Monthly Archives: February 2015

I Have A Testimony

Thought I’d share something that has been in my queue for a while.  My friend Karen Kimball and I wrote a song a couple years ago for primary aged children.  It was based on her poem that was published in the October 2007 Friend magazine.  Converting a poem into a children’s song was something I’d never done before and was an enjoyable challenge. We had lots of discussions about how to keep the essence of the poem while making it singable.  There was a lot of nitty gritty song crafting: creating different versions (two verse/three verse?), testing it with children, getting other musicians feedback.  We were finally able to come up with something we were both happy with.

Last month, I attended a Great 2 be 8 fireside, and I heard Karen’s daughter perform the song. And that reminded me that I’d forgotten to post it to this blog.  So here it is!


I Have A Testimony Sheet Music

Hope you enjoy it.

Fresh Off the Boat, Episode 3

So Tuesday’s episodes are a good sign that the show is starting to find its stride. I only have time to write a quick blog post on Episode 3. I’ll get to Ep: 4 later this week.

Episode 3 placed the Huang’s in the middle of white Nascar culture and did a good job of emphasizing the quirkiness of the FOtB experience. It was a decent episode to hopefully hook non-Asian viewers to the show. Caucasian’s could get a laugh at the white middle america stereotype, complete with gossip, backstabbing, and Stephen King. And the writers used the old “daydream interrupted by parents” device to increase universal comedic value. So, this episode helped alleviate my previous concerns about the series leaning too heavily on Asian American culture jokes.

What FOtB got right in Ep:3
1. Capri-Sun Waster
Caprisun1
Jessica yells at Eddie to stop wasting Capri-sun because it’s expensive. Oh how I loved Capri-sun growing up, but because it was so expensive I’d also make sure to suck the thing until the bag was flat as a pancake. Mom and Dad hated us leaving half-full juice boxes around, to do so was criminal.

2. Honey wins Jessica’s heart by eating her food.
tofu2
The best way to win over a Chinese person is to enjoy their food and try and speak their language. That’s if you are any non-Asian ethnicity. If you’re Asian, to be legit you have to cook food better than the best Chinese restaurant in town, using ingredients bought from Ralph’s.

3. Jessica cuts equally sized cake pieces for communism
cutcake
I have no idea why we cut food into equally sized pieces, but we do. The communism joke by the neighborhood ladies takes the cake though (yuk yuk), because it’s an in joke for Chinese viewers. See, the Huang’s are Taiwanese, and with the history between Taiwan and mainland China, Jessica certainly is not a communism supporter. That’s why she gives a death stare, and then covers it up by saying “I’m just cutting cake”. And every non-Chinese viewer would totally miss it. I never ever thought I’d watch a network television show that had an inside joke for Chinese viewers. This is landmark folks.

4. Visors
visor3
Notice how Jessica is the only person wearing a visor?  Neither did I, until just now.  And then I was like “Holy Crap all my aunts wore visors growing up! Uh, I wore visors growing up. Wait, no one else non-Asian did!”

5. Karaoke
karaoke
Yes, Asians love karaoke and it’s serious business, although I don’t know if most of them sing as well as Jessica does in the show. I Will Always Love You is like the perfect song for Chinese singers, because it has lots of long drawn out “oohs”. The longer the vowel, the more powerful the karaoke rush.

What FOtB got wrong in Ep:3
1. Jessica’s misses her friends in DC (cut to scene of them playing cards).
playing_cards
My guess is that this originally was supposed to be a bunch of Chinese women yelling over a mahjohng table, but that Network Execs were like “American’s don’t know what Mahjohng is. Make it poker!”

2. Honey likes Tofu.
tofu1
And not only that, she likes Stinky Tofu. That requires suspensions of disbelief on the level of a Michael Bay Transformer’s movie. Well, I guess it’s possible that Jessica made a different type of tofu for Honey to eat at their Stephen King movie watching party. Nah, I’m just rationalizing because the show is growing on me.

Fresh off the Boat S1:E1

I’m going to venture into something non musical for a bit here on this blog.  The fact is, for the first time in forever (ok, I did slip in a Frozen joke there), there is an Asian American show on TV.  And that’s such a rare occurence, it deserves a writeup .  So, without further ado, my thoughts below on the Fresh Off the Boat Pilot.

I think I speak for most Asian Americans, when I say that we have been waiting for an Asian American sitcom for a long time. One that does our culture justice and tells our story. We know we are underrepresented in Hollywood media, and I think we’ve done our best to bury it in our subconscious and move on. But now, here we are. A family comedy about a Taiwanese American moving from DC to white suburbia. On ABC (how appropriate). Didn’t see this coming at all, figured the closest we’d get was something on YouTube. So it’s cool.Unfortunately, after watching the first episode, I’m not sure if it has staying power. Sure there were parts I laughed and grinned, but it didn’t draw me in like a good comedy should. A lot of the jokes took a tad too much setup time. And even then, atlhough some of them were funny, they were funny to American-Born-Chinese-mid-thirties me, not generic-American-watching-TV me. As much as I love relating to the show, I’m afraid that’s a problem. The show won’t succeed if its relating to Asian Americans. It will have to relate to a much broader audience.Take Big Bang Theory. The show is about Caltech Nerds, but it’s somehow relatable to the average TV viewer. The comedic timing is great, the cast is quirky, but it is somehow relevant.

 

The things FOTB S1:E1 got Right:
1. Lunchables
lunchables2

I never ate lunchables crowd, what with my dairy allergies/lactose intolerance (another thing they nailed), but I can say that Lunchables and Pop Tarts were manna from heaven. They allure they had to a Asian kid growing up was insane, most likely because all our white friends had them and we couldn’t ever get some.
2. Car Rides.
fresh-boat
Specifically the kid asleep in the back surrounded by pillows. FOTB also nailed it with “The Sign.” The cut from Eddie listening to hip hop to Ace of Base’s Swedish Pop had me cracking up. Yes, I remember listening to that song with my family in a car, and yes I remember singing terribly. Kudos for that
3. How Americans react to smelling Chinese food.
yuck
Yeah, that’s pretty accurate, and I can understand why. It’s the mix of garlic, tofu, and bamboo that usually does it. All completely foreign smells to a Caucasian nose.

 

Things FOTB S1:E1 got wrong:
1. Accents
Specifically Louis and Jessica. Louis is played by Randall Park who is Korean American. His English is too perfect for a FOTB Taiwanese man. The inflections and tonal shifts of a Chinese man speaking English as a second language aren’t represented. On the other hand, Constance Wu’s accent swings a bit too much to other side. I can tell she’s Asian American, emulating English spoken with a Taiwanese. It’s a too forced and doesn’t sound right. Luckily, American audiences won’t be able to tell a difference.

2. Kissing in public.
mom_dad

I have a hard time imagining a first generation Taiwanese mom and dad, with their three boys standing around them, kissing on a children’s playground. In the 90’s, that just didn’t happen, ever. Seriously artistic license must have been taken there :).

3.Constance Wu’s Mom look.
constance_wu
Look, I know mid thirties Chinese woman are hot. I am married to one. But they are never that well-coiffed with three kids. I know there’s that running joke in the showabout the humidity and her hair, but she just looked a little too put together for it to be a realistic portrayal of a Taiwanese mom running a household and adjusting to a new home. Maybe if it was a few years down the road and she was settled in.

Anyway, I hope Fresh Off the Boat succeeds. Perhaps the show will need a few more episodes before it really starts to hit its stride. After all, even though there’s a lot of comedic material growing up Asian in white America, but only can do a few episodes of that schtick before it gets kind of old. What will really make or break the show is how relatable the characters are to America.