Spotlight

Simu Lui - First Asian Star of a Marvel Studios Movie! SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS

Posted by Suzanne Kai - on Monday, 06 September 2021

Simu Lui - First Asian Star of a Marvel Studios Movie! SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
September 6, 2021 Los Angeles by Suzanne Joe Kai   I invited a friend to join me to see SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, the Marvel Studios movie directed by Destin Daniel Cretton on its opening weekend. Like many Asian Americans I know, we are starved with the lack of faces who look like us in mainstream movies.  We were not disappointed. In fact, the lead actor, Simu Liu, the first Asian to star in a Marvel Studios movie looked, talked, and acted just like an...

Like a Rolling Stone

What’s Going On? Everything, All at Once By Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by Suzanne Kai on Sunday, 08 May 2022

What’s Going On? Everything, All at Once By Ben Fong-Torres

What’s Going On? Everything, All at Once

By Ben Fong-Torres

MAY 6, 2022

With “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres” the documentary about me, now out today and streaming merrily along on Netflix, I’m officially in the film industry. 

Actually, that’s been the case since last June, when the documentary, which stole its title from a popular column at Asian Connections created by director Suzanne Joe Kai's son Mike when he was 14, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan.

In the months since, the film, which was produced, written and directed by Suzanne, screened at various other festivals, picked up awards, including a Critics Choice honor, a Nomination by the Writers Guild of America for Best Documentary Screenplay, a Best Music Film Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Audience Award from the Asian American Film Festival in San Diego, and scored more than 112 press reviews and mentions (so far) - all quite positive reviews. 

 


And I find myself mingling with movie people. In March, I attended the premiere of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” starring Michelle Yeoh, at the Castro Theater here in San Francisco.

Our only previous connection was at a Lunar New Year parade, in 2018, when she was the glamorous grand marshall and I was co-anchor of KTVU’s broadcast.

From a distance, we waved at each other. Or maybe she was just waving to her fans. 

This time, we met. At the packed...

Friends, Strangers Respond to ‘The Year of the Rat’ By Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by Suzanne Kai on Thursday, 15 April 2021

Friends, Strangers Respond to ‘The Year of the Rat’ By Ben Fong-Torres

April 15, 2021

San Francisco

By Ben Fong-Torres

Friends, Strangers Respond to ‘The Year of the Rat’

When I posted my piece about why, as an older Asian American, I’m nervous just walking on the street these days, I expected a mixed reaction. Especially since I told about getting less than friendly stares from some Black people at a restaurant early in the pandemic, in February, 2020. But I was wrong. My article, published on Medium, AsianConnections.com, and my Facebook page, drew more than 100 comments on Facebook alone, from strangers and friends, including classmates from Oakland High, fellow staffers at SF State’s daily paper, where I was a reporter, then editor; fellow Rolling Stone and KSAN employees, broadcasters, and musical pals, including Naomi Eisenberg, singer-fiddler with Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. 

(L) Photo Credit: Dianne Fong-Torres

Here’s a sample of the thoughtful, heartfelt, even emotional comments, just ever-so-slightly edited. 

Cheryl Serame-TurkWow, Ben. Well said. As an Asian American myself, I always thought that my affiliations (glide memorial ensemble, Oakland music community, Silicon Valley tech community) would shield me from most “other” perceptions but this Covid situation is something else altogether. 

I now tread carefully which I never have. No matter the age, walking, driving, biking while Asian right now can put you in danger. Never have experienced that in my life. I’m Filipino...

The Year of the Rat By Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Year of the Rat By Ben Fong-Torres

By Ben Fong-Torres

San Francisco

The Year of the Rat

Being an older Chinese American, I am no longer, as Roy Orbison sang, “Running Scared.” I am walking scared, constantly looking around and behind me. 

Stop AAPI Hate, the advocacy group, knows of nearly 4,000 cases of violence against Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It’s time to stop the beatings and shootings, the blaming and finger-pointing. 

For me, it’s also time to think back just over a year ago. 

It was February, a few days before the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco. 2020. Word of the coronavirus had started to spread, as we awaited the Year of the Rat.

I was in Oakland for script readings at KTVU, which broadcasts the parade, and has had me as a co-anchor since 1997. 

At our meetings, which take place around lunch time, we are offered deli sandwiches one day; tepid ravioli and salads the next. It’s enough to drive one to actual restaurants. 

That’s how I found myself at a soul food place in Jack London Square. 

It wasn’t busy when I entered, around 2 p.m. A couple of parties were there. They were Black, as were the staff. But when one of the customers saw me, I got a most unfriendly glare. It felt like a “What are you doing here?” look.

I tried to shrug it off.  But then, as I waited for a waiter, I had a thought. At the meeting earlier at KTVU, we’d addressed the issue of the coronavirus,...

The Year of Sheltering Dangerously By Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The Year of Sheltering Dangerously By Ben Fong-Torres

The Year of Sheltering Dangerously

By Ben Fong-Torres

Well, hasn’t THIS been a fun 365?

As we approached the anniversary of the shelter-in-place orders for the San Francisco Bay Area, on March 16, I thought of some of the changes we’ve been through. 

In February, our calendar was packed with restaurant dinners and a large, loud gathering at Harbor Villa, saluting our friend, the civil rights attorney Dale Minami.

And there was my 24th time as co-anchor of the Chinese New Year Parade, on KTVU. The Year of the  Rat. Indeed. 

Early in March, we had more restaurant get-togethers, including dinner at the House of Prime Rib (almost as hard to get into as Hamilton) and a family luncheon for Chinese New Year at the stellar dim sum restaurant, Yank Sing. One evening, I went to the dive bar, El Rio, for the monthly jam staged by Los Train Wreck, and did my usual, a parody of a Dylan classic, “Rainy Day Women 12+35,” with lyrics I ripped from the headlines:

They’ll stone you when you come to see the band

And make mistakes, like shaking people’s hands

Los Train Wreck’s easy going, and all they ask: 

Is when you’re talking with them, use a mask

And you will not feel so all alone 

Everybody must get stoned!

On March 13th, I went to the Record Plant, the fabled studio in Sausalito, to be interviewed for a documentary about the Plant.  

Just three days later, on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, this most festive of towns was...

Ben Fong-Torres New Audiobook!

Posted by AC Team on Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Ben Fong-Torres narrates his Audible Book The Rice Room  - Photo by David Nelson, Outpost Studios, SF

Fears for Tears: Turning a Memoir into an Audiobook

By Ben Fong-Torres

 

“In the funny parts, laugh. In the sad parts, go ahead and cry.” 

That was advice I got, on the eve of my recording sessions for an audiobook version of my memoirs, The Rice Room, from Susie Bright. 

Susie is a producer and personality at Audible, the leading producer of audiobooks, and she’s done her share of laughing and crying. 

So when Audible contracted me to turn two of my books – Willin’, about the band Little Feat, and The Rice Room– she was on the case.

I’d never recorded a book before. Public speaking? Sure. Radio DJ? That’s moi. Voice work for radio and TV shows? No problemo.

But audiobooks are a whole ‘nother world. First, it’s long-form. A radio DJ show is a bunch of bits; a radio or TV program, or a podcast, involves segments that might add up to an hour.

A book? Think ten hours. And, as I learned, it takes about double that time to record enough, after editing, to get those ten hours. 

The editing is immediate, with a director, Jesse, listening and directing by Zoom from Los Angeles. Also listening is Miik, the engineer, who’s in a control room, across from me. I’m in a small announcer’s booth (which seems only right, since I’m a small announcer). 

While I’m reading, off an iPad on a music stand, the two men catch every error, every stumble, every extraneous noise, whether it’s foot...

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