Thursday, December 17, 2009

Laugh with William at

Sorry I haven't posted since Thanksgiving. As with most of you, the holidays sweep me up in a flurry of activity. I usually search the Internet for artists to feature, but I knocked myself on the side of the head the other day because the obvious choice flashed before my eyes on Facebook. I've known William Soohoo since high school and recently got back in touch with him through social media. His cartoons always made me laugh and I was glad to find out he kept up his skills through college and career days to the present.

William (or Bill, but I never called him that) is a scientist by profession and many of his cartoons illustrate humorous situations in the fields of biology, physics, etc. But as a Christian, he finds comedy in church as well. Under "Humorous Illustrations," a worship leader is spotlighted and the rest of the room is dark. The leader says, "Good morning church! God is LIGHT and in Him there is no DARKNESS. Amen?"

He also editorializes on current affairs from a Christian worldview, not in a mean mocking way, but graciously funny. Under "Physics," a picture shows the earth in outer space. Someone on earth says "...Mankind will create the BIG BANG which started our entire universe." A light shines forth in space highlighting the words "...BEEN THERE...DONE THAT..."

You can view his cartoons on the website (averaging 14,222 hits per month and growing) and even order mugs, mousepads and tee shirts with his illustrations. You may even be able to custom order an item. (But if you can't, don't tell him I said so.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving the Chinese Way, sticky rice and all

As the holiday season draws nears, I'd like to post the very first article I got published ten years ago. Can't believe I've been writing that long. It appeared in the San Jose Mercury News. BTW, the Chinese characters to the right mean "Thanksgiving Day."

Thanksgiving the Chinese way, sticky rice and all

While I was growing up in the nineteen sixties and seventies, my family always ate the same dishes every year at Thanksgiving—but, oh, were they delicious! As a Chinese American family, we blended the best from both cultures into one meal.

My mother was very Americanized. She was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Alameda. She seasoned her turkey with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning and beau monde. These flavors mixed together on the skin formed a savory, crackly, pudgy texture. The most flavorful part of the turkey was the wing, because it was covered with the most skin. However, the very best part of the turkey, over which my sister, brother and I constantly fought, was the turkey wing tip, not only for the aforementioned taste, but because it also had the most fat and was good for gnawing. We weren’t concerned about our cholesterol as children.

My mother was also famous (at least in our family) for her stuffing. No one made it better than my mom. The aroma of the stuffing and the turkey roasting together was mouth-watering rich. Sourdough French bread cut into cubes mixed with cream of mushroom soup, celery, bacon, eggs and seasoned with thyme and sage---mmm-mmm, savory and pungent.

My Auntie Eleanor, however, made the Chinese equivalent of turkey stuffing, a traditional Chinese sticky rice dish called naw mei fahn. Her dish consisted of sticky bumps of sweet rice mixed with green onions, cilantro, tiny dried shrimps and Chinese sausage. I must describe the Chinese sausage. Salty sweet with big chunks of fat dripping out. The Chinese call the effects of the sausage yeet-hay—greasy, oily, fried foods that tasted so good, but were very bad for your health eaten in large quantities. It’s hard to translate exactly.

Homemade turkey gravy was the best--smooth and creamy. My mother claimed she made it the Chinese way. She put flour and water in a clean mayonnaise jar, screwed on the lid and shook it up. When the flour and water were thoroughly mixed, she poured it into a pot and stirred constantly. The American way, according to my mom, was to put the flour in a pot, add the water and stir. She said her way produced no lumps in the gravy. I never argued with her because, truly, the only lumps in her gravy were huge button mushrooms and tiny pieces of giblet and liver chopped fine. (That’s the only way I’ll eat liver.)

My favorite American side dish was broccoli casserole—sharp cheddar cheese mixed with cream of mushroom soup (again) topped with crunchy Ritz cracker crumbs drenched in melted butter baked in the oven. Oh yes, and broccoli.

One of the families that lived near San Francisco Chinatown was always brought a particular apple pie from a certain bakery in Chinatown. This pie was different from American apple pie in that it was flatter in height and the texture of the crust was drier and flakier. The apples were not as sweet and seemed more compressed. The fruit also seemed to have a matte finish rather than a glossy one. I like all sorts of apple pies, but this one is not overly sweet and the texture is unique to “Chinatown pies.”

After dinner and dessert, we were all more stuffed than the turkey was, and had lots of leftovers to eat for several days. More importantly, we were filled with memories of a joyful family celebration for years to come.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell Discusses Asians in The Outliers: The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell is not Asian American, but he discusses Asians and others in his bestseller, The Outliers. "Outlier" is a scientific term to describe something that lies outside normal experience. Why did so many Korean Airlines planes crash in the 1990's? Why are so many Asians good at math? Gladwell theorizes that generational legacies have more to do with success and failure than we realize.

Because of Korean views of authority and heirarchy, Gladwell says, a co-pilot and flight engineer had to speak to a pilot in "mitigated" or polite speech, even when they thought he was wrong. The pilot was in charge, despite being tired or otherwise not at his best. They could do nothing unless the pilot told them to. So when bad weather, a minor technical malfunction, and a tired pilot combined, trouble ensued and crashes happened. But Gladwell also gives an example of a non-Asian country in which the people have similar views of authority and heirarchy and a high percentage of plane crashes. So it wasn't just an Asian thing. Korean Airlines has since changed the way their cockpit crews communicate.

Gladwell theorizes Asians are good at math because 1) it's faster to count in Asian languages like Cantonese than in English and 2) Asians persist until they understand it. Where do they get this persistance? From their ancestors who worked extremely hard at the complex task of growing rice. He quotes a Chinese proverb that says "No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich."
Gladwell enumerates on many factors that contribute to individual success. Of course, a person has to be talented, intelligent, and hard-working, but those characteristics in themselves do not guarantee success. Outside factors which individuals have no control over such as birthdate, and birthplace are sometimes overlooked. Opportunities and cultural legacies also play an important role.

As an Asian American Christian, I can thank God for creating me the way he has and placing me in the time and place I live. I can seize the opportunities he places before me or ignore them. I have the choice to embrace generational legacies that help me and reject those that hinder.

Success can be a group project. In an interview, Gladwell said, "It's because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances— and that means that we, as a society, have more control about who succeeds—and how many of us succeed—than we think. That's an amazingly hopeful and uplifting idea."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Asian American Sports with Rick Quan: Interview with Michael Chang

When I found out about Asian American Sports with Rick Quan, I could hardly wait to share my thoughts on this unique website. Rick Quan is a Christian and had been a sportscaster in the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years. In April 2008, he started his own video production company, Rick Quan Productions. With the sports website, Rick is doing for Asian American athletes what I am doing for Asian American Christian artists and writers--showcasing the talents of sometimes overlooked Asian Americans.

At the time of this writing, Rick has posted seven video interviews of athletes. Featured this week is Michael Chang, retired tennis champion and devout Christian. Besides enjoying life with his new wife, Amber, Michael keeps busy with the Michael Chang Foundation, a faith-based ministry.

Other athletes profiled are Oakland A's catcher Kurt Suzuki, Olympic gymnast Kevin Tan, basketball player Willie "Woo Woo" Wong, Mariners' manager Don Wakamatsu, tennis champ Peanut Louie Harper, and LPGA golfer Christina Kim.

In most of the interviews, Rick asks the athletes if they have experienced racial prejudice in their sport. Interestingly, very few say they have. Each of the stars also gives advice to young Asian American athletes.

I will definitely bookmark Rick's website and eagerly await the next interview.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Francis Chan's Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

The topic of the Holy Spirit can become a litmus test. What you believe about him either puts you in one camp or another. But Francis Chan tries to emphasize what all Christians basically believe about the Holy Spirit. He shows that when Christians truly allow the Holy Spirit full control, marvelous changes can happen. He says, "I'm not going to get all charismatic." Neither does he discount what charismatics believe. He respects what theologians on both sides of the issue have written.

Some pointed questions he asks are "Why Do You Want Him?" Do you have right reasons for wanting to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Do you want to draw attention to yourself or to God? Do you want his power for selfish reasons or to edify other believers? I must be able to answer these questions satisfactorily before God can use me for His glory.

Francis tries to make doctrine practical. Churches can produce wonderful programs, attracting crowds, but if the Holy Spirit is not present and active, what good is that? (I'm paraphrasing.)

Interspersed between chapters are stories of Christians who have submitted to the Holy Spirit and are greatly used by him. Some are famous like Joni Eareckson Tada and Francis Schaeffer. But most are ordinary people whose lives are filled with supernatural power from the Holy Spirit. I appreciate the fact he includes Asians and Hispanics as well as others here. Francis's writing can appeal to any ethnicity.
Fogotten God gives food for thought. More importantly, it challenges Christians to not forget the third person of the Trinity and live lives that reflect his indwelling presence.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inheritance Magazine: A Periodical for Asian American Christians

Sorry I haven't posted in a couple of weeks. I just found out about a cool magazine especially for Asian American Christians. Inheritance Magazine has already published three quarterly issues. The periodical is available as a hardcopy and also online. It tackles contemporary topics Asian American Christians face. For instance, the Fall 2009 issue discusses falling in love, Asian American Christian-style. Topics include dating, interracial/intercultural marriage, "passive Asian guys" and more.

Inheritance's mission is to "unify the next generation of Asian American Christians." Each article strives to provide Scriptural insight, guidance, and encouragement for readers. Their goal is to create a unified and determined identity for Asian American Christians — a culturally aware and pro-active generation to be on the forefront of the Great Commission as one people.

Sean Lin is the publisher with three main staff members. Several different writers, artists and photographers contribute to each issue. As a non-profit organization, it strives to distribute free of charge and without advertisements.

I enjoyed reading Esther Huang M.'s story on her interracial marriage. When she first started dating her future husband, her parents required him to fill out a curriculum vitae, or CV, similar to a job resume. If he had been Chinese, they wouldn't have needed him to, but since he was Caucasian, they had no other way of finding out more about him.

As second, third, and fourth generation Asian American Christians grow numerically, Inheritance will help them grow spiritually and strengthen their sense of identity.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tommy Job Has a New Song of Praise

Born in Korea, but raised in the United States, Tommy Job spent his formative years in Illinois and Iowa before settling in New York. He began studying music at nine years old and by eleven, he was playing guitar at his church’s main service. At fourteen, he began to understand God wanted to demonstrate His love, power and strength to him through worship.

Tommy became involved in public ministry beyond his local church and traveled nationwide, often times performing to audiences of over 1,000. Songwriting became his passion. He took a leap of faith and moved to South Korea in the fall of 2001 to start that ministry. He began leading worship at a U.S. Army base where he played not only for the men and women in uniform, but also for Anne Graham Lotz, Evangelist Billy Kim and several generals.

Spending two years writing songs and recording, Tommy released his first album, Stand Upon the Rock, in November 2003. By spring 2004, he had sold over 2,000 copies in South Korea alone. Thanks to Tommy’s network of friends from the military, his album has received radio play here in the States.

Now residing in Nashville, Tenn., Tommy intends to grow his ministry through his music. He recently released his new CD, New Song of Praise. With music that appeals to the masses, he has been able to spread a message of hope and faith to thousands of people around the world.

I like his song "Mighty Is Our God." It's easy to learn and praises God as the Ruler of all creation. It reminds us of his attributes--holy, sinless, perfect. The instrumentation sweeps me into God's presence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chinese Mary and Baby Jesus Painting

I came across this image when searching for Asian Christian artists a while back. Though the painting doesn't fit the blog parameters of performing artists or writers, I thought it was interesting. I have never seen a picture like this before. As you can tell, it depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus, and baby Jesus as Chinese. I guess I'm used to seeing them portrayed as white. But then I came across a picture of the pair as black people. It's interesting to see how different cultures claim these two Jewish persons as their own. In a way, it shows that Christianity crosses cultural lines and is not just for the Western world.

I don't know who painted this picture. When I looked for it again on the Internet, I couldn't find it. Does anyone know more about it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If You Listen to Only Won CD, Listen to Glory

Only Won brings out the best of three cultures. On his American side, he's a rapper and actor, on the Chinese side, an engineer and martial artist. Overarching these two sides is his Christian faith.

Glory, his second CD, is a unique collection of rap songs glorifying God using English and Cantonese phrases and western and Chinese instrumentation. For instance, on the song "Glory," he says, "NAY HO YEE CHERNG SUW GOH WHAT JEH WAN HA blues, but look what my God can do." Accompanying the words is a lion dance drum, small gong and a synthesizer.

Only's acting credits include parts in The Pursuit of Happyness, The Hulk, and The Matrix 2 & 3 among others. He is a mechanical engineer and has earned a black sash in kung fu.

Some of you may have seen a parody on YouTube that Only performed with Larissa Lam of Kayne West's "American Boy," called "Cantonese Boy." In case you missed it, here it is again:

If you like rap, check out Only Won, and see what an Asian American Christian rapper can do.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mike Toy Pens Peanut Butter & Jelly: How to Find a Match Made in Heaven

When I first heard of Mike Toy's dating book, Peanut Butter & Jelly: How to find a Match Made in Heaven, I thought it might be a great book for my daughter. But when parents "suggest" a book to teenagers, they are often met with resistance. I suppose I could just leave it on the dining room table and hope she picks it up.

Anyway, the book is divided into sections for guys and girls and both. Since I'm a girl, I started with the female section, but that was a mistake because it referred back to statements in the males' part. Actually the guys' portion has tips on the art of conversation that anyone can use in many types of relationships. And learning what to do when someone breaks up with you applies to both sexes.

The examples portray mostly situations college and young career-aged people might encounter, but the Biblical principles and advice apply to teenagers and others too. The humorous, easy-to-understand language was an enjoyable read. Perhaps if my daughter hears me laughing, she'll wonder what's so funny and be curious to read it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Eric Owyoung Leads Future of Forestry on New Album, Travel II

Eric Owyoung and his Christian alternative rock band, Future of Forestry, are coming out with a new album, Travel II, next Tuesday, Sept. 8th. The band has been together under this name since 2006. Future of Forestry (FOF) gets its name from a poem by C.S. Lewis.

Hailing from Southern California, FOF plays to both Christian and secular audiences, which gives it a great opportunity to express art and faith in a variety of places. In a recent interview with Christian Music Today, Eric says,"...I'm passionate about—seeing God's presence touch people in a non-religious environment." Eric wrote all the songs and his wife, Tamara, designed the cover art.

I was able to listen to the first five songs on the album. Out of the five, I liked "Set Your Sails" the best. It encourages listeners to set their course for heaven's shore.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Junko Cheng Is at Saddleback and Has a Special Forces Kids CD

I had gone to a Junko Cheng concert at a Chinese church in the San Francisco Bay Area several years ago and wondered what she was up to nowadays. To my surprise and delight, she is now a worship leader at a "small" ministry called Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Junko leads both adult and children's worship services.

Her latest CD, Special Forces Kids, came out in 2008 and could be characterized as "pop music with the upbeat sound and upright message enjoyed by kids, tweeners, and grownups alike." Junko's website also contains videos of her and some young helpers doing hand motions to a song.

I like the piece "How Deep Is the Love of Christ." It emphasizes the boundlessness of God's love for us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Prayer Life, Produced by Nitin Adsul of EastWest Films

Nitin Adsul was born in India, but now resides in the Washington DC area. Before forming EastWest Films with a partner, he acted in movies and television shows such as "The Wire," on HBO and "As the World Turns," on CBS.

"Prayer Life" is the first film he has produced with EastWest Films. It won the Jury Award at the WYSIWYG Film Festival and the Best Storyteller Award at the Redemptive Film Festival, both in 2007.

The plot revolves around a corporate cover-up in which an attorney, with the help of his religiously grounded wife, his no-nonsense computer hacker brother-in-law, and a corporate executive struggling with his conscience, tries to prove his client's innocence of an accounting fraud charge that other company executives try to pin on her.

I thought the movie did a good job of making the viewer sympathetic toward the protagonist attorney and his client. The story presented people with real problems. I look forward to seeing more of EastWest's films.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Larissa Lam's "Revolutionary" Album Is Truly Revolutionary

Larissa is no stranger to the world of entertainment. In 2005, she released her third album, "Revolutionary," and has collaborated with top musicians and producers who have worked with artists like Prince and Christina Aguilera. Most recently, she can be heard on the Beautiful Faith compilation with a fresh take on the classic "Listen to Our Hearts."

Larissa grew up in Diamond Bar, California, and began taking piano lessons at age five. By age thirteen, she had written her first song. She graduated from UCLA and became the Chief Financial Officer for independent label NSOUL Records. Larissa can be seen each week on JCTV, a Christian television network, as the host of their talk show, Top 3.

I like the song, "Miss Everything," as it expresses her thanks for what she has been given. The words of the song tell a story that people can relate to, especially in a materialistic society.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang, Multiple Award-Winning Graphic Novel

Gene Luen Yang's colorfully illustrated graphic novel weaves three distinct stories together depicting his experiences growing up Asian American. The first stars the Monkey King, folk hero of Chinese legend; the second recounts the struggles of a Chinese-American boy trying to fit into a predominantly white suburb; and the third is a sit-com starring everybody's favorite racial stereotype, Cousin Chin-Kee.

Tweens, teens and adults will enjoy the book on different levels. I asked a thirteen-year-old boy to read it and give me his opinion. He thought it was interesting and funny. The plots were easy to follow, however, he did not perceive any deep spiritual message in it. I enjoyed reading it also and could appreciate the plot twists and how the author took a traditional Chinese tale and stories from the Bible and made them his own. A great book to start spiritual discussions from.

This book has won multiple awards including the Michael A. Printz Award, Publisher's Weekly Best Book of the Year, and was a National Book Award finalist in 2006.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Spend a Summer Day with Ming Chou's New Album

Ming is not your stereotypical computer programmer. He is a pioneering Asian voice in Contemporary Christian music and has devoted the last six years to writing and singing inspiring songs. But growing up in Los Angeles, music was not a major part of his life.

After graduating from UCLA with a Computer Science degree, Ming moved to Silicon Valley. However, his high paying job left him hollow, so he put it behind to embark on a wild journey of self-discovery.

Ming's mission is to spread encouraging radiant music and give a testimony of a changed life. Ming recorded his debut album "Summer Day" at the same studio as Jeremy Camp, with musicians that have worked with the David Crowder Band, Incubus, and many others.

I especially like his work "King of Kings." This song ponders the question of how a glorious infinite God could love sinners like you and me. I can hear this song being sung in worship services across America.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eva Sabiniano: 12-Year-Old Singing Sensation Was Born to Praise

Eva Sabiniano is an up and coming Christian singer. Living in Lynnwood, Washington, she has been singing since she was three years old. At twelve years old, she has already recorded two albums, Born to Praise 1 and 2. With a mesmerizing mix of Christian pop sung in an age-appropriate voice, she has a long career ahead of her. Styles vary from children's to gospel to rhythm and blues to Contemporary Christian. Young people and adults will enjoy the album.

I like "Jesus Is Always With You." It reminds me he loves us and is with us no matter what our situation is. The proceeds from her CDs benefit needy children and other ministries.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Deadly Intent, by Camy Tang--Gripping Inspirational Romantic Suspense

Deadly Intent is set in a Sonoma, California spa run by Naomi Grant, who is of Japanese and white descent. One of her clients is murdered and she is one of the main suspects. The other suspect, Dr. Devon Knightley, is her love interest. Both become murder targets as well.

This was a fun read as I love going to spas and reading mysteries. Camy writes "romance with a kick of wasabi" and this book has just the right "kick." Readers are engrossed in the story before they learn Naomi's ancestry or the name of the spa. The protagonist's feelings and actions are influenced by her culture, but not in an overt or stereotypical way. The story will appeal to a wide audience.

Monday, August 3, 2009

More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith

More Than Serving Tea shares true stories of how Asian American Christian women must navigate three cultures; Asian, American and Christian, that sometimes conflict with each other. Being pulled by expectations, perfectionist tendencies, and swallowing suffering are a few of the problems many AAC women face. I really like this book as it is very eye-opening. It speaks to me and elucidates areas that I suspected were true of many AAC women, but were never fully delineated. I' ve learned something about myself and others around me.

Kudos to Nikki A. Toyama, Tracey Gee, Kathy Khang, Christie Heller de Leon, Asifa Dean and Jeanette Yep for their roles in compiling this book.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Is An Asian American Christian Artist?

What is an Asian American Christian (AAC) artist? For purposes of this blog, I am including Asians who live in the United States, who profess to be Christians and perform or write works in English with a Christian theme. In the future, I may include Asian Christians from other countries who perform or write in English and those whose work is primarily in secular arts.

How will featured artists be chosen? Readers may suggest names that I can research or artists can ask to be reviewed. Artists should have music, videos, books, etc. available for purchase. They can be self-published or produced, or published or produced by another. They must be willing to be reviewed. Some artists may be interviewed as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome to Carol's Nook!

This is the first post for my new blog, Carol's Nook. What's it about? I'd like to showcase and discuss Asian American Christians in the performing and written arts. These include, but are not limited to musicians, actors, filmmakers, publishers and writers.

Compared to Black and Latino Christians, Asian Christians compose a smaller percentage of total Christians of racial minorities in the United States. But I never knew it growing up surrounded by Chinese Christians in a predominantly English-speaking Chinese church. Also, the cultural and racial diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area lulled me to the fact that most Asians are found mainly in the coastal regions of the contiguous U.S., the state of Hawaii, and in the larger metropolitan areas of the non-coastal regions.

I would like to give a voice to this "minority within a minority." I hope to provide a place for anyone interested in Asian American Christian culture to learn and appreciate what we have to offer to God and the world.