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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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