Saturday, December 28, 2013

Conflict Kitchen in the Korea Times.



Conflict Kitchen, located in Oakland (map) and "a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict", is the subject of a lengthy profile in the Korea Times.
In an interview with The Korea Times at a coffee shop in Hongdae, Seoul, Weleski explained why North Korea was an obvious choice for Conflict Kitchen.

“Our only interest is for people to create a space for them to be curious and to develop their own opinions,” she said.

“Initially, the restaurant was conceived to be a North Korean and South Korean restaurant. We wanted to talk about the conflict between the two nations and also the relationship that the U.S. has with the conflict between the two nations ... (To prepare for the project), we shopped in the market with North Korean defectors and cooked with them.”
Earlier in the month Conflict Kitchen was profiled in the Korean-language 서울신문 (Seoul Shinmun). The restaurant is closed through January 5th.
In September there was a bit of a controversy ahead of the Rubber Duck's visit, when the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust stopped a local museum from profiting off t-shirts depicting the generic bath toy. That, um, flap was relatively minor compared to the hullabaloo in Keelung, Taiwan, where the Rubber Duck has caused a "commercial circus":
Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman was upset about the arrangement for his Rubber Duck installation on display in Keelung and criticized the organizers for turning it into a “commercial circus,” local media reported yesterday, citing a letter written by the artist.

A day earlier, Hofman canceled his trip to inaugurate the duck display in the northern city, expressing disappointment over how the sculpture is being portrayed in Taiwan.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013



Almost got it. Helly Kitty tree at Kranyak's in Hermitage, PA (map).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Troy Hill house inspired by Naoshima's Art House Project.

Wallpaper.com recently looked at La Hütte Royal (The Royal Hut) at 1812 Rialto St. (map) in Pittsburgh's Troy Hill neighborhood.
German artist Thorsten Brinkmann has transformed a dilapidated, abandoned family home – and a particularly unattractive take on the suburban vernacular style at that – in the Troy Hill area of Pittsburgh into a (still slightly dilapidated) permanent art work.

The house, built in 1912, was bought from the city by local art collector Evan Mirapaul in 2011. Inspired by the Art House Project on Naoshimi Island in Japan, where artists have had their creative way with abandoned houses, Mirapaul invited Hamburg-based Brinkmann to come and see the house and think about what he might do with it. Multiple long-hauls later and every room in the three-storey (four storeys if you include the basement where Brinkmann has installed a boxing ring) has been wildly re-imagined.
Visits to La Hütte Royal are arranged by appointment only; email lahuetteroyal@gmail.com. for more information.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Former Pirates pitcher Masumi Kuwata on Japanese Hall of Fame ballot.


Via Kyodo Photo.

On November 30 the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame announced its ballot for the Class of 2014, and former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Masumi Kuwata (桑田真澄) made the list. Kuwata, the first Japanese player in Pirates history, pitched briefly for Pittsburgh in 2007 as a 39-year-old rookie. He accumulated 173 wins in Japan, 106 of which came before an elbow injury in 1995. Results of the Hall of Fame voting will be announced on January 17.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない) at Hollywood Theater in Dormont, January 18.



The Hollywood Theater in Dormont announced today a one-time showing of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない on January 18. The movie was released in Japan in August 2013 and is based on an animated television series. Wikipedia summarizes the plot of the TV show:
A group of six childhood friends drift apart after one of them, Meiko "Menma" Honma, dies in an accident. Ten years after the incident, the leader of the group, Jinta Yadomi, has withdrawn from society and lives as a recluse. One summer day, the ghost of an older looking Menma appears before him and asks to have a wish granted, reasoning that she cannot pass on into the afterlife until it is fulfilled. Since Menma does not remember what her wish is, Jinta gathers his estranged friends together once again, believing that they are the key to resolving this problem. However, hidden feelings, internal conflicts, and lingering feelings of bitterness from Menma's parents result in complications for the group as they struggle to help not only Menma move on, but themselves as well.
Says the Anime News Network:
The original Spring 2011 television anime followed several childhood friends who try to reconnect in high school after drifting apart due to tragedy. The film will retell the anohana story from the character Menma's point of view.
The theater, like the others hosting the North American premiere, is participating in a giveaway:
Those who attend screenings will receive limited quantities of an exclusive "Letters from Menma" replica of letters the character "Menma" writes to her friends in the film. Attendees will receive real flower seeds with the replica letters.
The movie starts at 2 pm on the 18th and tickets are currently available online. The Hollywood Theater is located at 1449 Potomac Ave. in Dormont (map), south of Pittsburgh. And if you'd like to take the subway to the theater, it's a little more than a block southeast of Potomac Station.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas cakes at Paris Baguette.



Korean bakery chain Paris Baguette has a location in Pennsylvania---and a bunch more in New York City and New Jersey---and will be selling their Christmas cakes from December 19 through 25.

Paris Baguette Christmas PororoParis Baguette Christmas Fresh Cream CakeParis Baguette Mocha Christmas
A few varieties available on the East Coast: Pororo Chocolate Cake, Fresh Cream Chocolate Cake, and Mocha Cake.

Christmas cakes are a tradition in Korea, where chains like Paris Baguette, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts, and Tous Les Jours accompany relatively ornate cakes with celebrity endorsements and cutsey gifts each year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pirates lose Taiwanese pitcher in Rule 5 draft.

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost one of its two Taiwanese minor-league players to the Milwaukee Brewers on December 12 in the Rule 5 draft. Pitcher Wei-chung Wang was signed by Pittsburgh in 2011, was injured during the 2012 season, pitched at the Pirates' lowest level last year, and was selected by Milwaukee in "the day's most creative selection". The signing means Wang, 21, will have to pitch in the Major Leagues next season in order for the Brewers to keep him. Pirates Prospects has more on Wang and the day's other activities.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Build yourself a Himeji Castle.

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A nanoblock Himeji Castle model, seen at the Waterworks Mall Barnes & Noble. It goes for around $160, and is described thus by its manufacturer:
With micro-sized building blocks, 3D buildings are constructed like never before! Watch in amazement as buildings are erected to even the tiniest detail.

Japan’s hilltop Himeji Castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture. Watch as this gorgeous castle takes shape right beneath your fingertips with over 2200 assorted color and size pieces, perfect for any nanoblock enthusiasts. Finished size: 7.9” w x 7.9” d x 5.625”. Includes detailed instructions. Not designed for children under age 14.
Last April I found a discontinued Lego Sungnyemun kit at the Cranberry Barnes & Noble, though as I posted at the time, if you're into Korean architecture or models, Korean companies produce more, and better, sets.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Teumsae Shin ramyeon

This variety of Teumsae Ramyeon is three times as spicy as Shin Ramyeon, says an improvised in Many More Asian Market at 3050 Smallman St. It opened in October, and because of the prices, selection, and parking, it's my new go-to Asian grocery store in the area.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"A Window to Japanese Culture", T'ai Chi classes at Pitt's Lifelong Learning Institute this spring.

The University of Pittsburgh's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers non-credit classes for adults aged 50 and over, and this spring's course catalog includes "A Window to Japanese Culture" and three levels of T'ai Chi.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:Q) at Dormont's Hollywood Theater, January 10 and 11.

Evangelion 3.0

On December 2, The Hollywood Theater in Dormont announced it will show Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:Q) on January 10 and 11. It's the third installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy, of which the eponymous EvaWiki has lengthy summaries.

The 2012 movie is being released in North America on January 10, and The Hollywood Theater will be the only one in the state showing it. Tickets are $10 and are available now online for both English-subtitled and English-dubbed shows:
- January 10, 7 pm (subtitled)
- January 10, 9 pm (dubbed)
- January 11, 7 pm (dubbed)
- January 11, 9 pm (subtitled)
The theater is located at 1449 Potomac Ave. in Dormont (map), south of Pittsburgh. And if you'd like to take the subway to the theater, it's a little more than a block southeast of Potomac Station.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Pearl Harbor tarnishes American dream".

Harold Sasahara

Thirty-two years ago the Beaver County Times marked the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack by talking with Squirrel Hill resident Harold Sasahara about his and his family's journey from California to Japanese internment camp to Ohio and eventually to Pittsburgh.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Documentary Danny from North Korea at Duquesne University, December 7.

Students for Human Rights will present the Liberty in North Korea documentary Danny from North Korea at Duquesne University on Saturday, December 7. LiNK describes the subject of their film thus:
Every year thousands of North Koreans make the dangerous journey across the border to escape oppression and poverty.

In March of 2005, Danny was one of them. Danny crossed into China and escaped a life of indoctrination, routine public executions, and starvation. As Danny traveled, he saw a world he never knew existed. A world where movement was not monitored by the government, information was readily available, and most importantly at the time, there was enough food to fill his empty belly.
The film is free and starts at 7:00 pm in room 105 College Hall (map). Those not attending can watch it on the Liberty in North Korea website.

Yayoi Kusama is still here.

jazz hands
"Jazz hands" in Repetitive Vision in the Mattress Factory, via imagesystem (Creative Commons). Not what's on display in New York City, but the best image available on Flickr.

On December 1, the New York Times writes about visitors lining up for a new installation, Yayoi Kusama's "Mirrored Room", that opened in November at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea.
“Mirrored Room” offers a little something for everyone. It is a reflection on death and the afterlife. It is a planetarium contained in a room the size of a large walk-in closet. Cosmic and intimate at the same time, it merges inner and outer space, science and mysticism, the personal and the impersonal.
According to the gallery's website, "[o]n some days the wait is between 1 and 3 hours."

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reminds us, though, locals can see a version of it at the Mattress Factory.
Fans of Ms. Kusama can have a similar experience with a lot less trouble at the Mattress Factory museum on the North Side, where two of the largest extant Kusama installations remain on long-term view from a 1996 retrospective, "Infinity Dots Mirrored Room" and "Repetitive Vision." Both have the repeating hall-of-mirrors quality, one bright, the other darkened, a contrast of exterior and interior in one visit. And "there's no time limit," said Alexis Tragos, museum director of development.
The museum is located at 500 Sampsonia Way on the Northside (map), and its webpage has more information on Kusama's permanent exhibitions.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Korean sandwich chain Sandpresso closes its Pittsburgh location.



Sandpresso announced today on its Facebook page that it closed its Pittsburgh location over the summer.
With great sadness, Sand Presso Coffee Shop closed on August 2, 2013. To all our customers we thank you for your business and support. It has been our honor & pleasure to serve you this past 2 years. We will miss you!
Sandpresso (샌드프레소) is a coffee and sandwich shop in South Korea common in and around the capital, and one of many that offers expensive-but-wimpy sandwiches there. It arrived in Pittsburgh in September 2011, the first and only Sandpresso in the country, and was the subject of one of this blog's first posts. It was located at 1125 Penn Ave., between the Strip District and downtown, and had some good reviews---"the best egg salad I've ever eaten in my life"---but ultimately couldn't survive with limited hours, an awkward location, and high rent.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fukuda's Toro Fest 2013, December 10 - 16.



Bloomfield's Fukuda restaurant is holding Toro Fest 2013, "Pittsburgh's First Annual Toro Fest", from December 10 through 16. A summary of events posted to their Facebook page and reiterated on the above flyer:
Whole Bluefin Tuna cutting demo, Bonsai creation demo, Japanese language and culture class, Sushi making sessions, and delectable fish will be flown in from all over the world with an exquisite menu never before seen in Pittsburgh during the festivities only at Fukuda.
The toro in this festival's name refers to specific part of a blue fin tuna, again depicted on the flyer. Fukuda is located at 4770 Liberty Ave. (map).

Pirates catching prospect Jhang named to Topps Short Season-A/Rookie All-Star Team.


Via MLBTW.net

Pittsburgh Pirates catching prospect Jin-de Jhang (張進德) was named to Topps Short Season-A/Rookie All-Star Team on Monday, MiLB.com writes. Jhang
hit .277 with five homers and 34 RBIs for the Jamestown Jammers. The catcher threw out 47% of base runners attempting to steal and had a .992 fielding percentage.
He was one of two Taiwanese players signed by Pittsburgh in 2011, was ranked #20 on a list of the organization's top prospects in January 2013, and was considered by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette representative of the "scouting revolution" in the Pirates organization. Lengthier and more technical amateur scouting reports are available on Pirates Prospects and U Gotta Believe.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Samuel C. Kang, the first Asian-American member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, has died. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes:
South Korean native Samuel C. Kang arrived in the U.S. in 1953, shortly after the end of the Korean War to study viola at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

He later returned to his native land but, in 1962, moved to Pittsburgh after he beat out 100 other violists to become the first Asian-American invited to join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Kang, who played with the symphony until his retirement in 1996, died at his McCandless home on Wednesday at age 83.

Every Day is a Holiday at Sewickley Academy, February 9.



Very advance notice for the recently-announced Silk Screen Film Series coming to Sewickley Academy next year. Of relevance to this blog is the 2012 documentary Every Day is a Holiday, which summarizes itself thus:
Chinese-American filmmaker Theresa Loong creates an intimate portrait of her father, a man fifty years her senior. In this documentary, we explore the bonds of the father-daughter relationship and place themes of growing older, immigration and racism in the context of “living history.” Paul Loong talks of his experiences as a POW in Japan and his subsequent quest to become an American. We discover why, despite much suffering, “Every Day Is a Holiday.”
The film starts at 2 pm and is free, though online registration is required. Sewickley Academy (map) is a private K-12 school in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Winter holidays in the Pitt Nationality Rooms.

SDC11152
Kodamatsu in the Japanese Nationality Room, 2012.

From November 17, the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh have been decorated for the winter holidays, and this year's Open House is December 8.
Rooms will be in Winter / Holiday Decor and Quo Vadis guides will be dressed in ethnic dress, stationed in each room, describing the rooms' appearances and customs.

Nationality Rooms Committees will be in the Commons Room offering food and drink for sale. The proceeds of sales go to Committee Scholarship Funds for Nationality Rooms Summer Study Abroad.
The various European rooms usually have the most impressive Christmas displays, while the two East Asian ones reflect their New Years celebrations. As of this writing, the Chinese Room is festooned in celebration of the coming Year of the Horse, while the Japanese Nationality Room has not yet been decorated.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Living with the Enemy author in the news.

Local state representative Richard Saccone is in the news for wanting "In God We Trust" to be displayed in Pennsylvania's public schools. Before this and other conservative headlines, though, the Pittsburgh native worked in North Korea with the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization and wrote a wonderful little book worth reading on his year there, Living with the Enemy: Inside North Korea. The title is facetious, and it's a book on the country that, uncommonly for the genre, provides insight without being judgmental or condescending. "My intention is for the reader", he writes on page 8,
to come away with a better understanding of the people of North Korea. My experience confirmed the most effective way to deal with North Koreans is to suspend our preconceived judgment for a moment and attempt to think as they do, to understand their perspective more clearly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania has a part-time opening.

The Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania, headquartered in downtown Pittsburgh, is hiring a part-time Office Manager and Program Coordinator.
The candidate must have strong organizational and administrative skills and experience. This person must also have a keen interest in and understanding of current Japanese popular culture including anime, J-pop and the like. Ability to read and speak Japanese and experience traveling or living in Japan is a plus for the position.
A fuller description available on the JASP website.

Anime Oribe, by Jeff Guerrero Ceramics.

A recent set by Jeff Guerrero Ceramics.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Conflict Kitchen's North Korean menu starts Friday.

SDC11834

The long-awaited (at least here) North Korean menu will begin at Conflict Kitchen on Friday, November 22. Conflict Kitchen, "a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict", is located in Schenley Plaza in Oakland (map). The signage that went up alongside its Cuban advertisements promotes tofu stuffed with rice (두부밥), cinnamon tea (수정과), fermented soybean paste stew (된장찌개), and a buckwheat noodle soup (메밀국수).

Update, 11/21/2013:

SDC11835

The menu is now posted, too, and includes bibimbap, naengmyeon, and tteokbokki, and songpyeon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Asian films in previous 3RFFs.

Old newspapers tell us a little about some Asian films part of previous versions of the Three Rivers Film Festival. Film lineups weren't published very often, and Asian movies---then as now---made up small fractions of the festivals as a whole, but there are some inspired choices, including: the first Studio Ghibli film, a 1992 Japanese porn-slash-drama, a Korean film that spawned "stories of viewers vomiting or passing out during the more gruesome scenes".

Pittsburgh LaputaTokyo DecadencePittsburgh Please Take Care of My CatPittsburgh movie The IslePittsburgh Lan YuDevils on the doorstepCave of the Yellow Dog PittsburghInvisible WavesPittsburgh thirst
Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ) was part of the 1989 festival; Tokyo Decadence (トパーズ) a couple years later; Take Care of My Cat (고양이를 부탁해), The Isle (섬), Lan Yu (藍宇), and Devils on the Doorstep (鬼子来了) played at the 2002 festival; The Cave of the Yellow Dog (Шар нохойн там) and Invisible Waves (คำพิพากษาของมหาสมุทร) in 2006; and Thirst (박쥐) in 2009.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hollywood Theater adds two more shows for third Madoka Magica movie's Pittsburgh premiere.



The Hollywood Theater in Dormont (map) has added a couple more chances to see the third Magica Madoka movie, Rebellion, make its Pittsburgh premiere. From the theater's Facebook page:
Response has been really strong for our December Madoka Magica Rebellion shows, so we're adding two additional shows for that Saturday, Dec. 7th.
Tickets for the 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm shows on the 7th are available online.

As we wrote last month, the third movie in the three-part Madoka Magica series will premiere in Japan on October 26. U.S. showtimes for Rebellion (叛逆の物語) were announced yesterday, and Pittsburgh is one of several cities to have December 6 screenings, the second-earliest date in the country behind the December 3 premiere. Rebellion will debut in the area at the Hollywood Theater on the 6th, with initial screenings at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm.

The Hollywood Theater also held the regional debuts of parts one and two in December 2012, and will show both again on December 5 at 7:30 pm, according to the movies' U.S. distributor's website.

Steven White presentation "China as a 'Innovation Nation'?" at Pitt, November 25.

The University of Pittsburgh will host a presentation by Steven White of Tsinghua University titled "China as a 'Innovation Nation'?" on November 25. The University Center for International Studies provides a summary:
China already vies with the USA for Olympic gold. Will it similarly catch up in the innovation race? Chinese firms have come to dominate many manufacturing industries in the global marketplace. The Chinese leadership and some executives, however, have recognized the critical need for Chinese firms to be more innovative in order to break out of the low value-added segments that they occupy in most of these industries. The recent emphasis on “innovation” and “creative industries” is actually part of a long-term, continued effort to catch-up with leading nations. This presentation traces this effort and accomplishments, and then reviews the significant challenges for Chinese firms to move beyond their current fundamental strategy combining imitation and cost-innovation.
It will be held from 3:00 to 5:00 pm in 117 Mervis Hall (campus map).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Free Japanese classes at East Liberty Carnegie Library, through December.

Very late notice, but the East Liberty branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has been holding free Japanese classes each Wednesday evening from October 2 through December 18. From the library website:
A fun way to learn a new language! Learn conversational Japanese in a casual setting. All ages and abilities welcome.
Library language classes are pretty informal, so students who have missed a month a session won't be hopelessly behind. The library is located on 130 S. Whitfield Street (map). Students must register, and those interested can do so online or by calling 412-363-8232.

A reminder that the Oakland branch holds Japanese for Beginners, Japanese II, and a Japanese Conversation Club on biweekly schedules each month. Each class is suited for a different level, so check the course descriptions for more information.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Discussion with artist Yasumasa Morimura at Warhol Museum, November 23.

On November 23, The Andy Warhol Museum (map) will host a discussion with artist Yasumasa Morimura, whose exhibition "Yasumasa Morimura: Theater of the Self" is running there from October 6, 2013 through January 12, 2014.
Join us for a lively discussion around the work of Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura, with The Warhol’s Director, Eric Shiner, Milton Fine Curator of Art, Nicholas Chambers, Assistant Archivist (and Adjunct Professor of Chinese and Japanese visual culture at the University of Pittsburgh) Cindy Lisica, and Charles Exley, Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature and Film at the University of Pittsburgh.
It begins at 4:00 pm and is free with museum admission.

Morimura gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon University before his Warhol exhibition opened, and its School of Art summarized his work thus:
YASUMASA MORIMURA’s fascination with the self-portrait, gay and transgendered life, art history and popular culture aligns him closely with the work of Andy Warhol. Renowned for his reprisals of iconic images drawn from art history and the mass media, Morimura literally assumes his own place in the historical narrative. In the process, he conflates issues of originality and reproduction, gender and race to create what he calls a “beautiful commotion.” Like Warhol and many artists today, Morimura explores the fluidity of sexuality and gender, and the meaning of difference in highly structured societies.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pittsburgh mayor-elect adds Debra Lam to Executive Team.

On November 7, Pittsburgh mayor-elect Bill Peduto announced his cabinet, "most talented and diverse Mayoral cabinet in Pittsburgh’s history, and perhaps the entire country". Among its members is Debra Lam, a Pittsburgh native who has previously lived and worked in Hong Kong. From a profile on the new Chief Innovation & Performance officer:
A native of Pittsburgh, Debra is returning to her hometown with her husband John after living and working in New York, the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

She is a graduate of North Hills Senior High School, graduated cum laude from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and earned a Masters in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.
. . .
While Debra has lived and worked across the globe, and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, she is excited to return and help transform Pittsburgh into an innovative, world class city.

Singaporean film Ilo Ilo (爸妈不在家) at Waterworks Cinemas, November 10 and 13.

Ilo Ilo

The Singaporean film Ilo Ilo (爸妈不在家) will play at the Waterworks Cinemas (map) on November 10 and 13, part of the 2013 Three Rivers Film Festival. The festival's website summarizes:
Set in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, this delightful film chronicles the day-to-day drama of the Lim family – troublesome grade-schooler and his overstressed parents. Comfortably middle-class and with another baby on the way, they hire Teresa, a Filipino immigrant, as a live-in maid and nanny. An outsider in both the family and Singapore itself, Teresa struggles to manage the boy's antics and find her footing in her new community. The two eventually form a unique bond, but just as Teresa becomes an unspoken part of the family, unforeseen circumstances arise.
The movie, one of four Asian films in the festival, plays on Sunday the 10th at 2:00 pm and on Wednesday the 13th at 4:45. Tickets are available online.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies at Three Rivers Film Festival starting November 9.

Totoro posterGrave of the Fireflies

Two classic Japanese animated films, My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) and Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓), are among the four Asian movies at the 2013 Three Rivers Film Festival. The two will not be shown back to back, though, as they originally were and as they often are today.

My Neighbor Totoro will first run at the Waterworks Cinema (map) on Saturday, November 9, at 2:00 pm. Roger Ebert wrote a lengthy review describing the plot and the themes, a review that concludes thus:
I'm afraid that in praising the virtues of ''My Neighbor Totoro'' I have made it sound merely good for you, but it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls (I speak of their personalities, not their appearance). It is awe-inspiring in the scenes involving the totoro, and enchanting in the scenes with the Cat Bus. It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need.
It will play a second time at the Regent Square Theater (map) on Sunday, November 10, at 2:30. Tickets for both are available online.

Grave of the Fireflies is, according to the film festival site and many other authorities, "profoundly beautiful anti-war film is praised by critics around the world as a masterpiece." To defer again to Roger Ebert for a summary:
“Grave of the Fireflies” (1988) is an animated film telling the story of two children from the port city of Kobe, made homeless by the bombs. Seita is a young teenager, and his sister Setsuko is about 5. Their father is serving in the Japanese navy, and their mother is a bomb victim; Seita kneels beside her body, covered with burns, in an emergency hospital. Their home, neighbors, schools are all gone. For a time an aunt takes them in, but she’s cruel about the need to feed them, and eventually Seita finds a hillside cave where they can live. He does what he can to find food, and to answer Setsuko’s questions about their parents. The first shot of the film shows Seita dead in a subway station, and so we can guess Setsuko’s fate; we are accompanied through flashbacks by the boy’s spirit.

“Grave of the Fireflies” is an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation.
Grave of the Fireflies plays twice at the Regent Square Theater (map): November 9 at 2:30, and November 12 at 8:00. Tickets are available online.

Pitt Korean Culture Association Pojangmacha, November 8.


Via this excellent Korean-language travel and photo blog.

The University of Pittsburgh's Korean Culture Association will hold its annual pojangmacha on November 8th from 10:00 pm to 1:30 am in the William Pitt Union, room 548.
Spend time with your favorite people to wind down and have a late night meal. Celebrate the Korean culture by playing games and eating FREE Korean food!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yoonsun Choi lecture “Race and Culture in the Family: Their Impact on Youth Outcomes of Asian American Adolescents", November 8 at Pitt.

A University of Pittsburgh press release promotes an upcoming free lecture on November 8th by the University of Chicago's Yoonsun Choi, part of a series from the Center on Race and Social Problems. Two excerpts:
Yoonsun Choi, associate professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, will deliver a free public lecture at noon Nov. 8 titled “Race and Culture in the Family: Their Impact on Youth Outcomes of Asian American Adolescents.” The talk will be held at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems, School of Social Work Conference Center, 20th floor, Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland.
. . .
Choi has examined how race, ethnicity, and culture fundamentally shape the development of minority and immigrant youth, a growing population in the United States. According to Choi, how preteens and teens manage family issues, peer pressure, and stereotyping will often determine their mental health and academic outcomes. Choi’s studies have shown that multiracial youths—compared to single race minority youths—can have greater difficulty navigating the challenges related to race and identity. They may also face more alienation. If they feel marginalized at an early age, Choi says, it may lead to cigarette smoking, drug and alcohol use, and violence.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Touch of Sin (天注定) at Waterworks Cinemas, November 9 and 12.

a touch of sin

The Chinese movie A Touch of Sin (天注定) will play at the Waterworks Cinemas on November 9 and 12, part of Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Film Festival. An excerpt from an October 2013 Los Angeles Times review:
"A Touch of Sin," the powerful if uneven new film by highly regarded Chinese director Jia Zhangke, is a corrosive depiction of the New China, an everything-for-sale society still figuring out how to cope with the dehumanizing effects of unbridled capitalism.

Jia, whose 2006 "Still Life" won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, has dealt with the problems of Chinese society in the past, but in a more allusive, elliptical way. Now his concern about the nakedness of the corruption and an increasing trend of individuals resorting to violence out of desperation has led him to modify his style in ways that are both awkward and effective.

Written by the director (who received the best screenplay award at Cannes), "A Touch of Sin" is an omnibus film of four separate but subtly linked stories that take place in different corners of the country and are based on real events that Jia, in a director's note, says "are well-known to people throughout China."
A Touch of Sin plays at 6:15 on Saturday the 9th and at 6:30 on Tuesday the 12th at the multiplex in the Waterworks Mall (map). It is one of four Asian films in the 2013 festival.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pittsburgh City Council issues proclamation on Saitama sister city relationship.


"15 yr Sister City dedication w/ Saitama Mayor Shizmu & Chairman Hagiwara in Pittsburgh Council Chambers" - @billpeduto

A delegation from Saitama, Japan, toured sister city Pittsburgh from October 28 through November 1. The visit received little attention, though an affirmation of the sister city relationship came by way of a Pittsburgh City Council proclamation on the 29th:
The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA and Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan, hereby jointly reaffirm on the 15th year anniversary that the two cities enter into the sister city relationship in order to achieve the following common objectives:

• Promote friendship between the citizens of their respective cities,

• Foster mutual understanding and trust through cultural, social, educational, economic and sports activities,

• Follow the guidelines of Sister Cities International,

• Cooperate together in an ever-lasting effort to deepen friendship and goodwill, and

• Encourage the mutual growth and spirit of the continued Renaissance for both cities through the exchange of information and the promotion of trade and business development in the future.

The City of Pittsburgh and Saitama City hereby pledge to exercise their collective best efforts to achieve the above-mentioned common goals in order to deepen the friendship between the cities’ respective citizens and governments.
This agreement is hereby signed by the representatives of both cities, whose signatures appear below, in order to confirm the above accord.

The 29th day of October, 2013

In the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Phan Thi Kim Phuc, "The Girl in the Picture", at Sewickley Academy, November 7.

Sewickley Academy (map) will host Phan Thị Kim Phúc for two talks titled "The Girl in the Picture" on November 7 as part of the school's Sewickley Series of speakers and events. From a press release:
The Vietnam War knows many tragedies. A photograph of a young girl running naked down a road, her skin on fire with napalm, changed the way the world looked at war. The girl in the picture is Kim Phuc.

In 1997, Kim established The Kim Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to funding programs to heal children in war torn areas of the world. During her time at the Academy, Kim will share her message of forgiveness with the community.
The two talks are scheduled for 11:15 am and 12:45 pm in the Middle School and High School assembly rooms, respectively. Both are free and open to the public.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pittsburgh Sakura Project Fall Planting Day, November 2.


Kazuko Macher's entry placed second in the Pittsburgh Sakura Project's 2013 photo contest.

The Pittsburgh Sakura Project will hold its 2013 Fall Planting Day November 2nd from 10:00 to noon in North Park (map). The group has been planting cherry blossom trees (sakura) and other foliage around the boathouse since April 2009, and is looking for volunteers among the general public for 30 more this fall. More information is available on the group's website and on its registration flyer (.pdf).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Delegation from sister city Saitama to visit Pittsburgh, October 28 - November 1

From the 28th through a delegation from Saitama, Japan, will be in Pittsburgh touring their sister city. The itinerary includes a meeting with City Council and Bill Peduto, a visit to the University of Pittsburgh and its Japanese Nationality Room, a tour of Pittsburgh attractions like Phipps Conservatory and the Heinz History Center, a stop at the Akiko Kotani exhibition at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and a cherry tree planting with the Pittsburgh Sakura Project at North Park.


Part of a mural saying "Hello, Japan" to visiting students in 1990.

The roots of the relationship were education and economics. Flipping through old papers from the 1980s and 1990s shows examples of cultural exchanges between the two cities before sister city status was cemented on May 5, 1998. A couple from 1990 worth reading on the background of Omiya's (later called Saitama) interest in Pennsylvania and on specific exchange programs are "Keystone Oaks Embraces Japan's Culture" and "Visit Helps Relax 'Stiff' Japanese Stance Toward West". Additionally, the man who would become superintendent of the Mt. Lebanon School District wrote in the Reading Eagle that spring on what Japanese schools do well, raising points that are still found in casual analyses of Asian education systems today. Several items from Omiya were donated to the University of Pittsburgh, along with over $20,000 from various Omiya organizations and individuals, to decorate and develop the Japanese Nationality Room. A 1997 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article counted 16 visits from Omiya delegations to that point; the last visit here was in 2007. Unfortunately it's not much more than a nominal relationship these days, since Pittsburgh's economy rebounded and the need for humility diminished.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pitt Players present[ed] The Yellow Jacket.

The Yellow Jacket
From 1942's The Owl, the University of Pittsburgh's yearbook (via Documenting Pittsburgh).

Around this time in 1941, the Pitt Players opened their season with "the delightful Chinese fantasy" The Yellow Jacket.
In line with the Players' policy of producing at least one experimental drama each year, Mr. Whitehill chose this allegorical satire of the Oriental theatre convention. Over make-believe mountains, across imaginary rivers, through mythical snow storms, Woo Hoo Git (John Reid) made his way in search of his lost heritage. Fantastic spiders did not daunt him, nor were the temptations of beautiful women in "the flowery paths of pleasant ways" enough to turn him from his quest. The play was comparable to an Oriental Our Town . . . The play was more than amusingly novel, and the Players presented it admirably.
A 2010 Theater Journal article, "Trying on The Yellow Jacket: Performing Chinese Exclusion and Assimilation", goes into the contemporary politics and modern interpretations of the play, which not surprisingly didn't age well.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jackie Chan movie CZ12 (十二生肖) at the Waterfront.

cz12The Hong Kong movie CZ12 (十二生肖) was released in the US on October 18 and is playing in Pittsburgh at the AMC Loews Waterfront. It stars Jackie Chan and was, until this year, the second-highest grossing Chinese-language movie in China. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post summarizes:
Reprising the adventurer/thief role he first played in 1987's Armour of God, JC (the character's name) is hired to steal animal head relics that once were displayed in the Summer Palace in Beijing. Along the way, he encounters a greedy collector (Oliver Platt) forging fakes, bumbling and accident-prone French folks, some pirates, and a beautiful antique activist (Yao Xingtong) who gets him to grow a conscience.
A cursory glance around the internet shows mostly poor reviews, though, including the SCMP's, which calls the movie "sad and sorry" and writes "CZ12 is like watching a former star athlete struggle in a meaningless game."

Showtimes for today and Thursday are 2:10‎, ‎4:40‎, ‎7:20‎, and 9:55pm‎, with 11:05am‎ and ‎4:35pm‎ on Friday and Saturday.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro among four Asian movies at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Film Festival.

Totoro posterGrave of the Fireflies
Ilo Iloa touch of sin

The Three Rivers Film Festival, which runs in Pittsburgh from November 8 through November 23, announced their schedule of films today, a lineup that includes four Asian movies and one Lao-language film. The four are the classic Japanese animated films My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) and Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓), China's A Touch of Sin (天注定), and Singapore's Ilo Ilo (爸妈不在家). Schedules are available online, and we'll have more detailed posts on the movies in the next two weeks. (No, Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro will not be shown back-to-back, as they often are.)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Panel discussion "Political and Economic Trilateralism in Northeast Asia: The Future of Relations Between China, Japan, and Korea" at Pitt, October 24.

Political and Economic Trilateralism in Northeast Asia Pitt
From the University of Pittsburgh Asian Studies Center Facebook page.

On October 24, the University of Pittsburgh Asian Studies Center will host "Political and Economic Trilateralism in Northeast Asia: The Future of Relations Between China, Japan, and Korea" at 12:30 pm in 4130 Posvar Hall (campus map).

Hong Kong movie A Simple Life at Clarion University Venango College, October 26.

On the 26th, Clarion University's Venango College will show A Simple Life (桃姐), the 2012 Hong Kong movie that's part of the school's Independent Film Series. Dramacrazy provides a summary likely plagiarized from elsewhere:
A solemn yet humorous exploration of seniority, the film tells a bittersweet story revolving around the lives of elderly maid Sister Tao and her master, played respectively by veteran actress Deanie Ip and superstar Andy Lau, whose past screen collaborations serve to inspire enormous chemistry between their characters. Their impeccable performances have earned numerous prestigious prizes for the film, including Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, Best Director, Actor, and Actress at the Golden Horse Awards, and the rare feat of the Big Five (Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress) at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Sister Tao (Deanie Ip) has served five generations of the Leung family since she was thirteen. Today, at over seventy years old, she continues to take care of Roger (Andy Lau), the only member of the family left in Hong Kong. After suffering a stroke at home one day, Tao realizes it's about time she retired, so she asks Roger to find her a nursing home for rehabilitation. Tao struggles to adjust to the strange new environment as well as her eccentric fellow inmates, but Roger is there to care for this mother figure who has devoted her life to his.
The movie runs from 7:00 to 8:30 pm and is held at the Robert W. Rhoades Center. The Venango College campus is held on the outskirts of Oil City, PA (map), and over the years has shown a number of foreign movies not often seen around here.