Favorite Asian YouTube Covers of Frozen’s “Let It Go”

2013 ended on a high note –– pun intended –– as the release of Disney’s latest animated musical, Frozen, was all anyone could talk or sing about. The film already created a buzz with its storyline that focused on the relationship between two sisters, rather than the usual male-dominated, guy-saves-girl plot. But what really had an impact on viewers was the original soundtrack, which beat out Beyoncé (!!!) for the number one album spot on the Billboard charts. It’s been two months and YouTube musicians are still publishing their own covers of Frozen songs, particularly “Let It Go.” Here are some of our favorite covers.

1. Sam Tsui

Sam Tsui, who is Chinese-American, is a YouTube celebrity known for his mash-ups, like this one, which combines both “Let It Go” and Passenger’s “Let Her Go.” He released his first album, “Make it Up,” last year.

2. Sonnet Son

Sonnet Son, full name Son Seung Yeon, is a Korean student studying at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. She has displayed her powerhouse vocals in other covers of fan favorites like Bruno Mars’s “Grenade” and Alicia Keys’s “No One.”


3. Grace Lee

Korean-American Grace Lee’s cover has gained over three million views on YouTube, and the previously-unknown singer, who auditioned for The Voice, is starting to get recognized.

4. Jun Sung Ahn

Jun Sung Ahn, who claims his specialties are violin, dance, film, video, photography, producing, editing and performing, definitely stands out among the numerous Frozen covers. The talented artist released a beautiful violin cover of “Let it go” which has gathered over a million views so far.

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Japan’s Creative Take on the Haunted House

In case you needed more proof that Japan is always taking old, tired concepts and turning them on their heads before the rest of the world can.

This past summer 2013 and continuing into 2014, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Japan opened a new exhibit for children titled “Ghosts, Underpants and Stars,” but its most popular project is the Torafu Architects’ Haunted Play House.

Created by Koichi Suzuno and Shinya Kamuro, Haunted Play House spins off the traditional dark, zombie and ghost-filled Halloween houses with a subtle yet eerie art gallery. The architectural installation contains hidden passageways, contorted paintings, funhouse mirrors and thousands of watching eyes.

It may be spooky, but the project also aims to educate children on art history while simultaneously fueling their imaginations.

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Geek Out over New Sailor Moon Pens

Do you feel that? That hard blow to the gut is childhood hitting you and bringing back memories of after-school afternoons spent eating Fruit Gushers and watching your favorite Sailor Scouts kick butt while wearing short skirts and heels.

Sailor Moon fans, rejoice: the Japanese online shopping site, Premium Bandai, has just announced plans to release six different pens resembling each of the Sailor Scout’s wands.

Due for release in May of this year, Premium Bandai has already sold out in their pre-orders but is planning on holding another pre-order event. Each pair is priced at 2,808 yen. The company has not yet confirmed whether they’ll be opening up purchases internationally.

The wands come in pairs and range in style, from Sailor Uranus & Sailor Neptune’s Lip Rods to Sailor Pluto’s Time Staff. You might be taking a math test or jotting down your grocery list, but at least in some way you’ll get to feel as if you’re fighting evil by moonlight.

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An Intimate Conversation with Ang Lee

What do a superhero action blockbuster, an intimate western love story and a foreign language film have in common? For one, they’re all directed by Taiwanese-American director Ang Lee.

The Film Foundation and Louis XIII Cognac partnered up Wednesday night to cohost Creative Encounter, an evening of conversation with two-time Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee and actress Anne Hathaway, who worked with Lee on Brokeback Mountain in 2005.

Held in the Charles Aidikoff Screening Room in Beverly Hills, Creative Encounter began with a video montage of Lee’s numerous films along with a discussion about Lee’s love affair with filmmaking, illustrating decades-worth of the hard work and talent the Film Foundation aims to preserve as an “art form that stands the test of time.”

Despite his incredible successes thus far, Lee didn’t always want to be behind the camera. Coming to the United States from Taiwan when he was 23 years old, Lee had all the intentions of becoming a famous actor, but he soon realized an unavoidable obstacle standing in the way of his dream: he couldn’t speak English. Wanting to continue to be a part of the entertainment industry in some way, Lee resorted to directing.

“I went to film school but I was doubtful and I didn’t think I would make any money or do anything,” Lee reflected on his decision. Does he still have his doubts? “Not anymore,” Lee said, “Not after the two, three Oscars. I can’t deny that I’m a talented filmmaker now, but I used to deny it for a long, long time.”

Lee soon fell in love with directing, discovering that he could take something pretend in order to convey a truth. It’s another similarity his many diverse works share: the hopes and disappointments that all humans have. His leaps between genre and style also are due, in part, to Lee’s drive to explore the unknown.

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“It’s like sight-seeing; why would you want to go to the same place?” Lee said. “In marriage you have to be loyal, but in filmmaking…why not explore?” He’s admitted to turning down several movie deals in the past that he felt were in a genre he had already spent time in.

Lee also reflected on his long career from the beginning, back when he directed one of his first films in 1992, Pushing Hands, about the clash between Chinese traditions of family and modern Western ideals regarding individualism. If he could, would he travel back in time to give his younger, less experienced self advice?

“No,” Lee said simply. “I’m not saying that movie was perfect. There were things I did that I think now, ‘Oh, don’t do that, that’s so embarrassing,’ but I was doing my best.”

Actress Anne Hathaway, who won the Oscar last year for best supporting actress, weighed in on her 10 year friendship with Lee and her initial first impressions. The two met when 21 year-old Hathaway auditioned for Brokeback Mountain –– in an extravagant princess ball gown, no less, during a lunch break from filming The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.

“I was so intimidated when I walked into the room, but when I met [Ang], I felt like I’d known him for a long time,” Hathaway reflected. “Before, I never referred to myself as an actress but after working with him on this film I thought, ‘I can call myself an actress now.’”

Continuing with his theme of human condition, Lee revealed his plans for a new film centered around boxing. “It’s two guys beating each other senseless, but with meaning,” Lee said, “And I think that’s the bottom line of life: the effort we put into something.”

Julie Chu Carries U.S. Flag at Olympics Closing Ceremony

American ice hockey player Julie Chu was nominated and selected to represent Team U.S.A. as flag bearer for the Closing Ceremonies at the Sochi Olympic Games last night.

The four-time medallist –– she has two silvers and a bronze in addition to the silver medal she won with her team this year –– was “completely humbled and kind of in shock” when she discovered her team picked her to carry the flag, ending her fourth consecutive Winter Olympic Games.

Chu plays the forward position on the women’s team and helped land them in second place in the finals February 20, losing to Canada by a score of 3-2. Chu, who is Chinese-American, is the first Asian American woman to play for the US Olympic ice hockey team and is tied as the second-most decorated U.S. female in Olympic Winter Games history.

“I’m trying to finagle a hockey stick,” Chu joked when asked if she’d represent her sport by carrying the US flag in on a hockey stick. “I don’t know if they’ll let me.”

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VIDEO OF THE DAY: Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Voicing a Studio Ghibli Character

In honor of the upcoming U.S. release of Japanese-based Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises, here’s an interview with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who voices the main protagonist, Jiro Horikoshi, in the English-dubbed version.

Hayao Miyazaki’s reportedly last film as Studio Ghibli director (he recently withdrew this statement and has since come out of retirement) is a fictionalized biography focusing on the life of Horikoshi, a budding airplane designer whose life is changed by historical events like the Kanto earthquake of 1923 and the Great Depression.

Gordon-Levitt discusses his love for Miyazaki films and his ability to relate to his character.

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Meet the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team’s “ShibSibs”

My brother and I are big fans of two individuals named Alex and Maia Shibutani. They’re Japanese American, exactly three years apart (ages 22 and 19, respectively) and they’re siblings. In all three instances, the Shibutanis and my brother and I are the same. The big difference between us? My brother and I are not figure skaters competing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The Michigan-based siblings have just finished their first Olympic experience by placing in the top 10 for ice dancing, despite a wardrobe malfunction during their Michael Jackson medley routine in which Maia’s tights caught onto Alex’s costume during a difficult lift.

But the brother-sister team couldn’t be happier. “Everything went the way it should,” said Alex in an interview with the Greenwich-Post. “We’ve been taking everything in since we’ve gotten here so to finally have our Olympic moment it totally blew our expectations.”

Ice skating isn’t the only thing they’re good at. Alex and Maia, also known as the “ShibSibs” on their personal YouTube account, are also funny, light-hearted social media personas. Their YouTube account, which since its founding in 2012 has already gained 9,000 subscribers and over 1 million views, is compiled of silly vlogs and bloopers captured amidst the seriousness of their training.

“[Alex] is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” said Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic champion and NBC Olympic figure skating commentator. “He has a [really] dry sense of humor.”

The duo has promised to upload more behind-the-scenes at Sochi vlogs when they return to the states to begin training for their last competition of the season at the World Championships in Saitama, Japan.

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CHINEASY: New Book Makes Learning Chinese Easy

Taipei-born entrepreneur, investor and author ShaoLan Hsueh has written a language book called Chineasy to simplify learning basic Chinese words and phrases.

The book, which will be released next month, aims to help people read Chinese easily by recognizing specific characters through illustrations. After taking a sabbatical from capital investment in London, Hsueh began teaching her British-born children how to read and write in Chinese and realized how difficult it was for them. She created a visual method to help them understand, and has since adopted it into a social project.

“Call me optimistic, but I see the melding of these two cultures, East and West, as being instrumental in creating a more culturally literate world,” Hsueh wrote on her website, describing her goal for the creation of Chineasy. “I also think that the East and West must understand each other in order for global economic growth to be a sustainable future.”

Learning Chinese through Chineasy starts on a building block principle: learning the basic key characters allows the reader to begin combining them to form more complex words. Incorporating the illustrations does more than just serve as a visual kind of mnemonic device –– it allows the reader to become familiar with Chinese culture and art.

Chineasy is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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McDonald’s Opens First Restaurant in Vietnam

Fast food corporate king McDonald’s, which has locations in over 100 countries so far, opened its first Vietnam restaurant in downtown Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday.

Hundreds of locals gathered outside the velvet ropes Saturday morning at 8 a.m. to await the grand opening of the American fast-food restaurant. Free balloons, face-painting, live performances and picture-taking with Ronald McDonald himself were some of the events held to commemorate the opening.

The Vietnam McDonald’s carries all the menu items as its other restaurants, save for one special item exclusive to the country: the McPork sandwich.

Free markets have viewed Vietnam has one of the last Asian countries with potential for consumerism following the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 and a steadily growing middle class.

McDonald’s follows other American corporations like KFC, which opened in Vietnam in 1997 and Baskin-Robbins, which opened in 2012. Starbucks opened its first three stores in Vietnam last year.

Alexander Wang Uses Heat Technology to Wow Audiences at New York Fashion Week 2014

New York Fashion Week kicked off last week as designers and big brand names held runway shows for their fall/winter 2014 collections. While New York City’s Lincoln Center is considered the central location for designer shows, this year Alexander Wang opted for an off-site location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

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On Saturday night, the 30 year-old Taiwanese-American fashion designer dragged his fashion crowd from the inner city out to an abandoned greenhouse on the water in Brooklyn. Fans, editors, photographers and celebrities braved hours in traffic to get to the remote site.

Wang debuted his collection with models sporting slick, parted do’s and utilitarian looks. Show-goers took to their blogs and Twitters, noting the show’s most exciting moment when a group of models stood in all-black clothing onstage, only to have the clothing magically turn into bright and vivid colors as a result of heat technology.

Sculpted dresses and coats, baggy trousers and backless boots added to the futuristic line.

Watch a first look of the show here:

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