Friday, May 31, 2013

TED Talk: "How Rock Music Shaped the New Mongolia".



Today Lauren Knapp uploaded her 16-minute talk at Greater Johnstown High School titled "Live from UB: How Rock Music Shaped the New Mongolia". Knapp has been in the local news the past year for her documentary Live from UB, and wrote at length in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in September on the country and its rock scene.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes about Victoria Lee, a Korean-American student who was named "an outstanding Asian-American student by the Asian-American Heritage Committee of the Pittsburgh Federal Executive Board". The article also mentions her parents, whom you might know as the owners of a large sports clothing store in the Strip District.

Pittsburgh is swell, but an "expat hotspot"?

The CNNMoney headline "Pittsburgh becomes expat hot spot" jumped out at readers on May 30, leading us to wonder why author opted for the present tense over something more representative of a developing situation. Those who choose to read the entire report---all seven paragraphs of it---might not get too worked up. Pittsburgh is a fine mid-sized city with rotten public transportation but is very insecure and boasts of any ranking or mention in the mainstream media, regardless of how vapid the source or cursory the glance.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Northwest Chinese Pop-up Restaurant, June 1 in East Liberty.

Northwest Chinese Food AVA

A reader passes along news of a Northwest Chinese Pop-up Restaurant event at AVA Lounge Saturday night, June 1, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm at AVA Lounge. To plagiarize the Eventbrite posting:
Come out Saturday for a sampling of authentic Northwestern Chinese food with dishes from the cuisines of the Chinese Muslims and throughout Central Asia. We'll also have beer and be playing various ethnic music from Northwestern China!
Tickets are, as the site says, $6 online through Eventbrite, or $10 at the door. Formerly known as Shadow Lounge, AVA Lounge is located at 5972 Baum Blvd in East Liberty (map).

Oakland's Kbox adds 8,000 Korean songs.

One of the biggest complaints of Oakland's Kbox, Pittsburgh's first and only Asian-style singing room, has been the lack of much other than Chinese-language songs. Kbox announced today that they've added 8,000 K-pop songs to go with the 13,000 English-language and 70,000 Chinese-language songs available. They've recently made their songlists available online, so you can browse the newly-added Korean songs on their website.

Any reader 노래방 favorites? A friend learned Kim Do-hyun's "사랑했나봐", and the relatively slow speed mades it memorizable for non-native speakers. However, it's not among the 8,000 listed:

Pittsburgh Magazine readers vote on best restaurants.

The June 2013 issue of Pittsburgh Magazine has the results of its readers' poll on best restaurants in Pittsburgh. For the Japanese / Sushi category, Nakama Japanese Steakhouse came in first, with Umi and Little Tokyo Bistro second and third. Sushi Kim was voted the Best Korean restaurant, with Golden Pig and Dasonii Korean Bistro rounding out the top three.

These results are similar to the City Paper's last fall, and 2013's haven't changed much from 2012's, with Umi replacing Ichiban Hibachi in the Japanese category and Dasonii bumping Green Pepper out of the Korean. The 2009 reader's poll also put Nakama and Sushi Kim in first place. A poll with more Japanese and Korean voters, though, would probably put Chaya Japanese Cuisine and Kyoto Teppanyaki on the list, and vote Golden Pig first place.

In other categories of note, Sesame Inn was voted Best Chinese and Nicky’s Thai Kitchen Best Thai.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Beautiful Birds, Entertainers, Samurai exhibits at Butler's Maridon Museum.

Maridon Samurai

The Maridon Museum has three special exhibits of dolls, figurines, and sculptures on display now through the end of August: "Beautiful Birds", "Entertainers", and "Samurai". The museum is located at 322 North McKean St in downtown Butler (map), and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Free Japanese classes at East Liberty Carnegie Library, June 6 - August 29.

The East Liberty branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will hold free Japanese classes each Thursday evening from June 6 through August 29 (excepting July 4). From the library website:
Learn conversational Japanese in a casual setting. Classes are free, and all ages and backgrounds are welcome!
The classes are 6:00 - 7:30 pm in Meeting Room 2, and the library is located on 130 S. Whitfield Street (map). 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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

WQED's "In Country: A Vietnam Story" and Friends of Danang.

Watch In Country: A Vietnam Story on PBS. See more from WQED.

A documentary worth watching is WQED's "In Country: A Vietnam Story", an hour-long 2006 program that follows a group of Vietnam veterans as make an emotional return to the country for the first time since the war. Accompanying the group is "Friends of Danang", a Pittsburgh-based non-profit with the mission of rebuilding and reconciliation almost exclusively known to the general public for the American destruction there. From a WQED profile [.pdf file]:
In Country: A Vietnam Story, tells two emotional stories; separate yet intertwined. There are the “Friends” themselves, the men and women who travel to and from Vietnam on a bi-annual basis, devoting their energies and talents to building an elementary school for the children of Danang. Their current reconciliation efforts are devoted to providing prosthetic and orthopedic rehabilitation services for children still being maimed by abandoned ordinance from the conflict, as well as funding the construction of a second school.
It's especially significant around Memorial Day, when we consider--among other things--American interpretations of the Vietnam War, a public imagining that focuses almost entirely on its own suffering: the loss of American lives, the tumultuous protests, and the upheaval of a generation. As we noted in 2011, the inscription on the Vietnam Veterans Monument in Pittsburgh, for instance, reads:
Welcome home to proud men and women We begin now to fulfill promises To remember the past To look to the future We begin now to complete the final process Not to make political statements Not to offer explanations Not to debate realities Monuments are erected so that the future might remember the past Warriors die and live and die Let the Historians answer the political questions Those who served -- served Those who gave all -- live in our hearts Those who are left -- continue to give As long as we remember -- There is still some love left. - T.J. McGarvey
No doubt a moving tribute to those who served and were forced to serve, but trying "not to make political statements" and "not [debating] realities" ignores the scale of destruction half a world away. We don't often enough acknowledge the enormous devastation wrought on Vietnam and its neighbors, the losses suffered by American allies acting on its behalf, and the tension their presence caused to Pan-Asian relationships. A major part of the American response to this war in particular needs to be atonement, not simply an accounting of its own losses, and projects like Friends of Danang are important parts of this.

Bonsai Show at Phipps Garden Center, June 1 and 2.

Pittsburgh Bonsai Show

The 32nd annual Bonsai Show will be held at Phipps Garden Center in Shadyside. (map) on June 1 and 2. It's presented by the Pittsburgh Bonsai Society and is free to the public.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bruster's ice cream looking at South Korea.

A quick line from a Bruster's press release yesterday caught my eye. The last paragraph:
Bruster's expects to add both domestic and international locations, including units in shopping centers, race tracks, airports and other non-traditional sites. The chain also is developing a franchisee referral and incentive program to be introduced this summer, with the goal of adding shops in current U.S. markets and western states. International markets being targeted include South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Bruster's is a chain based in Beaver County, PA, with 200 locations in the eastern US (and one in Guyana). Elsewhere in the release:
"Bruster's historically has been a spring-summer destination," [Chief Executive Jim] Sahene added. "Adding units with indoor seating, expanding into non-traditional locations and offering a wider array of products will create opportunities for guests to enjoy Bruster's year-round and on more occasions."

New products and flavors, such as meal replacements and snacks, including fresh fruit smoothies with protein powder, as well as regular and Greek soft-serve yogurts, are in development. They will be served in a fun, entertaining "treat theater" style and a colorful new environment. Guests will enjoy more ways to personalize their treats.
If Bruster's does open in Korea, its ice cream will complete most fiercely with Baskin Robbins (1,045 locations) and Cold Stone Creamery (51 locations), two popular and ubiquitous western chains there. Red Mango (94 locations) and Smoothie King (111 locations) are two others covering similar territory. Surprisingy, self-serve yogurt places like Razzy Fresh or Sweet Berry---where customers choose their own flavors of soft-serve and add their own toppings---haven't taken off.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Uniqlo coming to Philadelphia, maybe.

Curbed.com writes that the huge Japanese clothing design and retail chain Uniqlo will open in Philadelphia, joining locations in New York City and San Francisco and becoming the first in Pennsylvania. Uniqlo plans to eventually have 200 U.S. stores by 2020.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Patbingsu in Pittsburgh.

Sumi's Pittsburgh
A board advertising the coffee buns, green tea buns, chocolate buns, and patbingsu at Sumi's Cakery.

Now that the temperature is consistently higher than my weight in kilograms, it finally appears to be safe to write about patbingsu. 팥빙수 is a Korean summer dessert made with red beans (pat, 팥), fruit, shaved ice (bingsu, 빙수), and occasionally ice cream. A couple of days ago the KoreAm Journal looked at the different varieties that turn up on all the café and fast-food menus in South Korea each summer. In Pittsburgh, about the only place that offers it is Sumi's Cakery, a Korean bakery on Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill (map).

In larger cities you'll find it in Korean restaurants and cafes, of course, but also at Korean-owned yogurt places. Below is a poster hanging on a Sweet Berry in Oakland that was closed long before the picture was taken in 2011.

Patbingsu poster
Last year it was the McKeesport International Village Festival that used a North Korean flag in its advertisements. This year, it's the Ambridge Nationality Days Festival.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Glenshaw Giant Eagle tuna can display makes Korean news.

On May 15th Korea's Asia Gyeongje website covered a large can tuna display at Glenshaw's Giant Eagle, citing a March 31 reddit thread. That's today's update from our "Watching Korean news watch us" department.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Japanese film From Up on Poppy Hill at Harris Theater, starting May 17.

From Up on Poppy Hill
Not a poster, because it's hard to find one.

Starting near the end of the large Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival, which is running Japanese animated movies this week, the 2011 Japanese film From Up on Poppy Hill (コクリコ坂から) will play at the Harris Theater from May 17. Wikipedia provides a brief summary:
Set in 1963 Yokohama, Japan, the film tells the story of Umi Matsuzaki, a high school girl living in a boarding house, Coquelicot Manor. When Umi meets Shun Kazama, a member of the school's newspaper club, they decide to clean up the school's clubhouse, Quartier Latin. However, Tokumaru, the chairman of the local high school and a businessman, intends to demolish the building for redevelopment and Umi and Shun, along with Shirō Mizunuma, must persuade him to reconsider.
And the Pittsburgh City-Paper adds:
The film's small story is set against a larger cultural one, as Japan transitions from the sorrows and hardships of the last generation's wars to being a modern world power. Nearly every scene contains visual cues that show Japan's mish-mash of old and new, while the story illustrates this new generation, caught between the nostalgic pull of the past and the responsibility of leading this new Japan.
The film debuted in the US on March 15, 2013.

The Harris Theater is located downtown in the Cultural District (map). Showtimes are available at the theater's website; it opens on Friday, the 17th, at 8:00 pm.

Pittsburgh City-Paper on Lucy Nguyen and Vietnamese hoagies in the Strip.

Earlier this month my Facebook feed broke the news that Lucy Nguyen has returned from spending the winter in Vietnam to reopen her popular banh mi stand in the Strip District, keeping one of Vietnam's best street foods in Pittsburgh. This week the Pittsburgh City-Paper runs a quick profile on her, her popular sandwiches, and her following.
Nguyen is an established, and beloved, Strip District tenant who began selling the sandwiches outside of My Ngoc, the restaurant she ran for about 16 years. Though she has since closed the restaurant because it was "too much work," she still maintains her cart, now located in the parking lot of Bar Marco, from spring to late fall. She spends winters in her native Vietnam.

Nguyen's story is one many of her customers know: She moved to Pittsburgh more than 40 years ago, following her husband, a serviceman whom she met in Hue, Vietnam. They had three daughters. Nguyen worked in hotel housekeeping before opening her restaurant.

Guerrero says the food isn't the only reason he gets excited about seeing Lucy: "A lot of it is Lucy herself. ... [T]he food is good, but I'm also taken care of here."
She's located in the parking lot of Bar Marco on the 2200 block of Penn Avenue (map).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chinese film Inseparable at Maridon Museum, May 16.

Inseparable

Inseparable (形影不离) is at Butler's Maridon Museum on May 16 as part of this year's Taiwanese Film Series. The 2011 Chinese film was directed by the Taiwan-born Dayyan Eng, counts Kevin Spacey as probably the most recognizable actor on the poster to Butler audiences, and is summarized by the Los Angeles Times' blog 24 Frames thus:
“Inseparable” starts with an attempted suicide by a depressed man named Li Yue (played by the Hong Kong-American heartthrob Daniel Wu in his first major English-speaking role). Every day Li dons a suit and tie and heads to his suffocating office job at a prosthetic-limb company in an unnamed Chinese city. (The movie was filmed in Guangzhou.)

Li’s boss is corrupt, his wife, Pang (an investigative television reporter played by Gong Beibi), is always away, and he is recovering from a past trauma. But just as Li is about to hang himself from his living room ceiling, he is interrupted by his brash American neighbor Chuck (Kevin Spacey).

Together, they head out into the city in homemade superhero outfits to right the wrongs in a country suffering from widespread fraud and corruption, a vast wealth gap and a frustrated, angry populace. The wise-cracking expat Chuck proves to be both Li’s savior and nemesis.
The show starts at 6:30 pm and is presented by Dr. Alison McNeal of Slippery Rock University. The Maridon Museum of Asian Art is located at 322 N. McKean St. in downtown Butler, some 40 miles north of Pittsburgh (map). Previous installments of this year's series were Eat, Drink, Man, Woman and Three Times.

Midfielder Shintaro Harada to return to Pittsburgh May 18.

Japanese midfielder Shintaro Harada, who was a member of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Pro soccer league from 2010 to 2012, returns to Pittsburgh next Saturday as a member of the Dayton Dutch Lions. Available tickets for the 7:00 game run from $8.25 to $12.00.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Silk Scream Horror Film Night on May 11, Anime Film Night May 12.

NightmareTwo Moons KoreanAsuraTatsumi

As part of next week's annual Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival, a doubleheader of horror films show on Saturday as the "Silk Screem Horror Film Night": China's Nightmare (青魘) and Korea's Two Moons (두게의 달). On Sunday, Japan's Asura (アシュラ) and Singapore's Tatsumi make up Anime Film Night.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Para Para fitness class this summer in Bloomfield.

The Pittsburgh Dance Center will hold a "Japanese Inspired Dance/Fitness Class" on Sundays from May 19th through August 25th. Says their Facebook event page:
We have created a super fun dance/fitness class using pop music of Japan! They have some really great music!

This class will work specifically with the quirky dance craze known as "Para Para," which is sort of like Japan's version of line dancing. Need a hint about movement style? Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7h0z9IB_hY

This class will only be $5.00 and will be equal parts of Dance-Fitness.
Wikipedia has more about Para Para, and Youtube has an instructional video in Japanese (with German and English subtitles). The multitude of older パラパラ videos available are a fun look at a craze that hasn't completely left Asian pop, but prolonged exposure to that music may eventually make you want to drill a hole through your skull. The Pittsburgh Dance Center is located at 4765 Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield (map), and these classes will run from noon to 1 pm each Sunday.

Big Asian festivals in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus in May.

Ohio is doing Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month a little better than western Pennsylvania, with three large festivals that look worth weekend trips.

Cleveland Asian Festival
Cincinnati Asian Food Fest
Colombus Asian Festival

Monday, May 6, 2013

Japanese film I Wish in Erie, May 10.

I Wish

The Japanese film I Wish (奇跡) is part of 2013's Maria J. Langer Film Series at Mercyhurst University, and will be playing on May 10th. There are two showtimes---2:15 and 7:15 pm---and it's playing at the Taylor Little Theater on 38th street, on the northern edge of campus (map). The movie's played in Pittsburgh a few times in recent memory; the Pittsburgh Filmmakers' site summarized on one of those occasions:
The adventure begins with 12-year-old Koichi, whose parents are divorced, and who desperately wants to reunite his family. We see his sullen gaze on the active volcano that touches everything in his new town where he lives with his mother. His younger brother lives with his father. When he learns that a new bullet train line will open, linking the two towns, he starts to believe that a miracle will take place the moment the trains first pass each other at top speed. Features wonderful, natural performances from the kids.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kitschy, kawaii tote bags at Giant Eagle.

Cute bags by Blue Q being sold at the Market District in East Liberty (map).

Kawaii bag cupcakeKawaii bag ice creamKawaii bag toast

Similar kawaii designs for bags and coin purses are available on the Blue Q website.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reminder: Kennywood Asian Heritage Day, May 12.

Kennywood Pagoda @ Twilight
Kennywood Pagoda, copyright Kurt Miller.

Now that it's May and our weather is showing it, it's a better time to think about spring festivities. Asian Day leads off the community day season at Kennywood amusement park on Sunday, May 12, with events scheduled between 12:30 and 4:30. Details are still scant beyond just a generic "there will be food and performances", though Win-Win Kung Fu and the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh Dance Troupe are two of the groups scheduled to perform. Call 412-498-8411 for ticket information.

Kennywood's Asian Heritage Day and the Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival comprise Pittsburgh's two big events for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.