Saturday, March 30, 2013

Korean film Hwang Jin Yi (황진이) at IUP, April 3.

Hwang Jin Yi

Indiana University of Pennsylvania will show the Korean movie Hwang Jin Yi (황진이) as part of its Asian Studies Club Film Festival on April 3. Hwang Jin Yi is a historical drama on the life of Hwang Jini--same person, different romanization--a 16th-century gisaeng. The Korean Film Database summarizes:
A story of HWANG Jin Yi, the most renowned courtesan of the Chosun Dynasty, and her love affair with a male servant named Nom-yi. gives it a very unfavorable review, though. The movie will be shown in room 233 Keith Hall (campus map) at 7:00 pm, and is free and open to the public.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Woodblock print exhibition "The Art of Japanese Noh Drama: Tsukioka Kōgyo, 1869-1927" at Pitt, March 29.

The University of Pittsburgh's Barco Law Library Gallery (map) will exhibit "The Art of Japanese Noh Drama: Tsukioka Kōgyo, 1869-1927" on March 29. A University Library System website describes the collection:
Nōgaku zue 能 樂 圖 繪, or Pictures of Noh, is a spectacular series of Japanese color woodblock prints by the artist Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927). The University of Pittsburgh owns a rare, complete set of this series, published at Tokyo between the Meiji years 30-35, or 1897-1902. Bound in traditional folding-album format, the series comprises five volumes of 261 prints inspired by the plays of classical Japanese noh theatre.
The collection is digitized and is available for browsing on that ULS website, but in real life it
comprises five bound Meiji period printed albums, protected by a silk wrap-around chitsu (chemise) and stored in a modern archival box. Each volume is of equal size and thickness and bound in the manner of traditional Japanese orihon, or folding scrolls. Each volume contains fifty-two or fifty-three full-page, multi-colored woodblock prints of noh (also spelled: nō, nô) theatre subjects.
Also at Pitt and on the topic, the Special Collections Department on the 3rd floor of Hillman Library houses the Barry Rosenthal Japanese Print Collection of woodblock prints from the 18th through 20th centuries.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Taiwanese film Three Times (最好的時光) at Maridon Museum rescheduled for April 5.

Pittsburgh Three Times 最好的時光

Butler's Maridon Museum will show the 2005 Taiwanese film Three Times (最好的時光) on April 5 as part of this year's Spring Film Series. It was originally scheduled for March 25. Wikipedia says about the movie:
[Three Times] features three chronologically separate stories of love between May and Chen, set in 1911, 1966 and 2005, using the same lead actors, Shu Qi and Chang Chen.
The Maridon is an Asian art museum at 322 N. McKean St. in downtown Butler (map) that presents Asian films from particular countries as part of its spring and fall series. Last year it was China and Vietnam. The show starts at 6:30 and is presented by Dr. William Covey of Slippery Rock University.

IUP's growing Japanese program.

A press release from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Asian Studies page:
Yongtaek Kim received a grant of $25,000 from the Japan Foundation’s Institutional Project Support–Small Grant Program.

The grant will be used to hire adjunct faculty to teach introductory Japanese language classes and also to expand the program’s online presence.

The grant is being matched by funds from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences for the purchase of tablet computers for use in Japanese language classes.
IUP is a midsize state school about an hour east of Pittsburgh that for a while has had solid programs with an international reach. It runs several international film series each year, and has an active Japanese Student Association (their Facebook page is here). The department hasn't publicly advertised the upcoming Japanese instructor position, though feelers have been informally put out in western Pennsylvania.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Japanese festivals at CMU, Pitt on March 29 and 30.

CMU Matsuri

This weekend there will be two Japanese festivals at Oakland's two largest universities. On Friday, March 29, the Japanese Student Association at CMU presents Matsuri (festival) from 4:30 to 9:30 pm at the CMU University Center and Merson Courtyard (campus map). The event's website says:
We wanted to share a snippet of this eventful festival here in Pittsburgh, right on CMU campus. Come by to try a taste of Japanese street food, play with some traditional arcade games and enjoy a range of performances from Japanese Taiko Drumming and a traditional Koto performance to Japanese Pop and Rock Fusion of Contemporary Japanese Music.

We have put in a lot of effort into authenticity; we purchase things online and ship them from Japan. We hand craft our booths to make it look like what you see on the streets in Japan. Enjoy the event to its fullest by paying attention to the details we've put in!
Food and games at the festival require tickets, which you can pre-order online. All of the profits made will be donated to Minato Middle School, which was completely destroyed by the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

JSA Cherry Blossom Festival

On March 30 at the University of Pittsburgh is the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, put on by the Japanese Culture Association. To plagiarize the Facebook event page:
We're extremely excited for this year's festival which has the potential to be one of the best yet!

With performances from:

-Pitt Taiko
- and Japanese Sword demonstrations from Loren Keifer

That's not all, we'll have all sorts of fun booths set up, including:

-Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) from JASP
-Japanese Tea with Amy Svoboda
-Kimono Fashion with Evan Mason
-Video Games

And of course we'll have copious amounts of delicious Japanese street cuisine, such as; takoyaki, yakisoba, okonomiyaki, taiyaki, onigiri, and mochi.
It will be held from 2:00 to 5:00 at the William Pitt Union Ballroom.

To see cherry blossoms in Pittsburgh you'll have to wait another week or two. On April 6 is the Pittsburgh Sakura Project's Spring Planting Festival, and both Philadelphia and Washington D.C. (two cities close enough for a weekend trip) are holding their large cherry blossom festivals throughout April.

Pitt Night Market (匹大夜市), March 29.

The Chinese American Student Association at Pitt brings news of its Pitt Night Market on Friday, March 29 from 9 pm to midnight in room 548 of the William Pitt Union.
Time to bring back the infamous NIGHT MARKET! Culturally dominant in Chinese cities, night markets are a pivotal aspect of urban life in Taiwan and China. Tonight we will be bringing you a glimpse of just what its like to be at a night market. There will be free games and prizes, as well as traditional night market foods and drinks (i.e. scallion pancake, bubble milk tea, etc). Better not miss it!

地點: 學生活動中心 WPU 748
時間: 21:00

No word yet on the availability of stinky tofu, but this looks like a good time. Though Pittsburgh hypes the Strip District as something of a market---and it's a fine destination in its own right---the city doesn't have anything that matches the activity, the variety, and the mass of humanity of Asian cities a Taiwanese or Chinese night market.

Taiwan night market, by luces. Hard to find photographs under a Creative Commons license, but you can browse more in this Flickr group.

Japanese bands Dazzle Vision, Cantoy to play in Pittsburgh in April.

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Those who know about Tekkoshocon don't need to be reminded that it's coming up, but for the sake a complete blog we'll mention that Pittsburgh's "Japanese Pop Culture Convention" will be at the David Lawrence Convention Center from April 5 through April 7. The costumed fans get the most attention, but it's worth noting that for the first time in a year Pittsburgh will have some Japanese rock bands in town.

Dazzle Vision is a metal band with equal parts melody and screamo thrown in (here's a Youtube playlist). Cantoy would fall under the punk category (here's a Youtube playlist). The setting seems rather sterile, but anime conventions are about the only opportunities for medium-sized cities to attract Japanese groups. Concerts the last two years have drawn over 900 people.

The third musical guest is Chii Sakurabi, who is described on her own webpage as "a breakout international J-POP singer and recording artist". You can find some of her videos on YouTube; I don't get it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lineup for 2013 Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival announced.

The lineup for the 2013 Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival was recently announced, and it's stacked with 25 films including four from Korea; two from Japan; one each from China, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines; and others with connections to the region.

Two ShadowsTatsumiPietaCha Cha For Twins, AsuraThe Thieves Korean
A small selection of posters: Two Shadows from Cambodia and the US, Tatsumi from Singapore and Japan, Pieta from Korea, Cha Cha for Twins from Taiwan, Asura from Japan, and The Thieves from Korea.

This annual Pittsburgh festival will run this year from May 10 through 19th at three venues throughout the city: The Melwood Screening Room in Oakland, the Harris Theater downtown, and the eponymous Regent Square Theater.

2013 Kennywood Asian Day, May 12.

Kennywood Pagoda @ Twilight
Kennywood Pagoda, copyright Kurt Miller.

A perfect time to start thinking about spring festivities. *cough* According to recent updates to Kennywood's 2013 Nationality & Community Days and Special Events calendar, Asian Day leads off the community day season at the amusement park on Sunday, May 12. More details to come later, so for now we'll restrict the description to the usual: there will be food and performances.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Taiwanese Film Series begins with Three Times (最好的時光), March 25.

Maridon Taiwanese Film Series

Maridon Museum's Taiwanese Film Series begins March 25 with Three Times (最好的時光), a 2005 movie that, Wikipedia says,
features three chronologically separate stories of love between May and Chen, set in 1911, 1966 and 2005, using the same lead actors, Shu Qi and Chang Chen.
The show starts at 6:30 and is presented by Dr. William Covey of Slippery Rock University.

"'Japan is the Key…': Collecting Prints and Ivories, 1900–1920", March 30 to July 21.

Katsushika Hokusai, The poet Sangi Takamura (Ono no Takamura)

The Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland (map) will run the exhibit "'Japan is the Key…': Collecting Prints and Ivories, 1900–1920" from March 30 through July 21 in Gallery One. The exhibition, to borrow heavily from the CMoA website,
presents highlights from Carnegie Museum of Art’s significant collection of iconic Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) in an entirely new way, uniting them with Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s holdings of exquisite Japanese carved ivories (okimono). These collections were formed in the early years of the 20th century, motivated by European and North American acceptance of Japan as an emerging modern power, and the aesthetic appeal of Japanese art to artists and collectors. Japan is the Key… tells the story of two very different men who promoted Carnegie Institute’s early interest in Japanese art: poet and critic Sadakichi Hartmann, who masterminded the Department of Fine Arts’ controversial exhibitions of Japanese prints in the first decade of the 20th century; and ketchup magnate H. J. Heinz, who acquired ivories on his world-wide travels on behalf of local industry and religious organizations. This exhibition offers a rare view of this period of cultural interchange through the lens of the personalities that shaped it.

Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia, April 1 - 26.

2013 Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival Philadelphia

The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia will take place this year from April 1st through 26th. There is a massive amount of events planned around the festival, so browse the website and consider making the drive (or the Megabus) for the weekend. Consider visiting, too, Shufuso, a Japanese garden in Fairmont Park, a short distance from where many of the cherry blossoms are located.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Crocodile in the Yangtze and Sushi: The Global Catch at CMU this week.

Crocodile in the Yangtze PittsburghSushi The Global Catch

Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival: Faces of Media runs from March 21 through April 13, and relevant to this site are the two Asian-themed films this weekCrocodile on the Yangtze and Sushi: A Global Catch.

Crocodile on the Yangtze is scheduled for March 22, 7:00 pm, at the McConomy Auditorium, CMU University Center (campus map). The director will attend, says the website. The movie's official website says:
Crocodile in the Yangtze follows China’s first Internet entrepreneur and former English teacher, Jack Ma, as he battles US giant eBay on the way to building China's first global Internet company, Alibaba Group. An independent memoir written, directed and produced by an American who worked in Ma’s comany for eight years, Crocodile in the Yangtze captures the emotional ups and downs of life in a Chinese Internet startup at a time when the Internet brought China face-to-face with the West.
Sushi: The Global Catch is scheduled for March 24, 5:30 pm, at the same place. After the movie is a reception with a presentation by a sushi chef. An NPR review says of the film:
Outlining the process that brings tuna from the boat to the plate is just one of the building blocks of the film's larger argument about the economic and environmental impact of the sushi industry. Although The Global Catch initially considers sushi broadly, it takes the food's ubiquity for granted, merely glancing at its role in the culture and its global culinary influence as it speeds toward its essential focus: conservation.
Tickets for each of these are $8 for regular admission or $5 for seniors and students.

Zenkaikon anime convention in Lancaster, March 22 - 24.

Lancaster will host its annual Zenkaikon anime convention this weekend, March 22 - 24 at the Lancaster County Convention Center (map). "Zenkaikon was created in 2006", says the website,
through the merging of two Philadelphia-area events -- Kosaikon, an anime convention held at Villanova University, and Zentrancon, an anime and science fiction convention held on the University of Pennsylvania campus.
There is a long list of events and guests that looks appealing to all levels of fan and Japanese-cultural enthusiast: rock group The Slants, kimono consultant Kuniko Kanawa, anthropologist Charles Dunbar, Cosplay Burlesque, video game tournaments, karaoke, and live-action role plays, among others. The panels include topics like "A Complete History of Manga", "Beyond Bleeps and Bloops: An Introduction to Video Game Music", and "The Aging Otaku: Fandom and Getting Older", among more specialized ones.

Lancaster is a fine town, and is actually a city of 59,000, and not just a few roads in Amish country. Both it and the surrounding county are worth a visit, and not just in late-March. It's about four hours from Pittsburgh, though is a relatively easy drive from Hershey, Harrisburg, and other points east.

"Malaysian Tea House" at Pitt, March 22.


The Malaysian Cultural Camaraderie (MalaCCa) and Pitt Global Ties are putting on a "Malaysian Tea House" at William Pitt Union on Friday, March 22, from 3:30 to 5:00 pm. From their Facebook Event page:
Come and explore THE BEST STREET FOOD from Malaysia!

Oh, did we tell you they are free? YES, all these food are FREE by Pitt Global Ties and Malacca!

Ice Kacang
Kaya Toast
Tepung Pelita
Indian candies
Teh tarik

Friday, March 15, 2013

1985 anime The Dagger of Kamui (カムイの剣) at Hollywood Theater, March 24.

Dagger of Kamui

The Hollywood Theater in Dormont (map) will show the Japanese anime film The Dagger of Kamui (カムイの剣) on March 24, the latest in their semi-regular Anime Series. The plot summary, from Anime News Network, of the 1985 movie adapted from the novel series:
A young boy named Jiro finds his mother and sister murdered in his home. Falsely accused of the crime, he flees from his village and meets a priest named Tenkai, who has him kill a rogue ninja named Tarouza. After fulfilling that task, Jiro undergoes training to become a master assassin. Many years later, Jiro finds out that he was an orphan and his real father was Tarouza, who had worked for Tenkai until he aborted his mission when he fell in love with an Ainu woman. The young ninja discovers that the Shogunate was to retrieve the lost treasure of Captain Kidd and use it to once again isolate Japan from the rest of the world. Using the clues that Tarouza had kept secret, Jiro - along with the female ninja Oyuki and a slave named Sam - travels to Russia and America to search for the treasure in hopes of using it to extract revenge from Tenkai.
It starts at 2 pm and tickets are $7 for adults.

Pittsburgh Sakura Project 2013 Spring Planting Festival, April 6.

Pittsburgh Sakura Project 2013

The Pittsburgh Sakura Project will hold its annual Spring Planting Festival in North Park on April 6 from 1:00 to 3:00. Since 2009 the Pittsburgh Sakura Project has been planting cherry blossoms and other flowering trees near the Boat House in North Park. About this year's festival the website says:
This year’s event will include hanami (flower viewing, weather permitting) and learning about the trees, planting of approximately 7 trees, tea ceremony, music, and more.
There is another planting day each fall, during which they plant a good many more trees. The website has photos from years past and also the flyer reposted above. For a little more background about the group, we again defer to the website:
We plan to plant 250 ornamental cherry trees around the greater Pittsburgh region over a 10-year period, in honor of the 250th anniversary of the founding of Pittsburgh in 1758. Our aim is for lovers of cherry blossoms to enjoy beautiful, mature cherry trees in the Pittsburgh region. The PSP will enable visitors to Allegheny County parks to enjoy the unique scenery of Sakura and strengthen bonds within the local Japanese community by creating a focal point for cultural and personal exchange. By adding the new element of Sakura to existing park scenery, we create a new aesthetic while preserving the woodland scenery, an example of cultural harmony and environmental sustainability for future generations.
North Park Sakura 1
Taken on a rainy day in late March, 2012.

Allegheny County gave permission to the Pittsburgh Sakura Project to plant there in 2008, and while North Park certainly is scenic it would be especially striking to have sakura in a more urban setting, like Schenley Park.

Scouting locations a little while ago.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry at Mercyhurst University, March 22.

The documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry will run on March 22 as part of Mercyhurst University's Maria J. Langer Film Series. The documentary's official website describes the film and subject:
Ai Weiwei is China's most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention.
It's been in Pittsburgh a few times, and the City Paper wrote of it last year:
Weiwei enjoys fawning attention in the West, particularly for his pointed critiques of his homeland's government, while in Beijing, his celebrity and influence is constantly checked by the authorities.
Mercyhurst is in Erie, and the film will run at the Taylor Little Theater on the northern edge of campus on East 38th Street (map). There are two showtimes, 2:15 and 7:15, and this and the other films in the series are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Korean films The Thieves (도둑들) and Architecture 101 (건축학개론) at Pitt this month.

The Thieves Korean Architecture 101 Korean

The movies The Thieves (도둑들) and Architecture 101 (건축학개론) will comprise this spring's Korean Film Festival at the University of Pittsburgh, now in its 10th year. Both films are new, were successful in Korea, and have found international exposure through large film festivals in London and New York, respectively.

The Thieves is a 2012 comedic action movie---or a "sprawling, relentlessly entertaining thriller", according to the New York Times--- with an ensemble cast featuring several of Korea's top stars. The Korean Film Database summarizes:
In order to let things cool down from their latest heist, Popeye and his group of thieves go to Macao on a job. But the mastermind behind this job is none other than Popeye’s old partner Macao Park, who escaped with 68kg of gold several years ago on their last job together. Macao Park brought Chinese thieves as well but little did they know what Macao Park planned for each one of them. But his plan takes an unexpected turn when Popeye brings Pepsi, an old flame of Macao Park, to settle the old score.
Architecture 101 is a romance that plays with a retro setting, as Wikipedia tells us:
The film reignited 1990s throwback fever among Koreans and made the fashion, music and celebrities of the period cool once again. Songs from the '90s, including duo Exhibition’s "Etude of Memory" were included on the score. Characters also use pagers, hair mousse, and portable CD players. The protagonist is even obsessed with GEUSS T-shirts - counterfeits that were popular among Koreans in the 1990s. Nostalgia-inducing scenes that feature characters expressing awe at a one gigabyte hard drive computer or communicating with each other via landline telephones also brought the audience back in time.
The Korean Film Database again provides a summary:
In his college days, aspiring architect Seung-min (UHM) fell deeply in love with classmate Seo-yeon (HAN). However, fate denied them the opportunity to stay together forever. Now a successful architect, Seung-min has not spoken to Seo-yeon since that time. However, one day she suddenly reappears in his life, asking him to design a replica of her childhood home. Moving back and forth from past to present, the affections and heartaches between Seung-min and Seo-yeon slowly unfold, and it appears that fate may give their love a second chance.
The Thieves plays on March 19, and Architecture 101 on March 26. Both are held in room 4130 Posvar Hall on the Pitt campus (map) at 5:00 pm, and both are free and open to the public. The campus is accessible by any city bus that goes to Oakland, and parking is available at, among other places, meters around Schenley Plaza and the Carnegie Library across the street or in the Meyran Ave. garage two blocks away.

名所フィラデルフィア百景: 100 Famous Views of Philadelphia.


Artist Matthew Meyer is now selling prints from his Japan-inspired "100 Famous Views of Philadelphia". They're amazing, they're in time for Philadelphia's sakura festival next month, and they're for sale on his Etsy page.

The series draws its name from "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo", a famous series of prints from the 19th century that is both vintage postcards and art.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Teruko Shiono is a one-woman Japanese-American amity committee in the Pittsburgh area".

We recently learned of the passing of Ms. Teruko Shiono, whose obituary was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday. She helped found the Japan Association of Greater Pittsburgh, was active in the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors (now Global Pittsburgh), and with her husband was "instrumental in the creation of the Japanese Nationality Room at the University of Pittsburgh". She was also, according to a 1988 Newsweek profile, "a one-woman Japanese-American amity committee in the Pittsburgh area".
Shortly after she arrived in this country, Teruko Shiono was given a baby shower by her new friends in Pittsburgh. She has never forgotten that unexpected kindness and has spent the better part of 30 years trying to repay it.

Mrs. Shiono is a one-woman Japanese-American amity committee. When a Japanese woman went into labor at Pittsburgh's Presbyterian-University Hospital, and it developed that the mother-to-be and the doctors couldn't speak to each other, Mrs. Shiono hurried from her Highland Park home to bridge the gap. When Japanese athletes come to town, Mrs. Shiono is always available to whip up some home cooking -- rice, sushi, yakitori. The recorded Japanese voice that describes sights on local tour buses is hers. When the Pittsburgh Opera Theater wanted to stage "Madame Butterfly" it was Mrs. Shiono they turned to, and the costumes were found. And when a Japanese student is homesick in Pittsburgh, the school is likely to give him Mrs. Shiono's number. "They want to talk," she says, "so I listen. It's a Japanese custom -- the older helps the younger. You do what you can. That's the American way too, yes?"
She also found time to teach Mr. Rogers and friends how to do origami.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Japanese-American detainees to "feel the warm friendliness of the people of Pittsburgh"; papers tell story of wartime Japanese-American relocation to Pittsburgh.

The archives of local newspapers trace the brief history of Pittsburgh's involvement in the imprisonment and forced relocation of Japanese-Americans during World War II. These articles show that an old orphanage on Perrysville Avenue in Perry North doubled as a temporary home for Japanese-Americans forced out of their homes elsewhere. It was a source of some controversy, mostly because neighbors were afraid Japanese-American laborers would damage property values, though the program of incarceration and forced relocation ended before Pittsburgh could fulfill its potential as a home for 100 to 200 families.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hina Matsuri Doll Exhibit at Maridon Museum, through May 3.

"Hinamatsuri in Hiketa", by mars2015.

Butler's Maridon Museum has a Hina Matsuri Doll Exhibit now through May 3rd, in addition to its regular exhibitions of Asian art. March 3rd is Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) in Japan, Girls' Day, and is commemorated by a series of dolls, says Wikipedia:
Platforms covered with a red carpet are used to display a set of ornamental dolls (雛人形 hina-ningyō) representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period.
And the museum writes:
When a little girl is born in Japan they usually are gifted a set of Hina Matsuri dolls. These dolls are to be put up and taken down on March 3rd. If the dolls are not taken down at the end of the evening it could me bad luck for the little girls future.

This Festival is also called "Momo no sekku (Peach Festival)" because of the peach blossom season on the old lunar calendar.
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.

Foreign students protest working conditions at PA McDonald's.

Via the Wall Street Journal and others comes news of foreign student workers protesting conditions at the Harrisburg McDonald's at which they were placed through agencies under the auspices of the Exchange Visitor Program:
This week, [Argentine college student Jorge] and 14 other foreign students demonstrated outside a McDonald's after filing complaints with the State Department and Labor Department saying they were exploited at fast-food outlets in the Harrisburg, Penn., area and housed in substandard conditions. The students were on a three-month J-1 visa for work and travel.
. . .
The students in Harrisburg, including those from Malaysia, China, Peru and Chile, said they were attracted by ads on their university bulletin boards and websites, such as one by a company called Out of the Box Personal Development in Kuala Lumpur, touting "a unique opportunity to live life in the USA—up close and personal!"

Lee Siew Yeen, a director for Out of the Box, said she was surprised by the complaints and would reach out to the students. "There was a housing issue. Other than that they weren't going through anything that was different from other students," she said. "They were pretty happy."

On arrival, the university students were assigned to one of three McDonald's in the Harrisburg area. Some said they were given so few hours that they hardly earned any money after their boss and landlord deducted rent from their paychecks. Others said they were forced to work shifts as long as 25 hours straight without being paid for overtime.

"Since I got to the States, I have been working just to pay to live in a basement," says Mr. Rios, who arrived in mid-December and shares the one-room space with five other foreigners who work at the same outlet. He said he worked about 25 hours a week earning $7.25 an hour and Mr. Cheung, his boss, deducted weekly rent of $75 from his pay.

Let the Bullets Fly (让子弹飞) at IUP, March 13.

Let the Bullets Fly

The second installment of Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Asian Studies Club Film Festival is the Chinese movie Let the Bullets Fly (让子弹飞, Ràng Zǐ Dàn Fēi) on March 13. The Harris Theater summarized, when it was in Pittsburgh last summer:
Since its release this action-comedy-thriller has been lauded for its stunning mix of dark humor and eye-popping violence. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, it's become the highest-grossing film of all time in China. Set in 1920s Sichuan, it tells the tale of the bandit "Pocky" Zhang Mazi, who poses as a local governor in a dusty town, but finds himself at odds with the local mobster, who is not eager to share his turf with another drifter. A complex and deadly series of mind-games ensues between the two crooks, which are as violent as they are hilarious.
It will be shown in room 233 Keith Hall (campus map) at 7:00 pm, and is free and open to the public.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chatham Japanese dancers

Chatham College students posing in Japanese costumes, 1923, for a May Day performance. From the Chatham University Archives Image Collection:
The Japanese dance group poses in their costumes and their performance hair and make-up. The 1923 May Day pageant featured a number of episodes from varying cultures and historical traditions. Part I, titled the "Birth of May Day" included dances by the allegorical figures of Night, Dawn, the Sun, and Spring among others. Part II centered on the "Coronation of the May Queen," senior Marion Jobson, and Part III, titled "Entertainment of the Queen," featured a wizard, a Roman Spring procession, an Egyptian episode, a Grecian episode, a Normandy folk dance, an English folk dance, a Japanese episode, “poses from old prints,” and a cherry blossom dance.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Emperor opens March 8 at Squirrel Hill's Manor Theater.

Emperor Movie Poster

The movie Emperor, starring Tommy Lee Jones as Douglas MacArthur and dealing with the question of trying Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal following World War II, opens nationwide tomorrow and will be in Pittsburgh at Squirrel Hill's Manor Theater.
As General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) suddenly finds himself the de facto ruler of a foreign nation, he assigns an expert in Japanese culture - General Bonner Fellers (Fox), to covertly investigate the looming question hanging over the country: should the Japanese Emperor, worshiped by his people but accused of war crimes, be punished or saved?
The City Paper didn't really care for it--[it] "might have been informative and even provocative, but winds up being a lackluster, unsatisfying affair."---and it's doubtful 100 minutes of pop history will do justice to a question with lingering implications today.

The Manor Theater's page has showtimes for Friday and the weekend.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

City Paper on Pittsburghers teaching English in Korea.

This week's Pittsburgh City Paper looks at locals who have gone overseas to teach English as a Foreign Language in South Korea.
Applicants do not have to have any teaching experience, but they must have earned a bachelor's degree in some field from an accredited university.

Monthly salaries vary by Korean province and the metropolitan area teachers are placed in. [English Program in Korea]'s site shows the minimum salary is about $1,700 per month. Salaries rise for applicants with teaching experience and for those with advanced degrees.

"The benefits of coming here are great. You make a good salary and have good vacation time. EPIK also pays for your plane ticket, gives you starting money and a furnished apartment that is rent-free," [Megan] Rees [of McKees Rocks] wrote in an email interview. "Americans living in Korea pay no taxes for two years and get the pension deductions from their paycheck back when they leave Korea."
. . .
EPIK teachers sign a one-year contract and have the option to renew. Giegel [of Observatory Hill] is considering signing on for another year. After two years in South Korea, Rees says she has decided to take a job to teach English in Japan beginning in May.

"My dream in life is to travel the world and experience living in different cultures," says Rees. "It gives you the [confidence to start] a new life from scratch, and it teaches you the world is bigger than what you have known growing up."
Even before the "Great Recession", teaching English in Asia has been an attractive option for recent college graduates. There are local chapters of the Japan Exchange and Teaching [JET] Programme, and there are numerous blogs by Pittsburghers in South Korea, including Brian in Jeollanam-do (teacher-turned-columnist) and Good for Man's Health (teacher-turned-bar-owner).

Teaching overseas is a viable short-term option, but in recent years the market has soured for older, experienced teachers who price themselves out of jobs because schools only want to pay young, cheap ones. Conveniently enough, the Korea Herald today has part one of a two-part series on the phasing-out of native-speaker English teachers in South Korea, cuts and shifting priorities that started several years ago.
[Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education] and [Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education] emphasized that their programs, both started in 2005, were never meant to last.

The English Program in Korea ― similar to the programs run by Seoul and Gyeonggi and South Jeolla provinces, but run in the rest of Korea ― was started in 1995 to enhance English education, and promote cultural understanding. The NETs would work alongside and train English-proficient Korean teachers, who would eventually replace them.

Seoul said the phaseout was ahead of schedule. It placed NETs in all public schools by 2010, two years earlier than planned, and says its Korean staff’s skills have improved dramatically.

SMOE claimed that 95.6 percent of Korean English teachers had “teaching English in English capacity” by the end of 2011, and began to phase out NETs last year.

GEPIK officials said that while the reductions were planned out, the timing was not. However, they said it was entering the next phase ― handing the classes over to English-proficient Korean teachers.

Taiwanese film Three Times (最好的時光) at Maridon Museum, March 25.

Pittsburgh Three Times 最好的時光

Butler's Maridon Museum will show the 2005 Taiwanese film Three Times (最好的時光) on March 25 as part of this year's Spring Film Series. Wikipedia says:
[Three Times] features three chronologically separate stories of love between May and Chen, set in 1911, 1966 and 2005, using the same lead actors, Shu Qi and Chang Chen.
The Maridon is an Asian art museum at 322 N. McKean St. in downtown Butler (map) that presents Asian films from particular countries as part of its spring and fall series. Last year it was China and Vietnam. The show starts at 6:30 and is presented by Dr. William Covey of Slippery Rock University.

Multicultural Night at O'Hara Elementary School, March 14.

If there are children in your family they might enjoy visiting O'Hara Elementary School (map) in the Fox Chapel Area School District for its Multicultural Night on March 14. There will 20 culture booths including Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and China; a bunch of local performers; and vendors with Turkish, Korean, and Argentinian food. It will run from 5:30 to 8:00 pm at the School Commons Area.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

IUP Asian Studies Club Film Festival starts March 6.

Spirited AwayLet the Bullets FlyHwang Jin Yi

On March 3rd the Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Asian Studies Program announced its spring film festival, which will have five movies from March 6 through May 1. The first is Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), a 2001 Japanese animated film playing tomorrow, March 6. Wikipedia sums up its reception:
When released, Spirited Away became the most successful film in Japanese history, grossing over $274 million worldwide. The film overtook Titanic (at the time the top grossing film worldwide) in the Japanese box office to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history with a $229,607,878 total. Acclaimed by international critics, the film is often considered one of the greatest animated films of all-time [and it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (tied with Bloody Sunday) and is among the top ten in the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.
Other films include the Chinese action comedy film set in the 20s Let the Bullets Fly (让子弹飞) and the Korean historical drama Hwang Jin Yi (황진이). The movies will be shown in room 233 Keith Hall (campus map) at 7:00 pm, and all are free and open to the public.

As I wrote three weeks ago about the Foreign Film and Music Festival running now, IUP puts on good foreign film series. The best I've seen in western PA was a Korean film festival nearly a decade ago.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

CMU International Film Festival tickets now on sale.

Crocodile in the Yangtze PittsburghSushi The Global Catch

A couple days ago tickets for the Carnegie Mellon University International Film Festival: Faces of Media went on sale. It runs from March 21 through April 13, and this year there are 16 films plus a short film competition. Relevant to this site is Crocodile on the Yangtze and Sushi: A Global Catch.

"A Critical Discourse Analysis of Li Yang's 'Crazy English': A Look at the English Movement in Mainland China" at Pitt, March 6.

Those on or around the University of Pittsburgh's campus, and with an interest in Asian English as a Foreign Language [EFL] studies, might be interested in Rachel McTernan's March 6 presentation "A Critical Discourse Analysis of Li Yang's 'Crazy English': A Look at the English Movement in Mainland China". McTernan is an MA Candidate in East Asian Studies, and "Crazy English" is a variety of EFL education in China designed by Li Yang in which "students practice his technique by going behind buildings or on rooftops and shouting English" as an alternative to the rigidity of rote memorization and teaching-for-tests. It got some exposure around here during the Beijing Olympics; here's a bit of one of his gatherings:

Personally I've never been a fan of it as a serious educational tool. English is rendered ridiculous in a lot of Asian EFL contexts already, and encouraging students to shout it and divorce it further from reality only amplifies the gulf between English as a subject and English as a language. One of the shortcomings of conversation courses in many East Asian classrooms is the lack of authentic models: whether it's awkward textbook dialogues, or teachers overexaggerating cadence and pronunciation, or classes reciting single lines out of context. "Crazy English" does nothing to alleviate these three, and while it's amusing as a novelty act, I don't think it will ever gain much traction with serious students.

Ms. McTernan's presentation is at 2:00 pm, says the University Center for International Studies, in room 4217 of Posvar Hall (campus map).

Friday, March 1, 2013

In the Mood for Love at Erie Art Museum, March 6.

In the mood for love pittsburgh

Readers in and around Erie may want to see the iconic Hong Kong film In the Mood for Love on March 6 at the Erie Art Museum (map) as part of its weekly film series. The film starts at 7:00 and tickets can be purchased online for $5.

Free Korean class for intermediates to resume March 10.

The free intermediate-level Korean class, run by the Korean Language Study Group in Pittsburgh and usually held at the Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill, has been on hiatus since December but will resume on Sunday, March 10. Class starts at 11:00 am and will be held at the Panera on the Boulevard of the Allies in Oakland (map). Those interested are asked to RSVP on the class's page.

For an overview of other language courses in Pittsburgh, please check the "Learn" page.

Japanese Anthropology Workshop (JAWS) in Pittsburgh, March 7 - 9.

The 2013 Japanese Anthropology Workshop (JAWS) will take place at the University of Pittsburgh from March 7 through March 9. Few details and little information are available online, but the theme is "Mobility in Japan", and the website did say last year of Pittsburgh:
Pittsburgh is a great city with a lot of things to do, so it will be a fun place to hold the conference, and the University of Pittsburgh has a strong Japan focus.

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