My New Apartment

I too would like to live like Korben Dallas in the Fifth Element in a one room apartment that changes to a bedroom, kitchen, living room. I don’t know how this architect will make any cash architecting for the rich in HK though – how does the apartment transform to a Filipina domestic worker’s living quarters? I hope to God he doesn’t have a pantry for her… And what happens when you want to get a drink in the kitchen while in your bed? Or while watching a movie? Or you need to take a shower while your wifey is sleeping in bed?

Model Minority: Kiko Mizuhara

Where to begin. She’s a Japanese model who’s gonna make 20-year olds everywhere want to cut their wrist when she plays Midori in a movie adaption of my favorite book of all-time, Norwegian Wood (which is also directed by a Vietnamese Frenchman). Her face, with the Beatles on vinyl, in a small Japanese apartment. Seriously. PLUS she’s also got a damn good blog!

“I’m a model. The moment I went to a model job after shooting for the movie, I felt that something had changed inside me. I felt like striving for even better. I think that from now on I will do the same but also because I want to accomplish something fulfilling, the end result to be satisfying. So my feelings with everyone when involved to make it happen became stronger and stronger. By everyone, I mean not me, everyone.”

Friday Fuckery: Asians Sleeping in the Library

Although I adore libraries, personally I could never sleep in one due to my excessive fear of public-space-germs and that vague but ubiquitous Eau de Must.

But someone (a self-described “handsome Jew”) thought it would be a good idea to start a tumblr site devoted to well, Asians Sleeping in the Library (which reminds me of another site, Sleeping Chinese — started by some German dude, who surprise! — got a book deal).

With the header “They’re better at life and they get better grades than you for a reason“, the site is “Meant to celebrate, not berate, the hardest workers at our universities…”.

Asians Sleeping in Libraries has gained popularity quickly, with attention from HuffPo, 36 pages of posts, and over 500 pictures since its creation in early December.

It’s nice to see my U-Dub as well as NYU (Bobst) alma maters represented. More power (naps) to ya.

Thanks ePanda!

Bookmark and Share

BCB Profilin & New Album: Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai

This edition of BCB Profilin’ spotlights Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai: Spoken word heavyweight, 24/7 worldwide grinder, and one of the most genuine, gracious, and relatable people I have ever met.

photo: Kevin Kane

Kelly just dropped her 2nd spoken word album Further She Wrote, produced by Black Cracker. I’ve seen Kelly perform many times, and still I was blown away at first listen by the album’s 11 powerful tracks — starting at track one, “Real Women I Know”.

Kelly’s poetry interwoven with Black Cracker’s electro-hop music & beats lends added depth and atmosphere, and Kelly’s voice is — as always —  resonant, uninhibited, and deft in its range of expression. Listen and download a “name your price” copy on her site (details below – the best deal in town!) and treat yourself to this holiday gift.

Greetings, I am …

Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, spoken word artist based in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York by way of Chicago.

I’ve been known to bitch about…

Artists, inconsistency, and things that are put on top shelves beyond my physical reach.

My influences are…

Really varied. On a given day, I may be addicted to Prince, Me’Shell N’Degeocello, Kanye West, Sonia Sanchez, Fleetwood Mac, The Bangles, Aimee Mann, Baz Luhrmann movies, reading up on obscure moments in Asian Pacific Islander American history (i.e. the Chop Suey circuit, transcontinental railroad workers who actually built a house from ice in the Sierra Nevadas), John Leguizamo, Kat Williams, Octavia Butler, Thylias Moss, Spike Lee, Margaret Atwood, “Community,” “Top Chef All-Stars.” My mother is the middle daughter of a Shanghai politician who fled to Taipei. My father is the youngest son of a Tainan farmer. They came here to the U.S. in 1968 and 1969. I grew up as a teenager going to poetry slams in Chicago. I studied Urban Planning & Comparative Literature in college. I moved to Brooklyn about 6.5 years ago. I’ve done a lot of stuff with dancers/choreographers, multidisciplinary theater people, filmmakers, musicians.

photo: Katie Piper

On a Saturday night you can find me…

1) At a party in Brooklyn. 2) On the road/touring for a gig. 3) At home playing my guitar and trying to finish Anna Karenina.

On a Tuesday night you can find me…

1) At a party in Brooklyn. 2) On the road/touring for a gig. 3) At home playing my guitar and trying to finish Anna Karenina. (One of the perks of being a poet is that every night can be a weekend OR a weeknight.)

My usual drink/poison is…

Water, juice, or I tell people to surprise me. Red Stripe. Just had a Wells Banana Bread Beer in NYC, which is as delicious as it sounds, and a raspberry pepper martini (raspberri Absolut, grapefruit juice, club soda, a jalapeno, and fresh raspberry), when I was in Philly – which I am going to try to replicate at home. I decided to stop drinking alcohol for a year in 2009, which made people wonder if I was an alcoholic. But no, nothing quite so exciting/reckless, just took a year off from drinking, which made watching drunk people while sober very very illuminating.

If I was a superhero my name would be…
Worry Poet, The Diva. I tend to be very anxious for a poet, which I can’t figure out how I make the least stressful job in the world so damn stressful, but I’m about to transform that for 2011.

I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with…

Pastries. I’m one of these food porn people, not necessarily eating the food and definitely not cooking it. I just like to look at it. I like to stop and read menus on the street even if I’ll never go to the restaurant. I like to look at baked goods in their glass cases. Okay, it’s not that obsessive, but it is one of these things that I always do and seem to enjoy.

Favorite thing to do in New York…

I love chilling out in Union Square watching all the people walk by: the b-boys, the random musicians, the protesters, the kooky “free hugs” or “the world is going to end” people, the people waiting for each other for first dates, the skateboarders. The swirl of humanity that feels funky and free. It’s relaxing for me. Then I head over to Vanessa’s Dumplings on 14th Street for a veggie bun and a red bean bun.

Free Association time! First word I think of after “Asian America”:

Fractured. I feel really blessed to be able to travel the country and the world in general performing my poetry for folks, so I get to meet a lot of different people who I maybe wouldn’t have met otherwise. In some APIA communities, the biggest issue is gang violence. In other APIA communities, the biggest issue is being able to assert yourself from your parents and not being “white-washed.” In some APIA communities, the biggest issue is different APIA communities beefing with each other (not even to mention Black, White, Latino/a or Native communities). In yet other APIA communities, the biggest issue is access to education and health-care due to citizenship status and language barriers. In some APIA communities, the biggest issues are fighting for environmental justice and against gentrification in our ethnic neighborhoods. We got A LOT going on in our communities, and I think that geography, class, immigration history, language, and old political drama from back in the motherland keep a lot of us divided and in the dark about what is going on across the broader stretches of API America for everybody that’s not in our own community or clique.

photo: Katie Piper

My weapon of choice is…

The word. Seriously, my bf just asked me this week about when was the last time that I punched someone, and I don’t think I’ve ever punched someone, but I have cussed out people in the street more times than I can remember. I think it’s also extra-jarring for people, since I’m physically small plus of course, the low expectation that an Asian female won’t say anything back (booo!). People don’t expect it, so it’s usually enough for me to handle whatever I need handle at the moment. Of course, I use this weapon for good more often than for evil, and thank goodness for that, lol.

My secret life is…

As a mermaid surfer. I’ve been obsessed with surfing since I read Maxine Hong Kingston’s Hawai’i One Summer and went surfing in Hawai’i when I did my last gig there. Surfing is so peaceful, majestic, and dangerous all at the same time. It requires your entire body, mind, and spirit to focus, enjoy the wave, and be humble to it. You become this small but wonderful thing in nature as you ride. I’ve only been surfing 2 times, so I’m no expert or even aficionado by far, but I would love to do it more. Not too many chances to be out in mostly unpolluted waters in Brooklyn or the Midwest! I read somewhere that back in the day, sailors used to confuse manatees for mermaids, which I find hilarious and endears me to mermaids and manatees both. In Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, she wrote a section where the lead protagonist just needs some time to cool out so she becomes a dolphin for 400 years. Sometimes, I feel like that, lol, like I might need to chill out as a dolphin for 400 years. But having said all of this, I can barely swim.

Be sure to check out my…

NEW SPOKEN WORD ALBUM “Further She Wrote”! You can listen/cop it at my Bandcamp website (http://kellytsai.bandcamp.com/album/further-she-wrote) and it’s “Name Your Own Price” for all of December 2010 and January 2011 (so essentially free!). Also, I will be on my never-ending tour this Spring, already got some dates hooked up in Manhattan, Memphis, East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark and more are being booked right now. So if your spoken word venue, org, college/university would like to book a show on my 2011 tour, just hit up booking@yellowgurl.com. You can check out my URL, my Youtube vids, follow me on Twitter, or add me on Facebook.

Bookmark and Share

Gift the Gift of Giving

If you haven’t known this already, CBruhs and AzN are two of the most charitable people ever *cough*. We regularly buy drinks for the less fortunate and compost whenever the compost can is closer than the garbage can. Sometimes.

So if you haven’t figured out what you wanted to buy your Asian Mom or Asian cousin for xmas yet, take a look at some of these charities that are Cbruhs and AzN APPROVED.

API Women & Family Safety Center: Organizes communities, educates, trains, and provides technical assistance and comprehensive culturally relevant services on domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking to Asian and Pacific Islander community members, service providers, survivors, and their families. Donate here.

Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS): Provides a wide array of social, mental, and behavioral services in 30 languages, including one of the most-used food banks in King County, distributing more than 126,000 pounds of food per month to more than 4,500 households. It is also the only food bank in Washington state that regularly distributes foods for Asian and Pacific Islander diets.  Donate here.

Asian Pacific Environmental Network: APEN seeks to empower low-income Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities to achieve environmental and social justice. APEN believes that the environment includes everything around us: where we live, work and play. And we strive to build grassroots organizations that will improve the health, well-being and political strength of our communities. Donate here.

Asian Services in Action: Founded in 1995 by four Asian immigrant women, the mission of ASIA is to empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Northeastern Ohio to access quality, culturally and linguistically appropriate information and services. Donate here.

CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities: CAAAV works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in New York City.  Through an organizing model constituted by five core elements: base-building, leadership development, campaigns, alliances, and organizational development- CAAAV organizes communities to fight for institutional change and participates in a broader movement towards racial, gender, and economic justice. Donate here.

Chinatown Community Development Center: The Mission of the Chinatown Community Development Center is to build community and enhance the quality of life for San Francisco residents. Based in the Chinatown neighborhood, Chinatown CDC also serves other San Francisco neighborhoods, including North Beach and the Tenderloin. We are a community development organization with many roles, serving as neighborhood advocates, organizers, planners, as developers and managers of affordable housing. Donate here.

Chinese for Affirmative Action: Founded in 1969, its initial goals were equality of access to employment and the creation of job opportunities for Chinese Americans. The group broadened its mission in the subsequent decades. CAA’s mission is “to defend and promote the civil and political rights of Chinese and Asian Americans within the context of, and in the interest of, advancing multiracial democracy in the United States”. Donate here.

Chinese Information Service Center (CISC): Helps Chinese and other Asian immigrants throughout King County achieve success in their new community by providing information, referral, advocacy, social, and support services. CISC has also been involved in community efforts to ensure voting rights access for limited English-proficient voters in King County. Donate here.

Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF): The nation’s only pan-Asian children’s rights advocacy organization, CACF improves the health and well-being of APA children and families in NYC by advocating for improved policies, funding, and services, providing capacity-building and coalition-building to other APA orgs, and building youth and parent leadership. Donate here.

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF): The only national, multi-issue API women’s organization in the country. NAPAWF’s mission is to build a movement to advance social justice and human rights for API women and girls, and works on issues such as immigrant rights, repoductive health, and leadership development for young women. Donate here.

Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation: The mission of the Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation is to assist refugees, former refugees and immigrants, and low income ethnic families to become productive members of their communities and to value multi-cultural diversity. Donate here.