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 (8RedGates.com).

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.