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
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, 1917 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.

After attending the Peninsula School of Creative Education in Menlo Park on a scholarship, the family (including Chang) moved to Los Angeles. At sixteen, Chang worked as a set designer for shows at the Hollywood Bowl. In 1936 the family moved back to Sloan’s home state of Texas. Chang worked with Sloan before starting his own business. After the business closed, Chang returned to Hollywood. Upon news of his father’s remarrying, Chang joined him for a year in Honolulu before moving once again to San Francisco.


AT WALT DISNEY

At just 21 years old, Chang began working for Walt Disney in 1940, when he worked on character designs for Pinocchio and Fantasia (both 1940). After their release, Chang was contracted polio and was sidelined by extended hospitalization and the temporary loss of the use of both legs. In 1941, after regaining the ability to walk, Chang married Glen Taylor in Texas (at the time marriage between Chinese and whites was against California law). In 1942 he worked on Bambi with another great Chinese-American artist, Tyrus Wong.


AFTER DISNEY

He left Disney afterward and began a working relationship with director George Pal, beginning with the film Tulips Shall Grow (1942). In 1945, with Gene Warren, he created his own production company. In 1947 he worked as the cinematographer and producer on the animated The Way of Peace (a collaboration with Sloan) and contributed the Puppetoon section of The Variety Girl (also 1947).


CENTAUR PRODUCTIONS




Again working with Warren, Chang next formed Centaur Productions, which made commercials, costumes, props, and toys. They also worked on Hardrock, Coco and Joe: The Three Little Dwarfs (1951) and Suzy Snowflake (1953).


MONSTER MOVIES



Besides making children’s cartoons and animating Christian parables, Chang worked un-credited on several B-movies. He created the spider puppets for Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) and Tarantula (1955). Keeping with the arachnida theme, he also designed titular Black Scorpion (1958). He also designed the mutated wasps from Monster from Green Hell (1957).


PROJECT UNLIMITED & GEORGE PAL

Though its name sounds like an early ‘90s Eurodance group, Project Unlimited, Inc was another company formed by Chang, Warren and Tim Baar in 1956. Together they designed costumes, make-up, puppets, sets, and special effects, notably for George Pal’s Tom Thumb (1958), The Time Machine (1960), Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). The company won Academy Awards for its work on The Time Machine.



OTHER EARLY WORK

Other key work done by Chang included on films such as The Lady Says No (1951), The King and I (1956), Spartacus (1960), Can-Can (1960), La vendetta di Ercole (1960 – released in the US as Goliath and the Dragon), Master of the World (1961), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Voyage to the Seventh Planet (1962), Cleopatra (1963), and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964).


WORK IN TELEVISION & STAR TREK


Chang’s first work on television was for the sci-fi anthology series, The Outer Limits (1963-1965), where he worked for future Star Trek associate producer Robert H. Justman.



Chang was first hired to work on Star Trek in 1964, handling make-up and props on the (first) pilot episode, “The Cage.” He designed the look of the Talosians and the pre-phaser laser pistols used by the crew of the Enterprise. Star Trek wasn't picked up until after a second pilot was filmed in 1965. Star Trek finally debuted in 1966. Chang was once again hired and put to work. He redesigned the phaser. He designed the Starfleet tricorder and communicator. His flip-top design was remarkably similar to my Motorola flip phones of the 1990s (my current phone, thanks to an app, looks even more like Chang’s communicator. He also designed Balok and his ship, the Gorn, the giant from “The Galileo Seven,” the neural parasites from “Operation: Annihilate!,” the Romulan Bird of Prey (and the Romulan helmets), the M-113 Creature, the Vulcan lute, and Tribbles. After “The Trouble With Tribbles,” Chang was let go.


AFTER STAR TREK




After his stint on Star Trek ended, Chang returned to film work, working on Planet of the Apes (1968), The Power (1968), Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968), and Big Daddy (1969).

In 1970, the Chang family left Altadena and moved to Caramel-by-the-Sea, where Chang designed and built their new home. Chang returned to production – and began directing – with Dinosaurs, the Terrible Lizards but primarily focused on sculpting. The following year he worked on The Mephisto Waltz. In 1974 he directed and produced Alphabet Roll Call. He returned to TV designing models for Land of the Lost (1974-1975). In 1985 he directed Magic Pony. In 1987, he worked as a creative artist on The Puppetoon Movie.


LATER YEARS

Life and Sculpture of Wah Ming Chang

Although most of Chang’s work had been done in anonymity, fans and film historians began to reappraise his contributions and he appeared a couple of documentaries, appearing in The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985) and Time Machine: The Journey Back (1993). In 1987 he sculpted, on commission, four life-size bronze sculptures of Dennis the Menace. In 1989, Chang published a book, Life and Sculpture of Wah Ming Chang, co-authored with David Barrow. In 1994, Chang was awarded the George Pal Memorial Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. In 1995 he was the subject of Wah Ming Chang: Artist and Master of Special Effects.

After Glen passed away, Chang began a relationship with Virginia Park. In 2003, the Chinese Historical Society of America exhibited Chang’s and Tyrus Wong’s work. Six days before the end of the exhibit, Chang passed away on 22 December,2003 (age 86) at his home.

For a far more in-depth account of Chang's life and work, click here!

*****


Southern California Night Markets - the Return of the 626

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 Jonny 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?


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.


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.


Empty lounge in Monterey Park -- everyone's eating


 
Night markets offer an alternative to the typical urban American nightlife (usually alcohol-fueled) options like partying, bar-hopping, clubbing, pub-crawling, art openings, music performances, &c. Eating out with friends is popular in Asian-majority communities like Monterey Park (America’s first Chinese-American majority city). With a population of over 60,000, they're seemingly content with only two bars (one in a hotel, the other on the border with East LA and almost entirely patronized by Latinos). Boozing doesn’t seem to play much of a role in the activity. In Monterey Park's San Gabriel Valley neighbor, Rowland Heights (nicknamed by some, "Little Taipei"), most evenings large numbers of young people congregate around Diamond Plaza, cruising through the parking lot, playing cards and hanging out at a tea house. In other words, much of LA County seems to me to long have been primed for night markets.
 

suffocating at the first 626 Night Market -- no smiles

Although a writer for the LA Weekly described the first 626 Night Market as “Southern California’s first Asian night market,” there have been at least two earlier examples. Monterey Park hosted a small night market back in 2004 that occurred on Saturdays in the summer for a couple of years before disappearing. Santa Monica apparently had a one-off Malaysian night market in 2010. (Update: As of 2014 there's also the KTown Night Market in Koreatown, the Little Saigon Night Market in Little Saigon, the OC Night Market in Costa Mesa.) 





For the returning 626 Night Market, the location has been moved to Centennial Square, in Pasadena’s Civic Center District (100 N. Garfield Ave, Pasadena). Thankfully, it will this time be allotted more than 4 ½ acres (18,580 square meters) -- about six blocks. It will take place from 4:00 pm – 11:30 pm and for all you people who hate looking for parking, the Gold Line’s Memorial Park Station is located within the area covered by the night market.


Unable to get any closer to the food


And for those that complained that there weren’t enough vendors at the last 626 Night Market (how do they even know? I couldn’t even get to most of them), this one has the following (including three times as many food vendors as last time): 626 Movemeant, 8 Ate 8's K BBQ, AFC Soy Foods, AK Lashes, ANP Design, AU79, Addicted to Phones, Akbar Cuisine of India, Alltronics, A-sha Dry Noodle, Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, Astro's Donuts, Aunty Merry, Bao Style, Beatnixx, Beyond the Olice, Black Persimmon, Bling Bling Dumpling, Boba Avenue, Bowls LA, Bowtique Envy, Crepe 'N Around, Cafe 18, Cal Fresh Vikon, California Museum of Art, Cannan Restaurant, Cha Cafe, Chala Handbags, Chare's Import, Charmy Charmy, Chines & Korean BBQ, Christina Liu, Comien Silk, Covina Tasty, Creative Twist, Creme Carmel LA, Dr. Cellular, Dragon Whiskers Candy, Evike, EWC Group, Eddie B Games, Fighting Fish, Flour + Tea, Fluff Ice, Fresh Roast, Fruit King Juice, GG_Infinite, Ginger Bread Man's Asian Roots, Gippentarp, Green Cube Gourmet, Green Cube Tofu, Grilled Cheese Truck, Haven Gastropub, Heo Cuisine, Hollywood Fodder, House of Bonz, Indonesia Satay, It's a Snap!, J Noodle House, JHL Style, Java Cafe, Jessica, Juba, Kawaii Foods, Kebab Brothers, Komodo Food Truck, Korean Contacts, Las 3 Hermanas, Leapfrog, Lee's BBQ, Liang's Kitchen, Little Rain, Lobsta Truck, Lotus Circles, Lucky Bamboo Garden, Mama Go's Fil-Cuisine, Mama Masubi, Mandoline, Michelle Lee, Mighty Boba Truck, Miniemall, Momochai, Molla Space, Moni Moni, Ninja Sox, OMG Blings, Offal Laffo, Optic Remix, Oscar Enterprise Company, Overseas Commercial Group, Ozero, Papa Lee, Pasta Joe, Patricia Huang, Peppers Thai, Pet Lover Cafe, Phuonghang, Pie n Burger, Q-Zone, R2 - Ray Rays, Raw Cane Super Juice, Ready Artwork, Rock n' Roll, Rocxten, Roll Up, Savana Electronics, Sculpster, Seoul Sausage, Shaosi Ye Valdez, Shinano, Silver Panda, Slammin' Sliders, Solpoint Services, Soyumi, Spices n' Rice, Store13, Supreme Vege Cuisine, T-Square International, Takken, Takoyaki Tanota, Tan San, Tangy Choices, Tarami Patisserie, Taxco, Tea Bar Starry, Tealicious, Ten Ren's Tea Time, The Boat Restaurant, The Candy Chef, Ton Ten Ko, Unfindings, Underestimate, V & R Thai-Chinese Food, Wok Master, Yiming Ou, Yirin Grill, Yogurtland, Zummy Road, Zarlito's Family Kitchen, and Zeta Epsilon Tau.



See you there and bring your appetite!

*****
Update: The second 626 Night Market was a vast improvement over the first one. It was still well-attended and there were far more (and diverse) food options. While the main complaint this time seems to have been that stinky tofu is stinky, mine would only be that the lines (at least there were lines this time) were still long. I had to wait 30 minutes for a grilled cheese -- again, at least this time I got to eat -- at multiple places. Hopefully the apparent success will lead not only to more 626 Night Markets but more night markets throughout LA!
 




 
*****

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring San Gabriel, A City with a Mission

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 10, 2011 09:00am | Post a Comment

INTRODUCTION TO SAN GABRIEL


For this blog entry, I ventured to the city of San Gabriel. Accompanying me were veteran three traveling companions. Cheryl Anne, a designer, hadn't appeared since her Season 4, episode 10 debut, "Gardena - The South Bay's city of opportunity." Artist Chris Urias made his debut appearance and regular audiences are well acquainted with Club Underground's DJ Modernbrit, aka Tim Shimbles, who has appeared in numerous episodes, debuting back in Season 2, episode 4, "Morningside Circle" in which we first discovered South LA's Westside.

To vote for other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote forLos Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. To vote vote for Orange County neighborhoods and communities, vote here.

Continue reading...

California Fool's Gold -- A San Gabriel Valley Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 24, 2011 06:33pm | Post a Comment
GABRIEL'S HORN DOES SOUND -- THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY

Invariably when one speaks or hears of "The Valley," the valley in question is the San Fernando (despite the fact that there are at least six major and loads of minor valleys in Los Angeles County). For the same reasons that I'm mildly annoyed when people refer to "THE City" or "THE Bay," the notion of "THE Valley" smacks of ignorance at best and unpleasant small-mindedness at worst. This blog entry is an introduction to the San Gabriel Valley, that great and amazing expanse of suburbs, boomburbs, exurbs and enthoburbs (any "suburb" portmanteaus I've missed?) with surprisingly significant history and variety of cultures beneath the seemingly uniform surface of bandage-colored strip malls and homes. That being said, at the time of writing, the San Fernando Valley page on Facebook has 25,519 fans whereas the San Gabriel Valley page has a mere ten.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the San Gabriel Valley


GEOGRAPHY

The San Gabriel Valley is bordered by the the Verdugo Hills and San Rafael Hills to the northwest; the San Gabriel Mountains (and Angeles Forest region) to the north; The Pomona Valley and Inland Empire to the east; the Puente Hills and San Jose Hills and, on the other side, Orange County to the south; SELACO to the south west; and The Eastside and NELA to the west.

Continue reading...

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Arcadia, The San Gabriel Valley's Community of Homes

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 4, 2011 11:30am | Post a Comment

ARCADIA

 


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Arcadia

Arcadia is a Los Angeles County community in the northern part of the San Gabriel Valley surrounded by Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Mayflower Village, Irwindale, El Monte, North El Monte, Temple City, East San Gabriel, East Pasadena and Pasadena. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities, vote here.

Continue reading...
<<  1  2  3  >>  NEXT