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Happy Birthday Wah Ming Chang -- Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 21, 2013 03:13pm | Post a Comment
Wah Chang

Wah Chang
was a Chinese-American artist and prop designer. Today he’s most recognized for his iconic designs on the television series Star Trek. He was born on this day in 1917 and with that in mind, it being Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, me planning on going to see the Star Trek Into Darkness tonight, and The Wrath of Khan on in the background, now seems like a good time to reflect on his genius.


EARLY LIFE

Wah Ming Chang (鄭華明) was born 2 August, Wah Chang as a child1917 in Honolulu, when Hawai’i was still a territory. His father, Dai Song Chang, owned an art store and framing gallery. The Chang family moved to San Francisco in 1919 and the parents opened Ho Ho Tea Room on 315 Sutter Street, which quickly became a popular hangout for artists and bohemians. Wah’s mother, Fai Sue, was an artist and graduate of the California School of Arts and Crafts. As a young child, Wah also displayed a talent for art and at seven, he began a tutelage under artist Blanding Sloan. Wah had his first solo gallery show when he was just nine years old. His mother passed away when he was eleven and his father moved to Europe, leaving the child with Sloan and his wife, Mildred Taylor. Taylor, was a feminist writer, organizer and lecturer who in the 1920s displayed a strikingly non-stereotypical interest in East Asian cultures. Taylor introduced Wah to puppet-making, a skill which he would employ when he eventually began working in film.

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East of the Eastside -- the Far Eastside

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 13, 2013 05:47pm | Post a Comment
Last vestiges of Old Chinatown
Last vestiges of Old Chinatown (image: Los Angeles Times)

All around the world large, multicultural cities often contain recognized, small, distinct ethnic enclaves. Los Angeles, by some measures the most diverse city in the universe, is no exception. These neighborhoods are often more ephemeral than others -- coming and going in a reflection of changing patterns of immigration, marginalization, assimilation and development. In the past, for example, Los Angeles had areas widely known as Greek Town, Little Italy, Little Mexico, Old ChinatownFurasato, and Sonoratown -- to name a few. All are now gone with few physical reminders of their ever having existed.

520
Runners in front of the Italian Hall in Los Angeles's old Little Italy

In the Southland, where Asian-Americans are currently both the largest and fastest growing racial minority, most of the existing enclaves are predictably Asian. There’s Cambodia Town, Chinatown, Koreatown, Historic Filipinotown, Little Bangladesh, Little India, Little Osaka, Little Saigon, Little Seoul, Little Tokyo, and Thai TownOfficially-recognized non-Asian enclaves include only Little ArabiaLittle Armenia and Little Ethiopia. Unofficial but widely-recognized non-Asian enclaves include Little Central America and Tehrangeles. Are there others? 


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Los Angeles's Secret, Foreign Language Movie Theater Scene

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 7, 2013 01:18pm | Post a Comment

Los Angeles is a film town -- maybe the film town. Like the Hollywood district contained within it, the name "Los Angeles" a metonym for American film industry in the minds of many. "La La Land," "The Entertainment Capital of the World" and all that. I love movies; however, in my mind, the Hollywood film thing actually ranks pretty low in the long list of what makes Los Angeles the greatest city in the world. This is possibly (probably) shocking to hear/read if you're a cog in the blockbuster factory or a celebrity worshipper but better you find that out now than never. Luckily, Los Angeles doesn't just make movies, it also shows them. There are few cities in the world with as robust a film culture as Los Angeles.

For those who love celebrity-driven, gazillion dollar CGI superhero franchises you're in luck; there are multiplexes in every mall and Redboxes at every 7-11. Thankfully for other varieties of cinéastes, there's a lot more to Los Angeles’s mise en scène than that. There are architecturally beautiful picture palaces, romantic drive-ins, dingy dollar theaters, high profile revival houses, low profile smut houses, and actual art house chains. Additionally there are all sorts of special screenings and festivals that take place every week of the year.

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Happy Beltane! Your guide to observances and Beltane in popular culture

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 30, 2013 01:34pm | Post a Comment
Happy Beltane!

Queen Guinevere's maying by John Collier, 1900
John Collier's Queen Quinevere's maying (1900)

Tonight at sundown begins Beltane (also spelled Beltain, Bealtaine, Bealltainn, Boaltinn, and Boaldyn), a Gaelic holiday marking the beginning of summer (which in the Gaelic calendar takes place at the midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice). Historically it was observed throughout the British Isles.

Sanas Cormaic
Detail of Sanas Cormaic


Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest surving medieval Irish literature (eg. Sanas Cormaic and Tochmarc Emire) . It was one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Imbolc, Samhain, and Lugnasadh. but was, not surprisingly, attacked by intolerant Christians. By the mid-20th century, Beltane observances had almost died out although there have been efforts to revive it.

Beltane
Betlane observers (image source: Twilight Language)

On Beltane rituals were undertaken to ensure a good year in the fields. This was done with the burning of bonfires through which farm animals would be driven. According to 17th century historian Geoffrey Keating, animal sacrifices were made to the god, Beil, on the the hill of Uisneach in Ireland. Additionally, farmers led processions around their fields whilst carrying grains, farm implements, Beltane well water, and vervain or rowan. Rituals were performed along the way at each of the four cardinal points of the compass.

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Happy Birthday, Johnny Madero, Pier 23

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 24, 2013 05:30pm | Post a Comment
On this date (23 April) back in 1947, the radio drama Johnny Madero, Pier 23 made its debut. It
 was the second detective drama that resulted from the collaboration of Jack Webb and Richard L. Breen

St. Regis Hotel in 1904
St. Regis Hotel in 1904

Jack Webb was born 2 April, 1920, in
Santa Monica, California, the son of Margaret (née Smith) and Samuel Chester Webb. Samuel split before Jack’s birth and and thus the child was rasied by his mother and maternal grandfather, who lived together in Bunker Hills St. Regis Apartments.


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