Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shen Yun in Pittsburgh, February 15-16, 2012.

Chinese classical dance company Shen Yun will be performing at the Benedum Center on February 15th and 16th, 2012. The website promotes:
Inspired by the spirit of an ancient culture, Shen Yun Performing Arts brings to life classical Chinese dance and music in a gloriously colorful and exhilarating show. Its masterful choreography and graceful routines range from grand classical processions to ethnic and folk dances, with gorgeously costumed dancers moving in stunning synchronized patterns. Based on ancient heroic legends and modern courageous tales, Shen Yun and its breathtaking beauty are not to be missed.
The performance does look impressive, if the website and promotional materials are to be trusted. Tickets are relatively pricey, ranging from $50 to $150.

Reviews of the show have been mixed, due primarily to the company's religious ties. Wikipedia has a summary of those comments. If Falun Gong plays a part in the performance, it is relatively hidden from the promotional materials. It isn't mentioned at all in the brochures lying around town, and it wasn't until reading the very end of their large coffee table book at the Pittsburgh Corporate Sponsorship Festival last summer that I made the connection.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday cards for Northern Japan.

This worthy cause has been making the rounds on Facebook and blogs:
If you have a pen, paper and a little time for children in Tohoku (the region of northern Japan where the earthquake and tsunami happened), please consider writing a Christmas or holiday card to them! A professor emeritus from Chuo University has started this project called 'Christmas Cards from Friends Around the World'. The letters from other countries will surely cheer the children up. Thank you very much for your cooperation with this project! Cards can be written in simple English or in Japanese – any kind of card is fine, from short messages to commercially printed or handmade cards. The cards can be sent directly (preferably in time for the holiday – arrival in Japan by December 16th is preferred so they can be distributed at an event) to:

Mrs. Mayumi Hoshi
Shichigahama-cho Saigai Volunteer Center
Noyama 5-9, Yoshidahama
Miyagi 985-0802

The Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh will also be collecting cards to send or providing supplies to make cards. If you’d like us to mail the cards on your behalf, you can drop them off at 4104 Posvar Hall or mail them to us so that we can express mail the cards to Japan by DECEMBER 16 (in time to reach Japan for the holidays):

Cards for Japan Project
c/o Jennifer Murawski
Asian Studies Center
University of Pittsburgh
4104 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

To see the full request for cards with further information (in Japanese only), you can find a copy of the original the announcement at http://www.jetaausa.com/wp-content/uploads/Xmas-Card-Project.pdf.
If you're interested in participating with Pitt, check the Asian Studies Center Facebook page for updates: for example, they can provide you with card stock, and have written some tips on making your card.

"The Blood of Yingzhou District", November 30th.

The University of Pittsburgh will show "The Blood of Yingzhou District (颍州的孩子)" Wednesday afternoon, November 30th, as part of the Asian Studies Center Global Film Series.
Gao Jun is an AIDS orphan in a remote village of Anhui Province, China. In this Academy Award-winning documentary, the young protagonist does not speak a word until the closing minutes of the film. And little is known about him, not even his age. What is known, and is poignantly depicted in this film, is how traditional Chinese obligations of family and village collide with the terror of infection with HIV/AIDS and how these forces play out in the lives of children like Gao Jun.
No registration required.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shonen Knife in Pittsburgh, 11/17.

Via the 31st Street Pub's Facebook page.

Punk group Shonen Knife, one of the better-known Japanese rock bands internationally, will be playing the 31st Street Pub in the Strip District on Thursday, November 17th. The band's founder said in an interview with the Beaver County Times (lol what?) of their Pittsburgh show last year:
I remember the audience there were so energetic and so kind to us. I can't wait to see them. I like the venue 31st Street Pub. It's rock 'n' roll.
The group has opened for Nirvana and Sonic Youth, and says of their upcoming set,
We'll play our original songs from early and recent albums and an "Osaka Ramones" set, too. Everybody must have fun.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stone pagodas in Fox Chapel.

Neat discovery while driving along Squaw Run Road in Fox Chapel: two loose-stone pagodas (돌탑).

The creek alongside them made it difficult to get too close, but they look to be between four and five feet high, and must've taken several hours each to build. You'll find these frequently when hiking in Korea: some as impressive as this (or larger), and some only three or five stones high.

Poor choice of flag for "I'm a Japanese Steeler Fan" shirt.

Make anything black and yellow in Pittsburgh and you'll sell a lot of it except Pirates merchandise. Make something that appeals to locals' interest in their ethnicities and you'll sell a lot more. So it's no surprise that a vendor in the strip district has a whole storefront full of "I'm a _______ Steeler Fan" shirts with dozens of ways to fill in the blank. What is surprising is the way Burgh Nation Tees chose to decorate the Japanese one.

The Rising Sun Flag
is considered offensive in East Asian countries, specifically in China and the Koreas, as it is considered to be associated with Japanese militarism and Japanese imperialism during World War II.
It looks more interesting, I guess, than the current Japanese flag, and as such it gets used inappropriately on t-shirts and in ad campaigns (such as by the Chicago Cubs when Kosuke Fukudome joined them in 2008).

While many of the shirts---like the English, Italian, and Korean versions, for example---have the country's flag, others---like the Slovak, Ukranian, and Puerto Rican ones---have the country's shape or another easily-recognizable emblem. A typical yinzer reaction to anyone being upset by the shirt would be "well this ain't China or the Koreas". But considering how few Japanese visitors to and residents of Pittsburgh would by a "I'm a Japanese Steelers Fan" shirt to begin with, and how even fewer would wear one with this logo, Burgh Nation Tees might want to think about switching to something less controversial when they print the next batch.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Korea Society presents: Korea Day Follow-On {Pittsburgh}, December 1.

The Korea Society will be presenting a "Korea Day Follow-On" in Pittsburgh on December 1st at the Fairmont Hotel.
The Korea Society and The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh co-host an evening on New Trends in Asia for Council members and young professionals in policy, business, and foundations. Featured speakers include World Affairs Council President Steve Sokol; The Korea Society Senior Vice President, Dr. Stephen Noerper; The Asia Society’s Executive Director of Global Leadership Initiatives, Dr. Mike Kulma; and The Korea Society Assistant Director of Policy, Nikita Desai. Slides of works from the recent The Korea Society exhibition, Social Graphics: The Art of Jeski (Jeseok Yi), are on-view at The Fairmont Pittsburgh event.
The Korea Society is, explains the website,
an organization that, for over 50 years, has promoted greater awareness, understanding, and cooperation between the peoples of the Unites States and Korea. From our base in New York City, we present timely and informative public programs in business, policy, education, culture, and the arts.

Our active Korean Studies program provides American educators and students with expense-paid opportunities for study and travel in Korea. The Society also programs a nationwide schedule of Korean performing-arts groups and exhibits, and a new “Korea Day” series brings discussions of business, policy, and cultural affairs to regional capitals throughout the United States. In addition, many of our programs reach national audiences through a growing online presence.
Browse some of "Jeski's" work online at his website. (Casual observers might know him best not for his award-winning campaigns but for his ridiculous "Kimchi Prevents Flu" mask during the swine flu scare in 2009.

Asian Hip Hop Summit in Pittsburgh, 2011.

The Asian Hip Hop Summit was at Ava Lounge on November 8th, South Highland Avenue. Little sense in advertising an event after it already happened, but we can keep our eyes and ears open for any future appearances.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Room to Read, and Friends of Danang, helping in Vietnam.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reprinted a New York Times column on John Wood and his philanthropic mission to build libraries and schools around the world, specifically in Vietnam. An excerpt, reprinted elsewhere:
ONE of the legendary triumphs of philanthropy was Andrew Carnegie’s construction of more than 2,500 libraries around the world. It’s renowned as a stimulus to learning that can never be matched — except that, numerically, it has already been surpassed several times over by an American man you’ve probably never heard of.

I came here to Vietnam to see John Wood hand out his 10 millionth book, at a library that his team founded in this village in the Mekong Delta — as hundreds of local children cheered and embraced the books he brought as if they were the rarest of treasures. Wood’s charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 of these libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools.
. . .
“There are no books for kids in some languages, so we had to become a self-publisher,” Wood explains. “We’re trying to find the Dr. Seuss of Cambodia.” Room to Read has, so far, published 591 titles in languages including Khmer, Nepalese, Zulu, Lao, Xhosa, Chhattisgarhi, Tharu, Tsonga, Garhwali and Bundeli.

It also supports 13,500 impoverished girls who might otherwise drop out of school. In a remote nook of the Mekong Delta, reachable only by boat, I met one of these girls, a 10th grader named Le Thi My Duyen. Her family, displaced by flooding, lives in a shabby tent on a dike.

When Duyen was in seventh grade, she dropped out of school to help her family out. “I thought education was not so necessary for girls,” Duyen recalled.

Room to Read’s outreach workers trekked to her home and cajoled the family to send her back to class. They paid her school fees, bought her school uniforms and offered to put her up in a dormitory so that she wouldn’t have to commute two hours each way to school by boat and bicycle.

Now Duyen is back, a star in her class — and aiming for the moon.
It reminded me of a Pittsburgh-based group I saw profiled on WQED some time ago, Friends of Danang. The group's goals, as published on their website, are:
* Raising funds to support humanitarian projects in and around the seaport city of Danang, Vietnam.
* Nurturing a better understanding between the people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Danang, Vietnam.
* Presenting an opportunity for anyone who has been touched by the war in Vietnam to contribute to acts of human healing.
It's encouraging to see this charitable work continue decades after the war ended. So much of the American interpretation of the war focuses on its own suffering: the loss of lives, the tumultuous protests, and the upheaval of a generation. 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, 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 conflict their presence wrought on 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 Room to Read and Friends of Danang are important parts of this.

Karaoke in Pittsburgh, November 19th.

Those interested in Asian-style karaoke may want to join The Pittsburgh Japanese Language, Culture, and Food Group at Korea Garden in Oakland on November 19th for their Karaoke Night. Join the Meetup.com event group to RSVP, and watch the PJCLFG group for future events.

By Asian-style we mean the way カラオケ—노래방, or KTV—is done in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, respectively. In Pittsburgh karaoke usually means singing lame 80s songs to a bar full of people waiting for you to sit down and shut up. In East Asia, karaoke is done among friends, family, and co-workers in small, private rooms.

Conference room Singing room in Korea Garden.

This meeting will be at Korea Garden, which while not cozy is more equipped for such a set-up. There is also karaoke at Green Pepper, another Korean restaurant in Pittsburgh, but their large karaoke room is actually half the restaurant, is open to and endured by non-singing customers, and is more western and far more uncomfortable to those used to Asia.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beijing Dance Company at Byham Theater, November 15th.

The Beijing Dance Company will be making its Pittsburgh debut at the Byham Theater on November 15th.
Bringing alive the masterful choreography of Zhang Jianmin (House of the Flying Daggers, The Butterfly Lovers) and Chen Weiya's classic Emperor Qin's Soldiers, the Beijing Dance Company, housed at the famed Beijing Dance Academy, presents an exciting program of classical Chinese dance fused with vibrant, cutting-edge new works. Don't miss this opportunity to experience the magic and mystery of China's best dancers who have already captured Europe and Asia by storm!
The show starts at 7:30 p.m., with a free "Meet the Artists" session at 6:30. Tickets start at $38, but discounts are available for current University of Pittsburgh students by using promo code Pitt1112.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pitt Nationality Rooms start winter holiday decorating November 12th.

It's way too early to think about Christmas, according to my old-school calendar, but nevertheless the Nationality Rooms in the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning will begin decorating for the winter holidays on November 12th. December 4th will be an Open House with free admission and a variety of performances, crafts, and foods. Check the schedule for more information on visiting.

There are 27 rooms representing different countries and cultures, including China and Japan. Thai and Korean rooms are still in the planning and fund-raising stages, and the Philippine Nationality Room is scheduled for Fall 2012 completion.

Local student "immersed in South Korean culture" during summer mission trip.

Suburban Pittsburgh is served by numerous smaller newspapers that were absorbed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review many years ago. The news in them is often of the "Local horse has baby" or "Library gets new DVD" variety, but occasionally there is stuff with a larger scope. In a recent issue of North Journal, a local high school graduate was one of several students to spend the summer in Seoul during a mission trip.
[Christine] Moudry, along with four other young women, applied to participate in the New Wilmington Mission Conference's Summer Service Team. She had seen other participants take service trips and admired the powerful experiences they had.

"I feel like I'm being called into doing mission, whether it's short term or long term, but I had never been outside of the United States before," Moudry explained. "This was a really great opportunity to go and see what that is like and be immersed in another culture. I never would have had that opportunity before."

While in South Korea, the group learned about history, politics and religious heritage, with a focus on the history and character of Korean Christianity. The students visited many sites, including prayer retreat centers, churches, a Christian school for disadvantaged children, a Buddhist temple and the royal palace.
Westminster College---roughly between Pittsburgh and Erie---has a write-up of the trip on its webpage.
"An outstanding memory for me was the opportunity to talk with a few young men who were North Korean defectors," Moudry said. "They had risked their lives and sacrificed several years to travel through China to the freedom of South Korea, where the government accepted them as citizens and helped them adjust to the new culture through a mentoring program. One of the men we met had only been in South Korea a year and had never met an American. That afternoon, he had a dream that he met an American and by evening, we were talking and praying with them. It was a very powerful experience."
Regardless of your religious leanings, you can glean some interesting information on South Korea from the work of local missionaries, such as the Sisters of Charity, active in the country since 1960.

Other stories with Asian angles out of small local papers include a write-up of high school students taking a trip to Japan, a Gambare Japan Benefit Concert after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and local educators talking about lengthening the school calendar to match those in East Asia.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, November 2 – 8.

The 2011 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival will run from November 2nd through November 8th, with screenings at three venues:
the Ibrahim Theater at the International House (3701 Chestnut Street), the Asian Arts Initiative (1219 Vine Street) and the Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut Street).
The official site has a schedule.

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