Electronic Dance Music (EDM) continues to take on the world by storm – and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Eventbrite has put together an interesting infographic from a recent survey comparing some of the activities and interests of EDM fans versus non-EDM music fans. Check it out below! - See more at: http://184.108.40.206/~mindlinq/audreynew/edm-fans-more-than-just-your-average-music-fan/#sthash.m0q9QP4x.dpuf
Even if you're not in town to catch the New York Asian Film Festival coming up on June 28th (they've got a cool Jackie Chan Retrospective during the fest!), you'll still be able to experience a part of the festival from your home computer with the Korean Short Film Madness. NYAFF and Dramafever have partnered together to release a collection of short films from Korea's Mise-en-Scène Film Festival (it's all shown exclusively on DramaFever!). The short films and talented new directors are: “The Visitor” by Kim Bo-young “Poison Frog” by Koh Jung-wook “Cheong” by Kim...
We've all seen the endless jokes about Asians who work in nail salons, massage parlors, and donut shops. This is often an easy target for stand-up comedians such as Anjelah Johnson and her popular skit mimicking the Vietnamese nail salon workers: Why is it such as easy target? Primarily because such businesses are in fact heavily intertwined in the Asian American community. Its easy for people to make fun of this and yet they don't take the time to understand that this is a deeply rooted issue for Asian Americans that stems from early immigration into the U.S. These comedians don't...
What I love about summer is heading out to a lot of outdoor music festivals - and being able to dress up in some quirky fashion - whether it's rocking the latest trendy accessory off the runway, or wearing a vintage piece from my closet. I recently came across these cute little accessories for my shoes: Shwings! They're definitely not for the conservative, but they do make quite the statement on your feet if you're wearing plain sneakers (I've been wearing them with my sneaker wedges!). Check them out here. Click below for some of our favorites.
While there are a good number of unusual sexual fetishes out there - this by far, is probably one of the more unusual I've discovered: eyeball licking. Yes, you're reading that right: eyeball licking. The sexual fetish came to light when a middle school teacher had written a post on the Japanese site Naver Maotome about an unusual trend amongst her students: eye patches. The teacher also had a described an incident between two students in the gymnasium: After class one day, I went into the equipment store in the gymnasium to tidy up. The door had been left open, and when I looked...
Marc Jacobs, who's renowned for his own line, as well as his work with fashion house Louis Vuitton, will soon be coming out with a beauty line in collaboration with beauty retailer Sephora. The 122-piece collection will be Sephora's first global launch and will include concealers, color correctors, and lacquers, among some other products. You can get your hands on the goods this summer on August 9th! Click on more for more pictures of the line!
Got Eclipse mania yet? It just released and it’s a long weekend, soooo … I’m thinking a lot of you are gonna go out and watch. Just ’cause.
There’s a lot more eye candy in this third installment (namely, the Quileute werewolves), but in a recent poll held by Fandango, it turned out one little-known newcomer to the Twilight series got top prize for most anticipated Twilight newbie: 16-year-old BooBoo Stewart.
And why should we care? Because BooBoo (apparently a nickname from his mother that stuck) is of Japanese, Chinese and Korean descent from his mother’s side, and Russian, Scottish and Blackfoot Native American from his father (phew!).
But BooBoo’s no newbie to the entertainment scene. The actor (who plays the 15-year-old Quileute werewolf Seth Clearwater) is a former member of T-Squad, a Disney hip-hop/pop group, and sings with his sisters Fivel and Maegan Stewart, in TSC (The Stewart Clan). (You can download his song with Fivel, “Rainy Day,” on iTunes.)
BooBoo apparently doesn’t get too much screen time in Eclipse, but watch for him to really shine in the fourth installment of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, hitting theaters in 2011. He’s already been touted as the next Taylor Lautner (and he does have more than a passing resemblance to him).
What do you think? Are you gonna watch Eclipse? And do you think BooBoo is the next teen heartthrob?
My ex-boyfriend hated black jewelry. He thought it looked “Goth.” Needless to say, he also had poor fashion sense, and I got rid of him.
Okay, fine, maybe this does look a little “Goth,” but so what? It rocks. From Femme Metale, this Noble Fleur Onyx ring is set with a smooth, inky-black stone in an antique silver band with four Fleur de Lis clasping it. The oval shape gives it a classy feel without losing its edge, and it’s versatile enough to look bomb with a casual V-neck and jeans or a trendy LBD.
It’s Fourth of July weekend! Who’s ready to Rumbaaaaaaa?
Ok, enough cheese. Down to the serious stuff. We know you’re busy buyin’ up ice for the cooler, packin’ your swimsuit and inner tubes, and gettin’ ready for some serious summer fun and fireworks. But before you go, enter our TGIFree Friday giveaway for RumbaTime’s cute little waterproof watch.
Never again will you have to worry about getting your little timepiece wet. (And it’ll look so good intermingled with all your cool, multi-stacked bangles or braided bracelets.) This sporty little watch will keep you chic and on time, courtesy of National Jean Company.
What is National Jean Company, you ask? Yes, they have brick-and-mortar stores and an ecommerce site, but it’s not just denim. They’ve got an array of 150 designers at various price points — clothes, jewelry, even kids!
So comment below. Three lucky Audrey readers are going to win their own RumbaTime watch. And remember — you must have a U.S. mailing address, and you only have till Wednesday, July 7 at 11:59 pm to comment. (Don’t forget — retweet this post for a double entry!) Good luck!
The guys behind My Ninja!, Korean Americans Peter Rocks and Sam Hong, are all about a positive message, and that message is this: “We love. We live. We balance. We forgive. Repeat.”
Founder and creative director Rocks glommed onto the name while touring the U.S. as a musician a few years back. “As the only Asian on tour, people began to call me ‘My Ninja!’” he says, as a play on “my n****.” And it stuck. Rocks decided to take a negative stereotype and turn it into something positive.
Rocks started My Ninja! clothing in 2008, not as a shirt, design or a concept, he says, but a statement on how people can relate to each other in the constant cultural blend that is our generation. With bold, minimal graphics like “My Ninja!” and “Ninjette” splashed across cut-off tees, My Ninja! clothing is reminiscent of the ’80s Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Relax” tees, with a hearty dose of what Rocks calls ’80s Benetton-meets-streetwear.
So join the conversation with My Ninja!’s Crazy.Sexy.Cool tee. Like their message, it’s simple and to the point. Just don’t forget to repeat.
Summertime is one time when I do not feel like fussing and preening. When the weather’s this nice, I don’t even feel like shopping! Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m just going to let myself go. Thank goodness for these quick fixes that’ll make the hottest season just a little bit cooler.
Goody Pro Volumizing Comb and Simple Styles Spin Pin
Be forewarned: I’m not a hair person. That is to say, I’m a lazy hair person. I can’t straighten, pin curl, or do anything requiring bobby pins. I’ve never been a very good French braider. That’s why I love the messy ponytail seen on spring runways — I know no other kind.
On the other hand, a messy updo is a bit trickier and generally far too complicated for my unskilled paws. To get it just unkempt enough, but still chic, one needs a whole lotta bobby pins, more than a pair of hands and apparently eyes on the back of one’s head. To wit, Filipina-Irish-Native American Vanessa Hudgen’s wonderfully undone updo:
But I have to admit. Goody makes it pretty easy. Their Pro Get Volume comb features several rows of tines of variegated length, so all it takes is a couple of backcombing swipes for instant volume.
Then use their Spin Pin, which is fairly easy, even for me. Just twist your hair into a bun, then spin the pins in. The twisting action magically keeps your hair in place, but not so much so. Instant undone! It gives you that perfectly undone chignon we all covet on actresses on the red carpet. And best of all, no bobby pins.
Available in blonde and brunette shades. Get it at Walmart or Target, starting at $2.50, or at Goody.
We Love Colors shoelaces
One of my favorite things to do is tweaking my existing wardrobe with little DIY projects that instantly update for the new season.
Case in point: last year’s booties. The easiest update for last year’s lace-up booties is with bright neon laces. Whether in black, cognac or grey, a pop of neon color instantly gives your shoes a modern twist.
I like We Love Colors splash color laces in every color from pastels to neon. It’s a little bit surfer chic a la Proenza Schouler and Versace, a little futuristic a la Balenciaga.
We Love Colors laces, starting at $2.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar AI
I never believe those testimonials in beauty magazines anymore — “dab it on your blemish and it’s gone tomorrow!” Sure, that may work for the occasional teeny tiny red spot that models swear they get. But for those nasty, hormonal, once-a-month, deep-down painful, rock-hard bulbs, there is little one can do. You just have to wait for the angry mass to run its course. And use plenty of cover-up.
Now, I’m a big fan of La Roche-Posay. Nothing beats their sunscreens. But when I came across the brand’s Effaclar AI — an “intensive acne spot treatment” — I was skeptical. Like I said, I’ve tried quite a few products as an Audrey editor. But this one not only had a higher percentage of benzoyl peroxide (5.5%) than I’ve ever seen, it also claimed to treat the residual reddish brown spot that lingers long after the blemish itself has actually healed.
So I gave it a shot. The minute I felt that painful lump, I dabbed Effaclar AI on it. No, the lump did not magically disappear the next morning. But the pain was gone, a miracle in and of itself. And the lump did magically disappear in three days.
The ultimate proof? I dabbed it on my husband’s angry little blemish for a couple days, and then forgot about it. A week later, I asked him about it. He couldn’t remember where it was.
What’s your favorite quick fix style secret this summer?
Harajuku Lovers “Zoo Animals Candy” tote. Isn’t the name enough? It has all the possible things a girl could like in its name.
And it’s as cute as it sounds.
Bags that don’t have enough room can drive a girl crazy. But with its 13″ x 15″ x 6″ dimensions, large snap closure compartments, and a smaller zippered compartment pocket, there is definitely room for all your girlie essentials … and a little more.
Along with the bag comes a detachable Gwen keychain and the interior is lined with the pink and yellow Harajuku logo to match the adorkable exterior. It may not necessarily be a candy tote, but I think you may have to agree with me that it would be some good arm candy.
ISSUE: Summer 2010
DEPT: Feature Story
STORY: Teena Apeles
From Subculture to Popular Culture: The New Rhythm Nation
Millions of people are embracing Asian American dancers in a way like never before, as numerous groups and individuals are making their mark in the industry as bona fide stars, renowned choreographer and leading innovators.
The hit television shows America’s Best Dance Crew and Dancing with the Stars have helped propel such crews as the Jabbawockeez, Kaba Modern, Quest Crew and Poreotix into the spotlight, and rewarded the undeniable grace of Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Apolo Ohno off the ice. Asian American dancers and performers have also been seen in prominent roles on the big screen in Take the Lead and Step Up 2, as well as the upcoming sci-fi dance film Boogie Town.
Arnel Calvario, founder of Kaba Modern, couldn’t be more pleased by the visibility Asian American dancers have today. During the ’80s and early ’90s you could pretty much count on one hand the number of Asian American dancers appearing in mainstream media. He mentions Nia Peeples from Fame and then-unknown Carrie Ann Inaba as one of the Fly Girls on In Living Color.
It’s not that Asian Americans weren’t actively involved in the dance scene then. “Asian Americans had such a strong presence in underground street dance,” adds Calvario, “with so many poppin’ and breakin’ crews comprised of many Filipinos and other Asian ethnicities since back in the ’70s and ’80s.” But as far as the average American was concerned, there was no such thing as an Asian American urban dance culture, and in a sense that was true.
Before Calvario started Kaba Modern at the University of California, Irvine in 1992, formalized Asian American college crews didn’t exist. “Other Southern California college dance companies such as PacModern, Team Millennia and CADC popped up years later,” he says. “Culture Shock as a national dance organization was growing, and there were several other notable crews such as Jedi and Chain Reaction up in Northern California.”
This movement continued to thrive as more crews started to form, develop their choreography and showcase their dancing prowess at competitions throughout the country.
The Tube Effect
Couple the development of this surging community with the arrival of video-sharing sites in the new millennium, and the scene suddenly — like so many other subcultures — found a virtual venue and forum that connected them in an unforeseen way. “Visibility and networking between Asian American dancers exploded not only nationally, but internationally,” says Calvario.
His friend, renowned dancer and in-demand choreographer Mike Song, agrees. “I think TV dance shows and YouTube are the two hugest things that didn’t exist before that have given so much opportunity to Asian dancers.” And the young Torrance, Calif.-based resident should know. Video-sharing sites and ABDC launched a busy career that has him flying all over the globe from Mexico and London to Beijing and Australia teaching, choreographing or performing.
Clips of Song are all over the Web, garnering thousands to millions of hits, especially for his priceless “Nintendo Wii Tutting Routine.” And who could forget how he charmed MTV fans with his humor and tricks on the debut season of ABDC as a member of Kaba Modern?
At the time, he was still attending UC Irvine and was a member of the dance group on campus. That dance group has now transcended its status as mere college club to an internationally known force since winning first place in the United States — and second place in the world — in Hip Hop International in 2007, and its subsequent appearance as a crowd favorite on ABDC.
Song talks about how unexpected all the attention was, especially since his crew didn’t even want to appear on ABDC at first. “We had no idea what that show would be like at all,” he says. Howard Schwartz, producer of Hip Hop International, told them about a new dance show he was producing. He thought they’d be great for it. The truth was, says Song, “We worried it was going to be a really stupid dance show. We really didn’t want to do it.”
It was Calvario who pushed them to audition, realizing what an amazing opportunity it could be for the young dancers and the Kaba family, hoping they would just make the audition episode for “a brief window of exposure.” What happened next, no one could have predicted.
ABDC became a huge hit. And MTV, the bastion of all things cool and trendy, saw its viewers overwhelmingly embracing the Asian American crews that first season. Jabbawockeez became the first ABDC champions and Kaba Modern was voted into the top three.
The View from the Top
Since then, Asian Americans have been represented in every winning group on the show — that’s five seasons in a row — as well as among the serious contenders, generating some serious Asian pride. “Yeah, Asians are throwing it down, breaking stereotypes,” says Ben “B-Tek” Chung of the Jabbawockeez. “ABDC has been giving a lot of Asian Americans exposure that the media hasn’t ever really given us before. I wouldn’t even just say Asian Americans, I would say just dancers in general.”
And that media attention went far beyond our country’s borders, with ABDC entering the homes of people on several continents, including Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Los Angeles native Chung recalls that when his crew first appeared on the show in 2008, many people were thrown by their ethnicity. “We had a lot of people telling us, man, when you took off the masks and saw that you guys were like Asian, we were so surprised.”
The Jabbawockeez, whose Asian members are of Korean, Filipino and Vietnamese descent, were likewise taken aback by this reaction. “That’s the weird thing for us, because we all kind of grew up in hip-hop and with hip-hop there are no color lines,” explains Chung. “It’s a culture of its own and I personally never grew up thinking, should I not be doing this hip-hop stuff because I’m Asian? I never thought of it like that. This is who we are, did you expect somebody else?”
On the flipside, he admits that is part of the beauty of using the masks. “We never perform as ‘us,’ as humans.”
Chung speaks about how the masks “strip away identity, strip away color, creed and gender even,” shifting the focus to what is most important to the Jabbawockeez — the music and movement. “People often say that when they watch us, they always forget that they’re watching people, it’s like you’re watching cartoons come to life.” Race doesn’t exist in this sense — it’s just about the dancing.
This is not to say that the Jabbawockeez aren’t thrilled by the significance of their rise. When they were kids, Chung and his fellow members rarely saw Asians on TV, in movies or the media in general. “For us to be able to be the frontrunners, or whatever you want to call it, for Asian American dancers or entertainers or celebrities, it’s definitely a cool feeling.”
The Asian Dance Mystique
Professional dancers like 21-year-old Japanese transplant Asako Hara says ethnicity has never been a disadvantage. Hara came through the ranks in the more traditional way of doing the audition rounds, landing appearances on numerous music videos, tours, movies and commercials with artists such as Snoop Dogg, will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and Justin Bieber. “Most big artists have a culturally diverse fan base so it makes sense that dancers on stage would also reflect that diversity,” she says.
However, she does admit that there were some classes and auditions in the past where people reacted to her dance skills with shock. “I used to get so many people staring open mouthed at me when I first arrived in the U.S. because they couldn’t believe that I was Japanese yet was moving like an American,” says Hara. “People forget that around the world, wherever you’re from, it’s unlikely that you’ve escaped the influence of major American stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna and Britney Spears. We may all have our own cultural traditions, but nowadays we also all grow up as kids with similar influences.”
This still begs the question, why are Asian dancers having such mainstream appeal now, especially in the urban dance scene? There are thousands of talented Asian actors and singers who haven’t been accepted with as much enthusiasm as the dancers have on ABDC or in the dance industry in general.
In the 2008 Planet B-Boy documentary, filmmaker Benson Lee covered the 2005 international Battle of the Year break-dancing competition at which the Japan and South Korea crews were among the teams to rise to the top. Veterans of the dance world commented on the creative choreography of the Japanese team and how the South Koreans “came out of nowhere … doing power moves no one has seen before” and that “on a technical level, there is nobody who can touch the Koreans,” according to the film’s website.
So what makes Asians so skilled at street-dancing styles? “I have my own random theory,” says Song. “Dance is always connected to music.” He talks about how kids in African American communities and Latino communities are raised with certain genres of music that influence the way they dance. “Asians, we don’t have gospel or funk or salsa, but I feel like there are so many Asians who are forced to play instruments, so many, it’s so common, so part of our culture.”
And it is this knowledge of music, he believes, in subtle ways, that informs how Asians dance as well. “It ties into our style … I feel Asians are so precise, and it goes along with the music training,” he says. “We learn how to read music … so I feel like that subliminally affects the way we approach dance, with so much precision.”
Hara, on the other hand, speaks about “a real spirit of cooperation with the Asian dancers,” adding, “it’s not about ego, it’s purely about the team.” Though what she feels is really happening, as with Chung of the Jabbawockeez, is that people are just falling in love with the art of dance. “Dance is a universal thing and people love great dancers. They’re addictive to watch and can easily engage the audience,” she says. “You don’t think about their race, you just think about how outstanding they are, how well they move. There is no real or imagined barrier to understanding.”
One thing Chung, Song, Hara and Calvario certainly agree on is that all this attention, especially on TV, is important on so many levels beyond their respective careers. “Shows such as America’s Best Dance Crew, So You Think You Can Dance and even Dancing With the Stars all had many inspiring, talented dancers and choreographers, which I believe has really diversified the face of hip-hop dance past the previous perceptions that it was an art dominated by just one race,” says Calvario. “It made our place in dance culture much more visible and respected.”
And thinking in terms of the big picture, the veteran dancer raises three other very important consequences of the popularity of these shows. They have helped to “more visibly place hip-hop dance as an art form with history and technique” that should be held in as high regard as more classical dance forms. He also notes that this promotes the “positivity of urban dance” and breaks down negative stereotypes that hip-hop dance artists faced in the past. And finally, it brings “parents and youth together in dialogue and in joint respect of urban street dance as premiere entertainment.”
Chung’s longtime passion for dance and eventual, unprecedented rise to fame because of it is an inspiring case in point. Today his parents are definitely proud of what he and the Jabbawockeez have achieved, but they, like most parents, didn’t expect this from his childhood pastime. “It was definitely hard growing up as a kid and dancing. My parents just thought it was just something I was into as a kid, that it was a phase and I was just going to grow out of it,” he says. But Chung continued dancing in college and after he graduated. “Then the question came up, ‘When are you gonna stop?’ When are you going to get a real job?”
Early on, Chung knew that dancing would be his life and did his best to reassure his parents. “I told my mom, ‘This isn’t something I’m just doing for fun, this is something I’m really passionate about … this is gonna turn into something. Just watch,’” he remembers. “And she said, ‘OK, I trust you,’ and lo and behold, we won ABDC, and that was the launching pad for Jabbawockeez and it’s taken off … this whole dancing thing.”
Of course with this new exposure, comes some added pressure for the most prominent Asian American dancers, especially the Jabbawockeez, who are admired by millions of kids. “For me, personally, I looked up to a lot of dancers and entertainers and they kept me out of a lot of trouble,” says Chung. “So when people tell us we’re positive role models … that makes us feel really good, because somewhere down the line someone did that for us. We’re just doing what we love to do and we’re just trying to encourage kids to follow their dreams and stay positive.”
Living the Dream
The Jabbawockeez are achieving goals they set out to do in record time, and it seems like there isn’t a venue that isn’t open to them. When asked if they’ll ever share the stage with Blue Man Group, the successful performers who also strip away any racial or human identity when they are on stage, Chung laughs. “We always joked about it years ago to each other,” he says. (The Jabbawockeez were prepping for the launch of their show “MUS.I.C (muse-i-see)” for a three-week stint at MGM in Las Vegas in May at the time of this interview.) “Man, we’re gonna be the next Blue Man Group. We’re gonna get our own Vegas show. And that time has actually arrived.”
While Chung and Hara are embracing their career paths as dancers, Kaba Modern’s Song has different aspirations. “I’m more of a choreographer than a dancer,” he says. “I’m not really super interested in going to auditions to learn other peoples’ choreography, I’m more interested in developing my style and molding my style as opposed to being a dancer being molded into other people’s style.”
As audiences continue to tune into dance shows and attend performances and competitions around the world, the opportunities for dancers to chart new career paths, especially in terms of the urban dance scene, are as exciting as ever. “Before ABDC, the highest thing you could get as a choreographer is to be the choreographer for a big artist, like Justin Timberlake, the most famous street dancer,” Song explains. “Then after ABDC, Jabbawockeez became the most famous dancers, so now dancers are the celebrities.”
So what does the charismatic Song hope for in the future? “To choreograph my own dance production.” He got a taste of that being one of the choreographers for the street dance show Blaze, currently touring Europe, directed by famous British choreographer Anthony van Laast. “When I was working on that I thought this is what I want to do, produce an hour-long dance production and make it happen here. And the first to do it now is Jabbawockeez.”
For veteran Calvario, the outlook for Asian American street dancers is definitely “bright” with so many dancers, crews, companies and choreographers making their mark in their communities. And he does his part to bring more people into the fold, by providing classes to people of all ages, such as the master classes the adult entity of Kaba Modern, Kaba Modern Legacy (KMLegacy.com), is presenting in Southern California this summer.
Like Chung, Calvario feels that being innovative and positive is of the utmost importance to sustain this exciting rise of Asian American dancers. “The key to keeping it strong is for all of us … to stick together in our mission to keep the dance culture positive and ever-evolving artistically.”
Chung of the Jabbawockeez feels the vitality of the movement also depends on how the media continues to present them. “It can be oversaturated and burn out if it’s done incorrectly,” he says. “As long as people continue to push the envelope in terms of creativity, make it brand new and fresh — not just among Asian American dancers — anything can get tired if it’s done too much.”
But for the time being, Asian American dancers are relishing all the media attention and using it to continue to help the scene thrive. Kaba Modern members are inspiring people around the globe through their performances and teaching workshops. Song’s choreography can be seen on national and international stages as well as the small and big screens, from commercials to films. The Jabbawockeez not only launched a Vegas show this year, but also have an album and a clothing line called “Wocks” dropping soon.
And let’s not forget that former Fly Girl Carrie Ann Inaba, who as a judge on one of the highest-rated shows on television, Dancing with the Stars, has cemented her place in American pop culture history as a leading authority on dance.
No longer is it a question if Asians can dance, but if there are any limits to what they can achieve with that talent. Could an Asian American dance production as big as the Broadway hit Flower Drum Song, staged more than 50 years ago, be a reality in the not-to-distant future? We hope so. And it’s clear that Asian Americans are not the only ones waiting for it to happen — the whole world is.
ISSUE: Summer 2010
DEPT: Plugged In
STORY: Susan Soon He Stanton
The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee: Book review and Q&A
Famed author Chang-rae Lee is out with yet another stunning novel, The Surrendered. In our Summer 2010 issue, Audrey book reviewer Susan Soon He Stanton reviews the work and talks to Lee about his father, the Korean War and The Iliad.
They Could Be Heroes
Reviewer Susan Soon He Stanton says Chang-rae Lee’s The Surrendered is an engrossing tale of the effects of war.
Chang-rae Lee opens his fourth novel with the words “the journey was nearly over.” A curiously misleading start to an epic tale which moves from 1934 Manchuria, the aftermath of the Korean War, and New York in the 1980s. Lee spent nearly six years crafting The Surrendered and his uncanny gift of describing the war-ravaged countryside of Korea can make the reader forget Lee himself is not a war survivor. Inspired by a memory of his father’s, Lee turns his attention to the aftermath of the war, creating characters that are profoundly shaped by acts of shocking violence and loss. The result is a haunting story of endurance: survival at a cost.
The story begins with June, a young Korean girl, fleeing south with her two siblings. When she is separated from her siblings, she is sent to an orphanage run by a minister and his beautiful but troubled wife, Sylvie Tanner. Hector, a handsome American GI, stays on after the war to work as a handyman at the orphanage. June and Hector find themselves vying for the love and attention of the enigmatic Sylvie. The dark hands of history also shape the course of Sylvie’s life after she witnesses a horrific massacre in Manchuria and is nearly raped by Japanese soldiers. Hector, June and Sylvie negotiate an unstable triangle until a horrific event closes the orphanage. Hector saves June’s life and they travel to America together in hopes of carving out new lives.
Many years later, despite a mutual animosity toward each other and a secret catastrophic past, June and Hector reconnect in New York. June, suffering from advanced stages of stomach cancer, closes her antique shop and sells her home. Leaving her few belongings behind, she is on a singular mission to track down her missing son. Believing Hector is the only man who can help her, she struggles to bridge 30 years of separation and silence. Hector, now a janitor at a strip mall run by Korean immigrants, attempts to drink away his unlucky past. Warily, he joins June’s search, traveling with her to Italy in hopes of finding her prodigal son.
With prose so visually stunning it verges on the cinematic, Lee moves swiftly between the various landscapes. Throughout the novel, there are powerful vignettes of minor characters whose lives are changed by the war: a young Korean bugler tortured by American soldiers and a Korean farmer looted of his food supply by roving refugees. At times, the story takes incredible, nearly implausible turns causing me to question how much tragedy and senseless violence can two lives hold? Despite the impressive death count, The Surrendered does not collapse into melodrama or dwell in depictions of gratuitous violence. Folding intense moments of carnage with subtle descriptions of daily life, Lee creates a heartbreaking story that captivates with the details.
Although not for the faint of heart, The Surrendered is an engrossing story about the complications of war and the intricacies of human nature. Moreover, it is an impressive work of fiction by a stunningly gifted writer.
Author Insight: A Q&A with Author Chang-rae Lee
Audrey Magazine: You’ve written that The Surrendered was inspired by your father’s experience as a refugee during the Korean War. How did the protagonist become an 11-year-old girl?
Chang-rae Lee: The only thing that directly relates to my father’s experience was that his brother was killed on the train, just like June’s brothers and sisters. So I was just using that one incident as the final scene in that chapter, but really I had an idea about a Korean orphan who was a girl. So there was no other connection to him. It was that incident that spoke to me and haunted me.
AM: The Korean War is almost a lost war in the American consciousness, Vietnam having eclipsed it from sight. How do you see your book affecting the Korean American community and what has the reaction been?
CRL: I don’t know yet how it will affect the Korean community. It’s a war that no one wants to talk about, not Americans, not Koreans. A lot of Koreans from my generation, their parents never talk about it and I know why because it’s too painful and unhappy. So I don’t know, but I do know that these stories and experiences exist and have haunted people in my father’s generation. Perhaps there will be an opening. That’s not why I wrote the book. A Korean friend of mine said as their parents were getting older, they wanted to tell more stories from that time because it was something they would never forget.
AM: Do you think there is a connection between the psychic damage of losing a mother or father and losing a homeland?
CRL: There is a connection on a different kind of scale. I’ve never lost a homeland, not one that I’ve ever really owned. But I think one of the things about this book is that all of the characters are unmoored. They are orphans and anchorless. That’s one of the conditions that I wanted to explore in this book. It’s a condition that fascinates me and troubles me. I know it’s partially because of my upbringing and feeling unmoored by society and culture.
AM: I wanted to ask you more about the meaning behind the title The Surrendered. Who are the surrendered and how does it relate to Hector and June, who seem almost immortal in the face of danger and tragedy?
CRL: I used the passive form because they were surrendered by the forces and history of fate. They had to endure war. They had to see what they had to see, do what they had to do. There is also a sense that they had surrendered to themselves. Hector surrenders to self-pity and self-loathing. June surrenders to her own furious will to live, and pays the price for it with her son. Surrendering for me is complicated.
AM: June Han, the young orphaned Korea refugee, is an extremely sympathetic character at the start of the novel, but less so as a teen and an adult. Was this a conscious decision to make her less likable later in life, or was this her character arc from the start?
CRL: I saw her as someone who was very hard, stubborn and willful. I didn’t see events as completely forming her but revealing her. Maybe she would have been different had those things not happened to her, but that’s what the book considers. It considers a force as grand as history influence and determine who people are. Also, just as importantly, after that happens, how do people construct and create themselves? My father made a choice to live a very normal life, just as most of the people who survived this war and had normal experiences.
AM: What is Hector’s relationship to Hector in The Iliad?
CRL: He shares the name but he doesn’t share the character. Hector in The Iliad is an upright and noble and wise good son who tries to do all of the right things, and is ultimately slaughtered by Achilles. I wanted Hector to be the anti-Hector, the opposite of all of these things. A fallen titan. A fallen Immortal. I like the idea that Hector is an immortal soul and could not be vanquished. I asked myself, “What would be the worst thing for Hector?” and that would be if he could never die. If he could never feel the pain in the way he wants to feel pain. He could never even get drunk, so that he could not erase himself. It hooked up with my wink to classical writing and epic tales of Gods and immortals. It would define his tragedy.
— Susan Soon He Stanton
ISSUE: SUMMER 2010
DEPT: Feature Story
STORY: Paul Nakayama
Far East Moment is tirelessly trying to bring their brand of hip-hop and electronic music to the masses from the group up — and it’s working.
It was a fortunate coincidence that brought me to Tokyo the same week that Far East Movement (FM) was opening for Lady Gaga during the Japan leg of her world tour. The group members were kind enough to offer tickets to the show. As they hit the stage in LED-illuminated astronaut helmets, the crowd went from warm to wild for FM’s unique and infectious dance blend of hip-hop and electronica. I stood up and looked around the enormous Yokohama Arena. It was a proud moment to see these Los Angeles natives performing to a sold-out show on the other side of the world. Just last year, I danced whenever I heard their single in a club. “This is my jam,” I told my friends. Never mind that my song was “Girls on the Dance Floor.”
It’s 2 a.m. in a back-alley bar in Shibuya, Tokyo. I’m sipping on cheap whisky as a permanent cloud of cigarette smoke looms over us. I’m with FM and their producers, the Stereotypes, as we celebrate the last night of the tour. There’s a lot of chatter, because just an hour earlier, they had to evacuate their hotel due to a ruptured gas line. In the corner, a woman is passed out with a dog in her lap. Our bartender spontaneously decides to take off his clothes and spin on a stripper pole that magically appears. This interview starts rolling against the chaotic backdrop of Tokyo by night. Witnessing FM’s old-fashioned hard work inspired me to dig deeper with Kev Nish, Prohgress, J-Splif and DJ Virman. You see, just four hours earlier, I saw them hustling outside the Arena, converting a sea of Lady Gaga lookalikes into new fans, and I needed to hear their story.
The original group began as friends in high school practicing rhymes in the parking lot after school and work. I mention under my breath that I once learned all the words to “Ice Ice Baby,” but that’s like telling Mariah Carey that you can sing in the shower, so I shut the hell up. Unlike me, they’ve all had a strong connection to music since childhood.
Kev Nish, born Kevin Nishimura, taught himself how to play the guitar by ear. But lacking a singing voice, he turned his attention to rap. Later, he worked as a valet, parking cars in Seattle, and used the long downtimes to listen to the radio and write rhymes against those beats. James “Prohgress” Roh grew up with parents who were both musicians. He hated classical piano in his youth, vowing never to be involved in music. Ironically, he dropped out of law school to pursue a music career against his parents’ initial wishes, later returning for his degree. Jae “J-Splif” Choung also didn’t enjoy the prerequisite Asian piano lessons, but he did love rap and recalls spending time in high school freestyling with Prohgress, using the beats from songs like “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy and Mase. DJ Virman, who joined the group in 2007 and was previously a deejay for L.A. radio station Power 106, also grew up with musician parents.
I used to practice hip-hop dance moves in the parking lot with my high school friends, but you don’t see me on “So You Think You Can Dance.” The difference being, of course, that FM has talent whereas I was banned from doing the “Kid ‘n Play” for all the shin injuries I caused.
They made a clear choice to dedicate themselves to a life of music when they had an opportunity to present a mixtape to an A&R manager at Arista. Nish dropped a class the day before the final exam, despite having an “A,” to make time for an all-night recording session. The result was their first album. “Our demo CD was so terrible, but we thought it was the truth,” Nish recalls. Arista never signed them, but they decided it was time to form an official group.
The Far East Movement initially started out as Emcee’s Anonymous, which was an effort to divert focus on to their talent rather than their race. “We wanted that mysterious effect where you couldn’t tell what race we were. You just listened to the music, and you can’t tell,” says Nish.
Talent wasn’t enough, and they felt the pressure of the Asian community. “The community at the time wanted us to say something in our music, talk about Asian issues,” says Nish, a fourth-generation American of Japanese and Chinese descent. “But we’re American, like McDonald’s. We listened to Tupac and Power 106, and that’s the kind of music we wanted to make, stuff about partying or ‘going back to Cali.’ But we still felt the need to represent. So we figured why not call ourselves the Far East Movement and f—k the haters. Now that we were representing with a name so strong, we were free to write about whatever we wanted. No pressure to have to say anything.”
The name itself came from one of the group’s original demo tracks. “‘The Far East Movement’ was a song about a new school mentality, an international lifestyle, street wear, hip-hop, racing. Everything we were into, we put into that song,” Nish explains.
Splif quickly adds: “The song was terrible though.” And everyone nods and laughs. “One of the biggest things we set out to do was put another dimension to the Asian American face in the industry,” Splif continues. “And maybe be the first Asian American group to win a Grammy.” He smiles with a slight wink.
They began their career as most artists do, by passing out demo CDs and flyers to shows. (“You know how effective that is,” Nish interjects.) But in 2005, they made a bold move to organize and produce Movementality, a charity hip-hop show benefiting a Koreatown drug rehab center, which sold out. By 2006, they released their first album, and gained the attention of filmmaker Justin Lin. Their first single “Round Round” was featured in Lin’s 2006 The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. In 2007, they had their first radio hit with “You’ve Got a Friend” featuring Baby Bash and Lil’ Rob.
Despite these successes, they hit a wall. “We didn’t know how to link that radio hit to other songs or our branding,” says Nish. “We met with all the labels, ’cause they wanted to know who had this hit song, but they wouldn’t sign us.”
Prohgress remembers going through some tough times as a result. “We had a lot of highs and lows over the last seven years. We would all go full-time at this music thing with nothing materializing, go flat broke and have to end up working jobs or going back to school,” he says.
Realizing they needed to find their true radio sound, they began to hit the clubs hard and performed at every venue they could find. With Virman mixing high-energy dance tracks for them, they began to find their groove. This led to meeting the Stereotypes at a show, and at their first recording session, they created “Girls on the Dance Floor,” which would become their breakout hit and lead-in to their deal with Interscope subsdiary, Cherrytree Records. They’re now recognized as one of the 25 best new bands by MTV Iggy and one of the 25 must-see acts at Bamboozle.
If anyone knows what’s happening on the Internet, it’s the guys of FM. Sifting through the stream of activity on their website, Facebook and Twitter, you can tell they’re bigger proponents of the Internet than the porn industry. In fact, the adult industry could learn a thing or two about viral marketing from these guys. At their Gaga show, they blogged live and hosted a chatroom from backstage immediately after their set. Splif admits, “We wouldn’t be here if not for the Internet, or it would have taken us a lot longer to get where we are. When Myspace launched, it all changed. It opened our eyes to what was out there. Before that, we were just bedroom MCs.”
The natural question that comes to mind when talking about the Internet and music is the fear of piracy. But FM isn’t concerned. “Anybody that we can get to hear our songs, we’re for it. We’ve been giving out free mixtapes for years. If you want a CD, please, go ahead and take it. Upload it to your computer and give it to your homie,” says Prohgress. “A lot of our fans were born in the ’90s and they’ve never paid for music in their life, so you have to accept it and figure out how to adapt. On the other hand, too, you can find all kinds of new music easier now. Just go on YouTube and browse for hours.”
It’s clearly all about networking and reaching out to the audience at large. “Kev’s always been in customer service for a long time, so back when Myspace started he was all about making sure that we talked directly to everyone that added us as a friend or sent a message,” says Prohgress “Splif would go through hundreds of requests a day personally and write back. And you know, we got shows like that.”
It’s amazing the pace they keep. They’re not just hyperactively networking on the Net, but they maintain the same stride with performing at clubs, label meetings, meet-and-greets, and the list goes on. They slept maybe two hours every night in Tokyo. I found myself poking Prohgress in the arm at one club just to make sure he wasn’t a cyborg from the future disguised as a rapper. I was sure that he was secretly hunting John Connor. My skepticism was rewarded with a tequila shot. But I had to know their secret. If we could harness their energy, I’m convinced nations could be saved. No one can work this much, I thought. How do they unwind or recharge? I asked. I was met with confusion.
“Unwind? What does that mean?” Prohgress asks. “I mean, we sleep. That’s about it. But, every moment you’re not working, someone else is working.”
Splif jumps in, “We just gotta keep going, man. Outta sight, outta mind. New acts are always catching up, and we still haven’t finished our own catching up.” Splif is amped up, like a boxer before a fight.
Prohgress pounds his fists on the table and continues. “Besides, this sh—t is fun. Why wouldn’t I want to spend the next minute editing a video or writing a new song? People tell us, ‘You’re too intense. Let go.’ And I’m like, ‘Why? This is what we love to do.’”
I’m glad by this point that these guys have never met my mother. I’m absolutely certain that she would ask me why I couldn’t be more like them and have their work ethic. When asked what advice they can give to upcoming artists, they unanimously agreed that hard work and being humble were the two most important things. But as I listened to them talk and joke with each other, another thought came to mind. You need your friends.
Prohgress agrees. “We met a lot of people that have supported us and helped us,” he says. “Others lost faith and disappeared on us. And at the end you kind of see who’s left after all the wars and the rubble. And that’s when you know you have the people around you that are right. We’re still gonna see a lot of rough patches, but one thing’s for sure, we’re still gonna see the same faces around us.”
Asking more about industry friends, it surprised me to hear that there are a lot of unselfish givers in music, and that’s something FM is hoping to give back. Radio favorites LMFAO brought FM, the only unsigned act, to the Party Rock Tour, even offering mentoring. LMFAO, in turn, was mentored by the Black Eyed Peas. It’s all about paying it forward, they say.
This sense of brotherhood is a strong internal motivator in FM. “Growing up as an only child, these are my brothers. So, I can’t get lazy one day and watch TV, ’cause I know these guys are still busting their asses. I gotta get up and pull my weight,” says Prohgress.
What else motivates you? I ask. Splif jumps in with a characteristic response, “The fear of going broke.” Everyone laughs, but he gets serious. “No, but that’s some real sh—t. We’ve been there, and this is all we got. If not this, what else am I gonna do?”
Nish agrees but adds, “Being big fans of music motivates us, too. This is a job we love more than anything.”
Asking what the Far East Movement is up to next is like looking at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue: they’ve both got everything going on. The group is hard at work on their next album, which is slated for a fall release. They’re once again collaborating with the Stereotypes, as well as Snoop Dogg, Lil Jon and Bruno Mars. Far East Movement also has numerous tour dates through the year, including their own International Secret Agents Show. You can catch their weekly radio show, the Cherry Bomb, on their website. In fact, just check out fareastmovement.com or follow them on Twitter @fareastmovement, because you’ll want to keep this FM on your dial.
Anyone watching So You Think You Can Dance? I don’t normally watch that show, but with all the noise Asian Americans have been making with their mad dance skills of late, one Asian American contestant on the reality TV show has caught my attention. Take note of what many are saying is the show’s front runner, Alex Wong.
The 23-year-old was a principal soloist with the Miami City Ballet, (he joined at the age of 17 after winning the prestigious “Prix de Lausanne” competition), but gave up his position to compete in the show. He’s pretty damn good, and easy on the eyes to boot. I just may tune in tonight at 8 pm on Fox. You?