Author Archives: diephoward

Don Lee: The Collective

Howard Diep | 10209864

Don Lee’s The Collective is a story that follows three aspiring Asian American artists into their university and then post-graduate life. Addressing many issues such as Queer Asian American Identity, interracial dating, education, the model minority myth, identify formation, suicide and mental healthy issues, love, immigrant communities, agency, voice and power.

This novel take different approaches while exploring these different issues, based in the classroom and outside experiences. Set in the nineteen eighties at Macalester College, the main character Eric Cho, Joshua Yoon, and Jessica Tsai. Jessica Tsai is described as a beautiful individual and artistic painter; Eric Cho is a aspiring writer who has trouble identifying with his Asian roots; and Joshua Yoon is a bit dark and melancholic. At first the three students relate to each other by dabbling in descriptive details of art and sex and then form a bond after racial slurs are tagged across their classroom. In turn, after college they form The 3AC – The Asian American Artists Collective. The Collective weaves a line between the theoretical fights in the classroom and the actually fights that individuals may take on in life and experience. In The Collective, experience is the frame for Asian American Identify.

Overall I thought The Collective was a very enjoyable and insightful read. Although it is not like other picture perfect books with blissful endings, it was grounded more on a story of reality than fiction. Lee does an amazing job in writing descriptive accounts of the three characters experiences and pieces it all together masterfully. Not only does Lee address different issues and questions racial identity on every page, Lee also sheds light on how Asian Americans who do not follow the social norm deal with the sacrifice one must make to be an artist and the disheartened burden of unfulfilled dreams.

In relation to the class Asian American Media and Art, we related the book to the central theme and question of what defines Asian American Art and an Asian American Artist? Is art created by Asian Americans considered Asian American art? Or is it just art created by an Asian American and is labeled as art just like every other artist? We’ve learned in class discussion that even in the art community there is segregation and artists of color compared to artists who aren’t individuals of color. Personally, I believe that there shouldn’t be a line that separates the two because we should all be equal. And in the question of Asian American art or just regular art, I believe that is up to the artist to decide.

Queering Asian American Media

Howard Diep | 10209864

In last week’s class we focused on Queer Asian America and Media. We screened a lot of video’s and clips that helped supplement our readings for the week. One piece that we focused on in detail was the reading and screening of PIRATED! by queer Vietnamese American filmmaker Nguyen Tan Hoang. When I first read the text, I found it okay to follow, but some parts didn’t really make sense, probably because I hadn’t seen the film beforehand. After screening it in class, the readings became a lot clearer and I could understand the context that Mimi Nguyen was focusing on in the different forms and styles of media. I think the biggest thing that I enjoyed from PIRATED! Was how Nguyen Tan Hoang highlights the escape experience of refugees and juxtaposing these images with images of gay nautical sex.  I found that in my own creative final project trying to juxtapose two different concepts to be harder than it seemed. I found that the different technical transitions and overlaps that Nguyen Tan Hoang uses, is interesting in the sense of the different ways you can interpret the images and messages.

After screening PIRATED! We then looked at different clips. Some clips that caught my attention was “Our Cosmos, Our Chaos”, “Who is Jiro”, and a Mail Order bride Frankenstien clip. Our Cosmos, Our Chaos interested me because I found the clip to have a sense of darkness and eeriness. It was a bit unexpected and ghastly when the class was watching it. It is a 20-minute stop-motion animation that explores the connection between mystical practice and social resistance. As with this clip, the same as PIRATED! Without knowing the context ahead of time, watching the clip could’ve been confusing and scary like I found it because there is so many interpretations that could be made throughout the clip. Overall I found it to be one of the more creative works that touches on a topic I am somewhat familiar with.

Who is Jiro? Was a fun clip that we also got to watch in class. Made by Queer Camp Productions, it focused on Queering one hystorical moment of Japanese Internment. I had learned the Jiro was a Japanese American who was placed in the internment camps and lived his life there, but was gay. Mr. Jiro had also possessed a handful of bodybuilding magazines and the clip to me explored a deeper message of what was it like to be a gay man living in the interment camps at that time? It was a different perspective to pick up and learn about and I found that to be very insightful and valuable. One aspect of the clip that I enjoyed was when Denise Uyehara placed bread loafs through her arms to make herself seem more masculine. I thought that part was pretty funny because I wasn’t expecting that.

The clip that gained much of my attention was a Mail Order Bride clip that focused on a man ordering mail order brides and putting them together or giving them live, referencing Frankenstein. When I first watched this clip, I found myself to react very angrily at the beginning scenes of the man picking out certain features and body parts that he wanted his mail order bride to have. And to think that issue still exists today, I find it to be very disheartening. However as the video went on, it began to add in some comic relief and humor and with that I thought it overall produced very well and memorable.

Also watching Professor O’Brien’s clip at Tuesday Night Project was awesome as well! The notion of performing masculinity and gender are still things I contemplate about a lot in my mind and by watching the disruption of what is normal only opens my eyes to the different structures that we’re living in.

Shimizu’s Straitjacket Sexualities Chapter 1

Howard Diep | 10209864

Last week we discussed Chapter 1, 2, and 5 in Shimizu’s Straitjacket Sexualities. Chapter 1 had me really invested because it had a lot of context in analyzing Bruce Lee’s masculinity. Personally, Bruce Lee is one of my hero’s and role models and I genuinely look up to him, so it was nice being able to read something about someone you’re interested in and value.

One aspect of Bruce Lee’s masculinity that was discussed in Chapter 1 was Shimizu’s example of his role in the Big Boss as Cheng Chao-an. Shimizu contrasts Bruce Lee’s physical aggressiveness and martial arts with his gentle gestures in reassuring the different women within his films and builds a relationship between them. It was interesting to read that Shimizu stated that Bruce in that film is the authenticity of sexuality and masculinity. It was also interesting to look at the different perspectives that are used to viewing sexuality and masculinity. The western way generally stated that aggressive and dominance was necessary in order to be masculine or a “man”. But compared to Bruce, it was something different. I also referred often to the notion of “gender is a performance” throughout my day today, drawing on the different things I see around campus.

Within class we also discussed Chapter 2, which discusses the idea of the Asian American man as a shameful character and how that can work with or against Asian American men. I remember one discussion we had in class last week was about 16 candles and how Asian American men are undervalued as compared to other men. I think the one of the biggest points that I drew from this chapter was the embracement of the shame and how that could be a transgressive force used as a tool to find other ways to distinguish and express Asian American masculinity. I remember the group that presented drew examples from Jackie Chan and how he represented Asian American masculinity. Similar to Bruce Lee, Jackie focuses on the immediate goal of accomplishing whatever tasks are assigned to him and in moments of encounters that might “test” his sexuality as an Asian American man on media and film, Jackie doesn’t lose focus or stray off course. Moments of humor are interjected within these scenes such as the fight scene in the bedroom with Chris Tucker trying to listen and observe on the outside.

In Chapter 5 Shimizu discusses how Asian American men are portrayed in Hollywood film as asexual, secondary to the main character, or as the main character. She discusses how in many cases however; Asian American men have been assigned lead roles within films. For example Shimizu talks about Jason Lee as the main lead character and how he has been featured in various films such as Crimson Kimono, The Jungle, and Rapa Nui. She states however that the romantic lead offers a different manhood. Within this chapter we had to compare the context to famous Korean-American actor John Cho. We decided to screen a clip of him in the elevator with Maria. We touched points on Asian American masculinity and aggressiveness through Cho’s character and his hesitations and fantasies during the elevator ride.

Shimizu Chapter 3: Hypersexuality of Race

Howard Diep | 10209864

In the third chapter of Shimizu’s The Hypersexuality of Race “The Sexual Bonds of Racial Stardom”, Shimizu addresses the topic of U.S. society and media and it’s relation to Asian American Women, specifically using Lucy Liu, Anna May Wong, and Nancy Kwan as examples. I had missed this weeks class because I had caught the flu that was going around campus, but I had try my best to fully grasp this chapter and its context.

Shimizu discusses how the Asian American female actress in Hollywood is portrayed as an image of a hypersexualized individual. As I’ve learned through watching different clips and how media portrays Asian Americans, I could understand where Shimizu was coming from. She discussed how out of the three actresses, how Anna May Wong did not like how she was represented as a hypersexualized Asian actress and how she was perpetuating the stereotype through her roles. I found it interesting to read after, watch videos, and hear about the discussions outside of class about how Lucy Liu tolerates stereotyping for the sake of future power and control. I also found how Shimizu stated that Asian/American women who appear to utilize negative, hypersexual stereotypes in order to empower themselves and their performances.

I believe that through her text and discussion that we are able to provide an alternative perspective to the gender–race debate. Also, through this this, we can see how western culture adds a hypersexualized demeanor to Asian American actresses.

Performance Art: Denise Uyehara @ Pitzer College

Howard Diep | 10209864

A few weeks ago, our class had a field trip to Pitzer College to listen to a presentation and watch a performance by Denise Uyehara, an award-winning performance artist, writer, and playwright. Due to traffic a few students that I was carpooling and myself were a little bit late. Luckily we arrived when she was presenting about the Japanese Internment Camps and a few videos of different works of performance art. I remember the first few video’s that she showed; I didn’t really understand what was happening. I had been exposed to performance art before, but generally it’s hard to follow for me. I thought some of the works that she showed were very intriguing and had multitudes of meanings within them, and although I didn’t interpret it correctly or understand, I still found them enjoyable to watch and interesting to analyze. I remember in one of the works that she showed, it addressed issues pertaining to internment of Japanese during the World War II period and how she labeled that as enemy, and correlated that to the attacks of September 11th 2001 and how the American Muslim community faces the same racism, discrimination, and hate that the Japanese did because they were simply labeled as the “enemy”. Another piece that she showcased that I remember distinctly was herself working with James Luna. I believe the piece was called Transitions, but I thought that piece was entertaining and fun to watch towards the end, but I still didn’t really follow it. It was also nice to see Professor O’Brien in some of her video’s too assisting and managing the stages.

Aside from her discussion and videos, at the very end of the presentation Denise herself performed for the audience. I remember for that performance, Denise acting about a mother and Holocaust survivor with blue scars visible on her arms. The character would also sing and dance out “Dancing Queen” every few moments. This piece was particularly engaging not only because it was live and she drew on herself with marker (something I wasn’t expecting), but it also addressed different issues and made it feel real such as war and disease. Also watching Denise, she was a very good actor and I felt she really captivated the audience. After her performance I had a chance to briefly talk to her and it was nice getting talk to her and to thank her for an amazing performance and presentation.

Denise Uyehara’s live performance art was one of the few types that I had encountered with performance art. I had not known much about it and found that certain pieces were hard to follow, but after watching her performance I became much more interested in it and considered if I could try and somehow make something along the lines of performance art and share it with other people. I think art is a great tool that you can use to creatively express yourself while entertaining and teaching others.

Trauma, Social Memory, and Art

Howard Diep | 10209864

In this weeks readings of Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions Chapter 3 “Trauma, Social Memory, and Art”, I read about the purpose of art and Machida’s intriguing connectedness of art through the example of three amazing Asian American artists Kristine Aono, Yung Soon Min, and Hanh Thi Pham. I found this week’s reading really enjoyable because the ideas she was conveying through the artists were centralized and it was s relatively easy for me to read and understand the significance of each artist and their works and their interconnectedness. I found it helpful how Machida discusses for example the notion of memories and elaborates on it through specific real world examples that are historically significant. From the text, I have a better understanding of how memories are an active and convoluted process that is influenced by social environment and historical events, as well as communities and experiences. It’s interesting to note that memories also confer the intimate safeguard against times passage and ultimately death. I also liked her correlation of United States imperialism in Asian back to the Boxer Rebellion where I remember learning about and it’s connection to Sun Yat-Sen the “Father of Modern China”. I also like her explanations and her notion of racial melancholia and abjection. I have heard of abjection before but not raical melancholia.

One aspect that I made a connection to was in the section of “Social Trauma and Collective Memory”. Machida States that mass trauma where group members often suppress social memory or individual memory, yet the magnitude of the public anguish caused by mass unrest and large scale conflicts by the consequences of damaging life conditions. I made a connection where there was social upheaval and protest in the 80’s and 90’s in Little Saigon after a local storeowner decided to hang up a portrait of Ho Chi Minh in his shop. This caused many of the community members to reflect and have negative traumatic memories of the Vietnam War and in turn organized and protested against his action. It was also nice to learn about the different works and arts that the three artists featured in Machida’s text create. I thought that Aono’s sculpting is a good outlet in creating stories and depiction of life in the Japanese Interment camps. Min’s Conceptualization of the Demilitarized War Zone was interesting too especially the image of the women with “DMZ” on your head. And Pham’s work and photography in order to support herself, her family, and come to terms with the memories of a violent era and help the personal and community.

Orientalism, Art, & Media

Howard Diep | 10209864

Today in class we went over and discussed the influence of media and propaganda in portraying Asians and Asian Americans. We covered the notion of being “Orient” and “Oriental”, a term that conveys a person belonging to a far away mysterious land, filled with wonders and magic, and other times inhospitable and savage. We were able to examine in depth through Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions Chapter two, she exemplifies multiple artists and how their works disrupts the general norm of how art or different aspects of life are perceived. For example, I really enjoyed Madonna and the Child and how this was the respective artists attempt in recreating something Western to something that is Asian by using an Asian body within the fame to disrupt the “norm” of art. We also screened a view clips and mediums that depicted what Orientals were supposed to look like. In my opinion what they were supposed to look like was quite ridiculous when they were portrayed to general public through mass media. Such exaggeration of Asian and Asian Americans mutate what and who Asians and Asian Americans really are and because of this, still carry the negative stigmas that exist today.

A moment in class that really upset me was the depiction of Fu Manchu with the image of the Buddha (portrayed twice). This was very frustrating to me because the representation of Fu Manchu is of an individual who is an Oriental person and possesses evil mystical powers or black magic, hurts other people and ruins everyone’s lives by stealing your jobs, etc. Something that is negatively constructed in so many wrongful ways is positioned next to the image of the Buddha, someone who has attained enlightenment, and no longer possesses wrong views and misperceptions. This was kind of pathetic because I took it as human ignorance and not having the right understanding of what the Buddha is supposed to represent and mean. Western creativity of distorting what is real and what is imaginary is quite awe striking when you really examine it and relate it back to something personal, but even then it’s just amazing how racism, fear, propaganda, and ignorance can poison and hi-jack people and their minds. It resonated with me for the rest of the night how much it bothered me for some reason and how learning and touching up on different topics in class touches me in an intimate level of developing knowledge and wisdom and reflecting on my growth.

On another note of fear and propaganda, one note that I took from lecture and discussion that resonated with me was how media is a platform for the expansion of ignorance. I think mass media and communication can be a instrumental tool in transforming and shifting our way of thinking and ignorance into one of mindfulness and understanding. However, it can be a tool to spread ignorance as well. I believe though as a collective we have made progress in reaching equality (somewhat) and solidarity, but there is still room for improvement. Mass Media and the Internet however show us the work that still needs to continue to be done in order to prevent ignorance, racism, and wrongful views.

Diving deeper into Asian American Media & Arts

Howard Diep|10209864

Exploring deeper into Asian American Arts and Media and the different impacts that it possess on its particular audiences, opened my mind to the countless possibilities that are able to arise due to creative cultivation of knowledge and awareness in generating progress and change. In this weeks readings we examined the first chapter “A Play of Positionalities” of Margo Machida’s Unsettling Visions. First off I am very thankful that we only had to read the first chapter, for the language in this text, for me, is really dense. I had to re-read certain parts of the text in order to grasp the full message and context of what Machida was trying to convey. Overall, I found that this text is very informational and shows the interconnectedness of an array of different topics relating to the arts, being Asian-American, and human.

After going in a more in depth discussion about Machida’s definition and explanation of positionality and the various factors that play into it in discussion, I found that I was able to understand it clearer. Especially of the featured video shown in class about the deportation of Cambodian Americans back to Cambodia in several areas across California. I also like how in depth Machida goes in providing the influences of Identity and different conceptions of Asian Americans through the use of works of art through creative mediums such as symbolism, hystory, or talent/expression, and how they are all in a sense unified. I also became more aware and had a clearer understanding of subjugation and agency through lecture and Machida’s text.

 One aspect of class that I enjoyed and found helpful was the diagrams that were presented on the board. I have seen the push and pull factors that cause different people from other countries to come over to the United States and seeing it again was a good refresher. Another aspect of class that I really enjoyed was the different videos and clips that we quickly screened. They added a sense of comic relief to the somber realities that we live in today.

I feel as if the more I am learning another piece of the puzzle is found and as I connect all the pieces I contemplate on the wonders we can do as a collective in organizing and taking action in order to change a system based off power, greed, and blindful ignorance into a system of more integrity, equality, compassion, awareness, and solidarity.  

In my interest and pursuit of knowledge I am definitely going to look more in depth of the cap of Asians in different universities during the eighties and nineties, the old boys club, affirmative action, The Village of Versailles, Howard Zinn, and the power structures of Walmart.

Who Killed Vincent Chin? – Howard Diep

Howard Diep | 1020964

In one of my Asian American Studies classes, we screened the documentary film “Who Killed Vincent Chin”. Throughout the course of this video, I was able to have a clearer understanding of the respective individuals that were involved in this tragic event. Although there are many complexities that many people feel about this incident, I looked at it in a different manner where human ignorance and awareness plays an integral role in the actions, outcomes, and reasons for justifications within these happenings. Throughout my screening of the film I also had many questions that I had asked myself such as how a three thousand seven hundred and eighty dollar fine and three years probation be justifiable to an individuals life? It’s unreasonable and ridiculous if you really look deep into the aspects of the situation. However unfortunate this event may be, I thoroughly enjoyed the positive aspects of the film such as how this event sparked the organizing and healing aspect of communities coming together in support, love, and solidarity.  I also enjoyed how this documentary featured individuals of color who were able to express their opinions and concern about what had really occurred during the night of June 19, 1982. After hearing the verdict after taking the case up to the Federal level, I was thinking a lot about people in general, morality, and the structures of power.

After engaging within this film, I reflected and found it somewhat refreshing how the producer of this documentary included a segment of the film dedicated in illustrating the environment that many of these people involved in the Vincent Chin murder case grew up and assimilated in. Detroit, Michigan a city of “Work harder play harder” as quoted in the film. I was really disheartened during the part of the film where Vincent’s mom said “Last Time” really meant Bad Luck and that that really was Vincent’s last time.

I also dislike how many people in America during that time period and currently hold a strong conviction on consumerism and material wealth and unnecessary luxury. One aspect of the film that had good historical insight was the mention of the “Buying Habit’s of cars going through the United States during this time and that this was the “notion of freedom” and American Dream.

I also found it pathetic that law enforcement involved in this case did not notify and seek evidence and testimonies of individuals the bar/stripclub, the officer of color that was on the scene that was the mother of Vincent Chin, and the local dancers in the club.

One amazing moment that really resonated with my heart during the film was a quote from Vincent’s mother, Lily Chin. “Skin is different, but heart is same”.