My guest this episode is a proven leader who's a great example of the power of unconventional thinking. Jim Fong was an executive vice president and chief commercial officer for CTI Biopharma. This summer a Swedish pharmaceutical giant plunked down nearly $2 billion US dollars to acquire this startup, but as you're about to learn, almost no one in the industry predicted that this would happen. Jim and his team were given the near-impossible task of recruiting a salesforce of 100 to sell their blood-cancer treatment before it had received FDA approval while 80% of the market was already controlled by a huge pharmaceutical company. Jim and his team decided that they needed to look for people with the right attitude, not the right aptitude. He's the youngest of my two brothers, and I'm extremely proud of him and what he accomplished in the face of insurmountable odds.
UC Santa Barbara English Professor Dr. Yunte Huang recently published the final book in his "Rendezvous With American History" trilogy. Following the ones about the real and fictional detective Charlie Chan and the unbelievable one about the Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, Huang has now researched and written a thoroughgoing book about Hollywood's first Asian American movie star Anna May Wong. How did the daughter of a laundryman in LA's Chinatown get bit by the acting bug? Have the rumors about her sexuality been confirmed? Why did she suddenly depart for Germany after starring in her most successful film? When she returned to America, had the racist attitudes and restrictions in Hollywood improved at all? Had all that time in front of cameras stolen her soul, as her parents first warned her?
In 2018 entrepreneurial chef Jing Gao harnessed everything she'd learned from master chefs in China, and also the deep insights she'd arrived at in her journey to understand her identity to create a unique line of seasonings that's already in 5,000 stores in America. Carrying her label "Fly By Jing," each carefully crafted jar uses quality ingredients from her hometown of Chengdu, China. Hers is a fascinating journey that took her from the tech world to culinary school in China and being a restauranteur to where she is today: a highly successful flavor innovator and entrepreneur.
In generating the script for the 2022 indy film My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving, Filipino American writer Richard Soriano took his experiences as the director of a group home for adults with special needs and provided a compelling vehicle that helps audiences begin to see these folks as fellow human beings. While our conversation revolved around why and how he made this film, we spend a good deal of time talking about the world of adults with developmental disabilities, their families, and those often charged with caring for them after the turn 18.
Melissa Dyo always knew that she and her sister were adopted and loved her adoptive family. But a few years back, she realized that if she ever wanted to find her birth mom, that window was starting to close. President Clinton declared that November was National Adoption Month, and you're going to be absolutely enthralled when you hear her share how her search has turned out!
Veteran American actor Tamlyn Tomita is my guest this week to make sure that as many people as possible know about East West Players' last production of their 57th season Spring Awakening. This revolutionary musical won the "Best Musical" Tony Award on Broadway, and I can promise you that Director Tim Dang's version at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, is Broadway-quality! Tamlyn and husband Daniel Blinkoff play all of the adult roles quite convincingly, and the ensemble cast of young actors will have you questioning whether this production is truly their professional debut. Head over to www.eastwestplayers.org to find a performance that matches your schedule and purchase your tickets.
Award-winning director Jessica Yu spoke with me recently about her latest film Quiz Lady that will debut on November 3, 2023, on Hulu in the U.S. and on DisneyPlus everywhere else. Starring Sandra Oh and Awkwafina, it's about two estranged sisters who are thrown together when their gambling-addicted mother leaves the country because she owes her loan shark $80,000. The quarreling sisters decide that their best chance at raising that kind of cash is for Awkwafina's character Anne to become the winning contestant on a televised game show that she's been watching religiously since she was four.
Cambodian Chinese American entrepreneur Danny Taing has always loved a challenge. Like many young immigrants from Asia, Danny struggled with being a minority in predominantly white settings. He became fascinated with how the Japanese had been able to carve out a comfortable and admirable cultural niche, so he began to study their culture and learn their language, eventually moving to live and work in Japan. That's how he came to love the myriad kinds of special Japanese snacks. After moving back to the US, Danny launched Bokksu, a monthly subscription service that delivered a beautiful boxes of carefully curated snacks that can only be found in Japan. Today, you can marvel at how he and his team have been able to diversify and distribute even more of what Japan has to offer by going to www.bokksu.com.
Steve Tsuruda is the founder of GeminiDT ™ (www.geminidt.com) whose technological breakthroughs enable the medical industry to harness the power of data science and volumertic data. From historical scan data to raw data sets from CT, MRI, PET and Sonography doctors, radiologists and researchers can now develop preventitive therapies, see cause and effect on the digital twin, do comparative studies with certainty and accuracy.
The Human Anatomy project (www.the-hap.org) will conduct studies leveraging GeminiDT's system to publish new findings with a level of accuracy needed to answer challenges in the human physiology and early detection.
In this latest episode of the collaborative Two Kens series, Fong and Kemp tackle the phenomenon of megachurches. When did they first begin to proliferate and why? What are some of their inherent problems? Do most of them defy what it really means to be genuine Body of Christ?
Joy Ngiaw is a young Malaysian-born Chinese American who has already made a name for herself in Hollywood as an award-winning composer for films and television. One of the best examples of her empathic expertise is Apple TV+ and Skydance's animated short film Blush. Because the film has no dialogue, Joy's musical score has to convey the shifting emotions in all the scenes. She is definitely one to watch!
Multi-talented Joy Regullano is a hard-working writer, actor, and comedian. She recently released the concept album for her comedy musical Supportive White Parents, a more than semi-autobiographical story of a young adult Filipina American budding artist with demanding parents. One night, out of desperation, "Joy" wishes that she could have supportive white parents instead. And of course, her wish comes true. But like most wishes, "Joy" eventually discovers that the grass ain't necessarily greener on the other side of the cultural fence.
Globe-trotting South Korean Production Supervisor Kate Young Eun Park is my guest this week. She came on to promote Cookin', a madcap percussive musical featuring four frenzied chefs striving to meet a crazy wedding banquet deadline. In its 26th year, Cookin' has been already been viewed by 1.48 million people in 60 countries, and is currently at the Minneapolis Children's Theater Company (CTC) until Oct 22, 2023, and then it moves to Charlotte, NC, for a week. If you aren't able to make either of these performances, you can look for Cookin' (or Nanta) on Youtube. You can copy and past this link to see the 2016 performance at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC: https://www.youtube.com/live/GJlv4BNNKEg?si=g6SEW7qSD8OG3Gvu.
Korean American adoptee Kristen Meinzer has harnassed the power of her unique voice and interests to become a familiar commentator on aspects of pop culture, British royalty, and even weird fringe Christian cults. Considered to be one of the "22 most influential women in podcasting today," Meinzer shares what every budding podcaster needs to know, along with some hilarious stories from her current collection of podcasts that she co-hosts. You'll also learn how she has become one of the go-to commentators on the British monarchy and their racism!
It took Amy Yip 38 years to come to grips with what it meant to take ownership of her own life, which involved learning how to relate to her immigrant Asian parents in more curious and objective ways. She's now a successful life-coach and her book Unfinished Business: Breaking Down the Great Wall Between Adult Child & Immigrant Parents will be in stores on 9/28/23.
My guest this episode is writer, producer, director and activist Curtis Chin, whose memoir "Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant" will appear in bookstores on Oct 17th. The book is about growing up Asian American in the Black and white city of Detroit, Michigan, and coming out of the closet in his working-class immigrant community.
Ken Fong recently returned from scattering his beloved wife Snoopy's cremains in the turquoise-blue clear water between the Mokulua Islands on the windward side of Oahu. For years, every time they would visit Lanikai Beach, Snoopy would remind him that that would be the final resting place of her earthly remains. After cancer claimed her this past July, Ken, daugther Janessa, Snoopy's brothers Darren and Greg, and her best friend Tanya put their heads together to figure out how to fulfill this request.
Co-host Ken Kemp has been part of this difficult journey and when they got together a few days ago, he not only wanted to express how impactful the memorial service was, but to ask Fong whether harnessing his creativity was a helpful way for him to process his grief. It's an unusual conversation on many different levels, and one that you're really going to appreciate.
Here's the link to the 3rd video: https://vimeo.com/857689287?share=copy
Mike Yam is a Chinese Italian American who currently serves as a studio host for the NFL Network after anchoring the Pac 12 network from 2012 to 2020. Obviously, I had to ask him what he thought of the disintegration of the Pac 12 before our very eyes, but the main reason I had him on was to talk about his first children's book Fried Rice and Marinara, which portrays a bit of what it's like to grow up as a 'combo plate' American.
Occidental College's Dr. Jane Hong is working on a new book that uses the history of Asian American evangelicals as a lens to explore the intersections of race, religion, and politics since the 1970s. The fact that I came of age on the West Coast during this period as an Asian American evangelical pastor, leader, and seminary adjunct made me keenly interested to pick Dr. Hong's brain.
In this episode AAPI Equity Alliance's ED Manjusha Kulkarni and COQUAL's research VP Dr. Sy Stokes unpack some of the key findings of the "Strangers at Home: The Asian and Asian American Professional Experience" report published in January '23 by COQUAL.
Writer Qin Sun Stubis was one of four daughters born to a poor couple in China during some of the most culturally and politcally trying times. Her newly published book "Once Our Lives" is a historical memoir that tells the stories of four generations of women in her family, including herself.
After taking a few weeks to allow the loss of my wife Snoopy (8/15/56) to sink in fully, I'm back on the air with this latest in The Two Kens series because I trusted my good friend and fellow podcasters Ken Kemp to prompt me to talk about how I'm grieving and how we're planning to give her a moving sendoff in early August. Her memorial service will be livestreamed on EBCLA's YouTube channel on Aug 12th @ 10AM. If you've been on this journey with us, I think you'll experience a great amount of closure by tuning in live or by watching the recording of the service or the two videos of her life that I'm creating. I'll probably post her videos on both my personl and podcast FB pages.
Angel Wu is understandably outraged that her well-educated, Christian Taiwanese American mother fell headlong into the Q-Anon/Anti-Vax rabbit hole. Convinced that John F. Kennedy, Jr., was alive and well and living on a remote island, she refused to be vaccinated. So when she caught COVID-19, it killed her. This is a part of the conspiracy story that rarely gets told. But Angel was mad enough and brave enough to shed some needed light on it.
Actor Chen Tang is back as the irrepressible Chinese hitman "Hong" in the MAX series Warrior. Originally created by Cinemax and based on Bruce Lee's original writings, the first two seasons garnered rave reviews and spawned a rabid fanbase. But when Cinemax decided that it would no longer fund original programming, Warrior seemed to have hit a dead end. However, MAX (formerly known as HBO Max) quickly saw that this series first two seasons were hugely popular on their platform, so they reunited the Warrior team, rebuilt 19th century Chinatown set in South Africa, and Season 3 is now set to launch on June 29th! Every aspect of this show is top-shelf, which is why I've been a longtime fan and why I'm so excited to see what's in store for this new season.
Therapist, writer and world traveller Sharon Kwon returns to my podcast in light of her April Slate article "The Most Emotional Scene in Beef Gets at a Deeper Truth" (https://slate.com/culture/2023/04/beef-netflix-steven-yeun-korean-church.html). Growing up as a child of a pastor of a Korean American church, Sharon experienced conflicting emotions watching the numerous scenes that were in this setting. I also saw this as an opportunity to ask her watch she thinks about the now-controversial casting of David Choe to play "Isaac" in this popular Netflix show. You can follow Sharon on Instagram @talkwithsharon and you can also visit her website (www.sharonkwon.com).