Friday, March 31, 2017

氣 Ch’i Energy】 楚諺云三日於莬氣吞牛

(Artwork by Peter Ng)

Asian Writer shuts down Wannabe White Savior Psycho

Condescending | The arrogance of this White man who gave an unwanted eulogy at a Chinese family's passing of their mother because he thought he had some superior right to lecture grieving Chinese relatives. Before he begins to lecture the unfounded connection between incense and lung cancer in the Asian culture, he should realize that American tobacco companies targeted Asian countries mercilessly and how the coal industry plagued black lungs among American workers. This is a White Savior moment gone horribly wrong. I implore you, if you are ever in a situation like this where some White man begins to lecture you because he feels he's superior than you thus giving him a self-imposed right, shut him down!

(Photo Credit: Wanderlust)

(This was originally posted to Facebook. Vincent Yee is the author of The Purple Heart)

Lee Finds A way (By Lee Chan)

When my family moved to Boston, we stayed with relatives until we rented a place on Oxford Street in Chinatown. It has six floors, with a laundromat on the bottom floor, and two elevators. We were on the fifth floor, then the second. It was right across from Sun Sun grocery store, which made shopping convenient. The building was gritty, however. The elevators broke down twice for the handful of years we were there. I had allergic reactions, and learned about dust mites. Once, someone smoked in bed and caused a fire, and we stood in Sun Sun’s parking lot for hours while it was put out and the injured were taken to the hospital.

So we moved, to Tai Tung Village. Tai Tung means “big common,” a shortened phrase for solving problems together. There are four buildings, with a playground and laundromat in the middle. Sky bridges connected the buildings. The elevators went to every three or four floors, and there are fourteen floors. We were on the eighth floor. I could hear Tufts Medical helicopter rescuing people sometimes in the wee hours of the morning. Ma was a daycare teacher. Da was a waiter, small time chef, bartender in various Chinese restaurants. A three bedroom was affordable then at Tai Tung Village.

Tai Tung Village was a result of negotiations to build community housing in this neighborhood. It was classified as Section 8 housing, a federal government program for assisting very low-income families. Rent was controlled. There is a very long waiting list, so my family was very lucky. We, a family of four, used to be able to live off of less than $2000 a month; then the environment changed.

Some of the changes were good. The red light district has been reduced to only Centerfolds and Glass Slipper. The buildings behind it have been developed into the Theater District, as well as some campus buildings for Emerson College. The Boston Common movie theater sprang up. The cops on bikes reduced crime. Gang activity largely went away. Trash became regulated. Businesses thrived: bakeries, restaurants, banks and others.

Some of the changes were harder to live with. Rent is rising, for one thing. It is about $1000 per square foot to live near Chinatown and Boylston ( The garden that came with the Big Dig is nice, but it displaced about 300 residents (WBUR). The neighborhood is hemmed in by the highway next to South Station, as well as offices and shops considered part of Downtown Crossing. The Kensington luxury apartments developed at the cross section of Beach Street and Washington Street. Rents are well over $2000.

The land value is going up in general, due to luxury housing and competition in the fashion arena. Primark is directly competing with Forever21, though Macy’s has a firm hold on the 30s urbanites. Chinatown is made of its land and its people. Now the land is being slowly bought out by commercial interests. The younger generation is moving away to seek cheaper rent. I live with two roommates out on the borderline of South Boston and Dorchester. Chinatown is slowly petering out.

Chinatown needs more legislation like the initiatives that built Tai Tung Village for affordable housing. The businesses will stay as long as there are consumers, but then Chinatown may be reduced to Americanized Chinese food, its culture dissipating into wok grease digested by residents of luxurious condominiums.

(Article By Lee Chan)

Shaolin Temple Lecture at Harvard

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Help Save Mimi Chan's mother

This is cut and pasted from the Go Fund Me Page here
Hello, my name is Mimi and my family is asking for help to save our mother. In 1982, my mom and dad went to Guilin, China for their honeymoon. More than 30 years later, they wanted to revisit this special place that held so many memories for them. During the trip, my mom suffered from a lack of oxygen and was admitted to a hospital in a rural part of China. After a few hours, the doctors found out that her heart, liver, and kidneys were failing. By this time, my mom could barely breathe so the doctors gave her a tracheotomy. The rural hospital was so poorly equipped that my family ended up buying the basic equipment they needed in order to treat my mother like bed pans, towels, and sanitary wipes. The next day, she ended up with pneumonia and a high fever. At this moment, my family is stuck in this small town in China, unable to move my mother to a more modern facility, and she is suffering from stage 4 heart failure. Her medical condition is getting worse each day she stays here and my family and I are trying to bring her back to Boston to get her the medical attention that she desperately needs. The air ambulance costs about $250,000 but we can't do it without your help. Please help me save our mother.

Hear Me Out Radio FFTG

Check out Hear Me out Radio on Flows From the Gutter, an internet radio show, TONIGHT Thursday at 8pm because there is going to be an Asian Artist. These are local artists from the Boston area.

Long Lost Father

I recently was contacted from someone in Asia looking for their long lost father in Boston.

He had these pictures and an old letter written to his mother from Boston in 1974.
At the time he was working at Four Seas. 

(here is a younger picture. The first picture looked closer to what he may have looked like when arriving in Boston. But he looked so liang jai in this photo I just had to share it too.)

The son had never met his father and was curious whether he was even still alive. (His mother passed away recently.) The handsome young man in the photo would be 81 today and his son is 43.

Let me know, if he is interested in doing an interview with the blog!
Hopefully this story will have a happy ending.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Crime and Chinatown

So following our story of a lost connection... the person would have worked at the Four Seas, which is now Peach Farm. At first we had a bit of a detour thinking that the restaurant was at 64 beach, which was actually apartments at the time.

I once talked to Terry Guen (Amy Guen's daughter) about how distressing it was that whenever you look up stories about Chinatown... pretty much the only thing you will find is crime stuff. I think part of the reason for that is that is what is recorded either by the courts or the newspapers written by non Chinese.

Here is a case that involves the four seas that someone brought to my attention.

I'm sure someone would find this side story fascinating because I think it involves the Irish and Italian mob... but to me... it's a side story. (doesn't mean I won;t write about it at some point.) But it's just something that happened in Chinatown. It seems like Chinese were uninvolved. Basically it's other people came to Chinatown and decided to handle their violence there...thanks.

I heard that quite a few bodies turn up in the Charles river every year near very high priced real estate. But you won't hear about it in the news because that would drive property values down.

You never hear about how dangerous the Back Bay or completely gentrified neighborhoods technically are. You never hear about wealthy white night clubbers beating the crap out of other wealthy white night clubbers over anger and lack of self control that has nothing to do with organized crime or beef. But I can tell you that I read many police reports as a victim witness advocate for the DA's office with this sort of narrative.

I'm just saying... do you notice that when outside people come to an ethnic neighborhood to do harm to each other that somehow that guilt seems to start being associated with the people that live or own businesses there for no apparent reason? However, if the reverse is true, and say ethnic people were to target each other on Beacon Hill, even if Beacon Hill residents were somehow involved... they would remain guiltless and the story would focus on "invaders"...Something to ponder.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lost Connection at 64 Beach Street

Well some interesting things have happened in the Boston Chinatown Blog since I started. I met a lot of new friends and solidified old relationships. People have reached out to me looking for calligraphers or tours or performances and classes or to reminisce.

But recently someone from Singapore (but originally from Hong Kong) reached out looking fro a relative. The letters were coming from Boston's Chinatown in 1974 and the last one was from 64 Beach street. A restaurant perhaps?

In any Uncle always joked and called me, Adam Cheung P.I.

So when someone puts some sort of mystery in front of me, I have to at least ask....

Plus I know it would make a good story for the blog.

I will let more details come out as the unfold... plus, I have to make sure this is all tactful and everyone wants the story to come out. If not... then it will be filed away and used for fiction.
Four Oceans

Monday, March 27, 2017

Batman in Chinatown (outside Captain America's old residence)

George Li is famous now for bringing Batman to Chinatown during our last snowstorm.
Here is an article from the Globe.

Batman in Chinatown

But this is by no means George's first work. Check out these snow sculptures form years past...
Boston Strong
Elsa and Olaf

George, decided to build the Batman this year outside his apartment in the Leather District (which is associated with Chinatown... to me it's straight up Chinatown) and pointed out that a lot of people walking by might not even realize that in addition to being an area with businesses, that it is a community too where people live. 

Interestingly enough, one of the other residents of George's building, was Chris Evans... Captain America. Of course he hadn't lived there for five years. He was too busy fighting aliens and what not, but still kind of cool. Captain America recently sold his condo however. I had know idea he was a Chinatown resident.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

3 day sale at Aqua World

(Photo Credit: Connie Chan)

I remember going into this store when the Moh Goon (then at Tai Tung) had a fish tank. Interesting stories about my superstitions about Fish Tanks and feng shui are coming to mind... but I will put those in another post. I think this type of store has had a difficult time to survive, speaking as someone who has never owned a business. But think about it. You can probably buy supplies online, at competitive if not cheaper prices. As for DVDS  (or rather VCDs) of Hong Kong movies and CDs... I recall telling an American about one of these shops, after people were already downloading music and they laughed commenting, "People still make CD's? Yeah here, we're selling these A tracks too."

I was actually shocked when I was in Philly's Chinatown and saw that there was still a store that seemed to be renting VHS. 

Top Ten seems to have survived by getting into the Ginseng business and lottery tickets.  

But as the things that these businesses sell become cheaper or even FREE online, it is no wonder that they would close. 

East Ocean City

I found out that East Ocean City is closing and a hotel is being proposed.. but excitingly it sounds like this is going to be done by the owner of the building and restaurant (same person.) Most of what I am writing here is more rumor and I have to follow up.

(Photo Credit: Connie Chan)

But in the past a friend of mine who had done business in New York's Canal Street and also has been heavily involved in Boston's Chinatown commented that New York's Chinatown was stronger because the owners of the buildings were more willing to develop the properties themselves, to create hotels and residences and restaurants that would keep that Chinatown going for 100 more years. He complained that he did not see this type of energy as much in Boston...

However, it sounds like that is EXACTLY what is happening in this case. So perhaps East Ocean City is closing... but it sounds like this is a move that will be part of Chinatown's development into something that will thrive in the future instead of just barely surviving or even disappearing.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Toisanese Pop

On somewhat of a side track from my previous post, while I have been getting more connected to Cantopop and Mandopop, I have been searching for a Toisanese equivalent for the past year. I have found Hakka Pop, Hokkien Pop, and pop songs in other Chinese languages easily. The Toisanese are not a minority group. Most of the overseas Chinese are actually of Toisanese descent. However, the Toisanese language is very different from Mandarin. 

Growing up, I always heard my mother and maternal grandparents and their friends speaking Toisanese. I understood most of it, but never spoke it. Even though this was their language of communication, my mother has told me multiple times how Toisanese is so foul sounding compared to Cantonese and Mandarin, with its strange tones and use of the back of the throat. 

Not until these past two years did I finally come to disagree with her on the perception of this language. Yes, I grew up thinking Toisanese was funny and ugly sounding. This thinking shifted when I started to crave to connect deeper with my roots 2 years ago. 

Through some personal research and personal experience, Toisanese in terms of phonetic structure is very similar to that of some Southeast Asian languages such as Vietnamese and Thai. Yes, there is V-pop and T-pop. I have heard some very beautiful songs in these music groups. So why no Toisanese-pop? It is totally possible. I have found several Toisanese traditional folk songs online. As much as I love them, I am still a child of this current generation and prefer listening to contemporary music. The creation of even one Toisanese Pop song or a couple could totally make a difference in the Toisanese mainland and diaspora youth's perception of the Toisanese language...

A Chinese-American's Musings of C-pop

Lately, the more I go to Chinese supermarkets and Chinese restaurants, the more I've been paying attention to the music being played. A mix of Mandarin pop and Cantonese pop songs. A lot of the Cantopop songs I recognize from my childhood, with my mother always playing them around the house or in the car. As a child, I found these songs unpleasant and I barely understood the lyrics with my limited Cantonese. 

About two decades later, to my own surprise, these songs that I really disliked are now beautiful pieces of art I feel so connected to. Keys to opening further my curiosity in exploring more of my native tongue, Cantonese. So I taught myself jyutping, a Cantonese Romanization system kind of like Mandarin and pinyin. With this, I could easily sing these songs without having the obstacle of reading the characters. 

While I was learning Cantonese, I was hesitant in learning Mandarin and listening to Mandopop. I guess I was stubborn in not wanting to learn the language that was considered by mainstream society to be more beautiful sounding than the ugly and tone heavy Cantonese. 

Well, there are no pure Cantopop singers. All the Cantopop stars also sing in Mandarin as that's the main market for the Chinese audience. So the first Mandopop songs I got into were those by Hong Kong artists. Listening to Mandopop music almost as much I do Cantopop and liking it was inevitable for me. 

Since Mandopop is more in demand, there is more variety, which is frustrating to me. Most of the current Cantopop hits are mellow sounding love songs, while the Mandopop industry is blasting with a wide range of different styles. Mandopop and cantopop are somewhat umbrella terms as they include pop, R&B, rock, rap, house, jazz, etc. in the respective language.

My iTunes library and YouTube watch history for the past 2 years have been growing with Cantopop and Mandopop songs which I listen to probably 90% of the time I listen to music daily. I do wish local radio stations played such songs occasionally. The only thing close to this is listening to them in public Chinese businesses. There are J-pop and K-pop artists who have made it into the American music industry. However, C-pop does not seem as appealing. Well, C-pop is quite successful in East and Southeast Asia, so why try to enter the industry of a country full of xenophobia? For me like many Chinese-Americans and Chinese people in the US, it would be touching and convenient to be able to listen to our native tongue in the music of this diverse country.

Here are two Cantopop classics I heard as a child and more recently a couple times in Chinese restaurants and markets. 

The first one is a song that won the singer, Anita Mui, best female artist in the 1989 Jade Solid Gold Best Ten Music Awards in Hong Kong. It talks about how we have gone through a lot in our life. There have been both good and bad. We might have missed a few chances or made the wrong decisions. It is a cover of the song, 夕焼けの歌, originally performed by Japanese Pop star Matchy (Masahiko) Kondo. This song is also featured in a 1989 Hong Kong movie directed by Tsui Hark A Better Tomorrow 3: Love and Death in Saigon which stars Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Anita Mui.

The second one is performed by a band, Beyond, of which all the members have origins in Toisan, where my family is also from. The theme of this song is dreams and freedom. Today, it is considered an anthem of Cantopop music. Also, it was adapted as a protest song in multiple protests of Cantonese speaking regions, one of them being the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Southie, South End, JP, Chinatown

The first time I set foot n Southie was at the St. Patrick's day parade in high school. I was treated quite nicely but to be honest I heard a lot of racial slurs directed and black people IN the parade, by people who were FROM Ireland.

The only other times I stepped foot in Southie were to visit my Sifu and Si Hing where they lived. But they never hung out in Southie despite living there.

Later on I joined a boxing club in Southie, Peter Welch Boxing Club, and Peter himself asked me which Kung Fu school I belonged to. When I said Woo Ching White Crane, he mentioned he knew of a lot of Southie boys that had belonged to that school At that point in the schools history membership was down, let alone white people's membership and I said, "Not anymore." Because interestingly, when he said Southie boys, I automatically thought "white." Of course when I first joined there were a number of men from Southie (with the green dot and everything) that were part of the school. But people come in and out of Kung Fu schools. Very few stay for so long. Life, kids, jobs, get in the way.

It wasn't until years later that I thought, "Dude! Why did I say that? My Sifu LIVES in Southie."

The truth is a lot of Chinese live in Southie and other non Irish as well. But nobody will hang out there.

I learned from a Chinese resident in Southie that despite gentrification it is STILL quite racist, with children making Ching Chong sounds at her as she walks down the street.

But there is a two way street to that as well.

While at Peter Welch Boxing club, some of the fellow members were actually quite old. They bought some leather jackets that said Peter Welch and had the giant Shamrock on them.

"Hey Peter!" they said, "We're going to where these in Chinatown!" they joked.

Someone else yelled out, "Dude their gonna machine gun ya."

But I thought, "No probably not. As long as you are going into Chinatown to spend money they will lay down the red carpet for you frankly.


This one time a worker at the CCBA came out. He was there bettering the Chinatown community. He was wearing a shirt with a Shamrock that said Southie on it....

And to be honest...

Me and my friend gave him "the look" I don't even know why I did it. I have never been in a street fight about neighborhoods ever.

"Hi guys." He said. And we nodded to him and said hi. But he felt the tension as well. He just wanted to let us know.. "Look I'm here, I'm friendly." and frankly, why would we assume otherwise?

When people act a certain way and there doesn't seem to be a rational reason in a company in an organization that means it isn't the individual ... it is part of the culture.

And really, this IS part of the Boston tribal culture. And being of mixed race.. I find myself gravitating towards different sides depending on who I am hanging out with that day...

But this isn't something I am proud of. This is a confession really, that I am guilty of having these tribal and irrational feelings.

I went to a preppy high school where they played Goodwill Hunting over and over and all these kids from Newton would put on the Southie accent and pretend they were tough. The interesting thing was when I said was from the South End, they didn't understand that that was a different neighborhood.

I would also always qualify my neighborhood by saying, "I am from the South End near Chinatown."

Because the South End at that time was actually a Gay neighborhood, and at that time I was more sensitive about being misidentified with that group. I guess I was a bit homophobic even. Not to the degree as those around me, but more so than I am now, having watched all of GLEE and living in JP where my fellow parents, and therefore peers are openly Gay and married to their partners.

But anyway, I would say South End, and they would actually think Southie, which is hilarious to a local Bostonian. Though I think pretty soon, there will be no difference....

But is that all bad?

I really like my gentrified JP life. Lots of Gay people mixed in with Straight and mixed races. Not a whole lot of straight up black people but a lot of mixed race families. Between that half Asians and the Latinos my kids look like everyone else. It's nice to live in a neighborhood where you are accepted.

And I think part of that is gentrification.

I have heard others say that they despise the fact that when they walk around their OWN neighborhood they now feel as if the newcomers look at them as if they are criminals.

But I'm not sure that is the case in JP.

At the same time, my kids love going into Chinatown....

and the "South End Near Chinatown" aka Castle Square, Ming's Market, Peter's Park territory which is so gentrified now it isn't even funny....but then again... that makes it safer I think.

Southie on the other hand

I have yet to have an excuse to bring my kids there. Even though I love Irish music and culture, the Clancy Brothers, Luke Kelly, the sweaters.... I really would rather not go anywhere near the St. Patrick's Day parade with my kids. In fact St. Patrick's day is almost like the Pre-lion dance Chinese new year where you have to cower and shelter in place in fear of the drunks.

St. Patrick's day...and ever single Red Sox Game.

But Southie and Charlestown get all the attention in the TOWN and all these other movies....which tend not to have Asian characters. (In truth a good deal of the projects in Charlestown are also Chinese.)

The South End may be considered part of the Greater Chinatown area... but because of that strong tribal remnant from the past... Southie and Chinatown won't be for a long time.

Monday, March 20, 2017

More Fu Manchu

The further I get into "Iron Fist" the more I see a continuation of Sax Romer's BS. Where the Chinese are always somehow villainized and it has to be a white hero.
Karate Kid was about Japanese/Okinowans... but let's look at that. for a second, since it's been remade a few times and at least that model, where the white hero at least has an Asian Sifu type as a guide has been played upon many times. At least Pat Morita was there.

In this version the Asian (basically sidekick) is an Asian female Side kick. Much like Bruce Lee's Kato. And she is also the love interest. Colleen Wing is cool, don't get me wrong.. but seriously all the other Asian characters are villains..

At first Chinese people weren't even really part of the story but once they are, they are all bad, even the old ladies.. with their sword canes killing people in strange rituals that don't exist.....

I still like the show and I like that there are scenes from New York's Chinatown... but people who criticized the whole Charlie Chan model (where at least the CHARACTER if not the actor was Asian) should rethink that.

Charlie Chan I would argue led to Jackie Chan's Indiana Jones like movies. Granted these movies were made by Hong Kong Studios, but at least they made it over here.

We need someone like Jackie Chan again (not in terms of the crazy stunts per se) but in terms of the willingness to make the films that are good enough to push through to the mainstream because Marvel (which was fantastic with Luke Cage) and has traditionally tried to be diverse and fight for the underdog in terms of Social Justice... just ain't doing it for the Asians.

Superman is Asian, in the Comic books now (I know that's DC) but it's always true that someone that can be Asian in the cartoons will not be cast as Asian in the live person film.

The fact that Iron Fist is white.. I did have a problem with... but I got over it. But why do all the villains have to be Asian? This is true in the British Shows too, with Sherlock battling an evil Chinese Syndicate.

This really just makes no sense.

The truth  of what is happening in Chinatown is the same Narrative as the plot in Daredevil. Gentrification.

The issue in Ironfist is the opioid addiction. But whose fault is that? How are you blaming Chinese for that?
If anything the first Opioid out break was England's fault and many Brahmin types in Boston and New York.

Iron Fist is not only fantastical it is the reverse of reality.

A lot of Chinese money is actually investing in these clinics meant to help addicts.. not out of the goodness of their heart but because they know they will get their money back. But Percoset and Oxy codone is made in the States, legally, and was never the fault of the Chinese.  But basically that is what IronFist is trying to say.

And again, there is a history behind this BS, with everyone tying that drug to China somehow when it was the British who really pushed it on China in the first place.

Did Marvel do this intentionally? Honestly I think not. The whole evil Asian mastermind is just so ingrained in the Western Psyche that even when they try to make a show about social justice this stuff comes out.

It should also be noted that there is no Latino Hero. Claire is a Nurse with no superpowers. Even though she is in every show, she is never the main focus.

They can fix this... but mayeb BCB should make our own superhero show. Adriana Li, the Taina Tiger. With the Tiger Claw power. (We were thinking of this before Iron Fist) But seriously Chinatown needs a Super Hero.  A diverse one at that.

The Reality of Marvel's "Iron Fist"

When I first saw this I was like, "Yes the Chinatown's Superhero!" You know Like Hell's Kitchen got Daredevil AND Jessica Jones, and Harlem got Luke Cage... oh but no white guy instead even though he does Kung Fu.

Then a friend posted that this show was actually pretty good so I went ahead and started watching.

The first thing that others might say while watching me watch this is, while watching the barefoot hipster walk around doing Kung Fu is, "Dude that's you!"

I internally summoned my Chi to say, "F you man!" but I know why people would think I am crazy like this guy, lol.

But the funny thing is I have met about 10 or so people like the Iron Fist. That is not to say that they actually have super powers. I mean that they believe through training Kung Fu (although their Kung Fu is usually not that good technique wise) that they BELIEVE they have superpowers.

The Kun Lun mountains where Danny Rand learns are sometimes something similarly strange but often times not only were they a school in Chinatown, but sometimes my school. Like they were coming back to get permission to fight some evil force, even their family.. basically as weird as the movie.

I mean the plot was pretty much the same, Except they were actually crazy.

With Boston's Chinatown being so close to Tufts Medical Center, between drugs and mental patients... there was a lot of crazies coming into our school. I am sure this is true of many schools and businesses in general. But for a lot of people (not just crazies) it is actually Chinatown itself that was the magical  place.

The thing is if you are that crazy... again the plot is often the same in terms of fighting too. IE they can still fight a bunch of people not because they are good at martial arts, but because they are crazy.

Also, if people were not after them to begin with (IE they are Paranoid) by the time they start acting crazy around people, they draw the attention of the police or other people.

The character I actually most sympathized with  was the owner of the school. Of course I didn't own my own school.

As the story progresses it's just weird how reality is distorted in terms of the dynamic between Chinatown, everyone speaking Mandarin... these community groups being triads.... it would have been nice to have a story about a superhero cook who learned Kung Fu IN Chinatown... more like what Daredevil was.

Maybe the teacher at the Chikara will get her own series.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

BBC Interview, Nanny or Mom?

Tow and Arboleda to another great job pointing out some flawed perceptions with humor.

Just check it out.  

If you haven't seen it, here is the original video. 

As you can see the person posting the video simply assumed that the Asian woman grabbing the kids was the Nanny. When I saw this, I actually just laughed. But many people were offended. I friend of mine even adding on the comments, "It his WIFE! What's Wrong with you people!"

Funny story, I actually got the police called on me because when I was carrying my Asian looking child to the park (I look more white, or perhaps Latino or middle eastern or"something.") it was assumed I was kidnapping him. After I had my second child, (who looks like my clone) I have never had that issue again.  

The important thing when talking about these sort of issues, and shedding light on a complex racial and socioeconomic issue, is to make people laugh. 

My wife (who is visibly Asian) asked if people would think that her kids were her kids. Well in the case of the first one, they look like exact copies of one another so there is no mistaking Mother and son. But at Dim Sum, she has gotten double takes when she is sitting next to the second one, who looks more white.

At the end, the Tow Arboleda video also makes the joke that perhaps the guy wasn't even wearing pants since the interview is waist up and maybe that's why didn't usher them out. I heard also that the kids thought the Professor was Skyping with their grandma which is why they wnet into the room in the first place. 

Some of the other comment controversies not brought up in the Tow Arboleda parody was that some say that he should have just went with the fact that his kids were there giving them a hug or whatever instead of shoving them out of the way. 

I have been known to do both lol. But I wasn't on the BBC. Actually this video is inspiring. We should do a parody too (if my wife would allow it) because in our case, it is my Asian wife who would be on an important conference call. The boys would run in. And then I (a visibly white guy) would run in to get them out. Except I would be yelling and screaming and anyone watching would be like, "Ahh who was that scary man stealing the children!"

Anyway, Great stuff Tow and Arboelda films.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Outsider Mentality

When I was a young Jook-sing, went to Chinatown with my Father over a 100 dozen times. Everytime I was in Chinatown, I have never felt someone being out of place. In my mind, while in Chinatown, my whole mentality is that I look like everyone else. I eat Chinese, look Chinese, because I am Chinese, despite being an Jook-sing. I didn’t have to second guess who I am. As I was walking around Chinatown over the years, you can tell who are the tourists and who are part of the neighborhood community. The tourists are the ones that always ask questions like where to eat or where to go .

            However, a couple of weeks ago, I was at a Stop & Shop in Hadley, MA. I was visiting a friend and I had to grab a couple of things before getting there. When I walked toward the front entrance, I use my Jedi mind trick to have the doors slide open. When in reality, it was the sensor that triggered the doors to slide open electrically; a guy could dream right. Well back to my story, when I entered inside, right away, I noticed my surroundings. In my mind, I knew I was going to stick out. I mean, I have been to a Stop & Shop over a 100 dozen times but not the one in Hadley, MA, I haven’t. I grabbed a basket and made my way around the aisles. I couldn’t help but feeling singled out. I have never felt like a tourist, unless, I was in a different state but that’s when it’s alright but not in Stop & Shop. I even had to stop and ask an employee about an item I was looking for, I guess I am a tourist now. While inside, my ears and eyes became more ATTENTIVE than ever.  When I finished gathering all the items I needed, I was still unsettled. I went straight to the self-checkout aisle like I usually do in the other Stop & Shop.

            I scanned all my items, I’m was about to pull out my wallet to pay. The grocer begins to bag all my items. I look over and I felt so foolish, overly paranoid over nothing, betrayed by my own mind. At that moment, I felt like a tourist, an outsider, a mismatch. I imagine the grocer only saw one thing, another HUMAN BEING buying groceries like EVERYONE ELSE. I graciously thanked the grocer for packing my items. When I walked away, all the outsider mentality I had, has left my mind.

            I just want to say, even with everything going on with this world right now, we as human beings shouldn’t have to worry about our skin color, even when you are in place you feel like you don’t belong. The truth is that you do belong because in the end, you are a human being and that’s all that counts for, nothing else matters, don't let your mind betray you. And I wish, I could say again to that grocer, thank you for reminding me.       

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My take on "Self Perception" by Michael Tow and Teja Arboleda

I came across this wonderful video about perceptions and stereotypes on my Facebook feed by Michael Tow and Teja Arboleda. I guess the point of the video is to point out that perceptions and stereotypes go both ways and that people are not always thinking what you assume they are.

Another Chinatown Blogger who is also of mixed race, Adriana Li, asked me what I thought of it. I guess superficially I do think that a lot of Asians tend to make assumptions about other people's assumptions, whether they are white or black or whatever. So many times Asian Americans (who are assuming I am fully white) will crack a self deprecating Asian joke and I will find I have no idea what stereotype they are even referring to. And it is true they will also assume a bunch of stuff about white people, seeing them as one conglomerate group instead of many sub groups of different ethnicities.

Should I talk about my PERSONAL experience?

Well since this is my entry... I will.

I mean I can see this type of couple nowadays. In fact this couple is almost a bit of a stereotype now (even though I think most people would assume the Asian Male white female pairing is not as common as the reverse.) You see, when I tell people I am mixed, they will assume the reverse of this pairing. Like, "So your mom was Chinese?" So I guess this video may feel that it was breaking the mold by having the Asian Male instead of the Asian female in a mixed race couple.

I think nowadays, this pairing is quite normal. And not only that, if you were to assume a pairing of these two races, the assumption would be that the male would speak English very well and that he wasn't any of the stereotypes listed in the many categories.

But since my Dad looked like this...

The one holding me.... the one who thinking about it, kind of got a little made fun of in the video above...

and here is an old post showing my Mom and her Aunt (whom I also called aunt) .. 

Also...My Uncle Francis really did get part of his ankle blown off in Vietnam (it killed his war buddy next to him) Infact when my mom brought my Dad home.. I was already like 3 and a half, or closer to four, my grandfather cooked him pancakes and cracked a joke about how he's love them or they'd kill him (but my dad didn't speak English so the joke died in translation) and then my dad actually had a stroke later that night.) 

I guess here is where the important message of the video comes across. In the end none of those perceptions matter because you are family already, and that is what matters. 
I mean the movie is three minutes. It's difficult to talk about all these things so quickly. And Tow and Arboleda did a fantastic job especially for mixed couples of young professionals you see nowadays. 

It's not really about stereotypes or perceptions as much as it's about who is there for you.

Going down to my generation, I guess it's the same thing because Grace is Asian and I'm perceived white, and I guess this video may have held some truth to it regarding my wife's first visit to my family. 

Me visiting her side of the family is a whole other story. But I guess since I've basically been raised in an awkward situation... well I tend to find this video more true to my experience. Even though we were actually Buddhist and Catholic and there was no conflict whatsoever. 

I mean, Michael Tow and Teja Arboleda did a fantastic job with this story and the acting and the editing. You can tell it took a lot of work. And I can see people laughing at that joke where Michael Tow is wearing the cook's outfit with the cigarette, like, "Oh my goodness they must have thought he was a chef working in the back."

I can see how that would be funny to a lot of people. I guess it is funny.

But to me I'm kind of like..

So? So what if he is? So what if that is my dad? Not just a perception but that's him.. That IS him and so what? Shoot I know of a lot of mix raced people  whose father's are from this background.....

I talked to Michael Tow about this and he mentioned that actually his grandfather was also a chef, and that he thought about him when putting on the costume in the video too. 

I guess I am a super sensitive Asian American after all! Lol

Friday, March 10, 2017

Chinatown Slow Street

There is a campaign to  get Chinatown to be selected for this slow street program.

Now many neighborhoods can benefit from this but I would have to say that Chinatown is one of the oldest neighborhoods that (has changed a great deal) but holds some of that original flavor. We have some of the old timers still involved in the community. And there are remnant of the cobblestone alleys where once children like Amy Guen frolicked safely.

But how many deaths have occurred within the last few decades due to car accidents? Where a child or a grandparent or even a teen was struck down by a car that coming off the highway didn't realize that they were approaching a community. I mean yes the driver may have known that Chinatown was a community by the way it is set up, it is easy to be in highway mode and then suddenly there is someone running across the street into their Gong Gong's arms or crossing the street, distracted by an argument.. and bam! instead of being struck by someone driving at residential speeds they are killed.

Now the area proposed in this petition is not necessarily the places of incident. (In front of Josiah Upper School, that highway between Ming's what was 88 and the Josiah Quincy Elementary... hell think about it, Josiah Quincy is SURROUNDED by highways.)

But I have to say anything is better than nothing.

I mean I live in JP and there are a lot of kids in strollers and mothers struck down around the J way as well. And Roxbury has problems too... We could do a lot better with City Planning. But Chinatown. Is a central location that everyone goes into, community members, tourists and extended Chinatown Family alike.

And honestly, I do feel that I have to be more strict with kids in Chinatown than in JP. In terms fo walking down the sidewalk.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Boss Lady: The Power of Toisan Sister Kristina Wong

Last night Boston Chinatown Blog went to Harvard for a performance of Kristina Wong's The Wong Street Journal. 


A quiet but busy Asian woman sits onstage while audience enters the house and find their seats. She sits glancing with concerted looks in between stitches, out at the world from over her sewing machine. 

Behind her is an almost entirely plush fabric sewn set. Names of political icons like MLK, Malala, Yuri, and Davis rest next to their numbers in stock value. 

The show begins and the next thing we know, Kristina Wong is in the HOUSE.

She move onstage and delivers the best sermon of a performance I've received yet about being an Asian woman. She rapped and made piercing shots at the lessons learned on her mission to save the world through social media rants and a trip to Uganda. From twerking and throwing a hundred cut-out plush hashtags into the audience while yelling about subjects like transphobia, to having moments of silence focusing in on the dark reality of racism and being woke, Wong gave a real one woman show. 

And it was f***ing AWESOME. 

She nails every single beat from the explanation of what white privilege actually means, to what we do as people of color that can both damage the cause despite our own good intentions. 

Her execution on inter-sectional racism and experience as being white passing in another country was flawless and encouraged a closer lens for us all. 

After the show, she had a Q&A. Someone asked a question I felt was important to note here:

(Referring to the performance) "Do you prefer the style of doing this kind of Chinese cross-talk delivery that we typically see in shows like this?"

Here was my reaction: What is she talking about? I turn to both of my other Asian friends on either side to ask for clarification, as there is some style I clearly haven't heard about yet as a Chinese person or as a theater director. I was met with equally puzzled looks and heard a murmur of "whats" and confusion. At first I gave the benefit of the doubt that maybe it's my ignorance and then Kristina gave the best response ever, either way in my opinion:

"Yeah, I'm not familiar with that. I don't know what that is." and with that, she hammered in a possible last point and moved to the next question. 

I had the pleasure of meeting with her afterwards and bought the DVD (Adam- I owe you) and fanned myself, blushing, as she called me her fellow Toisan sister!

Not only did she wow me with such down to earth and meaningful messages for me to learn from/internalize/shout in solidarity on rooftops, she also got me thinking that perhaps I should get back to my own theater roots.

Learn more about this awesome lady, and buy her DVD here: 

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Journey With Kung Fu

My journey in personal practice of martial arts has been filled with so many offs and ons. Throughout my childhood years, I was always intrigued by all the various beautiful and dynamic movements in martial arts. However, I just never had the initiative to really practice what was fascinating to me. I guess, it was throughout my teenage years, I really struggled with the acceptance of my cultural identity, Toisanese Cantonese American. With this, I avoided completely any idea of practicing martial arts because of my desire to distance myself from the stereotype of being Asian and then automatically labeled as a martial artist.

In college, I opened up a little to accepting my Asian cultural identity and to trying out martial arts. It was actually a friend who asked me if I was interested in joining her in the school’s karate club. I had a good time learning this style, and I tried committing to personal practice close to a daily basis. However, right before taking part in any of the karate classes, I already committed myself to weight lifting and bulking myself up. When I look back at this, I find it very funny, because now all of my regular routine exercises are just using my body weight and maintaining my health, with no interest in increasing my muscle mass. Anyways, eventually I felt a lot more committed to weight lifting, and felt like my energy was burning out by adding practice of karate to my daily routine. Oh yeah, I also played basketball daily, and had a similar dedication to it as weight lifting. I don’t know how I juggled all three of these along with my academic work. So, I just gave up karate. Shortly after, I took a semester long class in Western boxing. It gave me somewhat more of a stronger basis for fighting stance and coordination. Again, adding boxing to weight lifting and basketball was too much, so I gave up boxing, too.

One random day while still in college, I decided to give up weight lifting, because I didn’t want to rely on external weights to be strong and healthy for the rest of my life. So, I turned to bodyweight exercises. This shift in my fitness routine led to my current love for hand balancing, which eventually led me to simple imitations of movements I saw in watching capoeira. I never felt a burning passion to really take on capoeira, so I never took initiative of going to an actual class and learning it formally.

About two years into just doing bodyweight exercises on a regular basis, I suddenly had a burning desire to learn kung fu, particularly a style that was linked to my cultural heritage, Southern Chinese or Cantonese. Ha! Some of this desire stemmed from watching the Ip Man movies starring Donnie Yen. Not only was I fascinated by his kung fu and his acting, but I also felt proud of being Chinese and having kung fu linked to my culture. So, I browsed online for the different kung fu schools in Boston Chinatown. Eventually, one caught my interest the most. I really wanted to be committed to it. However, in two weeks, I just disappeared from the school, and have not returned since. I had gotten heavily involved in community activism, so I just dropped kung fu completely just like I had with karate and boxing.

Today, it is a little over two years since I practiced kung fu at a school in Chinatown. A couple months ago, I did want to pick it up again by watching videos on Youtube. Then, I got a leg injury, and did not practice for months. Just a week ago, my leg was no longer hurting, and I was so determined to return to kung fu. I’ve also moved so much this past year. So, as much as I would like to, Boston Chinatown is a little far for me to commute to on a regular basis. I have found a kung fu school near where I live now though. I almost joined it instantly. The class was so intense, but I got so much out of it. Fitness, reflex drills, flexibility, traditional kungfu skills all in one class. What more could I ask for? I am happy now to say I am a member of this kung fu school. This has already been more than just a hobby. Kung fu will only become more of an integral part of my life, in terms of culture, philosophy, health, fitness, and community.   

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thich Nhat Hanh's Savior: Interview with Lien Hai Nguyen

I was scrolling through Facebook when I came to an article about Thich Nhat Hanh and it reminded me of a story a friend has about his mother who actually saved Thich Nhat Hanh's life. Here is the interview with Lien Hai Nguyen. 

 When did you first meet Thich Nhat Hanh?    It was In the early 1960's.... the Vietnamese government did not want to extend his expired Viet passport because they wanted him back to Vietnam to be put in jail for opposing the war. I worked for the Vietnam embassy at the time & helped him obtain an extension on his passport through a back channel. With his passport extension, he was able to obtain a visa to go to France.

      When a friend of my mine asked if he remembered the difficultly of his passport at that time, he did not remember. However this passport incident was over 50 yrs ago.

 Do you practice Buddhism yourself?       Yes

 How do you try to fit your practices in with the reality of life? Is it easy or difficult?       Yes. Sometimes easy & sometimes difficult

 Do you ever feel like you would want to spend time being more separated from the world to focus on meditation? Or do you feel t is better not to do this?      Better not to do this at this time

 Can you tell me a little bit about how you fit Buddhism into your life experiences in terms of coming to this country and becoming so successful. Were their other ideologies that pushed you as well?   Buddhism helped me indirectly because its teachings help lead the right moral path which in turn helps me to become a successful person.
I have had many fortunate outcomes with difficulties in my life, which led me to believe I'm benefiting from good karma in the past.

While getting Baos

I went to get baos at Mix um (Mei Sum?) Bakery down  that back alley next to all the fabric stores, arch stone... sometimes we call this part of Chinatown Vietnam Street and indeed this bakery also sells Banh Mi.

The tv was playing an old Hong Kong Soap from the 80's and I recognized a young Tony Leung Chieu Wai and some other dudes... the really hot actress that is in all the movies that are violent and almost pornographic... except they are all super young.

This bakery is one of the ones that still has that really old feel to it. No Boba Tea... the tables and chairs are from old classrooms, the altar is prominent and old men go there to sit and talk and read the newspaper.

A guy comes in to deliver clean uniforms and towels... and not that race matters, except it does, but he is white. I only mention this because if you were to make a movie about this, the laundry guy would be Chinese. In fact in some narrative about immigrants working jobs that nobody wants you would have the bakery owned by whites and the delivery guy is Chinese.

I'm just saying sometimes the reality is the opposite. Now who actually owns the cleaning company I don't know... but I am saying this white guy is working hard too and the ensuing conversation and interaction shows that everything is connected. Like the Bakery provides baos but they also have to pay for these towels which provides business for these cleaners.... costs that I never thought of because I never owned a bakery.

I look at the price of a Bao which is a dollar or under, and the traffic of people that come in and out of the bakery, and my what rent costs and all the people that are working there, heat light, gas... how the hell does a place like this make any money? Are they making money?

I mean I guess Starbucks has all these same costs too, but they are a franchise and the biscotti is made god knows when and lasts for god knows how long and costs like $4 along with the $6 coffee and people line up  out the door and then they are gone off to work.

And people who lament the changes in Chinatown the most, on their way to work or play in Chinatown... I'm just curious as to what coffee they buy?

I am the worst though because I do not spend  money in Chinatown but a few times a week. But shoot if I worked near there I would use my money like a sword as a way to fight. In fact the few days that I do work there.. .that is exactly what I do.