“Soul of a Banquet” — New Documentary by Wayne Wang

By Dyske    November 2nd, 2014

The Chinese started immigrating to the US during the Gold Rush around 1850. The vast majority of them were from a small city in China formally known as Canton. This is why the Chinese food in the US are derivatives of the Cantonese cuisine. So, here in America, we have a very skewed idea of what “Chinese” food is. Compounding this problem is also the fact that these immigrants were not professional chefs or cooks; they were ordinary, lower-class Chinese people trying to replicate what they used to eat back home.

This is where Cecilia Chiang comes in. She is the subject of this new documentary, Soul of a Banquet, by Wayne Wang who directed one of my favorite films of all time, Smoke. She came from a wealthy Chinese family who was immersed in the haute cuisine of China. Dismayed by the state of Chinese food in the US, she tirelessly worked to educate the American public of the true depth and breadth of Chinese cuisine.


The first half of the film is about Chiang’s life, how she ended up in the US and accidentally became a restauranteur. The story of her visit back to China to see her family is tragic and moving. She started telling the story in English but switched to Chinese. Although I do not speak Chinese, the nonverbal communication was clearly enhanced by the switch.

The film also explains how Communism caused cultural amnesia in China, and Chiang’s role in preserving the memories. Because Communism went on for so long that certain cultural traditions and knowledge were lost; it was as if people stopped talking for a whole generation. Those who fled the country (many chefs to Taiwan) played a key role in preserving their traditions.

The second half beautifully documents the banquet that Chiang hosted at her home for her close friends. The dishes she served were so unusual that they didn’t seem Chinese to me. It becomes clear in the film that, for Chiang, food is a form of performing art; the food itself is only part of the whole experience she designs.

If you are a foodie, this film is a must-see. It tells an important story of one of the most influential cuisines of the world.

Halloween for Asians

By Dyske    October 29th, 2014

Who is Arthur Chu?

By Dyske    September 12th, 2014

The Documentary Film about Arthur Chu: a spokesperson for social justice, the new king of the nerds, and 11-time Jeopardy Champion.

Asians in the Tech Sector

By Dyske    August 12th, 2014

Apple just released their diversity report, and many are saying there are no surprises, but I’m a little surprised. If you read the headlines only, you would think Apple and other tech companies are privileging white workers, but that is apparently not the case. Take a look at the chart I created below. The percentages of white people at these tech companies are less than the percentage of Whites in the US, which means they are not doing particularly well in the tech sector. Given that Whites in the US have natural advantages, even if they held the same US percentage, it would imply that they are underperforming. The biggest issue here is obviously the Asians. The race that accounts only for 4.4% of the US population is filling up 15% of Apple, 30% of Google, and 34% of Facebook. In other words, all the other races are being squeezed by Asians, not by Whites.


Turning Japanese Politician into Avant-Garde Music

By Dyske    July 26th, 2014

The guitar version:

And the piano version (I find this one beautiful)

“How To Be a Black Panther” by Daisy Zhou

By Dyske    June 16th, 2014

Here’s another interesting Kickstarter project: Check it out.

“July 4th, 1968, Han Kang navigates through the day in a small homogenous suburban town as the only Asian American teenager. Today, both the anniversary of America’s independence and the death of a dear African American friend, ignites celebration, mourning, anger, and revelation.”

The Kickstarter page is here»

How Not to Fight Racism

By Dyske    January 7th, 2014

A friend asked me what I thought about this essay written by a Korean American college student, entitled “Transformed Into White Gods: What Happens in America Without Love”. This is a relatively common sentiment among Asian Americans. I heard plenty of it when I went to speak about AllLookSame.com to a community of Asian American students and alumni at Harvard back in 2002. I can certainly understand the pain, but I cannot relate to it. Not that I’ve never had this type of feelings, but that I cannot justify thinking about those feelings in this way.

I believe this way of thinking about race reinforces the idea of white supremacy. We humans exhibit this type of love and hate only when we have a deeply psychological attachment to something. Just think of anyone addicted to anything. We allow our objects of attachment to have power over us by being in that relationship. Drug addicts either love or hate their drugs; they have no choice of being neutral.

Also, this type of sentiment can come only from those who grew up assuming that life should be fair. You might say, “But life SHOULD BE fair!” But there is a big difference between thinking that it would be ideal if life were fair, and expecting that life has to be fair.

Imagine what it would be like to be born with a genetic disease that cripples you, and gets increasingly worse over time. With a handicap like that, you cannot expect your life to be fair. Just because other college kids are walking around the town with their friends to various bars and having fun, it does not mean that you should be able to. Yes, it would be amazing, if you could, but unfortunately it’s not possible for you. If you were to insist that life should be fair, you would need to demand that other people stop walking and stop going to bars and have fun. You would just become increasingly bitter about your own predicament. And, furthermore, unlike Asian vs White, there is no easy conceptual target to attack and blame your misfortune on.

Even among whites, we have people who look like George Costanza on one hand and George Clooney on the other. People who look like Clooney have a significant advantage over those who look like Costanza. Unfortunately, that is the reality we have today. There are plenty of white people who look even uglier or more pathetic than Costanza. It’s hard to say if being an Asian man who look like Jet Lee is better or worse. Race is just one of many factors that makes life unfair. And, it’s an easier form of unfairness to cope with because it is a conceptual framework that is easily understood by everyone and is already culturally recognized as a factor that contributes to unfairness in life. So, getting sympathy for it is a lot easier than, say, for some obscure genetic disease.

It would be great if life was fair, but it’s not. This does not mean that we should all accept the unfairness and do nothing about it. We should strive to make our society fairer, but the key question is our expectations.

From time to time, all of us have probably wished we looked better, and felt envious of our friends who are better looking than we are. If you were to expect that you should look as good as your best looking friend, you would naturally feel bitter, and your friendship would probably fall apart. Your great looking friend didn’t do anything to you. He too was just born that way. It’s not like he cheated somehow to get the better looking genes. So, expecting that you should look as good as he does has negative impacts, not only on the society but also on yourself. This is what happens generally when you fight against anything out of anger. It’s not that you have no justification for fighting; the real problem is that your efforts only make the situation worse, not just for others, but for yourself also.

To fight racism effectively, you need to be able to detach yourself from the concept of race first. If you are helplessly attached to it, you wouldn’t be able to fight it effectively. You might just spiral down the vicious circle of love and hate, like many drug addicts do.