Amoeblog

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.

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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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Higashi Honganji Obon Festival 2012

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 7, 2012 10:44am | Post a Comment
Higashi Honganji Obon 2012

Obon
(お盆) is a Japanese holiday on which observers honor the spirits of their ancestors. Within Japan as well as the Japanese diaspora, Obon has been observed on different dates since Japan’s adoption of the Gregorian Calender in 1872.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Little Tokyo
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Little Tokyo

In LA and Orange County there were also Obon festivities on different dates that took place not only in several Little Tokyo venues but also in Anaheim, Gardena, Little Osaka, Venice, and West Covina. I attended the Obon Festival at Little Tokyo’s Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple (ロサンゼルス東本願寺別院).

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626 Night Market Returns to Pasadena: July 28th

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 27, 2012 04:17pm | Post a Comment
626 Night Market logo

The first 626 Night Market was a victim of its own, unanticipated success. Taiwanese-American organizers Johhny and Janet Hwang struggled to get enough vendors to commit even after lowering fees to the point that they expected to lose money. The Facebook page had about 2,000 fans a couple of weeks before its debut but FB fans are a notoriously flaky bunch – or is that just when I’m hosting something?
626 Night Market entrance, Pasadena, California


By some estimates, when the night market actually took place, some 10,000 people descended on a single, long block of North Oakland in Old Town. It was honestly a bit scary being swept along by the crowd without any control and a little amazing. My roommate’s phone disappeared and we weren’t even able to approach most of the food vendors to even see what was available -- forced to accept the sugary toast sold nearest to the entrance. Several friends I expected to meet gave up -- several opting to go to Arcadia to satisfy their Taiwanese jones. My roommate and I barely escaped and went to Lucky Baldwin’sThey, along with other businesses in the vicinity, were probably among the few who enjoyed the windfall that resulted from what was quickly nicknamed the "626 Nightmare Market" -- or maybe that was just me.
Night Market, Yilan, Taiwan
The night market in Yilan -- notice breathing room and smiles

For those unfamiliar with night markets (I overheard someone at a neighboring table explaining that there was “some kind of Asian fest” taking place) are nighttime bazaars where people do a little shopping as they aimlessly ramble and eat street food. They’re especially popular in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. I’ve been to them in HaulienTaipei, Taitung, Yilan and Pasadena and in my experience eating and strolling are the primary focus except the first Pasadena, where not getting trampled or crushed was.
Silk Lounge - Monterey Park, California
Empty lounge in Monterey Park -- everyone's eating