Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Dead Animals In My Tendon, Jero And Atsuhime

I don't know about other hapas, but whenever I spend time with either one of my parents, I take on the cultural qualities of that one's particular ethnic group. For instance, if I'm hanging out with my dad (my folks have been divorced for decades), I end up reading all of the Ebony and Jet magazines laid out on his coffee table. Now, that's not to say that all black people read Ebony and Jet, but you get my meaning. My dad and I will often discuss politics, too--the state of black folks today versus the Civil Rights movement of yesteryear. However, I don't tend to eat the food my dad eats mainly because he's from Texas and his parents owned a barbecue joint. I am, after all, vegan (even though I'll admit to stuffing many a pig's foot into my mouth back in the day when I didn't know any better).

Whenever I visit my mother, though, I'm always ready to chow down. Mindful of my special diet, my mom tends to make me my own meal separate from what she serves her husband. And, like a true Japanese mother, she will eat what I (the guest) eats instead of what she cooked for her husband. A couple of weeks ago, she made me tendon; that's slang for tempura donburi. Tempura, as you may know, is veggies (and shrimp for those who insist on murdering the poor crustaceans) dipped in batter and fried. Donburi is a dish served in an individual bowl featuring veggies and/or dead animal flesh (call it what it is!) simmered in a slightly sweetened shoyu-based sauce and heaped on hot, white rice. The tendon my mom made me was tempura carrots, onions and pumpkin on top of fresh gohan. I was also treated to her home-grown edamame (steamed soybeans). Oishi!

Earlier, we were watching our favorite show--The NHK Amateur Singing Contest (aka Nodojiman)--when, lo and behold, the phenomenal Jero appeared as a guest singer. This is the kid who hails from Pittsburgh, whose mother is hapa Japanese and black, and whose Japanese grandmother taught him to speak her language and sing enka--a type of music that reminds of me the old R&B songs where the man is begging, crying and carrying on over a woman. Enka is very emotional like that, and is almost always about love. So, I don't think it's necessarily a stretch that a brother like Jero is so into it. Like the old school crooners, he feels the lyrics deep down in his soul. True, he's singing in Japanese, but he knows what the words mean because he knows the language. There's also some very specific expressions that go along with singing enka. One can't be too showy and drop to one's knees like James Brown because Japanese culture isn't about that. Even though Jero wears his signature baseball cap and baggy jeans, he's got the Japanese inflections down.

Later on in the day, my mom's husband and I watched another episode of Atsuhime. My mother claims not to care about
Japanese history, but her Caucasian husband and I can't get enough of the taiga series. Sadly, Atsuhime's husband, the shogun, dies in this episode and because of the turmoil surrounding the choice of heir, no one tells Atsu about his demise until a month later. Now, she's mad because weeks before the shogun instructed her to attend the cabinet meetings and become a part of the political process because she's so smart and beats him at go all the time. But now that he's no longer around, none of the guys are taking Atsuhime seriously. I can't wait 'til she starts kicking some butt. Her kimono may be wrapped around her legs like a mermaid's tail, but you watch--she'll figure out how to strike back. That girl is baaad!

Hey, drop me a line and tell me how your parents' differing cultures affect you. Do you act the same way with each of them, or not?

Above are pix of my tendon dish, my mom's garden-fresh edamame, Jero's appearance on Nodojiman, and NHK's Atsuhime.

Until next time, I swear to be...

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hip Hapa Homee In Hapa*Teez!

Dear Bloggies,

Please note that this week's posting will be late as I await the downloading of some special pix to accompany said blog.

Meanwhile, feast your eyes on my Hip Hapa Homee, Cassie, stylin' and profilin' in her Hapa*Teez t-shirt. Go 'head on, Cassie!

Hatin' on her? Don't. Instead, order a Hapa*Teez t-shirt yourself, and help support a film.

In a minute...

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Secret Lives (That's A Plural) Of Bees (Also A Plural)

This week, I took a time out to attend a press screening of The Secret Life of Bees--as it is grammatically incorrectly titled. After hearing the buzz (ha ha!) about the Gina Prince Bythewood-directed feature, I was eager to view it. Are you kidding me? We've got a black female director, a cast of well-known black female stars, and a story taking place in the south during the Civil Rights movement. It sounds like a winning formula, but this flick is no Mississippi Burning--nor Eve's Bayou.

Instead, it focuses on a white teenager named Lily (clever!) (played by Dakota Fanning) who, as a child, loses her mother and then runs smack dab into a family of black women beekeepers who end up taking care of her the way they used to take care of her mama.

No one can argue that this movie doesn't attempt to integrate blacks and whites, but it is heavy on white Lily as victim even though a black woman, Rosaleen, (Jennifer Hudson) is badly beaten by whites for attempting to register to vote. I never knew if Rosaleen had a mother or just magically appeared one day to knee-growishly guide Lily to her destiny.

Another character, May (portrayed by the super-talented and biracial Sophie Okonedo), is a sad creature whose twin sister's (April's) death often leads her to visit a wailing wall just outside of her home. I wanted to know more, too, about what drove May to the edge.

Curiously, the Watermelon Sushi film also has a character named April. In fact, while watching Alicia Keys (another biracial babe) playing June, I had a revelation that she could play April. For one thing, if you look closely, you'll notice that Alicia has very slanted eyes. Ha! Could she possibly be a Hapa Japa--someone who's half Japanese--passing for black/white? Hmmm. Unlike Watermelon's April though, Bees' June character is bold and brash. In fact, June acts more like April's sister, Michiko.

Did you get that? June can play April even though April acts more like May and Michiko acts more like June. Figure it out here:

And, no, I didn't read the Bees book so I'm sure there's plenty I missed about white Lily and her black female friends. If you've read it, please drop me a line.

btw, the last time I checked, the word "bees" with an "s" on the end indicates that it's a plural. So, what's up with this movie title?

On to more news. Tomorrow is the first day of the International Black Film Festival of Nashville. Besides Boris Kodjoe (yet another biracial actor--lookout, we're taking over!) hosting Saturday night's gala, the Watermelon Sushi trailer will be featured in a special category for films seeking finishing funds. Big ups to Jaz, Hazel and Ingrid for your efforts, and good fortune with the fest!

And, don't forget the sooner we sell more Hapa*Teez t-shirts, the sooner we finish making Watermelon Sushi.

Until next time, I remain...bzzz...bzzz...

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Chill Pill Week And Mixed-Race Pets

These are crazy-busy times for all of us. In addition to the rhetoric created by the upcoming presidential election, we're stressed over our financial situations--not to mention the future of the whole world.

Instead of expounding on any of these issues or how they're impacting those of us who are of multi-racial heritages, I'm taking a chill pill this week and starting a feature about mixed-race pets. From now on, whenever this author is too overwhelmed to write her weekly blog, she will, instead, post a photo of a multi-ethnic pet along with a blurb or two. So, send me those snapshots and stories of your favorite mixed-breeds!

This week, I present Ms. Muffin. Of both terrier and poodle heritages, Ms. Muffin admits that she sometimes struts about in her chi-chi curly, white coat barking with a French accent and insisting on being addressed as Mademoiselle Croissant. Then, Ms. Muffin's terrier hunting instincts takes over and she begins digging at the seat cushions of the sofa and yelping at the mail carrier and any neighbors that make the mistake of walking in front of her masters' house. Although Ms. Muffin denies that she is a confused mixed-breed pup, she does own up to a fierce pride in both of her ethnicities. See Ms. Muffin pictured above.

On another note, big ups to the folks at the International Black Film Festival of Nashville--and a particular shout-out to Jaz, Hazel and Ingrid--for selecting the Watermelon Sushi trailer to be featured in a special category for films seeking finishing funds. Go to:

btw, It's never too early to start thinking about holiday gifts. This year, consider Hapa*Teez t-shirt for your multi-racial friends and family members. Besides making unique gifts, Hapa*Teez t-shirts are financing a film about us. You can get a rear crawl credit and support our movie by making a purchase. New designs are in the works now. Check 'em out:

Okay. That's it. I'm as grumpy as the rest of you over current world affairs. Let's all get some rest. Until next time, I remain...

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lovers In A Dangerous Time

One of my favorite songs by the late, great Lucky Dube is about a couple in South Africa during apartheid. The man is black and the woman is white, and Dube sings about them being "lovers in a dangerous time".

Unfortunately, Dube was murdered around this time last year, but his powerful lyrics will always remain.

Few of us living now remember a time that loving someone outside of your race could result in the deaths of one or both of you. But I am aware of several interracial pairings that were considered scandalous--and even resulted in tragedy for their participants.

For one, Swedish American actress Inger Stevens who was found dead in her home in 1970 of an overdose was secretly married to an African American actor named Ike Jones. Their marriage was a secret because Stevens had a Hollywood career and was well known for the TV show, The Farmer's Daughter, that she starred in through 1966. Whether the overdose was intentional was never made clear, but one can imagine the stress of having to keep a relationship as intimate as marriage under cover.

Another famous name was Sammy Davis, Jr., a very talented performer who happened to be "colored" as we were called back then. Davis married a Swede named May Britt in 1960. Their marriage was considered so taboo that Davis was dis-invited from the White House where he was supposed to have performed for John Kennedy. Apparently, he was so upset that he befriended Kennedy's Republican opponent, Richard Nixon. A lot of so-called liberal people were appalled to see Davis hanging out with Nixon, but who could blame him when they learned the story behind his decision? Davis and Britt ended up divorcing, and Davis later married an African American dancer. Who knows how much racism influenced his decision to split from his white wife and marry a black woman.

Then, there was the beautifully sensitive Jean Seberg, another actress of Swedish ancestry. During the height of her career, she openly supported the Black Panther Party which set off FBI head J. Edgar Hoover. He went after her with a vengeance, tapping her phone and spreading a rumor that she was pregnant with a half black child fathered by a Panther Party member. Seberg was seven months along at the time--1970. She claimed to have become so traumatized that she went into premature labor and two days after her daughter was born, the baby died. Although Seberg married mostly Caucasian men and an Algerian, she died in 1979 at age 41 of suicide. How much did the pain and drama caused by intertwining her life with people of color play in her killing herself?

As you see, some of us have lived through some dangerous times. If you're free to love whomever you want to these days, count yourself fortunate and thank those who came before you who took the full brunt of having an interracial relationship.

Your Hip Hapa,