Posts Tagged ‘asian american’

We Own the 8th Surprise

It’s the 8th of the month and today is the day that our Asian American arts collective meet’s in downtown LA in at The Great Company. Now every month, there’s a different event that takes place, from open forum meetings to talk about issues effecting the community, to keynote speakers and workshops, and live performance nights. Now, tonight was supposed to be a performance night where some of the founders including myself we’re supposed to perform from the group at large. The whole evening was hosted by Beau Sia, also one of the founders and was supposed to be us and others just performing for everyone… as I was introduced and took the stage to begin my set, the screen come down and a video starts to play… it’s a tribute video… to me! Friends and colleagues and fellow members of the 8th wishing happy birthday.

Beau really got me, I took a seat in the front row and after this wonderful video of well wishes, Beau began to bring on friends and family to honor me. It was funny and emotional and people talked of how I may have impacted them and the community. You know, the funny thing is, of course as performer, I’m comfortable in front of an audience to act or talk, but as the center of attention otherwise, it can be a little uncomfortable for me, I much rather lay low and fly in under the radar. But brothers hit the stage and told stories, roasting me a bit, a lot of laughter, then other stories which filled my heart up, I love those guys, songs from friends Olivia Thai and AJ Rafael, AJ even got me to join him for a duet… that was pretty crazy. I poem from my sister.

And the other crazy thing is, Beau, within planning for the show, asked me to write a new poem, talking about age and also becoming the leader of this group, “We Own the 8th.” It was to be apart of my set… although, ultimately there was no set to do. I was up all last night writing this new piece. Lucky for me, or I guess it might of happened how Beau planned it, this new poem I wrote was the perfect poem to end the night. So I read it to thank all those in attendance. (I’ll probably post the poem on my youtube later)

So my actual birthday is on the 29th… but this was a special night, to celebrate and honored by my peers and family, I appreciate everybody that came, everyone that took time to send in a video, everyone that performed, the poets, the singers and of course Beau. I am truly proud to be a member of the crew, #WeOwnThe8th!

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I was invited today by my friend, Winston, to be apart of the Filipino board for the USC Pacific Asian Museum, now I didn’t know what that meant or even where that museum was. But since Winston is a friend for years now and someone I hold in high respect, I agreed to go to the gathering and see what it’s all about.
All of a sudden, I find myself in my car heading to Pasadena in rush hour traffic… for those that don’t know what that means, roughly from my place in Beverly Hills, it’s easily over an hour. I pull up to this building that must be the Pacific Asian Museum, I mean, it’s the address I was given, plus it was building with the beautiful blue Japanese style roof.
Now inside the get together, I find myself surrounded, not only but an open wine bar and a nice layout of Filipino food, including lumpia and empanadas, I find myself probably being the youngest person in a group of Filipinos that are assembled to help the museum cultivate and curate the Filipino Community’s involvement. Listening to some of the speeches made by some of the elders, I can see that the museum has to start to “Millennial-ize” itself, and I now see I’m going to apart of it all.
It’s interesting to see this process and I’m honored to be thought of to join this… but then I also realize that I’ve gotten to that age or that place in life that all of a sudden I’m being sought out to be on the board of something… a museum no less! This my friends, is new territory… but a new world I’m welcoming.
Now, after leaving this meeting, I rush to catch a dinner I’m already late for… (I’m running on Filipino time, I guess) The dinner I am able to attend is the birthday and anniversary celebration of my friend Gary Valenciano (or as his fans know him, Gary V) and his wife Angeli. Both are dear friends to me. See, Gary is like the Michael Jackson of the Philippines and the now I’m sitting at a table of 20 or so people, friends and familiar faces… nearly all Filipino. We did not eat Filipino food but looking around the table and sounds of my native language filling the air made me feel like I was back in Manila.
Another place I was honored to be included in, both groups, very pretigious… and both beautifully Filipino!


Hanging out in downtown LA today, Arts District, I sat down with had dinner with my boys and co-creatives in the We Own the 8th project, Carl Choi and MC Jin. The conversation was crazy with me and Jin, talking about where we’ve been in our careers and what’s ahead in the future. It’s wild to talk about past successes and be vulnerable to talk about things that weren’t as successful. Jin was the first Asian rapper I ever knew of, rose to fame through winning rap battles on BET and signed a record deal on Ruff Riders. A groundbreaking dude, for sure, and it’s great have a meeting of the minds and truly express ourselves and talk openly as artist to get each others view points on one another.

This game, this whole world of entertainment, it’s hard to make it, you know, most of the people that come to this party don’t succeed. Now, the one’s that find success, you start to see how hard is to keep success going and actually as you grow up your definition of success changes. The new generation of artist are coming on to the scene, and artist from my generation can’t help but tackle with the ideas and emotions of who we were then… who we are now… who we are going to be.

In our talks, one thing I got from Jin, like many artist, it’s like we’re survivors. I compared us to a like a rat in a flooded house or something, not going to drown, not going to give up, we find a way to survive. He like myself, he’s constantly taking inventory of himself and talents and reinvents himself. I applaud him on his past and look forward to what he has in store for the future, not only in music, but in acting and comedy.

In the new year I’ve decided to be more proactive in something I helped to create called #WeOwnThe8th, a movement that celebrates Asian American media in America. Now beyond producing and acting in videos, as well as helping to organize our monthly meeting of the minds in Downtown Los Angeles, I’ve decided to start dropping monthly essays on this subject matter. Now, like most things I do, I’m just now deciding to do this without a lot of foresight or parameters that I’ll be writing about, I just love writing and I think this is a great excuse as any for me do sit down and just write.
Now I usually try to stay away from being controversial when I wonder around online, just my politically correct upbringing and my coming up in the public eye at the turn of the millennium, I understand what and what not to say in public, and Internet, for those of my comrades who happened to acquire some celebrity, the Internet is most definitely in public, and you shouldn’t go saying things online you wouldn’t say in public. That being said, I’m sure whatever I write in concerns of our community may not be well accepted or liked, even by the community itself, but I’m using my blog as place for me to write and think out loud about the subject, maybe even spark conversation… and I’m always opened to new points of view.
Now on to my first essay… the Serial pod cast.
I was turned on to this pod cast by an actor friend of mine, Chris Sabat, while having dinner at convention in Oklahoma City. He told me to listen to the first episode and guaranteed I would be hooked! He was right… now I must admit to you, that was the first time I even opened the podcast app on my iPhone! I didn’t even know I had a podcast app. But none the less, he forwarded me the link and I was opened up to a new world.
Like the rest of the country, I’ve become fascinated with this story of the murder of a young girl and the ex-boyfriend who may be possibly innocent, sitting behind bars in prison for the last 15 years.
There are several blogs about this podcast, as it has become the most successful podcast of all time, there’s has been podcast about the podcast… crazy, I know… crazier, I’ve listened a bit to them.
The reason I’m writing about this is its because this story, this American tragedy happened to happen to a teenage couple… an Asian American teenage couple. The writer Sarah Coenig did a great job of of telling and investigating the story, there’s people that says she was biased one way or another, but I really want to highlight that this story that caught on like a phenomena and spread like wildfire is an American story and even more specific, an Asian American story.
It’s also a story about children of immigrants, which is a very large part of the API community here in the states and the intricate dealings of how second generation Asians have to maneuver with functioning and adapting to this new world and at the same time, being so close connected to the culture of our parents and grandparents and how that can be misinterpreted by others that haven’t lived that life. The life of being a regular American youth at school and with friends and then going home and still trying to adhere to the customs and rules that have been carried over from our homeland countries just a generation ago, which could be 20 years ago, 10, maybe even less, countries like Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, India, China.
I have nothing profound to say about the story, I’m a fan and follower like several other millions, still seeing and waiting for this tragic tale to unravel. I simply want to bring light to an amazing story, maybe one of the most amazing stories being in told within the last year and point out that it is in fact an Asian American story. These stories are invisible and for one reason or another not apart of the stories told in the Hollywood studio system, but the success of this story reinsures me that we, Asian Americans, are apart of the fabric that make up America today and our stories are helping to write our modern history.
My heart goes out to the Lee family and Syed family, this kind of tragedy is something I would not want to wish on anyone and the pain of your loss is immeasurable. But I also see my family in your story, my aunts and cousins and friends and it feels like this could of happen to my family or close friends.
All my community work is to help inspire the next generation to tell our stories because its important, our stories are important and it’s even more important for us to tell them. But I also hope Serial helps show Hollywood that our stories can be marketable.
to check out Serial go to: http://serialpodcast.org/#episodes

 

So here are a few examples of my 15 year old face adorning the bodies of a few people out there in the world… Over the last few years, as tattoos have become apart of our generation’s way of expressing ourselves, I’ve been stopped a few times by people that recognize me to point out that someone they know has my face tattooed on their body.

How does that make me feel?

Well, being a person with tattoos myself, I know what each one means to me and how I spent many hours contemplating exactly what I wanted to be on my body for the rest of my life. So quite honestly, I’m flattered that a role I’ve played means so much to some people that choose to carry my mug around with them for the rest of their lives. I understand that character, that movie, means something to all the Lost Boys and Girls out there. With all that being said, it is a bit weird to see your own face on someone’s arm or leg or wherever… Of course you take in the fact that this is an artist’s rendition of how you look, or how I looked over 20 years ago… Rufio, in all his glory, red tri-hawks and all.

And then there’s the realization that I am officially a part of pop culture. Growing up, the tattoos I saw were Playboy bunnies and Mickey Mouse or actors like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” tattooed in indelible ink on some bad ass’s body letting the world know a little something about themselves, now here I am staring at my face etched into someone’s body… I don’t know what it all means, I’m not sure if it means anything at all, but I have to admit it’s kind of cool.

To some people I’m a hero… or anti-hero, but to all those who are rockin that Rufio tatt, we all know its BANGARANG!

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So this is my first blog of the 2014 and I want to use this as a way to introduce you this new idea called “#the8th”. It’s really a simple idea I’ve been developing with a great group of Asian American artist as a way for us to help cultivate and spread the word of Asian media in America and help us create this genre.

I’ve become one of the leaders in the Asian American community as it pertains to the arts due to my body of work over the last 25 years in this industry and although I’ve been able to find success in the mainstream world… films and television. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the fact the amount of roles for Asians and even the kind of rules there are for Asian to play in “Hollywood” projects are for the most part minimal and sometimes not even desirable to play, in some cases, downright detrimental to the image of Asians and not very fair in depicting who we are.  

Now I don’t waste time investing in the conspiracy of some underground racist agenda, I’ve been around too long and understand that it’s all business and up to now, us as a community haven’t been in the business of cultivating our voices in the fabric of American pop culture. Even though we are one of the most affluent communities in America and thus some of the biggest consumers of mainstream media, we somehow assimilated so well, we lost our voice and became somewhat invisible when it comes to film and television. I instead choose do something about it… And along with a conglomerate of amazing artist from both the online/digital world and the traditional film making world, we came up with this simple idea.

#the8th 

The idea is basically to take over one day a month, the 8th of every month, to release and promote brand new Asian projects. As a group we plan to release a calendar of events to let people know what’s being released and what to look forward to in the upcoming months. I’m talking new movies every month, online and in theaters, new songs and videos released by recording artist, web series premiering episodes, authors releasing books. I’m talking about taking the 8th of the month as our opening weekend. My greatest hope is to galvanize the Asian American community and anyone interested in Asian media to seek out and purchase new media every month on the 8th. Now this is an open source project. The Hollywood production companies and YouTube stars supporting this and joining this calendar of events are really here to help promote the campaign of #the8th, but it’s really open to all artist around the world. So, the Chinese kid in Texas or Japanese girl in Portland can make a movie and by simply using #the8th to promote and release their film on the 8th of the month and us as a community tracking that hashtag, we can find the newest artist and freshest material.

The whole goal in this is for us, the Asian community to establish our own genre in media and tell our stories and cultivate our voice in America on our own terms.

I know it’s a big idea and it’s not going to happen overnight… but for it start, it has to start somewhere, I guess right here, right now is as good of place as any.

I urge you to repost this and pass it on… If you’re an artist, join in this idea and release new content for everyone on the 8th and hopefully we can start a movement!

 

checkout my YouTube for the We Own #the8th video!  

 

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So I’m doing this play… Well, I wrote this play and I finally decided to do it. I actually got inspired to do it… I wrote this for me and my friends and one of my friends has been going through a rough time for the last few months and I thought working together on this project would be therapeutic and a good thing for both of us. Also, recently I became friends with Beau Sia, I’ve loved and respected his work for years, but recently we actually became friends and this was a great first project for us to work on together.

The thing about it is, I haven’t been onstage for awhile, I did do a play with East West Players a few years back and I actually wrote this play in their writing program, but to get back in shape (acting wise) to get back onstage… There’s always a bit of nervousness when it comes to that. Also, to top that, I wrote this play, so it means a lot to me.

But something happens when you start rehearsing, something really magical… You start to do the work… And when I say the work, I mean you get into it with other actors and the director, you start to investigate the material and start to speak the words and breathe life into these characters… Something magical happens, at least it does to me… I remember why I’m an actor.

I do love rehearsing, there’s a certain joy in working out the character and trying to fix the so called problems. I mean, I wrote the play and as a group we’re trying to figure out what it all means. The crazy thing is sometimes (and when I say sometimes, I mean often) the director or one of the cast explain something new they understood in the text, something their character is trying to say or a truth they uncovered… I often just nod my head as if I meant to write that, when in actuality, I am amazed that there are deeper levels in certain characters that I’ve ever imagined, so I just nod and listen.

This play, you know, sometimes you just have to do somethings. I don’t know what will come of this… We never know as artist what will happen once we create something. I just know that this is one of those project that no is doing for money, I don’t even know how many people will see this play… I just know it’s important while we’re here now, doing the work and actors at play doing a play. I mean, we’re all here in Hollywood, everyone trying to make a name for themselves and fortune while they’re at it. But at times like this, projects like this, it gets me back to the basics of how it all started, how I started… how this whole town started. A handful of actors, under the watchful eye of a director, on a stage… just acting their asses off.

Now, the invite is here on this blog, if you’re in LA, you’re welcomed to be one of the few eyes that will witness what we’ve put together… I hope there will be more shows in the future, but you never know… In any case, it’ll never be like the one going up that night… It is theatre, it happens in the moment, then it’s gone.