Riding along the bumpy road to the DMZ border was perhaps the one of the most heart-wrenchingly surreal moments that I’ve ever experienced. I remember stepping out and looking over to the other side of the green mountain where North and South Korea is divided. I could see the small roofs and farms of North Korea…the watchmen, the soldiers, the DMZ meeting house that rests on the exact border. I felt a giant knot twisting in my gut thinking, “people actually pay money to see this? I couldn’t believe what a tourist site the DMZ had become. I remember one week after I had visited the quiet zone, news had broken out that a South Korean woman tourist got shot by a North Korean soldier due to her wild gesturing.
The stagnant war between North and South Korea has redefined the people of Korea. Deep, unchangeable rifts have been created and thousands of families torn apart.
My family is an example of one of them.
One of my grand-uncles may still reside in North Korea and two of my grand-aunts were shot for dating two “liberal” men in college. North Korea remains such a harrowing tale of the tragedies of war and the continuance of fear.
But organizations such as LiNK are changing things up. Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is redefining the North Korea crisis through creative storytelling, while providing emergency relief to North Korean refugees and pursuing an end to the human rights crisis.
I first heard of LiNK a couple of years ago on campus at UCI as a sophomore. LiNK is one of the only U.S. based assistance organization that hosts national awareness tours that use film, stories of refugees and creative media to educate communities of the North Korea crisis, and provide opportunities to change the lives of North Koreans through their local chapters that continue to build awareness, advocacy and funds for their programs and rescue operations.
In fact, LiNK released their first documentary, “Hiding” on September 26, featuring their underground networks and refugee rescues and shelters. The documentary can be eligible to be screened all over the U.S., at high schools, colleges and places of worship. For more information on how to check out or host a screening, check out the link here. They are even doing an 8 week “webisode” series with the Ford Foundation to follow North Korean defector, Danny, as he resettles in Los Angeles.
Check out the trailer here:
The documentary shows a more personal and human side on the disaster that is North Korea. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans continue to be enslaved in prison camps. Up to 300,000 have also escaped to China – seeking food, medicine, work, or freedom from political and religious oppression. Among the 300,000, 70 to 90% of North Korean women are sold into the sex trade, and more and more refugees are fleeing to Southeast Asia to escape imprisonment upon repatriation by China.
“Hiding” is a film about a group of North Korean refugees hiding in China today and exposes their struggles to survive. I can’t wait to watch the screening and hope all of you readers get a chance to watch the documentary. The future is looking brighter with much of your needed support.
To learn more about LiNK and how you can help the North Korean Crisis, you can support LiNK here.
I was marinating in my long time friend’s raves about jazz band Pink Martini during our bi-monthly double-date at The Corner Place Korean BBQ House in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Living in Seoul together, we had both missed the atmosphere of smoke, clanking soju bottles, and the jib jab busy sounds of Korean.
It was at Milk, a delectable ice cream parlor on La Brea, my friend continued to rave on with glittering eyes about how amazing this group was. So naturally, I went home that night to do a bit of research and came to find that I had glitter in my eyes as I listened to their music and found out that the cellist in the band is a Chinese American musician, Pansy Chang. Simply fantastique!
Chang is one of the twelve musicians in Pink Martini. Drawing inspiration from music all around the world, Pink Martini, the “little orchestra” as founder and bandleader Thomas Lauderdale calls it, has released four albums on the band’s own independent label, Heinz Records: Sympathique (1997), Hang on Little Tomato (2004), Hey Eugene! (2007) and Splendor In The Grass, (2009). They are a whimsical 1940’s and 50’s-esque jazz group that began when Lauderdale met fellow Crimson, China Forbes at Harvard. Their first song “Sympathique” became an overnight sensation in France, and was nominated for “Song of the Year” at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards. In fact, the band has gone gold in many countries including Canada, Greece, and Turkey and is continuing with their international success.
Pink Martini performed last month at the Hollywood Bowl on September 10th through the 12th. They performed an impressive show full of “Gershwin meets the Girl from Ipanema meets peaceful Kyoto” and the audience was completely entranced under a night sky with the Bowl’s celebrated and loved fireworks finale. I loved the performance and was able to enjoy a much-needed night out with good music, good wine, and good company…three things that Americans need more of. My personal favorite song is “Hang on Little Tomato”. It has sort of become the theme song of my life whenever I’m typing away on my notebook…or paying the bills. Rufus Wainwright, another personal favorite, made a guest appearance, as well as Jane Powell, Ari Shapiro, and even the cast of Sesame Street.
Chang has performed in North America, Europe, and Israel and has appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Chamber Music Northwest, on Bob Sherman’s “Listening Room” – WQXR New York, and in both the Yale Spectrum Series and the Yale Faculty Artist Series in New Haven. Her impressive resume also includes performances with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, the Oregon Symphony, and regional orchestras in the Washington, DC and Portland metropolitan areas. In 1992, Chang was awarded a Fulbright Grant for study in the United Kingdom, and was a semi-finalist in the 1993 Leonard Rose International Cello Competition. Much of her work now seems to be in part of the efforts for Pink Martini.
Chang, along with the other members of Pink Martini have performed with over 25 orchestras around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center and the BBC Concert Orchestra in London. Other appearances include the grand opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s new Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, at Carnegie Hall; the opening party of the remodeled MoMA in New York; the Governor’s Ball at the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008; and the opening of the 2008 Sydney Festival in Australia.
Lauderdale said it best: “All of us in Pink Martini have studied different languages as well as different styles of music from different parts of the world. So inevitably, because everyone has participated at some point in the writing or arranging of songs, our repertoire is wildly diverse. At one moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli. It’s a bit like an urban musical travelogue. We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad … and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent – through our repertoire and our concerts – a broader, more inclusive America … the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world … comprised of people of every country, every language, every religion. We’re a bit like musical archeologists, digging through recordings and scores of years past and rediscovering beautiful songs.”
The multilingual, virtuosic musicians of Pink Martini cross boundaries with each new album producing gifts of music for our ears. Hopefully with more fame, we will enjoy more of Pink Martini’s tunes. In fact, one day I’d love to have an actual pink martini with Ms. Pansy Chang.
For more information on Pink Martini or Pansy Chang, you can support them here at: www.pinkmartini.com
The young starlets of the Korean girl band, GIRLS GENERATION, or SNSD, or more precisely, 소녀시대, have been my recent motivation to lose weight, look cute, and …lose weight.
My mantra is hanging in bold print next to my bed – “Dianne, You will achieve the SNSD Body!” Has it been working? No, but that’s another story for another time.
While on my old stationary bike one day, I was typing away on my laptop (who said anything about actually cycling on a bike?) -and I learned that these girls would get to strut their stuff –in LA!
I had to go!
On Saturday, September 5th at the Staples Center, the SMTOWN LIVE ’10 World Tour Concert was a major success with k-pop lovers, Korean American and moreover Asian American teens and families! The SMTOWN LIVE ‘10 Concert is presented by one of South Korea’s most prominent artist’s management agencies, SM Entertainment. The LA concert is a part of SM Entertainment’s world tour project which will begin in Seoul, then continue to LA, Tokyo, Shanghai, and other major Asian cities.
SM has been attempting to bring Asia’s best performers to the global stage, and moreover the United States for many years now. The concert has already been imprinted as Asia’s leading concert brand thanks to their successful tour in 2008. Singers like multilingual star, BoA, have grown to become a legendary icon all over Southeast and East Asia due to her popularity at SMLIVE. Her single, “I Did it For Love” even aired on American radio, but unfortunately died after a couple of months. In fact, many artists represented by SM are multilingual, if not bilingual. The company has been and is working towards creating “global” artists who can represent Asia as a whole. SM Entertainment has been highly successful in creating popular girl and boy bands during the last twenty years and continues to hold great power over the Korean and Asian music industries.
The four hour-long concert was a fun event for the whole family to enjoy. I attended the event with my sister and cousin and had the time of my life. The line-up included all of SM’s greatest including my favorites: SHINee (a young teeny-bopper boy band), SuperJunior (the sexy boy band), Lee Yeon Hee (actress turned singer), my new favorite- TRAX (a Korean rock-and-roll hottie), f(X) (SM’s newest debuting girl artist- shout out to my girl Luna!), the romantic KangTa (lovely rhythm and blues/ ballad singer), Zhang Li Yin (another lovely KangTa-look-alike-ballad singer), of course SNSD (the barbies of Korea) and many other SM artists.
The concert definitely drew out diehard K-pop fans in America and proved to be worth the ticket price. The lighting was spectacular and the performances were full of energy and what looked like countless hours of practice. The show also was a treat for fans as the artists attempted to speak to them! The celebrities had all practiced a few English phrases, I’m assuming by the same la ghetto coach, because they repeated, “WHATSSS UPPPP LAAAAA!” only about….100 times. And sprinkled some “Yo’s” and a few “Yep’s” here and there.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of non-Korean fans. Many of these fans were Vietnamese and Chinese Americans. The crowd ranged from all different ethnicities, and in a way, it was refreshing to see that the white girl next to me wanted to be desperately Korean.
Many of the performances were led by the two most popular pop groups, SuperJunior and SNSD. The diverse crowds waved light sticks, signs, and screamed whenever they pranced on stage. But perhaps the most anticipated performer of the night was BoA. BoA, who told the audience that this year marks her already 10 year anniversary with SM Entertainment, showcased a very mature yet outrageously Lady Gaga-esque performance.
SMLIVE was personally, such a great journey down memory lane for me as I got to see all of the musicians I loved and listened to during my 14 months of studying abroad in Korea in person. Every song reminded me of a memory I created and shared in Seoul and it was marvelous to see others rock out to those tunes as well. Overall, the event was a relaxing and upbeat show for the whole family but unfortunately not enough to showcase Asia’s greatest in hopes to be picked up by mainstream American music producers and the glitz of Hollywood. But luckily, they will always have the support of Asian Americans, Asian expats, and k-pop lovers around the world as well as boundless opportunities to sink their teeths into American pop culture as we enter in this globalized era. And while we wait for those golden opportunities, I will be practicing those SNSD dance moves.
And this time, it won’t even be entirely to lose weight.
Far East Movement’s (FM) Kevin Nishimura, also known as Kev Nish, said it best last Sunday, September 6, at the JCPenney presents International Secret Agents Concert in Cerritos, Calif.: “This [concert] is about following your dreams and following your dreams to represent a community, our community.”
Already in its third year, the International Secret Agents (ISA) concert has become a gateway to building and making dreams come true for many hopeful Asian American artists. The show was a successful collaboration created by two visionary artist groups — Wong Fu Productions and Far East Movement — that truly illustrated the potential of many rising Asian American musicians, singers, filmmakers, comedians and dancers. This year’s ISA hosted not one, but two concerts — in New York and L.A.
This was my first time attending one of the ISA concerts and let me tell you, the night was full of such great energy! It was truly a night dedicated to putting Asian American faces and personalities on stage.
Luckily, although I was running a bit late (as usual … horrible!), I got a chance to catch up with both the creators of ISA.
“ISA will bring the fans what they want, and allow these artists to extend their reach beyond their regular fan bases. This year is going to be historic,” said FM member James “Prohgress” Roh.
Wesley Chan, Ted Fu and Philip Wang of filmmaking group Wong Fu Productions also shared the same sentiment. Started in 2003 by Chan, Fu and Wang at UC San Diego, Wong Fu Productions has become an Internet sensation with 30 million viewers on their YouTube channel.
“The internet is how we were able to reach our fans on a global scale,” said Wang. “With ISA concerts, our fans get to meet us and the artists that we work with on a more personal local level. And to have ISA in both L.A. and New York is going to be amazing. The last three sold-out shows were all in California and fans were asking us to bring ISA to the East Coast. That’s why we decided to bring it to New York City — because the fans demanded it.”
This year’s glamorous event was nothing but a success, with famous YouTube stars Ryan Higa and Kevin Wu hosting the event along with dance starlet Lydia Paek of Quest Dance Crew … all sporting fall fashions from JCPenney!
Kevin Wu, more popularly known as KevJumba on YouTube, said the cast had just gotten back from New York. He explained that although they were tired, they were ready to start ISA LA with lots of energy and high-spirits. Wu had said that ISA LA had given the artists a chance to reunite again and see their friends one more time. “It’s like a reunion and it’s been nothing but great,” said Wu.
To his viewers’ delight, Wu has even more exciting news as he and his father have been announced as the new contestants on CBS’s The Amazing Race. He said he is nervous but excited for the show.
The line-up included the darling AJ Raphael (singer/songwriter with 200,000 YouTube subscribers), bohemian princess Alyssa Bernal (Interscope recording artist with 300,000 YouTube subscribers), and America’s Best Dance Crew Season 5 champs Poreotics. Surprise guests included my fellow anteater and YouTube queen Jennifer Chung who was spotted in the audience, the ever-funny man Danny Cho, dreamy YouTube singer David Choi, Andrew Garcia, America’s Best Dance Crew Season 3 champions Quest Crew, and even Nick Cannon! (Since when did he become Asian?)
But perhaps the two most anticipated performers of the night was none other than FM and South Korea’s former 2PM music band member Jay Park (Park Jay Beom).
This was Park’s first live performance since leaving the Korean stage. He will be debuting his new album on September 24. His performance was different from his pop 2PM days as his single, “Demon,” is a powerful song full of poised beat and rhythm. FM’s “Girls on the Dance Floor” just debuted as the #12 most purchased on iTunes Chart. As they hip-hopped their way to the stage wearing their signature sunglasses of funk, “Fly Like a G6” bumped up in the speakers, and all the young girls had rushed to the stage in an instant.
Perhaps, one of the luckiest girls of the night was Ted Fu’s girlfriend … or should we say fiancé. At the ISA New York concert, Fu had announced his engagement to girlfriend Katie of two and a half years and Wong Fu definitely played up Ted’s proposal throughout the L.A. concert, even showing off a hilarious last-minute new short vying to be Ted’s best man.
Overall, I was amazed by the power and passion of these artists and moreover, their message. It was inspiring to see such a show dedicated to the appreciation and cultivation of our Asian heritage and cultural roots. FM’s Kev Nish said that it was “important to stay in touch with your community and it was important to have fun while doing it.” They were proud to have worked with Wong Fu Productions and are extremely humbled by the growth of ISA over the last three years. Hopefully with the growth of ISA, Americans can continue to support the evolution of Asian Americans in media and film. As Nish said, “No longer are Asian American artists going to be labeled as Asian American artists, but as simply artists who produce good quality music.”
And the event proved just that, straight from the hearts of artists pursuing their dreams.
Photos thanks to Jenny Lee.
Editor’s note: Assistant Editor Janice Jann also attended the ISA concert and wrote her own thoughts on the concert here.
I remember religiously watching Project Runway with my fashion-forward friend and talking about it the following afternoon during our AP Art History class in high school. (In fact, Anthony, if you are reading this, this is dedicated to you). I’ve unfortunately been out of the loop with reality TV, but will be making time to tune in for the return of fashion divas and divos, Tim Gunn’s famous pursed-finger-tapping-on-lips, and the origin of East Coast fabulousity we call New York.
Project Runway returns to Lifetime on July 29 (that’s tonight!) for season 8!
And this time, PR is featuring 30-year-old Ivy Higa. Originally from Seoul, and later relocated to New York via Hawaii (whew!), Higa has made it as a contestant for this season’s show. With Asian-inspired pieces, the collection she presented during the casting call was a wardrobe full of versatile, Japanese-inspired pieces and even a new print that was inspired by spattered blood. She says her inspirational designers, Issey Miyake and Consuelo Castiglioni, have had a significant impact in her work and is a self-proclaimed scarf, bag and pocket junkie.
She may seem soft-spoken but there’s a fierceness and coolness to her work. So for all you fashion-starved Heidi Klum-ites, be sure to tune in for the season premiere tonight!
She hates mint-chip ice cream. She loves extra crunchy Cheetos. She says she will put anything raw and weird in her mouth because she’s Japanese. And no, she is not Barbra Streisand.
She’s new funny girl, Aiko Tanaka.
Model, actress and now-turned stand-up comedian Aiko Tanaka will be at Comedy Zen’s “Jokes of Death” show on July 29 in Los Angeles. With host Rajiv Satyal, the lineup includes comedian Eliot Chang, featured in Comedy Central Presents, up-and-coming K.T. Tatara, and the boys from YouTube phenom Just Kidding Films who will be performing their special rendition of their famous “History of Korean Drama.”
Tanaka (her first name means “child of love”), who is of Korean and Japanese descent, was born in Tokyo and began modeling at the age of 3. She appeared on fashion catalogs and advertisements in Japan, just like her mom, a former swimsuit model.
After moving to Boston, Tanaka studied theater in college and was scouted by a talent agent from L.A., who secured her a TV gig on the The Grind with MTV. With a growing number of modeling offers, she was selected to appear on an Import Tuner cover as well as many other auto magazines such as D-Sport and Super Street. In fact, she was the first Japanese/Korean to ever appear as the cover model on these major magazines. She is also the voice of a character in the video game “Street Racing Syndicate.”
More recently, Tanaka appeared in music videos for Destiny’s Child, Afroman, Far East Movement, Jin and more. Her film and television credits include The Howard Stern Show, Late Night with Jay Leno, Malcolm and Eddie, My Wife and Kids, Numb3rs, and The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Tanaka says her first crush was Jet Li. “I was like 7 when I saw Shaolin Temple,” she says. “I decided to marry that man and have his kids. Next week, I saw Superman in tight pants, and I changed my mind. I was a floozy back then.” And she says she loves anything with Audrey Hepburn. “She inspires me to act like a lady, like wanting to go to the supermarket with white gloves on.”
Catch her this Thursday at Comedy Zen’s “Jokes of Death” show. Of course, you just may catch her at your local grocery store, maybe even in white lace gloves.
July 29, 2010, 8 pm
After-party at Chop Suey Café and Lounge, 347 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Things have been bubbly and eventful for African-Korean American R&B singer Amerie: she changed her name, is working on an upcoming album, and is now engaged!
The Name Game: Amerie — or I should say “Ameriie” — has added an extra “I” to her name. Ameriie claims the spelling change is a reflection of positive energy. And here’s a fun fact, she signs her name in both English and Korean when signing autographs!
The Album: Her new album set to be called Cymatika Vol. 1 is currently in the works as a follow up to her previous In Love & War. In a recent interview with Rap-Up, Ameriie has said that her new album will be similar to her album Because I Love It. Moreover she is hoping to take a step into “international” music. Perhaps we’ll see a fusion of Korean pop and her R&B style on her forthcoming tracks.
I do! Or at least … I will: Reported a couple months ago, Ameriie is also engaged. The singer is due to marry her manager fiancé Lenny Nicholson, after accepting his proposal during a romantic holiday in Paris. Confirming the news, Ameriie’s rep wrote via Twitter: “Can u correct the news Amerie just got engaged. She is not getting married (yet), she just got engaged, that’s it.”
Yea. That’s it.
In the historic and charming Garnier building of Olvera Street in Los Angeles, you can find the spirit of Chinese America. The Chinese American Museum (CAM) is currently showcasing Hollywood Chinese: The Arthur Dong Collection. A pioneering exhibition of cinema memorabilia collected during the 10-year research for Arthur Dong’s documentary, the exhibit is simply riveting and refreshing. From the filmmaker’s archive of more than 1,000 items, film posters, movie stills, scripts, press material and other artifacts dating from 1916 to present day, the exhibit showcases the historical depictions of the Chinese in 20th century Hollywood.
The building in itself is an artifact. Sold to Chinese American merchants in the 1890s, the building was kept in the community for decades. Surviving archives of pioneer Chinese American filmmakers, rare production photos from The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916), as well as the first Oscar won by Chinese American, James Wong Howe (The Rose Tattoo) are on display. Films such as The Good Earth, The Vengeance of Fu Manchu, and (my favorite) Flower Drum Song ultimately bring the project to life. Moreover, the exhibit tells the story of how cinema exploited the Chinatown mystique.
If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs wondering what to do this weekend, hop on over to CAM. Tickets are inexpensive and you can visit the marketplace on Olvera Street after you’re done! This humble museum will surely make you appreciate the labors of love of our past and the progress of Asian Americans. And if you happen to get lost, just follow the hanging red lanterns!
Find out more at www.camla.org.
See you there!
DETAILS Chinese American Museum, 425 N. Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 485-8567
Olivia Munn does it again, except this time with a new book. Her autobiographical book of rants and love, Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek, was released on July 6.
Named to Maxim magazine’s “Hot 100″ list for the past three years, Munn is of Chinese descent on her mother’s side and of German-Irish descent on her father’s. Although born in Oklahoma, she was predominately raised in Tokyo and later settled in Los Angeles. Known for hosting G4’s cult hit Attack of the Show, the actress is the newest regular correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and is starring in the new NBC sitcom, Perfect Couples, which is premiering this fall.
Her wonder woman tales comprise of a hilarious collection of essays like “Thought’s About My First Agent’s Girlfriend’s Vagina,” or “Sex: What You Can Do To Help Yourself Have More of It.” There is even a chapter entitled “What to Do When the Robots Invade (Yes, When!),” wherein Munn literally gives advice on what to do when the robots invade. Wow.
In a recent interview with Vulture, the entertainment section of New York Magazine, she said, “I want young girls who read [Suck It, Wonder Woman!] to feel empowered that there’s somebody who went through all of this and made it out on the other end.” Her charming wit and love of hover-boards are what earned this down-to-earth goddess of the geeks major points with guys and gals alike. Munn’s new cheeky story of being a fearless, at times dorky, female in Hollywood is sure to be a hit.
Oh, she even made sure to include a timeline of great moments in Geek History.
Check out Audrey‘s interview with Olivia Munn in our Feb/Mar 2007 issue here.
I am so excited! Laura Ling and Lisa Ling, sisters and co-authors of the newly released Somewhere Inside, which tells the story of Laura’s harrowing imprisonment inside North Korea, will be having a book signing in Downtown L.A. this weekend. Co-sponsored by Giant Robot and Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), the event will be their first book signing event for the sister journalists.
In 2005, Laura worked as a series producer for Channel One News. She later became the vice president of Current TV’s investigative journalism series Vanguard, and an on-air correspondent for the show.
A contributor to ABC’s Nightline and the National Geographic channel, Lisa Ling is a correspondent for the Oprah Winfrey Show. She was also a co-host of ABC’s The View until 2002. (Lisa graced Audrey‘s cover in April/May 2004.)
“Somewhere Inside is the electrifying, never-before-told story of Laura Ling’s capture by the North Koreans in March 2009, and the efforts of her sister, journalist Lisa Ling, to secure Laura’s release by former President Bill Clinton. This true account of the first-ever trial of an American citizen in North Korea’s highest court carries readers deep inside the world’s most secretive nation while it poignantly explores the powerful, inspiring bonds of sisterly love.” – GR2
See you there!
DETAILS Giant Robot Los Angeles (GR2),
2062 Sawtelle Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA,
5 – 7 pm.
By Dianne Lee