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Monday, September 21, 2009 by Jon

Full Circle.

Today marks the three-year anniversary of my time in Los Angeles, California. Because of this, as well as an upcoming trip back home to Springfield and Urbana-Champaign for nearly two weeks, and as always, another year of TAF, I've been in reflection mode for awhile. There is a lot to say and I have been unsuccessfully trying to type out in an eloquent and meaningful way. So instead, I am going to try to keep it short. Basically, I see many things are coming full circle* in my life. I see how the events from ten years ago, from the summer of 1999, are coming back to fruition now. It's pretty crazy to realize. In my initial writings, there were many ways in which things from a full decade ago are ending an era now and evolving into something new, but I will just take time to tell you about one**.

Back in the summer of 1999, for reasons I cannot fully recall, I distinctly remember thinking about NOT going to TAF for the first time. I find that scary to imagine. Me not at TAF in 1999 might very well mean me not at TAF ever again, all the way up until 2009. I would have missed out on some of my best friends, as well as some of my best opportunities in my life. But I did end up going to TAF'99 after Howard simply asked me one day if I wanted to apply to be a slideshow coordinator with him. I applied and got it, and the rest isn't history, but it is a quick summation of my life.

Slideshow. Media. Class President. Staff. PD. ITASA Program Chair. Karen Lin and Will Tiao. Hollywood. Formosa Betrayed. Associate Producer. tafLabs. All connected to my desire and purpose to use media to make positive impacts on humankind in unique and compassionate ways.

And so in 2009, Howard, my slideshow co-coordinator a decade ago, and I look to start a production company with the help of other friends, both TAFers like Alex and Kev and non-TAFers. The name of our new company? Slideshow Pictures, because that is where it all began.

And thank God, because it is simply crazy that I can track the past ten years of my life to the simple instance of one message, asking me to join on working with media content. Ten years later for hopefully much longer than ten years, the same message is being sent, and I am again accepting.

So with that, this will be a fitting close to this blog. Hopefully I can archive it on whatever my new blog will be on our new Slideshow Pictures website, whenever that gets up and running. But the past decade has been a fun ride, and it is time to look forward as this cycle comes back to the beginning.

With faith, hope, and love -- peace out.

*I propose this as an idea for TAF2010's theme name. It's a communication year so think the full circle that is the communication model + it is the 30th anniversary of TAF!
**I should mention one other thing actually. One of the reasons I am going back to Springfield is to celebrate the wedding of Adrienne and Steve, two good friends that I spent a lot of time with during the summer of 1999. Congratulations to them!

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Thursday, July 02, 2009 by Jon

Hip-hop concerts aren't usually something I go to, but I am glad I went because I feel like this could be considered a watershed moment in Asian America. I attended the Far East Movement concert last night at the Roxy in West Hollywood. In my opinion, the crowd, while still plenty Asian, had a good sprinkling of blacks, Latinos, and a noticeable amount of blonde girls -- all there to listen to an amped-up group of Asian boys. And FM isn't entertaining because they're a niche, or funny, or emasculated, but because they're good at what they do -- making music with good beats that gets y'all up -- and maybe even more importantly, they're cool doing that. Their talent and appeal transcends racial lines.

In seeing some of FM's background, they really are "Asian American" in the sense that they've been activists; their immediate community seems to be Asian American, and of course, their name is indicative of their embrace of an Asian American identity. I can't think of anyone else who qualifies like that with FM aside from Jin, who I don't know much about. (Furthermore, I think FM is separate from other artists like Priscilla Ahn or Rachael Yamagata or the Asian dude in Linkin Park, who are all Hapa, or their band is mixed.)

Before FM came on, Ben Baller gave a pretty moving introduction. Now a jeweler, he himself was a DJ for folks up there like RUN DMC 10 years ago. And back then, it's not hard to understand that being an Asian American in the hip-hop landscape would have to go through and fight stereotypes left and right. But anyways, he hadn't been back to the Roxy in 10 years, since the RUN DMC show. And for Ben Baller, well, these were/are his words,

"It's been 10 years since I been to the world famous roxy and the last time I was up there was to see RUN DMC rock the stage.... and to let hip hop legend/hall of famer Jam Master Jay use my mixer for the show..... never in a million years did I think a decade later that an Asian Hip Hop group would be rocking a sold out headline show there."

So you got FM putting on a good show, you got the two white dude opening acts pumping up the crowd to see the 4 asian hip-hop guys in FM, and you got all these girls dancing out for FM, all the while on a famous stage in the entertainment capital of the world, and you're like, yea...Asian America and their artists are starting to be accepted in mainstream entertainment in different ways than Jackie Chan and anime. Thank God.

Lastly, I feel like another aspect of the uniqueness of this show was the amount of semi-Asian celebs in attendance, like the Ben Baller guy, or Wong Fu Productions, or random actor C.S. Lee (he was on Chuck, which I watch), or any of the GBS folks who make their marks all over Los Angeles. Everyone there is in support, and I hope at some point we will achieve like FM and beyond. Because the Far East Movement is out there right now. They're changing the landscape of limitations and raising the ceiling for anyone who looks like them, and in doing so, making it matter a little less that people look like them. And that's the dream, at least for me. Like one of the opening acts Beardo said during his crazy Jew-froed set -- I love America.

Check out their single Girls on the Dance Floor. I overheard a story that a few weekends ago at the Playboy Mansion, this song came on and all the girl indeed screamed and got on the dance floor. That's when you know you've made it.

Thanks FM.

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Friday, May 01, 2009 by Jon

Two weeks ago I had the wonderful chance to spend a weekend back at U of I for the annual ITASA Midwest Conference. It was a nice "full circle" for me, as I was the Programming Chair for the 2006 ITASA Midwest Conference, where I was one of the people inviting many of the speakers. And now a quick three years later, I was now the one being invited to be a speaker. My topic was about Formosa Betrayed, the status, my experiences, how it related to Taiwanese American, etc etc.

While I looked forward to sharing Formosa Betrayed with my fellow Midwesterners and would not have traveled to ITASA if not given this opportunity, it was the extracurricular events of the weekend that made it simply perfect, and to me, make worth writing about and remembering.

(I should have known from the start that this would be a memorable weekend as Alex drove us down out of Chicago and into my familiar midwest skies and I noticed the stars for the first time in months. I don't get to see those much in LA. Even driving on two-laned I-57 brought back memories.)

Aside from a fruitful (and I mean that as the highest compliment) conference, the chance to see my old campus growing and expanding with new faces with promising futures was nice. Nice because it was reassuring and almost...inspiring? A lot of us who were there for the weekend have graduated and left. A lot of the kids who go there now did not attend when I attended. And so, I've always worried that I'd be extra sad when Angie graduates, because she's the last close friend in school who attended while I attended. I was afraid her departure of Illinois would be a metaphorical chop of my personal ties to the school. In a way, that might be the case, but after this weekend, I also might just be overdramatic. I'm relieved to still have a human connection to the campus through young TAFers and old friends who've stayed around. However, thinking that this was "my last time at Illinois with my friends from school" made everything enjoyable even more enjoyable because I didn't take anything for granted. Life will go on. And I will still have Illinois. Yea, I'm a sucker for nostalgia.

Great conversations and great views (thanks to new and tall buildings around campus) and great luck and timing to spontaneously see so many people from my college world who weren't attending ITASA. Broy happening to be playing Texas Hold'Em with Josh and Gill (and taking all of Josh's chips), Sunnah coming over with CFC birthday greetings, Cho just being around, Lester popping up in his car, and even an appearance by the Deron, Dee, Luther, and the rest of the '04-'05 Illinois Men's basketball team via a Big Ten network replay of their classic win over Wake Forest (including Tyler behind the bench!). I even got to see my sister for a moment, and last but not least, Mandarin Wok, surrounded by TAFers and friends and getting some complimentary orange slices after our meal.

The lasting image of the weekend for me though, will be sitting in Angie's dimly lit Green Street Towers apartment late Saturday night into early Sunday morning. Happily content with Jimmy John's, we had one of those good conversations about pasts and presents and futures, all while I gazed out into the new Champaign skyline, dominated by Jason & Jeremy's ridiculous new building. That was where everyone else was partying -- some 4 blocks away. But I'm glad I was able to see the building, because it helped me feel like I was not four blocks away, but just in a side room catching up. It was the best of both worlds, and getting the best of both worlds is great.

(Oh and to add to the nostalgia, Jessica was passed out on the floor of Angie's apartment. Some things never change.)

So like it goes, it's not where you are but who you're with that really matters. But it certainly helps when you're with people you love in a place you love. You can't ask for more than the best of those two worlds. You really can't. And that is a perfect weekend.

(Sidenote: Game 1 of the epic Bulls-Celtics series was the Saturday of ITASA. As I type this post...which feels like a lot longer than 2 weeks ago...the series will finally be decided in Game 7 this weekend. Go Chicago.)

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008 by Jon

What a night.

A few hours ago, Barack Obama was elected to be the 44th President of the United States of America. Barack Obama. A man of color, an African-American, is our nation's leader.

I write this for my own memory, because I did not realize until tonight just how momentous of a moment November 4th, 2008 will be in American history. And the pride and joy that I felt for my country when Barack Obama strode to the podium as the President-elect in Chicago is something I want to remember.

Just over a generation ago, there was widespread bigotry and racist hate in this country. We still have a ways to go, but this night marks a turning point and shows just how fast America can better itself.

In his campaign, Obama used the words change, progress, and hope often and openly. I originally thought that these were a little cliche, but you know what? Because of this victory, supported by a majority of the people of all ages and races, shows that change is real, that progress is real, and that gives me real hope.

Change, Progress, and Hope. It's true in America.

Now the real work begins. I look forward to seeing Obama walk the walk, and I also hope that John McCain is part of the success that this country will hopefully see. We're very lucky tonight to see two competitors gracious and empowering in both victory and defeat.

Lastly, "To all those watching from beyond our shores, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.''

And I go to sleep tonight a more inspired American than ever before.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008 by Jon

Back in the USA. More specifically, back in Springfield. An early departure from Bangkok left me sad, since spending forty days in one place leads you to get to know some pretty great people. I'll miss some people on the crew a lot, but I hope to be back someday, on a real vacation, and not for work.

After 32 hours of travel and a quick stop to get my tuxedo fitted, I arrived at the wedding rehearsal for Katie & Tyler just in time. The wedding was the next day, and what a beautiful event. It has yet to sink in that one of my best friends is married. But he's a lucky guy and she's a lucky girl, so congratulations to Tyler and Katie Kastner!

As I drove back after the reception, I realized that the moon and the stars shine brightest in Springfield, Illinois. And they probably always will. From work to travel to a wedding, things change as we get older. But its good to know that I can count on driving the empty roads on a cool summer night with the windows down and the moonlight shining in the town I grew up in to remind me of when I was young.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008 by Jon

Hooray first post in over four months. To recap: Chicago is awesome. I will live there some day and work in production. But for now, I am in Thailand for forty days. Work continues, but hopefully theres time for exploring and massages.

Forty days is a really long time. Come visit!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008 by Jon

My time in the Midwest felt like a whirlwind. My first few days shivering in the Chicago cold seem like they happened ages ago, rather than a short ten days. But I guess its because I had the fortune to be placed in an environment conducive to personal growth that makes the start of my trip so distant from the end of my trip. I think its a combination of that, plus the fact that I saw so many friends in so many places that time and space seemed irrelevant. And when you don't sleep and pull two consecutive all really do maximize life by living life two days at a time.

The most significant part of my trip was being at the LCC Retreat. More than anything else, it gave me the chance to reflect (always a plus), and through that, I believe I have figured out or restored most of my beliefs in why I am here and what I am to do with my life. In a time when many counterparts of mine are having quarter-life crisis' usually due to the "what am I going to do with my life???" question, I have been ridiculously fortunate to have a clue.

Like TAF 2007, I served as the Coordinator Coordinator at the LCC retreat. In my nightly meetings, aside from general logistics and planning, I also led studies into servant leadership (TAF!)...but based on Scripture, which I've never done before. It was pretty awesome though, for me to be able to read the Bible and see and understand clear descriptions of servant leadership, and Jesus' calling for that to be the way we all live. (It helps me to know that something I believe so much in is backed up by the God that I believe in, ya know?)

On a tangent, some of you may have heard of a book called The Purpose Driven Life. It's big in Christian literary bookstores and blah blah I read it during college. And I didn't like it at all. When I finished the book and I thought, "thats it?". I had no revelation or mindfreak. And so what I realized this past week was that, my life has already had reason for quite some time. And I learned this purpose by growing up through TAF. A place to learn and execute servant leadership.

And so, if you are a TAF camper, or an LCC Youth Group member, I really hope you can take a step back and think of how fortunate you are to be part of an organization focused on servant leadership. Just, really, be grateful and embrace it, execute it as well, and most importantly, pass it on. (btw, have you ever actually thought about how BALLER the TAF Mission and Vision statements are???)

Just imagine if everyone lived to serve everyone else, and everyone served you in return, only to make you want to serve everyone even more. Would that not be an amazing world to live in? Full of caring and compassion and love from our hearts, defeating selfishness and jealousy. Unfortunately right now in this world, that model does not always work because people can still be selfish or inconsiderate. But how can we get people to change? Well most of us are limited to those around us, to the relationships we already carry. But we can serve each other in close quarters, one by one, hoping that as we impact one friend, family member, or stranger, they will go on to impact another, and pretty soon everyone is positively impacting everyone else. And our goal will be met.

I think that is a big reason why I chose to work in mass media (ie: film), because I view this as THE medium to communicate with the world. I get the idea of servant leadership on the relational level, but someone needs to do it through methods of mass communication to reach mass audiences. Hopefully, this is a place where I can help. My goal is to make media that matters, and still serving TAF and the LCC and whoever else is in my life as I continue to grow up.

Cheers everyone, and I hope you've had a wonderful start to 2008.

For my own posterity and for you to read if really bored, a log of my activities:

Alex and Bryan picked me up. We went to Best Buy. Brunch with Erin & Michelle S. on Christmas Eve. Train down to Springfield, Christmas Eve dinner with Mom and Cheryl. Christmas morning, pack back up to head back to Chicago with Tyler. See Katie briefly. Have another brunch with Brian and Tyler before leaving the city. Arrive at Michelle K's house. Play a lot of Wii, meet the rest of her family, especially a crazy three-year old named Joey. On the 26th, get picked up by Christina Chou. Meet fellow LCC Youth Group Winter Retreat 07 servants. Travel up to Milwaukee. See Roger and old friends and Youth Group kids. Travel up into rural Wisconsin to a snowy retreat center. For the next three days till the 29th, get little sleep, while being a Coordinator Coordinator. Pull an all-nighter on the last night doing slideshow. Retreat ends, head back to Chicago, get dropped off immediately at TAF New Years. See many many people. Too little time for that many people. Continue off to Chinatown. Eat more. Stay in a bubble tea place for many long hours. Go to Bettina's till 6am. Get dropped off at Roger's at 6:30am. Sleep. Wake up at 7am to go back to Milwaukee for church and to see my Korean kids again. Eat cheese curds. Travel back to Chicago, eat Lou Malnati's with Justin, Anna, and Ming. Finally get some sleep at Bryan's. Wake up, hang out with more TAFers, start a movie script, and finish off 2007.

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