Saturday, December 10, 2011

YouTube Trying to Fix What "Ain't Broke"

by 8RG

We're not pleased to see that YouTube has removed our 'Friends' module (apparently this is part of the new 'upgrades' which we are avoiding as long as possible). Our purpose for having these modules visible on our page is to help others locate and support new creative artists, visionaries, histories, experiences, perspectives, opinions etc. from the Asian community.

By removing the public module and channel icons from our front page against our will and replacing it with what seems to be a clunky invisible 'Contacts' list in our 'Inbox', YouTube has destroyed what we consider to be an important networking tool in our efforts to bring more positive exposure to those in the Asian community who are working so hard to be seen.

So far, our 'Subscribers' module has survived these recent changes. Though there are no plans in the near future to create our own videos (though that may change down the road as we continue to grow), feel free to subscribe to our channel if you wish your own channel avatar and link to be more easily available to anyone who browses our pages. And of course, we attempt to subscribe ourselves to as many Asian related channels that we stumble across as we can.

We get frustrated because we feel that we have to spend as much time attempting to overcome or work around regular glitches, adapting our pages to the unexpected 'upgrades' which alters everything that we thought we had set just the way that it would work best for our purposes, or relearning where all of the functions have been moved after each 'change' as we do seeking out new Asian related information to share with others. It is even more frustrating when functions and tools that we used regularly because they best served our purposes for existing are removed completely and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Thanks for your patience and we apologize for the changes that we really have no control over...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Baby Avy's Dream

by 8RG

In the world today there is a little light named Avy. She was born only about a year ago, but she has already faced challenges that most of us will never have to endure. Even so, she and her family are moving forward with courage and a great deal of love for each other - holding on what is good and positive and beautiful.

Baby Avy has a dream... to dance with her father.

I don't personally know Avy or her parents, but when a friend sent me the link last night I was deeply touched by their story and this simple wish. So simple, just to dance, but worth so very much. You see, Avy suffered an in-utero stroke which caused complications including cerebral palsy. And though with parents like hers she will always have the best kind of love and support - still this will not be an easy journey for her. Or an inexpensive one.

But there is a way - as simple as this wish to dance - that folks out there can help both Avy and her parents. It doesn't cost anything but some of your time (and perhaps a tiny piece of your heart). You can get all of the information at a Facebook page set up especially for Avy and her dream (it is her father's dream too).

Go to the link included in the information of the page and click 'Like' for Baby Avy's Dream. If she gets the most votes, she will receive $10,000 to help with medical expenses.

That's it... so simple. Everyone can do it.

And if you'd like to do just a bit more, spread the word to your friends.

There are so many worries and troubles in the world, I know. So many. But here is a chance to do one good thing today. One good thing. How much better life would be if everyone tried to find one good thing to do every day.

Well - it doesn't get any easier than this... here is your 'one good thing' for today.

Please visit Baby Avy's Facebook Event page here to get all of the links and info:

Baby Avy's Dream

One good thing - a sweet girl dancing with her father. A simple dream. Lets make this happen.

I hope you dance, Baby Avy... I hope you dance with your father who obviously loves you so very much.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


by 8RG

Now that we have quite a lot of content plugged in (although not even close to how much more is out there), we want to take some time to reorganize the sections to make it somewhat easier to locate what you might be interested in the most. This might be a slow process, and imperfect because sometimes it is difficult to put a label on what, for example, a specific performer does. Or that performer might dabble in many different things. We will be doing the best that we can, but we do hope that during this process you will indulge us with your patience.

We are also aware of the complexities involved with determining the criteria and definitions of any human subgroup. Though we would love to be able to create a site that reflects and represents all of the amazing variety that exists globally, we recognize our human fallibility and limitations (time, money, knowledge and so on). Forced to be realistic, we have fine tuned our focus to only certain groups that reflect what is commonly thought of as 'Asian' by North American definitions. This does not include every culture of Asia as a continent though we know that every person who can trace their lineage to that portion of the world is technically 'Asian'. We also know that other Western countries, such as England, have a different definition for 'Asian'.

But for our purposes on this site, we are mainly concentrating on those cultural roots that center around (roughly) East and South East Asia and to some lesser extent the Pacific Islands. We also recognize that 'race' is a wobbly edged subject as well, and that using the term 'Asian' automatically begins its own series of debates. Language, being as dynamic as it is, is always in flux. We do not have a perfect definition for the groups we are attempting to reflect here, and can only suggest that the patron who visits this site will hopefully, over time, develop a feel for where we are trying to go.

There is no desire to offend those subgroups who can by a greater definition also consider themselves to be Asian, yet are not represented here. We do encourage others with an interest to consider the idea of creating sites of their own that can expand on what we started here by reflecting those groups that we have not included. We would certainly be happy to link to such sites in the future.

For those personalities, performers, innovators, etc. who feel that they fall into our rough parameters of 'Asian' for the purposes of this site, and who would like to be included in our links, please send us your information at our Facebook location (the link is at the top of this page). We have a discussion area there where you can tell us everything that we need to know to include your work. That would also be the best way to send us information on any corrections that we need to make, tour information, upcoming releases or anything else you feel we should know.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Running in Circles

by 8RG:

So I've been watching a trend for many years that is an intense exercise in frustration.

Again and again I read posts from various site forum members complaining about the state of the Asian male representation in the popular Western media. The latest case of such is yet another complaint about the character created by Ken Jeong in 'Hangover 2'.

I can't speak much on the specific details because I haven't seen either of the 'Hangover' movies - I've been on a diet of around 80% International films since the creation of the home video industry in my youth and at least half or more of those are from the various movie industries of Asia. In all honesty, I've never seen any of Jeong's work beyond the little taste from research I did this morning - I had to give up my television service a while back to streamline my finances. I hate to say it - but I really don't miss it as much as I was afraid I would before cancelling. I was paying a lot of money for background noise that I found repetitive and boring most of the time, I now realize.

But from descriptions online, the complaints of these various board members and checking out a couple of bits on YouTube it doesn't sound like the specific character in this movie is a shining example of a strong Asian male representation (and I would like to clarify now that none of my comments are intended to describe Jeong the person - since I don't know him, of course).

By now you are probably thinking I'm about to go on a rant about Jeong's character and the unfair media and the problem of stereotyping and so on.

Well... I'm not. I'm laying the problem square in the laps of those who help generate it. The laps of these very board members doing the complaining - Asian American males in a lot of cases and various women who claim to be supportive of creating positive change but who ultimately are just spewing a lot of lip service to score online compliments and ego stroking from said males (without actually doing anything tangible in the real world).

Because here is what happens. 

You see, these folks knew going in - before handing their dosh over to the ticket seller - that they were probably going to hate this character. They were already aware of what it was going to be like because they had already seen the first 'Hangover' movie. And complained about it at the time!

And yet - having the freedom of choice that we all have - they voted with their wallets and supported the very characterization that they claimed to despise by going to see the sequel. They gave money to the the Money Men (and Women) for a role that the Money Men now assume (since it made them a profit) must be the right direction to head in to make more money. The end.

In the last couple of years there have been some forays into the 'heroic Asian male lead'/'romantic Asian male lead' genre by the Money Men here in the West. They weren't exactly my favorite kinds of  films because they were more of the 'action adventure/martial arts' business favored by the masses. If you ever do start checking out the offerings from Asia itself you will find far superior, far more interesting work (even in the Action categories).

Be that as it may - these attempts to present the Asian male in a heroic light on Western big screens appeared. And many of these very same complainers went in one of three directions concerning this most recent 'testing of the waters' by Hollywood:

  • They didn't see the movie in theaters but waited to watch it at a discount from a rental service.

  • They didn't see the movie in theaters but waited to download it somehow illegally and watch it for free.

  • They didn't see the movie at all.

Following that - many of them went in another two directions (often at the same time):

  • They didn't purchase the follow up DVD or any other support products.

  • They complained long and loud publicly that the movies sucked (by their apparently very sophisticated standards).

One of those movies grossed around $5,666,340. A loss for the Money Men.

What is the price of a movie ticket these days?

If every person who claimed to be Asian or part-Asian in the US during the most recent census count had purchased a ticket - that same movie might have made something more like $138,566,848. A profit for the Money Men.

Of course - some of that number would need to be reduced to reflect the very old and the very young in the community who would not be buying a ticket, but if perhaps the rest would go see the movie twice or - I dunno - take a date, that amount could easily be made up or even surpassed. If these so called 'supportive women' of every race had also purchased a ticket or two - even more so.

And it goes beyond the cinema. What about musicians and other performers?

There have recently been quite a number of opportunities to purchase tickets for tours and local shows in North America from both Native Asian groups (mostly from Corea and Japan) and Asian American groups.

Off the top of my head, I can recall events on North American soil involving Wonder Girls with 2PM', BoA, Kangta, Zhang Li Yin, VAMPS, Steve Byrne, X Japan, International Secret Agents, Miyavi, David Choi, Super Junior, Far East Movement, Luna Sea, Kazha, Girls Generation, Kollaboration, Henry Cho, The Slants, and so on...

How many of this complaining set purchased a ticket for one of these shows?

When asked why they don't support Asian artists and performers in the real world versus endless chit chat about why Asian artists aren't successful in the West online (usually it is the fault, in their opinion, of those other people keepin' the Asian man down), they have a litany of convenient (but hollow sounding) excuses.

Among other things:

  • They are too tapped out financially and their life is such a struggle because of some terrible tragic complication (although they go on fancy trips, buy tickets for non-Asian artists, can afford to be on the internet all of the time and seem to dress quite well).

  • They just don't like any of the Asian artists they see (among the thousands that are out there hustling their creative blood, sweat and tears from every field, every day).

  • The work is crap (apparently, by their impeccable standards, all of it).

  • They live too far away from the action - no Asian work at all in their down in the boondocks world (though the last time I checked there are movie theaters all over the place, you can buy tickets, DVDs and CDs among other things online, iTunes now exists, Amazon still sells books and Asian people often write them, shows are streamed online and so on...)

    • They are waiting for a specific artist to come to their area - then they will surely buy a ticket to see that one single artist (even if that artist had just been in their area a month or two before this was mentioned and yet they apparently did not buy a ticket at that time).

    They are just empty excuses when someone happens to notice that they are all talk and no walk, of course. At least buy a DVD or a  CD once in a while.

    If they don't support the artists who are out there in the middle of the fray hustling their hearts out for their art - what sort of message does that send to the Money Men who have the power to fund more of these events in the future? The Money Men are in the business to make a profit. It is as simple as that. If a group makes them money hand over fist - they will not care what their race is. If Asian performers start making bank for the Money Men - the Money Men will hire more Asian performers. If positive Asian portrayals make more money than negative ones - there will be more positive portrayals.

    If the complainers could pause for breath long enough to actually get in the game and support real change - then real change will begin to manifest.

    So I've rather lost a lot of sympathy for the complainers and their complaints. They are just wasting time running in circles.

    I for one have never seen 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' though I am quite the old movie fan and even generally appreciate Audrey Hepburn. I've had some people furrow their brows at my stance on this, confused because it is "such a classic!".

    But I have never seen it because I know of the existence of the awful Rooney yellow face character - Mr. Yunioshi. I've never offered a dime or my time to support it. Curiosity about what I might be missing has not been enough to override my financial vote on the matter.

    And that's how it's done, folks.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Shibaten Spirits - the Sound of Light and Love

    by 8RG:

     Busking in Toronto

    If you're in the mood for something a little different, you'll want to check out the exciting performances of mixed instrumental adventurer 'Shibaten Spirits'. Whether he is busking on a street corner, providing an atmospheric blessing of sound and movement for a new temple in Japan, running a workshop for children or performing formally on a stage - Shibaten spreads his unique energy of love and light to all within earshot.

     Shibaten Teaches Kids at a Workshop

    Once you see him doing what he loves best you'll know you're experiencing something special. And it is only a couple of heartbeats later that you realize what a genuinely nice young man he is as well. As he travels the globe (over 30 countries so far), he also picks up new friends at every event, big or small.

     Shibaten Blesses a Temple in Japan

    Known mostly for his work with the traditional Aborigine instrument, the didgeridoo, Shibaten also incorporates drums, jingles, gongs and bells among other things into a 'one-man-band' type of performance art. He also accompanies himself in a more traditional manner of singing to a strummed guitar - or larger instruments such as the hammered dulcimer.

     Shibaten Practices with a Spiral Didju

    Well worth checking out, Shibaten is currently on one of his many formal tours - this time concentrating on the South Eastern portion of America. Visit his page on the main 8RG website to find his full tour schedule. We've also provided links to all of his official sites so that even if he won't be in your area this time, you can connect with him online. Perhaps you will even have some local events that you can invite him to participate in... you won't be disappointed!

    Shibaten Singing

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Is it really a small world, after all?

    by Lori:

    I had the opportunity recently to visit Disney World, a first for me. I know, right? What child raised in America in the last 30 years didn't go to one of the Disney parks as a kid?! Well, money was tight for us growing up in a family of seven with only one parental income, so for me the visit was deferred until now. Though amusement parks have never really floated my boat, Disney interested me as a great place to observe multitudes of people of different races and countries, all packed together for the sole purpose of having fun.

    I must say, despite less-than-ideal conditions of crushing crowds, long lines, and almost intolerable heat and humidity, for the most part people conducted themselves very cordially. It seemed most people were in a good mood and determined to enjoy themselves. The few rude comments I did hear were exchanged between Caucasians, and I never heard any racial slurs in the crowd or observed any impolite stares toward people of color or from other countries. Unfortunately, it was my companion who commented that because it's quite expensive to visit Disney World, "you don't see a lot of Hispanics or black people, because they tend to have large families and can't afford it." I was appalled at this observation and told her so, because she's normally quite open-minded and not at all prone to racist comments. After she thought about her statement, she recanted somewhat, especially once I pointed out that it wasn't really true...we heard plenty of Spanish spoken on every side, along with a snippet or two of nearly every foreign language you could think of. The majority of visitors were indeed Caucasian, though.

    My friend did make a good point: Disney World is not cheap. They do provide many excellent services for their guests, and I realize that most of the rides are amazingly high-tech pieces of machinery, so it must certainly cost a fortune to run the place...not to mention paying the legions of staff required to pull it all off. However, it's a shame that for the most part only the upper-middle class gets to enjoy this place. It seems like somewhere that all children should have an opportunity to experience at least once. And that's what kind of turned me off about the whole thing. Surely the Disney corporation makes enough money on its movies, music and other franchises that they don't need to scalp you quite so severely on both park admission tickets and everything else from food to sunscreen once you get in the gates.

    Among the rainbow of visitors, we saw two different white couples both looking to be in upper middle age, with apparently adopted Asian daughters of about seven or eight years old. Neither had any evidence of siblings, and I wondered again as I often do, what life is like for these girls. On one hand I suppose they're being given a better life and much more opportunity than they would receive in their native countries, but at what cost? Is it worth the alienation stemming from the differences between them and their adopted families, not to mention social considerations in their communities of friends and school? I like to think and I do believe that our society is becoming more color-blind, but my heart still goes out to these children.

    There's no better place than Disney World to illustrate the fact that we all love to have fun and be entertained, regardless of race or national origin. One had only to watch middle-aged Asian mens' faces light up with glee on the roller coasters, or small African children screaming with delight in the Tower of Terror, or people of all ages and backgrounds being thoroughly charmed by the Beauty and the Beast musical, to realize that we truly are so very similar underneath our outer appearances and self-imposed roles. Though the slogan should probably be changed to "The happiest place on Earth (for those who can afford it)", Disney does remind us that most everyone in this world basically just wants to be safe, happy and enjoy life. It seems like that shouldn't be so hard.

    Sunday, May 8, 2011


    by 8RG: 

    I have often said that real change, the kind that lasts, comes slowly over many years time. Though it can be difficult to be patient if you are already hungry for the benefits of what you believe in - for the most part you just have to suck it up. You can do your own part to help create that change, of course... but if there is one painful lesson I've had to accept it is that the average masses will mostly meander along at a snail's pace while heading down the path - easily distracted by shiny things and often stopping for lunch. Even if you are already at the place everyone will eventually get to and you know this, there's a good chance you're going to be hanging out alone - kicking rocks and feeling frustrated - until you're ready to burst.

    Waiting for the Western mainstream (as a whole but more personally for me in the Deep South) to discover that there's an entire galaxy of amazing things to celebrate from the East has been difficult. From cultural events to cuisine to film and music to art to amazing friendships/relationships and so on... so much to appreciate, admire and respect.

    But I am keenly aware of the process of change in all of its tedious bulk: time and positive exposure, over and over again, with little hope of seeing much of the benefits of all of that work in a single lifetime.

    Having said all of that however, after nearly 45 years of watching this process take place, I can genuinely see where seeds have started sprouting in tiny social crevices. And here is one that I was glad to notice:

    In a Walmart, in the Deep South, I counted 14 DVDs on sale that featured entirely Asian casts. When adding DVDs with a mixed cast but an Asian character prominently featured (and illustrated on the cover art), I could add 3 more. Adding one particular film with several different collectible covers, in this case, 'Ip Man' with Donnie Yen, the number is a tad higher. Throw in the number of anime DVDs that started much of this trend 25 years ago and the count is really high.

    Then I went on to discover 2 music CDs by Asian American performers.

    And finally a 'Thor' official movie zine designed for young folk. It featured nice full color images of Asano Tadanobu as 'Hogun' a good 9 or 10 times (with one full page mini poster of him that teen girls often hang on their doors - at least they did in my youth... I had Bruce Lee).

    I realize that in some parts of North America people might be shrugging and thinking, "Big deal." Places like New York City or San Francisco or Toronto. But I live in a part of the world that traditionally does not enjoy such easy access to Asian arts. It has always been a case where much effort is involved in the search alone (before the internet, one used snail mail orders by such specialty services as the old 'Bud Plant's Incredible Catalog'). Add to that the extra high expense of getting items that are considered rare in this area... especially when they are shipped in from overseas.

    Five years ago, I would have seen none of this in a Walmart. The animes might have been available in some Best Buys and Barnes and Nobles. The comic shops have always been pretty good about having things you couldn't locate elsewhere for their eclectic clients.

    But the Walmarts always seemed to stick to the average and the mainstream at affordable (sort of) prices. Which means, hopefully, that the average and the mainstream is starting to absorb Asian identities into itself. Finally.

    Yes - most of the films were of the action and epic adventure genre. Yes - my favorites are not there yet, such as the cerebral 'Last Life in the Universe'. But it's that change thing again... slow and ponderous. Unfortunately for me, most of the public only wants to see adrenaline rush flicks, not the quiet and quirky material that I often favor. I've had to learn to live with that as well.

    So I see this as it is (despite the fact that there are still imperfections) - a small but positive sign that things are still changing in the right direction.

    And to help encourage that change I voted with my wallet. I bought two of the DVDs:

    'The Warlords' with Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro

    'Shinobi' with Yukie Nakama, Jo Odagiri and Tomoka Kurotani

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Small Steps

    by Lori:

    So often in online community discussion groups we hear complaints about how the western media have marginalized Asians, largely relegating them to stereotypical roles and casting Caucasian actors even in movies based on Asian heroes. We're hungry to see art truly reflect life, and we know that a wealth of Asian talent exists out there which is being overlooked, if not outright snubbed. However, positive portrayals of Asians have lately been sneaking in through one of media's unlikely back doors...reality shows.

    While I'm not generally a fan of reality TV, it's certainly heartening to see Asian contestants making a good showing in, and often winning, a diverse array of competitions on reality shows. Some of these include Peter Wong of HGTV's All American Handyman; John Jung and Carolyn Bee from Ford Focus Rally America, which received coverage on Current TV; and multiple members of various dance groups on shows like America's Best Dance Crew. And of course we can't forget the original Asian reality star, Yul Kwon from Survivor. The great thing about these programs is that they're showing Asians in non-stereotypical circumstances, acting just like anybody else, and letting mainstream audiences see people who resemble their next-door neighbors, once you look past their ethnicity.

    So while we're still waiting for a true blockbuster Asian superstar in the western media, these humble folks on reality shows deserve some serious kudos for quietly representing Asians in a positive light, through an outlet that reaches millions of "average Joe" viewers. It may well be that these small steps end up going further toward creating a more color blind society, than would one big star who could easily be dismissed as an exceptional talent. If nothing else, it gives us one really great reason to tolerate reality TV!

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    The Walls Between Us

    by 8RG: 

    Showtime, to whom I recently sent a friendly suggestion (see 'Riding the Wave'), has responded with a form e-mail describing their policy of deleting messages unread that are of such a nature. They indicate that whatever I suggested very likely already coincides with the work of their own creative teams, that they don't desire such conflicts and so forth in that vein.

    Of course I recognize the impetus for such a response - their fear that I might legally pursue them down the road for developing the idea that I suggested or demand some sort of compensation. That wasn't my goal in the message I sent which is why I purposefully did not specify 'Story A' featuring 'Characters 1, 2 and 3 and attach 'Script Purple'. How sad that the world has come to such a place where we have to build all of these impossible protective walls of laws around everything.

    I'm not a writer (as if you can't tell from my messy stream of consciousness here). I draw pictures. I make things with my hands. Nothing fancy about me at all and I don't aspire to be.

    But I do believe that the timing is good to create some original programing around Asian subjects - and that there's a whole lot of untapped possibility in that wellspring. But I'm not gonna create it. I don't have either the money or the structure or even the skill to do that. So what good is it to have an idea that just sits impotent in my skull?

    If I give it to them and they make it into a bonanza that's great! At least I get to see the show and new audiences gain the exposure to positive Asian images (hopefully - if it is done well). If I hoard it to myself it's really gonna go no where. It won't exist except in my vague imaginings.

    But I wasn't even suggesting anything specific. I didn't say - "Hey guys, develop this series based on the '47 Ronin' or a script about Qin Shi Huang or a documentary on the tragic story of D2B and the death of Big."

    I didn't suggest a full length movie about the life of Hide called 'Pink Spider' or a  series of live shows featuring Asian American rising musicians.

    I merely suggested that they begin pursuing Asian subjects couched in the successful gritty drama styles that they have created previously. The end. I'm not sure how I  could have a court case of any kind with such an amorphous suggestion.

    What I find a bit amusing, though, is - how did they know what the nature of my suggestion was before they read the e-mail? I'm not so sure about that part suggesting that my message was deleted unread. They had to read it to know what it was about... *laughs*

    So maybe we'll all get lucky and they'll develop something Asian related anyway and I'll pretend I never said anything and they'll pretend that they never read anything. But we'll all get to enjoy a new show that doesn't cover the same old tired subjects and bases.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Spring time is party time, Asian style

    by Lori:

    Spring is here, and it’s traditionally a time for getting back out into the world after being cooped up all winter, as well as a season for new beginnings. Here at 8 Red Gates, this blog is one small new beginning for us in the online Asian community. We’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes all of last fall and winter to get the main website ready to launch, and there is much more still to do. As a little teaser, let us point you to a few events of interest coming up this spring around the globe. 

    Spring is the start of festival season, and first up is the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAPFF), running this year from April 28 through May 7. Get all the details here. Several other Asian film festivals will be coming this summer, for example those in New York and Dallas, so check the cities near you. Supporting independent Asian film makers is a great way to strengthen the community while learning more about it through an enjoyable entertainment medium.

    Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) is commemorated each year with Fiesta Asia 2011, the U.S. national Asian heritage festival held in Washington DC. The main all-day street fair party is scheduled for May 21 this year. There are also several sub-events at other locations around the DC metro area, including a film festival and fashion show. More info here

    It’s not just the major U.S. coastal metropolises holding Asian festivals during May; there are similar celebrations going on in Cleveland, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Houston, Texas, to name just a few. Check to see if events exist within traveling distance of your town – you might be surprised, once you start looking. Canada celebrates Asian heritage month in May as well, with festivities in Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, and of course Vancouver. 

    There also celebrations being held outside of North America this spring. For example, there’s the annual Hi Seoul festival in South Korea, running May 5-10. The schedule includes performances by musicians, dancers, tight-rope walkers, and mimes, plus parades, art displays, and sub-events such as the Cheonggyecheon Festival. Although it’s not spring but fall in Australia, the 11th annual Japan Festival is being held in Victoria on May 15 (Japanese language site, or info in English). 

    The advent of spring’s warmer weather and longer days invites us to get out and celebrate, and for those interested in Asian cultures there are plenty of opportunities to combine fun with support of the community. Besides the festivals mentioned above, the season brings concerts by Asian musicians, gallery exhibits featuring Asian artists, or even chances for us to host our own Asian-themed barbecue or block party. Look for events in your area -- or create your own -- to start meeting and networking with others of similar interests. Maybe you’ll find a new beginning yourself this season.

    Welcome Lori !

    by 8RG:

    I am very enthused to introduce one of my partners and chief writer for 8RG - Lori. She has just created her account here on the 8RG blog, so we should soon benefit from her views and opinions. You will know her posts by the brighter yellow she is using compared to the darker amber I use.

    I am deeply grateful that she has been singularly so supportive and helpful on this journey we began in earnest last year - volunteering her time and energy in the hopes that 8RG will become a great success.

    Lori, your efforts have made all of the difference.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Riding the Wave

    by 8RG:

    So, I have written to some of the programing folks at places such as HBO and Showtime with the suggestion that they consider developing some gritty Asian dramas in the vein of 'Rome', 'Deadwood', 'The Tudors' and 'Carnivale'. I've mentioned that they could catch this wave early and ride it a while... giving lots of examples of growing Asian interest.

    Though it won't benefit me personally on the immediate level since I no longer have a television service at all (poverty does indeed quite suck), they usually release these later on DVD, and over time I can purchase them to show support.

    There's a wide open world of plot lines out there from Asian mythologies and histories - or even the modern world. I am hoping fervently that they'll bite - not only because it will open more doors for Asian programing in the mainstream if they do a good job with it, and provide steady work for a large number of Asian actors (along with writers, directors and other support staff, possibly) - but also because I just want to see it myself.

    Yes... I really want to see it myself. I am thoroughly hungry for it because I did love most of the gritty dramas already mentioned above. I have hopes that they can recreate that same energy with Asian subjects.

    *crossing fingers*

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    The Beginning

    by 8RG:

    Welcome to the blog attached to '8 Red Gates'. We have several online subsites but are still working on the main site itself (

    If you want to visit the various places we've nested on the internet I'll provide the links here:

    8RG Twitter

    8RG MySpace

    8RG Facebook

    8RG YouTube

    I guess I should take some time here to explain how this began, what we are trying to accomplish, what our motivations are, etc. Settle in - though I am just starting - I suspect this will turn into a long post full of twisty bends.

    Though the actual claiming of the URL for 8RG didn't happen until September of 2010, the energy behind the idea had been building much longer. In my individual case it is a lifetime of interest in creating positive social change that eventually solidified into something tangible as I aged. Do I have all of the answers? Absolutely not. Do I think I have some ideas worth considering? At least enough to make this attempt. Pretty simple really - and time, I suppose, will decide how right or wrong some of these things are.

    We're building this slowly - mainly because we are currently limited by my web site knowledge (which is dreadful) and my personal financial pockets (which are shallow at the best of times and mostly full of lint).

    At the moment I have two talented young folk pitching in where they can do so... a young woman in the Midwest of America and a young man in Singapore. As I am in the Deep South myself, we are quite spread out - but still determined to give this our best shot. Luckily for us, the internet makes our collaboration possible.

    I am a bit older myself. I have a voracious appetite for books that developed in my earliest reading experiences. Of those, my favorite subjects during my childhood were mythologies from around the world. I gobbled them up at every opportunity. This alone, I believe, opened up my inner world when my brain was still very fresh and flexible. I developed a very independent outlook and my moral compass was much influenced by the exposure.

    I also have memories of a man who visited with some movies on reel to reel (known as 8mm, perhaps, but I'm no expert). I don't know now if he was a neighbor or a family member or some traveling movie projector salesman - that part of the memory is long gone. I can't even pull up a face. I must have been very young.

    We didn't have a screen to show them on, so we strung up a white bed sheet. In my hazy recollections, one of the movies at least, maybe two, were Akira Kurosawa films (another I'm pretty sure was 'One Million Years B.C.' which my dad quite liked - I wonder why - *cough*  Raquel Welch  *cough*). 'The Hidden Fortress' is what I recall from this side of the event, though I am aware of the fallibility of the human brain and how easy it is to get old memories twisted up over time.

    I know that I've since seen 'The Hidden Fortress' at least a dozen times, so it would be very easy to get all of that confused now that my synapses grow more raggedy by the day. It could have been another movie but my mind has filled in the blanks with the Kurosawa movie. I'll never know at this point - the memory for me has become set.

    I don't even think it had subtitles that night, it seems like we just watched the images without understanding the dialogue and talked about what we thought was happening. But it was still very exciting. At least I thought it was.

    Not long after I graduated high school, I obtained my very first VHS player. Having grown up poor, I had never enjoyed the luxury of having cable access when it first came out, though I was aware of it and occasionally had a taste or two at a friend's house. Until I was on my own, it was just the 4 basic channels in my household (with a major bit of excitement the day a 5th channel appeared)!

    This first VHS player was magic for me. Though there were only small hole in the wall video rental places at that time, I quickly discovered my first two shelves of International movies. With subtitles. I was a happy lass that day. I watched and re-watched those films many times. They were mostly French and German films, I think, but Kurosawa was there as well. Some time later I ran across a copy of Yimou Zhang's 'Raise the Red Lantern' and it quickly became a favorite.

    I even encountered my first anime at one of the tiniest of those shops that was located near my older sister's house. It turned out to be a re-edited and dubbed Hayao Miyazaki film, though I didn't know it at that time. I just fell in love with the animation style (but questioned the box art since it didn't seem to relate to the actual movie). It was called 'Warriors of the Wind'. I later learned that the original is called 'Nauisicaa of the Valley of the Wind' and is considered a masterpiece.

    I rented it so many times that when the shop owner decided to retire the tape he called me to see if I wanted to buy it. Which I did. And I still have it (though I no longer have a player).

    I also learned later that Miyazaki was so upset that the American company had altered his film that he rejected further attempts to release his movies here for quite a while. But now I have a DVD copy of 'Nauisicaa' where I can view the movie as he intended, and also in the original language which I prefer. That has made me quite happy after so many years of waiting.

    But I am off on a tangent, which is a very bad habit of mine.

    The first sprouting of seeds related to this project (which were planted throughout those younger experiences) began during a series of late night conversations over beers with a friend from Seoul. This must have been around 2002 or 2003 (though I could have that wrong - time seems to run together over the years). The talk was the usual rambling kind that meanders here and there and everywhere during long evenings of excellent company, but much of it touched again and again on Asian issues - in relation to both native and Western perspectives - Asian and non-Asian. A good many of my personal feelings and beliefs firmed up in those conversations.

    At some point after that I began to scribble notes to myself and eventually collect them into a folder. There were possible names and some rough sketches of logo ideas in there. There were vague outlines of what I thought was important and what I hoped to accomplish. But as is often the case, real life gets in the way and the folder wound up sitting idle on a shelf.

    Meanwhile, I made a few more journeys around the sun and some connections with various online communities. Through those I met folks with similar perspectives on various things and began to express my thoughts on these matters. As someone who started out in life fairly introverted (and I still fall back into my reserved nature easily and often), there was a long slow warming up period. But over time I found myself involved to increasingly greater extents.

    There came a moment in 2010 when I revisited that dusty folder full of notes and realized that there might be something worth pursuing there. So I looked through the possible titles I had listed and chose the one that had long been my favorite, found that it was not yet claimed and snapped it up.

    Web building is often a mystery to someone like myself who did not cut my eye-teeth on computers. I am the first to admit I am an online bottom feeder - the lowest of the low in the internet universe. I am often baffled by even the languages that people speak now in the arts of Cyberia. I am muddling along at a snail's pace trying to sort out how to take what exists in detail in my mind and recreate it on the web. I suspect these early stages will be laughable later...

    As an artist - if only I could paint it and scan it  - like I did with the logos and backgrounds (along with a little photoshop help - which I also stumble through blindly)...

    Money being the other complicated roadblock - the main site may be a while launching.

    But here is the motivation:

    We (my young friends and I) do believe that the interest in the West for Asian arts and aesthetics have been growing into an 'Asian Renaissance' for over 20 if not over 30 years. Probably even longer if you start looking at every single step forward in history.

    Just one example would be language combined with 'study abroad' programs. 15 years ago I would still hear from college students that they were learning French or Spanish and that they wanted to study in Europe. Now, it is not unusual at all to hear Western students say that they are studying an Asian language and that they intend to live in China, Japan or South Corea for a few years. Sometimes they even mention that they intend to extensively travel throughout Asia.

    There's still a long way to go in positively changing perceptions of the Asian identity in the West, however. A lot of energy required to break through the stereotypes. Real and lasting change comes slowly over time - with repeated positive exposure. And there are probably many ways to accomplish some of those changes.

    Some of our goals with 8RG include building supportive audiences for Asian artists and performers in the West. Whether they are native to an Asian country or of Asian descent in a Western country - we want to provide an easy way for the Western mainstream to discover these artists and develop a hunger for more.

    We also want to recover elements of Forgotten History in relation to the Asian experience. For example, most Americans are aware of Ellis Island and its role in American history. But many of those same people, even if they are of Asian ancestry, have no idea of where Angel Island is or why it is important.

    We want to inform more people about what events there may be in their local areas, what organizations are working to improve the community, what websites are already building bridges, what resources are available, and so on. We want to share information about the history and heroes of Asia.

    We do believe that over time and with regular exposure, the Asian aesthetic will be normalized as a welcome and expected part of Western communities. We want to help build that respectful relationship between Eastern and Western cultures and Asian and non-Asian peoples.

    Again, we don't have all of the answers, but we want to try some that we think are possibilities. We're not fancy people, but we are sincere and committed to true social change.