentine and a small coffeehouse gig at the Pop Montreal festival.  The five day music/film festival sprawled across 58 venues with about 450 artists, including big names like  Arcade Fire, Stephen Malkmus, and Kid Koala. I flew in from New York, which was merely a 52 minute flight… pretty painless other than waiting through customs lines and lack of sleep after a whiskey party at my host’s abode before the 4am trip to the airport… but that is a tale for another time.

Let’s talk about Poutine.  Say it with me:  Cheese Curds, Gravy, Fries.

I was in Montreal for three days, and somehow I ended up eating it every day.  I tried not to, but it just sorta happened.  How I managed to survive, I don’t know.

Poutine #1:

My hosts in Montreal picked me up from the airport, and after a croissant and a 2 hour nap, took me out to get lunch. We sat down at this Poutine place called Banquis, and I thought we’d share a plate, but it was every man for himself.  Believe it or not, this is the smallest sized order.  I struggled to eat half of it.  You can’t really see the cheese curds, but they are there.  Chillin’…under the gravy…and fries… and onions… and mushrooms, bacon, peppers, and more fries and gravy.  This thing weighed as much as a child.  Homeboy across from me ate his whole plate- it was the same size sans fixin’s.

Really?

I’ve had it before, about 6 years ago in Toronto, but according to my hosts it’s not the same there.  Montreal-eans get all protective about their poutine.  To be honest, I forgot what it tasted like- but I felt like these cheese curds were more firm and chewy.  It was pretty good, but the portion and thought of eating that much alone kind of turned me off.  That’s a lot of heart attack right there.  I vowed not to eat any more cheese on this trip.

In the middle of eating this, I got a call from Kid Koala, who Eric Nakamura put me in touch with since he’s based in Montreal.  He was amused, and perhaps slightly worried that I was eating Poutine so early in the day.

“that stuff’s for late night, after drinking…”

He invited us to come by his studio, which was a mindblowing experience, but I’ll save that for another post.

Kid Koala in his natural habitat.

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Japanese Dating 101: What Not to Call Your Girlfriend

There’s a long list of things that you should never call your lover. A slut is one. A racialized equivalent is another.

For people that don’t know, a Yellow Cab is a stereotype ascribed to Asian or Japanese women by Western (White) men. It suggests that they’re sexually available and actively seek foreigners out of dissatisfaction with their local men. The direct meaning of the term implies that they can be “ridden anytime” and for a price just like a cab. Common sense dictates that it would be a very bad and very stupid idea for a boyfriend to call their ethnically sensitive girlfriend that. Mark, up there, didn’t read the memo.

The moral of the story? Don’t date a girl because you’re desperately lonely and believe a certain stereotype. In turn, it’s an equally dumb idea for a girl to date someone of a particular nationality because they ascribe a lower degree of chauvinism and misogyny to their boyfriend’s birth place. And lastly, don’t publish your drama for the entire world to read. Facebook is growing lame enough as it is.



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Act Sense

I was hanging out by the JANM about a month ago and was approached/suckered into “auditioning” for a Vonage commercial by a lady with a clipboard. She said there could be some money involved. I had just come from a bar after a few beers and figured “why not?”

She explained the premise of the commercial to me: A conversation between a Japanese musician calling his friend in Japan from his tour bus, explaining how great Vonage international calling is.

She had me read some lines from a script:

“Hey, How’s Tokyo?”

“Just kicking’ it on the tour bus”

“I’m still using Vonage, but now I can call you from my cell phone with my
International Rock Star Plan!”

“Yeah, you hear that? Just some groupies…”

“Yup, loving’ it. Every night. Bright lights, Big City!”

The lady seemed nice at first, but the more I read, the more annoying she got.

I have to admit, any enthusiasm I had dissipated after reading it the first time, but she got more and more aggressive and bossy each time. She somehow got me to read it about 5-6 times, recording each take.

I was trying to be a good sport about it, until I saw the top of the page: “to be read in an accent”

I stopped her and said “Woah. Accent? Sorry, this is a deal breaker. I’m wasting both of our time if I have to do some horrible accent in the actual commercial.”

She apologized, and said that she understood.

My friend, who had been watching from afar and heard the whole thing go down recently sent me a link.

“Hey, remember that annoying Vonage lady and the commercial?”

[youtube]60ceHuueMUw[/youtube]

I have a lot of thoughts about this commercial, you can probably guess them.

The whole thing reminded me of the hilarious movie, “Hollywood Shuffle” by Robert Townsend. It came out in 1987 and blew my mind as a kid… and with that, I’ll leave you with this clip:

[youtube]xKX4LktBI5o[/youtube]



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Vancouver

I was lucky to visit Vancouver last month, for the first time… been hearing a lot of great things about it, and was excited to check it all out.

Greeted by some totem poles

I was picked up by my host, Canadian Animator and Filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, whom I met in Eugene earlier in the year.

 

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Help! Jellies Taking Over Chicago!!!!

Ahhhh, Chicago in 100 degree heat. . . What better place to escape into the air conditioning than the Shedd Aquarium? And right now they have a great jellyfish exhibit that will be up until Spring 2012.

Yes, I admit that the entry fee is pretty steep at about 30$ a head. But don’t let that you detour you! Once we were pass the admission booth I quickly realized that all of the money goes back to the facility. It ain’t cheap feeding all those fishies! Oh! And don’t miss the resident beluga whales, either. Those little friendly guys will make your day with their cuteness!

Word of advice: Purchase your ticket in advance on-line at the Shedd Aquarium website. There is a separate entry line for on-line tickets that was virtually empty.



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Have Will, Guitar Travels: 10 Tips For The Modern Flying Guitarist.

I’ve lost track of how many times that I’ve flown with a guitar, but I’ve been doing it with various degrees of success since I was a teenager. It’s always a source of anxiety for me, but here are some tips that have helped me navigate the not-always-so-friendly-(to-musician)-skies.

1) Travel with a smaller guitar.

If you’re gigging regularly, you can invest in a smaller guitar. Martin and Taylor both make “mini” models that are travel friendly and play pretty well. There is even a company that makes a guitar that folds in half!

My “travelling” guitar is a Parlor guitar, which is smaller bodied than your standard folk/steel string guitar that you see most people play. A lot of folk and blues musicians back in the day liked these because they were more affordable and mass produced.

You can see the size difference, and how that would matter when you’re trying to store it above you.

Guitar Ready Bins!

After much research, I kept my eyes peeled for a used “Larivee” brand guitar. Luckily, one showed up in a local guitar shop, so I checked it out. It played and sounded great. There’s a famous Frank Zappa quote “If you pick up a guitar and it says, ‘Take me, I’m yours,’ then that’s the one for you.” I took it home.

Though it doesn’t sound as full or warm as my concert sized Martin or Taylor, it sounds fantastic when I plug it in to a P.A. or amp. I had bay area luthier/guitar repair whiz Mike Gold equip it with a pickup (Seymour Duncan Mag Mic)

If you travel with an electric guitar, you can probably get away with having a softcase or “gig bag” which you can sling over your shoulder, and store it in the overhead bin. I see this alot for acoustic guitars too. Never, under any circumstances, check a softcase as luggage though. Once it touches the conveyor belt, you can pretty much kiss your axe goodbye.

2) A Case for a Good Hard Case.

If you insist on bringing your $110,000 Les Paul from 1957, then by all means order yourself a professional case, or an “ATA” flight case

These are almost indestructible. They also cost about $700-1k. You’ll have to check it as luggage too, but at least it will be safe… (unless someone steals it, since these cases usually store really nice guitars)

3) Choose a Guitar friendly airline:

Southwest: Make sure you are an early boarder, i.e. the “A” group. You get on first and have first pick of overhead storage space.

Virgin, Jet Blue, American: When you pick your seat, get seated near the back of the plane (seats 19-23) Last Seats (24, 25) usually don’t have overhead space because that’s where they stash their water/beverages. (note: I’m typing this on an American flight, and in seat 25F where there is overhead space.)

4) Rent a guitar.

Some local used music stores will rent you a used guitar for the night. On a recent gig, I felt like playing an electric guitar, (I was playing with a band) so went and rented one for a night. Set me back $40, but I think people bought me about $40 in drinks, so maybe it was worth it. I definitely had more fun playing the electric that night, so it was a win for me.

5) Borrow a guitar.

If you don’t mind playing someone else’s gear, the best thing is to find a friend who has a guitar that you can borrow at your destination. Eliminates the need to babysit it everywhere you go too. I find that I end up playing the guitar for about 3-4 hours tops when I travel to and from gig.

How I Roll

6) The Force is With You, but Don’t Force it.

Dealing with the Airline Gate Attendants always reminds me of the scene in Star Wars, in which Obi Wan uses the force on the stormtroopers. The gate attendant is the stormtrooper. He/she is a robot who is programmed to not allow items of a certain size onboard. They are often kind of pissy and angry because they have to deal with mean people every day. Once in awhile, you will get a sympathetic guitar pickin’ human who will help you, but that is rare. Most of the time they are robots reading from a script to get everyone through as efficiently as possible. They will see you with your guitar, and say “this is a full flight, you’re going to have to gate check that”

Don’t panic. Definitely don’t be a wise ass or put up a stink. “Gate check” means your item is too big to fit above the overhead. They will attach a pink or red tag to your guitar and give you a claim tag, then instruct you to leave your guitar at the end of the boarding ramp where everyone puts their strollers and stuff. From there, they will put it below the plane, which is not optimal (due to cold temperatures) but it’s a hell of a lot better than checking it as luggage. (never do that)

What I do is say “thanks” and then walk right on the plane with the guitar. If the flight attendant tries to stop me, I gently and politely ask “Well- is it ok if I try and find a place for it in an overhead bin?” Usually there will be a cool flight attendant on board who will try their best to find a space for your guitar.

Some tactics that have worked before, but I haven’t used recently:

7) Try “PreBoarding”

When they announce “we are now boarding people with small children, or people who need a little more time on the ramp.” walk up with your guitar. If they question you, just say “I need a litte time to assure that I can stow this, which is like a child to me” I did this successfully on the suggestion of a gate attendant in 2006, but I think it was because she had a soft spot for guitar players.

8 ) The Price of Rock n’ Roll

Try to stash it in any open overhead bin you can while you’re going to your seat. People might get mad, but that is the price of rock and roll.

9) Call for Back Up

If you’re traveling with friends, lovers, or band mates, they might have some extra space. It will increase your chances to get your axe on board.

10) Give up.

There’s too many guitar players. Take up the shakuhachi or skin flute. Be an iPhone DJ! Bring “Mime” back! Start a portable musical revolution! …or take the train.

So to sum up…

Never:

Check your guitar in a gig bag.

Argue with the staff, you will lose.

It’s OK to Gate Check, but try and store it above.

One last tip: Allow yourself plenty of extra time, especially if your acoustic guitar has a pickup with a battery in it. Remove the battery if you can. It looks like a bomb when it goes through the x-ray with all the wires and electronics. Most of the people who are doing the screening have no idea what an acoustic guitar pickup is.

Happy Travels!

If any of you have any instrument travel stories/tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.



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Get over it!

My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant is a brutally honest piece of writing that I think everyone should know about. This long essay was first printed in the New York Times Magazine on June 22, 2011 and describes the moving story (and confession) of Jose Antonio Vargas who admits to being an illegal alien. It tells the strange path his life has taken from boarding a flight to the Bay Area at the age of 12 to his career as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Vargas’ mission is two-fold, I believe 1. to raise awareness of the malfunctioning U.S. immigration “process” and provide a visual that not all undocumented workers are who you think they are and 2. to come clean about his real identity – to confess for the years of guilt he has harbored for lying about his situation.

After My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant was published there’s been a bizarre backlash against Vargas on the Internet. In particular by fellow journalists who have put a lot of energy in writing long-winded pieces on how Vargas can’t be trusted and how they were “duped.” They quickly leap to the role of drama queen without taking a second and asking themselves, “What would I have done if that was me?”

And while we are on the subject of morality, where is the virtue in sending someone back to a third-world country? What warped moral compass points to that? The cries to deport Vargas to his country of birth are hilarious to me because they are screamed with such conviction and entitlement with the underlying message, “I’m a real American, he’s NOT, send that piece of dirt back to the hole he came from.”

So as we celebrate on July 4th this year with our fireworks and parades and BBQs, I also hope we talk about My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant amongst each other. And maybe get over the fact that Vargas lied [which is not really the point people] and raise the level of the discussion to include, “What does it say about the U.S. if we are so willing to obliterate such a bright talent who so desperately wants to be one of us?”



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Debbie Carlos Takes Over Chicago

Chicago has a lot of great things happening lately. Alinea for high end gastronomy.  Pitchfork for your summer time music fest cravings.  Half Acre Brewery for well…duh, beer and Hot Doug’s for basically any type of encased meat you probably never even thought of.

Lucky for us, we also have Debbie Carlos calling Chicago home. Her modern photography is some of the quietest and simplest (simple in a good way) photography I have seen and I have been obsessed with her photos since 2005.  Her photos are actually the only pieces of art up in my apartment other than a few Jay Ryan prints and her Antlers photo has been blogged and re-blogged and blogged again throughout the interwebs.

I was lucky enough to sit with Debbie over some pho where we talked about her work and the following questions came from that discussion, our general friendship, and heavy duty emailing back and forth.

Photo of Debbie by Devin Higgins other photos by Debbie Carlos


SIX QUESTIONS WITH Debbie Carlos

GR: 1. You were born in Manila, grew up in LA, lived on the East Coast and have also spent a lot of time in Tapei. How did you make your way to Chicago and what do you dig about this city?

DC: I moved to Chicago from Massachusetts in the spring of ‘04 to study photo at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Of the cities I’ve lived in, I think Chicago was the first one I felt a real connection with. There is such a great sense of history, that you can feel everywhere. You get a lot of culture, and the hustle and bustle of a large city, but there is also a really nice Midwestern relaxed attitude. There is also a diverse set of neighborhoods surrounding downtown, and I think it’s these communities that make the city really interesting.  Also, the eating is pretty excellent.

GR: 2.  You got a bachelor’s in psychology and then made the bold decision to attend School of the Art Institute for a second degree in photography.  How did you make that leap and how did your family react?  Was your mom a “tiger mom”?

DC: Even from the moment I finished my first degree, I really wanted to pursue photography, but was held back because I thought I needed a ‘real job.’ And I thought that was what my family wanted for me. When I got laid off from my office job, though, my hope to study art kind of slipped out over the phone to my mom. She told me to go for it.

I think I have the advantage of having a mom that studied piano and fashion design during her years in college, so I think she is actually really open to me having a non-conventional job. My dad is supportive, too, but I think he leans more to the side of wanting me to have a real and steady job. They both wish that I lived closer to home, of course.

GR: 3. You’re ETSY store features your black and white prints on large-scale architectural stock paper.  I actually have one up in my living room and absolutely love it! How did you move towards that size and do you consider it part of your “signature” now?

DC:My brother first introduced me to this kind of printing a number of years ago, and I loved how much image you could get for a really low price. Photographic prints of this size usually cost hundreds of dollars, whereas I could just print these stock-paper prints out in my school’s architectural department for so much less. I also really just loved the aesthetic of it, and it was kind of an epiphany. Color images come out beautifully muted, and the black and white is rough and textural, which is eventually what I returned to with my posters. I love the idea of art for everybody, so that’s what I wanted to make.

The black and white posters are by far the biggest sellers in my shop, and what brings people to my work…so, yeah, I guess it could be what I’m known for. I love my color prints, too. As much as I do love the posters, I am very much a color girl.

GR: 4. Can you tell us about the relationship between your photography and food?  And what have you been cooking lately?

DC:I love photography, and I love cooking and eating food. I think it was a really natural step for me to photograph it. I think I first started to think about food photography as a valid area of interest for me when I picked up Donna Hay magazine. I loved how her images were soft, clean and dreamy, unlike a lot of the slick and modern food photography back then. I saw the images in her magazine and thought, I want to do that! Also, it gives me an excuse to photograph, cook and eat. WIN WIN WIN

I’m not sure if I’m cooking anything very special these days. My go-to meal is any kind of thing with a  fried, runny egg on top. I’ve been asked to make the cake and sweets spread for the wedding of two of my closest friends in a couple weeks, so I’m totally excited about that.

GR: 5.  If you could only grab one camera to shoot with, which one would it be?

DC: It will always be my old trusty Pentax p30 35mm SLR.

GR: 6. A lot of your photos feature your bunny and cat as models.  So who would win in a fight? Bunny vs. Cat?

DC: Cat! She’s got smarts. Bunny only knows her constant need to eat food. Bunny wins for softness though.

You can visit Debbie here or shop her Etsy store!



 



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horvaths, my ear, and Juxtapoz Choe

Mexican without Mexicans. Yeah. This place is amazing. Manhattan Beach Mexican food. El Sombrero #2. I hope the #2 doesn’t mean anything weird! It’s a neighborhood Mexican place that I can tell is well loved. It’s packed, it’s good, and people there seem happy. That’s David and Sun-min. So glad to have caught up with them. It’s been ages. Look at their burritos! Whoa. I opted for 2 chicken tacos. Pictured is only 1 taco. All so good.


This was a tough one. It was chef Mina’s turn. She cooked us up noodles, chicken in spicy sauce, and ice tea.
I don’t know why I feel the need to blog my ear, but see that scratch. Imagine this. My cat, put one claw into my ear. It was stuck. I was trying to get it out and in the process, sliced through my own ear. That line goes through.
The below is my article on David Choe in the current Juxtapoz. I wrote it on the morning it was due. I think it came out pretty decent.



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Strangers at LAAPFF

The Strangers Crew at the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival. That’s Bill Poon, Robert Burke, Michael Aki, Eugenia Yuan, and Pryor Praczukowski. Bill Poon is the Assistant Producer! Robert Burke plays the perfect dirty loser underworld guy. Michael Aki’s character is the Asian Kimbo Slice. The master of the gun. A killer. Eugenia Yuan is the subject. Pryor shot it nicely. Strangers screens sunday 9pm at the Sunset 5 in LA.
Instead of watching the opening night movie. I ate dinner with the group.


Eugenia and Michael Aki. The carpet might not be red, but this is the red carpet area.
Amy Hill was there!

Thomas Nakanishi should join Kiss.



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The end of Tokyo – great food. Hanaya Asagaya

Neighborhood spots. The tasty of the tasty. I had omakase type of dinner at Hanaya in Asagaya. You get the drift. Great foods, amazing presentation. Nice people. This type of spot has your back when you want something really nice to eat. You can’t go there daily, or, can you? It’s not out of the control pricey, but at the same time, it’s not super inexpensive. There’s plenty of nice spots to eat in this area, this is just one of them. Toro and uni above.

a small fish and eggplant dish.
porco rosso
egg tofu and daikon with ikura
This is the drinker set of snacks.
daikon and gobo

The next day. cat #1

cat #2

cat #3. This cat looks really beat up, but I really like the cat’s face. I hope this one recovers fully by the time I come back to Japan.
Yasukuni shrine images will end out this blog post.


Except for this image. I really like how the caramel box is integrated perfect into the handle on the train. Someone was thinking.



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Japan finds

Famicom. Family computer. You’d think you could find this everywhere, but it’s really not that easy. It’s pretty, red and offwhite and the Japanese carts fit right in. The carts are similar to the NES but it’s not the same. You need a converter, which it turns out is hard to find. There’s so many little hacks for it, but in the end, it’s best just to have the system. I’m playing a game called Super Chinese. It’s pretty fun. I’ll be exploring the rest of the games I picked up in Japan! Some carts are a $1. Some are $25!

The camera strap from Camera People. “Kame P” It’s a small shop in Gakugei Daigaku. I didn’t shoot these pics since shooting my own Camera strap on my camera is tough to shoot. But this is straight from their site. Here’s their links. They even process film and print it. It’s sort of the ultimate camera hobby shop and they even have a small gallery above. The leather straps are my favorite.

While I check out this stuff, I have two cats sitting nearby. Here’s what they do once in a while. Groom each other!

On the flight back from Japan, I shot a pic out of the window of LA. The red dot is literally my house. Below it’s zoomed just a bit. It’s amazing how much you can really make out of a window of a plane.



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Daniel Dae Kim x me?

Do you watch Lost? Know this man? I’m going to interview him hopefully like none other. It’s coming up May 15 2010. I’m already plotting my questions. It should be fun in all reality. This dude is totally cool, I don’t think people really know who he is and he’s one of the larger stars on TV. Want to come? Check out the Facebook link. We have some free slots.



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Tokyo bits

Hara Museum is Shinagawa is a pretty cool spot. It’s a small museum that has changing exhibitions, but also has a permanent room by Yoshitomo Nara. I couldn’t take a photo of it. I think it was the only room that had a videocamera watching. The above image was in a room by some french artist. Yeah, it’s like a bathroom or something, but it’s also like TRON!

Akihabara – retro game hunting. There’s a reason for it.
Junk at Akihabara. Japanese junk looks cool. You really don’t know what you’re going to get.
That’s the sculpture Garden at Hara Museum. Next to Kohei’s face is a vertical piece of metal which is an Isamu Noguchi piece.
Tai Yaki and they don’t even cut out the extra parts

Too many toy figures. They’re everywhere.
retro games at Super Potato. You’d think this spot is the best, and it’s quite great, but in the end, it’s the most expensive too.
Ice cream in a baguette, yes it totally works.
That’s Taro Goto on the right. He used to be part of the SF Asian Film Festival. He led us to an Okinawan spot in Shibuya. Super great.
Sadatoshi shows off ice cream.



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Ayako and camera

Ayako Fujitani and her new old camera. It shoots 35mm and although film is a dying breed, this is a cool rangefinder. I think it’s called a bosley, but I’m no longer sure. Who’s going to preserve the film cameras as digital everything takes over? When will film just be cancelled? It’s all in the hands of the fans. Meanwhile, we went through Ueno area, and ate some yakitori.

That’s spanish mackerel pate!
It looks like I have a blonde mullet in this frame. That’s what it would look like with a neckwarmer. If I was Canadian, maybe. Not good. Now flip it to yourself. Imagine you with a blonde mullet. No! Don’t rock that. I wonder if the woman sitting behind me would have ever thought her hair would be used so well in the background of a photo.
Yakitori is always good. No… amazing.

Hand it over! This is what a public bath employee used to do way back in the day. If you want to take a bath, this guy lords over the entrance and peeps at the ladies changing.

The flowers are almost gone from the trees.
This is in Ueno park. It’s cool how there’s tons of vendors dealing up Japanese snacks.
Saigo Takemori in Ueno. I haven’t been to this park in perhaps more than 15 years. I’ll guess that’s a shiba inu.
This isn’t good.
This is good. It’s awesome how they sell great slices of fruit on the street. Too bad they have to use chopsticks, but the fruit was good. Thankfully, the chopsticks absorb water well, and the fruit sticks! Since fruit is pricey in Japan, you sort of don’t get to eat much of it, so when you do it’s refreshing.



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